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Category Archives: Renovations

Inspiration

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So, say HI to my chicken water pitcher. The inspiration for my kitchen.

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I have followed the Mediterranean diet for years. First inspired by a trip to the Med in 2002, where we bought our chicken while in Sicily. He is a cute rooster. His bright colors are the inspiration for our kitchen renovation.

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It is almost there. Next up, countertop, stove, sink and cabinet hardware. This is the first real cosmetic upgrade to our house. Almost everything before this was energy driven. Better insulation. Better appliances. Better windows and doors and roof. Well, besides replacing the rotting deck and crumbling patio.

I use my kitchen. Some say I could be abusing my kitchen, with all that steam and chopping and cooking. I know, I should be looking for granite and open concept and the other buzz words. Spoken by people who may have Pizza Hut on speed dial. Our decisions are based on durability and use. So, probably no to granite and yes to quartz. If I mistakenly drip olive oil on quartz, I have a much better chance of recovering.

To christen the new kitchen, a Mediterranean dinner.

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Slow baked tuna in tomatoes and Italian seasoning. Sautéed chickpeas. A nice old red wine.

Now, I need to update my HocoBiz page to thank our electrician for the great work he did to replace our old fluorescent lights.

A Very Merry

Holiday Season. Beginning and ending, and all those days between. By now, many friends and relatives have done the eating, drinking, giving, and receiving as they celebrate this weekend.

Here, I suppose I can say we are celebrating. All I wanted for Christmas was the decision, and planning, to tackle our biggest painting and updating project. Namely, my kitchen. The heart of our home. The place we spend the most time, and the room that made me want to buy this house a dozen years ago.

cookie central before

cookie central before


cookie central Friday

cookie central Friday

When I said that’s what I wanted for Christmas and my birthday, I didn’t mean it literally, but surprise, that’s how it is turning out. It seems that in order to have my favorite painter and carpenter doing our job, it was best to fit it between some major work that our general contractor has in 2017. And, of course, December and January are slow times in the construction and renovation business.

farewell, pot rack

farewell, pot rack

So, last Thursday it began. Stripping wallpaper borders. Tomorrow, and most of this week, dry wall repair, priming, and the earliest tasks. While waiting for the electrician to give me new (please non-humming) overhead lighting. Sometime later next week, ceiling painting, then final painting of all the walls.

the usual spot for the tree

the usual spot for the tree

This means that I am seriously not thinking straight. To tackle this during the holidays. That’s what I get, I suppose, for saying I don’t want presents anymore. I just want to finish all the laundry list of projects that still need to be done.

Crossing my fingers that the 30 year old stove continues to work, until I get myself ready to tackle that really large item on that list.

Everyone. Have a Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy New Year, etc. I may not have decorated much this year, but I did get the poinsettias.

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Life Skills

AKA Home Ec. Shop. Personal Finance. You know. The stuff we really should add to the high school curricula. Are we really preparing children for life, or just to get into the top colleges?

Julia wrote about VoTech in her post today. It triggered a response internally from me. Based on watching and reading and just wondering about how well we really are preparing children to survive when they go out on their own. Can they make a simple meal? Can they fix anything? Can they pay attention to their bank balances and adjust their spending?

We had life skill classes when I taught high school in the 70s. They seem to have disappeared.

We also have a shortage of skilled tradespeople where we live. We seem to push everyone into the college prep option and forget about those skills necessary to support our county. Those trades pay well. Better maybe than going to college and majoring in an area that won’t guarantee a high paying job. We need to allow children around here to choose their passion, and to follow it.

Artisans built our deck. For much more per hour than some of the degreed folks around here are making.

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Food for thought, so to speak.

Not Good At Math

A phrase that drives me crazy. Why do we announce (and particularly in front of children) that we aren’t good at something? Something necessary to thrive and excel in our lives. Most of the time, it isn’t even true. But I hear it constantly.

Usually during field trips when I introduce a math element to our hikes. Like when I talk about the chickens, and how many eggs they may lay in a week. If you have four chickens and they lay about six eggs a week, how many eggs do you gather in a week?

Basically, we are good at math. The common sense math we encounter daily. Here’s how.

Do you bake? Can you halve or double a recipe? Are you like me, finding only a 1/3 cup measure clean when you need a cup of an ingredient. Knowing three of them will make a cup.

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How about deciding how much paint to buy? What is the area of your room? Or, my latest project. The deck. Estimates of $40 a square foot to install. What will that cost? We divided the deck into squares, rectangles, triangles, and the one trapezoid to add up the area. Figured it out, and decided we could live with that estimate.

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Do you tip? Can you calculate that 18-20% number by looking at the bill?

Then, obviously, you are good at the math skills necessary to function. Yeah, you may have problems with trig or geometry, or like me, hit the wall at Theory of Numbers (I hated that course!).

I think we all need to be enablers when it comes to encouraging children to figure it out. Learn those analytical thinking skills.

Pull out a recipe. Measure and bake. Make a simple wood project, like a frame. Learn how to saw at a 45 degree angle.

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Just don’t tell the little ones that it’s OK to be functionally deficient. It’s not OK to be “Not Good at Math”.

High Maintenance …

… or what I did on my summer vacation.

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Storm water management, and failing infrastructure. As in 29 year old patio and deck. We decided to bite the bullet and conquer our aging outdoor areas while dealing with longstanding water issues surrounding our house. Not sexy. Not fun. Not cheap. But, they had to be done.

Our house will be 30 years old next year. Columbia, right down the road, will be 50 years old next June. As in any aging area, there are always places that need attention. That old movie, The Money Pit, comes to mind. No matter how you look at it, you need to fix what is broken, and deal with design/build problems.

Our patio bit the dust last winter. Big time.

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Before.

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After. Well, almost after. We still have to do landscaping, and they did do sod up to the deck.

The deck contractors, who also do our maintenance cedar staining start tomorrow. Hopefully, in two or three weeks we will have a new composite deck and freshly stained siding, garage doors, porch furniture, front door, and trim. Someone please remind me we bought a brick house. Where did we go wrong? All this trim to keep up.

As for the storm water management, we decided to bury all the downspouts and tie them together, create a slit drain to carry water off our driveway, and dump all the water out into our field. So far, so good. With all the evening showers after the install, we have seen massive improvement in drainage. Finally. After many attempts to deal with keeping water out of the garage, and away from the foundation. It has been a long learning process, and we think we may have finally solved our water problems. I will know for sure this winter, when snow melt from the roof and down the drive test the limits of the new system.

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Eight inch sewer pipe being laid. The system starts with four inch pipe from a slit drain. Goes to six inch around the house. Where the downspouts and sump pump hose meet, it bumps up to eight inch. It all comes out about 300 feet beyond the house, into a rock lined swale.

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The slit drain.

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Thankfully, our pretty much rotted deck was slated for demolition this summer. Even the pressure treated footers are reaching the end of their lives. Hello Azek, goodbye cedar.

This was not my favorite summer. We didn’t go anywhere. I just wrote checks. Many checks. Rhine did a great job with the drainage, sidewalk, patio and will finish the landscaping after our deck is done.

I hope to get the grill up and running, before it gets too cold to enjoy the patio and deck.

The Realities of Renovation

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Did anyone notice I haven’t been posting? Longer than any absence in my four years of blogging?

Yes, renovating can do that to you. I know why people hate it and avoid it. Despite the glowing pictures shown on DIY reality TV shows. I wish we could all disappear for seven weeks while The Property Brothers make our homes perfect.

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I mean, who doesn’t want their front porch to look like this? It did all get to the landfill with certain items put into the building supply trailer, where they can be used for projects. Most of the trash, we paid to dispose of it. Thankfully, with a pickup and a good contractor, we negotiated a rate that saves us money if we dispose of the materials.

As for the rest of the things happening, a big shout out to Bode Floors.

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I think my husband’s study is awesome, and the carpet makes the room. I love recommending local businesses here in Howard County, when they are family owned and do a great job.

The study is done, except for drapes. The basement room damaged the most by the water leaking down the walls, is also finished, except for a new light fixture. The basement bathroom is coming along.

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We still need a toilet, a vanity, and the molding. The vanity is delayed until the 22nd.

We have learned patience. Things don’t always go as planned. An 18 day job is easily turning into a 25 day job, with the delays, the bad materials, and some electrical issues. I now have three contractors scheduled for a day I was supposed to be available for a Conservancy program. I can’t leave my husband alone to juggle them all.

Doing your own general contracting saves you money, but adds stress to the job. Still, the results are worth it. I just can’t wait until Easter, when hopefully we will be done.

Aging In Place

In an aging place.

Had quite a bit of thought about the whole aging process. Aging of us. Aging of our home. I don’t consider 30 to be old, but around here, it’s almost ancient. Not quite as bad as being 50, which is what many of the original homes in Columbia MD are soon to celebrate.

I worked in the UK, where 600 years old wasn’t out of the question. We are spoiled. Living in a relatively newly developed area. Still, I watched people turn up their noses at our townhouses (gasp) without garages. Ours, built in the early 80s were too old and dated for the crowd who wanted those brand new places in River Hill.

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Columbia is pretty much built out now. The county is expanding, or tearing down and rebuilding. I loved our old townhouse, right in the center of town. Too bad for us, we really wanted to follow our dreams of a big garden, and a couple of radio towers. Bucket list items. Not allowable under covenants.

That house is now 35 years old. Still looks great. Why? Because we took care of it. I see so many places now that are pretty much devastated due to lack of basic maintenance.

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What is this? A pile of the cedar we were replacing in this house. Our “new” house. Built in 1987. At 24 years, we replaced almost 50% of the wood. Not fun. Not cheap. Not sexy.

But, it was the bones of the house. The basics of maintenance. I can’t figure out why collectively we don’t take care of the biggest investments most of us will make in our lives.

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We took care of our infrastructure the first 10 years. New roof. New doors. New heat pumps and appliances. Making our home a warmer, safer, more energy efficient place to live.

Now, we are working on those aesthetic things. Painting, carpeting. Keeping our house new looking, while not shelling out hundreds of thousands of dollars to buy something else.

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I think I can deal with six weeks of mess to get painted walls, new bathrooms and carpet in all but those high dollar areas. We still will have to tackle the master suite and the kitchen.

At the end of this road, a house that accommodates an aging couple. But won’t look old.