DIY Elbow Grease and Ingenuity Is Far More Cost Effective than High-Dollar Service Companies

Hoses to both the refrigerator have to go from the connections under the sink and behind the cabinets.  It would have been easy for the original builder to put connections behind the fridge, as the sink in thehalf-bath is directly on the other side of the wall behind it.

Hoses to both the refrigerator have to go from the connections under the sink and behind the cabinets. It would have been easy for the original builder to put connections behind the fridge, as the sink in thehalf-bath is directly on the other side of the wall behind it.

Readers on this blog might know that it was four years ago this summer that I was in the full throes of the search for my first home, which I bought at the end of October, 2009.  I didn’t want, nor would the VA appraisers approve, a house that wasn’t move-in ready.  Even though the house was about 25 years old, it was  in good shape and built solid.  However, since moving in I have replaced the refrigerator and dishwasher, and last summer’s heat forced a new AC to be installed.

Still there are small jobs to be done for the upkeep of the house.  I don’t mind doing many of these tasks myself like painting or replacing window panes, but when it comes to dealing with most water problems (fortunately, there have been few in the four years I’ve had the house), I’d rather leave them to someone with more experience, as I’m afraid I’ll end up with some bigger mess.

Therefore, when I found I had a little leak coming out from under the dishwasher a couple of weeks ago, I just turned the water off under the sink.  I didn’t really think it was the dishwasher itself, but that it was a leak from the hose to it or the one to the refrigerator.   It didn’t don on me at the time that I had turned off the cold water valve, which goes to the fridge, and that the hot one going to the dishwasher was still open.   Anyway, I thought that whatever the problem was, the dishwasher would have to be pulled out to get to the hose and I wasn’t sure I wanted to deal with that.  For about 10 days, I just washed dishes by hand and drank the awful tasting water from the faucet.

A $22 hose and 10 bucks of connectors were all the replacement parts needed for this job.  John Moore's $729 estimate can be seen next to the drill bits.

A $22 hose and 10 bucks of connectors were all the replacement parts needed for this job.  John Moore’s $729 estimate can be seen next to the drill bits.

This past week when I had some vacation days, I called John Moore (Houston plumbing/AC/electrical repair service company).  They advertise a lot on TV and offer to come to your house and give a free estimate.  The repairman came first thing Tuesday morning, and he did a little looking under the dishwasher and said the leak was coming from the hose to the refrigerator, and said he would give me an estimate.  He went out to the truck for quite awhile and came back with a printout that said $729.  I said “no” that wasn’t going to work for me, and he said that they weren’t the cheapest in town but they did good work.  I had never imagined an estimate anywhere near that high.

One of several new holes that had to be drilled. For whatever reason, the old hose ran through the upper part of the cabinets.

One of several new holes that had to be drilled. For whatever reason, the old hose ran through the upper part of the cabinets.

The one thing that I learned from him was which hose had the leak.  Now I can’t believe I was that naive; just lack of experience mostly.  Since the problem wasn’t something urgent, I decided it could wait, and maybe I could find a more reasonable plumber.   Then I got to thinking about it and looking at where the hoses went through the cupboards and decided the hose from the fridge could go under the dishwasher instead of behind it, so I wouldn’t have to pull it out.

I got a new hose from Sears for $22 and  a couple of connectors from the hardware store for $10 and fixed it myself this morning in about 1 1/2 hours (that’s even including time to check me emails, watch a bit of “Judge TV”, and make a run to the hardware store).  I had to drill new holes at the back of the cabinets, but the hardest thing was threading the hose–I straightened out a coat hanger and attached a copper wire loop at the end to maneuver and pull the hose under the dishwasher, between the cabinets, and through the new holes I had drilled.  I had to get down on the floor in all different positions to do it, so I guess that was the $700 of labor.

Finally, the hose was reconnected to the refrigerator. Afterward, I removed the old hose and cleaned the floor (high time for that).

Finally, the hose was reconnected to the refrigerator. Afterward, I removed the old hose and cleaned the floor (high time for that).

Anyway, so far there are no leaks and now have my cold water and ice back.  I feel pretty good for being able to complete the task myself, but even better for not letting myself get ripped off!

Happy LGBT Pride 2012, Houston!

Although various gay pride events have been going on most of the month, today, Saturday, June 23rd is the big day.

The Pride Festival takes place from 1-7 PM on Lovett and Waugh.  If those streets are unfamiliar, if you go to Westheimer and Montrose, you can’t miss finding all the booths and other entertainment.

The one-of-a-kind night parade begins at 8:15 PM starting near Woodhead and heads down Westheimer into the heart of Montrose.  The parade is always amazing, but parking can be a nightmare, so go early and beware of no-parking zones, where cars are certain to be towed.

Catch more about Houston Pride 2012 here.

Getting In Some Early Gardening with the Help of a New Electric Cultivator

Planted 2 weeks ago, these pea sprouts are about 4 inches tall.

Again it’s garden time!  I know it’s still January, but last year I planted on the 1st, but this year I didn’t get seeds for some leafy greens into the ground until the 15th.  In addition, to various kinds of lettuce,  I also planted spinach and peas for the first time.  The rows of the little sprouts have aleady appeared; in fact, the peas are now about 3-4 inches high.  The 2.75 inches of rain that fell may have washed some of the lettuce and spinach seeds around, but according to national figures, we’re still not out of the drought yet, so whatever rain comes down is needed.

This year I used one of my gift cards to help purchase a roto-tiller.  For quite some time, I had been eyeing a Troy-Bilt Electric Cultivator at Lowe’s  (Model TB154).  After I got it home, the minimal assembly was a no-brainer.  Very similar to my electric lawn mower, there were just two, hand-grip bolts, which attach the upper part of the handle to the rest of the tiller. 

Once I got the cord connected and the tiller into the garden, it didn’t take long to get my small garden plot well-tilled.  Even though I had done quite a bit of soil amending last year, there is still so much clay, that turning over the dirt with a shovel and then working it

Attach the handle with these hand-grip bolts, and the tiller is fully assembled.

with a rake still didn’t break up the soil satisfactorily.  Using this cultivator really got the soil worked up to a very good depth.  For a smaller machine, and an electric to boot, the Troy-Bilt154 is surprisingly powerful.  For a first-time tiller user, there was about a 5-minute learning curve, because the machine really wants to get into the dirt and do its job.  Just because this cultivator is lightweight doesn’t mean garden-tilling with it is something that your 11-year-old kid should be doing!

I paid $199; it had been on sale for about $20 less before Christmas.  Like the rest of my outside power tools, this tiller is electric.  Check out more extensive reviews at Lowe’s.

OK, so this is just the side of the box, but I didn't take any photos out of the cultivator out in the garden, and I'm not pulling it out from it's corner in the garage just to get a pic.

Heavy Storms Passing Through Houston Left Many Roadways Flooded

The garden rain gauge shows 1.8 inches, for a total of 2 inches in the past 24 hours (1/09/11).

Annie barked at the bumps of thunder as I showered for work this morning.  Then the .20 in the rain gauge gave evidence to some showers during the night which I hadn’t heard.  However, the weatherman’s predictions weren’t enough so that I was still surprised by such darkness that I could barely see the other downtown building across the bayou from my office window.  There was enough street flooding by 2:00 PM, and with the expectation of more rain to come that we were told to go home.  Once the traffic loosened up and I had passed through a stretch of I-45 that was passable only in one lane, the rest of the drive was easy.  Coming into my part of northwest Harris County, the grey clouds started to lighten and only intermittent drops hit the windshield.

My rain gauge showed about 1.8 inches, and with the .20 I had tossed from the glass tube in the morning–a total of 2 inches.  By looking around the yard and neighborhood, it seemed like we had gotten a good soaking rain–just what we need after the long dry spell of last year.  We were fortunate not to get the 5, 6, and in some places 7 inches (as reported by the TV) that helped flood the roads and even rise into houses and apartments in some parts of the metropolitan area.

Hurricane Irene Whets the Appetite for Tin Roof Ice Cream

Having participated in the snarl of freeway madness along with millions of other Houstonians to avoid Hurricane Rita in 2005 , three years later I decided not to evacuate during Hurricane Ike, thus, spending a mostlysleepless night listening to the winds and rain.  After the electricity went out, I was able to keep up with the local broadcasts with a small hand-held TV.  Therefore,  I feel fortunate now just to be glued to  the unfolding events of Hurricane Irene as it moves up the East Coast.  The AC is humming, but I’m comfortable and relaxed on the sofa.

Here in Houston, it may have been the hottest day of the year.  The thermometer on the back fence goes sky high out in the sun so is not very reliable, but I think the temperature may have been higher than the 105 that gave for my zip code.

It’s still in the high 90s here nearing 10 PM.  The heat was still suffocating when I went out to the super market in search of that summer treat–Blue Bell’s Tin Roof Ice Cream.  (Blue Bell ice cream is made in Brenham, Texas about 50 miles up the road from where I live.  Tin Roof is vanilla ice cream laced with chocolate covered peanuts and chocolate syrup.)

To my good fortune, Blue Bell was on sale if you bought $10 of groceries.  I had already picked up a few other items, never thinking that total would be less than even $15.  I guess I had a lot of bargains because when it came to the ice cream, the cashier said, “You have to buy $10 worth to get the ice cream.”  When I told her just to charge me the regular price (because that was my real reason for going to the super market), she seemed to be perplexed and had to call a manager over to finish out the transaction, charging me the sale price.

I exited the store out into the heat radiating from the parking lot, wondering what would have happened if I’d brought just the ice cream up to the counter.

A Saturday Morning Adventure To One of Houston’s Well-kept Secrets

Passion Flower--Is there anything other to say than "Wow"?

Because Houston is a city that has experienced most of its growth in the last several decades, it feels pretty much the same, no matter which part of the city that you find yourself in.  Despite the ubiquitous strip centers, fast food restaurants, and housing developments, tucked away here and there are a number of unique places that can make for a fun outing.

Part of the grounds of Jerry's Garden, ready for the 4th of July.

Yesterday morning, a friend and I took a Saturday morning adventure to one of Houston’s best-kept secret’s, Jerry’s Jungle.  No more appropriate name could have been given to this plant menagerie, which is open to the public just a few times a year.  This private garden-cum-nursery is about a 15-minute drive north of downtown off of I-45.  Taking the exit onto Gulf Bank, then Airline, and finally Hill Street, one might feel a bit like they are somewhere in Mexico (as my friend said).

The grounds, very densely covered with all types of flowering plants and trees, occupy, what seems to be, several lots.  Most of the plants are growing in the ground, but when Jerry’s Jungle is open, there are many varieties of unusual plants for sale.  (Check out the Jerry’s Jungle website for the calendar and other offerings.)

This red clerodendron is ahowy plant. There are many other varieties. I wonder if I will be able to recognize them.

I am not good at recognizing nor naming even the more common yard and garden foliage, so I was far out of my league with the myriad of plants yesterday.  However, the beauty and variety were amazing.  Seeing everything that Jerry grows, I realized that the range of plants that we can have in our yards and gardens here in Houston is far greater than I had ever imagined.

Some of the many hardy, acclimated plants available for sale at Jerry's Jungle.

I’ll go back in October when Jerry’s Jungle is open to the public again.  By that time, I will have a better idea about some new beds I want to make in my yard, and the relentless heat should be a bit more forgiving.

After a wonderful time of encountering many different plants, when the Saturday morning heat intensified, despite the shade, my friend and I decided to take a respite at another place she knew of:  My Dee Dee’s Pie Shoppe and Deli.   Just a few blocks from Jerry’s Jungle, this is another business that seems a bit out of place.  Located in an old Victorian house with antique decorations inside to match, My Dee Dee’s was an interesting stop to get inside from the sun.  The lemon chess pie had a nice citrus tang, but was so empalagoso, that a sliver would have been enough to satisfy a sweet tooth.

What a very pleasant way to spend the first morning of a 3-day weekend, a lot more fun than a trip to Lowe’s and stopping at McDonald’s afterward.

Seeing passion fruit actually growing--another first for me.

Like so many others, the name of this beautiful flower is unknown to me. That will be the challenge if I want one to put in my flower beds.

Houston Gay Pride Parade–Version 2011

Houston Gay Pride Parade 2011 is off and running!Jonathan Lovitz, from LogoTV's "Set Up Squad" was one of this year's honorary grand marshals.

The 2011version of the Houston LGBT Pride Celebration (commonly known as the Houston Gay Pride Parade) was attended by a large crowd.  (I’ll be interested in what the official count will be.) The parade was lead off by the traditional HPD cruiser and contingent, followed directly by Houston’s own gay mayor, Annise Parker, with her partner, Kathy Hubbard at her side.

The crowd gathering before the start of the parade, here in front of Tomo's.

A broad mix of people came to view the Pride Parade. A few of them entertaining themselves before the start.

The unexpected is always expected at the parade.

Jonathat Lovitz, of LogoTV's "Setup Squad", one of the honorary grand marshals.

There was no lack of other politicians riding in the parade, including many of the current city council, and council wannabees, as well as state representatives and congresspeople.  There were a large number of groups representing a wide variety of gay interests, many who have participated year after year.  However, every year there are new participants.

Many things have changed about the parade have changed over the years.  For one there is a lot less police “presence” along the parade route.  Maybe that’s due to having a gay mayor.  There are perhaps more straight people than gay people that attend these days.  Sometimes, I wonder if they are really interested in the groups, or just want to get the beads that are thrown.  I saw more drinking than I have seen before, as illustrated by a 50-something woman, who eased in next to me, and screamed at every float or group.  Her name was Julie.  Yes, that’s what she screamed, “Hey, it’s me Julie.”  I hope she enjoys all her loot.   Yes, the Gay Pride Parade has changed.

The colorful float of Bunnies on the Bayou.

Gay Asians & Friends--this group is uniquely costumed year after year.

The Texas Gay Rodeo Association's entry.

M.D. Anderson Cancer Center's entry illustrates the parade theme "Live, Love, Be."

A perennial favorite, the boys of South Beach.

One of the many colorful contingents in the parade–this one is Jenni’s Noodle House.

See story and photos of 2010 Pride Parade here.