Monthly Archives: February 2012

Weekend happenings


Bedroom Curtains

When our bed was pushed up against the window, our plan had been to put up some sort of decorative wood paneling on tracks that could be closed to completely block the light, sort of a faux headboard. But now that we’ve rotated the bed, we’re thinking about some sort of more traditional headboard, and with that, window paneling made less sense. The pictures of the finished bed made the window look particularly sad and bare:

So we headed out to the store for curtain fabric. I wanted to stay in the blue/white/brown color scheme, and I didn’t just want a single flat color. But I didn’t want too small of a pattern since our bedspread already has a fairly small pattern on it. Unfortunately, the only patterns we were really seeing in the right color schemes were stripes, and with blue and white that just looks way too nautical-themed for my taste. We were close to giving up entirely when we found this fabric:

Perfect! Or at least, close enough for me. I’m really not very decorative/creative in this realm, but this fit the color scheme and the requirements of  1) not too small of a print and 2) not nautical. So we bought five yards and carted it home, where I got acquainted with my new best friend, the rolled hem pressed foot:

I hate hemming. I’m convinced that I’m somehow making it harder than it should be, but I can’t seem to find a shortcut. So whenever I give in and hem something, I end up spending hours measuring, folding, pinning, ironing, folding again, ironing again, and then finally sewing. And that’s for each edge. But a few years back during one of my web searches for shortcuts, I stumbled across this gem of a device and immediately ordered one. It arrived and sat untouched in its package for a long time while I avoided any and all hemming. But I whipped it out today and, somewhat uncharacteristically of me, I actually practiced a bit before trying it on my actual fabric. It’s a good thing too, because it took a bit of practice to get the hem started. You have to make your best attempt at pre-rolling it and starting an inch or so down from the end of the fabric. But hopefully you can kinda see in the picture (sorry about the bad focusing) that the fabric is feeding into the front of the presser foot, rolling over on itself, and coming out the back as a very small, tidy hem.

I wont say it was easy as pie, since I still managed to sew a few wrinkles into the hem, but it’s so neat and narrow that you’d have to hold it a few inches from your face to see the imperfections. And while it still took a decent chunk of time to sew 12+ yards worth of hems, cutting out all of the ironing time made a huge difference. So yeah, I’m pretty proud of myself. 🙂 Here’s a gratuitous shot of me being industrious, either that or Dave really wanted to take a picture of our flowers:

Perhaps someday I’ll have a better spot to sew than the dining room table.

Moving along, the next dilemma was how to hang the things. We wanted the hardware to be pretty nondescript, so we decided we wanted white rings and rod. Internet searches quickly revealed that, especially for a six foot wide window, the most economical option was Ikea, even when you counted the $5 bridge toll it would cost us to get there. So a trip to Ikea (and a few extra dollars spent on “oh we could really use _____”) later, we had a white curtain rod, white brackets, and… Off-white ring clips. Sigh. You actually can’t tell that they’re off-white unless you know to look for them, (and who stares at curtain rings?) but if it starts to annoy me I’ll just spray paint them white. The finials on the rods were pretty silly looking, so I’m thinking I’ll pick up some wooden or plastic spheres at the craft store and make my own.

I still haven’t sewn the bottom hem on the curtains, and I may actually do the more laborious measure, fold, iron, etc method since the fabric is so light and a little extra weight on the bottom should help them hang straight. Here’s a nighttime shot:

As usual, sorry for the bad picture quality. Window photos are tough for clueless non-photogs like me, but I think I might be improving ever so slightly despite myself…

On the light-blocking front, the new curtains just barely cover the whole window when they are closed. I’m planning to eventually add a layer of (white) blackout fabric behind the patterned fabric to make these curtains fully functional at light-blocking. The stuff I’ve seen online that sells by the yard is 54″ wide, so I’m debating maybe leaving it that wide and hanging it so that it looks like there’s a stripe down either side of the patterned fabric. But maybe that will just look silly, so I’m leaving my options open.

Solar, solar, solar!

We had been making plans to install solar panels before we even moved into this house. Dave works for a solar company, and it’s something that we both think makes a lot of sense, so this was one of those “put your money where your mouth is” things for us.

But Dave wanted a specific set of panels, but they weren’t being installed in the US until very recently. So we had our initial estimates done last summer, but then sat around and waited… and waited… but finally, they’re here! It took a few days of finding places for all of the equipment and figuring out our crazy electrical system. The contractors finally decided that our house just wasn’t grounded, so they put a hole in the patio right under our electrical box and installed a ground:

The concrete patio is pretty ugly as it is, so an extra hole doesn’t really bother us. We’re hoping to redo the patio later this year anyway. Here’s a wider shot of the back wall:

The existing utility stuff is all painted to match the house, the new stuff is unpainted. The big box on the top left houses all of the electronics for the monitoring system. It’s not required, but of course we just had to get it. Unfortunately they had it all installed before I realized how close to the kitchen window it was… We get a pretty good view of it from the dining room, and it’s not exactly pretty. ah well I guess we’re not going to forget it’s there at any rate…

Anyway, enough of that, on to the actual panels! They’re installed over our garage, on the opposite side from our front door. Here’s a shot from the roof, looking towards the back of the house:

And here’s another from the roof, looking out towards the court:

They’re actually not very visible from the street, I had to stand in front of my neighbor’s house to get this shot:

The multitude of cars are more noticeable than the panels, really. 🙂 Here’s the view from the rarely-photographed (because it mostly just holds weeds and trash cans) south side of our house:

The electrical wires  come out towards the left of the panels in this picture, then curve around and enter our garage through the wall just out of the frame. Inside the garage:

We have the DC cutoff, the inverter, and then the AC cutoff, then it’s off to make friends with the electrical panel. Here’s a closer shot of the conduits in the garage over the side door:

Incoming from the panels on the top (with the bad ass “caution” sticker) and outgoing to the electrical panel underneath. The blue cable is a CAT5 for the monitoring equipment. And here’s another shot of the inverter:

Yeah, it’s pretty big. We moved a lot of stuff around and they put up a sheet of plywood to mount it on.

Anyway, enough of these boring, practical pictures, let’s see the glam shots! Here are the panels right before the sun disappeared behind the roof. (Sunset: not the best time for high power output.) And you can just make out the bones of our pollarded mulberry tree in front of the sun.

And here’s a closeup of the panels also taken at sunset:

Dave assures me that the fingerprints don’t affect the efficiency in any measurable way. 🙂

And here is the most glamorous shot of them all…

1.5 kilowatts at noon on a sunny day in the middle of February. We should be getting 1.9 kW at noon in the summer, and you bet I’ll be checking to make sure. 🙂 Net metering will soon be in effect for us, which means that the power we aren’t using will go into the grid and we’ll get a credit on our electrical bill. I don’t know all of the details yet, but I will very soon. We don’t have air conditioning in our house, so we really aren’t using much power during the day unless I run a load of laundry or something, so we’ll probably be putting a fair amount of our power output into the grid during peak hours.

All in all, we’re a little sad to see our savings account shrink, but we’re seriously stoked to have this done! I can’t wait to see our energy bills…

Bed Frame: Done!

I first mentioned that we were building a captain’s bed frame to give us storage space underneath it in this post. And I showed some progress photos of the building process here. But just to recap… neither of us really like dressers, so we’ve been keeping our clothing in baskets. Here’s how it’s more or less looked like for the past year:

(Note the bed placement, because it's going to change...)

The mattress was on the floor, and there were baskets with clothing all over the bedroom. So we bought a bunch of plywood, and every few weeks we’d get a tiny bit more done on our bedframe. The pieces pretty much took over the garage:

(This is after the plywood was assembled, but before the trim was attached.)

It was basically a masterpiece of procrastination, quite possibly our finest work. 🙂 But today, nearly a year after buying the plywood, we finally finished!!! I have to apologize ahead of time, because we set it up in the evening so the lighting was less than ideal for pictures. So here we go…

Here are the painted pieces after we moved them into the bedroom:

(We rotated the bed to make both sides more accessible. A definitely improvement, but you'll have to take my word on it.)

And then we connected the pieces:

(We almost ran out of screws, but I scrounged up some more. Crisis averted.)

Then we put a piece of plywood across the horizontal planks, to make it even more over-built. But I didn’t take any pictures at that point because it was really boring-looking. We also put one of those grippy carpet pads on top of the plywood to keep it separate from the mattress, which was also too boring to take a picture of. So clearly, let’s move straight to the after shots!

(At last. At last.)

Hm, it looks a little funny because of the open space at the foot. Well, the plan is to build a storage bench to match the bed frame, and that would hide the opening. So at the rate we’ve been going, it should actually be built sometime next year. 😀 Here’s a closer shot of the storage:

(ooooooh. ahhhhhh.)

The nightstand is a little away from the bed because otherwise it blocks that last basket. So I guess we also need to build floating bedside tables or something. Oh, and a headboard, now that the bed isn’t up against the window.

Anyway, I’m pretty happy with it, though I haven’t actually tried sleeping in it yet. I’m a little concerned that I’ll roll over to get out of bed and let the dog out at 4am and fall off because we’ve been sleeping with the mattress on the floor for so long. But I’ve managed to avoid that when we’ve been in hotels and such, so I’ll probably be fine…