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Wednesday, September 30, 2009

the plumbing post

I finally took some pictures of our plumbing progress! We're on hold until a) the big expensive vanity gets ordered and b) we get drywall and tile and the like so that the finish work can be done. So what we have now is considered rough-ins. But it's lovely to see. It looks like progress!

First up: the guest bathroom. The final studs for the pocket door aren't in place yet -- we had left them off so that the window people could get in and out easily as they took out and sealed up the old window. That's been done, so we'll get those studs in soon. They're super easy to install -- but I have a whole 'nother post coming up about pocket doors. Just you wait. Anyway, as you can see below, the guest bathtub is in! The cat, for some bizarre reason, keeps jumping in it to play. We hear clanging as she flops around in there at night. It's very strange. This bathroom will also have a toilet and a pedestal sink -- space is limited, so we chose pedestal over a full vanity.

The master shower fills me with both excitement and terror. Excitement, because hello, it's awesome. Terror, because I have NO IDEA how we're going to get the base poured. If anybody knows any contractors who do that in this area, let me know. For that matter, if you know somebody who does tile, too, I'd love to hear it. I hate tiling. Hate it HARD. We went to a tile store for some preliminary research a couple of weeks ago, to see how many of our appendages we'd have to sell off to get nice tile (verdict: a lot). I'm wondering if a bathroom contractor of some sort might be able to both get us a better deal and install it for us.

And finally, the rest of the master bathroom! The shower is just to the left out of sight; this picture shows the plumbing rough-ins for the vanity and the bathtub. The toilet will be across from the vanity, between the bathtub and the door -- another pocket door, incidentally.

I won't bore you with the details of what it took to get to this point -- there were decisions made that impacted both the upstairs and the downstairs, but not in any major way. I'm just glad that it's done, and that it looks like we're finally moving forward. Or rather, we would be if I could find an electrician.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

waiting in the wings

The last of our bathroom appliances arrived last week. This forest of boxes in the guest room contains two toilets, a pedestal sink (for the guest bathroom), the master bathtub, and faucets galore. The only thing we're missing is our master bathroom vanity, which comes with sinks and faucets and a marble top and is glorious but expensive, so we haven't ordered it yet because we're still trying to pull money around to make it spread to all the things it needs to go to.

In the meantime, the cat is having a lovely time climbing around on the boxes. Most nights, she sleeps curled up on the big one that contains the bathtub. I'm looking forward to getting all of this installed - and more importantly, being able to pee upstairs. Can't wait!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

fake kitchen remodel

A very short post, while my Internet is up. We're having horrendous connectivity issues here. A tech is coming out Thursday, but in the meantime I spend about five minutes having Internet and then twenty minutes without. Not very conducive to productivity. Anyway. Here's a picture of how the kitchen looks now (or now-ish, anyway):

We finally -- FINALLY -- took out the wall separating the kitchen and dining room, and it makes a HUGE difference. All the light from that fantastic, expensive bay window in the dining room pours into the kitchen. We installed a couple of temporary inexpensive dome lights in there to replace the old fluorescents that never worked, but we never need them until night time. Running the wiring for those lights, however, proved an adventure. Don probably doesn't want me to tell you this, but he got his hand stuck in the ceiling. While he was standing rather inelegantly on an upturned bucket. I'll leave that mental picture with you. As a final touch, we found a spare 2x8 and installed it as our temporary breakfast bar. It gets a lot of use when we have people over for dinner, as a buffet or just as storage. I can't wait for the real thing -- we'll be replacing it in the same spot with a nice countertop bar and some stools eventually.

The other big update is that we got a new fridge, and it is glorious. The old one finally died conveniently right in time for one of those interminable appliance sales at Sears, so we picked up this fab fridge for a discount. It has SO much room. It didn't fit in the old fridge's spot, so we went ahead and moved it to where it's going to be when we finally re-do the kitchen. That left us with a big gaping hole in the corner, so we went to Home Depot and picked up a pre-made base cabinet that fit perfectly. We covered it with plywood and laminate -- no need to get fancy, after all -- and now we have extra counter space and extra storage. I'm still trying to convince Don that this means that I ought to be able to buy lots of new pots and pans.

The last thing we did was some reorganization. We picked up another set of industrial grey garage shelving (whatever, it doesn't have to be pretty, it just has to hold stuff!) and set it in the corner with our existing set. All of our small appliances and serving dishes fit on one set of shelves, while bulk pantry items are in labeled containers on the other. Bowls, canned goods, and things like spare mayonnaise and cupcake liners are tucked away into the pantry proper. It's all very functional, and I've been cooking at home a lot more since we finished the whole project. It's not very attractive, of course -- everything is mismatched, old, and/or ugly -- but it works spectacularly well for me right now, and means that we can hold off on the kitchen remodel without complaints.

More about the rest of what's been going on soon, when my Internet is fixed.

PS - broken Internet also means I can't play my new game - so frustrated!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

what we did on our summer vacation

I thought I'd take a brief weekend interlude from house updates to tell you guys about our vacation this year. Every year, the week of my birthday (August 28th, if you care), we take a week's vacation and go out to western Maryland, where there is a huge man-made lake and surrounding vacation community called Deep Creek. It's a four-season destination, as there's a good ski mountain right at the north end of the lake. We like it so much that we're hoping to buy a vacation house there soon -- we're talking to a realtor and everything. Anyway, this year we went out with three friends and had an awesome time. Don and I actually took the opportunity to drive out two days early, and stayed at Rocky Gap Resort in Cumberland, a place we've stayed before. It was a pleasant little private vacation extender, and one of the coolest things we did all vacation happened the very first day: we took a ride on an old steam train. The Western Maryland Scenic Railroad runs from Cumberland to Frostburg and back again, generally twice a day on weekends. It's a beautiful trip -- you start at the old train station in Cumberland, go through some astonishingly gorgeous mountains, rumble along past farms and small towns and valleys and cliffs while you listen to the chuff-chuff of the engine and, if you're Don and I, stand in the open-air vestibule and get coal dust all over you -- a totally authentic experience, I assure you -- and wind up in the college town of Frostburg, where you can get lunch and watch the engineers turn the engine around on the giant train turntable. Then you go back again, and ogle all the scenery you might have missed on the way up. Don took probably hundreds of pictures, but this is one of my favorites:

Check out that steam! If you ever find yourself with a day free out in western Maryland, this is definitely a trip worth taking.

The rest of the vacation was full of books, games, friends, boating, relaxing, swimming, and just generally enjoying the peace and quiet of the little chalet we rented, tucked away on the side of a mountain. Don took lots more pictures -- I'm getting him his own camera for Christmas this year, incidentally -- and this one definitely captures some of the spirit of the week.

That's Molly, perched on the deck, surrounded by nature and reading, reading, reading. We went to the library together before we left for the trip, and we may have shocked our fellow library patrons by the sheer volume of books we took out. I read every single one. It was glorious.

Friday, September 18, 2009

let's start with the yard

Does everybody remember last year, when the backyard looked like this?

Or worse, the year before, when we got a visit from the county because our neighbors were so irate about our backyard overgrowth? It looked like a jungle out there. The weeds in the very back were so high they were over my head, and threatened to completely engulf our little outbuilding. The aluminum shed next to the garage was rickety and rusted. The giant hole in the ground from where we took out the old aboveground pool filled with water at least once a month. Our friends' children took great delight in 'fishing' in it with fallen branches from our wildly overgrown trees, but the rest of us were not so pleased with it.

Enter the landscapers. We took down the aluminum shed ourselves, one hot and sweaty Saturday afternoon, but they did the rest. They filled in the pool hole, cut down the trees that were weed-ish in origin, and scraped the entire back half of the backyard. A concrete guy came out to jackhammer up and haul away the concrete slab the shed had been on -- that was a WHOLE NOTHER adventure. Don's grandfather poured that slab, and to economize he filled it in with whatever he could find. There were tire hubs, chain link fencing instead of rebar (almost every link had to be snipped, as the jackhammer didn't fit between), and all sorts of other things inside the slab, which went from a reasonable four inches or so thick at the front to over eight inches thick at the back. It took forever to get it out.

In the meantime, the landscapers seeded the rest of the yard and covered it with straw. When the concrete was gone, they did the same for the small patch where it had been. The picture below was taken shortly after that, while the final patch was still growing in. The whole thing is grown in now, and it looks lovely - when they mow, we end up with stripes like a baseball field!

Talk about a difference. We had a party here a few weeks ago, and people spread out all over the lawn without fear of falling into a hole or tripping over debris. It was amazing.

Future plans include getting rid of the old electrical line for the pool and shed, and the corresponding posts, plus probably cutting down the old flagpole. We'll eventually tear out the little outbuilding - originally, we thought to keep it and refinish it into a separate office or studio, but instead we'll tear it out, finally dig out those old footings, and put in a semi-inground pool. That may happen next year, depending on our financial situation. We'll also have to talk to our neighbors about replacing the falling-down chain-link fence, preferably with something a little taller and less transparent. In the meantime, we're enjoying having a vast swath of grass to look out over whenever we glance out back.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

we've been busy

Normally, when I go without posting for months at a time, it's because there's nothing happening and I just can't bring myself to whine about it online. This summer's hiatus, however, has definitely been the opposite. There has been SO MUCH going on here, and I feel tres guilty about not posting and telling what few readers I have left about it.

Here's a list of some of the stuff that's been going on here in the last few months:

-As you may have noted in the last post, Don and I finally got married last week, in a civil ceremony at the courthouse. If you are related to me, you will probably find a wedding announcement in your mailbox soon. If not, you'll have to live with the online version. Being married isn't very different from being engaged for seven years, other than the Big Name Change: I'm Jamaila Brinkley now.

-I've had a host of health problems since May; two emergency room visits, countless doctor appointments, and more blood and urine tests than anybody should ever have to go through. In early May, I had my second kidney stone (the first was about six years ago). The followup for that included a cystoscopy, two rounds of antibiotics, and a great deal of nausea, most of which turned out to be unnecessary. During the CT scan, they happened to find out that I have gallstones lurking menacingly around inside of me, too. I'll be having gallbladder removal surgery sometime in the next year, although it's not urgent. In the meantime, I can't have alcohol, caffeine, or extra-greasy foods -- turns out that the gallstones' interactions with those things have been why I've been nauseous practically all the time for the last three or four years. Who knew? Right after all that had gotten cleared up, in early August I abruptly developed gout in my foot, a genetic inheritance I had no idea I was due for. I couldn't walk for two weeks, and slept on an air mattress in the dining room. It was all very exciting.

-While I was battling all of these health issues, somehow -- you're not going to believe this -- the rest of the subfloor and ALL of the framing got done. Yes, we have walls, even though they're just studs. But you can actually see the shape of the rooms in the house!

-After the framing was done, right in the middle of my gout issue, we got PLUMBING. Or rather, we got rough-ins. The plumbers came out, politely ignored me flailing around on my dining room air mattress, and roughed in the plumbing for both upstairs bathrooms. There's a little more rough-in work to be done -- the master bathroom tub was delivered later than expected, and we haven't ordered the master bathroom vanity yet, so they'll be coming back, but most of it is done.

-Our old fridge died, to nobody's dismay. We bought a new fridge, and while we were at it, rearranged the kitchen and finally opened up the wall between it and the dining room. It's a much more pleasant place to cook and clean and hang out now, and the new fridge is AMAZING.

-Right after my gout healed, we went on our annual vacation to Deep Creek Lake with friends, and had an amazing, relaxing, wonderful week. I also turned 27 that week, which was less exciting.

-Don passed Spanish (I know, I couldn't believe it either), and at the beginning of September embarked on what will actually, truly, really be his last semester of college. Undergraduate, anyway. He's applying for January admission into UMBC's graduate program in Human-Centered Computing, and he's really excited about it.

-The last post before my unexpected hiatus announced that we'd hired a landscaper to come in and wrestle the backyard into shape. He did it at the very beginning of the summer, and we've been enjoying it ever since - along with his remarkably reasonable rates for biweekly mowing services.

I've got pictures in various stages of editing for almost all of the house updates; I'll try to post visuals to get you all up to speed right away. I'm sorry to have been gone so long, and to have let so much get done without documenting it here; it got harder and harder to put together an update as more and more got done and we got busier and busier! Right now we're facing a brief plateau as we get ready to get the electrical work done, so I'm going to try to get everything documented and up to date and then we'll go from there.

Thursday, September 10, 2009