May 31, 2010
We’ve got the blues. But they have nothing to do with our state of mental wellness, unless one questions our taste in home décor, in which case you can politely snigger to yourself while we conclude our tale of carpeting and other home improvement adventures.
Last month we were on a mad scramble to paint our living room and move furniture before the arrival of our new carpets on April 29. We had hoped to get all the work done in one day, but as luck would have it the rose patterned carpet we ordered for the master bedroom didn’t arrive in time. So when the two installer guys showed up around 1 p.m. that Thursday to do the work, all they brought with them was the carpet to do the living room and Ben’s bedroom. Ah well, any part of the job we could finish before Ben’s birthday party (more on that in a bit) would be a relief.
The installers worked with assembly line precision, and we watched in amazement as they stripped the old living room rug and pad and had them out the door in about three minutes. The concrete floor beneath the old padding was covered with enough sand to build a small beach, a product of the sandy environment we live in and upon which our home was built. The sand trails perfectly followed the room’s traffic patterns, revealing just how much dirt gets tracked across a carpet over its lifetime. But no worries, as the installer guys swept it all up, then went about the business of hammering down new tack strips.
Next came the new padding, which they rolled into place, cut to size and taped together in about 15 minutes. These guys were flying through the job about as fast as they were bantering in Spanish. We tried to engage them in conversation a couple of times, but either they didn’t want to be bothered or didn’t quite understand us, perhaps a bit of both. They were all about business, which was fine by us. We did our best to stand close to the walls and stay out of their way.
They rough-cut the new carpet out on the driveway before lugging it indoors, rolling out the two halves and seaming them together. After stretching it, trimming the edges and tucking them under the baseboards, they vacuumed the whole thing and were on to Ben’s room. Being the smaller room, that part of the job went exceedingly fast, and the entire project was done before 5:30.
There was a lot of leftover carpet. Had we wanted to, we could have carpeted the hallway between the front door and Ben’s bedroom and probably still had leftover. As it was, they’d used a 10-square-foot remnant to complete the closet in Ben’s bedroom. Since we’d paid for it, we decided to hang on to the remnants in case we decide to make our own area rugs, or (heaven forbid) need to make repairs at some point.
Roni and Ben spent the rest of that evening replacing furniture. Glenn, who’d had to leave for work before the living room carpet was finished, got his first look at it when he returned home that night. It was quite a sight, and took some getting used to, all that crisp and clean royal blue where just hours earlier had been ugly, dirty tan. Of course, we all had to lie down on the carpet to enjoy the feel of its thick padding and the new smell of it, and because we could do so without fearing what we might be lying on or in.
All that remained was the master bedroom, and we got a call the following day that the rose carpet had arrived and the guys would be back to install it on Saturday. Not that we didn’t want the job finished, but Saturday? Okay, Saturday it was. They showed up on our doorstep that morning before we had finished moving the furniture from our bedroom. Fortunately we didn’t have much left to move, so we asked them to give us five minutes and hustled the reamining items out the patio door.
They managed to finish the master bedroom in about 90 minutes, roughly the length of time it took us to watch the movie "Europa Europa" with Ben for an extra credit school project. We’d been a little unsure about our carpet choice when we’d made it at Lowe’s, but now seeing it installed amid the dark blue walls of our bedroom and the way they complemented each other, we were excited. Everyone but Ben, who asked Dad if he’d had anything to do with this rose-colored rug. After Glenn assured him that he had made the choice willingly, Ben reluctantly backed off on his attempt to revoke Dad’s “man card.”
The rose carpet is very low pile, which makes it pretty to look at but not as comfortable to walk on. In fact, the old carpet it replaced had more cushion. We knew that would be the case going in, but we reasoned that we wouldn’t be spending much time lying on the carpet in our bedroom, and it’s a fairly low-traffic place, unlike the living room, so we could accept the firmer feel under foot. It is so pretty to look at that we almost didn’t want to put our bedroom furniture back so as to be able to see more of it; most of the surface is covered by our king-size bed, two end tables and a large TV stand.
The carpet was the largest project, but naturally not the only one we had to tackle. To prepare for the installation in the dining room, we’d had to dismantle our homebuilt computer desk, which met with less than desirable results. We took that as a sign that it was time for a better desk, and so invested about $400 in cabinets and countertop and other components at Home Depot that we were now able to assemble.
The pre-built cabinets came in a variety of sizes, so we selected three that were 12, 18 and 24 inches wide. Glenn cut the counter to size and then test-fit it atop the cabinets. It was a snug fit between our two dining room walls, but that’s what we wanted. Unfortunately, the cabinet bases were designed to support kitchen counters, and at 35 inches high were too tall to use comfortably as a desk. The simple solution was to cut three inches off the bases, which brought them down to an acceptable level. Roni brushed a couple coats of polyurethane on the unfinished oak and then we set the three bases into place and lowered the counter onto them. Because of the tight cut we did a fair amount of damage to the wall, but we touched up the scuff marks with fresh paint and it looks almost good as new.
Next we drilled holes in the countertop to run our gazillion computer cables, then we tunneled through the side walls of the largest cabinet in the center of the desk so we could hide all the cords and power strips inside. In the same cabinet we placed our laser printer on the bottom shelf and our color printer on the top shelf in front of the cords and such. In the sliding drawer we placed our scanner, which will now be easily accessible instead of hidden under piles of books and paperwork as it was before. With both printers hidden from view we were able to free up a lot of desk space, so now Ben has room to spread out with his graphics tablet and attachments for his iPod, camera and other devices.
Professional carpenters would likely grimace at our technique of installing the cabinets on top of the carpet and not fastening them to the wall, but the desk is rock solid and totally portable should we one day decide to move it (assuming we can get the countertop out of its confines.)
With the desk mostly finished, we reinstalled our bulletin board. Instead of one endless strip of cork like we’d used before, we came up with the idea of using 12-inch squares and arranging them in three rows across the wall, eight to a row, with 1-inch gaps between each square. Roni painted most of these the same Toffee Crunch color we’d painted some of the walls, but then she designed six squares as memory boards using red floral fabric, ribbon, buttons and batting material. We interspersed the red squares with the carmel-colored ones, nailed them to the wall, then decorated them with pictures, postcards and whatever. It’s more display space than we had, but we’re sure to fill it up quickly.
Before we were able to complete our desk project, we were faced with another must-do. As part of the recarpeting we had planned to repaint the baseboard trim throughout the living room. Then while we were painting the walls we realized that the trim was in much worse shape than we thought. Instead of repainting, we decided to replace. We abandoned the plain old 1.5-inch wood boards for 3.5-inch composite wood boards that we picked up in a 120-foot bundle from Home Depot. The nice thing about them was that they were already primed in white, which just happened to be the color we’d decided to paint them, saving us an extra step.
The original plan was to remove all the old baseboards before the arrival of the carpet. But somehow we became convinced that it was best to leave them alone until last. This turned out to be a bad idea. Yanking off old trim when it is unobstructed by carpet is hard enough. With the fresh carpet in place, removing the trim proved to be a major chore.
We started the project, of course, in the area where the computer desk had to go. Three walls, four 90-degree cuts and two coping cuts. Piece of cake. Or it should have been, at least. That part of the project took nearly four days as Glenn did battle with uncooperative saws and searched for needed tools among the clutter of the garage. Then he had to hone his coping skills, which initially resulted more in piles of sawdust than in useful baseboards. Once the boards were cut to size, he used a stud finder to locate the wall studs, drilled pilot holes with a Dremel tool, then hammered the trim to the wall with finishing nails. He hid the holes with drywall patch, which he also troweled into the corner joints to hide their imperfections.
With the first of the new trim in place, we finished installing the cabinets for the computer desk and Glenn continued on his circuit through the living room, hallways and kitchen, placing 30 separate trim pieces over the course of three weeks. We held off doing most of the kitchen because we may yet replace the linoleum there.
The new baseboards look great. Being taller and a bit fancier, they give the room a much different appearance. The only downside is that removing the old ones opened up the gap between the foundation and the exterior walls, which has allowed easier entry for a few of the slithery creatures that lurk just outside the house. The worst offenders: earwigs, which came inside in droves for the first few days. All the wet weather this year has been conducive to earwig procreation, apparently. We have been generally tolerant and escorted them out the door, but we will probably have to dust the perimeter of the foundation with insecticide if they don’t go away soon.
All of this rush to complete our various projects boiled down to a desire to have things mostly done in time for Ben’s birthday, May 2. When it became clear that the carpets might not be installed in time, Ben graciously agreed to push his party plans back a week. He’d invited 13 friends from school, and if all of them showed we’d have to have room to accommodate them all; no one would want to be tripping over baseboards and sawblades or, worse yet, forced to endure the mess of our guest bathroom, which was still undergoing remodeling.
Those extra few days bought us enough time to get things sort of back in order, although the baseboards were far from done. At least the computer desk was mostly together and the new carpets were clean, comfortable and presentable for entertaining. Of course we worried about what could happen once we combined a dozen high school kids with chips, dip and soda pop in our tiny house.
Last year we had rain on the day of Ben’s party. This year, May 8, the forecast called for sunshine, so Roni thought to set up a folding table and chairs on the patio in case Ben and his friends wanted to play their Magic the Gathering card game. That way some kids could be outside while the rest were in the living room, or playing the Wii on a small TV we’d set up in Ben’s bedroom, and there wouldn’t be a crush of humanity in any one place. But we didn’t count on wind, which blew hard and cold all day long, effectively keeping all the gamers indoors. They seemed happier playing at the snack table anyhow, where they were within easy reach of the chips and drinks, and later the 10 boxes of pizza we brought in from WinCo.
We ordered the 10-pizza deal because we feared that five wouldn’t be enough. Even though the final guest count was about 10, they polished off the first five pies in less than an hour. We aided in that cause a bit, but not too much. By the time the party ended there were still four pizzas remaining, which was enough to fuel us for another few days. They also fed Ben and three of his friends, who spent the night after the party. We won’t refer to it as a sleepover, because there wasn’t much sleep happening that night. They chowed down on pizza for breakfast as well before Roni could run out and buy doughnuts, which they also managed to consume.
Ben’s “Sweet 16” was definitely one he’ll remember. The party aside, he also did well in the gift department. His grandparents Gehlke surprised him with an iPod Touch a few days before his birthday, and he quickly put it to use updating his status on Facebook and chatting with his friends on MSN Messenger. On the day of his birthday proper, we loaded into the car and wound up at Best Buy where we allowed him to choose his main gift. He’d been asking for months for an Xbox 360 and we’d already told him not to expect it in May, perhaps in December. But after several minutes of window shopping with Mom and Dad and touting the benefits of owning yet another gaming system, he caught Glenn in a generous (or perhaps weak) moment. Glenn handed Ben the Xbox 360 Elite bundle he’d been holding and said, “Here, happy birthday.” Ben said, “Really?” Glenn said yes, and that was that. Ben came back a minute later frantically waving a copy of “Left 4 Dead 2,” a zombie-carnage game he’d apparently played at a friend’s house and swore was the greatest game ever. It was only $60. Sixty bucks? You’re buying that one with your birthday money, kiddo.
Fortunately for Ben, he had plenty of birthday cash. He acquired some more during his party a week later, which brought us back to Best Buy on May 23 for an opportunity to spend it. We all assumed he’d be walking out of the store with another video game, but instead he came back with a Kodak digital camera and asked if he could buy it. He liked the idea of using the camera’s video function to take clips of friends that he could post on YouTube. It was such an uncharacteristic purchase that we nodded and let him do his thing.
Ben has busily been taking pictures this past week, from videos of Dad playing with Eevee to pics of his Anime Club friends having dinner at a Japanese restaurant in Antioch. Now he is talking about the unspeakable: going on a drive somewhere for the main purpose of taking pictures. We might make a photographer of him yet.
May has been an incredibly busy month, if you haven’t figured that out by now. Some months are just that way. A few of the other highlights:
• Glenn’s health has shown dramatic improvement since May 1, when his weight hit a low of 138 pounds. His doctor reduced his daily dosage of fluconazole by half, and in the past month Glenn has gained close to 10 pounds. He also started physical therapy for what his physician diagnosed as frozen shoulder on the right side. With exercises, he is regaining some of the lost mobility in his arm, although it still hurts him plenty.
• Roni recently took part in the Blogmania event on the Internet to promote her Romance Book Scene website. She and about 120 other bloggers offered prizes and were linked together for 24 hours to cross-promote one another. She picked up a lot of new visitors, but was disappointed that she didn’t win any of the prizes being offered by the other blog sites. For her part, she gave away a $25 Barnes & Noble gift card. She generally thought the experience was positive and is considering trying again when Blogmania returns in September.
• BNSF has begun work on a second mainline track behind our house. For the past few months the railroad has been doing preliminary work on the former DuPont yard to replace ties and upgrade the less frequently used tracks there for more car storage. Last week they brought in dozens of trucks to drop gravel (ballast) along what will become the roadbed for the new main track. Most of the work is taking place to our east now, so fortunately it’s not directly behind our house, but once the second line is operable we’ll have trains running a bit closer to us than currently, and in both directions.
• A group of bumblebees set up house in an abandoned bird nest under the eaves of our front porch. We weren’t too crazy about the idea until we read that bumblebees, unlike honeybees and wasps, tend not to be aggressive and usually depart at the end of the summer. We decided to let the nest stay, and for a few days our rafters were buzzing with their activity. Then one day, quite unexpectedly, we noticed several dead bees on the ground. The activity in the nest became less frequent, and now we haven’t heard any at all. We’re not sure what killed the bees, whether it was a parasite or merely the cold weather we’ve been having lately, but in any case the bee nest seems to have been short-lived.
• Ben had an opportunity to earn some extra credit in one of his classes if he watched a movie about the Holocaust, so we started up a subscription to Netflix so he could rent “Europa, Europa.” Since then we have been having fun using the Xbox to take advantage of their instant download feature, picking titles and watching them on our plasma screen. It’s still far from the Utopian vision of getting whatever you want, whenever you want it, and wherever you want to watch it, but it’s the closest thing we’ve seen to it and we like it.
• We began our search for a new kitten to replace our dearly departed Ariel. Roni’s sister Jacki called us this week to tell us that her cat gave birth to a litter of six kittens on May 24. We went over to her house May 27 to check them out. Their eyes are still closed and they are about the size of hamsters, but we’re already interested in the lone calico in the litter. Hopefully sometime in July we might be bringing her home.
That’s it for this month. Hopefully we’ll finally get some warm weather and have a more seasonable summer than we’ve had a spring. See you in June.