Monday, July 26, 2010

It's Not Pink & Anime J

I've reached a new level of neurotic: instead of selecting one of many fine colors prepared by Behr or Glidden or even Martha Stewart Living, I have indulged a childhood fantasy and have, however ill-advised, started mixing my own paint colors. The only problem with this practice is knowing when to STOP tinkering with a color. See exhibit A: the laundry room. We tested out a million different colors (all with corresponding made-up names such as Yucky Green and Hells No Blue) and I finally decided on a bold, bold move: one wall "Anime J" (the color of Jason's eyeballs if he was an Anime character - the color directly behind my head in the photo) and one wall "It's Not Pink" (it's not Pink... it's clay pot / terra cotta / peach-esque). The result is kind of hideous, but so dramatically, vibrantly, shockingly hideous that I'm tempted to leave it for a while. Painting this wall It's Not Pink has somehow made the truth sink in -- this is MY house and I can paint the walls whatever color I want to, even if it is ugly, and nobody can tell me not to! Interesting, how tearing off the roof, busting up bathroom fixtures and tearing out whole walls didn't *quite* do this for me. I think that all those things were just so responsible and productive that it wasn't until I did something foolish that the real power of home ownership became manifest. That, and sending in my first mortgage payment. Oof.

At the same time as I proceeded to turn the laundry room into a Cinco de Mayo inspired playhouse, Jason talked some sense into my decision for a classy, elegant bedroom floor... yet we still managed to create a custom stain by mixing Rosewood, Golden Oak and Cherry. We laid down a solid Rosewood (a rich, dark stain) and then rubbed a coat of Golden and Cherry into the grain over top, to bring out the highlights. Jason got to name this one -- he calls it "Black Cherry" and every time he says it, I sing the one line I know from the Goldfrapp song.

Dickens, however, disapproves of the stinky stages of home improvement. He behaved himself for the most part, only chewing on the dried stain stick once and tracking a tiny little bit of It's Not Pink onto the It's Still Gold arm chair. Then, after a bit of a bath, he hid in a box to make his displeasure known.

Friday, July 23, 2010

A Tale of Two Walls

The parents have finally made it back to Rochester, despite being stuck overnight in JFK in what sounds like an epic Delta screw-up. Here in Utah, progress continues to be made on the house as Jason brings the Big Machine into the bedroom and proceeds to sand the floor that the stripper has finally succeeded in scraping up the old linoleum, with the help of a lot of elbow grease and a wire brush. [Aside: construction terminology sounds funny. This is a photo of me in Home Depot one night when it was 9pm and we were still loading lumber and I was carrying a blind and searching for a Furring Strip, which I accidentally called a Furry Strip and outed myself as incompetent to Phil, one of many Home Depot employees who now recognize me on sight]. After the past 90 years of crud was sanded off the floor, exposing beautifully tight boards that are so long they span the whole length of the room, I said: "oh! That's why we scraped off all that crap." and then Jason laid down about a dozen test patches of stain so I could choose. This was a bad move. The more choices I had available to me, the harder the choice. At one point, I proposed patch-working my bedroom floor in different colored stains a la Buddhist monk sand sculpture. Jason said, "have fun with that and let me know how it goes" or something like that which was probably nicer, like, "uhhhhh... I could help you with that..." or else, "hmmm. ". This is a picture of us sitting on the floor at midnight, yucky and dirty and undecided on stain.

While the floors were setting up an
d decisions were percolating, we continued the assault on the laundry room, working over the last few patches of mudding that needed to be applied to the walls to smear over any rough spots.

Now, for those of you who don't know anything about walls, I've had an education this last week. So, first, there are the wooden thi
ngs that make the framework and hold the wall up. Then comes the insulation stuffed in all the gaps. Then the sheetrock goes over all that to cover it up and gets screwed in. Then you use this drywall stuff that comes in a giant (very heavy, surprise surprise) bucket to smear over all the screw holes and netting-like tape that goes between the pieces of sheetrock. This is what eventually gets painted over so your wall looks like one smooth surface.

My favorite moment in this educational process was when Johnny's two youngest kids came over to drop off the Dickens and see the house, and Ilona took one look at the laundry room and asked, "so what color are you painting it, white or green?" I laughed because that is exactly what I would have asked, if I hadn't seen the whole thing happening. To her, it looked like a little room with funny smears of white goo all over the green walls. I told her tha
t was still all the stuff under the skin, and the final thing was going to be yellow! or maybe blue. Or both.

You know what else is messy? Wet-sanding the drywall once it sets up. You take this fine sponge that is somewhere between foam and sandpaper, and you smear it all over the surface of the wall to even out any imperfections. It takes a long time, is susceptible to mistakes that put dents in your wall, and tends to drip plaster into your armpit, which, if you forget to wash it out, gets you funny looks when you go grocery shopping covered in plaster. [I don't have any photos of this event, but it happened].

Interspersed in being covered in plaster: many trips into the bedroom to contemplate the floor stain. My conclusion -- WHY did I paint that wall red? I don't even like that red wall. Decision made: I will stain the floor dark Rosewood and repaint my one wall light green instead of brick red. Hey. I never said that just because I made a decision on the paint color, it would stick. Again, I am heavily wooed by nomenclature. The yellow that is on the majority of the
walls in the bedroom is called Corn Silk, and the green that will replace Misguided Red Wall is called Corn Husk. Conclusion: I have corny walls.

Outside, Mom and I attacked the front yard on the last day. She did some epic weeding -- including a long stint in the Utah sun with tiny clippers, on her hands and knees, clipping by hand each over grown weed cropping out of my front yard! [no photos -- too tragic -- "this is why I encouraged you to get the lawnmower BEFORE your parents got here," Jason s
aid]. I took the shovel to the front beds and struck the good dirt jackpot -- clearly, someone who lived here before has nourished those garden beds. This was the most exciting thing of the day -- real, rich, good, dark DIRT! Dirt without a million tiny rocks packed into it that need to be broken up with a pick axe and sifted out. Dirt without killer tree roots and that hardpack layer of red sand. Real, fertile dirt. Awesome. I was so excited, Mom and I went out and bought some plants -- Russian Sage, Rosemary, Lavender, tall grasses, ice plant, groundcover, echanasea and yarrow -- and I will plant them as soon as the sun gets low enough in the sky to give me a little relief from the heat.

Tomorrow, Nicole comes over for brunch! D
ickens is excited to see her, too. She has been away too long.

Dickens Approves of the House

Dis ees DICKENS! I has eccsplorrd de Houz and i think ees GUD houz. Thank u 4 de Beds and Windo Sills . I hope u r verry comfortbul on de Sofa tonite beecuz I hav no move from dees beds! i am 1 complaynt: dees door nobbs ees TOOO hi. I can nod REECH for to go OOTside. I wud verry much like to go OOTside now plees. Thanku! -D.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Parental OVERHAUL!

The new toilet is installed! Cheers to toilets. Jason and I maneuvered it into position just in time for my parents to arrive and want to stay in the house. I figured that making my parents crawl through the back window to pee was not really an option. A bucket behind the back shed was an option... but also not a good one. So this is us, the night before the parents got in, toasting the new john.
The parents have been here this week, and launched themselves into various projects with great gusto and energy. It has been a virtual whirlwind of cleaning, fixing, tearing out, putting up, painting, papering, and planning. My father had the pleasure of tackling Moldy Wall, and before I'd even woken up one morning, had already ripped out much of the old sheet rock. I wandered bleary-eyed around the corner of the house to see mounds of yucky moldy insulation coming flying out the laundry room window. After Moldy Wall turned into Moldy Wall(s) and Moldy Ceiling, Dad sent Jason and I to Home Depot with a shopping list that only Jason could de-code. There were lots of numbers on it that translated to lumber and insulation and some caps and screws and things. We also got a Circular Saw! At first Jason was reluctant to be the recipient of this Saw, but I told him either it would belong to him, or it would belong to me but only he would be able to operate it, so the Saw will have a good home in his van. My dad and Jason spent a long time happily comparing saws and picking A Good One. Now, there are three saws in the back yard and lots of hammering. Dad declared the laundry room construction Buggered Up. "This is all buggered up!" he said. I agreed. For one, it is all crooked. They also put the studs in sideways, so that the lower half of the wall came in farther than the upper half of the wall. Three, it's all crooked. There were lots of other things wrong-headed about it, but Buggered Up pretty much sums it up.

Even though the mold issue has been fixed and Cloroxed to death in the walls and there shouldn't be any more water leaking in from the roof, I bought the Mold Tough sheet rock, so that even if there are any lingering little molds, they won't be able to grow in my wall. I also discovered that sheet rock is very heavy. Five large pieces of it in Jason's van were added to the list of Very Heavy Things we've loaded and unloaded.
While all this was going on, Mom cleaned, painted and laid contact paper in the bottom of all my kitchen cabinets. I had an adventure in installing roman blinds. The first one said Install in Fifteen Minutes! but it took more like an hour. The second one actually installed in fifteen minutes. Curious... they were the exact same blind. :) The second time, I installed the thing before the sun came through the window and made my knees so sweaty that when I tried to use the electric drill on the wall, I pushed myself right off the counter top. [ This is Jason's Duct Tape Shoe. It is time for a new shoe. This is also Jason fixing my Moldy Wall. He's a good man, and gets around pretty well in that Duct Tape Shoe!]
After my new (New!) refrigerator arrived, the kitchen actually looked like somebody might want to spend some time in it at some point. We still hadn't found the plates and were eating our sandwiches off of tea saucers, but I had found my can-opener and some silverware, so we were living large.

At the same time, work continues with the bedroom: I made a final decision on the colors of the walls -- Corn Silk and New Brick -- and we have continued the assault on the floor. The linoleum goo is all gone, but we're still scraping, scrubbing, and wiping up the weird green paint that was under everything on one point in the floor. I think this bedroom used to be an outside porch at some point, and this green paint is probably from 1922. We're scraping it off with stripper and lots of gooey chemicals so that Jason won't sand it off and breathe in lead dust and poison his brain. I like his brain very much un-poisoned, so there has been lots of gas-masked scraping.

Here are some other photos from this week. Good times. Soon, I'll even start unpacking boxes! A very exciting stage is happening this evening: DICKENS is coming to stay at the house! He has been enjoying a sojourn at Casa d'Wall (Johnny's house) and will be a little miffed to downgrade to Stinky Room, Formerly Moldy Room, and Room Full of Boxes, but I'm sure he'll get over it. Besides, there are so many things to sniff, and the new house needs a coat of cat hair all over everything to make it feel like home.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

It's not a real basement 'till it smells like woodchips

My parents are coming in from Rochester tonight! Although there are still many projects around the house to do (including lighting the pilot on the ancient water heater and hoping it doesn't blow, and acquiring a refrigerator so the parents can eat food that needs to stay cold), at long last, the steel beam is set in the basement, all the sisters are holding up floor joists, and the bedroom floor no longer smells like Evil. Dumpster-man has come and taken away our very full dumpster, and the new toilet has been installed.

A word on toilets: Glacier-Bay, your instruction manual is the WORST. It is not just unclear or confusing, it is riddled with inconsistencies and bald-faced LIES. There are bits on the toilet that have been installed in one way when you buy the damn thing that you need to UNinstall and rearrange in order to follow the instructions. It is an instructional atrocity. I have half a mind to write all over the instructions in red pen and mail them back to the Glacier Bay company because they should know just have embarrassingly awful their literature is. But after a lot of patience and impatience and luck and a hacksaw and a pile of extra washers and a lot of gooey wax everywhere... three test flushes produced no leakage, so we're declaring toilet to be installed, in the face of Glacier Bay's best attempts to screw up the process. Damn you, Glacier Bay!

Nobody is going to mention the fact that my toilet is oblong instead of round, and looks a little silly in my tiny bathroom. Shh.

Here are some left over photos from the other day -- Jason and the linoleum floor. He looks bad-ass in his plaid headband and elbow gloves. What a rock 'n' rolla. Somebody give that man a drum set.

Monday, July 12, 2010

2 Very Sticky Situations

The weekend has been dedicated to glue: putting it on, and taking it off. First, we ripped up the carpet in the bedroom, only to discover that it had gold linoleum underneath! This was no ordinary linoleum -- this was super old, super thick, super sticky linoleum. We laid down coat after coat of very toxic solvent in order to soften the ancient adhesive. The nice man at Home Depot suggested we spend $20 on a tool that converts a hand paint-scraper into a long floor-scraper by attaching it to a pole. Oh, we who have scoffed at 20 dollar poles! If only we had bought the pole. Instead, 2 o'clock in the morning found us on hands and not-even-knees (you can't put your skin into contact with the toxic solvent stuff), still scraping away at the linoleum. We couldn't leave it on forever, or it would just eat through the old floor. We had to stay until it was juuuust right. It was like an unfortunate twist on a fairy tale: Goldilocks and the Evil Solvent Floor. [These photos are of Jason and I wearing most uncomfortable gas masks with filters on them to prevent us from dying of Terrible Ick disease from inhaling solvent fumes. I look really happy about it, don't I? Note: Jason is actually DOING something in this photo, while I am squatting uncomfortably looking like I might put that scraper to use at some point].

In the meantime, while we waited for the strange alchemy of chemicals eat through the glue on the floor, we messed around with the basement problems -- namely, other people's poor choices. There were two places where important wooden parts of the floor had been sawed through or otherwise abused by good-intentioned home-owners or bad-intentioned plumbers making room for their pipes. [ See picture -- the little white cap is the new one I put on (with PIPE WRENCH!) after removing stupid big old one that was the source of the conflict with the center beam, causing Mr. Previous to saw off a section of a Very Important Beam]. We had to get really big long heavy boards and first glue them, then screw them into place alongside the existing beams for reinforcement. The story isn't all that exciting -- just a lot of crouching and grunting and hammering and yanking and asking of "WHY DOESN'T THIS WANT TO FIT" when trying to squeeze new planks in around existing duct work, floor joists and water pipes. Oh, and there was a hydraulic jack involved -- that was exciting. We put it into place to make sure the floor didn't sag while we ripped off the old "sister" board that was this wimpy reinforcement that somebody had nailed in, like a poor attempt to keep the zombies from climbing through the windows (and everybody knows that that zombie is just going to bust through that wimpy nailed board). This new sister board is so tough, it will keep my toilet from falling through the floor when even the largest of guests sits on it, and I would bet money on it holding back the worst of the zombies that might try to bust through. Plus, I wrote my name on it in glue, so it is for good luck.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Saturday, July 10, 2010

In which I fix the roof and get toilet goo in my hair

The past few days have been so full of working on the house that I haven't had the chance to post any news! The roofers started tearing off the old roof on Monday... and the final powerful blast of the nail gun went down on Saturday morning. We had some nasty surprises as we tore off the old roof -- more "what the heck were they thinking HERE" moments to add to the list. After two layers of cedar shake shingles and a layer of asphalt came off and into the giant dumpster that is parked in my driveway, we discovered that the old roof has no plywood decking -- only aging, brittle slats that were 3-4 inches apart and allowed you to look straight down into the giant itchy pillow of insulation that has been blown into my attic. We also discovered that this house was built back in a day when people thought that making an attic complete air-tight was a good idea - there was absolutely no ventilation through the eaves, and only a couple little turtle vents to release air out the top. [This here is a photo of my favorite roofer: Jason Rogers looking cool in what was actually bloody hot, hot Utah desert weather.]

So started a marathon of roof-repair: Jason and I ran off to Home Depot to purchase 40 giant planks of OSB (flat, plywood type stuff) and loaded it into his van (no small feat here). We also got a dozen plastic trough-like looking things that you install inside the attic by nailing them between rafters. They create a channel for the cool air to come in from the eaves (the bottom of the roof) push hot air out the top (from the soon-to-be ridge-line vent). In order to install these plastic vent-things, we had to pry up boards near the base of the roof and knock out the board that was plugging up the airflow from the eaves. Now, when I explain all this, it sounds fairly straight forward. In actuality, there is no photo-documentation of this process, because it was NASTY. It involved me, laying belly-down on the roof, shoving my littler arms in between the slats, mushing down itchy insulation, not dropping the staple gun, and then stapling the plastic vent back UP against the rafter on the correct little part of the plastic lip without warping or twisting it, or being able to see what it was doing. Also, some small amount of demolition, which was fun. It was hot. It was dirty. It was very, very satisfying to be able to say, at the end of the day, that *I* fixed my house! Afterward, I was very, very tired. Who knew that roofing makes you FEET sore? Sore feet, sore thumbs, sore forearms, sore back, sore body, sore self. Big yawn. This photo has been titled by Jason as "Roof-y-ed: After A Long Day."

I should mention at this time that it is pretty much thanks to Jason's help and advice that this whole particular chapter of the roof episode was made possible. The roofer I hired was a friend from Waterford who was AWESOME and did fantastic work, but was also totally open and flexible to our last minute changes in plan, and had faith in our ability to pull off the whole Operation Vent Attic, even though he secretly suspected that it would take us all month. Luckily, he was pleasantly surprised... as was I. Once we figured out the system (and consulted with various physics types, engineers, and fathers across the continent) it went in fairly quickly. Still, as Jason and I scrambled to finish up the venting system, the roofer chased us around the roof installing the plywood. Once the plywood was down, it was tar-paper, shingles, and ridge-line vents. This was also the point in time that the weather started to turn. Big, dark clouds started blowing in across the valley from the west. I'll tell you -- nobody is as in-tune to the weather as a new home-owner who's house has no roof. By the time the storm blew though, we had everything weather-tight except for the ridge-lines. There were a few exciting moments involving me and Jason and some big blue tarps that turned into SAILS as we tried to wrangle them into place and hold them down with bundles of shingles, but all in all, the storm was more bark then bite. A little blowing, some thunder and lightning... and then a few wimpy sprinklers before the sun broke through again.

During this same span of days when the roof is coming off, getting a tune-up and then being replaced, I was also working hard on destroying things inside the house. The toilet was a large success: I have learned how to uninstall an ancient toilet when the bolts that hold it to the floor are so corroded that they can not be turned, pried, or otherwise persuaded with WD-40 and a big old wrench. This is when you take the next step up the Useful Tool ladder and reach for the hammer. That's right, I smacked that toilet 'till it gave up the ghost. Unfortunately, I got mungus from the old wax seal (the thing that seals the toilet to the hole in the floor so you don't get gross stuff on your floor every time you flush) in my HAIR. It kind of served me right, because I was using Jason's Wonder Bar (this awesome crow-bar like thing that has different prying options) to try to lever up the toilet, but then I didn't clean it off afterward, and then we used it on the roof, and he got mungus on his hand (ewwww) and I said "oops" and then he wiped his hand on the roof and then I put my hair in it during Vent Installation (EWWW) and I said "Gross!" and that's how I got toilet goo in my hair. Later, I scrubbed it out with baking soda and Dr. Bronner's peppermint soap, because I haven't had the time to buy more shampoo. I call this photo "Victory Dance With Hammer."
Also happening during this time period was the overhaul of the bedroom. The color selection has now gravitated from Moon Mist and Surfer (yellow and blue) to Torchlight and Autumn Harvest (yellow and rusty orange). We put down a base coat of white to cover up the crayon red wall, and discovered upon tearing up nasty old carpet that somebody somewhere along the line thought that linoleum was the right choice for that particular room. YUCK. Now we have to figure out exactly what chemical will make the old glue holding the linoleum to the wood floor underneath gooey enough to peal up. There are photos of this particular variety of mungus forthcoming.

The moral of the story this week has been that even gross things can be fun, but you can't fix anything without getting very, very dirty.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Transporting Valuables

Finally, the day has come to transport the most delicate and valuable items to my new house: the tomato plants! Let me just say: filling large tree-sized pots full of good compost and rich soil has a way of making tomato plants become incredibly heavy. In the Which is Heavier contest between Tomato Plant vs. 80lb Concrete Mix, I'd have to vote for Tomato Plant, hands down. But with minimal whining and some panting and waddling and hefting, we managed to get all the little tomatoes into the van. In fact, they FILLED the van. The only way I fit in the van, myself, was by sitting underneath plants. As soon as they arrived at the new house, I felt like the house became a little bit homier. The front no longer looks quite so stark and drab, now that the front porch is filled up with plants, and my old park bench. That bench was the first thing I bought (along with a breadbox) when moving into the old H St apartment by myself. The paint wasn't exactly new, then, so now, 3 years later, I'd say it is definitely in need of a little TLC. So is the outdoor futon that we lugged to the back yard. One of its legs fell off... but I have faith that we can bring it back around. After unloading a ton of tomatoes and railroad ties, we somehow scrounged up the energy to hike up the Pipeline trail at Millcreek, to a lookout point over the whole valley. We got there just in time -- the fireworks started soon after, and we watched the little puffs and sparkles all across the valley. Fireworks aren't nearly as impressive when you are looking DOWN on them, but being above all the crazies and the crowds, listening to crickets and wind and the very much delayed deep pops from the big fireworks that flash like one bright bursting bulb... this is the way I'd have it. Salt Lake can, on occasion, remind me that it is an awesome place to live: copious sunshine, a big back yard and a gorgeous hike that gets you to the mountains in less than an hour? Awesome.

Friday, July 2, 2010

In which we scrub the baseboards (and other distasteful tasks)

I am officially moved OUT of the old place! After two days of scrubbing, sweeping and cleaning, it looks fantastic. In fact, I walked in and thought, wow, I'd rent this place! The process was fairly grueling, though. Here is a picture of me at 5pm after another super hot day of moving and cleaning, knowing that there are hours to go and much to do before we call it quits. It is amazing how much STUFF fits into a little apartment when all belongings are tucked into drawers and crannies! Jason has been putting all else on hold to help me -- brownie points do not do justice to the kind of debt I owe him.
Here is a picture of the Natural Gas Van, into which we shoved all the stuff, including the big awkward things. Now the only things left to move are the tomatoes! Here is a picture of part of the tomato grotto, awaiting transportation to a new location. The big on on the left is Mexi-billy midget, a cross between a Mexican Midget and a Hillbilly -- both small cherry tomatoes. The other big one is Jet Star, a new kind of heirloom I didn't start from seed, but bought at the Wasatch Gardens plant sale. He's an early variety and already has a big tomato on, oh boy oh boy! The goals for today include ushering in the arrival of the dumpster pending roof-removal on Monday, buying the right kind of post for the basement, moving the tomatoes, and maybe, just maybe, Iron Man II at Brewvies.

Tomato Grotto!