Friday, October 31, 2008

Happy Halloween

Pumpkin designs by the kiddo. Pumpkins picked out by me. Carving done by Adam. :-)

This is the first Halloween, not living with my parents, where I've been in a popular Trick or Treat spot. The neighborhood I grew up in was so poor and rundown that nobody ever came. Then we moved to a new house when I was 10 or 11 that was in one of those areas where people bus the kids in. The street is only 3 blocks long, so it's perfect. Then after college I went back to the too poor and rundown to have many visitors kinds of places.

And now, I'm going to have to go out on my lunch hour today to buy a small fortune's worth of candy so that we can keep up with the deluge I anticipate. And if I'm wrong, well...there's nothing wrong with a little extra candy.

My back is kind of on the mend, meaning, if I don't sit down all day, it's ok. I spent half of my birthday in the doctor's office, and part of it fetching tapeworm pills for that damn cat. Speaking of b-days, how sweet is this?

If my mom says I get to be 29 forever, then who am I to argue? You can see, we'd already started picking at it before we took the picture...And today is my grandmother's 90th birthday! I have lunch with her every Sunday and she is the best.

At any rate, with the whole back things, I'm actually looking into old lady cars now-- the lists of top ten cars for seniors have been very helpful. Anyone got experience with the Ford Five Hundred? I never thought I'd give up my manual transmission. Sigh. Anyway... Then I got the cold of my life. I've been afraid to take any cold medicine with the Robaxin, so I've been suffering through snot and cough and sneezes. It's currently migrating to my chest.

So that's about it. I have hopes of getting things done this weekend (don't I say that EVERY Friday?), things like countertop trim so we can officially get the city off our backs and get the house weatherized.

One small consolation? The leaves are finally changing and so an uncomfortable drive is at least a lovely commute.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Running to stand still

I wish I could say that all the efforts of the last 2 weeks had been house improvements; I really wish we'd been hunkering down and getting ready for winter hibernation. We need to caulk and weather strip and insulate. This morning was the first truly cold morning-- in the 30s and wet. The pup even slept in the bedroom with us until it stopped raining and he couldn't take being cooped up anymore. He's got his winter coat and is loving the change in weather; a doggie with an undercoat is no summer doggie indeed.

As for our little Bella who had the accidental second spay and the upset tummy? Talk about cooped up. She's been living in the laundry room while recovering. I started cooking her plain chicken and white rice to ease her digestive system, but it just wasn't working. We finally took her to the vet. Turns out she had an overgrowth of bad bacteria in her stomach. She's been on a round of an antibiotics, anti-protozoans and pro-biotic powder. Today she was deemed healthy enough to return to the outside world.

My sister is finally understanding what REAL cold is, preparing for her first New England winter and had a tough weekend to boot...Remember my story about the stolen purse and its ultimate recovery? She had a similar incident this weekend with a similar outcome. Not all the contents made it back, but the majority of them did. Boston really is full of some remarkably honest people. Still, the whole event was stressful.

Between cooking for a damn stray cat, visits to the vet, consoling my sister, and finally throwing out my back, the last 2 weeks have been quite limited in their productiveness. The city had its fall cleanup with dumpsters located in each city ward, which we took advantage of. Cleared out old mattresses, boxes and other trash, and sorted through our building materials and the casualties of the move to decide what goes to Habitat's ReStore and what goes to the Salvation Army. We have a lot of ceiling fans, and a lot of clothes and canned goods. I like to wait until Sundays when the Salvation Army thrift store is closed and then leave the donations on their doorstep; it gives the people who really need it the chance to get at it and saves me the hassle of dealing with the 8,000 other people who decided to clean out their closets this weekend. It's only a few blocks away, so I should manage to get it done this weekend.

So now that the sickly cat is better and everything else is shaping up, I thought we'd get a lot done...Instead, I may be laid up with my muscle relaxers. Of course I decided to take Monday off for my birthday and so it figures that I might be stuck nursing my stupid spine-- granted, I hadn't planned on doing much more than watch daytime TV, but still. I like to know I have options!

Monday, October 13, 2008

The time of the half project

Seems like I got a lot of things halfway done this weekend.

I got the lawn half-mowed before running out of gas...

I got the halfway done on the crown-- got it sanded and about 6 feet of it painted...

Our little front porch kitty's been recovering form a spay surgery; it turned out that she had already been spayed, but it was not a certainty before they put her under. She was a little drunk Friday night, but she's purring and loving and rubbing her sweet little face on everything in sight now.

We also went to Oktoberfest. It's a small affair here, a charity event for a children's treatment facility. Some extra yummy brats and sauerkraut, and some good German potato salad, but not as good as my mother and grandmother's recipe. My mother grew up very, very German Lutheran and let me tell you there is nothing better than good, authentic German potato salad. I'll have to make that my next recipe post-- I'm long overdue for one anyway.

And lets not forget the beer. Pitchers of Sam Adams Oktoberfest were $10 to start with and $6 for refills and we keep the pitcher. Not bad over all. A girlfriend of mine split a few pitchers with me while our kids ran wild and the men stayed sober to drive us all home. Then she and another friend and I went to play bunco with her mother.


I'm not sure how I've missed this game. It was the first time I played and I think it's fantastic. They eat a lot of food, drink some booze and play this bizarro combination of bridge and craps. And there's prizes! I won some sweet little harvest-themed scarecrow decorative statues.

I might be hooked.

Oh! Speaking of hooked-- I've taken up crocheting again. I haven't really done that in a good 15 years, so I had to spend Sunday practicing and boning up on my stitches. I'll be back in the swing in no time, and making some new throw pillows for the living room.

Frankly, this was all to distract me from the news. I'm a politics junky and I watch news from the time I get home, to the time I go to bed. I listen to news podcasts on my drive home, I listen to Morning Edition on the drive to work. I just read the John Adams biography and I'm about to wrap up reading a book about the 1787 writing of the Constitution. I really should have moved to DC.

I never wanted to get too bogged down in it here on this blog, though. DIY knows no politics.

I will just say, however, that I'm concerend about the level of misinformation in the world and the amount of negativity that's been spewed forth in the last few weeks. The world is in a precarious place at the moment, and race, gender and religion shouldn't factor negatively into the way we move forward. It's become almost hard for me to watch.

Let's talk issues, solutions and plans and then let's get ourselves out of this mess.

Monday, October 6, 2008

All trimmed out

Another moderately productive weekend, I'd say. And a few lessons learned, of course. I can already see this is going to be a long post, but hey-- at least there's pictures!

I know I mentioned our newly purchased and primed crown for the kitchen-- "crown" is really stretching it; it's a large cove molding. Anyway, Adam and I spent Saturday cutting and installing it.

I don't know if you've ever done crown, but it's a little insane. We knew that the bottom of the molding had to be against the fence of the miter saw if we were going to get consistent corners. But somehow we missed the fact that cove has a top and bottom-- one side's thicker than the other-- and we were trying to flip the pieces over rather than move the to the other side of the saw or just move the saw. We were being lazy and stupid. But Adam finally got in a groove, and things moved right along.

Once we realized that there had to be a better, easier, less stress-inducing way to do this, we ended up using DeWalt's tutorial for cutting crown, and I found this one pretty helpful, too.

To install, we used our handy-dandy Harbor Freight stapler/brad-nailer twofer that we got for $18 with One Project Closer's coupon. It's been a GREAT addition to the tool arsenal; we have a larger Porter-Cable finish nailer, but it's 15ga, it's so heavy and cumbersome and provides such a kick. For these little projects, the 18ga brad nailer is lightweight and easy to handle when you have to hold your arms up and crick your neck to see, and the tiny brads don't tend to split the wood. It is awesome.

Anyway, we got it up there and I spent yesterday caulking and putty-ing the nail holes.

It looks like it has the pox. This (the caulking, not the pox!) brings me the newest addition to the tool box-- a new caulk gun. The one we had was the 99¢ blue one that everyone has in their kitchen tool/junk drawer. In fact, ours either came from Adam's dad or my dad, making it probably a minimum of 15 years old and a maximum of 30. When I used it on the porch, caulk was constantly oozing out and I didn't feel like I had a lot of control over the bead. Ok, ok. I suppose this might have something to do with the fact that I had no clue what I was doing.

But caulk guns are inexpensive even at the top end, and if there's one thing I've learned from this house, it's that the right hands can make cheap tool work; but a cheap tool in the wrong hands is a fucking disaster. So I splashed out on a $5 model that advertises "no-drip technology."

I couldn't see any difference; I stood in Lowe's for a while with a cheapo model and this one in each hand, pulling the triggers and watching them work and...I don't know. But whatever the difference, it's a good one. It absolutely did the trick. My beads were smaller and smoother and the tip stayed pretty mess-free. (I'd like to also point out that caulking is just about the most important part of finish work-- I cannot BELIEVE the difference it makes between looking halfway legitimate and looking like a monkey did the work.)

One bit of a disaster, however, is the space above the broom closet. This closet was a modular afterthought.

As you see, the gaps are too big for the crown to attch to anything on one side, and there's a gaping hole below it on the other side. The side in the first pic is also severely bowed. My solution? Liquid Nail, baby. The bowed side will be more difficult, but I started by gluing a scrap piece of poplar in the other side's gap:
I'll wait for the glue to cure and then glue these two piece of crown together and then to the ceiling and closet. Then I'm sure there will be creative caulking and puttying. We'll see.

Another little kitchen miracle...drum roll...Baseboards!
Not having ragged bottoms and ragged tops has made a world of difference. For this project, we did have to bust out the big finish nailer. These baords were just too much for the little guy.

We also tested some countertop trim profiles on a scrap piece of oak (no decision yet), and I primed the laundry room. Or well, I started to prime the laundry room.

That paneling is a bitch! Or, again, wrong tool wrong hands...I was using a regular roller with a regular nap, and this left nothing in the grooves between "panels." So the whole room turned into one giant "cutting in." I gave up at this point and will buy a thicker napped roller and see where that takes me.

And we changed the battery in my mom's car...OH! One other weird thing. The kiddo was at camp all weekend. But when I woke up this morning, the stuffed teddy bear that she won at the fair last week was laying splayed out in the middle of the bathroom floor. I'm sure the most likely answer is that one of the cats dragged it in there; it's as big as they are, but lightweight. Still, there was no evidence of claws or teeth on it...I like to believe that our little girl ghost who goes from the kitchen to the bathroom at night has taken a shine to it :-)