Well, we're not going to starve...

Today, Shayne and I picked up a bulk package of meat from Jaworski's, a local meat market.  Unfortunately, not all their meat is from local farms, but it's fresher and of significantly higher quality than, say, Meijer's meat.  I guess that's not really a good comparison, so suffice it to say they are one of the best butcher shops in our area.  The package we bought contained ~43 lbs of various meats.  There are whole chickens, boneless skinless chicken breasts, sausage, bacon, pork chops, steaks (sirloin and new york strip), stew beef, ground beef, roasts, and more.  Dividing the cost by weight, it comes out to $3 per pound.  This is definitely the way to buy your meat.

In addition to the meat, our little freezer is stuffed with frozen veggies.  I froze my own broccoli, corn, sugar snap peas, green beans, carrots, and peaches.  There might be some blueberries in there too.  Next year I'll make a chart of what I have and how much.  It'll make things a little easier to keep track of when it gets crowded in there!

I also have extra canned goods (veggies, fruits, tomato sauce, soups, and some pouches of chicken), pastas, rice, baking mix, cereals, instant puddings, and a few cans of freeze dried entrees (mostly for backpacking, but I'd obviously eat them in an emergency too).  I also have the staples: flour, sugar, brown sugar, oil, and other baking essentials.  Out in the garage I have a half-bushel of apples, and I plan to add potatoes and onions. 

I don't think I realized how much food I had until I just listed it.

Once I buy my onions and potatoes, I won't really need to shop this winter except for lettuce/spinach greens (which I'll buy out-of-season for the sake of variety and nutrition), dairy products, eggs, lunch meat, and crackers.  Seriously. 

It's a strange feeling.  I almost feel like I'm going to hibernate this year, since we have most everything we need already bought and ready to go.  It's also an adjustment in my way of thinking.  I'm used to planning out a meal, then going to the store to buy what I need.  Now it has to be the opposite.  The "store" is in my basement now.  And I'll be looking at what's available before deciding what to make.  It's certainly a different approach than most people today use.

In addition to the food, we also have about 15 gallons of drinking water, kerosene for the portable heater we currently use in the garage, propane for the grill and camp stove, and all my backpacking gear (tent, sleeping bags, water filter, headlamps).  If we were to be without power for an extended period, we would still be able to stay in our home, eat decent meals, and sleep in relative comfort - even in the dead of winter.  The only major lack I see is a large light source.  Without going overboard into the land of paranoia, I feel that we have prepared reasonably for the disasters that may threaten us in our area. 

We could probably live for a minimum of 60 days off of the supplies we have in our home, excepting water.  I had originally wanted to have 3 month's worth of food on hand, but I didn't realize the space it would take up.  Plus, I know that if I'm going to rotate it properly, I have to use it.  In the summer, I don't want to have to eat frozen broccoli when I can buy it fresh.  By having about 2 month's worth of food we actually eat and use, I don't think any will go to waste, and by next summer, my freezer will be empty again for the next round of food storage.  The shelved items are a little easier, and I'll just replace what I use. 

Wish me luck!  This winter will be a big experiment...!


Why I hate my house today

Ok, I realize it's not the house's fault.  It didn't invite the PPOs in and invite them to jack things up.  It didn't beg to be covered in 5 layers of wallpaper and paneling or have its woodwork painted brown.  It didn't request ugly 80s cabinets in place of the originals (even if the originals were green...).  And it certainly didn't say that half-assed work is good enough.  But I'm going to blame the house for everything, just for today.

I don't know if it's pregnancy hormones or just the fact that there always seems to be endless work to do on the house, but I'm feeling very discouraged today.  We went to the bank the other day to refinance our mortgage, and we were told that we'd have to have the house reappraised.  Meaning that someone will come into our seriously disorganized and half-finished house and we have to convince them it's worth just as much now as it was when it was all put together 3 years ago.  Like that's going to happen...

I've read some articles online about having ahome appraisal, and they say you should stage your home as you would if you are selling it.  But all the cleaning in the world won't hide the fact that the walls are bare, cracked plaster in the office, that th upstairs floors have bits of adhesive and carpet padding stuck to them, and that the woodwork in the hall and stairwell is still MIA.  It also won't hide that the dining room walls are painted paneling or that the kitchen floor is cheapo laminate. 



Hiring it out

I hate projects that rely on someone else doing the work.  I realize that I procrastinate, and I complain, and I am sometimes the least-skilled person available for the job.  But, I show up.  I communicate with myself, and I know when I'm NOT going to get a job done when I said I would.

Skilled tradespeople??  Not so much.

Our wonderful carpenter who is supposed to hang and re-mortise the prairie-style door we found at the ReStore?  He's great at telling me he'll contact me when he's in the area, but somehow that never happens and he was always in South Bend "just last week.".  The drywall finisher who we contacted to give us an estimate to skimcoat the office?  "I can come by tomorrow," he says.  Tomorrow must have never came.  The plumber who came to give us an estimate on moving the bathroom fixtures?  Actually showed up, spent over an hour looking at the bathroom, discussing layouts, and checking the plumbing in the basement...  He even helped us to adjust the pressure on our well.  But now we can't seem to get the estimate from him.

WTF is up with these people?!  Just tell me you're busy and don't want my money!  Don't string me along like a love-sick teenager...

I've found a couple of exceptions to the "rule" of unreliable tradesmen.  Our wood stripper did the work faster and for less than he quoted us.  He's my hero.  Seriously.  The other exception was the guy who drywalled our garage workshop.  He came when he said, and did very nice work.  Well, until he got a new job and stopped coming...  Hmpf.

This no-show problem didn't bother me so much before, but now that we have a 30 week deadline, it's a little more serious.  I do NOT want to have a baby in a house with unfinished walls and renovation dust everywhere.  I know not everything will be done by May.  The kitchen and bathroom are on hold somewhat indefinitely, since they're not in terrible shape.  I don't have a clue when I'll start the dining room.  But I at least want the chaos of the upstairs resolved.  And there are only 2 tasks that need professional help.  If I could just get someone to show up...


Homemade Laundry Detergent

Those who know me know that I'm sometimes frugal to a fault.  I won't say cheap, since I will buy expensive things when I think they're well made and will last a long time ($600 bookcase and $750 HE washing machine illustrates this).  I also don't skimp on food.  I'll always pay more for healthy food that doesn't have preservatives, additives, or funky chemicals.  Cleaning products are another story.

I found a recipe online in early spring for do-it-yourself laundry detergent that claims to work as well as store-bought detergent.  I'm surprised I even tried this considering the luck I had with the homemade dishwasher soap.  All of my dishes came out looking like they'd been dipped in milk and left to dry.  Icky.  And I've had poor luck with the natural laundry detergents as well.  I've since learned that vegetable based detergents don't mix well with hard water, and they tend to stay in the clothes and make them stiff.  Which is exactly what happened.  I had finally settled on Method detergent, which was reasonably priced (~$15 for 64 loads), smelled nice, and was biodegradable.  Oh, and it happened to do a good job cleaning my clothes...

But, like I said, I found the homemade recipe and decided to try it.  I bought two bars of laundry soap, a box of washing soda, and a box of Borax at the store, grated the soap, and mixed it all up.  I was a little nervous about using an unknown powdered substance in my new HE washer, but the information I found on the internet says it's low-suds and ideal for HE machines.  Apparently, suds have nothing to do with cleaning power, even though that's what people associate with clean.  Weird.

I've been using my homemade soap since then, with no complaints.  It costs about $.01 per load (compared to $.23), and I estimate the homemade soap has cost me about $1.50.  I use about 3/4 of a tablespoon per load, and I've never felt that my clothes weren't clean.  They don't come out smelling like perfume, which, once I got used to it, doesn't bother me.  They just smell fresh.  I used a dryer sheet a few weeks ago and hated it, since the smell seemed overpowering.  I don't use any kind of fabric softener or dryer sheets, but the clothes have very little static.

The recipe I use is 1/2 cup finely grated Fels-Naptha soap (about 1/3 of a bar), 1/2 cup of washing soda (I use Arm and Hammer -- not baking soda!), and 1/2 cup borax (I use 20 Mule Team).  There are recipes that call for dissolving the mixture in boiling water, which makes it gel, but it seems harder to store and more of a hassle.  I've never had a problem with the powder not fully dissolving, and a full batch takes up less than 2 cups of space.  I don't think the Fels-Naptha is biodegradable, but I use 1/4 tablespoon or less per load.  The wasing soda and borax are considered all natural and biodegradable.  I'll try to find a biodegradable soap for my next batch, but I can't say I'm unhappy with what I've got now.

Two Week Extravaganza: Progress Report

My two weeks didn't go quite the way I had planned.  I accomplished both more and less than I had hoped for.

Here is the list of possible projects to work on:
  1. Finish sanding the stairs
  2. Stain and shellac the stairs
  3. Sand/refinish nursery floor
  4. Have upstairs doors and woodwork stripped
I listed other unfinished projects, but more to show how much we have going than as an actual to-do list.

Here's what I actually got done:
  1. Nearly finished sanding the stairs.  The big hang-up was finding a sander that could get into the crevices and actually do a decent job sanding.  The Skil Octo sander we have just wasn't cutting it.  It works well for a limited number of things, but using any of the tools that extend its reach (the little finger sander and the extended mouse shape) doesn't apply enough pressure to really scrub off old finish.  Towards the end of my two days off I found a Dremel sander that absoloutely kicks butt, but I only had time to use it on 1/3 of the parts that need finished. 
  2. Shellac and stain the stairs.  Obviously this didn't quite get done, since not all the stairs are sanded and ready to go.  However, we did finish the top 5 stairs above the landing.  They're stained, shellacked, and reassembled.  And, I can tell ya, the stairways is going to look awesome if this is any indication.  The little piece of cove molding that goes under each tread hasn't been refinished yet, but I'm sending those to the stripper.  Photos coming soon.
  3. Refinish the nursery floors.  Didn't happen.  I didn't even clean the nursery.  Oh well, I have 7 months left.
  4. Living room windows and upstairs doors.  Haven't made it to the stripper yet.  I'm considering leaving the upstairs woodwork painted, since there's not much natural light in the hallway.  Would dark woodwork close it in?  I'm undecided.
  5. Add final coat of shellac to living room floor.  This one I actually did.  When we bought the bookcase, I knew we were getting too much furniture for the living room to be able to move it all around easily.  So, before the bookcase came home, I added another thin coat of shellac to the floor.  It made it super shiny (I've since learned that the wax in the waxy shellac makes it softer and dirt can get ingrained in it), and it looks great.  Almost like having a new floor (again!)!
  6. Felt sick and demotivated due to hormones.  Ugh.
  7. Was sad and pathetic due to going on light duty at work.  I spent 2 days feeling sorry for myself.  I never realized how much I attached my identity to my job.  I was also upset about going to midnights, but it has worked out well, since I no longer have morning sickness.  Shayne also is on midnights now, so we see each other more.  Note to self: Don't feel sorry for yourself until you know that something isn't going to work out well.
  8. Began fall yard cleanup.  I would have done more, but we have a mosquito infestation in our yard that makes it very difficult to go outside without one of these:
  9. Went for a much-needed hike to Indiana Dunes.  Nothing makes you feel better than slogging 5 miles through sand and up dunes.  Thanks mom!  :)

The bookcase arrives

Amazingly (if you know us, you'll understand why), the bookcase made it home without incident.  Not that I had anything to do with it...  Being pregnant and all, the doctor imposed a 25 lb lift restriction.  25 lbs is an absoloutely pathetically small amount, especially when I'm used to carrying big bags of dog food by myself, but there it is.  I've broken the restriction several times, but Shayne was dead-set against me helping with the bookcase. 

So I didn't.  Armed with our rusty old truck and his friend R, Shayne brought the bookcase home.

I looked much bigger in our living room than it had in the shop window.  It was also taller than I remembered.  The spot I had cleared for it didn't work out, but it fit in beautifully across from the sofa.  I was surpried to find that all 6 shelves were included, even though there had only been 5 when we bought it.  Paul had also given us a key that fit the locks.  And the bookcase is identical to the photo I found on an internet acution site, except that ours is in better shape.  Score!

Before we brought the bookcase home, I was habing doubts about it.  It's a lot of money to spend on a bookcase, and I was afraid it wouldn't be as nice as I thought it had been.  But if anything, it's better.  I feel almost like we stole it, and I'd have probably paid even more for it.  And, even better, it looks wonderful in our living room.  It adds some much-needed character and a bit of not-so-simple beauty.  The curves and leaded glass are a nice counterpoint to the strong mission lines of the rest of the furniture.  Here it is in its new home:
I wasn't planning on filling it immediately, but once it was in the house, it seemed it was just begging to be used.  So, within 15 minutes of its homecoming, I was unpacking books that had been languishing in a rubbermaid tote for nearly 3 years.  It's now full of books that I love, and seems much happer to be being used again (Yes, my furniture has feelings.  Doesn't yours?).
Someday in the future, I'd like to have it professionally refinished, even though the scratches in the finish are much lighter than I originally thought.  For now, though, I'm happy with it just the way it is.  It's the focal point of the living room, which continues to inspire me and remind me what we can accomplish when we get off our butts to do it!


Happy news!

I know I haven't been blogging as much as I should be.  I haven't been working on the house much either, to tell the truth.  But, for once, I have a really good excuse.

I'm 9 weeks pregnant!!

I've heard the first trimester is crappy, and that's how it's been working out for me.  I've had days where I have absoloutely no motivation to do anything, and just getting out of bed is a struggle.  I've also had some morning sickness...  And whoever named it "morning" sickness is a freakin' liar.  More like morning-noon-and-night sickness.  Bleh.  And, of course, I've had to be really careful of fumes and chemicals.

In addition to the physical changes, I've also had some emotional stuff going on.  They put me on light duty at work (which is a good thing), but that also means they took away my squad car and transferred me to midnight shift dispatch.  At least I'm not playing secretary in the records division, but I really miss work.  More than I thought I would. 

But, around May 22, 2009, our nursery will become a real nursery!



Shayne and I went to the farmer's market this morning, then decided to stop at Relics.  Relics is an antique shop with somewhat irregular hours, and it seems like every time I want to go there, they're closed.  However, luck was with us today, and they were open (yay!).

The store has been around almost 10 years.  My mom and I used to drive by it occasionaly and think about stopping, but it took us a while to actually go.  When we did, we found that the owner, Paul, was working on fixing up the storefront as well as selling antiques and furniture.  Paul has a background in historic preservation, and I asked if I could help him do some work on the place to learn about how to fix old buildings.  I was about 16 or 17 at the time, but I showed up almost every Saturday afternoon and used 409 cleaner, a dentist's pick, and a toothbrush to clean the paint off of the Frank Lloyd Wright designed glass tiles over the front plate-glass windows (those tiles sell for about $60 each, and there must be at least 200 in the whole shop!).  There was no central heat in the building, and still isn't as far as I know, so we used an old wood/coal stove to keep warm.  I was allowed to explore the old burned-out apartments upstairs, and learned that the building had once been a photography studio.  Even then, I was in heaven...

I eventually had to stop helping Paul out, but I try to stop in every so often to see how things are going.  Paul's partner makes stained glass, and his work now decorates the store as well.  It's unfortunate that the shop is in a shabbier part of town; there was a revitalization effort that started when the shop opened, but it has since fizzled out.  The neighborhood is crap, and filled with abandoned homes and buildings.  It really makes me sad, since there are so many unique and interesting buildings in that area.

Today at Relics, I found what I've been looking for for a long time: an affordable bookshelf with leaded glass doors.  I couldn't take a picture, since there was so much glare on the shop windows, but this photo is very close to what it looks like:
It might even be identical.  I'm not sure that the pattern in the glass is the same, but it's very close, and the feet and curved edges are exactly the same.  I'm so excited!  This is undoubtedly the most expensive piece of furniture I've bought in my life (and still under $600, lol!), and also the most unique.  It will look gorgeous in our living room and really bring in the arts and crafts feel.  It is missing a shelf on the left side, but we can either put large items on the bottom, or have a shelf made.  They have a very simple routed edge that shouldn't be difficult at all to replicate.  The top has some nicks and scratches also, but we'll just put a runner over it.  We couldn't bring it home today, but Shayne's going to get it by next weekend.  I can't wait!!