Lovely weather and art. What could be better?

After our hot weather the week before last, now we are having highs in the 60’s and low 70’s. Heaven! We had some rain on Sunday. A bit was forecast, but we actually had quite a downpour about 10 AM. The trees and the other plants were happy.

Our cute little sauna from Costco in the morning sunbeams. It is sitting under our deck on the patio outside the basement doors.

The contractors came back and put a rail on our steps, and that concludes their work for a while. But my husband discovered we had more money left over than he initially thought, so we can afford to have them back to redo the steps going up from the driveway to the top of the slope and the steps from the lower drive to the bottom of the orchard and the pond. Then all our dangerous outdoor steps will be gone.

The last thing finished was the sauna. It turns out that the timer was wired to be on all the time, so it was only off when we turned it on. That means that as soon as there was power to the sauna, it burned out. We got a new timer from the sauna manufacturer, and my husband is going to see if he can get a refund on the labor. I have never had a sauna, but my niece and nephew have already informed me that they would probably be over this weekend to take one. We had planned to buy a rigid sided kiddy pool to fill with cold water for after the sauna, so I guess we’d better get cracking before they aren’t available anymore.

My sister’s wolf. See how dramatic her lines are. Although she might prefer her deer, I think this is one of her best pictures.

This week I started hanging some of our pictures around the house. I was able to find the large ones but not the small ones, including one that had been in the kitchen for several months, a historical photo of a tornado next to the capitol building in Austin. I hope to find the rest soon.

My sort of pathetic horse

Those of you who have been interested in my art class might like to see some pictures I took last week. Both my sister and I were finishing up our latest drawings. The figures were supposed to be animals in close-up, and I was drawing a white horse in a snowstorm and my sister a wolf. I have to say that I was the least happy with the results of this picture. It’s very hard to draw a white on white subject in black and white. I thought my horse looked the least like a real animal than any of my other pictures.

Anyway, I’ve commented on how much bolder my sister is in her drawing than I am. She just really goes at the canvas, whereas I am still worried about making mistakes. I think that sometimes my work has come out better than hers, but in this case, it is totally the opposite, as you can see from this series of pictures. Good news! My great-niece will be able to start art class right on time, next week, the same week school starts.

My sister in art class drawing her wolf
Advertisements

Getting back to normal

We are back to our normal life this week after entertaining like mad last week. We had my middle brother (MB) and his wife here for Wednesday, then they moved over to my niece’s house so that my little brother (LB) and his family could stay at our house. Then MB and wife came back for the next night, after LB went home to Seattle. The house was noisy and full of people, but it was fun. We had nine people to dinner on Wednesday night and fifteen people to dinner on Thursday. When you consider that it’s usually just the two of us, that’s a lot of activity.

We are noisy when we get together. MB is quite the raconteur, and LB’s family of five is just plain outgoing (sort of a family trait—most of us are super extroverts, and then there’s me, the introvert). But LB has quite the knack of just coming in and making himself at home. When he and his family arrived, he came out on the deck and helped me grill the steaks (when he was young, he had a job as a chef at a fancy restaurant) and his wife started roasting cauliflower. MB also assisted with the steaks, only he had LB saying to him repeatedly, “Don’t cut it!” (He cuts into the meat to see if it is done. Apparently, you’re supposed to tap it.)

It’s a good thing everyone brought something, because I thought steak, big baked potatoes, and salad were enough. Then when I came back in from eating, hoping for more green beans that my niece brought, literally every bit of food was gone except for some of the steak. After dinner, LB’s oldest daughter, a lovely 16-year-old, started making cookies for dessert. My niece and her husband took their youngest home and left her daughter with us, so that she and her cousin, nine and ten, could spend some time together. The two little girls were no trouble at all.

And in the morning, LB got up and started making breakfast. That was a nice start to the day. Then we went over to pick raspberries at my niece’s house before they had to leave. That night, the rest of us went out to eat and finished the evening in my sister’s hot tub.

All in all, there was mostly just a lot of talking and story-telling, but that’s what family get-togethers are for. It was a shame that the week they were here was one of the hottest on record, one day being 105, but no one seemed to be uncomfortable. We just couldn’t go on any hikes, which is something we usually do.

The lower steps, ending up at the wolf pen. Yes, that thing in the bottom center of the picture is a step.

Then yesterday the guys were back out to work on the very last project that we are paying for, the outside steps from the top level of the house down to the lower drive. I don’t know if I reported a few weeks ago that I almost fell down those steps when the asphalt guys were working on the driveway. They were very dangerous. Some of them slanted, some were unsteady, and one was a step that was twice as high as the others. I forgot to take a picture of them to start with, so here is a picture of some other ones we have that are actually safer than the ones we replaced. These steps go from the lower drive down to the bottom of the orchard. See if they even look like steps to you. I have been weed whacking them, but I haven’t done it recently.

The steps at the bottom are new, and you can see what the old steps looked like at the top.

Since I forgot to take a before picture, I took the following picture while they were in progress. You can see that several steps are already inserted at the bottom of the picture, but the top of the steps give you an idea what they were like. The only ways besides these steps to get down from the upper level are to go back in the house and go down the stairs, or to walk all the way down the driveway to the lower drive and back up again.

Our nice new steps

Finally, here is a picture of the finished steps. They forgot we asked for a rail, so they will have to come back and provide one, but in the meantime, these steps are much safer. We have already been up and down them several times, whereas I used to avoid the other ones.

That pretty much takes care of the projects we are paying for, except for the sauna, and the electrician is coming out next week to install the new part. We still have lots more to get done around here, though. My husband says maybe we can have our contractors come back and do the lower steps later, but we have already used up more of our house sale money than I wanted to. I want to have some left over for emergencies. We have to take down the wallless shed so I can put up my garden boxes, so there will be some gardening related activities to report later. And my niece’s husband has some plans for some more rustic, but still safer, steps below.

But in the meantime, now that the major work on the house is done, I’ll have to figure out some other projects to work on.

Two big accomplishments

I was estimating it would take me through the weekend to put away my books, and we are running out of time to prepare for my brother’s visit. We are going to the beach on Saturday for my sister’s birthday celebration and won’t be back until Sunday. My brother is coming from the beach to our house on Monday, so we don’t have much time.

The back of the big room. Picture it before, with about 80 boxes and assorted junk, and the furniture just anyhow and covered with dust.

But I was wrong about the books. On Wednesday morning last week, I got through F, and then my sister volunteered to come help me with them after art class. Once she gets going on something, she really gets going, and she had a good idea about doing a double sort. Instead of putting all the books for one letter on the table and alphabetizing them, which could be very difficult with letters that had lots of stacks, she sorted out all the, say, GA’s first, then began making stacks of GE, GI, and so on while I sorted the GA’s by author and title. It made the work go so much faster that in a couple of hours, we were able to get through N. The next morning, using her new system, I got halfway through T (S and T were lots of stacks), and then she came over again. Within a half hour, we had finished the books. When I tell you that we had 11 stacks of just the letter M, you will know that we shelved a lot of books.

I took my sister out to dinner on Wednesday evening, and on the way to take her home, we saw our friends the doe and her two fawns, having a snack in our orchard.

The big room toward the window. A few boxes still by the window

My husband and I then set about clearing out the room. We finished doing that as good as it is going to be done by Sunday, and then I started cleaning it. Here are pictures of what the big room looks like now.

And we finally got our carpet in, after waiting for it since February. It is not a perfect match with the existing carpet. To me, it looks browner. I felt like the existing carpet had more light and blue colors in it. I chose a speckled color to hide dirt. But since the two carpets meet at the doorway, I don’t think anyone is going to notice.

The carpet is in!

I started cleaning the house on Monday. I had been neglecting the cleaning while I worked on books and helped my husband stack firewood. We did a little more of that today. Our last rack finally came in, and I just finished stacking three layers and came in to rest. My husband is still outside splitting the larger logs. The shade by the woodpile is almost gone, so I probably won’t go back out to work today. It’s only an hour before I have to leave for my class.

The contractors came back out on Friday to “button up” the rest of their work, that is, put the transitions in where the marmoleum and hardwood floors meet, adjust the pocket doors for the new floor height, do some dry walling in the electric room, rehang the closet door in the laundry room, and finish the sauna. Unfortunately, when we tested the sauna, the heater did not work. We had it on for more than an hour and no heat. So, the electrician has to come back out. We don’t think he saw the instructions for the sauna in the folder with the ones for the generator when he came the first time. He knew the generator, so he probably didn’t even look at the folder.

My clown fish

For those who are interested in my art class, here is my latest picture, of a clown fish among anemones. We are still not sure we are going to stick with our new teacher. The time slot is good for my sister and for my great niece, who is on the waiting list for our class. But we have noticed that the teacher spends lots of time with the kids in the class and not much time with the adults (the opposite of our former teacher, but then most of the kids in the class are not serious about the art). If we didn’t need help with our art, would we be in a class? My sister is going to talk to her today. She told me what she was going to say, and I said it was better for her to talk to her, because I wouldn’t be so tactful.

A painted house

I just noticed that the titles of my last four posts ended in exclamation points. Got to get out of that bad habit.

My before picture in very bad light

The house is painted, and it looks so good. Originally, it was a light gray, so light and faded that even after we bought the house and were still living in Austin, I remembered it as being white, with white trim. Before we got here, my niece painted some of the siding that needed protection with the original paint, and the house had faded so much that there was a dark blotch on the side of the house. The door was a pale blue. Above is my before picture.

My new beautiful house with the bright green door

Here is my after picture. I wish I had remembered to take it yesterday in the afternoon when it was well lit. Both pictures were taken early in the morning before I posted the blog. The new colors are a very dark gray with black trim. The door, if you can see it, is a very bright leaf green.

The back of the house showing the door color and the almost matching umbrella

Here is a picture of the back of the house. The paint looks lighter than it actually is, but you may be able to get a better idea of what it looks like. The windows are vinyl, so I couldn’t do anything about them being white, but they look nice.

A-C shelved at last!

I have been working away at my books. I figure I unpacked about 60 boxes of books and put them in stacks by the first letter of the last name of the author. I started doing it on Thursday and worked at it all weekend and Monday. On Monday, my husband moved the reference books and A-C upstairs, because we only have two bookshelves up there, and yesterday I shelved the reference books by topic and then A-C alphabetically. Anal retentive, I know.

Today I probably won’t get much done because it is art class day. My brother and his wife are coming for a visit in two weeks, and we have a lot to get done in the basement first. Their room is in good shape except for changing the sheets and cleaning the bathroom, but the room outside their room is meant to be a library, study, a TV room, and activities room (it’s very big) and right now it is a room that is full of stacks of books a lot of junk. I want to clear it out and make it look nice for when we get here, and the first job is to put away the books. My husband says, “It’s not like they’re visiting royalty,” but my husband will still be saying that three years from now if I let him. Right now, he is in work mode, and I hope to keep him going until we have that room right. Maybe the incentive of a new big-screen TV for that room once we get it cleaned up and in order will work. We have been looking at TVs for months at Costco, but we aren’t buying one until the room is ready for it.

As far as the rest of the renovation projects go, we are just waiting for our contractors to return to “button up,” as Dustin calls it, our house. We have a few odds and ends and the sauna that need to be finished. The only project that isn’t done at all yet is a redo of our dangerous outside steps from the top story of the house down to the basement level.

The carpet is coming!

Yes, finally, I am advised by Lowe’s that the carpet got shipped. I called them this week to find out, because I wasn’t willing to wait any longer. If they hadn’t told me it had been shipped, I would have started talking to them about changing or cancelling our order. We have been waiting for the carpet since February. The Lowe’s associate told me that when it arrived at the installer’s, they would call me to schedule installation. I have to say that I haven’t been impressed by Lowe’s service this go-round. If I hadn’t called them about the carpet in June, they probably wouldn’t have called me to tell me the shipping had been delayed.

While I’m talking flooring, the guy came out on Monday to fix the bubble in our marmoleum. He said that since linoleum is a natural product, it expands and contracts with the weather. Apparently, it expanded and pushed up against the cabinet for the sink. All he had to do was trim it a bit and glue it back down. Problem solved. It looks great.

My before picture. There is a better picture of the house at the top of my blog, but it was taken before we owned it.

And speaking of contractors, yesterday the house painters returned to begin working on the outside of the house. They power-washed the house and are back this morning caulking. They said they would begin painting tomorrow. I went out this morning and took a “before” picture so that I would be able to show the difference when it is done. One of the painters is outside the front door right now singing really badly.

We also have had a visit by the deer family. The deer we saw in our yard this spring were two sets of twins from a doe we hadn’t seen yet. But the other evening, we were sitting in the living room when I looked up and saw two fawns and a doe outside our window. Unfortunately, my phone was across the room, and when I got up to get it, the fawns ran out of view. The doe stayed and munched for a while at our blueberry bushes. Then all of them leapt up the ridge in front of the house. I hope they’ll be returning often.

My friend looking very tiny above Lucia Falls

On the social event front, I have a friend I used to work with in Austin who moved to Portland years ago. We have been getting together about once a month, but we missed the last two months. I drove in to the train station in North Portland and picked her up on Saturday. She came to the house to see all our improvements, and then we went out to lunch at a place called the Rusty Grape Winery. After that, we took the North Clark County scenic drive. It was a beautiful day for it, and here is a picture of my friend, very tiny in the middle of the photo.

My sister and I are getting a little peeved with our new art teacher, because she skipped both of us twice last week when she was doing her rounds. If you are busy as she goes by, instead of checking in with us or giving suggestions like the old teacher did, she just goes on to the next person. As a result, she spent a lot of time helping one of the children in the class, much more time than she spent with the adults. Why does she think we are taking an art class if we don’t need any help? If it was up to me, I would switch to a Tuesday or Thursday night class with our old teacher, but I think that might pose a problem for my sister, and even if it doesn’t, we are planning to add her granddaughter to the class soon.

All week my husband and I worked on and off at stacking firewood, and we finally did all we can do. We have to order another rack! At last, I can tell by looking at the pile of firewood that is left that we have made progress.

And there has been one delay after another, but tomorrow I should be able to start putting away my books. Yesterday, I helped my husband move a buffet and another shelf out of the storage room, and I removed all the things that are currently on the shelves (with my husband around, no space stays bare for long) and dusted them. So, first thing on Thursday after I finished posting my book blog, I will start sorting books!

 

Big green egg!

The biggest news for this week is the arrival of our Big Green Egg. This is a special type of charcoal grill, called a kamado grill, made of ceramic. We needed to buy a grill anyway. We had a gas grill in Austin, but I was accustomed to a charcoal grill and could never get comfortable with the gas, so I quit grilling. When I was talking grills with my niece’s husband, he got all excited about the Big Green Egg and kamado grills, something I had never heard of before. They are a cross between a regular charcoal grill and a traditional ceramic oven, and you can use them for grilling, smoking, and baking. The reason I bought one is, I can learn to make tandoori chicken and naan. Although kamado grills are expensive, tandoori ovens are much more so.

Here is our big green egg on our deck.

As I said, the egg was expensive, but we heard about demo eggs, which you could buy after they were used for one day at an EggFest.  They were priced about 20% less. The egg isn’t any less, but they throw in a bunch of free accessories, ones that you definitely need, and some charcoal. We decided to buy one. Originally, we were supposed to pick it up after the EggFest on Saturday. We had planned to go early and watch people using the grill and eat some of the food, but as the day approached, the weather forecast dismayed us, as it was supposed to be very hot, near 100, and the EggFest was in Portland. Frankly, we weren’t looking forward to either the drive or the heat. Also, I was concerned because of reports that the egg doesn’t cool down very quickly. The EggFest was scheduled to end at 4 and we were directed to pick it up starting at 5. I was wondering how that would work out, with the grill just having been used.

I was talking to my husband about this on Saturday morning, and he remembered that the hardware store guy had called on Wednesday, when I was at art class, to tell me that we were supposed to pick the egg up at the store. No more details were forthcoming, because he had forgotten them. In fact, I’m lucky that he remembered at all and that we didn’t end up at the event to pick up an egg that wouldn’t be ready. When I called the store, they told me they had decided not to break down the event until Sunday. They said I should call the store Monday morning to make sure the grills were there before coming out to pick it up.

So, I did, and after some confusion about our last name, we went to get our grill. Now, if anyone else is interested in buying such a grill and wants the discount, I will caution you. Whether you think this is a good deal depends on how fastidious you are. We actually got a free Conveggtor (used for indirect cooking, for example for naan or pizza, and for many of the recipes in their cookbook) with our grill, which was not supposed to be included, because it was used with our egg at the event. So we actually got the whole package for about 30% off.

However, the grill was filthy. They didn’t clean it at all. In fact, the store people had to rake out the ashes onto the pavement in front of the store before putting the egg in our car. I spent several hours cleaning the grill once we got it home, and I didn’t get everything off it. If you can imagine, it was used all day and never cleaned in between cooking. I am supposed to be able to clean it thoroughly by lighting a fire in it. I haven’t done that yet, but I will have to in order to use the Conveggtor, because it is horrible. Trust me, the pictures of the nice clean egg from their cookbook is not what I’m looking at, even now.

Yum, asparagus and pork chops. The chops were just a tad overcooked, but I will know better next time.

I used it last night for the first time. I was a little worried about using it, because I hadn’t grilled for a long time, and when I did, everything was by guess. I had no notion of keeping the grill at a particular temperature, which is the whole deal with the kamado-type grill. However, with a little fiddling, I was able to figure out how to control the temperature fairly easily, although keeping it steady is another thing. When you open the grill to do anything, the temperature goes way down, and if you overcompensate, it goes way up. However reviews that said it took a long time to cool an egg if you overshoot your temperature proved to be incorrect. You can easily make the temperature go back down by adjusting the vents. And here it is: my first meal made with our Big Green Egg. Nothing fancy. I thought I’d start out with something easy.

For those who are still stuck back in the saga of the slope, our young lawn guy came back with his uncle’s brush cutter and cut it. It is not a beautiful job, but it is done for the time being. We will have to get someone out here again in about a month. I’m thinking lawn service, since this guy was moving out of state next month.

And what have we been doing this week besides catching up on the laundry? (A slight mishap there. Our contractor was in too big a hurry hooking up our washer, and when I went in the next day, we had a puddle on our laundry room floor. We had to move everything out ourselves, suck up the water with my steam mop, and move it back. But no big deal and the linoleum floor still looks great.) Firewood is the answer.

A young neighbor came over two weeks ago and asked if we needed to buy firewood. Up here everyone gets it early, to make sure that it is good and dry for the next winter. I don’t know if I said that we got ripped off this winter. Installing a wood-burning stove was one of the first things we did with the house, and we had to look around for firewood. It seemed to be all sold out right when we needed it. Despite a warning on Craig’s List about someone selling wet wood for dry and my efforts to avoid this by checking the phone number, we did indeed get ripped off. Our wood was supposed to be dry and it was wet and of very poor quality. We had to use supermarket wood all winter to get it started. The fire starters alone wouldn’t do it.

Here’s how much firewood we stacked so far. I did most of the stacking while my husband fooled around with the mower.

Anyway, we had been looking around for wood, but our contacts hadn’t come through. I think people were just forgetting we had asked them about it. So, when Scott came over and asked me, I told him, yes, we did need firewood. This kid looks about 14, but the Apostolic kids around here learn to work hard at a very young age. I intend to write a post about some of the more interesting characteristics of the area, and I’ll be writing about the Apostolics in that post. We made a deal, and that boy went out and cut all the wood himself and brought it here with his mom and his younger brother. He delivered it a week later than he said, but he kept us posted all the time. And it is clearly good wood, dry and nice looking.

Here’s how much we have left to do. Yikes!

So, we’ve been stacking firewood. A few months ago, we helped our niece and her husband do theirs, and with five of us in a line, we managed to stack a couple of cords in a couple of hours. But the two of us geezers are taking a lot longer about it, and we don’t have a good place to stack the wood. We have just been putting them in the side parking lot on two two-by-fours, but we’re missing the pieces to hold the wood at the ends. I just ordered two racks for us, although it would be cheaper if we just built something out of wood. But I’m not waiting for my husband on this one. We need to get the wood off the ground. Anyway, you can see by my two pictures we haven’t made a lot of progress. The picture of stacked wood is after about three hours of work. Oh, my back! (When I helped at my niece’s house, I strategically picked a position in the line where I didn’t have to bend over. But that option isn’t open to me now.)

 

 

At last, marmoleum!

Our laundry room in use. The marks in the vinyl won’t come out, and it looks dirty all the time.

Our marmoleum is finally all in. The flooring guy came back on Monday to replace the subflooring and finish laying the marmoleum in the laundry room and half bath. Today, our regular contractors will be here to replace the baseboards. On Thursday, I can wash the new marmoleum and we can finally put back the washer and dryer. I guess I’ll be doing laundry this weekend.

So, the pictures I have for this week are of the laundry room before and after. You can see how bad the vinyl looked before. It had black marks in it that wouldn’t come out, and it was worn and dirty looking.

The baseboards aren’t back in yet, nor are the washer and dryer, but what an improvement.

Here you can see quite an improvement in the appearance of the room. And the flooring in the bathrooms looks even better because it goes so well with the light green-blue paint.

We’ve also had a slight movement forward on the problem of cutting our slope. We have a steepish slope in back of our house from the basement floor down to the pond, with the wolf pen in the middle. It is important to keep it from getting overgrown, as it includes our septic field.

Our slope, as viewed from the deck above.

I was trying to trim it with our weed whacker, working my way up from the bottom, but as soon as it got too steep, I had to stop. It can’t be cut with the mower until it is trimmed, and in any case, I have my doubts about getting a mower up that slope, although our tenant managed to keep it cut. In this picture, the foxgloves that you can see in the middle are actually almost five feet high, so that gives you an idea of how high the grass is.

We have been looking for someone to cut it for several weeks now. Finally, a young guy called last week and said he would be out yesterday. He came, but our contractor had not conveyed to him the information that he needed to bring a brush cutter. We put him to work with our weed whacker, but because it hadn’t been charged up, he soon ran both batteries out of juice. My husband ran up to the hardware store to buy one, but they were sold out. Our yard guy said he could borrow a brush cutter from his uncle, so we had him cut our orchard with the riding mower, and then he went home. I had been working on the orchard with the weed whacker, too, and my husband had taken another swipe at it with the riding mower, but he still feels unsafe on the mower with the slope in the orchard.

If you look very carefully at the edge of the wolf pen in the top part of the picture, you can see the small progress the lawn guy made with the weed whacker before the batteries ran out. He is coming today with his uncle’s brush cutter to finish the job. Unfortunately, he’s only a short-term solution, because he is moving away in a couple of weeks to go work in California.

And that’s about it. We’ve had lovely weather lately. It rained toward the end of last week and during the weekend, but we had a hot one on Monday, and then since then it’s been delightfully chilly at night and cool during the day while still nice and bright out. I would say, perfect weather.

With the marmoleum out of the basement, my husband and I should soon be able to get back to fastening the bookcases to the wall so that I can unpack our books.