Sunday, May 31, 2015

Suggestive Planting

I've spent a decent amount of time on the yard/garden this spring. Not as much as many people we know, but a number of hours over a few weekends. Today I pulled out a couple of shrubs, did a bunch of weeding, fixed the backyard gate, and pruned a few trees. And I put some flowers - which I purchased on Friday - into the ground. (I may or may not whine about my gardening aches on Tuesday...)

I figure that you need to get plants in the ground within a few days of buying them. Kind of like how you're supposed to use or freeze chicken within a certain number of days after bringing it home from the grocery store.

Before Mother's Day, I had done a bunch of shopping, and most of those plants sat in the garage for about three days before being planted. Then, as I started getting them going, I put the pots around the yard so that I could get an eye for what I was doing before committing myself.

In its way, this suggests the future plantings and lets me know what I'm getting myself into. I say all this to explain that I understand the idea of putting the pots in place before planting.

One of our neighbors, however, seems to be taking this suggestive planting to the next level.

Each day this week when I've walked the dog, I've seen that there are new pots stationed around her yard and the boulevard along the sidewalk. It started as a single potted shrub. Then about three of them spaced around the yard. Those migrated to the boulevard on the third day.

Today, while the shrubs are still hanging out on the side of the house, a couple of pots of decorative grasses appeared along the front steps. I can't wait to see what will show up in a few weeks as annual plants start to go on sale.

I guess it does save on recycling if you never actually take them out of the pots, right?

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Short Workweek Wednesday

(For the record, it took me two tries to spell the day. It's been that kind of day/week.)

There is something very strange - not bad, just strange - about only working the three middle days of the average workweek.

Having had Monday off for Memorial Day, and having this coming Friday off for my birthday (one of the strange perks of my company), that left me with only three work-days this week.

On the one hand, this is great. Two back-to-back long weekends and all.

On the other hand, it does kind of make it a challenge to get any work done. Especially on a week where I've got a huge project due that isn't part of my regular workload.

But I finished today feeling about on target for the week, so I figure I'm going to just go with that feeling, and treat tomorrow as a Friday.

I guess, then, that I'll have two Saturdays, since Sunday always includes that "I go back to work tomorrow" feeling.

I can deal with that.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Bac'n and Birthday Bargains

bac'n /bayk-n/ - the junkmail you get in your email inbox that you sort of asked for, but that isn't really personal, such as notices from stores you shop at, or coupons from restaurants.

I'm coming up on my birthday this week, and so my inbox is pretty much flooded with bargain-filled bac'n. This happens every year, and so it's not a surprise. In fact, I've kind of come to count on it.

This year I even plan to plan part of my birthday around some of that bac'n, because if people want to give me free stuff on my birthday, who am I to complain?

I've got emails offering me money off at some stores, and free food at a couple of restaurants (honestly, I'm considering hitting up one restaurant with a coupon that has to be used for "dine-in" and another for take-out - both for lunch).

Yes, I'm also hoping for cake that day, and probably some actual food, but - at least in a case like this - things really can be better with bac'n.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Obsessed Much?

As I sat down to write this, tonight, I found myself realizing that there hasn't been any change in the bathroom(s) since my last post. And that, because of that, I wasn't sure what I should write about.

Yeah... These renovations are kind of becoming an obsession. They've become one of the main things that I think about - and I'm not really sure how I feel about that.

Okay. That's a lie. I really want to stop thinking about them. In fact, I want them to be done so I don't ever have to think about them again.

But, until then, I suspect I need to start trying to think about something else.

Like, perhaps, painting the downstairs bedroom once the renovations are done.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Basement Bathroom Reno - Upstairs Version

I'm going to jump a bit ahead, today. 

You see, we have two bathrooms. Although the basement bathroom is getting a full redo, the upstairs bathroom is getting just some tweaking. 

For the most part, they're doing one at a time, so that we can actually... you know... live in the house. But there are a few things that need to be addressed at the same time. For instance, when the Duct Guy came to put in the downstairs vent, he put in the upstairs one, too. 

When the plumber came to deal with the downstairs shower, he also looked at the upstairs tub and checked our upstairs sink to see what he could do with the old piping when he puts in a new drain stopper. That... umm... went kind of wonky. So now our upstairs sink looks like this: 

Yep. That's a bowl in the sink to catch water so it doesn't go down the drain. Then we pour it into the toilet...
And, today, when the electrician came to rough-in the downstairs outlets, he also did some work upstairs - which we totally expected. 

What we didn't expect was that we'd be spending the next few weeks with this: 

We've gone from a 1980s four-bulb strip to one nice, single compact fluorescent suspended on a few wires. Snazzy, isn't it? 
I just keep telling myself that both bathrooms are going to look great when they're done...

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Basement Bathroom Reno, Part 2 - Demolition

If you've watched any home renovation shows on TV, you know that the first day of activity is the most spectacular. That's how it was for us. In one day we went from our "before" status to... well... studs and concrete.

Basically, it looked like this:

The wall with the door and the light switches.
Exterior wall and the wall where the toilet and sink used to be.
Remember in the "before" pictures where I said that the ceiling came halfway down the window? Here's proof.  
There used to be a wall, here, with the sink and shower build-out in it. The washer and dryer are under the plastic sheeting in the laundry room.

This is the hole above which the shower used to sit. You know, the drain which the shower was never connected to.

Hmm... What do you think? Is this better or worse than the old floor tile?
The view from the laundry room back into the bathroom. 
The hole under the shower eventually extended...
...into the laundry room. We won't talk about how many times I almost stepped into this part of the hole while walking in to do laundry.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Basement Bathroom Reno, Part 1 - Before

Some of you have been hearing about this for a while, and I finally have some photos to share.

If you haven't heard, here's what's going on: Our house was built in the '50s, and at that time, we're guessing that the basement bathroom was simply "roughed in" to be completed later. When it was completed later on... well... it may not have been exactly to code.

You see, we've found over the past few years that when the shower drain backs up, it backs up under the shower pan and out across the bathroom floor. When we mentioned that to the contractor, we found out that in many homes of the same vintage the shower was never actually attached to the drain pipe. It just sits above the pipe, with the assumption that water will eventually flow into it.

That's when we decided that the shower needed to be torn out and replaced. Which eventually kind of had the domino effect of needing to replace the flooring, and - as long as that was going on - fixing the low ceiling, and (why not?) replacing the other fixtures.

We started shopping for this back in March. The demo happened about 3 weeks ago. We found out last week that some parts are back-ordered and may not be here until June. So... For now we're in the "during" stage. But the following photos are from the "before." (Please note that this is not the original before, when the room was "creamsicle" orange, with a darker orange below the rail and a light orange above it - with '80s gold/blue tile. It became peach to coordinate with the new floor tiles a few years back.)

Can you tell that the ceiling comes halfway down the window?
Apparently I was alert enough to take photos before my shower one morning. 
The wall to the right (which makes this entire space about 4 feet wide) is a drywall wall built to enclose the shower (see next photo).  
The shower stall was framed out to look "built-in" - but when the shower stopped working (luckily, just before the reno was to start), we realized that all of the plumbing is IN that wall. No way to fix it without ripping it out.
Current floor tile was peel-and-stick, but I kind of liked it. 
Over the next few weeks, I'll be posting some during pictures and - hopefully soon - I'll post some after shots, as well. I have to admit that I'm really excited with how it should look when it's done. I think you'll like it. 

Friday, May 15, 2015

Some Days Are Better Left In The Past

This wasn't a horrible day at work. It was a mediocre one.

It wasn't a horrible day at home, though it was less than mediocre. (Any day that starts with calling a "drain guy" and ends with the drain guy telling you that there's nothing he can do, that the leak in the pipe is getting worse, and that the entire sink drain has to go - which he can't do, so you need to call a plumber... yeah... that's not a great day.)

But there are a number of blogs I read, and one of them is called "Garfield Minus Garfield." Basically, it's a bunch of Garfield comic strips where Garfield (and his side of the conversation) has been removed. So you get people just kind of talking to themselves.

Usually, I read these and laugh, or kind of feel sorry for Jon, or kind of feel relieved that it's not me. Today, though, I feel way too much like the strip is about me.

I don't want to copy and paste it, here, since I don't have rights to it, so you'll have to just click through this link to see it. (I recommend bookmarking the page - and checking it daily for your dose of the semi-Existential.)

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

All in a Week's Work

Sometimes, when I look at what I do, I am both amazed and befuddled by it. 

Because I work for a company that offers editing services to anyone who will pay for them, we get some strange things that need to be edited. And, if not strange, then at least incredibly diverse. 

In the past week, I've worked on a piece about dealing with the effects of chemotherapy, a novel that questions both art and religion, and a how-to manual for heterosexual men trying to "pleasure" their partners. 

I can only imagine what my Internet search history looked like by the time I was done, considering how many things I had to verify. 

I'm just glad that no one walked up behind me while I had any of the images (yes, the latter of the three had illustrations) on my screen. And I'm even happier that I didn't accidentally send the wrong critique to anyone...

Monday, May 11, 2015

Who Needs Black Friday?

We all know that you can get great deals the day after Thanksgiving. We also all know that you can find amazing markdowns on candy the day after Halloween (if you're speedy - because otherwise all the stuff you like will already be gone).

Just last week I saw some leftover Easter-themed products on the "at least 75% off" cart at the grocery store. (Don't worry - it was non-perishable goods, not things like colored eggs or bunny cakes.)

But I never would have guessed that there would be post-Mother's Day markdowns. Today on my way home from work, I was proven wrong when I found this single-layer beauty for half off the regular price:

I'd love to blame the way this looks on poor lighting but... no... it actually looks like that.

Okay... So the colors are a bit faded, but since I celebrated with my mom a week ago, and we celebrated with Christopher's mom, yesterday, this was more of an "I think we're going to need this to get through the week" purchase. In other words, I totally bought it because it was a half-off chocolate cake with white buttercream frosting, and I thought it would be good.

I was not disappointed.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Post-Plant Sale-ing

I made it to the Friends School Plant Sale after work last night. There were a ton of cars around, so parking wasn't great, but there didn't seem to be that many people there.

That's one of the great things I learned the last time I went on Friday night. You see, the plants all get stocked (or re-stocked) overnight, so the serious shoppers go first thing in the morning, and not as many people are there the rest of the day.

Of course, this means that if you go late in the day there are also a number of plants that are already sold out (at least for the day) by the time you get there.

Yeah... That's what I dealt with.

About half of what I was looking for was already gone. Luckily, I'd made up a kind of back-up list, so I knew what else I could look for, but it was still a little depressing.

Today, though, I was out and about and made a "filler" trip to the local garden store, and then came home and planted things. (Technically, it's too early to do that in Minnesota, but I checked the forecasts, and we should be okay for the next 10 days - and the usual planting date is May 15, so... hopefully we're in the clear.) I've got a few things left to put in the ground (I gave up after my back started to give out), but our yard is already looking pretty good.

We still have to deal with ripping out some old shrubs (some are dying, some we just don't like), but that can happen later on. Sometime after I feel like I can stand up straight, again.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Pre-Plant Sale-ing

There is a really big plant sale that happens every year in the Twin Cities on Mother's Day weekend. Really big.

It's a fundraiser for the Friends School of Minnesota, and it takes over the area beneath the State Fair Grandstand for the weekend. The plants are smaller than you'd find at a greenhouse-type garden store (for the most part), but are also less expensive than those.

But what really brings people out - at least most people I know - is the selection of plants. They have all sorts of native and/or unique plants which you really can't find anywhere else.

For a long time, the hot peppers that Christopher really likes could only be found there. We've purchased Pasque flowers at the sale, too, which are really cool. (The rare Lady Slipper orchid we tried didn't survive the first season, unfortunately, because our yard just wasn't the right microclimate.)

The past few days, I've been checking out the catalog - both physical and online - and trying to figure out both what we "need" and what we want. I think I've got it figured out. But I'm sure I'll change my mind multiple times once I'm there - especially since I'm going after work tomorrow, so some things will probably be pretty picked over (to be re-stocked Saturday morning). Not to mention that at the end of the day I'm likely to be a tad tired and hungry.

We'll see how it goes, and whether I end up sticking to both of my budgets (you know - both the monetary one and the yard-space one).

Tuesday, May 5, 2015


Could someone please explain to me why digital cable pixelates all the time?

Regular TV doesn't pixelate.

Regular non-digital cable doesn't pixelate.

But the more-expensive digital cable seems to pixelate all the time.

I don't understand that. And I really don't understand how companies can tell us that things are getting better and better when simple problems like this keep getting worse and worse.

If you have any explanations, please comment. This isn't entirely rhetorical - I'd really love to know why it happens.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Middle (No) Ground

The bathroom renovation started last week. I have to admit that after the first day of demolition, it was really cool to go down and open the door and realize that there was no bathroom left. It was completely down to the studs. 

I stood there for a while and stared at it. I had seen all of the drywall out in the dumpster on my way inside, but it was still kind of a shock. 

I was also surprised to notice that, although we'd have a bunch of issues with the shower backing up and getting the floor wet, there didn't seem to be any mold anywhere. Yes, there were a couple of studs which seemed like they had a little water damage, but no mold. There's definitely something to be said for having a big humidifier running in the basement all year. 

On the third day PD (Post Demolition), the changes were a bit more subtle. Part of me actually kind of thought that all they had done all day was put down some protective cloth on the floor. But then I looked a little more closely. 

The most obvious change was that the hole in the floor around the shower drain had "spread" and now went under the bathroom wall into the utility room. How did I notice this? By opening the door to the utility room and almost stepping into it. That was a surprise. And as I was standing there marvelling at how there was no ground beneath my feet, I noticed that the water-damaged studs from a couple of days earlier had been replaced by pristine new ones. 

The other change was a bit more subtle - and much more exciting for me. They actually removed part of the former dropped ceiling's joists, so that the full window is visible. Before, because the ceiling had been put in low enough to compensate for the ducts running above it, the window was only about half visible. The rest of it was hidden behind ceiling (unless, of course, you were standing right next to it and looking up). I'm not sure how much of that will still show when the new ceiling is in, but any "extra" is exciting. 

So now we have to wait to see what's next. We've been quoted a total timeframe of about 2 weeks, but I'm honestly not expecting completion until the end of the month. (I figure that if I keep my expectations low, maybe I'll be pleasantly surprised.)