Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Summer House List

My title sounds kinda like a seasonal crappy techno compilation.  Just $19.95!  Buy now!

So...  here's a big honking list.  I haven't done a list like this since we moved into the house, and maybe it's spring in the air, but now seems like a great time.

These are most of the big projects we'd like to get done this summer.  There's no order to these, I've just put them down as they came

Many more of these projects are on the outside of the house, which is an area we've intentionally neglected until we could get several bigger inside projects paid for and done.  Ya know, dry rot, windows, recessed lights, new walls, closets, chimney's, etc.  That fun stuff.  (Okay, we still have to finish some of those).

What's good is my husband is more inclined to do outside work than in, so I think we'll be able to make faster progress this year.  What's bad, is that I'm pregnant and will be no help with anything daunting... so strike that.  Slower progress.

That all said... here's our list.


The front walkway is big on our list for the summer.  My mom will be so glad to see this on the list, as it's such a trip hazard.  The array of steps are spaced so randomly, it's hard to go up them.  There's about an inch drop where the concrete is, so in the summer you can trip, and in the winter it creates constant sheets of ice.

The stairs at the bottom of the walkway need some loving too.  We expect they were pretty when they were put in, but even then they were probably really dangerous.  Some of the edges are sloped, rounded rocks, the spacing is too short in spots to get a good footing, the top is narrow and stairs of this height really needs a handrail.  On a dry summer day, it's fine.  In the winter, if I have to go up this area, I either climb to the side, or jump down the whole set.  It's bad.  Really bad.

Lighting is poor, so even if we don't have the funds for it this year, we're going to prep for wiring up a light out here too for the future.


Last year's garden was a big flop.  You can't even tell it was there this year... but maybe that's for the better.  Well, there are some onions from last year that sprouted up.  But, we'll pretend last years garden didn't happen.  Shh...

I'm thinking of raised garden beds.  Not much of a plan of where they should go, but, I don't feel like attacking this same spot again this summer.  Nor the effort bending over in a garden, being all pregnant and such.  Maybe this, sunnier, side of the house?


It's not working for us.  We throw things in faithfully... every month.  Until then, we have a big bowl of stinky, decomposing food in our kitchen for weeks and weeks.  It's quite the hike to the compost, and in the winter it's quite miserable. 

And not just that we're lazy, but it's not composting well.  It doesn't get much sun, animals come and steal food, and we don't turn it/ add browns nearly as often as we should.  Okay, yeah, it's because we're lazy.  It's such a big pain to turn.  Whine, whine, whine.

I'm hoping to get a barrel style bin and put it much, much closer to our kitchen.


Seems worth combining these two.  We had the sinkhole from last year... that I'm hoping Jon can get dug up soon. It seems that this sinkhole was because of buried trees.

And actually we had two new sinkholes pop up in our driveway.   From what we can tell frost heaves were the culprit.  Our driveway does seem to raise up about 6-8" over the course of the winter, peaking in melting season.  We filled them in, and everything seems fine again.

We dig dig up our home drainpipe, but it seems that besides not going downhill the whole time, it's fine.  So that leaves us back to wanting some more drainage, now in the driveway too. Someday we want to have our driveway paved/repaved, so better drainage could be a good start.

The porch has started sinking again :( and the radon system sometimes bubbles with water... so I'm actually thinking it might be a good time to have a drainage expert come out and give us some advice.


We're hoping to extend the swing-set bar out a little further to add enough room for three kids and a disk seat (on clearance last year!).  Someday, we'll do a real upgrade, but we're trying to invest one piece at a time.  We're also hoping to get a sandbox made, as our kids are big into playing in sand...  and have been begging for a long time. 


It's time.  The deck has to come down. We've officially condemned part of it and it's no longer in use, as we're afraid of sudden collapse.  There are so many crooked poles and bad supports... but those have been there this whole time.

This is the final straw though.

See these two boards?  The ones in the center of the picture below.  Follow them to the wall, and you'll see the joist hanger that's holding them u... oh wait?  Can't see it?  That's because the bottom rusted through, and now there is no support on these two, very important boards.   Oh and what's that other flappy thing to the side?  That's another joist hanger that bit the dust already.  I'm fairly certain these joist hangers are corroding more quickly than usual because of the exhaust vent that was under there.  So glad for our new chimney.

So now you ask... if the joist hangers are about as strong as brawny burly paper towels, what is holding this deck up.

Well, this pole is.  This one pole.  There's so much force it's actually started indenting into the double support and chipping.  It gets better though, but... at this point I don't have any new pictures.  Because once I saw the unstable state of our deck... I high-tailed my pregnant butt out of there super fast.

However, I do have a picture from when we moved in.  This pole here.  The slightly crooked one, on the pile of concrete?  That's the one holding up most of the deck.  But it's actually more angled and the pile of concrete much more sloped now. It's just begging for a slight ground tremor ::: sighs :::

So that does it for the deck.  We don't have the money to replace it in it's entirety... but it's going to have to come down this year either way.


The cover and winterizing kit did a great job.  The cover did well all winter and when we peeked under the cover the water was crystal clear.

But... then spring came, some melting ice damaged the wall, which put a hole in the liner, which lowered the water, tore the cover to pieces and actually seemed to put a hole in the metal side too.  There was no way to get the water off the cover now, so we did what we could, but contaminated some of our nice clean water.

So we'll have to fix that and get it all clean again.  And since the deck is coming down, we'll have to come up with another solution for getting in and out of the pool (cheaply and safely).

Fire Pit

Jon's wanted one since we've moved it.  With our budget though, it's less of a 'fire pit' and more of a campfire.  He's got most of it done and to code, but we still have to have it inspected by our fire department for the season.

I'm hoping to get that tree stump stained and sealed for prime marshmallow roasting.

... and we've got lots of brush that I'd love to see disappear.

Clothes Line

This is currently a very sad looking trellis and grapevine.  I'm no gardener, but we seem to grow more japanese beetles than we do grapes.  I think we're about 2631 to 0, actually.

I'd love to have a clothesline, and this might be the best spot for it.  I'm thinking of taking the easy way out, and reset those poles and hang a clothes line there.


To transition from the outside in, we'll look at windows and doors.  The basement door isn't doing so hot.  So cool actually snow blew in this winter.  We're hoping to just put in something a little less..  broken and leaky.

The windows are a carryover from what seems like forever.  For what we bought last time, we still have one window downstairs waiting to be put in.  So that's the dormer window downstairs, plus two windows upstairs we need to purchase and replace. 

Plus the downstairs bathroom and kitchen windows are looking for some window attention too.

Eve's Room & Linen Closet

This old thing? Yeah.  Shameful that it's not done yet.  It will be.  I'm so close to having some closet space.  So close. 

Eve's room is still close to done as well.  We'll get there.  We can do this.

We also have a few outstanding electrical items to do, but those too are fairly simple.


I don't have any recent pictures.  We still have the trim to install in our new partition wall to finish up the last project.  Plus I'd love to get some coat hooks and a built in storage unit in there.

Downstairs Bathroom

I don't have, nor to I want to show pictures of our downstairs bathroom.  I mudded a lot of the walls a long time ago as the walls were in bad shape.  Holes all over.  I never sanded them.

I want to finally repaint this thing.  I think I bought the paint on a memorial day sale... last year :(

Computer Desk

The desk is working wonderfully for us, but it's still far from complete.  I'm wanting to get the printer on a slide, as well as finish up the drawers.  I have a few more shelves to make.. and if there's money left over, I might order some cabinet faces.  But we'll see about that one.

I'm also hoping to get a little shelf made over near the kids art table and maybe make that bigger for our bigger kids (?)... we'll see.

Sliding Pot Shelves

Should be fairly simple.  I just want shelves that pull out so we can use all of this island storage space.  We got new pots last year, and I really want to try to take care of them.

I bought the full extension slides just after I found out I was pregnant, in hopes I could get this and other 'quick' projects done. Didn't happen.  (Amazon has great deals on slides if you buy in bulk and combine shipping.)

Kitchen Faucet

Our list includes everything but the... no wait, the kitchen sink too.

Our faucet has been awful since we bought the house.  Biggest problem is that is sprays water everywhere.  We tried every aerator Home Depot & Lowes offered, but none fit.  I searched the internet and found the brand of this faucet, scoured the product specs and manuals for the type of aerator and still came up with nothing.  So much for the cheap fix we were hoping for.

Plus the handle that stuck so bad that sometimes I had to call Jon in to turn it off for me.  And there was no mode between 'water grenade' and 'off'. 

Add that into low clearance and general dislike of the design from both Jon and myself and we figured it was time to upgrade.  We had been practical enough doing other big repairs first.  Time to like our house again.

The End.

Overwhelming?  Yes.  Ambitious?  Yes.

As unlikely as it is that we'll be able to accomplish all that is on the list this summer, I've found it sooooo helpful to write down and visualize my goals and accomplishments (albeit slow).  It's motivating, and just sometimes a great resource for myself to keep track of what I'd like to see and where we are.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Big Updates & Little Updates

That was a long winter.  Lots of snow in a fairly short time period.  It didn't even come close to melting in time for Easter this year.  We did have manage to sneak some fun sliding on our pond early on, but unfortunately, most of the time this winter was spent indoors.

At one point, part of our deck was about 4' tall.  The photo below was taken from my height (a whopping 5' feet).

And some of those blizzards were super blustery. They even shut down my work for a day, which was  the first time ever in my company.  That particular storm we had a foot of snow... on our covered porch.  A lot more than that elsewhere :)

Coincidentally, we decided it was the year to buy a snowblower!  Jon wanted an electric snowblower, citing it's lighter weight, ease to maintain, and lower cost.  I knew a gas snowblower lasts years, can clear just about any snow and is way more powerful.  Jon is the one actually doing the snowblowing... so he won.

So while the one we got was really cheap with a price tag of $154... but we found the real expense came with the extension cords. Sticker shock when I went to the store and saw they were $85 for the correct gauge @ 100ft.  And we needed two :(  Thankfully, Amazon came through again and we were about to pick up two cords, each for  $55.  So we spent $110 on the cords, and $44 more on the blower.  Thankfully, we can use those cords for the electric lawnmower and electric weed-wacker too.  (See a pattern yet?)

Anyway!  Enough snow!  On to the real updates!

We'll start off with the BIG updates...  that way I'll have an excuse later for the little updates.  First off, we've released our Tangible Math app!  It's taken a long, long time, but we're happy to have it out.

It's pretty exciting and we've heard good things from a few teachers and homeschoolers who have previewed or bought it right out.  Very encouraging. No reviews yet, so we're anxiously awaiting for a few good ones to show up

It's available for purchase on iPad, Kindle Fire, Nook, or any other Android device.  And you can find out more about the app here and here.

Second BIG update... which is a actually a 'little' big update...  we're going to be adding a new family member in a few months!  Also fairly exciting.

Okay... it's more exciting than the app, but it's more the point of the rest of the post so it came second.
Like with my other kids, I expected a tough first trimester.  So in the two weeks between finding out I was pregnant and having any symptoms hit, I tried to get as much house stuff as I could done.  Which was mostly mudding and painting. 

So onto the little updates. We mudded/painting the upstairs and downstairs halls, the new closet stairs, and some trim.

And then symptoms hit.  It was a rough first trimester.  I counted about 20 symptoms, some minor and some completely debilitating.  Nausea and vomiting top the list, but weakness (often not being able to stand) and low energy were pretty tough to contend with as well. 

It was a hard two+ months of pretty much doing nothing except feeling sick, going to work and sleeping.  Pretty much no work got done on the house at all.

However, as my second trimester approached, I started getting some (not much) energy back. And now that I'm about 15 weeks, most of my energy is back, and my sick feelings are almost completely gone.  Yay!

So, here's where I'm at now with our last big house project.  The closest (and hall) have been painted, and the electrical plates installed.  The shelves we were able to cut to size and get hung up a few weeks ago when I felt okay enough to sit and work on a ladder.  I just got the door installed yesterday.

So what's left for the closet? The inside molding needed one side cut down to fit - I just left the other side waiting inside uninstalled, as you can see below.  Then the door needs to be painted, the hindges/doorknob spray painted, and the molding caulked and painted.  And that would be it for the new closet!

Eve's room still needs quite a bit more, as I haven't touched it at all.  This side needs it's final sanding, priming, painting, door, etc, etc.  Still not that far off.

This side still needs even more, as we have at least another coat of mud, as well as... well, everything else.  But we're making progress again, and that in itself feels great.

In other, random house news, we decided to pull out the rails on the windows in our sunroom.  Well, sort of decided.  One side wasn't adhered well, and Isaac accidentally bumped into and it fell out.... and we decided to leave it out to see if we liked it. And well, we do. A lot.

So Jon went through and pulled all of the rails on the windows.  It really makes the room feel more open to the outdoors and less... claustrophobic.  I'm happy with the change.  Not sure what to do with the rails though.
So that is what is up with our family.  It'll be a big change, and I'm hoping we can feel a bit more settled when it's baby time :)  Time to get working!

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Kids Room Update

After enjoying a nice Christmas break with no housework, I've really slowed down the progress on the house.

However, we were able to finally restore power to the entire house, including the lights and switches in the boys room... with these two new additions - a ceiling fixture, and hardwired smoke alarm. 

And now that we don't have to tromp into the attic anymore (access located in the boys room closet) the boys room (+Eve) is now back to being the most completed room in the house!

The lamp is a little big for the room, but after looking at a few options at Home Depot/Lowes, and not liking any of them... we stumbled on to this clearance display fixture for $10. Sold!  We failed to notice it didn't come with a cross support, but that was an easy add on for $3.

Smoke alarm is the fairly basic.  I had really wanted a voice alarm, as we had a "Fire, Fire, Fire" alarm in our last place... but I can't seem to find a hardwired version.  Maybe next time they'll need to be replaced.  I did get the dual detector kind that is both P/E and Ionic for all three bedrooms. I sort of wish I had picked up dual detector alarms when we had updated in our house earlier in this renovation.

The closet still needs some sort of a storage solution, but I'm just glad to be able to store things in it again.  Not only were we risking getting everything covered in dirt and insulation going through the attic all the time... but we also kept the ladder in there a good bit of the time too.  Much better now that all that stuff isn't jammed throughout the room, and under beds and such.

In the spirit of having a nicer room, we did the final sorting of the Legos (no more Misc. bin!) and broke apart some of their earlier creations taking up table space.

The lego system I built is still holding up really well, and I'm still really glad I made it.

While we were doing our final sorting, we were able to finish up the labels for the bins too.  Yay!  The two small top white bins are room to grow, and the big one is just the flat plates to build on. 

In case you're curious, the small labels read:
Wheels & Tires, Castle Pieces, Doors & Windows , Ramps and Slants, Technic and Mechanical, Small Special Pieces, Large Special Pieces, K'nex, Micro Special  Pieces and finally Plants.

I also set aside a bin for booklets to store under the table.  I put the nice booklets on top.  Many are ripped to pieces already.

Plus, Eve's Lego Friends got an upgraded container too.  She didn't want to keep them in the boys room forever, so it seemed like a good idea to separate them out now.


Since I'm a bit of a Lego enthusiast myself, I have to share... one of the coolest purchases we got for Eli's Birthday was Lego Power Functions.  (I'm hoping they lend well to homeschooling too.)

Jon had taught the Lego robotics club when he was a Physics Teacher, so those were well known... but I didn't realize there was a whole other branch of powered Legos that didn't require programming (or quite the expense).  We ordered from Lego.com so that we could also get some of the extras in addition to what came in the box version, like a large motor, extra switches & a remote control/receiver.

Eli and Jon liked them.

...but, I'm pretty sure I liked them the most.  When Eli went to bed the day after he got them... I made this sweet remote controlled car.  It's pretty awesome.

In addition to the power functions, we decided to pick up a new excavator kit for Eli.  It had instructions for how to integrate the power functions, so we thought it would be good practice for integrating motors/switches into Legos.

Which, I think worked, because when he built the second set of instructions for the Tractor he added in the power functions himself (since there were none for that set).
Yay Legos!

Okay, the Lego play break is over.  Well, we're happy to be making some slow, but steady progress in the house.  More importantly, I'm happy to say one room is very very close to being done.  The only thing we have left on our wish list is hardwood floors, and that is on a distant-when-we-can-afford-it list.  Everything else lands itself on less disruptive, more enjoyable, decorating the house lists.  And I'm happy with that.

Speaking of lists, here's what's finished on the electrical list:
The Electrical Plan
Upgrade all switches to white ones
Upgrade all outlets to white tamper resistant outlets

Remove lightswitch from upstairs hall, and rewire other switch
Add outlet to upstairs hall

Add recessed lights for eve's room
Re-rout switch from outlet to lights
Add extra outlets to Eve's room in key places
Move switches from demo and under window
Add extra outlets to Boys room behind dresser
Add ceiling light to boys room
Re-rout switch from outlet to light

Add smoke alarms to all three bedrooms, wired to the existing hardwired smoke alarms
Add closet light to new closet w/switch
Add outlet for dustbuster in new closet

Add recessed lights in office
Add recessed lights in livingroom
Add extra outlets in livingroom where needed (computer, TV, etc)
Finish coax installation behind TV 
Replace and fix the dimmer switch in dining room.
Some of those left unmarked are about 98% finished, but only require the drywall/paint to be finished so the plate can be installed.  Happy days - we're almost done!