Dear Rude Ruth

I am getting bids on a new Central Air conditioning system in my house. So far I have contacted four A/C companies for estimates. All of them are within my budgeted amount. How can I decide on which company to hire?

Indecisive in Indiana

Dear III,

Go with the company who has the best looking employees. Take the days off from work it takes for them to do the job, get yourself a box of cheap wine, a lawn chair, and enjoy the view.

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Dear Rude Ruth,

My Wife and I want to improve the curb appeal of our house and front yard. We are both avid crafters, and we want to use our talents to create an attractive and inviting atmosphere on our property. However, we live in a heavily restricted subdivision that frowns (in fact penalizes homeowners) on creative and unusual yard art. Our proposals to the Homeowner’s Association have been repeatedly thrown out. Do you have any suggestions for us that might help our situation? We like the location and love our house, we just feel unwanted because we are artists.

Please help us if you can?
Rejected Yet Hopeful

Dear RYH,

Without actually driving by your house and seeing your “art” I can’t really decide whether to be for you or against you (but I’ll go out on a limb and say against).

I’ll bet your swanky subdivision is chock full of Mercedes, BMWs, Rolls Royces, Hummers, Cadillacs, and Lincoln Town Cars (with the exception of your house, which could very possibly have a 1969 VW van covered with glued-on baby doll heads in its driveway). I don’t recommend you offending your grand and lofty neighbors, especially since you obviously do not possess the high standards of class like the rest of your community.

How about leaving your “artwork” out of the equation and settling for some good, old-fashioned, shrubbery and flowers? Is that too much to ask? And when I say shrubbery and flowers I don’t mean PLASTIC shrubbery in plastic pots. Nor do I mean Dollar Store “silk” flowers. Those are designed for cemeteries where the neighbors don’t give a darn about the earthly decor because they are up in heaven floating around on fluffy clouds, flapping their silvery white wings, polishing their halos, and playing the harp all day. I mean some shrubbery with some real “wow” factor. Like ligustrum, who doesn’t like ligustrum? Or a fig tree~ nothing says “I have class and I’m here to stay” like a fig tree covered with delicious, gooey black figs~~ yum~~ or perhaps the standard of quality curb appeal ~ a privet hedge? Give that a try and save your wood cutouts of granny’s rump for garage sale fodder (or just take it straight to the dump and save yourself the heartbreak of a no-sell).

Ruth

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Dear Rude Ruth

My new girlfriend and I just moved into a fabulous apartment on the ground floor of a nice complex & everything about it is perfect except for one problem. Our bedroom windows face the busy poolside cabana.  There is no shrubbery or landscaping to hide the view of our love nest from the outside. We are really into the natural look and thought hanging bamboo blinds in the windows would fix it, but they were too see-through. Our bedroom is very spacious, but the typical “apartment white” walls and tell-all windows have us in a quandary. What can we do to enliven the space while maintaining the privacy we need?

Help!

Exposed Poolside Couple

Dear EPC,

I am appalled at your letter. Shameless shacking up with a new “girlfriend” is both shocking and unnatural. I hope your dear Mother isn’t aware of your sinful lifestyle (but then again I hope she reads my blog!), nor the Mother of the brazen hussy you have lured into your “love nest”. Considering you are living in an apartment complex, any idiot would think there were other flats without a “showroom window” available to consider. Perhaps a quaint little one on the fourth floor facing a nice big lighted billboard that reads : No Carnal Relations Before Marriage!

It doesn’t sound to me like you need your place any more enlivened.

Shame on you both!
Ruth

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Being At One With Nature

Late yesterday I decided to dig the last post hole of the Porch Project just because it needed to be done, and I had nothing better to do….Except maybe sit in the zero gravity lawn chair, sip a cold beer and read on my Kindle ~ so I opted for that. It was a nice cool evening (only 92 degrees under the shade), the chickens were just outside the yard fence scratching and clucking and being chickens in general, the cats were stretched out in the grass taking those all important catnaps, the birds were singing, the fawns were frolicking, blah blah blah. I was well on my way to the perfect evening wind-down after a stressful day at the office (the hubby was working out of town & would be gone for the night).

The canopy was still up (no wind this week) and gently shading the perfectly marked boundary of the non-existent hole, while the water hose trickled on the area (making it a little easier to dig). I sat a while in zero gravity comfort and gazed longingly at the post hole digger and various iron rock breaking bars and shovels. Well maybe not longingly, but I did gaze. But not at the post hole digger and shovels, at the glorious rain cloud building to the East.

Since we never ever get any sort of weather of any consequence approaching from the East, I didn’t worry one bit about what this particular cloud might do to someone else, I just knew it wasn’t going to do anything to me.

Gee life is full of surprises.

A few e-chapters later I glanced up at the sky only to see it was a deep dark color of gray. A boiling, churning, lightening-infested, thundery sort of gray. And the cloud was no longer a scenic distance away to the East, it was overhead. That far away cloud had stealthily floated Westward and brought its rain with it.

What to do?

My first instinct was to run indoors and crawl under the bed. I’m not a fan of lightening (electricity out of control), thunder, big winds or scary storms. I do love the rain they bring with them, and God knows we desperately need that, so in a panicky I-want-my-Mommy sort of way I was thankful.

My second instinct was to do the right thing for ’98 and her vulnerable North wall. And oh yes, the danged canopy that (just an hour ago) was doing such a service to mankind, but now was dancing around jerking its guy ropes & threatening to fly to San Antonio in the most violent of ways, possibly taking my air compressor and other sundry construction items with it. Rats!

I made a quick check of the el-cheapo plastic sheeting that we stapled to the house for protection, & it was holding its own. Sure, it was flapping a little but for the most part the rain was hitting it and running off like it should. The insulation and house were well protected and I was glad (mostly because there was nothing more I could do for it). So I turned my attention to the canopy.

Luckily the step ladders and some rope were handy. I grabbed the nearest ladder (aluminum), a stretch of rope, and proceeded to lash a loop over the apex of the canopy’s frame from the underside. I tied it off to my air compressor and hoped that it would hold the whole thing down. Meanwhile the wind, rain, lightening, thunder, wind and rain (did I mention lots of wind and rain?) began in earnest. It became obvious the air compressor and rope job wasn’t working when the canopy raised off the ground about 4 feet, taking the air compressor with it, only to slam back down in the (now nasty) mud (as I stood alongside in panicky disbelief).

I really really really wanted to be indoors sitting at the kitchen table, playing with Atticus & watching the rain lash the oaks outside, but I had work to do.

I climbed back up the ladder and held onto the rope and gave that canopy the pep-talk of a lifetime. “Just hang on one more gust! We can do this! You are a nice old canopy and I’m sorry I didn’t take you down when I saw that cloud! It’s just one little rain cloud, we can do this!”

I must admit I was probably talking more to myself than that canopy, but it seemed to be working. It was bucking like a wild horse, but holding to the ground. I was hanging on to that rope for dear life, getting totally drenched in wind-driven rain-filled insanity, flinching (and/or screaming ~ mostly screaming) every time the lightening struck nearby (but thanking my maker it wasn’t hitting the metal framework of the canopy I was holding on to while standing on a metal ladder), when it happened.

Ye Olde Rogue Gust Of Wind.

I’ve read about them in (Kindle) books. I have seen what they can do on TV new stories. I have heard other people describe experiences with them and scoffed at their exaggerations.

I’m here to tell you they are brutal. And when I say brutal I mean lifting ME and my air compressor off the ground (and off the ladder) a foot into the air. That gust came from the ground and blew upwards enough to take me for a very unexpected and unwanted ride I will not soon forget. For some insane reason I didn’t let go of my rope and allow the wind to take that hundred dollar canopy to parts unknown. The cheapskate side of me held on and rode it out. Don’t ask me why because I cannot say.

I did have to make a crucial decision at one point. That same Rogue Gust of Wind grabbed the well stapled on sheet of el-cheapo plastic that was protecting the exposed front of my lovely house, and ripped it from the wall. Hunks of pink insulation went skyward only to fall miserably down into the slimy wet mud. The plastic itself held at the topmost row of staples, but the rest of the sheet flew straight up and folded back over onto the top of the roof (where it was useless). The wicked wind-driven rain was now hammering the outside plywood sheathing, wiring, exposed insulation, and inside gypsum board walls of ’98. Yikes!

Off the ladder, release the rope holding down the canopy, grab another (too short) ladder nearby, scurry up it and stretch to my bodily limit to reach that sheet of plastic and pull it back down. All in a downpour of Biblical Proportions. I did it, but it didn’t dare lay nice and still against the wall, oh no. It wanted desperately to return to the roof.

After a brief, wet, cussword infested struggle to keep it down (all the while fretting over that damned canopy and what it might do next) I ran to the shed and grabbed my trusty slap stapler.

After a hundred staples all up and down the front of the house, it was quasi secured enough to help turn the rain (I told myself).

Too bad it stopped raining at the exact moment I drove that last staple in. The wind stopped as well and the sun came out and the birds started singing and the fawns made an appearance and ….. well you know.

I have taken the canopy down, but will have to wait for the hubby to help better protect the (now wet) front of the house. He’s due home tonight.

Rain is predicted every evening this week.

That clear plastic sheeting went on a trip to the roof. What drama! Note the canopy frame in front.

That clear plastic sheeting went on a trip to the roof. What drama! Note the canopy frame in front.

Disgusting wet insulation lying in the clay-y mud. What a mess.

Disgusting wet insulation lying in the clay-y mud. What a mess.

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Dear Rude Ruth,

We recently added a new room on to our house. It is big and wonderful and everything I imagined it would be. It sits on the North side of the house and is shaded by a giant oak tree. There are numerous windows and a set of French doors leading out to a new patio. We had a fireplace put in one wall for wintertime heating and ambiance. It has beautiful vaulted ceilings with exposed beams and custom lighting. The floors are hardwood stained to a beautiful light walnut color to match the beams and doors. We painted the walls a light buttery color with window treatments to compliment in a warm shade of brown.

My problem is this: My husband’s mother recently announced she was coming to live with us, and has claimed my new living room as her future bedroom. My husband has repeatedly tried to persuade me to accept this and has taken her side on the issue. I am perfectly happy with Mom-In-Law living with us, and we have a spare bedroom that she can use, but she is insistent on moving into my darling new addition with her dreadful old lady smell and yappy little dogs. What can I do?

Sincerely,

Painfully Disappointed

Dear PD,

Dreadful old lady smell? Yappy little dogs? How dare you insult your precious Mother-In-Law that way! After all, didn’t she labor and give birth to and raise your true love and (obviously very patient) husband? It sounds to me like you are an ungrateful heifer of a daughter-in-law. I’ll bet the “spare bedroom” you have for her is either the uninsulated, cobweb-ridden attic or the greasy, cluttered garage~~ am I right? I know I am.

You don’t deserve a nice living room.

Ruth

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Dearest Ruth The DIY Advice Expert,

After reading your very truthful and brilliant responses ( I look forward to your column!) to some rather detailed and technical questions, it is obvious to me you are just the expert to consult. I hope you will give my question as much deep thought and consideration as you have given others in the past. That being said, my question is this :

When I add a new front porch to my house, which would you recommend, a slab foundation or a pier and beam foundation? I have weighed the pros and cons of each, and still come up short of a solution. The costs involved are almost equal.  I could easily build  the pier and beam porch myself (I ~ like you ~ are a big DIYer ha ha!), but it would take a lot of time. However, a slab foundation would have to be hired out, but goes quicker.

I know you will be able to help me figure out which one is best for a fellow Do It Yourselfer. Thanks so much for your valuable time!

Standing by for your wonderful advice,

Your Biggest Fan

Dear YBF,

Does the term “brown-noser” mean anything to you?

Rude Ruth

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Dear Rude Ruth

I am a long time housewife. I hate my old kitchen countertops and would love to get them changed to something attractive and trendy. However, my husband Pete doesn’t want to spend the money for new ones. He says the 36 year old formica is just fine the way it is, and if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. He’s right in a way, they are in great condition, but they are ugly and out dated. I am ashamed to entertain guests because the kitchen is not modern.

Do you have any tricks on persuading Pete to pony up the funds for new counter tops?

Signed,

Married to a Cheap Guy

Dear Married,

First I would like to start out with telling you being cheap is not a bad thing. But being an unemployed sponge of a whiner is! If you really want new countertops, you have a few choices on how to get them:

1. Get a job (I’m sure that is a novel idea to a whiner “housewife” like you), save your money, hire a guy to replace them while Pete is on a much needed and deserved (after being around you and your constant complaining about silly counter tops) hunting trip.

2. Get a job (see #1.), save your money, hire a lawyer and divorce old Pete (I’m sure it will come as a relief to him), get a new husband that will bow to your every decorating whim and throw money at any idea you have ~ good (unlikely) or bad (the probability of this is high).

3. Get a butter knife, pry up a section of the counter top (in the dead of night and when dead drunk), pour solvent on it to loosen the glue, blame it on the dog, & hope for the best (or make an appointment with the above lawyer ~ you will probably need it).

4. Get a butter knife, sharpen it to a fine edge…… on second thought don’t do that one.

5. Get a life, stop whining, go make Pete a sammich, have a glass of wine, chill out.

6. Get over it!

Rude Ruth

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Dear Rude Ruth

I am a long time reader first time question asker.
Our dining room window faces west, and has a lovely picture window in that wall. It is a great asset to the room, however in the evening time when we are eating supper the sun glares in intensely from it and ruins our dining experience. I want to put a curtain on it to keep the sun from raging in and disrupting our meals, but my husband likes the view. I  admit the view from that window is great. We often see wildlife activity from it while dining.

I need a solution to the sun and heat without losing our view. Any suggestions?

Sincerely,
Love The View Of Wildlife At Supper But Hate The Sun’s Evening Glare

Dear LTVOWASBHTSEG,

Couldn’t you have chosen a shorter name?

Ruth

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Return of The Widda Maker

He’s back! The big, black, hideously wicked, burly, maker of widows. I got a glimpse of him at work last weekend. He was actually being very helpful in a dangerous kind of way. But then that’s his destiny…. danger.

The Widda maker propping up steel plate for the hubby's cutting convenience.

The Widda maker propping up steel plate for the hubby’s cutting convenience. To call this a dolly is an outrageous insult to both it and it’s creator (the man cave’s man).

My handsome and creative husband had ten feet of ten inch wide 3/16ths inch thick steel plate propped up in the clutches of this evil device. It was holding the floppy, heavy, oily yet very necessary hunk of metal at just the right height using a very scary looking balancing act. It tried to snag my leg (and make me bleed) when I walked by to take this picture. It still hates me and the feeling is still mutual. But it does work hard for it’s creator and master, sort of like Dr. Frankenstein’s monster, only not as cute and cuddly.

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Repurposing A Politician

I finally found a good use for a politician. Perhaps not the actual politician, but because said politicians require signage in order to get elected, in an off-hand way, the actual politicians. Those indestructible plastic cardboard signs they block out the beautiful Texas Hill Country Scenery with every election year are useful for many things. The bigger the better!

This one, cut in half, helps keep skunks from invading the underside of my house during remodeling. Thanks Isaac!

This one, cut in half, helps keep skunks from invading the underside of my house during remodeling. Thanks Isaac!

And this one, from a local election (I think he lost ~ sorry, Dude) helps keep concrete from getting out of hand in a form!

Thanks Judge Wannabe!

Thanks Judge Wannabe!

I have used these over and over to level dirt, as masking for spray paint jobs (hold up as you go ~ easy!), building templates and patterns for wood cutting, emergency rain barriers (they staple super fast and easy to anything) and skunk protection (see caption above).

Finally, these unsightly blights to our community have a useful purpose, and so do the signs they use to get the job!

 

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