Friday, February 24, 2017

Reclaiming Our Neglected Tool Shed

February's plan was to fix things around the house that were broken, replace things that needed it, and clean out the tool shed. Picking the shortest month in the year shows poor planning on my part. You know how I love before and after pictures, so here you go. It was pretty bad. This was the worst corner, but of course, I'm using it for the most dramatic effect.

It's not that there wasn't any organization, it's just that it had been about 40 years since anyone took everything out and started over. Taking everything out. That's important. Here are some other views:

Clearly, we had organized bits and pieces from time to time but this time I was on a mission for a complete overhaul and I was ruthless. Okay, and a little scared.

Here's the view that I saw anytime I opened the door to grab a can of paint or a hammer. I rarely actually went inside. I'd managed to keep most of the things I used a lot in the house or just inside this door.

I know some of you have areas of your house or outbuildings that make you feel this way. The morning I began this project I had the overwhelming urge to cry. But over the years I've learned that no matter how bad it looks you just have to start. I slowly began removing things from the shelves. I gained momentum as I went, which is why it's important just to begin.

Someone gave my husband that sign years ago with his name on it.  It's been there since my last attempt at organizing this space well over a decade ago. This was originally my father-in-law's tool shed and he spent a lot of time here. He also spent a lot of time at the hardware store and never came home empty handed, which is why you see so many things in the packages they came in. Over twenty years ago.

I'm not showing you the picture of the dead rat I found. You're welcome.  I was seriously determined to get this done once and for all. The fact that I continued after the dead rat trauma should be plenty of proof.

In addition to the dead rat, I found 10 vintage toolboxes we've inherited from several male relatives.

 Luckily, I had the back porch to use as a staging area, especially since it rained the night I took everything out. See that Phillips box? It's an unopened MP3 player. I literally have no idea.

There were piles of things everywhere. I hate piles of things.

I had a couple of pieces of unused shelving stored in the honey shed that I used to extend the workbench all the way to the wall.

Hung up the shop vac and added a shelving unit from the sporting good side of this building. My husband and I cleaned it out a couple of years ago and these shelves were empty.

I started hanging things up on the pegboard and working out a system for the things we use the most.

Summer is coming. Gonna need these extension cords to be handy.

Not too bad. Something is bugging me though...

This was a vast improvement. Look how happy all the screwdrivers look lined up!

These hammers and mallets are definitely much happier all sorted out.

In the emptying out process, I had discovered a dolly that was still in the box and I took a break to put it together when I got close to the end. My father-in-law had bought this and never put it together. The box was hidden behind other stuff.

 Do you know how many times I could have used this in the past twenty years?

But I got super excited when I saw that I could change the position of the handle and use it for a cart. It is the perfect size for moving bee hives!

Doesn't the tool shed look great? But still, for 4 days I kept thinking it wasn't quite right. It was just too dark. I decided to take everything down and paint. It was a lot of trouble, but as you can see from the photos it was totally worth it.

The paint brightened up the space which only has one window.

Still so many things purchased by my father in law, still in the packages.

For something like a tool shed, I love vintage pieces like these old gas cans.

This project that I had scheduled 3 days to complete ended up taking more like 6. But think of the time I'll save when I need something and the money not purchasing something we already have on hand.

For every item that made it back into the tool shed (we had to know what it was and how to use it) there was at least one that is headed to the recycling center, trash pile, or thrift store donation. I'd say it's a safe bet to say I reduced the contents by half.

Don't be afraid to tackle your big, dark, scary attic, basement, or shed. Schedule some uninterrupted time, wear a mask, and get started. This was completely overwhelming at the beginning, but just keep pushing forward.

Don't be deterred by dead rodents or spiders.

Who knows what treasure you'll find?

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Florence, Italy

On to Florence! Beautiful Florence with its art; many fortuitous encounters awaited my owner, though she did not know this at the time.  David, Venus, the architecture, sleeping in a monastary overlooking the city, roosters crowing and dogs barking as the sun came up over one of the world's most beautiful cities. The first long bus ride with the other passengers revealed a few interesting characters. A couple of them had already made themselves known during breakfast with one of them telling My Owner "We share the same energy!" This didn't exactly thrill MO as this woman's "energy" seemed to be of the clinically insane sort.

They arrived in Florence after dark and the lumbering coach climbed a narrow road on a steep hill. The lights of the city became more sprawling with each moment.  There was a dinner at some point and I heard talk of attractive Italian men. Eventually the massive vehicle crept into a narrow space at the edge of the road, we were unloaded (and none too soon, hours and hours with smelly luggage belonging to boys is hard to stomach) and the view was stunning. I was rather viciously dragged through a strange maze of hallways with odd sets of steps in the middle, serving no apparent purpose. The room was sparse and small. This hotel it seemed was a converted monastery.

The key gets left at the desk because who wants to carry that around?

Morning brought with it a beautiful sunrise and best to describe?

A wonderful surprise. The shutters opened to reveal...

Florence, in all her glory and an olive grove beneath their window.

Leaning out the window.  A dog was barking and a rooster crowing.
After breakfast a short walk was taken about the grounds to see the tree Dante sat under to write and the little garden. The outside of the building was revealed in bright spring Italian sunlight.

Off for the day in Florence....

 They started the morning with a breakfast that included blood orange juice, which My Owner was pretty sure was the best thing she had ever tasted. She and her friend couldn't get enough, and croissants with Nutella, food can really make those two happy. But food shall be covered in its own post coming up shortly.

They had a guided tour in the morning of some of the more important points of interest including The Duomo,then after a perfect lunch at an outdoor cafe, the afternoon was free for museums and shopping. Mo was amazed at just how much got done on this day. Easily one of her best days ever.

Now MO had been waiting a long time to come to Italy. Her whole life really, and she knew that probably at some point she was likely to have a little emotional flare up. (Generally not her style but sometimes it can't be helped.) She thought it would most likely be in Rome, perhaps at the Coliseum or maybe the Vatican. But for some reason wile standing in this lovely square she burst into tears. Inexplicably. Suddenly. And for apparently no reason at all. Unless of course, sheer joy counts.

The Ponte Vecchio is a medieval bridge over the Arno River...

This bridge is a famous place for lovers. They write their names or initials on locks and attach the locks to fences and other structures on the bridge. They then throw the key into the river symbolizing their eternal love. I can't help but wonder how many of them wish to go diving for them later on.

Loggia della Signoria o dei Lanzi:Many famous statues like , The Rape of the Sabine Women, are here.

The Uffizi: My Owner will relay a story about that, here.

Galleria dell'Accademia: This is where Michelangelo's David resides alongside countless other masterpieces. 


Later in the evening walking back to the bus after dinner, a fellow traveler asked her what her favorite thing was she saw that day.

"David. I'm ruined for all other men."

Oh brother.

Literally in this city famous for housing so much of the world's great art, the art is everywhere.

This is on the street.
  Remember the woman who told MO they shared the "same energy?" Well she had told them she was a psychiatrist and had asking them all sorts of odd questions, which they might have answered if any of them could have stopped laughing long enough. In the end it turned out...she only needed one.


While in line for the Uffizi a gypsy hag approached the group of travelers and began saying something they couldn't understand but panhandling and accosting tourists is a universal language so they all just said NO! repeatedly. MO's friend somehow managed to offend the hag during this process and the woman got very angry made some weird hand gestures spit in her hand and threw a curse at her! 

     ...and museum ticket sellers with attitude.  

 After waiting to get into the Uffizi they finally made it to the ticket window and MO and the leader of their small group were rejected and told they would have to go back out to get into another line. Mo was thinking perhaps that curse outside had bounced off her friend. The woman was very rude and seemed angry with them. She called her supervisor (an attractive Italian man) over to explain to them (since they were obviously stupid Americans) WHY they couldn't enter just then, even though their friends did. He looked at MO and The Fearless Leader, the lady was chattering in Italian and they could only imagine what she might be saying about them. Suddenly he cut her off, and began to yell at her and say (some things are universally understood) "YOU WILL let them enter, you will stop being rude, and you will do it while I'm standing here." The look on her face said it all.  MO and Fearless Leader were overjoyed. They had come to Italy and a man had fought for them! This idea made them very happy because of course, they are women, and such things amuse and delight them.  


Wednesday, February 22, 2017

A Day in Venice

Originally published in 2009

I suppose at some point I should mention that my genius owner bought a new camera for this trip. She failed to take the time to figure out how to work the date setting and thus her photos from this trip look not only as if she was traveling in Italy but back and forth in time!

She had one real goal on her mind this day and that was to make a sign that said "Brittany's mom at the real Old Venice" since her daughter worked at a restaurant by that name. (my owner thinks she is clever and is rather easily amused). They had a tour and the sun was shining. They crossed the little bridges over the canals and snapped photo after photo, toured the Murano glass factory, and took a gondola ride where they spent as much time looking at Paolo the gondolier as they did the other "scenery".

Free time in the afternoon was spent strolling around the back streets and having a lovely lunch.

 Now my owner can be a bit...distracted and is incapable of almost any sort of multitasking. Add to that a couple of glasses of wine at lunch and it's not too hard to imagine how she lost her ticket for admission to The Doge's Palace.  She didn't realize this until they were going through the entrance and mentioned it to the group leader at the EXACT moment she was going through the turnstile causing it to lock up and negate HER admission ticket (perfect timing, as ever). Off the two of them went to buy TWO more admission tickets.

 It was worth it, however. One beautifully stunning room after another. While they were inside the palace the weather turned cold and clouds moved in.

My owner thought it would be great fun to have her picture made with some Venetian policemen. She spotted them some distance off and made up her mind to use her (much worse than she realized) limited Italian to ask them to pose for a picture. They looked less than enthused but obliged. Now the other members of her group decided that was a pretty good photo op and asked if they too could get a photo...a little less enthusiastic the second time around and by photo number 3 the commander of that little trio looked as if he wanted to arrest them except that that would only require spending MORE time with them, so he said something to his subordinates and they waved their arms and scurried away quickly cursing cameras and middle-aged American female tourists, I'm sure (okay I'm not sure because I was in the closet back at the hotel, but it's probably a pretty safe bet).

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Arriving in Venice

Originally published in 2009

They'd survived and made it to Venice although they had missed the first day...Verona. It is a little- known fact that Juliette's suitcase (she was actually an old bag) wrote a fascinating memoir. It was kind of brief.  They arrived and were busy getting situated and being looked over by the other members of the tour group who had already spent a day together. They went off in search of their rooms via the smallest elevator you can imagine. More laughing, my word these people laugh a lot. I was beginning to think there was something wrong with them. Here's MO's friend with one of their travel companions.

It was a bit hard to get one's bearings in a strange place after dark. The room was small and had that uncomfortable musty smell. There was a refrigerator that they couldn't get open. Next, they tried to use the phone but when the friend picked it up there was no cord! Showers next. That resulted in water all over the floor and complaints about no water pressure, the hairdryer looked a little dicey.

My owner (who can be annoyingly optimistic) kept saying "This is fine, really. This is just like the hotels you see in old movies about traveling in Italy, it's just what I expected."

They now, for the first time began to wonder about their decision to spend so much money on this trip. Her friend said, "We could have stayed home in our comfortable beds and bought beautiful travel books about Italy!  We could have rented a hotel room at home and gone to an Italian restaurant and drank and laughed." They were exhausted not having been asleep in over a day, so this idea made them laugh. (I know, you are starting to feel sorry for me aren't you?) They couldn't breathe, one of them snorted. More hysterics ensued. Everything that had gone wrong was reviewed and the cumulative disasters were the source of no end of amusement. Finally, the friend said, "Hey, I wonder if those drapes open." My owner opened the drapes and there was a sliding glass door that opened onto a balcony! A view! They stepped out into the cold night air.

Magically in that one moment, everything about the trip changed. They stood there and breathed in the salty Adriatic air. Suddenly it was all perfection; far from home, stars, so much to look forward to.  They were hardly able to fall asleep. Middle-aged women, giddy with happiness, are generally quite entertaining.

Eventually, they did fall asleep, though they hated to, talking and giggling every so often. The next day, Venice...

Monday, February 20, 2017

White Knuckles on the Highway from Milan to Venice

Having flown over the Alps from Paris to Milan we landed in beautiful Italy to lost luggage for some of our travel party (someday I shall write an expose' on just what goes on once we leave the watchful eyes of our owners) and a driver who first took us to the wrong van for the drive to Venice. The travel snafus they'd all been coping with by drinking and laughing had, sadly, caused them to miss the entire first day of their trip which meant Verona. Trying to comfort herself with a French stamp in her passport was the best my owner could do.

Our very loud and expressive driver tossed me in the back with (most) all of the other luggage. I was quite concerned about my friends although The Brute arrived on time, completely empty (a sad bit if irony for my owner's friends who needed the items in their luggage). Things momentarily settled down, a sigh of relief for finally having arrived in their destination country was given and then- THE HIGHWAY!!! All us poor suitcases were thrown out of our original positions and frankly, I think I was molested by Samsonite's handle.  There was screaming and gasping which I'm kind of used to but I'm generally hearing it from a hotel closet. Another sharp turn and I was shuffled into a position to see what the problem was. We were traveling down an Italian highway at about 90 mph (not sure about the metric conversion), weaving in and out of traffic, missing huge trucks by inches while our driver yelled in Italian and waved his arms. Most unnerving.

My owner and her friend repeatedly gave each other little looks that I think meant "If we don't survive, I'm still glad I came." There was a good deal of hand holding going on when my owner thought of the headline (as she often does in such situations).  5 American travelers killed in high speed accident on the A4 while en route to Venice.  Unfortunately she said this out loud and was then encouraged by her companions to perhaps try out her Italian instead.

 "Come si dice in italiano del tunnel?" (How do you say "tunnel" in Italian?) Now the driver just looked all confused and spoke quickly, which meant she couldn't understand him until he said "tunnel" Lovely. My genius owner had asked how to translate a word that is the same in both languages.  I was wondering if she'd wasted all those hours of practice.

Eventually they became accustomed to the ranting of the driver, he had a lot to say about the "Japanese stupido" and warned them repeatedly about pickpockets. They eventually settled into watching the Italian countryside whiz by and dozing off and on. Just as the sun had set they arrived at the hotel in Venice to meet up with the other
members of the group.  The only two words they wanted to and wine.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Cancelled, Delayed, Rerouted on the Way to Italy

Months of waiting and excitement came to a head that Sunday morning as she arrived at the airport to meet her friends and travel companions.  She had me, neatly packed and ready to go and she brought The Brute, empty. He was getting checked as a receptacle for getting dirty clothes home so she could carry new purchases on board in yours truly. Soon everyone arrived and headed to the ticket counter where her lively little group was informed that their flight had been canceled and they would be leaving a couple of hours later for Paris and then on to Milan. Paris!

Well, she and her friend hadn't been there sounded exciting. Sitting around the airport for a while was made a little more tolerable by some eating, drinking, and lots of laughing. After lunch while walking back to the gate her friend ran into a young man she knew and hadn't seen in a long time, he innocently inquired as to how she was..."Great! I just had "sex on the beach!" This had been, of course the name of the drink she'd just finished. Poor man. A look of shock flitted across his face and she and her friends laughed until they cried.  Alcohol, middle aged female travelers, and a great love of fun always make an interesting combination.

It was a good thing they were all in congenial moods, (which seemed even better after those drinks). because much later in the afternoon after another cancellation (I think, after a while I got kind of confused) and a delay they flew to Atlanta arriving with scant time to make their connection. Where was I on that flight? I had been taken away from my owner and stored below. That horrid pink tag meant that even though I am the perfect size for a carry on the woman at the gate whisked me away and handed me off to some man who loaded me with some other bags my size.

Atlanta- grabbed frantically, wheels spinning, she was running (she's pretty fast; she ran out of her shoes twice), I was nearly injured when I got caught in the door of the train, more running...finally, our gate with 2 minutes to spare! Early? Since when do flights leave early? Those French! The next flight didn't leave for another two and a half hours. Fortunately I made the flight with her this time and I do have to give those Air France folks credit, champagne can ease a world of frayed nerves. Ah, those French.
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Thursday, February 16, 2017

Surviving the Ferry of Death in Mexico


Having visited Chichen Itza  at the previous port of call my owner continued on the "march of the history nerds" (as a fellow traveler called it) by signing up for the excursion to Tulum.  Cozumel is an island so it's necessary to travel to the mainland via ferry, a ride that takes about 45 minutes.
Okay 45 minutes, a cast iron stomach, and the ability to keep at bay in one's mind every headline you've ever seen about how many people die when a ferry capsizes.

It was a beautiful sunny day and the water was a magical azure blue. MO found her group, had a sticker stuck on her (the "tourists are like kindergarteners" theme continued), boarded the ferry, and found a place to sit. She had made a narrow escape of being stuck with the single  friend of a couple she'd met at breakfast, as a companion for the day. After a couple of minutes of hearing about the woman's cat (Why do single fifty-something women never figure out the cat thing?) MO opted for a change of seating due to "the sun."

She ended up next to an amusing couple from Georgia, a high school principal and his highly entertaining wife who had led an interesting life growing up in the Virgin Islands without shoes. They both had something MO highly values in others...a snarky sense of humor. Does she detect sarcasm? You can be friends!

The ferry pulled away from the dock and the color of the water was intoxicating. It passed the ship and headed toward the mainland. It began to rock a bit. My Owner hardly noticed, so engaged was she in conversation with her new seatmates. It tilted a bit to one side...then to the other.  Again...people began screaming and upon the next heave a word came into MO's mind.


As in a ship, to one side. 

She was enthralled by the conversation however, and continued laughing as the ferry rocked back and forth violently. From the corner of her eye she noticed the crew had wedged themselves in various corners and were holding on tightly. Their expressions were resolute but without worry. MO held on too but managed to keep up her end of the conversation over the sound of people screaming and children crying. Then, the first person threw up.

A view that is alternately ALL sky, then ALL water, while waves crash over the TOP of a 3 story structure has that effect on some people. Fortunately MO does not get seasick, and so she continued to crack jokes and make discoveries about her new friends while her hands turned white from holding on and she put the thoughts of sudden and certain death out of her mind, though another word popped into it...


Now two lines of thought were going on simultaneously in MO's mind.

1.) The chatty bit of small talk she was engaged in with this woman about her childhood.

2.) Calculated risk... this ferry is safe or they wouldn't be using it for tourists (I'm going to die in a third world country). The crew doesn't look concerned (they've resigned themselves to an early death). I feel so sorry for those who are sick (the smell of vomit..ignore it...ignore it...).

MO's theory of how to deal with this situation is one she uses often in life which is, trying to keep your bearings and trying to behave in a highly unusual situation as you do in others isn't very beneficial. Sometimes when you don't have control you just have to go with it. (Hey, I never said she was deep.)

Finally the rocking calmed, land was in sight. MO loosened her grip on the backs of the seat in front of her and the one she was sitting on (she had braced herself this way to move along with the ship instead of fighting it). Her hands ached. The ferry pulled up to the pier and everyone stepped off, some laughing, some not so perky, but all relieved.

As MO stood on the motionless dock, she felt sick.


The ferry docks at the beautiful resort town of Playa del Carmen which is quite beautiful and she thought she might like to return there sometime. They met their tour guide for the day and boarded a bus for the lengthy ride to Tulum as MO remembered the Dramamine she had hidden in her bag.
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