Thursday, December 23, 2010

I need a poster-size print of this...

My boss has this tacked to her bulletin board, and I think it's perfect. It absolutely describes most every project I've ever worked on (from 1st grade to present).

Six Phases of a <insert your field here> Project
  1. Enthusiasm
  2. Disillusionment
  3. Panic
  4. Search for the guilty
  5. Punishment of the innocent
  6. Praise and honor for the nonparticipants

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Stink Water

While Roland was at the gym last night, I did my usual inspection of all doorways in our house to make sure the locks were intact. Terrifyingly, I discovered an ant invasion by our kitchen door! These damn ants besieged us once before when our fridge broke a few weeks ago and we were forced to store our perishables outside in a cooler. Apparently they reasoned that if we stashed that kind of merchandise OUTSIDE, the stuff we kept inside must really be to-die-for. I hope it was worth it, because the battle of Kate's Kitchen had a tragic ending for the ant troops. Not having received the warning, reinforcements had now arrived, oblivious to what happens to little ant soldiers that try to cross a Son threshold.

I grabbed our trusty can of Raid and, well, you can guess what happened next. I followed up with a thorough vacuuming, just in case any of the ants had developed immunity to the lethal chemicals. Of course, the fumes after a Raid application are pretty overwhelming, and, coughing, I had to retreat to the other end of the house to avoid fainting. Even 1500sqft away, the vapors seeped over trying to clog up my lungs.

Here's the main part:
Roland arrived home about ten minutes after the incident chronicled above. Holding my breath to avoid inhaling any more of the toxic air, I went to greet him at the door. My husband has an incredibly sensitive sense of smell, so I knew he'd get a horrible headache from the Raid right away and have to take refuge outside while the smog cleared.

Instead, he walked right inside, inhaling normally, and didn't say anything. I looked at him, puzzled and red in the face as I couldn't hold my breath much longer, but he just smiled. I kept waiting for him to grab his head/fall to the floor in Raid haze pain, but no - nothing. Finally, I had to ask him.

Me: Don't you smell anything strange?
Roland: <sniffing>, not really...why?
Me: I just sprayed a quarter can of Raid in the kitchen. How can you not smell that? It's making me dizzy.
Roland: Oh, that. I thought that was your perfume.
Me: You thought my perfume smelled like ant poison? Like I purposely doused myself in neurotoxic carcinogens?!
Roland: Well...I don't know. You have some strange stink waters (his preferred term for cologne). I didn't want to hurt your feelings.
Me: You're sweet. But I can't believe you thought the most likely cause of this mind-deadening stench is that I bought eau-de-insecticide!

Anyway, my husband doesn't think it's beyond me to wear a fragrance that's designed to kill small creatures on contact. But he's too polite to say anything. Perhaps that's a sign I need to refine my tastes in stink water.

Friday, December 17, 2010


Speaking of junk collectors...

I present the hoardiest car I've ever seen. This (not cheap) SUV was literally stuffed from floor to ceiling, front to trunk, with trash and junk. The driver had carved out the tiniest spot to press the foot pedals, but that's the only clear space in the entire vehicle. There was zero visibility out the back window, or any of the side windows. I don't think this was a "living in the car" situation, as most of the stuff inside looked to be fast food wrappers and old newspapers. You can see one of the newspapers crammed up against the window, along with some clothes (purchased from the consignment store where I was shopping).

Below, just for a comparison, is the second hoardiest car I've ever seen:

See, this one has lots of papers and trash, but it's not up to the ceiling. At least, not yet. Does this look like a convertible? I sure hope they don't accidentally put the top down while driving 80mph on the highway...

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Wednesday's Thoughts

Why does everything in the soda machine cost $1.25 - except Diet Dr. Pepper, which will only set you back $1.10? I'm not sure what ingredient makes this particular soda .15 cheaper, but now I feel ripped off if I ever choose a different flavor. I only buy a soda once every 6 months, though, so I guess it's not too big a deal.

I just found out that I'm going to California (San Francisco area) in February for work. I've never been there, so the excitement of seeing someplace new is currently outweighing my fear of flying. For now.

It was unseasonably warm here today. 75 degrees in the middle of December. Still, I don't think it was necessary to run the A/C on "blast" mode and freeze the entire office building. Luckily I anticipated this would happen and brought a space heater and down parka to wear at my desk.

It's 6pm, and I'm dreading leaving work. The traffic outside looks horrendous, mostly because I can see the entrance/exit to the giant mall next door. I think everyone in Dallas is there right now buying foot massagers and overpriced luggage.

About a month ago, our bed frame (just the standard issue metal type with wheels) collapsed while we were sleeping. Yes, scary. When my in-laws heard this, my dad-in-law decided that he would handcraft us a new bed for Christmas. He and Roland went down to a lumberyard a couple weeks ago to pick out the wood, and now dad-in-law is hard at work planning, sanding, routing, and building. I can't wait to see the finished product!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Dad's Visit to Dallas

Kate and Dad, December 2010
 My dad stopped by for a visit over the weekend (on his way back from meetings in Houston), and we had a great time! Amazing wine and food (Greek, Italian, Texan, and Indian!), and he was a huge help with some of the projects around the house that require a bit more handiness and patience than I've been able to scrounge up on my own. Our house now has properly installed thermal curtains in Roland's music room, an anti-burglary device on the patio door, a peephole in the front door, and an insect-repellent coating to deter any unwelcome critters from visiting us during the holidays.

Our favorite Dallas restaurant!

As I mentioned, we had some really great food over the weekend. My favorite, though, was Momo's Italian Specialties. It's a hole-in-the-wall little place next to a beauty supply store and a shady nightclub, but the food is absolutely out of this world. Everything is made from scratch by real Italians, and it's BYOB so you don't have to deal with outrageous mark-ups on the wine. Just bring your own!

Mike, one of the pickers, rides around on a bike
he found in someone's house.

Also while he was here, my dad introduced R and I to a show on the History Channel called "American Pickers," which we happened upon in our Netflix choices. It's about two guys who comb the midwest for eccentric people who "collect" (hoard) old stuff either in their house or in the sheds/barns/trash heaps on their property. The pickers make offers on just about anything they think they could sell in their antique store. It's amazing what they find (and the prices they'll pay for rusted old junk that most people would just throw away)!

A very rusty bike that the pickers dug out of
someone's yard and paid a lot for (more than $300!)

Sadly, my dad had to leave this morning to return to snowy Ohio, and now it's back to the grindstone at work.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Like Mother, Like Daughter

My mom came to visit this past week!! She was a huge help in the unpacking process, not to mention the best guest ever! (Who else would cook "Katie Shells" for us and fold all my laundry without asking?!) My mom is the greatest!

Monday, October 25, 2010

We're so cool. Literally.

To make a long story short, the A/C system in our house was completely shot when we moved in. The unit itself was undersized by 1.5 tons for the square footage we have making it extremely inefficient, and the duct work was cheap, torn, and generally just falling to pieces. On top of that, the pipes were never plumbed correctly so all of the water runoff was soaking into the ground underneath the driveway/garage and causing the foundation to deteriorate. We knew we'd need to replace it before we could ever turn it on and risk further damage, and in Texas you need air conditioning pretty consistently until November (it's 90 degrees today, the last week of October).

So, last week we decided to bite the bullet and replace the entire HVAC system. It wasn't cheap, but at least there's a $1500 tax credit for buying a high-efficiency A/C system in 2010.

All of the new duct work! Super exciting...and super messy!
The most drastic change was the size of the A/C unit. Our old one was dinky (way too small for the size of the house) and thus very inefficient, and it was completely exhausted from being run 24/7 due to the shoddy installation of it back in the late 90's. Behold the new, high efficiency unit!

Left: The behemoth! Right: Adios, teeny.
The good thing about ordering a new A/C unit at the end of October is that the companies are much less busy than during the 110 degree summer. They sent two crews over to work on the system, and they finished it all (ripping out everything old, installing new vents, new returns, new ducts, everything) in two days. We love being cool!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Corner of Danger

Ladies and Gentleman, behold the CORNER OF DANGER!

This is not in our house, thankfully, and after I showed it to the Safety Manager, it's no longer in the hallway either. Because the CoD should never be forgotten, here is a list of its components/what made it so special.
  1. A rusty stool. Pretty basic, this stool was very rusty. If you cut yourself and rubbed your hand on the stool, you would probably get tetanus.
  2. An unsturdy easel.  This easel looks harmless enough, but if you try to set anything on it, it will fall over on you 102% of the time. The problem lies in the shoddy screws that hold the whole unit together, and also possibly a mysterious bite-mark near the base of one of the legs.
  3. A sharp (and also rusty) motor-looking thing of unknown origin. I'm not sure what exactly this is, but I do know it's dangerous as hell. For the first year-and-a-half that I was here, it was used as the doorstop to a secret supply closet where I occasionally had to venture. The secret supply closet was a danger in iteslf, as it locked from the inside and no one knew where the key was. If this motor was ever removed as doorstop, I'd be trapped in the room forever. Luckily, I guess, no one could ever remove the motor, as it weighed about 75lbs and was really sharp. Lugging stuff in and out of that closet I must have cut my ankles/stubbed my toes on this beast about a dozen times until I convinced a safety assistant to haul it out into the hallway and replace it with a $1 rubber doorstop.
  4. An old chair with splotches of unidentified blue sticky gunk and two missing screws. I'm not sure why this child-sized chair was here at all, except maybe someone walking by with it saw the Corner of Danger and thought it would fit right in. All I know is that after over a year, the blue gunk still hadn't dried, and that the two missing screws at the rear of the chair made this a disaster waiting to happen.
As I said, it's only a memory now. But, let it serve as a lesson to everyone: there's no telling what could be lurking around the next corner. The Corner of Danger.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

The Living Room: Part II

The pumpkin-flavored beer helps me to concentrate,
and also to be less whiny about stripping paint.
Truthfully, we've been pretty lazy lately. With our lease expiration date less than three weeks away, we had been over to the house a couple of times to install new doorknobs, program garage door openers, etc, but the living room was still a looming problem. Last night, after never hearing back from a painter we asked for an estimate, we decided to strip the wall ourselves. We found out that the yellow paint on the walls was in fact 4 COATS of exterior paint, which had also not been primed. Luckily for us, that meant the paint was fairly easy to scrape off the walls.

Roland with his prize catch. A 1 pounder!

It may have come off with little resistance, but stripping paint off a giant wall is extremely time-consuming. R and I decided to have a contest to see who could scrape off the biggest single piece of paint. He won, but just barely.

At the end of the night, we still had about 25% left to scrape, so we'll be heading back over there tonight. We've already filled a Hefty bag with 30lbs of this paint -- which, like the plywood pieces you see in the background, are up for grabs.

What could we display in here?

In the meantime, we need our readers' opinion (see right sidebar!). In the dining room, we have a built-in shelf with seven tiny platforms. The previous owner used it for displaying the Seven Lucky Gods of Japan. We don't know what to use it for. Should we keep it? Remove it? We tried to determine how it's affixed to the wall, and the answer is: securely. If we ripped it out, it would certainly leave a giant gaping hole.

Mmm...probably not the most glamorous idea.

Right now, R wants to take it out, and I'm ambivalent. It doesn't bother me (and I really don't want to have to patch up more drywall), but I'm really at a loss as to what we could use it for.

What do you think?

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Demolition Day: The Living Room Shelves from Hell

Before we began demolition, we weren't quite sure how these shelves were affixed to the wall. The only way to find out for sure was to start dissecting.

Roland starts at a junction between wood and wall. (edit: Roland would like to point out that he did not actually start hammering here, it was just good for the photo. He actually pried off the front panel to have access to the screws).
After prying the cover off one section, we discovered that some of the wood was screwed into the drywall, other parts into studs, and some were just nailed into each other. There was also wiring running through each section for the special lighting effect.
Piece by piece, we unscrewed, pried, and yanked off sections of the shelves.
Roland is very tall, but even he had to employ the use of paint cans so he could unscrew high-up wooden blocks from the wall.
Finally, all the shelves are gone! Does anyone need 100lbs of plywood planks?
After the shelves were removed, we discovered that the yellow and gray paint peeled off the wall in long strips with next to no effort. Next up, repainting!

Friday, September 24, 2010

Home Ownership: The First Days

More on the sunroom behind us later.
As all or 90% of you know, Roland and I recently purchased our first home. Recently as in this past Wednesday. We had been looking all summer for something affordable, manageable, and not in a sorry state of disrepair (although we did come across plenty of those in our search). We originally thought we wanted a cute 60's era abode in Richardson (an older, established neighborhood just north of Dallas), but we found that everything in our price range there would take a lot of work and money to update to our modern sensibilities and tastes.

In late August, we finally found an 80's era patio home in Dallas (literally 100 yards from the Richardson border) that fit the bill. Fast forward past the headache and hassle that is mortgage processing and approval, and we officially got our keys on September 22nd. We still have a lot of work to do to make the house "ours," and luckily we have an entire month to clean, update, and fix anything we don't like before we have to be out of our apartment.

As soon as we got the keys, we naturally zipped over to our new place to roll around gleefully on the floor and really take stock of our new habitat.

Our new kitchen! With 22 cabinets!

Roland checking out the bathtub/heat lamp combo!

Look at all these wooden shelf things!
You can also see the ones behind him, which
seem to be neither nailed nor glued to the wall...

One oddity about this house is the sheer amount of wooden shelving. Every room has a custom-built, specially lit wooden unit that only seems to fit the knick-knacks that were there before. We can't quite figure out how they're affixed to the wall, but we're thinking that we might need to do a little demolition.
Lastly, a major issue when buying this house was termites. The previous owners had treatment back in April for a cluster of termites in the sunroom, which included placing termite bait stakes all around the perimeter of the house. Except the sunroom is an isolated space on the interior of the house, not outside. We don't actually want to lure any termites close to our home (we learned it's kind of a scam so you'll need another treatment when they come back for the bait), and Roland swore that the first thing he would do when we got the keys was pull out all of the bait stakes.

True to his word, Roland yanked out all 10 termite bait stakes.

Gross, there are maggots in there!

Anyway, we're super excited to start the move-in process and begin the homeowning part of our lives! More updates to come!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

I Hate Ponies. Reason #1

Minnow, you're not even looking at the canvas!, I just found out that this pony's "paintings" go for about $100 each on This doesn't seem fair. My elementary school art teacher told me that I definitely should not under any circumstances attempt to pursue art in any way or form. Ever. True, I could only draw cartoon cat heads, but I think with the right market I could have taken them far, given some encouragement. Anyway, so my cat heads are worthless, and yet this PONY chomps down on a paintbrush and rubs his face against a canvas, and suddenly he's an artist capable of "masterpieces?"

Sorry, Minnow, maybe I'm just jealous, but I am extremely skeptical of your love, dedication, and basic ability when it comes to painting.

Minnow the pony: Artist or Imposter?

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Ice Skating in August

Last night, Rosemary, Ben, Roland and I went ice skating at the Dr. Pepper arena in Plano. I hadn’t been ice skating in 13 years (when the end result was an electric purple cast), but luckily this time there were no 6th grade bullies to push me down. Still, I don’t think ice skating will ever be my thing. I hate the feeling you get in the winter when your shoe slips on slippery pavement in the parking lot, and for a split second you’re certain you’re about to fall. Ice skating is that same feeling, but it lasts for an hour and a half.

Roland, on the other hand, proved to be a champion skater. Look at him racing so fast he’s just a blur!

After a few rounds of dragging myself along the perimeter wall and waving my arms frantically to keep upright, I unsnapped my skates and watched from the stands. I’m glad Roland had such a good time, though!