Friday, December 31, 2010

Looking Back

New Year's Eve always seems like a good time to reflect, and since J is in Nashville visiting friends (I stayed behind to work this weekend), I decided to look back at the goals we set last January and see how we did.

So, without further ado:

In 2010, J and I will--
•Run 300 miles. Um...well, we ran about 100 miles each. I finished a 3K in March, a 5K in March, April, May, and June, a 10K in July (that one with J) and then pretty much fell off the wagon. I did finish a 5K in October, but that was the last one for the year. And strangely, I kind of miss it...

•Lose weight. Yes, we did lose weight. No, we didn't hit our individual goes for the year. I made it down another 15 before grinding to a halt. I actually gained about ten back at some point, but have maintained at the point for about three months. J has lost about twenty pounds and maintained that, as well. Still work to do, but we're celebrating the sucesses.

•Complete the following home improvement projects--
Library built-ins--No. Not even close.

Deck--No. The winter was not kind to the changes we made last year, so we just gave up and started saving for composite lumber--see 2011 goals.

Main Bathroom--Yes, but still in progress. Add new marble tile to the list, as well as new lighting, new mirror, new drywall in some areas...

Master Bedroom--Yes, mostly. Painted, wardrobes installed, new chest of drawers, new roller shade (replaced mini-blinds). Still need to hang curtains over the wardrobes and install crown moulding.

•Restructure our spending so that we can live comfortably on 70% of our current combined take-home salary. Accomplished. And then I left my job and we found ourselves bringing home about 1/3 less for the last quarter of the year. Luckily, we had managed to pay off most of a car and to build up a good emergency fund to keep the balance.

•Internalize and live our 2010 phrase--Be Gentle with yourself and others. This one is kind of funny. When we adopted it, I thought that J would be working on being gentle with himself, while I needed to work on being gentle with others. As it turned out, I got the biggest lesson in being gentle with myself, when I learned to give myself permission to step off my career path in August/September. It's hard for a perfectionist to admit that her plan might not be in her best interest, and with J's help, I did. What a wonderful September-December we enjoyed! Even with the roadblocks and new challenges we've faced since I left my job, neither J nor I have questioned for a moment if it was the right choice.

So there you have it--in the record books, it looks like a mixed year. We knocked some goals out of the park; others still need work. We didn't travel as much as we have in past years, but the MP is certainly looking and feeling more like the picture of home in my head! Most importantly, we celebrated three years of marriage and ended the year healthier than we started it.

Happy New Year to you and yours!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Dreaming of a White Christmas

Happy Boxing Day!

J and I are on our way back to the Melton Point after a quick trip to visit our families this Christmas. (J is driving; I'm playing of my iPhone to pass the time.). This year's Christmas adventure started Friday morning--Christmas Eve! We opened our gifts, the most exciting of which was the gift we already knew about. We jointly gave ourselves a kitchenaid stand mixer. I'm looking forward to making tons of frosting, and J is looking forward to grinding and making his own sausage. I think that the Melton Point kitchen will be turning out some pretty amazing food in 2011! Feel free to come by and help me eat some of it!!

After opening our own gifts, I set off to Williams-Sonoma for one last day of manic gift wrapping while J stayed home to try out the new mixer. After finishing my shift, we dropped off J's appetizers at church for those folks attending the Christmas Eve services. Then, we pointed Irene west and set out for J's dad's house. About an hour and a half into the drive, we hit some light snow which quickly became heavy snow. It took much longer than the usual 3.5 hours to reach their house, and I was so grateful to finally pull into their driveway! We had a great visit with that side of the family (but were sorry to miss one of J's sisters and her family, as the snow held us up until after bedtime for the little ones). Christmas morning, we woke up to a beautiful white Christmas and, even more blessedly, mostly clear roads! We traveled to J's mom's house for a great visit and then on to my folks for Christmas dinner and a night of movie watching! For the first time, we actually spent time with all of our parents on Christmas Day. While it made for a long weekend with lots of driving (and white knuckles for J!), we feel so blessed to have shared this special time with them!

Today, we are sort of celebrating the opposite of Boxing Day--rather than traveling to visit friends and family, we are focused simply on getting to our own home. We look forward to visiting with you all in the New Year instead!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Something new

J and I were talking this weekend about putting up a blog post, and I finally found the words for an idea I'd been mulling over for a while. Many, many times I have an idea for a post (or a snippet of an idea, or sometimes many snippets of various different ideas), but I can't think of a song title that fits the post. So rather than teasing out the post and finding a title, I just skip the process entirely. (Those of you who know me well won't be surprised by this little practice in intellectual laziness.) The problem with this is that we didn't start the blog to be an intellectual process; we started it to keep our friends and family informed about life at the Melton Point. So, for the next couple of months, I'm going to try to post more frequently without worrying about finding the right lyrics to set the tone for the post. Sometimes you'll find the line of a song as our title--as J and I talked about on Saturday, sometimes a song is too perfect to pass up and the post follows the title. Most often, I suspect, I will just attempt to sum up the post with an appropriate title, like today. I hope the result will be a better, more comprehensive picture of life at the Melton Point.

So what was so important to share that I ditched song titles in favor of posts? Well, for starters, we're making progress on our bathroom again! J and I took the dresser we found at a yardsale a couple years ago to an antique furniture restorer in Midway (more on that here). On Saturday, we picked up the finished (re-finished?) product. WOW! Honestly, I saw the dresser when we walked in and I didn't even recognize it as ours! We had the piece stripped, refinished, two drawers cut down/reshaped to make room for sink pipes, wheels added (actually, the piece originally had wheels that were missing when we bought it so we just replaced them), and everything from the drawers out protected for use in a bathroom. It's a beauty, and in great shape for being about 100 years old (we aren't exactly sure, but have had a couple estimates of turn of the last century). One other thing we had done is to have the top removed. We plan to replace that with a marble top so that it will be a but more functional for us and tie in with the floor. Pictures will come later once we get it installed!

In other news, some of you might have heard our plans for a Christmas theme this year. Well, it kind of centered around me learning to knit and whipping out several scarves. I have learned to knit, but have only completed about one and a half scarves, so that plan is on hold until next year (maybe...or maybe the next decade!). So what about this year? Well, a friend introduced me to the magical world of paperwhites the other day, so I spent some time this morning setting bulbs. These will be the new centerpiece to the new theme (which is kind of still coming together--stay tuned!).

Hope you enjoyed a sneak peek into the Melton Point. More to come!

Monday, October 18, 2010

By pilgrim foot and knee!

Note: I returned Sunday afternoon from the NSDAR 2010 Schools Tour. I blogged daily about the trip on the KSDAR website, and decided to cross-post them here, too, just in case any non-KSDAR folks were interested in hearing about the trip. This is the tenth and final post of the trip, but you can read all of the posts in chronological order here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here!

Day Ten, October 17, 2010--Home!


Well, 1,550 miles and nine days after leaving Washington, DC, we arrived in Abingdon, VA, this morning for a farewell brunch at the Martha Washington Inn. The brunch was absolutely amazing, and it was so nice to sit down one last time with the amazing women I have met or gotten to know better this week.

Our leaders, both at the National level and across the states, are an incredibly diverse group of women who all hold our mission of commitment to Historic Preservation, Education, and Patriotism dear to their hearts. While our State Themes and Projects are varied, I learned this week that our hearts are not. As Daughters, we are all united in our love for the children served through the various programs of our DAR Schools.

Our National Schools Chairman shared an interesting analogy with us on the bus the other day. She said that knowing about our DAR schools is like being a grandparent—you can be told how great it is, but until you experience it for yourself, you cannot really know. Our schools are a bit of the same—it takes visiting the schools to really know them. I hope that I have been, and will continue to be able to share with you a bit of my experience, but I urge you each to consider making your own trips to our schools. While our trip was planned, the staff at each school stressed that we (all of the Daughters) are welcome any time!

As I noted at the beginning of this trip, I am available at any time to answer questions you might have. If I didn’t learn the answer this week, odds are our State Schools Chairman already knows it! Call, email, or catch me at the Fall Festival or Fall Board of Management next week!

Title: America, the Beautiful

Till paths be wrought through wilds of thought

Note: I returned Sunday afternoon from the NSDAR 2010 Schools Tour. I blogged daily about the trip on the KSDAR website, and decided to cross-post them here, too, just in case any non-KSDAR folks were interested in hearing about the trip. Read all of the posts in chronological order here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here!

Day Nine, October 16, 2010--The Biltmore Estate


The school visits part of our tour has come to an end, but our tour chairmen planned a day of fun for us on our trek back to Washington, D.C. with a stop at the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, North Carolina.

We started our day in Clemson, South Carolina, and settled into our bus ride with many questions about the schools we visited this week. Luckily, the President General, National Schools Chairman, and a representative from the Development Office were all on our bus for the second half of the tour, so we were able to ask our questions in a great forum! The Schools Chair was a particularly good sport, as we grilled her on everything from funding to paint!

We arrived at the Biltmore just before lunch and proceeded to the Deerpark Inn on the grounds for a wonderful buffet meal, complete with bread pudding for dessert. Our Kentucky VPG and I noted that it could only be improved with some good Kentucky Bourbon sauce!

We then took the next two hours to tour the main house, which was a treat for me, as I have never been there. The staff started decorating for Christmas last week, so we were able to see those decorations in a few of the rooms. The house will be in full Christmas décor between early November and early January for holiday tours.

After we left the Biltmore, we enjoyed driving through more of North Carolina and a brief visit to Tennessee and then Virginia, where we have stopped in Bristol for the evening. The trees in this part of the world have really started to put on their autumn show and we found ourselves exclaiming at their beauty as we climbed back into the mountains. After a wonderful dinner provided by the hotel, I got in a quick exercise session with the other “Healthy Heart DARlings” and am ready to call it a night! Home tomorrow!!

Title: America, the Beautiful

From Sea to Shining Sea!

Note: I returned Sunday afternoon from the NSDAR 2010 Schools Tour. I blogged daily about the trip on the KSDAR website, and decided to cross-post them here, too, just in case any non-KSDAR folks were interested in hearing about the trip. Read all of the posts in chronological order here, here, here, here, here, here, and here!

Day 8, October 15, 2010--Tamassee DAR School


Today we visited our fifth and final school of the 2010 NSDAR Schools Tour (the sixth DAR School—The Hillside—is located in New England, and is not on the tour). While the stories and backgrounds of the Crossnore students tugged my heart, and the KDS children completely charmed me with their affection for the DAR, it is the Tamassee students with whom I have fallen in love.

We arrived at Tamassee to a series of yellow, red, and blue balloons (the symbol of the DAR Schools committee during the Wright administration). We immediately collected a bag lunch and went to assigned cottages to eat our lunches and tour the cottages with the children. There are currently 40 students in pre-K through high school living in five cottages at Tamassee. I went to the California-Pouch Cottage, which is home to eight little boys aged 5-13. The oldest was away from a home visit, but the others were eager to talk and share their home (and “pet” lizard) with me.

For the last two years, the National Junior Committee has provided Wal-Mart Gift Cards to each child at Tamassee as a part of our gift to the schools through the Helen Pouch Memorial Fund. I was entrusted with the gift cards for the boys at California-Pouch, and enjoyed visiting with each boy, talking about Helen Pouch and the DAR, and then of course, seeing the excitement when they opened the cards! Some of the little boys lived in the cottage last year and remembered their trip to Wal-Mart. They eagerly shared their memories with the newer boys, and I loved watching their reactions!

After I left the boys cottage, I visited two other cottages—the New York Cottage for little girls and the Florida Cottage for middle school aged girls. I met the high school aged children later in the day as they served as Pages and Flag Bearers during the Dedication Ceremony. The entire Tamassee campus reminded me of a small village reminiscent of Norman Rockwell. Given their backgrounds, I am happy that we as DAR members can provide this experience for these children.

During the Dedication ceremony, we heard from two graduates of the program. These young women were truly amazing, having drawn on their positive experience at Tamassee to attend college and find careers in helping industries—one is an elementary school teacher and the other is a social worker for the South Carolina Department of Social Services.

After a wonderful barbecue dinner catered by an area restaurant, and a brief musical program conducted by two students, we called it an “early” night and traveled to Clemson, SC for the evening. In the morning, we will leave for Asheville, North Carolina, and a tour of the Biltmore!

Title: America, the Beautiful

And Crown thy Good with Brotherhood

Note: I returned Sunday afternoon from the NSDAR 2010 Schools Tour. I blogged daily about the trip on the KSDAR website, and decided to cross-post them here, too, just in case any non-KSDAR folks were interested in hearing about the trip. Read all of the posts in chronological order here, here, here, here, here, and here!

Day 7, October 14, 2010--Berry College


What a wonderful day at Berry College—the First DAR Approved School!

We arrived at Berry in time for lunch, held in their newly renovated student center. While at lunch, we heard from staff about the four pronged opportunities for work study at Berry. These include traditional work study, an entrepreneurial program for students, the Gates of Opportunity Scholars program, and the Berea College Student Enterprises.

After lunch, we left for a tour of the campus. Our bus tour was guided by the interim director of Oak Hill and the Martha Berry Museum. A Berry grad as well, she was most informative and provided a great tour. As my first truly guided campus tour of the week, I took many notes and learned so much about the college!

Following our tour, we moved on to Oak Hill Mansion and the Martha Berry Museum. We were then treated to dinner under the oaks on the Oak Hill grounds. Following dinner, we had a wonderful program presented by “Teddy Roosevelt”. This weekend, Berry College will celebrate the one hundredth anniversary of Roosevelt’s visit to Berry, and he was on hand early to speak to our group, too!

I feel as though I should be telling you so much more about our day, particularly the student work opportunities and the campus at Berry, as well as the other schools. I expect that my first project upon returning home will be to start work on a program about our DAR Schools! Tomorrow, we head to South Carolina, and our sixth (and final) school on the tour—Tamassee DAR School!

Title: America, the Beautiful

Saturday, October 16, 2010

God shed his grace on thee

Note: These posts are cross-posted from another blog where I am blogging daily about the NSDAR 2010 Schools Tour. I was slow to realize that non-KSDAR folks might be interested to learn more about my trip, or the DAR, so I am cross-posting here, too. Read the previous posts in chronological order here, here, here, here, and here.

Day Five, October 13, 2010: Kate Duncan Smith DAR School, Grant, AL


Our day at Kate Duncan Smith DAR School started early and ended late, so I am afraid that this post is late in getting written. I did outline my thoughts last night, but saved the typing for Thursday morning as we drive to Rome, GA!

The day started with an almost parade-like atmosphere as our two tour busses left the hotel in Guntersville with a line of cars behind us and a police escort! Along the way we picked up the Illinois and Indiana busses from their hotel, and at one point, we came across another tour bus that looked as though it had been pulled over to wait for us! The ballet of tour busses on a two lane road with several local police, county sheriff, and we think even a state police car was rather comical! By the time we reached Grant, where KDS is located, there were six tour busses, countless cars, and numerous police officers all parading through the main street of town and onto the KDS campus. The banks and other businesses with marquees all had signs welcoming the DAR, and as we entered the campus, we were greeted by the high school band and all of the nearly 1,300 students waving flags and signs! While I had heard about KDS Dedication day, I was not prepared for the reception. This community truly has the DAR Spirit!

We spent about half an hour greeting the students, and then moved into the high school gym for the Dedication Day program. More than 300 DAR’s were seated on the floor, and the bleachers were filled with the students from Kindergarten through Twelfth grade. Older students served as pages and aides lining the center aisle, and other students carried in flags during the processional. The elementary students sang two songs for us (including “DAR, Oh How We Love You” which the high school Senior sitting next to me still remembered the words to, even though it has been eight years since she sang it at Dedication Day!), and our President General gave an inspiring talk about with Education.

After the Dedication Day ceremony, we moved on to the cafeteria for the famous KDS Basket Lunch, where members of the community brought in a huge amount of food to supplement the entrée baked by the school. Then we were turned loose to tour the campus, visit classrooms, and shop at the craft show. As you travel into Guntersville, and then on up to Grant, you don’t really realize that you are in the mountains, but the scenic overlook from the campus quickly reminds you the KDS truly is the Gem of Gunter Mountain.

We ended the day with a wonderful dinner, made most entertaining by the President General’s challenge to raise $3,500 by the end of the evening to tile the entrance to the Seimes Thompson Building. Thanks to a rousing round of bidding to don a skirt (I wish I had pictures to share!), as well as generous tipping of our celebrity waiters (school faculty and students), we raised more than $4,500! The evening ended with music provided by the high school choir, choral ensemble, and FFA String Band—a wonderful way to end a wonderful day. While I am learning that every school we support is different, I think that KDS, and by extension, the DAR, ranks at the top for integration in the community!

Title: America the Beautiful

America! America!

Note: These posts are cross-posted from another blog where I am blogging daily about the NSDAR 2010 Schools Tour. I was slow to realize that non-KSDAR folks might be interested to learn more about my trip, or the DAR, so I am cross-posting here, too. Read the previous posts in chronological order here, here, here, and here.

Day Five, October 12, 2010--On the Road, Kentucky to Alabama


I had the song lyrics “six days on the road” stuck in my head today, I suppose because we have settled into the middle part of this ‘road trip’ and particularly because today was almost entirely on the bus. We left Hazard, where we stayed last night, at about 8:00 a.m. and were soon headed south on I-75 into Tennessee. Our comfort stop at the Tennessee state line included a lovely walking path and many ladies took advantage of the opportunity to stretch their legs. The exercise was a good thing, though, as upon our return to the bus, we were rewarded with some of our KSDAR State Schools Chair delicious Irish Potato Candy!

We stopped for lunch at Piccadilly Cafeteria in Chattanooga, where we were greeted by ladies from the Chattanooga Chapter waving a DAR sign! I must say that the receiving line outside Piccadilly was the most unique site I’ve seen on this trip!

After lunch, the drive to Guntersville, AL, was pretty brief (just a couple of hours!), so I was able to join some of the others on a walk around the community and lake on which it is situated. The weather is warm for October, but the clouds we saw earlier in the day had cleared and the fun and fellowship were much enjoyed!

This evening, the Alabama Daughters treated us to a wonderful social hour, and we enjoyed dinner with KDS staff. It is an early night, for which we are grateful—tomorrow promises to be a 14 hour day, and we want to be at our best to greet the children at KDS!

Title: America, the Beatiful

Friday, October 15, 2010

Happy Birthday to Us!

Breaking into your regularly scheduled Schools Tour Updates to celebrate our 100th Blog Post here at the Melton Point!! Wow! It's taken two years, and we've hardly been as regular in our posting as I'm sure some would have liked, but I'm proud of us just the same for making it to this milestone! Here's to reaching 200 before we reach four years!!

Title: Happy Birthday song

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

...above the fruited plain!

Note: These posts are cross-posted from another blog where I am blogging daily about my trip. I was slow to realize that non-KSDAR folks might be interested to learn more about my trip, or the DAR, so I am posting a couple a day until I catch up! Read about Day One of the trip here, and Day Two here, and Day Three here.

Day Four, October 11, 2010--Hindman Settlement School


Today, we came home to Kentucky and Hindman Settlement School! We started the day in Boone, NC (by singing “Happy Birthday to Us”—120 years of DAR, today!!) and then traveled back into Tennessee and up into Virginia before finally reaching the Kentucky state line. The ladies on both busses were welcomed to Kentucky with a kind message and chocolate basketballs! We also took a quiz about Loretta Lynn (The Vice President General from Kentucky and I could not participate to win, but I’m afraid my 60% would not have put me in the running, anyhow!) to get everyone in the Kentucky mood. By the way, the other Kentucky lady on the trip won the North Carolina welcome quiz about the Andy Griffith Show yesterday with a perfect score—who knew she had such affection for Mayberry?!

We arrived in Hindman to a wonderful Kentucky greeting! The State Regent and several state officers made the trip to Hindman, as well as our State Schools Chair and a large group of Daughters who rode the bus from Lexington! I heard several comments about the large number of Kentucky ladies, and about what a wonderful show of hospitality our Daughters put on—and this was before we received wonderful goody bags prepared by the KSDAR’s!

We had one of the famously delicious Hindman meals, followed by a program that included Knott County students singing traditional mountain songs and sharing stories they have learned from their family members. We had nearly three hours to tour the grounds, including stops at the Chapel in the Trees, Uncle Solomon Everidge’s cabin, the Knott County Library (where several of the artisans who create for Hindman were on hand to discuss their craft), the James Still Learning Center (where we learned more about the Dyslexia programs offered at Hindman and in the local schools), and the Marie Stewart Gift Shop. Believe me, it was hard to fit it all in!

After our busy afternoon, we headed back to the May Stone Building for what I like to think of as Thanksgiving Dinner (Happy Turkey Day, Canada!) and a presentation of Crossing Mountains, the story of the Hindman Settlement School presented by Looking for Lillith Theatre Company. What a fabulous production!! I think the best part was when Lois Combs Weinberg slipped into the back mostly unnoticed. I later learned that she had not seen the production before, but she was clearly pleased with the result, and the actresses were so excited to see her when they came off stage.

We are staying in Hazard tonight, and we depart early tomorrow morning for Alabama. Tomorrow will be spent entirely on the road, so I expect to see some great scenery!

Title: America, the Beautiful

...for purple mountain majesties...

Note: These posts are cross-posted from another blog where I am blogging daily about my trip. I was slow to realize that non-KSDAR folks might be interested to learn more about my trip, or the DAR, so I am posting a couple a day until I catch up! Read about Day One of the trip here, and Day Two here.

Day Three, October 10, 2010--The Crossnore School


I simply cannot express sufficiently how awed I was by our day today. The day started with a 4.5 hour drive from Roanoke, Virginia, to Crossnore, North Carolina, by way of east Tennessee. We enjoyed many beautiful vistas from our bus windows, and enjoyed getting to know that ladies sitting around us a little better.

We arrived at the Crossnore School at 11:30 and enjoyed a “red carpet welcome” from students and staff before entering the chapel for their Sunday morning service. Executive Director Dr. Phyllis Crain shared with us her experience fighting cancer, for which she had spine and liver surgery earlier this year. The connections she drew between her homesickness while receiving treatment at M.D. Anderson for the hills of North Carolina and the desire she has for her heavenly home were striking and their were few dry eyes in the chapel.

Following chapel, we enjoyed a wonderful luncheon and then enjoyed an update on activities at Crossnore and enjoyed a musical presentation by the choir and two drama students. I was struck by how impressive and confident the members of the choir were—these young ladies could hold their own against any high school choir I’ve seen. This is truly a testament to the work Dr. Crain and the staff does at Crossnore, as the circumstances in the lives of the approximately 70 students who live at the school are not those that lend themselves to confidence and success in teenagers.

After the program, we were free to tour the campus grounds, including their wonderful equine therapy program (I got up close and personal with “Willow”, a miniature horse), the cottages where the residential students live, and of course the Crossnore Weavers! This evening, we moved on to the Broyhill Inn at Appalachian State University, where we enjoyed dinner and a fashion show of Crossnore Weavers fashions. Mrs. Withers and I were both asked to “model” in the show, and we had a great time doing so! I have asked the Crossnore staff member who took a picture of us to send me a copy, and I will share that with you when I receive it!

Tomorrow, we head to Kentucky, and Hindman Settlement School! I am looking forward to getting to see you all, and to introduce our Kentucky Daughters to some of the wonderful friends we’re making on the tour!

Title: America the Beautiful

Monday, October 11, 2010

...for amber waves of grain...

Note: These posts are cross-posted from another blog where I am blogging daily about my trip. I was slow to realize that other people might be interested to learn more about my trip, or the DAR, so I am posting a couple a day until I catch up! Read about the first day here.

Day Two, October 9, 2010 --D.C. to Roanoke, VA


The 2010 NSDAR Schools Tour is underway! We left Washington at noon today, armed with box lunches (and wonderful terry cloth “bibs” that cover your entire front and lap so spills are easily contained—I think I see a new project for our Veterans committee!). We are divided into two busses, and our President General will spend half the trip on one bus, and then she will swap her seat with the First Vice President General so that all on the tour can mingle with both. Today, I sat with my roommate, of Georgia, and immediately behind Kentucky’s own Vice President General and another VPG from New York.

Today’s route took us south into Virginia to Roanoke, where we have stopped at the Hotel Roanoke for the evening. This hotel has a wonderful history, built in the 1880’s by the predecessors of the Norfolk Southern Railroad. The railroad closed the hotel in 1989, but it was renovated and reopened in 1995 by Doubletree, who partnered with local government, Virginia Tech, local businesses and former patrons who looked forward to the reopening of their hotel on a multi-million dollar renovation and restoration of the facility.

I could easily imagine why Kentucky’s early settlers fell in love with our home state, as the rolling hills of Central Virginia look much like Central Kentucky!

This evening, we will gather for dinner and (hopefully) a quick workout before bed. Luggage is to be outside our door at 6:00 a.m., so I think that on this trip “DAR” will certainly stand for “Dress And Run”! Tomorrow morning, we will head to Crossnore School in Crossnore, NC. I look forward to attending Chapel with the students, followed by lunch and a tour of the campus!

Title: America the Beautiful

O beautiful for spacious skies...

Note: As I mentioned the other day, I am on a bus tour of the southeastern United States with the DAR. I am blogging about the trip on our State DAR Blog, but decided I would cross-post them here, as well, since my posts on facebook might lead people to wonder why I have run away from home! I just submitted my fourth post for the other blog, so will post two a day here until I've caught up!

Day One, October 8--Travel to D.C.


Our State Regent has generously offered to share this space with me over the course of the next week as I take part in the NSDAR 2010 Schools Tour. I will accompany 72 other women, including our President General Merry Ann Wright and our very own Vice President General Sharon Withers, on a nine day tour of the Southeastern United States, with stops at Crossnore, Hindman Settlement School, Kate Duncan Smith DAR School, Berry College and Tamassee DAR School. I also look forward to visiting the Biltmore Estate and dining at the Martha Washington Inn at the end of the tour.

Like many of you, I am familiar with the staff and campus of Hindman Settlement School, but this will be my first visit to any of the other schools we support through donations of money, clothing, and Campbell’s Soup labels. I look forward to sharing the experience with the Kentucky Daughters!

The tour starts Saturday, October 9, at the close of the National Board of Management meeting. I am writing this first post on Friday at 5:00 a.m., having just boarded an Amtrak train in Maysville. I should arrive in D.C. in about thirteen hours and look forward to a good night’s sleep before heading back out of town tomorrow! If you have questions along the way, please comment on the blog or send me an email!

P.S. It is now just after 1:30 p.m., and I have to add that for all of the benefits of air travel, there really is no better way to see our country than by rail. I have a completely new appreciation for the beauty of West Virginia, as we spent much of them morning traveling through the visually stunning New River Gorge. I will send this post on to our webmaster as soon as I get a reliable wi-fi signal, and hopefully you will be reading it soon!

Title: America the Beautiful, words by Katharine Lee Bates

Saturday, October 9, 2010

I'll be gone 500 miles when the day is done

Note: I wrote this Friday, October 8. Sorry for any confusion!

Well friends, the Melton Point is a point divided (or rather, two points…?) for the next 10 days. I am heading to D.C. to embark on a nine day bus tour of the southeastern United States with about 75 DAR members, and J will remain at home working on the bathroom. Yes, we are all in agreement that I get the better end of the stick on this one! Hopefully, J will make a few appearances here with updates on bathroom so that we are all in the loop!

On with the Thursday update (fair warning, it’s a doozy, so you might want to refresh that cup of coffee before you get started)!

October 7, 2010: I started the day bright and early by returning the Hilti to the rental place, and had a quick conversation with one of the owners about our subfloor issue. Up to that point, I had assumed I would have to cut out the existing (sub-standard) subfloor and start over from scratch. He suggested that instead of removing the floor, I simply add a layer of 5/8” plywood over the top of the ¼” plywood subfloor. I laughed when he suggested that I get other recommendations rather than simply taking his word for it, as I was already compiling a mental list of potential experts to weigh in on this one!

I left the tool rental and headed towards Lowe’s, quickly dialing my parents to get their advice. My dad joined the list of incredulous folks who couldn’t believe I was working with a ¼” subfloor, but quickly agreed that with the help of the thicker wood, Liquid Nails and some screws, I would be okay.

At Lowe’s, I ran the idea past the guys at the Projects desk and a pretty knowledgeable man in Flooring. I think they all thought I was crazy with talk of my ¼” subfloor (especially the Flooring guy), but they agreed that my plan would work. Thanks to the saw they have on site, I was soon on my way with my new subfloor ready to install. I have to say, the trip home (less than a mile) was by far my most nerve-wracking experience using Sandy as a pick up. The largest piece of plywood was 4’ x 5’, and Sandy is just barely four feet across the back floorboard. Remember when we brought J’s TV home on Man O’ War? This time, I drove even slower (20 mph was my top speed, and I really preferred 15 mph) and used my hazard lights. It was such a relief to pull into our driveway!

I quickly realized that the floor wasn’t quite smooth enough (it looked so much better Wednesday evening!), so went to work with our trusty hammer and chisel again. Satisfied, I carried in the wood to do a dry fit, where I learned that my 5’ x 6’ bathroom is actually just shy of six feet long. “Measure twice, cut once?” Yeah, more like “work from memory, cut, realize it’s still too big, measure, mark, make the second cuts with a jig saw and be grateful your curvy lines won’t show!”

After that came liquid nails…

And the drill to firmly attach the new top layer to the old bottom layer to the joists below… While I learned that I’m pretty darn good with all of the steps up to this point (well, maybe not measuring, but I problem solved that one pretty successfully), I am not good at using the drill to drive wood screws. Even with pre-drilled holes, I managed to strip out the heads on most of the screws I tried to put in.

Now, the few I got in successfully were great—there isn’t much like the feeling of the entire board beneath your feet tightening down at the end when it grips the floor joist and tells you it isn’t going anywhere! The quest for that elusive feeling kept me going longer than I should have, and I left J with a bunch of screws to fix somehow…

Now, you may be wondering why I’ve been pushing to get to this point if I’m leaving on a trip. Well, after the plumbers dismantled my toilet, they told me that they would need to come back two more times: once to reinstall the pipe from the basement into the bathroom, and then again after we install our tile to install the flange and set the toilet. I knew the J would have enough on his hands with me gone next week and likely wouldn’t want to take time off work to deal with the plumbers, so it was important to me that I at least get their first trip back complete before leaving. So, at 3:00 Thursday afternoon, the plumbers arrived and installed the new toilet pipe. I must confess, I was rather proud when they expressed how impressed they were with all we’ve done to the bathroom since they last saw it. Also, I took advantage of the fact that the pipe needed to be reinstalled anyway to have them move it over a few inches (thus, also moving the toilet over a few inches. This will center the toilet between the new vanity and the shower, which will look nicer and hopefully feel nicer for our guests, too.

My last bathroom related project before I left was to sort through the marble tiles we picked up last Saturday and choose my favorites, then lay them out for J. I started this project mid-afternoon, but quickly realized that one of the boxes we purchased was the wrong size. So I ran to the tile shop, swapped it out, ran some other errands (like picking up the drycleaning I needed before I could begin to pack), attended an event at church, and finally got around to arranging tile at about 11:00 last night. I even labeled each tile and made a little map for J to follow!

So that’s the very long update for Thursday, October 7. I suspect that there will not be any work done today (Friday), as I stayed up all night packing and prepping to leave (at 3:00 a.m. this morning), and J didn’t really get any sleep, either. I am hoping that he gets a great night’s sleep tonight and is ready to move forward tomorrow!

Number of trips for pick up Sandy—one
Number of injuries—none requiring immediate medical attention, but general muscle aches from running the Hilti, knuckle aches from a few too many misses with the hammer and chisel, and microscopic slices and dices from clearing the floor and installing the new subfloor are starting to add up.

Title: City of New Orleans (but seeing as Lexington is 500 miles from D.C. and I’m taking a train to get there, it seemed appropriate.), by Arlo Guthrie

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Can we build it? (part 2)

Well, in short, I don't know if we can build it, but we sure can demo it!

Tuesday, October 5--I started the day by returning RIP to Home Depot, where the friendly employee (not Jimmy) did a couple of things right and a couple of things wrong.

Right: Giving me my money back after I explained tht RIP didn't work
Wrong: Calling me an "HGTV wife" who "expects projects to be finished in 30 minutes"

Um...I've been watching This Old House (which lasts weeks, because nothing is quick about renovating old houses) since before I could spell Bob Villa and helping my folks, who built their own house by hand mind you, for years. I don't "expect" to finish a project like this in 30 minutes. I do "expect" the machine you rented me to accomplish more work in less time than I can get done with a hammer and chisel.

Much of the rest of the day was spent with the hammer and chisel, as well as some quality time with Google. We finally made it through the entire underlayment to the subfloor (well, J cleared 2 square inches down to the subfloor), which gave us a complete idea of what we were working with.

# trips for Pick-Up Sandy: One, returning RIP to HD
# injuries: multiple small cuts from the tile, only one serious enough to pull out a band-aid

October 6--The day started with a phone call to our tile shop for their suggestions, followed by a phone call and trip to a local tool rental shop. Reasons why Wilson Brothers is better:

1. No insinuations that this is my husband's project and that I'm not capable or knowledgable enough to figure it out
2. Far better selection (the tool I ended up going with, a Hilti chipping hammer, came in an array of weights, including two smaller than what I saw at HD's tool shop yesterday).
3. The shop guy let me handle both of the smaller chipping hammers, explained the benefits of both, then told me that if the larger of the two didn't work, I could always bring it back to swap for the lighter one on the same, single, rental.
4. It's always nice to buy local
5. They actually gave me the right tool for the job!

Maybe 3 hours of labor later, I had a clear floor, down to the subfloor. SO exciting to have finished the tile removal part of this process, even if I am still behind by a couple of days.
Bad news: I went through the subfloor in several places, necessitating a larger patch that planned.
Good news: turns out our subfloor is thinner than it should be to lay tile over it. Apparently (thanks, Google), 5/8" is standard, and even minimum code. So...1/4" subfloor? Not gonna hack it. Why is this good? Well, it's not, but I don't think I would have realized how big an issue this was if I hadn't been straddling holes and carefully choosing my steps to be sure I was walking over floors joists. I'm not at all thrilled that bringing the subfloor up to code is going to cause my marble to be about 1/4" higher than the hardwood in the hallway, but it's a price I'm willing to pay to get it right.

# trips for Pick Up Sandy: none, the Hilti fit neatly in the trunk
# injuries: many more micro cuts and punctures, but none requiring band-aids

Title: more Bob the Builder theme song fun

Monday, October 4, 2010

Can we build it?

September 8--I discover a leak coming from the toilet in our main bathroom

September 9--The plumbers I called tell me that the flange is completely rusted/broken and cannot be replaced until the subfloor beneath the toilet (also broken and rotten) is replaced. You can read more about that here, but the basic lesson learned is PO (Previous Owner) failed to brace the plywood subfloor correctly, and put the toilet right at the edge of a piece of plywood, so every time someone sat on the toilet, the entire floor flexed.

September 13-15--I searched high and low for ceramic tile that matches the floor. I failed. It seems that tile, like everything else for the home, comes in and out of style. Currently, our style is out. So, like the latest designer to be cut on Project Runway, our ceramic tile has been "auffed".

September 22 (ish)--J mentions that going downstairs to use the bathroom and shower is getting old, and asks how long it's going to take to fix the bathroom. I start looking for a bargain on marble tile.

September 30--I meet Tracey at our local Tile Shop, who negotiates a good deal on marble tile with me, and promises to teach me how to lay it at their free Saturday morning class.

October 2--J and I take "tile class" and purchase 40 square feet of carrera marble (we really only need 30 square feet, but this gives us the chance to pull our favorite tiles and return the rest...or make LOTS of mistakes cutting!), backerboard, thinset, grout, tape, screws, etc.

October 3--I make up a list of everything that will have to be done, and then I prepare a timeline laying out exactly where each step falls along the timeline. J makes me promise not to be so committed to the schedule that I get upset if we get off schedule. I agree, confident in my schedule and certain we won't get off pace. So, confident in myself and my schedule, I get started: box up everything in the vanity and medicine cabinet, establish a staging area in the living room, prep for the next day. Things are going so well, I ask J to give me a hand with a couple tasks on Monday's list. We move the toilet out of the room, take down a towel bar and remove the medicine cabinet.

Cue the foreboding music on our happy little timeline...

As you can see, PO left us an insanely large, evidently unnecesary hole in the wall, hidden behind the medicine cabinet (which, by the way, he'd attached to the wall with 8 screws--3 different types of screw heads). The wiring he conveniently cut around is also apparently unnecessary--the piece on the left isn't attached to anything, and I'm hoping it doesn't go to anything on the right, either. I've learned not to get my hopes up, though, and have just avoided looking.

October 4--All that is left on today's list is to remove the vanity and tile, then call a furniture refinisher in Midway to discuss my antique dresser (first mentioned here, well over a year ago). Well, the sink and vanity top came off fairly easily, and the use of "the Melton principle" got the vanity base out. I muscled the dresser out of the basement and into my car, then convinced J to join me on a rather chilly drive out to Midway to deliver the dresser. The owner made a great case for doing the complete job of turning our dresser into a vanity, and we may give him a chance.

On my way back home after dropping J back at the office, I decided to run by Home Depot's Tool Rental shop, because last week an employee told me they had several options for removing ceramic tile. Unfortunately for me, that employee wasn't on the clock today, and I got stuck with Jimmy, who assured me that the General Stripper FCS16 (or something like that...), a.k.a. RIP-R-STRIPPER, was the ONLY tool they had that could do the job. He showed me how to use the machine, gave me an attachement for ceramic tile, assured me I didn't need an operators manual, loaded RIP in my car, and sent me on my way. I got RIP out of my car and up one step before my back protested lifting it again. I called J in tears, and he assured me that the 24 hour rental cost was cheaper than a back injury. He promised to move RIP inside for me when he got home.

RIP failed to get the tile up. You want to dig a hole in the floor? RIP's your tool. You want to pop ceramic tile up? Not the tool for the job. After finding the operator's manual online, J found that the attachment the company recommends is not the one Jimmy sent home with me. After trial, error, and Google, we found that the chisel method is far more effective than RIP, and manged to take up 6 or 7 tiles before calling it a night.

We are now behind schedule. J has avoided saying "I told you so", but I'm already wracked with guilt. Luckily, I built in several cushion days, and have one scheduled for Wednesday. Maybe we can get back on track before I leave Friday for 10 days...

Almost 30 days since the Melton Point became a "one hole-er", here are the stats:
Number of times Sandy has served as the family pick-up truck: 3 (transporting backerboard, our vanity-to-be, and the tile "removal" machine
Number of injuries: 2 requiring bandaids, a stubbed toe, a few bruises and a pulled back muscle

Title: Using Bob the Builder's theme song...expect to see more of this one, but I can't promise how long it will take before you get the next line...

Sunday, October 3, 2010

If you're happy and you know, clap your hands!

This post was actually started a couple of weeks ago, when my dad pointed out that I needed a happy blog post. I had called to share that my new front door had finally been installed, and he observed that we had finally done something to our house, rather than the house doing something to us! So, because I know you're wondering how the bathroom is going (fair warning, that will NOT be a happy post), I thought I better get this post up quickly!

You will remember that the front of our house was overtaken by huge, out of control, shrubs:

Which J ripped out in July/August, leaving us with a blank slate:

After much debate and research, we settled on the Dallas Blue variety of switchgrass, Royal Burgundy Barberry and monekygrass (no idea what variety--we got this out of my folks back yard). I spent many hours one afternoon a couple weeks ago with my mom planting the front yard, and a couple days later our new front door and storm door were installed. We are thrilled (as is our new addition for Halloween--Julius) with these low maintenance, bred to die back or just not get too big, plants! I'm not so thrilled with the allergy I developed to something I pulled up while planting them, but I've mostly recovered...

Still to do:
  • Paint the shutters black (We're considering replacing the louvered shutters with paneled shutters to match the door, but after driving around the neighborhood, we've decided that's an expense that we can put off for a while since everyone else who has upgraded to a paneled door has kept their louvered shutters)
  • Replace the doorbell (still ugly brass)
  • Replace the porch light (also still ugly brass)
  • Rehang the flag pole

Longterm things to do: Replace the mailbox/mailbox post and add a trellis for the rose plant immediately around the corner of the house next to the driveway

Despite everything Previous Owner and this house has done to us, my Dad was right--it's a good feeling to be proactive and do something to the house! I love pulling up outside and being greeted by our new front door and plantings, and I love locking the storm door (we bought one with a deadbolt!) and leaving the entry door open during the day. Even Zeppelin is getting used to seeing people walk by outside!

Stay tuned: We're trying to take ownership over the mess that is our main bathroom and take the fix to the next level with a nice little renovation while we're at it. True to form, house (and PO) aren't making it easy on us...

Title: Children's song

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

And where was I before?

Happy Three Years, J!

Title: The Luckiest, by Ben Folds

Thursday, September 9, 2010

We're $%#@! the @#$% toilet...again...

Pro: Being jobless gives me time to really clean my house, like I'm supposed to--scrubbing toilets, washing towels, etc.

Pro: Giving the newly cleaned toilet one last flush before taking the towels downstairs to the laundry room was, in retrospect, a good thing.

Pro: The bathroom, and offending toilet, are directly over the unfinished portion of the basement (and right next to the washer and dryer) where a leak cannot go unnoticed if one happens to be standing at the washer loading towels.

Con: There is such a leak.

Con: This being the first time (ever) that I've scrubbed the toilet, flushed the toilet, and immediately run downstairs to wash a load of towels, I've no idea how old the leak is.

Pro: Ben Franklin Plumbers are prompt, courteous, and only charge you for sending one person, even when they send two.

Con: Previous Owner (PO, from here on out, for the way he makes me feel on a regular basis--like here), when faced with a less than steller subfloor and the need to set a toilet, chose to take the easy road, not the right road, and set me up for a leak and major reno job. (Hardly the first time he's done this to me, but still...)

Pro: Another benefit of being jobless is that I have all the time in the world (sort of) to rip up the tile and backerboard and worthless subfloor, thus saving us from paying someone else to do that part of the job.

Con: It's not looking good for replacing part of the tile, so the whole floor may need to come out.

Pro: I've been wanting to replace the vanity and sink, which gives me a noseful of sewer gas every morning (Thanks to the PO, again), anyway.

Con: Even so, it's money we'd rather spend on something fun, or at least on a home upgrade we were looking forward to, not a bathroom we thought was in decent shape for a while.

Seeing as the pros still outnumber the cons, I'm off to deal with my bathroom, rather than light a match and toss it over my shoulder as I walk away.

Title: Same toilet song as before, since it's the same toilet. Taking more liberties with the wording now....I think the writers would understand.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

I see trees of green

Anyone who has seen our house or a picture of it has seen the six builder's special shrubs stretching across the front of the house. Depending on how long it has been since you've seen it, or even which season you saw the house, you might have through the shrubs were a bit out of control. You would be right. The four innermost shrubs were imposing and difficult to keep under control. The two on the ends were far beyond control, and I could only trim them as high as I could reach, so at about eight feet up they exploded into chaos much like an old man's eyebrows above the roofline of our house.

A little over a month ago, I decided I'd had enough and that the shrubs had to go. Seriously; one day it was "yeah, we really need to work on the front yard some day" and the next it was "They have to go. Now." J, as I'm sure you can imagine, quickly saw what his role would be and was not so thrilled. Lucky for me, he understood that my growing unhappiness at work had left me a little emotionally fragile, and that this request (demand?) really wasn't the kind of thing to argue.
We made plans to start the destruction on a Friday after the sun went down and hoped we could gather the mess the following morning in the cool of the day (this was the last weekend in a very hot July, mind you). Instead, we went to a birthday party Friday evening, and J went to work on a Habitat House all day Saturday. He came home exhausted and in search of a cool bed. See the last paragraph for a hint of how well I took the news that my shrubs might not come down. It wasn't particularly pretty, nor was the attempt to get the chain saw working in the dwindling light. Running out of options to please his unstable wife, J grabbed a pair of loppers and went to work, which resulted in half the shrubs coming down before bed time.

Sunday morning dawned early with a quick trip to Lowes, an attempt to get the chain saw going again, another failure, more loppers, more trips to Lowes, more failures, and more loppers. That J could move a muscle in his upper body by the end of the day truly is quite shocking. In the end, we were left with a huge pile of branches piled in the front yard, lots of stumps and sticks protruding across the front of the house, and a happy JE.

On Monday, I started researching how to get rid of mass amounts of yard waste so that we could clear the yard. I also managed to get sick enough that J was willing to pay an arm and a leg to just be done with the darn project. I agreed and called our lawn service to see if they could help. Tuesday morning, they arrived to haul off the shrubs, leaving us with the stumps and a promise to come back and remove them, too.

We spent most of the month of August being "that house" on the block--our stumps, the dead grass (have I mentioned the hot, dry summer?), no storm door (result of a strong wind storm back in July, and quite frankly, another long story), and huge tomato plant (with only one tomato) hanging out on the front porch. It was starting to be a bit embarassing.

Finally, the stumps have been removed, a new front door has been ordered, and I've spent some time at a couple of local nurseries checking out native, low-maintenance species to plant out front. I'm looking forward to sharing the final results in another month or so, but decided that the story is too long not break into two posts, anyhow. Oh, and we're thinking about adding this little guy to welcome the world during the World Equestrian Games at the end of the month. Thoughts?

Title: "What a Wonderful World" by Louis Armstrong

Friday, September 3, 2010

Every new beginning comes from some other beginning's end

I hate change. It makes me uncomfortable, nervous, scared. When I was nine, my family prepared to move from the town where we had lived for five years to a small community nearly a thousand miles away. While it was hardly my first move, it was the first one that I was old enough to feel, to have my own life and friendships impacted by. In the weeks before the move, I expressed my discomfort with the whole thing to my father, who shared with me his thoughts on moving. The problem with moving, he said, is not necessarily that we don't want to leave; it's that we can't take the pieces of our old home that we like so much with us to the new home. He was right--my friends parents were unlikely to pick up their own lives and move with us to accomodate me. Our house couldn't be put on a truck and hauled across the mountains. I wasn't at all opposed to growing--to meeting new people and experiencing new things; I just wanted to keep the comfortable pieces of my old life with me, too.

Throughout my life, I've thought about his comment several times--not just when moving, but when faced with all sorts of changes. As the song suggests, a fresh start--be it a new city or a new job--follows an ending, and as much as we'd like to keep the best parts of one experience as we move onto another, most times we just can't.

Today, I'm hanging out in the in-between, thanks to a well-placed holiday weekend. Unfortunately, the in-between gives me time to think more about the experience that ended yesterday. After three and a half years, I no longer work for the Girl Scouts. This was my first experience with a permanent full-time position, and I learned so much about bureaucracy in practice, about workplace dynamics, and about myself. Am I disappointed that what I learned about myself didn't mesh with the bureaucracy and what my job became? Absolutely. Am I still completely impressed by the young women who are products of the program and its mission? Yep. Do I still want to keep those young women, the colleagues who promote that mission, and the program opportunities we created a part of my life? Of course. I didn't leave because I could not stand every part of it--but how much of the old can I (or should I) try to take with me into the new?

As with all changes, I will try to keep those best parts of the Girl Scouts in my new life. Odds are, most of them will fall by the wayside as I explore new opportunities. The very best of them will not. Here's to growth.

Title: "Closing Time" by Semisonic

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Now we're actually finished on the toilet!

So sorry it's taken a week and a half to get to "the rest of the story" as I'm sure you've all been waiting with baited breath!
Long story short (seriously, as long as Saturday took, Sunday went that quickly!)-- We went out with friends Saturday evening with visions on toilets dancing in our heads (well, JE's head) and eager to share the story. Our friend D listened closely, then suggested that his Dremel might be just the ticket to cut through the bolts and remove the tank from the toilet base.
After church on Sunday, we ran by his home to grab the Dremel, read the directions, and got to work.
Sidebar: The little disks that they sell to slice through metal are incredibly strong, but also incredibly fragile. And by incredibly, I mean it's a good thing D had a fresh twenty pack of the things. We went through 7, and not one broke in the actual process of cutting through a bolt. Hit the Dremel with another tool? Shattered. Kick the Dremel over onto the tile floor? Clean break. Tap the Dremel while squeezing between the toilet and bath tub? Yup, again. Seven times. Needless to say, J hit Lowes for another 20-pack on his way to return the Dremel.
A slow and steady hour or so later, and we had lots of little pieces of nuts and bolts and had the tank off the bowl.
Another thirty minutes, and we were actually ready to install the dual flush converter. I'm not certain that we pulled that part of the task off in the promised ten minutes, but it probably wasn't more than twenty to finish the project. Then we spent at least another five flushing the toilet to watch how much water we are saving (yes, I get the irony), and another five putting the bathroom back together.
All told, including Saturday's five hours, the project took us about seven hours. J built a little confidence in his handyman skills, and for maybe the first time in our handy efforts, no one got hurt!

Title: Same Toilet song...still not one you want to read the rest of the lyrics on!

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Now we're ... on the toilet

Friday, 6:30 p.m. JE runs to Home Depot to research front doors as a part of an ongoing effort to spruce up the front of the MP (another story that I promise to post about soon). On her way out, she spots a Dual Flush converter, which promises to save hundreds of dollars with just ten minutes of work and no tools!

Having seen a blog post about this handy gadget on Young House Love, JE calls J to see if he's interested in purchasing one to replace the aging flush mechanism in the main bath. J agrees that is sounds like a good purchase and offers to install it while JE works on DAR projects Saturday morning.

Saturday, 9:30 a.m. After spending a couple hours working on DAR, JE wakes up J, who makes a fabulous breakfast and heads into the bathroom with the converter.

Saturday, 10:30 a.m. JE hears J mutter "that's interesting..." Having heard that phrase one too many times not to know that it means the latest project is going to take more time and money than planned, she calls out to J to be sure everything is okay. He insists it is.

Saturday, 10:35 a.m. J calls JE into the bathroom to investigate the interesting flush valve mechanism. It's not okay. JE heads to Google to figure out why her toilet doesn't look like the one on the box. Despite the lack of a brand marking on their toilet, she and J agree that they have a Mansfield toilet, which requires more work (of course).

10:55 a.m. JE heads to Home Depot for a replacement flush valve set. J stays behind to remove the tank from the toilet bowl in preparation.

11:30 a.m. JE arrives home with the new flush valve. J has dug out several sets of pliers and WD 40, but still hasn't gotten the tank off the bowl. JE chips in and tries to help. The bolts holding the tank on have rusted solid and become one with the wing nuts under the tank. More WD 40 follows. More Googling.

12:30 p.m. JE plugs in her glue gun in hopes that the heat will expand the nuts. It doesn't. J grabs a butane lighter to see if that would help. It doesn't. Both are surprised that the open flame doesn't produce a more impressive result on the WD40-soaked nuts and bolts.

12:45 p.m. J heads off in search of a nut-cutter. He goes to Lowes. And Ace Hardware. And Home Depot.

2:30 p.m. J comes home with vise grips, a large screwdriver and a large chisel. The vise grips are tightened down on a wing nut to keep it stationary while the chisel is attached to the drill. While JE uses the lighter to heat the nut and hhols onto the vise grips, J attempts to break the rust seal with the chisel-turned-screwdriver inside the tank.

3:00 p.m. No luck. JE googles new toilets and plumbers. J puts his new tools away.

Time: 5 hours...and counting
Tools: six? seven? I've lost count...
Injuries: None...yet

Title: The Toilet Song, from Blue's Clues. Google it. Actual line: Now we're finished on the toilet. But we're not.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

If I knew you were comin' I'd've baked a cake

Greetings! Yes, I realize it's been ages (seriously, well over a month and a half...I know!) since an update, and I'm sure that I'm way behind on whatever I promised in the way of blog posts. I'll get better about that over-promising, under-delivering thing one of these days! If it helps, I've been insanely busy (and of course, J has been insanely busy by extension) and have managed to keep the house moderately clean (that was for you, mom!), entertained a few times, made some awesome craft projects, and survived two more Thin Mint Sprints! My running suffered and I went from the first week in April to the first week in June with no 5K, and believe me--my time in my June race showed it. Our next goal is the Bluegrass 10,000 on July 3. Stay tuned for results!

Last week, I started lessons on a new hobby, and I'm pleased to share the preliminary results. That's right, I've taken up cake decorating!
My timing is a bit off, as baking and decorating cakes really doesn't go hand-in-hand with weight loss, but I've found many co-workers and friends willing to help me out with that. In my first class, we learned how to use the star-tip, and I decided to practice a little baking/decorating this weekend to the benefit of the Girl Scouts. I was thrilled to receive many compliments and to find an empty cake plate pretty quickly.

Today I attended my second class and made a cake to share with some close friends this weekend. S & C gave birth to their first child last week, and I'm on my way to meet little D tomorrow. It seemed appropriate to make her a birthday cake to celebrate 12 days of life (really, cake is appropriate to celebrate any day, right?).

I still have two more weeks of class to go, so hopefully there will be more pictures to come!

Title: If I knew you were comin' I'd've baked a cake, by Eileen Barton

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Brown paper packages tied up with string

Just wanted to pop in and share my latest crafty efforts! A co-worker of mine shared one of my hand-made banners (I talked about those here and here) with her daughter, who is hosting a wedding shower this weekend. She, in turn, asked if I could make a banner for the shower, which has a Lovebirds theme. Never one to turn down a challenge, I agreed and whipped up this beauty:
My previous banners have been strung on ribbon, but this one is entirely put together using brads (remember those from first grade?). I like the brads for two reasons: first, it totally makes it look like the birds are kissing (cute!), and second, the banner conveniently folds up on itself for easy storage and transport. I added ribbons on each end to hang the banner, and these wrap around it when it's folded up to hold it all together. I tell ya, sometimes I have moments of genius!
Here is the banner all tied up, which actually prompted my post title today...maybe "bright colored banners tied up with rib'n"?
Also, a friend has encouraged me to open an Etsy store using these pictures to make and sell custom banners. I'm thinking about it, but am not sure about pricing...what do you think? What would you pay for a custom-made banner (this is made using a heavy weight cardstock, so really sturdy)? Also, J says I have to wait until June to get serious about this, as I still have to survive May and the two Thin Mint Sprints I have planned. If you're near Lexington (May 8) or Ashland, KY (May 22), come out and join us! You can register online at!
Hopefully I'll be back soon with pictures from the Baby Shower I hosted this weekend. It had a bathtime/rubber ducky theme and was absolutely adorable! Yes, there were some cute invitations and cards involved in that one, too! (Something else for the Etsy shop?)
Title: My Favorite Things, from The Sound of Music

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Hit the road, Jack

J and I ran in our first 5K of the year today (the Shamrock Shuffle last month was a 3K, or about 1.8 miles). This one was the Lions Club Run for Sight, which wound through Lexington's beautiful Masterson Station Park. This park, located on the northwest side of town, has a large dog park, equestrian facility, and in-line hockey stadium, as well as the track where our race started and finished. We got to see a little of all of these on the run, and that kept it interesting for us.
It was a beautiful morning, but an approaching storm kicked up an awful wind. This was made worse by the "out and back" nature of the course which gave us the wind at our backs for most of the first mile and a half, and then had us running directly into it when we were most tired. At one point on the way back (somewhere close to 2/3 of the way into the second mile), I seriously considered just stopping dead in my tracks and facing the other way for a moment. How I managed to keep trudging up the hill into that wind is beyond me, but I did it.
In addition to learning a little about all of the great charities that put on races, I've also discovered something about myself over the last 7.5 months. I love these races for the excitement in the air (everyone is there because they really want to be) and for the chance to beat myself and my previous times. Sure, I generally pick out someone to pass and take it personally when someone has obviously picked me to be their person, but I'm absolutely loving seeing a shorter time for my pace with each effort. Even though I ran cross country in high school for six years, I never felt that way, and as a result I generally hated running. This time, while I'm definitely not one of those people who 'crave' exercise (yet), I am loving the race experience enough to make the in-between training worth it.

With that build up out of the way, I'm sure you're wondering how today went. Well, last month at the 3K Shamrock Shuffle, I turned in a great time (for me) and dramatically reduced my pace per mile to 13:08. Now, I realized that the better time was likely closely related to the shorter distance, and I wondered if I would be able to sustain that pace over an additional two kilometers (about a mile and a quarter). I looked up the approximate time for a 5K at a sustained 13:08 pace (about 41 minutes) and made that my goal. At each mile marker and the halfway point, I checked my time and worked to maintain my pace. Imagine my thrill at approaching the finish line and seeing I was still in the 39's! I came in just under 40 minutes (no official time yet), so my new pace to beat will actually be under 13 minutes! Obviously, I have a way to go until I'm posting competitive numbers, but I am thrilled with my steady progress and feel good about the direction I'm headed in.
Together with the improved time, I'm also happy to share that I've now lost 20% of my body weight in the last 9 months. I'm pretty confident that I'll hit 25% before the first of May, if not my overall weight loss goal (a total of 75 pounds). J and I are making steady progress toward our goal of each running 300 miles this year, and he's making good progress toward his weight loss goals, too. By the way, I left him out of the running bit, but he did a great job today, too. He's been unable to join me in races for the most part, but picked right up at the same pace today as his last race (the Black Cat Chase on October 30), so I'm really proud of him!
Hope you are all enjoying this beautiful spring by getting out in the sunshine and walking or running, too!
Title: Hit the Road Jack, by Ray Charles

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Happy Birthday, Happy Birthday

Today I turned thirty.

Five years ago, I took the time to reflect on my life at that point, and I was pleased. I was in Georgia, celebrating the birth of my first niece a week prior. I was in graduate school, working on a PhD, and starting to develop serious feelings for the man who is now my husband. I was a healthy weight and had a pretty healthy frame of mind. Life was good.

In the intervening years, I've wished many times for the clarity and sense of calm I felt on the morning of my twenty-fifth birthday. I wondered if I'd ever feel the same way and had pretty much come to terms with the idea that I might not.

This morning, I decided to take stock, and I was pleasantly surprised to discover that I am at a place in my life where I could feel the same sense of peace and clarity. I'm not one of those people who dread turning 30. As the youngest of most of my friends, it's a bit anti-climactic, really. What I do dislike, however, is the feeling that I'm not moving forward to a healthier and happier me.

Perhaps it's a lucky coincidence that my birthday falls in the middle of Lent--itself a reflective time of the church year--because I've been rather reflective these last few weeks. For me, this reflection has brought about great appreciation for the path I'm on today. In the last year, I've become a much healthier person, having shed right at 20% of my body weight (48 lbs), become a recreational runner/walker, found faith in the community of St. Raphael's, and made great friends. There's a bit of peace in realizing how very blessed you are, and age doesn't really factor into it.

So today, I can say that even though I'm living a life I couldn't imagine five years ago, I feel much the same. As I say to J, I'm a lucky girl.

Title: Happy Birthday, by Stevie Wonder (A co-worker and I both turned 30 this month, so we threw ourselves a birthday party at School, a local french/sushi place with a karaoke room. Among the songs we discovered for the first time was this one by Stevie Wonder--not at all what we expected when we typed in Happy Birthday!)

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Trapped in the closet, Part 1

First, I know I start more posts by apologizing for the lack of posts, but I'm going to do it again. J and I have both spent this winter fighting off sickness and treading water with regard to everything else. Luckily, Spring is finally arriving (I noticed our dafodils peaking through the ground just last night!), and we're getting back on track!

This weekend, we're participating in our first race of the year, the 3K Shamrock Shuffle. This is a huge race in downtown Lexington, and I'm really looking forward to it! While I've continued to exercise on my own, this is my first race since the Snowman Shuffle in early December. Hopefully this gets us back on target of a race a month!

Now to the title of the post--the Melton Point was built in the early 1970's, apparently before builders discovered that closets sell houses. We have a total of five closets in our house, and two really don't count (they're located upstairs and filled more with boxes than clothes). Up until this house, every closet I've had since my teens has been large, and I'd allowed my wardrobe to expand to the space.

Two years ago, negotiating closet space became the biggest issue in my new marriage (somehow, living out of three wardrobe boxes in the living room just wasn't doing it for me). This wasn't helped by the fact that the closet in our guest room had no rod or shelf, or that my new husband had spent three years making the master bedroom closet completely his own. In addition to these sorry excuses for closets, we have a coat closet that also serves as a the main utility closet for the main level of our house.

For your viewing pleasure, and to show you what amazing progress we've made since January in our closet struggles, I took pictures this week to demonstrate just how small our closets are--

First, the Coat Closet--

Stats: 40" wide and 18" deep; one rod for coats and one shelf

Master Bedroom Closet--

Stats: 75" wide and 25" deep; one clothes rod and one very deep shelf

Guest Bedroom Closet--
Stats: 58" wide and 24" deep, with an oddly offset door; originally, no rod or shelf. I added two hanging rods turned sideways, and a closet unit on the other side to create something like a walk-in closet for J

So this is where we started and what we've worked with for the last two years. I learned to purge (because apparently I didn't need most of the clothes I'd kept from high school), and J made do in the guest room. Then we went to Ikea and J got the great idea to buy the wardrobes I talked about in this post. It's still a work in progress from a finishing standpoint, but we've been using our wardrobes for several weeks. I'll post pictures soon of our wardrobes and then (eventually) I'll get the room finished and share those pictures, too.

Title: Trapped in the Closet, by R. Kelly