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February 28, 2006

Estrella War XXII

This has -nothing- to do with the house. If you're looking for anything house-related.. wait until after the warm afterglow of a good vaction has worn off.

Marc and I participate in the SCA (Society for Creative Anachronism). That is a non-profit organization promoting the study and recreation of pre-1600 western Europe. The group was founded in 1966 and is world-wide. We have events almost every weekend.


This last week (Feb. 14-Feb. 20) we attended Estrella War XXII in Phoenix Arizona US. From the war website:
A “War” in SCA terms is a larger (attended) event usually with more than one Kingdom (political boundary) invited to attend. Estrella War is an annual event that takes place each February in the state of Arizona, (the Kingdom of Atenveldt, SCA). At Estrella War the goal is to depict a Medieval Village in arts, tournaments, mock battle, ambiance, and pageantry. All are welcome to attend but are asked to please make an attempt at “Period” costume.

We left the Bay Area on Saturday morning and drove down to Las Vegas. We stayed with Marc's friend, Steve who lives in Las Vegas. Sunday we relaxed in Vegas and saw a show (Zumanity.. not bad.. not good to discuss at the office).

Monday we drove down to Phoenix and stayed in a hotel overnight. Tuesday we arrived on site and setup.

Relaxing in the sunshade.

Our encampment this year consisted of the sunshade, 3 wedge tents, 1 round pavilion and 2 modern popup tents. Marc and I camped with Edith, Sefa & Brandr, Gunther, my brother Nate, and Sara. It was a really fun week.

In the society, I'm known as Sylvie la chardonnière. Mostly at war I shop, cook and relax.

From http://www.insanestyle.com/estrella_war/
Marc is known as Fearghus Mac Airt. He dresses up in armor and participates in many of the combat scenarios. I'll have to see if I got any pictures of him in armor.

Lure Coursing

Lure Coursing is the running of the hounds. Traditionally this would be for sport and for food. Modernly we do it only for sport and use plastic bags as the lure (instead of bunnies). A course is setup in an open/flat field. String runs through a motor and then around pulleys on the ground. A plastic bag is tied to the string. Hounds (mostly sight-hounds) are released to try and catch the lure. A good run is one where the dog faithfully follows the lure around the whole track instead of anticipating the path of the lure and cutting it off.

This year we had the great opportunity to participate in the lure coursing at the war. Fenris, our whippet, was a dream to watch. He seems to have really enjoyed it. We're going to try to get the lure coursing equipment and see if we can start lure coursing in the West (SCA kingdom in California).
Fenris at full run. I swear he's smiling.

Fenris at a float. Edith says he looks like a squid.

The week passed in a flash. On Sunday we packed up and started the drive north. Monday we arrived home.

Elves did not come into the house during the week we were gone and finish any of our task. I was sorely disappointed.

February 6, 2006

A thing of beauty

Newly installed curtain hardware in dining room
As mentioned in a previous entry, when they left Mr. O and family took the curtain hardware with them. They weren't supposed to do that. Curtain hardware is considered part of the house. Mr. O's realtor said to send her a bill for the new hardware.

Frankly I wanted the old hardware back. It was awefully pretty. That and it was already picked out. I have been known to suffer from "analysis paralysis." Given a lot of possibilities I will endlessly consider the options and deferr a decision indefinitely. Especially when they're all so lovely.

After much procrastination, I forced Marc to go to home stores with me and we -finally- found something comparable. We got just about $400 of curtain hardware for 4 windows. Today Marc put one set up in the dining room. It's very lovely. I'm exceptionally pleased. Now if we only had curtains to go on these rods...

Why we hate Mr. O...

Mr. O was the previous owner. I actually don't know if he did all of the crazy stupid things that push my hot buttons... but he did enough of them (and he didn't fix the others) so he gets all the blame. Mostly this is my personal "what were they thinking" blog entry. In theory if I get it all into one place it will serve as a reminder to myself of why half-assed is a stupid way to go. I really don't want some future home owner of my house to have a "why we hate Ms. K..." blog entry... I'm doing my best to avoid this.

To add insult to injury, Mr. O and family sold us this house while at the same time they bought a bigger house up the street. This means we occasionally catch glimpses of him as he drives by. I haven't started throwing rocks at him.. but it's tempting.

Trim The first thing I noticed about the house on our initial walk-thru was the beautiful trim on the interior. Mr. O put up new cherry trim and crown molding to drum up offers on the house. It is lovely on first look. On second look you start seeing the problems. The biggest tragic thing is that he used drywall screws to put it all up. So even though we have lovely expensive trim... it's marred by screw heads. It's also a tragedy since Mr. O obviously didn't know how to install crown molding.. and made a lot of unnecessary cuts. One piece of trim in the dining room is 3 inches long. This will all need to be replaced.

Kitchen cabinets Part of the selling paragraph of the house was that the seller had done a "minor kitchen remodel". I'm not sure entirely what this entailed.. but it does seem that Mr. O stained the kitchen's oak cabinets with a cherry gel stain (to match the new trim). He put the cabinets up with drywall screws and then he stained them. He wasn't terribly careful so there's a lot of red stain that's been brushed on the white walls. He also didn't stain them entirely.. so some of the edges of the doors were missed.. and a lot of the backs of the doors. It just looks shoddy.

Tile Mr. O re-tiled the floor in about 3/4 of the house. Everything except for the bedrooms is tiled in 79¢ per foot tile from Home Depot. I believe this was done to cover up stained hardwood floors. I believe this also was to make it so he didn't have to fix any of the wood-rot on the floors. I really suspect that when we start pulling up the tile we're going to find a holy mess. Also there are 3 tiles in the hallway that don't match the rest of the house. Just freaking sloppy.

I really hope that we'll be able to save the hardwood floors. In my fondest daydreams I imagine that Mr. O decided that refinishing the hardwood was too much work so he went the "easy" route and just tiled over it. In my daydream it turns out that after we pull up the tile and the backer board the hardwood floors only require a sanding and refinishing to save them. It's a nice dream.

Bathroom tile The bathtub surround is tiled an a generic beige tile. The tile job is horrid. Not one tile is flush with another. The grout is grody. The mold is phenomenal. As I said in another entry, it looks like it was tiled in the dark by a monkey and then grouted with mold.

Bathroom Window The window in the shower is hit by offspray while you shower. Mr. O framed this with wood and then painted it white. The paint hasn't prevented the mold from growing on the whole bottom half of the window frame. White frame, black mold. Not a pretty sight. This will be coming out when we retile the tub and we'll be tiling the whole window opening (and grading it so that water drains back into the shower instead of just sitting on the windowsill). The picture was taken after I attacked the window frame with a 1/2-1/2 bleach water solution.

Bedroom Windows Mr. O replaced 3 of the bedroom windows with double-pane windows. This is a good thing.. except that when he went looking for windows he found out that the window openings on houses build in 1948 aren't exactly standard. Instead of buying windows that fit he bought smaller windows and made the openings smaller. On the outside of the house he patched the siding with minty green siding (the rest of the house is beige/grey). It's a horrible eyesore. Luckily the City burned him about this and required him to replace the windows as part of the conditions on the sale of the house. I wouldn't mention this (or anything else he fixed before we took ownership of the house) except that we've been living in the house for 2 months and we still don't have those new windows.

Dryer vent The dryer vent doesn't actually vent outside the house. The vent tube is just pushed through a hole in the floor. Hot, wet, fluff-filled air has been filling the crawl space for years. Lovely fire hazard. Add to that all of the wood-rot I'm sure the damp has caused. Just feaking wonderful.

Garage leak The roof of the garage leaks. Rather than actually fix the leaky garage, Mr. O put up drywall to make it into a "finished" garage. This means that the garage leaked after the first rainstorm and now all of the new drywall is molding from the standing water (and it leaked all over our stuff we'd stored in the garage). We're going to have to pull down the drywall and fix the roof.

Bizarre Electrical Work This is one of those things where I'm not 100% certain that it's Mr. O's fault.. but he's convenient.. and he probably did it. I can't seem to figure out what is zoned with what on our electrical box. I think it's all going to have to be re-done eventually. The dryer isn't even in a zone. It's wired directly into the house wiring. I'm pretty sure that's not supposed to happen.

In the base cabinet in the kitchen under the sink there's an electrical conduit that "dolphins" up into that cabinet. That is, it comes up in the back of the cabinet and then goes down in the front of the cabinet. Nothing connected to it.. and I really can't think of a good reason for it to be there. It just takes up space and makes me wonder what other nightmares are lurking under our floors.

Marc reports that Mr. O used "spray in foam insulation" around our switch-plates. This means that as we replace the switch plates we also end up breaking the foam insulation so we end up having to re-do the entire patch job.

Siding The house is covered in vinyl siding. This is poorly installed, cracking vinyl siding that is rippling on the west side. It's nasty. Marc says there's redwood siding under the vinyl. I'm hoping someday to be able to strip off the vinyl and restore the redwood. Not sure from where that money's coming but in this case, vinyl is -not- final.

My Favorite Room (finally)

Someone in another blog asked "what is your favorite room in your house?". At the time I didn't reply. I was embarrassed because I couldn't think of a single room that I liked in my house. In general, I like my house. In specific... all of the rooms fall short of my "mental vacation" measure of liking.

Every room in the house, except for the Northeast Bedroom, is not-started, covered with sawdust (from refinishing the NE bedroom floor) and filled with clutter from the move-in and NE bedroom. The one room we've started, the NE bedroom, just depressed me.

At the time we had just finished the first coat of polyeurethane on the newly-sanded floors of the NE bedroom. The floor is much much better than it was when we moved in, but the walls are still a blotchy shade of beige and have mold growing on all of the exterior walls.

Much progress has been made since then.

On Friday Marc and I drove to Lowe's to look at a paint color. Now a smart gal would goto a nearby home improvement store to look at paint chips. Unfortunately I'm a house blogger. I read in Kim's blog: "One Woman's Cottage Life" about repainting her Living Room with American Traditions color "Clarified Butter". This looks like a lovely warm yellow-ish color that might be exactly the one I need. The nearest Lowe's is 28 minutes away. The nearest Home Depot is 5-7 minutes away. Unfortunately, American Traditions seems to only be carried by Lowe's. Kim has already gone through the pain of choosing a yellow. Her pictures -look- lovely and warm without being overwhelming. So I decided to "stand on the shoulders of giants" and start with her paint chip. So off we went. An hour and a half later we had a sample of the color, a quart of the color, and a gallon of primer. Marc says he painted a sample of this on the walls today (Monday). I'll look at it tonight and we'll see if we're ready to paint.

On Saturday, since we'd put down the last coat of poly and the floor was (for-the-most-part) dry I went into the NE bedroom and attacked the mold. It turns out that "Scrubbing bubbles with mildew protection" does a great job at eliminating mold on plaster walls. Especially when combined with a soft bristled scrubbing brush.

I'm fairly certain that the mold is appearing because of our moisture problem (#7 in 5-7 year plan) and because (I think) the exterior walls have no insulation. I guess we're going to investigate adding blow-in insulation in these walls at some point. I have high hopes that the combination of the bathroom fan (installed last week) and venting the dryer to the exterior instead of to the crawl space (coming soon) will eliminate most of our condensation problems (cross your fingers for me).

Current, ugly light fixture
Assuming we go ahead and paint the room "Clarified Butter" then we only need to repaint the ceiling (white), re-do the electrical outlets (grounded outlets are such an innovation), add a working phone outlet, update the lighting fixture (anything would be an update at this point), add curtains and move back into the room. Then I think this has the potential to be my new (first) favorite room.

At some point later we'll also need to replace both the windows (supposed to start Wednesday), retrim the entire room, remove the closet and add a free-standing armoire. But I think it can still be my favorite room during this work.

February 3, 2006


Last night Rolf and Marc accused me of being materialistic. I agreed with them but amended that I'm not a value-driven materialist. They were talking about how happy I was about the things they accomplished yesterday. Rolf said that "you'd think you'd given her a diamond". Frankly given my choice, I'd choose a working bathroom exhaust fan over diamonds any day.

bath_light.jpgYes, we finally have a bathroom exhaust fan/light combo on a twist timer. It's a thing of absolute beauty. Everytime I think of it, it brings a tear to my eye. Not only is it conceptually beautiful (a fan that moves warm wet air to the exterior of the house) ... the light/fan combo is absolutely lovely. Some designer had their thinking cap on that day. This is -way- lovelier than I expected it to be.

Rolf and Marc reinstalled the kitchen cabinet between the fridge and stove. Because of the <sarcasm>high degree of craftsmanship</sarcasm> evident in the kitchen we were forced to remove a kitchen cabinet when the fridge was installed. Rolf and Marc were able to remove about an inch from a spacer between the cabinets and the counter top and make it so that the lost cabinet could return to the fold(for the record, I still hate the kitchen but every little bit of counter space and cabinet space makes it a smidge less hateful).

Lastly, they put the final coat of verathane down on the bedroom hardwood floor. Hopefully we'll be able to move back in there on Sunday or Monday.

We're moving along.

When they picked up the fan/light combo from Home Depot, they also picked up the dryer vent kit. Unfortunately it's been raining so much that the crawlspace under the house is just sopping (bad drainage + lots of rain). When it dries out a bit more Rolf will see about installing that so that the dryer actually vents to the exterior.