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August 21, 2013


We've been in Colorado for six months now.  There's things I miss, and there's things I've gained.

Food.  Brands vary from place to place.  I REALLY miss Utz brand potato chips and Trader Joe's sunflower seed butter.  (Fortunately they're building one in Boulder!)  I haven't really found replacements yet.

Restaurants.  I miss Don Pablo's and a few Northern Virginia locals, but they still have Little Caesar's and The Black Eyed Pea out here, as well as a bunch of nice locally owned places.

Traffic is MUCH lighter out here, and the speed limits are higher.  Improved gas mileage!  Less road rage, but a lot more people running red lights.  I think it's because you can SEE the light for so much longer that you still see it as green by the time you get there.  Or else the yellow lights are much shorter.

I never thought I'd say this, but I miss the WTOP and WNEW news radio stations.  There are no news radio stations out here, and you're lucky if you can even get the weather!    On the other hand, maybe that's why people are friendlier out here.  They get to listen to things like the Denver Comedy Station instead!

Less diversity.  I kind of miss Centreville's large Korean population and all the shop whose signs I couldn't read.  I REALLY miss being able to tune out other people's conversations in public because they weren't speaking in English.  It's annoying to have to listen to people blabber on in English!

The Redskins.  I have no interest in the Denver Broncos.  Football season is likely going to be mostly a game of finding a sports place that will air the game.

The view is AMAZING.  I was always excited to see that little bit of mountain at the overpass where 29 crosses 28, but here, the mountain is EVERYWHERE.  Lots of big empty areas, too.  And animals.  We'd have to drive for an hour or two to pass cows, chickens, or sheep.  Here, they're right down the street!  And prairie dogs.  We're still excited to spot one of those.  And then there's the cottontail rabbits that like to hang out in our backyard.

Sunshine.  I admit I miss the amount of rain we got in Virginia.  It's just been sun sun sun, and I'm going to have to invest in a new hat or two, I think.  I've gotten a tan, something I haven't had in years!  I'm so brown that I think my hands look weird.  (I'm not THAT tan, just enough to notice my skin is a different color!)

Interior Space.  I LOVE having closet space.  Stuff gets put away and stays out of sight, rather than being tucked into corners and then moved to different corners when that space is needed.  Having only one set of stairs instead of two is also nice.  As well as having the washer and dryer outside the master bedroom.

I miss our Centreville kitchen.  The gigantic sink, the high faucet with the built in sprayer, the layout which put everything right at hand . . . I didn't realize what a nice setup it was until attempting to maneuver in the new one.  The island is just totally in the wrong spot!

Having a yard is an awkward problem.  It's nice to not share walls, but there's a learning curve in figuring out how to keep stuff alive, and which stuff should be removed instead of encouraged.  I recognize dandelions, but it took me weeks to figure out that the other weird weeds are actually tree saplings!

So there's lots of changes going on, but some of them are most definitely an improvement.  I just need to control my food cravings . . .

August 18, 2013


I saw this particular ceiling on Pinterest and loved it.  I never thought about executing it until I found myself staring at my extended Willowcrest, trying to come up with an idea.  It wouldn't go away, and it fit in with my plans for an earth tone house perfectly.



Because of the way I extended the side of the house, the bathroom ceiling has two levels, and this design would work really well with it.  My house has been telling me it wants an oak theme, so I picked up an oak leaf punch (half off!) at Michaels, and went to work.



For the leaves, I picked up some scrapbooking papers that had huge real-life leaf prints on them.  Frankly, I thought they were REALLY ugly for scrapbooking backgrounds, but if you cut them up into tiny bits, as I did with the punch, it works really well.  It was certainly better than buying 6 or 7 different color papers for this one tiny project!  

The center round . . . thing is something I was experimenting with as a kind of chandelier medallion.  I plan on using a round brass filigree light fixture with the chain removed for a light, unless I can find something better, or tree themed.  

I cut the branches out freehand, using a dark brown scrapbooking paper.  The wood strips will be stained a similar dark brown, and trim will also be added on the walls directly below.  

I think the colors are a bit too bright and playful, but overall I love the effect.  It's enchanting.  


August 15, 2013


August 3, from start to finish, was surreal.  

The highlight of the day was the bison.  While scouting out granite for countertops, we discovered a big green area on the map nearby and decided to visit the place, which turned out to be the Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge.  A wild herd of bison (or buffalo, or whatever you want to call these huge creatures on the American Plains) freely roamed the fenced in area, which sometimes included waiting for a herd to cross the road.  

Naturally this was a day I did not bring my spiffy new camera! 




Totally worth the trip, but unnerving to see them so close to the car. What if they damaged it?  Hah.  If only that was all that happened!

We came back home, then Brian decided to make a grocery store run.  Usually he invites me along, but for some reason he didn't.  Soon after he left, I noticed the wind picking up quite a bit.  Well, they HAD called for scattered thunderstorms.  Then it got dark.  Dark enough to make me turn the light on, and that's rare during the day with all the windows in the house!  I grabbed my iPod and checked out my NOAA radar app.  Yup, there was a big red circle headed straight for Erie!   Soon the rain came down in sheets.  I tried calling Brian, but didn't get through.  Since my phone freaks out from lack of signal every time I go in the local King Sooper, I assumed he was still there.  

it's KIND of like snow in August . . .
Then it began to hail. I didn't remember that hail was so loud.  I decided it was time to head to the basement.  (My mother would have been proud.)  I grabbed my cell phone and my Ipod and headed downstairs.  I wandered around in circles in the basement, waving my arms to break up the cobwebs before I walked into them face first, and listened to the noise above me.  Then I saw that one of the huge window wells was filling up with hail stones that were roughly pea sized.  OK, not too bad, don't need to worry about them denting the Mustang or the siding, right?  Nothing else to do, so I snapped a picture.  I made another attempt to call Brian.  Still nothing.  I kept a close eye on the radar.  Nothing to do but wait it out, right?

Holy window wells welling with water, Batman!
That's when I realized there was more water noise than I expected coming from one window, so I investigated.  The rain was coming down too fast for the ground to absorb, and the window well was filling up!  Worse yet, water was leaking in from the bottom two corners.  I ran to check out the damage, and to my amazement, discovered that on the left hand side, it had formed a neat little funnel behind the insulation and then down to the floor.  Our basement has a wooden floor, with a 2-3 foot subfloor dugout underneath.  There was about a half inch gap between the plywood and the cement walls, and the water was travelling below that.  Fine by me, it would work its way to the sump pump that was somewhere down there.  However, the right side was traveling down the front of the insulation and spilling onto the floor.  Fortunately, I had recently lugged down all the empty plastic bins we had purchased for the move.  I grabbed one and shoved it under the window, and managed to catch the worst of the waterfall.  I also ran back upstairs and grabbed some rags in the hope that I might be able to plug up the holes in some way.  (it didn't really help.)

My next few minutes were spent running around the house, checking windows and ceilings and my phone as the rain continued to pour and the hail continued to drum. Weirdly, one basement window was full of water, one was full of hailstones, and one STILL had the fake flower leaves that have been there since before we moved in.

Finally, Brian called.  The connection was bad, even after I went back up to the living room, and all I got was that he was stuck on Erie Parkway and waiting for rescue.  Ominous, very ominous.  Soon after he hung up, I heard sirens.  I thought at first that it might be a fire truck, but it sounded more like it should be . . . a tornado siren?  I wasn't really sure what they sounded like.  THEN I heard fire truck sirens.  Crap, those WERE tornado sirens!  Back down in the basement I went, and continued my frantic window checking circles.  

Soon after, the noise let up.  No more sirens.  No more hail. I went back up, checked all the windows and ceilings again, and looked outside.  It was a very light rain now, but the street outside the house was now a very large pond, taking up the entire intersection.  I considered for a few minutes, then grabbed a pair of shoes that would survive getting wet, a rain coat, and a shovel, and ran outside to attempt to clear the debris from the tiny drains outside our house.  Eventually, standing in 5" deep water, I managed to get one of the drains open, and met the neighbor across the street who was doing the same thing.  His basement had actually flooded, and they were bringing wet stuff up to the garage.  

Then someone else came down the sidewalk, and I turned and saw Brian, sopping wet.  He'd been two blocks from the neighborhood entrance, at the TOP of the hill, when he'd encountered standing water, which quickly turned into a flash flood, roughly two and a half feet deep.  In the end he had to escape out the window and wade to safety, and then decided to splash his way home.  I bundled him into the house to dry off and clean up.  

While he was upstairs, I decided to check on the backyard.  It looked like a river had run through it!  All the grass lay flat in one direction.  (At this point I was a bit too stunned to take pictures.)  My poor mint plant looked like someone had sat on it, but the spearmint plant three feet away was fine.  Water or wind had shoved the big plastic storage bench about a foot across the patio.  All the petals had come off the rose bushes (they needed deadheading anyway!).  I checked the front yard again, and realized that  water had washed gravel and river rocks from the side yard into the sidewalk and street.

Soon after, Brian made arrangements to have the car towed back to the house, and I took him back up to the scene.  The police had closed the road, and were just taking the yellow tape down.  There were about four cars that had gotten caught in the flood and were waiting for help.  We chatted with an officer (who looked eerily like my brother-in-law) while Brian transferred the groceries he had bought to my car.  He told us the velodrome (a kind of angled bike racing arena being built down the street) had been destroyed, and that a semi-truck had overturned (luckily empty and driverless).  When the tow truck arrived, I left to get gas, and as I headed down the hill towards town, I saw the biggest rainbow I have ever seen.   It was rather distracting, so I didn't notice the velodrome OR the overturned truck.  

Look close and see the flood line of debris still clinging
to the door! It got higher than that.
Luckily we only lost two containers of cheese and a package of pork, everything Brian had picked up was fine with sitting in a car for several hours.  After I got home and put the groceries away, I grabbed a shovel and went back to try and move the rocks back into the yard.  The rain had stopped, the road pond had dried up, and the neighbors were crawling out of the woodwork.  Pretty much everyone's basement had flooded, including the house to our right that's currently empty (the neighbors thought to check!) and they were all spreading their wet items out to dry.  Everyone was hyper, and the excitement grew as the tow truck arrived, and the driver very cleverly managed to load the car up the driveway and INTO the garage.


Once in the garage, we began assessing the damage.  He had done everything he could in the situation, including NOT driving into the standing water (he had no way to turn around due to traffic and the road layout.  Stupid tall highway dividers).  He'd rolled down the windows for an escape route and turned off the engine before the water got to him, but it had still filled the car up.  The cup holders were full of water!  The trunk remained dry, fortunately, but water had seeped up into the glove compartment and into the console.  We emptied everything out, except the Igor and the Red Elvises CD and others stuck in the player.   (Sadly the case got wet.  I guess this means we'll have to go to the next show and get another.  Maybe signed!)  The trunk mechanism still worked, along with the emergency flashers and a few other functions, but we decided not to test the car, and concentrated instead on drying it out and getting in touch with the insurance company.  

The dvck, normally seen peering
out the rear window.  Qvack.
We're OK.  The basement's fine, although I have a window I need to caulk and figure out how to re-landscape so water goes elsewhere.  The car is currently at the local Ford dealership.  They were able to start the engine, and seem pretty positive that it will be OK and come home, squeaky clean, in a week or so.   I had pretty much assumed that a flooded car = totaled car, so I'm very grateful it survived.  He's already replaced the engine on this once, so I already know that there's no replacing it!  We've seen a lot of amazing things in this car, and I look forward to seeing a lot more.  

August 11, 2013


I've begun work on the living and dining room floors in the Willowcrest.  I wanted to emphasize that there were two rooms, not one big one, so I decided to make very distinct floors for both of them.

The dining room has a bay window, so I decided to imitate that shape on the other side.  I used 1/32"  wood, cut into 3/8" strips.  I wanted to use the whole sheet and just scribe it in, but the difficulty I found in going against the grain made it too hard.  This way I can easily correct my mistakes, and I've made a lot!  I'm not as good at angles as I thought, though I tried.
Looking back, I think I should have done the long edges first, and then cut the corner pieces to fit.  I WAS trying to cut 120 degree angles.  I should have dusted off the math skills before diving in.  Even that may not have helped me.  The walls are most likely NOT square.

I'll use wood to fill in the extra space around the octagon, and part of it will be taken up by a built in cabinet.
August 10, 2013


Room by room, the lighting is going in. The hall lights are installed and functional, but impossible to photograph.   I ran the light from the upstairs hall down the front wall to the side wall in the first floor hallway, and connected both lights to the tape run there.  The switch is also down there.  I had a lot of options when trying to figure out where to connect them, but decided it'd  be easier to reach the switch if it was on the first floor rather than the second.  It's a lot of fun to flick the switches!  I connected the porch light to the main run, so it will always be on when the main switch is on.  


I used a chandelier adapter for the bedroom light.  Just install two spring loaded eyelets in the tape run and attach the plate and plug to the light.  So far it's held up well, and this fixture is slightly heavier than normal.  If I find a light I like better in the future, I will easily be able to change it out.  I'm a little annoyed about the ceiling fan light.  Originally I had it in the kitchen, but decided it would be better in the bedroom.  Unfortunately the bedroom ceiling is significantly lower than the kitchen, and there was no way I could shorten the light.  At least the bulb will be easier for them to change!  
The ceiling is good old fashioned poster board, shiny side visible.  The flooring is really NICE flooring I bought years ago, but only enough for one room.  I had already made the floor during the second renovation, so all's I had to do was trim off a few inches to allow for the new wall.  I cut the wall trim to allow room for the premade window trim, but I don't plan on using it now.  I'm not sure how to address the problem yet!

August 2, 2013


My excitement about using the 1/32" wood as flooring has died down quite a bit.  It doesn't score well across the grain or on diagonals.  And when I'm NOT gluing it to a hard surface, it warps . . .
Oops.  Argh.

I peeled it off the posterboard backing and am attempting to flatten it out by spraying the back with water.  (OK, the water/vinegar mix, because that was nearby.)  We'll see what happens.  As an alternative, I'll try cutting strips of wood to make the flooring and staining both sides at the same time.  

In the meantime, I wa trying to figure out a rug that could cover most of the area evenly.  I opted for a heart shaped braided rug.

Embroidery floss in sage and cream, full strands braided and glued to a posterboard backing.  It didn't exactly meet the heart shape I was aiming for, but I tried.  Do not, under any circumstances, attempt to braid the entire skein of floss. Or attempt to separate strands from the entire skein.  A three foot section is plenty, and the inner sections did what I wanted just fine with 18" sections.  

I may make a second rug in the shape I was trying for, starting from the outside in, just to see what happens.  I didn't expect  making a braided rug would give me the problems it did!

I have all the rooms wired now save the attic.  I have one of the hallway lights hooked up, but it's rather difficult to do given the awkward spot I'm working in, so I'm taking a break before doing the second light.  Pictures later!