Monthly Archives: June 2012

Bathroom Progress (or Not)

The bathrooms we started gutting back in early April are still gutted. Granted, every bit of piping including the main stack has been replaced. Out with the cast iron and galvanized steel and in with the PVC and copper. The HVAC and electrical have been updated, and because we’re going all legal with permits and such, we got ourselves sidetracked.

The electrical inspector (a woman!) raised an issue about the ventilation fan we had placed in our main floor bath which led to further questioning which led to us talking to the village and their inspection service which led us to needing to file for an insulation permit which led us to needing to hire someone to come in and apply toxic spray foam insulation (or rip out the studs and rebuild the room and get to use standard insulation).

Baby steps, people. Baby steps.

I will also note that my living room continues to look like a plumbing supply warehouse and the house is huge mess.

Oh, and our garage sale was a success, but here we are, what? 2-3 weeks later, already building up our next “garage sale” pile in the basement. And the garage hasn’t even been fully emptied from our last sale  despite two trips to the charity resale shop with donations.

Also, hubs got laid-off recently, but I’m mostly happy about that. He’s got time to finish the bathrooms now!



A Black (and White) Single Mama of Four is Homeless Because of Me

Skunk living under our front stoop, mama skunkSweet success; the skunk is gone! I’ve been sharing my skunk adventures with Facebook fans for several weeks now. Basically, we had a gentle and well-behaved skunk making its home beneath our front stoop. It was like deja-vu all over again. Last year, I called in a trapper to catch the skunk, but once the traps were set, we never saw our wannabe pet again.



This year, I wanted to avoid the $125 trap fee as well as the inevitably stinky front-lawn death scene that would take place if the skunks were caught (state law, yo), so we stuck with trying to make life unpleasant for the skunk by repeatedly covering up the den entrance.

That doesn’t really stop a burrowing animal, especially one that really likes its home.

Even our extensive yard work, what with the regrading and laying of sod, didn’t seem to bother the skunk.

Nor did the mothballs we tossed into the den.

The old window screen I tried to bury near the entrance didn’t do it either. Like fingernails on a chalkboard to humans, burrowing animals don’t like the sound or feel of their nails scratching metal. But I didn’t plant it deep enough.

Oh well.

But when my husband said he spotted a family of skunks walking across our fresh sod one night, I knew I had to take action. When I mentioned on Facebook that it was time to get serious, a friend of a friend messaged me that used kitty litter can make a den stinkier than the skunks do. Even better, she offered to provide some for me.

So yes, early one spring morning after dropping my kids at school, I drove out to the woman’s house to pick up a bagful of well-soiled kitty litter. The mostly sealed bag sat on my lawn for a few days.

The early one evening, my husband told me he saw the skunk leave the den.

I sprang into action, sprinkling the aged kitty litter (whose odor was so potent that my child helper abandoned the project) at the entrance and then fully buried the old window screen and covered it all up with dirt and a large rock.

Done and done!

Sort of. We figured she wouldn’t  leave her babies behind. I’m a mom, too. I get it.

Sure enough she returned for her brood. She didn’t spray. She just dug and dug and dug until she got her babies and then she left. At which point I covered the entrance with dirt again.

But like many a harried mom trying to wrangle her little ones, she forgot one slowpoke and returned for it about an hour later. The den has been sealed since then.

She’s not really homeless. Skunks commonly keep several dens in their territory; our stoop was just a favored home. I’m pretty sure she’s living nearby because we’ve seen presents from her on our driveway and garden. (In the form of poop, of course.)

The other day I was out on a walk when I noticed Mama Skunk digging up grubs on a neighbor’s lawn. It was close to 8 in the morning and already a hot, sunny day, so I’m not sure why she was still out from her evening romp (please don’t say rabies, because then we should have trapped her and put her down). I stopped in my tracks, looked right at her and said, “What are you doing here?!” She looked up at me and scurried away.

That was the last Ive seen of her.

Garage Sale, Day 1

Today is the first day of our garage sale, so I’m keeping it simple on the blog. Earlier this week, the boys and I conjured up a great bit of summer fun with duct tape, a contractor trash bag and water.

Take a look at the Water Blob we made and let me know if you try this yourself. It was hours of fun using inexpensive materials we already had around the house. The fun was extended by the boys hovering over the computer creating mash-ups with the video segments I’d filmed. Best deal of the summer so far.

Stop by the garage sale if you’re a local. You’ll get the blog reader discount!

It’s summertime and the living is messy

School’s out, camp hasn’t started and the plumbing job I thought was going to last for two days took five. To be fair, I must have missed a part of the conversation. After all, we’re talking complete pipe replacement. Every bit of the old galvanized pipes are gone, replaced with copper or PVC. So it’s hectic and messy here at Casa de Reno.

And my boys haven’t been a great help. Between outdoor water fights and quick changes into swimsuits so they can head to the pool, I seem to be finding random pairs of underwear all over the house.

I mean, my bathroom is fair game considering that they are using our shower until theirs is in service, but why did I find a pair in my husband’s office?  On the porch? The living room?

These kids act like they’re being raised in a barn. *sigh*

S’mores, FTW!

ingredients for smores, marshmallows, graham crackers and chocolateSo neither the s’more room nor the snore room plans were executed as we initially hoped, but we’re still living the dream. At the moment the dream feels a bit nightmarish given that we’re down two bathrooms, my living room looks like a warehouse for a plumbing supply outlet, there is dust everywhere and our wood floors are a mess. This is why we’re going low-key with our weekend entertaining.

By low-key, I mean not more than a few hours of advance planning and crossing my fingers that we keep the party, S’more Fest, outside. And also crossing my legs that no one has to use the bathroom during our short fete.

We bought a $5 metal fire pit at a garage sale last summer. I scraped off the rust, sprayed on new paint, and we were good to go.

The old girl, er grill, is still doing the job and we’re using remains of the bushes we chopped down last year for the fire, so if you discount the boatload of carbon emissions we’ll be releasing, it’ll be kind of a green party.

Anyhoo, given that last night’s practice mini-s’mores fest involving just five neighborhood boys resulted in the use of nearly an entire bag of marshmallows, I’m not sure how many bags I need to pick up for tonight.

(Especially because I’m not exactly sure who’s coming–see paragraph 2.)

(If you happen to read this before 8:00 on Saturday and you’re local, stop over!)

On a related note, I’m thinking of re-upping at Weight Watchers after a few months away. Apparently my dietary self-control is limited unless I’m paying someone to hold me accountable. *sigh*

This is not a sponsored post or party (see note about running to the store), but FYI, Hershey’s is giving away cool prizes like fire pits that are much nicer than the one we’ll be using tonight. Check out the Hershey’s Facebook page for deets and promise to invite me over if you win. In exchange I’ll teach you my special golden double-roasted marshmallow technique.

This Post is Brought to You by Depends

We finally have a plumber in here to work on the house’s two original bathrooms, and when I say work on the bathrooms, I mean replace the cast iron plumbing stack that runs from down in the basement up through our second-story roof, plus pretty much every other original pipe. Because we’re doing the demo ourselves, DH ripped out the toilets last weekend meaning I need to run up a flight of 14 stairs if I need to pee.

And I do mean run, because I turn into a Zombie when I’m at the computer and when it hits me that I’ve been making a mental note to take a pee break  for, oh, two or three hours, time is of the essence.

Happily, the plumbers are here now. I was worried the water would be shut off while they are working on the bathrooms, leaving me no choice but to depend on Depends. (Or pee into a cup and then dump the contents into the skunk den under our front stoop, but I think it only scares them if the urine has a high testosterone content. Also, the skunks occupy the den during the day so this idea is really a worthless idea all around).

Fortunately, the plumbers are able to keep the water running in other areas of the house.

I am so glad we’ve finally started moving ahead on the bathroom renos. We have many of our new fixtures sitting in the living room and the others are on order. After the plumbing rough-in inspection later this week, the electrician will take center stage. DH, AKA the general contractor, “indulged” me by going tile hunting the other day, but I don’t think I was being premature. I really hope to have everything up and running by July.

Follow Reluctant Renovator on Facebook for the latest updates on skunks, chipmunks and all of the other wildlife trying to #OccupyMyYard.