Monday, December 31, 2007

Please help me justify my rationalization

This little cheapo thingy that was put (not by me) onto our bottom-of-the-line kitchen faucet to allow you to direct the water and also (supposedly) to select between a stream and a wider spray of water has just broken off.

I think this completely justifies my buying the nice gooseneck faucet that we need I want. Yes, I know we could replace that doohickey or just put the regular screen thingy back onto it (which we still have... somewhere; and yes there are technical names for these things but I'm far too undercaffeinated to imagine what they might be) but since clearly SOMEthing needs to be done, why shouldn't that something be that we put in a nice new faucet, yes?

If you agree, please let me know. And please share your own really stretched rationalization stories, like "the toilet paper holder broke off and so we completely remodeled the bathroom." That sort of thing. I need backup here, folks.

Maybe, in the spirit of "it's easier to ask forgiveness than to ask permission," I could just pick it up on my way into town to pick up the sushi and wine for tonight's dinner...

Friday, December 28, 2007

A rant about something not house related

(Does something count as house-related if it's preventing you from doing work on your house?)

Microsoft Office 2007 SUCKS.

Let me explain why I am qualified to make that assessment.
  • My first five years of computing (in college) was on punched cards.
  • I wrote 30+ page research papers in college using a basic electric typewriter.
  • My first word processing was on a dedicated word processor that used 8" floppy disks.
  • I've written hundreds of pages of software documentation using Emacs in place of a word processor.
  • My first PC-based word processing program was FinalWord. It was DOS-based, and fit on a single 512k floppy disk.
  • I then progressed to WordPerfect (again, on DOS), then WordPerfect in Windows (I'm talking the first Windows, Windows 3 era).
  • Gradually, as Microsoft took over the world, I had no choice but to move to the Microsoft Office Suite and Word. I went through every Windows-based version provided, starting with the version for Windows 3.x and up through Word 2003, all without a hitch.
  • I have taught advanced classes and provided many hours of help-desk support for every single one of these PC-based word processors; my full-time job since 1984 has been to teach and support PC and network operating systems and applications.
Now I'm trying to figure out what the hell I'm doing in Word 2007, and there's just no question that it sucks beyond all language that I could justify using on my house blog.

Tasks that I could have told you how to do from memory, without a PC in front of me, are now hidden, moved to some place that is completely inconsistent with decades of prior word processing usage and totally counter-intuitive.

Features that have been no-brainers for decades are relocated or missing, from both the menus -- Oh! Wait! No! there AREN'T any menus!! -- and from the Help system. Features that used to take a simply right-mouseclick or keyboard shortcut now require five minutes to locate... is it on this tab? This one? Maybe if I clicked here...


The first person who can tell me why something as basic as a checkbox isn't working (the checkboxes which took me forever to figure out how to get into the document in the first place, because Oh!! The tab that has those commands on it isn't SHOWN by default! You have to go here then there then this other place to SAY that you want to see that tab in order to get those commands) will get a very special prize: A long, thick-handled stripped screwdriver with a dog-gnawed handle, indicative of exactly what I feel that Microsoft has done to the world by releasing this monstrosity. "Threads" my big fat behind; the only "threads" are on the screw that MS has decided to shove up our collective butts with this disaster -- a disaster that we will have no choice but to accept.

Resistance is futile.

What really scares me is that I've only really started looking at Word, but I don't TEACH Word this upcoming semester: I teach Excel and Access.

God help me when we have to start teaching Vista. The only thing that will keep my head from exploding at that point will be my Linux classes.


2008 To-Do List

I can't call this a list of "resolutions" but I can call it a to-do list. Failure to accomplish a resolution comes across to me as exactly that: Failure. But a to-do list is a more fluid thing. A to-do list has plenty of wiggle room for changes in plans, life getting in the way, getting sidetracked by a project that suddenly just seems a lot more exciting than the other projects you had planned, unexpected illness, grandchildren, heat waves, cold snaps, or roof cave-ins. Well, hopefully not that last one but you know what I man.

That rationalization out of the way, I will create my overall to-do list for 2008:

Greening it up:
  • Build compost bin and find container to keep inside for compostable materials
  • Start recycling office papers
  • Increase commitment to locavorism: Join CSA, plant veggies to freeze, buy at least 50% local meat, eggs, dairy.
  • Insulate the attic room on the 3rd floor.
  • Finish making and installing the rainbarrels (requires installing gutters on garden shed and far side of garage)

Getting Organized:

  • Get the #!%^@ garage organized (a project that's been ongoing since I've moved here)
  • Organize the garden shed (mostly just get some shelves in there, and get rid of things we don't need)

Making it Pretty:

  • Get dining room floor refinished
  • Make new baseboard trim for dining room, living room.
  • Put up wainscoting in the downstairs hallway
  • Paint (or rather, scrape, treat, prime, paint) the garage and shed
  • Paint porch floor
  • Refinish/rebuild old dresser to be sink base cabinet for 2nd fl bathroom, and install.
  • Replace mirrors and lighting in 2nd floor bathroom
  • Replace vent/light in 2nd floor bathroom
  • Powerwash the siding and foundation block

Keeping it in Good Condition

  • Address porch roof problems
  • Route remaining gutters further away from the house
  • Clean up leftover mold in basement and re-insulate
  • Check condition of crawlspace insulation

I hope to actually do even more, but I have to be realistic. Plus, there are so many unknowns, "will we have the grandkids full-time" being the primary one. One of the things that I've found helpful so far, in the two weeks or so that I've been using it, is to keep an active to-do list on my blog (see link on the right side of the page if you're interested). We'll see how this works in the long run.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Cheesy, but we love it.

After looking at hundreds of fabrics, we have decided that we both love this one for the little cafe curtain in our kitchen:

It has "grandmother" in all these different languages. I see that it has "Nana," I just hope that it also has Abuela and Bubbe.

Lost again

I have three measuring tapes. I can't find any of them. Why does this always happen when I'm feeling most gung-ho to start planning something that can't be planned without accurate measurements?


Sunday, December 23, 2007

Advice sought RE: toddlers and house projects

I know that some of you have one or more small children. How on earth do you do it? There are two of us and only one of our 19m granddaughter, and she isn't even with us full time (mostly all weekends though), but it just seems impossible to get much of any consequence done while she's here -- everything either has to be a one-person job, or it has to be doable while she's asleep (so much for my plans to install new shelves in the linen closet just outside of her room today...), or doable within the time span that she'll be content staying confined (crib, high-chair, playpen) which, needless to say, isn't long at all.

Anyway, I'd love to hear some feedback and tricks that folks with small children use to get things done. There's a chance that she'll be coming to live with us full-time for a while, and I can't see how we're going to get anything accomplished!! But I know there just has to be a way, there just HAS to be...

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Too many questions at once about repainting our old garage.

I posted these questions in a forum where wonderful advice is generously given, but I think sometimes I ask too many questions at once, which causes folks who might only know the answer to one or two to not answer, and causes folks who might know the answers to all of them to not want to be bothered with so much at once.

So, I'm deleting that set of questions from there and getting ready to just post one initial question in hopes that will get an answer, then I'll go on from there.

And in the interest of not forgetting what all I'd asked, I'm copying what I'd posted here. And if you happen to know any or all of the answers, I'd love to hear from you!

Winter solstice is not exactly the right time of year to get hit with an intense desire to start doing the prep work for painting the garage, but I can at least start with the planning!

While the wood on our garage is mostly in good condition (except for near the ground in a few areas), the paint is peeling so badly that it's the main thing I use as a descriptor when giving people directions. I think this summer I'll finally be able to tackle repainting the garage as one of my summer-break projects.

My questions for now are:

  1. Is there any reason why I shouldn't start scraping on days warm enough to be outside this winter? It already only has maybe 50% paint coverage, and the rest bare grayed wood.
    (fyi, I hope to get the scraping finished before it's time to do ANY planting, even of early veggies, since my garden is right next to my garage and while I plan to be as careful as possible with the paint chips, I still don't want to get ANY lead paint chips/dust on my crops - I plan to very solidly secure a tarp over it for the duration of all scraping.)
  2. I know that I can't just prime over weathered wood. What's the best thing to use to treat it before painting? Do I need to wait a certain time between treating and painting? Also, if I need to treat it, does that mean that I have to get it TOTALLY stripped of all paint, down to 100% wood, or if there are places where the paint really doesn't want to come off can I just leave it? And how warm does it have to be (and stay) to treat the wood?
  3. With so much of the paint really really loose, is there some kind of attachment I can get for my shopvac to just wet it down (to minimize dust), scrape it and vacuum it up at the same time, at least for the first pass with the loosest paint?
  4. Should we paint it a taupe/brown to coordinate with the current color of the [vinyl siding that the PO's put up on the] house, gray to stay with what appears to be its original color, or base it on the color we finally decide on for some of the house trim? FYI we have an L-shaped lot so it's almost impossible to see the house and the garage at the same time.


Sometimes it's the little things...

While it's great to sit back and declare some big project finally DONE, there is something deeply satisfying in finding a way to crank through a bunch of little projects that have been nagging you for a long time. I don't know about other folks, but I have this amazing capacity to comment to myself every single day about some little thing that I really should do and that won't really take that much time, but week after month after year it just never gets done.

Well, I'm on a roll with little stuff. It started a couple of weeks ago with my making a list of stuff to get done over my holiday break, morphed into a list twice the size of the original, and is kept going by the combined satisfaction and challenge of watching that list being whittled away.

In terms of being organizationally challenged, I'm probably the perfect candidate for a PDA but I really don't want to have to deal with anything other than a pen or a regular sized keyboard, and my paper lists get written but then just get lost in the muck and mire of my overall disorganization. And I tried keeping lists on the computer, in Word documents or whatever, but it's just so easy to ignore them. But I may have finally come up with what works: Adding a to-do list to my house blog.

I'm actually maintaining two lists. The first is my active to-do list -- what I'm trying to get done in the next couple of weeks or months. It's going to include house stuff plus some not-directly-house-related stuff just to keep it all together. I say "not directly house related" because, for example, getting the long overdue package sent to my friend or getting things dropped off at the domestic violence shelter may not seem house related, but it clears out space, removes clutter, and even simply lets me cross it off my list and move onto the next task which is hopefully house related.

I crossed two things off that list today: Getting the pantry organized, and getting all of my knives sharpened. Considering that I was out of the house for much of the day, I feel satisfied with that. If I get a second wind I may tackle something else, but this is enough for today -- it is my first day of holiday break, after all!!

My second list is my long-term list. I organized it room-by-room, and have both big and small projects listed. I tend to forget things that I know I need to do but can't get to for a while, so this will help me record that.

I'm feeling on my way towards getting organized, and for an ADD queen, that's a damn good feeling.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

"Oh, this will only take a half-hour..."

Well, it would have taken someone who knew what the heck she was doing "only a half-hour." For me, three.

The task? Sewing. Using the sewing machine that I bought 3-4 years ago and have now used 2-3 times. Attempting to finish the edges and then sew one freakin' 6" strip of material onto the bottom of a curtain, then sew strips of velcro along the top and bottom of that strip of material so that I can stuff a quilt-batting wrapped length of chain into the resulting pocket. Doing this to weight the curtain down to the floor so that all the first and second floor heat doesn't go whooshing under it, since the curtain is used to block the stairway to the third floor which we rarely use. Except for when I'm sewing, of course. It was kind of the equivalent of sewing one of those grain-filled "snakes" that you can get to block drafts at the bottoms of doors and windows onto the bottom of this curtain, except our occasional mouse problem dictates that using grain would be a Very Bad Idea, so I used chain and I wanted to make it removable (thus the velcro) so that the curtain could actually be washed if necessary.

Anyway, I'm babbling, but that's what happens when something you know a semi-competent person could do in half an hour takes you three. And along the way you misplace one part of the velcro then after 10 minutes of searching you find it on the back of your leg, attached to your sweatpants. And you forget the which direction to install the bobbin. And you realize after just ten minutes that the chair you chose to put into your sewing room is dreadfully uncomfortable and totally the wrong height. And your thread breaks about fifty zillion times. And you realize after three minutes that if you're going sew even small projects you need some decent light in that room, because you're old and therefor half-blind and even with your reading glasses on you can't see to thread the damned needle. Which you have to do over and over because of the thread breaking. And you feel ashamed because your mother sews so well (mostly quilts) that she owns six sewing machines (and variations thereof) including one which costs more than your car, and in theory you should have inherited at least one tiny spec of her aptitude. Plus she would have had that done in ten minutes, not thirty, even if she only used one hand. Then feel you resentful because one of the reason you don't like to sew is because in high school she forced you to sew every time you were on restriction, and you were on restriction a LOT.

Anyway, it's done, and the curtain is no longer pulled up by a draft of hot air looking for the highest spot in the house*. I'd take a picture but I'm more worn out and my back hurts more than if I'd just totally reorganized the garage.


*I originally wrote "a draft of hot air looking to get high" but I decided it wasn't appropriate, but it does tell you a bit about how frazzled I am by this if that's where my brain is going...

Monday, December 10, 2007

On the First Day of Winter break, My To-do List Said to Me...

One of the true joys of being a teacher is the time off. I'm off for winter break this year from Saturday the 22nd through Sunday the 6th, 16 days in all. I'm determined to get at least some little projects done in that time.

I'll won't do work on the house on:

  • The 22nd just because it's my first week of break and I need to be a slug.
  • Christmas eve since V will also be off work that day and we'll probably choose to be lazy slugs together.
  • Christmas day since we'll hopefully be seeing our grandchildren, when we're not being slugs, that is!
  • New Years Eve, though I won't really be taking off since I'll be running around getting stuff for our Quiet Romantic Evening at Home (which is going to include an obscene amount of carry-out sushi and other Japanese food -- yummmmm!)
  • New Year's Day since isn't it the law that you have to slug on that day? Besides some friends who just had their brand new house built are having an open house/brunch and we want to go see them.
  • And the 6th just because I need to go back to work the next day, and so some last minute serious slugging is in order.
That leaves me 10 days to do stuff. Now, don't get me wrong: I'm not one of you super-heroes out there who remodel entire rooms in a day, build whole additions in a week. Nope, I'm just going to plan on getting at least 10 projects that should be easily done in a day (or much less) cranked out, projects that need to be done but that I've been avoiding.

I'll probably modify this as the time gets closer, but for now the list is going to be:

  1. Get all of the stuff we have set aside for the local domestic violence shelter delivered over there. Toss in a handful of $25 Wal-Mart gift certificates.
  2. Get the new shelves put up in the linen closet and organize that plus the cabinet stuffed full of way out of date toiletries.
  3. Build two shelves for the cedar cabinet, and get it moved back into place and stuff put in there that belongs there.
  4. Organize the pantry cupboard (it's scary; we have no idea what might be lurking under the layers of plastic grocery bags and reusable TJ's bags.
  5. Clean off and organize my desk and associated paperwork crammed in its drawers and the filing cabinet next to it.
  6. Go back through the attic, pull out things that can be recycled (boxes for stuff we've had past its warranty, for example), convince V to get rid of some of the crap that we do NOT need to be keeping, and add it to the shelter run pile. Done! 12/16: Boxes broken down and ready for the recycle run, we're getting rid of three of the extra chairs (two dining room, one office) that were stashed in the attic, and I listed a buttload of stuff on freecycle this weekend.
  7. Identify two dressers that we can get rid of, and get rid of them (DV shelter again). Actually we ended up finding a use for both of them - one now helps keep my office organized, the other is going to hold extra blankets.
  8. Get the 3rd floor better organized once there's room created by disappearing the empty unused dressers. Spent several hours yesterday (12/16) getting the 3rd floor a LOT better organized even with the dressers there. Put shelves in one of the closets to take some of the overflow from the attic. Went through the last of the moving boxes. Listed a bunch of stuff on Freeycycle. Got my sewing room much better organized - I'd call it 90% done, now! Found the parts (with one still missing - can I improvise? we'll see) needed to reassemble the futon couch.
  9. Paint the bottom part of the old enamel-topped table and bring it to the dining room with some baskets/bins for mail sorting.
  10. Uh... do one of the above tasks that still needs to be done because I blew off at least one more day to be a total slug.
I think I can do this. Or at least make a good dent in this list. We'll see.

Edited to add in a few more tasks that I can either substitute for items in the above list if I'm lazy, or add to the list if I'm ambitious:
  1. Get hanging chain attached to stained glass piece in kitchen
  2. Sharpen all my knives
  3. Get rid of all the recycling stuff
  4. Mail long overdue package to friend
  5. If we get a relatively warm day, do some garden cleanup and hack back some of the privet.
  6. Sort through old computer stuff, back up and wipe clean all old hard drives, get rid of most of it and organize what I'm keeping.
  7. I'll keep adding more things as I think of them.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Some (maybe) really good news

One of the flooring contractors for whom I got some really good references for both new floors and floor refinishing came today. This is one of the several contractors who told me that no way would they attempt to refinish a floor that had linoleum glue and felt still stuck to it.

Well, he came in today, saw how much I'd gotten totally off, saw how much I'd reduced the thickness of the rest of it, and thinks that they can refinish it. He pointed out the 1000 ways that it won't be perfect - the areas where it's been painted, the area that had been under the original cabinets up against an area with many stains, other stains, other significant dings, the many plumbing/heating holes they'll need to plug, etc. But he seemed actually very excited about refinishing it.

He didn't give me an absolute guarantee though. He said that they'd not really know until they started, and if they start and it clear is going to keep seriously gunking up their equipment, they'll have to pretty much stop right away and give me the choice of our manually taking the felt/glue down even further, or applying my deposit towards a new floor. But he seemed genuinely excited about seeing that it could probably be refinished.

So, fingers crossing here. He already warned me that the quote to refinish that floor will be somewhere between a normal refinish job and a brand new floor because of the extra work involved (lots of plugs, nails, a place that currently has just a 2x6 that they'll need to figure out how to "blend", etc.) and that's understandable. But it would just make me so happy to get that floor refinished instead of new floor put on top of it -- as long as I didn't need to take off all the felt/glue crap first.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

We can finally paint the kitchen

I've wanted to paint the kitchen for so long, but I brought in dozens, perhaps over a hundred paint swatches and never found anything that worked. Despite the fact that the colors that seemed to always look best were the greens, I didn't WANT more green, dammit, I wanted a really warm color, with orange being my tone of choice.

Well tonight we perused yet another bank of pain samples and came home with another stack. I did my normal ritual - take the colors and attach them to hang just behind/under the fronts of the wall cabinets. See, it's the natural oak cabinets with their yellow/orange tones that kept most warm colors from working in there.

I put up the colors and then start just looking at them, not just looking at the aesthetics but, at the risk of sounding really weird, I try to get a sense of how they make me feel, what emotions they provoke in me (if there's anything beyond ewww no). Until tonight, none of the warm colors have worked. But tonight I had up a half-dozen, and one just stood out. I called V. downstairs to look at them without saying which was calling to me. It took maybe two minutes, probably less, to decide definitively on the one I'd chosen. That's how we always end up picking color - we don't consider anything that doesn't just really FEEL right to both of us.

It's a mid-range tone, something like a brown-tinged orange, a lighter relative to terra cotta. But it works. V. even held it up to all of the key things in the kitchen - our painting of sunflowers, the stained glass of tulips, my 70's orange decoupaged breadbox, and they all went well. We even find a strange compatibility between it and the two mint-green tiles that I rescued that had been part of my beloved Granny's original kitchen - somehow, those two long edge tiles are going to be incorporated into a tile backsplash behind the stove.

Now I just need M.A. or Laura or ege's husband - you know, someone who actually can do a decent job painting - to come help me paint it. Because I really want it done nicely.

Maybe I'll ask for that as my Holiday present - hire a professional painter to paint the kitchen and the office, which might be a light teal though I'd love to find a soft warm grayish lavender/violet.