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Today was my “birthday–observed.” I always pick the weekend before or after my birthday to hold a party, because, you know, the middle of the week is kind of ehh. (Also? I still usually take my actual birthday off work, and Dale usually takes me out to dinner. :))

Dale made me tasty pancakes for breakfast this morning, and then we drove to the Wildlife Conservation Center, because we’ve never been there in winter. We were actually just going to go to Potter Marsh, but it was super pretty out, and we had some time… Anyway, the musk oxen were up and moving around! In the summer, they just kind of lie there, so that was exciting. They are ridiculously short and hairy, which I think makes them cute. And the bison were eating—they just kept switching back and forth between their two hay piles, really, but, again, it was cool to see them up and moving. Speaking of hay, there was a tractor carrying a big bale, and the elk all kind of chased it… a little lackadaisically, yes, but they all went, which made for some great elk-viewing. And there were caribou (also active), a moose (just standing there, but he was right by the fence), a pair of sleeping lynx, two wide awake owls, and an eagle. There were three or four magpies who took turns trying to eat the eagle’s salmon, which we think was frozen, because they all attacked it like woodpeckers. The eagle didn’t seem to mind, really. (Dale took video. We’ll post it eventually.)

On our way back to Anchorage, I saw some dall sheep standing right beside the road (which I might have shouted excitedly about), and we drove up to the next turnaround to… well, to turn around. Some climbers were there, climbing up an ice waterfall (icefall?) a couple hundred feet from the road, and when we tried to drive around their parked car, into the turnaround, we found ourselves in surprisingly deep snow. We couldn’t actually get the car out ourselves—I mean, we would probably have eventually have made it, since we had a small shovel and a bucket of gravel, but it would have taken forever. One of the people with the climbing party came to help us with a rope tow, which I thought was really nice. People can be pretty great, up here.

Anyway, we got turned around and totally made it back to the sheep before they wandered off. The pull-off was across the road from them, but we still got close enough that we could hear their hooves on the rocks. (Still across the road, though.) It was awesome!

And then? We went to Snow Goose (local brewery with a small side room they’ll let groups reserve) and played Mafia with a bunch of friends for a few hours! That’s, like, my favorite game in the world (though, funnily, I’m not great at it :)), and people were hilarious and devious. I had so much fun! (I had extra fun, because I didn’t have to worry about setting it up—Dale did all that work—or hosting, which I enjoy, but which is also a little stressful, because I hate to host in a messy house, and then there’s cleanup, and… You know.) It seemed like everyone had a good time, which makes me happy. And the wait staff were pretty cool about it all, considering we were sitting around with our eyes closed, half the time, and talking about whom to kill, the other half. :D

Anyway, I’m pleased to have found a fun activity for my winter birthday. (Yeah, I’m SO planning to do birthday-Mafia again next year. :)) And I’m extra-pleased to have been able to spend the evening with such great people!

It was a great day. :)

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So, it turns out, there aren’t Chinese restaurants open in Anchorage on Christmas. At least, none that we could find. We were totally saved by TGIF, though, so it wasn’t a loss!

It was a very different Christmas than any others before it, but it was a good one. We opened presents, ate leftover Indian food, and then Skyped with our baby niece… and, you know, her parents and grandma. :) Then we hung out around the house a bit, watched The Muppets at the movie theatre with some friends, and got dinner—which involved phone calls to all of the Chinese places in town, none of which picked up, then splitting up and driving around until we found an open restaurant. … Which, incidentally, was totally full! Turns out, there are a lot of birthdays on Christmas (down side of TGIF: that song gets annoying), and a lot of people want to go out to dinner. And when you’re the only restaurant in town, you see a steady stream of people! We even had to wait (just a bit) to get in.

Also? We saw our first moose since the snow fell. She was very pretty, just walking down the C Street sidewalk, like you do.

Also-also? We had over a foot of snow, leading up to Christmas. It’s stayed cold and not very windy, so the trees are still covered. It looks like a Christmas card. Yeah. :)

Merry Christmas, everybody!

A couple of people have asked, and, yes, our contractor did pop his little head up (like Putin) and started work again, a day before the deadline. We now have a more reasonable amount of insulation in our attic (which is hopefully not all soaked—there’s water dripping, slowly, from our bathroom light/fan, which might be a roof leak [in which case, soaked insulation] or might be some kind of flap or something(?) that gets stuck in the up position(?) and allows water into the exhaust pipe [in which case, not soaked insulation], thanks to this guy and his subcontractor’s crappy installation job—if it’s the latter, it’s the second time this has happened). And there’s trim around the bedroom door and around the floor of the bedroom, so it’s much more room-like! The floor trim currently looks awful, because they reused the trim that was originally in the room, which has some visible holes and cracks and general brutality from when it was ripped off the wall… but we’re hoping the contractor will apply a couple more coats of paint and some spackle and fix it. Also, we think they added the rest of the plastic for the vapor barrier in the crawl space, which is good.

So, that goes.

But there is also this Alaskan phenomenon I wanted to tell you about, because it’s cool and interesting and not something I knew about, before this winter!

So, to set the stage… back in November, we had a couple of weeks where the temperature stayed in the low teens and below, and it snowed a whole lot. We didn’t see a lot of negative temperatures, but there were a few nights that hit -5 degrees or so. “Bitter cold” was pretty much the order of the day. And then one day the wind picked up—something like 80mph gusts, which destroyed our canvas carport (bent the metal supports irreparably)—and it started raining, and, suddenly, there were temperatures in the high 30s and 40s. That, on top of the 35 inches of snow we’d already had and the ice sheet covering the roads, was not pretty for local transportation, by the way. We learned that this phenomenon—which I didn’t expect before January* and didn’t realize was always accompanied by high winds—is called a “chinook.” (*Seriously. We have had this weird warm snap in January both years. I figured it was normal. But it threw me way off to get it in November! And it’s a lot windier in the part of town where we live, now.)

It froze back up, after that, but stayed maybe a little warmer than it had been. Winds have been happening, on and off, since then, with some days above freezing. At least one other chinook has clearly rolled through, maybe more? I’m not sure how long the effect lasts. Apparently another is coming tonight, and that’s supposed to be it for chinooks, for a while. (Ominously, the weather says “cold air will settle,” once the wind is gone.) Totally crazy stuff. I admit, the temperatures staying fairly consistently above 25 have been great, though. And, as gross as the parking lots get when it’s warm, and as dangerous as everything gets when it refreezes, I just can’t be upset about temperatures in the 40s. It’s a nice break from bone-chilling cold. Like a little breather, before “real winter” comes back.

So. House, chinooks… that’s the bulk of our news. Our holiday preparations are pretty much done; anything we haven’t mailed by today isn’t really going to make it to its destination by Christmas, so we sort of had to be done early. I think it’s a benefit, honestly, because we have so little in the way of last-minute stress. We didn’t do Christmas cards yet, so if those happen, they’ll be more like New Year’s cards. :D

I guess that’s another sort of life-in-Alaska thing: we have nowhere in particular to go for Christmas. I mean, short of flying 4000 miles, that is. Most of our friends have family up here (and, while we could probably finagle an invite to someone’s celebration, most families seem to have dogs and/or cats, so we don’t even try), or else they are flying to see family Outside of Alaska for the holidays, or whatever. There weren’t even enough stragglers for an orphans Thanksgiving, let alone an orphans Christmas.

So we are invoking the time-honored tradition celebrated by many non-Christian Americans: we’re going out for Chinese and watching a movie.

Which actually sounds delightful to me. Last year, I got a little depressed that we were by ourselves for Christmas. I tried to cook, which wasn’t actually that much fun, for just the two of us. (I learned my lesson and went much more low-key with this Thanksgiving’s cooking.) The year before, I got very depressed, because not even Dale was up here, yet—it really was just me. (I did get adopted for Thanksgiving, so I was only by myself for one holiday. And I got to Skype with people. And people sent me decorations. Everyone was as helpful and nice as possible. But, you know, dark of winter, holiday alone—there was only so much they could do.)

But this year? Maybe it’s my memories of the stress of the wedding preparations (right on the heels of house-buying), or maybe it’s all of the people I watched (over Twitter and Facebook) as they freaked out about preparing for FoodpocalypseThanksgiving and who, I presume, are about to start doing the same for Christmas. Maybe it’s just that we have a house with a pretty Christmas tree, and I find myself satisfied with that… but, whatever the reason, I am actually kind of happy to have a quiet holiday with just us, this year. Ask me again next year, and I’ll probably be back to wanting more people around, but for this year? Chinese and a movie sounds perfect.

(Not to say I don’t miss family. I do. We have a new baby niece, whom I’d love to meet, and my grandfather is not in great health, and there were people who didn’t make it to the wedding, or who did but I didn’t get to spend enough time with them, or who did and were amazingly helpful and to whom I therefore feel really grateful and just kind of want to see again because they were nice… So, sure, I’d like to be able to go back and see people. But I don’t really miss individual people more around the holidays than I do any other time. I mean, holidays are actually awful for visiting, because everyone’s all crammed together and stressed out. I’d far rather visit these people that I miss at some other time of year, and in smaller groups. So my holiday-loneliness is really an abstract thing. What I miss, when I get melancholy around the holidays, is the noise and mess and being surrounded by people. This year, perhaps because I’ve had enough noise and mess for one year, I find that I’m content where I am.)

And we may get our fill of noise and mess and people on New Year’s Eve, if we indeed follow through and throw a party, as we’ve been thinking of doing. (True story: we just want to show off our pretty tree. :))

It probably seems like a very long time since we updated on the house. (I guess it was before Halloween.) But not so very much has happened, on the contractor front. How could it, when he has been MIA for more than a month of that time?

Contractor Fail and Fallout

He hasn’t been gone for a continuous month, yet; he went missing for a week, after our housewarming party, and then he showed up and hung the door to the green bedroom and did a little painting. He didn’t add the trim around the door, so you can peek into the bedroom around the door frame—weird, but at least there’s a door there, right? And now he’s been gone since the week before Thanksgiving. His email is full. Voice mail… might not be full yet? But he doesn’t call back. And no reply to text messages.

If he doesn’t show up by next Friday, that’s the end of the work on our house. We are contractually obligated not to let work stop for more than 30 days, and next Friday is Day 30.

If he doesn’t show up, this is going to be a big mess, because he hasn’t finished the full amount of work covered by the first draw on the loan. The vapor barrier in the crawl space does not extend all the way to the wall, the insulation hasn’t been added to the attic (and WOW do we get icicles), the flashing above the arctic entry hasn’t been repaired, the door isn’t framed, the trim in the green bedroom is unattached and still that awful pink color, and when he had the floor guy lay the vinyl in our entryway, he forgot to tell the guy not to make cut-outs for the old laundry pipes. Those were supposed to be capped off and hidden below floor level, but no… So we’ll be left with some things we’re unhappy with, and there will be some money he has to give back to the bank, or to us, or something. (Probably the bank.) That’s going to be, you know, a major pain.

And then there’s the issue of the rest of the work. We won’t be able to access the money we have set aside for updating the water heater and furnace, because the loan stipulates that this particular contractor must do the work, by early February, without having ever stopped work for 30 days; we can’t (just for instance) still take out that half of the loan and have someone else do it. And, honestly, with as flaky as this guy has been—and as many gaps as we’ve found in his work products so far (some of them literal gaps)—we have been thinking hard about not doing this second draw on the loan, even if he comes back and starts work next week.

So, in the case that we don’t do the second draw, we’ll continue limping along with our current furnace and water heater, which—knock on wood—are still working great, but are both years older than their respective expected lifespans and are being used much harder, this winter, than they were last year or possibly the year before. If those blow, we will be very unhappy, because it will take every penny of our savings to replace them—and it won’t be with the high-efficiency ones that were spec’d out in the estimate. But we’ll hope for the best. Our plan, assuming we can’t do the second draw and we get through the winter OK, is to give up on our previously-planned trip to visit friends in England (which would be heartbreaking), to work very hard at saving money, and to hope there are still funds available for the AK Energy Rebate program, for which we are on the [rather long] waiting list. When we get cleared to participate in the Energy Rebate, an energy rater will come to our house and tell us what we can do to improve it; certainly, adding the insulation and updating the furnace and water heater will be on the list, and we will do so at that time (or, well, within a year of that time). Then the rater will come back, verify that we have improved the house by at least one star, and approve us to be reimbursed for that money, up to some maximum amount. (It’s a GREAT program!)

And, actually, if the timing on the Energy Rebate worked out really well—that is, if we could get the refund, or at least confirmation of the refund, in time—we might still be able to swing the trip to visit our friends; we do both get Permanent Fund Dividends, next year, after all. (The rush, on the friend-visit, is that they are coming back to the US soon.)

Cross your fingers that it works out, somehow, for us?

In Other News – Housewarming, Holidays

Our house has definitely been warmed. We had a fun combination Halloween and Housewarming party, which was well-attended by many delightful people! I hear we have photos, but I’m not sure if Dale’s posted them yet. The place was full, anyway, and we have found ourselves with more wine than fits in our wine holder—a good problem to have! It was strange, though, when I realized that there were five of us talking excitedly about the refrigerator. (It is a great refrigerator.)

We also had a quiet Thanksgiving, which was our first holiday in the new house (other than Halloween itself; we got one trick-or-treater, a baby duck!, and a reverse-trick-or-treat group (friends) brought us candy :)). I baked some chicken and macaroni-and-cheese, and we watched Netflix. I believe I took some time to knit in my comfy chair in front of the window, looking out at the pretty snowscape in our front yard. Nothing super out of the ordinary, but it was really pleasant and low-key.

Our Christmas plans include … um, we don’t really know. Most everyone we know in Anchorage has family stuff to do, so we’ll probably be on our own. Maybe we’ll take advantage of the 4-day weekend to visit the SeaLife Center in Seward (closed Christmas day, but open on the surrounding days), or perhaps we’ll reprise our Thanksgiving celebration. Maybe we’ll plan a fun project, like hanging up art and decorations (is that fun, Dale?), to have something to do. Or, you know, maybe we’ll do what a significant number of other Americans do for Christmas: Chinese food and a movie. :) It’s hard to tell.

Anyway, despite the contractor woes and a few maintenance issues, we’re enjoying the house. The birds and Ella Chinchilla seem happy with it, as well!

We haven’t updated on the house for a while, huh? Last time I wrote on the topic, we still had the original flooring (sans psychedelic carpet), and our chinchilla was living in the old place. So, yeah…

Obviously, we’re out of the old place now. In a series of awkward events, the person who came to look at it while it was a total messy disaster ended up being a new coworker. And she ended up renting it. I kind of want to hide every time I see her. (That was her first impression of me, no joke.) … But that’s Alaska, for you; everybody’s connected, somehow, it seems.

Anyway, the house… the hardwood in the bedrooms has been sanded down and reconditioned. And it mostly looks very good, though there are of course some small gaps between the boards–turns out, the contractor can’t actually fill them in. Rugs and attention will keep the chinchilla from destroying the floor–or hurting herself on it. The rooms have also been painted, though some of it will have to be redone–the base trim was off, for the floor work, as were parts of the heaters, and there’s still a doorway to be installed. (I’ll explain.)

Speaking of repainting, we’ll have to redo a fair bit of the kitchen trim, because they ripped out the base trim to put down laminate–the whole upstairs, aside from the bedrooms and entryway, is done in oak laminate, now–and because they scratched up the doorway. Not a huge deal; we needed to finish using purple paint, near the ceiling, anyway.

We’re both living upstairs, now, which is nice! The birds and chinchilla are also living in what we believe will be their permanent homes. So everybody is much happier. I, however, am still a little wiggy, in part because I’m sleeping on an air mattress every night–we did buy furniture, but none of it is coming until Saturday–and, maybe more so, because I don’t have a door.

See, there was a door between the living room and the bedrooms. And one bedroom also had a door that separated it from the other. So it was sort of a bedroom within a bedroom. As part of our loan to make upgrades to the house, the contractor is supposed to make a doorway to the other bedroom, too; so there will be sort of a mini-hallway to the two rooms.

Anyway, apparently measuring isn’t a thing, so they took the main door to the two bedrooms, in order to make a frame for it, meaning that there’s nothing separating one of the rooms from the living room. And it drives me totally batty. But they’re supposed to come do the framing and get the door put in this week, so the battiness will fade. We hope.

We’re also unpacking, slowly but surely. We have a hard deadline of this Saturday for emptying out the living room–which is where all of the piles of stuff ended up, during the laminate installation–because a couch and loveseat are coming. We’re so excited about having grownup furniture! A matching couch and loveseat that we picked out ourselves–rather than inheriting from friends or choosing from Craigslist sellers willing to deliver–and also that we didn’t have to assemble. (Not that assembly is so bad; we’d have done Ikea if it existed up here, but it does not.) And a week after that, we’re having a housewarming party, so we really want all of our unpacking done by then!

We didn’t get the yard mowed (so we’ll learn about de-thatching in the spring), and I’m only about half done with raking, meaning I need to get out there, uh, tonight. It’s calling for snow tomorrow or Thursday! But we got our yard furniture put under a tarp for the winter, we emptied our fire pit and laid it on its side so that it would stop gathering water and ice (possibly just temporarily–we might do a fire at our party, if the temperature allows), we weather-stripped the front door, and, biggest pain of all, we got our canvas carport put together. We’re still debating whether or not it’s coming down in the summer–on one hand, it blocks part of the view of the mountains out the kitchen window, but on the other, it was a major hassle to put together. So… eh.

I’ve decided–Dale has yet to be completely convinced, but I am–that we should give up on the idea of fixing the shed. Everything inside it has to be thrown away, probably, or dunked in bleach, which we knew; we didn’t think that it would take more than ripping out the little bit of sheetrock and the shelves, to fix it, though. But you can smell the mold from outside, so… yeah. I think it’s dead. Sad, because it’s cute, but still probably true. Instead of trying to get the shed back to a usable state, I think we should save money to have it torn down and replace it with a garage. Dale’s still thinking about his opinion on that, though.

Anyway, it’s coming along. Over the next two weeks, we hope to see it transformed into a great place to live. (It’s a pretty OK place to live, already, but it’ll be much better with a living room and more of our stuff put where it goes.)

With the help of several friends, for which we are super grateful (and will repay with lasagna as soon as we find our dining room table! :)), we have moved pretty much everything out of the apartment and into the house! And we’ve even slept there–twice!

That said, the contractors didn’t get the bedroom floors done, nor the living room floor, so our dining room is full of boxes and bags, as is the main room of the basement. We’re actually sleeping downstairs, for the time being. We can’t unpack until the floors–or at least more of the floors–are complete. So there is major disarray. Finding clothes to wear to work is going to be an adventure, for a while. (I’m only not wearing sneakers with this skirt because I correctly identified the box the Danskos lived in–it was not the box labeled “shoes,” by the way.) Also, until the sanding and application of harsh chemicals (to condition the hardwood) are done, we’re leaving the birds and chinchilla at the old place, which nobody is happy with. They’re all really cranky and kind of sad. Though we did bring the cockatiels to spend a few hours at the house yesterday, which they seemed to enjoy! There’s lots of construction-dust around the edge of the living room, which is totally unsafe and unsuitable for birds, so they enjoyed trying to escape our attention and eat that. :/ And they liked looking out the window at the birds in the trees around the yard’s edge. :)

Also, the appliances we bought from Lowes haven’t come yet. We’re going to have a fridge, washer, dryer, and dishwasher, all of which we picked out, which is exciting! (The range is going to have to last a year or two, before we can replace it, obviously; it’s on the list, though, because it and the dishwasher will clash badly. And because we think we like gas better. Anyway…) Because they had to get one or two of those things from the Lower 48, we’re still waiting to hear when they’ll come. It should be this week. Which is good, since I unplugged the old, stinky, scary fridge a couple of weeks ago, meaning that we don’t have any way to keep food cold-but-not-frozen, right now. All of our food is either room temperature or in the freezer. For our moving party, we kept beer in the cooler, which worked fine, but it’s not a totally workable solution for multiple days at a time, or for more temperature-sensitive foods.

When the appliances DO come, we hope the contractors are pretty quick about hooking them up. Right now, there’s a big hole in the kitchen cabinets, with power, where the dishwasher can go… but no plumbing hooked up. As for the washer and dryer, the hookups are in the wrong room, though we were assured it would be easy for them to move those. So it might be a few more weeks before we can actually use the appliances.

The kitchen is almost painted, though! Most of the walls are done, the ceiling is done, and the trim is done. We’ll have to go through with a tiny brush to fill in some spots, and we still have to do the area above the cabinets–we didn’t decide fast enough what color we wanted that to be–but it’s looking much more “us” (or at least “me”–though Dale likes it a lot, too :)), already! None of the other rooms are painted, though we did buy paint for most of them. Probably winter will come before we can get any real painting done, since we still have to repaint the old apartment to white by September 30th and, you know, unpack and stuff. And finish planning the wedding. And then HAVE the wedding.

… I’m a little overwhelmed, I admit. I’m very, very tired from running at full speed for so long, and now I’m extra worn-down from all of the allergies that came with the dust of moving. On the allergy front, I have to keep reminding myself, “I’ve spent hours and hours and hours inside this house–CLEANING this house, even–and I am not allergic to it. I am allergic to all of the dust we brought in with us.” That said, I think some kind of hydraulic oil or something got spilled in the basement room I’m sleeping in–it smells weird. I plan to empty it, clean the floor, and then put my stuff back in, tonight, I think. Just to be sure.

Poor Dale is tired, too, obviously, though I think he’s dealing better with the allergy side of it. His main approach, lately, is to curl up in a ball and try to sleep, whenever we stop moving for more than a few minutes at a time.

Did I mention that the basement windows got done? They did. They look pretty fantastic, from inside! And from outside they are… not bad. We should probably paint them, so they fit in better with the overall look of the house. (We have some of the paint they used on the siding of the house. I don’t think we have any of the trim paint, though.) I need to think of some short, [very-]low-light plants to plant in the window wells. I want to still be able to open the windows, but it would look nice to have something other than dirt there.

Also, we’ve gone walking around the neighborhood more times, since moving into the house on Saturday, than we had done at the old apartment in months! The only place worth walking from the old apartment was University Lake. (I could–and did–walk to work, but that’s not the same.) Near the new place there’s a grocery store–those of you familiar with Anchorage in general and Fairview specifically know the one I mean–and a Mongolian BBQ and what is, we’re told, one of the best steak houses in Anchorage. Technically, we can walk to the place with the best fried chicken in Alaska and also to a bar we like and a number of other spots in or near downtown, but those are much longer strolls… probably more like bike rides, really. (If you start counting things at those distances, the old place had a few more walkable spots than I’m giving it credit for.) But our first walk, post-moving-in, was to the grocery store, to find gear for hanging our pirate flag. We ended up using purple paper ribbon, for the short term, which makes a really satisfying noise in the wind. The grocery store didn’t have clothes line or any other more-suitable rope, and we (Dale and me, plus two of our friends) were very motivated, hence the kludge. We’ll buy thin rope at the hardware store… maybe tonight! Also possibly an American flag or something else more-suitable than the pirate flag alone. ;)

As first disasters go, ours was manageable.

So there I was, cleaning the upstairs bathroom, when I noticed a hissing sound. Our toilet runs, so I didn’t think a lot about it. But I turned everything off, made sure the tub faucet wasn’t dripping, and looked around…. and noticed a puddle forming between the sink and the toilet. I blamed the toilet, but couldn’t hear it making a sound. So I opened the sink cabinet.

And there was a giant whoosh of steam, and I could hear the water sound much more clearly. I kneeled down in the ever-growing puddle of water and tried to turn the knobs under the sink, but it was too hot, and I couldn’t see well enough (steam), so I ran around to the basement (after plugging my computer into the Ethernet cable, to text Dale via email–he was at the old place, packing, and my phone was with him–then connecting the house phone (glorious landline), to call him. When I looked down the stairs to the basement, to my dismay, I found waterfalls coming from several places in the ceiling.

I turned on the light, to see better, and when I was about to cross the puddle to the water heater, I looked up, and around, to see that there was water near the lightbulb and a plugged-in cord running through the largest part of the puddle… so my knowledge of the combined properties of water and electricity kicked in, and I ran back upstairs to turn off the basement breaker. Which meant I’d be operating in the mostly-dark, because the flashlight was still at the old place, too.

There was so much water everywhere, I guess I was looking for the water main. Or at least to turn off the water heater, so the water would cool down. So I did that. I couldn’t see, so I just turned the knob until I could hear the flame kick off, inside/under (? – I don’t know how water heaters are put together) the water heater. I couldn’t find the water main — this is a very high priority, now that the disaster is over, by the way. So I ran back upstairs to try turning it off at the sink again.

By this time, it had cooled off enough that I could feel around and turn off the valve. Which, blessedly, stopped the hissing sound and the production of steam. Thinking hard–because our towels were all at the old place, still, I tried to figure out what assets I had, to stop the water from falling through the floor–because, at this point, I needed to know if I had shut the problem down completely, or if I had just gotten the top half of it. There was still a waterfall into the basement, but then, there was also an inch or two of water in some spots in the bathroom. So, in a fit of genius–and with a short apology to the thrift store–I grabbed the draperies we’d taken down earlier in the day, and threw those on the bathroom floor. Then I grabbed the ones that I had piled up earlier–and that our contractors had placed tack strip on top of, thereby probably pre-destroying, anyway–and threw those down, too. Then I grabbed the two pink carpet squares we’d saved, to serve as a slightly-warmer standing spot in the basement kitchen, and I threw those down too. Because, seriously, what’s more absorbent than carpet?

And, finally, the waterfall slowed.

Then Dale arrived–so I guess we can time this whole disaster under 20 minutes–and assessed what he could of the situation, and we started the cleanup. His theory was that the flexpipe wasn’t used to being heated–he had just turned the water heater up from “vacation” to somewhere between “warm” and “hot,” earlier that day–and that we’re never installing any more freaking flexpipe, ever, in the whole house. He also pointed out that it was lucky I was there, that it didn’t happen after we gave up for the night. Our basement drain is a little uphill from the rest of the basement, it turns out, but we had a shop broom and a normal broom and got the worst of the water out.

Right now our yard is full of drapes. We’ve got a fan and a dehumidifier on the case. The basement had already largely dried, or was at least puddle-free, by the time we left last night. And we gave the contractors permission to turn on the power to the basement this morning, if they needed it.

So, now that this is all written, we’re going to stop back by and make sure nothing else blew up.

We took advantage of the 10% off sale at Lowes (ending today) and bought appliances (today). A fairly run-of-the-mill dishwasher (though it had the particular set of bells and whistles we really wanted), an upright and therefore relatively inexpensive (but still very-highly-rated by Energy Star) washer and dryer, and a totally sweet refrigerator that I love. The white dishwasher will look stupid beside the black-and-steel range/oven, but we’re replacing that within the next few years, anyway. And, overall, white’s going to look better in that kitchen.

We don’t know when the appliances are coming, just that they are. Within the next few weeks. (Hopefully by September 10, our Official Move-In Date.)

The electric company came and dug up our entire(!) driveway(!!) today, plus part of the alley, to bury the cables. So the house no longer looks like there’s a red hose coming out of the attic. But our whole driveway is a mud pit, probably, by now–it started raining just as we were leaving. I guess we’d better buy some gravel or look into paving. I have no idea what that costs. I put in a query to our local gravel & sand place, to see what they have to say. We may end up suffering through it (and making the alley super ugly) through the winter, if it’s too much.

Other things that have been done: the carpet’s up, but I think I said that before. The cabinet’s torn out, so the dishwasher can go in–though there’s still a little bit of plumbing work to go with that. It seems like the contractor broke our basement sink, so that’s not so good… There’s some boring stuff (that’s still important) with vents and vapor barriers. We changed which windows were getting dug out, which I think we’ll ultimately be a lot happier about; I wrote on the walls in Sharpie, to be sure they cut the right ones. But yeah, not a ton. There was some emergency work, somewhere else in the city, that pulled the contractors away for a few days, last week. (We can always tell they’ve been in based on whether/which lights are left on. So we know they were in today, but we’re really not sure what they did. Maybe roof work.)

The house HAS been pre-pre-warmed, though! A friend of ours just got a job–in Dale’s office, actually, which is even cooler–and we sat around and played dice games and drank beer in our empty living room, this weekend. We even fit four cars into the driveway (pre-mud-pit)–and could have fit five, if there were less debris in the way. … You know, assuming everyone parked within inches of one another. :)

A bigger pre-warming will happen on moving day. I’ll do my traditional “feed friends with lasagna and beer” thing, after we get the furniture and stuff moved in. It should be a good time!

The real Housewarming Party, with capital letters, will happen after we get well and truly moved in and mostly unpacked–it’ll probably end up being on Halloween weekend. Or some weekend thereabouts. I already have my costume planned! (What wedding? Just kidding. I know, we ought to finish planning that first. It’s not THAT complex a costume, though, if that makes you feel better.) We’ll figure that out as the time gets closer.

So, anyway, progress is being made. Woo!

During our first week of home ownership, I pulled apart and cleaned and lemon oiled all of our kitchen cabinets (except for 4 that I can’t get to right now, more on that momentarily); dusted/polished the wood paneling in the living room, dining room, entry ways, and stairwell; and super-cleaned the freezer in the basement. All of this stuff clearly hadn’t been done for a LONG time, though there were 1.25 bottles of Old English lemon oil, some weird ocean-scented Pine Sol (which I replaced with lemon), Pledge, and various other cleaners in the cabinet under the sink. Several of the walls were VERY thirsty and probably want another dose of Pledge–though I used a whole can. The freezer works, happily! I haven’t bothered with the refrigerator, because it’s very scary; we’ll replace it with a new one before we move in.

Dale’s been focusing on the basement, sweeping and washing walls and cleaning up the thick layer of dust(!) that’s built up. He’s found several neat things, both down there and beneath the kitchen sink. We’ll do a post just about cool stuff we’ve found, with photos, in the future.

He has also used “implements of destruction,” as we like to call our garden tools, taking down a sumac, a baby cottonwood tree, and a bunch of dead branches in the Drunk Bird Tree (a mountain ash, in our front yard, which is starting to grow this year’s batch of drunk bird food). That poor tree had a lot of dead wood weighing it down; we’re hoping that, having been pruned, it will come back happier and healthier next year. We’re disassembling the branches, for use in our fire pit–one big branch has been dead for long enough that we don’t even have to wait to burn it! (So there will be fire pit happening at our housewarming party. ;)) The others will have to wait a year or two for burning. I’m sorry I didn’t get photos of Dale up in the tree–I was busy spotting him, handing up tools, and tearing apart fallen branches.

I also trimmed back the rose bushes that made passage between the front and back yards unpleasant. I was probably a little conservative with my pruning, not taking anything that wasn’t 1) directly in the path or 2) dead, despite the bulk of the bushes being held up by old pieces of string. Once I harvest rose hips, I’ll do a more thorough trimming of all of the rose bushes on the property. There are MANY. Also, many lilacs. I like both and plan to keep them; they just don’t need to be quite as gargantuan.

OH! And we put in a mailbox!

We also bought a totally sweet two-seater table, for our kitchen, from Craigslist. It’s made of wood, has two wood chairs with it, requires no glue and no immediate refinishing, and only cost us $30. We got it yesterday, and it even fit in our car. Total win. Also a win: having a place to sit when we’re at the new place! We’ve been sitting on the carpet or the stairs outside to eat, all week. We are both delighted with our table.

To back up a bit: when I came in on Friday–having taken the day off to do some house-related errands and more cabinet oiling–I found that our carpets had been removed and were sitting in the dining room. Blocking the last four cabinets, actually. I’m hoping they’re gone now, but who knows? Good news: we have some pretty great wood floors in the two upstairs bedrooms. Not-so-good news: we have two different kinds of tile in the living room and reading nook (which are really the same room, separated by a big sort of arch/doorway thing). And boy do they not match. Have a look! We were going to stay in the house Saturday night, but there are staples sticking out of the floors, which is probably not so good for the air mattress. Plus, it smells kind of rubbery, from the carpet being ripped up. So maybe next Saturday.

Overall, I’m beginning to see that maybe this 203(k) thing is not for everyone, after all. Aside from the stress of the extra paperwork and “all the work has to be done in 6 months” deadline, it’s sort of weird, when people ask “So are you moving in now?” to say “No, we’re getting a bunch of work done by a contractor.” It’s super hard for me, an impatient monkey, not to be able to start nesting right away. I have wanted to own a house forever, and I am so excited, but it’s like it’s not even really ours yet. I mean, I’ve always had my new kitchen up and running within a week of starting a new lease, in the past (no matter how long it took me to do the rest of my unpacking), and all I’ve got in the new kitchen right now is beverages, plastic cups, and paper plates. And my kickass table. (First world problem, right? I’m impatient, but not totally lacking in perspective.) I want to start getting stuff out of our old place and into the new, in part because our landlords would love to start showing the old apartment, but there aren’t any rooms that aren’t going to be torn apart, painted, or in some other way messed with. Well, there was the dining room, but now we’re going to see if there’s money available to redo the flooring in there. Once the pile of carpets is gone, I mean. Even the main room of the basement: I really want to paint the walls a nice almost-white, to make the place more friendly for brewing parties. (I use the term “parties” loosely, but it’s FUN to have friends come over when you brew. It’s probably MORE fun if they don’t find the environment oppressive, though.) So I’d rather not fill it up with stuff, thereby making the walls harder to get to.

But, bummer of not moving in yet aside, things are coming together well. We’re getting good ideas about what we want to do with the house and yard. We’re doing maintenance that the house has been needing for a while. We’re really getting to know the house well. All great things. And while we can’t, you know, live there yet, we are still pretty freaking excited about the place!

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