Friday, December 31, 2010

The road to electrical inspection approval

First and foremost, I have been appointed to show off the new curtains from the exterior of the house. From outdoors, you can see the sheer back layer Amanda talked about earlier. Behold, curtains:
I may have mentioned previously that we have been doing some renovation in our second story. Before installing the insulation and drywall upstairs, we needed to pass a rough electrical inspection and address any major findings. However, the conclusion of the essential electrical work has been prolonged for various reasons. The primary cause of delay is a dramatic increase in my professional workload, which has been quite demanding both mentally and physically. We also had a surprise vacation to NYC for a movie premiere in November; what an incredible yet brief trip! Another factor was the process of framing-in the new closets for the bedrooms. After finishing the construction, I was able to wire the closet lights and one additional outlet receptacle. Happily, this phase is complete and both closets are plumb and square.

However, an unexpected delay was encountered while investigating the lighting in the second story hallways. We intended to redesign the hallway lights in order to have three switches to control the lights. Not too big a deal since the studs are exposed, and my dad and I were able to run wiring for one of the 3-way switches and the 4-way switch during all our work in October. While completing the hallway lighting circuit, I looked into the lighting circuit in the stairwell. These lights were connected to one of the chaotic sprawling networks from the basement. The mess behind the two 3-way switches looked something like this:

I suppose we shouldn't be too surprised, but I was nonetheless. The second story switch (shown at left) had several apparently unnecessary wires terminated with tape only. In the box were three different types of wire, including 12/2, 14/2 and a single 12 gauge wire, and nothing was grounded in the metal box. The first story switch (right) was entirely different wiring, indicating that there is a hidden/secret junction box sealed in the wall or ceiling somewhere. The neutral for the first story lamp was 'borrowed' from a receptacle in the adjacent room - I hear that this is called an 'illegal substitution' in football terms. You can see the cloth-insulated wire and the duct tape added for extra flavor. Elsewhere, I found a splice in one of the runner wires simply buried in the attic insulation. After a more thorough investigation, I traced the network back to the source and found the following savory sight:

In conclusion, the stairway lighting circuit was entirely unacceptable. I isolated the circuit and essentially turned off the lights. The wiring for this network has now been entirely replaced and is supplied from the new second story circuit breaker. I was able to run the new 14/2 and 14/3 wire with minimal intrusion in the stairwell walls, and Amanda installed one of the new 3-way switches. 

We had our rough electrical inspection nearly two weeks ago. I was anticipating that the inspector would spend some time and scrutinize my work, but he was done within 10 minutes. With only minor findings, we can close up the walls and continue with the renovation. I just need to find enough time and energy to keep at it.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Ceiling Fans!

I almost forgot to tell you about our ceiling fans!  Jim and I have finally ordered some for the nursery and guest room!  I wanted to find something that looked like it would fit in a century home (even though they didn't have ceiling fans back then).  I found a fan that I liked, but Jim wanted to sit on the fence about it and mull it over.  This tends to frustrate me.  Especially at times likes this when the fan was on sale for 50% off!  Of course, Jim waited too long, and the sale ended.  Ack!  I had spent too much time looking for a darn ceiling fan that would fit our needs, only for Jim to be wishy-washy and therefore have us miss out on the sale!
I told Jim to try to find that exact fan on sale somewhere else.  And boy did he deliver!  He found the same fan in the finishes we wanted for a price that was even better than the original sale price!  You better believe that we bookmarked that website for any future lighting and fan orders.  :)
The fans are Monte Carlo Ornate Elite Renaissance 52".  We couldn't decide on which finish we like better, so we ordered one in British Bronze and the other in Corinthian Bronze.  We liked the extra detailing in the fan.  The fan also has good reviews, so we are pretty sure we'll like it too.

It's Curtains for Us!

First off, I'd like to show everyone our newest ornament for the tree.  I wanted to get something to commemorate 2010 being the year we bought our first house.  I thought this ornament from Hallmark was very sweet.

Now for the real reason of this post...The windows in the family room are very drafty, and they make the room very cold.  I put plastic on the windows, but it doesn't seem to be helping much.  I tried a different (more expensive) brand than last year, but it seems to be worse.  Next year, I will go back to using Frost King since the 3M film doesn't seem to be doing its job.  Anyways, because the family room is where we like to sit and relax, we decided to go ahead and try to remedy the situation.  For the very first time, Jim and I have bought curtains for the house!  Yea!  All the other curtains in our home are the same ones the previous owners left.  Most of them are just a very thin lacy material.  The family room didn't even have curtains, since it had shutters when we first moved in.  I had taken those cobweb encrusted dust magnets off the windows within the first month after moving in.  The shutters are still sitting in my dad's garage as I type.  So, yes, it has taken us almost a year to buy curtains.  
We discovered that curtains are expensive.  Fortunately, the family room only has 3 windows.  We knew we wanted to buy red curtains, but we wanted to make sure that the curtains wouldn't clash with our red couch.  We were able to cut off a piece of the couch fabric in an inconspicuous spot so that we wouldn't have to take an entire couch cushion with us to the store.  Can you see me doing that?  While Jim was shopping at Lowe's.  I went to check out the selection at Bed Bath and Beyond.  I was actually quite surprised and pleased when I saw their selection.  I managed to find exactly what I was looking for: curtains that looked stylish, yet also had insulating and noise reducing properties.  Jim liked the curtains as much as I did, so we bought them.  We had chosen London  Stripe in brick.  We decided not to buy the coordinating valance at that time, but I'd like to at some point in the coming months.  We also bought a sheer panel to go behind the curtains as an extra detail when the curtains are open.    This, however, lead to some unforeseen consequences.  We would need to buy a double rod set, but we didn't like any of the ones that we saw.  We did; however, like some of the single rods.  We figured that we could just buy the single rods and purchase the needed double brackets separately.  Easy enough, right?  WRONG!  We went to 7 different stores looking for double brackets and couldn't find any that were sold by themselves!  What stores did we try you might ask.  Well, we went to Bed Bath and Beyond, Lowe's, Kmart, Kohl's, Walmart, Home Depot, and Sear's Hardware!  Nothing!  We found plenty of single brackets, but no doubles.  Grrrr!  What the heck, peoples?!  Well, we ended up drilling holes in the single brackets that came with the rods we bought and screwed them together to make a double bracket.  Of course, we didn't have the proper drill bit, so we went to Ace Hardware to buy the right one.  Long story short (too late, I know) we finally have curtains hanging in the family room.  As a bonus, I no longer have to worry about the neighbors seeing me work out on my Wii Fit in the morning. ;p  Besides the valances, we also still need to buy the holdbacks.  We figured that could wait until spring/summer.  We plan on keeping the curtains closed for the winter.  I'm hoping these curtains help keep the heat in and the cold out.
And now what you all have been waiting for...the pictures!

The sheer back layer
It is Astor Gold/Wine from Westgate

Close-Up of the Sheer curtain

The front layer with the curtains closed
Do you like the front rod finials?  They are called Orly.  lol.

Jim holding the curtains back to show off the 2 layers together
I know, I should iron them.

The camera didn't quite capture the true color of the curtains, but now you have an idea of what they look like.  I love them.  I've included the holdbacks and valances in our Wish List tab at the top of the page.  Our family room looks more homey now.  Homey, not homely.  :)  It looks more put together despite the pink faux brick wall on one side, the pioneer wall paper on the other, and our Asian decor throughout.  Hahaha!  This is the first room people see when they come in our house, and it does not give the first impression that I'd  like it to.  I told Jim that I should try to get on one of HGTV's shows like "Rate My Space" or something.  Unfortunately, this room is not one of our priority rooms, so it will have to wait.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

My Birthday!

I think Jim has me beat as far as baking and decorating cakes go.  Here are a few pictures of the cake that he made for me this weekend for my birthday.
 It is a large doughnut!  
 I wasn't allowed in the kitchen when he was making it.
 Below is a picture of Jim proudly holding up his creation.
 It even had a cream filling.  :)

Jim was also able to take these 2 pictures of our Red Bellied Woodpecker.
 Everytime I would try to take its picture, it would fly away.
I don't know why it is called red-bellied.  Its head looks more red than its belly to me.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

I never knew ceiling fans could be so epic!

I was looking at ceiling fans online to buy for the nursery and guest room when I came across this piece of pure awesome...
 Above: Sterling Walnut   Below: Belcaro Walnut
They are called Minka Aire F502 42" Traditional Gyro Ceiling Fans.
Of course, they are SUPER expensive, and we can't afford them.  However, if we could, we would get them for the library.  Somehow, I think the Victorians would have loved these fans.  ;)

In other news, we passed our rough electrical inspection.  We only need to make a few minor changes before the final one.  This means that we could theoretically start to insulate the walls this weekend.  That, however, won't be happening because this weekend is also my birthday.  Yea, me!

How is everybody doing with their Christmas shopping?  We still have to get a few more gifts.  I asked Jim what he wanted in his stocking, and he said carpenter pencils and outlet insulators.  lol.  

Oh, if anyone is looking into buying fans or lighting.  Check out Lowe's online this weekend.  They are having a sale for 30% off most fans and lighting.  The promo code is DIMWATT.  *Sigh* We still wouldn't be able to afford those awesome gyro fans if they were 30% off.  ;P

I'm hoping the weather holds out this weekend. There is a tour of a Victorian house that I want to go to on Sunday.  Each room has a Christmas display sponsored by a different business.  My interest in going though is purely to see the architecture of the house.  I hope the Christmas displays don't get in my way.  Haha!

Wow!  Either the wind is making a very creepy howling sound right now, or the coyotes are back.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

And Finally as Promised...

Whoops!  Looks like it has taken me a little while here to post the pics I promised about 2 months ago.  ^_^*
If you can remember, I promised to post pics of the posters we found in the attic.  From what we can see from these posters, either a butcher used to live in our house; or someone who was infatuated with meat.  In either case, they were definitely not a vegetarian.  LOL!
First up is this spiffy Beef Chart.  
 There were also similar posters for Pork and Lamb

Next up is this Wilson's Meat Chart that has metal edges on the top and bottom to make it easier to hang.
This one is for the Lamb cuts, but we also have ones for beef and pork too.
I like their logo: The Wilson label protects your table.

Besides the butcher charts, we also found posters featuring living cows.  Each is labeled with American Angus Association and range in date from 1961-1966.  The posters are prints of an actual painting made by
F. C. Murphy.

Aberdeen-Angus Bull
 Oh no!  Look out, Buddy!  There is a storm coming through!

Aberdeen-Angus Steers
 I wonder if they actually look this rectangular...

Aberdeen-Angus Cow and Calf
 They kind of remind me of hippos.  :)

Aberdeen-Angus Calf
 Awww!  Isn't he cute?

Breed Improvers on Parade

All of the poster seem to be in good condition.  None of them are in mint condition, but still decent looking.  If anyone has any info on these posters, please let us know in a comment or emailing us.  I tried googling them without too much success.  Also, if you saw these and thought to yourself, "Gosh, I wish I could own those!" please make an offer!  :)

The other pictures I promised were pics of the clothing we found stuffed in our walls by the east window of the guest room.  I discovered them stuffed in the bay to the right of the window.  These don't look too old, so I'm guessing they got their when the previous owners replaced the windows.  I think they were purposefully stuffed there.  I don't think it was a case of the clothes being stored in the attic and falling through the gap in the wall because the clothes were surrounded by the blown-in insulation.  The clothes were pretty packed together, and my first thought was that something (or someone) was wrapped in them.  Fortunately, that wasn't the case; it was just clothes crumpled together to fill that cavity.  It was mostly stained baby clothes, which I threw out.  Here is what I did save to take pics of...

A little girl's dress

And the most disturbing of all the clothes...lingerie!
I don't even want to know the why and the what of the brownish-red stain on the left breast.
I said it once, and I'll say it again.  "Why, oh why, would someone put lingerie in the walls?!"

Moving along...I attempted to take a picture of our Christmas tree from the outside.  This was the best I could  get at the time.
I know our decorations (or lack there-of) are quite pathetic at the moment, but I'm sure we'll build it up through the years.  One thing is for sure though.  You will never see an inflatable in our yard.  I find those to be quite tacky looking.

And of course, what is one of my posts without some pictures of nature!  ^_^*

 The best pic I have taken of a female cardinal yet!

The male cardinal must read this blog too!  He wanted to prove me wrong after I poked fun of him for not being able to sit at the feeder.
 The female cardinal is looking down on him so proudly.

A new bird has been spotted at the feeder!  I'm sorry for the blurry pics, but this was the best I took.  
 After doing some research online, I believe this bird is either a House Finch or a Purple Finch.

Something so amazing happened to me today that I just had to share with all of you.  This is a true story!  There I was minding my own business and eating lunch. When, what to my wondering eyes should appear?
Two squirrels have a snowball fight!
Are you on Team Grey Squirrel or Team Black Squirrel?

OK, enough of the fun.  Jim has texted me saying he is on his way home from work, and I need to figure out what to make for dinner...

Monday, December 13, 2010

Baby, It's cold outside!

We've had quite a snowstorm yesterday and today.  When I returned home from a doctor's appt, I discovered a huge snowdrift blocking access to our garage.  I was able to shovel my way through it and park the car, but I was pretty cold by the time I finished.  Jim's work even closed early today, so he was home earlier than usual.  This gave him time to work on the stairwell lighting.  I think I hear him finishing up...
Yep, I just checked.
Yea!  This means we can finally call the electrical inspector!  Once he gives his OK, we can start to insulate and install drywall!  Hallelujah!  The upstairs is frickin' freezing right now!  I am so looking forward to having walls back up in the nursery and guest room.  Right now, the warmest room in the house is my craft room.  The vents for it are right off one of the main trunks of the furnace.  I've been spending a lot of my time in here the past 2 days with the weather the way it is.  We're hoping we can schedule an inspection before the inspector's go on holiday break.  This way, we can work on putting up the walls while Jim is on vacation.

I have some more bird pics for you.  They looked so pitifully cold that I couldn't resist.

Poor little guys!  They look so cold!
 They had to fight against the wind to get to the feeder.

My fluffy Joco Juncos
 These pics don't show their full cuteness adequately.

Even the mourning doves and blackbirds are coming to the feeder now.

Fluffed up Titmouse and Cardinal

I lucked out and this blue jay came to the feeder while I was eating breakfast.
 The blue jays and cardinals really stand out against the snow.

This black squirrel was rooting around in the snow for fallen seeds.
I might be about to jinx myself, but the squirrels seem to not try to go on the feeder least when I'm watching.  ^_^*

Friday, December 10, 2010

Season's Greetings!

We just want to wish you a "Happy Holiday Season!" here at
Blue Century Home.

Here are some pics of the holidays so far.

Happy (Belated) Thanksgiving!

Jim decorating our Christmas tree in front of the library picture window.
 This is our first Christmas in our home.  This is also the first year we've had our own full-size Christmas tree.  The 3 previous Christmas' we've used a small Charlie Brownesque Stick Tree since we lived in an apartment.

Don't believe me?  Here is proof circa 2007.

We bought our current Christmas tree from a neighbor's garage sale this summer for $4.  As you can see, we still need to buy a topper for it.  Jim put the rubber ducky there for now.

Ron, Hermione, and Harry also want to wish you a Happy Christmas!

Bird Brained

A myriad of birds have started visiting my feeder since winter has arrived.  I've been quite mesmerized by them truthfully.  I might be a beginner bird watcher in the making.  At least now I can tell you the difference between a Tufted Titmouse and a White Breasted Nuthatch.  Anyways, I've taken plenty of pictures of them and want to share them with you.  :)

Haha!  I have finally taken a decent pic of the elusive, camera-shy male cardinal!
 I actually have 2 mating pairs visiting my feeder now-a-days.
 It's kind of funny that the males can't seem to get the hang of the feeder.  They eat the fallen seed on the ground.

The female cardinals don't have a problem eating from the feeder.
 It's kind of cute.  The males seem to watch over the females when they are at the feeder.

Tufted Titmouse
This bird is a regular at the feeder. 
 They seem quite curious and watch me watching them.
 I think they are a beautiful bird.
 They seem so alert and active.
That is a black capped chickadee coming in for a landing.

White-breasted Nuthatch
This is a fast little bird.  I had to put my camera on anti-blur in order to get these 2 pics.
 I think he noticed me taking his pic.  lol.

Red-Bellied Woodpecker
This is the only pic I have of this one.
 I should be able to get a better pic sometime soon.  He likes that tree.

Blue Jay
The blue jay is only an occasional visitor.  
 Maybe I'll try putting out the peanuts again.  He seemed to like them last winter.

Dark-Eyed Junco
I keep wanting to call them Joco...after the singer/songwriter Jonathan Coulton.
 Take another look.  Did you notice the squirrel in the pic?

Multiple Birds
Black-Capped Chickadee and Tufted Titmouse

Black-Capped Chickadee, Tufted Titmouse, Sparrow?

I hope you enjoyed today's installment of Manda's Feeder Log.  :)