Showing posts with label This Old Shack. Show all posts
Showing posts with label This Old Shack. Show all posts

Friday, April 21

Just Like Snow White

Except I'm not cleaning. Or singing.

Jase picked these. No clue what they are, but he had fun putting them in.
But the doors are open, the birds are singing, and it is gorgeous! I could probably whip up some dancing. We're smack in one of my favorite parts of the year - where the days aren't terribly hot, the mornings are still cool and breezy, and the mosquitoes don't come out this early yet.

That cat, however, is not my favorite right now. Several of our screens bear the mark of his wrath (or perhaps general displeasure) and I'm pretty sure the bugs will find those very spots every time we try to open the windows this year.

The Littles (still thinking up a good moniker for them - they've requested something else) and I went to the market yesterday and picked out some plants for the earth boxes. We didn't go in with a plan other than Find Something That Makes You Smile. They did.

Hibiscus! Em was absolutely smitten with the blooms, so we got one that has a ton of buds. I'm guessing it won't be able to live in this box long-term, but it'll be lovely here in the meantime. (We're getting mulch. It's a work in progress.)

Zorak is home today, which means the time-honored plan of Not Doing School. Of course, it's also going to be a day that somewhat violates the spirit of that plan -- they're not going to spend the day "hanging out with Dad", but rather, "working outside with Dad". All time well spent, though, so there is that, right? Plus, they get to sleep in. Nobody really complains. Much.

May is coming! None of us is looking forward to the heat, but the kids are starting to get antsy - finals week at the college is the first week of May, the water park opens the end of May, anatomy class ends in May, kayak weather... more time for hiking... so many good things are coming. They're ready.

I just need to get through this weekend and present a hospitable venue for the cookout. Then I can relax and look forward to the good things, too. If I lose focus between now and Sunday, though, it's likely to turn into a, "Hey, can you help us lug this wood to the bonfire and get the clothes off the line?" party. That wouldn't be fun for anyone.

I hear rustling and ambling. I've camped out near the watering hole (coffee pot) so I'll be sure to catch people as they awake. Time to get my Snow White on and whip this place into inviting shape! (Although, yes, I realize the visual is more reminiscent of Marlon Perkins than Snow White. That's probably a more accurate visualization all the way around, but I don't want to think up a new intro.)

This needs something else, but we're waiting for inspiration. Native, volunteer ferns, though. They look almost intentional!
 Be encouraged!
~ Dy

Thursday, April 20

More Spring Cleaning, Outdoors

Y'all, take your garlic. It is tick season, and it is yard work and hiking season. (OK, it's always tick season, but that doesn't matter so much when it's too cold and you're inside. But NOW, it's nice out. You want to get out and enjoy it, but you don't want ticks. Nobody wants ticks. Take your garlic.)

Yesterday, it didn't rain so we mowed and weedwhacked and weeded and mulched. (And this morning I realized I haven't been taking my garlic. See? Learn from my mistakes, folks.) This place is really cute when it's tidy! Oh, my gosh!

We cleared off the balcony and cleaned out the earth boxes. Jase asked if we could keep the ferns that have sprouted in one of them... I tried not to be too discomfited by the idea that it took actual airborne spores floating up that way for them to grow there (I could be a real mess if I thought too much about what's in the air most of the time). The ferns are pretty, though, so why not? We're likely not gardening this year, so we'll at least go get some lovely plants for the earth boxes on the balcony and make it look like we decorate once in a while.

I think only two of my Pieris Mountain Snows died! That's so exciting! One died early on in the fall because people kept dropping shovels, buckets, and bicycles on it. Understandable that it didn't survive. But then the other five just up and DIED over the spring. I was crushed. Three cheers for procrastination, though! (Hip, hip, hurrah!) I never got around to pulling them up and taking them to Nick (my plant guy) to find out what happened, and this week four of them greened back up and revived like you wouldn't believe. It's so exciting! I'm going to put a big bushy plant where people drop things - maybe they'll stop, then. (If that doesn't work, I'll try a pokey, mean plant. And if that doesn't work, I'm going to have to put down sand and pavers and just consider it a landing pad - but it's right beside the front steps, so I'll be honest, I don't wanna.)

We really do need to make a new roof happen this year. Eek. That much became painfully obvious once we got the rest of the yard and structures tidied up. (I'm kidding. We knew it was bad, but now it actually looks as bad as it is.) I wonder if the boys will enjoy roofing? Honestly, I do. Not so much the edges, which are terrifying, but it's a very satisfying thing to have a clean, fresh roof, with good underlayment and straight lines.

Our book club finished The Screwtape Letters yesterday. Finally. It's an incredible book, but this was a rough few months for the club -- with illnesses, travel, work schedules, and the insanity of my unpaid long haul gig (how I'm thinking of Jacob's ballet schedule, now), we had very few weeks where everyone could make it. We've picked the next book - The Benedict Option, by Rod Dreher, Since we have such an ecumenical group, I am really excited about some of the discussions we'll have over this. Do you have people in your life you can disagree with and argue with over a cup of tea? I hope so! It's a beautiful thing!

Z's on a weird one-day jaunt for work. He left before the sun was up, and he'll be back tonight. I want to remember to have dinner ready when he gets home. Of course, that's ten hours from now... should probably set a reminder. What's your favorite Welcome Home meal? Do you have one?

Be encouraged!

~ Dy


Tuesday, April 18

*whine* It's SO HOT, but Good News!

Don't tell the kids I said that. When they complain that it's 80, I remind them that in August we'll be begging for an 80-degree day. And it's true. (Also, by October, I won't be able to force them outside if it's 70 because it'll be "too cold". So.) But still... once the humidity starts creeping in, it's just gross.

We've been culling the outgrown winter gear so there's less to stash over the summer. Wow, that's bittersweet. However, the foyer is looking fantastic! Also, now that we've stored all the hats, scarves, and random gloves, we've found a ton of flashlights and headlamps! The foyer also looks vaguely like a staging platform for night raids.

There's a cookout here at the house in the next week, and we want to have it tidied. Spring cleaning, if you will. Or, Spring Hey Let's Finish A Couple of Projects Because 12 Years Is A Bit Long To Be "Renovating" A House Cleaning. Things we did first are about due to be redone, you know? But life... it gets in the way of plans.

Speaking of life... James got notified today that he's been accepted into the Honors College at UAH. That was a huge boost. It's been a long, weird year, and things just kept crumbling at the last minute. He was pretty sure this was another one for the pile. (To be fair, they send the notification in a very nondescript envelope, and he didn't want to open it, thinking it was a "Thanks, but no thanks" letter.) I'm glad he opened it. Better yet, he's glad he opened it! Now we just need to find enough money to cover housing...

John brought his ACT composite up four points! That was huge! I am so proud of him. He's taking a break while he works on his Eagle project and gets his crew ready for Philmont.

Philmont plans are coming along. We need to hike more, and John and I both are looking forward to doing that as soon as we buy a little wiggle room on the house/property work. I'm trying to work more, to cover the various gaping wounds in the checking account. Not so much looking forward to that, but thankful for it, and appreciative of it. Sometimes, that's gotta be enough. Sometimes, it's more than enough.

Be encouraged!

~Dy


Saturday, April 15

Headway!

So, we got the doors in and all was well. Then the blinds just conked out in one of the doors. We followed the instructions on how to fix them if they break, but evidently something... else broke. It didn't work. Today, Z called Jeld-Wen to find out what our options are, and they'll be sending someone out to replace the dorked up bit, themselves. Mad love for Jeld-Wen right now, I've gotta say. (Because if they'd said, "Sure, just bring the whole unit back and we'll replace it," I might have cried, cussed, and curled up in a ball. Bless them for not doing that.)

Meanwhile, the boys and I painted the background for the basement wall.


Then, this afternoon, the kids decorated it up. I haven't been down this evening, but just before I headed up to get ready for church, it was looking pretty fun.


We're definitely going to have to raise the bar on the rest of the decor so the whole place doesn't look like a back alley in the midst of a gang war. (The Russian is a nice touch, though. Heh.) Aaannndd, do something about that couch. The wall isn't doing it any favors. So, projects lined up. That'll give us something to do this summer.

All in all, it's been a fun project. The kids all joined in with their own ideas and experiments. Z and I even put a few tidbits on there. They'll enjoy it for a while, and when they're done (or when we need to sell the house), a layer of Kilz and it's a fresh slate.

Tonight, we attended Good Friday service. The service focused on praying through the stations of the cross. I'm thankful for waterproof mascara, humbled by how little I know, and encouraged by how much there is to learn. Also? My youngest children have no concept of how to be still. Just still. Even the shushing brought noise in reply. What on earth? It was like worshiping between Heckle and Jeckle. So. We've gotta work on that. The congregation is great, and nobody shot us the hairy eyeball or anything, but it's just not good for your spirit if you can't hush up and just contemplate once in a while!

This is the last weekend to prep the house before the cookout for the models and photographers next week. I'm a little nervous, wondering what we were thinking - there's no way this place is going to be Lovely by then - but it is Better, and that's a good thing. Fortunately, the bulk of hospitality is creating a space where guests feel welcome and at ease. I think we don't stink at that, at least. So although, as I told a friend this morning, we aren't good at Martha Stewart style hospitality, we'll play to our strengths and feed them well.

Be encouraged!

~ Dy

Thursday, April 13

The Push

Well, "the push" turned out to be more driving. Blergh. But all the kids' teeth are now up to snuff, and John's had a consult with a new oral surgeon. I'm not entirely sure how it's Thursday again, but there you have it.

We did get the wall cleaned and rinsed. The kids have decided to paint the load panel, too, since it's proud of the wall and incredibly ugly. Seems sane.

We've peeled another large swath off the basement couch. Our first "real" -- as in, new, not off the classifieds, only ours, bought with cash and straight from the store -- sofa was an Ashley sleeper sofa that we loved and loved... for about two years, until the cushions gave up, the upholstery started cracking and peeling and we realized Ashley doesn't count that as a defect in materials or workmanship. Actually, they seem to think of it as a perk. I don't know. Weird business model, but whatever. We bought a replacement that we love off Craigslist and demoted the poorly made Ashley to the basement. But it was kind of gross, and we weren't sure what to do with a couch that wasn't appealing, and wasn't in particularly "good" shape, but wasn't legitimately trash, either. We are loathe to throw away things that still have utility (which explains so much, really)... In a fit of creative implosion, I decided that we would just peel the rest of the material off and paint it! (Thanks, Pinterest!) That was two years ago. Turns out, it takes a lot of focus and determination to peel bonded fabric completely off a 6' couch... The kids pick at it while they're playing video games. Every once in a while, I'd muster up the umpf to go down there and just work on the couch, but the basement heebed me out and I couldn't stay down there too long without succumbing to the overwhelming urge to toss everything out and set it on fire.

Anyway, it's almost to the point that we can paint it. Probably a summer project. If it doesn't work, then we'll buy a slipcover for it. But if it does work? We'll have a weatherproof party couch! How cool is that? So many of my ideas could be incredibly fun and delightful finished projects, or they could be four cinder blocks away from the neighbors telling their children not to go over onto that property. I never really know until we've tried. But I have to try.

Speaking of neighbors, we have new ones. They've been busy trimming trees and clearing the property of debris. The kids heard someone in the bushes, whistling to the birds. And one of them waved back as we both pulled out of our drives the other morning. So, I'm hopeful they'll be good neighbors and will think of us as good neighbors. We need to make something and go welcome them.

We're in a bit of a lull with the kids' things. Jacob is back to Just Ballet Class, no rehearsals, and we're all appreciative of getting three extra days back during the week. John's waiting on the ACT scores to be released, but we've tweaked the plan for the next test in the meantime (no more prep, lots more reading, more books, more words, and, uh, keep plugging away at the math). James is in a holding pattern on future plans and trying to figure out how to get enough sleep without just sleeping from midnight to noon. (It's tricky. I get it.) And the Littles - they are great. They're biking and making movies, crafting and making food, all with a nonstop background chatter in voice for characters they've made up. We don't get it, but we love it.

Be encouraged!

~ Dy

Monday, April 10

Oh, my goodness! Memories

We worked in the basement a bit today. We have worked in that basement so many times over the years. We've never gotten it "done". It's a definite If You Give a Mouse a Cookie situation. "Well, if we're going to do this, we'll need to do these things. And if we're going to do these things, we really need to do that Big Thing." Next thing you know, we've cornered ourselves and can't get anything done down there, so we stack it up and go back upstairs. This time, however, we have doors!

Yeah, I know. Doors. Woohoo? Yes, Woo. hoo. Seriously huge progress, and I'm going to drive this donkey cart into the ground now that we have some momentum. Today, we got the industrial junk relegated to a corner that's not right smack as you walk in, and what do you know, it made a huge difference. (Yes, this should have been obvious. We suspected, but it wouldn't have mattered before, so we didn't try it out.) Then we flipped the hanging out area (gaming area? living area?) whatever, we moved the couch and the tv over by the Real Doors. So now, it has a vaguely Legitimate Living Space feel to it. As long as you don't look at the walls, or the rafters, or the floors. But if you keep your eyes firmly between 2' and 5' from the floor, it looks nice down there.

Actually, you can look at the rafters - we vacuumed them this afternoon, and they, too, look nice. That floor, though, is just going to be ugly until next year.

Then we realized the camping shelf, which, for the last ten years, has been THE tidy focal point of the basement, looked horribly shifty and ugly. I could have wept for joy! The pretty bit looks ugly, now! We're making tangible progress! So we moved it, too. Now the industrial bits are locked into a corner by makeshift walls of storage, and there is a clearly defined livable space emerging around it. I can live with that.

We picked up and cleared out so much that we found James' missing Mahabis sole! 😂 (It fell off while he was walking around down there about a month and a half ago. We have looked and looked for that thing and had both given up on ever finding it.) I think he is now certain that ALL the work was worth it, even if we never finished the basement. Happy kid. Maybe his lost tube of thermal paste will show up in the next round of shifting?

Back when we'd painted some of the walls and built the closets down there, we'd painted all the wall we could get to. As of today, there's double the amount of wall now visible, and it needs painting. When we moved a couple of shelves, we found a little spot on the wall where John's been testing spray paint for his projects over the years. It's actually kind of pretty. The more we walked around it, the more it grew on us. Finally, John asked if we could just do that, intentionally, to the wall behind the sofa. Yeah, why not? It won't preclude us from hanging drywall someday, but in the meantime, they'll have a space that's all theirs. That's on tomorrow's docket, and I'm stoked.

I am so close to being able to use the weight machine again! I think after tomorrow's push, it'll be safe to use without fear of knocking over paper piles or cracking someone in the head while they attempt to read in the chair.

We'll devote the remainder of this week to fixing that up as much as possible off this momentum. Then this coming weekend we'll see what we can do about the landscaping. Once things start to green up down here, it's on. You've got to stay ahead of it, and I just know all my local friends are going to shake their heads and point out that we're already behind.

But in the meantime, Be Encouraged!

~ Dy


Home Improvement as Marriage Therapy

There's just nothing quite like doing demolition on a home to bring a couple together. It's a giddy mix of power (we just took out a WALL, people) and creativity (and we're gonna put in our OWN wall) that makes you feel like a celebrity power couple.

Unfortunately, once that wall is out, you've got to keep it together long enough to close the gaping hole in your wall and remove any trace that you've done renovation. (When we were house hunting, I remember coming to a home that looked like it was scabbed together out of Lincoln Logs, Erector Sets, and salvage brick, held together with Gorilla Glue. Z and I could not make eye contact as the realtor gushed about how the owner had done a lot of work on the house. You don't say? I'm thankful for those experiences, though, because they cemented in our minds the importance of renovations or additions looking both Intentional and Original.) And that's where the fun starts. But it's good fun, because although you're going to run into friction and frustration, if you can keep it together, you'll have built a monument to your teamwork - and that is fantastic.

So we ripped out the nasty basement doors this weekend. These things had worked for all they could. I honor their efforts. I'm not even convinced they were meant to be exterior doors, but they did what they could for four decades. The original threshold was compost, now - rich, dark soil beneath the aluminum, there. The doors themselves had rotted away around the bottom years before we bought the house. We closed the doors mostly out of habit, and in an attempt to keep some of the outside air outside. But snakes, spiders, mice, and a fairly determined toddler could all get through. The sidelights were homemade, and looked it. The years had not been kind to what was probably marginally attractive to begin with. All in all, the doors were the biggest stumbling block to making the basement livable space, and I've been looking forward to this for 12 years!

The rough opening is 112" wide. That doesn't sound terribly big until you're standing in it, four abreast, thinking, "Damn, we should have bought a garage door for this thing." But, no. No, I wanted French doors. I wanted light and an inviting entry. What was I thinking? I'm so lucky Z loves me.

Because working with cinder block and concrete is, evidently, hard, the rough opening was neither square nor plumb. So we had to frame that out to get it to some semblance of squareish and plumbish without having an entire 8x10 protruding from the outer bricks at one corner. Fortunately, we can frame together like pros. There's just no room to argue over whether something is 90 degrees or not. This is a good time for a marriage. You work together. You measure, secure, check. High five. Good, good stuff. If you're married to someone like me, you get to laugh at their attempts to actually hit the nail. If you're married to someone like Z, you get to sigh in awe at their ability to make something out of nothing. I hope at least one of you is like Z.

Then comes the harrowing task of trying to move a door that's big and heavy, without twisting it or scuffing it or dropping it. Without a crew. (We technically have a three-man crew, but one was at work, one was dancing, and one was watching the dance. So it was just the two of us, in the dark, reconsidering whether we think we're old yet.) This is where you think, "Glass? Really? Just had to have glass, didn't I?" But it's OK because your partner is thinking the exact same thing about you... So at least you're still on the same page.

And now, you really get to work on your marriage skills: installing the door. You'd think this would be pretty straightforward and simple, but it's not. There are different philosophies about how to get things done, who holds it up, or what steps are necessary and what steps are mostly just guidelines. You'll both think you're right. You'll both want to forge ahead and do it your way. But unless you're each putting in your own door, that's not going to work. For us, this is usually the longest part of a job - the part where we have to determine a path forward that takes in both our perspectives, both our visions, both our experiences. You're going to unearth a lot of unspoken frustrations, and a lot of deeply seated irritants. But hang in there. Hold your tongue. Take coffee breaks. Eat protein. Breathe deeply and pray. Kiss each other often, and laugh. (But not a maniacal laughter - that's usually not helpful.) For what it's worth, it took us one afternoon to frame in the rough opening. It took us two days to get the doors squared, secured, and sealed.

Still easier on a marriage than running electrical wire. So, there's that.

And now, we have beautiful French doors that allow you to look in on what is, clearly, an abandoned storage shed...

I guess now we have to work on making the basement fit the doors. But we'll do it together.

Be encouraged!

~ Dy

Friday, March 24

Well, then.

My week, in pictures. (I thought I had more pictures. This has not been a great week, though, and it makes total sense that I didn't take a lot of pictures of the not-great bits. So, well, there you have it.)

It started out really well...


And then, it all went horribly wrong...


And then, out of nowhere...


As of right now, we have a temporary set up in place until we can get that line fixed. Love that the propane company delivered 100 gallons to the tank before testing the system for a leak, even though it was clear that something was broken  - and then they had to lock it until the leak is fixed (which I totally understand locking it -- but I do hope they, likewise, understand the laughter that ensued when they hit me with the invoice for the gas in the tank that they've locked... because sometimes life is just like that).

We do spend a lot of time just sitting and watching the light through the glass in the new door. I bet it'll look even better once the trim is up and the stickers are off the door, too!

And our Easter Baby is nine. Wow. THE baby. Is... not so much a baby. And I'm okay with that, except when the realization that he's halfway grown hits. Then I'm not. Parenting is weird. But he felt loved and appreciated and welcome on his special day (hopefully he feels that way every day - hopefully, we can all feel that way more often than not), and he's happy to be nine.

Be encouraged!

~Dy

Sunday, March 19

A New Project!

Guys. We've been so busy with raising kids and driving to every corner of three counties lately that we haven't made much headway on the house. Other than the wall we built two years ago, what discernible headway we have made has been in the more mundane realm of picking shoes up from under the coffee table in the living room and shaking off the table cloth in the dining room. Occasionally, we get wild and break out the paper shredder to beat back the drastic piles of college junk mail.

Well, I volunteered the property for a party in April, and that, combined with the wonderful weather, has lit a fire under all of us! Landscaping! Caulking! Debris eradication! Allofit! This past week, Z and I have been researching doors for the basement. (They were ghetto when they were installed 46 years ago. Time, and the elements, have not improved their appearance or function one bit.) We thought it would take a couple of paydays to pull that one off, but really, it needs to happen soon. (We suspect, although we have no reason to think this, that having decent doors on the walk-out will spur us to make the rest of the basement nice. It seems a sound perspective. We may, however, just end up broke, hanging out in a junky basement, staring at the nice doors.)

Yesterday, we got up early to visit Gobble-Fite, a local materials supply - they were great to work with during the bulk of the renovations, and they deliver. Considering the space is 112" wide, delivery options are appealing. Unfortunately, we forgot they aren't open on Saturdays. We brainstormed a few other places we could visit so the day wouldn't be a total wash. (Also, neither of us wanted to work on the landscaping, so we were motivated to get out!)

We stopped at our favorite hardware store and met with one of the guys there. The door options weren't great, but he did have some good ideas. Also, they have the beadboard that I want for the living room ceiling. We made notes and moved on. We checked another couple of places and then realized basement doors would likely have to be ordered and we're going to have to do some framing to alter the rough opening because part of the unique joy of this place is that so many elements are not standard. Or square. So, that's cool. But what shall we do this weekend?

Well, as luck would have it, we ended up at Lowe's. Lowe's has the front entry door I've had my eye on for the last five years. It's lovely, it's solid, and it's usually in stock. What's not to love? They had it in stock today. Oh, yeah...


This may not be exciting to everyone, but for me it is right up there with the day after we pulled the carpet out and were able to get all the way through the foyer before the weird Abandoned Shack smell hit us. I have hated our current front door for years (11.5 years, to be exact). It was oddly stained and never sealed, so the wood was rough and blotchy and hard to clean. The panels had split over the years, and you could see daylight through the door in places where you shouldn't have been able to see through. (Seriously, the paper boy from Better Off Dead could totally have kicked in this door.) The glass was hard to clean and there wasn't enough of it.

But this beauty? She's solid! She's sealed! She'll let light into the foyer! I'M SO EXCITED!!!

Be encouraged!

~ Dy

Thursday, November 13

Days fly by. Kids get big.

It's been years since John loved dragons, but we've been so busy building wood smokers and forges, making PVC bows (just for fun, we don't take them too seriously) and bat boxes (not to mention food, in general) that we haven't updated the house.


Actually, we haven't entirely *finished* the house. But that's not the point of this post. This post is about making a room for 16 & 14 year old young men out of a room designed for 7, 5, and 2 year old little boys. Or, at least, starting on it.


First difference I noticed this time around? They're actual help. Not "help", but really fantastic help. They care about detail and drip edges and primer. W00t:

Second difference? They're a LOT taller than I am. Not that this is news, per se, but the practical aspects are becoming more clear. They can reach the ceiling with little assistance. How cool is that?


They also have fewer opinions about what to do with the room. When we did this the first time, they knew just what they wanted. They designed the stencils and picked the colors. They had Vision. This time around, they're pretty flexible and don't seem to care what we do with the walls as long as they get a better ceiling fan (which they have, now, and it's wonderful - but it hasn't helped develop a vision for the room aside from "quiet ceiling fan and good lighting").

We'll get some paint samples this week and start looking around for furnishing ideas. I'm pretty excited! They're... well, they're willing to do the heavy lifting. They'll be excited later, when it's done.

Kiss those babies!
~Dy

Tuesday, January 28

That was fun.

It was such a cool weekend.

EmilyGirl left a note for the tooth fairy.


So sweet. And she's completely on to me, but doesn't seem to mind.



She also put the tooth into an origami box she'd made. There was a hole in the top so the fairy could document that yes, the tooth is there, but Em was really hoping to keep the tooth. I did not know this at the time, and now have a frankly fantastic addition to my Collection Of Things That Will Probably Freak Out My Adult Children After I'm Dead: a stray tooth in a paper box! But really, it's just too awesome to release back into the detritus of the crafting area and allow to end up in the back end of a vacuum. So I'm keeping it.

The guys made chips and queso to take to youth group, so not only did we get to be helpful, but the kitchen smelled magnificent all afternoon Sunday. (If you think a small Mexican restaurant smells magnificent, which we totally do. Someday, someone will come out with green chile scented candles. I live in hope.)

Z repaired the dishwasher for the happy price of a bottle of Lime-Away. And some creative application of elbow grease and a pointy thing. I don't know. We walked in halfway through, so all I had to do was get a little calcium build up off the sprayer arms and then dance in the kitchen during the test run. He did the sleuthing and heavy lifting. It worked out perfectly, too, as the boys have been doing dishes by hand for a little over a week - just long enough to be pretty appreciative about unloading the dishwasher this morning.

Also, after some particularly disgusting failures over the last several months (and with the help of a friend who said, "Use this recipe, but use that method,"), we managed to make homemade mayo successfully today. When it works, you feel like Penn Jillette. (When it doesn't, the feeling is closer to Gob*.) But seriously, that's a simple thing that's geeky-cool. If you haven't tried it, yet, and you have a stick blender, you've gotta try it. Truly, I don't know how the people in the demonstration videos don't geek out over watching it happen every. time.


Kiss those babies!
~Dy

*Gob Bluth, definitely not Penn & Teller... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5Nvxv2R01po

Monday, May 27

Gathering for a Pounce

Many (most? all? I should look that up) animals gather themselves together before they pounce. I'm pretty sure this is a mental phenomenon, also. (Though I haven't researched it, because honestly, it's just a picture in my head of how I feel before we have to tackle something big. So it could just be us.)

Anyway, we've had a busy week or so, and neither of us gathered for it, so it's been more of a swatting than a pouncing. Z ran out of steam on the soffits as he got farther around the back of the house and started running into rotted wood on the frame. And more brick work (not our favorite thing to do, regardless). It's been a week of sawzall work and framing, mortar and priming. It'll be good, in the end, and solid. But... nasty things fall out of the eaves when you start sawing on them. *gag*

Our Scout Troop had a weird confluence of TDY assignments for all our adults, and we found ourselves two weeks out from camp with only one Adult leader able to go. It's been a week with a flurry of emails, brainstorming, and stress. We were hoping to get information on a provisional troop arrangement at the camp, or perhaps to have the boys and our one adult appended to another troop for the week, but the camp office isn't open yet, the lady we generally deal with is on vacation, and we're having a devil of a time making headway. I could to go, if we could come up with a way to hide three bouncy Littles in camp for a week. So far, no brilliant ideas on that front. So it looks like the boys may miss scout camp this year.

Our Webelos built bat boxes. That was a "Z to the rescue" kind of thing. He's incredible with the kids - they learn so much from him, and they have fun doing it. Once the cedar dries out a bit, and they don't weigh so much, the boys will finish them out and get them hung. Based on the volume of mosquitoes we have this year, I'm betting we'll have the fattest bats in the state, and plenty of them.

I lost my glasses at some point last week. The Suburban was spotless. The house was immaculate. Still no glasses. Then I realized we hadn't tackled the Baby Dragon Lair. We waded through the paper treasure and bead bullion and other valuables in the hoard. I almost didn't do it. It's daunting for a non-crafty person to delve into an artist's space. Especially when she's small and has a minion. And, dragons. But I'm glad I did. The glasses were there, on a pony. Under some homemade pillows (paper, cotton balls, and staples). I also found my stapler.

On a related note, as much as I want to do the ceiling next, that child needs a non-carpeted room to work in. I'm thinking gunite. If you have ideas, toss them up on Pinterest. I'll be researching next week.

And graduations! We've had three beautiful, amazing young people in our lives who graduated from high school this week. Every one of them is the kind of person you can't wait to turn loose on the world: kind, hard working, generous, thoughtful, upright young people. I know their paths won't always be easy, but we are so very proud of them and excited for them to get out there and share themselves with the world. When people complain about "kids these days", I want to share these kids with them, so they'll know what to look for. They're there. And they're fantastic!

Kiss those babies, no matter how big!
~Dy

Tuesday, April 16

What Do We Do All Day?

There is no way our daily activities are what trash this house every. single. day. OK, the socks are ours. I'll own that. But the amount of dirt that finds its way onto the living room floor would normally require a contractor and a liability waiver. Maybe for my birthday I'll ask for a fleet of Roombas.

Z's replacing the soffits and fascia this week. That's a somewhat thankless job, from what I can tell. While it is good, and it needs doing, what will be most obvious when it's complete will be the old roof and the nasty hillbilly porch off the back. He gets serious bonus points for doing things just because they need to be done.

The kids did the first mowing of the season this week. Now that? That's a high-reward job. Fewer ticks, gorgeous view, low resistance job, and instant gratification. Love a freshly mown meadow.

I did... laundry. And swept. Mostly. There was other stuff, but it was about as exciting as that, really.

We did drive up to Tennessee to buy Z another Volvo. This last one had... fatal flaws. After several trips to George, the car whisperer, and three weeks in the shop, it was up and running, and then, in the middle of a normal morning commute, there was metal on metal noise. Even our laid back mechanically-inclined buddy shuddered when thinking about the noise. But the Volvos are a fave, and so off we went. Z seems happy. He can't wait to retrieve his beaded seat cover, and the a/c needs to be charged, but everything else is good. Plus, it doesn't leak in the rain. (He's a trooper, but it gets tiring driving to work with your feet in a puddle of water after every rainstorm. Maybe not such a deal breaker in the desert, but it'll wear on you, here.)

Oh! And our anniversary was last week. We thought about going to the drive-in theater, but decided it would be hard to hear the movie over the tornado sirens (not a euphemism for children - actual tornado sirens). So we opted for a night in with the family. Romantic, flashlights-at-the-ready dinner, nervous dog, anxious weather-following child. (Jacob. He discovered the weather news. And now he joins James in the general uproar over how seldom we go to the basement when the weather guy clearly states that's where we should be rightnow. I'm not sure how best to handle that. I don't want him to think we hold no regard for the weather warnings, because we do - that's why we have the radio on. But if there are no tornadoes on the radar and the winds aren't that strong, I'm just not convinced we need to hunker down with the damp and the basement critters until there are... uh, no tornadoes on the radar. I could be missing something. It happens. Sometimes more often than I'd like.) But all in all, it was actually pretty great. Z and I looked at each other, looked around at the kids, the house, the dog, then back to each other, and felt giddy.

"We're doing it! We're probably even getting good at this!"

w00t:

Thank God for grace and mercy. I've received it in spades.

Kiss those babies!
~Dy


Friday, April 5

What passes for exciting around here...

After years of making do, and more than a few months of threatening to just buy a hammock and sleep in the yard, we've finally bought a new mattress. Our old mattress is probably 25 years old. It's served us well, but it's been a long 25 years, and the other furniture never said, "Oh, you look so good for your age" or any other thing furniture would say if it were animated. I'm pretty sure even the leaning, saggy, 18-year-old chipboard bookcases just politely refused to make eye contact with the bed. And we slept about as well as one might expect on bedding in this condition. When Zorak would travel for work, he'd call at night and I'd ask him to tell me about the mattress. And he would, because even though he probably thought that was odd, he loves me. (By the way, Marriot does sell their mattresses to the public, just in case you're in the market - best night's sleep I've had in decades on one of those.)

So. This is huge. So huge that I must admit I'm probably just old, because a new mattress shouldn't be this exciting.

Yet it is.

And the only reason I'm not wallowing on that thing right now is because the sheets are still in the wash. Even that took some mustering to force me back up.

In other news, we finished the week strong for school, in spite of three dental visits, two hair cuts, music, and the constant need to buy more food.

We bought five new chicks, all "guaranteed to be pullets". (I am not strong on my farm knowledge, but the lady seemed to feel that answered my question, so I had to smile and nod and just trust that "pullet" does in fact mean "you'll get eggs from these if you can keep them alive long enough". Looked it up. It does. Yay!) The kids got the brooder box set up with a divider (we still have one of our older hens convalescing in there after a horrible near-death pecking by the roosters shortly before we left), and they're all enjoying the fun of raising baby chicks again.

And now that the last freeze of the year looks like it's past, it's time to start gardening! That's pretty exciting, too.

Kiss those babies, and sleep well!
~Dy

Tuesday, December 18

90% Done!

Which, for us, is like 110% done. We seldom get this far. I still have the kick plate to put back on, and the wood putty in the nail holes is drying. We may, or may not, get those dealt with in 2013. For now, though, here it is -- The Window!

It's like having a whole new kitchen! We'll add upper cabinets, now, and put up the beadboard ceiling and trim, and then... I think that's it. The inside will be, dare I say it? :whispers: Complete. That's hard to comprehend. Oh, no. No, I take that back. The boys' bedroom windows still need to be replaced, Em's room needs new carpet, and we need screen doors. OK, that feels more like it. (I'm not sure I'd know how to behave in a finished home!)

So, I tried to find the original before photos of the kitchen, but it looks like I'd uploaded them to a Flickr account, which has since been... emptied? sucked into the ether? eaten by Yahoo? :shrug: I don't know. I could log in with my normal account, but they had an old address for main contact info, so I'm sure they warned me that they were deleting pictures, but I don't use the ISP email, so I never saw it coming. Hopefully, there are some tucked away on the hard drive James salvaged from the basement.

And then, because it's more fun to play in a well-lit kitchen, we've been busy in there...

The spiced nuts would make a wonderful gift. I think. We can't keep them around long enough to package and give away, so it's only a guess. The saltine toffee, of course, is a natural favorite. James has reached a Zen-like mastery of the Russian tea cakes (aka, Snowballs, or Mexican Wedding Cookies). And a dear friend brought the mock Turtles to the Troop meeting last week (pretzels, rolos, and she topped hers with M&Ms, although pecans are traditional, and almonds are not bad at all!) So Jase and Em have been making those. Rice krispy treat wreaths, and old fashioned chocolate chip cookies round out this week's adventures. I might make some of my Mother-in-Law's amazing candies the week after Christmas. (The kids need to be busy doing something else for that. I don't have it down well enough to supervise helpers, and there would be scalding. She would probably rescind my rights to the recipes, and rightfully so, if I scalded the grandbabies.) We're on the lookout for more ideas to make together, though. Do you have a favorite recipe you'd be willing to let me know about?

Kiss those babies!
~Dy

Monday, December 17

A Busy Day in December

Z and I did quite a bit of shopping today, finishing up the majority of our gift purchases. Coffee, quiet time in the car, no bickering over what to buy or where to go. It. Was. Wonderful. Long-term monogamy is handy for us slow learners. Give us another 15 years, and we are absolutely going to *rock* this living together thing!

I'm finally entering the... whatever century this is... and actually used my Amazon app to buy books. In the car. On our way home. I don't know why that felt like such a milestone, but it did. :tinylittlefistbump: Had this phone for two years, and it's only been in the past few months that I've figured out how to use it. This is why I'm not an early adopter, right? But, yay, Amazon loves me and there will be books beneath the tree!

James watched the siblings for us, which was huge. He wants to babysit, and so the experience is good for him. Plus, it's not a bad gig - they played Apples to Apples and Battleship. He made lunch. Jacob made smoothies. Then James and John read to the little ones, and spearheaded the video game rotations, all without wielding the Staff Of Power, or any other nonsense. Just a good, warm, gentle time of watching the Littles. They were all quite content and safe. Plus, he called to check in while we were out. :happy melting heart: He's such a great big brother. And a neat kid, overall.

The Unclaimed Baggage Center is here in Alabama. I'd feel silly if we lived here a decade and never made it over there. (Kind of like not making it to the Walls of Jericho, Chattanooga, Atlanta, Buck's Pocket, Rock City, and a few other places on our To Do list...) So that's where we went today. Wow. Oh, wow. That is a cool little place. They have a museum, with displays and information on the more interesting things that have come their way. They have a central pillar display done up like ancient Venetian plaster, with money and pictures from around the world worked into the columns. I'm pretty sure I couldn't go on a highly hormonal day, as there were a few things that you just *know* someone really, really missed, and I couldn't imagine not trying to find out who and where, to reunite them with the lost item. So. There is that warning. But if you're of a less sentimental nature, it's a neat little place to find interesting things. No pictures from there, though. They do have a hashtag and posters for Instagram users who want to tag them. I nearly took a picture of that, but couldn't decide if it was weird or ironic. If you can't tell, it's best to pass, I think.

And the window trim is up! (As of two minutes ago.) I have to clean, and we need sunlight, but then I'll share a picture of the end result. This project is as big an improvement as pulling the carpet was! (Z says not quite, from a health standpoint, the carpet wins. That's a fair assessment.)

Kiss those babies!
~Dy

Wednesday, December 12

Wow.

There is a window in the wall, folks! It's IN. It's not foamed or trimmed, but I don't particularly mind. It's IN! It's so pretty, too. We may get up early tomorrow, just to enjoy the light as the sun comes up.

Also, that was just in time. We have a Scout meeting here tomorrow. The boys will be down in the meadow (additional serendipity: meteor shower tomorrow night! WOOHOO!), but the committee members will probably appreciate meeting indoors before that. It will be nice for there to be a marked difference, yes? Yes, we thought so, too.

Standing back, taking in the progress, I'd wondered aloud if we could find before-before pictures of the house, and Zorak mentioned that he's pretty sure there are some on the blog. I'll bet he's right! That will make before/after shots significantly easier, but it also got us thinking about how much we've done, and how much we've learned. We're really quite fortunate to have one another -- it's a good combination. Although I am excited about living in a normal, finished house for a time. At least until we have the opportunity to take on another Big Project.


Kiss those babies!
~Dy

Saturday, December 8

Spoke too soon.

No pictures. I can't find the camera!

It's just been that sort of week, really. Thankfully, it's over. And while I'm bummed about the camera going missing (although it's *got* to be here, somewhere -- it's just got to be -- we had it at the Troop Christmas Party, then came home... didn't go anywhere else or do anything else. It's crazy.) -- really, it's not going to upend our world. We have a lot to be glad for, and we are. (Although I did push pretty hard on the Clean As You Look For It rule, and the house is quite tidy, now.)

Zorak and the boys got all the brick off the wall, got the sheathing prepped, the bricks cleaned, and started re-bricking where it needs to have a wall. That's crazy-scary, watching that. Brick dust is tremendous, and duct tape is a total godsend for sealing off leaks and keeping the dust out of the house. Bless the engineers at Johnson & Johnson. (As a side note, I read several articles that stated the Germans called it Panzertape. Now that's an endorsement, isn't it? Good stuff, by any name.) We ran out of mortar today, but will get some tomorrow, and hope to have it done by the end of this weekend.

EmBaby has begun to suspect that we're trying to get out of Christmas decorating. (She asked the other day, "Are we having a tree this year? Should we just decorate the bookshelves?") I guess we do need to put that on the to-do list for this week. The kids haven't exactly nixed the idea of cutting their own tree again this year, but they haven't made eye contact when we've brought it up, either. Z and I figure this may be the year to buy a replacement tree. I geeked out over one last week that has little, fake pine cones on it. James and the littles were with me, and it's not clear whether they thought I was joking or not. (I wasn't. It's truly just ugly enough to be wonderful! Whimsical! Perfect!)

Meanwhile, we're still loving the new arrangement. EmBaby did her schoolwork in the Dining Room. We aren't even doing school this week! We need some actual furniture for the living room, now that it's the size of a living room, but that will come. Eventually, we get things done.

Kiss those babies!
~Dy

Thursday, December 6

It's like having an illness!

We got the kitchen painted and the cabinets reinstalled. They look lovely. Also, the kids are stoked to eat like normal again. Meanwhile, the voices (I don't know if it's the house, the caffeine, or what) started up again. That dining table... needs to be shorter, and wider, doesn't it?

Yessss....

And then it would fit in the school room, wouldn't it?

Mmmm, yes...

I wonder if we could put the computer over in that corner?

Oh, yes, my lovely...

Ohhh! And then (THEN!) we could put furniture equidistant from the wood stove on the right, doubling our living space!

Yessss, you're mine, now. You won't be able to think about anything else until you try it...

SURE! All we have to do is move those two bookshelves, dismantle the computer desk and the shelf over that... empty the corner hutch, and... why, we can do this before dinner! It's brilliant!

It's a good thing I've never done drugs. I can't imagine how much worse this could be. The kids didn't even flinch, and when Zorak got home, there we were, wading mid-calf deep through books stacked in the living room, vacuuming up dead bugs, maneuvering around empty bookcases parked caddywompus in the dining room. He's such a sport. Mere mortals would, at the least, use a tense, hissing voice as they inquired what in the name of all that's holy is going on here. Lesser men might even have asked about the voices. He just threw some pork steaks in the oven and helped schlep books back and forth.

For hours.

But we ate in the new Dining Room! It's echo-y and bare, but pleasant and intimate. (Definitely need a different table, though.) And after the kids went to bed, we sorted and shelved books. I have about 90# of books that don't have a home now that we've taken down the computer shelf, and the corner between the hutch and the tea cart accumulated a shocking amount of crap in the last five years. (None of which I have any idea where to put.) And then there's that paper addiction we haven't addressed yet. So really, it looks worse. Much, much worse. And the voices would be laughing, but they gave up and went to bed two hours ago.

The window will be here next weekend (not the one coming, but the one after), and I hope to have everything looking like it's meant to be this way by the time the window arrives. We'll see how that goes.

Kiss those babies!
~Dy

Sunday, December 2

Watching Paint Dry

Turns out, it won't dry any faster if you watch it. (And yet, I stare. Go figure.)

As of this writing, the kitchen has been textured and primed. I wanted to paint tonight, but that's not going to happen. Of course, I wanted to put the kitchen back together tonight, too, so admittedly, I had ulterior motives at work, there. Still, we are moving forward, keeping our spirits up, and our debris to a minimum. If I can get two coats on tomorrow, then Zorak can do a few things under the cabinets when he gets home and then we'll be in business. I can't describe how giddy I am over this project.

We bought enough paint to do all the living area spaces that are currently Heavy Cream. (Fresh paint does wonders, even if it's the same color you had before.) I thought I'd run into a bit of a snag, though, when I pulled the paint chip for it. It's... tan. According to the paint chip, Olympic's "Heavy Cream" is a tan color. I stuck it under the wonder lights, to see if our lighting must be making it look different. Nope. It looks tan under all the different lighting options. So I called James and asked him to read the label to me. It matched. No extra letters, numbers, or runes anywhere on the can? Nope. :shrug: OK, then. Since we're redoing everything, I guess it wouldn't matter if it were way off. It's just unsettling to think you've been living in a creamy yellow house for seven years, only to find out it's tan and everybody you know just smiled and nodded when you described it as yellow.

The guys began the brick work today, removing the bricks from within the space for the new window. The boys helped get them off, and took turns cleaning bricks (some of the old window space will now be wall, so we want to re-tread bricks to match where we'll have to build new wall.). If there is a patron saint of lungs or respiratory systems, I need to know. The dust is astounding! Even with filters and tarps and a good breeze to keep it moving away from the house, everything is covered in abrasive dust. Blech. By the time we're done with this project, it's going to take another six months to get it all out of the house.

Anyway, the boys worked their fingers to the bone this weekend. Zorak declared they did a steak-worthy job, so we splurged on steaks and turnip greens tonight. So good. I wish we could afford for them to work this hard all the time!

The window will be here in 13 days. That's plenty of time to finish what we can of the brickwork, have the rest of the kitchen back together, and start another project. I love this time of year!

Kiss those babies!
~Dy