Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Basil Turkey Burgers

I haven't posted a new recipe in a very long time. That's because I haven't tried making a new recipe in a very long time. I've been cooking most nights, but I've stuck to the old comfortable recipes. Warm weather makes me lazy, and I've earned a huge F for creativity this summer! This was a step in the right direction, and it was wonderful, so I'm going to share it.

Basil Turkey Burgers 
(makes 4 medium burgers)

1 package ground turkey (mine was 1.2 pounds)
Basil (fresh and/or dried)
Salt and pepper
Sliced tomato
Hamburger buns

Wash your hands and then get them all gross again by squashing the ground turkey in a bowl with a scoop of breadcrumbs (I used less than 1/4 cup) and a tablespoon or so of milk. Then wash your hands and chop up some basil - 8 to 10 fresh leaves should do it. Another option is to already have the basil chopped and ready before getting turkey juice on your hands. That's probably even better than the way I did it. 

Squirt some mayo (enough to spread on 4 burgers) into a bowl and toss in a tablespoon or so of basil, then mash it around. Cover it and stick it back in the fridge. Toss the rest of the basil in with the ground turkey. I decided it didn't look like enough, so I sprinkled in some ground basil too. More basil is almost always a good call. Add some salt and pepper and then get your squish back on, mixing everything up really well before forming four medium patties.

I cooked them in a pan on the stove with a little butter to keep them from sticking, but you could try grilling them. My mother-in-law, who gave me this recipe, recommended that I start out by putting foil on the grill, because the burgers are too soft to hold together and might fall through the grate. So, if you're grilling, start them on foil and them move them over to get some nice grill lines once they've set a little.

Spread the basil mayo on the buns, assemble burgers with lettuce and tomato, and YUM. They are so soft and delicious. And because they're really summery, I highly recommend getting some fresh local tomatoes to put on the burgers. I used locally-grown beefsteak tomatoes, in part because I was intrigued by the name "beefsteak" and wanted to know how they were different from regular old tomatoes. Turns out it just means that they're big. Fresh and local taste so much better than the other junk, so make an effort to find some - the tomatoes really pull the whole thing together.

Note to self: try this with mozzarella mixed into the burgers next time, call them Caprese Turkey Burgers, feel super fancy.

I promise someday I'll get a better camera and learn a few things about taking pictures of food, so this stuff can look as delicious as it actually is!

Monday, August 27, 2012

My Oven is Talking to Me

I don't know enough Morse code to know what it's trying to communicate, but I'm pretty sure my oven is trying to speak to me.

Can anyone translate for me?

This happens every time I use the oven. As far as I can tell, something is wrong with the temperature probe wiring. It's a very old, very small, Maytag wall oven, and I would love to rip out its guts and replace the whole thing. Unfortunately, since I want to get away from the wall-oven-and-separate-cooktop setup I currently have and put in a regular old stove, I have to wait until we redo the whole kitchen. Otherwise, I'd have to take a chainsaw to some cabinets. As much fun as that would be, I doubt the end result would be functional. Or pretty. 

I've done a bunch of reading, but can't figure out how to fix it. I've considered finding an appliance repair guy, but with an oven this old (I can't even find a model number anywhere), I'm doubtful that anyone will be able to find parts for it. Currently, when it beeps at me, I open the door and use an oven mitt to smack at what I think is the temperature probe. Usually, it goes quiet for a few minutes, while I beam with pride over my repair skills, but nothing is a permanent fix.

Luckily, the oven still seems to work properly and maintain the temperature I set, so I'm able to cook with it and get reliable results. That's why I haven't tried disconnecting the temperature probe entirely. Instead, I camp out in the kitchen the whole time the oven is on, so I can be ready to smack the probe periodically. The bright side is that I'm more likely to keep up with dishes while I'm cooking instead of waiting until after dinner, since I'm stuck in the kitchen anyway! 

Saturday, August 25, 2012

K-cup Vivisection

Things got a little brutal yesterday at work.

I've moved up in the world and now work in a place with a communal Keurig machine in the break room. Everybody buys their own K-cups, so there's no fighting over who paid how much for their coffee dues, and we all get to make our favorite flavors. Heaven. Seriously. It's the small things.

After spending too much money on K-cups, my coworker and I each picked up one of those DIY-K-cups from Bed Bath and Beyond (with a 20% off coupon, naturally). The packaging says you just fill it with your preferred ground coffee and pop it into the machine for a delicious cup of coffee for a fraction of what the official K-cups would cost you.

The thing is, we can't get it to work. We get coffee, yes, but it's terrible. Even filling it to the absolute maximum line and setting the Keurig for the smallest cup (6oz), the result is extremely weak. We've tried putting more coffee, less coffee, finer and coarser grinds, and different brands of coffee, but it always comes out like a cup of watered-down coffee. Watching the process closely to pinpoint the problem, I noted that the liquid coming out of the Keurig with one of these things in place was a lot lighter in color than when a K-cup was in there, so I put in a K-cup (since I wanted a decent coffee!) and watched the machine to confirm my suspicion. Sure enough, the coffee looked dark at first, but gradually got lighter until it looked as watery, right at the end, as the stuff coming out with the Solofill cup.

Hypothesis from the peanut gallery in the break room: Maybe the K-cups are super-packed with much more coffee than we could fit in the Solofill! Considering how everyone who walks up to the machine with a K-cup is always unconsciously shaking their little coffee pod like a maraca, I knew this couldn't be true: if it was packed really tight, it wouldn't make noise when shaken. The group wanted proof, of course, so I fetched a sacrificial K-cup from the box of freebies in the office supply closet, which is stocked with decaf and flavors nobody likes. My victim: spicy eggnog. Eeeeeewww.

It was obvious, once I held the pod up to the light of the window, that it was only half full. The interesting thing is, it's the top half that's full, and the bottom is just air. I cut it open to confirm that it was just air and not a filter or something, and yes, just air1. The top half of the cup was taken up by a thick papery filter full of coffee.

Second hypothesis from the peanut gallery (we have very chatty peanuts in our group): maybe it's not real coffee in the K-cups! Maybe they put instant coffee in there to fool us! The problem with this, though, is that a used K-cup still has coffee in it. Yes, we dismembered one to check. 

New hypothesis! Maybe there's a combination of instant coffee and real coffee in there. This would explain why there is still coffee in the pod once it's done brewing, and explain why the coffee is darker at the beginning, because the water dissolves the granules right away while the rest of the coffee does its thing. My goodness, what a sexy hypothesis! How to check? We tore the lids off the new and used K-cups to compare the volume of coffee grounds, because obviously the instant coffee would have melted away. Weighing them was immediately rejected, because one was waterlogged. Instead, we dumped out some of the dry coffee from the new pod and compared it to regular ground coffee. It looked the same, but just to be sure, I sprinkled some of the K-cup coffee in a coffee cup and added warm water to see if it would dissolve. It did not.

So now we all know what goes on inside a K-cup, but aren't much closer to making decent coffee with the reusable filter. The current hypothesis is that the filter isn't fine enough and the water goes through too fast, not bringing enough coffee flavor with it. Cramming more coffee into the Solofill just causes an overflow problem, so that's not the answer. The paper filter in the real K-cup is very thick, so we're thinking that's the key.

They sell other kinds of multiple-use Keurig pseudo-pods2, so the new plan is to buy a couple of different ones and see if they work any better. All of them seem to have similar reviews online, so it's hard to decide what to try, but with our filter hypothesis, I'm going to look for one with a very very fine mesh.

1. I suppose it may have been helium. I did not run it through a mass spectrometer.

2. Pseudo-pods, as in "false pods" not as in "a temporary protrusion of the protoplasm, as of certain protozoans, usually serving as an organ of locomotion". To my knowledge Keurig coffee machines are not amoebas.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012


I can be a bit of a book snob.

I'm not proud of it, but I judge non-readers pretty harshly. There are people out there who say things like "I don't read", and they don't seem to think that it's a serious hole in their lives, which is very difficult for me to understand.

Books are, for me, a necessity. Since the day I was able to read Grover At The Farm all by myself, I have been reading. I have a quick link to my library's website on my Firefox toolbar, and I choose new purses based primarily on their size, because they must have enough space for an average hardcover. I have read hundreds of books, from classics to to sci-fi to non-fiction on almost any topic, and I've got a "to-read" shelf (currently growing online at that never seems to get any shorter. I deeply regret that I only have one lifetime during which to read, because I'll never be able to read everything I want to.

I think more people should be regular readers. The digital world is slowly chipping away at our attention spans and encouraging us to absorb written words in small, manageable paragraphs, instead of pages and chapters, so I smile when I see people at bus stops or in coffee shops, holding an open book. So why, then, do I feel such hostility towards adult readers of tween-and-teen-targeted "literature"? See, right there, I used sarcastiquotes without even thinking about it. I get all sorts of annoyed when I see a grown person paging through Twilight. They're reading something, so I should be happy about it - they made a decision to acquire and read a book, which is what I want more people to do.

But why would anyone other than a 12-year-old girl voluntarily read about angsty sparkling vampires (unless they're parents of teens and tweens who want to be familiar with what their kids are reading)? My parents weren't standing in line at the store, waiting excitedly for the next Babysitters Club book to be released so they could discuss it with their friends at work, so what changed over the past 20 years? Did young adult (YA) literature get more complex and adult along the way, blurring the lines?

It sounds sort of rhetorical, but it's a question I'm honestly asking of my readers: has there been a shift in the complexity of YA books over the years, making them closer to adult books?

I've done a lot of thinking about my hostility towards the YA stuff, and I posted my thoughts to one of my message boards to start a discussion there, learning more about myself in the process. A big part of my problem is that I assume that someone reading "kids' books" isn't going to want to read Asimov, or John Irving, or a history of the life of Henrietta Lacks. But how do I know what else is on their shelves? Just like someone at Taco Bell might cook fancy gourmet dinners 95% of the time, some people who read lots of good stuff sometimes like to read "fluffy" books because they're easy.

I think I tend to lump all YA into the "bullshit fluff" literature category, because of what I remember from the books of my childhood. The problem with that, if I think about it, is that I enjoyed the Harry Potter series, and if I'm being honest, I have to say they were better written than Sophie Kinsella's "Shopaholic" stuff, which was aimed at adult readers. So where's the line? What's a YA novel and what's a crappy grownup novel? I count Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, and Anne of Green Gables among my favorite books and I've read them dozens of times, despite the fact that they're intended for younger readers. But they're good. Conclusion: maybe I'm putting more overlap in my Venn diagram of "YA" and "crappy writing" than is warranted.

Why should it even matter that people are reading badly-written junk? It's not my business what people read, and on a conscious level I know that, but I see someone in a waiting room reading Fifty Shades of Grey and I die a little inside. I'm sure there are folks who will look down on my collection of science fiction and medical memoirs and declare that I'm not a real reader if I don't know Tolstoy and Dumas by heart, and I'm sitting here in my glass house, tossing stones around. 

Full disclosure: I haven't read Twilight or 50 Shades, mostly because I've heard enough about them and read enough reviews and quotes from them to know that they won't be to my taste. Hunger Games, on the other hand, is being recommended to me from all sides, by people I know and whose opinions I usually trust, and that's a big reason why I started this thread. I really don't want to read the books, and I'm not entirely sure what my resistance is about. I don't think I'm the hipster type who avoids things when they get popular, so what is it? I thought maybe it was the YA label that was doing it, but I'm not sure, given that I do count some children's classics among my favorite books.

Maybe I'm guilty of lumping the Hunger Games books into the same category as the Twilight series, when it belongs elsewhere? Is it more Little Women than Sweet Valley High?

I'd like this to open up into a discussion, if anyone's game. I need help pinning down what it is that bugs me so much about the popularity of fluff, because otherwise I'm not sure how I will ever change that prejudice.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Mars and the Wright Brothers

During my week in the Outer Banks, I braved rain and high water to visit the Wright Brothers National Memorial at Kill Devil Hills. Even on a do-nothing-and-relax vacation, as this one was supposed to be, I couldn't resist visiting something historical and museum-y.

This boulder and metal track in the ground mark the takeoff point of the Wright Brothers' Flyer, and the four smaller plaques in the distance mark where the first four successful flights landed on December 17th, 1903.

First successful flight of the Wright Brothers

One hundred and twenty feet. That's how far Orville Wright got on his first successful powered flight, which the brothers were smart enough to capture on film. It is amazing to me that there is a photograph of this huge step forward in technology, this incredible achievement. And this all happened in 1903, which isn't really all that far away if you think about it. Not much more than a hundred years from their success in flight, we used a rocket-propelled sky-crane to gently lower an automobile-sized rover onto the surface of Mars.

I bring up the Mars Curiosity rover not only because it's awesome and on Mars, my favorite planet that I don't currently live on, but because we stayed up late on Sunday night, in the big rented house on the beach in Avon, and hooked up the TV to the internet to watch the live feed from NASA as they monitored Curiosity's descent to the surface.

Four of us, and a couple of sleepy weenie-dogs, settled in on the cushy sofas for the whole thing, from the interviews with NASA engineers to the triumphant cheers and tears of joy on the big screen when a safe landing was confirmed. More than once that night, as we watched the camera pan over the control room and the excited and nervous NASA folks speaking into their headsets, I was overwhelmed with a sense of awe and insignificance. Not only are we at a place in our evolution as a species that we can safely place sophisticated technology onto other planets, but it's become routine enough that it's not much more than a blip on the news. Sure, the nerds and space geeks of the world were huddled in front of their TVs and computers to watch it all unfold, but there's a bit of a "been there and done that" feeling from the news coverage, and that makes me both happy and sad.

I'm happy, because it means that awesome feats like this have become common enough not to make a big splash. Not only can we send stuff to Mars, or Jupiter, or to explore giant asteroids, but we do it all the time. We are an amazing damn species. But I'm sad, because when events are common, they stop being news, and people stop caring. When people stop caring, people forget why we're doing all of this in the first place and see it as a waste of money and resources.

But it's not a waste. No, it's not directly ending world hunger or fixing the economy, but space exploration has brought us so many advances in technology, and is worth every penny put into it. And, frankly, it's only pennies that are put into it. NASA's budget is a joke, and the joke keeps getting smaller. This comparison puts it into perspective:

I'm not trying to get all political here - I still don't have a vote in this country - but when you see how little NASA gets from the US budget, it's hard to understand the folks who are complaining that we're spending so much money to visit other planets for nothing. Especially when you see this:

Not that I'm bashing the Olympics (just NBC's dismal coverage and overuse of Ryan Goddamn Seacrest), but in the grand scheme of things, we get so much out of space exploration, and it's silly to argue against funding it. It's not just about rockets, minerals, and spectral analyses. It's about engineering, programming, and robotics, and dozens of other applications to medicine and nutrition and memory foam mattresses.

Three days after I watched Curiosity touch down gently on Mars to begin its mission of exploring the planet, I stood in the spot where we first took to the air in powered vehicles, and I whispered a thanks to the Wright brothers and all those who built on their work, for what they've made possible so far.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Round or Folded?

"Round or folded?"

The guy at the drive-through window repeated his question, since we were still staring blankly at him.

"Your egg. Do you want it round, or folded?"

Dave and I looked at each other. Both of us had eyebrows raised and shoulders lifted slightly to indicate that we had no idea what in hell the guy was talking about, so Dave bravely took initiative, turned back to the impatient McDonald's employee, and declared:


We got home and spread out our breakfast goodies on the counter so we could see what consequences we'd now have to endure, and luckily our orders had resulted in one egg in each style, so we could compare them. The sausage and egg McMuffin, on the right, was the bearer of the round egg in question. The bacon, egg, and cheese McGriddle, on the left, features the mysterious folded egg.

Round eggs are regular old eggs, cooked in round kajiggers like these:

Blue silicone egg kajiggers
Folded eggs, meanwhile, are made from the egg-like goo that all fast food restaurants now use in place of scrambled eggs. Pre-scrambled for efficiency, I guess, but even though they're made from actual eggs, I never feel like the texture is right, and I wish they'd never been invented.

Powdered eggs, AKA the Cheez-Whiz of eggs
This stuff is why I have to pointedly ask for "shell eggs" when I order scrambled eggs at diners. Otherwise what I get is nasty, uniformly bright yellow, and spongy.

But the McDonald's experience opened my eyes to another way of making DIY breakfast sandwiches. I've always tried making a round-ish fried egg to put into an english muffin, with varying success. The egg often turns out too wide, and requires minor surgery to keep from poking out of the muffin. I had hoped that using the egg kajiggers would help, and I was very excited when I first opened the box they came in, but they got squashed in shipping and the now best I can manage with them are elliptical fried eggs. While I am entertained by the thought of eating conical sections for breakfast, the problem of fitting egg to muffin remains.

Enter the folded egg. I don't have a flat griddle or a square mold to contain liquid egg, but I took a shot and scrambled an egg and poured it into a frying pan, spreading it out like I do with crepe batter. As thin as it was, it cooked quickly, and I had it done and folded up on the english muffin within two minutes. And it fit on the muffin, with only little bits of its corners sticking out!

Sorry, round egg. Your day is over in my house. I've moved on.

Monday, August 13, 2012

A Day at the Dentist

You know how sometimes you leave the dentist's office all happy and smiling?

No, you most likely don't, because most dentists' offices are hellholes of pain. You are at the mercy of masked dentists and hygienists, who scrape and drill at your molars while asking you questions about your weekend, which you can only answer with grunts as you clench the armrests of the hydraulic chair and drown in your own saliva.

I've had a lot done to my teeth.

Genetics gave me weak enamel, which meant that every childhood visit to the dentist included a drill and shiny silver amalgam. I rarely got to pick out a sticker or eraser from the prize bin after my cleaning; those were for the no-cavity kids, and I wasn't a regular in that club. I brushed twice a day, I drank milk, I flossed now and then, and it never seemed to be enough. Things evened out in my late teens, and I was lucky enough never to progress to a root canal, but my dental X-rays show the scars of at least a dozen filled cavities.

To add to the insult of my easily-eroded enamel, my teeth came in crooked. Very crooked. I literally could not bite my nails, as my incisors didn't connect. Corn-on-the-cob was impossible for me to eat, and biting into an apple carried with it the risk of breaking off a tooth. Taking pity on me, my parents absorbed the cost of a full set of braces, which I wore for three difficult years. I needed to have four premolars extracted before we could begin the process, and I remember the strange contrast between the pain in my mouth and the tingling, floating feeling in my feet as they cranked the nitrous oxide up to keep me relaxed while they pried four healthy teeth loose from my jaw. I am grateful that my parents and my oral surgeon allowed me to choose general anaesthesia when it was time to remove my four impacted wisdom teeth.

Once my shiny braces were glued into place and secured with the tiniest of rubber bands, brushing and flossing was harder to do well, so I had more plaque buildup, making cleanings at my dentist's office longer and more painful. The hygienists were kind enough, and tried to be gentle, but every part of my mouth was so sensitive from the constant pressure of the braces, and I know I cried more than once. The dentist, playing "bad cop" in this game, would berate me for having so much plaque, and for being overly sensitive, telling me that other kids managed just fine with braces and I needed to try harder.

I dreaded going back to my orthodontist's office to adjust (tighten, always tighten) the wires. He was a huge man - his belly would sometimes jar the chair if he moved while he was working on my teeth. He didn't always wear a face mask, and his breath was horrendous. He wore gloves, always, but they were a different kind than my regular dentist and hygienist used. They smelled much more rubbery and squeaked against my teeth as he prodded the wires and twisted them into place. You know, the horrible squeaking sound a balloon makes when you rub it with your hand? That spine-tingling, biting-into-styrofoam sound? Imagine half an hour of that, in your mouth.

Understandably, I now have a little dental anxiety. I've considered this newfangled "sedation dentistry", but I'm not sore how that would work with this newfangled "dental insurance" thing I have, now that I'm a responsible adult in charge of my own oral health. I've been in the US for five years, and I've seen a dentist a grand total of three times. The first time, everyone was very nice, but they tried to sell me an expensive nighttime bite guard to fix my jaw pain (which never happens at night), and got a nasty "you'll regret this" attitude when I told them that $800 was more than I was willing to spend on something like that. The second time, I tried a different office, but was equally disappointed with my experience. This place was like a dental factory, with a dozen dentists, a few dozen hygienists, and all the "exam rooms" laid out in one huge open space with flimsy cubicle walls between them. They pushed me into a deep cleaning, because it had been two years since my last one, but apparently "deep cleaning" means "angry hygienist just back from her smoke break, attacking your gums with a chisel and trying to be done in under ten minutes because it's time for lunch."

They sent me a reminder card when it was time to come back for another cleaning. I laughed.

But I can't just avoid dentists. Preventative maintenance is important, especially if I want to avoid root canals and bridges and gum grafts in the future, so I got up some nerve to try a new place. 

Today, I left the new place smiling.

The hygienists and dentists were wonderful. Nobody berated me for not flossing enough, and when I told them of my anxiety they took time to explain each step and go slowly and gently. I only yelped once, and the hygienist stopped, let me take a deep breath, and then moved on to other teeth before coming back to the area that hurt. 

As I was leaving, the dentist saw me pick up my book, and asked what I was reading.

"The Android's Dream, a sci-fi novel."

"Is it any good?"

"I haven't really gotten into this one yet, but I just finished another of his, and it was really good. It was called Old Man's War."

She sat up excitedly in her chair and clapped her hands together. "I'm always looking for new sci-fi! What's it about?"

It's hard to summarize without giving it all away, so I went with "It's an interplanetary army recruited entirely from old people on Earth, since they're going to die anyway."

The hygienist piped up: "Oh, like Ender's Game, but with old people!"

My new dental team is made up of geeks. It's almost too bad I'll only see them every six months. Almost.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Outer Banks Vacation

I've successfully crossed off one more location from the "we should go there" list, but all I really did was transfer it to the "we should go there again" list.

We just got back from a week-long visit to the Outer Banks of North Carolina. We stayed in Avon, on Hatteras island, much further south than the popular spots like Nag's Head and Duck. It was a very different sort of vacation for us, as we shared a huge rented beach house with ten other people (and five dogs) for the week. I was nervous about it, because meeting new people puts me on edge, but it wasn't nearly as painful as it could have been, since people were nice, and I tried to stay on top of my anxiety by pulling away to be alone when I was overwhelmed.

Also, this was the view from the upper-level balcony of the house.

That certainly helps a person chill out.

It was a lovely week. We had a couple of beautiful days right at the beginning, before the storms came through mid-week, and took advantage of them by spending afternoons at the beach.

We set up our Super-brella over our folding chairs for some shade, since we are of the pasty persuasion, and sat around with our feet in the sand and our noses in books for hours. You can't get the full impact of the nerdiness of this setup from this photo, but we had shade, Jonathan Coulton towels from our February cruise, a sci-fi novel, Wil Wheaton's "Memories of the Future", and SPF-50 sunscreen. All packed in my "Property of Laboratory Department" tote bag. I wasn't even trying! 

We splashed around in the Atlantic a little, too, and the water was almost as warm as it was in the Caribbean, but not nearly as clear and blue. I couldn't see my feet, which always freaks me out because there are things alive down there, and the bottom was all rocks and shells instead of soft sand. I'm told that's because they have to dredge up stuff from further out to rebuild the beach as erosion eats away at it. I didn't mind that it wasn't soft and powdery, because it was neat to lie on my towel and run my hands through the sand, seeing how it was all made up of the tiniest shell fragments, rounded and polished by the waves. I collected dozens of pretty shell fragments, like all good beach-goers, although I have no plans for them yet.

I did very well in the water until I noticed hundreds of little white spidery-looking things floating around me. I couldn't stop thinking that I might be swallowing crab larvae, and I had to leave the water. For reasons unclear to me (perhaps they all found human hosts whose brains they could burrow into), there were far fewer of them floating around the next day, and I was able to spend more time in the waves.

I was very surprised to hear so much French around me on the beach - it seemed like half of Quebec was vacationing in the Outer Banks! It's funny how hearing "Papa, j'ai envie" at a beach far from home can get me smiling and misty-eyed. I should have spoken to them more, but I'm insecure about the degradation of my French vocabulary after having been away from it for so long.

Once the weather turned to dreary rain on Tuesday, we stuck to indoor pursuits. I watched a lot of bad NBC Olympic coverage and filled out some crossword puzzles, and took a couple of afternoon naps. We played several board games too, like Apples to Apples, Balderdash, and Cards Against Humanity. I was also introduced to a new game I loved:
Carcassonne. If we go on the next nerd cruise, I will buy this game, bring it, and sit in the 24-hour game room until someone agrees to play with me.
I want to go back to the Outer Banks again. It was nice to be so far away from everything, on the beach, in the sun, with nothing to worry about. I'm usually the type who plans vacations around outings and museums and things to do, but I let a lot of that slide this time around, and I think I might be getting better at this "relaxing" thing I keep hearing so much about.

Thursday, August 02, 2012

Laundry room floor

The latest installment in the home improvement saga was completed over the weekend: we have a new laundry room floor. The old floor was an uneven mashup of three different sizes and styles of tiles, and since we keep the cats' litter boxes in the laundry room, the cracks and spaces in the mismatched tiles were always filling up with litter particles.

Laundry room floor, before and after
We chose a plain vinyl tile for the laundry room, because ceramic tiles didn't seem worth the expense. It's hard to see from my photo, but the new tiles are white with some small grey and blue flecks. This will be so much easier to keep clean, and it looks much less chaotic now. I'm delighted with how it looks. The tile guy spread some goo down (I didn't ask what it was) to even out the floor's surface so he could put the new tile over the old stuff. Because of how many layers of tiles were in there, and the extra expense involved in pulling everything up, we just decided to add a layer, so I guess some future owner will get a fun surprise if they ever pull up this new floor! The edges still need shoe molding put in, but this guy wasn't told about that, so he had none with him. When we asked the boss guy about it on the phone, he said no worries, the carpet guy would take care of that later. I have a feeling the carpet guy will have as little clue about it as the tile guy did, but we'll see.

But you know that's not the end of the story. No home improvement goes unpunished in this house. And I'm not even talking about Horton walking through the goo and getting his paws absolutely covered in it, although that was fun to fix. A soapy wet washcloth worked well to get it off, but without Dave handy to pin him, I never would have managed! Angry cats are squirmy!

After the tile guy finished up and moved our washer and dryer back in, he discovered that the dryer vent duct wouldn't fit onto the connector on the back of the dryer, because the extra height to the new floor raised the dryer up a teeny fraction of an inch. Why the dryer was attached to a rigid vent line, I have no idea, but it means that it has to be exactly the right length, not too long or too short, or it won't connect to the dryer. Tile guy shrugged and basically said it wasn't his job to figure it out, which left it to us, the handy homeowners. Since cutting it to the new precise height seemed a risky and unnecessarily complex task, I just forked out $20 at Home Depot for a twenty-foot flexible dryer vent tube so we could have a little leeway.

Dave cut the rigid vent about three feet from the dryer with a pair of snips, and then attached a length of flexible stuff to the end, taping it in place. Which you would think means I could do laundry now, right? But when I ran a load of laundry the other night and went to transfer it to the dryer, the clothes in the washer were steaming hot! I always wash and rinse in cold water, so this means that the tile guy hooked it back up backwards.  I never even thought to check that, although I did take a second and make sure nothing was leaking when I first started the washer. I'm really hoping that I didn't just shrink all of our clothes. Dave's favorite shorts and my "Stand back, I'm going to try Science" T-shirt were in that batch.