Things Mom Never Told You

I think it’s a tradition that a long holiday weekend is made for tackling house projects, right? Going with that theme, we decided to undertake one that had been in our minds for a long time, which was repainting the outside of our front door. The previous owners had this thing about brown…everything in this house was either dark brown or baby poop brown. We’ve been trying to get everything inside painted and made less depressing for years and finally finished that up 2 years ago. It was time for the exterior of the front door to get a face lift.

As you can see, the paint was faded, and badly cracked and if you look closely you can even see where they had painted the old hardware purple, then scraped it off again with God only knows what, because if you have to remove it why would you bother with something like acetone that can get into the nooks and crannies? FF191DB3-4815-415D-AE47-F2B216B4DCE8Nah, just scrape and scratch and hope for the best, right? Don’t tape anything off either, like the bottom weather stripping, just paint right over it. Sigh. In any case, we’d lived with it for 8 years which was about 7.5 years too long. With a long holiday weekend looming, we had plenty of ambition to get us started.

We thought we would start first thing on Friday morning, put stripper on the door, and with a little luck we’d be painting by late in the day, have the door back on maybe by midnight? Unbeknownst to us, however, the door didn’t have a single layer of paint; counting the original primer, it had 5! Factor in that our door faces SW, and in the winter we have a glass panel in the screen door so the sun beating through it makes that door so hot you can’t even touch it, and all that paint was absolutely baked on over the years.

It took us 2 solid days of stripping, scraping, stripping, scraping etc., in the garage, to get those 5 layers off. Yeah, it’s funny now, but no one tells you when you start these projects “DO NOT START WHEN IT’S 95 DEGREES AND 70% HUMIDITY – FOR THE NEXT 3 DAYS!”.  It was miserable, but of course once you start, well, you know the old saying “in for a penny, in for a pound”. We put a huge piece of cardboard over our front door to seal it up and keep the house cool, and while effective it certainly wasn’t secure, so we also slept on our living room sofa sleeper for 4 nights because we didn’t feel comfortable being too far from a basically open doorway. After that I am really glad we also have a guest bed for guests to sleep on and the sleeper is a backup plan.

I’m sure that the citrus strippers really are the better and safer way to go for this kind of thing but honestly, the amount of time it took, I almost wonder if a product like the old Zip Strip wouldn’t have been faster. Certainly more toxic, but faster would have been better. And when it was finally all free of paint and down to bare metal, it needed to be wiped clean with mineral spirits, and then re-primed, which started another whole level of learning.

Did you know you can’t prime bare metal with regular primer? Nope, you need to use primer for clean metal, which is an epoxy primer and needs to dry for 24 hours in a very well-ventilated area. Well I guess the garage met that criteria, but here’s the dilemma. If you leave the doors open, you get dust and other schumtz flying around and possibly sticking on the fresh primer and paint. If you close the doors in 95 degrees and 70% humidity, eliminating ANY chance of air movement? ARGH!! (Smacking head on wall.) Then it was FINALLY time to paint it, and it was beautiful. To be safe we let the paint dry a day and a half before putting the new hardware on and putting the door in place.

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I feel like this color is perfect for us!! I look at it and feel like I’m down island somewhere. We are now the ones that people will say “you’ll know their house by the front door. Trust me.” I love that. It’s fun, cheerful, inviting and oh so welcoming, which is truly how we want you to feel here.

Unfortunately, now that the main door looks so great, it makes me see all the flaws in the screen door, so I’m pretty sure that new hardware isn’t too far behind for that, and maybe even a coat of fresh white paint too. Oh yeah, and paint on the wood trim around the door, and…

It never quits.

The Great Refrigerator Adventure

As I mentioned in a recent post, we’ve been updating the kitchen appliances, and decided it was time to replace the fridge when it appeared it was possessed. We had a side-by-side that was 18 years old, and it had been repaired a couple of times already. The last time he was here, the repairman said to me “don’t spend money repairing it again, it’s not worth it. You’ve already sunk more into it that it would cost to buy a new one.” Hoookay.

So I became aware of this apparent “possession” when I would open the door to work on a meal and notice things were frozen on the fridge side – things that shouldn’t be, like lettuce, liquids or even eggs. I would look at the temperature dial and it would be on the coldest setting, and I would then ask hubby why he’d done that, whereupon he’d reply he hadn’t, and I’d say “well someone did” and we’d blame the cat that suddenly developed opposable digits. After about the 4th time this happened  and we took turns having fun blaming each other before we blamed the cat, we figured it was time to just kill the fridge and get a new one. We’d been thinking about this for some time already, and because we had a limited space to work in (without using a reciprocating saw and/or moving cabinets) the choices we had were limited, particularly since I had specific features I really wanted.

Looking online we found a scratch and dent in the model we wanted – a beautiful Samsung with French doors, the variable temp drawer and bottom freezer. It was in a town about 50 miles away and the salesman was kind enough to text photos to us of the scratches and dents, and we were confident our magnet collection would cover them, so we bought it and arranged for delivery.

It came on January 20, and I was SO excited. I had waited so LONG for the fridge. It was big, and sleek and gorgeous. Yes, it had some dings, but like I said, our magnets hid them, and we had it set up in no time. That evening we were getting everything organized and 24 hours later we had ice cubes from the dispenser. Life was good. I got it connected to the Samsung SmartThings app, which, among other things will alert you if your kids or spouse leaves the door open on the fridge.

On Monday, January 26 that’s when it all went to hell. The SmartThings app gave me an alert, telling me that the freezer compartment was too warm, and there was water on the floor, in the fridge, and the frozen veggies were melted. My first thought was an ice cube got stuck in the chute but then we realized the fridge was also warm. We tried to reset everything a few times without success and the next day called customer service at the store. They said they couldn’t come out until Friday, so we then called Samsung directly who said they would have someone there on Thursday. Well that guy tried everything, and couldn’t fix it. He set up ANOTHER call for the following Tuesday with another colleague to try replacing the compressor.

Keep in mind, it’s the end of January. In Minnesota. We are living out of 4 coolers in our garage. I know, I know, everyone is thinking “but it’s cold in Minnesota, right? So you don’t need ice for the coolers, that’s a good thing”. And you’d be right…except when it’s below zero and you have to go to the coolers MANY times a day for every little thing. Milk, ice cubes, butter, eggs, condiments. That good thing becomes a not so good thing really fast.

Tuesday comes, repair dude tries replacing the compressor and that doesn’t work. Now he’s getting concerned and calls Samsung to get permission to cut the lines open, which they do. I’ll bet most of you didn’t know that your refrigerator has some sort of system to dry the air in it and keep it fresh. Well it does, and our Samsung used silicone beads to do this. They are normally white or light gray in color, but when the guy cut the line and pulled out the container they were in, they looked like this:

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Yuck! Yeah, that’s not how they ought to look. That’s what happens when the fridge is tipped over on it’s side or back, and oil leaks and contaminates the entire system, and at that point your fridge is ruined. He sent a photo to Samsung, who agreed (in principle) it was toast. (One interesting thing that the repair guy did mention is that he sees this happen a lot with the units that come from Korea, not so much with the ones from Mexico, making him think it might be an issue on the cargo ships with loading or unloading.) Getting it formally approved for warranty replacement however, took about another 10 days and multiple phone calls.

Once that happened, I called the store we bought it from, got the store manager involved, and had to do some finagling to arrange for a replacement but eventually got that squared away as well. By the time we had agreed to have a new one sent out, it was February 10. Unfortunately the manager called me back a few hours later to tell me that they didn’t have it in the warehouse and it would need to be special ordered, which should take about a week. Fine.

A week goes by, and he calls again, full of apologies, because apparently 3 other folks have had issues with this fridge and also needed to replace it, and the damn thing is on BACK ORDER, and we have no idea when it will be in. He was also kind enough to be sensitive to how long we had already lived out of coolers, and said “this has gone on long enough, I’ve arranged to have a loaner refrigerator delivered to you.” A loaner? Who knew that was even a thing? That arrived about February 17, and we’ve been grateful ever since to have it.

So remember what I said about the replacement on backorder? I’m guessing it may need to come from Korea, and I really have no idea when it might happen, since we have this tiny little complication called coronavirus…

But we’ve got the loaner, and life is OK.

Update: I started writing this weeks ago, and realized I’d never posted it. Guess what? The new fridge arrives today!! Let’s hope it lasts longer than 6 days this time.

Death of an Art

The other day I went to a local big chain store, looking to buy a small tablet of writing paper. You’ll no doubt remember what I am talking about – sheets about 6×9, white, ruled, but no perforations at the top or holes on the sides. The pages were glued at the top, and you just peeled them off one at a time. I believe they were made by Mead, and my mom always had one or two of them laying around the house somewhere, for notes, memos, lists and writing a quick letter to someone. My plan was to write a couple of letters to a few of my husband’s relatives that always send us a letter with their Christmas card, and include them with our 8748629550_cb3342302f_wNew Year’s cards this year. I searched everywhere in the store, but couldn’t find the tablet anywhere, and figured this location was out. So, I looked at a different location…nope, not there either. No stationary in the cards department either. It finally dawned on me, no one writes letters anymore. We tweet, Facebook and e-mail everything. Even an actual Christmas letter is going the way of the dodo bird, and has been replaced by the Shutterfly photocard (yes, we’ve succumbed as well!) but the list we send out to has slowly dwindled over the years as folks have stopped sending to us. Amazingly, we do have 2 relatives who still send handwritten letters every year, and I like to send a handwritten note back to them as well. I feel like if they have taken the time to do that for me, it’s the least I can do for them.

Think back, when was the last time you actually sent a handwritten letter? Not a birthday card, or a “thinking of you” card, those don’t count. I mean a real letter that you wrote out on paper or even old-fashioned stationary, and then put into an envelope that you hand addressed and put a stamp on and sent out? Something that you had to put some thought into, for that individual recipient, that was personalized in some way. It wasn’t a generic, whitewashed form letter that was printed out en masse, then had a one or two-line note at the bottom, followed by your hastily dashed off signature, but an honest-to-goodness real letter.  The sad byproduct of our not doing so are more announcements like the one I just read last week, for the closing of the Papyrus shops. CNN reported that its parent company filed bankruptcy and is closing 254 stores. They are one of the few retail places around that still sold fine stationary. So, when did you last send a letter? Has it been so long that you can’t remember? If the answer is either “yes” or “I’ve never have sent one”, I’m issuing you a challenge! Within the next week, go and write a letter to someone, and mail it. Let me know what happens, what kind of response you get from them, I would love to know.

Another art that is dying off, cursive writing. Apparently this is no longer taught in our schools, from what I’ve been told (having no kids, I don’t know this for a fact, so I might be wrong) but it sure seems to me that I see an awful lot of young ladies printing in the same way these days, large loopy letters, as if that is the penmanship now taught. It makes me wonder, do any of them know how to sign their names in cursive? I can remember my dad telling me when I was younger how important it was to be consistent with my signature, so that I would know if someone tried to forge it. I never did quite master doing it the same way every time like he did, but I have always done it in cursive, never printed. Are documents legally bound if not signed? I guess they must be, as even an “X” is sufficient if witnessed, but it certainly does seem strange.

Also having gone the way of the dodo bird is an RSVP. It comes from a French phrase ” Répondez s’il vous plaît”, and translates to “Respond, please”. We here in America have adapted it to mean “Respond So Very Promptly”. It does NOT mean “only if you feel like it” or “no response needed”, which is what I tend to get these days. Even if you don’t see an official “RSVP” on an invitation, unless said invitation is an open house, please give the host or hostess the courtesy of a reply. They are probably going to a lot of trouble to plan the event, and in addition to needing to plan for food and beverages, if it’s at their home they need to clean. It’s a metric s**t ton of work to throw a party, folks. Be courteous and let the person who invited you know if you’re coming WELL IN ADVANCE of the party. Don’t be a putz and make them call/email/message/text you repeatedly to find out. Especially if it’s the week their new refrigerator died and they are trying to cope with living out of a mini-fridge and 3 coolers. (I can’t make this stuff up.) Just reach out and let them know either way, trust me, you’ll make their day.

A Little Birthday Gift

As we’ve gotten older, my husband and I have found that we don’t need as much as we used to. Food, clothes, pay the bills, and a few toys here and there. What IS different of course, is the size of the toys: no longer are we content with jigsaw puzzles and a “Please Don’t Break the Ice” game. Now the toys we want are more likely to have multiple zeros on the end, which of course makes it challenging to figure out what to get each other for birthdays and Christmas without breaking the bank, or more appropriately, what I need to get my husband for his birthday or for Christmas. By contrast, I’m easy to buy for. I’ll make a list for him…a long list with many options as a matter of fact, which he will then proceed to ignore, try to figure out what to get me on his own and tell me I’m impossible to buy for. He on the other hand, will not put together a list, and there is a reason for that

You see, Mike can’t seem to resist getting little treats for himself right before his birthday or Christmas. No matter how often I have asked, begged, pleaded, cajoled, demanded, and insisted, I just can’t seem to get him to understand that he’s losing husband points when he does this. I keep telling him ‘do NOT buy things for yourself in the month before your birthday and in the month between Thanksgiving and Christmas, it’s likely you’ll get that thing for said upcoming event”, but it doesn’t matter.

So, when I do come up with an idea for something he doesn’t have, it really feels like a ‘eureka!’ moment for me. I get really excited, I’m happy, feel giddy, and wonder if I can pull it off. Then I get the gift for him and hide it where I pray he won’t find it before I can have a chance to wrap it up. Pulling this off successfully, however, requires cooperation from my husband, which in 19 years together I am sad to say I have only been able to pull off once. Doing the math, that’s 1 out of 38 chances, an only 2.6% success rate. To paraphrase Arlo Guthrie, that’s horrible.

It happened again today. We have a tiki hut outside – a screened porch that we’ve decorated with a fun tiki theme. Of course, if you have a tiki hut you have GOT to have tiki cocktail glasses, right?

Well, about 2 weeks ago, I decided I would buy a set of replacement tiki bar glasses for him, since we’d broken one of our original ones a few months back. We’d talked about getting the backup set but never did it, and I thought “what a perfect birthday gift!” Screen Shot 2019-09-04 at 10.23.02 PMSo I found it on Amazon, ordered it, prayed it would arrive when he was at work (it did), hid it in a closet and waited. Since he’ll be camping when his birthday is this year, I figured I’d give him the glasses this weekend. This morning, while I had a small break from working, he came into my office and said “oh by the way, just thought I’d let you know I just ordered another set of the tiki bar glasses as a backup set for ours.” I just sat there and finally said “you have got to be kidding me” then got up, went to the closet, pulled out the box, handed it to him and said, “well, hell, Happy Birthday honey!” He peeked in the box and just started to laugh.

I guess the good news is we’re set if we break a few more or have lots of folks over for cocktails in the tiki hut.

Reading and Chasing Squirrels

I’m a voracious reader, always have been. Just ask my mom, she’ll happily tell you about any number of occasions where she had to call my name multiple times to get my nose out of a book and do my chores when I was a kid, and I can honestly say all these years later, not much has changed. Sometimes I read fast, sometimes I go slowly, savoring every word. Recently, I read something written in a style that I’d not tried before, and wow, what an experience it was.

For Christmas this year, I told my husband I wanted “Pioneer Girl”, which is an autobiography of Laura Ingalls Wilder edited by Pamela Smith Hill, and more specifically, it’s an annotated autobiography. Having never read something annotated before, I didn’t really understand what precisely, that meant.

Now, I’m rather curious and inquisitive by nature. I love learning things, solving puzzles, and am quite certain that I was a child that said “why” far too many times and probably drove my mother crazy. You’d think that reading something annotated would be right up my alley, right? Well yes – and no, and I’ll tell you why.

If you’ve never cracked open a book that is annotated, I’ll tell you what makes it unique. Rather than having the footnotes at the end of the book, they are included throughout the entire text, so that the reader has the additional information about that particular thing that has a notation attached to it, right when you’re reading it. This is good, in that you have the benefit of more context at that moment in time. It’s also bad, because if you’re like me, it can be a little distracting, like when you’re trying to look for a butterfly, and then suddenly I yell “squirrel!!” and all of a sudden, I’m off down the proverbial rabbit trail. Here’s a great example.

One morning I started reading about the family’s move back to De Smet, SD, in 1879. As I saw some maps and photos, I got to wondering how different it looked today as compared to then, and what might still be around, because of course I wasn’t just content to read the book and annotations. Nope, I had to ALSO open Google maps, pull up De Smet on the map, put it in satellite view and start zooming in, then put the little yellow man on the streets and walk around. I had to zoom out again and find the Big Slough, Silver Lake, find out where the Ingalls homestead was, was anything still there? Where was Almanzo’s homestead, is there a marker there? Zoom in, zoom out, fiddle around. Search Google for historical De Smet photos, find ones from the period, was Pa Ingalls store on there? Is it still around? Good grief!!

I’ve done the same thing with other historical places. I think it’s wonderful to be able to find these old photos on the internet, and see what used to be, and how things have changed. I even caught myself doing it again yesterday when we finished watching a wonderful documentary from Ken Burns on the Great Plains in the time of the dust bowl. In the show was narration from a book written by Caroline Henderson, who had purchased land and homesteaded in the early 1900’s before she married (what a woman!). She then married, and she and her husband lived on that land and farmed in the heart of the dust bowl, and she wrote about life during that time. Of course, at the end of the documentary, there I am on Google maps, searching for the Henderson homestead in Oklahoma. Yes, it’s still there but unfortunately, it’s just far enough off main roads that the Google camera hasn’t photographed it.

Did you also know that you can get a “what was there” view using Google Earth Pro? It won’t work with regular Google Maps, you need to use the Google Earth Pro app. Once you find an address, you can use the imagery date slider bar to go back in time to see earlier satellite images of the area. Or course, the older they are, the poorer the imagery is because they didn’t have high resolution satellite photography years ago. You also can’t drop the little yellow Google guy on the street for a street view of yesteryear – it will change to a street view of the most current year’s image. But it’s still fun. I’ve also gotten lost in our state historical society’s online photographic collection, Facebook’s Old Minneapolis page, and a site called Minnesota Reflections. I find that as I dig around one site, I will stumble on something else, and then another and another and suddenly I’ve killed an entire morning, my eyes are blurry from staring at the computer screen and I can’t feel my rear end because I’ve sat for too long. But dang, I sure had fun!

Say What????

When was the last time you really listened to song lyrics from “oldies” songs? No really…truly listened to them? My sister recently had a post on Facebook, referencing the song “Hot Stuff” from Donna Summer, and commented that if our parents had truly listened to those words, well, the high school pep band would NEVER have been allowed to play it. That got me to thinking, what other songs might have lyrics that we never really thought about (maybe because we misheard them, and didn’t have Google at our fingertips to look them up?) So I went in search of lyrics of some of the songs I’ve listened to. Keep in mind I’m a child of the 70’s, I LOVE that music. Oh boy, did I find some online gold!music-notes-clip-art-musical_note_3_clip_art_12287

Jefferson Starship’s “Miracles” always was so innocuous, until I heard a station play the album cut of the song, which was not the general radio play version. I about drove off the road when I heard “I had a taste of the real world, when I went down on you girl”. No wonder stations didn’t play the album cut! Led Zeppelin’s “Whole Lotta Love” isn’t much better either.

“Moonight Feels Right” by Starbuck always sounded like he was singing about having sex, although apparently he wrote the song about a woman he wanted to date. He fell for her photo and registered at the college she attended to meet her. After asking her out for the third time, she accepted and that’s when “the wind blew some luck in my direction” Bruce Blackman, the songwriter says. The little novelty song took off in 1976. Yet, when I hear the end of the second verse, it sounds anything but innocent. Next time you hear it, see what you think. I guess he was successful as he married her. But “Afternoon Delight”? Yeah, no way was that innocent.

On the other hand, the guys in Supertramp sang about not getting anything in “Breakfast in America”, with “Take a look at my girlfriend, She’s the only one I got, Not much of a girlfriend, Never seem to get a lot”. Poor guys. I really feel for you.

Back in high school, we drove 8 miles to be able to go roller skating in the next town over. (I realize there are probably a few of you reading this thinking “roller skates? What’s that?” Well, think Roller Blades, but in a rectangular shape instead of in-line.) I can still remember one of our favorite skating songs was Foghat’s “Slow Ride”. Um yeah, about that? The chorus goes like this: “Slow down, go down”. Heck, it was so popular that years later it made it into the soundtrack of “Dazed and Confused”, which is a hoot of a movie about the last day of school in 1975. Not only is it’s soundtrack incredible, but it has up and coming young stars Ben Affleck and Matthew McConaughey, but I digress. If our parents knew we were skating to that song, we’d probably never have been let out of the house.

“NIght Moves” by Bob Seger is exactly what it sounds like, but I didn’t always quite catch all of that first verse so I looked it up. For those of you who weren’t exactly sure what he was singing about, here ya go:

I was a little too tall
Could’ve used a few pounds
Tight pants point hardly renowned
She was a black-haired beauty with big dark eyes
And points all her own sitting way up high
Way up firm and high

Journey and Steve Perry (yep, I’m cheating, they’re the 80’s. ) “Anyway You Want It”. Nuff said. But I still love listening to Perry, no matter what.

I know, if you go looking for trouble you surely will find it, right? Kind of like “Lookin’ for Love in all the Wrong Places”.

How about The Partridge Family? I have to admit I had a crush on David Cassidy as a teen, and maybe even a little still as an adult too in spite of his problems as an adult. But completely clean, innocent lyrics that were family friendly? Here’s “Summer Days”:

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Photo source  Wikimedia Commons 

I feel the sunlight on my face
When I just close my eyes and I trace
The footpath to your daddy’s summer place
Where we spent our early summer days

The hill we climbed that went on forever
We reached the top of the world together

Yeah, you gave your love to me and I remember perfectly
High above all time and space and I remember summer days

Um, yeah. Innocent. Or maybe it’s me. No matter, I’ll still sing this and other Patridge Family songs, or any of the ones I mentioned above out at the top of my lungs, and have fun doing it.

What are your favorite old guilty pleasure songs? Share some of them with me, I’d love to hear some other examples!

 

 

Things Mom Never Told You, Vol IV

…How to Cheaply Make Homemade Magic Erasers!

It seemed like every time I turned around, I was seeing another use for Mr. Clean’s Magic Eraser sponge. “Get marks off your walls!” “mystery marks on cabinets? No problem!” and best of all, “scuff marks on patent leather go away so easily with the Magic Eraser” (it’s true, they do. When I was traveling for business I kept a small one in my wheeled computer bag for my work shoes.) But if you use these, you also know they can get expensive, as they also magically disintegrate and disappear with use.  At Target, Walmart, and Amazon, a 4 pack of the “original but 2x stronger” (if it’s 2x stronger, then how is that the original, but i digress) costs .87¢ a sponge. That adds up fast! So when I stumbled on an article about making your own for a whole lot cheaper, I thought I’d give it a try. I ordered melamine sponges from Amazon, and then made up a solution of warm water, Borax and baking soda. (1/2 cup warm water, 1 tsp Borax and 1 Tbsp baking soda.) After those were mostly dissolved in the water I dunked the sponge in the water, let it absorb the liquid then squeezed most of it out and tested it on some marks I found on a lamp. This is a free standing gooseneck floorlamp that I use for crafting, and my husband looked at it yesterday and wanted to know how I’d scratched it so badly.

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After using my homemade magic eraser:

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Estimated cost for my eraser? .59¢ for the sponge, 1.2¢ for the baking soda and <1¢ (.006 actually!) for the Borax for a total of under 61¢. Now I can guess what you’re thinking…20¢ isn’t a huge amount to save, and you could be right, especially if you’re a fanatic about coupons. But here’s the thing about that. I only bought a small bag of them because I didn’t want to be stuck with a huge container if this was a fail. I’ll keep working with them a bit but so far I’m happy with it. Assuming it does work well, you can get a bag of 100 for 7.59, which comes out to 7.5¢ per sponge, bringing your total cost per sponge, soda and Borax to less than 9¢. (And you can get more than one sponge saturated with the amount of liquid, so it’s really even cheaper than that!) As my husband and I like to joke around with each other, “How do ya like me now?”

…How to Clean Grippy Rubber

 Note: Includes an update on the homemade magic eraser. Have you ever had something with black rubber grippy stuff on it that has gotten really nasty? We had a remote control that was just plain gunky, covered with dust, cat hair and lord knows what else. After a fair amound of research, it seemed the best thing to use to clean it was WD40. So I tried putting that on my finger, then rubbing it on the rubber. I tried first wiping it off with a soft cloth, that didn’t work. I reapplied it and let it sit for a while, then wiping it off, that didn’t work either, still gunky. Third time I reapplied and let it sit, then came back and cleaned it off with my magic eraser. It completely removed the gunk. Disclaimer, it also did remove the grippiness of the rubber, which is probably from the abrasive action of the sponge. But you have to ask yourself if the trade-off was worth it, and for me the answer is “yes”. The alternative was not touching the remote, as the “eww” factor was getting up there.  (I also have tried cleaning grippy black rubber on something else with a store bought magic eraser and no WD40, didn’t work well at all.)

Extra notes of caution: Anytime you’re cleaning electronics, whether it’s a floor lamp, a remote control unit or anything else, just remember a couple of things. 1. Never spray anything directly onto your item. For the WD40, I applied it to my finger first, then used my finger to put it on the remote. Even though WD40 displaces water, and some people use it in electronics, my feeling is that it’s better to be safe. 2. Water is also not a friend of electronics. Squeeze out that sponge as if your life depends on it, and have paper towels close by to wipe off drips quickly. You really don’t want water getting inside the cases of things you’re working on. 

…How to Clean White Crusty Water Stains Off Things

You know the white crust that you get on things, like around your sink, or maybe on the drip tray for your ice maker, or even the floor mats of your car? I’m a great believer in less manual effort and more “find an easier way” if I can, and for that stuff I have. I soak it in some white vinegar. Usually about a 10% solution will do, but if it’s particularly stubborn I’ve gone stronger, even up to full strength. Yesterday I took the winter floor mats out of my car and poured some into them and let them soak for about an hour to get the salt residue loosened up. Worked like a charm! After I rinsed that off, I gave em a quick soap scrub and then they were done.  For sinks, I take an old rag and soak it, wrap it around the base of the faucet and let it soak for thirty minutes or so, then check and see if the crust has softened enough to either wipe off or scrape (gently and carefully) with a razor blade. We have a recirculating water fountain for our cats water dish, made of stainless steel that I’ll take apart and soak in vinegar as well. Again, why spend time scrubbing when I can soak that crap off? Put some in a spray bottle and spray down your shower, especially if you have glass doors. Let it sit for a bit then wipe off and it will help to get the built up soap scum off. If it’s really bad you might have to do it a few times.

My promise: I will never share something with you that I haven’t personally tried. I won’t tell you it works if I can’t prove it. Where possible I will share photos or a video. If something is an epic fail, well I’ll tell you that too as I think that is just as valuable, even if I end up looking ridiculous doing it.

Word of Advice

Note: Since first publishing this blog article back in March of 2016, I’ve found myself back in the job market. Today I was looking at my own advice for job interviewees, and found it needed some updates that I had missed, probably because applying for jobs and interviewing has changed a lot over the years.  I’ve also done more with Craig’s List/Ebay etc, and am updating those sections as well.

Job Interviewee – Take a shower, groom yourself for Pete’s sake. Put on professional clothes and shine your shoes, lose the gum and brush your teeth. It really IS true, you never have a second chance to make a good first impression. This advice applies whether your interview is in person, or is a video interview. What’s that, you say? A video interview? Yes, Virginia, a video interview. Today’s businesses are beginning to use video interviews as initial screening interviews. The HR representative can record themselves asking a series of questions, and then the interviewee has a predetermined amount of time to respond. It saves the HR rep a lot of time, by not having to schedule the calls or bring people into their offices. You do, however, need to treat it as if it’s a true face-to-face interview. Test your system first, make sure your lighting is good, that you don’t have a distracting background behind you. I invested in an inexpensive photography backdrop that I hang up behind me, and put that up. If you set yourself up facing a window you’ll get nice, diffuse light that is flattering, but if that’s not available make sure you at least have enough light that your face can be seen.

For in person interviews, learn how to shake hands. Do you have any idea how many people I’ve shaken hands with that don’t know how? If you aren’t sure how to, then you probably don’t do it well. Go ask someone you know that is a confident business person to evaluate yours and help you improve because a limp handshake is horrible, and look people in the eye when you shake their hand.

Drive the route to the interview BEFORE you need to do it so that you know how long it takes. Don’t be late. If you’re going to be late, call. If possible, send a handwritten, yes, I said handwritten thank you note, and if your handwriting is illegible (you know who you are) then print. If you only had a phone interview or video screening, you may only be able to send a thank you via e-mail, and then you should do it that way, but that’s only if you don’t know an address for your interviewer. If you have an actual address, a handwritten note is always better etiquette.

Craig’s List/Ebay Buyers – Have you ever sold anything on Craig’s List or Ebay? If you have, then you know what an adventure it can be, but it can just as easily be a pointless exercise in futility. We’ve been cleaning out our crawl space, trying to get rid of a few things, make a little money, you know the drill. I’ve learned a few phrases that are rather helpful. “Cash is king” and “cash talks, bullshit walks” are my two favorites that my husband is continually beating into my brain. Now I started out being a Craig’s List softie…”oh, you need a day or two, sure, get back to me, I’ll hold it for you…”, or negotiating simultaneously with one buyer who then couldn’t deliver on time, going with a second who could then feeling bad when the first wanted more time because “I promised him he could buy the item, even though he didn’t have the money right then” or feeling like I needed to answer every email, and telling people that I had other buyers and what the conditions were. However, after being taken advantage of a few times, I’ve changed, become a radical hardliner. Gavel down, BAM! “SOLD to the first one at the neutral (and safe) meeting place with paper money that passes the counterfeit test wins the prize.”  For all you potential buyers on Craig’s List out there, here are some helpful tips.

1.Don’t email me to tell me “I’m interested.” I’m tempted to reply “that’s nice, so what?” Because I don’t care if you’re merely interested, I only really care if you want to BUY IT.  So if you really want to buy my item, tell me you want to buy it and when you want to meet, otherwise stop wasting my time.

2. Read the dang ad AND look at the pictures. I took the time to take photos, at different angles, to show you lots of information. I also said in the ad that the item a) works, b) does or does not have scratches c) is new or is used, etc. Now if you want more information about it that I didn’t put in the ad, that’s a different story, please go ahead and ask for it.  But don’t waste my time asking about what’s already there.

3. Don’t contact me unless you’re interested and plan to follow through. This week I had someone tell me she wanted something, we exchanged messages about connecting, then she dropped off the face of the earth. Meanwhile I had another person waiting to see if the item was still available.  I mean really, did you want it or not? If you changed your mind, I don’t care, you’re not hurting my feelings, just say so. Stop wasting my time for the love of…(are you seeing the theme?)

4. If you ask me to ship you the item because you’ve decided you don’t want to drive to me, realize it’s an inconvenience for me, act accordingly. Don’t dictate terms of this to me, I’ll choose my shipping agent, thanks.

5. And here is the kicker. If you ask me to accept money through PayPal, then you pay the fees to transfer! You came to me knobhead. I’m not taking a loss in my profit as a convenience to you.

Ebay Buyers – There isn’t as much to say here, probably because it’s an online bidding process and Ebay has already taken a lot of the guesswork out of it for you. The best advice I can give is to just pay promptly, because I won’t ship anything until your payment has come through. So any delays on your part will result in a delay in receiving your item.

Grocery shoppers – it’s just like driving (assuming you’re in a country that drives on the right side of the road). Carts on the right please, although I’d love to know if it’s opposite across the pond, where they drive on the wrong side of the road.  Do they move grocery carts on the left side of the aisles as well? : ) But how hard is it really, to get your cart out of the middle of the aisle. When you stop to get something off the shelf, just move to the side. Don’t stop in the middle. Look around. The aisles aren’t 3 carts wide. If you’re in the middle, ain’t nobody getting around. My parents brought me up to be polite, Minnesota nice, to say a gentle “please”, and “thank you”, and “excuse me”, and to cover my mouth when I burped in public. I am SO over that in the grocery store now (The Minnesota nice part. I’ll still cover my mouth when I burp in public, I promise Mom), it’s a firm and vocal “Excuse Me” that’s a whole lot closer to East Coast than the Midwest.

Anyone under the age of 35 – chronologically or mentally. Remove the phrase “I deserve” and “entitled” from your vocabulary and attitude. You don’t, you aren’t. Period. The world owes you NOTHING, you have to earn it. When you act like they do, you not only show your immaturity, but I really want to swat you off my shoulder like a gnat. Scat, go away!

Just sayin’.

 

M is for…Martyr?

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before.

“Oh no really, you shouldn’t have”, or “It’s no trouble” or “No, that’s ok, we’ll take care of the food, you just show up”. Do any of these sound familiar? If you live in Minnesota, chances are you’ve most likely said at least one of them, because, well, we’re just so gosh darn nice. We don’t like to put anyone out, other than ourselves, and what are friends for, anyhow? Here in Minnesota, we put the M into lots of things…mosquitos, Joe Mauer, Mall of America, but the best is martyr – just ask Garrison Keillor, I’m pretty sure he’s told many a story of the long-suffering Lutherans who would rather cut off an arm than admit someone is putting them out. I should know, it’s how I was raised, and I felt the spectre of those roots rise up recently when we invited some friends over for dinner, so they could enjoy the new screen porch my husband had recently finished building for us, better known as the “Tiki Hut”.

When we extended the invitation to them they immediately offered to bring the main course, and being the good Minnesotan that I am, my first instinct was to respond “oh you don’t need to do that, we’ll take care of everything”, but for some reason this time I didn’t. We’re trying to pinch expenses right now, and their offer was timely, however I immediately felt the pull of the automatic response wanting to come out. It was like there was a little “martyr Beth” on one shoulder, and a little “feisty Beth” on the other, and they’re both talking into an ear. “Just go with it, they want to do this” says one, and “tell them they don’t have to do that” says the other. You see, we’re just so conditioned to not stand up for ourselves or push back on anything, it’s absurd. Ask my mom or husband what my favorite phrase is, and they’ll probably tell you it’s “You can’t be a doormat unless you lay down”!

Somehow, I did it. I relinquished control of dinner to someone else, and guess what? The world didn’t end, dinner was wonderful and the evening was a success with less work for me. The very best part was that we got to enjoy all of it in the aforementioned Tiki Hut, which meant a night free from another M, the Minnesota mosquito, which are serious business around here. We live very close to two swamps, and right after we moved in here I was sitting in my living room one sunny day, and suddenly I heard the sound of a helicopter very close over my house. As in so close I felt the cavitation in my chest! Running outside, you can imagine my shock as I saw them basically doing a turn over our house before nearly doing a touch and go on the neighbor’s garage across the street and then plunging lower toward the swamp. After I pulled my heart out of my toes, where it had plunged, I realized they were dropping mosquito control pellets in the swamp, but for a moment, I seriously thought Radar O’Reilly was going to pop up yelling “incoming!”.  Our mosquitos are evil, vicious creatures. They’ll wait until you’re nearly asleep before buzzing your ears, bite you in a spot that you can’t possibly reach to scratch, or bite you when scratching would be really inconvenient (first dates, job interviews, you get the idea.) Of course, we also have our favorite mosquito jokes too. Have you heard about the nearsighted ones that drained a blood bank last week? I want to offer a big thanks to Gary Clark, for the use of his wonderful cartoon.

Screen Shot 2017-08-09 at 7.13.35 PM

Copyright Gary Clark. Cartoon used with permission. See more by subscribing to the free daily cartoon at: http://www.swamp.com.au/subscribe.php

What are you a martyr about? Come on, fess up! I’d love to hear what gets some of you out there.

Dream a Little Dream

Slowly they enter, in pairs, by fours, sometimes one, then a group to big to count, young and old. They find their seats; the anticipation palpable, if the low hum of constant voices is anything to go by. Scattered around the theater, I can spot some children in costume – a Belle here, a Gaston there. The scent of popcorn fills the air and soon all the seats are filled. The pre-movie scenes are showing on the screen and the lights dim slightly accompanied by a noticeable decrease in the sounds of talking. Then suddenly, the screen goes dark for a moment, and a voice comes over the loudspeaker.32164704480_194c0e2348_b

“Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to our theater. We hope you will enjoy tonight’s showing of ‘Beauty and the Beast’ in 3D. As you exit the theater, please drop your glasses in the boxes at the doors. Now before we begin our showing, we have a special surprise. As some of you may have heard, cast members have been traveling around the country making surprise drop in appearances at different theaters, and we are thrilled that Josh Gad and Dan Stevens are here tonight with us! Please give them a warm welcome!”

And the place goes nuts. (Who am I kidding, me too. Just a little.)  They come in and walk right toward us, and stop to shake our hands and say hello  (because we chose to sit in the row where everyone walks past between tiers) and my husband takes a picture of me standing between them before they continue on toward the front of the theater and…Hey, it’s my fantasy, I get to direct it any way I damn well please.

Seriously though, we really are going to see ‘Beauty and the Beast’ tomorrow night, and is it just a little silly I’m this excited? I mean, I never even saw the Disney original until last week for Pete’s sake. Yeah, I know, that’s pitiful, right? But since I don’t have kids, it sort of slipped off my radar and I just never watched it. Oh I knew the basic story and all, and most of the songs, but just never saw the whole movie. Now, however, with the new movie coming up, I decided I really needed to see it so I knew what the original was. Gawd, I’m such a softie too, sniffle, sniffle, I admit I shed a tear. I’ll probably bawl watching live action. And let’s face it, I’ll watch almost anything with Dan Stevens. (By the way, if you haven’t watched Legion on FX, you’re missing an insane, unreal, amazing, fantastic, incredible show.)  And what percent of us watched Emma Watson grow up as Hermione Granger? Come on, admit it, you’re dying to see her in a more grown up role, aren’t you. No Harry, Ron or Snape, just her.

So some of the cast members really have been doing drop in surprise visits this week at theaters around the country. Of course, with the thousands of theaters that the movie opened at this week, statistically speaking I’m smart enough and realistic enough to know it’s highly unlikely they’ll be coming to our theater. But you know, can you imagine if they did? Holy smokes, wouldn’t that be crazy! I’d say my life was pretty well complete, having seen Cary Elwes live before a showing of ‘The Princess Bride’ on the big screen, and then some of the cast members before seeing ‘Beauty and the Beast’. (Just remember, it’s easier to be happy when you set the bar lower.)

I’ll keep you posted on the outcome, and let you know if it really happens. After all, a girl can dream.

Saturday night, the update, as promised. It breaks my heart to tell you this ;), alas, no real life sightings of Gaston, Le Fou or the Beast, but the movie was wonderful. I thought it was a great experience to see it in 3D, and everything about it was well done. There are a number of laugh out loud events, the songs are well performed by the actors, and it’s visually rich. I can’t wait until it’s out on Blu-ray so we can have a copy at home.