Monday, October 20, 2008

The End of Ballardia as We Know It

Over the summer, a 694 page "Amendment to Senate Amendment to House Amendments to Senate Amendment to H.R. 3221" was passed into law.

You may know it by its Short Title, the Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008.

Buried in section 3092 was a little item to upset my Housing Recovery of Ballardia Acts of 2008.

Let's read it, shall we?

(A) IN GENERAL.—Subsection (a) shall not apply to so much of the gain from the

sale or exchange of property as is allocated to periods of nonqualified use.
subparagraph (A), gain shall be allocated to periods of nonqualified use based on the
ratio which—

(i) the aggregate periods of non qualified use during the period such property
was owned by the taxpayer, bears to

(ii) the period such property was owned by the taxpayer.
(C) PERIOD OF NONQUALIFIED USE.— For purposes of this paragraph—
(i) IN GENERAL.—The term ‘period of nonqualified use’ means any
period (other than the portion of any period preceding January 1, 2009)
during which the property is not used as the principal residence of the
taxpayer or the taxpayer’s spouse or former spouse.
(ii) EXCEPTIONS.—The term ‘period of nonqualified use’ does not include— (I) any portion of the 5-year period described in subsection (a) which
is after the last date that such property is used as the principal

residence of the taxpayer or the taxpayer’s spouse,
(II) any period (not to exceed an aggregate period of 10 years) during which
the taxpayer or the taxpayer’s spouse is serving on qualified official
extended duty (as defined in subsection (d)(9)(C)) described in clause (i),
(ii), or (iii) of subsection (d)(9)(A), and

(III) any other period of temporary absence (not to exceed an aggregate period
of 2 years) due to change of employment, health conditions, or such other
unforeseen circumstances as may be specified by the Secretary.

So who Knows what this little blurb of legalese means, really. But Martin assures me that it means a change to the Capital Gains Exclusion Rule, which, before the passing of these 694 pages, allowed an individual to keep, tax-free, profits up to $250k ($500k if married filing jointly) for the sale of his or her (their) primary residence provided that person(s) had lived in the home for 2 out of the previous 5 years.

Section 3092 says that starting January 1, 2009, if that home had NOT been a primary residence (say, rented or a vacation home) for any part of those 5 years, then capital gains would ONLY be excluded for the portion of the last 5 years in which the home had been a primary residence. in it for 2 years, rent it for 3 years, and only 2/5 = 40% of the gains are now tax-free. And that appears to apply to all gains, even if it's been owned for, say, 15 years, only the last 5 count.

This presents a little problem.

You see, back in 1999, Martin rented out his condo and I rented out my house, and we proceeded to shack up together in an apartment in Belltown.

Yes, he kept the condo. And without a little action on our parts ASAP (before 1/1/09), he would be subject to the new rules for a condo he's owned for 15 years. Conveniently for him (inconveniently for me), his tenant of 3 years gave notice on October 9th.

Activity Frenzy. We are moving to the condo.

WHOSE housing recovery act is this, exactly? Certainly isn't mine.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Operation Waterlogged

In the ongoing battle of Rebecca vs. The Yard Service (Yard Service: 2, Rebecca: 0), I have come up with a creative tactic (not a "strategy", mind you) to keep the Mighty Downspout Extender attached to the house.


But not only did I permanently affix the Extender, I have also Completely Eliminated the source of the struggle by removing all grass underneath it.

Rather than leave a naked patch of dirt, I've made a little dry stream bed to handle the water runoff.

New Score - Yard Service: 2, Rebecca: 1

Saturday, August 30, 2008

If I were a decent gardener, I'd have figured this out earlier

My garden consists of a mix of self-propagating "gifts" from Dorothy, a lone row of mesclun lettuce which came up from seed, and several rows of purchased starter plants which are doing reasonably well, thanks to the Emergency Garden Rescue Attempt coordinated by my Mother. And weeds. That goes without saying.

With my lack of foresight and planning, not to mention my inclination to just pick whatever starter plants were available at the Home Despot, my vegetable section doesn't have the variety and choice that one would hope for in a garden.

Which leads to the inevitable question.

What, exactly, does one do with Kale?

Monday, August 25, 2008

The Ballardia Barbecue Index

Two Atmospheric Sciences professors at the UW, Cliff Mass and Mark Albright, have created a new metric to track our dismal weather, called the "Barbecue Index". Komo News has the full story, but in a nutshell, this index tracks the number of times since mid-March when the temperature hits 60 degrees or warmer, which appears to the floor for Barbecue weather here in Seattle. We do set our standards low here in the Emerald City of Continual Gloom.

The scientists looked through past temperature records and discovered that 2008 is the worst year of the "Barbecue Index" since 1917. And this was back in June.

Which brings to mind the Ballardia Barbecue Index.

I think we'll define the BBI as the number of days we Actually barbecued here in Ballardia. And if we want to get fancy, we might track that against the "regular" Barbecue Index to see whether our problem is weather related.
Last year, our Ballard Barbecue Season was hindered by the rotted back steps, which, both for Function and Safety, we had blocked off by our 36" GE refrigerator.
This year, with the Fisher Wood Stove out of the way and fridge relocated, we had a small problem with the Case of The Missing Back Steps.
Carpenter Jim removed the rotted back steps back in March, but replacement progress halted pending decent weather. Perhaps the Barbecue Index was directly correlated to the Carpenter Jim outdoor Construction Project Index?
Goodness resumed in July, when I returned from a Portland work-a-thon to discover a rebuilt set of back steps, sans railing. But Railing is not essential for Barbecue Access.

Leaving only the weather as our excuse.

Looking at today's forecast, you might just think there's not much reason NOT to use the grill for tonight's dinner....a little chilly for August, yes, but it meets the Barbecue Index threshold defined by our UW scientists.....Or does it?
Let's do a quick reality check, shall we?

Our forlorn, very wet outdoor dining realm:

Our very wet, rebuilt steps:

I didn't think "Partly Sunny" meant the rest of the fraction was meant to be "Partly Pouring with Thunder".

And our outdoor thermostat says 55. FIFTY FIVE at FIVE PM IN AUGUST.

Our Ballard Barbecue Index? 5 times. Maybe 6. With quality predictions like these, why not plan on a barbecue?

Saturday, August 9, 2008

The 4-letter "D" word

The last two remaining items in the bathroom - now that I've hung the Restoration Hardware towel bars - are to remove the old towel bars, do the requisite wall repair & paint touch-up, and paint the trim.

I found a little time to do everything but the trim paint last weekend.

Thanks for the action photo sweetie! I particularly like how it makes me look like Quasimoto!

But perhaps none of us are looking our best when doing home improvement tasks. I give you Martin in the Bunny Suit as an example.

Since everything's complete except the trim paint, I've declared the bathroom Done. I don't have that all-important fisheye lens that could capture the entire room in one shot, so I will present the finished product from multiple angles:

Berried Alive

The entire back fence of Ballardia's back yard is a wall of raspberries.

Fortunately they make for a low maintenance crop, requiring only a small cut-back-and-tie operation each winter to keep the raspberry plants producing. And not for the first time am I wondering WHY I do this maintenance activity, as for the two summers we have been here, the raspberry crop has been a bit more than i can handle. Not to mention that sad fact that I prefer blueberries.

What have I been doing with the crop, apart from foisting it off on friends & family?

Raspberry Tarts:

Raspberry Vinegar and Raspberry Cordials:

Berries sprinkled with Granola - adapted from a recipe posted on the Floured Apron - using ground flax seed instead of the wheat germ.

And let's not forget the 5, count 'em, FIVE stuffed gallon bags of raspberries in the ginormous freezer.

Luckily the berry season is almost over. I might even miss it when it's gone.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Congratulating myself on my Good Fortune

Interesting article in today's Seattle Times - "Heating-oil customers facing difficult choices are eyeing other energy sources"

We "faced difficult choices" in early 2007, and bit off the pricey conversion cost to natural gas. And in December of 2007, I calculated that the conversion would pay for itself in 4 years. But that was at the now reasonable-seeming cost of 3.65/gallon.

The article points out that oil prices now fluctuate between 4.38 and 4.79/gallon. If I assume $4.50, that would mean $1328 to fill up my old oil tank!! Now, we are saving 75% on fuel bills, and the conversion will take 3.1 years at these rates to pay for itself.

This must be how my friend who bought a Prius 2 years ago feels.

Monday, July 28, 2008

5 Star. 6 Burners.

Remember that Shiny New-to-Us Dacor Range we bought a few months ago?

So do we. And it's a good thing we took a picture, as we no longer own it.
As you might recall, I found the range advertised on Craigslist, for a price my Inner Cheapo couldn't resist. It was offered by a Genuine Appliance Vendor, with a Genuine Appliance 1-year Warranty, so, thought I, "What's the worst that can happen?"

And at first, the Shiny New-to-Us Dacor Range seemed ok, except that the oven temperature was a bit "temperamental". Put in 375F, for example, and it heated up to 360F and dinged as though done. But still, I baked salmon, roasted veggies, and made my favorite Baby Back Ribs recipe.
But the next attempt at oven use released a strong gas odor into the house.
The Dacor was supposed to be a duel fuel range. But the broiler is gas, and apparently it kicks in when the oven is preheating.

Enter the Appliance Service Call. He came, he saw, he smelled, he called the Dacor Service center hotline and ordered a part.
One oven-free week later, the part arrived, Mr Appliance Repairman returned and installed it, the Temperamtental Temperature readings were resolved, and cooking resumed.

At least, it resumed for two more oven-related dinners.
On the third, the gas smell returned. Repeat Service Call. He came, he saw, he smelled, he replaced some fittings and declared everything OK.

Only it wasn't. And as it was a gas smell, I thought to call my friends at Puget Sound Energy to see if this was cause for concern. PSE's Service Tech came, he saw, he smelled. He hooked up a carbon monoxide meter. And then he declared my Shiny New-to-Us Dacor Range 'Dangerous' due to the > 500 PPM carbon monixide being emitted, and capped my gas line.

So....the worst that could happen? Apparently we could die.

But didn't.

And City Discount Appliance offered to replace the range, rather than trying to fix it for the rest of Eternity.

And now we have this.

Five Star. 6 Burners. Seriously Cool.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

It's Over

The Tiling is Done. Caulked, too.

Will I ever, ever, EVER use chair rail again on a wall with an outside corner like this? Why no. No, I won't.

The wall doesn't meet at a 90 degree angle, you see, so my Tiling Toy doesn't work.

I destroyed 3 pieces of chair rail trying to get this aligned correctly, and finally settled for "good enough" rather than perfect.

Next up: towel bars, wall repair, and paint.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Going the Distance

After weeks of working in Portland, the Project List has been suffering from extreme neglect while my weekends are spent on laundry, repacking, and catching up on the rest of my day job that I didn't get done because I was doing my day job.

Which leads to lack of progress, and of course lack of blog entries about progress.

Since I've officially returned - well, except for that little matter of Detroit next week and Chicago in August - progress can continue.

And I've decided to Go the Distance.

I didn't count on running out of pencil liner. Argh. So close.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

The Last Straw

Back when we had our flooding incidents, and I first discovered the Mighty Downspout Extender right next to the back drain, I did wonder why it wasn't attached. After I attached it, and a few months later saw another water incident in the basement, I noticed it had myseriously been disconnected again. I didn't detach it, Martin didn't detach it....which left the yard service.

When I moved in, and mowing season started, I grafted on to my neighbor's yard mowing service. It seemed to make sense - our lawns join together, so this meant they would be tidy at the same time, lending a nice, uniform look to our joint properties. So even after I conclusively proved that the yard service was disconnecting the Mighty Downspout Extenderwhile mowing and propping it up against the side of the house rather than reattaching it, I didn't make a big deal of it - Ijust reconnected it myself every time and made a to-do list item for myself to find a permanent, non-detachable solution.

What I did communicate to the yard service - clearly, making sure they understood - was that I was gardening and they were not to mow the "weeds" in my garden. I thought they understood this, as mowing season this year started in April, and they managed to avoid that area from April through June, in accordance with my instructions.

July, though, is another story. When I came back from a business trip to my freshly mowed lawn, I discovered a freshly mowed herb garden as well. I've lost 3 oregano plants, two dill plants, a thyme, a rosemary, and my temper.

I considered losing my yard service as well.

Now that I've had a day to calm down, I've decided to deduct the cost of the plants from their bill, and send them a note explaining why. If that works, they get another chance. If not, I may have to do the unthinkable - mow it myself.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

A New Tiling Toy

The one remaining tile-free wall in the bathroom has a small challenge, and I have been happily In Denial about it for some time now.

It's the dreaded Wall Jog.

The last wall juts outward about 3", presumably to cover up the vent stack for the plumbing. And I am tiling it.

So.....How exactly am I doing this?

The cove base, pencil liner, and chair rail obviously all have to have a mitered corner at the Wall Jog. But what about the subway tile? I seemed to have only two reasonable choices - 1) order bullnose subway tile with the bullnose on the 3" side, or 2) miter the subway tile.

I'm chosen option #2, because I think it will look better to be consistent up the wall, rather than the miter, 15 bullnose, 2 miter program which would result from option #1.

Up until this point, I have been mitering my corners by carefully holding up the tile at an approximately 45 degree angle on my Super Burly MK Diamond Tile Saw, and hoping that I emerge from the experience with enough digits to continue to be able to deliver appropriate hand gestures in all circumstances.

I'm not up for that for 18 miters in a row.

So I broke down and ordered the MK Diamond Miter attachment, which conveniently showed up at the same time as my Cathedral Baseboard vent, putting me back in Tiling Business for the weekend.

And a lovely weekend it was, too.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Practicing Safe Hex

Before I advance to tiling the last remaining wall, I have a little mandatory hex tile floor patching to do.

You may recall that way back in the distant past (October 2007), I found a "close enough" match to my original Hex tile, which I could use to patch a small corner of the floor to the side of the toilet.

You might also recall, back in March of this year, my drivel about the usefulness of Ceramic Tile Adhesive.

I am just happy that after all this time, I could recall the location of both of these products. It was time to put them to use.
Where are the new tiles? Hint: they are clean. Ought to be a dead giveaway really.

But in case it wasn't are the newbies.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Retail Therapy

The bathroom project also needs a towel bar/paper holder set, requiring More Shopping. After perusing the selection online, I decided it was time to get out of the house and shop the old fashioned way, by burning off some of that $4.24/gallon gas.

First a trek to the Seattle Premium Outlets, which is quite Premium, but not in Seattle. They're not even in King County.

I had my eye on the Restoration Hardware outlet up there, where, sadly, I completely struck out on my goal of acquiring towel bars for my bathroom.

But....lest I have a wasted 30 mile trip (each way), I found something I didn't really need but couldn't pass up - an 8 quart, cabernet-red dutch oven from Calphalon. For $49.99. No, I didn't drop a leading "1" in that number. Apparently the shade of 'Cabernet' didn't come out in the right dye lot, so Calphalon decided to purge the lot. At $49.99. $29.99 for the 5 quart, but I wanted to have something to feed more people that I can seat at my dining table.

I'm feeling like Shopper of the Year. I could turn into one of those people who talks about "how much they Saved" at the end of each shopping trip (to which historically I respond "And how much did you Spend on Crap you Didn't Need?"). What goes around is coming around.

After driving 30 miles back home to my nearest Restoration Hardware store located in Seattle Proper, I found this quite suitable Asbury Collection , which the sales clerk informed me would be going on sale(!!!!) for 20% off during their bath sale, which starts June 23rd. And they allow pre-orders. So, for the slight inconvenience of having to wait until July 1 or so for my towel bars, I get to Save (!!!!) 20%.

I love it. Maybe I'll try Zappos next while my Shopping Luck lasts.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

The Stove That is Spawning Scope Creep

I’m sure you realize that purchasing a sofa off of Craigslist hardly equates to a “binge”. You may have thought I indulged in a little Title inflation in last weekend’s entry about the new-to-me couch.

The truth is, there was another purchase. A large, expensive, Ballardia-changing purchase. I just didn’t want to mention it before it actually showed up on my doorstep.

I bought a new-to-me range. Yes, from Craigslist.

Let’s talk about the old range. I feel a little wasteful, getting rid of a perfectly good sort of still working range. In theory, I rather liked it, or at least I didn't hate it. The old stove was vintage 1970 Kenmore, 40” wide, with a regular oven and a small side oven, and plenty of “warming” space on top.

In practice? It had both Functional and Aesthetic issues. On the Functional side, only 3 of the 4 burners actually worked. The oven was so poorly sealed that when I used it, I had to turn the fan on to suck up the steam rising from the burners when the burners weren’t even on (on the plus side, I could generally use the 4th burner if the oven was on). That “warming” space? I’m sure it was oodles of wasted energy. The oven had different climate zones in its interior – no doubt contributing to my Gluten-free vegan baking problems. The timer didn’t work. I was scared to even try the self-cleaning feature. And at 40”, it was too large for the 36” hood above it, which can’t be changed without Cabinet Surgery.

On the Aesthetic side, well, see for yourself.

But once again, Opportunity struck and just wouldn’t be ignored. Opportunity in this case was a 2006 Dacor duel-fuel range, “gently” used, with a rather dented left panel. The gas range can take advantage of the line I drew to the stove location last year. The electric oven will prevent me from turning on the gas and sticking my head in it during periods of excessive remodeling trauma.

Yes, I Know it's a $5000 range! For which, thanks to the miracle that is Craigslist, I paid $1500. Now THAT's a binge!

A big shout-out to Ballard Natural Gas, for being responsive, careful, ethical – they came to hook up the stove same day, and when they discovered that the stove – not the new gas line- was leaking in a way they weren’t comfortable fixing, they didn’t charge me for the visit. Amazing. Ballard Natural Gas Rocks! And City Discount Appliance, the vendor who posted said stove on Craigslist, was out the next day and fixed the gas line. So now it doesn't just LOOK good, it actually works, too!

And now for the problem. I'd planned on replacing the one mismatched cabinet to the right of the stove when I got a right-sized model to replace the 40" Kenmore. I figured I could just stake out Second Use or Re-Store and find something that would work. But....I also should really get a 6" cabinet to go to the left of the range and hide that dented left panel. And there's no way I'll find a 6" cabinet from the 1960s. Which means that maybe, for the sake of consistency, I should buy two New cabinets to flank the range. And if I'm doing that, well, why not an over-the fridge cabinet? And then why not replace the cabinets over the range so everything will look consistent?

And Dorothy's vintage Nutone hood complete with June Cleaver manual? Much as I like it, it looks rather wrong above the stove.

And then there's the floor.....If I'm going to fix some cabinets, I really should replace the linoleum....

What have I done???!!!

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Registering the Finishing Touches

With basically only one wall left to tile, I can’t help but notice that I am behind in my Shopping. And we know how much I love Home improvement Shopping. It’s right up there with shopping for shoes for my size 10 feet.

I still have a few hardware items left to procure – towel bars, a replacement doorknob, and a heat register. The most pressing item is the heat register, required to complete the cove base on the remaining wall.

What’s wrong with the existing register?

Does the picture explain everything, or do I need to spell it out?

It can’t possibly be original. It’s flimsy, ugly, has suspicious mildew-looking spots on it, and these are its good qualities.

It does not belong in my rapidly improving bathroom. Nor do its equally ugly cousins belong in the rest of my house, but that’s not currently on the to-do list, or in the budget (budget? What Budget? Oh, the one we blew through months ago….).

There aren’t a lot of options in period-appropriate wall registers in the appropriate size. I could get several different models of adequate and inoffensive floor registers and punch screw holes in them with my Makita, such as these registers from the Hardware Hut in the $50 range.
There are only a few Actual Wall Registers that I could buy, and all are in the three figure range (see lack of budget, above). The Hamilton Strathmore below, also at the Hardware Hut, is lovely, but a bit daunting at $105. Even more daunting is the Rejuvenation model at $132.
And then there are the baseboard registers. Mission Metalworks makes both a grid and cathedral-style register which seem appropriate, and are available from at a much more palatable $65. I like the Cathedral-style.

The real question is which is more authentic to a 1930 frame tudor, the baseboard register, or the metal louvered floor-or-wall type ?

My guess is that it’s probably the baseboard type. That’s what was in my last brick Tudor-esque house. You remember that one. It was DONE.

But to be sure, I thought I should do a little research. Google turned up nothing. I suppose there might be a book somewhere with this kind of detail, but I’m in a hurry.

Where else to check? Why, of course! I requested a search of all houses in Seattle built between 1929 and 1935, and scanned the pictures of Tudor style houses listed for sale.
In general, I was quite hindered in my progress by Realtor pictures which completely obscured the source of heating. Why weren’t they thinking of my needs here?!

Of those that showed the heating, by far the biggest number appear to have the baseboard style register. Some have the floor registers, and just a few use radiators.

This is a bit of a relief, actually, because it was looking challenging to find a chrome wall register to match my faucets, and we all know that white goes with everything.
So the baseboard cathedral-style register it is.....and I'm going to have to wait for it. Progress will stall yet again.

Oh? You say you want the picture now that the sink's head has been surgically reattached?

Here you go. But it's with the old camera; can't get a good zoom out on this one. Sorry.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Another Sunday Tile-A-Thon

The closer the bathroom gets to functional, the further the camera gets from it. In this case, the battery seems to have stopped charging. I can take pictures, but only as long as the camera is plugged in.

So today's progress photo features a close-up of our Kodak's power cord. Sorry.

What's with the two missing tiles? I hear you ask. Well, as you might recall, there was no possible tile formation that would possibly line up with my walls, and I'm paying the price around the receptacle, since My EE (Martin) informs me that the easiest thing to do is to pull the switches forward and rest them on top of tile. Only....well.....there's no tile to rest the top of the switches on. Nor is there going to be in the current pattern. So the two tiles slots will remain empty until my next Home Depot run, where I will be getting some 6'' x 6'' tiles to cut to size.

Craigslist Binge

Maybe life would be easier if I could bring myself to focus on one project at a time. And the rewards would be great at this point, since the novelty of brushing my teeth in the kitchen sink wore off on day one of the Sink Decapitation.

But Opportunity struck, and for a change, I was paying attention.

Craigslist opportunity, that is.

You may have noticed that on this blog, I have posted 23, count 'em, Twenty-three pictures of my side sewer, but Not One picture of my living room.

There's a reason for that. My 12 year old sofa.

All we can really say about it is that it's functional. And very, very Purple.

Eggplant isn't really Me. Wasn't even when I bought the sofa. And the couch has had twelve years of hard living - 5 moves, two cats, two humans. It's been a sofa, a guest bed, occasionally an office.

And now, thanks to Craigslist, it's been Replaced by a gently used couch much more to my liking.

My grandmother's Davenport was almost identical to my new-to-me sofa. Ironically, everyone (including me) hated it, which probably had more to do with having to sleep on it than its actual seating functionality.

So even though there's still Accessorizing that needs to be done to get my living room of choice, I'm now Ready to expose these areas for public viewing.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Well it's not like it's Picnic Weather

I didn't intend to spend any more time on the Extreme Chaos Project this Memorial Day weekend; there's really no sense of urgency other than my own desire to have a bathroom worthy of using.

But after Martin beheaded the Kohler pedestal sink, I figured, what the hell?

To be clear, we Meant to behead the sink. Just perhaps not this soon, as I don't really have time right now to indulge in lengthy tile-a-thons.

And what do we call this bathroom without the sink? It was clear it was a half bath without the shower. Is it still a half bath without the sink?

Saturday, May 24, 2008

The Tiling Resumes.....

As I mentioned Many Moons ago, I was not going to resume tiling until I had sucessfully managed to create a Baked Good in the privacy of my own kitchen. And I'm pleased to report success with Gluten Free Pantry's Yankee Corn Bread mix, made by Blatantly Disregarding the directions, and instead mixing it with 1/4 cup beet sugar, 1 tbsp honey, 6 tbsp spectrum organic shortening, 7/8 cup rice milk, and Ener-G egg replacer for one egg. I even managed to create something like honey butter using spectrum organic vegetable shortening, imitation butter flavor, a little salt, and of course honey.

Yummy. Stomach full, tiling may continue.

When last we left the Extreme Chaos Project, I had managed to work my way out of the tub enclosure and resume Hygiene Activities (Insert Thanks Here).

In the process, I left highly visible, unsightly walls, as seen below.

After a little quality time with my tile saw and thinset, view the progress:

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Watching Grass Grow

My Sewer Pit of Despair has taken on an appropriate shade of green, thanks not to me and my Black Thumb of Gardening Death, but to my 9-year old neighbor who took charge of the watering while I slaved away in Los Angeles for a week.

And look what I found lurking in a sea of weeds in my backyard! Did you have ANY idea that asparagus just sprouts from the ground like this? I didn't!

I think I'll eat it.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Suffering from the Delusion that I have Gardening Skills

"You need to do something about your dandelions!" My 90 year old neighbor shouted from her doorway, outfitted as she usually is in her bathrobe to protect her from the elements while taking her smoke break. You think?

Well in all fairness (to me), this isn't actually a picture of the lawn, which is quite impressive if she can see at the age of 90, but my vegetable garden, which she can't see at any age without venturing onto my property.

And if we define "vegetables" loosely, as in "things you can put in a salad", you might say my garden is doing rather well.

It's about to take a turn for the worse.

I am planting herbs & vegetables.

I've got seeds, seeds, seeds. Sweet Basil, Dark Opal Purple Basil, Chives, Cilantro, Fennel, Tricolor Garden Beans (yellow,green AND purple), purple carrots, carrot-colored carrots, beets, swiss chard, russian red kale, broccoli, and gourmet greens. I have plants - artichokes, onions, leeks, yellow squash, eggplant, grape and cherry tomatoes. I don't even like tomatoes.

At the end of a rather backbreaking weekend of labor (my own), I have made progress.

I will also be renewing my acquaintance with Mr Chiropractor first thing Monday morning.

Stopping for Potty Breaks

The other reason for the deplorable dearth of blog entries in April is that we here at Ballardia took another Field Trip. This time to the Costa del Sol. And no, I'm not going to outline the fabulous Moorish architecture, bore you with our vacation photos, or review the cities Granada, Sevilla, Cordoba, Cadiz, Ronda, and Gibraltar for your future reference or petty jealousy.

No. Instead, I'm going to highlight the Quality of the Rest Stops.

I am, after all, in the middle of a bathroom project.

I must give the South of Spain great marks for its "aseos", which we determined pretty early on by the funny looks we got that one does not say "banos" there. Not sure why.

We've done a lot of European travel. Enough to know that you should always carry the purse pack of Kleenex for more than just sinus problems. Enouth to realize that developing strong thigh muscles is an important pre-trip preparation. It's pretty common to see toilets with no seat.

Occasionally, one might even get stuck with the dreaded squat toilet. Before you ask, this picture was NOT taken from the Men's room.

But the south of Spain.....public restrooms almost all had toilet seats AND toilet paper, and while we encountered a few where the hand dryers didn't work or the soap wasn't present, the overall quality was on par with domestic travel. Three cheers for peeing in Spain.

Now.....let's talk about the UK.

Great Britain is irrationally fond of the two-handed faucet - you know, the one where the Brits put the stopper in the sink, and run both faucets until they get a bowl of water in the appropriate temperature. This is also the one which gives American visitors burned left hands as a vacation souvenir.

This little gem is from Heathrow. There is no stopper, and this is the Airport, where unknown people have Spit and perhaps Peed in that sink so we really don't want the stopper solution anyway. So rather than post the warning sign, perhaps they could dial down the temperature on the hot?

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

The Sewer Pit of Despair

In keeping with my new Food-centric Way of Life, my Garden plans have expanded from "do nothing" to "plant vegetables". Of course, either plan is likely to have the same outcome, as my gardening abilities rank right up there with President Bush's ability to manage this country.

Hope Springs Eternal, and maybe a seed or two will do likewise.
But before I get to start in on committing Planticide, it's high time I addressed the Fallout from last year's Side Sewer Adventure.

When we left off our Exciting Tale, our heroine had successfully returned to the land of a working sewer line, when the unfortunate discovery was made that the neighbor's sewer line was leaking, and water (?) was accumulating in the lowest elevation Sewer Pit.

After some consulting between the sewer contractor and the inspector, they determined that there was really nothing they could do if the neighbor didn't want to fix the line.

Flash forward several months, and the Sewer Pit sank several inches to become an unsighly blight on my front median. I dithered about what to do. I festered with annoyance at the neighbor. I finally called Seattle DPD.

The friendly person in the 'sewers' section first wanted to transfer me to the rat-on-my-neighbor hotline.

"Let's assume for a minute that I don't want to report my 90 year old neighbor with a broken hip," I said. "What else can I do?"

I could practically see Mr. DPD Employee scratch his head. "Well," he said, "4 inches really isn't all that much."

Let's pause to let that one sink in.

"It's probably just loose dirt getting washed away, so it should be fine if you fill it in and plant grass."

I assume he means the lawn type.

So that's my little project. Topsoil, grass seed, and a little fertilizer later, I'm ready to watch the grass grow.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

When will we return to our regularly scheduled programming?

What happened to the Bathroom Momentum? I hear you ask. No doubt you realize that Ballardia progress, once fast & furious actually progressing, has Stopped.

Well, for starters, I do have a Day Job, with business trips seemingly calculated to cause the maximum amount of chaos, and for that I thank you, American Airlines, for leaving me Stranded at LAX overnight without luggage because you sent it off to Terminal 3 rather than putting it in Bag Claim where the rep said it would be, and after my complaints that an Airline employee should retrieve said bag and deliver it to my hotel, your supervisor could only offer me a complementary Men-centric toiletry kit containing Men-scented deodorant, shave cream, razor, toothbrush & paste, and a comb only suitable for short, straight man-hair. Rant to American - how about putting something useful in there, like a Tampon?

End rant. Back to project.

Now that I've finished the tub enclosure and am able to indulge in Cleanliness in the privacy of my own home with my Woman-centric personal toiletries (and tampons), the Urgency of the tile job has faded.

And in my copious free time, in which I normally spend fixing Ballardia, I now have a new hobby. Feeding myself.

Having had a plethora of rather odd symptoms for ages, which I won't outline here in graphic detail (sharing 'tampons' was quite enough information for one blog entry), I finally decided to Do Something. And "Something" started with doctor visits with rather unhelpful advice of taking More Drugs.

I don't like taking meds for the simple reason that I want my liver to focus on more important things, such as processing my alcohol consumption. So I was left searching for Another Answer, which came in the form of food allergy testing.

The food allergy testing required a simple blood test, plus another 3 day Unspeakable Test conducted in the Privacy of my Bathroom Project, which I will also not outline in graphic detail. After waiting 3 weeks, the results came In.

May I have a drumroll, please.

The results showed that I am allergic to probably 50% of my caloric intake - all dairy, eggs, wheat, and sugar cane. Oh, and lest I think I could substitute in something else for these products - I'm allergic to soybeans, almonds, and bananas too. I don't consume these things anyway, but they would be handy Alternatives to things I ate in my Diet of Yore.

The simple act of going to the grocery store turned into an Adventure filled with Drama and Intrigue as I read the labels of Everything, hoping to find some miracle food that I could both eat, and would actually want to.

After a week or so of futile searching, I turned to Cooking, thinking perhaps I could make myself something that adheres to my new restrictions. I checked out stacks - STACKS - of library books on wheat free, dairy free, egg free, taste free cooking. Rather than try Risky Subtitution, I used recipes which conformed exactly to my requirements. I chose the recipes which specified 1/2 cup rice flour & 1/4 cup Tapioca starch & 1 tsp Xanthan gum, not simply "1 cup gluten-free flour". And I followed the recipes Exactly.

And this was the result. Imploded muffins with a dense, gelatinous mass at the bottom of the muffin cup. Brownies which Martin called Chocolate Brownie-like food product. Cornbread that went straight from the skillet to the garbage.

I always thought I was a reasonably good cook. I can bake, broil, grill, saute, sear, steam, pan-fry, poach, etc., really I can. Martin is the envy of all most some of his friends. But cooking without eggs, dairy or wheat? This appears to be as much of a stretch as getting American Airlines to keep their emergency repairs from interrupting my Travel Plans.

So when will the bathroom tiling resume?

After I've successfully made edible baked goods. Or when American retires their aging MD80s, whichever comes first.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Putting things in perspective

And I thought my bathroom was out of order....

Saturday, March 22, 2008


Now I know that grouting the tub enclosure is a bad idea, because once I have a functioning shower again, I will lose momentum. But let's be honest here; I've already lost momentum. Lots of it. What I'm really talking about is STOPPING for awhile and focusing on Other Things. So I might as well have a shower so I will be clean while procrastinating. Later. After I finish the grout.

The grout is Tec Silverado (949) unsanded.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Well? What do you think?

Tub enclosure is done.

Of course, there's still the little matter of the rest of the walls. And grout.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

The importance of good communication skills

This is what happens when you and your partner/spouse fail to agree on the appropriate shower tile height in advance of the project.

You get Regress instead of Progress.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

The Road to Hell is Tiled with Good Intentions

....Because paving it would be FASTER. And then how would we spend Eternity?

I had to interrupt this weekend's tile-a-thon for some social events (woohoo! I have a life!), and make one Goat Cheese and Onion Tart, which I will not make again. It was fairly yummy, but the ratio of yumminess to prep time and calories was not really worth it.

But despite the distractions, I almost tiled myself out of the tub enclosure, and had some new fun with Chair Rail.

The last time I did chair rail, I had only one mitered corner to deal with, so I held it in position on the tile saw with my fingers, and I'm still feeling rather lucky that I finished that job with all digits intact.

This time, I have 8 45 degree angle cuts to make, so a cutting guide of some sort seems like a good idea. MK Diamond sells an angle guide attachment for my saw, so for $21, I can make my nice precise cuts. But I am too cheap or too impatient to wait to mail order it, so I've experimented with the $8 carpenter's square. It works surprisingly well, though I'm sure I wouldn't want to do this if I were a Tiling Professional (NOOOOOO!!!!!)

Perhaps another day I will post a close-up of the perfectly angled corner. But for today, be content with the big picture.