Monday, March 30, 2009


The only problem with starting a blog about home ownership is that you are very often too tired to post anything substantial! Maybe we are just not dedicated enough to blogging but honestly we have been working our fingers to the bone. The last thing I think when I get back to the apartment is "let me blog about all the work we did today." And when you are on hour 11 like David was yesterday, it is a wonder we can even stand let alone sit down and blog something!

So when we started this whole process I think we both had millions of ideas about what we would like to do. One of my ideas was to try to use some of the fun new 'green' methods for home renovation. I bought the organic cleaner. I tried to find out about recycling all the things we would otherwise be throwing away. I looked in to low VOC paint. But when it came down to it it just didn't work out. Most of this stuff we just can't afford. Low VOC paint is literaly twice the cost of the paint we bought. You want to buy carpet made from corn? They make it! But is is twice as much as the carpet we ended up with. With where we are at now finacialy it just didn't work to use these methods on the large scale.

The part of being 'green' that generally interests me the most is the reusing more instead of buying new. I thought about reusing the carpet pads, but they smell like dog pee and I'm sorry but that is just not going to work out. We weren't able to find any 'oops paint' at the store either.

So all in all it has been rather frustrating. Especially when you are tired and the clock is ticking and your credit card bill is on the rise, it is hard to take time to really think 'green'. Maybe I will have better results down the road.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Home Server

it is every geek's dream to have all of their computers, and indeed every product they own networked together. Adama's aversion to networking aside, such a thing enables a central repository of information storage, and reduces duplication, while at the same time allowing for more access.

In our house, there is a central closet which used to house the gas fired heating unit before that was moved to the roof. Being centrally located, it is semi-ideal for the storage of a server and associated networking equipment. The only drawback is that it currently houses our water heater as well, and as you know, water and expensive electronic equipment generally do not mix well. Besides the once I mean. So we need to get that moved, or possibly replaced with a solar/instant heat unit.

In any case, the idea is to have a central server, a switch, router, wireless access point, and cable modem all in one place, with all wires running from that point to the various locations we would like to (so, all of them). Each room would have two or more RJ45 ports, and a cable port, so I will be spending lots of time under the house at some point. Wires would be Cat6, so that we could easily upgrade to gigabit Ethernet speeds.

The server would store all media, and would probably have its own backup hard drive to safeguard all "critical" files, such as pictures, documents etc. The current concept is that it will run off a purpose built Atom powered box, running Ubuntu Server (with a GUI), and around a terrabyte or two of drives in an array. Power usage when it is "sleeping" should be pretty small, so figuring out how to spin down the drives when not in use will be a major part of tuning the box for server use.

Future upgrades would be a dedicated firewall box, more switches for more devices, a PBX box for VOIP telephony, and a dedicated media server.

I have mostly been reading for information on this process, and anticipate most hardware coming either from my current stash of gear, or from Cost is anticipated to be around $500 for this first phase.

Timeline for the initial process is determined by when we can get the hot water heater issue resolved, with wiring taking an anticipated weekend, and setting up the server another weekend.

Anyone have any suggestions or tips for this process?

Sunday, March 22, 2009

rumpus room fyi

We always call the bonus addition to the house the rumpus room. I started to wonder what exactly a rumpus room was. This website had a very thorough explanation of what a rumpus room is and how to get one:

"A rumpus room, or recreation room, is an indoor space designed for the recreation of children and adults. It may lean more toward one group or the other depending upon what people want to do with the room. It may not even be a part of the main rooms of the house. People might use a garage or basement as a rumpus room, or it might be designed in an unused room in the house.

A rumpus room, provided it is safe and well ventilated can make a great place for kids to play or convene with their friends. Some feature games like table tennis, foosball, or air hockey. Others will have a supply of games, a television, and perhaps video game consoles or DVD players. Furniture tends to be comfortable and durable instead of necessarily matching and elegant. You certainly can purchase expensive matching furniture for a rumpus room if you want to, but if its primary use is for children and teens, it may not be the best choice.

In its simplest incarnation, the rumpus room for younger kids might be a basement or room in which most of the toys are located. While the rest of the house can remain clean, the kids don’t have to worry about the consequences of building a train track through the room, or having a large party of stuffed animals. It’s devoted to the “rumpus” or recreation, as opposed to the more “civilized” rooms in the house.

Adults can have all types of rumpus rooms, many with lots of expensive adult toys. The rumpus room for adults might be a good place to hold parties, to watch wide screen TVs, to play pool, or to serve drinks from a bar. Your only limits in designing a recreation room are your imagination, available space, and budget


painting party

We are back home after our painting party. We had much help which was sorely needed and much apprciated. Speaking of sore, I am quite sore and tired. So I am going to make this quick.

The hallway finally removed off all carpet, nails and padding and looking pretty good already.

Getting some paint on the walls in the living room.

Mom painting bedroom #2.

J painting guest bath.

Siblings painting bonus, aka rumpus room.

Mr. House painting master bath.

Me, hardly working in the master bedroom.

Thats all for now. Maybe I will take some more completed pictures to post soon.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Before, During, After

We who are about to scrape salute you!

Preparing the walls.  Note the use of blue tape and plastic.  300 feet of plastic, and 2 rolls of tape.  Also, the wonderful portible scaffalding. 

A bit of levity in hour 9.  Being in a mask, goggles, and suit for 9 hours makes you goofy.

After, with spackle.  Pink, Mrs. House's favorite color!  It dries white though.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

So Sore!

We are back at our current apartment now after a grueling weekend at the house.  We removed all of the "cottage cheese" or "popcorn" ceilings in the living room, hallway, entry, and three bedrooms, then we painted, removed the carpet, and cleaned up.  Every muscle which is involved in looking up, or rubbing a roller against the ceiling is as sore as can be, and the palms of both hands are bruised as well from scraping. 

It does look about 100% better though, so hopefully it is worth it! 

Next up, more painting! 

Monday, March 9, 2009

Digging in

Today I picked up the keys to the house! In with the keys was a $100 gift card to Home Depot from our realtor (thanks Paul!)

Mr. House and I headed over after he was done with work to get started.  We took some necessities that we thought we might need: paper towels, soap, cleaning supplies, toilet paper, radio, flashlights, etc, plus some pb&j sandwiches for dinner.  When we got there I didn't even want to eat, I wanted to dive right in and see what was waiting for us under the hideous and stinky carpet.  We'll we found out that in addition to being hideous and stinky, the carpet was also absolutely filthy. As we pulled it up dust clouds filled the sky.  On the underside of the carpet were huge and numerous stains.  It was in a word, gross.  The pads looks clean and fresh, which was odd, but encouraging.

Finally the moment of truth.  We pull back a big section of the carpet to find this:

Yikes. . .  I am not sure what it was.  But it is obvious that whoever laid the carpet just walked right over and didn't even try to clean it up.  I took a sponge to it and it miraculously came right up.  Here is proof:

That was a big relief.  Next we decided to continue pulling the carpet up that comes from the entry way and down the hallway.  First we noticed huge stains on the carpet and pad this time.  Then underneath, the wood there was pretty clearly warped and rotted.  Right under where the hot water heater is.  So then we continue pulling up the carpet directly in front of the water heater only to find this:

A big plywood patch in our beautiful hardwood floors!!  The original boards must have been ruined during some sort of leak and were then pulled out and replaced with this ugly. 

So that was our big surprise of the day.  This basically means that our plan of having hardwood in this section then in the living room and down the hall can not be.  What we will end up doing is carrying the tile, which will go in the entry way where you can see the white linoleum now, down this passage way and will meet the wood at the opening to the living room.  The next question is if we can salvage the wood in the hallway enough to leave the wood exposed there, or if we will have to run the carpet from the bedrooms down the hall.  I am really hoping to keep the wood just because that hall will get so much use as it is the only footpath to the bathroom.  A carpet there will get very worn.  Also then we would have tile, wood and carpet all meeting together like Colorado, Utah, New Mexico and Arizona, except without Utah.

So that was our first major problem.  Also Mr. House broke one of the faucet in the master bath.  The can of worms is officially opened!

Sunday, March 8, 2009

decorating plans

For as long as I can remember, I have always wanted a chaise lounge.  Really what's not to love about them?  I realized that this house may provide the perfect oportunity to buy one.  The living room is really odd shapped and a chaise would be a great way to add more seating for conversation while not blocking the TV for movies/TV watching!  I am seriously considering buying this chaise from Ikea in this print,  because it matches the colors for the room perfectly.  I think the print freaks out Mr. House though.  Since it's Ikea, you can always buy a new cover down the road!  We'll see, maybe i'll end up with the brown.

Saturday, March 7, 2009


In celebration of getting our keys yesterday (which did not happen), I excitedly ordered some seeds online from a company I had read about a few times before in various garden fora. I ended up getting Fennel, Leeks, cucumber, two types of tomatillos, muskmelon, watermelon, cilantro, and zucchini. I ordered them online because I have never seen fennel seeds locally, and you only have to walk along the river in summer time to know they grow well here.

We will see how those turn out when they arrive and get planted. I also plan to get some nasturtium seeds, and tomato seeds locally, since I know I can find them. Any other suggestions?

Since we do not have the garden beds built yet, no full grown plants have been ordered yet. Abbynormal and I agreed that we would not get every plant and tree that we want all at once, since we have so much prep work to do before they can get in the ground. Once we are more situated, we can plant the various other trees and bushes. Unfortunately, that may mean waiting until next spring.

I plan to order the blueberries (5 plants), hazel hedge (5 plants) and some raspberries and blackberries. These would come from Raintree Nursery, which is where I ordered blueberries for my dad a few years ago.

We will have to wait for the orange tree, guava, fig, and others.

I wish we got the keys yesterday! Then I could be working on the house, instead of taxes and car stuff.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Almost there!

This evening we signed the final papers for the house.  Honestly, am beginning to think that I haven't the slightest idea what is going on other that we have loads of paper to sign (sometimes the same sheet twice, or sign one paper then another verifying that we signed the first).  What I do know is that tomorrow we could be getting the keys for our very first house!  

annnnnnnnd commence with the freaking out . . .

Also, the tree in the back turns out to be grapefruit which makes me quite sad.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Raised Garden Beds

Part of the dream of owning a house is having a large vegetable garden. Since "large" in this context is only going to be say, 16x10, it really is not that large. The house currently has no vegetable garden, and that has to change. We are planning on moving a shed currently located in the south west corner of the back yard, and creating the garden in that space. With ample sun, and some shelter from the wind due to being in a fenced in corner, it should be ideal.

In this garden, I would like to have raised beds, and so I have been researching the best way to construct them. Note that this is "best way for my skills, tools, and capital", not necessarily the best type in the world. Each bed would have a soaker hose on its own riser spigot, and probably a gravel layer for drainage.

I had originally planed to go with redwood 2x6 boards, notched at the end to overlap, and secured with a rod inserted in pre-drilled holes, but at nearly $11 a board, this option would cost something like $132 for a single 8'x4' bed 12" high. Three beds would cost nearly $400, which is quite allot considering I would still need to buy some soil, gravel, manure etc.

After browsing around on the Home Depot website (closest "big box" home store to our house), I came to the realization that masonry blocks, or cinder blocks were probably the way to go. At only $1.38 per unit, a bed can be constructed for around $65, and it ought to be pretty durable as well. That brings the total price to around $200 including mortar. There will be somewhat more labor, and clearly getting 105 cinder blocks will be more complicated than getting some lumber, but this still seems like the best way to go.

So that settled, now I just need to figure out what plants to put in my 96 square feet. Any suggestions?

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Curb appeal

We are trying to figure out a way to get rid of the massive amount of grass we have in our front lawn for two reasons.  First, it is a pain to try to mow it all.  Second, to save on water.  I love the idea of ground cover, but we were trying to decide just how to transition between the ground cover area and the grass area.  I saw this yard in Portland and snapped a picture.  I love how they did the transition.  Also I had not thought of putting in low lying shrubs to break up the ground cover.  The only thing that I would change is maybe to use river rock instead of the rocks they used.  We are in the river city after all!