April 18, 2018

I am not kidding

by Janie Jones

This was the view from my living room window just last Sunday, April 15th:

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Between Sunday and Monday we got about a foot of snow, give or take.  It was nearly knee deep where it had drifted.

Thankfully, I had bought a nifty new electric snowblower a month ago.  It worked like a champ.  Now if only I could get out of my alley….

As much havoc as the snow creates for driving, I do so love the Great White North and it’s quirky weather.  All that snow is almost gone.  Today it hit 39 degrees F, tomorrow it’s supposed to be 50.  It’s a heat wave!!!  All my fellow Great White Northerners will be breaking out the short pants and flip-flops, I guarantee.

 

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April 10, 2018

Bit on the ass by the cold, dark side of practicality

by Janie Jones

First the apology.  This is where I bitch about my life.  I figure I haven’t’ done that much lately, so you might have forgotten who the real Janie Jones is.

I really don’t want to go to work today.  I’d much rather stay home and make cheesecake or paint my living room.

Instead I have to go give diabetic drugs to mice and take photos of their nests.  Which, I admit, is better than the days when I have to overdose them on morphine and poke them in their feet, or harvest their organs.  But, in any event, it’s not at all the kind of thing one gets a spring in their step over.

I knew there was a reason I spent 5 years of my life and an obscene amount of money on going to college to get a science degree: to still not like to get up and go to work while only barely make enough to live on.

The other day I was watching Flea Market Flip on Hulu.  I watched someone spend $825 on an old wrought iron sewing machine stand painted orange and turned into a table with 4 rickety-ass looking orange chairs.  Who makes this kind of money where they can buy over-priced shit like this and not bat an eye?  What do they do for a living?  Seriously, I need to know what kind of soul crushing job I need to get so I can have that kind of disposable cash.  I mean, I already have a soul crushing job, I at least could get paid stupid amounts of money if I’m going to feel miserable every day anyway.

Let’s just say this.  I do understand that animal models are the most significant and accurate way to test some stuff that will truly better our medical knowledge and I do like having drugs and medical procedures that are vastly improved this past few decades.  However, as hypocritical as it may sound, I personally did not want to be the person in the trenches.  So while logically I accept the dark necessity, I am not handling it well emotionally.

Add to that the frustration of poor health and getting up every day to go to work is a challenge.

Add to that the challenge of knowing that I can’t just quit because decent paying jobs are very hard to come by, and as morally and emotionally wearing as my job is, I have no where else to go that will be enough to pay my bills.  One wants to be grateful for what one has, but damn, sometimes it’s tough.

I have been thinking a lot about getting my master’s degree so hopefully I can get out of the mouse lab.  But, my original plan hit a financial snag.  If I don’t come up with a new way to fund my degree I don’t know if I will be able to make a go of it.  What ever I do, I have to be very careful not to sink more money I don’t have into another degree that might end me up no better than I am now.

I kinda hate to be that person that says I told you so, but this is exactly the reason why I didn’t do traditional college when I was a traditional college age person.  High risk and low reward.  At least for people like me, college doesn’t pay.  I’m smart enough to aspire but not cleverly genius or curiously driven enough to really excel.

And you know what really sucks?  I finally am in a home I like and living in a town I like and have good friends.  But 5/7ths of my week is becoming so miserable I can’t enjoy the fruits of my labor.

Dammit.  I better get my ass moving or I’ll be late.

 

 

 

 

March 24, 2018

Before and After

by Janie Jones

Hello blog friends!  I have been meaning to write this post for a few days now, but various things kept getting in the way.  Anyway, this is now the part where I bombard you all with dodgy photos of my dining room re-do.

This is what it looked like the day I bought my house:

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Can you spot the Rupert?

That, my friends is emerald green carpet.  A lot of emerald green carpet.  All over the main floor of the house and stairs.  In its heyday it was probably a fairly nice medium to long pile.  It has seen, I’m pretty sure, at least 30 years of wear and was now matted down to the point of being nearly a Berber.  You could also tell where previous owners had furniture placed by the different fade marks.

You can’t much tell in the photo, but the baseboards and crown molding (original by the way) were smudged in more than one spot by previous ineptly executed paint jobs.  Furthermore, along the crown molding different color stains were used for different parts of the molding.

So very stylish indeed.  I am not even going to comment on the ugly drapes on the window which don’t match the ugly drapes on the patio door in the adjacent wall.

I borrowed some young burly-man might (two 20 something college guys of my acquaintance), filled a cooler with bottles of craft beer and had a carpet-tearing-up party.

Then my dining room looked like this:

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Yes my friends.  That is original 1 inch maple floor boards some yahoo had splattered white paint all over when the ceiling was glitter popcorned probably circa 1970, give or take decade.  Now, I’m no home reno expert.  Probably when I leave this house the next people will curse my decorating and remodeling choices.  But, I never understand why someone would do this to a beautiful hardwood floor.  Stain it, paint it or cover it, but don’t totally deface it.

Anyway.  Better this than nasty carpet.  This can be fixed.  And finally, last fall, it was transformed in to the beautiful butterfly it was waiting to be:

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As you can see, I actually had all the first floor floors done at the same time (except for the kitchen, which will be a much later project).  Aren’t they beautiful?

Except the massively annoying contractor who did the floors did not stain it the color I told him I wanted.  I gave him a half empty stain can of the same stain used upstairs that I wanted him to match so he had no excuse.  And he put up toe kicks in a totally different color stain from what he used on the floor (also not the color I wanted).

I would have made him re-do it all, but when I hired him at the end of September, I told him I wanted the job done by Thanksgiving so I could bring in furniture and decorate for the holidays.  He finished at 6pm on the day before Thanksgiving.  So, if I wanted it redone I would have had to either skip having a functional living room and dining room for the holidays or pack everything back up after the first of the year and deal with another round of dust and fumes and not being able to get to my kitchen or bathroom.  I could fill a month’s worth of blog posts complaining about contractors, let me tell you.

BUT.  I am trying to put that behind me.  Despite them not doing what I really wanted, the floors still look about a million times better than they did when they had that hideous old green carpet on them.  So, I am satisfied, if not tickled pink.

The dining room then sat basically empty except for a new rug and a card table with a mismatch of chairs.  I wanted to repaint the walls.  And after a long back and forth with myself, I also decided to just paint the baseboards and crown molding instead of trying to sand it down (to get rid of the old paint sploches) and re-stain it all to a matching color.  There are probably a lot of fixer-uppers out their rolling over in their graves when I say I painted 100 year old wood white.  I really felt bad doing it myself.  I normally think that is a sacrilege.  But it makes the room look so much lighter, brighter, cleaner and bigger.  So, as much as I felt naughty doing it, I really like the result.

The walls got a creamy not-quite-white-with-the-barest-hint-of-yellow paint.  Which again, I think is bright, light, clean and welcoming.  I really wanted a rich mossy color velvet drape, but I simply couldn’t find anything in my price range, so I settled on a pale grey.  Turns out, the pale grey looks more like aquamarine when it is dark.  So I almost sent them back.  But, in the end, they were such a good price, and I probably wouldn’t even be able to make drapes from raw fabric for less money, so they stayed.

Once the all the painting was done, I went to work on building china cabinets (which despite being very low budget I think they look pretty good) and refinishing my new budget bargain dining room table and chairs.

The table originally looked like this:

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Unfortunately, you get what you pay for.  It’s not very well made, but as anything I liked was at least $300 more and out of my budget, I decided to try a little cosmetic upgrade.  I didn’t want a white table base, and the country-esque look isn’t my style.  So off to the hardware store I went and for about $35 I did a faux mercury glass finish on the base and re-stained the table surface.

I used a new stain/poly product I’ve never worked with before, and I am not totally thrilled with the end result on the table surface.  It went on really gloopy and was thicker and stickier than other separate stains and polyurethanes I’ve used on projects in the past.  So, when it dried there was a lot of inconsistencies in the color finish and in the texture.  I don’t know if that is a product flaw or operator error due to inexperience.  But perhaps when the weather is nice I can take it outside and hit it with a super fine grit sandpaper and try again.  However, the faux mercury glass finish on the base really pleased me.  It’s delicate, so it may not hold up over time, but hopefully I won’t need to use this cheap-ass table for too may years anyway.

This is the end result:

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The final phase of the project was putting together the new chairs.  I have always wanted upholstered dining room chairs, but they were either out of my budget or totally impractical (as in when my daughter was young).  I found a really good deal I could get coupled with coupons on some grey velvet upholstered chairs.  The legs were wood and painted a really strange metallic color, but hey, I had extra stain, so I just lickity-split sanded and re-stained them to match the surface of the table.

Now, I have put together a lot of bargain basement furniture over the years of stretching every nickel to make a dime.  But I tell you, these chairs were a real bitch to put together.  The problem being you had to screw in the back piece to the base at a strange angle and you couldn’t see if the holes were lining up and the stupid Allen wrench was hard to turn in the tiny corner you were working in.  Gah.  Leif came upon me struggling to get them put together.  I was supposed to have him over for dinner and I really wanted to eat in my new dining room at my new table with the new chairs.  So he lent his hand.  It even took him an hour to screw in 24 bolts to put three chairs together.

But lo and behold.  It was finally all done:

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And, look at that!  The chair fabric is almost the same color as the drapes I thought about sending back!

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Hello Rupert.

 

I do still plan to do a few more things.  But I am out of money.  I absolutely hate the ceiling fan.  So eventually I want to get a new one.  Also, I want to put faux tin tiles on the ceiling to hide the glittery popcorn treatment.  And, I have extra drapes to transform into valances, which I will do at some point, but I still don’t have my sewing table put together so that last finishing touch can sit on the back burner.

Still, the room looks done and now I feel so very elegant.  Even with my cheap, low quality furniture.  I can sit in my living room and look across the way and think, “Gosh, when did I get so posh!”

Now I just have to keep up with vacuuming all the dog hair off the upholstery.

Thanks for visiting!

March 21, 2018

Pancakes for dessert, and for dinner, and for breakfast…

by Janie Jones

Recently, in one of my magazines, there was a recipe for buttermilk pancakes.  For some reason, it sounded particularly good.  So a few weeks ago when Leif was visiting I made some for breakfast.  We gobbled them up, they were really good.  So good I couldn’t stop thinking about them.

Last Sunday I made another batch for my dinner, with strawberries, bananas and whip cream, even though it was just me.  The other day I had some of the leftovers with strawberries and chocolate ganache as a dessert when my sweet tooth was running rampant.  And this morning I had some as “pancake tacos” stuffed with sugar and blackberries on the way out the door.

Normally I’m not really that big a pancake fan.  But something about these, they are just, wow.

March 10, 2018

Double Take

by Janie Jones

I opened up Amazon’s website to do some shopping and the banner headline, I swear to the sun and the moon and the stars, said “Sneaky Pee.”  For a split second I thought it was going to be advertising come bladder control problem.  Then I noticed the photo along with the heading and it was of a roll of bills.  Save money on your depends?

Oh, on a double take it said “Sneaky Pete, Amazon Prime original, stream the new season.”

Thanks to my vision problems, this sort of thing happens more and more often.  Although it’s usually not so funny….

March 9, 2018

Where are little cats X, Y and Z when you need ’em?

by Janie Jones

I had meant to use some of my winter holiday where I had 16 consecutive days off of work to get some real stuff done around my house.

As it happened, I did very little besides sofa surf and eat way too much.  Then I spent much of January and February feeling really poorly.  The best physicians and specialists Big City can afford were all about giving me this pill or that pill but no one really was telling me what was causing me to feel poorly.  It is a bit of a pickle, as it is very likely it is a combo of things, but I don’t like to just take drugs that mask symptoms.  I’d much prefer to nail down the problem and work on something to actually fix the problem(s) causing the symptoms.

Anyway, I digress.  This post is not meant to be about my health.  Instead, it’s about me trying to manage some positive changes in my environment.

So,  on Thanksgiving eve the floor contractors sort of finished the job.  I quickly put some furniture in place to make the living and dining room areas usable and went Christmas decorating crazy.  Then, as I mentioned above, everything else came to a grinding halt in the wake of holiday revelry and relaxation.

Sounds lovely, no?  But in actuality, this meant that a large pile of boxes (large as in floor to ceiling covering a 6×8 foot area, or the majority of my basement except a walkway around the pile from the stairs to the spare bedroom, the pantry closet and the laundry room and a narrow area just wide enough for my exercise machine) has languished unpacked.

This is perhaps not a critical issue, but I do use my basement every day for exercising.  Leif will use the spare bedroom when he visits and of course I need to do laundry weekly or so.  So it happens that I am constantly reminded of what a disaster it is downstairs.

Now, if you dear readers have not yet discerned from many years of perusing my drivel, I am a bit of an organization freak.  I have been dubbed “Just-so Janie” and it is some how physically painful for me to be in an ugly, messy environment.

Not like I’m some feng shui freak, but chaos and disorder and dark and dingy do make me feel a little anxious, cranky and sap my energy and enthusiasm.  So perhaps a little part of my aforementioned health issues might be in some part a small measure of the emotional drain associated with the mess in my basement.

The problem with the basement was exacerbated by The Plan.  The Plan being the organized way to deal with the unpacking.  See, it didn’t make sense to unpack all that stuff which belongs mostly to the dining room and kitchen until the remodel of the dining room was complete.  What’s more, there was a lot of crap in the kitchen cupboards that needed to go in the basement pantry closet (tools, remodeling supplies, cases of beer/soda, extra canned goods, paper towels and Ziploc bags, you know stuff you tend to buy in large quantities or are big and bulky) that I couldn’t move downstairs until downstairs was cleaned out.  And there was a large number of boxes of extra kitchen stuff stacked on the open soffits above the cupboards that couldn’t be unpacked until the extra stuff in the cupboards was moved.  If you too are a neat freak I’m sure you’ll understand my pickle.

Well, a few weeks ago I finally got motivated enough to paint the dining room.  Then I built the new china cabinets.  But the basement mess felt so big and so deep and so tall I didn’t know quite how I’d move it at all.

In the end I took two vacation days off from work and, in a truly Seussian fashion, yesterday, the first day off, I pulled everything out of the kitchen that didn’t belong there.   This included the boxes filled with my extra kitchen items (I have a problem.  I collect Way.  To.  Much.  Kitchen. Stuff) which I unpacked.  By the end of the day I had a contractor 33 gallon trash bag full of newspaper that had cushioned my cherished possessions, an immense pile of empty cardboard boxes, and, naturally, crap everywhere.

The mess is daunting, and I’m not done.  There’s still about a dozen boxes in the basement of china and decorative glassware and specialty kitchen crockery.  The pile of cardboard and wrappings is still growing.  I feel like I need one of those clean up cars belonging to the Cat in the Hat.

 

cat in the hat clean up car

Image from The Cat In the Hat, by Dr. Seuss

 

But it was rather thrilling to excavate beautiful things I haven’t seen or used in 4+ years.  I can’t explain my joy at once again seeing my collection of antique green glass dishes and my special occasion china, my favorite wine glasses with the raised bumblebee motif, and my unbelievably insane collection of bowls of all sizes.  I did a little happy dance around the pile of empty boxes.

I am really excited to have all my cherished possessions on display and available for use again.  Plus, I have a new dining room table and some elegant velvet upholstered chairs that have languished in their shipping boxes since late October waiting for the dining room to be ready for their debut.

So much more work, but so much more ultimately thrilling than going to the tropics for spring break.

Back to work!!!

March 5, 2018

Fortune Cookie Wisdom

by Janie Jones

I like fortune cookies, with or without the fortune.

For New Years Leif and I got together with some friends and had a stir-fry themed meal.  Leif makes some rockin’ Chinese, I tell you what.  He does it all: all manner of stir-fries, egg rolls, miso soup (which is technically Japanese I guess), egg-drop soup, hot and sour soup (which I don’t like, but I have on good authority from friends that he does quite well), even spring rolls.  One thing he doesn’t do is fortune cookies.  So I buy a box of them at the grocery store, ’cause you gotta have fortune cookies when you eat Chinese.

Anyway, I still had several in the cupboard, and as I like them just for eating regardless, I’ve been tossing the leftovers in my lunchbox from time to time.

Today’s fortune said:  Good news will come to you by mail.

And what do you think?  I received my acceptance letter to grad school today.

Hmm.  A fortune cookie fortune that could actually be considered accurate.

To bad it wasn’t:  You will receive a large and unexpected windfall of cash today.  I might have been accepted to grad school, but I have no idea how I will make this work.