Archive for July, 2010

In a month when the people are being bombarded by either rainstorms or else scorching heat that could melt you to the sidewalk, I thought it would be a great idea to step into the air-conditioning, take a deep breath, and come up with five more “good things,” for which to be grateful.

1) Electricity. It isn’t until we get a bad storm and the power goes off that we realize how dependent we’ve become on it.  And, the longer the power outage lasts, the more we miss it, as we go around flipping light switches that don’t work and longing for food we can’t cook.  Yes, power is a great thing and I never take it for granted.

2) Your special chair. You know the one I mean.  It’s the chair, probably in the living room, that opens its arms wide to you, no matter how the rest of the world feels about you.  Mine is a black leather recliner, which may not be considered a “feminine” chair, but, since I’m the Queen of My Castle, it’s my throne.  This is the chair into which I drop when I’m physically exhausted from working around the house.  It’s the chair into which I cuddle to read on a rainy day or to watch a movie in.  It’s my little sanctuary from the storm.  If you don’t have a relationship with a good chair, you really should develop one!

3) Good conversation. There’s nothing like chatting away with a good friend and losing track of time.  This past week I had two lunches with two different friends and it made me realize how much good conversation feeds my soul.

4) A good hairdo. This is primarily a female thing.  As a woman I’ve been subject to all kinds of hairdos and have spent many tear-filled hours bemoaning bad ones.  Fortunately, I’ve found a good one and a stylist who can maintain it and I know how lucky that makes me. In just the past week I’ve been stopped four times in stores or restaurants by someone wanting to know who does my hair, so I think this particular hairdo is working for me.  It’s unique in that it’s long in the front and short and stacked in the back.  Having in the past gone through “bride of Frankenstein” looks, I consider my present hairdo a very good thing.

5) Peace. This does not refer to world peace.  I’m not idealistic enough to believe that we’ll see that in my lifetime.  I’m talking about those periods in life when you don’t have any horrible things going on.  You’re not fighting through a big family drama.  You’re not struggling with a negative medical diagnosis.  You’re not having financial problems.  You’re just living your life with a minimum of stress.  This may be the best of all five things.  These periods are precious and are meant to be cherished. And I wish this kind of peace for all of you reading this today.

So?  Are these good things for you, too?  Do you have some other ones to contribute?  As usual, the comment section is just waiting for you!


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Well, unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve heard of the book, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo.  If you’ve read it, then there’s a good chance you’ve read the other two of the trilogy – The Girl Who Played With Fire and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest.

If you haven’t read any of them, let me just say that they were written by a talented Swedish author named Stieg Larsson, who died before the movies came out.  The first story, in general terms is about a disgraced journalist, Mikael Blomkvist, who accepts an assignment from a Swedish industrialist named Henrik Vanger to solve a “cold case” – the disappearance of Vanger’s great-niece, Harriet, some 40 years earlier.  It is an epic tale of serial murder and the evil that lies within a wealthy family.  In the course of his investigation, Blomkvist employs Lisbeth Salander, who works for a security company and who is a brilliant computer hacker.

The story, itself, is interesting, but what makes these books so fascinating is the character of Lisbeth.  She is a 25-year-old, highly intelligent, talented private investigator.  She is also totally asocial, distrustful and emotionally damaged to the point where she has been declared emotionally incompetent and is a ward of the state.  She makes it very difficult to like her, but like her I did!  There’s just something about her.  As the story unfolds, we begin to understand why she is the way she is.  And we also rejoice in the ways she fights back.  I can’t imagine any woman reading this book who doesn’t find herself cheering Lisbeth on.  The story contains a lot of horrible violence, but it is necessary violence.  Once I finished the first book, I devoured the next two.

When I heard there was a Swedish movie version of the first book, I proclaimed loudly to all my friends that I absolutely would not see it.  The characters had become too important to me.  It was vital that Mikael and Lisbeth be portrayed exactly as they were in the books.  And what if they changed the story?  I felt I couldn’t risk it. And besides, the movie was in subtitles, which, as an American, I’m not used to.

So anyway, a couple of weeks ago I ran to Target to get something, which it turned out they didn’t have.  As I was leaving the store, I passed the movie section and there in the rack was one last copy of the movie.  Call it fate.  Call it idiocy.  Whatever it was, I felt I was meant to see this movie. I bought it.

It was with trepidation that I put it into my DVD player.  The first thing I noticed, besides the subtitles, was the fact that this Swedish movie had a different look than an American one.  It wasn’t as glossy.  People’s faces were shown with all their imperfections, men and women.  The actor who played Mikael, Michael Nygvist, looked like a real person, not a movie star.  But, after only a few minutes, I ceased to notice these things and got pulled in by the story.  But I was waiting for Lisbeth…

The actress who played her, Noomi Rapace, could have stepped out of the pages of the book, itself.  She was perfect.  She was the Lisbeth Salander I had been hoping for.  In fact, the whole movie was so true to the book that I fell in love with it!  It cast a spell on me and when the credits ran at the end, I felt a deep contentment that it had been done right.

The second movie has just been released and I’m going to wait for it to come out in DVD.  If it’s even half as good as “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo,” it will be worth owning.

Meanwhile, there are many stories in the media about actresses who want to play Lisbeth in the American version of the movie.  Call me crazy, but I don’t WANT them to make an American version!  I know how Hollywood does things and I can’t bear to think of some bright-faced little spoiled diva trying to portray the intense, complicated, fascinating Lisbeth.  I don’t want them changing the story just because they can.

When will we learn that you can’t improve upon perfection? In case you haven’t guessed, if they do make the American version, and apparently they are, I won’t be buying a ticket.  I mean it.  No way, Jose′!

My advice:  Do see this movie!  (But read the book first.)

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You all may remember me writing last week HERE about my new carpet and how I love it.  Well, that has not changed.  The carpet installers did a lovely job, especially on the stairs, picked up their tools and scraps, vacuumed it with a giant industrial vacuum to pick up the little pieces and went on their way.

The next day I just kept staring at it and thinking how lucky I was to have it.  So beautiful.  So luxurious.  And then, the Catch 22…

On the third day I decided to vacuum it, just because it was so pretty.  I grabbed my Oreck sweeper, plugged it in, turned it on and…it wouldn’t move! I don’t mean it was hard to push.  I mean it wouldn’t push at all!  I think it took one sniff at that dense, plush carpet, folded its imaginary arms and went on strike.  The smile that had been plastered on my face started to dim a bit.  What was this?  I couldn’t understand it.

Fortunately, I had another spare sweeper, a Eureka Boss and tried it.  Nothing.  I couldn’t believe it!

Well, there was nothing to do but put the sweepers away and hit the Internet.  I Googled “best vacuum for frieze carpet.”  What I found was many, many people asking the same question, but few answers.  Great!  Then I concentrated on the websites of professional carpet people and learned a few things.  One was that I definitely needed a sweeper with adjustable settings because frieze carpet is so thick it requires the highest setting.  They warned that if the beater bar was too low, it could actually frizz the carpet fibers!  After spending what I did for this carpet, I wasn’t about to damage it.  Others recommended a suction-only sweeper like some canister vacuums.  I didn’t like this idea so much because, what with it being so thick, I wasn’t sure that suction alone would get it clean.  Rats!

The next morning, bright and early, I headed out to Target, which I knew had a good selection of vacuums.  I ended up buying a Bissell Helix cyclonic bagless sweeper that had five height settings.  I got home, dragged the huge box up the basement stairs,  struggled to get it open, attached the handle, set the height on “Highest,” and turned it on.  It wouldn’t go.  High wasn’t high enough.  To say my spirits plunged would be an understatement.  So…I disassembled it, boxed it up again, dragged the box back down the stairs and into the car.  That was all I could take for the day.

The NEXT day I was determined to solve the problem!  I headed out like a warrior, telling myself I wouldn’t return until I had success.  This time I brought a big carpet sample with me, in case I went to a vacuum store.  Target was nice about letting me return it, but, when I went back to look at their other sweepers, I just couldn’t see one I thought would work.  Next I went to Wal-mart.  They have canister vacuums as well as uprights.  But the canisters just didn’t look up to the job and the uprights weren’t all that different than my Bissell had been.  I suddenly remembered that in that shopping area, there was a Mar-Bec, which carried Simplicity vacuums.  I figured that was worth a try.  This time I hauled in my carpet sample, big as it was.  When the guy asked if he could help me, I said, “I need a sweeper that will clean this rug.  Do your Simplicity vacuums have adjustable settings?”  He replied that the only Simplicity ones he thought might work ran in the $700 to $800 range.  When I picked my jaw up off the floor, I asked, “Anything else?”  He took down a Eureka which had about ten settings, put it on high, plugged it in and invited me to try it on my sample.  By now, I had an audience and we all waited with bated breath.  FOR NOTHING!  I even had the guy try, but the carpet was just too thick for the sweeper.  Talk about feeling at the end of your rope!

I gathered up my sample and went back to the car with a feeling of total helplessness.  What on earth could I do?  Where could I go?  I mean, the carpet was here to stay.  I had avoided calling my carpet salesman because he had already indicated that he’d love to see my carpet “in my house.”  And I had a feeling he wanted to see more than the carpet, if you know what I’m saying.  So, I headed for home.

As I was driving down an access road, my eyes fell on a Sears Grand store that I always forget about.  Hmmm.  Sears.  Why not?  I went in and discovered that they had the best selection of all kinds of vacuums of anyplace I’d been.  A nice salesman in his thirties asked if he could help me.  I looked right at him and said, “if you can, you’ll be my hero!”  Then I went on to tell him the whole sad story.  I ended by saying, “I just don’t know what to do.”  He smiled and said, “I’ll tell you what we’ll do.  Go out and get your carpet sample out of the car and we’ll try every single vacuum here until we find one that works.”  I could have kissed him!

Bottom line, that’s exactly what we did.  Well, we didn’t try EVERY vacuum, but when we found one that went over the carpet beautifully, we both started doing a happy dance.  Sure, it cost more money, but this one does everything but the dishes!  You can actually take the  middle out of it and use it as a canister vac on the stairs.  And it even has its own mini-beater brush for the stairs!  AND you can turn the beater bar off for bare floors.  It is so great.  So, if you ever hear of anyone having this problem, I’m going to give you the ridiculously long name of the thing:

Bissell Lift-Off Multi-Cyclonic Pet Upright Vacuum with HEPA filter and Turbo-Brush for stairs and Upholstery.

Believe me, if they have gone through one-fourth of what I have, they’ll kiss your feet when you provide the solution!

So, I guess all’s well that ends well.  This was a kink I didn’t expect, but, thanks to that super-nice salesman at Sears Grand, I finally found a solution.

And you better bet that my carpet is going to be REALLY CLEAN!  🙂

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Dear Mother Nature

Dear Mother Nature,

Seriously?  I mean, seriously?  Do you realize how freakin’ HOT it is?  The forecast for my area of the Midwest shows temperatures in the mid-nineties for the next two weeks! Is that your idea of a joke?

Yeah, yeah, I know it’s summer.  I know it’s July.  But come on!  There’s hot and then there’s this crap!  I stepped out onto my balcony at 10:00 at night and it was like entering a furnace!  And there was not even a tiny suggestion of a breeze.  It was like standing in a vacuum.  Don’t you know we humans need air to breathe?  It’s like you turned on a burner and then got distracted and forgot about it.  Hey!  We’re boiling over over here!

What’s that?  Yes, I remember what I said about never complaining about the heat again if only you’d rid us of that damned ice.  And you must admit, I’ve been pretty good about leaving you alone up to now.  But, M.N., there’s good summer and then there’s bad summer.  It’s bad summer when we have to scurry from air-conditioned building to air-conditioned building as if they were lifelines.  It’s bad summer when by the time you walk from the parking lot to a store, you’re totally soaked in sweat.  It’s bad summer when you could DIE out in this stuff.  What are you thinking?  I know you can whip up much better summers than this.  I have memories of Julys that were so wonderful that I didn’t want to come inside.  Have you turned mean in your old age?

Oh, excuse me.  I didn’t mean that, what with you being immortal and all.  But the point is – I’m not.  And I’m the one who’s going to have to pay the air-conditioning bill, which I don’t even want to think about!

Mother Nature, look, I don’t like us being on the outs like this.  You know how many times I’ve sung your praises.  But honestly, don’t you think that maybe, just maybe, you’ve been a little off your game with this scorching mess you call “weather?”  I’m more than willing to forgive you, really I am.

So what do you say we just start slowly moving into Fall?  A little cool breeze here, a little drop in temperature there, and all will be forgiven.  Is that too much to ask?  I think not.  Let’s get on it!  I’ll be watching…

With love,

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In these recessionary times, I’m sure that you, like me,  are always interested in a good sale.  When it comes to groceries, what I keep my eyes open for most often are things that I use on a regular basis.  This is particularly true of things that aren’t cheap at their regular price, like coffee, shortening, meat and cereals.

Well, I know I’ve mentioned many times how I love Grape-Nuts.  In fact, I have a bowl almost every day for breakfast.  But even a small box of them isn’t cheap.  A 24 oz. box at my store runs $3.92.  And I go through them like gangbusters!  So, I generally try to stock up and then wait for them to come on sale, which is for Post cereals is very, very seldom.    As a matter of fact, I was down to my last box when I looked through the grocery store circular and saw the following:

“Post Cereals – Grape-Nuts, 24 oz. box = $1.66”

I did a double-take!  $1.66?  ARE YOU KIDDING ME? So, what did I do? I’ll show you what I did!

And now I wish I had gotten more!

Ten boxes at $2.26 off a box, makes a grand total savings of $22.60 , which is a savings of 58%!!!!   Am I good, or what?  Oh, and don’t worry, they won’t expire before I eat them.  It just won’t happen!  Anyhow, I was just so bowled over by this deal that I had to share it with someone, and who better than YOU?

So have YOU gotten any real good deals lately that you’d like to share?  The comments are all yours!

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As much as I love my home, one aspect of it has bugged me since the day I moved in…the carpet!  As I moved my furniture in five years ago, I saw all kinds of stains that hadn’t been apparent before.  The worst place was  the stairs, which must have been ignored by every family that ever lived in the place.  The edges of every single stair were black and I tried everything, from carpet shampoo to soap and water to bleach to clean them, all to no avail.  But, the Catch-22 of this problem is that, once you’re moved in, you now have too much furniture to move out to put in new carpet!

So, all this time I have lived with it, hating it all the while.  As you can see, I tried to cover much of it with a runner and a throw rug and a big 8′ x 10′ area rug which is just out of sight.

Here is a close-up of those filthy stairs.  Very nasty…

So anyway, about two weeks ago, I was sitting in the living room and happened to notice for the millionth time how dirty the carpet looked and started mentally moving the furniture.  Not long ago I discovered those furniture sliders that adhere to the legs of things and they made my TV stand with the TV moveable for the first time ever and it weighs a ton!  The more I thought about it, the more I was convinced that I could, single-handedly, move every piece of furniture out of my living room, down the hall to the dining room or kitchen. I could get new carpet for that room!

As I warmed up to the idea, I included the stairs and the hallway upstairs leading to the three bedrooms.  This was the boost I needed!  The next day I went to a carpet store and ended up buying the most beautiful, luxurious carpet I’ve ever had.  There were three grades of the style I chose and, for once in my life, I chose the best and I’m so glad!  I got a frieze which is very dense and feels wonderful!

Here are the stairs BEFORE:

Here are the stairs AFTER:

Ooo-la-la!  No?

This carpet has just changed the whole atmosphere of the room, the stairs and the hallway.

And to give you an idea of the absolute PLUSHNESS of this rug, here is my hand print…  I like drawing things in it!

I couldn’t have done that with my old, cheapie carpet, I can tell you that!

I know that this probably doesn’t seem like a big deal to some of you, but it really is to me!  I feel so happy every time I walk through the room or go up the stairs. Even when I’m sitting there reading, it lifts my spirits to look up and see this posh carpet that’s all mine!  Woo-hoo!

The way I see it is that life is too short not to do something nice for yourself every once in a while.   And that’s exactly what I did!   And I have no regrets.  So, what do you think?

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My friend, Iris, who used to be my next-door neighbor, moved in order to have a house that was all on one level.  Since that move, she has been on a renovating rampage.  She has replaced the furnace, torn down shelves in the garage, landscaped, painted her patio floor, painted in the living room and carpeted her bathrooms.

Her latest project was one she knew I would be interested in.  She found a man who resurfaces countertops.  She told me he was going to do it for $395.00 and asked if I wanted to come watch.  Did I ever!  I have bitched to her about my plain white Formica countertops since I moved into my home.  The great thing about my kitchen is that I have MILES of countertops.  The bad thing about my kitchen is that the cost of replacing them with granite or some other high-end material would be way too high.

I showed up at her place on the day, and the workers were already taping off her kitchen.

I say “workers,” but the whole project was done by a man and his wife and son.   Anyway, Iris had picked out a surface that looked like black marble with little flecks of pink stone scattered throughout.

Once everything was covered except the countertops, the guy started  spraying the first application which was just black.

After five or ten minutes, he sprayed again, this time adding the pink stone flecks.  This needed to dry for 45 minutes, so they left for lunch, as did Iris and I.

The final steps were the crowning glory – two coats of clear epoxy, which gave it its shine.  While those were being sprayed, Iris and I escaped outside to her patio because the fumes were very strong.   But, let me tell you, the final result was well worth the mess and smell!

It looked beautiful!  And it looks so much more expensive than the plain countertop she had before.  To give you a better comparison, I took the same shot before and after.

Here’s BEFORE:

And here’s AFTER:

Quite a change, wouldn’t you say?

Now the “catch,” if there is one, is that you can’t put anything on the counter for forty-eight hours.  And it takes five days for the surface to be as hard as it’s going to get.  But I’m thinking that getting a counter that is THIS NICE  for such a cheap price would be well worth the inconvenience!  I’m going to have the guy out to look at mine and give me an estimate, as I have quite a few more square feet of counter than Iris does.  But, compared to granite?  I’m thinking this is a definite possibility for me.

Do you like it?  Have you ever done resurfacing like this?  If so, I’d love to hear how it worked out for you….before I jump in with both feet!

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