A lot of little things…

…that don’t add up to any more than a lot of little things.

We’re getting a refund. I can’t believe it, since I didn’t even pay the full estimated quarterly taxes our accountant recommended (because I just couldn’t afford to). I was afraid I’d be penalized for not paying enough. So, I guess there’s an upside to having your income cut in half from one year to the next. Although I hope it doesn’t happen again this year.

We’re trying not to spend it in 15 minutes. Nothing like a little unexpected cash coming in to set all kinds of spending gears in motion. So far the plan is to make a hefty contribution to my IRA (since I couldn’t contribute anything last year) and stick the rest of it in the bank. Although this morning Mike mentioned something about setting a little aside for a vacation this year, since we didn’t go anywhere last year. I grunted and frowned (though inside I was screaming “YES YES YES” as I watched the commercial for Disney World on The Weather Channel).

I’m feeling a teensy bit optimistic. So far, business this year is looking up (crossing fingers, legs, and eyes, throwing salt over shoulder, knocking on wood, spitting à la My Big Fat Greek Wedding). I have several projects in the pipeline and the hint of a few more on the horizon. Amazing, given the sorry state of things in ’09. If it holds, I have to be diligent about setting extra aside to pay this year’s taxes, since I won’t be paying enough each quarter to cover having a normal year.

People (like me) are tired of being frugal. You can just feel it. Everywhere I go, people are out and about, shopping, eating, driving through Starbucks. We stopped being a frugal nation a long time ago, and trying to pick it up again, even in a terrible economy, is tough. Maybe that’s not such a bad thing. Our economy depends on people spending money (responsibly, not stupidly). Mike and I are pretty good about not frittering money away on little things, but we have been picking up a few unnecessaries here and there — like a very nice garden flag and holder (an American flag — with stitched stars and everything, made in China of course) for $9.99 at Home Depot and the watering can I’ve coveted for a few years, in orange, for $10 less than this at Marshall’s (I passed on it when they had a couple last year and wanted to kick myself. This year, I bought one when I saw it — they only had two.) I’m sure the money experts would say we shouldn’t buy what we don’t need (especially given my statement above about not putting anything in my IRA last year). I have no good answer. Sometimes my soul needs it, even if my brain doesn’t. Life is short — except for that part about being old and infirm with no one to care for us and no money for health insurance. I’m betting that part will seem far too long, whether or not I spend $25 on stupid stuff now.

I’m having a little fun dieting. As hard as it is to stick to a diet and exercise regimen (right now I should be doing Callanetics — more on that in a bit), I’m enjoying trying out new recipes. Like this amazing vegetable broth from The Splendid Table — no salt, tons of flavor. I used up 3 quarts in no time and just made another batch over the weekend. I’m using it in soups like this peppery Butternut-Parsnip Soup from Southern Living (my copy is an older one that omits the crockpot step, as the first commenter notes — not sure why that was added) and this Lemony Lentil Soup with Greens from Better Homes & Gardens. Part of my diet involves avoiding wheat and most dairy (I still cheat and have cheese now and then, but not milk, yogurt, or sour cream), so I’m experimenting with not using those ingredients (I’ve used soy milk for years, but now I even have Mike drinking vanilla soy with his cereal!). Eating out is the hardest — bar food just doesn’t lend itself to this kind of eating. My biggest cheat — still having a beer at our local hangout once a week. I tried their red wine once — it came ice cold, straight out of the fridge. YUCK!

I love my immersion blender. I had a banner year this past Christmas and scored 3 items on my wish list — 2 from the person who had my name in our family exchange (microplane graters and a pizza peel), and another — the blender — in the random grabbag. It’s great for making soups because it eliminates that annoying step where you have to process it in batches in a blender or food processor. Just stick the immersion blender in the pot and have at it. I love it. It also has a whip attachment that I’ve yet to try (I imagine you can’t make whipped cream from soy milk).

Callanetics works for me like nothing else does. Do you remember Callanetics? It was a hot exercise program in the ’80s and early ’90s. My sister had the book and I had (and still have) the video that promised “10 years younger in 10 hours.” It’s similar to Pilates and is the hardest exercise program I’ve ever done. My legs shake for a while after. But it’s also the only thing I’ve ever done (including NordicTrack, aerobics, step aerobics, walking, Pilates, yoga) that I can actually see results from in the mirror. I’ve done it off and on for years (the original program and the advanced version, Super Callanetics, when I work up to it). The ’80s workout clothes are a hoot (and I’m embarrassed to say I still have my own leotards, etc., from that era), but the results are anything but laughable. I love this program as much as I hate doing it. I should be doing it right now.

I just want to powder my nose already. We are still being kicked in the butt by our roughly 3′ x 4′ powder room project. It’s so close, I’m reaching for my compact, but not Mike. He has no impatience whatsoever. I just had to put 3 coats of stain (waiting a day in between) on the last bits of wood trim (I would have stopped at 1), and then he will spend 3 days putting on 3 coats of shellac. We started painting (of course, a special paint treatment instead of something normal), but it has all the makings of a disaster — more on that in a future post. Don’t be surprise if the room ends up being wallpapered instead of painted. I’m so tired of it. I’m sure it being finished will coincide with spring and the need to move outside again without accomplishing anything more indoors until next winter.

I bought a book. I’m embarrassed by my business Web site. I did it myself years ago in FrontPage — a program Microsoft doesn’t even sell anymore — and it desperately needs updating (or “updated” as I and everyone else in Pittsburgh would normally say). I can’t afford to pay someone to do it, so I’m going to attempt to learn CSS (how Web sites are properly constructed these days) by reading this book and doing it myself. I’m not very good at learning this way, so we’ll see how it goes. I’m only mentioning it because maybe committing the idea to virtual paper will force me to do it. I’ve always been more of a stick person than a carrot person.

That’s entirely enough little things for one day. Four hundred crunches and 400 leg lifts (for starters) aren’t going to happen while I’m sitting here typing.

My formula for living is quite simple.
I get up in the morning and I go to bed at night.
In between, I occupy myself as best I can.
~ Cary Grant

Over our heads, Week 2

Day 7, Monday

Turns out the roofers did work Saturday (Week 1, Day 6), and managed to finish just about all of the back side of the roof.

Monday was the big push to finish. The job was taking longer than expected, and they still had a bit to do on the main house, all of the tin roofs to do, and the garage roof to finish. Surely too much for one day!

Day 8, Tuesday

Yep, as suspected, too much to finish on Monday. Today, the 2 key guys came back and finished up. What a big job — the fact that it took a team of professionals 7½ days makes spending all that money a bit more palatable. Plus we are pretty happy with the results (Mike gave it a B+, I gave it an A-. We were bummed the owner of the company didn’t come himself, as he did on our friends’ jobs).

From this…


To this…


From this…


To this…


And from this view out our bedroom window…


To this….


Here’s hoping we don’t have any more roof worries for the next 20 years.

Now, about that rotting soffit…


The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.
~ Robert Frost

Over our heads, Week 1

We’ve known for a long time that our porch roofs needed attention. The once lovely decorative railings were in horrible shape when we bought the place 4½ years ago, and the tin roof itself was bubbling at the seams.

front porch right

typical post and rail

We eventually pulled the railings down, but couldn’t remove the crumbling posts because they go straight through the tin roof (removing them = leaks). We looked at various options for replacing the old wooden railing, but spending a couple thousand dollars on something purely decorative just hasn’t been in the cards (and may never be). Plus figuring out how to attach them through the tin roof was a real puzzler.

At the same time, the original slate garage roof, though pretty, was also showing its age.

garage roof 1

garage roof 2

Mike had a roofer he knows and respects come out and look at the porch and garage roofs earlier this year. He deemed the 84-year-old garage roof at the end of its life and worked up a very detailed estimate for repairing (covering with a special membrane) only the front porch tin roof, the 8’x10′ tin roof over the breakfast room, and the small 3’x8′ tin roof over the bump-out in the living room.

When Mike e-mailed the estimate to me, I almost fell out of my chair. It would have paid for 2 years of my college education… (yeah, a long time ago, but still).

So we gave up that idea. A few weeks ago, Mike had another roofer come out after we discovered the front porch roof was leaking into the sunroom-in-progress at one of those rotting posts. The grace period was over. We had to do something.

The new roofer gave us a price on repairing all the tin roofs (using another material/method), plus redoing the garage roof, AND the roof on the house (which we hadn’t even been considering, but there’s no telling how old it is) for $2500 less than the first estimate!

So, bite the bullet we did, chalking it up to high price of living in the ’hood (fixer-upperhood).

Day 1, Monday

They started with the garage. Our neighbor took some of the slates so her (artistic) son can paint them up and sell them.




Day 2, Tuesday

With the garage roof under tar paper, work shifted to the main house  — making hay while the sun shines, and all that. By the end of the day, the front of the house lost its old shingles, gained new tar paper, and a one-third covering of new shingles. (I gained one-third pounds inhaling potato chips and Halloween candy in order to endure the incessant pounding.) Notice that dumpster in the driveway? I’m pretty excited about that — never thought we could even GET a dumpster in our steep driveway. Now I’m giddy at the possibilities for future clean-ups (e.g., dumping all that wood moldering behind the shed where I’d rather expand the compost pile, the old kitchen cabinets clogging the garage, lots of junk in the basement). Too bad Mike, the non-thrower-awayer, is not impressed.


Day 3, Wednesday

With the threat of rain and even snow for the rest of the week, the roofers got an early start. By the time I got home from my mother’s, they had finished the front side of the roof and started covering the tin porch roof with the underlayment.


I didn’t notice it at first, but look — there’s a bottle of window cleaner on the center window ledge (these are stained glass windows, one each in our bedroom closet and the spare bedroom closet). Were these guys actually cleaning my windows? I think I’m in love.

Day 4, Thursday

A rainy and chilly day. Work shifted back to the garage for safety, which is great because the garage roof is much more visible than the front of the house. I love seeing progress. They finished all but the corners.


Day 5, Friday

The day breaks. Your mind aches. (Name that tune.) Typing now with what seems to be an army of Orcs on the roof… But slightly better than yesterday, when every time the orcsroofers’ compressor would kick on, the electricity in the house would blip and my power supply would bing my computer, saying it had restored power. That happened approximately 67 times. Today I just have ladders (and an occasional boot) outside my office window and a steady shower of old shingles raining down. Oh and the pounding of the Orcs — not that these sweet men who cleaned my windows at all resemble Orcs — they merely sound like them overhead.

I expect half of the back side of the roof to be completed today. Day 6, Week 2 begins Monday — unless they work Saturdays?

Home is a shelter from storms — all sorts of storms.
~ William J. Bennett

« Older entries Newer entries »