Category Archives: Home

MLK Day (Off)

We have the day off from work. Dawn spends much time knitting, as she’s pretty much done with scarves (and the hat she made me) and has moved on to the much more complicated sweater. This involves knitting in the round, using circular needles. Circular needles are like the nunchucks of knitting needles.

I spend much of the day painting. Painting boring old plywood. Along with patching the roof with good old Henry 208 Wet Patch Roof Cement, I’m also replacing the plywood around the skylight. The skylight’s kinda like a cupola or dormer, with four sides, on which the plywood is nailed. It’s mostly just the side on the south that’s rotting away. And that makes sense, as that side gets the most (and most intense) sun.

So I had bought four 2′ x 4′ Handy Panels of 1/2″ plywood, and I cut each to 16″ x 30″ and then paint both sides. First is an oil based primer, then an enamel topcoat. I don’t suppose I necessarily need to paint both sides, since one side will be facing inward, but I seem to understand from general woodworking concepts that like table surfaces will warp if you only finish one side. So I paint both sides.

And but it’s hard to paint both sides of a big old rectangle. You can’t just flip it over after finishing one side and lay that wet paint on the workbench or drop cloth. So I nail two little brads on each end, which brads rest on blocks, so that I can flip each piece over to paint both sides.

The brads really turn out to be too small for this purpose, but they are just barely adequate. I’m able to stack all four pieces with paint on both sides, sorta like green wood that’s been stickered to dry. I guess that’s where I got the idea. I get paint all over my hands, but happily not all over anything else, like the kitchen floor.

Drip Drip Drip

We awake to a leaky roof. What a way to start the year!

Well, we don’t notice it right away. But after breakfast, Dawn’s getting ready to take a shower and she notices water dripping from the bathroom ceiling. It’s coming from around the ceiling fan.

I drag out the step stool and take a peak into what passes for our attic. Luckily this leak is smack dab next to the access panel in the hallway ceiling. And there I see it, drop after drop coming from a nail. I stick a cup underneath to catch it.

Later we go up on the roof to see where it’s coming through. Dawn helpfully finds in the Restoration book the handy information that with flat roofs such as ours, wherever a leak is coming through below is likely the same place it’s entering on the roof. Houses with peaked roofs have much bigger problems with water travelling before coming through, making pinpointing leaks much harder.

There’s a seam where one layer of tarpaper, or whatever it is, lays over another layer, where we think the water might be getting through. Or could be around the tin cover over the roof access. Or maybe the side of the bathroom skylight where the painted plywood is rotting away.

In any event, the rain is ending later today, and my office is closed tomorrow, so I’ve got some roof fixin’ to do.

Circuit 9

We’d been having this problem with an electrical circuit in the house. It’s been really weird. Dawn noticed it at first, watching Midsomer Murders on the Biography Channel while knitting. The power to the TV and satellite receiver would just momentarily go off and then back on. It’d be especially annoying because then the receiver would have to take a minute to reacquire the satellite signal. As a couple of weeks went by it started to happen more frequently, and then the power started staying out for more than just an instant.

We tried cycling the circuit breaker off and on, but that didn’t help. There are only two outlets on that particular circuit, so I bought replacements. I replaced the first outlet, the one nearer to the breaker box. The outlet further downstream turned out to be like two outlets covered by a double plate. I didn’t feel like replacing just one of the outlets or going out to buy another one, and frankly I didn’t think that it was the further downstream outlet(s) causing the problem anyway.

But replacing the one outlet didn’t help, either. So the one last thing I wanted to do before calling in a competent electrician was to check the circuit breakers themselves, since this problem only started since we had had some work done, when the guys added the two new circuits. And but actually, when they did that, I had seen how the circuit breakers plugged into the main panel, is really the only reason that I even thought to check this.

To get to the breakers I had to remove the front panel. It was attached by three screws (although there should have been four, but one was missing). After taking out two of the three screws the front panel shifted partially sideways, hanging from the one remaining screw. And it must have touched something otherwise inside, because the main circuit breakers tripped and the whole house went out.

Okay. Probably should have shut off that main circuit before taking the panel cover off.

Anyway, I pulled out the breaker for the circuit, but nothing seemed amiss. But it was a smaller breaker, one that plugged in together with the circuit breaker right above it, both going on the same main panel connector. And both of these were directly below the new circuits the guys installed. And the little pin on that companion circuit breaker looked bent somewhat to the right. So I bent that back straight, plugged both circuits back in, and now the problem seems to be solved. I think the way that the one pin was bent on the one circuit breaker was pushing the pin on the other circuit breaker just enough to sometimes break the connection, maybe as the weather the getting colder and these metal connections were contracting ever so slightly.

And I found the fourth screw that the guys seemed to have forgotten, so now the cover is back on a little more stable.

All in all, I’m very pleased that it’s working correctly again, but also that I didn’t kill myself.

The End of Sanding

Not the end of sanding everything ever, but the end at least of sanding the repairs to the walls after the new electrical circuits. I had tried to get away with only two applications of joint compound over the mesh tape, but it just wouldn’t do. So I did a third coat.

And underneath Dawn’s window in the bedroom we did some repair as well. There had always been this one spot, since we moved in, that was just, well, soft. Like it was just drywall tape with nothing behind it or something. We were always afraid to press it or probe too hard for fear of busting through.

Well, what with the other repairs, Dawn went ahead and broke out all the bad stuff under the window. I was a little disappointed that she just went ahead and did it without me. I was curious as to what was exactly going on in there. As it turned out, all I saw was when she was done and it was a big old hole.

But after all the coats and now all the sanding, it’s all done and ready for Dawn to paint. We go to Home Depot and get little pints of paint and primer. Also at Home Depot I buy another package of 3/8″ dowels for the balusters. I’ve got nineteen balusters, so I need thirty-eight dowels, of course. So one package of twenty-seven just ain’t gonna cover it.

And while Dawn is painting I take a trip up to the roof to check for leaking. There’s a spot by the window, near where I patched, that looks like maybe some water damage. We’re not sure if it’s new or not. Maybe it’s been there since we moved in and we never noticed, although you’d think we’d notice something like that. It’s not wet or crumbling or anything, just kinda rough. It’s funny that we aren’t sure if it’s new or old.

I can’t see anywhere that there’s any way for any leakage, nothing new caused by the construction next door, the likely culprit we were thinking. While on the roof though I lean the ladder on the new third story and climb almost to that roof. I can clearly see the top of the Capitol and the Washington Monument from up there. It’s a little dangerous how I’m standing on the top rung of the ladder, though, propped as it is against the wall but also on the slight slope of the roof. I’m glad when I get down. And for once I don’t bang the ladder against the electrical wires. I’ve never been zapped, but best not to push my luck.


Our car, the 2002 VW Jetta Wagon, whom Dawn calls Mary, is getting close to 50,000 miles. We’re going to the beach at the end of the month, so we figure we’d better get the 50K service. So instead of our usual morning walk, we head off in the car like suburbanites, to Wes Greenway’s Alexandria Volkswagen.

A shuttle takes us from the dealer to Pentagon City Metro. Oddly enough the shuttle is some sort of Chrysler minivan, not a VW at all. Although I guess VW makes the Toureg SUV, but not a minivan, so what else would they use? The back only holds four people, and some guy is already inside when we climb aboad, so Dawn and I don’t sit together. She reads her book on the way, which I can’t do in a car. Or minivan.

I go after work to pick it up, but the train and then the wait for the shuttle take me way past making it to ballet class. But the new wiper blades sure are spiffy.

There’s a spider making a web between the outside driver’s side mirror and the door body proper. I notice this as I’m speeding along, the spider hunkered down against the wind, what must be an enormous wind to such a tiny little guy. I feel bad for him, so I pull over and scoop him up with the receipt from the dealer. Then I deposit him into a bush.

Hope he’s happy there.


Around our house we call them spindles, actually. But they are properly balusters. The OED gives us for baluster:

3. (Usually in pl.) The upright posts or rails which support the handrail, and guard the side, of a staircase; often applied to the whole structure of uprights and handrail. Now more usually BANISTER(S, q.v.

and for banister says

Usually in pl.: Slender upright posts or rails, esp. those guarding the side of a staircase, and supporting the handrail; often applied to the whole structure of uprights and handrail.

I love having access to the OED, by the way. Take my advice: get yourself an Arlington VA library card.

I always thought that banister meant the railing itself, was just a synonym therefor. But apparently banister means either the whole structure, or just the thingies that hold up the railing, also called baluster, which can also mean the whole thing.

I’ve been thinking of metonymy and synecdoche lately, for other reasons, but let’s leave that for another day.

The whole point is, whatever the things are called, today I’ve been making them. Remember that I had bought rough-cut 6/4 eastern white pine from the lumber yard. And then I had dressed the wood with belt and random orbit sanders. Well, today I finally cut the planks into them things what hold up the railing on the stairs.

Actually, they don’t really hold up the railing. Railings are anchored quite firmly on their own. Balusters are there, required by code even, four inches on center, as a safety barrier, to keep small children from toppling down into oblivion from under the railings.

Dawn’s been staining and varnishing the newel posts, so I can’t attach the railings to same until the varnish dries. I’ve got the Kreg Rocket that I’m going to try to use to attach the railings, with 2 1/2″ coarse thread pocket screws. But, meantime, today I cut the balusters.

It’s my first major use of the new saw, too. Oh, sure, I used it to crosscut the railings, with miter and bevel. But here I just set the fence to the thickness of the boards and rip away. I’ve attached the shop vac as dust collection, plugging the saw and vac both into the same power strip, and using the reset button on the power strip as the power button, so I’m able to turn on and off the saw and the shop vac at the same time.

The power strip reset button trips a couple times, when the saw starts to bog down during a cut. The first time it happens I think I’ve tripped a circuit breaker, and I go trudging inside the house to reset it. But none of the breakers is tripped, and I finally figure out that it’s just the power strip itself. It’s much handier though resetting the power strip each time, rather than trekking into the house.

Is fun, ripping the balusters. And the shop vac collects a huge amount of sawdust. Much better than the grass-killing piles of dust that I used to leave on the lawn with the Delta saw. I get nineteen and two-thirds balusters from the planks. Good thing, since I need nineteen.

Big Old Drywall Panel from the Home Depot

We buy a four foot by eight foot sheet of half inch drywall at the Home Depot. We’re making some small repairs around the house, so we don’t actually need all that drywall, but they don’t sell anything smaller. They sell handy panels (that’s what they call them) of plywood and hardboard and MDF in four by four and two by four foot sizes. But not drywall. We need one piece that’s about four and a quarter inches by twelve and three quarters, and another piece twenty four and a half inches long by about seven or eight inches high.

So we need about two hundred and fifty square inches, but we buy over four thousand square inches. But it’s like that at Home Depot a lot of the time. The big sheet is about nine bucks. We can handle that. We can afford to pay that for the forty eight cents worth that we need.

And besides, I get home and misread the drywall square on the left side, forgetting to account for the two inches that is the width of the straight edge. I end up with a six inch wide piece when I meant to cut an eight inch wide piece. So I have to cut again.

So good thing I have all that extra, huh?

Sanding Dust

Dawn has to dust the bedroom, but I’ve yet to sand the walls after patching after Roberto & Jose. Said sanding is going to produce a lot of dust, so I need to do it before Dawn dusts anything else. So I do our bedroom. What an enormous mess.

I’m smart enough to wear eye protection, which in my case now also includes ear protection, thanks to my cool Radians. I don’t know why, but the shop vac is painfully loud to me. So the ear plugs help a lot. The shop vac is moderately successful at keeping the dust down to a minimum, as long as I hold the hose with one hand while I sand with the other. Like a dope, though, I don’t wear any sort of dust mask, even after Dawn reminds me at one point. Later I look in the mirror and see that all my nose hairs are coated white. Wonder how much dust makes it into my lungs.

In the bedroom I can still see an impression here and there of the mesh tape after everything is all smooth. I should have done three coats like you’re supposed to do. I thought I could get away with two.

Fixing the Walls

We go to Home Depot to look for the plaster repair product that Mr. Connor recommended, something he called “Easy Forty-Five.” We finally deduce that it’s most likely Sheetrock brand lightweight setting-type joint compound. There are a couple of different packages, each denoted by the setting time. There’s “Easy Sand 90,” “Easy Sand 45,” and “Easy Sand 20.” So it’s probably Easy Sand 45 that we want. But, we’ve actually already got about two-thirds of a bag of Easy Sand 90 at home. We’re just going to go ahead and use that.

We pick up some extra drywall mesh tape while we’re here, in case we don’t have any at home. Later at home we’ll find that we already have two rolls of it.

Back at home I dig out the mudpan and taping knives and the joint compound itself from the laundry closet. It’s been quite some time since I played with these toys. It takes a while to get the hang of mixing the compound just right, getting it to the stiffness of cake frosting, as they do on the shows on HGTV. (Candice Olsen even pretended like she was going to eat some once. Yum.) Plus taping the channels in the walls takes longer than I expect, as I work frantically, thinking that the joint compound is setting up in the mudpan. But it’s supposedly got a working time of sixty minutes, more maybe ’cause it’s so hot and humid, so I probably needn’t hurry. But I do anyway.

I end up using just a regular 1¼” putty knife and the six-inch taping knife for the first application. Tomorrow I’ll use a four-inch putty knife and the twelve-inch taping knife for the second coat.

Friday Electric

We lost track for a while of the electrician who had given us a bid to do some electrical work. He gave us a verbal quote which was fine, and but then a written quote of a hundred bucks more, which was a little fishy, but either way I called him and left a message asking him to call back to discuss a start date. Then waited and waited. Finally I called one Mr. Connor, who had the recommendation of Mr. Simon on the Hill East Listserv. Mr. Connor came out the next day, took a look around, said it’d be about a third of the cost of the first electrician’s quote, and he said that he could do it like the day after tomorrow at eight-thirty in the morning.

As in today, now, Friday. So I take this morning off from work and wait for him to show up. Roberto and Jose arrive at 8:35 a.m. They aren’t exactly sure what they’re supposed to do. Where is Mr. Connor himself? Roberto tells me that he’ll be along at some point soon. So I explain to the two of them what we want and what I assume Mr. Connor was going to do. I never did get Mr. Connor’s first name. I think it’s James, since Roberto keeps referring to him as “Mr. Jame.”

Roberto and Jose start by digging a big old channel up the living room wall from the breaker panel box. It’s really really loud, when they do this. Then they do the same in the upstairs front bedroom. Then the back bedroom. Then they lay shielded cable in the channels, and string it up through the ceiling/floor and attic. Takes about three hours. Then they fill the channel up with expanding foam, and then go to lunch while the foam dries. When they return they neatly slice the foam flush with the wall with hacksaw blades.

Neither of the cats is happy with the whole experience. Gwen hides under the bed in the guest room while they’re downstairs, and then when they go upstairs too she takes to the safety of the top of her litter box in the workshop. Louise is spared for a while longer, until they go into her bedroom as well. She parks herself unhappily halfway down the stairs. I sit around with Gwen mostly, reading Lord Hornblower.

I also have a good chat with Roberto for a few minutes while exploring inside the main box. I see where the main cable comes in, to the main breaker, then splits off to this like side line of connections. All the other breakers are connected to this as well. So I ask Roberto if this is where all the connections are, and if these metal tabls are just there to hold the breakers. I tap my index finger on one of the metal tabs as I ask him this. Roberto’s eyes get big and round as he tells me not to touch that, that there’s 220 volts running through there. I promised not to touch it again. But it was good to learn about what goes on in there.

Mr. Connor does put in a quick appearance at one point. I swear it lasts about sixty seconds. After he leaves I remember that I was supposed to ask him about some product that he had recommended for repairing the plaster. I run and catch him, and he says it’s “Easy Forty-Five.”

When Roberto and Jose and are all done and ready to leave, I start writing a check and ask how much it is, but Roberto says that Mr. Connor will send us a bill. I then try at least to give Roberto a twenty in cash, but he won’t take it. He says Mr. Connor will pay them. I tell him it’s a tip, but he still won’t take it.

What is this thing?

When we moved into our house back in late 2003, there was this … thing. It was mounted on the wall at the top of the stairs, just outside our bedroom. It’s a little electronic device, white plastic box, about four inches tall by two and a half inches wide by three-quarters of an inch thick. A bottom compartment holds two AA batteries.

It’s maybe a motion detector or a carbon monoxide detector, some sort of sensor that goes with our alarm system.

On the back is a logo for a company perhaps, STAR, where the “A” is replaced by a star symbol. Next to that is what looks like a model number, D825W. Below that says, “USE 2 ‘AA’ (1.5 VOLT) BATTERIES.” Below that is “DOC 1537K683.” Next to all this is an FCC ID “IG8KWD-330R” and “Made in Taiwan.”

The Federal Communications Commission’s Office of Engineering and Technology has at their website a lookup for FCC IDs, so I try that. It gives me a little info. The FCC issued the Grant of Equipment Authorization in 1990 to a company named MVP Canada Industries Inc. at 815 Middlefield Road in Scarborough, Ontario. The specific person at the grantee is named Mary Hou. There’s mention of another company called Marstech Limited.

There’s not much in the way of detail on either the application or the grant. There’s a reference to an equipment class, which in this case is a superregenerative receiver, whatever that is.

Can’t find much by Googling MVP Canada Industries. I get the feeling that they’re not in business anymore. There’s a real estate investment trust, Summit REIT, that bought the property at 815 Middlefield Road, where they say “[m]ajor tenants include Canadian Clothing, Magnus Pen and The Carriage House.” No mention of MVP Canada Industries. Marstech looks to be a company that helps other companies faciliate things like FCC applications.

Wikipedia has info under an article about regenerative circuits, including something about a regenerative receiver and then also a superregenerative receiver. I don’t really understand much of what the article says. Best as I can figure out, this thing receives a signal, some kind of weak signal, which signal it regenerates so as to be able to receive said weak signal.

There’s an On/Off switch on the side. Nothing seems to happen when I flip it on.

Around the House

We hear today from Mr. Dyson, an electrician, about doing some work on the house.

Seems like the house has had a couple of different eras regarding electricity. Built in 1923, it originally had knob & tube wiring, most likely. At some point in the fifties or sixties, this was replaced, as we can see conduit running along the walls in the living room and bedrooms. Sometime later, when the kitchen was re-done, the plaster walls were replaced with drywall, and wiring was installed inside the drywall. The addition on the back, my workshop, is basic framing and drywall, with wiring inside, as well. The main panel, in the living room, has circuit breakers, not fuses, so that was added later. It’s also 200 amps, and I think the house would have originally been only one-hundred. The washer/dryer unit that we have is 220 volts; that circuit is definitely newer rather than older.

We have some issues with the way the house is wired sometimes. Seems like too much of the house is on just this one circuit. The upstairs, for example. We’ll blow the circuit if we have on the window air conditioner in our bedroom as well as the big one in the guest bedroom window. Or sometimes it’s the vacuum cleaner. I think Dawn tripped it once with her hair dryer. It’s always the same breaker in the panel box, the 15 amp one on the top right. But the lights go out in the workshop, both bedrooms upstairs, as well as the lights in the living room and kitchen.

On Sunday we took an hour or so and completely mapped the whole circuitry of the house. That pretty much entailed turning on all the lights and fans that we could and then checking to see what went off when we flipped a circuit breaker from ON to OFF. Oh, I also used a receptacle tester to test the outlets, certainly easier than like plugging a lamp into it or anything like that.

More than half the house is indeed on that one 15 amp circuit, whereas there’s one GFCI outlet in the kitchen that’s one its own circuit. We weren’t too sure about the furnace and the water heater, since we didn’t know how to turn those on and off or check when they were on or off, but there were two circuits we couldn’t determine that worked anything, so maybe they were on one or both of those.

We decided that we need somebody to come rewire some of this. I don’t feel at all qualified to do it, and, heck, I wouldn’t be surprised if I’m not allowed to do it, if local law requires it to be done by a licensed electrician. So best to go with a pro on this one. I had called Bill, an electrician that I know in VA, to ask if he knew anyone, but I never heard back from him. But it just so happened that the house next door, currently under renovation, was, at that very same moment that we were mapping the circuits, being worked on by an electrician. We had met him out front while he was installing a new meter at the front of the house. So we asked him to take a look and bid on the job.

And just as Dawn brought him into the house through the back where he had been by his truck, Robin the owner of the house came walking up the front steps to drop off a gift basket for us, for being such patient neighbors during the construction. So we get his opinion of the house and wiring while we get her opinion of him. She adores him, so that’s good. And he takes a look at things and tells us he’ll get back to us Tuesday with an estimate.

So today we see him next door when we get home from work, but he doesn’t have the estimate paperwork with him. He says he’ll call us when he gets back to the office. Just a little later he calls and gives us a quote. It’s more than we were hoping to hear but less than my worst-case estimate. I think we’re going to go with him.

Candy Wrappers

We get a lot of trash on our street. I think our block is maybe at some sort of critical distance from the local high school where the kids get out for the day, hit the convenience store for junk food, and then finish their snacks on our block on the walk home. There are no municipal trash receptacles on our block, so the kids just discard the wrappers and packaging wherever they are on the block.

It may also be the drug dealers. I think since they’re working a certain section of the neighborhood, they don’t have lot of time to go from one trash can to the next to discard whatever packaging they’ve got. Sometimes it’s like a styrofoam container of a whole meal, maybe. It gets dumped on the curb or in the storm drain across the street.

We’re also on a modest-sized thoroughfare for traffic heading out of city, both morning and afternoon drive times. But it’s probably not that so much, although I’m sure stuff gets thrown out of cars then too. Mostly the stuff tossed from cars seems like beer or wine bottles, probably not rush hour trash.

Dawn and I sometimes do a trash run, picking up the block, on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon. We don gloves and drag a trash bag up and down the street, picking up all the trash. Some days we fill up the trash bag pretty full. Mostly the trash doesn’t bother me, except for broken bottles. That really annoys me. Like, it’s almost okay to discard something on my street, but why do you have to break the bottle when you do it?

And then there’s this one type of candy wrapper that we see all the time. It’s some sort of Tootsie Roll product, but not like the fake chocolate of a Tootsie Roll proper. Rather it’s a related or spin-off product called Frooties. Somebody on the block or somebody who goes through a lot sure does love those, since I’m almost guaranteed to find at least one discarded wrapper every time we pick up the trash.

I think this bothers me more than the broken glass, even, as if everything else is just a one-time thing that someone has dropped, someone who never has littered before and may never litter again, like they’ve just dropped this one thing just this one time. But the Frooties wrappers I always think it’s the same person. I want to stay home every day and guard vigilantly and set up video surveillance and helicopters and whatever, and find the person who’s dropping the Frooties wrappers and just say, hey, cut it out, willya.

Third Story

They had just started framing the third floor of the house next door at the end of last week. They seemed to have mostly finished today. Yup, it’s a third story all right.

They do seem to have pushed back just a tad from the façade on the front. That was about all we could hope for, I suppose. Still, it’s a travesty, what they’re doing. There was an Associated Press story about such things the other day, and you can find it, “Communities Fight ‘Tear-Down Phenomenon’,” on one of the many sites that carry the AP.


Painting mostly finished, except Dawn does a little touch up around the light switch and outlet below. We’ve bought new ceramic covers for the outlets and switch, so those go up. I completely unplug all peripherals from the computer, so as to then be able to empty the desk, to install new glides on the bottom of the desk, since one glide went missing like 3 moves ago. Then we put up new curtain rods and curtains. Boy is the room cute.

New Styles

Dawn and I take the day off to paint the guest bedroom. Today is primer day. We use almost the whole gallon, and we worry that the single gallon of the real paint isn’t going to be enough. Gwen is very upset at all the commotion and spends a lot of time on top of the pantry. Then she spends time on the mattress and box spring that’re propped on their sides in the living room, and she claws it a lot too.

Dawn gets her hair cut today as well, in the morning. Her regular stylist Connie has left Bubbles, so Dawn gets a haircut from a new person, Ann. After ten years of Connie. Big change for Dawn. Dawn is so cute when she comes out of the salon, with such a stylish ‘do. And she head told me she was getting her head shaved. Rascal.

Construction Update

They’ve put plywood and Tyvek over the framing on the extension next door. Dawn asks how they’re squeezing between the framing and the fence to nail up the plywood and Tyvek. Good question.

Also looks like they’re going up for the second floor of the extension now. I had been secretly hoping that they’d only make it a one-story extension. We’ve seen the plans, of course, and they’re going up three floors, but, still, a boy can hope.

The House Next Door

I haven’t mentioned before, but really have been meaning to do so, what’s going on next door to us at 231. It had been an empty shell ever since we moved in, but now finally there’s work being done on it. That’s the good news. The bad news is that they’re bumping it back pretty far and, even worse, adding a third story.

First there was the weekend where guys came to clear out every shred of the place. I had thought it was a shell before, but then they took out the flooring, boards and joists and all. They set up a wide board as a ramp from the back door to a roll-off dumpster in the back yard, and they carted wheelbarrows full of debris to the dumpster. I thought about nabbing a few floor boards later that night. But finally I decided that it would be stealing, even if I thought that they considered it trash. Maybe they were going to sell it to a reclaimer of someone, I guess was my thinking.

Since then it’s been kinda exciting to watch the construction, even though I’m dreading the final product. Or, more precisely, it’s been exciting to see the results of any particular day’s construction when we get home from work. Like what had been some sort of footprint of a previous extension in the back, more recently just ditches to hold mosquito-breeding pools of water, they filled those in with cement for the new foundation. Then they put concrete block on top of that. Then they built the series of floor joists over that. Then they framed the first floor.

Monday Aches

My back is very sore today. I spent a good deal of time yesterday installing the wainscoting in the stairwell. I had been planning on using the Liquid Nails that we bought to attach the boards, but, after reading about installing wainscoting at the This Old House website, I decided to go with their recommendation of horizontal runs instead. And I’m really glad I did, because it worked really well. And after screwing up some 4d nails, my brilliant wife Dawn suggested using the staple gun that we bought. It also drives 5/8″ brads, which worked great.

So while Dawn sewed all afternoon, I worked on the one side, the south side, of the stairwell. And I finished it. And I have up already the horizontal boards on the upper part, the west side. And I know it took me more than four hours, because Gone with the Wind was on TCM the whole time I was working. Or not working, actually, like when I would stop to watch a scene or ask Dawn what was going on.

Mister the day the lottery I win …

or, “Tell him what he’s won, Jay.” “Monty, it’s a brand new car!”

And for us, it’s a new used car. We’re very excited.

Dawn went to yoga class and I went to the gym. We then went to Whole Foods and bought eggplant. Then we went and got the Taurus washed at the Mr. Wash across the street from Wes Greenway’s Alexandria Volkswagen. We had a 1:00 p.m. appointment with Terry Davis, but we showed up about ten after twelve. He was nice and gave us his full attention right away.

We were looking for either a Jetta wagon or a Ford Focus wagon, from either Carmax or someplace else with certified vehicles. Well, I had hoped we could find a Volvo V40, but Dawn hates them, so that was out. We couldn’t find any Jetta wagons at any local Carmax, but we had spotted one, on, at a VW dealer in Alexandria. It’s a 2002 and was $12,950 with 48,021 miles on it. It was a bit cheaper than others. Not sure why.

Terry got us into it right away and explained a few of the features to us. Then Dawn and I took off in it. I drove at first, taking a right off of West Glebe onto Mount Vernon Avenue. I pulled into the Birchmere’s parking lot and took some tight turns. Then I gave the wheel over to Dawn, who pulled us out and about and around back to the dealer. “We’ll take it,” we said.

Was another two hours before we got out of there, after accepting $1200 for the Taurus and signing our name many times for Kevin the finance guy, who used to work in NYC in Bldg. 7 of the WTC and lost his job after 9/11.

We tried to go to the DC inspection station, but they were closed and shut up, even though we got there at 2:52 p.m. and they ostensibly close at 3:00 p.m. on Saturdays.

Dawn loves driving now. We’ve named the new car Mary, which I think of as being short for Rosemary but Dawn thinks it’s just Mary.

It has a sunroof, heated seats and a CD player. It has an alarm system, operated by a remote that also locks and unlocks the doors. It has roof rails. It’s got more storage space than our house.

Good Morning

Monday was a good day for mattress delivery, it being the holiday and all.

The woman who sold us the set called Sunday night to say that we should expect the truck sometime between eight and eleven. They called Monday morning around 8:30 a.m. to say they were on their way, and the two guys with truck arrived right around nine.

I had brewed a pot of coffee especially for them, but actually they declined, opting for water instead. They clearly were in a hurry, practically running up the stairs with the box spring and bed frame first. It took a bit of twisting and turning to get up the winding stairs.

The foot part of our iron bed wouldn’t fit on the new frame they brought, so we had to swap it with the old frame that we had already set up in the guest bedroom. That took a little doing too.

Boy the bed is a lot taller now. Louise can look over the foot end without standing on her hind paws, and she now steps down rather neatly onto my nightstand rather than having to leap to and from it.

And comfy, too. Yup, good morning. Nice restful sleep last night.


Dawn and I stopped by Mattress Discounters on Saturday morning and bought a new mattress set. After discovering our comfort, we chose neither the tight top nor the pillow top, but the soft top. Then, among the soft tops, we chose the Simmons Beautyrest from the Spa Collection.

We then arranged for delivery for the following Monday, after plunking down eleven-hundred dollars. This puts the mattress and box spring set into the prestigious category of most expensive item in the house. Yes, more than the washer and dryer. About twice as expensive as the refrigerator.

It’s of course hard to compare such things, but I have to note that in 2001 and 2002, in my apartment at Columbia Plaza, I was sleeping quite contentedly on a $60 futon.