Archive Page 2

Jeopardy question: What is 37?

Answer: The number of minutes it takes to cut up the [massive, thick, huge] box in which a new white, Kohler, round bowl toilet is packaged.

While Scott was away in Africa, I decided to clean the second floor (formerly “the boys'”) bathroom. That facility is no longer in daily use, Andrew having relocated to the third floor in June. He now sleeps and showers in the attic (formerly “Katie’s”) bedroom and bathroom. However, before moving on up, I did have him thoroughly clean the boys’ bathroom, so last week it didn’t really need much cleaning. Actually all I have to do in there regularly is clean the toilet because our hard water leaves rings in the bowl after about ten days.

While thus scrubbing the interior of the throne, I was dismayed to see a one-inch-wide ribbon of water standing around a fourth of its base. Ugh. Unfortunately, This Old House has proven time and time again that modern plumbing, while truly a wonderful thing, does by definition present two specific challenges: bringing water in and getting water back out. A flaw in either of those processes equals leaks, and those are never pleasurable and rarely quick or easy to resolve.

I could’ve called our good plumber friend (and rescuer from many calamities over the past twenty years), Mr. Bill, but since the water did not reappear after I dried it up, and since Scott would be home in only a couple of days, I waited.

Upon his return and examination of the problem, Scott determined that it was a wax ring problem, and over a couple of days, a couple of trips to Home Depot, and a couple of conversations with Mr. Bill, he was very pleased to have the repair 97% complete. He was tightening the base screws when I heard from around the corner a very loud “Oh, NO!!!” followed immediately by an equally loud “I can’t BELIEVE it!” The porcelain base of the throne had… cracked. Aarrgghh! Scott guessed he’d tightened the screws too far, and he was SO disappointed and aggravated with himself. This would mean buying a new toilet, and we did that little task after the church picnic and baptism this afternoon.

We’d already looked online at toilets, and Scott had figured out which one he planned to buy. We wanted to spend as little as possible to get a decent toilet, and my only stipulations were that it be white and have a round bowl. And while perusing the pertinent aisle where the boxed toilets were all stored beneath their respective at-eye-level (for Scott!) display models – were they strategically mounted off the floor so they could not be test driven? – I saw a box with this label, which reminded me of “plums in the toilet” and did make me smile:

My actual comment to Scott was, “How’d you like THAT in your septic tank?!?”

This was not the one we bought, but we did learn that boxed toilets are significantly hefty items. A friendly Home Depot man helped Scott load our trusty Kohler #K-11464-0 into the Durango, but there was no way for him to carry it in and up to the second floor (“rarely quick or easy”) alone. I being no help whatsoever in the lifting department, he had to unbox the beast inside the Durango and haul it upstairs in two pieces. His role was to follow all those little diagrams and instructions and mount the thing. (I will note that although the box did as advertised contain “everything needed to install the toilet,” the project also involved a finer variety of tools, including a hacksaw and a level.) My role was to cut up the box.

We recycle cardboard and plastic weekly, and since the recycle center wants the former broken down flat, I keep a box cutter in the med basket to cut up boxes. This toilet box was SO BIG and had SO MANY layers of SUCH THICK cardboard that it took me 37 minutes to cut it all up into pieces that would fit in my recycle boxes! But we got er done, and I’ll make a nice recycle run in the morning.

Meanwhile, Scott finished the job perfectly, cleaned up all the mess, put away all the tools, and then invited me (his Queenie-Poo) to witness the initial (royal?) flush. He pressed the lever, bowl water (but no golf balls) went down and out, and tank water came in. Like a boss! Now all is well in the boys’ bathroom, which Katie will be using when she visits on Saturday.

Yesterday we put an old school desk out by the road and it was gone in three hours.

Today Scott put an old but clean toilet bowl with cracked base out by the road. Hmm… Come to think of it, the tank may still be on the porch swing… Anyway, Scott is sure the trash truck will take it on Tuesday morning with their regular pick up. I hope he’s right, but maybe someone else will make off with it before then. After all, we do live in the Ozarks!

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My fifth time to (or through) Waynesville

In the past three weeks, I’ve passed the Waynesville exit four times — once on August 2 while taking our mission team catch their flight in St. Louis; once about six hours later on the way back home; once on August 17 while driving back to St. Louis to pick up the team; and once about five hours after that on the way back home — but until today I had never actually stopped in Waynesville. Who would, except the people who live there?!?

Today, I did stop on the west side of Waynesville, or rather, Andrew stopped. I had arranged for him to be released from school at 10:00 AM so he could make his 10:20 AM dental appointment (two fillings; hopefully the LAST two fillings), and then as soon as he could get home, our plan was to head northeast as far as we could get by 1:13 PM to have a maximal view of today’s total solar eclipse. I happen to have a personal conviction about driving the speed limit, but since Andrew doesn’t share that conviction, he would be our designated driver. We had a couple of challenges, what with the school not releasing him on time, and the dentist’s office misplacing my credit card information, but eventually his teeth were filled, he came home from the dentist AQAP, I was waiting for him in the passenger seat of the Durango with the engine running, lunch packed, lawn chairs loaded, eclipse glasses in purse, and all he had to do was slide into the driver’s seat and BEV.

Which he did. To the tune of about 84 mph.  = )

Around 12:30 PM, I put on my patriotic eclipse glasses and looked up through the sunroof at the sun, and OH.MY. Was that ever something to see! I was so excited that I had him get off at the next exit so he could look too. And then on we sped toward Rolla. But I wanted to stop at 1:05 so we could actually watch the moon move across the sun, and 1:05 found us at the (first? only?) Waynesville exit, where we pulled off and into a gravel parking lot.

It stayed a bright sunny summer day. That is, it never got “dark,” but it did get dimmer; as if it was hazy or smoggy, or kind of like an imperceptibly gradual shift from full brightness to the way things look when you put on your sunglasses. What absolutely blew my mind was how, with almost all of the sun obscured, that little tiny sliver of sun was enough make it nearly as bright as a sunny August afternoon would normally be. And although it didn’t really feel noticeably cooler to me, I did notice on the Durango’s thermometer that the temp had dropped from 91 to 86.

We stood there in the parking lot, craning our necks till they hurt. Then I got out my trusting gray softball-game-watching bag chair, which made the leaning back thing much more comfortable, and we watched the little orange crescent move very, very slowly from lying in repose at the bottom of the disc, counterclockwise around to the upper right “corner” of the disc, where it was gradually getting very slightly fatter. At that point we said we’d had enough and headed back to Springfield to pick up My Hero, who was returning that very afternoon from a nearly three-week mission trip to Niger and Nigeria.

All’s well that ends well, and all’s sleepy that’s jet-lagged, and Andrew and I agreed that our memorable twenty minutes in Waynesville had been worth the effort.

I drove home… at 70 mph.

I haven’t personally MET a “large, long-legged and long-necked bird.”

But I’ve stood in its namesake.

Many moons ago, the aux wire in the Durango – the one that lets me listen to my phone through the car’s speakers – developed a short. Although I’ve gotten used to having only the radio, and I am glad to have it, it’s been frustrating to not be able to listen to podcasts, especially on longer drives like my two recent four-hour St. Louis runs. Years ago, as a Christmas gift, Scott had the aux wire put in for me at a place in Springfield, so one time last year when Andrew and I were up there, we went by that place, hoping to get the wire repaired or replaced. It’s a very good thing we went together. I believe the current vernacular to describe the place would be “sketchy.” Well, actually “seedy” might come closer. It was in a rugged, decrepit part of town and the guy at the counter was really cocky. I didn’t like him at all. His price was $45, but he couldn’t do it that day; I’d have to make an appointment and come back. Which I wasn’t about to do because Andrew wouldn’t be available and I wasn’t about to go there alone.

So I lived podcast-less on the road till last month when I started looking online for an auto audio place that would be closer, cheaper, and less sketchy. I found it at Rick’s Car Audio in Crane. Yes, Crane. Like the bird. In particular, the blue crane. The guy I talked to said he’d have to talk with Rick and he’d call me back. Three weeks later I remembered that he had not, so I called back and the guy said that yes, they could do it for $20-$25 at 10:00 AM on Friday. Fine. I made plans for a little road trip. Although google maps said the drive to Crane would take 42 minutes, it’d be through some extremely scenic rural parts of Stone and Taney Counties (the latter having been named for Chief Justice Roger B. Taney, of recently-removed-from-Maryland-State-House statue infamy). One of my great joys in life is exploring country roads, and I will say that this journey did not disappoint.

Now, because I’m “saving” this particular exploratory adventure to share in full with Katie in a few weeks, and I’m pretty sure she’ll read this post, I will now, with great restraint, limit my comments here to focusing primarily on my experience with Rick’s.

The shop is located on at 122 Main Street in Crane, and when I pulled in at 9:55 for my 10:00 appointment, Rick’s Car Audio appeared dark and empty. However, the door was unlocked, so I walked on in and called out my standard Ozarkian greeting, “Howdy,” at which a man appeared from a back room, greeted me, and turned on the lights. I told him who I was, and he was well aware of what I wanted done. I had parked on the street and told him I didn’t know where to put the car; no  problem, he would move it.

Glancing about the room, I asked if there was a place I could wait, and he said, waving his arm toward the front door, that some place over there across the street served breakfast, and there were a number of antique stores around. I said I could just walk around (the repair was expected to take 20-30 minutes), but he then walked me back to a little (very dumpy) room behind the counter and said they did have a couch. Let’s just say that no one’s backside had graced that piece of furniture in a long time. He began shoving all the junk piled on it to one end to make room for me to sit, but I took the stroll-about town option.  = )

I’m pretty sure I could see all of downtown Crane from the doorway of Rick’s Car Audio. A barbershop. A post office. ABC Accounting. A bank. A library. (Ooh, a small town library!) I resisted the library, at least initially, and wandered instead into The Classey Corner Café. I wasn’t hungry, but I did have a lot of fun perusing the several flea market booths within. In one of them, I found a gem of an old book, Missouri’s Hall of Fame: Lives of Eminent Missourians by Floyd Calvin Shoemaker, A.B., A.M., Secretary of The State Historical Society of Missouri and Editor of The Missouri Historical Review, copyright 1918, published 1923 – price $2.00!

At that point, having killed about 30 delightful minutes, I moseyed back to Rick’s, where the guy told me I was all fixed up and it’d be $20.60.

“Do you take credit cards?”

“Well, Rick can, but he’s not here yet.”

It had not occurred to me to bring any cash.

“OK. I can write you a check.”

“Rick has a card reader on his phone. Without that, you have to pay more and then they charge you every time you use it. He can just swipe it, but he’s not here yet.”

Um, you already told me that.

As I wrote the check and handed it to the guy, another man appeared from the back. Rick perhaps? Well, no.

“Do you need to see my driver’s license or something?”

My guy turned to the other man.

“Do we need anything, uh, on a check?”

The man looked at me, half smiled, and said no.

Now, my request over the phone had been for a cord that was stretchy. I had inquired about a coil cord, like an old timey phone cord. See, I treat my aux cord gently, but I suspect that one of the other people who sometimes drive the Durango had at some point yanked the six-foot cord too hard and shorted it out. I want to reduce the likelihood of similar damage in the future. Whoever I had talked to on the phone – which I suspect was this same guy – had told me he thought there were retractable cords, which sounded great to me, and that he’d check with Rick. So as I was paying, my guy said that Rick had said he could order a different cord and I could come back and they could switch it out. He asked me to write my name and number on the receipt so that he could call me when it came in. The thought of spending another hour and-a-half on the road just to get a stretchy cord seemed excessive, and I didn’t even think to ask if there’d be an additional charge for the replacement, but then again, an hour and-a-half with one of my favorite fellow explorers (I have three and you know who you are!) sounded absolutely delicious, especially considering that our route could potentially involve not one but TWO small town libraries, a very unique and historic bridge, a one-lane country road complete with white lines on both sides and no center line, a town square(!!!), and an as yet completely un-investigated strip of pavement called Swinging Bridge Road!

So I thanked the guy and held out my hand for my receipt.

“You want to take a picture of it?”

Huh? I was confused… ?

“If you take a picture of it then you’ll have it.”

Um… Duh??

“So you’ll have it if you need it.”

This was a new one on me. Evidently he wasn’t going to GIVE me my receipt; I’d have to take a picture of it. Good thing I recently learned how to take pictures with my phone and actually knew where to find my camera app! So I took a picture of it and he put my receipt on top of another one on the counter, and I headed home.

Listening to a podcast as I went!

 

 

 

To the tune of “Three Coins in the Fountain”

The other day, I was resting on our bed when Andrew came into the room and said, “Look outside, Mom.” I twisted around and looked, and there was a raccoon under the smaller plum tree! He was a youngster, grubbing around, I suppose, for any underripe plums that may have fallen. But wait, there’s more! Another young coon was up IN the big plum tree! Oh, Wow. We watched them for a couple minutes, sometimes on the ground, sometimes up the tree, till something startled them and they scampered off. I know our neighbor is trapping them because they (or their kin) have been killing her chickens. In fact, the coons have been so problematic that I think her husband shot one a few mornings ago. But these two in our yard were just so stinkin’ cute!

Sing it with me, boys and girls:

“Two coons in a plum tree

Each one seeking something sweet

Oh, how fun to behold them

Striped tails, masks, and dainty feet.”

Why do we have water?

Because she likes exploring.

Like her mom and sister, Jessica loves to explore remote country roads. Several years ago, on such a trek she found Lone Star Church. She knows I also delight in such finds, and when she took me out there to see the church, we happened to meet Pastor K, who happened to be there doing some grounds work. Jessica wasn’t even dating anyone at the time, but the building is very quaint and unique, and she told me she thought it would be a wonderful place to get married.

Roll the clock forward a couple years… Once Jessica and Matthias were engaged, she asked me to contact Pastor K about possibly using Lone Star Church for the ceremony. He didn’t know me, so when I called, I gave him my name and explained that our daughter, who was a missionary in Hong Kong, had seen the church and fallen in love with it and wanted to know if she could rent it for her upcoming wedding. No, he said, she could not rent it, but she could use it for free. (Amazing!) And by the way, he wanted to know, how did she get her support? Their church was looking for a missionary to support… And that was the beginning of Pastor K and his wife and and Lone Star Church getting to know Jessica (and later Matthias), inviting Jessica to minister at their church, and supporting them monthly. That connection also led to them meeting Scott, inviting him to minister at their church, and supporting him. And in all of that, we got to know a bit about Pastor K and his wife, including the fact that his day job is running a backhoe; he has a one-man, two machine excavating business.

Which is why, when Scott and I learned yesterday that we needed to dig a 190-foot trench diagonally across the back yard to bury the electrical line that we fondly and fervently hoped would power our pump and once again allow us to enjoy the luxury of running water, we wondered aloud together about who we might know who could dig us such a trench at a good price. After all, when one must have one’s entire back yard sliced with a trench on short notice – as in “right NOW” would be just dandy – one doesn’t really want to just “look in the phone book” (does anyone really do that anymore?) and pick a company.

So I said, “You know, Pastor K has an excavation company. Maybe he could dig us a trench.”

Scott said that was a brilliant idea, called him, and left a message. That was yesterday afternoon.

Scott didn’t hear back, so this morning, knowing Pastor K to be an early riser (he and Scott once met for breakfast at 6:30 AM), Scott called him again at 7:00 and explained the situation. Pastor K recommended his friend J, who also attends Lone Star Church, lives in Bradleyville, and also owns a piece of machinery that would be appropriate for such a job. And it turns out, J is also a monthly supporter of Take the Challenge. Small world.  = ) Scott called at J at 9:30 AM, and he arrived at our house at 12:15 with a nifty Case machine (a bulldozer? a tractor? an excavator? I don’t know, but it has all these nifty attachments to do all kinds of different things, and it even bends in the middle!) on a big trailer, a bucket of tools, a great attitude, a strong body, a creative mind, and a readiness to do whatever it took to get us up and running again.

Meanwhile, I had planned to be at the church working on the bulletin this morning, but when I realized (standing in my birthday suit in our tub with the faucet on and nothing coming out) that I couldn’t shower after my sweaty walk, I put my nasty, smelly clothes back on, loaded my backpack with clean clothes and other necessities, and went on up to the church, where I was grateful to be able to take a shower before doing the bulletin, a fact for which I’m sure Cheryl was thankful.

And back at our house, J worked steadily and cheerfully in the 90 degree, 90% relative humidity weather from 12:15 PM till 6:55 PM:

~ surveying the situation and making a plan

~ digging the trench

~ ordering the materials (initially electrical cable and PVC conduit and connectors; later junction boxes and few other odds and ends)

~ disconnecting the existing power line at both ends

~ dismantling the decrepit electrical fixtures on the smokehouse (this required extreme physical strength and mental resourcefulness; no repair or remodel related to our 105-year-old house is ever easy or simple)

~ laying the electrical cable alongside the trench

~ threading some 22 eight-foot sections of conduit onto the cable and gluing them together

~ completely changing the way power was routed into and out of the shop building (this required removing a section of our “Chuck-resistant” underpinning at the base of the shop) and bringing it all up to code (it may well be that there was no code when the pump was initially wired!)

~ moving the conduit into the trench

~ mounting new junction boxes at each end (including replacing the one inside the well house that was “well, pretty dicey”)

~ re-connecting the power, confirming that the pump was running, and rejoicing that we did indeed have water (YAY!!!!)

~ using the Case machine to put the dirt back in the trench and pack it down (so many hand controls so deftly maneuvered)

~ cleaning everything up, gathering his tools, and re-loading the Case machine (watching him get it up onto the trailer without a ramp was worth selling tickets)

We paid something like $320 for the materials, but as far as paying J personally, he said he was donating his time(?!?), that it cost $25/hour to run the machine, and a check for $50 would be just right. (!!!!!!!) I could NOT believe it. I was so overwhelmed it made me cry. I told him how VERY much we appreciated his expertise, his equipment, and his quality work. He said, “It’s an offering. You guys are doing something that’s making an eternal difference, and I get to be a part and help. God helps me and I like to be able to help someone who’s doing his work.” And with that and a grin, he threaded that big old trailer back down our driveway and drove 23 miles home.

Now all things electrical between the house and the well house are fixed and fixed right; much better than they’ve ever been in the 21 years we’ve lived here.

And today we have water because Jessica loves to explore remote country roads.  = )

 

Everything but the kitchen sink

I was relaxing in my favorite green chair in the living room while Scott was taking his shower this morning. Our bathroom is directly over that chair, and partway through his shower I heard from above – in addition to the WORLD News podcast he often listens to when showering – a very loud and somewhat rhythmic thumping. I couldn’t figure out what he could possibly be doing up there other than maybe… dancing?!?

Oh, well.

And then – for the most obvious reason – I visited the first floor bathroom, and when I flushed, the toilet commenced a most disturbing mighty roaring and thumping sound that made me jump. I hollered up to My Hero who concurred that there was “something wrong with the water.” Indeed. Back in the kitchen, I turned on that faucet and it just sputtered. Hmm… A bit of investigative research on Scott’s part revealed that yes, the holding tank in the well house was empty, and no, the pump wasn’t running, but it turns out that wasn’t because the pump had died. It was because the power line that runs diagonally across the back yard from the clothesline pole (where power comes onto our property) to the well house was severed. Evidently some heavy overhanging limb had blown against it and snapped it. This was not good, but a lack of power is better than a dead pump, especially since we had plenty of power in the house.

There were no limbs down in the yard, but one end of the power line from the clothesline pole was just lying in the yard. Probably still live. And it looked like it was about to rain.

The inconveniences caused by having faucets that produce no water became obvious pretty quickly. I was thirsty and my water bottle was empty… but I couldn’t fill it. It was time to make lunch… but I couldn’t wash my hands. I had just spent 75 minutes putting away a massive grocery run, and because that had involved a lot of food prep (dividing, organizing, chopping, etc.) and because some of last night’s dishes and cooking pots were still on the counter, I had a LOT of dishes to wash before I could even create counter space to make our lunch salads… but I couldn’t wash the dishes – or even wet a cloth to wipe off the very small bit of counter space I could clear. I usually use hot soapy water to wipe the counters, but I figured that in a pinch I could just squirt a little cool water onto a dish cloth from my water bottle… but wait; my water bottle was empty. Etc.

We do use water for many tasks. Drinking, washing dishes, washing clothes, showering, flushing, you name it. So I contacted a couple neighbors to ask permission to use their outside faucets to fill some jugs and other assorted containers, after which, much like the woman in 2 Kings 4, Scott took a great number of empty vessels, “not a few,” loaded them in the Durango, and went to get water. Unfortunately, it poured down rain for about five minutes in the midst of his journey, but Scott is never easily deterred. He made a successful trek and returned home with our small yellow water cooler, our large red water cooler, our soup kettle, our massive canner, and our new blue ice chest all totally full of water. The back carpet of the Durango was also soaked, but wet Durango carpet is not newsworthy. The driver’s seat carpet was already wet because we’ve had a couple days of rain.

We now had plenty of containers of water, so we set some to heat for later dish washing and then enjoyed our salads while I soundly beat Scott at Minus Five.

Meanwhile, he contacted a workman who had done the wiring for the hot tub at the Alpine to see if he could come and advise us on how to deal with the live wire out back and how to restore power to the pump.

I will say that doing that massive lunch clean up was significantly less than recreational, but by pretending I was camping in the kitchen I was able to keep a good attitude. Of course I did have hot water and dish soap to wash the items, but I had no way to rinse the greasy ones before washing, so the water got pretty nasty pretty quickly. And then there was the matter of rinsing the soap off afterwards, but I figured out that by balancing the yellow jug on the edge of the sink and squeezing the spigot valve, I was able to fill the watering can, which it proved ideal for rinsing off soap suds.

Shortly after I finished the dishes – and be it noted that the tower in the dish drainer is impressive – only 90 minutes after Scott called, Tim arrived, and Scott went out with him to survey the situation. They decided that a ditch would need to be dug diagonally across the yard from the clothesline pole to the well house, but until we could arrange that little excavation project, Tim had rigged us up a temporary power-to-the-pump fix. I looked out back and saw what appeared to be an orange extension cord strung through the trees. While that did give me pause, I certainly knew better than to complain, so I just rejoiced with Scott that we could once again have running water. He confirmed that the pump was working, and I suggested the name of a friend who might give us a good deal on ditch digging.

We walked back into the kitchen and turned on the faucet, but (read it and weep) no water came out. Well, that kind of made sense; the line had gone completely dry, so it would probably take a few minutes for the holding tank to fill and water to run back into the house. Meanwhile, Scott walked through the house turning on other faucets, all of which worked just fine. It’s now been an hour or so, and without exception, every single faucet, tub, shower, toilet, and washing machine in the entire house is working perfectly, except for the faucet in the kitchen, which we use all day every day, and out of which comes absolutely nothing, no matter what.

Hence the title of this blog.  = )

 

[Update four hours later: After church, Scott called Mr. Bill, who in less than 30 seconds diagnosed the problem as a clogged aerator filter on the end of the faucet. Mr. Bill is rarely wrong and this case was no exception. The filter was totally full of what appeared to be mud, which offending sediment has been removed, and as a bonus for the past year of generally uninterrupted service, our friendly filter is now enjoying a relaxing overnight vinegar soak.]

“I feel the earth. move. under my feet…”

If you’re trying to decide what dessert to bring to that upcoming potluck, and if you’ve been thinking along the lines of super moist, sinfully rich, and deliciously chocolatey, look no further. Earthquake Cake is the ultimate answer to your baking conundrum.

Here’s the recipe Andrew adapted from delish.com. (WARNING: Diabetics and heart patients should probably skip this one.)

Earthquake Cake

1 cup coconut

1 German chocolate cake mix

3 eggs

1 ½ cups water

½ cup oil

8 oz. cream cheese, softened

1 stick butter, melted   (I told you it was rich.)

2 ½ cups powdered sugar   (And decidedly NOT low-carb.)

1 tsp vanilla

pinch of salt

2 cups chocolate chips (We use semi-sweet, but milk chocolate would be fine too.)

 

Preheat oven to 350° and spray a 9″ x 13” baking pan. Spread coconut on bottom of pan.

In large mixing bowl, combine cake mix, eggs, oil, and water. Beat 2 ½ minutes on medium speed. Pour batter over coconut.

In large mixing bowl, combine cream cheese, melted butter, powdered sugar, vanilla, and salt. Beat until light and fluffy. Pour cream mixture over chocolate batter.

Sprinkle chocolate chips on top.

Bake 50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean.

The final line of the actual recipe says, “serve warm with ice cream,” but it stands alone just fine, either warm or at room temp or even (don’t ask me how I know) by the spoonful straight out of the fridge at bedtime. In any case, I suggest a small serving size indulged in slowly, so as to maximally savor the full richness of Earthquake Cake.  = )