Sunday, January 17, 2010

A Little Advice, or, Preventative Maintenance

It’s not too surprising that when, a few days ago, my bedroom curtain wall came crashing down around our ears, I fudged a way to fix it for the short term. I’m all about making things nice and lovely, but sometimes that doesn’t happen until … later.

It’s even less surprising that my temporary solution involved a book – I mean, talk about a staple resource in our house. Books are the ubiquitous handy solutions for all of our domestic problems. Need a coaster? Use a book. Need a leg up? Use a stack of books. Need to load a catapult? You get the idea.

Only one of my curtain bolts pulled out of the ceiling (because, for reasons probably involving divine intervention, the other two were magically in studs I just didn’t know about), so two thirds of the curtain was still held up. The problem was propping up the one end that fell and which was, of course, responsible for holding the heaviest part of the curtains themselves. So, I wedged a book between a horizontal piece of trim and rested the curtain rod on it. Done.

Breathing a sigh of relief, I went about my day, which included exciting things like cleaning up the coffee spill of the century, restringing HC’s guitar, cooking dinner while holding back “morning” sickness –misnomer of the millennium – and writing an article for P (pshh what is this “job” he keeps referring to?!).

The book situation may or may not have made do for, say...a day. Or two.

Okay, three.

However, I would like to point out that I GOT TO IT AFTER DAY THREE. Three days was enough of not being able to have a peek of the sunlit, snow covered courtyard, and having to walk all the way around to the other side of the house to let the cats in. AND I got to it after the following real-life conversation:

P walks in, eyes the curtains and says: Oh, I thought those were broken.

Me: They are.

P: They don’t look broken.

Me: They are. They’re just propped up on that book.

P: Oh. Well it looks like that’s working pretty well. *short pause* Maybe instead of fixing it we could just get a nicer looking book…[emphasis added]

Seriously?! Seriously. This, from the man who is always telling me that one of the many joys of being WASPS (which, for the record, I am not), is that we initiate preventative maintenance.

At any rate, fixing the curtain was far more involved than I initially anticipated. C and I dove in head first.

Step 1. Unscrew both remaining pipe hangers so that release the curtain rod.

Step 2. Carefully lower the curtain to the ground, so that the curtain hooks stay on the curtain rings and won’t have to be counted out and rethreaded later.

Step 3. Watch as all of the curtain hooks fall out of the rings as soon as the rod touches the floor.

Step 4. Consider this a bad omen.

Upon further inspection of the wounded ceiling, we discovered that our problems were threefold:

1. There is no stud within a 10 inch distance of where the bolt needs to be driving into the ceiling. Given the semi-permanent nature of the rod-hanging situation, moving the bolt horizontally along the curtain rod until we find a stud would dramatically hinder the opening and closing of the curtain itself, making it so that we would need to leave the heavy curtain closed over the sliding glass door at all times. Awkward.

2. Directly above the ceiling in my room is currently the attic. This has not always been the case. As I may have mentioned before, this was once a flat-roofed house. When our predecessors decided to add a hip roof (hipped roof? Whatever.), they just plopped it right down on top of the old flat roof, without removing any of the many layers of tar, paper, gravel and other stuff that was piled up on there. So, the floor of our attic is literally what used to be the top of the house that was exposed to the elements. This we only discovered (remembered) after attempting to drill through the ceiling in order to install a drywall anchor and gravel started falling through the drill hole. I went upstairs to investigate and discovered that, in order to reach any kind of space where the little umbrella top of the drywall anchor could open up and support itself, we needed about a two-foot long bolt in a hole drilled a two-and-a-half-foot long drill bit. Not only do I not have either one of those things, but I don't plan on acquiring them.

3. Now that we had eliminated both the possibility of screwing into a stud AND sinking an anchor, there was an even more ominous, gaping hole in the ceiling, out of which gravel and tar paper would occasionally fall.

We experimented with the idea of working from the attic down, thereby eliminating the gravel-falling-in-eyes problem we were (literally) facing when attempting to drill up into the ceiling. About two minutes of poking around in the attic pretty much convinced me that wasn’t doable, and furthermore it didn’t solve the two-foot-bolt issue.

Of course the when we finally came up with a workable solution, it was far simpler than either of the previous ideas.

We took ourselves and the dog down to the hardware store and bought one simple piece of hardware, along with some spray paint (does anyone else feel like spraypaint should be one word? Spellcheck doesn’t. Spellcheck doesn’t think that Spellcheck should be one word either. Who elected this program king of grammar anyway?).

We went home, and C painted it while I reclined and ate Chef Boyardee lasagna straight out the can. Don’t judge. She likes spraypainting. I think.

The next day, I used three simple, normal sized screws to secure it in place. I hung the rod. It stayed up. I hung the 80 million pound curtains. It still stayed up. It was a miracle.

What was this incredible device, you ask?

Oh, you know. Just something made for EXACTLY THIS PURPOSE.

The guy at the hardware store assures me that this little guy will hold up to 400lbs, which is well above the weight I’ve loaded on. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that he’s right.

(Please ignore the unfinished patch job, sloppy paint splatters and unfilled holes in the wood. One project at a time, people. Plus, it’s like 7ft in the air and nobody in real life notices anyway. Or at least that’s what I tell myself.)

A LITTLE ADVICE: Think outside the box. But read the box first. If it says "premium heavy duty closet rod bracket" on the outside, you may as well try thinking inside the box for a while, just to see what happens.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

I Really Need A Second Floor.

Just for this:

O. M. G.

and this:

These stairs should have been my New Years Resolution.

Thanks, daddytypes.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

A Little Advice, or The Difference Between a Stud and a StudMuffin

Last summer, I came up with the most brilliant idea.

The. Most. Brilliant.

That is...until my idea literally came crashing down around my darling husband's head today.

Here's the thing. I love my house. We live in New England where every house is an adorable colonial with history and shutters. The first time I saw my current hometown, I thought two things:

1) "Wow, and I thought Gilmore Girls was fake,"


2) is that house on the left from Father of the Bride?

I was right on half. Gilmore Girls is based on my area, and they mention my town occasionally. It's awesome.

Father of the Bride on the other hand, was filmed in Pasadena, but whatever.

My house is a different story. Very. It was built by a local architect in the 1960's and it is definitely a product of its age. It is brick (very unusual around here) and originally had a flat roof - very modern. The layout is similar to a Roman villa, with three sides of the house enclosing an interior courtyard in the middle. There is lots of floor to ceiling glass and exposed brick walls. I LOVE IT. When we bought it, I tracked down the original architect to do the updating we needed. He is now 85 years old, and three years ago when I made that phonecall, he said "Well, I'm retired and I only work for old friends. At this point all my old friends are houses." He did a great job.

But let's be honest, this is Connecticut. It's gets really cold here, and double paned or not there's a heat-loss situation. Also, as wonderful as I think it is to have an entire wall of my bedroom be glass, I doubt anyone in the family really wants to be able to see straight from the dining table or living room sofa into my boudoir.

So, after almost a full year of sporting an awesome flattened-cardboard-taped-to-glass style of window treatment which I thought for sure would be a neighborhood trend-setter, I sucked it up and went curtain shopping.

Oh, the horrors.

First of all, I was clearly not made for interior design work. I like colors, and I have clear taste. But at the intersection of Indecisive and Overwhelmed, you find me. Plus, I had no idea how expensive curtains could be. For the length of curtain rod I needed, (and because it is literally as wall of glass, I needed to hang it from the ceiling) I was looking at a couple hundred dollars for a rod that looked like it was ten bucks. And that doesn't even come with a curtain!

Well, my Mama didn't teach me how to make do for nothin'!

I invented. After a few visits to Home Depot, here's what I came up with. (Disclaimer: I'm a girl, so these may not be what the things are *actually* called in the construction industry. But these names for them make sense to me. So there.)

  • 2 lengths of copper plumping pipe; 10' and 5', respectively:
  • 1 copper pipe connector sleeve
  • 3 two piece pipe hanging clamps like this one:
  • 3 double ended bolts, like these:
  • 2 copper pipe caps
  • 1 hack saw

So, I measured carefully and cut the pipe to length with the hacksaw. P was very impressed with my cutting skills.

Then, I covered up the tattered-looking end where I had just cut, as well as the nice clean other end, with the caps. I connected the two pieces of pipe with the connector thing.

Voila, curtain rod!

Next, I drilled the pointy (ei, intended for wood) end of the bolts into the ceiling* where I wanted them. I had to use three since the rod was so long and my curtain is quite heavy. Then, the other non-pointy ends of the bolts were hooked up with the pipe holder/clampy things. This made three rod-holding things hanging from the ceiling. All I had to do to finish it up was mount the rod in the clamp hangers and

Voila, a ceiling mounted curtain rod!

Now, making the curtains was a different story -- their sheer size almost defeated me. They're heavy dark mossy green chenille (gorgeous!) lined with cream colored cotton. I think I almost developed biceps from lifting them up and down. I've never felt so victorious as when I finally hung those suckers.

They looked BEAUTIFUL if I do say so myself. My real estate agent came over and was literally shocked speechless when I told her I made the all by myself.

Here's a picture of the final product:

Not too shabby for a girl with limited power tool experience, eh? See how the small copper pipe just disappears up there, and even matches the more reddish tones of the cork floor? Don't you think the visible bolts give it a kind of industrial-chic? Yes. You do.

*You knew there was a catch, right? Well, here it is. You see, when I told you that I drilled the bolts into the ceiling, I was being honest. I just drilled those suckers in. No pre-drilled holes for me, no way. More importantly though, no drywall anchors or stud-finding either.

Who needs a stud, you ask, when I have P hanging around all the time? I would ask myself the same question if my own Studmuffin hadn't gotten brained this morning when one of the bolts stripped out of the ceiling drywall, bringing down the curtain rod and 30lbs of curtain with it.

Currently the rod is wedged up with a book holding it in place, patiently waiting for me to install the drywall anchors, since the idea of moving the bolts to studded locations and thus mess up the zen of my curtain pulls is about as appealing as chimney sweeping.

Tomorrow, I install the anchors. Then everything will be fine.

Right? RIGHT??

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Committments are Tough

Given that it's now officially a week into January (Happy Birthday, R!), I guess my the idea of posting my new years resolutions is a bit overdue, especially since one of my ideas was to procrastinate less.

Here's the thing though: I'm not feeling very motivated. Resolutions are supposed to be solid, compelling pieces of self-improvement. They're supposed to motivate you for at least like three weeks. They are supposed to be...well...resolute. I am not feeling resolute.

Which makes me wonder: how do I both make a New Years resolution and keep it? I don't even remember what my resolution was last year (curse less? possibly?) let alone judge whether or not I kept it. One possibility is to tone down the whole resolution situation and settle on some New Years suggestions instead.That way I can take them under consideration, acknowledge their intentions and then have the option of just moving on.

Or, (and?) I could just lower the bar a bit. Weight loss? Forget it. I'm having a baby. Stop procrastinating? Maybe next year. Vacuum the house more? Eh...vacuuming is kinda loud, and my cleaning lady really loves her job. Seriously. She does. It's sick.

Eat more carbs?
Now we're talkin'.


1. File my nails more. They're really ragged a lot.

2. Keep up the home-cookin'. Actually, you have no idea how hard this one is to keep right now. It's right up there with "reduce the whining" and "get out of pajamas" on the "virtually impossible things to do while in the first trimester" list. Except that I occasionally feel pangs of guilt when the answer to the ubiquitous "What's for dinner?" question is "Takeout." For an entire week.

3. Buy some more socks. P's toes are feeling a little too exposed these winter months. I should get on that.

4. Figure out a more appropriate guest room. Right now we only have bunk beds, which kinda puts a damper on our having anyone over the age of 15 come visit. Perhaps I can delegate this suggestion to a local husband...

5. Read more books. This one should be pretty easy to keep up with, since getting out of bed is sure to prove more and more of a problem.

6. Stop and appreciate the patience of my family and friends. And by that I mean, pause between complaining sessions and thank them for listening. Then get back to it.

and last, but certainly not least

7. Get the landscaping and gardens under control. Whoa. That's pretty serious. It sound an awful lot like hard work. It scares me.

But you know what? It's just a suggestion.