Om Depot

At the top of Mt. Home Depot the DIY guru sits lotus-style on the hard concrete slab and says, "What have you learned, Grasshopper?"

Oh, Great Orange-Apron Teacher, I am grateful for your teaching. I have so much still to learn. Twelve tiny lessons come from first small steps:

  • Surface preparation. Tedious and repetitive motions bring moments of inner peace and superior results. Sanding muffles the self-critical and self-congratulatory inner voices.
  • Frugality. Friends are pleased to help with advice and loans of tools in return for battle stories. Renting is better than buying.
  • Connection to ancestors. Using my father's electric drill makes me feel his spirit with me. I feel connected to all those who worked with their hands.
  • Serendipity. Interesting things happen when I surrender control. Not knowing what will happen next is refreshing.
  • Improvisation. Recognizing my ability to think and respond to challenges in the moment is empowering.
  • Becoming open to change. The purchase of a carpet knife can lead to release from long-held constraints and ancient baggage. 
  • Negative is positive. Proper masking of surfaces and edges brings better results.
  • Protection is respect. I respect myself by wearing safety goggles, masks, boots, and gloves.
  • Work improves job. Intense evening DIY efforts lead to better sleep and increased detachment at my day job.
  • Observation. Noticing the play of light and shadow, the moon, the sound of cicadas while "ensuring adequate ventilation".
  • Patience. Waiting and waiting for coats to dry is a huge self-discipline test.  
  • Thin cows outshine fat cows. Light coats of sealer dry clear, but deep puddles make milky bubbles.

© 2013 Nancy L. Ruder


DIY: The Unvarnished Truth... OR

..."Stand Back," Said the Elephant, "I'm Going to Sneeze!"

This evening while applying the accent dye to the floor I got a little tickle in my nose.  Suddenly, kablooey! Dye on the wall, and wacko dribbles spelling out "oops" in big loops on the floor. Bummer. Collateral damage! Quite likely the most expensive sneeze of my life, since repainting the walls rocketed from one-of-these-days to ASAP:

Among my inspirations and motivators for this project is my storytime lady friend.  Her home has beautiful acid-stained concrete floors that I've coveted for years. She also gave me these wading boots that had a real workout this week.

This toad lives near the garden hose spigot on the school playground. It shares the space with a larger, more camera-shy toad. My imagined final floor vaguely resembles actual results. I am still happy with the change, but the floor is a much darker brown than intended. Cost so far for a 15' x 21' room is $303.  Repainting the walls not included!

 © 2013 Nancy L. Ruder

Getting to the fun part

After countless, well eleven, evenings of work removing carpet and prepping the concrete, the fun is beginning. My main challenge is figuring the spray application for the square footage. This isn't exactly intuitive with the pressurized pump sprayer. Tonight I will make my third pass with the base dye color, hopefully with the nozzle set to the finest mist. Tomorrow maybe the accent color!

When finished the color combo will be called "Oasis".

© 2013 Nancy L. Ruder


Orange only, no bits

"What did you have for breakfast?" Such enlightening answers. Most of the preschoolers have eaten a chocolate granola bar in the car. One had a toaster waffle. One had a glass of milk and a Nutella sandwich.

Deep-fried Nutella is among the finalists for "Most Creative" food at the State Fair of Texas. Competitors have had it tough since deep-fried bubble gum upped the bar.

I grew up on breakfasts of Cheerios with sugar and skim milk. No day started without a small glass of Florida orange juice. My sister wouldn't eat Cheerios that were not patted down, or drink OJ with"bits".  I'm glad I have the choice of OJ with No Pulp (aka No Bits) these days. Glad, too, when TSA doesn't pat me down at the airport.

Finally burned out Dad's ancient Stanley drill making air holes in Rubbermaid worm tubs. There's still a tungsten grinder/sander/buffer tool in his drill box. It is good to have a son who sold Craftsman tools at Sears before he headed to law school. Good family advice on a replacement drill. Dad's sander attachment works great in the new drill, and I can use the old drill bits.

My 3/8 inch 5.5 amp drill is not pink, for heaven's sake!  Wondering how the world would be different if Nebraska girls in the Sixties took Industrial Arts class as well as Home Economics. The shocking pink power tools annoy me. Would navy blue glue guns turn real men into scrapbookers?

My new corded drill is not orange, either, but my new caulk gun is. Makes me sunshiny happy!

After a rough evening using the cleaner/etcher on the floor, I am ready for the fun part of this project to begin.  But first a real night's sleep is needed!

© 2013 Nancy L. Ruder


Home with the Armadillo

Rented one of these electric scraper chisel gizmos to remove most of the thin-set that was under the ceramic tiles. I'm hoping for some patterns in the surface resembling fossils, rock samples, and trail-collected armadillo plates.

© 2013 Nancy L. Ruder


Floor squares and seven years ago...

Our fathers set forth to mangle, fold, and mutilate Lincoln's Gettysburg Address. I pried tiles away from the condo entry, lost in the rhythm of destruction and the thrill of accomplishment.  The scene seems not of this blue planet, but metropolitan Mars rover meets Google Street View.

The goal for Sunday is removing the adhesive that was under the ceramic tiles, but still leaving a trace of the patterns for concrete stained floor character.

© 2013 Nancy L. Ruder


Floors and Wallander

Nothing like an hour pulling up tack strips before breakfast!  Feel the burn?

The creepy old carpet has been cut, rolled, and hauled to the dumpster. The carpet pad had mostly disintegrated or been inhaled, alas. All the living room furniture is shoved and stacked in the dining area. Just getting to the coffee maker means squeezing through a maze.

Prepping the concrete floor for staining feels like old school calisthenic six-count burpees. Work out in the mornings, then review concrete videos on YouTube until the wee hours.

Playing "Wallander" DVDs as I work. A son introduced me to Henning Mankell's detective a few years back. Now stubbly Kenneth Branagh propels my heavy duty scrub brush. Emily Barker and The Red Clay Halo's theme song percolates up through the concrete.

Home Depot employees are my new best friends. Plan to finish removing plaster and adhesives from the concrete tomorrow. Saturday evening Inspector Wallander and I will be repairing cracks and divots in the slab. So it won't be a mystery if the blog is set aside.

© 2013 Nancy L. Ruder


No continental breakfast

On Aug. 20, 1968, the Soviet Union and other Warsaw Pact nations invaded Czechoslovakia to crush the ''Prague Spring'' liberalization drive of Alexander Dubcek's regime.

Checked into the little motel in Ogallala, after a day in the '63 Pontiac Catalina. Headed home from an Estes Park, Colorado vacation. We'd had car trouble, I'm sure, as that was a regular feature of family vacations, but the details are hazy. This might have been the amazing vacation without relatives, but I can't be sure.

Very clear is the sense of that budget motel with the Fifties pink tile bathroom behind me. My attention is locked on the black and white t.v. sitting in front of the picture window. Outside, beyond, a tiny over-chlorinated  swim pool shimmers in the heat. Inside, the Soviet tanks roll into Prague.

© 2013 Nancy L. Ruder

Recycling with your pinkie extended

Tonight I am torn between lovely ladies Judith Martin, aka Miss Manners, and Mother Earth, aka Mom, on a question near to my heart. How do we most effectively encourage others to recycle? Edward Hume, author of Garbology, has challenged the etiquette authority's position on proper recycling behavior. Where? On the battlefield of Facebook. Were you expecting t.v. wrestling?

Is it appropriate to root around in others' trash cans to divert recyclable materials from the landfill waste stream? Should you rescue items from your host's party garbage to smuggle home to your own recycling cart discretely or otherwise

Miss Manners' response to a Monkey Wrench recycler includes this gem:

So please do not justify one virtue, recycling, by violating another, namely respecting other people’s privacy. You must come to terms with not being able to police others — although you are most welcome to keep picking up the roadside trash.

When helping the host and hostess tidy up after casual parties I've asked, "Do you have a place where you're collecting the recyclables?" Responses have included good opportunities to lightly explain the ease of recycling without snooping or proselytizing:
  1. "Yes, thanks, I'm so glad you asked."
  2. "Huh?"
  3. "Not tonight, dear, I have a headache."
In preschool education lingo, that's called modeling the desired behavior.
In Twelve Step program lingo that is known as attraction rather than promotion.

The mangled motto is "A teachable moment is worth two liter bottles in the cart".

© 2013 Nancy L. Ruder


A dozen words, a dozen photos

Mr. Short Stack loves the "Moby Dick" board book from My Cozy Classics. Melville's saga is distilled to twelve words illustrated with twelve detailed needle felt vignettes. Sailor, leg, whale... Really? Yes, he really loves it, and toddles around saying "whale" and "leg", and not just gnawing the book corners.

I've only seen the My Cozy Classics board book of "Pride and Prejudice".  It's adorable, but I thought it was geared to adult buyers, or maybe teens desperate to complete their assigned summer reading book! I am reminded of Dare Wright's Lonely Doll photo picture books from my childhood.

Cut up the living room carpet this afternoon.  Haven't hauled it all to the dumpster. Finding the tack strip removal vexing. I also chopped up some of the entry tiles. There's no going back!

My twelve photos illustrate my day, beginning with a black light night in shining armor. A nice walk at Oak Point fired me up for the carpet removal.

© 2013 Nancy L. Ruder


I'm not afraid to use it

I have a carpet knife, and...

Got it at Home Depot. I'm feeling the need to remove the ancient rippling creepy carpet from the condo. Maybe staying up until one reading Carl Hiassen's Bad Monkey is a factor. Nothing I could do is as bizarre as his fictional Florida cops, restaurant inspector, spec house builder, Oklahoma AP English teacher, and Medicare fraudsters in the Orange Juice State. That's with or without Cap'n Jack Sparrow's monkey. Or maybe it's bad floor-covering voodoo.

My sons have gotten over the trauma from the time I sawed the couch into little pieces. It's been eight years, so it's literally time to cut loose again.

Color-coordinated, too!© 2013 Nancy L. Ruder



Not wishful thinking, but a lovely discovery at Arbor Hills Nature Preserve this morning. According to some nature writers, if you see Snow-on-the-Prairie in Texas, it must be August. We got relief from the heat. It was only seventy degrees this morning, nice for a walk up the Pond Trail. These striking plants sent me into Euphorbia bicolor. No, these plants, Euphorbia bicolor, sent me into euphoria. What a perfect plant for Texas!  It likes dry climes, wet climes, and poor soil, plus blooms when we really need a hint of snow.

Odd then that Euphorbia is the family of the cursed spurge, that obnoxious weed with the sticky white sap that bedevils suburbanites. If we complained of summertime boredom as kids, my parents sent us out to pull spurge and dig dandelions. I hate that stuff!

Up the trail, the pond has really shrunk. Didn't spy any snakes today, but lots of dragonflies and the biggest frog I've ever seen "in the wild". The Halloween Pennant dragonfly has beautiful red and copper highlights.

I know you are wondering.  Euphorbia plants derive from the name of a Greek physician of the first century A.D., Euphorbus. Euphoria, I can ecstatically report, comes from the Greek roots eu-, well, and pherein, to bear. Please comment below if you experience sympathetic delusions.

© 2013 Nancy L. Ruder


Get rich quick! Grow your own!

AARP said it was okay.  They actually encouraged it.  It was tip #74 in a recent publication:

Sprout new savings.
Grow romaine lettuce by putting the "stub" (the bottom inch or two) in a glass of water near a sunny window. You can do the same thing with celery, spring onions, napa cabbage, bok choy and similar vegetables. For best results, cut a thin layer off the bottom of the stub.

Right? Is AARP just messing with my mind?

We will see. Here is the thin layer sliced off the stub.

And here is the romaine in a sunny window.

When I make the big time, I'll send you a head.

© 2013 Nancy L. Ruder


Source of the Nile

Yellow house black shutters brick sidewalk
Trunks evenly spaced
Wide lawn too soon to rake
Dusky moths on the screen door
Graph paper antennas
Cicadas warping and wefting the night in a girdle of frequencies
Radio stations clear from Chicago
Vanilla ice milk from the IGA.

The dark-eyed, dark-haired girl teacher's pet
An early star does not predict
You can't hear the teens whooping in there Chevies cruising Main past the funeral home in the painting


© 2013 Nancy L. Ruder


Sometimes it IS about the breakfast

Veggie print-making with the Summer Reading kids put me in the mood for fresh produce shopping, and I trooped home with peppers, zucchini, cucumber, tomatoes, cabbage, plums, strawberries, and watermelons. All pretty, healthy, and pricey when I go overboard. That's the trouble with cooking for one. Eating right can become a race against the clock before it all spoils.  One day the plum is too hard to bite, and the next day it's oozing and growing mold.
Rule #1 Do not shop when you are hungry.
Rule #2 Don't shop when you are under the influence of art.

Breakfast this morning was leftover rice fried with zucchini, tomatoes, garlic, and orange pepper. Stirred in a beaten egg. Melted pepper jack cheese on top. Garnished with avocado and Greek yogurt. It wasn't very pretty, but it tasted good and used some of those veggies.

© 2013 Nancy L. Ruder


The Bobby Book

This Bobby Book is for my grandson, Mr. Short Stack. I made it on Shutterfly, one of my favorite online sites. If you haven't tried it, give it a whirl.

Who is Bobby? Bobby Shaftoe, of course, my very first crush. I met him in my big red book of Mother Goose Rhymes, edited by Watty Piper, and illustrated by Margot Austin, New York, The Platt & Munk Co. Inc., copyright MCMXL. That's 1940 for the Roman numerially challenged.

I called the big red book my "Bobby Book", and so it stayed through siblings and three sons. Now the "Bobby Book" is in real bad shape having been loved to smithereens like a Velveteen Rabbit. The Shutterfly Bobby Book is one of my efforts to pass on a little bit of this love.

"Watty Piper" was the pen name of Arnold Munk, owner of the publishing company. You probably recognize it if you ever read The Little Engine That Could aloud a thousand times, sometimes three times in a row. Three times was always my limit, and Mr. Short Stack's father pushed me to the limit many times.

Few things could be more delightful than cuddling with a child and reading Mother Goose rhymes. For the young child, few things could be more important and beneficial:
  • Feeling loved and safe
  • Hearing the magic of words, rhymes, and rhythms
  • Marrying the sounds to clear, simple, timeless illustrations
  • Seeing the power of the turned page

Mr. Short Stack is not a child at risk for lack of these experiences any more than he is in danger of a pancake shortage. Many children are not so lucky. Click either of these last two links for powerful speeches by the author/illustrator Rosemary Wells on reading aloud to young children. And always keep at least one sock on!


© 2013 Nancy L. Ruder


Roadies stay just a little bit longer to watch moths

Guitar Center cashiers don't often deal with grandmas in need of DJ black lights. It's clear they spend a lot of time selling microphone stands to mind-blown very-aged hippies-turned-rural-Texas-carpenters/musicians-a bit-crispy-around-the-edges. They're not crazy, they're colorful.
24-inch black light

UV colorful, actually. I'm the eccentric the cashier will tell about at supper tonight, and that's refreshing. This old lady needed a black light to attract moths, he'll report, and she was gonna feed them over-ripe bananas, stale beer, smashed watermelon, and brown sugar. The cashier suggested I just buy mothballs. Nooooooo!

Ingredients plus $16 black light

Had to go on down the freeway to Academy to buy a headlamp. My kids would have loved headlamps to play spelunkers back in the day. Vulcanologists was one of their favorite make-believe games.

Glad the Dallas Morning News gave column space to the Texas Discovery Garden's "Black Light the Night" for National Moth Week.

Clothespins to hang the screen.

My cool new $9.98 headlamp.
 The headlamp has red LED for night vision and bright white LED.

Everything required for the moth observation station.
Made a special trip to the grocery store for the brown sugar. Now I can whomp up moth "sugaring" bait in the blender. And the roadies won't mind.

© 2013 Nancy L. Ruder


Salt water flour topography

Just where is Bermuda anyway? Definitely not where I thought! Maybe the triangle has drifted since I was making gloopy salt flour maps and watching filmstrips in the dozey chalk dust classroom afternoons. 

Those filmstrips could put anyone to sleep. My son and his dear wife of three years will relax and snooze on the beach, or else go sightseeing in shorts. 

Once upon a time changes bubbled up so slowly as to be captured in the World Book Encyclopedia sold door-to-door, or even the Golden Home and High School Encyclopedia redeemed at the Safeway grocery store on Cotner Boulevard with savings stamps. You could loll around on the living room wall-to-wall carpet browsing the encyclopedia and listening to Herb Alpert, totally up-to-date, and wondering about whipped cream.

© 2013 Nancy L. Ruder


The word of the day is Bombyliidae. Say it three times fast!  It means bee fly, an interesting group of flies that have fuzzy bodies resembling bees and feed on nectar as adults. Bee fly larva are parasitic on solitary bee larva.

Odd bee or not bee

Yesterday I didn't even know bee flies existed. I still don't know if I have correctly identified the insect I watched yesterday at Oak Point Nature Preserve. Of course last week I'd never heard of picture wing flies. Until a couple months ago I didn't know about solitary bees.

The bees below look more bee-ish to my untrained eye. They were enjoying the ironweed in bloom on July twenty-first, very near where I stared at the odd bee/not bee/bee fly on Indian Blanket yesterday.

And now I'd better get busy.

© 2013 Nancy L. Ruder