Wednesday, December 31, 2008

2008: Year In Review

In January we traveled to Pennsylvania for a big 90th birthday bash for The Husband's paternal grandparents. They live out in ECBF, 4 hours from any major airport (Philly, Pittsburgh, Baltimore, DC - all 4 hours away). At one point during the trip the rental car's temperature gauge read 9 degrees. This is one of the reasons I fled the Northeast. I also managed to get into a fight with my brother-in-law's childhood buddy at the local dive bar over his inability to just let me decide not to eat meat without giving me an ass-load of grief. Apparently, it was personally insulting to him that I was choosing not to eat meat.

We made our annual trip to Spring Training in Phoenix, AZ in March where we drank lots of beer from Four Peaks Brewing Company and saw the infamous Milwaukee Brewer's Sausage Race. I was slapped with a Red Light Violation ticket in Mesa upon our arrival home, but managed to avoid that mess entirely by never acknowledging it. Ha! If there's anything I am good at it's researching codes and reading obscure legal documents.

May rolled around and we were off to Italy. First time out of the country for The Husband, and for me, first time back to the Old Country since 2000. It was a short trip but lots of pizza, wine, Grappa, pictures, and cherries were eaten. Not the pictures, pictures were not eaten. Sorry. The Euro was impossibly high so shopping was minimal which was kind of poopy. It was also the first time I ever drove in a foreign country. My aunt and father had to convince my mother and grandmother that we would be OK driving the little Fiat 500 by ourselves to the condo 25 minutes down the road. That is was unlikely they'd find us dead in a ditch somewhere as a result of driving on paved roads with a functioning cell phone and the ability to speak basic Italian. It wasn't until 2 days before we left that they finally picked the worrisome wedgie out of their butt-cracks and let us drive ourselves back to the condo rather than all this business of driving back and forth, dropping us off and picking us up.

In June we had to say good-bye to "Old Dirt" which royally sucked. Rusty was likely around 13 or 14 years old and had been battling an illness for more than 6 months. He was with us for about a year and a half - I hope it was good for him. He was a trouble maker of sorts, but, really, just a big dopey sweetheart of a dog.

In July we were presented with a gift from the Most Overpriced Purchase of Our Lives. The house vomited up a slab leak resulting in 4 days without running water and a $5600 plumbing bill. Nice.

In August we took a break from drawing feverishly on graph paper figuring out how we were going to deal with kitchen and slab leak damage and went to camping in Mammoth (my first time up there) with one of my coworkers. Gas was somewhere around $4.50 a gallon, so we rented a Prius for the 6 hour drive. We also accidentally stumbled upon I place I never thought I would find - the terminus of US Route 6, the first cross-country route that runs though my hometown and once brought prosperity in the form of Cape Cod bound drivers frequenting local motels and shops. Then they built a freeway replace a chunk of Route 6 for traffic relief and the city has never recovered. It has remained a shit-hole since the 1960s.

Sheesh, we sure seem to travel a lot. All these short excursions. In September, The Husband HAD to see Yankee Stadium before they tore it down so we went to NYC for a few days. I got to see my college pals and even my oldest childhood friend who came down from Boston. I navigated some Brooklyn subway lines (in 4 years of college, I never spent any appreciable amount of time in that borough), visited my Alma Mater, and ate some good food. Can't beat good food and friends with a stick. Or at least you shouldn't. Beat them with a stick. Anyway.

Right after the NYC trip we jumped head-first into the kitchen remodel and water damage repair. Obviously, the remodel is still ongoing, but within 8 weeks we had a functional kitchen that looked vastly different than the original. Thus far, the cost is somewhere around 12K which, really, isn't that much for a brand new kitchen, thanks to DIY efforts and bargain-hunting. Oh, and we also dealt with unwelcome furry bastards (mice) and, while I am a bleeding-heart liberal, under no circumstances will I live amongst dirty rodents, so we managed to catch four of them. Haven't heard or seen any evidence of them since.

During October we made one more trip, or rather I made one more trip with my parents in tow, to Las Vegas. I spent a long hot Saturday canvassing North Las Vegas for the Barack Obama presidential campaign and I'm so glad I did it. Sure, I met one wacko old fogy that called him a radical Muslim, but other than that, the folks in Nevada were A-OK.

Financially, the year 2008 could have been better. It could have been a heck of a lot worse, too. We lost around 90K of our net worth, which is nearly all of it (if the housing market continues, we will soon have a negative net worth). This year has shown us that we ain't goin' anywhere as far as our living situation (unless something drastic happens like we lose our jobs and can't pay the mortgage anymore and they foreclose on our house. Leave it to me to think of the worst possible outcome). San Diego will be semi-permanent seeing as it'll take at least 5 years to crawl out of the mortgage hole. Considering everything crappy that happened to the economy, this year we managed to pay off two student loans, and my car. This is a big deal for me - three loans completely wiped off the books with one more car getting paid off next month! All-in-all, it hasn't been so bad. We still have our jobs, our health, our family, and our furball. I am very grateful for that - it's all I can ask for in the end.

Happy New Year, Everyone!

Assembly of Cork Board

Woman Interrupted asked about the backing situation to this here corkboard:


Here the best explanation I can manage seeing as it's already put together and I definitely won't be taking it apart. Here is the top view of the frame I used - it happens to have a thick border. First layer is the plywood, second layer is the beefy part of the frame, an the last part is the actual decorative frame molding you see from the front. Then there's my fuchsia knit slippers with a little pom-pom which have nothing to do with this post. Anyway.


At first, the Husband attempted to attach the plywood to the inner ridge of the frame (where glass would normally sit) because he kept talking about "you'll be able to see the gap in the frame if we attach the plywood to the outer perimeter." That that didn't work out all that well. I explained that the corks will cover the gap, so go ahead and measure the bigger perimeter - not where the glass and picture normally sit.

He measured and made the cuts. I'm not sure what saw he used. You could use a hand saw but that there'd be a pain in the 'ol rump. Power tools make everything easier. A jig saw is a good all-around saw for small cutting jobs (they sell them at Lowes - cheapest one for like $30 - we have used the crap out of ours and we bought one of the cheaper ones back in 2003). You can even use a table saw which gives the straightest cuts but not everyone has one of those (we do, because I insist on doing things ourselves and the Husband likes power saws for whatever reason. I guess because he's a dude). The plywood you can get at Lowes or HD - they sell smaller pieces, like 4'x4' and 2'x4' so you don't have to figure out how you're going to lug an 8-foot sheet home with you. Unless you have a big pickup then the 8-foot sheet is the most economical. You might even be able to finagle an HD/Lowes associate to cut the plywood down to size for you - I think they do up to 2 or 3 cuts for free. But then if it's wrong you gotta go back (good reason to figure out how to do it yourself). For the plywood thickness, 1/4" to 1/2" is a good range. Here is the back where it's screwed in with 3/4" screws that we had left over from the master closet organizer installation.


Let's say you have a frame like this here Cheap-O IKEA one (that's one of my watercolor paintings. Back when I had an apartment and copious amounts of free time).


With the backing and picture pulled out you can see where the glass sits there's a little ledge in there.


That's not where I'd attach the backing if you're doing a cork board. Measure wider than inner frame. As long as you don't go all the way up to the outer edge of the frame, the plywood won't be visible when you hang it up. You need enough overlap on the thick frame part to be able to screw it down. The appropriate screw size will depend on (1) your frame thickness, (2) your plywood thickness. It's kind of important to get the right length screw so that you don't screw all the way through to the other side of your frame, but you have enough to grab onto some of the wood framing. You may have to remove any hanging hardware from the frame if it's in the way of where you need to screw - usually that's pretty easy. Then you just have to reattach it or buy some new picture frame hanging hardware also sold at Walmart, HD, Lowes, etc.

All in all, this corkboard cost maybe $8. I already had the plywood lying around from the kitchen remodel. The frame was $5. I used about 10 glue sticks that I already had. I did buy a high temp glue gun for $5 (I only had a low temp one). Even if I include that it's like $13. The key is getting a decent frame on the cheap.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Diet Coke, Wine Corks, and Sills

Considering it was a holiday week, I actually got some stuff accomplished around the house. Back when we had the evil slab leak, we decided to cut some holes in the walls under the stairwell to help air everything out and prevent mold. We've had these strange holes in our walls by the dining room table since July and this week I finally got around to the repair process. I decided to rip out most of it so that it was one big hole as opposed to four smaller annoying holes. Plus. I wanted to be sure I removed the damaged drywall. The technique of cutting holes for aerating appeared to work because I didn't find any mold anywhere. Way under the stair case, though, I did find this:


Hello, 1987. I guess the construction workers that built our house were Diet Coke drinkers. Remember when everything was plastered with the brand name NutraSweet for aspartame? And this can has absolutely no recycling deposit information on the top. It seems crazy that in 1987 we still hadn't gotten on the ball yet with bottle/can deposits and recycling. How much time we wasted littering the earth without attempting to get the public to recycle.

I threw the can back under the stairs for someone else to find 20 years from now - I could have recycled it but there's something fun about finding something old hidden in your house, and I didn't want to ruin the fun for whoever owns the house after us.

On Saturday, I managed to finish a project that has been more than 3 years in the making. I started collecting my wine corks in 2005 and finally had enough to make a cork board. It took somewhere around 180 corks. That's roughly 50-60 bottles of wine a year. I guess you could say we like our wine (what can I say? I'm Italian!). I got a frame from a yard sale down the street that was painted an ugly gold. I should have haggled with the guy because I don't think it was worth 5 bucks, but I was on my way to teach yoga, so I didn't really have time to futz around over a couple bucks. I had the Husband make a plywood backing for it and screwed it down to the frame. Thanks to the blog world, I realized that I could spray paint this bad boy, so I got a 97 cent can of black flat spray paint from evil Walmart (that place is like a drug - they have just about everything I need and always the cheapest price. But I can't bring myself to truly like Walmart). I ended up using the whole can and it probably could use another coat, but, eh. Whatever. I got a high-temp glue gun (since I don't trust low-temp glue's ability to stand up to day-to-day use with cork and wood), and started gluing on my corks.

Here it is mid-way through (I wish I would have taken a picture before I spray-painted it, so you could see the gold in all it's homeliness):


Here is the finished product.


I think it came out OK. It'll go in the office where it'll match everything else in there that is black. I am going to keep collecting my corks - maybe in 3 more years I'll have enough for another one! Now I just need to find some cute push pins (rather than the regular old primary color office-standard ones).

And finally, the last project I tackled yesterday was the sill of the new pass-through in the kitchen. I needed to get it in place before I could start tiling the backsplash. I got a 2" x 6" 4-foot long plank of select pine (only $3), cut it to the proper width, sanded the edges to make them more rounded (since they were a bit too sharp at precisely 90 degrees), and slapped on a few coats of white semi-gloss. I also did a bit of painting on the surrounding walls with Water Chestnut (yup, everyone and their Aunt Mary said Water Chestnut over Sand White), so I didn't have to worry about taping it off and painting it later.

Here is before:


And here is after.


I nailed it down with 2" finish nails and used a nail punch to counter-sink them. I filled the holes with white caulk; I still need to paint over them so they look more finished. I also caulked the areas where the sill meets the wall. Overall, I am pleased with the result.

Maybe this week I can actually start setting some tile for the backsplash!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

My Christmas Eve Morning

First off, my dog has a bad habit of needing to pee in the middle of the night, lately. That means that getting up at 3am to deal with her knocks me out until after 7am in the morning when I normally get up around 6:30am. There were some things I had to pick up today and knowing that it's not an ideal day to try to get shopping done, I figured I'd get out in the morning in an attempt to beat the crowds. I still have to work today, so I had a limited amount of time. Already starting out later than I would have liked, I hit the road.

The drivers. Oh, the drivers this morning. Every slow poke and their grandmother was out on the road. All the time in the world, these people have. I mean, like so slow that other drivers like me were maneuvering around them in frustration. I'm glad they don't have a job to get to today, but I do, so drive remotely close to SPEED LIMIT, already. I get to Target at 8:30am and the place is an unholy mess. It wasn't crazy busy, but still busy for 8:30am. Stuff was strewn everywhere. I get some TP because we are running dangerously low and that's no way to spend Christmas. Without TP. I head over to the ornaments/holiday decoration area and find such a complete mess, you would think it was the 26th when everything is 50% off. I am wondering where this recession is because from the looks of Target, people are shopping. I manage to find a cute ornament for the neighbors and then head off to find a potato masher.

Wouldn't you know it? They are all out of potato mashers. Both styles. In fact, who knows what else they were out of because there were 18 million empty slots in the kitchen area. I find two potato ricers left, and grab one of them. It'll do the job rather than having to use a fork to mash potatoes whereby my arm falls off from fatigue. I make an attempt to grab one more gift for the Husband, and, OF COURSE, they are all out of it.

I get in line and my patience is worn somewhat thin since my shoes are aggravating me and I slept wrong on my neck so that when I turn my head to the left, it screams at me. I am in line behind Miss Oblivious. She is taking nearly the entire belt with like 4 items and then when it starts to move up, she doesn't grab the divider to help me out. She's too busy trying to pick out GUM for herself.

The grocery store is my final stop and, thankfully, it is not looking like a flea market. I grab my three things and off I go. Only to be stuck behind another devil may care driver who has no place to go other than the same route I am going all slow pokey. Somehow, I manage to make it into the office my 9:30am (crazy!). I head over to the break-room for my morning coffee and on the refrigerator I notice some pictures from our holiday party, everyone smiling. I manage to find one, too, remembering how much fun it was to spend time with my coworkers who are also my friends. Because that's what Christmas is all about. Getting today with friends and family to celebrate the season of giving and celebrate each person's light. Even if they are slow pokes on the road on Christmas Eve.

I hope everyone has a wonderful holiday! May we find Peace on Earth!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Again With the Paint?

I am back on the paint color decision house since I am incapable of settling on a paint color after trying 18 million different samples. I feel like an asshole with this paint color thing, but the reality is I haven't had to make a sweeping paint color decision since my first condo in 2003. And from what I remember, I probably wouldn't go with that choice again (it was a chocolate gray/tan). Our last house was a former model so I didn't have to do any painting - it looked great as-is. This house, on the other hand, was schizophrenic with paint colors; the last owners were nice folks but I really question their decorating choices. I mean, I'm sorry, but brass hardware and fixtures have no business in any decor from within the last 10 years (they bought the place in 2004), yet our kitchen had them including a very ugly brass chandelier. Those were the first things I ripped out. That and a wallpaper border in the downstairs bathroom. Don't even get me started on borders. I still have one in the Jack-and-Jill bathroom upstairs that I need to take down.

So, rather than plucking out more colors out of my butt, I picked two colors used by the This Young House duo. They have several pictures of their home with the colors so I at least had a good reference for what it might look like. Then I picked one additional color out of my butt. I have already eliminated one. Yeah. The one I tried to pick. Glidden's Basic Beige. Turned out looking entirely too much like the Contemporary White that I just can't get into because of it's very slight pink/lavender hue.

The other two are Water Chestnut and Sand White (in that order, in the photo).


I am leaning towards Water Chestnut, just because it's warmer. But I'm still not 100% sure. Internets, I welcome your opinions. Whether or not I follow them, is a different story entirely.

Monday, December 22, 2008

A Technique Similar To "Liar Liar Pants on Fire"

Many of us have been employing the Sticking of Fingers Into Ears Yelling "La La La! I can't hear you!" in regards to our investments. I decided to take my lashings this morning and look at my 401k accounts because I hadn't even peeked at them since early September, and, apparently, I have a need to feel self-inflicted pain.

Boy, did I get spanked. Hard. My smaller account which is my current job's plan where I contribute 8%, lost 43% this year. It's hard to say how much actual money that is since I keep putting more in every paycheck. But that percentage leads me to believe it's somewhere in the 6-8 thousand dollar range. The other one, while it lost less percentage-wise, was the real slap in the face. It lost 36%, but since it's from my last job and I don't contribute anymore, I know exactly how much money has been lost and it's over $9000. I am thankful that I'm not retiring soon, I have time. It's not the end of the world, but HOLY MOLY, 15 grand is a lot of money to me. Like a truckload - like, could pay off the last of my student loans, the car loan, and then have lots left over.

And in less-than-stellar news, my company is now in a hiring freeze. As of today. This is not exactly shocking, however, it confirms some of my recent anxiety about the security of my job. Worrying about my job is a regular thing; I'm always thinking I'm going to get laid off (since I was laid off twice during the last recession - it's like a Pavlovian response), so I was trying to tell myself that I'm probably just being fatalistic. But now I think I'm being somewhat realistic. Unfortunately. I know that this, too, shall pass. I just wish I knew when. I'm really trying to fight the worry that serves me no good because I don't want it to result in some kind of self-fulfilling prophesy. If I put out too much negativity into the universe, it's bound to come back to me. Perhaps I will put it out there, just say it out loud into the ether, that I'd like to keep this job that I enjoy with people I truly enjoy working with and perhaps it just may come true.

Friday, December 19, 2008

"Chacha-land" is a Useless Term

I went from meme-less several months ago to Meme-a-plenty! Amy has meme'd me, but since I don't have lots of people to meme that haven't been meme'd recently, I'm going to dead end my meme tentacle by not tagging anyone else.

My 6 Random Facts From This Week...

[Just so I can make it also an update to the daily goings on over here in Chacha-Land... why do they call Southern California the "Southland", and Chicago, "Chicagoland"? I don't get that. I guess maybe the same reason I just called my domain Chacha-land, which would be entirely for shits and giggles, meaning no purpose whatsoever.]

(1) Monday, I got Crown Number Two installed on my lower right hand molar - just starting to chew on it and last night I tried flossing next to it for the first time and was relieved that it didn't fly off leaving me with the gimpy messed up tooth below. Girly Stuff would probably tell me that I didn't have anything to worry about with adhesion to my real tooth, but I can't help imagining the worst possible outcome. Because that's what hypochondriacs do.

(2) My American Airlines miles were about to expire back in November and I didn't have enough for a ticket, nor was it small enough to just let go. So I traded some in for a whole slew of magazine subscriptions (which apparently, also buys me more time with what's left of the miles) including Wine Spectator and Wine Enthusiast. This resulted in me studying their huge list of Merlot and Syrah reviews because anything with numbers and ratings seems to appeal to me. Unfortunately, this meant that when I went to Vons last night I remembered all the affordable ones as I was perusing the red wine aisle and ended up taking home 6 bottles (they were around $6 a pieces - so quite cheap - and if I bought 6 I got 10% off!). Wine, beer, and food are probably the only things I can spent money on without too much guilt. Don't ask me why because I don't really know. Anyway, if you like wine (and can find this one) the Pepperwood Grove Merlot is definitely worth the money (scored an 82/100). I only paid $5.40 - normally it's like $9. Even at $9 it is a decent buy. Under $6 it is a steal.

(3) I got into my car this morning and realized that I had a sheet of ice on my windshield. Yeah. Ice. In coastal San Diego county. Winter has arrived.

(4) Speaking of winter, I finally succumbed to turning on the heat last night. Apparently everyone else in the office has done so already, but I has been fighting it to keep my gas bill from going up. However, when you come home after a full day of sunshine and the house is still 60 degrees, that means you will freeze your ass off at night. So we turned it to 63 until we went to bed and then turned it to 60. I know if and when we have kids we won't be able to be so miserly with heat, but for now, I can deal with it just as long as I have an extra blanket.

(5) [Note: This isn't a fact about me, but an opinion from me - I guess it's a fact in my mind] The following politicians are idiots: Blagojevich, Stevens, and Craig. I don't understand how you can be convicted of something (well, Blagojevich hasn't yet, but I'm sure it's coming) and insist on not resigning like nothing has happened and you are completely innocent. Just step down already; being elected doesn't entitle you the ability to break the law without consequence.

(6) Finally. Two nights this week I have dreamt about babies. Seriously. WTF. My only guess is that on Wednesday we had lunch with a friend who recently had a little one (and she had said tiny one with her), and our old friends in Texas are now expecting and we got the latest belly shot update this week (this seems like the thing to do when you get preg-o; sending pictures of your belly to people you know on a monthly basis). Maybe those things resulted in my mind spawning baby dreams. Or maybe the want-a-baby "disease" is starting to happen for me.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Brazilian Nut Shea Body Butter Finally Done

At some point in the last 5 or 6 years I have become that person who insists on using everything up until it is done. I don't know when it happened. I was the girl who had seventeen different shampoos and conditioners sitting in the shower, 14 million containers of body lotion, hoards of unused makeup all of which would eventually get tossed when it became older than Nancy Reagan and minutes from being confiscated by the EPA. Now? I insist on using everything up. I had a Costco-sized Head and Shoulders shampoo that I decided sucked goat scrotum, yet made myself use up the entire thing. I won't buy something new until I use it all up, can sell it for a decent amount of money, or it is medically necessary (like my Neutrogena T-Gel shampoo - have to thank my father for the lovely dermatitis (I think... could be mild psoriasis) he passed down to me).

Back in the day, I even had a flippant nature with purchases as large as vehicles! I leased a new Acura Integra in 2000 for 3 years and at the 2.5 year mark I just HAD to HAVE the new Mini Cooper S and so I just went ahead and bought it. Even though I still had the other car lease to finish paying. A single gal with two cars for 6 months. After a year, I decided the Mini wasn't working with the dogs so I traded it in for the RAV4. What a colossal waste of money.

I have some theories on how this change came about. One theory is that I have some OCD thing now with frugality and it's just my nature to latch on to something and GO. The other theory is that the ball started rolling when I bought my second house with The Husband and the whole $400,000 of mortgage debt scared the living shit out of me. It may be a combination of both, but I am leaning towards theory #2. I have found in the past 6 or 7 months now that I will hunt Craigslist before immediately going to buy it NEW. I've had 2 garage sales this past year when I never even considered doing one ever in my life. I plan on keeping my paid RAV until 200K miles or more, if it holds up.

What gives? I think - though I am suppressing it quite a bit - that I am majorly freaked out about the fact that we are now $60K underwater with our house (owe $453K, now worth $390K). I am trying to accept it for what it is, but I am having a really effing hard time losing 140,000 dollars of value since we bought his last house. And in my mind, the only way I can exercise any control over the matter is to cinch everything up real tight with the money. But seriously? It's like shooting an elephant with a beebee gun. Like trying to plug up a big crack in a dam with some Bubble-Yum.

I suppose I can take this change as a positive one. I mean, it's a good thing to save money, yes, but at the same time, I hate that I feel bad buying anything. It's like this economic situation has made me a prisoner with my money. Sometimes, I wish I could just buy something I want for me or my husband without thinking about how this one purchase will affect OUR ENTIRE FINANCIAL UNIVERSE. I mean, obviously a $100 purchase isn't going to affect us in any measurable way, but my head can't help extrapolating it all the way up to the big picture. Maybe it's a factor of getting older, maybe it's an obsessive thing I need to let up on, or maybe this is something lots of people are battling with right now. I don't know. All I know is that I have a veritable love-hate relationship with money and this recession is NOT HELPING.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

I Got Off My Lazy Butt...

And took some pictures for this here blog thingy.

(1) My less than awe-inspiring Christmas tree: Seriously, I'm just happy we got the thing up this year amist the mess. You'll notice (a) there there is no flooring in the living room - just concrete subfloor, and (b) the patch on the wall directly to the right of the tree and also lower right - battle scars from the Great Plumbing Disaster of 2008 [Post Disclaimer: lots of grumpy potty-mouth-ness and breaking of the 2nd Commandment]. Those patches still need to be sanded, primed, textured, and painted. Feh.


(2) My slightly more inspiring kitchen pendant lights: Only one photo has them turned on since I realized AFTER I had already uploaded the first batch, that it was best to take shots with the lights on - a little trick I learned from my real estate agent last year. I really only had time to grab one photo before running out of the house to the office. I am digging these pendants - they are a bit larger than I would have liked, but other than that, I am satisfied. All that planning for silver-toned hardware and lights and here I am with oiled bronze. The counters have just been oiled so that's why there's a sheen on them.



All the ceiling holes from the last bit of electrical work have been patched, floated, sanded, painted - just the wall patches need the finishing work which I'll get to when we decided the final paint color. Next task will be to get started on the backsplash - hopefully this weekend!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Looking For The Bottom

I had been thinking that if I was going to post something, that I should have some pictures of the latest happenings but I have realized that if I wait until I manage to take pictures and download them to my computer, that I won't post anything until sometime next week. I hate that camera - but I am too cheap to do anything about it. Well, not really cheap, I'd probably be cool with a $150 version but then The Husband would get all pissy that I didn't buy something GOOD that costs more like $250. Then nothing ever gets purchased because I hate buying the more expensive stuff and he hates buying the mid-range stuff. I suppose this is another way to be thrifty. Marry your fiscal opposite and you will never agree to buy anything.

Anyway, so, yeah, no pictures, but progress has been made! Well, progress considering I had four Christmas parties to attend from Thursday to Saturday. Which is why I did a fruit fast yesterday until 7pm when I couldn't pass up having some cheese with my Syrah (which I rationalized was made from fruit). Then some pizza. And kettle corn. So I almost made it the whole day. Either way, I already feel better today - I feel "cleaned out" like only someone who has eaten fruit for nearly 24 hours could feel. If you catch my drift.

OK, I keep veering off track. Progress. Right. On Saturday morning, after nearly melting into an unrecognizable puddle on the floor of a 106+ degree Bikram yoga class (I had a free class as new student at tee studio, so there ain't no way I would be passin' up anything that's free, so I went back for more torture) and feeling like a rung out gym towel, I installed the two pendants over the seating area, with a wee bit of help from the Husband when I needed an extra set of hands. The pendants required a lot of assembly - so much so that as I looked at all the pieces and just the one diagram with no written instructions, I had a mini panic attack that I might not be able to figure it out (generally, anything mechanical in nature doesn't phase me). But I managed to get them installed in about an hour or so and they look great. I really must get a picture for you guys - they compliment the cabinet pulls really well.

The Husband fitted the space behind the sink with plywood so that the backsplash can be installed and I have cleaned 1400 pounds of dust from the office. I'm almost done - still have the closet to get to. Literally, I have been vacuuming up the dust it is so bad. I have spent about 6 hours cleaning up the office. I sure hope we are mostly done with this construction dust business.

The final bit of progress, other than my crown being done and having a broken filling fixed yesterday (I am keeping the dentist in business, over here), is the tree. The Christmas tree is up with all it's Target-Special trimmings. As Girly Stuff says, it seems things keep getting swallowed up into the tree. I suppose that's good - we have lots of space to collect more ornaments. The Husband still bitches about the tree and it's fakeness, but seeing as I spent maybe $60 or $70 on the tree (50% off on Dec 26th!) and we're on the 4th year of use, it has already paid for itself. A real tree is like $30 minimum, requires strapping it to the roof of the car to get it home, cleaning up needles, filling up with water, etc, etc, etc. More upkeep than I care to do. That's not to say I don't understand the appeal of a real tree - the evergreen smell and the natural look that no fake tree can truly recreate. As a child, we always had a real one until my father knocked it over one year creating a water stain on the carpet that never completely came out. My mother was not a happy camper. I think you can still be Festive with Fake.

And is anyone else trying to wrap his/her head around this whole Fed funds rate - i.e. banks lending money to other banks for practically free? I feel like slapping myself in the face, repeatedly, in an attempt to wake up from this crappy dream. Fed funds rate of 0.0% to .25%? Huh? That right there, folks, is yet another indicator of the shitty mess in which we are wallowing around. It's like Best Buy with it's Same As Cash financing on all purchases greater than $299.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Behold! The Sewing Machine!

Ok, I stole this picture (since I'm too lazy to charge up the battery on our digital camera) from someone on eBay selling this model, USED, for... $250!!! I paid only 50 smackaroos! It has 30 flippin' stitches!


Yeah. This dude clearly didn't know it's true value. New, it's like $400. I handed that money over like I was buying Freedom From Adult Female Acne. I mean, as long as it works this might the deal of the year. Along with the $100 brand new Frigidaire microhood.

Now if I can just figure out how to use it.

The manual was not in the box; I can pay like $15 online for one but that seems like highway robbery. But they may have be my the Proverbial Balls since I don't seem to see it anywhere online for free or cheaper. Too bad my seamstress grandmother is all the way over in Italy. I could use her sage advice right now. She'd probably be all: "Ai fatto bene!" (you did well) with my Italian-made sewing machine purchase.

It's really cute too! You know that matters, right? I was so relieved that it wasn't all fugly.

And - in case you are wondering - Sewing Machine Dude is not a divorcee nor a widower (thank God). Just a husband trying to clear out his garage. He has his little one with him when I met him to pick it up - though he (she?) stayed in the truck so I never got to see him/her. Amy was definitely right to hold out for one on Craigslist. Looks like I got a great Italian-made machine for less than one of those Brother models, which, from what Google tells me, are not all that great.

In case you are also a Craigslist hunter, you can set up RSS feeds through Google Reader to get the updates right away. If you do a search via the site and then go down to the lower right-hand corner of Craigslist where it has the "RSS" logo, you can right click and say "Copy Link Location" and then in Google Reader add it as a subscription (example of copied RSS link: http://sandiego.craigslist.org/search/sss?query=sewing+machine&minAsk=min&maxAsk=max&format=rss). Then you can beat all those fanatical Sewing Machine Trolls trying to steak your good deal!

Also - thanks for all your backplash opinions. I think I am going to go all white after hearing from y'all [channeling my inner southerner]. I love the green color but, I can always add decor with some color punch like Girly Stuff mentioned. It'll be easier and cheaper, too! If I can save a buck, I am there. And, thanks, Steve! Whoever you are!

Backsplash

Time for backsplash decisions. I have already settled on something with white Subway tile (Lowe's has basic 3" x 6" subway tile for only 22 cents each) but I wanted to add some color, maybe some green to bring out the green accents in the soapstone. So I'm thinking of putting a line of smaller subway tiles about half-way up the wall.

I ordered some samples (little 1" x 2" tiles) from a mosaic tile place and these are my ideas:





The Husband doesn't think we should use any black in the backsplash (which I don't get since he was all about black handles to match the counters). I, on the other hand, would like some black accents. I think I am leaning towards the green in the middle with black border but I like the black in the middle, too.

Any opinions?

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Words From The Floater Of Drywall Compound

So I'm wondering if I will have to beat this guy down if he does not sell me the sewing machine.

Ap Oddly Enough: "Woman Loses Mind Over Craigslist Sewing Machine"

Ok, maybe I exaggerate, but it's been several weeks of sewing machine hunting and I am still sewing-machine-less. The crazy cheap one at Evil Wal-mart is now 69.99 - that must have been a one or two day deal as they are sold out online now. Guess I wasn't the only one who thought that price was super low. What I though was ridiculous was someone on Craigslist trying to sell that exact model for $70. It's may be new in the box, but why wouldn't I buy it from the store so that I'd have the warranty and such? Clearly, someone is either delusional or trying to pull a fast one.

Anyway, so I managed to find this guy who is selling his wife's sewing machine. I'm not sure if she is still around because he said "it WAS my wife's," but he sounded young so I'm thinking that perhaps they broke up or something. But then why does HE have the sewing machine? Why didn't she take it with her? Supposedly he never saw her use it so maybe she forgot about it and he just figured he'd sell it and get some money rather than give it back to her. I didn't ask because I figured that would be a little weird of me to start prying into a stranger's life and, really, I just want the damn sewing machine. He forgot it at his office which apparently he does not go to every day, so I won't be able to get it from him until, earliest, tomorrow. Which is a long time as it was Monday when we spoke; three days is like an eternity with Craigslist. He could sell it to someone else in that span of time. Like I said, Sewing machines on Craigslist are like cheap blow. He said he'd totally hold it for me since I was the first one he talked to, but, alas, I can't say I trust the Craiglist folks. They aren't always the most reliable group of people.

What do I plan on making? As you know, our master closet crapped out and fell down. This necessitated installing new closet organizer stuff and in the process of installation we took down the closet doors. I hate our cheap-ass closet doors that aren't wood or mirrored (they're just ugly) and the area looked so much more open with out them, I figured we'd leave them off. That being said, the whole world does not need to see my underwear on the floor, so I am going to make a curtain thingy with this here contraption from IKEA:


I also got some unbleached cotton cloth from IKEA for $1.97 a yard, so whenever I can get my hands on said sewing machine, I'm going to tackle that project. You might be wondering why I don't Nester-ify it with a glue gun and all that business, but I want it to be washable. Hot glue is not washable nor durable. So I got some iron on hemming stuff and I'm going to just finish the cut ends with the sewing machine so it doesn't come apart in the wash.

You're may be thinking it's overkill to get a sewing machine for that but I have other plans that include shortening pants for my dwarf legs, making more curtains for other areas of the house, etc, etc, etc. Don't worry, Frugal Folks, I will be using the sewing machine more than once. Provided I don't break it like I did the last one (well, can't say I broke it as much as it broke in transport to the last house - it was a Singer and, honestly, it wasn't all that great anyway). The one this guy is SUPPOSEDLY selling me is a Necchi. Anyone heard of this brand? The name sounds Italian but I've never heard of it before. Google research indicates it might actually be a good brand. Hope it isn't total crapola or older than the Electric Slide.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Meme Combo - Two for One

OK, so before I am termed a lazy butt for not getting to my memes in a reasonable amount of time, I am going to combine two memes into one. I was meme'd by Tooj for 7 random facts, and I was also meme'd by Girly Stuff for a whole slew of Christmas facts. So. I am giving 7 random Christmas facts about Yours Truly. I guess that still makes me sort of a lazy butt.

(1) I'm an only child but on my father's side of the family I have 24 first cousins. My dad is one of 8. Those French Canadians like to have lots of kids, I guess. Anyway. So, every year we had our family party on Christmas Eve and my grandparents would rent a hall to accommodate everyone.

(2) Every year at said party, one of the uncles would dress up like Santa Claus and come in to disperse the Christmas presents - usually it was my uncle Danny. Also, at these shindigs there was some Christmas song that they wanted a kid to sing and they would pick me. Because I am a ham and also because I can sing. Who's full of herself. Anyway.

(3) I'm the fourth oldest cousin and until I was 12 or so, families bought gifts for every cousin (we hadn't hit 24 kids, at that point. At some point probably around 15 cousins, we switched to doing the 1:1 exchange with drawing names). My parents wouldn't start shopping until the 23rd! We'd get it all done in one fell swoop at Toys R Us.

(4) My immediate family (parents and little old me) would open gifts on Christmas Day.

(5) I'm a little fuzzy on the exact age that I knew Santa wasn't real, but I think it was around 8 or so. My mother, the Physicist who has little to no filter when it comes to the truth, told me he wasn't real. I don't remember it being a big deal to me. The bad thing was at some point down the line, she spilled the beans to my best friend whose mom then got bent out of shape that my mother did that. That's my mom, though. No filter.

(6) We keep the tree up until January 6th, the day of the Epiphany. Also tied to that date is an old Italian tradition called La Befana which has a whole story/fable tied to it. Essentially she is a "Christmas Witch" who leaves kids gifts during the night. Obviously she is a good witch. Anyway, so our tree would stay up until that date and I would look forward to what the "witch" would bring me.

(7) My tree is not up yet. Likely, it will go on the weekend of the 20th due to Christmas parties and this daggone kitchen remodel. And I haven't started my shopping yet. Guess my parents transferred their Christmas procrastination to me!

Monday, December 8, 2008

The Story With the Contractor

Some of you are wondering why I didn't go after said Contractor for his shoddy work [WI shaking her fist for rectification of this injustice]. It's a long story, some of you may already know it, but here it goes.

Back in July, we had a horrible plumbing experience that cost of an assload of money ($5600) and left us with water damage in the kitchen. Since we bought the house last year we had lamented about the size of the kitchen and how incredibly small it was. So small that when we moved in we bought a counter-depth refrigerator to make up for the lack of space. Since the water had damaged the lower cabinets and they would all have to be replaced, we figured it was time to take on the "kitchen project".

Initially, the kitchen project was going to entail an addition. Opening up an exterior wall and adding about 120 square feet of space. I, honestly didn't think this would cost more than 25K (we were not going to do nice counters and cabinets like we have now - we were going bare-bones. We were also going to do the drywall and finish work ourselves). We had The Husband's co-worker draw up plans and I went to the City for permits, etc, etc. City came back after a long-ass time with "You need this drawn up by a licensed engineer." Estimates started coming back and it was looking like closer to 40K. There was no chance for a loan since our home's value was (and still is) in the toilet, and being in a recession and all, I was not ready to dump our entire savings into this project.

So, we bailed. Came up with a new plan. However, technically, the new plan still required some permits for small stuff (the windows being shorter, moving the sink, and the electrical which was nothing more than adding a few outlets and adding recessed lights). Honestly, I wouldn't have known you needed permits had I not done so much research for the first plan. We weren't doing anything major - in fact half the stuff I see on HGTV and DIY network looks questionable as I know they don't always get permits (like on Designed to Sell). The permit process would have taken another two months. They take 10 business days just to review your submittal and give you back corrections. I mean, for sure we'd have at least one round of corrections. So, it would be 20+ business days before we could get started. All the while, we would still be living with the musty smell from the damaged cabinets and drywall. Every day spent waiting was more time for mold to set in.

So we went ahead without permits and I still don't regret that. When we demo'd the drywall, mold had started to grow on the back of the drywall. It simply wasn't smart to wait any longer. This did, however, leave us with a bit of a conundrum. We didn't want to just pluck a contractor out of the phone book because we didn't want to get someone who would turn around and tattle. Referrals was the route we tried to take. Unfortunately, this referral turned out to be not so good for a number of reasons.

Now, he wasn't altogether crappy. He shouldn't have said he could do the electrical because it was clearly over his head. Drywall and framing he seemed quite competent. The "bad" was (1) he is related to one of my Husband's coworkers, (2) he only took cash. And #2 is sort of the root of the problem. He has had a tough situation - his girlfriend has had a number of health issues (heart stuff) and they have no insurance. Essentially, all the money and his house is gone from paying medical bills. On top of that the state is after him for back child-support from like 20 years ago, stripped him of his contractor licenses, etc. I mean, he really is in a tough situation. So, you see, I have no way to get back anything. Sure, we could call him and try to get him to fix it, but do we want to? Not really. Can't say I trust him to fix the electrical. And it's not like he was expensive. I am obviously not going to turn him in because I should've been going by the book on my end, too. Which is why I sometimes feel bad for berating him about this work (though even if I were in his situation, I wouldn't have taken money for stuff that I wasn't really able to do).

So, I am sucking it up and paying someone who is licensed (who I managed to find by asking my yoga students for a referral) to fix it, but not without bitching to you all here in the blogosphere. Thanks for listening to it. I am a champion complainer.

My Christmas Tree is Not Up Yet

While it was nice to cough up $400 less than we did last year, it was still painful to write the nearly $2500 check for our bi-annual property taxes this morning. I suppose we are lucky to pay only 1.1% of our assessed value - other states pay a heck of a lot more, but this month has been especially painful with the whole kitchen remodel. I just keep telling myself that the worst will be over after we pay this month's bills. Until we have to tackle the floor and start replacing windows. It never ends.

Anyway, so the electrician came on Saturday morning and decided that the easiest thing to do would be to take that unused circuit and make it the dishwasher/disposal circuit and then leave the over-loaded circuit to control the refrigerator wall of outlets, thus no longer over-loaded. This was one of the options that had been rolling around in my head, as well; the only crappy thing was that it resulted in 20 more drywall holes we have to patch. Not huge ones, but just before every joist, he had to cut a hole in order to to thread the wire through. While he already he the ceiling open (again) we figured he might as well run a line across to the family room ceiling so we could install a fan-light combo. Pretty much every room in the house except the kitchen and dining room has no overhead lighting. We have those STUPID switch-controlled outlets. I hate them. Eventually I am going to do the bedrooms, too, because those are the rooms where a fan can be a necessity in the summer. Right now, we just sweat our nuts off for a few weeks. It's not ideal. And I don't really sweat MY nuts off, per se. Since I don't have "nuts." Whatever.

So, this last electrical bill was $325. In the end, cost to fix Incompetent Contractor's electrical work is $570. In the end, we spent as much as if we would have just had this guy do the whole thing from the get-go. I wish I had gotten the referral before him before we embarked on the project. Oh well.

[nonsequiter alert] How 'bout this for a strange gas station name? Chevron Three Wives. I just logged into my Amex account since I am a little OCD with monitoring the moola and saw that entry from when I gassed up last week. I'm still trying to figure that out. Why would you name it "Three Wives"? Like, back in the Old Country, did you have three wives and felt the need to name your gas station after that fact? Or are you Mormon polygamist? No? Or is that three wives are running the gas station together? Either way. It's a weird-ass name for a business. And did anyone watch 60 Minutes last night about Saudi Arabia and oil? About how they want oil to be $75 a barrel. Today it's around $43. How about screw off? I literally said that out loud. I actually said, "how about fuck off?" while I was watching it. We so need to get off foreign oil, it is ridiculous. We really shouldn't be at the mercy of these people. Another country having so much control over our economy is effing scary. I remember the pain of paying $4.50 a gallon back in August. Just three months ago. I hope we don't get complacent and forget that pain. Now is definitely the time to find alternative energy, make more hybrid vehicles, and get that ball rolling.

Alright, off my soap box.

Still haven't found a sewing machine...

Friday, December 5, 2008

Craigslist Trolling

I have been trolling Craigslist again, this time for a gently used sewing machine. And, let me tell you, I can't buy one to save my life. On four different occasions, I have contacted the seller only to have just missed my chance. One instance, I called the seller maybe 2 hours after she posted it and someone was there looking at it that very moment. You'd think people were selling Gisele Bundchen's metabolisms or something the way they are getting snatched up. The only machines that stick around longer than a few hours are the fugly old ones that look like they're from the 70's Harvest Gold era. Oh, and the antique Singers. Seriously. Everyone and their grandmother has an antique Singer sewing machine. They appear to be worthless. And there is no way I'm foot-pedaling my sewing when I can use electricity. I'm all for being green, but I'd rather hand-sew at that rate. I just envision losing a finger if I tried to sew with one of those old ones.

I'm also trying to give away my slightly dysfunctional dishwasher. Seems like I can't give that away easily, either. My first attempt is via Freecycle. So far, one person has called me and asked a bunch of questions. I'm thinking to myself "Dude, it's free. Just take the damn thing," but, then again, she probably doesn't want to get stuck with it if it doesn't work out for her. Can't blame her. But you can't be picky when it's free. Gratis. Zero ... Point ... Zero... And I disclosed that it leaks a bit and may or may not be repairable on the post. I swear, an appliance repairman could probably make a killing by taking used appliances off people's hands and fixing them up. I mean, apparently, my old dishwasher originally cost like $500 back in '03. When did dishwashers become so flippin' expensive? It's not like it was all that great.

Back on the sewing machines topic, you know what is also a bit unsettling? That I can get a brand new Brother sewing machine at Wal-Mart for $59.99. With lots of stitch functions. That is crazy cheap -- to the point where I almost don't care if I can't get one from Craigslist because it's only $10 more than the price of a used one. It just seems wrong, though, that it's that cheap. Like, what third-world children are making this piece of machinery in order for it to retail at that price? Or that it might crap out upon first use or be so cheap I manage to break it due to my sewing machine ineptitude. It just feels wrong to buy it. I dunno. Eh.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Meanwhile

Amidst the Electrical Shenanigans (I am still reeling about the dead-end circuit, by the way. This shit isn't rocket science, how do you screw it up that much?), we made cabinet pulls and pendant light decisions.

I had been all about silver-toned pulls, as you might remember. The Husband was not. He wanted dark hardware. This went completely against my sense of order because the faucet (and soon pot-filler) are chrome. But I figured I'd humor him. So I polled people who came to visit the new kitchen on what their opinions were. Guess it is I that should be humored. Results were 4 to 2, dark handles. I was pretty shocked [me? wrong? you must be high]. I even added that the pendants were likely to be some kind of silver. Still, people said dark hardware to go with the counters. FINE.

I picked a pull from Lowe's and miraculously the Husband was cool with it. They were $2.97 each which is a whole lot better than the $11 per pull at Restoration Take All Your Money Hardware. Lowe's (like every other retailer) must be hurting because every time I buy something there, I get a coupon for $10 off my next purchase of $50 (expiring Christmas Eve). No Problemo, Senor Lowe's. I can do that. Easily. I feel like some kind if impostor, though, because clearly these coupons are meant for holiday gift purchasing for other people and I am totally using them for myself. Whatever. Total cost for my 27 pulls was $70.19 (plus tax which is a painful 8.25% since we bought them in the town next which passed some local city thing where they take an extra .5% more than every other city in San Diego County. Bastards.).

Here are some pics. Excuse the mess but things are still crazy - in comparison to the last 2 months, this is actually kind of organized.


I have to say, that I think he was right. I am liking the dark bronze pulls.

With this latest hardware decision meant that I went back to the pendant light drawing board again and managed to find one the Husband and I both agree on. If it ever freaking ships, since I ordered in Sunday and they have yet to ship it out. I have already started nagging them because that's what I do. I obsess and nag until I get the information I need.

[Pendant lights that I actually paid $69 for but for some reason the next day jumped to $89]

I figured I'd go back to the dark bronze tones - just the faucet and pot filler will be silver toned and that is ok with me [if I keep saying that maybe I'll believe it]. I am trying to detach from the idea that all fixtures and hardware must conform to one finish.

We have decided on the backsplash, but I am not sure I want to bite that off yet. I will likely cough up the moola to get the bonafide electrician to connect my dining room to the actual dining room circuit, and also move some outlets from one circuit to another so that the dishwasher/disposal are on their own, only sharing it with one or two outlets. Right now the refrigerator is on the same circuit as the dishwasher and disposal which is STUPID. I'm sure it'll be a royal pain in the ass to make the changes, with the wire fishing and drywall cutting, but my need to make it right is too overwhelming. I should have been an electrical engineer like my mother (before she got her Masters in Physics and started teaching high school).

Alright. Time to call the electrician. I've already procrastinated several hours on this task. During his last visit, I mentioned rectifying some of this mess he didn't seem too enthused.

I Found It

I found the infamous Dining Room Circuit To Nowhere. And it appears Smoking Too Much Reefer Contractor is the culprit.

Here it is, in the unholy mess of a junction box:


See that top wire labeled with a "14"? I suppose I should thank him for labeling it. So nice of him. Maybe next time he can ACTUALLY CONNECT IT TO SOMETHING.

For now I have shut off the breaker. No point in having electricity running to it if it's not going anywhere. And I actually gave him the benefit of the doubt.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

A Post About Poo and Eyeballs

Early this morning (before I was playing electrical inspector gadget), I had several not uncommon moments of Chacha hypochondria. My mind is hardwired to jump to some incredulous conclusion. Probably based on the fact that as a child I used to read my parents medical book that had all these decision flow diagrams based on your "symptoms" that either led to a "self-help section", "see your doctor", "see your doctor IMMEDIATELY", or "EMERGENCY". Why we even had this book is ridiculous - I think it was probably something my father got for himself since he is a hypochondriac, what with the two times he thought he was having a heart attack after my parents had bought their first house. They called the ambulance both times and it was nothing but an anxiety attack. Anyway. At 5:30am, before the ass-crack of dawn, nature called. Husband had already left for some training thing he had to go to up in LA and I wasn't exactly 100% awake, but when you gotta go, you gotta go. And luckily, I am not like my mother or Dooce who have issues with the frequency of such calls. So, I do my business and, I don't know about you guys, but I always throw a passing glance to the bowl to make sure there is nothing glaring wrong with what came out of my rear end. It must have been something with WI's post about having to do quality control of her little one's poopy that was implanted in my brain, having raised puppies with numerous poop issues, and my mother's story of when she was a kid having gotten some kind of worms, but as I hit the flush lever, still groggy, glancing down, I swear I thought I saw something resembling a gray piece of spaghetti.

That was it - I had worms. For the next 30 minutes I laid there in bed, figuring I had something living in my intestines. Seriously? For someone that has eaten very little meat - in fact almost no Pork or Beef for the last year - how in the hell could I get any kind of intestinal worms? It's not like I play in the dirt and shove it my mouth for fun. This finally dawned on me that seeing as I wasn't 100% awake I might not have seen what I though I saw. Thankfully, I fell asleep because who the heck wants to get up at 5:30am if you don't have to.

I finally get up around 6:45am, look in the mirror, and I see that my left eye has one of those broken capillary spots. By God, I must have a detached retina! I'm going to have to watch this thing today because if it doesn't go away, I'll have to go to urgent care or something, what with my worms and my going blind in my right eye.

Five hours later, it had cleared up. No more red spot.

I wonder what other life-threatening disease I will have later in the evening.

It Occurred to Me Yesterday...

...that my electrical outlets are not 21 years old. But my house is, so at some point they were all replaced, throughout, except for 2 or 3 that were hidden in kitchen cabinets. The light bulb in my head went off yesterday when I thought "Why are there those freak-nasty dingy tan ones in microhood/stove area and everywhere else they are white and clean?" DUH. They're not original, Captain Obvious. I spent part of this morning looking at my circuit breaker, trying understand what circuits were 20 amps and which were 15 amps, turning things off, seeing what they powered, etc. The neighbors probably thought I was crazy OCD, walking in and out of my house every 3 minutes. I figured out I have many 20 amp breakers, like half of my breakers (at one point the Contractor told me I had no 20 amp circuits. I think he was smoking something - they are labeled with "20" underneath the circuit number stickers). This seems strange to me, why I have so many 20 amps - I mean, generally aren't they are only for the kitchen?

One of the 20s is labeled "dining room." Why would my dining room need 20 amps? What am I going to do, power a jackhammer while we eat dinner? And when I turned it off, I couldn't find a single thing that it supplied power to. I don't think this is the doing of my crazy contractor, because even before he started the electrical work, we noticed that some outlets in the dining room were connected to one of the kitchen circuits. I think. I wouldn't put it past him, though. More investigation may be required.

It seems like some other yahoo in the past 21 years--who was not much better than my contractor--has screwed around with the wiring. When we bought the house one of the outlets in the kitchen nook didn't work and I'll bet money that it was this previous yahoo that messed it up. Not to mention that none of the outlets in the kitchen are 20 amp rated outlets. They're all 15 amps. I mean, nothing has heated up and burned out as a result in over 5 years (my estimate since I don't think the previous owners did it), so it's probably not the end of the world. But I just don't get people messing around with electrical that don't have a clue. Small things like installing new lighting fixtures or replacing outlets/switches are one thing, but messing around with the circuit layouts and wiring is another thing entirely.

This is life in an older house. It can't speak to you and tell you who worked on it. Previous owners don't tell you much, and the house was a rental before the previous owners bought it. So, while I am a little disconcerted that the electrical is a little wacky in the house, this can't be outside the norm. Even my friends in the next development west of us have weird wiring in their 80s house. I am still annoyed with the Contractor but I am beginning to think that this is common. That finding someone who is actually knowledgeable and proficient is not common. After all this poking around I realized that there are only a few areas that the Contractor wired a bit incorrectly (provided he didn't screw up the dining room circuit situation - again possible since he probably smokes the reefer). What I thought was 12 gage mixed with 14 gage was actually just 12 gage, with the one side being an older line with different colored insulation. The two spots I have confirmed are wrong are minor. Two lights, one over the sink which isn't even bad, he just used 12 gage wire for a 15 amp circuit. That's fine. Probably have to rewire the switch not to use the stab-in since my new research tells me stab-ins are only allowed for 14 gage wire. The other is the dining room light connected to a kitchen 20 amp circuit which is still up in the air as to how it's not controlled by the "dining room" circuit.

Can you tell I'm feeling bad for cursing him to hell? Though if I find he jacked up my "dining room" circuit...

I think it's time to take a look-see into the new junction box - perhaps I will find the beginning of the mysterious circuit-to-nowhere in there somewhere...

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Stab-Ins Suck

I played electrician this morning. What's new.

Last night I was cleaning up the dishes and went to turn on the garbage disposal and nothing happened. Nada. Dishwasher? Also dead. I was cursing Less-Than-Detail-Oriented-Fly-by-Night Contractor. Again. Shocking. It was interesting, this little diddy. I left the disposal switch on and then put my electrical tester in a socket further up the circuit and wouldn't you know? It turned on the disposal. Removed it? Turned off the disposal. That was certainly refreshing. Husband plugged in the toaster oven and everything worked again. How many times can I curse this contractor? It's certainly getting old, no?

Anyway, so Ruler of the Free World, I mean Google, told me it was likely loose connections. This morning I took it all apart and found that two of the outlets in the kitchen were wired with the stab-in since they don't have the side screws. What's the stab-in? Sounds bad, right? I don't like the name either. It's the lazy electrician's way of hooking up an outlet or switch. You basically strip the wire down to the copper and shove it into a hole and it gets clamped down and connected. Unfortunately, those stab-ins are notorious for resulting in less than solid connections after a while. I suppose Said Contractor That I Curse Daily figured he'd just re-use the old outlets even though the old outlets were a bit of a mish-mash - I mean, they did come from the original crap kitchen, so, I can't blame him for buying them. Maybe he was trying to save me money. But at $2 a piece, I would have replaced them with new ones. If I were him. But, clearly, I am not him.

So first, I tried to get the wires out of the stab-ins. Of course, the loose one came out without a fight. The rest resulted in a stream of angry words and huffy noises. I know you're supposed to push somewhere to get it to release but I tried that and it didn't work. I hate those stab-ins. I ended up cutting the wires as close as possible. Then, it was time to strip the insulation. Not so easy with needle nose pliers and a cabinet overheard while also having to be on your tippy toes because you're not tall enough to comfortably reach and see the back of the outlet. Again, more cursing at the Universe. I resigned to running down to Home Depot to get a wire stripper and outlets. At the time I was wearing orange shorts that were entirely too short and would result in several Home Depot patrons seeing the lower part of my ass cheeks. Decided that wouldn't fly, so threw on some sweat pants that, really, if you looked close enough, you might be able to see the pink pattern of my underwear peeking through. Whatever. At least I wouldn't be showing my ass to the rest of the store. Bought my stripper/cutter, two more outlets, came back and 14 hours later I was done. OK, it ended up taking over an hour just to complete this task of replacing an outlet. But it's done. I'll tackle the other stab-in one later this week. The other thing that seemed interesting when I was dissecting the wires was that it looks like the outlet I replaced has 14 gage wire coming in and 12 gage wire going on to the next outlet. Probably not the end of the world, but, STILL. I mean, at this point, after several weeks of researching residential electrical stuff, I probably would have done a more thorough job wiring up my kitchen. Seriously. If he planned his circuit layout ahead of time, he would have used the same gage wire throughout. 20 amp circuit? Run 12 gage for all outlets, switches, etc, in the circuit. 15 amp circuit? 14 gage. It's pretty damn simple. But if you do shit without a plan, this is what you end up with.

Never again. I have learned my lesson, folks. Permits may not be completely necessary all the time, but a good electrician with recommendations certainly is.

Monday, December 1, 2008

What Happens When You Don't Blog for Four Days?

You end up with way too much crap in your head and it's damn near impossible to coherently get it out without boring the living poop our of your readers.

Yeah.

So where was I? The dishwasher. Right.

I felt like Mr. Fix-it after last Wednesday. I tested the dishwasher out in the open and found that there was no leak (not in the wall, not from the appliance) - Yay! Holy Breathing-A-Sigh-of-Relief. Well, actually, I lie, there was one leak. I found a small one at the top of the drain line where it hooks into the air gap. I moseyed on over to the local appliance store that has been in business for a bajillion years - ok, 44 years or something, so a while, and it felt good to buy something from a local non-chain store. Talked to all the appliance guys who seemed shocked that I knew anything about dishwashers and they managed to get me the part I needed. Performed minor surgery hooking up the new drain line and, Presto Change-o! Dishwasher works like a charm. So much better than the crappy Maytag the previous owners left us. My glasses actually look clean and it doesn't sound like my dishwasher is eating my silverware! Amazing.

I also had my parents to pick up a brand new Frigidaire microhood for $100 on their way down to our house for Turkey Day. Another Craigslist find, this guy apparently had worked for a bankrupted home builder who, rather than let the bank repossess everything, took out the appliances from thew new homes and gave them to his/her employees as their bonuses. While I know that's illegal, I think it was sort of refreshing to hear a company trying to somehow take care of it's employees in whatever way it could. Inland Empire is really taking a beating in the real estate market. I hope it stops soon because so many people out there are employed in construction. By noon on Saturday, all appliances were installed, matched in color, and working! Woo hoo!

And the master closet?

That was another fun one. We finished Saturday night but not without Yours Truly making two more trips to IKEA. I am so over that place and I love IKEA. That is telling you something. First time I went up there was right when it opened at 9am in Costa Mesa (made the longer trip north since it opened earlier than the one in San Diego) to return the closet shelves for more shallow ones. Get home and we realize that we, indeed, needed the deeper ones in order to install the hanging rods. The smaller brackets aren't made for the rods. Who was pissed off again? Me? No. Of course not. So I went back, this time down to San Diego, and had to buy the same stuff I had returned just 4 hours earlier. I was a sweaty mess by the end of it all. And apparently one of the IKEA loading helpers thought I was strong because I crouched down to lift 3 MDF shelves and after I lifted them up into the RAV I heard him mumble "fuerte" (since when your at the IKEA in San Diego 50% of the people are speaking Spanish). I guess he was expecting this little 5 foot nothing to need some help. Ha! I got yoga!

We got everything installed, and I start putting my stuff back into my closet. I find that it's not all going to fit and I have entirely too many clothes. I consider myself to be a low-maintenance gal but when I realized that it was more than just a few things needed to go in order to fit everything, I felt kind of disgusted that I had that many clothes. In reality, it's probably less than most women in my age group and income bracket, but STILL. Seven pairs of jeans is enough. I ended up jettisoning 2 pairs of jeans and 4 pairs of pants. And lots of other stuff, skirts, shirts, sweaters, etc. This is after I already purged a butt-load back in August for my last garage sale. I have now come to the conclusion that if I buy something - especially pants/jeans - I must first purge an equal number of existing pants/jeans. No more of this excessive clothes collecting!

Gobble, Gobble

The Thanksgiving meal in the new kitchen went off without a hitch. Just like last year, my father and I were the head cooks, drinking PBR, and taking care of all the dishes (except for desert which my mother handled). The new kitchen makes having two people working at the same time tolerable. Maybe even enjoyable. Last year, I felt so much more frustration because I spent so much time have to constantly clear stuff away to make room on the counters to prepare the next dish while bumping into my father trying to get to the fridge or stove. So much better this year. And in case you are wondering - I had my worst 5K time ever. It's OK, though, I was still under 30 minutes if I time from when I crossed the start line (we were way back) which ain't so bad when you consider I hadn't run AT ALL in 8 months; and I helped my friend get her best time by being a good pacer. That felt good to be able to at least help someone else!

Anywho, I hope everyone had a great holiday and I didn't bore you to death with this epistle. It's over now. At least it was shorter than War and Peace.

Until Next Time,
Freshly-Cleaned-Toothed-with-Only-Three-4mm-Pockets Chacha