July 25, 2010

Slipped Up

I'm still looking for the perfect chairs. Maybe that sounds picky, but I've already got chairs that are best described as "beats nothing" and I would really like to move it up a notch. I feel like Goldilocks and the beds, they're either too big, too small, or too ugly. And lately, they've been too slipcovered. I must be the only person in the world who doesn't love (or even like) slipcovers. All the magazines rave about them, showing rooms with white slipcovered chairs and sofas, usually on hardwood floors, and with a beach house theme. They call it easy and carefree.

And wrinkled. They left out wrinkled.

Magazines show these wonderfully decorated rooms with wrinkled, slipcovers, usually white slipcovers. Why white? Since when is white easy and carefree? And on a beach? Does a sofa like this say "come plop your filthy, sand-encrusted self on me, and bring your filthy, wet dog too"?

Actually, any mother who has ever mopped the kitchen floor knows that the very minute, no, the very second you finish, a kid is going to step on that wet floor, usually with muddy feet. So to answer my own question, "do slipcovers invite dirt?" the answer is a sad yes. And are they carefree? I guess that depends on whether or not you can live with dirty slipcovers, because they are never going to be totally white again, even if they are washable.

But getting back to my subject, which is actually wrinkled slipcovers, I still don't understand the appeal; I've just never been a fan of slipcovers. They just look frumpy and sloppy to me, and I've got enough of that in my house without adding it on purpose. Magazine houses are staged to look their best, and they still show wrinkled slipcovers. If it is wrinkled after a professional has pulled in the sags and bags with strategically placed pins, and the photographer gets just the right angle and lighting, I can imagine that it would look like a herd of monkeys had been living on it in my house.

Now before you roll your eyes at me and say "But Marti, not all slipcovers look like they were made out of a used laundry bag," I'll admit (grudgingly) that you're right. But my aim here is to entertain while imparting this great wisdom to you. Oh sure, there are some nice looking slipcovers in magazines, and possibly even in houses of real people. But by and large, I think most slipcovers look slipshod (pun intended). If you think I'm wrong, just take a look at pictures taken by real people of real furniture in their real homes - furniture that they really want to get rid of.

There are the slipcovers that drape - one size fits all (or none). They come in all colors and all fabrics. Makes no difference, they still look like a dust cover for furniture in haunted houses.

A step above those are the draped throw with ties. Those fit about as well as a hospital gown. Again, one size fits none. You've worn them, you know what I mean.

Then there are the ones with the general shape of the sofa or chair, with elastic sewn in to define the arms and cushions. The overall appearance resembles a sofa, the way the Pillsbury Doughboy resembles Giada De Laurentiis.

Some people try to make it look more furniture-like with carefully placed throw pillows.

There are the stretchy ones that fit like a sausage casing.

Some lace up the back for a "custom" fit, like a straight jacket with ruffles.

And last are the custom covers. Some come with the furniture at purchase, and some are made for the piece later. These are the best of the lot and they still have wrinkles.

And if your slipcover gets dirty from all that wet sand, and you can't get it clean, you can always put another cover on your slipcovered sofa.

Some people can't get enough slipcovers, and some people have had too much. I'll take upholstered, thank you.

Until next time, may you have blessings and no sand in your cushions,

July 22, 2010

Thursday at the Thrift Store

These are my latest thrift store finds. All were 50 cents or less except the casserole dish which was $2.50.

The large picture is just the right size for a project I have in mind. The two smaller frames match a picture Lil has. She has been looking for companion pieces for it. It looks like someone tried to paint one of them, but I think I can get that off. The little purple dish is just the right size for making hamburger buns, and I already have several just like it.

I originally bought the stemmed goblets for a garden project, and I might still use them for that, but I when I found the plates, I decided to start a collection of sorts. After seeing how much my sister-in-law paid to rent dishes for my niece's wedding, I thought I'd start picking up white plates and pretty goblets when I find them at a good price.

But this is my prize. Sorry, I couldn't get the glare off it. I love the frame. I was there when they put it out and I picked it up, looked at the price ($5.50), and held on tightly. I thought Lil might want it, but after looking at the frame for awhile, I think I might keep it. The picture is a print by Barbara Mock but I couldn't find the name of it anywhere.

Until next time, may you have blessings and bargains,

July 21, 2010

I am Soooo Relieved

I've been trying not to gripe, can you tell? I've been dealing with this tennis elbow (or housework elbow as I call it) for awhile, and have been going to the chiropractor for almost two weeks. I hadn't seen any change in the pain level and was beginning to be discouraged, especially after he told me on Monday that if the treatment didn't start making a difference, he wanted me to go get an x-ray and MRI, and then the possible next step could be surgery. But after the ultrasound on Monday, he adjusted my elbow, and both Tuesday morning and this morning I woke up without pain in that arm for the first time in months. And last night I even brushed my teeth without pain.

He said today that I still might have a torn muscle and I may still need to get an MRI to find out, but for now I am so encouraged that I will continue to do my exercises and not do anything to cause a setback.

Until next time, may you have blessings and all parts working,

July 20, 2010

Dealing with Chiggars

I like to see what search topics people use to find my blog, and lately the topic has been chiggars. I have several posts griping about the little buggers, but none specifically telling how we have dealt with them.

I managed to live 36 years without really knowing what a chiggar is. When Brownie went to Girl Scout camp one summer, they used sulphur powder on their ankles to ward off the beasties, but that's really all I knew until we bought five acres of a former ranch. I called a friend who had been living in the country for a few years and her advice was to buy Chiggerex for the existing chiggars and from then on, every time we were out in the field (aka our yard), to come in, fill the tub and add about a half cup of bleach and splash it all over ourselves.

That worked great, but was fairly inconvenient when we only had a shower. So I remedied it by filling a spray bottle with water and adding a couple of tablespoons of bleach. Get in the shower, spray all over, and turn the water on. By the time the water has warmed enough to start the shower, the bleach has killed off any chiggars and we shower as usual. The bleached water has only been on our skin for a few minutes, and is only minimally drying and that can be eased with lotion.

It takes chiggars a long time to actually dig into the skin so you can be out in chiggar territory a few hours before you have to come in and use the bleach solution on yourself.

Then, I heard an organic gardener talking about spreading sulphur on the yard and gardens. That is a granular sulphur and the first two years it worked great. In fact last year, we found a great price and bought enough for two years. We put it in the fertilizer spreader that hooks onto the riding lawnmower and spread it fairly heavily on the grass and in the flower beds that are next to any walking areas. After spreading all the sulphur pellets, there will be about a half cup of sulphur powder in the bottom of the spreader, and that can be poured into an old sock. Knot the sock at the top and before going into non-treated areas, take the sock and slap it around your ankles so the dust evenly coats your shoes and socks (or pants).

This year it wasn't as effective. Either it was too old or I just didn't put it on heavy enough. We had an usually wet early summer and the pellets don't last long after they've been wet. So this year, I gave up and spread a commercial insecticide on the yard. We don't have any small children or pets, but I still hated to do it because I knew it would kill the good insects as well. At the time, it didn't seem that we had a choice. My in-laws were coming over often and I couldn't have them going home and dealing with the itchies that last for days.

Hope that helps.

Until next time, may you have blessings and relief from the itchies,

July 18, 2010

Step Away from the Paint Can!

You know how it is when you makeover a room, it makes something else look bad. That's how it was after I finished the master bathroom recently. A fresh coat of paint on the walls, all the wood trim and door, refinished the cabinets, and new nickel fixtures - made the original brass door hinges and doorknob look old and shabby.

Hubby told me to just go buy new hinges and knobs, but I didn't want to put nickel on just one door, and nickel wouldn't look right in the other rooms. I thought I had the solution with white ceramic door knobs; that way they would be timeless and a neutral with the different hardware colors in the different rooms. But the only place that had ones that were completely white was in the U.K. and they were just too expensive.

The hinges were the worst because they had years of sloppy painting overlapping the brass, so I just painted them with the same paint I used on the door.

Then I thought the brass coat hook on the door might be less conspicuous if it were painted white, so I spray-painted it. That turned out well, so I thought I might as well paint the door knobs.

They certainly blend now, but is it possible their lack of color makes them conspicuous? For some reason they remind me of a face with no eyebrows.

But it's done and I'll live with it awhile. If I don't like it, I'll try something else.

Until next time, may you have blessings and a full can of paint,

July 17, 2010

Apple Update

Earlier this spring, I bagged the baby apples on one of our trees. If you don't remember, I wrote about it here. Actually, we have two trees; one tree had a lot of blooms so those apples became the "experimental bagged" apples, and one tree had one bloom, and thus one apple, so it was my "control" apple.

We've been watching the apples grow inside the bags and it dawned on me one day that we don't know how to tell when they are ripe. I vaguely remember reading on the tag that these apples were supposed to be ripe in late summer. Or maybe I remembered that from a movie. So I did a little research and the internet apple experts have this to say:

1. Look at the color. Puh-lease, like I couldn't have figured that out.

This is the "control" apple. Its shape is a bit deformed and it has a bad spot which the ants have found. I don't know how much longer it will hang onto the tree.

This is one of the "experimental" bagged apples. It is yellowish, which could be the right color if I knew what kind of tree this is. The apple Hubby found on the ground had red around the top, this one didn't.

The only problem is that we can't remember what kind of apple trees they are, although I'm pretty sure one of them is a Gala and the other one is something else. But I don't know which is which. Also, they were a very light yellowish green with a pink blush when I bagged them, and that's what they are now, and I think that's the color some ripe ones from the grocery store are too. Sooo, next?

2. Hold the apple and squeeze. It should barely be squishy. Um, squishy compared to what? A baseball? An orange? A water balloon? Ok, I held an apple, squeezed gently.... and it felt like an apple. Or a baseball. Kinda the same.

3. Watch for apples falling to the ground.
Thursday, Hubby mowed the yard and found a bagged apple on the ground. There were ants in the bag with the apple, but the apple looked fine so Hubby cut it and we ate it (without the ants). It was a little dry, a little tart, and sweet. Yeehaw, we have a winner; it's apple-pickin' time!

Or is it?

4. See how shiny the skin is, the shinier, the juicier. Well, these definitely aren't as shiny as apples from the grocery store, but aren't those waxed? The apple we ate Thursday wasn't juicy even though it has been raining lately, but earlier in the summer it was really dry and we planted the trees in an area that is hard to water, so it didn't get a lot of supplemental watering.

5. Hold the apple up to your ear with one hand, and with your other hand, use one finger to tap on the apple. If the sound you hear is hollow and echo-y, then the apple is ripe and crisp. If you hear a flat or thud-like sound, the apple isn't very crisp. Now wait a minute. My neighbors think I'm strange enough without sticking my head into the tree and holding an apple to my ear. And besides, my apples are in a plastic bag hanging on a tree and this advice was probably for picked apples in a store, although I've never heard anyone listening to apples in the store either because I would be the first to back away slowly and notify the authorities. Still, I held and apple up to my ear and thumped, but all I could hear was the sound of thumping against plastic.

6. Toward the end of summer, pick an apple every day or so, and taste it. Near ripe apples are tart and their seeds are white. Dark seeds indicate the apple is ripe.Good advice if you have an orchard I guess, but I only have nine apples left. The one we ate Thursday did have brown or brownish seeds. Still, I thought it wouldn't hurt to pick one since the one on the ground was pretty good. So I went out to the bagged tree this morning, and there was another apple on the ground. This one also had ants in the bag and a brown, mushy spot on top. I did the feely test. Yellow part like a baseball, mushy part like a water balloon.

3. Pick your apple by using an upward, lifting motion. If the fruit comes away easily, then it is ripe. Aha, here we go. I tested the apple and it took a good tug to pull it from the tree. Probably not a good thing.

Out of the bag, you can see how perfectly shaped it is, golden, with brown on top, like a Golden Delicious.

Pulling forcibly or twisting the apple is likely to tear off the spur, where the next year's buds are already beginning to form. Spurs are easily broken off; if too many are destroyed, there may not be enough apples next year. If it resists, it's not ready. Move on to the next apple. Not all apples on the same tree are ripe at exactly the same time. Oops. I guess I should have read that part first.

4. Bite into your apple. Juicy and sweet apples are mature, while bitter-tasting fruit is not ready for harvest.

Judging by the way Hubby's face drew up into "bitter beer face", I figured we did not have a winner here. I bit off part of my apple. And spit it in the trash. Not ready! But the seeds are dark, at least on the outside. I wonder if they are supposed to be dark all the way through, or if light inside is normal? Nothing I can find online tells about that.

Soooooo, I bought, (actually I asked Hubby to buy) a Gala apple and a Fugi apple from the grocery store because I'm pretty sure one of the trees is one of those.

They look similar in coloration, but not size; the Fugi is the bigger in this picture.

I cut the Gala apple, extracted a seed, and cut it in half. The answer to my question is that the outer part of the seed is dark, but the inner part is white. In fact, the outer part is more like a husk.

Then, in the interest of science, Hubby and I ate the apple. I didn't think it tasted anything like ours and Hubby thought it tasted a lot like ours except sweeter.

So in conclusion, I have absolutely no idea what kind of apple trees we have or how to tell when the apples are ripe.

Until next time, may you have blessings and the sweet fruits of summer,

P.S. Every picture of apple trees I found on the internet show apples growing in clusters. I think I thinned out perfectly good apples for nothing.

July 22, 2010 Update:

I picked another apple yesterday evening. This one came off in my hand when I lifted it.

It was delicious, but definitely not a gala or a fugi.

July 15, 2010

Google Reader and Followers

The older I get, the more technology is like the merry-go-round that I was pushing as hard as I could until it was going so fast I couldn't jump on, and was left sprawling in the dirt beside it.

Here's an analogy for you (remember those from English class?)

Marti is to Google Reader as Mikey is to Cheerios

Yep, I tried it and I like it. Finally.  (Edited in 2013 to say that Google Reader has been discontinued.  It was fun while it lasted.)

I don't know why I resisted so long. My friend Missy from 90 Miles from Nowhere had explained at least twice how great it was, but I guess it never penetrated into the musty recesses of my gray matter. Don't throw that age thing at me, I'm still willing to learn. Ok, maybe not, more like I'm willing to wait for someone else to learn and then show me which button to push.

So anyway, I looked at my Dashboard today, which I usually only use to get to "Edit Posts." I looked past that to the reading list. Oh I knew the few blogs I follow show updates there, but the whole post isn't shown so I have to click on it anyway, and it only shows blogspot blogs and my daily reading includes others, so I just never bothered to do anything with it. In fact, I never could see the point in either being a follower or having followers. I thought it was more a status symbol, one that indicated my status was pretty low.

But the reading list happened to catch my attention because there was a new post from Larainy Days. I love reading her blog because she's a kindred spirit in the love of wry (and some say twisted) humor. Somehow I had happened to miss her blog jumping to the top of my blog roll so I had to stop and read it. Then I noticed.....

"View in Google Reader" at the bottom right. So I clicked on it, and lo and behold, there were all the newly updated blogs in their entirety just like Missy said, only I didn't have to type in the website or have a separate link saved in Favorites (which I am too lazy to find) to get to it.

And for those non-blogspot blogs, there is an "Add Subscription" button at the top of the left toolbar, so I can add blogs like Knock-Off Wood. Click on it, add the url...

and, voila! there it is in my reading list.

So now I will become a follower of all the blogs I like to read every day so I can read them all at one time. How cool is that????

Wow! I feel so superior. I want to call my 20-something daughters and sing-song "I know more than you do, I know more than you do." But I won't. I'll restrain myself, and the next time the conversation of internet comes up, I'll casually throw in "RSS feed", "Google Reader", and "subscription management" as if I have known this for years, or at least as long as Missy has, and watch their little eyes widen in deep respect for their aging but technologically advanced mother. And then I'll look down on them, shake my head sympathetically, and suggest that their skills are slipping now that they are no longer in school.

Until next time, may you have blessings and at least one foot on that technology merrry-go-round,

July 12, 2010

An Update of Sorts

And believe me it's hard to do this without whining.

Let's see, let me go back to June 20 when about 11 p.m. Hubby noticed that the air conditioner was running, but wasn't cool. We sweated through that night and the next day (this is summer in Texas you know) and our a/c guy showed up about 5 p.m. He said our freon level was fine and he replaced the capacitor. We went out to eat while it cooled the house, but when we came home it had barely cooled. The air conditioner ran continuously until about 5:30 the next morning, and then it never seemed to cool as well as it had before, and ran all the time.

Or at least it ran until 4th of July weekend when once again we came home Monday afternoon to a hot house. Hubby decided we would sleep in the garage instead of the warm house because we have a refrigerated window unit out there. So he carried a couple of twin mattresses out there and plopped them on the floor. He was so sweet, he even put sheets on the bed too. I know I should have been grateful to have a mattress and cool air, but I had seen a mouse out there the week before and Hubby never gloated about it's demise, so I assumed it was still there. My head was about five feet from the air conditioner and it is loud. And it rattled. All night long. I woke up about every thirty minutes.... Whin......mmmmm.....mmmmm....mmm

Ok, fine. I can see the good side to this. Let me think. Ok, got it. Being awake most of the night kept the mouse (or mice) from climbing into bed with me. But being awake most of the night also made me realize the garage has an odor. I can't quite place it, but it's not good..... Whi.....mmmmmm....mmm..m

O.K. Fine. The smell was good because........um..... Ok, I give up, I don't know how it could have been good. I just won't whine about it.

So anyway, we called the hvac company again, told them it wasn't cooling again and hadn't worked right since the guy left last time, and we also asked for a quote on a new a/c. (That was probably a mistake.) This time the repairman came around noon the next day, and this time he said the freon was really low, and the only way to find the leak was to refill it. He said if it was his fault from two weeks ago, there wouldn't be a charge. So we grudgingly gave the go-ahead since we really didn't want to be without cool air until it could be replaced. He said it was because of tiny holes and nicks along the. After he gave us the quote on the new unit, he asked when we wanted to schedule it. He was really surprised when we told him we were going to get a few bids. He thought he had it in the bag.

The house was cool again in a couple of hours, which really leads Hubby and I to think the problem isn't tiny holes in the line. It has worked fine since then too. I sure hope there really is a new capacitor in there. Just saying. Was that a whine? I'm not sure.

While I was in New Mexico, Hubby bought a new washer and dryer. Our dryer wasn't vented well (thanks Moe) and it always took a long time for things to dry. Since we want to move the upright freezer into the laundry area, Hubby thought a stacking washer and dryer would make room. Hubby also took the opportunity to move the dryer stack in the attic so it doesn't have to be crimped through the narrow opening in the soffit. He thinks that is the reason the dryer had to work so hard. The new dryer seems to be working fine, so maybe that was it. Of course, we wouldn't have bought them if we knew a new a/c unit was in our future. I listed the old washer and dryer on Craig's List and sold the dryer right off, but the washer is still with us. I guess I was a little too honest in my description but it does have rust on the lid. In the past few weeks, I've been studying Craig's List and it's been fairly entertaining. I hope it's still ok to laugh at the things people do because my next post will be ads from Craig's List.

Anyhoo, been dealing with getting bids, selling appliances, and it's been raining, which is really really unusual for us this time of year. It has kept the grass (and weeds) lush and green. Usually by this time of year I only have to mow every other week, but with all this rain, I need to mow weekly, and since Hubby hasn't been weedeating lately, I decided to do that too. That was the last straw for my elbow which has been hurting since last year. It had even got to the point that it hurt to brush my teeth. So I went to the chiropractor. Why am I telling you this? Because he basically told me to stop using that arm, and ice it every hour. Since typing hurts, and since I have to sit fifteen minutes out of every hour with ice on it, I've been here, but surfing instead of typing. I can mouse with my left hand, but I have found my left hand has not been a contributing member of the symbiotic appendage relationship. It does a pretty sloppy job of anything I tell it to do. I had no idea it had been loafing all these years.

Until next time, may you have blessings and strong arms,

July 01, 2010

A Man Named Hank

I'm reading a book, The Life You've Always Wanted, by John Ortberg. So far, I haven't found the directions to that life. I thought they would be listed in numerical order, something like twelve easy steps to the perfect life but it looks like it's going to be one of those deeply-philosophical-soul-searching type books. I'm feeling pretty shallow these days and I was going to quit reading it, but it was all I took on my weekend trip and I have to read to get to sleep so I kept reading. Then I read this description of Hank:
The Man Who Never Changed
Hank, as we'll call him, was a cranky guy. He did not smile easily, and when he did, the smile often had a cruel edge to it, coming at someone's expense. He had a knack for discovering islands of bad news in oceans of happiness. He would always find a cloud where others saw a silver lining.

Hank rarely affirmed anyone. He operated on the assumption that if you compliment someone, it might lead to a swelled head, so he worked to make sure everyone stayed humble. His was a ministry of crainial downsizing.

His native tongue was complaint. He carried judgment and disapproval the way a prisoner carries a ball and chain. Although he went to church his whole life, he was never unshackled.

Hank is one of those miserable people who suck all the joy out of a room, and yet something seemed familiar about him. I had to read it again, and then it hit my downsized cranium that I had a lot in common with Hank. (See the highlighted lines.) I wondered if anyone knew. Shoot, I wondered if everyone knew.

I was faced with a dilemma. Should I toss the book and cleanse my mind of this spotlight on my faults? Keep reading and look for an answer? Hide in the basement? I don't have a basement. Should I try to be positive instead of negative? I don't know how to be positive, all my training is in negative. And yet, I really dislike being around people who are continually whiney and gripey. Is that how people see me? Scary thought.

Change is hard. Maybe it's too late for me. Maybe negative is my niche, an endearing quality that all my friends love. Or maybe they put up with me because they don't know how to get rid of me. Now that's a scary thought. I know people like that too, the ones who can clear a room just by being in it. You know the.... Um... Hello?... Is anyone here?... Sigh.

Until next time, may you have blessings and positive thoughts, whatever that is,