Archive | February, 2012

Wordless Wednesday: Take Your Cat to Work Day

February 29, 2012

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*******sighhhhh*******

takecattoworkday

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Rental Homes on the Rise

February 29, 2012

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Have you been seeing an increasing amount of homes for rent in your area? I have been reading news reports of increased rentals and other such phenomena (lol) across the board. I think it’s related to the “housing bust,” what say you?

Here, rentals are BIG. I live in a relatively “rural” area close to a big city. I say the area is relatively rural because it sure doesn’t seem very rural. The population is probably under 1,000, but there are no rural gaps between the neighboring townships. Way back when, when settlers were first building around here, they discovered the amazing power of hydropower, and built a ton of mills around the many fast-flowing creeks nearby. The mills brought workers, who needed homes, and so homes were built up and down the creek. After 200 years, you can imagine how crowded the creek areas got…. so it’s often difficult to tell where one town ends and another begins because there is no visual gap between the municipalities. As a matter of fact, some municipalities even share or double up on services— for example, our area gets mail delivered by TWO different post offices. :S It’s confusing.

My area also doesn’t seem very rural because there are a LOT of rental houses here. We see people coming from the big city, finding cheap apartments here. And of course, crime usually follows. Plus, the rental homes here are not anywhere near as attractive and well kept up as. These houses are usually one wind storm away from collapse, and yet landlords seem to make the money. ???

Personally, I greatly dislike the growing switch from home ownership to rental buildings. It’s not good for the country, politically, economically, and morally. I think that a top-heavy renting population generally feels less connected to the country and local events, and has less interest in community pride, voting, etc. America was once the land of dreams, where a person could OWN land and not be enslaved to the feudal system of Old Europe. What’s your opinion?

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Spring, Spring, Spring!

February 24, 2012

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I care not one whit that the weather prophets are forecasting snow. Not a bit. We’ve had so little snow this season that the threat of even a few inches is nothing. Usually, snow forecasts in late February incite collective groans from the Northeastern population: Ugh, not more snow! But this year, it’s been a glorious winter! No late snow storm can stop me from breaking out the gardening tools and dreaming about weeding throughout the long, hot summer, no sirreeee!!!

I took a little jaunt outside (temps were up to 40 degrees today, perfect weather!). Here’s a peek of Upstate New York before spring really hits. Of course, we usually have 12-18 inches of snow on the ground normally, so….

This is my garden, currently. Pitiful, yes. I will have to take a few days off to clear it out and (have my husband) till the plots.

Winetrgarden

My spruce tree. The first year we moved here, I planted 6 of these in the backyard. This is the only survivor. My neighbors then were quite angry that I had purchased the land. It had been vacant for quite some time and they were used to using the land for their treasure-hunting excursions, driving their motorcycles around the house, and allowing neighborhood kids to smoke pot back there. One neighbor let her grandsons “play” with some saws in my yard, and they promptly hacked my little tress to bits. By the time I shooed them away, there was only this tree left in their wake. Good heavens, its been quite the trial trying to cultivate the property!

sprucetreetall

My willow tree. The deer are against me, too, lol. They nearly stripped the tree of bark before I covered it with wrap. I hope the tree survives. I was coddling it in my front garden beds for years before I plugged it in the back. *sigh*

WillowSick

Ah, wildlife.

RabittDoo

This is the burn pile that awaits me come good weather (aka, rainy free). It’s leftover stuff from the renovation. To save money, we burned the lathe instead of dumping it in the landfill. It makes for some very nice bonfires during the summer!

burn pile

My rebellious English ivy. The durn stuff won’t grow up the arbor no matter how much I coax it! It insists on growing across the garden path. Well, I’ve got a surprise coming this spring!

ivypath

My apple tree. It survive the neighbors AND the deer. I love this tenacious old thing. I can prune it, now, too. I hope it gives fruit this year.

appletreeprune

Finally, the swamp that’s out back. The deer live up the hill in the forest. They come down for tasty treats from my yard twice a day. šŸ˜

Swamp

So you can see I have my work already assigned this spring! I’m actually looking forward to cleaning up the mess. I neglected the gardens during the renovation summer, and then the following summer I had to work full-time. Soon it will all be green again!

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Find the Kitty Friday: ATTACK

February 24, 2012

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Livvy’s been in a funk lately. The spring air and increase of rodent activity inside and outside has her feline blood surging. Take me outside! she meows. She’s inconsolable, meowing incessantly and turning up the “cuteness” effect to try and bamboozle one of us to open the door and allow her to roam. NOT.

So the grump has her angry spurts. She skulks behind chairs and under packaging debris. When one of us passes by, she swipes us with a soft paw.

Her tactics are not effective. Shredding my ankles does not inspire me to throw her out the door. This cat IS driving me bonkers, though! LOL. She has spring fever big time.

I don’t dare let her out, though. She’s too precious. Either she’d be run down by the crazy traffic or someone would see how beautiful she is and kidnap her. I tell her she’s an “indoor kitty.” She won’t listen. She pouts, she cries, she throws fits. *sigh* The terrible teens…..

How are your critters faring, now that spring is around the corner?

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What To Do With an Attached Garage

February 23, 2012

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Originally I planned on making this great big kitchen in there. But then I realized it was less expensive to rebuild the existing kitchen in the house.

Then, I figured I would make this huge master bedroom suite, with a bathroom!! We are six people and the house has a mere 1 full bath and a tiny half-bath. It’s just not enough bathrooms. Additionally, the four bedrooms are oddly shaped. One is 10×12, two are 8×14 (that’s a tough dimension to work with when you have a 6-foot long bed, believe me), and another is a huge 15×17! The original builder, Mr. Rogers, did a great job building this home but when it came to the sizes of the room… well, FAIL. So we have three too-small bedrooms with one bedroom that is too large.

Anyway, I think I will have to forsake the master bedroom suite thing. I think I will have to convert the garage into a huge “conservatory,” kind of a combo music room and family room. Every single person in the family plays instruments, most of us two or more instruments. Do you have ANY idea how much space instruments consume?! TONS! And now my son is begging for a drum set! Gah!

Glorious space.....

We can’t put anything in the basement. It floods. Terribly. There’s no attic space and you know now how small and impractical the bedroom spaces are… currently, all the instruments are crammed into corners in the living room and dining room– the DOZENS of acoustic guitars (yes, dozens), amplifiers, keyboards, microphones, track recorders, pedals, tapes, etc etc etc. I’m drowning in music supplies!!!

So I have resolved that I have to create a WHOLE room devoted to musical instruments. Wow. maybe I can shoehorn another bathroom in there… I hope…

If you had an attached garage, to what would you convert it? And don’t tell me you’d use it to park your car, what a silly thing! šŸ˜‰

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Cuteness Overload Friday

February 17, 2012

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Oh no! It’s Friday! My day got started so quickly that I plumb fergot about Find the Kitty Friday. šŸ™ I apologize to Livvy’s adoring fans.

Well, I haven’t had much time to hash through Livvy’s photo archives. I was going to upload an old video I found of her when she was a kitten (SQUEEEE!!) but I never got the time. Maybe next week.

But for this week, I do still have a bit of Livvy Cuteness.

CutenessOverloadOlivia

She’s on the tablecloth, however. >:( I don’t like her doing that. But who can resist such adorable charms? šŸ˜€

Well, this weekend looks to be another full one. Spring is on the way. We have a slew of activities planned, gearing up for the good weather. What do you have planned now that the weather is turning nicer? Gardening? House cleaning? Taking photos of your adorable kittehs? šŸ˜‰

Have a great weekend, friends.

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How to Buy Replacement Windows That Look Great

February 16, 2012

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One of the best investments you can make for your old home is new windows. For the average homeowner, vinyl replacement windows is a good choice. But all vinyl replacements are not the same. Here’s how to choose the best window for your money and your old home.

Making your Selection

It comes as no surprise that the best window is the one that is the most attractive at the most affordable price. This is easier said than done, however. Window manufacturers seem to love to confuse the consumer with strange terms, baffling “new” “technology” and other slick marketing techniques. I’ll explain what some of these terms mean.

Vinyl
Vinyl replacement windows are made from polyvinyl chloride (PVC), the same material used for PVC pipes and vinyl siding and fencing. PVC is a veritable soup of chemical ingredients. One manufacturer may use more of one ingredient to produce a better window while another manufacturer may use less and produce an inferior window. For this reason, it is best to stick with a name brand manufacturer who has a history of producing quality windows. Avoid the cheap no-name brands because chances are these products use cheaper ingredients that may cause problems in the future. Look for windows that have the American Architectural Manufacturers Association (AAMA) label on them. This means that the window is certified by the AAMA for high quality materials and manufacture.

Two of the big problems with vinyl windows are their propensity to warp or sag with extreme temperatures and yellowing that occurs under direct sunlight. Look for a window that contains titanium dioxide (TiO2), an additive that helps vinyl keep its white color. There’s not a whole lot you can do about the warping from temperature changes– vinyl siding suffers from the same plight. If possible, install awnings over the windows that face south as these generally receive the brunt of direct sunlight year round.

Double Glazing
Most vinyl replacement windows are “double glazed.” Double glazing is also known as insulated glazing. It’s basically two panes of glass separated by a small pocket of air space. This type of glazing is marvelous, in my opinion.

A double glazed window. Image courtesy of pvc-window-manufacturer.com

Old homes with their original windows have single pane glass. As many of you old-home owners know, heated or cooled air and sounds pass very easily through single pane windows. But add another pane to the window and air flow and sounds are sharply restricted. Years ago, the double glazing cost for new windows added greatly to the entire cost, but today, double glazing is very common. Some companies will even offer to add double glazing to older windows and doors. It’s incredibly more energy efficient.

Gas
Some window manufacturers boast that their windows contain argon gas or some other inert gas, claiming that the injected of gas between the two panes help prevent damage from UV rays and add additional energy efficiency to the windows. Personally, I don’t think the gas does much good and I will never pay extra for it. Over time, the gas leaches out. It’s not toxic in such tiny amounts. But seeing that it is not a permanent feature and that it does very little good anyway, I won’t ever pay more money for a window that has it.

Screens
Vinyl replacement windows screens are, in my opinion, substandard.

Kitty cat screen damage.

They are usually made of fiberglass material and they tear easily (especially if you have cats!). They are very pretty at first, when installed, but over time they start to sag and the fibers weaken. They fill with dust and dirt, and if you wash them, the fibers sag and weaken all the more.

I don’t know for sure if any window manufacturers make metal screening in a smart-looking black color. They certainly should. Metal screens are much easier to keep. If you get a vinyl window with fiberglass screens, expect to have to mend or replace the screens pretty regularly, every 7 to 15 years or so.

Tilting Sashes
In my estimation, the sashes of a vinyl replacement window are one of its best features. Many models feature “tilting” sashes. You press two small clips on each side of the bottom sash and the sash will tilt in for easy cleaning. What a marvelous, magnificent feature! No more clambering 40 feet up a ladder to wash windows!

Another great feature about these sashes is that you can lift the bottom sash up AND the top sash down. This is a great feature for homes with small children or pets who may try to poke through the screen. You can simply open up the top sash of the window to protect the lower screen, and still get fresh air.

Things to Avoid

Besides the usual features I’ve mentioned, check the window for any possible future problems that may develop.

Stupidly Designed Safety Clips
When we bought our first bunch of vinyl replacement windows, the window installers proudly pointed to their “safety clips” as an exclusive added feature. These clips were simply plastic triangular pieces that, when flipped out, would “lock down” the windows yet still allow the windows to be cracked open. This would keep the windows secure but still allow fresh air to circulate especially during hot summer nights.

While a terrific theory, the clips didn’t last long. They were poorly made and they were not attached to the window at all. After a year, they fell out and left ugly gaping holes.

Thin Vinyl “fin” Opening Handles
I would have gladly skipped the Amazing Safety Clips for better opening handles, that’s for sure. If you expect to open and close your window more than a dozen times, look for thick handles.

A broken handle on my window.

Blue-Tinted Windows
Some manufacturers tint their windows various colors, because homeowners may not want only white. However, avoid blue-tinted vinyl windows especially if they are a no-name brand and do not come with any AAMA certification label. Like supermarkets that color their old beef a red color to make the meat look fresher, blue-tinted windows hide the sub-grade vinyl used for the windows. These windows are tinted blue to hide their lack of titanium dioxide, the additive that makes the vinyl a white color. Over time, the blue tint will fade and the vinyl windows will become an ugly light yellow color.

Despite the caveats, I love vinyl replacement windows. They are more energy efficient and easier top operate than my old 100-year old windows. While no one is quite sure how long vinyl replacements will last (since they have only been around for 30 years or so), I think they can certainly last the lifetime of the homeowners. I’m hoping that manufacturers continue to offer us better technology and better features in the future.

Thanks for reading!

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Meanwhile, Back At the Ranch….

February 11, 2012

5 Comments

BUG1

BUG2

BUG3

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Find the Kitty Friday, Filed Edition

February 10, 2012

2 Comments

I’ve been ripping the house apart, organizing papers and receipts and charts and documents in preparation for taxes. Good Lord, help me. I hate this time of year. I am the kind of person who loathes balancing the checkbook, let alone wrangling with receipts and tables and etc. Is it any wonder that I am in favor of a flat tax?!

So here come Livvy to provide a little entertainment for her hassled mommeh. Can you find the kitty?

FTK filing1

Well? Did you spot her? The photo is a little blurry (taken with cell phone camera). Maybe this photo will help you.

FTK filing2

I’ve actually found some pretty amazing junk things in some of my boxes. I have a lot of my grandmother’s old stuff. I also collect old toys.

All right, enough entertainment. Back I go to the paperwork. šŸ™

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Old House Blues

February 9, 2012

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Whenever I have had a professional carpenter, plumber, electrician, or whoever over to the house, every one of them inevitably says, “Oh, new homes have problems, too!” That always surprised me because I assumed that new construction was more durable, cleaner, better built with better technology. According to many professionals out there, this is not true. I am appalled, because newer homes *should* be built better. With newer homes, you don’t have to hack into support beams to retrofit plumbing pipes or electric wiring. New homes are insulated and already have coaxial cable and new windows and bright, shiny roof decking with no mold. What makes new homes so shabby? Poor craftsmanship?

Old homes are built well, I’ll give you that. 150-year old houses were built at a time before the spotted owl goons could shut down entire forests, when home builders could carve 12-inch beams out of home grown oak and walnut woods.

But when it comes to “modern” comforts (like central heating!), old homes are woefully lacking. If you have always loved in a newly built home, you don’t have any idea of the drafts that blow your napkins off the table, of the icicles that form on the INSIDE of the house… here are a couple typical Old House problems. I also offer my opinions and/or advice, for kicks. šŸ™‚

1. Critters
Old homes almost always have critters– bats, squirrels, mice, chinch bugs, ants, carpenter bees. We have pretty much seen it all. An owl in the hot water exhaust pipe, possums in the basement, raccoons in the garage, bats in the house, mice and honeybees in the walls…. yep. How i wish I had been blogging when we discovered bees in the wall! One day, I looked out my window and saw a tornado-like swarm of bees swirling around an upstairs window. All of a sudden, the wall was covered in bees, all squirming to enter a rather large hole in the siding. I found out later that some brilliant National Grid guy had replaced my power cable anchor, screwing in the new anchor to a new area on the siding but NEVER CLOSING UP THE ORIGINAL HOLE. It became a nesting place for all sorts of creatures.

owl4

Barn owl in the water tank pipe.

 

We had no idea how to get rid of the bees…. when we pounded the wall in the bedroom, 20,000 bees erupted in angry buzzes. We eventually had to rip open the walls on a frosty autumn day (the bees were stupid in the cold). We vacuumed them up and tore out the honeycomb. A lot of the comb was still good, so we ate it. šŸ˜€

2. Mold
Old homes have mold. I HATE mold. Mold comes from leaks, and old homes have lots of leaks. We’ve had our share of mold from chimney leaks, ice dams, holes in the walls, etc. Mold is tough to remove. I quit trying to clean it when it invaded the wall cavities– instead, I gutted the living room and replaced everything. Sometimes, I still smell the faint odor of mold…

IceDamdamage2

Ice dam damage. These leaks create mold inside wall cavities.

 

3. Plaster dust
As long as there’s 1 square foot of plaster in an old house, the place will be dusty. Eep, I dislike plaster very much. I dislike dusting, too…

Attic3

Attic cellulose insualtion also creates a ton of dust.

 

4. Crooked walls, crooked floors
This doesn’t bother me as much, unless I am renovating and I need to somehow wedge a perfect 90 degree section of drywall into a 85 degree corner! I don’t mind that all my pictures tilt a little. I do not like my bookshelves tilting so noticeably, though!

5. Bouncy floors
Bouncy floors make me nervous. There’s something very creepy about bopping up and down in my desk chair when one of the kids walks by. So far, the floor seems none of the worse for wear, but I have detected some cracks in the joists below. If I ever get another house, maybe I’ll choose one that has solid concrete floors. ANYTHING that doesn’t feel like you’re walking on a waterbed as you cross the room, lol.

Basementwiringjobs

Support posts help alleviate bouncy floors.

 

What could you add to the list? I’m sure there are more quaint little things about old homes that I have missed here. Feel free to add your own two cents.

In the next post or so, I’ll talk about the benefits of living in an old house!

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