Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Moving Day!

Unreserved has gone and grown up!
When I started blogging, I wasn't sure if I'd grow tired of it quickly or if I'd stick with it. Three years in, I guess I can say I'm ready to make a commitment. So I moved to:
www.unreservedblog.com
I hope you'll join me there!

Friday, November 07, 2008

One word - plastics

The sewage guys pulled up this morning in their chauffeured stretch hummer and snaked out our drains. There was indeed a blockage outside at the new trap. A very tough blockage that required augering out with the snake before things could flow again. When they pulled back the snake, they found a chunk of now-mangled red/orange plastic on the end.

What was the mystery object? The world may never know. They suggested that perhaps one of the small people in our house may have flushed something. I'm skeptical on this one because the sole functioning toilet in our house has trouble choking down the things that are supposd to be flushed, let alone chunks of plastic. And whatever it was made it out to the trap before becoming, well, trapped. However, what with all the recent openness going on in our sewage lines, there's no telling what could have found its way in there.

So all's well that ends well. The little Unreservedlings get a sound lecture on what does and does not belong down pipes - water, good. Toys, washclothes, hairbrushes, orangutans, fruit bats, breakfast cereals (undigested), anchovies, bad. The sewage guys went off into the sunset (it does get dark early these days, no?) having relieved us of all of our pond and none of our money.

I'm still thinking about that goat, just in case.

Squish?!

Last night I was feeling my productivity oats. I thought I would get a few loads of laundry in to help Mr. Unreserved get a jump on things. (Friday is when he usually does laundry.) Now hold up before you go thinking, "Who does she think she is, doesn't she wear clothes, too? Why is she "helping" Mr. Unreserved?" keep in mind that Mr. Unreserved is usually home doing laundry on Fridays while I am at work. He does his job, I do mine. We are an equal opportunity household. He doesn't ask me to do laundry, I don't ask him to calculate optimized stoichiometry for acid catalyzed couplings.

As I was saying, I went down to the basement to put in a load of whites. And while I was doing so, I noticed the rug in front of the washing machine sounded wrong. The fact that it sounded at all was not a good sign. Rugs are ideally quiet.
This rug said, "Squish."

Squish?

I moved my feet around.

Squish!

I felt the rug. It was water-logged.

Bring in the scientific method!
Observation: The rug is soaked.
Hypothesis: The rug is soaked because there is a source of leaking water.
Predictions: The soaked rug is related to the fact that Mr. Unreserved had done a load of towels and a load of jeans earlier that day. Therefore the source is most likely the washing machine. Either the laundry tub that the machine drains into is clogged, the drain hose is loose at the back of the machine, or evil things are happening in the sewage lines that the whole mess empties into.
Experiments:
1. Observe the running washing machine. The hose was emptying into the wash tub, so it wasn't a hose disconnect.
2. Examine the wash tub. No clog.
=cue ominous music=
3. Fill washing machine. Drain washing machine. Observe water backing up from the drain pipe that the wash tub connects to, as well as the floor drain up the line from that. Jump out of the way of rapidly expanding pond in basement.
=insert Psycho knife slashing music here=

Swear vigorously. Conclusion: F*ck. There's something new and excitingly wrong with the sewage line. Sewage line. . . sewage line. . . I seem to remember something about sewage lines at Chez Unreserved. Oh! Yes! They were supposed to be FIXED COMPLETELY at GREAT EXPENSE two weeks ago.

See, here's the kicker. There are two main lines in the house - the first being the one that the bathroom, sink, and dishwasher drain into. It goes merrily out of the house where it connects with the second line, the one that the laundry tub, washing machine, and basement floor drain empty into. They meet up at a shiny new gold lined gem encrusted (on the outside so as not to impede flow) union, whereupon they follow the new platinum piping through the trap, down the brand new titanium line under my mangled driveway and into the sewage main. (all materials are assumed based on the cost of aforementioned repairs)

So Mr. Unreserved and I stood staring and cussing at the burbling pond, wondering what new and expensive troubles we're looking at. Staring at a pond so long made nature call. I went upstairs and answered. I flushed.
Mr. Unreserved yelled, "Did you just flush?"
"Yes. Why?"
"Because the water level just came UP over here."
We repeated the experiment (well, the flushing portion of it). The water level rose again.

Considering that the toilet is on a different line than the laundry facilities, we suspect that all is not well in the magical land of new sewage piping. Which is extra weird considering that laundry was done last week (after the repairs were complete) without incident. The answering service for the repair company promised that someone would be out first thing this morning. Also the gutter guys are back to finish the gutter job.

So I write to ask you if you live in the greater Pittsburgh area, and you happen to have a spare goat* lying around that you don't need, could I please have it? You see we need to make a sacrifice to the sewage gods, and finances being what they are, and what with all of last month's sacrifices, we're fresh out.


*Before I get e-mails from angry goat lobyists, I would never do such a thing. Really. If I had, I wouldn't have had to have my sewage lines fixed, would I? Have you hugged a goat today?

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

I know I'm not the only one to say this . . .

. . . but I have to. I am thrilled to know that my daughters will grow up in a world where a black president is not only a possibility, but a fact. I love the fact that every successive generation is a little more open minded, a little more rational than the last.
I have faith that one day that this open-mindedness will apply also to complete acceptance of committed relationships between people regardless of gender. One baby-step at a time!

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Good riddance, October.

Instead of participating in NaNoBloMo, I've elected (har) to write a month's worth of post tonight.

At Chez Unreserved, we carved pumpkins. It's quite the trick to get a good picture of both girls simultaneously.
Either Claire isn't looking and/or they're out of focus


Or Anna isn't looking, or she's pulling a face


So I figured a little reverse psychology was in order. I asked them to make faces. THIS time they listened.


The next day I was off work (oh sweet, sweet vacation!) so I got to take Anna to her class party. While waiting for class to begin Anna decided to try out her wings.


We had a very successful trick-or-treat year. It was sort of odd starting out in broad daylight, but it made picture taking easier.

The girls made friends with a 2yr old Buzz Lightyear from the next street over. The three of them made a formidable candy collecting team.

On Saturday, the fun was over. I had to be the enforcer and prevent the girls from subsisting entirely on pure sugar. Fortunately it was beautiful out, so we went outside and got some work done.

There was a tremendous amount of damage along the back of the house where the deck used to be. This is why the deck fell. We suspect the boards were already in bad shape when the deck went up. Time and moisture didn't help matters any.
The shorter portion of the L-shaped space is what's left of a beam under the original part of the house. It had been the home of a large colony of carpenter ants. We could see that it had been repaired somewhat before on the right end.


This is/was a sizable beam. The floor joists are mortised into it. Removing it was not a desirable option. Enter our chosen repair after much research - a multi-part epoxy system from The Rot Doctor.
I removed the worst of the rotted wood. All I needed was a paint scraper and a paintbrush. That's how deteriorated it was.
Pictured here is the excavated beam with my hand in the picture for scale.


The remaining wood was treated with a penetrating epoxy, as was the new pieces of wood that were cut to fill the excavated space. I soaked the entire beam and the new wood in the epoxy, which was every bit as noxious smelling as the label promised. Our whole house reeked faintly of xylenes for about 24hrs. I also inadvertently soaked my pants, my shoes, my shirt, the ladder, and my left elbow with an unfortunate splash of epoxy. My elbow is now rot resistant. My shirt is history. The jury is still out on the pants and shoes. If the neighbors were watching, they got a quick flashing of undergarments when I stripped in the yard.

I managed to finish the job. Here it is all cobbled together, curing merrily away.

I will give it a week to cure and then fill in the remaining cracks and voids with a mixture of layup and laminating resin and fine sawdust. The result should be a sound, rot-resistant beam that should no longer crumble or harbor ant farms. We will cover it with tar paper and siding. Assuming we can find someone to sell us 8" novelty lap siding.

The longer damaged portion was too far gone to salvage any wood. It's under the new part of the house, "new" being circa 1920, that contains the kitchen. The board that closes off the floor joists and wall studs was almost completely gone.

The pink you can see is foam insulation Mr. Unreserved put up in the basement in an attempt to keep the drafts down in the kitchen. You could see daylight where the floor meets the wall under the radiator. The wood was almost completely gone from under the tar paper. Can you believe someone tried to hang a deck off of this mess?
Mr. Unreserved removed what little was left, Leaving a gaping hole under the entire kitchen.


The sill was rotted away for a few feet under one end, so it had to be replaced, and the floor joists were sistered where necessary. We could see how the floor had been sagging, made worse by the fact that the radiator sits above the worst of the damage and it weighs about 800lbs. Mr. Unreserved also repaired this corner beam.

Lovely, isn't it? Makes us wonder what, other than a wish and a prayer, holds this place up.*
With all the damage fixed, Mr. Unreserved closed it back up with new 1x12s and covered the whole shebang with tar paper. Assuming we can find someone to sell us 6" novelty lap siding, we will then side it. Yes, that's not a typo. The siding on that portion of the house is narrower than the other.

There's no pictures of that side of the fixed corner because I prudently took the camera inside. It looked like rain. I set it on the counter out of reach of children. Claire climbed up on the counter for the umpteenth time even though she knows better and accidentally knocked the camera in the dog's water dish. I'm praying it dries out. I'm not happy.

And finally, I've avoided politics here up to this point. I'm not a fan of espousing my political views via a yard sign or on the back end of my car (though if that floats your boat, far be it from me to look askance) or on my blog. But I must say, all throughout this election season I firmly decided that I was voting for Obama. But then the past three days, the McCain campaign's automated whatnots have called my house roughly three to five times a day. And lo! I have seen the light! I've completely reversed my political opinions in light of these constant phone calls! I'll change my vote now - the phone calls have shown me the error of my ways!

Or not.

*Which reminds me of another digression - while the gutter guys were up above this section of the house on Friday, they asked if we knew anything about a fire in the house's history. A small section of the back of the original structure appears to have burned at some point long ago, perhaps before the kitchen addition was built. We've got a pretty thorough accounting of the house's history from the last owner, but no mention of a fire. I really wish these walls could talk.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Sailing sailing over the bounding waves

Our fabulous gutter crew has been at Chez Unreserved this week. It's refreshing to look at the house and not see ragged rotted wood hanging from the eaves.
It's refreshing not to be doing the heavy lifting ourselves.
I'm doing my damnedest not to think about the heavy paying that will be going on. It's been a pricey month, but every project puts us one step closer to no more projects. In the year 2028.

I've been on a domestic kick in the kitchen. (also known as "I can't eat Mr. Unreserved's cooking one more day this month") Saturday I made double batches of both turkey and rice soup and chili. And corn bread muffins. And I attempted the "no knead" bread that the internet raves about. That recipe that supposedly a five year old could manage. And I screwed it up for the second time.
The first time, it was rising too slowly so I tried our usual bread trick of popping it in an oven that's been turned on for only a minute. Unfortunately in that minute I ducked outside to collect Claire who was tired of playing. So I burned the bread dough.
The second time, I honestly don't know what went wrong, but instead of a rounded, crispy loaf, I ended up with a shiny flat gummy amoeba.
The third time it worked. We had the bread tonight with the turkey rice soup. It wasn't bad, but I'm missing what all the fuss is about. Maybe the beer laced version is better. I find frozen bread dough just as easy (the trickiest part of bread baking to me is remembering to start it far enough in advance - thawing frozen dough vs. starting no knead dough 12-18hrs early is a wash) and just as tasty.

Yesterday I spent my day "off" shuttling Anna around, shopping fruitlessly for quilts for the girls' room, buying groceries, and making cabbage and noodles. Mmm, comfort food. I reveled in knowing I didn't have to be at work yesterday, or today if I felt like it. It turns out I felt like it. On a crappy day outside one might as well be chained to the benchtop.

I'm making slow but steady progress on Autumn Rose. Mr. Unreserved says it will be done by 2010, but he doesn't realize what great progress I've made considering it's stranded knitting. Stranded knitting that I had to start four times. And I'm still sweating the gauge. It doesn't help that I have to stop and admire the work so far and squee about the color combination every three rows.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Why all things knitting should be metric

I am knitting Autumn Rose. Rather, I am attempting to knit Autumn Rose. I thought I had all the required needles - size 2 29" circulars, size 2 16" circulars, size 2 dpns, etc. The problem is, not all size 2s are created equal. Size 2s come in two sizes, 2.75mm and 3.0mm.
The pattern specifies size 3.0mm size 2s. I knit ahead heedless of the fact that my needles were 0.25mm smaller than specified. I ended up with a gauge of 36sts/4" instead of the required 30sts/4". My row gauge was 40rows/4" instead of 30. I frogged. Again.
This is not the first time this sweater has been ripped back. This is not the second time this sweater has been ripped back. The first time I joined to work in the round, I twisted it. This was my first twist, and I will have the universe know that I was careful! Honest! I checked and double checked, and the only thing I can figure is that the slippery 296 stitches worked their way around sneakily when I was checking. And that's my story for why it was twisted the second time, too. Yes, my first twist and I did it twice in a row. But the third time worked, that is until I got up to the circular patterning and realize the pattern was all messed up.
I spent Wednesday's presidential debate ripping and fixing only to find out my gauge was off.
So last night I picked up the size 3 (3.25mm) needles I have. Having discussed it with my knitting group of one (Hi Mom!), we figured that my gauge was so tight that going to 3.0mm needles probably wouldn't be enough increase anyway. So I've started again (I think this makes my 4th start) on 3.25mms. If the gauge is too big, I'll know exactly what needle size I need. I still refuse to work a swatch. I'd rather take my chances and wind up back in the frog pond.
I briefly considered putting the yarn away and starting a different sweater, but I'm determined now. I want this sweater, and I want it this winter. It will not beat me!

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