Wednesday, September 19, 2012

I really am just defective . . . and I'm very happy about it.

Happy dance! The appraisal for my mortgage refinance came back at $75K more than my purchase price. I want to think that it's because I put in a pretty garden and painted the rooms nice colors but I know it comes down to the improving economy and housing market.

The best part is that this picture of our dining room was immortalized in the appraisal. Last year I hung a banner for Greg's birthday that said, "Happy Fucking Birthday" and we've been swapping it around ever since. It currently says "grab it funky chap."

But seriously, whew.

We also got the official report back on the indoor air quality tests and they show no abnormally high pollen, mold, or bacteria counts. Pollen counts were especially high this year so I may just be reacting to that, or I'm allergic to Greg. My allergies started when he moved in, have I mentioned that?

I'm just one of those dorky kids with an inhaler and I couldn't be happier! I ordered my air purifier and I'll report back if it helps or not.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Perhaps I am just defective

Would you like me to write you a check? How about you over there? Or do you prefer Visa?

Someone told me, right after I bought my house, that your house and your car secretly conspire with each other to have problems at the same time. September has been EXPENSIVE. Between refinancing, freaking out about mold, and having the ducts cleaned, my wallet is hurting.

My car got hit by another hit and run last month, while sitting in front of our house. They took off my driver's side mirror, which I later found hiding in the hellstrip. $247 later and I feel like I should never park my car on any public Portland streets, ever. This is after I just got my car repaired from the last hit and run.

I had Garrett out from Mold Testing Services of Oregon to inspect the house for evidence of mold that could be triggering my allergies ($450). I told a friend that I don't know what I fear more: that they'll find a horrible mold infestation or that they'll find nothing and it will turn out that I'm just one of those wheezy asthmatic kids who can't play tetherball because my lungs are stupid.

He spent two hours using a moisture sensor and crawling through the crawlspaces and attic, as well as combing every inch of the basement and the rest of the house (even the closets, ack). He had some suggestions but returned no smoking gun. He ran two air culture tests, and he expects them to come back normal. He said this is a very well built house. I gotta say, this guy was so nice to work with.

He said it seemed like I did a good job installing the laminate flooring in the basement and sees no reason to remove it. GO ME. Score one for doing it yourself.

He recommended tightening the toilet bolts because, despite replacing the wax ring and using a dime to shim the toilet, it's still rocking. I can't believe my dime trick didn't work. He suggested calling a plumber so they could do it right. Score one for calling in a professional. He said to get rid of the carpet on the basement stairs because, no shit Sherlock, it's disgusting.

He recommended an air purifier for me, which should help my allergies tremendously. Who wants to bet I should have just done that and called it a day? He also said that the soil grading in our yard was fucked up (the dirt slopes toward the house instead of away from it). Do you want to know where it's fucked up? Right where that guy drove his bobcat through our yard to remove the concrete slab. I'm fairly certain that most of the world's problems can be traced back to that unlicensed jerk riding his Bobcat of Destruction through our yard. Cholera epidemic? That guy. Hurricanes in the south? The weather gods are punishing us for hiring that guy when he probably wasn't bonded.

While we were exploring the basement we noticed that there was water all around the furnace. The condensation pump had misfired, overheated, and melted in places. I initially thought the guy from Power Vac broke it but Jacob's (who installed my furnace) said it was just funny timing.

Ha ha ha ha! Hoo. Ha. ($275) I'm laughing so hard I'm crying now! But I am grateful it didn't start a fire. I'm glad I was in the basement with the mold dude and we were looking at things with a critical eye. This is good.

I also went shopping with Scott this weekend, to Wind Dancer Garden. We had just seen Carolyn Kolb speak on ornamental grasses last Tuesday and she is a wonderful speaker. I cannot recommend making a trip to Salem to see her enough. She and her husband are incredibly sweet, the nursery is gorgeous, and they have all sorts of wonderful grasses and bamboos you can't find anywhere else.

13 big pots of grasses for less than $100. Gardening, I love you more and more every day. We also hit up Dancing Oaks and almost got lost outside of Monmouth, where surely the hill people would have murdered us. So that's a silver lining, too: we didn't get murdered by hill people. Now I just need a little bit of rain to make the ground workable. JUST A LITTLE, OREGON. DON'T START WITH THE FULL-ON RAINY SEASON JUST YET.

In conclusion:

  1. Don't park your car on the streets of Portland. 
  2. My house looks nice today. I paid a lot of money to hear that.
  3. If you have terrible allergies, get an air purifier and THEN do all this other stuff if it doesn't fix it.
  4. Carolyn Kolb is a groovy chick and you should totally go to Wind Dancer.
  5. I may just be one those dorky asthmatic kids, unable to eat birthday cake at school because I have a peanut allergy.
  6. If you do have allergies, Flonase is a life saver.
  7. I can't make any of the suggested fixes for a couple of months because I am out of money.
  8. My hard drive is making a funny noise. Isn't that funny timing?
But I am alive, mostly healthy, and still a very lucky girl. I'll quit bitching now.

Late Bloom Day September 2012

I was busy fighting the Quilters Mafia at Fabric Depot on Saturday, so I neglected to take any photos. This old woman totally tried to con her way in front of me in line and I was *this* close to hip checking her. The good news is that, after almost a year of trying to find living room curtains I like, I'm just going to make them myself. They'll look like this:

CB2 linen panels

I really wanted pinch pleats but you can't always get what you want and these should be fairly straight forward to sew. On to the flowers . . .

Sedums 'Autumn Joy' and 'Matrona'

Agastache 'Ava'

Zauschneria californica 'Wayne's Select'
Coreopsis 'Moonbeam'

Penstemon centranthifolius 'Scarlet Bugler'

Salvia 'Black and Blue'

Marigold 'Day of the Dead Orange'

Agastache 'Blue Blazes'

Canna 'Durban'

Happy two days after bloom day, ya'll. Head over to May Dreams Gardens to see what everyone posted in a more timely manner than I. Thanks for hosting, Carol!

Friday, September 14, 2012

For f*ck's sake.

Me and this tree, we are in a fight.

Cryptomeria japonica 'Not so elegant now, are we bucko?'

I removed the stake, since it's been in the ground almost a year now. We still have some lines up, which we need to loosen so it will learn to stand on his own. Unfortunately, one line snapped and now it's doing this. Will it ever learn to stand up straight? I knew I should have put in a Korean Fir but they take sooo long to grow.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

I just neti-potted my house's sinuses

At the risk of making sure that no one comes to visit me ever, I'm going to tell you about my basement of horrors.

Life has been a little hectic around here lately. I'm refinancing, which means getting an appraisal, which means trying to tidy up the house and fretting a lot. One source of stress was the basement, which has one corner that smells strongly of mildew. I've been worried that we have mold growing underneath the laminate flooring in there. My allergies have been unbearable for the last six months and while most mold is a nuisance and not a true hazard, I was starting to worry.

Greg is only worried that the castor bean plant is now taller than him.

Greg is 6'2'. Audrey is topping 7' now.

I called Oregon Restoration and asked them to put in a bid to tear out the flooring and do mold remediation in there. Ryan came out and took a look and advised against tearing out the floor. He said that mold doesn't really thrive against concrete unless it has something to feed it, like wood or paper. The vapor barrier and the laminate don't really create an environment to support a bloom. He thought it more likely that there's mold on the back of the drywall.

I was like, "Why don't I just pay you to tear out the flooring anyway?" and he advised to wait until the rainy weather returns, so we can find out if there's water coming in. Then they can solve the moisture issue and explore behind the drywall. I was so ready to give him a bunch of money and he just wasn't having it.

In the meantime he said to call an environmental analyst to find out if we actually have a mold growth and what kind it is. They do readings inside and out to see if the readings are abnormally high inside the house. He also said to have the ducts cleaned, something I had been pondering last fall. He cautioned that the companies that charge $79 do a bait-and-switch where they quote you a low price, then once they are inside the house, claim they've found something awful and need $500 if they're going to do it right. He recommended Power Vac, so I called them out.

I really wanted to have my ducts cleaned last November but the Internet was so full of conflicting information. Ducts are too slippery to hold dust so duct cleaning is a waste of money! The mold retardants they use are more toxic than the dust! If you don't clean your ducts you'll get the Hanta virus! On and on.

Well, I can officially confirm that my ducts can hold dust. A lot of it. The dude from Power Vac, who was incredibly nice, declared them "pretty grody."


And after:

DAYAM. And another:



They run a pipe from their truck into your furnace, so all the stuff they are sucking out goes into a containment system outside the house. They didn't spray any chemicals into my vents, which I was pretty happy about. It is incredibly loud, what with the big sucking hose and the little hose hooked up to the air compressor to blow all the dust out.

I'm not holding out much hope for this improving my allergies (I really think it's mold) but I am so glad I did this. They are running a 10% off special right now, so it came to about $300. It took about 3.5 hours to complete. They only recommend doing it every 5-7 years, so it really seemed worth it. I'll report back if my allergies improve. In the meantime I'm not going to show you pictures of the ENORMOUS spiders we've been finding in the basement because I'm already worried you won't come to my slumber party. My mom bought Otter Pops and my sister said we can borrow her Oiuja board and everything! Come on, guys.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

And then we built a giant litter box

I've been plotting what to do with the left side of the front yard, under the dogwood tree.

And by "I've been plotting" I mean that I emailed Scott and asked him if he'd design a grass/meadowscape for me. And because he is awesome, he agreed. He drew up an incredible plan that incorporated drought tolerant grasses and wildflowers, all in the color scheme I wanted. And then he gave me a bunch of seedlings. And now Greg is concerned because I natter on about Scott all the time. And Scott will probably stop answering my emails after reading this, because I'm bordering on swimfanning here.

Thank goodness I never got an itch to plant this side of the yard before because I was reading a recent issue of Fine Gardening and they mentioned that dogwoods have shallow root systems that resent being disturbed. I won't be able to use a sod cutter, sadly. I'll have to move more slowly than I'd like, slowly smothering the lawn and using very small plants so I don't cause any damage to my 75 year old tree.

I started with the area outside the drip line, where we'd had our giant dirt pile all spring:

It was weedy but still mostly clear of sod. I worked with my half moon edger (that Greg sharpened with his Dremel tool) for an hour or so and made slow progress.

Then Greg came out with the pickax and cleared the whole area in about 15 minutes while I fretted, "Watch for roots!"

We ran into one tiny root so I didn't worry too much about piling the mulch on comically high.

Next Scott and I are going to make a trip to Wind Dancer and do some shopping, then I'll have to carefully start to smother another section of the lawn. I was going to use a method described here where you use 8" of wood chips to smother the sod. It's supposed to be more effective than smothering with cardboard and it supposedly maintains better soil health, BUT. What do I do with all those wood chips afterward? I don't want wood chips in my landscape. I supppose I could keep moving them around as I smother new parts of the lawn but that seems like a pain in the ass.

Any input from anybody who has removed sod under a fussy tree would be welcome.

In the meantime we're enjoying our giant cat toilet.