Saturday, November 27, 2010

Drew's view

Drew sent me this picture as he was flying 13,000 feet above the Salt Lake Valley as he came in for a landing.  Then he took off and flew to Oakland before he was released from duty to try to get back home on this busy travel day.

This is the Bingham Canyon Copper Mine, where I used to work.  Nice view!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Home Addition: Floors

This project has been oh so very long and arduous. Drew keeps saying to me, "we're gettin' there," whenever I stress about one of the many items left to finish without the help of our general contractor.  I am now starting to believe him.  When sitting down to write this post and looking ahead to the next few posts, I realize that we are putting many of the finishing touches on our little big idea we had back in January.  Finally, some "done" pictures to share!

Here is the bathroom floor.  It still needs a good buffing, but the grout is all in.  The shower is actual split pebbles and the main floor is travertine.  It looks warm and earthy. It will be fun to take a shower standing on pebbles.

Here is the 5" wideplank hand-scraped engineered pre-finished hickory in the bedroom.  I love the look and feel of it.  I am not a big fan of the hand-scrapped look that is so popular right now, but this floor's handscrape-y-ness is very subtle and it is not shiny. 

Here is the rustic 3.25-inch red oak solid pre-finished hardwood  in the kitchen and new office/family room area.

We had planned to go with slate tile in the kitchen, because slate is a great natural product and tile in the kitchen is a good choice. But early on in the remodel, we changed our minds and went with oak.  Oak is common in these craftsman bungalows and we like ours in the dining and living room.  We thought using a similar flooring in the new part of the house would tie the old and new in better than slate tile.

Friday the hardwood guy came back to sand and apply a second coat of polyurethane to the stair treads, hallway, and patch between the new flooring and old house.

The blue and green tape will come off after he comes back for the last coat, since we weren't happy with the job they did.

Here is the new 2.5 inch oak in the hallway. This is solid oak and matches the old flooring almost exactly.  Finally, 5 years after ripping out the teal-colored carpet in a fit of home-improvement gusto, we have flooring back in the hallway.

Here is the transition from old existing dining room floor (yellow colored floor in the foreground), to new very similar patch (slightly lighter band), to new pre-finished floor in the kitchen (reddish floor farthest away).  The new flooring is only about a quarter of an inch thicker than the old floor so there is just a small lip and it looks as good as I could have hoped for.

So as I sit here by the new gas fireplace keeping me oh so toasty in my dusty rocking chair, getting a little headache from the last coat of polyurethane on the stair treads, I can finally see the end in sight.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Home Addition: Appliances

After sitting in our living room for over two weeks, the new appliances are finally in and we've had a chance to actually get to know them a bit. I chose the Kitchenaid brand, after much lengthy online research.  My primary reasons for going with the Kitchenaid line were 1) they had a French door refrigerator that could accept custom door panels and was also one of the shallowest and therefore closest to true counter depth out there, 2) they had a quiet dishwasher that could accept a custom door panel, and 3) they had a nice looking slide-in range with a convection oven that got good reviews.

First, the range.  After we installed it and it was operational, I was concerned. The electrical panel on the range was acting up.  I was uneasy thinking there may be a short inside my gas range.  Kitchenaid sent someone to fix it.  Had to put a new computer chip in it or something.

So we were not starting a good relationship with our primary cooking device, but after it was fixed for a week or so, I have to agree with Drew, "this stove kicks ass".

Dang, this baby can cook fast, simmer slow, light quickly, and you can't argue that it doesn't look like it can cook :-).

I've made cookies and a pie in the convection oven so far.  It will take some getting used to, but the oven will be great.

Next, the dishwasher.  It is very quiet and does a good job of cleaning the dishes.  It also looks cool with the custom panel to match the cabinets.

Then there is the fridge.  We had thought about putting slate tile in the kitchen, but chose wood instead.  We do love the look of the wood floor, but there are a couple of downsides.  What we were most afraid of was the eventual leak in the water line to the dishwasher or something of that nature.  We just didn't think we had to be afraid of it two days after the brand new appliances were installed!  Yup, a water line inside the top-of-the-line Kitchenaid refrigerator was not attached correctly at the factory. Note that there was nothing wrong with the connections Drew made; it was a manufacturer defect.  So for two days, each time we would use the water filter, the water in that line would drain back under the fridge on the BRAND NEW HARDWOOD FLOOR.  I finally noticed some cupping of the floor out in front of the fridge on a Friday night, while Drew was on a trip.  I was, um, disheartened. Twenty-seven square feet of the flooring had to be ripped up, let dry for a week, and replaced.

It is all fixed now, and the fridge seems to be good.

The counter depth feature makes for a nice look and fits the floor plan very well, but I would not recommend it for a family.  The French door style is nice for the fridge compartment, but the freezer is pretty tiny.  We'll have to get a separate chest freezer to store our dead cows and birds.

Note to anyone considering custom panels: don't use chrome cabinet pulls and faucets. These door handles were one of only four choices in chrome of the 6 or 7 hardware manufacturers I shopped.  These were only $38 a piece, but the others were $132, a piece.  That would be over $400 in handles, for your fridge. Ridiculous.

The GE microwave, shown here with the blue protective sheet still on, has some very cool features.  Really easy to use. Would highly recommend.  It will eventually sit on a shelf above where it is sitting now.

The hood is a Whirlpool and throws 400 cubic feet per minute of air. It vents out through the dropped ceiling in the adjacent bedroom to the outside, which is a big improvement over our old recirculating impostor of a hood.

I like it for functionality and because it is slightly taller and more beefy looking than the other under-cabinet hoods I looked at, but still allows us to have all that usable cabinet space above the stove.   It was a good compromise for our space.

Although the sink is not technically an appliance, I'll show you it because it is v. cool.

I saw this sink in This Old House magazine and thought it might work nicely in our kitchen.  It does! I love the apron front style and the integrated drainboard is super handy.  As far as I could find, this sink, by Whitehaus, is the only farmhouse apron front with a drainboard. The Delta faucet is also very handy; you turn it on by touching the spout or lever with any part of your hand or arm (or foot or head I guess - I haven't tried).  It is convenient and a nice feature when you have "chicken hands".
So there are our new cooking toys.  Now there is no excuse not to cook like my sister-in-law.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Home Addition: Earth moving fun.

I just love digging in the dirt.  It keeps me grounded. Oh, bad pun, but really, no matter how crummy of a mood I am in, if I can go plant something, weed something, or especially move rocks around in the backyard, I feel better. Last weekend I installed the beginnings of a sprinkler system.  Yard work is the best therapy there is, and boy did I need therapy this week!

The painters have been painting inside for two weeks now.  To put it simply: I don't like them and I'm sick of them in my house.  Last week, the paint fumes were so bad and the house was so cold (we don't want to turn on the furnace until we can clean the toxic construction dust up) we had to get a hotel one night and I stayed with friends the next two nights.  As if couch surfing and cancer air are not bad enough, the painters made it impossible to get to any of our food or dishes in the kitchen for a week.  So that explains why I needed yard therapy.

Two weeks ago, I frantically called around to try to find a sprinkler guy that could help me extend the freeze proof hydrant line that we had the excavators start way back in June.  We have been extremely fortunate for fabulous, warm, dry fall weather, and we've used it to the fullest doing last minute exterior finishing tasks.  Unfortunately, Drew and I both had to spend way more time than planned over the past two weeks helping the painters prep inside the house (isn't that part of their JOB!). Anyway, the weather was going to turn, and I wanted to trench the water line before it did.  Well, it didn't happen. I found someone to help, but he was unavailable until last week. But Monday of last week there was snow, rain, and cold, so we had to wait until Friday to start the fun. 

I hired Aaron S., owner of Wasatch Sprinklers. He is awesome.  Knows his stuff, a nice guy, and a mountain biker to boot.  All contractors should be like Aaron.

He rented a mini excavator and began digging a trench 30 inches deep so that my water line would be below frost depth.  (My brother tells me frost depth is 8 feet in North Dakota. Whaaat? That is tooooo deep for this girl to dig.)

Back when we dug the basement, I had the excavators extend a water line from 5 feet below grade inside the basement out through the foundation and to the edge of the deck, where we put in a stop and waste valve for a future sprinkler system and a "farm hydrant" as they called it. Basically, the hydrant has the valve down below frost line and a drain on the down gradient side of the valve so the vertical part drains each time the hydrant is turned off. You can see it with the red handle in the this photo.

The goal of the day was to dig a trench from that hydrant all the way to the "Back 40" and install an identical hydrant back there.  Back 40 is what I call the area behind the garage, where the veggie garden will be.  To you city folk, Back 40 is a play off of North 40 or South 40, etc, which refers to the 40 acres of farm field on the north or south part of your section of land. It is a term dating back to the pioneer days on the prairie, I imagine.  My Back 40 refers to the 40 feet by 40 feet on our 0.12 acres of homestead in the middle of Salt Lake City.  I want a farm hydrant back there so we can have year-round water in that location so I can grow stuff in cold frames even while we have freezing temps at night. True homesteader spirit!

So we laid in the blue plastic pipe and the electrical wire for the timer. This step included plenty of hand digging by me, the unskilled laborer, to find and excavate under the power line from the house to the garage. The power line conduit is visible here in the foreground cutting diagonally across the trench above the blue pipe.

Here's a close up. It doesn't look it, but there is 10 inches of space between the two lines.
Then we started back filling.
While the base of the hydrant was dug up, we T-ed up after the the stop and waste valve and installed a valve box for the future sprinkler system. 
Aaron installed the timer in the garage while I back-filled both by hand, and, Joy o Joy, using the mini ex. I had been wanting to run one of these things forever!  It was so much fun, I think I might rent one just for the hell of it and go out to an empty field for a day.  $250 per day is cheap therapy if you ask me!  The machine was pretty easy to use, but I have a new appreciation for backhoe operators everywhere.

We worked until dusk but didn't get everything done.

By the next day we had the trench back filled to about 10 inches deep and had laid in the 1" PVC branch for the drip system in the garden.

As long as we had the trench there, I figured I'd throw down a drain pipe just under the surface from the downspout on the front of the garage back to the Back 40. This way, the drainage from half the garage roof won't run on top of our future patio. I reused some pipe we had and only had to shell out $20 in additional parts.

The addition of all that wonderful moisture earlier in the week certainly added an element of slippery to the job. I made a huge mess of the yard, but when Drew arrived home on pre-Halloween night, he found a happy, dirty wife!

The trench is almost back filled now, but I want to let the topsoil dry out a bit more before finishing the job.  The rental company neglected to pick up the mini excavator on Saturday, so, Lucky Me, I got to play with it some more.  On Monday morning, I decided to rearrange some of the rocks we had already rearranged back in June.  Here is a video of my slow and determined rock handling. 

Did I mention I am happiest when moving rocks around in the backyard?  That was happiness squared.

Halloween 2010

Drew was home for Halloween this year. That's both Utah Halloween (Saturday) and regular Halloween (Sunday). How the Mormons can get away with changing the date of Halloween I don't know.  I was against it, but since we were in danger of being "tricked", we handed out candy on Saturday night and Sunday night. 

It was cold and rainy, but that didn't stop about 40 kids from stepping up to get their handouts on Saturday.  We greeted them with flaming tiki torches,

a giant spider, and a joke hand from the old refrigerator on our front porch (rednecks!).

Sunday we only had one set of kids and their wine drinking parents. Guess we know why they didn't come on Saturday.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

We're famous

We've seen a bit of publicity lately.

I made it into the September edition of Cycling Utah. Page 12.

The article is about the last race of the I-Cup race series and the overall series results. It has a good action photo of me racing except that it shows my bra.  Note to self: remember that when in the forward leaning cycling position, spectators have a better view angle at your chest area. 

I also had the lead story in the May issue of Survey Notes, the Utah Geological Survey's glossy periodical for the general science-minded public. 

And last on my list of recent publications is my co-editorship of a big volume of papers published under the Utah Geological Association entitled Geology and Geologic Resources and Issues of Western Utah, which you can own for only $28.95. That field trip I helped with last fall was based on this book.

Drew, or should we say Drew's baby, has also had a brush with fame.  The Mustard Truck, his 1976 Toyota Land Cruiser, was used as a prop in a photo shoot for the most recent Athleta catalog. The cruiser is pictured, complete with our Utah license plates, on the high-profile back page...

And several other pages.

How did the Mustard Truck get so famous? Our neighbor's son-in-law is a photographer for Athleta. He saw Drew's truck parked on our street and asked if he could use it in a photo shoot in Park City.  In addition to making us famous, the Toyota earned enough cash to pay for its most recent trip to the service station!  Now that's the kind of vehicle we need. Sorry, Bobke.