Tuesday, April 30, 2013

I did more stuff

This weekend there was a lovely wedding, and we had some friends in town.  Nevertheless, I got some things done (in fact, one visiting friend helped to remove the lilac that was too big for me to dig out, though my DH would like to point out that he did most of the work).  In addition to that, I did a few small jobs on The Neverending Porch, which is now almost ended, which means I will genuinely be devoting energy to addressing the many (many) issues in our yard. 

So, first of all, I needed to caulk:

(That is blue painter's tape along the edge there, so I don't make a mess of the floor with the caulk.)  And I did caulk:

I will note in the interest of full disclosure that I have still not fixed the exterior threshold:

But I will get there.  I've bought the metal thing to go over it; I just have to figure out how to wedge it in there, and then I can cut an angled edge in some stock to add in there too.

As you will remember, I also needed to address the issue of the Mad Mat.  You will (I assume) be happy to know that I concurred with the judgment of most: the Mad Mat will be going back.  This decision was clinched when the bench showed up and turned out to be several inches wider than the seller said it was.  Therefore, it does not tuck in neatly under the table.  Rather, it must sit against the opposite wall:

And, yes, you people who observed that it might be crowded with a bench in there too are extremely clever.  It would have been fine if the bench had fit under the table as I had envisioned.  (Which probably means that there will eventually be another bench, and this one will go to the front porch.  Which isn't a total waste because that porch could use some decoration, and $15 is still a good price for a bench.  Even though the incorrect measurements mean that it's very hard to find a cushion for the bench and I went to five stores and returned three sets of cushions and finally ordered something online that looks...exactly like the item I showed from Target. Except that it's about three inches wider.)  But you can still get through there, so for now I am fine with this.

Let's talk about how the facing wall turned out:

I think the green color for the chairs turned out nicely, and I think the pillows go well, too.  Oh, and yes, the table runner had to go.  Not sure what's going to happen up there yet, except that I definitely need to put another coat of wax on that table. 

This may give you a better idea of the whole room:

Oh, here's what's next to the second green chair:

It's actually a little electric stove.  I had had my eye on them on Amazon, and then I found one for a great price in my favorite second-hand store.  Yes, please!  (And, yes, originally I was thinking it would sit a little less close to other pieces so it would have more room to be admired, but I think it will work.  I can, and inevitably will, keep tweaking.) 

Here's just the table and chairs at the end.  I think this part in particular turned out really well.  Did I mention that that's an indoor lemon tree in the pot behind it?  I re-potted it so it would grow taller.  I see no evidence of that so far, and I fear that it isn't getting enough sunlight.  On the other hand, it had to spend several days in a shipping box, and I see no signs of ill health.  So, maybe I need to be patient.  Here is a look from the other end:

I know this is a great lot of redundant photographs, but when I look at other people's projects, I always think, "Wait, where are these things in relation to one another?  STOP SHOWING ME 'VIGNETTES.'  I don't care how one quarter of your tabletop looks.  I want to know where you PUT the stupid table!"  Anyway, I think this picture relatively accurately captures the intensity of the blue, yellow, and green we've got going on.  And also the hanging baskets:

That have thus far betrayed NO evidence of sprouting.  I suspected that my instincts on the subject of watering were off, and therefore this season I have set myself a strict rule: for indoor plants (and for outdoor ones, until the heat wave strikes), I am only allowed to water on Wednesdays and Saturdays.  And I constantly find myself wanting to water on other days.  Apparently, when I get impatient about the slow growth of flora, I drown them.  Oops.  (Although if these bulbs haven't come up by mid-May, I am going to drown them on purpose.)  Speaking of flora that haven't sprouted:

A window box was definitely in order.  It has been planted with sweet alyssum, which allegedly are long-blooming, can deal with part shade, and are fragrant.  We shall see.  I am still on the lookout for a pair of salvaged shutters I can add to that window, not because they are necessary, but because I think they would be charming.

I guess that means next weekend I have to start leveling pavers.  

Thursday, April 25, 2013

O wise internet, help me in my time of confusion

You would prefer this were a plea for advice about when to have my hysterectomy, right?  Because you're all morbid like that.  But you couldn't seriously help me with a decision like that.  So you should be happy this is about runners, because maybe you actually can help. 

So in my mind, this post (or, a post around this time) was going to be about how the porch is finally finished, and IT IS AWESOME.  But that is not the case.  Because: (a) the porch isn't technically finished - I still have to caulk the cove molding at the bottom of the walls, and put in an exterior threshold; (b) the ideas in my mind for the finishing touches I was going to use to bring the whole thing together in a cohesive look did not work on the first try, and there is still essential zhuzhing work to do; and (c) I take such crappy cell phone pictures that you would think it ugly even if it were perfect. 

So, without further ado.  I mentioned that I bought a Mad Mat (in the eggplant and green color) in the runner size for the porch.  I was totally right that 30" was all the width the porch could handle.  I await your opinions (see below) on the eight-foot length.  Here is the Mad Mat in situ:

I waited until this morning, special, to take nice pictures for you to look at, lit by actual sunlight.  And I have this.  Is it possible that anyone could take a picture this blurry - even with a cell phone - and not notice?  Also, how did I fail to notice the wonky angle?  Anyway, that's the mat.  Here is no mat:

Here is the other direction (no mat):

You may notice that that exterior door is very blue.  It was like that when we bought the place.  And while I think you can't really tell in these pictures, the color I painted the walls on the porch is very yellow (and I am delighted with it, and the husband has agreed that this will be the exterior color for the house, which desperately needs repainting.  As soon as I get around to calling contractors).  I am planning to paint the two ladder-back chairs (which will sit on either side of that skinny dark table) very green.  The overall theme (as is beginning to dawn on you, I'm sure) is LOTS OF COLOR.  The rather nondescript hanging baskets at the end there are allegedly going to have these begonias:

(They're from Hirts, which sells through Amazon.  I was pleased with the promptness of shipping and the condition in which things arrived, but I was displeased that I paid $4.99 for two stargazer lily bulbs and saw five for $6.99 the next week at the big orange store.)  I already planted them, and I have watered a little.  This was my most theoretically intelligent selection, as they prefer shade, bloom all summer, and live through the winter if there's no frost (i.e., including indoors).  We shall see. 

Anyway, that would be more color.  Meanwhile, I decided to add something a bit exotic to the top of that long table:

I wanted it to go across the middle of the table (i.e., at right angles to where it is) and drape down.  But it was way too long.  It fits nicely lengthwise, but that's not how I wanted it to look.  Also, though I love that textile (it has elephants!), the gray and gold colors are quite restrained.  I don't think it works.  (It is already the third cloth I have put on that table, and obviously there will be more.) 

Moreover, that table is about to have a bench in front of it.  This bench:

And it will have cushions.  Possibly this Target cushion:

And maybe my homemade pillows:

And I built out that ledge on top of the lower walls to hold plant pots.  The matching blue pots (on the floor - surely you memorized every detail of the photos?) already have Stargazer lily bulbs planted.  But those pots (which I had on hand during the building process and could easily have used to measure) fit only half-on, half-off the ledge along the long window wall.  They could be knocked off by a stuff wind.  They sit fine on top of the ledge under the short windows, because it is deeper (do not ask - yes, the wood I used for both was the same), but that is not where I want to put them.  And yet it is where they will go.  Also badly planned: lilies bloom only once a summer.  The rest of the time they will just be dead.  I could have looked this up, but nooooooooo. 

Instead, I guess I will put basil and oregano (in smaller pots) on the long ledge at the end of the summer (before which they will be outside.  Starting as soon as it gets really warm).  And maybe next year, if I do not kill everything this year, I will put some orchids on the long ledge.  (They like tiny pots.) 

But this whole business of a bench and cushions and plants on the ledge raises the question of whether a runner in that space is even a good idea.   Recap:

The cluttering pots on the floor are not staying (or the paint can, either), but still.  Too much crowding?  Also, is the eight-foot length too short?  (I know there is no way you can tell from this picture.)  Should the runner reach further toward that little table and chairs?  Are the colors just too dark?  Or (my DH's thought) is it just an ugly runner?  I don't know why I had my heart set on a Mad Mat.  Here is a close-up:

See - long plastic fibers. I knew this when I bought it, but somehow I hoped that in person it would look...nicer. Just for kicks, I brought one of our (very soft, possibly part-silk) runners from the hallway to see how a real rug would look:

Obviously, this one is shorter. I don't like the idea of a real rug out here, because when we have people over in the summer, they'll need to walk right across there from outside to get to the powder room. I don't want to worry about the rug getting dirty. I also think a real (or even convincing fake) Oriental rug would make the room appear to take itself too seriously. I want to maintain that cheerful, elegant (??) but light-hearted balance of indoor and outdoor in here. (I know I am nowhere near the mark, but I have endless stubbornness and I will get there.)
I could go with a rug with an Oriental sensibility, but in a distinctly outdoor-rug material - albeit without the weird Mad Mat weaving:

This strikes me as having the right degree of formality (and it's 10' long, and a great price), but it has no color and it make me SAD. This has plenty of color:

And it's also 10' long and a great price.  And I think that orange (although the internet says it is "terra cotta," which is not the color I see in the photo) would be an excellent addition to the space.  However, it might clash with the floor.  More importantly, that thing is way too modern
And then there's the no-rug option: 

Which is starting to grow on me, for good reasons (cut down on the too-much-stuff feeling in a very narrow space) and bad (I put a lot of work into that floor and people should be unobstructed from staring at it.  Even though they will then inevitably notice the uneven varnish). 

In short, I am now totally bewildered.  I need your help.  Please select as appropriate, ideally with explanation:

(1) There should not be a rug in that space, especially with the bench. 
(2) Mad Mats are ugly and you should never use them and it detracts from the space. 
(3) Mad Mats are a great idea and I particularly like that one, but it doesn't go with the other things in your space, because it is the wrong [color/shape/pattern/other]. 
(4) Mad Mats are nice and one might look good there, but that particular one is simply hideous; specifically, ___________. 
(5) The biggest problem with that rug is that it is two feet too short.  Otherwise, fine. 
(6) A real (or real-looking) Oriental rug would look great in that space.  I would look for one in _____ [color/pattern]. 
(7) I like modern rugs and therefore you are going to politely ignore my comment. 
(8) Forget the rug.  What possessed you to photograph this space without removing the elephant thing first? 
(9) You know that scarf-cum-table-cloth thing (while the ideal size and shape for the tea table) is the exact shade of yellow to clash heinously with the walls, right?  I assume you had that on hand, too, and could have checked it with the paint color? 
(10) Nothing will fix that room with the ledge all uneven like that.  Prioritize! 
(11) That bench is really not going to work. 
(12) You should put shutters and a window box with that window. 

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

religious education

For the last year and a half I've been teaching CCD.  For the last five years, I've been looking for some way to contribute to my community, and in particular my parish, but nobody would take me.  So when my vicar said they needed CCD teachers, I signed up right away.  From there insanity ensued.  I think he had said something about third-graders.  Instead, I got five high-school boys, who were supposed to have had confirmation preparation in seventh and eighth grade (and been confirmed in eighth grade), but their parents didn't sign them up.  There are syllabi for all the grades up to eight, but none for this sort of remedial class.  Plus, their parents hadn't taken them to religious education ever, so most of them knew nothing.  Also, their parents don't take them to Church on Sunday. 

I started again this year expecting to take my five boys through the rest of confirmation prep and see them all confirmed.  Instead, the teacher who was supposed to take on the new first-year class of remedial confirmation prep never showed up.  Eventually I had eleven students - five girls and six boys.  They range in age from thirteen to seventeen.  Eight are first- or second-generation immigrants (all speak good English).  They have never been taught the Church's views on chastity (not even by their parents), and obviously the dominant cultural influence is something very different.  That's not part of confirmation prep, but given their ages it is essential.  Three of them have very substantial familiarity with Church teaching and Scripture; the other eight have next to none.  And did I mention that five of the eleven had class with me last year and are being confirmed this year, another three had class last year at a different parish (no idea what they covered), and another three are in their first year of confirmation prep?  And I had to teach them all at the same time.  Again (of course), I had no syllabus. 

Plus, this year, the (new) DRE told me that they would have a content exam at the end of the year.  I asked every week for a month what would be on it.  He finally admitted he had no idea and couldn't find out, and I told him to expect them all to fail.  (I have no idea what the archdiocese thinks these kids should know, but I'll settle for them learning anything they didn't know before.)  A week before the exam, I was told they wouldn't be tested.  Okay. 

I decided to focus on them learning something about living the Christian life.  Last spring, I had covered the seven sacraments and spent several weeks on prayer.  This year, I covered the ten commandments, and then moved on to the Scriptural narrative, and God's plan, as revealed throughout history, for man's salvation - and, in particular, theirs.  Of course it took longer than it should've and I spent too much time on Noah and had to give short shrift to the crucifixion (!!!).  I somehow forgot that I am not a Scripture scholar and they asked all sorts of question about the Old Testament I couldn't possibly answer, making me (and the Catholic faith) look stupid.  Why do I set out on every challenge assuming that I know everything? 

I tried to focus on some broad concepts.  I started with basic philosophy and logic (the principle of non-contradiction, the problems with relativism) and the idea that we all have a responsibility to seek the truth.  Every kid started every class with a Bible and the Catechism.  I got the kids to where they understood how to find passages in the Catechism by paragraph number, generally knew how to use the index, understood that there were footnotes, and even (sometimes) if I said, "Now, where would we find more information about this?" they would venture, "Um...the Catechism?" 

I was more ambitious with the Bible.  Some of them started out opening it upside down (I am not kidding).  I believe now most of them can reason logically to whether an item will be in the Old Testament or New Testament.  Given five minutes, they can each find the third chapter of Jeremiah (for example) without assistance.  They know where the Psalms are, and almost all of them have spent a class combing through the Psalms to find a good passage to offer as the class's closing prayer (I said I would offer them a passage or they could find their own, and I was surprised by the popularity of that exercise).  They know - in a general way - what happens in Genesis and Exodus.  They know what, and where, the four Gospels are.  One of them - my troublemaker - started listening to audio files of the Bible on biblegateway.com in his free time.  He started at Matthew and by the end of class had started Corinthians.  I would not have believed him if he hadn't had detailed knowledge of books of the Bible we hadn't read.  I'm still stunned. 

I can tell that not all of them are entirely convinced of the wrong of abortion, or of the value of saving sexual activity for marriage.  But I can see with several that it's sinking in - including some I considered the least likely.  One of them is depressed and engaging in self-harm (I wasn't sure of the latter until our very last class), and I would appreciate your prayers for that student.  I am working with the DRE to talk to the parents and (my preference) the counselors at school to get the child some help.  Because of the VIRTUS rules, I cannot talk to the student privately myself - though I'm the one she chose to confide in.  I understand the value of the rules, but what a waste. 

In addition to getting them used to leaning on the Catechism as a reference and developing a comfort level with opening the Bible, I tried to instill in them an understanding of and respect for the Church's teaching authority.  When one had a difficult theological question, I would ask him to write it down and save it for the vicar's next visit to class.  (And God bless him - he always had a good answer.)  This exercise worked fairly well too (when they remembered to bring their notebooks). 

In the second-to-last class, my brightest student (and the one with the most familiarity with Christianity generally) asked whether a person could remarry who had been in abusive marriage.  For those not familiar with Catholic teaching on this subject, the answer is that a marriage that is invalidly contracted can be investigated and declared null (annulled); for example, if one party was not mentally capable of giving consent, or one party was already married, or if the parties' consent was to something other than the essence of what marriage is (i.e., if they married intending to be closed to having children, or intending to be unfaithful, or intending to end the marriage later).  If the marriage was validly contracted, however, then each party is bound by his promise.  The fact that the promise later turns out to be spectacularly unfortunate doesn't change that (if it did, it wouldn't be a promise).  However, the Church teaches clearly that it is appropriate to use the civil law to protect a person in danger of harm - thus, a civil divorce (and restraining order or prosecution, as appropriate) would be permissible.  But a valid canonical marriage cannot be dissolved, so the abused party could not remarry. 

It's relatively easy to set out this information, but remember, this is my bright student - and she only asks questions when she has a serious issue.  Otherwise, she is silent, and maintains perfect composure while the twin boys ask 700 stupid questions, many of them about random popular movies, usually interrupting me mid-sentence.  I can pretty well imagine what she thinks of them, but she says nothing.  She also doesn't overshare, so I don't know who in her life has run into this problem or how deeply it affected her, but I know there is somebody and I have to keep that in mind.  After answering the question, I went home and realized I had dropped the major issue. 

So I started my last class (in which I breezed through the crucifixion, resurrection, ascension into heaven, and descent of the Holy Spirit, accidentally skipping the Gethsemane passage and the judgment before Pilate along the way) with what I think can best be described as a rant on the relationship between truth and love.  I think I hit my major points well.  I emphasized that we as a society want to push suffering people away.  I used being infertile as an example (something I have not previously mentioned), because I know adults have limited credibility with children on theoretical concepts.  It's what you've lived that makes an impression.  But I de-emphasized how hard it is (I know they don't really get it at their age), and pointed out that if people say insensitive things to me to make me shut up, it must be ten times worse for someone with a heavier cross.  And I invited them to look at Our Lady, standing by in agony as her beloved Son was scourged, following as He carried His cross, covered in blood and near collapse, waiting at the foot of the cross for three hours, unable to help Him, unable to save Him, able only to suffer with Him.  That is the example we're called to follow.  They were dead silent.  I know I made an impression with that.  But maybe just because I was ranting like a madwoman. 

I had two other major points for this rant.  My earlier one was that a lie is not compassion.  The strongest example here seems obvious, to me.  The world wants to tell women in unwanted pregnancies, "It's not wrong to kill the child," "The child won't suffer," "It's better this way," "You need to live your life."  The idea is that this would be a burden and she should not be asked to carry a burden.  And that is not the Christian message.  I told them that the message was, "This situation is incredibly hard and will demand a huge sacrifice from you.  But you have an opportunity to do something heroic - to give of yourself so that someone helpless and dependent on you will have a chance to live.  And when I look at you, I don't see someone weak and selfish.  I see a hero.  I know you can do this, and I love you and I'll help you in every way I can."  Why is this not the message we want to give to women?  Why is the side that claims to want to see women free and strong and fulfilling their potential telling them to be the least they can be?  When you look back on your life, do you want to see someone for whom the way was always smoothed, for whom life contained many enjoyments and few troubles?  Or someone who, when life got difficult, sacrificed self, did difficult things, loved heroically, and made the world a better place with her courage and generosity?  Who wants the first?  So why do we avoid the second?   

My last point was that Christ, who died on the cross for us, loves the suffering person more than we ever can love him, and we have to leave room for His action, even if we can't see what that will be.  I think this hit home, also. 

For a brief minute, I was proud of that.  But what of what I didn't emphasize?  I didn't go through Pilate's "Quid est veritas?" and why we always have to embrace the truth.  I didn't emphasize the importance of daily prayer, although I meant to.  I didn't go through Gethsemane and talk about what Jesus suffered and that suffering is evil but redeemed.  (I did get to go through "My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?" and talk about our experience of feeling abandoned although, like Christ, we never are.  And that provoked a lot of comments.  They do feel that God is distant.  Two asked how to pray better (!!).  I wish I could prepare for these questions, but I told them to ask God for the grace to pray better, suggested they use Scripture as a starting point, and recommended Adoration, which is available at our parish.  I hope they look into that.) 

I neglected to wrap up the Scriptural narrative with my point - this is what God has done, this is what He's offering, this is what you need to accept or decline before you are confirmed.  I said it at the beginning, but they need to hear it again.  I had so little time with them, so little I could get through, and they aren't really ready to be adults in the faith - not even close.  They haven't seriously contemplated Christ's invitation, and made the decision to drop their nets and follow him.  I talked about God's love - but I didn't talk about it enough.  I missed opportunities to make it personal enough.  Throughout the year, I should have been reminding them, every week, to ask their parents to take them to Mass.  I don't even know whether I said it once.  I bet many of them didn't go to Mass even on Easter (we didn't have class that week or the week before, and I never plan far enough ahead with these things).  I grilled them about their Lenten sacrifices, but I don't know whether I got to the heart of the matter.  There are a million million things I didn't say at all, or explained poorly, or failed to say enough.  I am a stunted witness, obviously, and that too is a giant limit on what I can teach. 

I've already quit for next year.  Writing lesson plans from scratch takes more time than I really have, the class is impossibly organized and impossible to teach (and the DRE needs to be forced to teach it himself for a few weeks before he will pay attention and address the problem - I made it too easy for him not to look for a second teacher for the first-year students), and class on Sunday mornings is really out of the question for me.  All the people I need to maintain relationships with, I need to see on Saturday night.  I spent so many Saturdays at 3AM writing lesson plans, and so many Sunday afternoons catatonic, barely waking up in time for evening Mass.  So, I've volunteered to help with the youth group on Sunday night.  I will be going to Mass on Sunday morning again! 

I don't know whether to feel triumphant or defeated.  I know I am tired.  I am worried about every one of these kids.  I want to shake most of their parents - how could you neglect this most essential thing so completely???  I feel a little guilty for leaving - I know they need teachers - but I was totally burned out by January and by now there is no doubt that I need to stop.  I guess I could abandon my social life altogether to make room for this, but this is an appropriate volunteer activity for those whose family circumstances already dictate a 10PM Saturday bedtime and waking on Sunday by 8AM, whether there's CCD to teach or not.  That isn't me.  My community isn't the people who live under my roof, and maybe by normal standards that makes me a hedonist, but that's how it is.  This is the life God gave me and I'm not going to run from it or try to pretend it away or do a half-@$$ed job at it. 

But I'd like to think that one thing I said made one bit of difference for even one of those kids.  Please God...

Monday, April 22, 2013

I bought things

Which I need to STOP doing, by the way.  It's scary how much money I've spent on the weirdest, least formal, most useless room in the house.  (I have embarked on other causes economically.  I swear.) 

Granted, most of that wasn't exactly a cocaine-fueled spending spree.  Insulation for the walls was $20.  Sheet rock was $30.  Lumber was another $35 or so.  Drywall screws cost some more.  And spackle.  And spray insulation.  Oh, and then $72 for plants and plant pots.  (That did not seem like that much, one purchase at a time.  I mostly reused pots I already had.  It's not even as many plants as you're thinking.  And they're not some sort of endangered species of rainforest flora.  And I'm probably going to kill all of them by July.  And even if I don't, I want more.)  Then it was $35 for trim molding.  And that doesn't include $156 for the flooring, $30 for the varnish, about $100 for the air compressor and nail gun, $45 for the pressure-treated subfloor panel, and $60 for a reciprocating saw to get the $%#& rotten original subfloor all the way out.  I'm not counting the (many) supplies and materials I already had.  I think I've already spent $600.  Even when I was complaining I had not realized it was that bad.  That is insane

And...that's just for four walls (and some plants).  It doesn't touch the things that are in the room.  Regarding which I have tried to be really restrained.  My funky wood-and-leather chairs:

Will not be included.  I finally made a direct examination of one to see what I'd need to do to repair the leather on the arms, and realized that the leather on the whole chair was ridiculously brittle.  It wasn't that way when I bought them, but if I was supposed to condition them, I certainly didn't know.  I paid $50 for the pair from craigslist and I think I can count on one hand the number of times anyone has sat on either of them.  And I'm not shelling out for enough leather to redo them entirely.  They also need repairs to the frame, and leather-work is not something I currently do.  It would be throwing good money after bad.  What a stupid waste. 

I do, however, have a nice verdigris-type folding cafe table and two chairs.  They have been living outside, and doing quite well although they are metal.  (They were only $35 for all three on craigslist, and they have been used constantly and are easy to store.  An example of good shopping judgment.)  They look like moderately like this, except with all sorts of leaves:

(Apparently you can buy a set here, for $270.  I guess I got a steal.) 

Now I think it is time to bring them inside, and put the table in the corner where that right-hand leather chair is sitting in the photo above.  The other corner (where the leather chair on the left is) is home to my indoor lemon tree ($25) and its new pot ($9).  It would be decades before it grew enough lemons to be cheaper than buying lemons at the store, and I'll probably spend that much in fertilizer for it every year anyway.  But somehow the idea of growing my own lemons seemed totally irresistible, and I didn't do the math until I had clicked "purchase."  (I am starting to worry that I suffer from some sort of disorder.) 

I already have a perfect cloth for the little verdigris table - an oversized scarf I bought in Warsaw with the traditional Polish floral print - it looks a lot like what the woman (a folk dancer) is wearing here:

Then, as discussed, I have my mother's library table:

I have a navy and white floral table cloth that I'm going to drape over it cross-wise - I bought the cloth at thrift store before we got our current dining table (for which the cloth is much too small).  And, as you can see behind the library table, I also have two ladder-back Ikea chairs inherited from my sister, who painted them.  I plan to paint them again, the same color as this room:

I think the pillows I made are going out here, too.  And I'm buying a bench for under the table.  I wanted something like this:

I'm telling you.  Something humble.  I figured I'd find dozens for sale for $25.  I was even willing to spend up to $50 for something that was really cute.  Instead I found nothing.  Either it was over 50 miles from my house or it was the wrong length to fit under my library table or it was $150.  (I will never understand the things craigslist sellers think are worth over $100.)  I have just found one for a great price that I will pick up on Thursday (I hope).  It is not remotely like my original goal, but I think it will look nice, and be transport-able to the dining room to seat two more at the end of the table for dinner.  But it is metal, so it probably needs cushions.  If I buy outdoor cushions (what would fit best), they should only cost...three times as much as the table. 

(I think my brain is overheating.) 

Oh, and I felt the space needed a rug.  Because of its super-skinny shape, it requires a runner.  We have one more from my DH's travels to far-flung lands (and unauthorized home decor purchases), but is a fancy-fancy hand-knotted one that I am not willing to subject to Life on the Porch, which is guaranteed to be rough.  Ideally, I wanted something like this:

(For just $2000, it can be yours. It's quite large, too.) But I found myself looking at things like this:

Because...it was on sale?  And don't get me wrong, that's a cute rug.  But I am traveling into the land of "spend too much money and don't get what you really want," and that's not a good place to spend a lot of time.  Then over the weekend I came across this little number:


For $50.  With free shipping.  And after running it past my DH (who is much more low-key about purchasing decisions than I am, so although I try to use him as a check on my impulses, it doesn't really work that way), I bought it - the same day I found it.  I think this is an error in and of itself.  It's a "Mad Mat," which Oprah apparently made famous, and I do think it's fascinating that recycled plastic bottles can be made to look like Oriental rugs - at least, from a distance.  It's not the same weaving technique as real rugs, though (for some reason the close-up is a .gif, so I can't display it here) - it's flat-woven, and the "fibers" are a little more exposed. 

So you can just take a hose to it, but is it sturdy enough for regular foot traffic?  And why did I not think about this before I purchased it? 

I need to get this project finished so I can move on to spending more money on zucchini plants than I would on actual zucchini, and then buying all my zucchini anyway because my plants don't produce anything (and yes this happens to me - don't tell me nobody can plant zucchini without it yielding a bumper crop.  I have powers of which you do not know). 

Friday, April 19, 2013

and more things

Let's see...I think we left off here:

And as you see, I'd been cutting away the white wall-board at the bottom.  I finished that:

There were all sorts of complications with those vertical posts, and the width of the horizontal parts, but I do not want to think about them anymore. I heroically framed around them:

Which took, approximately, forever. Then I fetched out some of this: 

And put it between the studs:
I marked the stud locations with painter's tape on the floor and top ledge, so I could attach the drywall:
With screws that you cannot see. (Well, you can see one, in the lower-right corner.) But trust me, they're in there - otherwise, the drywall would not be up there. Can you tell that the top ledge differs in width - it almost vanishes toward the corner? Let me assure you that the board I bought for this purpose does not vary in width. I don't know what I was supposed to do - a curved cut? As always, the area I'm working with was insane. I have come up with a brilliant solution: ignore it, and it will go away. Then I spackled over the screw holes:

I am a very competent spackler.  But, I am a very very poor drywall screwer-inner.  (And/or my drill bit was crap.  My screwing job got worse as the bit stripped, and I didn't notice till fairly late in the game.  Still my fault.)  And apparently I have lately lost my spackle-mixing skills and cannot regain them.  Once I ran out of my pre-mixed can, everything I missed dried within 120 seconds (I'm actually not exaggerating), and I sort of LUMPED it on the wall after that.  No amount of sanding will fix that, so it's a happy thing that I have nothing better for you than cell phone pictures.  Because you can't really see it here.  And then I put on one coat of paint:

Imagine what I'll be doing this weekend.  It could be ANYTHING! 

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

stuff I've been up to

I assume you all remember this:

I said - at the end of January, if I recall - that it was going to absorb my attention as I was coming off the kitchen project.  It certainly did.  First I ripped up the underlayment (the light wood you see at the lower edge of the photo).  Then I discovered that the flooring (that's the dark-green-painted wood you can kinda see along the left edge) only went about 60% of the way from left to right across the porch.  (I've been through many theories now, and finally concluded that it was originally just a regular porch, and just about four feet wide, and when somebody or other decided to enclose it, it was also made wider.  Except they just filled the gap with plywood.  And they appear to have covered the green floorboards and the plywood with carpet.)  Then I discovered that nobody makes 2-3/8" wide flooring any more.  Then I decided I'd just put a new floor over it.  Then I realized that the subfloor (that plywood somebody put down) had rotted near the exterior doorway, so I removed it, and then I discovered that the lower part of the wall to the right of the doorway was also rotten, so I removed that:

Obviously the goal was to replace these things, specifically with pressure-treated lumber (which is water- and rot-resistant).  In fact, you can see a big piece of pressure-treated lumber hanging out at the right of the picture above.  It's just leaning on the wall.  Because before I could get it in there, I had to deal with the fact that when its predecessor was installed, that exterior wall (the one with the door in it) didn't exist yet, so the wall went on top of the subfloor, and how do I get the new subfloor in without removing the wall first? 

The answer is:

This project was fairly expensive on power tools.  Not to mention the incovenience of frequently having to put a halt on progress (with a hole in the floor in front of our main exterior door, no less) to procure more power tools.  So eventually, I replaced the missing wall and subfloor, but why would I take a picture of them?  You'll just believe me.  I was very excited about those developments, because they meant I could address myself to the pile of (very pretty) oak flooring that had been occupying the porch for, by this time, a month or maybe even two.  I'm so tough, I was going to nail it all down with a hammer. 

Except I'm not that tough, or rather, my hammer isn't, or, perhaps more accurately, my nails aren't.  I bent about 20 of them in half (I am a beast!  See below) trying to attach the first board.  One long-distance call to a friend's dad in Canada later, and I realized the problem wasn't me (mostly): you cannot get a steel nail through an oak floorboard with a hammer.  The oak is too hard.  (This doesn't make sense to me either, but I have seen it with my own eyes and I know that it is true.  And yes, I can nail through pine just fine.) 

So then there was this:

Again, had to put the project on hold for several days while I awaited my boxes (OF POWER TOOLS!) from Amazon.  I think this project actually doubled my collection of power tools (and tripled my total power tool expenses), although I think I got very good prices on both of these.  For this much money (and time) I could just have laid the slate floor.  Ah...but then, I would have had a slate floor and NO power tools to warm my cold little heart afterward.  By the way, that's a two-gallon oil-less air compressor on the left, and an 18-gauge brad nailer on the right.  The rope is just sort of random; ignore it. 

Also, oil-less air compressors make a sound like all the demons of hell (or at least a significant portion thereof) and ear protection is NOT optional.  In fact, I think two layers would be wise, so I should probably pick up those very attractive muff things the next time I'm at the big orange store.  For all my future projects that will require an air compressor and a brad nailer. 

(That's me, with my nail gun.  I have wicked canines.) 

So then the packages came and I sat myself down with some power tool instruction manuals for a while and then I started nailing down floorboards:

You see that bit of white wall?  That's the wall with the door in it (it's just out of the picture).  As noted above, formerly there was a hole in that wall, which (by the time of this photo) is filled in with three layers of pressure-treated plywood I glued and screwed together, and then attached to the original wall boards, the floor, and the door frame, after bracing the door frame with a chunk of pressure-treated post.  (After I took out the rotted parts, the wall rocked back and forth if you gave it a light push.  Not cool.  It does not move any more.) 

You may also recall that there was an enormous hole in the floor.  That hole would have been just to the left of the nail gun.  No more hole! 

I kept moving with the flooring (very, very slowly):

There, you can see the new flooring in the foreground.  Just beyond it is a piece of underlayment (to smooth the transition between the original green floorboards and the plywood subfloor).  Leaning against the wall in this photo is more underlayment that's drying.  I ultimately decided to re-use the underlayment the previous handyman had cut, since it was already the right size - but it had been out in the rain and leaves for a bit, so I had to bring it in in batches and dry it.  Highly scientific processes, all. 

Oh, here's a close-up that might help:

The green is the original flooring.  To its right you can see the plywood that someone laid down to extend the porch's width.  And at the bottom is a piece of underlayment.  It's just sitting there - the nails that secured the floorboards went through the underlayment, so it all got nailed down in one step.  Also, that appears to be my toe.  Not that I did any part of this work barefoot. 

As I went along, I sawed off the lower part of the wall-board.  These archaeological forays suggest that first there was a (very narrow) porch with painted flooring; then there was an enclosed porch, with these lemon-yellow walls; and then there was another (white) layer of wall material added:

The yellow walls are just 3/4" thick boards, so I can see thinking that the wall needed some beefing up.  What I don't understand is why they just added some 3/8" thick weirdly-decorated plywood and called it a day.  All that was between those layers was spiders

(I am not putting a picture of an evil-looking spider here.  This is just not that kind of blog.) 

Being more sensible, I'm planning to remove that entire piece of white stripey board (on the two walls, under the windows) so I can thicken the walls under the windows and put insulation in them.  That was the original agenda for this project: (1) remove vinyl flooring; (2) re-paint original floor boards; (3) remove wall-board under the windows; (4) add framing, insulation, and drywall in its place; (5) paint the walls yellow (leave the window frames white); and (6) add a baseboard heater.  The first two steps were maybe 10% of the project, but of course they (and the unexpected extra steps) have taken two and a half months. 

ANYWAY.  I was clever enough to saw off the bottom of the wall-board BEFORE I laid the flooring so that when I came back and ripped it out, it wouldn't scratch my brand-new floors.  (After the floor is done, I'm ripping the rest out.) 

And that will be this weekend (along with our income tax returns.  Sigh), because I got up extra-early this morning to put the third coat of varnish on my new porch floor:

I guess maybe it could use five coats, but they take forever to dry and I have porch things all over the hallway and our exterior door is in the garage and my patience is at an end.  Also, it only looks that shiny because it was still wet when I took the picture.  It's actually semi-gloss. 

I cannot wait to come home tonight and see my FINISHED FLOOR, with the varnish all dry.  And then start in on demolishing the rest of the walls...