Saturday, December 29, 2012

Cooking with Gas!

The incredible lag in posting time on this blog is the result of...wait for it....COOKING INSIDE for the first time in 11 months! 

Handyman made it just under the wire for the one-year anniversary of the complete transplant of the heart of our home.  The awesome little cooktop had been waiting patiently, upstairs in its original packaging, for a DECADE.  Through some amazing twist of fate, we had not chosen harvest gold, or avocado green.  It is boring old stainless steel, which I am sure was cutting-edge style at the time. 

Apparently the mice were put off by the styrofoam packing, because all the wiring was intact and operational.  But, as is our habit, it was not simply a matter of "screw in the gas line and lite 'er up!"

Our propane tank is left over from our early days of propane heating.  We flew that coop just in time to avoid the skyrocketing costs of fossil fuel heat.  When we brought in our geothermal heat-pump, the only thing left running on propane was the cooktop.  The propane delivery guy looked at the fill gauge and said, "I'll see you in about 5 years."

Then a mouse took up residence around the gauge, under its protective metal helmet and we never saw the delivery guy again.  Fast-forward five years (well, we didn't use any propane this past year, unless it came in a portable bottle).  We now have a gigantic propane tank, with an old line and an even older regulator going into the house, so of course Handyman had to make 3,418 trips to Menards.  But, he did it.  And he didn't even have to hack the drawer apart to get the connections through the cabinet.  This guy has talent. 

All these years we have also kept the exterior venting option intact, so we could have a hood fan that actually takes the stinky, greasy air out of the house, as well!  We had very different tastes regarding hoods, but my MO is to let Handyman make a choice and only disagree if I know I will not be able to stand it. 

His hood choice was chosen based on cost.  He didn't want to spend a lot of money.  While I am certainly in that mindset, I could not stand the selection.  It brought new meaning to the word boring, so I did whine a little and ask if there might be something else?  Fortunately for me, he likes to shop and he's good at it.  He learned it from his mother.

I am like his brother; "I see it, like it, buy it, go home."  He is a peruser.  The internet saves us so much driving.   So he did find another hood and we liked it a lot better.  The second choice has better 2 lighting levels, better looks and 3 speeds on the fan--a winner all around.  Love that internet shopping, no sales tax and it arrives on my doorstep in mere hours!

The cooktop came out of retirement like gangbusters.  It is wonderful.  Has four different size burners, but a continuous heavy gridwork going around, including a resting spot between the two burner rows.  I really like that.  I can slide the hot pot to the resting place without picking it up or worrying about it dropping off the burner.  The largest burner heats up "right now", almost like an Aga, heating water very quickly.

So we hooked it all up, (and I use the term "we" VERY loosely), and by golly, #2 made macaroni and cheese to celebrate! 
I'm very excited that the performance and the looks of our appliance choices have held up after being in the time warp of 10 years before they were put to work. 

Handyman also was sent out on his own for a dishwasher.  We spent many days looking through consumer reports, comparing and finding and reading reviews at multiple sites.  I begged off and sent him out to choose for us.

He loves taking pictures with his Iphone and sending them home--price tags, styles, colors, dimensions, whatever.  So he did confer with me, but I had said all along that once we got to the sink/dishwasher removal, there had better be a replacement sitting there, ready to go right back into the spot.  I was not going without either one of them for more than a week.  That was a plunge into purgatory for all of us.  Dishes on the driveway, dishes in the bathtub, dishes put away, welcome fastfood.

He chose a Kenmore, and man! do we love it.  It is uber-quiet.  In fact, we will be getting a second one sometime in the near future.  That was my splurge request on the kitchen re-do, a second dishwasher.  We like to have people over to eat; well, we did, back when we could still invite people over to eat; and we never can fit everything in the dishwasher.  So I end up with a sink full of dishes that sits overnight, ready to taunt me first thing in the morning.  Hate it.

So, I made sure I could locate a photo from a magazine of two dishwashers, and I asked.  He agreed.  I do think both our moms sided with me on this, which was helpful.  And now that we really love the first dishwasher, it won't be a big hassle to get another one.

We lived for several months with OSB flooring and finally settled on vinyl strips that look like dark wood.  Of course we didn't pay someone else to put down said flooring, because we don't do that.  So after we hassled the store to get it delivered quickly, we went another entire month before he had 3 days off in a row to put it in!  And of course, there were strong warnings about having the entire area VERY, VERY clean (read: no pet hair).  Like that is possible.

But, he did it.  And it is great!  Next up is putting in the bathroom fixtures, even without a door; and ordering our island parts!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012


Can a marriage survive remodeling?

This is a very important consideration, prior to that first sledge hammer strike. Remodeling is not for the faint of heart. DIY remodeling is not for the sane. This is my (our) second go 'round of serious remodeling. This one has lasted longer than the last one. Cost more than the last one. And we're older doing it--thus more strain and weariness.

We are pretty close to the same place on most everything. But whenever we want to test our separateness, we just head to the nearest big-box DIY store. Handyman has pretty high-end taste. Hence our continuous state of "no retirement savings". He doesn't go for cheap, quick or halfway.

I, on the other hand, revel in the bargain. But, after two decades with the man, I have grown accustomed to the niceties he has brought my way. He can get a little bogged down in the sedate and predictable. Which is why he fell for me--flamboyant, dramatic, prone to color jags. We complement one another.

The biggest fight we ever had was over what color red to paint our master bathroom, at our old house. It went on for weeks. My friend Anita explained to me that men will always go for orange-reds, while women will gravitate to more blue-reds (lipstick). She was right. I finally won that particular battle--not sure how, really.

So here we are back in that position again. We avoided much of it so far, by bringing our previous paint colors with us to this house--honestly. We wrote them all down and have re-used them, albeit in different rooms. And now we need to choose some things for the kitchen. I found some lights to hang over the island, in a magazine. Looked them up on the internet, only $3400 EACH. Yikes!

Handyman, of course, wants these retro-metal things that look like they came out of Frankenstein's lab, or these clear bulbs with filament showing, on fabric cords. I want those swirly ceramic, vivid color pendants. He wants tan. :/ We move on to something else.

He wants a farmhouse sink. I want a sink that doesnt require a special cabinet and doesn't cost more than a car payment. He wants tile in the breezeway; He's not getting it.

He asked me to go dishwasher shopping. I refused. I told him I don't have time. Here are my parameters for a dishwasher: 1. It must work, well. As in 3x/day for 10 years. And 2. It must cost less than $1200. That's all I ask. That, and that he is not allowed to remove the existing one until he has one, in a box in the middle of the kitchen.

Several people have said to me, recently, "You are such a trooper. How do you put up with it?" Perhaps the strain is beginning to show, but mostly I just say, "What choice do I have?" I can't sit around crying. I have to keep feeding people.

We (and I use that term VERY loosely) are now mudding the drywall in the kitchen and half-bath. We were going to put those faux tin tiles on the bathroom ceiling, but they were going to total out around $160, and we just didn't want to spend it there, now. We can always add that later. Right now, we need flooring, sink, dishwashers, countertops, hood, under-counter beverage cooler, disposal, prep sink, cabinet handles.

Yes, I did say "dishwashers", plural. I think that would be awesome. We love to have people over. At least we used to, back when we could. And we could never get everything in one load. So the sink sat full of dishes, while the dishwasher ran. And when I got up in the morning, there were MORE DISHES TO RUN. Blech.

Sometimes I get my way on these things. Sometimes I don't. I have learned not to be too pushy. He can get a little mule-ish. For now, I'm just trying to avoid the laboratory lighting. Every so often I feel of wave of weakness that just makes me say, "I don't care what you do. Just get it done. I'll pretend this is how it was when I moved in."

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Hello, Food Network?!

We have not had cable tv for almost 10 years. Hard to believe, I know. Trust me, we have spent all the monetary savings on other things, like horse bedding and fence. But the psychological "savings" are without measure. My children haven't been exposed to thousands of murders, crimes against women and smut-without-end.

There are certainly things we would have enjoyed watching. We are probably the only people to have checked out an entire season of Ask This Old House, from the library--and watch it from beginning to end, with delight! It is great to have online access to tv shows and movies nowadays. How handy it is to pick and choose at our convenience, and without most of the ads.

Because we DON'T HAVE A KITCHEN, we eat frequently at my mother-in-law's house. Bonus: She has cable. We, of course, gravitate to the Food Network. Our favorite is Chopped. I know most of you have been watching this for eons. But it is relatively new to us. (We tend to be about 3 years behind on most things, including fashion.)

We really love Chopped. We pick up children late, so we can watch Chopped. We take children home to bed past their bedtime so we can finish episodes of Chopped. We critique it. We compare it. We have teared-up watching it. We are planning living it in our new kitchen!

But I really think they should change the parameters for a show that has professional chefs as contestants. Yeah, the time limit thing is a challenge, but please--They have access to every amenity, appliance and ingredient. They don't even have to clean up after themselves, other than wiping the little plate rims!

You want a challenge?! How about NO cooktop, NO oven, 4 sq. ft. of prep space, which is a plastic folding table? You have a microwave, toaster oven, rice cooker, crock pot and electric skillet; but must use only one outlet--and it is touchy, sometimes turning things off without your knowledge. There is one propane burner--but it is OUTSIDE--which does affect your cooking in winter, as well as the length of time you are willing to stand there.

There is an almost-empty freezer, limited produce and three hungry children. One of them doesn't like ground meat. One of them won't eat chicken if it resembles a chicken. One of them doesn't like mushrooms. Nobody wants a sandwich and everybody wants homemade macaroni and cheese. The grocery is ONLY 3 miles away. You have 45 minutes, but your significant other is on his way home, after having had a catered lunch...clock is ticking!

Your basket contains: 1 pkg. frozen chicken tenders, 1 large potato, some dehydrated onions, turkey pepperoni, frozen corn and whole-wheat tortillas. There are some pickled beets, cottage cheese and Paul Newman's Caesar dressing in the refrig. Afterwards you can clean it all up, take out and feed the dogs, clean the horse stalls, do some laundry and then prepare for tomorrow.

Those guys are pansies! (Although the episode with powdered strawberry milk and cheese curls was a toughie!)

One night, after Chopped ended--waaaah!--we watched Worst Cooks in America. How sad is that? We all thought it sounded pretty lame, but we watched. (What is the matter with this country that we have people barely able to feed themselves, let alone their families??)

A couple of things happened as a result:

1. I am much more confident in my "kitchen". (I felt like Emeril next to those people!)
2. I don't have trouble getting things to the table at the same time.
3. I know how a can-opener operates.
4. I have actually made sausage from scratch! (Thank you Needa!)

Although my hair often looks like Chef Anne; Handyman has assured me, I do not qualify for that show!


Thursday, February 23, 2012

Resistance is Futile

What disappointed us the most about the job they had done, was that it was mostly done. The things we were unhappy with, were things that would require A LOT of undoing to change. Handyman had done a walk-through with the boss before the bid was made. He had asked over and over, "Any issues with this? This is where X goes. Any problems?" No, no and nope. But the boss wasn't on the job and apparently hadn't discussed in detail, exactly how things were supposed to go.

Had they talked to me during the day, I would have been able to either stop the work at that point until Handyman could address it; or at least call him and ask him for a decision on things that they could then apply to the on-going work.

Why, oh why, didn't they coordinate with me? I had opened conversation with them multiple times throughout the day. They could have brought things up at any time. Nothing. Not even a request for approval.

So the youngish boss/owner showed up the next morning. Handyman walked him from place to place, pointing out what we were unhappy about. I overheard him saying something about Handyman being more of a carpenter than they were...and somehow H. impressed upon them how that trap was going to be up above that ceiling, no ifs, ands or buts about it.

Only one of the plumbers was there from the day before. Handyman called me into the fray as we walked out into the (future) laundry room. The boss stood looking at the work, repeating, "You're the customer. We want you to be happy." But he never said, "You're right. This should've been done differently." When I plead my case about the washer hose box being in the completely wrong place, their response was "Washer hoses are 5' long. It'll reach, no problem."

I turned to the owner and said, "We get one shot at this. Would this be acceptable in your home?" He hemmed and hawed and finally said, "Yeah. I think so." I was shocked. But it pretty much summed up their level of professionalism. I turned to the plumber who had done the work..."I gave you a scale drawing of this space. How did it turn out like this?" I asked. "This is not where the drawing shows the box."

He hemmed and hawed and ended up with, "I don't know." Certainly something you do not want to hear from someone who is getting paid $100/hour, or thereabouts. I wanted to say, "Did you just use the force? Any old place on this wall is fine, because washer hoses are 5' long." Do other people not care about this stuff?

I told the boss how unprofessional it was, that they didn't tell me they fell through the ceiling, twice! His reply was, "Well, they were going to tell your husband."

They tried to console us with these two options: "We can rip out all the work we have done, which will have to include all the new work in the 2 new bathrooms upstairs and re-do it (not at their expense-mind you); or you can flip-flop the position of your washer and dryer. Dryer doors are reversible, you know?"

The original contracted amount was almost $3,000, so ripping out and redo on our dime was way out of consideration. Handyman pointed out how the dryer vent was going to run through the crawlspace to the outside; and how the positions were set to make the venting easy by running it along the band board (THAT WE REPLACED THE WEEK BEFORE--the 20' one!) to the outside. They offered to run the dryer vent through the crawl space for us and rough-in our slop sink. And they would take $100 off the bill for the drywall damage in the garage ceiling.

$100 sounds like a lot until you consider that we will have to cut and remove the damaged drywall, and reinstall it from below--holding it over our heads. Because you know, we don't really have any other pressing needs in this house right now. The garage ceiling can just be thrown into the mix--NOT! Handyman's time is worth more than the $100.

There was no option other than to accept their proposal. They ran the dryer vent. They finished up whatever they weren't done with, in silence. The boss left. No one apologized. We succeeded in not screaming in frustration.

After they left, Handyman ventured into the crawlspace and was not happy with the work done there either. It will work fine, but it is not done in an orderly or efficient manner. It seems like a job done by a teenager who doesn't care. Not what you're hoping to get on a system that needs to function really well for the next several decades.

What could we do, but move on? Eternally optimistic, we realize it could've been a lot worse. Lesson learned, again. (I'm encouraging the girls to marry plumbers.)

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Splish, splash, ever seen a tape measure??!

So, the plumbers in the fancy trucks came. It was to be a two-day gig, and unfortunately, Handyman had to work on day one. This is never a good sign. But I try really hard to be knowledgeable and impressively determined. I learn lingo, I read articles. I am not the nit-wit wife of old.

I greet them. I pop in and out of the kitchen/laundry area multiple times, to be accessible. I chit-chat about football. Trying to make them feel comfortable talking to me. Hoping they will realize I am not clueless in this realm-of-man-skills.

Handyman leaves me a scale drawing of our laundry room, to present to the skilled craftsmen. I do this. I say, "Here is a scale drawing of the layout for this space." They say, "Okay. Thanks." I leave them to their devices while I go educate my children.

They work diligently all day. At one point, I go out to the garage refrigerator to get milk. As I turn to come back in, I glance up and see one of them, through the ceiling, in the room above the garage. It strikes me as odd for some reason...but I am in a hurry, so I let it go.

I remind them a couple of times that Handyman will be here tomorrow. If there is anything they are unsure about, he will be here all day. They never ask me one question, all day.

When they are ready to leave, they show me where the trap for my upstairs shower is now positioned, right in the exact geometric center of my new kitchen ceiling. Which should be fine, except, the "trap", the curvy little bit of pvc pipe is hanging down below the level of the main support beam across the kitchen.

We are not putting up drywall on our ceiling. We are doing a wood panel that will be painted white. That means there is no, I repeat, NO extra space to hide anything. ("WHAT?!" I think.)

Nonchalantly I say, "What is going on there?" mustering every bit of self-control I possess. They say, "Oh, we had to do that to get the slope for the run of the pipe. You can just box it in."

(One of my New Year's resolutions is to stop swearing. I don't know why I derive pleasure from swearing--usually to get a laugh...This is when I am really bummed that I can't just let it rip!)

So what they are suggesting, is that in my new kitchen, in the exact center of the broad expanse of glorious, flat ceiling--right next to the beautifully boxed-in, painted white beam, there will be a little bitty box hanging out of the ceiling. And my guests will inevitably say, "What is that?" and I will respond, with bliss--"Oh, that's just the trap to our shower. You know, where the hair clogs hang up." And we will all smile and go on eating artichoke and goat cheese s'mores.

"ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!" my mind shrieks! The equestrian in me has been trained not to shriek unnecessarily, so I smile vaguely and say, "He's not going to go for that."

They imply that he's going to have to, and I think, "You do not know Handyman."

I say, "Well, you guys can all work it out tomorrow. Bye." And they leave for the night.

When Handyman gets home, he is fuming before his coat hits the chair. He sees the trap, like an owl sees a mouse. He can't believe it. And then he mentions to me that they also fell through the garage ceiling--twice! Remember when I said I could see him above the garage? I was in such a hurry, it didn't register that I was looking through a hole in the ceiling drywall big enough to pass a basketball! And that wasn't the only one!

I was completely shocked that they would not have mentioned this to me! I know stupid mistakes happen. I make them all the time. But I would never, not for one minute, not mention to my client that I did something really, really ridiculously dumb!

Then he took me out to my new laundry area. I actually like doing laundry. I can't wait to have a laundry area that is not in my kitchen. I have lots of pictures of pretty laundry areas. I am looking forward to my new, completely-new, laundry area. He showed me where they had placed the washer hose box, about a foot and a half away from where the washer will be situated...behind the dryer actually. So much for the scale-drawing.

He tried to settle this in his mind. It was all done with PEX. We have never had plumbing done with PEX. So we re-read our plumbing book and it did say that to "old plumbers" PEX looks messy. So we tried to decide if these were actually just problems with how it looked--because once that drywall goes on, you won't be looking at your plumbing anymore :)--or were these actual issues with the job?

We hate to be complainers, don't like to cause trouble. These guys came highly-recommended. Maybe we were just too P-I-C-K-Y...then we glanced up, above our kitchen island, at our new conversation piece: the trap.

Handyman reached for the phone, at 8pm on a weeknight.

"I'm calling the boss," he said.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

H2O, Big Buck-O

DISCLAIMER: None of the following photos are ours. They are not our home. They are not representative of plumbing done by anyone I know. :)

Water, the most powerful force on earth, destroying more dollars worth of property, every year than any other weather item, combined; I think. The man who can control water is a man that deserves honor and glory!

Plumbing is the one thing that Handyman HATES. He can do it. He just hates to. He is willing to read the how-to books. He has done plenty of plumbing. But it is the one thing that he would rather pay someone to do. Other than that, he is a little bit of a control freak--wanting to do everything just the way he wants to do it.

And that's okay. (My dad gets a little bummed, because he gets relegated to demolition most of the time.) And a one-man crew is a pretty slow crew. But, when things finally get done, they are done just right, and beautifully...usually.

We do not have a good history regarding plumbing. Our first house was a beautiful little bungalow near a smallish, private university. It was a lovely house that had had almost nothing re-done to it. Built in 1939, it retained beautiful hardwood floors, crystal doorknobs and period lighting pieces, which we found in boxes in the basement. We redid the kitchen completely, before we had children. It was an eye-opener for me. He still talks about the size of my eyes when he took a sledge hammer to the plaster and lathing.

After five years of living there, we took the plunge to make the attic space into living space. The attic eventually became a lovely master bedroom, an office and a large bathroom and hall/stairwell. The plumbing for the new bathroom needed to run down into the linen closet and down into the basement below. Not complicated. But still, something we were willing to pay someone to do.

A friend recommended a plumber who had done some work for him. This guy came over in a van that looked like he probably lived in it. I was afraid to be there alone with him, but apparently he knew what he was talking about, and he was affordable. Handyman hired him.

The first day on the job, in fact the first half-hour on the job, he hit the main water supply line in the linen closet with the running sawzall. Psssssssssssssssss.........."Can somebody turn off the water?!" we heard him yell.

We gave him the benefit of the doubt. Sawzalls can jump back. It happens. We shut off the water and work continued. He always needed money to go get supplies. I didn't presume that there would be an itemized bill at the end.

When he was all done, it was winter. We weren't heating the attic space yet. So he was told to stub out the lines and cap them off for later. We went away, I think it was for Thanksgiving. Opening the back door, when we arrived home after being away for three days, we heard, "pssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssss."

This is NOT the noise you want to hear when you have been out of your house, for THREE DAYS! Sure enough, water was spraying up out of the capped lines in the attic, and raining down through our linen closet, flooding our little hallway (hardwood floors) and then running down through the plumbing holes in the closet floor into the basement onto the carpet and padding we had put down there....for three days.

Of course, when Handyman called "the homeless plumber", as we had dubbed him; he didn't return our call, ever. I think Handyman did get through to him once, this was before caller id on your cel. And he said he'd come out, but he never did.

So with experience like that under our belts, you can be sure that we are never excited to hire plumbers.

As I may or may not have mentioned, when we tore out the kitchen, Handyman got a little ahead of himself and gutted our master bathroom--back in August--while I was at work...after he had assured me he "wouldn't be getting into that yet." (He has admitted that perhaps it could've waited a little longer.)

I have not recovered yet. So, not only do I not have a kitchen, I also have to go downstairs, down the cold hall and onto the despised octagonal tile floor to share a bathroom with my teenagers. (I would rather share a yurt with Sherpas, or even with their yaks, truly.) But I digress.

In order to complete the kitchen ceiling, we have to run the plumbing for the master bathroom, that will someday be reinstalled. So we needed a plumber. Fortunately, that other guy didn't leave us a business card. We did call an established plumber who we had used when we lived "in the city". He came and gave an estimate.

Then we called another firm that is heavily advertised in our area. They have fancy paint jobs on all their trucks. Honestly, this made me a little leery. Handyman is NOT showy. He won't even wear red because it stands out, so I was a little surprised he was having these guys in. They gave us a bid that was about $1000 less than our long-time-known guy. So we went with them...

...let it be said, let it be known, that plumbing services should not always be chosen based on price. (I thought we learned this before.)

To be continued...

Friday, February 10, 2012

In the beginning was the house, it was void, without form and needed a lot of work.

Timeline of a kitchen: We purchased this place in 2002. It is a really cool God-story, that I won't go into right now. You'll just have to trust me. The original kitchen had old vinyl flooring that looked like bricks--no, that was in the other house. This kitchen had dusty blue counter tops, (and I know that was God dealing me some cards), dark burgundy walls (not kidding), dark Mediterranean cabinets with heavy pulls, and a border wallpaper around the ceiling that was big, gold-edged diamonds colored hunter green, navy, burgundy. Uh-huh. Not making this up.

Two walls had dusty blue counter top at desk height, with glorious fluorescent fixtures above as task lighting. Not really sure if this was eating space or homework space. There was an island with a butcher block top, which was nice. Icky side-by-side refrig, cooktop and double wall oven.

We did not unpack into the cabinets, at all. Not even going there. We were sure we were going to be redoing the kitchen pretty quickly. (What a bunch of morons we were.) We bought a bunch of white laminate bookcases and lined them up along the walls and unloaded all our goods, food, dishes, you name it. The cabinets sat empty. I didn't even clean them out.

We ripped out most of the upper cabinets and moved them gleefully to the garage, for workshop storage. They were not cheap cabinets, just ugly and out-of-style. We ripped out about 3,500 pictures of kitchens from magazines and taped them up, everywhere. Inspiration at every turn.

We did pay a contractor to come in with a glue-lam beam to replace the wall that separated the kitchen space from the laundry area, which also had a full bath (shower stall), and a door to the adjacent breezeway. The workmen had to go down into the crawlspace to put in a pier to support the beam at the dining room wall.

"Um, Mrs. P." they said. "We're pretty glad we're putting in this beam for you, because your load-bearing wall isn't sitting on anything right now." WHAT?! "We can see the upstairs floor sagging in the center right now, as we're jacking the beam into place. Bet your kitchen floor will spring up too."

The builder had moved the entire load-bearing wall over about 6" from the original blueprint in order to squeeze in a cold-air return. :)

We did replace the big window over the sink that fall, and made it even bigger. On the very day we did that, in fact the very hour that the window was removed, the farmer to the south of us harvested his beans. I still remember standing in the kitchen with my mother as the Wizard-of-Oz-quality cloud of soybean dust came at us. There was absolutely nothing we could do, but duck, and then vacuum.

The bathroom (now in the kitchen space), had rough-sawn cedar siding as wainscot, a shower stall, toilet, and a slop sink. It was the only shower we could use that first year. And there wasn't a heat vent in that bathroom. My MIL swore she could smell marijuana in there. We started calling it the stash bathroom. We took the girls over to Grandma's once a week for a bath in a tub, with heat. And then, I got pregnant that winter.

Spring came, and I confessed to my friend Needa, that we weren't going to be able to get to the kitchen after all. Not anytime soon, anyway. So she organized a corps of devoted friends and they came out to clean and paint the place. (I did pull down the wallpaper about an hour after we moved in.) Their workday ended up being the actual day I delivered #3, although it wasn't planned that way.

They painted the walls light yellow and the cabinets a brighter yellow, at my brighten things up. We all knew they were painting finished wood, and it wouldn't last forever...but it was cheaper than Prozac. The blue countertops were to force me to find joy no matter my circumstances, for the next eight years.

If only I had known that reality tv would become so popular, I would have started back then, documenting the insanity that has become our life. Today, when I looked around, I actually started crying that the house looks like Sarajevo, from more than one direction. I was laughing while I was crying, but Handyman had to agree.

A few weeks ago, we wanted to replace one little window, on the back wall of the kitchen. We have owned the window for several years, but never had replaced it yet. We hauled it down, and pulled off the siding to frame in the new opening. But of course, the band board, 3 feet below was rotted on the foundation. And you can't build window framework on rotted wood; and of course, this particular band board extends for 20 feet underneath ancient decking that was installed by the Romans.

So, to replace the window required a trip to Menards with the dump trailer, to pick up a new 20' board, that is treated for exterior use. Then ripping out the ancient decking to expose the band board's full length...which also has a 4x4 post sitting on it, that had already been wrapped in fibercement trim, which will now have to be redone as well. And cutting an opening into the family room wall, at floor level, in order to get the bandboard into place properly. (This little opening provide the entrance for "Zeus" later that week.)

I suppose the big chasm in the deck provides a little security from burglars trying to enter from the east side. They would fall right into the possum nests, or be attacked by feral cats. The Romans would be proud.