Friday, December 17, 2010

And the winner is ... a heart valve replacement operation

Now that the house renovation was finished, I was contemplating what my next adventure should be - arranging a reunion for graduates of Edgarton Memorial School between 1957 and 1967 or getting into the historical society to do some organization of the material - but the choice was made for me.  I need to get my stenotic bicuspid aortic valve replaced.  That means open heart surgery with me on a heart-lung machine getting a plastic valve put in the place of my faulty one.  I will need warfarin (yep, rat poison) for the rest of my life to prevent dangerous clots and plaque buildup around the plastic valve.  This is not a fun adventure but a necessary one.

So, what the heck is a stenotic bicuspid aortic valve you say and why is it important?  The aortic valve lets the oxygenated blood out of your heart into the blood vessels so that your cells can convert sugars in your blood and cells into energy for your muscles and brain.  Pretty important, I'd say.  A normal heart valve is tricuspid (has 3 flaps) but mine is bicuspid (has 2 flaps).  That is significant because it cuts down on the amount of blood that can flow out of my heart in one pump.

To explain, take a round plastic lid from a margarine container and cut it down the middle with one single slash, then squeeze the edges of the lid towards each other and examine the opening, seeing two "flaps". Now, take another lid and this time make a Y shaped cut instead of a single line.  When you squeeze the edges of the lid together, you see three flaps and the hole will let more liquid through more easily.  As a child I had less stamina and lower peak performance of my contemporaries, and this is why.  Regardless of how much harder I worked to get faster or last longer or be more efficient in movement, my heart valve was rate limiting (techno speak - that's me) and I could not overcome that.

Stenosis means stiffening.  So, now do I not only have a defective valve but it doesn't even work as well as when I was younger.  It doesn't open as far as it used to.  Hence, I huff and puff going fast or climbing stairs.  This usually is accompanied by heart pain, but I have either come to ignore it or I just don't experience it.  The doctor is not certain.  I do know that I can feel heart pain if I shovel snow as I did last winter, and so I don't do that anymore.

When someone has this condition, the doctor looks at pain level, how much blood is flowing, the size of the heart chamber, and the size of the valve opening to determine when the valve should be replaced.  This year's echo cardiogram showed the blood flow is up (thanks to Pilates) but the chamber is showing enlargement (for the Grinch, heart enlargement is a very good thing; for a human, it is not), and the valve opening is very severely restricted to 0.5 centimeters.  Anything under 1 centimeter is considered severe.

So, it's time to do this before it becomes an emergency situation involving an ambulance and a helicopter.  I will be meeting with the liaison between my cardiologist and the University of Pennsylvania hospital later in January to plan out the tests and surgery.  They may stick a teensy camera in a vein and run it through to my heart to see the valve in operation and check for other problems.  That would be an adventure indeed.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Unique desk mixes old and new elements from house

The base is an old radiator cover from the original house - I don't know if my great uncle or my grandfather made.  I took out the louvered doors to make a shelf for my sister's pc tower to sit on.  The top is an old door from the attic that didn't work once they wallboarded up there.  Since it had the insets, we filled them with leftover bamboo flooring.  Once we cut a hole for cords, it was ready to go.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Art installed ... better known as a sign

 So, I found this 34 inch by 76 inch by 3/4 inch piece of plate glass when we moved the ice house.  It stayed outside during the winter and I pondered what I could do with it.  The piece just was too heavy and large to make into a coffee table.  This summer I remembered that as a craft project during my girl scout years, we had etched glass.  I looked up what was required of the glass and whether it was possible to buy the etching acid in a large quantity.   And, voila, the idea for using it to identify the house was born.

I then had to find out how to make a stencil and what works is clear contac(tm) paper.  Next step was to figure out what I wanted to etch into the glass beside my last name.  It was pretty obvious though - a pigeon to honor that the original Davis (my grandfather) had been co-owner with Dyer of the largest pigeon farm on the east coast in the 30's and 40's.  I asked my mom to find a simple dove graphic and letters in a font that did not have many or any serifs and would be thick.  We put the dove on two regular sheets and each letter filled on sheet of paper.  

The next step was for me to tape them on to the contac(tm) paper and cut them out with an exacto(tm) knife.  The letters were easy but the pigeon was not.  Getting the tail feathers right was tedious as I had to make sure the stencil did not get so skinny it would tear when I removed the backing.

The next step required a sunny day and an extra pair of skilled hands (thanks Doug!).  We set up sawhorses and Doug put the piece of glass down on them so I could scrub and dry both sides.  The wind and sun did the final drying and kept the oak leaves off.  I had made the stencil from one continuous piece to ensure that the spacing between the letters and dove was correct and to make sure they were all center aligned.   This was correct but that made getting the backing off the contac(tm) paper hard while keeping the whole thing correctly aligned on the glass.

I applied the etching acid thickly with a brush made for doing pastels on canvas.  I swirled it a bit to make the pigeon appear more feathery.  That was sort of successful.  Fifteen minutes later, water rinsed it all off and there was the bird and the DAVIS.

The temperature was slated to drop into the 30's that night, so Doug moved it into the new garage.  A week went by and the temperature came up enough to pour concrete.  So, Doug put pressure treated posts in the ground and braced them and poured concrete to anchor them, making sure they were straight up.  Next, he built a frame that the glass would fit into that would attach to the posts.  This material is also pressure treated lumber.  Once the concrete was set, he added bracing in the back to the posts because we were concerned that wind might make blow the whole thing over.

I had chosen to site the art at an angle to the house because the prevailing wind is from the north and would have hit the side of the post square on.  I am hoping the angle will help deflect some of the force of the wind when we have a storm.  

In the spring, I will be able to paint the pressure treated wood, but for now it has to cure before I can do that, so it is au naturel.  That also lets me decide whether the paint color should be red, gray, or white.  Any votes?

And, if anybody asks if I am opening a business, I will insist the sign is art and it was the pigeon or a set of pink flamingos (Thanks, Sandra).  BTW, the pigeon shows up very well when the sun is shining directly on the glass, not above or behind it as in the photos above.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Bushes and fireplaces

Some necessary items have been taken care of but they don't make good photos like shelves in closets.  The weather cooled off so I started in on some landscaping -- privacy hedge to be out of leyland cypress and two leyland cypresses to grow up in front of glass block windows in jack and jill bathroom.  These are primarily to block the late afternoon sun and just a bit more sense of privacy in the evening.  I also put in a red crepe myrtle for a bit of color from late July through September.  All of these have plenty of space to grow.  Sod comes next since the cool spell was interrupted by another heat wave this week.

The tile installer I had been waiting for all summer was also available and he put marble and glass tiles over the brick facing and threshold for the bedroom fireplace (was the original living room) and used marble tiles to make a raised hearth on either side of the living/room dining room fireplace.  The raised hearth is basically a box of 3/4 inch plywood to provide a surface to glue onto and to support someone stepping or sitting on it.  There are also 4 rows of matching marble mosiac all around each opening.  The tile installer also used (and had to cut them down to make them fit exactly) black pencil on the inside lip of the opening sides.  You do not see it but it butts up against the metal frame of the fireplace and the wall board encasing it.  The mosaic tiles overlap the pencil tiles.  Next effort is to create the wooden part of the facing and a wrap around mantle.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Thanks Greenwich NJ residents of 1774

Took a ride on this July 4th to a hot bed of activity for US independence in 1774 -- Greenwich, New Jersey.  It is spelled like the place in Great Britain but pronounced "green" "witch".    There was a tea party there to protest the tea tax but it involved burning the tea rather than dumping into a harbor.  The official story is here

So, hats off and thanks for whatever contribution people living in that time made towards achieving independence for the United States of America.  I owe you each one.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

At first it didn't look real

This is a luna moth (I had to look it up) sitting on the handle of a broom by the front door.  The green is very delicate lime tone and its wingspan is at least 3 inches.  The moth must have emerged this morning.  I had heard of them being large, lovely creatures but had never seen one in person.  What a special treat.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Official shift from construction mortgage today!

This feels so much better.  For one thing, the rate on a conventional mortgage is what the market is offering rather than the high interest a construction loan uses.  Also, on a construction loan all you pay is interest so it just builds up without any pay down of the amount owed.  The transfer was treated as a re-finance so I had to do a closing with title search, etc all again. 

And, with the weather so hot and dry, there is no rush to get landscaping done now.  I can put that off until fall and really know what should be mulch, what should be foundation planting, and what needs to be crushed rock.  In other words, I need a design but I can take my time and get something pleasing and functional.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Driveway in use, coffer trim up

Coffer trim was built and stained off site then finally assembly was done in the house on the floor.  Basically the trim is a rectangle formed as a squared off letter J so that the rope lighting has somewhere to sit.  The trim is attached to the ceiling with metal brackets that will need to be painted over.  It also creates gaps between the ceiling wall board and the trim because the wall board is not completely flat.  The gaps were filled in with dark brown caulking.

Using a stain also helps tie the coffer trim to the window trim and looks more finished that a contrasting color.  Next is to get the rope lighting installed.  Electrical boxes are already there with switches in place too.

I was finally able to use the driveway.  So nice.  Awaiting permit for garage electric so I can have opener for door installed.  There is no way I can reach up to close it.
I have been off the air so long because I have been watering the grass seed the contractor spread around and with the heat here in NJ that has been an all day task.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Driveway taking shape

This time was grandson was able to see the cement mixer truck actually pouring out the concrete.  Then one of my great-nephews was able to watch the concrete being smoothed into place.  The driveway is large enough that several pours over several days will occur to ensure that the driveway does not crack.  The septic tank is basically in the middle so the tank is now covered with a metal cover so vehicles can drive over it.  The tank cover will be painted black for a bit of decor. 

The next pour requires a drain be installed and the ground be shaped into a swale to channel water to the back of the lot.  There is about a foot drop from the maximum height of the driveway to garage and then to the back of the lot.  Thus, care has to be taken in making sure water channels away from the garage and the house then off to the rest of the lot.  So glad I am paying professionals to do this job, not just someone who does this part time.

I also had to make sure that more than 65% of the lot was not covered with non-drainables. If my back of the envelope calculations, the house, old garage, icehouse, new garage, and new driveway take up 50% of the lot so I am okay.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Garage painted, has gutters, chimney topped out on addition

That little silvery colored thing on top of roof finishes off the gas fireplace.  It lets gases out and keeps rodents, birds, bats, and rain out.

Driveway is next up.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Garage has siding, side door, and overhead door

It passed inspection from the town also.    There is more work to be done yet by the general contractor.  He had to add extra grab railing because the steps are steep to the breezeway, add gutters to garage, add screening and doors to breezeway, make sure there are splash blocks for each downspout for the house, garage, and icehouse, and paint.

Monday, May 24, 2010

One garage floor, scored and two windows

All three windows were installed though only three showing in photo.  Changed from a full light door to a steel door without windows as it is more secure and light is no longer needed.  Won't look as attractive but sometimes security function trumps decorative appeal.  The scoring for expansion also does not show in photo, but it is necessary where concrete may experience wide range of temperatures and humidities.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Garage floor is now wet concrete

When the concrete mixer truck showed up, the dye was added into the mix from the top and the mixing speed was sped up so the color would go all through the 6 and half yards.  The speed and load meant the truck was rocking side to side as if it was a boxer getting ready for the next round.  The color I choose is gray so right now it looks much like ordinary cement.  When it cures and gets a sealer, the color will be much darker and match better to the stamped concrete.  The workmen also had this nifty machine to smooth the concrete down.  It has about a 10 foot piece of metal bent at a 90 degree angle and a motor that vibrates the metal imitating how you smooth concrete by hand.  Saves time and the workmen's backs.  The workmen will be back for final smoothing after the concrete cures a bit.

Garage floor has sand layer ready for concrete

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Side yard looks like gravel stream bed this morning

We have had very little rain here for the past 6 weeks so the gravel in the side yard around the new garage was packed hard.  Yesterday the gravel was all loosened as they backfilled around and in the new structure.  Last night the rain started and will continue all day as squalls roll through with heavy downpours.  Consequently, the side yard has deep channels as the water finds the easiest route downhill, hopefully not undermining the new garage foundation.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

More progress 3 hours later

The back wall of garage will have two windows and the area above the garage door will have one window.  The garage sits east to west, with the door on the east side.  The window above the door is reusing a replacement vinyl window from the original part of the house and the two on street level are partially screened by evergreen trees.  Those two windows were to go into the jack and jill bathrooms but I had them pulled and put in the glass block instead.  So re-purposing makes money sense and adds light in the afternoons.  I may have to put blinds or curtains if too easy to see inside from a car.

Frame from 8am to about 11am

Monday, May 10, 2010

Garage sill plate and tar coating went on today

The tar coating smells awful but keeps water away from the block foundation below grade level.  The sill plate has a foam liner between the wood and the cement block and is held in place with bolts in the cement going up through the wood with a heavy not racheted on to hold it place.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Foundation block for garage complete

They started at 6am and finished at 6pm.  It was a warm, dry day but not sweltering hot.  The next step after the mortar cures is to apply tar below the ground level.   Then it has to be inspected before they can backfill and pour the garage floor.  Unfortunately, the next day for inspection is Tuesday, almost a week away. 

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Garage footings larger and have more concrete

Not much happening here.  I am recuperating from the big push to get the house ready for a visit from my son and his wife and a family gathering to celebrate Mother's Day early.  The back shower stopped working just in time for my overnight visitors and today the plumber was out to fix it.  The problem was a spring that got caught and then he discovered it was missing a clip.  That is a special order because I have a Moen fixture and that is not what they carry parts for normally.  So, it will be a few days and the plumber will be back to make it all hunky dory.  The plumber also looked at the weak stream of water from the front shower hand held and discovered a wad of plumber's putty in the inlet filter along with sediment that had stuck to it.  That was a easy fix and the hand held works properly.

The excavator was here in the morning to dig out the extra dirt needed to get the proper size then someone else was here to measure again to make sure it was okay.  Later a concrete truck showed up and now there is additional footing curing.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Thought I was going to post photos of guys building up garage foundation

So I am not, at least until next week some time.  The workmen were here at 7am and went immediately into conference, measuring and muttering.  It turns out that the man who came with his digger was supposed to use the outside of the markings as a guide for his bucket.   Instead he used the markings as the middle of the bucket.  So the outline of the garage is too short by more than a foot on two sides.  The digger will be back on Monday to fix this.   Urgh

Friday, April 30, 2010

Art and mirror up really make house seem my home

These are just a few of the things on the walls.  And my sister can stop worrying.  The piece she finds objectionable is hanging in my room.   Teenager helping me find the northwest art cool but the objectionable myth piece showing Pygmalion sculpting Galatea who was brought to life by Venus at Pygmalion's wish for the perfect woman he found creepy.  The objectionable piece is a framed poster of Jean-Leon Gerome's painting.  My sister finds any depiction of nudity objectionable so was fun in Las Vegas to get her to pose in front of statues at the Bellagio and the Forum casinos and snap photos.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Bright red is not navy mixed with bright blue !!

So I ordered a shag rug to go next to the soaking tub in the color scheme of navy mixed with bright blue.  I was all excited when the rug was delivered today but the package seemed too big and long for what I ordered.  I opened one end and was surprised by a bright red color.  The company is shipping out the right rug tomorrow but now it will not here in time for a visit by my son and his wife from Seattle. I have not seen my son for a year and his wife for even longer than that.  Well, you win some and lose others.
Garage footings were poured today since the rain held off despite the dark gray skies.

passed garage footing inspection yesterday

Not very exciting, more holes in the ground forming a rectangle, filled with rebar.  The inspector was here all of 60 seconds.  Long enough to look and fill out the form with the okay.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Another piece of furniture in place and some house jewelry

More construction items that are left over or to be used later were moved to the garage so I could get my buffet in its place.  Now I just have to find the fancy dishes in the old garage so I can fill it up.  The buffet is one of my pieces from Seattle that was not damaged by the water and mold in the portable storage unit.  It would be hard to replace since it was made of alder by a craftsman in Oregon.  I really love the old/modern look of the piece and the depth given the wood by the stain used.

The baubles were added to the chandelier in the dining room and for sure no one will notice where one of the arms cracked and had to be glued back together.  It is fun to have a bit of sparkly house jewelry.  The piece is not a traditional chandelier but comes from Spain.  It is made of all black and silvered glass with smoky crystal drops.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Living room starting to emerge from boxes

Unlike those HGTV shows such as Sarah's House where renovation also means selecting furniture that fits exactly in to the space, my budget doesn't allow for that.  So I am making the best I can with my existing furniture.  This means book cases are not going upstairs since they won't fit up there.  Instead they are put in the living room and one has to overlap a window a bit so their corner match up.  Also, the antique book cases have to be stacked up around the flat screen to make a surface to put the cable box and dvd player upon. And what am I going to do with all those speaker wires?  Drill holes in my new bamboo floor, really you say?  A quilt rack has become a towel holder outside one of the showers.  Various used pieces are being spray painted to fit into the decor of the back bathroom such as a little shelve unit to hold towels and provide a surface for guests to put toothbrushes, etc.