Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Cheerful DIY-ing

     There hasn't been a stove for four days, nor water since early this morning. Furniture is piled up in the living room and porch, and my mother is now sleeping in the hallway. Projects have consumed the rest of the house. My father and I put up drywall in the living room while my mother is painting two bedrooms. The bathroom sink was removed days ago, and there is a large-ish hole that connects the bathroom and kitchen (i.e. there's no much privacy when you're in the bathroom).
     I am impressed with my parents' fortitude and stamina, and their good cheer. Although I now have guest rooms, they are not yet usable, so my parents tolerate makeshift beds in ramshackle rooms and my mother tells me how pleased she is that I have a house and how much fun we're all having. And in truth, it's not that bad. Yes, it'll be great when I have a stove again, and we're definitely making the return of running water a top priority. But we're all in good spirits, my father is having fun teaching me, and I'm having fun learning*. 

Some of what I've learned so far: plumbing isn't that scary any more. It used to involve soldering and precise measurements, but it doesn't have to. Because my dad is here and is awesome at working with copper pipe, we're doing some of that. But there are new products that make it relatively painless, and I think in the future I'd be able to do quite a bit of my own plumbing myself. How cool is that?

Monday, December 28, 2015

Novice plumber

     My father and I were at Home Depot for five hours today. This is quite possible the longest time I have ever spent shopping in one store, and most certainly the longest the two of us have ever shopped together. We hadn't planned on such a long trip, and were forced to turn to Home Depot's small selection of snacks for sustenance, so lunch was Coke and peanuts.
     When we were done, we had bought a $800 worth of tubing, connectors, drywall, paint, and tools. We haven't done any actual plumbing, but we have spent three days walking around my basement, looking at pipes, pulling out bits of wall to look at more pipes, and researching options. At the time my father suggested helping me replace all of my house's plumbing at Christmas, I was pleased that he wanted to help me, but I assumed I'd be pretty clueless. However, as we spend all this time researching and discussing, I'm feeling more comfortable. I'll always be less experienced than my father when it comes to home repair (as are 98% of people, I think), but by the time we're done, I think I'll feel comfortable doing smaller plumbing repairs on my own.
     Stay tuned for more scintillating plumbing posts...

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Lost and found

     I'm feeling pretty lucky this week. I lost my wallet on Friday while I was on the Metro. I couldn't tell if it it had fallen out of my bag or been stolen, but there I was, with no card to swipe so I could get off the train, and no money or credit cards. Alas, I am a veteran at replacing wallets: one was stolen in 2012 and last year one was lost. So I know the drill. I called the credit cards and within ten minutes had my accounts closed and new cards on their way. The next day, I ordered the rest of the new cards, transferred my metro balance to a new card, and mourned the loss of the cash and wallet. I keep a spare ID, credit card, and a bit of cash hidden at home, which are handy while the replacement cards arrive.
     But today my wallet came back to me! Some honest soul turned it into the lost and found, where I had filed a claim, and even left the cash in the wallet. The total loss was $20 for a replacement driver's license, which was needed in any case because I have a new address.
     I'm trying to devise a system to attach the wallet to any bag I'm using. Although it's a sample size of only n=2, I think we can say that I have a habit of losing my wallet, and need to figure out a way to prevent myself from doing it again.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

More home discoveries

     Today was an extra special project day, because it was the first one at my new house. I had decided that we would install two electrical outlets in the bathroom. There were none in there when I moved in, and I thought I needed one on the wall, for things like hair dryers and razors, and one under the sink, so I could recharge my electric toothbrush.
     As always, planning took a very long time. We scouted out pathways for the wire through the walls, discussed what parts we'd need, and just generally spent a long time staring at my bathroom fixtures. In the end, we installed the outlet shown here, just to the left of the existing light switch. I've opened up the mirrored cabinet so you can see the little discovery we made. N and I had looked at the odd strip inside the top of the cabinet, trying to figure out whether it was a storage device or perhaps used to have a light fixture attached. S had the brilliant idea to read the label, which said "Tap-a-line 120 V" and that's when we realized it was a string of outlets.
See? You can plug in an entire line of appliances, right next to each other. It's somewhat shocking that something like this was once allowed. It can't believe that this would be up to code today because you can cram a huge number of plugs on to one circuit, and the live parts of the circuit seem so exposed.
It still functions, though, so I'm planning to use it.
     In the other room, S the very-experienced-painter started working on the Blue Bedroom. I suppose I'll need to come up with a new name soon; it had blue walls and navy blue carpet when I bought the house. I've pulled up the carpet, and S began priming the walls. I'm guessing that it'll take a number of coats to cover up all that blue, but then the room will need to be christened again.

Friday, December 11, 2015


     I particularly enjoy the fact that I don't have to be a very dedicated tourist when I'm in San Francisco. My brother and his family have lived here for two years, and will likely live here for many more, so I don't feel a lot of pressure to make sure I hit every important landmark during each visit. Of course I've visited the Piers, the sea lions, and the Ghiradelli store, but since I know I'll be back at least once a year, I can always save something for the next trip.
     Since big cities are always crammed with interesting activities, I spent Thursday wandering around without a plan and stopping at whatever caught my eye. I'm a sucker for churches, so I spent an hour in the Saint Patrick's church, which was built for the Irish immigrants to the city. Then I happened upon the California Historical Society, which had great exhibit about the Panama Pacific International Exposition. This fair celebrated the completion of the Panama canal and the new connection between the West and East. It was attended by luminaries such as Laura Ingalls Wilder, Henry Ford, and the Liberty Bell (which traveled by train from Philadelphia), and it was seen as proof that San Francisco was recovering from its 1906 earthquake. I love this kind of history, and the exhibit did a great job explaining the importance of the fair to the city.
     To top it all off, my sister-in-law had a special treat for me that evening. They live near a theater, built in the 1941, that still has the original decor: murals of nymphs and airplanes on the wall, plush red velvet seats, and a curtain that closes after the movie had ended. We went to see a screening of White Christmas, which just happened to be free. Vintage and free, my two favorite things. 

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Gardens, formal and not-so

     I'm visiting San Francisco for a part-vacation, part-work trip. The first week is all vacation, visiting my brother's family and doing a bit of sightseeing. I used the excellent-but-slightly confusing public transportation system to get there - so far, I've encountered one subway system, two light rail systems, and one bus system. It took me a half an hour to find the right bus stop. Three times I saw the bus I wanted pass me by, but I couldn't figure out how to get on it. Luckily, that bus ran every seven minutes, so once I found the stop, I didn't have to wait long.
      I decided to spend my first day in Golden Gate Park, which is San Francisco's answer to New York City's Central Park. (It's a bit bigger than Central Park, actually, which is exactly what I'd expect from anything on the West Coast.) It takes days to see everything in the park, so I stuck to a few gardens, including the Japanese Tea Garden and the Botanical Gardens, which were both excellent. The Botanical Gardens happened to be free on the day I visited, so that made it just a little bit better in my book.
     All this time with plants made me think about my own garden. I certainly will never had a formal garden; my taste runs much more toward cottage gardens, which are full of informal, dense plantings, and mix vegetables and flowers. Wikipedia describes this style as depending "on grace and charm rather than grandeur and formal structure", which is a lovely turn of phrase, I think.
     My house came with small beds lining the back yard (back garden for those of you outside the U.S.). One length of the beds are just dirt, because the husband did the vegetable gardening, and one length of the beds are perennials, because the wife did the flower gardening. Next spring I plan to put in additional raised beds, for vegetables, but I'm looking forward to seeing what pops up in the perennial garden. I hope to plant a lot of my favorite flowers: roses, irises, hollyhocks, and gladioli are just a few that I'll probably add. I know there's already a lilac bush, and I transplanted the lavender from my last garden, and the rest will be surprises in the spring and summer.