Thursday, January 23, 2014

The Before and the After

I am horrible at remembering to take Before and After pictures.  The house was fine when we moved in - of course, not exactly what we might have chosen if we'd been the ones to choose the paint, light fixtures, etc. ourselves, but definitely liveable until we could change things.  After seeing some of the houses on the market with the gaudy wallpaper and/or different bright and obnoxious paint colors in every room, that was a real plus!

Since we've moved in, we've taken the stair rail out, so we could get my new dresser upstairs. I didn't even think of taking pictures of the old stair rail until it was already gone.  The new one isn't up yet, so I'll have to wait on the after pictures.  

We've changed the ceiling fan in our bedroom -

The new one looks really good with our new bedroom furniture, and it's quiet.  The old one was a bit noisy for sleeping, and it looked like - Well, I forgot to take a before picture.

We changed the light fixture in the dining room, too -

It's much nicer than the old one, though you'll have to take my word for it, because I didn't take a before picture of that one either.  However, this could kind of be a before picture for this week's project.  See that wallpaper on the dining room wall?  We pulled it all down this week.  And, again, I didn't think about taking any before pictures, not until we were almost finished and there was just one area of wallpaper left beside and behind the china cabinet -

The wallpaper wasn't horrible. I mean, I didn't hate it, but it wasn't something we would have chosen, either.  Thankfully it came off the walls fairly easily, and the more stubborn spots scraped right off with a little warm water from a sponge.  Now we just have to get the paint.  But, for now, no more wallpaper!

This last picture should qualify as both an after pic and a before pic then - after the wallpaper and before the paint.  Right?

I'll try to do better from now on.  It is kind of fun to see the changes. 

Sunday, January 19, 2014

This Kohl's Store is a Disgrace

Every time I walk into our local Kohl's store here in Anderson, IN I am absolutely appalled.  And embarrassed.  I haven't worked for Kohl's in years, but it still bothers me seeing one of 'our' stores looking the way this one does.  It is an absolute mess.  I have never seen a Kohl's store look this bad, or any store for that matter.  Either customers around here are even bigger slobs than customers anywhere else, or the associates in this store have never heard of recovery - or they just don't care and the manager lets them get away with it.  I'm thinking it's the latter, because even the Kmart here in town looks neater than the Kohl's store.

The first time I was there this fall, I thought maybe someone had been sick or they'd had a really big sale and just hadn't had time to get caught up.  Not that either of those would have been legitimate excuses for the place looking like this:

If it was just a rack or two, that would have been one thing, but it was basically every single rack and fixture in the Men's department, and most of the fixtures in the other departments, too.  We spent most of our time in Men's, so this is the department that really shocked me.  This is Kohl's, the store that had to get rid of shopping carts so they could carry Dockers - because a store with shopping carts is not high class enough for Dockers.  Oh yeah, well there are no carts here, but the Dockers are a huge mess.

Along with everything else.  Stuff on the floor, unfolded and tossed on the fixtures, and just a huge disorganized, disgraceful mess.

How did they let it get this bad?  I'm hoping things will get better and back up to Kohl's-like standards one of these days.  The last two times we were in there, I actually saw people straightening and organizing, which I had not seen before.  Maybe they got a new manager or someone from Corporate came in and told them they better straighten up.  I was going to post these pictures ages ago or send a note to Corporate after we first went in there, but I didn't right away.  I just kept putting it off, and then thinking that since I hadn't been there in a while maybe they'd improved, so I should wait and see.  Then I went back, and it was just as bad, and I still kept putting it off.  Just so you know, it's been bad since at least September. Pictures in this post are from September, November and December, and there was another time in there that I forgot my phone so I didn't get any pictures, but it was just as bad then.  I don't know about before September, but it had to get this way sometime.   And now, because they let everything get into such a mess, it is going to take a very concerted effort to get it back to the way it is supposed to be.

In the meantime, the Kohl's associates are going to need to keep on top of things, because the customers have obviously gotten used to the total mess of this store and see no reason to change their behavior.  Even racks or fixtures that have obviously been straightened recently had a few items thrown over the top or lying on the floor.  Customers as a rule seem to be pretty messy creatures, but I'm thinking they're more likely to at least try to leave things neat if they're already that way - but if they're already messy, why bother?

I used to work in those departments.  You spend your entire day roaming the department, straightening what needs straightened, picking things up, hanging things back up, etc.  (In between helping customers, setting ads, doing markdowns, putting out new merchandise, and all the other stuff that needs done)  And, when the store closes, everyone stays until all the departments are recovered. 

It never ends!  But, if you don't keep at it, it will get out of control.  Like this store.

Monday, January 13, 2014

New Years Resolutions - There's an App for That!

It's that time of year - an new year, a new start, a new chance get the things right that you didn't get right last year.  According to an article I read in Parade Magazine, the 10 most common resolutions among Americans are:
    healthy food fresh vegetable salad and fork
  1. Lose weight
  2. Improve finances
  3. Exercise
  4. Get a new job
  5. Eat healthier
  6. Manage stress better
  7. Stop smoking
  8. Improve a relationship
  9. Stop procrastinating
  10. Set aside time for yourself
Are any of these on your list?  Are there any resolutions you made that didn't make the list?  I've never made any resolutions myself, but #9 is definitely something I could work on.  I also think we could all benefit from eating healthier, and I'd like to start buying and using more organic foods.

According to another one of those articles in Parade, the statistical success rate of New Years resolutions is 8%.  That doesn't sound very encouraging, does it?  Still, it's a bright shiny new year, and we'd all love to do better this year, wouldn't we?   Also remember that, even if you make a resolution and fail, you do not have to wait until the beginning of another year to try again.  Pick yourself up, brush yourself off, and try again.

Did you know there are apps you can put on your smart phone or tablet that can help you stick to your resolutions this year?  I mean, why not?  There's an app for everything else, why not apps to help us live better lives?  Isn't that what it's all about anyway?  If our technology isn't helping us, then we might as well not have it, right?  It has to be more than just games and Facebook. (though those are pretty fun)

Here are some apps that might just help you keep those resolutions this year or get started again:
  • To help us eat healthier - Fooducate.   This one looks really cool.  It lets you scan barcodes in the grocery store to get nutrition information about the products you're thinking of buying and offers healthier alternatives. 
  • To help me stop procrastinating, I'm sure there's a Productivity app that will help me.  The Parade article mentioned Finish, which is available on iTunes for the iPad Air.  It looks pretty handy because once you enter the stuff that you need to get done and when it needs to be done, the app reminds you until you actually get it done.  I wonder if you'd just go ahead and do whatever the thing is just to shut the app up?  Worth a try, anyway.
  • If you want to stay in touch with your friends and family (besides on Facebook), Skype is great.  It lets you talk face to face with someone, even if they're hundreds of miles away.  For free!  It's one of the best ways to talk to our grandson Jason, now that we don't live in the same town anymore.  He'll talk to us longer when he can see us than when we're just using the phone.
  • For managing and improving finances, there's Mint.  I've been using the Mint website for a while - and I use the term 'using' loosely because I really don't take advantage of all the features.  Mint can help you track spending, create budgets, and send alerts for upcoming bills or low balances.  It's a great way to see where your money is going and take charge of your finances.  I'm going to download it to my U.S. Cellular Samsung GS4 and see if I can keep better track of ours.
Those are just a few of the very helpful apps available to help us take control of our lives.  Whatever your resolutions or goals are this year, I bet there's an app for that!  Be sure to visit Google Play or iTunes and search for the apps that will help you.   If you've found some that have been very helpful in your life, be sure to share them.

Disclosure: I am being compensated for my participation in the U.S. Cellular Better Moments Blogger Brigade as well as receiving a new phone.  My experiences with and opinions of U.S. Cellular are 100% mine.

Wednesday, January 08, 2014

Why You Should Never Get Rid of Anything

It never seems to fail - as soon as I get rid of something, I need it!  Never mind that I hadn't used it, worn it, or needed it in ages.  Not until I didn't have it any more.

The only way to avoid this problem is to never get rid of anything.  (I hear there are TV shows about people like that.)

This time I'm regretting that I donated a pair of hiking boots before we moved. We tossed, gave away, and donated a lot of stuff, and I hadn't worn them in ages, so off they went to Goodwill. And we moved.  And I never thought about them again until last week.  Wouldn't those hiking boots make good winter walking shoes?  Where did they get put?

So I looked through all my shoes, hoping that maybe I'd just thought about getting rid of them.  Maybe I still had them...  No such luck.

The problem is I got a new pair of walking shoes.  They're light, and airy - probably really nice in the summer when you want to keep your feet cool.  But not exactly perfect for cold and snow and ice.  I know, I should have thought of that when I bought them, but I didn't - and they were the only pair that really felt good on my feet, so...

So, I found an old, retired pair of walking shoes, and I've been wearing them on those days when the streets are covered in snow and ice.  I hadn't been walking in a couple days because of the cold and wind chill, but it was actually above zero this morning so I bundled up, put those old shoes on, grabbed my walking stick, and went for my walk.

Everything was warm, except for my toes.  Why were my feet so cold?  When I got home and took my shoes off, this is what I found:

The side of the shoe was split open - letting all the cold and snow into my shoe.  Of course my toes were cold!

And it wasn't just one shoe - it was both of them!  Maybe that's why these walking shoes were retired in the first place?  I should have gotten rid of these and kept the hiking boots!

I bet my new walking shoes will be warmer than these.

Monday, January 06, 2014

Winter Sport or Weight Lifting?

Once again I've started my winter exercise program - snow shoveling!

Actually, I walk like usual all winter, unless the roads are too snowy or icy, or if the wind chill goes below -20°, like today.  I just add some snow shoveling to the program, as needed.  Yesterday it was needed 4 times!  I suppose we could have waited until it finished snowing to shovel, but it was some pretty wet and heavy snow, so we shoveled every few hours, just so we could keep up with it.  It was heavy enough when we only had 2 or 3 inches to clear.  Imagine if we'd had to try and move the entire 12 inches or so all at once!  As they said on the news, doing that could be 'bad for your body' - not to mention hard!

As it is, we got plenty of exercise yesterday, and I can definitely feel that I did something.  The muscles are a bit sore!  Shoveling definitely works different muscles than walking or the exercise videos that I do.

The driveway is on the other side of the snow-covered bushes.
*snow enhancement courtesy of Google

It was really nice getting outside yesterday, even it was to work.  The snow coming down was absolutely gorgeous!  It was a bit frustrating to finish shoveling the driveway just to have it completely snow covered again, because the perfectionist in me wants to get it done.  Perfectly.  Yeah, no such thing.  That's also why I always want to get the driveway done before anybody drives on it - so there won't be any snow-packed tire tracks to deal with.  Thankfully yesterday was Sunday, and we didn't have anywhere to go.  So no tire tracks.  Until the last time we went out to shovel.

Back Yard from the kitchen window

Somebody had decided to pull into our driveway, probably to turn around, or get out of the way of another car.  Since there didn't seem to be any snow plows out, the street was pretty much one lane of tire tracks forged by whatever vehicles had to come or go.  While we were out shoveling one time, two cars met on the street and had to back up and maneuver around one another to get by.  One of the drivers seemed to think it was the other guys fault for not paying attention and driving down the middle of the street.  Never mind that there was really nowhere else to be!  I guess the next guy found our driveway.  Oh well, pretty much the whole driveway is a packed layer of snow now, since the temperature dropped overnight, and the wet snow froze to the driveway.  Frustrating at the time, though - couldn't he have just pulled into the driveway of someone who had already driven in or out and packed their own tire tracks into their driveway?  They never would have noticed.  Or probably cared.

It was probably our own fault, anyway.  The time before, we had shoveled out to the part of the street where cars had been driving - so that we could actually get out if we had to.  It was like an invitation, really.  Or at least we made it easy for them.

More falling snow courtesy of Google,
but it pretty much looked like this ALL DAY

My biggest question in all this is - not whether snow shoveling should be classified as a winter sport or weight lifting - but where are the snow plows?  In Wisconsin the plow would have gone by several times over the course of the day, and we would have had to shovel that mess of heavy, wet, slushy stuff off the end of the driveway every time.  I guess I don't miss that heavy, slushy mess, but passable streets might be nice.  Then again, I'm not going anywhere...  And Jeffrey only has five minutes to work.  Or maybe 10 when the roads are in this condition.

How's your winter exercise program going?

Thursday, January 02, 2014

Book List 2013

Where do you fit?
I really enjoy keeping track of the books I read over the course of the year and then looking back over them when the year is over.  This year I kept track on Goodreads, and I could just link you to this handy page that shows the covers and information about all the books I read this year.

But a list is more fun, right?  I like it anyway, because I don't really keep track of how many books I'm reading, and I find out when I get the list put together.

So, here we go - all the books I read (and listened to) this year - listed by the month I finished reading them.

  1. Bloom: Finding Beauty in the Unexpected--A Memoir - Kelle Hampton
  2. Light a Single Candle - Beverly Butler
  3. The Perks of Being a Wallflower - Stephen Chbosky
  4. Gone Girl - Gillian Flynn
  5. The Amulet of Samarkand - Jonathan Stroud (audio)
  6. Safe Haven - Nicholas Sparks 
  1. The Respect Dare: 40 Days to a Deeper Connection with God and Your Husband - Nina Roesner
  2. Let's Pretend This Never Happened: A Mostly True Memoir - Jenny Lawson (audio)
  3. The Painted Girls - Cathy Marie Buchanan
  1. Coming Home: A Story of Undying Hope - Karen Kingsbury
  2. The Book Thief - Markus Zusak (audio)
  1. The Letter: My Journey Through Love, Loss, and Life - Marie Tillman
  2. Bossypants - Tina Fey (audio)
  3. Bread & Wine: A Love Letter to Life Around the Table with Recipes - Shauna Niequist
  1. Viva Jacquelina!: Being an Account of the Further Adventures of Jacky Faber, Over the Hills and Far Away - L.A. Meyer (audio)
  2. In His Footsteps: Be Happy in Every Situation, Find Your Purpose - Margaret Agard
  3. The Witch of Blackbird Pond - Elizabeth George Speare
  4. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks - Rebecca Skloot
  1. The Glorious Adventures of the Sunshine Queen - Geraldine McCaughrean (audio)
  2. Calculated in Death (In Death, #36) - J.D Robb
  3. The Chance - Karen Kingsbury
  1. Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen (audio)
  2. Take Three (Above the Line #3) - Karen Kingsbury
  3. The Wednesday Sisters - Meg Waite Clayton
  4. The Banks of Certain Rivers - Jon Harrison
  5. The Tragedy of Antony and Cleopatra - William Shakespeare (audio)
  1. The Sign - Shawn Boonstra
  2. Home to Holly Springs: Father Tim Series, Book 1 - Jan Karon (audio)
  3. Eclipse - Stephenie Meyer
  1. In the Company of Others: Father Tim Series, Book 2 - Jan Karon (audio)
  2. A Game of Thrones (A Song of Ice and Fire, #1) - George R.R. Martin
  1. Cleaning House: A Mom's Twelve-Month Experiment to Rid Her Home of Youth Entitlement - Kay Wills Wyma (audio)
  2. A Clash of Kings (A Song of Ice and Fire, #2) - George R.R. Martin
  1. The Summer We Read Gatsby - Danielle Ganek (audio)
  2. Leaving (Bailey Flanigan, #1) - Karen Kingsbury
  3. The Hunger Games - Suzanne Collins (audio)
  1. A Storm of Swords (A Song of Ice and Fire, #3) - George R.R. Martin
  2. Catching Fire (Hunger Games, #2) - Suzanne Collins (audio)
  3. Learning (Bailey Flanigan #2) - Karen Kingsbury
  4. Notorious Nineteen (Stephanie Plum, #19) - Janet Evanovich
  5. This Time, Everything - V.S. Ramstack
  6. Mockingjay (The Hunger Games, #3) - Suzanne Collins (audio)

42 books - that's one more than I read in 2012.  At least three of these books were quite long because I finally started reading the Song of Ice and Fire series by George R.R. Martin.  Those books are hard to put down!  I was getting them from the library, but when I found the 5 book 'boxed set' for Kindle for $9.99, I couldn't resist buying it.  After finishing #3, I took a short break to read other books, but I'll definitely be reading the other 2 in 2014.   I'm also most of the way through another Bible reading plan, with just about another week to finish - so I technically read that in 2013, but I'll count it in 2014 since that's when I'll actually finish (and start again).  I love those YouVersion reading plans!

How many books did you read in 2013?  Are there any I should add to my reading list for 2014?