A little break

My husband seems to like to spend all his time at the house. The exception is the errands into town. He loves to stack one errand on top of another, so that when I start to go into town to return my library books, say, and go to the grocery store, suddenly he has added on a trip to Walmart (I hate Walmart), a pickup of prescription drugs at Walgreens, and a trip to the hardware store. Every jaunt into town must include at least one trip to the hardware store. Luckily for me, there’s a Dutch Brothers coffee booth right next door and I love their Cocomos, a combination of coffee, coconut milk, and chocolate. There is always a big line at Dutch Brothers, but if it isn’t too bad, I get in the walk-up line while my husband is looking at nuts and bolts next door.

This is all a big lead-up to say that I finally got him to take a little drive with me on Sunday. It was a beautiful day. We had one really hot day this weekend during which we actually started up the air conditioning for a few hours and one really beautiful day, during which we had the windows open all day. And then there was yesterday, when it was cold and cloudy all day, never out of the 50’s. I loved all of them.

These are the falls without the kids. They had momentarily gone out of sight.

Anyway, we chose to drive to Sunset Falls, which we had not seen yet. The drive was a nice one, southeast farther into the foothills of the Cascades. The falls aren’t spectacular, but they are pretty. Kids were sitting on the rocks over the falls in the middle of the creek (it looks like a river, but I’m pretty sure it’s a creek), and some of them were jumping off the rocks into the river or going along the bank to a cliff and jumping off there. Twenty years ago I would have been up top sitting on the rocks or wading in the creek, but I don’t think I would have had the nerve to jump off even forty years ago! It’s not terribly high up, but you could easily hit rocks on the way down.

On the contractor front, our general contractor finally came over yesterday and cleared out our basement, so I foresee some busy days of returning to what we had been doing two months ago or so when they messed it all up. We have almost all the bookcases out of the dance room, only three to go. My husband is going to fasten them to the wall because of the kids, and then I can start putting away my books. Finally! That will free up a lot of room in the dance room so that we can find the rest of our possessions and start organizing the storage in the dance room and garage.

As far as our remaining projects go, it looks like what I feared might be coming to pass. We had been waiting to hear from the guys who are going to asphalt our driveway, the guys who are going to install our marmoleum, and the guys who are going to install the carpet on the stairs. Some of these projects have been in limbo for months. I feared that what would happen is they would all want to do their jobs around the same time. That could be a problem if the driveway was being asphalted. And sure enough, we have a provisional start date from the asphalt guys of June 5 and a provisional start date for the marmoleum of June 8. I’m not sure how many days the asphalt will take, but this seems too close together. On the other had, both dates are provisional, so I’m not going to start trying to reschedule anything until at least one date is set. Also, no word from Lowe’s about the carpet since mid-May, when they said it had been shipped. I don’t want to put any of these guys off. We’ve been waiting for the carpet since February and the marmoleum since April. And the asphalt guys have the toughest schedule.

We also have a provisional start date of mid-June for painting the outside of our house. That’s not such a problem as the other projects, except, of course, if they end up being the same time as the asphalt.

We recently made a possibly foolhardy purchase. Well, who knows. It’s an interesting one at least. I have been wanting to buy a grill. I used to do about half of my meals on the grill when I was single. That was a standard Weber charcoal grill, and I used it so much it had a hole in the grill top. But when I got married, we decided to try a gas grill. Frankly, I never felt comfortable with it. I never knew if it was heated enough or whether the grill was supposed to have some sort of medium in it, like rocks, or anything like that. Our family has always used charcoal. And my husband is one of the few guys I know that doesn’t grill. (This used to be one of my dad’s favorite weekend activities.)

Our gas grill ended up being hauled off from our Austin house, where it had been chained to the deck but unused for years and was in horrible condition. Now that we have a lovely deck and some nice deck furniture for dining, I wanted to buy another charcoal grill. I was discussing it with my niece’s husband when he told me about something that’s called a Big Green Egg. A Big Green Egg is a kamado-style grill. I had never heard of these grills before, but most of them are made out of enamel, and you can use them to grill, smoke, or bake. What sold me was the information that you can use them to make tandoori chicken and naan.

I was 2/3 of the way there after reading about them, although they are expensive for a charcoal grill, but I wanted to see one. That is the difficulty. Our local Ace was supposed to carry them, but apparently they decided they took up too much space in what is a fairly small store. They said they could order one for me, but I wanted to at least look at one first. Then we stopped by Home Despot, which does not carry Big Green Eggs but has several other styles of kamado grills, some of which are less expensive. But they didn’t have even one of them in stock, either. We talked to a helpful guy in the store, who told us where we could see a Big Green Egg just to get a look at a kamado grill. The plan was to look at the Egg and then return to the Home Despot, where he would show us his other kamado grills online and we could order one. It was this kind of informed and guided shopping that I wanted from the store, because I had already read some reviews and looked at all the various grills online. I just wanted to hear what he had to say about them.

Well, we went to look at the Big Green Egg, but when we returned to Home Despot, nobody knew who the heck we were talking about, even though we knew his name (he might have been a manager), and if he WAS the manager, he was in a meeting. We stood around and stood around waiting at the service desk, but when I heard they were getting someone from flooring to help us, that’s when I decided to leave. After all, someone from flooring wasn’t going to know any more about the grills than I did. This is a problem with the local Home Despot. In Austin, they had pretty good service, but here, you’re lucky if you can find anyone to talk to. We went right back to the store with the Big Green Eggs.

The Big Green Eggs are pricey, but while we were talking to the nice man in the other store, we found out about demo eggs. These eggs are used one time at a Big Green Egg demo in Portland, and then you get one for 25% off. So, we signed up for one of those. We get our grill, slightly used, on June 25.

.This is what I call color

I hate to subject you, completely changing the subject, to another picture of our ridge, but lately the rhododendron on the left side of the water feature has bloomed beautifully. I was complaining in early spring that our property didn’t have any color, but it just didn’t have any early color. Now wildflowers are popping up all over the place. First there were some small blue ones on the ridge, but lately there are lots of white ones and some yellow flowers all around the house, maybe buttercups. I need to learn something about wildflowers. Here is part of our ridge now, just a couple weeks after the last picture. You can see some of the white flowers at the base of the rhododendron.

We have had several returns of the bunny, one time with a smaller companion, to our drive, where he or she likes to eat the grass in between the bricks. Sadly, that grass is going to be going away soon. Maybe the bunny will stay to eat the grass on our lawn, though. The bunny comes almost every evening now just before dusk.

This is my cedar waxwing.

If anyone is still interested in my art class, I finally finished my picture of a cedar waxwing. My sister is still working on her hummingbird, since she missed a class. I guess that means I’ll be doing an exercise in class today. The exercises tend to be tedious, but they are wise to intermix them with the opportunity to draw a picture. I think my next picture is supposed to be of a furry animal.

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.

More snow and more work

Monday morning, 7 AM

You’re probably getting tired of hearing about snow, but I love it. After a soggy week of rain and a dusting of snow on Sunday, we awoke to this sight on Monday morning. Look at how the snow sticks to the branches. Of course, it was mostly melted by Monday afternoon, although we still have some patches here and there.

This amber wall in the dining area used to be violet.

We had a rough time with the painters last week. We spent several days shut in our bedroom while they isolated us with plastic and sprayed the rest of the house. It got really stinky when they did the office desk and shelves and the railing for the staircase.

You wouldn’t think it would be exhausting to sit on your bed and do nothing all day, but it is. I went out to run a few errands, and one day I went over to my niece’s house and had a nice, long conversation with her husband, who was babysitting instead of working so that she could have a day off. But mostly we were stuck in our room.

The kitchen walls are now all yellow instead of red.

The result, though, is a beautiful house. The weird wall colors I showed you in the last post are gone, as are all the blotches, discolorations, and marks. And the house has some lovely color. The violet wall in the dining area is now amber and the green wall next to it is the white I chose for the living room. Now, the walls in the kitchen that used to be red are yellow, along with the rest of the kitchen walls. Banana cream is the color. The bedrooms and bathrooms are different shades of green-blue, and the entryway is dark teal. The kids’ bedroom is bright turquoise, the choice of my great-niece.

Here are the guys working on the staircase.

That was a big accomplish-
ment for the week, but the other accomplish-ment was the work of our regular contractors. They put up the railings and banister for our new stairwell. I showed you the big hole two postings ago.

Our new stairwell, almost finished

My contractor has a habit of just doing things rather than presenting me with choices. This could be a bad thing but has so far worked out pretty well. The only things I’ve had to choose are colors. For the stairwell, he asked me what I wanted and I said I kind of liked the railings that were there on the scary spiral staircase. That staircase had oak rails with white spindles. So, that was all the conversation around that, and this is what we got, much more grand that I would have picked out myself, but really nice looking and substantial. Now all that remains is to finish the floor when the flooring comes in. The electrician is coming today to install the lights in the stairwell, among other things.

I am facing a huge job this week of cleaning all the rooms, since they are full of dust from the painters and woodworking. I didn’t get a start on it yesterday, as intended, because my sister talked me into helping her take the kids to the movies. The three-year-old had never been, so we bracketed the kids with the idea that I could stay watching the movie with the eight-year-old if the three-year-old got too restless and had to be removed. But he was pretty good. He got restless right at the end and came and sat in my lap. Both kids are my sister’s grandchildren.

It hasn’t been all work around here, though. On Saturday a local pub brought Dungeness crab in from the coast and had a Crab Feast. My husband and I went with my niece’s family and my sister. A great time was had by all. I just love crab. I had never had it fresh before.

Gigantic snowflakes and unexpected house painters

snow-huge
Yes, that’s a three-inch snowflake near the rail on the left.

There’s no way to show snow very well in a photo, so I tried to take a video for you of the snow that came down on Sunday afternoon. However, apparently my blog theme doesn’t support video. You can see the flakes in this photo, but you may not believe me when I tell you that at one point there were hundreds of snowflakes that were at least three inches in diameter. They looked like upside-down cocktail umbrellas falling from the sky. In the picture, you can see that one of them is bigger than the railing, but you can’t tell that most of them are that big. It was amazing.

On Monday, we had quite a surprise. The house painters showed up at 8 AM without warning. We knew they were going to start within a few weeks, but I had assumed that some other work would have to be done first. I also assumed that we would have warning. When I got to our contractor, he said he had told my husband last week. My husband has memory issues, so he never told me and then forgot. In fact, he has no recollection of being told, but I have no doubt he was.

Two walls of the kitchen are an unpleasant pinky red.
Two walls of the kitchen are an unpleasant pinky red.

The result was that we had to leap up and begin hauling things out of the rooms they wanted to start with instead of having time to put things in sensible places. Since they arrived at 8 AM, I still hadn’t washed my face or brushed my teeth, and since half of the toothbrush was promptly lost and the bathroom out of bounds, I still haven’t done that. This morning I was looking forward to taking a shower in the guest bathroom downstairs, but my shampoo is in the laundry room, where the cat is locked up for the day.

This violet wall is in the dining area--directly across from the red wall. Yes, it is.
This violet wall is in the dining area–directly across from the red wall. Yes, it is. Note also the charming use of green in the living room area.

In any case, despite the havoc, I am glad to be getting this done because I have been dreading the disruption. The house needs painting on the interior because of several reasons. The most prominent is the interesting color combinations throughout the house.

My niece and I discovered the secret to the myriad of colors in the house. We found a paint store color pallete, the kind that shows contrasting colors you can put together. The idea is that you pick a couple of these colors, one for your base color and one for accents. Unfortunately, the former owner of the house picked all of them. Luckily, she left most of the walls white. I’ll be sure to take some pictures of the finished rooms.

The other problem is that four years ago, after we bought the house and were preparing it for renters, my niece and I tried to match the white paint in the house so that we could paint out scuff marks. Although we found the color swatches for the house, the paint had faded or something. Our first attempt was a color much darker than the original white, something that you can’t tell until the paint dries. We tried again and got a closer match, but if you look carefully at the walls, you can see blotches.

So, right now our house is in even more havoc than usual, but the guys are making good progress. They finished the bathrooms yesterday, although we won’t be able to use our main bathroom until later today. They did the ceilings in the back part of the house, and made good progress on the guest bedroom. (The color my eight-year-old niece picked is a shocking turquoise. Years from now, someone is going to be making fun of me for my color choice.) Today they are working on our bedroom and will finish up the back rooms of the house except the laundry room. Tomorrow, I would imagine they’ll start on my office and the living room, kitchen, and dining area. But next week when I get back to you, they’ll be done! Exterior house painting is to come, but they can’t start that until the weather clears up and we have several dry days in a row.