Category: home renovation

The Bar for “A Good Day” Has Been Significantly Lowered

How’s your Tuesday going? Mine’s going pretty great. Why? Because I now have a functional fridge and freezer in my house. That’s right! Instead of having to find a pair of shoes and trek out to the garage anytime I want a glass of milk or some ice cream, I can just traipse across the room. A few months ago, “having a working fridge” would have seemed like something that should just be a given. These days, solving basic problems like that feels like a cause for celebration. (Especially when it looked for a while like we wouldn’t get the fridge until late August.)

Of course, it wasn’t all strawberries and sunshine getting the new fridge in. For one thing, all of our doors are too small to fit the new fridge into our kitchen. One of the joys of having a house that was built in 1841 is that none of the doors are standard sized. Some are 30 inches wide, some are as narrow as 27 inches, and the rest are in between there. The new fridge just barely fit through the screen door on the back of the house. If it hadn’t . . . I don’t know what we would have done.

This means, of course, that it didn’t fit through the door to the kitchen. Not that it mattered, because the spot where we have our fridge now didn’t fit the new fridge anyway. This means it’s in the room next to the kitchen, which is still close enough in my book. (It’s also an even bigger incentive to renovating the whole kitchen this fall . . .) It also means that this fridge feels ginormous. It’s supposedly 25.5 cubic feet of coolness. (We got a freezer on the bottom model, with no in-door ice or water, because those always seem to break. No french doors either, because this America. Not France.)

I only had to go to the crawlspace once, which in terms of home improvement upgrades, is a real bonus as well. (Somehow I’d forgotten the fact that we’d have to worry about turning off the waterline to the current fridge. It’s in the crawlspace, and I didn’t even come across one mouse carcass on the way. Huzzah!

Anyway. That’s my Tuesday so far. How is yours going? Did you do something exhilarating as well? Maybe you got a haircut, or you successfully put on pants? Let’s look on the bright side, people. Before COVID, I always complained that kids got congratulated for things that never seemed to get me the same sort of praise. Showering themselves. Not pooping their pants. Speaking simple sentences. Now, with quarantine, I get to experience the same sort of benefits!

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

The Death of a Fridge

Ever since we moved into our house, our fridge has been a constant companion. Always in the background, humming, keeping our food cold and our ice cream frozen, ready to offer a little bit of deliciousness whenever we felt a bit peckish. And like many constants in life, we came to take our fridge for granted. It wasn’t moving anywhere. What other options did it have?

And as the years went by, it began to develop its own little quirks and nuances. It would keep your frozen section frozen, but if you didn’t open and close the freezer door periodically, it would decide maybe you weren’t that interested in ice cream after all, and so it would stop working as well. I don’t know why it did this, and I never really cared to look into the reasons too carefully. I just knew you had to open and shut the freezer door once a day or so.

But that was a red flag. A sign that our relationship with our fridge was waning. If we’d been smart, maybe we would have paid attention and fixed the problem. But let’s be honest. The fridge was never a top of the line model. It was just . . . there. Freezer on the top, fridge down bottom. Brand name? No clue. Mayfairgidaire?

In any case, a month ago, the freezer died completely. A whole tub of ice cream, ruined. All sorts of meat, done for. It started leaking water into the fridge compartment as well, and we knew the Time Had Come. All good relationships end eventually, I suppose. We needed a new fridge.

Except apparently the middle of a pandemic is a bad time to buy major appliances? Scratch that. You can buy the appliances. Companies have no trouble taking your money. But getting those appliances is a different matter. We found a fridge we liked at Lowe’s. We ordered it. As we were ordering, it said it would get here in mid-June (this was back toward the end of May). Fine. Whatever.

Once we’d bought it, they switched the estimation to mid-August. Nice. Even then, we thought we’d be able to last.

Until last week, when the fridge stopped working too. Now the whole thing is basically a cooler with a light in it. We have a back up fridge in the garage from when Denisa used to bake and needed the extra fridge space, but taking a trek to the garage every time I need a glass of milk is a bit much.

What if we ordered a fridge from Lowe’s or Home Depot that was actually in stock? We checked. We tried. No dice. Actually getting a fridge we wanted to get here before the end of August just didn’t seem to be in the cards. Denisa faced the problem head on and started calling local retailers. It took a while, but she finally struck pay dirt.

We now have a fridge coming on Tuesday. One that will even have a working freezer, and might even work without being finicky. (Hope springs eternal.) I will say that having grown accustomed to being able to get anything I want whenever I want it, this pandemic time has been a real eye-opener, reminding me of how it can still be elsewhere, and how it used to be for us.

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

Kitchen Planning Continues: Decision Overload

When I approach a problem, I like to break it down into its fundamentals. Don’t look at writing a book as tackling a 100,000 word problem. Look at it as 100 different 1,000 word goals, and suddenly it’s much more attainable. That’s a process that has served me well over the years, but it’s one that’s being severely tested by my plans to renovate the kitchen.

The basic problem is that there are just too many decisions for me to process at once, especially since I like to find The One Best Answer to each problem. If I want to fly to Orlando, I do research to find the best flight to take me there, accommodating for price, time, comfort, and convenience. That’s a problem with a solution. Kitchens are problems with solutions as well. But there are so many of those individual problems . . .

Case in point: Denisa and I want new cabinets, but we don’t want to break the bank to get them. So to figure out what the “best cabinets” for us are, we have to balance cost, materials, colors, design, and construction. But each one of those breaks down into further decisions. I could have someone come and make custom cabinets. It would be expensive. But even then, I’d have to decide what I want them to look like, where they should go, what should be inside them, etc.

Right now, I’m looking at using Barker Cabinets. They’re a company out of Oregon that makes ready-to-assemble (RTA) cabinets out of really solid materials. I’ll know exactly what I’m getting with them, and the cost is cheaper than custom made, but more expensive than other RTA cabinets (of questionable quality). But even having made that decision, I still need to tackle color, size, function, and the like.

It’s tempting to just throw my hands up and say, “I want cabinets. I don’t care what they look like. I just want ones that work.” But that’s not going to get me what I really want in the long run, so instead I just have to bite the bullet and take the time to churn through the decisions, one by one. Still, some of the decisions get to be so nitty gritty. There are options for what sort of hinges your cabinets have. Soft close? Do I want the doors to be pure maple, or maple frames with MDF centers? Do I want toe kicks that are recessed or flush?

And this is just for cabinets! I have to do the same process for countertops, appliances, electrical outlay, flooring, and more?

Thank goodness I’m starting this well in advance . . .

Anyone else out there handle a kitchen renovation on your own? How did you wrangle all the countless details into something manageable?

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

Removing the Rust from a Wood Stove

The whole time we’ve lived in Maine, we’ve used a wood stove as our primary way of heating the house. The first winter, the stove we had was old and inefficient, and so we replaced it before the next winter with one that is ever so much nicer. (The difference? A tight wood stove will keep air out, which lets you control the burn of the wood inside. You can throw in some wood in the evening before you go to bed, and then you still have a great bed of coals by the morning so that all you need to get it going again is to put more wood in. With our first wood stove, the fire was dead every morning. Completely burned out.)

For the most part, the stoves take care of themselves. Dust them, Clean the glass a bit, but they’re tanks. Year in. Year out. Except every now and then they get some rust. At that point, the thing that never needs attention suddenly needs a fair bit of it.

I took today off, and a good portion of my day has been spent focused on our wood stove, because the rust this year has been much worse than in years past. Usually I’d just have to repaint parts of the stove every three years or so, but I just redid this last year, and here I am again. I’m not sure if it’s because I didn’t get all the rust last year, or if this year has just been particularly humid. Or maybe it’s because we were working on the front of the house some, and so more outside air got in than has in the past.

In any case, it’s been work. I use a steel brush attachment for my drill, and that does a good job at getting most of the rust off. I’ve been trying to do even more this year than before, wondering if that will make it so that it doesn’t come back as quickly next time. (We’ll also be using a different pot to put on top of the stove. Wood stoves dry the air out a ton, so we usually stick something with water in it on top of the stove to add some water back into the air. I’m wondering if ours was leaking . . . )

With the rust off, I just need to spray paint the stove with some heat resistant paint, and we should be good to go. Of course, that means taping off the parts of the stove I don’t want paint on, which all adds to the time investment. All in all, the “day off” isn’t feeling very “day offy.”

Has anyone else out there been having more trouble with rust this year than usual, or is it just me? What have you done to address rust on stoves in the past?

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

Surrounded by Piles

I’m used to being surrounded by piles. As an author and librarian, I’ve always got a stack of something somewhere that needs to be gone through and sorted, or is waiting to be consulted later on. Sure, sometimes the piles are virtual (unread emails or tabs in my browser), but they’re no less real.

Lately, however, I’ve been surrounded by quite a few different types of piles. We’re tackling new territory in home renovation: landscaping. I’ve discovered that this is pretty much a never ending process of getting new piles of stuff dumped in your yard, and then trying to find places to put it all.

Technically, the piles started with the wood pile. We had a big silver maple cut down in our backyard last year, and it was cut and split into a huge wood pile that needed to be stacked. We had to wait for the wood shed to be renovated before we could begin stacking it. In the meantime, Denisa has had plans for a flower bed in front of the house, where our wood porch used to be. It seems like such a straightforward project.

It lies.

First, you need to have a place to plant the flowers. That means dirt. I thought we had dirt there, but apparently it was the Wrong Kind of Dirt, so we needed to have someone come and dig out the bad dirt to leave a spot for the Right Kind of Dirt to go. And what a mound of dirt it was. Put some snow on that thing and you could sled down it. And it had to be moved around to the places where the bad dirt used to be.

Except there wasn’t really a spot for that yet, because what good is a bed without a wall for it to nestle in? Denisa wanted a fieldstone wall, which meant we needed to get some fieldstone, which meant another pile appeared in my yard, this one a big jumble of rocks. All those rocks had to be moved and organized and stacked into a neat wall.

But wait. There’s more. Because I guess you can’t just put dirt down underneath where the rain runoff will be coming from the roof. Never mind the fact that we’d had dirt there before. That was Bad Dirt. Good Dirt needs special attention. It runs away when runoff comes. So we needed to put pea gravel right next to the house to deal with that problem. I thought I could just get some bags of it, but it turns out landscaping is always cheaper by the pile.

So now we had a big pile of pea gravel dumped in our front yard today.

Denisa’s working on the stone wall. The wood is close to being finished. We have to put the pea gravel next to the house, and then we can put the rest of the dirt down. With the leftover dirt and fieldstone, we’re looking to build another bed around the screen house.

I’m about piled out, to be honest. Hopefully today was the last pile to arrive. I dream of a day when all the piles are gone and we just have a normal front yard again. Is that too much to ask?

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

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