Sunday, June 26, 2011

Issues Issues Issues

This past week, Milwaukee has had rain for four days straight. So much rain, that already by Wednesday we were getting flood warnings for the entire county since the ground was so saturated. Part of me was happy. I could get out of watering my new garden for a few days.

We were always a little leery about what would happen on a week like this one. When we bought the house we noticed the rain gutters were positioned directly into the ground with no apparent exit for drainage. This could lead to problems such as sink holes and basement flooding. We had planned on putting in a rain barrel to collect for my plants and redirect the other spouts out with a rain garden of deeply rooted wild flowers.

We apparently did not to our project fast enough. Now we have water leaking into the basement. It didn't flood (thank God), but there was definite seepage coming through here. Like that water stain? Not so much...

The second issue of the week was discovered at the same time. Max was checking out the sump pump's action and discovering the basement leak when he noticed something else. He called me to the basement and told me there was a pipe leaking and that water was shooting out of it. He thought it had to do with the torrential downpour from outside. I told him I had just used the bathroom and flushed the toilet. So he just witnessed pee water flowing over and we have a leaky toilet. Ish... We plan on replacing the entire bathroom anyways so this will get fixed hopefully within the next month.

We have resorted to only using the fish bathroom to use the restroom. Which is equally bad and there is no back to the toilet. Yes!

The last problem came up unexpectedly. I made Max a deal that I would stop complaining about his mowing techniques if I couldn't do a better job at it. I hadn't mowed the lawn up to this point so he was more than happy to have a win-win situation for him. On one had he doesn't have to mow, the second if I do worse, he doesn't get complaining anymore.

So I decided to weed the flower beds in front of the house first so I could just run over them with the mower. Someone please remind me next year how much weeding sucks and I need to lay down weed sheets before I landscape. Thanks!

My Hosta that I split here, I'm pretty sure are mutants. Even after the splitting, they still look like this. And this is after I cut a ton of growth from the bottom to give my flowers some more sunlight since they were getting choked out. To give a little perspective, look at how tiny they make the flower basket look on the right. Anyone else have mutants? Remember I was thinking of buying addition plants! Oof dah! 

So after my tutorial on how to use our relatively simple mower, I felt confident enough to take on this jungle. I start it up fine and begin to try and circle the edges of the house first. I get about a third of the way around the house (yeah, not far) and the mower just stops. I knew I wasn't out of gas since I filled it before I started but I thought maybe I had filled it too full and now the engine was flooded. I waited a bit and tried to restart. No such luck. After a few more tries (and a few colorful words), I called Max for reinforcement.

He also couldn't get it to start. Our neighbor Mike, who is a mechanic, came over to check it out. They checked out the spark plugs for flooding. It wasn't that.

I called my Dad since he knows some things about engines. He was lost.

So we had to make the unbearable call back to Sears, again. The mower had already broken once here and we were really starting to get frustrated with it. It was brand new! We had just got it on Mother's Day as a housewarming gift! The last fix was an engine component had broke and was replaced. Max talked to three different locations. One told us we could exchange the mower at the location we bought it. That location told us they couldn't do that and that we had to take it back to the repair location. The repair location was just fed up. So Max told them that our homeowner's association had already complained about our crappy looking lawn (we don't have a homeowner's association) and we at least had to have some sort of mower while they repair this one, again.

Talk about frustration.

What sorts of issues are you having with your homes?

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Beer Lovers Festival? Why yes!

So to prove that we are not all work and no play, Max and I indulged in one of our favorite pastimes Saturday, drinking beer! I felt quite accomplished after planting the garden and getting everything I wanted done for the weekend so it was definitely time to reward ourselves. Feels like the first time in weeks!

The Wisconsin Beer Lovers Festival was going on at a local outdoor mall and the day was perfect for it. Rain was in the forecast at about noon but luckily it didn't show its ugly face until around 8pm giving us plenty of sunshine to enjoy (along with our beers). We arrived around 3pm (the event was from 1-5pm) which didn't give us as much time for sampling as we desired so we strategically tried hit each quadarent of the event in 30 minutes to get as much sampling in as possible.

The event was sponsored by the Wisconsin Brewers Guild and had 30 Wisconsin breweries and 23 different food vendors all paired up for the event. Over 100 different beers were being served... "Heaven is that you? I'm home."

This is one of those great photo moments. I held the camera up to get a better shot of what was going on and I get this guy and his expression staring directly in my frame. Classic.

Max was a huge fan of Lakefront Brewery's Fixed Gear (shocker) and Bar Louie's soft pretzels with homemade queso dip. Pretty sure he tried every IPA (India Pale Ale) that the breweries had to offer.

I was totally take back by a brewery I had not heard of Woodman Brewery in Woodman (second shocker), WI. They had two brews I loved and can't wait to try again, Hazelnut Coffee Ale and the Coconut Wheat. Crazy right, coconut in a beer? It was strangely awesome! I will definitely start looking for them in the stores. And did you see on their website, they do custom orders. Even more awesome?! Another nice surprise was the Carr Valley Cheese Company which is by my hometown was there.

Here we are with our sampling glasses.

Max was so inspired he decided to make a Cherry Wheat to be enjoyed later this summer at the cabin. Can't wait!

Have you been to/are planning to go to any festivals this summer? What are they and what makes you the most excited about it?

Sunday, June 19, 2011

I Really Am My Father's Daughter

In honor of Father's Day, I wanted to show how I have incorporated what my dad has taught me over the years as a Midwestern farmer's daughter. My dad Michael, was a farmer for most of his life. He was born into farming in Indiana and moved to Wisconsin when he was 12 and then took over the family farm when he was in his twenties.  

Dad and his girls 1987 (I'm the older girl on the left)
 I know gardening and full out farming are two different things, but knowing one definitely helps the other. First thing, to do a proper weeding, you need to kill the roots. So when I clipped all the weeds down here, I tried to get the roots with them. Many of the weeds were too deeply rooted for me to pull so I waited until they didn't have a way to get water down to the roots to try again.

This time, many of them came up more easily. I still think some of them had roots all the way to China, but they came up eventually. That pile next to me is just roots. Insane right! Longest one I found was around 16". By the way, that might be one of the most unflattering pictures of me ever so enjoy.

Our irises finally bloomed as well. They were a light purple with yellow tips or bearded iris cultivar called a 'Mary Todd'.

After the soil was all de-weeded and ready, to go I went back to Stein's to get veggies. As you remember from here and here, I tried to do a completely organic garden but ended up cooking my seedlings which was an epic fail on my part. My mom suggested just to try again next year and start with started plants. Since we have been so busy with everything else and I didn't get around to buying plants on time. Sometimes good things come to those who wait. I saw in the weekly flyer that all vegetables were 50% off. So when I headed in I was thinking my local store was going to be really picked over already. Not even close. I got really great mature plants, some who were already about to be ready to start bearing produce!

Turk helped with comedic relief while I worked. He ended up whining like a pansy it was too hot for him, which apparently was 70 degrees and he had shade and water...

Since the garden is also going to be right next to the patio (when we make it that is), I wanted to arrange it in a way that would still look pleasant while being functional. So late in the season I was leery to plant seeds at all but thanks from some encouragement from my mom, I decided to plant them anyways. "What's the worst that could happen, you get corn?" Thanks mom. The back row along the house is sweet corn. The next row in are broccoli plants. In the center of the garden is a strawberry plant. I have alternating white and red onions in front of that. To line the sidewalk, I planted seeds of spinach and added red and green leaf lettuce. Not too shabby for urban gardening huh? I would like to thank Better Homes and Gardens for giving me the idea to make it look nice. They have different garden plans for anything for any type of area.

On the alternate side of the back walk, I ended up adding the caged tomato, pepper and pea plants. I added a few more herb varieties next to the already sprouting chives and added a mint Mojito plant for our roomie Scott and cabin friends and relatives.

As you can see, the hot pepper plant is almost ready to start producing and the bell pepper and tomato plants are already flowering which mean they will be starting to creating fruit. So excited! Maybe I'll need to learn to start canning at the end of summer to have veggies all winter... I did see all the stuff I would need at our local Menards.

Last thing on "the list" complete!

Happy Father's Day to all the dads out there!

Cabinets Completed

You might remember from here that to get the refrigerator to fit in its allotted space we either had to take the cabinets out or modify them. Max's dad was convinced we must have the cabinet and took it upon himself to modify it. Hey, we like to do stuff ourselves but are not going to turn down free help.

We got a call that Mr. Fix-It Mark was finished with the woodwork on the cabinet. Thursday evening, Mark and Ellen showed up to re install the cabinets. When I returned home from work they were already hard at work getting things together to be installed. Max and Mark worked diligently while Ellen and myself "supervised" (ha). Overall it was a fast installation and there were no major issues.

If you can tell, there is a slight difference in the door height but since it is over the refrigerator, no one really notice a change. Good work Mark!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Garbage Can Compost

Since I'm "greening" both our Max's and my lives (he'll learn to love it...), another item we did off the list was a garbage can compost. There are tons of references on how to do this on the web.

I'm sure you are thinking "why should I compost?". 

1.It's great for gardening. Composted materials help retain water and provide much needed nutrients to plants and vegetables. Better fruits and veggies, yay!

2. The EPA estimates that over 25% of all landfill waste is yard and food scraps. That is insane! Just think how much of the planet you could save with just a simple compost!

3. Composting is as easy as a trip to the trash can. In the long run you actually save time by less trips to take out the trash and money if your municipal trash collector charges by quantity or the cost of buying mulch in the spring for landscaping.

So after the tutorial, this is what we came up with. Menards was having a sale on 30 gallon trash cans for $7.57 so that was the total cost of this project. Score.

Step 1: Start with cheap trash can.

Step 2: Drill small holes all over trash can including the bottom and the lid.

Step 3: Add dirt/mulch to the bottom of the can.

Step 4: Alternate green and brown materials. Green materials are alive materials containing nitrogen such as yard clippings, fruit and veggie leftovers, ect. Brown materials are dead materials containing carbon such as dead leaves, paper, cardboard, ect. This is by far the best list of things to compost I could find.

Step 5: Water everything so they are damp as a sponge but not dripping. Luckily if you drilled enough holes, excess water should properly drain out.

Step 6: Start adding materials and stir every few weeks.

P.S. I found this lovely compost bin to collect things in the kitchen at World Market for $14.99. It has a replaceable carbon filter so things don't get smelly. So neat!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The List

This weekend's projects were a little overly ambitious, all because of a list I thought of while on break at work. I didn't plan on actually accomplishing everything on it, just wanted to have a guide of what we should probably be doing as the next steps in the house process.

So this list...

1. Install carbon monoxide detector
2. Prime bedroom/trim
3. Paint bedroom/trim
4. Take down shelving unit
5. Plant garden
6. Make compost bin
7. Goodwill run/donations
8. Finish mulching

All doable in a weekend right?!

Saturday morning started off with the typical run to Lowe's and Menards to get supplies to kick us off (thank God they are both within two miles of our house). As of right now, we are super hating the fact we have no supplies and every trip we make is larger than we expected. We estimated this trip for paint and primer $40. Actual price after buying brushes, an edger, paint, primer, paint trays, painter's tape, ect. $160 (yikes!). Luckily, most of the things we bought we will be reusing as we repaint the rest of the house, it just was a huge pill to swallow.

The best finds were actually the all the new green products for painting walls. Who knew? There were two different types of paint trays, the Bio Tray and Earth Plastic™. Bio Tray is made out of recycled pulp fiber and Earth Plastic is recycled plastic. Both trays are 100% biodegradable. The drop cloth we found called EcoDrop is also biodegradable plastic. The method o mop sweeper duster sheets are made from corn and can be composted. They fit perfectly on my Swifter Sweeper and did a way better job. I'm definitely going to look into their other cleaning products.

When it came to paint type I chose to go with Olympic Premium since they have zero VOCs and has little to no smell. According to the EPA, VOCs, or Volatile Organic Compounds are emitted as gases from certain solids or liquids. VOCs include a variety of chemicals, some of which may have short- and long-term adverse health effects. By choosing a Zero VOC paint, I am cutting down on indoor and outdoor pollution. Not to mention, the cost of the paint is very reasonable compared to some of the other brands I investigated.

The first thing to get done with the bedroom was tear down the old installation book case. It was awkward and massive and not really doing much for the room. Strangely enough, it was just screwed and nailed to the wall, nothing was really holding it into place other than that. It was really fun demolishing it. Max went to town with the crow bar and I took the claw hammer and just whacked away. I even got a sweet karate kick in to get the last piece out.

Bookcase installation before

Max and I tore a piece of the carpet back to get a better look at the wood floor underneath and found that the original remodel was pretty half-assed. Instead of putting a decent board down between the two old room and sealing it, who ever did it just put a few pieces of scrap wood in and poured plaster over the top. We were both a little baffled.

Although the windows are fairly new, Max caulked the inside of the window casings to keep some of the old insulation from poking out and to prevent drafts and moisture from seeping in.

In case you need a little help on how to do that:

I also noticed if I was going to paint the trim at all and have a hardwood floor later (that is our plan) I had to rip the carpet up to get down to the bottom of the trim. I originally wanted to just pull up all the ends and keep the carpet down as a drop cloth while I painted. Unfortunately, that was just not going to work. I didn't realize the carpet was tacked down all around the room with little wooden planks and there was going to be no way to get the painter's tape down there.

I ended up having to get the carpet out of there and then manually going through and tearing up all the tacks and nails too. So that was the first thing I did not plan on this weekend was tearing up the carpet. So after about 6 hours of work and it was already 6 pm we were ready to finally start priming the walls. I finished priming about 10 pm. 

For all the things we have been discovering that were messed up, somethings were great. I found that someone had installed foam insulation on the outlet on the outer walls of the house. Hooray for more energy/money savings! If you don't have them installed already, they are very inexpensive, can be found at most hardware stores and are easy to install just by unscrewing the cover and sliding it underneath.

Sunday was mostly spend painting and running errands. The old trim was so dry it soaked up the white paint like a sponge. I ended up going over most areas twice just to get the coverage I wanted. The wall color as you may recall from our poll winner was Lunar Eclipse, which was a warm gray.

We ended up not painting about a third of our room since there was a little snag in my idea of just painting over the paneling. There was a giant hole in the wall from where the dry wall was messed up. This prompted us to just wait and just tear the paneling down and fix all the dry wall before we painted.

Boo you hole
So after about 21 hours of work in two days we went from this:

To this!

Until we can get the wall fixed, I am called the bedroom Dr. Jeckle and Mr. Hyde. I purposely faced my bed this way so that I could wake up and not see the messed up wall. Eventually, I want to put the bed under the window by the closet with long curtains flowing down each side of the bed and reverse the reading area to the area where the bed is now.

P.S. Doesn't my little chair just look great!

Going back to the list, these were the things we ended up accomplishing:

1. Install carbon monoxide detector
2. Prime bedroom/trim
3. Paint bedroom/trim
4. Take down shelving unit
5. Plant garden
6. Make compost bin
7. Goodwill run/donations
8. Finish mulching

Overall, I would say it was a very productive weekend! Not to mention the things not on the list we got done.

9. Windows caulked
10. Carpet ripped out
11. Air filter replaced
12. Carpet staples removed

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Finally OUR Fridge!

As you may recall from here, we received the wrong refrigerator with the handles on the left side, making it very difficult to access food while we were cooking. Our kitchen is laid out in an atypical way so the handle had to be mounted on the right side. Thursday Lowe's finally delivered our custom-made Frigidaire. I couldn't have been happier with the results (yes, I get excited over the little things).

Here we are loading our new bad-boy. Check out my great Price Is Right model impression (also don't mind the mismatched Old Navy sleep pants, Star Wars shirt and fleece my friend Grace left).

So here is our kitchen now. I'm sure you are wondering where the new old stools came from. When Scott's parents came to visit a couple of weeks ago then mentioned  that we could go "shopping" in their basement for whatever and said they had some almost new stools if we would like to upgrade from the chairs we were using. At this point, we are not about to turn down freebies to make the house more livable. They are a little high right now for the counter top but we can work with that. I'm also not wild about the wood but it matches the current kitchen cabinets. Updating them might be a project down the road.

Also note something in the far left corner.

Current kitchen with new refridgerator

Current kitchen
 Max gave me flowers for no reason! I know right?! Men, if you are reading this, women love flowers. Period. No matter how long you have been with her (just started dating, known each other a few years, married for 37 years) we always love the surprise. Even if they told you they don't, surprise them one day for no reason and they will melt. Guaranteed.

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