Jul. 6th, 2017 10:47 am
stevenpiziks: (Default)
The deck needed to be restained yet again. We only did this two years ago, but it needed it again. Darwin is in charge of all outdoor projects, and I kicked him in the head reminded him repeatedly of this fact until he called a local business to come and do it.

It took them a long time because it kept raining. They finally were able to come out and wash the deck one day and two days later come out and stain it. The last time we had it done, the worker used a roller. These guys used an air gun. They got it all and did a nice job!

stevenpiziks: (Outdoors)
When Darwin and I moved into our current house, the place came with a basement rec room complete with pool table, bar, and bar furniture.  We used the pool table for a while, but no one developed any real interest in it, and eventually it went unused.  We also never entertained in the rec room.  Our main floor is better set for entertaining, with an open floor plan, easy access to the kitchen, and three patio doors that lead outside to the back deck.  No one goes downstairs, and it would be a pain to shlep food from the kitchen down there, and bring detritus back up again when we have all this room on the main floor anyway.

So I decided to get rid of all the rec furniture and use that area for exercise.  The current exercise room can become a guest room.

I thought dumping the rec room furniture would be hard.  Who would want a used pool table, especially one labeled "Come and get it"?  But I gamely took a bunch of photos and created an ad on Craig's.

Within a day, I had more than a dozen offers.  By the end of the second day, the pool table was gone.


Next, I decided to list the bar and the assorted bar stools and bar chairs.  Once again, I took photos and hit up Craig's List.  I am not exaggerating here--the ad was live for less than twenty minutes before I got a call.  The buyer came over, we hauled everything out of the basement, and off he went.  I now have an empty room.  If I'd know it was this easy, I would have done it months ago.

Craig's list for the win!
stevenpiziks: (Outdoors)
The outside windows on the back of the house are a mess.  They get rained on a lot, and there's no porch to shelter them, so they get spattered.  The insides are fingerprinted.  Blech!  The problem is, they're so big--three sets of seven-foot high glass doors, with more high-up windows over them.  I've washed them before with spray cleaner and hand towels, and it's a major project, requiring a ladder and a couple hours of work.  Double blech!

At the hardware store last week, I bought a window washy thingy.  It's a squeegee and a scrubber on an extendable handle.  I mixed up some washing solution in a bucket: a gallon of water, a couple teaspoons of dish soap, and a quarter cup of vinegar (to prevent streaking).  Then I set to work.

It was like washing the windshield at a gas station, really.  Zip zip zip, and done!  Washing all the windows inside and out took about twenty minutes.  Now we can actually SEE the back yard, and it was so very, very easy.

Thank you, window washy thingy!
stevenpiziks: (Outdoors)
Last year we didn't mulch the bushes and flowerbeds around the house, and naturally it meant a bumper crop of weeds.  This year I insisted we avoid this.  Darwin and I went to the hardware store, where I bought a bunch of hanging plants for the front porch and some potted plants for the altar.  We also bought several bags of red mulch.  Back home, I used two bags around my stone altar and set the plants around it.  (The pine trees poison nearly anything I could actually plant, so I don't.)  Lovely!

However, the bags of mulch proved not to be nearly enough, and it would be expensive to buy what we needed.  Darwin surfed around and found a nursery that sold it in bulk and would deliver--for half the price of bagged mulch.  We ended up with a great pile of it at the bottom of the driveway.  Darwin's sister and brother-in-law came over to help spread it, and we set to work.  I also trimmed some of the trees and bushes.

The mulch looks really good, and the weeds won't be a problem!

The next day, I got home from work and discovered our neighbor, who hadn't mulched last year, had a huge pile of it in his driveway.  Copycat!
stevenpiziks: (Outdoors)
The new house needed its locks switched out.  I called around and found one.  A leprechaun of a man came out the next day and spent precisely 45 minutes swapping out the knobs and locks.  No muss, no fuss.  Best $100 I'd ever spent, thank you.

Meanwhile, the dining room light fixture was, in our estimation, a monstrosity that looked more at home in a production of THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA than a suburban home, and it had to go.  A few other light fixtures needed swapping as well, either because they were too dim or just not to our taste.  We picked out new ones at the hardware store and once again discussed the idea of installing them ourselves.  How hard could it be?

"Actually," I said, "it doesn't matter how hard it is.  What matters is that an electrician will do in less than half the time it takes us, and every minute I spend installing lights and stuff is a minute I'm not finishing the book I have under deadline."

I set about calling electricians.  This guy's phone was disconnected.  That one gave me a busy signal over and over. Another said, "WHO are you trying to reach?"  It was freaking weird--all the electricians in the area had been slurped into an alien ship for testing.  I finally got hold of a shop, and they scheduled us right quickly.  Whew!


Sep. 7th, 2014 08:32 pm
stevenpiziks: (Outdoors)
We're having the interior of the house painted this week.  In order to push for both speed and excellence, we told the painter that if we liked his work, we'd want to hire him to refinish the generous deck out back, and possibly also for some miscellaneous touching up and caulking of the wood siding.  The motivation seemed to help.

Finding a painter was quite a trick, I have to say.  I called several places, and most of them didn't even answer the phone.  I left messages that didn't get returned for days and days.  When I did get hold of someone, they often said alarming things like, "Hmmm . . . we're booking for late September right now, so how's early October for you?"  One painter said he would come over to give us a quote, then never showed up.  I called him rather snippily, and he vaguely reported being held up at another job.  Perhaps we could reschedule.  Grudgingly we did--why hadn't he called us the moment he knew he couldn't make it?--and after he examined the house, he disappeared for over a week.  When he finally called with an estimate, we speedily turned him down.

In the end, I got hold of a burly, white-haired man with a thick Ukrainian accent.  His name is Sasha. (!)  He showed up when he said he would and said he could start fairly quickly.  His rates were very reasonable.  We hired him.

Sasha, it turns out, emigrated from Ukraine in 1991 at the age of 45.  ("What brought you to the United States?" I asked. "Perestroyka," he said dryly.)  He and his family spoke no English when they left Ukraine.  They got off the plane in Detroit with four suitcases and no idea where to go or what they were going to do. Eventually they found a taxi stand and hailed a taxi.  The driver asked them in English where they wanted to go, but Sasha could only shrug helplessly.  "No English," he said.  The driver asked if they were Russian, and Sasha recognized that word.  "Da, Russian!"  "I'm Russian, too," the driver said in that language.  "You'll come home with me."  The driver got Sasha's wife a job as a cleaning lady at a nearby apartment complex, helped Sasha himself find work, and let the family stay with him until they found a place to live.  They definitely hailed the right taxi!

"In Ukraine," he added, "you get up at six in morning and go stand in line at store and wait. You MIGHT be able to buy food.  Many days there is nothing at all.  In United States, I go to store and see shelves filled with all kinds of things--coffee, bread, soap, flour, chocolate, soup, meat, whatever you want, and so much of it!  I stood there with my mouth open. I could not believe!"  Never take things for granted, peeps!

We're also having the floors re-covered, of course.  We're putting wood flooring in the eating areas, the hall, and the office, but new carpet everywhere else.  The bathrooms and kitchen are nicely tiled and don't need redoing.

The wood floor materials arrive Wednesday and have to sit in the house for two days to acclimate.  The carpet doesn't arrive until the following week.  However, Sasha is painting, so the floors can't really go yet in anyway.  It's going to be a squeak to have everything ready by the 20th.  I'm praying nothing goes astray!
stevenpiziks: (Outdoors)
I used to spend enormous amounts of time sorting laundry--whites here, warm stuff here, cold stuff here.  Then, when it was done, figuring out who belonged to what took yet more enormous amounts of time.  I figured out that even with the boys' (begrudging) help, I was spending between two and three hours a week on just laundry.  This was stupid!

I did some research.  Know what?  Just about everything we own is color-fast and won't bleed.  Know what else?  The main reason to bleach socks and underwear is to keep them looking white.  Killing germs is actually secondary.  The dryer actually does a pretty good job of that.  Know what else?  Nobody in the whole wide world checks to see if your socks and underwear are snowy white.  No one looks at your socks and thinks, "Geez, dude--add some more bleach to the next load."  Bullies don't give wedgies and say, "Haw haw!  Your underwear isn't perfect!"

Guess what else?  The boys don't like tighty-whiteys.  They wear boxers, which you can't bleach anyway.  So the only thing I'd be hunting for is socks.

One more guess what--new socks cost like ten cents a pair at Kmart.

So now I don't sort anything.  Everyone has his own laundry basket, and when they get full, I shove a load into the washer on cold, pre-sorted by owner, not by color.  When they come out of the dryer, I hand the load over the owner in question with instructions to fold and put away.  Every six months, we buy new socks.

Suddenly I'm spending less than an hour on laundry each week.  That more than makes up for the extra bag of socks each year.
stevenpiziks: (Fountain)
As I mentioned earlier, my computer was crashing at least once per day, sometimes twice, and often in the middle of something important.  I've known for some time that the motherboard is wonky, and I could have it replaced, but by the time I bought one and paid to have it installed and wrestled with all the attendant issues that surrounded it, I could just buy a new computer.

Did some searching, and found a factory reconditioned computer for much less than a brand new one.  Go me!  This one has a four-quad processor, 8 gig RAM, and a terabyte of memory. (!)  (Yeah, I'm sure in a few years that'll seem quaint, but right now that's 1,000 gig, man, and my crash-o-matic computer had 300.)  I also realized I can hook my old computer up to my TV and kill cable, which will pay for the new computer in a few months of saved cable fees.

So I ordered the reconditioned unit.

Buying a new computer is like moving.  It takes a long time to recover and find your way around the new place.  I spent two days dealing with file transfers and program uploads and working out bugs.  But now I'm good to go and coming to you from a new computer, one that won't go FOOP on me when I least need it to.

Now I just need to kill cable and I'll be all set.
stevenpiziks: (Keep Off)
The forecast called for rain all day, but it didn't seem to be materializing, so Saturday morning I drove down to a rental place and got a rototiller.  I ran it over the stupid clay front yard to break things up further while Sasha raked it.  It was better.

One of my neighbors told me the township recycling plant carries compost dirt, so I took Sasha down there.  For a small fee, we were allowed to shovel compost into yard bags and dump them into the back of the van.  We hauled them home and spread a layer of the stuff over the clay. 

I returned the tiller and drove down to the hardware store to buy grass seed.  A very nice saleslady gave me advice about which type to buy based on amount of sunlight and traffic the area would get.  Back home, I scattered seed.  Discovered the sprinkler was broken, so I watered with the hand sprayer.  By now I was grubby and hungry, so I put everything away, showered and had lunch.

Feeling rather tired now.  I just hope the bloody grass grows.
stevenpiziks: (Bad Ass)
Friday actually begins on Thursday.

I gave a major test to my ninth graders on Thursday.  On Friday, they had a video, and I was grading their tests.  Unlike certain of my colleagues, I'm constitutionally unable to give multiple choice tests--I don't feel they're appropriate in English class--which unfortunately creates a great deal of work for me.  It's difficult and mind-numbing at the same time.  It doesn't help that I have 70 ninth graders in two classes.  (Normally this many students would be split into three classes, but budget cuts have increased class sizes dramatically.)

My mythology students were finishing up the Spring Peepshows, mythology-based dioramas using marshmallow Peeps, which takes a strangely large amount of supervision.  On top of it all, I had two major incidents of academic dishonesty in my classes, and those take a lot of time to deal with.

By the end of classes on Friday, I was done with the tests, but I hadn't added up the scores or recorded them.  I didn't want to take them home with me, so I stayed after school to finish.  Then I went through the makeup papers students had been flinging at me all week and caught them up.  All in all, I didn't leave until nearly an hour after school ended.

Got home, had supper with the family, and went out to the front lawn.

The front lawn is still a mess from the sewer repair last fall.  The dirt is mostly clay, and it didn't settle nearly as much as it should have, and no grass--or anything else--has grown on it.  When it rains, we get a muddy mess, and when it's dry, we get dust and dirt clumps.  It's mounded to boot.  I got out a shovel and spent about two hours cracking through the clay and breaking it up.  Eventually I recruited Sasha to help me.  He was just thrilled.

By seven-thirty, I was done for the day.
stevenpiziks: (Fountain)
Today was windows day.  Several of the screens in our house had collected goop--pollen, cobwebs, dirt, you name it.  Some of them were so clogged, you could barely see outside.  So today I went around and pulled all of them out.  This turned out to be a major job because the clips that held them in were designed by a Stupid Person who clearly didn't think that the screens would ever have to come out.  I was forced to actually break several.
Got the screens out, hosed them clean in the yard, and left them in the sun to dry.  Then I went around and washed all the windows, inside and out.  Hey!  You can see the sky!  There are two double-paned windows that have condensation on the inside that I can't do anything about, though.  Anyone know of a solution to that?
Once the screens were dry, I spent enormous amounts of time wrestling with the Stupid Person's clips again.  But now all the screens are back in place.

Plumber II

Jul. 6th, 2009 10:35 am
stevenpiziks: (Default)
Bad news.  The sewer pipe leading from the house has eroded and collapsed.  It has to be replaced, which involves major digging.  The estimate is $3,500.  It =has= to be done, but I don't know where the money will come from.
stevenpiziks: (Eek)
Saturday the basement drains started backing up, spewing sewer water onto the floor.  It required a lot of mopping up.  And we couldn't pour the water down the drain, see . . .

Naturally, this had to happen on a holiday weekend.  But the rest of the plumbing was unaffected; it only meant we couldn't use the basement bathroom or the laundry room.  An annoyance.  Kala called a plumber and scheduled one for Monday morning--today.

He's now industriously snaking out the main drain.


Jun. 11th, 2009 08:28 am
stevenpiziks: (Cup)
I have several friends who live in co-housing (or housing co-ops, as they were once known).  The New York Times is carrying an interesting article about them today:

stevenpiziks: (Default)
The maple tree in the back yard has been expanding its territory of late.  The branches have poofed out and down, coming lower and lower.  It makes negotiating the back yard a little difficult, and there's no clear path to throw a baseball.  Time to trim.

I got out my tree saw and figured out which branches would be best to trim.  Zipped them off in fairy short order, though I had to saw the biggest one twice because it broke off roughly and the bottom peeled away badly, so I had to neaten it up.  The littler maple also needed one branch nipped off as well, and I noticed that near the fence, my nemesis the black walnut was sneaking back to life.  The black walnut that set up shop near the house finally gave up after being hacked to pieces four or five times, but the one by the fence keeps coming back.  I sawed that one down as well.  Recruited the boys into carrying the brush out front.

Next I got out the caulk gun and the rubber caulk cartridge.  I don't want any diseases sneaking into my trees!  I spread rubbery black gooeyness over the exposed raw wood like  giant band-aids and stepped back to check the effect.

Oh yeah!  The back yard looks much bigger now.  Way more lawn space without sacrificing shade.


May. 17th, 2009 01:04 pm
stevenpiziks: (Death)
We keep dropping further and further under water with our house.  "Under water" is the current term for people who aren't in danger of foreclosure but whose houses are worth less than they owe.  The people one house down from us have just listed their place for $80,000 less than we paid for our house.

This is a huge problem.  Not only does it mean we're paying large amounts of money for something that is no longer worth the amount, we also effectively can't sell or refinance our house.  We aren't backed by Freddie or Fannie, so we aren't eligible for the federal bailout, either.

We're drowning in negative equity.  At least our payments never increase.
stevenpiziks: (Bad Ass)
Finished with the kitchen today.  Hooked the boys into most of it.  Cleaned out the rest of the cupboards, went through all the food cans to make sure nothing had expired.  Cleaned the refrigerator and freezer.  Mopped the floor.  It took all morning and most of the afternoon!  Man.
stevenpiziks: (Eek)
I decided to try a different method of spring cleaning this year: pick one room per day and do it thoroughly.  It sort of worked.

The kitchen, I knew, would be hardest because it has the most ways to become dirty and the most stuff that needed sorting out.  So I went to work on it.  I made the boys help, too.

First we took down the curtains for washing, and I decided to get all the ones in the house at once.  Then it was wash all the surfaces and pull the dishes from the cupboards for washing inside.  I also pulled anything we hadn't used in a year and put it in the garage sale box.  This freed up a lot of cupboard space, and I rearranged some stuff to make things more accessible.  I also put some countertop appliances into the cupboards, freeing up more counter space.

The curtains were finished, and we put them back up, a laborious process.  The boys washed cupboard doors, though I had to keep pointing out spots they missed.  I attacked the stove and got it all clean.  Walls and windows and windowsill were also done.

But by 2:00, the food cupboards and the refrigerator were still not even touched, and I declared an end to it all.  Tomorrow!
stevenpiziks: (Hypnotoad)
Back in the house, the new shelves I'd bought to put under the sink were taking up precious cupboard space, and the only way to deal with it was to put them to use.

I got my harp stool to sit on and pulled out all the stuff from under the kitchen sink.  Sorted through it, tossed some stuff, combined some others.  Then I cleaned the surfaces.  And--cascade!--since I had a wet cleaning rag in my hand and I was eye-level with the lower cupboards, and since I could see various dirty bits, I cleaned all the lower cabinet doors as well.  And then I got all the corners of the floor that the mop doesn't reach well but which I could now see from my new vantage point.

Put all the supplies on their new shelves in their new, clean environment and turned to the catch-all counter.  You know the spot I mean--it's that place you toss stuff you don't know what to do with right now but will get to later.  And it piles up.  It's actually been slowly driving me crazy over the last week or so, and the Cascade Effect pulled right into sorting it all out.  Now the cupboard is cleared out and everything sorted.

Here I ran out of steam, and the Cascade Effect lost its power over me.  Tossed the cleaning rags in the laundry and declared that I was Done For the Day.
stevenpiziks: (Hypnotoad)
The weather was in the fifties, and I'd spent a lot of time inside at the computer using my mind lately.  I needed to do something physical and brainless and outside.  So I went out to the back yard, snagged a rake from the garden shed, and raked all the winter debris from the bush-and-flower border near the privacy fence.   I don't normally like yard work, but now it felt nice to be outside doing something mindless with my hands to give my brain a break.

It clouded up while I was working and spat a little rain at me, but I kept going.  Raked the debris out and stuffed it into lawn bags left over from last fall.  Then I caught sight of the altar area.  While I had the rake out, I decided, I may as well keep going.  Raked all that clean, and also trimmed back the bush that was invading the goddess grotto.  The bush in question had already burst into bright yellow flowers (no leaves yet), so I kept the trimmings and later put them in a vase on the dining room table.

The back corner of the fence tugged at my eye.  That spot needed clearing, too.  By now I was fully caught up in the Cascade Effect.  Maybe it catches you, too.  You do one small job, which uncovers another small job, which uncovers yet another small job, and each time you say, "Well, I may as well do this, too," and before you know it, you've spent the entire day doing what was supposed to be one small job.  This happens to me all the time.

Raked the back corner clean and scooped all the junk up.  I was hauling the bags to the curb when I passed by the basement windows at the side of the house.  They were clogged up.  The cascade continued!  I cleared the windows out.  The bushes in the front yard had collected leaves, too, and the bushes that grew beneath the living room windows were threatening to block the view once their leaves grew in, so I raked and trimmed there.  And then I looked around the other side of the house.  More dead debris, more cascade.  I kept raking.

During some stage in this, I realized I was getting blisters from the rake, so I went in search of garden gloves.  I know I have at least two pairs around here somewhere, but the only ones I could find were Kala's pink ones.  They were snug, but usable.  A sign of maturity--you don't give a shit about the color of the work gloves if they'll stop the blisters from getting worse.

At this point, Maksim came outside.  "I want to help you, Daddy."   I said that was very nice of him, and said he could scoop up leaves while I raked.

At last it was all done.  The bags were at the curb, and Mackie helped me put the tools away.  But wait!  The Cascade Effect wasn't done with me yet . . .


stevenpiziks: (Default)

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