Wednesday, November 25

Berry good

I was nearly an adult before I realized that a cranberry was an actual berry, rather than the gelatinous, cylindrical substance that came from an Ocean Spray can. When I was growing up, it was my job every Thanksgiving to open the can, run a butter knife along the inside of the can, and then very carefully, shake out the cranberry sauce. The goal was, of course, to get it out in one solid tube, with no cracks or slices missing. Once out of the can, I had to put the cran-tastic tube onto a serving plate, and slice it into even discs.

It was a ritual I looked forward to, and perfected over the years. I loved the vacuous sound the cranberry tube made as it slowly evacuated its place in the can. Sometimes a gurgle, sometimes a flatulent act of defiance. Every once in a while, my knife skills failed me, and a chunk of jellified material would stick to the bottom of the can and would have to be exhumed at the end. Then, rather than present the cranberry guts on the plate with the other perfect slices, these remnants had to be eaten right then and there. I was always more than happy to take care of their disposal.

Because next to the turkey, the jellied cranberries were my favorites. Forget the gravy. As a child I couldn't be bothered with it. Or the stuffing - gross. Mashed potatoes were ok. Peas? Blech. I would much rather pile my plate high with white meat from the bird, and a few majestic magenta floppy cranberry frisbees.

As an adult, my taste buds have matured. Gravy? Yes please! Stuffing? Why sure. Mashed potatoes? Keep em coming. Peas? Blech. I've even acquired a taste for green bean casserole.

We spend Thanksgiving at my in-laws, and unfortunately, the cranberries are made fresh, from the berry, rather than shaken out of a can. In my opinion, the fresh berries are too tart. I like mine far removed from its organic form and pumped full of preservatives and sugar.

Hey. It's Thanksgiving. I'm allowed.

Monday, November 2

Baby steps
With any luck at all, one day this week I will come home and discover that I have steps on the side of my house, leading up to the side door.

Sound familiar?

Maybe it should - because about thirteen months ago, I was having the same hopeful thoughts. And then one week went by, then another, then another. And then it became fairly obvious that we'd been had. We got GOT, to quote a BB11 houseguest.

It all began in October of 2007. Our garage roof was in dire need of repair. And, rather than pay a contractor a couple of thousand greenbacks to do the job, my husband decided to take on the task himself. So he recruited a couple of his buddies, rented a giant-size dumpster, and they did the repair. While the dumpster was on our property, we figured, why not also demolish the steps on the side of our house? The cement was crumbling and the railing was wobbly at best - a few of the spindles of the railing were gone long before we had even taken the title. We'd rebuild them as soon as we had the money saved.

Well, you and I know that saving money is easier said and done, especially when there's day care to cover. And then things kind of went in the crapper money-wise. But last fall, we finally had a little "wiggle room" in our monthly budget - not much - and it just so happened that a contractor came to the door asking if we needed anything done.

That should have been the first red flag. I remember at the time feeling like it was a little bit shady, but I wanted those steps. The guy drew a diagram and showed us his plan for rebuilding them. We also hired him to take down some high tree branches - which he did that day.

The second red flag was that he wanted to be paid in cash. No checks.

The third red flag was that my husband said he couldn't pay him until payday - and when my husband came home, the contractor was waiting for him in the driveway.

We only gave the contractor half of the total payment - on the assumption that he'd use it to buy supplies. I think he DID buy supplies - Jack Daniels, Cuervo, Budweiser. Nothing that you'd find at Lowe's.

And we never saw him again. My husband called him a few times and he'd always have an excuse - too many other jobs, the truck broke down - and then he finally stopped answering the phone when my husband called. We called daily for weeks and left messages. Where did this guy go? And what did he do with the money he gave us?

Finally, we gave up. We paid a steep price for a lesson learned. Get it in writing - and checks only. We didn't even have a contract from this guy - just a flyer he made on his computer.

This year, we decided to give it another go. We've spent two years with a non-functioning door that leads to nowhere. We have a nice masking tape "X" near the doorknob to remind us that there is a three-foot drop awaiting us on the other side should we attempt to exit that way.

I got a solid referral from a colleague, we have a contract, we wrote a check with a down payment, and most importantly, we have this guy's home address. If I don't get my steps built, I will go to his home and hunt him down.