Signs of spring, no signs of lino

At least we have one flowering tree.

I was regretting the other day that our property seemed to have no flowering trees, when I looked out the window and saw that yes, we had at least one. A cherry tree had come into bloom. So, I took my phone out, even though it was a gloomy day, and took a few photos of the signs of spring on our property. There was the cherry tree, the beginnings of lotus buds on the pond, the wildflowers near the path on the way to the pond. Other parts of our area are blooming much more showily, but we can do something about that next year.

Big yellow lotus buds are at the edge of the pond to the right.

Our lino story continues. The marmoleum never arrived, so last week I got on the Forbo website and ordered my own samples. I discovered on their page that there were a lot more colors than the design center showed me. They showed me just one family of colors when they have six or eight. So, I ended up requesting six samples. I got a message from FedEx saying it had shipped, so maybe this time I’ll get my samples.

Itsy bitsy pinky purple flowers in the greenery

My contractor has yet to find me an installer, but I found a list of distributors in our area, and presumably they would know of installers. My understanding is that linoleum has been reviving as a trendy floor product, so I’m not sure why everyone here is acting like I want something unheard of. My niece spoke to me about it when I first moved here, because she wants to install it in her laundry room. She has friends who installed it in Portland and love it. And my friend from Portland told me that even when she was back in Michigan 15 years ago it was becoming more popular. It is a green floor product because of what it is made of, linseed oil and limestone and recycled wood flour, whatever that is. Even a friend of mine, who laid carpet while working his way through graduate school, knows how to lay it. Unfortunately, he lives in Illinois.

I had to laugh at what my niece told me about marmoleum. She said that vinyl is too shiny and that one of the reasons she likes marmoleum is because of its matte surface. I told her that when I was a child, we had a typical 50’s kitchen: aqua double ovens and a small aqua refrigerator (I can’t remember if the sink was aqua—I think it was white), formica counter tops with that space age design of rounded corner triangles in aqua and I think tan on white, and linoleum floors. Only, I told her, in those days everyone waxed their linoleum. One time we went over to a friend’s house, and their linoleum was unwaxed. We had never seen that before, so we thought their floor was dirty.

The electrician finished up the connections to the generator and sauna last week just in time for our latest power failure. Unfortunately, since the inspector hadn’t been out to look at the propane tank installation, we didn’t have any propane, so we had to rough it. The propane company reports that they are still waiting for the inspector. The inspector for the electrical work came right out the day the electrician finished, so that is all good. Of course, we found out from the electrician that no one had permitted any of the electrical work done in the basement.

On Thursday we had some sunshine, and my niece brought her kids over to help me plant my plants, by which I mean to plant them herself. While we were planting the bird’s nest spruce next to the fountain, we found a little hemlock sprig, which we moved to a better place. We ended up planting all of the plants on the ridge.

These are the cherry trees soon to be gone. Yes, the pink stuff on the ground is blossoms.

This weekend I had another outing to Portland to meet my friend. I drove to the airport area, where I parked my car and took the train into the city. I met my friend at the convention center, and we attended a pottery show. I have to buy a backpack for these expeditions, because I always end up buying something and having to cart it around. Last time, it was a gigantic loaf of bread. This time, I bought a cup at the pottery show, and I would have bought more—not for myself as I’ve decided we have enough junk when I look around at all the stuff that is unpacked, but as gifts for my friends—except that I didn’t want to have to cart a bunch of pottery back on the train. Later, we took the trolley to a nice Mediterranean restaurant, then took it back to attend the Portland Friends of the Library book sale. One of the sights my friend showed me was a beautiful street full of cherry blossoms. Apparently, this street, which people come from all around to take pictures of in the spring, will not be there much longer. They’re tearing it and the nearby park down to put up an ugly apartment building. “Paved paradise to put up a parking lot.”

I attended art class by myself this week. I started shading the leaves of my flower and got about halfway done. I wasn’t sure how much it really looked like a flower, but my instructor made me stand back and look at it. I guess it looks like a flower. I am now remembering the woman in our first class who was drawing what looked like a bunch of blobs and wondering if I am doing much better. I am interested to see how my sister’s bird of paradise is coming along, though.




Wacky weather and lino laments

Halls of neon velvet

From what we understand, spring is slow in coming to the area this year. I guess what that means is that the temperatures are still reliably in the 50’s and low 60’s, and it continues to rain a lot. For me, that is spring, but for most of the people around here, it’s still winter. But we have had some strange days. On Friday, in driving back from doing errands in town, I was struck by how beautiful the forest was. It was a mostly gloomy day, with dark clouds, but interrupted by strong rays of sunshine. Since we’re in a rain forest, almost all of the trees have a coating of green moss on their trunks and branches, and driving up our main road into the forest, with the sun slanting through the trees, was like traveling through halls of neon green velvet. I wanted to take a picture of it, but that road is too windy and dangerous to stop on, so the best I could do was take a picture of our little road, which doesn’t have as many trees. The result only gives the smallest idea of what it was like, if you look hard.

Itty bitty hailstones on the deck

The weather yesterday was even more unpredictable. Most of the day it rained, but about 10 AM I noticed that it was warm and sunny, so I opened the sliding glass door in the dining room. Less than an hour later, the air abruptly turned cold and showers of small hail came down.

In between these capricious days, we’ve had some beautiful ones. On Saturday, my niece took me to her favorite nursery in Woodland, Washington. We both bought trees and bushes. I bought two Japanese maples, a French lilac, a bird’s nest spruce (a little ball-shaped bush rather than a tree), and a flaming silver pieris, which is a pinky yellowy leafy shrub. My niece bought several bushes and a stunning Japanese maple that is pink in the spring, green in the summer, and bright red in the fall. I found it for her, so I was proud of myself.


The ridge in question on a gloomy day (today, in fact)

It was still warm and sunny when I got home, so I coaxed my husband out to help plant my purchases. This turned out to be easier said than done. My intention was to continue to landscape the ridge in front of our house, which is mostly finished but has a few odd holes. But both our lawn and the ridge turn out to have about two inches of dirt on top of rock. We had to go out and buy a pickax. When we got back, we were able to plant the lilac a few feet from the front door and the camelia about a foot up the ridge. But we found that we are too geezerly, really, to go much higher on the ridge, let alone perch there long enough to dig holes with a pickax. So, some day this week my niece is coming over to help us. I bet she’ll be glad now that I purposefully only bought plants in the smaller containers. She thought it was funny at the time, when I explained that my husband would have to help me and he wouldn’t want to dig large holes.

Our other outdoor activity this week involved me babysitting my niece’s kids while she, her husband, and my husband tried to fix a problem with a culvert in the road. If you look back up at my picture of the trees, you might notice that a puddle is taking up half the road where it disappears off the edge of the picture. Many heavy trucks have been in our neighborhood lately. Just after we moved here, a new neighbor logged his entire property (that is another story, considered by some a neighborhood tragedy) and now is building a house. And of course there have been the trucks coming to our house. At some point, we think, a truck took the corner too close to the side of the road (in fact, we can see tracks off the road there) and crimped the culvert. The road has been filling up with water the last few months and can’t drain. So, my niece and her husband dug out the culvert to look at it and drained the pool. They said that the hillside was going to come down if it wasn’t fixed. The fix is only temporary, though. They are going to try to raise money from the neighbors to get a better culvert installed under the road.

The babysitting had its challenges. But that’s another story. At least it involved a nature walk in the orchard and by the pond and creek, during which we saw that the yellow lotus flowers were coming out on the pond, and that white and blue wildflowers were coming up along the path, including trilliums or trillia, or whatever the plural is. I’ll try to take pictures for next week.

On the home improvement front, I was waiting all week for my marmolette and marmoleum samples to arrive. I got the marmolette samples on Friday, but the marmoleum has still to appear. I have a color picked out of the marmolette, but I think the speckles in the marmoleum might be more pronounced, so I want to compare. Certainly, I want to make sure that of the five samples I picked, I am choosing the one I like best.

But, of course, a problem has arisen. The flooring representative tells me that she is having trouble finding someone who has experience laying this type of flooring. She started this information out by saying “As I told you before,” which really set my back up, as I have never discussed this type of flooring with this particular person. I discussed it with the person who helped me at the design center, but never with the rep. And my question is, if you are unprepared to install a particular type of flooring, why do you have samples of it in your design center? My contractor says, never mind, just pick out your flooring and we’ll work it out. In the meantime, I’m still waiting for my samples.

And art class, for those of you who are waiting with bated breath to hear about that. I finished my solids last week and was told to go pick out three photos showing exactly one flower from the class albums. Then my instructor selected one of the pictures for me to work on. My sister is working on a bird of paradise and I have an newly blooming tulip. The instructor drew a grid on tracing paper and then took a marker and showed me the shapes she wanted me to draw on the paper. At first, I had a false start because the grid she drew on the photo and the grid on my paper were not proportional. She had told me to observe the relationships between the lines and the objects in the photos, but if I did that, I ended up with an oblong flower. It was hard to get her attention, even though I noticed this problem almost immediately, because she observes a strictly fair method of moving around the classroom, so I had to wait for her to make it back to me. Then we straightened out what I was to do, and my drawing looked a lot better the next time she made it around. In fact, in waiting for her the second time, I started out being impatient but ended up working on my drawing some more and made it much better. It actually looked like the shapes underlying a flower rather than a bunch of blobs.

The next step was to put graphite under our tracing paper and lightly trace over our outline drawing onto the paper. I finished that just before class ended, while my sister had already started charcoaling the background of her picture. Our teacher remarked that we were both doing very well and moving quickly through the exercises.

Power to the people (or not)

Friday we had our longest power outage yet. Of course, the generator is not yet hooked up. My prediction is that as soon as it is, we’ll never have a power failure again.

I woke up Friday morning because our HEPA filter and humidifier turned off. The wind was blowing like the dickens. At one point the top of a dead tree blew right off and landed in our pond as I was watching. Our power was off for the next 19 or 20 hours.

I made a city slicker error early on. I was figuring on how much hot water we probably had and took a shower. I forgot that our well has an electric pump, so the next thing I knew, we were out of water. Luckily, or it would have been a very unpleasant day, the power came back on briefly within the hour. That was enough to get our water pressure back up. We had our lanterns and our wood stove, and our cooking stove works off propane, so we were relatively comfortable. It was a long, boring day, though, and I can tell you right now that I hate reading with a headlamp. To break up the monotony, we invited my sister out to lunch and made a trip to the hardware store. I bought suet for the birds. My husband bought stuff for his new riding lawnmower. My sister bought bean seeds.

There was not much going on this week in relation to our work on the house. The contractors came out on Thursday to finish up odds and ends, which included installing a closet door in the bedroom (the previous owner apparently removed both the mirrored sliding closet doors from two bedrooms to use in her dance studio as mirrors–crazy when you realize that mirrors cost a lot less than closet doors–then she took them with her), putting the hardware on the door to the basement, filling the holes in the ceiling next to the new lights, and finishing the flooring in the new closet.

Other than that, my job was to go to the design center and pick out vinyl for some rooms that have worn vinyl. We have vinyl only in the small toilet area of the master bathroom, in the half bath, and in the laundry room. We also need something on the floor of the new closet under the stairs. We decided not to go into a big expense for these small areas and just replace the vinyl.

Unfortunately, I figured out as I looked through the samples that I hate vinyl. That’s because all of it is trying to look like wood or stone, and it’s not wood or stone. I didn’t mind so much the vinyl that tried to look like tile, but that does not seem to be the fashion these days. Also, because everything is trying to look like wood or stone, the colors are so dreary. I really don’t like brown or beige or tan. Gray is about as far as I will go. If it was actually stone, that would be different.

So, I asked about linoleum, which is apparently no longer used as a flooring term, and found out about marmoleum or marmorette. That’s that old fashioned speckled stuff that is often used in stores. It’s not trying to look like anything except linoleum. And that’s what we’re looking at. It comes in lots of colors, too.

Hillary, during her more calm moments of assisting the bed-making process

So, I spent a lot of the week lollygagging—there didn’t seem to be much else we could do on Friday, for example, and cleaning up the house. I made the beds on Monday, and was assisted in this activity by my cat Hillary.

And oh, yes, my first drawing class was Wednesday. At first, my sister and I weren’t sure what we thought. My small experiences with art classes have been with those that have a set start and end date, but at this art school, classes just continue. That works okay if you are already a student, but wasn’t handled so well with us, the new students. When we came in, everyone was sitting there working on projects. There was a mix of mostly older women and children, because of spring break. The students were at all levels, and some of their work looked really good to me.

However, my sister and I didn’t know what to do. We found seats and just waited for the teacher to pay attention to us. She was making the rounds from student to student, and it took her 20 minutes to get to us. Once she did, things worked out much better. She gave us an exercise to try to draw a set of mathematical solids. Later she came by and gave us hints to correct them. My shapes were okay, for example, but I made my shadows too short. My sister needed to round out the bottom of her cone. Later she showed us how to use our charcoal to do shading and other tools to blend and put in light spots. So, all in all, we saw her four or five times during the class.

Since my sister had complained that her only other class involved no instruction, I was a little worried about this slow start, but all was okay. She told me as we were leaving that she would like to stay in the drawing class for a while instead of moving into painting. I said that was okay with me. In short, we had fun and learned something!

Springtime, art, and stairs

The last week or so there have suddenly been signs of spring. The past three days have actually been sunny, which has so far been very unusual. I’m originally from Michigan where the sign of spring is rain (let’s not talk about Texas, where the sign of spring is a slight warming of temperature before it gets unbearably hot), so I’ve been thinking it was spring for a while. But now I’m seeing daffodils and crocuses, and lots and lots of cherry and plum trees are in bloom and some very tall white-blossomed trees.

Unfortunately, our property has no spring color, which I intend to do something about for next spring. This plan involves lots of bulbs, a forsythia bush or two, lilacs perhaps, and some Japanese maples. This weekend we stopped by a local nursery that someone has in their yard and bought two blueberry bushes, which I planted at the bottom of our little ridge across from the front of the house. A small start to my landscaping.

I love art supplies!

I am excited today because I am going to art class. My sister and I decided to take art classes together. Although both of us have dabbled (she more successfully than I), neither of us has had more than a few casual art classes. I always assumed she had taken art in high school because she was so good at it, but it seems not. She told me the only art class she’s ever had was in college, and all the teacher did was tell the class, “Paint whatever you want” and offered no instruction. I took a few classes from two different teachers, but only for a short while. Today we are starting a drawing class. Neither of us has ever had drawing.

The stairs are done except for the carpet.

We had the contractors out one day last week to finish the stairs. Then the painters came out on Saturday to finish up the interior painting. But there was a disconnect between the regular contractor and the painters, so not everything is quite done. There are still holes in the ceiling next to the new lights and the strips next to the stairs need to be clear coated. Our contractors are coming out tomorrow to clean up the small stuff, such as installing my husband’s closet doors (the previous owner removed the doors from some of the closets) and filling the holes.

Yesterday an asphalt contractor came out to bid on our driveway. I thought our driveway was very picturesque when I first saw it. It has two rows of these diamond shaped bricks, one for each set of tires, with grass growing between the spaces. Unfortunately, because of the wet winter and the number of trucks we’ve had in and out, it is now a mud pit. Many of the trucks missed driving on the bricks, or they had trailers to back out and were just trying to not get stuck in the mud. We also have a parking area at the side of the house. It looked good, with large gravel, but we didn’t know that the previous dingbats had put plastic underneath it, probably to keep the grass from growing there. That means it doesn’t drain properly, so mud pit number two. We are just waiting for a bid from another contractor to make up our minds, but the people who came out yesterday gave us a very reasonable bid, and they’re the ones who did my niece’s driveway last year. They are very happy with the results.

Bright lights, big carpet woes

Last week the new light fixtures I ordered for the bathroom came in, unfortunately too late to be installed by the electricians when they came back to fix a few things. That means my husband has been installing them, which has been an interesting process that has been going on since Friday. Like much in this house, the original bathroom lights were installed incorrectly, using the wrong type of box. So, my husband has had to improvise in order to get them in correctly. This has taken a lot of time and many, many trips to the hardware store. In fact, this weekend we made trips to four different hardware stores looking for the parts he needed and yesterday he went off again.

So far, my husband has replaced the smaller light fixture in the guest bath and one of the two larger light fixtures in the master bath. All three fixtures were the same—ugly with curlicues. When we bought the house, one was already broken, and the painters broke another one.

The new one is on the left; the old, broken, ugly one is on the right.

So, here is a picture of the master bath with one new fixture on the left and one old one on the right. They’re not in perspective because I could only take a picture of both of them from an angle.

So far this week, we have not seen any contractors, but they are supposed to come out either today or tomorrow to lay the rest of the hardwoods at the top of the stairs. A guy is also supposed to come out to measure the bathrooms, laundry room, and closet below the stairs for vinyl. We are replacing it in the bathrooms and laundry room and installing it in the new closet. I am also supposed to see some vinyl samples this week.

On the not-so-good front, I went back in to Lowe’s to order the carpet for the stairs and a guy came out and measured. He told us that the new staircase was too far away from the wall at the bottom because the wall is warped, so we have to fasten steel plates at the end of the stairs or else all kinds of things are going to go down the sides of the stairs and be trapped. But even worse than that, after I went in and paid for the new carpet installation, I got a call from Lowe’s saying my carpet is out of production and won’t be available until the end of May. So, my hopes that all our indoor renovations would be done within a week or two have been dashed. Now, I’m afraid that at the end of May they’re going to come back to me and tell me the carpet is no longer available. That wouldn’t be a problem if we weren’t trying to match the carpet that is already in the basement.

Also, the painters want to come back on Saturday to do touch-ups, paint the new shelves in the downstairs linen closet, and clear coat the new flooring at the top of the stairs. This will be the third time they have asked to paint on Saturday. Since we’re retired the day shouldn’t really make a difference, but it actually does. I said yes, but reluctantly.

On the hummingbird front, we now have hummingbirds zinging around the back deck almost constantly, especially by the red feeder. It was sunny enough for me to sit out on the deck one day last week, and the hummingbirds were fighting as usual. One almost smacked into my head! He stopped himself about two feet away from me.

I went out for an expedition with my sister and my three-year-old great nephew last week. We went to a nursery. I have been dying to add some color to our property, but I don’t have any beds yet. I went with her to buy primroses, and I showed her ranunculus, which she also bought. Then we all went to her place and planted flowers. The little boy’s job was to pick out the next color we were going to plant. He would say, “Pink! I like pink!” then the next time he would say “Orange! I like orange!” Apparently, he likes all colors, which is probably a good way to be. Later, when we did some work in the vegetable garden, he amused himself by pretending to dig up onions.

Battling hummingbirds and the state of the stairs

A couple of weeks ago I put up a hummingbird feeder, finally, after being astounded that my sister had hummingbirds at her feeder on New Year’s Day, in the snow. In Austin we never had hummingbirds in the winter, but apparently some kinds live here year-round.

This dear little bird has been keeping the others away.

Last week we had a warm, rainy day, so I opened the sliding glass door to the deck in our bedroom. To my surprise, our cat Hillary, who hasn’t been outside since she was six weeks old (she was born in our junk pile to a feral mama) and has never shown any inclination to go outside, walked right out. I got worried about that after a second (because there are coyotes around, and she is not exactly an outdoor-saavy cat) and scooted her back in. Just as I was closing the screen door, I heard a whirring noise, and there was a hummingbird! A little brown one. I have looked up the hummingbirds in our area and think she might be a female calliope or black-chinned hummingbird. She has a little cream-colored tummy.

A while later, I heard more whirring, and there were two hummingbirds, one a rufous. Unfortunately, the brown hummingbird was chasing the rufous hummingbird away from the feeder.

So, my husband and I went out and bought another feeder, figuring that would surely make room for two. This one has a red glass reservoir with a metal base. Less than an hour after we put it up, the rufous hummingbird spent about 10 minutes drinking from it. He came back several times (I admit, I have no way of knowing if these are the same birds or several of the same kind) but then the little brown bird started chasing him off. Since then, we have only seen the brown bird at the feeder and an occasional hummingbird battle. Yesterday there were two brown hummingbirds at the feeder. They like the red one best, although yesterday I finally saw two back at the original feeder, fighting.

A six-foot square area at the back of the staircase is unfinished.

Last week our contractors didn’t come until Friday, when they started putting in the flooring next to our new staircase. They did a really nice job, but they ran out of hardwoods. So, another wait. You can see in the picture that there is a distinct difference between the old wood and the new wood, but the new wood should darken up a bit when it is clear-coated. We knew the match wouldn’t be perfect, but when Dustin showed me the sample, it looked like it would be very close. We’ll see.

We have some painting left to be done, touch-ups and painting of the new doors and clear coating the new wood, but they won’t be doing that until the stairway is complete. However, Monday we were able to go back to order more carpet for the stairs.

We put a light-blocking blind in one of our bedroom windows yesterday. All I had been able to find for that window was a muslin curtain, and it gets light so early here that we have been waking up much earlier than we want to. We ordered a cellular shade, the kind that you can move up and down with your hand. Even though it hasn’t quite stretched out to cover the whole window yet, it makes a big difference in the darkness of the room.

Today I am going to the light store to pick up the new bathroom lights. We are getting close to completing the work on the inside of the house, whoopee! The only inside project that isn’t started yet is to replace the worn vinyl in the bathrooms and laundry room.

Dear little deer and the state of renovations

Twice the past week we’ve spotted deer right in front of our house. We have a little ridge across from the front windows by our driveway. The first time we saw two deer come down from the ridge and hang out on our lawn by a weird structure with a roof. My husband calls it the lean-to, but it’s more like a shed without walls. Then on Sunday they were up on the ridge again for more than a half hour, eating our bushes, only there were four of them. One of them came down right by the driveway to eat the heather bush (at least that’s what I think it is). Even when my husband drove the car back up the driveway from town, all they did was go back up the hill.

Here are the deer by the wolf pen.

Later they came down the ridge and walked around our house and were grazing along the back on the septic field next to the wolf pen (don’t ask). My niece says that they are two sets of twins born of the same mother. The larger two were born two springs ago, and the smaller last spring.

Last week we had the electrician here. He finished wiring up the lights in our new stairwell and replaced our kitchen light fixtures, among other things. The old fixtures were three huge, lozenge-shaped fluorescent fixtures that my niece said were probably out of date when they were put up. I didn’t dislike them, but at some point someone had apparently broken the cover for one of them when they were replacing the bulbs, which is no wonder because they are about 15 feet up on a slanted ceiling. Anyway, we’ve never had the cover for the one fixture. We couldn’t find anything to replace it, so we opted to change out all the fixtures. Now we have LED fixtures that will last a very long time without putting any bulbs in (the LEDs are tiny, in strips, very bright), and they are much more modern looking. I tried to take a picture of them, but they don’t really look like much in the picture because they’re so high up. But they are very nice. They’re narrower than the old fixtures, though, so the ceiling will have to be patched and the paint touched up.

Dark teal in the hallway

People have asked to see more of the colors we picked, so the rest of this post will be about that. You can look back to previous posts to see the colors in the kitchen and dining area and even compare them to the colors that were there before (yikes!). In the entrance hall, I picked a dark teal. I think that once we start hanging some pictures, this will look really good.

The color actually looks a bit darker than it does in this picture.

For our bathrooms, I picked a light grayish green blue. I really like this color, especially in the master bathroom. As you can see, it’s divided into three rooms, the back one being the tub and shower room. In some lights, the paint looks sage green in the front rooms while in the shower room it looks bluer. The color looks gray in this picture, but it’s actually a lot warmer.

The restful color in our master bedroom

I selected a deep green blue for our bedroom. This is the first time I’ve had a house with the ceilings painted the same color as the walls, and I wasn’t sure what it would be like. Nor was I sure that my husband would like such a strong color. But after spending days in there while they painted the rest of the house, he pronounced the color “restful.” The ceiling in that room has a sort of layered effect. I don’t know what you call it. And the color makes it stand out more.

Mostly kids will be sleeping in here.

Finally, I let my 8-year-old great niece select the color for the small guest room upstairs. She picked a really bright turquoise. Note the stuffed animals on the bed.