Friday, February 27, 2015

Construction With Cookies – Day Who Cares?

I don’t know about you but I’m beginning to get confused about what day I should be describing and which “cookie” goes with that day.  I think I should be telling you about yesterday but I’m pretty sure I already posted a picture of yesterday’s “cookie.”  Maybe I was telling you about the day BEFORE yesterday and the “cookie” from the day after.   It’s all a muddle in my head.  Next thing you know I might get really confused and start baking TWO cookies in one day or NO cookies.  No cookies!?  Can you imagine the butterfly effect that might have?   I don’t even want to think about it. 

Yesterday my head bee, John, stopped by with a mason.  Not the jar, the guy who works with bricks and stones and mortar.  We have a rock wall in the basement which used to be behind a woodstove.  And we think there was a hearth in front because there is about a five-inch gap between the cement floor and the last rock of the wall.  

Dean had told me he would just fill in that gap with cement or concrete or mortar (or whatever the correct substance really is) but I said, “no!  The final touch to this room will be the floor which I (as in I hope Ryan will help me) am going to put in and I can’t do that until the rocks are mortared into the rock wall and I’d really like that to be finished before the end of the next millennium.”  Really?  You think I’d say that to Dean?  Of course not.  I thoughtfully considered what he proposed.  It would save me some money …. it seemed like a simple job … it shouldn’t take him longer than a couple of months …. Finally I said, “umm, thanks but I’m going to ask John if he knows a mason.”  Dang good thing I listened to my gut because mason bee said just filling the space with concrete would not have held the wall and the cement would have begun crumbling.  As I handed him a big fat slice of banana bread he said he would be back at 9:00 a.m. the next day. 

As well as mason bee, my head bee also brought along a painter yesterday. “Dry-wall bee’s bid for the painting is too high,” he said.  “I wouldn’t pay that much and I don’t want you to pay that much.  I brought you another painter to have a look.  She’s a professional and she’ll do a good job but she’s much more reasonable.”  I said thanks! and handed them both a big slab of banana bread.

Right after I hit “publish” on yesterday’s blog post I headed over to Leslie and Ryan’s because Emerson was still home sick.  She thought she would go to school.  She got up to get ready to go to school, but her throbbing head sent her back to bed.  You know a kid is really sick when she chooses to stay in bed rather than go to Doughnuts In The Cafeteria With Dad.  Later, when I got home and checked out the progress of the basement, it looked the same.  Well, not exactly the same, there was another coat of mud on everywhere there had already been mud, but really nothing to take a picture of.  So since there’s really not much to share with you about yesterday, I’m going to tie up everything that’s happened today and be done with it…………til next week.  

Dry-wall bee got right to work this morning slapping on more mud.  Really?  MORE mud?  Dust!  I want dust!  Lots and lots of fine dust!  I don’t care if it filters into my food and my hair.  I won’t even care if there are little tiny white cat prints on every surface in the house.   Start sanding my bee!  Sand!  Sand!  Sand!  Because then you can texture, texture, texture and then paint bee can paint, paint, paint.  I want … oh, gosh … I want to see the light at the end of the tunnel!  No!  I want to be out of the tunnel and done! Done! Done!  Done!  Sorry….got a little carried away….

Anyway…… today’s construction “cookie” – Jewish Coffee Cake – was baking in the oven before dry-wall bee arrived around 8:30.  No, I don’t know why it’s called Jewish and yes, I know, I can’t really pass this off as a cookie (even if you can hold it in your hand) but it was easy and it’s good and I’m running out of cookie ideas.  I might have to break into my Christmas cookie recipes pretty soon. 

 After I’d taken the cake out of the oven to cool I looked up at the clock to see if it was nearing the time for mason bee to arrive and noticed a huge streak of brownish-yellowish liquid oozing across the family room ceiling. 

I had a momentary panic thinking the skylight had sprung a leak but after Dean came running, he told me it was just condensation dripping down.  There is a lot of moisture in the house from the drywall mud and it was minus 14 when I got up this morning so the skylight had frosted over because, according to Dean, we (meaning me) keep the house too cold at night.  When the heat came on and the sun started shining onto the skylight, the frost melted and dripped down the side and onto the ceiling.  All I had to do, he told me, was climb up on a ladder and wipe off the streak from the ceiling.  And then wipe off any remaining wetness from the skylight itself. 

So catastrophe was averted, but I'm pretty sure that means Dean’s not going to let me drop the heat to 58 degrees at night until all this dry-walling moisture is gone or it’s warmer at night.  He’s probably going to make me keep it at something crazy like 62 or 63.

Mason bee and his helper got here just as I was reaching for a knife to cut the coffee cake/cookie

and in less than two hours they had mortared in the rocks that Dean had unburied from the snow, lovingly cleaned and dried and gently laid down by the wall. 

The mortar should dry light like the rest.
My dry-wall bee was getting ready to leave around one so I told him to take some cake with him if he wanted.  I was a little worried he hadn’t liked today’s “cookie” because about an hour earlier, when I’d let him know there was more if he wanted it he told me there was still a lot down there.  I grabbed a baggie for him and then thought maybe it would be easier to wrap the slices in saran wrap so I laid a sheet out on the table.  Take as much as you want.  I’d worried for nothing.  He took the plate, with six pieces still on it, and flipped it over onto the plastic wrap.  And now he is gone for the day.  He’d sanded and textured the laundry room and I hadn’t even noticed any dust floating up the stairs or felt any dust clinging to my nose hairs.

I know you can't see it but it's textured!
Not only that, he’s coming tomorrow morning to sand and texture rest!  I don't care if it’s Saturday, he’s coming tomorrow morning to sand and texture rest! What’s that I see?  Is it?  The light?  At the end of the tunnel?◦

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Construction With Cookies – Day Whatever Comes After Yesterday

Right after I posted yesterday’s update on this basement remodel I gathered my things together to head over to get lunch ready for Myra.  But before I left, I asked my worker bee how I could fix a crack in the drywall upstairs.  I know exactly what happened.  The original tape job wasn’t very good so the new texture cracked.  I was hoping he would tell me I just needed to fill it with a little caulk and paint over it but of course he didn’t.  Of course the right way to do it is to cut out that portion, re-tape it, re-mud it and then re-texture and paint it.  So I dangled a bag of the remaining chocolate cookies in front of his nose and asked if he would … pretty please … do that for me.  As he wiped away the drool and shakily reached his hand out, eyes fixed and staring, he mumbled that he would do anything for those cookies … anything ….  Okay.  It didn’t go quite that way.  I offered to pay him extra if he would fix it for me and he said he’d be happy to.  But I DID tell him to help himself to the rest of the cookies.  And his eyes did open wide in surprise as he said, “really?”  And when we got home later and he’d finished and gone for the day, that bag of cookies was gone. 

I spent the afternoon with Myra and when Dean arrived late afternoon with Papa Murphy’s pizza in hand he said (somewhat glumly) “he’s not going to be finished this week is he?”  “Nope.  He can only do so much and then it has to dry.”  “But now you’ve moved him up into the living room.”  “What??”  “The crack.  There’s nowhere without construction now.”

Poor guy.  I’ve been able to leave each day to hang out with sick kids and Dean’s been home with the bee.  Although he does seem to be entertained by this bee.  He told me that drywall bee likes to talk to himself every now and then.  Random talking.  To nobody in particular.  Almost like he's a little craaaazy.  Maybe walls really do have ears.

Yesterday’s work looked like it just involved more taping and mudding.  The bee got my future storage room under the stairs taped and he covered up that metal edging with stuff.  But there’s not a lot to show you ...

... other than a mess.

The animals seem to be entertained though.  Maybe dry-wall bee has been chatting to them, not just the walls.

This morning I got up at 5:48 a.m. so I could get today’s construction with cookies low-fat banana bread (finally!) going in case I needed to take care of a sick kid again.  Only once I pulled up the recipe and started gathering ingredients I discovered I was missing a key ingredient.  I asked Dean how he felt about a 6 a.m. trip to the grocery store and then I felt bad and went back and I told him I could go.  It was my fault.  I should have read the recipe days ago.  Then I held my breath and mentally said “say you want to go, say you want to go.” He usually really likes to go to town but I wasn’t sure that jumping out of a warm bed into a freezing car held the same allure.  I got lucky and when he got back I had everything ready to add that final ingredient.

I know.  Adding coconut defeated the low-fat point of this bread but mmmmmm.

My bee knocked on the door at exactly 8 a.m., just as I had closed the oven door, so I wasn’t able to hand him a plate as he headed downstairs but hopefully the scent of baking banana bread kept him going until I could take it down to him.  He was mixing up more mud with a loud machine so when I just pointed at the plate of bread and then toward where I was going to place it he nodded.  As he turned his head I noticed an earbud in one ear and a cord snaking its way down his neck and under his shirt.  I almost laughed out loud.  Don’t tell Dean. 


Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Construction With Cookies – Day 15 and 16 (I think. Honestly I'm Beginning To Lose Track)

Around 7:20 a.m. Monday morning Dean told me I needed to “call John (my head bee) and find out what’s going on.  We sat around all day Friday waiting for somebody to show up and then they didn’t.  We need to go to the gym today.”  He reminded me again at 7:58 a.m. but I didn’t want to seem too anxious so I ignored him and waited until 8:10 a.m. before I called, even though I knew we would need to leave for the gym around 8:40.   I had to leave a voicemail but I wasn’t too concerned because I willing to give up Pilates class and let Dean go alone if I needed to wait for a return call.  

As I found out later, his anxiety about talking to John had nothing to do with missing Pilates himself. It was because he didn’t want to go to Pilates alone “with all those women.”  (Apparently he’s so traumatized by just trying to get through the moves  that he hasn’t yet realized there are normally at least three other old geezers groaning right along with him.)  As it turned out he didn’t need to worry because my head bee and the drywall guy came at 8:25 which gave us plenty of time to discuss taping and texturing, get to the gym on time, and save Dean from facing – all alone – a room filled with crepe-paper skin, sagging boobs, and loose skin flapping off of upper arms.

Head bee had told me my worker bees would be here “after lunch” to hang the last door.  Time, I’m slowly learning, means different things to different people.  To me “after lunch” meant 1:05 p.m..  Since I needed to get over to Leslie and Ryan’s to make Emerson (home sick from school) some lunch, I only had about an hour after I got home from the gym to make my construction cookie.  My intended banana bread took too long.  Brownies are fast.  Had I made those?  I’d made so much stuff over the last weeks I couldn’t even remember, but when I looked back at blog posts, there they were.  What else? What else? What else is fast?  A quick Google and Monday’s construction “cookie” was … drum roll please … Chocolate Chip Blondies.  Mixed up, baked, cooled (just barely) enough to put on a plate and hand over to my bees in less than an hour.  

Where they sat until about 2:30 when they actually showed up.  And hung the final door.  

So as it turns out I could have baked the banana bread I had planned to bake after all.  But I didn’t mind too much because I figured I would just bake it yesterday for drywall bee.

However, yesterday morning Leslie called saying Emerson was feeling worse and asked if I could come over for the day so she could conserve her insufficient personal days in case the bug going around school infected her too.  I was happy to go, but what to do about drywall bee?  He was supposed to be coming first thing to begin creating the dust bowl in my house.  I didn’t have time to bake.  I couldn’t give him day-old Blondies – could I?  I did.  Just as I was ready to leave, drywall bee arrived and I apologetically handed off a plate of shriveled up day-old Blondies to him as I headed out with chicken soup, soda crackers, GingerAle and Twix (you’re never too sick to eat a treat).

About mid-afternoon the caustic smell drove Dean and Angus out of our house and over to the sick house.  If you know anything at all about Dean, you understand how horrible the smell must have been for him to risk contagion.  Dean’s the guy who opens every door with his sleeve pulled down over his hand – every time.  He uses the wipes at the grocery store to clean the cart handle – every time.  He sleeps in another room when I’m sick – every time (and would probably sleep in another house if he had the option).  He waves at sick grandchildren from afar but will not touch them.  I’m the total opposite.  I open every door with my bare hands – every time.  And sometimes I even touch my eyes right afterwards!  I have never, ever used the wipes at the grocery store.  The only thing that drives me to another room to sleep is snoring.  Not only that, I touch and hug sick grandchildren.  And guess who gets sick more often?  Just guess. 

Anyway……………….when we got home yesterday afternoon I braced myself for the nasty headache-producing smell but when we walked in the door it wasn’t half bad.  We opened a few windows for about half an hour and the remaining bit of odor disappeared.  My bee had already left but he’d gotten a boatload of taping done.  That drywall bee is fast!  Ho * ly cow. This guy is suuuuuper drywaller.  

A while later Leslie called to say Emerson was feeling much worse again and Myra had a headache and fever so I was pretty sure I’d be loading up with more Ginger Ale, soup and crackers and heading over bright and early this morning.  That meant I would have no time to bake for my bee before I left unless I got up suuuuuper early.  I love my bees but I love sleep more.  So I mixed up a batch of chocolate chip cookies last night.  I almost baked them too, but then they would be half a day old and anyway, there’s nothing better than a warm chocolate chip cookie.

This morning I was ready for the call from Leslie asking me to come soon but she surprised me by saying Emerson had recovered enough to go to school.  Myra, however, stayed home but she's feeling good enough that she’s happy for me to just stop by and give her chicken soup, crackers, Ginger Ale, her own special treat, and, of course a plate of chocolate chip cookies. When my worker bee showed up bright and early this morning I was able to be here to hand him a plate of today's just-baked construction cookie.  

Soon I will be heading over to warm up some soup and pour some Ginger Ale for Myra.  It should be late enough I'll miss the morning rush.

I know.  We need a new windshield.

And tomorrow, those bananas will just be that much sweeter when I bake the bread....maybe...we'll see...


Friday, February 20, 2015

Construction With Cookies – Days 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14

As Mr. Rogers always said, I’m “walking backward through my mind” trying to stir up my old gray matter so I can remember Construction With Cookies – Day 8.  

Valentine’s Day was coming up on Saturday and since we were leaving Thursday it seemed appropriate that I serve up heart-shaped frosted sugar cookies.  It probably wasn’t the wisest choice since my food coloring and cookie cutters were downstairs but I braved the pounding of the nail gun and tiptoed through a fine layer of gypsum dust, slipped into the storeroom and grabbed the cookie cutters.  Once I got back upstairs I realized I’d forgotten the food coloring so I followed my white toe prints back down and retrieved it, only to discover even though I had multiple containers of blue and yellow and green, there was only one, nearly empty, tube of red. 

Good thing I wanted pink cookies and not deep, deep red.

I brought a larger than usual plate of cookies down to my two worker bees since it would be the last they’d have for a few days.  I honestly didn’t think they’d eat them all but, just like every other day, somehow they managed, and fueled with all that sugar they hung some doors and nailed up more drywall.  The support bracket still had not come in so when we headed to Lincoln the post was still prominently standing in the middle of the room.

Kitty door!

After nearly 12 hours in the car we reached Abby and Jorge’s.  Along the way we had decided we’d take Angus and Maggie for a quick walk as soon as we got there, but once we pried ourselves out of the car and stood outside a few minutes trying to straighten our bent bodies, that idea went out the window and we immediately began whining about the cold.  And we did not stop whining about the cold the whole time we were there.  I had forgotten how cold, humid air worms its way down into your bones and doesn't let go.  By the time we left I promised I would never again tell Abby she’s a weenie when she tells me she’s freeeeezing.  She was absolutely reveling in her vindication.

When we weren’t whining we were eating, drinking, going to the zoo, eating, drinking, talking, eating, drinking, shopping, eating, drinking, helping with house chores, eating, drinking, talking, eating, drinking, salsa dancing, eating and drinking. 

I was really hoping when we got home the support bracket would be in, the post would be gone, the drywall would be completely hung, the taping, mudding and sanding would be completed, and the texture would be on the walls.  (There’s always, hope, right??)  There was progress while we were gone, but not as much as I’d hoped for.  The post is gone and there is no pile of rubble or gaping hole in the ceiling where it used to be so the bracket seems to be doing its job.  The drywall is completely hung and all the bee's tools are gone, but there has been no taping or mudding or sanding or texturing. 

No post!!

I really did not want to live through the dust I know is going to filter through every nook and cranny and settle on every surface of every room when the sanding begins.  I suppose it doesn’t really matter all that much since I can already write my name on nearly every surface in the house now, but knowing Dean’s penchant for health and safety I’m afraid he’s going to make me wear a dust mask and they really don’t work with my fashion style.  

I talked to my head bee yesterday and the plan is for the hanger bee to stop by today and have a look at the project since, for whatever reason, the original guy can’t or won’t or didn’t want to do the job (he must not have known about the cookie stipend) so they had to replace him.  And since it’s nearing lunch time now and I have seen no bees yet, I’m assuming no progress will be made today.   So no Construction With Cookies – Day Whatever This Is cookie, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t bake anything.  However, after all the food we ate and all the wine I drank while we were in Lincoln, I chose something a bit healthier.  I made granola.  I figure if I put it in my white yogurt for breakast I won’t even notice the dust filtering down into it.


Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Construction With Cookies – Day Seven

When I got home from yoga yesterday the mechanical guy was here putting in the heat vents and my worker bees were hanging drywall.  Since we will be in Lincoln visiting Abby and Jorge over President’s Day, I decided yesterday my “cookie” should be President’s Day Cherry Squares.  I was a bit late getting the “cookies” to my bees because I ran an errand after yoga and on top of that, this recipe took longer to make because I had to cook the cherries to make the filling.  I wasn’t sure how long Mr. Mechanical would be here and I wanted him to enjoy a treat before he left so I was feeling a little stressed and I hurried to get the squares mixed up and in the oven.  By the time I got them baked it was almost one p.m. and in my rush to get them down to the guys, I didn’t really cool them long enough, which made cutting them into nice neat squares one big sticky mess. 

They didn’t taste quite like I thought they would and didn’t look nearly as good as the picture attached to the recipe, so I was a little apologetic when I handed them over.  When I came back a bit later to let them know we’d be leaving soon to take the dogs for a walk they thanked me for the treat and told me they were “great” ... “awesome.”  That really surprised me and I told them I felt like they’d been a failure.  I really thought they were just being nice but just before we left I overheard one of them say, “I would NOT call these a failure.”  Gosh.  I really like those guys. I feel a little sad leaving them alone tomorrow ... working ... with no cookies ...

So at the end of the day yesterday we had some walls!  And some ceilings!  And they even brought the kitty door with them and will install that for me.  See what cookies will do?  Oh, I know.  I'll be paying for it.  But still ... to think of it and do it for me ... come on ...   How thoughtful is that?

We still have a post but it’s looking more and more like a finished basement.  Tomorrow the rest of the drywall will be hung – and who knows – maybe that bracket will come in and the post will finally be taken away. 

I hope I’m here to see it but since we’ll be going away for a few days tomorrow I may miss the big event.  These blog posts will be going away for a while too.  If only I could get my weight gain to go away.◦

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Construction With Cookies – Day Six

Ahhhhhh………it was so nice to have two days without deafening, banging, jolting power tools.  It felt like a vacation.  

I wasn’t sure how early my bees would show up on a Monday morning but they were here shortly after 8 a.m. and within minutes were dragging in rolls of insulation.  The noise as they stapled insulation was barely noticeable after Friday’s cacophony.  I didn’t have any problem hearing their country music playing in the basement and I suspect they could hear strains of Mumford and Sons coming from upstairs as I was baking Chocolate Peppermint Snaps – Day Six’s Construction Cookie.  The recipe said they’re supposed to taste similar to the Girl Scout Thin Mint Cookie and I love Girl Scout Thin Mint Cookies so even though I’d never made this cookie before I took a risk. They didn’t look like the Thin Mints, and they didn’t taste exactly like them (of course I ate one … okay two … and a half) but they were minty and chocolaty and pretty tasty.

By the end of the morning my worker bees had stapled up all the insulation.  Now it really looks like we have walls!  Unfortunately it also feels even smaller down there.  But when I step off the bottom stair into the room I kind of feel like I’m being enveloped in a fluffy cocoon.  And it’s so quiet.  It’s kind of cozy and comforting. 

A truckload of drywall was delivered around noon and all 51 boards (yep, I counted them) had to be carried down to the basement.  When Dean and I were demolishing the basement I helped him carry some drywall boards upstairs and out to the garage so I know from personal experience they are dang heavy.  Hopefully the cookies gave my bees some added energy, but after watching them haul all those boards from the truck, up three porch stairs and down 12 basement stairs (yep, counted those too) and then back up those 12 basement stairs and down three porch stairs to the truck to grab another one, I thought I probably should have just given them a big bowl of Wheaties instead. 

Speaking of demolishing the basement – you know how they say when you heat with wood you are warmed twice – once when cutting and splitting and once by burning?  Our basement warmed us twice too.  Well, it warmed Dean twice since, even though I implied I was an active participant in the basement dismantlement, he was the one who pulled off all the rough cut wood on the walls, and pulled out all the nails, and then cut it shorter, and hauled it in so we could warm the house with it.  This basement was my project and I fully intended to pull off all that wood myself and take down the drywall and do all that basement demolition stuff, but he really seemed to want to do it and I didn’t want to hurt his feelings by taking that away from him.  I did do a lot of vacuuming and cleaning down there though so that must count for something.

 Anyway, at the end of the day yesterday we still had a support post and the mechanical guy who was supposed to come and put in two more heat registers was a no show.  But I’m sure he’ll be here today and my worker bees told me the support bracket is supposed to come in this week.  In the meantime, let the drywall hanging begin!


Saturday, February 7, 2015

Construction With Cookies – Day Five

Willie the electrician arrived shortly after 8 a.m. and my worker bees arrived soon after.  They got right to work and we left for the gym.  Later, when we struggled out of the car back at home, we could hear the nail gun banging and the reciprocating saw screaming through wood before we even reached the front door.  Angus spent most of his morning in the only cave he could find.

At one point the racket was so loud I wanted to find a cave myself, and for a few intense moments when the nail gun was blasting over and over and over, my hands shook when I added ingredients to yesterday’s construction cookie – brownies, which are again, technically not cookies.  But if you can eat them without a fork I’m going to call them a cookie.

Normally I might have spent part of the day cleaning.  With everything that’s been going on, cleaning should have been high on my list.  I could see dusty boot prints from the front door to the stairway, the stairs were covered in sawdust which is tracked and mixed in with the boot prints and on top of that, it’s been so warm Angus comes in with wet, muddy paws after each time he goes out and adds his mix of grime to everything else.  However, I didn’t see any point to cleaning when every day is a shower of sawdust, worker bees are walking outside for a tool, back in to work, outside for a tool, back in to work.  And then there’s me.  I keep spilling more and more flour on the floor when I bake.  Anyway, those noises were making me so jumpy yesterday I needed even more distraction, so in between baking brownies I baked cheese and pepper bread.

While there was a lull in the action and Willie was out eating lunch, Dean brought him a fossil from his own collection.  

I think he was just so happy that somebody was interested in his rocks and fossils that he wanted another excuse to talk rocks.  It turns out Willie has his own rock collection which I’m sure raised him to almost saintly status in Dean’s estimation.

After Dean got his geology fix, and work began again in the basement, we took Angus and Baxter for their daily walk.  It was so warm and felt so spring-like that that the pathway was busy with lots and lots of other walkers.    

And even better, there were no sounds of blasting nail-guns or earsplitting saws ripping through wood.  We were enjoying the sounds of silence so much we prolonged them as long as possible by stopping at the local brewery on the way home and drinking a comforting beer.

When we finally got home, the workday had ended, and the only trace of my worker bees was an empty plate in the sink sprinkled with brownie crumbs.   The joists had been insulated, the framing was all completed, there are boxes for plug-ins, cans for recessed lights, switches to turn those lights off and on, and phone jacks because yes, we did finally cut the cable.  The post was still in the middle of the room but I think the worker bees are waiting for the bracket/brace/I can’t remember what they called it to come in, and when it does they will attach it to the new beam somehow for additional support.  Then they will remove the post.  I think.  And I think maybe then there will be a bit more electrical work.   Pretty sure.  After that the drywall will be hung and textured and painted.  I'm almost positive.  Honestly, they tell me things but when I try to pass it on to Dean, I can’t remember half the details. 

I am sure, though, that we will have a two-day break from the banging and sawing and buzzing and all those construction noises.  I might even take a break from blogging.  Unfortunately, I probably shouldn’t take any more breaks from cleaning.  But I will almost definitely give myself a break from baking because I always taste everything I bake before I give it to my worker bees to make sure it’s okay and frankly, I can’t take much more sugar.