Tuesday, September 30, 2014

September 30:
Alex Trebek: Squirrels.
M: Ooh, ooh, what is the solution to getting rid of the leaves in unreachable gutters?

M: Seriously guys, it came to me in a flash of inspiration this morning as I was sipping coffee and absently staring at the colorful leaves falling like raindrops outside our wall of glass. Suddenly a squirrel raced full-speed through a gutter packed with leaves, clearing them out of his way as efficiently as a blower. Now, considering a squirrel's brain is only about the size of a pea, I doubt if I could train a squad of the fluffy-tailed rats in time to be of help this season. BUT I believe, if I start collecting a squad of them at the first signs of spring, I should have them under my control by next fall and clogged gutters will no longer be a problem. Electrodes may or may not be part of my plan.

J: That is brilliant! We could turn it into a really lucrative business in this area. But just think, if you could train the squirrels to run through gutters on command, maybe we could also train some of the mice and snakes and the woodchuck, maybe the deer family...hey, we could have our own circus...

M: Hmmmmm, maybe we both need some time away from paint fumes.

Monday, September 29, 2014



September 28: Joie and Marilyn both like charts and graphs, to-do lists and specific numbers. For instance, we find considerable satisfaction in saying we have 3 rooms done and 9 to go. Or is it 2 and 11? It's really hard to accurately report what has been completed and what is still in the queue. When a hallway could have a bowling lane in it, we think it counts as a room for renovation purposes, which it definitely is on the list for. And Joie's office has turned out to be very functional as it is, so it's no longer on the Must Renovate ASAP list. Plus, some rooms/areas have something done, like new ceiling lights have been installed in the kitchen, hallway, outdoor soffits & corner floods, and the kitchen has been cleared of unwanted structures and does have new appliances... Maybe the only solution is to stick with reporting progress, wherever it takes place. Thus said...

     At a late hour, the en suite bedroom in the basement was ready, as promised. And yes, even those pesky, odd-sized ceiling tiles could not stop Marilyn from meeting the deadline. After 2+ months of really hard physical (and usually dirty) labor by both Joie (pre-school start) and Marilyn, and with the professional help of Ryan Regan-Ladd Builders, Marc Bussiere Electrical Contractor and Pickering Plumbing, the hero/tenant Rob will be able to move into his own space tomorrow.

We'll post the before and after videos that Joie filmed in a day or two, but here's a few pics of the finished suite. The colors didn't show up well, but fyi, the doors and ceiling are white, the walls and trim area pale blue called Glimmer, the floor is Moody Blue and the area rug is a black, dark gray and light gray shag.

M: Joie strongly hinted that I've been very cranky lately, possibly prompted by my threats to return to a condo in Florida, like sane senior citizens do. Besides, I have a group of characters (some with dangerous psychic powers) who are loudly nagging at me to finish their story before starting any other reno project. And I agree, but first, I need a "transitional" day, so tomorrow, I'm going to a movie, in an actual theater. I think "Guardians of the Galaxy" should be just the inspiration I need to get back to ROMAN. I may even put on a little makeup.



Saturday, September 27, 2014

September 27: Where's Joie? Apparently, inquiring minds want to know! Be assured, she has been present in spirit, if not always in person. School is a full-time status for her now, so she had to turn over the reno work, as well as keeping up this blog, to Marilyn. Although she has a difficult time not going downstairs to supervise/critique but Mother kicks her right back out again. However, she took a few minutes to take some new pics of the changing leaves this morning...



Plus one of Milkdud wearing the handsome sweater Aunt Barbara made for him. The nights and mornings are already very chilly for his old bones, but at least we're still having some warm & sunny afternoons - it was 46 at dawn but 80 at 3 pm.

 As to Marilyn, the leftover white spatters have now been joined by head-to-toes "Moody Blue" concrete enamel. Yep, she got the entire new tenant bedroom floor painted today, which leaves installing the closet system and finishing those dang ceiling tiles tomorrow to meet the promise to the tenant. Maybe NEXT Sunday will be a day of rest for her.

M: Oh yeah, one other thing - why in heaven's name does anyone in New England have a gigantic pool? Those pretty leaves are now falling into the pool faster than I can skim it! I had another thought but it's gone...
Oh my God. I think I'm stoned on paint fumes.

September 26: Marilyn spent a good part of today on her knees. Getting dirty. And cursing. A lot. But she refused to let the house win the point, no matter how many hours it took or how much paint she got on herself and everything in her vicinity. The en suite bedroom-in-progress got cleaned up (again), new drywall got sanded and painted, as did the new doors, baseboards and trim, twice. Her arms and shins still had white paint spatters when she fell asleep.
But the space is finally ready for the floor to be done...tomorrow.
September 25: Recruited hero/tenant Rob to help cut and install the rest of the ceiling tiles and, despite a lot of improvising and gerri-rigging with uneven tracks and walls, we still have one nearly impossible area to complete. But not today. Today, the house got the point.
September 24: Sometimes you just have to leave the house, like when you need toilet paper, wine or 2 more huge boxes of ceiling tiles. With only half a day left for house tasks, Marilyn, the Author, worked on her website and upcoming promotional effort. Then Marilyn the handywoman, vacuumed the leaves in the pool and trimmed the bushes across the front of the house.
M: As I took the above picture to show my day's work, I realized I had never whined to y'all about how much time and energy I'd previously spent on scrubbing, clearing cobwebs, mud wasp nests and birds' nests, and removing hooks, nails, multiple thermometers, etc., from all the wood siding and soffits to get it to look this good. Unfortunately, we aren't appreciative of brown, dirty or clean, but it will be at least a year before we can replace it with something in a pale yellow shade. (Still undecided about the future trim color though.) To the left is what we see out of our kitchen window, which is why I didn't mind doing dishes by hand for two months.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

September 23: Hallelujah, we have doors! Such a simple thing, doors are, until you lack them. All the credit for this accomplishment goes to our contractor/builder/carpenter, Ryan Regan-Ladd. Though there is still some finish work needed on the drywall and frames and painting, We couldn't wait to do our happy dance and share some pics of the progress...
Here's the new entry door as seen from the lower patio into the en suite bedroom in the basement. It was originally 5 ft wide, half of which was single-pane glass, the door and all the framework was completely rotten and basically offered easy entry for any vermin seeking warmth. The below pic is from inside the new bedroom. As you can see we've started a whole new collection of trash in the process!


Interior entry to the living room/kitchen
Between the old mud room and living room/kitchen there was only a partial wall. You see, the downstairs was a day care center for 19 years and the law required open views of all areas at all times...thus, no doors.

The door to the left replaced a 4+ ft opening with an accordion door loosely offering a sense of separation from the upstairs living area.
One more similar door will be installed tomorrow to the right to complete the privacy factor for us upstairs and the tenants downstairs. Total count - 4 new doors!

Besides doors, the en suite bathroom is shaping up as well, with the addition of a mirrored medicine cabinet, vanity lighting and a storage cabinet over the commode. Just need the framing walls around the new shower stall and installation of the remainder of the drop ceiling tiles. After that, the concrete floor gets painted, the big area rug gets laid and the closet organizer (that matches the bathroom cabinets) gets installed in the walk-thru closet/storage area between the bedroom and bathroom. 
We have promised the new tenant it will be habitable by the end of the month, so there's no time to slow down yet.

Sunday, September 21, 2014



September 21: We sure hope your weekend was a lot more fun than ours! A load of reading and teaching assignments kept Joie confined to her office most of the time. And when she did take a break, she'd grab something to eat and run downstairs to help Marilyn with the project of the hour. There are no interesting progress pictures, however, since the reno work entailed final painting of the drop ceiling tracks, then more installing of ceiling tiles, then about 20 hours of painting. Instead, here's a current picture of our back yard to show you how the leaves are starting to turn.
Another sign of Autumn - the wild purple Aster scattered throughout the field is now in full bloom.

FRIDAY - The day's point went to the house because we ran into one problem after another, especially with  uneven track spacing, and then we ran out of tiles. So we gave in and had one of the nice dinners Joie pre-prepared using the new appliances.

SATURDAY - Marilyn made good progress on painting the new tenant space, but the plan to scrape all the old indoor-outdoor carpet glue off the concrete floor was scrapped once we realized how long it took to do one square foot. But the house didn't really defeat us on that one. We decided a good cleaning, a couple coats of paint and a nice big area rug with padding will do just fine. The highlight was when Ryan (carpenter/builder) arrived with the new doors for that space & assured us he'll be back on Monday to hang them all. And then the old, cluttered mud room will be an actual rentable en suite! Now THAT will be worth photographing. But meanwhile, here's the other side of the back yard, where hero/tenant Kyle did a fabulous job of mowing, trimming & raking the labyrinth! Point to the humans.

SUNDAY - Except for the doors and frames not yet installed, the new space is all painted a soft, very pale blue called "Glimmer". Really love Sherwin-Williams paints! Another point for the humans.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

September 18: Good food, a glass of wine and thou... sound familiar? Add a kitchen full of new super

high-tech appliances, a big grocery shopping, good ole rock 'n' roll, and the mom & daughter reno team stopping to enjoy the good things in life, and you've got an idea of how we ended this day. Since we're smiling and dancing around the kitchen, we decided to give the day's point to the humans!

Joie tends to go super healthy with her cooking but there's no lack of flavor!. Here's her finished bolognes but made with extra-lean ground turkey, lemon-caper & herb-crusted tilapia, and baked honey bbq chicken, plus a big mixed salad.




Prepping a week's worth of food plus an amuse-bouche (maybe we should call it tapas since we're drinking a Malbec from Argentina) of bay scallops scampi, Marilyn's new specialty. Joie, the real chef and foodie in this partnership, is almost ashamed that she had to get her minced garlic out of a jar, but she's quite busy, you know, trying to juggle renovating an old house and getting a doctorate.










  Of course let's not forget dessert (Marilyn style...which means it came out of a box). One funny moment that we must share. Marilyn spent several minutes searching for the large mixing bowl to make the Ghirardelli brownies, only to finally realize that it's the big blue bowl sitting upside-down in the middle of the floor to keep everyone (mainly her & Milkdud) from falling into the hole that goes all the way down to the basement.




Tuesday, September 16, 2014

September 16: We got to say bye-bye to the dumpster today! Since everything is taking sooooo long to complete, it was a very satisfying moment, but we can't help but wonder if we stayed
under the 4,000 lb limit. Considering the fact that the temperatures are dropping every day, it's nice to know that we'll be able to park both our cars (2 convertibles) in the garage now that it's empty of all the demolition trash and old furniture.


Despite how chilly the mornings are getting, Joie caught an incredible picture of the sunrise.



On the renovation progress report...we got a lot more ceiling tiles installed in the basement rooms today, and though there's still a lot more to go before we can move on to the next project, the humans definitely deserve the point today!



Sunday, September 14, 2014

September 14: The House won the point today. It took Marilyn 4 hours to vacuum all the leaves out of the pool then dig and hack and chop to level the stumps from the playground equipment and fill the holes with sand from the sandbox. She had no energy left to install ceiling tiles as planned.
BUT, the dumpster is finally full. As you can see, Milkdud is really annoyed that the giant red monster has been in his way for an entire month!


 And here's Joie, doing what she came here to do. Luckily, the weather is still nice enough for her to work on the porch.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

September 13: Say it isn't so!!! We have so much left to do but Mother Nature just sent us a news flash - Red Maple leaves and lots of others on trees and ground cover are starting to change. Autumn is here. Winter is coming. Crap.









Milkdud and Sweetie are taking advantage of the wide open spaces...before that icky white stuff starts covering everything!

September 12: An angel paid us a visit today. His identity is secret, though his generous heart is well-known. While we were still in our pj's, he showed up, powerful chain saw in hand and went to work hacking down all the old playground equipment cluttering our beautiful back yard.
Before demo--just a couple of the many pieces all over.
It was amazing how quickly he accomplished the demolition! Just as quickly, we roused one of our resident heroes to help us haul all the incredibly heavy pieces up the steep hill to the dumpster. Filling the holes will get done tomorrow.





Allllll gone!





First one to fall.
Our angel with a chain saw.
Joie
Marilyn
Rob

September 11: No matter how much still needs to get done on the reno, every so often SOMEONE (namely the one not neck-deep in class work) must go buy groceries, do laundry, buy more supplies at Home Depot, clean the pool and generally clean the livable space. Today was one of those days.

But the new beast of a washing machine didn't like the old pipes--the kickback was so powerful, it felt like a wrecking ball was repeatedly hammering the house walls-- so the plumber had to be called back to redo some of the pipes ... and the electricians had to come back to create directories for the new circuit boards, which required switching each breaker off and on for a couple hours. Since none of that is really photo worthy, Vitale was nice enough to smile for the camera while he was working on the directory.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

September 10:
M: Talk about getting lucky! I just spent another day surrounded by hard-working men. I was so inspired, I finished installing all the ceiling tiles...well, at least in one bedroom. Mind you it was the really, really hard part, when every single piece has to be cut to fit into the edges and corners. I felt pretty good about it, and I did get praise from my new best bud, electrical contractor Marc Bussiere, who had his own lengthy to-do list to get through. Unfortunately, my right shoulder will need a day of rest after all that cutting and slicing and fitting (that's my story and I'm sticking to it).


Today we are very grateful to the outstanding team of plumbers from W. S. Pickering & Sons.

Nothing left but the hole in the floor.
In one very long day, they dismantled the old rusty box that was once used as a shower, and installed a bright and shiny replacement, PLUS they got the complicated gas oven/range hooked up. (For 2 months we've been managing with a microwave and a toaster oven.) The dishwasher and washing machine should be connected tomorrow morning and the finishing work within the next 10 days. (Fingers crossed!)
September 9 - Another big Wahoo! day for the Rural Reno! The Superstar Electricians showed up with the sun, shut off the power and went to work tearing out the old and
installing the new circuit boards and making the electrical repairs necessary for the new appliances. The boss, Marc Bussiere, was camera shy, so I snapped a pic of his truck.

Marc R. Bussiere, Electrical Contractor Extraordinaire, Whately, MA

On the other hand, his assistants, Vitale & Serge were proud to show off...their handiwork. (In exchange for all their hard work on our behalf, Marilyn has promised them both parts in one of her new romance novels.)

M to Marc: I gotta tell you, I am really enjoying doing all the crashing and bashing.
Marc: It really is the best kind of therapy!


A bit later, the Phenominal Contractor/Carpenter/Drywall, Etcetera man, Ryan Regan-Ladd, appeared and performed his drywall magic on the stained, hole-filled concrete, pegboard and partial walls. It's starting to look like a real room!


M to Ryan: I'm having so much fun doing the demolition. When I was growing up, I was told nice girls don't make messes or break things on purpose or do anything aggressive.
Ryan: Yes, but nice girls don't make history.
(Big grin and thumbs up on that one Ryan!)
When we asked if we could post his website address, he simply replied, "The writing is on the wall." It took us a minute to see what he'd added to the drywall (see below). These guys aren't just skilled and incredibly nice...they have senses of humor!

Meanwhile Joie is now at school most of the day and often into the evening and Marilyn was cleaning, patching and painting the future closet next to the space where Ryan was drywalling (not sure if that's a word, but it should be).