Monthly Archives: December 2008

new year’s eve of my discontent

The problem with vacation is that we just keep sleeping in later and later. And getting to the house later and later. And remembering at the last minute that oh yeah, we’ve got to rip a board for the bathroom door jamb, whatever that means (besides another hour delay). And then it’s lunch time so we might as well just eat.

This leaves me very little time to sand. Maybe that’s a good thing, because I am not sure how many uninterrupted hours I’d last. And it gives me less time to dwell on how stupid it was to get my nails done on Dec. 23rd. Shortest-lived manicure of my life. Sigh.



mrs. sandman

jill-hand-sandingToday I finally started sanding doors (and whoa, check out the guns!). Despite the mask, goggles and earplugs, I haven’t had this much sawdust in various orifices since my last winter vacation, when I sanded the wood trim we haven’t touched since. It’s practically tradition by now. And to think, some people put up a tree.

I’m happy to do it, though. My vacation’s half over, and I’ve set a move-out date of no later than January 31, 2009 that I am determined to keep. But sanding, like everything else, takes longer than it has any right to. Thank god these are only two-panel doors.

Lowe’s showdown

When we get to Lowe’s, Tom is on his lunch break. I’m sure this is no coincidence. Nor that Norm, whom I’ve spoken to by phone, beats a hasty retreat when he sees me wheeling a door his way. Nice try, guys.

The particle board speaks for itself, though, and our money is refunded without (further) hassle. A new door is ordered, rush, at no charge. It’s relatively painless, but has already taken a good chunk out of the day, so rather than head to the house, Joe decides we should finally buy the rest of our insulation.

The good news is that at long last, we received the Lowe’s gift card rebate from the last batch of insulation we bought. The bad news is that the only store in area that’s still carrying that particular insulation, which was so cheap because it’s on closeout, is in West Philly. In what is quite possibly the most ghetto Lowe’s ever.

I went to school in Philly, worked there for five years, and unlike Joe, am not convinced we’ll be carjacked at every red light. But still, we were three white suburbanites, driving after dark—the stuff of newspaper headlines. I think even Google maps, on recognizing the address I punched in, thought oh hell no, and tried to steer us in a different direction.

But we got the insulation, and an extra switchplate, too (also discontinued; I have a bizarre, Midas-like skill in this area, where anything I touch will soon stop production). Another day bites the dust.


I feel pretty

We started the day by hanging Belle’s chandelier:
With the room painted, floor in, and even switchplates, all she needs now is curtains and a rug. I’m really loving her room, even if it is girly in the extreme. I am just  praying she doesn’t outgrow it in the next year.

Then we outdid ourselves and hung the remaining three doors (which thankfully were all solid wood). I am loving the two-panel look. I had to really beg for these and let Joe pick the vent covers but they are so worth it. Wait until they are stained and finished.


All that’s left is the bathroom door (naturally the one we’d most like to get hung so you can get a little privacy in there). Joe figured out a way—complicated and time-consuming, of course, but economical—to use the inward-swinging door he ordered, so that’s his next project.

I, meanwhile, am getting set to sand again, one year later.

behind door No. 2

I am a seething cauldron of rage right now. I probably should have seen it coming, because the door situation was just resolved too quickly and neatly, and things never happen that way for us, especially on this never-ending project.

We hung our first door today. It was pretty battered to hell, but it was a closet door, and for the price we paid and the exhausting process we went through, I was willing to overlook that. But when we hoisted the second door, Joe’s dad discovered why it was so mysteriously heavy. It’s freakin’ particle board. Look:

pine-vs-particle-board-closeIn their haste to fill our order, they must have decided we’d never know the difference (after all, it is only about 100 pounds) and slapped a pine veneer over this crap.

Pretty unbelievable. I was on the phone to Lowe’s in a hot second. Tom was out for the weekend, and our attempts to explain the situation to anyone else who works there felt like teaching a kindergartener calculus, so we’ll just wait until Monday. Skulls will be cracked.


all I want for Xmas …

We have doors!


As promised, Tom from Lowe’s called on Monday to tell me our doors finally came in, all six of them, but we didn’t have a chance to pick them up until today. Loading and unloading solid pine doors is never what I’d call a pleasure trip, but doing it today was exponentially more awful for a few reasons.

The first is that Joe’s dad opted out at the last minute, so with just Joe’s truck, we had to make three trips. Also, it was freezing out and I still haven’t found my gloves. And finally, it’s the last shopping weekend before Xmas, so the mall traffic was terrible.

At least now it’s done, though. Joe found one major gouge in one of the door jambs, but not wanting to deal with a return, we settled for some free wood filler Tom offered up. And I did score a $50 gift card for my trouble.


the gift manifesto

The chief reason I despise December, besides the crap weather, is the gift-giving. Now, I personally like finding the perfect gift for someone, even though it stresses me out the entire month until my shopping is done. It’s the same reason I make my own cards, and work as  a journalist. I thrive under pressure.

But I have no problem acknowledging that most people don’t, and consequently, they suck at giving gifts. I am not out to bash people for this; I will be the first to say what a pain in the ass holiday shopping is, and I am all for banishing mandatory gift exchanges.

But if you want to hone your skills, consider the following guidelines my gift to you.

Don’t ask anyone what they want. Unless they are five and you are wearing a fake beard and red suit, this is lame. It’s basically telling someone, Hey, I don’t know a thing about you but since I am forced to buy you something, spare me the trouble of putting any thought at all into it. I know this view may not be popular, because I took a lot of crap about not registering for my wedding, but I’d rather get a horrible gift or no gift than tell someone what to buy me. And honestly, if you don’t know a person well enough to even guess one thing they might like, why get them anything at all? A better gift would be to invite them over to dinner so you can get to know them better.

Do ask someone else. If your wife/boss/father-in-law’s taste is really that inscrutable to you, asking a close relative or friend what they’ve been hinting about is a great tactic.    

Buy for them, not you. My philosophy of the perfect gift is something the recipient will like, but wouldn’t normally buy for themselves. Keeping this in mind has the built-in insurance of avoiding anything too personal (underwear and perfume are definitely in the latter category). Joe struggles terribly with this. He can’t bring himself to buy anything that he doesn’t like himself (a reason I rarely get jewelry). And this year, he thought two of the gifts I bought are so bad, he went behind my back and bought backups.

Enough with the gift cards already! I know statistics show that most Americans prefer them, but the best description I ever heard of gift cards was that it’s like being given an errand to do. I lug those things around all year like an albatross, trying to use them.

You can’t go wrong with alcohol and food. In my book, anyway, these are the great unifiers. Generic, sure, but everyone loves them. And if you happen to accidentally gift a dieter or AA member, these are the easiest things to re-gift.

That’s it. Not too difficult, really. Happy shopping!