Let's get Insulated

If  you live in an old house, you probably know that cold air some how finds its way through any crack or cranny possible. Old houses (especially larger ones), are just not insulated the way newer homes tend to be. Although our house is very small (or minimal, as we say), we find energy bills to be surprisingly high in during the colder and warmer months. We have also found that one side of our house stays fairly temperate, while the other side (the side with our bedroom on it) is always either freezing or rain forest hot.

So....backtracking just a bit....when we re-tiled our beloved tile shower (remember, the shower of problems  from a while back?), we discovered that there was absolutely no insulation on one side of the house. When our fabulous tile guy came in for the shower overhaul, he noticed this issue through the opening he had to make in the bathroom ceiling.

To make a long story very short...we decided that we had to insulate our house (which we have just now gotten around to doing). Not only were we freezing in the winter time and sweating in the summer time, but we were spending money cooling and heating a house that was not holding up its end of the bargain. After some careful research, we (ok, Chris) found that this little insulation problem could be easily fixed in a one afternoon DIY session. Lowe's we go.....

Chris  found a great deal on "green insulation," which as far as I understand, basically means a bunch of recycled paper crap that has been chopped up and compressed into a big block.

< See exhibit A-recycled paper insulation crap.

He also rented an insulation blower. Now...when I say insulation blower, I mean a huge metal thing with a big hose that makes lots of noise. See exhibit B, below:

Now, Chris had drafted a very well thought out plan outlining how we were going to blow the insulation throughout the attic of the house, forever solving our heating and cooling problems for a very reasonable financial investment. I, being the supportive wife that I am, agreed to this venture, blessing it whole-heartedly and moving along on my merry way.

Until I got drafted to help.

Once we got the blower situation and all the insulation in place, we realized that this was most certainly a two person job. I, being that same loving supportive wife that I was in the paragraph above, hesitantly agreed to help in the insulation placement escapade. Chris carefully explained how the blower worked and when to replace the recycled paper crap, how to carefully feed the blocks of recycled paper crap through the blower, etc.  He climbed into the attic, with the insulation hose in tow and once situated, gave me the green light to turn the machine on.

What you see here is a photo of the rented blower, the mound of recycled paper crap and my adoring husband. What you do not see is my Taliban-inspired get up, complete with face and head covering, as I was sure the paper crap particles would fly into the air, suffocating me and leaving me dead on the porch, covered in gray recycled crap powder. (note: I was a little overly-cautious. There was a significant amount of dust...but nothing warranting the safety precautions I had in place).

Once the machine was turned on, it began slowly moving recycled crap matter up the hose. I could see some material moving, but not very much. I had expected the machine to pull the material quickly, and that I would have to work to get the next block of insulation unwrapped and broken up to feed it through. For whatever reason, however, this did not happen. After about 10 minutes, I felt my cell phone vibrate with a call from Chris (from the attic, mind you). The blower was so loud that we had planned to communicate from attic to porch, via cell phone. I turned off the machine to hear him, only to find that no insulation had been coming out of the hose on his end.

So there we were, me in my Taliban-insulating costume and Chris trapped in the attic with a non-working insulation hose and dozens of blocks of recycled paper insulation crap to spread throughout the house. The machine was not working. It was a failure. What were we to do?

Hire it done. That's what we were to do.

We took the darn blower back to Lowe's, along with the blocks of paper recycled reclaimed green insulation crap and got our money back. Apparently, the machine we got a hold of was just a lemon. This process should have worked and should have been successful. The good news for us, however, is that we found a company that was able to come out and insulate the attic for about the same cost as it would have been to complete the job ourselves. Moral to the story: some things just aren't worth getting trapped in the attic with a stopped up insulation hose and a wife stuck on the porch in a Taliban-outfit and a thin layer of gray dust in her hair.

Insulation is a great thing. We are already noticing a difference in our climate de casa (that was supposed to read: climate of our house, in Spanish.) and we are looking forward to seeing our next power bill. If you do ever decide to insulate your own home, make sure you get a good machine. Also make sure you have help and face masks for all parties involved.

the end.


Would you like a table or a booth?

Another "secret" to living in a small home and maximizing the space you have: You need creative nooks, crannies, seating and storage. Now, we have done some pretty creative things in our home but I personally think this is the most creative.  We recently installed a restaurant-style booth in our kitchen.  Our floor plan is originally intended to include two bedrooms, a kitchen, laundry, living space and two full baths.  Because we don't have children, we turned our second "bedroom" into a dining room. Look for a post about the dining room later. It is a work in progress.

We use our dining room for when guests come over, in addition to storage for my saddles, our china, the wine rack ( of the wine racks), and Thomas' bed time kennel. Since we moved into the house, we have had a small dinette in the kitchen, just big enough for the two of us.

In an attempt to be more creative with the space, and partly just to see if it would work, I decided I wanted a booth. My sweet husband  gladly accepted the challenge and we started shopping.

If you have ever priced booths (not that it's a normal thing to shop for), you know they are pretty expensive. Wood is also expensive. Luckily, we have a wonderful "wood guy" from Hawkinsville that Chris found on Craigslist who hooked us up with some awesome wood for this project. We truly are the Craigslist King and Queen. Don't worry...I am perpetually watching over my shoulder for the Craigslist Lifetime movies here.

So...enter booth building phase. After finding the wood for the table top, we needed benches. Rather than build them from scratch, we decided to repurpose some old church pews from a nearby church.  The pews had been sitting outside behind the church for months. We inquired about them and made a donation to purchase them.  Chris refinished them and behold...the beginnings of our restaurant booth!

Now...the booth is not perfect. It is shorter than a normal table (because of the pews), but with some decorative looks just right in our kitchen.

The Birth of the Booth    Here is where we ate before we came up with the booth idea. This is a cute little dinette we picked up for about $150 when we first got our house. It has lived a good life and has served its purpose. We have recently re-purposed her to fill another role in the house. 
Stage 1: The Seats
We knew that we would want seats for our booth that were comfortable, functional and unique. We also knew that we would have to some how fit a strict bill for length and height in order to make them fit in the kitchen. Luckily (and through divine intervention, no doubt), we happened upon some old church pews at a neighborhood church. Two pews had, for whatever reason, been removed from the sanctuary and were sitting out behind the church. We inquired as to the fate of the pews and, through the generosity and good nature of the church staff (you know who you are...thank you!), we were able to make a more than reasonable donation in exchange for the pews.  The pews are VERY old and when we got them, had old green upholstery stapled to them. Chris removed the upholstery, cleaned up and sanded the pews and voila!

Stage 2: The Table

Once we got one of the pews situated and attached to the wall, we had to figure out what to do about a table. This is where our new friend from Craigslist enters the picture. With a little help from our new woodworking friend, Chris as able to build the table for the booth himself. He then attached the table to the wall, placing three hinges at the back, and a temporary leg underneath. After the table was placed, the staining party began. Because the pews and the table wood were different in grain, the stain absorbed into each surface differently. I kind of like the variation though. A few quarts of stain and some polyurethane later and there we have it...finished wood.

Stage 3: The Finishing Touches
Once we got everything refurbished, built and attached, it was time to accessorize. Now, we all know that old fashioned church pews are not designed to be comfy, especially without the fabulous upholstery that normally adorns them. In order to make our pews-turned booth seats comfortable to sit in, we needed cushions of some description. Of course, I was tasked with tracking down this essential piece of the puzzle. 

I considered making the cushions, which would probably run anywhere from $5-$10 per yard of fabric, plus the filler, but I then came to my senses. If you have ever shopped for decorative pillows, you know they can be pricey and often very disappointing when actually used for comfort. After a long search, I finally found four pillows that would do the trick.  
The next step in the booth building process required us to shed some light on the situation, literally. We decided that to complete the restaurant experience in our kitchen, we needed a suitable light fixture. Behold: our Apple-bee's lamp. This fixture completed the look and is sure to illuminate our table for "eatin' good in the neighborhood, for years to come". We picked the beauty up at a local charity auction and hired an electrician to install it (we don't do electrical's a bad idea.). 

The final, final touch to conclude a most laborious task to date? Adding a bovine wall, of course. We added cow prints, created by an artist from Sanibel Island, Florida. I just can't resist good cow art. 

And there we go...a perfect table for two.