Thursday, October 30, 2008

In other news

Random bits of news that caught my eye:

Busy week

Well, the new furnace, AC and water heater are here.

Somehow, even with a week's notice, we managed to be without heat on the coldest day (and night) of the month. Of course. (It must be connected to my keen ability to always move into and out of the dorms on the hottest day of the month.) It was down into the 20s on Monday night, and only in the 60s on Tuesday. We meant to get up and turn the furnace on for half an hour or so before the install guys got here, but they knocked on the door early. We've been keeping the house at about 73 during the day, but with no heat, 68 was the best we could do. El Burrito and I went to the library and got warm in the car. And, since we couldn't get into the kitchen to cook, we had takeout from the grocery store cafeteria.

Anyway. It was fairly uneventful day. They found a leak in the gas line outside (loose connection on the main line) and had to call the gas company. Also had some issues getting the water heater to drain well. No surprise there, it had 23 years of sediment gunking it up, and I'm surprised it hadn't died already. Finally got it to drain with some air pressure. So we're now the proud owners of a shiny new furnace, AC, and water heater. The water heater is much quieter, the furnace is noticeably quieter but still audible. We ran the furnace with the doors open for half an hour - the heat exchanger is coated with oil at the factory, and it made a lovely stink as it burned off.

DH is a little worried that someone will be bothered that our AC unit outside is a few inches taller than all the others. I told him that I'd be glad to tell any complainers to go find something better to worry about. It's a condo thing - buildings all the same color, we all have to have doorknobs of a specific size and color, et cetera. If someone wants to gripe about the AC not matching the others, I'll tell them they're free to buy us a matching unit. Otherwise, go away.

El Burrito was very clingy all day, I guess because there were strangers running around with power tools and large bits of HVAC stuff. He napped on DH's lap, and spent most of the day with me on the couch while I worked on his elephant ears. He wasn't very clingy today - the same kid who doesn't want me more than six inches away sometimes was gladly scampering around out of sight-range at the library today. Fickle child. :)

Wednesday, October 29, 2008


El Burrito is pretty certain that the Great Pumpkin should bring him a blue vacuum cleaner for a Halloween present. Given that he still turns into a Cling-on when I get the vacuum out of the closet, and really didn't care for the toy vacuum at Toys R Us, I think maybe he's confused somewhere.

So far, The Great Pumpkin will be bringing a book that we found a the book sale(Pumpkin, Pumpkin), a stuffed animal (either a Webkinz beagle or the Bath & Body Works free lambie), and possibly a handful of toy animals from Michaels.

I'm still working on the costume. Got a bit done yesterday while the furnace guys were here. The ears are sewed together (two layers of felt) and stuffed, the tail is attached, and I un-stuffed the eyes and stitched them down. I still have to do the trunk and sew the ears to the head. The trunk should be fairly easy. DH was playing around with the fleece, and found that if you roll it up, it looks amazingly trunk-like. It'll just need to be seamed and cut to the right length. I may sew some felt toenails to the feet, and I need to find something pink for the clover and speck. DH found the tub with the Halloween decorations, and there are a couple of green pipecleaners that will be a great clover stem. With an hour or so of focused work tonight, I should make some good progress.

Speaking of the decorations tub, I'm pretty sure there's another Halloween tub somewhere. I know I got some mini jack-o-lanterns that light up, and a set of candles from Hallmark (cat, ghost, and skull, I think). But we found the jack-o-lantern lights and a few other things, so we're doing good. Now if El Burrito will just forget that he learned how to plug in the light-up jack-o-lantern. He was very impressed with himself for figuring it out while I wasn't looking, but I'd prefer that he didn't fiddle with electricity for another few years.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Tuesday at the library

Tuesday's library numbers: We returned 2 DVDs and 4 books, came home with 2 books and 2 DVDs (new Charlie Brown episodes to watch, yay!). We now have 31 items checked out and 12 on hold.

We returned:
  • the Easy Pilates DVD that didn't get watched
  • the Horton Hears a Who (animated version) DVD
  • Mr Monk and the Two Assistants
  • a Skippyjon Jones book
  • Touch and Feel Farm Tractors
  • a Caterpillar (tm) farm-equipment counting book
Then we spent $7 at the sale carts (El Burrito insisted on having a book of his own), stopped for take-out at the grocery store cafeteria, and came back home to our heatless home.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Fall is here

And it hit fast.

We went from days in the 60s to a freeze warning last night - 31 degrees. All the houseplants are inside now, taking up a good chunk of the living room, and now I have to find a way to keep El Burrito from digging in the dirt again. I'll have to rig something up to keep the Christmas cactus cool and dark; they're starting to bloom right now, but they don't like a lot of heat.

Luckily, the new furnace will be installed tomorrow (along with a new water heater and AC). Just in time, since we weren't comfortable with leaving the old one on overnight, even with the talking CO2 detector. (Seriously - instead of beeping, the thing talks to you.) We've been turning the heat on for 20 minutes or so at a time, but leaving it off most of the time. We're an upper unit, though, so we get a lot of bleedover heat from the downstairs and next-door neighbors.

Turns out we probably won't get a lot of efficiency improvement in the furnace. The new one will basically be a 23-year-newer version of the old one, because it has to fit into this tiny utility closet, and there aren't many models that will fit into the available (tiny) footprint. If we had two more inches of space, we could get a big improvement, but it's just not workable. On the other hand, there will be about a 30% improvement in the AC unit. Not sure about the water heater, but I'm guessing that our 30-gallon model is probably down to 15 gallons by now - hard water, and as far as I know, it's never had any of the periodic draining that you're supposed to do.

(Oh, and gas has dropped again. $2.35 now. I doubt it lasts, though. Won't surprise me if it shoots right back up in about a week.)

Friday, October 24, 2008

Politics and Toddlers

The background information: DH watches a lot of news. Mostly FoxNews, being from a family of serious Republicans (who apparently believe anything and everything that's said about Obama in chain-letter emails, but I digress. And I'm not a Republican. More Libertarian/Independent these days.).

Which means that El Burrito has been exposed to some news. And that DH wasn't too impressed when El B was walking around saying "Marak Omama" for a while. What can I say, it's a name with some rhythm to it. Then we found out that El B. can sort of recognize both McCain and Obama (although he called a random grey-haired guy "John McCain" in the parking lot one day). Last week, TVGuide Channel was showing clips of Sarah Palin on SNL, and the kid pipes up "Sallah Palin" or something close to that. Yep, he can recognize her too. Not sure about Biden, he doesn't get as much air time.

That's when I told DH that a) we watch way too much news and b) I can't freaking wait until this rotten election is over. Seriously, it seems like it's been dragging on forever. I wish we could limit campaigning to the six or nine months before the election.

But wait, it gets better. Apparently last weekend, while I was at the book sale, DH and El Burrito had some sort of discussion about politics, socialism, and general philosophy. I didn't know about this until Wednesday.

Wednesday afternoon, out of the blue, El Burrito walks over to me with an armful of toy cars and says "I don't want Marak Omama to take away the rest of my cars."

I swear to you, that's exactly what he said. I had to make him repeat it a couple of times to figure it all out, because he's still a little mumbly (takes after his father's side of the family on that). I told DH about it when he got home, which is when I found out about the political discussion that I missed on Saturday. Apparently he was trying to explain socialism and politics to a 2 year old, and toy cars was the best way he could find.

Yeah, we watch too much of what the news channels pass off as "news" these days. And I really can't wait for the election to be over. I've got a week and a half to finalize my voting choices and find something to do on Tuesday night other than listen to Fox/CNN/MSNBC all freaking night.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Little note: gas prices

I keep doing a double-take every time I drive past a gas station. I filled up last weekend, for something like $2.79. Gas today (standard, not premium) is $2.49. It's been a dime lower every time I go out lately. Freaky. I could have saved about $3 if I'd waited a few days to get gas.

Yeah, our IRA statements are going to be decidedly unpleasant, but gas is getting cheaper. All told, I'd rather it be the other way around. (And either way, I'm insanely glad that I gave up my 160 mile-per-day commute. I was driving a car that got 34 MPG routinely, and still had to buy gas every third day.)

Time warp

All right, I'm stumped.

On book-sale day at the library, El Burrito and I can be at the library by noon, stop for a romp at Shelter Garden on the way home, and be home before 1:30. On Storytime day, we're at the library at 10:30, romp in the Garden, possibly stop at one store on the way home, and can't seem to get in the door before 1:45 at the earliest. Even accounting for an hour of errands and shopping, we're losing time somewhere.

At any rate, we're going to the Garden at least twice a week lately. It's about the best place I've found so far to let El B run around and have some fun, and we're quickly running out of decent weather for the year. I'm not sure what we'll do when it gets cold and nasty in six weeks or so. They close the Garden when there's snow, but other than that, I guess we'll just bundle up and go romp anyway. Now, if I can just get him to stop chasing the squirrels before he finds one that chases him. It could happen - there are twits who like to feed the squirrels out of their hands, and a few of the critters are getting a little bold. It's only a matter of time before they get pushy and obnoxious.

(Two of DH's co-workers were walking one day; one of them was 9 months pregnant and was trying to hand-feed a squirrel. The other co-worker had to tell her that maybe it wasn't such a good idea. And last week, I saw a woman prompting her kid, maybe 7 years old, to do the same thing. Twits! They can crack a walnut with those teeth, a little skin won't stop them if they get grabby or can't tell food from a finger.)

The Garden isn't as interesting this time of year. The waterfall is shut off, the ponds are drained, the koi are vacationing somewhere indoors, and all the annuals are gone. Empty flowerbeds aren't that picturesque. Even some of the perennials go inside for the winter - they've got some pretty large banana plants and elephant ears. I imagine they'll be cutting the roses back soon; they pruned some of them already this week, and cut down a mostly-dead Japanese maple that I thought would be on the short list. Their Japanese maples got smacked around hard by the ice storms and weird freezes last winter, poor things.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Costume update

The costume is underway. Pictures to come later.

  • I took the mittens off the mouse costume, and re-hemmed the cuffs.
  • The tail is loose. Just have to decide whether to cut it off, or try to take it out of the seam. I'm leaning toward cutting it off as close to the seam as I can get. The lining makes it hard to get at the seam from the inside, so re-sewing the seam would be tricky.
  • I braided a new tail out of grey yarn.
  • I've got an outline for the ears that I need to cut out of felt. Traced around the ears on the store costume for a basic start.
Here's the odd part. I fought with Meijer's website, trying to get to the returns screen. No go. Something to do with not having an account when I placed the order, I suppose. So I called their handy toll-free number. No wait time, and a helpful CSR. Here's the weird part - I don't have to return it for a credit. I'm supposed to destroy it, apparently. Still waiting for the email confirmation, but that's what she told me.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Tuesday at the library

So, library day (twice, actually).

We returned one book, didn't check any out, and spent $7 at the sale cart. El Burrito got a couple of goodies, and I found a Lord of the Rings fold-out map and Thomas Cahill's Sailing the Wine-Dark Sea (to get a Classical Civ fix), among other things.

Boring day, right?

For reading material, since I keep forgetting to update the List - I read Thin is the New Happy last weekend, and am working through a biography of Roger Tory Peterson right now.

Monday, October 20, 2008


Recent (and upcoming events):

Fall is almost here. Frost warnings for later in the week. Which means the houseplants are about to end their little summer visit to the porch. And I'll have to rearrange the living room to make space for them. (I swore we'd be in a house by now, and I'd have room for the plants.)

The HVAC guy is coming to do an estimate for the new furnace and AC tomorrow. So tonight will be spent getting the place presentable. It's not "call the Health Department" messy at the worst of times, but it is, well, embarrassingly cluttered and messy. Toward the slightly-humiliating end of the spectrum, even though I figure these guys have seen worse, if they're doing furnace checks for any length of time.

We took El Burrito to a corn maze over the weekend. Pictures to come.

The library's Friends group had their annual children's book sale, and I scored some amazing stuff. Three C. W. Anderson books, two that I'd never heard of, all in decent shape. The first book in Shirley Rousseau Murphy's Dragonbards trilogy, which I've wanted for years, but never bought online. Most of the 12-book "Sesame Street Library" set for El Burrito, plus a tractor book and a stack of Sesame Street Little Golden Books. Nine Serendipity books. Two Lynn Hall books, including Tin Can Tucker. Another copy of Little Britches, since I read the covers off the first two. Oh, and the second day, everything was half-price. Hardbacks for a quarter, paperbacks for 12.5 cents. Heaven for a book fiend.

And then there's some lovely stuff going on with DH's family, but more on that later.

Friday, October 17, 2008


El Burrito and I did some shopping on the way home from storytime yesterday.

(Side note: Stopping at 2 stores should NOT turn a storytime at the library trip into a 3.5 hour ordeal!)

When Michael's sent me that email yesterday about a Grand Opening? They weren't kidding, folks. I'd noticed that the sign had changed from a red logo to a black logo. I'd seen the industrial-size dumpster out back, and the semi-trailer parked in the side lot for weeks. I knew something was going on.

Yeah. They've practically gutted and rearranged the whole store. I had to do three laps of the store before I found the felt we need for the Horton costume. Yarn is where the classroom used to be (it's totally gone). Frames are where the yarn was. Scrapbooking stuff is where Floral was, and I don't really know where the Floral Department ended up. I never did see it. The scrapbooking section is now knee-deep in bead stuff, including loose bins of individual beads. The crafty-type stuff (felt, foam, sequins, etc.) is now in a bunch of little shelf units scattered around, and sorted by age group, so it takes forever to look for something.

The yarn section seems to be the same size, but the needlework section has been decimated. Floss and needles now, some basic Aida cloth, but no kits at all. :( Hobby Lobby just got more of my browsing time. Honestly, though, I've sworn off cross-stitch purchases for a while. I've got half-a-dozen kits, and those would keep me busy for more than a year. One kit would, actually - it's a gorgeous tall-ship on a map background, but it's something like 22x28 inches. Freaking huge, people. If I'm lucky, it'll be done before El Burrito gets married.

Anyway, we came home with some craft pumpkins for El Burrito's Great Pumpkin fix, some strings of beads for suncatchers (hardest thing to find Ever), and the rest of the fixings for a Horton costume. Grey felt, grey paint for accenting, and grey thread to sew it all together. (They've added a tiny sewing notions section, which is a good idea.)

Household fun

It's been a kind of expensive year, as far as upkeep on Casa de Dragon. We seem to have hit the 20-year wall, where everything starts to sputter out in concert.

First it was the microwave that spontaneously quit, although without combusting or shooting sparks across the room. That led to replacing the dishwasher and stove along with the microwave. The stove had two iffy burners, and it was all 20-year-old original equipment, so we just had everything replaced at once. Now we've got matching appliances, a slightly quieter dishwasher, and a stove that still has a funny smell when we use it. But at least all the burners work.

Today we had the second HVAC check-up of the year. We pay a subscription fee, and the company sends a guy out twice a year - once to check the AC, once for the furnace. They clean the filter, which is a metal jobbie way way back in the guts of the furnace, and make sure everything's looking right. Back in May, the AC was a touch low on Freon, for the second year in a row. Today, joy of joys, it looks like the furnace is leaking a tiny bit of carbon monoxide. Very low, not enough to have to shut down ASAP and get a hotel room until it's fixed, but (as the furnace guy said) it's not going to fix itself. The furnace was built in 1985, according to the date stamped inside it. The AC was likely installed at the same time, since they're interconnected. Furnace Guy says 10-15 years is a good lifespan for a unit, so we've gotten an extra 10 years out of ours, and I'm pretty sure it wasn't a top-of-the-line model to begin with (judging from other little shortcuts taken when these units were built).

So, it seems that we've got some more fun to look forward to. DH's opinion is to go ahead and replace the geriatric water heater while we're at it. They're all shoehorned into the same utility closet, and we may as well take care of everything while we've got the gas shut off and the washer & dryer pulled out of the closet.

Luckily, we've got money in the bank, so it won't be a big financial burden. (Reading the IRA statements from Vanguard is depressing, though.) And, with a 20-year upgrade in efficiency, our utility bills may go down a bit. Not enough to recoup the cost right away, of course, but it'll be interesting to see what happens with the gas & electric bills. We won't (hopefully) be around long enough to see the difference in the AC's electric use, but we're getting into heating season now.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Bah, Humbug

What does it say about your life, when the only birthday card you get in the mail (during the whole week of your birthday) is from your insurance agent? And the only birthday emails are from automated programs at companies like Pampers and Michael's Crafts?

Yeah, that's what I thought.

Yes, DH will have a card for me tonight, and Mom sent me 3 about a week and a half ago (one "from" El burrito). But it still sucks when the actual day is basically ignored by everyone other than DH.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Halloween fun, part 2

Looks like we're going with plan C.

Sis didn't find anything Horton-y or elephant-ish in Detroit, but she did see a mouse costume at Old Navy. We stopped there after dinner tonight, and for $15 got the base of an elephant costume.

I'll have to take off the mittens and tail (if I can - it's sewn on from end to end, not dangly), and possibly the head if it won't fit Mr 95th Percentile Hat Size here. But it's the right color, warm enough to wear without another layer underneath, and seems to be pretty well-made. It's even got feet. Tomorrow we're off to Michael's and/or Hobby Lobby in search of grey felt. A couple of socks for a trunk (thanks Jan!), a yarn tail and topknot, and some felt ears, and we're in business.

I can trace around either our plush Horton or the hood from the other costume and get the ears about right. I've even got an idea for using two layers of felt and some stuffing to make them 3-d. Then all we'll need is the clover. I wish there were some red clover growing around here, that would be perfect. (El Burrito picked me a bouquet of red clover two weeks ago at Grandma's, but we didn't bring it home with us and I don't think it would mail well.)

(Would you believe, the costume was $15 at the store, $7.99 online. Plus $7 shipping, of course, so it's a wash.)

Halloween fun

It looks like I may be taking my first shot at a home-grown Halloween costume this year. Fun! (Sarcasm, there.)

El Burrito is on an elephant kick, so we asked if he'd like to be Horton for Halloween. "Yes" he said (although he'll say yes to almost anything). So, DH and I went hunting around town for a Horton costume, had no luck at six stores, and ordered one over the weekend from, since they were having a sale. Well, we ordered the non-Deluxe version and it was delivered today. And, quite honestly, I'm glad I got it cheap, because if I'd paid $30+ for it, I'd be even less thrilled with it.

It's blue. Pale, baby blue. Meh. It's made of the flimsiest, practically see-through fabric I've ever seen. And while it opens all the way down the back, there's just one tiny piece of Velcro to hold it closed. Oh, and to top it off, it's not the right size. I'm pretty sure El Burrito doesn't need a "5-7 yrs" sized suit. Now, the only part of that that Meijers is responsible for is the size, because their website was pretty murky on whether the costume was using the Baby, Toddler, or Child size chart. Should have emailed, I guess. Other than that, it's the fault of whatever company tossed this thing together. I paid $30 for a Cookie Monster costume last year, and it was better quality than this one. He'd still be wearing it around, if he could fit into it anymore. Horton, as is, wouldn't last a week.

So. There's a Deluxe version out there, but it's running about $50, plus shipping. ($36 if I get it at Meijers) Or, we can go the DIY route. Which is how El Burrito and I ended up at Walmart this morning, searching for grey pants and shirts in his size. Garanimals fit the bill, although the 3T pants may be kind of big. $7 for pants and shirt, $2 for a skein of grey yarn. Now we just have to hunt down some grey-ish felt and see if my very dusty Home Ec skills can produce a pair of ears, tail, and a trunk. As a backup plan, my sis in Detroit is going to her local Halloween store to see if they might have the Horton hat or ears at a semi-decent price, although a little boy in a headband might look odd.

Did I mention that I have no sewing machine handy? And that my Home Ec classes resulted in two trips to the doctor? Oh, and two nice scars (three, technically, since one scar spreads over two fingers). At least I've got a thimble now.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Another library trip

Tuesday's brief report: Returned 3 books, I think, came home with three books and a DVD. Currently have 30 items checked out. Spent $7 at the sale cart.

And returned the lovely $100 ILL book that was incorrectly overdue.

The short version: I requested a book (either Confessions of an Organized Housewife, or Confessions of an Organized Homemaker by Deniece Schofeld, - one seems to be an updated version of the other) via Interlibrary Loan (aka ILL), which costs me 50 cents, to see if I wanted to spend $6 or so on a used copy. Somehow, it was mis-coded in the circulation computer; it was due back to the library on 10/21, but the computer was told 9/21. Since I didn't check it out until 9/25, you can see the problem. I got a bill for it over the weekend, which blocked my account to any more renewals or check-outs. It also gave me a shock, because they were going to charge me $100 if I'd lost this book. The cover price was $10.95, and while I realize that it's out of print, I also know that there are 82 copies on Amazon, starting at the low price of $0.01 plus shipping.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

This pretty much nails it

Check this cartoon out. (It's today's Non Sequitur.)

My sentiments exactly. I'm so tired of the news and political crap right now, and I can't wait for the election to be over. Not that things will improve, but at least I won't be hit with political ads every time I blink. The news channels are hashing and rehashing two topics, politics and the economic mess, and they're doing more fear-mongering than anything useful. It's insanely depressing, both to hear what's going on, and to see what our news media is down to these days.

And to top it off, Opus is retiring next month.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Tuesday in the Rain

So, another library trip to put on record.

Today's stats (after the trip): 35 items checked out, 5 on hold. We returned 2 CDs and 3 books, and came home with 2 DVDs and 3 books. El Burrito specifically requested the garbage trucks "CD" (DVD, actually) that we had checked out, oh, about six months ago. We didn't find it, but we did find one about buses and planes. It's part of the same series, which unfortunately means a slightly irritating host, but I'll survive. There have actually been two hosts for the series, both named Dave. They're both a little too goofy for my liking, but kids seem to go for it. They need to work on their facts, though - I know definitely that a seed drill doesn't have a third bin for dirt to scatter over the seed and fertilizer. That's what the little wire finger-things are for.

We returned:
  • Chant
  • Chant Noel
  • The Whistling Season (this year's OneRead book, which I never finished)
  • The Complete Idiot's Guide to Astronomy
  • Hollywood Science
We also went to the book sale; this was the first sale of the month, so it's the bigger sale that El Burrito's buddy's usually working at. She was there, and glad to see El Burrito as usual. She'd forgotten the book she had for him, so she let him (or me) pick a book out for him and she paid for it. She's a really nice lady, and I plan to have El Burrito draw a picture for her. We'll take it next month and give it to her.

We found some good books today, and spent $26.50. Part of that was for my books - the big finds were two Will James books and a nice copy of Frog, the Horse that Knew no Master, from the Famous Horse Stories series. I paid $8 for it, but it's gone for more on eBay, and the cheapest copy on Amazon right now is $14, so it was a good deal. I'd like to have the whole set, but that'll take a while to collect. Otherwise, El Burrito found some Pooh and Clifford books, among other things. And there's an autographed Marguerite Henry book in the silent auction that I drooled over briefly.

Then we stopped at Office Depot and the dry cleaners, and made it home at 2:00 for a very late lunch.

Friday, October 3, 2008

An inauspicious start

It may not be a good Friday today.

As of noon, I've been thrown-up on twice, and El Burrito and I are both on our third set of clothes for the day. In retrospect, waiting an hour before I started that load of vomity laundry would have been a good idea.

Oh, and the house has a faint odor of sour milk and banana now (El B's breakfast).

(El Burrito's not a vomity kid so far. He was the king of spitting up when he was on a bottle; even after we switched to soy, he'd sometimes spit up an insane amount of formula, for no reason at all. But since then, he's only thrown up twice, I think. Once was my fault, when I tried to get him to eat his first gummy vitamin.)