The mutt and the pebble

We’ve hit the one year anniversary with Rocco, and it’s likely he’s hit, or is about to, his 5th birthday. He’s just finished a class for reactive dogs in which he was a decent, if not excellent at times, pupil except for a pop quiz with a stuffed (obviously fake) king charles spaniel.

Life with a reactive dog is challenging, limiting, expensive, and still far more stressful than I’d like, but he is improving.

We’re changing the shredded sheer curtains less often – and the last very mauled batch was last fall in the peak of fresh tomatoes ripening on the counter – he helped himself then became enraged at something outside the window and left evidence…

But the most distinct change is that he’s learned to, nay embraced with every last whisker, relax (at times).

He’s had full run of the house and sofa privileges for the last 8 months or so, so most days after his epic dawn hike with N until about 3:00 he rotates between naps on the sofa, his crate, a bit on the wood floors, and the cool stone hearth if he gets overheated. If he’s not too conked out, he’ll join me in whatever room I’m in and try to find the comfiest spot.

During my process of selling used/vintage clothes over the winter when I had things freshly cleaned, darned, and laid out to measure and whatnot, he selected a 90s jcrew rollneck as his spot.

(I let him have it – in the end it was mine I think – I know I thrifted one to sell too – I can’t find that one I think, or maybe mine is put away?)

His spot in my workroom is a 90s oversized sweater too.

I was hesitant to make another stuffed bed for him – the one in his crate has been mended and patched well over a dozen times…

But he leaves the pad beneath it alone, so I started browsing the clearance dog crate pads from time to time to add a few more comfy spots in the house and found one in his size for not too much. But he never used it, and seemed to go out of his way to avoid it. So I sat on it, laid on it, rolled around on it, and was mildly shocked over and over…

So that’s why a synthetic plush pad ends up at the remainder store and on clearance – and I should have known better.

But making a cover was easy enough, and I had leftover cotton fabric – the brown was the excess fabric I trimmed off of the office curtains, and the patterned one was a couple of yards I got to make the main sofa cushions before I decided I liked the yellow better (seen above – though the yellow isn’t such a good choice now with a partially black dog…).

And he took to it right away.

 

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Pants!*

Last Saturday was a rainy day – an entire day of persistent rain – not spitty, not a brief but dramatic downpour, not a start and stop kinda thing that tricks you into getting to work outdoors and then makes you pack it in just as you’ve started.

It was perfect timing – the garden was planted enough and I was tired of yard work and house work, and paint doesn’t dry well when it’s damp outside and I can’t open the windows to let out the fumes, right?

So I decided to fire up the sewing thing again in preparation for finally sewing a few simple summer garments this year.

But I forgot that all of the shit from the basement utility room waiting to be painted was piled up in front of my serger…

(The serger is way in the back behind the rooster towel – but luckily it’s pretty light, so it was easier to move it rather than the stuff.)

I thought I’d whip up a pair of pajama (pyjama?) pants.

In my youth, I’d made at least a half dozen or so pairs of jams-like shorts, so I figured muscle memory and deep brain reserves would take over and I’d end up with something at least functional, if not decent.

I sort of need pj pants too – my favorite couple of pairs from Ageing Army are getting a bit ragged, and I was thinking I’d rather sew a new pair than to fix the blown-out waistband on this one – amazingly the elastic is still fine though.

I didn’t have a pattern, but figured I’d trace my favorite pair that are loose but not too baggy with a perfect rise that isn’t too high or low. But then I discovered their construction is a bit odd – likely it was cut from the bottom of the pile at the sweatshop and had gotten a bit twisted, but the twist made them fit great, but made a quick pattern draft not.

So I grabbed an old silk pair that had also seen better days. (Around the turn of the last century I scored several sets of fancy silk PJs for a song at a fell-off-a-truck kind of store in my old city – they’ve all just about gone tits up now, but the tops are still largely okay since I don’t wear them as a set often, so I’ll likely sew those into something else… eventually.

I laid them out (yeah, I had to take them off first) on freezer paper to trace. I was a little dubious that the front and back crotch curves ended up a bit too similar, but I couldn’t figure out how go rogue enough to modify them.

I had some thick and soft flannel I bought a couple of years ago on impulse – it was the last of the bolt and on sale, so I think the piece was just under 2 yards and $3 – something like that – and I was planning on dyeing it and using it as a wearable (or failable) muslin.

I couldn’t remember if I’d traced it with enough of a seem allowance, or too much – I was going to mostly serge them, so I didn’t need too much. But then it was too much, and I took in the sides several times (and should have done so several more).

And I don’t really know how to use my serger yet – at least doing anything other than straightish lines – too much of a curve and I kept slicing the crotch.

I worked and worked on trying to make the fit better and the crotch correctly curved, and then stopped – I’d blown a few hours by then and PJ pants shouldn’t take more than an hour.

They fit enough and stay up, and add 75 pounds and shorten my legs to stumps and makes me into a blinding squat clown gnome stompy troll.

I was planning on leaving the bottoms un-hemmed and kept in their rough, selvage-edge state, but of course they didn’t end up quite lined up, so I had to hem them even though they were a bit shorter than I’d like already…

But I oiled up and played a bit with my zigzag machine that hasn’t sewn many miles (by me) yet for the finishing, and that was a bit of fun and should make my eventual other simple garments a little more functional (I’d like to eventually venture into some knits, but I don’t have much hope for success).

(These old socks are are also destined to become knitted washcloths after another season or two of wear.)

So in the end, are they functional? Yes.

Are they comfortable? Sort of – soft and warm, but they’re so wide they bunched up to short ruffly chicken thigh bloomer height by morning.

Are they ugly? Hell yes, but not worth the effort or the $3 or so to dye them.

Will I make another pair with the lessons learned from this? Maybe, but I’ll probably get a legitimate pattern first, and I won’t need more for another couple, three years or so.

Did I repair the black plaid ones seen above so I wouldn’t have to wear these too often? Yes.

If I ever get around to widening my patchwork flannel duvet cover will they become part of it? Probably.

And did I finally get some legitimate work done last weekend? Yes, the basement utility room got its fresh paint on Sunday.

And the freshly dyed rug.

And I can be safe in knowing I can lie on it and be camouflaged in my new fat gnome pants.

*UK variation.

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Maymeanderings

I’ve got a few posts about small side projects in the hopper, things that I was futzing around with before the bathroom project hit, and now the garden and yard have hit, and hit hard, and once again my wrist isn’t happy and the projects still have yet to be photographed and/or cleared of their winter cobwebs and/or condemned to life or death…

My brain still has some cobwebs though – I’ve hit the anniversary of shit hitting the fan last year and I can’t say I’ve quite come out the other side yet – I still don’t know what I want for a career again and/or the right (or right enough) work for me – I know more about what I like and don’t, but those are just luxuries and I don’t get to be choosy.

My meantime work is renewed for another term though so at least I’m keeping afloat.

But afloat is also adrift, but I can’t go down that hole just now…

I’ve had a dumb week of former employer/COBRA/health insurance/fuck-ups and appointments cancelled and re-scheduled woes – things that take up time – time I thought I would have a bit of again now that the plumber isn’t here all day on my day off every week.

*****

N and the dog brought home some glorious morels from their dawn walk the other day.

I was over the moon – hillbilly gold. I miss my childhood home and land,  but not the people, or the area in general, or the state mostly as a whole, but these make me a tiny bit homesick (and they’re the only thing I saute in butter). We threw their soaking liquid in the yard hoping a stray spore or two might take hold.

Oh yeah… #morel #fungusamongus #morelmushrooms #mushrooms

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(If only I could find a Paw Paw patch here too…)

My winter/early spring online used clothing sales did pretty well – thankfully I don’t usually unravel my thrift sweaters until I’ve got a project about to hit the needles, so I can sell off the excess ones that are still in decent shape – and I don’t love unraveling the thin cashmeres anyway. What’s left of the vintage wool clothes and whatnot should fit in just one tub for the fall when I’ll try to sell it again or just re-donate. Up next is more random shit – vintage dishes mostly – things that don’t do so well, but I just can’t give away without trying…

But I have half a closet free in my studio/sewing room now, and it’s the first visible progress in a bit – much of my organizing and purging is invisible – trashing the dried-out paints in a box of paints still leaves you with a box of paints, only all usable and at the ready now…

I’ve got to do some repairs and lots of painting to do in the utility room in the basement next – just the walls though, not the cabinets yet – but hopefully that should take no more than 3 days.

And I’ve got a quick gift knit on the needles to revive my tiling-sore fingers and remind my wrist what its place ought to be.

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Flushed

The bathroom is finally [almost but basically] done.

I was going to wait until the last of the touch-up paint was dry, the rest of the pictures re-hung, the little vintage medical cabinet back in its spot, and new rug and towels procured, but then I saw the missing threshold and knew how long I can take with those, and I don’t have immediate plans for the new built-in cabinet, so enough already.

This is what we started with:

What you don’t see is the three broken light fixtures, a broken fan, a broken window, some broken plumbing, the big stain in the floor by the toilet, and the well-worn acrylic tub and surround.

What we did for the meantime (that was supposed to last 3-5 years) was to fix the window, the electrical (including the light above the sink), replace the rusty triptych medicine cabinet that bisected your face, and paint everything – especially the floor. And we thought we fixed the leaking toilet.

But the toilet was still very sloooowly leaking, and eventually we couldn’t ignore that we were finally stepping on a spongy oogy spot – the leak had spread in the subfloor a couple of feet.

So we committed to fix the whole damn thing ahead of schedule.

And I went a little nuts over the whole thing – not good nuts – just frustrated and confused and decisive and indecisive and then frustrated again and again. I don’t know what went wrong – I can usually bang this shit out – there were too many options but not the options I wanted. And then everything was more expensive than I wanted to pay, everything I’d picked out went discontinued or out of stock in a matter of days, I couldn’t find professional help where I needed it, and then the sewer pipe went bad too, and then I (we) changed my mind over and over again…

This shit woke me up in the middle of the night and it is absolutely something that shouldn’t do that.

But then I got what we needed and the plumber was able to book us for 5, yes 5 weeks in a row….

His first visit for the bath was the longest, and I was whirling in the throes of reno anxiety- we’d removed all of the fixtures and demoed the floor which is fun and rewarding (thank you for dealing with the toilet N since that isn’t fun) but then all of the worst is yet to come so it is a false reward, it’s the ribbon for participation without achievement. The first day of the plumber was also the first spring-feeling days and the leaves had yet to come out. Our new tub sat in the yard for hours (as did some copper pipes) and I equally fantasized about the bodies that could fit in its box and was amused that we live someplace “safe” enough that copper can lie about unsupervised…

But afterwards the real work began.

I’d researched some of the new waterproof wall systems and was planning to use one of them, but to save money in the end, we used backerboard and a paint-on membrane. By then the membrane fumes and the project crazy converged and I think I vocalized a few of the redrums shouting on repeat in my brain.

But once the bath tiles were up, I cooled down to a workable, only slightly unhinged, state.

The wall color choice was a bit of an issue – I wanted to repeat one we already had in the house, and we loved the kitchen’s mint, and online polling voted overwhelmingly for the mint, but it was just too intense (as was the yellow).

(I don’t wear make-up and the two of us have yellows and greens in our skintones, so I wasn’t worried about looking in the mirror in a green room.)

But we fairly easily agreed the dusty/dirty “champagne glee” pink would be the best – and we’re happy with it.

And then it was time for floor tile – I’ve used a similar one to this before, and our half bath has a mosaic pattern too.

I knew I needed to spend the time to dry fit it to make sure that the pattern was right and to make some of the cuts beforehand.

N numbered the tiles and made a handy chart for me to use – it was foolproof.

I thought the layout was perfect – N found a flipped tile, and we didn’t see any manufacturing flaws.

But there was one.

And we didn’t spot it until it was grouted.

But it was barely an issue and now I can’t believe we were willing to put up with the almond plastic bathroom for another couple of years – that old bath had some sort of stockholm hold over me…

The elements are both a bit more vintage than the ’50s, and contemporary – but it isn’t out of place with the rest of the little house.

And the tile feels so nice on my feet…

And the shower is roomier and brighter, and the tub worth taking a lingering bath – thankfully we got it in springtime when the well is full.

(And yes, we really need that threshold).

 

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In the meantime

Spring is well underway without me.

The garden is far more behind than I wanted it to be (the late blizzard snowed in my very early plans), but last autumn’s late spinach that didn’t do much then, came back in green glory, so I’m quite pleased about that. The garlic is doing its thing and the rhubarb, gooseberry, asparagus, and blueberries all have leaves, blossoms (where applicable), and new growth. I need to look into more of these sorts of perennial edibles – I love establish and maintain gardening more than plant and re-plant and tear out at the end of the season gardening… not too much of a veg option though? But more fruit and herby things at least.

(The poor magnolia has its glorious blossoms frozen off, so sadly we didn’t get a show this year.)

The seeds that started indoors did disappoint somewhat – the peppers and tomatoes likely just didn’t have enough/right kind of light (or attention), but the squash are robust and will hopefully be the strong beasts they need to be to fight the beetles and borers. Other veg and herbs are puttering along, and I’ll try some more herbs and flowers next.

Sprouting (a couple of weeks ago). Autumn's spinach in garden now. #organicgardening #seedstarting #growyourown

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I’d like to get rid of at least 40% of our lawn – the priorities being the most annoying places to mow or whack, and first up is a little hill on the west side of the house. I’ve been ridding it of Chinese wisteria, and left a bit in one place to train and braid (and it has started to grow together) but it still wants total domination, so it will go, and hopefully the little hill will accept a couple of fig trees and a mess of woody herbs that the deer won’t touch.

N finished breaking up all of the front sidewalks to nowhere and dug some expanded beds. Those now have a mess of perennials we somehow managed to finally plant, and in a few weeks or so we’ll be able to dig up all of the bulbs (mostly hyacinth – achoo!) that have clumped together and on top of one another and re-distribute them better and throughout the yard.

And the bathroom?

We’re finally on the other side – the plumber is here now for his (fingers crossed) final visit and I’ve got a mess of grout sealing and paint touch-ups to do later today.

(And I’ll probably get some new towels and a rug since our “nice” ones don’t really look it anymore, and some others may have gotten encrusted with mortar and caulk schmears…)

It's still not finished… #renomadness #tiling #hex #whenwillitbeover #bathroom #floor #diyfatigue

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I was a bit cocky about the floor – I thought it would be easier than the walls, and in some ways it is, but there are some seriously wrong joints despite a meticulous layout. And I was tired, and I’d had an aural migraine, and I just wanted to get it done, but for something basically permanent in your house, you need to take care and have a better attitude…

And of course I’d finished the grouting before noticing a defect on one of the tiles – a black hex in the wrong row – I was going to leave it for character, but it was in a prominent spot for viewing while on the john, so I pried it up and re-set it.

The whole room has enough “character” as it is…

 

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Still in the bathroom

Another day, another day without plumbing…

(And of course I’ve got to pee – I thought this plumbing visit was going to be just a couple of hours, but it’s another all-day affair).

The bathroom saga is finally well underway, and long, and tiresome, and not yet done…

Sometimes I think I wouldn’t mind having a cabin way off the grid and without most plumbing. You’d be prepared for it, and most of the time the weather would be warm enough for an alfresco splash down, and composting toilets aren’t that bad if not shared by too many. But not having a fully functional bath/shower in your everyday home sets my nose out of joint. I’m one who must shower every morning to wake up, open my sinuses, de-creak my body and to get clean at an even rate. For most of the four years I worked from home, I tried every variation of less-often hair-washing, no-‘poo, some ‘poo, conditioner without ‘poo, cooler water, etc., etc., but in the end, I could never get used to feeling unevenly clean.

So today I’ve had the last shower I’ll get for the next week (hopefully), or two (likely).

We de-almonded the room first with joy and abandon I later regretted (from pain, not fondness), repaired the rotten subfloor – opening it up brought forth such an intense stench – thankfully like a rich, deeply composted forest floor rather than an excrement-soaked one, but mildly gag-inducing just the same, and after the plumber puts in the new tub, we’ll be tits deep in the most difficult tiling job I’ve done. I’m sorta kinda looking forward to doing the floor – hex tile is easy to work with – but the shower walls have got to line up, and straight lines aren’t in my playbook.

The paint ended up being the dull pink “champagne glee” to be exact, and yes, the name partially sold me on the color the first time around. We loved the mint, it is perfect in the kitchen, but it was too intense (as was the yellow) in this small dark room.

*****

It is now a week later and I’ve got the sink bath down to an art as well as a science, and neither of us smells too much, though maybe we’re nose blind.

And yes, the plumber is here again!

But I won’t blather on about my bladder again.

Tits deep in tiling… #tiling #bathroom #subwaytile #iwannabeinthistubnow

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The tub/shower is tiled and grouted and has fixtures – the grout is still curing though, so no shower for a few more days…

There is wonkiness of lines, of course, but less than I’d feared – the ceiling is nearly 2 inches higher on the one side than the other, so it is what it is.

Next up more wall repair and painting – not in love with the color yet – it’s leaning a bit beige (NO NO NO!!!!) but not enough is on yet to tell.

This weekend will be for tiling the floor.

Hopefully my fingers will be healed in time…

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So long shitpipe

I’m waiting for the plumber and his helper, and of course my body is wanting to rid itself of all daily and monthly excretions even though it’s only been 5 minutes since the last time…

Our sewer pipe started leaking the day after we paid the plumber’s deposit on the upcoming bath reno.

(The pipe is above grade in the basement since the house is built into a hill.)

The good part was that we caught the leak before it leaked on anything important (our newly started seeds were in the vicinity and thankfully they’re not poop plants).

The bad, is of course, the bucks.

And I’m home all day psyching myself out that I really don’t need to pee, etc., for the next 6 or so hours, and my mouth is foul cotton from pee-prevention self-imposed dehydration.

They’re here now, and I can hear their chatter about the greatness of Soundgarden, some pleasant teaching murmurs and reassurances, the recent oft-repeated statement about how we just finally had a month of winter after spring was here in February and now it’s spring again and it’s really nice, and the occasional PG-rated expletive that makes me duck and cover my head for fear of shitsplosion, though I’m on the floor above.

And our former shit pipe is lying shattered in the yard while they replace it with PVC. The old pipe ended up cleaner than expected – I was terrified since the last owners had children and an excessive amount of “flushable wipes” that absolutely aren’t, stacked on each commode.

The dog is being a trooper – sometimes a bit scared at the biggest bangs, but mostly head-tilting at the floor – lately we’ve had success in managing some outbursts with cheap shaky cheese.

Cast iron is called “the 100 year pipe.”

Ours only lasted 64 years.

In our last nearly 100-year-old house, the cast iron was still fine – as was the lead water pipe – I hear our old city is now dealing with some Flint-ish issues – the plumber there told us it’s fine, just let the water run for a minute before drinking it – but I was still dubious…

I regret having a bagel for lunch as I can’t lube it down as much as I’d like, and I’m getting grumpy from not having the coffee I’d like/sorta rely on again. The plumbers are back from their lunch and their public bathrooms (though they’ve got to have some sort of bottle john in their vans too, right?) and I wish they’d just hurry up.

Some dentists will knock you out for a cleaning if you’ve got the dentine-manipulation phobia, but I wish there were a similar service for home repair workers – lack of functioning plumbing anxiety is a very real thing, dammit – or at least offer a speedy done-before-you’ll-have-to-pee-next service – I’d pay a little more for that.

Yesterday I slapped a fresh coat of paint on one of the basement walls.

It needs another or two coats, along with the longer wall, but it feels cleaner already. I’m not too squeamish about unfinished/creepy/spider-infested basements, but I like the laundry area to feel like a slight oasis – not a give me a fruity drink and a scented breeze, but I come to you with muddy stinky duds and you take the stank away and if I drop a sock on the way to the drier, I’m thankful if I don’t have to re-wash it, kind of thing – more of a temple perhaps? I have yet to try the newly yellowed rug in there, but I’ve another waiting if it doesn’t work – one that the dog has peed on more than once (but I’ve washed) so I don’t trust it in the main unsupervised areas of the house.

The basement utility room re-freshening has been on my to-do list, but way down toward the end – once I get more stuff out of the house and the storage areas re-configured. We put the shitty, but not that old, former kitchen cabinets down there and I’d like to paint them either white or something outlandish. Well, maybe a jadeite green, not that outlandish. But now I want to bump it up the list – once the bathroom is done, it will be glaringly not up to snuff with the rest of the house.

And the boiler has begun to shart the bed, so that business will need to be replaced (or repaired) by next winter…

The plumber is doing quite well by us this year.

And they’re done.

And the dog just peed in front of the washing machine.

(Luckily there wasn’t a rug down yet.)

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