Married to the Empire

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Teenagers are great

As I've mentioned before, Ruf and I work with the youth at our church. They're great entertainment, I have to say. Ruf had to stay home from church this morning because working in the yard yesterday brought on such a bad allergy attack that he was sick. So, I taught our middle schoolers alone this morning.

I have to preface this little story with some background. We've been working our way through the Old Testament with our middle schoolers. When we studied the story of Elijah and the prophets of Baal, one of the boys had an interesting version of the bible. When it came to the part where Elijah was taunting the prophets by asking where their god was, this boy's version said something to the effect of, "Maybe he's on the toilet!" Naturally, that got our class laughing hysterically.

Today we were in I Chronicles, studying the preparations for the building of the Jewish temple. We reviewed what we'd learned last week, part of which was the various roles of the Levites in the temple. The kids were piping up with the various tasks the Levites performed, such as making the bread, guarding the gates, how many people had keys to the tabernacle, etc. One of the kids joked by saying some were bringers of the toilet paper, which got another one (these were boys, btw) saying they plated the toilet with gold.

The kids were laughing hysterically at this point, but one of the girls who wasn't there last week looked totally confused and wanted to know why they would bother making a toilet gold. In her words, "Why make something gold that people are just going to poop in?" I clarified that there was no toilet in the temple; the boys were just making a joke. But then another girl asked, "So where did they go to the bathroom?" I told her I didn't know, and I don't think God really thought it important for us to know, since he didn't tell us about the people's facilities in the bible.

Of course, that got them all off on a tangent of wondering if they had porta-potties or latrines or what. I just had to laugh. It actually made me think of the Beverly Cleary book where Ramona is in kindergarten, and the kids are asking the teacher when the main character in a book went to the bathroom. I felt a bit like that teacher this morning, not quite knowing how to respond to such an earnest, but inconsequential question.

I made sure to tell Ruf about the fun that he missed in Sunday school today. He was just laughing and shaking his head.

On a more serious note, because Ruf was so sick last night from his time outside yesterday cutting up our fallen tree, I was worried about him trying to finish cleaning up the mess by himself today. A couple of the high school boys in our group have a lawn service, so I asked them if I could hire them to come help him today. They were a great help to Ruf, and those sweet boys tried to refuse payment. I made them take money since my intention all along was to pay them, but they were very reluctant to do so. Their mamas raised them well. :-)

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Tree Removal

Ruf and I spent last night at Lowe's buying a chainsaw, goggles, earplugs, and twine. And I made a trip today to buy a second pair of loppers. Ruf's stormtrooper buddy Fred was kind enough to offer help with removing the fallen portion of the tree. A neighbor I'd never met before came over earlier today with his daughter to introduce himself and offer his help. I thought that was really kind of him, considering he doesn't even know us. Then again, that may also have been his tactful way of telling us that he's sick of seeing our fallen tree. As are we.

Ruf and Fred are outside right now working hard. My job is mostly just to bring them water and Gatorade and check the city's website on the requirements for yard waste pickup. I think I drew the better end of the stick. ;-)

Fred working hard:

Ruf relaxing with a cup of water, watching Fred work hard:

Doogie checking out the fallen tree before he got scared out of his wits and tried to headbutt the front door to go back in:

Progress in the yard:

One of our crepe myrtles suffered some loss as a result of half a tree falling on it. The damage isn't too bad, but it's a little lopsided and broken now:

Friday, September 28, 2007

Tree solutions and saving money on them

We had 2 people out yesterday to give us estimates on our tree. Both companies recommended removing the whole thing. The first company was very reasonably priced, and they gave us separate bids for the downed part, the standing part, and stump grinding. Problem is, they can't get to us for a couple of weeks because they're quite backed up.

Two other companies are supposed to come out today to give estimates, but it's almost 1pm, and no one has shown up yet.

At this point, we're thinking that Ruf will need to just buy a chainsaw and take care of the downed portion himself. Then, we'll hire Company #1 to take care of the rest when they can get to us in a couple of weeks.

While borrowing a chainsaw would be the most frugal solution, none of our friends or family owns one. Renting is also not a good solution because the cost per hour times the length of time Ruf estimates this will take him is not cost effective. So, we'll buy. (He's wanted a chainsaw for a while anyway.) Ruf did some research last night, and he found the one he wants to buy at Lowe's. I then did some online research to see if there were any Lowe's coupons. I found a wonderful blog for printable coupons with links for coupons for both Lowe's and Home Depot! And from what I've read online, Lowe's accepts competitors' coupons, so I'll go to the store armed with both.

The real beauty of this is that when I signed up last night for the Lowe's coupon, the website said that it would take 3-7 days to email it to me. I prayed over it, stressing to God that we really need this discount NOW, and there it was in my inbox this morning! He is good!

For more money-saving ideas, visit Crystal's site.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Problem (partially) solved

Ruf and I were awakened in the middle of the night by a strange sound. Neither of us could figure out what it was, but I said it sounded like a garbage can scraping along the driveway. I thought maybe a raccoon or something had gotten into someone's garbage.

This morning Ruf kissed me good-bye, then I heard him open the front door to do his morning I-love-my-wife ritual of fetching the newspaper for me. (I like to read the paper over breakfast in my jammies.) He came back into the bedroom and said, "Um, I know what that sound was that we heard last night. You might just want to come see."

He led me to the front door, opened it, and I was greeted by this:

I gasped, my hand flew to my mouth, and I just stood there like an idiot. Yes, only one day after discovering that our tree had split, it broke in half and fell down.

Praise God, the roof really wasn't damaged, which was my greatest fear. The gutter was pulled down a bit, but that's easily repaired, and there's some scraping on a few shingles, but overall, the roof is undamaged. God is good!

I really thought the tree was okay for a while, at least until the next major storm. It's hard to believe that in only one day, the tree could split like that, then break in half.

I guess the tree specialists coming out today to give us estimates will now just be looking to see if the remaining half of the tree can be saved. (I hope so!) And I guess we'll see what it will cost to have them cut up the downed half and remove it. If it's too much, I guess Ruf will have an unpleasant weekend of purchasing a chainsaw and doing some major cutting.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

More home problems

This is actually more of a yard problem, but either way, it's going to mean money slipping from our grasp.

I walked out to get the mail today, and I happened to notice this:

That would be a big ol' split down the center of the beautiful Bradford pear tree in our front yard. I was just sick to see it. Closer shots of both sides:

I now have 2 different tree specialists scheduled to come out tomorrow to take a look at our tree and give us an estimate on whatever needs to be done. I'm really hoping it can be saved, but the split looks pretty bad to my untrained eye. We have to have this taken care of ASAP because the part that's splitting off could hit our house and do some serious damage. We've had pretty serious drought conditions the past few years, then we had massive flooding in spring and early summer. Trees are in distress in this area. I guess it was just our turn to have it affect our property. *sigh*

Sometimes I really hate homeownership.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007


"To her delight, Barney gave her a necklace of pearl beads. Valancy had wanted a string of milky pearl beads--like congealed moonshine--all her life. And these were so pretty."
--The Blue Castle by Lucy Maud Montgomery

I don't really know what it is, but down South, pearls are an important part of womanhood. Most of us have our own set of pearls. It's a rite of passage. I was supposed to get my pearl necklace at the end of 8th grade. That's when my sister received hers to wear with her formal gown to the 8th grade banquet, which was kind of like a mini prom. But we'd moved by the time that particular event rolled around for me, and I really didn't have anything I wanted to wear pearls with. So instead of a necklace, I received pearl earrings and a ring.

By the time I graduated from high school, I'd come to my senses and wanted my own string of pearls, so that was one of my graduation gifts. Later came a pearl bracelet and even pearl earring jackets.

But I hardly ever wear any of them. For one thing, Ruf says they make him think of old ladies. Maybe because pearls are such a big deal in the South that he's always seen them on old ladies. And really, the younger set really hasn't embraced that old tradition too much.

I've been reading The Blue Castle lately. I saw that AnneK has it in her personal library list, and as it's by an author who wrote one of my favorite series, I thought I'd read it. It's a fabulous little story; L.M. Montogomery has such a descriptive way with words, so I couldn't help but love the way she described Valancy's first string of pearls.

I've decided to start wearing my own little drops of "congealed moonshine" more often. In fact, I wore them out today with a very ordinary outfit of a t-shirt and denim capris. It felt wonderful.

Small delights

I was at Target today for a little shopping, and I ran across these bird salt-and-pepper shakers. I have a thing for birds. They were on clearance, so I indulged. Just a tiny, inexpensive day-brightener.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Star Wars Robot Chicken

Ruf sent me this link today. I'd never seen Robot Chicken before, but I must say, this is hilarious stuff! If you're a Star Wars fan, this is a must-see: Star Wars Robot Chicken

Disclaimer: If you're easily offended, this might not be for you. There is some bad language and inappropriate material. Not for children!

All in order

I took a nice, computer-free weekend, and I feel refreshed! (I spend way too much time online.) The house is finally back in order after all the repair work. I did a little reorganization and purging while I was putting everything away. But here is my living room (the bookshelves, at least) back in order:

My mother was getting rid of a few things, including a family photo. I've always liked this picture, and I even love the 70s frame it's in. So, I took it and found a place for it in the living room. This is my mom, dad, my sister, and I'm the clueless-looking baby:

I've had this precious picture of my three oldest nieces for quite some time. (The baby in the picture is now 6, so that should tell you something!) I dug around and found this frame that has been in my gift closet for years. It was perfect for this photo:

Another decision I've made is to use my fine china. I actually have 4 sets of dishes: 2 everyday sets and 2 sets of fine china. My white, everyday dishes are a mess. I've broken a few, some have cracks, I no longer have a full set... I've been thinking for a long time that I need to get rid of them and buy a new set of white dishes. But that would mean that I'd still have 2 sets of fine china that I never use. One set is the china my parents received when they married. They gave me that set when I was in college because they'd bought several other sets that they liked better. I've always loved this green-and-white china, but I found myself contemplating getting rid of it just so I'd be more apt to use my wedding china. Who really needs 4 sets of dishes?

What I decided is to go ahead and get rid of the white dishes, but instead of buying more, I'll use my mom's old china in its place. I'm going to put it in the dishwasher. I figured it's not being used right now, so I might as well use it and treat it as everyday stuff. What's the worst that could happen? (That's a rhetorical question, btw.) It just makes more sense to use what I have rather than buy more that I don't need.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Still plugging away at the house

Sorry all my posts have been so house-focused lately, but that's all that's been happening in my life lately. I'm almost done putting it all back together. I've been sorting and purging, and the give-away pile is growing.

I even culled a few turtles from my collection. I collect turtles from around the world, and I prefer them to be made of materials indigenous to the area they come from, or to be decorated in a native style. Not everyone gets that, so I've had a few turtles join my collection that just don't belong (thoughtful, well-meaning friends). I finally became brave enough to pull the worst offenders from the collection. And it feels good!

I also pulled a few knick-knacky things from my shelves that kind people have given me, but I have no real desire to keep or display the items. There's a tiny feeling of guilt niggling at the back of my brain, but overall, it feels great.

I'll have some pictures up later when everything is done and I've bought new batteries for the camera. Ruf bought a HUGE pack of batteries from Sam's, but as his stormtrooper costume takes about 20 batteries, he's hogging them and told me to buy more. I will, if I have the time!

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

It figures

I sent in my check to renew my subscription to Martha Stewart Living three months ago. The check never cleared, and Martha's people kept sending me invoices threatening that my subscription was about to run out. I didn't do anything for a while because I was waiting to see if the check would ever show up. I didn't want to put a stop on the check because that would cost about as much as the subscription. So, I waited some more.

Finally, since it's been three months, and I couldn't stand the idea of not having all the upcoming holiday issues show up in my mailbox, I sent in a new check. I mailed it yesterday.

So guess what arrived in my mailbox today? The October issue. And on the address label, it says that my subscription is good until September 2008, which means that the first check finally made it there. It figures that this happens right after I mail in a second check!

Sugarless Apple Pie

Years ago, my dad's business partner's family was coming to dinner. One of the partner's children was diabetic, and my mom wanted to have a dessert that she could eat. She found this recipe for Sugarless Apple Pie.

I now have the honor of baking this pie every year for FIL's birthday. My FIL is diabetic, and he generally avoids all sweets. He looks forward to this pie each year, and it makes gift giving so easy! (Dads are so hard to find gifts for because they tend to have everything they want.)

I apologize for not having any nutritional information, but people don't tend to copy that stuff down when getting a recipe from someone. I don't know the origins of this recipe.

The key to a sugarless apple pie is to start with Red Delicious apples. Very important, as they are so much sweeter than the Granny Smiths that are usually used for baking pie.

Sugarless Apple Pie

6 ounces apple juice concentrate
1 Tbls. margarine or butter
2 Tbls. corn starch
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
6 cups peeled, sliced Red Delicious apples

Bring apple juice to boil in pan. Combine margarine, cornstarch, and spices in bowl. Add enough juice to dry mixture until well blended. Pour this back into juice in pan. Pour all this over apple to coat all slices. Then pour this into pie crust. (This recipe assumes you have pie crust already. I use the store-bought kind, as I find it easier than making my own.)

Bake at 425 degrees for 30 minutes, then at 375 degrees for 30 minutes.

A few pictures of the process:

Using a pie shield during the second half of baking is essential if you don't want a burned crust.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

WFMW: Cleaning the bathtub drain

I have long hair, so I'm frequently having to clean hair out of the drain in my tub. I know; it's gross. I found that the easiest way to do this is with tweezers. They reach down into narrow spots my fingers can't reach and can grab that slippery, soap-laden hair. This makes cleaning the drain so easy!

For more Works-for-Me Wednesday tips, visit Rocks in My Dryer.

Slow progress

I've been so busy lately that I really haven't had much time to post anything new. Putting the house back together is a slow process. The bedroom is mostly all put back in order, but the living room has had little done to it. And what is done is Ruf's doing. He stayed home from work yesterday to hang pictures, take care of stuff around the house, and clear all the boxes from his Star Wars room. This is all that's done in the living room so far:

The boxes are mine to unpack, and I just haven't had time. Instead of helping Ruf around the house, I went to our friends' house to clean it. Since we stayed there while they were out of town, I thought it only polite to have it all cleaned up for their return home today. So, their house looks nice, but mine is still a mess.

Part of what makes the unpacking/putting away process so slow is that we're doing some purging while we do this. Ruf and I both found clothes to get rid of, and I know I'll wind up purging some of my books. Plus there's a little clean up and reorganization going on here. Oh, and we're working on the master bathtub with recaulking and such. So, a lot going on. I'm feeling a little ADD about the house because I see everything that has to be done, and I'm struggling to settle down and work on one thing at a time.

Oh, and another shot of one of my little feline helpers:

Doogie has taken up residence in the laundry basket with the freshly-laundered living and dining room curtains. Guess he holds dearly to the belief that a house is not properly accessorized without cat hair covering everything. The cute little pillow in the basket is something my aunt made for me years ago. I found it living under the bed with a colony of dust bunnies. It's now rescued, cleaned, and ready for display.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Such a guy thing!

Ruf and I went to my parents' house for dinner on Friday night. While there, this conversation took place:

Me (to Mom): Oh, I forgot to bring you a DVD. It's one of my favorite movies, and I think y'all would like it. It's called Everything is Illuminated.

Mom: Did you say Everything is Illuminated or Eliminated?

Me: Illuminated.

Ruf: That would be so cool if it was Everything is Eliminated. I'd definitely watch that!

Saturday, September 15, 2007

So not helping

I hauled the suitcases over to the armoire to put my clothes back inside. Instead, the cats both decided the cubbies make excellent hidey-holes. They really don't know how to be helpful.



Thursday, September 13, 2007


Y'all, I'm tired!

No pictures for you today. Apparently, the easy part of this week's events was taking everything down. The hard part is putting it all back together. Today was spent giving the house a thorough cleaning and putting a few things back in order. I've still got all my boxes to unpack, so I guess that's on tomorrow's agenda.

Oh, I also spent a good amount of time with my iPod this evening. My dad saw my blog post about my frustration with it. He called me about it four times today, which I think is a record for phone calls from my father. But now I seem to have it sorted out and working properly, and I think I can actually now import music onto it all by myself. Besides, now he can't say I'm whining, which is what he said I was doing in my previous post. Humph!

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Phase 3: Put carpets and furniture back

The carpet guys came this morning to put the carpets back into place, steam clean them, and move our furniture back where it belongs.

Putting the carpet back:

Cleaning the carpet:

Moving furniture:

Clean living room carpets!

Clean bedroom carpet:

While they were already here, I asked the carpet guys to do a little repair work. A few years ago, one of our naughty cats (Ruf and I are still in disagreement as to who the guilty party is) knocked a hot iron off the ironing board when I'd stupidly walked away for a moment. We've had this lovely reminder for quite a while:

We had carpet remnants up in the attic, so I got some down, and the guy patched it up for me. He warned me that because our carpet is 8 years old, and the remnant is essentially still brand new, it wouldn't be perfect. I told him it's better than a melted iron shape! I think he did a pretty good job, and it was totally worth the extra $40:

The cats are still pretty annoyed with me, but they've been let out of their prison, otherwise known as the guest room. (They were totally ticked at me when I picked them up from the vet's yesterday. I was shunned, but as Ruf didn't take them to the bad place, he's still their hero.) They've been walking around the house and checking things out. I think they've been pretty confused by all of this.

While this whole process has been a royal pain in the butt, it only took 3 days. And it's done, so we no longer have this repair hanging over our heads. Besides, the house has received a super cleaning because of this. I vacuumed all the walls and baseboards yesterday, so the dust bunny colonies have been exterminated!

And my carpets look really pretty, too. :-)

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Pipe repair is finished

The leak guys were done by 2pm.

Filling in a hole:

All done in the living room:

With the cats still at the vet's, I can pull out the Scary Loud Machine (otherwise known as a vacuum cleaner) without guilt and go over the walls and baseboards where furniture used to sit. It was embarrassing to see how big the dust bunnies were behind the piano and dresser! I'll probably do a little spot cleaning on the walls, too. You never really notice just how bad things look until everything is moved out of the way!

Phase 3: Repair pipes

I spent part of the morning at the library (peace and quiet, plus a bathroom!). The leak guys called to let me know they were ready for lunch, so I went to Sonic to get my own lunch, then came home. There's nothing quite like walking into one's house and finding holes in the floor and big piles of dirt!

The living room:

The bedroom:

I'm not sure if you can see it or not, but that last picture was taken to show the tree roots that were the cause of the break in the sewer line. Believe it or not, those roots were an answer to prayer. Our insurance company had said that they would cover the cost of pipe repairs ONLY if the breaks were caused by tree roots. My whole women's bible study group was praying for tree roots back in the spring. Thankfully, that was indeed the cause.

When the guys came back from their lunch break, they walked past the Star Wars room where I'm set up right now. They both came in to look around and comment. It's always fun to hear people's reactions when they see Ruf's room.

Phase 2: Prepare for jackhammering

The carpet people came yesterday to move our furniture and pull back the carpets. The house is a mess now. Ruf and I spent a good amount of time last night covering things with plastic to keep dust off the furniture and out of the cabinets.

The living room with no carpet and all the furniture shoved into the dining room:

I'm a little concerned about the piano. It's not moved very far from where the jackhammering is taking place. I imagine the vibration will not be good for it. We'll definitely need to call in a tuner after this.

The kitchen all covered up (and if you can see my wallpaper, please know that I did not choose it, I know it's ugly, and we just haven't gotten around to removing it):

Yes, some of the living room furniture is now in the kitchen.

The master bedroom:

We covered a few doorways with plastic to keep dust out of rooms and closets. This is the door to our master bathroom:

And for posterity's sake, here is the really ugly flooring that was discovered under the carpet. The ugly stuff is at the top, and our current (and chosen by us) vinyl flooring is at the bottom of the shot, just for comparison:

By the way, our cats are MAD. We locked them in the guest room overnight. They're not used to being confined, so they were quite angry over that. But things were worse this morning because they were put in their carriers and taken to the vet's for boarding. So, they actually went from mad to terrified. But maybe they won't be so mad tonight about being locked in the guest room. I imagine that spending the day in a cage will make them more appreciative of being confined to a single room in the house.

As of right now, the leak people are jackhammering through my floors, and I'm sitting in the car parked out on the street making updates from my laptop. When the library opens in 20 minutes, I may head over there to spend some time. It's just too loud to stay in my house right now.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Phase 1: Prepare for carpet people

Ruf and I spent the weekend packing up our house to prepare for having leaks under the house repaired. I'm now done with everything that needs to be done before the carpet people show up to move our furniture and pull back the carpets. Parts of the house look so empty, and other parts are so crammed, they feel claustrophobic. Since I have nothing else to do while waiting for the carpet guys, I thought I'd show you the state of our house at the moment.

Emptied out living room:

Emptied out bedroom:

There's an arrow taped onto the wall behind the dresser. That's to show where the leak is. It's under the dresser. Nice, huh? Not at all inconvienent. Our other leak is in front of the fireplace in the living room.

And now for where all the stuff we packed up went. The Star Wars room has most of it. Unfortunately, this is also where I'll be spending the day tomorrow during repairs, assuming I have to stick around. Otherwise, I'm going to spend the day at the library with some peace and quiet!

The guest room isn't as packed because that's where the cats will now reside. We're letting them stay at home overnight, but during the repairs, they'll be boarded. They won't be happy. At all. Not an ideal arrangement, but better than boarding them the whole time.

And finally, my craft room. It's loaded up with a few things, such as suitcases full of clothing emptied out of the armoire and dresser, a TV, the ironing board, and a few other things. It's a mess.

Since I had to remove all the bedding and curtains, I took it all to the laundromat this afternoon. They have those giant washers you can cram big things into, so I had all of that washed and dried within an hour. One good thing that's coming out of this situation is that the house is going to receive a really good cleaning!