Yet Another Journal

Nostalgia, DVDs, old movies, television, OTR, fandom, good news and bad, picks, pans,
cute budgie stories, cute terrier stories, and anything else I can think of.

 Contact me at theyoungfamily (at) earthlink (dot) net

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» Sunday, March 31, 2002
Can't believe I haven't logged on in so long.

Most of the reason is Bandit's intermittent breathlessness. Twice now he has recovered from it, only to be stricken again in about a week. The second time we thought it might be the dust from the drywall compound being used upstairs. One night it was so bad James turned on the attic fan. But the last bout was truly scary. I was trying to keep Bandit on my finger and he simply flew up to my head. This caused him to gasp so hard he nearly collapsed off my hand.

We went away the weekend of March 16-17 to see a play in New York and while Bandit was vetted he had some x-rays. Apparently something--and birds are so compact inside they can't tell what--is enlarged. It could be his liver, a result of never being able to break him of eating seed (too fattening for caged birds), or it could be a tumor. A more conclusive test would involve force-feeding him a little barium and then taking x-rays every so many minutes to follow the progression of food. It sounds like a terribly stressful test for such a little guy, and if it is a tumor, there's not much we could do.

So needless to say I've been preoccupied.

There is good news: "the nice fellow" has finished our bathroom. The total: he not only fixed the dryway, but he replaced all the drywall tape edging the whole bathroom, put a new valve on our toilet, prepped the wall, primed the wall, and put two coats of semi-gloss "Wedgewood blue" on it. He also hung up a mirror over our fireplace, as I mentioned, put in a ground-fault interrupter plug and a sliding dimmer switch in the bathroom, and mounted our new medicine cabinet, the one we bought over eighteen months ago at the Yellow Daisy Festival. A prodigious amount of work and beautifully done. Once I do a few more bits of work (painting some small shelving, putting up decorative "Wallies," frosting the window with glass paints), we can buy a new shower curtain and start showering in there again, instead of in the hall bath, for the first time since 1997.


» Monday, March 11, 2002
Adventures in Cabinetry

Well, not really. I can construct one hell of a paperback bookcase, given the wood already cut, but that’s about it. James’ talents fall into computers and detail work on small plastic aircraft. Woodworkers we ain’t, even if we had Room by Room’s Matt Fox’s neat scrollsaws.

However, we’ve been bound and determined to do something about our kitchen.

There’s so much we can’t do at the moment because...well, simply because the thought is overwhelming. The house was built in the early 80s, which ought to give you a clue about how it looks: leftover “earthtones” from the 70s. Ugh. The only good thing that came out of “earthtones” was the neat “Coppertone” finish they used to have on stoves and refrigerators. I’m sure our kitchen looked chic in 1980. Now it just looks dreadful. The cabinets are a nice cinnamon brown, but are stained--they probably can be restored with liberal applications of Murphy’s oil soap. All the hardware needs replacing, though. The floor is dark brown. Worse, the room is wallpapered in an ugly brown-and-olive green print of teapots and plants on what used to be off-white or beige or some such ugly color. The paper looked like it was never properly edged and is curling up (it’s especially bad when it’s damp). We’d strip it off, but--guess what, that won’t be easy! Not only isn’t it strippable paper, but the dimwits who built the house didn’t prime under the paper before putting it up, so the paper is directly on the drywall. Dimwitted and cheap, I see.

It is a fairly large kitchen, at least, compared to what I grew up with. And last September at the Yellow Daisy Festival we bought a gorgeous solid wood table and chair set from a woodcrafter in Alabama that has been a real plus.

But lately our biggest problem has been storage. James loves to cook and over the years we have accumulated many cooking gadgets. Some need to get culled, but more we use. And there is not enough cupboard space. In the house I grew up in, the cupboards went all the way up to the ceiling. Ours have a stupid “soffit” or whatever that flat board is across the top of the cabinets. You’re supposed to put a wall border or something decorative up there. As far as I’m concerned it’s wasted space.

We also like to stock up on groceries when there are sales or coupons. The cupboard next to the stove (and half of the one on the other side) is usually crammed full. To take care of the packaged foods, we had a small bookcase serving as a pantry. Most of the time it was overflowing and big boxes of things like James' Ritz crackers had to be stored on the kitchen table.

A year or so ago, we saw a wonderful cabinet at Costco, not quite six feet high, 15 inches deep, and at least 30 inches across, white laminate (“MDF,” the favorite building material of one of our media DIY heroes, “Handy Andy” on Changing Rooms), divided into an upper and lower sections with three shelves in each and a drawer in the lower half, with double doors on each level. We fell in love but didn’t have the $99 to buy. By the time we were in the market, Costco no longer stocked them.

However, they recently reappeared again at Sam’s, so yesterday we bought one, and, while the “nice fellow” was upstairs (see previous report) pounding and drilling and scraping up in our master bath, we were downstairs assembling the cabinet. It was fairly easy; James loves the camlock gadgets that make fastening the shelves together so simple. The doors are a bit tilted out of square, but the whole effect is very nice and neat and bright (the kitchen is in the back of the house and gets sunlight only in the early hours of the morning; it’s usually very dark). I plan to decorate it with apple "Wallies" (wallpaper appiques) as the kitchen theme will eventually be--oh, someday!--apples and cows against a mint-green wall color.

Then we had the fun of deciding what type of food would go on each shelf and filling it up. There’s a shelf for the “Ronis,” Pasta and Rice-a. A shelf for cake mixes, muffins, breadmixes, and other baking stuff. One shelf solely for the plastic dog food containers we rinsed out and now use for bulk pasta, noodles, and TVP. Etc. The cupboard fit everything we had in the bookcase, plus stuff from the three-shelf wire rack, and a few things from on top of the microwave.

Now that we have one, we want another! I was planning to get a china cabinet from Kmart (another product of MDF), but one of these cabinets will be larger and will fit things we can’t get in any of the built-in cupboards now, like large platters. It will also do a lot to ease storage problems in other areas of the kitchen. If we work it right, we could even do something “radical” like keeping tea and cocoa and instant soup near the Hot Shot where it would be--gasp!--convenient! What a concept!


There's a lot of dust in our master bathroom right now, but I'm glad of it.

We have one of those one-piece plastic insert jobbies in the master bath (the hall bath has tile, which, while pretty, is a pain in the *** to clean all the time). In 1997, what with the strain of the years (we think the house was built in 1980, as there is a 1980 date in the toilet tank and someone scrawled 1980 in the driveway concrete before it dried), the tub cracked.

We knew it would cost money to have the insert replaced, but our jaw dropped when we discovered it would be over $1000 ($11something, as I remember). Needless to say, we had to wait until we got our tax refund back to have the work done.

This was done in the spring of 1998 with minimal fuss. The plumbers just came in one day, cut out the old one and inserted the new one. Silly me, I thought that would be the end of it. But when I went upstairs to see the work, there were big holes taken out of the drywall on top of and in narrow strips on each side of the insert.

"You'll have to get someone who does drywall to finish that," the plumber told me cheerfully as I stared. "Right now if you want to you can just tape plastic over it [!!!!!!!!] and take a shower."

Nothing doing; I didn't want a house with water damage. We asked the plumbers to recommend a drywall man and they said they had one they thought highly of. We'll call him "John."

The week before my mom was to visit, "John" checked out the bathroom. Oh, he said, that was easy. He would do the job for $300. We scheduled it for something like April 18.

My mom arrived the Sunday before that date. She was a bit wary of coming at all for her yearly visit because the doctor had seen a mysterious bruising on her head when she had not banged it, and thought it wise to take a biopsy. Three days later she found out it was scalp cancer and had to fly home to start treatment immediately. Her departure date was the same day "John" would fix the shower.

We called "John" and he had us reschedule the appointment to June 1, the soonest he could make time for us. We said fine, and on June 1 I took the day off for him to do the work. But "John" never showed up. I called his pager number all afternoon and received no response. I called his home that day and several times later to see if there had been some emergency. A woman always answered the phone and said, "I'll give him the message," but he never ever called back.

By that time we had spent the $300 we had saved on other things we needed. It became a motif every year: when we would get our tax refund we would say "This year we'll get the bathroom fixed" and then the money would go away, or we'd find no answers about a reliable drywall man. (I didn't want to hire any old person from the Yellow Pages; I wanted someone reputable whose work was known by people I trusted.) We even considered doing it ourselves, putting some type of foam insulation in the gaps and then covering it with molding, making a little "border" around the tub. But the plumbers had had to level the tub and the wall enclosure it had been in was no longer level, so the back of the tub was about two inches away from the established wall. To do it properly, a "false wall" would have be built to meet the back of the tub. Neither of us had that expertise.

Somewhere in the middle of this a friend of ours gets married one lovely day to a nice fellow from Canada. (I won't mention his name because as much as I want to brag on him, I'm sure he wouldn't want me to.) A little while later our friend and her new husband decide to convert their old garage to a den and then build another garage. They don't hire anyone, because the "nice fellow" was formerly a contractor and knows how to do all this stuff. Do it he does, on weekends and after work.

One day when we were visiting (these folks have some land and horses and we occasionally borrow their pasture for model rocket launches) we saw the "nice fellow's" work.


Really, I was floored. One thing James and I used to love to do when we were living in the apartment was go to housing developments under construction, look around, plan what we would do with a certain house if it were ours. We got to see the houses in all phases of construction and were really appalled sometimes at how shoddy the work looked on houses that would later sell for $100,000-$300,000 dollars. But the "nice fellow's" work was marvelous, solid and workmanlike.

In the fall, fed up with the battered master bath, I finally ventured to ask "the nice fellow" if we could hire him to fix this bit of drywall. I didn't know if he could do it. He and his wife were now fixing their kitchen. But to make a long story short, he said yes, if we could wait a bit. We waited and he started on Saturday March 9.

By the way "John" talked, this job would only take one day. Having watched "the nice fellow" work, I wonder now what type of a job "John" would have done. After two days work (and I do mean work; he even had to fix the valve on our toilet because it would not shut completely and he wanted to take the tank off to have more room to work), he has still not finished yet; he will be coming over for an hour or two after his work each day to finish up! He has made certain the three walls around the shower are complete and solid, has also repaired the drywall edging around the ceiling, and is presently putting the patching compound on the wall.

As a favor for me, he also drilled a hole in our masonry fireplace so I could hang a mirror there (and ended up having to repair that a bit, too, when two of the stone facing blocks fell off due to the vibrations from his drill!).

So while I have to vacuum every night to clean up the bits of "plaster" and drywall because of my allergy, and right now the bathroom looks a fright, I don't care a bit. I know the job is being done carefully and properly, and I will praise the "nice fellow" for his hard work, if not by name, at least in public!


» Friday, March 08, 2002
An Embarrassment of EBooks

By the time I got done downloading from, I had quite a "gang": old Zane Grey westerns, pulp detective books, a few more Mark Twain and Jules Verne novels, some H. Rider Haggard, even an Oliver Optic epic, a Tom Swift book, and one volume of "The Go-Ahead Boys."

Right now I'm reading Raffles: Further Adventures of the Amateur Cracksman. One feels sympathetic yet exasperated for our narrator, Raffles' old school chum "Bunny," who's thrilled by Raffles' exploits, but who follows him blindly most of the time, unable to be his own man. Raffles inspired some movies in the past, but it must be the idea of the character, a charming gentleman thief, more than the execution, because after a while A.J. becomes a bit much.


I've been remiss here lately. Frankly, work is driving me mad, or perhaps it's more the fluorescent lights. I have the distinct feeling they're trying to burn my brain out. I come home with sore eyes and headaches and must get someone, whether it's maintenance or a tall guy, to unscrew another bulb. There are three long ones right over my head to glare on all the white paper in my cubicle. I had someone unscrew one for me, but two are still too bright. There are times when the letters are dancing in front of my eyes like flies. Why they have to be in light compartments with reflectors around them is beyond me; they are already way too bright.

Speaking of flies, Willow will drive us mad yet. We already have a large fly population zipping around outside due to it never having gotten very cold for more than three days at the time. The moment a door opens, one zooms in and heads straight for the nearest light to get warm, like some type of berserk moth. To keep the dog from whining and trembling, we end up killing them and showing them to her. Only then she relaxes! A month more of this and we'll have to have the vet prescribe Prozac. [Eyes roll.]