Summer is gone and we never posted anything about it

October 6th, 2011 by: cheyenne

Well, basically what it says above. Ronin has grown like 7 feet, weighs in at a whopping 30 pounds, and can read simple words when she’s feeling obliging. She is intensely willful and inordinately contrary. We like to say that she inherited the contrary gene from her great-grandma Nikki. She loves to sing and is constantly making up songs about random things, like a little mosquito, a bird flying to its nest, a little blue car.. She makes up unusual melodies and even attempts to rhyme her verses. Driving in the car on short trips around town is no longer fraught with peril; she sits tight, sings herself a song, and most importantly, stays awake (usually).

Summer was brief and very mild. I didn’t get my tomatoes into the ground until June and they are just now fruiting (but they are fruiting lots). I also tried to grow arugula and as soon as the plants got large enough that I felt I wouldn’t be depriving them of their only mature leaves to make my salad, they all bolted. Lame!

Earthday: Ronin danced with the hippies and rolled in the grass.

Ronin and the other kids peeking at Kricket in her caterpillar puppet.

I painted a little snake on her arm. What then followed was an introverted hour of intense concentration while she carefully picked all the paint off with her fingernails. Temporary tattoos are also far more temporary than they should be where Ronin is concerned.

Hiking in Forest Park. Ronin wanted up.

Our summer was really very low key, yet we kept very busy. We went to the river or lake, hiked in the woods, and biked around our new section of town to one of the many different parks. We did a lot of cooking and eating al fresco while the kitchen was dismantled. Here I am cooking a caramel custard on the back patio amidst the construction debris.

Ronin finally got her bunkbed. It took us long enough. We were given this one by Joshua’s mom, who used to use it in her classroom for puppet shows. It’s way sturdier than the IKEA one and we didn’t have to monkey with it to get rid of the lower bunk. Unfortunately, it had been stored in her garage for two years and had some mildew on it. I scrubbed it and dried it well before we assembled it in Ronin’s bedroom but by the time we got it together, both of us were coughing, had tight throats, and just general allergy-yuck symptoms. So, to Ronin’s intense and vocal disappointment (we felt so bad), we took it apart and brought it back outside, where we stewed over what to do with it. In the end, I sanded the entire thing, sanded away all mildewy spots, and then lacquered it with many coats of the stuff I finished the floor in the kitchen with. It no longer smells and it looks quite nice. We got it back up in Ronin’s room soon thereafter and she LOVES it.

Bunny and Nigel love it.

All the guys got to sleep in it the first couple of nights. Now she’s back down to Nigel and sometimes one other guy.

Underneath is a little playhouse. We have curtains that enclose it and I thought I could cut little windows, a door, and paint cute things on it.

She has never before shown any sort of irrational fear to anything but just lately she has voiced some concern about a moose in the walls. Also a knocking in the bathroom closet. Neither of us are sure where this came from. She always wants us to open the closet so she can look inside (there’s a toilet plunger in there, which I suppose is scary in its own right). It was bound to start at some point I suppose, but still, we’re trying to figure out how best to respond so that that they fade rather than grow more intense.

Joshua signed her up for a gymnastics class and she loved it. She is strong and fearless (when it doesn’t involve moose) and can hang on a bar almost indefinitely. She likes the bars and the “balance bean.” We originally thought we would put her in ballet since she’s still mad about it but the ballet classes seem to be less structured for this age group. Maybe when she’s a little older.

Kitchen remodel part II (finished, mostly)

September 30th, 2011 by: cheyenne

Some before photos of the kitchen. People were telling me (people who had never seen it in person, that is), that the kitchen didn’t seem so bad. And it wasn’t as bad as the bathroom or anything, but I pretty much had it in for the kitchen from the moment I laid eyes on it. I hated the floor tile, I hated the counter tile, the cabinets were all too small and just funky, and the insides smelled like squashed ants. Even though there were no ants in sight. Squashed-ant smell drives me utterly nutballs.

I took a bunch of close-up photos to illustrate just how nasty it really was. Behold:

Ugly exposed smished particle board bits. These were in most of the cupboards. I guess at one point, the hinges ripped out and were re-mounted elsewhere..?

Nothing was square. (This is how this cupboard closed; it’s not supposed to be ajar.)

I have no idea what the story was on the back panels of the cabinets. It couldn’t have possibly come like this, could it?

Oh look: greasy drippings behind the cabinets! How wonderful. I guess that wall has to go. Now, what do you suppose is behind the stove fan?

Mmmmm, tasty. When we removed the rectangular vent that went up to the ceiling, we discovered that the fan was actually just venting into the wall between studs. Not actually outside.


Demolition went fairly rapidly. It’s easy to bust apart cabinets when you don’t care about scratches. We took easily three tons of CRAPOMGWTF to the dump (had to rent a moving van to get it there). You do not even want to know how many mummified rats and mice we’ve so far removed from the innards of this house. Between this and pulling the ceiling down in the basement (did I mention?), Joshua expected to be stricken with hanta virus at any moment for a good 4 weeks (we did our internet research).

We initially thought that we would not have to remove any walls. HAAAaaaaaaa! Probably should have taken them all out but we’re stubborn that way. Complicated keeps the mind snappy. It takes a something-something to blend new crisp sheetrock into 100-year-old uneven plaster. That something is Crazy.

We had our usual round of setbacks. I spent about four billion hours agonizing over the perfect turquoise color to paint the walls and what I picked out ended up looking freakishly kelly green in our house. I then spent about 3 minutes picking out the substitute and it was fine. Perfect, even. Joshua ended up starting a plumbing project that eventually encompassed the entire rest of the house just trying to replace a sink in the exact place the old sink was previously.

Here we’ve just laid the countertops over the lower cabinets. Suddenly there was an end in sight. That hole with the stool? That’s where a mechanical DISHWASHER is going to go. And do you see those kick-ass wooden butcher-block counters? I DIE!

OH la la.

OH LA LA!! The stove is this crazy huge black monster that we didn’t intend to get but randomly ended up with and now are SO HAPPY we did. It’s the best thing I’ve ever cooked on: gas top, convection electric oven. And ventilation! HEAVEN!

I would have liked to have cabinets that went all the way to the ceiling (even though we have to use a stool to reach the uppers as it is), but this was the best we could do. I plan to put little half-rounded shelves to the right of the window. I have a bunch of light-seeking little succulents and what-nots that want this space.

And the new shiny sink: I have lusted after that sink for years. I have a love/hate relationship with IKEA, but mostly love.

Here you see our crazy humongous steel refrigerator. I was lobbying for the tiniest refrigerator you could buy—preferably one that fit under the counter. We would then have an auxiliary freezer in the basement or whatever. Joshua wanted a big ol’ side-by-side thing with cold-water jets and an icemaker. I won first and we ended up first buying a very small (but tallish) fridge, but it was freakishly loud and sounded like an irate flock of birds every time it kicked into gear, so we took it back. Then Joshua won and we ended up with this thing: it’s one of the highest energy rated beasts out there and with all the rebates and tax whatnots and sales (we had an armory of coupons), it ended up being about the cheapest option. We win!

We eventually intend to add cabinets over the fridge and to the left, but were still figuring out what exactly we want.

Oh, don’t mind my child; she’s having a total fit on the floor.

Oak countertops!!! I love them!

Voodoo Lily

June 27th, 2011 by: cheyenne

We had these crazy plants spring up out of nothing right after we moved in. They grew insanely fast and had cool succulent-like speckly patterned stalks and wavy fanned leaves. The neighbor told us to “pull it out; the flowers smell really bad.” We have one in the front next to our steps and if I pulled it out, it would have revealed the unattractive rhododendron stump and some ancient paint chips, probably loaded with poisonous lead. I made the conclusive choice to leave the plants be when I saw baby ones at a local nursery. I figured that if people paid big bucks for the things, they have to be good.

They grew tall. They grew lushly. Then they started to form long flower spikes. OH BOY!

Very body-snatcher looking.

And finally, it opened!

I at last looked them up and they are Dracunculus Vulgaris, commonly called “Voodoo Lily,” among many other names (that’s the coolest so we’ll stop there). The flies, as you can see, love them.

And it really does stink. Everything I’ve read about them say that the smell lasts a day and then goes away but they lie, unless there is another bloom hidden in the foliage there somewhere. It’s been days and I still catch wafts of it now and again from across the yard. It does savage battle with the neighbor’s giant honeysuckle on a nightly basis (planted, no doubt, to counteract the decaying varmint smells coming from my yard). I thought about cutting off the drooping flower but then I saw how it was supposed to mature into these big orangy berry things, and now I have to wait it out. The one by my front door just went off yesterday so we’ve kept the door shut. The mail lady probably thinks a raccoon croaked under my front porch.

In very pleasant-smelling flowerdom, allow me to introduce the pale pink/yellow peony:

which smells awesome, and the dark pink, which smells curiously like chocolate peppermint:

Kitchen remodel part I

June 9th, 2011 by: cheyenne

So, the bathroom didn’t kick our asses hard enough so we decided it was time to rip out the kitchen. Who needs to eat, right? Besides, this one will be super easy because we won’t have to rip out any of the walls.


And the floor will be totally low-key because instead of putting in something new and clean and brand new and fresh and easy. Probably really easy.. We I decided that the douglas fir likely to be underneath would be much cooler if we refinished it. Seriously, imagine: One HUNDRED year-old doug fir, trees felled by burly dudes with hatchets and blue oxen or somesuch right there on our very floor. We just can’t cover that up.

We chipped out the old, ugly, poorly laid tile, which was a pain in the ass. We then pried up the cement board underneath it (a bigger pain in the ass, plus carcinogenic and all that good stuff). Then we had to remove the gnarly looking plywood sub-flooring held in place by no less than eleventy frillion two-inch screws. We’d remove screws until our eyes bled and our backs were surely crippled, then try to pry up the piece, and lo! One lone little fucker holding it down somewhere.. We’d hunt around until we found it, then kill it with fire and all that, and again try to pry up the piece (triumphant at la-). But no! Blast!! Another bleeding screw somewhere. It was not pretty. We got it all up in the end though and here’s what we beheld:

Hmmm. Rustic.

But fossilized mortar is no deterrent for the Optimistic One and I was all “Suh-WEET! This is going to look GREAT!” Joshua, ever the skeptic, was skeptical.

I rented a big sander from Home Depot and fired it up with some 24 grit, which is seriously like three or four good-sized boulders glued to a swath of tough paper. It’s scary.

Then of course there was a lot of filling required. We used up two large containers of the stuff because it kept sucking down into the floor boards. I couldn’t figure out where it was going. It just disappeared and we put more on top. The end.

It looked really awesome and I was super optimistic all over again when confronted with this spectacle first thing in the morning.

But it finished out to look like this:

And after applying only the first round of floor finish (it will have four-five layers in the end; five probably, because I’m crazy), this:

DAMN SAM! I’m satisfied. Now we can work on those walls.

Bathroom is finished (mostly)

May 28th, 2011 by: cheyenne

I was actually starting to get used to it. Comfortable. The toilet works, the sink works, the shower works. Do we really need the walls? I see now how easy it would be to just spend the rest of one’s days without cupboard doors ever installed. I mean, you can put the dishes away and that’s close enough.

But then, whilst sitting on the toilet, I would see a gaping hole with all this antique grunge and splintered flooring/wall/general ickiness and the underside of the iron tub (tubs are only pretty on the top side, if you didn’t know), and next to that, a gaping hole down into the very basement of the house.

And I try not to look down there when I’m in the bathroom lest I catch a glimpse of monsters, say, sneaking across my view-spot. But I always have to look and it stresses me out. And to take it even further, you don’t want monsters—or faeries for that matter—ever actually coming up through the hole into the bathroom! GAH!! Monsters and faeries should never be seen. And so I started complaining in the general direction of Joshua to get the hole closed up (there was some complicated plumbing stuff to take care of that he was putting off until forever). And with that (plus about a million other teeny little annoying things), voila! Fin.

Entering the gleaming new bathroom! Here are the old photos to compare. I did two-inch hex tile on the floor and wainscoting on the walls where I assumed I’d just be covering up the scratched wall after chipping off the old green and white tile (HAHAHAHAcough). Little did I know the entire wall would need to come down. By that point though, my Design Plan was lodged solidly in the gray matter and there was nothing to do but go with it.

Sink Plan I was to have a wall-mounted sink but it became tragically clear that it was not going to work (for about seven different unforseen reasons). We went with Sink Plan II, the Ikea Lillangen, which though it was my favorite sink, I didn’t pick it originally because I worried the Mod would clash with the Ye Olde. But it seems to work surprisingly well. And it’s strong enough for Ronin to hang from like a jungle gym, her favorite bathroom activity.

Moving around the bathroom… The toilet and Ralph, the glowy night-light thing that we’ve kept in the bathroom even since the rat incident.

Yep, another shot of the toilet.

Closet we built into that useless and weird corner nook. Voila: no longer useless or weird! This is Ronin’s favorite place to hide when we play hide-and-seek. She usually comes into the bathroom while we are brushing our teeth or whatever, spies the closet and climbs inside, then has the bright idea: HEYMAMAMAMA!!! Let’s play hide and seek! I’ll be the hider and you count! I start counting and she closes the door and giggles madly. Will I ever be able to find her?

Um, still no shelves yet though. So actually kind of useless.

The tub! I used white subway tile with a line of 1″ glass multi-colored blue guys just to be superfancy. And also so you can see exactly any deviation from the level in my tiling. Which didn’t happen of course. We also broke down and had a guy come and refinish our tub. It pretty much gleams. I had thought I would get some amazing shower curtain to complete the look, but couldn’t actually think of what to get, so we are still using the curtain from the old house. I discovered that I really don’t have strong feelings for shower curtains.

The other direction, Ronin’s bath toys, shampoo, etc.

The door. Still haven’t painted the trim yet and the doorknob/lock/whatsit is all jimmied up. This will be fixed probably never.

And lastly, the medicine cabinet. If you remember, the old one was unacceptable and all new ones were ugly. So I made this one from scratch. I found the old beveled mirror at the salvage place and built the box for it. The box is absolutely square down to the mm, but the door was not, as I later discovered, and required much planing and foul language to make fit in the end. It’s a wonder I managed to finish the touch-up paint after all the drama.

We also got the porcelain light fixture at the salvage place. The picture on the wall is something Joshua has been hauling around with him since before we met; it’s been on our bathroom wall in every apartment and house we’ve ever lived in. However, it always used to hang sideways (just because the mounting hardware was on that side); we only for the first time adjusted it so that it hangs right-side-up. The jury is still out as to which orientation we prefer.

Inside the cabinet! I built little shelves to fit with the things I wanted to put in the cabinet (e.g., tall enough to accommodate the electric toothbrush, etc.).

Time to start ripping up the kitchen. Or should I build my studio first?

Cheyenne Weil, Joshua Coxwell