Not Enough Hole for My Pocket

Pipe – check. Lumber – check. Pocket door framed out – check….

Mike spent an entire laborious Thursday setting up for the pocket door. Turns out, we didn’t leave enough room after all. Mike had to modify the door to make it work and it took ALL day.

So, check your pocket door kit installation instructions before you do anything, everybody. You may need more space then you think.

And now we’re officially ready for Sunday – hoping we’re still on with the plumbers!

Happy Post -Holiday

Happy post-holidays. I’m so glad they’re over. Have I announced on this blog that we’re expecting? Surprise! 10 weeks and absolutely exhausted. I can’t take it anymore. I was dead on the couch for over six hours yesterday, unable to sleep, unable to move. Eating mass quantities of fudge. Yes, fudge. Shut up. I’m a blimp. I know.

Mike spent most of his pre-holiday break at work downstairs. He jack hammered out a space for the evacuator and dug out the dirt around where the pipes will go. He then painstakingly carried the dirt up and outside, two 5 gallon buckets at a time. So now, minus some pvc and lumber, we’re ready for this coming Sunday.

Once all the drains are plumbed, the flooring will need to be installed, then drywall, and then all the fixtures. (Hmmm, probably some additional plumbing between flooring and drywall now that I think about it.)

We had a very lovely Christmas, despite my near complete incapacitation. The house is completely destroyed by toys and I can’t bear to organize or clean yet. Or even think about it for that matter.

My parents got us a much needed new trash shed to replace our racoon & possum (yes possum) ravaged trash hut. On Monday Mike put together the new rubbermaid model in a record setting 15mins… possibly less. And most of that was getting the dang thing out of the box! I highly recommend this shed for ease of putting-together. Then, Mike had the distinct pleasure of destroying the old hut with the skid steere. He first rammed into it, the drove over it, then picked up half of it and dropped it on itself for good measure. I had the pleasure of watching the whole thing. It was highly satisfying. It’s going to be even more satisfying to be able to safely bring out trash in the evening, or put it out Tuesday morning for pickup without having to shovel trash debris from the half the yard first.

Hammered Out

The jack hammering is done. It was actually finished the same day I posted my last post... I was amazed.

Our drop cloth dust shielding

Some of the first lines in the floor cut with the saw

I guess you could call this the "before"

Here's the after - note the tunnels in the floor, now covered with the drop cloths to keep the dust down and the cats out.

At this point we haven't done much more. We had our plumber purchase the Evacuator for us. (Does what the name implies - makes water go UP into the septic.) Let me tell you, that thing is expensive. Even at his discounted pro price, it was still $420. Ouch. But I understand - this thing is IMPORTANT. You can't cheap out when it comes to moving dirty water.

Mike picked it up last night and scheduled our plumber to come out on New Years Day. (We'll see if that actually happens - I don't think either of them realized it was the holiday.) In prep, we have to purchase a bunch of PVC and accessories. Mike's goal is to have all the drains plumbed and the furnace serviced all in one morning.

Meanwhile, I'm thinking of the new bathroom every time I'm in the old bathroom. I want to be using it by the end of Jan - finished or no, it will certainly be functional by then.

Floored Again

Way back in the day when our basement was brand new.... (Yes, we lifted our house off it's original stone foundation and dug out and poured a basement. Check it out here.) We hired some random people to pour the cement floor. (Not included in your basement wall purchase.) And when I say random, I mean these guys saw our house lifted, stopped in, and offered to do the job. We took their card and said yes.

Thus far we've been pretty happy with our basement floor. I mean, come on. It's a slab 'o concrete. What more do you want of it?

But now that it's time to dig into it to plumb the basement bathroom, there's a problem. Mike brought home the big impressive saw to cut into the concrete last weekend. Turns out, that floor is 6-7" thick. Now I don't know much about basement floors, but that's freakin wicked thick! (NE accent, folks.) Mike seems to think it's only supposed to be around 2" thick. So he was cutting and cutting and cutting - up until the point I couldn't bare the cloud of dust anymore - and barely made any headway.

However, he was right in his assumption that it would be, "the messiest thing ever." Even with the bathroom area walled off with drop cloths and even with fans in two basement windows and the door to the outside open - the cloud of dust permeated upstairs into the house, lightly dusting everything.

Just yesterday, Mike brought home a jackhammer to begin the laborious task of removing concrete within the cut areas. He didn't have any goal set for today, jackhammer day, but he expected it to be slow and painful. I'm looking forward to checking out the progress later this evening...

Hostile DeepHo Takeover

Two empty carts and orange plastic in our pockets. An empty bathroom department, just ripe for a hostile takeover. Dream Day Sunday at the Home Depot.

Yes, there we were, picking out all our fixtures with all but blatant disregard for their prices. It was incredible.

First, the tub and shower enclosure. We chose the sturdiest tub option with a smooth shower enclosure that included built in shelving. Cost as expected, about $200 for the tub, $200 for the shower enclosure. (Caulk-less installation, cool!) That filled one cart. Mike dropped it off at customer service and returned with another.

Toilets. I wanted a name brand with Water Sense savings and high flush power. We chose a mid-range priced Kohler with those two features. $188.

On to the sink/vanities. Here, we ran into a snag. Mike wanted wood colored. I wanted white. We both wanted something of a decent size with the sink included in the price. There was nothing with a sink included that we could agree on, and the prices were outrageous. $400-$600 and no sink?! That was not what I had planned on. Then, around the corner, in between the aisles, there was a clearance vanity. A beautiful dark walnut colored, good size vanity with a white marble inset sink. "I like that one," I said. Mike liked it too, and it didn't have any major damage. Just some drywall dust a some small dings from a prior attempted installation.

We quickly brought over the sales lady who looked up the price, $199. SOLD. She even told us that we could probably get another 10% off at the register. We hungrily loaded it up next to the toilet.

Next stop, fixtures. Mike and I both immediately gravitated towards the brushed nickle and picked out a low to mid-range priced set for both the shower/tub and sink. (Matching at that!) Just over $100 each.

We didn't even bother with picking out the remaining needed lumber. This was a full truck load.

Amazingly, bringing it all into the basement was as difficult as we'd expected. The toilet was no prob. The vanity was a little awkward, but still no prob. The tub wasn't even a prob! The only challenging bit was the large shower enclosure back. No way was that fitting down the exterior basement door/stairs. But turns out we were able to easily bring it through the house's main entrance and down the interior basement door/stairs.

With everything in the room, it took just 15 minutes to arrange, rearrange, and decide on a layout. (And it definitely wasn't what either of us had originally imagined - yay for early fixture purchase!) The tub will go in the left corner, a closet will go across it on the right. The toilet will sit next to the closet and the vanity will sit between the two doors. In the end, this was the configuration that made the most sense to us.

Yesterday, our plumber friend came out to look at everything and advised Mike on clearances and all other things-good-to-know. The two of them will work together to plumb it out... hopefully soon.

That's a Big 'Ol Bathroom

Progress continues! Here, not even a week into this bathroom project, and three out of four walls are completely framed – vapor barrier up. The two doors, including one pocket door kit, have been purchased. And that 4th wall? Well, it would have been completed had Mike not run out of wood.

Next step - obviously, more wood. And I think it's time for the fixtures... (I'm looking forward to arranging things BEFORE plumbing them in.) 

Thanks Indeed

Turkey Day. A time to remember how thankful we are for family, friends, food… employment. And a big fat check from the MG guy! He’ll be here the first full week of December to load it up and take it away – thus ending our long long journey with that little red monster.

With money in hand, we were quick to disperse it. Mike paid off his friend for the purchase of his motorcycle. I paid off the credit card and repaid our savings for paying the credit card. I also paid off the fridge on the DeepHo card, bringing us back to a $0 balance on all fronts once again. What a great feeling! Much of the pressure we’d been building up over the past few months was gone immediately.
And, with our new found financial and obligatory freedom, we got right back to work on the house. I put up the tree and all the Christmas d├ęcor on Black Friday. (Staying as far from stores as humanly possible.) Mike picked up the Pex for the radiant heat on Saturday. Sunday, we really got down to business.
We didn’t get started until after lunch. (Notate that.) Then, Mike drained the heating system and disconnected the pipes downstairs. Upstairs, I moved the furniture in the kitchen and mudroom and disassembled the baseboards in both rooms. Then, it was off to the DeepHo for strapping and 2x6’s.

Upon our return, Mike quickly nailed up the strapping underneath the mudroom and drilled all the Pex tubing holes. Then, the difficult part. We both unrolled and tugged and pulled and fed and twisted and pulled and tugged and connected the tubing in and out of the floor joists. Not as easy as it sounds, since the tubing isn’t so flexible when hot water isn’t running through it.

We removed both baseboards from the kitchen and mudroom and put the former mudroom baseboard into the kitchen. (Wow, this means we finally can have an end-cap in the kitchen… no more no-name brand baseboard that we can’t find the ends to.)
And finally, around 6:30pm, Mike reconnected all the copper connections and pressurized the system. Kudos for re-using so many fittings too… although I wouldn’t advise doing such a thing. We had a couple leaks on first pressurization, but they were quickly fixed and the system was working beautifully by 8pm.
The whole job is made even more unbelievable when you take into account that we had to clean out and move just about our entire stock of lumber – which was all in the absolute worst spot ever. We had to remove it all from the saw horses, stack it, move the saw horses, and then put it all back on. What a pain in the butt… but good in helping us take stock of what we have. Lots of good sized trim pieces, for example. Plus, it was good reason to get rid of all the too-small or crappy bits. We threw those out the window.

Of course, that left us with a big mess outside to clean up at 8:30 at night. We were so toast, tired and achy at that point, but managed to clean at least the driveway.
And all those 2x6’s we also bought at HD? I bet you were wondering what those were for. Bathroom, baby, bathroom. Mike will begin framing TONIGHT. Boy, are we going to push forward with this one. It’s a Christmas gift to us and long time coming at that.

Most of one wall is up!

Out of One Pool of Hot Water, Into Another of Cold Water

I’d like to report a momentous occasion… champagne at the ready? THE MG RESTORATION IS COMPLETE! Yes, this project has consumed nearly all of Mike’s free time over  the past year. His few spare moments waiting for parts were spent in complete exhausted frustration. This car has been nothing but what it was supposed to be – a simple put-together-the-pieces and hook-up-everything project. Instead, everything fought him. A million parts were needed. Work done by others was incomplete or incorrect. Mike’s own high standards frustrated him. He did many things he hates in the name of keeping things high quality and cost efficient, including all the upholstery.

Now, we just await final payment and approval from the owner. Check’s in the mail, or so we’ve been told. It was supposed to be overnighted Monday, but didn’t arrive Tuesday. It didn’t arrive Wednesday. It didn’t arrive Thursday. Nerve racking.

But despite the missing money, we have our lives together back! (Don’t forget, I’ve been practically a single mom for a year.) What a good feeling that is! Back to normal.

This weekend, I’m hoping we can move the mudroom baseboard. We won’t get many more 60 degree days now, but we’ll have one on Sunday and I’d like to put it to good use. Just bite the bullet and get it out of the way before my piano is ruined. I’m not going to run into a free piano I love more then this one.

After the heat is good to go and the money arrives – we’re starting on the bathroom. Gulp. Just got to jump into that one head first, no matter how cold the water is.

Oldy and Now Officially Moldy

For a while now we’ve known that our lone (single) bathroom was leaking water from the shower/tub onto the floor. The problem became all the more obvious when we covered the old floor with a cheap sheet of linoleum. Water continued to leak… and get under the linoluem! Squish squish squish – discusting.

Mike finally got around to purchasing a tube of caulk and re-caulking the entire tub at the end of last week. Unfortunately, after my first long shower after the caulk dried, squish squish squish under the flooring again. The problem seemed worse then ever. Mike removed the cold water handle and discovered that the inside was all corroded. Not a good sign. He removed the access panel next to the toilet and confirmed our fears.

The water wasn’t leaking outside and running down the shower and tub. It was leaking inside the wall. And has been for quite some time judging by the amount of MOLD in there.

I literally had a panic attack. Could this be the cause of my random onset of severe allergies?? (After never having had allergies before, I suddenly began suffering terribly during the winter of last year.) The very thought of it sends chills down my spine. And our two year old… I was petrified at the thought of any more serious health problems cropping up.

We closed the wall that night. Nothing to be done about it then. We only have the one bathroom, after all. But soon enough, as soon as MG money comes in, we have no choice but to build the basement bathroom and completely GUT the upstairs bathroom.

I began researching bathroom fixures on the cheap. (And might I just say that Home Depot’s website is just about the most useless thing ever. You can’t find anything on there and the navigation leaves much to be desired. Lowes website is much more user friendly, although I’ll probably end up buying at the Home Deepo.) 

Fixtures alone:
Bathtub/shower kit (with wall surround): $477
Small single vanity with sink: $100
Toilet (water savign): $100
Sink faucet (decent looking): $40
Shower fixtures (head & control): $100

That brings us to a total of $817 for the basic set of researchable fixutres. (And these are all near bottom of the line cheapest – without going completely ugly.)

Beyond that you have to take into consideration building materials:
Pocket door (maximizing space)
Tile (for floor)
Electrical, including outlets, wires, etc.
Plumbing, including pipes, fittings, and don’t forget this is all in a basement so we need a pump
And all related hardware and supplies

Then there’s all the stoopid stuff you always forget to tally:
Shower curtain and rod
Towel racks
A mirror
Possible linen closet or other storage
Bathroom fan
Heat (cause there’s none downstairs currently)

It’s been a while since we built something from scratch. We’re even trying to finish things now that we started from scratch years and years ago. Although, I’m looking so forward to demolishing the old bathroom. I’m going to personally wreck that thing and every single tile and fixture in there.

Nor'Easter Blowing Out Irene's Bad Luck

Doom and gloom update - literally, because at this date, this are looking up. I have not had any weird or catastrophic bad luck in the past four days... not since I broke part of the kitchen track light on Saturday. Yes, I was cleaning the fixtures that hold the bulbs when one came crashing down and exploded into a million pieces. At the time I was really broken up about it. (no pun intended) I bought this light years ago, what are the chances I'll be able to replace just that one fixture?? There's a good chance they don't even make ones to fit anymore... forcing consumers like me to buy a whole new track light. Companies just love to stick it to you like that.

But as I said, now I'm feeling more optimistic. The bulb to that particular fixture still fits in and lights up and there are still 5 other light fixtures on the track. I can live without for a while. Plus, after that incident, the weekend was great. The day previous, Friday, our neighbor came over and fixed the kitchen drywall. Mike even painted on a coat of primer for me in the same evening. That Saturday night, during the Nor'Easter, I painted the newly fixed drywall with the plenty-of-kitchen-paint we had left over from our last kitchen drywall adventure. (Fixing a hole in the wall.) Believe it or not, we even had kitchen ceiling paint leftover from the last time we painted the ceiling... which was the first time we painted it years ago.

Yes, we opened up that can 'o brown, expecting an unusable mass of chocolate colored goo. Instead, we found something that still sort of resembled paint. It was just a little thick. Mike added some water, stirred, added more water, stirred some more, and there ya go. Enough paint to paint what little ceiling there needed to be done.

I have to admit, I got carried away in the excitement and painted until after midnight. (Storm raging outside, lights flickering, and everything.) I painted the new drywall fix around the new window. I painted the ceiling where drywall had been touched up around the newly fixed wall. I touched up and lightly painted the adjacent walls. I painted the two doorways where it was yucky from fingerprints and furniture moving. I even chipped off a bunch of the crumbling paint from the area around the stove - ceiling and wall - and painted that. I even moved the stove, vacuumed up all the crud that was in there (tots gross by the way) and painted behind the stove where it had not been painted before! I went nuts and had a blast.

Then, I cleaned and rearranged some of my kitchen elements. I re-positioned the Mocha sign so that it would cover the phone jack on one wall. (I always had fond memories of a wall phone in the kitchen at the house I grew up in and installed one in my own house... Too bad home phones are outdated and I don't ever want to pay for one in this, the age of the cell phone.) I also re-hung my canvas martini signs and re-arranged some things on the countertop. It looked great.

Sunday, Mike purchased and prepared the trim for the kitchen window. (We spluurged, $25.) He shimmed the window opening, measured for and cut all the trim, and stained it. On Monday, he installed it all and boy does it look beautiful.

Meanwhile, I spent my Sunday fixing the printer and putting stuff on Craigslist. By late afternoon, I was actually able to print pictures to fill my art wall. (I was very satisfied with printer quality, by the way.) Now, minus one enlargement that I have to buy, that project is complete as well.

I couldn't have been more satisfied unless we had porch steps going in.

Bad Karma

It's me. I have some little black cloud over my head, raining ridiculousness. Day in, day out. More bad news upon more bad luck upon just plain insanity. Let me give you just a small sample of the madness:

I get a new (used) truck and the check engine light comes on during my maiden voyage.
The hood won't shut.
I lock myself out of my office for over a half hour with no phone.
I drop a Pillsbury ready-to-make bread in Walmart and it explodes, leaving me to carry this doughy blob up to checkout.
Daycare announces a HUGE weekly price increase. I have to cut back and take the camaro and motorcycle off the road. Looking to cut back elsewhere too.
I receive the wrong t-shirt in the mail for Mike's Halloween costume.
I buy some picture frames on sale for an art wall only to discover that half of them are missing hangers – they’re desk frames only.
My new printer all of a sudden won't print.

And this is all just since Friday. Not even a week’s worth of the last 3+ months of pure poo. Sound like I'm complaining? Darn tootin. It would be one thing if it was all stoopid little stuff. I can laugh about getting locked out of the office and dropping the dough. I can’t laugh about vehicle problems. I can’t laugh about the rising cost of daycare. I can’t afford to laugh. Not anymore.

So this extreme monetary stress and automotive anxiety is being compounded by a rash of incredible bad juju. I need a cleansing or something – and fast.

To make matters somewhat worse, the last of the MG parts are on a boat from England, delaying the completion of that project. Here in New England, cold weather has finally hit and I can’t delay updates to our heating system… a baseboard currently behind the piano needs to be moved as soon as possible, or it will ruin the piano. And while we have things disconnected, we may as well complete the radiant heating system we began installing last winter. (So far, it’s only in the living room and needs to be extended into the kitchen, mudroom, hallway, and Mikey’s room.)

Cha-ching, cha-ching.

Then there’s the desperately needed new trash shed. We’ve given up even propping the door on the old broken one. The animals get in one way or another. Racoon and now possum. It’s a backyard buffet!

I’ve given up hope on the completion of the porch this year. Dam we were close. Just the rest of the trim and front steps… But I can’t do it. All the siding for the next side of the house and an octagonal window… can’t do that either and half of that stuff is already bought! And forget about much needed bathrooms. I get choked up thinking about it. I regret not tearing that thing off in the beginning. I can’t believe I’ll have to live with it indefinitely now, with no sign of economic improvement on the horizon.

Over the weekend, I did manage to hang all those frames in the hallway – now a gorgeous art wall. Except for the art. I can’t afford to fill the frames right now. (And hey, there’s that new printer that won’t work. I’ve got to look at that tonight.) I almost regret buying the frames except for the beauty and potential of the art wall.

Our neighbor has promised promised he’ll finish our kitchen drywall around the new (now kinda old) window. If I’m lucky, we’ll still have some of the right color of paint downstairs. I so want to trim out the window, but fat chance of that too.

I’m just fulla sunshine, huh? Boy are you glad I haven’t been writing as often as I should. Nobody would want to hear about it. I don’t even want to hear about it. We still have our jobs and can still squeak by living a modest but comfy lifestyle without crazy amounts of debt. At the same time, I’m not getting any younger. Life doesn’t wait for me to save money. And if there’s one thing I hate, it’s wasting time.

Again With the Grass

Upon talking to Mike, I discovered he never received my text and therefor, never ordered the new trash hut. Meanwhile we're still waiting on our canopy and swing things for Mikey's playset. Sometimes when you think you're walking forward, you're actually just standing around making weird leg movements. So hopefully we can iron that out in the coming weeks. (And I mean weeks because I have since spent the trash hut money.)

This weekend was so beautiful, we hardly did any work. And though for most it's a three day weekend, we were stuck with our normal weekend with me still working on Monday. However, we did do our fall grass seeding throughout the yard. Mike brought home the slice seeder and made quick work of the entire job. It took him longer to mow then it did to seed.

And that's all there is to report. We just can't move forward on much else right now. Finishing the MG project is both of our priorities. Parts willing, it will be all over in the next four weeks and we can return to our regularly scheduled lives.

Hello New World

It’s been a while, hasn’t it? I have a valid excuse this time. My entire world has been just turned upside down. And while you think that may be an exaggeration, consider this: my beautiful ’88 Toyota 4Runner has problems so epic that an engine, wiring, and computer change didn’t fix them and have been ordered to give up on the ‘ol girl as a daily driver. I don’t want any other vehicle, nor can I afford a decently new and reliable one. Uncertainty nags at my sanity.  My professional editing software, Final Cut Pro, has been consumerized. Though I can still edit on it for now, I will soon need to convert to something else – and I am unsatisfied with prosumer choices and stodgy old-fart industry standards. My professional tool of choice is gone. My Tuesday night Zum-Belly dance class has as of last night, disbanded. The fitness club where it was held is going out of business. My weekly dose of fun, stress relief is gone. Work has been chaotic in a way that I can’t even describe. I continue to bust my butt. Meanwhile, life with one or one and one borrowed vehicle is no fun. Mike is sick of the breakdowns and the diagnosis. He’s sick of working late nights weeks on end, months on end, now close to a year on the complex MG project. He bought a new motorcycle and I can’t deny he deserves it for all the hard work. His old one has yet to be officially sold, though promises are asserted weekly. I stress about money while at the same time continue to move forward. We took a trip to Chicago and forgot about the world for a weekend – spent a boatload – came back to the same problems and minus money. It was infamously worth it. I feel like we hadn’t spent more then a half hour together watching the weather channel. I barely see my friends. I barely have time for things like Halloween party invites and piano practice. I barely have time for sleep. I’ve probably gained some weight, what with my hand in the candy dish three times a day. This all started with Hurricane Irene. That devil knocked out more then our power, I think. It’s all been a swift downhill since then.

We had a second hurricane scare not a week after Irene. Mike was so petrified of losing the garage that he took down the giant tree on the hill above it. It was more then a little scary. He tied it off with a tree and a rope and chain hooked into the truck, then began cutting in. The wind was against him. One wrong gust and the massive trunk would obliterate the garage and its contents. Mike frantically signalled to our neighbor, who was in the truck’s driver’s seat, and he hit the gas. A lucky break with a gust of wind in the right direction – the tree fell to the back, safely. We lost one beam on the playset, which Mike replaced within the same week. In the same time, he brought home a chipper and ate through all the branches. We still have the trunk laying down there today and Mike hopes to fashion a bench from it. (I have my doubts, he’s no woodworker. No hurt to try though.) The rest of the wood, (from the other tree that came down in the storm) was packed up and delivered to a friend of ours with a fireplace. He was very appreciative.

Tree Chain
Truck hooked up, Tree ready to fall

Tree Falling

Tree Down

Top of Tree in Playset

Truck of Tree

Log Mess

Branch Mess

Truck o Logs

Hill looking weird without the tree there
The weekend after that we lost ourselves in more yard work. I had a 50% off a tree coupon at Morrisons, so this time we picked out a Fuji apple tree for the backyard and a flowering shrub. (25% off the shrub.) The tree, the shrub, and soil for both totalled up under $100 and we were both extremely satisfied. We planted both that afternoon. After that, I went crazy pulling out vines and weeds both dead and alive in the area where we took down the tree the previous week. (We’ll need to do something about the stump, maybe a chair or something?) That area is looking so much better, but will still need more help with additional plantings and… dare I say it, grass?
While I was weeding away, Mike used up the rest of our porch stain on Mikey’s playset. It will need another coat, but for now, looking great. We ordered the canopy and new swing brackets, which should be in soon.

New Apple Tree, Shrub behind to left

Newly Fixed and now Red Playset
 And speaking of ordering, we finally ordered a new shed for our trash cans. You may recall that we’ve been having nightly run-ins with a giant racoon, who freqents our busted trash hut and chows down on our delicious garbage. This thing is huge. At my first encounter, I thought it was a sweatshirt. The door to our current, homemade trash hut has long since fallen off its hinges, and this big boy (or girl) has been eating like a king (or queen) ever since. The new shed is a simple, modest Rubbermaid model big enough to hold a couple of trash cans. I’ll miss all the extra cardboard box storage of the old trash hut, but it’s a small price to pay to keep out the coons. I can’t wait until it arrives so we can take the old one to the dump – along with a bunch of other items that have been awaiting a big dump run.

So, with another week coming to an end I have to reflect on everything as a whole. On the one hand, things are just terrible. The 4Runner, the FCP, the Zum-belly, the work, the money, the MG, the late nights, the sleeplessness and timelessness… And on the other hand, new plantings, new stain, new trash hut.... weekends ignoring and procrastinating the inevitable…. Yeah, things still kinda suck.

Electrical Aftermath

Hurricane Irene. You may remember my last post - dated the day after the hurricane. Well, little did I know what fun and exciting horrors were yet to come. Bottom line - we were powerless for over 6 days with a 2 year old with the stomach flu. If that's not bad enough, we were powerless over three days longer then any of our neighbors... and we're the only ones in the area with a small child.

A branch knocked off our power line from the pole to our house.

This pic, taken during the hurricane shows the branch there behind the lilac bush... and the line, right below it on the ground in the right of the photo.

Here's what it did to our electrical box - ripped it nearly off the house.

And this is what caused all the problems. We first reported the down line as soon as it happend. When we lost power several hours later, we called again and reported that. No big shake - the entire area was out of power. Then, the days went by. On day one, the milk went bad, Mikey was throwing up, and we were out of hot water. Mike went down to Brewster where they had power (Brewster had power? They never have power! But they did this time!) and he borrowed a generator. (We own a generator of course, a super huge one... it was broken at the time.)

It was all downhill from there. Day two, I took some pukey clothes and laundry into work so my co-worker could wash them for me. Mikey was still sick. We ate a strange mix of things prepared on the grill. But in the evening of day two, around 11pm, Nstar rolled up. We were both in bed, but upon hearing the truck, Mike jumped up and began putting on his clothes to go and talk to them. By the time he was halfway down the stairs, they were pulling away - gone. We wondered what that had been all about. The power was still out and the line was still down.

On day three, Mike took a turn taking laundry down to Brewster. Mikey was starting to improve. Mike took him to the Dr. just in case. And sometime that day, the rest of the neighborhood got power back. Mike called Nstar and was informed that the truck that had visited us previously had cut our line so they could safely turn on power to everyone else. We were completely cut off.

Day four and still no power. I called Nstar and after describing what was going on with the torn out electrical box, the associate told me I'd probably have to have an electrician come out and fix it before they could turn the power back on. Mike said, "screw that!" and went out and re-attached the box to the house himself.

Day five, I called Nstar again in the morning and they said they'd have the power on the next day by noon. Mikey was well enough to go to school. Things were looking up. But when we got home that evening, our neighbor warned us that they still might not hook up the power with the box as it was. Mike called our electrician. He said he'd try to come out the next day to check things out. That evening, in desperation, we brought up an old TV/VCR from the basement, hooked it up to the generator, and watched the muppet show on VHS.

Day 6 was Saturday. Mikey and I waited at home for the electrician. It was getting close to noon and we hadn't seen Nstar either. I texted Mike and asked him to call again. We were both very angry and frustrated at this point. Mike called me back almost immediately, "hey, I've got Nstar on the other line and they say the job is completed...."

I was livid. "No, I was just outside and the wires are still on the ground."

Yup, it had somehow been marked completed in the computer system. Mike threw a fit and they promised to have it on by 7pm that evening. We would not wait until after labor day - another three days. No way. The electrician called sometime after, he had gotten jammed up and couldn't come. We sent him a photo of the box hookup and he said we should be ok - they would turn us on.

But 7pm rolled around fast and still no Nstar. As soon as the clock hit 7, Mike hit the phone again. This time, he was even less polite, especially when he found out that the job had been marked completed - again. This time, the supervisor promised to have it on by sometime that night. Additionally, Mike demanded they send someone out to take down the tree. They promised they would send an arborist sometime soon.

Around 9pm, they finally came. And they sent two trucks!

We were ecstatic. Mike ran out with his flashlight to give them a hand. The minute the guys saw the old wires, they flipped out. "These are so old, they must be the first wires used to connect this house to the pole whenever it was first wired for electricity," they said. Remember, this house was built in 1910. Woe. Seriously overdue for an upgrade, don't you think?

The electric dudes hooked us up with all new wires and turned us back on. Mike offered them a tip, but they refused to take it. They did hook him up with some killer electrical tape, which he was geeking out over for the rest of the night.

And finally, all returned to somewhat normal. Our electrician will come visit as soon as he can to make sure everything is electrically normal too. I'm going to keep on Nstar about that arborist. Expect another call in a few more weeks!

Hurricane Irene

Whenever ill weather strikes, New Englanders glue themselves to the tube 24/7. Then, we all delight in discussing how useless and pointless the coverage was after the fact. New Englanders also love to complain that a storm wasn't "bad," as if they truly wanted complete and total annihilation. "Now that's a storm," they say. Worthy enough for a t-shirt, like the "I Survived Hurricane Bob" craze. We start trying to one-up each other, "in the blizzard of '78 I went days with my food in the snow" or "a tree fell over the driveway and I was stuck for ages" or "we bailed out the basement with a coffee can..."


But I'm a New Englander and a born Cape Codder. As in, born at Cape Cod Hospital and lived in the area all my life Cape Codder. And we're the worst offenders. Sure enough, I had my eyes stuck to the weather channel morning, noon, and night - even before the storm.

Sure enough, we were well prepared. I went grocery shopping on Tuesday. Thursday, we stayed up late cleaning the yard. Yup, up until midnight putting lumber in the basement, securing the garages, taking down the swings, and trashing the trash. We gassed up the chainsaws and the trucks.

Sunday, the storm was upon us. First thing in the morning, we lost a huge maple in the backyard. Thank god the boat was safe at Mike's work... it fell right on its normal parking space - just barely missing the playground, a tractor, and the skid steere. Mike was able to cut up some of it right then. But he was nervous about another old tree, perched precariously atop the hill next to the garage. It was primed to take out the garage and really taking a beating from the winds. Some of its higher limbs cracked and hung by some miracle of something.

Meanwhile, out front, a huge limb came off the locust, taking out the power lines to the house and ripping the box right off the outside wall. (This is a tree that Nstar cut off half of a few years ago. Now it's all lopsided and it still took out the power lines. Thanks, Nstar.) Luckily, we still had power for quite some time after that. And then our luck ran out - off by 3pm.

And it's still off. Now I'm regretting that huge food shopping trip. According to the National Food Inspection folks, food in an unopened fridge with no power is good only for 4 hours. Here we are at over 24 with a possibly 8 day wait ahead of us. Thank god for phones, or I would have never been able to check the weather. 

Good News Bad News No News

Nothing of particular interest happened this weekend. I was exhausted and allergic on Saturday and spent my day cleaning in hopes of some relief. I didn't even have an extra half hour afterwards to paint another porch ceiling section... which I had been planning on.

Sunday, Mike cleaned out the garage and garage addition, installed the springs to the garage addition door, and drove in his car. And that's about it. I could barely function on Sunday, I was so pooped from a Saturday night out. (Good times, but rough day without coffee.)

Good news, our neighbor Richard dropped by on the way home from a drywall side job. He wants to wrap up our kitchen drywall this week. I'll be so happy to have that taken care of! Then we can finally trim out the once-new-now-kinda-old window.

It's tough times once again thanks to vehicle dysfunction. Yes that''s dysfunction and not malfunction. My motor bit the dust and I'm more then bummed about it. It's supposed to rain most of the week. We have zero dollars. I'm trying to stay somewhat optimistic because things could always be worse. I just hate standing stagnant in my home improvement puddle. Life's too short for projects to sit unfinished!

Taking Little Bites

Unexpected weekend! Going into it, I had no real plans, no real to-do lists, and no expectations. (Hard to believe, yes I know.) It started out small. Saturday I weeded, cleaned, vacuumed the basement, and re-set our backyard watering timer.

Then, I got the notion to try the old soapy water plus household vinegar (5%) plus as-hot-as-my-tap-will-make water poison ivy killer. I mixed the three in a bucket - very liberal on the vinegar and soap - no other measurements - and I threw the bucket contents over the rocks. After the first bucket I realized I was in a bit over my head. One bucket only covered the smallest of areas. But I had enough vinegar to do three buckets full, figuring that this would be a good test.

Side 1 Rocks: Before
Side 1 Rocks: After

Side 2 Rocks Before

Side 2 Rocks: After

As you can see from the results - it's obvious where I threw the mixture. The leaves turned black, then to white in those areas. Conclusion - I need more vinegar and a bigger bucket. Actually, I need a 50 gallon barrel with a pressure washer attached to it. I could market that.... Anyhoo, I'm going to keep watch to see if those areas and plants actually die. Then, I'll go to BJ's for another giant vinegar and make a little one-girl bucket brigade.

If that wasn't enough for one day, I randomly decided to paint that one fan-section of the farmer's porch ceiling. So randomly in fact, I only had a half hour window in which to prep, paint, and clean up. But I somehow made it happen. I started around 2:30 and was out of the shower by 3:45 and out the door to a house warming party.

Sunday morning, Mike installed the fan for me. And it looks beautiful! More importantly, the dang box is out of the living room!! Hooray! It's only been in there since my mom's bday. (May)

Then he took care of some other little things:
Installed the front door doorbell.
Replaced the one odd GFCI outlet on the porch with a normal one.
Cut two outlet covers in half to fit the porch outlets by the french doors.
Put up my Bermuda weather sign. (Gift from some friends of ours who went there... I was not so lucky to have gone.)
Removed the yucky Yukka plant from next to the lilac in the front yard. (Looks so much better without!)
Fertilized the back yard.

For the remainder of his rainy Sunday, Mike got to pick his own project. Installing the old garage door on the new garage addition! (Previously, we had a drop cloth keeping weather out of that area and didn't store anything steal-able in there.)

But as usual, it wasn't as easy a project as he had hoped. The door opening was 6" too big for the door. So, after using all the rest of our scrap wood, Mike had to hit the DeepHo for a few more pieces to build out one side. What a pain in the butt! After finally finishing the framing and installing the door tracks, it was close to 8:30pm. He called it a night and installed the door on Monday.

Looking at this door now, I can hardly believe it used to be on the front of our garage. It's super gross and ugly. I wish I could have bought Mike a new door for this space at the same time I bought the other door. But he really wanted the super huge door instead of two small ones for the front. And I can't blame him for that. We can live with this for a while.

Paint & Playground Paradise

The weekend turned out to be much hotter then expected. And I'm not one to complain about the heat - I love it! The trouble is, you can't always be sitting by a pool drinking cool refreshing beverages when it's hot out. Sometimes you have to do hard labor and sweat yourself to death.

It started for me on Saturday. Mike didn't bring home the fuzzy rollers Friday night, but I decided that it would be smart to start cutting in. I could cut in around the largest part of the porch, paint that one section on Sunday, and have the fan installed by Sunday night. That was my original thought. It turned into two hours of pure sweat. Because of course, the porch is covered with furniture and the floor has already been stained. So to do the first section, I had to move the furniture, put down the drop cloth, clean off the bugs with a broom (which is a whole other disgusting story), and drag out and put up the ladder.

Wow, when I type it out like that I really sound like I'm complaining about the most menial of tasks. (Reminds me of someone else I know.) I'm not complaining. I'm stating. There was a lot of prep involved.

I cut in the first section with a brush fairly quickly and decided to move on. I had to move the furniture back, move more furniture out of the way, move the drop cloth and the ladder, clean more bugs, and remove outlet covers. Then I could cut in the next section. And then I just kept going. Move, move, clean, remove, move, paint... again and again until the entire porch was cut. By the last section, I was so sweaty toast. I was forcing myself to keep going, to finish. (Nevermind that I had to clean up afterwards.)

Needless to say, I accomplished much more then I set out to do. But after that hot hot Saturday afternoon experience, I just couldn't bring myself to do it again on Sunday with the roller. Not even in that first area where the ceiling fan is going to go. The mere thought! (That and the fact we were at a house party until 3am Saturday night.)

But don't think that we ended up lazing about on Sunday. The day was as jam packed as it was sweltering. Mike loaded up the playground dude's tractor parts (yeah, it ended up being unworthy of fixing), tools, and a chainsaw. A  couple hours later he was back with the playground, drenched in sweat. He and his friend Marcus discovered that it was cemented into the ground... cemented as in 4' sonotubes into the ground kind-of cemented. And you thought it weird that he was bringing a chainsaw! They broke a truck jack trying to remove the thing and ended up having to cut it off its foundation.

While the boys were wrestling with the playground, Mikey and I were home with Timmy and Richard, who came over and wrapped the last side-stair post and installed the last railing on the side stair. After that, they were both wiped and called it a day. Timmy said he might have a stair-thingie at his shop that would fit for our front steps.... So he wanted to check that out before he started out front anyway.

It wasn't but a few minutes after they left that Mike and Marcus pulled in with the playground. We spent the remainder of the afternoon putting it together.

I had originally thought of facing the set towards the garage on the left side of the backyard. That plan had me worried because of all the poison ivy in that area, but with trees on the right hand side, I saw little other option. Mike suggested turning it the other way, facing the hillside, so it could go on the right hand side of the yard. I've got to hand it to him - it was the perfect spot.

But much like previous playground owners before us, we found it to be too unstable to just stand there in the yard. We'd have to cement it in. And luckily for us, we just happened to have four extra bags of concrete! The perfect amount for the four holes we dug around the tower portion.

After we poured the cement, we put on the slide and installed the two new swings we bought. (The third spot will be for an infant swing.) It looked good - really good. The slide is a little short... and weak from years of weather and use. We'll probably have to increase the angle and purchase a new slide. All in good time. I measured for the canopy and it looks like it will fit perfectly! Although we'll have to fashion a new ladder - the old one is not safe.

Now, in regards to the poison ivy on the other side of the lawn. Sunday night, Mike just mowed it all down. And the lawn looks AWESOME.

I know it's pretty hard to tell from this picture... but the area on the left by the septic vent? It looks awesome. Unfortunately, there's still poison ivy over there by that old Jeep thing. (The red thing by the tree in the picture.) And poison ivy is also climbing up the tree.

How do I know it's poison ivy? I looked it up on this website: http://www.poison-ivy.org/. The entire time, we just thought most of it was regular ivy, because it wasn't shiny and the leaves weren't reddish, as we had always been taught. Boy were we mistaken. The leaves don't have to be reddish or shiny. They can climb, creep, and even grow into a shrub! And the bad news is, there's no full proof way to get rid of it.

Mike is going to physically pull out the ivy by the Jeep. We have a whole bunch of it on our rock wall too, just to the right of this picture, out of frame. For areas where you don't want ANYTHING to grow, you can use a mixture of dish washing soap and vinegar. I'm going to try it on the rocks this weekend if time permits. I wouldn't mind that garbage of plants dying off. You can't even see the rocks!

And thus concludes our program. Thanks for reading.

Scrapping Sunday

You know, I was feeling blue on the entire financial::improvement situation. "We're not where I want us to be," I kept thinking, angry at myself as if I could control any of it. Then I took a look at where we were at a year ago, July 2010. The porch was still ceiling-less! We were just trying to wire it at that point. The garage addition wasn't finished either! We still had two and a half Dodges and two 4Runners in the yard! Still browsing the posts I thought, "Wow! We've actually come such a long way!" And I felt much better.

Plus, despite a lack of new materials, Timmy's coming over on Sunday to do what he can with what we have. It'll be interesting. I think we have enough to wrap the last side-stair post and install the stair rail. Mike thinks he may have a good amount of front-stair material too. Time will tell. But if there's one thing Timmy's good at, it's making use of scraps. Very little goes to waste when he's around, and he's always thinking about ways to save money on materials.

Meanwhile, I know I told you all that I would have that playground this week. I haven't forgotten it. Poor Mike has spent every night in the garage this week, working super late nights on what we have dubbed, "The Poop Car." He needs to fix the lawn tractor belonging the the playground owner before we pick it up, but that shouldn't take long. I need to push him to do in the next couple days. Drop off the tractor and pickup the playground Sunday AM?

This week, the two swings we ordered from TV came in too. We're ready. Just fix the tractor, pickup the playground, set it up, install the swings, and measure for the canopy.

I've been looking up a safe and natural poison ivy killer for the backyard. Many online recommend soap and/or a combination of soapy water and vinegar... trouble is, this mixture kills everything. So I found this product. It's a plant based defoliant that I'm going to test out. Safe for pets, kids, and other plants... so they say anyhow.

Playground Time

So here's that free playground! We haven't picked it up yet though. Mike sent me this pic from his phone when he went to go look at it on Wednesday. I think it's a pretty sweet find for $0. All we need now are three swings and a canopy for the fort. Later on we can add more stuff - another slide, a climbing wall, a fire pole, a captains wheel... the options are endless on these wooden playsets. That's why I like them so much more then the plastic. Plus, the wood blends in with the yard so much better then brightly colored plastics.

Ever since Wednesday, I've had playground fever. I want this thing so badly. I even offered to help Mike pick it up myself. (Literally, as the tower needs to be picked up and put on the truck in one piece.) I may petition him to try it this evening if Mikey isn't totally wiped out from day care...

If not, maybe Mike will have remembered my fuzzy rollers and I can get out on the porch and paint tonight. Yeah, it's the hottest day of the year. That might not be the most practical of ideas, even in lower evening temps. Plus there's the threat of mosquitoes. I already have some poison ivy on my foot from all that backyard work I did. (Yes, yes. Don't where flip flops. I know. But I'd rather have the poison ivy then subject my feet to socks and shoes right now.)

This weekend's going to be jam-packed with exciting activities too, leaving little room for work around the house. Cruel summer! But I will have the playground within the next week, with you all as my witnesses.

I showed the pic to Mikey and he kept repeating, "Mikey slide! Mikey slide!" Turns out to have been a bad idea. I told him Daddy wasn't bringing home the playground yet and he cried and kept repeating, "Daddy, playground! Daddy, playground!"