Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Summer Appliance Revolt

First we had to replace our fridge (with pretty much the same fridge, just newer) back in May.  That fridge has been keeping everything frozen in the freezer, and cold in the fridge, so that is good and expected, lol.  But the ice maker has been like an ice maker on steroids!  It furiously pumped out ice in these very sturdy lines of 8.  They never broke into individual pieces when they dumped in--I would have to take one line out and whack it on the side of the counter to get the cubes to break apart because they were so thickly attached together.  But hey, we had ice, right??  I was happy!

But then the excess of huge lines of ice actually broke the ice holder under the ice maker!  Well, we had kept our old drawers and shelves, so we had the container from our old fridge, which fit just fine.  So we switched them out and didn't think much more of it.  But then the ice maker really slowed down.  Eventually, it wasn't making ice any more, but it had clearly been releasing tons of water into our ice holder, because there were big frozen slabs of ice (I know--redundant, lol) on the bottom of it.  Alright, with no more ice forthcoming, it was clearly time to figure out how to call the repairman.  We just bought this crazy thing!

The repairman came on Tuesday, after 2 weeks of making ice in a single (broken) ice cube tray we dug out of the back of the cabinet that I used to freeze homemade baby food in.  To say I was glad to see the man would be a huge understatement.  I am not European--I love my ice cold water!  I told the guy about our icemaker on steroids, and he promptly replaced the icemaker.  Five minutes later, he was gone!  And I am happy to report that we are back in the ice business, hopefully for many more years this time . . .

In July our cook top decided to join in the rebellion.  When we moved into this house, there was a horrid JennAir cooktop (with big electric eyes, and a huge fan in the middle) that was original to the house.  By 2008, only 2 burners worked, so things were becoming desperate.  Sometime in the summer of 2008 we got a new flat cooktop, and I was soooo happy.  We had trouble once summer of 2012 while Siri and her family were staying with us.  The burners were coming on and not going back off again.  Bob was able to fix whatever was wrong, and we didn't have any more issues.

Until July 12.  I had spent a (hot, humid, but very fun) afternoon at Mt. Vernon with 2 of my high school friends.  I rushed home so I could take the kids to their swim meet, while Caleb heated some left-over spaghetti sauce and made some more noodles.  When I got home and walked past the cooktop, I could feel heat emanating from it, even though it was off, so I jiggled the knob to see if maybe it really hadn't turned all the way or something.  Well!  The burner started glowing bright red, and it was throwing sparks!  Ack!!  Caleb ran over to watch it while I ran downstairs to flip the circuit breaker.  Amazingly I was able to find the right switch right away, because the previous owners labelled the circuits fairly well.  Whew!

When Bob got home, he took off the knob, and we could see gray ash down under it.  He saw something that was lose, so he tightened it, and we threw the switch again, but it just started sparking again.  So--clearly a new cooktop was in order.

We spent a long time looking on the Lowes and Home Depot websites, comparing burners of all sizes.  Obviously we need big burners for our huge pots, but we were constrained by our counter cut-out.  Eventually we found one we could live with, and we ordered it--but it wasn't delivered until the end of July.  So we had to make do with my electric skillet and a really weenie plug-in electric burner we have for some reason (times like this, I suppose, but I don't remember ever buying it, lol).

Eventually the cooktop arrived.  Yay!  We got it out of the box--and discovered that there was an extra lip on the bottom that made it not fit in our counter cut-out, even though it was the same size on top.  Whoops!  We hadn't even looked at "counter cut-out size"!  Grrrrr . . . .
We talked about cutting the counter, but that seemed risky.  Then Bob did more reading and found out that this cooktop actually needed a 40 amp circuit instead of the 30 amp one we had.  Sigh.  Obviously this was not the cooktop for us, so we sent it back.

We went back to the websites.  We spent much time examining cut-out sizes as well as burner configurations.  This time we were even less excited because we already knew that we couldn't get ideal big burners in our size, and now with our electric constraints.  Our old cooktop had one big burner, one slightly smaller but still big, and 2 small ones.  We eventually settled on one that has 1 big burner and 3 small burners that are too close together to use for big pots.  The 2 burners on the left can work together, which would be great if I had any oblong pots.

Really the only saving grace for this cooktop is that it doesn't have knobs.  Normally I don't like more computer controls, but I am glad to not have bulky knobs taking up so much of the space.  But for some reason, not having knobs makes for a lot of wasted space, such that it is very hard to fit more than one big pot on at one time.  So that will be tricky to deal with, long-term. And the buttons will probably break easily . . . just like all other appliances seem to do now.

When we went to install this one, our counter hole was almost too big.  It turns out the "counter inset size" measurement on the website was off by 1/4 inch.  There is only a little bit of the cooktop that is on the edge all around, which is not ideal.  So honestly, who knows what to believe when ordering these things.
I am very ready to get a commercial kitchen!  At least the kitchenaid dishwasher is still going strong after several years.  If that had given up the ghost this summer as well, I think we would have been eating cereal and sandwiches permanently-- and on paper bowls and plates too!

Saturday, August 26, 2017

The Great Room Re-Shuffle

Here's a floor plan of our second story.  Nathan and Luke have always have bedroom #4, in the top left corner.  We've shuffled other kids around, but usually the newest baby has been in room 3.  Verity, of course, slept in our closet for her first 2 years, moving in with Micah and Drew in that room just a year ago.  The 3 girls have been in room 2 for several years, and Caleb and Jonathan have been in room 5.  

We started thinking about how to rearrange the rooms when we started thinking about Luke going off to college.  It seemed ridiculous to keep their room as an empty shrine to them when they were both gone most of the year, and we had 2 other rooms with 3 people in each of them.  Also, the 3 girls were sharing a bathroom with Caleb and Jonathan, and it was just getting crowded.  Jack-n-Jill bathrooms sound really great in theory, but in actuality, the doors into the other room were always getting mysteriously left locked, and no one wanted to claim responsibility for that, or for any messes left on the counter/by the toilet, etc.  So there was a lot of tension and quarreling from this bathroom.  Plus, as the girls move into puberty, it just seemed better to have a girls bathroom, and then a boys bathroom on the other side.

But the next question was, if Nathan and Luke give up their room, where will they stay when they're home, and where will all their stuff go?  We have a room at the foot of our basement stairs that seemed to fit the bill.  The previous owners had put a humongous built-in desk down there, and it only had a tiny window, so we weren't going to use it as a full-time bedroom.  The only problem was that the previous owners had painted it a dark shade of green.  The whole room, even the door.  It was as dark as a cave!  (Well, the other problem was that the room had accumulated a lot of junk that we had to dispose of, lol.)

When Nathan got home from his few weeks at WSS, he got right to work painting the room.  It took 2 coats of primer to cover that green.  He did a great job though, and now the room is so much brighter! If you look at the top left of the picture, you can see one of the cubbyholes in the built-in unit that is still the same dark green.  The room is really a pain because not only is there a giant desk taking up all of one wall, we have a big wooden door covering our electrical panel on another wall.  We need to get a bunk bed, probably from IKEA, and a small dresser, but that's about all that will fit in that room!

 It was sad to see Nathan and Luke pack up all their stuff and move out.  Here's what the room looked like when Nathan went back to college.
 Not long after he left, the girls were highly motivated to get everything switched around, so they encouraged Caleb and Jonathan to move their stuff.  So they did.  They pretty much just dumped it all in the middle of the floor and ignored it, with no attempt at organization or anything, and this is actually pretty much how the room still looks right now.
The girls, on the other hand, made short work of moving Faith and Verity into what used to be Caleb and Jonathan's room (so now the 4 girls will share a bathroom, as will the 4 boys on the other side).  They organized both their rooms and cleaned the bathroom as well, so their side was pretty much sparkling, lol.  
So Tuesday night was officially Verity's first night in a big girl bed.  We did dig out our bed rail, but she's been just fine.  She and Faith have actually slept really well in the same room.  Faith did not want to go to bed at the same time as Verity, so she's been sneaking in a little later, but Verity has gone off to sleep just fine by herself, and not woken up when Faith comes in, so that's a success.  And actually Verity is sleeping later than she was with the 2 little boys.  I think they all were waking each other up or something.  
 So that leaves just Anna and Grace in their room.  I don't have a picture, but Anna is on the top bunk, and Grace is sleeping on the double bed below all by herself.  She is so happy to have the bed all to herself!  For most of the past several years, all 3 girls have slept in the double bed, so to have it all to herself must indeed feel like a great luxury!  Every morning she comes down and comments on how easy it is to find a comfortable position when she's the only one in the bed, lol.
And Micah and Drew are left in their room!  We need to take down the crib, which will give some much needed space in there.  It will be so incredibly weird to not have a crib up anywhere, after having one up for over 20 years.  We need to get a "real" bunk bed for Micah and Drew, instead of the toddler bed under the junior loft bed.  Drew is getting too tall for the toddler bed!  He doesn't seem to have made the connection that Verity jumped straight to a big girl bed, and she's almost 2 years younger than him . . . hopefully that won't occur to him either, lol.  Then I guess we'll sell the loft bed and toddler bed, since we won't need them anymore.  

There you have it--5 bedrooms, each with 2 people in it!  

Monday, August 14, 2017

Another One's Flown the Nest

Bob, Luke, and I left Thursday morning for a long drive to Alabama.  There was some rain (some of it quite heavy!), but we made it down in about 12 hours, which included a nice long stop at Steak N Shake for dinner (and a long chat with the friendly waitress--I love the south!).

Friday morning we headed over to the university to start moving Luke in!
The nice thing about the housing here is that each student has his or her own room.  That was a big positive for Luke!  The rooms aren't big, but they're not tiny either.  Plenty of room!  The rooms come furnished with a bed that you can raise or lower, a desk, a bookshelf/hutch, a desk chair (that rocks, oddly), a dresser, and a closet that has a really small 3 drawer dresser attached inside on the left that is about half the width of the closet.
Luke decided he wanted his bed up a little higher, so he could fit the dresser under it.  He could have lofted it even higher--there were extra headboard things to do that with in the closet in the common area, but we could never find any pins to attach them.  But what we ended up with is probably high enough.  He also fit a big Rubbermaid tub under there, and some other stuff.
In each suite, there is a common area, and 2 rooms on either side.  This is looking down the hallway from the common area.  Luke's room is the second on the right.  He and the other guy each get their own sink, and then there is a shower and toilet for them to share.  The other side of the common area has the same set-up for 2 other guys.
Here is the common area.  The furniture (or at least the couch cushions) have seen better daysbut they are functional!
There is a little kitchen area with the world's smallest microwave and a pretty small fridge.  I think it will be fine for the 4 boys though.
It really didn't take much time to move Luke in, and we were done in time for lunch.  Before we left, Bob had solicited opinions in his office for good BBQ places down there, and he received quite a few recommendations.  He did due diligence by checking out reviews on the internet, and so for lunch, we tried "Melvin's", which had very positive reviews.  It is a not a place you would ever just come upon, for sure.  It is literally just these tents stuck next to some building, right next to the smokers.
The barbecue was good, although a bit spicy for me.  I had pulled pork, Bob had half a chicken, and Luke had ribs.  Each plate came with a cold bottle of water, and some homemade baked beans and potato salad (no other choices or anything!).  We each got a ton of meat, which was good because we were a little surprised when we went to pay and each plate was $15!  There's no menu there or anything, so we were just flying blind!  It was a fun experience though, and Melvin was very friendly.

After we finished lunch, we went to Walmart to pick up all the stuff we realized we forgot (trash can, among other things!).    There is no cleaning service for the suites, so the boys are responsible for cleaning their own bathroom/kitchen, and for supplying things like toilet paper!  We bought a big thing for that!  We also went to Sams to buy a different desk chair.  Luke didn't love the one that was provided.  We went back to the dorm and assembled it in the parking lot so we didn't have to carry the big box inside.
After that, my parents and some local friends of their's stopped by!  In a weird situation of good timing, my parents had some friends just move down to Montgomery, and they were invited down to visit them.  So they stopped first to stay the night with friends who live near Luke's school, and of course, since we were there too, they couldn't resist seeing Luke's room and visiting with us!  We all went out to eat at a delicious German restaurant, and then over to Rich and Judy's lovely home for dessert and to visit some more.  It was so fun!

Saturday we probably could have driven back, but I'm glad we didn't.  It was nice to have 2 days in between the big drives.  Instead, after breakfast, Bob and I each exercised at the hotel gym, and then I worked on some chemistry.  Then we decided to go a little further south to another BBQ place that several people had recommended--"Big Bob Gibson"!
This place was actually a physical building with air conditioning, so that was nice (less flies!).  There were a LOT of big trophies all around the room because this place has won some serious amounts of championships, including the 2017 World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest.
I liked this barbecue a bit better because the sauce wasn't as spicy.  Also, Bob had the most amazing mac and cheese for a side dish!  Even better, they had those yummy little rolls of crushed ice, which are the absolute best.  AND (this has never before happened to me) the (really, really nice) waitress asked me at the end if I wanted a "to go" cup so I could take my ice water with me!  YES!  That's the annoying thing about sit-down restaurants on trips--you usually can't refill your water bottle or take your cup with you!

So then we drove around a little more--I finally think I'm getting my bearings there--and then headed back to the hotel so I could do some more chemistry.  Luke was doing ice breaker things at the university since classes don't start for a few more days.  But then we picked him back up and headed over to our other friends' house, the ones we stayed with when we came down to visit.  We had a ball with them, as well as a delicious meal!  It's so fun to see all these friends in other places!  But we eventually had to go drop Luke off and say goodbye so we could start the long drive back Sunday.

We got back after another long 12 hour day, thanks to construction and traffic.  It was a really nice time though.  Originally we thought we'd bring everyone, but once we realized Nathan didn't have to be back at his school until later, we decided to leave everyone else at home with him.  It was a really good decision!  Although I'd like for everyone to see Luke's school at some point, it was good not to have a circus trailing us as we tried to get Luke situated, so we could just focus on him.  Plus it was really fun, just the three of us!  On the way down, we listened to an entire week of sessions from one of the WSS speakers this year, on Jonah.  It was really excellent, and we didn't have to stop it once to settle a backseat dispute or because someone was crying!

I think it was easier for me since we left 2 days after we got there.  I could see him settling in, and everyone was just so very friendly.  I think he's going to have a great 4 years there!  I did not want to come home though.  Aside from the always depressing thought of driving back into Northern VA, there is the thought that the school year is about to start again, and I really am not ready!  Oh well--onward and upward, stiff upper lip, and all that.  I can't wait for camping next year . . .