Category Archives: earth friendly home improvement

Unable to do math

I read this Joe Klein post and had to agree.

If you are getting a paycheck, you couldn’t help but notice that your take home pay has been better since last April.  Unless you are someone who can’t figure out why that happened.

The majority of the working poor in this country are white people.  Yes, yes, yes, a larger portion of minorities are poor, but did the white working class people miss the fact that they got a pay boost last April?  Has every single person forgotten that they essentially got a pay raise?

I think so.

Here in Houston, we have no less than four AM radio stations that spend almost every waking hour trying to tear down this presidency.  You can hear their gloating on almost any channel.  This is far worse than anything that happened in 2005.  There is a community of people who want President Obama to be a one term president — for no other reason than to gloat over it.

With the Supreme court opinion last week and talk radio types pushing for corporations to make a stand early, I think our system will break.

One thing I know.  If the system breaks, Obama is the person who I trust to fix it.  Why else would he have tried to hard to be president of a broken country?

So, here we are.  A nation of idiots who don’t even know how or what happens to their own damn paychecks — they just think GREAT more money.  And for the house flippers and the bankers who are too scared to loan the money THAT YOU HAVE ON DEPOSIT that they use to not make loans, but keep and pay you very little if any interest — cry for them — just like Michael Berry cried for those poor bankers today.

I blame teachers.


I kind of suck

I should have fixed the sheetrock problems last winter, but I didn’t.  I should hve weatherized the doors, but I didn’t.  I should have had my a/c checked out, but I didn’t.

The new portable a/c arrived yesterday and I let it run all night.  I set it for 77 degrees this morning and it blew a breaker at some point today.  Everyone was miserable when I got home.

I flipped all of the breakers and yelled at Murph.  He brings the joy, even when I joined them in the yard, even after suffering the heat because of my poor planning.   We made up later.

Today in Appliances

The new refrigerator came today.  I got it for just over $400.00.  It’s just as tall and deep as the old one, but it’s not nearly as wide.  I hope to get a cart in a few months, so I will finally have some counter space — right now, there’s almost zero.


While it doesn’t have an egg cubby or a butter bin (I never used either very much in the old fridge), it does have this nifty can thingy, which I have filled with refreshing Canada Dry Green Tea Ginger Ale with Antioxidants (not beer).  If I ever find Nestea in a can again, that’s what will go there.


And I didn’t intentionally make that fancy mustard bottle on the bottom rack unidentifiable . . .

Roomy, huh?!  I finally have vegetable bins again.  The old one was only good for holding all the fridge sweat.  One less chore on the list — no more wiping down the inside of the fridge every day.  YaY!


It’s even got its first leftovers inside.  I clearly need more vegetables for the lonely half onion in the right side bin.  But once that little watermelon is cold, it won’t last long.

After lots of research and trying to find a unit with everything I wanted, I finally pulled the trigger on a portable air conditioner today.  It can’t get here soon enough.  Here’s what I got.  I could run the ancient central air 24/7 and it would never get below 80.  Running the window units works in the bedrooms, but the one in the living room just doesn’t have enough BTUs to cool down.  With the new one, I’ll have combined 20,000 BTUs, and that should do it, even when it gets into the 100’s.

At this point, I have replaced every appliance except for the central heat (it was new when we bought the house).  Along with the house leveling and replacing half the windows and the roof, the only big thing left is replacing the windows in the back of the house, and the only little thing is a ceiling fan in one of the bedrooms.

While I haven’t always been able to avoid buying things made in China (the fridge, ceiling fans — and not sure about the portable a/c yet) I have gotten energy efficient and/or green appliances each time.  I figure I’m batting about .600.

And just because it was on the camera, and I love her:


This is one of Caroline’s favorite spots lately.  I don’t know why. . .

Shopping Smart

Murphy went through a phase of peeing on my bed.  I cleaned it every time.  I read on some answer forum that he is at the age that that sort of thing happens.  He seems to have stopped, but out of an abundance of caution, I ventured out today to buy waterproof mattress covers for both my bed and the guest bed.  I first went to Anna’s Linens.  It was all ‘Made in China,’ so I moved on to Sears — where I should have started in the first place.  I got 3 U.S.A. made mattress pads — two waterproof and one to cover the twin bed box spings.  I also got new sheets made in Pakistan for both beds.  The seven totaled up to less than $200, so I was happy.

Last week, I ordered an evaporative air cooler, and it arrived today.  It was easy to set up.  Put it in the window, add water, and open a window opposite the cooler.  It’s working — better than I had expected.

The technology is not optimal for the climate here in Houston.  Evaporative air coolers work much better in dryer climates.  It’s the type of AC my grandparents had in West Texas.  That said, it does cool the place down, which is what I was looking for.  I am looking for ways to avoid running any A/C.

So far it has been great — since about 7 p.m.  We will see how it works tomorrow.

Oh, and it was made in the U.S.A.

Remember, I’m not a flag wearer.  I’m just someone who is trying to NOT buy anything from Mainland China.

Pictures will be up tomorrow.

And maybe I’ll get I am Legend.  We’ll see.

A Day for the Windows

It rained this afternoon, and the cloud cover stuck around, so when I got home, I turned off the air, opened the new windows and turned on the fans. 

It’s everything I had hoped.  The house is cool, there’s a cat in every window (Cisco has been especially happy with his window), and I’m not sweaty.  YaY!

I know it won’t be like this every evening, but at least now I can take advantage of it.

New Windows!

We got new windows in the front half of the house today.  They are amazing.  And beautiful.  And strangely reassuring.

They are from Sears, double hung and double paned with that gas in the space.  One big plus is that they were made in Oklahoma.  (That was a huge for me — actually it’s what clinched the deal.)  What the salesmen showed us was true — the inner panes are way cooler temperature-wise than the outer ones.  And the sound-proofing is amazing.  Whether it’s the pups barking or more importantly the cars with base boost driving by, they absorb it all.  It’s a little strange today/tonight, but very cool.

It’s much cooler now in the house, but tomorrow will be the true test.  I’m checking the outside temp and when it’s low enough, I’ll turn off the air, open the windows and get all the fans going.  Then I’ll close them all in the morning before it heats up and see how long the house holds the cool air.

The Chron says it’s 80, but I put the windows up anyway.

Update:  Here’s the pictures.  And it has stayed very cool in here so far today.

This one is in the kitchen.  It opens sideways.

This is a close-up of one of the livingroom windows.  The sun was very bright, so the lighting is off.

Same window.  I haven’t gotten the blinds up on this one yet.

I’m very happy with this.  Next project?  Painting!

And we’re done

The installation guys have been gone for about twenty minutes, and finally all of the inside kitties have come out of hiding, and I’ve seen two of the outside kittens so far.  The pups were immediately released from their terrible time-out space and are in the front yard looking for those two intruders.  All in all, it took 5 hours.  Here’s the result:

I’ve still got to fix the ceiling and get it inspected, but for now, I’m extremely happy.

New Water Heater — Half way mark

So far, so good.  I let Dora out for a bit and all she did was bark even when I stayed out and worked in the yard with her.  She’s now back in my room, whimpering and squeaking again.  Tammy refused to come out.  One good thing is that they really like the new breakfast I made them.  (I’ll post the recipe later.)

Things were pretty loud at first — lots of banging, saws running, ect.  The kittens, both inside and out, were nowhere to be seen for about two hours.  They brought the old heater down out of the attic.

Then things quieted down.  Caroline and Stumpy slowly came out from their hiding places and sat in my lap for a bit.  When one of the guys came back in the house, they scampered off again.

Here’s the new heater, still in the box:

It was made in Japan.  YaY!

I snuck up the attice ladder while both of the guys were outside to get a quick in-progress pic.  Sorry, it’s a little blurry.


They also installed a new vent.  It’s about 4″ in diameter and goes straight from the top of the unit out through the roof.  One of the guys told me it was required because the unit is like a flamethrower.  Oh my!  He said the unit was fairly big for my house.  I asked if it could handle something like a dog bath in the backyard . . . the answer: yes!  I explained the plumbing out back and he seemed to think it would be a simple job.  He also said that while they don’t normally do small jobs like that, when they are slow, it would be possible.  Now he’s got me thinking.  Hmmmm.  That would be way better than driving the girlies all the way to Deer Park.

More later.

New Water Heater YaY!

Thursday evening, while I was on the phone (not very common for me, but my sis had my goddaughter call me — how could I resist?), I heard something inexplicable.  R was over and later asked if either had heard him drop an f-bomb (thankfully, no).  I ran into the livingroom and saw the water.  I told my sis I had to go.  Water was raining from the ceiling in the utility room.  What I had expected had finally happened.   It was the water heater.

When we moved into this house, I thought it was odd that the water heater was in the attic.  After Allison, I noticed a little water stain on the ceiling in the utility room just where the water heater sits.  I had a guy come out and he patched a hole around the vent and everything was fine.  I remodeled the utility room later and primed the water stain before I painted the room.  For years everything was fine.  Until Thursday evening.

We put a bucket (!) under the water stream and I mopped up the rest of the water on the floor while R got up in the attic to see what was up.  The heater sits at one end of a long pan and that end was full of water, while the other end was dry.  The pan was tipped toward the heater so much that the water couldn’t run out.  I pulled the skin back off the sheetrock with the mop handle and saw that the sheetrock was cracked.   I called my sister back.

We were puttering around — me talking , R looking for the cats and then the ceiling fell.  With a big crash — a 4′ square chunk of it.  The insulation was soaked and started streaming water.  We cleaned it up.  Later another chunk dropped and then I could see that the water heater wasn’t completely positioned over the pan.  The half inch that was hanging over was dripping, slowly dripping warm water.  Like everything else in this just-off-the-mark house, there was no indication that we had a problem until the flaw made itself obvious.

I’ve been mentally prepared for this to happen, though not exactly this way.  There’s minimum damage even with one more mini-crash later the same evening.  I was easily able to set up an installation for this morning.

Before pics:

The installers got here about 45 minutes ago — so far so good.  Poor Dora  is wimpering  — closed off in my bedroom.