All I Want For Christmas 4

The yearly tradition continues! Want to see what I wanted in 2008? Click Here What about 2007? Click here. What about 2006? Click here.

And now for 2009:

Ok here we go:

1. New Downstairs Bathroom: stand up shower American Standard Champion toilet, small vanity, stand up shower, mosaic tile, river stone floor tile

2. Kitchen: Fix drywall and repaint, new cabinets, new windows plus trim, new LG double french door, double freezer drawer refrigerator.

3. MudRoom: reinstall wainscot, laundry cabinets, laundry closet doors, dining set from IKEA - the white round table and the wickerish chairs, window trim, french door trim.

4. Living Room: Fix drywall & repaint, flooring, trim all round, reinstall that one crooked window, Sony 32" HDTV, carpet pad, re-arrange furniture, fireplace?

5. Hallway/Stairway: banister, stairway trim, top stair step, stairway track light with dimmer, octagonal window

6. Mikey's Room: fix closet light, install window bottoms

7. Office: Closet organizer, door to the attic crawl space, bigger area rug

8. Bedroom: new mattress, new HDTV, more drawers for my Closetmaid set, door for attic loft space, window and closet door trim

9. Upstairs Bath: BUILD IT - frame it, electrify, insulate, drywall, paint, design, , pretty tile, skylight, Corner Jacuzzi tub for two, new vanity, stand up shower, American Standard Champion toilet

10. Garage: Drywall and paint, Two garage doors, storage system with shelves, addition on back of garage - build

11. House exterior: new clapboard siding on the remaining 3 sides, trim out farmer's porch, window boxes, green shutters, lampposts, more nice plantings, a shed, chimney overlay, chimney cap, another chimney to vent wood stove, hammock, new driveway (ie, repour it)

12. Basement: finish it off with a bathroom (toilet, vanity, stand up shower), bedroom (twin bed, dresser, small closet), work room, and rec room (comfy dark colored furniture and rug, pool table, air hockey, HDTV and storage unit). And I want my wood stove hooked up down therez.

Not much I could check off this year, but hey, we're still making progress. The yello truck is fixed for real now - runs perfect and the dam check engine light is finally off. Meanwhile Mike got his transfer case and hopefully he'll be installing it next weekend if not this.

I'm itching to get this wood down in the living room!

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Oh Christmas Tree

Believe it or not, I was down one truck again this holiday long weekend. The yello 4Runner (#2) mysteriously crapped out on the way to the ATM machine on Black Friday. (No, I wasn't about to do any shopping.... in fact, that trip to the ATM was the one and only thing I had to do outside of the house all day.)

I was pretty depressed about the whole situation when I got back home.

So Saturday I called my mom on a whim to get myself back into the holiday spirit. I asked her if she would pick up Mikey and I and bring us down to Kmart to pick up a Christmas tree. (Yeah, I fell victim to their weekend sale, as advertised on TV!) She was free and agreed, although as soon as she arrived at my house, we began to wonder how this would work.

I mean, the woman drives a Honda Civic. So here we are, two women, a baby, and soon to be the proud new owners of a 7 1/2 foot artificial pre-lit Christmas tree... in a Honda Civic?! Oh boy. We had no clue how we were going to make that happen, but luckily, when we got to Kmart, we both liked the 6 1/2 foot tree better then the 7 1/2 foot tree.

Let me stop there for a second for a little tangent/disclaimer:
I am a Christmas person. I love the lights and the trees and the cards and the music and the giving and getting of perfect gifts for everyone. Oh, and did I mention grandma's cookie recipe? Love it. But when you get down to the real vs artificial tree debate - no contest.

And I love real trees... the going to the tree place, the selection of that perfect tree, and of course that delicious deciduous smell. But let's face it - (and I've spoken to this point before regarding the purchase of trees for planting) TREES ARE EXPENSIVE. That's fact numero uno. You go into that tree place with a boatload of cash and you come out with nothing left and a tree you're going to burn in the annual beach-christmas-tree-burning party in under a month.

An artificial tree pays for itself in two to three Christmas's depending on your artificial tree selection and of course whether or not you got it on sale like I did.

Then there are the environmental concerns... you know.... all those trees, wasted. And yes I know they're grown and harvested just for Christmas... but why not just grow them and then just leave them, I say. And though I love seeing those trees go up in a massive dry fireball of new year's joy, that annual beach-christmas-tree-burning party isn't the safest, most environmentally friendly thing either.

An artificial tree is forever... or at least a whole buncha Christmas's. And did I mention the pre-lit feature? So awesome. Think they look fake? Look again. Kmart had some excellent choices at a great value. (Too bad you guys missed the sale.)

Now returning us to me, my mom, my baby, and the Honda Civic... we had just picked out a lovely 6 1/2 foot tree along with a few other trinkets and were now headed back out to the car. Well, wouldn't you know, a 6 1/2 foot artificial Christmas tree box will not fit in a Honda Civic trunk. And just so you know, the back seats in said vehicle do not fold down individually for easy trunk expansion. They fold down as one. Not an option when you have a car seat smack dab in the middle of your back seat. And no, we didn't think to bring a bungee cord, strap, rope, or any other type of fastening device to allow us to hang the end of the box out of the trunk.

You should have seen me wrastling with this thing to get it in the front seat. I think my dad may have some choice words with me... I may have smudged the car in places trying to stuff the box in. But finally I was able to put the seat in the fully reclined position and lay in the box. I was even able to fasten the seat belt on it. And me? I sat in the back with the baby.

So the moral of this story is obvious - don't drive a Honda Civic. Cars are nice and all... but seriously people - how do you go to the dump? Or pickup free furniture on the side of the road on a whim? Or take off to IKEA and load up with flat packed items? And BJ's?! You'd never manage to cram a month's worth of bulk goods into a Honda Civic. It's just not possible. Plus how do you tow your boat, rv, or trailer? I could never do it, myself.

Despite the drama, arriving home and setting up/decorating that tree was the best therapy I could have bought for $107. We haven't had a Christmas tree in at least 2 years now - pathetic for a Christmas lover like myself - so setting up this new tree really felt like "the first Christmas" tree. Plus, Mikey seemed to enjoy it too....

And after all the excitement of Kmart, he napped long enough for me to unpack and put on all the ornaments and arrange the presents underneath. Take a look at the final result!

The only thing missing is a star or angel at the top. I have a beautiful harvest angel that I bought on one of those tree-less years, but it turned out to be too big for this cute little tree. Hopefully I'll find something good by the end of the season.

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Putting the "No" in November

Hey, at least I didn't put the "burrrr" in November, right?

Right now it's all about No. As in No more problemos... knock on something. Sunday Mike successfully removed the cab from Dodge #3. (See incredibly insane removal device below.)

And when I returned home from work on Monday, the remainder of Dodge #3 was gone. (That's a No as in No more excess vehicles.) Now you would think the next step would be to install the cab onto Dodge #2. But no (there's that No again), nothing is ever that simple. Dodge #2 needs a new transfer case first.

I'd love for Mike to have the transfer case for this Sunday - but I doubt that's going to happen. I told him he needs to sell some of this junkola he's been bringing home and promising to sell for big bucks and then never does. (No more junkola in November!) So I suppose we'll see what happens. There's less than a week to finish putting the No in this month.

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The Pride of the Neighborhood

You know you have way too much junk when you're disgusted by merely pulling in to your own driveway. Hiding your head in shame from other drivers... no this isn't my house, I'm just making a U-turn. Yeah, that's it.

That's about how I felt when I came home from a trip to the post office yesterday morning. Grossed out. And yeah, all the vehicles and boats and trailers and lawn tractors... that's one thing. But boy did we have a stack of god-knows-what alongside the garage, the new entertainment center and old lawn chairs borrowed from my parents for the halloween party on the porch, just junk junk everywhere.

So yesterday I managed to prepare the living room for the arrival of the new entertainment center. (Turns out, it's really nice - wood, good condition, plenty of storage and doors and drawers - much better than our previous particle board hand-me-down.) And last night after much wrestling, we were able to disassemble the old and bring in the new.

And here it is! (Look at how stoopid our TV looks.) When we finally get around to doing those wood floors in this room... hopefully just another month or so, we'll probably re-arrange the furniture, but for now, this is much better then what we had.

Plus, with the old entertainment system apart and ready for the dump, it seemed a great time to clean out the rest of the junk. Or, at least as much as we could possibly part with at the moment.

This morning Mike and I took a walk around the yard and decided what to chuck. Come to think of it, I should have taken some before and after pics, because before I knew it, the Dodge was loaded to the brim. Mike's at the dump now and may make a second trip!

And to think... this is the highlight of my week?! (Question mark exclamation point) Seriously, it makes me feel like something was accomplished... and listen, I hear Mike backing back into the driveway even as I type, back from his first trip. I can't wait to go and have a look at the yard.

Today he'll hopefully do that Dodge #2 and #3 cab switch too - and you know what that means - bu-bye Dodge #3!!! Fortunately for me, I'll be attending a luncheon with a couple girl friends. (How many Sundays in a row now have I been stuck at home babysitting? Two months? Good god.)

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It's fixed! Yes, we've finally made it over the big yello hurdle! And if you missed all the drama, let me bring you up to speed...

The Vehicle Fiasco of 2009 began I suppose when I purchased yet another first gen 4Runner and around the same time my husband picked up yet another Dodge diesel and a for-parts-only Dodge to go along with it. This gave us a grand total of 5 trucks, two 4Runners and three Dodges.

The plan was to take Dodge #1 off the road and sell it to pay for repairs to Dodge #2 and the purchase of 4Runner #2. During the Dodge #2 repair downtime, Mike would drive 4Runner #1 and I'd drive 4Runner #2, the cheapest vehicles in terms of insurance. Once Dodge #2 was fixed and on the road, Dodge #3 could be junked and 4Runner #1 could be sold.

Well, problems arose with this plan right off the bat. Mike had no time whatsoever to fix Dodge #2 and Dodge #1 was not selling out on our lawn and craigslist. We were mere days away from just putting it on Ebay when 4Runner #1 began having major issues, rendering it "undrivable" as Mike put it.

Despite my protest, he took off the For Sale sign and put Dodge #1 back on the road. Almost immediately after, 4Runner #2 broke and I was stuck driving 4Runner #1... yes, "undrivable" or not, there I was, driving it every day.

Unfortunately a small issue became a big problem when we couldn't figure out what was causing the issue with 4Runner #2. Mike and our neighbors across the street spent a month of Sundays changing out parts between the two 4Runners until FINALLY just this past Sunday, they discovered it had been a bad distributor the entire time. (Always something stoopid, right?)

So after finally fixing 4Runner #2, Mike returned to working on Dodge #2. At this point he's pretty much ready to do the Dodge #2 and 3 cab switch. He painted Dodge #2's frame on Monday. Hopefully we'll have some good weather so he can finally complete this project. Then plan now is to fix Dodge #2, get Dodge #3 outta here, sell Dodge #1, and then fix and sell 4Runner #1.

Time is of the essence. We're both eager to get to work on that living room floor, the wood for which has been hanging out in our hallway since last year. And speaking of which, apparently, Mike just picked up a new wood entertainment center today... and when I say "new" I mean someone came into his work with the thing in the back of their truck on the way to the dump with it and he nabbed it.

So we'll see what kind of thing comes home. I hope someday to have a nice flat screen over a nice fireplace in the living room....

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Another Fiesta

Me 'n Mike

The Creeps - Ghosts last year, Vampires This Year

Mummy Bread

The Girls


Ahhh, the annual Halloween party is officially over. And may I be the first to say, thank god. I really do enjoy throwing this party - we only have one party a year and this is it - and I love it. But this year with the baby plus my co-hostess bowing out last minute due to swine flu, conflicts with my friend Anya's wedding, half the guests attending the wedding, three weeks of decorating and cleaning.... I'm just glad it's over and everyone had a fabulous time, including myself.

Of course now comes time for cleaning the house.... or, I should say unhalloweening. Such a pain! I have to neatly put away all the decorations, wash all the spooky dishware, and throw out anything broken, ripped, or otherwise unusable for next year.

After that I wish I could say we could return to our normal madness, however this whole vehicle thing is still looming over us. My yello truck is still hurting and the reason is still unknown. Mike has changed the spark plugs, the vacuum lines, the fuel pump, the fuel filter... checked the timing, switched computers with the green 4runner, switched the coil and various other electrical components trying to find the culprit. But still it's acting up - specifically, like it's getting no fuel - you put the petal to the metal and you're still only going about 30mph and not accelerating.

What is this, the 4th weekend he's been working on it? So frustrating for both of us. Mike's eager to move on to his other Dodge to Dodge project and I'm just eager to make progress of any kind. With only a few weeks until the start of the holiday madness, I'm hoping for a bit of good luck. Because you all know I have a big winter to-do list....

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Check Off the Trade Offs!

Productivity was at an all time high this Sunday/Monday as the guys commenced with their October Trade-Offs...

I don't know why I had it in my head that they weren't going to get started until after Halloween. So you can imagine my excitement when I found out. Imagine, all this stuff done - before Halloween. Nothing short of a miracle there, really.

So TJ was over on Sunday and Monday working on the siding. By Sunday's end, he was up to the top of the windows. (Yeah, this pic was taken in the late afternoon - he's almost there!) And by Monday's end he was to the top of the ridge vent.... which he replaced with the new and freshly painted ridge vent. Manwhile - yes! Manwhile! (That was originally a typo, but I'm going to roll with it because this is manly stuff here.)

Manwhile, Mike fixed TJ's truck and had it finished by Sunday's end. Monday Mike was supposed to move on to my truck.... but unfortunately his truck all of a sudden decided to blow a couple of critical parts. (Grrrrrrrrr!) And he had to spend the day taking care of that. (Womanwhile, I have to drive my old and also not-working-right truck for another week until he can get to my new truck hopefully this weekend. Grrrrrrrrrrr2!)

Monday afternoon, our plumber Brian came over to do the third zone... but he didn't. Upon inspection of the baseboard in Mikey's room, he said it was too low to the floor. (We did just put in that new flooring last winter.) And I guess this low placement can effect the effectiveness of the baseboard. (Who knew?)

So they raised it.

At first I was totally t'd off because I was thinking, "Sure, that'll fix the 'too cold' problem, but what about the 'too hot' problem?!" But Brian made a totally obvious point that I'd never thought of before - close the flap! You know, that flap on the baseboard to control the amount of heat coming out. DUR! I'd never even considered that option. So we'll see how it goes. Last night it seemed to work much better and the room was the same temp as the rest of the house - even with the door closed.

And when it comes right down to it, this fix is much more affordable and labor effective than having to go out, buy a buncha new baseboard and another thermostat and all that la-dee-dah. As long as it works - why mess with it?

So with those projects completed... or at least mostly in the case of the siding... we can focus on getting this whole vehicle debacle taken care of. And after that's taken care of.... well, I'm not even going to venture into my winter list at the moment. I've got too much on my mind already.

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Hey housebloggers - If you love my son Mikey in this picture:

Than you need to vote for him as your next Baby Idol!

Yes, our Mikey is baby #197 in Fun 107 FM's Baby Idol contest - and he needs your vote to win! CLICK HERE TO PLACE YOUR VOTE!

Ok, so it's a little silly, entering him in a radio contest. And in the actual pic, they cropped out the beer, which is the cutest part... but what they hey, right? We could win if you all just vote! And vote a lot - as many times as you want! Vote 10 times a day - it's fun!

Thanks everybody!

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October Over - Let the Trade-Offs Begin!

It's the 21st. Of October!! When did that happen? I suppose somewhere between four or five rainy weekends in a row, marathon friend events, and a certain adorable 5 month old, time got away from us.

And I know - excuses excuses. I'm not one to make 'em. And now I'm looking at a 1/2 sided house thinking, it's not going to be done in time for our annual Halloween party. *sigh* And I'm looking inside and thinking, I'm going to be lucky to finish my decorating in time for the party. And it all makes me want to make excuses.... in fact I could probably bake you a half dozen right now. I've got all the ingredients.


Would you believe, just as I was writing this yesterday, an incredible stroke of luck struck me over the head. We learned our carpenter and very very good friend TJ was in a jam. (If you recall, he built our farmer's porch, leveled our house after the house lift, helped with the hardwood in the baby's room, installed our new front door, and more and more) Anyway, TJ's truck is in bad shape - nearly undriveable in fact. And yesterday he received a repair quote of about a million bucks... not really. But it wasn't cheap. Repair places are all trying to grind out profits now adays you know.

So when I learned, I immediately thought - trade off! And what better trade than the rest of the siding, which Mike didn't really want to do anyway. (Let's face it, the shape of our house plus the windows, plus the height.... the remainder of the siding is a difficult measuring/cutting job.) The guys talked about it last night - we'll pay for the parts and do the labor on the truck (or Mike will... I'll be babysitting, but no big deal) and TJ will finish the siding.

Hallelujah! (I had a hellofa time trying to spell that by the way...how often do you have to spell Hallelujah?!)

I'm so excited I can barely wait! I had just gotten used to the realization that the job wouldn't be done until next Spring... and now it'll be done in time for Winter. Woo to the Hoo!


I nearly forgot about another important trade-off that Mike solidified just this past Sunday!

Ok, so we've noticed that poor little Mikey's room has trouble maintaining temperature. It's either too cold and won't warm up or the door is closed and it gets too warm. Seems like a contradiction, but here's why:

We only have one heating zone downstairs and believe it or not, the longest baseboard is actually in Mikey's room. So, when the door to Mikey's room is closed and the heat kicks on, the room heats right up and it's too toasty, since the smaller baseboards in the rest of the downstairs are trying to maintain the temperature and that big baseboard in Mikey's room is just jammin, but it's closed off from the rest. It's hard to explain, I hope that's clear.

But - and here's the but. If the heat doesn't kick on and the door to Mikey's room is closed, his room will not warm up. I would wager a guess that this is due to the room's placement at the front of the house, which doesn't get very much sun due to the shade of the farmer's porch and fall's shorter days.

Either way, the situation just isn't good. Anyone with a baby will tell you, you shouldn't be covering them with heavy blankets at this age - it just increases the risk of SIDS as they could pull them over their head and start rebreathing too much CO2... that's the theory. And best not to risk it. Plus, if the heat kicks on then the poor kid would get too hot anyway. So it's a no win scenario.

Blah blah blah Jess, get to the point. OK, I hear ya. The point is - we need a zone in there. Problem is, we're severely lacking in time as you all know.

So over the weekend Mike talked to our other good friend and master plumber Brian. (He helped us install our new boiler and our two current zones.) Turns out, Mike has some engines or lawnmower parts or something that Brian has been after.... trade off time once again. They both came to an agreement and soon enough, Brian will come over to take care of the 3rd zone installation for us.

Ahhhh, the great feeling knowing that siding and heat will be AOK and ready for winter. You have no idea what a relief it is.

Speaking of which, with November on the horizon, let's take a moment to reflect on Winter Time Project Goals. (This will be fun because come March/April we'll just see how much we accomplish.... Why do I love lists so much? It's sick. I get that from my dad, I recently learned. My mom noticed a list in my kitchen and asked Mike, "Does Jess make lists?" To which he answered, "Oh yeah! Big time!" To which she replied, "Because Bill makes lists..." Wow we are waaaayy to alike, it's scary.)

Winter Time Project Goals
Winter Time Project Goal Timeframe: November thru March

1. Complete hardwood flooring in the living room!
Project scope: Rip out old flooring, install 3/4 plywood, reinforce underlying floor beams in the basement, repair living room drywall, repaint, install new hardwood, install baseboard trim

2. Complete hallway/stairway!
Project Scope: trim out the new front door and install baseboard and stairway trim, install iron balusters and stair railing

3. Complete mudroom!
Project Scope: purchase and install laundry closet doors, install baseboard and window trim

And I think that may be more than enough to keep us busy throughout the winter season. The good news is - we already have all of the hardwood and some of the plywood needed for the living room! And we already have the railing and the balusters for the stairway! So most of the big purchases have been made - it's now just a matter of time.... which hopefully we'll have this winter, pending completion of fall projects of course...

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Orange You Glad I Didn't Paint It Bananna?!

I swear I've titled a post "Orange You Glad I Didn't Paint It Bananna?!" before... and wouldn't know you it, I know I've painted my hallway before too! Deja-voo! Must be the Halloween spirit getting the best of me.

Yes, it's true - I, ME, actually accomplished something on Saturday all by myself. As soon as the baby went down for his morning nap - I was off like a prom dress, grabbing the paint brush, roller, pan, paint, drop cloth... I finished just as the little guy was waking up.

I think it's the fastest prep and paint job I've ever done! But believe it or not, it came out pretty good too.

As you can see in the pic, Mike put up my nice Czech Mucha print again. Check that one off the list.

Now it should be back to the siding... although now I have to compete with Mike's new project Dodge, which has taken over what little free time he has. Hopefully I can convince him to do some siding this Sunday though... that is, after we attend our friends' son's baptism. Busy busy busy!

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No More Hairy Grass

You know that point in which your grass is just waaay too long? It looks like hair, neatly combed down the hillside. Yeah... we've been at that point ever since the beginning of the summer when Mike fixed a lawnmower for our neighbor and then tested it by mowing the hill.

Well, lucky for us we now have a push mower to take care of that. Figures right? All the lawn tractors in the world - even one with a motorcycle motor on it, and not one of them is manly enough to mow the hill... it's just too steep and uneven. So our new, self propelled push mower is just the solution. That and the weed whacker - you know, for those hard to reach places.

Check yet another task off of the Why-Haven't-We-Had-Time-To-Do-This-Yet list!

Speaking of the WHWHTTDTYL, I'm proud to announce that we finally finished the hallway drywall! You may ask, what? Well, this was so long ago that I'm too ashamed to even look it up in the OneSixty blog post archives.

A long time ago in a galaxy far far oasis, we had a harry potter closet under our stairway. Then we raised the house, poured a basement, and built a staircase to the new basement under the old staircase... thus obliterating said closet space, leaving a gaping hole in the hallway drywall. We lived with the hole for who knows how long until our neighbor Rich helped us patch it.

And then... well, it sat more than half finished for I don't know how long. I'm even more ashamed to report that it took Mike about 10 minutes to sand and finish it, and another 15 minutes to prime it... and that time includes a trip to Benny's for a new paint brush!

Now we just have to paint it - hopefully this weekend, although you all know how that goes lately....

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Congratulate us! We finally installed those screens that we've had in the garage for oh, around 2 years. (If you remember, we actually had the wrong size screens in the garage for 1.5 years - we only just exchanged them about six months ago because we were going to install them... and then left them in the garage for six months.)

The inspiration for this motivation? Last Sunday was just beautiful - probably the last nice summery day of 2009. And I just felt like opening the french doors. So Mike installed the screens - easy as pie, can't believe we waited 2 years. I like the fact that from a distance on the inside looking out, you can't even tell the screens are there.

It was pretty funny, when we first installed them and opened the doors, one of our indoor cats, The Fidget, made a run for the outside and crashed right into the screen. Hilarious! Of course, she had her revenge a couple days later when Mike forgot the screen was there and did the same thing. He knocked the screen right off the tracks, but it didn't break. I can't believe I wasn't the first one to do that.

Now we keep the screen open most of the time, unless the doors are open. It's just safer for the screens that way.

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Together Again

Last weekend was fabulous. With a capital F, A, and B. Just what I needed after a maddening string of presentation-prep at work.

Saturday I managed to finish some much needed cleaning and run some much needed errands. Sunday, Mike and I got hungry and bought a bunch of junk food. (Sounds funny when I write it out like that.) But seriously, we hadn't eaten and by 3pm found ourselves rushing to the grocery store for hamburgers, eggs, cheese, breadcrumbs, heavy cream, nuts, oatmeal cookie mix, brownie mix, caramel sauce and choco-shell ice cream topping. The rest of the day was spent making eggplant parm and oatmeal cookie ice cream brownie sundaes with caramel sauce and choco-shell ice cream topping.

Which, by the way, was so delicious, I'm going to share the recipe:

Oatmeal Cookie-Nut Ice Cream
1 package of oatmeal cookie mix
1 pint heavy cream
1-2 cups 2% milk
1ish cups walnuts
1 cup sugar
2 tbls vanilla xtract
3 tbls caramel sauce
And whatever the oatmeal cookie mix package calls for to make cookies - usually butter or oil, eggs, and a little bit of water.

First, separate your oatmeal cookie mix, adding half to one mixing bowl and half to a second mixing bowl. Then, add the heavy cream, milk, sugar, and vanilla extract to one of the bowls of cookie mix. Blend well, wrap in plastic wrap, and place in your refrigerator for several hours. (Or overnight if you can.) This is a good time to put your ice cream machine innards in the freezer too.

In the second cookie mix bowl, follow your package instructions, cutting everything by 1/2. (Calls for 1/2 cup butter, use 1/4 and so on and so forth.) Bake cookies as directed on the package and let cool to room temp.

Now, remove your ice cream machine innards from the freezer and your milk/cookie sludge from the fridge. Start your ice cream machine as directed by the directions, then pour in your milk/cookie sludge mixture, making sure to get all that good cookie sludge into the machine. Wait as per your ice cream machine directions - mine takes about 20min to get to soft serve consistency.

Once you're at that soft serve consistency, turn off the machine and empty the ice cream into a suitable container - one that's freezable with a tight sealing lid. Something like a tupperware something or other would be good. Now the fun part! Get your actual cookies that you baked - tear them into bite size pieces and stir into your ice cream. (Yes, you will have a lot of cookies in there - that's the point. If you think you have too much - trust me, you don't, just keep stirring them in there. The whole) Then, stir in the walnuts and caramel sauce. Again, you can never have too much - go nuts! (Literally)

Now here comes the hard part - freeze for several hours or at best, overnight. Yes, you'll want to eat it immediately, but your patience will be rewarded. The soft serve freezes to ice cream consistency and the cookies absorb the ice cream and get all soft and the flavors all meld together. Trust me - wait. It'll be awesome.

Now if you want to make sundaes - and you may not want to because the ice cream is awesome all on its own - make the brownies as per your package instructions. Cut yourself a slab and then top with the ice cream. Then apply caramel sauce, extra nuts, and choco-shell ice cream topping. Allow the shell about a minute to totally shell up. And there you have it - the most delicious and decadent thing ever.

I have yet to try this cookie-mix-ice-cream method with anything besides oatmeal cookie mix - but I imagine it would work well with cake mix, brownie mix, and other kinds of cookie mix. Sugar cookie would be wonderful around the holidays - and then add in traditional icing and decorations when you add in the cookies.... mmmm. I'll let you know when I try it.

Anyhoo - back to the house-bloggerness of this posting. Monday we had a baby free day and decided to use the time to work on the siding. The work definitely went quicker with me helping out. Mike would measure and cut, then I would paint and test, then Mike would nail.

As you can see, we completed most of the french door area save for a little sliver at the top - which will be a difficult cut. We also re-attached the exterior light and doorbell at long last. Once that last sliver is done at the top of the door - the bottom part of the front of the house will be complete. We'll only have to finish the part above the farmer's porch roof to call the front of the house done - completely.

We hope to manage it before the end of fall. It's so funny, I seem to remember myself thinking that somehow we'd have the hardwood done in the living room before the annual halloween party. Now I feel like we'll be lucky to have the rest of the siding done in time!

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Like There's No Tomorrow

When we last left our heroes, Jess had a HD coupon and Mike was picking away at the siding. On today's episode - not much has changed.

Yes, I used that HD coupon, but not for what I had originally planned. The dam thing nearly expired before I got a chance to use it! I realized at the last moment on the day of expiration, grabbed the coupon without measuring the doors or talking to Mike and figured - I'll figure it out when I get there.

So I ended up purchasing an octagonal window, which we had wanted for the hallway/stairway anyway. A good use of coupon if I do say so myself, especially at the last minute.

That weekend (not this past weekend, but the one previous) Mike owed me some baby time - which I traded in for house time. ie - He was supposed to babysit while I had a day off, but I instead I asked him to work on the house for me. The project of the moment - finishing the stripping on the front of the house.

You may remember that most of our old siding on the front of the house was stripped during construction of the farmer's porch last spring... except for the very top of the gambrel, above the farmer's porch roof.

Since we desperately needed to go to the dump to get rid of our old front door and some other cleanings out from Mike's parents' house - it seemed like the perfect opportunity to strip off the remainder of the siding and just add it to the pile. Mike started in on it first thing in the AM. And as soon as he began working, our neighbor Rich stopped by, eager to help.

They worked through the morning and by 2:30 were finished. Even though the dump doesn't close until 3, they decided that Sunday traffic would make it dam near impossible to make it anyway - so Rich offered up his truck to haul the plywood from the deepHo.

As you recall, under our old siding was.... well, older shingles. And under our older shingles, even older barnboard. Basically very rough, thick pieces of wood - barely processed and with large gaps and knots and all sorts of obstacles that make it difficult to attach new siding to. So when we stripped the rest of the front of the house, we decided it would be easiest to put up plywood before siding. (Makes things much more weather tight too!)

The remainder of the afternoon was spent putting up the plywood and tyvek. Our neighbor Dana came over to help with the measure and cut of the plywood - which was great because plywood cuts get tricky when you add in two windows, the gambrel shape, and the ridge vent.

Speaking of ridge vent - Mike also purchased a new one whilst at the HD. Our old one wasn't painted before it had been installed, so we figured while we're up there, lets start fresh and paint a new one so it doesn't rot right out. (I finally got around to painting it yesterday during the baby's morning nap.)

And that's where we stand. The gambrel is stripped and ready for siding! This past weekend nothing got done because... well.... I kinda sorta bought a new truck on Ebay. A new old truck that is. New to me I should say. And Mike and his friend TJ went down to VA to pick it up for me. I'm excited to get it, but the whole thing was such an impulse buy... I keep thinking to myself, "I could have and should have used that money on the house." I think about a new fridge and more siding and most of all, the bathroom.

It's the my-dad in me that makes me want to purchase things I need rather than things I want. It's the my-mom in me that makes me an impulsive buyer. So I'm pretty much always in conflict when it comes to spending, especially big purchases.

Anyway, that's the current state of affairs. We keep offering up a utility quad to any of our carpenter friends who want to come and finish the siding and put in that octagonal window... no takers yet, unbelievably.

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More Siding!

Well, the great news is the baby's growing like crazy and time is flying! The bad news is, the time is flying and the siding is going up at a snail's pace. You can't have it all though, and I'm just happy Mike is able to babysit and give me a break on his days off. And then if he has a moment, he's able to make progress on the house.

So we make a little progress every week. Last week, he completed the side around the corner from the front.
And he even put up my sign that I've wanted to use since I bought it in DC over 5 years ago... Lucky for me, the arrow is going in the right direction!

As you can see, we still need to trim out the front door - outside and in. That will be another week or more perhaps.

This past weekend, Mike made progress on the french door wall. He reinstalled our dryer vent cover too. Now he just has to complete that wall, make a block for the light and wooh-laa! The siding beneath the farmer's porch roof will be complete!

Completion above the farmer's porch roof will present new challenges. That part of the house still has old siding on it. So that will have to be ripped down and plywood will have to be installed before the siding. Mike is considering a trade off with one of our friends - finish the top siding and he'll give him a utility quad worth over $1,000. (Personally, I'm not sure if it's worth the amount of work - but it's Mike's quad and his time on the line... his decision.)

Meanwhile, I just received another one of the deepHo's famous 10% off coupons in the mail. And of course, we always need something. This time around I'm thinking of buying the closet doors for my mudroom laundry closet. That closet has been door-less forever and ever. And with those french doors looking so awesome, I'd love to dress up that room, which is our main entry..

Just another thing to look forward to in the coming weeks.

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Bad Bath

Disclaimer: This kind of stuff only happens to me. Even if you tried, you couldn't have worse luck. So... don't attempt this at home. You might make a mess and possibly, you could lose a foot. I know I almost did.

That being said, here's the story. I was minding my own business, taking a shower in the worst bathroom ever, (my own) when all of a sudden and out of the blue - the ceramic soap holder on the side of the shower wall fell off.

Yup, it just decided, "hey, I'm old and I'm sick of hanging on."

And as much as I wanted to be furious, it was too funny. I took this pic right after getting out of the shower.

Mike got home and solved the problem with what else but duct tape!

Just another reason why I wish a new bathroom could come sooner rather than later. But seeing as how our siding is only partially finished, there's still a stack of hardwood destined for the living room just hanging out in boxes in the hallway, and we have two boxes of iron balusters just waiting to be installed on the stairs.... later will have to do.

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Updates at Last

It's been a trying week. Actually, a trying few weeks, I realize after checking the date on my last post. Depressing. I haven't even been able to update. Even now I have to hurry.

So before I run out of time - the door is in and beautiful. It lets in a lot of light, as we were hoping and will go brilliantly with the iron balusters... whenever we get around to installing those.

Door from Inside

Door From Outside (As of yet untrimmed.)

Mike was able to work on the siding last monday and nearly completed half of the front. He would have been able to do more, but had to start again after making a little mistake in the measurements about halfway through. So far, it looks awesome. And from what Mike told me, he's barely made a dent in the amount of siding we purchased... so we may have made a miscalculation in our favor.


I can't tell you when we're going to be able to finish. I can barely finish a sentence these days.

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Light at the End of the Hallway

The door is here. The siding is on the trailer. The trim is up and painted... somewhat. 4th of July and we're all ready to go.

Last weekend we purchased the trim, painted the backsides, and installed some of it. Yesterday I painted the front sides of the few pieces that were up. Amazing how little gets done around here.

Forgive my curt text. Yesterday was tough. I was trying to catch some rays, but just couldn't manage to do it. The baby was having marathon feedings and it seemed every time I managed to get outside - clouds. And then, the icing on the disappointing 4th of july cake, I found a snake laying eggs under the living room rug.

Yup. I'm not scared of snakes, but it shocked my skin off. I was just walking through the living room when I stepped on a lump in the rug. I'm thinking - cat puke. Or something along those lines. So I lift the rug and there it is. I screamed and jumped back, but then got a grip and captured the thing in a tupperware.

Black snake with one orange stripe around its neck. And a freshly laid egg. There was a second egg some distance apart from the snake, which I threw out. When Mike got home I had him release the snake across the street by the herring run. But now I'm worried how many other eggs are under the rug... and how did the snake get in to start with?

We used to get them all the time before we had a basement - big snakes that Mike had to suck up with the shop vac. One of the main reasons we wanted a basement. Mike does not like snakes. I don't mind them. I'll even hold them if I have gloves on. But I do not like them under my rugs.

Anyway - so we'll be taking up the rug today. At some point, TJ will be over to help Mike get started on the siding and to install the door. I have to run out to Lowes and get a lockset. They have these nifty ones that let you change the lock to work with any key. It's so cool. You just stick in this special tool, stick in your old key, then stick in the new key and then that key opens the door. I have one on my french doors already, so one on the front door will mean I can use the same key for both doors and deadbolts. Highly convenient.

So take one last look at that old door.

And take one last look at the house front.

One last look at the french doors.

And hopefully I'll have some new pics later... they better be snake free. And maybe I'll have some color...


Ok, so when did the calendar nearly pull June out from under me? With all the rain and cool weather, it's felt like a never-ending April/May around here. And we've been stagnating too.

But not this weekend. Sunday we began by finally installing the final ceiling fan in the upstairs office! (It's only been 2 or 3 years now...) Advertised as the "5-minute fan," we timed the entire process and found that it's more like the "half hour fan." But that's still great timing.

Then we had a serious siding discussion. As in, what else do we need to do to prepare for the job. I pointed out - hey - we're going to need to replace the front door. And hey - what about those screens for the french doors that we bought back over a year ago...

So Mike pulled the screens out from the garage attic. And wouldn't you know it, they were the wrong size... the screens we bought over a year and a half ago. But I still happened to have the receipt since we'd had warranty issues with the door when we first got it. (Keep all your receipts for warranty service on Jeld-wen doors. Makes it super easy.) Sure enough, we were able to return the old screen at Lowes and pick up the correct one lickedy split. (Although we didn't have time to install it.)

Then we measured our front door and looked through the Jeld-wen door catalog. Yes, they're steel doors. No, I'm not ashamed to admit that. Fiberglass is just way too expensive, and I'm totally happy with my Jeld-wen french doors. Plus, when my french doors were leaking and I invoked the 25 year warranty, Jeld-wen came and fixed them no questions asked and I've since had no problems whatsoever. And their designs are pretty cool - so who cares if they're steel or not.

I showed Mike the design I liked and he measured the rough opening for me and wrote it down in the catalog so I can take it to the deepHo and get a price. (They're all special order, of course.) But since I have absolutely no balance on my HD card (woo-hoo), I don't feel so bad about making one big purchase at no payments no interest for 6 mo's. I estimate it will probably be around $1,000 including all the hardware and such.

With the doors taken care of, the next order of business - the siding itself. Mike visted our neighbor Matt at Morse Lumber Monday morning to get a true price on the pre-primed cedar clapboards we had planned to use. But Matt said, "Why do you want to use cedar? We have a product called HardiePlank - it's pre-painted, less expensive, easy to install, has a wood grain finish, you never need to paint it, and it lasts forever."

Well, that's a no brainer. Mike came home and told me about it, and I got so excited that we both went back to Morse that afternoon and ordered enough for the entire house front. Total price - $1500. That worked out to $9 per 12' section of HardiePlank, or 75 cents per square foot. The product comes in a variety of colors, but Mike and I picked out a light grey.

Of course I think the grey is too grey, but I thought the white was too white and the off white was too yellow. And I didn't want to skew towards green or blue either. This means I'm going to have to repaint the garage, which is such a light grey, it's practically white. Oh well. I'm not too concerned about it, since the HardiePlank seems like such a great product. And I'm eager to get this siding show on the road too.

Our order will be in this week. (Eeeeeeee!) Although we won't be able to start work this weekend. (Father's Day and all.) Our friend Paul is going to help install the stuff starting the weekend after this. In trade, we're giving him a 4-wheeler. (Gotta love trade-offs) This is so exciting. Matt, who installed the product on his own house, said we'd probably be able to get the entire front done in a day - it's so easy to install. That's what I like to hear.

Now there's only one more thing to do to prepare - we need to stain the deck. Mike procured a power painter thing that we can use. I may even be able to do it myself! We just have to test it out and purchase some stain.

I'm so excited - we're moving forward at long last!