Sunday, January 30, 2005

Grocery Store

I have a few grocery stores in my neighborhood. Although, the one I really like to go to is a few miles away. It has a better selection of ethnic food. Yum.

The down side of this place is that it has been the site of some fairly seedy events recently. This summer, a gun shot body was dropped off at the front door. Yikes. Police cars in front is a pretty regular sight.

When you shop there, you get your stuff and go home. There is no socializing in produce. No chatting in the bakery. You keep your keys in hand when you walk to your car if you are alone and its dark. Not overly scary, but not relaxing.

On friday I stopped there to pick up a bunch of dried beans (I'm canning soup today). On my way out to my car a guy sized me up (although I was more focused on the multiple tattoos on his neck) and asked me out. He appeared to be in the process of stealing a shopping cart to get his purchases home when he paused to talk to me.

Imagine my alarm when for the briefest of moments I thought......I wonder if he knows how to install lights.

It has come to that :-)

Friday, January 28, 2005

Electrical Class


Just got a call that my electrical wiring class has been canceled. Seems no one else in the city has new lights that need to be installed. This is the second time I have signed up and it has been cancelled.

This is a drag because every time I call the electrician to do stuff like this he tells me I don't need to be paying him....I just need to learn how to do it myself. Simple, he says.

I'm willing to learn. I am reluctant to kill (or jolt) myself doing it though. I've tried to read written instruction and follow the diagrams. No luck. It would seem I learn by doing.

Oh well, there is another class scheduled for April

Wednesday, January 26, 2005


My doorbell rings very faintly. I'm not sure what the problem is.

I originally discovered there was a problem when people started to visit me after I first moved in. They would tell stories of standing at the front door watching me sitting on my livingroom couch watching tv oblivious while they rang the doorbell. I was less then 10 feet away from the front door.....and maybe 20 feet from the doorbell.

Last week I was waiting for a FedEx delivery. I was motivated to catch the delivery so I didn't have to go pick up the package, or do that annoying routine where you sign the slip and leave it at your front door and eventually they return with your package. So, I spent 3 days diligently listening for the doorbell. I started hearing false doorbells and would find myself running to the front door like a dope. Joke was on me when the FedEx guy came at 7am and just left the package at my side door.

I thought the FedEx story was done. Package had been delivered.

Not so quick. It seems this doorbell thing was a little more subconsciously stressful to me than I realized. For the past week I have been waking in the middle of the night to the sound of what my mind has imagined is a doorbell. Lol...I am hearing doorbells in my sleep.

Maybe I need to move "fix doorbell" a little higher on my To Do list.

P.S. Thanks for the emails. No, the foot is not broken. Still black & blue, but I will live. Although I do have an unnatural fear of going down my basement stairs.

P.P.S. - Nope, still no luck in finding a local old stove repair/restoration guy (or gal).

Sunday, January 23, 2005


Anyone that knows me (and has previously ridiculed my hammer & pliers) can imagine how delighted I was to add this new screw driver, utility knife & tape measure to my collection.

I went to get clothing rods cut for my closet (that are less than the current 1.5" diameter and will actually fit hangers - long story) from my local harware store and heard these tools screaming my name :-)

Every now and again a girl needs a treat.

Friday, January 21, 2005


Keeping track of wallpaper samples, paint chips, the name of that plumber that works on old a trick. When I owned my condo, I ran across the Home Owners Journal in a paint store. A very cool idea. It's a journal that is broken down in the various rooms of your house. Each room then has separate sections for you to record what repairs/decorations/updates you have made, who did them, how much they cost...and what color they were done in. It also has room for you to store paint chips, wallpaper samples, etc. It's all very neat and systematic.

I guess when I have half-way completed projects laying everywhere throughout my provides one little oasis of uncluttered orderliness.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005


I have a collection of new lights to install. I have an outlet in my bathroom that need to be lowered. I have used up most of my outstanding favors with friends with electrical skills. Today I signed up for a beginner electrical class. Should be interesting. However, if you suddenly stop hearing from may want to call 911 :-)

Monday, January 17, 2005


It's been cold the past few days. Last night it hit -18 degrees. Amazingly, my 80 yr old furnace has been keeping the house warm.

This has not always been the case. When I first moved in, imagine my surprise when I discovered that the house had no evidence of ever being weatherproofed inside. When you walked by the majority of the windows, you could actually feel a cold draft blowing in. Lots of windows=lots of cold air.

That first year there were days when I was convinced there was a possibility I would freeze in my sleep. Even with a bed layered in blankets. That first year, I somehow learned of the energy audit program run by Centerpoint Energy (check with your gas or electric company for programs). I quickly scheduled a basic audit of my house for $25. The auditor appeared with tubes of caulking, 3M window plastic and tons of advice. I diligently followed all of his advice....and the results were immediate.

Last year I got even more ambitious. I scheduled the heavy duty audit for $100. The auditor came to my house and took an infrared reading of all of the external walls. The entertainment value alone was worth the $100. He was able to show me in x-ray exactly where the cold air was entering my house (and as a side benefit, where the walls have been insulated). Who knew a crack in the plaster and electrical outlets let in so much cold air. A few days after the audit he send me a cd containing all of the pictures. I spent the next few weeks and countless tubes of caulking sealing up those leaks.

This year, I am finally seeing the payoff in both comfort and at bill time. :-)

Friday, January 14, 2005

Airport Noise

I am in a pissy mood today. Woke up this morning at 7:12 am to the thundering noise of an airplane take off. I am not a morning person.

Seems our ever-growing airport is extending it hours and flight paths. This particularly ticks me off because I moved from my last house in part because of awful airport noise.

For those in the Twin Cities that are also bothered by the increasing airport noise.....MAC Airport Noise Complaint Form. If nothing else, it does make you feel better.

Wednesday, January 12, 2005


Each year at about this time the local tv stations do a segment on radon. It usually features an older house and an owner who has been diagnosed with lung cancer. It's always a sad story and gets you thinking....

Having dealt with lead paint and asbestos, I knew that my odds of having a trifecta of hazardous houshold materials was probably pretty good. Murphy's Law.

I went down to my local hardware store and bought a testing kit. I wanted the most extreme measurement, so I put the tests in the basement (following the directions on the label). Sure enough, the tests came back and my basement air is just a hair over the lowest EPA safety level. This prompted more research on my part, which I will share (because its not all that fun to hunt down - but fairly easy to understand & resolve).

First - What is Radon? Radon is a radioactive gas that comes from the decay of radium in the soil. Radium is a decay product of uranium. Uranium is present in almost all rocks and soil and material derived from rocks. Radon is a colorless, odorless, invisible gas that occurs naturally. Chronic exposure to elevated radon levels has been linked to an increased incidence of lung cancer in humans (definition and also more good reading info. curtesy of the MN Radon Project).

Second - Testing. I bought my short term test kit at the local hardware store. However, I have since discovered that the MN Dept. of Health, in addition to having some good information on their website, has arranged for cheap tests to be sold to MN residents.

Third - What to do next. I've determined that I probably should retest by placing short term tests in the basement and each of my more frequently used living spaces. My results were so borderline and were taken in an area where I don't spend much time, so is isn't a hot issue for me. However, it would be nice toclearly know the extent of the problem.

Fourth - I'm not this far in the process. But, of course you want to know immediately what type of expense you might be facing. I I did a little research on mitigation too. Much to my relief, this isn't a costly thing to fix. Both the MN Radon Project and the MN DOH websites offer contractor info. One website appearing on both the DOH and MRP lists has a nice picture of the mitigation solutions.

I'll keep you posted as this topic progresses.......

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Big Box Stores

In theory it's a really good idea. A big, clean, well lit warehouse filled with everything needed for repair and maintenance of a house. Staffed by knowledgable people ready to help customers.

In reality, for an old house owner a trip to a big box store is usually a lot like my oh-so-frustrating visit today. I was looking for an asbestos testing kit (see my website for the kitchen ceiling tale).

You park a mile from the store. You walk up an down the aisles looking for the department you need. Then you walk up and down the aisles looking for someone to help. You walk some more. You decide to try to find your item yourself. You can't. You walk some more. You toy with the idea of just leaving, but you have now invested 30 minutes into this errand.

You are quite pleased with yourself when you finally manage to flag down one of those orange vests - even if he is going on break and a bit pissy at having to stop - and ask him where asbestos testing kits might be located.
You are the recipient of a condescending laugh and then told that very few houses have asbestos. That most asbestos was removed years ago. That testing kits just wouldn't sell.

Oh, really?

I actually think this was the same orange vest that instructed me last year to replace my windows with vinyl windows when I asked if they carried rope for double hung windows. One of mine had broke.

Why do I keep going? I guess hope springs eternal.

Monday, January 10, 2005


Last year my mom and I went to hear a short talk given by Jane Powell to promote her new book "Linoleum" (she's also the author or "Bungalow Bathrooms" and Bugalow Kitchens"). We are talking about the real stuff made with linseed oil, etc and not the vinyl floors that some people mistakenly call "linoleum." What caught our attention were the slides she showed of the old linoleum designs and insets. She also had slides of new linoleum floors with funky designs cut into the floor.

So, when my mom started redoing her 1950's ranch and came to the kitchen floor.....linoleum was one of her choices. She ordered samples of Marmoleum. The samples came and they were so pretty. Also, impressive was the fact that the material is hyopallergenic (important in a family with allergies). So, she went about the task of ordering the floor.

In the process, she mentioned the cut-in designs to the place she was ordering from......and low and behold.....they had the name of someone locally who does that kind of work.

Well, the floor is complete. It is a sage green with a neat, simple cream colored strip that runs in a rectangle in the center of the room. It is perfect and unusual for the small kitchen floor. My mom waxed it for the first time this week and it gives of a nice, soft glow.

If I didn't already have wood floors in my kitchen, I'd be giving serious though to linoleum.

If anyone is interested in the name of someone who hand inlays linoleum, drop me an email or post a comment......and I will forward his name & number. I figure this kind of old school craftsperson should be promoted whenever possible :-)

Sunday, January 09, 2005

New (to me) Desk

There is a little antique store that I drive by with some frequency (Timelines for those in my neck it the woods). The owner puts newer pieces out on the sidewalk for those driving by to see. This is often enough to have me swerving out of traffic and pulling to stop in front of his place.

Friday I was out running work errands and out of the corner of my eye I spotted what I thought was a telephone stand. Also saw a mission daybed. So, I pulled over to take a closer look. No such was a cute 1920's nightstand. I figured while I was there, I'd make a quick swoop through the store (this is the place where I found my black ceramic towel, et al fixtures for my bathroom). I strolled through the front to the back little closet......and saw IT.

I have been looking on and off for a small desk to use for paying bills, etc. in my bedroom. There sat a little oak desk with carved wood decoration. It had a small brass rail on top and brass piece decoration on the legs and keyhole. I got a little panicky. It was very unusual for oak. I called the owner over to chat. He had just received the piece the day before. Didn't know much about it. Had the original key. We tried to figure out if it had been lightened (the jury is still out). Another customer sensed my interest and come over to see what we were talking about. I think I actually started sweating :-) I bought it. Haha....I paid for it before I even walked through the rest of the store just to make sure.

It sucks to be weak and have a small car.....I had to leave the desk at the store until I could round up some help. Today I brought it home. It is decidedly not Mission. Early 1900's I suspect. The oak goes nicely with the rest of my house, I think. For now, it is going to sit in a corner of my dining room.

Oh, and the mission daybed/couch that I saw was a Stickley Brothers. Original leather cushions. I suspect it was snatched up.....but if you know the place and like Mission, you may want to give it a look.

Wednesday, January 05, 2005


Ok, I am sitting here in zone 4 looking through garden catalogs. Question. How come all of the good plants are for zones 5-9?

Monday, January 03, 2005


The Burpee catalog arrived today.  I don’t know the first thing about gardening. I can grow herbs and that’s it.  Last year I tried my hand at vegetable gardening at a friend’s house.  That venture ended abruptly with early tomato blight and an August freeze.  A freezer full of pesto, a few heads of broccoli and some zucchini is all I had to show for the season. 


One small benefit of the vegetable garden experience is that I learned how to can while I waited for the veggies that never came.  Turns out I am good at canning and like it.  I also had good luck with drying herbs and making them into meat rubs.  A nice Christmas gift.  I’ve decided it would be a whole lot more fun if the produce came from my garden instead of the farmer’s market.


So, this year I think I will try the vegetable garden again.  I’m even considering digging up a proper garden in my tiny back yard.  I want tomatoes, basil, oregano, dill, broccoli, beans, zucchini, cilantro and peppers.  At least.  What are the chances of an August freeze two years in a row?  How deep do I need to dig to make  garden? Do I have room for all of this?


I’d also love to have a pretty flower garden in my front and back yard.  Right now I have a hydrangea in the front of my house the blooms pretty regularly.  There is some phlox scattered and clematis on the side of my house that finally bloomed last year.  A few tulips that come up in an odd little gardenette front of my house.  And then there are hostas.  Way too many hostas.  These were all planted by previous owners and have managed to survive in spite of me.  I spent the first two years watching what came up and spending a lot of time playing the “flower or weed” guessing game. The concepts of zone, exposure, water, soil acidity, height, etc. all seem so complicated. 


The vegetables seem doable, maybe.  The flowers have me stumped. 

Saturday, January 01, 2005

New Year

Well, we knew it would happen.
Expected it to happen eventually.
Was warned it would happen.
Joked about it happening
Just about happened a zillion times.

Today, I fell down those damn basement stairs.
A lesson learned about old building codes, I guess. Too narrow, too steep.

On the bright side, this gave me reason to lay like a slug on my couch with my swollen (broken?) foot in the air and watch "Dr. Zhivago" from beginning to end.

Hope your New Year started out a bit better than mine :-)

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