This is not “vacation.”

I had stashed away vacation days when we thought Mr. Unreserved would be needed to help with the gutter project.  It turned out his contribution was limited to holding up an end of the 40′ section of gutter for the three-man team for about 15 minutes.  I was left with three unexpected vacation days that I’m using to take the whole week off.

“Off” is, page as always, viagra sale relative.  Things I’ve done since Friday:

  • Baked cookies and attended the Burgh Moms cookie swap.
  • Used swap cookies to bribe youngest to pee on the potty
  • Made chicken dinner, complete with pumpkin pie in gratitude for tune-up performed by dear brother’s dear boyfriend (DBDB?)
  • Knit mittens to go with Claire’s new beret
  • Attended local “Light Up Night” after convincing girls I was teasing about Santa coming a month early.  He did come a month early, just not to our house.  So there.
  • Sewed pin-tucks on bodices of girls’ Christmas dresses and began embroidery.  The embroidery is sweet and is also a pain in the neck.
  • Got a hair cut, picked up the dry cleaning, and made at least two grocery runs.
  • Shopped for birthday gift for SIL.
  • Helped out with Thanksgiving Feast at preschool.
  • Busted out the paint and power tools and made a major mess in the middle of the house.

Years ago when we were DINKS (dual income, no kids), Mr. Unreserved always had to work on Black Friday while I had the day off.  Instead of braving the door busting sales, I started a tradition of doing some busting of my own around the house.  I’d take the long weekend to refinish woodwork, or paint the living room.  The tradition continues, but since I’ve got all week, I’m tackling a larger project.  The hallway (of doom!).

The hallway project involves the following repairs (I’m liking the bullet points today, can you tell?)

  • Paint the ceilings, upstairs and down (done, and boy are my arms sore!)
  • Repair the plaster on the walls (waiting for plaster washers ordered last week)
  • Remove loose paint from trim and prepare for paint
  • Finish drywall enclosing pocket door
  • Replace missing balusters from the bucket o’ balusters in the basement
  • Remove clumped-on flat white paint from existing balusters (in progress)
  • Remove gobbed on liquid nails from base and tops of above balusters (in progress, slow progress)
  • Reset and refasten all balusters
  • Clean and wax hand rail
  • Remove, sand, and replace trim from stair returns (in progress)
  • Sand risers and treads
  • Paint risers , baseboards, and return trim
  • Install trim around ceiling edge downstairs
  • Seal treads
  • Install runner
  • Paint walls
  • Paint trim
  • Hang new light fixtures
  • Replace switch plates for push-button fixtures
  • Install new quarter-round downstairs

Blech.  I lay awake for almost an hour at 2:00 a.m. this morning with that list running through my head.  It’s a fiddly nasty project, but when it’s done it will make a huge difference in the look and, dare I say feel of this house.

Some before pics from last year:

The railing is wobbly, there are missing balusters, the stair treads are a wreck, a chunk of plaster has fallen since, and the color of the walls is. . . not my taste.

Wish me luck, and if I don’t update again in a week or so, call the paramedics.  Or send more sandpaper.

That can’t be right.

I am only 31, gynecologist but I am an old 31.  I knit for fun.  I seldom go out.  I listen to NPR while commuting.  Tonight, sales having feasted on pizza and applied more drywall mud to the living room wall, order I am curled up on my couch with a throw blanket, a hot cup of Darjeeling, and the latest Interweave Knits.  Later I will wash the children, put them to bed, and try to stay awake through the football game.  I may knit a hat.  It’s really rather pathetic, but I’m a happy pathetic person.

As I was (half) listening to NPR on the way home, I caught the local weather forecast.

“. . . and tomorrow’s high will be 26.”

Nah, that can’t possibly be right.  It’s colder than a witch’s tit out there now and it’s 33.  Twenty six must be the low.  I’ll check the paper’s forecast.

It said 30.  The local tv news says 28.

I accept that I live at roughly 42deg latitude.  I accept that we have seasons.  I accept that summer is long since over and I have no right to expect it to be warm outside today.  BUT TWENTY-SIX?!?!?!

It usually takes me until February to hate the cold with this much passion.  I wish I could get as much of a jump on my holiday shopping as I am on the weather.

Excuse me for a moment, I have to yell at the children for de-stuffing the throw pillows and shoving the polyfill down Anna’s shirt.

That’s better.

Anna still believes that cauliflower grows on the moon.  Today a coworker gave me a brilliant way to entertain gullible children in warmer weather.  It involves convincing them that if they sprinkle salt on a bird’s tail, it won’t be able to fly away, rendering it easy to catch.  I am so going to try this as soon as the weather is reasonable again.  Perhaps in May.

I am a big girl.

As a big girl, click I am capable of going potty all by myself.  I do not need a cheering team.  I do not need an audience.  So what is the thought process of small children when they hear a parent in the bathroom and decide to leave the playroom and trek all the way upstairs to hang around in the doorway while I’m peeing?  Why do they feel the need to supervise?  I know if they are talking to you and nature calls that they will follow you, but dropping what they’re doing and going out of their way to visit you in the bathroom seems above and beyond to me.

Who was that masked blogger?

I came downstairs this morning carrying a small person, health care a blanket, valeologist and an ‘occodile.  Mr. Unreserved was reading the morning’s headlines.  “No more PittGirl,”  he said.

What?! 

No more PittGirl.  Not only did it make the (bottom of the) front page of the Post-Gazette, but it registered on Mr. Unreserved’s radar.  My spouse is not a blog reader, but he’s heard me mention PittGirl over dinner frequently enough to know the significance of The Burgh Blog going dark.

I guess that’s the double-edged sword of annominity.  You can say what you want, but it’s like waving a red flag in front of all the prats who would like to unmask you.

Thanks for the smiles, PittGirl, whoever you are and not that it matters.  I’ll never think of pigeons the same way again.

Fanfare for the common blogger

I love music.  Music used to be much more a part of my life back in high school.  I was a band geek of the highest order.  I seriously contemplated a career in music.  While I don’t regret chosing science (the more marketable choice), nurse I sometimes forget what it’s like to climb into a piece of music and lose myself.

This evening as I was driving home from a mundane shopping trip, advice I came across Copeland’s “Rodeo” on the radio.  I turned it up until my speakers crackled.  I regretted leaving the car.  I turned on the radio when I came in the house and intoduced the girls to “Appalachian Spring.”  It really struck a note with me (pun totally intended).  It was a good counterpoint to the gloomy weather today.

Not that I minded the weather.  This is the first daytime rain since we had the gutters replaced.  I ran around the house peering out the windows at the water not falling in torrents down the side of the house.  It was a beautiful sight.

Speaking of home improvement, pestilence Mr. Unreserved tackled a messy project today.  A few weeks ago we smelled something very wrong.  Its origin was somewhere around the pocket door that leads to the playroom.  Half of the pocket to the pocket door had been opened for about a month.  It was open because some previous owner thought that plywood made a good wall board substitute.  We disagreed.

An odor eventually rose out of the pocket that made us think a dead critter was contained therein.  No critter was evident, so we assumed stink bug.  When it continued stinking, we realized it was no bug.  Ignoring it did not make it go away.  I took my sniffer and a flashlight to the basement beneath the pocket where I found a crack in the waste stack that runs down the rear of the pocket.  More sewage trouble.  Sort of.

When we had the sewage lines repaired, we needed to verify where the sewage stack leading from the old gutted bathroom upstairs was tied in.  Since the bathroom is completely 100% defunct and not to be replaced, it was not tied in to the new lines.  However, Mr. Unreserved had to pour water down the line for testing.  The water apparently activated odorous demons that were rising out of the small crack in the pipe that could be seen in the basement.  The stack needed to go.

On removing the chase in the playroom that contained the old cast stack, we found that the crack was actually a chasm that ran up the entire length of the pipe up to the upstairs.  Good thing we weren’t planning on replacing that bathroom!  Mr. Unreserved got to spend the afternoon with his friend, Mr. Sledgehammer.  The cast pipe is gone.  And the only temporary casualty was one old knob and tube electrical line.

Progress smells like a lack of sewage gasses.

Here I am!

Thanks for coming!

My darling brother, cardiology who knows scads more about computers than I ever will in my lifetime, has graciously set me up with my very own corner of the Interwebs.  I am eternally grateful.

Having devoted enough time to monkeying around with this blog for one evening, it is time to cast on for Autum Rose sleeves.  I’d have progress pictures, but the camera hasn’t been the same since Claire sent it for a dunk in the dog’s water dish.  I’m hoping a camera shop can get the water spots off the lens(es).

Oh, and nothing expensive has broken in the house this week.  Yet.

One word – plastics

The sewage guys pulled up this morning in their chauffeured stretch hummer and snaked out our drains. There was indeed a blockage outside at the new trap. A very tough blockage that required augering out with the snake before things could flow again. When they pulled back the snake, sickness they found a chunk of now-mangled red/orange plastic on the end.

What was the mystery object? The world may never know. They suggested that perhaps one of the small people in our house may have flushed something. I’m skeptical on this one because the sole functioning toilet in our house has trouble choking down the things that are supposd to be flushed, infection let alone chunks of plastic. And whatever it was made it out to the trap before becoming, well, trapped. However, what with all the recent openness going on in our sewage lines, there’s no telling what could have found its way in there.

So all’s well that ends well. The little Unreservedlings get a sound lecture on what does and does not belong down pipes – water, good. Toys, washclothes, hairbrushes, orangutans, fruit bats, breakfast cereals (undigested), anchovies, bad. The sewage guys went off into the sunset (it does get dark early these days, no?) having relieved us of all of our pond and none of our money.

I’m still thinking about that goat, just in case.

Squish?!

Last night I was feeling my productivity oats. I thought I would get a few loads of laundry in to help Mr. Unreserved get a jump on things. (Friday is when he usually does laundry.) Now hold up before you go thinking, ascariasis “Who does she think she is, illness doesn’t she wear clothes, disinfection too? Why is she “helping” Mr. Unreserved?” keep in mind that Mr. Unreserved is usually home doing laundry on Fridays while I am at work. He does his job, I do mine. We are an equal opportunity household. He doesn’t ask me to do laundry, I don’t ask him to calculate optimized stoichiometry for acid catalyzed couplings.

As I was saying, I went down to the basement to put in a load of whites. And while I was doing so, I noticed the rug in front of the washing machine sounded wrong. The fact that it sounded at all was not a good sign. Rugs are ideally quiet.
This rug said, “Squish.”

Squish?

I moved my feet around.

Squish!

I felt the rug. It was water-logged.

Bring in the scientific method!
Observation: The rug is soaked.
Hypothesis: The rug is soaked because there is a source of leaking water.
Predictions: The soaked rug is related to the fact that Mr. Unreserved had done a load of towels and a load of jeans earlier that day. Therefore the source is most likely the washing machine. Either the laundry tub that the machine drains into is clogged, the drain hose is loose at the back of the machine, or evil things are happening in the sewage lines that the whole mess empties into.
Experiments:
1. Observe the running washing machine. The hose was emptying into the wash tub, so it wasn’t a hose disconnect.
2. Examine the wash tub. No clog.
=cue ominous music=
3. Fill washing machine. Drain washing machine. Observe water backing up from the drain pipe that the wash tub connects to, as well as the floor drain up the line from that. Jump out of the way of rapidly expanding pond in basement.
=insert Psycho knife slashing music here=

Swear vigorously. Conclusion: F*ck. There’s something new and excitingly wrong with the sewage line. Sewage line. . . sewage line. . . I seem to remember something about sewage lines at Chez Unreserved. Oh! Yes! They were supposed to be FIXED COMPLETELY at GREAT EXPENSE two weeks ago.

See, here’s the kicker. There are two main lines in the house – the first being the one that the bathroom, sink, and dishwasher drain into. It goes merrily out of the house where it connects with the second line, the one that the laundry tub, washing machine, and basement floor drain empty into. They meet up at a shiny new gold lined gem encrusted (on the outside so as not to impede flow) union, whereupon they follow the new platinum piping through the trap, down the brand new titanium line under my mangled driveway and into the sewage main. (all materials are assumed based on the cost of aforementioned repairs)

So Mr. Unreserved and I stood staring and cussing at the burbling pond, wondering what new and expensive troubles we’re looking at. Staring at a pond so long made nature call. I went upstairs and answered. I flushed.
Mr. Unreserved yelled, “Did you just flush?”
“Yes. Why?”
“Because the water level just came UP over here.”
We repeated the experiment (well, the flushing portion of it). The water level rose again.

Considering that the toilet is on a different line than the laundry facilities, we suspect that all is not well in the magical land of new sewage piping. Which is extra weird considering that laundry was done last week (after the repairs were complete) without incident. The answering service for the repair company promised that someone would be out first thing this morning. Also the gutter guys are back to finish the gutter job.

So I write to ask you if you live in the greater Pittsburgh area, and you happen to have a spare goat* lying around that you don’t need, could I please have it? You see we need to make a sacrifice to the sewage gods, and finances being what they are, and what with all of last month’s sacrifices, we’re fresh out.

*Before I get e-mails from angry goat lobyists, I would never do such a thing. Really. If I had, I wouldn’t have had to have my sewage lines fixed, would I? Have you hugged a goat today?

I know I’m not the only one to say this . . .

Instead of participating in NaNoBloMo, sickness I’ve elected (har) to write a month’s worth of post tonight.

At Chez Unreserved, we carved pumpkins. It’s quite the trick to get a good picture of both girls simultaneously.
Either Claire isn’t looking and/or they’re out of focus

Or Anna isn’t looking, or she’s pulling a face

So I figured a little reverse psychology was in order. I asked them to make faces. THIS time they listened.

The next day I was off work (oh sweet, sweet vacation!) so I got to take Anna to her class party. While waiting for class to begin Anna decided to try out her wings.

We had a very successful trick-or-treat year. It was sort of odd starting out in broad daylight, but it made picture taking easier.

The girls made friends with a 2yr old Buzz Lightyear from the next street over. The three of them made a formidable candy collecting team.

On Saturday, the fun was over. I had to be the enforcer and prevent the girls from subsisting entirely on pure sugar. Fortunately it was beautiful out, so we went outside and got some work done.

There was a tremendous amount of damage along the back of the house where the deck used to be. This is why the deck fell. We suspect the boards were already in bad shape when the deck went up. Time and moisture didn’t help matters any.
The shorter portion of the L-shaped space is what’s left of a beam under the original part of the house. It had been the home of a large colony of carpenter ants. We could see that it had been repaired somewhat before on the right end.

This is/was a sizable beam. The floor joists are mortised into it. Removing it was not a desirable option. Enter our chosen repair after much research – a multi-part epoxy system from The Rot Doctor.
I removed the worst of the rotted wood. All I needed was a paint scraper and a paintbrush. That’s how deteriorated it was.
Pictured here is the excavated beam with my hand in the picture for scale.

The remaining wood was treated with a penetrating epoxy, as was the new pieces of wood that were cut to fill the excavated space. I soaked the entire beam and the new wood in the epoxy, which was every bit as noxious smelling as the label promised. Our whole house reeked faintly of xylenes for about 24hrs. I also inadvertently soaked my pants, my shoes, my shirt, the ladder, and my left elbow with an unfortunate splash of epoxy. My elbow is now rot resistant. My shirt is history. The jury is still out on the pants and shoes. If the neighbors were watching, they got a quick flashing of undergarments when I stripped in the yard.

I managed to finish the job. Here it is all cobbled together, curing merrily away.

I will give it a week to cure and then fill in the remaining cracks and voids with a mixture of layup and laminating resin and fine sawdust. The result should be a sound, rot-resistant beam that should no longer crumble or harbor ant farms. We will cover it with tar paper and siding. Assuming we can find someone to sell us 8″ novelty lap siding.

The longer damaged portion was too far gone to salvage any wood. It’s under the new part of the house, “new” being circa 1920, that contains the kitchen. The board that closes off the floor joists and wall studs was almost completely gone.

The pink you can see is foam insulation Mr. Unreserved put up in the basement in an attempt to keep the drafts down in the kitchen. You could see daylight where the floor meets the wall under the radiator. The wood was almost completely gone from under the tar paper. Can you believe someone tried to hang a deck off of this mess?
Mr. Unreserved removed what little was left, Leaving a gaping hole under the entire kitchen.

The sill was rotted away for a few feet under one end, so it had to be replaced, and the floor joists were sistered where necessary. We could see how the floor had been sagging, made worse by the fact that the radiator sits above the worst of the damage and it weighs about 800lbs. Mr. Unreserved also repaired this corner beam.

Lovely, isn’t it? Makes us wonder what, other than a wish and a prayer, holds this place up.*
With all the damage fixed, Mr. Unreserved closed it back up with new 1x12s and covered the whole shebang with tar paper. Assuming we can find someone to sell us 6″ novelty lap siding, we will then side it. Yes, that’s not a typo. The siding on that portion of the house is narrower than the other.

There’s no pictures of that side of the fixed corner because I prudently took the camera inside. It looked like rain. I set it on the counter out of reach of children. Claire climbed up on the counter for the umpteenth time even though she knows better and accidentally knocked the camera in the dog’s water dish. I’m praying it dries out. I’m not happy.

And finally, I’ve avoided politics here up to this point. I’m not a fan of espousing my political views via a yard sign or on the back end of my car (though if that floats your boat, far be it from me to look askance) or on my blog. But I must say, all throughout this election season I firmly decided that I was voting for Obama. But then the past three days, the McCain campaign’s automated whatnots have called my house roughly three to five times a day. And lo! I have seen the light! I’ve completely reversed my political opinions in light of these constant phone calls! I’ll change my vote now – the phone calls have shown me the error of my ways!

Or not.

*Which reminds me of another digression – while the gutter guys were up above this section of the house on Friday, they asked if we knew anything about a fire in the house’s history. A small section of the back of the original structure appears to have burned at some point long ago, perhaps before the kitchen addition was built. We’ve got a pretty thorough accounting of the house’s history from the last owner, but no mention of a fire. I really wish these walls could talk.
. . . but I have to. I am thrilled to know that my daughters will grow up in a world where a black president is not only a possibility, seek but a fact. I love the fact that every successive generation is a little more open minded, a little more rational than the last.
I have faith that one day that this open-mindedness will apply also to complete acceptance of committed relationships between people regardless of gender. One baby-step at a time!

Good riddance, October.

Instead of participating in NaNoBloMo, sickness I’ve elected (har) to write a month’s worth of post tonight.

At Chez Unreserved, we carved pumpkins. It’s quite the trick to get a good picture of both girls simultaneously.
Either Claire isn’t looking and/or they’re out of focus

Or Anna isn’t looking, or she’s pulling a face

So I figured a little reverse psychology was in order. I asked them to make faces. THIS time they listened.

The next day I was off work (oh sweet, sweet vacation!) so I got to take Anna to her class party. While waiting for class to begin Anna decided to try out her wings.

We had a very successful trick-or-treat year. It was sort of odd starting out in broad daylight, but it made picture taking easier.

The girls made friends with a 2yr old Buzz Lightyear from the next street over. The three of them made a formidable candy collecting team.

On Saturday, the fun was over. I had to be the enforcer and prevent the girls from subsisting entirely on pure sugar. Fortunately it was beautiful out, so we went outside and got some work done.

There was a tremendous amount of damage along the back of the house where the deck used to be. This is why the deck fell. We suspect the boards were already in bad shape when the deck went up. Time and moisture didn’t help matters any.
The shorter portion of the L-shaped space is what’s left of a beam under the original part of the house. It had been the home of a large colony of carpenter ants. We could see that it had been repaired somewhat before on the right end.

This is/was a sizable beam. The floor joists are mortised into it. Removing it was not a desirable option. Enter our chosen repair after much research – a multi-part epoxy system from The Rot Doctor.
I removed the worst of the rotted wood. All I needed was a paint scraper and a paintbrush. That’s how deteriorated it was.
Pictured here is the excavated beam with my hand in the picture for scale.

The remaining wood was treated with a penetrating epoxy, as was the new pieces of wood that were cut to fill the excavated space. I soaked the entire beam and the new wood in the epoxy, which was every bit as noxious smelling as the label promised. Our whole house reeked faintly of xylenes for about 24hrs. I also inadvertently soaked my pants, my shoes, my shirt, the ladder, and my left elbow with an unfortunate splash of epoxy. My elbow is now rot resistant. My shirt is history. The jury is still out on the pants and shoes. If the neighbors were watching, they got a quick flashing of undergarments when I stripped in the yard.

I managed to finish the job. Here it is all cobbled together, curing merrily away.

I will give it a week to cure and then fill in the remaining cracks and voids with a mixture of layup and laminating resin and fine sawdust. The result should be a sound, rot-resistant beam that should no longer crumble or harbor ant farms. We will cover it with tar paper and siding. Assuming we can find someone to sell us 8″ novelty lap siding.

The longer damaged portion was too far gone to salvage any wood. It’s under the new part of the house, “new” being circa 1920, that contains the kitchen. The board that closes off the floor joists and wall studs was almost completely gone.

The pink you can see is foam insulation Mr. Unreserved put up in the basement in an attempt to keep the drafts down in the kitchen. You could see daylight where the floor meets the wall under the radiator. The wood was almost completely gone from under the tar paper. Can you believe someone tried to hang a deck off of this mess?
Mr. Unreserved removed what little was left, Leaving a gaping hole under the entire kitchen.

The sill was rotted away for a few feet under one end, so it had to be replaced, and the floor joists were sistered where necessary. We could see how the floor had been sagging, made worse by the fact that the radiator sits above the worst of the damage and it weighs about 800lbs. Mr. Unreserved also repaired this corner beam.

Lovely, isn’t it? Makes us wonder what, other than a wish and a prayer, holds this place up.*
With all the damage fixed, Mr. Unreserved closed it back up with new 1x12s and covered the whole shebang with tar paper. Assuming we can find someone to sell us 6″ novelty lap siding, we will then side it. Yes, that’s not a typo. The siding on that portion of the house is narrower than the other.

There’s no pictures of that side of the fixed corner because I prudently took the camera inside. It looked like rain. I set it on the counter out of reach of children. Claire climbed up on the counter for the umpteenth time even though she knows better and accidentally knocked the camera in the dog’s water dish. I’m praying it dries out. I’m not happy.

And finally, I’ve avoided politics here up to this point. I’m not a fan of espousing my political views via a yard sign or on the back end of my car (though if that floats your boat, far be it from me to look askance) or on my blog. But I must say, all throughout this election season I firmly decided that I was voting for Obama. But then the past three days, the McCain campaign’s automated whatnots have called my house roughly three to five times a day. And lo! I have seen the light! I’ve completely reversed my political opinions in light of these constant phone calls! I’ll change my vote now – the phone calls have shown me the error of my ways!

Or not.

*Which reminds me of another digression – while the gutter guys were up above this section of the house on Friday, they asked if we knew anything about a fire in the house’s history. A small section of the back of the original structure appears to have burned at some point long ago, perhaps before the kitchen addition was built. We’ve got a pretty thorough accounting of the house’s history from the last owner, but no mention of a fire. I really wish these walls could talk.