Now that the stone facade and stair railing have been done at my house, I can finally say that the exterior of the house is pretty much DONE.
I will never have to paint anything on the outside again except for one little area that's visible in that photo of the side of my garage, by the big window. The trim on that seems to peel every summer.
Now I'd love to turn my attention to indoor projects, which are admittedly more important but more difficult and disruptive to my personal life to get done.
I have an older kitchen, but it's still functional. The priority there is actually to replace the ridge, which regularly (like today) malfunctions by suddenly getting freezing cold and ruining whatever produce I have in the bottom drawer and sometimes higher up. I also want to widen the space so I can get a bigger fridge.
The other project I've been thinking more about lately is redoing the upstairs bathroom. I have 3 goals there:
1. Replace the toilet, which sits really low. In preparation for me getting older (someone else's post here has got me thinking more of this again), it would be easier to rise from a toilet that sat just a few inches higher.
2. Replace the tub with a walk-in shower, the kind with a low or no step. I don't really need a tub but more importantly, I see it as an accident waiting to happen. It would be so easy to slip and fall in it, even now. I think a walk-in shower with a bench would be much safer and more practical.
3. Replace my cabinetry. UGH. It's very old laminate that is falling apart in places; it has 2 sinks, which I guess I'd replace too.
4. Another project, oh, I guess this counts as an outside one, would be to replace my front door. This is an old house, and the doorway is narrow, jsut 32" wide. Conventional doors today are 36" wide.I have struggled a lot to get furniture in here over the years.
5. Replace electric hot water heater. They only last so long, and it's about time for a replacement, which I'd rather do before it started leaking. I looked into getting an electric heat pump instead a few years ago, but I don't have the clearance for one in my basement with its low ceiling.
The problemw with the kitchen and bath remodels is that both would be pretty expensive and very disruptive. Aside from the fridge replacement, I'd love to get quality finishes in there, from the cabinetry to the countertops and backsplash. What I have now is laminate.
I'd probably want to do the bathroom first.
Totally unrelated: Someone today gifted me a beautiful albeit overgrown angel wing begonia. It was huge. I'd always admired them. I gave it a good pruning and have the stems rooting in water, so when they develop roots in about a month, I can offer them back on the Buy Nothing site. I just learned they are toxic to cats, so I'm gonna have to be real careful and keep Luther out of the bathroom, where I have the door closed.
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Now that the stone facade and stair railing have been done at my house, I can finally say that the exterior of the house is pretty much DONE.
September was a very pricey month for me, mainly because I spent the max I've allocated for home improvements during any one year: $10,000.
I got my mason back here and he covered the ugly concrete garage wall (2 sides) with stone and it looks like an old country cottage now that's been like that forever, especially since my upper driveway is all done in pavers. (He did that too.)
What I especially like about the stones is that some of them still have lichens on them, so I'm hoping to encourage them to continue to grow as it makes everything looks so aged.
I now have 2 very nice seating areas: the back patio (same mason did that...I joke that I'm putting his kids through college) and the "side patio," which is actually part of the driveway to the left of the garage.
Those 2 tan metal chairs, incidentally, I got free from my Buy Nothing group. They had a bit of rust on them, so I used spray paint to redo them.
And that little stained glass table? Salvaged that at the dump!
Once I had that done a few weeks ago, I decided to just forge ahead and not wait til next year to replace the old wood garage door that had totally warped due to water absorption. I'm very happy with the final results.
On top of the home improvements, I had some other expenses that don't happen every month: $1310 for homeowners and auto insurance, an oil tank full-up to be ready for the cold weather, a trip to the vet and, for the first time in years, a quarterly estimated federal tax payment (just $96 this first time).
A few posts ago I talked about changing my pay structure for my job and going on retainer so I'd get the same pay every week for my p/t job.
Well, it seemed too good to be true and that didn't last! Three weeks into the new pay arrangement, the co-owner wife was covering for our p/t freelance accountant, who took some vacation time, and she came across my last week where i only worked 7 hours and was getting paid the equivalent of $100 an hour. Of course, no one said a word when I worked 7 hours or so for months and was earning about $150 a week, which was the whole reason I sought to stabilize my income.
They asked me to work additional hours to earn that fixed rate of pay they'd agreed to 3 weeks earlier. So now instead of working 18 hours (Mon/Tues/half of Wed), I'm now working a full day on Mon/Tues/Wed, or 24 hours instead of 18 to get the fixed rate we'd worked out.
It bothers me they reneged, yes (not very professional), but since I'm working from home, I'm willing to work the extra hours since the nature of how our business works is that I have tons of down time throughout the day when I can do other (personal) things.
Now, they decided to not renew the lease on the office bulding we'd been in back in March/April, but if they ever decide we need to all work together again next year,then I'll have to ask to switch back to an hourly rate of pay, because I'll be stuck on-site all 24 hours and not able to do anything else, so under my current fixed rate of weekly pay, my hourly rate of pay will have dropped substantially.
I made a return visit to someone I met through Buy Nothing to collect more goat, chicken and quail manure for next year's garden. I took this picture of my friend's cute ducks enjoying water sports.
I have a 12-year-old Whirlpool refrigerator/freezer, S/S, side by side with ice dispenser.
In the past year or so, it unexpectedly and without warning will suddenly turn cold...too cold...and ruin fresh produce in the bottom two drawers, or anything perishable like that in the lower part of the fridge.
I've had to throw food away as a result. I'm really unsure what to do. I really would like to get a substantially larger refrigerator, both taller and wider, as the one I have is pretty small. Its height is constrained by some cabinets above the fridge, and also by cabinets to the left.
If I wanted a bigger fridge, it would require some reconstruction of the cabinets, which I'm really not ready to do since the whole kitchen could use a makeover and it doesn't make sense to do it piecemeal.
Unless I just had someone (a carpenter?) take out the cabinets above and try to find a taller fridge, but not wider. Not sure how it would look though.
As you can see, to the left of the fridge is a cabinet and countertop, but to the right is a folding wood door with passageway to the dining room, plus there's a solid fixed wall, actually part of the cabinetry, on the right as well.
So I guess I'll just live with the unpredictable one I have now? I have it set at the near lowest setting in an effort to keep it from getting too cold. Not sure that's had any effect. I have a thermometer in there but will have to start paying closer attention to it.
Two days ago, around 5 pm, I was outside my fenced raised bed veggie garden trying to gain access to my collection of unruly tomato plants.
I heard a strange call...at first, it sounded like a bird, though not like any I had heard before. After a while, the sound seemed closer now, and low to the ground. I thought perhaps it was a fox, though I have had fox here in the past and they have more of a bark.
I stepped away from the very secluded area that is my vegetable garden (well, heck, my whole property is secluded), and peering through the foliage, I saw a bobcat about 100 feet away. It saw me around the same moment, and I noticed IT DIDN"T RUN OFF.
It occurred to me it could have rabies, so I figured I'd better go inside the house. I would have really freaked if it crouched and took a predator stance, the way that Luther does when he stalks something. I mean, it would have taken it seconds to reach me, and with my injured knee, I could go nowhere fast.
I decided to straighten up and not make myself look so small.
Once inside the house, I realized I'd left my cell phone on top of one of the fence posts. Darn! I had to go back down to retrieve it, but I grabbed a broom, just in case. The bobcat had disappeared from view, but could still be heard periodically calling, perhaps for a mate? Later, I heard it continue to call from the heavy thickets in my backyard.
I was relating the story to my friend and neighbor yesterdayy, and she mentioned she learned from talking to other neighbors that there have been multiple sightings of a bear in our neighborhood, along with a female bobcat with 2 cubs. That must've been her. Wow.
Kind of exciting and a little bit scary at the same time. I live pretty close to town, maybe a mile from Main Street. A bear was around last year, but I have yet to see it. I did see one at our town center where our municipal offices are located, along with our community center, sports complex, walking trails, etc.
Bear and bobcat sightings are not unusual in our town, which is very woodsy, but it is unusual in my paticular area which, as mentioned, is very close to town and is bordered by two 2-lane highways that are pretty busy.
A gardening friend of mine was over here the other day with his pole pruner, and he very kindly pruned a lot of branches on my mulberry tree, some of which were rubbing up against the side of the house, near the roof, every time there was a small breeze. So I was very glad he was able to do that for me. Having removed some of these lower branches really opened up the canopy and gives the appearance now of a parklike setting rather than just an overgrown tree.
I gave him 2 eggplants from my garden, which he'd told me he hadn't had success growing in the past. He's offered to return and work on my crabapple. September would be the perfect time to do it.
So I had a knocking noise in my Honda (rear) ever since the dealer put on 4 new tires for me. i brought it there TWICE and waited over an hour each time (outside for safety, but during heat waves, so each visit was like an endurance test) but they couldn't replicate the noise and were thus unable to fix it. I wanted to test drive it WITH them so I could demonstrate the noise, but they refused due to COVID concerns.
Their advice was to keep driving it until it got worse.
I felt uneasy driving it anywhere beyond the local area since I didn't know what the problem was and didn't want to break down somewhere.
So I finally brought it to the local Sunoco guy down the road from me and the mechanic there did drive with me (back seat, mask on, windows down). He heard the noise immediately and a few hours later, it was fixed ($118). It was some rust rubbing against the backplate of the wheel, or something to that effect.
I was kind of glad to have them do some kind of service for me I'd have to pay for, as I'm constantly over there due to low tire pressure warnings on my car and they always fill up the tires no charge.
As I may have posted before, I've been working at home due to the pandemic since mid-March. I work p/t, but my hours have been dwindling since then, and in the last few months, I've averaged about 5 hours of work a week!
I finally decided to talk to my boss about it. I told him I needed to stabilize my income and just wanted to be paid what I was getting paid when working on-site, since I'm doing the identical job.
The big risk in doing so is that if they decided they wouldn't want to pay me more money, they could offer my p/t hours to my counterpart, who also works p/t during the latter half of the week.
Luckily, that didn't happen. After some discussion, he agreed that a retainer arrangement would work best for both of us, and they agreed to a fixed weekly payment based on 18 hours of work each week, regardless of how many hours I actually work. (I checked my average weekly hours for 2019, and it was 18.28, so I am right in the ballpark.)
This is wonderful! He said we want to make sure you feel like a valued member of the team. He had to talk to the co-owners of the company about it, and they gave it the green light. I also asked for a raise, noting that I hadn't asked for one last year, mostly due to my own oversight more than anything. I said since we're restructuring my job, this seems like a good time to address that, too.
And I got a 4% raise. So I'm going from $34.50 an hour to $36/hr.
I took this job 3 years ago. It was advertised originally as a temporary proofreading job, and I leveraged my background as a writer/editor to turn it into a kind of hybrid editor/proofreader job. If you consider it primarily editing, then I'm paid on the low side for this area and this industry, but if you consider it mainly a proofreader job, I'm paid at the top of the scale.
What's the difference between the two? A proofreader is not a writer. So they would confine themselves to fixing typos and punctuation. Hopefully grammar, too. An editor would do all that as well, but they also wouldn't hesitate to rewrite copy that lacks clarity, is redundant, confusing or not politically correct. They would correct for bad word choice and tone, and reorganize paragraphs of copy that don't flow right. Beyond the copy, I'm also checking formatting and making sure imagery and copy are in sync.
The important thing for me is that it has allowed me to pay the bulk of my expenses while working only 18 hours weekly. I had hoped to scale down to a p/t job as I approached retirement, but it would have been difficult to find a p/t job that pays this well. I have secured my retirement nest egg, paid off the mortgage and only need to pay ongoing expenses until I fully retire in 4 years' time at age 65.
So I went from worrying I could be entirely out of a job if they decided I wasn't worth keeping, to not only getting a guaranteed rate of weekly pay but a raise!
He also took my suggestion to finally cut the cord with the agency that found me, and which has been paying my paycheck for the last 3 years. I know they charge my firm more than double my hourly rate, so they've been making out royally while doing absolutely nothing. I have zero contact with them.
I'm very happy. The only thing remaining is that toward the end of our talk he indicated I'd still be treated as an independent contractor and I'd have to file my own quarterly tax payments.
This I do not want to do. I asked if they could take the taxes out for me, and he said to ask our (freelance) accountant, who works for our firm once a week. I hope this won't be a problem. I don't like that he said "ask her," since she shouldn't be the one making the decision, but only executing it.
I want them to deduct taxes for me and issue me a W-2 at year's end because it greatly simplifies things at tax time, not to mention I believe you pay higher taxes as an IC and I just want to minimize the number of tax forms I have to do. It also would make me ineligible for unemployment benefits should I ever lose the job. I'm really much more comfortable with a W-2.
My dad pointed out this arrangement could backfire on me should we get into one of our busy times, which is usually around the holidays. While that would have been true if this was still a full-time job (there were many, many late nights), I think the potential for that happening is fairly limited since I only work 2 full days (and 1 half-day) a week. So late hours could only happen on 2 days a week.
Tropical Storm Isaias left many of us without power the week before last here on the East Coast. I prepped for the storm as best I could (no generator here) by turning my fridge/freezer to their coldest settings, charging up my phone and that's really it.
I lost power Tuesday at 2:30 pm. The wind was just ferocious.
I was praying I could save at least my freezer food, but alas, that was not meant to be. I planned to empty everything out of it Thursday morning, but my freezer began leaking water Wednesday night. I was just wrapping up downstairs and about ready to retire upstairs for the evening when I noticed a pool of water spreading on my wood kitchen floor. Thank goodness the floor is not level or I would never have seen pooled water under the fridge. It would have buckled the floor.
So I spent a good hour sopping up the water, pulling the refrigerator out and cleaning up, all by flashlight. It killed me to dump so much good food, and I had plenty.
I didn't do a whole lot more during my outage days. I lost a week's worth of pay since I lost my Internet. I ate very simply at home, eating lots of fresh produce from the garden and the occasional can of beans. I only ate out once, a pizza which tasted pretty darn good, and there was no sense to do more grocery shopping until power was restored.
Part of the outage took place during a heat wave, so it was sweltering here and difficult to sleep at night, though I still had my water so I'd take cool showers right before bedtime. I listened to my shortwave radio, and in particular 2 local stations, one of which did great updates on the status of the outage.
And I checked in on my 87-year-old father a few times, taking him out for ice coffee at Starbucks. My sister eventually got a generator but she ran it only a few hours a day. I have 2 neighbors with generators; one of them runs it 24 hours a day, so sleeping at night, windows open by necessity, felt like sleeping next to a truck stop.
Our attorney general has called on Eversource to reimburse people for lost food, but I'm not holding my breath. The power company has taken a lot of criticism for its slow response, especially when they had plenty of advance warning.
Injured Knee & Exercises, Striving for Fitness I am still doing my 3x a week exercising, plus my daily exercises for my injured knee. From what I've read, the vast majority of people with meniscus tears end up in the same place 6 months later, whether they do physical therapy or have surgery. In other words, surgery doesn't offer a great advantage unless you have a severe tear, and degenerative tears, caused by age, are difficult to repair. (I'm not sure mine is degenerative or not.) In addition, research has shown that surgery for meniscus tears inevitably leads to arthritis in the knee; trimming away the cushioning between the tibia and femur removes that cushioning for good. It doesn't grow back.
Functionally, I think my knee is doing fairly well. The only things I can't do is pull my knee up real close to my chest without pain, and walking long distance. Walking around the house is fine, because it's all level and I tend to take baby steps, not long strides, in my small home. What IS problematic is a great deal of stiffness in the knee and fluid buildup in one area. Is this the same as swelling? I don't know. I may see another doctor for a 2nd opinion now that time has passed, or I may give it more time.
So, I'm now at about my ideal weight (128 lbs), what I weighed in high school/early 20s! I attribute it to 24-hour fasts, once a week. I know I could easily lose a few more pounds, but choose not to. My clothes fit much better and I've lost a size. Ironically, there is no one to really appreciate it since I haven't been going out much.
The fitness center I joined last March suddenly began billing my credit card for the last 2 months. They had closed due to the pandemic but reopened, I think in July, but never informed me of anything. They agreed to freeze my membership at least til end of year, at which time I'll touch base and let them know if I want to continue the freeze or not. I wanted a refund of the 2 months they billed me, because as it is I'm already committed to a 12-month membership I signed up for when I joined, but they convinced me it would be too difficult to refund, they use a 3rd party biller, etc. etc.
I need to balance my desire for a perhaps more meaningful workout at the gym, as opposed to home, which is a priority since I learned I have osteopenia, vs. the virus exposures of working out at a public gym. I have been working out at home religiously, using exercises I've come across online specifically for bone health and women over 50, but it's hard to know if this will be enough or if I'm challenging myself enough, weight-wise. I'm using 5, 7, 10 and 12 pound hand weights, a weighted belt and weighted ankle things that will hold up to 20 pounds. Since my knee injury, I'm just using 5 lbs. now but hope to ramp up gradually.
I had a pandemic birthday, which mostly was a nonevent.