Category: home renovation

New Blinds!

Yes, we’ve come to the point in my life where getting new blinds for the house is a Big Accomplishment. Twenty years ago, I wouldn’t have thought I’d reach this point until I was past retirement age, but time does funny things to you, and our old curtains were getting long in the tooth. Plus, I had no idea just how complex it would be getting new blinds.

For one thing, there are about a gazillion different types of blinds you can go with. Blinds, rollers, shades, curtains, and more. And what about color? What about design? What about fabric or material? For a man who likes committing to any one thing about as much as he likes going to the dentist, that’s way too many choices. And even once you’ve made your choice, there are a thousand different places to buy the dang things. Which is the best place to get them?

Look, folks. I’m a librarian. I like straightforward research questions with straightforward answers. “What are the best blinds for me to purchase” seems like the first, but it doesn’t have anything like the second. That said, I still gave it the old college try. It helped that Denisa made the choice with me.

In the end, we went with double-celled, light-blocking cellular shades, and we bought them from cellularwindowshades.com. Why did we make those choices? We liked the fact that these shades add some good insulation to your windows. We liked the company because they had straightforward videos describing how to measure and install the shades, and explanations about what to look for in a good shade. It also helped that they were doing 50% off for the holidays. (They’re still doing 40% off, and no, I’m not being paid at all for this endorsement. I just liked their shades.)

Unfortunately, I discovered that even once you’ve decided on which shades to get and where to get them, actually ordering them is a pain and a half. It took a whole day of my vacation, running around with a tape measure to double and then triple check sizing. If I screwed this up, it would be on me. There were false starts, where we thought we could get one kind of shade, but discovered we couldn’t (our windows aren’t level enough). There were misunderstandings about what dimensions they needed exactly. There were existential crises where I had to figure out what kind of draw string mechanism was best. (For the record, we went with the rather stupidly-named “smoothy cord loop” option, and I’m happy with the decision.)

After all of that, it still cost over $2,000 to get 16 shades for our house, and we didn’t even get all the windows covered. (We’re waiting on construction changes for some of the others. One day, kitchen. One day!)

Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water, the blinds came on Saturday, and I discovered it’s one thing to order the blinds. It’s another to install them. By the end, I was a blind installing machine, but it took a day to get there, and a fair bit of on-the-job learning. It also took a long time to take off the old curtains. (Anyone need some triple-layer, insulated, blackout curtains? One side of some of them are sun bleached, but the other side is pretty solid, and they still do a great job darkening and insulating a room. They’d come with all the hardware as well. Just saying . . .)

The good news is that all the blinds are up, and we’re all very happy with them. Plus, if I ever need a side job, I could probably become a “window blind consultant and installer.” So I’ve got that going for me, which is nice.

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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.

Upgrading My Home Theater Speakers

It’s been 12 years since I first got a surround sound system. Back then, it was a huge leap for me, and I found a good deal on a quality Onkyo system (something sort of like this one, though mine was a 7.1 system.) And for those twelve years, things have been good. My AV receiver had to be replaced about six years ago (and I expect to have to upgrade it again at some point), but it was great to have the surround sound going for my media viewing experiences.

That said, when we switched the movie room to a larger space, I noticed that the small speakers I’d gotten back in 2008 were no longer really cutting it. Especially for the voice track on films (which runs through the center channel): I had to have subtitles on for almost everything to be able to always understand what people were saying. Also, the subwoofer wasn’t as woofy as I really wanted.

So I started looking into ways to upgrade the sound. From my research, bumping up just the center speaker wouldn’t be a good idea, since it would create a really bad conflict with the front left and front right speakers. You want those paired if at all possible, so that the sound at the front of the room (where most of the sounds come from) is balanced. A bigger subwoofer is easier to get on its own. So I started looking into potential speakers and deals (because who wants to pay full price on anything?)

For a lot of the research I do into things like this, I use Reddit pretty heavily. Reddit does a great job of connecting people who are interested in the same topic, giving you a place to ask questions and read FAQs that aren’t influenced by paid reviews and salespeople. Is it perfect? No. But it’s an easy way to find quality information quickly. There’s a Home Theater reddit with a great FAQ that gives a number of recommendations around speakers.

Once I started looking at the actual recommendations, however, I discovered it was much more complicated than I initially assumed. I didn’t want bookshelf speakers–I wanted tower speakers that would be more robust. But when I looked at the actual dimensions of those suckers . . . they’re huge. Some of them are more than two feet deep and a foot wide, and the idea of having such big speakers in my room was . . . less than ideal. (Funny side story: I kept seeing the abbreviation WAF, and I had no idea what it meant. People talked about how important it was, and how it was necessary to make compromises in some cases due to WAF, but no one said what it actually meant. After some googling, I discovered it stood for “Wife Approval Factor.” Which makes a ton of sense . . .)

For a while, I was thinking I’d have to compromise with nicer bookshelf speakers, just because of size issues. But in the end, I went through all their recommendations, paying attention to the dimensions. I found some potential speakers that would work, and then checked their Black Friday deals. (Checking out the subwoofers, as well.) Long story short (too late), I found some tower speakers I liked (these, with the accompanying center speaker), as well as a subwoofer, that all were on a good 30%+ off sale, and I pulled the trigger.

Actually installing the speakers was pretty straightforward. The wiring was all there, and I just had to take off the old speakers and hook up the new ones. The difference (to me) is remarkable. The sound is much fuller and I no longer need subtitles for everything I’m watching. (Huzzah!) The subwoofer really shakes the room now when it’s called for, and it’s made my home theater feel more like a real theater.

This essentially bumps up my speaker system to “mid-range” for the primary speakers. (I’m leaving the surround speakers as Onkyos for now, because I just don’t feel like they need the extra kick.) It’s hard for me to believe I’d ever want to go to high end speakers. The cost would be 5-10 times what I just paid, and I don’t think I’d get that sort of use out of them. So for now, I’m happy to have my system where I’d like it to end up, from an audio perspective. (Ultimately, I see myself upgrading the AV receiver to an 8k model and getting a new projector at that time, as well. But that’s for the future . . .)

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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.

Home Renovations on the Horizon

Surely you didn’t think that just because we were in the middle of a global pandemic, I’d stop doing work on my house? Because that would be just silly. No, the more immediate question would be “Can Bryce afford to do work on his house?” And as we get closer and closer to fall semester, my Magic 8 Ball is consistently saying “Signs Point to Yes.”

Some upgrades need to happen one way or another. The bay windows on our house have had issues for years. The trim is rotting in some places, and a few boards have even fallen off, leading a family of birds to move in just above Daniela’s bedroom. At times, she thinks that’s cute. But when it’s early morning and they’re all tweeting away up there, the cute seems to magically fade somehow. (And who knows what structural damage those birdies might be doing to the house . . .)

Once that’s done, that means the fresh wood will need to be painted. This is on the second floor of the house, and I have no desire to paint that myself. Plus, the trim all around the house needs to be redone, as much of it is peeling and very sad looking. And late last fall, a wind storm ripped down some of the clapboards from our addition. (They’d been put up by our heroin-addict contractor from years ago. The one who stole $3,000 from us? We keep finding lovely little presents like that. Instances where he cut corners left and right, because heroin ain’t gonna buy itself, folks.)

And of course, there remains the grand-daddy of all renovations: our plans to redo the kitchen. Those have been kicked back to September, but after looking at our finances, things still look go for launch for them. I can’t wait for this project to be over, for a number of reasons:

  • It’s going to be very expensive, and budgeting for it has been a real pain the rear.
  • It’s gotten kicked back multiple times, and each time it’s gotten kicked back, I’ve had to approach it fresh when it came time to actually prepare. I’ve spent so many hours looking at cabinets and counter tops, only to discover I couldn’t afford to do it right then. Redoing that research each time is less than fun.
  • It’s the last “big renovation” project on the house. After this one, the things we want to get done are much smaller, and they don’t necessarily have to be done in any particular order. We need to renovate the downstairs bathroom, and we’d like to redo the office. Some of the roof needs new shingles. But all of those are straightforward projects. This kitchen renovation has a ton of moving pieces.
  • It’s going to seriously disrupt our household. The kitchen is the center of our house, physically and socially. You can’t get to anywhere else without going through it. The actual act of renovating it will be seriously annoying.

So right now, I’m hoping that fall semester goes well, and that I can write a blog post by November that says “Mission Accomplished.” I think the odds are slightly in my favor of that happening, but you never know. Wish me luck.

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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 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.

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