Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Penguinwoman Heist Successful Because of Good Yellow Cleaning Gloves

Did you ever do something that you knew was wrong before you did it but you did it anyway because you really, really wanted to do it? Of course you have. We all have. I just did it again a minute ago. But in my situation I felt like this particular wrong was only half wrong since there was a lot of right about it too. In fact, I actually think the right outweighs the wrong so I probably did more right than wrong and that's pretty much the best we can strive for in this life, right? In fact I am so convinced of the rightness of my actions that I feel comfortable talking about them on the internet which I probably wouldn't do if I truly felt like I had done something wrong because we tend to hide those things. Then again, I guess this is sort of a confession which I wouldn't feel compelled to do if I didn't think that at least part of what I did was wrong. Right? Damn you Jiminy Cricket!

So what did I do that was so wrong but oh so right? I stole some stuff out of my neighbor's backyard. I illegally entered their yard and took things that didn't belong to me but I feel justified in doing so because the house is an abandoned foreclosure, therefore the items left behind were intentionally discarded. Besides, most people would consider the things I took to be trash. So basically I removed some trash from the yard of an abandoned house. I probably should get a medal and not be arrested at all.

So here's the deal: We have 4 backyard neighbors. Most houses usually have 3 but our neighborhood has a lot of cul de sacs which makes for some odd shaped lots. We have one neighbor on the right who Taylor calls "Floppy". Bless his heart. He's a middle aged guy who mows his lawn with no shirt on and let's just say he's got some city miles on him.

Directly behind us is my neighbor who regularly sweeps his roof with a broom and dust pan. We still haven't quite figured out what that's all about. I've seen his roof from my second story window and it's not all that dirty.

To the left/front of us is the Little Yippers. I don't even know what the people who live there look like but they have 4 or 5 dogs in their backyard who weigh less than 5 pounds a piece and bark non-stop. I mean NON-STOP. One day I sat at a hole in the fence with some doggie treats trying to make friends with the little beasts but they just weren't having it. They snarled and growled and tried to eat my hand, not the least bit interested in the treat I was offering. I love animals but those little ingrates pissed me off so I sprayed them with the hose.

Then there's the left/rear neighbor who I just discovered. That's right. We've been living in this house for over a year and I didn't realize that section of fence didn't belong to the left/front neighbor. I didn't even notice the extra house back there. It's peaceful here in oblivion.

I discovered this fourth neighbor while examining the fence line for a good place to hang our squirrel feeder. I don't spend much time outside in my old age because the sun that used to give me cute freckles across the bridge of my nose now gives me age spots on the tops of my hands. I also don't tolerate the heat very well and I have allergies. And apparently I've taken to complaining a lot in my old age.

The abandoned house has a shed in their backyard next to the fence. One of the fence boards behind the shed was sort of swinging freely so I gently moved it out of the way to get a better look into the yard. I was just curious about this mysterious land I had just discovered.

It was a sad mess back there, typical of most foreclosed properties. The grass was long, dead leaves were piled up everywhere and there was some trash scattered here and there. A couple of the trash items that caught my eye were in the form of empty liquor bottles. I don't really go trolling for empty booze bottles but when I happen upon them I do pick them up because there's all kinds of fun crafty stuff you can do with empty bottles. These bottles weren't full sized but they weren't beer bottles either. They were that in-between size.

I told Jayson what I saw and asked him if he would help me go over there to get the bottles. To my surprise, he refused. He said it was illegal to go into their backyard to take stuff and he wasn't in the mood to get arrested. I told him he didn't have to actually go in, I would do everything if he would just go with me to sort of help with the gate or boost me over the fence or whatever it took. I didn't mention that he could also serve as a lookout but I might have been thinking it even though I was certain that what I was planning to do wasn't completely illegal. Maybe just partially at best. Either way Jayson was unwilling to be an accessory. Party pooper. I had this whole scenario built up in my mind where where I'm dressed in black and I'm all sleek and stealthy just like Catwoman. But in reality I would be more like Penguinwoman, waddling over there and complaining because my shoes hurt my bunions.

I spent a few days stewing about my husband's unwillingness to commit a misdemeanor for me. This morning I happened to be in the backyard and was once again lured to the loose fence board which accidentally fell off when I barely yanked it. The bottles were still there but this time I noticed something that looked like pipe or tubing. I wondered if it might be copper. My conscience was okay with me taking empty liquor bottles since most everyone would agree they were trash. But copper tubing isn't trash, in fact it can be pretty darn expensive. It has value. And I wanted it, not for it's value but because it's something I often use in my crafty projects. Could I steal something of value even if I wasn't stealing it because of its value? That put a whole new twist on my 'I'm really just doing them a favor' notion.

I couldn't tell for sure if it was copper tubing or just some random pipe since most of it was buried under a year's worth of dead leaves. There was only one way to find out: I was going in. It was broad daylight and the Little Yippers were barking their fool heads off so it wasn't like I was skulking around trying not to get caught. I was going to commit my crime in full view of anyone who happened to be around at the time just to prove that I wasn't ashamed of what I was doing. However, I wasn't unashamed enough to go around to the front of the house and through the gate. Instead I actually pulled a section of the fence off the post and made a giant swinging door between our two yards. It was easy to do since the nails were rusty. And I had a hammer.

I waded through the overgrowth in the yard thinking that if God wanted to punish me for what I was doing I would get poison ivy at any moment. I'm a magnet for the stuff anyway and would definitely deserve it if I ended up stealing copper tubing. ABANDONED copper tubing. Just so we're clear.

I went for the empty bottles first since they are what started all of this. They were the pint size bottles of green apple Smirnoff Ice. I gathered them up and brought them into the house to soak for a while. And in case you're concerned I did wear rubber gloves but not the wimpy little gloves like doctors wear. I wore the good ones, the big honkin' yellow anti-hepatitis cleaning gloves. The kind you wear if you ever have to clean someone else's toilet.

After I started soaking the bottles I went back to investigate the pipe or tubing I saw. It was not copper tubing, it was several long decorative curtain rods which allowed to me squish Jiminy Cricket under the heel of my bunion-irritating shoe. Some of the rods were actually half buried in the dirt so I had to excavate them before bringing them into our yard. They're not anything special but they're nice and long and if I can get them cleaned off they might be useful. I don't think they have any kind of real value since they're old, dirty, rusty, discarded, and the finial on one of them has deep dents and gouges in it as if it had been used to beat something. Definitely not 'someone' but 'something'. I have no idea what kind of thing would need to be beaten with a curtain rod but I'm sure whatever it is it had it coming.

Now I have to tell Jayson that I took the fence apart to get into the neighbor's yard to steal their empty liquor bottles and possibly a deadly curtain rod finial but he won't even have to come up with bail money because I wore the good yellow cleaning gloves. Oddly enough it won't be the first time he's heard something very similar to that.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

House Birds, Puncture Wounds, and Defective Trees

The yard guys came this afternoon and for the 3rd week in a row I watched them blow the dead twigs into a corner in the backyard and leave them there. When Oscar came to the door for his money I took him into the backyard and told him that I watch his guys through the window every week and I've seen them blow the twigs into the corner and walk away. I asked him to please see that they are picked up and he was enthusiastically agreeable. At least I think he was, we have that language barrier thing going on.

Satisfied that I had handled the situation with a good balance of firmness and kindness, I came back inside, sat down at my computer desk in the kitchen and ate a piece of cold pizza from yesterday. Jayson was watching TV with his deaf guy earphones on and Taylor was at the barn so the house was peacefully quiet.

I heard a noise coming from the direction of the front door but I ignored it since it's been lightly raining off and on today and the wind picks up sometimes. About a minute later a bird whizzed past my head and went through the kitchen into the dining room, then the living room, the foyer and around again. It wasn't until after the second round that I finally got Jayson's attention. Mr. Bird landed on the clock over the TV and sat there for a few minutes to catch his breath. Mr. and Mrs. Green just stared at him in disbelief. Apparently I neglected to close the door all the way when I went out there to talk to Oscar.

When Mr. Bird took off again Jayson grabbed a blanket off the couch and told me to get another one so we could corral him toward the front door. We held our blankets high and accidentally corralled Mr. Bird straight up the stairs. He took a short tour of each room with Jayson slamming doors behind him. When he got back to the foyer, which is open to both the first and second floors, Mr. Bird flew into the big foyer window, knocked himself silly and fell to the floor at my feet.

Jayson screamed, "THROW THE BLANKET ON HIM!!!"

I replied, "I don't want to hurt him!" I could just see me breaking his little wing then spending $500 at the vet to fix him then accidentally domesticating him too much so that by the time he healed he would no longer be able to survive in the wild. Then I would give him his own room in the house and spend the next 6 years of my life catering to his every whim. Yeah, okay, that's happened before but it wasn't a bird it was a squirrel. And it wasn't a broken wing it was a toe that had to be amputated.

In the time it took for me to have that flashback, Mr. Bird came to his senses and took off for another tour of the house. When he got back to the foyer he hit the window again then flew into the living room and dropped back behind our 3-piece Billy bookcase corner unit. Unless he could go instantly vertical, Mr. Bird was stuck.

This gave us some time to do a little planning and prepping. I tacked some sheets over both doorways to the kitchen and family room which meant that Mr. Bird would be confined to the living/dining room and foyer. Well, and the whole upstairs since we couldn't exactly block that off.

Jayson had to take all of the books and knick knacks off of one of the shelving units to move it out of the way so we could get behind the corner unit. He told me to stand on the staircase and wave my blanket so Mr. Bird wouldn't go upstairs. I did as instructed while Jayson reached into the corner with a broom handle, scooting Mr. Bird out of his temporary confinement so he could take off and do a few more laps around the living room.

Jayson used his scary blanket to get Mr. Bird into the foyer but I don't think my blanket was scary enough because he flew right over me and headed upstairs again. Jayson had closed all the doors so when he saw he couldn't go very far up there he flew back into the foyer window and hit the floor again.

This time he must have seen the open door on his way down because he quickly regrouped and flew out the door. Jayson and I bumped fists and added Mr. Bird to the list of wild animals that have had to be extracted from the Green house.

I finished my pizza while Jayson finished putting together the stand I bought for the squirrel feeder I built. We just couldn't come up with a good hanging/mounting solution for it so I picked up a cedar mailbox post while I was at Ace Hardware getting my free paint this morning. It looks just like this only without the mailbox:

Jayson got it put together then wanted to put the squirrel feeder on top to make sure it would be secure. He drilled 2 holes and was about to drill more when I asked him if he really needed to do that in the family room. He thought he could probably finish it in the garage so he gathered up his handful of screws and bits and stuff and headed out the door.

A couple of seconds later he came back in and held up one foot that was bleeding pretty good from a puncture wound on the bottom. We managed to get it bandaged up without anyone (me) losing consciousness. I asked him what he stepped on and he said a drill bit. When he was carrying everything into the garage he dropped a drill bit then promptly stepped on it. That's my man!

I had hoped to be sharing a picture of the squirrel feeder on its new stand but that will have to wait just a little while longer. It's really a shame, too, because I made sort of a covered patio on the feeder with columns and everything. It's a colonial squirrel feeder.

Once Jayson was satisfied that the feeder and stand would work together, he took the feeder off and went outside to find a good spot for the stand. Taylor was home so she went out to help him. I heard a hammering noise, which I thought was a good sign, then a lot of laughter from Taylor, which I thought might not be such a good sign.

When they came inside Jayson asked if I still had the receipt for the stand. I wasn't sure what happened but Taylor was still giggling and muttering something about how Daddy broke it. I couldn't imagine how that could happen since the thing was made from solid cedar. I asked Jayson what happened and he said a piece fell off, and handed me this:

Taylor said he was hammering the top of the post into the ground (it has a metal stake attached to the bottom) and a random piece just fell off for no reason. It wasn't even near any of the places he had screwed into. That wood obviously came from a defective tree.

I will be making another trip to Ace tomorrow to return the mailbox/squirrel feeder stand and try to come up with a Plan B that won't fall apart, cause unnecessary blood loss, or be thwarted by wild animals in the house.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Homemade Chalk Paint On A Bamboo Chair

I've been painting this old bamboo chair for the past couple of days and I think I can now call it done.

I had intended to use up 2 cans of Ballet Slipper Pink spray paint that have been in my garage for quite some time. They must have been out there longer than I thought because apparently both cans have gone over to the dark side. Of course, I didn't realize this until I sprayed them onto the chair where they sputtered, spit and spewed all over the place. You know how you think that if you just shake the can and keep on spraying it will get better? Yeah, 2 cans later it never got any better.

I had hoped to avoid having to brush paint the chair since it would be a pain with all the little nooks and crannies that the bamboo creates. But since I pretty much ruined it with bad spray paint I was left without a choice. Good spray paint wouldn't hide all the drips and blobs but good chalk paint would if it was extra thick.

I can buy the uber chic and expensive Annie Sloan paint here locally but at almost $40 a quart I'd be a fool to do so when I can make it myself. I can't remember where I saw this recipe (Pinterest probably) but I've tried it and it works great. I've painted several small pieces of furniture with it and I'm really happy with the results. Here's the recipe:

Dissolve plaster of paris in an equal amount of hot water.
Mix with 3 times as much paint.
The end.

How simple is that?!  The great thing about chalk paint is that you don't have to sand or prime the surface. I recently painted this metal cart with homemade chalk paint without prepping the surface in any way. I can scratch the chalk paint with my fingernail and it won't come off...of slippery shiny METAL!

After the paint is applied I usually top it off with a furniture wax or paste. Annie Sloan sells her own but so does Minwax and Johnson's and I've just ordered some all natural beeswax furniture polish from Daddy Van's. I'm excited to try it because it doesn't have any solvents in it so I can use it to fix up my beat up old cutting boards.

Okay back to the chair. I didn't take a picture of the spray paint disaster because I was so focused on fixing it that I forgot. I mixed up some pale pink chalk paint and ended up with this:

It wasn't bad, just a little boring. So I mixed up a watery brown glaze and ended up with this:

Much better. Now we have some character going on. But I wanted it to look shabby and worn, not disgustingly filthy. I dry-brushed some pink back into it to tone down the brown and here's how it ended up:

I just love it! Yeah okay I spent way too much time on it but I never know what I'm doing so I have to figure it out as I go. That learning curve adds a lot of time onto a project.

Can you see the soft sheen on the chair? I didn't use any kind of sealer or clear coat, that's from the finishing wax I used. All the paint was flat and adding plaster of paris to it gives it an even more chalky finish. Waxing it at the end gives it a soft luster and protects the finish as well. 

I'm not a very good photographer and my phone isn't a very good camera so the details might be hard to see. Here's a close up:

It looks great with my desk and the lamp I fixed up just recently. I picked up that quilted pillow top at a thrift store for $1. I should say that this is not the desk I actually sit at to pay bills and stuff. That desk is a built-in thing in the kitchen. This desk stores our household files and office supplies. Underneath you can see the shredder and our grab-and-go hurricane box that has all our important papers in it: tax returns, birth certificates, insurance policies, passports, etc. Jayson prefers to evacuate for a hurricane but I prefer to ride it out so guess which one we do? Yeah buddy, we ride them out. I am willing to evacuate but I trust my instincts to tell me when that's necessary and they haven't done it yet. So far they've been right.

Tomorrow morning I'm heading straight for my local Ace Hardware to redeem the coupon I printed from their Facebook page. If you "like" their Facebook page you will get a prompt to print out a coupon for a totally free quart of paint. Do you realize what that means? I can get a free quart of paint in any color I choose!! That excites me because the only paint I ever buy is what I can find on the oops racks at Lowe's or Home Depot. The upside is that I can get an entire gallon of paint for $5. The downside is that I'm stuck with whatever color happens to be there. I always find good colors that I can use but still it would be nice to choose my own without having to pay full price.

I will probably be so overwhelmed by the color choices that I end up with white.  

I Wish I Was in Banff

Jayson is in Calgary on business this week and he texted me the other day to let me know they had a free day and spent it in Banff. I might be slightly extremely jealous. Banff is one of the most beautiful places on earth...and I've been to a lot of beautiful places.

Even if you've never heard of Banff you've probably seen pictures of the area without realizing it. Here are a few:
The Canadian Rockies.
The Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel from Surprise Corner on Thunder Mountain Road.
The turquoise waters of Lake Louise and the impressive Fairmont Chateau.
The Sulphur Mountain Gondola.
The Hoodoos.
You can always find wildlife on the Bow Valley Parkway.
Cascade Gardens
Jayson then bragged about how he had an elk, spinach, garlic and tomato pizza at the Elk and Oarsman. I wasn't exactly jealous about that.

Besides I'm having my own fun today by painting an old chair in 90 degree heat with a heat index of 172. When I came inside for more water Taylor said I was sweating in unsightly places. I told her I would try to sweat in a more pleasing pattern from now on.

My little squirrel friends were scampering around the yard while I painted. They're getting more and more brave and not running up the tree when we come outside now. They know we are the bringers of the nuts. I practically felt like Snow White surrounded by all the forest animals and halfway expected a bird to land on my shoulder. I guess it's a good thing it didn't since I probably would have panicked and accidentally killed it with flailing arms. 

The chair I'm working on is bamboo and has held up surprisingly well over the years. It belonged to my grandmother and I think she probably bought it sometime in the 70s. I use it as my desk chair which makes that whole corner of the living room way too brown. I have no intention of painting the desk since I love it just the way it is. But the chair could use a facelift.

I'll post pictures when I finish it or get bored with it, whichever comes first.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

From Squirrel Feeders to Disintegration Bundles

I just love the internet. Sure there's some bad stuff out there that you should avoid and some people should probably steer clear of it completely but for information junkies such as myself it's an eternal fountain of joy.

I especially love it when I start looking for one thing then accidentally stumble upon something even more delightful. That happened again this morning.

We like squirrels. Some people get upset when squirrels steal all the goodies from their birdfeeders. We get upset when angry birds dive bomb the squirrels in our yard. Especially the blue jays. What's up with them? They are a bird with a bad attitude.

About a week ago we caught this little guy chilling out on the fence one afternoon.

How cute is that? For some reason Jayson became fascinated with him and started leaving treats on the fence rail for him. Little squirrel loved the grapes but turned his nose up at the broccoli.

It wasn't long before the little guy invited his friends over and now they regularly hang out in the yard, waiting for us to leave them a snack. Jayson actually went to the store and bought a bag of raw peanuts for the squirrels.

This is fascinating and confusing since we used to have a pet squirrel that Jayson didn't like at all. He didn't handle her as much as I did so she wasn't as comfortable with him as she was with me. She was VERY comfortable with me.
Peanut and her mommy.
Peanut may have accidentally bitten Jayson a time or two. She never bit aggressively. When she attacked something she used her claws, not her teeth. Jayson just had the misfortune of letting his hand come between Peanut and her food. He liked to try to give her treats but his big hands often didn't get out of the way fast enough.

I have a picture of Peanut's teeth somewhere but couldn't find it. Squirrel teeth are quite impressive. I don't know what goes on in the back of their mouths, maybe they have tiny little molars back there or something. All I know is that their top 2 front teeth are blunt and unremarkable but the bottom 2 front teeth are frightening. They are about an inch long, which is huge if you consider the size of the average squirrel mouth, and they are needle sharp. Like fangs. Squirrels must also have some amazing jaw strength which is evident if you've ever seen them rip through a walnut shell in one bite.

So Jayson never had a great love for Peanut but today he asked me if we had something we could use as a squirrel feeder. I couldn't think of anything off hand so I did what I always do: I Googled it.

Most of the DIY squirrel feeders were in the shape of a little house and made from wood. I typically avoid having to saw wood whenever possible so I eliminated those. I did find a few places to buy squirrel feeders and one that I especially liked was made from a gallon size glass jar. It was attached to a wood or plastic house that could be mounted on a tree.
Jar feeder from Duncraft.
Then I spotted this jar feeder that could be hung from a branch. I started thinking that maybe I could DIY something like this if I had a big jar and some heavy wire.
Hanging jar feeder from Duncraft.
Of course I could always just order one of these feeders but if I did that I would miss out on wasting several days of my life, using up energy that I don't have and spending twice as much money. That would be a shame.

After kicking myself for throwing out my sun tea jar back in the early 90s, I did a quick Google image search specifically for glass jar squirrel feeders. One of the images that came up was this one:
Battery jar squirrel feeder on Etsy.
I wish I had never seen it. I want it BAD but I just can't make myself spend $95.00 on a squirrel feeder. So, what do you do when you need something but you don't want to spend that much money on it? You make it yourself, of course.

I cruised on over to eBay to see how much these old battery jars were fetching. They're fetching a lot which made the overall price of the feeder seem a little more reasonable. But just a little. I checked prices on other types of jars, including some really cute pickle barrels, and decided they weren't as awesome as the battery jar but they were doable.

Mind you, I still don't know exactly how I'm going to make this happen but that's the normal way I do things. I've always designed backwards. Instead of coming up with a design then finding the materials to make it happen, I look at the available materials then design something out of them. It'll work out. Somehow.

I put several jars on my eBay watch list then went back to Google images to make sure I didn't overlook something even more fabulous. This is one of the images I saw:
Judi Hurwitt's thread schmutz.
It's one of those squirrel feeders that holds a corn cob but a fiber artist used it to hold fabric scraps that birds can use for nesting materials. What a great idea! Here's what she said about her "thread schmutz":
"Over time, it has begun to resemble a "disintegration bundle", which I've found fascinating. (A disintegration bundle is a package of paper, fabric, metal and fibers that some artists hang from fences and trees in order to study the effect the elements have on the materials.)"
A disintegration bundle. I've never heard of those. Suddenly I didn't care if the squirrels starved to death. I had to know about disintegration bundles.

I discovered that I'd somehow missed out on a couple of collaborative projects involving disintegration bundles which are also called erosion bundles. The first one I found was Seth Apter's Disintegration Collaboration in 2010. Then there was the Erosion Bundle Project in 2011. I couldn't find any collaborations for 2012 so I decided to just give it a go on my own.

I read through some of the experiences that participants of the past projects had and determined that a successful bundle needs to be wrapped loosely or left exposed completely and it should include some organic matter. That part scares me a little because it's bound to significantly increase the yuck factor when the bundle is opened.

The only concern I have about trying this is that I won't be able to leave the bundle alone for 3 months. I can just imagine it hanging from the tree in the backyard, taunting me, daring me to open it early. I'm not sure I will be able to resist. Maybe I should have Jayson hide it from me like an artsy Geocache.

I have what I think is a pretty good plan for staying on schedule if I can just resist the inevitable temptation. A friend from Lafayette comes here for a doctor's appointment every 3 months and she stays overnight with us. She will be here this afternoon which is when I plan to hang my bundle. Then I just have to try to ignore it until the next time she's in town which is when I will take it down. Maybe I should send it home with her and ask her to hang it in her yard then bring it back next time. That would solve my problem completely but I'm afraid I would just break down and make a second bundle to torture myself with. I'm a little 'off' that way.

I'll show the contents of my bundle in another post. I'm still finding little things around the house that I want to put in it. I'm trying to avoid any more Googling today since it will distract me from my current project and lead me to another one that I feel I must try. And Pinterest? Ugh. Don't get me started.

Friday, June 08, 2012

Shopping With The Greens

Jayson will be in Calgary all next week then in Aberdeen again at the end of the month so he decided he wanted to add a few pieces to his wardrobe before his trips. Since my husband is incapable of picking out his own clothes I went with him.

That sounded really critical but that's not the way I meant it. My husband is brilliant, talented, handsome, funny, and I love him more than air. He just doesn't have very good fashion sense. Bless his heart.

This might be partially my fault. Okay, it's probably all my fault. We met at a fitness club 25+ years ago. I thought Jayson had the most beautiful eyes I'd ever seen and he looked pretty darn good in his racquetball shorts. I stalked him for a while but couldn't get him to ask me for a date so I asked him out. When he picked me up I realized that I had never seen him in street clothes before. And I didn't want to see him in them again. Shortly after we started dating regularly I took him shopping and I've been shopping for him ever since. It's not that I'm controlling or demanding or expect him to look a certain way. It's just that I'm trying to save him from himself.

I tried to gently inform Jayson that his taste in clothing might not accurately reflect who he really is. I tried to teach him how to determine what's in style and how to put an outfit together but he never really caught on, probably because he really didn't give a rip. He was perfectly comfortable wearing a wide leather belt with his sweatpants. I am not making that up.

I realize that I might have inadvertently given my husband a complex about his clothes. I am reminded of this when he's getting ready for work and wakes me from a dead sleep at 7 a.m. to ask me if his underwear matches his belt. Or if it's okay to wear black shoes with khaki pants. He just doesn't grasp the concept of neutrals. For 25 years I have been trying to explain to him that I have purposely chosen a Garanimals wardrobe for him and they're ALL the giraffe. All of his pants are neutrals so that all of his shirts will go with them.

Jayson has gone on a few shopping trips by himself but it's usually easier for me to just go with him since I have to walk him through the store via cell phone anyway. Not too long ago he was in Stein Mart having a panic attack about whether a certain shirt he liked was turquoise or teal. I told him it didn't matter since he'd be wearing it with neutral britches but he insisted that the color of the shirt could affect his choice in socks so he should know whether it's in the green family or the blue. Our cell conversation went something like this:

JAYSON: I found a shirt that I like but I'm not sure if it will go with my pants.
ME: Your pants are black, gray and khaki. Trust me. It will go.
JAYSON: If it's blue I can wear it with with black pants but if it's green I can wear it with brown, right?
ME: You can wear both with both.
JAYSON: But what about my socks?
ME: It's a freakin' GIRAFFE! If you like the shirt, get it.
JAYSON: I wish I could take it outside to see the color better.
ME: Look around you. Find a woman. Any woman.
JAYSON: Okay. I see one.
ME: Now go ask her if the shirt is turquoise or teal.
JAYSON: Okay, I'll call you back.

I honestly can't remember if the shirt was turquoise or teal because obviously it didn't matter. But Jayson did get a second opinion from a total stranger which gave him the confidence he needed to make an intelligent wardrobe decision.

Last night we went britches shopping at Kohl's. Jayson made a declaration that he wanted some light khaki pants since all of his were the darker khaki that leans toward brown. For him, light khaki is exciting and out-of-the-box. I know, bless his heart.

We were discussing what color shirts would go with khaki and, once again, he was not grasping the concept of "everything". He kept trying to trip me up by asking me about crazy obscure colors...like orange. Then we saw a guy in the parking lot wearing an orange shirt with light khaki pants. Jayson determined that it looked fine. Then there was another man with light khaki pants and a blue shirt. Jayson said (and I am not making this up), "Wow, I guess it really does go with everything."

I suppressed an aneurism as we walked into the store and headed for the men's department. We picked out a couple of pairs of jeans, several pairs of pants (including the uber chic light khaki) and a couple of shirts that were more colorful than Jayson is used to.

He went into the fitting room to try everything on and instructed me not to wander too far. This is because each item requires my approval before he can move on to the next. This is NOT my rule. I would so totally rather be kicking back at home while he is shopping but because I apparently ruined him early on, this is the price I pay.

I am not a fan of traditional shopping but I do love thrift stores, flea markets and garage sales. Jayson doesn't care for shopping at all but he is usually willing to go with me as long as I don't require him to participate in the shopping. He never EVER nags or complains or tries to rush me and I dearly love him for that. I will go into whatever store I want to, take as long as I want to and Jayson will wait patiently outside. I pretend that he is my bodyguard or my Secret Service agent. If we're at a flea market or a festival where it's crowded and I don't see him when I come out of the store, he whistles for me. I call it our mating call. It's a short little whistle, not loud at all, but I am so in tune with it that when I hear it my head automatically jerks up in the direction of the sound.

Jayson had to use the mating call a couple of times at Kohl's since hanging around the dressing rooms made me feel a little bit like I was hanging around the men's room door. When I told this to Jayson he said that although the fitting rooms were in the men's department they were very much co-ed. He signaled for me to follow him to his dressing room where there were some abandoned garments hanging on a hook: a bra, a couple of pairs of panties and a very frilly black lace teddy. I asked him if the teddy fit and he said it was too tight in the bust.

After inspecting each item that Jayson tried on and reassuring him that everything matched everything else, we went home with several new outfits for him. Since today is casual Friday, he wanted to wear one of his new pairs of jeans to work:

JAYSON: Which one of the jeans made my butt look really good?
ME: They both did.
JAYSON: Yeah but one of them made it look really REALLY good. (He said this with his hands held up as if he was grasping a basketball.)

If I could go back and do it all over again, I would learn to love sweatpants with a leather belt. 

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

Getting my goober on. Again.

I'm such a goober. I bought a sound bar for our TV a few weeks ago and I haven't been able to get it hooked up right. Sort of. I know, it shouldn't take several weeks to plug in a cable, right? It's a little more complicated than that.

I connected the TV to the sound bar with an HDMI cable as instructed. That didn't work. I am not a complete idiot (only a partial one) since I did know enough to change the audio settings on the TV and the cable box to make them come out of the sound bar. The problem is that every time I did that I got silence. The settings on the sound bar were correct but it still didn't work.

However, the sound bar comes with an FM radio built in and that feature works just fine so I know the bar works, just not with my TV.

After trolling the idiot boards online I learned that an optical audio cable would be better than HDMI so I bought one, plugged it in and was once again rewarded with silence.

Someone suggested I connect the cable box instead of the TV to the sound bar with the optical audio cable. Yeah, that failed too so I put the cable back to the TV and sound bar and investigated further.

Here's where it gets weird. The TV and sound bar are connected with the optical audio cable. The Wii is connected to the TV with those RCA cables. If I play a Netflix video through the Wii, the sound comes out of the sound bar. They're not even connected to each other.

I also discovered that if I play a Netflix video through the blu ray player (which is connected to the TV with an HDMI cable) then I get sound out of both the sound bar and the TV.

The Apple TV is connected to the TV with and HDMI cable. It plays sound through the sound bar as well.

I visited the JVC customer support website and sent them an email describing my problem. They responded that the sound bar wasn't receiving a readable signal from the TV so the problem was with the TV. 

Everything in my house will play sound through the silly sound bar except the plain ol' TV! Since I'd already changed all the settings I could on the TV itself, I though that meant the problem must be with the cable box so I spent over an hour in an online chat with tech support at Comcast.

My "analyst's" name was Claire but I felt sure that in real life it was actually Arunachaleshwara. I tried really, really hard to be patient with Claire even though she was the slowest and most inept tech support person I've ever talked to. I almost lost it once and I felt really bad about that but read this transcript and tell me if it doesn't make you homicidal:

  • Shannon > I recently bought a sound bar to go with my HDTV. All other components are hooked directly to the TV and their sound plays just fine through the sound bar. This includes the blu ray player, and the Wii. The only sound that I can't get through the sound bar seems to be from the cable box. Our regular TV channels won't come through the sound bar, the sound comes out of the TV.
  • Shannon > Does that make sense?
  • Shannon > Is there some kind of audio setting on the cable box that I need to change?
  • Claire > Just to make sure, you would like to change the audio settings and it should come from the audio device that you have brought. Am I correct?
  • Claire > We actually have steps to optimize and modify the audio settings of the Comcast cable box.
  • Shannon > Yes that is correct. I want all sound to come out of the sound bar that is connected to my TV with an optical audio cable.
  • Claire > Thanks Shannon. Let me check on that please.
  • Shannon > No prob, take your time.
  • Claire > Thanks a lot!
  • Claire > Shannon, is your audio receiver a Dolby Digital receiver?
  • Shannon > Um, okay now it's my turn to check on something. Give me a sec.
  • Claire > Sure Shannon.
  • Claire > According here, you can connect a S/PDIF cable from the output on the cable box to the input of the Dolby Digital receiver.
  • Claire > Or you can connect a Digital Optical Cable from the output on the cable box to the input of the Dolby Digital receiver.
  • Claire > Be sure also to choose the correct Input mode on your Dolby Digital receiver for proper usage.
  • Shannon > Input mode is correct, as far as I can tell, because all my other components are playing just fine.
  • Shannon > So do I need to connect the optical cable to the cable box instead of the TV?
  • Claire > Yes that is right Shannon.
  • Shannon > Okay hang on a sec I'll try that.
  • Claire > Sure. The optical cable should be connected to the audio receiver and cable box.
  • Claire > Please follow these steps also to optimize your audio: 1. Press the Menu button twice on your remote control. 2. Select Setup 3. Select Audio Setup Under the Optimal Stereo setting 4. Choose "Select to Optimize" and press OK/Select on the remote control
  • Shannon > Okay, optical audio cable is going from the cable box to the sound bar. Now I'll follow those steps you just described.
  • Claire > Thank you.
  • Claire > Please let me know for any result and for further assistance. Thanks Shannon!
  • Shannon > Okay that didn't do anything.
  • Claire > Oh I see. We can also try to reprogram the Comcast remote to control the volume of the audio receiver.
  • Shannon > That would be great if any volume was coming out of my audio receiver.
  • Claire > Yes, we would just lock the volume on the audio receiver as well.
  • Claire > Just to confirm also, are you able to turn on and off your audio receiver using the Comcast remote?
  • Shannon > No.
  • Claire > Is your remote with red or gray OK/Select button?
  • Shannon > Red button
  • Claire > No worries, we will have the Comcast remote control your audio receiver as well.
  • Claire > Thanks! May I also ask for the brand name of the audio receiver?
  • Shannon > It's a JVC TH-BC3 Sound Bar
  • Claire > Thank you!
  • Claire > Please follow these steps to program your audio receiver: 1. Turn on your audio receiver. 2. On the remote control, press AUX key once. 3. Press and hold Setup until the selected mode key blinks twice, then release Setup. 4. Enter the five-digit code 30074. If you perform this procedure correctly, the selected mode key will blink twice. 5. Aim the remote control at your audio receiver and press Power once. The device should turn off.
  • Claire > If it does not respond, we will try the search for the audio receiver manually.
  • Shannon > That worked. I can turn the sound bar off and on with the remote. But there's still no sound coming out of it.
  • Claire > Great! Now we will unlock the volume controls and lock it on your audio receiver.
  • Claire > Please follow the steps on unlocking all volume controls: 1] Press and hold Setup until the selected mode key blinks twice, then release Setup. 2] Enter 9 - 9 - 3 and then press VOL+ once. The mode key will blink four times confirming unlock. 3] Now, volume controls for all devices can be independently controlled in their own modes.
  • Claire > Then please follow the steps to lock the volume control to your audio receiver: 1] Press and hold SETUP until the Red light flashes twice, then release SETUP. 2] Enter 9 - 9 - 3 (Red light will flash twice). 3] Press and release AUX (Red light for device will flash twice).
  • Shannon > Okay, what's my selected mode key?
  • Shannon > Is it AUX?
  • Claire > Oh sorry, its AUX.
  • Claire > Yes that is right.
  • Shannon > Okay, just making sure.
  • Claire > Thank you Shannon!
  • Shannon > Okay did that. Now the volume on the TV is where I left it and I can't make it go up or down because the remote only controls the sound bar volume which still has no volume coming out of it.
  • Claire > Let us try another one.
  • Claire > Please follow the steps for Unlocking Volume Control For A Single Device: 1] Press a desired mode key where you want volume to be unlocked (e.g., AUX) and controlled within its own mode. 2] Press and hold Setup until the selected mode key blinks twice, then release Setup. 3] Enter 9 - 9 - 3 and then press VOL once. The mode key will blink four times confirming unlock. 4] If desired, repeat steps 1 to 3 (of this section) for each device that you want volume to be unlocked. 5] Now, after you select a device that has volume unlocked (e.g., AUX), pressing VOL+, VOL-, or Mute, will control the device's volume only in its own mode.
  • Shannon > Okay, they all have their volume controlled independently. How do I get it back to where the TV and cable have the same volume control?
  • Claire > Locking Volume Control To TV Mode (Restoring Global Volume Lock ToThe Default Mode): 1] Press TV once. Then, press and hold Setup until the TV key blinks twice, then release Setup. 2] Enter 9 - 9 - 3 and then press TV once. The mode key will blink twice confirming global lock. 3] Now, when you press VOL+, VOL-, or Mute, the volume of the selected device (e.g., TV) will be controlled regardless of the mode you have selected.
  • Claire > Please try that Shannon.
  • Shannon > Okay, I figured it out. Thanks. Now we're back where we started.
  • Claire > Great Shannon!
  • Claire > Are we still unable to control the audio receiver volume here?
  • Shannon > I can control it with the remote if I push AUX.
  • Claire > Yes, that should how it should be.
  • Claire > I mean that is how it should be.
  • Shannon > Ok. Now how do we get the volume to come out of the audio receiver instead of the TV?
  • Claire > Please follow the steps to lock the volume control to your audio receiver: 1] Press and hold SETUP until the Red light flashes twice, then release SETUP. 2] Enter 9 - 9 - 3 (Red light will flash twice). 3] Press and release AUX (Red light for device will flash twice).
  • Shannon > Oh my gosh are you kidding me?! I don't want to be unkind but I don't think you are understanding the problem. I don't need to control the volume on the audio receiver because there IS NO VOLUME. The audio is coming out of the speakers on my TV instead of the audio receiver. That's the problem I need help with. Can you help me with that?
  • Claire > Oh I apologize on that matter Shannon.
  • Claire > The hook up with the cable box and audio receiver should do it.
  • Claire > Unless the audio receiver is not compatible with the cable box.
  • Shannon > How do I know if they are not compatible? What would make them incompatible?
  • Claire > You may refer with the audio receiver Original Equipment Manufacture since it a third party. Or you may also check out the manual.
  • Claire > *is
  • Shannon > Yeah, it's supposed to be compatible with everything. There is nothing anywhere that says there may be a problem with certain cable boxes. Like I said before, my other components work just fine with the sound bar, it's just the TV that I'm having trouble with.
  • Shannon > I suppose it could be a problem with the TV but that doesn't make much sense because my other components are hooked to the TV as well, not directly to the sound bar. So I know the TV is capable of sending audio through the sound bar. It's just my cable TV channels that are giving me trouble.
  • Claire > I certainly understand. The unlock and lock of the volumes are just the steps to have it fixed.
  • Shannon > Those steps have nothing to do with why the cable box's audio continues to play through the TV instead of the sound bar. Those steps are for controlling audio that is already there. I have NO AUDIO coming out of the sound bar so changing how it is controlled is pointless.
  • Shannon > Is there someone else who might be able to help with this problem?
  • Claire > Thanks for pointing that out.
  • Claire > I am checking on it further.
  • Shannon > Okay, thanks.
  • Claire > You are welcome!
  • Claire > Shannon, I have just confirmed here that we need to setup the TV to have the sound diverted to the audio receiver.
  • Claire > Do you happen to know how to go about modifying the TV audio setup?
  • Shannon > Yes I have done that. The TV is a Sony and I have changed those settings. When I do that, the audio on the TV goes off but it does not come out of the sound bar.
  • Claire > What is the selected setting if I may ask Shannon?
  • Shannon > On the TV I have a choice of 2 settings: TV Speakers or Audio System. If I choose TV speakers I get sound out of the TV. If I choose Audio System I get no sound at all.
  • Claire > Thank you for telling me.
  • Shannon > Any other ideas?
  • Claire > I am still confirming here.\
  • Shannon > Okay.
  • Claire > Thanks for understanding.\
  • Claire > Shannon, may I ask what are the video and audio cable wires you used from the box to the TV and the TV to the receiver?
  • Claire > I was informed here that it would be best for the audio receiver to work with the TV set, if we have it connected to the TV.
  • Claire > However, connecting it to the cable box is also possible.
  • Shannon > The cable box is connected to the TV with an HDMI cable. The TV is connected to the sound bar with a digital optical audio cable. I have also tried connecting the TV to the sound bar with an HDMI cable but that didnt' work either.
  • Shannon > Yes, I disconnected the sound bar from the cable box and hooked it back up to the TV with the optical audio cable.
  • Shannon > I just played a video through Netflix streaming on my blu ray player to confirm that the sound bar is working correctly and it is. The blu ray player is connected to the TV with an HDMI cable.
  • Claire > Shannon, when we tried the optimize steps earlier, have you encountered an HDMI option on the Audio Setup?\
  • Shannon > Audio setup for the cable box?
  • Claire > Yes Shannon.
  • Shannon > No, I didn't notice that option. Should there be one?
  • Claire > Can we check please?
  • Claire > I will repost the steps here.
  • Claire > Please follow these steps to optimize your audio: 1. Press the Menu button twice on your remote control. 2. Select Setup 3. Select Audio Setup Under the Optimal Stereo setting 4. Choose "Select to Optimize" and press OK/Select on the remote control
  • Shannon > Yeah, did all that. There's nothing under that menu that says anything about HDMI.
  • Claire > Thanks Shannon.
  • Claire > In this case, it is the TV settings audio to be setup and have the TV audio diverted to the audio receiver.
  • Claire > Since the TV and box is working okay.
  • Claire > The issue is with the TV and the receiver issue then.
  • Claire > And it would be best to contact the TV manufacturer for that.

  • On the bright side, I have now memorized how to change the volume control settings on my cable remote control. That should serve me well in life.

    Okay, so the cable box works, the sound bar works, and the TV works but not with the sound bar. The problem must be with the TV like JVC and Claire, in all her wisdom, suggested.

    I called Sony and explained my dilemma to the tech support guy there. He very quickly came to the conclusion that the optical audio port needed to be replaced on the TV. He would order the part then when it came in he would call to set up a time to send someone out to fix it.

    From the git go I just didn't feel like that was the problem. I have nothing to base that on except gut instinct. But I was excited to get a real person out here who might be able to figure it out even if the new part didn't solve the problem.

    The TV is a nice 46" LCD that was a gift when we moved into our new house. Since it was a gift I had no original receipt for it. The guy at Sony was kind enough to accept my word that the TV was only about a year old which meant the warranty would cover everything.

    Just a few days after talking to Sony tech support guy I got a call from someone else at Sony who informed me that the part they ordered was not available right now and they didn't know when they could expect the part to come in so as an alternative they offered to replace our TV with the same model factory refurb.

    I was not excited about this since I had a feeling there really wasn't anything wrong with our TV. I couldn't see that I had much of a choice so I agreed to let Sony ship us a new TV with a 2 year warranty. All we had to do is put our old TV in the box the new TV came in then call Fed Ex to pick it up. There was no charge for anything.

    This morning Fed EX rang my bell with a new TV. I disconnected the old one, hooked up the new one and just as I expected it didn't work either.

    So. I have confirmed that the TV works, the sound bar works, the cable box works, and I can't figure out how I got stuck in this 2 week long hell when I don't even watch the stupid TV!! Oh that's right. I'm the mom.

    I decided to give JVC one last chance before I packed the sound bar in plastic explosives and sent it back to them. I called their tech support and told the guy what was going on. He asked me some questions, asked me to verify some settings and how things were hooked up then said there was no reason why it shouldn't be working. I agreed since I now felt like I had earned an honorary degree in electrical engineering. Or in advanced home theater hooking up at the very least.

    JVC guy felt like there was a problem with the cable box. I told him that I spent over an hour with tech support at Comcast and they said it was the TV's fault but according to the brand new one that I just uncrated that's not the problem at all. He said something about the cable box not being able to handle both an HDMI signal and optical audio signal at the same time. He said I should leave the optical audio cable connected since the other components were running off it just fine. But if I could find 2 HDMI cables he had another option to try. He said to hook one cable from the cable box to the HDMI In on the sound bar. Then hook the other one from the TV to the HDMI Out on the sound bar.

    That's probably the only configuration I hadn't tried. I robbed HDMI cables from the blu ray player and the Apple TV and followed his instructions. The little genius was right. It worked. I was so grateful I gave him a hug over the phone in my mind.

    I have not yet confirmed that the Apple TV and blu ray player are still working because I need to pick up a couple of replacement cables for them. But the Wii is working properly so I'm confident the others will as well.

    I suppose the intelligent thing to do would have been to call JVC in the first place but the email was more comfortable for me since I avoid human contact when possible. It is still a mystery to me how we are getting cable when the cable box isn't even connected to the TV but as long as the sound keeps coming out of the sound bar I'm not going to worry about it.

    After screwing up my computer so badly that I stumped 4 Apple tech support guys then scoring a free replacement for TV that wasn't even broken, I'm done with electronics for a while. By "for a while" I mean until the iPhone 5 comes out.

    The Morning Walk

    I had this bright idea that I wanted to run in the Color Me Rad 5K run coming up next March. I could care less about the running part, it's the colored powder that I'm all about.

    I've always wanted to go to a Holi Festival but felt it might be a little inappropriate since I'm not Hindu. Maybe they wouldn't mind since it's a festival and outsiders are usually welcome at those kinds of things....like inviting your Jewish friends to your Christmas party. Or you could just invite me and kill 2 birds with 1 stone.

    But I just want to be in a large group of people who are covered in colored powder for no good reason. I have no idea why I want to do that. I just do.

    I thought the local Color Me Rad run might quench that craving if I could manage to run 5K by then. I felt sure I could work up to that distance in 9 months so I downloaded one of those free "Couch to 5K" type apps that some of my friends are doing, or have successfully completed. It eases you into it and I'm all about ease, as well as colored powder.

    I used to run a couple of miles several times a week in college. Then I met Jayson at the fitness club I went to so after that I had no reason to go back. Just being honest here. So I figured it wouldn't be too difficult to get back into the swing.

    On my first run I was reminded of the real reason I quit running in the first place. The meniscus in my left knee started screaming, "HEY! YOU! Have you forgotten that I have a slight tear that is aggravated every time you do more than get up off the couch??!!" Oh yeah. That's why I quit running. My knees can't take it anymore.

    I will have to find another occasion where masses of people cover themselves with colored powder since it doesn't look like I'll be running 5K or any Ks in the foreseeable future. However, I do feel the need to get some kind of exercise on a regular basis since my ample caboose is getting more ample with each passing year.

    Walking doesn't cause too much strain on my knees so I decided to try that for a while. First thing in the morning, while I'm still groggy and don't realize what I'm doing, I head out for a 30-45 minute walk. Taylor goes with me which is nice although I'm afraid if it makes her lose any weight she will disappear.

    The conversation during our walks varies but it's never dull. Here are a few of the things we talked about this morning:
    ME: When we walk by people's trash cans do you look inside to see what's in there.
    TAYLOR: Nooooo?
    ME: Yeah, me either.
    TAYLOR: Do you know what the most difficult thing in life is?
    ME: I know a lot of difficult things but I'm dying to hear what your version is (since you're a 21 year old college student who lives at home and whose parents pay all your expenses...but I didn't say that out loud).
    TAYLOR: The hardest thing in the world to do is find the name of a song that doesn't have any lyrics.
    ME: Oh. Ya know, that actually is kind of hard. Have you ever tried singing into Shazam?
    TAYLOR: No, does that work?
    ME: No, don't bother.
    After walking by a couple of guys about Taylor's age who were working under the hood of a sports car in their driveway:
    TAYLOR: They didn't look like they knew what they were doing.
    ME: What they were doing was checking you out.
    TAYLOR: They were not! I'm not even wearing any makeup.
    ME: They weren't looking at your face.
    TAYLOR: Mom! Why would you say such a thing to your daughter?!
    ME: Because it's true and you should know how these things work.
    TAYLOR: Are they still looking?
    ME: I hope not. I have a wedgie.
    I hope my knees continue to cooperate so I can cherish these moments with my daughter before she moves on and starts her own life. I enjoy her company and like hanging out with her so I'm hoping she won't move too far. But at the same time...I already have plans for her room.