Saturday, October 2, 2021

Even More Lighting

Out in front of the house is a small lamp post. It was wired together with the porch light, so a single switch turned on/off both lights. The problem was that there was no good way to have the lights controlled with a dusk/dawn sensor; the porch light would have to always be on or we had to turn them on/off manually. At one point, I replaced the light switch with a timer switch — and it worked for a while, but it was always a pain to adjust with the seasons or if we were travelling.

At some other point, an electircal problem cropped up and the lamp post stopped working. I did some digging around, but not much actual digging. My guess is the fault was somewhere underground between the house and post and it wasn't worth trying to suss out. We onsidered trying to just remove the post, but then I found a solar-powered LED replacement that fit the post (this Hampton Bay light looks similar to what we got). It worked well for a while (I don't recall exactly when, but it was prior to when the other exterior lights were installed/replaced in 2014. Over time, though, charging grew slower and the light turned off earlier even after sunny days (it is in partial shade, so charging would sometimes be an issue).

The solar panels were on the flat top of the lamp and after years of exposure to the weather, they were pretty dirty. One day when Celeste was pressure washing the front steps, I had the bright idea to try and clean the solar panels with the pressure washer. That didn't fix the problem, but it did accelerate the need for a replacement. The thing pretty much stopped working.

This afternoon, the replacement arrived — a Lutec London/LED. Installtion was pretty easy (despite the large number of spiders and ants that had made a home in the old lamp) and it surprisingly turned on at dusk despite only have a few hours of late=afternoon sun. The solar panels on this one are arrayed around the top at an angle, so hopefully they will be more effective than the older one. If nothing else, they are a lot cleaner, which is sure to help too.

Sunday, September 26, 2021

Repositioning the Swing

For her birthday Evelin got some new chairs for the deck. The Adirondack chairs we've had for years or definitely showing their age, and generally feeling unstable. Unfortunately after the chairs arrived, we quickly found out that their cushions were not weather-resistant. The tags actually say to keep them out of the sun, rain, and other weather ... despite being outdoor furniture. 😠

I tried some weatherproofing spray on them, which helped, but we still thought it best to move the new chairs to a more sheltered location — the front porch. However, this meant relocating the swing that's been here since before we bought the house. It's acutally a pretty comfortable swing, despite having needed a few repairs and bracing over the years. At first we figured we'd just stash it somewhere, but looking at the deck the from the ground I realized (once a shrub was moved) it might work under the deck ... and it does. It's not a bad location at all. I found a decent suspension kit that worked for the location (the springs work pretty well) and it hands at a nice height. It's surprisingly pleasant.

Kind of visible behind it is the small Trunnell resin lean-to shed that I set up last November for the lawnmower. It's only about 4 feet × 2 feet and doesn't fit much of anything besides the mower, but it works. I'd originaly been looking at ways to close some or all of the underdeck area as a shed. That would have given us more storage space (freeing up room in the basement), but it would have made the swing solution unworkable, so I think the little shed/box was (again) the right solution for us.

Wednesday, March 31, 2021


It's been nearly seven years since the kitchen was remodled. Actually, it's six years, seven months, two weeks, and a day since since the appliances were delivered, which is important because the warranty on the magnetron on the Sharp microwave we installed was seven years. About two weeks ago, the microwave started making a big noise when running and it stopped heating things. After some back and forth with Sharp and a trip out their recommended service technician, a fully covered replacement unit was delivered today. It's the same unit, although the model number (R-1214-TY) is slightly different. It's a wall-mounted, under-cabinet model and thankfully the same mounting plate and rig worked so it was just a matter of unplugging, taking out a few screws and then swapping out the unit before putting the screws back in. The kids are glad to be able to quickly make oatmeal for breakfast again ... and (just as they did seven years ago) they're happy to have a big box to play in.

Thursday, December 31, 2020

A Christmas Present

For Christmas this year, Celeste brightened the upstairs bathroom with a bit of art. A while ago, Evelin mentioned the idea of painting the inside of the bathroom door with a pattern similar to the one she had painted on her phone case; during Christmas break (and with some parent-supplied materials) she took up the challenge.

We refreshed the bathroom a few years ago (and I just replaced the sink hardware), but it's still defined by the original 1940 mint tiles. Despite this, using dark blue paint (Ralph Lauren Seven Seas) and Marimekko Blue Pieni Unikko shower curtain gives the space a nicer look. Celeste drew upon the Pieni Unikko pattern for her painting, working in a few similar flowers and added in a few shades of purple. Since she used acrylic paints, we figured things needed to be sealed, so two coats of varnish were added giving it a nice gloss.

Next up, I just ordered a cabinet bar pull (Hardware Resources Naples 624PC) that will replace the old towel bar that broke a while ago. The bar pull won't project out as far as a typical towel bar (about 1½ inches instead of 2¾ to 3 inches), letting us open the door fully. Mounting it will be a little difficult — I figure I'll have to sink the screws on the outside of the door, putty over them, and then repaint that side of things — but it should work well.

Tuesday, December 29, 2020

Today's Weather Forecast ...

Not really a change to the house, but I got an Ambient Weather WS-2902C personal weather station for Christmas. One 10-foot pole later and it's up and running in the backyard keeping track of wind and rain and (this time of year) cold. The house, retaining wall, and tree will have an impact on wind speed and diretion measurments, but the temperatures, UV, and rain readings should be pretty accurate ... and most importatly, the signal is received strongly in the house. I might try adding an extension pole to get the sensor array up two or three more feet (it's currently about 7.4 feet above ground), but all in all the data looks good.

Thursday, September 24, 2020

Not a Plumber

Back in 2011, when we had the upstairs bathroom spruced up we put in a new sink. I wasn't tracking very well the models/fixtures we were installing back then, so I'm not sure exactly what the sink/vanity combo we selected was, but it was an American Standard and had a wide-spread faucet and Evelin was really happy with it. As part of the job, we had new pipes put in but since we only redid the floor tiles and not the walls, the new supply lines came up from the ground and not out of the wall.

When the vanity was installed, the contractor pushed it flush to the corner, which is how the old, much bigger box vanity was placed, but it left it off-center from the mirror. Evelin did not approve.

Once the placement was corrected we were left with two holes in the bottom of the vanity that didn't line up with the supply lines. Not the end of the world; flexible 30-inch braided steel supply lines were used to make the connection and it all worked well for nearly a decade.

However, a little while back the faucet started dripping. Shouldn't be a big deal right? Except things were all corroded inside and I (see the title of this post) am not a plumber so when I couldn't figure out a way to pull and replace the cartridge we moved on to plan B — replace the whole fixture. The original one had some issues with the spout getting wobbly and not being able to keep it tight in addition to the leak, so no big deal, right?

We agreed on the look of the Moen Essie (84716) so a few days later I picked one up and got to work. See again the title of this post.

So it turns out the cartridge (assuming it has one) in the old faucet was not the only thing that was a bit corroded. After wrestling with tight spaces and tools that didn't quite fit, I got all the old hardware off except the faucet stems. They wouldn't go down the hole without removing the chrome ring and they couldn't come up without removing part of the brass fitting. I couldn't figure a way to get either to happen with what I had on hand, so after some text messages to friends and neighbors with more and better tools than me — specifically a Dremel Saw-Max — I was quickly creating a lot of brass dust, making a mess, and cutting the fitting in half.

After cleaning things up, installing the new fixture went fairly smoothly (despite the still cramped space and not all the right tools. It was going relatively well (thanks to some help from Celeste in making sure the stuff up top was lining up while I was positioning things from below) right up until it was time to reconnect the supply hoses. The 30-inch ones that were used to handle the issue with holes being drilled in the wrong place. The ones that Evelin still is bothered by.

The Moen faucet stems are just a wee bit higher up than the old American Standard ones. And 30-inch supply lines are the longest ones Home Depot seems to carry.

So everything is hooked up. The drain is draining without any leaks ... but we're waiting on the 32-inch supply lines I ordered online tonight to arrive before we find out if there are problems anywhere else in the new setup. And the kids have to brush their teeth in the tub until then, too.

Update: Sepetember 26, 2020New hoses arrived as expected and the extra two inches made all the difference. No evidence of leaks and teeth brushing can happen at the sink now.

Monday, November 4, 2019

A Little More Light

Last month, we had an electrician come and expand the exterior lighting slightly. Back in September, my office moved locations and now I'm able to regularly bike to work. Since we don't have a shed or anything, the bikes are kept in the basement and I use the walkout to exit the house each day. Fifteen years ago, when Celeste was a baby, I used to leave the house through the same basement door in the middle of the night,* and while it was always dark, it wasn't that big of deal.

My goal is to be a bike commuter for as much of the year as possible. Figuring that as winter nights grew longer it might be helpful to have some light by the basement door when I was wrangling a bike and backpack and everything else, it seemed logical to add a light by the basement door. Evelin suggested that since we were having electrical work done anyway, we also add another exterior outlet in the same area.

Per my preference for dark-sky friendly fixtures, we got a John Timberland Danbury Modern LED barn light. Instead of a normal lightswitch, we went with a Kasa HS200 Smart Switch, which makes it easy to program the light to turn on/off automatically when I'm leaving/coming home and, if it is off for some reason, I can turn it on with my phone. We have a few other wifi-enabled plugs (mostly Kasa and one WiOn) and they're much better than traditional mechanical timers and are also great for things like Christmas lights.

Up next? Still slow-going thoughts on expanding the house up or out, that old carpet in the basement, and who knows what else.

*When Evelin went back to work part-time after C was born, she went in to her office two afternoons a week. On those days, I shifted my work day to align with (then) IMAS's Italian office and left the house at 3-somethingalltooearly in the morning. Evelin was concerned that the front door was too noisy, so I started using the basement door.

When we bought the house, it had one exterior outlet on the side of the patio that was primarily for the pond's pump. After the patio and pond were removed, I stupidly cut that wire off at the exterior wall and sealed off the wires inside; years later I realized it would work to have an (interior) outlet there instead of a sealed junction box. We added an exterior plug to the front of the house at some point and one on the deck as part of the huge kitchen project, but now there's one more set of outlets on the back of the house.