Thursday, April 30, 2009

Buyer Beware at the Grocery Store

Where I live, it's a trip to town to go to the grocery store, so I try to do it while out running errands. Today, those errands were in a town with only one grocery store, and I picked up a sales flyer on the way in. One of the loss leaders was pork chops for $1.60 per pound. Not bad. Sounded like something Hubby would like, so I picked up some things to go with it and headed for the meat aisle. When I picked up the package, the meat looked fine, but upon closer inspection, there were only three chops that actually looked like pork chops and three that looked like bone and gristle. It was a two pound package containing three thin pork chops for a total cost of $3.20.

A two pound package of center cut pork chops was $2.39 per pound. There were four in that package and all looked good. Those are the ones I bought.

Which is the better deal? The center cut pork chops at $2.35 per pound, in my opinion. I have bought those packages where they hide the crummy pork chops under the good ones, and they aren't worth eating. There might be a bite or two of edible meat on them. So if you consider those the trash that they are, and if they weigh a pound of the two pound package, that one pound of good pork chops cost $3.20, which is 81¢ per pound higher than I paid.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Levi Signature Totally Slimming Jeans

These are, bar none, the most uncomfortable jeans I have ever worn. They are advertised as "high stretch denim for comfort and a built-in tummy control panel". I will admit they have stretch, but whatever tummy control they have in front is offset by the huge gaping waist in the back. Worst of all, they ride down with every step. Walking in them feels like walking in a pair of soaking wet jeans that are being pulled down by the weight of heavy wet denim. These jeans are supposed to be made for women, and granted I have middle-age spread, but unless a woman has a man's figure, that gap at the back will be annoying.

My once worn pair is going to the thrift store.

Marti

Native Plants in the Gardens

I am a big fan of natives.  Not only are they drought resistant, but they also resist many of the local pests and diseases.  I'm slowly getting them to spread throughout my gardens and eliminating the non-natives that require a lot of maintenance.

Blooming in the garden today are the lanceleaf coreopsis

Prairie Verbena is taking over the crinum lily bed

Spider lily blooming in critter pond with primrose behind it (overlook the liner showing)



Marti

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Seen About Town

The security officer at the grocery store has a new form of transportation, the T3 Motion. I chatted with the security officer a minute and he said it is replacing the bicycle.


It looks like fun. He was drawing a crowd every time he stopped.

Until next time, may you have blessings and new sights in the usual places,
Marti

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Procrastination is Tiring

Like most people, I put off things, hard things, easy things, disgusting things, and even pleasant things. I have no idea why. Well, actually I do. Usually there is something that has to be done before the procrastinated task can be completed. Like right now, I need to mail a copy of a diary to someone. But first I have to go somewhere to make a copy. In my small town, that place is Office Depot, and Office Depot shares a parking lot with a county court building. There is no such thing as parking close to the store because people going to court always take the good parking places, even those at the front door of Office Depot, so they can walk on the sidewalk. So I avoid going there until after court hours or on weekends. And those are the hours I always have things to do here at home.

Then there's the disk I need to mail. It's little, it's lightweight, and it needs a box I don't have. It's easier to procrastinate than go find a box. How about the pie I need to make for Lil's birthday? Yep, gotta find a disposable pie pan. The articles I have to write for the club newsletter? I've had two weeks to get them done, but a subject didn't come to mind easily, so I busied myself surfing websites for ideas, and reading my favorite forum boards while the cursor blinked on the blank page. Inspiration finally hit me about 5:00 yesterday afternoon, and I stayed up most of the night writing and surfing while the writing delirium was on me. I finished two articles last night and one this afternoon. Thank heavens that is over for another month. Wait, two weeks and I have to start over again.

Ok, it's been a few days since I wrote this, and I've just got to write an update. Hubby brought home a box so I could mail the disk, so then I got on the computer and clicked on the Shipping Assistant icon only to get the message that it had encountered a problem. Ok, try again. Nada. Ok, uninstall. Restart. Reinstall. Shipping Assistant has encountered an error. Grrrrr. Did a search and it appears that I am not the only one.

Look sideways at the old desktop collecting dust behind the roll top computer cabinet. Turn it on. Wait ten minutes for it to boot. Click on Shipping Assistant and it comes up. Yippee! Wait, don't celebrate yet, it has to be hardwired into the internet. Internet connection is on the other side of the room. Unplug router and drag all the wiring across the room. Pull CPU out of the cabinet and plug into back. Shipping Assistant popup says it has to be updated in order to work. Click OK. Wait thirty minutes for it to update. Yay! Put in all the information for the label and plug in flash drive so I can save copy of label and take it to computer hooked up to printer. New problem, there is no way to save a copy of the label. Grrrr.

Go get printer, another power strip, and plug it all in to old computer. Old computer can't find printer software. Sort through discs and find printer software. Pop it into CPU. Loud, rattling, roar, and it is downloading. Wait. Go sort laundry. Come back to see computer restarting. Wait. Shipping Assistant isn't saved. Open it again, and put in info again. Print. Success! Then I had to go to three stores to find some package tape because Brownie used up mine.

And that, folks, is why I procrastinate.

Marti

My ordinary life

Monday, April 20, 2009

One Down, One to Go

After a long three days, Brownie is now squared away in Oklahoma in the city of her dreams. She and I rented a U-haul trailer last Thursday and brought it home to load when Hubby got off work. When he got home I asked if he was sure the 12 foot trailer was big enough. He assured me that we could get it in. Starting with the washer, dryer, and bedroom dresser, he put the heavy stuff in the front of the trailer and then pieced the boxes and small things in like a giant puzzle. Brownie is lucky that she only had a loveseat, chair and ottoman, because nothing bigger was going into that trailer.

We had a few things to load the next morning, so left the loveseat in the garage to load the next morning. Friday morning was cold and rainy and Brownie left early so she could sign her contract and get keys to her apartment. Hubby had to work until noon and by then the rain had slowed to a sprinkle. Even though it looked like a tight fit, the mattress slid across the top but there was something raising one end so the box springs wouldn't fit. So we had to take out the mattress and loveseat, take off the feet from the loveseat, and rearrange a few other items in the trailer. Then put it all back again and slide the box springs in. All this heavy stuff in the rain. Still, it didn't all fit. We had to wrap her dining chairs and coffee table in plastic and put in the back of the pickup. An upright secretary had to be left behind. I knew we should have gotten a truck.

He and I were on the road by mid afternoon and got to her apartment just before dark. Even though all we really wanted to do was rest, we had to unload enough to go to bed. We got the mattresses, loveseat, chair, ottoman, and all the boxes out with little effort. The futon and mattress was another story. A pox on the malicious person who invented the futon mattress! It is impossible to carry the limp, heavy things, especially the thick ones. Finally, Hubby put it on his back and let it hang over. Then Brownie and I had to try to get a grip on it while it folded trying to get through the door. We advised Brownie to sell it rather than try moving it again. It was past dark by then and we were beat. The rest could wait until morning. After the futon, the dresser, washer and dryer were easy, especially using the dolly.

We spent the rest of Saturday cleaning the apartment and running errands to get the appliances and curtains in place. Brownie still didn't have a headboard and bed frame, so we looked at a couple of consignment stores, but found the same sort of pricing we had at home. Another thing Brownie had to buy was an air purifier. The musty apartment smell wasn't just from being shut for awhile, a neighbor's smoke comes through one of the bedrooms. This is going to be a problem since Brownie is looking for a roommate. With the room shut, towels stuffed under the door, and the purifier running on high, the rest of the apartment is ok, but it will be hard to find a roommate who doesn't smoke yet doesn't mind smelling smoke. When we came home, all of our clothes smelled of cigarette smoke even though we weren't in that room. Brownie slept in that room while we were there since Hubby is too tall to sleep on the futon, and even though she doesn't have a keen sense of smell, the smoke woke her up about 6 a.m. both mornings. Apparantly, that is when the tenant above gets up and starts smoking.

Brownie called when we were about half-way home and said she missed us already. It's always harder to be the one waving goodbye and going back into an empty house. I miss her too. The house has seemed very quiet today.

Marti

My ordinary life, Brownie

Looking for the Holy Grail Would be Easier

Than looking for decent used furniture, that is. With both daughters moving into their first apartments and furnishing them by themselves on limited budgets, we have looked at a lot of furniture.

There are several ways of finding used furniture, just as there are for used cars, and it is priced in the same type levels, retail value (consignment stores), private party value (craig's list by owner), and wholesale (garage sale). We began with craig's list because it was easiest for us and from there, we got an idea of what the girls wanted and the price range for it. Then we made appointments to see the furniture and stopped by a few consignment stores and garage sales too. By and large, the consignment stores were three times the price of the furniture for sale by owner, and garage sales in our area had mainly stuff that didn't sell on craig's list. So we concentrated on craig's list, with Lil surfing in her spare time and emailing links every night for us to check out.

I've seen more junky furniture in the last two weeks than I thought could possibly be in existence. And what is worse, people either don't know their stuff is junk or they are worse than used car salesmen in overstating it's worth.

Last week when Lil was home for Easter Break, we spent nearly every minute of the weekend looking for furniture and it seemed like everything good was in the northern suburbs of the metroplex. We spent a couple of days looking at "like new" furniture that was worn, filthy, or had rips in the cushions. There was one set of new, oak dining chairs. It was new, but it wasn't oak, but some kind of pine and resin with a faux wood design.

On Sunday afternoon, the four of us went together to check out some living room furniture that Lil declared was exactly what she wanted. And of course, it was 70 miles north of us. Lil asked all the usual questions about smoking, pets (she has severe allergies), brand, age, additional pictures, and made an appointment to see it. We were supposed to call when we got to town for directions. (Can you see where this is going?) So we got to town, called, and no answer. We went to a fast food place to eat and afterward called again. Nothing.

So Lil looked up another set that was 45 miles west of that town, called, and made an appointment. It was great furniture, probably better than the first, and cheaper. She bought it and we drove home. Great family day together, huh? Now both girls had living room upholstered furniture and it was on to bedroom furniture. Brownie already had a dresser and night stand, so all she needed was a headboard and frame. Lil needed everything and spent the evening looking up stuff for us to check out after she went back to school.

The next day, Brownie and I looked at two bedroom suits, the furthest was 62 miles away and the other 28 miles east of it, so we made a big ol' circle and it stole 5 hours out of our day. The first one was an pine set with a pickled finish. Remember the pickling that was so popular about 15 years ago? We talked to the owner on the phone, asked for additional pictures and knew that the nightstand top has some water marks from wet glasses. But when we got there, not only did it have extensive water damage on the nightstand top, but a ring on the dresser, and it looked like all of it had been in a flooded room with a faded discoloration along all the bottoms. One piece had a corner that looked like it had been chewed by a dog, a kid had carved initials in the headboard, and the drawers were all hard to open. And it was supposed to be in excellent condition. The next one was cheap furniture with cherry finish and she swore up & down that it was cherry wood.

That's it, stick me with a fork, I'm done.

Marti

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Apartment Hunting

Back when the Hubster and I were young, finding an apartment wasn't a big deal. There weren't as many then, certainly not one right after another for miles the way they are now. Before we went to Missouri, Lil had talked to the relocation department with her new employer. They helped her narrow down the areas that were good, and from there she went online with her requirements and found a few to look at. It helped that her budget allows for a nice apartment in a good area, but we still looked at some that made me nervous of her safety.

When Brownie went apartment hunting in Oklahoma, she had a few things stacked against her. First, her employer doesn't have a relocation department or anyone to advise newcomers so she had to rely on the internet and the recommendation of people she really didn't know. Second, her budget is lower. When she interviewed for the job at the hospital, she spent a few hours looking at nearby apartments, and found one she liked. I was skeptical of there being any nice areas around a hospital if that city is anything like the big cities around here, but when I went back with her, the area did seem nice though none of the apartments in her price range were gated. We saw an actual empty apartment at the complex she liked, and the only thing I didn't like is that it was on the parking lot side of the building instead of facing the courtyard, and was on the bottom floor.

We looked at some other apartments in the same area, and they all seemed about the same. Even though most apartments are fairly quiet during the day, the real test is at night when everyone is home, so I suggested we go back about 10pm and see how noisy they were before deciding on one.

At dinner, we were looking over the apartment magazine and the brochures we had picked up, and our waitress saw one of the brochures and commented what a great price it was. It was one that gave discounts to hospital employees. She said she had lived in that area until recently when she moved into a house in a nearby suburb. I guess she saw the cross I was wearing and asked Brownie about church and then told her the church she went to had a huge singles group, and she gave Brownie her phone number to call if she wanted to go there.

Then we found a hotel and I got online (or tried to, the connection was incredibly slow) and started looking up apartments for us to look at the next day. When I typed in one of the names, a website called apartmentratings.com came up so I clicked on it. It had comments from former and current tenants, and most of the negative comments had something to say about murders, gunshots in the night, rapes, drugs, or vandelism to cars. It freaked me out so I started looking up all the apartments we had looked at that day from the same area, and all had similar comments.

In the apartment finder magazine, none of the rates for apartments in the suburbs were within Brownie's price range and I didn't know what to do. I didn't want her living in an area where there was a high crime rate, and every single apartment we looked at had a sliding glass door which are the easiest to break into. So after several hours of super slow page loading, I told Brownie that I thought we should find the police station closest to the hospital and ask them what area was safe.

The next morning, we asked the hotel clerk if he knew where the closest police station would be, he gave us directions (which weren't quite accurate, but we had a GPS with us) so we took off. Turns out, that police station was in the suburb that the waitress from the restaurant lived, and we saw the church she attended. It was big, new, and I could see how it would have a big singles group.

We got to the address the gps directed us to, and it was the city hall building. Since there were police cars in the parking lot next door, I wasn't sure which building to go in, but we went in the city hall building and found a door marked Police Information. Inside was an older man in uniform behind one of those glass windows with the little cutout at the bottom to slide a payment under.

He had that look of "what crime are they going to try to talk their way out of" when we walked in the door. I told him we were apartment hunting in the city and after looking at the website listing all the murders, rapes, and other crimes I wanted to know what areas were safe for a single girl in her first apartment. His attitude changed immediately, and I showed him the little map of the area where Brownie would be working and where we had been looking.

Another officer walked in and started to talk to us, and then said he would come around to the part of the room we were in. He told us we shouldn't look in the city at all, that crime and especially drugs were really bad there. He told us that the crime rate in their little town was very low, only one murder in the last five years and that was a domestic issue. They haven't had any rapes or stranger on stranger attacks and very little robbery or drugs.

About that time another officer walked by the door he had left open and he came in to talk too. He was about my age I think and said he had two daughters and no way would he let them live in the city by themselves. One of them left to go get us a map of the suburb and they told us that there was a good apartment complex in town and the manager was a lady who didn't put up with any crap. All three of them thought a lot of her and that complex even though it was older. They told us which apartments to avoid, and told us about one where they had never had a single call. They were all very nice and went out of their way to help us, so I felt hopeful we could find something in that town.

The one they really liked was a townhouse unit but had no sign up with a phone number or anything saying there were vacancies, so we went to the older apartment complex. It was indeed older and looked like it could use some spiffing up, but it wasn't run down. It was a combination of concrete and wood siding walls, flat roofs, and outdoor stairwells with lots of kids toys around them.

We found the office and Brownie asked if she had any one bedroom apartments available. The lady said no, and there was a nine month waiting list for the one bedroom units, but she did have a two bedroom open. It was supposed to be taken but the couple had just backed out. So we looked at it, even though it was $575 and that was $75 over Brownie's budget. It was on the first floor, and had new paint & carpet because the previous tenants had a puppy that had ruined the carpet and the folks were heavy smokers. Even with new paint and carpet the apartment had a heavy, musty smell. That alone would bother me, but Brownie has almost no sense of smell and barely noticed it.

We told the manager that the officers at the police department had recommended the apartment complex and her to us. She said that a lot of people from the police and fire departments had lived there, in fact there was a policeman and his wife just across the courtyard from this apartment. She said they did background checks and no one with a record was allowed to live there, and if she ever saw any sign of drug use, she called the police and they came out to investigate. If they found anything, even if it was a guest of the tenant, the tenant had 24 hours to vacate.

She also said that they were within a mile of a school and park, so no sex offenders could live there. All in all, I had a much better feeling about this place even if it wasn't fresh and new. When I started thinking about it, several of the models and empty units we had seen in the city had security systems and I thought at the time that was a bit odd for a rented apartment. Another thing about this one is that they had no sliding glass doors. No patio in this unit, but I can't see Brownie really using a patio anyway.

That was just before noon, so we left so we could talk about it and call the Hubster to get his opinion since it was so much higher than Brownie wanted. The manager had also said that she could get on the list to transfer to a one bedroom when one came open and residents got first priority. Hubby said if we felt good about the safety here, and it was the only apartment complex in town other than the ones the police told us to avoid, then $75 wouldn't make that much difference. And Brownie might be able to find a roommate once she starts working or going to church.

So we went back to the apartment and waited for the manager to come back from lunch. She gave us the key so we could take another look at the apartment, and we opened the doors and drawers and gave it a good inspection. The kitchen cabinets are made of vinyl covered pressed wood, like the bookshelves that come from the dollar store, but they were clean.

When we went back to the office, there was another couple talking to the manager about the apartment. They decided to think about it and left and we let out a big sigh of relief. We didn't know where we would look if she didn't live there. She filled out all the paperwork and the manager called her a couple of days later to say she got it.

Marti

Monday, April 13, 2009

Perfect Timing?

It shouldn't be any surprise. Brownie struggled with school in areas where Lil excelled and moved ahead, so by the time they were in 10th and 7th grade respectively, they were basically doing the same curriculum. Brownie didn't have any desire to go to college when she finished high school, but after a few years she was ready, and started community college. That same year Lil graduated from high school and started a four year college so we were paying for two in college at the same time. Brownie began a course here which she finished a few weeks ago and began working full time. Lil will graduate this year. And wouldn't you know it, they were both offered jobs that will move them to different states! Brownie will move within the week and Lil will move in May.

I never suffered from Empty Nest Syndrome before because Brownie never really left home, but now I am going to have to say goodbye to both of them before summer. They've always ended up doing things together or at the same time, and this isn't any different. I just hope my little birds find their way back one day.

Until next time, may you have blessings and time with family,
Marti

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Making an Old Shed Older


After we took all the old barn wood off the family room walls, I started looking around for a way to use it. One day I looked at the shed and mentioned to Hubby how neat it would look covered with the old wood, and a tin roof. He disagreed. So one day when he was at work, I decided to see for myself.

Before:


After:



The pieces were not quite four feet long by a foot wide, so I stacked them and the two inch strips to make it look like eight foot board and batten.  I used 8D nails to attach them to the original shed.  As you can see in the "before" photo, I just put them between the corner trim and between the trim pieces on the door.. After I finished the front of the shed, except for the very top, I used a combination of tan, brown, and black paint to faux finish the original white trim.  It wasn't a fancy faux.  With all three cans open, I painted a trim piece brown, and then while it was still wet, I painted streaks of tan and black and blended them in a little.  It was just enough to blend with the old wood.  I still need to paint the hinges black.

I took off the original motion lights too.  By the time Hubby came home, I had the front painted and he loved it.  So then he was willing to help me build the shed porch roof and false front on top.  We used all the old wood on the false front, no painting on it except the 4M.  For that, I made a stencil and painted it on with white exterior latex.  After it dried, I sanded it almost to the wood in places to give it an aged look.

The final touch was to add a lantern light fixture I found at the big box store.

Until next time, may you have blessings and imagination,
Marti

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Nothing Like a Boy and His Toys


No matter the age.

Yesterday was spent sawing down the dying mimosa in the front yard with his chain saw and this afternoon was spent turning the limbs into mulch with his chipper.

Arh, arh, arh, and all that.

Marti

Friday, April 3, 2009

Paying It Forward

Hubby and I have been very blessed in the last year, not necessarily financially, but he still has a job, so I guess that counts too. Last year, Hubby's company cut bonuses/ commissions, and for salesmen who work to make a commission, that was a big cut. Then, one of his customers gave him a monetary Christmas gift. His customer! That is just unheard of, usually it is the salesman who gives out gifts to the good customers at Christmas. Since that is not a company reimbursed item, Hubby has always paid for these little gifts out of his commissions, knowing the goodwill gesture would be good for business. Usually he gave snack trays or some kind of Christmas food items, but this past Christmas, our finances were too tight for him to do that.

It was a real surprise for him to receive this gift from a customer, and even though it would have been really helpful to use it for our Christmas, Hubby prayed about it and put it away until there was a need, either by us or someone else. Since then, he has been able to pay it forward, and giving without obligation or acknowledgment has given him far more. Now it's my turn.

I am a forum junkie. When I'm online, I'm usually gabbing with online friends about an area of interest we share. I visit different forums for different interests, from art to small scale farming. This year, a couple of people on these forums have gifted me, one with a subscription and one with the offer of labor. These are people I have never even met in person. Both are people whose posts are always helpful and considerate and I am deeply touched that such people would make these offers to me. Now it just happened that two other people whom I have also never met but have come to respect and admire have had a crisis thrust upon them and I have the opportunity to pay it forward.

Isn't it great how God teaches us about giving by being on the receiving end and then shows us an opportunity to put it into practice?

Marti

The Most Boring CSI Ever

Maybe it's just me, but CSI Las Vegas has really gone downhill since William Peterson left. Any show based on science has the potential to be tedious, but the addition of Lawrence Fishburne has sealed that fate for this CSI. Last night, we were watching and about halfway through, the Hubster remarked that the show was dragging and the storyline was hard to follow. I had lost interest about five minutes into it. We used to love all the CSI's, well we loved Las Vegas and New York and we tolerate Miami. David Caruso is so full of himself it's sometimes comical.

As much of a tv addict as I am, it's getting harder to find anything worth watching anymore. I was sad to see ER end last night too, but kudos to them for going out in style.

Marti