Thursday, December 8, 2016

First Snow for the Season

I tried to take pictures of how blustery the snow was, but you really can't see it in the pictures. We've settled the bird into the basement with heaters and we're making our winter basement bunker. We'll see how long this lasts.
This picture below is taken out the window in my sewing room. I wish we had room in the garage to bring the furniture inside. We need to get rid of more stuff. :(

Friday, December 2, 2016

Shasta's New Toy

I had seen advertisements for the CleverPet many months ago, but at the time they didn't have any units for sale. They had a sale on Cyber Monday so we picked one up,  trusting it wouldn't be a waste of money.

We set this up yesterday evening. This is Shasta, barely more than 24 hours after we got it! Go Shasta! It's already getting harder and I don't think it's "paying" her every time now.
Yes, she's eating a lot today, but she's still learning how to use it. Our plan is to actually feed her all her regular food through this delivery method as soon as she gets the hang of it.

Bailey, so far, isn't interested. We plan to set it up so she can watch Shasta playing it while we hang out on the couch together. We're hoping she'll learn it too.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

December Update

I have no idea how it is December already!

We finally found the solution to our light hanging headache. I ended up buying each of the available picture rail hooks from House of Antique Hardware and this was the winner. It's wide enough on top that it stays on the rail when you're jiggling around the string of lights and the top hook part perfectly fits our picture rail. It's pretty unusual for us to spend money right after Thanksgiving, but we did this year. We bought 60 of these things during their Cyber Monday sale.

Portland had an absolute TON of rain in November and our basement is still dry! (Happy dance.) I'm so glad the guys installed the French Drain last spring. It's working!

We have not finished the bathroom shelf. Oh well. Whenever it's sunny out, the fur children remind us it's time to go to the dog park, not go work in the garage. We'll eventually be tired of having nowhere to hang towels and get it done. I did dig out a board from our pile of fir, but we need to unbury the table saw to rip it to size.

We also spent many hours this month writing our first book. We're almost done with the rough draft and it's over 200 pages. I expect we'll be done with it in the next week or two then we're actually going to set it aside for six weeks or so before we edit it again.

Oh, and since we're disappointed about everything we've been reading in the news lately, we decided to escape to another land. We started playing Elder Scrolls Online (cringe). Only, after three years of behaving like teenagers, this time we're acting like adults (so far). We're doing our task list BEFORE we allow ourselves to sign on and escape to Tamriel.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Dry Basement

Despite record rain over the last few days, I am happy to report our basement is dry!! Obviously, the French drain the guys installed last spring did its job. October was Portland's wettest winter in the last 100 years. There was widespread flooding throughout the city yesterday. So, if our recent rainfall is any indication of what we can expect this winter, I'm glad the guys took the time to install it.

Jeff and I spent a lot of time writing this month. We're working on a science fiction story. It's about 160 pages so far. I'm hoping we'll finish it by the end of the year.

The weather has been pretty uncooperative to finish the bathroom. We need a sunny day to clear space in the garage and use the table saw. It seems like every time we have a sunbreak, the dogs are bouncing off the walls and Jeff takes them to the park for some run time, then by the time he gets back it's raining again. I have faith we'll get to it soon.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Quick Update

Jeff and I have been spending a lot of time writing lately, but I finally got some more work done on the master bath last week. I finished cleaning up the glass and I put the windows back together.
I have used the shower and it is nice to be able to shower upstairs again, but I need to install the grab bars. I'm hoping to get the shelf and towel hooks installed next week. We're waiting on a reasonably clear day so we can clear space in the garage to cut up our large pieces of fir. I'm hoping for next week, but given our current rate, it may be longer.
The tile looks better in the pictures than it does in person. I'll have to take some closeups to post soon. Barrett clearly had a problem getting tile flush and evenly spaced on the walls. Somehow, given all the problems and delays, this should not surprise me.

Friday, November 4, 2016

Shower Door

When the glass installers came out last week to put in the glass, they told me they were having the door hinges overnighted. Well, apparently "overnighted" means, another week. But, FINALLY done.
I've finished putting more coats of varnish on the medicine cabinet, so I'll get the bathroom put together this weekend (I hope).

We've decided to install a stained shelf on the toilet side wall, something like the below photo, so I'd like to buy fir for that soon.
I had bought a train rack for that wall, but it would have had to be installed off-center due to the ductwork in the wall, so I just decided to do this long shelf design instead. We'll install the train rack in the basement bathroom, which could really use the towel storage space.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Master Bath Shower Almost

Jeff and I finally put a couple more coats of varnish on the ceiling and I repainted the walls in hubbard squash. Eric came out and helped Jeff get the rest of the electrical switches installed; we gave up on the electrician.

We also got the interior of the medicine cabinet finished. We're happy with the glass shelves we bought for this one. As mentioned earlier, we bought them from One Day Glass, which was the least expensive source I found online. Luckily it was within an easy drive.
The shower enclosure was supposed to be finished today, but the installer got the wrong door hinges, so it's going to be another day or two.
We're mostly down to installing some misc. hardware, then we'll be done. Though, likely with us so busy with Halloween right now, it will be next week at least before we finish up.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Halloween Preparations

Halloween used to be a big holiday for us. We would have big parties and invite lots of our friends and cook LOTS of weird foods. But it's been more than a decade since our last party (2005, I think) since we had uprooted to California then retreated back to Oregon.

We are dipping our toe in again to see if it's still our thing. We're having a smaller gathering where we'll feature our weird foods and probably play some games.

Decorating this old house has proved to be a bit of a challenge, as our primary requirement is we cannot damage the woodwork or plaster and our plan to hang lights with picture rail hooks has proven to be a no go; they just keep popping off the rail—it's been super frustrating. (I think we'll likely just end up taping them up with painter's masking tape and pull them down immediately after the holiday.)

Jeff is actually working this week with his friend Eric, so I'll be spending my time trying to finish up Jeff's and my costume and cleaning house. In the evenings, we'll both be working on whatever food prep can be done ahead of time.

We will offer photos of the food after the party, but here are some examples of the kinds of food we used to make:
Brain Jello on left, Kitty Litter box cake on right.
Brain Jello
Not a great picture, but the brain is a crab dip with chips. In the background is eyeball deviled eggs.
Sorry for the crummy quality photos. It guess it's been long enough that the best pictures have all been lost or are residing only on ancient backup drives. Sadly, I'm too lazy to go looking.

This year, we'll be replacing the kitty litter box with a graveyard cake. We have too many friends with cats, and they didn't want to eat it; it looked too close to the real thing. LOL

Update: Here are the pix for the food this year on our food blog. There is a separate post about the graveyard cake, which we were happy with how it turned out.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Batten Down the Hatches

The Pacific Northwest has a typhoon heading in. (A typhoon is a hurricane in Pacific Ocean speak.) The high winds may miss Portland (I hope), but we will likely get 3 to 5 inches of rain. I guess this is the part where we test both French Drains we installed earlier this year. And, likely, figure out what we need to fix next.

Hurricane Force Winds Ahead For NW

Warning: Major Storms Threaten the Pacific Northwest

How a Remnant Typhoon Could Bring a Destructive Windstorm to the Pacific Northwest

We've been trying to place stuff safely in the yard, just in case it's bad. And we're filling containers with water, just in case.

We'll be keeping a close eye on the basement and see where it leaks next.

Update later: The storm ended up being less windy than it could have been, which was a huge relief. But we still had something like 5" of rain over a 2 day period. We didn't have any problems in our basement family room that had given us problems last year. Jeff and Aaron's French drain worked wonderfully and our basement stayed dry. I guess we can finally put the rugs back down on the floor.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Finally, Basement Faucet

We've been really flaky lately. We've been writing our book and binging too much on Netflix/Youtube lately. But a call from Jeff's friend, Erik sent us back into productive mode this week. First up, he and Jeff installed the faucet in the basement bathroom.
I still haven't oiled this soapstone counter. I need to go find the oil in our master bathroom.

We discovered the hard way Craftsman Design & Renovation didn't seal around the hardware installed in the basement shower. We had to open up the wall from the back side to dry it out.
I'm debating whether I go back to them and whine about this. It's been four years since they finished, but this is pretty unprofessional.

We also worked on the master bathroom, but I'll do that in a separate post in a couple of days when we finish.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Reproduction Wallpaper Sale

I got an email today letting me know one of the reproduction wallpaper companies is having a retirement sale. Each roll is $59, which is far lower than their regular price.

Charles Rupert Designs
Retirement Sale $59/roll

There are some nice patterns.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Removed Another Tree

Aaron, with some help from Jeff, removed one of the maple trees that was next to the building at the property line last week. There were two maple trees really close together, and Jeff decided he wanted to take one of them out. He thinks the remaining smaller tree will fill in.
We're going to get some blueberry shrubs. We're trying to decide if we have enough sun for fruit trees. And we're trying to decide what to plant on the pergola. I really wanted to plant grapes, but they're poisonous for dogs, so it's not going to happen. We're also considering kiwis, but I'm not sure if we'll eat them. We might try a thornless blackberry.

Now this looks really fun! We're thinking about trying to build some sort of temporary trellis to lean against the pergola so we could train the squash plant up to the top of the pergola.
Here is a bit of a progression of the yard this year. We have more stuff we plan to do in the backyard, but we're happy with the work we got done this year.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016


Jeff has wanted to write science fiction for many years. I guess because it was so hot in Portland a couple weeks ago and because we were feeling totally unmotivated to do real work, we got started. We're still at it.

Our story is based in the alpha centauri system on a spaceship. We've found submarines to be a good comparison for the spaceship setting in our story. It's been fun to research them.

I think I've been a little embarrassed to admit this project because I don't know if we'll come up with a story that is any good, but we have been enjoying working on this project together.

On the off chance we actually come up with a publishable book, we'll let you know. I suppose stranger things have happened.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Last Week's Installations

I guess I forgot to post last week with our latest progress. Since it was beyond our skill, we hired the plumber to come back and put in the shower head in our master bathroom. It's a little bigger than I realized, but I love it. Sadly, we can't use it until the glass is in.
We have the quote and just need to order the glass, but the latest delay is our fault. We want to do a bit more varnishing and paint the room again, but it got hot in Portland. We suck at doing work when it's hot. I'll probably go ahead and order the shower enclosure in order to give us a deadline; that usually motivates us to get in gear.

Oh, and we got the soapstone installed in the basement bathroom now that we have a mostly functional bathroom upstairs.
We obviously still need to install the Kohler Fairfax faucet.
We had this style faucet in our last house and we liked it. I am way less fussy about having historic reproductions in our basement bathroom.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Backyard Hardscape Finished

The backyard is finished, for now. We still plan to put in a chicken coop, but that will wait until fall/winter when our contractor friends have a slow period.

Here is the overhead view (from my sewing room). The mass of plants on the lower right is the rain garden we put in about four years ago. The few plants we originally put in have really thrived (the thimbleberry too much so).
And from the back stairs.
Honestly, had we planned in advance better, the brick path would have extended all the way to the patio and the urbanite path would have come off the side, but we were pretty much winging it for most of this process. Oh well. Maybe next year we'll change it, but Jeff has had enough of this project for now. We'll hang onto the spare bricks.

I spent the day sifting the last of the tile to get it out of the house. I'm trying to guess which pieces are worth selling, and I'll put them up on craigslist for the rest of the summer. The rest, I'm just going to put a free ad up on craigslist. I think whatever is left by this winter, I'll just give that away too.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Another Path Done

I'm not going to show all the steps this time; you guys have seen them all many times. Jeff and Aaron spent about 3 days shifting dirt and then installing this path from the back door to the patio. When they were digging the area for the gravel, they actually found an earlier path buried in about 3" of dirt. That path was just laid out on the dirt without gravel so it had obviously sunk. Anyway, they reused some of those bricks too. Here is how it turned out.
They copied the design we used for the front yard path.

The long term goal is to be able to walk to the chicken coop during the winter without getting covered in mud. We are nearly there. Once the coop is in, they'll finish the short piece of path that is still needed and we should be good to go.

We finally finished nailing the new stained boards in place in our living room. We had to replace several boards AGAIN that Mia had chewed on. She has been evicted from the living room for a while. And I also painted the plaster repair.
When I first repainted the patch with a new can of the Sherwin Williams Ruskin Room Green paint the color was so different, I was a little panicked the color would not match and then I would have to repaint the whole room. Fortunately, once it dried, it matched. I was so relieved. I didn't want to paint the whole room again.

Friday, July 29, 2016

I Should Be Sewing

I really wanted to finish recovering my couches by now, but every time I walk up to my sewing room and sit down to sew, I just don't feel like doing it. I've been on a bit of a Netflix binge, but I am trying to come up with another productive activity I feel like doing. I've been thinking about working on a cross stitch project I started a very long time ago (more than 15 years).

It's called "The Storyteller" and was designed by Teresa Wentzler. Teresa's projects are extremely complex and you cannot be watching TV at the same time. Most of the colors are actually one strand of two different colors and many "squares" on the fabric are actually made up of two half-squares. I think I'll give this a shot and see if I can get into it. This is a beautiful project, I'd love to finally finish it. Here is where I'm at:
This is what the finished project looks like (stolen from this website):
We're also working on cleaning house -- really cleaning house -- because Jeff has invited a group of friends to visit in a week and we want the house to look nice. It's gotten to be a mess during our ongoing remodel projects.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Wheelbarrow Path Finished

This past weekend Jeff and Aaron worked hard to finish the wheelbarrow path and a swale in the backyard. Excuse the photos, they didn't turn out very well because of the shadows from the pergola. And they covered up the path with plastic again, so I can't take more yet.
Jeff also added a swale at the bottom of the yard, next to this path. The swale is there to collect excessive rain water during the winter, when we need it. Since we disconnected our downspouts a few years ago, we need to manage all of our rainfall on site.
Here are more photos, for those who are interested.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Bathroom Progress

Barrett finally came out last Friday and finished grouting the bathroom tile. I should have taken photos, but I didn't have my camera with me. I think there are a couple more tiles I'd like to have him adjust, but for the most part, he's done. FINALLY. It has been a long haul on this project.
This week Jeff and Eric installed the lights on either side of the medicine cabinet, the brackets for the shelves in the medicine cabinet and they hung the door.
They installed brackets in the medicine cabinet to install shelves
The door is installed!

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Tile Class

After playing with tile some, we thought it would be fun to look into making some tiles from scratch. It would be nice to do something for the upstairs bathroom, over the fireplace, or as a backsplash over the oven.

The first day was working the clay before the first firing: greenware.  We rolled out slabs, cut out tiles, imprinted patterns, and learned other techniques that could be used before firing the first firing.
The second day was about decorating once-fired clay: bisque. We worked with two classes of techniques. The first was color on color where you first cover the whole tile with two coats of glaze, then apply pigments on tope of that base layer. 

The second worked directly on the bisque tile by laying down lines with a mix of was and pigmented glaze. Then the remaining areas can be glazed. Since the glaze won't adhere to the wax, the glaze will sort of mound up and create a three dimensional effect.

The class included firing both the greenware we played with, and the bisque work. So in a week or so, we'll be able to see how they turned out.

Update: We never heard from Georgie's that the practice tiles were finished, so about 8 weeks later, when we were driving by, we dropped in and asked for them. We were informed they threw them away. Apparently, they only keep them for 4 weeks. I was pretty disappointed. It would have been nice if they had called before tossing them out.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Porch Masonry Project

This is how the bricks looked when we moved into this house in 2006.
I believe there used to be a set of brick steps here that were removed, but I could find nothing in any pictures I've been able to find. This also would have been a good spot to step into a wagon, though this neighborhood was built just as cars were coming into use (1910s). So, we don't really know what the original design looked like. With the width of modern cars, however, the stairs really don't fit so we didn't restore them.

Shortly after moving in, we hired A Better Chimney to repoint the bricks and also repair this bad patch. This is how it looked when they finished.
Much better, but we still had a step that dropped about 2 feet to the driveway. It was unsafe. So, last summer, when we wanted to install a charging station for Jeff's plug-in hybrid, we decided to get it fixed. We hired A Better Chimney again, but this time it didn't go so well.

Pedro came out and tore it all apart, but then he disappeared for weeks and weeks. I had to constantly pester him to come out and make progress. It turns out he was diagnosed with cancer and wasn't really able to work on this project, but we had a large hole into our basement all winter.
Finally, sometime this spring—after much prodding— he finished installing all the bricks. 
A couple months ago I got in a fight with Pedro and he hasn't spoken to us since or come out to finish the project, so we have realized he decided to abandon the job.

The black plastic package at the base of the wall is supposedly the cement cap for the top. I guess we'll try to figure out if we can finish this. I don't particularly care for the color of the new bricks as they really don't match, but we could not easily find a better match. I am going to explore brick dye and see if we can improve the color. (I've already bought samples to test.)