Friday, December 31, 2004

Clam Spaghetti Rigati

I originally found this recipe on I reduced the oil and butter by half and doubled the clams. This Monday, I substituted canned tomatoes for 3 fresh chopped tomatoes. Fresh tomatoes are tasteless this time of year, and the particular brand/style we used (Hunt's with balsamic vinegar, basil, and olive oil) tastes even better than the fresh tomatoes did. The end result is not at all fishy and Mikey likes it.

Clam Spaghetti Rigati

2 T olive oil
2 T butter
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 14.5-oz can diced tomatoes with balsamic vinegar, basil, and olive oil
1/2 C chopped, fresh parsley
2 6.5-oz cans minced clams, with juice
8 oz spaghetti rigati pasta (or other pasta of your choice)
1/2 C shredded parmesan cheese

1. In a saucepan, over medium heat, heat olive oil and butter. Add garlic and sauté briefly. Add tomatoes (with juice), parsley, and clams (with juice). Simmer until liquid evaporates and mixture thickens (about 20 minutes).

2. Cook pasta according to package directions.

3. Add cheese to clam mixture and stir. Serve over pasta.

Serves 2 - 4

Thursday, December 30, 2004

Tangerine Dreams

Hooray! I have two tangerine tree seedlings!

In November, tangerines showed up at the grocery store and I began eating two a day. The first crop was very seedy. I would sometimes spit out 10 seeds per fruit. As I sat at work, spitting seeds into a napkin, I wondered if I could grow tangerine plants from those pesky seeds. Some grocery store fruits have sterile seeds, as a result of breeding for other traits. A quick internet search found that store-bought tangerine seeds will germinate. I decided to try it, using a method recommended by a successful tangerine grower in Canada.

I went about it somewhat haphazardly. I saved the seeds in a napkin, shoved the wadded napkin into a pocket, and promptly forgot about it. When I discovered the napkin, a week later, the seeds were well stuck to it. I pulled the dry seeds off and popped them in a glass of water, along with numerous napkin shreds. Joyce from Canada recommends soaking the seeds for a week, changing the water every day. I rarely changed the water and the seeds soaked for two weeks while I tried to remember to buy potting soil and peat moss. When I was finally ready to plant, the seeds were thoroughly wet from the soaking but had not split or begun to sprout, as I had expected them to. I pushed them into moist dirt and hoped for the best.

After three weeks, there were no signs of life. Still, I kept my sad little pot of dirt on the kitchen counter and watered it every so often. After two more weeks, I was sure that nothing would sprout and figured that I should just chuck the whole mess into the basement. Last night, as I was wiping the kitchen counter, I discovered two, brave little green seedlings pushing up from the dirt.

I will let them develop further before transplanting them to separate containers. I plan to nurse them through the winter and then set the pots outside in the spring. They should like our hot, muggy summers. According to HGTV, tangerines are the most cold hardy of the citrus fruits, so I should be able to leave them outside through the fall and then winter them in our sunroom. I don’t expect fruit but I would enjoy blooms.
Lemons and limes are next!

P.S. Allsands has some great tips on growing, maintaining, and dwarfing citrus trees.

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Coming Attractions

Despite the hours and great effort I have spent writing blog posts, Mike, until recently, hadn’t read more than the first three. After his mother made a number of cryptic (to him) references to my blog, he figured it was time to get caught up. Mike asked me to bookmark the link on his browser and surprised me by reading the remaining entries one afternoon. His first comment: “You need to post more often.”

I am something of a purist. This blog is described as “adventures in home-owning,” and if I don’t have a home-owning-related tale to tell, I do not post. Mike warned that, due to my infrequent posting, I was in danger of losing my present readers. I had to agree. How can generate enough of a fan base to get a Random House book deal (like Breakup Babe) if I don’t post at least every other day?! Yet, I stubbornly refuse to post unless the story somewhat relates to my theme. To keep you hanging on and checking back, here is a list of COMING ATTRACTIONS:

Pictures. Yes, I took pictures of the interior of my house. The perfectionist in me wanted to wait until I had done this and bought that, but I reminded myself that my public awaits. Well, we will all wait until I get the developed prints back next week. Mike – get me a digital camera, please.

Kitchen update. This will be the subject of multiple postings. First, you will get to feast your eyes upon the current, lovely brown and mustard color scheme (once those prints are back). Marvel at the outdated appliances. Pity my family as I asphyxiate them while painting the kitchen cabinets with white enamel. Laugh along as Mike and I install a replacement dishwasher. Next, vote for your favorite kitchen countertop laminate. Volunteer your opinion on whether I should strip the painted-over wallpaper or just paint on top of it. Be shocked at the shade of orange I use on the walls. Offer tips on installing chair-rail height bead board. Vote on whether I should finish the top of the walls with crown molding or a tile border. Bear with me as I attempt to paint our almond refrigerator white. Share the joy as I purchase a brand-new stove! Finally, hold your breath for the kitchen “reveal.”

Crafty Projects. I will post pictures and instructions on creating a handy, necklace organizer. As soon as I learn to use my sewing machine, I will be turning a turquoise sari into a bedskirt and decorative pillows.

Chainsaw adventures. Our neighbor Tim will be coming to our rescue with two chainsaws to cut up the downed tree in the backyard. Will he share the power tools or insist on cutting the entire thing up himself?

Then there is the garden…enough said.

Between all these projects and complaining about Mike’s laundry, I should have plenty of blogging material to entertain my readers. Stay tuned!

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Bye Bye Birdie Feeder

On Wednesday, it started snowing. We awoke on Thursday morning to a city in “Level 3 Snow Emergency.” Due to Mike’s and my cable-free status, we were happily oblivious the area’s emergency and thought we’d get some new movies at Blockbuster. We paid no mind to the 18 inches of snow in our driveway and street. After all, I have a Subaru! Mike jumped in my car, failing to clear the front or back windows of snow, and attempted to back up. The car barely moved. Although the all-wheel drive is awesome, my wagon simply couldn’t clear the snow. We needed a snow shovel.

Because we spent the past 4 years living on a semi-tropical island, we do not own a snow shovel or much cold weather-related gear. (In fact, Mike has no gloves!) I skipped off to our reliable neighbor Mary’s house to borrow a shovel. Unfortunately, her shovel had been stolen and she pointed me towards the next neighbor, who was shoveling his walk. I slowly trudged over. Except when drunk, I don’t really like meeting new people. I find the chore even more onerous when I have to meet new people and then impose upon them for a favor. Thankfully, the home owners, Bill and Joyce, were very nice and readily lent me two snow shovels. I scampered back to our house with the booty.

Mike had made some progress in his backing efforts. The car was now in the lawn and he had spun the tires in the yard until the snow turned brown. As I came hippety-hopping up with the snow shovels, my triumphant smile quickly faded and I asked “Where’s the birdfeeder?”

I am quite attached to the birdfeeder. The crook-style pole was installed in the lawn, at the corner of the driveway and the walk, when we bought the house. After some trauma with the local rodents, a few different birdfeeders, and a little Vaseline, my cat and I enjoy watching the winter birds. Although I have often narrowly missed the feeder with the car, it had remained unscathed.

Mike’s answer: “What birdfeeder? I don’t see a birdfeeder.” Indeed, there was no birdfeeder to be seen. I continued hysterically questioning him until he admitted that he had mown the feeder down and stashed it around the side of the house, hoping I wouldn’t notice. He then derided my sleuthing abilities for failing to notice the footprints left as he hid the evidence. (The previous evening, I had made the brilliant deduction that the UPS man had made a delivery by examining the footprints leading across the lawn, from the street to the front door.)

Although saddened by my loss, I forgave Mike for both his carelessness and duplicity and we dug the driveway out enough to get the car to the street. However, we soon realized that, until the street was plowed or we shoveled it too, we were still snow-bound. The plow finally came by at 4 p.m. and we were able to make a Blockbuster run before I had to be at my show’s final performance.

Today is Tuesday. The yard and the pole hole are still hidden beneath the snow. We will have to wait until it melts to replant the feeder. This week, the temperatures are expected to reach the 40s and it will rain, which should rapidly clear the snow. Until then, the starving, betrayed birdies shiver in the icy air and Cleo the cat stares mournfully at the spot where the feeder once stood.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Spring Planting Plans

In Cincinnati, it has begun to snow and the temperature is predicted to drop to -3 on Christmas Eve. While cooped up inside, I am dreaming of spring and planning my garden.

Our backyard has run a little wild. It is a large lot with a slight slope parallel to the house. The kitchen door leads to a deck with rotted steps, decomposing trellis, and jury-rigged supports. The lawn is quite moist and overrun with wild strawberries. It is enclosed with four different types of fence – contributions of three neighbors and a previous owner. There is a medium-sized and a small (struggling) maple. A few bushes occupy the back, right corner. The yard’s centerpiece is a 30-foot downed tree that missed the house by only a few feet.

In the sunshine, the yard doesn’t look quite so dismal. It is large and, when the trees are in leaf, very private. I find the motley fence and the strawberries charming. It has a great deal of potential.

Despite my botany degree, I have never gardened. My green thumb has been confined to houseplants and the occasional window box. I have wanted to transform a yard since I was young, but never had the opportunity. Now that I’m “all grown up” and in a place of my own, I can create a plan and make it so.

I was inspired by the musical recording of “The Secret Garden” to landscape our backyard as an English Cottage Garden. This style of garden is eclectic and messy, and in keeping with the cottage-like exterior of our house. It is a mix of flowers and herbs, annuals and perennials, shrubs and plants. I hope it will be a cacophony of color and scent.

I have been researching cottage gardens on the internet and in the library. I am currently reading The cottage garden by Christopher Lloyd, English cottage gardening for American gardeners by Margaret Hensel, and Cottage Gardens by Philip Edinger. I found a good garden plan on the Better Home and Gardens website and another plan at I searched with the keywords “cottage garden” and “Ohio” to find local tips on creating this type of garden and ran across this website. I plan on joining the College Hill Gardeners to make some gardening friends.

I am overwhelmed with all the planning and preparation I have to do. I think I may try to do an adaptation of the plan from with a garden border along the sides and back of our fence line. I would like to install an arbor over a gate I recently discovered near the center of the back fence. I plan on digging out the beds as recommended in the plan and edging them with a stone or brick mowing strip. I may have to enrich the soil. I have to figure out where to buy the plants…is online purchasing cost-efficient?

I would love to do the entire back, side, and front yards, all at once, but that is too costly and time intensive. Eventually, I would like to plant an extension of the cottage garden along the south-facing side of the garage and a shade garden (ferns, bleeding heart) along the north-facing side of the house. I would also like to create a containered herb garden on the back deck. These projects will have to wait until later years. It is probably best that I gain some experience before tackling the entire yard.

Soon, I will drag Mike into the cold to measure the yard. I will then transfer the measurements to graph paper and post the current layout for your comments. I welcome any help with the garden plan!

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Vacuum Love

Hardwood floors are gorgeous, but unforgiving. I first learned this when Mike and I lived in our penthouse, Okinawan apartment. Due to the construction and development around our building, our house was constantly dusty. Add the food crumbs we spilled and the long hair I shed, and our floors always seemed to be covered in crud. Not only were they nasty to look at it, but they were unbearable to walk on with bare feet. I would stop every few steps to wipe the crumbs from the bottom of my feet onto my pant (or bare!) leg.

I developed a cleaning ritual to deal with the dirt. Every Saturday, I would spend four hours tidying the apartment. The frenzy culminated in The Cleaning of the Floor. First, I would sweep. Second, I would Swiffer. Third, I would mop with a solution of Murphy’s Oil soap. Then, I would sit back and admire my spotless apartment until Mike came home from wherever I had banished him to during the clean-o-rama.

Although my clean floors gave me great satisfaction, I did not enjoy the necessity of a 3-step operation. When our offer was accepted on our hardwood floored Cincinnati home, I sent Mike out to buy the Hoover Hard Surface Floor Cleaner. I had read its user reviews online, and I knew it had its flaws. Its dry vacuum is so weak it cannot pick up a Cheerio. The dry and wet vacuum deposits debris and water into one collection canister, and emptying its contents is vomit-inducing. However, I was impressed with its performance. After running it over a seemingly clean bedroom floor and I emptied a canister of nearly black water. In the end, though, I was still left with a three step process: sweep, Swiffer, Hoover.

When our carpet was installed in the attic bedroom, we needed a real vacuum and I bought the machine of my dreams. Not only does it clean carpet, but on the “floor” function, it cleans the floor better than a broom and Swiffer. The hardwood floors are so clean that I rarely even feel the need to Hoover. Astride my vacuum steed, I am the queen of the world!

However, my pony let me down on the morning of our housewarming. After frantically preparing food all morning, I grabbed the vacuum to touch up the floors just before the guests arrived and found its suction powers greatly reduced. I might as well have been trying to vacuum with the non-Cheerio-sucking Hoover. I did not have time to investigate the curious lack of suction. Instead, I abandoned the machine and cleaned up visible dirt and fuzz with a brush and dustpan.

Sunday, at the conclusion of yet another cleaning frenzy, I decided it was time to examine the vacuum. I turned it on to find that the “check bag” light was on. This was a bit surprising, because I had vacuumed the whole house only twice since buying the machine and couldn’t have filled a bag yet. Nevertheless, I checked the bag. I was puzzled, and then amused, to find 8 inches of red fuzz protruding from the bag and snaking up the vacuum tube. The bag was also full of fuzz. The red fuzz happened to be the exact color of our new carpet.

Perhaps it was a blonde moment. I had read that new carpets “shed” and should be vacuumed a number of times after first being installed. I just had no idea how much shedding there would be and that it would stop up a vacuum as super as mine. After extracting the fuzz and changing the bag, the vacuum sucked again.

I was able to sleep peacefully on Sunday night with a spotless floor below. I sucked up cat food, pine needles, pretzel crumbs, and more fuzz until my floors were a delight to walk upon barefoot. Have I mentioned that I love my vacuum?

Monday, December 13, 2004

Carpentry Success

SUCCESS! The pet door is installed and I have no injuries.

On Saturday, I went to my not-so-favorite home improvement store, Home Depot, in search of a more aggressive drill bit. I was pleasantly surprised to be, first, approached by an employee who asked if I needed helped, and, second, guided to the correct product! I bought a 3/4” Irwin Speedbor drill bit. This type of bit is for making large, round holes in wood. A larger bit could be used to bore a hole for a doorknob.

Once home, Mike helped me take the door off its hinges and lay it on my makeshift sawhorses, two benches from the back porch. The boring bit worked like a champ. I found that if I moved the drill from side to side a little, it bored much faster than if I held the drill steady. The resulting holes were large enough to admit the jigsaw blade.

The jigsaw was much easier to control on a horizontal surface. I had a little trouble with the curved corners at the bottom of the pet door, but the frame covered any roughness. I attached the pet door frame to the front side of the door with four screws. On the back side, I had trouble making the pet door frame fit the hole I had cut. I had held the jigsaw at an angle, so the back of the hole was a little smaller than the front. I trimmed it a bit and the frame fit perfectly.

With Mike’s help, I put the door back on its hinges and then introduced the cat to her new entrance. She was hesitant at first to use the door. The flap seemed to confound her. After some coaxing, she figured it out. I can now deadbolt that entrance to the house and the cat can use her litterbox.

I am encouraged by my success. Next weekend’s project is installing a replacement dishwasher.

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Carpentry Failure

My self-esteem has been brought to a new low by my attempts to install a pet door. I am starting to think that I’m not cut out for this home improvement stuff. My goodness, if I can’t complete this simple project, how can I ever hope to tile a floor or refurbish the deck!

The pet door is intended to give our cat access to the sunroom (and her litter box), while allowing us to close and deadbolt the door between the house and sunroom. The door between the sunroom and outside has a flimsy lock. I do not feel confident about it as an intruder barrier.

The pet door instructions looked simple. 1. Trace template on the door. 2. Drill four holes, one at each corner of the template. 3. Insert jigsaw blade into the holes and make four cuts. 4. Attach pet door frame with four screws.

I began on Tuesday night, but only made it to step #2. The template tracing was no problem. I even managed to place the template in the center of the door. My drilling did not go so well. I used the second largest bit, so that the hole would be large enough to accommodate the saw blade. My first hole made it through the door, barely. On the next three hole attempts, the drill gave up on me. Thinking it just needed a recharge, I plugged the battery pack in and gave the drill a rest.

I was, however, encouraged by my one, complete hole and decided to try the jigsaw. I thought I was pretty bad-ass when I bought the saw, but upon assembling it, realized it terrified me. It is big and heavy and the blade moves very fast. I gathered my courage and attempted to put the blade into the hole in the door. It wouldn’t fit; my hole was too small. Nevertheless, I tried to use the saw, but, without a hole to insert the blade into, it just bounced off of the door, marring the paint. I’m lucky it didn’t bounce into my leg and sever an artery. I’m sure Mike would have been unamused to come home and find that I had bled to death from a stupid jigsaw accident.

On Wednesday night, I attempted further drilling, with the largest bit and a freshly charged battery. I managed to eat one large hole in the door before deciding that this project is best done with the door in a horizontal position. I will need Mike to help me take the door off of its hinges and carry it to the back porch.

There are two reasons why I think I am having so much trouble. The first is that the door is not hollow! I thought that hollow doors were the ubiquitous, but either this is an old, pre-hollow-core era door or solid wood is the standard for doors to the outside. I have been trying to drill through about 1.5 inches of solid wood. I don’t think I am using the appropriate drill bits for such a project. The largest bit just seems to push its way into a hole, rather than biting into the wood. The second problem is that I have absolutely no control of the jigsaw. As I mentioned, it is heavy. I am amazed at the diagram that came with the pet door; it pictures a person using the jigsaw, on a vertical surface, with one hand!

With Mike’s help, I’ll tackle the pet door again on Saturday. Hopefully, I will be able to better control the saw on a horizontal surface and I’ll have Mike poised to dial 9-1-1. I refuse to give up!

Tuesday, December 07, 2004


Between work and performing, not much has been going on at my house but the most mundane of banalities, laundry. My husband and I have an agreement: while he completes law school, I do the breadwinning and housecleaning. Once he becomes a successful lawyer, we’ll hire a housekeeper and I’ll stay at home eating chocolate bonbons and gestating an heir. Until then, laundry is an unfortunate fact of my life.

I don’t mind doing laundry. I’ve long ago grown immune to handling smelly, sweaty clothing. Once clean, I take a peculiar joy in folding clothes. (I’ll always be thankful to the military boyfriend who taught me how to fold tshirts into perfect little squares and to Martha Stuart who taught me how to tame those pesky fitted sheets.) Like painting, however, it is the time I must spend doing the laundry that I mind. I could be spending that time doing exciting things that my blog readers might want to read about – installing a pet door, painting the kitchen cabinets, tiling a floor!

I don’t make much laundry. I spend my days in “dry clean only” clothes (that I take great care not to sweat in or otherwise dirty) and my nights in the same pair of pajamas all week. I do work out at lunch, but my exercise clothes are small and lightweight. The bulk of the laundry pile comes from the laundry-making-machine: Mike. When I grew up, we had to wear our clothes at least twice (except socks and underwear) before we could throw them in the wash. While Mike sees nothing wrong with that practice, he has problems instituting it. This is probably because he flings all of his clothing into a giant pile on his office floor and then couldn’t tell you what he wore yesterday or last month, let alone how many times. His clothes are also very BIG. He isn’t a big guy, but he wears a surfeit of jeans, courdoroy pants, sweatshirts, and cotton sweaters. Balled up, one of his outfits equals three of mine. So, adding his laundry to mine quadruples the pile, instead of only doubling it.

The simple solution would be to have Mike do his own laundry. But then the ink blots, holes, bleach stains, and funky smells that were so common on his clothing when we met would return. He doesn’t mind wearing the damaged clothes, but I mind having a husband that looks and smells like a hobo.

One great thing about having a basement is that you can turn it into one great, big laundry pile. I would love to add a laundry chute to our house, a la House in Progress. For now, our laundry chute is the basement stairs. Because Mike insists on undressing on the first floor, this is quite convenient for him (although not as convenient as the floor of whatever room he happens to be in). Now, if only I could figure out how to toss my dirties down the attic stairs, through the dining room, and then down the basement stairs, we’d have no need at all for a real chute!

Laundry is a truly Sisyphean task. As soon as I have conquered the week’s pile, another has begun to grow. I must persevere. Only two and a half more years of law school and then, chocolate bonbons here I come!

Thursday, December 02, 2004

Greasing the Pole

How is it that a squirrel can outsmart me? As mentioned in an earlier post, I bought a new birdfeeder to attract birds and entertain my cat. It looked rodent-proof to me and the product text claims to keep squirrels out. Yet, I looked out my kitchen window this weekend to see a squirrel, hanging upside-down from the top of the feeder globe, helping himself to seed. When my motion startled him, he easily shimmied down the birdfeeder pole – a slim metal pole that I did not think a squirrel could climb. Incensed, I put my mind to work on a plan to foil the fat squirrel.

I have no tenderness for squirrels. I find their chunky little bodies repulsive. Who likes squirrels? How can it be that one can buy a product designed to feed them?! (I don’t really like birds any better. They crap on my car. But I like my kitty and she likes to watch them.)

My hometown of Longview, WA is a logging town. On the 4th of July each year, competitive logging events are held at Lake Sacajawea. One of the events is a race to climb a greased, upright log. While I have never watched the competition, the idea inspired me. I thought that I could prevent the squirrel from climbing the birdfeeder pole by greasing it.

Although I dislike squirrels, I didn’t want to use anything toxic to slick the pole. I also didn’t want to use any sort of food grease, like Crisco, because it would probably attract animals that would just lick it off. Petroleum jelly sounded like the answer! The man that discovered petroleum jelly ate a teaspoon of it every day and lived to be 96, so it couldn’t hurt a squirrel too much.

I wonder what my neighbors thought of me as I was rubbing down a cold metal pole in my front yard on Sunday afternoon. I’m sure they don’t have a high opinion of us anyhow, especially since we are the trashy people. Braving social disapproval, I applied a thick coat of jelly to the pole and the top of the birdfeeder.

I am rarely home during the daylight hours, so I am not able to watch for the acrobatic squirrel. One of my coworkers told me that I could gauge whether the squirrels are eating the birdseed by noting how quickly it disappears. So, I have been monitoring the seed level. The seed reservoir went from 1/3 full to empty in 2 days. Before the greasing, with the squirrel eating the seed, the reservoir had not been depleted at such a high rate. That leaves me with two conclusions. Either the squirrel just LOVES petroleum jelly and has been making extra trips up the birdfeeder pole or the birds, no longer being frightened away by the squirrel, are eating more.

I have exciting plans to stake out the birdfeeder this weekend. If the squirrel is still running up and down the lubed pole, I am considering barbed wire or sticky paper.

Wednesday, December 01, 2004


This past weekend, Mike and I attempted our greatest home improvement feat yet: we replaced the dining room light fixture. When we moved in, the room had a very standard, 5-bulb, frosted-shade, brass-armed fixture. It was much too vanilla for my tastes. During my mother’s and my shopping extravaganza in October, we found a gorgeous chandelier at Kirkland’s. However, in the crush to move everything else in and get unpacked, it remained boxed up and obstructed dining room traffic for over a month.

By the Saturday after Thanksgiving, I felt like we had made enough progress on other projects that we could finally install the fixture. I have never worked with electricity, but Mike, with all his bragging about his college electrical engineering course, was confident that he could handle the wires.

Taking down the old fixture was easy. The medallion was screwed to the outlet box and the weight of the fixture was held by a center screw. Mike pulled the wire nuts off and disconnected the wires. After a quick trip to Home Depot for electrical tape and light bulbs, we were ready to rock and roll the installation. However, we were soon stymied when our chandelier parts and our outlet box parts did not match up.

According to Handy Ma’am, there are two ways to attach a fixture to an outlet box: via a mounting strap or a center-threaded stud. A mounting strap is affixed to the outlet box by two screws on its perimeter. Our fixture came with a mounting strap, but the strap was too long and its screw holes did not line up with the screws on the outlet box. Our outlet box is also fitted with a center-threaded stud, which looks like a big fat screw coming out of the ceiling. I was determined to get the chandelier up, so I started taking things apart in an effort to use the stud, discarding the mounting strap. It looked possible, but I had two problems. First, the stud screw threads and the fixture collar threads were different sizes. Second, both screw ends were male. I needed a female part that would accommodate a different size screw on either end. I was confident that this was a common problem and that Home Depot would have my answer.

In the past, I have been rather disappointed by our local Home Depot. Call me an ageist if you will, but I don’t feel confident about a home improvement store that always seems to be staffed by teenagers. The consultation desks are manned by apparently 15-year-old girls. How can they help me with my flooring or cabinetry needs? The boys are no better – they hide out in the cleaning section, joking and roughhousing. However, Saturday seemed to be my lucky day because the store was staffed with all sorts of crotchety old men. I was sure that one could help me.

I was directed to a centenarian in the lighting department. I explained my problem and held up the two males that I needed to join. After scratching his head, he said that it sounded like something I would have to custom order. Disappointed, I left him and began to scour the electrical section. On an end cap, facing the back wall, I found a Screw Collar Loop Kit. A variety of parts were jumbled inside the plastic bubble – including a mounting strap, a collar, a nipple, a hickey, and locknuts. Confused, I read the following revelation on the back: “For older installations with 3/8-IP (5/8 OD x 1/2 ID) nipple at the ceiling box, screw the 5/8” ID locknut on this nipple. Then tighten the hickey on this existing nipple against the locknut.” Most of this was unintelligible to me, but I was encouraged by the phrase “for older installations” and decided to buy the package and give it a shot.

I think I impressed Mike when I pulled out the hickey and locknuts and, lo and behold, I was able to join the stud and collar! We evidently had an “older installation.” Perhaps we were supposed to involve the packaged nipple in the connection, but I think our fixture collar has an attached nipple.

With the chandelier now suspended from the ceiling, Mike easily joined the fixture and ceiling wires. I was dispatched to the basement to flip the breaker switch. As soon as I turned the electricity on, Mike shouted “Turn it off! Turn it off!” in a panicked voice. Sure that a fire had erupted, I ran upstairs, expecting to see smoking wires and a scorched ceiling. It turns out, that his “panic” was just a joke that he repeated every time I turned on the breaker. We had to separate and rejoin the wires twice more as we figured out how the wires were supposed to snake through the collar so that the medallion (which covers the ugly outlet box) was flush against the ceiling.

In conclusion:
1. We now have an elegant centerpiece in our dining room
2. Electricians must be a perverted bunch. (Who names a part “hickey” or “nipple”?)
3. The old people don’t seem to be anymore helpful than the young people at Home Depot
4. Mike can correctly join wires. (He still won’t tell me how he knew which wires to join. It is all a grand mystery.)

We are all set for our housewarming on Saturday!