Wednesday, January 31, 2007

House in the Mist

We've been having beautiful clear & cold weather for the last week, with lovely mists and hard frosts. This morning I grabbed the camera and snapped a couple of pictures before I left for work. Here's the house all quiet and frosty just before sunrise:
I had to hold my breath so that it wouldn't obscure the house in the picture.

Here's the view to the east, with the mist rising off the frosty fields. As usual with this sort of picture, it was at least 80% more beautiful in real life.

This is where the sun actually comes up this time of year, south-southeast over the swamp. About an hour after I took this picture the sun would have come streaming over the ridge and illuminated the frost coating the swamp brush, making everything look like it is coated in diamonds for a few minutes before it melts away. I only get to see that on the weekends though... [sigh]
The firewood, incidentally, was a housewarming gift extraordinare from Ross and Keron. THANKS GUYS! Ross delivered it Friday night, just before the party. It sure is a lot nicer to burn than the wood we've been scavanging from fallen snags around the property. We've been keeping the fire going through this cold snap and I must say that the Jotul stove sure puts out the heat. We can load it up with wood and damper it down before bedtime, and it keeps the whole house warm all night and there's still enough embers left in the morning to get it going again by simply adding another log. The cats may even love the fire more than they love the radiant heat!

Phone Hook-up Update

Cary just called - the Verizon truck just pulled up! Fingers crossed that his next call will be made on our house line, not the cell phone...

Maybe ranting on the blog gets better results than I thought!

12:15 update: Well, we have a phone, but it's about the scratchiest, static-y bad connection imaginable. The guy is going to check the connections and hopefully that will clear it up.

Final update (Thursday Morning): WE HAVE A PHONE! The connection may not be the best ever (no pin dropping, please) but it's a huge improvement over the cell phone. Except that apparently telemarketers were waiting patiently to be able to call our phone again. Last night we got 2 telemarketing calls, 1 survey, 1 wrong number, and a robo-call from verizon to congratulate us on choosing their service. Sheesh.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Why I Hate Verizon

So, once again the designated day for phone hook-up passed without the phone actually getting hooked up. Needless to say, I am getting pretty frustrated with Verizon and their whole buggy process. If only there was some sort of choice of phone service providers... but there isn't. Here's a quick recap:

Dec 27: I call to set up new service at the new house. They have to actually send out a technician to connect the burried phone cable to the house wiring, so I realize it's going to take a little extra time, and I am prepared to wait. I go through every frickin' option, give them all my personal data, and all in all spend about 40 minutes getting everything set up. The CSR asks if I'd like to keep our old phone number. It seems like a good idea at the time... even though it will add a few more days of processing. January 17th is the date I'm told we'll be hooked up.

Jan 17: Nothing happens.

Jan 18: I call to find out why we still don't have a phone. I'm told it's because the switching of the old phone number from our old service provider (Qwest) to Verizon requires Independant Third Party Verification. (They've been trying to reach me... yeah, how? by phone?) So I get transferred to the Third Party Verification, and am recorded saying, essentially "I, Addie Pobst, being of sound mind and body, Do hereby want to transfer my phone number from Qwest to Verizon."

Later that same day: I call back to make SURE that everything is all set up, 100%, no more hang-ups, they'll come hook up the phone now. I am assured that everything is A-OK, and the technician will come the next day.

Jan 19: Nothing happens.

Jan 22: (the following monday - there's no cust service avail on the weekend) Call again to find out why we still have no phone. Am told that Some Paperwork required to switch the phone number from Qwest to Verizon hadn't yet been filed for our account. And it takes 5 days to process, no matter what. There is no answer as to why this wasn't done, or why it wasn't mentioned, say, the last time I called and specifically asked if there was anything that still needed to be done so I could get the phone hooked up. I am told that it will now be Jan 29th that our phone will be hooked up. (Incidentally, I asked how long it would be if we just scrapped the old phone number - and was told that a new number could be hooked up on Jan 26th. I decide that since I've waited this long, I might as well wait another weekend for the old number. I can be very stubborn.)

Jan 29: Nothing happens.

Jan 30: Cary calls to find out why we still have no phone, and is told that they are still, you know, processing stuff, and that the technician will come tomorrow and hook up the phone. You'll forgive me if I don't hold my breath...

Oh, and DSL? We can't even start the process of getting DSL hooked up until after the phone service is confirmed. Which means that once we actually get the phone, it'll be at least 10 MORE days before we have DSL. Apparently they aren't capable of running both processes through their system at the same time. Grrrrrrr.

Monday, January 29, 2007

People Really Like Us!

We had a great turnout for the housewarming party on Friday. It was super fun, a resoundingly sucessful party. The house is now thoroughly warmed.

Things got busy pretty fast after 7, with everyone having fun, snacking, drinking, visiting and mingling. I was giving tours of the house pretty much non-stop. I LOVE giving tours of the house.
Here's the downstairs bathroom, recently upgraded with a housewarming gift of soft & fluffy new towels, a bathtub tray and a bamboo bathmat courtesy of my coworkers. (I tried to fix the color balance in this photo - the door really isn't lemon-lime - but flash photography really screws with color.)
Thanks, CF Freshies! Maureen, Henrietta & Debbie representin'. ( Mary, Alta & Paul also came out, but I had to select just 10 shots for the blog...)
Dave came prepared with extra keg cups:
A lot of people at the party = a lot of shoes in the entryway...
We were even lucky enough to have Jill & Ted come out, one of the last times we'll see them before they move to Thailand in, oh, about 4 days. You guys will be missed! I'm a little jealous... luckily I have a new house to console me.
As always, everyone ended up in the kitchen. Luckily, the house was designed accomodate this...
Really, the house handled the crowd beautifully. It was a very comfortable space for a party. The toddler just snoozed on the couch through the whole thing. Kids are amazing, aren't they?
Besides the mingling, there was some serious BS-ing...
Yep, we had a lot of fun, and it shows. Kinda felt it the next morning too. ;)
The fun didn't stop with Friday night's party, though. We had Janet, Gabe, Nick, Tombi, & baby I-can-almost-walk-watch-me-go Moira staying with us over the weekend. Never a dull moment! Thanks to everyone who came out and shared the fun with us. I hope you all had as much fun as Cary and I did!

And today, maybe, hopefully, I pray we will get our phone hooked up. Please! I don't think I can take living with just a cell phone much longer.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Housewarming Party Tonight!

Woo! I'm excited. This is going to be fun. I'm a little nervous, mostly because there was still a LOT of cleaning and getting ready to do when I left the house in Cary's capable hands this morning. Unfortunately, all the snow has melted so our landscaping - or total lack thereof - is visible again, but it'll be dark outside anyway. The pictures are hung, the beer is chilled, and the door is open... I guess that's ready enough. Overall I'm just excited to have everybody come over and see our house!

Only 50 more minutes until I can leave the office... 49... 48...

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Puttin' holes in the walls

It's taken quite a while, but we've finally started hanging pictures in the house. Part of why it took us so long is that you have to live in any house a little while to figure out where you want to hang things, but another big part of it was steeling up our nerves to hammer nails into our nice, clean, pristine, puncture-free, virgin walls. I even went and bought a stud finder, although we only have a couple of peices large & heavy enough for it to really matter if we hang them from a stud or not. But with the impending housewarming party this friday, I figured we should get a move on the decorating already.

I started with the downstairs bathroom, reasoning that a small space would be less intimidating, and it was. I'm not certain I got everything in the right spot (do you center with the wall or the counter?), but it's a nice change from blank walls. We also have two pictures up in the living room, and one on the stairwell. The plan for tonight is to get a few more peices up, do a bit more cleaning, and start working on the do-ahead parts of the party food. I'm starting to get excited!

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Munchkin Update

As I posted before I succumbed to the Flu, we've had a bit of trouble with the munchkin boiler making some loud noises and scary puffs of flame. Last Friday, Barron heating sent a technician out to take a look at it, but of course it didn't do it while he was there, it just ran fine. It didn't even display any error codes. He took some readings and leak-tested the system, but other than an icicle partially blocking the air intake he didn't identify any problems. Naturally, the banging noises resumed almost as soon as we got home, and continued intermittently through the weekend.

I had printed out several key pages from the installation & maintenence guide that I found online (gotta love the internet) including the key to the error codes, so we now knew that the "silver round thingie" was actually the blower. This is where the gas comes into the unit and is mixed with air before being pushed into the combustion chamber. The error code "F10" has to do with the flame not staying lit (as does "F09" which we got later). So we began to suspect that there was an issue with the consistancy of the mixture... sometimes too rich, causing it to backfire (hence the noise and the fireballs) and sometimes too lean, causing the flame to go out. Cary talked to Ross, who is an appliance repair genius, and he agreed that it could be a mixture problem, and above all advised that we should keep calling the technicians out there until it was really truly fixed.

On monday we called Mark, and let him know about the problem. Later, we heard from Seth who is sort of the main dude for radiant heating systems out at Barron, and he sent out "Radiant" Randy (that's what it says on the door of his truck - aparently he's THE radiant technician) to take a look at our system. He agreed that the problem seemed to be in the mix, specifically in the adjustments made to convert the unit from Natural Gas (its standard fuel) to the propane which we are using. There was even some unburned fuel being exhausted from the unit, which would mean the mixture was too rich and the unit wasn't burning as efficiently as it should. Randy made some adjustments and left us feeling pretty hopeful that our problem was finally solved. However...

The next morning we woke up to find the house cooler than it should have been, down to about 60°. The Grundfos pumps were running like crazy, but the munchkin wasn't on so the house was gradually cooling. The munchkin had an error code "F09" and wouldn't start up, even when I hit reset. So, I called back to Barron, and within an hour Randy was back to fine tune the adjustements he'd made before. Basically, he'd turned the mixture down just a little TOO low, so that although the backfiring noises had stoped, there wasn't enough fuel to keep the unit buring. Anyway, it took him just a few minutes to adjust, and since then the unit has been working well. Hopefully we won't have any further problems with it... but in any case, I know that if we do we can call Barron and Randy will be right out to fix us up!

Just in case though, we got out the chainsaw on Sunday and cut up a windfallen snag which is now stacked on the porch to dry out. It feels good to have some firewood for back-up heating. :)

Monday, January 22, 2007

Influenza 2007

If you have been wondering why the blog was dark all last week (or maybe you have not been wondering, either way), it was due to my sudden and severe 5-DAY bout with the flu. Boy, was that unfun. I don't think it makes me a total slacker to state that usually, when I stay home sick from work, it's actually a little bit fun - taking a day off to lay around and watch DVDs while drinking tea and blowing my nose and taking the occasional nap. This was not like that. NO, this was the full-on ass-kicking FLU, complete with 102° fever, chills, vomiting, nausea, tremendous body ache (I thought my back would explode), head ache (ditto on the explodey), burning eyes, stuffy sinus', hacking cough, sore throat...

Antibiotics are really, really wonderful things, and I have nearly made a full recovery, just a little cough remaining today. Cary was very sweet and took good care of me, and luckily does not seem to have caught the bug. He attributes this to eating copious amounts of raw garlic (pureed in the cuisinart and spread on toast). It also keeps vampires away.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Munchkin Trouble. BAM!

Last night the Munchkin (boiler for the radiant heat system) started making a loud and very alarming banging noise. BAM! BAM! BAM! BAM! BAMBAMBAMBAMBAM! It sounded like someone was pounding on the wall of the mechanical room. Of course we went right away to see what the trouble was. With the cover raised, we could see bursts of flame coming from a round thingie* at the upper left, more or less in time with the banging noise. The little control pad had a blinking "fault" light and gave an error code of F4. I hit the reset button, and it quieted down... but we really have no idea what was going on.

It's not like the heat stopped working or anything, but something was clearly not right. It WAS really cold but not at all windy last night, so it wasn't gusts coming in the air vent and messing with the flame or anything like that. Cary went out and checked the level in the propane tank, but it was still around 50% full, so there shouldn't have been any problems with pressure. So we turned the thermostats down (in hopes that maybe a bit of rest would make the munchkin feel better) and went to bed a little worried.

Natually, the banging started up again about 5:00 am. This time the error code was F10, and again hitting the reset button quieted it down, but we still have no idea what was causing the problem. I called Barron heating and they sent a technician out around 10:00 am this morning. The tech called me from the house, and I described everything that had happened. He didn't have any immediate ideas about what was causing the problem, but he assured me that the Munchkin would shut itself off before it damaged itself in any case. He was going to turn the thermostats back up and see if he could get the problem to re-occur and then hopefully fix it. He promised to leave a report for us on the kitchen counter with everything he finds out. I'm really curious to find out what was going on... and I want my Munchkin to be ok agian!

*Ok, so the technical term is "silver round thingie with an arrow on it and some screws" but I didn't want to seem like some kind of mechanical genius know-it-all. Sheesh.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Good News!

After several weeks of submitting "final" inspections & reports on the wetland impact mitigation area planting to the county, today they finally signed off on it! There had been some questions relating to a lack of proof that all the trees & shrubs had been planted (the reciepts don't cut it because, you know, maybe we just hid some of them behind the house or tossed them in the swamp or something) so we had to submit a map showing where each was planted, and Katrina (our extremely patient wetland specialist) had to sign an affidavit that all the plants were really and truly in the ground.

I'm not totally sure why this was necessary, since they're still going to monitor us for the next 5 years to make sure everything survives and meets all the performance standards anyway. Even if we had tried to cut some corners by not planting some things this fall, we'd just have to replace them next year. I know enough about dealing with bureaucrats though not to question why they need such-and-such documentation... you just have to give it to them. Cheerfully. And then you wait...

In any case, it's all done now, and the paperwork is in the mail that I can take to the bank to get most of our guarantee money released. We can't have it all back, because part of it is ear-marked to pay for the next 5 years worth of monitoring, one year at a time. (You didn't think they'd just monitor us for free, did you?)

Anyway, Yay!!

Cold outside, Toasty inside

Sure, the pictures are pretty, but more than that, they show what a great job our insulation is doing. We accumulated about 6" of snow by the end of the day yesterday, with temperatures staying just above freezing until late in the evening, but not a bit of the snow melted off our roof. You'd never know from the outside that the house was maintaining a nice, comfy 68°F inside all day.

A lot of the houses in the neighborhood have bare patches or at the very least you can see where the eves overhang open air vs. attic space because the snow is thicker over the eves. Not us; no bares spots, not even around the chimneys. We don't even have any icicles!

The cats apparently are getting the hang of the cat door, because there were lots of little kitty tracks in the snow outside, and little muddy footprints on the kitchen counter inside. Not exactly the sign I was hoping for...
In the evening the temperatures dropped quite a bit (to around 20°F) and the wind really started to howl and blow the snow into drifts. We built a fire in the stove and had a nice evening re-aranging the living room furniture. (I think we're getting close to a final arangement.) After living in the apartment, we are both really aware of how nicely weather-proofed the house is (no chilly drafts!). Except for the sound of the wind blowing ice particles against the windows, inside the house the storm was hardly noticeable. And with the car in the garage overnight, getting going this morning wasn't much of a hassle either. I really cannot describe how lovely it was to just get in and go... no frozen doors, icy windows, or drifts of snow to deal with before getting on the road. The roads, incidentally, were much better than I expected. And the sun is out now, in a clear blue sky...

I love my house!

Wednesday, January 10, 2007


It looks like this storm means business! After yesterday's wind and just a wee trace of snow in the evening (false start?), things calmed down last night and I though we were off the hook. But after a relatively un-eventful drive into work this morning, the snow just started coming down. Here's what my exit looks like right now, courtesy of the WSDOT: It looks about the same outside my office window. The drive home today is going to be fun. Probably a good day to go home early. It would be nice to curl up in front of a fire with a cat, a cup of tea and a book... except that then I would have to feel guilty about all the boxes that still need to be unpacked. I might be able to live with that though. :)

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Official Housewarming Party

It's officially been decided that our official house-warming party will be held on Friday, January 26th. Officially, it begins at 7 pm, but you know how that goes. It's not really a potluck, but we can always use more snacks. A keg is probably in the works. If you are reading this and you know how to get to the house (or you know our phone number* so you can call and ask for directions), then you're hereby officially invited! Even co-workers! ;)

Any of you poor, misguided people who have left the earthly paradise that is Bellingham/Whatcom County and therefore possibly need a place to stay are welcome. We have many places to sleep, but some are more comfy than others; call your spots early.

Geek notice: Gaming is expected to break out on Saturday the 27th soon after breakfast. Be prepared.

*Our land-line is the same number as before, it just isn't hooked up yet. It will be connected on the 17th of January, so you don't need to update your phone list, you just have to wait another week before you call. I do have a new cell phone number, and if you call my old cell phone number you'll get a recording telling you what it is.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Doors: For Going In & Out.

I just realized that I never posted any pictures of the exterior doors after they got their final coats of paint! It's been over a week. The front door is a happy pumpkin-y orange color. It really enlivens the appearance of the house.
Here's the sunroom door, on the other end of the porch. The window had been covered in a protective wrapper for so long we'd forgotten it was there, so it was a pleasant surprise when Nick the painter unwrapped it to put on the final coat of paint.
The reason I was thinking about doors in the first place (which caused me to remember about the pictures of the paint) is that they are suddenly getting a lot more use. Saturday was the first day we let the cats outside at the new house. They had a great time, investigating the porch and surrounding environs. Sanford roamed quite far from the house, but Iggy & Sprout both seemed to think that the ground was too muddy and wet to go far from the porch. Mostly, they wanted to do what all cats want to do: make the humans get up and open the door as often as possible.

You may remember that we installed a cat door in the west wall of the front entryway. So why are we still opening the doors for our feline masters? Well, although all the cats have gone through the cat door at least once (with assistance), it is taking a little time for them to get used to it. Unlike our old cat door, this one has TWO flaps, one on the inside and one on the outside. This is a VERY complicated thing to comprehend when your brain is the size of a hazelnut.

Not that they aren't all genius' when it comes to what really matters: getting us to do their bidding night and day.

Friday, January 05, 2007

What I got for Christmas...

Because nothing says "I Love You" like a chainsaw!I haven't used it yet (gotta get fuel) but I am SO excited to take it out and cut up some logs. Cary really got it right this year! It's a Poulan with a 14" bar, nothing fancy, but it will be a really super useful tool when we start working on landscaping, starting with cleaning up some of the trees that came down in November's storms. (I opened it on Christmas Eve, so that is the apartment in the background.)

We also received a nice shiny new sledgehammer with a fiberglass handle from Janet and Gabe, which will also be super useful in future projects, starting with finishing the split-rail cedar fence this spring. Steve & Laurie Ripp gave us a shop-vac as a housewarming present too. We haven't actually used it in the shop yet, but it's been really useful in cleaning up inside the house during the move-in. Aside from the tools, we also got a beautiful table cloth from my brother & Nadege, a really great kitchen compost bucket with a carbon filter lid (which actually works amazingly well to keep the smell from stinking up the kitchen), three beautiful serving dishes, several bottles of wine, and lots of cookies. Mark & Robin gave us a really lovely fruit basket full of fruit, chocolate, and wine. My mom gave us a gorgeous handcarved (by her) coat rack, which I will get some pictures of as soon as we decide where to put it up. We pretty much made out like bandits. :)

Christmas Day we had both of our families over to the house for a Christmas dinner & housewarming party. It was a good crowd, I think we had 19 people at the zenith. We had a lot of fun... most of those bottles of wine I mentioned above mysteriously disappeared! Dad brought over a few rounds of firewood, so we had our first fire in the new woodstove. It really cranks out the heat, we actually had to open some windows.
As seems to happen at every party, everyone congregated in the kitchen. Luckily, we designed it for that. :)

Dad also brought us a little tree, so we decorated it up. My mom (center) and auntie Pam (her sister) had fun with the assortment of ornaments. Many of them are from when I was a little kid, and there was a lot of speculation about which ones I made by myself, and which ones I had "helped" to make. That's my uncle Harvey (Pam's hubby) in the background, getting the next ornament ready.
The cats thought the tree was pretty cool, sort of a giant cat toy dispenser. Several glass ball ornaments met with a tragic fate. Turns out they just don't hold up to much swatting around the floor... Iggy says "Christmas Scrishmas. When do I get some salmon?"

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Living with Radiant Heat

Radiant heat is really, really different than "regular" forced air or baseboard heaters. Sure, we realized that the floors would feel warm all over, but there are other, subtler differences that we are noticing as well. For one thing, the heat "soaks into" other items, such as the futon mattress. It's a strange thing, even after we got the bedframe assembled so the bed is off the floor the mattress still picks up the heat. The space under the bed also gets warm, as well as the space under the laundry room workbench. Clothes or blankets on the floor also get warm, almost like they've just come out of the dryer. And you can probably guess how we learned not to set the box of christmas chocolates on the floor...

The single biggest difference though is in the behavior of our cats. They are helpless against the radiant heat. It's like some kind of kitty higher power said "thou shalt lie down and relax". Luckily, the heat cycles on and off about 6 times a day, depending on the temperatures set on the thermostats, so the cats have a chance to get up and move around between heat-induced naps. You can tell when the pump comes on and starts to circulate the hot water, because the cats just sort of melt into the floor wherever they are at the time. Here is Sanford, trapped in the living room:
Iggy nearly made it to the couch, but not quite...
He looks pretty disgruntled, but he's actually loving it. They all are. :)

Sprout has pretty much taken up permanent residence on a hot spot under the bed, so there's no picture of him. He's just as much in thrall to the radiant as the other two, maybe even more so.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

We've moved in!

Everything is in the new house now, although of course it will be quite a while yet before everything is actually unpacked and in it's place. We've unpacked the daily use stuff, and most of the furniture is more or less where it will stay, but we haven't started putting stuff up on the walls or positioning the houseplants. There are still some boxes out in the shop or stacked up in the the corners, but it feels really good to be actually LIVING in our house.

The house itself isn't completely finished yet either, of course. Quite a bit got done since my last post, such as:
  • sunroom door knob installed
  • exterior doors painted
  • paint touch up & second coats on interior walls & trim
  • caulk around the bases of the kitchen cabinets
  • transition strips between cork/tile & cork/marmoleum
  • knobs & drawer pulls installed on the island cabinet
  • windows washed (HUGE difference!)
  • closet shelving installed
  • bathroom mirrors installed
  • exterior shingling finished

    There are still a number of things though on the list that Steve is working on every day. And of course, there are a couple of problems that we've found, such as the fact that the upstairs shower (the ONLY shower) doesn't get hot water. It does get sort of luke warm, and we have hot water everywhere else in the house, so the problem is probably one of three things:

    1. A bit of sawdust or other debris is blocking the hot water supply line.
    2. The valve in the faucet is stuck or blocked (debris again).
    3. The temperature limiter (which keeps you from scalding yourself) is stuck or set too low.

    The plumber is coming this morning to take care of it, and I am really looking forward to a nice long hot shower when I get home! It's not like I haven't bathed since Christmas - we've been taking baths in the clawfoot tub, but a bath isn't the same. Plus, we didn't realize that we could turn on the supply lines for the clawfoot - the faucet isn't installed yet because it had defective threads and we had to send it back for a replacement - so we've been filling it with buckets from the kitchen sink. It's not just a bath, it's also an upper-body workout! I can't deny I felt a little sheepish when Mark showed me how to turn on those supply lines. You know how sometimes a solution seems so embarassingly obvious in retrospect? This is one of those. :)

    But all in all, I am really pleased with everything. This is the best way to start a New Year ever!