Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Niagara Falls and Palmyra

We've decided that we'd better start seeing all the East Coast sites that we've neglected to see up to this point. Like Niagara Falls. Evan went there as a teenager, but I've never been there. Memorial Day weekend seemed as good a time as any.

We went to both the American and Canadian sides. The American side was ridiculously crowded. We initially were thinking about doing their "Discovery Pass," which included the Maid of the Mist boat tour, Cave of the Winds, an IMAX movie, and entrance into their Discovery Center and their Aquarium. But when we saw the lines we said forget it. So we just walked all over the park, trying to get a good view of the Falls. But you really can't on the American side. That's probably why they have all that other stuff to do.

So we drove over to the Canadian side. Much less crowded, better views, and virtually no lines for the Maid of the Mist boat tour. Jackpot! We also wanted to do the hike behind the falls, but the kids didn't like the sound of that, and we'd been walking all day and were pretty tired. But all the advice we got from people was correct--the Maid of the Mist is the best!! The kids LOVED it. Waimea was giggling almost the entire time, between getting wet, and watching the seagulls dive into the water (I don't think the falls really meant anything to her). Spencer was a bit scared initially because he thought the waterfall was going to make the boat sink, but when he realized we were okay, he loved it, too. But you really can't appreciate the magnificence of the falls until you see it from below, which is why the boat ride is so great.

Best view from the American side:
Evan and the kids ready to get wet on the Maid of the Mist:
American Falls as seen from Maid of the Mist:
Horseshoe Falls:

We camped about an hour away from the Falls at one of New York's state parks (we were not impressed). The campsite we had reserved online, site-unseen, ended up being in the middle of a field with no trees. GAG! Luckily, because of some flooding of sites nearby, our site was taken up by other people when we arrived. Also, a few other sites were empty, one of which was somewhat secluded and surrounded by trees. It was quite wet (which is why it was unoccupied), but better than an open field. And we were sure glad of that on the night we came back from the falls--we got hit hard with a crazy thunderstorm. I would've been freaking out, camping on the field, but surrounded by trees in our tent, I felt okay. We had our fire going strong, so we sat in our tent and watched the fire and thunderstorm from a distance. Not the first time I've camped in a thunderstorm, and surely won't be the last!

On our way home, we stopped in Palmyra. We saw:

Hill Cumorah:
The Joseph Smith Farm:
and the Sacred Grove:
It was a fun trip, and the kids did surprisingly well with only the battery life (about three hours) of our DVD player (the car charger broke last summer). We hate I-80, though. Always traffic. (Stupid New York City!)

Also on our trip we came up with some Native American names for some of us. Mine is Grumpiest When Hot. Waimea's are Eats A Lot, Whines A Lot, and Always Hungry. Any suggestions for Evan and Spencer? We had some difficulty with theirs....

Monday, May 23, 2011

House Sale Update

So, our buyer dropped out. Their son didn't want to switch schools. We kind of figured they would, and we were getting annoyed at their low-balling us with their counter-offers. We feel our home is priced right, and we can't accept a much lower offer than what it's listed for.

But we had a good weekend of showings. Starting with Thursday evening, then another on Saturday. Yesterday was our big day--in addition to another open house, we had three showings. So we're definitely getting traffic through. We're just hoping that something will come of all this traffic!

Keep praying for us, please! We really need this house to sell!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Unsightly Nail Pops?

Do you have them? Those annoying places on your walls where the nails in the drywall start to pop out and become obvious? I don't know about you, but I can't stand them.

What causes them? Most people will say it's because your house is settling. And that's certainly part of it. But a lot of it is caused by the temperature and moisture differences throughout the seasons--the studs and drywall expand and contract at different times and rates, causing the nails to loosen and pull away from the stud. Also, like in our house, sometimes the builder didn't hit the stud when nailing it in. So rather than remove it like he should have, he just left it and mudded right over it, causing it to pop out with time.

I came up with a solution to these unsightly wall flaws, independent of any training or advice that I've been given. Just out of curiosity, last night I googled this problem and watched a few videos on how the "experts" fix nail pops. Mine turns out to be a combination of many of them. Here's what I recommend:

1. Using drywall screws and a drill, screw in the screws within a foot of each other, surrounding the nail pop problems areas. Make sure you are hitting the stud (you'll be able to tell), and sink the screws enough that they are below the surface, but not so far that they break through the paper of the drywall. You'll find as you do this that more pops may occur:
2. Using a flathead screwdriver, pry the drywall off the pops, and then pry the nails away from the stud:
3. Using a combination of needle-nose pliers and the pronged end of the hammer, remove the old drywalls screws:
4. Using a sharp edge (a putty blade utility knife) and/or your fingers, clean up the area around the removed nail, making sure there is no loose drywall paper or paint chips. (Sorry, no picture).

5. Using lightweight joint compound (do not use spackle unless it is Crawford's Spackle--found at Sherwin Williams), and a wide putty blade, fill in the holes from the nails and the dimples where the screws have been placed. Tip: you will be applying multiple coats of this, so don't blob too much on here during the first coat, or else you'll be sanding forever. Just apply a thin layer, and scrape most of it off. If you can make the area right over the holes and dimples "bubble" a bit, then you are doing great:
6. After the first coat dries, apply a second coat. Spread the mud out a few inches to the right and left of the area you are working on, ensuring that the transition to your work is smooth. Also make sure that the holes and dimples are completely filled--sometimes the mud shrinks when it dries and tiny holes appear around the areas you want filled. If you have a longer drywall blade, it will be even easier to get it smooth and transitioned well. (Note: sometimes a third coat is needed, but usually two is good. You will never be able to get away with just one coat without it showing):7. After the second coat has completely dried, sand it smooth. Use either drywall sandpaper, or very fine grit (at least 180). If you mudded it correctly, this shouldn't be too hard--just lightly run the sandpaper over the surface, focusing more on the edges to blend it in to the existing wall.

8. Prime. Don't skip this step. The best primer for this situation is a primer specifically for new drywall. The mud will soak it right up and seal the area, getting it ready for the paint. If you paint before priming, there is a chance that the paint will flake off down the road because it may not bond to all the mud you just put up. Also, the mud will show through your paint, lessening any sheen you may want with your paint, and making the area obvious that it's been worked on.

9. Paint. Two coats. If you do just one, the area may still be obvious that it's been worked on. I can't stand that look--I want my walls seamless.

In case you were wondering, the key differences between my method and the ones that I saw in videos are these:

1. One video said to just remove the drywall nails and fix the wall. Why this is bad: You never know how accurate or good the drywallers were when they initially installed it. And you don't know how many nails are currently holding it up. If you just remove a nail without reinforcing it first, you may be asking for trouble (it may fall off the wall, crack, or cause more drywall pops).

2. Another said to just nail the pop back in and then mud over it. Why this is bad: you're not solving the problem, just hiding it again. It will pop out again (believe me, I know--this is the method I used to do).

3. Most said to screw in drywall screws around the pops, but none said to remove the nails. All of them (the ones I watched, anyway) said to just hammer the nails back into the wall after screwing in the screws. Granted, this may be fine. I don't know how much they'll be popping out again with the screws there reinforcing it, but I wouldn't want to risk it. You may as well remove the old nails and get the problems completely fixed than risk having the nails pop out in the future.

Good luck!!



Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Update

So, it's been awhile. A lot has happened. I forget how much. But here is some of what has happened in the last month of silence:

-we finished our remodeling (enough, anyway, that no one knows what's left)
-our computer crashed, and with it, all our photos, including our "before" shots
-we decluttered our home and closets, and either sold, got rid of, or packed up and put in the attic half of what we own
-we put our home on the market last Thursday (the 12th). Here is our listing.
-within five days we had had 3 showings, a successful open house, and an offer
-we have countered the offer and are awaiting the results
-we have more showings scheduled for this weekend
-we have kept our house immaculate for 7 days consecutive days now, including all closets (a record, by far)

not house related:
-we celebrated Spencer's 6th birthday, Easter, and our 7th anniversary all on the same day (April 24th) Here is Spencer's party at Chuck e Cheeses:
-we had a pet butterfly for one day