Monday, February 23, 2015

Outside Funtimes!

It's nice outside!

When you think of sun worshippers, California or Florida dwellers probably come to mind. But it's us damp and grey Pacific Northwesterners who really know how to appreciate the sun when it makes a rare appearance. Work grinds to a halt so we can go soak up our yearly quota of Vitamin D.

My superhero, off for the first big ride of the season!

Yes, that's all mud. Our dog is a swamp monster now.

The spring weather also got us excited about the garden. We went exploring outside to see what was salvageable, and decided on a couple priorities. Next week we're going to work on a gate for the fence, and on restoring the chicken coop to usefulness. Stay tuned for posts about new chicks!

We did manage to squeeze in a little real work. We've started getting estimates from plumbers for the upstairs bathroom and the mudroom. The bathroom is going to take a lot more planning, but the mudroom project can happen in the next week or two. Since we've been using the mudroom as a makeshift shop/storage unit/dumping ground, it's going to take us at least that long to clean it out.

Let the shlepping begin!

As soon as we're done basking in the sun.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Magic in a Tube

When Valentine's Day and a long weekend coincide, Brett and I express our love for each other like all normal couples ... by painting the house. That's what you do too, right?

Safety first!

Aw, Brett's dorky headlamp is making a heart on the ceiling. See? We're romantic!

And we even went on a hot date to Home Depot. Hermie enjoyed it!

While I love tackling big projects and learning new things, a lot of the real transformation of the house comes from simple, repetitive work. So this weekend, we finished off the new wall trim with caulk and paint.

I've talked about caulking before, but I haven't really gone into detail about how to do it. This was new for me, and it's sort of a "minute to learn, lifetime to master" skill. The basic concept is easy, but it takes some practice to get a nice result. I've got the hang of it now, but Brett's still handling the very difficult or visible spots.

 So first of all - why bother? Well, I was amazed at how much of a difference caulk can make. It really makes the trim look finished and built-in. Magic in a tube!

B.C. (before caulk) - there are big gaps between the window trim and the wall.

A.C., no gaps! You might even think our walls were straight.

We're using sandable, paintable white caulk. And we'll be using it forever, because Brett literally bought an entire case. (I give him a hard time, but actually we'll probably need most of it.)

Cut the tip off the tube with a utility knife. You want a clean, 45-degree angle - that's going to make application a lot neater. Slide the tube into the caulk gun. Squeeze the trigger a couple times to tighten the tube into place. 

You'll need a wet rag and a dry rag. We use an old cut up t-shirt and just wet one side.

Hold the angled tip of the tube against the seam you want to caulk. Squeeze the trigger lightly - it really doesn't take much. Drag the tube in a straight line, in one smooth motion if you can. Try not to apply too much extra, because you'll have to spend time wiping it away later.

To clean up the excess and make a smooth, nearly-invisible line, moisten your finger or wrap it in the moist end of your cloth. Then drag it over the caulk line, again in one smooth motion. Do this 3-5 times, or until the line is smooth and even. This is the part where you'll really improve as you go.

You'll use the dry rag to clean the tip if it gets gunky, or to wipe caulk off floors/walls/the piano/anywhere else you didn't actually want it to end up.

The master at work.

The Grasshopper, getting caulk in my hair.
We also filled in all the nail holes.  The caulk takes half an hour to dry, and then we painted it the same white as the walls.

We're going to add more trim later, but for now, we're in a good place!

Before - no trim, and literally all the walls and ceilings were one shade of yellow.

After! Blue and white, with wainscoting.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Fenced In

For the last month or so, we've been in the process of building a fence. We decided to hire this part out, and I'm really glad we did - it's the only reason there's been any progress! It's so nice to be able to focus on our interior projects, and have the exterior work keep clicking along without us.

When we first moved in, the yard was functionally fenced. It was pretty cobbled together - a mix of 8' privacy panels, a few kinds of wire, and posts made out of whatever branches were handy. On top of that, it was all in bad repair. Many of the panels had partially fallen over, and posts were starting to lean and rot.

Google Street View immortalizes the old fence in its better days. Thanks a lot, Google.

We figured it would be fine for the moment, though. And for a few months, Hermie enjoyed romping in her huge fenced yard.

However, we lost some of the fencing when we had to take down a couple dying trees. Rather than  patch it, we figured it was time to tackle the whole project.

As with our other outdoor projects, we're working with Harvesterra. They've been great. First, they pulled down all the old fencing. Right there, the whole property looked so much better! But we wanted to get it enclosed again pretty quickly. Not only do we want Hermie to be able to run around again, we'll need the fence for our future goat, alpacas, and chickens!

I can't wait for a scene like this right on our very own homestead:

 We decided on a three-rail pasture fence lined with heavy-duty wire. It had the best mix of attractiveness, functionality, and price. We'll paint it white eventually.

This will be us ... someday.

Our property is long and narrow, so we needed  WHOLE LOT of fence posts set in concrete. 110, in fact.

2 down, 108 to go...

This part is the hardest manual labor, so it was great to be able to hand that off to someone who knows what they're doing. If we'd done it ourselves, I suspect it would have taken all summer and then some. They got it done in a couple weeks.

Second star to the right, and straight on until you finally get to the end of that fence.

Once the posts were set, we were ready to add the wire and rails. Or... we thought we were ready. Then we got the estimate.

Holy @%#&!, fencing is expensive. I expected to pay a lot for setting the posts, but for some reason I was just totally unprepared for how much the second phase would be. I don't know why; if I'd thought about it, I would have realized. Obviously we're going to need a ridiculous amount of wood. And while this part isn't as physically difficult, it does take a lot of time to measure and cut each rail. That means high labor costs.

Time to get creative!

We worked with Aaron at Harvesterra to make a plan. For now, we're just putting up the wire backing. That will functionally enclose our space again, so we can let the Herminator run free.

Beware, squirrels and birds!
We'll leave it this way until summer. (Sorry, neighbors! Thanks for your patience.) Then Brett and I will work with the Harvesterra guys on installing the rails, which should cut the labor costs way down.

It's slow going, but of these days we'll be all fenced in!

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Coffee Break

Most of the posts on this blog are about hard work: demolition, construction, the endless joys of bashing yourself in the fingers with a hammer. But Brett and I have both had hard weeks. He's been working crazy hours. I got snowed in during a work trip to Chicago, and was pretty sure I was going to be stuck there until July.

So while we will get some work done on the house this weekend, our first job is going to be relaxing.

Here's how we relax at Chez Barbakoff:

We live in Seattle. What did you expect?

Yep, a really good cuppa fancy-schmancy coffee. We love long, lazy mornings, capped off with listening to Wait Wait, Don't Tell Me while sipping a latte. But since we're far too lazy and cheap to go out, we learned to make amazing lattes at home. And you don't even need to shell out for one of those professional-quality espresso machines, complete with foamers, steamers, and other alien-tentacle-esque appendages.

Here's the secret.

Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair.

This lovely creature is a Bialetti Moka Express 6-cup Stovetop Espresso Maker. It costs a whopping 30 bucks, and will make you espresso for the rest of your life. Just fill the bottom reservoir with cold water and the strainer with your favorite fresh-ground coffee beans. Screw it all back together and stick it on the stovetop.

Magic espresso fountain!

Then heat up some milk - about 7oz for every 3oz of espresso. Stovetop or microwave is fine. Just make sure to use a container or pot that's a lot bigger than the volume of milk. Because when the milk is hot ... the frothing begins! This is how you get that really luxurious foam top.

Try not to get overexcited.

We're using a little hand-held frother here. You can get one for $3 at Ikea, or under 10 dollars at a kitchen store. Just plunge it into the milk, and expect to splatter your kitchen a few times until you get the hang of it.

If you want a mocha or a flavor, add some syrup to the bottom of your mug. Then add the coffee and the milk, and top with foam.


If you really want to be an annoying hipster like me, attempt some latte art.

Mine looks nothing like this. I just drizzle some chocolate syrup.

And if you want to know what pure happiness looks like, let your dog lick the milk foam residue.
Happy sipping!

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Cute Puppy Video!

I'm traveling for work this weekend, and I have received suspiciously little (read: zero) evidence that hubby is working on the house. Hint, hint, dear ...  So, in lieu of the usual weekly renovation update, here is one of my favorite Hermione videos. She was so little!

This was the very first time we put on her harness. She was ... less than thrilled.