Monday, January 23, 2012

Settling in

Seven a.m. The sky has been brightening for almost an hour and now early sunlight is splashing on the wall across the street and over the tiles on the garage floor. Birds are calling. I don't know their names, but their sounds are distinct to this place. The nights have been cool lately, which is both welcome and not.

Each time I come here the house feels more homey. I'm not sure if this is because it's gradually accruing furniture and other conveniences, or whether it's just becoming familiar. Little details are getting done. A ceiling fan, already destroyed by ants, is replaced. The patio is cleared again of leaves and weeds, some crushed limestone is spread around and new plants are heeled in. Even the unrenovated old addition at the back of the house looks more charming with a new fringe of spiky snake plants along its footings. One night I stood out there, admiring the changes and the glow of the patio lights. For the first time it felt like a pleasant place to hang out, not just a fairly unattractive space with "potential". I shared the early evening stillness with with a small bat that swooped about the patio, hunting insects.

It has been busy, getting jobs finished, furnishing, arranging, overseeing. Cleaning. Lots of cleaning. I learned that white vinegar, undiluted, really does do a good job of removing the mineral deposits, or sarro, that build up everywhere that the hard tap water collects - there was a lot on the kitchen sink and the ceramic floors. I think some harsh chemicals, like muriatic acid,  had been used on it in the past without complete success in removing it. But I soaked a dry cloth in straight vinegar and left it on any particularly nasty spot for an hour or so, and the sarro dissolved and wiped away easily. No scrubbing!

Sarro bugs me a lot. I've whined before about what it does to hair - mine is already coarse, and within a few days of exposure to tap water it's stiff with buildup. Now that I have large garafons of water in the house, I'm indulging in washing and rinsing hair with bottled water. It seems like a guilty indulgence, but it seems to work.

Just because I love before-and-after pictures, here are a few. It's still a work in progress, so maybe they are really before-and-during pictures. Still, it's encouraging to see the difference.


  1. Lookin' good! I adore those old pasta tiles.

  2. Debbie - WOW! You're certainly not "camping" (like us) anymore! It's really coming together nicely. Congratulations on feeling more at home - it's such a great space/place.

  3. It's really coming along nicely. It's good to give yourself time, as you live here you'll come to find out how you live here, which is different. So you might not want or need things like you have/had back home.
    I must say I ALWAYS recommend people to install a water softener. What is does to your hair, it also does to all the suff it comes in to contact with. Friends tell us about how they have to tear apart plumbing, shower heads etc, every 2 months to scrape them clean, andvwhat they go through to maintain their chrome fixtures, and to clean their tiles - not so for those of us with water softeners.

  4. I think the homey feel is partly because, over time, everything does feel more familiar and the space is becoming "our own." With visits of only a week or two a few times a year, it is definitely a work in progress. We're looking forward to 10 days in late April for our next trip.

    Your house is indeed looking great. I like the deep color on the bedroom wall and that lamp is perfect. Enjoy the remainder of your stay!

  5. Barb, I was surprised and happy that we were able to safe and re-lay the old tiles in a couple of rooms.
    Susan, I think we have a similar "slow-reno" approach. I like doing it in stages, and it makes it more affordable.
    Debi, I thought I was getting an electronic water softener along with the solar hot water, but if it is up there on the roof, I can't see it! One of the details I still have to sort out.
    John and Alan, it's so nice to read about how you're enjoying your place. It's not so long since you were sharing your house-hunting stories and now you're already settled in.

  6. In the meantime, you can also use a touch of vinegar to rinse your hair instead of bottled water--a cheaper method, and it's always available (unless you run out of vinegar). I save the old plastic gallon jugs (from milk or juice) for this task. You add about a tablespoon of vinegar to the jug and then fill it up with regular tap water, and voila you are ready to rinse. I prepare at least 2 jugs of this "softened" water and set them in the shower before I get in--this way I'm all ready when it comes time to rinse.

  7. I will try that trick, Gail. I have used undiluted vinegar on my hair before but find it's hard to get rid of the odor. Maybe a weaker mixture will do the trick.
    Meanwhile, I'm told the electronic water softener is now installed and I'm looking forward to seeing how much of a difference it will make!

  8. Undiluted? Ouch! Stings the eyes! In the beginning I was using way too much vinegar. Finally I hit on the ratio that works perfect every time, and now I don't walk around smelling like apple cider anymore. Please give us a product review of your new softener system when you come down next!