Tuesday, June 30, 2009


One of the first things our real estate agent, Dan, told us when we bought this house was that it needed a new roof. The shingles were curling up and on the back of the house big sheets of them had come loose and were sliding down. Unfortunately, our list of "first things" was long and expensive and we kept putting off the roof until this spring, when a guy came by offering to take pictures of our roof and send them to the insurance company. Why not? So one thing led to another and by 10am this morning our new roof was finished!

Behold, the new roof! (We did go with Driftwood, btw.)

The siding looks sorrier than ever, but that's fairly new siding, believe it or not (we had nothing to do with it,) and we have to make the best of it! Eventually we'll put up shutters and maybe that will help. For now though we are celebrating a big improvement finally completed!

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Garden Update

An amazing thing has happened. After weeks and weeks of waiting, the Chinese Forget-Me-Nots are starting to flower! I've been warned that the flowers turn into terrible burrs that are impossible to get out of pet fur so I decided that now was the time to move them out doors.
This ugly strip of dirt next to the driveway is their new home. I thought about planting them next to the peonies, by the garage, but the immovable Kia is parked over there and would make them too hard to see. They look a little lonely here but I had to pull out all the violets or risk having them overrun, and I don't really have anything else ready to plant at the moment. Oh well, with time they will fill out a little.

Birthday Plans

In a little over a week I'll be turning 31 and Ross is taking me to Grand Rapids, where I lived and went to school for two years, to celebrate. It's kind of crazy of us, considering the circumstances, but we've been meaning to take a trip to Michigan for a while now, and since I was too sick on my 30th to do anything special, we're actually celebrating two birthdays in one.

We looked at B&Bs and a bunch of hotels and everything seemed too expensive until we found Hyatt Place. They are doing a summer promotion where you get the second night half off. The hotel is actually outside of Grand Rapids, in Wyoming, MI, but it's only a ten minute drive to get down town and we have the Garmin, so it should be fine.

This will be Ross's first trip to Grand Rapids and I am trying to figure out what I want to show him. We will definitely go to Calvin College. I haven't seen it in almost ten years! I want to show him my dorm, and the building I worked in, and walk across the quad again. (I can remember so many nights walking across the quad after work, the moon overhead and not a soul in sight.) In downtown Grand Rapids we can go to the Gerald R. Ford museum...maybe checkout the Amway Grand Plaza...and coffee at Four Friends (if it is still there?)

We plan on working the lake into our trip too. I'm gonna pack lunch for us (in fact, we are going to try to bring enough food for all of our meals to save a little money) and we're going to stop in South Haven or Saugatuck for a picnic on the beach. We'll probably do the same thing on the way home, and maybe even stick around to watch the sun set.

We try to be responsible, and being unemployed always figures into our decisions, but you only live once!

Saturday, June 27, 2009


Remember what my rose looked like yesterday? Well, take a look at her now! (((happy sigh))) Did you notice the colors? Those are for real! And she smells good too! I am beginning to realize why some people are rose addicts (check out McKinley's blog linked in the sidebar!) I really enjoyed the peonies, but they burst out one day and are drooping and rotting two days later. The roses emerge slowly and then just get more and more stunning every day. And while the peonies are like big, soft pom-poms the roses have an almost architectural elegance to them. I hope, hope, hope I'll get more!

If you've ever been to my house you know I don't have a beautiful garden. I have a lawn spotted with weeds and I have few designated flower beds that are mostly empty. But I have big dreams!

Friday, June 26, 2009

As Promised, Cats in Yard

Friday Update

If you are like me and you always expect the worst then you won't be surprised to hear that the shingles did not arrive today.

As if that wasn't frustrating enough, this afternoon I realized that my brand new driver's license has my name spelled wrong on it. I am kicking myself for not looking at it more closely before we left the DMV. (Actually, I gave it a good long look while we were there but must have been transfixed by the hologram of the eagle and the photo of a sweaty, unsmiling me because I definitely didn't notice the name thing.)

However it's impossible to be irritated for too long on a day like today. It's just too beautiful. Spent a big chunk of time outside with the cats this afternoon and I'll post pictures soon.

Michael Jackson, My Roof, and More

The roofing shingles didn't arrive as scheduled yesterday. So I called the roofing company and there was no answer. I thought, oh well, maybe they will come first thing in the morning. Nope, not here. So I call the office again at 10 am and after I told the man my name and the situation he barked, "What address?" as if there were a hundred houses he was supposed to be roofing today but isn't. "Oh, the supplier never got my order. My guys showed up this morning and there were no shingles, and you guys weren't home." (We were, actually.) "I faxed the order back in, the shingles should get there this afternoon, is Saturday okay for you? We can come back Saturday." "Okay, Saturday will work, but I'm just wondering why no one called to tell us this." "Oh, I was gonna call you, I just got busy with some paperwork."

Oh well, I guess it was only 10 and if his guys told him we weren't home he probably thought we hadn't even noticed yet that our roof wasn't getting replaced... But I'm very disappointed. We got about a bazillion estimates and we picked these guys because they seemed the most professional. (((Pout)))

We finally made it to the DMV yesterday. Ross got his first Illinois Driver's License, I renewed and updated mine, and we did the title transfer and got plates for the Yukon. It took all afternoon and was pretty expensive but as far as DMV experiences go, it wasn't bad. The people were funny and nice and the place seemed well organized. We were there when we first heard the news about Michael Jackson. A young guy in office clothes rushed into the room and announced, "Michael Jackson DIED today!" There was a collective gasp. I looked around waiting for more details but that was all he said. I heard someone mutter to their companion, "I heard that it was just a rumor." So I thought that must be what it was because Michael Jackson couldn't possibly be dead.

I have a confession to make - when I was a little kid I liked the Weird Al versions of Jackson's songs better than the originals. I remember hearing Fat on the radio and thinking it was just brilliant. When Nate and Val, in town for a visit one summer, told us about their love for Michael Jackson I was stumped. I thought kids in Minnesota must be odd. It wasn't until I was old enough to watch MTV that I began to see what the fuss was about. The video for Thriller was a jaw-dropper. Later I would tune in for the much hyped premiers of "Black and White" and "Scream," and then promptly forget all about them. When he was charged with child molestation I followed the trial and found the entire thing very depressing. The family of the alleged victim were extremely suspicious, but some of the witnesses were very convincing, and I remember being shocked that the jury didn't convict him. After a while the fuss died down and, when it was no longer taboo to play his music at weddings and parties, it was great to hear the old songs again - "Billy Jean" and "Don't Stop" sounded better than ever. I think that America has spent the last several years trying to forget the man so that they might better enjoy the music. And now he is gone and the memories are rushing back, for everyone, and it's bitter sweet.

Here's something happy for you from my daily garden inspection.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Jojo Finds a Shady Spot in the Garden

Some cats love to find a sunny spot and stretch out. Jojo prefers the shade.


Look what's happening on my little rose bush! Last year I only got one rose, so this makes me happy.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Melting Cat

It was HOT here today and we don't have central AC. The poor cats spent the afternoon splayed out like pancakes.
If she were more clever she would have got off the wool blanket.

If I were more clever I would have realized that massaman chicken curry is not the ideal supper to make on a hot summer night.

Growing More Ecclectic

Unfortunately, it looks like our neighbor is moving. Yesterday, while Ross and I were out doing yard work, Bob called us over to the fence and told us he was leaving but he had an old table that Jack, the previous owner of our house, had given him, and would we like it? It's an antique octagon table about the size of a card table. Bob said Jack used to keep it right next to the front door and you can still see where the lamp used to sit. Of course I said yes.

At first I thought I would put it up in the guest bedroom where the furniture is a little less contemporary, but after dusting it off I realized it might be a nice surface for my Madagascar Dragon Tree, which has been on floor ever since I transplanted it to its new, larger pot. And as soon as I put it in the dining room I noticed how much less boring it made that room.

The boring-ness of our interior design is a problem I'm slowly trying to correct. (I decided things had to change when I read a passage in a Martha Grimes novel about a young woman who, being able for the first time to furnish her flat with new things, ordered all of the pieces out of the same catalogue so that everything matched but revealed nothing about her personality - and it reminded me of our house!) Almost all of our furniture in the living room and dining room were provided by our wonderful Aunts off of our wedding registry. It's all from the same store, picked out on the same day. It's all in the same "Espresso" brown with matching brushed nickel fixtures and straight-as-an-arrow lines. We still love it, but without a little embellishment it can be a bit...square.

The trick is that decorating a house is not cheap. So I've had to bide my time and wait for the good deals.

I have two old rocking chairs that Mom found on people's curbs and helped me spiff up. One is in the living room and one is in the kitchen. Ross was a bit dismayed when these two pieces pulled out of someone else's trash were set in our house with the brand new furniture, but I love them and think that they make things so much more comfy (and less masculine, sorry Ross.) And now I have the charming octagon table, also free and with an interesting history, making things more lively in the dining room as well.

Framed art is something we've been slow to hang because a) it's expensive and b) it's a commitment. Once you put a nail hole in the wall you have to have something hanging over it, and this can be problematic if you like to rearrange furniture. But with an early birthday gift from Ross's dad I had a bunch of photos Ross and I have taken on our adventures printed in black and white and bought about a dozen black and white frames in various sizes for them. They look really cool. Now it's just a matter of figuring out where to hang them, and since, like I said, I don't like commitment, they've been sitting on the dining room floor for several weeks.

But back to Bob. He's on disability because of a work-related back injury he got years ago and he said that the cost of living is just too high around here for someone on a fixed income. And he's right. The taxes alone are ridiculous! So he and his beautiful dog, Boomer, are moving to Crystal Lake where he has family until he can find something more affordable. He mentioned that homes in some of the outlying areas are selling for $50,000 and $60,000. If I was a single person on disability that is what I would do too. He's been a good neighbor, and we are sad to see him go.

It's probably a little insensitive of us, but we've already started speculating about what it's going to mean for us, having him gone. Will the grass grow to be two feet and kids break in and fool around in there like they did when our house was empty? Will this empty house hurt our home value if we do have to put it on the market soon? Or will some developer come in, raze it and replace it with a beautiful three story home with a wrap-around porch and a great big attached garage like they recently did just down the street? We hope it's that last one.

This is getting to be a very long blog post, but I had just one more thing I wanted to mention - Ross has a phone interview in about twenty minutes. It's the first one he's had this month and it's with a good company in San Diego. If you would like to pray for him I know he would appreciate it.

Hope everyone is have a great day!

Monday, June 22, 2009


I think (and I'm scared to say this because I don't want to jinx it) that summer might be here. The weatherman said it could get up to 90 today! I love the heat. I woke up this morning stiff and sore and as soon as I stepped out on to my back porch with my morning cup of coffee I could feel the pain start to leave, like alcohol being cooked off a burgundy sauce. I know that heat isn't the cure for Fibromyalgia, Ross has an aunt with FMS in sunny California and it still effects her plenty, but it helps sooo much.

I'm sitting on the porch right now actually, and listening to our neighbor pack the contents of his garage into a U-haul trailer. There is a rumor going around that he is losing his house, but he hasn't mentioned it and we are scared to ask. He is always friendly toward us, and he is incredibly good to his dog, a sure sign of character, so it sucks to think that he might be losing the house he has lived in for years. I had hoped the rumors weren't true but now, seeing the u-haul, I feel less hopeful.

Times are so hard, we have been without work for 7 months now. We are in no danger of losing our house, thank God, but a weariness has kicked in. We are weary of pinching our pennies, of getting our hopes dashed by opportunities that never fully materialize, of unexpected expenses and the stab of fear they bring, and of the feeling that our future is on a very different course than we imagined when we started out.

I don't mean to sound bleak. I count my blessings! But that part of our life? We are sick and tired of it.

Did I mention before that I bought three bags of books at the thrift store in Elgin recently? My plan was to trade them in for cash at Half Priced Books, try to make a little profit on them, but I set aside a few to read first. They are books that I would probably never have checked out from the library or bought at a bookstore but, since I have them, why not? Right now I'm reading The Year of Pleasures by Elizabeth Berg. It's about a woman whose husband dies, so she sells their brownstone in Boston for a fortune and drives West on her own with the improbable but delightful plan to stop in some Midwest town she's never heard of, the first that really strikes her fancy, and make it her new home. She ends up selecting the purely, glaringly, entirely fictional town of Stewart, Il. Just 49 miles outside of Chicago, with the Metra running through it, Stewart is a place where the guy who mans the register at the ice cream shop also hosts a local radio show, a friendly neighborhood boy will mow your lawn for 50 cents, and people say things like Oh, my!, Idn't it? and You betcha!

It's pure fantasy, but it's a lovely one. At one point, Betta, the main character, talks about how she loves to clip out pictures from magazines and paste them into scrapbooks so she can look over them again and again. This book feels like one of those scrapbooks, the pages are peppered with pretty images and pretty thoughts. Well, except for the parts about being a widow, those parts terrify me!

I'm a third of the way into the book right now, and it's just meandering its way pleasantly along. I don't expect anything really exciting to happen (if it does I will let you know) but that's ok. Sometimes what you really need, even if you don't know it, is a slow, sweet book.

Saturday, June 20, 2009


One of the great ironies of modern life is that vacation is often more taxing than the day to day stuff. And so when you get home in an already frazzled state to find a bunch of things requiring your urgent attention, well, you can get really tired.

After finding a roofer, replacing the water heater, cleaning out the flooded basement, and taking care of Jojo's urinary tract issues we spent the last few days resting and relaxing. I finished The Innocent Man by John Grisham and Thunderstruck by Erik Larson. Both are non-fiction stories of crime and justice, with a twist. Grisham's book deals with a murder and the pursuit of justice, not for the victim, but for a wrongly convicted man. Larson's book deals with a murder and hunt for the murderer, plus the invention and development of the wireless telegraph. If you are thinking "huh?" so was I, the whole stinking time I was reading this repetitive, bloated, and boring book. Apparently the telling of two distinct and barely related stories is Larson's gimmick, and I resented having to endure it. Comparing the two books, I think Grisham's could have been even longer and Larson's should have been much shorter. Like maybe the length of a magazine article you could finish in the doctor's office waiting for your turn.

On Wednesday night we checked out Classes @ Willow for the first time. Replacing New Community, the midweek worship service, with a variety of classes calibrated to beginner, intermediate or advanced levels is one of the ways Willow has addressed the startling results of the 2004 Reveal survey that showed a large number of people in the church felt that they had stopped growing in their faith. Anyway, the summer quarter kicked off this week and we decided it was time to give it a try. We didn't register because 1) I am a procrastinator and 2) I don't like to commit.

We showed up at 6:30pm for the optional praise and worship session that precedes class. I think this was the first time I have worhsipped in the lakeside auditorium since the new auditorium opened and it felt great to be there. Afterward we were told there was still time to register for a class, or we could simply sit in on one of two classes - Jesus, The Great I Am or The Case for Faith. We picked the first one. On the drive over Ross had said that if this so-called class turned out to be just a generic, recycled sermon he was going to be very disappointed. I had the same fear. So I was very relieved when Judson Poling got up to teach the class. I had read some of his bible studies and heard him speak before and knew that it was not going to be a run of the mill sermon.

Poling gave a quirky, provocative, and intelligent lecture. He asserted that the most important things Jesus had to say during his ministry were the things he said about himself, and that if we miss that, we are apt to get everything else wrong as well. And I learned the two most important dates in Old Testament history, 722 BC and 586 BC. So we will definitely be going back on Wednesday to hear the next installment.

I haven't talked about my garden much lately - I guess there hasn't been much to say. The ants have stopped working on my peonies so I haven't gotten any new blooms, and it will be a while before the lilies make their appearance. This means we are without flowers right now and I don't like it. My forget-me-nots seemed to have stalled but the marigolds are growing fast, so they may actually beat the lilies to the punch. Meanwhile the veggies are doing wonderfully. In the last week, thanks to the rain and heat, they have really shot up. It looks like we are going to have a bumper crop of peppers, and more than enough tomatoes (considering that I hate the things.)

We don't have our new roof yet. When we signed the paperwork we were told it would be done by the 26th at the latest. Now they are saying they will start on the 26th so I hope that it is just a one day job because it would stink to have a half finished roof over the weekend.

This weekend we are going over to Jase and Dee's for Joey's 9th birthday party. I remember being at his second birthday party. It is an amazing thing to watch children grow up. This is father's day weekend as well so it will be nice to see Dad there and get to hang out with him a little, I feel like I hardly ever see him anymore!

Hope everyone has a wonderful weekend!

Friday, June 12, 2009

My fiesty little rose! You don't often see this eye-scorching shade of pink in nature...wondering if this rose bush is a relic from the 80's?

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Planning a trip to Half-priced Books today. I have two giant plastic bags full of books to sell and a DVD box set we bought last time we were there and didn't realize until we got home that they had overcharged us for. The test will be to see if I can get out of the store without spending more than I get back for the books and the DVDs!

We've also got to go to Helzberg Diamonds to get the rings cleaned and inspected for the warranty. Blech. Maybe it's just me, but I really don't enjoy visiting former work places. When it's over, it's over. I just want to knock the dust off my shoes and move on. Instead I'm supposed to go in there every six months (yeah, right) and pray that I haven't forgotten names and personal details of people that I haven't really known in years. And I loved those people, when I was with them every day they felt like family to me, but now they are practically strangers. I'd rather just keep the fond old memories than replace them with new, awkward ones.

The weather is bad again here, but at least we got a really nice break from it yesterday. I went out to Elgin to visit the family and Steph and I took the boys to the park to enjoy the warmth and sunshine. We got to see deer, buffolos, baby ducks, fish and one lonely heron. Mally got to climb a tree and I got a blob of sap on my face. A good time was had by all.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009


Feeling a bit pissed off about the weather. I heard Tom Skilling (WGN meteorologist) on the radio last night and he said that so far this June has been a full 7 degrees cooler than the average. It feels more like 20 degrees (grumble, grumble.) He also said that it's been one of the wettest springs on record. My basement concurs!

Actually though the basement is doing better. We finally seemed to have shop-vacced up the last of the water and, now that the gutters are cleaned out and their spouts are pointing in the right direction, we should have a much drier basement.

The water heater is also working wonderfully. We had to call Nicor out because the plumbers forgot to tighten the gas line (oops!) but besides that they did a perfect job. They even swept and tidied up before they left, leaving our basement looking better than when they got here.

This afternoon the roofing guy is coming over so that we can make our final color selection and sign the paperwork. We should have a new roof by the end of the week! Coming up at the end of the week is Mally's first dance recital. I can't think of anything I'd rather see :)

Meanwhile I am hoping the weather will let up some so that we can do some outdoor things - Ross has been eager to kick my butt at tennis and I really want to work on my garden and get in some tether-ball. (Tether-ball is my new favorite work out because it's easy on my knees and hips and I can look like an idiot in the relative privacy of my backyard.)

Hope everyone is having a great week!

My rose bush has produced one little rose. It's a lot smaller than last year's single rose so I am holding out hope that means I might get one or two more. The peonies are still going strong. I cut a few every couple of days to bring in and brighten up the dining room.

Saturday, June 06, 2009

New Roof

It looks like next week we're going to get our new roof. Now it's time to pick out a color! One of the roofing guys recommended Weatherwood, but we are leaning toward Driftwood. What do you guys think?

In the simulator I really like Driftwood, but looking at the photo of my house now I'm wondering if Castle Grey would be better... This is gonna be tough!

Friday, June 05, 2009

Friday Already???

The plumbers arrived bright and early this morning to install the tankless heater. Ross and I were scrambling around in our pjs to get the coffee started and the tub filled with water before they shut everything off.

It looks like it's going to be quite a process - they have to tear out the old water heater, run a new gas line into the laundry room for the new water heater, tear out a cabinet and the old water softener to make room for the tankless, and create a vent in the outer wall. I hope they will be able to finish it all today so I can take a hot bath tonight!

Ross tried his hardest to find a good dryer on Criag's List yesterday because the plumber said he'd help us install it today, but someone snatched up the one we wanted before we could get to it. That's ok with me. Even though the help would have been nice, I can only handle so many things going on at once and, with a constant parade of roofing guys and plumbers, and the perpetual flooding, this week has had more than enough going on.

As the sound of drilling is driving every thought out of my head it is looking like today will be a good day to spend out in the yard weeding!

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Up and At 'Em

After the day I had yesterday all I want to do today is hide under the covers!

But today we are getting our LAST estimate on the water heater and then we can finally move ahead on that. I'm sure once I can take hot baths again this will all seem less daunting. Also, when the plumber is here we're going to ask him if he thinks the flooding is coming from inside or outside the house.

We're getting our second roofing estimate today (the first was too high) so I've got my fingers crossed for that.

There is so much on my to-do list. The lawn needs to be mowed, there is more water to vacuum up in the basement, I want to do a thorough mold inspection down there and get the rest of it out, I need to finish the painting in the stair way... We'll see.

At least it is a sunny, beautiful day!

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Taking Care of Business

Nothing snaps you back to reality after a vacation like coming home to a broken water heater and a flooded basement! Fooling around time is officially over, lol.

The water heater guys came out yesterday and gave us estimates. We are leaning toward a tankless water heater at the moment. It's the greener choice but it will also be great to have it up on the wall and out of the way for when we demo the basement (which we will certainly have to do after all this dang flooding.)

We finally bought a shop vac. Just $33 at Kmart for a 6 gallon Craftsman. I have no flippin' idea why we waited so long. I will never, ever mop up a flooded basement with a regular old sponge mop again! You just plug the shop vac in, drop the end of the hose in a puddle, flip the switch, and stand there holding the hose while it sucks water from every direction. When the tank is full the vacuum stops sucking and you just roll it over and dump it out. I love it!

We also had a claims adjuster come out and look at the roof. We've known since we bought the house that it needed a new roof but haven't been too eager to pay for it. Then, about a month ago, a roofing guy came by and told us that we may qualify to have it covered by insurance because there was a big storm last November that damaged a lot of homes in the area. He took some pictures for us to send our insurance company and when we got home from vacation Ross emailed those in to our agent. Now we've got the approval to move ahead and it's time to pick the company to do the work. Our neighbors just had theirs done, we are going to ask about the guys they used.

The bad news is they won't cover the roof on my screen porch :( It seriously needs to be replaced - it leaks a ton and it would just look weird if we did the whole house (and the garage) and left the porch. We'll have to see how much it would cost to pay for it ourselves.

Next thing to tackle is the bathroom! We're going to tear out the walls around the shower, replace them as inexpensively as possible, and install new hardware because the stuff that is original to the house is starting to leak. Should be interesting!

Monday, June 01, 2009


...and they smell even better than they look!

We're Back!

Saturday afternoon we arrived home after a nine day visit with Ross's family in beautiful North Carolina. We spent about 6 days up at the lake house and three days in Raleigh. The weather was perfect! 70's and 80's and sunny almost the entire time!

While down there I discovered a new passion - Bojangle's. It's a Southern fast food chain specializing in fried chicken, fried potatoes, and buttery biscuits. You know, the healthy stuff. If you ever come across a Bojangle's you have to try the Cajun Chicken Biscuit Combo with Bo-rounds. Practically drooling right now just thinking about it.

Lake Gaston was as beautiful as I remember. I know I'm getting old because I didn't spend as much time in the water as I did last time. However I must have been doing something right because I managed to burn both my shoulders and collect about a dozen mosquito bites. I took quiet walks, went for long rides on the jet-sky with Ross, ate a lot of yummy grilled food, beat Ross at poker, and read a lot.

In Raleigh the highlights had to be the Cangelosi's courtyard (this is the first time I've seen it this early in the season and the jasmine and gardenia were awesome), the art museum (free, imagine that!) and dinner at the Angus Barn. I'll try to post pictures soon!

It was a great trip, but I'm happy to be home with my cats and my garden and the entire summer to look forward to!