Thursday, July 31, 2008

the carport: part 1

Now here's a project beyond any scope I've ever attempted. My confidence that I can accomplish this is based on the fact that back at the townhouse I replaced the roof on our front porch and built a little 8x8 deck platform in the back yard... those jobs were relatively easy, so how hard can this be?? Right??

I drew this using Google SketchUp, a totally wicked CAD-like program you can download for free.

Anyway, the carport will have two huge windows (the old patio doors from the bedroom turned on their sides). It'll have a long overhanging sloped roof, hopefully giving the whole thing a funky contemporary look that will compliment the house's lines. The siding will match the vertical siding that's on the one section of the house, too.

Obviously, this is as far as I've gotten on this project. I wanted to have some decent plans in hand (the boards I drew on the plan are actually the true dimensions and measurements I'll use to build) to take to the County to get a building permit. While I'm happy to have a plan in hand, I don't think I'll get much further until several other higher priority projects happen first: the kitchen, flooring in the dining and extra rooms, and the fence.

My whole reason for wanting one (and why my goal is to have it built by winter) is so I don't have to scrape my windshield. :)

the kitchen: part 2

A little kitchen update. Got sheet vinyl from Menard's the other day. 21' of it. It's a very similar look to what we had in the townhouse, but lighter, I think. Maybe a little "pinker" too, but very similar. We'll be glad to get rid of this black and white floor as much as we're ready to get the new cabinets and appliances in here.

Tris ordered a new table and chairs (that's her and Mark assembling them). The table is round-ish and folds up on the sides so it can tuck away better (looking at the previous kitchen post, you can see the fold up tables in the Ikea design, but they didn't have them at the store so we ordered this other one). It looks really nice and should fit the room well.

Last night we started taking down a cabinet - the little one over the fridge - just to check out the situation and see what we were up against for removing all of them. Well, it's going to be quite a job - there's lots of layers of paint (lead test kit is in the mail, BTW) that are holding things together and making the screws hard to find. The soffit above is crappy, too, so that's going to be removed. And, to add another layer of complexity and work to the job, we're going to take off the paneling walls and put up drywall.

So that's the plan! Time to get started....

living in a ranch

Well, the verdict is in. I love living in a ranch house! No more going up and down stairs, worrying about gates and kids falling- no more vacuuming stairs either :) Doing the laundry is so much easier, I'm right around the corner from the boys in the lving room, so no one has to stop anything they are doing. I can easily keep an eye and an ear on the boys while I start, switch, fold, or deliver to rooms.

Having a kitchen that walks out to the deck was a big thing we wanted too, and it's surely made a difference. We eat outside and grill out all the time, and we would probably do so even more often if it weren't so hot outside right now.

Our electric bill is lower, even though we've added over 800 square feet of living space. The thermostat is in the hall with the bedrooms, so we can keep them nice and cool and the living room and kitchen stay a little warmer, which is not only fine- it's preferable. Amazingly, I even love my side-by-side fridge. The freezer side is big enough to hold a cookie sheet, for freezing portion-sized meats, and all of the shelves on the fridge side make for much better organization.

We've started the kitchen remodel and it's interesting...I think I'll let Eric talk about that though :)

Monday, July 28, 2008

hippies and hillbillies

We attended two local events this weekend - the Bloomington Block Party and the County Fair.

First was the block party downtown. It was designed for kids and was in front of the Arts Center. There were crafts, music, lots of fun, friendly (and free!) stuff. It was the typical suburban farmer's market kind of crowd: vegan moms with tattoos and baby slings, dads with khaki shorts and iPhones. Think downtown Arlington, a Wegman's shopping experience, or the fancy parts of Reston. That's typical of much of the population of Bloomington proper: progressive, artsy, liberal.

Then came the county fair. Two fairs, actually: our own Monroe County Fair and the nearby Jackson County Fair. Both had dirt-track racing, vast 4-H animal and craft competitions, rides, food, etc. The attendance at these events was definitely more representative of the greater region and we really got the chance to meet, en masse, what we had previously only been able to see in small doses as we made our weekend excursions around the area. These were the real, live, con-tray folk...

Well, what's the point? The point is that this weekend really embodied the interesting dichotomy of our new home: hippies and hillbillies. Within minutes of each other is a run-down poor little rural town and the hip liberal fancies of a snooty coffee bar, vegan tofu restaurant, and high-end bike shop.

Reflecting on this, it's been something of a anthropological (sociological?) experience for me to see that all of these people seem happy to co-exist. I keep wondering why that seems so different. Maybe it's because the population is somewhat spread out and not compacted so much and therefore folks mix more; trailer park people cross paths with McMansion people all the time - they have to, because there's only one Mall. Or maybe it's because the super-rich ($200k+ households) virtually don't exist. Or maybe my own comparative upward financial movement has changed my perception of class relations...

Whatever the reason, many people here don't see it. Those transplanted from New York or San Francisco do, but most natives don't. So, that brings up a question. Having brought my family to a place where people are mostly easy-going and amicable, one might wonder if I'm condemning our kids to ignorance or merely sheltering their innocence?

Saturday, July 26, 2008

the kitchen: part 1

Didn't we just do this less then a year ago? Indeed, we are going to do a whole-kitchen remodel. The kitchen in the new house is original (from the 50s), so the cabinets are creaky, some of the drawers (metal!) are really tough to open and close, and the oven is simply awful - a 24" wall oven. Too small, too old, too whatever. The dishwasher, too. And plenty of other things that warrant us ripping the whole thing out and rebuilding it from the slab up.

The purchasing has begun: new overhead lighting, dishwasher, stove, and microwave / rangehood are standing by. We made the 2 1/2 hour drive to the nearest IKEA (Cincinnati) to order new cabinets. A fold-up table is being delivered. Tris is investigating windowboxes (a "bump-out" style window) for above the sink and we're thinking about flooring and paint options.

Aquisition stage well underway, some real work is ready to begin today: first up is organizing the basement - for two reasons. First , most of our tools are in boxes or in piles, so they need to get out and ready to go to work. Second, things need to get picked up down there enough to move the old kitchen cabinets down there (they'll fit nicely and work great to get the space looking good and usable).

Monday, July 21, 2008

my new favorite store

You have probably not heard of Meijer. Apparently, they invented the whole one-stop-shopping thing and they are really big here in the midwest. It's like Super Target, but different, in that they carry different brands and have different house brands. We went up there the other night (we don't actually have one in Bloomington) and didn't get to finish going through the whole store because it had gotten too late! We did walk out with a couple of awesome sale items. I got a couple of brightly colored (Tris- really!??!) shirts for 3.99 each, Eric got a new pair of sandals for 40% off and we got an undercabinet mount 11" LCD TV for 50% off! Apparently we were lucky to hit the beginning of an awesome 2 day sale. We didn't end up with a deck box to store cushions/toys in, so we're still on the lookout for those, but I have a bright orange tank top! woo-hoo!!!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

the midwest difference

So we had our new doors installed today! We decided to try out Lowe's, despite our previous experiences with Lowe's and Home Depot back in Virginia. We laughed at ourselves as we had sworn we would never use them for basically anything other than cart and carry items ever again.

What a completely different experience this was! From the beginning, with the door purchase, the folks at the store were not only knowledgeable, but also very proactive in assisting us in getting exactly what we were looking for. The installer was polite and courteous, and he came here himself with his 20 year old son to do the job- no day laborers on this job at all. The same man who came to measure is the same one who came to complete the job. When he left he gave me his card and told me to call if we had any trouble with the doors or anything. The carpet experience (for the master bedroom) has been equally good. The installer came to measure and was freshly showered and also very polite and courteous, I received extra discounts for having to wait to place my formal order last night, and I was given a detailed contact list for the installation department at Lowe's. What an amazingly different experience.

So these are our new french doors off our bedroom and our new front door!

Monday, July 14, 2008

room with a view 2

Ta-da! The job is done! While the floor is still a little slanty by the closet, overall the floor is totally fixed! So we hit Lowes to order our new carpeting, which should be installed in about a week. A new bed is on the way, too. Nothing like a little light demolition and reconstruction to make you feel a sense of ownership! Huzzah!

Sunday, July 13, 2008

another lawn mower?

I decided I needed to tackle that little hill on the one side of the front of our yard today - you know, that annoying steep slope in the front of some yards where it goes down to meet the road? The boys were napping, so I needed to take a break from the sawing and hammering of the floor project andyway. Well, I went to the little shed out back to get our manual push mower that we brought from VA, and I noticed something in the back of the dark, spider-filled, stinky metal shed: an old gas push mower! I know I noticed it when we first moved in, but I guess I forgot about it. I put some gas in, primed it up, and it started up after five pulls or so. Cool! Free lawn mower!

It's small and lightweight - not self-propelled, no bag, and it worked out well on the small hill - hooray!

After that, though, I got a little mow-happy. I started mowing up the brush all along the fenceline, keeping an eye out for the many large patchs of poison ivy. I mostly missed it, but I did accidentally chop up(and therefore spew forth out the side of the mower) many of the three-leaved itch-makers. But I really wanted to clear some of the brush back there, since it's choking out some good plants and such, so I pressed on, making my way around, mowing as deep into the brush as I could.

Hopefully I didn't chew up too much poison ivy. I did a super-scrub-down shower right away and so far so good, but we'll see what happens tomorrow.

After being mowed and now having some of the most encroaching brush mowed down, the yard is actually starting to take some form - I'm feeling much more confident that we can rescue it from the four years of neglect it's been trapped under.

Friday, July 11, 2008

room with a view

The other title for this post that I wanted to use was "Holy slanty subfloor, Batman!"

Our house has a couple weird things happening - we think the original house was built in the 50s. Then, at some point the garage was finished and made into the foyer, dining room, and "extra" room. And sometime in the 80s (so we estimate), the master bedroom and the basement below it were added on.

And it's that last addition that really got messed up... Back in the 50s, it wasn't uncommon for homes to be built with 10" joists - which is the framing that's under the 50s part of the house. Well, modern code requires 12" joists, so when the addition was added in the 80s, that's what they used. And they continued the same foundation across, so when they put the 12" joists on, the result was a 2" difference in height. Oops!

What to do? Yeah, that's right, they actually just built a slant. So the first three feet of the master bedroom (all along the entire 15' length of wall that includes the door to the hallway, the door to the closet, and the door to the bathroom) is slanted. I literally have gotten out of the bed in the middle of the night and stumbled downhill into the bathroom... When we first walked through the house, I made a joke with our realtor about how slanty it was - you know, the "look, I'm falling down a hill" joke?

So, this is a priority 1 project. I've sliced up the carpent, chopped up the sub-floor, and with the combined brainpower of myself and Tris, we've come up with a plan of attack... Step one being the gaping hole that you see before ye. Expect a fresh update tomorrow as to our progress. Hopefully it won't be a post abouta family member falling through or our needing to rescue Otis (our cat) from the depths of the crawlspace....

TV choices (or lack thereof)

I wired up the $25 antenna we used back in Burke (and successfully picked up all the DC stations with) and we got excatly what I expected: WTIU, the PBS station in Bloomington where I work. And that's it. The other channels (all the networks) are either out of Indy (50 miles away), Terra Haute (60 miles away), or Louisville (90 miles away). So, unless we want to be happy with the standard three digital PBS streams of PBS, PBS Kids and PBS world, I think we're going to have to do something else. An antenna that's moveable (rotates via a remote) is like $200+, not including a tall mast to put it on (which could be upwards of $300).

Dish Network's cheapest package - the "family" option, is local channels plus super basic stuff like CSPAN, Boomerang and Nick at Night - no MTV or E! or Discovery or anything like that... It's $25 a month. And that's better then cable or DirecTV, so it looks like that will be what we go with. But for now, we're happy to jsut be getting our Word Girl and Ruff Ruffman.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

i mowed the lawn!

I mowed the lawn for the first time today! The John Deere works great - sure it's no LawnBott (which is the lawn mower that I really wanted), but it was fun and easy just the same. Took just over an hour to do, and tomorrow I'll go back around with the push mower and the trimmer to get the little hill in front and all the edging.

fired up about trash

On the same day that we decided to put our fire pit to good use by burning our huge bug-infested pile of cardboard boxes (playhouse, sand table, diggers, gates, deck awning, lawn cart, wheelbarrow, etc.), we got a callback from the people at Monster Trash. Apparently the assistant lady that sets up accounts has been gone or something like that, so our requests kinda got lost or delayed or something... so our trash service will finally be starting on Friday.

"Oh, and there's one other small detail - we don't have any trashcans available right now. So until August when we get a new shipment of trashcans in, can you please just leave your garbage out in a pile by the road?" Oh, sure, thanks.


So when you aren't in a city or part of a homeowner's association, you have to call around and get quotes for trash service. We did this a couple of weeks back and only got one call back. Their price was very reasonable, but I thought about trying the other places again to find out if they might be cheaper. Then we thought maybe if they don't have time to call us back with a price, then perhaps that might be an indicator of their future responsiveness as well ;) So we now get trash service from Monster Trash!! woo-hoo!!!

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

storage, trash, and other news

We emptied the storage locker yesterday (horray!) and scheduled the PODS to be delivered on Saturday. With that and with what's left over at the apartment, we are still less than halfway moved in (sheesh!).

We've also attempted once again to get trash collection started from Monster Trash, but still haven't gotten a call back after filling out the online form. Phone calls end up hitting a busy signal, too. While at first it was fun, it's been getting a little inconvinient finding ways of disposing of our garbage (jk!)....

On the home improvement side of things, we drove up to Avon to pick up our microwave / range hood and we're expecting delivery of our new washer and dryer tomorrow. I'm still pondering the carport, but I think I'll see about getting plans from a book at the library this week. Or maybe I'll just go down to the courthouse to see what the Building Department people want from me to get it permitted.

Oh, and if you need to feel better about yourself at my expense, read on: like a dummy, I had the John Deere keys in my pocket when we went on our vacation and I left them at Tris' mom's house. So our inaugural lawn mowing will have to be put off for a couple more days until they arrive by mail.