The House


Oddball Birthday Cake, originally uploaded by espeedy123.

Erin here. As of Monday I am three decades old. Michael gave me ballroom dance lessons. He must love me because that’s truly a present I will enjoy that he will likely not.

Here’s my birthday request for the blogosphere:

If you’d like to make my 30-year-old self smile, click on over to my blog Hands On and comment on something. No old lady jokes please. Just say something so I can appreciate having another comment. You will get extra points if it’s a relevant comment.

This is a shameless ploy but I do so enjoy checking my wordpress stats that it will make my birthday week!

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Ok, Oprah I’m not. Maybe Stedman. Regardless, I have been exposed to some pretty cool things this year. Things that affect my life and get me talking. Plain and simple. In no particular order, here they are:

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1. Senuti

This free software freed MY music, yes mine, from my iPod. Until now, iPod accepted music as a one-way street. Computer -> iPod but not vice-versa. As I’ve gone from work computer to work computer, my digital music library has shuffled around quite a bit and in some cases been lost. Who has time to upload it all again from disc? Thanks to Senuti (or Floola for you PC users), this software simply extracted the music files from said iPod back to digital storage for safe keeping. Took about 5 hours to transfer 5,000 songs. I ate Thanksgiving dinner while it did the work – good deal!

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2. Google Reader

I’ve never been so in-the-know. Erin introduced me to this free feed reader calling it “Tivo for the internet.” Instead of having to repeatedly go to 20+ websites and hunting each for new info, now my Reader searches my usual bookmarks automatically and brings all new posts to me, in one convenient location. You simple scroll down, reading the headline, a key paragraph and a photo for each entry – ordered chronologically by time received. If you want to read more from an entry, simply click on link. For most, you’ll just keep on scrolling to the next item, with your brain growing exponentially. Awesomeness.

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3. Lifehacker.com

I also owe my Reader for finding me this gem of a website. In fact, Lifehacker brought me Senuti (see, we’ve gone full circle on the list now) and so many more helpful products and tips for making life easier and more fruitful. Features life improvement tips beyond software, too. Like, how to open a clam package with a can opener. OR, how to make a bottle opener out of a single piece of paper. (it’s like McGyver, only more geeky…)
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4. The T

Yeah, you know how much I like my Truck. It brings me much joy. It also brings me much used furniture and much trash for the dump. I suggest you get one.

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5. Real Men of Genius telephone greetings

The marketing dork in me made me do it. It is quite funny and original for a birthday greeting.

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6. My LG camera phone

Nothing is safe when you have a CU500v. It has a very convenient 1.3 megapixel camera. More importantly, the camera has a swivel, so you won’t even know when I’m taking a picture of you picking your nose. Well, unless it is dark, because there’s no flash. Next time.

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7. The neti pot

I credit this crazy India-inspired product with keeping my nasal passages humming. It’s like a tea pot, only you use it to pour water in one sinus cavity and out the other. I was reluctant when Erin first brought it home, but tried it the next time I got some sniffles. And as sure a chicken tikka masala… it cleared me right out.

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8. Tripadvisor.com:
It wouldn’t be a post without something travel related. At this time last year we were trekking through New Zealand. Without Tripadvisor.com, we wouldn’t have found some of our better destinations. The forum section is great, where real folks give you real tips, and usually answer your questions real quick. Search the section for your city and list your specific inquiry. Help is on the way.

I’m sure there are more, but these are top of mind. Hope you’ve had some wonderful discoveries that made 2007 a great experience in stuff.

Erin and her mom are hard at work this week on our house. They are making the place look great. Painting, fixing up outdoor furniture, and much more in the works. I’m sure she’ll tell you all about it.

I try and pitch in where I can, but all you have to do is read her other blog, and you’ll know she’s the handyman of the family.

To finish one of her many projects around here, she invested a gift card in a new Dremel saw today from Home Depot.

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Upon opening her prized tool, she noticed it was used. Scuffed and sloppily packaged. Hmmm, must have slipped back into the inventory, right? No big deal. So I headed off to Home Depot thinking it a quick errand, but in store for a strange trip…and a 3 hour tour, a three hour tour.

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I headed to a closer Home Depot than the store from which it was originally purchased. The first of many waits I encountered was at the returns. If you’ve ever been to a Home Depot before, you know they move pretty quick…

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Finally reaching the counter, they gave me no problem with my request for an exchange. The tool guy came over and gave it a half-hearted looksy to see if all the contents were there. (They weren’t, I’d soon figure out on my own.) He confirmed it was used, and off I went to find another.

Grabbed another Dremel kit and went out to the car. Not too painful. Before exiting the parking lot, I decided to open the box. Sure enough, it was used. What are the odds?

Headed straight to the tool guy and expressed my displeasure. I grabbed the last one they had in stock and opened it right there in the drill section. Used, too. Three for 3. Is this a product I really want? The tool guy explained the anomoly by exclaiming, “Well, we’ve been ripped off!” I shared the sentiment.

I took the cash equivalent and headed for another Home Depot out of principal. I was on a mission now, not to be denied.

Arrived at the tool section, and looked for the product. Just two Dremel sets left. Unfortunately, they were shelved incorrectly and the wrong set. I learned this after checking out… twice. (My fault for not looking closer, but come one – give me a break!)

Went back to the tool section, and of course, there’s no orange vests to be found. Ah ha – saw “Bill” (names have been changed to protect the innocent) rounding the corner and grabbed him. He tells me tools are not his section, but he can look up my product on the computer. Ahhh, customer service finally!

After firing up his ancient computer system, we waited for the results… and waited. Fingers crossed! Magically, there appear to be five Dremel sets in stock. The tool guy had since returned and pointed to the high warehouse shelves. So Bill went off to grab a ladder. I spotted them on the shelf.

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Bill returned with a platform and exclaimed these soon-to-be-famous words in Home Depot HR: “I can probably reach.” It was about 5-foot high, and Bill is not small. So I figured he’d be all good.

I pointed out the one I wanted, part of a double plastic-wrapped bundle. The product has to be new when it’s wrapped in plastic, right? Unfortunately, this bundle was also at the bottom of a stack of other boxes with heavy tools.

Bill reached as high as he could, just barely touching the bottom corner of the Dremels. He carefully starts nudging the bottom boxes toward him, like a trepid game of Jenga.

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I was helpless as it started raining boxes. Bill did what he could, trying to cushion the fall of his products with shoulders, hands and FEET. Bad idea. That’s what sent him tumbling off the platform, falling just as hard as his now-damaged tools. Among the boxes, he was rolling around the aisle on his back, kind of grunting in shock I’m sure. I looked to see any carnage. “Are you ok, man?” He jumped up and limped down the way still grunting. That’s a good tool guy – get up and rub some dirt on it!

I quickly unwrapped my prized Dremel, thinking I’d rather have one that didn’t plunge 10 feet. But I didn’t have the heart to ask. Hope it’s not broken. And I hope Bill gets some good workers comp!

Enquiring minds want to know…


So, the rain continues in north Texas. Not in record setting numbers anymore, but it sure is wet around here.

Our plants are happy and growing like weeds. The rose bush exploded overnight, and tried to successfuly bar us from our garage. I won’t have it – that’s where I draw the line. Luckily, the rain stopped long enough today to clean up our act and get some yard work done.

This is the first day I’ve heard the cicadas out singing their summer song. That means it’s officially hot as heck and necessary to cut the grass weekly.

Tht also means an end to my weed experiment.

The official measurement: 7’5″.

I’m submitting it for the world record, though it seems like the Hogweed might have me beat. If nothing else, maybe I’ll string up this weed as a signal to others of its kind: you’re not welcome round here any more.

Goose, originally uploaded by espeedy123.

This morning I stopped at an estate sale a couple blocks down from my house and saw something really odd. The sale organizers were trying to prevent this goose from crossing a really busy street. One lured it to the door with that great bird treat bread. I was prevented from exiting by this fiasco. When I left the creature was wrapped up in the sheet, flailing, getting carted out to the stream in the back.

photos 008, originally uploaded by espeedy123.

They look nice, right?

Recently Michael and I fixed the floors in the front living/dining room. It was quite an undertaking, but much less than it might have been had we sanded the finish down completely.

This area was covered in carpet. We pulled up the carpet, pried off the tackstrip (carefully!), and filled the holes with wood putty.

I got quotes from 3 different wood refinisher guys ranging from $1,600 to almost $3,000 for this room that’s about 300 square feet. They charge that because their method involves sanding the floor down to bare wood, restaining and then applying new polyurethane.

I didn’t think my floor was in that bad of shape, so I had a floor cleaning guy come take a look. He charged a small fraction of the above to remove the gunk and glue and then apply a “resin” protective finish. I think it was more like a liquid wax. He had a giant buffing machine, and I think that was what made the difference.

My main advice to anyone considering a similar project is to consider alternatives to a complete sand down. I would investigate screening and chemical sanding before totally taking it down to bare wood.

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popping off the chair rail, originally uploaded by espeedy123.

The house, that’s what happened. Starting a couple weeks ago I embarked on a home improvement journey. Really it was only a room improvement journey, but it felt like a house and a half.

My mom and I spent the better part of a few days dealing with a wall that had mirrors covering wallpaper. All I wanted was for it to look like the other three walls. Was that so much to ask?

We thought we could take down the mirrors ourselves. The mirrors wouldn’t budge. Not wanting to sever a major artery I hired a couple guys to do it. They used large suction cups with handles.

That uncovered some lovely flocked wallpaper with huge black adhesive marks. We scraped the wall, textured it with with the sand stuff to match the other walls, and painted it. After photos to follow as soon as I figure out how to fix up the hardwood floors.

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