kriselkeeper: February 2014

Friday, February 28, 2014

Glorious Rain!

We've been in drought. A serious drought. I heard on NPR that fourteen cities in California have no more water!  Ranchers have had to sell off cattle because they can't feed their cows.  And on a lighter side, the skiing has been horrible for us this year.  I guess it's not THAT lighter as the lack of snow, creates a lack of business which is a serious matter for the people of Big Bear, Mammoth and all the local ski towns.  

But today it's raining! Mammoth is getting dumped on since the wee hours of the morning. And I, as a ...not native but "grower upper", of South Florida am in heaven. The pitter patter of rain all night made me sleep like a bear.  Poor Dave, he slept horrible. As a native Californian all that rain made too much noise for him!  


DIY Succulent Wreath

Once upon a time I was drooling over this wreath. Today I finished my own DIY succulent wreath! Major accomplishment!  P and I made two over Christmas and we gave them to her teacher and principal.  I had a third one set aside for us but I didn't quite finish it. I must admit my hands were in pain. Getting the plants in the compacted moss was rather hard.  But today I was fine.  It must have been the cold water.  The moss gets soaked for a while before it takes the shape of a wreath. The cold water must have been the real problem. I followed these instructions.  The were simple and easy to follow. 

When we stained the fence this week we moved the pots. A few of our succulents lost a stem or two.  The fresh cuttings prompted me to finish the wreath, and more important, to hang it up.  That took some deep thinking.  The wreath needs to be in the shade because it tends to dry out pretty quickly in our arid Southern California climate. The high winds this season dried the wreaths out even further.  I preferred to hang it on one of our grey walls in case it stains the wall but this spot seemed to suit it's scale the best.  I like it with the butterfly chair, the pots and the new door. This was a great DIY project.  A succulent wreath retails for $150-200. Because we have so many succulents throughout our garden I was able to make this one for $15. I'm feeling like the cat's meow!

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Thursday, February 27, 2014

Mending Fences

Back in November, a week after we finished painting the house and staining the fence our dog, Penny, decided she wanted to play with Sam, our neighbor's dog.  Penny is a pit/pointer mix who digs. Sam is a St. Bernard, so a large dog,  who can head butt. Between the two of them the fence almost came down right then and there!  

Fortunately, we have great neighbors and the "mending of fences"was the most civilized, organized and helpful process I've ever experienced with anyone  Right away we started strategizing about what to do, what kind of designs, when to do it and how to move forward. Breakfast! Any project can move forward with food so we planned a breakfast to plan the fence rebuild!

Image courtesy of Seed Landscapes

Over waffles, eggs with chorizo, pan dulce, bacon, apple pancakes, juice and coffee we came up with a design, a budget, a start date, job tasks, etc.  We both loved the look of the concrete wall above but quickly realized it was outside both of our budgets and time limit.  It takes permits to build a concrete wall between properties, which equals money and more time. Our neighbors just had a backyard redo and we just repainted our house. Neither one wanted extended home builds or had more money to spare. 

We also had to think about the dogs. Seeing one another is Penny and Sam's motivation to knock down the fence. We had to build something that wouldn't give them even a crack of hope! It doesn't seem that hard except that any wood you buy shrinks with time.  Plus the dogs have ALL day long to find the one little crack that we missed. Then it's game over for the fence!  

Day after Thanksgiving was set as the demo day.  And so the process began on a rainy morning.  Both of our families have two girls.  Theirs are older.  Us moms and their youngest started taking down the fence while their oldest watched our two littles.  We did really well and the rain helped loosen up the posts.  Dave came home and continued with them to demo.  And then for the next two days the two dads rebuilt the one common section between both properties. The hardest part was keeping the dogs and kids inside away from the construction.  Well, the hardest part for me anyway.  Dave would tell you otherwise. 

The fence was built but we needed to finish putting up planks on our side and staining all the new wood.  Since November our backyard view has been of this:

Half the wood dark and half of it blonde.  I think what bugged me the most was that our neatly stained fence didn't last even a week before it was mangled and now it's been like this!  

On Tuesday I finally had had it.  I started staining the fence. How hard could it be?  Well, I got to paint for about an hour before I had to go in and hang out with G who needed lunch and some attention. I got this far:

Big difference huh?! Ugh!!!  I think I got through six planks.  In my defense, I was using a paint brush and it was going slow.  

Today I tried again with roller brushes and a little free labor. P joined me and within 20 minutes we got this far! The rollers made a huge difference!

Look at my girl go!  As with most of these projects they seem like fun at first and then they're not.  It wasn't long before she was complaining but she did get quite a bit done before she went back inside. 
 The part of the fence that's up is stained.  We still have the corner to go but we also need to build a cover for the pool pump.  Dave and I are still strategizing on how to do this.  And after staining the wood I realized I'd rather stain the next set of planks before they go in.  Staining them behind the pool pump would require a contortionist. 

At least the view is now like this:

It needs a second coat. It rained the day after we finished staining. The timing couldn't have been better!  We're getting there, one plank at a time!

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Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Back on the Roof!

Last Wednesday this is where Dave spent most of his day.  He was up on the roof snaking all the pipes.  The previous Sunday we had major issues with toilets overflowing and the bathtub backing up.  Our plumber came over late Sunday and snaked a couple pipes and finally got a hold of some roots.  He left soon after that saying that we needed to call someone else with a camera to get a better look.  

Tuesday we still had issues. More gurgling. By now we had the routine down of what to do to avoid major overflowing.  On top of that, when Dave was trying to fix things he found more issues with the master bath plumbing and all the fixes he did with the sinks came apart.  We called the plumber again.  We could tell that by now he was over us. As if we were breaking the pipes on purpose just to annoy his ass.  But by now I was about to fucking lose it. Nothing worse than having young kids and having basic stuff like faucets and toilets not work.  

Monday Dave and I got into a huge fight over how to tackle all the problems. Dave was annoyed because  he felt all our pipes needed was more snaking.  He had snaked the same pipe the plumber snaked when he found the root knot.  He had moved past the ball of roots so the problem couldn't be that huge if his snake got past the clog.  Dave didn't want to spend $500 minimum to get a guy to tell him  A: the problem was already taken care of or B: they'd gouge another $2000 at least to break ground and repipe.  But the other option was for him to do it and Dave had to work and was feeling awful from allergies.  

We finally came to a conclusion.  I'd call our regular plumber and get him to fix the minor issues. Then I'd call a company to come and look at our pipes with a camera but we'd schedule it for Thursday.  Wednesday after working half day Dave would come home and try snaking it himself but I'd call one of our handymen to come help him with the process.  And so that is how Dave spent most of Wednesday on the roof.  He ended up doing it himself. No one was available to help.  But he fixed the problem BIG TIME!!! 

In one of the roof pipes Dave found about 16" of old garden hose!  He thinks it has been there for a long long time.  I think otherwise.  I swear about a month ago I heard someone on our roof.  Dave thinks it was a possum or raccoon but I swear it was a human.  Dave says the hose is super old and not thrown in a month ago.  I think someone threw an old hose down our pipes. 

Anyway, he solved the problem and our pipes have been great since.  During the process of trying to unclog our drains we did put down an entire box of Borax.  I was told it can unclog the thickest of drains and it kills roots. It's also the only thing that kills ivy.  

Everything seems to be ok and back to normal.  Well, everything but my choice of a plumber.  I'm pretty annoyed that he obviously didn't want to help us when we were literally in shit.  Even when he came over the third time to fix the minor things he didn't finish what I needed him to fix.  I had to leave him at the house while I picked up P from school and when Dave got to the house not long after I had left he was already gone.  The wax seal on the guest bathroom toilet wasn't fixed as I had asked him to do. I called him to ask him how much I owed him and no return call or anything.  

Finally he called yesterday to let me know he had been back on Friday but we weren't around.  He said he went up on the roof and snaked more pipes!  I find that rather ballsy to get up on someone's roof, when they're not around,  without permission, and then go two full days without telling them.  I'm sad to not use him again. I liked him but this last visit upset Dave and then caused a fight between the two of us and then this up on my roof without asking is just too weird for me.  I already have a new name and number with many validations.  NEXT! 


Sunday, February 16, 2014

Making the Best of It

Today was Sunday.  A long weekend Sunday. It was suppose to be the kind of day where we would be able to meander through the chaos of two young kids with patience, fun and understanding.  There's a big mess in the house. They've been building forts and creating master pieces but we'd tackle it in shifts.  One cleaning while the other entertained the mini artists with a trip to the park or a nearby museum. We were also suppose to take naps in shifts. Instead, not long after waking, toilets began to gurgle and then overflow.  Water was everywhere and the first layer of creative mess in the house was quickly covered with a second layer of wet mess. 

The same thing happened two days ago on Valentine's Day.  While Dave was taking a shower in the guest bathroom both toilets overflowed and the bathtub in the master bath backed up.  The plumber came but the problem was obviously not solved.  Today we urgently called and texted our plumber. We didn't hear back so Dave went off to Home Depot to rent one of those long metal snakes.  

To make a long story short, Bert, the plumber called back around 3pm. By then Dave had snaked both toilets and the tub with no luck of finding the cause of the back ups.  The gurgling suggested it could be something stuck in the air vents.  Bert had snaked the pipes on the roof. I had no idea the pipes sticking out on top of the house actually led to lines under the house. Turns out those are the air vents which connect to the toilets and tubs.  

Bert tried snaking a different roof pipe this time and upon his last try found a big knot of roots.  Tree roots are in our sewer lines.  The problem has been pulled out but we need to get a camera and find out how much more needs to be done. I must say it's kind of eerie that we're having these plumbing problems the same week I get a colonoscopy!  It's all too familiar! Will we need to cut out and mend an entire section of pipes which will be very expensive or will we be ok with using root killer every six months or so along with a good snaking?  We need to do more research before answering the question.  

In the meantime, Dave and I were rather bummed and a bit angry. Days like these are when we wonder if home ownership is worth it. We wanted to be spending quality family time not him elbow deep in gutter goo and me having a my "normal work day".  I decided to make the best of it.  

P was due for a new bike so I grabbed both girls and off we went to REI.  We bought P a pink cruiser with a pink unicorn bike helmet to match.  Next we stopped at Chipolte for lunch and then we went to find a nice flat, empty, parking lot to learn to ride a bike.  Fortunately, G fell asleep on the way to Pierce College giving me great one on one time with P.  She's been riding a balance bike. As I expected the next step of learning to use pedals was short and sweet. I called Dave to meet us on his way back from Home Depot. I didn't want him to miss the momentous occasion! 

Today will be marked on the calendar as the day P learned to ride a bike instead of the day our Sunday was ruined with overflowing toilets! It will be remembered as the day Dave and P went on their very first father-daughter bike ride!  

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