Monday, December 31, 2012

Making Tamales in Ten Easy Steps

I'll walk you through our process:

1.  We walk out our door and head to Martin and Anna's place.
2.  We munch and talk to friends while Martin and Anna finish up the tamale fixing stuff.
3.  We watch carefully as Martin demonstrates the proper way to assemble a tamale.
4.  We ask for another demonstration.
5.  We thoroughly mess up the tamales we assemble. Apparently the trick is not too much corn stuff. Ernst puts in way too much corn stuff.
6.  Certain people get tired of making overstuffed tamales, and soon it is just myself and Judy slaving away at the tamale table.
7.  Martin takes away our humble attempts to the kitchen to be steamed in big scary looking pots.
8.  We sit down to freshly steamed, homemade tamales.
9.  We eat them.
10. We eat some more and then we say, Roll me over to the dessert tamales!

Martin was kind enough to make us some yummy vegan filling with mushrooms and zucchini and onions. Understuffed, overstuffed, leaking out the side and oozing out the bottom, even tamales made by amateurs are yu-u-um!

Not ready for their close-up

Inner beauty is so important

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Iron deficiency? Not here!

When we officially got the new house, one of the first decisions we made was to put a fence around the pool. It was a bit of a shame to do so, because the pool is such a great focal point in the yard. But we just didn't want the worries that come with pools and children. Plus, our dog Molly dive bombs anyone who is splashing in the water. So for the safety of all the kids who will visit our home, we made the call to fence the thing in.

I was in charge of getting the bids and I got four of them. The estimates were all over the place, but the one thing that kept coming up is that putting in a black chain link fence is not that much cheaper than going with an iron one. Since it was such a shame to fence in the pool, I was heavily leaning toward the iron option. I leaned hard enough and I got my iron fence. We went with Bill's Fence Company 916-332-5568. Molly soon got used to the two guys with welder masks in her yard. She's not too happy about having to run all the way around the fence now to chase the squirrels in the back. This new addition really interferes with her critter chasing. And she gets really annoyed when her ball rolls under the gate. The neighbors probably do too because she thinks barking will make it roll back.

Until warmer weather arrives, the pool will have to wait. But inside it's cozy as can be because Ernst really wanted a Regency fireplace insert, He thought it was a such a shame to have all this free firewood and he leaned heavily on me to get one for the house. I had bad memories of the one we had up in Tahoe. That thing drafted terribly and all I remember is the house being smoky and me being cold. This one is great and it is so efficient at burning we can use it even on no burn days. We got it just over on Fulton at River City Fireplace. Love love love it! So I got my iron fence and Ernst got his fireplace insert. As far as sort of expensive heavy black objects for the house, we're done for now.

"If you ask me, it was a waste of good money"

"If you ask me, it was money well spent"

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Molly and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

Confession of the Week - our dog has a heated dog house. That would be the dog house with carpet on the floor and big cushy dog bed. The one that has the nice shingled roof. Yes, the one we plan on painting the same color as our house and the one I'm looking for dog house-sized shutters to match our shutters.

Even with all that, she is not happy. She wants to be inside. All the time. She sits out on the back porch and whines to come in, ignoring the backyard full of squirrels to chase. Of course this all goes back to her days of  being a little homeless pup on the streets of Bakersfield. (Cue up the tiny little violins - I'm a sucker for making excuses for her being a little, shall we say, attached to us.)

We had to leave her for two days in a row in some drenching rain while we were up at our assembly in Yuba City. We thought of sewing her a little service dog vest and taking her with us, we could say she's there to keep Ernst's blood pressure down. But if she ran into another service dog and went into her usual Molly-must-attack-all-breathing-things-with-four-legs, that would probably raise even my low BP. So we loaded her up with warm words of encouragement, made sure her dog house heater was working and hoped for the best.

Saturday went fine. She was quite wet but her amazing fur with the Teflon qualities cleaned up nicely and she spent the evening in with us. Her bed by the fire seemed to make up for a day left out in the rain. So today, we headed off again to Yuba City feeling all would be fine. Our first hint that it stormed really badly here was that our jade plant "Landon" on the front porch was knocked over and lost a big branch. I planted it the day my friend gave birth to her son by the same name. Lesson learned - don't ever name a plant, especially a plant that can freeze or fry or get knocked over and lose branches. There is way too much pressure to keep it alive.

The dog was a mess - a wet muddy mess. The sliding glass door had streaking wet and dirty paw prints all over it going up quite high, telltale signs of a dog that had been desperate to come in. I called the neighbor to ask how bad it had been. Horizontal rain, fierce wind and thunderstorms. I think Molly pulled a Marly and went a little nutty with the storm. She's all dried off now, lying in front of another fire. So much for our street-wise tough rescue pup; the heated dog house now needs a rain guard, calming music and a fireplace insert.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

We found the light

How do you misplace a big bathroom light with three glass fixtures? We did and it "turned up missing" as they say, until just the other day.
The roof and the bathroom were the first rooms to get attacked in our remodel. The roof was easy but the bathroom was scary. Big holes where wall should be, dry rot, mold, window replacement, tub out on the lawn - I never knew quite what to expect when I peeked in. And then there were the stories I heard after, about the actual mushrooms growing on the wall in the past! I wonder why Ernst didn't tell me that before it got fixed? Fungus among us - lovely.
Being that the light was one of the first things removed, it made its way around here looking for a safe place to hide until the dust settled. But after the dust settled, we couldn't find it. For weeks. We had a construction light/electrical extension cord lighting up the room. Wow, that did wonders for my makeup application. But The E finally looked in the place it actually was - in the master closet, behind his suits, hiding out from all the ruckus.
That officially closes the remodel of the bathroom. Except for when I repaint, because this turned out a wee bit more ballistic yellow than I imagined.

Breakdown of what we did:
dry rot and mold removal
new tub
new window
new flooring, a great Tarkett remnant for cheap
updated electrical
paint - walls, ceiling, door and new baseboards
new shower surround

Where the wild things grew

Great big window, but not good for a shower
After - that Target shower curtain looks better in person, I hope.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The Lost Weekend

While Ernst continued to plug away at our ever-shrinking punch list, I was not good for much of anything after Friday. The news of the school shooting hit me hard and it all seemed like too much to even help him paint trim.

My mom and sister live very close to Newtown, and hearing their initial reactions was difficult. When we visit back there, I'm always a bit bummed to come home because it's like leaving Perfectville for Normalville. Last time we were there, I was looking for a parking place in Westport, one of Connecticut's idyllic towns on the seashore. I was thinking how different it is than where we live, a city that does not exactly ooze with charm. Then I saw a seemingly nice looking man walking down the street. He was wearing a t-shirt that said F___ Obama. Such an ugly bit of reality on an otherwise beautiful day. I wanted to say something snarky to him but it would have just been a case of pearls before swine. There are no Perfectvilles.

With three teachers in the family, my job as a school dispatcher, and the facts that this tragedy could happen anywhere are part of what kept me so numb this weekend. The worst things I've had to report at work so far have been a missing child (found), attempted copper theft (caught), and broken windows and graffiti too numerous to recount (repaired at the tax payer's expense). Mostly my job consists of watching people using the school grounds for the good and the bad, taking calls from alert neighbors keeping us posted, and communicating with the custodians and teachers, who call in to say they're putting extra time in their classrooms. Ernst was understanding as I cocooned these last few days, but it's time to get back to life here in Normalville.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Doisprezece Doisprezece Doisprezece

It's December 12, 2012.
Twelve Twelve Twelve.
In Romanian, for me, it's just another tongue twister - doisprezece doisprezece doisprezece. There'll never be a Seventeen Seventeen Seventeen, but that would be șaptesprezece șaptesprezece șaptesprezece. The funky "s" is a "sh" sound, causing the need for kleenex and some apologies if I say that really fast.
In Romanian, when people are rattling off a series of numbers, this is what I hear: SHPSHTSHIPSHPTSCHSHSHES. Like real people between the ages of 11 and 19, teens are difficult in the Romanian language.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

The new sewing/guest room - before and after

The artistic space formerly known as The Pink Room is finally finished. This room's fix-up list was not too long, but it took until now to get completely done. Here is the run down:

TSP the walls, primer and paint twice plus paint the ceiling and inside closets
Remove ceiling fan and replace with a simple light
New wiring to electrical outlets
New windows
Scrape, sand and paint the peeling trim paint and door
New window coverings.

The comforter on the bed is the same one I got at my wedding shower twenty-one years ago. It was a gift from Wendy, AKA "Grandma" from Binkies & Burpcloths. I would call that a winner in the gift department. I got the window shades at Grocery Outlet for ten dollars each and with that we are calling this room done.

I used to sew in the little room off the kitchen, so the goal here is to not let it get too out of hand with quilt fuzz and threads all over. And I need to get all my quilting stuff organized - right now my fabric is in opaque plastic tubs and I can't keep track of what I have. Sometimes I finish a quilt and then find the cutest little scrap that would have been perfect in it. My next project is a memory quilt for a woman from Washington. She's mailing me the fabric from her husband's clothes. And after that one is done, I am finally getting to the quilt for my little friend in Connecticut. Our hope is that by January all the house stuff will be completely wrapped up and we can get on with our previously scheduled programming.



Sunday, December 2, 2012

Doing laps in the pool house

There is a children's song that I have sung many times through the years. It has fun hand gestures that include first a nice strong fist and then the international sign for SPLAT!

The wise man built his house upon the rock
(repeat 2 times)
And the rain came tumbling down.

The rains came down and the floods came up
(repeat 2 times)
And the wise man's house stood firm!

The foolish man built his house upon the sand
(repeat 2 times)
And the rain came tumbling down.

The rain came down and the floods came up
(repeat 2 times)
And the foolish man's house went SPLAT!

A foolish man built a pool house in our yard years ago. This morning, the rains came down and the floods came up and our pool house went SPLAT! Oh, if it were only a pool house. It is to be Ernst's office and had a desk and bookshelves and semi-important stuff (still in boxes, thank goodness, and up on the shelves). A trip to Emigh Hardware for Insta Foam, a new trench around the little building and some drying out and we should be OK. The stuff? We shall see. What a fun way to spend our Sunday. Our former house flooded too in the little room off the kitchen and a tree limb came down on their car, so either way we were sitting ducks.

The trench dug to alleviate the flooding

The ants were crawling in the freezer and dying , it was such a bad day.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Going Tokyo

It would be nice if that meant a visit to Japan or even a sushi night. Around here "Going Tokyo" is a term for a precarious form of decor/storage.

When Ernst was single and living with Dan, they both had the "more is more" attitude for household items. The problem is eventually you run out of floor area and you must stop taking in more stuff than there is space for. That is unless you go vertical. As in up the walls. Get more bookcases. Go up young man. Go Tokyo.

I don't want our house to look like skyscrapers of stuff. I'm more into the vast empty wasteland of nothingness look. Not Tokyo, more like Little House is the Prairie. But all good things in life involve compromise, so we try for a nice mix of the two styles - a bit of suburban sprawl with some mixed-use buildings, to carry my analogy through.

That is why I spent the afternoon taking down the Berlin Wall of boxes that was our living room and piling them up in the strangely named "Game Room." I piled them pretty high but not enough to crush me if they fell, and in a pattern that I can live with as I walk past on my way to the garage. Oh, yes the garage. That's next. But for the time I'll enjoy my little skyline of french fry boxes.

Words to live by

Living room before
Anyone up for a game?
Going Tokyo - Jessica style

Monday, November 26, 2012

Roasted Brussels sprouts and guests

I roasted Brussels sprouts and we had our first mid-remodel guests. These are not connected in anyway, but the two represent a huge step forward in our house getting completed!

First, our kitchen is a kitchen again. It still needs trim work and a cabinet installed and the dishwasher hooked up and the new window installed that isn't coming for two weeks. But we got the refrigerator in and the stove hooked up. The expression now I'm cooking with gas has real meaning around here. The old stove we stuck back in there works and the roasted veggies made it seem like a real house. Even if they were from the cabbage family, it smelled terrific. The new blue floor is pretty cool, but we're still waiting for the all important plinth installation to make it all jam. This floor is so not going to show the dirt, I may never have to mop again.

Our Sunday game night tradition has been put on hold for a very long time now. But our place is now together enough to have Russ and Arianne over to play Ticket to Ride Asia. My brain was not quite in gear and I almost blew it for Team Ernst and Jessica, but we ended up not too far behind. Just in time for our guests, we hooked up the sink so now we have a toilet, a door and a sink with running water in the bathroom - real progress! The bathtub is still taunting me with unfinished plumbing parts sticking out so we're still doing the two minute showers in the trailer. Patience, patience. It's not a virtue I was born with.

Friday, November 23, 2012

The importance of waterproof mascara

Living through a remodel can be a humiliating experience. Today was by far the worst - probably one of the most embarrassing things I have ever done.

The morning started off great. I got ready and dressed and out the door. That is quite a feat seeing as I have a bathroom with a working toilet but no sink, shower or door. We have a trailer to take a shower in, but that involves getting dressed enough to walk by the two workers and back in the house. I got ready in the bedroom that has a door but no window coverings, I scooted myself into the way back corner and got dressed out of sight, I hope. I left my yellow house in my yellow sweater on a crisp and beautiful Fall day, off to meet at the hall with the Moldovans. The kitchen was off limits too, so add hungry to my tired state, but with the weather and my sweater and my eyebrows all plucked, I was feeling pretty good.

It was all OK until my buddy Daniella asked how I was. Good, a little tired but good. Then Elena came up and asked that same innocent question. Tired, really tired, but good, was my reply. Then the tears came. There is nothing quite so pathetic as tired tears. They come out just like sad tears, but they are just so hard to justify. Vladimir came up to say hello, by this time I was in full-out crying mode, tears rolling down the mascara I'd finally had an occasion to wear. Then I had to tell Peter that I couldn't take his wife and Larissa with me this morning. The worst part was sitting in my car, sobbing like I just lost my house in Hurricane Sandy, but only being able to say, I'm just so tired. Telling that to Peter, a man who was once in prison for not joining the Soviet army, just made the whole thing more pathetic so I had to cry even more.

My memory as I drove out the parking lot was the chins dropping of all the people who think I'm Super Jessica. Then the text messages came. We love you, Jessica. More tears. Soon after I got home, what did Igor and Rafaela arrive with? Flowers from Trader Joes and of course then I cried again. Even with my tear-stained eyes, I knew I had to get out of the house. (Ernst agreed, and so did the two workers.) I called some friends who live five doors down and they let me hang out with them all day. We visited some people with problems far worse than being tired from working on their new house. Now I have to get my Super Jessica cape out from wherever I packed it because tomorrow I see all the Moldovans again. I'll put on waterproof mascara this time.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

A moving experience

Moving is a humbling experience. We come face to face with all our material goods and while admitting we don't need half of them and knowing most of it is junk, we find boxes to shove it all in. We hope the neatly written labels on the boxes make it all better.
It must be so wonderful to experience a move with professional movers. No apologies, no lame excuses, just - Here is our stuff, please don't break it. OK, you can break that thing, and it's OK if that falls off the truck, but the rest of this junk has a purpose.
Last Saturday we moved in the pouring rain. It poured right up to the time we moved in the last of the boxes and then the sun came out in time to move the piano. That giant hunk of furniture that I plan on some day playing again, once my hands stop hurting from packing up boxes of junk.
Even so there are blessings to be counted. The dresser drawer full of underwear that was dropped outside belonged to Ernst, not me. All the various chargers are showing up. We have Internet again! The place on our landlord's leg where our dog bit him had a boot on it. (Yes, she did.) And we still got back all our security deposit plus some despite the nip on the leg.
The new house is coming along slowly. The blue floor gets installed tomorrow. The tub surround too. Floors and bathtubs, it's the little things in life that count. Here's where we are otherwise:

  • Refrigerator is still in the living room
  • Oven is still in the dining room
  • Showers are taken out in the trailer
  • Lots of trim to be painted, outside and inside
  • Doors almost back on in the bedroom and bathroom
  • Even some boxes are getting unpacked
  • No couches, but they are coming in a few weeks
This has been really hard, much more difficult than I ever imagined. I saw my hair fixing stuff the other day, and remembered those good ol' days when I actually cared how I looked. To keep my spirits up, I'm trying to create what I call Islands of Sanity. Little places in the house that look like people live here. The dining room/library is so cute. The fireplace wall is coming together, Ernst is attempting a fire in our new insert as I write this. The front porch has plants on it. And I have been doing laundry again - clean clothes are not overrated. The Islands of Sanity are helping me deal with the Continents of Chaos. Soon, box by box, trim piece by trim piece, this will all get done.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Looks like rain on our moving day

Ready or not, here we come. Most of our junk stuff is at the new house now, tomorrow comes the heavy lifting of the living room furniture and piano and washer and dryer and Molly's gigantic dog house. And of course all of the junk stuff in the Honey House. We tend to pack up all our favorite things first and the last to get packed are the Why do I even own this, I can't stand to look at it, Where did I get this, I never use this, I'm too tired to even deal with it so I'm just shoving it in this box type items. If only we could arrange for all those last items to fall off the back of the truck on the way over, life would be so much simpler.

The garage sale of all garage sales obviously didn't happen. Fortunately we have a Goodwill drop off station right around the corner. It is so liberating to place junk valuable donations in those wonderful blue rolling carts. Wish I could just roll a few of those carts right up to the front porch right now. Our neighbor Carmen helped me pack up the kitchen today and now Jason and Chase are getting our new garage set up with Ernst. He actually had time to drywall the whole garage and PAINT it, so we are going to have one styling place to stack up all our boxes of junk equipment. Tomorrow we move from this echoing emptied place to our new house with the Berlin Wall of boxes in the front room. And then comes the unpacking of all our junk, I mean junk, OK, it's all just junk.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Something to cluck about - the Chicken Quilt flew the coop

That was a long dry spell for me on Etsy, but today my very best customer in Texas came through for me. She was telling me where the quilts she has bought from Squared Up are now. I'm so glad I name them because I could picture them all as she rattled off their new homes.

This little chicken and farm themed quilt was fun to make and I was sure it was going to fly off the shelf. But it sat and roosted for much too long. They are having an informal craft boutique at my job so I put my three remaining (now two) Etsy quilts there. I figured it was a safe place for them during our upcoming move. Sure enough, that's right when Galina sold and I had to drive over there tonight to pick it up. Tomorrow it gets all packed up and heads to Texas. Once we get this move down in the history books, it's time to get cutting and sewing and sewing and snipping and snipping and washing and drying. Hmmm, maybe I'll just pack myself up with the quilt and take a little vacation in Texas.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Shiny Happy Painters

Last night someone asked what color we painted the house. I just showed them the paint still on my hands. I've giving up trying to look decent until we get this thing done. I'll have a nice long soak in the new bathtub, as soon as we get the water hooked up to it.

The painting at last is coming together. When we're done, every single last part of this house inside and out, except for one section of Ikea cabinets, will have been painted with two coats and some with primer too. Now the guys at Frazee paint don't just call me by name, they call me Kiddo.

Today I painted the kitchen walls. The color started off looking like a cup of coffee with creamer. By the time night came and the lights were on, it changed to pea soup. I love coffee with creamer and I love pea soup and I love this kitchen paint. How paint can change color so drastically is beyond me, but it''ll be like having two kitchens in one. I'm trying to imagine it with the soon-to-arrive floor - I think it will look so cool.

The Moldovans showed up this afternoon to finish the kitchen cupboard painting. I went home real quickly and when I came back they had all the fronts painted with the second coat and neatly laid out drying. The color for the cupboards is like coffee creamer, and fortunately did not turn into pea soup as the evening progressed. I can handle the walls changing colors, but please just stay as you are cabinets. I keep wanting to call them cupboards, but I wonder if that sounds really old fashioned. Like when my Grandma called the refrigerator "the icebox?" It's still called a refrigerator, isn't it?

Rafaela, Galina, Tatiana and Natalya

We're getting loopy on paint fumes

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Hello Sunshine!

Sunday was the perfect day to paint a house in Sacramento. It had been dry for two full days. No wind to spray the neighbor's cars. Not hot. Not cold. Sunny and nice. It just ended too soon because we ran out of daylight, so the second coat will have to go on tomorrow. My first impressions? They call it Mellow Yellow! It is a sunny happy house that I hope will be a little less sunny and happy once we get the white trim on and the shutters painted. The windows are to be replaced this week, a few more things that won't be yellow. I think I'm going to love it. I think.

Today felt like we passed some big hurdles-

House painted with just one more coat to go.
Entryway and bathroom floors installed.
Most of the baseboards are in.
All interior painting done except for kitchen and bathroom.
Steps out back finished.
Tons of boxes moved over.
Electrical almost done.
Drywall in bathroom in, waiting on bath surround.
Primer on kitchen cabinets.

We now have 168 hours to move out and get the rental house cleaned. We may have to end up taking showers in the trailer and eating sandwiches for a time. The floor in the kitchen and the shower might not be done before we move. Hello. Mellow. Yellow.

Jay Leno, Sergiu, Ernst, Marcel and The D Man

The shoe graveyard

All primed up and ready to go.

The kitchen floor - soon to be no more.

There's an oven in the living room.

All our books? I wish.
Some rules are being relaxed.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Did June Cleaver have Tuscan floors?

China may be taking over the world, but Tuscany still has a firm grip in the current home decor department. Personally, I’m Tuscaned out. I love Italy and have been there several times. But I bet even Tuscans would make some pointed Italian gestures at the current flooring choices facing a homeowner here in California.

The house we got was built in 1949, in the Sacramento Valley, far from Tuscany. It was built in a time of post war practicality - I heard the term Mid-Century Modest for the style of this house, and the description certainly fits. What kind of kitchen floor did it have back in the day? Perhaps funky and colorful real linoleum? Most likely not giant sized tile or stone or laminate or tile-like or stone-like flooring.

My oh my, the search for flooring for this little place has been so very far from fun. What I first fell in love with was Marmoleum. That is honest to goodness linoleum, made with real products, good for the health and good for the environment and warm on the tootsies in winter. I had my little heart set on 12x12 yellow and white checkerboard squares. I got my sweet Marmoleum samples, set them in our kitchen just to see, even dropped crumbs and Molly hair on them to see how they would hold up. I started calling the dog Mollyoleum.

But I was scared off for several reasons. This real deal linoleum needs a real deal installer who can seal the seams with heat and rollers. Sounded like we’d be laying a road, not flooring. Enzymes such as food stains and pet urine will stain it. While we don’t have food fights and our dog has a bladder of steel, stuff happens. It also will have uneven fade marks under throw rugs and furniture. So long Marmoleum, it would have been fun.

I think in five years, after all this giant sized tile and heavy earthy look is over, I’d find my funky 50’s flooring in no time. But now? Just walking into a flooring place and letting them know you don’t want stone or hardwood or tile gets some looks of concern. I have found myself on my knees, in the corner, back where the dorky people shop for flooring, looking for anything that doesn’t scream Italian castle. It reminded me of shopping for a tea length wedding dress in an industry pushing big ol' dresses. My life would be so much easier if I could just conform.

That is why in the end I let Ernst pick the floor. Yes, my color challenged husband has picked the floor for our kitchen. The man who doesn’t know that reds come in bluish and orangish and who thinks all greens are green. Silly man. But I just couldn’t look at one more website or store. Enough was enough, it’s just the stuff you stand on while you make food, right? So what did we pick? Fake Italian mosaic VCT tiles!!! Call it Venetian, call it Roman, you can even call it Sicilian. Just don’t call it Tuscan.

Here is just a little hint of the color of this non-Tuscan floor from Karndean. As my brother said, whatever you install, it’ll look really dumb in 15 years anyway. Go bold or go home, that is the theme here. 

Ready for The Beaver to come home from school!

Funky Fifties Fabulous - or Forever Feeling Foolish - we will see
An update on the new blue floors that I love, they always look clean, always!
Ditchin' the old kitchen

Monday, November 5, 2012

My trip to Ikea went smashingly

The first time we went to an Ikea we were in Germany on vacation. We loved it. We had all the time in the world to browse, meander, peruse and gawk. I ended up buying two bags of finger puppets to give to kids at the international convention. Ikea was fun, fresh and we were in no danger of walking away with a cupboard named Klwuaoij or a lamp called Frucntwj. Ikea on vacation - it's the way to go.

Going to Ikea with something specific in mind is not such a pleasure trip. First, wear your track shoes. Second, bring a GPS or at least leave a trail of breadcrumbs. Third, be sure to check out the bargain barn before you head in there. You may just find that Klwuaoij cupboard already put together for a third of the price. How well put together? Check out the bag of unused screws to get a clue.

My trip today included an open shelved cabinet to match the ones on the Ikea side of our kitchen. There is one sad little oddly placed cabinet just hanging on the wall, just screaming for a little cupboard buddy. I figured an open shelved contraption would do, less screws and nuts to find later unused. It's named Perfekt with a K, that sounds about how our remodel is going so far.

Drawer pulls were next. We're trying to make the two parts of the kitchen kiss and make up and sing Kumbaya. That involves paint and door pulls and some unifying counter tops.

Next was plinth. Not Plinth as in an Ikea item named plinth, that is what it's actually called. The toe stop you install under Ikea cabinets to fake out a more custom look. Plinth - what a great new Scrabble word.

Last was some of the unifying counter top, the Why can't we all just get along Formica called Pragel. My dream job would be to sit around and think up good names for Ikea products. But first I would get them to sell vegan meatballs in the cafeteria.

I got it all paid for and loaded gingerly in my still semi-new please don't scratch up the interior, please don't let the plinth come careening through the front seats into the dashboard vehicle. All was great as I drove past my old stomping grounds in Broderick. Past the old motorcycle shop where there was the giant plastic gorilla on top. It was always fun to tell people looking for our apartment - turn left at the giant gorilla and you're almost there.

Then it was onto the ugly yet hardworking I Street Bridge. Separated by another car, there was a big semi truck going over the bridge. Since when do semi-trucks go over that poor little pathetic drawbridge? BAM! He hit the side with two tires and got a double blow out! Chunks of asphalt came flying at me. Then, I swear, pieces of the bridge were falling in the road. From above. Pieces of bridge! I couldn't slam on the brakes lest the plinth go through the window. A piece of something big fell right in front, but I didn't get hit in the windshield. I just had chunks of stuff on my hood. Stop, Breathe. OK, that was exciting.

I blew my horn like mad so the driver knew something happened behind him. He pulled off on Jiboom Street, but I told him a better place to park. I was taking pictures in case he decided to race away, but I think a semi with two blown tires was not a huge flight risk. I called the police and reported the fact that stuff was falling off the I Street Bridge, got all the insurance information and then headed home with my plinth. I hope they don't blame it on the gorilla.

So close to a broken windshield

How's my driving? Well, buddy, not so hot.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Snowmageddon versus Frankenstorm

With the inquiries about my family back East, thought a little update was in order.

Unlike last year when the crazy out-of-season snow storm hit them so hard, for Hurricane Sandy they were prepared. Paper plates, wet wipes, canned food, drinking water, flashlights, batteries, cell phone chargers for the cars, and flushing water, they were all set. Connecticut got hit pretty hard on the coast, but my mom's house is inland. They did lose a few trees way out back. In New England, the trees are plentiful, so I don't think they'll miss them too much.

The thing they did lose is power and it's still out. Since the house is on a well, electricity is needed for all things involving water, as in flushing a certain porcelain fixture. That's what did my sister in last year during the prolonged outage following "Snowmageddon". She had to trudge down in the snow to the creek behind the house to get water to flush the toilets. That and the cold was too much, they decided to drive down to the ferry in Bridgeport and escape to Jo's Long Island condo.

An electrician from their congregation brought over a generator today and they are loving it. Three hours in the morning, three hours at night and it makes a huge difference. Joanne even got back to work and she said things are feeling a bit normal again. They've been meeting friends at the mall for lunch and keeping their spirits up. If you're clean and warm and the toilets are flushed - life is good.

Our own preparations for a disaster are not quite so well organized. A few years back I got our "Go Bag" all stocked and ready in the trunk of the car. And then life happened. We were stranded late one night at an RBC project and we got into the food stash. The first aid kit has been used and not replaced.  Long ago I drank the emergency water and didn't restock. All our paperwork and documents? Only the dog knows for sure. Once we get into the new house, getting the Go Bag ready to go will be on the list of things to do. Unlike Superstorm Sandy, Frankenquake won't give us any warning.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Scenes from a remodel

You know you're in the middle of a remodel when:
  • You have no time to dye your roots but the paint in your hair is helping to take the attention away.
  • The guys at Frazee Paint greet you by name.
  • Emigh Hardware is on your speed dial.
  • The contents of your purse one day include a screwdriver, a tape measure and a roll of toilet paper.
  • You walk up to the houses of perfect strangers with exterior paint chips in hand.
  • Your dog has paint on her snout.
  • Your blisters are getting blisters.
  • You fear a trip to the emergency room lest they suspect your bruised legs are not self-inflicted ladder wounds.
  • You have been wearing the same pants for four days in a row, and that is fine with you.
  • You visit someone who is recuperating from a hospital stay and you are silently wondering if they are happy with their choice of floor covering in the kitchen.This visit was made in paint covered clothing.
  • A conversation at the closest pizza parlor goes like this - "You mean to say if I order the sale priced $10 extra large pepperoni with cheese on just one side and mushrooms instead of pepperoni on that side - that somehow makes it a $20 two-topping pizza? But I'm saving you money on the cheese." You realize you are arguing with the Pizza Police with paint in your hair and four day old pants on. You are grateful there is no longer toilet paper in your purse.
Somehow, with all the things we had to do with the new house, I was in denial. I didn't imagine it to have that Quick Build vibe, but I feel like I should slap my name badge on when I get there. We even have various departments set up inside and out: the paint station, the paint cleaning up station, the safety items, the woodworking tools, the list goes on. We are too deep into it to see the light at the end of the Home Depot aisle, but we have made lots of progress in just two weeks.
New roof
New water heater
Attic insulation
Dry rot and yuck out of the bathroom walls
New tub installed
New window in bathroom
Paint almost finished in interior - trim and doors are next
Hole in wall patched and floor repaired where old heater used to be
There is more, but paint fumes are a known eater-upper of brain cells. I have just begun packing up the old house. The other day I was walking Molly down to the new place and she was getting antsy to get there once she saw it. I said, "Let's get you home, Little Girl." That was the first time I called it home. I used to always say Home is where your clothes are, but now I guess that changes to Home is where your power tools are.

Command Central

No longer a doggie door

Not quite ready for Mr. Bubbles

Hanging out in the California sunshine

Thursday, October 25, 2012

It's all fun and games until someone pressure shoots paint in their eyes

Painting Party. Now there's a self-cancelling phrase if ever there was one.

Here were the guidelines for getting the new house - No painting to be done by either of us. None. The plan was to hire professionals - those people who know what they're doing, have all the equipment, know what they're doing, know what they're doing...

When the price came back too high, (or was it?) we figured we'd just have to do it ourselves. This meant paint every wall and every ceiling and 1/2 the cabinets and what else, what else? Oh yes, the outside. Some of our Moldovan friends came over and another very helpful family in charge of taping. The taping went like gang busters, these guys paint cars and they whipped out the taping in no time.

Then came the spraying. Anyone know how to work this thing? We need a dump bucket (that phrase scared me) and another priming bucket and of course the 5 gallon bucket of ceiling paint. It went on - it did. A little thick but it went on. But halfway through something got clogged. I think all the various buckets got confused and the whole spraying came to a halt.

We all went outside with the hose to figure out what was going on. It was a very good thing Ernst insisted all wore safety glasses, because before we knew it Igor got a face full of flat white ceiling paint. By then we were all laughing, even Igor. Did I mention there was pizza and Moldovan wine - homemade Moldovan wine? I did have the brilliant idea, I must say, to turn the bathtub we tore out of the house into a temporary paint washing station. All the stuff is going into the scary hole in the yard that's tied into the sewer system, or so we have been told.

The ceilings look great. I've been rolling the old fashioned way for 2 days now, that sprayer thing was just way too scary. They're at it again tonight. I decided to skip the fun and take the night off from painting. Maybe with all my extra time I'll whip up some of these paint-themed treats for when we spray the exterior? Maybe I've been breathing too many paint fumes?

But would they pair well with Moldovan wine?

In reality there are way more drips.

Here are suggestions from the Internet on How to Host a Painting Party. I think the only one we followed was the pizza rule.

  • Send out cute invites. Evites are the easiest, but if you go the mail route, you could write the invite on real paint chip sheets.
  • Have lots of food and beverages on hand. For lunch or dinner, order pizza. During the day, have snacks flowing to keep the gang energized.
  • Be sure to snap pics along the way; you'll want before and after shots.
  • Have a plan of attack. To prevent things from getting chaotic, let everyone know the order baseboards, ceiling, walls, and doors need to be painted.
  • Be prepared with enough supplies, including paint, primer, brushes, rollers, drop cloths, and tape. Ask friends to bring spare tools they may have.
For the rest of the tips, read more.
  • When everyone gets there, brief the group on painting basics so that everyone is on the same page.
  • If it's a big project, start early so you're not painting in the dark!
  • For a competitive bunch working on multiple rooms, have a contest for the best room!
  • Keep everyone pumped up with some tunes.
  • At the end of the day, plan to end the event with a rented movie and glass of wine or a trip out of the fumes.
photo credit -

Sunday, October 21, 2012

A roof over our heads

When the closing of the house was delayed, two of the big concerns were:

The Roof
The Weather

Usually by this time of year I would be hoping for rain, lots of rain. I can't get enough precipitation and should really live in Seattle. A Moldovan friend calls me "Bobocela' - that's little duckling in Romanian. The nickname came from my bright yellow rain coat I love to wear on dreary (or as I like to say wonderful) winter days, but the water-loving description fits well too.

Little did we know that the weather we'd be running up against would be a late season heat wave. Our roofers were sweating bullets as they tore off the old and installed the new one. I should have brought them large ice chests full of cold sodas, but it was just too hot to think straight. After only four days of construction, we were already beat.

The roofing contractor was so hot and tired by Friday evening, he said they would have to come back on Saturday to finish. Ernst, speaking from fatigue, told him he was welcome to take a dump in our pool. Wait, he said, I meant a leak. No, a leap or a dunk, those are the words he was shooting for.  It's going to be great to get this finished and get our brains back.

The roof is done, and we're relieved since the forecast for Monday is a nice rainy storm. All is good. Winter you can come now. Well, not in full force, we still need to paint the exterior. It should look so much better painted the proposed colors - lime green with purple trim.

Did I just make you spit coffee all over your screen? Actually, the outside color will remain a surprise. If it looks bad, well at this point it's water off a duck's back.


still during - didn't get a good after picture and my camera is dead
Hmm, all that money and from the pictures it looks just the same! That represents years and years of new cute outfits. And the shoes - don't get me started on the shoes.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

The Beast and the Beauty

 There's Fungus Among Us!

We knew it wouldn't be pretty, but it's still shocking to see the innards of a house. Mold, mildew and some dry rot just for fun, here is the look behind the bathtub. It actually looked really cool when they ripped out that big window - a nice view right out to the pool. But we'll be getting a bit more privacy with a smaller window.

It just needs some bubble bath and soft lighting.

Too pretty to slice up.
There's Yeast Among Us

We were invited to dinner at our Moldovan friend's house. A nice respite after all that mold. They sent us home with this nice gift. I've never baked anything quite so beautiful for a major celebration, let alone for a ordinary old weeknight. And then to just hand it out while we were parting as if it were a Tupperware full of leftovers? I would have beat a drum or yelled "I created bread!" But she just gave it to us - ho hum, here's some bread. Am I sure that I'm gluten sensitive, really?
"Cut into it you fool!"

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

House Whoas

As in Whoa! But I'm sure the woes will come soon enough.

Well, that certainly was stressful. We knew buying a house could be a wild ride, but we weren’t expecting a roller coaster without seat belts.

Our short sale, with an FHA 203K construction loan added on just for fun, had to close 45 days after our offer was accepted. After the 45 days, if the loan wasn’t funded, it would at that point turn into a foreclosure rather than a short sale. The deadline? Monday at 2:30. The time the loan funded? Monday at 1:00. Our stomachs have just stopped churning.

So now the fun starts - a little remodel. Just “piddly stuff” as our contractor says. I’m glad he thinks so. Here are some before pictures. 

Here it is! Just kidding, that's the little pool house.

The Back Forty

The Redwood Grove

The front, soon to have a new roof and exterior color

Self explanatory

Scary piddly stuff

The soon-to-be not a doggy door

The good part of the kitchen

The 80's side of the kitchen. It's having an identity crisis.

If there isn't a bright pink wall, it's just not nearly as much fun.