Wednesday, February 28, 2007

More Verizon Wierdness

Here's the latest bizarre twist in our ongoing quest to get phone and DSL service to our house: when we get a phone call, it also rings at the neighbor's house. Yep. Bo called me on my cell phone the other night, thinking he had the wrong phone number for our land line, because every time he called it our neighbor Lori (Her house is about a quarter-mile east of ours) was answering. So I tried calling it myself, from the cell phone, and sure enough, after 4 rings her son Allen picked up the phone! Our calls ring in both houses. I guess there must really be some wires crossed somewhere.

Cary talked to the neighbors about it, and it's especially wierd since it turns out that they don't even have Verizon phone service. They have Verizon DSL and digital/internet phone service. But, their DSL has been down since last week sometime, so they haven't been getting ANY phone calls... except of course for ours.

Anyhow, Cary called Verizon about the whole crossed lines thing and someone is supposed to come out and fix it tomorrow. In the meantime, if you call us and you get Lori or Allen instead, just say HI and tell them we're sorry for all the trouble!

Oh, and on the DSL front - our service has been turned on, but we couldn't get the connection to work. I was on the phone with tech support for an hour last night going through a million and one trouble-shooting steps, and in the end they decided that the modem they sent us was just defective. So now we're just waiting for the replacement modem to arrive, and hopefully then we will be online from home. fingers crossed!

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Our first curtains

Tombi asked me if I wanted to go with her to the store on Sunday. She played it all cool but when we got there it turned out that there was an ulterior motive in inviting me to ride along: so I could pick out some curtain rods for the bedrooms as a housewarming gift. Sweet! (Aparently she'd given up on getting Cary to secretly measure the windows so she could buy the hardware for us BEFORE they came to visit.) I selected ones with a cool leafy thing on the end, in a dark bronze finish. And although Cary and I are on a strict budget, well, I simply HAD to get some curtains to put on the new curtain rods! So we headed over to Ross Dress For Less, beat our way through the weekend hoard of canadian discount shoppers, and combed through the pile of curtains. The choices were somewhat limited - for one thing, we needed at least 3 matching pannels to do each bedroom - but I'm really happy with what we found.

Voila: light orange with textural dots for the front bedroom (No, it's not hemmed yet, I just folded the extra under.)
Creamy white with an embroidered floral motif for the back bedroom
I didn't wash or iron them before I took these pictures, so you'll have to excuse the creases and wrinkles. I still need to hem them to length; even if I didn't want to shorten them to fall just below the bottom trim for stylistic reasons, I have to because they are all kinds of irregular lengths, despite what the packages said - I got them at Ross, after all! It sure feels good to have our first curtains up! It makes the house feel kind of grown-up. Plus, no more mooning the whole neighborhood while getting ready for bed. :)

Monday, February 26, 2007

Wait, do I know you?

Babysitting success! Saturday little Miss Moira stayed with us all day while her mommy took the dog to flyball and her daddy went paintballing. Nobody got hurt; there were enough cheerios for everybody.

We had a few close calls with the "hey, you aren't my mom" look, but luckily no tears. Tombi left us with a written schedule of all the snacks, and Charlotte came over and helped with the baby entertainin' duties. Moira will be 1 year old next saturday and she's just about walking, so it was great to have extra help keeping up with her in our completely non-baby-proofed house. We all had a lot of fun!

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Fun with Verizon: DSL edition

First the good news: I think we're actually going to get DSL hooked up on Monday! Yay!

The bad news is that this required me to spend another hour-and-a-half (I timed it) on the phone friday, speaking to NINE (yep, I counted) different CSRs and various techs in myriad departments and continents to get it. Also, we have to change our phone number. Which might not seem like such a big deal, except that the reason [for the full saga, click here] that it took us a full month just to get voice service was that we wanted to keep our old phone number. You know, for convenience. Sadly however, it seems that it just was not meant to be...

We had originally ordered DSL at the same time as we ordered the voice service, back in, oh, December. Verizon's DSL department won't even begin to process a service order until the voice line is up and working (and given our expirience, this is a sensible policy) so it wasn't until February 1st that they begin to work on hooking us up. Our Service Ready Date (SRD) was supposed to be 2/7, but nothing happened. So, I called in to find out what was going on, and was told that our order had been cancelled. But Good News! our service order had already been re-issued and our new SRD would be 2/12. Yeeahh, great news.

I wasn't able to get any kind of clear answer about WHY our order had been cancelled, or by whom, and the very chipper CSR seemed completely mystified at my preoccupation with it. She also didn't seem to understand why I didn't have much confidence that we'd actually get hooked up on the 12th. She did finally let me in on the secret that before service could be completed, we had to receive a package with some gadgets and gizmos from Verizon. If we didn't receive the package a couple of days before our SRD, then we would know that it wasn't going to be hooked up after all. Genius!

Well, on Friday I called again to find out what was going on, because I had not, after all, received the package. Aparently, our line was failing the automatic signal tests that their system does before it completes the DSL set up. It does three of these tests, and then automatically cancels the order. (Ah-ha!) I went through at least a half a dozen Verizon CSRs before I got anyone who could do anything more than just read my file back to me (and by then, I could recite it right along with them). No one could tell me WHY my line was failing, or what could be done about it. Which was frustrating, but the very worst was the CSR who put me on hold for a while, then came back and told me that actually there was no problem with my line, it was all fine, and in fact the package had been shipped and would be delivered to me that afternoon, and that she would transfer me to the person who could give me the UPS tracking number. Wow, that sounded good! Except that the person she transfered me to had NO IDEA about tracking numbers, and again told me that my account showed that the line had failed the signal test and my order would almost certainly be cancelled again. I love it when they lie to me in order to get me off the phone.

Things seemed pretty grim at that point (Nooooo, not dial-up!). But I called back one more time, and reached Karen, The Best Verizon CSR ever. (I hope she finds a better job, 'cuz they don't deserve her!) She not only listened to my entire tale of woe, she actually looked into it and suggested a solution. It seems that in keeping our old phone number, several "porting overrides" had been tacked onto our number. Basically as I understand it, our calls would go first to the main bellingham 676 switchboard, and then get forwarded out to the county 966 switch, and then from there to our house. Also, our number was not originally a "Verizon series" number, it was a Qwest number. Between our number not being a local switch native, and/or it not being an original verizon series number, the DSL system couldn't or wouldn't make the connection.

Karen suggested switching our phone number to a local 966 number, and seeing if the DSL order could then be processed without trouble. She admitted that it was possible it still wouldn't work, but I was ready to try anything that didn't involve blood loss or broken bones. A new phone number it was! The switch was almost instant. As soon as it was done, a new DSL order was entered. Our new SRD is 2/27.

Since we weren't sure that changing the phone number would actually fix the DSL problem, I didn't inform anyone of the change until today. If it hadn't worked, we'd have just changed back, no-one the wiser. But today I got a sign: a UPS tracking number. [angels singing] Yes, the package has shipped! We will have the gizmo soon! The new line apparently passed all the signal tests, and it looks like we'll actually be using the internet from home by March!

It's a good thing I am such a patient person.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Weekend In Olympia

This weekend we traveled down to Olympia for our good friend Gabe's housewarming/birthday party. The house is a beauty; sure it needs some new paint and some lovin' but it's sound and sturdy and well designed. It was built in 1937 and every single original glass doorknob is still there and in great shape. Some of the other original features which are not so desirable are there as well, such as the single pane, double hung windows, the teensy tiny kitchen sink and the really low kitchen counter, but Gabe's already got those on the remodel list.

Gabe - this is what glads look like when they bloom. For Gabe's Birthday present, Cary and I brought a bunch of gardening tools and our work gloves with us. Saturday was a beautiful warm and sunny-ish day, so we went right to work cleaning up the front flower beds and pruning the shrubs & trees around the yard. It felt so good to work in the dirt! Especially on a project that could actually be finished in just one day - it was a really nice change from the overwhelming scale of all our own landscaping projects. White Camillia

I was impressed by what we found already established in the flower beds. There's also a beautiful mature Camellia in the back yard, which is covered with buds (I'm guessing it's a white one). Because the house had been a rental for several years before Gabe bought it I didn't think there'd be much to work with. However, once we'd pulled out all the weeds, I found there were several well-established shrubs, and a TON of bulbs - gladiolus and scilla in the front beds, as well as daffodils, tulips and crocus along the fence. Of course, the bulbs hadn't been liftedThis is what the little spikey green leaves will look like when they bloom.  Hopefully. in years, so they were super crowded and the glads were about an inch below the soil surface, but the important thing is that they were there! This summer should bring some nice displays. I divided some clumps of scillia that needed to be moved and replanted the 3 dozen or so glads that I inadvertantly "dug" up when I raked the beds. Maybe this fall we'll visit again and lift and replant the rest of them. It just wasn't the right time to address that issue, since everything is starting to grow - it's incredible what a seasonal difference travelling 160 miles to the south makes!

Aside from my weeding and pruning, the guys got into a bit more muscular home improvement, starting with removing the railing from beside the front stairs.
Cary brought his powers of destruction to bear on a hazelnut stump/thicket/rootwad that was too close to the foundation and downspout.
After checking to make sure the siding behind them was actually painted, Gabe removed the dumb fake shutters from beside the windows. What a huge improvement! Once he replaces the windows and paints the exterior this summer, this little house is really going to be a cutie.
Here's how the house looked at the end of the day. Unfortunately, I didn't take a "before" picture, so you'll just have to take my word for what a big improvement we made.
If only we'd had time to trim that hedge... but we had to get started drinking for the housewarming party!

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Things that go Hoot in the night

We have owls. Lots of owls, all around us, apparently. Which is really very cool, except for the incessant hooting, all night long. They are really increadibly loud and obnoxious, I think there must be about a dozen of them sitting right outside the bedroom window.

Since I haven't actually seen the owl(s) involved in this hooting extravaganza, I went online to see if I could identify them by their hoot. And sure enough, I was able to find a couple of likely suspects. The internet is so cool sometimes! If you click on the links below you will go to pages that have the audio files so you too can hear the owls hooting.

The most likely culprit seems to be the Great Horned Owl, which appears to be super common all over the US and pretty unpicky about their habitat.

Another possibility is the Barred Owl which mates and establishes its territory around this time of year. Both activities apparently involve a lot of hooting, and it likes swampy areas with mixed forest and grassland. Not that we have anything like that around here.

The third suspect, the infamous Spotted Owl actually has the hoot that sounds the most like what I've been hearing, but it seems unlikely that such a rare bird with a thoroughly documented need for unfragemented old-growth forest habitat is sitting outside my windows at night.

No matter which owl is living with us, I AM glad to have it nearby. Especially since a single owl eats about 2200 rodents per year! I'm sure I will get used to all the hooting eventually, and I won't really HEAR them anymore than I hear the frogs or the crickets. But until then, they're making it hard to sleep!

Monday, February 12, 2007

Yard Day

Saturday was a beautiful day, sunny, mostly clear skies, no wind, with temperatures in the mid 50s - in short, a perfect day to get outside and do some work! It really felt good to get outside - it felt like spring! The crocus, anemone, and grape hyacinth bulbs that I brought with me are all coming up & budding in their pots. I can't wait to get them in the ground, but that's a ways off yet.

After breakfast, I started by picking up trash and construction debris that had blown into the bushes, it's amazing how much stuff I found! Paint can lids, caulk tubes, plastic packaging, cardboard... I filled the wheelbarrow in no time. But that was just a warm-up for the main event: removing the black plastic erosion control fencing (aka the "frog fence") from around the house and driveway. It was a bit difficult to get it out because the bottom of the plastic was buried in the dirt, and the grass had rooted through it, but the yard sure looks better now. On this side of the house, it's actually got grass!

The next thing was to dig out the gravel that had slid into the culvert outlet so that the water would flow through the ditch. The excavated gravel was handy for filling in some adjacent potholes. I love that sort of "two birds, one stone" thing. You can also see in this picture where the frog fencing was removed along the driveway .
For the grand finale, we cut up and brought in some more firewood from a windfallen alder across the creek from the house.
Cary cut it up into lengths, which I loaded it up into our trusty wheelbarrow. It was pretty hard to push the loaded wheelbarrow back through the long grass of the field to the road, so I had to take several trips with it half full. Still a whole lot better than carring it by the armload! Seriously, this wheelbarrow rocks - it's got two big fat wheels on it and a HUGE capacity. I don't know how we ever lived without it.
Here's Cary pushing the final wheelbarrow load back. I was tired!
Stacking the wood on the porch - the best part of the job! Can you beleive it, short sleeves in February? Like I said, it was a very nice day.
One really nice thing about cutting up windfallen snags like this for firewood is that they don't even need to be split, they can just be stacked as rounds. The other nice thing is that the wood is already pretty dry, since it was already dead when it fell. According to the long-term forcast, we're due for some more cold weather in the next few weeks. If that's the case, we'll be glad to have the firewood ready.

Friday, February 09, 2007

O Pantry, how I love thee!

Last night I organized the pantry.* The pantry rocks. The custom wire shelves are so spacious and wonderful, I'm really glad we went ahead and included them in the construction package. Now, we just have to get some more food to fill it out! In preparation for moving I cut back on buying canned, dried, bottles and otherwise shelf-stable foods. But that's all over now! Deals Only, here I come...

In addition to food, we've also put the microwave and all the cookbooks in the pantry. It's great not having the microwave taking up counter space - because not only is our microwave huge, it's also ugly and old. er, I mean vintage. As is the step-stool I use so I can safely reach things on the top shelf. Not that I need it - I'm very adept at knocking things down of high shelves with a long wooden spoon, and then catching them with my other hand. Most of the time.

Panning to the left, standing in the doorway:
aaand turning all the way to the far left end. Which is now housing the liquor & wine selection. Note the "Mad Housewife" label merlot. I'm not sure who gave us that bottle as a housewarming gift, but it's about the best wine label I've ever seen. I hope the wine makes me smile as much as the label does. :)
It sure feels good to have the food stockpile all sorted out. I tried to make cookies a couple of weeks ago and I couldn't find any of the ingredients because everything was just all jumbled up on the shelves together after the move. Now that I can find everything, I'm not sure what I'm going to make. Something good!!

*For those of you who don't know about my dual food-hoarding and organizational neuroses, let me just say that that first sentence is packed with a lot more meaning than it may seem at first glance. Questions have been raised about the possibility that my genome might somehow contain some squirrel or marmot DNA. No-one questions my organizational prowess. Evar.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Fire & Cats (Hi Andy!)

We are really, really enjoying the Jotul wood stove. That goes for both the humans and the felines in our houshold (Sr. Tortuga, Pinchi, and the fish declined to comment). The only problem is that sometimes we make the house TOO warm and we all fall asleep right after dinner. Sanford demonstrates:

In all seriousness though, I am really impressed at how nicely this stove burns. I grew up in a house with 3 wood stoves of varying antiquity and efficiency, and I've since lived in houses with an assortment of woodburning stoves and fireplaces, so I feel confident saying that I am well versed in the art of fire building. This stove is, hands down, the easiest stove to get a fire started in that I have ever used. Even with wet wood, or just crummy wood (not all species of tree make good firewood), and not much in the way of kindling or paper, it usually only takes one try to get the fire started. And once the fire is going, it will burn cleanly until all the wood is gone. The damper control is terrific, and the firebox is sized just perfectly so we can stuff it full of wood before bed, damper it down, and it will burn all night.
Besides its functionality, this is a beautiful stove (even with ashes and woody bits all over in front of it). The glass in the door stays clean as long as we are burning dry wood, thanks to something the brochure refers to as the "air-wash system". Sometimes wet wood does leave creosote on the glass but it always burns off in the next fire. There is nothing more entrancing than watching the flickering flames in the fireplace and listening to the wood crackle and pop... feeling very warm and sleepy...
This stove makes the house warm, in so many ways beyond just heat. On Jotul's website they have a list of 6 different kinds of warmth that a wood stove produces. These people are clearly obsessed with wood stoves and it really shows. I think we made the right choice!

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Thought of the Day

A mature person is one who does not think only in absolutes, who is able to be objective even when deeply stirred emotionally, who has learned that there is both good and bad in all people and in all things, and who walks humbly and deals charitably with the circumstances of life, knowing that in this world no one is all knowing and therefore all of us need both love and charity.
-Eleanor Roosevelt, diplomat and writer (1884-1962)

Update - Leak fixed

So the plumber went out yesterday and it turns out the leak wasn't from the Pex tubing at all, it was the valve itself that had a defective somthing-or-other in it. Which means that it was actually Barron Heating who needed to come out and fix it, which they did. There's a shiny new valve now and it all seems to be dry. I left the bucket sitting there for now, just in case, and I'm going to try to make it a habit to check the mechanical room at least once a week in the future so that if any additional problems every come up we'll catch them early. We were just lucky this time!

The defective valve is actually very GOOD news; I was a little worried that if the Pex was having trouble holding up to the heat, where else might it begin to leak? It sure would suck to have a leak in a wall somewhere. Drip... drip... drip... drip... {shudder}

Monday, February 05, 2007

Eeek! A Leak!

That's right, we have a leaky pipe fitting just below the Rinnai hot water unit. It started leaking sometime last week (I know it wasn't leaking last weekend) and was discovered on Friday when Steve went out to work on the punch list. The plumber is coming today to fix it. It may be that the temperature of the hot water coming out of the Rinnai has "relaxed" the Pex tubing over the last couple months at the intersection with the brass valve fitting, in which case he'll need to replace the Pex in that area with something metal. It kept up a pretty steady drip over the weekend... The wet area on the sheetrock is from splatter; the drops fall directly onto the elbow in the copper pipe (just above the bucket). I don't think there's been any permanent damage to the sheetrock yet, but we'll have to see once it dries out.

In any case, I'm sure glad that Steve discovered the leak when he did! With the Munchkin running quietly, I don't necessarily go into the mechanical room that often. I hate to think how bad it could have gotten before it was discovered...

Friday, February 02, 2007

Things Getting Done...

I realize that I haven't been posting much about progress on the house lately. Thats mostly because there hasn't been much to say - we've just been unpacking and moving in. We aren't exactly DONE with unpacking yet, but we are tired enough of it that we've started working on some little projects around the house, such as:

>Switching the refridgerator door to hinge on the left hand side. Cary took on this project on Wednesday, and it's great to finally have it done. Now the open side is towards the rest of the kitchen (as it should be), and the door swings out towards the wall.

>Putting a new dryer vent tube on the dryer. For some reason, the first vent tube cracked and split, and the tape connecting it to the vent outlet didn't seal properly. I don't know why, maybe it got tweaked when the dryer was repositioned or something. Ross noticed it at the housewarming party, and yesterday he swung by the house with a spare peice of new vent tubing for us to replace it with. We still ought to get a hose clamp to hold it in place securely, but it's already way better.

>Insulating the pipes for the radiant heat system in the mechanical room. Since the mechanical room isn't actually heated, it seemed like a good idea to me to wrap the hot water pipes to reduce heat loss where they come out of the house and connect up to the munchkin. Probably won't make a huge difference in the efficiency of the system, but it felt good to do it all the same.

>Replacing the thermocoupler in the shop heater, so we could turn the pilot light down to an appropriate sized flame without it going out. I'm not sure how much a difference that will really make on our overall propane consumption rate, but I'm all about cutting down of waste where I can.

>And of course, we've gotten a phone hooked up. Which was WAY more of a hassle than it had any right to be. I also filled out and mailed off all the warranty cards for all the appliances, which took about an hour and was probably a total waste of time, but whatever - it's one more thing to cross off the list!

We've also had some visits from various tradespeople, such as the painter and the plumber, to complete a few touch-ups. The faucet is now in on the clawfoot tub, and the missing drain-pull knob from the upstairs sink has been replaced. We also got a package in the mail with the two missing kitchen cupboard knobs in it, so now we have 100% of our hardware in place. Steve is actually coming out to the house today to finish up a few other items from the "punch list" - things like adjusting the mounting of the dishwasher so the door closes more easily and reseating the bedroom light fixture so the insulation doesn't poke out the side. It's really great that Mark takes all these finishing details so seriously. :)

The next big project on my list is refinishing the wood cook stove. First though, I think I need to clean out the shop - during the move we piled stuff in there willy-nilly all over the place and now there isn't even enough space available to work on the stove, let alone a clear path to get over to it. So the plan for THIS weekend is to clean up and organize the shop, maybe take a trip or two to the dump, and get everything in order to tackle the stove project sometime soon. Wish us luck!