Sunday, December 28, 2008

Squeaky Green

I stole this copy of Squeaky Green: the method guide to detoxing your home by Eric Ryan and Adam Lowry from my dad at our gift exchange this year. Aside from making me feel like I'm a walking toxic waste dump despite my best efforts all these years, I think it's a really interesting book. I quickly ran out to load up on all the right green supplies for our house (which I'm sure was their intention), but was disappointed that Safeway doesn't carry all the green alternatives to the things that the Method boys complain about in the book. I was feeling toxic and paranoid enough that I would have bought every last item I could in a desperate attempt to save our souls from eternal toxicity. Safeway is missing out on a major revenue stream there when every reader makes a mad dash to the the store like I did. I actually think it's worth the $16.95 and you can get it from my favorite publisher on the planet, Chronicle Books.

P.S. Day 8 without any gas. Still can't boil water, fry an egg or do laundry. This is proving more challenging for me than no furnace for 13 months. It's obviously time to track down the camping stove.

Friday, December 26, 2008

A Light Bulb Moment

As I know I've mentioned many times before, we live with very minimal light. I've adjusted to taking my little green lantern with me into the bathroom with me in the evenings. Before going out to dinner, I will hold up the lantern in one hand and attempt to put on makeup with the other. When I arrive at a restaurant or a friend's house, I usually attempt to discreetly make my way to the bathroom to make sure that I don't have any odd makeup streaks across my face before socializing. Everyone undoubtedly thinks that I have major bladder control issues as a result.

The other day, our friend Jonathan said, "But that bathroom light worked when I lived there." He was referring to the period of time when he and his girlfriend lived with us this Summer when they moved out from Boston. Josh and I poo poo'd this thought immediately. This could simply not be true given what we and anyone who came over to our house in the evenings for the past 6 months had been enduring. We disregarded it, but he brought it up again. And wouldn't you know, Josh screwed in a fresh light bulb and it worked. I don't know how many months we peed in the pitch dark because we simply had not changed the light bulb.

We're trying to migrate the few bulbs that we have to the compact florescent type like the one featured above from Home Depot although given how little power we are currently using, I don't know how focused we need to be on being green in this department.

The Other 5% at Fort Funston

I take our sweet canine, Lucy, to Fort Funston almost every day so that we can both get some fresh air and stretch our legs a bit outside of this house of ours. For those of you that haven't been, Funston is doggie Heaven on Earth. It is one of the most beautiful stretches of coastline South of San Francisco and it is a doggie mecca because it is all off-leash. My Lucy can run for miles in the sand until she passes out from exhaustion. We both love going there.

I would say that 95% of the people at Fort Funston are likeable friendly people with dogs. In fact, a lot of them are dog walkers that have 10-15 dogs (totally ridiculous, but a topic for another day). The remaining 5% is a puzzling bunch. There are the single men or women that pull up just to enjoy the view. Nothing wrong with that. There are the single men that pull up not facing the ocean and seem to park for hours doing I don't want to know what in their cars. No comment. There are the young whipper snappers that park to make out. Who can blame them? But today there was a scene unlike any other that I've seen before: it all involved a woman and a white Mercedes. When I pulled in, this woman had all the doors open and was blasting what appeared to be Celtic music as loud as possible. She was of Asian descent and clad in a very short black mini. This woman appeared to be cleaning out her car. Now, I have been guilty of throwing a few extra things that accumulate in my car in the trash while at the gas station, so I didn't think too much of it. I did, however, find the combo platter of her ethnicity and her passion for Celtic music to be rather unusual.

About an hour later, Lucy and I returned to the car. By this time, the music had turned to some sort of techno dance party and she was still cleaning her car. We threw the ball for a little while closer to the car so that I could attempt to deduce what she was up to. As far as I could tell, she was scrubbing the back seat with such tenacity that her mini skirt was almost up to her neck. Upon closer observation, I noticed that one of the mirrors was half off. In my opinion, the only reason why one needs to scrub the back seat of a car for such a long period of time in such a remote location as Fort Funston is because one has something to hide. Admittedly, I watch way too much Law and Order, but it seems to me that this grifter or con artist of some sort had been carrying around some sort of body in the back seat and was attempting to rid it of all the blood stains.

Lucy and I finally piled into the car still perplexed by the scene when a Subaru station wagon pulled in between us and the grifter. As the car came to a stop, the father in the front seat stared over at the young lady who now was scrubbing the back seat while swaying to the techno debating whether or not to turn off his car...he finally did and we were on our way .

Thursday, December 25, 2008

A Christmas Miracle and Rotten Eggs

Who in their right mind tries to go to Home Depot at 11:45pm on Christmas Eve? We did. And we were very frustrated by the empty parking lot. I mean, aren't there a lot of people other than ourselves that have urgent Depot needs at that hour? Why did we need to go to the Depot, you may be wondering....Well, our Christmas miracle yesterday was heat. Hoorah! The furnace guys were able to temporarily hook up the furnace to some of the existing vents to pipe in some delicious heat for us until the rest of the work can be done. The only trouble was that the house soon smelled like rotten eggs. This is because the intake for the furnace is temporarily pulling air from the downstairs. Hmm, that still doesn't explain the rotten eggs. Well, my friends, that is because phase 1 of the plumbing that's been done down there involves lines that are open which means that the sewer lines are open. Thus, the furnace is pulling refreshing sewer-laced air up into the upstairs.

So, we quickly turned it off and set off for the Depot late last night in hopes of buying some caps to cover up the open pipes. Alas, we were forced to cover the pipes with duct tape instead which seems to have done the job. Josh is featured above covering the pipes. Now we have clean air upstairs. My body is in a bit of shock with this alarming warmness that follows me everywhere I go in the house. It feels unnatural not to have my four layers of snow gear, hat and long underwear on. It's positively delightful.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Survival Food - Twin Peaks Pizza

Restaurant: Twin Peaks Pizza
Delivery Time: less than 45 minutes
Warmth of Food: good
Deliciousness: good
Price: cheap - less than $20 for a large
Friendliness of Delivery Person: very
Alarmed by Canine and Lack of Light: Not at all
Order Again: yes

Additional Comments: Tasty thin-crusted pizza, not greasy, fresh ingredients. They also have very fresh and delicious salads. We particularly like the Greek salad. I also recommend the root beer.

PGE Shuts Off Our Gas

The timing of all these things is getting pretty silly. We haven't had gas for 2 days now (no stove or dryer), but we thought that that was because Josh had shut it off when he moved the water heater. It turns out that PGE decided to turn off the gas on our lower unit because they recently realized that they weren't billing us for that unit separately (mind you, we've lived here for 4 years and they realized this last week). We didn't even realize this until we got a letter from them last week in the mail. This shouldn't have affected us except that we have come to realize that our gas upstairs was somehow actually connected to the gas downstairs. So, now poor Josh has to reconnect the right pipes so that we can have gas again. Likely not to happen for a day or two...time to get creative on the delivery options tonight!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Water Shooting 5 Stories High

I don't know what's up with the neighborhood this week. I stepped out my front door moments ago to go get some groceries for dinner. I was in the midst of thinking up something creative to make since the gas is off right now (this means no stove). I stepped out onto our front stoop and saw two giant fast-moving rivers flowing down either side of the street. Each is about 4 ft across and moving really quickly. I peer down to the end of the block and there is a huge stream of water shooting way up into the sky. The stream is taller than any building on the block. I think it must be at least 5 stories high. All I can think about now is how many days we are going to be without water. There are a bunch of guys from the water department milling around looking rather befuddled. I think the only way to fix it is to turn off the water completely. If only it were Summer and the middle of the day, we could all bring our bbqs out front and make hot dogs and drink beer. Sadly, that is not the case, but this will make for excellent gossip with the neighbors for the next few days. I had better go figure out dinner now before the water gets turned off...

Sub Zero Hootanany

I've been on a Craigslist quest for the last year for a Sub Zero 611 for the upstairs. Clearly, it's way too pricey to buy new, but there are definitely some deals to be had on Craig's if you are patient enough. I love this particular fridge because it's tall (84"), narrow (30") and only 24" deep. I hate the way most fridges stick out way past the counter and things always seem to get lost in the back. It is so odd to me that a 24" depth is so unusual and of course it's only the pricier brands that make them.

I was almost ready to give up, but then I found a guy that was selling TWO 611s for much less than the cost of buying 1 Sub Zero new, so I dragged my honey over to Concord and we snatched them up. The ice maker doesn't work on one which I could care less about and they only have really minor scratches. They are both stainless and we can't replace the fronts with cabinetry, but everyone still seems obsessed with stainless so they should make for 2 pretty sexy kitchens. I can't wait to start using one downstairs. Our current fridge has about 5 different climate zones. It randomly freezes or doesn't seem to refrigerate certain parts of the fridge at all. The 611 is the over-under refrigerator/freezer which makes so much more sense to me too. I have to bend way down to get anything out of our current fridge which is just silly. Thank God for fancy people that like to remodel their kitchens every 5 years and get rid of perfectly good high-end appliances!

A Chic Studio Kitchen

We've been debating over our kitchen cabinets for the last year now. I was desperate to use Ikea cabinets downstairs because the cost savings is incredible. By my estimate, it's about 1/4th of the price of the Kraftmaid or Thomasville cabinets that you get at Home Depot or Lowe's, but the sad part is that I just couldn't make them work. I love a lot of the styles that Ikea carries (especially for the price), but for what we need downstairs, I just wasn't happy.

This may sound like a curious layout, but when you enter the studio downstairs, you will actually walk into the kitchen/dining area. In my dream, it will be a chic kitchen that doesn't feel like a kitchen, but more like a hip dining area that happens to have a fridge and a stove (like the pic above from Elle Decor). I don't want it to be bright white like a kitchen, but I also don't want it to be dark. So, we went with Kraftmaid in the end because they offered a lot more options of painted fronts in lighter hues that look really elegant. I just figure that if you're going to be staring at this kitchen all the time in this studio, it should look halfway decent. We chose the Hayward Maple in a Biscotti finish (the second pic). The doors style is really simple and the Biscotti color is nice and warm. I plan to do a small off-white subway tile and a light granite for the counters.

Photo #1 from Elle Decor, #2 from Kraftmaid

Let There Be Heat!

The guys from Atlas Heating arrived on the dot at 8am. I am positively giddy. There are not 1, but 3 of them. Three is a wonderful number. I wasn't expecting to have actual heat for another month or so because of other work that we have to do, but miracle of miracles, they are going to hook up the only remaining vent on a temporary basis. We will have at least a little heat for the next month before we move downstairs. HOORAH!!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Moving the Water Heater - Again

My honey had to move the water heater again to make room for the new furnaces. We moved it to its' new location with the help of a car jack. Very clever. He is soldering the copper pipes to yet another temporary location here, so it's a bit of a maze of pipes. Man does he love his blow torch. It's one of his favorite toys. He always stops in the tool corral at the Depot and stares at the gigantic blow torches. A boy can dream.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Digging Yet Another Hole

My sweetie was at it again this morning bright and early with faithful helpers. They spent most of the day digging a hole at the back of the garage and then mixed and poured the concrete base that the furnace guy will need to put the furnace on on Monday. They're mixing concrete in that wheel barrow in the second pic. I took on the great responsibility of getting the crew egg bagel sandwiches and coffee this morning followed by a recent pizza order from Goat Hill. Pricey but delicious. Must keep the gang well nourished. No hot water or gas tonight...

Friday, December 19, 2008

Survival Gear - New Boots

It has been so flippin' cold around here that I treated myself to some new boots for Christmas. It was a crazy thing to do, but I kept having to take showers to heat up my tootsies and that just won't do. They're the Ugg Whitley moccasin-style boot. I never had Uggs when they were in fashion, so it was about the right time for me to get a pair. They are truly amazing! My feet have never been toastier and so comfy all at once. I got them from Zappos and they got them here the next day for free. Talk about instant gratification! Obviously not appropriate to wear while doing actual demolition or remodeling of any kind. Josh got me a steel-toed pair for Valentine's Day right after we moved in. But they are great for staying cozy warm during the day.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

The Demolished Studio

The bottom picture is what the studio looks like when you enter it from the front door down below. I wish I had a picture of what it looked like before we demo'd it with the crazy Lynch paper, the bathroom with 4.5' ceilings, etc. At the very back there you can see the little windows that used to look up into the rest of the house. That back corner was really shoddily done, so Josh did all this crazy foundation work at the back to reinforce everything. We removed a lot of dirt from the floor which took a lot of dumpsters and a lot of guys to dig. It's amazing how much space 500 square feet of 1" of dirt takes up when it's not compacted anymore. We had to try and improve the ceiling height. Since these photos were taken, we've poured a concrete slab (talk about an exciting day!) and the ceiling is currently at 95". Before pouring the slab, Josh redid all the posts going down the middle of the house. It turns out that they were each sitting on a very precarious pile of bricks. He dug these enormous holds, filled them with rebar and concrete. I'm sure he's loving my very technical descriptions of things that actual strucural engingeers had to sign off on. Basically, this house isn't going anywhere, mom!

The top picture is the view from the back of the studio looking towards the front of the house. That is the only window. Yup. We're going to put in a window in the bathroom as an extra escape hatch.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Fresh & Clean

One of the first things we did when we moved in was paint our pretty lady. Luckily, the diarrhea paint job was pretty old, so we legitimately had to redo it. If you want to see what the house looked like before, you can look at The Diarrhea House link. We chose this kind of stone color with a creamy color on some of the trim and then a darkish blue on the inside of the windows and the door. There's a little steeple at the top of our house. Some of the research that we did at the library said that the house might have been a little church at some point and there was also a permit taken out for a bakery in the backyard. We debated a lot about whether or not to paint the shingles on the roof and ultimately decided to paint them to protect them.

The guys that we hired to paint were slouches. We were trying to save money (as always) and while they were enthusiastic, they weren't very detail-oriented and it's already peeling off in a bunch of places now. They started priming before they had wiped down the walls after sanding. Things like that. There were lots of little touch-ups that they promised to come back and do that never happened. They did bring us a bottle of Bailey's Irish Cream for Christmas last year though. Overall, it was a huge improvement on what was there before though and a nice veneer for what the rest of the house looks like inside.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

35 Degrees, No Heat and No Power

I have been able to endure most things with this remodel: very little electricity, no central heat, no real bathtub (this is the most challenging for me!), and a house that often feels like a wind tunnel. I can even deal with this in the 30's which it's been dipping down to lately. I know that for most parts of the country that that's no big deal, but for us N. Californians, that's below zero. What pushes me over the edge completely though is when we lose all our power. I came home tonight for the second night in a row to absolutely no power. It was out in the whole Mission (our neighborhood). Luckily, my magical UPS driver, Jose, had delivered my toasty new boots earlier under the stairs. That was my only saving grace. I ran upstairs with the box and by the light of my little green lantern, I opened the box and slipped into my new boots. I think they deserve a whole entry to themselves later. I love them.

The great news, however, is that after living without a furnace for 13 months now, we have a furnace guy scheduled to start installation on Monday and an electrician starting on Tuesday! Josh ripped out our gravity furnace last November because it was in the way. Most of the year we wouldn't use it anyways, but now that we've officially entered our second Winter without heat, it's been getting a little more challenging. I really can't believe that these big things are finally happening!!

This picture is of our little angels, Muffin and Lucy, during last year's Winter without heat. They were curled up as close as they could get to each other for warmth and as close to the space heater as they could muster.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Survival Gear - Little Lantern

This lantern is the best thing that ever happened to me during this remodel. We haven't had much electricity upstairs for the last 6-9 months, so when the sun goes down, the light goes down. We have one overhead light in the whole house that works and three lamps. Virtually none of the plugs work. So that means greeting anyone that comes to the door in complete darkness. My ever-practical mother gave us this about 2 months ago and it is AMAZING! This now means light to find the toilet paper when you're in the bathroom, light next to the stove when you're cooking so that you can tell when the chicken is cooked all the way through, and you and the pizza man don't have to be creeped out when you meet each other at the door. It's the Mountain Green 30 LED Lantern and it's $49.95 at REI.

Trap Doors & The Gimp

This house makes no sense. That's why it took so long to figure out what to do with it. It almost seems that every subsequent person who owned this place was more crazy than the last.

#1 Trap door in the main entry hall
I suppose this was originally added to access the garage, but the ceiling was so low over the stairs that you would have to sit on the stairs and scooch down each step in order to get to the garage. Not even my 4'11" grandma could get down those stairs without hitting her cute little head.

#2 Trap door in the very back of the house to access the studio apartment
Like the other trap door, these stairs also have no real ceiling to speak of and are even steeper. The story that the neighbors tell us is that the old woman who lived here before us had a daughter that was a little odd. And the daughter lived in the studio downstairs and could enter the house from the back. The only thing is that the daughter must have only been 3' tall in order to do that comfortably.

#3 Little windows from the back of the studio that look into the main house.
What this means is that if you are scantily clad or not clad at all up say feeding the dog in the morning, the person living downstairs could see you from their kitchen. Creepalicious. This picture shows the view as if you were at the back of the house looking towards the front into the kitchen. We've taken out the window now and covered it with insulation. That's the gray area just under the stairs.

#4 No windows in the master bedroom
Not one (unless you count the little one in the closet looking into the back of the house).

#5 Sliding glass doors in the master bedroom looking to the back area of the house

#6 4 different styles of roof

#7 The entire studio has no windows except for one at the front that is about 1.5'x1.5'.
If you don't count the windows looking into the main house above. And the weird thing is that they build closets and whatnot down there to block the tiny amount of natural light that does come thru. The whole thing is very David Lynchy with this 60's era yellow sunflower wallpaper in the eating area. The trouble with a lot of Victorians is that the houses are usually pushed up against each other on the sides making natural light a bit of an issue, but what they did downstairs is a little crazy. The gnarly carpets that we ripped out down there were all stained from dog pee and God knows what else. I bet you wish I had a photo of that.

All in all, this house is wackadoodle and seems to be channeling the Winchester Mystery House.

Friday, December 12, 2008

The Diarrhea House

This is our little Victorian. She was built in the 1890's and seems to have survived all of those nasty quakes just fine. When we bought her, it was this yucky brown color. It actually looks nicer in this picture than it did in real life. I thought it resembled diarrhea. My grandmother called it "Ol' two eyes" when I sent her a picture of it. This was likely due to the awful aluminum windows that someone put in in the 60's. To the left of those stairs is a little studio apartment.

We bought the house with the intention of fixing it and flipping it within 2 years. That obviously didn't happen. My best friend in this venture is my little green lantern. I'll tell you more about him tomorrow.