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.