Saturday, December 12, 2009

New appliances

Sorry we are so mum over here at this old blog. Many exciting things have been going on though. One of these exciting things was getting a new dishwasher! The one that came with the house was on old ugly looking thing. All the folks from older generations who came over exclaimed that it was top of the line Hobart by Kitchen Aid. So it was top of the line - at one time - and had held up pretty well over the past years. One thing that bothered me about it (aside from the fact that it never really got things that clean and was hard to load) was that it just plain smelled. Musty old yucky icky smell- probably from having been kept locked shut for a good long while. I tried to get rid of the odor every way I could but it still remained. Luckily we were able to put in a bright shiny new white dishwasher that works like a charm. The formula of 1 part husband and 2 parts dads worked like a charm as well.

Here is a shot of us taking the old one out.

And the new all snug as a bug in a rug!

It matches our new refrigerator as well.

Out with the old off-white (beige? biscuit? sand?) and in with the new! Shiny!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Major Project finished!

So, we have been busy. Our guest bathroom had no shower, and with an increased population here at This Old Blog, that was not going to work.

Starting with an old bathroom, we removed everything, down to the studs, rebuilt it, and now have a nice new bathroom with a shower. We also put in a new window, new lights, a fan, a dual flush toilet and much much more. "Why do things by halves?", we always say here.

Many thanks to Mrs. House's Dad's Cousin, who helped with pretty much every step, and did the plumbing and electrical work.

The total project took over a month, many many hours of labor, and several thousand dollars (thanks tax rebate!). I even "got" to go under the house for the first time!

Next time... fencing. Not the kind with white suits and pointy metal. (or maybe it will be gardening, wiring, painting, or other projects)

P.S. I hate the way that blogger inserts photos uploaded. Why must they always go to the top? Why?

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Theres a storm a blowin' !!

Well we had a big (for Sacramento) storm this week which caused everybody to go into a panic like it was the great flood. Fortunately for us this meant that Mr. House was able to leave work early because they shut down his whole office early. So we are going home and I am thinking - "oh how nice! Come home early. Rainy outside. Curl up on the couch with my hubby." etc, etc. However when we pulled up at our house we found this waiting for us.

A big big branch from our tree fell. Luckily it didn't hit anything important except a rose bush that may or may not make it. The wind and rain had made a mess of a bunch of other things so instead of my getting cozy ideas we had to suit up and try to fix a few things in the middle of the storm. Removed leaves from drain and gutters, fixed fence, collected things that had flown about the yard, and take a damage report of the tree.

That night it was still too rainy to do much about the tree, although by the time we got home we already had numerous business cards from tree service people in our mailbox and people knocking on our door offering their services. Last night as soon as we got home Mr. House went right to business with his little bow saw (apparently we don't believe in chainsaws in this house - even when cutting apart huge branches from a 50 year old tree.)

So he is cut, cut, cutting away and eventually some neighbors come knock on our door saying how they just feel so bad to see Mr. House out there with his hand saw and could they please help us out with their handy chainsaw. Very nice.

Tonight hopefully we can finish the job. I am hoping to stack some wood up to dry for firewood someplace. Hey, we've got to make use of what we've got, right?

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Bathroom update

Well if you have noticed we have been pretty mum lately. We have been going full force on the bathroom and not getting much else done. Luckily the tile is almost completed now and it looks really great. Mr. House finished painting last night and now all that's left is the finishing details like putting in the sink, toilet and all the fixtures . . . you know minor details like that. We are really looking forward to having it all done! It already looks much better in there but I don't want to post a picture until its all finished! Guess you'll have to wait!

Before I go here is one question for you. What would you do with nearly 5 feet of leftover granite with a finished bullnose front?

Leading contenders are:

1. outdoor kitchen (my vote)
2. super deluxe garage laundry area counter (Mr. H's vote).


Monday, August 24, 2009

Portulaca Oleracea

Thanks to a very clever identification of our blurry weed picture by Josh, I have now determined that our main garden weed (aside from grass) is Portulaca Oleracea or Pursline. (

Unfortunately, wikipedia also indicates that it is edible! Not only edible, but nutritious, and a source of Omega 3 fatty acids.

So, I have inadvertently thrown out over 10 gallons of our most productive vegetable!

Well, something to keep in mind for next year.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Adventures in gardening

Being able to walk out to your backyard and pick something fresh to eat is just an amazing concept to me. I love that we have been pretty succesful on our first year of gardening.

We started out way back in February where we sprouted some seeds on our window sil.

Then we prepared the spot where we wanted to plant the garden by digging up all the overgrown stuff that was there, turning over the dirt and covering it with a garbage bag.

Our poor little seedlings waited so long to be planted, they got very big in their little cups.

We finally got them in the ground in early june.

Then we watched as many of them died. We planted more plants where the old ones died. The plants that survived where the tomatoes, tomatillos, cubanelle peppers, and basil. We started off with, well, much much more than that. Here is what it looks like now.

Overgrown and full of weeds. I don't think we did too bad of a job though.

We also had some volunteers sprout up. We have some melon/squash like plants that are doing well that came up from some seeds from the compost. We also had some chard like greens that came up that must have been planted there a long, long time ago.

What started out as a seed is now a thriving plant that provides food for us. Simply wonderful!

The reason

Some of the readers of this blog may be wondering where we've been lately. Well, we have mostly been up to our ears in our guest bathroom renovation. To give you a taste as to how it is coming, here is what it currently looks like.

Well, technically right at this very moment they are in there working on putting the tub in which means plumbing and going under the house and all sorts of other things I am not at all comfortable with. Not much in there at this point to even give you a clue that it is or should be a bathroom.

But, I am really excited to have a nice new bathroom. We are going with lovely white subway tile which I have always loved. The accent tiles are this great mix of glass and onyx tiles that mimic the subway pattern. The floor is a nice warm neutral that looks great next to the hardwoods coming off the hallway.

Honestly, the thing I am most excited about is our new dual flush toilet! Is that sad? It is going to be such an improvement over our old toilet that just ran and ran all day and all night. We couldn't get in there to fix it because there was absolutely no room between the top of the toilet and the bottom on of the counter top. Not a very smart installation. But this new one will also use half the water of your normal toilet on your normal 'liquid' flush and get rid of everything better than your average if you need something a little stronger. What a brilliant idea!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Paint Your Wagon

I am full of ideas lately, but sadly not too many useful house ideas. First it was castle dreams, now I can't stop thinking about getting a little travel trailer and fixing it up. I don't even really want it for travel, I just like the idea of using our RV parking pad to create a little getaway cozy nook. I remember when I was a kid I had a friend whose parents had a tent trailer that we could play in. It was always so fun to go out there and have this whole separate world. We spent hours in there despite it being so hot and musty inside. So I have been looking for old funky retro mini travel trailers for a while now. Airstream trailers are beautiful but surprisingly expensive! Then today I saw this while browsing for home design stuff:

If that is not the cutest most fun thing I have ever seen today then I don't know what is! You can find the rest of the pictures at desiretoinspire

I still think the travel trailer route would be better for me since it seems like these wagons need to be built from scratch and I think I am more of a re-haber than a builder.

Okay, okay so you may be thinking to yourself "What is your problem? You have this whole house to decorate and fix up and you want to start a whole NEW project??" But I think my problem is that I am still completely overwhelmed with this whole house project. There is just so so so much to do! But I will keep trying to stay focused on the task at hand and not be distracted by colorful and cute things. Maybe some day...

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Castle dreams

Upon returning from our viewing of the new Harry Potter, we were reminded about how much we the contributors for this old blog would like to live in a castle. I don't know how you can watch those movies and NOT want to run away to England and sleep in a big canopy bed with a nice fire maybe a couple dogs laying at your feet keeping you warm. In any case, the Hogwarts castle is loosely based on Alnwick castle. Here is a picture - isn't it loverly?

It's not just the exterior that we like, but the interior. For me, I long to have a room much like Slughorn's office with two tufted sofas facing each other with a cozy rug and a roaring fire in between. I could only find one screen shot from the scene, its not the best.

There's Ron recovering from his near-death experience! Yikes!

In any case, this got me shopping for tufted leather sofas online, where I discovered Horchow, which has the most fabulously extravagant and beautiful things I have ever seen.

Not sure where this post was supposed to go . . . oh well. Until we move away to France or someplace similar to live in the castle of our dreams we will be here sleeping in good ole Rosemont. Well I will be sleeping, I am pretty sure Mr. House said he was going to stay up all night reading the book. . . Night!

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Our first harvest!

Our garden has yeilded its first bit of bounty! This fig is our first harvest. It probably should have been picked sooner, as it was a bit wilted and overly ripe. We have three more growing on the tree, which may be the extent of what we get this year.

Also, an update on our garden. 90% of what we planted died the very next day. All the vines, peppers, fennel, and more, which we had grown from seed, died . Very sad.

Only the tomatoes, tomatillos, and basil survived. My dad brought over some spare tomatoes from his garden, and we added to what was left. Those plants are doing pretty well, and one of the tomatillos seems to be taking off, which is good. With 3-4 months left in the season, hopefully we will get something from this effort.

We have had very prolific growth of some sort of suculent weed in our garden. I weeded today, and got a full five gallon bucket of just this suculent weed. Not sure what it is, but I am fairly certain we can not eat it. Here is a blurry picture of a larger plant.
Any ideas what it is?

Monday, June 15, 2009

The Fundamentals

Here at This Old Blog we like to experiment in the kitchen. We also like to eat bread, specifically sourdough bread. We have been kicking around the idea of making sourdough bread for a while now and I think the time has come. I was searching around the internet for a recipe and I think I found a good one. Here are the directions on how to make the sourdough starter:

Creating Your Starter

The novel thing about sourdough baking is that it requires that you keep something alive in your fridge. I think of my starter as a pet, kept and fed so that Sandra and I will have all the bread we need. Sourdough "starter" is a batter of flour and water, filled with living yeast and bacteria. The yeast and bacteria form a stable symbiotic relationship, and (as long as you keep the starter fed) can live for centuries, a thriving colony of microorganisms. To make sourdough bread, you blend the starter with some flour and make dough. The yeast propogates, and leavens your bread. This is how you make your starter:

  • Select a container that your "pet" will live in. A wide-mouthed glass jar is best. I use a glass jar with a rubber and wireframe seal; you can find these for $2-$4 in any antique or junk shop. A small crock with a loose lid is also great; these can be bought in cheap sets for serving soup. You can also use a rubbermaid or tupperware container. I've begun starters using the plastic containers that take-out Chinese soup comes in, and then transferred them to jars later! A wide-mouthed mayonnaise or pickle jar will also do just fine. Metallic containers are a bad idea; some of them are reactive and can ruin your starter (for the same reason, avoid using metal utensils to stir your starter).
  • Blend a cup of warm water and a cup of flour, and pour it into the jar. That's the whole recipe! I use plain, unbleached bread flour most of the time, but I've had good results with all-purpose and whole-wheat flour, too. If you want, you can add a little commercial yeast to a starter to "boost" it. If you do this, sourdough snobs will look down their nose at you - but who cares about snobs? I personally find that (at least here where I live) no yeast "boost" is necessary, and I can make "real" sourdough with no trouble. But if you are having trouble, go ahead and cheat. I won't tell. Note that starter made with commercial yeast often produces a bread with less distinctive sour flavor than the real thing.
  • Every 24 Hours, Feed the Starter. You should keep the starter in a warm place; 70-80 degrees Farenheit is perfect. This allows the yeast already present in the flour (and in the air) to grow rapidly. Temperatures hotter than 100 degrees or so will kill it. You can take comfort from the fact that almost nothing else will do so. The way you feed the starter is to(A) throw away half of it and then (B) add a half-cup of flour and a half-cup of water. Do this every 24 hours. Within three or four days (it can take longer, a week or more, and it can happen more quickly) you should start getting lots of bubbles throughought, and a pleasant sour or beery smell. The starter may start to puff up, too. This is good. Here's the gist: When your starter develops a bubbly froth, it is done. You have succeeded. If this sounds brain-dead simple, that's because it is. People who didn't believe the Earth was round did this for millenia.
  • Refrigerate the Starter. Keep the starter in your fridge, with a lid on it. Allow a little breathing space in the lid. If you're using a mayo or pickle jar, punch a hole in the lid with a nail, that kind of thing. Once the starter is chilled, it needs to be fed only once a week. Realistically, you can get away with less; it's important to remember that your starter is a colony of life-forms that are almost impossible to kill (except with extreme heat). Even starving them is difficult.
The whole keeping this living organism alive in your fridge and then using it to make food is very strange. Bakeries such as Boudin claim that they have been using the same "mother" starter for a hundred years or more. I doubt I will be able to keep it alive for a week, but we will see. We will certainly update if we ever give it a go.

If you want to check out the rest of the recipe, head over to 

Tuesday, June 9, 2009


One of the (many?) factors we did not anticipate when moving to a new home was the increased cost of shopping at the grocery store. Our new local store is Raley's, which, while locally owned, is more expensive than our usual Safeway when we lived in Midtown.  Example: Pasta Barilla is on sale for $1.40 at Raley's, and on sale for $0.89 at Safeway.  Pretty much everything we buy is more money at Raley's, and they have fewer, and less deep sales as well.  A pity.  Now we have to either drive back to our former Safeway, or pay the toll of convenience

In other news (really news this time), we are working on the fence.  Should be done in a week or so, which will be nice.  Working in the garden will be more enjoyable knowing that it is not on public display. 

Friday, June 5, 2009

Tour gone wrong

Moving in to a new place is an exciting time, a time that you want to share with your family and friends. We had been so busy with getting things ready and working on the house that it was hard to find the time to invite people over. Also, I must admit that the control freak in me wanted to make sure that everything was at least done and clean and put away enough so as to not be embarrassed. Once we finally moved our stuff in and started living there we kind of forgot that it was now time to start inviting people over, hosting dinner, movies, games, etc. It kind of made for an odd time, like a new store that flips their sign to say 'open' but no one comes in. It made me pretty sad actually because before we moved we were kind of on a roll of having people over. It felt a little lonely with all this house and no one to share it with.

Finally we hear that my grandmother is coming to town for a few weeks. We are excited that finally we can show the house to a new person. Lists are made of things to do before the big reveal (of course not many of those things were checked off, but a list was made none the less.)

My mom makes the plan that I will pick my grandmother up and bring her to the house then my mom will come to the house when she gets off work to visit then take grandma home. So I pick up my grandmother and bring her to the house. It is just the two of us because David is at work. So I take her inside and show her the kitchen and the dining area and the living room, then I decide to take her out our sliding glass door to show her the back yard. She walks outside, then I follow. Because it was so very hot that day and the AC was on I slide the door shut. It sounds louder than normal when I shut the door but I don't think much of it because our house can be very loud and creaky.

So I show her a little of the backyard and then I go to open the sliding glass door and it wont open. I am confused. I try again with no luck. It is then that I realize that the sound I heard was the wooden bar that we use to secure the door at night falling back into place and has now locked the door. My head starts to spinning because I know that we just walked in the front door, which I always lock when I come inside, and we weren't there long enough to open any other doors or windows. So I start going around the house trying all the doors and windows anyway because you always have to try. All locked. I have locked myself and my 83 year old grandma out of the house on a 98 degree day. All purses and phones are inside.

Well now I am kind of freaking out because although my mom should be here in about 20 minutes, the carpet guy was on his way to install our carpets and we had already "rescheduled" with him too many times to miss this appointment. Besides, I pictured myself with my poor grandma sitting outside on the front porch when the carpet guy pulls up and me telling him "sorry you can't come in, I locked myself out of the house. Can you come back again another time?" It was just too embarrassing a thought.

So I realize that our only hope is one of the windows in the master which was not locked. I pull on it, but it doesn't budge. What you must know is that we have those roller crank windows that are surprisingly locked in place at any given angle of openness. This window's angle was wide enough to pry my fingers in but not wide enough to reach the crank device.

At this point I can tell my grandma is getting hot because she has been following me as I run around like a chicken with my head cut off trying to break in to my house. I instruct her to sit down in the shade in the front and wait for my mom. While I wanted her to cool down I mostly didn't want her to see what I was going to do next, which was pull on my poor window with all my might.

I pull and pull and pull and finally get it open enough to get the screen out. Now the problem is that the window is too high to pull myself up on my own. I find a chair that we had outside and try to stand on that but the ground is too wobbly to put too much pressure on the chair. By this time my grandmother has come back around to the backyard and is witnessing my desperate attempt to break in. She tries to hold the chair steady but isn't strong enough.

Luckily at this time my mom shows up in her cute little work outfit. She immediately hops up into the window with me holding the chair. So now she is sitting indian style like in the window trying to bend her long legs enough to squeeze in. She is just pulling on her foot and trying to shove it inside. Then I try to help her by bending and shoving on her foot as well.

Finally she squeezes in and goes around to unlock the door. We all go inside and offer them a cool beverage which they gladly take. When the carpet guy shows up a few minutes later my grandmother blurts out the whole story to him. So I definitely did not avoid embarrassment.

All in all it was a very traumatizing first house guest. We have had better luck since then, but I always remember to remove the stick from the door completely and not to just stand it up inside.

Also I completely broke the crank mechanism to that window which now will no longer open but has to remain shut and locked. At least I know the house is not easy to break in to.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

rumpus room

It is hard to know when to post things to show progress because hardly anything is ever DONE done. But for now I will show you the progress of the rumpus room floor, which is DONE done, even if the rest of the room is not and still has no furniture in it.

At first we had an odd room with ugly ugly carpet.

At the inspection it was noted that the floor was uneven, probably poured concrete patio slab. We were anxious to get down to take a look at what was underneath the carpet. What we didn't really expect to find was more carpet. RED industrial carpet. We then started calling it "The Red Room". Here we is what it looked like as painting got started.

Even with the ugly red carpet, it was useful for storing all of our stuff as we got the rest of the house ready.

And our stuff waited and waited . . .

Finally we were ready to work on the floors. We pulled back the red carpet to find that the pad had been glued down to the concrete and was still very stuck.

So we debated at that point whether to do a quick fix it job or a thorough job. We ended up going with a nice thorough job because we don't like to do anything half-assed! This next step required Mr. House and his dad to scrape alllll the black pad off.

After some scrapping, we discovered that the unevenness we felt was from the wood forms that we left in, long after the concrete dried. So the good news was that there were no huge cracks in the floor. the bad news was that now we had to do more work to remove the old, rotten wood and fill it in with concrete.

When it came time for removing the wood we were in for an additional surprise. We pulled out the wood to find TERMITES!!!

This was a surprise to us because the previous owner had the house sprayed for us before we bought it. I called the termite guy who they had used and he agreed to come out at the end of the week. Well the end of the week was raining pretty hard, so the end of the week turned in to the beginning of the next week. Meanwhile we are living with an ugly concrete floor with huge gaps that extend down to the dirt. I was full of irrational (?) fears of bugs, spiders and/or snakes crawling up in to the house so much so that those fears entered my dreams. It was an unpleasant week.

Finally the very nice termite man came and sprayed - assuring me all the while that he was "using the good stuff this time". The whole spraying thing freaked me the hell out and I was quick to vacate the house while they were here (even though they didn't really mention anything). Finally we were ready to fill in the old frame with concrete.

In an effort to not do anything half-assed, once the concrete was dry Mr. House rented a concrete grinder and went to town smoothing out all the different levels. What a beast that grinder was!

Then, furthering out efforts to do as much work as possible, we washed the floor to get it ready to be sealed.

To seal we went with Dry-lock. It was supposed to seal from water, etc. We bought it in blue because it was a few bucks cheaper than white - yay cheapskates! Now we have used some awful nasty smelling chemicals in this house remodel, but this was by far the WORST. It smelled horrible. I quickly put on my respirator to help block the odor and toxins. Bleh, really really glad this part is over.

Here is what the floor looked like when we had it all prepped and ready for carpet. Initially I wanted to paint the whole floor, but I hated that stuff so much we only ended up covering up the new concrete and feathering out from there.

I went and picked out a nice carpet from wood brothers and we planned to use our same installer because we had pretty good luck. Well to make a long story short (too late) the carpet guy flaked on us not once but twice which put our finished floor even farther back. Something about losing his phone at a bachelor party, a story which he told to myself and my mother and my grandmother. You can see I am trying to forget the details. So now after reading this whole long story you can see why this is what I did when I saw the carpet for the first time.


Monday, May 25, 2009

killer cacti

So one of the things that we disliked very much about out front yard is the giant cactus in the center. It is an odd sight. We decided early on to dig up that old cacti and replace it with redwood trees. Because really who doesn't like redwood trees? Even Mr. House who insists ever tree bear fruit or nuts wanted the redwood.

The other benefit to planting redwoods is that we have a seemingly endless (and free) supply from my family who lives in the Santa Cruz mountains. This past weekend we decided would be a good time to obtain our first redwood tree. I don't have any pictures of the process because we were running late for a wedding, but needless to say we had our pick of the trees.

We shopped around their property for the right height tree, with the right number of branches and the right thickness of trunk. We found it a little ways out in the back or front of their house (depending on who you ask). We dug it out and put it with some more dirt and water in a garbage bag then loaded it in the back of the empty van. It fit perfectly! Then we got ready and drove to the wedding where our new tree waited patiently for us to return.

After some delicious cake and a little dancing we returned to the car and drove home. We arrived home just before 8:00 and began digging our hole right away. The ground seemed really hard and we soon realized that there was a layer of gravel on the top. Once we got under that layer we thought we were home free, only to find another layer of gravel, this time about a foot deep. Poor Mr. House kept on digging and eventually he dug through all the gravel and quite a few random roots. We plopped our new tree and some new dirt in the ground next to the cactus for now because we didn't have the time to transplant the cactus it into a pot, nor a pot to transplant it in to. Soon we hope to dig up the cactus and get two more redwood friends.

Monday, May 11, 2009


Our (sizable) tax rebate came in the mail today, so we immediately started dreaming about what we could do to upgrade the house with the money.  leading contenders are windows and solar hot water heater, since those will payoff as rebates next  year as well. 

Well, one of us was dreaming about upgrades.  The other one started planning a trip to Vegas. 

What would you spend money on to upgrade your house?

Thursday, April 30, 2009

In which we show the progress of the floors

In the beginning, there was carpet, and it was hideous and smelly.
Then Mrs. House and Mr. House tore out the carpet, and discovered a hideous black mess underneath, which we were able to clean. And that was good.

Removal of the carpet begat removal of the carpet tack strips (and staples), which was significantly less good.

And then the floor was cleaned by Mrs. House's father, which was wonderful and tedious.

Then our fathers sanded the floor, Mrs. House's father with the huge suction sander (not shown) and Mr. House's father with various hand sanders.

And then it was bare wood. Which needed to be sealed.

Prior to sealing there is the cleaning with nasty smelling chemicals.

Then the sealing of the floor with even nastier chemicals. Followed by more sanding, more cleaning, and more sealing.

And finally, we have a finished room, with a lovely floor, and a lovely Mrs. House watching some Seinfeld.