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Posts Tagged ‘Sunset’

Diary #658

One of my reasons for building an addition onto my house is to make it easier to host company; ever since I was very young I’ve always wanted a place big enough for guests to visit without being cramped.  And though I’ve never been wealthy enough to buy such a place, I have a lifetime of experience at stretching my money to buy things most people would never have imagined I could afford, and stubborn enough to do what was necessary to modify it to my liking.  And even though I’m not yet completely done, the cottages have been habitable for a year and a half now, and a number of friends and friends of friends have enjoyed our hospitality.  At holidays it’s wonderful to be able to say, “You needn’t drive back to Seattle tonight, just stay in the guest cottage”, and when friends have wanted to just get away from the city for a few days, I can make that available for them.  There’s a quiet, serene energy here at Sunset which is very conducive to such retreats; animals seem especially sensitive to it.  I’ve seen nervous dogs calm down marvelously within hours of arrival; last weekend we dog-sat for a friend, and though she’s normally a fairly high-strung animal she spent most of her time just lounging around with our Annie.  Some of it is just the ambiance of the place itself, which I felt the first time I set foot here six years ago.  But part of it, I think, is due to my own influence; for the first time in many years, I really feel completely at home.  And for what may be the first time in my life, my prevailing mood while in residence here is one of peace and contentment.

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Annex 95

Though there are still some construction tasks to finish in the annex project, Jae has forged ahead with decorating, especially in areas where there is little or no construction left to do.  The greenery along the back wall was actually done in the autumn, but at the time I was busy sharing pictures of the bathroom project so I decided to wait; besides, the wall along the ramp was still bare OSB.  But a week ago today she went into town and brought back panels in the design we agreed on, and on Saturday I installed them.  So here’s what it looks like now; there are still a few touches to come, but the general look isn’t going to change.  When she first suggested the artificial boxwood she thought she might have to sell me on the idea, but I immediately realized it would look something like a cloister and accentuate the indoor/outdoor effect of the atrium and cottages.  Nor was I wrong; the longer I live with it, the more I like it.  She says she’s considering a few more sections like this one around the atrium, and I’m good with that; she’s been decorating my spaces for 8 years now, and though I’ve occasionally had to rein in her wilder fancies, she hasn’t disappointed me yet.

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Diary #657

Grace’s cat Aeryn will turn 21 in March, and though she’s not on her last legs yet, she definitely has her share of the problems of age.  She has arthritis and cataracts, doesn’t hear too well, and appears to be suffering the feline equivalent of dementia; she spends a lot of time wandering around the house yowling, and the only thing that seems to calm her is a THC concentrate Grace makes for her and puts into her food.  The only food she won’t quickly throw up is pate-style cat food, and even then we need to water it down somewhat because she hasn’t got many of her teeth left.  Of course, that doesn’t stop her from trying to eat everyone else’s food (including the dogs’ and humans’) and then, predictably, throwing up.  She also seems to have recently lost the ability to find the litterbox, which means finding turds and puddles in random places (but most often on the stair landing) has become a daily occurrence of late.  So after shampooing the rug three times in one week, I told Grace we needed to do something.  I pulled Cicero’s piglet-pen out of the garage and set it up in the living room near the heater; I put in pee-pads, a litterbox, her food & water bowls, and a pillow, and placed Aeryn inside.  We were both concerned she wouldn’t like being in a cage, even a large and comfortable one, but to our relief she seems to be quite happy with the arrangement.  Instead of spending her days wandering around the house, crying like a lost soul, she’s quietly napping on her pillow; the only time she cries is when her bowl is empty, and now that the other animals can’t get to it that only happens about once a day.  Even when Grace opened the cage door so she could come out for a while, she preferred to stay inside, and when Grace held her so I could clean the cage, she complained until we put her back.  So now I’m kicking myself for not thinking of this earlier; I guess she sees the cage not as a prison, but a safe little sanctuary from a world that has become just too big and confusing.

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Annex 94

After that double power outage we had around Christmas, I was rather peeved at the gas company for failing to connect my new heater in November or early December as they were supposed to (not to mention failing to return my calls about the delay).  So a month ago today I called again and happened to get the technician himself on the phone.  He apologized profusely for mislaying my paperwork, and volunteered to make room in his schedule to get us connected as soon as possible.  That was Monday, January 9th, and as you can see it’s now all hooked up and running perfectly.  It was a few days before we could switch the water system over to the new heater, but we got it done two weeks ago today and I’m very pleased with it; the temperature range is basically the same as the electric, but the temperature doesn’t fluctuate as much, so one needn’t fiddle with it throughout the duration of the shower.  I don’t think I’m going to save any money in the log run; Dr. Quest crunched the numbers for me and it looks too close to call, plus it cost twice as much to have the new line run and connected as the heater itself cost.  But it’s going to be worth it to have hot water the next time the power goes out.  Once we got it all connected I made an insulated box to go over the works, but I didn’t include it in this picture because it’s pretty featureless (it’s just plywood with a layer of the same styrofoam insulation I used for the bathroom ceiling).  Once I install some skirting on the north side, that will help prevent heat loss as well, and next winter the wood-burning stove will keep the atrium at least temperate, if not actually warm.

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Diary #656

Having been raised in Louisiana, I know that a very damp environment comes with its own special problems, but for some reason it did not occur to me that building supply stores in such an area might nonetheless carry products unsuited to that environment.  So when I bought two pre-hung doors for the atrium, I never thought the frames would swell so much in damp weather that opening and closing them would require so much effort that it’s practically a workout.  Of the two doors I hung myself, the southwest corner door sticks a little and the bathroom door still operates as smoothly as ever, which I guess should teach me a lesson about trusting a corporation over my own abilities.  Anyhow, when I asked Grace what could be done about the problem, she said she’d have to plane the frames down a bit so they wouldn’t bind; she picked out this power planer and I added it to my Amazon wishlist, where it was seen the very next day by one of my generous gentlemen and here it is!  We plan to use it this week, and then maybe I won’t have to hurt my hands trying to open the doors or my shoulder trying to close them.  So hurray for Grace!  And hurray for Amazon!  And hurray for generous gentlemen!  And a big raspberry for Home Depot.

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Annex 93

I wasn’t sure how I was going to put a ceiling in the new bathroom, until I happened to come across a piece of this styrofoam insulation and realized it was exactly the material I wanted.  Because it’s so light all I needed to do was cut the sheets to fit with a hot knife, then use trim boards to support it.  The polystyrene keeps heat in the room to ensure comfort during the cold months, and the shiny foil backing reflects the light I installed above the mirror so as to brighten the whole room.  I was also able to use smaller pieces of the same stuff in the ceiling of the shower, though in that case I’ll need to use rigid plastic panels to keep it in place.  But there’s another improvement you can’t see which I’m especially happy about.  See that open gap which runs clear across the room above the cupboard doors?  That’s the edge of the original house roof, and there has been a persistent drip during heavy rain which I’ve been fighting for over a year; I’ve finally managed to close it off with liberal use of a rubber sealant product (Flex Seal), so now the floor stays dry even in the heaviest rain.  The lavatory still needs connecting and there’s decorating to be done, but all in all the room is nearly finished, and I’m pretty satisfied with how it has turned out.

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Diary #655

As I wrote last week, I’m trying to give myself permission to get back to the projects slowly now that Christmas is over; I’m thinking of it as a kind of trial run for next winter, when I want to put any big projects on hiatus for about four months and restrict myself to normal chores, holiday stuff, writing, and any emergencies or semi-emergencies that might arise.  When I look at that list I have to smirk at myself a bit, because it’s already as much as many people consider normal work; the writing and its attendant research & upkeep occupy 4-6 hours of every day, and regular chores (including meal prep) are another ≈ 2 hours.  On a typical day I’m occupied with set tasks (including stuff like eating and personal hygiene) from about 9 AM to 9 PM, and in the summer I’m doing well to stop by 10 PM.  Even on Sundays the only break in the pace is that the only blog writing I do is this weekly diary, and in summer that’s not always true because I need to catch up on whatever writing got crowded out of its proper place earlier in the week due to the longer summer days and the extra work that comes with them.  So it’s kind of a big deal that I’m also trying to make myself take Sundays “off” (ie, only the minimum writing plus basic chores and pressing stuff, except the weeks I need to drive into Seattle on Sunday for Monday appointments); once the annex project is basically done and I can get my financial situation a little more stable, I should be able to swing light duty on Sundays and the 12 days of Christmas, plus no big projects in winter, without too much guilt.  After all, even roses need a little time off to recharge.

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Diary #654

Since Friday was Little Christmas, I took the decorations down and put them away; next, the tree went out to the fence, where we stack brush and the like to keep naughty animals from trying to go under.  Then it’s vacuuming up all the remaining needles, and mopping the floor before finally moving the table back to its normal angle, and the living room was back to the way it looks for 7/8 of the year.  De-Yuling the house is always just a little sad, but this year it felt a bit more so than usual; I actually managed to take it relatively easy during the holiday this year, so I suppose part of me is reluctant to go back to the usual level of activity.  But that’s really a good thing because, as everyone in my life is constantly reminding me, I work much too hard anyway.  I still have far too much to do on the annex project to just blow it off for the rest of the winter, but I’n not going to drive myself like I did last winter; I can keep that promise pretty easily because I’m not trying to get a roof in place or pig-proof a fence.  The remaining tasks for the annex are mostly small indoor ones: I need to finish the bathroom; install the wood-burning stove; help Jae with the decor; plane down several door frames so they don’t stick when the wood swells in wet weather; fix a small leak in the hot tub plumbing; close up a few gaps where rain blows in under the eaves; finish up the vestibule outside the bathroom; seal the shop roof and the annex roof join with Durabak; finish the main atrium floor and the lower deck; and a number of other similar tasks.  But if that sounds like a lot to you, take a look back at the diaries and annex columns for the first few months of last year and you’ll see it’s small potatoes in comparison; even at a more leisurely pace, I don’t think I’ll have trouble getting the entire project wrapped up before my birthday this year.  And then next winter, I’ll be able to relax and enjoy the thing without feeling as though I owe myself a full afternoon of work every day.

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Diary #653

I’ve been really lazy since recovering from the flu.  Of course I mean lazy by Maggie standards, which means I’ve still done all my chores and a lot of holiday cooking, and even did a little work on the new bathroom.  But I’ve used the short days and monsoon rains as excuses to avoid doing a number of things I probably could’ve done, and I feel surprisingly OK about that.  About two years ago I decided that November through February aren’t conducive to major projects around here, and that going forward I would not try to schedule anything requiring large amounts of outdoor time due to the rain, cold, and gloom.  But then we got very little done on the annex in the summer of 2021, which meant I felt compelled to make up for it over the following winter; on top of that, I had to improve my fencing in order to keep Cicero from going over to the neighbors’ every day.  If you’re a regular reader, you already know that I habitually push myself much too hard, and I think it really caught up with me in the past few months; given that, and the fact that I had already designated the monsoon season as off-time, I must’ve unconsciously given myself permission to relax a bit more than usual.  So on New Year’s Eve I set out a small spread of meat, cheese, crackers and cookies, made myself a glass of strongly-spiked eggnog, took enough edibles to feel really good about the world, and put on some concert videos; here’s hoping that heralds a much more relaxed, low-stress 2023 for me.

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Diary #652

We’ve got a certain routine on holidays; some friends who don’t have local family come out for the feast, and we eat, drink, and generally make merry.  This time it rained all day on Christmas, but we were snug in the house and the atrium roof was wonderful; despite the torrential downpour, people were able to come and go between the main house and the cottages completely dry, and though the new bathroom is still incomplete the toilet is functional, the door works, and there’s light and a heater.  If only the damned gas company had come to connect my new heater as they were supposed to do weeks ago, we wouldn’t even have been affected by the two long power outages (22nd-23rd and the morning of Boxing Day) at all, because the only major appliance the generator can’t handle is the electric water heater.  Ah, well, it still wasn’t remotely annoying enough to ruin an otherwise lovely Christmas, and next year we should have most of the bugs worked out of our backup systems.

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