AIEEE ROACH in my closet

Pooping on my clothing


After DC1 was born we stopped letting the exterminator spray inside.

We’re making an exception now.

Roach poop looks like mouse droppings.

DH convinced me not to burn the house down.

We cleaned all my clothing, moved my shoes out to the patio, washed the walls, vacuumed in depth, put out roach traps, called the exterminator and he sprayed the attic, the garage, the patio, my closet, and our bathroom.

He found no other evidence of roaches, and DH only found the one roach (it was big though! and on one of my dresses!) and said that if we see any more he would bring scarier chemicals.

Also I’m allergic to roaches according to my post DC2 allergy test and am getting a lot fewer hives now.  This is the first chance I’ve had to test that allergy.  Thank goodness.  Oh man I hate them so much.  (Though to be fair I’m also allergic to dust and getting everything clean helps with that too.)

My friend says at least it wasn’t bedbugs.


DH talks about creating a screen door kludge

Here is another post from DH, this time about getting some airflow into our home office when the weather is nice (without losing our cat to the great outdoors).

Over 18 months ago, on a nice Fall day, we started talking about the possibility of putting a screen door in our office, which has a french patio door to the outside [1-door]. The office can get stuffy, and in Spring or Fall if we open the door the breeze is wonderful. Unfortunately, between cats and mosquitoes, we cannot just open the door [ed: or buy one of those dangly screens], we need a screen door there.

First plan, spend some time looking at pre-built wooden screen doors, but I couldn’t figure out how I would attach them. The door opens outward, so we could not just put a screen door on the outside. The frame around the door isn’t shaped to put a screen door on the inside, and the office is crowded enough that having anything opening inwards would be undesirable. So I gave up on just getting a screen door.

Second plan, shop the friendly-neighborhood home improvement store. Their website had a dutch door that could be purchased with a screen in the top half. Unfortunately when I talked to the representative, it was outside of my price range, something like $3k. While there I picked up a retracting screen, but when we put it up on the wall its large cylinder looked out of place on the frame. I think they also sell the magnet-close drapes, but I didn’t like the looks of those either.

Third plan, my dad came and looked it over. He’s quite the handyman, and often he has ideas that are marvels of simplicity and utility. His conclusion was to have a professional do a custom replacement for the door. That’s a good option, but I wasn’t convinced I was out of options, and a custom door replacement sounded like it could be expensive.

Final plan, make a custom screen. About a year after the third plan fizzled, I had a eureka moment when I realized we didn’t need a “screen door”, we just wanted a screen that covered the door opening [ed: that the cat couldn’t slip out through]. The hard part of this project is the constraints due to the existing door, the existing frame, and the limited space in the room. By creating a screen of the correct size, we just need a place to store it, and a way to hold it in place when in use.

The storage space is easy; with a removable screen we can just slide it behind the filing cabinet that’s right next to the door frame. After an hour or so of websurfing, I found out the holding-in-place aspect is also pretty easy via “casement clips” screwed into the door frame. All that was left was to get/make a screen (and then fix all the little things that would invariably go awry). [2-screen]

It turns out that making your own screen is really straightforward with the use of these plastic corner pieces. [3-corners] One just needs screen frame pieces, screen material, spline that holds the screen in the channel in the screen frame, and (optional but recommended) a spline tool to put it all together. [4-materials] Since this was going to be a tall screen, I went with the biggest frame pieces I could, 7/16″, and I bought extra to add a crossbar or two, along with the “crossbar clips”. To start, cut the frame pieces to the correct size (take into account the size of the corner pieces), and push in the corner pieces. [5-screenCorner] For crossbars, push the crossbar clips into pieces of frame and then the other end of the clip into the channel of the frame, where it will be held by the spline and screen. [6-crossbarConnector] Unfortunately, I was not able to find any 7/16″ crossbar clips, so I epoxied some 5/16″ clips into my 7/16″ frame. Lie the screen material over the frame. Check for any rips or cuts in the screen now (voice of experience). Then use the spline roller to push the spline into the channel, and cut off the excess screen material. There are a plethora of video guides online for this part so watch a couple to get the details. The tension in the screen holds everything together. With the screen assembled, screw the casement clips into the frame. [7-rightClip] The clips I bought use spacers so they can work for different sizes of screen frames, which was nice because on the left side of the door the door frame lip is higher than on the right side. [8-clip] Since I was worried about splitting the frame, I pre-drilled the holes and used painter’s tape to mark the approximate depth on the drill bit. [9-drillBit]

That’s what I should have done, but instead I did a test fit after I put the frame corners in, but before I added the screen. The test fit itself went great, but since I already had the screen frame put up against the doorframe, I decided to go ahead and screw in the casement clips. Unfortunately, I underestimated the flexibility of the screen frame and how much it would bow due to the screen tension. So after installing the screen, the clips barely held the frame.

I didn’t want a strong wind to blow the screen down, so on the left side I added some spacers/bumpers at the clips. That way we could just push the screen into the doorframe and then push it to the left until the bumpers hit the wall. In that position the clips would overlap the screenframe and the screenframe would completely cover the door opening. [10-leftClipAndSpacer] I made the bumpers out of Sugru since it is durable and easy to work with. Then on the right side, I moved both casement clips to a tight fit. I used the screw tip to mark the hole placement. [11-markingHole] Then I drilled the new hole and installed the clip. [12-movedRightClip] To fill in the old screw hole, I checked to see if a golf tee would fit, but the hole was too thin. Normally I would then use woodglue as a filler, but I happened to have a hot glue gun handy, so I tried that. I’m not sure if it was a good idea, but it worked. I smoothed the surface by carefully shaving any high points with a knife edge, then I applied a coat of white paint and sanded it. [13-oneCoat] Finally I applied another three light coats of white paint. [14-threeCoats] The doorframe has some texture, so the patches aren’t noticeable, and I took the opportunity to touch up some other places where the paint had been rubbed off the doorframe.

There was one other issue, which was the top/bottom fit. The doorframe has a very slight lip where the metal plate sticks out. [15-baseLip] My plan had been to rest the screenframe on that lip, and I assumed that the casement clips would hold the frame tight all the way down to the bottom. In reality, the screenframe is flexible enough that it would just slip off and fall to the wood floor, which left a slight gap at the top of the door. First I tried adding weatherstripping foam at the top and bottom of the screen frame, but it did not seem sufficient. So I used more Sugru to add three feet [ed:  the little bump kind of foot, not the 12 inches kind of foot] to the outside face at the bottom of the screenframe, and those feet rest on the metal plate to hold the screen up. [16-foot]

Looking back, this project taught me several things about making screens, but I wouldn’t change any of the core ideas. The screen works, it looks nice enough, and it stays out of the way when not in use. If we decide to sell the place, I can just remove the casement clips and patch the holes before we show the place to buyers. Most importantly, DW [ed:  that’s me!] was right that having a screen “door” there is wonderful, and I’m glad I was finally able to make it happen.

Making a hole in the wall look pretty while still being accessible

Long-time readers may recall that a while back we got a whole-house water filter.  It was a saga.  One of the things they had to do was cut holes in the drywall, which they then taped back up.   Since one of the holes was in DH’s closet, he decided to make it prettier.  Then he wrote up this post and sent it to me.

Picture of a square hole in the wall and ugly tape marks

The hole

The plumbers had to cut into the closet to access the pipes when they installed the whole house water filter. When they were done, they just used duct tape to stick the drywall plug back in the hole. The duct tape looked pretty hacky, though luckily it is in a really out-of-the-way spot (the corner of a closet, right beside a built-in, right above the baseboard).

I like having access to pipes/manifolds, so I didn’t want to just seal/patch over the hole. I wanted a framed door, and could not figure out how to make one easily. So instead, I glued the frame (really baseboard I hand-cut to fit) to the drywall plug, added a knob (with a large washer in back to spread out the force on the drywall), and touched up the paint.

The resulting “door” looks much better, and it just pulls out. It could almost just stand up by itself, but was slightly tilting forward and would fall out, so I added a small square of velcro to the top of the frame to hold it to the wall.

I’m pretty happy with the way it turned out. If I were to do it again: 1) I found it hard to cut the 45 degree angles on the baseboard by hand since we don’t have a table saw, so I would see if I could get Home Depot to cut at least a couple of them nicely, and 2) I don’t like the way the velcro is visible from the top and it results in a gap between the frame and the wall, so I would probably try removing the velcro and instead placing some kind of foam around the drywall plug so that it would be held in the hole by the force of the foam around it. I should probably still go around that corner of the closet with putty to fill in the various little gaps.

So I (#1) think that’s pretty cool.  I don’t normally pay much attention to aesthetics, but this is a really nice example of form follows function.  We had long discussions about how to make this area look nicer while still allowing access, and, importantly, letting future home-owners/renters know that there’s something important back there should they need access (say there’s a leak or a plug).  Making an actual door would be too much effort and would probably allow drafts in (given hinges etc.), but this looks like a door so it signals that there’s something behind there, while still looking pretty.  We also discussed the merits of velcro vs. magnets, but magnets are potentially more dangerous (given kids and animals), and it’s not like this is going to be opened and closed frequently enough to make the velcro wear out.

Help me with countertops! (Please?)

Grumpy Nation!  I need your help!

So… we want to have countertops made out of quartz (or granite) that look like marble.

There are… options.

Which one?

Home Depot has two companies that make quartz.  One is Silestone and the other is Viatera.  Here’s the pictures we took at Home Depot and then the one on the right is the two Viatera samples we picked up (they didn’t have any other samples — that third picture shows minuet, a quarter, then rococo, and they’re on top of our current terrible countertop).

The main difference between the different kinds of marble-ish quartz seems to be density and darkness of the grey lines.  Rococo is busier than Minuet.  White Arabesque is busier than Snow Ibiza and so on.

Also there’s two different types of marble that the quartz is trying to imitate.  Calacatta marble is the one with the fat long marbling– it reminds me of bathrooms more than kitchens, and the quartz example counter at Home Depot looked like formica to me (though oddly, there was a great looking formica knockoff– if only you couldn’t see the seams).  I like Carerra style marble instead– that’s the one with the shorter lines.  (I guess there’s also statuary marble, but I haven’t seen any quartz knock-offs for that– probably some of what I think is Calacatta is actually imitating statuary, but without any additional color.)

One problem that I have is that I cannot extrapolate those small samples to an entire counter.  Are the busy ones too busy?  The sparse ones too sparse?

Viatera has a great webpage with lots of pictures of their different options.  When you click on a stone, it shows you a slab and pictures of completed counters.  The Silestone page is a nightmare to navigate.   (I am also really irritated with a half-dressed Cindy Crawford [only wearing a top, for tops on tops, get it?] sitting on a kitchen counter on their first page and if you accidentally click it, you see a guy WEARING SHOES standing on top of another counter.  I MAKE FOOD ON THAT COUNTER.   GET OFF.  Also, WTF, aren’t women making most of these design decisions?  Supermodels are not doing it for me.)

I found a fantastic discussion on a houzz forum with pictures talking about quartz alternatives for marble.

The prices in the first picture are mostly the “non-sale” prices because apparently there’s some kind of sale going on, but it isn’t an easy to explain one, so I don’t actually know how much they cost or even their prices compared to each other.

What should I be thinking about as we decide on a countertop design?  How are we going to decide among all of these different kinds?

How thick?

The internet thinks I should be choosing between 2 cm with 3 cm edging or just straight up 3cm.  But home depot only seems to have 2 cm and 4 cm?  I’m not really sure that’s true though… How should we decide on thickness?


Almost all the kitchen countertops we’ve seen online have either sharp rectangular corners or softer “eased” rectangular corners.  But there’s a huge wealth of different edging options. Should we just do what everyone else is doing or are there benefits to other forms of edging?

Other recommendations?

We have no idea what we’re doing.  Any suggestions on counterops would be highly welcome?

Grumpy nation!  Help a grumpeteer out!

p.s.  Several of my colleagues have built their houses from scratch and that sounds like a nightmare.  I get anxious just imagining it!

Time to think about the kitchen remodel again

We took out the broken trees and put in new trees, so it’s time to think about remodeling the kitchen again.

house 049

The gingham wallpaper is long gone. I swear!

Here’s our master plan:

1.  Keep the flooring and floorplan as before.

We decided that it isn’t worth the additional expense to do something that might make things worse.  If we had a contractor/architect we trusted we’d be more likely to be willing to mess with this, but we don’t, so we’re going to satisfice on this dimension.

2.  Replace the countertops.

I want quartz countertops that look like marble to replace the cheap white laminate or whatever it is that turns yellow if you bleach it.  Quartz and Granite have a lot of properties that I like– easy to clean, tough to crack, great for pastry (currently we do all our pastry stuff on a granite-top bureau in the dining room).  DH also looked into “dekton” which is “in” but it doesn’t look any better than quartz and has a tendency to chip/crack according to consumer reports.  I want quartz instead of granite because it is easier to get quartz that looks like marble!  (I’m leaning into being forced to have a white kitchen.)

3.  Get a new sink that is under the countertops (instead of having a lip) and doesn’t get that irritating water puddle.

I’m thinking stainless steel, keeping a double sink.  I like double sinks.

4.  Remove the ancient ice-maker (near the sink) and replace it with a cabinet.

We’re not sure that home depot is going to be able to handle making a custom cabinet, but our previous house-painter had someone good that he uses (who replaced a bunch of kitten destroyed cabinetry in our bathroom) so we might be able to get that figured out separately.  Absent that I guess we could put in a wine fridge or something in that empty spot, but that would only be for increasing the value of the house, not something we would actually use.  (We already have one of those hidden garbage drawers that we never use next to the sink.)

5.  Replace the 30 inch electric stovetop.

This is our current sticking point.  I feel weird replacing it given that it you know, still works.  But DH doesn’t like electric (electric is slow to heat and cool… you get used to it, but it is easier cooking with gas) and says it’s rusting, which I guess it sort of is, but only around the burners not actually on top of them.  If we were better about cleaning you’d never know.  And it’ll be easier to replace it when we’re getting new countertop anyway.  DH thought about expanding it, but then we might have to cut into our cabinets which we don’t want to do.  Besides, we never use all four burners at the same time anyway.

We thought we were going to just get gas.  We have a gas hookup under the range that has never been used, but in theory could be easy to get in working order.  At least, it’s more likely than if there wasn’t a gas hookup there.

But then DH started looking into induction stovetops.  I was initially hesitant as I thought you had to buy special cookware.  Turns out you just need to have *nice* cookware with magnetic bottoms, which our le crueset and caphalon stuff already have [UPDATE:  our caphalon stuff is at most marginally magnetic on the bottom… if we went with this option we might have to get a new “induction ready” set, or we’d just be down to two le crueset and the cast iron skillet].  Induction stovetops are also safer– no open flames, no carbon monoxide, etc.  And they’re way faster than electric at heating things up.  But they might hum, which would be annoying.

DH is thoroughly investigating each of these options and has been instructed to come up with a top choice from gas and a top choice from induction.  This will probably take considerable time, knowing DH.  Right now he’s annoyed by how everything he’s been looking at seems to have a combination of 5 and 1 stars (and nothing in between)… quality control is not a priority for companies.

And that’s it.  We already replaced the fluorescent lighting and we already have fancy under lighting.  The cabinets already have all sorts of fancy drawer choices.  The pantry is still amazing and will not be touched.  We might replace the refrigerator, but that’s something that can be done separately given there’s already a big space for a fridge.  We decided not to do the ovens because I like having a double oven and even though the top oven is a really bad height for me, it’s a great height for DH.  So I can just keep using the bottom one.

Once DH has finished his researching, we plan to make an appointment at home depot and get them to hire contractors from the nearest city to take care of everything.  That worked well with our bathroom flooring.  We’re not going with a local contractor because all the ones with webpages have horrific looking “after” photos.  I mean, I get that some people have really bad taste, but that’s not something you want to advertise on your website!

Tell me about your stovetop.  Or any kitchen renovation thoughts.



Trees fall down

One of our big oaks got some kind of borer beetle and had to come down.  Then two weeks later during a big storm, our last ornamental pear tree fell over (fortunately it did not take either our deck or our fence with it, though it did grab some of the wisteria off our fence on its way down).

So we paid $335.58 to get the oak taken down and the stump ground, along with trimming back our crepe myrtle so it would stop hitting our roof and grinding another stump from a tree the previous owners had removed (the stump had been bothering DH for lo these 12 years, who knew?).

Then a few weeks later we paid another ~$200 to get the pear tree taken out of our backyard and its remaining stump and roots ground.

Next month we’re planning on buying another oak to replace the beetled oak (apparently the beetles are only a problem when the trees are distressed, so that won’t be a problem with the new oak) and a cherry tree for the back.  DH also wants to buy a few more experimental fruit trees for the remaining places in our lawn.  (Every year he buys a few and one will take root and flourish even if it never fruits again and the other two will die.  I think he’s going to keep doing this until he runs out of spots.)  This year he’s gonna get a crabapple, which I love.  We’ll see if it survives and fruits.  Cost:  ~$300 all told, including mulch.  (It’s way more expensive if we get the tree company to do it, but DH has found a nursery he likes, and we’ve had better luck with keeping cheap younger trees alive than expensive older.)

*Activism Update*

Speaking of things on your lawn being removed… All of the democratic signs in my neighborhood for a specific race were stolen Saturday night.  If that happens to you, be sure to file a police report.  The police can’t do anything based on rumors.  They are more likely to investigate if they see a pattern.  And an entire HOA losing its signs is a pattern.  We went to Target and got materials to make our own sign.  Then we bought 30 signs at the Dem HQ when they opened and gave them to people whose signs had been stolen.  And a few for local candidates while we were at it.  Make some good come from evil.

This weekend we also did postcards from postcards to voters:

and letters from

And I’ve been hooked up with a post-card service that only sends stuff in my state.

Do you have trees?  Have you ever had problems with them?

Replacing more light fixtures

A few years ago, we had an energy audit and replaced all our bucket light fixtures with cooler, more efficient ones that would allow us to insulate the holes they created in the ceiling.  (The electrician DH tried to hire basically told him that was the best option and to do it all himself instead of paying the electrician, so he did.)

This year one of the fluorescent ballasts in the kitchen sort of broke (it could still be used, but even with a brand new bulb, it took a long time to turn on and then still flickered and after some observation DH suspected it might be dangerous).  The fluorescents in a couple of the other rooms, including my closet, weren’t in that great shape anyway (nothing like a strobe effect to trigger migraines…), and DH wanted to move to LEDs, especially since the fluorescent hum was driving him crazy.  Although LEDs fit in the sockets it wasn’t clear that just swapping them in was safe given the various electric ratings.

Given our track record of the electrician coming out only to tell DH how to do small jobs himself, we decided it was time to get rid of all of our fluorescent lighting (make it a big job!).

Here’s what that consisted of, according to the electrician’s quote:


The quote for all of this was $925.  That’s a lot!  But it’s also 11 light fixtures.  (Some of the big rectangular fluorescent lights were actually two ballasts next to each other.)

According to DH, two of them worked for three hours, installing 5 fixtures’ worth of line-fed tubular LEDs, removing 6 fixtures and replacing with disk lights.

$12 per tubular LED Keystone KT-LED15T8-48GC-850-DX2
$30 per disk light SunSet 15W LED by Luminance

5*2*12 = $120 for the tubulars.
6*30 = $180 for the disks.

So $300 in parts, let’s round up to $350 for incidentals (ex. wires, putty for the holes left by the fluorescent ballasts, extra screws. etc.).

The quote was for $925. So $575 in labor.
$575 / 2 / 3 = $95.8/ person hour.  Which is a little high but is within a reasonable range of going rates for the area.  And it helps assuage a little of the guilt I had for us calling the electrician out twice before only to have him give DH good advice and detailed instructions for what to do in exchange for no money.

Overall we are really happy with the results.  One exception was that the light in my closet wasn’t bright enough and left eerie shadows.  Fortunately that was an easy $30 disc light swap that we could do ourselves.  Though now we have an extra light in case one of the other ones breaks sometime before the 22 year expected life of the new LEDs…

What kind of lighting do you have in your place?