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February 29, 2008

The Eye's Have It!

When I took oil painting in my late 20's, I was surprised by what I actually learned from my teacher. She didn't teach me to paint -- she taught me to see! Before I met her, I never ever noticed how many shades of green were in one tree, or just where the sun lit on every leaf, or the real color of the sky. My eyes were opened to a whole new world.

Remodeling is a bit like that. As my neighbor, Millie, and I walked all over the neighborhood the other day, we looked at deck railings. It is my obsession at the moment. And, I suddenly realize why nine out of ten decks are rectangles -- rounded railings are rare and more expensive. Anyway, I've never before cared much about other people's decks. Then, we began analyzing paint samples. Since Millie has no projects of her own, she has adopted mine for the walk -- urging me to think about this color or that. (Millie urges me a lot -- calling herself the walking Nazi, she pushes and prods me to take every hill in sight. I'm so relieved when she goes to her house on Lummi and I don't have to chug along after her and her dog, Charlie. I definitely prefer walking the easy routes. And, I hate to admit that walking hills gets easier and easier the more you do it).

On my solitary (easy) walk yesterday, I passed a house on the next block that had a curved railing leading up to the front porch. A young man, named Patrick, invited me to examine the rail closely -- and I decided that I not only liked his rail, but I liked the color of his house. He suggested that I come back and talk to his father, Rick. Remodeling is a catalyst for so many things -- learning new jargon, seeing old things in a new light, noticing what you have never noticed before, and even making new friends.

Posted by Marilyn at 11:06 AM | Comments (0)

February 28, 2008


I understand from the workers (I haven't talked to Tom) that the deck guy doesn't think he is responsible for the mess on the lower deck -- in fact, he thinks it is because of sap from the trees. However, there is no sap from the trees -- I think Tom (who has not paid him yet) will get this all settled. Anyway, they tried to clean it off with acetate and now it looks even worse!

The guys are not here this morning -- I don't know where they are -- that is unusual, but it is nice and quiet. I'll enjoy the small respite from noise -- and just as I get comfortable, they will pop up in an hour or so and the ambient sounds of my existence will resume.

Here is a picture showing the side of the house after it got re-sided.


Posted by Marilyn at 10:12 AM | Comments (0)

February 26, 2008

Chugging Along

Some days just seem to pass me by -- not much new while the guys are working to finish up tasks that they have been doing for several days. Tom is framing all the windows on the outside to look like the others around the front of the house. His two workers are re-siding the house. The first real glitch happened this weekend when the subcontractor's crew came to install the vinyl flooring on the upper deck. Tom is not a happy camper as they dripped the glue all over the newly installed lower deck and they left staples in the siding when they put down some plastic the day before.

I haven't had the nerve to go down and look at the deck. I figure Tom is peeved enough for both of us -- and is dealing with it. He indicated that the vinyl man is not going to make any money from my job. Either he will clean it up exactly like new or he will replace it. In the meantime, I played with Jeni at the Seattle Garden Show and tackled both my income taxes and the lesson plans for my next two Wednesday Lenten classes. Tomorrow I'll take some pictures.

A little amusing tidbit from today: I was reading the morning paper when loud rap music suddenly came from the construction area. This was a first! I tried to read, but it was really jarring. I realized that I haven't been bothered as much through all the banging and the mess as I was by a few bars of that loud music. I suppose that, as a musician, I cannot tune it out like I can everything else. But, just as I reached my limit and wondered how I would tell those very nice young men that I couldn't live with their music, it was suddenly turned off. I think the boss arrived! They were back to laughing and talking noises accompanying the hammers. Much better! Aren't we funny creatures?

Posted by Marilyn at 6:01 PM | Comments (0)

February 21, 2008

Neat and Orderly

I've lived in this old house so long with its unfinished kitchen and farmhouse atmosphere, that I forgot what it was like to have something finished so well and orderly. I love just walking around and seeing the artistry that is happening around me. After a long walk today, I approached the house from the back and examined the new electrical boxes and wiring by Mike the Electrician. It is so tidy -- a beautiful replacement for the old, rusting electrical box in the sub-basement. Climbing the stairs to the lower balcony, I walked upon the newly installed Trex decking and wondered at the lovely curved line cut around the deck and the exact way each board touched the house. Yesterday, I noticed for the first time the framing around the beams under the lower deck as they enter the house -- making them just that much more finished and interesting.

I am aware how I look the other way when something is displeasing -- like cabinets that have raggedly cut insides and spotted ceilings and pitted linoleum. I guess that is how I survived in such an old structure -- because we didn't have the time or money to tackle the myriad things needed to make it better. There were rooms like the pool room and subbasement that I couldn't stand to enter (except when we danced in the pool for weddings), and I sometimes dreamt about living in huge house where there were whole floors that I never discovered -- and I would wander through them in my dream. Now the old doors to the basement and subbasement have been replaced by doors that actually LOCK!

Whenever I think of something that has bothered me for years, I just address it with the crew. I told Mike the other day that one day I would like to walk into the basement and not have to pull several chains to turn on lights and not have to have chains that have lights that do not turn on. He said - no problem! He'd take care of that when he moves the electrical box from the porch off the kitchen down into the basement. Imagine being able to walk into the basement and actually flip a switch that turns on more than one, small, dismal light.

I feel like I'm giving my house a Nordstrom makeover -- and just as you can't stop looking in the mirror at a new and flattering haircut, I can't stop walking around and looking over and over at those things that begin to come together. It is so very satisfying. I think the young workers must feel the same way. Miles has brought his girlfriend and Chas his mother to see what they have been doing. I hope they are all proud of the rebirth of this old lady. I know that I am.

Posted by Marilyn at 3:15 PM | Comments (0)

February 19, 2008

The Windows Are In!

This is going to be a busy and productive week after the long blissful quiet weekend sans hammering. The windows for the lower living room came today and were installed. I went on errands while they were put in. I couldn't bear to watch them maneuver those six foot square heavy frames into the wall while standing three stories up on a narrow deck with no railing. When I came home an hour later, the deed was done. Tomorrow they are digging the ditch in preparation for burying lines to the house, the upper decking is being installed by a specialist, the lower decking is being installed by Tom and crew, and the rest of the siding and window trim will be put on. That really moves us along. Next the railings (if I can ever make a final decision) and they begin finishing inside. Mike, the electrician, will hook up the new electrical unit for the house on Thursday so I'll be without electricity for the first time. Here are some pictures for you.

Windows Up and Down
Shannon's Fence

Posted by Marilyn at 9:51 PM | Comments (0)

February 15, 2008


This entry is about money! Yes, I know that it is not polite to talk about finances, but I suspect that many of my friends are wondering just how I could possibly have so much money as to completely renovate such an old structure. Well, the answer is that I don't!

My friend Marilyn and I are both remodeling and both belong to the local credit union. I really love my bank for a variety of reasons. One is that they called the first time I wrote a big check to my contractor to make sure that I actually did write a big check to my contractor! Then, when I went to Canada, they called and asked me if I did, indeed, go to Canada. It is probably ridiculous to believe that I feel safer with them because if someone stole my card to go to Mexico without my knowledge, they would call and tell me before cashing it. Of course, that has a backside like the time AmySue had her credit stopped in Mexico when she was traveling because she forgot to tell our bank that she was leaving the country. Fortunately, a quick call to her mother, who called the bank, restored the credit.

Anyway, I refinanced, but when the rates lowered I decided to watch and see if I should do it again -- and get out of my ARM. Unfortunately, when the feds went down, my bank did not. Plus the fact that they are growing exponentially with new branches all over the county. This distressed both Marilyn and me. So, I wrote an unfavorable email to my friend, Kay Rich, who is on the board. Kay sent it to one of the big bosses who then wrote me a very long (two page, single space) letter about my concerns. Then, the person in charge of all the expansion called the next day to see if I got it (the explanations, not the letter). It seems that they are tied in with Fannie Mae who sets rates and all the new customers the bank is getting are paying for the expansion. Not that I believe the whole spiel, but I was impressed by the service and the attention that I got. I suppose they have to keep the credit union members happy so that they don't get all riled up and actually come to the annual meetings and VOTE!

Well, that is my financial story for the day. I got a big loan -- but it probably will fall short of what I need. Who knows what I will do next? Do I really need a kitchen?

Posted by Marilyn at 11:29 AM | Comments (0)

February 12, 2008

My Side of the Story

The siding is now going on the back of the house, and Tom is framing the windows. Do you remember that both Tom and Debbie said that the Hardy Plank would be fine because matching the old cedar is prohibitively expensive? Well, it really looks nice -- and we will replace some of the cedar in certain areas, but I don't think I will even know the difference after it is painted. Here is what I decided today:
1) I found an oak flooring for the pool room
2) I decided on vinyl sheeting for the upper deck
3) I decided on a particular type of Trex for the lower deck
4) I found someone to work on the roof and chimneys
5) I called the big boss at Blythe Heating and Plumbing to get someone to finally call me back after several unanswered calls to them about heating my new room (they did, within minutes)
6) I decided on the kind of carpet I want in the lower living room
7) I decided on a salad for lunch -- so I went to the tea room and enjoyed it!

Here is a picture of the emerging rear of the house!


Posted by Marilyn at 7:11 PM | Comments (0)

February 8, 2008

Don't Fence Me In!

There are workmen crawling all over our block -- my neighbor, Shannon, is having a fence built. She told me when she first moved in that she wanted a fence. I was not crazy about the idea because in the Northwest yards just all meld into each other. I was concerned that the fence might block sun to my raised beds. She assured me that the fence will be 5 feet tall and the sun may not be a problem in the middle of the summer. Anyway, I didn't get to vote. As she told two more critical neighbors who questioned some of her other ideas, "It's my property." And, so it is. When I saw the fence posts go in yesterday, I doubled my concern because they are eight feet tall at least. But, along came contractor Tom to assure me that they will cut off the tops after the fence is built. I hope so.

Shannon has been in the house only a year. It was previously owned by a suave and slick drug runner. I got along with him fine but was always wary because his sister-in-law (a parent at my school) warned me about him when he bought the house. A member of a very wealthy family in town, she called him the black sheep. Anyway, he sold the house to Shannon's family when he went into prison and they completely remodeled it. One task she accomplished was burying her electrical lines. Now, I'm doing the same thing and so are my other neighbors Lisa and Andy. All of us are hoping someday to go together and have the city bury the electrical lines that run down the alley and through our view.

One good reason I am still in this house is my absolutely wonderful neighbors. They range from my kids ages to older than I am, from single to married, from retired to working, from childless to parents to grandparents. We get together for wine on Leah's deck on summer evenings and at my house at Christmas. They are friends with my kids and the younger ones check in with those of us who are older -- as well as do some heavy lifting when necessary. They are on my speed dial in case of emergency. And three-year-old Sam keeps me entertained. They are truly a blessing. I am very lucky.

Posted by Marilyn at 9:33 AM | Comments (0)

February 7, 2008

The Passing Parade

I feel like an observer in a passing parade of people who traipse through my life -- sometimes unexpectedly, sometimes invited -- and fill it with color and confusion. Yesterday, for example: I sat down to write on this blog when Mike, the electrician (and comic) came traipsing through for a glass of water. I didn't even know he was here -- but he is putting in a whole new electrical box for the entire house. And, he tripped a wire to my computer unexpectedly which took several phone calls to Martin, Jeni and Ron before I remembered why the grey box under my computer beeps (to tell me the power is gone and to turn off my computer before it crashes). Lord, help me remember that next time - so I don't have to ask my kids the same question over and over until they think I am demented.

Back to the parade. When Mike came through the kitchen, Jim (my upstairs carpenter) was putting together my kitchen island that I bought in December. I can't leave it for my contractor because the kitchen is too far in the future and I have only three months from purchase to return it. It's wonderful. I love it. So, anyway, Jim meets Mike. Then, Designer Debbie arrives and Tom comes in so we can confer on kitchens, decks, and my used windows which are going to be a greenhouse for Debbie. She brings me my new bright green computer bag from Brenthaven and we talk about what the windows might be worth - very little!

Then I have to figure out how to pay Tom because when I refinanced, I socked much of the funds in CDs so that they would earn more money. I'm now into that pot and the CDs won't mature until February 26th. (I borrowed from my Visa). So, I went to the bank and did a few errands. I talked to my neighbor, Shannon, about her new fence and my neighbor's Andy and Lisa about sharing a ditch digger for burying our electrical lines. I went down to my friend's Kay and Dick to see the Trex on their deck and got back to greet Katy, the opera coach from Seattle who stays with me every Tuesday evening and walks to Western on Wednesday. I ate dinner at 7:30 and did a bit of work for my writing group and research for my Lenten class and dragged myself to bed.

Remodeling is a really exhausting business. Oh, by the way, we await the windows for the lower living room and some of the siding is going up today. I'm looking into floorings. I love my new computer bag -- and, yes Martin, my new computer, too.

Posted by Marilyn at 3:03 PM | Comments (0)

February 5, 2008

Out With the Old, In With the New

Pam came yesterday to clean house. I'm afraid that she might quit when the house gets much larger. I told her to clean the kitchen and whatever else she can get to -- she told me that the kitchen was so dirty this week that it took most of her time. Since she has cleaned for me for so many years, she feels free to ball me out when the house is really awful -- as it is now. Stuff is strewn everywhere -- but she got me organized in the kitchen and in my bedroom. Except for the tree hanging over my shoulder, my study still works rather well.

Did I tell you that there is an absolutely perfect place for my big desk in the pool room? I'm going to move it down there so that the present study can become a library when (and if) the bathroom ever gets done. The bathroom and mudroom will go where my desk is now. Anyway, there is simply not enough room for my desk in a smaller study. I shall love being downstairs looking out over the water.

The guys are working like busy bees on the lower living room. I'm going to post some pictures. You would not recognize it. Instead of the new stairs making it feel smaller, the absence of a huge brick rectangle and the big white fireplace makes it look larger (or at least AS large as before). The windows won't be here for another two weeks, but the room itself should be finished in a month -- although I don't know how long it will take to get inspected and to get dry wall on for sure. Then, there is trim and carpet -- and finishing off the stairs.
What Happened to the Sliding Glass Door? Goodbye!

Gone are the Bricks and Fireplace! This is Where the Piano Will Go

Posted by Marilyn at 4:36 PM | Comments (1)

February 1, 2008

OK, Now We're Getting Serious!

The day has come! I knew it would, but my fantasy was that the contractors could do the whole remodel and not ever invade my comfort level at all! (I SAID it was a fantasy, didn't I?) Well, they are now into the lower living room which had to be completely cleared out this week. That would have been a piece of cake had I not had a wall of bookshelves filled with records, sheet music and books! You know you have too many books when you find volumes that you didn't even remember you had. In any case, it has been a whirlwind week of contractors, designers, friends to help, and decisions made. I'm going to update a few pictures and show you what my dining room now looks like.

Today my friend Etta came over to look at kitchen plans. She is a whiz at detail. I have been wanting to really think about where individual items will go in the kitchen and she kept nailing stuff right and left. We got lots done in a short amount of time. I think she should have her own business. Now, I'll take some of these ideas back to Debbie because they are details that we haven't yet tackled. I like to get lots of different ideas and then put them together and then bounce them off Debbie who is always so great to listen and help incorporate ideas she thinks will work.

I don't always sleep so well. Sometimes I do my best thinking at 4:00 a.m. Interestingly, I don't feel worried, but must be anxious because I wake up trying to think through solutions. I guess I'm more vulnerable in the middle of the night. But, I'm also interested in how ideas I hadn't thought about come marching through my head. Then, I have to get dressed early in the morning and run downstairs and tell Tom -- because otherwise he might act upon the ideas we discussed the night before -- and they might have changed at 4:00 in the morning. He is amazingly patient.

This Picture Shows the Double Curving Decks (and Miles the carpenter)

Beginning to Frame Under the Breakfast Room

The completed (but unfinished) stairs Between the Levels

The View From the Dining Room

Posted by Marilyn at 4:00 PM | Comments (0)