Thursday, December 18, 2014

Trim that tree!

I'm rather lucky when it comes to neighbors. Not only do I get along with them, they seem to get along with each other. Jack, the best neighbor in the world, lives across the street, but even he was a bit bothered by *his* next door neighbor's trees. I knew the two of them had been in negotiations over said trees, so I was not surprised when the sound of chain saws and wood chippers filled the air last week.

Unlike some people in my fair city, these two neighbors are not anti-tree. However, the branches of some of Sue's locust trees hung over the property line, dropping a shitload (ha! that word is recognized by spell checker) of fine leaves into his gutters each year. Also, recent wind storms had left several large branches hanging by a thread.

I thought the trees were coming down, but not so. The broken branches were removed, along with the lower ones that were behaving unneighborly, but the trees themselves remain, to provide much needed shade from the midday sun. I enjoy the golden leaves in spring, which turn green for summer, then yellow in the fall.

Most properties in this neighborhood are populated with silver maples, all of which are potential house crushers. Despite their height, locusts seem to be rock solid. A friend of mine had some locusts removed from her yard 25 years ago, and the stumps are still there.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014


I didn't sleep well the night before last, just could not drift off (damn that five o'clock cup of coffee), but since I am RETIRED, I made up for the difference by sleeping in. Consequently, I was still in my pj's when the contractor called to say they were on their way. Wha'?!? Per usual, the customer communication of this business had fallen short; *they* knew they were coming, so surely I would too, by osmosis I guess. Anyway, I told them to give me an hour (to shower, dress, and clean up the kitchen), and I'd be ready.

Yesterday's effort involved replacing the corner piece of counter top with a seamless one. The big wait was the lag time between the ordering and delivery of said replacement. The new piece has straight edges, not as attractive, but I'd rather have that than rolled edges with a seam running through the piece.

The week before, the paint-and-ceiling crew came and fixed one join in the crown molding that I was willing to live with but that really bothered the owner of the contracting company; he's tall and it was the first thing he saw when he stepped through the front door. The join is still discernible, but the light has to be just right and you really have to look for it.

So now everything really, really, REALLY is finished, at least as far as the big projects are concerned. There are many little things to do, but I can address them catch-as-catch-can. Oh, and I should probably write them a check, too.

Start date: April 9
Finish date: December 16

As with most major home improvement projects, I'm satisfied with the results, but it was painful getting there. Very few problems arose, though, a minor miracle considering how much work was done. I am a happy homeowner.

Friday, November 28, 2014

The decluttering continues

While playing with my new Nook Tab, I tested downloading books from the local library's Overdrive site, and wound up with The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: the Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing, by Marie Kondo. I'm about halfway through, and while I doubt I will start thanking my shoes for doing a good job or petting a coat as I hang it in the closet, I admit I agree with much of what she recommends.

In the course of the remodeling, I got rid of a lot of things. Some stuff went to Habitat ReStore, some to Goodwill, some to the landfill. The 20+ years of computer equipment is still here because I have this misguided idea that I need to copy everything off the hard drives, JUST IN CASE. I did buy a doodad that will allow me to do that, but I have not yet put it to use. Never mind that I have not even booted up any of those computers in over ten years.

Paper is the bane of my existence, though. Again, much of it has found its way out of my house via the shredder and the recycling bin, but too much remains. My desk has a file drawer in it, and my goal is to reduce the amount of paper in my life to what fits in there. Right now I have about four times that amount.

Just like the data on the hard drives of my old computers, I have not accessed a lot of this paper since filing it away. There are user manuals for things I no longer own, instructions for assembling furniture that was assembled right out of the box, outdated insurance policies, expired warranties, annual reviews from 20 years ago, certificates of participation for work-related seminars, an essay I wrote to accompany my application to an MBA program, etc. You get the picture.

Just like Kondo suggests, I handle each item and decide its fate. I've been working through the easy stuff first (see above), but there is so much paper, my brain tires from making decision after decision. Initially, I tossed user manuals for things I still own, but then I glanced through the one for the power screwdriver that died and discovered the rechargeable battery is replaceable. So now I want to save *all* the user manuals.

Slowly but surely, I am getting there, and hopefully will stay there. A couple of strategies help going forward. One is to not let more paper into the house. I do this by going paperless whenever I can, for banking, utility bills, and credit card statements. This leads to another strategy: if the information is available online, I don't need my own personal copy of it. Thirdly, I used to devote some time at the end of each year to winnowing the accumulation of paper over the previous 12 months. That habit needs to be reinstated.

I haven't reached the "magic" part of Kondo's book yet, but I do feel lighter, less burdened, as the junk clears out.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

I lied. Again

The remodeling is not quite done yet. There were a couple of things that still bugged me, the worst being the kitchen counter. There is an almost-square section between the refrigerator and the stove, not very big but used very much because of its location. It is also a corner piece, and because I selected a rolled edge for the counter top, there was a big fat seam running up the middle of it, from inside corner to out. I had been told the counter top would have seams, and I thought that was just a cosmetic problem, not a functional one. Now I know better, especially after this particular seam developed a hump.

Eventually, the manufacturing rep showed up and deemed it fixable, but the fix is not 100% perfect. When a glass or plate slides across the seam, it bumps. If I had hired Joe Blow to install the counter top, I would have let it go. But for the amount of money I am paying, I want things to be as close to perfection as possible. I'll ruin them later myself.

I wasn't getting anywhere with the project managers I had been working with, so I went right to the top, asking the owner/president to come take a look. We go a ways back, as this company has done much work for me over the years. And he agreed that the seam just was not right.

So that part of the counter top is to be replaced with one that has no seam. This means no rolled edge on that section, but I would be surprised if anyone notices that. Once that is fixed, I can stop fretting and start enjoying my "new" house. (Fingers crossed.)

Friday, October 31, 2014

I vant to be alone

I may jinx myself by saying it out loud, but I think the remodeling is *finally* done. Today the counter top was fixed and the seams sealed, the underside of the house inspected (no evidence there has ever been water in my crawl space - good to know), this and that checked, and walls touched up. Not only does the house look great, but NO ONE IS EVER COMING TO MY HOUSE EVER AGAIN. Not really, but I am looking forward to some solitude. As soon as Halloween is over. And Women's Weekend. And the holidays. Maybe come January?

Thursday, October 30, 2014

What a good cat!

Last night, with my butt plastered to the living room couch, I heard a noise in the dining room. I thought it was the cat doing something, but the sound went on and on. Finally, I eased over to see what was what. Finn was lying on the floor, perfectly innocent and perfectly OBLIVIOUS to what I realized must be a mouse in the wall between the dining room and the kitchen. Eek!

There has been the occasional rodent in the garage, but never in twenty years has there been a mouse in the house itself. The other day, however, I noticed some movement by the (closed) garage door and realized there is a gap in the garage foundation; the movement was probably Mickey deciding to come back later when the structure was not occupied. I keep a litter box in the garage because sometimes Finn likes to hang out there (I wonder why!) and I grew tired of finding cat poop here and there. Last night the litter box contained not cat poop but mouse turds. While I have changed to using clay litter in the house, the garage litter box contains the last of the Swheat Scoop which is made up of wheat which is apparently attractive to mice.

So I locked Finn in the garage overnight (with food and water), and this morning there was half a mouse on the step. Hopefully, that is the only one. Today I am replacing the Swheat Scoop with clay litter and blocking the gap in the foundation. In a previous lifetime, when I lived in the country, there were mice in the house, but you can't live in the country and be squeamish about such things. (There was a black snake that hung out behind the siding by the back door, too. Snakes eat mice - the enemy of my enemy is my friend.) That was a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away. Backyard habitat notwithstanding, this citified gal now prefers the wildlife stay outside!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Happy birthday to me!

The couch was delivered today. Fingers crossed it looked at least okay colorwise in the den, and it does. The cushions feel stiffer than they did in the store.

The mattress will not induce anyone to overstay their welcome, but it will be used maybe once per year, if that, so I'm not too concerned. A nice feature is the head of the bed can be propped up. The better to see the TV, my dear.

In other late breaking news, the deck repairs were completed yesterday to my satisfaction. And the countertop rep magically appeared today, to declare the countertop fixable. That means more waiting while they schedule that task. If I knew then what I know now about countertops, I would have made some different choices. Ditto bathtubs. Ditto just about everything that has been upgraded in my house over the past twenty years. Maybe I will remember some of this info in my next life.

Friday, October 17, 2014

I lied

This morning, while replacing some of the deck paraphernalia, I discovered the deck crew did not run boards down to the ground in the pit by the faucet. I'm sure Finn would relish (in more ways that one) having families of mice or chipmunks living under the deck, but not me. So that needs to be fixed. Also, the sales rep is discounting my final invoice to atone for the fact the deck was not built to spec. Once the above described fix is made, I'll pay up.

The sofa, on the other hand, is paid for and scheduled for delivery next Wednesday. Whoo-hoo! I bought a nine-cube thing from Target, thinking it could go behind the love seat in the living room, but once I assembled it, I did not like it there - too tall and not wide enough. I put it in one of the spare bedrooms and, once I get some fabric drawers for it, will use it for, well, fabric storage. Target has a different shelf thing that I think would fit better, but I decided I would look around more before committing.

STILL no word on the kitchen counter. I am looking at alternatives for that corner, like maybe stainless steel. The area is not very big but much used when I cook.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

At least SOMETHING is finished

I received a phone call early yesterday, and the next thing I knew, the pergola crew showed up and finished that job. It took most of the day, and was completed in the rain, but at least it is DONE. The sales rep is coming Friday for a final "walk through" and presumably to collect the final payment.

The thing looks massive to me, much more so than the free-standing pergola that was there before. In fact, the whole project is bigger than expected. There is a whiny part of me that is a bit put out that I did not get exactly what I asked for, but seriously, it is just a deck. Once the surface is populated with the usual collection of potted plants, patio furniture, and grill, I'm sure its overall gestalt will return to the lived-in look I am used to.

Same day the plumbing guy banged on the door. He was passing by and decided to stop and take care of the bathtub spout and the grout for the vanity backsplash (he had used clear grout, which disappeared and made it look like there was no grout). We also discussed the scratched floor tile. I have only one extra tile left and the flooring is no longer in production. I've come to the conclusion that this guy is not that experienced in all facets of home remodeling (earlier he confessed that this job was the first time he had installed crown molding), so I'm reluctant to waste my last tile on his education.

Still no resolution on the kitchen counter. Still waiting to hear from the manufacturing rep. I am prepared to shed tears to get what I want.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Good news and bad news

The good news is, the carpet/tile junction is now smooth and even. The guys who laid the tile seemed to know what they were doing, except for the carpet bit. A different guy fixed their errors, which begs the question of why the first crew did not know the correct method. My observation of some businesses is they have A teams and B teams, and they send the B team out for most things, then the A team comes along and mops up. Presumably, the B team is paid less, but I don't know that for sure.

(I took a picture of the "foyer" but the walls look pink and the tile looks like particle board, neither of which is accurate. So, no photos. Sorry.)

The bad news is, when I decided to try out the new tub enclosure, the spout flew off when I switched the water over to the shower head. I'm glad I thought to test the installation, else the calamity might have occurred to a guest.

Still nothing new about the kitchen counter, although the rep for the manufacturer is supposed to contact me this week. I really, really, REALLY want that corner of the counter to be sans seam. We'll see how that pans out. Also, waiting on the pergola construction.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Deck and pergola - after day 2

I haven't been paying too much attention to the weather other than monitor nighttime lows for frost warnings, so I was surprised at how much it has rained the past two days. In fact, it absolutely poured at times. The mostly Amish crew was not deterred, though, and completed the deck portion of the deck-and-pergola project yesterday.

Even though the deck is not much bigger than the patio footprint, it looks HUGE to me. It's like another room has been added onto the house. The patio furniture is in the garage, but I may have to drag it back out so I can sit outside and survey my realm during Indian summer.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Deck and pergola - after day one

Midday Sunday I decided I should mow the lawn, and set the mower deck down a notch, in hopes that this will be the last mow of the season (jinx, jinx, jinx!) Shortly thereafter, the deck people called (okay, *one* guy called, representing the "people"), to inform me that work would begin today at 8:00 AM. Whoo-hoo! And that gave me time to finish cleaning off the patio instead of grooming pets and vacuuming, like I planned.

The deck crew's idea of 8:00 AM differs from my idea, as I was still staggering around half-dressed and under caffeinated when they showed up. At least I was able to get the car out of the garage and into the neighbor's driveway before more vehicles arrived. Then it was noises, noises, noises for the next eight hours or so.

The rain did not stop them, but they did break for lunch, so the pets and I got a short respite. I left mid-afternoon to pick up g'daughter at preschool. My car is not very quiet, but it seemed so on the drive across town.

Apparently, reality collided with my vision of the project. As explained to me, because of pre-existing footings, the deck itself is larger than the patio slab, even without the step. And the step down from the house to the deck is shorter than anticipated because there just isn't room enough for the joists otherwise.

The whole thing looks incredibly... sturdy. The posts are set three feet into the ground, so this pergola should not get blown over like the free standing one did. So far, so good, anyway.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Almost there and almost more

Two days ago the tile by the front door was installed. I definitely like it BUT the transition from tile to carpet is too bulky. I think they should have trimmed more off when they folded the carpet under at the edge. It is a subtle tripping hazard as it stands, so it will need to be redone.

(The carpet is starting to show its age, but I don't want to get new until I no longer have Betsy. She suffers from occasional brain farts, thinks she is outside when she hits carpet. It doesn't happen often but often enough. Poor thing.)

Today there was a small parade of contractors through the house, taking care of this, that, and the other. Everything is done except some wall repair in the kitchen (in progress), and a decision is pending on what to do about the kitchen counter by the stove. Ideally, I want it to be replaced with something that has no seam, as it is a primary work surface. The only worse place to have a seam would be by the sink.

The deck company was supposed to start work around the end of September. Yesterday I was going to call them, but did not need to, as the underground utility guys showed up to mark the yard. That means installation is imminent. Whoo-hoo!

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

In the mean time

The remodeling is still on pause. There has been some missed communication, then I was out of town, then voice mail went unanswered, etc. I had to reselect tile for the area by the front door because the original selection (which supposedly had already been ordered - NOT) is no longer in production; installation is scheduled Sep. 30. There is an issue in the kitchen, too - besides not sealing the grout on the backsplash (which stains when tomato sauce is splashed on it - DUH), they did not seal the seams in the countertop, one of which is now humping up. I'm mentally rehearsing my kindly brontosaurus posture.

BUT. I did select a company for the deck and am waiting for installation to be scheduled. And I bought an apothecary (which I am slowly turning into a junk drawer condo) and a sofa. I've been rearranging furniture (and when I say "I", I mean "we" as my SO helps with the heavy lifting around here), so now the TV has been banished to the West Wing (which I think I shall rename The Den) and the livingroom is both fuller and more conducive to gatherings and conversation. That left nothing to sit on for TV watching, hence the sofa, which happens to be a sofa *bed*. I'm looking forward to hosting Women's Weekend once all the dust settles; there will be plenty of sleeping options.

Despite the snags, I am still very happy with the remodeling results. My house will never be in Better Homes and Gardens, but it suits me. I look forward to being here another twenty years or so.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

So many recipes, so little time!

Since I retired, I have been spending an inordinate amount of time in the kitchen, especially considering I live alone. While a lot of the cooking is because of the garden, a goodly portion of it is the result of running across dishes I want to try AND now having the time to actually make them. My MO is to leave a tab to each recipe open in my browser until I get around to making the dish, then if it is a winner, I add it to Pinterest.

For your own browsing pleasure, here are some of the goodies I have enjoyed the past few months (heavy on the zucchini):
This list does not include the recipes from cookbooks, like Tomato Jam from Food in Jars, Pizza Sauce from Preserving by the Pint and Shirley Estabrook Wood's Zucchini Bread from The Essential New York Times Cookbook. And there has been general canning and freezing going on as well. Needless to say, the eatin's been fine!

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Remodel on pause

The current status of the remodeling project is thus:
  • A new backsplash for the vanity top had to be ordered, as the current one is 5/8 of an inch too short, leaving what looks like a gaping hole in the corner where the backsplash meets the sidesplash. I knew there was an issue and the plumber guys had a plan, a work-around that in retrospect I would have been unhappy with. Fortunately, the guy working on the bathroom forgot the plan.
  • The flooring by the front door has yet to be installed. I called the PM about the flooring and was told it had been ordered. How did they know how much to order since no one had been by to measure the area? I asked. She didn't know - magic, I guess. A few days later, the flooring subcontractor showed up to actually measure, so I'm betting nothing had been ordered.
And that is IT. The painting is done, the fixtures in place, everything works. I'm having a hard time believing it is basically over. The backsplash and flooring installs will occur in a couple of weeks, followed by a bit of touch up by the painters. Then I will fork over the rest of the money, lock the door and draw the drapes. Mi casa es mi casa, una vez más.

Re the deck, I still have not made up my mind between Vendor Number One and Vendor Number Two.

Friday, August 15, 2014

After week infinity

I wonder if it is a strategy to drag out construction projects so that by the time they are done, you don't dare nitpick the little flaws because you just want everyone OUT of your house. Sometimes I dream of a desert island where there is no phone, no door bell, no remodeling, just a grass hut and umbrella drinks.

And yet I am collecting estimates for a deck over the patio. Four deck guys have been here, and I've received three quotes; guess who will not even be considered. Actually, it is down to two of them - numbers are about the same, but their approaches are a little different. Getting estimates is like dating - someone is bound to get hurt.

So. The dining room is finished, the fireplace is painted, the living room is almost done, the hallway and bathroom about three-fourths of the way there. The current worker bees expect to be done in the middle of next week. No one has measured for the flooring by the front door yet, which means the flooring is not ordered, let alone installation scheduled. I am very pleased with the workmanship but very unhappy with the management of the overall project. I tried communicating through the PM but found it was easier to just talk to the sub-contractors myself.

Anyway, the end is in sight, more or less. The deck will be all outside work and take about a week or less. I can live with that. By then, autumn will be here and I will be ready to hunker down for the duration, knitting and hot cocoa at hand.

Friday, August 8, 2014

After week 2.5

My house didn't get much attention this week from the painters. In fact, I had to pull out the whining stops to get them to wrap up the two spare bedrooms. The problem, of course, is that I am not their only customer. Also, they are working on a project for a school building, so are under the gun to complete that before the little brats return (which gets earlier and earlier each summer). They promised to come back on Monday, but I am lowering my expectations anyway. Next week, if they can get the diningroom done and the fireplace painted, while the plumbers complete the installation of fixtures in the bathroom, I will not whine... much.

To get a head start on the bathroom, the plumbing crew began the "demo" yesterday - "demo" in this case is short for "demolition". The tub enclosure is now gone as is the vanity top. The new enclosure is supposed to be delivered on Monday. So, between the painting, the plumbing, and the electrical, we should have a full house.

Meanwhile, I have begun transferring anything I can lift from the West Wing to the bedrooms. The mattresses in each room are on metal frames, so I bought a couple of inexpensive headboards from Furniture to Go. (An aside: I have purchased and assembled a lot of Sauder furniture in my lifetime and am impressed with the improvement in selection, quality, fasteners, and instructions over the years. Except the futons. I don't think it is possible to make a comfortable futon.) Since my granddaughter will be here tomorrow, I am concentrating on making her room "livable" first.

I am also making rules (subject to change) about what goes where. The granddaughter room will be the yarn room (mostly a storage issue - the stash goes in the closet). It will also contain the hobby library. The guest bedroom will be the spinning room, so its closet will be filled with roving. Re my clothes, I decided one closetful was enough for one person, freeing up some space in the second closet in my bedroom for stuff that doesn't meet the rules for the spare bedrooms. There is a method to my madness! If I stick to the rules, I will know where to look for something. Theoretically.

The Habitat for Humanity ReStore in this city is the recipient of anything that is removed and reusable (like the ceiling fans and framed mirrors). If you have such a place where you live, I strongly recommend sending stuff their way.

Friday, August 1, 2014

After week 2

No worker bees today. Another client must have been whining louder than I was, and most of my whining has been directed at the overall contractor rather than the sub-contractors. The latter have been enjoying zucchini bread AND I was able to unload an accumulation of zukes on them. It was that, or sneak them into unlocked cars in the neighborhood.

Both bedrooms are this close to being done. All that remains is installing the ceiling fans and crown molding, plus a little touch-up. I did put a few things into the closets, just to feel like I was accomplishing *something*, but it barely made a dent in the West Wing.

The color we (i.e. my daughter) settled on for both bedrooms is the same as the trim color, "Heavy Cream". Going for the "blank canvas" look. I was afraid it might look too stark, but against the white-white ceilings, it definitely does not. The trim is semi-gloss and the walls flat, which also helps break up the sameness of one color. I really like it.

I've resigned myself to the fact that this remodeling is going to take at least another two weeks, one for the livingroom-diningroom-hall and one (or more) for the bathroom. In the meantime, I have started gathering estimates for the deck. More resignation: I will not be able to afford the no-maintenance composite materials for that. Oh, well.

Sometimes you need to look UP

These balloons drifted overhead last week, presumably launched from the Allen County Fairgrounds.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Not my usual zucchini bread

Rather than bake my usual whole wheat zuke brick, this year I decided to try a couple of new zucchini bread recipes.

First up, Glazed Lemon Zucchini Bread, recommended by a friend. I omitted the glaze, as the bread is sweet enough as it is. And, since it is made with cake flour, it is really more cakelike than breadlike.

I fed it to the worker bees yesterday. It disappeared with alacrity. But I doubt I will make this recipe again.

In the eat-more-butter department is Shirley Estabrook Wood's Zucchini Bread, from The Essential New York Times Cookbook. Using lots of butter, eggs, sugar, and walnuts, but no yeast, this recipe creates a loaf of bread that looks yeast-risen. It is a touch too sweet for me, but otherwise delicious and very addicting. One sample bite led to another, and another, and another, until I had to put it away. This would be a good recipe for guests who are not very crunchy.

One problem I had with both loaves is, despite extending the baking times, neither was very done on the inside. I checked my oven with an oven thermometer, and it appears to be spot on, so I'm not sure what the problem is. Perhaps my stainless loaf pans?

Monday, July 28, 2014

After week 1

The total chaos that is currently my home is making me twitchy. I'd like to vacuum the kitchen and family room but the floor is barely visible. At least I can *use* the kitchen, unlike during phase 1 of the remodeling.

The ceilings are nearly done and the walls are prepped, so the messy part is over. (Does this mean no more nightly vacuuming by the crew? Darn.) They are going to work on finishing the two spare bedrooms first, so hopefully by the end of the week, I will be able to clean those carpets and move furniture back into them.

The rest of the house shouldn't be too far behind. The only kink is the bathroom - the tub enclosure won't be here until August 8. I can live without that room indefinitely, although I don't want to.

Remodeling is hard on my psyche, primarily because there are people at my door by 8am and in my house Monday through Friday. That's a tough situation for a "quirky alone". I'm not particularly neat, but the level of disorder is more than even I can stand.

I declared my bedroom a crap-free zone, so there is one room where I can go and pretend that the rest does not exist, and I spend a lot of time outside (the weather has been very cooperative). Although parts may drag out, it won't last forever (I keep telling myself). But I will be glad when it is finished, in more ways than one.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Moka, not mocha

I really like Americano coffee drinks - a shot of espresso with hot water - so when my Mr. Coffee coffeemaker broke a part, I decided to invest $25 in a moka maker. To be straight with you, moka is not the same as espresso, but it is a very cheap alternative for making intense coffee drinks at home. On the advice of Amazon reviewers, I purchased a small model, supposedly good for one or two people.

It took a bit of experimenting to get a drink I like. First, I switched from my usual "Mind, Body, Soul" roast to an espresso roast. For the moka maker, I set my bean grinder to medium (I use a fine grind for the drip coffeemaker). And then, after I brew my little pot of joe, I heat a half mug of milk in the microwave and pour the hot coffee into that. It tastes surprisingly chocolatey.

My drip coffeemaker still works, even with the broken part, which is just as well, as making 5 ounces of coffee at a time would be tedious for a group. And I still like to consume a certain *volume* of coffee, regardless of the strength. However, it is *not* as good as an Americano, IMHO.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

After day 1

The wallpaper guy did his thing yesterday. Having removed all the rest of the wallpaper in this house over the years myself, I was a little jealous over how easy the last of it came off for him. But then I heard him grunting as he was washing the paste off the walls, a chore I remember well. Once again, I am very happy to let someone else do all the work this time around.

Diningroom before stripping

Diningroom after stripping

Bedroom with border

Bedroom sans border

Today the ceiling guy is here, working on the two bedrooms. In fact, he just did the smelly part. Gotta go turn on the exhaust fan in the bathroom at that end of the house. Gak!

Monday, July 21, 2014

Ready, set...


I spent the whole weekend moving many of my earthly possessions out of the closets, cupboards, bedrooms, and other living spaces, mostly into the West Wing, in anticipation of the start of phases 2 and 3 of the remodeling.

Originally, phase 2 included the main bathroom and two bedrooms, while phase 3 covered the livingroom, diningroom, and hallway. I wanted them done separately, because I could not imagine where all my crap would go while they worked. When the delivery time for the new tub stretched out to four weeks, though, I suggested we go ahead and start on phase 3. Between vacations and other scheduling issues, nothing really got going, so now both phases are happening at the same time.

Today the wallpaper remover arrived, after first going to the wrong house. Once he found my place, the cops showed up. Apparently, the lady at the other house was spooked by his unexpected appearance on her property (she never answered the door). A couple of weeks ago, a personable but pushy lawn service guy was canvassing the neighborhood, and since then, people have been questioning anyone who appears to be loitering. Last week, my neighbor across the street confronted the wallpaper remover's boss who was sitting in his car in front of my house. Glad to know the neighbor (who is the best neighbor in the world because he blows my driveway in winter) is looking out for me.

NERD ALERT: Buried in that mess is over 20 years worth of computer equipment, including two Gateways, a Dell, and a Canon notebook. One of the Gateways was my "utility" computer: four serial ports (necessary for debugging serial communications between devices), two parallel ports, a 5.25 drive, 3.5 drive, and a Bernoulli drive. I had to talk the guy selling me the Canon into putting 8 megs of memory into it instead of the standard 4 because my Turbo C compiler would need it (I was right). Since there was not enough storage on the Canon, I used a Zip drive to store the software I developed. That was back in the day, when programming was fun.

A few items have been winnowed out, destined for Goodwill or Habitat's ReStore. I am eyeing the remaining and weighing what stays. Like the London Fog winter coat that I have not worn in years (decades?) But it's a LONDON FOG and they don't make them like that anymore. Maybe I will start wearing it this winter. If it still fits. And what about my wedding gown that I sewed myself, tiers of polyester with flowery lace trim? I should be allowed to keep a few things for sentimental reasons, right?

Monday, July 14, 2014

Kitchen orgy

I thought when I retired, I would have more time for blogging. That has not happened because now I have more time for *everything*. I knit more, I garden more, I sleep more. Yesterday, I decided to cook more.

Cooking from scratch is not all that uncommon these days, but I sometimes take it to extremes. Thus baking pizza can turn into making mozzarella (recipe from Home Cheese Making), pizza sauce (recipe from Preserving by the Pint), and dough (recipe from Smitten Kitchen Cookbook). The dressing for our salad was a raspberry version of this strawberry balsamic basil one. There was already homemade vanilla ice cream (from Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams at Home) in the freezer, and it was served over this galette.

Even though most of the cooking was done by noon for our evening supper, things did not go all that smoothly. The mozzarella turned out nice and shiny, with that characteristic squeak when bitten, but I didn't get all the whey out. After cooling in the fridge, the cheese looked kind of funky. Still perfectly edible, just not so pretty. Milk from my herd share.

My Italian herb mix is rather ancient, so I used almost twice what the pizza sauce recipe called for. Also, my old eyes sometimes mistake a 1 for a 3 when the 1 has a serif, thus I used 3/4 of a teaspoon fresh ground pepper instead of 1/4. Very tasty just the same. Instead of tomatoes, I used tomato sauce from last year's garden.

The yeast for the dough was also ancient. Saturday night, I tried proofing it, twice, just to make sure it worked, with two failures. Maybe the water was too hot or third time's the charm, because I tried one more time Sunday morning (anything to avoid a trip to the grocery store) and it worked well enough to add the flour. The dough went into the fridge until mid afternoon, when I popped it into the oven with the oven light on; two hours later, it had doubled and was ready to become pizza.

For the salad dressing, I had tried substituting raspberries for the strawberries before but the result was too seedy. This time I ran the berries through my saucemaker, using the berry screen, thus turning a very simple recipe into a lot more work. The dressing turned out less creamy but just as tasty. Raspberries and basil from my garden.

The dough for the galette was also started Saturday night, with better success. The recipe warns about oozing and ooze it did, but not very much. Raspberries from the garden.

Salad fixings purchased at a farmers market and mild Italian sausage from a local farm rounded out our supper, plus beer. A very satisfying meal, plus I think I have got the cooking bug out of my system. For a while.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Prepping for phase 4

Phases 2 and 3 of the remodeling might actually get started in a week or two. Meanwhile, I have started the process of garnering quotes for a deck. I have an idea of what I want - something simple! low or no maintenance! - but I'm open to suggestions, as long as they don't cost a lot of money.

Deck guy #1 came yesterday. Unfortunately, he is the front man, not the designer. He tried pushing for railings and benches (more expense but they would reduce the likelihood of falling off the deck), then he fretted over the potential pergola (how to fit it under the eaves, whether it would need its own footings, etc.) And for a while, he detoured into the topics of inflation and how the government just prints money when we should go back to the gold standard.

It is going to be about four weeks before this outfit can even get a quote back to me. I'll call some other places; maybe I will discover this lag time is the norm. I hope the topics of conversation are not.

Monday, June 23, 2014

More hurry up and wait

In my original dreams, I thought the remodeling would be 100% complete by now. (Don't laugh.) Phase 1 is 100% complete, the bill is paid, onto phase 2... someday. The shower enclosure may take four (4!!!) weeks to get in. So I suggested, if that were the case, we move onto phase 3 while we wait. Unfortunately, that phase needs to be requoted because they forgot to include the flooring by the front door and I decided the wallpaper in the dining room has to go, and the person who handles that process is on vacation this week. So no forward progress in the near future. Grrr.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

To DIE for

I get two gallons of milk every two weeks from my herdshare. Half of it usually ends up as yogurt, some is transformed into ice cream, and, not as often as I would like, I make cheese. Sometimes there is more milk than I can use, so I am always looking for unique ways to ingest this wonderful white stuff. And here is one: dulce de leche. It takes FOREVER to cook down, but it is one of the most wonderful flavors on earth.

I made it just plain this first time around, but am sure to try flavoring it with vanilla and/or cinnamon and/or ??? We have been eating it on Jeni's Darkest Chocolate Ice Cream in the World (homemade). Tonight we are having it on (homemade) butter pecan. But frequently I sample a spoonful right from the jar. It truly is wonderful stuff.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Phase 1 is unofficially done

Almost two months have passed since I declared phase 1 of the remodeling to be complete (more or less). As of today (Friday), it really is done. What took so long?

The major delay was caused by the side piece to the vanity top which no one noticed was missing until almost everything was done, and then it took quite a while to get one in. Also, I had to resolve the issue of the sticky-out medicine cabinet blocking the light from the new light fixture. Many solutions were suggested - box out the light fixture so it stuck out further from the wall, pick out a new light fixture with arms (like the old one), recess the medicine cabinet. The first solution would have looked dumb, the second was not possible because for some reason they don't make bathroom light fixtures with arms anymore, the last troubling because if it were easy to recess the medicine cabinet, wouldn't the builders of the house done that? Then I came up with the bright idea of taking the door off the medicine cabinet and hanging that on the wall; I don't use the items in the cabinet on a daily basis, so they can go under the sink. My daughter suggested I just get a new mirror altogether. So *that* is what we finally did. The mirror and side piece to the vanity top were installed.

To make it all official, there is to be a final walk-through and then I have to pay the balance owed. Next up: phase 2.

(I will admit to being a bit peeved that it has taken this long to wrap up, as I was hoping to have all three phases done by now. But the remaining items were minor, worker bees were not occupying my abode for the duration, and I've been plenty busy with the garden and other sundry activities. I did try to goose them along about phase 2, but they don't seem to be goosable.)

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Mom was right

Once upon a time, my mother told me that milk glasses should be rinsed with cold water before washing. I'm sure she told me why, but I must have stopped listening before that part. At the cheesemaking workshop I learned why: to prevent milkstone. What is milkstone? you ask. It's a white film that forms on metal and glass from repeated contact with milk. Containers and utensils may look clean, but the film reappears unless removed with something like vinegar. I know this because my cheese vats suffered from this affliction until I cleaned them and mended my ways.

This morning's rain brought a reprieve from weeding gardening, so I spent the time mostly in the kitchen, making yogurt, baking dog biscuits, cleaning strawberries, making Jeni's Darkest Chocolate Ice Cream in the World, cooking bacon which magically turned into Quiche Lorraine for supper. I was too lazy to drive up to the grocery store for a pie crust, so made my own (from LARD). It has been a long time since I made a pie crust. The funny thing is, it wasn't my hands patting and rolling the dough, but my mother's. She passed away when I was 20. The older I get, the more I think about her. And apparently, the more I resemble her. Looking back, I realize I could really have used her help and advice while raising my kids. Hopefully, I would have listened better than I did about milkstone.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Probably doing it wrong

I am on Pinterest (as bittenbyknittin, of course), but I'm pretty sure I am not using Pinterest the way it was meant to be used. I've heard people say they get lost there, for hours at a time, but I don't because I don't look at other people's boards and pins. Instead, I use it as an efiling cabinet of sorts. (Hence, the fact I can't create subfolders really annoys me.) I pin links to recipes, gardening ideas, crafting activities, etc. I (hopefully) will reference in the future. Previously, I had been capturing screen shots and storing them in MS OneNote, but that is a bit tedious. Also, with Pinterest, I can pin the same link to many boards, for cross referencing. Lately, I have been capturing recipes for rhubarb and home canning and other kitcheny pursuits.

Do you use Pinterest?

Monday, May 5, 2014

I fired my carpet cleaners

With the master bedroom completely devoid of furniture and plans to rearrange the furniture when replacing it, I decided it was a good time to have the carpet professionally cleaned. I have used the same carpet cleaners for 20 years, and usually they leave the carpets all bright and shiny. The last couple of times, however, I was not impressed with the results, including this most recent one. Bah.

It used to make sense for me to hire someone to clean the carpets. For about $100, they would swoop in and steam clean all the rooms in about an hour. Also, the last time I cleaned my own carpets (in a previous lifetime), it was quite the ordeal, especially trying to rinse the soap out. Ugh.

Now it costs a lot more and they are not doing a very good job. I looked into purchasing a carpet cleaner of my very own, but it made more financial sense to rent one, which I did last night: a Rug Doctor from Home Depot. Lo and behold, it was simple as pie to use AND there was no rinsing step. Hallelujah.

The carpet in the bedroom looks better now; it may be too old to ever look new again. But what really amazed me was the amount of filth the good Doctor pulled out of the carpet. Immediately after a professional cleaning job. That cost me over twice what the rental did. Huh.

So good-bye, professional carpet cleaners. Don't let the screen door hit you on the way out.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Say "Cheeeeese!"

Every year I travel to Massachusetts one or more times on what I call my "family obligation vacation". For most trips I try to plan something special to do while out there (click here for an example). This year the trip managed to coincide with Cheesemaking 101 workshop offered by the New England Cheesemaking Supply Co. and taught by the Cheese Queen herself, Ricki Carroll.

(Sorry for the poor quality of these photos - I was the photographer, my cell phone the equipment.)

While my SO rambled about the area near Ashfield, doing his thing, I spent the day with 30 other apprentices, learning how to make five different cheeses. I have been dabbling in cheesemaking for a while, but it really helped to watch an expert at work. Ricki was very generous with her knowledge, much of which will help me improve my technique and results.

The only "hard" cheese we made was a farm house cheddar, which gave us the opportunity to become familiar with the cheese press in the first photo; since cheddar requires aging, we did not get to taste the results of our labor. The other cheeses were fresh cheeses, including 30-minute mozzarella, all of which I have made myself. Regarding the latter, it's one thing to follow directions in a book and another to see how stretchy and shiny the final product can be.

All the cheesemaking books I have referenced talk about how important it is to use pasteurized milk, so I was quite delighted with Ricki's acknowledgment that raw milk usually produces the best cheeses because, even if the carton does not say "ultra pasteurized", the milk may still have been heated too high for cheesemaking. She also ranted a bit about buying food from local farmers. (I think we are soul mates, except she is much more artistic than I am - her house is a work of art in itself).

Ricki started the workshop by saying this was going to be her last one for a while, maybe forever, but by the end, she was recanting, evidence that she loves what she does. If this is the last one, I am extra glad I attended. Now all I need is a cheese cave.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

It is finished (more or less)

Except for a couple of outstanding issues, phase 1 of the remodeling is DONE! On time! And I am happy with it! A much different experience than I have had in the past. Makes me want to start phase 2 NOW.

I've been taking pictures but they don't really do justice to the makeover. Yes, the crown molding gives the rooms a "finished" look. Yes, the paint spruced up the walls. Yes, the Spanish lace ceilings are nicer, but who spends a lot of time looking up? The sum of the changes resulted in an improvement to the gestalt of the house without compromising its modest ranch roots. It still feels like my home.

The carpet cleaners are coming on Tuesday, so I don't want to move furniture yet. Meanwhile, I am putting the kitchen back together, but not without spring cleaning as I go. I can't recall *ever* washing the insides of the cupboards, and since the doors are usually shut and what goes in there is usually clean, they aren't that bad. I've worked my way through a half bottle of lemon oil, putting a shine on old wood. A few things have been tossed (e.g. 20-year-old microwave cookware), some things have been rearranged (e.g. the four mismatched pieces of Fiestaware someone gave me forty years ago are now on display), and amazingly I have storage for *more*. Or so it seems - I'm not done yet.

The best thing about remodeling? I can stop looking at the ceiling damage, stop fixing the toilet innards with safety pins, stop wishing away the permanent stains on the counters. I can stop beating myself up for not doing it.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Temporary digs

While prepping for the remodel, I emptied all the kitchen cabinets, drawers, cupboards, and shelves, and deposited the bulk of it in the dining room.

Where are the pot holders?

And this isn't even all of it, as books went elsewhere and whatever I thought I might need for the duration took up residence in the West Wing.

The toaster oven is under the table.

Without a kitchen sink, I've had to resort to washing dishes in the utility sink the the laundry room.
Like camping but without the s'mores.

I spend a certain amount of time opening empty cupboards and walking into empty rooms. The dislocation of all my belongings has taught me just how habitual most of my movements are. Unused portions of my brain have been put to work figuring out just where a particular thing is.

The bedroom I am using reminds me of the dorm room of a messy coed. The bathroom is crammed with two of everything. I can't wait to get my house put back together.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Remodeling, phase 1, week 1

In every remodeling project (nay, *every* project), there will be glitches. The first one was discovering that the start date was not April 7, but April 9. The (supposed) end date is still the same and, frankly, I would have been hard pressed to have the four areas cleared by last Monday, so I wasn't too upset about this. But still. It does not portend well.

Dust bunnies the size of jackalopes behind the bed frame

And yet, deliveries started on April 7: the shower and half a toilet. Not sure what would have happened to them had I not been home. Left sitting in the driveway?

Otherwise, the work is progressing, and very neatly. Tarps cover the floors, plastic drapes everything else, to the point that parts of my house resemble the kill rooms on "Dexter". There is even a tarp under the van to protect the driveway from oil drips. (I'll have to mention that to the carpet cleaners.)

Kill room

Body bag

The ceiling guy works on stilts. The plumber guy looks like Jesse Pinkman. Everyone is careful and meticulous.

So far, all the ceilings have been scraped of popcorn and laced, all painted except for the master bath, the crown molding primed. In the bath, the toilet and shower are gone, the new shower installed. That half toilet in the garage? Someone at the supply house must have had a brain fart; it is to be replaced with a new improved version of the same model (Gerber Viper). In the kitchen, the old counter top has been replaced with the new. (Kudos to my daughter for selecting the counter top design - it looks *great* with the cabinets.

More glitches:
  • The fancy schmancy kitchen sink that is 9" deep won't work because the cupboard doors under the sink are recessed, something I had never noticed before but which allows me to stand close to the sink without leaning forward. Fortunately, the plumbing guy realized the sink was unworkable *before* cutting a hole for it in the counter top. Just as well we need to pick something else, as the drains of that fancy one were not centered and would have caused some under-sink plumbing difficulties.
  • The vanity top with the integrated sink had a crack in it. Again, the plumbing guy noticed this prior to installation. A new one will need to be ordered, which may take a few weeks, in which case the cracked one (the flaw is not in the bowl itself) will be installed, then swapped out when the new one arrives.

I am really, really, *really* glad I can work from home for the duration. Invariably, there are questions and discussions and decisions that would be difficult to handle over the phone, but not so much interruption that I can't get my work done.

There was a glitch with my home work environment as well - the kitchenette I set up in the West Wing works well, but I discovered running the microwave and the toaster oven at the same time trips the circuit breaker for that room, which cuts power to the wi-fi router. I lost Internet access until I could get some help from Frontier; that took some time, but once I connected with the right person, the problem was solved in short order. (FYI: if this happens to you, recycle power to the router by pulling the plug *with the router still on*, wait a minute or so, then plug it back in. Simply using the switch to turn it off and on will not work.)

So. So far, so good, more or less. Worse things could go wrong (knock on wood).

Monday, March 31, 2014

Where did all this CRAP come from?!? Part 2

Today was clean-out-the-garage day, in case the crown molding guys need a place to cut up the crown molding. Again, there is a lot of stuff in my garage, but little to throw out other than cardboard. Hard to believe that once upon a time, we parked TWO vehicles there.

I did move the bales of straw to the garden and the patio pots to the patio, but the lawn chairs went back in for now. Some garden hoses found their way to the outside faucets, but I did not hook them up. That seemed to be asking for trouble.

Many a time I have lamented not having a basement, but the past few days have taught me that if I did have a basement, it would be full of crap.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Where did all this CRAP come from?!?

The remodeling starts in two one weeks. The rooms to be remodeled need to be cleared, including the closets, while at least some of the remaining rooms remain livable for the duration. Toward that end, I started shifting my belongings this weekend. It is amazing what one accumulates over a 20 year period. I used to share this house with other human beings, but now it is absolutely FULL of my own crap.

The logical thing to do would be to get rid of some of this stuff NOW, but I am feeling rather overwhelmed by the whole remodeling process. Maybe the culling will occur when it all has to go back to where it came from, but I fear there is not that much I want to get rid of. Things like xmas decorations make their appearance for a couple of weeks once per year. Some of the clothes are for those random events, like weddings and funerals, when you hope what you have fits and is not ridiculously out of fashion. What about high school year books? Can I pitch them? Even the one with David Hasselhoff in it?

Somehow I became the keeper of the family memorabilia, in the form of letters, photographs, and home movies. The latter I have had transferred to DVD and distributed to my dad and siblings (all of whom are greatly appreciative). I hope to do the same with the photographs, once I sort through them. The letters I fear I will have to scan myself, a good retirement project. Meanwhile, all this non-digital shit takes up space in my closets and spare bedrooms. In fact, as I cleared out some closet space this weekend, I found MORE.

Anyway, the plan so far is to use the guest bedroom/yarn haven as my sleeping quarters while the other spare bedroom will hold everything from the master "suite" that I can do without for two weeks. The kitchen and family room stuff hopefully will fit into the dining room. With no kitchen, I will have to set up a kitchenette of some sort in the West Wing, with the coffee maker and toaster oven. My microwave is an under-the-cabinet-over-the-stove thing, so I may purchase a cheap one for heating soup and boiling water.

So that leaves me with one bedroom, one bathroom, the living room, the West Wing and laundry for living space, good practice for when I need to downsize, which hopefully will not be for another 20 years.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Picking colors

Girls day out last Saturday, as my daughter and granddaughter helped me pick paint colors for the remodeling. I am color-challenged, plus I get distracted by the color names, so it really helps to have an expert (the daughter) along. The granddaughter was no help at all.

The master bedroom and bath have been two shades of blue for the past ten years, and everything else in the room is geared toward that. So I wanted to keep the blue, but we updated and brightened the colors by selecting 'Bounty' and 'Cool Sheets' for those two rooms.

Since the backsplash will lighten the kitchen, we chose a darker brownish color called 'Mushroom'. The daughter explained it has some purple in it (which I could not see), which will offset the more neutral color of 'Rotunda' that will go in the family room. So not only did the daughter pick good colors, she had a strategy as well.

The diningroom is part of Phase 2, but the ceiling-wall people are going to try to glue down the curled up edges of the wallpaper that is above the chair rail. Regardless of the success of that endeavor, we picked 'Skinny Latte' for below the chair rail. If the wallpaper does not behave, we will pick a different color to replace it. It is the last of the country flavored wallpaper, but I get so many complements on it, I haven't been able to let it go... yet.

We looked at light fixtures for the kitchen and family room as well, picked out one for the former, could not find anything we liked for the latter, but I am having second thoughts about the one that did make it home. Maybe we will find something better when we continue the search.

The countdown continues.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Start your engines!

The remodeling crew leads met at my house this morning, to get an idea of the size of the job and to set a schedule. The only one not on board was the paint-and-dry-wall guy because the other two times he was at the house, we talked about doing the whole house; he was not aware I had broken it into two phases. Start date is April 7, expected duration is two weeks. That covers the kitchen and family room and the master "suite" (bedroom and bath).

My daughter and I still need to pick out light fixtures for the kitchen and family room, plus paint samples for same. (The bedroom and bath are getting painted but in the same colors.) I also need to empty the bedroom closets and the cupboards in the family room, not sure about the kitchen ones, but I may empty them just so I can clean them, something I don't think I have ever done here.

I am also going to empty the bedroom of furniture. For one thing, I will need the dresser and nightstand in the guest room where I will be sleeping. For another, my bed frame is for a water bed and has built-in drawers. While I no longer use a water bed mattress, the whole thing cannot be easily moved around. Once the work is done, the carpet will be cleaned, and then I will rearrange the furniture from how it is now.

I am both excited and full of dread, but here we go!

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Solar vortex

("I went to the animal fair/The birds and beasts were there/The big baboon by the light of the moon/was combing his auburn hair/The monkey he got drunk/and sat on the elephant's trunk/The elephant sneezed/and fell to his knees/and what became of the monk?" You are welcome.)

Thursday, day one of the Home and Garden Show, is the best day to go. The crowds are sparse and the vendors have not yet exhausted themselves. That does not stop a few (white middle-aged male) vendors from ignoring me. I guess my money isn't any good.

Now that the interior remodeling is in the queue, not much left remains to do to the house. There is the patio problem, so I picked up a few brochures on decks. My SO needs a new garage, so he scouted a bit for that. Earth Fare is opening a store near my home, so we stopped at their booth to sign up for their e-newsletter and get free reusable shopping bags.

And I asked around about solar. My employer has a plan they call COyou2, whereby they provide funds for the employees to put toward home improvements that reduce our collective carbon footprint. (Yes, insurance companies care about climate change because they have to shell out big bucks on weather-related claims.) I used my stipend when I replaced my heating-cooling system and bought a new refrigerator. But now my employer is rebooting the program, providing more money for more projects. I don't want a hybrid car - too expensive and I don't drive that much - but I have some south-facing roof, so solar is an option.

Solar is still expensive, but there is a 30% tax credit that makes it less painful. Also, in some areas you can sell SRECs - Solar Renewable Energy Credits - to others. Here in Indiana, any excess power I generate goes back on the grid, and the electric company I use will give me credit for it. Add my employer's incentive and the payback is greatly reduced.

My dream house is an octagonal place in the country that is (mostly) off the grid, but I think the window of opportunity for that is closing (because I am growing too OLD). I can live quite comfortably in my current location for another twenty years, so I am going to make it as close to my dream house as I can possibly can. Now if the city would just let me keep a few chickens.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Small world

The kitchen and bath designer I am working with lives in the town where my ex lives and my son grew up. While we didn't know each other before, we know some of the same people. For a while, she lived in the town where my ex grew up; neither of us likes that place very much, for similar reasons: very judgmental, very gossipy, very clique-ish.

Last Monday I met the woman who is going to schedule the worker bees. When I told her where I live, she said, Oh, I have friends who used to live in that addition! She said their last name, and I said, Yup, I bought their house, 20 years ago.

I remember at the closing, the subject of redecorating came up, and I said it would take me 20 years to get everything done. I think the sellers were a bit miffed, thinking I meant the house was in such bad shape, it would take that long to fix everything. What I meant was, I am slow. Sure enough, here it is, 20 years later, and I am finally getting the last of the remodeling/redecorating done.

Sunday, February 16, 2014


After a little comparison shopping and much mulling, I decided to go ahead with half the renovations. The rest will probably follow shortly, but I just can't spend that much money all in one fell swoop. Even half makes me weepy.

So the plan is to redo the kitchen and family room and the master bed and bath. Except when I am parked on the living room couch, these are the rooms I spend the most time in. Also, I will be able to live in the house while the work is ongoing (can't afford not to). Fun.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Where are the smelling salts?

The good news is, the estimate is not more than I paid for the house.

The bad news is, the estimate is over twice what I was hoping to pay. Bathrooms and kitchens are expensive.

Still digesting it. And I have heartburn.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Hurry up and wait

Still no estimates for the remodeling. The electrician came and assured me the wiring in the house is just fine. One reason I asked for his opinion was periodically my home insurer sends me a questionnaire which asks about dogs, pools, trampolines that would raise my risk category, plus any home improvements made, like rewiring and replumbing the house. Also, when I plug the vacuum cleaner into an outlet in the living room and run it in my bedroom, the bedroom lights dim. He said that is normal, especially with the new high-powered vacuum cleaners on the market these days. Since no electrical things will be added during the remodel, he saw no problems ahead.

Then the drywall/paint/ceiling guy returned, to make sure he had all the measurements he needed. That gave me a chance to chat him up on itemizing his estimate so that I can perform surgery on it and bring it down to something I can afford. For example, the doors. If I don't replace them, how much to paint existing ones? And maybe I won't even do that, although his opinion was I would not like the result and he would be back.

My nightmare is this remodel will cost more than I paid for the house. I brought home a sample of the cabinet refacing my daughter and I had picked out, only to discover the wood color is almost exactly what I have, so now the refacing is off the list. Moving my bedroom door is another item that is sure to go. Converting the fireplace from wood to gas can wait. The Corian sink will probably turn into stainless. You get the picture.

And then there is the timeline. The drywall/paint/ceiling guy estimates his part of the job will take three weeks. I'm guessing the bathrooms and kitchen will be at least another week. Then a week for contingency. I am NOT looking forward to over a month of chaos.

BUT! I will be so happy when it is done, right? Right?!?

Sunday, January 26, 2014

DIY laundry detergent and deordorant

I like to cook from scratch. I also like to make other things from scratch. My daughter connected me with this website for making your own laundry detergent. I omitted the essential oil, worried that it would smell too strong, opting instead to add a drop to a load of laundry. By the time the clothes come out of the dryer, there is no scent left, so next time I will add an essential oil, to cover the smell of the Fels Naptha.

This time of year, my clothes do not get very dirty, so while they feel clean, I cannot yet verify the cleaning power of this detergent. I forgot to save the receipts to determine whether it is cheaper than buying ready-made detergent. Maybe next time.

"Next time" will probably be a year from now, as this recipe makes A LOT.

A friend linked me up with this recipe for homemade deodorant. I made some without essential oil (for my daughter, who is sensitive to scents), some with lavender (for moi), and some with clary sage (for the SO - it smells more masculine). The recipe is as simple as can be, takes five minutes at the most, and each batch produces 1/2 cup of deodorant. Winter is not my sweaty season, so I can't assess its effectiveness quite yet. I'll report back this summer.

Do you have any recommendations for DIY projects?

Monday, January 20, 2014

Let there be light.

Today my daughter and I met with the contractor at their supplier of light fixtures and ceiling fans. I don't know about you, but I don't get too excited about ceiling fans. As long as they are quiet and functional, who cares? Some are quite fancy, though, and some are literally fans. (Photo from Craftmade.)

We picked some plain but attractive ones for the living room and bedrooms. Since upgrading my heating and cooling system to Carrier in 2007, I hardly ever use the ceiling fans, but they are useful at times (like when I am blocking a knitting project). The ones in the bedroom will include light packages.

We picked out a new chandelier (I use that term loosely) for the dining room, but otherwise, did not see much lighting that was suitable for the remaining areas. Everything seemed too fancy. So daughter and I will have to continue shopping at Lowes, Home Depot, Menards, etc.

Then the contractor and the drywall/paint/ceiling guy came over to the house, so the latter could survey the effort, measure rooms, warn me that all that crown molding was going to be expensive, etc. Some of the people that worked on my house in the past use nondescript vans or work out of the trunk of their car. Not this guy - his business is quite a step up from the first paint/ceiling sub-contractors that the overall contractor used in the past.

Which is why I am giving this company a third chance at my house. They did my new room and the laundry/mud room, and while in both cases the process was painful, in the end I was happy with the results. I could have served as my own contractor and lined up all the sub-contractors myself, but I did that once and once is enough.

Next up: the electrician.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

It's what's inside that counts

Agewise, retirement is on the horizon, but there are a few things I need to do before abandoning a steady income. One is to amass all the "toys" I will need for my various and sundry hobbies. Another is to finish fixing up the house.

I have lived in this house for 20 years. One reason I selected this particular abode was the street names: I live on Jamaica, between Rome and Paradise. Another reason was I felt I could move in without redecoratimg beforehand. Not that I was enthralled with the country interior that was popular back in the day, but I could live with it for a while. Moving was stressful enough without having to make a bazillion decisions about color and carpeting.

The first thing I had to replace was the garbage disposal, then the dishwasher. The kids' bedrooms were in little kid style, so they were upgraded next. Then the windows, to be followed later by siding. My goal was to do *something* every year, even if that something amounted to only a new shed in the backyard. Eventually, I removed almost all the wallpaper (myself! I will never do that again) and, with my daughter's help, repainted walls. All the appliances have been replaced (including new stove and microwave and freezer), as has the flooring, the heating/cooling system, and the hot water heater. I hooked up to city water in 2007. Then the Florida room disappeared and the West Wing was born (see Woodchuck Acres blog entries from the summer of 2008). The workroom in the garage become the laundry room (see Woodchuck Acres blog entries from November 2009). External doors were replaced in 2010. The driveway was replaced in 2011.

After that, I felt broke and burnt out on home improvements and focused on the yard instead, enlisting the help of my SO in building raised beds, etc. But now it is time to gear up for the final push, all inside work. Most of it will be cosmetic - paint again (but not by me), replace ugly stained trim with painted trim, replace popcorn ceiling with Spanish lace (and repair the ceiling damage that came with the house), add crown molding, replace light fixtures and ceiling fans, etc. I would also like to move the doorway of my bedroom (it's a long story), convert the fireplace from wood to gas, replace all the hollow doors with 4-panel doors. And (gulp!) upgrade the baths and kitchen.

We are not talking about a total gutting, but I expect the baths and kitchen to be the big ticket items: new shower/bath enclosures, toilets, vanity tops, plumbing fixtures, exhaust fans (to be vented outside instead of into the attic like they are now) for the baths, new counter top, tile backsplash, and cabinet refacing for the kitchen.

I am also contemplating moving out for the duration. My first thought was to put all my furniture in storage and take up residence at an extended stay type of hotel. It might be cheaper to find a two-bedroom apartment to rent for a month, storing the extra furniture in the spare bedroom. Or I could live in the West Wing and take bird baths in the utility sink in the laundry room (joking!)

Just thinking about it all is making dollar signs swirl around my head. Even though I have not received the estimates yet, I am mentally performing triage: what items will have to be postponed or jettisoned completely, to bring the final price tag down to what I can afford/am willing to pay?

And once that is all done? There is still one more big project: do something about the patio to eliminate the step that caused my fall last summer.

And THEN I can retire. I think.