Friday, June 14, 2013

What's Summer Fun?!

Proud of myself for finally ditching the winter wreath and hauling off the poor dead fern! LOL!!
Ahh . . . summer.

The word calls to mind turquoise swimming pools and sunshine glinting like diamonds on oceans lapping sandy shores. Summer makes me think of picnics and ice cream and watermelon. Planting flowers and reading on the shady front porch.

Um, yeah--if you're at Casa Altom, now's the time to make that annoying scratchy record sound, because so far, our summer has super sucked.

After more kid angst than even I could ever imagine--and that's saying somethin'--we've now moved on to a new window leak, hose spigot leak, fleas, and one or two ants in random places. Our nearly sixteen-year-old dog Sweet Pea just had tooth surgery and yesterday, all three kids managed to squelch any attempt at writing with minor medical emergencies that began at 7:40 AM with a trek to the dermatologist, then to the dentist, then the urgent care center for an issue EVERYONE knows to never call me for . . . I'm turning green just thinking of it!!  LOL!!

Knock on wood, but thankfully, everyone's healthy again and today has been selfishly, wonderfully all mine!!! It may not be very summer-like, but I've written a few pages, gabbed on the phone with my bestie, watched an episode of Lost, and even manged to cheat on my diet.

Great times, right? My fingers are crossed that any day now, even more summer fun will hit me like a truckload of yummy s'mores!!

How about you? Got anything awesome planned for June, July or August?


Sunday, April 14, 2013

Attack of the Plumber's Crack!!

It's been quite a week at Casa Altom, but then when is it not?! LOL! Out of dozens of minor annoyances, my "favorite" had to be the plumber.

We've lived in our home for eight years--I think.  Math's kinda tricky this early!  Anyway, during those eight years this is only the second time our kitchen sink has been clogged.  The first time, Hubby fixed the sink, but the plumbing snake knocked a hole in another pipe, which then exploded.  Not a good day!

This time around, sweet Hubby and Son valiantly plunged and Mr. Plumber'd, as did Daughter and I, but no way was that sink clearing.  As luck would have it, the dishwasher was full, as was the sink.  We'd just been to the store, so the counters were cluttered with dirty dishes, plus sacks of vegis needing to be washed for our fun new diet.  Time to call in an expert.

Said expert was supposed to have arrived in the morning.  By mid-afternoon, he finally showed.  And by showed, I mean displayed a bountiful buffet of plumber's crack!!!!!  After getting him a pan to scoop water, then towels, then locking up Cocoa and Daisy--he didn't like them looking at him--he next needed to use our bathroom, then finally fixed the clog.

Cocoa--Plumber Attack Dog #1
Daisy--Plumber Attack Dog #2
I got out the checkbook, thrilled I was on the verge of finally getting my house back!  At this point, I'd've paid double just to get the guy GONE!  But noooo, he stayed an extra ten minutes to give me a lecture.  Here's how it went:

Plumber:  Ma'am, I'm assuming you had someone else doing dishes for you lately?

Me:  Um, no . . .

Plumber:  So then, it was you . . .

Me:  I guess?

Plumber:  Well, ma'am, I was pretty sure you wouldn't make this kind of error . . .

Me:  Okay?  (Did he find a kitten down the drain?!)   

Plumber:  Ma'am . . . (He hitches up his pants.) I'm sorry to tell you, but you can't be putting all that rice and onion down your drain--or anything.

Me:  I thought I was supposed to put stuff like that down the disposal?

Plumber:  No, ma'am.

Me:  Okay?

Plumber:  And, ma'am, I'm supposed to charge you double for having used Mr. Plumber, but I'm not gonna do that, 'cause you seem real nice.

Me:  Um, thank you?

Plumber:  Just don't do it again, ma'am.  You're gonna melt your pipes right out of your house.

Me.  Okay.  Good to know.  (Now, give me the >*&^%$ bill and get the *&^%$%# out of my house)

When I finally handed him his check, I couldn't help thinking that was the best money we ever spent, because If I'd had to spend two more seconds with the guy, it wouldn't have been pretty . . .

At least in my rich fantasy life!  In the real world, at times, I'm far too polite--but working hard to change this habit when necessary!  LOL!!

Got any "fun" plumbing stories to share?

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Transform Your Valentine's Day from Dull to Dreamy!!

My tulips and Valentine hearts!
Happy Valentine's Day!!

Hopefully, all of you reading this are planning a wildly romantic day with lots of flowers and chocolate and cuddling.  Around here, however, in the land of We Have too Many Kids in College, Hubby and I have decided to play this low-key.  He bought me lovely pink potted tulips from Neighborhood Market for $5.88.  I sent him a SUPER fancy emoticon Happy Valentine's text!!  I would say the cost was free, but considering our hefty monthly cell bill, that text probably lands in the $5.00 zone, as well.

While Hubby and I are perfectly content with our "wild" celebration--heck, the day's young, we might still go really crazy and have our fave Hideaway Pizza for dinner--for me being a romance writer, our blase plans feel a wee bit lackluster.

In honor of "Real" romance writers such Dame Barbara Cartland and Danielle Steel, I decided it might be good form to plan ahead for when the kids are finally out of school and I become wildly rich and famous--a cool $80,000,000 should suffice . . . (Listening, Writer Angels?!?!)

With bank accounts bulging, here are my Top 5 Valentine's Day Dream Dates:

Hubby and I chillin' on Bora Bora!! (Image:
  • Bora Bora--Hubby and I wake to find ourselves in the island's finest over-water suite!  We spend our day frolicking in dreamy sun-warmed water. Tonight, our toned and tanned gorgeous selves feast upon fresh-caught lobster and long, lingering looks of love . . .
Picture me and Hubby smack in the center of this hug fest!! (Image:
  • Rent a Zoo--Hubby stroll hand-in-hand through the San Diego zoo.  No one else allowed!!  A snack cart stocked with hot dogs and cotton candy follows discreetly behind us and alongside each enclosure, a zookeeper stands by to hand over sweet, furry bundles ready for plenty of kisses and cuddling!!  (I thought about taking a safari, but that would involve an awful lot of dust and bugs and actually having to find the cuddly animals!!  LOL!!)
Hubby and I debating our next move . . . (Image:
  • Treasure Hunt--OMG--a mysterious stranger arrives at our door, gifting us with a super secret mystery map that we're charged with deciphering.  In true, National Treasure/Fool's Gold style, we bumble our way to unfathomable riches in gold and jewels and priceless antiquities.  For dinner, we picnic on lavish seafood dips and sandwiches before making out atop a mound of Spanish silver . . . 
We're drinking the chocolate waterfall!! (Image:
  • Bring a Movie to Life--Hubby and I are at Willy Wonka's chocolate factory!!  We're ALL OVER this chocolate river!!!!
Our castle's a tad drafty, but we're warming it with love!! (Image:
  • Skiing--Before our kids were so d*mned expensive, we used to ski.  Now that we have unlimited funds, we're upping this sport to a whole new level by skiing the Swiss Alps.  Tonight, we're staying at this castle, feasting on dreamy-creamy soups and filet mignon and twice-baked potatoes.  Flaming-something for dessert!! 
Whew, I'm exhausted, but in a good way!!  LOL!!

All right, fellow romantics, how are you celebrating your special day?

Monday, January 14, 2013

MISSING: Charlie the Contractor!!

Daisy's exhausted from looking for Charlie . . .
Sing it with me, "Oh where, oh where has my little dog--er, contractor gone?  Oh where, oh where could he beeeee?"

December was quite a month around here.  November, too, for that matter.  We got the news that we're moving.  We were scared, then excited, then scared, then downright terrified when we realized just how much of a fixer-upper our home really is. 

With a To-Do list three miles long, we assessed the projects we could handle ourselves, then started hiring.  According to our realtor, granite counters are a MUST.  Granite installed--check.  According to our realtor and HGTV, neutral walls are a must.  Yellow kitchen now beige.  Green accent wall in bedroom now beige.  All clutter must be gone--still working on it.  One must focus on curb appeal.  The list went on and on and on . . .

Our house is a 70's-era architectural fantasy with insanely high, pointy ceilings and custom-everything.  Back in the day, it was built for a doctor who had deep enough pockets to afford bathroom sinks from Portugal.  Alas, with three kids in college, our pockets aren't deep enough for McDonald's!!!  If anyone happens to have a spare Portuguese sink that'll match the old one from the downstairs bath that needs replacing, but we can't find one the same size, please give me a call at 1-800-MY-HOUSE-IS-A-NIGHTMARE!!!! (Sorry for the grammar horror story of the last sentence.  Feel free to rework!!)

But I digress, back to the REALLY big projects like replacing the deck and drywall repair, we hired Charlie the contractor.  He's a likable enough guy and when he shows up, he does nice work.  Key words being--when he shows up.

Lovely view from our kitchen window . . .
The last time we've seen Charlie was when he stopped by asking for a check two days before Christmas.  With a half-finished deck and yard littered with construction debris, I gave him a little cash, but nowhere near what he's still owed.  It's now January 14th and our deck project has been frozen like a crime scene.  Every time the phone rings, I'm expecting the neighborhood association prez to be calling, asking when we anticipate the mess being gone.

I called Charlie last week.  Here's a recreation of our convo:

"Hi Charlie.  This is Laura Altom--remember me?  The one with the deck?"

"Oh, hey girl!  I was just thinkin' about you, but lost your number.  I haven't forgotten you.  We've just been REAL busy.  But, hey girl, now that I've got your number, we'll be right there."

A week has now passed.  Still no sign of him.  Prior to Christmas, he was at our house every day for two weeks.  Did he also forget the location?!?!

Even better news--after all the work we've done, we're now NOT moving.  Sigh . . .

Lucky for me, Charlie's just my contractor and not my Baby Daddy!!!!!!!   How about you?  Got any contractor nightmares to share?

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Cocoa the Incredible Blind Flying Wiener!!!

Just when I think Casa Altom can't get nuttier--it does!!!  LOL!!!

As I have only fifteen or so minutes before our contractor arrives and I'm forced to run and hide from drywall dust and/or the tooth-rattling growl of the Sawzall, I'll keep this short by sharing only the freakiest, truly most unbelievable moment of the week.

We're undergoing MAJOR renovations on our decrepit old house and one change is replacing the deck off of our dining room.  This second story deck is a doggy favorite.  High in the trees, squirrels frolic there and anytime the magic door's opened, our three dogs charge past me, hot in pursuit.

I was under the impression that only part of the deck would be replaced, but by Tuesday afternoon, the whole thing was GONE.  After the contractor left, Hubby, son and I stood at the door, gawking at the mess.  Son was horsing around and decided to open the door to do a mock walk-out and fall.

That lone support beam is all that's left of our old, second-story deck!
Cocoa, our 12 year old blind wiener, heard that magic door open, just knew she'd finally catch an evil squirrel and bolted--RIGHT INTO THIN AIR!!!!

I screamed and cried, Son tore down the stairs to reach her, with me running after him.  I was crying too hard, certain poor Cocoa had died from the fall, to even know what Hubby was doing.

Here's the odd part--we all get downstairs to Cocoa and she's fine!!!  Like not a scratch, not spooked, no broken back or legs, but 100% awesome, smelly wiener dog!!!  I hugged her for a good hour, then kept a close eye on her all night, afraid she might have internal ouchies.  Two days later, she's doing great!!  Still chasing evil squirrels and growling when anyone gets too close to her Dingo bone!!!

Cocoa in her usual lounging position!!

I consider this a full-on miracle.  Our pets are part of our family and with everything else going on right now, the thought of losing Cocoa is unthinkable.

How about you?  Have any great pet miracles to share?      

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Time Sucking Broken Eyeballs!!

Since The SEAL's Surprise Baby is due the 15th, I thought it might be fun to look at all the ways fate has messed with me during the crucial last days before I finally type, The End.  In speaking with my author friend, Winnie Griggs, she also claims calamity strikes most when deadlines loom.  While I don't have time for an in-depth study of every author in the world, I thought it might be interesting to at least look back over the ridiculous amounts of things that've happened to me lately to keep me from writing:

Tuesday 11/6--Election day!!  Hubby and I decide to vote first thing in the morning to avoid long lines.  Wait 30 minutes at our usual polling place, whip out IDs, told our polling place is now no longer located at the nice, peaceful church it has been for 10 years, but Food Pyramid.  We head that way only to discover a 40 minute line snaking through the freezer section!!  Prime early morning writing time shot--albeit for a good cause.

Hubby in voting line!!  Yes--that IS a grocery freezer section behind him!!
After a brief Y & R break, I get back to work.  Son pops in for a visit.  I ask if he's voted.  He has not.  Off we go to his polling place.  2 hour line!!   Daughter brags she had no wait at all!!

Day's Page Count--4 out of my goal of 10
Wednesday 11/7--Fairly productive day save for Lowe's and the plumber and the counter guy calling at least three times each.  Get mail.  Daisy, our demon Yorkie, decides to run away.  I'm forced to walk the street barefoot, wagging a tempting slice of "cheezy cheese" to lure her home.  She warily takes cheese, but before I can grab her, bolts.  Can you say bad dog?!?! 

Day's Page Count--7 out of my goal of 10

Thursday 11/8--Plumber here forever.  They leave, I nuke soup.  UPS man arrives.  Dog eats soup.  Attempt to start writing, but counter guys show up.  I bought the wrong faucet for new sink.  Emergency run to Lowe's.  Back at home, lungs BURNING from counter glue fumes.  Added bonus?  Son and super-sweet girlfriend I REALLY like are breaking up--AT OUR HOUSE!!!  By the time Hubby gets home, we escape for dinner.  Fumes no better when we're done.

Day's Page Count--0 out of my goal of 10

Friday 11/9--Get comfy on the couch to begin what will surely be a great writing day, stretch backwards and knock my freshly opened Sprite over my head.  My hair, face, and sofa are now dripping with sticky Sprite.  By the time me and the sofa are clean, plumbers arrive to connect new sink.  They notice book covers on the wall and request signed copies.  By the time I'm writing anything other than my name and a check for extra parts, a huge chunk of my writing day is gone.

Day's Page Count--11 out of my goal of 20 

Saturday 11/10--I don't work weekends.  Hubby's off at his day job during the week, so I look forward to spending Saturday and Sunday with him and/or our kids.  That said, with my deadline perilously close, I HAVE to work this weekend.  Too bad the "simple" errands we need to run last a huge chunk of the day.

Day's Page Count--14 out of my goal of 20 

Sunday 11/11--Surprisingly calm day, but we have an Oilers game at 4:00.  We like to get to games an hour early to eat Billy's onion rings and watch the players warm-up.  That means getting to the BOK Center by 3:05.  That means my in-desperate-need-of-cutting hair needs to be tamed starting by 1:30.  Lots of writing time shot like a puck!!

Day's Page Count--16 out of my goal of 20

Monday 11/12--If you've been keeping track, you'll notice I just now made up my page count for the whole day I missed last Thursday.  Had those been the only days I missed, I wouldn't now be feverishly making up for those other bizarre days my page count was 0.

With my deadline being Thursday, I'm now in fevered-writing mode.  Got six great pages done when daughter calls.  After the free skate at Sunday's game, boyfriend accidentally elbowed her right eye.  She reports it's swollen, hurting and her vision's blurry.  Whaaaaat?!?!  All writing stopped to run her to the eye doctor.  

Day's Page Count--19 out of my goal of 20

Tuesday 11/13--Sit down to write and Hubby's lost his shoes and belt.  Since I'm in deadline mode, house is a MESS.  I help look.  Hubby leaves, I'm back to writing.  Thirty minutes in, Hubby calls.  Have I seen his work phone?  Stop writing to look.  Text Hubby--Found it!  Start writing, Hubby texts if he missed calls?  I don't know!!  And I'm not getting up to look!!  Day progresses in much the same fashion from here.  Lowe's lady calls.  Am I happy with our counters?  Slimy telemarketer tries selling me vitamins.  Daughter calls--her poor eyeball still hurts.  Her boyfriend's elbow owes me a $40 specialist copay and lost writing time!!! LOL!!!

Daughter and super cute Boyfriend's elbow before elbowing incident!!

Day's Page Count--23 out of my goal of 20

Wednesday 11/14--Overall, despite a gazillion interruptions, I've managed to get work done, but not nearly enough.  Today, I'm still writing feverishly, trying to make up for all the other little things that somehow crop up when a book's due.

Cross your fingers!!  This one's going to be a squeaker!!

How about you?  Do you find that the more you have to do, the more gremlins appear to divert your attention?

Saturday, November 03, 2012

Attack of the Not-so-Killer Raccoon!!

Every Saturday morning, Hubby and I head out for breakfast.  I'd just put on my shoes and somewhat tamed my hair when he walked down my office stairs, shaking his head.  "Sorry.  Looks like we'll have to postpone I-Hop."

We've had so many calamities lately, my mind jumped from one of the kids or pets being hurt to the car not starting to something catastrophic having happened to the house.  Instead, Hubby had good news!!

Let me back up a little by explaining that a few weeks back, our neighborhood committee declared war on the lovely nature reserve across the street from our house.  They cut and chopped and cleared, driving all the critters from their homes and straight into ours.  When Cocoa, our wiener dog, refused to leave my office stairs, then started digging the floor, we called Critter Guy.

The hole in the side of our house!!
Critter Guy performed a 15 minute inspection, announced our home was in dire trouble and said for the low, low price of $9000--yes, that's three zeros after the 9--he would repair the coon damage, but if we wanted to actually catch the coon, that would run an extra $450/week until the critter could be trapped.  I cried and went to bed.  Hubby got mad.

Critter Guy said insurance pays for this sort of thing, so Angela, the nice insurance lady, came right over to check it out.  She said no way was there anywhere near that amount of damage, and regardless, Farmer's wasn't paying.  We had a contractor here working on another issue, and he advised we try trapping the coon ourselves, then he'd give us a quote on fixing the hole.  Sounds like a plan, right?

We headed to Atwood's for a live trap.  REALLY fun store I highly recommend!!  They have candy, bling belts, and baby chicks and ducks!!!!!!  I could live at Atwood's!!!!  But I digress . . .

Fuzzy chicks at Atwood's!!

Back to trapping, here's how it played out:

Attempt One--Peanut butter and dog food.  Untouched.

Attempt Two--Canned tuna.  Raccoon reached right in, had a nice meal, then skedaddled!!   

Attempt Three--Fancy kitty food.  Wild caught Alaskan salmon with wild rice.  Yahtzee!!  Turns out we have a gourmet!!

Those eyes!!!  He says, "Please let me back inside!  I promise to behave!"
Considering how much time, money and stress this guy has cost, I wanted to be mad at him, but he was so cute, once we drove out to a pretty wildlife area, I was a little misty to let him go.  When Hubby first opened the cage, the coon just stared at me for a few seconds--pretty sure by this time we'd bonded.  I wanted to pet him, but Hubby said, "NO."   

Moments later, the raccoon darted from the cage and that was that.

The blur is the coon running away!!
Daughter saw the pictures and worried what if he has a family?  I assured her we will set the trap again--just in case.  If there are more, we'll let them loose in the same place.  Hubby and I hope our coon was a bachelor stud, and is now speed dating at his new home all the way across the Arkansas River!!

Our coon's new home!!