Friday, February 28, 2014


Yesterday wasn't the coldest day of the year, but it was pretty chilly.  Of course, that was the day we decided to take our recycling to the junk yard.  We learned our lesson and don't go on Saturday morning, because the line to get IN to the junk yard is at least 4 blocks long.  It's at least 2 blocks long inside the junk yard, too.  It's not a fast moving line. 

We haven't been crushing the cans so we've got a large volume, but not much weight to the bags. 

Up the conveyer the cans go.  On to the scale.  Then into a tractor trailer.
The junk yard is a little scary.  Large equipment.  Loud noises.  Dirty...everything.

$60.20 was the total profit just for the aluminum cans.  Not a bad profit for doing something we already planned to do.  A small can crusher is on the list.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Look out Below!

5 minutes ago it was snowing so much I couldn't see across campus.

The snowflakes were HUGE!

The sun is out now. Give it a minute.  It will probably snow again.

Monday, February 24, 2014


House #1 has balloon framing.  If you asked me a year ago what balloon framing was I would probably described one of the following:
I now know that this is balloon framing:
You can drop a screw in one of these wall voids and it will fall the whole way from the attic to the basement.  Trust me, I have done it.  Not intentionally. 
Balloon framing is the style of framing for houses that uses long 2x4 studs that run uninterrupted from the foundation to the roof. 
When it first came into use it was a radically different type of construction from the braced frame that preceded it for centuries. The earlier style timber framing used large timbers interlocked with chiseled joints secured with wood pegs. The balloon frame relies solely on nails to secure each piece.
There is plenty of debate as to exactly where the first balloon framed house was built and who came up with the idea. Chicago tends to get most of the credit.
As this method of construction became more popular, it gradually gained acceptance from designers and was eventually used in the construction of many structural designs of the late Victorian period. It became the most common type of wood-frame construction from about 1890 until around the late 1930s and is found throughout the entire US.
This type of framing has survived quite well and certainly filled a need at a time when our nation was rapidly expanding.
But a minus, a BIG minus, of this type of framing is its fire hazard potential. In the event of a house fire, wall cavities extending from the foundation to the roof can be an open path for fire to spread quickly, like smoke up a chimney. There have been numerous reports of fires originating in the basement that have been first detected by smoke emitting from the eaves. The spaces between ceilings and floors are also interconnected to the wall cavities, which can allow a fire to quickly spread and possibly cause structural failure to floors without warning.

This is a problem, but not insurmountable. 

A few 2x4s measured to fit, some fire proof caulking, and insulation will solve this problem.

With all of the improvements we have made, it would be foolish to skip this step. 

It is a tedious step, but a necessary one.  One step closer to insulation and dry wall. 

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Saturday night

I had a bad day on Thursday. Work, boss, co-workers, and the hassles of life got the best of me.

It happens. It isn't the first time and it won't be the last time. A few tears, a few hugs, and a good sleep puts everything in perspective. 

Walt Kowalski and I headed in opposite directions on this beautiful sunshiney day. This is an unusual occurrence.

I headed to see the niece play basketball and he puttered around the house and yard, cleaning up the fallen tree limbs, straightening up the dwindling log pile, and prepped the grill for the first dinner of the season. (I should also mention that he also ran the sweeper, did a few loads of laundry, and emptied and reloaded the dishwasher. But that just sounds like I am bragging and a slacker.)

After a delicious dinner of red meat and potatoes we adjourned to the couch next to a fire in the game room.   

Snuggled under a blanket, Walt Kowalski curled up next to me and purred "ahhhhh, you are warm as toast. No, make that peanut butter toast.  Even better, peanut butter toast with apricot jelly."

Tonight I am peanut butter toast with apricot jelly on the couch.

I can think of nothing better for this moment.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Today's How To or Rather How Not To

Don't worry, we haven't stopped remodeling House#1.  We're just a non-photogenic point.  How many times can you take a picture of a 2x4? 

Instead I will give you a little lesson.  Today's lesson involves paying bills. 

I am the bill payer in the house.  Not that Walt Kowalski can't, but I have taken over the role because most of the bills are paid online.  Which. I. Love.  I am online more of the day than he is.  I was one of the first to jump on the online banking bandwagon. 

I love being able to set up a pay date and check the next day to make sure the money is out of (or into) the account.  I can time when the bills are paid.  This also means that I wait and pay a bill on the *exact* day it is due. 

I can pay the bills from either account.  The truck payment comes out of Walt Kowalski's account and the electric bill comes out of mine. 

It is also convenient because Grammy can call and say "I missed the mailman, would you pay my gas bill?"  Click, click, click, done.

At my bank, the bills take a day to pay.  If the bill is due on the 4th, the money comes out at close of business on the 3rd.

I had a $217.77 bill for the department store (lots of Christmas presents) due on Tuesday, February 4th.  I left it sitting on my desk so I would pay it first thing Monday morning.  As it turns out, Monday, February 3rd was the day of the BIG snow (one of them).  Work was closed!  Woo hoo!

I didn't think about the bill until Tuesday morning.  Crap.  Now the bill will be a day late. 

That's fine.  Tuesday morning, I set up a $217.77 payment.  Just like it was planned, the bill was paid the next day. 

Fast forward, 10 days.  Walt Kowalski brings up the mail and inside is a bill from the department store.    Hmmmm, we haven't been shopping since.  Crap, and double crap, it's a bill for the late fee.  25 smackers for a late fee and a reminder that the bill was now over due.  Now the bill has totaled up to $242.77.

My desire to pay on the due date has bitten me in the butt.

The payment and the paper bill must have crossed in the mail AND I'll probably still have that late fee, which totally ate up part of the coupon savings in the first place. I'm still mad at myself.  (Mentally, I'm thinking of a way to "earn back" that $25 in late fees.)

Everyday for the last week, when we returned home from work, there was a missed call from the department store.  Wow, they must really want their late fee. 

Today there was an email from the department store about an unpaid bill, late fee and now service charges and interest.  Now the past due bill is up to $248.77.

This makes no sense.  16 days later I'm still getting correspondence about the bill that was due on the 4th and paid on the 5th?

I logged into the banking site and I can clearly see that I made a payment and the payment was withdrawn from the account on the 5th. 

What is going on?  I am getting notices that the bill is still due yet the money was withdrawn from the account.

Then it hits me like a ton of bricks. Maybe two ton of bricks.

The shopping trip prior to Christmas was with Grammy.  She had the 30% off coupon and put everything on her account.  When the bill arrived, I paid the bill on her account.

Her account. 

*sigh*  I paid on time.  I just selected the wrong account from the list. 

After, I figured out the problem, I spoke with the department store and they were kind enough to drop the late fee and service charge.

I paid the correct bill this time. 

Grammy now has a $217.77 credit on her account.  Anyone want to go shopping?

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

A ray?

There was a ray of sunshine this morning.  A few rays before the clouds returned. 

The rain drops on the trees looked like Christmas lights. (Of course this photo would have been even better if the emergency telephone wasn't in it.)

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Cabin Fever

I have cabin fever.

I want cake.
I want chips.
I want toast.

Maybe I have carbohydrate fever.

I want sunshine.
I want the windows open.
I want to dig in the dirt.
I want to sit on the patio, next to the camp fire and grill delicious foods with a frozen drink in my hand.
I want my lips not chapped.
I want my hands not dry and cracked.

Want. Want. Want. 

Piles of freshly shoveled snow remind me of powdered sugar or flour.

I know, not helping with the desire for cake.
Even the tops of the tables outside look like cakes just after they have been removed from their baking pans. 
Enough with the talk about cake!  As Walt Kowalski would say "You know what would be good right now?  Pie."

Monday, February 17, 2014


Everybody had a different style of shoveling.  Some push. Some throw.  Some sweep.
Flat shovels, big plow shovels, ergonomic shovels,
Here are two of the neighbors.  The gentleman in the plaid jacket across the street is using a push broom.  I've never seen him use a shovel.  He uses the method of pushing it out into the street and letting the city deal with it. 
This lady is using a carrying method.  She'd pick up a shovel of snow and carry it back to the curb.  Pick up a shovel of snow, carry it back to the curb. 
That lasted for about 6 or 7 scoops and then she started throwing the snow out in the street, too.
Then the entertainment moved to the back alley where this car was stuck. Two pushing, one steering.

They used his floor mats as traction.  Good idea, but they will never be the same.

The person in blue was plenty of help. Every job needs a supervisor.

More Power (grunt grunt grunt)

Our electrician, Power Tower, returned this weekend.  He stopped by last week to see the progress. 

We had to make a few decisions about outlets and cable.  With flat screen TVs now mounted on walls, there is no longer a need for a cable box near the floor.  Now they are50 inches (or more) high on the wall. 

We had to decide which way doors were going to swing, where beds and furniture might be located, and where a hanging TV would have the least amount of glare. 

With his knowledge on new construction, he knew the standards and code for the state.  

Did you know that in our state there is no "smoke alarm requirement applicable to existing homes not undergoing changes?"  In other words, unless you are remodeling your house there is no law stating that you must have a smoke detector in your house.   Wow.  Other states are more strict. 

For new construction, since, 2006, a "one-family or two-family unit dwellings to be equipped with interconnected smoke alarms that must receive their primary power from the building wiring."

I had no idea.  But I like it.  So does Walt Kowalski. That's exactly what Power Tower did for the smoke alarms.

The other electrical code requirement is a receptacle (outlet) every 12 feet in "every kitchen, family, dining, living, parlor, library, den, sunroom, bedroom, recreation, or room similar area of dwelling."

The idea behind this regulation is that no electrical device should require an extension cord. Sensible, but a power strip is sometimes necessary. 

We have brought the house up to code in more ways than one. However, it also means that if you set off the smoke detector on the first floor because you accidentally burn your toast, the alarm is going to sound on all floors and nobody in the house is going to sleep through it. 

I have never set off the smoke detector because I burnt my toast or the macaroni or the cheese on the nachos.  Nope.  Never. 

Power Tower drilled through all of the studs and is wiring the house as is standard now.  As Walt Kowalski and I were measuring to find the center of the rooms for the ceiling fan boxes, I was trying to remember how they had it wired previously. 

The house had very little wiring.  I think each room had only one over head light fixture, one power switch to turn it on, and one outlet. 

Friday, February 14, 2014

Snow Cones

Walt Kowalski is trying something new in the stink bug battle.  Frozen.  Yum.
Instead of the shoe treatment, they get the snow treatment.  (I should have marked these bugs to see if they come back alive I the spring.)

After throwing several outside into the frozen tundra, Oreo wanted outside.  I tried to convince her it was cold outside and she really didn't want to go out.  It was too cold to leave the window open; instead I brought the snow into them.

Oreo, Fudge, and Cocoa Fluff had a few sniffs and licks, but after that, nobody was interested.  

In the summer, Cocoa loves to escape out the back door. Funny, she's not so interested this time of the year.  You'll find her on the warm pillow, instead.

Thursday, February 13, 2014


Walt Kowalski and I weren't the only ones that went to the gym last night.
Cocoa Fluffy exercised with the foil ball.  She chased that ball of foil around the house for at least an hour. 

She cornered it, attacked it, and chased it when Walt Kowalski rolled it to her.
It moved fast on the hardwood and tile floor. She even picked it up in her mouth and brought it back to Walt Kowalski several times.

Fudge worked out his arms with the candy cane.  (I always miss a few Christmas decorations.  This one was hiding behind the curtains.)

Fudge, and the girls, don't mind when you poke them quickly.  But if you slow down and come towards them v-e-r-y s-l-o-w-l-y...that will freak them out every time.

Then everybody rests. 

Fudge looks sad on top of the cat tree, but don't let him fool you.  His spot is on the couch downstairs.  He is the first to jump up and hog the couch when we have a fire. 

You can see he's planning an attack on cocoa Fluffy. 

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

False Advertising

I am here for your amusement.  To tell you stories, to entertain, to humor and maybe, just maybe, you won't have the luck that I have. 

The Mama of House #1 needs a washer and dryer.  Just by chance, the mayor had a dryer for sale.  Lucky for us!  It was an older model, with very few scratches from moving, but is in excellent condition.   His mom needed a new washer and wanted the matching set.  She didn't want an unmatched pair. Her desire for a matching washer and dryer means good fortune for us. 

Now the search for a washer.

To quote Grammy, 'I have never owned a matching washer and dryer in my entire life.' 

The life cycle of a washer and dryer do not match.  It's worse than hotdogs and hot dog buns.

Our laundry room isn't much better.    Two years ago, the safety outlet (GFI) by the washer kept tripping. I would put a load of clothes in the machine and return a half hour later expecting to find clean clothes.  Instead, I would to find a washing machine full of wet clothes and soapy water.  Or sometimes it was wet clothes and clean rinse water. 

Stupid outlet.  The outlet must be going bad.  Push the reset button.  Start the washer where it left off.

Ha!  If only. 

Then one day...

I filled up the washer.  Filled it up to the brim with jeans, sweatshirts, warm water, soap, and cranked it up.  Away it went.  Washa, washa, washa. 

Except this time, I found out that the problem wasn't the outlet. 
Except this time, the washer turned off and never turned back on.
Except this time, I forgot about it for longer than a half hour.  Which normally wouldn't have been a problem.  So what if the cleanly washed and spun clothes are wet for an extra hour or they have time to get cold? They are going in the dryer.
Except this time, when I returned, the washer was still full of wet, dirty, soggy clothes, water, and soap. 
Except this time, I forgot about the clothes so long that the water got ice cold.  It was, of course, January and the laundry room doesn't have an overabundance of heat. 

I know it could have been much worse. It could have been a washer full of hot water with bleach and dirty socks. Ewwwww.

But then, on a snowy day in January 2012, a new washer was delivered. Two young men dragged the new washer up the driveway hill, installed it, and took the old one away. 

We tipped them for their good work. They were surprised and pleased with the tip.

The old dryer is still going.  It's squeaky, but it runs and makes the clothes soft and dry.  They, too, are an unmatched pair. 

Back to the search for a washing machine.  The Mama of House #1 found a good deal on that website advertising jobs, housing, appliances, and anything else you might want to sell that someone else might want to buy.  We'll call it Bobslist.  (We'll talk about our love of all things Bob later.)

She contacted the owner, secured the funds, and arranged pick-up.  Walt Kowalski and I had the easy part, we were the pick-up team. 
The washer was a good deal.  $150.  Only two-years-old.  Good name brand.  Close to home. Good neighborhood.  Why such a good deal for a new washer?  They were getting married, both had washing machines, and didn't need two.  Sounds good to us.

It was exactly the deal she was looking for.

Walt Kowalski and I got to the house at the arranged time and knocked on the door.  The woman of the house answered and said to meet her around back where the washer was located.

But the washer wasn't on the back porch or side porch.  The washer was in the car port.  The unheated, outside car port.

Do I need to remind you that the high temperature yesterday was 21 degrees?

The unheated part wasn't good, but it wasn't the worst of the situation.  The floor of car part wasn't paved.  It wasn't patio stones.  It wasn't even a gravel base.  It was dirt.  Which is fine for a car.  It is not a fine place to keep a washing machine.

The washing machine was not two-years-old.  False advertising #1.  The photo she sent was not of this actual washing machine sitting outside.  False Advertising #2. 
After looking at the washing machine it was obvious that it was not actually two-years-old but instead had been sitting in the mud of the carport for two years.  Big difference.  BIG difference.  Plain and simple, she lied to the Mama of House #1.

Not only were there leaves inside the machine, but over the two year period, the washing machine had sunk an inch down into the mud.

Sunk. Into. The. Mud. 

Did I mention that the high temperature yesterday was 21 degrees?  Did I mention that the low temperature yesterday was 3 degrees?

Not only was the washing machine suck in the mud, but it was frozen in that inch of mud.  Even Walt Kowalski couldn't push the washing machine loose.  All three of us together tried and couldn't push that washing machine loose.

I'm not even going to mention what could happen to a washing machine engine and parts if it freezes.  (All of the water never leaves the inner workings of a washer.)

The woman of the house said 'Oh let me see if I have a shovel.  You you can dig it out.'  

The thought of digging out a washing machine has never crossed my mind.  Digging my car out of the snow.  Digging the flowers out of the dirt.  Digging the vegetables out of the garden.  Washing machine?  Nope.

Walt Kowalski was so kind.  She handed him a broken shovel.  The shovel looked like someone took a bite out of the blade.  He took one look at the shovel and said 'This is only half of a shovel.'  She replied, 'Oh, my husband is a mason.'

I know that it took all of his power not to say 'What is he?  Half of a mason?' 

Walt Kowalski gave the ice mud around the washer a couple of jabs with the half shovel and said 'You'd better ask your husband to work on it when he gets home.  Text us if he gets it loose.'  He is so kind. That is not what he was thinking. 

He was just as frustrated as I was.  Once we got in the truck, all we could do was laugh. 


So the hunt continues. There are several outlets with scratch and dent appliances in the area.  We'll check them out.  Worst case a brandy, new, shiny washer is on sale for $299. 

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Award Winning

Walt Kowalski and I will never win a service award at work.  It's not that we couldn't win it.  We both have participated in projects to serve the community.  The awards are political and a popularity contest.  Neither of us have supervisors that would nominate us for it.  I guess we're just not very popular.
Who would have thought that even as adults we still need to win popularity contests? 
Instead, let us focus on our own project and how far we have come. 
How quickly I have forgotten.
Once a bedroom with the attic door... 

is now a hallway to the attic door and two bedroom doors.  That looks award winning to me. 

Once a wall up the stairs and a wall to the dining room...

Is now an extra large opening to the living room and no wall to the dining room.  (You can't see it in this photo, but it's there.  Or rather, not there.)

Monday, February 10, 2014

Halls and Walls

We finished installing plywood on the floors upstairs.  Now it's time to build a couple of walls.

Originally, the house had 4 bedrooms, but the only entrance into the front bedroom, was through the back bedroom.  Often called a walk-through or a pass-through bedroom and only considered a half bedroom. Not convenient and technically not a true bedroom by realty standards. 

How do you fix that?  A hall and a door.


Now each bedroom has a standard door and the big bedrooms have an additional door between the rooms. 

For now, easy access to check on the baby or get a toddler to sleep in her own bed. 

But also an easy fix if the shared door was no longer wanted.

The electrician also stopped over to check on progress.  With the installation of the floor and the new walls, we have a better idea of locations for outlets and switches. He can return and start wiring.

Which means...insulation and dry wall on the second floor are not far behind.  Very exciting.

Less than 24 hours

What a difference a day makes. 

In this case, not one to be thrilled about. 

Yesterday, just before sunset. 


Today.  Is there a sunset?

I know that in a few weeks the photos will be reversed.  But right now......blah.

Friday, February 7, 2014


Grammy cut this out and sent it to me:

It's held on the fridge with a nice beach magnet.  *sigh* the beach.

I am a Fruit Loop in a world full of Cheerios.  Lately, it feels like Walt Kowalski and I are the only loops in a box full of crumbs.  Especially at work. 

The snow must be getting to me.  

My "Christmas Tree" springs are still outside.  Every time I plan to pack them away with the Christmas stuffs, it snows on them again.

I spray painted them green with plans to add red bits and a star on top to each, but never got farther than the green paint before Christmas. 

Next year I will do better. 

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Unintentional Time Capsule

The newel post at the top of the stairs was loose.  The railing was missing at least 4 spindles.  The ones that were left had been duct taped because they were broken.  Then the tape was painted green. 
There was nothing worth saving about this railing.  Walt Kowalski reminds me all the time that we are not restoring, we are renovating.  We're not like the crazy lady on TV. 

Once Walt Kowalksi cut off the newel post (I had to look up how to spell newel) all kinds of junk poured out.

At first we thought a mouse had made a home inside, but upon closer inspection...
it was the original owners.  An unintentional time capsule, of sorts.

Lots of candy and gum wrappers.  A football schedule.  A tag from clothes from G. C. Murphy's.

Marbles, pennies, and an eye patch.  (ARGH!)

A hospital pass.  A Sunday pass that is.  Only two persons on Sunday between 3pm and 4pm. 

The items were in good condition, so a rodent didn't put them here.  We think the finial must have been loose and the kids were putting things in when mom wasn't looking.  Or when mom was in the hospital.
(What was happening on May 10, 1942?  The middle of World War II.) 
On the walls up to the attic was the last remaining lath in the house.  The beams for the rafters from the left side of the house and the right side of the house meet right in this area.  Walt Kowalski wanted a better support wall for the attic and roof.   

Once we had a temporary support wall built, then we could work on removing the lath and old wall.

Mess, mess, and more mess.  There was so much dust floating in the air that the flash on my camera reflected on it and made it look like snow. 

Laser beams.

The attic steps also don't have any support in the middle.  The steps to the attic aren't true steps.  They are only 1/2 inch thick boards nailed together and there is not support under them.  The 2x4 board you see in the middle of the steps was only placed there to have something to nail the lath.  As you go up the attic steps, the steps bow in the middle and the top two steps are broken.  Right now, nothing is safe about them. 

Removing the wall really made the landing of the second floor open, but it wasn't safe.  Knowing me, I would be the first to accidentally fall down the stairs. 

Our plan is to build a half wall where the railing used to be.  It will give it support, but still make it feel open.

See that temporary wall just behind the silver ladder?  We plan to move that wall slightly to the left and make it permanent creating a small hall to the third bedroom.

The new support wall.