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.