It’s Not Going Away

You know how sometimes you ignore those little nuisances hoping they’ll just disappear? We’ve been doing that lately. We have a rattle that’s been driving me crazy. Let’s say you take 10 noisy refrigerators, stick them in a tiny room in your entry, close the door and pretend you don’t hear them. That’s kind of our problem except instead of refrigerators it’s the heating system that’s making all the noise. 

It’s taken me awhile to call because it’s just a little rattle, right? Before you know it, summer will be here and we won’t even need the heating system. Besides, when I call, they ask all these hard questions like is it the boiler? Or the heat pump? It’s the closet doesn’t seem accurate enough…

So a few weeks ago, I bit the bullet and made the call. Between my dad and the MR, I had a few key phrases to throw out. It sounds like a bearing is wearing out in the heat converter system. I’m pretty sure the lady on the phone could see right through me, but she scheduled a service call.

Sometimes a rattle is way more than a rattle—ugh. We have a leak in the system, major corrosion, seized up parts, and no heat. Hmm, maybe I should have called sooner. 

Apparently the tubing that runs under our feet and heats our floors lets in air that creates rust in the system. They have a plan, and they’ll be back, and they replaced the bad pump, so we now have heat. But yes, we still have that rattle. 

At least spring truly seems to have arrived with a string of rainless days. 


Every just ignore a rattle?

A Little of This, a Little of That

It’s been one of those weeks. Workers, deliveries, meetings, noise, rain, crazy dogs, birthday celebrations, and all that comes with that. Let’s just say, I’m a little scattered.

I was hoping to have beautiful pictures of a newly installed floor framed by beautiful molding. Well, it’s installed, but it’ll look so much nicer when the baseboards are also painted, so you just have to wait on that. Upstairs, the molding looks great. It’s amazing how unfinished details can just drive you crazy.

In other news, I met with a senior designer yesterday to look at a plan and shop furniture. While I like the direction, I’m not totally sold on the use of the space. They had chosen some beautiful pieces at both Room & Board and Crate & Barrel. It was fun to walk through the stores and check out a new dining room table and some easy chairs with interesting details. We were also trying out sectionals for size.

I handed the blueprints off to the designers yesterday, so they could get a more accurate view of the room. With all the angles, it really is difficult to map out. I had a little fun sectioning off a photo of the prints, so you can get an idea of what we’re working with.

Main Floor Plan Delineated

The gray areas are the ones we’ve asked the designers to focus on. An angled sectional may be the answer to our furniture problems. We will wait and see.

During our meeting, the designer mentioned that both she and the principle designer who visited our house last week thought we should continue the concrete flooring throughout the great room. The four-foot walkway around the perimeter is awkward. One surface would give the room better flow and continuity. That’s what the MR said way back when… So I’ve emailed our friends at Semco to see if they can help us out. Kenji’s coming on Monday.

We can always add fun area rugs to soften the feel of the room. We’re still planning on new carpet but in just the bedrooms now.

And that brings us to air conditioning. It was almost 100-degrees here on Monday. I thought I was going to die. Our heating/cooling guy met with us on Tuesday. We have no duct work and no attic, so hidden units are hard to hide. He and the MR were wandering the house brainstorming ideas when the MR suggested the built-in platform bed could be the perfect place in the master bedroom for the air conditioner. And what do you know, there’s a 7-inch space behind the refrigerator and a weird angled wall next to it. We haven’t seen a plan yet, so who knows where we’ll end up.

After the heat, it’s been unusually wet for the last few days, so I’ve been neglecting the garden and the orchard. Last week, I was out regularly picking blueberries and blackberries and browsing in the garden. Despite it being a touch early, I also picked our Chehalis apples. I’d found one or two fruit on the ground for four days running. I don’t know if they were dropping naturally or if the dogs were giving them a hand. I’ll have to admit, these greenish-yellow beauties do resemble a tennis ball in size and color.

Now they’re safe and sound inside filling the pantry with their sweet smell.

Apples harvest

 

Last year I made apple chips in the dehydrator–maybe it’s time to pull it out again. We still have a whole other tree waiting to be picked, but I’m going to give it a little time.

So basically, we’ve had a hodgepodge of things happening around here, but we’re making decisions and seeing progress. It’s a good feeling in the midst of bare subfloor, strangers wandering your home, and constant noise.

What’s been going on at your house? Do you have a favorite apple recipe to share?

 

Down the Rabbit Hole

Why can’t life be simple? A seemingly straight-forward tasks can take all sorts of twists and turns leaving you all in dither.

That’s where we found ourselves recently. After living with crazy emerald carpet faded to teal (read all about it here), me and the MR decided it was time for something new. With a trip to the carpet store, that sea of green would be gone–if only it were that easy.

We wound up at the carpet store we used ages ago and had a lovely, illuminating chat with the owner.

We have really ugly mauve tile bordering the carpet that we’d like to get rid of.
Tile work is really messy, so you’ll want to do that ahead of time.

We have radiant heat floors.
Demolition will take longer, so contractors don’t damage your pipes and heating system.

Do you know what’s under the carpet? Are the pipes in thin set? How deep?
Uh…Errr…We have no idea.

Here’s another curve ball, we have a sunken area around the fireplace that we’d like to fill in. Is that something you would do or have contractors that you work with complete?
Well, I do have people I recommend, but all of the remodeling needs to be done before we can begin work.

What about adding electrical outlets in the middle of the carpet?
Again, that’s something you need to have done by an electrician of your choosing.

We left the carpet store with way more questions than we started with. The owner did have a tile guy that she recommended, so I took a picture of our situation. Walked through the house counting the tiles and emailed it off. Crossing our fingers, we were hoping her guy could take care of all 104-feet of ugly tile.

Mauve tile

Of course, we had to replace the tile with something else, something new and beautiful without even a hint of purple. The MR picked up a few tiles for the bathroom remodel and checked out some samples. They were gorgeous, wood-grain tiles in dark brown and gray tones, and I told him they were all wrong. I thought we were going for subtle after all that mauve.

So I dropped off one set of samples for another. I decided creamy, beige-y tones would do the trick. I brought them home and was ecstatic–they blended in perfectly.

Beige tile up close

I thought the tile on the far right was too yellow, and the tile on the far left was too gray, but the two in the middle were both quite lovely. And just imagine what it would look like if the carpet were a neutral beige instead of crazy green.

Tile and carpet

I know the samples are woefully small–they’re just a few I picked up at Home Depot, but I know you’re getting the gist. I was aiming for a soothing neutral palette. It was all well and good until the MR came home and tripped on the tiles. Now, that’s not the reason he hated them. We don’t want people to think we couldn’t find a matching tile, or that the tiles along the edges are smudged or dirty, he told me. He was right, but I didn’t want it to look like the great room was outlined with a giant marker in some hideous color that we’d hate just as much in a few years.

We were at a bit of standstill. And then the owner of the carpet store emailed to say her tile guy wanted nothing to do with our job and the radiant floors. She said it nicely, but it was still a blow. So I went to the internet. Maybe I could get a few ideas on borders and tile removal. I’m sure they have wonderful ideas on Pinterest or Houzz.

Sunday afternoon, I spent an hour or so going through tiles, looking for subtle border tile, something that would look intentional without being too in your face. And that’s when I stumbled upon something wonderful in a totally different direction. A professional or DIY tile coating that turns gaggy into gorgeous. Just take a look at some of their photos.

Photo by Semicore Remodeling

While I’m not into the yellow fireplace, I like the industrial vibe of that floor. Just take a look at what they can do outside.

Photo by Semicore Remodeling

What I found most intriguing was that the tiles don’t have to be removed, my house doesn’t have to be covered in dust, and it appears to be quick and easy. The representative from the company assured me this is a green process with very little in the way of off gassing. We can even stay at home during the work. Maybe this is the answer to our tile problem.

Kenji from the Seattle office is headed out later today to check the lay of the land and put together a quote. Me and the MR are hoping to make the trek into Seattle later this week to visit their showroom and see some samples. Just from the the website, I’m leaning toward the Polished Bond in Sandstone or maybe Modern Gray.

In as little as two weeks, those old tile floors could look totally new.

So what do you think? Are we totally crazy to go from a 104-square-foot job to a 2,000-square-foot job in the blink of an eye? Anyone tried tile coating before? Ever remove tile from floors containing pipes that heat your whole silly house?

If you’d like to check out Semcore Remodeling click here and imagine all the floors they can redesign for you.

A Look Back at 2013

At the start of a new year, it’s fun to look back and see how far we’ve come. For the life of me, my mind was at a blank…. I knew we’d had the downstairs painted, the MR redid the girls’ shower, and we put in some garden beds. Was there really much else?

So I spent a few hours last night and then again this morning going through the blog and seeing what’s what. It’s really has been a year packed full of changes, life, fun, laughter, sunrises, and one really miserable garden.

The biggest change has to be having the downstairs painted. All faux-finishing is a thing of the the past and the moldings are gorgeous.

Painting Collage

To check out all the painting pics and progress, you can go to My Plastic-Wrapped LifeHeavenly GrayThe Saga Continues, and The Big Reveal. We’re really pleased with the neutral palette and how a little color has softened the stark feel of the house.

The biggest project the MR tackled was remodeling the girls’ shower. He pulled out the stacked washer and dryer and its cabinet, demoed the old bath tub and surround, and then got busy tiling, hanging doors, and installing new plumbing. It’s gorgeous.

shower 045

Check out the whole story at Opening Things UpTearing It UpDecision TimeTile Update, and Now That’s a Shower. The shower is as nice to use as it is to look at, and the MR has ordered tile for the floor, so Phase II is just around the corner. He also has been working on the downstairs powder room, and I’ll have updates to share about that soon.

One small change that’s made a huge difference in our lives was converting the front door to a key lock. Being able to Lock It Up and leave the through the front door has totally simplified the task of going somewhere.

New Outside 2

After you live with something for awhile, you just think of it as always having been that way. Maybe I can be excused then for forgetting about my awesome new So Sleek cooktop.

New Cooktop

I love the true-simmer option, and the more powerful fan works much better than the old one.

Other big changes that sometimes slip my mind are the solar panels and our new boiler. We no longer have to Push the Button to get the boiler to turn on, and we haven’t had one weekend where the temperature has dipped into the 40-degree range inside the house. The MR was telling me just the other day that the solar panels dropped our electrical bill way down in the early fall months; let’s hope our experiment with solar is a success.

Array 2

This last year, I spent a lot of time cataloguing our gardening triumphs and woes. Our flowerbeds look better, while our kitchen garden and orchard are expanding. I had our soil tested this fall, and the results showed a Nitrogen deficiency. Surprise, surprise, one of the sign of this is poor plant growth. Maybe that’s why my lettuce remained the size of my thumbnail for months, or maybe it was just the bunnies. The seed catalogs have begun arriving, and I am ready to being waging war with the deer, birds, and wildlife again this year.

Fenced Garden

A look back wouldn’t be complete without a few of my favorite projects. I love the revamp of The Little Bench

Garden Update August 6 004

While it’s found its home under the portico during the winter, next spring it will be back out on the deck for book reading and bird watching.

I also love, love, love my Penny for Your Thoughts countertop. It adds a bit of interest to the office area and hides the dust that gets beneath the glass on the white counters.

All Finished

Another fun project and one of my most read posts of the year was the Bling Baby jewelry organizer I made for the master closet.

Bling & Plaque

Unfortunately, I think I may need to add to my storage options. I have a hard time keeping this area neat and tidy; there’s always room for improvement.

On the decorating side of things, with the help of Design Seed, I Picked a Palette. I chose citrus hues for the summer and spring swapping gray for yellow in the cooler months. I love color and sometimes have a hard time editing. This gives me a little more focus when I’m selecting fabric or adding some accent pieces.

I like the idea of changing decor with the seasons to add a little excitement. That’s why the mantel has sported a variety of looks over the last 12 months.

Seasonal Mantel Collage

Now that all the festive trappings have been packed up, the mantel is looking a little bare. I do believe it’s time for something new.

You may be wondering what I’ve been up to for the past few weeks of silence. Well, I braided hair, bought a new car, gave out Christmas sweaters, celebrated with friends and family, marked Cocoa’s one-year anniversary with us, watch sunrises and sunsets, helped Baby Girl start on a 10-day raw food diet (really hard), went to a 13-hour volleyball tournament, and traded two college students in for one Australian exchange student. It’s been busy, fun, and crazy.

Holiday Collage

And now I’m ready to get back into the swing of things.

Wishing a wonderful start to the new year for each of you!

September at Our House

It’s been a wet and wild September in Western Washington. According to the weatherman it’s the wettest September in 140 years–that’s how long they’ve been keeping records.

It’s been rainy, but that hasn’t stopped most of the regular September things from happening. Around here, September has always meant back to school and birthdays; and for the past several years, it’s meant a healthy dose of volleyball, too. Baby Girl, Sweet Miss, and her fellow all made it back to school. I drove down to Oregon with Sweet Miss and her guy last week (check it out here) and classes started for them today.

Back-to-school Collage

At our house, we celebrated Cocoa’s birthday and my birthday plus four more when you widen the circle to our extended families. Baby Girl is half way through with the volleyball season–one tournament and five matches so far.

All the rain has greened up the meadow and plumped up the melons, but we need a little sun in order to be able to harvest these things. Check out our progress and the luxurious  tangle of vines herehere, and here. Probably the most exciting thing I accomplished was digging a hole for the decorative tree.

dug in pot 2

The MR’s ridges in the driveway diverting run-off to trenches are probably more practical in light of the monstrous downpours we’ve been experiencing, but my flowers are much more photogenic. (You can read about both here.)

Beauty does capture my attention. It can be as simple the play of shadows or a daily dose of beauty from a coffee table book, but I believe beauty feeds your soul.

picture book 006

We didn’t just sit around dreaming all month. We straightened up couches, opened up a bathroom, threw out a plant, and heated up the great outdoors. OK, so most of that was the MR, but I helped a little. and the couches were totally me.

Changes Collage

And if that isn’t enough for you, I made old worn t-shirts in to fun and funky potholders. I have 24 completed at last count. You can’t say I don’t know how to have a good time.

potholders and yard 001

For October, I’m hoping we’ll have a new sink delivered in one piece–the third times a charm–Baby Girl will get a lovely new shower, and my to-do list will turn into that’s so done.

The river’s rising, and the MR came back for the chainsaw to clear the driveway this morning. Maybe it’s a good day to put on a pot of soup and get busy working on some projects.

How’s fall shaping up for you? Any projects your anxious to get started?

Baby Girl and I ordered a flour-less chocolate cake to celebrate my birthday. We even shared a little with the MR.

Me and BG 1

Heating Things Up

I hate to see summer go. We love our evenings on the deck. Me and the MR sit in our comfy chairs, play with the dogs, watch the sun go down, and talk about our days. With the rain and cooler weather that comes with fall, those quiet evenings disappear.

Well, the MR wasn’t going to let a little chill put an end to our together time, so he took matters into his own hands and bought a heater for the deck.

When planning this out, we considered that the house is perched on a hillside and totally exposed to the elements. We’ve had issues with the barbecue heading for the stairs in a stiff wind. Thankfully, we were able to catch it before it made its escape. So while our favorite spot to sit and chat is to the left of the doors, we decided to shift to the more protected corner on the right that still has the best view, and “easy” access to electricity.

Seating Area

The MR bought a UFO Indoor/Outdoor Heater with remote. This model operates off of standard 120V, it can be mounted on the wall, it heats up in seconds, the grating and casing stay cool to the touch, and it has a bunch of positive reviews. Our package arrived a couple weeks ago, and with a trip to the hardware store for a junction box (to make it all up to code) the MR was ready to tackle installing his new toy last weekend. He figured it’d take just a few hours.

First, out came the stud finder to make sure he’d be able to run wire from the light switches on one side to the bracket on the outside.

light & heater Collage

This is the part were lots of tapping, beeping, and grumbling ensued. Plumbing and electrical work always end up in frustration at our house. After cutting a whole in the outside of our house, somehow or another, the wire didn’t want to go from one side to the next. I am not electrically inclined, nor have I ever claimed to be, but this is the part were my help becomes integral. You see I can stick my hand inside the wall up to my forearm. I assure you this is a talent I have perfected over the years. After quite some time, the MR switched to the hole behind the thermostat, and I reached right in the wall and grabbed the wire.

Success

This is success. Now the MR was an electrical engineer, and for the last 20 years, he’s been moving light switches, outlets, and cable connections at will. He is totally comfortable and confident with small electrical jobs. On the other hand if you’re like me and replacing a plug is the extent of your electrical experience, I’d encourage you to hire an electrician. It pays to be careful.

After fishing the wire through the wall, the rest was smooth sailing. And the last few evenings the MR and I have been enjoying a little added warmth out on the deck.

Seating

Perhaps I’ll end up using it in the mornings, too. It’s always fun to watch the fog enshrouded valley come to life.

View 3

I’m a lucky girl.

A) My guy likes to chat with me at the end of the day.
B) He cares enough to want to keep me warm.
C) He’s a can-do kind of guy.

When I mentioned some of the MR’s remodeling plans to a friend this weekend, she expressed surprise that he was able to do all these things. Yep, I’m a lucky girl.

What kind of changes are you making for fall? Adding any warmth?

The Visitors

I’ve been holding out on you. We’ve had visitors lately–not the fun kind you share a cup of coffee with in the morning or sip wine and relax with on the deck come evening. These visitors are the kind that arrive when you’ve just hopped in the shower to climb on the roof and bang around for hours.

We’ve had the fellows from Northwest Mechanical installing our solar system for the better part of the last month. Rain or shine, they are up on the roof laying rails and electrical lines. A week ago, they had a cherry picker out here to lift all the panels/arrays onto the roof; and despite the deluge last Thursday, they finished. We were expecting an inspection Friday–no. Monday–no. Tuesday, the inspector finally came, found a couple minor issues, our workers fixed things up, and this morning again I wait for the inspector’s return. Let’s be honest, I’ve been up for hours already. It’s hard to sleep in when you have dogs fighting in your room at 5:30 in the morning.

Over the weekend, the MR asked if I wanted to take a look at our new solar system. I’m not afraid of heights, but I am afraid of falling. I’m clumsy and old enough and confident enough to own that. Despite all, I climbed up on the roof. All I’m saying is I must really love you guys to put myself out there like that.

It is really rather impressive.

Array 2

All the panels are laid out on the portico. To keep conduit and wires from being visible from the front of the house, they designed the system so that the wiring runs along the top of the garage and then down the far side of the girls’ wing.

Conduit 2

It would have been simpler, quicker, cheaper, and uglier to run it down the front by the garage doors, but now all the mechanics are hidden off to the side.

Side Wall Meters

While I was up on the garage, since I can promise you this is a one-time thing, I decided to snap a few quick pics of the sights. The MR has mentioned that the view up here is amazing. I was fine seeing just part of it.

View

But the MR wanted me to get the full effect and helped me up on the girls’ wing. It’s a beautiful view, even if it makes my palms sweat and makes me sick to my stomach.

View 4

And finally while I was up there facing my fears, I took a picture of our drainage system. When you go to a home show, a million and one companies want to sell you gutters. Well, lucky us, we don’t have any, so that’s one thing we won’t have to replace. The whole roof slopes down to a single, giant drain. Where does all the water go? I don’t know. Maybe it’s that stream Cocoa keeps playing in. I’m happy to remain blissfully ignorant and let the MR clean out leaves every now and then.

Drain

Just one more quirk that makes our home special.

I had brunch with some friends earlier this month, and they were wondering why we were getting solar. Off the top of my head, I didn’t have a good answer. Back in April (check it out here), I talked about federal reimbursement programs and the local power company paying us for the electricity we generate at an inflated rate. It’s also offers the top return on investment of any home improvement project. Is that enough?

Even with all the programs promoting renewable energy, electricity is cheap around here, why spend all that money and hope to break even in seven or eight years? This is a big house and unlike many homes in our area, we don’t have access to natural gas. Almost everything needs electricity. It’s not just lights and computers, our heating and water require electricity, too. So let’s just say we use more than our fair share.

Currently, we chose the system that will generate about a quarter of our demand. If all goes well, we can add a few more panels and go up to 39-percent. We have a stand of trees just west of the girls’ wing that blocks the evening sun, and they are really close to the house. We are looking into having them removed for safety concerns and to bump up energy production.

Once the work passes inspection, Puget Sound Energy will be out to put up a meter within a few days. Then we’ll be our own little energy making factory. Of course, it would help if we traded in our thunderstorms and gloomy skies for a little sunshine.

Have you explored renewable energy? What have you done around the house lately?