Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Swing a ding ding

Walt Kowalski and I know a 4-year-old that loves to be outside.  What better to get a 4-year-old with a summer birthday than a swing set. 

We bought it several months ago and had it hidden in the basement.  It was no small box to hide.  I cannot count the number of times I tripped over the box. 

Floors and plumbing took precedence over swing sets.  It was still on the to-do list, just farther down on the list.  Finally, this weekend we moved it to the top of the list. 

We went back and forth deciding what type to purchase.  Metal? Wooden? Plastic?  There are lots of choices.  Swings? Climbing wall? Slide? Tetter-totter? Ropes? Tunnel? Castle? Fireman pole? The options are overwhelming.

Every type of swing set had pros and cons. Every review I read had someone say something positive and negative about everything.  Wood needs to be re-stained, gets splinters, and can attract bugs.  Metal gets hot and rusts. Plastic fades and gets sticky. It was as bad as choosing which truck brand is better.  Really, it's about preference. 

We decided to go small and simple to start.  Upgrading in a few years as the 4-year-old grows is always an option.  Also, what happens if the 4-year-old decides she's not interested in it in a few months? 

We choose a metal A-frame style.  Two swings, a slide, a teeter-totter, a place to hang and swing, and a two person swing-along.  The entire neighborhood can play!

Except for one piece, everything was labeled.  A-1, A-2, B-1, B-2, UL-1 all the way through XN-1. 

I read the directions to Walt Kowalski, he found the pieces and put them together per the directions. 

On piece number 12, Walt Kowalski said, "That's not going to work.  Something isn't right here." 

Then we looked at the photo on the box. 
Then we read the directions.
Then we looked at the photo on the box again.
Then we read the directions on again.

Head scratching. I was just reading the directions.  That's fine, but the directions aren't going to work.

Then we figured it out.  The directions were backwards from the photo.  ARGH!  Maybe it was because it was from China. Maybe it was a translation issue.  Maybe the directions were just bad. Maybe the person that wrote the directions wasn't the person that had to construct the swing set. 

We rallied and continued.  It took a combination of reading directions and looking at the photo to figure it out that the first step was what steered us wrong.  *sigh* Place part A-2 into part A-1 and secure with U-10 and U-5 while holding XL-1 concave side up.  It was like speaking a different language.

We got it.  It took three of us at times.  Two holding and one inserting bolts. Of course, the 4-year-old was "helping," too.  That would make it four.

We got to the very last step and found that one of the main pieces was reversed.  We were tempted to quit and come back the next day, but we didn't.  Let's just finish this now. 

It's nice.  the most important part, the 4-year-old likes it.  We still need to anchor it to the ground.  We ran out of time for that step. 

When we got home, I opened the freezer to find something for dinner.  Walt Kowalski pointed and said "Oh, Chinese." I said, "No, nothing related to China tonight."

Monday, September 29, 2014

Out With the Old

I started working on the small house on Friday.  We haven't got a name for the house yet.  The house has to find it's own name.  House #3 and House #4 will be too confusing.  The small house in the back is too hard to say.  We'll find a name.

I ordered dumpster and it was delivered before I even got to the house.

Carpets. Yuck.

The kitchen had a blue carpet.  A stinky blue carpet that was originally glued. There was very little glue left. The plywood underneath the carpet is next to go. I know what this weekend's burn pile will include.

Then the living room carpet.  Ugly Brown probably wasn't the original name of the carpet color, but that's what the current color is (was).

There is an old hardwood floor under the carpet, but it is no condition to refinish.  Laminate will be a nice upgrade.

Walt Kowalski loves bad plumbing.  This was classic in the bathroom: 

 I'll never know how it didn't leak.

Then we started thinking about the kitchen.   The cabinets are still usable, but not the best.  Not even the best 20 years ago.  We could spend time, money and energy on fixing up these 20-year-old cabinets, or we could take these to the basement laundry room and spend the time and money on some new cabinets. 

We won't need as many cabinets, because we're not putting cabinets back on the center wall.  All of the cabinets will be along the left wall to allow room for a small table.  The fridge will go to the right, behind the door, out of the photo.

I'll be getting out my blade and plaster to fix the holes in the walls.  Now we know why they put up cabinets.  There are even larger ones behind the bottom cabinets. 

Friday, September 26, 2014

Frustrations and Futures

I was running errands yesterday.  I have become the queen of errands.  Today is more errands and some work.

On my daily route, there is a four-way intersection that's a three-way stop.  The hilliest part of the intersection doesn't have the stop sign, but the other side is just as hilly WITH a stop sign. I was on the hill with a stop sign part.  I'm driving Big Red. 

Short lady, driving a big truck. 

I stopped at the intersection.  Looked all ways and started to proceed through the intersection.  With a big truck, pointed up hill, I have to look twice because the front of the truck can be difficult to see over.  

That's what happened.  Just as I started into the intersection, a small black car came zooming up the hill with no stop sign.  I braked and was not even close to hitting her and her car.  That's the look twice part. 

It was a beautiful day yesterday, so I had the window in the truck down.  This open window allowed me to hear the beautiful string of obscenities she yelled at me. 

I didn't know you could use one word in so many different ways and all in one sentence.

For a second, I was tempted to yell back all the nasty things she said to me, but I didn't.  Anger at anger is no resolution.  I yelled back, through my open window, "I'm sorry!"

She waved to me with one finger and drove off in anger.  I was going the same direction to play the lottery (no winners today).  She must have thought I was following her to yell some more, because when she got to the red light before me, she waved at me some more with that one finger.   

Wow.  I was rattled, but I felt bad for her that she was that upset over one small non-accident.  I feel bad for the next person she encounters with her perfect driving skills. 

I think of all of the bad drivers and driving mistakes I see everyday.  If I spent everyday yelling like she did I would do nothing more than yell.  What for?  Will it fix the situation? No. 

Walt Kowalski said "She was probably late to meet her drug dealer." Well, that makes sense.

Let's hope for no driving frustrations today.

Today is dumpster day.  I'm headed to get a dumpster to clean up around House #1 and start on the small house in the back.  We piled up all of the windows from House #1 behind House #1. I tried to find some place to recycle them, but had no luck. Several places would take them if they could resell them, but they were in no condition for resale, so nobody wanted them.  Boooo.

Window glass can't be recycled like bottles and jars in the kitchen, because of the high temperature used to create the glass.  Double Boooooooooo.

I will take pleasure putting them in the dumpster with a flourish.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

New Project

It is almost October and the paper is complete so I can officially announce the new project!

A new project house! It's cute. But do you notice anything on the left side of the photo...

It is right next door to House #1. While we were on vacation this summer, Walt Kowalski and I were talking about what was coming next. When we returned from vacation there was a random notice on the front door about if there are any problems with this house please call... and it listed a real estate company and bank. Hmmm.   Sounds like foreclosure.  So I called.  It was. It wasn't ready for sale but they would contact me when it was ready.

They called back a day later. 

But wait there's more.

It's another small house on the property, too.  It's two houses for the price of one! (shipping and handling extra) 

What an opportunity AND right next door to House #1.

The house in the front needs work.  The roof around chimney has leaked; the plaster will need replaced.  But the entrance and staircase are nice. 

This is the living room to dining room. Hmmmmmm, what walls can come out? We won't know just yet.

The kitchen needs new everything.   

The bedrooms are colorful. 

We are even thinking about making this little pink bedroom into a small laundry room on the second floor. 

The back house is more up-to-date and needs only a few upgrades to move in. 
Kitchen to living room.
Kitchen to second bedroom and door to basement.

Bathroom. I think the shower needs some work, but I'll know more tomorrow.

It's a cute little house. Perfect for a young single woman.  We just happen to know one who is interested. 
So just when I thought I was done, I've only just begun.  I am excited to get started on Friday.  Stay tuned for lots of new things I'll learn.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Chilly night for a Fire

It was a chilly night last night.  Perfect evening for a fire.  An inside fire.  Cuddle up on the couch next to someone you love. Throw on a cat for extra warmth.  Ahhhh.

And to add to the fun, company.  The Mama of House #2 stopped over for the evening.  Chewed the fat, and the brownies, for the evening.

As we were walking her out at the end of the evening, shivering in the chilly air, we smelled something odd in the air.

"It stinks out here," she said.
Walt Kowalski said, "That's a fire, but that's not our fire. We burned sweet smelling apple and cherry wood.  That smells like something bad."

Something bad that shouldn't be burned.  Someone burning something they shouldn't be burning in the cloak of darkness. 

"That's wire," Walt Kowalski said.  "Look, through the trees. Next door at the abandoned house. There's the fire."

The house on the next lot over has been abandoned for over twenty years.  There's a hole in the roof that grows every year.  We think that's where some of the wildlife are living.  The Scooter Gang in the neighborhood has looked inside and in the windows.  They say it's full of furniture.  Someone just walked away from it. 

Sad, but no project I wanted to undertake. 

Recently, there's been a flurry of activity around the house.  Rumor has it there was someone interested in purchasing the house.  We've seen lots of traffic to the house, but very little repairs.  The brush around the house is high. So high you can *just* see the top of the house.  20 years is a long time to let a house sit.  Nature will take over and it has.

Just this past week, we heard pounding coming from the house.  Wow. Someone is fixing up the house.  Pounding all day.  Then, a shipment of supplies.  Shingles!  GREAT! More pounding. they are repairing the roof. It's s start.

So imagine our surprise last night when we saw someone at this house having a fire after 11pm on a Monday night. Wow, I can't believe they are working this late because there is no way they are living there yet.  We looked and watched.  Lots of flames, no people, no voices.  Strange.

It was a clear and calm night, but it's also been dry.  An unattended fire in the middle of the forest is not a good thing.  We put our shoes and jackets on and walked down our driveway and up the lane to the house. No trucks or cars in the driveway.  Nobody around at all. 

Large flames behind the house.  The weeds around the house were too big for us to get back there. We were not dressed to walk through weeds and poison. 

Walt Kowalski was mad.  We might have fires that extend past the "legal" burning hours of the township and become recreational fires, but we never leave our fire unattended and always have a fire extinguisher or garden hose close.  Our fires are always in the big, deep fire pit or the patio pit with a lid. Everybody in the neighborhood is responsible about their fires.

The smell of this fire also made us think it wasn't a planned fire.  The last I saw someone at the house was around 4:30pm and Walt Kowalski was outside splitting wood until 6pm and didn't smell a fire.

Two choices. 1. This fire was accidentally set and is getting larger. 2. This fire was intentionally set and abandoned.

Neither options were pleasant.  The second option made us angrier than the other.  We are trying to improve this neighborhood, not burn it down. No way I could sleep with either of these options just yards away.

"Make the call," Walt Kowalski said.
"But I don't want to make the call!" I said.
"Make. The. Call."
"Stupid fire. Stupid remodeling.  Stupid new neighbors."

Beep. Beep. Beep. "Hello, emergency services?"

They came.  Sirens and lights blaring. I am thankful for volunteers who don't mind leaving their warm beds to save the day. I wonder if they put their protective gear on over their jammies?

They brought a medium sized truck, a foam truck, two chief pick-up trucks, and an ambulance. With the foam, the fire was out in a few moments.
The lights lit up the neighborhood.  Apologies neighbors if the lights woke you.  Not a good welcome to the neighborhood. 

Never a dull moment at the Cat Ranch.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Busy weekend

We had a busy weekend.  Nothing photo worthy

Here's everything we did.

Yard brush burning
Chopping the bamboo
More burning
Trimming the poison ivy
More burning
Cutting down the stink trees on the front hill
More burning
Dinner on the grill (steaks and twice baked potatoes. Yum!)
Walt Kowalski stopped over to the neighbor's
Camp fire
Swing delivery
Home improvement store
Cleaning out storage
Moving boxes from storage to garage
Cleaning out storage
Moving boxes from storage to garage
Grocery store
Cleaning out storage
Moving boxes from storage to garage
Dinner and movie night (we didn't fall asleep this time!)

It doesn't seem like much, but we were pooped last night.  We've got a long way to go in the yard around the Cat Ranch.  Walt Kowalski is whispering to the trees. Some will stay.  Some will go.  We call him the tree whisperer.

And we still have many things to move from storage to the garage.

Friday, September 19, 2014


I have a confession to make.

I went to the store this morning to play the lottery.  It was larger than normal.  I took a chance. Hey, somebody has to be the donator, right? If you don't paly, you won't min. Besides, the last time I played I won $3.  Paid for my ticket.

My mission: run in, play the lottery, run back out, and home to work on the closet project. 

But when I pulled up to the small store, I noticed a familiar car parked outside.  It was a car of a friend. 

Crap. Crap. Crap. Crap. Crap.  Socializing wasn't on the mission plan. 

Now it's not that I don't like this person, but I just had nothing to say to this person.  The last time I saw them we did the How are yous? Yeah, it's been forever.  Yeah, we should get together soon.  Yeah, we've been so busy, too.  Yeah, I'll tell Walt Kowalski you said hi. Yeah, call us.

So I just waited a moment in my car until I saw them get in their car and leave.

GUILT. {hangs head in shame}

I felt guilty I didn't say Hi.  It's not that I didn't want to talk, I just didn't want to be social in that moment.  I felt guilty we haven't gotten together. It's not that I didn't want to get together, but our life moves so quick and so does theirs.  

As I returned home to my closet project, I thought about other people I haven't seen in a while.  In this technology filled world, it's not that we're not in touch, but we don't see each other IN person.  I know the details of their lives, but haven't seen them. I'm still connected to them. A few years ago, this would not have been true.  How many relationships have been lost because of proximity? Maybe I shouldn't feel as guilty as I feel. 

The closet project is going well.  I have a nice pile of clothes for donation, a pile for the nieces, and a few things that went into the mending pile (you know, for future disposal J).

I also found a village. I forgot about these:

Originally they were a canister set I bought at a garage sale.  They are wooden and were missing the plastic liners so they could be used for flour, sugar, and tea.  I instead used them to hold my jewelry and odds and ends that collect on a dresser.  I think the Tea Room is full of lip glosses. 

I also started the new personal document burn pile. Pepper was so thoughtful to compress those documents with her body.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014


We live close to the train tracks.  Not as close as some people, but close enough.  They are part of our daily life. Almost to the point where I don't think about them. Until someone new comes to visit and says "Hey you live near the train tracks!"

From the Cat Ranch, you can't see the trains in the summer, but you can hear them.  The more leaves that fall, the more you can see the trains.  (Yet another indicator of fall!)

This was last fall, after the leaves had fallen.

We live along a mainline with LOTS of train traffic and side spur.  It's hard not run into train traffic in the area.  The tracks are everywhere around here. 

Every now and then, when coming home from the store, we get stuck waiting for the train to jockey. Usually it's not more than a 10 minute wait.  It doesn't feel like a long time if you are close to the front of the line and can watch the trains.  If you're in the back of the line, then it's the longest 10 minutes ever. Usually the 10 minutes when you need to use the bathroom. (I should have gone before we left!)

Although one hot day, we were coming home from the beer store and got stopped by a train that went back and forth for what seemed like a half hour. Walt Kowalski said "If this train takes any longer, I'm drinking the beer right here before it gets warm."

We also have train nuts.  They love, love, love the trains.  They wait by the tracks with cameras and video to record the trains.  Most of the time it's just tanker cars and transports of trailers.  Once I saw a train full of green tractors. That was cool. 

Then there was the day the tanks came through. They stayed for a few days and were guarded at all hours. Makes me wonder if we miss things going by during the night.  Secretive things. 

Grammy tells stories of her childhood watching the trains go by transporting new cars.  Now the new cars are hidden behind doors of the train cars.

Last summer, on our way home, there was an unusual number of train nuts waiting by the side of the road.  Something more than a usual train was coming.  We stopped to ask and were told a steam engine was coming.  The train nuts had it timed. They had friends at every crossing along the way and located the train with pinpoint accuracy. 

It was a sight to see. 

That doesn't make me a train nut does it?

Tuesday, September 16, 2014


Don't judge me.  No, you can judge, I do.  I judge myself worse than anybody could judge me.

The next project has been delayed.  I'm not trying to build the suspense. The paperwork isn't finished yet. It should be another week.  But it's ok.  That will give me time to work on those unfinished projects I have discussed. The list grows at every turn.

I have skeletons in my closet. Not the Halloween kind. (Although, I plan to get them out of storage today.)

I have a secret room in the Cat Ranch.  The Room of Doom as I like to call it.  No, no dead bodies. Although they could be hiding in there and it would take me a while to find them.  I have a room full of stuff.  It's just stuff.  All the stuff I never know where to put.  The place where I stash everything when company is coming.  Since we turned our basement back into a game room, I can no longer hide my stuff in the basement.

It started as a closet room.  So the majority of things in the room are clothes.  But then I had to have a place to put the extra blankets and pillows. And then there are all of the papers (Even with electronic delivery and a small filing cabinet, I'm still drowning in papers!) Then there are a few Christmas candles that I bought after the holiday, but the Christmas decorations were already put in storage, so they got put in the room. Then I added the sewing machines I need to order parts for and get to Mr. P to get fixed (read about that here). Also in this room are gift bags and wrapping paper. Parts of arts and crafts projects. Future arts and crafts projects. The sweeper hangs out in this room. Jewelry boxes. Toilet tissue. Magazines. The list goes on and on and on.

Have a look for yourself.  Judge all you want.

I'm embarrassed by this photo and room.   I have good intentions. What happened?!?!?!?!
I'll tell you what happened. 
1. I ran out of time in one day. The cats love to explore in this room and want to bed down on the soft fuzzy sweaters and clothes.  So the door has to stay closed at all times. 
2. I have to take everything OUT of the center of the room to work in the room.  At the end of the day, I put it all away. Finished or not.  In this case, most of the time, not finished.
3. I get tired or bored or frustrated. And I start to feel like a hoarder.
4. I have too many clothes.  With a career change this year, I have professional clothes and construction clothes.  Who knows what is on the horizon in the coming year(s). I'm not ready to part with the professional clothes. They need thinned out, though.
And the worst...
5. I'm guilty of opening the door, taking everything that's on the kitchen table and island and stuffing it into the room because company is coming.  This is usually a pile of receipts, bills, magazines. I promise I'll get back, but then another pile of papers appears. 
So with this week of rest, I am working on this room.  I'm not tackling the entire room in one day.  Yesterday I put all of the clean clothes away and started small.  I started to eliminate t-shirts.  Too small - nieces. Too stained - garbage. Tired of it - donate.
I only spent an hour, once again I ran out of time.  It was a start.  Today I do some more. 
I liken this process to that of losing weight.  If you announce it and declare it, you face a better chance of sticking to it.  
And speaking of sticking to it, Walt Kowalski and I started back to the gym last night.  He's so funny.  I packed the bags and met him at the gym.  On the walk in he tried to use every reason he could to get out of it. 
WK: "Did you pack exercise socks?"
Me: "Yes, I have two pair."
WK: "What kinds of clothes did you pack?"
Me: "I packed you three different shirts.  You can choose." 
WK: "What about music? Is my MP3 player in here? What about headphones?"
Me: "Yes, I have them in my bag."
WK: "What about the lock for my locker?"
Me: "Got that too."
Walt Kowalski is such a good sport.  I keep reminding him that I just want us to be as healthy as possible for as long as possible.  Besides, we said we weren't going to hurt ourselves and start slow. 
This happens to us every time.  We said 'Just 20 minutes.' After 20 minutes, were close to a particular mile mark and say 'Just to the end of this mile.' After the mile mark, we are close to a step goal. 'Just after the next step goal.' But then the cycle start again.  Only another minute. Let me finish this mile. Just a few more steps. 
To quote Forrest Gump:
"That day, for no particular reason, I decided to go for a little run. So I ran to the end of the road. And when I got there, I thought maybe I'd run to the end of town. And when I got there, I thought maybe I'd just run across Greenbow County. And I figured, since I run this far, maybe I'd just run across the great state of Alabama. And that's what I did. I ran clear across Alabama. For no particular reason I just kept on going. I ran clear to the ocean. And when I got there, I figured, since I'd gone this far, I might as well turn around, just keep on going. When I got to another ocean, I figured, since I'd gone this far, I might as well just turn back, keep right on going."
Some days are like that.  We can keep going forever.  Let's hope I can say that about the closet room today.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Wash and Dry

It was a wonderful weekend.  After the showers passed on Saturday morning, it turned into a lovely day. 

Although we still have lots of things to do at House #1, like finish installing the duct work for the furnace (who needs heat), the family has moved in. 

We finished the laundry room. Walt Kowalski did a wonderful job.  The room turned out so nice.  I know many people who would be jealous of such a laundry room.

We also hug the bathroom mirror.


Goals for this week:
1. Go to gym  (Actually, that's this afternoon.  We promised ourselves we would start back in September.)
2. Finish unfinished projects here at the Cat Ranch (Finish sanding and put final stain on the swing, finish paperwork, pay bills, go to bank.)
3. Clean up closet room (oog, is the only word I have for the closet room. Get out the bags for donation.)
4. Get out fall decorations (I totally missed spring and summer decorations.  I am NOT missing fall.)
5. Start the new project (More info soon. Is the suspense killing you?)

I know this is a lofty list.  Some of these items have been moved from the last to-do list.  Some of these projects will always be on the to-do list.

Saturday, September 13, 2014


Family dinner night was a success.  Thanks to Walt Kowalski's suggestion, we had a tour of Italia. Salad, fresh bread, backed ziti, angel hair, and ravioli.



And dessert (of course). I had apples that were getting wrinkly in the basement fridge and thanks to Miss Wendy I've had a hankering for lemon bars.

Both were delicious...except. Except during the baking process, the sugar juices from the apple tartlets ran off the pan and onto the bottom of the oven.  The house filled with caramelized sugar smoke to the point where it was rolling out the kitchen window.  Smoke detectors blaring. 

Had a neighbor driven by at that moment they would have thought the house was on fire.  *sigh*

Surprisingly, when we came home, the house didn't smell of smoke as much as I expected.  It smelled good. 

Friday, September 12, 2014


I didn't take a single photo yesterday.  Totally forgot. Walt Kowalski finished some more trim and another window sill, blind, and trim.

I helped hold the boards.  It's a very important job. 

Today is cooking day.  It's family dinner night and we're having a tour of Italy.  I'm hungry already.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Doors, Doors, Doors, and a Window

I have a piece of paper on my fridge with a magnet (Ok I have a LOT on my fridge with magnets.) If you move many photos of beautiful children, you'll find this quote:
I don't know who said it.  They were probably someone remodeling a house.  Walt Kowalski is working so hard.  It's crunch time and he's pushing to get it all done. 

We hung 7 doors yesterday. 

I should say we hung 13 doors because it felt like we hung each door twice trying to get it straight and level.  I have so much respect for doors that open and close properly.   The oven is sitting in place, but not connected.

We also installed a window sill and a little trim.  (There was something about the sun outside and the dark inside that made this photo pink.  Three of them are like that.  Talk about rose colored glasses.) 

The finishing touches take time, but are worth it. 

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

More Knock Knock Jokes

Knock knock!
Who's there?
Cargo who?
Car go "Beep beep"!

Knock knock!
Who's there?
Dewey who?
Dewey have to keep telling silly jokes

The house is now secure.  There is a basement door.  No boogeyman or boogeymen can come up from the basement. 
I was on the kitchen side.  Walt Kowalski was on the basement side. When we were finished installing the door, I locked it.  He said "You know, you locked me on the side with the beer fridge and you on the side without it. " Crap. 

Also, we're going to have to get a bigger couch.

Everybody needed their own cushion yesterday.  Cocoa Fluff was left out. We'll have to get a sectional.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Purple Fingers

Another photo of the moon.  I love it. I find such mystery in it.  In all phases.  I know, I know, I'm always taking photos of the moon.  Probably cause I can't take as many photos of the sun.

My fingers are purple.  Well, actually more of a dark walnut. I spent the day staining. I wore gloves, but between the roughness of the wood and the stain, the gloves would get holes and disintegrate.  I changed the gloves regularly, but it wasn't enough. It was worth the purple fingers.

More purple fingers today.

Moving boxes begins today.  Very exciting. There's still lots of things to do, but moving will begin. This morning Walt Kowalski said 'With the moving starting today, it sounds like we might have a restful weekend at home.'

At which point we both looked at each other and laughed. 

We might be at home, but we won't be resting. Our own list of projects here at the Cat Ranch is ever growing.