Knob and Tube Wiring

IMG_8493In the last few years of my home-ownership, I have discovered 2 things I would change if I could go back in time and make different decisions. The first mistake, that seemed absolutely correct at the time, was putting down that horrible black ground cover underneath the mulch that was all around my deck. Why was there mulch all around my deck? Because my deck is several feet off the ground, and I envisioned active children climbing about and falling. I wanted a nice soft cushion (or comparatively soft) in case of someone falling off the railing. (Always plan for the worst-case scenario.) The irony is that the mulch disintegrated, became dirt, became weeds, became a few inches deep of landscaping I don’t want. I tried to plant a morning glory and could not figure out why I could not dig more deeply. Upon closer inspection I found the black fabric. I had to take a scissors and hack away at it to create an opening wide enough for the plant and dig down so the roots could extend. I’ve hit the same issue with everything else I have tried to plant in the back. I will NEVER use black fabric again.

IMG_8507I was born in an old town – here since before 1776. My parents’ house was not that old, but it wasn’t new. It must have been built back in the 1930s or so. At that time gas lights were out and the new fangled electricity was in. And you got your electricity through your house with knob and tube wiring. We never had an issue with electricity in that house. Over time my father had the main panel upgraded from those little round glass thingies (fuses?) to circuit breakers, added a subpanel, but all of that was hooked to the K&T and everything was fine. We bought our house in the same town over 30 years ago and knew that there was K&T. Our homeowners insurance company knew there was K&T and we got insurance with no problem. We too have upgraded our panel, added a subpanel, rewired to modern standards whenever we had any electrical work done, but the core of the original house still has K&T. Even in places where we bypassed the K&T it was often left in place, disconnected, because of the mess and inconvenience of removing it. Let me also point out that the core of the house has plaster walls, not sheet rock. That’s just how things were done in those days.

Flash forward to selling our parents’ house 3 years ago. We learned then that we would have to rip apart the (plaster) walls and remove and replace all of the K&T because any new homeowner would not be able to get insurance on the house with K&T in existence. Yes, read that again. A perfectly working, reliable electrical system that never failed is uninsurable. I think one estimate we got was $10k to do the work. We couldn’t even find anyone to call us back with a solid estimate.

IMG_8508Asbestos. Did I forget to tell you about asbestos? All the hot water pipes way back when were wrapped in asbestos. When I was a teenager having parties in the basement, Daddy had wrapped red tape around the white asbestos so that people would not hit their heads (it was a low ceiling). My father, may his memory be for a blessing, was oh so smart. Daddy (wrongfully) removed most of the asbestos in HIS house by cutting it off himself (wearing a little cloth face mask) and bagging it up and tossing it in the garbage. But there was still some left. When we bought OUR house, of course there was asbestos. I’d grown up with asbestos, so what. At that time an ACCEPTED TREATMENT was to wrap the pipes with something such as heavy-duty aluminum foil, sealing them up completely. My husband donned his little respirator and dutifully wrapped every single pipe he could reach, wrapping them with the heavy-duty foil and miles of duct tape. We can’t sell the house with that either.

IMG_8504Knowing all this now, I’d have ripped apart my house before I moved in, and upgraded all the electrical (which I couldn’t have afforded – not the electrical part, not the repairing the ripped apart walls and ceilings) and had the asbestos removed “by professionals”. Maybe I’d have even removed the zillion layers of flooring you can see under the kitchen radiator. Of course all the horrible wallpaper would have been dealt with then too. As it stands now, I plan to burn my house to the ground before I’m ready to sell. Then no one can give me grief about my pipes, my electricity, my probably-not-current-grade water pipes and I can just sell a plot of land. It will cut down on a lot of inspections. And think how easy it will be to til that plot and rip up the stupid black fabric if there is no house in the way.

We all have fantasies……

Two out of Three

patient noirIt seems most of you are concerned about the same thing we are: the cats! Tuesday was a very low profile for all 3 cats. BC is the least stressed. She always tended to spend a lot of time upstairs, she has always slept with me and she likes to hang out with my husband when he plays his video game. I’ve even toyed with the idea of letting her loose when there are no workmen because she will come to me if I call. My husband is very opposed to that idea and I do agree with him. Just think of Charlie getting sealed into the wall. I often come up the stairs, look through the door, and see BC waiting patiently for me to arrive.

GC expressing an opinionGC is a bit neurotic but also mellow. We knew from day one that she would be the “couch potato” cat. She can be reasonable if you overlook the known quirks. I was also sure she would come around quickly. She has indeed settled into the routine quite nicely. Last night and this morning she had multiple helpings of her wet food (she’s allowed all she can eat). I’ve avoided serving the rejected flavor from Monday night. GC even walks about and lets us pet her, and doesn’t flinch away. I sat reading in a chair upstairs last night and she curled about my legs, allowing me to reach down to scratch and pet. GC will NEVER do anything as reasonable as pick a convenient spot for cuddling. Her favorite spot is on the stair landing, where we will sit at times to deal with footwear, and she will get behind us on the landing and bump us with her head. If we turn around to LOOK at her while we pet, she moves away. No, no, it MUST be uncomfortable for us for it to be good for her. 🙂 I’ve included a picture of her expressing her opinion on the “upstairs situation”.

breakfastWC is not happy. I was reading last night and looked up to see WC sitting in the room, staring at me. I called her by name, said hello, asked how she was. She skewered me with a glare and turned and walked out and went back under the bed. She’d only emerged, apparently, to make sure I knew she was not happy and she blamed me for everything. I guess she’s been in touch with Honour’s cats. I managed to get her to eat a nibble of wet food yesterday by moving it into the bedroom near the bed (not really where I want their food).

The elusive WCThis morning I woke to the sound of mews and meows and peeps. All 3 of them were in the food room. WC was near the water fountain, so I know she knows where it is. She just is not going to give me the relief of seeing her drink. GC and BC are not so stubborn. Everyone ate breakfast today, GC and BC having multiple portions. WC still refused to stay in the food room for breakfast, but i did get her to come to the bedroom doorway at least to eat there. Getting closer….

I appreciate all the advice and suggestions I’ve been receiving about caring for the cats and symptoms of stress/illness. Even for a cat as nonchalant as BC, this is a stress to the system. Heck, it’s a real stress to ME and *I* know what is happening. My stomach is not so happy today. Again, I haven’t observed any activity in the litter room myself, but we have found signs of usage. 🙂 You can see the daily collection in the photo.output I have seen BC and GC wandering out of there also. I said to my husband that I was waiting to discover that WC has been urinating in our bedroom, and he said calmly ‘so we’ll pull up the carpet’. See? For us it IS all about the cats.

Anyway, I’m happy to report that on Day 3 of The Great Incarceration, 2 of 3 cats seem to have adjusted and there have been sightings of the 3rd. I’m sure by the time the construction is over they will have forgotten there is a downstairs. Hah!

drinkingFootnote: Some of you may know how relaxed my husband and I have always been about fixing things up, or renovating. I’ve mentioned that in this blog, too. I feel I must point out that the carpeting that shows up in the upstairs is NOT carpeting that we selected. 🙂 It was in the house 34 years ago when we bought the house and, well, we just never did anything about changing it. It was fairly new, in good condition, clean, and who cared anyway. But as I look at the photos I realized I don’t want credit for the rugs. 🙂

It Has Begun

IMG_8417Although the workmen are MUCH quieter than I had expected, I see no sign of any catabitation upstairs. I have refrained from looking under the bed because I suspect that will be just one more upset for WC, if not for all of them.

Everything has been removed that needed to be removed. The refrigerator and the oak cabinet are both in the dining room AND fully functional. 🙂 Even better, right? A few more boxes needed to migrate into the living room in order to open the refrigerator door but I’ll sort them out later.

IMG_8478There are 3 doorways with trim in the kitchen. Two of those doorways have the original chestnut trim. You can’t get chestnut anymore because of the chestnut tree blight originally diagnosed in the early 1900s. We requested that the workmen preserve and reuse that trim. I was quite happy to see how carefully they were removing it.

I was planning to toss the stove but it pains me too much to throw away something that is working fine when I know that someone out there could use a good working stove for free. My sister has kindly volunteered to help me out with posting the stove to the local swap meet board. I’m also second-guessing myself about the dishwasher, which I love and planned to put back in the kitchen. It’s 4-5 years old, a Bosch, and it’s great. But the more I think about it, the more I wonder if I’m being penny-wise but pound-foolish. I’m wondering how well it will function after being disconnected, moved, spending several weeks in the garage, and then moved again. *grin* I guess if I’m NOT spending $3400 on the faucet (I did NOT miss a decimal on that price) I could get a new dishwasher.

IMG_8419There is plastic sheeting up on the doorways to the front hall and dining room (think chestnut trim) so I can’t get a good look at what’s not there. I’m fairly certain I no longer have a finished ceiling. 🙂 I did get a few shots as the walls came down. Somewhere I have a photo that shows the wallpaper that was up when we moved into the house. It was truly awful. It might have been that wallpaper alone that caused us to do the addition on the house a mere 8 years or so after we moved in. Imagine my surprise when I saw that there was even older wallpaper buried behind the walls (I wonder why there was wall in front of the wall paper). I can’t say that I like this ‘new’ wallpaper very much but as unbelievable as you may find this – it’s better than what we lived with for years. 🙂

I really like this crew. They are friendly, they are polite, they are cheerful and they answer questions. IMG_8477Normally I like to watch and ask questions and learn, but I decided this time I’d stay as far away as possible and let them do their thing. I’m hanging out in the sunroom. I’d normally have taken today as a vacation day from work because I knew I’d be as distracted and as stressed as I am, but I have a major project underway and I need to be accessible, even if I can’t focus on my own, without a specific question/request.

The next step was supposed to be the framing (okay, I confess – I have NO idea what that really means) but Don came over to tell me that he thinks he needs to bring in the electrician and plumber first, because “there are pipes and wires all over the place”. *laughing* Well, I DID warn Don and Manny that once they opened the walls and floor and ceiling not to expect anything standard. I think everything in this house was built Rube Goldberg-style.

IMG_8480For the moment quiet has settled on the house as it’s lunch hour. That meant I could go through the basement door to see what’s been happening behind the plastic. Wow. Amazing how quickly it all comes down. By the time they left all the walls and ceilings were down. They vacuumed up the dust, put down carpeting for us to make it from the front hall to the deck safely, and promised to come back tomorrow to rip up the floor.

Dinnertime brought out BC and GC, but I have not seen WC since this morning, before the noise and vibrations. I asked my husband to look under the bed to see if she was still breathing. Poor WC. Life is so stressful for her. GC did eat her dinner but stopped after one helping, instead of her more customary three. Maybe things will be more ‘normal’ (feed me feed me feed me!!!!!!) for breakfast tomorrow.IMG_8486 (1)

A Last Look

IMG_8403We are as ready as possible. The Great Incarceration has begun. 2 of the prisoners walked in of their own volition; one was betrayed in her belief that she was getting petted but seized and brought up the stairs and deposited behind the door.

We have moved everything moveable out of the kitchen and breakfast room. Items are tagged indicating if they are to be saved and stored in the garage or saved and stored in the dining room. The dining room is packed with items yet we expect to have both the refrigerator and my kitchen cabinet/table moved in there as well. I must have done a decent job packing items in clear boxes and organizing groups because my husband went looking for something on his own and found it. 🙂

IMG_8404My basement is impassable with items that have been bagged and boxed for our congregation’s huge rummage sale in the summer.

The garage is reorganized to allow space for a dishwasher and table and 2 ceiling fans/lights and the microwave (rummage sale for most of that). The stove is being trashed. The doors are being trashed. I do feel a bit guilty about that but there is only so much I can deal with getting to the rummage sale.

IMG_8406Of the 3 prisoners, BC is upset only when I leave her on her side of the door and go downstairs. BC has had her dinner, also munched on the dry food and I believe may have availed herself of the litter facilities. WC has been under the bed for hours. She emerges to meow loudly but if I talk to her or look at her she goes back under the bed. I don’t think she’s pleased. GC has emerged and joined BC and I in the food room (I incarcerated myself for awhile to read there, hoping it might prove that it was safe territory). She allowed herself to be petted, ate some dry food, but scorned her wet food twice. I’m not sure if that’s because she’s decided this flavor is not suitable for this location, or if it’s simply too stressful to eat under these circumstances. I’m willing to bet that come breakfast time tomorrow, GC will be able to eat.

IMG_8410The only troubling note in all of this is the lack of a phone call from my contractor. When I spoke with them on Wednesday we talked about Tuesday being demo-day, but Don would call me at the end of the week to confirm. Don has NOT called. It really makes no huge difference if demo-day happens Wednesday instead of tomorrow, but I am very ready for this to begin already. The sooner we start, the sooner it’s done.

I wonder if I’ll sleep tonight…..

A Last Hurrah

kitchen stove dining room doorLast night we threw our last party with our old kitchen. It was Memorial Day weekend, always a great time to throw a BBQ. We had several reasons, however, to throw a party. Our wonderful next-door neighbors are moving down (back) to Florida. They will be gone by mid-June. All of us in the neighborhood are heart-broken that they are leaving. We love them, we’ve had such good times together, it was a wonderful, wonderful relationship. I decided that we needed to do a good, fun send-off to remind them how much they like us all and that they would need to come back and visit. (I already have a promise of a return for our Passover seder. 🙂 ) When I first proposed the Bye-bye BBQ I thought that we’d have already lost our kitchen – that we’d be doing this kitchen-free. I’m very happy that we still had a kitchen to do food preparation.

Kitchen sink door to basementThat was the second “last hurrah” – bye-bye to the kitchen. For 34 years we’ve been entertaining, throwing parties, feeding people all from this kitchen and breakfast room. Okay – I’m exaggerating. The breakfast room and deck are only 28 years old. Putting that addition on the house was a true life changer. When we do BBQs, drinks and appetizers are out on the deck and the dinner selections are in the breakfast room. I probably should have taken some pictures of that last night – we had a MOUNTAIN of ribs. 🙂 And LOTS of non-meat sides because we have a fair number of vegetarians in our gathering.

view from breakfast room to front hallYet another reason for the BBQ was my brother-in-law’s birthday. He, like our guests of honor neighbors, is carnivorous so we decided on beef ribs. My sister has a membership in a fantastic warehouse called “Restaurant Depot”. It has every and anything a restaurant/food vendor would want/need. My brother-in-law and I went there on Friday to get the ribs. It’s probably not a good idea to let the 2 of us do this sort of adventure without a chaperone because we both believe that more food is better. No – more than more. We came home with about 30 pounds of beef ribs. But that’s fine, because in 3 days, we’re not going to have a kitchen, no stove, and we’re going to still need to eat. Leftovers!!!! I know some people HATE leftovers but I love them. Leftovers mean I don’t have to cook or prepare something. My husband is the real chef in the family (I bake) and he did a great dry rub on the ribs. For good measure we tossed in some chicken dogs and veggie burgers. view from breakfast room doorwayWe had sugar free cheesecake and sugar free pound cake with fresh fruit and whipped cream for those needing SF, and we had sugar full cheesecake and sugar full ice cream cake for those wanting that good old sugar hit. The appetizers were delicious also. I’ll also give a little mention to the fact that I nearly lost my husband last night. As in permanently. One of my guests brought a home-made keto dessert (she’s very big on all sorts of healthy diets) and I’m not really sure what these things were, but they were sugar free. So she gave 2 to my husband who, of course, ate them. I only found out after the fact when I heard her describing the ingredients which included macadamia nuts. I said – don’t give any to him because he is highly allergic to macadamia nuts. Which is when I heard he’d already eaten them. Everyone joked about it and teased him and her, but the truth is – he was somewhat sick from them last night. 2 little tiny doses but enough for him to have a reaction. :/

I originally planned to do this party today, but as I write this post, rain is thundering down outside, and our phones periodically beep with emergency alert notices about flash flooding. The weather forecasters got all of that right because that was the forecast they were giving a week ago, which is when I said better move the party to Saturday night.

breakfast room table pots and pans closetEighteen of us on the deck – chairs and space enough for everyone, although I will admit there was a tight squeeze in one corner. I had the chance to show everyone the plans for the renovation, and got to show off the now-famous upstairs hall door (you remember – an essential piece for The Great Incarceration). We’ve decided on the faucet for the kitchen sink (somewhat steampunky) and I got to show pictures of that as well. Plus the really amazing steampunk faucet we are NOT getting. 🙂 It’s going to be a huge change.

I’m going to miss my kitchen. I know that many people look at my kitchen and go “ugh”. It’s small, old, kitschy, loud. But I do love it. I love the pink and yellow and bright and the art work and the decorations. I no longer love the floor (28 years ago) or the stove (15 years ago) and I hate that the cabinets and drawers don’t work properly. I’m not loving the current ant invasion, either. Despite all its flaws, when it’s clean and bright, it makes me smile. It makes me happy. I’ve been worried about getting a new, modern, soulless kitchen. I think we’ve made some good choices so that although we will have a new modern kitchen, it shouldn’t be soulless. Time will tell.

breakfast room cat treeToday, however, is designated as “pack up the kitchen and breakfast room day”. Tomorrow is probably the same thing. We are working out a plan for how/when to move cat paraphernalia upstairs in preparation for The Great Incarceration. We are trying to determine in advance where we will put all the boxed up kitchen ‘stuff’. We have a lot of stuff. Where did all this stuff come from? Do we NEED all this stuff????

Tick tock, tick tock….. Less than 48 hours til the wrecking crew arrives…..

Artistic Confidence

potteryAre you creative? Are you artistic? Do you have an eye for balancing an image? My friend, the Fundy Migrant, 🙂 is taking a course on photography. I’ve always thought she took great pictures but I do see her skill growing rapidly. I think that supports the credo “Practice Makes Perfect”. Or at least leads to improvement. Those of you who only know her as the Fundy Migrant or “that woman” don’t know of her long history of creativity, but you will learn. My personal favorite, of course, were the Drama Dolls. And my very own special Drama Doll. But I digress (as usual). Because this post isn’t about her but about me (as usual). *grin*

I am very conflicted when I think about my artistic abilities. On the one hand, I think I’m creative. I’ve made and sold my own pottery (for real money to people who didn’t know me).dining room palette I think I have a good eye for my gardens. I learned to make virtual trees (thank you Fundy Migrant) and I learned to script so items I created would move. I made virtual hair which people wanted. I bake well also – ask my brother-in-law about my sugar free rugelach. On the other hand, I was NOT considered the artistic member of my family. Museums exhaust me mentally long before physical fatigue sets in. I passed up visiting Florence to go back to spend more time in Rome. You might remember a posting about a picture in our family home – the picture that my mother declared separated those with an artistic eye from those without. I loathed that picture. So you know where I was slotted on the spectrum. 🙂

I have been very slow to renovate my house. The house is nearly 100 years old. We’ve been there 34 years. We still have the original kitchen cabinets, kitchen counter, upstairs carpeting, and upstairs bathroom. For most people of my acquaintance, this is little short of heresy. Almost taboo. We did an addition to the house. We repainted the kitchen and changed the lights, and we’ve done other repairs and such over the years. tropical ceiling fanBut other than the addition, which we did nearly 30 years ago, I’ve not done anything BIG. Several years ago it was time to repaint the living room and dining room and my big-breakout designer action was to paint the walls something other than WHITE. I used TWO strong colors in the dining room, and the ceiling in the dining room was the same faint pink-overtones of white that were the walls in the living room. I loved it. I remember my mother making “a face” at the end result. I, however, felt vindicated and still love my palette to this day.

Last year about this time we needed a new chandelier for the dining room. While we were at the lighting store, I saw a ceiling fan that captured my heart. It had 5 blades, shaped like fat rubber tree leaves. We bought it and replaced the ceiling fan in the sunroom. I thought no more about it until my niece suggested that I make the sunroom my “beach getaway” room, my own little tropics in NJ. I’d never considered redoing an entire room with a theme. I know OTHER people do these things, but I never considered it. But the suggestion took root, especially when my niece gave me the color palette she thought I’d like. I redid the entire room, piece by piece, idea by idea, slowly but surely. Everything was done except…. except…. I wanted a big seascape above the windows across from my reading chair. ocean viewI didn’t find what I wanted at craft shows or online. I found wallpaper, however, that triggered some ideas. The wall is mostly windows. I wanted something more “ocean, beach” for the little bit of wall that remained. I bought wallpaper that looked like a weathered ocean fence, and a border that was ocean waves, sand dunes with beach grass and blue sky. I told folks that I was going to put the fencing down the wall and across the top of the wall above the windows, then put the border on top of that so it would look like I was looking out over the fence to the ocean. The reactions I received ranged from a slightly skeptical look to “that’s ridiculous, the ocean isn’t ABOVE the windows”. It looks great. I love it. It’s everything I wanted. People who see it love it too (okay, they might be humoring me but I don’t care. *I* LOVE it.)

Ahuva's cornerI’m feeling much more confident about my ability to design a room and pull the various pieces together. I have much more faith in my taste in furnishings and color and concept. That is a very good thing, too. Because in 2 weeks we will gut our entire kitchen, widen a doorway, and redo the kitchen we have had for 34 years. Big changes are coming….