Brand New Look

You may have noticed a new look here at JustJacque. After I finished my post on Tuesday, I noticed that WordPress had a new version available. So I contacted the administrator (me) and spent a few arduous seconds applying the update. Have I mentioned how easy it is to run a WordPress site? Practically idiot-proof.

As part of the upgrade, WordPress introduced a new theme, so I thought I’d give it a try. I also chose a new background image. The background image is a little tricky because you see so little of it. So you need something simple. My previous image was a close-up of wild grass that was largely monochromatic. Nice, but very muted. So I thought I’d try something with a little more color.

I may play around some more and change the image again, but considering how long it’s been since I last changed the theme, don’t hold your breath. I did add a new category – Home, in honor of our upcoming big dream house build. It seemed wrong to categorize those thoughts as Random, even though everything I write is random.

 

Up a Tree

We had another meeting with our architect this morning. We spent over 90 minutes walking our lot, taking measurements and discussing options for our new home layout. As a result, we came to the conclusion that we will probably have to remove more trees than we originally thought.

There’s a pile of loose soil that needs to be removed, a remnant from the demolition of the original house. Beyond that, there is a sort of berm crowned with trees, then a slope that runs down to the edge of the property. The trees along the berm are crowded together and many of them are leaning. In order to create a reasonably sized, level building site, we’ll probably need to level the berm.

Which means all the trees along it will need to go. Along with a few smaller ones on the west and south sides. Plus one or two larger ones that will most likely not survive the construction. There’s also a number of trees that have already fallen down and are laying on the shitty chain link fence that runs through the woods.

So we need to bite the bullet and do some thinning. Fortunately, I have an awesome tree guy. Unfortunately, he’s so reasonably priced that he’s always incredibly busy. Wish me luck in getting a consult scheduled asap.

Insane Mode

Our schedule for the next few days is shaping up to absolutely bananas. Today we were expecting close to 20 packages, including several with signature required, so we were skittish about being away from the house for any extended periods of time. We lucked out when the UPS man showed up at 9:30. Turns out, our stuff had pretty much filled his truck, so he had to make us the first stop.

I know that sounds ridiculous, but it included a set of wheels and tires for our beautiful new Tesla, which just arrived. The service center didn’t think they would have it prepped and ready to go until tomorrow, but later told my husband we could pick it up at 2:00. FedEx arrived at 1:30, so by the time we had to leave there was only one outstanding package left. Our luck seems to be turning.

We arrived at the Tesla service center just before 2:00 and everyone seemed preoccupied, so my husband went walking around to look for our car. It wasn’t too hard to find. She’s even more beautiful than I could have imagined. Turns out, they were still upgrading her firmware, so the whole process took a little longer than we hoped. The paperwork was minimal and I made the payment via ACH.

We made it out around 3:30 and headed to my mom’s house to pick up our charging station, which was delivered weeks ago. I hadn’t told her about the car, so we surprised her with it. We just took her for a quick drive around the block, but it was enough to impress her. The ride is so incredibly smooth, you feel like you’re floating. We can’t wait to try out the insane mode.

And We’re Outta Here

We managed to live through our countertop installation yesterday. Of course, it took longer than expected – it was almost 4:00 by the time they finally departed and I was about ready to gnaw my own arm off. But the stone looks absolutely stunning. Our tiny downstairs bathroom looks like it got a major upgrade and our kitchen is now gorgeous. Too bad we won’t be able to have the new faucets installed until we return. Meanwhile, we are managing by cleaning dishes in our powder room’s pedestal sink and using the huge supply of filtered water I stockpiled before the kitchen faucet went offline.

Given our plumbing situation and the high probability that we have a termite infestation, we are looking at pushing up the date for our next visit. Originally we were planning for the middle of June, but now we are thinking we should come back before the end of May. That would put the subsequent visit around late July. Which is an ugly time here, but so is any time in August or most of June and September. We’ve got to bite the bullet at some point.

Yesterday was just exhausting and stressful and I am looking forward to getting back to Minnesota today. I am going to try and put the thought of having to deal with termite damage out of my head for now and just focus on our new house for the next few weeks. At least we won’t have to be living through that construction. After surviving five weeks of cooking in the basement and two months of sleeping in the dining room during previous stints of remodeling, that’s a comforting thought.

Under Assault Again

The countertop installers arrived just after 8:00 AM this morning. I had set the alarm for 7:00 but woke up just after 6:30, dehydrated and a little hungover. We were at my dad’s house last night and I probably had two more glasses of red wine than I should have. My husband fared worse, not from drinking but from eating pizza way too late. We normally eat our biggest meal of the day between 3:00 and 5:00 PM, so dinner at 9:00 is never a good idea.

My husband was already in the middle of disconnecting the water lines when I went downstairs. He did the bathroom sink yesterday afternoon, but wanted to wait as long as possible on the kitchen. I had planned to make bacon, but neither one of us felt like eating that early in the morning. Of course who knows when we’ll get to eat with the kitchen offline.

So here I sit, with my coffee finished, drinking glass after glass of water with my stomach grumbling. It was incredibly stressful listening to the demolition happening just a few feet away. After they removed our old countertops and took them outside, we took a peek. The drywall all along the outside wall had been punched out when the old countertop was installed. Obviously the measurement was a bit off and instead of cutting the counter they took the easy and shitty way out by damaging the drywall. Lovely.

I asked how long they expected the install to take and the response was six hours. It’s been two already and they are now just building the supports for the new countertop. It’s natural stone rather than synthetic, so it won’t span the unsupported gaps that the old one did. I’m already starting to feel like that six hour estimate is optimistic. It’s going to be a long day.

 

Eating Away at Me

I’m trying really hard not to freak out right now. I was cleaning out underneath the sink in our first floor bathroom yesterday morning, in preparation for our countertop installation tomorrow. (Yes, I know I’ve only been going on and on about the kitchen, but we are doing one bathroom too.) I was putting everything in the tub to get it out of the way, when I looked up and noticed something up at the top of the wall.

It looked like it might be a little insect cocoon or something similar, so I stood on the edge of the tub and wiped it away with a paper towel. When I looked in the towel, it appeared to be a tiny amount of sawdust. As a Minnesota native, I found this puzzling but not especially alarming. Until a few hours later, when I realized what this could represent.

Termites. They are a scourge here in the desert and, while we had an inspection for them before we bought this place, that was over five years ago and there’s no guarantee they haven’t taken up residence in the meantime. Our complex has an exterminator treat the exterior of the buildings once a month, but I have no idea if they are checking/treating for termites. To make matters worse, there’s an even bigger termite tunnel at the top of the closet adjacent to the bathroom. It’s been there for a while, I just didn’t know what it was.

So I sent an email off to the firm that manages our complex. Since it’s Sunday, I don’t expect to hear anything until tomorrow, at the earliest. When I requested the new pool key fob, it took them over five days to respond, and then only after a second email. Hopefully they pay more attention to an email with the subject line of Termite Problem.

Keymaster

I have a confession to make. I lost our pool key. Well, technically I didn’t lose it, I misplaced it. We received two keys to the pool/spa area when we bought our home. One disappeared a long time ago. I kept the other on a ring with a spare house key to give to our house guests. We kept talking about making a copy of the key, but never got around to it. We’re not supposed to copy the key, as it’s clearly marked “Do Not Duplicate,” but now that you can pretty much copy keys at any big box hardware store using a self-service kiosk, I’m guessing the writing on the key doesn’t hold much weight.

When we had our last guest, in late January, she handed me the keys just before I drove her to the airport. That’s the last time I remembered having them. I looked for them in the three day window after she left and before we flew back to Minneapolis and again during the week between our return to Phoenix and subsequent departure to Australia. No luck.

I checked everywhere I had ever kept the keys, including the pockets of shorts and pants I wear for walks plus every handbag I own. Short of tearing the whole house apart, I couldn’t figure out where else to look. So after looking again after we returned from Australia, I threw in the towel and requested another one from the company that manages our complex. They sent me a form to fill out and, of course, charged a ridiculous fee. But I figured I could at least make a copy of the new key when it arrived.

Surprise, it turns out that they no longer give out keys but use a fob instead. The gate can use either, but I sort of assumed the fob was for the fire department. So, now I have a way to get into the gate that can’t be copied. It pissed me off enough to send me on another round of hunting for the key. Which I found almost immediately. (Misplaced, not lost, remember?) It turned out to be in the pocket of the jeans I was wearing when I drove my friend to the airport back in January. The pool key is now safely on the ring with all of my other keys.

Classless, for Now

We completed our last scheduled TechShop class on Wednesday night. That puts my total to date at 13 and my husband’s at 14. We are hoping to fit a few more in when we return sometime in June, but it’s kind of a crapshoot because the schedule isn’t published very far in advance, so we’ll be committing to flights long before we know what classes are available.

The class was Shopbot – essentially a computer controlled router. The machine itself is not particularly difficult to operate, the hard part is creating a design and converting it to CAM, which requires setting up feeds and speeds. Don’t ask me, I don’t understand it either.

We were supposed to have one more class on Sunday, but with everything we need to get done before our countertop install on Monday, it seemed prudent to cancel it. Plus, it was an advanced laser etching class and I can’t say we’ve really mastered much of the basics on the laser just yet. Taking an advanced class seems like jumping the gun. We did spend another two hours on the laser before our last class and it went much better. Baby steps.

Brute Force

So I am busy typing away on my blog this morning when a dialogue box pops up. It says something along the lines of “The server http://blabla.com:80 requires a username and password. The server says: WordPress attack protection CAPTCHA. Enter username: xnz5y2 Password: The result of math 16+5.” Since my site has been hacked before, I’m a little cautious about responding to something like this.

So I google “WordPress attack protection CAPTCHA” to see if this is a real thing. Turns out, it is. Apparently this is a level of protection put in by hosting servers when a site comes under a brute force attack. Someone was trying to hack my admin password. After my site was hacked last time, I installed security monitoring and changed my password to something ridiculously long and pretty much impossible to hack.

I signed in as admin and checked my live site tracking. There it was – numerous login attempts from places like Belarus and Hanoi. Each one tried 4 times. The weird thing is I had blocked access to my site from every country on the planet except the US, Canada, the UK, Australia and New Zealand. Turns out I hadn’t blocked attempts to login, only site access. Stupid, stupid, stupid. So now that’s done.

It seems so ridiculous that anyone would try to get access to my stupid little blog. But, of course they are really trying to get a foot in the door to take over the hosting server. Which I don’t have, but they don’t know that. Meanwhile it just makes for a big headache on my part. The things I do to protect this little site for my five loyal readers. I hope you appreciate it.

Last Minute Save?

Just when I thought all hope was lost, we had a reprieve. At 4:30 yesterday, just as I was starting to make dinner, I finally got a call from the scheduler at our stone fabricator. She wanted to schedule our install for early next week. When I told here we were leaving town on Tuesday, she made the appointment for Monday. The day before we leave – serious misgivings about that. Fingers crossed that nothing goes wrong.

This morning I received a voicemail confirming the appointment for Monday morning and telling me they had sent an email with the template, so we could see how the counters would be cut out of the stone we picked. We reviewed and approved it and when I sent the email response, I also asked how long the job would take so I could schedule the plumber. Turns out they recommend waiting at least 12 hours for the glue to dry before hooking up the plumbing. That pushes it to Tuesday morning and we leave for the airport at 11:00.

When I called the plumber to ask about an an appointment, he flat out told me there was no way it could be done in that time frame. He needed to allow at least 3-4 hours to do the work. And I hadn’t even mentioned the bathroom, only the kitchen. So now we’re screwed. We’ll have a brand new countertop and sink, but no running water.

Part of me feels like it shouldn’t be a big deal, as long as we can get everything hooked up as soon as we come back in June. We shut off all the water when we leave anyway, we’ll just need to block the drains. Meanwhile, I’m filling every container we have with water in preparation. All I can say is these countertops better look freaking amazing.