Sunday, December 30, 2007

The 2008 To-Do List

The purchase anniversary of Ballardia in September was a good time to revisit what we've done in the year of Ballardia living, but the advance of the New Year is a good time to figure out Where We are Going. Which to be honest, I probably wouldn't have done had I not stumbled across the 'What are your plans for 2008' discussion on while trying to live vicariously through other people's house projects.

Lest I be overwhelmed with the depth and scope of the list, I'm going to break it out by the Greek Elements:


  1. fix the broken basement window pane which we have temporarily taped over with cardboard, and by "temporary", I mean at least 4 months and counting. This totally belongs on a Wall of Shame somewhere.
  2. weatherstrip the basement windows
  3. insulate the garage


  1. Seek and Destroy the source of the basement water entry
  2. Deal with stormwater runoff from the back downspout
  3. Extreme Chaos Project: Bath Edition. Replace the Tub Faucet, Replace Ugly Yellow Plastic Tub Tile with Subway tile
  4. Stop the flow of tears every time I look at my to-do list.


  1. fill in and sod the bare patches left by the Side Sewer Adventure in our greenish, lawn-like groundcover
  2. prune raspberries, fruit trees, roses
  3. note the complete lack of "other gardening" in this category.

FIRE - or rather "flammable materials":

  1. replace rotted back steps with a Ginormous Deck and french doors with the nonexistent money spent on the side sewer instead
  2. paint kitchen, hall, bedrooms, all doors and trim ('Antique White' be gone!)
  3. nail in base shoe on main floor where trim doesn't meet hardwood floors
  4. epoxy paint cement basement floor
  5. grout kitchen tile (a stretch, I admit), as I don't know whether grout burns). Another candidate for the Wall of Shame, since it's been waiting over a YEAR now.
  6. Get rid of the Trusty Fisher Wood Stove. I know, that's practically asking for a power outage.
  7. Finish the network termination project

Happy New Year??? After looking at the list, I think I'll open the champagne early. Or maybe start with something stronger.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Gas and Math - Results are In

Way back before the furnace conversion, I did some back of the envelope (or is it 'back of the blog'?) calculations on whether the cost of converting the Vintage '63 Oil Furnace to Natural Gas would pay for itself in any forseeable time fame. I calculated back then that it would take about 7 years to recoup the cost of the upgrade in heat bill savings. I now have gas bills from Sept - Dec 20th, which is only a couple of days difference from the time we competely depleted our oil tank last year, so I can do the Actual Calculation.

Grand Total Gas Bills Sept - Dec: $333.

Compare THAT with the $828 we spent to fill the oil tank used Sept-Dec last year... it's 40% the cost, AND the house is actually warm!

But wait.....according to the Official Energy Statistics from the US Government, "The average residential heating oil price increased by 3.5 cents last week to reach 329.4 cents per gallon, an increase of 85.0 cents from this time last year. "
So realistically, I should add 85 cents/gallon to my oil cost to accurately compare, which makes that $828 to fill the tank actually $1079!!! 4 figures to fill up an oil tank! Yikes!

This means we are saving 70% on fuel bills, and at this rate, the conversion will pay for itself within 4 years.

Of course, the biggest benefit is Priceless: Cat Happiness.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

All I wanted for Christmas was a New Bathroom

I have resigned myself to the sad fact that Santa Plumber is not going to bring me my desired bathtub/shower faucet replacement for The Holidays, which I planned to be the start of my Extreme Chaos Project: Bath Edition. Maybe that's for the best, ensuring that Cleanliness will be found at our house this Holiday Season.

So.....since I can't get started on the Bathroom I Covet Right Now (because I want it Now Now Now!!),I can at least make it a little Better. I decided to Paint it. As they say on HGTV, Paint is an Improvement.

Pulling out the vanity ages ago left traces of The History of Paint in the bathroom, and I could see that prior to the current color, Antique White (and by 'Antique' I mean both the color and the date on the paint can), our Bathroom was once Mustard Yellow, and before that, Robin's Egg Blue. SW0068 from Sherman Williams is pretty close to the blueish color.

For the last few days,I've scraped scraped scraped, caulked caulked caulked, mudded mudded mudded, sanded sanded sanded, primed primed primed, painted painted painted, and suffered the Indignity caused by Face Mask Acne.

And the results are in.


Tuesday, December 25, 2007

White Christmas in Ballardia

What's wrong with this picture? Oh yes, Ballardia is in Seattle. Not Toronto.
KomoTv reports that we have only had Xmas Day snow in Seattle 5 times since 1891. Sometimes you just get lucky. Or not.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Neither Rain Nor Sleet Nor Snow....

I've been waiting for Weather Conditions appropriate for scouting out the source of our incoming water, and finally a suitable little downpour has come my way. My Trusty Rain Outfit and I are heading out for a Very Soggy Inspection of our House's Exterior.

While Battling the Elements at Every Turn, I've located a suspicious looking downspout, which appears to be depositing all water from 1/4 of the roof about 6" away from the NW corner foundation.

Oh No!

Probably Not a Coincidence that the NW corner basement interior, inconviently blocked from view by a Wheelbarrow, features a small Puddle and rather moist looking walls.

Luckily, Mighty DownSpout Extender Saves the Day! And best of all, it's Discovered lurking On the Premesis! No Home Depot Trip Required! Smiles All Around!

Monday, December 10, 2007

TiVo Knows our Basement Flooded

We've all heard the story - TiVo users who recorded Will & Grace found TiVo interpreted that as Indicative of Personal Preferences, as reported in the Wall Street Journal Article "If Tivo Thinks you are Gay"

I get how Tivo starts with an alternative lifestyle comedy and arrives at "You play for the other team". Really, I do. But explain to me why it is that TiVo recorded "Ask This Old House - StormWater Drainage" a mere 6 days after our small basement disaster? We have never recorded This Old House. We didn't select this episode. TiVo Chose it for us. TiVo has not chosen to record This Old House before or since this episode. Creepy.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Things could be worse....

Lovely cold, sunny day today, just perfect for a walk over to our neighborhood sinkhole, which opened up during our Torrential Downpour on Monday. So, for all you people who don't have your own neighborhood road catastrophe, here are some pictures so you can live vicariously through ours:

Monday, December 3, 2007

State of Emergency in the Basement

We couldn't possibly have a statewide disaster without.....well, what would we guess here? If you guessed the Return of Lake Cesspool, you are correct!

Well, perhaps Lake Cesspool is a bit of an exaggeration, since there is no toilet paper in it, or in fact any telltale signs pointing to a Wetness Culprit.
After discovering our personal catastrophe on Monday morning, frantic phone calls were made to find a sump pump anywhere in the greater King County area, when one was located and placed on hold at the Mill Creek Lowes. After driving 22 miles up there, though, our held sump pump was nowhere to be found. Just as things were starting to get ugly (tears were forming), the Lowes customer service desk located a secret stash in the back. Whew.

After pumping out untold gallons of suspect water, we are still None the Wiser as to its origins. Is it coming up from the sewer? Improper Drainage? Ground water seeping up through cracks in the concrete?

At least we know we are Not Alone in this Crisis, as observed from the plethora of water damage repair vehicles in our neighborhood.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Bath Faucet Found

For some reason, I've been having loads of trouble locating an appropriate, traditional faucet for the bathroom. Most on the market are too modern, too pricey, or too ugly.

Martin and I each have our own sets of requirements, which naturally conflict with each other. As far as I can tell, his boil down to "no strange looking tub spouts" like the one featured in this otherwise appropriate Kohler model.

My requirement is avoidance of the Dreaded Tub Spout Diverter. The modern person mainly takes showers, not baths, but the diverter concept has 'tub filling bath' as its default. This is a bit of a design flub, requiring "action" for the most common activity, but defaulting to something I do twice a year (whether I need it or not, of course).

With the tub spout diverter, every time I want a shower, it's necessary to pull up the diverter while turning on the water, inevitably getting drenched with too-hot or too-cold water in the process. Doing the Diverter Dance requires coordination, which I am sadly lacking. And what do people with only one hand do??

Unable to find anything that both met our collective faucet needs and generated some enthusiasm, I ordered this adequate yet inoffensive faucet from NEED Plumbing, only to be emailed a day after my order was submitted that the faucet has been discontinued. SO WHAT'S IT STILL DOING ON THE WEB SITE????? And, I might add, even after this email was sent to me, so you'd think this stale, old item would be brought to their attention, it's STILL on their web site!!!

So the search continued. My fave was this gorgeous Porcher faucet, but its retail price of $594, it blows the budget at even the best discount faucet web sites.

But then I found it at small selection of three-handled faucets! No messy diverter, period appropriate, under $200, and we could agree on it! The American Standard model has options for either chrome or porcelain handles, while the Price Pfister model has cute little "H" and "C" labels in white on a chrome background. And while we don't really like the showerheads, that's easy to change.

Friday, November 23, 2007

The Thurman - Installed

The Thurmans are here, and Martin has already installed them. Here they are turned on, with all 300 Watts of Fresh Glow: And Off:Oh but wait, what is that on the stove?? Could it be....why yes it is....fresh homemade Chicken Pot Pie! I think that deserves a closeup. Yum.

Monday, November 5, 2007

The Thurman

A small field trip to Rejuvenation revealed that the Jefferson light fixture, which I thought I coveted, is in fact Ginormous. My kitchen is not equally Ginormous, so I'm afraid I am going to have to reconsider and choose something which is an appropriate scale for my kitchen. Rejuvenation has an interesting room scale view feature where you can select a room size and show the proportions of the light in the room, but rather irritatingly they don't have this for every light fixture (in fact, they don't have this for ANY fixture I am considering), and my kitchen is smaller than any dimensions they have listed. Given that Rejuvenation is oriented towards Period Correct Lighting, how have they missed the fact that Period Kitchens are Tiny??

This schoolhouse-style fixture seems like the right thing to have, and other vendors seem to have smaller versions, like this one from Restoration Hardware, but sadly, the right-sized 9" model only supports a piddly 75 watts. This is not enough for our lighting needs in our dark, grey Seattle winters.

The great thing about the Big Honkin' Rejuvenation model is that it supports a generous 150 watts per fixture. Need it.

I am compromising on the Thurman, which at 9" wide, 7" long is about the right size, supports that required 150 watts, and is cheaper too. The only thing not to like is the 3 week lead time.

Friday, October 26, 2007

How many Engineers does it take to Change a Light Bulb?

We're not really sure of the answer yet, as the simple task of replacing the light bulb rapidly devolved into exposed ceiling wires due to the Age and Decay of the Original Charming Kitchen Ceiling Light. What just an hour ago was a reasonable-looking light fixture with a working bulb has degenerated into this:
Here's the larger picture to grasp the chaos this has inflicted upon my kitchen:

It seems that purchasing a light fixture is now required.

This is a Job for the Jefferson Light Fixture from Restoration Hardware. But should I get it in Chrome, to match the faucet and stainless appliances, or Oil-Rubbed Bronze to match the cabinet knobs?

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

More Bath Tile Ideas

Waterworks has a store over on 1st Avenue where they sell a lovely array of exorbitantly expensive tile. I didn't even ask what it would cost to use this subway tile in Cararra Marble for my bath

I rather liked this sample subway tile installation they had at the store; too bad it violates the #1 principle in Seattle interior design - never, ever use grey.

Now this tub surround, from a neighbor's open house, is one I really like. It's quite authentic in art deco colors, would be inexpensive to replicate, and just plain looks good. But I want tile wainscotting on all the walls, not just the tub surround, so I think this look would be excessive throughout that much of the bathroom. Just as well, Martin hates it.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

A more productive tiling field trip

A few weeks ago, while mindlessly surfing the web, I happened to discover that a company called Tilehaus sells 1" unglazed hex tile. Ok, that's not earth-shattering news as oodles of places sell hex tile, but what I found most intriguing is that it appeared to be completely FLAT hex tile, not like that stuff sold by Dal Tile and others which has bevelled edges.

I ordered a sheet, which arrived yesterday, and it in fact it is completely flat! And while it isn't a 100% color match to my existing bath floor tile, it is Close Enough!

This means I won't have to pry up the toilet, chip out some existing hex tile from underneath, and hope it doesn't break or inflict more chaos on the floor!

I was seriously excited, that is, until today when I took a trip over to Seattle Tile Company (that great tile store about a mile from our house), where I discovered a half sheet of the Very Same Stuff on the sale rack for about $4. Sigh. Anyway, it turns out it's unglazed 1" hex tile from American Universal. And the great thing is, they ALSO have precut edge pieces so you don't have to risk fingers cutting 1" tiles with a wet saw.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Authentic Subway Tile

Of course, for an Authentic Subway Tile experience, it's necessary to visit an Authentic Subway. And what better subway to visit than the Paris Metropolitan? With the new direct SEA<-> CDG service from Air France, it took a mere 9.5 hours to pop over to France for a good Foie Gras de Canard. And with my Stockpile of Frequent Flier Miles and Hotel Points, we went for about the cost of Meals - not a small sum with the current state of the North American Peso.

From our "Field Trip" to the Courcelles station:

Friday, September 28, 2007

Now that we can See...

Now that we have adequate lighting in the bathroom, my first thought is that it's time to start wearing foundation. My second thought involves Tile.

The floor tile is hex tile, which I like in general, though this particular installation seems to be missing some Symmetry in spots. Despite this, I find it adequate for my bathroom flooring needs, other than a couple of missing tiles for which I need replacements. Since these are the original tiles, which don't have bevelled edges like hex tiles available today, I'm either going to have to scout out my favorite building material salvage stores like The Re-Store or Second Use, or lift up the toilet and pilfer some of the tiles from under the Loo.
For the wall tile, I need a Game Plan. Clearly, the Original Charming Plastic Wall Tile has to Go.

I know I want white subway tile with an accent, probably black. Although I liked the clean white look of the subway tile in the Ballardia bath, it looks a bit too Craftsman for my Art Deco era house.

Some thoughts from my Idea File:
Traditional white and black options:

Here's an option with glass tile from DIYNetwork, and lastly, a Modern twist with subway tile going the wrong way and little glass mosaics. I'm not actually considering that option, just threw it in because it looked Fun.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Things are looking up

Remember our dismal bathroom? Great strides were made today in our Sanitary Facilities, which yes, are actually sanitary now thanks to our costly Side Sewer Adventure.

On the ceiling, instead of framing and a couple of gaping holes, we now have a can light and a ceiling fan.

And yes, there above the mirror is a Mercer Double Horizontal Sconce from Pottery Barn, quite a value at a mere $99.

Now if we just get that trim repaired, the bathroom might be somewhat tolerable.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Happy Anniversary Ballardia II

It's been one year since we closed on our Ballardia residence. And what have we Accomplished in 12 months?

The List:

As a list, it seems somewhat impressive....It Sounds Like so much progress. But the sad reality is that after Lots of Time and Pots of Money, there is not a single finished room in the entire house.

The kichen tile still isn't grouted, and the fridge blocks the back door leading to the Rotten Steps and Yard Beyond. The living/dining room are missing trim and have boxes strewn everywhere. The main floor bedrooms & hall remain unpainted, also missing trim. During our structural exercise, the doorbell wire was cut and it no longer works. The bathroom has cracks in the walls, part of the window trim torn up to accomodate the fan wiring, and still has that icky yellow plastic tile. Throughout the house, low voltage wiring dangles out of boxes in the walls where we haven't managed to terminate it yet. Upstairs still looks like Summer Camp.

Perhaps it is fitting that today is the day the Value House across the street was torn down.

Value House Before:

Value House Today:

Things could be worse, after all.

Monday, September 10, 2007

The Plum Crop

Remember that backyard plum tree that Dorothy purchased for $5.68 at Ernst in 1975? It seems it's ready.

I say 'plum', but what I really mean, and what is in fact on the Ernst receipt, is 'Italian Prune'. I am going happily along with the California Prune Board's remarketing efforts to discourage the images of Regularity conjured up by the 'prune' word.

I am not sure what to do with the crop this year, so I am simply pitting them and putting them in the Ginormous Freezer for later.

Last year, I tried making Plum Brandy, which seemed like a good idea at the time, but the product was not terribly popular with friends, even though I refrained from calling it Italian Prune Brandy. Of the 6 bottles I made, I still have 5 1/2 of them. Need some? Or perhaps I should peddle it at the local Senior Center?

This year, I'm thinking of dessert recipes - perhaps Purple Plum Pie, Plum and Walnut Crisp, or maybe Plum Berry Crisp. Pork dishes might be good too - Pork Chops with Gingered Plum Sauce looks yummy, and will no doubt leave fewer leftovers than the Plum Brandy experiment.

Friday, August 31, 2007

But Wait....There's More

Why has a gallon or so of water accumulated overnight in the lowest elevation sewer pit? Wait, wasn't that yesterday's blog entry?

It seems that our neighbor’s line, which joins up with our sewer in that same sewer pit, is leaking too. Ewwwww.

Best Plumbing will be leaving the excavator in our median over the weekend while investigation is done.

Some people have pink flamingos decorating their yards. We have a mini digger. What a symbol of our lifestyle.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

A good day to go easy on fluids

Why have several gallons of water accumulated overnight in the lowest elevation sewer pit? Hint: The Weather is Sunny and Dry.

Yes, it appears our sewer system really is that bad.

Today's sewer replacement fun started with joining sections of pipe to form a 70 foot or so Extra Long pipe. They have this wacky machine which fuses the sections together.
Then the Best Plumbing Boys cut out the plumbing sections in the various holes they dug yesterday, and we were officially sewer-free (as opposed to unofficially, which apparently has been the case for some time).
Next, they ran a cable through the existing drain, which they attached on the side away from the street to the new Extra Long pipe.
In the picture, you can see the broken sections of concrete pipe the new sewer "burst".Then they pulled it through, cut away the section in the middle hole, and fitted pieces together to join in the existing drains.

That's the point where our sewers intersect. Best Plumbing wound up having to replace about 3' of the neighbor's pipe, as it had disintegrated.

Several sentences to describe it. 8 am until 3:30 pm sans facilities to experience it. In other words, an eternity.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Sewer Replacement Day 1

We’ve selected Best Plumbing as our sewer replacement vendor, and, after I forked over a hefty deposit (1/2 the job), they got to work today digging 3 holes down to the depth of our sewer line. They dug one hole around the cleanout, another where the front drains connect, and a 3rd where my sewer line joins with my neighbor’s sewer. There was a disturbing lack of dirt in the 3rd hole; apparently the problem’s been going on long enough that we had a Sinkhole Situation.

Then they put a very large plate over each of the holes, luckily, as I can just imagine how popular I’d be with the neighbors if Fluffy fell into one of these gaping pits.

They tell us this is a 3-day process; on Day 1, they dig holes. Day 2, they replace the sewer line, and we will be plumbing-free for most of the day. Conveniently, I’ve had plenty of opportunity to scope out the public restrooms in my area. Day 3, they get the new sewer line inspected and backfill the holes.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Buy a House on the Right Side of the Street

At the neighborhood block watch party, THE hot topic was of course our house upgrades - when you've got the big trucks outside, Neighbors Notice.

When talking to our neighbors about our new gas line, we learned something interesting - the gas line runs on the west side of the street. So it was Practically Free for our installation, but Prohibitively Expensive for those neighbors on the east side of the street. Had we actually purchased the original wreck under consideration, we would have been out of luck.

Note to self - when buying a house with oil heat, it's well to check on gas availability first by simply calling PSE. We got lucky for a change.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

D-Day - Drywall Day that is

We are getting the garage wall and bath ceiling drywalled, so we can stop looking at gaping ceiling holes while we shower.
The drywall guy has these nifty little stilts to work on the ceiling - no piddly stepladders for him.