Thursday, November 20, 2008

Taking The Plunge

Now that the roof doesn't leak, Pat's next project is the bathroom. The leak lasted so long we had mold in the ceiling and some of the walls and the window (which wasn't that great to start with) swelled and tried to fall apart. Ugh! This is the worst part of the entire remodeling project.

However, I have plans. (I ALWAYS have plans!) I want to find a different sink because the cabinet style sink that is presently there is too large for the room. I want more storage. I can't get all of the towels in that small cupboard above the toilet. The medicine chest mirror is dinky. A larger mirror will open visual space in this 6x9' room. Then there is the problem that there is only about 10" of space behind the door. I've placed a small armoire there to hold linens, but we can't open the door completely because it's 18" deep in a 10" deep space. Finally, I don't liked the glass shower doors. They constantly fall off the track and the opening is so narrow it is impossible for me to bathe the Labrador Retriever in the shower.

A few years before they died, the folks had the bathroom redone. This was when they replaced the bathtub with a shower that had a seat in the corner, installed handicapped accessible grab bars for the shower and the toilet, moved the toilet from behind the door to the spot near the window where the hot water heater used to stand, and moved the hot water heater out of the bathroom into the utility room. The crew that did the work removed the old walls and put in a particle board backing that was covered with Masonite paneling. You can see the old Masonite in the first picture that show the wall above the tub before Pat finished that area. The second picture shows the same view after he had the sheet rock in place. The upper picture in this section shows the particleboard in the area over the sink. It was darkened by the mold, but could be salvaged. (Chlorine bleach is wonderful stuff.)

Last is the new sheet rock! Isn't it lovely? Now if we can get rid of that disgusting window...

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Oh, No! Don't Let the Rain Come Down

We have had a water leak in the bathroom since before we moved here. Pat had tried patching it but couldn't find the source of the leak. I know Dad fought leaks in the utility room and bathroom for years because that section of the house has a flat roof. Could the source of the leak be at the joint to the sloped roof? Pat didn't think so, but it had happened before.

When one last temporary measure didn't work, Pat had had enough. He would remove the entire section of roof. Let the leak escape him then!

Mike, our neighbor, came over and he and Pat started stripping shingles off the roof. Pat still isn't sure why some of the things he found were there. The first two layers were asphalt shingles. Then there were two layers of what appeared to be tar paper, but turned out to be sheets of heavy black plastic, maybe a plastic tarpaulin. Under that was the strangest part of all: He found a layer of felt paper, sand, another layer of felt paper, more sand, and then the original wood. He said he first thought the sand and felt paper were rotted wood, but later inspection showed it to be sand and felt. Now, the question is WHY sand and felt??

The black plastic may have been something Dad did to fix that leak at the joint between two roof lines, but the other stuff was before we lived here. WHY sand and felt?? We have no clue.

It turned out the leak was caused by a satellite microwave dish my son Joe had mounted on the roof when he lived here. There was a small leak while the dish was in place, but it REALLY started to be serious after Pat removed the dish. He thought he had patched the screw holes at the time, but there was a bigger problem underneath that he didn't know about.

I'm so glad it's fixed now. Come Spring Pat is going to replace the main roof. That will be a job. There are seven layers there -- going back to the original wood shingles.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Heat! Wonderful Heat!

There are two heating zones in this house. The living room and the West and Master Bedrooms form one zone; the rest of the house is the other. Even though the house is only about 950 sq. ft. and the living room heater is supposed to be able to heat that much space, it never quite makes it to the back side of the house. I'm sure it's all about lines of sight, the amount of insulation in the north walls and other esoteric factors.

Last winter we tried to heat the utility room and bathroom with electric space heaters the way my folks did for years. The folks also bundled up, wore layers, and endured more than Pat and I want to endure.

Dad did a lot of improvements on the house in the forty years they lived here. One of the biggest improvements was adding insulation. It started with tacked-on insulation before they added the siding in the late 1960s. Later they added blown in insulation in the walls. It definitely helped, but my old bedroom (the "west room" now) can still send you dancing for the heater on a chilly winter morning. (Pat insulated under the floor last year, but there is still a draft. He says it's the windows.)

The double pane windows Pat has been installing are making a big difference, too. This summer we had one new window on the west wall in the living room and one old, single pane window on the west wall in my old room. We walked from room to room placing our hands up to the windows. In my old room, the heat radiated from the window and was really hot on the back of a hand. In the living room, the window was cool and no heat penetrated. Nice! Imagine what this house will be like when we get all of the windows replaced!

We decided we would add a second HVAC wall like we have in the living room. Pat blocked off the north window in the utility room and added another wall heater. Come summer, he will cut a hole and install another window air conditioner above it. This unit is aimed directly toward the kitchen. When we remove the wall to the south bedroom, it will have a straight shot to heat the "cold side" of the house.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Kitchen with a Southern Exposure

Pat began work on the South bedroom as soon as we decided we really wanted to convert it to the kitchen. He took out the old closet and began pulling down the old sheet rock. He wasn't surprised to learn there wasn't much insulation there. The blown in insulation had settled severely. (The first picture is of the double windows, but the door is covering one of them.)

Before he put up the new sheet rock, he put in new bats of insulation. If the windows were double pane, I think that room would be toasty. It's still the coldest room in the house. :( But not much longer!By next Spring we'll be able to cut out the opening and put in the new bump-out and double-pane windows. I'm lobbying for casement windows at the sink. We will shorten the east window so it will fit over the counter there.

This is fun! All we need is money... I'll be pulling my Texas retirement soon. We will get a lump-sum payment at the beginning. I see most of it going on the house. That may seem frivolous but I see it as an investment in our future.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Kitchen Plans

One afternoon about going home time, I stopped to say hi to Kathryn as I passed through her department at SEKLS. We got to talking about cooking and kitchens and she happened to mention that her kitchen is a former porch. One benefit of this is a great view of the yard. I chewed on that thought all the way home that evening.

When I told Pat about Kathryn's converted porch kitchen, he got the same gleam in his eye that I had. The south bedroom used to be a porch. It was really too small for a bedroom, but it would be a great kitchen. What if...?

We started grabbing scratch paper and scribbling diagrams. Before you know it, we had a plan. Move the kitchen to the south bedroom. Put the sink under the double window. Create a shallow bump-out so there is room for some of my plants over the sink, a bit like the bay window we had in Texas. The refrigerator could anchor the counters on one side of the U-shape and the upright freezer we were planning to buy could anchor the other end.

Thoughts were flowing and it was all good until Pat said, "but what about the stove? Where will you put the stove?"

Now, I have my heart set on getting another gas range. I don't like cooking on an electric range, even if I have used one a goodly portion of my life. I particularly don't want an electric range here because Kansas is subject to ice storms that knock out electric power for days on end. Our gas heater doesn't require electricity (it has radiant heat; no blower fan.) With a gas range we can get by even if the power is out. Pat knows all these arguments, but he was concerned about running the gas line to the new range. There is an old cistern under the south bedroom. My folks converted it to a root cellar/tornado shelter. There isn't a lot of space under there for water and gas lines.

All of our ideas crashed.

About that time I went to toss something in the trash can, and spied the capped gas line beside the refrigerator. Pat had left it there when we switched places between the electric stove and the refrigerator to have room for our side-by-side fridge. Hm... That pipe came up right by the wall to the south bedroom. What if we didn't have to move the gas line? How could we have the kitchen in the south bedroom and leave the stove where the gas line already exists?

As background and a digression, I have to mention the living room. It was once two rooms -- probably the parlor and the living room. Someone way before we got the place decided to remove the wall and make one large room. Oops! It was a load bearing wall. Fortunately, whoever it was scrambled into the attic and put in an extra large brace to support what that wall used to support. The result is we have a nice large living room which is the heart of this house.

So-- if it can be done once, why not twice? Why not cut up part of the wall to the south bedroom, leaving a stub across the top that can be disguised as a beam and putting in large pillars in the center right where the gas pipe comes up? Those pillars can help support the wall and define an island for the gas range? Mission accomplished! And there will be more open space and more light everywhere!

Pat looked at things. Pat chewed on his lip and ran calculations in his head. Hm... I think we can do it.

Now, all I have to decide is where I will put my rocker. I've always wanted a kitchen big enough to have a nook for a rocker in the kitchen. This one should be able to do that.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Papa Jones' Pizza

We have been hosting four grandchildren for the last few weeks. Lala and Reyes from Texas and Kayleigh and Emily from Indiana. They have been having a blast, but the house is bursting at the seams -- particularly at bedtime. We've been stacking them like cord wood to get them sleeping places! Lala has the daybed; Reyes has the trundle that stores under it. Emmy sleeps on the couch and Kayleigh takes the air mattress. After a couple of nights of the air mattress, she decided to share the daybed with Lala. That looked less comfortable to me, but for them it was a slumber party.

The kids have learned to drive the riding mower and help Grandpa mow. They walk the three blocks to the swimming pool for an afternoon's fun in the water. Of course Grandpa takes them to the local library for programs and books to read. Sometimes we let them play computer games on our computers. One of their big collaborations was an all cousin band called "New Girls on the Block" who sang a newly composed song for us on July 4. Reyes was an "honorary girl" for the occasion.

And where am I? I'm the working stiff in this family. I'm on the road doing library visits and other consultant work.

Reyes found the suitcase of my old comics. It's on it's third round of kids now. My brother's children and my children read them, and now my grandchildren are reading them. I never knew when I was running over to Dewey's Sundries with my pocketful of dimes that I was buying comics for my grandkids to read!

Lala loves the garden. She and Kayleigh have picked lettuce for salads twice. Lala wants the tomatoes and corn to get here nearly as much as Pat does.

Last Thursday when they were cycling through the shower to get the chlorine off after swimming, I began stirring up pizza dough.

"What are you making, Iris?" (The Indiana grandkids learned to call me Iris when Pat and I were dating.)

"We're going to make pizza tonight."

"Make pizza? We just call Papa John's."

"There's no Papa John's around here. The best you'll get is your Grandpa showing you how to put a pizza together. He used to run a pizza parlor when he was in Oregon."

"Oh! Our's will be Papa JONES Pizza."

Reyes decided to make pepperoni, hamburger and black olive pizza. Kayleigh made pepperoni. About the time their pizzas went into the oven, I remembered to grab my camera.

The first step in pizza making is to fit the dough to the pan. Emmy had a gentle hand with the pizza roller.
Grandpa explained the best way to add pizza sauce was with a pastry brush.

Cheese made the next layer.
finished by crumbling the cooked hamburger on the top.

Emily was gentle with the pizza roller, but she had a good, heavy hand with the cheese. Leave it to a cheese pizza lover to know that the more cheese, the better!

The best part, though was the eating.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

I Can See Clearly Now

We're getting new windows!

Pat knows windows. He worked close to 15 years in construction supply. His specialty was windows. So, when he told me he wanted to replace the windows in this house, I knew he would do it right.

Oh, yeah. He ordered double-paned, double-hung windows for the "regular" windows of the living room. I had mixed feelings about the new windows because Pat wanted good ones that are energy efficient (no complaints there) but he doesn't like the mullions that divide period windows. I wanted energy efficient windows that looked like period windows with mullions dividing the top into three sections above and having a solid window below. We compromised -- he got his way. He purchased Symington Prism double hung, insulated vinyl windows. Eventually we will have this style window all around the house.

The large window ("picture window") was the problem. I was quite willing to replace the window, but I wanted to keep the colored panel ("transom") across the top. It's original to the house and has a bungalow feel. But how could we keep it?

When Pat started looking at it, he realized the large pane and the colored pane were set up as double-hung windows. Hm... we did more looking. He could put a complete picture window into the space, then rehang the transom outside it. It would look very much like it did originally.

Of course the process was a little more involved than the plan. I presently have the transom out back where I'm stripping it for repainting. It's a slow process. (I may get it finished after I retire!) If you look closely at Picture One, you can see the transom standing under the air conditioner.

Picture One (at the beginning of this post) shows Pat removing the original window. I was impressed by the window sashes. They were still in the walls -- two long (2 foot at least) weights hanging from 1/2" rope kept the window open when it was raised. Unfortunately, one side broke some time in the 1960s so we quit opening this window. It was a lost cause, anyway. The rise was only about six inches when the window was open. Because it was so large and heavy, it was a pain to lift. Mom did it a few times when we first moved into the house. Then she declared this window would be kept closed. (Pat solved the problem. The new window doesn't open.)

Picture Two is looking outside after the old window was removed.
Can you see my peonies blooming on the left side of the porch? Mom always struggled to keep fresh peony blooms to take to the graves on Memorial Day. She would set them out in old fruit jars. Now the cemeteries don't want jars of flowers. They wilt too fast and the jars break. They want you to bring artificial flowers that last longer.

Notice too the shabby porch rails. Dad planned to replace them from the time we moved into the house in 1960. He never did. Pat plans to redo the porch when we redo the roof. Boy! I can't wait! Then on to new siding... Okay. One project at a time. Back to the windows...

Picture Three was exciting. Pat put the new window in place.

Picture Four is doing the final touches -- pushing insulation in the spaces between the new window and the opening in the wall. We have purchased red oak to make the woodwork around the windows and door. We won't do the baseboards until we have laid the new floor. That's a long way off. We still have horsehair plaster to remove from at least three more rooms.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Square Foot Gardening

It's been colder and wetter this spring than usual. I guess it's global warming at work. Someone said the ice caps are melting, making the oceans colder which is affecting our weather. I believe it!

At least that's our story, and we're sticking to it! And, that's why we didn't get our garden started till May 1.

Pat had the money to buy a tiller this spring. I said I'd like to try square foot gardening before we spent the money on the tiller. If we like it, we won't ever need the tiller. I bought a copy of Mel Bartholomew's book, New Square Foot Gardening to use for a guide. As it turned out, building 4 4-ft beds. and buying all the soil was expensive, but not as much as a tiller. We invested about $300 in boards and soil and other supplies.

First Pat made our beds. The frames are four foot square.
We attached mulch cloth to the bottom to keep grass and weeds from growing into the bed.
Next we stirred five sorts of compost, plus vermiculite and moss together to make our soil. The soil was the most expensive part of this project, but the Bartholomew's book said this was the most critical factor. Pat was doubtful, but he let me talk him into it.

Third, we filled the beds with the soil mixture. Pat attached the lath that divided our four foot beds into sixteen sections. There was a small miscalculation here. All of the lath was 4 foot in length. Half of them should have been longer to reach the edge of the longer sides of the beds. Oh well... we will make different ones next year.

Time to plant! Since it was so late in the season, we bought many of our plants, particularly the tomatoes. I picked two different kinds of onion sets, two bundles each. We didn't need that many onions. Again... live and learn. Oh! Do I miss Mom and Dad! They were the seasoned gardeners.

This wasn't the year to start a strawberry bed. (Next year!), but I did want to have a couple of plants. They started in strawberry jars on the back porch. Now we have moved them to the railroad ties that make the border of the mint bed. They are lined across the ties with several flower pots of onions. Some how the one pot of catnip didn't survive our 5 cats. Gee. I wonder why?

Sunday, April 20, 2008


It's so great! My lilacs are blooming!

I have waited for years to have lilacs again. They wouldn't grow in our part of Texas or Arizona. I had to run outside immediately to pick some and bring them in. This bush is particularly special because Mom took a start from the one that grew on the west side of Grandpa Hull's place. Grandpa's bush went away when the house was torn down, but we still have the lilacs.

I didn't realize the bushes took so long to grow. This one is a little less than 5 ft. high. It only had 5 blooms this year. As it gets older and fuller, there will be more blooms.

Last year we had frost after the buds formed. It killed the blooms. I wasn't going to have that happen this year. I have waited far too long for the smell of lilacs. When the buds started forming, I listened to the weatherman. If he predicted frost, I ran out and threw a blanket over my lilacs.

Ah! the wonderful smell of lilacs. I have a vase of them beside my rocker. What heavenly perfume! It was worth it.