Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Hurricanes and Preparedness

As Hurricane Florence approaches and we've tried to figure out what we need to be ready I thought I'd write down some of the thoughts running through my head. 

Normally I feel like we're reasonably prepared.  We have food storage and water and the like and if we had to weather a storm at home we'd be ok.  You know, like a blizzard or something.  But right now we're in a darn hotel and all of our stuff is packed up.  We realized that we may need water and a light source if we lose power here so we were out last night and learned a few things about preparedness.  They aren't new - they were just reinforced.  The immediate lead up to the storm is NOT the time to prepare.  There was no water anywhere.  Fortunately we had bought a case on Saturday and right now we're just refilling any bottle that we drink.  We looked at 3 stores before we found a handheld spotlight for $35.  We have that and some fresh batteries for flashlights in our cars. 

Also, just like with a blizzard, bread is one of the first things to fly off the shelves.  It must be a comfort thing.  

Here are some things that have come to mind:

·         If we lose power, we have no way to charge our phones which means we have no way to communicate with anyone. 
o   We need a hand crank and/or solar cell phone charger.  If the cell towers are down that may not be much help immediately but having a charged battery once towers are up is important.
o   I’ve thought about getting a NOAA weather radio before but haven’t done it.  It’s on the top of my list. Especially since we’ll be living in the country.  We'll be reliant on satellite for internet and TV and that's almost always knocked out with a bad storm so a NOAA radio could be helpful to get information from.

·         If we lose power, we’ll be eating a lot of junk food because we won’t be able to cook anything. And fruit.  We do have fresh fruit and carrots.
o   We need an alternate way to cook.  And fuel for that cooking method (i.e. propane for a grill, etc.).  We'll have this once we've moved but what if we couldn't grill for some reason. Just something to think about. 

·         We have one case of water.  Water is essential to life in so many respects – drinking, cooking, cleaning, bathing… 
o   One of the first things to build back up in our food storage once we’ve moved in

·         Cleaning – I don’t think Clorox Wipes are a good solution for regular cleaning, however, in a situation where water is at a premium I think they would be a good temporary solution.  They would be good enough for short term cleaning so it would be good to have fresh wipes in storage.
o   Also, I think having some dry shampoo would be a good thing. I do have some – just not with me…

·         Light – having light diffuses tension in any situation but especially in a scary one and especially if you have kids (we don't have little kids but we still need light)
o   We have a bunch of lanterns and flashlights (currently in storage) and when we get moved in I need to be more intentional about where I place them and also need to check regularly that their batteries are changed/fresh

Why do people wait?  I have to say that I was surprised to see how calm people were.  No one has been nasty or impatient in the stores even with the long, slow-moving lines.  And it’s also amazing to see how much people have to buy.  Dave noted that normally we wouldn’t have to go to the store because we have what we need.  I’ll also note that that exact point drives me crazy!  We really do try to be prepared with food and water and equipment we would need but all of our stuff is packed up and honestly, it never occurred to me that we could be looking at this while we’re staying in this hotel.  We’re praying that the Lord will be merciful to us and we won’t have a power outage or flooding.  That said, I'm also pretty sure that we're the most prepared room in the hotel at this point.  ;)  

I’ve always marveled at the pictures of people running to the hardware store to buy plywood to board up their windows when a hurricane is coming.  If I lived on the coast I would have plywood and tools in my shed or garage because you know someday you’ll need them.  I’ve always wondered why they wait and rush at the last minute?

Which brings me to another wonder.  Why do some people refuse to evacuate?  There’s no way they don’t know it’s coming. I’ve always wondered that from afar but now I’m here in the general vicinity and let me tell you, there’s no way that you could miss it.  The news is everywhere!  The evacuation orders began going into effect last night and today which should give people time to get safely out of town but there are always some who stay.  Why?  And, as cold-hearted as it may sound, why should someone else be expected to risk their life to save yours because you were being stubborn and refused to leave?  That’s not right.  (It's different if someone *can't* get out but that's not usually who they parade on the news - it's the macho guy who thought he was bigger than the storm.)

Anywho, the latest models show the storm taking a more southern route and hitting North and South Carolina the hardest with southern Virginia getting a wallop (we're in central VA).  They're still saying we'll likely have one heck of a rain party up here but not nearly as bad as it could have been.  The problem for a lot of this area (VA, NC, SC) is that rainfall has already been really high this season and the ground is saturated so we'll be looking at major flooding in some areas. Hoping and praying we can avoid that - both here are the hotel and at the house that we're closing on on Monday!  

The good news is that I do have books to read during the day if the power goes out!  :D  

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Reno Weeks 7 & 8 & Mt Rushmore

Weeks 7 & 8 have been busy with lots of finishing work going on.  And so.....we've decided not to include any pictures until we can show you everything fully completed.  Floors are done, backsplash is up, bathroom has been started, baseboards are mostly up. Lots happening.

In the meantime, we'll talk about South Dakota. We went to Mt Rushmore over Labor Day weekend. Really bad timing because there was so much to do at home but by the time we decided to cancel, it was too late and would have had to pay for the hotel anyway so we went.

And we saw Crazy Horse. They're still working on carving this - it's MASSIVE - and I don't think it'll be done in my lifetime.

They had so many tunnels like this:

It's hard to tell but there are just layers and layers of mountains here. The wildfires in Montana, Idaho, Washington, Oregon, etc. have sent so much smoke that you could hardly see much beyond what was in the immediate vicinity. By Monday our throats were sore and noses started to get stuffy. I can't imagine how people in Montana, etc. are feeling!

On the Wildlife Loop we saw lots of donkeys. They came right up to the car and if people had their windows open they poked their heads right in. We kept our windows closed. No need to get slobbered by a donkey...

We didn't see too many buffalo (they had apparently gone to the interior that day) but there were a few lone buffalo here and there.

Keystone is a cute town with an old western look.

The wildfires made the sunsets just gorgeous!

We went to the lighting ceremony at Mt Rushmore. It was ok but not quite what we expected.

On Monday we had tickets to tour Jewell Cave. We got there and checked in and the lady said I couldn't bring my purse in so I had to take it back to the car. We walked all the way to the far end of the parking lot and all the way back and went in to catch our tour. And the guy said, "They've left. No way to catch up with them." We went back to the desk and asked if we could exchange our tickets for the shorter tour that would start in 15 minutes. The guy laughed and said nope but we could buy tickets for that.

We were so annoyed because they don't have signs posted anywhere to let you know that you can't bring bags in and there were people walking up the whole time with bags and they had to go back to their cars. And mostly I was frustrated with the attitude of everyone who worked there. They were so smug and snotty about it. They really should have signs in the parking lot stating that you can't bring anything in with you. They should also put it in the email when you reserve your tickets.

We bought tickets for the short tour and learned some interesting things but it was very anticlimactic.

We can say two things for sure about South Dakota.

1. The mountains are absolutely gorgeous.
2. The food is awful! Awful! We literally did not eat anything good up there except for the pancake bar in the hotel - which is saying something because they were just your typical bisquick type pancakes. We came home not wanting any food at all because it all sounded so gross.

We're glad to be home and so ready to be done with the renovation. And we cannot wait to cook real food! We're tired of eating out! The house is done enough that we moved stuff back in this weekend and now we're working on putting it all back together. We should have good pictures next week. Yay!

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Reno Weeks 5 & 6

I forgot to blog about week 5 so I'll combine it here with week 6.

There was a lot of progress in week 5 such as new... I'm not even sure what this is called - bannister top or something. The old one drove Dave absolutely crazy because it was so poorly done (whaaat!? Not in this house!) and the corner here didn't line up even close to right. It has been redone properly and now he's a happy camper!

The new ceiling fans were installed and they're beautiful! They work really well and to our amazement only the fan blades move rather than the whole fixture!! Hooray!!

Lots of good things happened in week 6! Yesterday was lighting install day and the rest of the new lighting was installed. We'll start with my favorite - the entry way light. So long to the dark, ugly, old bug catcher and hello beautiful! I get a big smile every time I see this light. Oh, and it's brighter and as a Wild you know that makes me happy. 

 We installed these track lights in the kitchen. Two of them. The electrician kept asking if we really want both and Dave kept saying, "You just don't understand. You don't know my wife." It's lovely. Nice and bright. We still need to position the lights in the direction we want them but I think they'll work really well.

As the electrician was securing this to the ceiling he was trying to find the studs. Naturally they weren't in the logical places and he said "I wonder why the stud isn't there...."  House of Wonders. That's all. House of Wonders. We'll never truly know why so many people did so many things so poorly here.

Floors started going in this week. It's super dusty in this picture so a little hard to tell but they really are pretty. During the install in the living room we learned that - wait for it...... the ugly fireplace hearth tile (on the floor) is an inch different from one side to the other. Of course it is. We can't afford to replace that right now so we have to figure out how to make the floor work with it. 

And countertops went in this week. Better pictures to come when everything is completely finished. We're still trying to find a backsplash we like. We bought about 10 or 12 different ones and were really surprised that the ones we thought we'd like the best were the first to go and the ones we brought home on a whim "just in case" are actually in the maybe pile. 

Lots more to do but it's looking like we'll be moving back in around September 9th. Yay!!

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Reno Week 4

Hard to believe it's already been 4 weeks! It's gone by fast but we're also SO ready to be done with this. That said, this week we made some progress that feels tangible and promising.

Our cabinets have been installed and they made the template for countertops. When they told me they were coming to measure for countertops I took that pretty literally and thought they would be pulling out a tape measure and measuring for the countertop. Nope. They bring in strips of what looked like balsa wood and literally make a template that they glue together and bring back to the shop.

Surprise number 1 for this week was how much the floor slopes. Most floors slope a little. It's the nature of the beast. But in the House of Wonders this little kitchen goes a full 1 1/8"! We knew the old countertops has a wicked slope but we didn't know it was due to the floors. Which was a builder issue. We also learned that the studs aren't where they should be in the walls. Shocking. Again.

All of this meant some major adjustments to make sure the cabinets and countertops would be level. It also means a challenge for the kick plates when those are installed after the flooring.

So.....all those little dots on these pictures are dust on the camera. I didn't even realize it until just now. But I should have because everything in this house is covered in dust. I was just remarking yesterday that I really wish I could bring a hose in and power wash this whole place - top to bottom. I'm realizing now that once we have everything installed there will still be lots to do before we can move back in. We'll have to clean every inch of space - the walls, floors, cabinets (inside and out), windows, window screens, and on and on. I know that sounds obvious that we'd have to clean before moving back in but you just don't understand the enormity of the mess until you live in it. So much dust everywhere.

Saturday we spent much of the day removing the surprise wallpaper from the bathroom.

We were going to rent a steamer but decided to buy one because, knowing the House of Wonders, we knew it would likely take more than one day so it was cheaper to buy one. That was money well spent. If you ever have to remove wallpaper, do yourself a favor and get a steamer! This thing worked like a charm. 

It was an outright sauna in that bathroom since there are no windows and it has stupid high ceilings so we were sweating like crazy. But it was worth having the steamer!

Surprise number 2 was the entry way. We have to replace some of the subfloor and when they pulled it up they realized that the floor there isn't reinforced! Our contractor worked until late last night installing reinforcements and he'll finish replacing the subfloor tomorrow. Underneath this floor is our food storage. That was one room we didn't plan on moving but we had to move a bunch of stuff out while this was being repaired.

This week we're hoping to have lighting installed, the bathroom textured and painted and late in the week maybe countertops. But if there's one thing we've learned it's that this is all very fluid and there is no such thing as a set date when you renovate. You've just gotta roll with the punches and it will get done when it gets done.

And hope we don't go insane in the meantime. Living in one room. Among dust and chaos. Deadlines looming and nowhere to work. Nowhere to focus. In each other's space 24/7. Ah, but I digress.

And HOORAY! The cabinets are in!!! That is happy.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Reno Week 3

Things are coming along albeit slowly. This week we had a long conversation with our contractor about communicating with us and not making decisions without consulting us. He was going to skip several steps in order to stick to the original timeline. We expressed that we want things done right not half-way. I think he listened to at least part of the conversation. In talking to many other people who have or are doing renovations there seems to be a theme - contractors do NOT know how to communicate. It's completely maddening.

That said, after our little heart to heart, we did make some progress this week. Drywall is all up, plumbing in place and we finished painting Saturday night.

Cabinets start going in on Monday. If all goes well, they will measure for countertops on Thursday.

One of the things I've noticed as we've worked on the house is how dingy the walls get and you don't even notice. Until you take everything out. Then all those spots stand right out. And some things are just confusifying.  Like how do food splatters get on the wall behind the armoire in the kitchen? There wasn't any food in there and it was up against the wall. I just don't get it.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Reno Week 2

When we left off last week this is how the kitchen and family and dining rooms were looking:

On Monday the contractor told us that there was more flooring in the kitchen that has to come up. Turns out there was a thin layer of plywood covering some old linoleum. It took Dave and I an hour to get this much of the plywood up on Monday night. It was coming up in little tiny splinters and there were nails everywhere. Nails. So. Many. Nails.

We never would have gotten it all up without a lot of great help from Becky, Mia and Matt!

It really took us all week to get all the flooring up. Did I mention that They used approximately 1 million nails? No rhyme or reason, not in a straight line or anything, just a gazillion of them all over the place. And they don't just come out much of the time because they're rusty and the heads bend so we had to really work to get them all out. 

See? The floor looks like Baby Swiss cheese!

We got most of the underlayment up on Saturday with the help of some nice toxic chemicals. There are a few really stubborn pieces we'll have to keep battling. Oh and there are a few more nails to get out. But there's enough done that the contractor can come in to run the water line and put up the last piece of new drywall.  

In the meantime, the cabinets were delivered. I have no idea how they got his behemoth (the pantry in the middle) through the door! It's massive. And it's exciting to see them here. 

We're learning to live in one room which means putting the laundry away as soon as it's washed and stuff like that. Maybe those habits will stick after the reno too?  Yeah, probably not... When this is all done we'll be so happy to spread out and to eat at our dining room table and sit on a couch and be able to live a little more freely. For now, we're just looking at every day as an adventure. 

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Reno Part 1

We've hated this kitchen since before we moved in and it's time to say goodbye! Yesterday was demo day and it was exhausting and fabulous. And there's no going back now. So, here we begin our renovation journey. I'll refer to the previous owners as "They" since I don't have anything nice to say about them. It will keep me civil. ;)

To review, this kitchen featured floor tile slapped on every surface They could think of. 

None of the countertops were level.

They painted the cabinets this horrible color - we're convinced it was a can of "oops" paint they got real cheap. They didn't do a good job with the paint either and didn't even bother to paint all the sides of the doors.

The laminate flooring was coming apart in several locations and They never even bothered to put flooring under the refrigerator.

Here we have what we called the "pretend pantry" because the door is so narrow that adults, even skinny ones, had to reach in sideways to retrieve things.

Oh - the carpet! The carpet in the dining room. It was full of holes and was filthy when we moved in.

You see, They had to put carpet in the dining room because They added a rounded step. That covered half of the heat vent. And served no purpose. And now it's gone. Yay!

Eek! See the original color of the nasty carpet? We really did try to clean it and this was the best we could get. Gag!

The fun began at 8am with Dad, Nick, Becky, Josh, Tiernan and Mia helping us out. Later our friends Nick and Brandie came by to help as well.

See the pure joy on Dave's face? I might also point out that you can see on the back of this tile that They only used a little glue to adhere the tiles. Which might explain why they were falling off.

More sheer joy...

If you look closely you can see the masterful craftsmanship that went into this tile work. 

The kids were all hard workers - in fact, I think if they could destroy things every time they had chores they'd be much happier about doing chores.

We were all excited to take a swing at the pretend pantry:

That was just way too fun to miss out on. Dave and Becky had to work pretty hard to get the ceiling of the pantry down. I think the builders used every spare nail they had in their toolbox on that ceiling. 

The kids got to use a box cutter and then, with Papa's help, the sawzall to destroy the couch. No shortage of smiles there! (The couch has given many years of service and it's time to say goodbye and what better time than where there's a big dumpster on the driveway?)

As we were removing the sink from the bathroom we learned that They painted over the wallpaper instead of removing it. We had no idea so we painted the walls when we moved in too. For some reason this really ticked me off. I mean, I shouldn't be surprised - this is called the House of Wonders after all but it just really annoyed me that They did that. And it's one more thing we have to fix. We were planning on touching up paint but now we have to remove wallpaper and paint the whole room.

We also were reminded why women live longer than men:

All day long Tiernan kept asking "is there anything else we can destroy?" Destroy was the word of the day and they had a blast! And I'm happy to report that almost every piece of tile has been removed from this house. Just one little area is left that will be a project for another day.

Everyone worked so hard and we are so very appreciative of all the help! What a blessing to have such wonderful family and friends!