Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Remodeling is FUN. We Can Knock This Out in a Day. Old Houses are Charming. Plumbing is a Breeze. #thingspeoplewhoknowbetterneversay

Before I say anything, let me affirm that, yes, I have seen this post, have read it, shared it, commented on it, agreed with it. As much as I am a sucker for appliances and cooking gadgets, I don't need bells and whistles for my kitchen.

But, when there's black mold...


which I have tried bleaching and painting over, to no avail, and a leaky sink


which didn't cause the mold, but which isn't helping to get rid of it, I think a minor makeover is in order.

I am also really really cheap, though, so even after getting a fairly reasonable quote from a very good woodworker in town, we decided to do it ourselves. Unfinished cabinets were 20% off at the store with the big orange sign, and a MUCH bigger sink was to be had for a clearance price that made it equal to the generic one I was looking at. Score!


Pretty brown - not pink - counter top! With a BACK SPLASH, not scratched-up rubber strips!


As opposed to the current 5", which makes washing large pots a challenge for a contortionist.

And, after much deliberating about dishwashers (I hate them, but I also hate spending all my time washing dishes), I found this:


for $20. Sold!

So, Saturday I pulled off doors and stripping, and Daddy yanked the sink.



That was the easy part. We couldn't find any screws holding the counter top on...that's because it was stapled, not screwed.


We had to cut it, then pry it off.


Doesn't that wall look pretty?!

I see Jesus! Oh, wait - never mind, it's Elvis. Carry on.

But, wait...that is, in fact, the wall...not the back of the cabinet. There IS no back of the cabinet.

Insert bad words here.

So, Daddy headed back down the hill for drywall (water resistant, this time!), while I stained and varnished the new cabinets.


Which have backs! And no mold!

The middle kids were napping, and Christopher was on Starfall, so I just put Shane in his walker to keep him out of trouble.


Yeah, you knew that was coming, didn't you?

Now, have I ever mentioned that we live half an hour away from any actual stores? And that it has been raining every day lately? So, Daddy was in a hurry to get the drywall and get home before it started raining, water resistant or not. So, we didn't have time to pull the old stuff first.

If we had, we might have realized we were also going to need insulation.


I didn't get a picture before we ripped it out, we just wanted to get it sealed in trash bags and out of the house.

At this point, it was raining pretty steadily, and it was time to figure out some sort of supper that didn't require too many dishes, so this is where we left it for the evening. The good news is, we got absolutely no moisture in the house from the rain, so the mold was not the result of anything currently leaking! We're guessing the culprit was a leaky window that we fixed when we moved in, and it has been slowly growing before coming through the wall.

Oh, but, all that rain? It has caused a problem I have not had to deal with since I left Ohio twenty years ago: fleas. Yes, while all this is going on with the kitchen, I was also scrubbing down dogs, then the bathroom, then myself, then the dog bedding, then all the people bedding, then all the rugs. Because, you know, I don't already do laundry nonstop. 


Some of that might have been overkill, but better safe than itchy. SO glad we don't have carpet anywhere!

Of course, Monday, everyone had to go back to work and school, so at dinner time, the kitchen still looked like this:


I am a fan of neither TV dinners nor TV as a babysitter, but sometimes a Mom's gotta do what a Mom's gotta do. How to Train Your Dragon TV dinners, 

She is breathing fire.

and the corresponding movie. None of them really sit through a whole movie, but it distracted them enough to get one cabinet, 


two cabinets,


and a counter in!


Notice the light progression through the window! The floor is not level, and the walls are not straight, so it was not as simple as just sliding everything in. By this time the bigger kids were in bed, but Shane was not about to sleep through the noise. He was used as a weight while Daddy screwed the counter in.

Vibrating!

And then got to check out the new sink. It is huge! I can't tell you how excited I am about that, and I don't care how old and boring that makes me sound.


Shane was excited, too.


Then Daddy went and put a dirty fork in it. 


I will pause for all the women to look over at their husbands and shake their heads, knowing he would probably do the exact same thing. And for all the men to scratch their heads and wonder what is wrong with that.

Actually, Daddy wasn't the first to get things dirty - in the short amount of time Shane was on the counter, he spit up all over it, then made a grab at one of those pineapples, which turned out to be much riper than I thought it was, and his hand went right through it. By the time we quit for the evening, my brand new counter was sticky, and smelled like pineapple-flavored alcohol.

Stay tuned to our exciting saga, to find out: will the sink ever actually become attached to the counter? Will the plumbing (which is of a size no longer made) be adapted to work? What fresh evils will the $20 dishwasher produce? And how on EARTH am I going to fit 3 cabinets and 4 drawers worth of 'stuff' into one cabinet and drawer???





Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Book Review: The Luck Uglies by Paul Durham

The Luck Uglies
9780062271501

"Rye O'Chanter has seen a lot of strange things happen in Village Drowning. She and her friends have grown up on Drowning's treacherous streets—its twisted rooftops and forgotten cemeteries are their playground.Now a terrifying encounter on the night of the Black Moon has Rye convinced that the monstrous, supposedly extinct Bog Noblins have returned from the forest Beyond the Shale. There's nobody left who can protect the village. There was once—an exiled secret society so notorious that its name can't be spoken out loud.The Luck Uglies.As Rye dives into Drowning's maze of secrets, rules, and lies, she begins to question everything she's been told about the village's legend of outlaws and beasts . . . and what she'll discover is that it may take a villain to save them from the monsters."

A quite satisfying adventure, with vivid imagery, wonderful character development, and a perfect mix of excitement and humor. Adults may cringe at elements such as the Bog Noblins' habit of wearing their victims' feet around their necks, but really the book is never too dark for the intended middle grade audience, while just enough so to keep them absorbed until the very last page. While this title can easily stand alone, I was happy to see it is part of an expected trilogy, and I already have an order card filled out for part 2 (not due until March, sadly!) Quite an impressive debut!

Monday, August 11, 2014

Picture Book Reviews

Riff Raff the Mouse Pirate
9780062305084

Ahoy, mates . . . and mice! Riff Raff the Mouse Pirate is setting off on a treasure hunt with his cheese-loving crew, but before they can find the treasure, the bold buccaneers must find the missing clue. Join in on the fun in this hilarious, easy-to-read sea adventure!

Mysteries for the very young are hard to find, beyond search-and-find books, and this one is a cutie. The missing clue is part of a street name, and the mice (all named after types of cheese), have to pay close attention to their letters as they hunt for the treasure. Two fun extensions come to mind: devise your own treasure hunt using local street signs and partial clues, maybe ending up at a friendly neighbor's. While there you could enjoy the other idea: sample the different types of cheese the mice are named for!

Monster School: The Spooky Sleepover
9780060854782

This appears to be the third in the Monster School series, which I have somehow missed. Norm is the only normal (get it? Norm? Normal? Yes, all the names are like that) student in his school. Having friends with different abilities can be handy, though, when you are feeling a little homesick. I think I will have to order the rest of these, as the humor is right up any first-grader's alley: "Isaac lost his fuzzy blanket and cried his eyes out." Picture of purple-skinned Isaac blubbering amid a dozen or so eyeballs rolling across his sleeping bag.

The Great Balloon Hullaballoo
9781467734493

When Simon the squirrel's mum sends him off to the shop, Simon decides to fly to the moon in Old Uncle Somerset's hot air balloon in search of cheese. Shopping in outer space is very exciting, but proves to be a bit of a distraction . . .

Well, we know as soon as Simon's mother admonishes him not to forget the cheese, that he will do just that. In between, however, come some unpredictable adventures as Simon and his friends fill the rest of the grocery list on several different planets (reached by hot air balloon, how else?) Adults may want to practice before reading out loud, as the rhymes and rhythm get a bit tricky in places, but kids will enjoy the just plain silliness.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Book Review: Dreamer, Wisher Liar by Charise Mericle Harper

Dreamer, Wisher, Liar
9780062026750

"Ashley is bracing herself for the worst summer of her life. Her best friend is moving away, and instead of being able to join her at camp for their last weeks together, Ash finds out her mom has arranged for some strange little girl to come and stay with them.
Then seven-year-old Claire shows up. Armed with a love of thrift-shop clothes and an altogether too-sunny disposition, Claire proceeds to turn Ash's carefully constructed life upside down. Besides, Ash has a secret. Ash, who is petrified of change and new people, has discovered a magical jar in her basement. It's a wish jar, filled with someone's old wishes—and it has the power to send her back in time and provide a window into another friendship between two girls. Discovering her own connection to the girls' story shows Ash that her life is full of surprises and friends she never saw coming. And while this may not be the summer that she expected, it could actually turn out to be the best summer of her life."
I've read this book before. Maybe that's just what happens when you read so much, but the whole book felt like a mash-up of Laurel Snyder's Seven Stories Up and Jordan Sonnenblick's Notes from a Midnight Driver. Now, I have also read pieces from a couple different authors about how frustrating it is to come up with an idea nobody has ever used before, and then discover twelve other books with the same plot are being published at the same time! It happens, and I don't think this was a copy, purposeful or not - it was just a bit distracting.
Taken by itself, this would be an enjoyable read for any middle school girl. Predictable enough to make the reader feel smart, interesting characters, and the twist of Ash's face blindness - the inability to recognize someone by their facial features. Mysteries and character growth are the main focus of the story, and those who like everything tidily wrapped up and connected at the end will be quite satisfied.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Mommy-Logan Day

I have the week off work, and after a busy summer of me playing with everyone else's kids, I figured mine each deserved a day to themselves. Sheridan had a manicure and thrift shops, and Christopher did some school shopping and ate iHop out of pancakes, then helped me do some home repairs. 

Logan is my mud and bug boy, so we packed a picnic lunch and headed up into the mountains, past where we camped earlier. Rumor had it there was a stream at this turn-off:


Yes, Bug Scuffle is a real place, and it's quite pretty - but, the only water we found was this:


By the time we got there, though, we were happy to just get out and have our picnic. Mommy was so busy listening to Mr. Chatterbox that she missed a turn, and didn't realize it until she was halfway to Weed (yes, also a real place). We turned around, then Logan got car sick. Good thing we brought extra clothes for playing in the mud - and had sister's car seat to move to!

A little fresh air did wonders, and you can't beat the view.


If you can ignore the power lines, that is.
 For any of the other kids, I would have packed sandwiches, but Logan takes everything apart. For him, I had a million little snacks - his favorites were the raisins and these dried pineapple strips.


We alternated eating and exploring. Somebody lost a car!


Those big boulders turned out to have crystals in them.


This tree looks like it is growing upside down:


See - the top looks like roots!


Back to the boulders - what made these finger-sized holes?




 Logan was very interested in the flowers, so we took pictures of some to identify later:






I had to sneak up to get a shot of the hummingbird moths, they are pretty quick!



That was fun, but we really wanted to play in the water, so we kept heading up the highway. 

Well, this looks promising!

I see water...

More water...

Perfect!
 And, it really was perfect. Just a short hike from the road, but you couldn't see or hear traffic at all. 

I had brought a few buckets and things from home, and we just hung out and played for over an hour. No fish, but lots of little wiggly creatures:















I kept an eye on the sky, and just about the time we were ready to be done, it started thundering.


We outran the rain by the time we got back to where we had camped - you can't even tell this place was full of campers and tents a few days ago!





Ran into lots of neighbors enjoying the sun.



Then stopped at the Front Porch for a cinnamon roll about the size of Logan's head.


He did his best, but ended up taking half of it home.


I thought he would crash, with all the activity and no nap, but he was still pinging at bedtime! 
Thanks for an awesome day, Medium Guy!