Wednesday, October 29, 2008

we -heart- halloween

This is where we left off with Halloween a couple weeks ago so we could get back to housework.. but the time is nearing and we had big plans!

<-- This little scarecrow was cute and all, but not even the 2 year old across the street was scared of him.. clearly something had to be done!

I found this hanging guy who looked just right for a scarecrow. Add in an old pair of Dan's pants and a bale of hay and newspapers, and viola - a scary scarecrow!

(small, stating-the-obvious side note.. hot glue, is hot! not nearly as fun to peel of fingers as elmer's glue)

Here's Dan getting the scarecrow in position.. you can't tell yet, but this one is scary in more ways than just being bigger!

Here he is all in position.

Behind him on the spider web is our floating magic mirror of doom. He's hard to get a picture of, but is very cool and creepy. He talks to our guests, which takes everyone by surprise and is surprisingly scary.

He lures you in and distracts you while..

.. mr. scary scarecrow gets even scarier!!

He's mounted to a pneumatic contraption Dan built for Halloween a few years back.

<-- This is the grim reaper who watches over the graveyard. These little faux fire cauldrons are really great for ambiance and uplighting

<-- and here's an overview of the whole house. I have to say, our house may look a little shabby still the rest of the year, but it's exactly perfect for Halloween!

It's no surprise to anyone anymore how much we get into Halloween, so when we heard there was a house haunting contest in Alameda we had to enter! The woman who started it grew up in Alameda and wants to see the island get back into the spirit of the holiday she remembers from when she was a kid. That's a concept we can totally get behind! There are a few parts of town that really do things up, but now that's where all the kids go, so the spooky spirit has died down on other parts of the island - we only had about 20 trick-or-treaters last year, while a couple other streets were swarming with kids!

So we're thrilled to be supporting that cause, and it turns out we won 2nd place! Look at the awesome gift basket and trophy!!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

the beige and red and pink brick road

So, the first thing I did when I got started Saturday morning was clean all the cat poop out of the nice, loose sand after I figured out what all the flies were so interested in..

And in doing that, I disturbed this guy.. I have no idea what it is, but I'd be interested in finding if anyone knows. Especially if it's a termite queen, or something else that should be squished on sight.

After the nature hour, I picked up all the bricks I'd fit last weekend, and stacked them in order along the edge.

The first row only needed some adjustments to get it back even with the step line, but the 2nd row was a total mess.. so I got started.

One of the things I learned from doing the driveway, was that because the bricks are all different sizes and shapes and thicknesses, it was a waste of time to try to get the bed completely level and perfect before starting, like you would if you were laying brand new uniform pavers.

The bed was relatively smooth and level, and I just poured a bit of sand as I went, and had plenty more on hand to level each brick to the right spot.

Because the sidewalk is higher than where the bottom of the first stair is, I wanted to bow the walkway up in the center so water doesn't pool up right at the house-end of the bricks. Not sure I did that so well right at the stair side, but it's so important that wherever the inspector measures it's exactly the right height that I'm not sure I could've done much at that end anyway. Towards the middle and the sidewalk it bumps up a little in the middle, though you can't really tell by looking at it. We'll see what happens when it starts raining.. we shouldn't have to wait to long for that!

And here we are. All that's left to do is fill the joints in with sand to lock everything in place. (I'm still sort of amazed at how well that works!)

And voila, we're off to see the wizard!

And Dan spent the weekend on his favorite pastime, putting up the radiant heat fins. Aren't they pretty?!

Sunday, October 12, 2008

and.. still working

Another weekend in which I was hoping to finish the walkway.. I realized that fitting the bricks to the shape was going to take so long that I didn't have a chance of getting the whole thing set in one weekend. And, as predicted, the first 2 rows are totally out of whack and I'll have to pull them up and reset them. In an effort to do as little duplicate work as possible, I decided to fit the whole path this weekend, then next weekend I can come back and set them.

It actually is already much more pleasant to walk on then the dirt.. which is basically sand, so if I really wanted to I could probably just sweep more in the joints and call it done, but I'd really like to have a flat, nice path for a little while

And Dan was back in the garage plowing through the staple-up. I took more pictures of him throughout the day, but they all look about the same..

This isn't the funnest project we've ever worked on, but the nights are already getting colder and the heat from this system is going to feel sooooo nice.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

finally back to work

Now that we can stop digging up the dirt in front of the house, I can finally put in a proper walkway so it's not a muddy mess every time it rains. So bright and early yesterday morning I set out to prepare the ground for some bricks.

You can't see all the nails and wire and other crap so well as the giant slab of concrete extending out from the bottom stair.. Let's just say yesterday turned into a long day with the digging stick, a chisel and, ultimately, the angle grinder with a masonry cutoff bit on it that turned the shelf of concrete into a fine powder.

Finally, around 4 in the afternoon I finally was able to lay out the border of the walkway. I know the curve will make it a little harder (and more time consuming), but that's how I've pictured it all along and I really can't imagine it any other way.

I tried to lay out the curve with a hose, like all the books say.. but we don't seem to have any hoses without tons of kinks and it was more trouble than it was worth. The rope worked better, but there was no way I was going to be able to match the curve on the 2nd side. I finally dug some armored wire out of a trash bag of construction debris (I can only fit one in the trash can every week, so we have a little bit of a backlog of trash) and it was just flexible enough for me to shape, and just rigid enough to hold that shape when I moved it to the other side.

Next, I dug a narrow trench along the inside of the curve for the edging bricks. These bricks are laid on end so they're embedded deeper into the ground and hold everything in.

I needed to get the bricks at the edge of the stairs at exactly the right height because that permit hasn't been closed yet and the inspectors are really tough on the allowable variance in rise. Of course the sidewalk is about 3/8" higher than that point, so the walkway can't be sloped away from the house, or even level. But I got a nice gradual slope from between the sidewalk and the stair, and I'll crown the bricks in the center of the pathway so water doesn't pool up.

Here's where I was hoping to be at the end of the Saturday, but this picture was taken late afternoon on Sunday.

I think the curves are pretty even..

I needed the height of the edges to know how much more I had to level the dirt in between. It wasn't much more, but there were some high spots.

And this is as far as I got with the actual brick. By next weekend those 2 rows will be so messed up I'll have to reset them anyway.. oh well..

And what's Dan been up to while I was laboring over the bricks? In the garage taking his turn at stapling up the thin fins. It's pretty slow going.. no wonder everyone wanted so much money to install this sort of system.

You can see we took some time and marked out all the rooms to make it really obvious where everything should be - here Dan's putting up the heat in the front room. He covered a lot of ground (or.. floor) but there's still more to go.

Of course, it was all we could do to wait until Sunday afternoon for what we wanted to get started on days ago.. look at the calendar folks, it's October! That's right, it's time for Halloween! I can't believe another year has gone by and we still don't have our stuff back from storage, but somehow we've collected a bit more spooky stuff with which to decorate.

Here's Henrietta helping me hang up some decorations,

And here's how it looks after an hour or so of work (and also illustrates why we had to stop after an hour or so.. it's getting dark much earlier these days). Lots more to do, but it's already satisfyingly spooky.