Friday, October 24, 2008

Lil Miss A's Reading

I'm very proud of Lil Miss A. Her reading has really taken off! She was tested at the beginning of the year and assigned a reading level of 3.4, meaning 3rd grade, 4th month, so she was supposed to be choosing books at around that level to read for independent reading points (the dreaded "AR," or Accelerated Reading). I introduced her to A Series of Unfortunate Events, Book One ("The Bad Beginning"), and she zoomed right through it, tested on it and scored 10 out of 10 on it - and it's a level 6.3!! That's 6th grade, 3rd month! Wow! I'm so impressed. Today she tested on "The Reptile Room," and again, scored 10 out of 10.  So not only is she reading fast, she's also comprehending what she reads. It's awesome.

We have a wonderful Title 1 reading specialist in our district, Bettina Dibert. She also happens to be our church council president. She has now helped jump-start two out of our three children in reading.

Praise the Lord, we have heat!

Drumroll, please! Yesterday around midday, Matt Troendle flipped the switch on our geothermal system. And nothing happened.  An hour or so later, after some adjustments, he tried again, and this time, the pumps started pumping, the compressor started compressing, the heat exchanger started exchanging, and the blowers started blowing lovely warm air out our vents! Glory, hallelujah. I'm not swearing, I'm really praising God for this.

It's very exciting. I'm amazed what a difference being warm has had on my general attitude. The kitchen remodel is back to being an adventure, and I am back to being able to sell the latest inconvenience to my children as just something fun and unusual (as in, "We can't walk on the kitchen floor for two days! Here, take this bridge across to the stairs to go to your rooms! And climb through this basement window to get to the basement! Yay!").

The floor that Les laid a week ago has been resting and settling to its new home, hidden under collapsed cardboard boxes for protection.  
Yesterday morning Shawn Leppert of Silver Creek Hardwood Floors came and sanded it and put down the first coating of finish, and then he came back and put down another coat another today. By this evening, we will be able to walk across it in stocking feet, and by Monday we can cover it with kraft paper to protect it while the cabinet makers do their work. The fridge needs to stay in the dining room for at least another couple of weeks, most likely, and the stove needs to stay on the porch. The lovely grain of the wood jumps out now with the finish to accentuate it.

One really neat thing is that while he was here, Matt and his assistant Aaron replaced the gas line from the propane tanks outside to my kitchen stove hookup with a larger gauge pipe, so whenever the stove is hooked up again, it will get much more fuel. Right now it's hooked up to a 5-gallon propane bottle and it just goes to town.  A pot of water boils in, like, 4 seconds. Well, not quite. But close. They also added a line to the family room so someday we can get a ventless propane stove to keep us cozy on cold, dark winter nights. We can snuggle by the light of a pseudofire instead of by the lights of the XBOX for a change!

Another really neat thing about this whole remodel project is how we have been blessed with good workers. They may run into glitches, but they fix them, and they are honest, hard working people, and I don't ever feel unsafe letting them into the house. I know I take that for granted far too much. When your house is being remodeled, you invite all kinds of people in to see you as you really are. They see how you interact with your kids, they see how good or bad a housekeeper you are, they get to know your pets (in our case, they get to know the pets more than any of them probably ever wanted to).  It's a good thing to feel confident that these are honest, kind people who are seeing us with our... well, I was going to say, "with our pants down," but I sure hope that hasn't happened. (Anybody out there ever see "The Money Pit"? With Tom Hanks and Shelly Winters? Yes, that's what I was thinking of, too.)

Shawn Leppert is our latest blessing of a workman. He is so careful, really a professional. He did a lovely job on finishing these floors. And he likes chickens and dogs and guinea pigs and old houses, and he met his wife at Bible college, and he works with the youth ministry in his church. He's pretty great, and his wife, with whom I have spoken several times now on the phone, is also lovely. We're glad to have added them to our list of "nice new people we have gotten to know while our house was in tatters."

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Self Indulgent Whining

Or whingeing. That's a better word. It sounds exactly like what it is.

Here's what I'm whining about:
1. Being cold.
2. Wanting to cook.

Ever go on vacation, or even more on a business trip, and at first eating out at a restaurant is really great, you revel in being served, in picking anything off the menu and having somebody bring it to you all pretty on a plate, and not having to wash that plate when you're done? And then by about day 3 you start getting sick of it, just wanting to have a salad because everything seems so heavy? And by about day 5 you can't wait to get home and cook again? In fact you are all inspired by what you've eaten at restaurants and are anxious to implement some new things in your cooking?

That's how I feel right now. I CAN cook, but it's only about 40 degrees out there on the porch, and that is not conducive to creativity. I'm in microwave-and-run mode and have been for a couple of weeks now, ever since fall started in earnest. I am so anxious to have a real kitchen again, with all the tools I need laid out in easy reach, a maximum of 3 steps to take within my work triangle, and not having to scoop ladybugs or Japanese beetles or whatever the stupid things are called out of the frying pan every time I try to saute something. I'm serious, those bratty little ladies are all over the porch ceiling and they love to plop down in the food. Eugheublech!

And of course being cold has a lot to do with this, because it's already chilly in this house, and then having to go out in the cold to prepare food makes me even colder, and the only relief is to go wash dishes in the basement, which is usually the coldest part of the house but right now is the warmest, actually, because we at least have a baseboard heater down there, and besides the dish water is warm. Only you have to be REALLY careful where you step because otherwise you're likely to fall in one of the trenches criss-crossing our basement floor for the geothermal piping.

There. I feel better now. See, a little whining IS good for the soul.

I'll pull myself together here soon, I promise. I have nothing really to whinge about. Life is really good, especially compared to what many people's lives are like these days.

EDITED: After hitting the POST button, I noticed the radar map there =======> . What is that BIG GREEN SWIRLY THING to the west of us? It'd better be only rain, that's all I can say. I don't think I can handle snow. At least until a) the furnace is working and b) the finish is down on the kitchen floor so we don't have to tramp through the snow to get from the backporchkitchen to the rest of the house.

Sure glad Barry isn't here...

... to see what is happening to his yard.

Seriously, they are being extremely careful of all the stuff - the ponds, the trees. The house.

Here's where the trench runs up to the house. Those pipes are the tubing for the geothermal wells.

Here's something interesting: They found not one, but two, wells in the trench. The one you can see very clearly. The other was right at the edge of the trench, so they left it alone. You can just see the concrete cap there in the trench.

That's a great view of the old well. It was half full of dirt. They filled it up the rest of the way.

Despite their care, the team had a very tough time yesterday, as after they excavated neatly around our water and sewer lines, a chunk of concrete from the fill pile tumbled down and broke both lines. This was at about 3:30 yesterday afternoon. They tracked down supplies and kept at the job until 10:00 last night when they got the water and sewer lines repaired. I was very impressed that they cared.

The one fellow is just an artist with a Bobcat. Watching him in action is almost like watching a ballet - a big, metallic ballet dancer on treads. He perched that 'Cat right on the edge of the trench and delicately slung the bucket around, moving dirt with such finesse. He was a pleasure to watch.

We're soooo close to having heat now, I can almost taste it. Just one more step to go - hooking up the electricity at the box. Then we flip the switch and go. (Right?)

Friday, October 17, 2008

Finished by Friday: Wine Bottle Covers to Hide our Cheap Wine

We're about to head up to my parents' house for the weekend. We're taking along some cheap (really, REALLY cheap) wine and some Martinelli's sparkling cider because my parents and we will probably spend part of Saturday afternoon visiting sukkot. My parents are members of Beth Immanuel Sabbath Fellowship in Hudson, Wisconsin, and this is Sukkot, so many of the families in the area will have "open sukka" this weekend, and we'll probably be sukka-hopping. I am not sure anybody will want our wine, as it is not marked kosher. There are varying opinions on how kosher one must be in that church. But the cider is definitely parve.

The bags are made of fall leaf printed fabric and are simple bags with a tie around the neck (the tie is stitched into the seam so it doesn't get lost). I'm hoping they will look nice enough to turn everyone's attention from the rotgut vino they will contain.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Greg Sellnow, Rochester Post-Bulletin, on being really green, not faddish green

Very well put.

Personally, I prefer a pair of shoes that are made in the U.S. over those manufactured in China, no matter how "green" the ones from Shanghai are.

And I'd much rather buy locally grown, non-organic beans or sweet corn than the "planet-friendly" stuff from Peru or even California, because I know it didn't take God knows how much fuel to get it here.

In my mind, we need to go green, if that's the correct term, because it's the right thing to do, not because it's "all the rage" or a marketing gimmick.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Robertson RPPC of New Albin, From the Bluff, 1908 or thereabouts

The postcard is dated in ink on the back, 08-1908, so it is at least that old.

Barry's OvationBlog Entry: Hints for Surviving Depression

What was it about the companies that survived the Great Depression that made them different from those that did not?


EDITED: I'm putting this note in the beginning of this post because I want people to get the good part of the story first. I sent a link to my original post to the feedback page of Firstgiving, and got a quick and polite response from Margaret Berwind-Dart, Ed.M, apologizing for the problem and asking for more technical information so they could investigate the glitch. I scanned my confirmation pages and sent them to her.

Margaret contributed $15 to each of the two kids' fundraising as an apology! Nothing reinforces an apology better than money given to one's niece and nephew's fundraising efforts. Apology accepted.

My niece and nephew are going to be doing a walk for the Autism Society of America, Northern Virginia chapter, in a couple of weeks, and they emailed me asking for donations through I sponsored each of them for $15 - or, so I thought. I got two separate confirmation screens. I printed them both out as receipts.

Then I got only one confirmation email. I emailed their mom to tell her that I had done both, so she could assure the kids that nobody got left behind, and she checked from her end and it looked as though only one had gone through. I checked, too - sure enough, only one was showing on the donation page.

So I called the long distance number for FirstGiving and talked to a RUDE, SNOTTY, UNPROFESSIONAL, NASTY MAN! I'm so mad! He so much as called me a liar, said I had only done one donation, not two, that if I had done two it would show up and therefore I only did one. I kept telling him I had a printout of the confirmation page right there in front of me and he actually said I did not! That I couldn't, because it didn't happen! I told him that obviously there was a glitch on his end, because I DID have the printout, and he just said, flatly, "No. You don't." I could NOT believe it. What an [expletive deleted but it felt good to type it even if I had to backspace over it anyway].

I'll send a check for the other $15. They won't be able to take their cut out of THAT much, at least. I'm so mad.

Finished by Friday: A Dress for Patty PlayPal

Meet Patty PlayPal. I bought her at an estate auction a couple of weeks ago. She was nekkid, though someone handed me some shoes from another lot and I think they are hers. So my Friday Finish is the dress. I made the dress from this pattern:

The fabric is vintage, too. The yellow was a piece of old yardage, the floral was actually a set of old kitchen curtains.

I'm going to sell her, but I needed her to have some clothes on to make her sale-able. She'll be going on eBay tomorrow.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

What's for Supper: Not-Jarlsberg Quiche

Nicole at Sister's Choice Quilts posted a Jarlsberg quiche recipe she originally got from Turkey Feathers, and I made it only with asiago instead of Jarlsberg, and it was a hit. I'd recommend it!

Madame B, Bureaucrat Extraordinaire (an Evil League of Evil audition)

Most of the ELoE applications I have viewed have been a little hard to take, but I liked this one.

Star Block #5

I kept losing the pieces of this one underneath the tide of junk that has taken over our dining table. The poor dining table usually tends to be the center of the house vortex, where everything ends up that someone doesn't want to put away for the moment, but without a kitchen, it's even worse than usual. Anyway, I put the block together to keep from having to keep cutting replacement pieces.

Rather rushed in the execution - a pretty block made less pretty by my lack of piecing skills. Oh, and it's 12 inches. At least I'm mostly consistent.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

(passing notes during the debate)

pssst... guess what I just paid for gas in Lansing, Iowa?

Nope! It was $2.999. 

Okay, back to the debate.

Mister Grey Bird On My Shoulder

I'm working with a cranky cockatiel on my shoulder at the moment. Jack-Jack panicked over something I couldn't see, flew out of his cage and tried to fly through the dining room window. He is okay, just shaken up. I have him on my shoulder recuperating while I work. He's trying to unlink the fine chain on my necklace at the moment. He's being surprisingly careful with my skin underneath the necklace. Normally he would just take a bite out of that to be on the safe side.

Kitchen Update

It has been mentioned that I have been parsimonious with my updates on the kitchen. It's true. My excuse is I have less time than ever because everything takes about 3 times as long, seeing as we're sort of camping. Cooking, serving and cleaning up from cooking take forever. I'm trying to feed the family well so we don't all die of scurvy or something from living on fast food for the duration. We do have running water, though I have to carry it from across the house; we do have a working stove, but it's on the back porch. And the fridge is in another part of the house entirely. I don't have any right to complain, but I AM slow. Not to mention the fact that I sometimes must run around the outside of the house to get from the main part of the house to my back-porch kitchen when Les is working on a scaffold, or has the doorways blocked with plastic sheeting, or whatever. The kitchen of this house is right on the way to just about everywhere else in this house. It should be really interesting when we're finishing the floors and cannot walk on them for a few days. Maybe I'll just go to Paris. Yep, that would be the simplest thing: We go to Paris for a few weeks and come back and it'll all be done. Sure.

Anyway I have taken a few pictures but they are not too exciting. I'll add them later. The drywall is all up. Les is taping and mudding today. The ceiling is presently bare lath covered with a sheet of plastic as a moisture barrier. I spent part of yesterday painting all the beaded board for the ceiling RED. It's stacked in the garage, awaiting that part of the project. And the gorgeous hard maple flooring - 4-inch planks - was just dropped off and is currently stacked in the front room, bundled by length, smelling wonderful. It is so pretty! This is not the very top grade of wood; I didn't want it totally clear. Neither is it "character" or "rustic" grade. It's somewhere between those extremes, with some grain to it, and a few closed knotholes, and it has such life. It's pretty now, just rough sanded. When it is installed, sanded and treated with polyurethane, it will just glow. This is local maple, mind you - cut by Konkel Forest Products, kiln dried by the Amish, then sent back to Konkel's Hardwoods division, where Tony Konkel cut it into planks and then tongue-and-groove cut it. Our planks were a little more pricey than the standard 3-inch boards, but still it was $3.85 a square foot, for a floor that should last for the next 100 years or so of this house. In fact, it will probably outlast the house.

Let's see... What else? Oh. John Pitts came back to talk more about the cabinets, and we worked out a few more details. He's not ready to start yet, still has 2 projects before ours, but he promises me we'll be done by Thanksgiving. Good thing, too, because we just invited my parents and two college students to come to Thanksgiving. When he gets ready to actually start the cabinets, he will pick up our range hood, our IKEA Domsjo sink, and... something else, I can't remember what it is, and take all this stuff over to his shop and build the cabinets to suit all of them perfectly. Oh yeah, I remember -- not a thing that he has to take, but he'll take the leftover paint from the ceiling planks and use it to match for the cabinet fronts, that's it.

My jobs at present are:
  1. Stay out of Les's way as much as possible.
  2. Earn as much money as possible to pay for all this stuff.
  3. Pick out some white paint and
  4. some metal grid to put in the door panels below the sink.

The metal grid panels are not cooperating with my searching so far. What I'd really, really like would be fine half-inch chicken wire, maybe in stainless steel wire for strength. It can be obtained, it does exist, but it's EXPENSIVE. Still looking.

Hey, look what I found right after making that post!

I'll have to see what Barry thinks. He's Obstacle #1 for any of my design ideas. If he goes for it, then I have to try to convince John Pitts. Heh.

Another update. Barry said no, and for a good reason: Too much stuff will show through, and cabinets-under-the-sink are full of gross stuff. So I am back to no cabinet doors under the sink and little curtains. Which I love anyway.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

What color paint is Jade-ite?

If you Google for that, you'll find several possibilities, but none of 'em are just right!

I took Loretta's old Jade-ite coffee cup to Menards and found the perfect paint. It's Dutch Boy "Patina Verdigris,"DB0DT108, and it is perfect. So now, all you Googling for the perfect Jade-ite, Jadite or jade green paint, that's it. You found it.

It's what will be going on our kitchen walls - the part that shows where there are no cabinets, which will just be one wall and the top 2 feet or so of the rest of the kitchen.

I also took my beautiful red Ice-o-Mat ice crusher and tried to find that red, but it didn't exist. So she color matched my Ice-o-Mat. That's going on the beadboard on the ceiling! I could take a picture of the Ice-o-Mat and the can of paint, but it won't have the same impact. You'll have to trust me on that.

Oh, and the hex tile is in! It's adorable! The hexes are so teeny. They are officially an inch in diameter but they look smaller than that. They look like... Chiclets or something. They look delicious! I just want to play with them. Rub them between my fingers. Click them together. Shake 'em like dice.

Sunday Funnies

Barry preached at our church this morning, as Pastor was out of town. He had a rather complex subject - the parables of the vineyard and the unfaithful tenants - plus he's been working very hard, not sleeping a whole lot, and finally today dawned dreary and rainy, a perfect day for staying home and drinking cocoa in one's jammies rather than going to church. As a result, his demeanor was very low key. I kept trying to send him mental energy beams across the sanctuary, but it didn't work.

Afterward, there were the usual "good sermon, Barry" comments from our longsuffering congregation, but then Dottie K. said very sincerely, "Barry, that was a great funeral." We both broke up, assuming she was joking, but it turned to be a slip of the tongue, a rather freudian slip at that.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Rude People for Obama 2008

Miss B skipped school (with permission) to go see Barack Obama speak in La Crosse this morning. She came home absolutely disgusted with the rotten manners of the crowd (about 15,000 people, when 2,000 had been planned for, for some unknown stupid reason). She and some of her fellow American Government students drove up together, parked about a million miles away and hiked to the La Crosse Center, where they squeezed into the very last few square feet of floor space, then spent the rest of the time jumping in the air trying to catch a glimpse of the Average Guy from Chicago over the heads of everybody else. Miss B was particularly annoyed by the people who would righteously yell "STROLLER!!" as they bashed theirs into everyone's legs to force a way through the crowd. One lady, she said, didn't even have a kid in hers, just an empty stroller.

Five of the students got tee shirts made last night that together spelled out O-B-A-M-A on the fronts, and on the backs were, "Class of '09 for Obama '08. We Skipped Class For This." It got a lot of laughs.