It's not having what you want...

It's wanting what you've got.

Words of wisdom from Sheryl Crow (Soak Up the Sun).  And they're so very correct.  I'm having a hard time lately remembering exactly how to be satisfied.  Right now, it feels like my wants and the failings I see in the world are just taking over. 
I'm angry at people for having their priorities so messed up and for overconsuming everything from houses to energy to food. 
I'm angry at the government for wasting our tax dollars on programs that don't work and on frivolous items ($600 toilet seats anyone?). 
It also bothers me that our election results anymore are predicted by the amount of advertising dollars the candidate spends.  Does a millionaire really know how the average people in America live?  Do they have the same values? 
I'm angry at the FDA.  Can we really trust an agency who establishes a safe level of malamine in infant formula?  I don't care how small the amount is, chemicals like that are not safe for our children.

And because of the dissatisfaction I'm feeling about the world-in-general, I want to run away.  I want to go live in the middle of nowhere, with lots of property, a few chickens, and some goats.  I want to be far away from everything and everyone.  I want my children to not rely on electronic gadgets for entertainment, to enjoy playing outside, to love to read books.

I also know that running away isn't a good way to solve problems.  Like Ghandi said, you must be the change you wish to see in the world.  I can't exactly be a good role model if I'm a hermit...  And despite the problems I see in the word, I do not have a bad life.   I love my house, our little piece of property, my job, and my friends.  I have plenty of good, healthy food and clothes to wear.  I have enough time to sit back and enjoy life.  I can live my life by my values and not get sucked into the consumer culture followed by far too many.

I need to remember that I have all the important things that I want.  The rest would just be icing on the cake.  And I usually scrape most of the icing off anyways; it's too sweet.  The cake by itself it just fine for me.


Black Friday: The American Holiday

Because, of course, what's more American than overconsumption?

In South Bend, people have been camped out in front of stores since Wednesday.  People fight over toys, and literally run around stores to find their Christmas gifts.  All the stores are jam-packed with shoppers, though there are reportedly less than last year.  I suppose you could argue that people trying to find the best deals are being thrifty.  Or you can argue that Christmas has become more about gifts and less about Christ.

Today just bugs me.  I feel like the world has gone crazy and has their values completely screwed up. This is just reinforced when you hear about shoppers trampling a WalMart worker to death in a mad stampede to get into the store.  4 other people were injured, including a woman who is 8 months pregnant. 

What is wrong with people?


Look Ma! Progress!

That's been something of an unknown term around here lately, but today I got off my butt and decided it was time to start skimcoating the office walls.  We had bought a Magic Trowel over the summer, and we decided to dig it out and see if it lived up to the hype.  Step one is to start with a wall that needs help.  Check.
Tape any big cracks and fill or patch big holes.  Next, use a roller to "paint" on drywall compound.  The compound should be about the consistency of cake batter or yogurt.  You should use a setting-type compound, since it doesn't shrink as it dries, and that makes it less susceptible to cracking.  We used US Gypsum EasySand 90.
Then, dip the Magic Trowel (really a glorified squeegee) into a bucket of water and "wipe" from the top of the wall to the bottom.  Sorry, no action shots of this part.  But the results?
In case you can't tell, this is a nice, smooth, crack-free, non-green wall.  We opted to leave the window trim on, since we're not stripping it.  From past experience, removing the individual pieces will cause the paint to crack and chip, and that would be visible under the new paint.  The top piece of baseboard came off, since it is harder to work around, but the chips in that will be hidden.
Now, for the thing I wish I'd known before we started: this project is EASY!  The Magic Trowl works exactly as advertised, and it's very simple to achieve good results.  We have NO experience and kind of winged this, and we still have a tolerably smooth wall.  The only imperfections are due to our poor mixer (a paint mixer for a drill is not good enough!) or from not having the mud thick enough to smooth well.  Both of these will be pretty simple to fix on the next coat, and they're completely our fault.
This is the one and only easy fix-it project I've ever done on this house.  It's not tedious, it's not even terribly time-consuming.  We did one 8.5' by 10' wall in about 30-40 minutes.  It seems like it would be simpler with 2 people, but I wouldn't have a problem doing this by myself either.
I'm sure something will come up and make me eat my words tomorrow, but I'll enjoy my happy afterglow while it lasts...


Scheduling conflicts

With both Shayne and I working different shifts, it makes it really difficult to get a two-person job completed.  Like skimcoating.  Our next day off together is sometime next week, and I'm bound and determined to at least start the job.  Well, I guess technically I have already started it.  I've put fiberglass mesh tape along all the big cracks.  So...  yeah.  Lots of progress there.  But I guess it is coming along.  And once we've figured out this skimcoating thing, I might feel comfortable doing it myself.  But until then, I'm going to be a weenie and wait until I have the proper moral support (and a big, tall guy who is better at patching holes than I am).

Another downside of the opposing schedules is that I can't do anything noisy (like sanding) during the day, since Shayne is sleeping.  I've considered working out of order and sanding the nursery floor while I wait for other projects to fall into place, but that can't really happen either.  And now my mom has stolen my zipwall, dremel sander, and orbital sander, so I can't even work on the stairs on days that Shayne works and I'm off(not that I want to).

So...  Stay tuned.  Maybe eventually we'll get something done.


Musings on a 1920s kitchen

Just thinking out loud here...

After looking at numerous photos of kitchens from the early to mid 1900s, I'm trying to figure out what, exactly, has changed.  Most folks now value a large kitchen with lots of counter space and even more storage.  Much of our food comes prepackaged.  We have lots of leftover containers.  We like appliances for everything: coffeemakers, blenders, microwaves, toaster ovens, and mixers, just to name a few.  The fridge stores condiments, plus the usual dairy products, meats, veggies, and leftover food.  We like dishwashers, plus sinks that have at least 2 compartments.  Many kitchens now have seating for at least 4 people, house computers and workstations, and sometimes even televisions.

In the 1920s, kitchens were often small, with limited built in storage, and maybe a table for a work space.  Most food was made fresh, from scratch.  The staples were stored in a "Hoosier" cabinet or a built-in cupboard.  Most "appliances" were hand-cranked, like small mixers or meat grinders.  Work space consisted of a table or maybe a small countertop.  Refrigerators were smaller and stoves were larger.  Sinks were wide, shallow, and had massive drainboards.

The ony reason I can think of for kitchens to be bigger and have more storage now is for convenience.  We (as a society) cook fewer meals and spend less time doing it.  Why do we need more space?  With prepackaged foods gaining popularity, we needed somewhere to put them.  Since we don't like to do things by had any more, we need appliances in abundance.  And why should we hide our pretty small appliances away when we can have them conveniently sitting on the counter waiting for use?

I don't want to kill the resale value of our house (assuming we ever move), but I also need to assess the type of cooking that we do.  We don't use many prepackaged foods, but I often buy things in quantity.  We keep the staples on-hand: baking basics, spices and seasoning, pastas, cereals, some canned goods, and several types of crackers.  I seem to use the same few pots and pans for everything.  We've been phasing out plastic leftover containers, but the glass ones don't nest as well.  I have too many appliances that I don't use.  We own a blender that I think we've used twice.  Our food processor gets used once or twice a year to chop onions and celery.  I do use the electric hand mixer a lot.  The food mill is used for pasta sauce, but I only make 1 or 2 big batches per year.  The toaster oven and microwave seriously hog our counter space.  I have a drawer full of utensils that never get used. 

I already knew that we don't want a "modern" kitchen.  For one thing, we don't have the space, but we also just don't live in such a way that the kitchen is the gathering space.  We don't entertain too often, and we make simple meals that don't require hours of prep.  When I do cook larger meals, though, I wish I had more prep space.  A work table would be wonderful.  We could also get by with less storage.  Eh, I need to get through the upstairs first, but after looking at kitchen pics at the Library of Congress, I just started obsessing again...!


One less thing to worry about!

The appraiser came today, and even though I won't know until at least Monday how our house measured up, I feel much more confident after talking with her.  For those of you who have never had an appraisal, here's how it went.

First, she walked through the house and took pictures of each room.  Next she measured each room and drew out a floor plan.  She also checked the furnace, electircal breaker box, garage, and roof.  I told her that the wondows were all double-paned wood replacements with storms, but I don't know if it makes a difference.  Hardwood floors got us a big plus.  She was interested in photos of the house as it was when we purchased it, which I thought was very considerate.  This way, she can see exactly what we had changed and how it may affect value.  She measured the outside of the house, the garage (which she considered to be a 3 car because of the workshop [yay!]), then asked about the well and septic.

When I asked what all went into the equation, I didn't get a real answer, which kind of frustrated me.  She did say that she wouldn't hold the office work against us, since it would be "easily" completed if we were to sell the house sometime soon.  She also took the quality of work in the living room into consideration and applied it to the soon-to-be-finished office.  And even though the floors up here need to be refinished, since they aren't buckled, patched, or warped, they count as being in great shape.

So...  Even though I won't know for a few days how we appraised, I'm certain that we will rate at least what we paid for the house.  I'm guessing it may be higher, since the garage suddenly became a 3-car and the hardwood floors are exposed.  And laminate flooring in the kitchen is better than carpet.  A somewhat comparable house in our area (newer home, but smaller lot; slightly less square footage, but similar features) is on the market for $140K.  Another similar home is on the market for $109K, so there's obviously some variance.  I'm hoping for $120K, since then we won't need to pay PMI.  It seems as though when we were looking at homes a few years ago, they were selling for less than their appraised value, so we'll just have to see.    Regardless, I feel much more optimistic than I did on my bad day.  Keep your fingers crossed for us!


Retail Therapy

Normally when I'm having a bad day, I find something constructive to do, or I just mope and get it over with. I can't remember the last time I went out and spent money because I felt like crap. Until yesterday.

I bought these:
They're "Les Saisons" by Alphonse Mucha (photo shamelessly stolen from art.com)I've been wanting them for quite a while, and never bought them. Now that we're actually hanging pictures in the living room, I want something vintage-y to go in there as well as our family photos and such. I didn't get the stuck-together group as shown; I bought the individual prints. We'll mat and frame them (Shayne knows how to cut mats - how cool is that?) as a matched set, then hang them somewhere in the living room. I'm excited to get them, so I guess I can understand why people go out and shop when they're sad. For what it's worth, I did also start staining the upstiars doors. They look gorgeous, but no pics yet...


Muddling through

Or, another post in which I whine about my life. I feel like I've been griping a lot lately. Maybe I have. Maybe I have something to gripe about... But I hate feeling like a whiner, so hopefully this will be the last of it. I just need to get it all out of my system, I think.
Although everything with the house and our lives are basically the same as they were 10 years ago, I feel much worse about it all. With the loss of our pregnancy, I feel like the rose-colored glasses have come off. I hate the house, and it's never-ending list of projects. I feel like we haven't accomplished anything in 3 years, even though I know logically that's not true. I completely understand now how the PO's could just say "fuck it" and put up paneling. 3 years ago, when we moved in, the house at least looked habitable. Now it's something of a train wreck. Every room I walk into, all I can see is how many unfinished projects there are or how I wish the room looked.

And we do have the living room. The one room of sanity. But instead of being my inspiration, I now feel like it's taunting me. It's telling me that this is what the rest of the house could look like if I'd get off my lazy ass and work on it.

I know I'm not really seeing things how they are. I wish I could come into the house and see it with an unjaundiced eye. All my friends tell me that they love our house, so it really can't be that bad. It just feels like it...


What? It's November?!

I can't believe that the year is almost over.  That means I have 2 months to finish the projects I had started in order to complete my New Year's Resolutions.  In cause you forgot (I did), here they are again:
  1. Finish office, master bedroom, and little front bedroom.
  2. Find and install a "new" front door
  3. Finish the stairway

 Doesn't sound like too much, does it?  Here is what I had accomplished as of June:
  1. Last pieces of paneling removed from office, little front bedroom (nursery!) done except for floor refinishing.
  2. New front door found! Carpenter AWOL.
  3. I've vacuumed the stairway several times and removed 1 nail. No progress.
  4. New laminate floor in the kitchen after ripping out the unsanitary carpet.
  5. Gotten rid of 90% of unnecessary junk in the house. I'm pretty proud of this one :)
  6. Begun restoration of 1941 Chambers stove. I've thoroughly cleaned everything and replaced the service cabinet door and floor, plus gotten the parts for natural gas conversion. I'm waiting for hubby to remove 5 stripped screws from the chrome top. Once that's done, we can send it to be rechromed, and then we're ready for reassembly!
  7. Edged the flowerbed with brick pavers.
  8. Agonized over how little I accomplish.
And since then, here's what else I've added to the "completed" list:
  1. All wallpaper removed from office
  2. Large hole knocked in immaculate plaster wall in order to make closet door opening wider
  3. Old knob-and-tube wiring discovered in new closet door opening
  4. Office walls prepped for skimcoating, which I'm crazy enough to want to try to do myself
  5. All upstairs doors removed, stripped, and sanded
  6. 90% of stairway sanded.  The top 4 steps after the landing are refinished and back in place (1 step still awaiting stain)
  7. Stove restoration on hold, pending removal of stripped screws via industrial drill press
  8. Spoke to carpenter numerous times and secured multiple promises to call when he's going to be out my way.  Resovled to find new carpenter...
  9. Veggie garden abandoned after pest infestation and discovery that there's not enough sun in that location
And still to accomplish:
  1. Skimcoat office walls
  2. Refinish all upstairs floors
  3. Finish sanding the damned staircase
  4. Stain and shellac the damned staircase
  5. Remove wall in master bedroom made of paneling and replace with drywall
  6. Reskimcoat some areas of the master bedroom walls to even out
  7. Strip and refinish master bedroom woodwork
Why am I thinking that this isn't all going to get done...?

The home appraiser cometh...

...And our house is a pit of unfiinshed projects.  We have stairs that aren't yet nailed down, and a dropcloth covering the bottom run of stairs in their semi-sanded state; a kitchen with no baseboard trim to cover the edges of the laminate floor; a nursery that is a catch-all room with no current purpose or organization; an office with bare and cracked plaster walls, a hole for the "new" closet door with exposed knob and tube wiring dangling in the opening, and unsanded floors with padding still stuck in places; a hallway with no woodwork, adhesive-covered floorboards, and two different colors of paint; and not a single door in the upstairs.


The office is beyond help.  I'm just going to accept that and move on.  All I can do is organize the chaos a little bit.

All the doors need to be stained and rehung.  Thankfully, they're out in the garage waiting for me.

I've got to paint the ceiling in the the hall.  Two different colors is unacceptable.  How did I live with it for this long?!  The floor will just have to stay nasty.

Must nail down stairs.  I don't need a lawsuit.  Dropcloth on bottom portion stays.  Not enough time to finish sanding and refinish the whole thing...

The kitchen...  I'll have to see if Shayne can ru by Lowes and pick up a transition piece at least to cover the fraying carpet edge leading into the mudroom.  I'm not too worried about the baseboards, since most are covered by another object.

I knew this was coming, but we've been so overwhelmed by other life happenings that we haven't had time or energy to get things moving.  Yikes...


Sticker Shock

The Stripper Guy called me on Tuesday with the news that our doors were finished.  A 5 day turnaround time, including a weekend, is awesome.  Unfortunately, he told me when I got there that the job was a lot harder than anticipated, so his estimate wasn't exactly accurate.  5 doors, fully stripped, sanded, and ready to stain, ended up costing $700. 


But, last time, he ended up coming in under his estimate, so I still trust that he's being fair with me.  I certainly know what a pain in the ass stripping lead paint can be, and I'd much rather have him do some of the more tedious work.  Less mess for me, and more time to work on the projects that are still piling up.  And, I have no idea when (if ever) I'd have gotten to those doors on my own.

So that left me free to work on the office today, except that I've been sadly neglecting the rest of the housework.  There are doghair tumbleweeds floating around our bedroom.  So that's taking precedence.  And then we have the memorial service tonight, and the funeral tomorrow.  So...  I'll see what I get done.  On the up-side, at leasr the doors are stripped now, even if I had nothing to do with it...  :)


Yes, he did. But now what?

Barack Obama will be the next president of the United States of America.  And, I have to say that I'm pround of our contry for overcoming racial barriers.  But why couldn't we have elected a man more like David Palmer from "24"??

Our country needs change.  And I do believe that Obama will bring change.  But is it really the change we need?  We have an economic recession, a record deficit, overstretched military, a huge drug and gang problem, and numerous other problems in our country.

To combat the recession, Obama will offer tax cuts to 95% of Americans.  The wealthiest 5%, people who make more than $250, 000 per year, will pay the same or more.  Does the average American realize that the people who are wealthiest are the people who give the rest of us jobs??  No poor man ever created jobs for others.  If we punish people for making money here, they will simply send more jobs overseas where they don't have to pay the same taxes.  And taxing the oil companies will just make them pass the higher costs of operation on to the consumers.  We will all still pay in the end...

And the military...  Who diesn't want out of Iraq?  I would love to see our troops come home.  But the fact is that we started something over there and we need to see it through.  By removing our soldiers too soon, we will destabilize the fragile government the Iraqis have achieved, and we'll end up with another civil war over there.  We don't need another Viet-Nam.  Obama supports a responsible withdrawal of our troops; isn't that what was planned all along?  I think people have heard what they wanted to hear.  Yes, Obama will bring our troops home, but he'll bring them home when it's safe to do so, the same as the Republicans would have.

I just don't know.  I'm glad George Bush is done, but I'm worried about the future.  I worry that the American public listened more to how Obama said things than what he said.  He's a wonderful, charismatic public speaker, especially when compared to McCain's obvious discomfort when speaking to large groups.  I wish that I could be hopeful and optimistic, but I'm just not.  Even with McCain in office, I would have had reservations.  But now, with one of the most inexperienced, liberal politicians at the head of our country, with a Democratic majority in both the Senate and the House, I am very concerned about the future.


Saying goodbye to a friend

On Saturday afternoon we lost a friend and coworker to a DUI crash.  Craig Toner, the Town Marshal of Roseland, was killed after being hit and then run over by a drunk driver.  I knew Craig through work; Roseland backs us up on a lot of our calls, and we help them out as well since they are a small department.   He was a good person, always willing to help out, and he will be sorely missed.  My thoughts and prayers are with Toner's family and friend, as well as our brothers and sisters in blue.

Skimcoating the office walls: Prep work

Today I plan to start the prep work for skimcoating the office.  Last night, we made a trek to Lowes and bought 90 minute setting compound, a slapbrush for ceiling texture, fiberglass tape, a drywall sander, and a mixer that attaches to our drill.  I already have a Magic Trowel to smooth out the mud, and paint rollers to apply it.  Total cost = $65.

My goal for today is to remove all the woodwork, then tape the cracks.  Depending on how long that takes, I may also start to mud the cracks as well.

I feel obligated to mention that I have no idea what I'm doing.  I have NO experience working with drywall, plaster or anything other than putty to patch nail holes.  This project is an experiment to see if I can teach myself a new skill without completely messing up my house.  For what it's worth, Shayn'e not entirely sure I can do this either.  As we were walking out of Lowes last night, he was less than confident about my skimcoating skills.  I appreciate that he does trust me enough to let me give it a shot, though.  Thankfully, the walls in the office are relatively smooth, and in pretty decent shape.  Because of the doors and windows, there's also not too much wall area, so it's a good room to practice on.

Pics to come soon...


Moving forward

Because of our personal tragedy, I have the next 6 days off of work.  And as much as feel like sitting around and feeling sorry for myself, I need to keep busy.  Hence, a "new" project.

We're planning on trying to get pregnant again once we've been cleared by the doctor, but I'd like to wait at least until after Christmas.  And there are a few things on the house that I'd like to complete so we don't feel so rushed for time the next time around.  Knowing you only have 9 months to complete some projects really makes a difference...  And, knowing the first 3 months will be hormonal agony gives only 6 months of real working time.  Eesh.  I want the upstairs, minus the bathroom (although that is a possibility as well), to be complete before I get pregnant again.

We're really going to push ahead with work on the office.  I took all the upstairs doors off the hinges last Thursday and took them to the Strip Shoppe.  He said they should be done by the middle of this week.  When I go to pick up the doors, I'll take him the office woodwork.  And, once the woodwork is off (by tomorrow afternoon, I hope), I'm going to tackle skimcoating the walls and ceiling.

I bought a Magic Trowel several months ago, thinking to try skimcoating, but talked myself out of it.  The folks at OldHouseWeb have talked me back into it.  I'll post my impressions on this "wonderful" tool once I actually work with it.

But, if all goes well, I'll have nice, new, paintable walls in the office by the end of the week!!


...And the Lord taketh away

I'm not one that generally shares my entire personal life over the internet, but I suppose this needs to be said, since I told the internet that we were expecting a baby...

Early yesterday morning I had a miscarriage. The embryo had never developed from the little ball of cells that is present about 2-3 weeks into pregnancy. My body didn't realize this for 6 more weeks, and I had no idea until two days ago that something might be wrong. The doctors say that in this type of situation, there was probably a chromosomal abnormality, and the pregnancy terminates itself rather than develop into an abnormal fetus. They couldn't give a reason as to why it took my body so long to figure it out.

After 2 ER visits and a minor surgery, I am physically fine. We plan on trying again once we are able, and hopefully the Lord will bless us with a healthy, perfect baby. Please keep us in your thoughts and prayers as we go through this difficult time.