Archive for the ‘House’ Category

As promised, I took some pictures of the areas of the house I have been working on.  Let’s start in the kitchen :)

I went through all of my old Tupperware and matched every tub to a lid.  I decided that things get too messy when I keep the tubs and lids separate (even if it does save space).  I kept only the tubs with lids and only the ones that were in good enough shape to continue using.  They fit pretty well alongside my holiday serving plates.

Next up were the pots and pans.  Again, I started with matching up the items with the lids.  We had about 3 sets of lids from over the years—they matched nothing in my kitchen.  Gone!

I purchased an organizer that holds 2 pans and all the lids. It works perfectly because it holds the one pan and lid I use for cooking on a weekly basis—easy to take out, easy to put away.  Unfortunately, because of the way the cabinet is designed, I had to put it in backwards (which means it can’t slide in/out).  I don’t mind though.  The top shelf in the back is full of my baking dishes (pie pans, cake pans, bread pans).  I’m pretty happy with the results.

Next up, the pantry (complete with the letter “r,” just for Eric Lawrence).  It’s not perfect, but it works. We used to have a lot of extra appliances all over the place and you couldn’t walk in the door.  I got rid of the old appliances we never use any more and the ones that were broken/missing parts. Now, everything has it’s own place—even if it does still look cluttered.

The laundry room was actually finished a while ago, but I thought I would share.  Different bins for all the cleaning supplies, organized by room/cleaning surface. Works pretty well. Now I just have to start using the cleaning supplies :)

Master Closet—this one took a while.  I got bins for the top shelves to hold the clothes that were stacked on top before.  Across the back, there is a small stack of extra blankets and then new blue bins. They hold towels for the master bath, sheets for the master bed, and the last one has hats and purses.  On the floor there are a couple of containers of clothes being stored for different kinds of weather.  Anson and I both have a set of drawers for our work out clothes.  Hanging on the left side are my long-sleeved items organized by ROYGBIV. Along the back are my short-sleeved items, then pants, skirts, and dresses. Anson has the right side and he gets to organize it however he wants :)

Next stop, the upstairs! Hopefully I’ll be able to blog about it next week :)

We’ve gotten a couple of emails recently asking about what we have been up to. The short answer is: nothing interesting.  Anson works. I work.  Though my job is way more awesome—today, Alex and I went to the zoo and fed the giraffes (Zoos are so much more awesome now! When I was a kid…).  Anyway, I thought I might try to share some of the stuff I’ve been working on—then you can have a better understanding of what I mean when I say “nothing interesting.”

I know it’s a little late for “spring cleaning,” but I’m finally inspired to fix up the house a bit.  I just wish I were better at it!

When I started to think of ways to re-organize and better-ify my house, I had a TON of ideas.

1. Turn the library into Anson’s office.  To start this massive task, I went through all of my old books and sold/donated anything I wasn’t going to use ever again.  After 3 trips to Half Price Books (approximately 11 bags of books), I walked away with about $50 and gained some empty bookshelves.  I managed to move one empty bookshelf into the common area as well as one full bookshelf.  I was ready to move Anson’s desk into the office when Anson pointed out that there was no internet hook up in that room. Oops.  So, we ordered a 50ft cable and are waiting for it to arrive before moving anything else. 

2. Organize the Master Closet.  The closet was fairly well organized in terms of hanging items (yes, I organize my closet according to ROYGBIV).  The shelves above the hanging items are super tall and had random stacks of clothes thrown up there.  We also stored towels and sheets for the master bedroom on the shelves. Due to the height, it was almost impossible to make things look neat and tidy without using a step ladder to put items away.  We also have random bins, suitcases, etc all over the floor.  I started by going through the bins and taking out any old clothes that I will never wear again—donated—gone!  I got tubs to fold and place the clothes in before they go on the shelf.  Now it’s easy to access and put clothes on the top shelf.  I’ve still got to go through the rest of the tubs on the floor, but it’s a start.

3. Board game infestation under control.  Anybody who knows us knows that we have a bajillion board games.  I discovered just how many when I was trying to fill my trunk with games for a Game Night at my church.  I realized that we not only have a ton of games, but we store them all over the house (coffee table, closet downstairs, closet upstairs, etc).  I bought some shelves from target and built them inside the guest room closet.  I managed to locate all of our games and put them on the shelves (to be fair, only half fit on the shelves—the rest are stacked on top).  Done (sort of)!

4. Spiders are no fun.  Anson showed me a spider that can only be described as “Holy Moly that’s a GIANT spider” in the garage.  Clearly it was time to clean the garage.  I built a set of shelves and got our garage items (toolboxes, gardening tools) off the ground.  I also sprayed the garage with lavender essential oil and water. It’s supposed to deter bugs. I hope it works!  Unfortunately, we still have some items in the garage to get rid of, but I can’t do that without renting a truck.  Also, the amount of garbage/recycling I collected has completely filled the bins.  Now, there’s not room for any more trash or recycling this week. Naturally, I have tons.  There are a couple of cardboard boxes around the house that are slowly being filled with other boxes, cans, bottles, etc.  And they are just sitting around the house.  This drives me BANANAS!

5. Kitchen Chaos.  I don’t often cook. I use 1 pan and 1 pot consistently, but that’s it.  So, as I was looking around the kitchen the other day and noticed the STACKS of pots and pans in the cabinets, I thought it might be time to downsize.  I also noticed STACKS of tupperware that may or may not have lids and STACKS of random stuff in the pantry.  I bought a couple of organizers for the cabinets (lid holders, can holders, racks), but haven’t even touched them yet.  Maybe I’ll start on this over the weekend.

I would love to take before and after pictures to share, but I can’t stand the idea of taking before pictures.  The house is in a state of transition—bookshelves strewn about, boxes of organizational materials I haven’t touched yet, boxes of recyclables.  This kind of thing drives me bonkers!  I probably should have only done one of these things at a time, but I got a little excited and went a little crazy.  I look forward to sharing the after pictures though. Keep an eye out for those :)

The window in our kitchen gets quite a bit of action.  It’s about 5 feet from the wetlands, so it’s right next to a lot of wildlife.  We keep having birds run into the window.  No one dies, but it does make a rather disturbing thump noise. 

So, I purchased some holographic scare tape—made specifically for just such situations. In theory, you put the tape on the window and the birds are too scared to fly into it. 

I put the tape on the window one evening as the sun was going down.  The next morning as soon as the sun came up, no less than 100 birds strategically attacked the window in a terrifying rage.  They continued to fearlessly ram the window until all of the holographic tape was gone.  At least now when one or two hit the window, it doesn’t seem so bad.

This morning, however, a bird was at the window above our front door.  Tap. Tap. Tapping on the window.  Staring at me.  I would have taken a picture, but I didn’t want to lose the staring contest (no worries, I won).  They’re surrounding my house though.  I worry that one day, they’ll make their move.  Any ideas on how to scare them away before they break a window? Or themselves?

I have tried a few times over the years to grow a plant or two.  No luck though.  I had to give up on an herb garden after one season—it completed molded over.  And the other plants have just plain died.  Likely from over-watering. Or under-watering.  I can’t tell.

We’re getting some work done on our lawn this week and I would love to plant something with flowers in my yard.  I think that individual flowers would be too delicate for me to care for and a tree would be too big for our yard. So, I’m looking to find a flowering bush that can survive in the Seattle climate.  And that requires almost no work from me. It’s probably safer for the plant that way :)

Anybody have any suggestions?

I’d love to plant a hydrangea or something similar.  I think it’d be pretty full in appearance and there would be some nice flowers to bring in and put in a vase.

One side of our house gets a ton of sun and the other side gets almost none—go figure!  Any thoughts?

Over the holidays, Anson and I got some new office equipment (I got a new computer, he got a new monitor and desk).  We spent a bunch of time setting it up and I finally got a picture of it:

IMG_7883

Anson has his desk on the left.  His old desk (the corner desk I am now using) was no longer big enough to hold his monitor.  He got a GIANT monitor!  My desk is, of course, decorated with stuffed animals and cards from Kira.  And what office would be complete without a chair for the cat?  Beta even posed for the picture :)

I’ve also spent some time hanging more pictures around the house.  I haven’t “finalized” any of the new wall hangings yet, but I’ll be sure to post pictures when I do.  Maybe that would be a good resolution for me—to limit the number of holes I put in the walls. 

Alright, I’m going to try to be better about updating the page more often.  Let’s see if I can get it up to once or twice a week :)

This is the last week of ESY (extended school year—“summer school” to all you non-teachers out there). I’m pretty excited about it. It was a little chaotic coming into the classroom mid-summer. I’m looking forward to having my own classroom in the fall. Speaking of the fall—I’m slowly getting more information about my job placement. I will be teaching extended day preschool, which is a bit different than teaching regular preschool. It sounds like it is a program specifically for students with autism and I will spend all day writing programs and collecting/analyzing data. Nobody that I talked to today really knew the specifics of the job, so it will be exciting to get in there in the fall and make the job my own :)

I am slowly working up the courage to install the 2nd curtain rod. I’ve taken the rod out of the packaging, looked at it, read the directions, and then slowly placed everything back in the packaging and back on the kitchen table. I’m really not looking forward to destroying the wall more than I already have. Someday, I’m sure the amount of sunlight coming into the house will be unbearable….someday.

This summer I have been taking hot yoga classes. I must admit that my lungs are not particularly happy about the 104 degrees and 40% humidity.  If the room is anywhere close to crowded, I end up sitting out quite a bit. The one time that I did pretty well was when the class was pretty empty. I am thinking about trying to find regular (non-hot) yoga classes. It’s a tough call though—the heat is pretty unbearable, but you feel so great when you leave the class. We’ll see :)

Two quick notes to end the post:

Happy Birthday Grandma Horton!

143 Days ‘till Christmas :)

Anson and I have decided to get an air conditioner for our new house. Maybe I’m getting old, but this seems much harder than the last time we did this! I’ve spent the past couple of weeks interviewing contractors to install it. Of course, no 2 contractors offer the same air conditioners. And Consumer Reports doesn’t give enough information to be able to make a detailed comparison. There is, in fact, only one chart (which, of course, has the company that made our furnace on the very bottom of the list…good sign). I determined that all of the AC units we were looking at were about the same, so it came down to the contractors.

We’ve decided to go with the contractor that installed the air conditioner at our old house. Most of the articles we read said that having a good contractor install it is almost as important as which kind of AC unit you choose. At least we know this guy does good work!

The next step is where it gets a little frustrating—the paperwork. I started the process of applying for a permit to have it installed. I called the City of Kirkland offices and they led me to the paperwork that homeowners need to fill out. Naturally, it’s not written in any format that a homeowner without experience in the field could understand. There are a ridiculous amount of abbreviations! So, I’ve spent three days calling my contractor and having him answer questions for me (he’s been very nice and understanding). I finally had all of his information filled out when I discovered a line that asks for the electrician’s information. Sigh. I called the contractor and he gave me the name of the electrician he uses. I called the electrician who informed me that he pulls his own permits and I cannot pull the permit for him. I explained that I am MORE THAN HAPPY to have him pull the Electrical Permits, but I still need his information to complete the Mechanical Permits. He said, “okay, what do you need to know?”. I started to read off the list of 3 things that I needed from him and he had no idea what the form was asking for. Of course. Sigh. So, he said he would take the weekend to look up the form and call me with the information. Why is this so complicated?  Hopefully we will have AC before I head back to MD…

Maybe this is just my luck with home improvement projects? I’m convinced a trained monkey could (in general) do a better job than I can.  Let’s take the curtain rod for example. I spent 2 days working on, what the instructions described as, a 30 minute project. All I needed to do was drill 6 holes (2 for each hook), put in wall anchors, screw the hooks into place, and put the rod in it. Easy, right?  Well, maybe for a trained monkey!  I’ll list the ways I failed at this project below, in chronological order of A-HA! moment (the moment I realized what I had done wrong):

  1. I drilled the holes in the wall, but did not drill deep enough. I discovered this as I tried to push in the wall anchors and they would only go in 3/4 of the way.  I even tried hammering them in and they wouldn’t move! Drilling FAIL!
  2. On the 2nd day I went back and re-drilled all of the holes. In order to drill deep enough I had to stand on a stool holding the drill above my head and push it into the wall for about 5 minutes for each hole. On the 6th hole (that’s right, the last one) I accidentally hit the reverse button on the drill…and it went right in. I’d like to congratulate Anson’s Uncle Joe for figuring this one out!  I even double-checked! At least, I thought I had double-checked…FAIL!
  3. After re-drilling all of the holes, I tried to push the wall anchors in. Unfortunately, I had tried to hammer them in the day before. That, apparently had distorted them enough that they would STILL not go in any further than before. FAIL! So, I hammered them again. Secretly, the hooks are probably still about 1/8 of an inch from the wall. But Anson hasn’t noticed. Though that might be due to the fact that I instructed him not to touch the curtains EVER.
  4. The first hole, upon putting a mild amount of weight on the hook, would not hold the screw. Hook FAIL! So, I found a random, longer screw in the tool box and used that. I’m pretty sure it went straight through the wall anchor, but it also holds the hook in place. Phew!
  5. The middle two holes were uncooperative. Even with extra drilling AND hammering, the wall anchors were still too far out to put the hook up (not to mention, the hammer was taking out chunks of wall instead of pushing the anchor in…oops!).   AND, since I hammered the anchors so much, they are now too soft to remove from the wall. It kind of looks like the wall has little tubes coming out of it. I’m categorizing this one as a hammering FAIL. Though, the curtains cover it up. Speaking of the curtains…
  6. We wanted room-darkening curtains. I bought a cream/brown striped set that looked like it matched our bedroom set. When I hung it up, it turned into a 1970’s yellowish-brown. But, since it technically darkens the room and covers the holes in the wall….FAIL-ish?

I’d like to dedicate this post to Angie—and ask her to remember it when I get to MD and she needs help around the house :)

We finally have all of our furniture! YAY!

I spent some time yesterday working on a photosynth of the main open area of our house. It took quite a bit of work! I took about 400 pictures and the program recommends no more than 300. So, after a LONG synthing process, I got a final product that turned out okay. It’s 90% synthy :)  It’s not quite as smooth as I would like, but I’m pretty sure it would explode if I tried to add more pictures. Anyway, take a look at our new furniture:

http://photosynth.net/view.aspx?cid=e1f9c157-b9a2-4c05-9512-009e1c70c3a2&m=false&i=0:0:190&c=3.55308:-1.57147:-0.0275943&z=773.136308079187&d=-1.58668134138256:-0.711237495281171:-0.625584775994399&p=0:0&t=False

The blinds that we ordered in late Dec. finally arrived.  We’ve been pestering the lady for a while now to get them installed, but apparently the supplier that the material manufacturer used went out of business at the beginning of the year.  It’s taken them a while to find another materials provider, so they had about half of our blinds for several weeks.  Actually, they ultimately only installed the blinds themselves today – we still need to get the valances put in (the board that installs at the top of the blinds which covers lifting mechanism and provides a finished look).

It’s amazing to me that 1) blinds are so expensive, and 2) that there are so many options to choose from.  We initially decided to go with honeycomb blinds, but after visiting a couple different houses with slats we changed our minds.  Honeycomb seem really nice, and they are great energy savers since they can be closed, but still let light through.  The problem is that we wanted to be able to make our rooms super dark, particularly the master and the media room, but the only way to do that is to get light reflecting honeycomb blinds.  It’s possible to get a sort of two layer honeycomb, but they are quite a bit more expensive.  Ultimately we decided that slats were better since we could more easily control the light level in the room; we also tend to be very lazy so being able to turn the slats slightly instead of raising the entire blind appeals to us :-)

After deciding on getting slats we still had to figure out whether we wanted to get normal wood, faux wood, or some combination on different windows.  For anything in an area with moisture you want to get faux wood; wood absorbs moisture and it can easily warp the blinds if they are over a sink or near a shower.  That made two of our choices easy, but for the rest of the windows it was still a question.  We decided we wanted a neutral color for most of our windows, so we went with an off-white.  There are really three differences between faux wood blinds and slat wood blinds (if you don’t care about moisture in the area): 1) faux wood blinds are cheaper, 2) faux wood blinds are heavier, and 3) wood blinds look more natural in wood colors.  The 3rd didn’t apply to us because we were getting white blinds, which narrowed it down to the 2 remaining pivot points.  Since faux wood is heavier it means that the number of ladder points you need is larger, and sometimes you need to get smaller slats for the ladder to support them.  Ultimately we decided to go with the less expensive option and get faux wood everywhere.

Outside of the choice of blinds, shape, color, etc. there are a lot of ‘options’ that you can get to enhance the appearance or operation of the blinds.  I was pretty psyched about trying to get motorized blinds, but after learning that it was $375/window to get a little motor that would simply raise or lower the slats (not even raise and lower the blinds) we decided to pass on motorization for the moment.  We did decide to get valances, because it lets us hide the alarm system detectors at the top of the windows and gives the whole blind a very finished look (oh, and because it was comparatively cheap :-).  The final option that we chose was to get the blinds without holes in the center.  Usually slat blinds have holes that the ladder is threaded through; the only problem with that is when you close the slats you end up with tiny pinpricks of lights shining through the holes; this is exacerbated by faux wood because they are heavier and as such the ladder is thicker… which makes the holes larger.  Anyway, the option we got makes it so none of the slats have holes (the ladder is threaded on the outside of the slat).

DiningRoomBlinds KitchenBlinds

You’ve probably noticed that the kitchen blinds are darker; we decided to match the cabinets for those because we thought the white would stand out given how dark everything else is.  The small area of light at the top will be covered with the valance when it’s installed.  Notice how there are no holes in the kitchen blinds?  You might also notice that we still don’t have a dining room table :-(

The final ‘window covering’ we got is for the back door.  We decided to try something a bit different, and I think it turned out rather nice.  We went with sliding panels instead of sliding slats.  They are super easy to open and shut, and they look very nice (especially shut).  They also don’t clink when they are opened or closed, or when beta decides to smash her head against them.  The downside is that even fully open we lose about 33% of the window since the panels are large.  In the future we might change out the panels for something with a pattern or a different color, we think the white was probably an overkill in this case.

ClosedPanels OpenPanels

A few other quick updates:

  • I finally finished the personal finance book (and the Dresden files #4).  We’re going to start putting to practice all of the things I learned this week.  It’s going to be a long week!
  • Dining room table has been delayed again :-(  We probably won’t see it until mid to late Feb.
  • I finally got some pictures of my car in daylight, so I’ll be writing a post about that soon
  • Rach and I leave for the Bahamas on Friday!!!

Oh, Happy Day!  The nice folks from Tuff Shed came and installed the shed that we had ordered today.  It’s certainly been a long process to figure out exactly what we wanted/needed.  It’s funny, this house is enormous compared to our last house – easily 500sq ft. larger, but ultimately we have fewer corners and crevices for storage. 

We initially considered the crawlspace conversion option, but so many of the people (including contractors) that we talked to said that was a horrible idea because of moisture that we started to look elsewhere.  Our attics have super low ceilings and aren’t suitable for storage.  Our garage is for cars — cars, and we already have about as much junk in there as we can realistically fit.  A shed seemed like a good idea at first but I couldn’t find anywhere on our property to put it.  Our backyard is very small, probably just 10ft. or so between our house and the property line; and the back of the house is lined with windows that we didn’t want to obstruct.  The front yard has all kinds of possibilities, but a large portion of it (easily 60%) is considered a wetland buffer zone which means we can’t develop or alter it in any way. 

The answer came in the form of a conversation that I was having with the city to see whether I could convince them that the skating rink my neighbor’s dad had built when he was a kid shouldn’t really classify as a wetland.  The city planner mentioned that it would be possible for us to build closer than 5ft to the property line if we applied for a buffer zone exemption.  He said that we’d almost certainly be able to get it because of the wetland on the front of our property.  As Rach and I trudged around the house we found that we had about 10ft between one side of our house and the property line; and that particular side of the house has only a single window that looks out over the kitchen sink.  Even better the windowless portion of the wall is easily 15ft on either side of the window, and we have no neighbor on the other side (well, we do, but that neighbor has a ton of land and his house is much closer to the road than ours is).  So we went shed hunting…

This is another one of those projects that I considered doing myself, but after talking to a ton of people I quickly realized that it was 1) almost certainly beyond my skill level w/o help, and 2) likely to cost more than it would to get someone else to do it because I don’t yet have anywhere near the set of tools that I would need to construct it.  We looked around for a while but were most impressed by the sheds that they have at Home Depot.  Every other store we looked at had sheds that were made of seemingly large Tupperware; while, many of Home Depot’s sheds were constructed of stout lumber.  These sheds are built by a company called Tuff Shed and they are assembled right on your property.  We started with the idea that we would get a 6×8 shed, but after looking at the pile of the stuff in our garage I really wanted to get an 8×10.  Ultimately we had to compromise, there simply wasn’t enough room on the side of our house for an 8×10 so we settled on the 6×10 version. 

The site for the shed needed to be leveled which was actually going to be a fair amount of work since our builder had left a sizable hill there and then planted trees on it.  We ended up using the landscaping company that used to mow the lawn at our old place (Smith lawn services) and they did an awesome job.  They suggested putting up a retaining wall of stone to make sure that the dirt stayed in place.  I didn’t realize how important this was until after I saw what it looked like when they cleared the area (they also put down a nice amount of gravel for us).  Below on the left is the original site, and the picture on the right shows the site after it was leveled and cleared.

Site ClearedSite

The picture on the right was taken early this morning before the Tuff Shed folks got here.  They were right on time; I ended up leaving for work right when they got there so I didn’t get to see the next part happen but Rach took a picture every 45 mins or so.  It only took the guys about 4-5 hours to put the entire shed together, paint it, and get all of the extras added.  The shed was basically just pre-cut lumber, there weren’t large sections pre-assembled.  The cool thing about Tuff Shed is that they let you customize their base models pretty significantly.  We ended up getting the SR-600 because Kirkland lets you put up a shed under 120sq ft. in size and less than 8ft tall without a permit.  In addition we had them do paint matching so that we could make it the same color as our house.  We also added roof vents along the ceiling for air flow, a skylight and a window.  Last but not least we got Bluwood flooring which is supposed to be more highly resistant to moisture. 

The over time photos are below!

Shed1 Shed2  Shed4 ShedFinal

You may notice that the door opens towards the house; we asked for that so that it wouldn’t slam into the retaining wall :-)  You can also see that the shed is super strong – look at the guy standing on the roof!   I have to say that I’m really happy with both Tuff Shed and Smith Lawn Services.  They both were extremely responsive, super fast, and appear to have done really high quality work.  The Smith folks even came out to readjust the retaining wall because we were worried that the shed was going to be too close to it.  If you’re thinking of getting a shed a few things I would suggest: 1) get the largest shed that you can reasonably put on your property – you’re always going to be able to use the storage, 2) make sure you build it at least a foot and a half away from your house in case you ever want to repair or repaint the siding, 3) consider investing in wood instead of the plastic sheds, they look nicer and hold up better.  The Tuff Shed folks said that if we ever move they’d be happy to come out and move the shed to our new house for us… something to keep in mind I guess :-)

A few final pictures of the shed from different angles:

Shed5 Shed6 Shed7 Shed8 Shed9