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.

One step forward, two back

Here is our driveway, all done.

The good news for this week is that our asphalt is finished, and it looks really nice! Everyone who has come up the driveway has commented about it. Our next door neighbors even asked the pavers to come over and give them an estimate while they were here. So, here is a picture of that. One more project finished!

The floor with the old vinyl looks dirty even though it isn’t.

Now on to other news. The flooring guys, as you may remember, wanted to install the marmoleum on the same day that the pavers were here, so we had to put them off. The guy arrived to do the flooring yesterday. The original plan was to lay the marmoleum on top of the existing vinyl, but when the flooring guy started working in the laundry room, he realized that the vinyl wasn’t securely fastened to the floor. You could just lift it up, basically. Even though it had been glued, it hadn’t been glued very well. He also said that he was not allowed to lay the marmoleum on top of the flooring that was underneath it. So, it turned out he was only able to do two of the four areas yesterday. Those were the small toilet area in the master bathroom and the closet. The laundry room and half bath are rescheduled for Monday, when he will come back out and lay a different floor.

The marmoleum is down in this room, although nothing else is done.

I had hoped to be able to show before and after pictures, and I still can, but unfortunately the rooms I took pictures of are not the rooms that are “finished.” By “finished,” I mean that we are still waiting for the toilet to be reinstalled and the baseboards put back. As you can see from the picture above, the old vinyl looks all worn and dirty even after it has been washed. The after picture here is of a different room, and the marmoleum hasn’t even been washed yet (you can’t wash it for three days after it is laid), but you can see how much better it looks.

We will get one toilet back today (thank goodness—I am tired of going downstairs just to go to the bathroom), but the flooring isn’t going to be finished until Monday, and the marmoleum can’t have any heavy weights on it until after it is washed, so our washer and dryer will continue to sit in the guest room for about another week.

Now, the carpet. Just to recap, we laid carpet in our basement in December and then we replaced the scary spiral staircase with a regular one in February. We went back and ordered the same carpet for the stairs and the landing in late February or early March. We have been waiting for it since then.

Our ship date for the carpet was early May, and then it got changed to mid-May. In mid-May, I understood my husband to tell me that Lowe’s had called and told us the carpet was shipped. But by last week we still hadn’t heard back from them. I finally called them on Friday. Of course, they had no record of that last call, and my husband could have misunderstood what they said. Perhaps they called to report the new ship date not to report the carpet had been shipped. So, Lowe’s called the mill (Lowe’s had apparently completely forgotten about our order). They called back to say that the mill is having trouble producing the carpet and is going to discontinue it. They say they’ll honor the back orders, and we have a new ship date of June 30. But the flooring person from Lowe’s warned me that they had this happen once before, and the mill cancelled the order.

I have a friend telling me the carpet probably won’t match anyway, but there isn’t so much as a threshold separating the old carpet from where the new carpet will be, so installing the same stuff seemed like my best bet. I am not sure what I’ll do if they call back and say we can’t get the carpet at all. I could try for the same texture and pull out one of the colors in the carpet (which is a speckled mixture of beige and blue and some other colors), or I could install something completely different. Or I could put something else at the landing, maybe wood, and a different carpet coming down the stairs, so that the two carpets don’t meet. I hope they will at least give me a definite answer by the end of the month, either ship the carpet or cancel but don’t put me off again.

Here’s hoping that by next week I can report one more project finished.

A beautiful day in the neighborhood

You can’t always see those mountains through the trees.

It’s a gorgeous day today! Yesterday, the high was 51, and it rained almost all day. We had a fire in our wood stove. Today, the high is supposed to be 81. I had an early morning appointment, and the air was fresh, the skies sunny. Now, I’ve had to remove my sweatshirt for the first time since October and won’t be wearing two shirts today for the first time since November (when I figured out what was needed to keep from having to crawl in bed every day to get warm). Here is a picture of our deck this morning. If you look carefully past the trees, you can see mountains.

For those of you who can’t wait to hear the latest renovation news, we haven’t done anything this week, but my marmoleum samples finally arrived. I picked a deep but bright blue called adriatica that only has a few speckles, light and dark (I could have used more speckles, but this was the best color) and looks lovely with our grayish green-blue walls. It will be very dramatic. On Tuesday, I heard from our contractor, who has been on vacation. He said he had found a vendor of marmoleum who has installers, and he is just waiting for pricing information. Yippee!

On the down side, we developed a leak under our kitchen sink last week. Every once in a while we would find a small puddle of water on the floor in front of the sink, and then open the cabinet door to find a puddle inside. Of course, my husband did nothing about this immediately, because that is not his way. I put a towel under the cabinet door to avoid wrecking the hardwoods any more than they are already wrecked (most lately by his dog having an accident and then him not cleaning it up right away—I wasn’t around). Then my husband ground up my pestle in the garbage disposal. I had only used it once. It was in the sink, and he must have taken out the drain plug without putting the drainer in immediately. The pestle fell down into the garbage disposal at some point and then he turned it on. I know I didn’t do it, because I always have either the plug or the drainer in the sink to avoid extra garbage going down, because we compost most of our garbage. We only use the disposal when the sink gets clogged up with the particles that we haven’t captured in the drainer. This saves our septic field from filling up too quickly.

So, the pestle, which was made of porcelain, broke, and bits of it got into the disposal and broke it. Then the drain got plugged so that we couldn’t use the sink. I finally got on the phone and started to try to find plumbers, but it wasn’t easy, because they are all busy putting plumbing into the new houses that are going up in the area, from people moving out of Portland because it is too expensive to live in. My contractor told me I could call his plumber, but my husband finally went out to buy parts and fixed it himself. In Austin we went without a garbage disposal for years, during which he wouldn’t let me call a plumber (he was always going to fix it sometime), so this is an improvement.

We started back at our unpacking last week, because we finally got tired of waiting for our contractors to come back and clean up their junk in the basement. My husband spent a day tidying up the basement, and then we started hauling our bookcases out of the storage room. They can’t make the corner from the storage room to the big room downstairs, so we have to wheel them straight across the hall, through the guest room, out the sliding glass door, down to the other sliding glass door, across the wooden walkway for the sauna, and in the door to the big room. You can see why we wanted to wait for a day when it wasn’t raining. Then we had to clean them up and put them into position. We got all of a set of 10 cherry library shelves (with a crossbar and a ladder) out of the storage room. Unfortunately, they cannot occupy one wall like they did in Austin, nor can they have their top shelves added on. But we set up half of them on one wall, and will be setting up the other half on the other wall. We still have three black bookshelves to move out, and then the bookshelves will be done, and I can start unpacking the books.

Also in the shelving category are our DVD/CD shelves. My husband moved them up from the basement last week and attached them to the walls in my office. Then I unpacked all the DVDs and put them away (alphabetically, of course) and the CDs that were on the shelves before. We have hundreds more CDs, though, that used to be in a 300-CD jukebox that broke. We will have to figure out what to do with them. So much for jukeboxes. That one held up only a paltry 15 years. I still have the 5-CD player that my brother sent me for my birthday 20 years ago, and it works perfectly well. I also have my record player. Yes, I do, and my record albums, which I understand are becoming chic these days. We’ll have to figure out a place for those, too. I do play them sometimes.

Hillary watching birds

It took me a while to figure out what my cat was doing every morning, but I finally did. She stands just outside the bedroom drapes, which are closed in early morning, and watches the birds in the feeders. If it’s a cold morning, she sits directly on top of the heating vent you can see there in the floor. We put a feeder out months ago, but it is only in the past three weeks or so that we’ve seen any usage made of it. I thought it was too close to the house, since we hung it directly under the eaves outside our bedroom window, but that doesn’t bother the chickadees, and they love the suet that is next to the feeder. If I want to get other birds, I’ll have to hang another feeder farther from the house. Sometimes a few small gray birds are on the deck eating the seeds that the chickadees dropped. I think they are bush tits. We had tufted titmice in Austin that hung out with the chickadees, but here I have only seen these little gray birds. The chickadees here, by the way, are lots bigger than the ones that we had in Austin.

If you are waiting with bated breath to hear about my art class, I finished my flower last week, but I forgot to take a picture of it, as requested by Naomi. My flower is okay, but I think my sister’s is much more striking (although our instructor has labeled us the one who doesn’t follow instructions [my sister] and the one who does [me]). I think this is because my sister traced the outlines of her flower petals when the instructor told her not to. I will try to remember to take a picture of my flower today.

Now the instructor has us doing another exercise. The first one was interesting, but now that we have done real pictures, the exercises are boring. This one is drawing everyday objects from the basic shapes. That is, ice cream cones from cones and spheres, etc. I think the school is wise to alternate exercises with opportunities to draw pictures.

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.

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.