We met with several contractors this week – a windows’ guy, an electrician, and a handyman. This, was behind work that had already been initiated – tree work and replacement carpet in our living space downstairs. I’m currently on the Acela heading to Washington DC to attend a conference for work. This is so much better than airline travel – and you should try it if your schedule works our.

Manny is the new found handyman that will come to pick up the debris that has collected in the back yard for several years. We’ve lived through two major storms and three hard winters since we’ve cleaned out the pile. All we need is a couple of weeks of dry weather and a spark for it, my shed, my John Deere, and other tools to be up in smoke. It was overdue, and his labor and truck are what will take care of this. Then, we start to collect it again – just not without engaging Manny again!

The electrician was a happenstance. We had an electrician that we worked with for other projects, but he has since closed shop and moved from what our sources tell us. This guy was doing work next door and comes with a great recommendation and excellent prices. We’re having the electric to the shed repaired, the under counter light in the kitchen repaired, and the switch / dimmer repaired in the kitchen. I fully admitted to screwing that one up – the rest were out of my hands!

The big financial move was started with meeting with a windows salesman from Renewal By Anderson. These are, admittedly, about the best, most expensive windows we could buy. When all was said and done, we are out close to $11K, but will have new windows in each of the occupied bedrooms (2+2+2) and the upstairs bath. The purchase allows us to replace any more windows, even one at a time, for the same discount and lifetime parts, labor, and installation warranty. The windows we are replacing are 52 years old, we thought this was the best location for replacements since they are in the air conditioned portion of the home and where we are most affected by loss of heat in the winter. Finally, we’ll be able to see out of our bedroom windows in the winter with no condensation!

Of course, we have the downstairs carpet being installed as well this week, so the women in my life decided to paint the trim in the area above the new carpet before it was installed. A few drips of paint on the old carpet was almost fun to see – certainly better timing than if done after the new carpet was installed.

Finally, we are getting the tree work performed in the next few weeks as well. We’ve paid a hefty deposit already and some of that work is getting paid by our next door neighbor, but the majority of money is still coming our of our savings. I think that we’re done for a long time with projects that cannot be done inexpensively and with our own hands!

This sea of flags was from Somers, Connecticut a few years ago. Each stands for a fallen soldier.

This sea of flags was from Somers, Connecticut a few years ago. Each was placed for a fallen soldier.

First things first. Thank you to everyone who has either served in the military, or supported someone who has served. Countless soldiers, families, and children have sacrificed to allow the freedom we know.

As I relax heading into the long Memorial Day weekend, the rain makes me wonder if I’ll get anything done outside. It’s rained hard for the past few days, and we’ve watched the temps drop into the 40’s today. It hardly seems like late May, but we are in New England where, if you don’t like the weather, just wait because a change always comes quickly. We have embarked on several home projects lately, mostly involving contractors. We’re taking down a few trees, having a large brush pile removed, replacing the carpet in our large basement, and thinking about replacing about a third of our windows. And then there’s the patio.

Working on the exterior of our home and yard has really taken a back seat to life over the past four years. Initially, we went about  things with all the gusto of a new homeowner who had more time than money to keep up the appearances put into the home so the previous owners could sell. In that time, the changes that they made on the surface didn’t last. Since purchasing the home five years ago, we had the house painted, repaved the pothole filled driveway, and, out of necessity, replaced both the roof and the four skylights in the roof of our Florida room. We ignored the landscaping with the exception of occasional focused effort, pruning, and mulch most years.

With each passing season, we know that we need to focus on this 50+ year old house itself. We have been stashing cash away after paying off all of the cars, mostly because we never want to be in the situation we were a year after moving to New England. We had burned through almost all of our available cash just to get by, so we did what we could inexpensively. Inside, we repainted all three bedrooms, the living room, dining room, and hall. We painted both up and down stairways. But, it’s time to step up the game and deal with more than the surface issues. We ignored the gardens except for planting a few new flowering bushes and being very agressive with our pruning tools. This year, our pruning efforts are starting to pay off with plants finally flowering for the first time since we’ve lived here, and trees that look much healthier than they did when we bought the place.

Inside, we have put up with original, 50+ year old windows that leak fog up with every cold winter day, and the underlying windowsills that are now mushy from rot. Energy waste isn’t our primary concern, but the rotting wood from the windows can ruin the walls beneath them and create a huge expense that is bound to follow. We have over thirty windows in all, so replacing all of them at once would come close to $20,000. We’re just not in the position to do at this time as you can imagine. Replacing the worst ones, in some semblance of order, seems like our best course of action. Sue did a rough measurement of each of the worst ones, close enough that a trip to Lowe’s will allow us to ballpark the net window cost. There are additional costs involved such as labor, so experts will tell you to double the window cost to get us close financially. It’s going to be a depressing visit to Lowe’s, I’m afraid.The good news, according to our neighbor, is that we can use new construction windows which are both less expensive and better built than generic replacement ones. Let’s hope he’s right.

And then there’s the patio. Our patio consists of flagstones, sitting on top of what we guess is dirt and stones. There are steps down from the front on the west side, and grass / stones leading down on the east side. Our basement is a walk out, with the south half underground and the north half opening to our Florida room and then the patio and back yard. The patio is contained by railroad ties that are 20+ years old, installed by the original homeowner. The ties have disintegrated as the years have gone by, with the structural support seemingly less and less secure each month. We need a major renovation of the patio – just shoring it up is not smart. No one uses railroad ties anymore for this sort of landscaping due to the deterioration problem.

We have our grill on one corner of the patio and need to come up with a plan to anchor the grill somehow. Our current grill went tumbling off the deck during one of the hurricanes that passed through last fall. The only thing that caught it was the attached gas line hose – and that could have erupted if a spark was present. We had the feeder standpipe from the big gas tank fixed, but only with the contingency that we needed to anchor the grill down within 30 days or they would disconnect the gas. So a temporary anchor needs to be in place after this weekend. The current grill is banged up, broken, but still works a bit until we can replace it. Again, that’s in the plans for this weekend, knowing that a patio replacement will require re-thinking the whole grill situation.

Time to enjoy the rain and relax a bit for the long holiday weekend before working outside if the rain stops.

This blog has been quiet for a while. There has been too much going on, with not enough time for sitting at the computer. We have pulled all of the wallpaper from the kitchen (one of our largest, but poorly laid out rooms). Then, retaped and mudded the corners, primed, and painted with multiple coats of latex paint. We still need to add the border and put the outlet covers back on, but it’s mostly done. We still have the ceiling to do, but need to get a professional to tape and mud them. The downside of replacing our windows and heat pump is that we now have a much drier house. The dry air has dried out the seams and the drywall enough that the seam paper is pulling away from the drywall. It is just part of the joy of owning a 25 year old house. The one thing that I have learned from this experience is that I hate to fix drywall seams and am glad for my white collar job!

I have continued to run a couple of days each week, although not as consistently as previously. My excuse? The heat… I hate to run when it is so hot, so have rescheduled the runs for early in the morning or on the treadmill. I have not been good about going to the gym over the past few weeks. I really need to get back into the weight lifting I had started last year. My upper body strength has started to wane, and good upper body strength actually helps you run better according to a couple of articles I have read. I have a series of exercises I can do, but the sheet is sitting in my truck… great place, huh?

I ran the first of a series of races (the cul-de-sac series) last Monday. This is a series of 5K (3.1 miles) races that goes in and out of neighborhood cul-de-sacs. When we took off at 7 PM, it was still 97 degrees and approaching 90% humidity. It about killed me. This was definitely not about fun, but survival. I thought, only 3 miles, no need to bring fluids – but I should have. I don’t think I have perspired that much in many years. This week, I missed the race in prep for my trip to pick up my son (we were leaving at 4 AM). I could have run it, but with the heat and humidity, it would have been a very difficult recovery enough to get any sleep that night. I choose sleep (sort of – in bed at 11:30 PM and back up at 3:50 AM). I wonder how my friends did!