Thursday, December 20, 2012

Decorations for the Party - Medallions, Lots of Medallions

More photos of some decorations we made this year.

My sister helped me make them and Lynn hung them from the curtain rod and the greenery. They spiral around and really intrigue the cats. Sonny loves to climb the curtains and try to attack the medallions. All were made with the help of the scoring board and the edge punches from Martha Stewart. Very fun.

Jo Ann and Rich made me a rustic gingerbread cabin for my party. I had to spray the crackers with bitter apple so the cats wouldn't lick the salt off the crackers. The problem with that? When I was finishing up some  details on the house, adding more snow and such, I kept licking my fingers and tasting the bitter apple, yuck.

One of these days I will learn to use my camera better so you can see things better.

Monday, December 17, 2012

More from the Wreath party

Here are some more photos from the wreath-making party.

Beth did a spectacular wreath matching the bow and the holly along with the metal star in the center.
Lauren always comes to the party and works very hard on her wreaths. It is beautiful as always. She is very talented and creative.
Kelli and her mother show their wreaths. They both made large square wreaths which I love. They made it home safely after having a flat in my driveway. 
Alison and Pressley at the photo booth. Pressley always makes a wreath for one of her teachers.  I think she gets brownie points that way. I did not how seriously funny she is until this year. The Target dog is just hitching a ride on the wreath, not a part of the wreath. 
Those are most of my photos. Alison has a lot of photos from the second night of the party. I will try to get more photos soon. Take care everybody.

Continuing the Woodland Theme - Fox Gift Card, Christmas Banners

I am sending someone a gift card that I decorated with a cool fox puppet designed by Randi of Swoon! She has a ton of cool downloads, some directly on her website and some on an educational website called Playful Learning.

The fox puppet is available at this page on Playful Learning.

I attached the fox to the paper with the brads and I really like how the fox holds the gift. I used Martha Stewart scrapbook paper as the background. I am hoping it will fit in the 11.5" x 14" photo mailer with just a tiny trim.

I made a Merry Christmas banner in shades of greens and browns. It looked very pretty with the greenery above.

This is the center of the "MERRY CHRISTMAS" banner. We didn't exactly center the deer on the medallion, but it still looks good. My sister and I found the deer online, printed it on cardstock and glittered the antlers.

Here's some of the letters of the "MERRY CHRISTMAS" part. The letters were downloaded from Martha Stewart's website clip art - Festive Garland. We colored the letters with a magic marker and glittered the edges with gold then glued it to a scalloped circle then glued to the medallion. The medallions were made using the scoring board which is seriously fun to use.

I hope you are enjoying your holidays.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

More photos from the party

When I conceived of the idea for the party, I figured it would be a bunch of women from work, talking and decorating the wreaths. That is a part of the party, but really the kids enjoy it a lot too. I am amazed at their creativity.

This is Sentell (not sure I am spelling it right). BJ really wants him to wear the bear ear headband.

Bradley and Tiffany with their creations. 
Elisia is the star of this photo. 

Erica with her wreath

Cassandra with her wreath
Asa and Eli posing with their creations.
More photos tomorrow or Friday.

It's about time

The wreath-making parties are over. And here are some of the results. People did a beautiful job this year as they do every year. Since I am having trouble writing posts for my blog (largely because of fatigue), I'm going to show a few at a time.

These two photos might be called the grandchild edition - Karen with her grandchild, Jordan and BJ, the youngest of Ada's grandchildren.

Karen and Jordan

BJ charming my friend Lynn. You can see where someone kissed him on the cheek.
I'm off tomorrow so I hope to post more then.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Wreath Making Party FAQ 2012

Here are the most common questions about the party.

1. What is a wreath-making party?

Obviously we are going to make wreaths for Christmas. I decided to do this because I noticed one year that the holly trees around my house were heavily laden with berries. I thought it would be fun to make wreaths with them. The party was successful. For some reason I wasn't able to host a party the next year, but we did have one last year. That's why it's the "almost" annual wreath-making party.

I've gotten better at figuring out the materials needed for making wreaths. The most helpful item is a "Soft Touch" wreath form where you lay down the greenery for the wreath and close the clamps that are attached to the form. Very easy. You don't have to wrap wire round and round anymore. I buy them wholesale from a wreath company in Maine, Kelco industries. Yes, the forms are probably made in China.

I have all the materials needed. If you want to make a special wreath like "Baby's First Christmas Wreath" then you would need to bring the decorations to do that. I've got ribbon, bows, pine cones of all sizes, glass balls that I buy on sale (and Wendy donated some as well. Thank you, Wendy.), etc. etc.

John cuts some Frazier fir trees for me that really helps with the greenery. Thank you, John .

Mendy taught me the basics of making fancy bows. Hers are still the best, but mine are at least adequate now. Thank you, Mendy.

2. What if I am working the day of the party? What day do I come to the party?

Sometimes people don't notice it, but I host the party on 2 different days - Sunday December 2nd AND Monday December 3rd. I do that because we work in the ER and it is impossible to pick a day where everyone can attend.

Come on whichever day works out the best for you. I just hope are are able to come on one of the days because  we do have fun.

3. What do I need to bring?

You can bring an unwrapped toy that we will donate to either our Head Start class that we are adopting or to Toys for Tots or Country Santa.

You don't have to bring any supplies or food. I will have everything you need to make a wreath and lots of good food. I am not good at picking out wines so if you would like some wine to fuel your creativity, you could bring a bottle, but you don't have to. I'm kind of beer kind of girl. I drink one every other month or so. I'll have some Coronas with limes.

My brother-in-law, Rich, and my sister will be here next week. Rich is a genius with food. He will help make up some of the food we will serve. Also, Lynn, my friend from Montana will be here the week of the party. She will help with food as well. She's also a great cook. For Kristin I always make my pasta salad.

4. Where are the directions to the party?

I will put up some copies of the maps at work. You can always call me for directions if needed.

5. What about parking?

Yes, parking may be a problem. My neighbor is the Duncan Chapel fire chief. He has to go out on every call that his fire station makes. We cannot block his driveway. I will put up some traffic cones to make sure no one parks in such a way to make it difficult for him to exit.

My younger brother lives just around the corner. We may do parking overflow there and shuttle people to my house.

Try to carpool if you can.

6. May I bring my children to the party?

In the 2 years I have had the party, kids have done really well. Some of the most beautiful wreaths have been made by kids.

The scary age group to me are the 2 year olds. I worry about them ingesting some Christmas bauble, fossilized cat food, or worse, fossilized cat poo. If you as a parent can handle it, you know I love kids. I just think it might be hard to watch the child and exercise your creative craftiness. Childproofing is not my skill really. I am pretty good at catproofing though.

7. What if I have cat allergies? 

I vacuum like an OCD clean freak before the party, but it doesn't really matter. Cat dander is everywhere. Use your flonase, benadryl, zyrtec, or whatever allergy medicine you prefer, religiously before the party.

8. What if I have other questions?

Call me, I can post more information if someone has a question that others might wonder about.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Why my Bernina has a dull needle

Note: This topic is not green-related. It is GREENERY-related though.

I'm working on invitations to my wreath-making party which will be held on December 2nd and 3rd. Two nights so the people the people at work can attend either night.

Last year the invitations pretty much took a month to make. I just could not do that this year as I am way behind in my Net Zero Energy Class, working on my home, fixing some stuff at Kathy's house, and planning for John's new house. I tried several ideas for invitations and just didn't like any of them until I came up with this. I did the same thing last year when we gave gift cards to the teachers at the Head Start school that the ER has adopted.

Invitation wallets. I've sewed about 65 of them in my favorite Christmas scrapbook papers.

So the Bernina is being used again to sew PAPER, not beautiful fabrics as she deserves, but PAPER. i have had fun doing it though, partly because I'm so happy I have a relatively easy design for the party invitations. You may recall that the idea for these cards came from a craft blog called Just Something I Made. Cathe, the author of this blog has great ideas and she loves paper just like I do.

Sunny went to the vet to get spayed. She did not do well afterwards; she developed a fever up to 105.4 and felt awful. She had to be on antibiotics and no one knew why she got sick so fast. I was seriously worried about her. I thought it might take awhile for her to get back to her normal self.


She's back to her wild child self, running up and doing blitz attacks on the cats that outweigh her by a factor of 3, dumping out the food bowls and scattering the food all over the kitchen, sneaking through any open door to get into anything possible. She's back alright. I just adore this kitty.

Whew! Glad that is over.

I'm glad the election is over. It was painful no matter which way you voted.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

A Weekend in Boston (before the Storm)

Prototype wall by 475 Co. - the wall design I intend to use for John's house. It is air sealed on both sides, but vapor open on both sides so the wall assembly can dry to either direction, inside or outside. The wall components inside to outside will be - drywall, mechanical chase (probably Roxul insulation in the available space in the chase), intello, 6" cellulose insulation, plywood, at least 2" Roxul comfort board mineral wool insulation, the Solitex exterior membrane, rainscreen wall, Hardieboard siding. 

On Monday October 22 there was an announcement on my favorite website (Green Building Advisor - GBA) of a one day conference October 28th in Boston hosted by Passive House New England. I was off for the whole weekend so I talked John into going with me. He was to be the tourist while I attended the conference which had numerous speakers I was really interested in hearing including my course instructor, Marc Rosenbaum, Martin Holladay, editor of GBA, Chris Corson, builder of Passive Houses in New England, and Adam Cohen, designer/builder of Passive Houses in the Southeast.

I got plane tickets - first class for the first time ever in my life because they ended up being about $100 more expensive than the regular tickets if you include the cost of baggage. The real advantage of first class is getting on in a relaxed manner and just having a little space to move. I won't generally go by first class especially if I am traveling by myself, but this time it made sense for a short trip.

The last time John and I made a trip to the Northeast was when we celebrated the end of his chemo and we went to Philadelphia and Washington, DC for a week. We decided to go by train to see how that worked out. It was great on the way up. While we were there Hurricane Irene went through Washington, DC. And we couldn't get the train back because Amtrak was closed. I had to book a return flight to get back home. Serious bummer that we didn't get to take the train back.

When I booked the trip to Boston, we knew Hurricane Sandy was in the Atlantic, but it looked like she was going to basically stay in the Atlantic. As the week progressed computer models showed that the hurricane was going to take a left turn into the northeast coastline. Fortunately this time, we flew up before the hurricane and came back kind of around the hurricane. The flight wasn't even that bumpy. We got lucky.

We meant to do touristy stuff that Friday night, but I had worked all night the night before so I became unconscious when we got to our hotel, the Omni Parker in downtown Boston. It's a great place to stay in Boston. I love it when you can get from the airport to the hotel on the subway. I like that so much better than having to get a shuttle.

Saturday I got up early and went to conference at the University of Mass. The first speaker was Adam Cohen who is a dynamic speaker and very well versed in designing and building Passive Houses. He didn't really talk about humidity and Passive House at this conference, but he came up to me afterward and gave me his card and asked me to email him about that issue. A lot of the comfort issues in the hot and humid South are not really about temperature, it's about humidity. We use a significant amount of energy trying to dehumidify the house in the summer. So I will be taking Adam up on his kind offer and ask him about humidity in a superinsulated house in the South.

The next speaker was Chris Corson is a builder in Maine who built a super-insulated 1600 sqft house for $130/sqft. Amazing.

The last set of speakers was an interesting panel discussion of Passive House which included my zero energy class instructor, Marc Rosenbaum and GBA editor, Martin Holladay.

One of the best things about the conference was the vendor display. I got to talk to someone from 475 building supply co located in Brooklyn NY. I got to see an actual prototype of the wall I want to build.

This view shows the mechanical chase or the part of the wall that will include electrical and plumbing. The wall is air sealed behind the chase so any penetrations, hanging pictures, for example, in the drywall (not shown, it will go on top of these studs) will not penetrate the air barrier. That prevents interior moisture from penetrating the wall assembly causing mold or rot.
The only photos I took were of these wall assemblies. No tourist photos though.

I had a great time. Hope to post more later.


Monday, October 22, 2012

Question about Insulation, Shop Follow-up

A reader of my blog asked about my insulation problems with the shop how we fixed them. Basically I called up Randy who called the insulation company and he sent his guys out to fix the areas where the mineral wool was too compressed. Did they fix it perfectly? No, but they did a pretty good job as evidenced by the thermal performance of the building.

John went into the shop on the all time record high day July 1, 2012 when the outside temperature was 107F. The shop temperature with the air conditioner turned off (because John always leaves it off) was 80F. Most days when he went to work in the shop, the temperature was in the 70s. Sometimes the temp was fine but he had to turn on the air conditioner just because of the humidity.

Lessons and Solutions:
1. You have to be explicit with every person working on your building. Since I will be working directly on the house most of the time, I will be there to directly tell everyone what I want. There are challenges involved with that though. I have to use terminology that the people helping me understand. I have to be assertive, but not offensive or condescending. (Ask my brother about the condescending thing. He's got stories, I'm sure.)

2. One way we will work on communication is that we will hold at least one meeting well before we even start to build the house. I'll take the subs and Randy out to dinner in a meeting room and go over the goals of the house emphasizing quality and energy performance. Probably will take 2-3 meetings. I will pay them for their time. I think if people feel they have input, they will more invested in the house.

3. There will be a communication board up with posted drawings and places to put comments so everyone can see what the concerns are.

4. I am doing my net zero house class right now to learn more about the most important aspects of energy performance - reducing air leakage, maximizing insulation for this area, dealing with humidity, cooling strategies for the superinsulated house in the Southeast, planning for future upgrades, solar, etc.

I think the house will be incredible. John still goes into his shop and can't believe he has such a great shop. (Now if he had just let me put a little tiny bathroom in it, he could live there.)

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Another Detour to the Trauma Bay

I'm not hurt, but once again I had to go to the trauma bay to tend to friends or family.

In my last post I mentioned that Carlton was going to take down the nasty, falling to pieces pool house at John's house. He did take it down, but he didn't mean to be in it when it came down on him.

He was hurt pretty bad - open tib-fib, ischial (pelvic) fracture, compression fracture of L4, and some ribs on both sides. Miraculously he did not have a head injury. Hard-headed? I don't know.

When my younger brother, John, saw the building he said, "Good thing Carlton wasn't in the building when it came down." He was, he was completely in it, not half-way, not one leg stuck in the building, but completely inside the building and he didn't have time to get out when he heard it go.

Lower leg fracture
Carlton had surgery that day and they fixed the leg with a rod through the tibia. He's now in rehab. Carlton is not thriving in the hospital environment. He does not sit or rest very well. He likes to DO stuff. Ben tolerated the hospital environment better than Carlton is. I hope Carlton will get out faster than Ben. I think Ben did 3 weeks in rehab. Carlton will have to go to the mental hospital if they keep him that long.

The rehab doctor asked him about any steps at his house. He said 3 steps, "but I have a lot of lumber and I can direct someone to make a ramp." Not have someone make a ramp, but DIRECT someone to make a ramp, because it will have to be made to his precise specifications.

This unexpected event obviously threw me for a loop and was not getting other stuff done. I am one week behind in my class, but working hard to catch up.

Put in some good thoughts for Carlton. He needs them.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Starting my Zero Net Energy Homes course

I'm taking an online course on designing a Zero Net Energy (ZNE) home. It's supposed to only take 5 hours a week, but since I neither an engineer nor an architect nor a builder I think I will have to spend much more time on it that other people will.

I will try to design John's house as a Zero Net Energy Home. We may not be able to truly do this, but at least I have a better understanding of what is involved.

Another advantage of the course is that I will learn more about insulation, air sealing, and energy modeling.

I've talked to the solar energy guys at the Sunstore in Greenville. We are going to install grid-tied solar panels to the roof of John's shop because it gets pretty good sun and the rebates are now pretty generous. The payback estimate is 13 years after the tax rebates. I'll go into more details about that when I understand them better.

One of the most intimidating things about the ZNE course is that I actually have to design a home. That means I have got to be able to use SketchUp. I played around with it last night. I don't click the buttons right so I end up with excessive lines all over the place. I have to work on my click and release when I am drawing in SketchUp. I'll post some of my baby steps as I learn. It really is an amazing program. I must confess that I did pay for the SketchUp pro version since I think I will be using it for awhile.

Monday, Carlton and his crew are going to demolish the pool house so we have some storage space for working on John's house.

Here is the kitty picture of the day.

Fuzz Parker and Rocky at my feet when I work on the computer.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Reading Material

I have a problem with collecting things. I try NOT to collect stuff, but still things accumulate. This tends to happen when I am obsessed with something as I am now preparing to build a house.

The objects I have been collecting so far are reading materials. Example, here is a stack of books I have been studying.

I feel like I need to learn Google SketchUp so I can better communicate my ideas, but learning a new computer program is not my idea of fun.

Below are some of the magazines I read. I love Fine Homebuilding and Journal of Light Construction. One day both issues came out on the same day. I was so excited that I took them to work in case I had a moment to read. I told my boss, Jack, how exciting it was to get both magazines on the same day and he thought that was sick (as in mentally ill, not as in seriously cool). I think it is seriously cool.

Sunny can interfere with reading though. She likes to chew on page corners.
Tomorrow I talk to a representative from one of the local solar companies to see if John's site is a good place for solar. I figure we might as well investigate the possibility now. I'll let you know what they say.

Wednesday I have an online seminar on ductless mini-splits with Allison Bailes of Energy Vanguard. Starting October 1st I have an online course on Designing a Net Zero home that lasts until December. I've got 2 lectures to prepare for September for the residents at the hospital (pediatric orthopedics intro and wound care). I am about to get busy which is not something I really like. I don't like having to schedule things and keep up with deadlines. But that's the way it goes, isn't it?

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Designing a house

We are getting closer to building John's house. I have been putting a ton of thought into how to do it relatively cheaply and how to make it very energy efficient.

Here are some drawings (scribbles) I've done.

First I was trying to figure out how to "Innie" windows. Innie windows are windows that are applied to the exterior sheathing then exterior insulation added on outside of them. The details of air sealing around the windows and framing the trim are somewhat difficult. Here are some notes that I took (and modified) from GBA (Green Building Advisor). I am thinking about using both foam and mineral wool as the exterior insulation. Probably crazy, I know. I have not calculated prices yet. That will likely alter my plan.

This window is an innie. Innie windows need careful flashing details to prevent water entry at the jambs and sill.
Courtesy of Green Building Advisor

The reason I like Innie windows is that the window is protected from the elements better and the temperature is moderated better, more energy efficient. Disadvantage - harder to detail around it. Still have to think about it more.

Now for my plans for the house. I wish I had downloaded and learned SketchUp before Google sold it.

Trying to figure out the layout. John wants the stairs to bisect the downstairs space because he wants to use it as a music room. 
Better drawing. I can't figure out how to layout the bathroom and the laundry room.  Should we put a shower downstairs? 
I signed up for an online class called "Zero Net Energy Homes" taught by Marc Rosenbaum to help me understand how everything goes together when you are building a superinsulated home. Now, I do not think we can get to a zero net energy home based on the financial constraints, but I will at least entertain the possibility. John is so cheap - if anyone in my family could achieve a net zero home it would be John.

It feels good to get something down on the blog again. Thank you for listening. Lucy

Cat update

I don't know what it is, but so far I have not been able to post during the 2 summers I've had a blog. Last year I had an excuse with John going through chemotherapy, but no medical excuses this year (thank goodness!). Ben is continues to do really well. He goes next week to see his orthopedist with about 1000 miles on his bike. Amazing, I think.

One of my partners was out for 3 months with her new baby girl so I had to work more than usual, but that's not really a good excuse.

I've just been distracted I guess.

Anyway, some gratuitous cat pictures.

Fuzz Parker in all his fuzzy glory. He LOVES boxes.
Sunny playing Ring Around the Table Leg with Daisy. Sunny is the little girl and Daisy is the big boy cat.  Both just showed up at my house several years apart. Do you think they are related somehow?
Sunny in all her golden cuteness. 
Sunny after a feather.
Sunny getting the feather. She is quite an athlete.
So Sunny is my newest cat, even though I reached CATURATION a long time ago. She showed up in my yard and kept climbing under my car so I had to catch her and keep her, right? I adore this kitty, she steals my heart.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

On the Bike Again

Randy and my brother-in-law, Rich, put together a recumbent stationary bike for Ben. Here he is on it, pedaling for the first time. Whew! That is nice to see.

Homecoming - Where You Ben?

We are so happy. Ben came home on Tuesday morning after being in the hospital for over a month. We were so pleased with his care at the hospital, but it is always nice to come home. He has been doing so well. He is able to transfer from the bed to the wheelchair and back without any assistance which I didn't think would be possible at first. Also he can get into the bathroom easily without help. So nice.

When we arrived, Randy had signs and balloons all over the yard.

Ben was really touched. Two of his other biking buddies came over as well and we had a pizza party.

What a nice way to be welcomed home after such a long time in the hospital.

John is not the only one with a possum problem

At some point before we get started on building a house for John, I will elaborate on John's possum problem. Let's just say that they are involved in making his current abode less habitable than it should be.

I put some cat food out on the front porch for the only remaining feral cat left - Blackie. (Big Head disappeared, probably the coyotes got him or perhaps a jealous husband.) I noticed that my house cats were all clustered around the front door extremely interested in what was happening on the porch. 

This is what I found - a possum convention. That's 3 different possums making themselves comfortable on my porch. You can even see one of them sitting on the kitty bed, grooming himself. 

You can see the door is slightly open when I took this photo. One of the cats is peeking out.