Thursday, November 29, 2012

Thanksgiving Weekend

Thanksgiving Day came round quickly and it was heaven to have a day all to myself. I'd had 6 very kind offers from friends but decided I wanted to spend the day at home with the Kota Kat and Rosie Lee who are getting on a lot better these days, which I'm very pleased about as it's been rather disconcerting to hear so many growls coming from Kota. But we all had a very lazy day, with the only exertion being a dish of stuffing loaded in and out of the oven.
So my, or rather our, Thanksgiving dinner was turkey and wasabi mayonnaise sandwiches with homemade English style stuffing, washed down with a couple of glasses of red wine. I spent some of the day laying on the sofa watching TV and then put up my Christmas decorations.
Kota was very helpful in this department keeping an eye on the tinsel and small ornaments. Once I had everything up, we both then watched Rosie as she investigated everything, and much to my delight she has not pulled anything apart.
Friday was an equally lazy day but I did venture out of the house to meet with friends and see the movie, Lincoln. Not a major Daniel Day-Lewis fan but he played his role magnificently and made me wish that I'd had the opportunity to meet Lincoln and listen to some of his stories firsthand.
Saturday was Women Build day and we were finishing joists so we could lay the upstairs floorboards.
I found this little motor on the floor and inquired whether someone had lost it, so Bill staggered towards me clutching his chest and claiming it must be his pacemaker.
He's showing off his ability to stretch over 3 joists and hammer in a nail.
This is some of Amina's family, who came to support her in helping to build her new house. And then her uncle presented Women Build with a $10,000 check to help with the cost of the unit. He was heartily applauded by all of us.What a generous gesture.
Later in the day I was approached by Pam who asked me if I'd be willing to become a coordinator with her. Sharon who is currently the second coordinator leaves us after next Saturday as she's moving to PA, so I'd be taking her place. I asked Pam why she was asking me since this was only my 4th Saturday with the group. She replied that they'd been watching me and had determined that I was reliable, put my back into the job and looked like I knew what I was doing. I felt quite honored and was extremely happy to receive such acknowledgement that I was a welcome member of the group. I readily accepted and so now Pam and I have to work together to ensure that one of us is there all the time work is being done, so we have to check with each other if we want to leave early or start late. Neither of which is a problem for me since if I commit to something I want to do so fully and not shirk on my hours. We'll also lead teams if need be and help give instructions to others on jobs we're familiar with.
We finished the joists after lunch and then were excited to start laying the floorboards for upstairs. The guys glued the first couple in place for us so we had a platform from which to work on the others. I used my brand new Vaughan V5 hammer which proved to be a good investment. Everyone noted what a splendid looking piece of equipment it was, and I have to admit I loved looking at it. but that was short lived as Robb used the head of it to clean off some wood glue from a cap so now it looks quite mucky. Oh well, it's a tool to be used, not to prop on a shelf like an ornament.
Sharon and Pam striking a pose.
The house as we left it Saturday afternoon.
 Sharon posted some photos on Facebook so I was able to download a couple that had me in. This one was on my first day as we hoisted the front outer wall into position while Bill kept the bottom edge in place.
This was on Saturday as we finished up for the day. I'm really going to miss Sharon, she's been great fun to work with.
On Sunday I enjoyed a cup of tea while watching the clouds swirl as the sun rose and then headed out to Ashburn where I met the Sterling crew for brunch at Anita's. Mexican food is not my first choice for breakfast  but the company was as usual superb and we had a fun couple of hours. I mentioned that I wanted to see Skyfall and Jim offered to join me. It's become our little routine now to watch the new Bond movies together and this was a great opportunity to use a couple of the free tickets that I've had in my purse for months now.
The film was stunning visually and of course Daniel didn't disappoint. He really has proved to be the best Bond ever.
Afterwards I went back home to my sofa and spent the last few hours of the holidays napping, looking at the sparkling decorations, and being very very lazy. It was heaven.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Oysters with Diner and Lights

On Saturday, immediately after finishing my shift at the house building, I went down to DC with Barb for Tim's Oyster Fest. He had last had one 2 years ago and had been so impressed with the farm from which he'd got the oysters, he had decided to grow his own. So this year was the first harvest of his homegrown oysters.
It was on the same pontoon as the last time but the weather was much warmer. Even though we were all dressed up snuggly, there wasn't the cold biting wind that had buffeted us before. It was wonderful to catch up with old friends and meet new ones.
Barb and Tim chatting to a very interesting guy called Roger, who abhors modern technology and owns a collection of rotary phones, still uses them, and also uses an old typewriter rather than a computer. I was impressed.
Gene and his friend shucking the oysters. This is an acquired skill and not one I want to attempt.
Another new friend, Dale.
Barb not looking too impressed with the oysters but she did comment later that she loved the cooked ones. I ate them however they came, they were delicious.
Cara and I staging a fight over the last oyster. We'd been standing at Gene's elbow waiting patiently for the shucked oysters , politely taking it in turns to take the offered readied morsels, and were quite alarmed when we discovered the supply was rapidly diminishing. We ended up having a final oyster each, happy that fists didn't need to fly.
It was announced that the oysters were finished and we were very proud that we had managed to gobble down over 700 of the delectable shellfish. There were a lot of sad faces as we took in the bad news but the sun was setting, the temperatures dropping and so we had a final beer before leaving.
Gene brought his little feline friend from his boat to meet everyone, she was so cute tucked up in his bag. It got dark quickly and people drifted off so after lots of hugs, a few of us agreed to meet up at the beginning of December for the Parade of Lights. A fun evening to look forward to.
On Sunday, the Sterling crew came down to Marshall as we had not got together for Jim's or Kim's birthdays so I'd thought it would be fun if we met at the diner to see Mike. He hadn't seen the others for years since the Sterling diner days and I was excited for us all to be together again.
He looked after us really well, impressing us how he remembered everyone's names. But even though we were together for a social event, it was for me a sad reflection of today's times to see all the kids looking at phones or iPads and getting annoyed if they were told to put them away.
But Scott and I were happy to get another Chocolate Buddy event in and had two pieces each since we couldn't decide on one. but my eyes were bigger than my belly and it was a fail for me, I couldn't eat it all.
Max having a meltdown after I turned off his iPad. I couldn't make him laugh either when I slipped an ice cube down his neck, but strangely enough he decided he liked the feeling of ice down his back and started dropping them down the back of his shirt himself!
Luke equally dismayed when iPads were removed from the table. Thank God these kids have an active and busy sports schedule so they still learn social skills by mixing with their peers. You hear of so many of them closing themselves off from society and focusing only on a flickering screen in front of them. I know Jim and Debbie won't let this happen to their children but sometimes I think our lives were better before computer days.
They both resumed their cheeky dispositions when we left as they were happy to be going on to a birthday party. They both posed wonderfully for one final photo and then we all parted after lots of hugs, hoping it won't be such a long time before we all meet up again.
I later met up with Barb again to visit Bull Run Park where the yearly Festival of Lights was allowing people to walk through the display for the first time. I've driven through this a few times before, the lights are usually the same every year but they try to add something new each time. I hadn't been for about 5 years so was happy to do the walk.
About 500 people were present including this brightly lit woofer. He didn't want to look at the camera but was happy to show off his jacket. As darkness fell the lights glowed vibrantly and at 5:30 we were allowed to set off on the 2.5 mile walk for The Snowflake Stampede as the park had called the event.
I recognized a lot of the displays but there were a few new ones also. The old lights run by noisy generators are being replaced by LED lights so it was lovely to see some moving displays. Nothing could induce me to go, "aaaah" though until we came across this new light show. All white lights very cleverly representing snow, and lovely enough to capture on video.
We got to the end where hot chocolate was being handed out by staff and buses stood by to shuttle us back to the parking lot. It was nice to take part in a 'first' but I think I'll leave it a few more years before returning.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Building a House

For the past 3 weeks I've been working on Saturdays with Women Build, a division of Habitat for Humanity. A group of women only are building a house in Warrenton, the house is a duplex so we are building one side of the structure while men from Habitat for Humanity are building the other side. They broke ground while Mum was here in America so when I joined them, they had laid the foundation, flooring and were finishing the outer walls.
 To the left is the fire wall dividing the two homes. If a fire started in one home this wall would prevent the fire spreading to the second home.
On my first day I walked in to a very friendly atmosphere with everyone making me very welcome. I was asked to sweep the floor and my heart sank as I wondered if this would be the extent of my input since I was coming into the job late. But I realized we all have to start from the bottom so I whizzed around with the broom. Yet before lunchtime I had hammered in plenty of nails and cut 2 by 4's using the circular saw and the mitre saw, also learning how to measure accurately and feeling extremely chuffed that I was being allowed to do so much.
 Two of the women framing. We have a fully qualified builder, Bill, showing us the ropes but we do most of the work. I've learned a lot about this skill, now familiar with crowns and bows, king and jack studs, cripples, header and bottom plates and caps. We're also encouraged to take part in all the measuring so I've learned how to use a square and measuring tape accurately. We ensure all measurements are correct to 1/16 inch.
 Robert does a lot of the cutting for us, we write down the measurements for him and he presents us with the cut wood, all individually marked with their dimensions.
 Bill at the front was oblivious of our antics as we celebrated his birthday. He didn't know that we knew about his secret surprise birthday party after work.
 Getting the measurements right before we start framing a closet.
Robb perched on top of our hard work. Have no idea why he was up there but he was pretty insistent that we'd catch him if he fell. He works for Greystone and is leading the construction on the other house.
After my first day of work I was eager to get to Lowes and stock up with some necessary items, a better tape measure, a square and a chalk line reel. I had an interesting chat with Bill about hammers and did quite a lot of research before finally deciding on a Vaughan V5. I would have liked a Douglas but they seem to have stopped production on these and they're quite expensive. Bill has a particularly nice Stiletto but that's way out of my price range but wow, he sure knows how to swing that thing. Check him out in this video.
  We also had a framing class one evening at Lowes but I have to admit that thanks to what I'd been doing on site, I didn't really learn much at the class. But it was great to hang out with everyone.
Another surprise was that lunch is supplied each Saturday by a kind volunteer or group. I really hadn't expected that but we really are well looked after. Habitat also supplies the basic tools needed if you don't have your own, including safety glasses. And I've also been given a pretty pink t-shirt with a hammer and flowers on the front. Cute! I've realized I'm really getting into hammers...
 Kim and Amina, the house owner, giving a thumbs up as we get our first joist up. We're heading up to the next level!
 I really liked Robert's use of wood scraps.
The plan showing where the joists go. The red arrow marks a double joist. The one above Kim and Amina is the long one but the short one immediately above it on the plan is incorrect as it encroaches into the stair well area (in yellow). It should be on the other side of the long joist.
 So I'll be working with this amazing group until the house is completely, most likely in March, but obviously depending on the weather. The days are going to get colder so my next purchase will probably have to be a Carhartt jacket along with a box of hand warmers, knowing how bad my fingers get in the cold. but I'm looking forward to it and I'm sure that the hard work will keep us warm. Roll on this Saturday when I get to use my V5 for the first time. Woo Hoo!