I'm in Pieces (Bits and Pieces)

Think of this next time you turn the hot water knob in your shower or bath...

Two sets of knobs, a shower head and a faucet.

A cool $400 and as many little, tiny parts.

Taking our first shower at home...[will be]...priceless.

Prime Time

Catching up:

We work a lot. Just not on our house. Bren now does his deliveries and installations alone, and has a big Geek Squad Home Theater Unit truck parked outside the house. Luckily, it masks...said house.

The ballet season started in October with Le Corsaire, a pirate ballet, and then the perennial favorite, Dracula. I had the good fortune to go to an Arts Integration conference for Educators in Oakland, CA, and meet my cousin Scott in San Francisco. He is studying Chinese in Monterey. He is much smarter than me.

I also accepted the position of Director of Education and Outreach at CB. Hence, my project (walls, floors) has progressed little. I did, however, begin priming the fully resurfaced living room walls for paint last weekend.

There's not much to show for it, since it's really just taking the room from kinda white to really white, but my sidekick is pretty cute:

In a French independent film kind of way. Chevy's mom has been hanging around the house lately, to our dismay. Does he know it's her, and that she abandoned him? Do we suffice in her stead?

He must think we're OK, because he helps me with the laundry.

He makes sure I keep the black load black. "Blacker than the blackest black times infinity." If you get the reference, kudos.

I promise we're not going to post cat pictures every time we write from here on out. It's just that he's always...there. And the little extra money that comes in, that was originally intended for home improvement, has gone to the veterinarian's office adjacent PetSmart of late. It's amazing how many shots this guy has to endure!


Rub A Dub Dub...

Here's a quick update. Miles came over this weekend and we finally got the tub laid into the frame. We put down a thick layer of concrete as a footer to support and secure the tub from shifting. It probably still will shift a bit after a few fill-ups, but hopefully not too much. Pressing the tub down into the concrete was similar to closing the lid on a waffle iron.

I got the drain pipe in too. Joining CVP pipe is way easier than soldering copper pipe.


Post post

The toughest part about doing all of the remodeling ourselves, is not knowing the order of how things should be done. Trial and error, and problem solving have become my biggest hobbies (that and playing "bite-my-hands" with Chevy [see below for the lowdown on the cat from Anne]). The tub has been the main project for me the last few weeks, and I feel like it could have gone much faster, but most of the time I spent working around decisions and setbacks. I knew I had to build the frame for the tub. How much of a ledge should I put around the rim? How much wood do I need? more than I thought. It was nice that the instructions with the tub gave me the exact measurements for the frame. The tough part for me was how much longer I had to cut the wood to make the ledge. Oops, those eight pieces I just just cut are too short.
Here's me working:

Anyway, I got the frame built finally. At this point we realized that the tub is pretty darn heavy, and when a tub that size is full of water, it is going to be super heavy. Add myself into the mix and we're talking heavy-heavy. All that on the floor of a house that is already pretty old adds up to an achy house.

To ease our minds and to alleviate future worries, I put in a Lally Column to support the joists below the tub. This thing has 16,000 lbs of support.

After that all I had to do was nail in the frame, cut an outlet box, install the outlet for the tub power and cut the rough-in for the tub drain through two inches of real hardwood and sub floor. Can you see why this has taken me forever?

Well here's the progress as of tonight:

The rough-in.

At last, the next step is to drop the tub into the frame. Then there's only about twenty more things left to do before we can bathe!

I Shot A Weed in Denver Just to Watch it Die

Rewind to our laborious Labor Day weekend. We pretty much killed our lawn. Not only is it all weeds, it's all weeds that have had the run of the place for some time. The same pestilence reigns next door and across the street, as if the weeds existed before the street was paved. Witness exhibit A, a modest example of the offending breed:

The root is like a carrot! Anyway, we have the ugliest lawn on the block now, and that's an accomplishment. I hate it, but we really can't address the outside until we have a few more basic comforts in place. It's cooling off, and still no tub. Bren's working on it (more on that later), but it can't be done soon enough. Last night, I took a nice hot bath...I set the washing machine to the hot setting. Enough said.

The living room walls completely resurfaced, the ceiling has been giving me fits. The cove is finally sanded, after we attempted to devise all manner of curved sanding mechanisms, including attaching a halved length of sandpaper-covered 4" PVC pipe to the electric sander, to no avail. Finally, it ended up being good, old-fashioned elbow grease that did the trick. We are going to put moulding just below the curve, and around those cool ceiling tiles I mentioned before. We'll paint the area between the moulding white. And the tiles.

All this sanding creates a lot of dust. Just ask Chevy, who, as it turns out, is actually a boy.

He looks like a skunk. Chevy, by the way, is an estimated 9 weeks old now. He's gained a pound since we found him, which means he's a whopping...two pounds. An active fellow, he's inspired some unexpected construction around the house:

We took some rope we used to secure our belongings in the moving van and wrapped it around the banister in the bonus room, creating the ultimate scratching/climbing post. You can't really see him, but he's having a blast.

Am I one of those...



Animal House

So. Only days after we had to relinquish Goatson to the animal shelter (a traumatic experience to say the least), I was getting ready for work on Saturday when Bren and I heard high-pitched mewing outside the door to the bonus room, which opens onto the driveway. Turns out this scared little girl was lodged in the undercarriage of my car:

She looks like a Laser Cat right here. I guess I need some photography pointers from Andrea or Renee. She looks a little less evil here, safe inside:

We're calling her Chevy. She fits into my cupped hands, so she can't be more than a few weeks old. She eats, but I'm having a hard time getting her to drink. Bren is allergic to cats, of course, so we aren't sure if we can keep her...but neither of us want to go anywhere near the shelter for a while. In the meantime, she's already figured out how to poop in her litter box, which is awesome. She is a scholar.

Since she is currently sitting on my shoulder, purring like a motorboat and licking my neck and ear, I'll let her impart some wisdom:

Sddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddd gddddddd,tgedoo ````````````````````````````````````````````````````````````````



"They say it's raining in Chicago, but it's cold and clear in Denver."

Denver is awesome. To any of our friends who live in the "Denver metro" area, and not in Denver proper, you are missing out. Denver's city webpage (and their coinciding 3-1-1 info-line) is rife with helpful and interesting information. Garbage-pickup times, building permit info, pet shelter hours, museum events and art exhibits, and anything else you could think of pertaining to city life.

Almost exactly 24 hours ago I filled out a request to have a pot-hole at the end of our driveway filled in. I honestly didn't expect anything to happen. Then, out of the blue this morning, two swarthy and genial guys show up with a truck full of asphalt and "do work" on our driveway.

Thanks Denver!


We Put the Gag in Lolligag

Another lengthy absence. Sorry. We really have done things, I promise. The thing is, everything happens so slowly that progress is being made on a molecular level, but nothing is done. We have very little to show. The workweek is proving to be completely worthless as far as home improvement goes. We have, however, had time to visit with Tulsa friends Renee and Daniel, go to the dentist, and play poker, as evidenced below:

If you can't tell, Justin is losing. We've also been grilling out a lot:

The feast!

In other news, we finally bought our tub.

We were lucky enough to find one that was 6' long and 36" wide; large enough to accommodate one Bren. He was dismayed, however, upon picking it up, when he saw that the box advertises it as a two person tub. Doh!

Bren also scored a dryer, via the same employee auction system that afforded us our $40 washer, for a whopping $57. We offically have a set for under $100.

We haven't installed the dryer yet, mainly because the previous owner's vent...doesn't vent. It directs the fluff into the water heater closet, instead of out of the house. Thus, we have to punch a hole in the side of our house, which could be rather gratifying. Or disastrous -- we'll let you know.

Work on the walls continues. Special thanks to those of you who donated money and Home Depot gift cards in honor of my birthday, 26 long years ago! The money is going toward, in part, a thermoplastic version of a tin ceiling for the living room. We painstaking taped off the moulding lines in there, and have arrived at the right configuration to deal with the coved ceilings without making the room look smaller. It's going to be SO COOL! Soon, we will be ready to paint. Our choice, called "Scotch Lassie," matches well with our first art print purchase:

It's the second from the left. The print is an Utagawa Hiroshige, circa 1855, called "Navaro Rapids."

Speaking of my birthday -- we received another gift that morning, albeit bittersweet. This girl came running up our drive, practically dying of thirst:

Four days later, no response from our postings in the neighborhood or online. She is definitely a puppy -- so far she has eaten part of the coffee table, part of the trampoline, one bra, two toothbrushes, two rolls of paper towels, 6 rolls of toilet paper, one razor (God knows how she got that), and one light bulb (ditto). We are calling her Goatson because of said eating habits. Although we are falling in love with her, as she crawls in bed with us and licks us to death, unfortunately, she is obviously part Pit Bull. Pit Bulls are banned in Denver -- even mixed dogs who exhibit certain physical traits of the Pit Bull. To that end, we have to take her to the Denver Dumb Friends League in the morning, where I hope she will be carted to another part of the state, and adopted by a farmer or something.

We love you, crazy little Goatson. Be good. We know you'll grow up to be a loyal protector to whomever is lucky enough to find you next.



Mama's Got a Fuse Box, Daddy Never Sleeps at Night

It's been a while since we last posted, and a lot has happened! Namely, the Aldrich Family Reunion in Estes Park, CO. Although Bren and I only got to go up the mountain once, we were lucky enough to spend some serious quality time carousing with the likes of:

Mom O.!

Dad O.! (Check out the new grill he got us!)


Wes...and the fancy lad behind him is Porter!

Porter smells chicken.

Unfortunately, both Wes and Porter were stung by hornet/wasp/bee things (otherwise known as the jerks living in a crack in our porch stairs). Thus...

No, we didn't throw a meringue pie at them. It's insecticide. The directions said to use it at dusk, when the jerks would be "at rest," so we went out at 8PM, thinking it was pretty dusky. Apparently we were a bit early. After we sprayed the crack, one by one, the curious pests began arriving at their former outpost. Bren sprayed each one into the gunk...we stopped at TWENTY FIVE, intent on saving the rest of the spray for a REAL dusk attack tonight.

On to happier happenings on our front porch:

Also with Mom O.'s help, I transplanted our geranium and zinnia. I have terrible luck with plants, so I hope she's right when she says geraniums are "impossible to kill!"

Like I said, we were able to visit the extended family in Estes for one day. We spent the night in my grandad's cabin on the Big Thompson River. While we rested peacefully and safely inside...

Miles slept in a parachute and warded off raccoons. He's so hardcore! Kids, if you wanna be tough like Miles, you have to...

Eat your veggies. (Note that our other, itty-bitty grill has been happily demoted to side dishes.)

Cory, Wes, and Porter stayed with us for a few days in our sumptuous guest quarters.

Now our only tangible reminder of their visit is temporarily immortalized in plaster dust...

How could we get anything done on the house with all this excitement, you ask? Have someone else do it! Yesterday, the electrician came to replace our infamous fuse box. Now it looks like this:

And here's the shiny new one:

An expensive couple of hours of work. So, when the power went out for two hours this morning, I was more than a little concerned. Guess it was just a coincidence. Whew!


Serenity Now

Two back-to-back, straight through, 24-26 hour drives to and from Vancouver B.C., with 7 days of high-schoolers in between can really take it out of a guy. As a result, only a few light projects have been accomplished on this unexpectedly long weekend.

We grilled outside for the first time. It's been lousy hot, but the advantage of a west-facing house, is that the backyard is nice and shady by 3-4 o'clock.

We spent about the same amount on the grill as we did on the food.

I officially have experience in the world of electricity, bringing my lifetime stats to 1-2. Thats one light installed, two fuses blown (yes our house has a fuse-box, remember?).

Agreed, it's not exactly the most stylish fixture ever, in fact it is an outdoor light. It sort of looks like maybe it belongs on a boat. Anyway, it was $3, and makes our basement bathroom feel a little less dank.

Finally, I was ably to endure the heat long enough to put up:

Thanks Dr. W. Now we can sit back and enjoy "the cool evening breezes of Anytown, USA."

The entertainment factor of a porch swing is easily overlooked. Watching the neighbors set off illegal fireworks from down the street, and scurry inside when the Denver PD comes creeping, is hours of fun. Now I need to figure out how to get our porch light to work again.


My Stumps

Work on the walls continues.

The wall I began with (on the right) has taken three coats of various plaster-ish products, dried, and is almost completely sanded. There are some tiny air bubble imperfections, but I'm confident that a coat of primer and two coats of paint will take care of those. It's SO much work, but those walls are smooth. The big window wall only has the first coat, and the small window wall has two. Hopefully that will be sufficient after sanding.

The other day, I did a little time on the walls, and went outside to rinse off my taping knives. Ummm...

Our hose was gone. Make that Uncle's hose. I called him to make sure he hadn't come by to get it -- he hadn't. Who steals a garden hose? It's not like anyone nearby actually takes care of their lawns...

Anyway, this theft bumps a privacy fence up on the list of priorities. We hadn't planned on installing that or landscaping the front and/or back yards until next Spring when the house is under control, but what can you do?

There are several things in the way of our prospective fence/garden. Namely, some trees that are growing in and through the existing chain-link fence, and these:

Stump #1 (the background illustrates yet another reason for the aforementioned fence), and...

Stump #2. Frustrated with the tedium of plastering the walls, I was desperate for a project that I could kill (and I mean kill) in a day. A 102 degree day might not have been the best choice, but nonetheless...

I killed Stump #1. Stump #2 was a little trickier. When I got here:

My shovel broke. Ignore the fact that my shadow looks strangely reminiscent of Grimace.

Thumbs down, nine dollar shovel that I bought five hours ago. You have brought shame on your family.

I sanded some more wall while Bren went back to Home Depot to exchange our faulty purchase. He's home safe, by the way. More on that later. Ask him about whales and peace signs.

With shovel #2, I finally dispatched Stump #2.

It even looks like a grave, doesn't it?

On a somewhat poignant note, I couldn't help but reflect while labouring over these stumps that they were once truly great trees, providing shade and shelter to however many generations of families that have lived in this house. It is evident from the wood itself that they were cut down some time ago, and even the bugs that called them home have abandoned them now. It's time to go. And time for Bren and I to plant something new in the rich soil you leave behind. I hope whatever we plant will still be standing in another 80 years.

R. I. P. Stumps #1 and #2. The shovel is definitely living inside for fear of abduction, and now I guess we need a wheelbarrow. It's always something, isn't it? Not sure where we're going to stow that...


Plaster is Officially the Bane of my Existence

I told you I would let you know. Well...

As you know, I started out covering half a wall with dry plaster that I mixed with water. It set up really quickly, and was almost immediately impossible to spread. I'm sure it didn't have anything to do with the record-breaking hot weather we're having. I sanded it down after it took all evening and night to dry. A wasted day.

The plaster package recommended using pre-mixed all-purpose patching compound for jobs that required more working time, so I went and bought some of that and applied it to the same half wall. It was runny and gloppy. In other words, just as difficult to work with. Another night gone, I sanded THAT layer down. It had bubbled and cracked. By this time, I am really discouraged. I miss Bren, who has no cell service wherever he is in Canada, and I wanted to make a lot of progress in his absence.

I thought, "I thought this would be easier; I've had so much success with the joint compound." BING! The stuff I've been using to seal the seams in the cement board in the bathroom, which is also used with drywall, is the perfect texture for spreading smoothly, and it's totally meant to be sanded and painted. I don't know what the difference is between it and regular plaster, but when I gave it a shot on the other half of the wall, it turned out SO much better (And it's $2 a gallon). So I went out and bought 5 gallons, which I had to roll to the front door, it was so heavy.

I went over the whole wall with the joint compound, and I just need to sand down some of the imperfections before I can call one wall officially done. I have put a thin, hole-filling coat of it on two more walls, and they are ready for the smooth coat. And sanding.

This is a much larger undertaking than I had anticipated. I had really hoped to finish it before Bren came home -- maybe even have it primed.

Not so much.


While the Boys are Away...

...the girls will...plaster?

Renovation has been on a temporary hiatus this week, with kidney stone recuperation, a visit from Grammie and Al, and now Bren and TVFH are on their way to Vancouver, British Colombia, to provide the soundtrack for a week-long national YoungLife retreat.

With Bren gone, I plan on distracting myself from the eeriness of an ill-lit, relatively unfamiliar, somewhat creaky home by tackling a huge project.

We have plaster walls. They are very porous, and have been patched poorly over the years.

Paint will undoubtedly make these flaws even more obvious, necessitating a "skim coat" of new plaster in the living room, dining room, and on one wall in the Master Bedroom.

In addition to being uneven, the walls are dirty.

Ammonia only goes so far against 80 years of smoke and neglect. At least we don't have to stew about where to hang our pictures.

What you see here may look like a poorly executed 80s faux finish, but it's really a thin coat of plaster in various stages of dryness. I'm applying it with a rubber grout floater, and it's remotely reminiscent of the days when I did this for a living:

Ah, good old Baskin & Robbins. Ladies, all you have to do to lose weight while eating all the ice cream you could ever want is walk a mile to and from work in 115 degree, 85% humidity Oklahoma heat. That, and come home every night smelling like curdled milk. I digress.

When the manufacturer's instructions say this stuff hardens quickly, they mean it. However, it's taking forever to dry on the wall. Hopefully tomorrow after work I can sand down the portion of wall I covered today and see how I did. I'll let you know.