Fences, Electronics and LESS Debt!

Just look at that fine fence!

I’m so looking forward to having our back fence done. We have made significant progress in the past two weeks – nearly all of the 4×4 posts, as well as most of the pickets, are in place.

The opening as seen from the alley side. We will put in a gate on the left and custom cut the boards and add pickets to cover the right side.

Today we rented a jackhammer from Home Depot and Dave used it to open up two holes – one was the remains of an old driveway to a long-gone garage, the other appeared to be the brick wall of another long-gone structure (probably another garage). This allowed us to dig down far enough to set the 4×4 posts in.

Taken from the alley side, this is the portion of fence we built last weekend. It’s directly behind Cottage West. We will leave these tree stumps in place, they provide protection from folks slipping and sliding in the snow while backing up out of the apartment building parking lot (out of sight on the left)

We have one post left to set in – it’s down at the very end of the line, directly behind Cottage West. We will have a gate there, as well as one about 20 feet from the Airstream – these will both open onto the back alley. And then there will be the double gate at the back parking area.

“Is the cement still wet?” Em asked.
“Yep, it’s perfect for putting your initials in!”

So three gates to build next weekend and one post to set in place.

As we worked today, a woman came running through our yard and the fence. “You are really making this impossible, you know.”

Dave yelled after her, “That’s kind of the point!”

The gates will be padlocked and once they are in place the entire run will be sealed, making it impossible for folks to cut through our yard. They will still be able to come in from the front, but that is a task for 2019. Just one more year until our entire property, including Cottage East and Cottage West, is enclosed.

Next year or the year after I hope to build a pergola here directly outside the Airstream. I’ll also lay in a gravel and flagstone path from the firepit to the Airstream now that I’m running out of bricks.

And that makes me pretty darned excited. I look forward to the day when I can open the front door and let our dogs run out into the bigger yard and hang out with us.

Just stopping folks from using our yard as a road from 10th Street to the alley or 11th Street beyond that will be huge. We have seen/experienced the following in our yard since moving here…

  • Various people stop and pee (or take a dump)
  • Illegal dumping of trash
  • Vandalism
  • Theft (they stole our wheelbarrow and other equipment)
  • Junkies off their rocker, shouting and walking through
  • Found baggies of drugs in our garden
  • Had a woman high as a kite sit down on a stump and proceed to talk to our chickens for half an hour while she clucked like a chicken
  • Had kids throw rocks at our beehive when we still had bees

Is it any wonder we are more than ready for a nice tall fence?!

It looks oddly small in this picture but that is a full sized dresser beneath it.

A Deal I Couldn’t Pass Up

Two weeks before I got the call in December 2016, we had purchased a 55″ television as a Christmas gift to ourselves. I was so excited to have a big tv there in the living room!

And two weeks after the phone call and I was back from Panama with my dad. The television, conveniently located in the living room, was immediately taken over by him.

His dementia, caused by poor diet and improperly medicated diabetes has affected him significantly. He basically spends all day watching daytime tv.

There’s nothing quite as off-putting to me as Jerry Springer or Paternity Court. At lunch I can hear the judge bellowing, “Mustafa Antone, the tests show that YOU are the father!”

Ugh. As a result, we tend to stay upstairs, leaving the living room television in the hands of my dad.

And with just a little television upstairs in our bedroom, I’ll admit, I felt like I’d had my Christmas gift taken away from me!

Our smaller tv didn’t have Roku and we couldn’t watch anything from our Plex server on it, and that bummed me out enough that, after 18 months of this, I decided to start looking for a nice tv for our room.

We ended up choosing a 55-inch Roku 4G and it came in yesterday. Dave could see how excited I was, and was kind enough to install it on the wall right away. We have an extra-long power cord coming in today that will make it less cord congested, and I love that it can tilt out, allowing it to be viewed from the other room.

I used it today to practice some yoga I found on YouTube. So cool!

Debt Reduction Too!

I was surprised and delighted to add it all up and discover that, even with our purchases like the upright freezer, fencing materials, and a big television, we have managed to remove over $15,500 worth of debt in the past seven months and we are well on our way to an overall debt reduction of around $28,000 for 2018.

That’s huge!

I’ll admit, I checked it and double-checked it. I couldn’t believe my eyes. But my Current Debt worksheet in Excel is updated once a month with all of our current debts. After so many years of struggling, it is beyond exciting to see this happen.

Our savings might be small (most of our savings is going into a pot earmarked for home renovation) but it continues to grow steadily.

Our goals remain to renovate Cottage East and Cottage West over the next 4 1/2 years, all while maintaining a steady reduction in debt and building our savings. It takes mindfulness and planning, but it is worth it. I can clearly see a day when we are debt free and have several property income streams in place that are near us and well-monitored and maintained.

Things are looking up and progress is being made!

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Phase One – Well Begun is Half Done

We took advantage of the pleasant temps on Sunday morning and knocked a portion of Phase One of our fence building out of the way. Three post holes were dug and the two seven foot portions of fence were assembled.

“Wow, we got that done fast.” It was a few minutes after 10 a.m. and we were staring at our walls of wood with the ten-foot gap in the middle.

The gap is where our double gate will go. Eventually, we will have a two-car driveway plus a side pad through the gate laid down. We will be able to park our future truck there, behind the gate and out of sight of the main part of the yard.

“Are you happy with the work?” I could see what he was doing, but I wasn’t feeling at the top of my game, too much hip pain, so I just smiled and nodded.

The double gate will wait for next weekend. We will handle it before or after the yard is mowed.

I’m hoping to have the entire fence done by the first weekend in August. I’m so excited about having it completely closed in the back.

Foreground – where our truck will eventually be parked. Background – where our Cottage East tenants will park.

After that, I plan to send folks packing if they try to sail on through my yard. Not that it would do any good, the six-foot height is a pretty good deterrent!

Note: I know it might all sound unfriendly, this idea of shutting others out of our property. But please keep in mind I’ve literally had a man cop a squat in our yard. Yes, you heard that right. The smell lingered for weeks.

We have also had our wheelbarrow stolen, a man with two snarling dogs plunge through our yard with our chickens scattering in all directions, and other less than positive experiences.

Most of our neighbors are friendly, well-mannered folks. It just takes a few bad apples to ruin it for the rest, unfortunately.

From the future parking space looking into the backyard.


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Three Phases of Fence-Building

The delivery from Home Depot arrives on Wednesday, the 4th – and thus the final three phases of fence building across the back of our property has begun!

I am very excited about this. Folks merrily walking through our yard is one thing, but we have had items stolen from our yard, along with trash, condoms, and even…super gross…someone used our yard for a toilet once.

Granted, as the neighborhood has improved, we have seen less and less traffic. But putting in a back fence that has no way to access the back alley from the yard (the reason most walk through our yard) will eliminate 99% of the intruders.

Eventually, I’m aiming for next year, we will be able to install a front fence as well and thereby eliminate all but the most foolish of interlopers. I say foolish because, while they are well-behaved, we have three dogs, two of which are pit bulls. And with a front fence in place, they could have run of the entire property, something I think would be wonderful for everyone.

In any case, we are breaking this into three different phases…

Phase One: Build a fence perpendicular to the dog fence. It will have two seven foot long panels on each side and then a ten-foot wide double gate in the middle. We will use this section to house our future truck when it is not in use. And the future parking for tenants of 3231 remains open with access to the alley.

My Excel schematic – because I am oh so nerdy!

Then Phase Two, finish the 32-foot long section right after we jackhammer the remnants of an old concrete garage out of the way and set in the posts.

And then Phase Three, complete the remaining 39 feet of fencing to the corner of our property.

We will add a padlock to the double gate, which will prevent anyone without a key from just opening it and walking through.

Eventually, I hope to have a cement driveway laid for our future tenants. That might be a few years down the road, however.

My Husband’s Political Protest

I have to sympathize, my husband has a HUGE yard that needs mowing. When all is said and done, we have seven city lots, nearly a full acre that needs mowing. And it all has to be done with a standard mower.

A riding mower is on our “would really like to have” list, but it falls below a truck on future purchases.

As a result, the hubs has stated he will mow every second week, “Whether it needs it or not.”

And believe me, by week two, the grass/weeds/whatever is looking rather long in the tooth.

And with the dog days of summer descending upon us, I plan on us working on the fence in the off-weekends, when he isn’t mowing and I’m not frantically weeding.

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If You Give Christine A Brick…

“The fire dancers, flickering their fiery dance.” Em’s response to my question of what to write in the caption. I have a budding poet on my hands!

Most of my parenting friends will get that reference. There are a series of children’s books out there, the first one was called If You Give a Mouse a Cookie. It takes the reader on an adventure.

And I really think I need to write a book titled If You Give Christine a Brick, because damned if I won’t build a pyramid with them next.

Actually, Dave joked about that as we pushed, rolled and pivoted several 300+ pound tree trunks around today.

I’ve expanded the circle around the firepit and, with Em’s help, we have begun laying a new path that runs to the front of the house.

“Let’s build a pyramid next!”

He really should be careful about giving me ideas like that…

Do you see some of those monster logs down there? Using pivot points we were able to move them out of the way, so that I can finish the firepit ring.

I also removed the landscape stones that were on the inside wall of the firepit and I began digging down. Eventually, I hope to have a 2-3 foot deep firepit.

The fire department was pretty limiting on the diameter of the firepit, but damned if I won’t go down and get more room that way!

I was so proud of my family today! We got so much done! Em came out and worked hard right alongside of us. It wasn’t exactly her first choice in how she spent her day, but after a stern lecture on the responsibilities that go along with household citizenship, she knuckled down and did it.

I couldn’t have added fifteen feet of walkway as quickly as I did without her. She laid the bricks while I dug them up from the old, overgrown path.

My husband moved the rest of the heavy landscape bricks, some three wheelbarrow loads full to the front of Cottage East.

Dave taking direction from our pint-size dictator, Little Miss.

I’ll arrange them better later, I was just glad to have them where they needed to be.

He also finished a project I had started, one of shoveling all of the accumulated mud that had moved from the corner of Indiana and 9th down to the entire length of gutter in front of our house.

It took three wheelbarrows filled with muck before he was done!

Moving enormous logs and plotting my next big project

We burned some more brush, including last year’s Christmas tree and now that the heat is rising again, I’m done until we get another rainy, cool spell. After the ashes cool, I plan on digging down further in the firepit. The ashes and dirt mixture can go in the compost heap.

Each time I work in the garden, I feel such a fierce joy. We have accomplished so much in the five years we have been here. Imagine what it will look like in five more!

Em was tenacious (and successful) in her attempts to restart the fire today

If You Give Christine a Brick

If you give Christine a brick, she will smile, imagine a new path she wants to build and walk towards her garden.

She will likely ask you for another brick, and another, and another.

Once Christine has a pile of bricks, she will undoubtedly begin to shout orders imperiously, setting anyone and everyone near her to work on this project.

Once she has her husband ferrying more bricks, and her youngest sorting out the broken brick, she will imagine a firepit surrounded by large tree trunks and ask you for your help.

Moments later, armed with shovels and full of curiosity, a bunch of kids might show up to help dig out that pond Christine has been wanting since the first spring she was here.

As you begin to dig in the dirt, you will need a place to put it and that will make her think of all of those extra plants that need to be divided up and planted around the mulberry tree, the old stump, or the new wildflower garden and she will hand you a shovel and direct you where to plant them.

If while you are digging you find a rock, Christine will undoubtedly remember that she wanted to edge the hostas and rosebushes she planted this spring with rocks and begin carrying those over, clearing any weeds as she goes.

And that will remind her that there are still pathways to build and bricks to find. And that will likely lead to her asking you for more bricks.

Little Miss says “It’s important to hydrate.” Actually, she said no such thing beyond, “Cuppie!”

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Keeping Our Eyes on the Prize

Our 1956 Flying Cloud Airstream in its new position in the yard.

It started with an email from Greenability magazine. “Save $3,000 on a 2018 Nissan Leaf if you are a KCP&L customer.”

It’s old location there where the gravel is. We will turn this area into a driveway for our Cottage East tenants in the next couple of years.

And that got my attention. I mean, heck, $3,000 is a LOT of money. So I did a little bit of digging, checked out auto loan rates, and about an hour later was sitting in a very comfortable seat staring at the control panel for what appeared to be a spaceship.

See the end of the fence there on the left? We will build a fence that connects to the fence in the foreground. It will have a gate. This will close off access to one corner of our backyard.


Backup camera. No engine noise, heck NO NOISE AT ALL. Brakes that automatically engage when you take your foot off of the accelerator. A smart cruise control that allows you to set the number of car lengths you want to have in front of you and automatically adjusts when you drift out of your lane.

I plan to enlarge the brick firepit surround and then take a path directly to the door of the Airstream. We will put in some steps as well for easier access. I think that, instead of having a double gate there at the back, we can just add a gate at the front of the yard and drive a truck from the front to the back to hook up the RV when we are ready to take it to Airstream headquarters for a renovation.

It felt like a time warp – I’m driving around in a pedal car straight out of The Flintstones and just got to take my first spaceship for a spin!

I’m a numbers gal, though. So as the money manager of the house, I made it very clear not just to the Nissan Leaf saleswoman, but also the Honda salesman (I got to drive a hybrid gas/electric – so cool!), that I would NOT be making a decision or signing anything that day.

It can be hard to tell, but that greenery above and to the right of the bricks is our future pond. I’m considering laying in brick all the way up to the edge and creating a nice surround that doesn’t need constant weeding.

Instead, I enjoyed the experience, got some great facts and figures, and decided that as wonderful as it was, I wasn’t about to stray from the path we have set ourselves on.

Our goals remain as follows:

  • Stabilize Cottage East and get codes off our backs by installing the siding and new windows and fixing the brickwork in the front and back.
  • Finish Cottage West into TWO rental properties – a 2-3 bedroom, one bath on the main floor and attic and a basement studio apartment below
  • Do the same to Cottage East
  • Finish out the basement of our home to include a one-bedroom or studio apartment, along with storage and a beer cellar. The apartment will be used for housing my dad, then as a rental, transitional housing for my daughter when she is an adult, and as a caretaker apartment when we are of the age that we need help.
  • Fix up the Airstream and use it to travel the country

And as much as the salespeople were willing to work with us – dedicating $550 per month to owning our very own 2018 spaceship is unrealistic and honestly would be rather foolish.

We have a back fence to build. And I have brick paths to lay.

These bricks circle the large silver maple in the front yard. I’ve been planting a lot of shade plants there and still need to finish the circle with “just a few more bricks!”

We have two vehicles that are completely 100% paid for. And the money we have set aside for their upkeep, along with our minimal fuel expenses now that we live and work within a five-mile area, doesn’t come close to the additional amount it would cost in property taxes, insurance, and monthly payments.

My eyes are firmly on the prize. Get debt free, ensure our future income and retirement. And that means that our twelve and fifteen-year-old cars serve us just fine. They are tools, and they function well. With regular maintenance, they will continue to do so for a very long time.

I smile though, at the experience of driving those super-cool spaceships. One day, I might just buy myself one!

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If You Could See What I See

The hanging baskets are doing well this year thanks to Dave’s weekly watering.

I wish that, for just a moment, you could see what I see. Perhaps my words and the photos will be enough.

Our woodland wildflower garden. It needs work.

This morning we headed out at just past seven to begin mowing. Well, Dave mowed and I was in charge of moving a woodpile. Yes, an entire woodpile.

The remnants of the woodpile and future location of the Airstream. You can see the new location for the woodpile in the distance.

I remember the first two trees we had taken down on the property. A few weeks after they were cut down, our neighbor came by, “So, when are they coming back to carry off the wood?”

The hill in back of Cottage West. It’s growing in thick with daylilies – common and oriental. There are also iris varieties.

I grinned and told him the wood was staying. He laughed, realized I wasn’t joking, and stared at me like I had lost my mind. I guess he didn’t know that happened a long time ago.

The daylilies are blooming like crazy!

The thing was, we couldn’t afford both trees to be cut down and taken away. So we just had them cut them down and dealt with the wood by eventually lining it up in a low wall again the back of the property. This worked well in stopping cars from driving through our yard. Yes, this did happen until then. Later, as more trees were removed (we have now removed four in total), we rolled them over to serve as seating around our firepit and stacked other pieces in a big woodpile.

Can you believe that the local plant & flower exchange banned these because they were “too common.” I WANT something that is willing to grow here and doesn’t need anything from me to become big and beautiful!

But I had this idea for creating a driveway and fencing the backyard in right where the Airstream is, so we needed to move the RV to a different location, namely where the woodpile currently was.

Hello, beautiful!

Logistically speaking, it made sense to move the woodpile, prep the space, then we could move the Airstream, and finish the rest of the fence along the back of the property by late summer.

Not much of a crop garden this year, but I do still have elephant garlic and potatoes growing here.

Dave mowed, I moved the light stuff and then slowly began rolling the bigger logs around the yard, creating seating that doubled as rings around trees I could now plant, and edging/seating near the future pond.

Happy, healthy horseradish

I pulled more of the ever-invasive Japanese hops and was rewarded with scraped and bleeding arms. There was plenty of lifting, shoving, pulling, digging and tons of sweat.

I still hope to get this path dug up, landscaping matting put down, and slightly widen the path as well.

Little Miss wandered barefoot through the yard, eating the ripe mulberries that had fallen from the tree, her face and hands stained purple. She was absolutely filthy with the dirt she was digging in by the time we stopped and went inside.

Smaller stumps surrounding the shade garden tree ring under the mulberry tree.

As I worked, I would occasionally look up. The fruit trees that have grown at least six feet since we planted them three years ago. One of them is thick with Asian pears.

The path leading to the firepit surround. I need a ton of sand to brush into the cracks.

The wood logs that surround the larger trees, welcoming people to sit in the shade and enjoy the flowers that are being planted there. The hostas and rosebushes I planted along the back fence all growing and looking fabulous.

I planted these hostas and oriental daylilies last year. They are doing great!

A fierce joy arose in me. Slowly but surely our large yard is being transformed into an oasis of blooms and beauty. And I couldn’t be happier. Yes, every other week we mow the “grass” which is more likely a mix of crabgrass, weeds, clover, and a tiny touch of grass thrown in for good measure. And yes, eventually we will actually plant grass seed, once we have filled the spots we want with an overabundance of flowers and perennial crops like asparagus, rhubarb, and more.

Along the back of the fence are a large variety of hostas. I plan to keep planting hostas back here until you can’t see anything BUT hostas. It’s the perfect shady spot for them!

It feels like a woodland park right in the middle of the city.

One of our fruit trees

I can’t wait to park the Airstream in its new location and extend the brick walkway all the way from the firepit surround to the front door of the RV, along with a set of steps that will welcome people inside. Once the front fence is in place, and we run water and electricity to it, I could see Em and her friends having little campouts. It will be perfect!

Some mulberries…

I dream of having friends over and barbecuing on the back porch and sitting in the sun-dappled shade to eat barbecue under strings of lights that run from the Airstream and light up the night.

A view of the woodland wildflower garden, the ring around the old bee tree on the right, and some of the fruit trees in our small orchard on the left.

A fire in the firepit that chases away the mosquitoes in the summer and the cold in the late fall.

We will need to thin the fruit on this Asian pear!

I wish you could see the plans that are inside my head. They are rich and full and detailed.

The tree ring I just established around the old bee tree. I need to go in there and cut out those treelings!

Stay tuned, the best is yet to come!

Estate Sale Score

I went to an estate sale in search of stained glass. I was too late, it had sold quick, but I did find this lovely platter.

Silver platter I found at an estate sale for $8.

It was holding pearl necklaces that were priced at $3 each. I grabbed two vintage necklaces and asked about the platter.

“No one buys these things anymore,” the woman said.

“Oh, is it not for sale?”

“Well, my husband said he wanted to keep it.”

“Oh…it’s just a really nice platter.”

She paused for a minute, “Well, how much would you pay for it?”

“Gosh, I wouldn’t even know how much to offer you. It’s been so long since I bought one of these. What would you want for it?”

She thought a moment more, “How about $8?”

Considering I had been willing to pay up to $20, I was pretty happy. I showed it to my dad when I got home. He picked it up to feel its weight. “If it’s sterling it would be worth around $260 in silver weight.”

I’m not seeing any markings that indicate if it is silverplate or sterling, but I’m pretty pleased with my estate sale score!

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Elderflower Cordial

When we moved into our home here in Historic Northeast, we noticed there were some healthy elderberry bushes growing. A naturalized plant to the area, cultivating an elderberry is as simple as planting it and walking away.

Years ago, we went elderberry hunting with our friends the Friends. I get a giggle every time I say that, but their last name is Friend, and they are our friends, so…

We drove to Bonner Springs and battled monstrous mosquitoes, braved poison ivy, and sweltering August heat as we picked the berries and filled bags and buckets with them. Into the freezer they went, later through the juicer and back into bags as juice to be frozen again.

Right around that time, the Friends brought an elderflower jelly to the kickoff of the Urban Farms Tour here in Kansas City. One taste of that and I was ready to go back to either flower or berry-picking despite the enormous welts from the mosquitoes and the nasty rash of poison ivy I had suffered.

Fast forward five years and we are here, with our own super-healthy elderberry bushes. These suckers would take over the nearly full acre of land we have here, given the chance. And we have done nothing with them except get out of their way and let them grow and expand over the years.

Elderflowers infusing in vodka

Well, to be completely accurate, we have had to dig up some of the plants and relocate them. They are more than happy to spread everywhere!

By late spring, the creamy white flowers appear. They bloom for several weeks and then fall off. A month or two later, the dark, purple-black berries are ready and ripe for picking.

Elderflower syrup currently infusing

The Friends have made some lovely elderberry wine. We used the elderberry pickings we did years back to create elderberry mead. We called it Respect Your Elders and at 13% alcohol, you had better have plenty of respect for it!

Later we just called it our hooch – because boy howdy was it strong!

With all of these elderberries though, we just had to try something new, especially now that the bushes have grown so large.

All of that elderflower picking barely made a dent – I have instructed my darling hubby to please make elderflower wine this weekend!

I’ve also transplanted a fair number of them to the alley side of our back fence for even bigger future harvests. Meanwhile, a large patch of greenery will help deter the young punks from spraying graffiti and gang insignias on our wood fence (one of the cons to living in the city).

The elderflower syrup I am currently infusing is pretty simple. Here are the ingredients and steps…

Elderflower Syrup

  • 15 large clusters (also known as umbles) of elderflowers -stems removed
  • 1 lemon, sliced
  • 35 ounces of sugar
  • 5 cups of water
  • 1/2 tsp citric acid (you can get this in the canning section or on Amazon)

Bring the water, sugar and citric acid to a boil, stirring to incorporate all sugar and not let it burn to the bottom of the pan.

Combine the de-stemmed elderflowers and lemon in a big pot. Pour the boiling sugar/water/citric acid mix over the flowers and lemon and stir until all of the flowers have submerged. Cover and let infuse for 3-4 days, then strain and keep the syrup refrigerated.

I’ve never done this before, but I’m really looking forward to seeing how it tastes and then using some of it to make elderflower jelly. In fact, I might make a second, and even a third batch, so that i have enough syrup to also make elderflower lemonade and elderflower soda.

Later, in August, I plan on collecting elderberries and making an elderberry syrup to fight off colds, along with elderberry jam and other interesting kitchen experimentation. Stay tuned for updates!

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Vacuums That Last

My last post was about my visit to a great bargain store, so in that same vein, I’d like to talk about the best vacuum to buy.

It might not be sexy, but I hope you will listen to me. After all, I run a cleaning business, and I’ve had a lot of experience with vacuums, a LOT of experience.

Also, I am not getting any kind of pay, rebate, or affiliate commission on my recommendation (although I really should be since I’ve been singing on particular company’s praises for YEARS).

Let’s begin by covering what you should expect out of a vacuum, shall we?

  • Versatility – the ability to vacuum all surfaces from rugs, to linoleum, tile and wood without any blowback (nearly impossible to find in an upright without having to fuss with different settings as you move from one surface to the next)
  • Reliability – will it break down easily? Or keep going and going (kind of like the Energizer bunny)
  • Lightweight – when lugging up armfuls of equipment and cleaning supplies, having a vacuum that can be lifted in one hand (along with my steam mop) means making one trip in the front door which increases my efficiency
  • Power – I need something that picks up dirt quickly and easily, without me having to go back over the same areas more than once
  • Long power cord – I don’t want to waste my time trying to find yet another outlet to plug into, I want a nice, long cord that I can plug in and it will handle most floor plans without the need to move to a different outlet
  • Bag, NOT Bagless – Replacing a paper bag has always been easier for me than trying to empty out a bagless vacuum, wash the filter and then wait for it to dry. Perhaps they have improved the bagless vacuums in the past 12 years. I might be behind the times on this particular point.

I don’t need sexy, colorful, streamlined vacuums that have a weird rollerball and claim to turn on a dime. I don’t need a vacuum that weighs 16-19 pounds empty or one that requires me to push buttons or adjust dials or swap out parts when moving from a rug to a hardwood floor.

I also see no need to pay more than $250 for a vacuum. Especially when I can get a workhorse of a vacuum, one that is easily repaired and needs little maintenance to continue to perform.

Every so often, one of my Facebook friends will post, “My vacuum just broke, what kind should I get?”

And I always, always, ALWAYS recommend they visit the ORECK Store on Metcalf and 135th Street and purchase a red commercial grade ORECK vacuum.

About 18 months ago a friend posted asking for recommendations. She ended up getting a Dyson because everyone has heard of Dyson and so of course, it had to be the best. I recently looked up how much those suckers cost, and for the “better” ones, they are close to $500 or more. And surprise, surprise, her Dyson kicked the bucket and now she has to wait weeks to get it serviced by sending it to Dyson for repair.

That is INSANE.

Nearly three years ago, my oldest ORECK upright finally died on me. The motor needed to be replaced and for just $20 above the price of buying a whole new motor, I could get a new vacuum. So I bought a brand-new one. It had a brand-spanking new “endurance extended life belt” on it, and the entire vacuum cost $216.99. I haven’t had to change the belt yet. And on Friday I took it into the store and asked if they could replace a screw that had fallen out on the main stem of the vacuum.

Two minutes later I was walking out of the store, TWO screws replaced after the guy noticed that one of them wasn’t issued by ORECK (my husband had tried to find one that would work) and it was free of charge.

“I have a huge bucket of them in the back, don’t worry about it,” the guy said.

ORECK brand, especially the red boxy commercial line, isn’t sexy. But seriously, sexy doesn’t make a vacuum better, it doesn’t make you look better either, especially when that overpriced, sleek behemoth not only breaks down, but HAS to be sent back to the manufacturer to be fixed. I’d be turning the air blue around me with all the swearing that would happen in the face of that catastrophe. I need my machines to WORK and I have little patience or time for repairs.

I could take my ORECK to any vacuum shop and they would be able to fix it, but it is quite convenient to just drive over to Metcalf.

I just looked up the numbers and, after 13 years in the housecleaning business, I have spent a whopping $168.46 on servicing my ORECK vacuum!

ORECK vacuums have strong motors. They are easily fixed. They weigh just 8 pounds when empty. They have a 35′ long cord, they make the transition from carpet to tile, hardwood or linoleum seamlessly, and they will work hard for you, pretty much forever.

So the next time your vacuum dies. Listen to your favorite writer/housecleaner and go to the ORECK store at 6980 W 135th St, Overland Park, KS 66223. I guarantee you it will be the best vacuum you have ever bought (and with regular upkeep, the last one you will ever need).

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Bargain Hunting in the Kansas City Metro

Several years ago, I discovered the Dented Can Outlet. It was close, on Troost near Linwood, and I scored some amazing deals there. Sadly, they closed, and I’ve been pining for cool food bargains ever since.

Well, I found one, and it is a doozy!

Located in Grandview, right off of the 140th Street exit and Hwy 71 (aka Hwy 49), Discount Groceries & More has plenty of bargains!

Check out my haul, all of this for a total price of just $56.37!

Four bottles of Frozen conditioning shampoo along with four bottles Barbie detangler – all of them were 25 cents each! Also some Boboli pizza sauce for $1.29 (to go with the Boboli pizza crusts I bought last visit for just $1.00 each) and two 79 cent cake mixes

The last time I was at this store was the Friday before Memorial Day. It was a rather eventful visit. The cashier who was checking me out was fine when I started checking out and slowly declined, moving slower and slower and slower.

Granola bars, arborio rice, sausage links, lime curd, and one of the two round lip balms. The lip balms, originally $3.99 were marked down to 50 cents each.

I offered to help her bag and asked if she could hand me more bags. She turned away, bent over against an empty checking station and stopped responding or moving.

I tried to talk to her, walked over and touched her shoulder, and then called for help.

Some snack size bags of TGI Friday’s potato skins (three for $1), two tubs of Bacon Rub (two for $1.00), four more of Peet’s Coffee, Thai Basil stir fry sauce, tartar sauce, flossers, a gourmet mint and dark chocolate bar, some tasty Cocoa Loco bars, and a box of 20 count Old El Paso mini taco boats.

From the looks of it, she probably was hypoglycemic. The manager, another checker, a customer and me got her to sit down on a cart and by the time I was leaving the EMTs and the fire department had pulled up.

The first book was 50 cents, the rest were 50% off of the marked prices which ranged between $1.39 and $2.39. The books are all for Em. The Lightning Thief is in graphic novel form, Em’s favorite way of reading books.

An off-duty policeman had gotten into the fray as well, asking her quite sternly if she had been drinking alcohol. I tried to not glare at him and his lack of helpfulness, she was quite obviously not drunk.

In any case, I asked about her and the checker smiled and told me she was fine and that no one was sure what had happened but it probably was a hypoglycemic attack.

And now my collection of Peet’s coffee in our new freezer is rather daunting…Twelve bags in the freezer and I’ve just started into one of the medium roast bags. The bags in the “expired foods” section are just $3.59 as opposed to being $5.99. Considering the coffee sells for over $8 normally, that’s a steal! At the checkout, the woman in front of me had found several whole bean bags of the Peet’s for just $1.99. I’ll be keeping an eye out for those next time I go!

This is a great store to check out. They have fresh produce, cheeses, and meats. Shoes, toiletries, auto supplies, DVDs, clothing. Not everything is discounted, so price compare, and head towards the expired foods section first. That’s where you will find the best deals!

I brought my own bags. Despite using the plastic grocery bags for diapers as well as at my cleanings, I’m swamped with them lately, so I brought my own and the clerk seemed quite appreciative.

The woman in front of me told us about a $6 per bag thrift store that I will be checking out when I’m down south again in a couple of weeks. I will report back on my findings then!

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A Brick Firepit!

A few weeks ago I headed back to my primary care doc. I have decided to remain without the typical health insurance and simply pay for direct primary care. I like my doctor a lot, she’s young, has a great sense of humor, and is honest and direct. I told her, “I’m still in a lot of pain, and it is really starting to affect my life.”

She ordered some x-rays. And lo and behold, I have degenerative hip disease, accelerated by damage in my early 20s. I did something stupid a quarter of a century ago. I didn’t use a ladder and instead climbed a warehouse rack, then jumped down and damn near broke my  right kneecap on a solid metal cart. It took about a year or more until I could walk right and of course, I didn’t report it, because I knew I wasn’t supposed to climb and I was young, poor and desperate to keep my job.

Osteoarthritis is the official diagnosis and it pretty much means years of pain, that will get worse and worse until it is so damaged that I need a hip replacement.

So I’m back in the weight-loss saddle – less weight means less strain on my joints – and I hope to lose about 25 pounds. It sure would make a difference if I can manage it!

Happy Birthday – Have An Inversion Table

For my birthday, my wonderful husband bought me an inversion table, which helps to decompress the spine and joints and give everything a lovely stretch. It feels wonderful and I use it twice a day for a couple of minutes at a time.

My left hip is out of whack. It’s also the one that shows the most damage on the x-rays. When inverted, I can easily reach the carpet with my fingers of my right hand, but my left hand barely touches the carpet. I’m uneven!

I hope to also stretch my body and become more flexible through yoga.

Why Look, A Brick Firepit!

So, what I DON’T know about laying brick could fill a small book. And when I first started, I just lay them directly on the dirt. As a result, three years after laying a beautiful, winding brick path, this is how it looks today:

I had also tried to outline the crop garden, something we have NOT kept up with for several years and which mainly lies fallow now, except for a couple of fruit trees, gooseberry bushes, and elephant garlic.

As the weeds overtook the bricks, they simply hid them from view, which became a real problem when my husband mows. So I realized I needed to dig up the bricks I had laid down and do a better job of it.

The best job I could do would include a couple of different paving mediums – crushed rock, sand, and the use of heavy equipment to compact the earth. But we have a lot of projects in motion right now, including the new addition of Little Miss, our foster daughter. I can spare a few hours here, and a few hours there. So I did the best that I could do – lay down the black landscape fabric and settle for eclectic, not quite level, but very cool looking firepit surround.

Little Miss was my supervisor as I dug bricks out of the ground

Once I figure out how to move the massive y-shaped stump from the tree we had taken down last year, I’ll expand the circle by another 2-3 feet. I’ll also burn the wood that’s in the pit, let it cool and then dig it out, remove the edge of landscaping stones currently defining the circle and dig down at least two feet to allow for more wood to be placed in the firepit than it currently can hold.

I’m not done yet, but this project is well on its way.

Four bags of paving sand later and it is starting to look better.

And then I’ll also expand (and level) the bricks around the gooseberries and trees and then turn my sights on re-doing the brick path along with widening it another foot.

Gooseberry bushes surrounded by brick. I need to level the bricks out, and expand the surround out more.

Go For Wool Rugs Instead of Those Awful Poly Blends

I just picked up this cute little 4×5 wool rug used for just $40. I was so excited because I think it fits perfectly in my laundry room!

As a housecleaner, I can attest that polyblend carpets are nigh impossible to vacuum. You have to attack them in a certain direction and my ORECK vacuum, with its strong motor and roller brush, is a bear to use when it encounters the “wrong way” of the carpet pile. Wool rugs don’t have this problem, and the nice thick pile is absolutely luxurious to walk on.

Just keep an eye out on Craig’s List and in thrift stores. I found this beauty at Weird Stuff for just $60 last year.

Bohemian or Victorian?

I am lucky enough to visit a variety of homes through my housecleaning business. I see traditional, shabby chic, Victorian, modern, and more in the varying decor styles and really enjoy getting new ideas.

One of my clients has a lovely little Craftsman style home with bright colors, Bohemian/eclectic style choices, and seeing her house has reminded me of the different choices I can have in decorating my own house.

Growing up, my mother made use of lots of antiques, mid-century fabrics, and truly beautiful design choices that were true to a more traditional sort of decorating.

And I followed in her path, telling myself that I didn’t really know how to decorate like my mom did. And honestly? I still don’t.

But lately, the bohemian style of decorating has caught my fancy with its bold designs and bright colors. The eclectic, whimsical style has also made me smile. It’s one of the reasons I made this terrarium here and put in the dinosaur.

Yeah, so that’s a bad picture. I spilled a bit of dirt and it the humidity is also clouding the glass, but hey, you get the idea.

Eclectic, bohemian, and a dash of Victorian antiques thrown in for good measure. Yep, that’s the decorating style I’m aiming for. I’ll call it the “She can’t make up her mind” decor style!

Posted in DIY, Garden Planning, Health, Home Decorating | Comments Off on A Brick Firepit!