Thursday, June 30, 2011

Ahhhh Summer...No Need for My Radiators Now (...21)

There's no way to feel bad about being laid off when the sky is blue and there's a light breeze in the air.  I walked to a biz venture meeting in the late afternoon.  We ate fresh farm veggies and grilled steak and chicken while we worked.  It's a ton of work, this project, but I've never felt more motivated, stimulated, and excited.  With each meeting I'm aware of how much we don't know just as much as I'm aware of how much progress we've made and how much passion we have for our goals!

Yesterday morning, we got down and dirty doing the nasty job of detaching the kitchen radiator from the floor pipe.  The valve was rusted and painted on quite well, but with a few twists and turns and creaks and grunts and a whole lotta leg muscle, it came undone!

My plan for the radiator is to skip the $200 acid wash and refinishing job (it also includes replacing the valve connector) that a local service shop offers.  Instead I'm going to use steel wool and 80 grit sandpaper to take care of the loose paint and rust, wipe it down, and then spray the radiator with a red metal primer. Then I'll spot paint those areas with high heat enamel paint that I hope I can find to match the mostly-in-good-shape silver coated radiator.  It will get a new valve and then get reconnected.  Let's hope it doesn't leak once I'm threw with it!

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Plumbing Perils and Progress (...22)

I like the sight of new plumbing.  A lot.  The first time I saw the new plumbing with easy hot/cold shutoff valves installed for my bathroom renovation, I was filled with joy.  There's a lot of great things about my old house, but the plumbing isn't one of them.  It could be worse.  I've never had my pipes freeze or experienced any flooding.  I had only one clog in the tub but draino and a new trap took care of that issue.  However, anytime I've had a plumber by for an estimate they say very grumpily "we don't like these old copper pipes!" or "This isn't up to code!"  Yeah, no kidding. The house is over 100 years old.

The past two days I've felt a little bullied by the plumbers.  I don't understand their attitude.  They reviewed the job weeks ago, told me the possible challenges, and gave me the cost, but when they arrived to work this week, it was nothing but groans, complaints, and more talk of the old copper pipes.  Isn't this a plumber's job?

Yesterday's big plumbing day was a success, I'm relieved to write.  The washer and dryer drain was installed form my 3rd floor condo to the basement.  The kitchen sink was plumbed.  The gas line was sunk into the wall so my stove doesn't have to be 6" away from the wall, as it was before.  Today there's a few more hours of plumbing work and phase 1 is done.

Here's a look at the sink wall progress!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Host a Party During a Kitchen Reno? Why Not? (...23)

Alex, my dearest housemate of 3 years, is heading back home to Paris, France in a week.  His Bon Voyage party was today.  My kitchen renovation is terrible timing for having a get together.  But, no matter, Alex, his girlfriend Anais, and I shopped for groceries, set up a food table amidst our makeshift kitchen, the dining room, and BBQ'd on the back porch. 

Several of Alex's coworkers and friends gathered to wish him a safe and happy return trip.  Despite the dishwasher and microwave sitting amongst our guests in the living room and despite the lack of counter space to prep our food, we made it work.  Our guests were well fed and laughing a lot, which is, of course, key to an enjoyable soiree amongst wreckage.

Monday, June 27, 2011

The Bachelorette is Key (...24)

Yes, I watch this show.  No, it's not good tv.  But, and this is important, it is going to be my key to surviving kitchen renovation overwhelmed-ness.  I'm already overwhelmed, a week in, with putting all the contractor schedules in motion.  Looking at my timeline, functional plumbing instead of my forever dripping and leaking sink, is two weeks away.  It's the same wait for new outlets and switches, including a switch (finally) for the overhead light that is NOT all the way across the room from the entryway.  Sanded floors?  Cabinets?  Three weeks.  Countertop installation?  Likely to happen near the end of July.  And I have hours of sanding, caulking, priming, and painting ahead.

I'm enjoying planning and scheduling this project.  My head isn't spinning, it's dancing.  There's an excitement about the changes and impending "after" state of the kitchen.  But this week I've got a long to do list that doesn't even include the kitchen project.  All good stuff to do and all stuff I want to do, but even with no job, I'm not sure how to do it all.

So, for a mental break I turn to Ashley and her men.  I hate Bentley and can't wait for tonight's episode when Ashley finally discovers his devil inside.  I adore Ben F. (favorite!) and Ames and J.P.  Maybe.  For now.  I may dump them soon.  Blake?  Eeeewwah.  Who knows what I'll find out about them tonight!  I'm sure Chris Harrison will say it's going to be the most dramatic episode.  Thank goodness, because Ashley's drama makes my kitchen chaos feel like a piece of cake.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Live Free or Die! Tell That To The Cows. (...25)

Biking through Manchester and Goffstown New Hampshire today and making a few stops on the way.  One stop was at a wholesale butcher to see if it was possible to buy individual shares of meat.  Unfortunately they were closed but I got a good laugh out of the sign out front:

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Behind Every Wall Part Two (...26)

Is four other layers?  Yes, indeed, in my house...from out to in:
5. 1/2" wallboard
4.  Flower wallpaper
3.  Yellow wallpaper
2.  Masonite
1.  Plaster and beadboard

Underneath it all is the ever predictable lathe which I, for some reason, like seeing.  I've dug to this level in every room so far.  It's at this depth that I take a step back and I go all the way, or do I remain on the surface and do what I call "patch and pretty" the room.  It's not my ideal, but it's probably the best tactic for this house.  Today I realized I have to look at this as "flipping" the kitchen, like when you flip a house, quickly and budget-consciously...

There's a ton of labor and strategizing to do with this kitchen project.  I'm in my own little episode of This Old House this month.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Behind Every Wall (...27)

Is beadboard!  Today I chiseled away the tile behind my stove.  It was a big rectangle shape made of square white tiles.  Halfway through, at about waist height, my chisel started to punch through the wallboard easily, into a gap behind the wall.  It was falling into a pocket between the wallboard and beadboard.  Very old, unpainted beadboard!

It's always surprising, during a renovation to find what past owners have done to fix or cover up aging walls.  In this 100 plus year old house, there are layers of others' repair work.  If I could, meaning if I had the budget and time, and if it made sense, I would tear everything down to the first layer and start my renovation there.  But I remind myself that I can't spend the time or money on this.  I focus on what I can do with my budget.  I make changes I would like but also keep in mind what will sell well or what a renter would like because I'm not going to be living here forever.

Discovering this beadboard behind the stove made me consider what a tough job it could be for a drywall contractor to repair my walls after I remove half inch wallboard and then half inch beadboard.  Skilled contractors can do anything but wallboard comes in only so many depths.  Discovering the beadboard also made me consider how much space I may be able to find on the wall behind my sink.  As is, it's going to be a tight squeeze to fit in a fridge there.  The area is too shallow for my 29, 7/8" fridge to sit and not jut out way past the counter.  But I think removing an inch of material will give me the space I need!

Tomorrow, the real fun starts.  As my friend put it, "Tomorrow we're gonna kick your kitchen's ass."

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Porch Prep Part 2 (...28)

My plan to convert my porch into an outdoor haven for the Summer has been put on the back burner due to impending kitchen renovations.  Currently the porch is in semi-decent shape.  A grill, furniture, and now some lovely growing plants are all set up nicely.  But it's uncomfortable. It's hard.  It's not a place to lounge, as I'd hoped it would be by this point.

What have I been waiting for?  Frankly, I've been waiting for my fear of French seams and box cushions to subside.  My mother sent me this video, "How to Sew a French Seam."  It helps and this looks like the way to for a durable cushion.  Unfortunately, all the box cushion instructions I've found on the web so far don't make the job clear to me.  It's making me long for help from my sewing coach, Carol, who taught a class I took last fall.  She's an expert in the traditional methods of haute couture and an interior designer.  She'd be able to make a box cushion in the time it takes me to make a really good omelet.  And, check out her very funny, very clever Etsy shop name:  hemme fatale!  I love this name.  If you knew Carol, it's even more fitting because she's armed with charm and a good sense of humor.

To deal with the fact that I have less time for sewing while I work on my kitchen and to get over my fear of the French seamed box cushion, I've broken down my project into steps.  If I can get 1 step done every other day, then I'll finish well before porch season is over.

Today I cut the cushion to the shape of the bench.

Using red builder's paper that I had for a past renovation project, I made a pattern.  I held it up to the bench and drew a rough outline of the seat.  Then I did some more concise measurements with a yard stick to make the outline neater and symmetrical, and held it up again to see if I was on target.

Next I pinned the paper to the foam.  Having so many cutting boards came in handy.  I needed to weigh down the foam so it would not roll up as I worked.


 I used a marker to draw an outline of my pattern.

 Next I used 2 tools to cut the foam.  One is an electric carving knife.  The other I'm not sure the name of, but it's exactly the tool the sewing store clerk used to cut the foam when I bought it.  I didn't have these on hand.  I asked a friend if he had them.  He did not.  That same day he was at a yard sale where they happened to sell both of these for about $3!  I hope this serendipitous coincidence means I am meant to make the most perfect French seamed box cushion ever!!

Finally, foam that fits my bench fantastically! 

 Maybe not's a little too deep.  Notice the carving knife leaves bumpy ridges, but I'm guessing that will be undetectable in in the end.

I'm not sure how much to cut off. You don't want your legs to squish it down and be on the hard metal.  But you don't want it too deep after adding batting and a cover.

 I'm going to need to trim the inside edges by half an inch.  Or an inch?  I'm going to get a second opinion (Mom?).

Now for that fear-inducing French seam...

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

What Entity do We Want to Be? (...29)

I'm trying to digest the information and advice in an article called "Choice of Entity for Entrepreneurs" by Scott Edward Walker.  Much of the information in this article is unfamiliar to me.  It's not too tough to wrap my brain around the options he describes. but it is tough to make a decision on what will work best for us now, while we're bootstrapping this oroject, and in the future, when potentially we seek outside funding.  There's a lot of information to consider here.  What I didn't know before reading this article was that the choice of entity for a startup company isn't so much dependent on what your business is or how you plan to operate it (online vs a brick and mortar type of store) but whether you plan to seek VC funding at some point.  When this is the case, according to the article, you should form a corporation (C or S) and not an LLC.  Heck, I'm about to form a corporation!

A second article I read this morning is called "For Startups, the Forecast is "Cloudy" by Kurt Dobbins.  Kurt begins by declaring that the timing for starting a new company couldn't be better.  His reason is that despite the current economic environment, the resources available now versus a decade ago for building a business are more widely available and for less cost.  This is because of the "cloudy" environment we're in, meaning much of the resources for creating a business are available on the web.  Dobbins says "For a startup, being cloudy means using or consuming infrastructure and services over the Internet, on-demand, as needed."  This means the costs of doing business or even needing a physical space to do business is greatly reduced.  In the article he shows a chart comparing how his experience with starting two companies changed dramatically over a decade.  It's remarkable and inspiring to see the contrast.  He also writes that the "cloud" reality creates a new business mantra, which is to launch sooner and make fixes later.  It's a lot different than the idea of creating a product and sending it to market perfectly polished, as in when you're selling something in a brick and mortar store.  Online businesses are ever changing.  You can give them a go, see how they work, and modify as needed.  As a budding entrepreneur, this article encourages me to think perhaps we are not in over our heads imagining we can make our biz venture take flight before long!


Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The Resume (...30)

I've never been shy to request suggestions, or for that matter, direct instruction on how to edit my resume.  I frankly admit I lose perspective on what works well when it comes to making my own resume look good or communicate what I need it to.  I can spot others' poorly edited resumes since I've had to review handfuls of them over the years.  But in those cases I know what I'm looking for so I sift through to find which candidates tell me what I need to know.

So, when a super savvy friend who works in the HR industry offered to review my resume, I jumped at the chance.  First she took a look at it and then asked if I was open to feedback. YES PLEASE.  Reviewing your own resume with an objective eye is tough.  Having my friend's feedback was not.  She offered her ideas and examples from her own resume as well as her philosophy on the overall approach to make it work better.

Here are her directions:
  1. Add an objective or summary:  Think long and hard about an objective or summary to tell employers who you are and what you're seeking.  Highlight what you want someone to get from your resume (or what you ultimately want to be doing) and focus on summarizing those skills.
  2. Move education to the bottom:   When you've been out of school long enough, this is considered icing on your resume, but not the focal point.
  3. Focus on your accomplishments versus your responsibilities:  Job bullets need to showcase your accomplishments for the most part.  In some cases, you can list both accomplishments and responsibilities.  List a few broad bullets about responsibilities and then separately include what you accomplished while in the position.  In general, titles and companies can indicate a good sense of what someone is responsible for, but it does not give context to what they really did or how well they did it.  You want to err on the side of focusing more on your accomplishments than on the responsibilities because that is what differentiates you." 
An additional tip my friend gave me was to clearly indicate if a position was eliminated.  Specifically for somebody like me who has been laid off, this is a helpful way of communicating information on my resume that an interviewer will likely want to know.  It helps potential employers understand your employment history and current status.

I'm working on revising my resume to match all of my friend's ideas.  Currently I've made a few changes, done swiftly for some recent resume requests and interviews.  Simply adding an objective and changing my work experience summary to focus on accomplishments versus responsibilities helped me noticeably.  I don't mean it helped me land a job, it's too early to tell just yet.  I mean it helped me with interviewing.  Summarizing my accomplishments on long term projects on paper prepares me well for interviews.  It helps me to articulate my experiences and my skills more easily to others in person.  Essentially, it helped me market myself better verbally as well as on paper.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Shelves Beyond My Reach (...31)

It's all about the kitchen this week at my house.  I'm tossing a lot, selling what I can, and making a dozen trips up and down 3 sets of stairs to store the contents of my kitchen and pantry in the basement.  Currently, I don't have a ton of storage in my kitchen, but I have a good amount in my pantry.  There is a charm to my pantry, with it's old wood shelves and base unit with traditional drawer pulls.  It has a practical purpose too, of course  Until I emptied it yesterday, I hadn't realized how much stuff I'd managed to store in there.  Originally, when assessing my kitchen renovation options, I considered tearing this little room down. 

I'm glad I've decided to keep it, but I'm still not sure how I'm going to address the deteriorating horsehair plaster walls and warped shelves.  When I try to decide on how to approach a home project, my "step 1" is always fantasy!  I look at all the pictures I've torn out of magazines or saved from the internet and think about what I'd ideally like to do.  Here are a few of my favorite shelving looks:

Cleverly integrated into the wall with two different shelving depths.

Nice support brackets.  I could do something like this!

My favorite, floor to ceiling...if only...

Neat wood base and backsplash.

My pantry in a charming state...
My pantry, in disarray above, is empty now.  The drawers are out and the doors will be removed tomorrow.  I'm sure I can harness enough DIY energy to make my own shelves.  What I dream of and what's practical are far different.  I'm going for budget friendly and functional for this renovation.  Plain, unpainted wood and black brackets on white walls could look great, similar to the second picture.  Look out for a hopefully stunning "after" picture of the pantry!

Note:  I've had the pictures above so long, I unfortunately am unable to provide a source.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

The Wetsuit Boogie (...32)

If you've ever put on a wetsuit, you've practiced 1 or 2 steps of the wetsuit boogie.  Like most dances, it's more fun when you've got a partner.  Today my boogie partner was fellow triathlete, Rachel, who raced the Webster Triathlon.  It's a sprint tri with a 1/2 mile swim in Lake Chargoggagoggmanchauggagoggchaubunagungamaugg.  That's right, Lake Chargoggagoggmanchauggagoggchaubunagungamaugg.  Translated, apparently, this means "You fish on your side, I fish on my side, and nobody fish in the middle." 

If you've never put on a wetsuit, then here are the steps to the wetsuit boogie:

Cinch up the legs...
Twist and shout...

Bend, pull, cinch some more...

Do si do...

Repeat a few steps...

Take a bow!

Several of us, post boogie, entering Lake Chargog...
Exiting Lake Chargoggagog...

Boogie-ing back out of my wetsuit.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Can You Beat This Bittman? (...33)

Mark Bittman's book on grilling came out on the kindle 2 days ago for 99 cents.  I haven't downloaded it yet but I will.  For just pennies, how could I not!  He's a longtime favorite ex-NYTimes columnist.  I've delighted in many a meal I've cooked from his blog.

Grilling will soon become my modus operandi for June and July meal prep.  Not only will I be without a range for a while as my kitchen undergoes a facelift, but my CSA (community shared agriculture) farm shares begin July 1.  Anything I buy there is good grilled.  I'm dying for the heirloom tomatoes Busa Farm, where I participate in the CSA, grows.  If you haven't had an heirloom tomato, you haven't had a tomato. 

Homemade Margaritas have become the drink du jour every day around these parts... 

Can you beat these Bittman?

These lovely raw meat patties are the about-to-be-impossible-to-resist-Rosemary-Sage-Burgers, that I grill every summer.  It's the 3rd time I've made them this year.  They're FAN-TASTIC.  I don't eat them like a regular burger with a bun.  The herbs and onion and meat are so tasty and filling, the bun is unnecessary.  Plus, this leaves room for ever necessary ice cream!

R-S Burgers Recipe (makes 4 burgers)
 1/2 lb extra-lean ground round beef
 1/2 lb lean ground pork
 1 tbsp chopped fresh rosemary
 1/3 cup chopped onion
 1 tbsp chopped fresh sage
 1/4 tsp salt
 1 cup baby spinach leaves

Preheat grill to medium high. Combine beef, pork, rosemary, sage, and salt in a medium-sized bowl; form into 4 patties.  Grill patties 4 minutes on each side or until juices run clear.  Don't ask yourself why one patty is artistically shaped into an oval instead of the standard burger circle.  

Bite.  Chew.  Smile.

Friday, June 17, 2011

I Need a Vote (...34)

Or suggestions on another version to try...which of these suits your fancy?

Option 1
Option 2
Option 3
Option 4
Option 5
Option 6