Archive for the ‘Everyday living’ Category

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A Disposable World

October 24, 2012

Not too many years ago, 2006, we redid our kitchen, including all new appliances.  We opted for a gas cooktop and an electric wall oven.  Today I’m glad I took the advice of a saleswoman and did not buy a combination oven and microwave. 

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On Saturday (always on a weekend) the microwave quit.  It would hum along but do nothing.  My daughter insisted it made her food colder – a nice trick if it were true.  Luckily the appliance dealer we prefer is located in our small town (supporting local businesses and all).  Also luckily, I have a 17 year old son who can easily carry a medium sized microwave.  So yesterday it went to the microwave hospital/appliance dealer.  Today we got the bad news.  It would cost $100 more to fix it than to buy a new one.  Isn’t that about the stupidest thing you’ve ever heard?  The new one will cost $250.

If I were wealthy perhaps I would stick to the principles underlying a greener world and have it repaired regardless of the cost.  But I am not wealthy and so we have ordered a new microwave.  At least I am fairly confident the old microwave won’t end up in a landfill since in our state appliances have been banned from landfills since 1994.  Most likely some components will be disposed of as hazardous materials (mercury switches and the like) and the rest will be sold (or given away) for scrap, and with any luck, recycled.

What a shame that a) the microwave lasted only six years, and b) repairing it costs more than buying new.  I was so hoping this would be the heirloom microwave I would will to my children for them and future generations to cherish.  Maybe they can inherit the new one.

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Spring Break– I need to go to work to rest

March 18, 2012

I’m on Spring Break from my academic job – and I’m exhausted!

When last I posted we were in the middle of the bathroom redo.  We still are.  The plumbers are 99% done – a part was missing from the faucet set for the sink, and a couple other plumbing niceties are needed to make everything look pretty.  The carpenters are also 99% done – quarter round  and cabinet doors to be installed early next week.  That just leaves the work that my husband and I need to do. 

I’ve stained the woodwork and put on one coat of polyurethane (water-based – of course), it needs one more.  My husband has given the ceiling on coat of paint, one more later today.  I will paint the walls.  All this painting involves protecting the other surfaces – I should buy stock in painter’s tape.DSCF0049  I will unveil the bath for all to see when its finally done.

I’ve also begun stripping the door.  I’ll give a rundown on the greenness of this redo in the near future.  DSCF0042[The stripper is green – both figuratively and literally.]

But the bathroom is only part of my break activities.  The very best part was a visit with a dear friend, Vicky.  She made the trek half-way across the country to see me (well, she did see her daughter in college in Chicago also).  We’ve been trying to get together once a year for the past few years.  First it was a bed and breakfast in Wisconsin, then some time at her place in the Berkshires, next, a funeral, but it gave me a few days with her in NYC, and this time showing her my digs in the Midwest.  I can’t believe that I didn’t take any pictures of Vicky while she was here.  I have witnesses though, including my friends, Jill and Ravonda, with whom we had a great evening over wine and snacks and lots of laughs.  [No pictures of them either, you will just have to take my word for it that I have friends.]

Vicky and I grew up in a hilly, tree-filled part of of upstate NY.  I now live in former prairie country – my new hometown had two, count them two, trees when it was established in 1837.  On the road you can usually see about 5 miles to the horizon.  There are some hills but they usually indicate a river valley and I don’t live in a river valley.  It takes a practiced eye to appreciate the subtle beauty of the Midwest landscape.  I tried to give Vicky a crash course – I’m not sure I succeeded.  We also explored big-box home improvement stores to find the perfect towel bars.  Can I show a girl a good time or what?  [We did have a nice lunch at the Mackinaw Depot Tearoom, I’m not a total dud as a hostess.]

Vicky is the reason I keep bees.  She did it first and I was a copycat. So one of the very nifty things we did during her short visit was to put together my new topbar hive. DSCF0034DSCF0033

My sweet and loving husband (who gave me the hive kit for Christmas) built the stand.  We had those metal table legs and he built a stand just my height using them.  On top of the legs would actually be too tall for me to work comfortably (I am not of willowy stature).  This design is the right height and works even better given the winds around here.  It will take a tornado to topple this sucker.  And if a tornado topples my beehive I’m afraid my beehive is going to be the least of my worries.

Tuesday morning, March 20th,  at 1:14 a.m. is the vernal equinox.  Spring begins officially.  Someone should tell Mother Nature, because she has gone completely whacko this year.  We had the winter that wasn’t, and now, as winter is supposed to be waning with DSCF0045normal temperatures this week usually in the upper 40’s and low 50’s, we have had a week of highs in the upper 70’s and low 80’s.  I am not complaining, no siree. The warmer weather timed perfectly during my spring break (and wonders of wonders, during my husband’s break also, he teaches at a different institution and our breaks don’t always align) meant we could get into the yard.  My husband has tilled the vegetable gardens and planted seeds for lettuce and radishes and carrots.  I have been making progress on the flower gardens.  And spring has been busting out all over!

All in all it was a great and productive week.  But back to the salt mine tomorrow.  I wonder when I’ll find time to paint the bathroom?

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Another Adventure in Home Improvement

March 1, 2012

It was clearly designed in another era, perhaps another planet.  It was a bathroom with shag carpeting.  Zebra-striped shag carpeting.  I’m sure it looked snazzy in its day, especially with the black tub, black sink and black toilet (which was a little scary for toddlers and adults alike).  

The carpeting did not last long, replaced within months of our moving in with more appealing and easier to clean, but alas perhaps even less ecologically friendly, sticky vinyl tiles.  But that was a) when we had less money, b) before I’d seen the (green) light, and c) when I was desperate to get rid of the shag carpeting.

Now, nearly 18 years later, it is time to totally redo the bathroom.  The underlayment around the toilet was rotting from decades of tiny leaks.  I was afraid someone would end up in the kitchen.

While most of the design features in the bathroom were not what I would have chosen, I have to admit I’d grown fond the of the tub.  It is a black, cast iron, drop in, soaking tub circa 1960’s or 70’s.  The outside dimensions are 5’ x 3’.  I can stretch my legs out straight easily.  Before my daughter became a tween and usurped the bath, it was my favorite hiding place.  It will be mine again!

Once the decision was made to redo the room the fun began.  Finding the people to do the work was easy – the same people who do all our work, most recently the garage

I have been seriously considering how to redo this bathroom for about a year, ever since our tax return indicated it was possible.  Last May, my husband and I spent a weekend getting ideas and I figured out what I wanted.  We knew the carpenter and his son would be booked through summer; it turned out they were booked clear through January.  But in February the work began.

Here are just some teaser photos:DSCF9937

Here’s the tub with a black slate surround.  The mirror is actually very nice in a wabi-sabi way – beveled glass but worn silver.  I hope to strip the paint from the wood frame and use it again.

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There were many built-in cabinets. around the built-in vanity.  None of this is bad, but it made for cramped quarters (I think I may have been in the tub to take this picture).

 

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The hardware was not to my taste – but it has held up well and is still in excellent shape.  I will donate it to the local Education Foundation to sell at the community auction.  I hope someone actually wants it.

 

 

After we’d cleaned out all our belongings (as well as half of the adjacent office where the toilet and tub are stored during the renovation) the demolition began.  That is a scary time.  DSCF9953I start to worry that something bad will happen to the carpenters and I’ll be left with a black hole for a room. 

There was an interesting surprise.  DSCF9950Where the sink and cabinets had been built the wall actually slanted back at a 22o angle. You can see on the floor where the vanity had been.  We just found some space!

Today I worked from home.  The carpenters were here all morning and then the plumbers arrived at 1:00.  It is now 8 p.m. and I still have a plumber in my bathroom. He is finishing up the plumbing for the bath so the carpenters can tile.  When you find good workers you hold onto them!

There are signs that the room will actually be a bathroom again. The room has most of a floor, a framed in cabinet (where I hoped we’d have a window, but alas a chimney made that unworkable), and a glass brick window/wall at the room end of the bath.  DSCF0028And Hark!  I hear water!

 

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As tempting as it is to take a bath tonight.  I think I’ll wait until the room is done.

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The Tale of the Missing Rooster

January 19, 2012

DSCF2629In 2006 we did a major kitchen renovation.  I was very picky about the details and found the hardware for the cabinets online at D Lawless Hardware.  I think I was shy one knob so I needed a 2nd order. One knob was going to cost about $1.22, but shipping was going to be $10.75. Shipping is free for orders over $50, however, and so I bought more things.  Important things.  Things I definitely needed.  Things like small Tiffany-style lamps and metal roosters.

OK, so need may be a strong word, but I liked what I bought – especially the rooster.  The rooster had a spot of prominence in the kitchen.DSCF2688  See it over on the white cabinet?  [Wow, the kitchen sure was neat and clean!]

The rooster watched over the kitchen all fall, but come Christmas it was packed away for the winter to make way for more wintery accoutrements.

Come spring I couldn’t find the rooster! I looked everywhere that spring, summer, fall, and winter.  I looked in the cellar, I looked in the storage area over the garage.  I looked and looked, but alas, no metal rooster.  Perhaps it went into the trash by mistake; I mourned its loss.

Fast forward 5.5 years.  I’m getting out holiday decorations and pull out a bedraggled box of packing materials.  Behind the box is a shopping bag, and in the bag – YES! – THE ROOSTER!.  Of course it was the holidays and the rooster’s spot was being used to display the Christmas Spode. 

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The rooster is now back in the kitchen where he belongs. Typically, I wouldn’t bring him out until March (you can’t tell, but that windowsill behind the rooster is covered with little snowmen).  But I’ve missed Mr. Rooster and didn’t want to risk losing him in the cellar for another 5.5 years.

Now, perhaps you are also wondering about those small Tiffany-style lamps I also bought in order to save on shipping (Yes, I do realize that I spent $50 in order to save 8.50, what’s your point?).  Here is one of the lamps: DSCF9933

Notice the lovely stained glass pattern.  Can you see the flowers?  Look carefully and try to see the flowers. 

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Perhaps it is easier in this shot.  Noticed the green leaves?  Try very hard to see the flowers because once I tell you what we, my entire family, all four of us, see in these lamps you will not be able to see anything else.

We have never been able to see flowers in this stained glass pattern.  We rather assume there is supposed to be flowers, we think the green glass pieces are supposed to be leaves.  For the life of us, we cannot see flowers, but what we do see, very very clearly are penguins with backpacks.

The penguins march around each lampshade; trudging really, those packs are full. 

I love my penguins with backpacks almost as much as I love my rooster.  I did a rather thorough purging of items from the house over the holidays and I can honestly say it did not even cross my mind to giveaway either the lamps or the rooster.  What does that say about me?  That I recognize quality?  That I’m still rather embarrassed by the purchases I made to save on shipping?  Probably it just says I’m a tad quirky.

So quirky I am.  But it is giving me an inordinate amount of pleasure to have found my missing rooster.

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Stamping in a greener world

October 16, 2011

I mail decreasing numbers of envelopes now that I do most gogreen stamps 2of my bill paying online.  Still, every now and again I need stamps.  These stamps called right out to me!

They are the USPS Go Green (forever) stamps.  I like to think they mean that we should go green forever, but really it just means that these stamps cost 44 cents each and you can always use them for your first class mail, even after the price of stamps goes up.

The Go Green stamps feature 16 images, each with a suggestion for an environmentally friendly activity that many of us can do: buy local and reuse bags, fix water leaks, share rides, turn off lights, walk, reduce our environmental footprints, compost, hang laundry outside, recycle more, ride a bike, plant trees, insulate, use public transportation, use efficient light bulbs, adjust the thermostat, and maintain tire pressure.

The USPS has other stamps supporting my values too.  Another greenish one SaveVanishingSpeciesFC-single-BGv1is the Save Vanishing Species semipostal stamp.  A semipostal stamp costs a bit more with the money over the stamp’s value going toward a specific purpose.  In this case the 55 cent stamps benefit conservation funds, specifically, African Elephant Conservation Fund, Asian Elephant Conservation Fund, Great Ape Conservation Fund, Rhinoceros and Tiger Conservation Fund, and Marine Turtle Conservation Fund.

It is great to see the USPS in the green – in fact, they are actively green with Cradle-to-Cradle certified packaging for their Express Mail and Priority Mail envelopes and boxes.  They are investing in hybrid and electric delivery vehicles, and increasing the energy efficiency of their post offices.  They have plenty more to say about their green efforts too on their website. For a governmental service that is always on the chopping block to some extent, it is great to see their green efforts and advances.  [By the way, go to their sustainability website (linked above) and look at the bottom right corner of the page (any page on that site) – even the postal service has a sense of humor.]

It was a pleasant surprise to see the Go Green stamps and to then find out that the Postal Service is rather actively making strides towards sustainability.  Perhaps that’s a sign of how mainstream green is becoming.

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Try Something for 30 Days

July 1, 2011

I saw this video this afternoon – a TED talk about trying something new for 30 days.

I want to do that.  Or a variation of it.  What I have in mind will not be something new – but something no fun that I am motivated to do. 

When I was pregnant with my youngest I had gestational diabetes and had to carefully watch my diet and blood sugar for the last 8 weeks.  It was hard but I did it – my mantra being “I can do anything for 2 months.”  Well, if I can do anything for 60 days I can certainly do it for 30.

I’ve just come back from a family vacation and my niece posted a picture of the family.  Those who love me tell me I am not fat.  I am, however, not svelte.  I am now uncomfortable in my clothes and unable to move with the ease I was used to.  It is time for a change.

So I have decided I will monitor my food intake via SparkPeople for 30 days. I’ve done this before – about 4 years ago. SparkPeople I’m optimistic that just paying attention to what I’m eating will have me modifying habits.  For instance, I’m 56 calories over my goal calorie intake – I think I’ll take a walk after this and try to work some of it off (today we came home from vacation – 8 hours in the car – no exercise – and a big sub for lunch…that’ll get you every time.)

Oh – and I do intend to get back to blogging more regularly.  My excuse – end of semester craziness, big project (remember the big project that kept me from blogging last summer/fall – writing a 3rd edition of a textbook – end of May was editing said galleys).  And then my brain went on hiatus.  I think it’s back now though – so I’m planning to blog more – but perhaps not everyday for 30 days.

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It came to me in a dream

May 1, 2011

We explored systematically, up one aisle, down the other, stopping here to consider, there to ah, there to reject.  We didn’t have the faintest idea what we wanted and needed ideas.

We are renovating a bathroom.  “A master bath?” asks the would-be helpful saleswoman at the tile store?  “No, just an ordinary bath.”  Our house is pushing 100 – they did not do “master baths” in the 20’s.

The present room has evolved from its look 15 years ago.  Initially there was a huge black soaking tub (no shower, still there and will stay, I do love the tub for its size if not for its style), a black sink (with bits of gold sparkle), a black toilet, light gray barn-like paneling, gothic-esque hardware, black slate tile work around the tub and sink, and last, but not least (and not to be taken as criticism of the taste of the people who chose this because there was a time when this was so very in) zebra-striped shag carpeting. 

Not being a fan of shag carpeting in the bathroom, I tore that out very early and laid my first sticky-tile floor.  [Of course now I realize that vinyl is evil.] The black toilet gave up the ghost a few years ago and was replaced with a white one.  Which of course now means we need a way to unite the different colored porcelain pieces.

Back at the tile store.  My husband and I were at a loss for what to do with the bath.  The browsing simultaneously inspired and overwhelmed us.  We came away knowing we wanted a nod to the house’s history – no sleek, modernistic, 21st century bathroom.  We were leaning toward a frosted glass subway tile, perhaps separated from tile of another color by an intricate mosaic band and lovely tile ledge piece.  All the mock-up baths were beautiful in their own way and it was hard to imagine anything other than a completely tiled bath.  Options, options, so many options.

Back at my in-laws’ we mention the glass subway tile to my mother-in-law.  Yes, beautiful, she knows a bathroom with that tile, and you can see the mold behind it.  So, scratch frosted glass subway tile.

Head swimming with all the tile we’d seen I went to bed, and awoke with an epiphany.

White subway tile around the tub and up the wall on two sides, and that’s all – giving the illusion of a white tub with a black liner.  A glass wall at the plumbing end for a shower (handheld on a pole, I love those).  Yes, the plumbing is basically in the middle of the room (but that’s ok, it tends not to freeze there).  The glass block will let in light from the window.

Speaking of windows, maybe another one on the north side.  It’ll need to be narrow, but the light and ventilation make it worthwhile.  And we think we’ll lose the black sink and built in, room sucking cabinets (I can’t even reach the cabinet above the sink anyway).  We’ll put in a white pedestal sink and have shallower and fewer cabinets built; that should open the room up a bit more.  subway tile 4I’m going to look in antique stores for an oak or white medicine cabinet for above the sink.

subway tile 3No one, of course, has a picture of my bathroom as I want it to be, so here is a compilation of rooms with white subway tile depicting the appropriate era, more or less. 

 

Put them in your brain and stir, then you’ll have a sense of what I’m talking about.

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I haven’t any pictures of the bathroom as it is.  I left my camera at a friends, and besides, I’d have to clean the room before taking photos.  Don’t worry, there will be plenty of before, during, and after pictures.

Besides, this is just the planning stage, and only the very beginnings of that.  There is still hardware to choose, and flooring, wall colors, shower curtain, window treatments. Of course, there is also the green element; we want to do this project as eco-consciously as possible.

Next step.  Clean the bathroom.  Second step.  Call the carpenter.  Good ol’ Howard.  Given we’re approaching prime outdoor building time we’ll probably be an autumn project. 

Stay tuned for updates.