Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Tax day

So today is the deadline to file your federal tax return.  For whatever reason, many states' deadline is the end of the month.  I don't know why they don't just make them both due the same day, but whatever.

Our taxes are pretty complicated so we don't prepare them ourselves.  We own 2 rental properties, we own a 3rd property with another couple, and I'm self-employed so there are WAY too many deductions, prorations, etc for our comfort range.  But we have a good accountant we've worked with for years so I summarize our income, expenses, deductions and such on spreadsheets and email them to him.  I scan and email our W2 forms, 1099 forms, etc too so I've not actually seen our accountant in probably 15 years.

So our returns are filed and the checks are in the mail - literally.  Since no tax is taken out of my real estate commission checks I pay estimated quarterly tax and then always end up paying more by tax day. While its the same amount of tax either way, it always hurts to write out those checks to the IRS and state for thousands of dollars.

Monday, April 13, 2015

In memoriam

Yesterday Spouse & I went to breakfast with Steven and Joe P an hour earlier than normal so I could get back home and finish painting.  I wanted to get it done and everything put back before going back to work on Mon. 

I literally finished painting about 20 minutes before I had to be out the door.  Fortunately I didn't need to shower, I just had to change clothes, touch up my hair, and head out.  I was going to a celebration of the life of my friend Scott Weston, more commonly known by his drag alter-ego Cashetta.

I first saw Cashetta on a gay comedy show on Logo TV a few years ago when Cashetta was introduced as the "world's only drag magician".  Later Cashetta became friends with the owners of the Blue Moon and performed several times each week there in the summer months, doing magic shows, palm reading, seances, traditional drag/lip synch, and live singing.  Last summer Cashetta asked me to sing in her weekly show called "Showcase" where I picked songs that meant something to me.  It was a really wonderful experience to sing meaningful songs for an appreciative audience.  Cashetta was so gracious and complimentary.

Sadly, Cashetta passed away suddenly a few weeks ago.  While our friendship didn't go back years and years, I can honestly say that I still feel that I knew the real Cashetta.  She was always sincere, genuine, supportive of others' talents, and very, very funny.  She will definitely be missed by those who had the honor of knowing her.  The owners of the Blue Moon hosted a lovely, respectful, but light-hearted tribute to Cashetta that was very well attended.  I'm pretty sure they had to turn away people at the door to remain compliant with the fire code.  
I was glad to be there.  Steven & Joe P came too.  

Afterward we had dinner together and Spouse helped me move the furniture back into place.  Here's a shot of the foyer/entryway.  
I'll have to wait for better lighting to photograph the living room. 

Friday, April 10, 2015

Hollywood Regency

Last week I gave you this sneak peak into the design scheme for the guest bedroom I was redesigning:
We used the lightest shade (on the far right) called Pink Whisper.  The fabric you see in the photo above is the comforter and shames; black and white on the front and hot pink on the reverse.  My design inspiration was "Hollywood Regency".  

Here's the completed room:
This view shows the mirrored console we bought as an online close-out for $99, the 2 Ty Wilson framed prints I found at a thrift store, and the wall decor (over the bed) I got on clearance for $15.  You can only see a corner of the 5x7 black and white geometric rug I got on Amazon for $57. with free shipping.

This view (slightly shifted to the right) shows the bedding ensemble we found on an online clearance for $47.99.  That's right; the comforter, bed skirt, 2 shams, and 3 reversible decorator pillows for under $50.  Also shown are the curtain panels I found in a local store for $9.97 each.  These were NOT part of the bedding ensemble but matched perfectly.

This shot shows the reinvented night stands.  I bought these 2 matching side tables years ago at a thrift store for $20/pair.  They were brown wood but pretty scuffed and beat up, so I painted them glossy white and had mirrors cut to fit at Lowes for about $25.  Total cost for 2 reinvented night stands:  $45.

Spouse & I are super happy with the way this room turned out!  We spent less than $500 for all of bedding, curtains, rug, paint, art, and furniture (excluding the bed).  We love it!


Wednesday, April 08, 2015

Painting

I'm on vacation this week, although we aren't going anywhere.  I took the week off to do a lot of painting, and a few other home projects.

I started Mon morning with 1 of our guest bedrooms.  After several interruptions I finished it yesterday, and today I started the living room and foyer/entryway.  I'll post photos later when everything's done and put back together.

I actually enjoy painting.  I painted my condo from top to bottom during the time I lived in it, and Spouse & I painted it again after the tenant moved out and before we sold it.  We painted our 1st house from top to bottom as well as our 2nd house, although we did this over the course of a couple years.  With all this painting, I've learned a few tips I'm happy to share with you:
  • Pick the right paint.  Don't be afraid to ask the person who works in the paint department.  Tell them about the room you're painting and ask for their advice.  Paint quality and prices can range quite a bit.  High traffic areas should be painted with high grade, washable paint.  Bedrooms and rooms that don't get as much traffic may not need the same quality paint.
  • Use the right tools.  Rollers come in different naps for different surface types so pick the right one for your surface.  I recommend you get 2 brushes; 1 for areas too small to roll and a smaller one for 'cutting in' along ceilings and trim moldings.
  • Remove what you don't want painted.  Remove as much if not all the furniture and move the rest to the center of the room.  Take off light switch and electrical socket plates.  Cover the switches and sockets with painters tape in case you go a little crazy while rolling.
  • Don't rush.  Put on music, relax, and take your time.  If you rush you're more likely to make mistakes.
  • Stretch your tape.  I always use blue painters tape on my baseboards to protect them from inevitable roller splatter.  To make the tape go on straight and not bubble up, stretch the tape a little as you lay it down and then press it down firmly to prevent leakage underneath it.
  • Roll first, then cut in.  Rolling covers quicker than brushing and leaves a nice smooth surface so roll as much as your can.  Cut in the rest with a brush.
  • Blend rolled and brushed surfaces together.  After rolling and cutting in, use a brush with little to no paint on it and 'feather' or blend the area where the rolling and brushing meet.  This eliminates visible lines between the rolled and brushed textures.
  • Keep a damp paper towel handy.  In case you accidentally drip a little paint or accidentally bump your roller or brush against an undesired surface, the damp paper towel handy will allow you to quickly clean up the mistake without having to go to the kitchen and get a paper towel, dampen it, and come back to the room in which you're working to clean up.
  • Remove your tape correctly.  When removing your painters tape, pull the tape at a 45 degree angle from the surface.  This will help the tape pull away cleanly and prevent splitting.
Follow these tips and you might enjoy painting as much as I do!

Monday, April 06, 2015

Easter recap

As I accurately predicted, it worked out very well not having the dogs with us for Easter.  We fed and walked them and put them in their crates as usual, then drove to Spouse's mom's house.  We visited a little while with his mom, then slipped over to Trader Joe's to stock up on our favorite things.

We picked up my aunt Mary and took her and Spouse's mom with us to Spouse's brother's house.  He and his wife always have lots and lots of chocolate bunnies and eggs, jelly beans, and other Easter candies.  
Just one of many Easter candy options we enjoyed!
Spouse & I both decided to go off our diets/eating plans that day so we could enjoy all these treats.  In addition to the treats they also served ham, turkey breast, rolls, green bean casserole, baked beans, cole slaw, potato salad, and sweet potato shuffle that my aunt brought.  For dessert we also had cupcakes, peanut butter cookies, and my all-time favorite cake:  hummingbird cake.  As much as I love chocolate and peanut butter, hummingbird cake is my favorite cake and it contains neither chocolate nor peanut butter.
Hummingbird cake with cream cheese icing - my all-time favorite cake
The weather was a little cool but it was relatively sunny so we spent a fair amount of time on Spouse's brother's screened porch.  It was nice to spend the day with the family and NOT worrying about the dogs, since our neighbor texted us to let us know the boys were fine and happy.  They actually went on 2 walks rather than 1, which they love.  We got home that night and received lots of puppy kisses, which I love.

Friday, April 03, 2015

Easter plans

Since Easter is this coming Sun, we will be heading back to VA again to spend the day with family.  

I say "again" because we were just there 3 weeks ago when we visited Kerry & Hugh for the St Patricks Day parade and spent some time with the family.  But its our tradition to spend Easter together too so that's what we're going to do.

Spouse reluctantly agreed not to take the dogs with us.  I plead my case as follows:
  • there is no advantage to going to VA after work/dinner on Sat since we would arrive just in time to go to bed, therefore we should just go there and come back the same day
  • there is no reason to take the dogs with us because they would not be "with us" at Spouse's brother's house because our dog Marvin does not get along with his dog Pepper, therefore our dogs would be sleeping in their crates at Spouse's mom's house while we spend the day at at his brother's house
  • not bringing the dogs frees us up from needing to take them outside for multiple bathroom breaks and eliminates the stress we feel that Walter may pee in Spouse's mom's house.  (He's still a puppy and is still working on house training.)
  • since both dogs are used to sleeping in their crates while we are at work, they will be fine until 5pm when our neighbor comes over to let them out to relieve themselves, take them for a walk, feed them, and play with them
So I'm looking forward to a little break from our boys while we zip over to VA, spend the day with our family, and zip back home.  We're both going off our diets on Easter so we can enjoy a yummy Easter dinner and chocolate bunnies!

Monday, March 30, 2015

Another Walter update

Walter & Marvin recently had baths.  Marvin is very good about them now and tolerates them without resistance.  Walter has not 'learned' this yet, and in the photo above he is trying to escape from the laundry sink.


Walter loves to relax on Daddy's lap and take selfies.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Preparations

We are preparing to redecorate one of our guest bedrooms.  I feel like I've been saying this forever.  But before we could begin, I needed to get rid of the large desk and the existing full size mattress and box spring.  A couple weeks ago I successfully sold the desk, but have had absolutely zero interest in the mattress and box spring.  

So I've decided to donate it.  Its a little over 20 years old, but its only been as a guest bed and has probably only been slept on 3 or 4 times a year.  The reason we're getting rid of it is because it is a full and the new comforter and sheets we bought are queen.  Once the room has been painted we'll get a new queen bed on which to put the new linens.

So my friend Bryan is coming this weekend in his pick-up truck to pick up the mattress and box spring and take them to some friend of his who runs a halfway house or shelter of some sort.  I'm glad the bed will continue to get some use AND that it will get out of my guest room.  

I'm taking a few days off work soon to paint and redecorate this room, and do some other projects around the house.  Hopefully I won't have too many interruptions from work.  Here's a  sneak peak of the room's new design:

Monday, March 23, 2015

Walk, walk, fashion baby

The perfect accessory is one that will compliment the outfit, not distract from it.

Apparently a handbag designer at a Madrid fashion show didn't want to risk that their models' outfits might distract from their handbags, so they had the models wear nothing at all.

And the models carrying the handbags were male.

That's right... nude male models carrying handbags down the runway.  CLICK HERE for the NSFW video.
CLICK HERE to view the NSFW video
Don't you think Project Runway should have an accessory challenge where the designers' handbags, scarves, or jewelry is modeled with no distracting clothing??

Friday, March 20, 2015

Strange encounter

In appreciation for everyone's contribution to the team's success, my boss gave everyone a $50 gift card to a local spa/salon.  Yesterday I decided to use mine and get a pedicure.

I've never had a pedicure before, but my toe nails were due for a trim and I decided why not have someone else trim them, and get a nice foot massage afterward?  

It was fine, but I probably won't pay my own money for future pedicures as I didn't find the treatment to be particularly enjoyable.  My feet are very ticklish, and I'd much rather have a massage.

After putting my socks and shoes back on, I was walking past some other customers when this unaturually redheaded customer looked at me and said "You look very familiar."  She did not look at all familiar to me.  

"Do you own a business around here?" she asked.

"No, but I live and work here" I offered.  Since this is a touristy area there are lots of visitors here.  I could see the wheels turning inside her head.

"What do you do?" she asked.

"I'm a real estate agent." I answered.

"Hmmm... so I am" she volunteered.

"Maybe I look familiar to you because you've seen my group's photo on a billboard, or on a shopping cart, or at the movie theatre." I suggested.  She didn't acknowledge this possibility at all, but abruptly changed the subject.

"I have to tell you, you're really... beautiful... you know, just your whole... being... the way you are.  And I mean this sincerely, with all due respect of course." she confessed.

Huh???  I mean, how is one supposed to react to such a statement from a stranger???

"Oh, uh, thank you very much!" I said.

"You're very welcome" she said.  "It was very nice to meet you."

"And you as well" I said, as I turned to leave.

I don't know if she was drunk, or high, or maybe an angel from heaven.  But it certainly was a strange encounter.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

St Patrick's Day

Last night Spouse & I met Steven for St Patrick's Day dinner.  (Thad was busy and Joe P already had plans with other friends.)  Steven & I had the traditional corned beef and cabbage, while Spouse had pot roast.  I'm not a huge fan of corned beef and cabbage but I like it enough to eat it once a year on St Patrick's Day.
Me & Spouse wearing green for St Patrick's Day


Monday, March 16, 2015

Weekend redux

Fri evening after work we had dinner at home, packed our overnight bag, and loaded the dogs into the car.  We arrived at Spouse's mom's house at 9:30pm.  Unfortunately Walter got car sick (likely from his travel bag being too small and restricting his movement) and he puked inside his travel bag.  Rather than try to clean it up, I decided to just throw the travel bag away when we arrived at Spouse's mom's house.

It was about 97 degrees in her house.  Not literally, but it felt like that.  She's 85 years old and you know how most "mature" people are - they're always cold.  Spouse sneaked over to the thermostat and lowered it several degrees to help make the house more tolerable to us.

Sat morning Spouse, his mom and I went to our dear friends Kerry & Hugh's house for breakfast and the St Patrick's Day parade.  
Spouse's mom.  Not her real hair.
It rained off and on, but fortunately stopped raining for the duration of the parade.  There were several other friends of Kerry & Hugh there that we knew, so it was fun to see them and catch up before and after the parade.

Later that afternoon Spouse & I stocked up on our favorite items at Trader Joe's.  When we lived in VA we shopped there all the time, and really miss it, so we try and stock up when we are visiting.  Spouse's sister and her 3 kids came over and visited with us for a couple hours.  
Walter gives our nephew Eric some puppy kisses.
That night Spouse, his mom and I went out for Chinese food for dinner.  Spouse's mom leaves off the 's' in the word Chinese so it comes out as 'Chinee', which always gives me a secret grin.  But that night she also made me chuckle audibly when she ordered 'Compound chicken' rather than Kung Poa chicken.

Spouse's sister invited us for breakfast Sun morning so we joined her family for a frittata, bacon, and orange rolls.  Spouse's nephew was home from college for spring break so we got to visit with him too.  Afterward we packed up our stuff, loaded up the dogs, and hit the road.  We got home at 2:00.

An hour later, a couple arrived at our house to pay for and pick up the desk I'd listed for sale.  
I used to work from home and write my blog from this desk.
I'm so happy to get this behemoth out of the guest bedroom so I can paint and redecorate that room. The new scheme?  Hollywood Regency!!

That evening we had dinner with Joe P and Steven & Thad at their house.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Red letter day

So yesterday was a pretty terrific day.

I went shopping for some new jeans.  I can't remember how long its been since I bought new jeans, and with my recent weight loss (21 lbs so far thanks to Fit for Life) all my old jeans are just too big.  Add to that the fact that several pairs were ill-fitting to begin with.  It was definitely time for a new pair of jeans that fit.

I stopped in at the Old Navy outlet store and went to the jeans wall.  I was confronted with 5 different fits:  slim, straight, boot cut, regular, and loose.  
I don't wear boots and I don't want loose fitting jeans, so just for the hell of it I grabbed a pair of jeans in slim, straight, and regular cuts in my regular/most recent size and headed to the dressing room.

To my surprise, all 3 were too big - even the slim cut!  So I tried all 3 cuts in the next size down and to my utter shock - the slim cut fit the best!!

This was so shocking to me because I don't think anyone's referred to me using the word "slim" EVER!  Even as a kid I was chubby.  My mom used to special order my pants and jeans from Sears in order to get the 'chubby kid' ones.  I doubt anyone would look at me today and think "slim" either, but the proof is sewn right into the waistband.

Mind you, these are 'slim' cut jeans - NOT skinny jeans.  I am a 51 year old man with enough sense to know that 51 year old men should not be wearing skinny jeans. 

I washed my new 'slim' jeans yesterday afternoon and decided to wear them to work today.  As I was getting dressed this morning and feeling good about my 'slim' fit jeans, I decided to try on a belt I bought last summer on sale that just barely closed then.  I put it on today and it fit terrifically!

Its the little things in life, people.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Walter update

Calvin, one of my faithful readers, asked for a Walter update.  This caused me to realize that I hadn't posted any recent photos of him or written much about him lately.  So here we go!

This photo taken in late Dec actually shows both Marvin (white) and Walter (tan) sleeping on my lap.  I sitting on a chaise with my legs straight out in front of me, providing them with a nice, level 'bed'.  Moments like this make me wish I could stop time.


I love the way 1 of Walter's ears stands up and the other 1 flops over in this photo.  Unlike Marvin whose ears are always standing up, Walter's ears can be up or down at any given time.  Maybe this is because of his age, I don't know, nor do I care.


In this photo Walter is sleeping in the 'crook' of my leg, which is bent at the knee.  Such peacefulness and trust make my heart melt.

But its not always so light-hearted around our house.  This winter has been colder than usual and we've had snow accumulate on the ground 3 times in the last month, so we haven't been walking him. Without walks he doesn't get as much opportunity to expend pent up energy, so sometimes he playfully bites me, which hurts even though he doesn't mean it.  His house training has been challenging too, but I'm hopeful that he will get back into the groove now that milder weather is here.

Monday, March 09, 2015

Weekend recap


Last Thursday's snow resulted in my office opening 2 hours late on Fri.  This was good as it gave me extra time Fri morning to clear off the cars and shovel a path from the door to the driver's side.  I decided not to shovel the entirety of the driveways since the forecast was for much higher temps which would melt the remaining snow.  That night we went to dinner with Steven& Thad and Joe P.

Sat I worked, and then we met up with our friends Vic & Mike for dinner.  We had a good meal and a fun time together.  After dinner we went to their house to see how they've furnished and decorated it.  The last time we saw it was just a few weeks after they'd moved in.  Their primary home is in VA and this is their beach home which I sold them.

Sun we had breakfast with friends, and then took Marvin & Walter for a nice long walk.  The weather was sunny and the temperature was in the 50s so the majority of the snow had melted.  The boys absolutely loved the long walk!  It has been too cold/windy/snowy to walk them in quite a while.  Afterward we decided to take advantage of the nice weather by cutting back our rose bushes, which then lead to a major pruning of our crepe myrtle trees.  We spent almost 3 hours outside doing yard work, but I didn't mind since it was so mild out.  I had on jeans with a t-shirt and a light hoodie - that's it.  We ended the day by meeting Steven & Thad at the diner and then watching our Sun night TV shows:  Girls, Togetherness, and Looking.

It was a nice weekend!

Friday, March 06, 2015

Friday fragments

In preparation for painting and redecorating 1 of our guest rooms, yesterday I (mostly) cleared off my big desk and listed it for sale online.  

I sat at this desk 5 days a week for several years when I used to work from home full-time.  But now the large desk is just in the way.  I bought a small mirrored chest to store the items from the desk that I will still need, like envelopes, stamps, tape, paper clips, sharpies, checkbook, and return address labels.  You get the point.  While sorting the stuff in the desk I took the opportunity to throw away a bunch of old papers and a few computer CDs.  I'm really trying to pair down and hide the office stuff so this room can just be a guest room.

There was a forecast for several inches of snow yesterday and in anticipation of that, the schools and even the state government was closed.  First it rained, then we had about 30 minutes of sleet, and then the temperature went down and it finally started snowing around 2:30.  It was my scheduled day off so the weather had no real impact on my plans for the day.  Spouse & I met our friend Steven for lunch, since Spouse was off and Steven works nearby.  We ended up getting about 6 inches of snow.


Yesterday I made some delicious homemade soup.  Here are the ingredients:
  • 1 can Great Northern beans
  • 1 can navy beans
  • 1 can garbanzo bean (or chick peas)
  • 1 large container of chicken stock
  • 1 bag of frozen "soup vegetables"
  • 1 container of cubed ham
  • 1 sprig of fresh rosemary
I combine all the ingredients into a stock pot and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to a simmer and after about 10 minutes I remove the rosemary and turn off the heat.  It is so easy and so delicious!


Earlier I wrote about Blogger's announcement that it would begin censoring blogs for nudity.  Fortunately, enough blog writers complained that Blogger has decided not to implement their new policy. The banner message read "This week, we announced a change to Blogger’s porn policy stating that blogs that distributed sexually explicit images or graphic nudity would be made private.
We’ve received lots of feedback about making a policy change that impacts longstanding blogs, and about the negative impact this could have on individuals who post sexually explicit content to express their identities.  We appreciate the feedback. Instead of making this change, we will be maintaining our existing policies."  Needless to say I am very happy about this, not because I depend on Blogger for porn, but because Blogger began as an uncensored platform and I believe it should remain so.