Monday, August 29, 2011

In the Trenches: Progress

In the beginning, this was the side of the house.  The sidewalk had heaved upward, creating a stupid, funhouse-style tilt. 

After D smashed all the concrete
Drainage trench dug, dirt added, gravel on top of drainage pipe, fence missing

So we bought two red brick paving squares, wanting to see how we would like the look of a series of stepping stones as a concrete replacement.  I like them well enough.  We could just run to Lowe's and round out the space with five red brick pavers.  But we have already have all of these stones and bricks and rocks in the yard, courtesy of all of the owners before us who just piled them up and left them and/or buried them for us to find like treasure.  Yes, I am cheap, but also I can't abide the idea that they might end up going to waste, unable to fulfill their stony destiny. 

I'm also cheap.

Paver template
So I started to heft some of the pre-existing stone finds and mix and mess them up with the red brick pavers.  This is the pattern I thought wouldn't be bad.  I wanted to dig the dirt up and see what they would look like with just a half inch or so protruding from the ground (IE not enough sticking out to trip over, but enough so that the dirt won't continually overtake them).  But we haven't leveled it yet, so I'll have to be patient.  I think I'll end up with 2-1-3-1-2, rather than the 2-1-2-1-2 you see in the photo above.  The spacing's just not right.  Of course the surface isn't leveled yet.  I have just enough white sandstone bricks to do that.  Hopefully I don't drop one.  Fingers crossed.

In the meantime, the rest of the trench is getting dug and leveled.  This is not fun work.  This is what it looked like before.  With stumps. 

D ripped the stumps out with his spite and sheer manliness, or so he told me
This is what the space looks like now, with the drainage pipe half in and half out of the whole.  It's connected in a tunnel we made underneath the sidewalk in front of the side door.  We leveled this part of the trench, but....

This was the easy part

The trench curves underneath the sidewalk.  This is the second under-sidewalk-drain-tunnel that has been dug on the side of the house.   The earth is packed clay and roots, and its been terrible.  We began with the shovel, and then progressed with maddening slowness by twirling a trowel in the hole, but progress has become so abysmal that D ended up using the prybar to desperately try to scrape deeper and deeper under the sidewalk. I myself tried sinking the trowel into the clay and tapping it with the sledgehammer to get some penetration.  It's been slow going, and knuckle-scraping.


It seems that we've been stymied by this ridiculously huge root.  Which is two car lengths away from the nearest tree, and yet very shallow.  What is it doing here?!  We've yet to connect the two sides of the tunnel because we think the root curves around and is blocking any progress forward with the trowel.  D attacked it with a number of approaches and tools, even bent his hardened steel breaker bar, to no avail.  We gave up Sunday evening when the bugs chased us indoors. 

Enter your favorite wurty-durd here

 While we worked, one of the neighbors popped over to let us know that she was living underneath our porch.  Which is fine.  Ideal, really.
Startled the crap out of me, For a moment I thought she was Yuuki

I take this to mean no vermin under the deck.  She's totally tame, I clucked my tongue at her and she popped up like a daisy and rubber her face into my hand.  And the food I set there?  No real interest. 

Between the cat under the porch and the lazarus lizards in the front, I think we're all set!

Right in front of the solar light.  See him?  They're tough to photograph!

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Ale Fest!

We made some progress Saturday morning in the trenches at the side of the house.  And then rewarded ourselves by driving up to Dayton to take part in the Ale Fest.

This was my first time.  Veterans came better prepared, festooned with necklaces made of pretzels on a string like an edible lei.  Next year I'll be sporting one of my own.  

Well attended, laid back crowd

I enjoyed folks showing beer-love by sporting beer shirts.  Lots of punny names that made me laugh out loud.  I'd have taken more photos, but I was busy playing connoisseur (emphasis on "playing," because I am no beer scholar my friends, I just enjoy a frosty drink on occasion).  Next year D should wear his Kalik shirt, and I'll wear my Moerlein shirt.  Unless I have a new shirt next year, because I found a lot to love at the Ale Fest. 

Many varieties to try, a checklist might be helpful if you have a sharpie and a friend

There were tables under tents, generally one brewery per table.  You gave one of the tickets (received with your entry ticket) and they gave you a shot of beer. Some pourers were quite heavy-handed.  I needed a nap after awhile, as I am not a strong drinker.  But with the help of a giant pretzel with beer cheese I soldiered on and sampled some lovely brews that I hope to try again some day. 

Different tables, different brews
The Southern Tier Creme Brulee Stout was the talk of the Alefest.  People were giving it rave reviews, and I wish I could say I tried it.  Alas, we found it too late, they had run out 45 minutes earlier.  

Local love

Here's what I remember trying:

Flying Dog Dogtoberfest : Win
Belhaven Scottish Ale : Win 
Williams Brothers Fraoch Heather Ale : Win
Old Leghumper Porter : meh, middle of the road porter
Great Lakes Octoberfest :Very enjoyable, Win
Great Lakes Wright Pils:   bleh
Redhook : Clean and pleasant, Win
Fort Collins Red Banshee:  Wickedly dirty aftertaste, bleh
Fort Collins Chocolate Stout : meh, mediocre, not as good as Young's Chocolate Stout
Sour Apple Saison : Unpleasant in entirety, poured out into grass
Celis Raspberry Ale : Unpleasantly sweet, poured out into grass
Celis White Ale : Good
Christian Moerlein Barbarossa : Win
Harpoon Imperial Rye :  Over sweet, blehh

and my favorite of the day, Anderson Valley's Boont Amber Ale :
Anderson Valley Boont Amber Ale

 As an added bonus, saying the word "Boont" is fun when sober, even more so when intoxicated. 

I don't enjoy an inebriated, rowdy crowd.  This event wasn't like that at all.  It seemed to be flush with people who just enjoy a good beer.  So I felt right at home.  A good time with good people, I'll definitely do this one again!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Asbestos-Free for One Week

The truth is, I just couldn't find the photos to post them.  Because I couldn't find my camera.  Then I found my camera, and the photos weren't on them.  Where were the photos?  Then I remembered that I hadn't been able to find the camera after the asbestos was removed either.  All the photos were taken on my phone.  So they're all grainy and gritty.  But that lends realism to this otherwise glamorous coverage of our lavish estate. 

Floors were still wet.  Like the grid feel?

 Blehh.  At least its not toxic anymore.  Although you probably couldn't convince anyone breathing the air in this house that they weren't getting a chemical high.  The next step is coating the floors.  Epoxy or Paint.  I'm told that we shouldn't need something as tough/pricey as an epoxy because we're not going to be giving it the kind of wear a garage might see, dropping heavy tools onto the surface.  Hm.  But if its durable, doesn't that just mean we won't have to do it again?  That has appeal to me, definitely. 

This is more what the floor looks like now.  What the "X" is, I'm not sure I want to know...

The contractors' equipment scratched up the stairs leading into the basement.  Not that they looked fantastic before, but now they definitely have to be repainted. 


Also visible are the mineral deposits on the wall.  Yup.  Classy.

D discovers he has walked into my shot and tries to escape, to no avail
It's been a week and the solvent smell is still present when you walk in the door.  I think I'm going to try something tonight, maybe get some fans going down there or something.  D isn't sure we should coat the basement floor this weekend if there is still a lingering presence of the solvent on the floor.  I am inclined to agree.  This means that we juggle our plans a bit.  I think we just wash the floors this weekend, cover them with the carpet remnants, and move the crap back into the basement.  It will mean we'll have to coat the floor in stages when we finally get around to it, but we really can't wait.  As of this weekend we will have one week until the labor day event at our house.  Event with guests. We are out of time. 

PS: Among other things, I wanted to make this plum tart  if I got the chance this weekend.  I'm not sure that will happen.  Our basement plans looked dashed anyway, so I'm trying to talk D into a fun-packed Cincy Sunday.  The Cleopatra Exhibit is only open for about one more week, and also this Sunday is the fourth Sunday of the month, meaning its the day of the MainStrasse Antique Market Day

4th Sunday Mainstrasse Antiques

And Ale Fest in Dayton is this Saturday!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

A Needed Decompression

I can scarcely remember not having a seemingly interminable to-do list.  This weekend we’re going to coat the basement floor, to get rid of the icky gridwork left behind after the asbestos tile and mastic removal.  Then we can finally allow all of the junk to submerge back into the basement.  Hopefully we can enlist some help from D’s friends.  (Fingers crossed.)  

Before the house renovation we moved.  Before moving there was the home-buying.  Insurance scouting.  A dozen purchase contract revisions.  Inspectors Inspectors inspectors.  The wedding.  House-hunting.  Wedding planning.   These last two took a lot of time and research and cross-referencing.  Many assured me that I was enjoying these tasks and that they were "fun."  They were wrong.  It’s work.  I’m willing to work.  I have my moments as a go-getter!  But really my natural equilibrium is not so ambitious.  I am laid back.  Honest.  I’m just not as laid back as D.  So it has fallen to me to assume the mantle of pace-setter in our home.  Sometimes that’s ok.  And sometimes I just want to scream.  Being the captain of the ship isn’t all barnacles of fun.  Nor does the crew obey, let’s be honest.

Sometimes I don’t want projects.  The girl inside me stamps her foot.  Sometimes I want to read one of the many books on the shelf, purchased ages ago.  Sometimes I want to curl up in front of the XBOX with Yuuki.  I haven’t been able to pick up where I left off in Fallout New Vegas since before we bought the house.  Or Enslaved.  Or Left4Dead2.  At this point I’ll have to re-teach myself the controls again.  Sometimes I want to sketch or paint.  I can’t remember the last time I felt like I had time.  Trying to teach yourself Japanese black ink painting is something that requires both patience and time unless I can find a workshop down here in Cincy.  (Now there’s a thought!)  I have made a point of keeping dance a priority, I still don’t go on Thursdays in Cincinnati, where I live, I only go on Wednesdays, in Dayton, where I teach.  I’m practicing, though not pursuing.  This is a small difference, but still it makes me slightly sad.  Still, keeping it a priority has saved me from feeling like I never get out.  That’s sort of true.  I still sort of feel like I never get out.  

Of the many activities on the backburner, lately I had been idly mentioning getting back into yoga.  Yoga was so beneficial to me and my achey-breaky back after the car accident, but I just stopped making the time to go.  Started making excuses.  But I recently was kicking the idea around again.  It took awhile to find a yoga studio that isn’t either specifically geared to people who don’t have a day job, or specifically geared to people who like practicing yoga in a sauna.  This area of Cincy is hugely trended to hot-yoga.  I know, I know, people love the hot yoga.  It’s not for me.  My goal for my practice is now, first and foremost, to get back in touch with myself, to quiet my mind, and to stretch out this rickety body.  I don’t want to “challenge myself” or sweat into a deluge all over the place, slipping and flopping on my mat like a landed porpoise.  Maybe one day.  But right now I just want to devote an hour or so a week turning my eye inward.

Last night was my first foray into the Cincinnati yoga-sphere.  I haven’t maintained a proper practice, have not practiced at all in about a year.  After all this time, it was difficult just to get into these poses.  But walking out to the car I felt a quietness.  A tranquility, if you will forgive me for using a sneer-worthy word.  All of my agitations and disappointments and to-do lists didn’t vanish like magic, but they receded into white noise.  So often they are at the forefront of my mind, and I must constantly push my way around them.  The customary discomfort and tightness that has settled into the valley between my shoulder blades was gone.  (It ached later, but still, for a time, there was peace in the valley.)  I went home and cleaned the kitchen, girded with a glass of red.  Back to the to-do list so soon? you may say.  Well there’s always something to be done, isn’t there.  But last night I was able to let go inside of my frustrations and disappointments related to all things left undone and half-done, and poorly done.  I was able to just be.  And it feels like its been a long time since I have felt so well. 

“The greyhound has caught the rabbit. You have nothing left to prove. No one left to impress. You can now just walk…softly and happily through the rest of your life.   Urban Samurai : The Infinite Finish Line  

Summation: So I’m back in yoga now. 

Monday, August 22, 2011

D's Side Yard Makeover : Trenching Part 1

This weekend felt quite abbreviated.  Saturday I had to work with the boss and a room full of other Japanese folks to vet a presentation they had to give in Brazil this morning.  See, being a grammar nazi can be beneficial in one's professional life. 

Anyway, I came home and D was excited to show me what he had accomplished for the last two days in the yard.  The first thing is the side bed.  This is a before photo.  It has since been cleared of much debris and many bricks have been dug up.  It no longer looks quite so ill-kept.  But notice the ancient laundry line pole in the bed (left side of bed). 

Before: With laundry-line pole
 This is what it looks like now.  Like all the random bricks in the back there?  We dug those up.  Neat, huh?

Where'd it go?

Down the rabbit hole?

There it is

This thing has plagued D's mind for weeks.  He dug and dug while I pulled dead vines and roots out of the side bed, and still it didn't come out.  He broke through a layer of concrete triumphantly, only to discover that there was another layer of concrete beneath it.  See the different levels of discoloration?  Not a trendy ombre finish.  It's the level of weathering from the exposed end to the middle (buried in dirt) to the shiny end that was embedded in concrete, to the second concrete layer (still present).  

D was very proud.

He had also pulled out the rickety gate to the back yard, and the gate-poles.

This was our gate.

The earth that had settled over time had moved the poles too much for the gate to shut anymore, so it was kind of pointless anyway.  When Jack the puppy was with us, we'd had to block up the gap with sandstone bricks (of which we have a few, trust me).   We'll need to get the new gate in before we bust Bob the Dog out of Prison. 

So this is the view I came home to Saturday.  This is the side of the house.  D has managed to rip up all of the stumps from the side of the house too, which is amazing.  They look sci fi.  We should keep them as lawn sculptures.  Anyway, you can see by the drainage pipe and the dirt everywhere that this has been a pretty physical job.  Props to my husband.  He broke two shovels Saturday.  True story.  One of them was abused.  One of them snapped when D gave it a stern look.  But Lowe's was good about taking it back.  We are going to have a fantastic relationship with their Returns Department before this is all through. 

Trenching Project : Halfway-ish

 (Like D's jammies?)     
This is after work was done for the day, Saturday.   

The drainage pipe for the downspout, he discovered, actually went nowhere.  The pipe likely collapsed underground somewhere, so all of the water from the gutters was just getting dumped onto the side of the house.  He has two drainage pipes now in the trench (yes, only one is pictured here).  One with holes for water to seep into from the yard, because water wants to drain toward the house because of the natural slope of our entire neighborhood.  The other pipe is solid for draining the gutters.  They meet in a Y-attachment and then go under the concrete in front of the door (which D carved out with a shovel, and then a trowel). 

We spent Sunday morning putting stones on top of the pipe with holes, which we will cover with dirt.  We bought the wrong kind of gravel, so I had to sift out smaller pebbles and dust and put only larger stones on top of the pipe, so that the pipe doesn't clog.  Fingers crossed.  We just need to finish the trench now.  Yes, that's all.  It's about halfway done.  And then lay the drainage pipe in there, cover it up.  And cross our fingers.   D's planning to work on the trench tonight.  Of course, even when we get the trench dug at the side of the house and lay the pipe and bury it, we still have to continue the trench all the way to where we want it to drain, out by the street.  ... There's shrubs and a giant tree.   Not sure about that part of the project, but I think it'll involve roots, and a lot of swearing. 

   We also got rid of half of the concrete rubble, although actually the pile looks exactly the same size to both of us.  But I was there.  I hefted rocks. 

And we had an adventure at the Habitat for Humanity Re-Store.  This place is awesome.  We picked up a giant carpet remnant and a brand new rug, for a total of around 35 bucks.  Both to cover the basement floor.  And we bought an external light fixture for the side door because the one we have is gross and doesn't function. Fifteen bucks.  The Re-Store is a great place to bargain hunt.  Definitely going back. 

Still haven't gotten around to posting the Asbestos-Abated basement yet, have I?  No, I'm not a tease, I just haven't had time to put it together yet.  We'll be painting the floor this week, either in a floor sealant or an epoxy.  We just don't know what to do about that.  But we just want to get it done at this point.  The clutter is driving us nuts.

And to reward ourselves, this Saturday is the Dayton Ale Fest.  My hubby has definitely earned a few drinks for all his manly endeavors lately.