The Lawn Onions Are Back

Of course they are.

Yum: yard food.

Yum: yard food.

But there are many signs that Spring has sprung, or whatever you call it, around my backyard. Handsome has taken down a number of trees, leaving us with the illusion of more space and the reality of crazy amounts of brush. Here’s where we are in the beginning stages (identifiable by ALL the tools in the yard accompanied by beer bottles):

From one tree. We dropped four of these guys.

From one tree. We dropped four of these guys.

I thought the tree would add perspective, but looking at it now I see I was wrong.

I thought the live tree would add perspective, but looking at it now I see I was wrong.

This is what the pool area looks like now:

We're almost there!

We’re almost there! Just some cement paint and one tub removal and we’re ready. 

And what the yard looks like without trees, and with a much smaller pile of garbage:

No trees, but more junk!

No trees, but more junk!

Tetherball, anyone?

Tether ball, anyone?

Handsome moved the wood pile to the back of the yard, which does two things: it hides all the brush, wood chippings and dead grass, and it gave us more space by the pool.

We’ve also started pulling the lilies and seeding the soil on the side of the yard:

Buh-bye, lilies!

Buh-bye, lilies!

Grass, grass, everywhere -- and not a blade is ours.

Grass, grass, everywhere — and not a blade is ours.

We’ve done nothing new to the front of the house, but the grass is coming back under the tree, as we’d hoped. And this will be the year that we do something with the front porch.

Grow, little grass seeds -- grow!

Grow, little grass seeds — grow!

Top of the line front door? Check. Half-dead plants in pots? Check. Sh!ttiest front porch in America? Check.

Top of the line front door? Check. Half-dead plants in pots? Check. Sh!ttiest front porch in America? Check.

Happy spring, everyone!

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Enough with the Damn Snow

I’ve been really, really remiss in posting the last couple of months, I know. I wanted to put up pictures of my holiday decorations and such, but time just got away from me.

And then the snows came. We’re expecting another storm tonight into tomorrow, calling for anywhere between 3″ and a foot, depending on which weatherman you listen to.

But this is what my yard looks like after a month’s worth of snowing-melting-snowing-meltingandthenfreezing-raining-snowing weather, and it is why I really, really need for winter to finally be over:

Layers upon layers of snow, slush and ice

Layers upon layers of snow, slush and ice

Mud and dead leaves just starting to peek through the ice

Mud and dead leaves just starting to peek through the ice

Clearing this part of the patio took me the better part of an hour

Clearing this part of the patio took me the better part of an hour

A tentative Coal makes his way towards the patio

A tentative Coal makes his way towards the patio

There's an inch or two of water here, which means at LEAT two inches of water has already drained somewhere else -- and this remaining water has nowhere to go

There’s an inch or two of water here, which means at LEAST two inches of water has already drained somewhere else — and this remaining water has nowhere to go

The dogs — we have two now — are wiped out from walking on the ice and falling through some parts while sliding on others, and my arms are sore from the unending shoveling that consumed the entire month of February. The next person who says there is no such thing as climate change will be directed to this post and the immediately bludgeoned to death with a chunk of ice taken from my backyard.

Come back, Spring!

The Conclusion of the Great Bathroom Saga

After some good-natured ribbing by an aunt at a wedding last weekend, I realized it might be time to actually post the photos of the finished bathroom. I was too busy reveling in it to actually show anyone. [grin] Plus, I took, like, a hundred photos — I needed to really sort through them so that this post wasn’t boring as hell to read.

But without further ado, here they are:

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See the black stuff on the wall? We couldn’t actually replace the plywood — that has to wait until we redo the siding, and I don’t have another 30 grand just lying around. So Handsome used some kind of product designed to lock out moisture on the boards before putting up the insulation. It’ll have to do for another few years.

Even the insulation is nasty. But the new filter is niiiiice.

Even the insulation is nasty. But the new filter is niiiiice.

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You’re going to see a LOT of photos of the window. An explanation is coming, I promise.

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I picked these floor tiles before I picked out anything else. I love them. LOVE THEM. Like the “wood” tiles downstairs, these are also porcelain — but they look and feel like river rock.

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Okay — about this window.

Handsome took a week off to handle the demo and rebuilding of this bathroom. He doesn’t work on weekends, so it gave him a total of 9 days. He figured he’d be done in about 6 or 7. Because of this window, he technically didn’t finish for 11 days. He literally lost a day and a half on the window alone, which pushed his timeline back into the days he was back at work.

Needless to say, we’re proud of the window.

The Vanity, starring my father's hands.

The Vanity, starring my father’s hands.

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Boo!

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So it’s finally done. It’s clean, it;’s beautiful and it’s finished. [grin]

Oh! We also got a new front door:

Inside

Inside

Outside

Outside

And now I’m out of money. 🙂

I already have big plans for next year, though, and Handsome and I will be National Lampooning it this holiday season with the lights, too. So I expect I’ll post more in December.

It’s Demo Day, B*tches

Okay, okay — it’s been… it’s been a long time. Like, months. Let’s blame the dog.

Sorry! I'm too cute to ignore.

Sorry! I’m too cute to ignore.

Anyway, things have been happening kind of sporadically over here. But today? Today is Upstairs Bathroom Demo Day. I have a TON of photos, and no inclination to caption them. [grin]

Without further ado, here we go.

Before

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Handsome let me take the initial swing with the fubar. First to go? The soap dish in the shower.

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Next, he took out the toilet, vanity and medicine chests. Again, I took on the soap dishes:

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Once that was done, it was time to pull the moldy and rotted Sheetrock and insulation down from around the tub and the rest of the bathroom, thus exposing the moldy and rotted wood inside:

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Then Petey Vegas came over to help Handsome with some stuff I’m too weak and small to help with, so we edned up with this:

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Eat your hearts out, ladies

Eat your hearts out, ladies

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All that’s left now is to pull out the rest of the floor.

Other things we’ve actually finished:

Carpet downstairs

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And a new roof, new shutters, new gutters and new fascia outside:

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I can’t believe the demo is essentially done. Handsome will spray down down the walls with bleach and then seal them, to prevent any further damage (until we can afford new siding in about 5 years), and then it’s off to the races we go!

The Bits and Pieces

Today I learned the phrase “tree sucker,” which sounds like a mild British insult but is actually a real thing.

There are stumps all over my yard, and I noticed that these weird plants seemed to be growing directly out of them. Some of the stumps are old and hollow; others are relatively new, since Handsome cut them down himself (or the previous owners did right before we moved in).

It looks a bit like this:

Creepy photosynthesizing alien life forms

Creepy photosynthesizing alien life forms

Except in some cases, they’re 6 feet high. And I just wasn’t sure what to do with them. So with my puppy happily snoring on my feet, I started digging into the Interwebs for information, since Coal likes to eat the leaves and I didn’t know if they were poisonous.

Turns out they’re not. BUT, I learned that suckers don’t always look like the trees they attach to. It has something to do with having a “pure” tree versus a tree that was grafted or cross-bred or whatever. What I really should do is ask my neighbor, a lovely older woman with a certification from Rutgers as a Master Gardener; she would know.

Actually, we “toured” her backyard yesterday. Sounds strange, I know. But when we first moved in, all I kept thinking was Jesus Christ — we live next door to a crazy cat lady who will bonk us over the head and let us dissolve in lye to feed her plants. (Not my kindest moment; hindsight is 20/20.)  But now that her yard is in full bloom, and as I always ask her about the flowers which border our two front yards, she treated me and Handsome to a tour of the grounds.

Oh. My. Goodness. What a display. I saw a rosebush dating to 1906 and a pink lily (I’ve never seen one before), and untold amounts of hosta and fig trees. She showed us something called a balloon flower, and it was like a picture — all the stages of budding and opening. Simply gorgeous.

Hers were all a bluish purple color, but you get the idea

Hers were all a bluish purple color, but you get the idea

She keeps bees in the backyard; I had no idea. I’ve never seen one in our yard. She told us that bees travel back and forth in one invisible highway — a bee road, I think she called it. I don’t believe she uses the honey; I think she just keeps them as part of her measures for sustainability. Then she showed us her vegetable and fruit garden: raspberries, blueberries, red currants that looked like stained glass, asparagus 5 feet tall and tomatoes in raised flower beds. She grows rhubarb too, which I happen to love but which Handsome hates, and she literally squealed with joy that she found another person who likes it.

So here’s what I learned: not that you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, which I always found silly because, frankly, that’s exactly how I judge books, but that taking 30 minutes out of our day to tour our neighbor’s yard not only made her happy, but made us really happy too. Handsome and I talked about those flowers for another hour after we left. I’ve never seen anything quite like it. It was a bit like walking through the gardens at Inverlochy Castle in Scotland

View of Ben Nevis

View of Ben Nevis

And a bit like walking through Tryon Park in NYC — an experience shared with me by my amazing friend B

The heather gardens

The heather gardens

And a bit like walking into something out of a CS Lewis tale. She told us that every 2 weeks, something new blooms. We told her she might find us sniffing around in another 2 weeks.

And to think: all of this came about because bulk pickup is today, and we asked her if she wanted to put anything on our pile. 🙂

The Best Part of Handsome Taking a Vacation

Man oh man, did we get things done this week! And by “we,” I mean Handsome and his mother, the only two people who actually did any work at all.

In my defense, I was a little busy with this guy:

Hello. My name is Coal. I will eat all of your flowers and melt your heart while doing it.

Hello. My name is Coal. I will eat all of your flowers and melt your heart while doing it.

I love him. LOVE. HIM. But as cute as he is, that’s not why I started this blog. So without further ado, here’s what we’ve done this week.

First, the world’s greatest MiL came over and painter my railings. So we went from this to this:

Same railing -- now without accumulated grime!

Same railing — now without accumulated grime!

Protecting the stairs at all costs

Protecting the stairs at all costs

Another view

Another view

Ahh -- sweet, sweet cleanliness

Ahh — sweet, sweet cleanliness

She also painted my downstairs bathroom, though you can’t really tell in the pictures. Handsome chose a lighter shade of gray, so it mostly looks white. But in case you forgot what the downstairs bathroom looks like — though I can’t imagine how you could — here’s a quick reminder before looking at the process.

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Before

Yum! Blue goo and mold! (It's what's for breakfast.)

Yum! Blue goo and mold! (It’s what’s for breakfast.)

I'm starting to see a pattern here

I’m starting to see a pattern here

Where the mirrored cabinet used to be

Where the mirrored cabinet used to be

So Handsome put up new Sheetrock, skim coated what was salvageable, and MiL Extraordinaire painted it. So by yesterday, we had this:

Behind the washer

Behind the washer

Above the sink

Above the sink

Rotting valves for the sink. Of course.

Rotting valves for the sink. Of course.

He replaced all the valves. Then he started to add the floor.

That's not wood -- that's porcelain tile.

That’s not wood — that’s porcelain tile.

No, it really is tile.

No, it really is tile.

While waiting for paint and tile to dry, he started on the landing steps. You can see the white tiles in the picture above of the railing, but he chose a dark gray for the new ones.

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They’re textured so I don’t slip and bust my a$$ when it’s raining or snowing outside

So we started here

No tile

No tile

And ended up here

Taken right before he added the final cuts to the bottom

Taken right before he added the final cuts to the bottom

And the plan is to finish the grout today or tomorrow. Same goes for the final cuts and the grout for the downstairs bathroom. I’ll post the pictures when he’s finished.

He also fixed the hole in our back fence, with a little help from his good friend M in the fencing business.

I'm afraid if we power wash the back fence it'll all fall down

I’m afraid if we power wash the back fence it’ll all fall down

So that just leaves the downstairs ceiling. And yes, he did that too, with some help from the Magician. (I’m not tall enough to help with giant pieces of Sheetrock.)

Halfway done

Halfway done

Making cuts

Making cuts

Hiding the brace for the heating duct

Hiding the brace for the heating duct

Taping the seams

Taping the seams

He really is incredible.

So — for the upcoming week when he’s back at work, here’s my list of things to do:

  • Paint the small room downstairs
  • Paint the ceiling in the big room
  • Choose a vanity for my bathroom
  • Wait for the carpet guys to come
  • Move the trash from our backyard out to the curb for bulk pickup

After that, everything’s done EXCEPT for the upstairs bathroom. Handsome will redo that this summer, which leaves us officially finished with the cosmetic issues in the house. Everything else — adding the crown molding to my office, turning the railing along the top into a wall — is all stuff that can wait.

I’m so relieved and excited all at once.

We Finally – FINALLY – Have a Yard

I know, I know — it’s been weeks, and people have been on me to post pictures. But things are moving slowly now, so I haven’t had any pictures to post.

Until today.

I’ll start with the small things, like the rest of the molding:

Molding around the bathroom door *almost* detracts from the bathroom. Almost.

Molding around the bathroom door *almost* detracts from the bathroom. Almost.

Still no closet doors, but the molding is officially finished upstairs

Still no closet doors, but the molding is officially finished upstairs

Handsome is ordering the supplies for the bathrooms today, so there will be more pictures soon as we dismantle the downstairs entirely, and as he guts the upstairs hellhole bathroom once and for all.

But it’s the yard we’ve really thrown our backs into these last few weeks. First off, Handsome power washed our deck.

Before

Before

Halfway done

Halfway done

Looking a little better

Looking a little better

The end result

The end result

It's margarita time!

It’s margarita time!

It needs some sealant, of course, but at least it’s clean. We plan on using a deck paint by Rustoleum to cover the handrails for now, since the paint costs a ton of money and we have shoes — but we ain’t wearing gloves on our deck.

When the deck was finished, we cleaned out the junk from underneath it.

We wanted to make it nicer for the family of mice that lives in the air conditioning unit

We wanted to make it nicer for the family of mice that lives in the air conditioning unit

We added some furniture (care of my SiL) so people could sit outside.

Ask me about the umbrella -- I dare you. (We have three of them.)

Ask me about the umbrella — I dare you. (We have three of them.)

We even cleared out the 120 bags of leaves stashed in the corner of the yard that I’ve taken to calling our White Trash Section.

Though why we didn't take the trash to the dump with the leaves is beyond me

Though why we didn’t take the trash to the dump with the leaves is beyond me

And I trimmed some low hanging branches from the trees.

I'm a woman possessed with the clippers

I’m a woman possessed then it comes to the clippers

But the crowing achievement, the real glory of the yard, is the pool.

Remember this?

The view from the diving board side

From here, it’s hard to appreciate the true amount of trash in here

The pool guys came on Monday. We hired a company called Mid State Pool Liners, and I’m giving them this shameless plug because even though their website is terrible, they’re absolute f*cking geniuses when it comes to doing what they do. Every picture from here down was taken on Monday, because they did all of this in one day:

It took them an hour to get it to this

It took them an hour to get it to this

This is what they pulled out and took with them

This is what they pulled out and took with them

This is what they took out and left behind

This is what they took out and left behind

The view from my office window

The view from my office window

And then I looked out three hours later and here’s what I saw:

That's right - WATER. In a LINER. IN MY POOL.

That’s right – WATER. In a LINER. IN MY POOL.

A close-up of the border and my textured steps, which they custom built for me and then installed in, like, 12 minutes

A close-up of the border and my textured steps, which they custom built for me and then installed 

Taken at 7:00pm

Taken at 7:00pm

The pumps ran overnight. The whole neighborhood must hate us. But yesterday evening, we turned the water and the pumps off, and this is what was left:

It already has bugs in it

It already has bugs in it

Loudest. Pumps. Ever.

Loudest. Pumps. Ever.

Yeah, the water is green and freezing and the skimmer still needs to be cut (they’re coming back today for it), but this is my new pool:

Ta-da!

Ta-da!

And now we can focus on the inside of the house again, because the outside is finally making itself beautiful. (With a lot of help from us and our friends, of course.)

And if you need more proof that it’s going to be a beautiful place this summer, then I’ll leave you with this:

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Happy Spring, everyone.

Enough, Now, with the Mold

We’ve been slowly but surely picking way at the downstairs, trying to get it ready for painting and carpeting.

It’s going a little more slowly than expected:

What's with the electrical tape along the- DEAR GOD IS THAT MOLD?

What’s with the black Sharpie along the- DEAR GOD IS THAT MOLD?

Yes — yes, it is. Lots and lots of mold. More mold than I was really prepared for, actually.

I was expecting this

I was expecting this

I was not expecting this

I was not expecting this

What fresh f*cking hell did we get ourselves into?

It all had to come out.

Small chunks of my soul are crumbling along with the Sheetrock

Small chunks of my soul are crumbling along with the Sheetrock

I love the smell of rotting insulation in the morning

I love the smell of rotting insulation in the morning

Handsome patched it up, though.

Face it: the spackle is more attractive than the paint

Face it: the spackle is more attractive than the paint

This is coat number 2; coat number 1 took a week to dry, and a 3rd coat is going to be needed

This is coat number 2; coat number 1 took a week to dry, and a 3rd coat is going to be needed

So, not much going on in there. In the meantime, Handsome pulled down the ceiling while I went to work today. Figure I was gone about, oh, 4 hours? When I came home, he was covered in dust and cooking dinner. (Yes, he washed his hands.)

It came down in chunks.

At least the wall looks good

At least the wall looks good

But the ceiling? Well, it leaves something to be desired.

Extra wide casing around the ducts? Check!

Extra wide casing around the ducts? Check!

Extra long casing that runs the length of the ceiling and past the duct, but wasn't bricked underneath so it has to stay up? Check!

Extra long casing that runs the length of the ceiling and past the duct, but wasn’t bricked underneath so it has to stay up? Check!

Random nails, wires and dead sh*t stuck in cobwebs between the beams? CHECK!

Random nails, wires and dead sh*t stuck in cobwebs between the beams? CHECK!

It’s so, so foul — and yet, I didn’t have to do anything because Handsome took it all down. All that was left for me to do was praise him for his work and then gag silently when he wasn’t looking.

[sigh]

Still — we’ll put the new Sheetrock up and give the whole room a few coats of paint, and hopefully I’ll be able to forget what a nightmare it was when we started the room. There aren’t enough Swiffer pads in the world to make this less horrible, but if he could spend 4 hours with shards of dust in his eyes, I can knock down some damn cobwebs.

We’re in for a very sexy Saturday night, don’t you think? Him covered in spackle; me covered in webs.

And people wonder why we don’t have any children…. [wink]

There’s More Spackle than Wall Downstairs

I’m not really exaggerating.

Remember this?

So. Much. Paneling.

So. Much. Paneling.

Turns out, you need a lot of glue to get that much paneling up. And when you don’t know what you’re doing, you just glob it on any ole’ way you please, so that the people who buy your house 51 years later are faced with this:

Mmmm -- extra chunky!

Mmmm — extra chunky!

That disgusting tar-like substance is the industrial grade glue that kept that awful paneling up, which might explain why the last owners had to simply panel over the original paneling. I’m starting to wish we’d done that too. Took Handsome forever to skim coat two of the walls downstairs. Today, I went down and sanded it all. And since the only law I recognize it Murphy’s, it’s probably unnecessary to point out that OF COURSE the sandpaper wouldn’t stick to the sander, so I had to do it all manually.

Me. I did it. By hand. Alone.

Here’s what it looks like now:

Most of the dust is in my hair

Most of the dust is in my hair

Looks like a child drew his nightmares on my wall

Looks like a child drew his nightmares on my wall

And since they bricked the fireplace OVER the paneling, we’ll have this to contend with soon:

Just a little extra "F*ck you!" from the previous owners. Nice.

Just a little extra “F*ck you!” from the previous owners. Nice.

The floor is covered in little piles that I sloppily pushed together, since the dust wasn’t settling anywhere but on my person, it seemed:

Who needs an alarm system? I'll track you through the dirt, suckas!

Who needs an alarm system? I’ll track you through the dirt, suckas!

In order to get to all this, though, we had to shove everything in the little room again — which doesn’t look as bad, but still ain’t great:

That's my slothes rack on the rick, strategically lined up against the window in case I need to crawl out of the house undiscovered

That’s my clothes rack on the right, strategically lined up against the window in case I need to crawl out of the house undiscovered

It’s on like Donkey Kong down there, now. Handsome has off in the middle of the week and then his schedule goes back to normal, so we’ll have extra days to get things done.

The bedroom is about 75% finished. I put up curtains and finally got the chest that was on back order:

They looked a little different in the store, shade-wise, but they'll do

They looked a little different in the store, shade-wise, but they’ll do

A standard window is 36″. Mine are 38″.

Of course they are.

[sigh]

But the chest is beautiful:

It's almost completely filled with his clothers

It’s almost completely filled with his clothes

Handsome’s got a lot of “foldables,” so he gets the most drawers. I took a drawer for my bathing suits, a drawer for fancy underthings, and a shelf for my sweatshirts. We filled the extra shelves with our sheets, since we’re a little short on closet space in the house, and that seemed like the most logical solution.

The problem, though, is the empty space:

It's so sad looking....

It’s so sad looking….

On the one hand, I hate to dust like whoa. On the other hand, every wall is completely empty. Even when it’s finished, it’s still going to look unfinished. I need to figure out, I guess, just what kind of decor I want in there, but I haven’t had anything pop at me yet. My primary concern right now is the closet:

I know! Let's fold everything but the robes!

I know! Let’s fold everything but the robes!

Still no door on the closet. I really, REALLY don’t want a bi-fold. I hate the way they look. But I don’t know if the closet is the right size for double doors.

Keep your fingers crossed. 🙂

Bee Season

My favorite thing to do outside — I mean, my serious favorite thing to do — is pull giant wild scallions out by the roots. I get on my knees and work my fingers down to the dirt ground, clearing away the strands of dying grass that have wrapped themselves around the onion shoots, and then I dig my nails in and lean back and pop! Out comes a scallion. When I have about a dozen of them I walk them triumphantly down the lawn and throw them into the street with as much disdain as I can muster.

Today, I was run into my own home by the bees, a sure sign that the Spring is finally here. I have carpenter bees living in my shed, bumblebees in my pine tree, regular bees in the crumbling concrete bricks that make up my front porch. There are tiny bees and fat lazy bees and every bee-related stinging insect all over my home, because the woman who lived here before us planted flowers like they were about to go extinct.

Lilies, to be exact. Those ridiculous green things that came up in March and still haven’t bloomed? Those are lilies, and they’ll look like that until at least mid-June, though mid-August is more realistic.

Anyway — no more scallion pulling for me. So I decided to look at bathroom vanities online, since we’re going to redo the bathrooms soon.

I’m totally overwhelmed.

I found one in the direct competitor store of Handsome’s that I really like, but it’s available online only, and I don’t trust it. I really want to see it before I buy it. I couldn’t find anything at Handsome’s store I wanted at all. I’d like to find a local shop and look there, but the free shipping that the Big Box stores offer appeals to me, since I’m working on a budget. I’m not even sure what color I want, which is problematic, too.

Anyway, no pictures today because we’ve not done anything. I may have some tomorrow, since the rest of the bedroom set is coming in the morning. I’ll put up a picture of the finished bedroom (including lighting and curtains!) once it comes.