The Cool House

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

what next?

I sometimes get freaked about the things we are doing to this house. My mantra when we were in contract to buy it and thinking about all the things that needed to be done was: Do no harm. Every so often, I second guess a decision we have made, usually about paint colour, and think: Am I making a terrible mistake and hurting the house? Then I come across photos from when we moved in, and I'm reassured. We are doing more good than harm.
The old kitchen has 70s decor and needs updating but it is so functional: all the cabinets have roll out drawers, the upper cabinets have roll out plate racks. Either side of the island there are: pull out chopping boards, one for meat, one for bread; a pull out toaster; can opener and electrical sockets. I can't even imagine how much it's going to cost to get this quality today

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

The shade saga

suntanned never cease to amaze me with their customer"service". Despite their promise to ring back with a detailed instructions re the replacement of the non-locking blind I heard nothing for eight days. Then this evening while I was sorting through the credit card offers I will never take up, flyers from supermarkets I never use and coupons for $10 of sealcoat for the driveway, in short the sort of junk that passes for mail these days, there was a knock on the kitchen window.
And there in the cold stood the hunky UPS guy. It is Valentine's Day so I was kind of hoping for a decent prezzie. No such luck. He had been detailed to pick up something form a company I had never heard of, but turned out to be the manufacturer of smithandnoble blinds. As I wasn't expecting a pick up, he had to wait in 24" of snow while I found the blind, put it in its box and taped it up. Then he stuck on the return label and exclaimed "look at that, they send it out FedEx and pick it up UPS!"
I'm betting they take the blind, stick its locking mechanism on it and return it to me  via UPS. What are the odds. These blinds were ordered in October to be in place by Thanksgiving. Well they missed that deadline, Xmas and New Year, Velentine's too. We are shooting for Easter now or 6 months after they were ordered. Unbe*******lieveable.
Anyway, here are the various transformations my office has gone through, and eventually I hope to post a photo of the blind that should go in here.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Window dressing

The roman shades saga continues: On Monday last week I received the replacement roman shades from smithandnoble. After the last experience I knew I had to get them up as quickly as possible to see that they were in perfect condition, so I rushed out and bought four poles to hang them from. (The reason I had ordered from smithandnoble was they offered a ring top option so they could be hung from a metal rod and would be sleek and modern, rather than bulky and fussy.
I sped back home with the selected black curtain poles and spent a good hour drilling holes in the wall to put them up. I thought I'd try the one in my study first and then do the den where there are three windows and I hoped Steve would take over with the drill. (It's man's work, you know). The blind looked ok coming out of the box, and on the pole there were no funny marks or pins left in the material, so far so good.
Then I tried to lock the blind closed, and I pulled one way and then the other, then I checked the back and guess what? They had left off the locking mechanism. I could not believe it! I phoned them immediately and they promised a new blind, which they would confirm by phone within 48 hours, leaving a detailed voicemail if I wasn't home. Really?
I'm still waiting for that phonecall, people, and FYI, four defective blinds out of eight is a really bad average.
So this blind is one of those that will go in the den (and yes they are all ok, I checked). That won't be for a couple of weeks as an accident with a bagel has left Steve with four stitches in his left index finger and I'm too mad to tackle any window dressing right now.

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Bye bye funky flowers

At last we found a replacement for the 1960s orange and green flower chandelier in the bamboo room. We bought an ecru drum shade from the Conran shop in Manhattan for forty bucks and remarkably we remembered to get the ceiling converter kit (designed by Noguchi, no less) to go with it.
Even more remarkable, instead of leaving it in its box for several weeks we installed the light the very next morning, with no fuss and just before we left to go to the theatre. Amazing.
We also ran into Lighting by Gregory and ordered a wall light to go on the landing. As it cost substantially more than $40 and won't arrive for a couple of weeks this was less exciting.
The play was fantastic: Rabbit Hole starring Cynthia Nixon and Tyne Daly, it officially opens this week. Go and see it if you have the chance. And Tyne Daly had dinner in the same restaurant as us after the show.
A pretty darn satisfying weekend.

Friday, January 27, 2006

We pronounce it done

Finally put the curtains up in the dining room this morning. We had ordered roman blinds in October but when they arrived they had bleached out splodges on each of them so we sent them back. It took until January 11 for smithandnoble to tell us that this was normal on silk dupioni and we could either have them remade or choose a new fabric. Huh!
I've seen silk dupioni samples and fabric bolts from many sources and never seen a splodge on any of them, this looked like a bad dye job to me. Anyway, would you trust them to make up a new batch? I thought not. No explanation for the six dressmaker pins left in the fabric either.
So I gave up on the idea of shades and after three weeks of looking I found these red silk dupioni panels and while they are more formal than I wanted, the colour is great - better than the shades, in fact and the best is that there are no weird marks on them. Ha!
Anyone need a reminder of what the dining room looked like eighteen months ago, before the new windows, furniture, paint and curtains? This is it Finally put the curtains up in the dining room this morning. We had ordered roman blinds in October but when they arrived they had bleached out splodges on each of them so we sent them back. It took until January 11 for smithandnoble to tell us that this was normal on silk dupioni and we could either have them remade or choose a new fabric. Huh!

I've seen silk dupioni samples and fabric bolts from many sources and never seen a splodge on any of them, this looked like a bad dye job to me. Anyway, would you trust them to make up a new batch? I thought not. No explanation for the six dressmaker pins left in the fabric either.

So I gave up on the idea of shades and after three weeks of looking I found these red silk dupioni panels and while they are more formal than I wanted, the colour is great - better than the shades, in fact and the best is that there are no weird marks on them. Ha!

Anyone need a reminder of what the dining room looked like eighteen months ago, before the new windows, furniture, paint and curtains? This is it.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

San Diego Harbor

We had to update our cellphones and got quad bands so they work in Europe as well as here. Steve got his with a camera and this is what it does if you press the wrong button.....
We were on the harbor in San Diego as the sun was setting, very nice and a short break from the house. We are getting along well with the decorating. The dining room is finished and new roman blinds have been ordered for the den and my office, then they will be finished for now. We have decided to leave the rest of the den decoration - carpets and the built in unit until we do the kitchen and get the same finish for them as the kitchen cabinets. The cabinets will have to be custom made because of the angles in the kitchen (it's a trapezium) but I'm hoping we can still do them for a reasonable price. Still I don't think we'll be tackling this project until 2008 at the earliest. Next big project - our leaky, cracked shower pan that will require an entire bathroom makeover. Fix one job, create three more.............

Sunday, January 08, 2006

San Diego Zoo

There are two things that you have to do when you visit San Diego: walk along the marina and go to the Zoo. And when you get to the Zoo you have to have lunch at the Prado and see the pandas. The bonus for us was that the five month old cub was outside and becoming bolder every day. We got to the Zoo before it opened and went straight to the panda exhibit and there was the cub - stuck up a tree like a black and white wombat.
I refused to leave until it came down and after ten minutes or so the mother panda became uneasy and started to call the cub down. The cub tried to climb down but it was a fir tree and the branches went out and the only way down was to climb to the end of a branch and drop off. The fall was about four feet but the little cub let go, hit the ground, dusted himself down and walked it off. His mama cuddled him, then went back to stripping bamboo. This is the cub exploring again.
We left then, but according to people we met later the cub went into his pen and didn't appear for the rest of the day.
Friday January 13, 2006 - 06:58pm (EST) Edit | Delete | 0 Comments |

Saturday, December 31, 2005

Abbaye de la Cambre

Originally uploaded by modernemama.

We had a great time in Brussels with the kids and all our friends. Now we are homesick, so here's a photo I can look at to remind me of surreal Belgium. The sign on the left of the building reads "Cult members enter here".

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Xmas in Bxl

The Grand'place in Brussels two days after Xmas: lots of gilt, trees in spheres and gluhwein; a light dusting of snow to complete the magic.
PS there is a huge yellow diamond ring (or maybe it's a citrine) in the window of De Greef the juweler on the street from the Grand'place to the Bourse if anyone wants to know what to get me for Xmas 2006.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Too nice just to eat in

We just had the dining room painted (Benjamin Moore Titanium and Benjamin Moore White Cloud) and it looks beautiful. The painters were really impressed with the colours, too. It seems no-one had chosen them before, there seems to be a lot of magnolia, or Navajo white as it is called here, around, otherwise it's pale yellow, sage green and coffee colours: espresso, capuccino, mocha.
Anyway, it looks excellent and would look even better with the crimson shades we ordered but when we hung them we noticed that the dye process had gone wrong and there were bleachy splotches all over them. They have been returned, and we are eagerly awaiting the replacements. Until then a photo of the window hardware..........

Friday, December 09, 2005


This isn't the first snowfall we have had this winter, but it's the prettiest so far. The nice thing is that the new windows have made a significant improvement to the draughtiness of the house. Double glazing much better than single glazing, oh yeah. Although who knows how much warmer it would have been last winter if we had worked out how to put the storm windows in!

Thursday, November 17, 2005

This is where the money goes

this is where the money goes
Actually it's on the food, but this is what we pay for when we stay at Renaissance hotels. Cute, eh? This is Austin, Texas where we went to listen to music in "the live music capital of the world". This is the replacement trip for the one we had to postpone to SXSW in March. I'm still inclined to be snitty about that but a break is a break, no? At least we had the opportunity to change the tickets and it is nice to have somone pickup after me for a few days
PS There is more live music in Huntington, NY than we saw in Austin, and it wasn't nearly weird enough for us, but we did eat snake, bad bbq and NY chocolates. Go figure.

Thursday, November 10, 2005


We have a new roof! It was supposed to go on a couple of weeks ago but the rains delayed things. This morning, however, Tom the roofer and ten of his best men turned up bright and early to begin stripping off the old roof. This is the bit where you hold your breath in case they discover soggy boards or other costly problems but we were fine. Fine that is until the police turned up and ordered them to stop work. It seems we woke someone up with all the banging and they complained and it transpires that there is an ordinance prohibiting work on a Saturday in our village. Unfortunately, nobody told us about this policy.
Anyway by the time the police got here (we are two doors down from the police station) the roof was off and there was no way that Tom was leaving us exposed to the elements over the weekend. So, a call to the Chief of Police and another to the neighbour who made the complaint and Tom got a citation but work resumed. Can I just say to the person we annoyed that we are truly sorry. If the police had let us know who it was we would have apologised in person and sent you a bottle of champagne. Why don't they give you a rule-book when you move to a new area? It would make life so much simpler. We apologised to all the neighbors who came out to look at the new roof but they disclaimed responsibility and only a couple knew about the no work on Saturday rule.
The roof looks great; pewter grey shingles that match the bluestone around the house, not too blue and not so dark it looks squat. We have had some rain since and high winds and we seem to be watertight and windproof, which is what we were aiming for. It also seems to be quieter when it rains. Can anyone explain that to me?

Saturday, October 29, 2005

More staining

A year ago I finished the front stairs and I joked that I would get around to the back stairs in the New Year. Well at least I got there before this year ended.
Inspired by the beauty of the newly stained siding I finally got on and stained the back stairs. They were the most hellish job as some joker had glued the carpet to the stairs and carpet adhesive sticks really, really well y'know. I started this job with Verity's help in July. We sanded and sanded and then the humid weather kicked in so I had to leave it for a while. When it got cooler and I could open the windows I started with the adhesive remover. Several coats of adhesive remover, which you have to remove after it has worked its magic. Then I stained, and I realised that the stairs were still sticky so I stripped them again and again and again. Five different products and four months later and hurrah the back stairs match the front stairs.Two nights later Sadie fell down the back stairs and gouged a big track in her effort to hang on. The work never ends.

Thursday, September 29, 2005


I can't get over the difference that the paint and stain has made to the outside of the house. The redwood stain has hardly changed the colour but has added a depth and richness to the siding while enhancing the variations in the wood. We opted to match the colour of the replacement windows on the windows and doors and you really can't tell which is old and which is new. A bizarre but really attractive thing has happened with the garage doors: when the sun shines it projects a shadow of the trees onto the doors - we have our very own movie show each evening. How cool is that? I presume it has something to do with the bronze tone in the paint but I'm guessing here. It certainly didn't happen with the horrible "cedar tan"

Monday, September 19, 2005


Summer is almost over and winter will be here before we know it, so we are taking advantage of the unseasonably clement weather to waterproof the house. The painter was keen to start power-washing the house while the weather was still warm and last week they washed away seven years of mold, moss and dirt to reveal the beautiful redwood beneath.
We had no idea that it would come up so beautifully - from grey to amber in two days. I almost wanted to leave it at that but I am persuaded that a coat of Cabot Clear Pacific Redwood Stain will actually protect the siding for the next 3-5 years. The staining process began this morning and already three of the twelve sides have been stained. So far so much better.
Can't wait to see it with the freshly painted windows and doors, and then we can get the roofers in to make us completely watertight.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Sticky stuff

Humidity is a real pain when you're trying to stain windows. You have to have them open of course but the inside temperature is 80F and humidity level is 89% meaning that they take forever to dry and sweat runs everywhere making the process way beyond unpleasant. In the end, although it broke my heart, I had to put the air-conditioning back on. It's September for goodness sake!
Still, I have finished nine of the windows, hurray. And I have put one coat on the back stairs. At this rate I will have finished sometime in January 2006. And I do not want to have the windows open when it's below freezing either.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

More repairs

I can't believe it's been almost two months since I last posted here. It's not that I have been away or seriously incapacitated, more a case of a fantastic summer encouraging long days in or by the pool and evenings watching the sun set over the Long Island Sound. In contrast to last year when we had cool weather followed by the remnants of three hurricanes, this year has been hot and dry.
The sprinkler system chose this arid period to play up. We extended it earlier in the year and it had been running fine but it suddenly stopped altogether. A phone call to the irrigation guy and we had a bunch of advice: try the battery, the fuse and the transformer. We replaced all three and thought we had it up and running again. But walking across the lawn one morning I realised that I wasn't getting wet and I usually play dodge the sprinkler at that time. A closer inspection revealed that it probably hadn't worked since the system broke down a couple of weeks before. If it had been any other part of the yard I would have left it until the winterization but I didn't want to lose all the grass so I called the guy and he came out, did everything we had done, replaced the timer and then came up with the bad news: we needed a new valve. He's an honest guy so he suggested we get a quote for a new system on the basis that as it was thirty years old things would break down more often and it might be cheaper just to replace it. He also offered to get a quote for a new valve. Two days later I had his quote $275 for the valve installed, and the new system $6500 with free winterization (a $150 value) the first season. Guess which one we went with?
The sprinklers are working again and we still haven't had any rain, forecast is 90F tomorrow - I hope this holds a little longer as we are having the siding power-washed and stained this month and the painter likes it to be warm when he works. I'll keep you posted.

Monday, July 18, 2005

Too humid for me

he past week has been so humid it's been horrible: grey skies, dripping trees and the occasional violent thundershower to liven things up. We haven't seen the sun in so long we've forgotten what it looks like. Even walking the dogs in this weather leaves you melting and breathless, so we've severely curtailed outside work.
The other reason that we are not chopping down trees or clearing undergrowth is that Steven broke the loppers taking down a maple and I can't summon up the courage to go to the Home Depot and buy another pair. HD is too big, badly laid out and the lighting is terrible so I go into it as little as possible, which is still way more than I want to.
I have spent the time when I should be outside enjoying the sunshine painting around the new windows and touching up the walls here and there. Thanks to central air I can do this any time, and I feel guilty that it's taken me several months to get round to it. In my defence I can say that it is fiddly work and I was hoping that a painter would come and do the job for me but that doesn't seem to be happening.
We now have nice new asphalt on the cul de sac side of the property that matches the asphalt the village put in on the road last autumn and the neighbours on the other side have paved their drive too. I don't think our drives need doing yet but they are a different colour from every other piece of road around here, and I guess it's something we will have to do before too long.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Apologies to the neighbours

Late spring and early summer here are marked by the sounds of power tools being wielded by contractors and landscapers as everyone races to get the heavy stuff completed before the heat and humidity set in. We haven't any really big projects to do before autumn but we have managed to get quite a few small jobs completed: the rotten window sill has been repaired and as I chopped back a huge holly and arborvitae we have a better view of the west side of the property. The landscaper spent a whole day pruning and trimming all the shrubs so everything is clean except for the north side. I spent an hour pulling weeds there and have the poison ivy scars to prove it.
I also cleaned out a piece on the NW side about 10' x 10' that I wanted to plant up, but we discovered that the irrigation system wasn't working on this patch so I had to get the guy out to fix it, otherwise nothing would grow up there. I want to put in some sun-loving plants as this area is always sunny whereas most of the rest of the yard is filled with shade tolerant plants. Hopefully we can go to the nursery to look this weekend.
We had the bloc party and decided on some priorities for sprucing up the road. The electrician came and ran a new line from our yard to the lights on the cul-de-sac, and they look great, too. I suggested that he put in some lights at the turning circle up the court and they ran with that idea, I think it may be Christmas every evening up there: sparkling! Now we are waiting for the paving crew to asphalt the road and then I guess I'll have to lose my trees because they do block the lights a little. I'm feeling better about the idea (and, neighbours, I'm sorry I was a bitch about chopping them down) but I'm still waiting to see what they want to replace them with.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

It feels like summer

Winter has finally left us and it has turned hot and humid here. We spent Memorial Day in the pool, which was a little chilly but it felt like a very American thing to do. We also barbecued and sat on the deck at the Beach Club to watch the sun set. A very satisfying day all round. We've also accomplished a few things that have been on hold whilst the weather has been so bad: fixing the pond was the major achievement. I was expecting to have to buy a new pump or at least a new cable for the old one but when Steven and his father got it out of the pond and cleaned it it worked first time.
Actually, it worked a little too well: they decided to clean it in the kitchen sink and I arrived just as they plugged it into the socket and water shot 6' in the air and soaked the ceiling and most of the floor, too. So I got a scrubbed floor and ceiling out of the deal; luckily they missed the light fixture by a hair's breadth. It took another couple of days to clean out the accumulated soil and debris from the pond and to angle the flow from the waterfall so it circulates back but I think it's done now and it is very restful to sit on the patio and listen to the water trickling down the rocks.
I have pruned two enormous holly bushes to about a third of their original size and replanted the rhododendrons that were dying off under the hemlocks. I hope they like their new homes. I also uncovered an entire rockery on the southern corner of the south drive, which was a totally unexpected and pleasant surprise. I got Steven to reset some of the stones and it's waiting to be replanted in September.
The final thing was to tackle the kitchen window sill that was completely rotten. We couldn't do this until I had pruned back the holly and the evergreen (above)that were right against that wall. Taking it down dramatically increased the light in the kitchen but also exposed a lot of rotten wood on the sill. I dug out a piece to see if I could fit a "dutchman" but it looked too big a job for me. Then Steven and his father had another go at it before declaring it a workman's task. So today I have a man replacing the entire sill and hopefully we can manage to keep the rain off it and stop any further damage.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Now the neighbours are swarming

As if we didn't have enough to contend with dealing with those pesky bees, now we have the concerned neighbors too. Not concerned about us, you understand, but increasing their property values.
We live on a corner property and it's a beautiful site - lots of trees, azaleas, rhododendrons and spirea along the main road and hostas and conifers along the cul-de-sac. The entrance to the cul-de-sac is not signposted and it's easy to miss; which is annoying I suppose if you live on it. Apparently this is a problem that those neighbors want to remedy, and soon. I'm kind of laid back about the issue: it's a test of my visitors' ability to problem-solve and their desire to find me. But obviously it's grinding away at some folks nerves.
The entrance is in fact marked by two pillars with lamps on them, one is on my property and one on my opposite neighbor's. The lamps don't look as if they've worked since 1970, although there are wires coming from them. I tried changing the bulb and turning on all the switches in the house but nothing worked. My landscaper thinks they may both be wired to the other property, but who knows? The entrance is also marked by four Arborvitae, large scrappy conifers that builders put in because they are cheap and form a screen really quickly. Before we moved in the neighbors stealthily removed the lower branches of these and some junipers that were beneath them, a move that apparently did not go down well with the previous owner.
Anyway, we have been approached to see if we could cut down the four trees on our side and replace them with a beautiful bed containing at this point I know not what. The plan will be revealed by the neighbor who owns the tres chic garden centre at a bloc party this weekend but I know a sign with the house numbers on it figures in it. The idea was sold to me as something we will all benefit from, as our house values are sure to go up. We also need to re-asphalt the cul-de-sac before it becomes a hazard to motorists. So I am waiting to see how much this is going to cost me before I consider it as we have other priorities this year. I see the urgent need for paving the road, and it would be nice to have the lights working but as for the rest - chopping down my trees? Bloody cheek

Monday, May 16, 2005

Killer bees

Actually, not killer bees, more chewing, gnawing, pesky bees. We have carpenter bees: they look like bumble bees but instead of hairy backs, they are smooth and shiny; they don't sting (often) but they like to hang out on the redwood siding and chew little holes in it. They chew a hole in, turn at right angles, tunnel down a few inches and exit through a new hole. Hooray, they don't do structural damage, boo, they leave the siding looking like swiss cheese!
We have spent the last few weekends experimenting with various insecticides in an attempt to rid ourselves of the little critters. I wouldn't bother but they make a lot of noise while chewing and this freaks me out, especially as they are by my bedroom window and they chew throughout the night. We could call in te professionals but apparently killing the buzzing ones requires time and patience and that translates to lots of money, and it is quite easy to kill them yourself. You need either powder insecticide and a baster or a spray with a long nozzle to poke into the holes. I was also told you could spray them with WD40 and that should be easy as it comes with a target nozzle but it didn't kill any bees although the ones flying around didn't squeak at all.
The powder worked well where we could get it directly into the holes,and there were a few dead bees beneath the holes the next day but some holes were too high under the eaves to reach and the gnawing continued. Then we tried a spray and had some limited success. If we got it into the hole it worked but often we couldn't be precise enough. Then the spray attachment snapped off so I drove to the hardware store to buy a spray bottle to transfer the poison. By this time I was pretty mad so I picked up three different brands of aerosol insecticide, all specifically for carpenter bees and drove home to perform a little experiment.
Brand A when sprayed directly on a bee rendered it dizzy enough to fall to the ground where I could stomp on it. Brand B seemed to have no effect on the bee except to make it shinier but Brand C had a dual use: if sprayed into the hole, it foamed up, leaving the hole covered and causing the bee inside to groan horribly; when sprayed in the direction of the bee the product caused it to instantly fall lifeless to the ground. Instant gratification and our product of choice for the future. And there will be many more opportunities to use it as they are still chewing in a couple of hard to reach places.

Monday, May 02, 2005

A few more repairs

The visitors left and we had a great time with them but before the next lot arrive we have some maintenance to take care of. One of the shower faucets started leaking and we bent the shut-off valve trying to turn it so that's a plumbing job. I phoned today as there are a couple of other leaky pipes in the basement and was told I will have to wait nine days for the plumber to call! Good thing it's not a serious leak. I still haven't heard back from the irrigation people about turning on the sprinkler system so I guess I will have to call them again.
The other pool guys have opened the pool and repaired the leak but told me under no circumstances to turn on the pool heater without getting the oil guy out to look at it. So today I phoned and he was here within an hour. However within an hour and a half he gave me the bad news: an animal or animals had lived and possibly died in the heater and the damage was considerable. It probably wasn't worth repairing and a new one will cost $4500. It's apparently more expensive to put in a pool heater than a house heater! Who knew?
As the price of oil has risen 30% since last year I guess we will be doing what we did last year - not heating the pool!

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Cleaning up

The first of the season's visitors arrive in a couple of days and I really wanted to have a coat of paint on the walls and the windows stained but the delay on the installation has put paid to that so I'm opting for a spring clean instead. I got Stanley Steemer to clean the carpets and Bob to wax the parquet and it has really spruced the place up. I was amazed that all the stains just lifted right out of the white carpets, and at $100 for three rooms it was a really good deal. Getting the floor waxed was even cheaper but I learnt that I am supposed to have this done every 6-8 weeks. As the dogs slide on it for at least a week after the waxing I could spend more on vet's bills than floor maintenance. Anyway, it looks great so I might get it done slightly more often than every 8-9 months, which is where we are at now.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Window woes

Tax season is crazy time here. Every year from January to April 15 the media relentlessly presses the message: the government has your money and you need to get it back or they government wants their share of your money. If it's the latter, you hold on to it until the last possible moment: 11:59 pm on April 15.
My misfortune was to hire a contractor who owes the government money. Of course I didn't know this when I hired him last November, when he was interested in getting the work and told me it would cost nothing to install the windows. I didn't know it until January when he installed the windows and told me his accountant said he had to buy something or he would have to pay the IRS. Taxes are paid on income earned in 2004 so it didn't register much with me anyway, what's done is done, it's good to be successful, I naively thought.
His mistake was to turn up at 1:40 pm, finish at 3:40 and expect to be paid because "it was tax day" even though he hadn't completed the work. He gave me the bill and said "your painter can sand down the skim work". Alarm bells went off so I examined the windows. Bits of insulation were hanging out of one window, another had nail holes that hadn't been filled, another shavings all over and all had uneven plaster all over the frames. I told him he wasn't finished and refused to pay him until it was as good as the work he did last time. (At $500 a window it had better be excellent work. I'd already paid him for 11 windows and he'd installed 13 so I didn't think giving him the rest of the money was an incentive for him to come back and make good.)
I tackled him about the damage on the two windows from last time that he'd promised would be taken care of and he firstly denied all memory and then when I told him that I'd contacted the wholesaler about it he got partial memory recall. He phoned the wholesaler, who is sending a rep out to look. Then he asked for $1700 for today's work as he had sorted out the problem. That is way more than we agreed for the job in the first place so I refused. I was clear: no money until the work is completed to my satisfaction; I don't know that the window people won't say he did the damage and must pay. Where would that leave me. His idea? Give him the money, and go after his licence. I don't think so.
He phoned me later, he was "hurt" I was keeping the money back. It implied I didn't trust him. That's rich coming from the man who told me he wasn't going back to one client because she was too difficult.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

all hands on

2:20 pm is when the contractor turned up, so I thought I'd let the dogs in the yard rather than have than cooped up in the kitchen, when I opened the door there was the pool guy and his help fixing the leak. Yee ha it's spring.


The snow has melted, the sun is shining, the roadsweepers are passing back and forth in front of the house removing the last of the sand and grit: winter is over, spring has arrived. You know it's spring here because you can't hear the birds over the noise of the lawnmowers, leaf blowers and chainsaws. Landscapers trucks are blocking the roads as everyone tries to repair the ravages of the last six months.
And early birds have contractors out re-roofing or at least reattaching all those shingles that blew off during the gales. I have lined up workers to come this week and next to fix the pool (so far, no show), re-wax the parquet floor and steam clean the carpets. The window people delivered four large replacement windows for the dining room and our bedroom, but not those for the ones the contractor damaged when he put them in (now why I am not surprised about that?). I have been waiting patiently (ok impatiently) for the contractor to install them and he rang yesterday to say his guy would be here at 9:00 am to start taking out the old windows and he would be here soon after. Guess what? It's after lunch, all the windows are out and the contractor still hasn't shown.
Why don't contractors say they will turn up when they feel like it, with only half the materials they need to finish the job, and that they will try to charge you twice what they originally quoted? That way you would never feel let down, disappointed or scammed, which is what I am feeling at this minute and it's getting mighty chilly, too. After some glorious weather, there was frost on the roof this morning, so it's not a great day to be sitting with four gaping holes in your house. Well at least it's not raining.

Monday, April 11, 2005


It's been almost a month since I last posted here, mainly because we haven't had anything major done on the house in that time but also because the kids were home from college last week and before that I was too sick to sit up and type. Well, I could have typed but the risk that I would sneeze all over the screen and clog up the keyboard with phlegm was just too great.
The cold was a total bummer and lasted a good three weeks. I caught it from Steven just before we were due to go to the SXSW festival in Austin, Texas and we were forced to cancel two hours before the plane left. I'd been looking forward to this for years and the fact that I have most of the music downloaded from the SXSW podcast doesn't even begin to make up for missing it. I began to feel better the day we were due to fly home, now that's irony!
The upside of the whole nasty experience was getting our new kitty, Jefke. We had already dropped off the dogs at the kennels and the cats at the vet's office where they board when we are out of town so we decided to leave them there while I was delirious so I could get some rest and Steve could go back to work and not lose his vacation allowance unnecessarily. When it was time to pick the cats up Steve thought I should go along for the ride (the fresh air would do me good he reasoned) and sit in the car while he sprung the kitties. However I had to get out of the passenger seat of the Jeep in order to get the carriers from the back and i thought I might as well go and help carry a kitty. Big mistake. We opened the door and there was the assistant playing with an abandoned kitten. Then the persuasive marketing sell began. He would be a playmate for Cassis our year-old cat, Cassis would then stop tormenting Midge, our sixteen year old senior cat, we could have him on a trial basis, he was already neutered etc, etc. I tried to explain that we had nothing to carry him home in and no room for another cage in the car but it turned out they had a cardboard carrier I could balance on my knee. So we left with four cats and he and Cassis chase each other all over the house, great fun, especially at 5:30.
Next day Steve picked up the dogs, on his own.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005


It always feels good when you can add something to the house that is decorative rather than necessary. Last week was Steven's birthday so I bought him a large painting and in a sort of BOGO way I treated the den to a smaller one too. They are aboriginal paintings from Queensland, Australia. One depicts the Myths of Uluru and the smaller one is a Cod Fish. We have placed the large one on the sandstone wall, both because it was a large bare space and because I think the dot painting needs to be in a sandy setting reminiscent of the earth. The Cod Fish I couldn't resist because it is black and red, which are the colours we used in the den.
I think they look awesome, but I am not sure Steven shares my enthusiasm. One reason I picked Australian Aboriginal art is that with the new roof we have to put on the house this Spring I am pretty sure we will not be going to Australia as planned to celebrate our wedding anniversary. I thought this would be a nice way to get in touch with Australia but maybe I put way too much thought into this present?

We also have blinds in our bedroom now. Steven went to London for a conference and stopped by Habitat to pick up these incredibly cool silver blinds that look like gossamer. Customs gave him a bit of grief as he had to carry two 6' tubes back to the US: they wanted to know if there were no roller blinds in the US. Of course there are but they are all disgusting, old-fashioned and vinyl. Anyway, they are up now and the bedroom is almost done. Plus our neighbours can no longer see right through the house into our room in the winter. We'll get some blinds for the downstairs bathroom so guests can take a shower without shocking the new neighbours next door but once the leaves are back on the trees it isn't urgent as they provide a natural screen.

Monday, March 07, 2005

Patience is a virtue...

But not one I ever subscribed to. We are still waiting on the second delivery of windows, including replacements for the dinged ones. I hope they can get those in this month as we have visitors April-June. It's frustrating because I would like to get the window frames stained and obviously I can't do that until they have replaced the damaged windows. This also means I can't paint the walls and we have two cans of Benjamin Moore bronze beige eggshell (which is a sort of gold colour) that have been sitting in the garage since November.
We got one quote for the new roof and it was very reasonable, that is it was half what Steven was expecting and a quarter of my worst fear estimate. I am still waiting for the other two guys to come and quote but the weather has been so awful that they couldn't climb the roof to look at the damage. We have had snow since early February and cold temperatures too but, touch wood, we haven't had anymore leaks. I think this is because we have had no ice damming since the January cold spell but also because the temporary flashing the contractor but in place is holding up really well.
We were sent a bunch of free airline tickets by American and as we have loads of Marriott points we have decided to take two cheap as chips minibreaks to get away from the dreadful weather. We are going to Austin, Texas to the SXSW festival this month and to Nashville in May. So it will be all about the music for the next couple of months and that will be it for vacation this year. We will summer here, Steve plans to take two weeks off and spend them in the pool and watching the sunset on the beach. Of course, we have to fix the pool first........

Friday, February 11, 2005

Big, fat bummer

On closer inspection the crew did not do such a good job on the windows. The plastering looks good and the windows themselves seem to be great quality BUT when they installed them they managed to damage TWO of the nine. How the f*** is this possible I asked. The first window the contractor showed me he said was damaged by the delivery guys. So I asked the wholesaler who said they would swap it, it was still in my garage, wasn't it? Well, no, the contractor showed it to me when he had finished installing it. I have told him it has to be replaced.
Then the installer slipped off the ladder carrying another window and fell. The contractor assured me the window was ok. At the time I was more concerned about the installer, who was thankfully ok. But the window has two dings in it. If they were wooden windows they could be filled and painted but they are aluminium clad and the edges are really roughed up. They were also very expensive because they were custom made so there is no alternative to replacing both of them. Extremely frustrating.
Worse though, when they took down the blinds by the chimney in the great room there were a couple of cracks I wanted them to plaster over. Unfortunately one crack was wet. Not good. The installer ran up the roof to get rid of the ice and the contractor offered to come back and run some flashing to stop the leak when the rest of the ice melted. He came back today to put up the flashing over the gutters but the edge of the roof had peeled away with the ice dam. So we have to get a new roof this year rather than next or the year after. Big fat bummer.

Thursday, February 03, 2005

Spackle, sand, repeat

I am thankful that we had a good crew to put in the windows because the rot in my office was more extensive than we had first suspected. Both the header and the sill support were totally eaten through (I could poke my finger right through the latter) and someone had patched the side already but not with the correct beams, so we could have potentially lost that end of the house at some stage. Now we are secure right down to the foundation.
All the windows are in now and the ones upstairs look really good. I am gradually getting used to the ones in the den, too. From the outside they all look lovely and immediately the house looks more cared for. Of course fixing one problem gives a hundred more and the area around the windows had to be spackled and sanded and spackled again. So now we have to paint. I hadn't really thought about colour for this room as were weren't originally going to change these windows.
We also have molding on the stairs at long last and they look fantastic now. I got the guys to change the baseboard under the bookcase to one that matches the other baseboards in the house. I still have a laundry list of jobs for them to do by the time they finish tomorrow afternoon. These guys are obsessive about cleaning up after themselves and seem to vacuum every five minutes. I think they are sweeping up more dog hair than spackle and sawdust though. They are about to take down the vinyl blinds in the great room that are double-height and I will be celebrating when they have gone. Then it's just the flashing around the house and we should be golden.

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

They may be ugly, but they should be warmer

Four of the big windows went in yesterday and, although I still think they are horrible, I did a little test last night to see if they will keep us warmer, and thus cut down on the fuel bills. I sat in the dining room, which still has the original single pane units, for half an hour in sleeveless T-shirt and pyjama bottoms and I was shivering with the cold. Then I went into the den and watched TV for an hour or so. It was definitely comfortable. So that's good isn't it?
I wish I knew why they have to make the windows so damn ugly. There is molding after molding on them. Haven't they heard of less is more? Clean, crisp lines, that's what I wanted. I didn't know it was impossible to find but I should have guessed - the most popular style of house here is "colonial". This is code for a door in the middle of the house leading to a foyer and rooms on either side; square, predictable and boring.
The other bad news yesterday was that there is rot in my office. For some reason this does not faze me at all. Partly I think because we knew this is where the termite damage was, partly because I could smell it every time I closed the door and partly because every house on the Island seems to have rot. But it is a little bizarre - my beloved house has rot and am wittling about the architectural integrity of the windows.

Friday, January 28, 2005

Freezing, thawing and re-freezing

Well, at least it's stopped snowing but temperatures remain frigid. When I take the dogs out the oils on their coats freeze giving them white zebra stripes on their black coats. They love to tear around in the snow but I can't wait to get back indoors again. -11 is too cold for someone brought up in rainy, mild climes. I ordered a cord of firewood and it was delivered this morning so I have built a huge fire in the great room to celebrate. It is beautiful- the roaring fire, white snow and blue skies. Almost like being in a chalet hotel in the mountains, except no one is going to fetch me hot chocolate or schnapps to complete the gezilligheid.
Most of the huge icicles hanging from the roof have gone, either the sun thawed them or I took a broom and hung out of the windows and knocked them off. There have been no drips or leaks since yesterday morning but I think this is only because the water has refrozen and I am sure when temperatures rise again we will be running around mopping up.
We also ran out of ice melt for the steps and the local shops have either sold out or are rationing sales to one bag per customer. One bag barely thaws out the length of the garage so we are forced to go out in pairs and buy a bag each, pretending we don't know each other. With our accents that's not easy to pull off. We are forced to take these desperate measure to avoid a lawsuit if anyone slips on the property. I am beginning to think an apartment building with a concierge is going to be the next move for us.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

freezing, leaking and updating

Last Saturday's blizzard dumped over 12" snow on us and for half a day after it stopped it looked so beautiful: deep white snow, blue skies, a little sun. Unfortunately, the snow was accompanied by freezing temperatures and that is the perfect combination for ice damming. That's when the snow melts off the roof but freezes at the roofline, especially behind the gutters. Icicles start to hang off the gutters, drip down the siding and reform over the windows. That's when the leaks occur. By Sunday afternoon we had water pouring in through Steven's study and my office. Normally in this situation I would grab the duct tape and effect a temporary repair but a thorough search of the house and garage revealed that the duct tape had disappeared.

The solution we came up with was to decorate the floors with plastic sheeting and black trash bags covered with towels. We had them in the kitchen in front of the slider (that was installed by an incompetent amateur), in the great room (under one of the second storey windows), in the den as well as in the study and office. It doesn't look very attractive but at least the wood floors won't get damaged. This should hold up until the thaw begins and we can solve the problem by attaching flashing over the gutter and under the roof, adding insulation to the roof space and installing the new windows.

Those who have visited my website will recall that back in July I joked that the new windows would probably be installed during a snowstorm in January. Well that's when they were delivered. Now they are in the garage awaiting a few dry days to fit them. It can't be too soon for me, I am freezing as I write this. If I get any colder I will have to wear fingerless mittens to type.

Friday, January 21, 2005

Eager anticipation and great disappointment

We waited so long to get these windows, we first got quotes in July 2004 so it seems like forever. They have been in the garage for a week and today was the big installation. We have been really cold too as the huge windows downstairs were only single pane glass so we were really anticipating that these would make a big difference. The reason it took so long to order them was we wanted them to match with the huge expanses of glass we have throughout the house that let in so much light and we especially wanted to stay true to the contemporary architecture.

So when the contractor said go take a look at the first window I was so excited. But when I looked I felt sick. I wanted to cry and run away too. In place of the expanse of glass we have inches of moldings. This is before they are even framed out, this is how Marvin windows deliver them. We explained to the contractor and the window wholesaler what we wanted - no moldings, minimal wood. We rejected double-hungs (which would have been cheaper) in favor of more authentic picture windows over awnings and were assured we could have it looking exactly like the other windows. That was the beauty of a custom design.

They look nothing like the other windows. Instead of 60" dia of glass we have 53". The rest is horrible pine, with step molding inside and they still need to install another piece of molding between the picture and the awning section. I feel that we were totally misled. And at the moment I cannot bear to look at them. They were also really expensive.

I don't know what to do about the rest of the windows now. We have another four of the same type that we were going to order this week but I am so unhappy with the end result. I have to find some sort of solution because they look so out of place. I don't know whether to just get the same again so there is uniformity or to get picture units that will have less wood.

Total freakin frustration.

Thursday, December 09, 2004

The carpet shopping experience was not as awful as I feared. We only really liked one carpet, the most expensive naturally, but we knew it wouldn't go on the stairs so we picked four ones that weren't too bad and half the price and arranged to have samples delivered. A week later they arrived, and guess what? Yuk! So I got out the stain and experimented on one tread. I didn't think it looked too bad, but Steven still wasn't convinced. There was no way carpet was going down so I started the stair sanding process again, this time with steel wool rather than sandpaper. Eventually Steven took over and spent two hours on the job. Then I got to work with some dark stain and the more I did the better it looked. Three coats later the treads are a rich walnut colour and the risers white. It may not be professional but it looks way better than carpet. Eventually I'll get round to tackling the back stairs but I think it will have to wait until the New Year.
We have a more pressing problem to tackle this weekend: the huge Christmas tree that we thought would look great in the double height sitting room is so tall Steven can't reach the top even standing on our stepladder. So the choice is to leave it au naturel, throw the lights and ornaments at it and hope they stick or trawl round the neighbours and see if we can borrow an 8' ladder. Guess what we will be doing Saturday morning?

Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Let's decorate

Things are starting to come together now. The dining room is done, apart from new windows. We ordered them and hoped they would be installed before Xmas, but as they are almost 6' high and 4' wide they have to be custom made and probably won't be ready until January. At least we have ordered them. It felt so good to have finally made a decision about them. I hope we will be happy with the result. We also ordered new windows for upstairs except for our bedroom, because those are in good condition, and for my study. Steven jumped up on the garage roof and nailed back the siding and it doesn't look to shabby so we are going to leave it until next year before we consider replacing that section. It isn't possible to get redwood boards in that width anymore and we would have to replace the whole of that side so that it didn't look odd; while that is only 25'x4' it isn't something we want to shell out for if we don't have too. We will have the whole house refinished with oxalic acid next Spring and decide then what to do.

We have also, after three months of cogitating, agreed to put wood flooring on the back hall. Ceramic tile is just too cold, both to stand on and to look at. It was putting down the tile in the kitchen that finally made up our minds. We have such a large area (kitchen, eating area and back hall) that we would have to cover it with rugs to live with it, so we might as well put down runners to keep the dogs from scratching the wood and I think wood will look better. Now we are waiting for the installer to come back and lay more bamboo. We also decided that the stairs require too much work to refinish so we will be out this Thanksgiving weekend looking at carpet for both the front and rear staircases. As we both dislike carpet and hate shopping that should be a joyous experience.

Wednesday, November 24, 2004


Autumn has been very pretty this year. We have had a couple of cold days but on the whole it has been mild and misty. I have been out digging back the front drive and discovered that underneath the two feet of accumulated debris the path actually drops an inch or so. That means that in theory it should not flood much, if at all. The berm held all the run-off from the road at bay and there was only a small pool after a steady downpour last week. Since then I have dug back another foot so I can't wait for tonight's predicted storm to see what happens. Watch this space.

Inside I got the electricians to install the lights in the foyer, den and landing and we bought a rug for the foyer. It looks pretty good, especially as we cannibalized the desk and made a dining room console from it and a piece of carrara marble. We also took a week to lay new tiles in the kitchen. This is a temporary fix until the big kitchen renovation in a couple of year's time. We didn't want to do it but someone was going to break their neck tripping over the curling vinyl tile so we spent a couple of hundred dollars and two and a half days scraping glue off the old floor and the result is cleaner and brighter than we could have imagined.

Monday, November 01, 2004


It's the first day of November and warm and sunny here. We bought tons of candy expecting that all the kids in the neighbourhood would be out trick or treating but the only callers were five 10 year old boys wearing their soccer kit as costumes, who informed us they were the only kids in the area. As they had pillowcases to carry home their swag I think they had just intimidated all the smaller kids to stay off their pitch but who knows? Even though they grabbed whole fistfuls of candy we still have tons left, Butterfinger anyone?
Despite the whinging and worrying we did not run out of wood and were able to finish the balcony last week. We even got molding around Steven's closet but unfortunately we were unable to open the closet doors with the molding in place. Pete came out to fix it, promising to kill his colleague, John, but he ended up having to remove it. He says he will be back soon to sort it out. I have my doubts. He still has to finish the stairs before we can declare the floors finished.
On Monday last week the Village finally gave us a 6" berm around the property, which so far is holding the water on the road. It hasn't really rained here since the berm went in so it hasn't been properly tested yet but they are forecasting rain for this week so we shall see. It does look much neater though.
We have been busy cleaning up the property and we bought a PowerWasher so we could spend three days removing the moss and dirt off the patios, paths and stones around the pool. It's very satisfying seeing the real colour of the stone come through but you get absolutely soaking and completely filthy in the process. We also went to the Bowery to get some lights to go in the foyer and on the stairs, I think they are exactly what we want and will give us more light in those areas but as Steven has no time to put them up until he comes back from Brazil next Saturday I am only guessing.

Thursday, October 21, 2004

More setbacks

I finally made a decision last night and ordered more redwood to go through the rear hallway. I decided that it would tie in well with the stairs and landing and we would have it all completed by next week. The setback came this morning. The last delivery of Brazilian Redwood had come in defective and there would be no new shipment before the end of the year. So back to square one. The really bad news is that Pete thinks he will be short of redwood to finish the balcony. So I may not get my upstairs finished until the New Year after all. Bummer. Plus I have 120 sq' of bamboo sitting in my rear hall that I will now have to sell. Any takers?

Friday, October 15, 2004

Decisions, decisions

Half-way through another week and we still haven't made a decision about the rest of the floor downstairs. I am leaning towards asking the flooring suppliers to swap the excess bamboo for more redwood and paying them the difference. The advantage here would be that all the bedrooms would be floored in the same material - bamboo, and the hallways linking those rooms would all be redwood. I like the idea of uniformity. The disadvantage would be that we have no idea how hardwearing the redwood really is as we have managed to keep the dogs off it most of the time. I am under the impression that it will wear really well because it is so damn hard.
The other option would be porcelain limestone or travetine look tile, but that would be both expensive and I think cold too. We want to put the tile into the kitchen but we don't want to start ripping out the perfectly servicable cabinets anytime soon. I think at this stage a renovation that big would dive us into the nearest looney bin or either the bankruptcy or divorce courts. The kitchen area is about 480 sq' and the rear hallway is another 180 or so. I think that is just way too much tile. Helpful suggestions are always appreciated.

Progress is good

We are mid-way through October and some things have happened. We were in London for a week at the end of last month and we picked up some gorgeous curtains and cushions for our bedroom. The following week Pete worked really hard to get the landing finished and now it looks really solid and classy. It was definitely worth all the aggro and the increased budget. He also finished the master dressing room and my office.

He is coming back next week to floor the balcony overhang in the great room and maybe to put bamboo flooring in the rear hall. I am still debating whether this is a good idea as this area is heavy traffic; there the door to the garage to consider as well as the one to the back yard. Sometimes we do tramp in sand from the beach, which doesn't matter so much now as we have heavy-duty carpet down but it would ruin hardwood flooring. Obviously I would lay rugs by the door but even so I am concerned. The reasons for laying bamboo is that it is very light and that hallway is quite dark and we have six boxes leftover from upstairs and would only need a couple of extra boxes to finish that whole area.

Another good thing happened last week: Vineyard Rd was resurfaced and sometime this week we will get our berm. Then, hopefully, we will not have any more flooding on the property. The bad news is that it is scheduled to rain all week so they may not be able to start the work until later. More good news - we have new gutters installed. The old ones were in terrible shape; a lot of the leaders were missing and there were a couple of places were we felt that there should be gutters to stop soil erosion and potential water penetration in the basement. So far it seems to be doing exactly that. The third piece of good news was that after ten long weeks we finally had the water dispenser replaced on the Sub-Zero and we can have ice in our drinks. Yippee.

Friday, September 24, 2004

The working week is nearly over and we are so far behind the installer's most generous estimates that it's not remotely funny anymore. Yesterday he decided we would be 2 boxes short on the redwood so I made an emergency call but the installer had to go get them as they are 7'6'' long and weigh a ton. So that took a couple of hours out of his day. Add that to the wasted day on Monday and I suppose we are lucky that we are about 75% finished and not less. It is starting to look really good though, and Steven is gloating continuously over his tasteful choice.

Outside, I spent the morning transplanting bushes in the sun. It has been the most glorious week since the hurricane passed through, warm and sunny and it's hard to believe that autumn is here. It's good to be working in the sunshine as it takes my mind of all the other work that needs to be completed before the bad weather starts. We really thought by now that we would have new windows installed and the guttering taken care of, but people come, take measurements and leave, promising to drop off estimates soon. Then they disappear for ever. Even when we get an estimate we can't seem to get them to commit to a date to start work, or they start the work, say the'll be back in a week to finish up and we never see them again.. The attitude is way beyond "manana", it's more like: this year, next year, sometime, never.

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

That's why they call it hardwood...

Ha ha indeed. We didn't get any flooring down yesterday as the wood is too hard!!! Apparently what Steven chose was harder than Brazilian Cherry and the installer didn't have a saw that could cut it, nor nails that could be shot through it. He ended up pre-drilling and hand nailing one piece and then left to get more tools and a blade with more teeth. This morning he turned up again with a huge circular saw and a very determined air. We shall see, but we lost a whole day yesterday.

Outside we are still cleaning up from Hurricane Ivan that dumped several inches of rain on us Saturday morning, caused flooding all over the area and turned our front into a swamp.

At one point the water filled the sunken bed outside the dining room and water poured into the basement. Luckily we were home and we ran with buckets to the sink and back until it stopped raining. Then I patched the hole with Dry Lock and started mopping. That took all Sturday PM and most of Sunday. after that we surveyed the damage. Our drive is 6" higher, thanks to the sand and debris deposited by the raging torrent that was Vineyard Rd. The other part of the drive is covered with leaves and pine needles where the water crested; apart from that the damage is minimal. We were lucky, lots of people had to go collect their drives from adjacent properties; we gained one. I'm hoping the Village will sweep it out but I'm not holding my breath.

Monday, September 20, 2004

Bamboo to you

Hurrah, we have bamboo flooring in all the bedrooms; the furniture is back in place; the beds are made; pictures have been hung and it all looks fantastic. There is a lot of colour variation in the bamboo so it has movement and the gloss finish makes the rooms feel much lighter. Because most of the rooms had recently been painted cream we will leave them for a while, it's neutral and clean looking. But we will paint Steven's office as we had to strip panelling and wallpaper there. He wants a cranberry colour but I think yellow or gold will work better. We'll see.

We also changed our minds at the last minute about bamboo on the landing. I felt it was too shiny and casual for that space. I asked Steven to go look at some Tigerwood that I thought would work but we would have to wait until November for delivery. He didn't much like the Tigerwood anyway (too yellow) but he saw some Brazilian redwood that was new in that day so he bought a sample home for the weekend so we could live with it. As the ceiling is redwood it tied the whole area together. It looks good where it joins the bamboo and against the teak banisters, too. The bonus of doing it this way is that there will be enough bamboo to floor the master dressing room and my office. By the end of this week it should all be finished and we can sit back and relax. Ha ha.

Thursday, September 16, 2004

Taking in the view

An inspection of the trees on the property revealed that one was being eaten by termites, another had a large hole in the base and a couple more were in the wrong position or just too ugly to survive. Time to call in the tree guys.
Last year we had eight trees taken out and it really opened up the yard. This year we decided to take out eight, prune a bunch more and clear out the north side of the property that had been used as a giant dump over the years. As usual it takes a whole day and is as noisy and dusty as you can imagine but we also had a couple of "whoops" moments to contend with. They managed to let a large segment of white pine trunk fall on a 10' rhododendron; goodbye rhodie. More seriously a branch of the linden tree they were pruning caught the gutter on it's way down and bent it into an unusual shape, rendering it useless against the heavy rains that hit us last week. C'est la vie. It's over and the yard is cleared again. I'm just glad it wasn't the power-lines they took out.
Now I get to have a power struggle with the landscaper about the north side area. I want to put in lawn; it's light now and maintenance will be minimal. He says the snowplow will pile snow up there and ruin the lawn and shrubs with a bluestone path leading to a bench under a trellis would be really expensive, sorry, attractive. He's left me a garden design book and promises to bring photos of designs he has planted elsewhere. Luckily he can't start until spring so a get some time to plan my counter attack

Friday, September 10, 2004

Floors and walls

We're drying out and, apart from a wet patch on one wall that is probably caused by the air-conditioning system, Steven's office is done. It looks so much better than it used too, although if I was a pre-teenage boy in the seventies, I might think it was cool to live in a gold bamboo fort.

The bamboo floors are quite glossy and that reflects a lot of light around the room, which it needed. The old blue bedroom is also finished and hopefully by the end of today we will be able to put the furniture back in those rooms and then there will just be the pink room, the landing and staircases to floor.
The lights are causing a major headache.The first ones arrived with no problems except for the really nice one that is on back order. For the other upstairs lights we ordered from a different company and only half the order arrived and that was damaged. So I returned them and re-ordered other fixtures. But they failed to arrive (something about the salesman left and the order was never processed) so I just canceled that order today. Now I have to go and choose something else and you would not believe the junk you have to sift through before finding contemporary lighting here.

Wednesday, September 08, 2004


I know this is nothing compared to what the people in Florida have been through, but we just got whacked with 4" rain in 10 hours and guess what? We have water pouring in one of the windows in Steven's office. Pete was in the middle of flooring this room when he left yesterday; this morning there was a lovely water trail all down the newly spackled wall and on the floor. I mopped up, effected a repair with duct tape and placed towels strategically. When Pete arrived he cleared out the gutters thinking that might solve the problem but the rain kept coming down and inside. So, muttering something about needing a new roof, he set off to track down some tin to form a bridge between the roof and the gutter. It seems to have worked but we are expecting more rain (this is very localised, really it's just over our house) so we will wait before we finish that room. I'm also now waiting on the roofer and the gutter guy. AAAH!

Saturday, September 04, 2004

Setting stones

A lovely late summer day, a day to be spent on the beach or relaxing by the pool, and the start of Labor Day weekend so an extra day's relaxation to look forward to. Bliss. So what do we do? We look at the circular drive that we can now see from the dining room and den and decide that we need a fix for that flooding problem, and we need it NOW.

I had found a great stoneyard, Mother Earth, and so we went to look at the river rock and pebbles. our idea being that we could create a channel that would slow down the force of the run-off and cut the erosion. Three hours later a bin of river rock was delivered (this place has the best service) and Steven started to create. After a dip in the pool, two Alleve and several glasses of red wine he finally stopped complaining about the pains in his back and knees and fell into bed. The next day he quickly completed the job, and neighbors stopped to say how great it was we were tidying up the front. On Labor Day I transplanted some hostas from the backyard to the new riverbed. I hope that they will do well here as they'll get more sun and have more space to spread out. It looks so pretty that Steven wants to order another bin of stone and continue along the front of the property even though we don't have an erosion problem there. He must have forgotten how much hard work it was. We'll see if he still feels the same way next weekend.

We finished the holiday by removing the last carpet, which went much faster than the others. Either it was newer and had less dirt on it or we have it down to a fine art now and can go into the carpet stripping business. I slapped a couple of coats of paint on a bedroom closet and we are all ready for Pete to install the bamboo in the other bedrooms.

Thursday, September 02, 2004

Let there be (more) light

Steven came home from work at dusk yesterday and couldn't work out why it was so light in the house. Eventually he got it and rushed outside to look at the new treeless landscape. It has made a fantastic difference, the house can now breathe and we have a view right along the street which makes it appear that our property goes on forever. The only downside is that the dogs have a better view too, which translates to more things to bark at. We will have to work on curing that problem.

Wednesday, September 01, 2004

Tree trimming

As I am writing this the tree surgeon and his crew are hard at work taking out some of the conifers nearest the house. The weather couldn't be better for this sort of job: sunny with low humidity. When they have thinned out the spruces we will be able to see out from the dining room, plus let a lot more light in. We have done the landscaping in stages, taking out a little at a time so that we maintain our privacy but still allow people to notice the house. Steven was very concerned about the loss of the firs by the front door but the tree surgeon convinced that at twice the height of the house they pose a considerable danger to the property and anyone in it should they come down in a storm.

Tuesday, August 31, 2004

grass floors

We are now at the interesting stage of the remodeling process. Yesterday Pete the Flooring Guy started work laying the new bamboo floors upstairs. We had originally decided on horizontal carbonised bamboo in all the bedrooms with carpet on the landing and stairs. This was the solution we came up with to two problems: how to prevent scratches on the hardwood from the dog's nails as they chase the cats along the corridor; how to deal with the seven angles that merge on the landing that present a nightmare of cutting in and joining hardwood strips. However, during one of the chase-a-cat sessions the cat had peeed the length of the carpet and no amount of Nature's Miracle completely disguised the smell. So Steven took up the carpet one Sunday afternoon and then spent the next week and a half removing the grippers and staples.

Pete spent an hour moaning about the angles and the extra work involved in the project but agreed that it would look fantastic when it was finished. Unfortunately all those angles will add signifiicantly to the price on the project and even worse the timeframe for finishing has entered a different realm altogether. One thing I had not bargained on purchasing was a stairgate. I thought we had finished with those eighteen years ago. Late last evening I had to run out and purchase two gates for the front and back staircases so we can keep the dogs downstairs and away from the precious bamboo. We were really concerned that Sadie would suffer separation anxiety sleeping so far away from me but I think it did her good. She knocked down the gate once, which scared her, and then she slept in the den with Polly. The bonus was that the cats also stayed downstairs, so we slept uninterrupted till 6am.

We are really excited that the flooring is going down because now we can start to really live in our new house. Up to now we have felt more like we were camping amongst the dust and debris. That is the upside, the downside is that we realise how many more projects there are remaining - from the removal of that cute olive green and candy pink cabinet in Verity's bathroom to the crazy tiled bathroom left and the biggest remodel of all:
the kitchen.

The good news is that the floor in our bedroom and closet looks fantastic. The bad news is that I will have to wait another week before he can install any more flooring and I am slightly freaking about the floor getting scratched as it may not be as hardwearing as we were led to believe. I am in two minds whether or not to order oak flooring for the landing, as that will be where most of the traffic goes or should I just make everyone take their shoes off upstairs?

Saturday, August 21, 2004

And there was light

It took all day and half of the evening but we have lights on the circular drive at last and hopefully they will be high enough that the guy with the snow-plow won't knock them down this winter. We are now able to walk around the property in the dark and not fall over anything. The electricians also traced the problem with the shoting lights in the rear hall. Some genius had wired the outside tree lights to one of the hall switches. When it rained or got humid the lights outside shorted and so did the hall lights. It took three call backs and six hours of work to discover that, so imagine what the bill will be. In their defense there are four switches that control the hall lights including one double switch next to the exterior light switch so who would think that it could be a five-way switch?

Saturday, July 31, 2004


When we bought this house we knew there was a certain amount of work we would have to do before winter set in, First we had some windows that had to be replaced, some of the guttering was shot or missing and the siding over the garage had been damaged. Inside all the carpets would have to go to be replaced by wood floors and, to make more space, because 5000 square feet is just not enough, there were closets to be taken out (I know that it is impossible to believe that a gal can have too many closets but even Imelda Marcos would have trouble buying enough shoes to fit in here) plus there was the decorating stuff to be undertaken: paneling to be ripped off the walls, wallpaper to be stripped from three rooms and a hallway and the "Muenster Cheese" decor in the master suite, which covered every wall, door, architrave and baseboard, would have to be painted over.

We figured we would make the outside waterproof before tackling the interior projects. But of course things never run off a slate roof, as they say in Dutch, so we are working backwards, doing all the stuff we don't need to do while waiting for the windows which at this rate will probably be installed during a three-day snowstorm in January. In July, just before our first houseguests left, the contractors started work tearing out the panelling, taking down the mirrored closet in the bedroom and shortening the hall closet to make a bookcase. Then they painted over the oil-blue interiors of the remaining closets with a fresh coat of clean white matte and left for their vacation.

Koen and Verity stripped wallpaper and pulled up two carpets before they left and we ordered 1500 sq' of pre-finished wood flooring. Sick of the cheese effect, I painted the walls of the master bedroom and dressing room a calm blue shade and the ceiling, trim and doors a brilliant white.