Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Lusting After Power Tools

I have said it before: I am a power tool slut. It doesn't matter that I'm a super-busy lazyass who gets less done in a year than most housebloggers get done in a weekend. Some power tools just get me... oh my Maude. Heart pounding, breath shallow and fast, pupils dilated, squirmy in my seat. Get the picture? Understand now why I love hanging out at Lowes?

I have a new object of insane desire: The Dewalt Tracksaw. Oh my freakin' Maude. I WANT. I can't justify getting one right now, even as a substitute for the table saw that I wanted SO much but can't really justify because in order to set up a real workshop I'd need to seriously upgrade the power going to my garage (which is not a simple task considering that it's on the other side of the yard from the house). But this... this can do what a table saw could do, without taking up the space of a table saw.

Check this baby out:

I'm entering into the contest at One Project Closer to try and win one. Oh the glorious things I could do with this tool...

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Kitchen Inspiration

Yes, I need to focus on the bathroom right now. But as I start to have a pretty clear idea of what I want in there, I can't help but allow my thoughts to stray into the kitchen, which we need to replace all of the cabinets and redesign the layout a bit so that we can collect on the wedding present my parents have offered to us: A dishwasher. There's just no place to put one in the current kitchen layout, and I don't see replacing a few of the cabinets with more of the same unfinished sawdust-board box cabinets that are in there now. I'd rather do it right and get a kitchen that I'm really going to like.

And as I've stated many times before: Yes, our kitchen is functional and there's nothing seriously wrong with it. I just don't like it. And I need to like it. The kitchen is the most important room in the house to me. Cooking is my most significant creative outlet, and I need that room to spark my creativity instead of make me feel like I'm still living in some cheapass rundown apartment in Canton, Ohio. I want something that makes me feel good, and that is suited to the character of our old home. Our kitchen, as it is now, will never make me feel good, and it is totally out of place in this house. I'm not fool enough to consider dropping a fortune on whatever we do - it's got to fit in the current footprint (meaning, I'm not going to be able to make it no longer too small) with minimal changes to the layout of electrical and plumbing, for example - but I know I can get a kitchen I can love even within those limitations. I don't need fancy bells and whistles. I just need a kitchen that makes me smile and feel good.

So I've started to poke around on ideas. Tonight I hadn't planned to focus on the kitchen, beyond researching microwaves to replace ours that blew out the other day in a shimmering sparking blaze of glory (two-year-old cheapass piece of shite that it was). But microwave research led to kitchen remodeling discussion with someone on another forum which led to a recommendation to check out this thread over at the GardenWeb forums, which led to that poster's set of pictures of his new kitchen, which led to this picture:

I love so much about this kitchen. Of course it's 3-4 times the size of mine, but I love the feel of it. The style of doors and drawers are exactly what I've been looking for. I love the varied cabinet heights. This is definitely an inspiration kitchen for me.

Thanks, Mrs. B.!!

Friday, October 31, 2008

It's not being greedy, just trying to get lucky

I wasn't going to enter this month's One Project Closer contest because I just won one and I'm feeling a bit guilty that I won't be able to try it and review my new mosquito-ridding toy until the weather warms up a bit.

However, earlier this evening I turned on the ugly cheap "contractor grade" fan in the living room to diffuse killer over-sugared over-hyped toddler diaper from hell smell and it started acting all whonky and sounding totally off, to the point where I turned it off and raised the chain up to remind others not to use it. And I was going to leave it at that but then I went to check my email and read and replied to their latest post and remembered their contest for this month which is a $175 certificate for a ceiling fan from Home Depot, and I decided that there's nothing wrong with trying to get lucky.

So here it is, less than half an hour before the deadline, another shameless entry for one of their contests.

I feel lucky, oh so lucky, I feel lucky and plucky and GAY!! And I pity, any girl that isn't me today....

(OK, it's late and I'm weird, and I love old musicals and making up new lyrics to songs.)

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Cold Weather as Motivator

That does it. We finally had to turn the heat on (no chance of making it to my normal November 1st goal, which is always much more fantasy thatn reality). Though "heat" in this house is a very subjective term - our high temperature is what most folks turn theirs down to while they're gone in order to save money. We're most definitely a heavy sweaters, fuzzy slippers, lap robes and down comforters kind of household.

But cold weather means baths. And baths right now stil mean that dinky straight-sided shallow piece of cheap trash that's in my bathroom.

My remodel, planned as this past summer's project, has been delayed by unexpected events, economic concerns, and bald-ass laziness, but NO MORE. By the end of this week I will have done a final review of the plumbers that I interviewed and call one up and start making arrangements. By the middle of next week I want to have ordered all that I need to order (if I use the plumber who would have me do that instead of my buying it through him). I will have made at least the first call to my chosen plumber in an attempt to set up a date.

I WILL get my new bathtub in before the end of the year, so help me Maude.

The rest... no promises. At this rate the room might not be tiled and finished until Chanel marries a skilled carpenter and tiler, but that won't matter if I can relax in my tub with a well-worn book in my hands and perhaps a drink on the side.

I am SO ready to start ripping that crap out of there.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

I should be embarrassed to do this, but...

Yes, I haven't updated in a while, because there's nothing much house related to update: Bathroom renovation is still stalled, garage never got painted, dining room floor never got refinished. There's still a long list of "wants" and "to-do's" but very little activity. Life just keeps seeming to sidetrack us big-time, mostly in good ways (getting married, having the grandkids with us most weekend, being very busy with our good jobs that we're so blessed to have in these uncertain economic times), plus, let's face it -- when we're not sidetracked, we're usually either just wiped out by everything else, or just too damn lazy to get started on anything.

Oh, wait. I lied. There is one delightful update - my parents are getting us a dishwasher for a wedding present. This is wonderful because (a) a house this size needs a dishwasher for resale value somewhere down the road, and (b) V's eczema is making dishwashing more and more difficult and painful. Except, our tiny kitchen has no place for a dishwasher, so installing one means a pretty significant kitchen remodel. So we're adding that to the list.

But here's where the embarrassing part of this post comes in. I know that the last time I posted here, it was a shameless bid to win some tools from One Project Closer. But now the stakes are even higher: Now they're giving away a Mosquito 86 Gas-blower based Mosquito Prevention System. And HELLO, we live in Delaware, where the mosquitoes swarm as thick as flies on day-old dog poop.

Let me put this in perspective: Way back in the very early "getting to know each other and trying to impress" stage of our relationship, V. visited from NJ and volunteered to tackle a tedious outdoor project for me that took about an hour. I highly recommended bug spray; V. scoffed. I still found it in myself to be sympathetic over the next couple of days without ever saying "I told you so" (since it was, of course, still in the early stages of our relationship and V. was unaware of how bad we had it here - now of course I'd do my wifely best to say some variation on "What the HELL were you thinking?!?" as often as I could) as I repeatedly treated her swollen, itchy arms which - no exaggeration - had around one bite every square inch. One of the most shocking and delightful parts of our visit to San Francisco was realizing that there were no screens in the windows where we stayed, because there were no mosquitoes to eat us alive as we slept.

I really really really want to be able to go outside in the summer and not drench myself and my granddaughters in poison; to me, that more than balances out my ambivalence about spraying mosquito poison around my yard. I really really really want to have a summer that doesn't include keeping batches of my special mosquito bite salve -- the contents of benadryl capsules mixed up with neosporin with pain relief and cortisone cream -- stashed around the house. I really really really want to stop worrying so much with every heartworm check done on the dogs since I know they're bitten regularly.

So I really really really want to win this, and I have no shame in posting this here in order to significantly increase my chances of doing so. I will not pretend subtlety. Pick me. Please. K?

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Keeping my fingers crossed

Between getting married and the school year starting, I have done nothing on the house beyond arranging for some trees to be trimmed and browsing for kitchen cabinets.

So let me indulge in a little hopeful fun: Posting in order to enter a contest.

The folks over at the truly awesome One Project Closer blog have some Irwin tools to give away, and would like to know how I'd use them if I won.
  1. The locking pliers are the most versatile: One of the first things I learned about home ownership is that there is very little that can't be fixed in a pinch with vise grips and duct tape. I already have duct tape. I already have vise grips, too, but they're all old and cranky and they don't have cool blue handles.
  2. The adjustable wrench will go into my car to replace the adjustable wrench that Someone Who Shall Remain Nameless broke while trying to use them to pound something that should have been pounded with a hammer. EVERYone (well, everyone except S.W.S.R.N.) knows that if you need to pound something and you don't have a hammer, you use vise grips, not an adjustable wrench.
  3. The spring loaded needle nose will become my dedicated kitchen needle nose pliers, and used to remove pin bones from trout and other pin-boney fish. Guests don't look all that comfy with the cook digging into a grimy toolbox for something that then gets used to prepare dinner.
I could have written about using these for far more house related purposes, described some specific projects, such as how the needle nose pliers will likely be useful as I continue redoing the electric in the bathroom remodeling project, the adjustable wrench will be used for the bolts on the small raised pool deck that we're getting from someone that needs to be disassembled and reassembled and added on to turn it into a fort for when BabyGrand gets a little older, or that the locking pliers will be used for... well, just about everything since locking pliers really are, in my book, one of the most useful tools out there (especially for folks like me who regularly need a third hand). But the answers I gave are my more honest ones.

I realize that I have about as much chance at winning as I do of getting the bathroom remodeled before the end of 2008 (yeah, RIGHT) but hey, it's fun to dream about winning! I've never won anything online before, except for a poem written in my honor. Oh, but what a fine poem that was, indeed...

Thursday, August 14, 2008

A whole lotta nothing (except a wedding!)

Well, so much for my summer break work-on-the-house plans. Between teaching, 2+ weeks in NC, and planning a wedding, it just didn't happen.

It's going to, though. I'm going to call the Selected Plumber this week to make sure of what the price quoted includes and get a date scheduled, then get the tub and fixtures ordered. Even if all that happens before the end of this year is my new tub, my new tub IS going to happen, dammit! Rest of the bathroom... we'll see. Eventually. Maybe next year when I'm determined to, for once, really truly take the summer off.

The wedding went beautifully, especially for something planned at the last minute. Some pictures are posted here, thanks to a talented friend who did it all with her toddler strapped to her back! I wish I had more pics of the front and inside of the beautiful old house, now a bed & breakfast called Noe's Nest, where we held the ceremony. You can see the garden in the pictures, and the house itself is every bit as lovely. I stayed there last year, and highly recommend it to anyone staying in the San Francisco area.

Here we are, just after having been declared legal spouses:

Monday, July 14, 2008

Going to San Francisco and we're gonna get ma-a-a-ried

Finally, a really good excuse for not having done much of anything on the house this summer!

Yes, this is slightly last-minute: I just found out Thursday that, much to everyone's surprise, the budget was approved for me to go to a geekazoid conference in San Francisco the first week in August. Long story short, Partner decided to join me once it's over, we're going to have a little mini-vacation, and we're going to get married! We'd always planned to have both a small civil and a larger personal wedding, thinking we'd do the civil one in Canada on a "honeymoon" but this just moves the civil one up a bit!

Of course we'll be required to relinquish our legal rights as a married couple at the SFO security check-in, but we'll just go with the hope that in our lifetime we will see our marriage recognized in our state and by our country. It's the same hope that Mildred and Richard Loving had when they traveled to DC to marry, since their home state of VA prohibited their interracial marriage, and not only would not recognize their relationship as valid but could potentially arrest them for it, just like queerfolk could be arrested in many states until the Supreme Court finally ruled that the law has no business poking their noses into what grownups choose to do in the privacy of their own bedrooms. In the delightfully named landmark 1967 Supreme Court case, Loving vs. Virginia, the court ruled that despite Virginia's argument that it wasn't discrimination by race since both the white person and the person of color were considered to be breaking the law, and because both were free to marry someone of their own race, it was in fact discrimination, and those "radical judges" finally dismantled all of the laws that set race-based limits on who you were allowed to marry.

I can only hope that our country gets its head out of its ass soon and stops acting as if our loving each other is somehow going to dismantle the institution of marriage. Marriage in most countries is strictly a civil institution; we are doing what most people around the world do, which is to have a short simple civil ceremony which legally binds us, separate from a friends, family, ritual, religion, music and mojitos ceremony and reception that has no legal status.

Ok, enough rambling. Now, what the HELL am I going to wear, and where are we going to DO this, seeing how SF town hall is booked solid? Who knew that even a little short ceremony like we're having could take so much work?!?

Goin' to San Francisco, and we're... gonna get ma-a-a-ried... gee I really love you and we're... gonna get ma-a-aried...

Friday, June 27, 2008

Survivor Windows/Reliabilt gets A for customer service

The replacement sash was waiting for me when I came back from my two weeks out of town.

It didn't include instructions on how to take out the old and put in the new, but with a hint from an online friend we finally got that figured out. I have no doubt that we could have also gotten instructions from their customer service desk, but I didn't call until after they were closed and of course I didn't want to wait until the next morning to do this. What, me? Impatient? Nahhhh.

Once we knew the trick it took me three seconds solo to take out the old, and 3 minutes with Partner's help to put back in the new.

And so while the window really shouldn't have broken in the first place (and we still have no idea why it did), Survivor Windows (sold through Lowes as Reliabilt) gets a solid A for customer service because of their immediate action to send us out a replacement sash without making us jump through hoops, even knowing that the windows were 9 years old and that we didn't have the receipt, and they didn't even challenge me about or ask for pictures to back up my claim that the window broke all on its own, as evidenced by there being zero damage to the screen or inner pane. They would have earned an A+ had they included installation instruction, since it was not at all difficult but it was also not intuitive.

I'm especially happy with their customer service when I compare it to what my dad is going through with MW Manufacturers Windows, also sold through Lowes, to get them to fix or replace a broken window that he bought only a couple of years ago. If I understood his tirade correctly, they're basically saying "oh we don't have that part that broke and we won't replace the whole window so you're SOL."

I'm still no big fan of vinyl windows overall, particularly to replace original wood windows in old houses. I'd still much rather have the windows that were original to this house, and just fix them up and add on good quality storms and screens but the deed was done when we bought the house. But now that I have vinyl replacement windows, it's good to at least know that they're from a company that will solidly back up their product.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

OK, so I crumbled.

Every year I have November 1st as my goal date for turning on the heat. Most years I get close, and I think last year I missed it by just one day, but I really do try hard and if it was just me, I'd make it if I had to wear 15 layers.

I also have a goal date of June 15th before turning on the AC, but it's much more difficult for me to adhere to that one, especially now that I'm at that special age where I carry around my own internal furnace year-round. But add in Delaware's killer humidity and a whole bunch of rain with wind that made opening the windows impossible, I finally caved.

At least we have central air now, on an efficient system, and with a kick-ass good filtering system.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

It's all about the customer service, baby.

Well, this was quite unexpected and something worth passing along. The window that broke was 8-9 years old, we didn't install it, we don't have the receipt for it, but with one brief call to the company about the window, they are sending us out a totally new sash. Normally they would have me get it through where they were bought, since that's where the windows were purchased and they handle the warranty service on the windows they sell, but since this is an older discontinued model they're sending it to me directly.

Now, as long as it doesn't turn out to be a PITA to install (which I can't imagine it will be), I will call this a good experience and excellent customer service. I've always said that it's not about someone never making mistakes (or never having a product fail), it's how you respond when a mistake is made.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Freakin' POS Vinyl Windows

Night before last I heard some strange POP sound from the vicinity of the laundry room. I investigated and here's what I found:

You can click on the picture to see a close up of the damage.

Of course, I was initially worried that it was someone trying to break in, but inspection that evening and re-inspection during the day yesterday confirmed that nope, no way this was caused by anything or anyone hitting the window, this glass just broke all on its own. It's just the exterior pane of the double-pane window that broke, but the screen is completely undamaged, and it's too far away from the window and much too taught for anything to have gotten through and broken this window without damaging the screen in some way. We poked and pushed on the screen and tried everything to see if we could get to the window without damaging the screen, and it just wasn't happening.

I did at least find out from the PO's where they got the windows (edited - see note at end), so I'm going to stop by the store where they got them from today while running errands and see if they can tell me if the pane can be replaced (since I'm told that on some double-pane vinyl windows they can't) or if I have to replace the whole blasted window.

Grrrrrrrr. What I wouldn't give to have the original windows and some good storms. Instead, I can foresee that within the next decade or so we'll likely be replacing the windows as one by one they fail in some way that, unlike a good wood window, can't be replaced.

Edited note: The store gave me the number for the manufacturer of these windows and it's not yet been confirmed since I wasn't at home to give them the sticker info off the windows, but it sounds like they are going to be covered under warranty even though I'm not the one who installed them and it's been 8 or 9 years since they were installed. Nothing will stop me from wishing I had the original wood windows, but if the manufacturer provides the kind of customer service that so far it seems that they might, I'll at least not blast them by Googleable name.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Some Honest Opinions Needed!

It's crunch time in the Georgetown House Bathroom Renovation Project. I need to make some decisions about fixtures and finishes. I'm seriously design-challenged and have a really hard time visualizing how things will look together.

Honest honest HONEST feedback is appreciated on how these will all look together. FYI it's a very small bathroom (only around 60sq ft). The floor will be white & black 1930's hex tile, the tub surround will be white tile (probably a combo of subway and square) with some color border/accent (not determined what), and the walls will hopefully get tiled to coordinate with the tub surround before I run out of steam and money.

So here's what I'm considering. I thinking that they all will look fine together, but I'm also thinking that I'm missing some really essential thing of "but this curve really doesn't go with this one" or "you have too many variations on blah blah" or whatever. HELP!!

This tub (pictures not very clear - the side is basically a framed panel), Kohler Archer:

With this sink (also Kohler Archer, but not those faucets, and yes I talked about an old dresser as the sink base but I'm worried that it will be too big so I'm looking at alternatives):

And this toilet (Toto Promenade - the matching Kohler one is too long and too high - I don't have "comfort height" legs!):

Then there are these fixtures - double towel bar, toilet bar, toilet handle, brackets for glass shelf for over sink and for oval mirror (all polished nickel, Allen & Roth "Andrews" which is a Lowes-specific line):

This sink faucet and tub faucet/shower (both Danze Opulence line in polished nickel):

And finally, these lights (Rejuvenation's Umpqua, on either side of the oval mirror, but in polished nickel not the brushed nickel that's shown):

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

A Plea to Contractors

If you tell me you're going to come and give me an estimate, please show up. I know that my little bathroom remodel is just a wee job compared to so many things that you work on, but still, I can't plan out the parts that I'm doing myself or start ripping things out without having some assurance that I have someone lined up to do the parts that I can't.

Thank you.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Doing, not Blogging

For once I'm actually spending more time on a renovation project than I am on blogging about it. I've started the upstairs bathroom renovation. First on the list was getting the electrical worked out. It was initially a challenge to figure out how to put two wall sconces on this wall:

Note where the right-side sconce would go: Brick wall just behind the drywall. And to the left? A pipe taking up some prime real estate that could be used by the left sconce.

With help from my buddies at the Old House Web forums, I did manage to squeeze a pan box in front of the brick and a regular rectangular box just to the left of the pipe (a hex or round box would have put the light too far over to the left).

There is still much fun to be had. See the j-box sitting there to the left? It has a wire (on the lights circuit, btw) running down from the 2nd floor, connected to a wire running back up again - a path to nowhere. Being particularly un-fond of random junction boxes, I'm going to bring those wires up to the box I'll use for the left sconce and eliminate the random j-box.

The wiring for the left sconce is a hassle: See, the light was originally on the left wall instead of over the sink. What should have been good news was that there was JUST enough wire to reach over to the sconce location -- it only went into the box by an inch or two, but code allows me to pigtail it from there.


The PO's somehow had managed to get that wire past inspection even though it was missing the outer sheath for around a foot. I tried to find some way to allow that - put it through conduit? apply some sheathing material? But the code is clear: Sheathing must reach into the box, period. So getting this hooked up will require tearing out half my bathroom ceiling so that I can unstaple enough of this run of wire in order to pull it closer to that wall and give me the extra foot I need. Oh, did I mention that they took the wire from the switch, ran it up, angled it to the back of the room, then angled it back forward to use for this light? Brilliant. NOT.

I also won't have enough play to move the GFCI to the adjoining wall, so I'm going to do one of two things: Maybe (but less likely) I'll just leave it behind the sink, though move it as far to the left as possible. But more likely I'll take the wire into a j-box that I can see down the wall behind the bathroom sink cabinet (is that legal?!? probably not), and connect it to a new wire that I then run up to where I need it on the left side.

Now I just need to decide if it's going to be worth the extra cost of even more drywalling to tear out around the switch so that I can actually make use of the 3-wire they used on the switch for the vent/light, in order to put in separate controls for the light and the fan. WHY would they run the right kind of wire to do that, but not bother putting in the third switch?!?

I'm playing tag with my plumber, trying to get him here to give me an estimate for that work, which will include negotiating with him about whether I'm ordering what I've picked out or what he likes to use. We'll see.

I also need to start tracking down a drywall pro, since that's one project I'm not willing to tackle. I miss real plaster -- if for no other reason than no one ever expected it to look nice and smooth. I can't make drywall finishing look nice and smooth.

And in my next destructive moment (hormonal overload? office dickwad strikes again? Partner gets "in a mood"?) I'm' going to tear out the vinyl and laun, and make sure that I really do have a nice solid plywood subfloor under there. This will be my first big adventure in tiling. Pray for me.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Renovation without debt

It's been a long time since I've had the chance to just read through other folks' houseblogs and catch up with the goings-on at houseblogs.net. I found it interesting to poke my head in there today and see that two of the featured topics are both related to building and renovating houses without debt.

I guess that technically we don't qualify to be considered in that category: After all, we do have a six-figure mortgage, and a small (think smaller most new car loans) second mortgage that we took out to consolidate (and make deductible) my student loans and pay for some medical bills. We also have about a year left on one of our car loans.

But we have zero credit card debt, and all house renovations are strictly on a cash basis, and it's going to stay that way except for any kind of serious emergency. This year we're completely renovating the upstairs bathroom, putting a new roof on the garden shed, painting the garage, and refinishing the dining room floor, though we're only doing maybe half that work and paying someone else to do the rest. And it will all be with cash, without touching our emergency money.

What's weird is that it doesn't seem to feel like we're making any big sacrifice to do that, though according to many folks reactions to our no-debt policy, we should be gnashing our teeth and wailing with the pain of having to hold back on spending. And it's not like I've always been good about staying away from debt: Just nine years ago I was told by my accountant that I had no choice but to declare bankruptcy because I had more credit card debt than I usually make in a year, but I managed to get it all paid off by simply doing without anything I didn't seriously need for the 7.5 years it took me to get from that point to being credit-card debt free.

But I think that going through that process made me a wee bit debt phobic, plus it taught me (through no real choice at the time) to do without unless I really needed it and could genuinely afford to pay for it. I'm glad that I'm to the point where it just feels totally normal to think in terms of waiting until we can pay for something before we do it. It doesn't feel like we're sacrificing or doing without, and it doesn't feel like we're doing anything special or difficult.

My only real emotional reaction to making this choice is exasperation when folks make a big deal over it: No, we haven't taken a real vacation in years. Yes, that sounds like a terrific price for a cruise but we'd rather put that money towards fixing up the house. Yes it gets frustrating to not have a dishwasher but we need to wait a couple of years until we save up enough to renovate the kitchen. Yes it would be great to do some major moving of walls and electric and plumbing in order to not have to live with a 7x7 main bathroom or a 9x10 kitchen but that would put those related renovations way beyond what we'd ever be able to pay for in cash and still do in our lifetimes so we'll renovate within the space we have. Yes it would look wonderful to have a professionally landscaped yard with a masonry patio but we can't afford it in the near future. Yes, we don't have the nicest furniture in the world, but we just have other priorities. Other folks seem to have a lot more need for instant gratification with regard to things around our house than we do, and it sometimes just gets on my nerves and feels rather judgmental (like there's something wrong with us if we're truly ok with not taking vacations or having a sofa that we got off freecycle). I honestly with they'd just freakin' deal with it and shut up!

But mostly I don't think of it as any big deal, and with all of this economic uncertainty surrounding us, I feel very blessed to be in this position.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Greenhouses and good friends

I've always wanted a greenhouse, and when a friend offered me a bunch of salvaged windows they'd gotten for a project that they've now abandoned, I decided to try to take on the project of building one this summer, sometime after the garage painting and the bathroom remodeling (what, me? ambitious? or would you call it foolishly unrealistic? I know I would!!).

ANYway, I happened to mention this to a friend who I met through freecycle several years ago, and... well, let me tell you first about B. (B, if you read this, don't kill me for writing about it!!). B is this totally cool guy who I first met when he got a beat up non-working car from me through freecycle in order to turn it into yet another art car. His primary vehicle is an old van that he's painted with everything from giant cat heads (with a huge pink cat tongue poking out the front of the van) to naked people appearing to be in the driver and passenger seats. He lives in the woods and raises guineas, chickens and ducks, and sells the multi-colored eggs through the local farmers' markets. He is truly a "Renaissance man" who knows and thinks a lot about a HUGE range of things, from the intellectual and political to the artistic and creative over to welding, automotive repair, carpentry, and... geez, I doubt I even have a clue as to how much and what all he actually knows. But the best thing is that he's someone who will never fail you if you want to see a friendly smiling face and have some enjoyable conversation, and someone who you just know you could call on if you needed help or rescue.

So anyway, B. found out that I wanted to build a greenhouse from old windows and it turns out that he has had the same plan (and has all of the windows he needs already) but has been procrastinating. He talked me through a lot of things just today with regard to my rather clearly unformed (and uninformed) plans. He then happened to run into a mutual acquaintance of ours later that day and they got to talking about me and the greenhouses, and this mutual friend offered me (through him) the ten thermopane sliding glass doors that he has and wants to get rid of.

To tell you more about what kind of guy B. is, while I was having dinner tonight I was telling Partner about B's help with the greenhouse plans and our acquaintance's offer of the windows. I'd told B. that I appreciated it all but I had no place to keep them and (thinking they were framed sliding doors) no way to pick them up. I mentioned to Partner that knowing B., he'd offer to pick them up and hold them for me, which is exactly what he said in the email that was waiting for me after work. He'll help me design something that works out of those plus the smaller windows I'm getting, and as he said, we can always freecycle whatever is left over!

This is some serious incentive to actually get this done instead of just talking about it and planning it forever, and perhaps a mutually beneficial thing as well since I offered to help B build his if he helped me plan and build mine (since I have a lot more ambition than I have that kind of carpentry experience), and perhaps his being so amazingly helpful to me will give him the boost past his procrastination about building his own.

So this is really about two things: Greenhouses, and good friends who will really step up to help you out if you need it.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Vacuuming the gravel driveway

You know how you move into a place and there's this one project that you're determined to take care of right away? Well, almost two years ago, that project was painting the badly peeling garage and garden shed. Finally, today we started scraping. We're doing the garage first, and doing one side at a time, start to finish, starting with the front. Even though it's hard to really see anything, I'll post a picture of our progress -- Everything below the door rail is scraped, top part still unscraped:

We'd hoped to scrape all of the loose paint off the front today, but a cold front moved in and it was the wind and not the dark-gray clouds that convinced us to stop - we're trying to keep the paint chips as contained as possible, so even a moderate wind is bad news when scraping from high up. We put tarps down, but still some blew away a bit or got behind the tarps. I have NO idea what folks driving by must have thought about seeing us out there as we were cleaning up: We were vacuuming our gravel driveway with the shop vac, trying to pick up runaway paint chips! Next time I need to also put tarps over my nearby garden beds, though -- definitely not a place where I want lead paint chips to land.

So now we need to scrape the top part, then strip or heat-gun the rest off. Visually I'm totally find with painting over odd layers of paint that don't choose to leave the wood surface -- it's a 75 year old garage, fer cripes sake, not a piece of fine furniture. But there's so much wood that's been exposed for a long time that we definitely need to sand before we prime. And I'm just not really keen on sanding lead paint; even if we took appropriate protections for ourselves, there is no way that I know of to keep the lead paint dust from getting everywhere. After we get the last of the paint off, we'll sand, prime with oil-based primer, then paint. I read some places about how we should treat the surface with a turpentine-boiled linseed oil combo before we prime, but other places that say that's not necessary, so I need to do more research.

Plus we need to figure out a color. Here is where we're stumped, but we obviously need to decide soon.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Not satisfied with a halfway job...

Even though it was raining off and on today, I was determined to take things a step further in the garden shed, so this is what I got done:

Now, that represents a lot more work than it looks: The shelf was in the garage, in the back-back corner way behind lots of stuff that I had to rearrange to get to it, plus I had to deal with all the things that were already on it. Then I had to clear an even bigger path to get it out, which at the time seemed easier than just snapping apart the pieces in order to reassemble them in the shed. It fit into that spot perfectly, and holds even more than I expected.

I wish I could say that I did the right thing and put everything that I touched in the garage "away" as I moved it, but there was no "away" to put most of the things. I did move some garden-shed type things into the shed, loaded up my car with five grocery-sized bags of baby clothes to pass along to a friend who has a new baby granddaughter plus a bunch of cardboard for recycling, pulled together several things to donate to the new local Habitat ReStore (though it will be a couple of weeks before I'll be able to get them over there), and took pictures of a few things that will be going onto freecycle or craig's list.

Now if I could only find the bag of things that I bought to convert the big plastic barrels I have into rain barrels, I will be very happy. UGH. I HATE losing things in the clutter!!

Friday, April 11, 2008

Cutting the Crap in the Garden Shed

What a great feeling of accomplishment. Using Chile Chew's "Cut the Crap" challenge as my overall incentive to get something done that I've been meaning to tackle for a very long time, yet facing the possibility of a rainy weekend that would keep me from doing it, I bagged out of work a little early today and came home, completely emptied the garden shed, cleaned it out, patched the roof in a couple of spots, and then put stuff back in ORGANIZED.

It's really hard to take interior pics of very small rooms, but this will at least give you some idea of what I was facing, as we attempt to use this shed for everything related to gardening, yard care, and Summer Fun. Over the past two years of living here, lacking any real organization in there to begin with we basically just started dumping.

Pool and garden dump spot:

The problem with dumping things in there, of course, is that it makes it very hard to find things, and to get larger things in and out. What you can't tell from this picture is that getting the tiller in and out of that spot required taking out the lawn mower and the wheelbarrow.

Now, the finished product doesn't look as good as I'd hoped, mostly because there are some things that I need to go back in and do, such as put more nails into the wall to hang things up, put a shelf along the ceiling in the back to stack lawn chairs, move the building wood that's in there to the garage, and build something to hold the firewood instead of trusting the stack to stay in place. But overall I'm pretty happy with what I was able to accomplish alone in just three hours.

To the right as you walk in, a new shelf for all the gardening stuff, the beach and pool stuff in the back corner, and the two tarps and pool that were just dumped in there folded more neatly, pressed to get them more compact, and put back with a lot more organization that this picture indicates. I just bought the white shelf from the new Habitat ReStore last weekend.

The lawnmower, wheelbarrow and tiller now all have their own parking spots along the back wall so that we don't need to move the others to get one out. That wood behind them is going into the garage as soon as I can tackle that nightmare.

Right now the beach and lawn chairs are just stacked, as are the various accessories for the blowers and lawnmower, but I'm hoping to figure out a way get those up on shelves. Also, we have THREE leaf blower/mulchers, all functional. We've used two at a time before, but that was at the old house where the big oak trees dropped 6" of leaves a week. And I know if I ask Partner which one to get rid of, the answer will be "none of them!!" I did get rid of two big bags of junk/trash from in here, though.

I love seeing all the tools hung up like this, and ACCESSIBLE. What a freakin' concept.

Oh and the other thing I did before I did all this was get up on the roof and patch a couple of spots where rain was clearly coming through, but I realized too late that I clearly missed a spot where the light is still shining through, so I'm going to have to get up there again soon, to at least deal with the holes until we can put a new roof on.

What I really wish I could have done when I finished was to make myself a martini and sit on the porch with my laptop, but sunsets makes the laptop screen pretty impossible to see, and Life with Endless Hot Flashes makes drinking even one drink a Gateway to Misery, so I've got my big glass of water here at my desk instead.

It feels good, though. My muscles are a bit sore, I'm grimy and ::sniff sniff:: ewww yeah, badly in need of a shower. But I DID IT.

And I'm tackling that garage soon come hell or high water.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Sorry, Gary, but it's NOT an Amish sex toy

A gentle little poke from ege (ow!!) reminded me that if I'm going to run a contest on two sites simultaneously, I need to announce the results on both sites when the contest is finally won.

The contest was to determine what this was originally, and what it's being used for now:

Many folks got that it was the tip of a lightning rod, but it was my friend Nat from Oklahoma who finally guessed its current use: A back scratcher. Cookies will be on their way to her house once I get to the store and get more butter.

Of course a back scratcher isn't anywhere near as interesting as a Amish sex toy, as suggested by Gary from This Old Crack House. You been smokin' crack, boy?!? Do you see the point on that thing?!?

And oh my Maude, I wonder what kind of blog hits that particular phrase is going to lead to!

"Hey, if you can't remember the URL for my house blog, just google Amish sex toy and it should pop right up!"



(edited to add: I just left a comment to ensure that anyone googling that particular phrase will hit the crack house as well, though he already gets way more interesting search engine hits than I do!)

Cut the Crap - Declutter!

I've decided to participate in a blog challenge to "cut the crap and declutter." After all, it's been on my to-do list forever, but I need to get my ass in gear and make it happen. If you're interested in reading more about the challenge, click on the huge blue button on my right sidebar.

I'm going to focus on the following areas:
  • Garden shed: Pull everything out, set up shelves, cabinets, and places to hang tools while leaving space to easily park the lawnmower, tiller and wheelbarrow, build something to allow the small pile of firewood in there to be neatly stacked, then put everything back. Get rid of all the beach fun stuff that you're not likely to bring with you even if you do actually make it to the beach again.
  • Garage: Oh lord help me. Start by getting rid of all the crap that's in there that was supposed to go to various charities and people asap. Build something to help better organize the wood in there, especially the big pieces. Hang up the bike hangers that we bought a year ago (they're SOMEwhere in there) and hang the bikes up. Organize the stuff that's on the shelves. Put stuff into the garden shed or house that don't belong in the garage. Get rid of as much of that crap as you can.
  • Third floor: Sort through all the old computer crap that's up there and get rid of anything I don't absolutely need. Ditto for the boxes of glassware and dishes. Ebay the various antique do-dads that are sitting up there gathering dust. Get rid of that big dresser that's taking up a huge amount of space that we don't use -- face it, you're NOT going to sell it. Just Freecycle it and be done with it.
  • Attic: Get rid of at least half of the luggage that's in there. Get rid of the boxes for anything out of warranty. Get rid of anything electronic that we're holding on to "just in case." Get rid of half the Christmas stuff - I'm Jewish and Partner is Agnostic for cripes sake!!!

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

A contest

Well, since school and work and relative worries have destroyed my ability to get squat done around the house before May, I'm going to at least hold a contest.

The item you see above was once on an old house. It now sits on my desk and performs an important function.

So, what was it originally, and what do I use it for now?

The winner gets a choice of either shortbread cookies, or a grabbag of dollar-store tzotchkes. I'll announce the winner after a few days.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

The one that got away

Salisbury Freecycle: Offer, cast iron tub, new in crate, not a clawfoot.

Me: Heart attack city as I can't type a "ME! ME!!! PICK ME!!!" reply fast enough.

Them: I have had lots of interest in the tub. It sounds like you are in need of one. I would like to offer it to you.

Me: I forgot to ask the measurements.

Them: The label says 60' long, 32.5" wide. It doesn't say how deep but it looks really deep.

Me: Thats so perfect - one last important question, does it have a left or right hand drain?

Them: Right side.

Me: $#!+

::sigh:: At least we're heading north to NY in a couple of weeks to pick up the free tile that someone from Old House Web is giving us -- enough white bullnose edge and cove base subway tile to do the whole bathroom (I'll use that for border and something else, I'm thinking maybe a 6" square, for the main part), plus almost enough black & white hex tile to do the floor if it turns out that the wood floor can't be used.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

The best laid plans...

Originally on my to-do list for today: Buy the materials to put up the wainscoting in our downstairs hallway as my spring-break project.

That was before I got the call from my mom that my Granny was just admitted to the hospital with an oxygen saturation of 45, which I didn't even think was compatible with life. Her heart is failing and, at 90 years old and with a long-standing DNR order and a clearly expressed wish to go join her beloved siblings made long before the Alzheimer's took over, all the doctors are going to do is keep her comfortable. She'll go home in the next day or two with hospice support, and the doctors say it could be weeks or months.

So my spring break time will be used to make sure that absolutely everything I need to do for the rest of the semester (tests and labs that need to be created or revised, etc.) is done, so that if she dies before the end of the semester, I can go to be with my family for a week without leaving my students in a bad situation.

I'm surprisingly not feeling sad. She's ready to go, and has been ready for a very long time. She's living a life that was always her worst nightmare -- dependent on others to take care of her, no longer in the house that symbolized everything good to her. She was my hero, the person who showed me that women could be physically and emotionally very strong, who taught me that you could set and enforce boundaries but still show absolutely unconditional love.

To tie this back to my house journal, she was always so proud of when I talked about doing work on my house. For all of her strength, I believe that she still felt limited by the expectations placed on women of her generation, and was tickled to see me doing things that were "men's" work.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Successful Garden Cleanup

Fortunately, my knee was feeling much better Friday after my fall Thursday, and I was able to get a lot of work done on the yard.

This is what I was attacking:

Note the carcasses of last year's tomatoes, the tomato cages, the plastic from my attempts to save the last of the tomatoes from the first possible frost, plus a lot of trash and leaves that had blown into the area.

An hour or so of work got me to this point:

Those things you see growing in the garden are all of the perennial flowers that I transplanted from my old house and put here as a temporary measure... 1.5 years ago. But it was very clear that they needed to be moved in order to use this for the veggies, but I simply wasn't ready to figure out where to move them permanently.

I decided instead to create another temporary bed off to the side of our driveway (which is really wide), but my first attempt to dig in made me realize that I'll be dead by the end of the day if I tried to dig out a 10' x 3' bed by hand. So that led to this:

That is the tiller that my friends bought a couple of years ago for their ginormous garden. They're abandoning me and moving to California so they asked me a while back if I wanted to buy it for half of what they paid and I said no - I don't need something that big for my dinky garden. But when I called them to borrow it, they'd dropped the price by half again, and I couldn't resist a good bargain, so now this baby is mine, and it cut through the hard-packed dirt (with quite a bit of gravel) with dramatically less effort than hand-digging. It definitely needs a tune-up but hey, it worked.

So, I tilled, shoveled out that dirt, tilled again, and then transplanted everything over, leading me to this:

(that's Elder Granddaughter on the far left of the picture)

and this:

And before we lost the last of the light, I was able to clear out the brush pile, leaving the leaf pile to mulch and add to a leaf compost heap some other day.

My goal is to eventually put in a bunch of 4' raised beds in this area, from the shed you see in the back up to around where I transplanted the flowers. The problem is that once you get past the big bed, it's a lot of packed gravel. That little square that you see (temporarily framed in with PT lumber, which I plan to replace asap with a better wood) took me about 3-4 hours of hard labor to dig into the dirt, sieve out the rocks from the dirt, and then replace the dirt and relocate the rocks. At least the tiller will help make the "dig into the dirt" part easier, and maybe Elder Granddaughter is desperate enough for $$ to put some minutes onto her phone to help with the rest.

Now I just need to find me some spinach and peas to get into the ground this week before I once again do my usual garden nonsense and miss my window of opportunity.

Grill explosion

Yesterday, about 20 minutes before I planned to slap this beautiful thick porterhouse from a local farm which raises all-natural pastured cattle (thanks, CSA!), I went out and fired up the grill. Everything lit just fine so I closed the lid and came inside. This is what I found when I went back out:

(there was more soot yesterday evening before last night's light rain)

And this was on the ground about 2' in front of the grill:

That's a mangled, melted burner knob, in case you couldn't tell.

Since the grill was nice and hot and running, and I wasn't about to let this steak go to waste, I went ahead and cooked the steak (standing back as much as I could), but I'm going to get something replaced/fixed before I use it again, that's for sure!

I just feel a little freaked out about what must have happened. It looks to me as if flames were shooting out from behind the knob, possibly even a big whoosh of fire out from around the knob (else why would it have come off and ended up so far in front of the grill?). If anyone has a clue as to what might have caused this, I'd appreciate you letting me know!

The grill's less than a year old so I'm contacting their warranty service number tomorrow. Let's hope that it's not a royal PITA to get it fixed, something like "well, box it up and ship it to us, at your cost, of course..."

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Well $#!+

I took off tomorrow because it's supposed to be 65, partly cloudy, and a perfect day to tackle my absolute mess of a garden.

And this evening I was playing around with Elder Granddaughter in the Hell-mart parking lot, and she twisted and accidentally-on-purpose fell which pulled me down hard onto my left knee.

It's a little swollen, a lotta hurtin', and I'm doing a lot of preemptive bitching about how pissed I'm going to be if I can't work outside tomorrow.

Let's hope that ice and ibuprofen help pretty dramatically.


Sunday, March 9, 2008

Scared to look

After all the rain of the past two days, the sump pump is occasionally running for the first time in over a year.

And I'm scared to go look in my basement to see if we have any water down there.

My excuse is that there's a case of bacardi mojitos and a 12-pack of amstel light blocking the basement door. They're supposed to go down there since they're not rapidly consumed around here.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

How to rationalize a new kitchen

Partner has a bad spot of eczema on one hand, pretty much covering the bottom quarter of her left hand on the pinky-finger side.

It first showed up maybe a year ago, and is definitely getting worse as the months go by. Therefore there is no real reason to expect that it will be gone a year from now, considering eczema's notoriously chronic nature.

In our family, I do the cooking, Partner washes dishes. And no, I will not start doing it all because of Partner's disability.

Dishwashing definitely exacerbates eczema.

We have no dishwasher, and no place to put a dishwasher without a significant remodeling of our tiny cheap-apartment quality kitchen.

Therefore, our kitchen must be remodeled for medical reasons.

Now, of course my bathroom remodeling which we have planned for this summer must come first, since of course my ability to soak in a nice comfy deep tub has priority over Partner's pain and intense itching due in part to a bull-headed reluctance to wear protective gloves while washing dishes. But I think it's very reasonable to consider a full remodeling of our kitchen as an appropriate project to begin planning for next summer.

I'm wondering if we could deduct the costs from our taxes as a medical necessity... ::grin::

Monday, March 3, 2008

How could someone DO this to a house?!?

You see this simple but cute little beach cottage that I lived in and dearly loved until June '06 and sold that fall?

You see the three pretty sweet bay magnolias in front that really help soften the stark concrete-blockness of the house?

We drove by our old house last night on our way to Dairy Queen, and the new owners have TAKEN THEM OUT! They're gone! GONE!! They had told me I could take any and all plants, that they planned to replace it all with really low maintenance stuff (as if there's anything high-maintenance about day lilies and irises and all, but I was happy to have them) but THEY TOOK OUT THE TREES!!! Those trees were beautiful! They totally did not contribute in any significant way to the leaf fall -- if you look back you can see the trunks of a zillion 100' old oak trees that surround the house and cover the yard in a thick blanket of leaves every fall, so it's not like three little sweet bay magnolias are going to make a difference in terms of yard maintenance.

The yard was stone cold bare. BARE. Absolutely nothing planted anywhere - concrete block all the way down to the ground. The house was ugly without those trees, and with nothing at all around it to soften its lines.

All I can think of is how much they're going to regret creating a stark bare yard if they ever want to sell that place again.

(I can't believe they took out those sweet little trees!!!!!!! GAH!)

Sunday, February 24, 2008

If someone in your life has Down's Syndrome or another genetic disability...

"We don’t want a world where parents feel driven to justify their children’s existence."

Sorry to venture away from "house blog" topics but I'm trying to help gather signatures for an important petition in support of a legislation that would require physicians to provide appropriate education to expectant parents about the realities of prenatally-diagnosed conditions, instead of the too-common practice of simply dumping the results of an imperfect test onto the parents without any real education about the realities of living with that condition, along with an implied expectation that the parents should choose to abort now that they know that their child is not "perfect."

This petition and legislation came about because the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) now instructs their doctors to recommend diagnostic testing for all pregnant women, regardless of age, for Down syndrome. Yet they have provided no resources or guidelines to the doctor's as to how to make it clear to parents that testing is an option and not a requirement, how to present the news of a positive result from the test, how to properly support the parents in making a fully informed decision, or how to help parents who choose not to abort to emotionally and logistically prepare to raise a child who has Down's Syndrome.

Not only that, most expectant mothers would not get amniocentesis with genetic testing, but a first-trimester blood test and ultrasound which is known to result in false positives, and which has led to a number of families choosing to abort healthy fetuses who are then found to not have Down's Syndrome.

The petition is located here: http://www.thepetitionsite.com/1/DS-advocacy

The legislation is here: http://brownback.senate.gov/pressapp/record.cfm?id=233702

My personal view is that to push this imperfect testing, or any kind of testing, without any education for the doctor or the patient, and with the clearly implied expectation that the parents would choose to abort if the results were positive, is sliding down the slippery slope of eugenics, and creates an assumption that we should only allow "perfect" children to be born. Raw information without substantial education as to how to process that information goes firmly against a physicians oath of "first do no harm." While I am someone who supports freedom of choice overall, to put expectant parents in a situation where they are essentially being pressured to choose to abort, even just by virtue of leaving them to make that decision without any substantive education of what life is really like as a person with DS or as a parent to a child with DS, is morally appalling to me.

Thanks in advance to anyone who signs their name to this petition.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Bathroom Bling, or "Let the Renovation Begin"

I made my first real purchase for the bathroom renovation: Bling. Otherwise known as shiny new matching hardware. I got one of these:

And one of these:

plus an oval mirror, the trendy new kind that mounts in the middle and tilts down a bit, a toilet paper holder, two robe hooks, and a matching toilet flush lever. Yes, dammit, I wanted even my toilet to match. I've never had a bathroom where things actually matched (and never one that didn't match in a cool trendy "ooh look at all that cool original stuff", it was always more like "ooohhh well, we got that on sale, then we found that one in the scratch & dent and see, it kinda matches...") and dammit, I want one!!

Oh I did also buy a wall-mounted soap dish and toothbrush holder but those are going back.

There are two things that are a little off about this purchase:

First, it wasn't planned. If I'm going to spend more than $25, I research it to death. Even my rare "impulse purchases" are carefully evaluated and done only if I am totally confident in my decision AND it's pretty much a one-chance one of a kind deal. But no, not this. We went into Lowes for a Brita pitcher and a shower organizer and I walked out with nearly $300 in bathroom hardware. It was just one of those love at first sight things: We weren't really seriously looking at the hardware, just passing through that aisle, but I looked up and just knew that was what I wanted for this bathroom reno. I really like both the knob decoration on the end, and the really rich polished nickel finish.

The other thing is that this hardware stuff is generally last on a renovation task list, like, after you rip out most of the drywall and put up the tile. But it's also one of the few parts of a renovation that can be put up then taken down again without all that huge of an effort.

I think what's happened is that now I can actually see the renovation on the horizon, the nastyass ugliness of that bathroom makes me cringe. Honestly, it just screams "cheap" and "generic" and "boarding house for young community-college baseball players." So even though the full renovation isn't starting until I start my summer break, I'm hanging this bling this weekend, baby. The mirrors - cheapest possible paper-thin glass with the silvering all mottled around the edge are coming down and the new one going up, with the glass shelf underneath. Towel rack, toilet paper holder, even the flush lever is going up. I know it will probably look it's own shade of ugly, to have those things up in contrast with the vinyl scrap floor, economy grade tub, dingy worn out looking sink base, and misplaced ugly lighting. But at least I'll have a really nice looking toilet paper holder.

Just for my own benefit, here's a running total of acquisitions and rough-budgeted items to date:

  • Antique dresser that will be used as sinkbase: free (trashpicked)
  • Nice decorative exhaust fan/light: $80 (bought long before the renovation was planned, or I would have chosen a different design, but I'm counting it in the long-term reno.
  • Hardware including mirror: $245 (after I take back the toothbrush and soap holders)
  • Beautiful custom-made all-wood medicine cabinet and matching front for the linen cabinet: Estimate $500. I'll post pics and post a link to the cabinetmaker's website once I have them. I might get these and install the medicine cabinet before the full reno, because I don't have one and need one, and medicine cabinets are pretty easy to install and take out, and it will make me happy to see it there.
  • Base/edge and other tiles for the shower and walls: Free from someone on Old House Web, as soon as I can get up there to pick them up!

I want so much to run out and get lighting, which is also something easily reinstalled, but the over-sink lighting and sink-area receptacle need to be moved to the adjacent walls, so I'm going to have to tear out a bunch of drywall and pray I can move the wiring around without over-uglifying things with those damn junction boxes required by code. Ah for the days when you could just twist a couple of wires together, slap some electrical tape around them, and shove them behind drywall. (NOT!)

Wait. I can move a fixture easily. I can put it up in the current position for now. Duh.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Important Note to Self

If you decide what you're going to buy for yourself out of your share of Tax Refund Toy Money -- say, for example, a Kreg Jig K3 Master System

(as opposed to the RockStar game that's being bought with Partner's share of Tax Refund Toy Money, since the two of us have very different definitions for the word "Toy").

Anyway, if you're looking for that online and you find a company that offers the lowest price, free shipping, AND $20+ worth of pocket jig screws, it would be a Really Good Idea to make note of that company's name.

Sitting here refreshing Google three dozen times after each possible combination of search keywords in hopes that the same offer will show up once again in the "sponsored links" section is just not a very good use of your time. And by the time you get back to the classroom where you were when you first saw the link, that PC's daily history will be cleared out.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

I found some classes to take! WOOOOOT!!

After searching forever, I finally found some woodworking classes that are within a 1.5 hour drive from me, with classes long enough to give me at worst a 1:1 driving-time to class-time ratio. Whooo-hoooo, right? Well, for me, definitely, if that' s my only choice!! There is NOTHING in my neck of the woods, and even some serious efforts to find someone to teach me one-on-one have totally failed.

The classes are at the Woodcraft store in the Wilmington area, and if they check out (as in, no one tells me that the classes at the Woodcraft stores aren't worth the drive) I'll be signing up for an evening class in Tablesaw basics, a full day of Router Basics in the morning followed by Router Table Techniques in the afternoon, and an almost-full-day Raised Panel Door class subtitled "Routing with Stile." They even have a cabinetmaking series, but the next one starts next weekend and that's just not possible (especially since I'd need some of the other courses or experience to really get the most out of it), but hopefully the next round will work out for me. The prices seem pretty reasonable - around $60 per 3-hour session - and materials are included in that, plus the class sizes are small, just 5-8 students. It likely beats my original plan to spend a week in Vermont spending $2000+ for tuition plus travel, room and board, for a class with 20 or so people in it.

This could be the beginning of something good. See, I have a standing offer to use a coworker's seriously underutilized (and, according to his wife's tone and eye-rolls, seriously over-invested) workshop, but no one to teach me how to use anything -- he made it clear that he'd love to see it used, but he has neither the time or inclination to teach me what I'd need to know. If I get some training somewhere, then I can hopefully put some of that training to use in making doors for the storage and medicine cabinets for the bathroom remodel I'm planning, and then later to other good uses. And if my coworker is true to his word, I can do what I need to do without having to invest in the equipment myself (I'll find some way to pay him back).

Thursday, February 7, 2008

This will have to suffice as an update

I was just asked to give an update on my bathroom remodeling project. Bwaaaaaaaahahahaha.

OK, here's the update: Between Office 2007 being the cause of my having to completely redesign two of my classes which has required massive amounts of evening and weekend work in the past couple of weeks just to stay one step ahead of my students, an "OMG we need to get you checked out STAT" scare from my doctor with regard to some GI problems (I have a history of symptoms that are often consistent with colon cancer) which resulted in a CT scan and a frightening wait for the results (which turned out fine, though she's still scheduling me for a colonoscopy - oh such fun fun fun), and an anaphylactic reaction to an allergy shot that resulted in my first ever ambulance ride (and my first time ever missing the chance to vote in what I consider to be a significant election) followed by my now being on massive amounts of steroids that have lowered my IQ to about 12 and my patience and willingness to treat people around me with any shred of decency to nil, the sum total of work that I've done related to the house in the past two weeks is to check out and leaf through some books on bathroom redesign.

And today was supposed to be my "take off work and take it easy" day since I had to be at work for 13 hours yesterday (the day immediately after my lovely night in the ER). Oh, yeah, right. My "taking it easy" has consisted of being up since 7:30am since high-dose prednisone and sleep are not compatible in my body, a couple of hours on the phone, online and in email resolving issues related to the testing center not having Office 2007 (which means my students can't take their tests) and the textbook publisher website not supplying the correct data files for my students to use for the chapter they're supposed to start this weekend, my completing three tests and two homework assignments for two of the three classes I'm taking, two loads of laundry, cleaning the kitchen, cooking a batch of bacon that was about to expire, listing a stack of textbooks for sale on Amazon, and attempting to not scream at anything that dares move or make noise around me. And it's only 1:30 and I still have 8 items on my to-do list for the day: Taxes, take another test for one of my classes, do three more loads of laundry, move my PC back into the office (which requires finding space on my desk for my PC), pick up some prescriptions, pick up a bunch of clothes for baby granddaughter from a freecycle person who will only hold them for me through today, grocery shopping, and "relax." Yeah, RIGHT.

So THAT, my friends, is my update. Don't you wish you had my life?

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Missing Old House Web forums

I am seriously missing my regular oldhouseweb.com forums fix. For whatever reason I was able to get into the new forums one time a few days ago, and it seemed like others had been able to get to the redesigned forums before I was, but now it's been unavailable again for several days.

Any Old House Web folks know the status?

Sunday, January 27, 2008

The Joy of Planning

I love planning. OK, it could be easily argued that I love the planning far more than the execution since the planning generally doesn't require blood, sweat, tears and emptying your savings account. But I am having a blast planning this bathroom renovation. It looks like my acquisition of the initial $2000 that will be the seed money for this project is coming along nicely, and that we can do a nice little renovation once that seed money is supplemented with what we hope will be a tidy tax refund (since I did a few tax-savings things this year), perhaps a bit extra in "economic stimulus" from Pres. Bush*t (see note below), and the rest from savings (though not TOO much from there, since I get a little freaked if that number goes too low...).

Tonight we opened up the access panel that's in Elder Granddaughter's bedroom to verify that no, the new tub isn't one of those things plunked on top of an old original tub. Of COURSE not. The POs did a full rip-to-the-studs on every single room in this house, ripping out the studs in some. There is a big full-height space behind the tub that is WAY more than is needed to hold the various pipes, simply because it was what room was left once they put in the standard sized tub. It's as wide as the tub, and about 18" deep; the side of that space creates a blank wall to the left of the toilet, so one part of the renovation project will be to put a nice deep (maybe 10", to not interfere with any plumbing) recessed shelf there. That still leaves enough room to hide a body or two, though. Or at least enough room to stash stuff like rarely used suitcases or presents we're hiding from the kids.

One interesting thing we *think* we found back there is the framing to what used to be a window. We won't be able to tell for sure until we get that tub out of there, but it sure looks like it. Ironically, I had already made one significant change to the reno plan, and that is to NOT put a window in that wall over the tub, for two reasons. One, I've been reading too much about how no matter how good of a window you get, the cold from that window can simply be not what you want on a brisk winter day while you're taking a shower. But also, if we put a window in, that has to be done pretty much first on the checklist when in fact it's a really low priority for me. But I can't exactly tile the shower area and THEN put a window in later, you know? So I decided on an alternative: Since above the tub is simply the kneewall area of the third floor, I'm going to eventually put in (well, having someone else put in) a skylight, the type that has a tunnel leading down to the actual bathroom. That way I get my natural light, but it can go in later, just in case I need to build up my savings a bit after spending more on other things than I'd originally budgeted.

This is the "Note below": I generally try to not venture into politics in my house blog but I'm on political overload (just got my first candidate call today; I pressed 3 for "the other guy"), and so much that is happening with our economy in particular -- and my perception of just WHO exactly is to blame for it -- is just sending me over the edge. I tend to be very grouchy when faced with too much political bullshit, which of course is unavoidable in a presidential campaign year or when facing a possible recession or while our country is enmeshed in a hideously expensive war that we should have never gotten into, so right now is just the worst of it all for me. But on this whole "economic stimulus" package thing... I'm just someone who thinks that maybe that money should be focused on (among other possible options) doing things like giving some seriously hardworking poorfolk some genuinely affordable and decent housing instead of being divvied out to folks like me who honestly don't NEEEEED it like they do, when a good part of why we're in this economic hellhole is that too many people got into a helluva lot more debt than they ever should have -- so the answer is to give us more money to spend and put our country into even more debt?!? Not in my way of thinking. So don't be surprised if you see some campaigning on my part to get folks to donate at least half of any "economic stimulus" money to Habitat or a local food bank or domestic violence shelter or something. It doesn't take being a "bleeding heart liberal" to look around and feel that there's just something WRONG when you live in an area like I do (like so many do) when the average salary is maybe $10/hour and yet the average home costs $200-$300k. Let's find a way to create a way for people to genuinely afford a place to live and raise their families that doesn't include mortgages that make it affordable for a coupe of years then make folks lose absolutely everything once reality sets in. Should folks who took out those mortgages have known better? Probably. But just because someone should have known better than to get themselves into a no-win situation doesn't mean that they should have been given that opportunity when everyone who DID know better could clearly see the writing on the wall.

OK, end economic/political rant. For now.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Stupid blasted mrrffffkrffff bathroom exhaust fan

I guess I could look at this as bathroom remodeling project step 1, except if the entire project went like this one has gone, I'm likely to say fergedaboudit (well, more likely to say something else that I wouldn't publish in my house blog).

It seemed like a fairly straightforward task: Take out old ugly loud bathroom exhaust fan/light, and replace it with new pretty quiet exhaust fan/light.

Uh-huh. Why, after over 27 years of old house ownership I would every apply the word "straightforward" to any project, I do not know. Foolish me.

First there was the task of getting the old one out. Previous Owners had installed it before putting up the ceiling drywall so of course it didn't want to come out. We finally won that bitterly fought battle, but only after having destroyed the old fixture beyond any possible reuse, as we had originally planned.

One brief moment of elation: The old opening is big enough for the new fixture!!


The old fixture was attached to the joist on the left side. The new fixture could only be attached on the right.

Ok, well it's just a little drywall, we'll just cut over to the next joist and patch.

So we cut. THEN we notice that the old opening is actually wider than the new box requires which means that the drywall patch must cover the big area vacated by the old box, but also an inch or so to either side. No big deal though. Let's just get this puppy screwed in and put up the drywall.


The space above the ceiling was just JUST big enough for the old fixture. And the sides of both fixtures were the same height. But the new fixture has bump-outs on top to the tune of making the bottom of the fixture drop 3/4" below the ceiling.

Many profane words happened here.

We ended up doing a combination of pushing down the bumped-up part of the top (after verifying that we'd still be able to get the motor in) and pulling up the lip of the bottom in order to get it sized small enough to fit.

Oh and getting the old ducting hooked up with NO maneuvering room was fun. It would have been impossible if we hadn't had the extra open space created by having to move it over.

And isn't it lovely that Hunter Fans doesn't bother telling you that they don't include one of the locking doodads for protecting wire from the sharp edges of the box and holding it in place until you're halfway through the instructions. We didn't have the locking one they specified and the plastic one from the old box had cracked in our efforts to take down that sucker, but we just wrapped it in some electrical tape, shoved it in the hole, and called it a day.

So the box is up, the electric was tested (well, for the fan - we'll presume a working light on faith), the crazy-shaped bit of drywall is in place, and the first layer of compound is drying. Partner will put on the second layer tomorrow, then we can finally put the light in place.

Though really we shouldn't put the light in place until after we repaint the ceiling since it wasn't actually drywall we put up but a scrap of greenboard, but I'm simply not going to even consider painting the ceiling this weekend so I'll just have to live with the greenboard for a week or twelve.

So much fun was had today, let me tell you.

First there was a new tub...

For reasons I'm not going to explain in detail, it looks like I'm about to get $2000 that I would be totally justified in using for play money, instead of taking my usual route with any unexpected bonus of socking it into savings, using it to pay down the mortgage or pay off Partner's remaining car loan, or using it to do something chokingly practical.

But I get to play with this. No, due to its source, I'm practically obligated to play with it. But I'm a wee bit too practical for that, so instead I'm going to use it for something I want so much that I pout about it regularly, but can't otherwise justify: I'm going to get a new bathtub.

I absolutely love soaking in a comfy tub, but right now all we have is a modern plastic shallow straight-sided ugly tub, and it's just not in the least bit comfortable for soaking.

And for $2k I could definitely get a comfy tub.

But of course the problem is I can't just get a bathtub.

If I get a new bathtub I'm going to need to take out the old one including the integrated surround.

If I'm taking out the surround, I'm going to want to put up tile in its place.

If I'm going to put up tile, I'm going to want to go ahead and get a window put into that room before I tile because right now there is no natural light.

While the room's being torn apart anyway, I'm going to want to finally get the cheapass sink base replaced with the old dresser that I plan to refinish and remodel into a sink base.

Which of course I can't do without first putting down new floor, unless the wood floor under the luan under the ugly vinyl is in good condition in which case it will be refinished.

But before I put in the new floor and sink I need to move the receptacle that's almost behind the sink over to the side wall, and move the wiring for the lights from the side wall to above the sink (their original plans show the sink on that side wall, so I presume this is why things are switched around like this), though the least desirable part about that is the substantial amount of drywall tearout and replacement required.

So while I'm tearing out so much drywall I probably should consider continuing the tile from around the shower to throughout the room, maybe a white subway tile with a single row of some color.

And it goes without saying that getting a new tub requires replacing the frequently-clogged almond colored toilet.

Then of course I'll need new lighting, new fixtures, mirrors, a cabinet...

All of this in a bathroom that's maybe 60sq ft. Maybe.

I think there's a chance that if I pursue this route, it will take me over my $2k budget by a few dollars... ya think?!?. But then I'll be justified in spending it because it's the only way for me to get my new tub, right?!?

Monday, January 7, 2008

Please help me gussy up my houseblog

I may be a computer geek, but that doesn't mean that I know squat about how to actually make something LOOK good. Let's face it: I got the overwhelming share of the math-related genetic material from my parents, while my sister got zilch for math and an overabundance of creative talent, since I kind of forgot to grab any on the way out.

Anyway, I'm seriously looking to pay someone who has a talent for such things who can help me to make this look a lot nicer. I don't CARE if only three people ever read it, I still want it to look so much nicer than it does, give it a little class, have it not scream "randomly chosen non-customized built-in template!!"

Any takers? Tell me the best way to reach you. Either post here or email me at tanama44 ataoldotcom.

Seriously. Help.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

A present from my privet

I hate the privet that has grown to the size of huge trees that pollute our yard with all kinds of baby privets and nasty berries, but today it's worth it: Right now they're filled with hundreds of cedar waxwings all having a serious feast.

(Dara, if you read this, remind me again what you recommended we put in its place, in the area where it's grown up high enough to be a good privacy screen? I am SO ready to get rid of this damned privet!)

Friday, January 4, 2008

WHOOMP, there it is...

Well, finally the comment on the showerhead installation instructions that says "In the case where your installation of the mounted Delta In2ition shower requires it to be further away from the wall, please call toll-free ... for a free 8" shower arm" makes sense.

It looks just great when installed, but turn on the water and even with the head tilted forward as far as possible, the water is blasting high against the back wall, making it difficult to get in.

(ok, well "blasting" is perhaps a bit of wishful thinking, in this day of flow regulators and living in a town where many have complained about low pressure/low flow issues... I remember from the early '80's living in a 1920's era apartment building in Philly where the water would just blast you against the back wall, in a GOOD way; well, good when there was hot water, which was hit or miss. Yes, I know we need to conserve water and the power used to heat the water, but there is just something wonderful about being pummeled with hot water that is deliciously relaxing. But I digress...)

Anyway, the removable hand-held shower handle is too long to allow the head to tip down far enough, so I called and they're sending me a free extender.

I'm hoping that once it's tilted down further, that will address another issue: The water comes out with much greater force in the side fixed portions of the shower head than in the center hand-held portion. The result is a much more straight blast on each side, but a quickly falling flow in the middle. This kind of defeats the "rainshower" effect that was one of my primary reasons for getting this, since as it is right now, I can either get the sides of my head or the center of my head in the water, but not both at the same time. Customer Service did instruct me on how to remove the flow regulator from the hand-held part, which helped some but still not enough to get a nice even spray. I'm just hoping that once I can tilt the head down to the angle it needs to be, the difference will be negligible; otherwise, it will need to go back. ::sigh::

*and no, there's no special meaning to the title. It happens to be a friend's "ring tone" and I'd just called her before starting this post, so when I started typing this it somehow seemed to be related, as in "oh, that's why they said that..." Ok, can I blame it on the cold medicine?