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.

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A work in progress

The excitement around here this week is all centered around the driveway. Our pavers did show up on Monday. Up until Saturday, we just had a provisional start date from them. They had originally told us that they didn’t schedule very far out because of the weather. But they were here bright and early on Monday.

You can see how pretty and rural the driveway looks here at the top. On the two tracks running down the hill, though, the bricks are easy to slip off of or miss and they pop out of position.

This was a project that I was against when we first moved here. Our driveway is made of diamond-shaped bricks in two tracks, one for each wheel. I loved the rural look of it with the grass growing through the diamonds. However, during the winter, with all the rain and the trucks coming up and missing the tracks, it turned into a mud pit, and it still has ruts in it and bricks that are out of place. I had to admit that paving the driveway seemed to be a very practical idea. I meant to take a picture of it before the guys started, but I forgot, so my first picture is of the top of the driveway, when they hadn’t yet dug out the bricks. It doesn’t show the mess that the driveway had become, just the nice part of it, because they had already dug up the bricks in the messy part.

It turns out the driveway bricks were held in position by rebar, sticking up straight out of the ground, which the pavers had to pull out of the driveway, piece by piece. They even put rebar in the side parking area (which was where we found it first), which didn’t have the bricks but instead large chunks of brown gravel. Because the people who put in the parking area had first covered the grass with plastic, the parking area didn’t drain properly and got all churned up over the winter. We are paving that, too, as well as the lower drive. When we moved here, the movers had mixed success with getting down that drive. Now there shouldn’t be a problem.

Here is the driveway with gravel on it. The arc of grass to the right is in front of our house. The area to the left is the bottom of our ridge.

The guys are planning to finish today, but I took a picture of the driveway in mid-progress, with lovely gravel. I actually might have preferred a gravel driveway, but I know that my niece and her husband asphalted their driveway a year or so ago because every winter their gravel got washed down into the road. We probably would have had the same problem.

Of course, just as I feared, the flooring guy was planning to lay the marmoleum tomorrow. That would mean that our contractors would have to be able to get in today to yank the sinks and toilets in the bathrooms. But of course, they can’t, and the asphalt is not supposed to be driven on for a day, so we had to reschedule. So far, I don’t know when that will be. Nor have I heard at all from the carpeting people. Once these guys get out of here and we have a date for the marmoleum, I guess I need to call the carpet guys. We have been waiting for the carpet to come in since February, and it was supposed to have arrived at the end of May.

I am also still trying to find someone to whack down our back slope. Once we get it whacked down the first time, we should be able to maintain it with the push mower, or if we can find someone, we can just get them to whack it down several times over the summer. No luck so far, and pretty soon the grass is going to be over my head. I see some spears of foxglove growing in it, too. Very pretty.

Our contractor came out late last week and removed his junk from our basement and outside the house. I would be working at putting away my books if I wasn’t waiting for my husband to fasten the bookcases to the wall first. He has promised to do it this week. I feel like everything I could do is on hold. This one job would allow us to move forward in a big way, but as I’ve mentioned before, I have never figured out a way to motivate him to get something done. Right now, he has several projects in progress. The wolf pen is partway down. The parts for fastening the bookcases to the wall are there, but no work is done. The seat of our new outdoor dining chair that he broke by slamming his butt down into it is on the table with the glue sitting next to it. The table and the counter that he said he’d clear off are halfway empty but are starting to accumulate junk (all his) again. He bought a blind to cover our bedroom sliding glass door but never even started putting it up (good, because I don’t want it over the windows—it is too big). The shed thing that is in the space where my garden needs to go is still sitting there waiting to be taken down, and after that my above-ground garden boxes need to be made. (My niece’s husband said he would do that, though, so it will get done.) He cut the orchard grass once, and after the guys get their trucks out of the orchard, I suspect I’ll be the one cutting it from now on. That’s how life is around here.

I am missing my bird book, because the birds around here are different from the ones we saw in Texas. At first, our bird feeder seemed to be attracting only chickadees (and our hummingbird feeder hummingbirds, of course), but lately, I have managed to identify a couple of birds I’ve never seen before, using the app whatbird. One of them is the Smith’s longspur, which is quite a pretty bird and loves the suet feeder. The other one looks like a black-capped or California or black-tailed gnatcatcher, but the range for all three of these birds is the southwestern United States. I am only a novice bird identifier, but I couldn’t find another bird that looked like these, with a black head, a gray body and light gray tummy. They are small birds, slightly bigger than the chickadees.

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.

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.