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While the cat is away

(what Pamela did during John's vacation)


It started as a simple invitation from Susan for John and I to come back to the states for a visit. While I would have loved to see friends and family, I had so much to do here...

Each morning once extricated from under the cats, I'd get up and turn up the thermostat to get the house warmer. Then I emptied the dehumidifier - unlike Massachusetts, it is humid here in the winter, dry in the summer. Although maybe it's not so unlike Massachusetts, since our seasons are reversed, so the humidity happens in the same months! Then I get to clean out the litter boxes. We finally resolved the problem with Nightshade peeing outside the box. It was basically an issue of a spot on the cement floor attracting her. Once we closed off that room, she was fine. I have now thoroughly cleaned the area, and hopefully we will have a new wood floor there soon.

Then it's time to make coffee and breakfast, and provide a lap on which a cat could sit. Once I had given attention to all three, I could prepare my lunch. As part of this I have to slip a high blood pressure pill into some soft cheese, wrap it in ham, and feed it to Nightshade. Then I could turn down the heat and go out cycling for a while. In the evening I would make dinner, and provide a lap for cats. Then I'd prepare their evening meal, some special kidney food, with added water and electrolytes, which they'd beg for then turn their noses up - John does a better job enticing them with "yummy" sounds. As the evening wore on, Diabolo would start doing laps from the bedroom to the living room and back to try to heard me off to bed, where he insisted on being brushed. Since I turn down the thermostat at night, there is no longer a fire for them to worship, so I'd be pinned into bed by the three of them seeking warmth.

That part about cycling in the middle of the day happened for the first few days John was gone, but soon it was replaced by work on the house, or hanging out while workmen did work on the house. Aside from needing to stick around and take care of our pernickety cats, I had booked the new kitchen to be installed, among other things. I described the old kitchen in a previous diary, and have been looking forward to it's destruction for some time. I also planned to replace the closet in our bedroom, get lots of work done on the third bedroom, and organise the new workshop. I'd also booked a builder to finish off our skylights. And the gutters were finally scheduled to be installed.

I actually pulled out the old closet the night John left and had the new one up the next day. Like many features in the house, this closet was not designed in any useful way. There was barely any room to hang clothes, and many of the shelves required a ladder. I'd talked with John about putting up a wire unit across the entire wall and leaving it open. He was afraid the cats would get fur everywhere, and wanted to have doors to keep them away. Well, I figured we could add doors later, and just installed a new wall to wall unit with double rows of hanging space on John's side, shelves in the middle, half a full height hanging space (for dresses) and half a double row of hanging space on my side. No doors, and guess what - without doors, the cats ignore it. They only want to get into places where they are prevented by a door!

I've mentioned in several diary entries that we had two small chopped up rooms that we were making into one larger one. Apparently at some point in the history of the house, this was a garage. When it was converted, they did half the job, and built one tiny room, and left the other unfinished. I can't really imagine why, but I also still haven't figured out why the house was extended 800mm (2ish feet) either. Not much logic has gone into this place in the past. But that is changing under the current regime!


John and I had started back in May, by removing the closet and desk and pulling down an incredible number of studs. This wall had been put up without resource consent and we had a document indicating it was a non-load bearing wall, plus confirmation of that by looking at the support for the roof in the attic, so we knew we could safely and legally remove this partition which chopped the room up so poorly.

To finish off this renovation we needed to empty both rooms - remove that wall and closet in between the two, remove the old wallboard and ceiling (which had lots of water damage and such), and put up new gibboard, and have it plastered. We'd also eventually have the floor extended into the previously unfinished part (the cement floor that Nightshade liked to pee on). So I piled all the cycling clothes and such in the current guest room, and moved the workshop stuff on the deck. I couldn't do much until the gutters were back on the house though - because in order to get the gutters on, we had to remove the Perspex covering on the pergola - which overlapped the gutters. Once the gutters were on, and the Perspex replaced, I had a nice dry area in which to keep stuff. And in fact, with the new gutters, I really did have a dry area, since the new ones don't leak!

The next project was to get some plastic cupboards to start moving the workshop stuff out on the deck. But finding these plastic cupboards in Nelson proved to be a chore. I'd seen them at many places in the States, but could not find anything similar here. I tried the local hardware and DIY shops, and even a store that specialises in plastic stuff called Plastic Box. Finally after doing many Internet searches, I decided to try a local department store (similar to KMart) and found some great plastic cupboards in the gardening section. They were a snap to put together - literally - no tools required, and keep things dry and secure - since they can be locked. I had a perfect place on one of the covered parts of the deck to set up the new workshop. Just behind our clothesline. I bought two of these cupboards and also used the old shelf unit from the bedroom closet and the pantry from the kitchen for all the tools and spare bike parts and such. I also tried to devise a way to hang wheels and tyres in the bike shed. I tried building something to hold the hooks, but gave up on it as too clunky, and found some hooks to hang over the walls instead.

Once the two rooms were cleared out, I started pulling down old gibboard and pinex. There were one or two places where the old wallboard wasn't in atrocious condition, but for the most part it was very bad - either this cheap pinex stuff, or lots of little bits of gib patched together. But better... or worse ... actually was the state of insulation.... The wall between the old finished room and our bedroom had insulation, but none of the other walls - and these were exterior walls. (When we did the kitchen, we also found the exterior walls lacking in insulation! I know there is insulation in other parts of the house and have finally realised that it has been put in as walls have been redone, so it is in newer parts and most interior walls! Most kiwis heat individual rooms, rather than using central heat, so interior wall insulation makes perfect sense to them! They also claim a noise benefit. Why they don't worry about noise from outside, or cold from outside is beyond me!

I initially planned to only insulate the exterior walls and moved what was in the interior wall to an outside one, but realised the front bedroom has not been redone and therefore has no insulation, so I decided to do the wall next to it, and then had enough left over to do the wall I taken insulation from initially (next to our room). So with it's own heater and small windows (no double glazing here either), this could be the warmest room in the house! It is to be the guest room, so it should be quite comfy for our visitors!

When talking to Chris, the gibstopper (plasterer), about doing work in the kitchen and dining room, I also asked about this room. He recommended Ziff, a builder, who could do the wall board, and I decided to go ahead and get this project finished while John was away. Removing the ceiling did make life easier for Thomas to install the skylight in this room, since he could tear down as much ceiling as he wanted. (Thomas is doing the skylight tunnels and our floors.)


Ziff and Hawney moved the attic access, pulled down the old ceiling and got the new ceiling up on Friday (before John was due to come back Sunday.) They did a lot of structural work and replaced and repaired some broken ceiling joists as well as some rotten wall studs. The new walls are actually straight! The room is somewhat long and narrow, but definitely will be a better use of space than the two small rooms before - especially since one was never finished. We should be able to get all the guest room furniture into the room comfortably. Our current guest room does not have space for the everything, so its furniture was actually divided between two rooms!


You can see from the pictures that Thomas and Nigel got one of the skylights built, but when they went to do the other two we found that the units in the roof were actually too low, and mostly over the soffits, not actually in the room. I had to get the roofer back out to move them. This was an ordeal, but since I hadn't paid yet, I had some leverage. The skylights were moved Friday as well, and hopefully Thomas can finish building the tunnels this week. I was truly bummed by this turn of events because I'd hoped to have most things done before John returned - oh well.

I did manage to get one other project done Friday. I had the locks changed. Now I'm not being mean to John by changing the locks while he is gone. The house had four doors, (5 really, but we don’t use the fifth one - it's treated as a window behind a coffee table). All four doors had different locks and keys - some of which were openable from outside, and most requiring a key to open from the inside. I wanted them all keyed the same, openable from outside with a key, and inside without. The inside key feature is sort of a security thing in that if someone breaks through the glass, they can open the door by turning the deadbolt. I found a system that looks like a regular deadbolt knob, but is a removable key, that you leave in most of the time, but would take out and take with you for an extended trip. So we have all new locks and one key to do them all! So when I pick John up from the airport, I can hand him a new key to his new house. And it will seem like a new house for him because in addition to the above work...

The kitchen is 95% done. Read about the kitchen.

Oh yeah, if you didn't see him on his travels, John went off to America for a few weeks, and continued on to Ireland, since a round the world ticket was cheaper than return fare to Boston. Hopefully he got some much needed fun and time away from stresses here. I'm quite excited to have accomplished so much while he was away. I still have work for him (insulation under the floors and the attic, painting, moulding and tile. But it seems that we should be able to relax and enjoy the house and life in general here, and go out and play (or work) without having to concentrate so much on making the house liveable. It is now 95% there! New roof and gutters, new heat, new hot water, new kitchen, new wiring and lights, insulation, new bedroom, new keys! I wonder if the previous owners would recognise it?


Winter Solstice