Monday, August 29, 2011

Hurricane Irene…and a New Den Door!

Chris worked late every night this week (and some of Saturday) and then we had a little hurricane called Irene visit. However, we actually got a couple things done this week anyway.

In the middle of the week, Chris removed the old den door. When he was removing the frame, he realized that someone had poured concrete around the frame so now there are some half inch gaps in the top step. Not a huge issue but just a little odd. After he removed the door and frame he covered it up with some nice plastic – fortunately it kept out some of the stink bugs!

Another night during the week we went to pick up a nice work bench. I found it on Freecycle and it is a great addition to our makeshift workshop in the basement.

On Thursday, I got a call from my parents requesting an early check in to Hotel Skocik. They were being evacuated from Ocean City before the hurricane struck. I had planned on going to the beach with them on Friday but because of the evacuation I ended up having to go to work that day instead. I think it was a wise choice…

Since Irene was expected to have a big impact in our area, we started our preparations early. We moved all things inside (the grill, garbage cans, hanging plants, etc.), covered the window well, extended downspouts, plugged up the basement door, and picked a nice garden harvest.

There were a couple big things we were worried about – our massive trees flanking the house.

The giant tree at the back of the house is very close (about 10 feet) and is split in a way that if it falls, it would destroy the house. The big tree in the front of the house is slightly farther away but has been dropping limbs frequently – if this one fell it would crush the garage and den.

I called about a dozen companies to see if we could get them cut down before the storm. Unfortunately I didn’t have any luck. We did get some quotes for “after the storm” but in the meantime we just had to pray that they would stay standing.

We started getting the first bit of Irene rain and wind on Saturday around lunchtime. It got increasingly worse throughout the day. The worst of the storm was overnight so we frequently were woken up due to heavy wind gusts.

In the morning, I went to assess the damage. Fortunately, we only had some branches fall into the yard and some flooding in the garage (we definitely expected this). I took these pictures early so not all of the branches had fallen to the ground yet.

We were happy to hear from Chris’ sister Paula who lives near Richmond – they lost power for a little while and some willow trees but everyone there is doing fine. We’re still waiting to hear news of my cousin, aunt, and uncle who live in Connecticut and New Hampshire.

We’re very fortunate that all the power lines in our area are underground. We didn’t lose power at all, but there are still a lot of people in the DC/Baltimore area without it.

We waited until Sunday evening to start cleaning up the yard. There were a ton of branches that we cut up – I think we ended up with 16 bundles. When we get home from work today they should all be gone (we love Howard County!).

The rest of Sunday was spent installing the door in the den. We first started by spraying in some “Great Stuff” foam to insulate the area a little better. Then Chris worked to remove all the paint on the brick (the previous owners got paint like this all over the exterior of the house).

Finally we were able to install the new door. It was our first attempt at door installation so of course it took much longer than it should. We ended up with only a few issues when we were installing the hardware that we were able to work out – who knew that the security plate on the frame wouldn’t allow us to close the deadbolt?

Now the door is a million times better than what was there before. It went from this…

…to this!

This week we have to finish insulating and installing drywall and trim. After some paint and cleanup, we’ll officially have a “TV room.”

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Natural Disaster Week

This week is apparently a bad time to be living in Maryland. We just experienced a magnitude 5.9 earthquake that was centered in Virginia about an hour ago. And then this weekend, we also will get to experience the remnants of a hurricane.

It's times like this when I want to move back to Pennsylvania...

Wanted: Motivation

We were very unproductive again this week. Chris worked late every night so I would come home alone, play with Tucker, and make dinner. When Chris arrived home, we would eat and then I’d be so tired that I would go to sleep shortly after.

My parents arrived on Friday evening so they could get across the Bay Bridge early the next morning on the way to the beach. They’re spending the week in Ocean City (closer to Delaware) and will be back this weekend to help us with a couple things – what a nice way for them to end their vacation!

Saturday was actually a pretty fun day. We went to visit with Steve, Diane, and Jared around lunch and in the evening went to our next door neighbor’s “End of Summer” party. Because the party was next door, Chris spent a couple hours in the morning getting the yard in decent shape.

On Sunday, Chris got all ambitious. Chris wants a “TV room” and we had designated the den to become just that. Like most of the projects around here, it is about 90% complete.

The one big issue with the den right now is the wall between the den and sunroom. This was where we re-framed the window openings for our new windows and so we could move up the light switch from our knee level. We’re still not sure why anyone would put lights (or a sliding chain lock) that low to the ground.

A long time ago our contractors had removed the plaster above the window (we’re still not sure why) and replaced it with two sheets of drywall. The problem is that the two sheets of drywall were too thick to match up with the plaster on the rest of the wall.

We had put up a temporary piece of drywall so that we could pass one of our inspections with every plan to replace it. Chris removed the trim and drywall from around the door and windows so we can do the job properly.

We also realized that since we have the trim off, we should replace the door. This door is original to the house and has definitely seen better days!

We went to Lowe’s to look at some replacement doors and think we found the right one – a nice steel door, insulated, with internal blinds in the window. While we’re at it, we might replace the back door in the kitchen as well since it has similar issues (those dogs were destructive!).

This week, Chris is still working a lot of overtime so I’ll be spending some quality time with the dog. Hopefully next week I can write about our wonderful new doors!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Next year, less tomatoes!

This week we didn’t have much time or energy to do any house work. The only real thing we did was some yard work – cutting the grass and taking care of the garden.

We are dog-sitting again for a friend and it is amazing how difficult it is to get anything accomplished with two dogs underfoot. Normally Tucker would behave and go lay down when we tell him to…no such luck with another dog in the house!

I spent a lot of Saturday morning tackling the weeding of the garden – can you tell that we’ve let it go for awhile?

While I was pulling weeds, Chris was taking pictures of some other things in the garden…

The tomato hornworm covered in eggs…

Our one lone sunflower – all others were eaten by groundhogs/deer/rabbits/squirrels…

And me working in the garden.

We’ve had much better success with our garden this year (trapping 4 groundhogs has definitely helped!). Last year we had a couple tomatoes, peppers, and squash that we were able to eat before the animals got to them. This year we have improved our success with some things (and still failed at others!):

Our successes include:
Tomatoes – an overabundance!
Pumpkins (still TBD)

Our failures include:
Peas – eaten
Lettuce – eaten
Beets – didn’t grow
Beans – eaten
Zucchini – eaten
Squash – eaten
Okra – eaten
Cucumbers – eaten
Corn – semi-failure – not well developed:

Ok, so our corn is really funny looking but at least we got to eat some this year before the deer struck!

A couple minutes after I finished in the garden, it started to rain. It rained and rained until Sunday afternoon. Even with the rain, Chris still brewed a new batch of beer on Saturday.

On Sunday, after church and a huge grocery shopping trip (let’s hear it for super double coupons!), Chris had to go into work for the day. In the meantime, I took our mountain of ripe tomatoes and skinned and de-seeded them so that Chris can cook up some tasty pasta sauce. I had no idea that the whole process would take over 3 ½ hours!

This week Chris will have to work late each night so I’ll be stuck at home with the dogs dreaming about our upcoming bathroom projects…

Monday, August 8, 2011

We Have Weak Trees…

We are starting to feel a little more like Tom Hanks in the movie “The Money Pit.” Do you remember the scene when he is outside, leans up against a tree and starts a domino effect with all the trees falling over? Well this week we had another giant branch fall off of our tree in the front yard. This one took about 2 hours to cut up, bundle, and stack. We think we’ll be proactive and cut this tree down before it falls on the house.

If you’re wondering if we’re just being dramatic about the number of fallen trees and limbs on the property, here are a few pictures to remind you of some of the larger ones…

The majority of this week was (again) ridiculously hot and humid. Besides some garden harvesting, we didn’t do much on the house. The weekend was also a wash – I had to go to work on Saturday, Chris went mountain biking, we went to a birthday party, and visited our friends’ new baby. We did get to clean a lot of the house and do some laundry though!

This week we hope to spend a lot of time planning for the new bathroom project coming up.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Skocik Family Vacation in the Outer Banks

This week we spent some quality time with the whole Skocik family. We rented two houses in Duck for the week – we were divided into the “quiet” house and the kids’ house.

Chris’ brother, Mark, arrived Friday night from Colorado to travel with us for vacation. We started out early on Saturday and didn’t hit traffic until the last 20 miles. Unfortunately, those 20 miles took us 3 hours to get through.

As would be expected, there was a lot of swimming, sitting on the beach and by the pool, relaxing, and fun. A few of the days were extremely hot and humid but there was plenty of water around to stay cool. Some of the other activities we did during the week were crabbing, kayaking, and driving up to Corolla (no horses to be seen though).

Each night during the week a different group of 4 would cook dinner (except for kid’s night). We’ll just say that it can get a little rowdy when there are 26 people together for dinner each night. We were definitely spoiled with the meals – multiple appetizers, great main courses, fantastic side dishes, and delicious desserts!

I only took 3 pictures during the entire trip. Because of the humidity, every time the camera was taken outside it fogged up. Below is one of the foggy pictures I took – there was a fox hanging out at our pool the first morning.

We had a great time with the family but it’s always nice to be back home. Fortunately we came home to a huge garden harvest – we have cherry and grape tomatoes everywhere! We also ended up with a few nice sized green peppers. We’re so glad that our garden is actually producing this year!

This week they are calling for more hot and humid weather. Chris is also working on an important project at work that may be requiring some overtime – I think it’ll be awhile before we finish any other projects on the house!