Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Busy weekend, not much accomplished!

Busy little weekend, but nothing monumental to report.

Got my hair cut and colored on Friday. That always brings up (in my mind), how much longer do I want to keep this up (the coloring part)? I really like the red/auburn - but that grey/white that really shows at the roots, especially on my temples and sides, looks like it wants to be free! But in the work world (those young women who are everywhere), grey just screams OLD. So I guess I will carry on with this facade for a while longer...

It's grilling season again in Houston, but really it can always be grilling season here. Something we will have to adjust/compensate for, when we return to MN in '10. I'm thinking that we will try to have a covered area where we can wheel the grill under and crank it up, during our ambitious retirement. Maybe try out our grilling expertise on our old friends up in MN! We used the grill on Friday (salmon fillets & asparagus), Saturday (beef steaks), and Sunday (marinated chicken breasts). We do like the veggies on the grill - asparagus, zucchini, onions, and then any combo on kabobs is good, too.

Our neighbors had a garage sale Saturday morning, so we piggybacked on to theirs. We didn't have a lot of stuff, but ended up netting about $75 - which about paid for the tv that we bought from the other garage sale. Our main tv (in the family room) has been going out for some time - the top part of the screen is all weirded-out, so when any game scores display in this area, we just don't have a clue. The replacement tv is a 2003 model, so we hope it will last us until we move out of Houston. Or at least another year or several. The new hdtv models keep increasing in quality and decreasing in price all the time, so the longer we can wait, the more up-to-date and cheaper our new tv will be!

I had to leave Drummer alone to close up the sale, since I had a prior commitment at the church. I had signed up for a ladies' lunch, which is a fund raiser for a new range for the kitchen. Because of the use of the range, the church had to pop for a commercial-level (read: pricey) range. But I guess the old one was a real problem, so this was a blessing in disguise. It was a fun lunch. Each table was "hostessed" by a different person. That person supplied the dishes, glassware, napkins, tablecoverings and silverware - plus other decorative things, as befitted the theme. There were some beautiful china settings, some fun settings - the table I sat at, had used the fiesta stoneware and incorporated those colors; another had a Margaritaville theme; one had used a birthday party theme, with paper plates and napkins, little gift bags, etc. There are some creative minds in that group! It was a "light lunch" - tea, coffee, one scoop each from 2 different chicken salads (so 2 scoops), and angel food cake with strawberries and cool whip. Not high calorie, but tasty. I heard about all the hours involved in preparing the food, tables, etc. I wish I was as giving of my time as some of these women are. The entertainment was a surprise - one of the men at church who belongs to the choir, did 3 solos of operatic-style music. And then he and Danny (the music director) did a duet of another song in that mode. I was so surprised at how good Keith was, and Danny is known for his good voice. We gave a standing round of applause at the end! There was a raffle and a door prize, too. Of course, I didn't win anything, but I contributed to the raffle "pot". It's all for a good cause.

Sunday we were heathens again, and skipped church. Knowing what is facing me this next weekend - I am volunteering both Saturday and Sunday at the IAPH (Int'l. Assn. of Ports and Harbors) gathering which is held in Houston this year - I knew I would need at least one day to myself. My energy level was way down on Sunday. Ended up getting up several times during Sunday night/Monday wee hours, being sick - so I think my system knew that was brewing and didn't want me to do anything stupid.

So yesterday I was home sick. Couldn't stay in our bed, however, because Drummer had already rounded up Leroy to help us finish the painting of our master bedroom. It looked so great when they were done - our color choices were SO right. Now I am anxious to finish this room with drapes and some things on the wall. We had decided to use the same color - (something) Rouge is the name, Valspar paint from Lowe's - that we used on the wall behind the headboard, and put that on the alcove part of the ceiling. I know that is hard to understand. I'll try to post a photo one of these days, of that room.

Well, for a "nothing" weekend, I prattled on and on. Gotta go!

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Curses on you, you robber-a/c company!

You may want to read this posting in installments...

Damn, damn, damn - I am so sick of being ripped off! I am afraid that, as former Minnesotans, we are too ethical to rip anyone off, but obviously others are not that well-intended.

Drummer had scheduled an a/c company to look at our units (one for upstairs, one for down) and do any necessary service today. This is a good, reputable company and Drummer knows the owner. No, folks, these are the good guys. But in the course of the inspections, the a/c service guy noticed and pointed out things to Drummer which showed that our former a/c service people took the money and ran. Two years ago we had to have our downstairs unit replaced and the bad guys did some other stuff (supposedly necessary) while they were messing with all of that. Well, it turns out that they replaced a perfectly good a/c coil (and trust me, I am just repeating all of this, because I don't know diddly about a/c units). The good a/c guy asked Drummer why we had replaced the coil, and the answer was that the bad a/c guy said the new unit would run much better if it had the coil by the same manufacturer (when we replaced the unit, we had upgraded to a better brand) . The good guy asked if the bad guy had mentioned the 10-year warranty on the old coil - and no-o-o-o, of course that was not mentioned. Damn! $1800 dollars out the door, which we could have held on to for a few more years. I am so pissed. And the bad guys installed the blower unevenly, meaning it was not blowing directly across the coils directly, and so we weren't getting the full benefit of the new unit, even. We are thinking about reporting these little gems to the Better Business Bureau. And if you live in the Houston area and want to know the name of the a/c company that ripped us off, look at the first few entries for a/c in the yellow pages and don't use the one that begins with A and shares the same name as a skiing resort in Colorado. That's all I will say for now about that.

I am continuing this novel on Friday. So, to continue... While the a/c guy was doing his thing, Drummer discovered a pocket of bees swarming outside near the house. Looked like they were trying to build a hive or just plain get into the house, using an opening where a piece of the siding had pulled away slightly (back of the house, kitchen corner). So he phoned a company that we have used before (they took care of the gophers(!) that surfaced in our back yard a few years ago) and arranged for them to have a look-see. The guy set up a nighttime visit to eradicate the critters from our abode. See, bees are less active after sundown, so they are easier to get rid of then.

This was our night to go out to dinner with a group (originally all were from our church) with whom we meet once a month, just for this dinner. A different couple or single selects the restaurant each month. We went to a local restaurant called Corelli's. It was good and conversation was lively and we all got caught up in each other's goings-on for the past few weeks.

When we returned home (about 8:15), the bee guy hadn't been there yet. But he drove up just after that and conferred with Drummer. Once he set everything up to (hopefully) kill the bees, he sent us up to the second story (inside) of our house, back in that same corner, and asked us to put our ears to the walls and floors and concentrate on whether we could hear any swarming after he did the first blast. We couldn't hear a thing - the bee guy thought he could detect something, so he did another blast. Then, afterwards, he instructed Drummer about how to seal up that siding so the critters wouldn't have another opportunity to get in. The house has a lot of Hardiplank, so I guess there are different requirements for taking care of this kind of a problem. I'll defer to Drummer in this one (gladly). The exterminator (yes, I know that is the proper name for this guy) said that he was glad that Drummer had called them so quickly - he has horror tales of folks waiting for a few months and then wanting the bees - which are now very infiltrated into the siding - removed.

So, that explains how we spent nearly $800 Thursday, and that didn't even include the cost of dinner!

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Finished the faux-ing job! Pour the wine!

Chalk up another one! This was one bugger-of-a-job to finish. Way too detailed, and, as usual, we probably under-charged for it. 3 days of labor plus about $100 for paint, etc., and we only charged $1200.

We use these smallish paint "cups" - they are plastic and have a handle, and a smaller area (same cup) that is divided from the main cup and which holds brushes. That's really handy on a project like this, since I apply the paint-n-glaze mix with a larger brush, sometimes switch to a smaller brush, then wipe it off or wipe it down with one or more cloths, until I get the desired effect. Well, we had several of the cups and just assumed that we would replace them. Usually we clean them out (latex is good for cleanup) but we thought we would just throw out the ones that had oil paint residue in 'em. Good thing that we did not throw them out - suddenly, we could not find them anywhere. So (gotta love that Drummer) he cleaned out the cups as best he could, and we re-used them. We have been going through 2 a day (using a fresh one in the afternoon), and this got us through the 3rd day. Plus today, he showed a paint retailer this product and the guy is ordering in a case and we are buying some of them when they arrive in a couple of weeks.

Damn, I hate that I was raised Catholic! We were just too damned tired to get to church on Easter Sunday. I felt like such a heathen. And that guilt comes in, even though I now attend a Lutheran church. Knowing that we had another faux workday on Monday (this plays into my "real" work schedule, which I will explain about) made it that much sweeter to stay in bed, then do some laundry and get a real meal ready. Friday night we had a delivered pizza for dinner. Not the healthiest thing to do, but ya gotta love the convenience. Saturday we actually treated ourselves to dinner at Red Lobster (even bought a glass of inflated-in-price wine for each of us). It felt so good to have someone wait on us and then we have leftovers for one dinner this week, too.

The realtor has been so wonderful to work with. Plus she and I clicked and she is e-mailing me both a gumbo and a jambalaya recipe! She is originally from Louisiana. Late on Monday afternoon, she showed up with a bottle of red wine and we poured 3 glasses and toasted the end of the job! Oh - and she brought us some venison garlic sausage, which is one of her "secret" ingredients for her gumbo (the other one is smoked turkey legs). I like the sausage-and-chicken gumbo better than the seafood gumbo, and so does she.

I got to see the gold medal that the homeowner had received from the 2000 Olympics team that he was on. I was surprised at how large the medal was. It appears to be at least 18K gold, too. That's the closest that this uncoordinated woman will ever get to an Olympic medal!

It was so nice to have another job behind us, and something to add to our portfolio. I think we will definitely have to charge at least$2,000, if we are ever asked to bid on such a good-sized project again. This was a real bitch of a project to do, but overall it looks okay. And the realtor gets to hold her invitation-only open house (invite only those realtors who have clients that are in the market for upper-priced properties) right on time! So we did her a favor and she took a flying leap of faith and gave us the job. We were both "rewarded" in some fashion.

So it's back to my "real" job today. Did I mention that I am on those 9-80 work weeks? We work 80 hours in 9 days, which gives us every-other-Friday off. My day off last week was also a work holiday. So when that happens, you get a "bonus" day off - Thursday before or Monday after. I chose Monday, in case we needed it to finish this project.

Tonight it's leftovers for dinner (pizza, probably) and maybe get a load of laundry done. And then set my butt down on the couch and do a little vegging... (seems like that oughta be spelled "vedging") -- later, y'all.....

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Ready for a new faux painting client?

Well, here we are again. Getting ready for another client. Again, it is something that we have never done before (and sometimes we do regret tackling this kind of stuff). We are picking up and finishing a partially-completed project. A previous faux-painter stopped this project at around the 30% completion mark, and the client was not able to get this person to respond to phone calls. Strange.

So a realtor (who will put this house on the market shortly) saw our website and phoned us. Our pages on that site are very out of date, but I have been unwilling to pay someone else to do the updates. So we live with this outdated site. Drummer met with the realtor and took photos, and then we reviewed them. But since I will be doing the grunt (okay, the creative) work on this one, I wanted to see the place myself. And that's how we started last weekend, by meeting at the client's home with the realtor on Saturday. We gave an estimate and then waited. It seems the client had, on her own, contacted someone that she knew for an estimate, too. Well, our estimate was about 1/3rd of what the other faux person quoted, so we got the nod. Now we will have to try to do an antiquing finish on kitchen cabinets, using oil-based paint. We have never used oil-based before, but the only problems will be disposal of rags - we'll have to go to a hazardous-materials disposal site. Since the original faux-ing was started with oil-based paint, we are rather forced into using the same type of product. We prefer latex - less toxic, easy cleanup, etc.

This is a home owned by an NBA veteran player. I had to look up his name on the internet. He has been playing for several years and gets an - ahh - let's just use the word "ample" compensation for his endeavors. The home is about 7,000 square feet and of course is beautifully decorated. I have not seen most of the home, but Drummer was given a tour of it by the realtor, after we had been given the go-ahead on the project. The property is gated, and there are two 2-car garages (yes, they have 2 cars in each, and they are not used Hondas) plus another vehicle parked under the port cochere. This basketball player does not play for Houston - he is with another team, in another state. Long story about why they bought the house, and about why they are selling it now. The realtor said that they are a very nice couple to work with (and I am sure that this is NOT true of all moneyed folks). I read good things about this player on the 'net, including his family upbringing. It is interesting to see how the upper 2% live. All this stuff for a home that they only occupy for 2 - 4 times a year, when they come to see his wife's family. I can't imagine what their primary home must look like.

So we figure that this will be a 2-day job (hopefully, no more than that) and we will tackle it on Friday (Good Friday) and Saturday. Not that we had big plans for Easter, anyway - but we will now have to try to plan our meal and buy the stuff ahead of time. I am so glad that Drummer is a capable grocery shopper and can do that without me being there. It will be easier to get ready for the weekend this way.

We wanted to practice using oil-based paints, and Drummer had (a few months ago) snagged several cabinet doors that Home Depot was tossing out. He's putting a base coat or two on two of the doors, and then I can practice with the paint, applying the oil-based stuff with a brush and then wiping it off. I think I will be sick of the paint smell after this weekend. I would never use it in my own home.

Well, need to bring this to a halt. Gotta leave early for a blood test. I take anti-coagulants (okay, blood thinners to most) and have to get that level checked to make sure that I won't throw a clot off my artificial heart valve or that I won't bleed to death internally, either. There's a magic number that I aim for: 2.5 to 3.5. I have been much, much lower (clotting danger!) and a few times much, much higher (bleeding danger - don't want to cut my legs shaving, when this happens) . All kinds of things can skew these numbers: prescription antibiotics, infections, Tylenol or Advil, broccoli or spinach, and then sometimes I don't have a clue as to what happened.