Category Archives: I need help!

Kenmore Intuition 28014 Canister Vacuum Review

Kenmore Canister VacuumI was offered a chance to review a Kenmore vacuum cleaner and after a bit of research decided to try my first canister vacuum. Consumer Reports liked the Kenmore Intution 28014, I thought I might, too. We also have a flight of 14 stairs that’s easier to vacuum with a canister than a traditional upright. We also have hardwood or tile floors throughout the house and will be adding rugs eventually. The Intuition is well-suited to go from one surface to the other with ease.It also comes with pet-hair removal tools, whould I lose my sense and agree to the dog that everyone else in the house seems to want.

Given the shiny blue exterior and high tech look, I convinced my husband to give it a try. And after he vacuumed up I made him write a review. Score!

It’s probably cliché to review a vacuum cleaner by saying it sucks, but Kenmore’s Intuition really does. I haven’t used a canister vacuum since the 1970s. Owning one disappointed me because, with the stand-up version my mother had gotten rid of, I could pretend it was a microphone and perform my Elvis impersonation.

With the full brush head for carpets.

The Intuition not only picks up dirt and dust far better than I recall from the Gerald Ford era and anticipates our house full of hardwood floors, but comes with features that, while intuitive in some cases, certainly improve the vacuuming experience.
My wife, the blogstress, is nearly a foot shorter than me, and the Intuition comes with an easy-to-adjust telescoping extension wand. The two nozzles that come into contact with the floor nest into each other and snap easily into place. Well labeled foot pedals help identify how to take the wand out of the nozzle assembly, so you can attach accessories and go at harder-to-reach spots.

Attachments like brushes and crevice-getter-atters snap into pre-defined spaces in the body of the motor unit

With the smaller head for hard surfaces.

(which Kim calls “Scooter”). Not that you can’t lose them, but it’s just a little bit harder. The spring-loaded extension cord winds up at the press of a foot pedal and the buttons to turn the unit on and off and change from carpeted to hardwood floors are near your fingertips so that you don’t have to crouch down to do anything. A lit-up display explains what mode you’re in and how much sucking it is doing.

The canister body itself has a built-in handle and can be moved upright or lower to the ground. The unit is much lighter than I remember canisters being when I was 10 years old. Is it because of more plastic or because I’m bigger? Who knows?

In any case, the vacuum does a great job, especially on our stairs, which have always been difficult to clean. Hand vacs never have the power to do a decent job and uprights are difficult to manipulate on stairs. The Intuition with its extendable wand and extra-long hose have made it easy to safely and completely vacuum every part of the stairs. And because it’s light and compact enough, carrying it up and down the stairs is not at all a hassle and it consumes a modest amount of closet space.

This was the vacuum cleaner we’ve been waiting for to tackle our hardwood floors and stairs. We look forward to many years of keeping the house clean with it.

One-touch controls in the handle.

We were provided with this vacuum for cleaning and review purposes. The vacuum retails for roughly $450 and is available at Sears and through online retailers.

A Black (and White) Single Mama of Four is Homeless Because of Me

Skunk living under our front stoop, mama skunkSweet success; the skunk is gone! I’ve been sharing my skunk adventures with Facebook fans for several weeks now. Basically, we had a gentle and well-behaved skunk making its home beneath our front stoop. It was like deja-vu all over again. Last year, I called in a trapper to catch the skunk, but once the traps were set, we never saw our wannabe pet again.



This year, I wanted to avoid the $125 trap fee as well as the inevitably stinky front-lawn death scene that would take place if the skunks were caught (state law, yo), so we stuck with trying to make life unpleasant for the skunk by repeatedly covering up the den entrance.

That doesn’t really stop a burrowing animal, especially one that really likes its home.

Even our extensive yard work, what with the regrading and laying of sod, didn’t seem to bother the skunk.

Nor did the mothballs we tossed into the den.

The old window screen I tried to bury near the entrance didn’t do it either. Like fingernails on a chalkboard to humans, burrowing animals don’t like the sound or feel of their nails scratching metal. But I didn’t plant it deep enough.

Oh well.

But when my husband said he spotted a family of skunks walking across our fresh sod one night, I knew I had to take action. When I mentioned on Facebook that it was time to get serious, a friend of a friend messaged me that used kitty litter can make a den stinkier than the skunks do. Even better, she offered to provide some for me.

So yes, early one spring morning after dropping my kids at school, I drove out to the woman’s house to pick up a bagful of well-soiled kitty litter. The mostly sealed bag sat on my lawn for a few days.

The early one evening, my husband told me he saw the skunk leave the den.

I sprang into action, sprinkling the aged kitty litter (whose odor was so potent that my child helper abandoned the project) at the entrance and then fully buried the old window screen and covered it all up with dirt and a large rock.

Done and done!

Sort of. We figured she wouldn’t  leave her babies behind. I’m a mom, too. I get it.

Sure enough she returned for her brood. She didn’t spray. She just dug and dug and dug until she got her babies and then she left. At which point I covered the entrance with dirt again.

But like many a harried mom trying to wrangle her little ones, she forgot one slowpoke and returned for it about an hour later. The den has been sealed since then.

She’s not really homeless. Skunks commonly keep several dens in their territory; our stoop was just a favored home. I’m pretty sure she’s living nearby because we’ve seen presents from her on our driveway and garden. (In the form of poop, of course.)

The other day I was out on a walk when I noticed Mama Skunk digging up grubs on a neighbor’s lawn. It was close to 8 in the morning and already a hot, sunny day, so I’m not sure why she was still out from her evening romp (please don’t say rabies, because then we should have trapped her and put her down). I stopped in my tracks, looked right at her and said, “What are you doing here?!” She looked up at me and scurried away.

That was the last Ive seen of her.

All Washed Up in the Laundry Room

We split a useless old mother-in law kitchen on the second floor of our house and into our master bathroom and an upstairs laundry room. It’s great not having to lug basket after basket of laundry down two long flights of stairs to the basement and then back up.

I show off the highlights of the new space in the video.


I’m glad we were able to re-use the old kitchen cabinets. DH brought them upstairs and I had kinda shoved them into the space with the original white laminated top, which fit the cabinets, but was too small for the nook in the laundry room. This was too sloppy looking for my GC, so at his urging, I bought a new budget friendly top and he framed it all out, calling it his Chanukah gift to me. I still need to paint or stain the cabinets, to complete the look, but believe me, it’s so much nicer than my makeshift attempt to fill the space.

As noted in the video, I think our Whirlpool Cabrio is too large. It does a fine job of cleaning the clothes, I just wish wish we’d one with a slightly smaller model. If there’s interest, I’ll provide a more in depth review of the machine.

Speaking of laundry, I heard the siren song of beeps (rather annoying tones, actually) calling me upstairs to finish off a load. Until there’s a machine that sorts, folds and puts away the clothes, I think laundry will always be a drag. DO you have any tips to make it fun?

The Blind Guy

The blind guy was here and, though I’m not proud to admit it, I did place stumbling blocks before him. Of course if he had called to let me know he was on his way, I could have done a little cleaning first.

Nearly four months of living here and we’re ready to get rid of those temporary blinds. You know those cheap paper things? We’ve got them everywhere. Well, not everywhere, in our bedroom, we draped a dropcloth one of our workmen left behind.

Yes, I washed it before hanging it. (And it was brand new, FWIW.)

I realize we’ve taken shabby chic to a new low, but that’s how I roll.

We’re ordering most of our window treatments from a Big Box store. For less than $120 they will provide the measuring and installation for all of the window treatments. Given that we’re covering nearly 20 windows, it’s a worthwhile expense.

Now that the measurements are done, we’ll be able to place our order next week. Or the week after. We’re not great at making decorating choices, so I tend to drag my feet on them. Eventually DH gets fed up with my procrastination and I wind up making some random choice just be be done with the process. Wow, seeing that on the screen makes me realize just how dysfunctional the process is.

Is there a home decorating version of Garanimals? I need that.

Not How the Pioneer Woman Cooks

cast iron pan on a grillYeah, that’s me hunched over a small charcoal-fueled kettle grill cooking up some meat in my Lodge cast iron pan directly above a flame produced by leftover wood from our rehab because I couldn’t get the coals to burn the way (I think) they are supposed to.

This is what happens when my kids ask how I will grill without a “real” grill.

I taught them good lessons about improvising, the versatility of cast iron pans and dangerous ways a person can, but probably shouldn’t, use lighter fluid.

Dinner consisted of Krazy Kebabs (i.e. the veggies and meat were mixed up rather than cooked and presented served on a boring old skewer) (side note: where are my metal skewers?), braised mustard greens, roasted asparagus and greek-style pita. I served our little feast picnic style, on a blanket laid on the driveway.


dinner on a picnic blanket

This is called keeping it real, people. Go ahead and pin this. I dare you.

Just because this early spring that feels like summer is so uncharacteristic of Chicago weather patterns and therefore is a bit disturbing doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy it. Indeed, we had a lovely dinner.

I cleaned up most of our dinner, but I left my mess of a cast iron pan outside. DH later brought it in and scrubbed the whole thing, including its very charred bottom in my lovely Silgranit sink. Upon seeing the black mess he left behind, I went ballistic feared that perhaps he’d managed to destroy the indestructible sink. But a squirt of dish soap, a sprinkle of baking soda and some of my special brand of elbow grease got it looking like new again.

This weekend I’d like to buy a grill. Nothing too fancy. We need a propane grill for now, but hopefully, we’ll get a natural gas grill once we decide what we’re doing in the backyard in terms of a patio/porch/deck. We should have that figured out by, oh, 2015 or so. Any recommendations?

The Tax Nightmare is Over (I Hope)

tax timeWe moved in with my parents for a few months–back in 2008. And then we got stuck, until very recently. We’re now in a truly wonderful house, but staying with my parents for so long created a few problems, one of which was organization. Because I’m a hopeless optimist I have a very strong sense of denial, each month we lived with my p’s, I’d tell myself that in just another month or two we’d be back on our own. It was okay that I left this or that unfiled because soon enough I’d have a real office again.

I never got organized. I never put the right systems in place.

So when it was time to do my 2011 taxes, I was really scrambling. Most of my papers were here, but some were still at my parents. I was months behind in my bookkeeping.

But then I caught up.

Aaaaand then my computer crashed.

Needless to say, it was overdue for a backup.

So I had to enter months of financial data all over again.

Now everything is balanced, reconciled, and ready for the accountant.

I hope.

Business taxes are due March 15. You ready?