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June 28, 2008


Even though this is my remodeling blog, I will report that the sun is out today, and I remember what I love most about California. The sun is really golden here. Martin and Christine came over from Whittier where they are staying with Christine's older brother. Her younger brother is getting married tomorrow. We all went out to lunch at my favorite restaurant, Gulf Stream, and then we went over to Balboa Island where our family gathered for vacation when the kids were teens. We had a nostalgic walk around the island, ate Balboa bars (vanilla ice cream dipped in chocolate with toppings), went to the candy store (tradition), and said goodbye to Martin and Christine who headed back to the wedding festivities. Balboa is very close to Dani's house and my grandchildren love to go over and to hear tales of their parents running around the island as teens.

I must say that it is really wonderful not to be in the middle of the remodel. Backing away a bit makes me less anxious about every little item that comes to my attention. It is like a rest for my head! Also, I got an email today from Jim that he thinks he is able to match my new kitchen cabinets to my old kitchen cabinets in three stages. He sounded excited that he has made the match. I am ecstatic!

But, the best news of all came yesterday evening when Dani found that they have sold their house. A young man looked at it the day before and decided to buy it. That is a big relief because they can now buy a house in Bellingham if they find one. So we have done a bit of packing today. I'm hoping that the sun keeps shining for the next few days -- it really begins to feel like a vacation from remodeling after all!

Posted by Marilyn at 4:26 PM | Comments (0)

June 27, 2008


I got up at 5:30 a.m. yesterday morning to get ready to leave by 6:00 for Sea-Tac to catch a plane to California. Imagine my state when I found I had no hot water. I kicked myself for not taking a shower the night before so that fact could have been dealt with in more than the half hour I had before I had to be on the road. My biggest concern was that I might have water all over the basement floor (especially since my friend Marilyn has some of her worldly goods stored right next to the ailing water heater). However, I took a very cold shower, got dressed, finished packing and took my suitcase downstairs before I crept with bated breath into the basement to find the water heater intact. Whew!

There was nothing left to do other than put the heat on hold and drive to the airport. While awaiting to board, I called Tom and asked him to make sure that nobody had done anything the day before to cause my problem. When he called me back with a checklist that showed no obvious problems, I called the plumber. Now, I've had so many water problems since starting this project and, as you may remember, three different plumbers. I knew I needed a new water heater but was hoping I could let it go until I could think rationally about the hot water in the whole house. But, I guess my hand was forced by this latest event.

So, I called Blythe and gave them a long list of things that need to be tended to - a new water heater, the lowering of pressure after two previous plumbers had worked on different projects, the repair of the upstairs radiator that had leaked over a month ago, and the fitting for my washer that Blythe was supposed to have finished weeks ago. I wouldn't have had three different plumbers if Blythe had been more prompt about returning calls, taken care of the problem with my washer, or had emergency service in the late evening. But, they have been my plumbers for years and do know most of the pipes in my house having installed or worked on them themselves. So I'm laying all my plumbing problems back in their hands. And, if they do not follow through this time, I'm not going to be a happy camper.

Meanwhile, I'm at Dani's with Nico and James wearing their new Village Books shirts. Allie is here too and Charles is in England for a conference. We came down to keep Dani from going crazy taking care of a toddler by herself. No wonder - she is ten years older than I was when I had a toddler. I'm exhausted just thinking about it. We are going to make a round of all our favorite spots while I'm here - Roger's Gardens, the library bookstore, and several restaurants. Sometime this weekend we expect to hear from Martin and Christine who are down for her brother's wedding and my neighbor AmySue who is somewhere in the vicinity with Sam and Bo. I came down for the sun, but it has yet to shine. Believe it or not, the weather is worse than Bellingham. Oh well, I keep telling myself that it doesn't matter. But it does. I was really hoping for sun!

Posted by Marilyn at 9:34 AM | Comments (0)

June 25, 2008

Noises Noises

Today would have been my 48th wedding anniversary. And, it is a poignant experience to remodel the house without both input and encouragement from Donel. It is also curious, after so many years of marriage, to live without having to check in with someone, share decisions, report to someone on your whereabouts, and share living arrangements and decisions on a daily basis. Living alone can be both lonely and yet filled with a modicum of independence.

I awaken early each day but I don't get up and going. I used to be up and raring to go right away -- definitely a morning person. But, I don't have to account for my actions to anyone else. Anyway, I immediately run down to get the paper, put on tea water and then lie in bed with the paper, a cup of tea, perhaps a piece of toast, the NY Times Crossword and Sudoku. I have also take my laptop up the night before. So, I don't really get showered and dressed before the tea is gone, the puzzles are done, and I've checked my email and the latest news and blogs. This can take over an hour. So, I actually appear to the world closer to 9:00 than the 6:30 or 7:00 when I am first awake.

This is quite comfortable except for one small glitch. Due to the extent of the remodeling at the moment, doors are opening and closing downstairs, hammering and talking, coming and going, banging and laughing -- and it is simultaneously encouraging and disconcerting at the same time. It is encouraging to hear the sounds of progress and know that the project is going forward another day. It's not as though I am needed, so I can relax to my heart's content. However, it can be a bit intimidating.

I feel exposed lying around upstairs in my PJs while a bunch of men are in my house. I'm almost embarrassed to run a bath or flush the toilet because they most definitely will hear. It is not just an invasion of privacy, it is more a close living arrangement with acquaintances and strangers. There have been mornings where big burly guys delivering materials are here before Tom and I have to put on my robe and trudge downstairs or two mornings in a row where the rather ditzy inspector got confused and was here close to 7:30.

And, yet, on those days that no one shows up, I'm listening and wondering how come it is so quiet around here. Perhaps I should record the noise sometime and when all is finished and I'm back to living alone, I can play the banging sounds from time to time if I get lonely. Ah life! Is anyone completely satisfied with their lot? Oh dear, I'm still lying in bed and I can see the water delivery man heading for my door. Another day is underway. I'd better get dressed.

Posted by Marilyn at 8:58 AM | Comments (1)

June 24, 2008

Some Pictures of the Hustle and Bustle

Here are some pictures of all the people doing good things around here today. And, I wondered why I woke up with a headache -- there is dust coming from every room. What fun!

New Oak Floor Going in Downstairs

Painters Putting on A Finish Under the Upper Deck

Trim in the Lower Living Room

More Trim

New Stairs into Pool Room

Posted by Marilyn at 5:18 PM | Comments (0)

June 23, 2008

When it rains...

After wondering for two days where everyone was, every room had workers in it today. It is either feast or famine around here. The wallboard guy was taping in the kitchen, the oak flooring was being installed in the basement room, Mike was here putting covers on the electrical outlets and Tom was measuring and cutting out the molding for the windows and doors. Forrest, from Barrons Heating, came by at one point to check on the gas fireplace and Jim stopped by to take home one of the kitchen cabinet doors to begin the search for a color match. He also agreed to do the staining of the cabinets. I may have shocked him by giving him a big hug! That took a big load off because it was one decision left to make. Painting begins tomorrow on the new outside trim and siding. It might take me a few years to complete that expensive project -- but, hey, I'll let everyone think that I planned a two-tone house -- half gray and half yellow-beige. Half blue trim and half white. Maybe they will think I'm bi-color!

It is so exciting to see the oak floor going in. Tom and I talked today about having the back two rooms finished in a week or two -- they are so close. I think it will be easier not having a kitchen when I do have two new rooms -- right now so much is in chaos that it is hard to see the fruits of all the labor. But, to think an end is in sight, well it is really satisfying. However, too much remains to be paid for!

I'm going to leave all this and travel to Califonria the end of the week -- I'll come back on the 1st. I know they can do without me, but I'll enjoy coming home and seeing what has been done in my absence. At least I have lots of people watching over my house while I'm gone.

Posted by Marilyn at 6:42 PM | Comments (0)

June 17, 2008


I've been fiddling around with my new computer settings and it took a long time to get back to understanding the photos - everything is new with my programs -- nothing acts the same! But, I promised that I would put the picture of the new railings up as soon as I could -- so here is a try.

June 08 003.jpg

Posted by Marilyn at 6:09 PM | Comments (0)

June 15, 2008


Sometimes I think I might just stick my nose into too many things that are not my business. I think I'll ask Tom if I drive him absolutely crazy.

When I was writing the last entry, it dawned on me that I needn't have worried about the insulation over the old wiring because that is why I have a contractor. I wouldn't asked if Mike (the electrician) hadn't told me about why the old wiring has survived so long (because it wasn't insulated). So, when I saw the insulation, I was curious and, yes, concerned. That's when I found that the inspector had requested it. Now, this is something that Tom would not have even thought of telling me as it is his responsibility. But, here is where I have my nose into his business.

Because I'm around home, I think it happens a lot. I want to know what is happening, what they are doing, why they are doing it, and what they are going to do about it. For instance, Chas (who does the sweeping up) knows that I'm going to check to see that he doesn't leave any debris between the joists before they get covered up. It is one of my pet peeves. Of course they are all used to me now. We have learned to live together on this. I am always asking Tom when things are going to arrive or can we do this or that. It's not that I'm in their hair since I simply greet them and go on with my business -- but Tom has learned to check in with me often so I can ask all my questions.

I did read an article on how to treat your contractor, but it was more like putting on a coffee pot from time to time or paying on time. But, when you do something you have never done before, you don't know how others do it. Does anyone else ask the questions I ask? Do they ask more? Am I too lax in curiosity or too vigilant?

The one thing that I know is that Tom treats me respectfully and not as a macho male with all the answers to a (metaphorically) little woman who knows nothing about his trade. He, along with his crew and the others who he has brought aboard, is patient and kind and is giving me an education that is much appreciated. I know that I am the customer, but I have worked with enough roofers and painters and carpenters over the years to know that some are condescending and slow to apologize. So, I am not without experience, but certainly never the scope of this experience.

I guess I just have to realize that I am myself and, for Tom, it comes with the job. I must say that I have had fun looking for houses for Dani and thinking, "Oh, she can update this for about $5,000." Or, "I'll bet she could rebuild that wall very easily." This is the first time I've ever had that kind of insight.

Posted by Marilyn at 8:31 AM | Comments (0)

Last Week

We moved forward last week and I can begin to see the finished product in the back two rooms. The wallboard/painter has removed the plastic and the rooms shine with the light through the windows. The lower living room is a yellow-gold color and the downstairs a medium grassy green with some blue. As this was a last minute decision, I had the painter leave the little hallway into the bathroom white so I could paint it in a transition color from the blue bathroom to the green playroom. Actually, the green and blue look good together, but I wasn't sure I wanted them bumping up against one another. So, that decision is yet to be made. However, the back rooms are ready for the trim and flooring as they begin to take on a new life.

The most exciting thing is the new railings. I agonized over the railings because the age of the house screamed wood and the number of stories in back screamed easy care -- so I went with metal and spent a long time thinking about the design. The railings were installed this week and I'm thrilled with their look. The installers still have to finish the stairs and the deck outside of the breakfast room, but the lovely curve of both railings is very nice and I'm relieved.

The kitchen has been fit out with insulation and the wallboard is sitting ready to be installed. I was worried that someone had insulated over a few areas that still hold the old electrical wiring because I was told that it should not be insulated because it would get too hot. But, I found that the electrical inspector had instructed Tom to put light insulation in that is very thin -- and he inspected it all.

I have lots of decisions this week and I find that decisions are the toughest of all -- I have been agonizing (sorry, but that word really does describe how I feel) over color. I chose a bit darker gray to go with the new white trim, but every time I look at the Hardy Plank I realize how pleasant that color looks. So one day the house is going to be grey and the next day it is going to be cream colored. Back and forth. Also back and forth over a trash compactor, what wine/drink refrigerator to buy, what stain to use on the new cabinets, and all the stuff for the kitchen - color, counters, floors! It all has to be done now -- and I'm treading water on too many things.

I have been trying out different Minwax stain colors on some bare fir trying to match the color of my kitchen cabinets. I just found out that Jim, my upstairs carpenter who did my bathroom, wrote a whole article for Fine Homebuilding on stains after he matched his old cabinets. So, I immediately put in an email to him for help. I've been treating it like a chemistry experiment - so far just wiping each color and labeling it. My next step is to combine some colors with exact measurements and label those -- I'm not close enough yet, but have faith that I can get there.

So with these things on my plate, I'm glad I'm handing in my grades for my class today, my church meetings are over until September, and I don't have to feel guilty for not going to choir all summer. I'd like to get away to Dani's before she moves here, but I can't go anywhere until I make the decisions I mentioned. So, I'm hoping this week is productive. Decisions loom large in my brain, but when I think of how many loomed large and then were crossed off my plate, I am hopeful! At least the sun was shining yesterday. I can hardly wait to sit in my breakfast room.

Posted by Marilyn at 8:04 AM | Comments (0)

June 12, 2008

A Man in My Life!

The other night at dinner group, Barb Green told me that there was a rumor going around town that I had a new man in my life. A man???? I have several! Unfortunately, I have no romantic connections unless you count being enamored with those who are strong and clever, can so ably wield a hammer and saw, fix anything, build something from scratch or manipulate electrical wiring. I definitely have men in my life at the moment and they are remarkable. Two of them are young enough to be my grandsons, a few of them the same age as my children, the older of them are happily married, and I am happily living alone, thank you.

But, I love a rumor -- I wonder how it started. Did someone see me standing on the porch with some guy talking over a decision or problem? Laughing at the guys maneuvering on the roof while taking down the chimney? Did they see Tom or Mike gain entry into my house with their own key? They surely couldn't see the cookies I bake for the crew or the cup of tea I made for Tom because he has a bad cold. So go figure -- but it is a sure thing that I most emphatically do have a new man in my life -- several! And, they are quite wonderful!

Posted by Marilyn at 9:43 AM | Comments (0)

June 6, 2008


The back rooms are almost finished with the painting, and I think they will be fine. I'm anxious about color choice, and right now they are a mess because they were sprayed and the plastic is still up. I can hardly wait for the wallboard/painting guy to get the ceilings touched up so that the plastic can come off, and I can see what they might look like when the sun (HA! What sun???) streams in the windows. It is like a dungeon with everything covered for the spraying.

Chas has been sanding the spare bones of the old cabinets. They were in the worst shape. I bought several different shades of Minwax stain to begin to try to match the color of the old cabinets. If I can match it, we will not sand the doors but just stain the bones that Chas has sanded and the new wood. Mike has finally put in the light over the washer and dryer and installed a tiny little heater in my breakfast room (just in case!) Since the old room never got very cold and since we now will have insulated windows and insulation in the ceiling, I doubt if I will ever need it. But, I didn't want to get into snowy weather and wish I had had one installed.

We are now waiting for the wallboard/painting guy to wallboard the kitchen. When he moves to the kitchen, my crew will begin the trim in the downstairs rooms. Both the railings and the hardwood are being installed next week. And, I have ordered the carpet so that is on its way. I have also ordered a Dutch door for my breakfast room. I think that someday I will put in a new entry door that is a bit more formal than my Dutch door and I just could not fathom being without a Dutch door. I open it every lovely day and bring the outside in. I also call it my Halloween door because when Trick or Treaters knock, I open just the top of the door and they gaze in amazement and usually say something like "Wow! that's really a cool door!"

My Skagit College class ends this week and Martin is coming up on the train on Saturday. I have rebuilt the programs on my new computer so that my email, Quicken, Excel, and calendar are back in business. I had no idea how crippled I would feel without being able to track finances or know what I was supposed to do next. I'm sure that I have lost many dates that I will fail to acknowledge -- but so be it! Anyway, the house is on the move and I am feeling much better. Now, if the sun would only shine!

Posted by Marilyn at 12:04 PM | Comments (0)

June 2, 2008

Today is A New Day

It is Monday. It is quiet - I haven't a clue where my workers are and need to talk to them. I want to know when they have to go elsewhere. This also happened on Friday. Lots has happened since then.

Jeni and Ron came riding up yesterday afternoon on their white horses with a new (for me) computer from their home stock. Then, Ron proceeded to clean everything out, rearrange all the wires and stuff under my desk, simplified things and installed all my familiar programs. It took him several hours. Jeni and I went to the Cliff House and drowned my sorrows with wine and a lovely meal, and brought back some dinner to Ron. Then, she set up a spreadsheet for me on my laptop (it took me hours the last time - it took her minutes) and got it ready to transfer to my PC when Ron was finished with it. We laughed hilariously at the password that Ron tried to use on my computer and altogether had a lovely evening. They didn't even go until after midnight so I shudder to think what their good will cost them when they have to work today.

I still have to set up my new programs, but at least they are ready to go. This morning, I reported to jury duty and as I was listening to the spiel, I thought, "What am I doing here? This is not a good time for jury duty." And, so I quit -- they were very nice about it and said they'd call me another time.

I went home and ordered carpet for the lower living room and Millie and I are going over to see a woman who covers foam pads for breakfast nooks. So, I'm back in the saddle. Maybe I'll ride out on the range and see if I can rustle in my workers.

Posted by Marilyn at 10:15 AM | Comments (1)