My father was discharged from the hospital.  All is well.  During his brief stasy, I caught up with a nurse that cared for him during his open heart surgery last November.  Next to the night that my mother died, that night when my Dad was entered into the 'step-down' unit the 2nd day after his surgery was the worst night of my life. It was the night that my father was tied to more tubes than the nascent computers.  And the noise....there was a water vacuum (suck out excess blood/fluid from the chest cavity) that bubbled loudly--too loudly to sleep.  Had any wanted to sleep, my father's demands to get out of bed would have nipped that.  To his credit he was uncomfortable; however getting out of bed was only going to take matters up a notch in Emerliesque speak.

Tammy, the night nurse, was my compatriot/  We had to firmly exercise our will over my Dad's.  Not an easy task.  She remembered that night well.  However she said that Saturday night, the night of Irene's howling and yowling, was the worst of her career.  Why?  No air conditioning in the hospital.  Already patients are grappling with the huge discomfort of life threatening malaises and to add insult to injury, there was no air conditioning.

Today, upon leaving my home to check on my Dad, now discharged, I see a highway message board telling me that there will be free water and ice at the Bloom's.  I'm good, and I would not take such a giveaway as so many more are in need.   I talk to my in-laws who have phone service now.  So if my FIL, who is almost 80, mis-wields his chain saw, they can call help. I suggest that they wait until their 2 sons can help out.

Today is the day that all of the wires and trees have been cleared from the roads (that I travel on).  Two unfettered lanes.  Such a luxury.  I read news reports of the flooding in the nothern states.  Tragedy. Terror.

There is a flyer in the mail.  Apparently New Kent is one of the hardest hit counties in the Commonwealth.  As I explained to you earlier, I thought that the case.  We are fortunate to have a generator, so if you hear me complain, smack me. 

I visit an elderly neighbor.  She is a widow and has no generator.  She has family nearby.  I stopped by after visiting my dad and my SIL.  Her cousin ("like a sister to me," she exclaims) was visiting.  Though she had some dinner, it was not much.  No ice.  No cooler.  I tell her I will go home and bring her some chicken salad. I ask her if she drinks--and if so, I will bring her a cold beverage (beer).  She says no, and I demur hoping that I have not offended her.  She says no.

  I fix up a cooler with some cold canned pears, peaches, homemade chicken salad, Greek yogurt/fruit and some ginger ale. I fix a water bottle with ice cubes and water.  As I am putting this together I wonder if she is diabetic, as I did not think to ask. (I find out that she is).

I take her this little package. It is now dark, and her cousin is gone.  By the light of the flashlights, I show her what I have brought.  Her diabetes will not allow some of the stuff. She then gives me a tour of her house.  Every room perfectly clean and beautifully arranged.  Why my DNA did not have some of that order hardwired I will never know and will forever lament. 

Her husband has been gone 5 years.  I ask her, "Are you lonely?"  She acknowledges that she is. 

Her home is warm inside.  I suggest she open some windows. She tells me that someone tried to break in.   They rattled the screen door, which was locked.  Three doors down, someone broke in and stole money.  I'm thankful that my raucous dogs bark at every unfamiliar vehicle.  No one would bother wrestling that gang of three yappers--particularly my Macy (American Bulldog mix).

It meant much to her that I stopped by.  It was a very small thing to do for me.  A very big thing to her.  I should be more mindful how small outreaches to people who are older and whose family has slipped away to the great beyond means much to them.  Keeping them connected to the here and now.  Loneliness can become a very big barrier that disconnects people from the rhythm of life around them.  Best to be mindful how the small gesture of outreach means much.  We would not so much wish to slip away from a world in which we feel vitally connected.

Why not consider who in your own life and in your own sphere of influence would benefit from your outreach?


My daughter and I started out around 11 a.m. Our goal was to check on my in-laws who were 25 miles further east and incommunicado.  I wanted to ensure that they were okay.  The land lines were down, and they have a cell phone, but no one had heard from them.

While I didn't expect the worst, they are surrounded (as are we) my trees,  I wanted to ensure that they were okay.  No news is not always good news.

There is no power in my county.  Not one square inch of my county (New Kent) had power unless it is derived from a gasoline/propane engine.  We had planned to go down 60 east.  That was not to be as it was impassable.  We turned around and decided that we would go up 249 and check on the property and then loop over to 60.

249 was a mess.  Trees and power lines everywhere.  At first I was scared of crossing over the downed lines, realizing later into my trip that there was no power to them.  Doh!

We stopped by the rehab property which had no downed trees.  I was surprised, particularly since there was a large field on the other side of the road--lots of places for the wind to kick up!  We then winnowed our way back to 60 through the backroads.  I found an open gas station (just on line with generators).  I called my husband who was already many miles away in Hanover.  There was no wait here as opposed to the 2.5 hour wait at the one at Bottoms Bridge. I had plenty of gas, and I did not stop.

During our traversing of the county, we noted National Guardsmen/women clearing the way.  When I say "clear the way" that means just enough width to get a vehicle through.  Lines were down precariously so that if you were not paying attention, you would become ensnared in them as they were down diagonally from the pole to the ground with a tree in the mix.

Throughout the county, I could see where private residents were helping each other on their private properties and public causeways.  I do not mourn for America, as I see first hand in these weather calamities the generosity of spirit of those thrown together in the same circumstances.  Weather or economic hurricanes can be endured and survived.  To be sure there are casualties, but nothing is so dangerous than standing aside and thinking that 'someone else' will step up to the plate. We each have to step up to the plate.

Over the course of 4 hours I saw that my beloved county's residents were lending a hand, my in-laws were safe (though their cell phone had NO SERVICE) and that downed power lines in a power free grid are not a menace.  Below is indicative of what was on most of the roads in our county.  I would upload more, but with the Blackberry it is too slow.


I believe this storm was worse than Isabel.  Our land lines are down--along with many trees. 

The wind blew hard all night long.  About 3 a.m. I could hear my neighbors outside, and I could see their flashlights. This morning, I could see why. . . a large red oak had come down and hit the house on its way down.  A glancing blow thankfully.  They have 15 trees down.   He's fortunate that there were many narrow misses--his heavy equipment, his house, his outdoor area.  The fork of  a massive beech tree that went down (which also has a hive of wild bees about 10 feet in length) straddled his satellite dish--a small branch knocked the major piece of it out though.  He had moved his bull dozer and a car--both of which would have been crushed had they not been moved.

Our shed (that I was telling you about in the last post), was narrowly missed by a large tree--it did pummel the fence as did another tree on the other side of the property.  Luckily just fence work.  Many of my neighbors did not fare so well.  We cannot get out the neighborhood; however that will be fixed soon with a convergence of a loader and chainsaws. 

The land lines are not working. 

Not one square inch of ground remains clear of the litter of shredded tree branches. 

Pictures do not upload quickly, so I'll save that for another time.  I need to go check on the house project, as I understand the road is now clear.


11: 04 a.m.  Irene has made land fall.  Here in Quinton, VA, between Richmond and Williamsburg, the beginning stirrings of wind began at 5 a.m.  We made final preparations for items on the deck.  I headed in during one of the gusts...no need to get beaned by an oak branch tumbling down (see pic below).  Thank goodness this is coming in as at Cat 1 and not something stronger.  Nevertheless, the dangers are great. Tornado warnings are coming across for areas north and just east of the storm.

I do see that shelters and transits are allowing folks to bring their safely secured pets (leashes/crates).  If live in an area where storm threats are common and you do not have a sturdy leash(es) or a crate(s) for your animals, consider purchasing them after the storm, so that you can shepherd all of your loved ones to safety.  Also, ensure that your animals have secure tags.  I'll update this post as I can throughout.

2 p.m. Power out...cable out. Thanks to generator and Verizon Wireless, I can connect via my Blackberry. Limbs coming down left and right. SIL reports a downed oak already..and we've not received the worst of it yet. These trees can kill...and if you live in a rural area, a falling tree on your car, or descending branches can make for a deadly intersection with your body/property. I see already a child in Newport News killed when a tree fell on an apartment building.

11:03....Winds still howling. Top of a red oak snapped out earlier. Something fell on the roof. Black outside, so hard to know what. All will be revealed in the morning. Generator will likely shut off soon from gas. No need to run it overnight. I tire of hearing the wind blow and trees rustle loudly. Just a few more hours. News now too is that it could be 1-2 weeks for power to be restored.


Preparedness--a word worth contemplating when facing important "stuff".  Irene is important stuff.  Yesterday we were evaluating all articles outside for propulsion proclivities from hurricane force winds.  I live among the oak trees.  These stalwarts are not wind friendly.  Because we have many trees, their numbers greatly block the wind--but their numbers and size also get a little frightening.

During Isabel, I watched out the back door as the wind bent the very tops of the trees at what seemed to be impossible angles.  Once the wind stopped, the tops snapped back and then wobbled a bit.  That alone would shake out any damaged tops.  The next wind gust (which you could eerily hear building up) would bring the same bend, snap return and wobble.  Thant wind lasted throughout the night.

We found that most of the homes that were damaged by trees came from exposures to wind paths.  There is a large farm at the entrance to our neighborhood.  Winds coming in from the east had no resistance and came roaring down the road toppling singular trees. We actually thought we had been spared, until I spied the trailer tongue of our 1977 Century Arabian boat trailer pointing toward the sky.  A large, red oak had fallen and clipped the back of the pole shed--crushing it and the back console of the boat.

Power was out for a goodly amount of time.  Irene promises to deliver quite a punch being a large storm much like Isabel was.  Thankfully, we have a generator, a private well and gas cooking facilities.  I am sure that there will be people crawling out of the woodwork to get my electrician husband to help them install a generator panel....something that develops urgency when such threats arrive.  Waiting until a hurricane is barreling down upon you to get a generator panel is not being "prepared", but rather being a procrastinator.

During Isabel, my husband was inundated, to the point that my neighbor had to step in and tell people who were lining up in our driveway to go away.  Not only had my husband been getting our home ready, but helping several other close friends--something that he was glad to do.  But then the marginal folks--acquaintance neighbors who descended upon us.

Make no mistake, we are helpful people--lending a hand whenever and however we can.  Nevertheless, physical and emotional exhaustion take their toll on a body--and husbando had reached that point after about 15 hours.

I have wrapped up my client work for this week, so today, I am free to continue to secure stuff.  I did forage at the store yesterday before the last minute folks hit the stores draining the shelves of milk and bread.  At one place I visited, I was told that they were out of D batteries and so was Walmart.  I'm trying to be mindful that while I have a generator, it does run on gas.  An exceptionally damaging storm could impede the ability to get to a store to get more.  And even if you can get to the store, damaged roads, downed power lines can disrupt supply.  I am also reminded as to why I still keep a land line at home.

We only had a small thunderstorm last evening, and I see a large branch down.  These trees, like me, are starting to get old and brittle!  I do need to gas up the cars and get some cash in hand.  Washing clothes and other preparedness stuff.  I see that the Weather Channel is interviewing some residents of the outer banks who plan to stay.  Good luck with that.  Storm surge is not something one rides out easily as Katrina reminded.  Storm surge cannot be prepared for, rather it is endured.

Good luck with your own preparations and lend a hand where you can.

Shake, Rattle and Roll

Virginia was roiled with a 5.8 magnitude quake yesterday.  I was working from home yesterday, when it hit.  I was upstairs when I could feel the house shake.  At first I thought the washing machine, which had bedding in it, had become unbalanced during the spin cycle.  The dogs were barking outside and were clearly unsettled. I went out and could feel the ground shaking. 

I concluded that it was an earthquake.  It became a major news event.  The epicenter was about 60 miles from me.

I was able to use the earthquake as an excuse for a slightly out of kilter cuban opera cake.  I only make this cake for the most special occasions.  This particularly occasion was the getting together of several KPMG folks (current and ex).  The occasion was the visit of a now retired partner and it was hosted by a former partner.  I remember well the dinner that we had many years ago celebrating the two of them becoming the first Richmond partners in Virginia.  (Not sure how many other women partners that were made that year circa 1988).

It was a beautiful evening with old friends.  I still maintain that the greatest thing about getting older is that one's friendships grow older too.  Now to start batting down the hatches for the hurricane.......

Melange Post

The house project has helped me shed 6 lbs.  Ideally, I would like to lose 13 more.  I need to load up the mountain bike and take it down there to beef up cardiovascular stuff.  There are some great dirt roads to ride that would be a perfect workout.  As most of my worklife has been supported by my backsides (that isn't quite sounding right--read sitting), being on my feet for many hours has been taking its toll.  I'm always glad to get home and put my feet up.  Though my feet are aching, I am loving the way my arms and shoulders feel. The many trips up and down the small step stool and the stairs are yielding good lower body results.

New Kent does not have many roads going through it.  Interstate 64, 249 and 60 are the mainway ways to traverse the county N/S and E/W.  Though I have lived here most of my adult life, I have a surprisingly (embarrassingly) limited knowlege of the roads.  On Saturday, while foraging for various supplies, Mark alerted me that 249 and 64 were very backed up.  He suggested that I take 60 and then meander through the backroads.  "It is just two lefts and that will take you to Stage Road, " he assured me.


Two lefts later, I am going down a backroad that I was sure that I've never been on before.  The road did not appear to be much wider than a private drive, and I was at one point wondering if I was not venturing onto someone's land.  Surely the next turn in the road would yield some clue as to where I was or some recognizable intersection.  Several turns in the road proffered zip.  I call husbando.

"I don't know where I am.  I took two lefts, and I think that I'm heading back toward Windsor Shades."

He helpfully states that he does not know where I am.  "What do you see?"


He deduces that I must be on a now-paved, former dirt road that we have ridden our bikes on previously.  10 years ago previously.

I am not very good at video games because I never know where I am in the geography of the video.  I immensely dislike not knowing where I am (though I intrepidly drive anywhere).  It is just that if I get lost, I'm not very good about finding my way back.  That is simply directionally challenged, and I feel no shame in that.  Nevertheless, I am discomfited (why does this word only have one "t"?)  when I'm lost.  Being turned about is unsettling.  My husband is kind to stay on the phone as I travel deeper into this wilderness  "Oh, there is a cul de sac!"  I might has well have found a statue of gold I was so excited.

A mere 10 feet of dirt separated me from civilization.  "You are on the back side of Brickshire.  Can you drive across?"  Drive across I do.  I still don't know which way I'm supposed to be going once the cul de sac meets the road.  My I find my way out.  The nice thing about shortcuts is that they are rarely shortcuts.  By the time you find your way out of them, you end up on the stretch of road you were trying to avoid.  Either you are so grateful to find that place that you don't mind the inconvenience, or you have been lost so long that whatever travel snafu had occurred, it has since cleared.  The latter was the case, though the former would have been true as well.

This was not my first time lost in New Kent.  The last time I took a shortcut, my son had to talk me in.  The roads do not always lead where you think.  A metaphor for life.

I have seen more turkey in the last week than I have seen in a lifetime--both near the house and in a field on 249 where I saw about 50.  Never have I seen such a sight.  If you have never seen a wild turkey before, you will puzzle a moment at the sight.  There is also a nearby field on 249 that I have been looking to for a couple of herds of deer that begin eating just as daylight wanes.  They are quiet now, but soon they will be moving, and that is a time for extra vigilance while driving.

On several occasions while arriving and departing  the property, I have notice rabbits in the dirt road.  Seemingly, they are eating the dirt.  There is nothing to eat in the road, but they have their mouths to the ground.  They are so intent on whatever it is, that they do not move until the vehicle is right up on them.  I stopped to look at the ground, but I could not find anything but curiously overturned pieces of gravel.  I'm not sure if that was from their inexplicable activity or just from road travel.  Anyway, it is a curiosity to me.

Both bedrooms are painted at the house except for a final coat of trim paint and the closets.  Our color choices are just fantastic.  For the Pottery Barn's Woodland Organic collection, we used Benjamin Moore's Riviera Azure with Chantilly Lace trim.

I would put another sample up for the other room, but I don't know where it is.  It is a fabric with so many muted greys, greens and taupes that choosing colors was difficult at best.  We settled on Balboa Mist (with Chantilly Lace).  To say that it was an exquisite choice would be an understatement (same with above).  I'm not usually given over to self-congratulatory hyperbole, but it fits with this choice.

With my 1000W work lights, I found and sanded out all of the junk that I found in the paint.  I believe that someone engaged the shop vac inside while the trim was wet.  I do know that my painting efforts were immeasurable helped by the work lights.  I'll never attempt painting again without such good lights.

All the trim existing trim is caulked.  Hannah finished sanding and priming all of the removed baseboard trim. I will begin with downstairs painting.  Ella (my English Setter) has been an eager companion.  She enjoys riding up there and as she is a couch-potato Setter, I don't worry about her getting away.  She is a good listener and fearful of getting left (which must have happened to her at some point in her life which is how she wound up in the shelter).  She also has a sturdy tag--a must for every dog.  All of the nails are up, so it is a dog-safe environment.

This week will bring good progress....I'm still bummed about the loss of my camera's functionality.

House Rehab: Caulk it!

My constant lament on the project is that the windows are just junk and the trim job was done with an emphasis on speed v. quality.  There are gaps in the trim at the corners (inside and outside), between the wall and the trim (normal)  So anything that I can do to 'tighten them up' is not such a bad thing.  Accordingly, yesterday was the day that I embarked on caulking (and I will continue today).  I know that caulking these gaps between trim/jambs, trim/trim, is going to give upgrade the look of this trim overall.  Of course, nothing will ruin good trim work than a bad paint job...but it is also worth remembering that painting will not eliminate structural imperfections of a poor trim job. By carefully applying caulk to well prepared surfaces AND carefully painting these well prepared surfaces, I will optimize my outcome.

To tighten up, I armed myself with a caulk gun and Red Devil Speed Demon Acrylic caulk.  I found these attractively priced at .99/tube at the local salvage place.  The also have Frog Tape at $2.99 a roll.   Like most things, caulking is harder than it looks--but caulk is very forgiving, and imperfections can be smoothed easily with the aid of a moistened finger.  It is worth taking time to have the right size bead, and to take your time and pay attention to balancing speed of moving the gun and pulling the trigger. I found  a Handi-Wipe which saved my fingertip from going over multiple linear feet of trim.  Now and again I would wash it out to keep it caulk free.

I took my digital camera, and Olympus Camedia (C-5050), to the home to take some pictures. I wished I had some before/after pics for you.  Unfortunately, when I powered it on,  I was greeted with a technicolor screen that indicated that something very much was amiss.  This happened some years ago (the camera is about 8 or so years old (ancient in digital years), and I had to have it repaired at a cost of $150 or so.  It has been a great camera, but it might be time for a new digital camera......sigh.

I still have a small digital camera that works for convenience settings when you don't want to fool around with settings and what not.  Though my Olympus was old, it still took great pictures--even if the megapixels were 5.1.

I had to forage a bit for some more supplies--one being a work light.  The lighting at the house is not great, and I found that while painting, I had some holidays from the mere fact that I could not see very well.  I bought a 1000w work light.  It was very useful--and very hot.  The amount of heat it generated (500w halogen bulbs) was surprising.  It was like a furnace!  However, it was a useful and inexpensive tool ($32 @ Lowes), and it will improve the quality of my work.

Off for more transformation.

House Rehab: The Door with a Hundred Runs

Yesterday was my birthday.  We planned on having dinner at a restaurant near the county seat which is also 1 mile away from the house project. As it was Monday, I long ago learned to check restaurant listings.  This restaurant was open on Mondays.  Hannah and her beau were doing some work there.  We stopped there first.

When we arrived, her beau was outside sanding baseboard trim.  We will re-use what we can, but surely some of it was going to be reluctantly re-installed (read:  bust!).  As I opened the door, I was greeted by the BIN odor.  I could tell by its strength and by the thin film on the paint mixing stick that Hannah had not mixed it up well (new gallon).  She was in the other room...I found her with the paint brush and the door with a hundred runs.  Had she been murdering someone, I could not have been more horrified (pardon the hyperbole!).

However, she, like me, has never let lack of experience or knowledge get in the way of tackling something.  That is not such a bad way to be!  After admonishing her for not mixing the paint and for applying it haphazardly, I encouraged her to focus her attention on vacuuming and wiping down the baseboard trim that Brett had been sanding.  "I'm tried of sanding, vacuuming and wiping," she complained.  I reminded her that these were unavoidable steps--it was her idea to move from stained to painted trim.  "Yes, but when you said it had to be sanded, wiped, sanded. . . . . it didn't sound like very much work."  Right.  I'll take responsibility for understatement, though I thought I made it clear that it would be much work.

Having said that, I wandered upstairs to "feel" my trim after applying the first coat of finish paint.  All that sanding and wiping, priming, sanding, wiping was evident. Beautiful and smooth.  These are the rooms that we are trying to transform.

I am a reluctant prepper/painter of these windows as they are junk.  But, they can replace these windows later--the budget rules decisions now.  For now, they are prepped for paint.  I've moved from my kitchen cabinet prep to getting the upstairs' bedrooms painted. While there is a piece of me that says it is a crime to paint wood cabinets (and it adds considerably to our work), I realize that the pine look is exceedingly dated. I want to get one room completed to get the energy of harmonic convergence working a little bit better.  I do have some of the cabinet interiors primed, and I have a first coat of paint in one cabinet--as well as the same for most of the cabinet face backs.  The ones not in such a state of repair happen to be the ones that I took home to prep.  I had forgotten about them, and I took them back to the house.

But like Hannah, I am tired of sanding, priming, sanding, vacuuming a wiping.  I feel that my fingertips are worn down from feeling the surfaces for sanding imperfections.  So putting on some fresh paint is some therapy to see both visually and tactilely the efficacy of such steps to the finished product--and to catch a much needed second wind.  The last thing we want to do is to take short cuts to compromise the finished product.  We are on a budget for dollars--not for work processes. 

It is our work processes that will make our end product look like it was not completed on a budget. That is worth remembering for most tasks in life--cooking, cleaning, accounting, painting, rocket science.   Process does matter--and in our impatience to get to the end result, we may find ourselves with an unsatisfactory outcome.  If I sound preachy, it is because I suffer from chronic impatience; accordingly, I am preaching to myself as much as anything. 

Impatience is NOT productive progress--the act of efficiently completing our work  Rather, impatience is the door of a hundred runs.  And that door of a hundred runs is a great lesson for my daughter who is fighting mightily in quelling her inherited DNA of impatience.  Sandpaper can clear most of those imperfections.

Despite our best planning (looking up the restaurant for Monday hours), failures can occur.  The restaurant was closed, so we went to a favorite Mexican restaurant. This project coupled with my birthday is reminding me that dermabrasion might have some merit!

House Rehab: Harmonic Convergence

Yesterday, I was able to get a first coat of trim paint on a window and a few door frames.  Nothing is more sickly looking than first coat primer.  It simply shouts out "poor paint job" when in fact it is just needed prep.

Before I painted, I had to putty many, many places on the windows and the frames--where they were screwed shut, where the trim was stapled, and in the gaps between the windows' rails and stiles.  Afterwards, I returned to sand every window/door + frame except for the kitchen window (screwed shut and we missed it) and one door frame so hopelessly damaged, that it needs to be replaced entirely.

The luan doors have been tossed, and I was able to find solid wood doors at the Re Source store (Habitat for Humanity).  My husband has been grousing about these because they are "carpenter" doors--meaning that a carpenter has to hang them and many do not know how to do that.  Sigh.....

Well, we are using these doors as they are sanded and primed and will soon be trim painted.  Granted, a pre-hung door may have been a better alternative, but these doors were our choice.  The issue with such doors  (as I understand it) is that they are heavy, and supposedly, pre-hung doors are so commonplace, that carpenters don't know how (or claim not to!) hang them.  In addition to the weight, you have to line up hinges on the frame and the door to get the door balanced.  My husband said that Tim, the carpenter - bricklayer that built most of our home with my husband has his helper stated that there was a trick.  Taping two nickels to the top of the door (tape sets) provided top clearance.  Shims underneath the bottom clearance, and then that leaves side to side...well the hinges kind of take care of one side.

To be sure, there will be much cussin' and fussin'.

The mess underneath the house was looked at by our friend.  He works with a 2-man group (of which he is #2)--a Class A contractor that regularly tackles such messes.  From my husband's description (you can tell he is finicky) it was Armageddon.  To Herb, it was, "Hell, this is not big deal."  Comforting words!  I have money in the budget to pay for this work.  The toughest thing in all of this is to convince husbando that I am not asking him to fix all of these items.

Of course, I'm painting.  The painter's tab was $1,600 so long as all surfaces were prepped and primed.  It is like vacuuming--once you have picked up everything, vacuuming is a breeze.  I want to pay someone to bring the bulldozer in and remove the crap!  After sanding, filling, sanding, priming, sanding---I want the satisfaction of putting on the top coats.  I want to witness the transformation first hand.

Though I have put a 1st paint coat on top of primer for the kitchen cabinets, painting the trim was very satisfying.  I'm using Benjamin Moore's Aura paint, in semi-gloss.  I am in love with this paint.  It is going on very beautifully.  Dale at the paint store said, "Aura makes anyone a good painter".  I believe it.

My goal this week is to have all the trim painted and to have the two upstairs bedroom walls painted. Getting some of this trim painted--erasing the ugliness of the primer--shows just how close we are to the final product.  With several projects (trim, door, kitchen cabinets) in various stages of incompleteness, both Hannah and I were a little overwhelmed.  We made a list of everything that had to be done to every room.  Checking some of those things off helped enormously--particularly since we've completed 99% of the sanding a priming.

So while $1,600  does not seem like much, it is more than 10% of the $15,000 rehab budget.  I have a little time now--and my daughter needs to learn some of these DIY skills.  I see Harmonic Convergence happening soon...that happy place where there is light at the end of the tunnel.

House Rehab: Plumbing is not for the squeemish

Hannah's and my first day on the job, we cleaned the downstairs bathroom.  I don't like cleaning my own hair out of the drain, and like it less cleaning another's.  But with girded loins and rubber gloves, I accomplished that.

Second round was to remove the vanities and toilets.  I was not part of that work detail.  The toilets were broken and needed to be replaced, and and the vanities will be painted.  Plus, the floors underneath had to be assessed.  The outside of the bathroom downstairs had much rotting wood (found when the linoleum was pulled up in the hallway).  The bathroom floor itself is 12x12 tile, which is one of the things we'd like to keep if possible.

But the toilets had to be pulled up first.  My daughter's boyfriend is a pipefitter, not a plumber (though he has a plumber card).  So he knows how to do this stuff.  Pulling the toilet up was not a happy place for him.  Tampon strings and tossed cookies.  Enough said. Clearly he had not girded his loins, and I'm quite sure he did not have rubber gloves.  My daughter was resolute.

 Women will not be outdone.

Today, more sanding, painting and Bondo bonding.  My sister is coming in from Bedford tomorrow.  My own house is a mess.

House Rehab: 1 day Hiatus

(I started writing this post yesterday evening, but did not finish it.  I had an Apple Notebook computer which I had in bed with me.  Not only was it not an ideal set up (my kids have no problems), I was tired, and found myself nodding off). 

Yesterday,  I was invited to a client's to be part of the August birthday lunches.  My birthday is Monday.  There were two others in this small office with August birthdays.  Not much of a population dispersion!  The beauty of the internet is that I can do much of my work for clients from home.  Truthfully, it becomes a little isolating, and I welcomed the face to face contact. I got lots done in a short amount of time, so that was good too!

This time in the office meant time away from the house rehab.  This client has resident experts in painting and carpentry, so I shamelessly pump them for information.  As they are busy with their paying customers, this sideline house rehab does not allow me to pinch their people!  Fortunately, I have my own resident experts. My carpenter experts who will tackle the water-works damage will be in next week.

My own interface is to be hands on enough to re-acquaint myself with time and cost of things to do for future rehab projects.  Plus, whatever I do means a paid hand does not do, and that helps my daughter out as she will ultimately pay for costs incurred.   I have a vested interest in giving her a little of my sweat equity.  Given the temperatures and the need for ventilation meaning turning off the AC, this sweat is rather profuse.  My body is still acclimating to this physical load, and my failure to finish this post that I started is a testament to how sorely needed that break was.

While enjoying a lunch, I responded to a colleague's challenge to do an 8 week weight loss.  Biggest % loser wins.  I have already dropped about 4 lbs from my immersion into this project.  Though I bemoan my physical condition, I have outlasted my 23 year old daughter on work days.

Hannah joined me for part of the day yesterday.  We washed walls down.  I was reminded that my own home could use a bit of this too!  She washed, and I rinsed.  One of the upstairs windows was completely blackened from the outside.  I managed to clear that up with the help of paint remover and fine steel wool followed by a paper towel in some Krud Cutter. That worked well too for a few places that were still tacky from grease on the cabinets.

Hannah had some afternoon appointments, so I was left with the company of The Mamas and the Papas on the CD player and some other things that I could not identify.  Mahler symphonies are not likely good work music, but I wished for something more than I had.

I set my mind that I would sand and prime all of the cabinet doors.  This is not a task I have ever done before--though I have sanded and primed plenty of trim and doors.  I treated every door like a much loved child.  I sanded, determined if there was some more grim that needed to be removed, cleaned, sanded and then wiped down with mineral spirits.

I primed the cabinets with the Zinnser's BIN.  It expressly says not to use TSP on the label.  My preference is to see an admonishment and a reason for it.  As I would say to my daughter when she was 2 years old, if you go to the river unattended and you fall in, you will turn blue and die.  You simply cannot tell a 2 year old that they will drown.  Too foreign.  You need to really spell it out with kids

I would like to see similar language on this TSP warning:  If you use TSP and this product, you may cause the world to get wobbly on its axis..etc.    I used TSP, but I figured that any residue was ameliorated by my sanding and mineral spirit wipe down.  I may be wrong.  I'll report it if I see any weirdness in the finish or if I start to grow a horn between my eyes--or even a third eye.   I also wet sanded with 320 grit waterproof sandpaper.  Let me tell you this...those cabinet faces were smoother than a baby's bottom.

I still need to sand after the priming.  And I will do so in between each top coat.  My arms are appreciating today's respite from that work.  "Wax on; Wax Off" is great for working little muscles in your arms and shoulders--and those muscles will let you know just how little work they get from ordinary life.  My body continues to respond to this work load---in a lurching, hesitant fashion--but responding nonetheless.

I went to the paint store to get paint product.  I've never used anything but Benjamin Moore, and that is what will be used on this house.  My order was a bit tedious, but the folks at the store were helpful.  My paint will be ready tomorrow. . .

And here it is tomorrow.....   I picked up my paint and had a lovely chat with the store manager.  He is one of those folks that just loves life.  He is turning fifty soon (another August birthday!), an event I assured him that he would survive.  He mentioned that his best friend died just his week.  Kidney cancer, that was operated on, but was not successful.  A reminder that grousing about turning older (or our weight, hair color, lack of hair or hair sprouting from inopportune places) is a luxury.

I have chosen to use the Benjamin Moore Aura paint.  I'm looking forward to getting some paint on the walls as soon as I get the walls in shape to put some paint on them.  Dirt. Holes.  Dirt. Gashes.  Hannah and I spackled today.  We will need to sand and spackle some more.  We used the pink that turns white when dry spackling.

I sanded down all of the primed surfaces on my cabinet faces.  I then decided to try my luck with Bondo.  Unfortunately, the can that I was given did not have the measuring cup.  I'm sure that I measured it incorrectly, and I'm pretty unhappy with my inept mixing and application.  I did sand the primer at the back of the cabinet faces and began applying my first coat of paint.  I'm using BM's Cabinet paint (though I had originally thought I would use their Advance paint.  The color is Chantilly Lace (Oh! what a magnificent off-white), and the paint is a jewel to work with.  As I'm doing the cabinet backs, I rolled that on originally and then switched to brushing.

While I was waiting to be helped in the store yesterday, I spied this wondrous tool, the Pelican Paint Bucket.  You can put your roller and your brush in it, the paint does not thicken as fast as it does in a tray AND, they make liners for it AND  it has a magnet that holds your brush in place.  I have to say that it made my job with the cabinets go so much easier.   It is stout enough to not tip over, and is well balanced in the hand. 

I reminded Hannah what a big job it is to have to paint these cabinets.  But they will look very classy and elegant when done.  Here are some of the color swatches that I put together for wall and trim colors.  The Chantilly Lace is quite versatile. It will be used with the other colors as trim--

House Rehab: Henry

The house has been suffering from water works.  It is so wet under the house, that my husband has forbidden the water to be turned on.  That makes it tough to complete my wall washing.  I continued to prime wood surfaces, and I painted one of the nasty subfloors.  I used Kilz, and it took a full gallon to paint one room.  Mark had it in the garage shelf, and I thought it a good opportunity to compare it with Zinnser BIN.  I thought I had another gallon of product.  I did not.  My local salvage store had BIN at 23.99 a gallon which is significant savings.  I bought 4 gallons in addition to the 2 that already had.  I may have to use more than one coat on the urine stained subfloor.

My husband in the meantime was tackling the water works damage.  From the first floor foyer, he sawed through the subfloor to create a more advantageous place to work and view.  He did not like what he saw.  Several of the joists are spongy, and it appears that the framing was less than substantial in some places--specifically, some load that is not being borne by the joists.  He started ripping out saturated insulation, and in doing so discovered more spongy wood.  Also, he found a dryer vent that was rotted, and ineffective.  Accordingly dryer exhaust (hot, moist air) was circulating freely underneath.

Everything is fixable, but we will leave the balance of the job to the professionals--some things are just worth paying for, and this is one of them.  I have money in the budget for this.

After working from the front of the house from the airy upper floor, we went to the back of the house crawl space entry to remove insulation.  Wet insulation is no fun.  Mark was underneath grumbling and mumbling about the shape of the insulation when he backed out quickly.  Apparently, he had literally pulled the rug out from Henry.  Henry is the black snake underneath the house.  I'm not sure why I named him Henry--it is a benign name.  You will remember that Henry is the snake that belongs to the his former skin that I spied underneath the house when my husband had me crawling under there (he's on the phone giving me instructions) to turn the water back on and turn off the pump from the panel.  He was also assuring me that any snake was long gone.  Our home inspector found him.  Then Mark pulled his insulation rug from under him.

We covered the upstairs dryer vent and ensured that the cover on the subfloor cut away had no cracks.  Henry doesn't need to venture upstairs.  Today, there will be some a plumber and a pipefitter. Hopefully, they can get enough work done so that I can get a faucet feed at least and the damaging spray can be capped off.  I'm hoping that Henry escapes so that he does not surprise our handy guests!

Rehab (House): Priming

The house has dark stained trim and dark luan doors.  While the doors can be tossed out (and the busted holes in them are a testament to the turbulence in that household) the trim will be cleaned, primed and painted.   My daughter (22) was helping me.  My instructions were to carefully prep the windows which involved using a deglosser and a steel wool pad.

While I was painting, I was lecturing about the importance of prepping the finish.  Specifically, any trash that was left on the surface was a blemish that paint could not cover up.  She started out well and finished badly.  She then wanted paint.  Our painting was simply putting primer on these "cleaned" surfaces.  I was using a roller to speed the process along with a brush to fill in the crevices.  I gave her some instructions--less is more when it comes to this coat.  I told her that I would come behind her and paint the crevices.

 Her less was not adequate coverage, so I suggested to her that she should stop and let me do it.  She yielded easily knowing that she was not doing a good job.   She acknowledged that she was very tired and sore from the previous day ripping nails from trim. Working while overly tired does not yield good results.

My husband came later in the day as their work is on summer hours for Friday.  There is a huge problem underneath the house caused by a perniciously pervasive water works caused by oxidized copper pipes.  I'm not sure how they did not run the well dry given how much water leaks from the bathroom as well as the water underneath the house.

In addition to the oxidation issue and the water spraying underneath the house, the front steps have settled causing rain water to flow from the stoop to underneath the house.  The band board is suspect in that area and their are two joists that have seen their final days.  There is also a high spot on the top end, that is likely caused from some of the settling where the joists are weak.

Mark put a floor jack underneath to support the area--gently he was cautioned by a bricklayer friend as it may cause drywall to crack.  The stoop will need to be jackhammered out and re-poured.  Naturally, the joists will have to be replaced.  We have elected to let our contractor friend do that work.  Some aggravation is worth doing yourself--other aggravations (this one!) are worth paying others to do.  Mark also ripped out the soaked insulation.  There was much cussin' and fussin' accompanying this task.

A day's worth of priming the dark trim has given a glimpse of how much lighter things will look when finished.  There is still much to do to include the pine cabinets' deglossing.  An expert painter (professionally) has suggested Wil-bond. I'm debating between stripping and sanding v using this.  I applied another deglosser, but I still feel like there is too much residue on the cabinet to get a clean finish.    I may go into empirical mode and try both ways--I have lots of cabinets to do so there is not problem with getting a sample size.

Off to put Kilz on the subfloors that supported the nasty carpet.

Rehab (House): Day 2

Pulling up the carpet on the steps yielded this 'house physics' lesson:  the dirt trapped on the steps reduces exponentially for each step that you go up.  Pictured left is three such steps and you can visually see the difference.  If I were a complete goob, I would have swept and weighed it and presented to you a comparative chart.  Don't think that the thought did not cross my mind.

The carpet covered the steps entirely, even to the point of covering the outside corner.  I have no idea why such pains were taken to cover that way other than the carpet would have had to be bound on an exposed in.  Anyway, the results were enough to remind me that I will never have carpet in my home.  If you live in the city and your feet don't touch the earth all day, then this is not a problem.  In the country, your feet are on the ground, accordingly, your feet bring that ground into your home.  In New Kent, we have this lovely, fine silt....great for your your garden, but as you can see, it becomes a permanent guest in your home (and you could conceivably grow a garden in your carpet).

The carpet was easy enough to pull up once released from the carpet tack strip.

Carpet removal tip:  after pulling it free from the tack strip, fold it over on itself.  Using a box knife, cut the back (it is easier than the front) it in 3-4' strips and then roll up for easy removal. Throw the tack strips in the middle of one of your rolls for scratchless removal.

The nice thing about a body and its muscles (and muscle memory!) is that it responds quickly to a work load.   My second day of removing tack strips yielded a tackless room in almost 15 minutes.  That efficiency was helped by a rolling work seat pictured right.  Mine is a Craftsmen that my husband had forever.  This one is from Northern Tool.  They have a higher end model that actually has a beverage holder.  When I broke my foot, I found this little guy indispensable for scooting around when I needed my hands for such valuables as coffee and food.
After my first session of tack strip removal, it occurred to me that this stool could come in handy.  In addition to the tack strips, I had to remove the staples.  Some of them were beaten down so much (though still had the carpet padding tufted in) that I resorted to using a scratch awl and a small nail pull. Using the little hammer side of the nail pull, I could tap the scratch awl underneath the staple.  More often than not, only one end was released.  Grab the recalcitrant side with the nail pull or needle nose pliers and you are rid of your stable.  In one room, where the carpet had been moistened (by God knows what and how often) the staples were rusty.

You can see, then, the beauty of this little rolling cart.  Your tools are right in front of you, you are not on your knees, and you are easily rolling.  If you had the souped up model, your beverage of choice would be at your side. Perhaps for a man, using such a stool would be unmanly.  We women are practical, and we would never be bothered by such thoughts other than how to best accomplish the task at hand using whatever resources we had available.  I should mention....safety glasses.  These staples can fly up, so protect your eyeballs.

Now we come to climax of the post (put food/drink away!) which is where I unveil the carpet.....

Every room in the house sported carpet that looked like this on the backside.  The subfloor is also stained, and the edging in some places moldy/crumbly.

I plan to install engineered hardwood.  Engineered hardwood seemed to be a middle ground in quality between laminate and solid wood flooring.  Remember that I'm working with a very strict budget.  Also, (I must get this dig in) since my husband reminded me that I'm no spring chicken at 50, that rooster's
cock-a-doodle-do is 5 years older than I am, I want to get a floor that doesn't require the back-breaking, hernia/hemorrhoid-inducing work involved with putting those floors down.  Granted, it is easier with a pneumatic nailer.  But it is still work nonetheless.

It was about 26 years ago when he and I were putting the red oak floors down.  It was August in Virginia.  I was laying the flooring out for him and then wiping his sweat off the boards.  Gosh...what a miserable job.  But doing it that way was the only way we were going to afford putting hardwood in our home.  Otherwise, with our animals, we would have carpet that looked like the above!

I purchased my flooring from WoodFloorsPlus.  You can visit them here.  I found a Robina floor on close out.  It is $1.99 per sqf (v $4-5+ at other sites) and fortunately they had enough of it for my job.  It is in gunstock, which is a much darker color than my daughter originally wanted.  It appears to have a nice locking system--one that will help the job go more smoothly.  There is NO warranty with this product.  At less than 1/2 the typical (not inflated retail) price, I understand that.  In consulting with my daughter, she agreed that she would forgo color over quality.  I also ordered DIV Floor Muffler.  WoodFloorsPlus has it at $30 per 100sqf roll.  That is the cheapest price that I could find anywhere.

What I love about WoodFloorsPlus is that the are gimmick free.  No ultra-inflated retail prices that are slashed to "your price".  I felt that I could buy confidently.  They also shipped the flooring almost for free. I've not received it yet, and I'll give a report on that.

I am now moving to wall washing to prep for painting.  Stay tuned, and thanks for stopping by.