Archive | August, 2011

Hurricane Irene Eve

August 27, 2011


Our sunset tonight. Nice pretty colors but she is TOTALLY unwelcome.

Hurricane Irene Eve

This week alone, Upstate New York has had a tornado, an earthquake and a hurricane. ONE WEEK. Insane!

The weather guys are forecasting upwards of 5 inches for my area. Please keep us in your prayers. Five inches means bad flash flooding. Irene needs to move out to sea.

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An Ounce of Prevention…

August 26, 2011


… is worth a pound of cure, as the saying goes.

We spent part of our afternoon in hurricane preparedness today. See that green area in central New York State? That’s me.

We pulled in the patio furniture (oh my word, we have a TON of chairs, did you know that?!, the tractor, the tables, the stuff that’s been hanging on the line for a few days (oopsie, hee hee), the trash barrels… and stuffed it all into the garage. We can barely squeeze through the narrow walkway in there, but we did it!!! Well, actually, the kids did all the work. They did an amazing job. šŸ™‚

We have to get a third sump pump installed yet. We are going to get a battery backup kind in case the power goes out.

I’m not worried or anything. No need to stock up on water, canned food, dried beans, and cat food or anything! And after the last major flood we had, we pretty much cleaned out the entire basement. So the only thing that would get wrecked if we have several feet of water down there is the water heater. It would NOT be fun if it got ruined, but at least that’s all there is. Some weather guys are saying we may get 4 to 6 inches of rain in 24 hours…. yikes. It’s already so soggy here (been that way for 10 years now) that we’d have flooding should that much rain hit us. I’m hoping we get less than 2 inches.

How about you? Are you on the hurricane map? You going to have a “hurricane party” or get outta there?

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My Morning Cuddles

August 25, 2011


She’s been doing it ever since she was a baby: cuddles.


Unfortunately, I don’t have any photos of her cuddling because, well, because she usually cuddling the photographer (me) in the wee hours of the morning. It’s like a routine with her.

Early every morning — sometimes as early as 4am but other times later — Livvy scampers onto my side of the bed, seeking to get close to my face. If I have a pillow over my head (I do that to block out light and noise sometimes), she noses her way under the pillow to press her cold, wet nose onto my cheek or nose. If I am not already awake, that usually does it.

She worms her way under the blanket (if it’s winter) or on top of the blanket (if it’s summer) in search of my hair. I don’t know what it is about her and hair, but she loves hair! The longer and darker, the better.

Once she’s face first into my hair, she “kneads” it with her front paws. I read somewhere that this is called “smurgling.” I don’t know if that’s really the word, but it’s comical enough for the family to have become attached to it. So now when Livvy starts her kneading, we call it smurgling.

Sometimes her very sharp claws snag my tender skin- ouch! She doesn’t seem to realize it. It’s like she’s in this other world. Her eyes are glazed, half shut, she drools a little, and kneads with her paws. She rarely purrs when she does this. And she does it just about every morning. My husband thinks Livvy smurgles because she was taken from her mother when she was too young (only a few weeks). Since I was so affectionate to her, she adopted me as her mom.

Conked Out


She’s such a sweet, affectionate kitty. She doesn’t like to be held or carried. She won’t sit on laps, she’d rather sit on a towel instead (none of my cats have ever been lap cats!). But she likes to plant herself under my neck like in the first photo above. My guess it’s because it’s warmer there, and she can hear my little cooings to her. šŸ™‚

I love my Livvy.

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Find the Kitty Friday 9/19

August 19, 2011


She’s not been hiding lately. But sometimes she does blend in well with her surroundings, being a stripey white and tan cat.


We had family music night last week, and of course where we are, she is. I love her for that. She snoozed on the table while the amplifiers boomed and rattled. How she could sleep is beyond me.

I realized today that I forgot to write more about those nifty energy-saving light bulbs that I’ve been toodling around with. Oops, been kinda busy here at the homestead. I know you’re all awaiting the updates with baited breath, so I’ll get to them (Lord willing) this coming week. The light bulbs ARE actually very interesting. Some will last for a few decades! More to come. Have a good weekend, folks.

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How to Remove Plaster and Lathe

August 16, 2011


Believe it or not, there’s a system to removing plaster and lathe from old walls and ceilings. Oh, sure, you could simply get your hammer or crowbar and start blasting away. But plaster and lathe demolition is horribly, horribly dirty. Horribly. You think you have the furniture in the next room protected with plastic sheeting? Ha ha ha! Get your duster ready. We live in our house as we wreck it room by room, and try to be very careful with our demolition. And even after all our sealing the heat vents, duct-taping doors and boxes with plastic sheeting, and gearing up in heavy clothing and bandannas, we still walk out of the room at the end of that day caked in dust.Ā  The stuff is just so pervasive.

Plaster Removal UGH

Even so, there IS a way to reduce the mess. My methods are tried and true. šŸ˜€ Someone may have a better method (I’ve yet to see it) but this works, so far, for us.

1. Remove all the plaster FIRST. Then remove the lathe.

If you remove the plaster and lathe on one wall all at once, you’ll wind up with a big, dangerous mess. Lathe will be everywhere with plaster sections collapsed all around it. And since lathe contains nails — if your home is old, the nails will be old and rusty — the material is serious safety hazard. It’s best to first remove the plaster and shovel up the debris, THEN remove the lathe and pick up the wood.

Its Pink

By the way, YES, that IS a salmon pink ceiling. It was underneath a drop ceiling we removed. The trim in this room had once been mustard yellow....


2. Start small. then work in “sheets.”

You only need to create a small hole at first, and then a narrow strip. I always begin in the center of a wall, so I can have two people removing plaster from each side.

I start by pounding a hole in the center of the wall with a hammer. Then, I chip a long, narrow strip from the ceiling to the floor.

Wiring 2

3. Use a spade to cut off large sheets of plaster from the lathe.

Don’t use a crowbar or hammer to remove the plaster from the lathe. You’ll wind up with a mushroom cloud of plaster dust over your home! A spade is a small shovel with a flat blade. By the way, DON’T use a typical shovel for removing plaster, either. The rounded end, so perfect for digging holes, will only shear off a tiny portion of the plaster. It’s not worth all that effort.

My spade is very short, about 3 feet high. It has a grippy-type handle, and it’s perfect for removing large sections of plaster quickly and easily. Insert the end of the spade into the narrow strip of plaster you’d made with the crowbar. If the plaster is really sticking to the lathe behind it, you’ll need to ram the spade in. Now chisel the spade in between the plaster and lathe, to separate the plaster from the lathe. You may need to gently push up on the plaster with the spade, to force the plaster to break away from the lathe but not break off. The plaster will fall off in large sheets and the work will go much more quickly.

4. Keep the room tidy.

That sounds like a contradiction, doesn’t it? But the goal here is safety. And morale. NOBODY like slogging into a filthy workplace. Chop off large sections of plaster, and have a few folks pick up the plaster sections as you go along. We used a gravel shovel (another flat-ended shovel, but much more weighty) to shovel plaster into large garbage cans.

If you pick up the plaster as you go along, it will help reduce dust. You will not need to crunch over mountains of plaster to get to the next section. And believe me– shoveling up crunched and compacted plaster is a LOT more difficult than shoveling up freshly-removed sections of it.

DR Ceiling Down

Cleaning the room at the end of the work day did wonders for the morale, too. I found that we were much more likely to start the day with a little more vim and vigor when we entered a clean room to start our work than to begin in a room that was trashed. We lived in the house as we worked, so it was important to keep things clean.

Kitchen Gutted

5. Use a spray bottle with water.

It may sound corny, but it helped reduce the dust for us. When the dust in the air got too messy, we used a spray bottle filled with clean water to mist the air. The droplets of water grabbed the dusty particles and the weight of gravity forced it to the floor. Now, it’s important to go easy on the water, or you’ll end up with a muddy pool of plaster in your home.

6. Set a goal, every day.

My modus operandus for a day was to set a goal first thing in the morning, and that included cleanup. When we gutted our kitchen and dining room, I gave us one day to do half the kitchen (three walls) and a second day to do the other half (the fourth wall and the ceiling). It helps keep you focused, so the demolition doesn’t drag on forever. It’s very physical, laborious work. At the end of the day, we were EXHAUSTED. But settings goals helped, because we knew we HAD to have our house back again, and fast.


7. Be prepared for surprises.

I suppose every old-house home owner has stories to tell about what they find in their walls– old bones, newspapers, wayward toys, etc. We’ve seen all that. I was surprised to discover very old Art Deco wallpaper (hand painted!!) behind the chimney, though.

Wallpaper ddown

Wallpaper Display

We also discovered some less encouraging things. Someone years before had “capped” the exhaust to an old stove pipe with plaster, inserted a few old broken brick bits, and plastered over that. Over time, the plaster capping the exhaust vent cracked, allowing carbon monoxide from the furnace and water tank to seep into the room. *sigh*

Stove Pipe Hole

We’ve also found a rainbow of weirdo colors, a kind of historic home diary left behind by previous homeowners.

Be prepared for other strange things, too. I found studs filled with soft bricks on all exterior walls. No contractor or carpenter I spoke with knew what it was. They attributed it to “old timers” and their odd building practices… but I later found out that this brick is called “noggin.” It may have been used as a insulator (unlikely, in my opinion), but most probably as a fire stop, since my home is a balloon frame home.

I hope these tips have helped you some. Good luck on your project!

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She Needs a Buddy

August 13, 2011


We’ve been away from the house so often this summer (a roofing project) that Livvy has spent long periods of time alone. I’m starting to get a little concerned. LOL


Seriously, when we leave, she moans and howls quite loudly out the window. As we drive away, we can hear her pleas through the window. Sheesh!

So the husband turned to me the other day and said quietly, “She needs a buddy.” I looked at him, my eyes shining. I knew exactly what he meant. No, not another stuffed animal buddy— another KITTEN!!!!! This from the guy who has to hold me back from becoming a crazy cat lady! šŸ˜€

We *may* get another kitty, then. I’ll keep my eyes open for a Siamese or Siamese mix. Maybe by winter, Livvy will have a pal. And I’ll have another tiny feline to squeeze!!

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Perennials, FINALLY!

August 11, 2011


One of the perks of having a perennial garden is that you don’t need to replant everything every spring.

Yet one of the disadvantages to a perennial garden is that nothing blooms until JULY! :-p I don’t know how I did it, but I must have chosen all the plants that *only* bloom at a certain time, so my yard has no color until mid-summer, ugh. Not very good organizing, apparently. Oh well.

So now that we’re into August, my yard is literally ablaze with color. The Rose of Sharon, day lily, black-eyed Susans, purple coneflower, butterfly bush, sage, oriental stargazers, everything! Yay! It’s good to see that the plants aren’t suffering TOO much from my severe neglect this summer and last.

Colorful Flowerbed

Orange and Blue

I’m nuts about blue and red flowers. Next year, I’ll plant more red!

How’s your garden growing?

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What Summer Sheets Are Best?

August 10, 2011


After the blistering heat wave a few weeks ago, and now that a murky cloud of intense humidity has settled over us (70% dewpoint and higher, yuk!!) for about two weeks now, I’m reaching a point of desperation. I can’t tolerate the heat and humidity, and therefore I have trouble sleeping. It wasn’t bothering me much until lately, when the temps spiked.


Those pillow cases are part of the new "medieval" sheets I got. I think they are cool! But not... cool... if you know what I mean.

I have a memory foam mattress, and while it is spectacular in comfort, the thing is like an oven in the summer. It absorbs heat, and it feels like sleeping on a warm loaf of bread. I’ve been trying to find some good sheets, but I’ve already spent a good amount of money on some… and I can’t say I’m very happy with my choices. Now, I’ve already got winter sheets figured out– flannel sheets RULE; and I’m snug as a bug even when it’s 40 degrees in my bedroom. But during the summer, I’m at a loss.

I recently purchased a “modal/cotton” set. It’s very soft and stretchy, a little bit like a t-shirt. It’s very cushy and comfortable. but it’s almost TOO cushy. And what the heck is “modal,” anyway?

And then I bought a Better Homes & Gardens set (can’t go wrong with a name brand, right??). It’s a very, very attractive red design, with a medieval-looking pattern. They actually have some really nice designs; I’m partial to purple bedding sets. too. But these sheets are…. I think they are a cotton/polyester mix. It’s like sleeping between a lightweight tarp. They make a nylon-ish sound when you move around in them. They’re OK, but… they’re still kinda hot.

What the heck do you get for summertime bedding?! I can’t really find any answers online. IS there anything, really?

I have heard of Egyptian cotton bedding, but that stuff is $100! Before I get it, I need to know if it’s really worth it. Have you tried Egyptian cotton? Is it a “cool” sheet?

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Find the Kitty Friday 8/05

August 5, 2011



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Vinegar For Sunburns? My Conclusion

August 4, 2011

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I’ve heard vinegar touted as the miracle product for everything: bad breath cure, tonic for long life, fabric softener for washing machines, rinse aid for dishwashers, and sunburn soother. Sure, vinegar cuts grease and is useful for many things, but I’ve been discovering that vinegar is no miracle cure for everything. It has its pros and cons just like everything else.

For one, while vinegar makes a good rinse aid for dishwashers and a cheap (but mediocre) fabric softener replacement for the wash load, vinegar does corrode some plastics– including some of the plastic seal parts that line our appliances. I recently did a little research into the effects of vinegar on rubber seals and my article was published on eHow. See my article at Will Vinegar Ruin the Rubber Seals on Appliances?

So vinegar is cool, it’s great for a lot of things. But it certainly isn’t the miracle cure for all the stuff I’ve heard about.

My curiosity was piqued this time when I heard about Rose Vinegar for Sunburns. I wrote the post too late in the rose blooming season to make rose vinegar, but I read that others tout plain, diluted vinegar as a superb homeopathic method for soothing sunburns. Some folks left comments that their very severe burns cleared up in HOURS, that the pain subsided instantly and that there was no peeling at all! The new miracle cure!

After reading all this, I thought, Gee, I’ll have to go get a sunburn and test this out!

Hoh boy, I got a sunburn. A bad one. It’s a surprise, because my skin has an olive complexion and I rarely, rarely burn. But I’ve been helping fix a flat roof and it’s been super-hot here in New York… and I got me a lobster-like shine, I do. Well, at least now I could try out the vinegar thing.

I poured a small amount in a bowl and diluted it with an equal amount of water. I’m not 100% sure if I was supposed to dilute it, but my burn is pretty bad and I didn’t want to put full-strength acetic acid on it! So I dabbed a cotton cloth in the solution and patted it onto my arms.

The vinegar cooled the burn. Or maybe it was the cool water. While it hurt to place anything on my arms, the coolness was refreshing. I did the vinegar thing for two days, until I got bored from lack of spectacular results.

My burn is still bad and it still hurts. No miracles here, no instant tan. The burn is peeling, and the skin is still very warm (after five days now). The vinegar did very little for the burn, except make the skin a little softer which provided some instant comfort.

My conclusion: vinegar does next to nothing for sunburn. It’d be easier to smear raw aloe vera on the skin, since the aloe is creamier and will stay on the skin to be absorbed. If you have a sunburn, save the vinegar for the salad.

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