Digging a Shallow Grave

I talked with the sprinkler guy yesterday morning. He walked me through an adjustment that was supposed to stop our leak. Unfortunately the change just made it apparent that we have a small crack in one of the brass fittings and it will need to be replaced. The part name? – test cock. Fun asking for that at the hardware store. Of course they didn’t have the part and the plumbing supply store is closed on the weekends. Hello, Amazon Prime. The new part is scheduled to arrive tomorrow.

When I was bitching the other day about everything breaking, I forgot to mention our primary television. Probably because it happened before we left for Phoenix at the end of March. We had to switch the DVR to our smaller, secondary TV. My husband’s going to make an attempt at fixing the TV. He’s diagnosed the problem and the repair involves an inexpensive part and some work with a soldering iron. But it’s not high on the priority list right now.

I spent most of yesterday afternoon at my mom’s house, digging a shallow grave. Just kidding, it was a trench to transplant more hosta. We decided to be organized this time and get the planting site prepared before we dug out more hosta for relocation. But at one point my mom was sitting in the trench clearing loose dirt and I joked that she could just lay back and I’d shovel the dirt over her. She laughed.

We did the relocating today. We decided to be a little more circumspect in the amount of hosta we attempted to dig out in one day. The removal was a bit of a struggle, but the planting went smoothly. The relocation program has now officially been suspended until fall. It’s just getting too warm now.

Everything Falls Apart

Why does everything always break at the same time? When we were in Phoenix, our coffee grinder started acting up. It suddenly started grinding a smaller amount than the setting. So we set it for a higher number of cups to compensate. Then we get back to Minnesota and the second time I go to use the coffee grinder here, it keeps grinding until the cup is overflowing. Then it makes a sick sound and stops.

It took me two days to use the amount it ground and when I tried to use it again on the third day, it just made a sick sound. So my husband emptied it out and cleaned it. Now it seems to be working again, but I’m feeling like it’s on its last legs. We bought both of the grinders within a few months of each other, so I shouldn’t be surprised they’ve both started acting up.

Then we tried to turn on our sprinkler system yesterday. It turned on just fine and I ran it through a test cycle successfully. Only problem was it leaked from one of the valves. We tried tightening it and wrapping it with silicon tape, but no luck. So we turned the water off and I called the sprinkler company. Hopefully I’ll hear back from them soon, because it hasn’t rained for a week and the weather is started to heat up. Meanwhile I’m holding my breath and hoping nothing else malfunctions.

A Taxing Situation

One of the more interesting pieces of mail that came while we were in Australia was a letter from the IRS. I know what you’re thinking – uh oh. But it wasn’t anything like that. It was just odd. The salient part read “We could not apply any of the overpayment as you requested because activity on your 2015 tax account may be delaying the release of the overpayment for application of the 2016 estimated tax.”

Bottom line, we overpaid our 2015 taxes and were due a refund. We requested that part of the refund be applied to our 2016 estimated taxes. We received the refund but the IRS did not credit the part they held back to our 2016 taxes. They kept it, mind you, so they have the money. It’s a head scratcher.

So I called our tax accountant. Turns out, she had several other clients who received the same letter, but with an important difference – they didn’t receive their refund. She seems to think we should just wait and eventually the IRS will sort it out and apply the payment. Given the way things have been going for us lately, I’m a lot less confident. Time will tell.


After nearly six years of navel gazing here on JustJacque, I have reached my 1000th post. Ta-dah! I suppose I should mark this occasion with some profound thoughts about the last six years, but, as you know, profound thoughts are pretty scarce around here.

Right now I am trying to remain (somewhat) optimistic in the face of overwhelming odds against the likelihood of ever being able to build on the lot we purchased here. Right now I’m squarely back in the camp of wishing I had never found this property, followed closely by wishing we could sell it tomorrow for what we paid. Yes, it’s that bad.

We still don’t have a cost estimate for building. I was expecting to get one when we met with our architect and builder yesterday. I even dressed in attire appropriate for a funeral. Nope. Will probably be at least another two weeks before we get one. Meanwhile, we keep marching forward under the assumption that work will proceed. It’s starting to feel a little like the Bataan Death March.

Hosta Relocation Program

After four weeks of minimal physical activity and maximum consumption of red wine and ice cream, I decided it was a good idea to completely overexert myself yesterday. I started the day with an hour long personal training session, followed by a marathon gardening session and then finished the day off by going for a walk around the lake. Bonkers, I know.

The gardening consisted of digging up a massive amount of hosta from our front yard, transporting it to my mom’s house and planting it there. This massive hosta relocation is in preparation for our eventual move. The end game is to move a lot of the plants to our new yard. Since we don’t know exactly when that will happen (never, maybe?), putting the host in my mom’s yard gives us the ability to move it when we need to. It’s a hardy variety that grows like weeds.

Of course I got overly ambitious about the amount we could move in one day. We spent two hours digging out enough hosta to fill the back of both of our cars and then spent another two hours planting all of it. At the end we were just throwing it in the ground. My brain had shut down from the exertion. Hopefully the hosta will survive our kamikaze relocation efforts.

Back on the Plane Gang

Our post office in Phoenix managed to screw up our mail hold again. Yes, they held the mail while we were in Australia, the problem was they kept holding it after we returned. No mail was delivered Thursday or Friday, so I got to start my morning with a trip to the post office. Not something I wanted to do, especially on a travel day. I really hate having to run errands on a travel day. I’m always paranoid that something bad will happen – flat tire, car accident.

Well, nothing like that happened, of course. But the trip turned out to be a total waste of time. Turns out, our regular carrier was off the last two days and the sub didn’t delivered the held mail. So by the time I arrived at 9:30, our mail was already out on the truck for delivery today. Hope it gets here before we leave for the airport at 2:00.

Further contributing to my foul mood is that I got absolute shit for sleep last night. Probably partially due to lingering jet lag and partially due to the lump of deep dish pizza clogging my digestive tract. (Yes, I know I swore to clean up my diet upon our return – consider it one last indiscretion) I also woke up constantly with hot flashes, the worst I’ve had in quite a while.

Bottom line, I am happy, happy, happy to be heading back to Minnesota this afternoon. I need the routine to get me back on track. Yes, we are going to have a million decisions to make regarding the house. Yes, I’m going to freak out about the costs and whether or not we should even proceed. But I’m going to be doing that from the comfort of my home base with no big travel plans on the horizon.

One Binge Ends, Another Begins

I kept myself semi-functional yesterday by unpacking as soon as we got home and doing 3 loads of laundry. We stuck it out until about 5:00 last night and then crawled into bed. I wish I could say we slept for 12 hours, but if I’m being honest, I can only say we were in bed for that long. I even resorted to getting up and taking a sleeping pill just after 10:00. Being back in a comfortable bed felt like heaven.

Now that we are back, my eating and drinking binge has to end. Instead, we’re embarking on a TV watching binge. We’ve got four weeks worth of shows to catch up on in just two days. The only interruptions to our viewing so far have been to go out for haircuts and food. Not at the same time, of course.

In addition to watching recordings non-stop, I reviewed all of my photos from the trip. The total was just under 2500, about 70 of which were taken by Nola when she commandeered my point and shoot. She is fascinated by cameras, so I let her use my rugged little waterproof one, at least until she deliberately dropped it. I’m already contemplating buying her a cheap kid’s camera for a future birthday.

I identified about 500 images for processing. I’d like to say some of them were amazing, but I wasn’t really wowed by any of them. Hopefully they’ll look better after some Photoshop magic. That probably won’t happen for a few weeks, given our schedule once we get back to Minnesota. But it gives me something to look forward to.

Heading Home

The long day’s journey into day. The weird paradox of leaving Australia and arriving back in the US earlier then you left. The 13 hour flight where you get no sleep because it’s daytime and then you land at 6:30 in the morning and you’re totally exhausted because your body thinks it’s after midnight and you should be in bed sound asleep. Call it what you will, it sucks.

We finished checking in for our flight from Sydney just after 7:30. We then proceeded to waste nearly 30 minutes finding the lounge due to the really poor directions from the trainee who checked us in. We could tell she was a trainee because it took her three tries to correctly print our boarding passes.

I watched 4 movies on the flight, which I’m pretty sure is a personal record for me. We also had our first ever male flight attendant on Virgin. He was fabulous. But not sleeping just sucks. We had about two hours to kill in the Delta lounge before boarding our flight to Phoenix. We had two celebrity sightings there – Chris D’elia and Greg Grunberg. Okay, not super big names, but still pretty exciting. Greg Grunberg actually ended up sitting near us for a few minutes and I talked to him. Just normal traveler conversation.

When we landed in Phoenix, I ran for the bathroom while my husband waited for the luggage. When I returned, he had one bag and was waiting for the second, along with another man from our flight who had received two of his three bags. We stood there long enough for me to get nervous, then I got paged to the baggage office. Turns out, one bag had been loaded on an earlier flight. Something I would have known if I had turned on my phone after landing – Delta had sent an automatic email right after our flight took off. Home safe.

Melbourne May 10

Our somewhat late night (Nola’s dad drove us back just after 9:00) meant that I didn’t get anything in the way of packing done last night. Fortunately, I had organized and packed most of my stuff on Sunday, so I only had to get my husband’s stuff packed. The morning was once again stormy, but by the time we walked over to the house at 11:00, the worst of it had cleared. We paid for the apartment through tonight, so we didn’t have to get our bags until it was time to leave for our flight.

My sister-in-law needed to pick up some things from the wedding venue, so we decided to have lunch there and save her from making a trip later. Nola cadged dollar coins from her uncle so she could ride the mechanical horse and car several times. She is still trying to drive to the South Pole. After lunch we walked back to our apartment and finished the last bit of packing before heading to the airport.

Nola accompanied us on the ride to airport and even got a ride on the luggage cart from her uncle while I was getting us checked in for the flight to Sydney. Then we said goodbye. I can’t think about that too much right now. We landed in Sydney just after 6:00 and took the bus to the international terminal, where we would be spending the night at a hotel.

After checking in, we trolled the airport, scoping out our path for the morning and picking up a bottle of wine and a package of TimTams. My husband had dinner at McDonalds, but I was holding out for the hotel restaurant. That turned out to be a mistake. The service was terrible and the food was mediocre. It was after 9:00 before we got back to our room, where I consoled myself with the red wine and salted caramel TimTams. Tomorrow we fly home.


Melbourne May 9

So, this is it, our last full day in Melbourne. I’d like to say we had some fabulous day planned, but that would be a total lie. It didn’t help that the day started out rainy again. We were able to get over to my sister-in-law’s house during a break in the weather. Our sketchy plan for the day was to take the train downtown for lunch and then wander around.

We caught another break by getting on the train just befor the skies opened up again. By the time we got downtown, it was only drizzling. The lunch part worked out well, we had a great meal at a restaurant overlooking the Yarra River and by the time we left the sun was shining. The wandering part wasn’t so successful, but to be fair, it’s tough to ramble with six adults and a toddler.

We ended up at the war memorial adjacent to the Royal Botanic Garden. At this point the grey skies and strong winds had returned. We had trouble rounding everyone up for the trip home. I huddled near the perpetual flame just to keep warm. While we were waiting for the stragglers to return, Nola entertained herself by pouring water on the ground and lapping it up like a feral child. That girl seriously gives me pause sometimes.

We spent our last night drinking, eating Chinese takeaway and batting balloons around. Many balloons were broken in the process, each one causing Nola to shriek with laughter. At one point she brought me the pieces of a balloon and said, “It’s broken. Can you fix it?” No baby girl, I can’t fix it, anymore than I can fix my broken heart after we leave you.