Where Did I Put My Night Vision Goggles?

Oh wait; I don’t have any night vision goggles. I really needed them this morning on our “normal” pre-dawn walk, though. As always, the dogs will walk and sniff sedately for most of the walk, to lull me into a false sense of security that nothing will happen. Surprise! You would think that I would learn by now that something always happens when I am least prepared to deal with an unpleasant surprise, such as being the boat anchor behind three charging dogs.

We were walking on the long dark stretch of road that I refer to as “The Lake Road”. That’s not what the road is actually called, but that’s what I call it. It’s the road that leads to the lake, hence “The Lake Road”. There are no houses on either side of that particular stretch of road, just a ravine on one side and a hill on the other side of the road. Anyway I digress; we were on our way back home when the dogs all converged on one spot for a group sniff. Nothing unusual about that, they do this all the time, we call it huffing. The group sniff lasted for a few seconds when all three lunged at something in the underbrush with Charlie and Orso growling at the unseen threat. I jerked back on the leashes not seeing anything and hoping that whatever was hidden in the dark would stay hidden in the dark.

As soon as my heart returned to normal rhythm I looked back to make sure we were not being followed by whatever it was that they wanted to eat. I picked up the pace just in case. I really was curious as to what made them act that aggressive toward the unseen “whatever” it was.

Now I know what I want for Christmas.

A Man and His Home Improvement Store

What is it about a man and a home improvement store?  I love to shop as much as the next person, especially for shoes, but come on, what is the enticement of plumbing parts?  Shoes and boots have a stylish appeal that expresses your personality that you can show the world whenever you step outdoors.  But hose connectors?  Who’s going to see them?  When guests come over you would show off the tile or pedestal sinks in a newly remodeled bath, but no one would point out the shiny new hoses for the hot and cold water.

But yet Mitch will stand and gaze over the plumbing aisle forever with a look of sheer awe at the variety of shapes and sizes of hoses and connectors.  I even asked if he had measured before we got to Lowes and he said yes he knew exactly what he needed.  After ten minutes of watching him stare transfixed at the huge assortment, I said that I was going to go to the tile section to find something that would work for the gap at the top of the shower to the ceiling.  He said, “Okay,” in a faraway dreamy voice like a drug addict that had just gotten a fix.

On my way to the tile section I found the kitchen countertop that I fell in love with instantly and took pictures of it with my phone so I would remember it later.  I wandered through the tile section and came up with all kinds of solutions to the three inch gap.  The guest bathroom is not only small in area but with a very low ceiling, so with the shower on, there would be condensation and back splashing that would cause the sheetrock to get wet.  With having to remodel the remodel, Mitch is extra cautious about moisture in the bathroom. 

After spending a very productive ten minutes finding our new kitchen countertop (this will be Mitch’s next project, although he doesn’t know it yet) and coming up with a number of solutions for the top of the shower I wandered back to find Mitch still in the plumbing section.  He had one two inch section of hose fitting and a tube of sealer in his hand.  I asked what else he needed and he said no he had everything he needed.  So why was he still standing there?  It has to plumbing crack.  I looked skyward for guidance.

I dragged him away to show him the new countertop I wanted and my ideas for the top of the shower.  We made a decision to use porcelain tile at the top and grabbed a couple of pieces to take home to try out.  He then said he needed to get caulk.  Oh no, not caulk, anything but caulk.  I don’t know how many hundreds of tubes of caulk Mitch has bought over the years, but each time he needs to buy caulk, we go through the same process.  He stares at the variety of brands, types and colors for minutes, and then when he finally makes a decision, he stands there and reads the entire back section of the tube.  Why?  What could he possibly learn that he does not already know about caulk having caulked four bathrooms in the last three years?

God help me if the caulk industry ever does invent a new and improved caulk.

Another DIY Project Gone Horribly Wrong

Another stay at home working vacation for us.  This one is to redo a recent remodel, which sucks.  We gutted the second bathroom off the kitchen four years ago.  We removed the old ugly gold enamel cast iron tub and institutional sink and replaced them with a corner shower stall and cute pedestal sink.  It looked great, but the shower started to leak so we have to rip it out and fix the leak.  This has entailed ripping out the shower and the tile floor to see how much of the floor underneath the tile was ruined.  Most of the floor was water soaked so Mitch has had to tear out the floor and a large section of subfloor, leaving a huge hole in the floor looking down into the basement.  What fun redoing a remodel.

While he is immersed in the redo I thought that this would be the perfect time to do some of my pet projects that need to be done and haven’t had the time to accomplish.  One of the projects is a quick and easy one day spiff up.  I wanted to paint the three metal entry doors a new color to brighten up the look of the house.  Simple easy project, pick out a color, buy the paint and paint the door, right?  Leave it to me to turn a simple three step process into a four day ordeal. 

After weeks of looking at paint chips, I finally decided on a red hue.  I bought the paint in a quart size can, playing it safe just in case the color didn’t look as good on as it did on the chip.  Sunday afternoon after I got home from Lowes with paint in hand, I covered the floor with newspapers, for the drips. There are always drips when I paint.  I taped off the door knobs and the little strips between the window panes in the kitchen door.  I will never have windows with the little panes of glass because taping off the little panes was a pain in the neck.  I was finally ready to paint.  I started with the kitchen door and all of its’ little window panes.   I stirred the paint again for good measure and dipped the brush in the can and spread the first coat on.  It was horrible.  The painted surface looked like I had used my hand and was finger painting.  Large streaks of the unpainted door below showed through.  I couldn’t believe it; I had never had that happen before.  I thought maybe because the kitchen door hadn’t been painted before it would look better after it dried and I applied a second coat.

I decided to paint the second door and see how it looked.  The other two doors have had three different colors on them so I was sure that they would look much better.  I was wrong.  Both the second and third doors looked as bad as the first one.  The only thing I could do was to wait for them to dry and hope a second coat would fix everything. 

Monday (day two) morning came and the paint was still tacky.  I couldn’t believe it, this has never happened before.  I grabbed the half full can of paint and headed off to Lowes for some help and guidance.  I explained the problem, what the doors look like and what could I do to fix it.  Those two women couldn’t have been more helpful.  They asked lots of questions and explained that red paint had lots of pigment in it and could account for some of the problem and the brand of paint I had picked out was not very good for coverage.  I wished that had been explained to me the day before when I bought it.  It was decided that I needed to prime the doors with gray primer because gray primer works best with red paint and switch brands to Valspar, which I’ve always had good luck with anyway.  The paint department manager didn’t think I would have to apply paint stripper and start all over.  After much discussion we decided that I could probably get by with just painting the primer over the top of the tacky painted surface.  They refunded the full price of the half used can of paint and of course the only size can in stock was a gallon, my usual luck, but they only charged me the price of a quart.  I went home and went about applying a coat of primer, hoping that this was just a little set back.  No, not my luck.

I applied the gray primer and it looked as bad as or worse than the red paint below.  The brush grabbed the paint and left blobs and smears all over the door.  A wadded up piece of paper and a match in the corner is starting to look really good right now.  And just because I’m a glutton for punishment, I decided to paint one of the other doors to see if it would turn out any better.  It didn’t.  This time I stopped at two.  I’m not a total masochist.  I decided this would be a good time to mow the yard.  That I can do without it turning into a major ordeal. 

Two hours later the paint was dry so I thought why not put another coat of paint on to see if there was any improvement.  What did I have to lose, what’s one more coat for the paint stripper to have to take off if it didn’t work?   Surprise there is a god.  The second coat covered the first very nicely.  It looked like what primer should have looked like.  Maybe there is hope. 

Tuesday (day three) I wake up ready to paint a second coat of primer on the remaining door so I can apply the real color.  Tuesday morning, it’s also only forty five degrees outside, too cold to paint a metal door.  I have to wait for the sun to warm up the metal before I can apply any paint.  Waiting sucks.

We Were Not Alone

Our normal morning walk at o’dark thirty, 4:30am actually, started as always.  Me trying to get the dogs and leashes under control.  AJ will only walk on my left, Charlie and Orso don’t care which side they walk on as long as Orso is on the outside and Charlie is next to me.  Orso and Charlie will switch from the left side to right multiple times during the walk almost always by crossing behind me causing me to have to juggle the leashes around to keep from getting yanked around from behind.

On this particular morning, the walk started off with our normal chaos, sniffing, peeing and snatching grass to munch on during the walk.  But when we got to the long stretch of road that has no houses on either side, a ravine on the left and a wooded hill on the right with houses on the hilltop, the dogs discovered we weren’t alone.  Something was keeping pace with us.  The invisible stalker was up on the hill to our right.  Orso discovered our stalker first, stopping and sniffing the air with his head held high, straining at the leash to get a closer sniff.  Charlie soon caught a whiff and joined Orso straining at his leash too trying to get closer to whatever “It” was.  I looked around in the gloom, but couldn’t see anything, I listened intently to try and catch any rustling sound to try and determine where and what was out there, but I didn’t hear anything.  I tugged on their leashes to pull them away from the area and hopefully leaving the thing, whatever it was alone and hopefully leaving us alone too.

But no, our invisible stalker stayed with us, keeping pace staying high on the hill and being quite stealthy.  The only giveaway was his scent which evidently was tantalizing to the dogs.  Me not so much.  I couldn’t smell, see or hear the stalker, so I was getting pretty unnerved trying to keep the dogs under control and alert to a possible threat.  The rest of the walk was uneventful when we got past the dark stretch of road and back into the glow of the streetlights.  Of course that was until Orso shook his head and I about jumped out of my skin.  Just a little jittery, silly me.

Flashcards

I think I’ve come up with the perfect solution to our groundskeeper’s good plant vs weed recognition problem.  Flashcards.  Very simple yet elegant as a solution.  Flashcards work for kids in school.  Math and alphabet flashcards have been used for decades.  So maybe plant flashcards would work.  I would take pictures of all the different plants growing around the lake and laminate the photos to plastic cards.  I can draw a circle with a slash through the middle of photo of a weed and even type a description below the photo.  Something like, “kill on sight” or maybe “wanted dead and decimated” for a weed and “diplomatic immunity” or “endangered species” for a keeper plant.  This may slow down the weed eating process around here, but eventually hopefully the groundskeeper will get it and maybe some poor plant souls will be spared the weapon of plant destruction.   Especially the ones I’ve paid money to put in the ground.

The flashcards could be put on a ring and hang from his belt for easy plant recognition access.  The groundskeeper would walk along flip up and peruse the flashcard to scan the photos searching to determine if the plants are public enemy #1 or keepers.  Who knows maybe flashcards will catch on for gardeners everywhere.  I wonder if I should apply for a patent.

The Wrong Spot

When we demolished and rebuilt our deteriorating retaining wall, we found a huge granite boulder buried under the wall.  We paid someone to come and unearth it for us.  He unearthed it easily and even placed the boulder in the exact spot I wanted it moved to.  In front of our house is a flat area that people will park on to visit the people across the street.  Digging ruts in our yard and never bothering to ask if we mind.  I have long been contemplating various possible solutions to the problem. Landmines, punji sticks and curled razor wire seemed a bit over the top, but I was getting close to my wit’s end as to what to do.  I had long considered a boulder but the size I needed was cost prohibitive, so it was very timely that we literally were sitting on the very solution to my problem and a legal solution to boot.  Bonus!  Of course when the man with the backhoe came out and moved the boulder for us the offending neighbors were out in force to watch with great interest.  Questions were asked as to why I had it put there and to be polite I just said that it was the perfect spot.  I would plant some ornamental grasses around it and how pretty it would look and yada-yada-yada.  Nothing was said at the time about my rock putting a damper on our yard being a parking spot, maybe they hadn’t figured it out yet.  I just played it off as being totally oblivious to anything but my new rock. 

I decided to dig up some of my ornamental grass that has just taken over and is growing in places I don’t want it to, and replant in clumps around the back of the boulder to accentuate the rock.  Plus it makes the rock look even bigger.  Another bonus; rock looks bigger, takes up more space!  Of course while I’m digging holes around the rock, a neighbor comes over to ask what I was doing.  I looked down at the holes and the temptation was strong to tell him that I had hacked Mitch up and  was burying body parts around the boulder, but I restrained myself and explained the obvious, since the grass was laying in clumps next to the rock.  Just as I was finishing up planting the last clump, the neighbor turned and told me that I had put the rock in the wrong spot.  I looked around, played dumb and said, “The wrong spot?  Really?”  Since I wasn’t playing into it, he had no opening to say that I’d ruined an awesome parking spot for anyone that wanted to use our yard as a Parking Spots R Us.  He said that if I wanted to sit on the rock the only view I had was his house.  I said that maybe someone would sit there to wait for a bus.  The only bus that comes by is a school bus and it doesn’t stop here.  He said that maybe he would sit on my rock.  Again the temptation was great to say something really wicked and evil, but all I said was that he could sit on my rock whenever he wanted to.

But now I’m worried that if want to do anymore landscaping I’ll put it in the wrong spot.

Just My Luck

After two weekends of back breaking work (literally), unloading 2 cubic yards of dirt by shovel and sweat from the bed of my son’s pickup truck then shoveling unloaded dirt into countless wheelbarrow loads pushed carefully downhill to the two raised beds Mitch built for me, I finished planting ten tomato plants, four cantaloupe plants and three cucumber plants.  There is still room for more in one of the beds.  I was so excited about getting more vegetable planting space after we had a tree cut down and realized it opened up a larger area of sunlight to the ground.  Perfect for tomatoes.  Did I also mention two trips so far to the chiropractor and more in sight?

We already have a small raised bed that has ten pepper plants and three tomato plants that we’ve been planting in for three years.  But I wanted more and this year I got it.  Tonight after dinner I took the dogs out with me to water the new plants and while I was watering the small bed, Charlie was walking in one of the new beds and promptly stepped on one of my tomato plants and snapped it right off at the base.  I couldn’t believe it.  Not even two days had gone by, I haven’t even had a chance to get to Lowe’s and buy some tomato cages to protect them from just this calamity.   Imagine my frustration.

I love my dogs, but lord there are times when I speculate on a dog less day.  I would never wish for them gone, but…

Our Exotic Vacation or What I Did on a Work Release Program

Our friends tell us that we really know how to take a vacation.  Of course I think they are being a bit sarcastic.  We planned our vacation for the first week of May for a reason.  Hopefully the weather will be nice, not too hot and no rain.  The plan is to tear out one of our retaining walls and replace it before it collapses at an inopportune time.  Like when a car is parked on the second tier drive.  Our property is pie shaped on a hillside.  The house sits at the lowest spot on the hillside with a large detached two car garage behind the house.  There is a large two car driveway up to the garage then a single car driveway just above the garage leading to the shed door.  Above that is a long graveled single car pad.  In essence we have multiple parking spots for lots of people to park for parties we never have.  Mitch is not social.

The retaining wall was built with railroad ties and after almost forty years was dilapidated and in need of repair.  It ran from the garage to the end of the second tier drive.  There was a bow half way down to the end making pulling into the drive a bit of a challenge.  We would have to swing wide then pull back to the left to miss the railroad ties that jutted out.  Bright and early with low skies we started the demolition of the wall.  The demo went very quickly with me filling wheelbarrow after wheelbarrow with dirt dug out to expose the wall until we uncovered the reason the retaining wall jutted out.  There buried in the side of the hill was a huge granite boulder.  Evidently when the retaining wall was originally built they just built around the boulder instead of removing it.  We tried to dig it out but it was way too big.  Demolition was done for the day.  Now we had to find someone with a backhoe or bobcat to dig out and remove the boulder.  We always draw the black marble.

We called all of our friends (a very small list) to ask if anyone knew of someone who owns a backhoe and would be willing to come out and unearth our boulder.  All laughed long and loud at our predicament.  Funny, we didn’t think it was so humorous.  Day two we found the best backhoe operator in the world who came over within a half hour of our call and dug out the boulder in record time.  He even placed the boulder where I wanted it.  Maybe there is a silver lining once in a while.  Between the two of us, mainly Mitch, we finished removing all of the existing rotting ties and readied the area for rebuild.  Mitch wisely called two friends to come and help re-lay the new railroad ties.  At ten feet long these babies are way too heavy for me to help carry. 

Day three the new retaining wall was re-erected in less than three hours with three strong men at work.  Now the only thing left is to back fill the wall with the dirt we dug out to provide support front and back to keep it from collapsing.  Guess who gets to wield the shovel?  That is something I can do.

Another Test of True Love

It must be true love.  We are still married.  Some days I’m not so sure why though.  After the Great Bathroom Remodel was finally finished, just two days short of nine months, I waited for a couple of weeks to spring the next remodel project on Mitch.  You know, give him time to recover.  The latest project we’re (Mitch) starting is the dining room.  What can you possibly remodel in a dining room?  Well in most homes, not too much, change the paint color or wallpaper, maybe new carpeting, but in our house it’s a major undertaking.  Our house is one of those homes that was added on to multiple times, with or without any regard to the local building codes, depending on the decade the addition took place in.  The original structure, the kitchen and front room, now our dining room was built in 1928.  No building codes then.  Two bedrooms were added on in 1932 or 1934, still no building codes.  The final addition, the living room, master bedroom and bath were added in 1985.  This time built to code. I think.

Back in the early twentieth century one of the more popular indoor wall types for cottages was knotty pine planks.  Our house was originally built as a weekend fishing cottage, very rustic.  Hard wood floors, knotty pine planks for the walls and ceilings.  All stained dark brown.  You get the picture, a big brown cave with rooms.  When the final addition was built in 1985, sheetrock was used for the walls and ceiling, and for the floor, the ugliest gold carpet, yuck, and now gone, yay!

When we started the Great Bathroom Remodel, one of the first things that had to be done was to widen the front door, in order to get the new bathtub in the house.  That meant removing some of the knotty pine planks for the wider door.  When Mitch began finishing the front door project and replacing the outdoor light fixture, I started thinking about just removing all of the knotty pine and sheet rocking the walls.  We could cover the wood ceiling with sheetrock.  This would lighten up the room and make it look much larger.  As I’ve said before, I’m the idea person, Mitch is the implementer. 

I sort of tossed out my idea at a weak moment for Mitch, after a steak dinner and three glasses of wine.  I am also an opportunistic woman, I carefully plan my moments of surprise.  In his weakened state of mind, I laid out my ideas, glossed over the rough spots and finished on a high note. 

“It shouldn’t take more than a couple of weeks, don’t you think?  Nothing like the bathroom.” I was determined to put a positive spin on it.  Of course nothing done in this house takes a couple of weeks.

“God I hope not.”  Then he even got in the spirit of the remodel and offered a suggestion.  “We could even put down the bamboo flooring that we did in the living room and bedroom.” Yes, wine and steak, works every time.

Four weeks ago Mitch started the demolish of the dining room.  As always, he is very methodical, careful to salvage as much of the lumber he takes down, in case he has to reuse it again.  Me, I’m more of a bulldozer when it comes to demo work.  Isn’t that the point – demolish?  He was able to salvage a major part of the planks he removed, which will be used to patch a hole in one of the spare bedrooms and build a closet in the other.  We discovered there was no insulation on the exterior wall, no wonder that room is always hot in the summer and cold in the winter.  The very dated (ugly – definitely ’80’s) ceiling fan went away, which means I get to go SHOPPING!

 I spent hours in the paint department and grabbed armfuls of paint chips in all colors and hues.  The clerk kept asking if I needed any help.  I told him no I just wanted a variety of colors to compare.  He thought I was nuts and carefully backed away.  I found a ceiling fan and wall sconces that we could both agree on.  That’s always a challenge.  Our tastes and styles are complete opposites.

Demolition took about a week and a half.  Mitch only took down the knotty pine planks and left the wood ceiling unmolested, leaving it as a base for the sheetrock to be screwed into.  Hanging the sheetrock on the ceiling was a challenge.  The ceiling is vaulted with a four foot wide flat space in the middle of the ceiling where Mitch built a rafter for air conditioning duct work six years ago.  So he had to hang sheetrock at an angle up to the area for the rafter on both sides.  Of course this would have been easier if the room was level, but nothing and I mean nothing in this house is square or plumb.  After he finally got the ceiling hung, he found out the floor has a slight bow in it when he tried to hang the first piece on the wall.  I thought a Mitch Fit Warning was going to go out over the National Weather Service.  It wasn’t pretty.  Time to take the dogs for a walk.

He finished hanging all the sheetrock on Thursday except for the four inch high area above the front door.  That was proving to be a challenge.  The ceiling comes down to just above the door leaving little space to hang the door trim above the door.  For five days he has experimented with different ways to brace up the offending section and for five days Mitch has been just a bit testy.  He finally came up with an idea to brace up the sheetrock but the trim for the door will have to be different from the rest of the trim in the room.  I don’t think it will be that big of a deal and it solves the problem so no more Mitch Fit Warning. (At least for now).

 For the mudding and sanding I hired a neighbor that does it for a living to come in and do the finish work.  For all of his talents, mudding and sanding is not Mitch’s forte.  The mudding and sanding process has taken about a week and a half and should be finished this week. 

That leaves me painting the ceiling and walls.  Mitch will install the new pretty ceiling fan and wall sconces.  After that Mitch can then start installing the bamboo floor, and because the room is not square that will definitely bring on at least one Mitch Fit Warning maybe more.