Saturday, January 31, 2009


JK2 is working on making a cradle for the baby. He's pretty excited about it (and so am I). We have an old blanket box/hope chest that my great-grandfather Charlie Rech made (presumably for my grandmother). It's just a very simple oak box, but I've always thought it was cool to have furniture in our house that was actually made by a family member.

JK2 found these really cool plans for an antique-style cradle from Norm Abrams, local Boston carpentry hero (from This Old House and Yankee Workshop). Click here to see what it will look like. Apparently Norm got the idea for the cradle after seeing an antique one in Old Sturbridge Village (sort of the Massachusetts equivalent of Williamsburg).

Since JK2 decided not to take graduate classes this semester, due to the fact that the baby is due when he would be in finals, he wanted to do something else with his time. He's always been interesting in woodworking, so he took a beginning woodworking class this month at the Eliot School in Jamaica Plain, where he learned how to use the various tools. He initially planned on making a grandfather clock, but he thought the cradle project would be a little more manageable for a first-time construction. Last week, he bought a table saw from Sears (he has been talking about buying one for years).

Today we picked out the wood. Like the cradle in the link above, JK2 decided to use cherry wood. Norm says that cherry ages well, and I really like the warm, reddish look of cherry wood. We drove up to Boulter Plywood in Somerville, a place that sells just about any kind of wood you can imagine, and we got our wood. They cut it for you right there, so it was even easier to fit in our car than we expected. Now it has to sit in our house for a couple of days to get acclimated.

I hope he'll be able to get it done in time! He has 3 months, so that seems like it should be enough time. If it all works out, JK2 wants to make other things, like the clock, or a block set for the baby.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Coming attractions

Not much to blog about these days. My job situation stinks and it's cold and icy outside. I'm very afraid of falling on the ice, and even bought these metal traction devices for my boots. They really only work on packed-down snow, and are actually really slippery on most other surfaces, but they give me some confidence, anyway.

But I'm happy to say that a week from tomorrow we go out West for our vacation!! Yea! So stay tuned here for a daily update on our travels.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

The hole in the wall

Here is the new hole in our wall, caused by the cracked sewage pipe:

This photo was taken before they replaced the pipe. The big black, cast iron pipe is the one they replaced. We're making progress. No puddle in the basement anymore.

Friday, January 16, 2009

A thought for the day

A thought for the day, eloquently written on the inside of my "Honest Tea" bottle that I drank at lunch:

"Courage is doing what you are afraid to do. There can be no courage unless you're scared." - Eddie Rickenbacher

Incidentally, Eddie Rickenbacher was an American fighter pilot during WWI, according to Wikipedia.

I guess I will have lots of courage this year then, because I think this year is going to be full of doing things that I'm afraid to do.

Thursday, January 15, 2009


So miraculously, we got the entire plumbing job done today. I have a feeling that there is not a lot of work to be had for people like plumbers and carpenters and other contractor-type people given the economy.

The plumbers ripped open the wall (*sigh*) and found the crack in our sewage pipe. The pipe was cast iron, rusted, and about as thin as a piece of paper. This was because it was 90 years old. Water degrades cast iron after a while, and they very rarely put cast iron pipes in houses any more. According to the plumber, they've used PCV pipes for sewage since the 1950's. So the crack was about 3 inches long. They pulled the pipe out and replaced it with a white PCV pipe.

There was some talk that they were also going to have to go into our ceiling to replace the last part of the cast iron pipe. They speculated that it could very well be in as bad shape as the piece they pulled out. But that would've been a big job and there was no evidence that this part of the pipe was bad. It'll probably give way next year, with our luck.

So now we have to have our trusty contractor, Joe, come in to fix the wall. It's funny how the downstairs is looking a little like it did last year, before our walls were fixed. I have a friend coming over on Tuesday for lunch and I was looking forward to showing her all the improvements to our house, since she hasn't been here in a while. Now she's going to be wondering what I'm talking about, with the hole "still" there. :)

Fun with plumbing

This must be the year for plumbing difficulties.

Over the last year or so, we noticed that sometimes in the basement we would see a small puddle of water in the corner by the stairs. Sometimes it was foul-smelling. We figured that the cats were peeing in the corner. It seemed to appear when we didn't let Solomon outside. We figured he was mad at us.

But this winter, JK^2 started to notice that the pipes in that area were wet. And the puddle was getting larger. We flushed the toilet a few times and sure enough, the water was running down onto the floor. This was not cat urine. (So I guess our cats are better behaved than we thought). There's a cracked pipe. And guess where the pipe runs! Well, right through a piece of wall that we just had redone last spring. You know, with the nice blue board and plaster. (For those of you who know our house, it's the piece of wall right next to the stained glass window - the wall that was all opened up for about 5 years due to the frozen pipe incident).

We are having the plumber in this morning to give us an estimate but everyone's pretty sure they're going to have to open the wall back up to replace the pipe. (Oh, and by the way, the plumber just came back and said he couldn't give us an estimate because it's in the wall and he has no idea how much it's going to cost. Great!)

It is so depressing. We finally got the downstairs to look nice, and now we're going to have a big hole there again until we can get it fixed. (As I write this, I'm listening to him drill into our beautiful wall. It makes me cringe). Also, the toilet will have to be turned off during the work, and that will be interesting. Due to the baby sitting on my bladder, I generally have to go every hour or so.

Sometimes we look at people who bought expensive houses or who are expecting to buy an expensive house, and we say, wow, we got a great deal and we have a manageable mortgage - a good thing in uncertain economic times. But as JK^2 commented the other day, we also purchased a $300,000 house. We just only paid half of it with our mortgage. The other half comes sporadically and unexpectedly as things break in our house. Ugh.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Fun with snow

My sister, being the amazing artist that she is, had a day off from work yesterday. So she decided to get creative:


Teenaged snowhead:

If only I could be this creative. I told her she should photograph them and put them in her portfolio as installation art. Something along the lines of humanizing nature. :)

Happy winter, everyone!

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Vacation plans

In typical fashion, it is the weekend and I've been awake since 6:30. Since it's counterproductive for me to lie in bed, turning things over in my head, and then getting worked up about these stupid things, I decided to get up. Plus, that means JK^2 can sleep in peace for a couple more hours without me tossing and turning. I made myself a cup of tea (Irish Breakfast - it was a little too strong), and ate some of the raisin bread that I bought at the store yesterday. I love fresh-made raisin bread! This stuff was made on Friday!

We finally planned our trip. We weren't sure we were going to take one. We started out with grandiose ideas - Turkey, or Rome, or taking a 2-week cruise around the tip of South America. These are all places we'll go someday. But not this time. After looking at the expense of these trips, as well as the amount of sitting in a plane, we questioned whether we should do a trip at all. My job prospects are uncertain at this point because of the economy, and judging from the rate that my belly is currently growing, I may be on the large side next month, when we plan to go. Not much fun sitting on a plane for 12 hours when you're worried about blood clots and you have to get up every hour to go to the bathroom. I'm also somewhat restricted as far as how long I should be walking, etc. I need to take it easy. Spending a week walking around Rome would be super cool and I don't know when we'll have the opportunity to do that for several years. But I think it would be too much this time around. Plus, it would be expensive.

But we still wanted to do a trip. We probably won't be traveling again for a while. Plus, it's only a month away. How big am I really going to be? I've only started really showing over the past couple of weeks, and for the most part, I still feel fine.

So we decided to take the trip we had to cancel last winter when I got the flu. We are flying out to Las Vegas, renting a car, and driving. We'll probably go to the Grand Canyon, which neither of us has ever seen. It seems that since we've lived in the U.S. for 30+ years and have seen large parts of Europe as well as small portions of South America and Africa, it's time to see a major part of our own country. The Grand Canyon is a big thing not to have seen. So if the weather is right, we will drive there. If the weather isn't right, we can drive to southern Arizona instead, or up into Utah. By flying into Las Vegas, we're very flexible.

Yes, this will still involve the same issues with sitting and need of bathroom. But I think I'll be OK. There are lots of opportunities to stop and you have more control when you're the one driving the car. An added bonus is that we got the plane tickets for free with JK^2's frequent flier miles. That cuts the expenses by a lot.

I'm really happy about the trip. We'll get a much-needed break from the cold and from work.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

New year, part 2

But having written the post about the bad omen, I will now wish everyone out there a happy new year. Here are a couple of photos of our house, decorated for the holidays:

Our stockings on the banister:

Our tree:

We had a pretty low-key new year's eve. We were originally going to go to a friend's house for a party. But it snowed all day and Somerville had called a snow emergency. A snow emergency means that you can only park on the odd side of the street, which really limits where you can park. Then there's the fact that most leftover parking spaces have snow drifts that you have to dig out before you can park in them. So we decided not to go because of the parking problem and the scary prospect of driving around on snowy roads with a bunch of drunk people in the other cars. We stayed at home instead. We worked on a puzzle for a while, but then I got so tired and couldn't stay awake. So I napped for a while, and then woke up around 11:45. I was awake for the new year and then we went to bed. We must be getting old. Staying awake til midnight used to be so easy. Of course, that was back when waking up early for me was 9:00am. :)

Today we're doing our normal tradition of going to Mary Chung's in Cambridge for lunch. We're meeting the friends whose party we were supposed to attend last night. It is very cold outside. But the way we know that we're not in Buffalo any more is that it's actually sunny out! Buffalo is so gray in the winter.

Happy new year!

Happy new year!

It's a very bad sign. The first event of 2009 was me waking up at 6:30 to get a drink of water and realizing that our cold water pipe had frozen.

We have had this problem before. Back when we had the old crappy walls in our house, we had a similar incident. Jim ended up ripping open a wall and seeing that the prior owners had insulated that wall by putting insulation on the inside of the house - with the pipes on the outside, not insulated. And the cold water pipe happens to run up the outer wall of our house, between our front hall and the unheated front porch.

We thought we'd solve the problem by putting the insulation on the correct side of the pipes - so that they would benefit from the heat in our house. This was accomplished last spring when we had our walls redone. Jim had also installed one of those cords that you put next to the pipe, and then if it freezes, you can plug it in in the basement and it's supposed to warm up the pipe. The problem with the cord is that we're now convinced it's a fire hazard. It was OK when the wall was open (we had a hole in our wall for several years before redoing the walls), but now that it's closed up, it's more worrying. Having an undetected fire in one of our walls is far worse than a frozen pipe.

But here we have the first really cold night since we redid the walls: it was 2 degrees at 6:30 this morning, with a windchill of -10. And the problem is back. Ugh.

Jim tried to warm up the pipe by running the hot water. The hot water pipe is right next to the cold water pipe, so he hoped that it would give off heat. Also, we warmed up the house. We keep it in the low 60's at night. About an hour later, the water thawed. Phew. No burst pipes.

As I was lying in bed, trying to go back to sleep, I thought about how most people have small house problems. Like a window that isn't insulated and is letting some cold air in. Or a kitchen that's ugly and needs to be redone. Normally, people just have to do some routine maintenance on their houses.

Our maintenance includes new furnace, new roof, new walls, new insulation, replacing 90-year-old windows with cracks in them, and worrying about whether our pipes are going to burst at any moment because the people who built this house didn't realize that it got cold in New England in the winter.

Jim reminded me that other people have problems too. Other people have had pipes burst. Other people have had flooding in their basement. Yes, that's true. It just feels like we're always the ones with the problems. Maybe those people feel that way too. And I will agree that things have definitely gotten better at our house in the last 8 years that we've been here. For example, we have lights in our kitchen and foyer that are not florescent outlets that belong in a bathroom vanity mirror. And we have already covered most of the major projects on the house. We've done major work on the HVAC system, the electrical system, the structural integrity of the house, the roof, and the insulation of the house (through windows and wall insulation). We should be getting to the point where we're more worried about maintenance and cosmetics than overhaul.

But hopefully this pipe issue isn't a bad omen for the year. :)