Sunday, April 29, 2007

Small splurges for the house = big happiness

Yes, we're about to totally empty our bank account (and more) to get this HVAC installed, but we needed to splurge on a few things for the house. Actually what we really needed was an enjoyable, dare I say almost date-like afternoon without the grandkids, and we got that today with a late breakfast out, a little shopping for necessities, then stops at three different area antique shops.

Shop #1 was waaaaay too big, in both size and prices, plus most of their stuff was either too shiny and over-refinished or too purposefully "distressed." No insult intended towards those who like the look of purposefully distressed furnishings, but that stuff gags me - if I want distressed, which I actually like when it can also be categorized as genuinely well used, I'll buy something that was pulled out of the back of someone's barn or handed down so many generations for utilitarian purposes that it's lived in the laundry room or workshop for 4 decades.

Shop #2 was a bit too small, though not really all that small on prices, but we did end up buying two framed items that we both really liked. One is a framed receipt for a real-estate transaction from 1804. (click to see larger version)

Land receipt 1804

We not only think it's just really cool, but I'd also love to figure out exactly where this land is located, figure out the oldest house on the land (perhaps belonging to the original purchaser?), and offer them a copy - or the original, if they want to purchase it from us.

This is what it says, as best as i can make it out. The bold text is handwritten, and where I've typed an f that clearly doesn't belong, it's actually printed as a character that looks like an f without the cross mark. I put a ? where I just couldn't figure out what it was:


Received the 3rd Day of February 1804 of John Jones the Sum of sixty eight dollars pounds & 63 cents - Specie, being in full of the Arrears of Purchafe-money and Intereft, on Settlement, of 132 Acres and 139 Perches of Land, fituate in Juniata Townfhip, Cumberland County, furveyed something crossed out by two Warrants one dated the 1st Day of July 1762 to John Parkison the other dated 23 November 1774 to Ebenezer Jones. $68.63 Ru???en? fees $2.99. pd. Surveyor Generals fees 3.40 paid. Decip? fees pd 3.95 for John M Kif?sick? C????. . John M. Miller.

I 'd like to find someone who is better at reading old script than I am to help make out the names listed. So if I'm interpreting this correctly, it's a 203 year old receipt for back-payment of two mortgages that were both taken out for this land before the start of the war of independence. Pretty damn cool if you ask me.

Anyway, that now hangs at the bottom of our stairway, and this is the other print we got which is in our dining room (click to see larger):

Painting by Stone

On we went to the 3rd store, which was delightfully just the right size and filled with things that we felt were very reasonably priced. There we bought this pine cabinet which we plan to use in our downstairs bathroom (though not perched on top of the toilet, as shown!!).

Pine cabinet closed

Pine cabinet open

We're trying to figure out if it was originally a built-in that was up against a wall on the right, or part of a larger piece, since the right side is flat instead of trimmed out like the left. It's got some beautiful joins (joints? joinery? it's well made.) and the door is one solid piece of pine that's been cut on the surface to look like wide T&G.

Just thought I'd sneak in a pic of my honey and our pugs:

Von and the pugs

Saturday, April 28, 2007

A good day with the kids, Habitat, and Gov. Minner

Today was the official opening ceremony/blessing for the Habitat Woman Build project that I plan to work on this summer. I took the kids, the weather turned out to be surprisingly good, and it was just a very good day.

It reminded me of why I support Habitat so strongly. I got the chance to meet several families who had houses in this new community, and the speech that the mom in the family whose house we're building brought tears to my eyes, especially when she talked (in Spanish, with translations) so passionately abut how much it means to her that she's worked on her neighbors homes and they in turn will work on hers.

It also reminded me of why I think our Governor totally rocks. Even if you're someone who doesn't agree with her politics (many hold her personally responsible for the fact that you can no longer smoke in bars & restaurants in DE any more), it's hard to not admire what she's done with her life. She was at one point a single mom and high school dropout, and now she has just a year until she retires as a two-term governor. And with all that she's still a very down to earth person.

And finally, it filled me up with so much love to have that kind of one-on-one time with the kids. Which is a really good thing considering that Chas came home and morphed into a teething crankybutt, and Chanel came home and morphed back into a Pre-Teen With Major Attitude. God was smart to make sure that most kids have significant moments of being wonderful so that you can keep yourself from tossing their butts into a locked closet at moments like this evening.

Oh, and you know that you spend too much time at Lowes when you see someone you've known for 7 years as an employee there (met him and teasingly hassled him on his first day as a cashier, now he's the store sales mgr) and you give each other a big hug & kiss, just from the warm fuzzies of seeing each other for the first time ever outside of the store.

Friday, April 27, 2007

We are the home renovators who say... well, something stronger than "Ni!"

Several librarian friends of mine are all part of an online livejournal community called "Librarians who say F***." I am amused by the juxtaposition of the stereotype of a conservative-acting librarian (though most I know are really quite highly subversive) and all of their shhhhhhhh-shing with the generally not so quiet use of strong profanity.

I was talking online to one of those librarian friends this evening, and commented that there needs to be a group for "Home renovators who say F***" but then I got to thinking: By even 1/10th of the way into any significant project, whether it DIY or totally in the hands of a contractor, how many of us AREN'T using very strong language? Very few, I'd guess.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Still no word on when we're getting the new HVAC, dagnabbit

According to the original schedule, the new HVAC system installation should have been finished by today or tomorrow. Instead it might start in a couple of weeks. Might. Hard to tell when the guy who is supposed to be running the project is still covered in stitches and strung out on high levels of pain meds from his injuries.

I realize there's nothing that the contractor can do - when it's a small business with two primary partners, and the partner who was supposed to be in charge of your project gets seriously injured, there's not a whole lot they or you can do. It's just very frustrating.

We want to stick with them, but they're clearly getting very backlogged right as they're going into their busiest and most profitable season. I'm definitely worried that they're going to end up either deciding that they can't do it, or doing a rush job in order to get my big and much more difficult project with all of its old-house unknowns squeezed into their much easier, highly straight forward, easy-profit bread & butter summer work of maintaining, fixing and replacing systems for people's beach houses, which I've been told keeps them working pretty much from dawn til dusk once it begins. And it's already begun.

So as of right now I still intend to give them every chance to do this job (particularly since they've already bought my equipment but I haven't given them a deposit) but I'm getting other estimates just in case.

I just hate being put into this position. I feel really good about these guys, their references couldn't have been better, they've been wonderful to work with so far and they're a small business that I'm sure has already been hurt by losing one partner for several weeks, so I'm reluctant to hurt them more by sticking them with equipment they no longer need. But I have to protect myself as well, and I'm not willing to wait until they're free again in the fall if it comes down to that.


Wednesday, April 25, 2007

It's my birthday and I'll post if I want to, post if I want to...

OK so that's not how the song goes and in my time zone I'm still officially two hours away from it being my birthday but I'm also officially one very large and VERY strong martini into celebrating it (and I'm a total lightweight/cheap date these days) so that was just enough courage-in-a-bottle to get online and say HEY it's my birthday!!!! Or at least it's my birthday in Greenland or somewhere like that. Hee.

I've never in my life worked on my birthday. It's the one day, even in the worst, lowest, and most low self-esteem times in my life, where I stopped the world and said "hey, this one day is all about ME, even if I'm the only one who thinks so, and even if I uually don't think I deserve that type of focus." (Obviously right now I'm totally ok with that kid of focus LOL). Usually I spend the day by myself (definitely by choice, being the introvert that I am), sleep in, go buy or check out a good book, take myself out for a nice lunch, take a walk on the beach or to a museum or shopping, then get myself dolled up and go have a nice dinner out with my honey. Tomorrow Von has taken off work so we get to be lazy slugs together during my all-about-me day!!

And in case you're wondering, I'm :::gulp::: two years shy of my half-century mark. But I'm ok with that. No, really I am. Seriously, I've earned every year. Aging doesn't bother me at all. Really. And the stuff that goes with it, the loss of vision, the sags and bags, the menopause and its insomnia and mood swings and hot flashes, hey that's all a natural part of life. That's what I really feel about it. No, really!

:::heading off to fix myself another martooni:::

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Building a Stock-Materials PT Privacy Fence

This is for GD and SR, who are close to moving into their first home together: Lessons learned when we built our 6' pre-fab panel privacy fence

This isn't a "how-to" guide so much as a "tips & tricks" list. An abbreviated how-to is simply:
  1. Plan it out, measure twice, go to the store once and get more than you need. If you're not 100% sure what length screws you need, buy both sizes. Keep receipts.
  2. Dig holes in the right places
  3. Put in the poles with something to secure them upright and facing the right way
  4. Connect the fence sections
  5. Build and install gates
  6. Beer only after fence posts are in place.
So here are my random tips & tricks, which I'll probably add to as I remember things and which I invite others to add to as well.
  • Rent a gas-powered post hole digger. Definitely don't get the kind where the motor is attached directly to the top of the auger. That type requires very strong tall people to run it. Instead get the kind where the moter is on wheels and the auger is attached separately- much easier to use. Make sure they have a big enough auger (several inches further around than your posts).
  • Listen to the guy at the rental place when he tells you "up and down, up and down, do a little bit then pull it up, then do a bit more, don't just dig down one continuous time", and "if it gets stuck, don't keep running it - it's not a drill where you can run it more to help you pull it out." He means it. If it gets even a tiny bit stuck, STOP, kill the power, and shovel that puppy out. Don't let some macho strong-like-bull types convince themselves that they know that running it more will help get it out. It will only help drive it 6' into the ground, resulting in 3 hours of digging and a very large truck and chain to finally yank that sucker out.
  • Clearly mark out where the posts will go, then have someone carefully watching to ensure that the auger doesn't dance off that spot and put a hole 4" over from where it was supposed to go.
  • The quickcrete "calculate how many bags you'll need to set posts" folks lie. Buy what they say you need but keep the receipt so that you can return the 1/3 - 1/2 that you ended up not needing. We ended up with some gravel, one bag of quick crete, some more gravel, then well tamped dirt, and those posts aren't going anywhere.
  • Don't forget your levels, nice long accurate levels, and bungie cords to hold the level to the poles while you set them in place. a long and very straight board is also useful for verifying that the poles are all facing exactly forward.
  • Don't attempt to buy poles that are just exactly the right length then bury them all just exactly the same amount. I helped a friend attempt to do this and it was nuts. Pay the extra, get the longer poles, get them set, THEN chop off the tops to get them even.
  • Get the right types of screws for the lumber (PT for the new chemicals) and some good cordless drivers. and extra batteries. And gloves. That much screwing can give you blisters. ::chuckle::
  • Don't forget your building permit if you need one, and to ask you local zoning office about any fence restrictions with regard to height, setbacks, materials, etc. Don't guess on these things.
  • Make sure that you know your legal property boundaries - just becuase plantings or a fence at a particular spot doesn't mean that's your property line. Leave the surveyor's flags in place or devise some way to easily find the exact marks, because you'll need them.
I know there's more, but it's late and I can't remember.

Here's the only pic I have that shows a broad view of the completed fence - along with a broad view of last year's summer floods. We hadn't cut off the top of the poles. Ok, we still haven't. And we need to figure out a way to address that the double gates (seen to the right of the barn) which are warping, as PT lumber tends to do, in opposite directions. And we need to find a lock that won't rust. But other than that, we're really pretty happy with it. Would we have preferred other matierals, a more custom fence built a picket at a time? Of course! But this went up fast and easy and relatively cheap, which was very important at that time.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

¡limpiando por primavera, y un perrito nuevo!

The title is in honor of the fact that I used my first Spanish sentence in real conversation today, taking only about 30 seconds to compose it in my head instead of my normal 10 minutes plus a dictionary: "Mira! Limpiamos la casa esta tarde!" ("hey! we're going to clean the house this afternoon!"). Pretty pathetic, really, after 14 weeks of Spanish class. I tried to figure out some variation on "we were lazy slugs all day yesterday so today we need to get our butt's in gear to deal with this pit we're living in, despite the gorgeous weather outside" but that was far beyond my abilities.

We managed, even with the kids here and the baby teething and newly crawling and the perfect weather beckoning to us at every moment, to get a lot of spring cleaning and just regular ordinary cleaning done today. Spring cleaning tasks included super-cleaning the tile floors, kitchen and bathrooms; washing all of the mirrors, picture frames and windows (bless the person who invented tilt-in windows); getting the window fans out of the attic (it's going to be 80 tomorrow!!); and starting the hideously tedious process of cleaning all the blinds. Von didn't go for the idea of just replacing the blinds each year. I take them down 2-3 at a time, soak them for a while in the tub with all kinds of cleaning stuff in the water, then hang them up so that I can scrub and rinse off the dirt. I actually installed hooks on the wall above the shower surround just to be able to hang things up while I clean them. Today we only got through 3 blinds, which leaves just 20 more to go. Gah!!

Regular cleaning included 9 loads of laundry, countless trips to put things away, and super-cleaning everything used to hold a baby - since she's teething, not only does she drool on everything, but teething biscuit and cheerio goo covers everything within her reach. Von also didn't approve of my suggestion to just set the stuff out for the dogs to lick off all the crusted-on goo and find all the crumbs, and then we'd give it a good swipe with a disinfectant. Those critters need to start earning their keep, dammit!

Now, about the "perrito nuevo"! Here's a picture of our new rescued pug pup, Lucy!

She's been here since late Thursday night and she already thinks she owns the house and all of us. She was described originally as very timid - um... not! She's totally in the role of pesky sassy spoiled baby sister to our other two dogs, and silly spunky love-bug to the humans here.

Now, to give you some perspective on her verses our other rescued pug, Murphy, check this out:

Murph weighs 35lbs which would be morbidly obese to the point of hardly being able to walk for most pugs, but he's not really even overweight according to the vet - he's just a very big boy!! And Lucy weighs just 10lbs. Since she's only 7 months she'll get a little bit bigger, but she'll certainly never be even close to half Murphy's size.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

The good, the bad, the ugly, and the amusing

The good:
  • I'm driving to DC to have dinner tonight with someone who is a wonderful delightful lifetime friend. Even though we haven't been in contact for a couple of years (she now lives in Boulder), I know it will be as if no time has passed, just like it always is. I'm excited beyond measure to be seeing her again, and next month she'll be in Baltimore for a conference and is going to extend her trip through the weekend so that she can come visit. Yay!!!
  • But before I see her, I'm going to stop by in MD and pick up Lucy, our new baby girl rescued pug! A new baby in the house - woooooot!! And so Murphy (our big boy rescued pug) gets to go along with me on a road trip with is a huge positive from his perspective as well! They're going to be a total Mutt & Jeff pair, since Murphy is very big for a pug (35lbs and NOT overweight) and Lucy is very small for a pug (10lbs). I'm so excited. Sqeeeeeee!!!
The bad:
  • I'm meeting tomorrow morning with a different HVAC contractor to start this whole frustrating process all over again. I haven't heard from the original contractors so I'm presuming things aren't going well. I feel a little sorry for myself, but I feel HUGELY sorry for the guy who was injured. That just sucks.
  • I took off work for the entire day (not just the afternoon for my errands) so that I could fit in having an early lunch with some friends I've been jonesing to see, but they cancelled because their daughter and grandson got into town early. It's totally understandable but I'm just being a big whiney baby and missing them.
The ugly:
  • Last night I washed a load of whites in hot water without realizing that a dark-red saturated-dye cleaning rag was hiding itself in the washer. I ran them through again with a bunch of bleach, no change. They're now soaking in a strong bleach solution in a big plastic tub in the shower. Yes I know bleach that strong can damage the fibers but the stuff isn't wearable otherwise. My honey of the bright-white t-shirt under her crisp-starched perfectly ironed white uniform shirt (she a senior bailiff) will NOT be pleased.
The amusing:
  • I'm getting a bunch of hits every day on this house blog from people searching for pictures of or information about sine curves; it connects me back to my math geek roots. Some of them are even stopping to read the whole blog! And many of them are from places like Thailand, Iran, Pakistan, Indonesia, South Africa, and other countries far from the U.S. And let's face it - getting hits on something like "sine curves" is a lot better than how some house blogs get found. (You know who you are. Hee.)

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

For Dr. Liviu Librescu and 32 others, Z''L (of Blessed Memory)

I can't wrap my brain around the enormous tragedy at Virginia Tech, but I can't help but be drawn in by what I've learned about one professor who was killed. Dr. Liviu Librescu was a 76 year old Holocaust survivor, and it is with horrifying tragic irony that he then gave up his life on Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day, so that his younger students could escape and survive. I can only hope that somehow this brought his life full circle, from the death camps to saving young lives from brutal and senseless death.

On Monday, in Israel, a two minute siren was sounded at 10am to honor those who were killed in the Holocaust. On Monday, on the campus of Virginia Tech, 10am passed filled with the sirens from the police and ambulances, the sobs of the frightened and mourning, and the silence of 33 dead.

Dr. Librescu, I honor you, your life, and the ultimate sacrifice that you made so that others may live. I honor the families whose hearts were shattered when the lives of their loved ones were taken. I honor the ones who are gone who perhaps in their last moments held the hand of someone near, lay their bodies over another to try and give protection, said a prayer for all who were killed or injured or frightened, and perhaps even offered a prayer for the family of the young man who inflicted such horror. I honor the ones who died in fear, who died alone, who died without any clue as to what was about to happen.

For Dr. Librescu:

You gathered incredible strength
in order to die
to seem calm and fully conscious
without complaint, without trembling
without a cry
so that I would not be afraid.
from "To My Father" by Blaga Dmitrova

For everyone whose life was lost at Virginia Tech on Yom HaShoah, 2007/5767:

I am not resigned to the shutting away of loving hearts in the hard ground.
So it is, and so it will be, for so it has been, time out of mind:
Into the darkness they go, the wise and the lovely. Crowned
With lilies and with laurel they go; but I am not resigned.

Lovers and thinkers, into the earth with you.
Be one with the dull, the indiscriminate dust.
A fragment of what you felt, of what you knew,
A formula, a phrase remains, but the best is lost.

The answers quick and keen, the honest look, the laughter, the love,
They are gone. They are gone to feed the roses. Elegant and curled
Is the blossom. Fragrant is the blossom. I know. But I do not approve.
More precious was the light in your eyes than all the roses in the world.

Down, down down into the darkness of the grave
Gently they go, the beautiful, the tender, the kind;
Quietly they go, the intelligent, the witty, the brave.
I know. But I do not approve. And I am not resigned.
Dirge Without Music, by Edna St. Vincent Millay

Dogs 1, HVAC System 0, frustration/disappointment 10

The HVAC system install didn't get started yesterday as planned because the Ductwork Guy tried to break up a dogfight and was hurt. As of yesterday they clearly had no clue how seriously he was injured. Turns out that he took a fang deep into the joint where his thumb connects to his hand, he's is in the hospital on IV antibiotics, and they're still trying to figure out the degree of damage to his hand. Right now there's apparently even a chance that he could end up losing the thumb, so that's bad.

HVAC Guy (Duct Guy is his partner) came by to talk to me about it in person today (good customer service gesture, btw, which I appreciate very much), and clearly on top of being very upset about his partner's injury, he felt very bad that he couldn't give me an answer as to when this project might happen, or even if it WILL happen.

As I told him, I'm not upset at him or his company for this -- it's certainly something that they didn't anticipate, and I don't have ANY issue if this project doesn't start for another month or so. My main worry of course is that I'll need to start from scratch, that they'll end up not being able to do this at all, and I'll have to start from the very beginning to find someone willing and qualified to take on this project. I asked him to just keep me posted, every week or so if possible, and if it comes down to this, to let me know as soon as it seems clear that they won't be able to do this, at least not this year. From what he's told me of how his business and their partnership is structured, basically if Duct Guy isn't available, he's simply not going to have the time and resources to do a big install like this.

In the mean time Electrician Guy is here doing what he can, and as for what will happen in the future... well, I guess I have no choice but to jump off that bridge when I come to it.

So, I'm not a happy camper but what can I do?

Monday, April 16, 2007

They're here...

Well, at least Electrician Guy and his helper are here. Ductwork Guy and his carpenter/helper are NOT here becuase Ductwork Guy apparently tried to break up a dogfight yesterday and got the worst of it. He hopes to be well enough to start work tomorrow.

Meanwhile, Electrician Guy has opened up the wall underneath the panel, marked what's what and where how he's going to rearrange things, and right now he's running the wire to where the outside units are going to be located.

I verified with him that he won't be disconnecting our current baseboard electric heat until they're ready to fire up and test the new system - we can live without heat, but we're anticipating a week of highs only in the 50's and lows in the mid-30's to low 40's, so heat would certainly be preferable.

Even before we knew we were getting this nor'easter, I also verified with HVAC Guy that the outdoor units were going up on 2' high decks, and the blower that's going into the crawlspace will be mounted as high as possible. Then again, maybe it's time for me to look into flood insurance, considering last year's mess.


Back yard (with Von and Granddaughter)

At least this didn't flood up to the house, but it was more than a foot deep in places, and we had 6" in the garage.

Electrician Guy and Helper are outside trying to keep from being blown away by these winds: I just heard them laugh and say "hold on there, don't let it blow you off!" after a long loud gust of wind. Wunderground says winds are 22mph with gusts of 35mph right now. Not a day to be working outside, that's for sure.

Boss Lady is being very flexible with me with regards to my schedule - I can work at home as much as half the time, and I can take whatever time off I need as long as I'm there for my classes. These are good things. I'll be sad when Boss Lady retires in a few years, especially considering that the likely candidates for her replacement tend to be not nearly as flexible. I'm just wishing that Ductwork Guy wasn't starting tomorrow, since I have a class from 11:30-1, and he's going to be here at around 10, and I'd hoped to verify with him where the vents were going to be cut before he started cutting... Maybe he'll have enough time to go over one area with me before I leave, and then do that area while I'm gone.

Ok, since I'm working at home I need to actually get some work done.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

The Joy of Organization, and Run, River, Run.

It's just freakin' amazing how much we can get done when we're not sick and have no grandkids here, and we also have some deadline looming to light a fire under our butts.

Saturday it was gorgeous outside and we had this nor'easter looming, so we got several things done that we'd been putting off planning for a long time. First we made our first pass at re-digging a swale to direct the water from all along the side of the garage and driveway down to the drain at the curb. No, we didn't use any kind of fancy schmantzy levels or anything like that to figure out the drop. We just eyeballed it and started digging. We also dug a bunch of dirt from around and in the street drain. Once it looked ok, we ran the hose at the back and tweaked the gully until it flowed all the way through. The dirt we removed from this project filled in some pockets on the other side of the yard, where water from the neighbor's yard tends to do its little riverdance into ours. Tomorrow I'm going to put down grass seed and some "seed saver" mat in the gully to keep it from becoming a permanent mudpit.

After we played in the mud, we did some basic gardening. Von did the spring inaugural mowing, while I dug out a 4" stump from the bed in front of the porch, then transplanted a small azalea that was brought over from our old house. Von was thrilled that I gave the go-ahead to rip out this one ugly bush at the front corner of the house, since that was the best location to plant another plant that Dara gave me (though I can't remember the name - evergreen, dark green leaves with yellowish spots, forms a fairly big globed-shaped bush that gets grape-sized red berries if it's happy). Von was thrilled and started to dive into the project, but Mrs. Robin had other ideas - she was frantically putting the finishing touches on her nest in that bush, so the new plant got stuck in a temporary location until Mrs. Robin's babies are laid, incubated, raised, and out of the nest.

Because the weather put our garage at risk of flooding, I also finally finished the brackets to hold my scrap/extra lumber supply, got that moved up, and rearranged a few other things in the garage just in case it flooded today (which thankfully it didn't).

We then came in and started the process of doing some major organizing inside.

First, The Purge. Last night we scanned through as much of our known possessions for things that we could get rid of. We had a grand opening ceremony of someone from Freecycle coming to get the double mattress/box spring that has been sitting in our attic though we had no real idea of where/when we'd ever use it, then we dove in. We filled two boxes last night to donate to Habitat's yard sale, and piled it and a bunch of empty boxes in the car.

Today was First Pass Organization, which was a huge accomplishment. "First Pass" means that at least like things are together, and almost everything is in the room and potentially even the area in that room where they belong. Let me give you some perspective. See this?

That's the center area of the finished part of our 3rd floor. Up until today there wasn't even a path through there, things were piled so thick and so high, so to get from the stairs in the foreground to the small bedrooms to the right & left of the closets you see in the background you had to walk over or on all kinds of crap. Now everything has at least been pointed in the general direction of home and given a good hard shove.

And see this?

That's where the blower unit for the 2nd/3rd floor is going to go, in the unfinished part of the attic. What it doesn't show is that that entire side of the room is now empty. EMPTY!! It was piled high when we started. Of course, the OTHER side of that room is now piled even higher, but that's going to get fixed soon as well - it's amazing how many responses you get on freecycle when you offer up a stack of window air conditioners and some luggage!

But wait! It doesn't stop there!! I've talked before about having so many unpacked boxes... well, we still have some but probably only 1/4 of the original amount, and everything got opened and generally inventoried. And lots of little victories were a part of that task: The four boxes and two milk crates that had various cleaning supplies, plus the cleaning supplies fairly randomly stashed in the bathroom and kitchen cabinets, are now sifted through, consolidated, organized, everything put where it belongs, cleaning supplies distributed to logical locations, etc. I found two boxes of old children's books that I'd forgotten I'd had, because they'd lived in the attic of my previous house for 7 years; it's amazing how seeing a big stack of old Nancy Drew's can make me grin (published 30's - 60's, collected when I was a kid obsessed with Nancy Drew). And so many other little things.

Oh, and since realistically it's going to be a while before I install a pantry cupboard with pull-out shelves into my kitchen, finally today I removed the mountain of crap that had accumulated in the previously unshelved bottom 3' of the pantry closet, put two additional shelves in the pantry, hung up some more smaller shelves on the side walls plus a bar & hooks to hang things on, and voila! Look at the result:

Ain't it purty?!?

We celebrated with a delicious dinner of halibut marinated and cooked in mango/chile vinegar, olive oil, capers and cilantro; some creamy parmesan polenta (a mix - I'm not THAT ambitious after a long day of working!), and some fresh asparagus sauteed in butter and garlic. Actually today was a double-dose of yummy cooking kinda day, since for lunch I made salmon patties with onion, roasted pepper, cilantro, and vietnamese garlic/chili sauce (plus bread crumbs, egg & some mayo of course), then served it with a horseradish/lime tarter sauce. I love having the time and being in the mood to cook!!

Today was a good day. And NOW I'm going to celebrate with a chocolate martini.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

A rant about online rudeness and "hotbutton topics"

This isn't about anyone who has left comments on my blog, or anyone from the or house blogroll community (so far you've all proven to be an absolutely wonderful bunch!!), but it is directed to and focused on the behavior of a couple of folks from another house-related online message board. And warning: There be strong language ahead.

Dear Mr. and Ms. "Can't Say Anything Nice:"

Just because you are closed minded power-mongering idiots clearly have some measure of discomfort with the day to day realities of some other members lives doesn't give you the right to be assholes openly hostile.

Just because someone posts "So, anyone doing anything for Passover?" doesn't mean that it's an "inappropriate off-topic religious discussion" any more than the long and fun threads about "What are you doing for Christmas" or "Show us your Christmas decorations!" threads were about religion - they were all simply about home, family, and community. So, Ms. Nutcase, just back off on your hostile messages slamming folks for not doing it "right" according to strict Orthodox Jewish law (and getting it wrong, since you're not even Jewish, to boot - and hey, I'm not a strict Orthodox Jew!). And Mr. Bigot, it's also not appropriate to write a long rant about how dare the original poster indicate any displeasure with the attacks because "if you're going to post about clearly hot-button topics, then you can't be so thin skinned when someone disagrees with you." So, was is some non-Jewish folks great and respectful questions about Passover and seders or the presentation I made to my granddaughter's class about Passover that was the "hotbutton topic"?!?

And, Mr. Bigot, if someone posts that they might lose their home because their legal immigrant but non-citizen husband has been arrested because he supposedly checked "citizen" on a job application several years ago (and didn't even get the job), the appropriate response is NOT to rant about how illegal immigrants and people who choose to not become citizens have no right to complain when their basic civil rights are violated, and to imply in every post you made that her husband was in fact here illegally, and that if he didn't choose to become a citizen then he deserves this treatment. The rest of the community was giving her support; you gave her nothing but shit, and now she's gone.

And finally -- oh, look, kids, it's Mr. Bigot again!! -- me and other LGBT folks in the community mentioning our partners in just the same way as other straightfolk mention their domestic partners or spouses doesn't mean that we're discussing yet another "hotbutton topic" of gay marriage. Oh, wait, you haven't attacked on that issue yet, though you've certainly mentioned it as one of the "if you talk about one of these things you'd better be prepared to have folks disagree with you" topics that we're not supposed to mention, so I'm guessing it's only a matter of time. Part of me wants to go to Mass or Canada or Spain or South Africa and get legally married there, or even just move forward the wedding we plan just for the blessings from God and our family and friends (ok, and for the dancing and party and chance to wear a pretty dress, too!), just so that I can announce it on the board the same way that other folks have announced their marriages, and then sit back and smile as I imagine your head exploding all over your new drywall.

Bottom line: People's everyday lives aren't subjects for debate or your hostile criticism. If you don't like the brand of tools I buy or how I'm going to run the wiring in my basement, then by all means disagree with me. But otherwise, if you simply don't like how others are living their everyday lives, then just keep your mouth shut.

End rant. Whew.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

T-82 hours until I empty my bank account

9:30am Monday, April 16th, 2007. That's when the HVAC guys show up and take all my money start work on my house. It's hard to believe after all this planning and fretting, it's finally really happening.

I'm still nervous about it. Did we make a bad decision, going with the heat pumps? Will the contractors screw things up somehow? Will I find myself during the worst of next winter's first real cold snap wondering why I spent all that money?



Actually at this particular moment I'm just cranky because it's just dawned on me that on my birthday -- my one absolutely sacred day for the past almost 30 years of my working life to do no work whatsoever and to keep my lazy ass in bed for as late as I can and focus completely on pampering myself -- my house is going to be invaded by contractors early in the morning (and on a day like that, anything before 11am is "early"), unless they happen to finish several days sooner than their two week estimate. And I'm going to feel obligated to stay at home and keep an eye on them. Well, maybe I'll just take myself out to a nice breakfast somewhere and make an appointment to go get another tattoo or something instead. I just hope they won't be putting ductwork in the bathroom or bedroom when it's time for me to get gussied up to go out to dinner.

I'm genuinely nervous but still I'm excited. As a blogging friend once wrote, "nothing says progress like a significant outlay of cash." Once this is done and we have no money to do anything else significant for a long while, I can start focusing on some things that need my attention, such as organizing, getting some salvaged furniture and trim stripped and/or repainted and put in place, making some small decorating progress in some of the other rooms.

Yeah, I'm excited.

Musical game of "tag, you're it!"

I was tagged by Felicia at Homefront Insecurity to create a 7-song CD with a house/garden theme. Since my only alternative was to go to bed at a reasonable hour, I decided to take the challenge. I even found videos for most of the songs!

1) I have to start with "Our House" by Crosby, Stills & Nash. "Our house is a very very very fine house, with two [dogs] in the yard, life used to be so hard, now everything is easy 'cause of you."

2.) "Fire at Midnight" is a beautiful song by Jethro Tull about being happy to be home with the one you love. "Kindled by the dying embers of another working day, go upstairs, take off your makeup, fold your clothes neatly away. Me I'll sit and write this love song as I all too seldom do, build a little fire this midnight, it's good to be back home with you."

3) I guess I'm on a romantic song kick, because next would be "Refugio De Amor" which is a sweet little song from the movie "Dance With Me." The english language version is "You are my home" but the Spanish version is more along the lines of "Your heart is the home of my dreams." Take your pick, either one is cheesy and romantic and fun to dance to, and the English version (just because it's slower) is what will probably be "our first dance" if we can ever get married (:::listening for the sound of some nearby marriage being instantaneously vaporized by that single thought:::).

4.) The Beatles "When I'm 64" has to be on there just because that's probably when we'll get to about the middle of our to-do list.

5.) Then again, another Beatles song has its appeal for when you're trying to do some project along side your loved one and things just aren't working out well for the two of you and your brain starts fixating on some rather destructive fantasies: "Bang bang Maxwell's silver hammer came down on his head..."

6.) For a little living room silly-boogie, or while getting ready for friends to come over, Rosemary Clooney's "Come on'a my house, a'my house, I'ma gonna give you candy."

7) And when you just have to get away from it all, "Get your motor running, head out on the highway, looking for adventure in whatever comes our way.... Born to be wi-iiii-i-ild" :::cue air guitar::: (Steppenwolf, for all you youngsters out there).

Now I tag... ACK. This is the hard part.

From the housebloggers, I'll tag:

Steve of BrooklynRowHouse, so I can see what a professional musician would choose.

Greg at The Petch House, since his latest post referred to "Styx."

and Rachel at Our Little Hobbit Hole just to see what kind of mood your new house is putting you in.

And from my LJ friends (who are hopefully still reading this!) I'm tagging Daraq, SpiritualRose and Gentledaddy, to see what music comes to mind in the midst of packing, closing, moving, selling, and all that other "we're moving to a new house!!" stuff.

(sorry, if you're confused by a double-feed: I deleted this post by accident and had to recreate it!)

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Cool new/old gifts for the house!

I feel like I just won an old-house renovator's major door prize. Some friends who are moving gave us a bunch of salvaged materials that are consistent with the age and style of our house, which we'll definitely be able to use as part of our "retrovation" efforts to bring back some of our house's original character.

They gave us a good-sized stack of great condition door/window trim, several pieces of very nice substantial stair rail (the one we have now is the Big Box's Cheapest Option style), and an old pedestal sink in excellent condition. If I have a place to use it, I can also have a 24" 5-panel wood door. They also gave me a great multi-pane window that I might use as some kind of funky wall hanging instead of as part of a coldframe as I originally discussed, now that I see how nice it really is. And they offered an original 30's style kitchen sink, the heavy kind with the integrated drainboard, but I just don't think we can use it. Well, actually it's that I don't think Von would go for it, but I'm going to ask just to make sure!

D, you totally rock!!!

Monday, April 9, 2007

Habitat rocks

I'm very excited that after years of good intentions, I'm finally going to start volunteering with Habitat, on their latest "Woman Build" project which starts in a few weeks. Despite being asked to consider being a crew leader, I've asked to just be a regular worker-bee, because I'd really prefer to do things where I can learn new skills such as drywall finishing and using a power-nailer. I told them I'd help with basic skills training though.

(I think I might have blogged about this before but I'm too tired & lazy to read back and be sure.)

Anyway, another reason to celebrate Habitat today is that they're having a huge yardsale to benefit this woman-build project, and that is just the incentive we needed to get a lot of stuff cleared out of here. I'm not the sort who can just throw things away, so I'm a pretty avid Freecycler. But freecycling takes time and coordination of schedules and all that, so I've been avoiding listing all the crap usable things we have to give away just because of the effort it then takes to figure out when to set out what for who.

So today we loaded my van up pretty full and I'll drop it all off tomorrow. And we agreed that we're going to find a way to fill up my van at least one more time. Losing at least two vanfulls of stuff from this house will be a VERY good thing, though 3-4 would be better. I think I have Von convinced to give up the old double mattress/box spring that's in the attic, right where they need to put the 3rd floor blower unit, but that will be freecycled just so someone else can take care of carrying it down 2.5 flights of stairs and loading it into a vehicle.

Oh, and the basement lights didn't get installed today because the local 84 lumber doesn't carry 3-wire electric cable, plus even their 2-wire is 1.5x the price of the Big Box store. I'd pay more at a little local hardware store, but we don't HAVE a little local hardware store in this town, and I just didn't feel like taking an hour to go get wire. So the basement lights will just have to wait until next weekend or maybe one evening this week.

Saturday, April 7, 2007

Spring snow, sine curves, and switch loops.

I generally love snow but right now I feel like Nettie in The Color Purple, crying out "Why??? WHY?!?!?" to Mister: WHY is there 2-4" of snow predicted for tonight, plus a hard freeze warning?!? Who didn't get the message that it's spring?? It's APRIL for Maude's sake!!


And of course I finally PAID someone just this past week to dig up all the perennials from my old house and plant them in a temporary bed here, and I'm convinced that now they're all gonna die. Of course I could have done something like go out and cover them but that would have required me to remember to do that before 11pm tonight.

ACK! Speaking of which, there are two beautiful pots of annuals on my front steps that probably should come in.

Why can't weather be like a beautiful perfect sine curve:

(Aren't sine waves pretty and perfect? Or does it just look that way to math geeks who haven't been getting out enough lately? Rumor has it that once when I was really quite inebriated I rattled on and on about the mathematics behind the curves of a well-designed bowl, as part of an even more in-depth explanation as to why I have such a bowl fetish, all while lovingly stroking the curves of one of my favorite bowls. Hey, better than taking my shirt off, putting someone else's underwear on my head, and dancing on the table...)

Speaking of geeks, I drew out some diagrams to help me make sure I know what the heck I'm doing when I wire two lights in a row in a switch loop - where the power starts at one end, then goes to one light then another, and the switch is at the very end of the circuit. If you never see another update, you can presume I got it wrong and post your condolances for my partner. If I got it right, I'll post my diagrams just to have something to illustrate me talking about getting some real work done around here, since the diagrams are going to be more interesting to look at than the a photo of two small functional florescent fixtures in my dingey basement with wire stapled to the joists. My plan is to make sure that it works first with a modern switch, then I'm going to take off the original rotary switch and see if it appears safe & functional, and wire that in instead. Hey, a girl's gotta have SOMEthing original to use in her old house, even if it's just the light switch to her ratty fugly basement!!

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Any brilliant gardeners out there? Ideas needed!

We have been overwhelmed with not knowing where to start in terms of landscape design, so we finally decided to focus in on two things: Removing a lot of crap (a lot of junk trees/shrubs/ivy plus some serious pruning), and sprucing up the front walk.

We have a 50-60' front walk that needs SOMEthing. Well, what it really needs is to be replaced with a wider walk made of brick or pavers or something appropriate, but between budget constraints and an impending road-widening and front-sidewalk relocation in a few years, we're not going there for several years.

For now we would like to border it with something to make it look a lot less stark and a lot more inviting.

What we want is:
  • something that is low (under 1'), and that will spread (or can be contained) to under 2' or so.

  • tending more towards a mound shape than irregular or spikey

  • shade/filtered sun tolerant but not hostas (Partner is sick to death of how I kind of overdid hostas at our last house, so this is one thing that's non-negotiable)

  • flowers at least some part of the year or has colerful foliage (i.e. not just a little green-only evergreen)

  • perrineal or self-sowing annual.

  • year round visual interest or evergreen foliage is preferred

  • relatively low maintenance

  • not starkly formal
We're in zone 7a, and have fairly good soil.

Now, I know that we're not likely to find something that fits ALL of these criteria, so "low", "not hostas" and "shade/filtered sun tolerant" are the only two things that are non-negotiable.

Oh and a dream request would be to find something that's a fragrant plant or herb that fits all or most of these requirements.

Anyone have any great ideas?

Here's a pic that shows at least part of our front walk. FYI, that azalea will be moved before we plant whatever we decide to put along the walk. And we're going to start shaping the front beds (probably something that involves a curve out from the front walk edging and is generally a curvy less-formal shape overall) and putting in some of the anchor plants that we want there, including a hydrangea and that stray azalea).

Monday, April 2, 2007

The sweeter side of home remodeling

Chocolate hammers, peanut-butter handled saws, Caulk-Full-o'-Nuts, M&M paint rollers, shortbread nails... talk about the perfect gift for the home remodeling enthusiast who seems to have everything (or who doesn't have everything but whose wish list is down to things that have 3-4 digits in the price).

(thanks to S. for the link!!)