Monday, September 27, 2021

A Hitch in My Giddy-Up

Last week, my frugal ways caught up with me.

The weather has been cooler in the mornings, which is fabulous. I love getting up to 50 degrees. I love transitioning from shorts and t's to jeans and long-sleeves. And from sandals to close-toed shoes. Especially shoes I just bought for a whole $5 at a yard sale. A pair of pristine Born casual leather (yes, even though I'm vegan, I do have some clothing pieces that are made of leather) shoes perfect with jeans. 

As I set off for work, I had a spring in my step because of those shoes.

But then, walking across the parking lot at work, something felt off with the left shoe. My initial thought was this must be why they were set out at a yard sale for $5. When I reached the doors, I stopped and picked up my left foot to peer at the bottom of the shoe.

All I could do was laugh. So much for what I remember referring to as "the best buy of the year" when I handed over the $5.

I continued to my office, thinking I could make it through the day with a chunk taken out of my left shoe. But with each step I took, I could feel the soles of both shoes loosening even further. By the time I reached my office, two-thirds of the sole of my right shoe was hanging on by a thread.

I seriously thought about just toughing it out for the day. I found the whole situation hilarious and knew the students would love it, as well. The longer I sat at my desk, though, the more uncomfortable I became with how the shoes felt on my feet. I decided to make a run to the nearest store, which happens to be my favorite store of all time -- Farm and Fleet -- and buy a pair of sneakers. In trying to put together a capsule wardrobe, a pair of sneakers is a go-to and I haven't had a pair for probably two years at least. When I got out of the Jeep to go into the store, the entire sole of my right shoe fell off, so I walked around the store with a hitch in my giddy-up.

In the end, that wonderful $5 find ended up costing me another $70. And time running to the store. But it also gave me a day of laughing I'll not forget for a long time. That, I believe, is priceless.

Wednesday, September 22, 2021

A Tiny Bit of Fall Purging

Last weekend Angel Baby and I went to visit Funny Delightful Son in his new home a state away. We first swung over to his former home and picked up his lovely lady friend so she could ride along with us. Four hours later, we arrived to find Funny Delightful Son standing on the sidewalk outside his apartment, waiting for us, a big grin on his face.

Long story short, we had a fabulous couple of days. Saturday we took a tour of his work campus, which is absolutely incredible. Seriously. If I had a campus like that to go to everyday I would go every single day with a huge smile on my face. The artwork alone throughout the buildings and around the buildings begs for attention. I was constantly walking off to inspect a sculpture or a painting or a mural. There are water features, a variety of landscapes, and seating spaces whispering come over, stay awhile. My favorite spots were the waterfall outside a cafeteria, and the swings on a balcony where one could spend hours enjoying the view overlooking the landscape. The playfulness of the entire campus makes a person truly want to be there.

Sunday we headed home, and on the way Lovely Lady Friend and I talked about ways to reduce and have minimal things in our lives. She brought up a capsule wardrobe, which I've heard of but never really spent much time researching. However, ever since we talked about it I thought maybe this would be something I can try. I have quite a few pieces in my closet that I haven't worn in two years or more, so perhaps it's time for those pieces to go to the thrift store. This morning, as I am wont to do when I have papers screaming at me that I need to grade them, I opened the door to my closet and set to work.

I started with the skirts and slacks. I had ten skirts and eight pair of slacks. I tried everything on to see if they all fit, which they did with a few things just too big now, and then I stood back and decided what to keep and what to put in the bag for the thrift store.

The beginning pile

The ending pile

I settled on two pair of black slacks and the gray trousers, a black skirt, and the khaki skirt (though now that I'm thinking about it, that khaki skirt just might go in the thrift store pile). I thought I was going to stop with this part of my closet, but I ended up going into my shirts and pulling a few of those out, too. Just a couple that I know without a doubt I no longer will wear. Then I opened the drawer with my bras. Several that I never wear/don't want to wear any longer went into the pile. I figured why stop there and went into my shorts/tank tops/casual wear. I pulled out enough of each to open up space in those drawers.

A few more things added

In the end, while I don't have a true capsule wardrobe yet, I do have a start towards creating one. I know without a doubt I have way too many pairs of jeans. And sweaters. Both can be pared down significantly. 

But those can wait for another day.

Saturday, September 11, 2021

Lots of Thinking

Tuesday the temps reached 90. Around 5 pm, I realized I am so over the heat of summer. I'm ready for cooler temps and then the cold that will follow. For one reason. Mosquitoes. They've been just awful all summer long. The boys and I can't step outside the back door without an immediate frontal, side, and rear attack. I'm not exaggerating. It doesn't matter what time of day we try to get out. The mosquitoes are waiting and ready to assault us. I've doused myself in more bug spray the last three months than I have my entire life. The poor doggoes end up with mosquitoes on top of mosquitoes vying for space on their snouts. Taking a walk is miserable for them and me.

For whatever reason, the mosquito problem seems to be relegated to my side of the village. As soon as we get three blocks away, to the east side of the village, the mosquitoes lessen. And two blocks further they all but disappear. There is a creek about a hundred and fifty yards behind the house, which might be part of the problem. There is also just a lot more dense vegetation surrounding my side of the village, creating a shady, moist environment conducive to mosquito habitat. With all the rain we've had the last three months, it's no wonder the mosquitoes set up housekeeping. 

So yeah, bring on the cooler temps. Like this morning. Around 57 degrees. No mosquitoes to bother us on our morning walk. It was glorious.

We are already at the end of week four of the semester. I still haven't unpacked the boxes of books and other stuff in my new office. I'm only on campus twice a week for four hours each day, so I'm simply not spending much time in the office. Not enough to feel compelled to unpack and set up camp. I remember the first time I walked into my old office (wow, this was 21 years ago!), looked around, and was so excited by the prospect of having my own office. I believed that office was proof I had made it. Now? I have a beautiful office with a view of the quad, but I'd much rather be at home, teaching online. The pandemic showed me home is where I want to be.

I've been thinking a lot lately about retirement. I know I have at least five more years ahead of me. Maybe seven. My goal when I bought the house was to have it paid off as quickly as possible. I have a 15 year loan, now down to 14 years and eight months. This past year I was going to add enough to each monthly payment to be done in ten years, but I ended up giving that extra money to one of the kids to help with school. I'd rather the kids borrow from me than take out school loans with interest rates that should be considered criminal. I can still make my ten-year goal if I buckle down, which I can do now that all the big projects with the house are completed. If I really, really buckle down, I might be able to pull off paying the mortgage back in five years. I guess it all depends on if I truly do want to retire then. I'm thinking I do. I'm just not finding the joy in teaching the way I used to.

All the joy in my life is right here at home. 

Friday, September 3, 2021

The Beautiful Zinnia . . . And This and That

Next to the peony, the zinnia is my favorite flower. There's just something about zinnias.

Perhaps it is their vibrant colors.

Or maybe it's the subtle nature of their existence.

Whatever it is, they've captured my heart and make me smile every single time I seem them when I pull into the driveway, return from a walk with the boys, or am outside working around the house. My vision for next summer is to have several zinnia gardens around the house. Just thinking about it gets me so excited for what's possible next summer.

It does seem fall is just around the corner. While the temps last week were nearly unbearable, 92 with a real feel of 110 several days in a row, this week has been on the cooler side with the evenings and overnight temps dipping into the 60s and even the 50s. Our morning walks have me in jeans and a new favorite flannel shirt I found at the thrift store. Switching over from shorts and sleeveless shirts to jeans and long-sleeved shirts is always one of my favorite moments.

I have a roomie these days. Angel Baby. He received a notice from the property management company of the building in which he rented his apartment that his rent was going to be raised $70 a month. His apartment was, frankly, a shithole. Seriously. It was completely and utterly nasty. Not because of anything Angel Baby had done to it, but because it was awful when he moved in. The kitchen linoleum was old and scuff marked to the point of no return. The living room carpet was torn and had what appeared to be cigarette burns all over it. And it was just plain dirty. The whole apartment was gross, but I didn't want to rain on Angel Baby's parade and tell him this when he moved there. This was his first foray into applying for an apartment and paying rent, and I knew I had to let him go.

He did a great job through all of 2020 and 2021. He paid his rent on time. He paid his utilities on time. He dealt with a mouse infestation through the winter. He figured out how to manage the ant infestation through the summer. He grew up a lot. Then they threw the rent increase at him for what is really a nasty, filthy, gross apartment. He said no, and after trying to find another place only to be smacked by overinflated prices on rentals, he asked if he could move out here for awhile. Between the two of us, we got him moved quickly.

Today he prepared a wonderful lunch for me. We sat and laughed over silly YouTube videos as we ate. We talked about his work, my work, and lots of other things. 

It is so incredibly nice to have him back.

Monday, August 23, 2021

New Furnace Mission Accomplished!

The new furnace is in and so far so good. The only hiccup in the process was buying the wrong size plenum and having to buy the right size, which meant a delay of three days' work while waiting for the correct plenum to arrive.

This is the old furnace. I tried finding out what year this is from, but so far no luck. The closest I came was one that looked similar, and it was from the 1960s. When we took this apart, this was the inside:

This thing was so interesting. It was basically a drum where the air heated up then was sent through the ducts. At least that's how I understood it. The flame to heat this was huge, as was just the pilot. 

Now I have this:

Quite the difference in size, and no more power box with an old-school fuse running the fan. The electrical is up-to-date, and the old gas line is out, replaced by new gas-flex tubing. It is so quiet when the air conditioner comes on that I have to actually go to the vents to see if it's really on. 

I didn't use the air conditioner much during the summer because there was an issue with the thermostat. Ever since the gas leak last November and the on/off/pilot component being replaced in the old furnace, the air conditioner wouldn't get to the set temperature and would just run and run. I only used it for an hour or two before bed on the hottest nights. I became very used to the heat and the humidity. This new furnace solved the thermostat problem, thankfully, but now I'm finding I'm actually cold though the setting is at 76 degrees. First world problem, I know. Good grief.

At this point, all the really important updates to the house have been accomplished. The peace of mind I have now regarding the mechanicals, water lines, and electrical is well worth all the time, energy, and money put into making the changes. I'm not sure what to do next. Maybe building the deck off the back of the house. Maybe changing out the garage door. Maybe taking a break.

Wednesday, August 11, 2021

Heading Back to Campus

At least for now. Who knows what will happen a month down the road given the increase of variant cases. I'm hoping for the best but am prepared to end up completely online again. As of now, I'll return to campus on Monday.

And my big summer project is 99.99% done. All that's left is touching up spots here and there. I finished up the basement windows and downspouts today, along with doing what I could with the doors to the basement stairs. They're not exterior doors, and they're warping because they take a lot of the weather since they're west-facing, but I'm going to leave them until next summer. Then I'll replace them with proper exterior doors.

The house last fall.

The house newly painted this summer.

While I'm excited to have finished painting the house, I now have another issue to address: the septic. I was touching up the attic window and heard a motor shut off. I thought it was my neighbor's air conditioner and didn't think too much about it. When I climbed down the ladder and stood next to the septic, I realized it wasn't running. It's an aerobic system, so it runs 20 hours then is off for four hours. Typically it shuts off around 12:30 am. It was 3:25 pm. The light/alarm system didn't come on to indicate a problem, and the system started up again about ten minutes later. It did this several times through the evening. My worst fear is the system fails and I end up with sewage backing up into my bathroom. Yuck! Hopefully it'll not be this drastic.

Growing up, I lived in houses out in the country. We always had a septic tank, and nothing horrible ever happened. The tanks always worked just fine. The type I have, though, is a different kind of septic. It's supposed to break down the waste and send it out into the drainage field where it comes out as potable water. I don't know if this actually happens, but that's what I'm told. I'm not going to test it. I just don't want sewage backing up into my house. That's not asking a lot, is it?

Septic update: since I started writing this a couple of days ago, the septic issue seems to have been resolved. A tech came out, took the lid off, poked around, and basically said, "If it doesn't shut off and stay off you're good." Yeah, they're going to bill me $95 for that. Good grief. So I talked to my husband about it, and we went to work researching the issue online. We found one post about the same kind of septic system doing this same thing. Turns out air leaks in the lines can cause the system to overheat. The system shuts down to prevent a bigger problem. I got my trusty bottle of soapy water and sprayed the lines. Lo and behold, nearly every connection had nice big bubbles where the air was leaking. The filter, too, was a tea-total mess. I washed the liner, blew out the crud from the filter, tightened down all the line connections, and the septic has been running smoothly every since. My hope is it continues to be okay.

Anyways . . . 

I am now nearly a year into being a completely whole foods plant based vegan. The last weigh-in had me down 17 pounds. The weight loss has been fairly consistent at a half pound a week. I did go several weeks without any loss, but I didn't gain either. All of my clothes are now a bit big on me. I definitely have to wear a belt with my jeans or they will sag. One pair of shorts will actually just fall to the floor. For so long I wondered what it would be like to be thin. I've always felt like there was a thinner person inside me just waiting to be let out. I've finally allowed her out. And it happened without any gimmick, any fad diet, any hours-long working out. It was all because I finally gave up the meat, the dairy, the eggs, and the processed foods. I've not missed any of these foods, well, except maybe a good pepperoni pizza. I do love a greasy pepperoni pizza. But I don't love it enough to eat it anymore. Not when I know what the ingredients do to my insides. I love my insides more.

This week I'm prepping classes for fall. In all honesty, I'm dragging my feet. I sat down to work this morning but ended up going outside to mow. Yes, I'd rather mow when it's 91 degrees with the feels like at 110 degrees. The humidity is 72%, and by the time I was done, I could wring the sweat out of my shirt and my shorts. But the mowing is done, as is the weed-eating. And I absolutely love my mower. I bought a battery powered, self-propelled mower. It's quiet, it does a great job, and I don't have to run to the gas station to get gas. Today I put the bag on to capture the grass cuttings for my compost bin. Worked like a charm!

Another recent purchase I should have made a long time ago is a Dyson v8Animal vacuum. I finally said enough and plunked the money down for a great sweeper. And it really is as good as they claim. I actually enjoy sweeping my little house now. So easy and quick.

Tomorrow my new furnace will arrive. It's the last thing on the list of must-do before winter. The old furnace . . . well, let's just say I learned a crucial piece that took the emissions up and out of the house was missing. All the emissions were actually being spewed into my basement. Lots of carbon monoxide. I'm lucky the dogs and I are alive. I couldn't believe it when I was shown the situation. I'm really excited to put in the new furnace and find out what a difference it will make on my gas bill during the winter. 

The old furnace front.

The old furnace side.

After removing the stack, we found the elbow
missing. All the furnace emissions were just
going out into the basement rather than up
 and out of the house.