Snapshots from Eldredge

The life and writings of TJ Alexian


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From Drab to Fab: Partners complete

   Partners 1Partners 2

After four months, the partner’s desk project is finally complete. Corb’s weekend in his pseudo-meth lab really paid off.

The first photo shows what the desk looked like when we initially purchased it. We found the desk in the basement of an antique shop, gathering dust and unassembled. It’s circa 1890 (although I am singularly unreliable when it comes to dates, and I am certain that Corb will correct me on that when he reads this) and came from the Point Judith Inn, located in Narragansett, Rhode Island. According to the grizzled owner of the thrift shop, he was friends/neighbors with the then-owner, whose husband was battling cancer, forcing her to sell the place. That’s how the desk came into his possession, and how it sat in his basement for about a year.

I don’t know what we saw in it, frankly. In looking at the photo now, it looks awfully scuffed up. Corb was the one who saw some potential first, of course. For me, it was the back story that interested me. I’m a sucker for back stories. I mean, who knows if it’s even true? It doesn’t really matter, it just gives me something to talk about, you know?

But the point is, he saw potential. And for the first few months, it just sat in our kitchen as is, while the wheels in Corb’s fertile little mind starting spinning. Then he started making some calls, to see what some local carpenters would charge to fix it up. Then he didn’t like the quotes that he received. Then he decided he could do the job himself. Then he freaked out, wondering whether he actually had the vision and skills to get the job done. And in the past month, he finally realized that he did–and he could.

To make it a proper kitchen island, he built two small platforms on the bottom, to raise each desk up a few inches. Next, he sanded and stained the tabletop, which is truly my favorite part of the project. After that, we took one of the paint buckets that the previous owners had thoughtfully left us in the basement, to match the color of the desk to the cabinets in the kitchen. Then came the hard part: sanding and painting the desk itself. Would it look okay? A few people were kind of shocked that he was painting over the wood. But after even just the first coat of primer, both of us knew it was going to look terrific.

And there you have it! This month’s episode of “From Drab to Fab” (a title Corb HATES, by the way. He much prefers, “From Old to Bold.” He thinks the former title sounds a little gay.)

Note: I have forbidden Corb from embarking upon any more home improvement projects for at least one whole week. Next Saturday, we are all gathering for my parents’ fiftieth wedding anniversary, which will begin with a small reception at the house. And if you don’t think that’s causing us stress… 


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From Drab to Fab: Progress with the Partners

meth lab

Don’t you just love this photo? Corb took it this morning.

Corb is on the final stages of finishing off the partners desk project. He’s sanded and primed the desks and drawers, and now he’s in the process of putting the final coats of paint on everything, which is why he’s sealed off our porch, so that the paint doesn’t fly everywhere (and stain the porch, which…well..the first coats of paint may have done..)

Theo says it looks like we have a meth lab in our house. He’s been watching too much Breaking Bad.


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Mean?

kyra2

“Is that a mean dog? That look likes a mean dog.”

Um. Say what?

Okay, I grant you, the lady at the cash register in the drive-through I was at appeared to be a nervous sort. She looked like somebody’s spinster aunt from an old black and white movie; kind of tentative, with large animated hands she was constantly clasping, and an awkward smile that suggested she didn’t get out much. Maybe she had been bitten by a dog at one point.

Even so. My Kyra, looking like a mean dog?

I honestly had not heard that before! And my habit has been to take Kyra with me wherever I go. Usually, people love Kyra, and go on and on about how pretty she is, want to pet her, want to offer her treats (P.S.: she’s a dog, she loves treats).

“Mean? No, not really.”

It must have been clear from my tone I was displeased with the question. Look, I don’t hide my feelings well. I never have been able to. The awkward lady must have sensed that, because as she handed me back my credit card she said, “Oh, look! She’s wagging her tail. She’s not a mean dog at all.”

“No. No, she’s not a mean dog.” With icicles in my voice, I moved drove away.

So we’ve had Kyra for about four months now, and I have to say, I think she’s wonderful. No, really. I am just crazy about this dog. I love her brown eyes and her floppy cock-eyed ears. She’s the most patient, loving pup there is. Never pees or poos in the house. Goes into her crate at around nine, practically without being asked. Follows me around everywhere. And at around six, as we start eating, she is right there on the couch in her special place, ready to watch TV with us and keep us company.

She’s also pretty damn smart, too. She’s learned to sit and stay and fetch, already, and the only one she’s having trouble with is giving us her paw. She’s great off her leash, too, and hasn’t once tried to run away from us. She simply sniffs around and wanders nearby, and when we call her, comes running back.

The only thing I’ve noticed is a bit of timidity around certain strangers, mostly teenage boys. I think that’s understandable, though, given her circumstances. She is a rescue dog, after all, and did see her brothers and sisters get killed by a group of teenage boys in Memphis who thought it would be fun to jump on top of a bunch of puppies and squish the life out of them. I think given that, I’d be a little nervous around boys, too.

Plus, she’s an awfully good snuggler. She just looks up at you with those brown eyes of hers and licks you like crazy.

I guess there dog people and cat people and when you get right down to it, I’m a dog person. Corb says I don’t have as deep a connection to our cats, and maybe he’s right. I mean, I like them a lot, but there’s just something about a dog. Loyalty. Unconditional love. If only she could clean her room, I might even consider replacing her for my kids.

So, mean dog? Not on your life, lady. There aint no mean dog here. Nothing but love!


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Valley of the Dolls

creepy doll

I was held captive last week by the story of the story of “the gated California community, where porcelain dolls were being left on the doorsteps of girls they hold an eerie resemblance to.” (Source: ABC News, including the alleged grammatical faux pas of ending in a preposition. Personally, I’m not a big stickler about that, although I probably would have reworked this sentence to read “to whom they bear an eerie resemblance.” But that’s just me.)

It has the makings of a great suspense novel, doesn’t it? Something out of “Where are the Children?” Rich people in a gated community, good clean decent people living the American dream. Loveable little ten year old moppets. An evil psychopath, watching, scheming. One by one, leaving creepy porcelain dolls on the front doorstep of his potential victims. The terror mounts. What do they mean? What will happen next?

I’m almost betting someone is writing the story right now.

Turns out the truth is a bit less sinister. The culprit? Not a sinister child abductor, but a little old lady with a huge porcelain doll collection, approaching the twilight of her life and looking to find a nice place for the babies she loves. I think it’s kind of sweet, and also sad that we immediately thought the worst of the situation.

I blame Stephen King, personally.

Of course, perhaps it would have been wise to leave a note or at least talk to the parents, first. But then of course, that’s forgetting the fact that we are talking about a LITLE OLD LADY. In her mind, the anonymity, being a mysterious kindly benefactor, is probably part of the fun.

Oh, and by the way: I do find porcelain dolls creepy. Josie has one in a stroller at her house, an antique that was a gift from her mother. It’s terrifying. I don’t think I could sleep in that place any more, knowing it’s there and has the potential to terrorize me.

But aside from that, what kind of world do we live in where we automatically go to the sinister? That the media is right away contacted, that they of course see the news potential in the story, that they make a big deal out of it and fearmonger about it and it becomes national news? Think about it: this is mundane stuff. This should not be national news. This should be the stuff that small towns are made of. But we are so accustomed to the sinister potential in a plotline like that that we fail to look at the reality, focus only on the fiction. This is truly a “Culture of Fear” kind of situation. Our precious babies, terrorized by porcelain babies! Won’t somebody think of the children?

I mentioned to Corb that it would make for a great story, and of course, he did me one better, genius that he is. “You should flip it around,” he said. “Make it so that someone is dropping off ten year old little girls at the doorstep of doll collectors that look just like their dolls. Hello, here’s a little girl! See how they deal with that.”

I tell you, that guy should a writer. That idea is almost as good as our idea for a remake of Little Women, only featuring a cast consisting entirely of tiny female midgits. Can’t you just see it?

Oh, I just read that the little old lady has been identified and she says she is “embarrassed” by the whole incident. What is there to be embarrassed about? She was trying to do a nice thing! And even though it’s been proven to be completely innocent, the story is still told in as “creepy” a way as possible, to set the fear factor on eleven. I tell you, we live in a sad, sad society. Enjoy your twilight years, lady…and keep your creepy Chucky dolls to yourself!


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From Drab to Fab: Progress with the Partners

partners

Back in April, Corb and I purchased a 1800s-era partners desk from an old inn for our kitchen. The idea was that we (and by that I mean mostly: Corb) would refurbish it and make it into a kitchen island. It was a brilliant idea, and I can honestly take very little of the credit (although I did push Corb to act on his idea and fund it!)

Since then, it’s been at our house, but hasn’t been much of an island. In fact, for about a month, it has been sitting on our front porch, disassembled, which Corb decided what he wanted to do.

I’m not complaining, especially because I know what he was going through. After buying it, he suffered a crisis of “how am I going to get this done?” In fact, he actually gave up on building the platforms necessary to raise it up and started calling around to see if he could find a carpenter to get the job done.

One guy was all enthusiastic about the project, saying it was just the kind of thing that he wanted to do, that he was new to the area and wanted to establish himself, that he just liked the piece and its history and would only charge a small fee, yada yada yada. He took about a week to get back to us after the initial enthusiastic call and even then, had his assistant call back with the quote: $500 for labor at least plus materials. That’s not huge, but hardly a small fee.

The other guy in the area we went to only wanted to charge $250, but he’s been completely half-ass about the whole thing. It took Corb forever to get that quote. He had to keep calling and nagging. And then, when he finally got it, the guy promised him he would be able to do it right away because he had cleared off all his other jobs and arranged to pick it up at the house. I agreed to work out of the home that day so he could pick it up. End result: he never showed and never called back. We decided not to chase him.

Finally, this past week-end, Corb decided to bite the bullet and do it himself. He was extremely worried it was going to turn out looking amateurish. So, he took Friday off from work, did a ton of research, and devoted the next three days to the project. The result: it still needs sanding and painting and trimming, but I think he did a great job and the base is built! And that was the hardest part.

I am loving these improvement projects, I must be honest. It will be great to have this one done: my parents’ fiftieth wedding anniversary is coming up and they’ve asked us to hold a small reception at the house before we go out for dinner. Of course, the thought is giving Corb no end of grief, but I think we will be just fine!


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Diary of a Rogue Wasp Warrior

wasp

You can’t really see it, but it’s there. Second window to the right, in the upper left hand corner.

We noticed it about a week ago. It was about the size of a baby’s fist at the time. A wasp’s nest, attached to the outside of one of our front windows. Since then, it’s grown. Now it’s about the size of a baseball.

Shudder. Wasps. How I hate them! But then, I hate anything with a stinger (unless it has vodka in it. God bless you, Elaine Stritch). And Corb, he not only hates them, but he’s deathly allergic to them. Turns out he stepped on a bee’s nest not once but twice when he was a kid and his doctor has repeatedly warned him that if he gets stung again, he could go into anaphylactic shock. Or at least, that’s what I’ve been told.

That meant dealing with the wasp’s nest was up to me.

Not that Corb hasn’t given me helpful suggestions. Case in point: he wants me to dress up in a giant bee costume. “Then go over to the hive and pretend to be a friend. Tell them they have to see the really cool beehive in the backyard. Then when they are out, whack the hive down with a baseball bat! They won’t know what to do.”

Thanks, Corb. wasp 2

Surprisingly, it actually wasn’t the worst piece of advice we received. It’s kind of like the deer infestation thing, where people told us to sprinkle all sorts of crazy stuff around the plants, like human hair and dead deer blood, to keep Bambi away.

Jim, who is the boyfriend of Corb’s mom, was the worst. I was surprised, because he is a bit of an expert on everything. He’s about ninety years old, loves to travel. Will eat just about anything. I honestly thought he’d be able to help with this. But, no. His “guidance”: “Take a putty knife, see, and scrape the nest off quickly. Then make sure you have a big paper bag that it can fall into. Close the bag once the nest is in, really quickly. And then, you have to get rid of the bag, so either throw it in the woods or set it on fire.”

That’s the last time I listen to a world traveler who will eat just about anything. Let’s go over things I will absolutely never be doing with a live wasp nest, shall we?

  • First, moving close to it armed only with a putty knife.
  • Then, pissing off a bunch of wasps by detaching their home.
  • Next, dumping said home into a paper bag and trying to close it as they rise up, more than a little angry at me. Can you imagine me trying to crinkle that damn thing shut?
  • Then, sprinting into the woods to set the bag on fire. Screaming all the way.

I swear I’d burn the fucking forest down. And, I’m too much of a wimp. I cringe when my avatar gets stung by a bee in Animal Crossing. Bottom line: I’m not sure what Bizzarro universe this plan of attack is ever going to happen in.

“Just get an exterminator,” was Corb’s other suggestion. But no, I don’t see the need for that. This is something we should be able to handle on our own. We are big boys, now. We don’t need to throw money at everything.

So, it’s up to me. Sigh. I spent the whole day thinking about how to kill the bastards. What I needed to do. I carefully considered all the possible pitfalls. Ted against the wasps. Major stingage. Hundreds of insane insects converging down upon me, or finding a way into the kitchen, where they would pull an occupy Wall Street. Missing limbs. Carnage.

In the middle of a movie last night, I made a sudden whimpering noise.

“Are you scared?” Theo asked.

“No,” I replied. “Just thinking about the wasps.” He looked away.

And then, at ten at night, under cover of darkness, when all the wasps were sound asleep and dreaming of world domination. I sprang into action. I had Corb stand in the kitchen with a lantern, placed right near the wasp nest. Then I ran outside with Theo. Moved a few dozen feet away from the nest, can of wasp poison in hand. Then, I sprayed like crazy. Emptied out the whole bottle. And then, I ran like hell.

End result: the wasp nest is quiet today. I spy a few dead wasps on the bottom of the window sill. Mission accomplished?

Only time will tell.


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Wish you were here

A week vacation? How nice, don’t mind if I do.

It’s been a strange week, though. Now that the kids are growing older and we have this big old place called Green Victoria. Used to be that we didn’t have enough room for anything, so we’d have to pack up our bags and actually go somewhere. Plus, we wanted to go somewhere…anywhere…we were so sick and tired of the same four walls containing us.

This year is different. I am still trying to get used it.

Theo, for one thing, has been practically non-existent. He’s too busy hanging out with his friends and working. He’s gone on exactly one day trip with us this week, to Canobie Lake. And even then? He brought a girl with him. A GIRL, of all things! And they spent the entire time walking around and doing rides on their own. We ate supper with them. That was it.

Annie’s been to more things than Theo, in some ways, even with a new job and a two year old. Or at least, she’s been more physically present. But of course, that’s different, too. Her focus is on a two year old that is just waking up to the world and what it has to offer, and is keeping busy getting into this and that and this.

Ashes is of course there. She likes being with us, but also, I think she wants to cling to being a kid for as long as she can. And of course, that’s not good. One of the biggest things I am grappling with this year is trying to find the right ways to properly equip her for what it means to be an adult and be responsible and be on her own. I haven’t entirely been successful. It concerns me a great deal. It frustrates Corb to no end. And I think it’s bewildering for her, too: there’s the world, it’s spinning so fast. How do I hang on for the ride?

And speaking of rides, this week has gone by far too fast. Can’t someone slow it down just a little please? I am not ready for it being even close to Monday yet. I need one more week before that happens.


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From drab to fab (Part Two)

drab one

With a week’s vacation ahead of us and the power washing and weeding out of the way, Corb was determined to finish up the patio project with the time we had. His fertile little brain was awash with ideas: from citronella candles to keep the bugs away made out of wine bottles, to a chiminea that can keep us warm (and keep the bug away) on cold fall evenings, to a decent deck set that could add a little color to the space.

And he was frugal, too. The umbrella we secured for free, because his mom had purchased one she didn’t like and dumped it on us about a month ago. We exchanged it and the manager actually allowed us to buy a larger model, so we ended up with a better deal. The chiminea was found on Craigslist for $45, normally a $300 buy. Okay, it kind of looks like a big fiery penis pot, but I think that adds to the charm…although it annoys Corb to no end whenever I refer to it as a “big fiery penis pot.”

The tables and chairs were the biggest pains in the butt. We picked them up at Lowe’s for $500, but at the first store we went, in Attleboro, it took us forever to get someone’s attention. When we did, the lady informed us that they were out of stock and we should buy them off their web site. Didn’t offer to help, just said to go home and order. Wouldn’t she want to help us order and make a sale for the store? Apparently not.

So, we went online that night and ordered. The site said they had one available in Stoughton and that delivery would be free. We purchased it, but the next day we received a call from the store. Turns out only the chairs were available, but they were willing to give us the display model if we wanted to drive down and pick it up, fully assembled. Only problem: we don’t have a truck.

After a bit of bitching and moaning, they were nice and told us we could drive down and use the Hertz truck offered at the store. So, we made the 25 mile hike to Lowe’s at Stoughton to do that. When we arrived there, the employees were really nice (even let us bring Kyra into the store), but the process to rent a truck was awful.

It’s all automated. It sounds simple and modern and elegant: you stand at a kiosk and speak with a dispatcher by webcam and that person rents you the truck. In reality? We waited thirty minutes to speak to a lady who looked as if she was half asleep most of the time. It took her half an hour to put the order through. Meanwhile, we have two guys holding our lawn stuff waiting around next to us. Then, after we get the truck? Corb goes to the truck, tries to start it up, and is told “DENIED.”

Why? Half an hour goes by for us to figure that out. Turns out the store truck is not hooked up to the Hertz satellite, for some reason. We are told we have two options: drive to pick up another truck at another store or cancel the request.

Well, we were a little upset. What had started as a somewhat nice gesture had turned out to be a total waste of three hours.

The manager of the store did come through. Knocked off $50 and promised us the furniture would be delivered the next day. Which it did, in the afternoon. So, by Monday at three, we were hanging out on our patio. Although there are a few more finishing touches to be completed, I think it all looks pretty darn terrific, don’t you think?


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From drab to fab (Part One)

 

One of the things we had committed to this summer (and especially, during our week-long vacation coming in July) was to refurbish certain sections of Green Victoria that needed a little bit of care and attention. I’ve mentioned on many occasions that the guys who owned the place before us did an amazing job of making this place really special, but of course, there are still sections that need a little bit of fixing up.

The back yard needs the most improvement. Corb, who is the master builder, has a lot of ideas for what he wants to do–and some of it is going to take a few years. For one thing, he wants to grade the entire area so that it slopes downward (and doesn’t become a swamp during the start of spring). He also wants to extend the back deck so that we can install a swimming pool and fire pit. And around the swing area, we need to remove an old dead tree that is what is popularly known as a “widow maker.” It has a huge dead branch that extends over the swing set. If that ever feel while Kaeden was playing on it…

But, first for the easier stuff, and that’s why, this week-end, we started on the patio area. It was clearly once really nice–in fact, at one point, the guys had installed a jacuzzi, but while the house was up for sale, the area had fallen into disuse. The stones were covered in moss, and the garden beds had become overgrown with weeds. This week-end, Corb fixed up a power washer that his brother had that was broken (Corb is a handy one, no?) and Sunday morning, bright and early, we got to work.

I did my fair share, but again, I have to give Corb credit for the grunt work. He spent six hours power washing all the stones. It was like watching an archaeological dig, as he used the washer to line by line remove moss and dirt from each stone individually. The whole project (which isn’t completely done yet) went quite smoothly, except for one little rough patch, as we were weeding the flower beds and came across one bit of suspicious wickedness. Hence the following exchange:

CORB: Is it poison ivy?
ME (Still weeding): I don’t know…
CORB: It looks like poison ivy. Three leaves…
ME: Then we should get rid of it.
CORB: So get rid of it.
ME: I don’t want to get rid of it. You get rid of it.
CORB: Does it look shiny? Poison ivy is shiny. Is that shiny?
ME: Deep sigh…

Anyway, turns out it was climbing hydrangea. It is now dead climbing hydrangea. We didn’t figure that out until we had removed it with a steel rake.

Other than that, I am pleased with our progress. We still have some planting to do and have to pick out patio furniture, but I think part one of the “Drab to Fab” project turned out pretty nice!