Friday, February 26, 2010

It's like Christmas all over again (home improvements project #3)


This IS like Christmas, but almost even better. Since the new boiler's been installed, the next logical step in the Home Improvement Saga was to do some research into getting the house insulated. Recently I had a contractor come to the house to verify that it was not insulated and to give me an estimate for insulation. Right on the first count. Not insulated. The rough estimate was $3 - 5K to do the job. Yikes! Still haven't gotten an exact number from him and that was last week.

In the meantime, I did some research on rebates one could get in Massachusetts on these energy saving measures. I am, after all, getting a $1325 rebate towards the installation of the new boiler, AND a federal tax incentive (credit? deduction? not sure yet), so it behooved me to find out about the insulation. I contacted the folks at the Center for Ecological Technology in Northampton, and they helped me set up a FREE MassSave Home Energy Assessment to get started.

To begin with, I thought that they were simply the "verification" in order to get another rebate AND the tax benefits, BUT NO! I was wrong. They send in an energy assessment dude and he measures up your house and presents you with a "contract" (not a binding thing), to have your house insulated (in my case) and they pay 75% of the cost!!! They assign you a contractor and they only charge you the 25% so you don't even have to go through the rebate process.

This is the best part. He told me the job would cost $2,697 and that my portion would be $633! I nearly peed myself with joy after thinking it would cost around $4,000 to insulate my house, I was now looking at only $633. Needless to say, I signed the paperwork and am awaiting a call from the contractor.
Teapot cards
The photo of the three teapots above is taken from erinwallaceprint at Etsy. I purchased these cards from her this morning after seeing the cat face card on the front page. She's new to Etsy and should surely do well. Three letterpress cards for $12.50! Yay! Check out her shop. She only has a few things in her shop right now but I expect she'll have lots more soon. At least I hope so anyway! Thanks, Erin!

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Knit and crochet slippers from natalya1905

On a quest for the perfect slipper. I really like to wear slippers in the winter. Sometimes a slipper with a rubber sole is good, ya know, when you need to run outside to grab the mail or bring the trash out. What I really wanted was a slipper that was soft, warm, comfortable, and that I could sew with. It's nice when you can feel the presser foot of your machine, and honestly, stocking feet are just not warm enough in Massachusetts.

I purchased this pattern from Natalya1905 a few weeks ago. Since then, I've made a pair and am well into my second pair (for my Sister...although hopefully she won't read this before she gets them :) If she does, then "Surprise!!" You're gettin' a pair.) And you are lucky, because now I've perfected the pattern and know just how to keep them on your feet.

In my first attempt, the heel was too low and the back kept slipping off of my foot. So I got out the crochet needle again and stitched another two rows around the heel and actually decreased the stitch to bring the heel in more....Presto! Stays on my feet no problemo. So here's a photo of the Sister's slippers in production. The photo above looks more purple than they actually are. The photo below is more accurate, (that is if you see a more red toned yarn on your monitor :), although more blurry.....

That's right. You do see four soles in the photo above, because you make two for each foot so the bottom is nice and cushiony for your little feeets. All-in-all it's been a great pattern to make. I plan on bringing it to jury duty with me on Monday so I have something productive to do. I don't think they'd allow me to bring my sewing machine in to quilt my current quilt. LOL.

Friday, February 19, 2010

More Etsy loves and a new Kitty friend

More things that I'm loving....I also have to say that the photography is top notch as well:
From margaretwozniak 's Etsy shop. Wow, I really love this little cat. When I first saw the photo I thought it was larger, but it is 3 1/2" high. Reminds me of the Pre-Columbia pottery I studied in college. Something about the shape of it.

I adore these shoes too! From HydraHeart's shop. Too bad I'm saving my pennies to have my kitchen floor replaced...darnit.

In Other News:

I guess I haven't been sleeping that well, because I've been having these dream filled nights. Could be because I have a new little friend in the house. If you've read older posts, you know that my beloved kitty, Styx, passed away recently. Immediately I thought that I'd not get another cat, after suffering the loss of her, and three years prior, the loss of Gromit, my most ever favorite kitty. It was not to be so though. I had to go to the mall and bumped into a kiosk there from the local shelter (Daikin), and a little kitty's photo stopped me in my tracks. His name was Jaxon and it took me a week to track him down. Turned out he'd gotten a cold at the Leverett shelter and was transferred to Springfield. When I finally saw him it was love at first sight. Having a hard time with his name. I've been thinking of naming him Muad'Dib (pronounced Moo-aw Deeb), from Herbert's Dune . Basically, it means "desert mouse" in the novel. He's very mischievous and gets into everything! I'm not sure yet though.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

A Dream I was shopping

It's true, I had a dream filled night. Other than shopping I remember being in an airplane, and I had to lie down back in the tail section. When the plane landed my feet scraped the tarmac, weird. More pleasant than flying with one's feet out of the tail end of a plane, I also dreamed about shopping. Not grocery shopping, but fun shopping, and I know it's all because of Etsy, where I spend ungodly amounts of time browsing the works of fellow artisans and listing my own handmade things.

Here are a few favorite things I've seen this week that I really like: Senor Gato by MarianneW . He likes to ride motorcycles...well, then he's in my club!

These Love Quote earrings by littlebrownbird. Which way do you read these? Her question first? His statement first? I like them.

So, I actually DID buy something this week! I finally saved enough pennies to get myself an original Ozetta warmer! I didn't get the one shown above, but that's the color I ordered. If you want to see the style I ordered look here. Can't wait to get it! I've been admiring Ozetta's work for so long now. I own some of her Mom's kitchen dishclothes from CocoaBeans too :) I wrote about her shop back in November of 2008!! I still have the dishclothes, they are amazing!

Monday, February 15, 2010

A new quilt

A new quilt from the shop. It's great when you love what you do :)

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Home Improvement Project #2 - Bathroom


A built in medicine cabinet with three mirrors had to go.
Here's a nice shot of the old vinyl flooring. It matched the tiles, but didn't do anything for the room. Plus it seemed dirty all the time.
Here's the old sink cabinet, which stuck out from the wall about 23 inches. It was really hard to get up close to the mirror to put on mascara...honestly, who needs that!
Another shot of the old sink cabinet, just so you can really get a good look at it. Also, the old soap dish, toothbrush holder, and towel rack are now gone. I had never chiseled tiled off of walls before, at least strategically, but it wasn't too hard, just a bit scary, not knowing if I'd really be able to replace the tiles properly. There was a box of replacement tiles left in the basement workbench, and they worked nicely.
The sink's been ripped out. Yay!
The new floor going in. Roy, from National Carpet, installed the floor. He's a master and has been doing it for 30 years.
My Brother-In-Law, Shawn, is back to the rescue and installs the sink plumbing for the new sink cabinet. It's amazing, the cabinet has drawers and all the plumbing fits behind this. He's a genius!
See how this all fits so nicely!
The floor is pretty dark, but I love it. It's made to look like slate. Not easy to get a good look at it in this photo. Perhaps I'll have to add another photo with a better shot of the floor? I kept the cabinet over the toilet because it helps to lessen the look of the toilet in the room. Otherwise, the toilet dominates the space...not truly a desireable thing.
The new sink cabinet! It's so great with the two drawers...the sink is wonderful. Has two faucets ~ wheeee!
And here is the new medicine cabinet. Given the depth of the sink, which is way less than the old one, only 19 inches, it is way easier to see yourself in the mirror. Not to mention that the mirror is significantly bigger too. Notice the tiling behind the faucets! It looks so great without the toothbrush holder, and other stuff. It's a nice, smooth wall now. Got some new metal miniblinds as well. They are silver and look so great in the room with the grays. I had demo'd the old mirror cabinet out of the wall and contemplated sheetrocking the space it left. For now the new cabinet hangs directly over the old hole until I can get to that project. Only thing left to do is paint the closet doors with all those slats. They are washed and ready to go. Oh, and the old light above the cabinet is still there...haven't found a replacement that I like yet.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Pretty Great Friends ~ and a Good Cause

I've recently been mentioned in a couple of really great blogs. Rose, of Waterrose included a nice piece about Etsy Project Embrace, which is an amazing group of Etsy artisans who have teamed together to support the American Cancer Society. Inspired by Laura Slocum of LauraSlocumpainted, who was diagnosed with ovarian cancer last year, this group is a driving force on Etsy. Waterrose is also an Etsian and makes fantastic embrodered items.

foxglove studios

Stacy, over at foxglove studios has a great blog all about handmade art and craft. She supports Etsy Project Embrace and her shop items can be found in several different platforms. See her blog to find links to all of her wonderful work, just click on her banner below.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Home Improvement Project #1 - heating system replacement

Look at this monstrosity of an oil tank.
I have to be honest, I've never owned a home with oil heat and I wasn't really pleased that the house I fell in love with had this heating system. Firstly, it really stunk. The whole place smelled like fuel oil. The previous owners (who were very, very awesome!) said that the smell went away each year after they had the boiler cleaned. I know I'm really sensitive to smells like this and went into the sale knowing that the smell would never diminish enough for my happiness. Secondly, the boiler was probably as old as the house (1940's or so according to my neighbor, Ron, across the street), and it needed to be replaced anyway....oh, and along with the 30 year old water heater! It was a miracle the water heater still worked! So first things first, and the oil tank was removed. (That's my Brother-In-Law, Shawn, who is a Master Plumber- LUCKY ME!!) He owns his own plumbing and heating business with my Sister, Leigh, called Peabody Plumbing & Heating out of Chicopee (I highly recommend him :)
Shawn organized the whole system replacement, including removing and proper disposal of the oil tank, the water heater and the boiler. Below, he works on taking apart the oil boiler, and HOLY SHIT, I had no idea just what was inside of these things. Huge cast iron parts, all rusty, full of crud, stinking to high heavens. For God's sake, it was nasty. And lo and behold, the boiler had been slowly leaking fuel oil for quite a few years...soaked into the concrete floor underneath. You can see it in the photo below...that brown on the floor below is NOT a dirt floor. That is the oil soaked concrete. I'm still working on scrubbing up that crap with phosphoric acid, so I can finally seal it and stop the stink once and for all (hopefully). If not, I think I'll hire someone with a jackhammer to come and get all that concrete up and refill the hole. Any one know someone with a jackhammer? LOL.

And Viola! Here is the new system, all in place and really pretty! It barely takes up any room at all. I think this shot might have actually been taken before some final touches were done (Shawn probably wouldn't approve!!), but this is the system. It's a wall hung, super-high-efficiency boiler, that is 96% efficient! It's by Triangle Tube and called the Prestige. Fancy! The tank next to it to the left is the hot water storage tank. The boiler manages the hot water in the house, so no separate hot water heater is needed. That tank is 30 gallons. This system is a hot water priority system, so it will give you hot water until the cows come home even if you blow through the 30 gallons. In winter, it'll shift priority over to the demand for hot water out of the storage tank, shifting heating to that instead of to the house. I can't imagine when I'd use more than 30 gallons of hot water....anyway, I haven't run out of hot water yet. And the whole thing heats the house nice and cozy!
Heating bill costs, you ask? So this house is basically uninsulated (except for a layer under the siding...which doesn't really do anything much). There's a breeze in some areas of the house. At first I tried setting the programmable thermostat as I normally would: 60 during sleeping hours and work hours, 72 when I'm home for long periods of time (ya, I like to be warm :). The new boiler is so super efficient that in order to jump from 60 to 72 it takes a really long time. It finds the most efficient way to get to 72. Way too long for my tastes. Shawn suggested just setting it at the temp I like and see what my bill might be like for one month. Set it and forget it. Which I did. 72. For 35 days straight (that was the billing period on the first full month bill that I received from Bay State Gas). Bill: $207. Shawn thought that was high, and maybe it was. He thought it would be half that. Well, if my house was insulated it might be half that, but seriously, I didn't think that was a bad number. I've had $600 bills in some of my homes, and that was keeping the heat down too. For heat, hot water, cooking, 35 days straight, night and day, 72 degrees! That's pretty incredible, honestly. Imagine if the house was insulated? I have the folks at CET (Center for Ecological Technology) coming to do an assessment of the energy efficiency of the house, including insulation. They will give a rebate up to $1500 towards insulation installation. Not sure if I'm ready to spend $4 to 8 thousand dollars on insulation though. The payback would take years. It would be nice to get rid of some of these breezes though.
First project in the new house is nearly complete! Next report will be on bathroom remodel...nearly done as well!