Dreaming From Scratch

Living the dream, starting with nothing.

Six Month Flyby!

The last 6 months, since the baby was born, have absolutely flown by.  The changes she has gone through are so extreme.  She has much more of a personality than three months ago and can accomplish more as well.

Within the past week, Elaina has developed the strength to get up onto her hands and knees.  While she usually faceplants, she is making progress.  Soon she will be crawling along.  We’ll need to start putting more things into lockdown.  Get rid of trinkets, put locks on cupboards, and a gate for the stairs.

It’s so easy to take the changes for granted.  She would need to be held, bounced, fed, sang to, or changed constantly.  She seems to be gradually giving a bit more rest on these issues.  While now there may be a little more time freed from covering basic needs, developing her coordination and social skills is taking more priority.

With that, here is Elaina Maria on piano!

DIY – How to fix a Washing Machine

One of the best ways to build your DIY cred, without attempting a hugely complex project, is to fix something that sounds like a hugely complex project.  Something like replacing a broken car door handle or doing a fix to a large appliance.  Both turn out to be much easier than they sound.


You know those ugly old washing machines that you grew up with?  Aside from being bullet proof, it turns out they are amazingly easy to fix.  The machines are easy to diagnose, and the damaged parts are extremely easy to replace.  Not bad for machines that were manufactured thirty years ago.

In fact, with washing machines there are only about three things that commonly go wrong.  They leak, get stuck in a specific setting, or they stop spinning clothes.  I have taken care of two of the three issues, without any training on the subject. (All though I did read up on the getting stuck on a specific setting issue)

The fixes are as simple as cleaning out a hose, reconnecting a hose, or just replacing a part.

Stuck in a specific setting - This was the problem with the first washer that I fixed.  It would fill the tub up with water and then stop.  No washing, no draining, and no agitation (other than to me!).  It was like the machine just died at that point.  I could manually turn the dial to spin cycle and it would spin and drain the tub.  It was so frustrating!  Finally I  took the top part off the machine (where the control panel is) and saw a small hose dangling.  and another piece that it clearly fit on.  Project complete!  The hose regulates the water level based on the load size.  After a hundred years of working they wiggle off or get clogged. 

Solution - Check that water regulation hose first. Reattach or Replace.

Leaking -  A leaking washing machine can be nerve racking.  You tighten pieces, check the rubber washers, and tighten some more.  Still every time you turn on the water it seems to spray everywhere.  I was having problems with the connections on the washer that Ann and I are currently using.  The cold water would spray everywhere when turned on.  It was coming from where the hose connects to the back of the washer.  I used new rubber washers, tightened the hoses, cleaned off the connections, used some plumber’s wrap, and re attached them numerous times.  Still that cold water kept spraying.  Eventually on the third time that I had taken the panel off (pictured) I noticed there was a HUGE CRACK in the valve that regualtes the water.  The machine had been in storage for a year and the small amount of water trapped in there froze and the piece cracked.

After about 10 minutes looking around online I was able to find the part number and get one ordered.  While it did set me back $30 with shipping, it is much better than having to buy a whole new machine for 20 times that. 

Solution - Find exact place of leak.  Tighten hoses, replace rubber washers, or replace cracked parts as needed.

Motor Problems -  I haven’t had to deal with motor issues yet, but it is another common washing machine problem is motor issues.  It could be a burnt out motor or a broken drive belt.    You might need to do some investigating and disassembling here.  Be sure to unplug the machine before doing any sort of electrical work. 

Solution -Just like the previous two issues, pinpoint the problem area and replace/reallign/reattach the part that needs repair.

While I am certainly nothing close to an expert in this arena, I’m willing to take a look at most any appliance.  Even if I can’t fix it, I can get a better understanding of how it works.  The only appliances that you shouldn’t try fixing is a television or computer monitor.  They have capaciters that can hold their electric charge for many years after the last use.

Washing machines happen to be easy to repair most of the time, but sound quite daunting.  Just make sure that you turn the water off and unplug the machine before starting to work.  Any appliance repair can potentially be dangerous, so use your head.  If you aren’t comfortable with the task and don’t feel you can do it safely contact an expert who can.

Let me know in the comments about other appliances that are easy to fix or ways to build your ‘DIY street cred’

My Life and Pixar

Last night while I was feeding Elaina for the last time before baby-bedtime, Todd and I watched the beginning of Up. The first time I saw it (in theaters) it brought tears to my eyes. This time was no different, but the tears were for a different reason.

Have you seen the movie? The opening scene contains a montage of a couple’s life. They have a dream of moving to Paradise Falls in South America and building their home – a dream they’ve shared since childhood. Of course, a dream this big takes money – so they start a savings jar.

Carl and Ellie from Up

The ambitious couple.

But then life happens. The jar is smashed open again and again because an urgent expense requires its use. Slowly they grow older, doing the frustrating dance of  “one step forward, two steps back.”

Then she gets sick and passes away. They never made it to their dream. It’s absolutely heartbreaking.

I saw too much of myself in that montage. How do you build toward a big dream without letting everyday life get in the way? How do you keep your sewer from backing up, the branch from falling on your roof, the unexpected medical bill from popping up?

Well, you can’t. Those things will happen.

But our tenants have paid us rent twice now. It feels SO good to have someone else pay our mortgage. Now we want to buy our next property as soon as we can.

We’ve got to change the dance. We need to take three steps forward as fast as we can, so those two steps back don’t erase our progress. Because we’ll never reach our dream land without the finances to keep it running.

Being a Mom, 2 months in – Stream of Consciousness

Good morning, baby! No, 4am is an excellent time to wake up. Coffee. Need Coffee. Diaper first. OK, now coffee. You’re hungry? OK, coffee can wait. All fed. Time for coffee. Oops for got to burp you. Will regret it if I don’t. Burping done. Now hang out in your chair for a second while I make coffee.Baby in Chair

Coffee is brewing! Happy momma. Oh! You are happy too! I love your smiles!! Smiley baby. Too distracted by beautiful smiles to notice coffee is done.

Woops spit up. But it’s ok, you have a bib on. Changing the bib. Uh oh, all bibs are dirty. Washing bibs. Yay for having a washing machine at last. And more spit up. Changing outfit. And you are sad again. Why? I think hungry. Yep! I’m right. You want more food.

All fed. Can mommy have some coffee now? Yes? Hooray! I love coffee at 5:30 am. It really is the best time for coffee, because you appreciate it so much. 1st cup of coffee down. Happy mommy.

Tummy Time? Everyone says we should have tummy time, so we do! Look at you, so strong!Tummy Time Aaaaand, 30 seconds later VERY angry. HATE tummy time. No more tummy time.

Should we read a book? Ok. Dr. Suess. What a weirdo. But you love the pictures, so we’ll read it again. How about Where the Wild Things Are? Also love those pictures. How about Runaway Bunny? Nope. not enjoying Runaway Bunny. Let’s go look in the mirror for awhile.

Look! That’s you! in the mirror! You are so cute! Do you see you in the mirror? Awww…. And there’s the dirty diaper. Ew. Hate dirty diaper.

But I do love the diaper changing smiles.

No more smiles? Why not? Oh! Because you’re hungry, again. No problem.

All fed. Lets sing songs. Lullabies? No! We like marches. 76 Trombones! Battle Hymn of the Republic! The Ants Go Marching! And you’re sleepy… sleepy… asleep… back to bed at 8am… I love bed… Goodnight baby… You look so peaceful. Sleepy Baby See you in an hour or so. I’ll sleep too. Well, I’ll try. The coffee just kicked in.

Hop to it! Stumbling into a Vine of Hops

While I didn’t exactly have a stellar harvest this year, I did stumble completly by accident into a great find.  Ann’s aunt and uncle who were gracious enough to let me stay at their place had grown hops.

They had planted it purely as a decorational vine.  It grew on their fence and moved down a little further each year.  This summer was the first time the plant had produced cones.  The cones are the part that are used for all sorts of things.  It went crazy with them!  I was probably about three weeks later than I should have been in harvesting them.  The first couple frosts had come by and the sun had dried out quite a bit of them that weren’t protected by the leaves.

Even with the later than ideal harvest, I was able to fill up a gallon sized bag quite full of useful hops. 

What can you do with hops?

  1. Make Beer – Hops is one of the big ingrediants used in brewing beer.  The other two are Malted Barley (or other grain) and yeast.  The hops helps to balance out the sweet malted flavors and improve storage life.  I have been known to brew a batch of beer or two.  If you are patient and like beer, you can make some great things.
  2. Root Beer – I once attempted to follow an ‘olde fashioned roote beer’ recipe with my sister.  It was pretty bad tasting!  I would like to go try again with a little more time on my hands to get it right.
  3. Teas – I haven’t ever made tea from hops, but apparently it is a good sleeping aid (According to people into natural medicines and whatnot).
  4. Soaps - If you like the smell of hops and homemade soaps, this is a great way to combine the two.

With these hops, I think I am probably going to attempt to use them in soaps.  I have no idea the results, but it could be fun to try.

Do you know any other uses for hops?

Proving Murphy’s Law – Post Roundup

This last summer has been interesting for the two of us.  We packed up our world and moved 1,500 miles away.  There have been some setbacks and trials.  Ultimately we got through them all of them and we are still able to progress towards our dream.  With that, here is the recap of “Proving Murphy’s Law”

Part 1 – Selling the Car – In a state with rigorous inspections, a check engine light can be a big deal!  We had huge difficulties getting rid of the car with our time crunch.  In the end we wound practically giving the car away!

Part 2 – Emptying out the Freezer – With a huge stash of strawberries in the freezer that we spent hours picking, Ann decided to try her hand at canning.  At the same time as packing up the house.

Part 3 – Finding an Appartment – After accepting a job and agreeing to move across the country,  it was discovered how scarce places to rent were.  Especially with big giant dogs planning on moving in too.  The upside to this story is that it pushed us into looking at buying a house.

Part 4 – Moving our Lives - This is a particular epic disaster that is still causing me ulcers!  Basically we hired some scam artists rather than a moving company.  What a huge pain!  We were able to file a claim through the bank to get the money refunded, but Todd had to fly out and drive everything back.  What a huge pain!

Part 5 – Destroying Gardens -  Leaving a garden mid-summer is a very frustrating event.  After putting in all the work caring for and growing vegetables, leaving before harvest was hard.

While there were these setbacks, it was a good summer overall.  Todd is now working in a professional position, we were able to buy a house, and our beautiful little princess has arrived.  The frustrations were real, but we are in a position 1,000x better than we were 1 year ago today.

We’ve got more plans, and it is great to be moving towards our dreams.  Even if the road is bumpy.

The Big Project

Everyone says an infant is a handful, but you don’t really know until you have one of your own. I love taking care of Elaina (usually). However, that means my “big project” for the time being is her, and unfortunately that puts a hold on everything else I want to do.

For the last two weeks, my dad has made a big batch of homemade soup for us to eat all week, because there is just not enough time to make dinner. Last night we managed pan-fried tilapia and baked potatoes. Not very interesting, but I was so proud of us for managing to cook!

The baby will be three weeks old tomorrow, and I am slowly seeing progress. Hopefully in just a couple weeks more I’ll find time to head back into the kitchen. I’ve found a few minutes here and there to knit (not many), but hopefully that will change soon, too. (Then we will be moving – decorating projects!) Todd is always fueling the fire with ideas of things we should do and try, and I’m eager to get back on track with him.

In the meantime, if you are missing my voice here on dreaming from scratch, know that it’s probably being used to sing a little angel to sleep.

Elaina and me

Me and my sleeping angel.

Time for Chickens, Bees, Soaps, and Cheese?

Right now I have a whole slew of rather non-conventional projects and ideas that I am excited about.  Each one will involve an investment of at least $50 for startup (an additional $100 for beekeeping).  More prohibitive is the space and time required for each one.  Until Ann and I move into our house, we won’t have much freedom to move in this cramped little apartment.  Time is running at a premium as well.

I am currently working on building a maple crib for Elaina, and teaching myself woodworking in the process.  I have learned a lot and enjoy the project, but I have had a few setbacks.  The biggest problem is the workshop space.  It is an hour and a half drive to get there, so I can really only work on the project on weekends.  This restriction has been a huge pain.  I want to get parts done, but the project is forced to drag on longer and longer.

Meanwhile I’m thinking up plans for chicken coops to make, soaps to mix, forces applied with cheesepress screws, where to plant everything next spring, and the best placement of bee hives.  All subjects where my experience is nill, or next to nill.  It is difficult not being able to move forward on any projects. And what about my next woodworking adventure?  When am I going to have time to even think about that?

Having baby Elaina around is a full-time job in itself.  Even for two people!  When I get home from a busy day at work, Ann is ready to take a break from caring for the baby all day.  Although when the baby is hungry (all the time), I am less than useless to her.  When Elaina finally decides to sleep, you better make the best of those twenty to ninety minutes because you don’t know when you’ll get another slice of respite.

While bees might not be doable for a number of years and chickens impractical (pesky city ordinances) I will have my hands full for quite some time!

Any thoughts as to what projects I should go after first?