Friday, December 21, 2007

Warmth elves and works of industrial art

Prior to our house making/keeping, we were busily insulating our newly heated home. We capped the second floor ceilings to hold the heat in (sort of) and keep it from escaping to the atmosphere (expensive!) and floored it in from below in the basement ceiling. Alicia, Bonnie and I had quite a little assembly line going.

You must admit, they look like little Christmas elves,
checking Santa's toy list
and working hard in his workshop!
(Note the blurred action photos!)

The beautiful sculpture that is making all of this warmth possible -- after all these weeks (dare I say, "months"??) of hard work is this:

All of this was brought to its final fruition by Frank Vitolo, our amazing plumber, a true craftsman. He constructed all of the copper connections and designed the layout of our kit parts, tank and boiler. I connected all 18 tubes to the manifold! Alicia was the system layout mastermind throughout the entire house. THANKS FRANK!! Only the slab tubing in the basement remains to be installed.

Oh, and if you don't think is beautiful, please consider the former system in all of its sooty glory:

Transformed!! (sort of)

Happy vacation!!! In whirlwind of activity occurring on Wednesday night and all day yesterday, Alicia and I have turned our construction zone into a temporary home. Now we can relax and enjoy an entire week with the kids!! With the help of many comforters (formerly dog beds) and many bundles of insulation,  well, you'll just have to see for yourself:

We have a couch and a love seat:
(seven bundles + four comforters). Yes, the love seat did get covered.

A door and two boxes (containing our new future toilets) = dining room table!

Three bundles, one fitted sheet, one futon mattress, and voila! Hilary sleeps!

Admittedly, our tub and bathroom area are lacking in privacy, but they are oh, so atmospheric, no?

Home sweet home, and just in time for Christmas.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

A thousand words in pictures...

I can't begin to say all that I have to say after so much time away from this task. I am always writing blogs in my head as I work. I'm sure someday I'll be able to dictate telepathically through a cyber link. Until then, I will share photos for now.

I am sitting in pjs and a t-shirt ON TOP of the covers, and I AM WARM!!!!

Gone are these days:  
and these. 

Good-bye to our beloved kitchen chandelier  (i.e. the only place to hang a light).

Speaking of which, I feel as though I am going blind living in this house. We have but TWO wired ceiling lights in the entire house (sans basement). This means that the number of available lights (well, work lights, that is) is solely dependent on where the they were being used that day, and whether I bothered to bring them back. This has provided Alicia with a fine excuse for not mastering her steamed milk techniques (too dark). It has also provided me with many a harrowing trips on multiple extension cord snafus (due to the ever-changing arrangement of EVERYTHING).

No more gazing up at this   in the morning. Now we have the beginnings of our new fireproof, sound and thermal insulation 
 made from basalt and slag.... COOL. Hey, speaking of said insulation, where DOES one put FIFTY-TWO bags, each measuring 4 feet x 2 feet x 1-1/2 feet?? EVERYWHERE!

 And I do mean everywhere. 

Just wait until you see what we do with these in the meantime (tune in soon).

Oh! We had our first REAL snowstorm last Friday.  Twelve beautiful inches of gorgeous snow (not too cold, not too wet). I had more fun than can be expressed driving in it on several outings that day. It was a true and total BLAST. Yay! I love my Jeep and I love 4-wheel drive! Alicia has yet to attempt to drive on the snow and ice... I've no doubt that with some instruction, practice and confidence, she'll be having a ball, too.

The basement slab is due to be poured soon (with more radiant heat!), although I'm not quite sure when, as I've got soooo much to do first. Just getting the gravel in down there was quite a transformation -- and an eight hour day of hard work by two fellows with wheel barrows. It will be a fine day when the arctic blast from below is quelled.

Will post the photos of the boiler with radiant manifolds (I KNOW you're all waiting with bated breath) soon.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Mermaids Today - Heat Tomorrow

Literally tomorrow! We've finished the radiant and Frank, our plumber, has the boiler set to go. Tomorrow, we have heat..and plenty of house photos to share. So today, you get photos of the mermaid I've been working on. Stay tuned. Might be a couple of days before the full spread hits this blog, only because we have champagne chilling for our first warm night.

Jodi wants me to add that we have a basement full of gravel! May seem like a weird thing to get excited about to you, but this means our slab is finally in progress. We've been ready for months. Jodi and Mary had the basement demolition and excavation done before I arrived in July, but getting a concrete guy lined up (who's not part of the MOB) is a slow process in Poughkeepsie.

Lots of photos to share (they've been piling up for some time). Now that warmth is more than just a fantasy, we will be able to take the time to blog.

Oh yeah. Don't think we've blogged about this...
This is a photo of the jeep after the deer jumped in front of our car. Much more damage to the poor departed dear deer. It was instant for her at least. We pulled out the duct tape to get us through until January when the body shop can repair it. Are you getting the idea that things move with a different sense of urgency on the East coast?

Friday, November 16, 2007

Sorry for the long absence, but we've both been too tired to blog at night. Jodi and Bonnie have been working hard, sistering joists and battening down the hatches before the bitter cold returns. I've spent a lot of the last two weeks in Jersey, which makes for a long day with the commute. We have coffee together in the morning and a late dinner - then fall into bed. The radiant tubing is run in two of the floors now and we're trying to get a plumber out here to connect it to the boiler. What a happy day that will be when we finally have heat. It got down to 43 in the can see your breath at 45. The dogs have taken to fighting over the wood stove and wearing little doggy sweaters. We'll all be happy to have a warm floor!!

Time to start the day, but we'll leave you with a few photos. Be well and warm (we're jealous). Alicia

Oh yeah. Thought you might like to see a couple of the finished baseball players. Of course I liked them better as pristine, white heads, but here they are...

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Sexy sexy bed!

Jodi splurged on our anniversary this year and bought this leather platform bed. A bit nicer than the washing machine/dryer headboards, don't you think?

This bed is by far my favorite place in our house and may continue to be even after the construction is complete and the heat is installed. We live in small pockets of splendor (the bed, the espresso machine) amidst plastic sheet walls, open ceilings and floors, construction dust and no real heat. The wood stove is keeping the cold at bay the best it can, but we've been fortunate to have such a warm fall. The night temperatures have finally dipped into the 30's so getting up in the morning is a bit harsh and it's lit a fire under my butt. I'm spending as much of my time as I can working on the house this month. I feel the cold encroaching and as much as I like this bed, hibernation is not a real possibility. My career will have to take a breather so this Arizona girl can survive a New York winter.

This is quite an adventure and I'm certain that Jodi and I will look back on these days with nostalgia. It's amazing what a beautiful thing a bowl of lovely stew and a glass of red wine can be...especially when partaken of in our warm, beautiful bed.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Warmed hearts and hearth

Hello, all. So sorry for not writing sooner. I was going to try and be better about that...

Oh, so much to tell. The cold snap ended -- just as I got the hang of how to REALLY stoke up the wood stove. This would be the wood stove that we'd like to get rid of that everyone who walked into the house would say, "Wow, you're going to need that. Good thing it's here. " To which we would reply, "No way! We'll have our radiant heat by then." Ha, ha, ha. Well, we were feeling mighty happy to have it when the median indoor temperature hit 57 degrees and stayed there. I had that indoor temp up to 78....when the warm spell hit. 

We have a wonderful friend Bonnie, who gave us a truck load of wood as a . . . house warming gift, bah-dum-bum. More about Bonnie later.

Alicia and I had our four-year anniversary last Tuesday. I got to drive in to Union City, New Jersey and see her workplace. It is such a cool place. Everyone there is very nice and what they do is incredible and very fun. We filled the Jeep with seven roughly cut heads and headed through the Lincoln Tunnel for AMAZING Ethiopian food at Queen of Sheba. The best I've ever had. What a find. Then, the drive home.

She got to work in her studio (on the sculpting job) and -- two days after our anniversary, introduced me to her boyfriend. NICE

No, her sculpted heads are very, very cool. I'm not the least bit jealous...

 Meanwhile, we've been tackling that radiant heat system on weekends (yes, working seven days a week these days). Now, let me say, this took some working up to. It took several weeks of discussing before we ever laid our hands on any of it -- just to make sure we wouldn't make any bad mistakes. Well, I'd like to think that it paid off.
Alicia is the brains on this particular project. I am the hole driller, tubing wrangler,  plate stapler and general brawn. Phew. Let me share that my upper body development is coming along quite nicely. No need to worry that I'd lose all my muscles after the demo work was complete! My new favorite tool is my 1/2" right-angle Milwaukee drill. YUMMY. We're talking 10.3 pounds of really butch tool here -- and me wielding it. I have quite an impressive collection of really big bits, too.

Weekdays, I'm still hunching like a troll over the brickwork and tuckpointing in the basement. I'm almost up to sitting height all around. 

Our new best friend Bonnie gets very enthusiastic about helping us, so we let her help me tear out the last bit of ceiling and a structurally useless (BEARING) wall in exchange for pizza and beer. See, I told you she was wonderful. Wish I would have told the story of how she daredeviled a telephone pole off of our garage roof (with me nervously helping).

With the useless wall gone and temporary posts in place that actually DO bear weight, our main floor is starting to look open as it will someday. The combination of having heat (stove) when we need it, the radiant underway, a friend and helper, and a glimpse of our future living room/dining room, and sharing four blissful years with the love of my life, I'm feeling great about everything. Period.

The fall colors are heavenly. Hope you are all well.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Brick by brick...

Hello all. My silence has spared you my bit of frustration(?) despair(?) restlessness(?), which has waxed and waned (now in the latter state) -- this due to the (house) can of worms slowing becoming a water tower-size container of oh, say, anacondas. Ha, ha, ha.

We will persevere with the help of one another, our wonderful architects and, say, a lottery win!

My troll hunching has rendered me a bit crippled, but my tuckpointing skills have improved tremendously! I am quite pleased with the results and look forward to practicing from an upright stance at some point soon. (All of my early efforts will be buried beneath the new cement slab basement floor). I still long to embody bionic technologies, just so that I could perform these tasks at light speed. Instead, time flies by, whilst my work moves -- oh, so slowly.

I would really love to hear from you, so email me or comment. Did you all get our New York phone numbers and Alicia's new email address??

I will leave you with fascinating photos of bricks (minus mortar)
and crumbling bearing walls (the x's indicated bricks to be removed and replaced). See my pretty tuckpointing at the bottom??   
It is rainy, but warm. I LOVE the weather here. It was 87 degrees still last week. 55 (today) is SOOOO much warmer in Poughkeepsie than in Seattle!! Fall colors are becoming spectacular... I should include photos of our new favorite spot for food, beer and pool. Yes, perhaps this weekend.

Alicia is working so very hard, partly just in her commuting -- quite an arduous journey in and of itself. She is liking her sculpting job though. Very cool.

I really will try to be better about all of this blogging business. It has been difficult to muster the energy and concentration. Hope you are all well.


p.s. If you're a fan, Jeanette Winterson has new book out... Alicia is just finishing it (one of the best things about a commute: sanctioned reading time!).

p.p.s. If you're into some great new music, let me know. I need some!

Monday, October 8, 2007

All hail Columbus!

Oh, the difference between the East Coast and the West Coast... Out here, people STILL CELEBRATE COLUMBUS... the explorer, the discoverer, THE ITALIAN. They have parades for him. HIM! Makes me feel young again, wide-eyed and pure, and believing in heroes.

Well, no political commentary from me. Most of Poughkeepsie was closed in celebration. Thankfully, the grocery store and hardware stores were open...

In honor of this day, Alicia would like to suggest the following activities:

1) A papier-mache globe. (materials needed: newspaper, balloon, flour and paint)
2) A tiny "birchbark" canoe. (materials: brown paper grocery bag and yarn)
3) Your idea here.


Friday, October 5, 2007

October Already

Sorry that we're so slow on the blog postings lately. It's not that things aren't happening. It's just that most of it right now is in the form of brick-by-brick construction. We are rebuilding loose sections of our load bearing walls in the basement. Not so fun, but necessary for everything that follows. I will spare you the photo of brick walls. Instead I'll drop in a photo or two of our lives when we're not bricklayers.

I drove to Union City, NJ this week to see a man about a job as a sculptor. My interview was to sculpt a huge hand out of foam. The man hired me, but even though this job is just a tunnel away from Manhattan, it adds too much commuting time, so I said thanks, but can't do it. He countered by hiring me from afar. He'll be shipping blocks of foam to Poughkeepsie and I'll be going into Jersey only in the beginning and end of a project. I've been wanting to work big, so I'm excited about this gig. My first job will be to sculpt 16 giant heads of Yankee baseball players. Weird and cool! In the meantime, I've been sculpting 6" figures and casting them in plastic for a large scale installation. I'll include a photo of Romeo - part of a piece entitled "If Romeo Were Five Minutes Late".

Our evenings are spent in our bedroom for the most part. The only room with decent light at the moment, so we watch movies or Jodi plays her guitar while I read or write. A nice end to the day and then at least once a week we make our way to the city. Tomorrow night we'll be going to Brooklyn for an art opening and maybe a club or two.

Be Well,

Monday, September 24, 2007

The phone call went something like this...

Alicia: "What are you doing honey?"
Jodi: "Working in the basement. What are you doing?"
Alicia: (voice quivering) "I think I just drilled through my finger."

...and I did. Through the little sculpture, into one side of my finger and out through the other side. I had to back the drill out to remove it, catch the blood and try not to faint while I waited for Jodi. Missed the bone as the X-ray would show. And I quote the trauma nurse, "You don't see that every day!" As it turns out, I'll heal, but for now, THROB, THROB, THROB.

Meanwhile, Jodi is dig, dig, digging out the mortar at the base of the basement walls like a little hunched troll. Although it seems like endless drudgery (well, it is endless drudgery) she is maintaining good spirits as the end is in sight. Next comes tuck pointing drudgery, which will be fun and exciting at first (assuming she has no chemical burns from the lime putty) but, 4 stories of tuck pointing WILL be drudgery. I would happily fast forward to a finished house, if it didn't mean missing out on all the good things this year has to offer. Not the drilled fingers, but the sex, the chocolate, New York city and Christmas with my kids. All will seem even tastier compared to tuck pointing.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

The demolition is complete!!

Big sigh of relief!!! Now we can start putting things back together. We started by jacking up the house. This is a temporary fix until the new concrete slab and footings are poured. I know this isn't the most exciting news for anyone out there reading this blog, but we won't fall through the floor while showering anytime soon. (now that would have been exciting news!) This has been a real fear ever since it came to our attention that somewhere along the path of this house, three bearing walls had been arbitrarily removed.

Thought I would share a photo of what we have been using as a headboard for the past month or two:

And now, let me just say that there are many things about the way Poughkeepsie works that I don't yet understand. None perplex me as much as the way they word their signs. Can anyone tell me what these signs mean exactly? They are on opposite sides of the same street. HUH?! ~Alicia

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Xmas in August!

Well, here we are the day after the Mega Millions drawing for $330 million, yes it's true. A moment of brief silence for not having chosen the winning numbers, and then we move on. How can one resist playing for THAT?! 

Friday was filled with bounty! The kind UPS man delivered several hundreds of pounds of packages: thirteen in all. The radiant heat system has arrived!! (for us to install). Christmas came the form of an espresso machine and grinder fit for commercial use. Two absurd purchases, they are, for a couple about to rip down their kitchen, dining room and living room ceilings -- and having literally ZERO counter space. BUT I'M SO HAPPY!

I wasn't even sure that the electricity in its current state would power said bliss-inducing machines, but, lo, all seems fine. You all know how much good coffee fuels a life well-lived, and so we must!

I had to take the day off today due to a very sore neck, incurred yesterday during a very graceful tripping fall from a step ladder. So I was forced to play with the new espresso set up and drive around looking TO NO AVAIL for a proper milk pitcher and dumpbox. (Poughkeepsie SUCKS today! i.e. I could not find them, and now must order them on-line). Sadly, our first drinks will not be christened by gorgeous patterns, but silky milk will suffice. A high-five, a thumbs up, and knowing wink to all who understand the profundity of this day. I CANNOT WAIT TO MAKE COFFEE IN THE MORNING! (Oh, I'm so dramatic!)

Alicia grows more beautiful every day (forgive me for a wee bit of gushing) and I was struck

 this week by the reality of us living together after 3 years and 9 months of being together. It is GOOD. I am happy.

I include and example of what our stairs will look like.