My Blanken World

My world of boys, textiles and moving.

Softer side July 29, 2019

 

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When we bought our house, we used a VA loan.  They go through extra steps to ensure your house is sound.  Some people won’t sell to people using the loan because of it.  And honestly, sometimes the extra steps can seem a little crazy.

When they did their testing, they almost didn’t allow us to buy the house because of the water.  We didn’t understand it at the time, but soon figured it out.  They fixed the “stale” water issue with bleach before we moved in, but they were still on the fence due to the hard water issues.  We didn’t quite understand.

A few months ago I finally found a water softening company that would actually call me back.  (Nice to know business is so good, you can ignore phone calls.)  When they tested our water, it was 25/411.  For those like us, who those numbers mean nothing, the healthy zone is under 10/180.

 

WOW!

 

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Which would also explain why everything in our house is crazy crunchy.  Including our skin and hair.

We recently finished our spare bathroom renovation.  I turned on the water once to test the new fixtures and it stained it with that one use.  There was no way I was going to actually use my fancy new bathroom with this issue happening!

But that left me at an impasse.  We still have the kitchen and master bath to go, but then wouldn’t be able to use them.

For the last few months I scrimped and saved (kids don’t actually have to be fed right?), and Friday we finally got our water softener installed!  A surprise to my dentist man.  Part of his Father’s Day gift.  He’s been a dad a while.  We’re running out of idea’s.

 

So far it’s been interesting.  The first night our normally sweet tasting well water tasted more like the plastic water softener container.  That made us a bit worried.

They did tell us to use *a lot* of water over the next 2-3 days, a bit of a challenge since both of the boys remaining in the house left for the week.  But the fourth born did what he could before he left.

A few showers and dishwasher and laundry loads later and I’m glad to say the plastic taste is gone.  The salty taste still remains.  Not like, salt lick salty, more like… “is that salt I taste?”  But I think the only reason why we notice, is because we’re used to good flavored water.  Something a lot of people don’t have the luxury of.  We won’t be complaining.  (Our outdoor spigots aren’t connected, so if we’re really desperate for that sweet well water flavor, we can always fill our glass from there.)

 

I am happy to say though that our showers have been *amazing*!  As in, they felt so good we were a bit weirded out when the softened water finally made it through the system.  My dentist man came out of his first shower and said “The water feels slippery?  Slick?”

 

Well it’s water… of course it’s slippery?

 

I took a shower.  He was right.

 

So, can I say I would spend that much money for salty water again?  Yes!  Our dishwasher is already getting cleaner.  Our clothes are already coming out cleaner.  And my hair feels amazing!  And the fact that we didn’t know water was slippery says a lot about how long we’ve lived with the hard water.

 

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My entire next week will be spent updating the kitchen counter, sink and faucet (back splash will come soon).  Finally.  Do I know how to party or what?!

 

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Floored July 15, 2019

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If you’ve followed me for any amount of time, you know that we’ve been attempting renovations for the last 6 years.

We bought our house knowing it would need massive updating from its original 1979/1980’s interior.  It was a challenge.  It was made even more of a challenge when “that house” started to take over reality.

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Reality fought back for control and we’ve started to actually get things done!

The family requested floors first.  (If I had to do it over again, it would be far, far lower on my list… like after plumbing.  Seriously.  Do plumbing first.)

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For 5 years, we walked around on subflooring.  And I have to admit, it started to grow on me.  You could spill anything and it didn’t matter.  I even started toying with the idea of just sanding it down a bit and leaving it.

Yeah, I was getting desperate.

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But we got a break after I quite work and had a little extra money left over to finally buy some flooring.  It took about a year to get it in, but… it’s in.  And it’s fantastic!

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Let’s start with the fact that we have two dogs.  Two dogs that NEVER leave my side.  Seriously.  If I leave the house, when I get home, they are up my keester.  The big dog actually left a nose print on my “crack” last week after I got home.

So, I had to do the floors creatively.

We’ll start off with the boards.  8 ft by 8″ pine from Lumber Liquidators.  They were amazing through the whole process!  We paid in installments and when I came to pick it up in my old truck, they had me call when I got home to make sure I made it all the way (an hour and a half drive in a truck with a broken speedometer.)  We wanted lots of knots and weird marks.  I would have preferred just boards, but they came interlocking.  We rolled with it.

The “stain” is coffee.  We used free coffee grounds from the local coffee shop.  (We’ll also be using it for the trim now too because we can’t get a good color match with actual stain.)  The darker you want the color, the more coffee “brew” you “paint” on.  Our floor took about 11 coats.  (The trim is taking about 13.)

The final protective coats were Tung oil and Waterlox.  I was trying to keep it as natural as possible since the pets would be on it all day long and we’d be smelling it for weeks before it dried.  I don’t have babies any longer, but it would be safe for them also.  Tung oil is what they used to use to waterproof boats.  It smells yummy!  Like chocolate.  So when I used D-Limonene to “water” it down for the first few coats it smelled like a chocolate-orange factory!  Fantastic the first few days, not so much after a month or so.  And finally Waterlox for the final two coats.  It’s not completely natural, but it’s about as natural as you’re going to get for durability and shine (along with it’s waterproofness for the big drooly dog!)  My dentist man wanted it “super shiney” as his only request and Waterlox has that!

I spent 5 years researching.  I am very satisfied with my choices.

To be honest though, I didn’t want perfection.  I wanted cracks between the boards.  I wanted scratches to happen.  I wanted discoloration over time.  I could have put on a few more coats for perfect protection, but I really didn’t want that.  I wanted an old, lived in look.  It was going to happen with any floor we put it, so we might as well make it a feature!

I picked underlayment that was recycled, “slightly” natural and helped cut down on the noise between floors.  A huge issue we have.

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Because of the dog/butt issue, I couldn’t just put the floor down and then stain it.  No.  No that would have been entirely too simple.

So, instead, I did 15 stained/coated boards at a time, and then tilted them up against any available wall.  ANY wall, while they dried.  Boards were everywhere.  The family loved it…not.  But they could at least see progress.

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I am VERY satisfied with the final product!  They turned out great!  And other than a massive flood in the bathroom, they’ve done perfect!  The dogs drool all over the floors, new kitten accidents, leaking plants, a leak in the kitchen, it’s taken it all without any issues.

The only thing I’d change – I wanted nails for the “authentic” look, but should have just put the holes in for the look instead.

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Our final touch, before sealing everything up, was of course…

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I managed to get two boys to let me paint chalk outlines of them before laying the underlayment.  It’s awesome – love my boys!

 

 

Up in the air July 8, 2019

Filed under: Growing,Home improvement,Moving,Renovations — blankenmom @ 12:53 am
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A couple of years ago, I put in trellises for our raised garden beds.  My beds aren’t anything amazing, you can’t really get to fancy when you know you’ll be moving again, but for us, these are working pretty well.

I wanted something that even my 6′ husband could walk under, that was inexpensive and would accommodate changes.  With twine attached, this did all those things.

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However, the trellises were leaving something to be desired.  They kept flying away.

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We get pretty strong winds out here, and for the last two years at least one has been going down on a monthly basis.  Very frustrating.  After two flew away into the neighbors 20 acres and the 4th born and I had to run after them, I was done.

After constant repairs, readjustments, even bolting them down –  I needed to rethink the whole thing.

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These have been amazing!

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A little more than we had planned on spending, but, we can take them with us when we move and reuse them.

I’m very, very pleased with these so far after a couple of months of 40 mph winds – I haven’t had to catch even one!

If you’re looking for trellis idea’s for your garden, I highly suggest these.

At 4’11” I was able to pound the cattle fencing poles in rocky ground myself.  I was able to put the panels up myself.  The birds love them, and the plants are doing much better with these.

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How are your gardens growing this year?

 

 

Getting …. stuff done! June 24, 2019

 

 

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I have honest to goodness, seriously been getting a ton of stuff done!  I mean, like, super duper getting things done!

Graduating children, of the male variety in our house of course.

Growing kittens to their maximum size – can we say giant kitties?!

Working on the house – which includes several new skills!

The garden of course – ’tis the season.

Teaching the last child to drive – (“But did you die” should never be the theme of a drive.)

I’ve gotten so much done, that I finally have things to post!  Good things!  Things you’ll actually want to see – ’cause they’re pretty awesome if I do say so myself.

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We’re at a pause, we can’t move forward with some of the bigger changes until the water softener is put it.  So… we wait.  Until then, I have time to set aside my hammer, nails, glue and bandages to finally sit down and type.

I’ll start with the simplest tonight.  The graduating third-born.

 

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At his graduation party at church, they asked for a small bio of each kid – this is a slightly edited version of his –

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“Harrison, middle name is after all three of his grandfathers. The third son of four. Our “Pooh-bear”. And known as his dad’s “mini-me”. He started his life the way he continued it – relaxed. Nearly three weeks late, he decided the night before induction that maybe he should in fact, make an exit and came out on his own. But what he lacked in promptness, he made up for in expedience. Something that continues to this day.

At 10 lbs even, he made a big entrance into our family. Over the next few years, his quiet and relaxed disposition, chubby smile, demand for exactness and the love of ALL foods made him stick out from his brothers. Often times making sure even his older brothers stuck to the rules, but also protecting what was his by any means possible – heaven help the brother that moved his toys from their carefully aligned position!

After discovering him hiding his toys, and food, in his diaper so no one else could touch them, he was given a rolling backpack that he was known for for years by anyone who knew him. Carrying it every where he went with all of the life possessions that any a small boy could ever need. Most notably – his snack and the Honey Baked Ham catalog he learned to read with. To this day he still protects his most prized possessions and favorite books, but on shelves thank goodness.

If you were to ask his four year old self to help out with chores you’d be greeted with a “sleeping Harrison” with his head tilted back and a fake snore – “Honk-shoo, Honk-shoo”. Today, he still has an uncanny knack to “not hear you” if necessary, but he’s also one of the first out the door to get his chores done.

As he got older and started to read something other than his catalogs, his love of learning leaped ahead of his brothers and he started school two years earlier than the rest. The only one to never argue about or skip an assignment, or send one back undone, he was a breath of fresh air to teach. He will gladly share his love of history, geography, languages and politics with anyone near. And will try just about any food offered for the sake of the experience.

While his insistence to be right can sometimes make you want to bang your head against the wall, his dimpled smile and soft hugs make all things right again.

He grew up in church, and going to church camps. But made his commitment the summer of 2015 getting baptized. Jumping into the lake with 100’s of people watching, with all his clothes still on – he was ready! Then he learned he could share his faith, and meet new people from around the world, and that’s when his faith really took off. His passion to spread the word has been ignited!

He’s a military brat from birth and has enjoyed, or not enjoyed, several places in the US. With each move, he quietly discovered the world around him.

As we watch him make his next move, this time on his own, we can only imagine what he’ll discover. Whether he decides on law, pastorship, military, teaching History, all of the above or something he hasn’t even thought of yet – what ever he chooses, his relaxed disposition, thirst for knowledge and ability to casually lead those around him will take him to places he could never imagine and we can only dream of.”

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He’ll be with us for a few more months – rent is high in our house.  But we’ll enjoy him while he’s still hanging out with us.

 

And while my dentist man and I chant “Three down, one to go!” I am also very well aware at how much I’m going to miss each and every one of them.  “The days are long, but the years are short” is all to true.  But we don’t discover that until it’s too late.  But with that said…

…three down, one to go!

 

 

 

 

Recalibrating December 30, 2018

I am recalibrating my system

 

2017 was a whirlwind of crazy, crazy ups and downs that left me at rock bottom.  Which can be a good thing… When you’re down, you only have up to go right?  So I took 2018 to get back on my feet.  Recuperating takes time my friend.

This year was a great year to figure things out.  Recoup.  Learn.  Gather.  Recover.  Gain back strength.

Which means next year, I can start stronger.  More confident.  More knowledgeable and without the fear I carried for far too long.

When people talk about getting older, I’ve always laughed.  I don’t fear getting older.  It means I don’t get mistaken for a teenager any longer (yes, this can be a very good thing!) and it also means I’m one year closer to fully not giving a care about others opinions.  While I’m not totally there – I still wear a bra when I go places.  I do have a new sense of “What-evs!”.  My boys can attest to this.

 

The old thoughts, going back to childhood, went away.

Teachers telling me I would fail, merely for being me, went away.

Harsh words from strangers, that have held on for years, went away.

Worry about massive failure, went away.

Thinking I had to fix all the problems, went away.

 

They fell off on the way back up from rock bottom.  They’re still down there, but they were too heavy to bring back up with me.

 

A sermon discussing Job has been going through my head the last few months.  The pastor talked about Satan telling God that Job failed because he railed against Him.  He complained, and groaned.

God told Satan, “Yes, but he still came to me to do those things. He never turned away from Me, and he never disobeyed.  He did not fail.”

 

Failing isn’t going through hard times.  Failing is quitting during the hard times.

 

We started work on the bathroom – we were trying to get it done before a mission kid came from Costa Rica.  It won’t happen.  I discovered I have to change out the plumbing behind the wall before I can even think about tiling.  Which means learning a new skill, and possibly setting the house on fire.  After a day of researching, sweating, getting stressed.  I finally just ordered the parts and figured – if they don’t fit, I can send it back.  If my plumbing skills don’t work, I call in a plumber to fix it.

Asking for help is not failure.  Not having it work the first time is not a failure.  Giving up before even trying, is a failure.

Worst case scenario – I scorch the inside of the wall, lose water for a day (or so), and have to call in a plumber.  But I tried.  Better to have tried and failed, then to have never tried.  I’d rather fail at dozens of things, than do nothing, safely, having not learned a thing.

 

One more year.  Getting a little older.  A little closer to just not caring.  Learning a few more important lessons.  Letting go of a few people who needed to go, and gaining a few more that are needed.  I can’t think of a better way to remember a year.

 

What are your best memories from this last year?

 

Michael Broom

 

Time off for good behavior August 26, 2018

 

 

I am fully aware that it’s been a year.  I timed it that way actually.

 

This last year has been a doozy.  Crazy.  Exhausting.  Productive.  Frustrating.  Amazing.

 

I’ll just cover the instigator of my time off here though.  It was this time last year, that we began our process of selling “that house”.  The bane of my existence.  What kept me up at night, and crazy by day.

As of Nov. 15th, after three, very VERY long months, we had a sold house.

 

You would think we would be ready to shout it from the roof tops – party like crazy!  Instead, it felt more like a limp to the finish line where we fell over it instead of a victory lap.  Our victory lap instead came as a year long recovery.  Well, it may actually take a bit longer than that.

The process itself to sell it, was about as pleasant as it was to own it.  But the people who helped us were amazing – complete blessings!  They got us through it and it’s still kind of not real to us, even a year later.

 

But the year to follow has been an absolute whirlwind.  Seeing so many blessings come after the sale lifting us back up, has been the best part of the whole process.  From nearly no money left in the bank account the day of the sale and still needing bills covered – to the money coming in right on time.  And money to cover the actual completion of the renovations instead of our east coast money pit.  Yes, we’ve finally started.  A stove again.  Floors going in.  Sinks and tiles and faucets that we’ve been without.  It’s exhausting work, but it feels so good to finally see progress, and to walk on real floors again.

 

While this isn’t a long one, it is the beginning of being back.  Not totally sane, but back again.  With lots of craziness to share.  Pictures to post.  News to announce.  And creatures to show off.

 

So… thank you for your patience.  It paid off.  Let the stories begin…

 

Smoggy days of summer August 12, 2017

Filed under: Animals,Home improvement,Renovations,Sewing — blankenmom @ 11:00 pm
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I’m not sure about where you live, but around here, we get wildfires.  A lot.  Every year.  This year was no exception, except for the fact that as the neighbors who have been here longer than I’ve been alive tell me, this is the closest they’ve ever come to this neighborhood – figures.  At least it’s not flooding.

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Both fires within a mile; one in each direction.

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On top of that, we’re getting the smoke from fires up north.  It’s gotten so bad that it’s barely possible to leave the windows open, or even leave the house.  But we’ve also been hitting nearly 110*, so during the day, that’s not much of a concern, at night we’ve just decided black lung is a good way to go out.

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So a lot of projects inside the last few weeks.

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The flooring is finally being worked on, but I want to save that story for when it’s finished.  But I am getting plenty of pictures of the whole process and am in love with how it’s turning out so far!  I’m also learning plenty, and will have what I’ve learned in that future post.

I can’t work on any wood cutting or sanding for my bathroom project because of the heat and smoke – but this week is supposed to cool off and the smoke dissipate, so I’ll be back to work on that end.

 

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But just so you know I’m not completely slacking, I did get a porch project finished that I’ve been wanting since we moved in.

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What I wanted was the big, billowy curtains that all the other bloggers have, but judging from their pictures, they don’t have to contend with 30 mph winds on a regular basis.  So, this is what I came up with for our current situation, and I have to say I’m pleased with the results!

When it get’s above 100* out here, you can’t go near the back porch, but these curtains bring the temp down 10-15*.  Which definitely makes it more usable.  It also cuts down on how hot the actual house gets.  This side of the house stays warm all through the night from the solar heating it get’s all day.   I won’t say that it keeps it cold, but it is a huge help!  And with our stove still out of commission, this means I can use the grill all through the summer without needing emergency services.  I should just really put a solar oven out there!  Maybe next year?

It also covers the large window in the living room, cooling the living room down by about the same amount, which means my plants won’t cook anymore.

I know, you’re asking the same thing my dentist man asked “Why not just put curtains up?”.  As I said above, it’s not just about cooling the interior down, it’s also about being able to use the back porch, and grill.  By putting the curtains up outside, even over the big window, the house still stays brighter (good for my brain, and the plants), and the actual building stays cooler, and I can still use the back porch (if it’s not over 100*).  It also solves the problem of wanting the breeze, but needing the shade.  Sunset usually coincides with dinner time.

I’m in love with these!

Next year I will update them to brown to match the house, or forest green to match the roof, and make the curtains for the big window a bit smaller.  But they do exactly what I needed for this year!

Now if only they could keep the smoke out?

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