Saturday, January 25, 2014

Jammin' on the jam

Somehow, this summer I neglected to mention that we canned a full 17 pints of peach jam. We'd gotten a big box of seconds and didn't have much time to deal with them, so rather than trying to can slices, or make a pie, or whatever, we jammed it all.  Then we thought about how we'd have to give a lot away (they make great Christmas gifts!)

Then we started eating it. Particularly, Zoltan started eating it. It is the "j" of his pb -n- j. It's the flavor and sweetener in his yogurt. He puts it on his pancakes.

In four months we have gone through seven jars and today I opened the eighth.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Oh, IBM/Computershare :-(

Somewhere in my youth, or childhood ....  my parents bought me one bright shiny share of IBM stock. It came as a nifty actual piece of paper that they put into a frame and propped up on a shelf in my bedroom.  As I was a child or even a baby (who knows when they bought this share? Maybe it celebrated my birth) I was listed as a minor and my dad as the custodian on the account.

For all these years, I have continued to own this stock. It's split, I've been doing dividend reinvestment all this time so eventually I have bought a share or two, and the value has increased of course. All this means I now have 3-and-a-fraction "book" shares in addition to the one bright shiny paper share. Somewhere along the line, a company called Computershare started managing the stock.

For various reasons, now is the time for me to deal with this stock. And wow what an ordeal it is!!

The first step in doing anything at all is to transfer the shares into my name alone. I asked if it would be simpler if my dad just sold the shares, but because I am now in fact no longer a minor it doesn't matter that he is written as the custodian. So for the purposes of getting rid of these shares it doesn't matter that his name is on it, but to get his name off it will cost be a bunch of money and time. Sounds about right?!?

First I learned I would need to fill out a form and acquire a "medallion guarantee" certifying that my signature is the actual signature of me, the person who will become the account holder. A notary stamp is NOT sufficient, which is written in all caps and bold and made very very clear. Unfortunately, these things are available only through financial institutions. Of course, I use credit unions and primarily online institutions. No local brick and mortar. And because banks are agreeing to pay up if I'm not really me, of course they only provide these things to their own customers. In comes the Fedex charge to send the form to my financial institution (but hey, at least they do it! Not every place does.)

Then, and much more frustratingly, I discovered I need that paper stock certificate that was last seen in the childhood home my mother sold ten years ago. There is absolutely, 100% no way to do anything with this stock until I hold in my hand the paper share. I can pay about 10% of the value of the stock I have to acquire a new one from IBM (to then turn around and send it back to them with the magical "medallion guarantee" and another form or two). I asked the oh-so-helpful customer service lady whether, if I bought stock today, I would receive paper shares. She said no. She agreed that if I bought and then sold a share in the last however many years, this requirement of a paper share would of course not be necessary. I asked why I am being penalized just because we bought the share several decades ago. She wasn't amused.

Yes, the value of the stock is greater than what I will be shelling out in order to be able to have the option of selling it. However, it has cost me plenty of time and annoyance (and soon also cash) to deal with this. Trust me, not I nor anyone whose investment choices I have any control over will ever buy IBM stock, or any stock through Computershare as I cannot tell what requirements are coming directly from IBM and which are made up by Computershare.

* Note: I've edited the name of the not-IBM company. It's Computershare, not Compushare.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Maybe we aren't supposed to leave the cabin?

So our last two trips back to Maryland from cabin have both occurred during snowstorms that basically shut down the DC area. Maybe we are actually supposed to just stay there forever?

Other highlights of the MLK, Jr. weekend cabin trip:

Ricketts Glen. It is such a beautiful area and Terry just told me the story of Ricketts, who was a logger who clearcut most of the area but recognized the special wonderfulness of the place and set it aside to preserve/conserve. We all bundled up and took a short hike to some falls. Terry got some wonderful photos like yesterday's Wordless Wednesday. And some goofy ones, seen below ("Daddy, take my picture!")

Zoltan's tummy bug. Not exactly a "highlight" but an important event. Especially important as we just realized last week that he had not puked since being a baby with spitup - which is only sort of the same thing. In four years the child has never had a tummy bug. Alex has puked once since she was two. We've been lucky here. But because I noticed it, something had to happen. Let the record show that we only replaced the defunct washing machine on our very last trip to the cabin. What a blessing that was! Four episodes within a few hours all in the late-to-middle of the night and only one made it into a vessel intended to receive the "offering". We did two loads of laundry and had two more we had to bring home in segregated plastic bags. Between Zoltan actually calling for me and my imaginations I slept all of four hours Monday night. Which leads to what I did in that sleep deprived state ...

Snowstorm 2014. I wavered a lot about whether we should just spend another day at the cabin (see the title of this entry). In the end, however, with Zoltan being puke-free for six hours and holding down water for sure, and crackers for maybe, we decided to try to get home. The kicker to this story is that we had driven both cars up, because we were taking up our new futon (that I never got to sleep on as it went downstairs, and I slept upstairs on the couch, see the item immediately above). I am not a great snowstorm driver. I am a bit hazy on exactly when we left the house and we did stop at Rite Aid for Pedialyte and the gas station for gas before really "beginning" the journey. I believe the door to door was right around 6.5 hours ... usual is around 5 hours. We spent too much highway time going 45 mph or below and it wasn't always my fault.

All in all though, we still love the cabin. Just maybe not so much in the winter.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Renovation - Nearing the end

I am closing in the on finishing the study.   The door is built to cover the breaker box.  I ended up putting hinges on the trim that then attaches to the wall.  This seems to work pretty well.  I also added a few additional screws from the plywood to the trim to help hold it in place, since there is quite a bit of weight now on the trim.  Additionally I added some L brackets at all the corners to tie all the trim together.  This should help make it studier.  Additionally I added a magnet at the bottom to keep the whole thing closed.

The room is nearly finished.  I started moving the stud furniture in the room so other parts of the house could start being cleaned up.  I still have a little bit of chalking to do around the door then I will have to do touch up paint.  Allin all I am so close it is starting to fell like I have actually accomplished something.  

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Mission: Completion (sort of)

We have been busy, busy, busy. Terry's writing a post about finishing the study/guest room and - yes - that means it is finished! And, with the room in move-in condition we moved in!

Hi, honey
 All the study furniture got out of the "media" room and we're still debating exactly how we'll lay out the guest room portion so none of that has gone in yet.

With the study furniture gone, we were able to go buy those bookcases I've been waiting for and get the books out of boxes in the basement closet. As we seem to have culled more books than I thought, we also had room to put up the small mountain of family snapshots.

My amazing husband also redid the kitchen pantry with more, adjustable shelves so a great number of small kitchen appliances were able to find their way into the kitchen. Really, anything that gets used at least once a week deserves a place here, but until now there just wasn't room.

In the spirit of organization, we have also tackled the linen/hallway closets. One is now entirely devoted to kitchen equipment. Even with the additional pantry space the kitchen is, as I may have mentioned before, too small. We even got to pull three boxes of lesser-used kitchen/dining-ware out of Zoltan's bedroom (4 year old boys don't really need closets) and found new homes for the contents of the 2 large boxes. Thus, only one smaller box returned to Zoltan's closet. The other hallway closet now houses all bathroom and linen related items. And most of a shelf is still empty!

The final step of all this organization will be to go through all the kids' toys, purge what should go and pack away a subset of rotating toys like we used to do ... now that there is room in the basement closet for all that stuff.

And then it will feel (mostly) like home.

Friday, January 10, 2014

A typical night

8:00pm: Kids are tucked into bed.
8:06pm: Zoltan calls "Mommy, mommy!"  Turns out he "needs" the potty. Let him go. "Mommy, I want you to be with me." Chats a mile a minute while sitting on the toilet. When I can finally break in, I ask if he's done. No, didn't make anything. Tuck him back into bed.
8:15pm: Zoltan calls "Mommy, mommy!"  Turns out he is "thirsty". Bring him some water. Tell him to go to bed and I don't want to hear from him anymore.
8:22pm: Zoltan calls "Mommy, mommy!"  Turns out he "had a bad dream". Can't have dreams when you aren't asleep. Give him one more big hug and kiss and tell him to get some sleep so he can have sweet dreams.
8:26pm: Zoltan calls "Mommy, mommy!"  Turns out he wants to know what we're going to do tomorrow.
8:30pm: Zoltan calls "Mommy, mommy!"  Daddy goes in this time and tells him to go to bed. Because, you know, daddy means business.
8:55pm: Zoltan calls "Mommy, mommy!"  Turns out he needs the potty, and with a child you're trying to get out of pullups you allow every false call. This time he actually goes.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Renovation Update - The end is near

This weekend was an exciting weekend.  We are closing in on finishing the study. On Saturday I ran right after breakfast to get trim and some other miscellaneous things for the house at Home Depot.  Got back and proceeded to work on getting the trim painted.  My sawhorse only allowed me to paint half the trim at once. You can see in the photo to the left.  So I started with the door trim since that is the first thing that needs to go up.  While I was waiting for that to dry I worked on cleaning up the doors from the side table.

One really nice thing about the gas heat in our house is it makes everything so dry that you don't have to wait long for the paint to dry.  I was able to get two coats on the trim with a last round of touch up before the game.  In the morning the door trim was done and I did a quick coat on the floor trim after coffee but before breakfast.  Then I started to hang the trim around the door.  I ran into an issue with my brad nailer.  Basically it was not working.  It appears sitting in storage for seven years dried up the piston with a rubber ring and the pressure could not move it.  So I oiled everything really well and put it back to together.  It took a little work getting the nailer back in shape but finally it was.  Once that was going the trim went up in no time. It is amazing how much faster the right tool makes things.  It is also amazing how people built house before power tools.  That is some skill and toughness.  Also explains why houses were generally smaller.  The photo on the right shows just the door trim up.

I managed to get on three coats of paint on the second round of trim before nap.  Once that was dry it was no time to cut and hang the rest of the trim. On the left you can see the final room with the trim up.

There still is a bit to do.  We need to do some touch up painting where we caulked the trim.  Also I still need to figure out a way to install the door over the breaker box to cover it but still make it accessible.  So far all the hinges I have tried have thwarted me, but I have one last idea.  More on that later if it works.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Kiwi Crate

I'd heard rave reviews of Kiwi Crate for a good year or so. For Hanukkah, my mom got the kids a subscription. I can't say enough good things about it.

I love that they include every single thing you need for the projects - even down to tape. Alex was able to follow the step by step instructions (with pictures) without any help, although I was a pretty active and excited observer. I love all the little extras - a few additional projects you can put together, the pair of scissors they include in the first crate of the subscription because a lot of the projects need cutting, the extra glow sticks that are only actually needed if you do the additional projects, the booklet with stories and activities all on the theme of the projects.
The kit comes with 2 projects plus the add-ons mentioned above. We managed to do one project between opening gifts and showers/bedtime, which means it took fewer than 10 minutes. Alex slept with her new glowworm stuffed animal for several nights and Zoltan spent days petting and hugging his.

Because my mom is eager, she ordered the subscription well in advance and we've already received all 3 crates. The third crate (I skipped the 2nd for now) was winter themed. The "extra" was a snowflake cookie cutter and recipes for sugar cookies and salt dough to make ornaments.  One of the main projects was malfunctioning and this is where I get to extol the quality of their customer service.

I don't like that there are no phone numbers anywhere on their web site; you have to email your problem and wait for a reply. But, to their credit, the reply came only a few hours later. They immediately sent a replacement for what didn't work AND told me where to find a similar product in a craft store if I didn't want to wait for delivery.

When relaying everything to Terry, I marveled at the good customer service we've been receiving lately. After thinking about it a moment, I observed "Maybe we're just used to bad service after 4 years of Russia and then Comcast."

Friday, January 3, 2014

Fat Brain Toys

We have been happy consumers of Fat Brain Toys for several years now. I like how most of their stuff isn't plastic crap. They tell us where most of the toys are made and even break it down age and gender-wise who's buying the products.  I even spent a November Gratitude extolling their virtues.

And then they got even better.

Last we knew, an item was missing from our Christmukkah order and they shipped it out right on time. Of course, it was a replacement for something that never came so they didn't charge us for it. It arrived the morning of the first night of Hanukkah. However, the night before that I had discovered the original item that had, in fact, been included in the original order.

I called to find out what to do and was told to follow the process for "returns" outlined on their web site. So, I did. Then they refunded us the cost of the item because, I assume, it was considered a regular return. I called to explain what happened and to tell them to put the charge back on.

The lady sent me a $5 credit as a thank you for the call. And by the way, all this fuss was for an item that cost $7.95.

Winter weather observation

Last night we finally got some snow. Today we finally got some cold weather. The kids lasted all of 5 minutes outside this morning. Already going soft? Maybe. But I also note that - presumably because of all the tall buildings - there's rarely a blustery wind in Piter other than on the bridges. Here the wind was whipping everything about, including the snow that got in the kids' faces. I am a little surprised at us that we aren't likely to go back out and play in the beautiful, pristine snow!

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Wordless Wednesday

One Little Word 2014

Last year I jumped on the bandwagon. When I hesitated about something, I remembered to "trust". When I wondered about someone's behavior or questioned their motives, I remembered to "trust". When I questioned my own ability, I remembered to "trust". It served me so well I am doing it again.

This year my word is:
I'll be focusing on all aspects: physical, emotional, spiritual.