Over the past week and a half, we’ve been painting the main room of the house. The walls haven’t been painted since we first built the space, so it was definitely time. Kids and furniture had rubbed the paint off in some places, darkened the walls in others.

When I say “we” I actually mean Irving and Melvin, since I had a lot of deadlines to work on. However, they were well supervised.

The entire space took 3 days to paint in bits and pieces, shifting furniture around and painting two coats in each space. The older boys helped some days.

You can see in this photo that the wall was pretty dirty! The wall to the left was already painted here. Which is another thing. I’d asked for golden yellow to match what we already had, since I like that color, but it ended up being a sort of butter yellow! I’m used to it now, but it was annoying at first.

My New Kitchen

Irving has been doing a lot of woodwork lately and one of his projects was to build a countertop for the dishwasher. It had nothing over it, which meant we had to tie it to the wall to prevent it from tipping forward when the tray was out. Also, the top was pretty much wasted space. Not anymore!

Once he did the counter for the dishwasher, he decided to keep going and came up with this:

Our ceiling is pretty low for upper cupboards, so he put in a shelf for me. It’s pretty nice to have all that extra space! The back corner counter lifts out and the gas cylinder sits down in there so we don’t have to take everything out of the cupboard to replace the gas.

He also built me a simple holder for the knife set he got me for my birthday. I love having everything accessible and right by the stove!

Here’s what my full kitchen looks like at the moment (please excuse the mess! And the pantless toddler). Irving says if I keep going, the entire house will be a kitchen. Sounds good to me! ?

So This Happened

Yesterday, my laundry room looked like this:

What a mess! It’s actually a good thing, though. Irving and our neighbor are building the roof for the room. They had to take off the rebar that was sticking up since they are building with wood instead of concrete. Apparently that also involved knocking down some of the concrete overhang, too!

Home Improvements

We’ve been on a bit of a role around here, fixing up the small things in the house. One of the recent projects was the curtains in the living room area, but it was tough to sew that much fabric in a very small space.

My sewing area is a long table that we bought ages ago from a guy who was hauling it down our street. I have no idea how he managed to carry this thing on his own, but he was trying to sell it and pretty desperate after climbing up our steep hill. So we got it for a song and it was moved into our already crowded bedroom and quickly became the place to pile all our stuff that was in transition mode. I’m not going to show you a “before” pic because it’s just too embarrassing!

After I did the curtains and had this huge pile of fabric from that project and Dominic’s gifts on the table, Irving decided to do something about the unorganized space. He went to the market and bought some produce boxes and sanded them down and varnished them. Then he put up a shelf and hung a couple of the boxes on the wall. The remaining ones went on top of the shelf to hold some of my fabric.

This was the end result (though I’ve added another box up top for more fabric, heh):

Rustic? Yes, but it does the trick! I still have boxes under the table with odd shaped bits of fabric, but all the big pieces are up above the table now. And all that space to cut and assemble!

It may not be a big thing, but I’m very appreciative of the work Irving did. Otherwise, I would still be digging through a giant box looking for my best fabric, or piling it up on the table.

Curtains: Before and After

We have had our main room for about 6 years now. In all that time, we have used a blanket or a sheet, held up with popsicle sticks wedged into the cracks, as a curtain when needed for our main window. I’m not sure why it took so long to do something about it, but it was just not a big priority.

A couple of weeks ago, we went to the MegaPaca and I found the perfect beige sheet to use for curtains. I got it and brought it home and didn’t do anything for a while. Irving put up the curtain rod at long last and we hung a sheet there for the time being.

Not exactly the best living room curtain, though the boys loved it!

Finally, yesterday, in an effort to procrastinate from writing, I sat down and measured and cut and sewed. The sheet was big enough to fold over and create a double thick curtain. While there are some little mistakes in the curtains, they turned out really well and make our living room feel like a real home. I can’t believe we didn’t do this sooner!

Also, there will be no more hassles with the blanket falling down and having to jam the sticks back in. A definite improvement. Next project? Washing those dirty windows!

Getting Better

Lately, our family has been so very sick with one thing after another and it has become more than just an annoyance. We made a list of potential issues that could be affecting us:

  • Dirt: We had a yard full of it and dogs and cats coming through all the time. Many of the parasites that the boys pick up are from dog poo, so we knew that was definitely an issue. Shoes was an obvious solution to us, but it’s very, very hard to get children to wear them all the time. Especially my children, since they have the same aversion to shoes that I do.
  • Water: This is a possible issue. We don’t drink tap water, which varies drastically in quality depending on when they feel like dropping chlorine tabs into the tank. Some stuff, like giardia, which we recently had, is not killed by chlorine. We buy purified water but let’s face it, there’s no guarantee those five gallon jugs are anything but tap water and since we keep getting things like giardia, I was getting suspicious.
  • Food: We eat a lot of salads and lettuce is supposed to be one of the most easily contaminated and hardest to clean veggies around here. I’ve heard all sorts of horror stories about how fields are watered with raw sewage (which would explain the giant carrots available here) and I always peel what I can and soak things in bleach water. But maybe it’s not enough.

So, with those three big factors (there are other smaller ones, too, which we’ll be working on), Irving and I sat down and figured out how to combat them. Our first move was to eliminate the dirt issue. We did the concrete which you saw in the last post. We still have some dirt, but not much and once the lawn is in and the flowerbeds planted, there will no walking on it.

The concrete is easy to hose down and has made cleaning the bathroom easier, too, since I can actually just hose that down, too. In addition, we are putting in a gate to keep dogs out. We can’t do much about the cats yet, since they run around the top of the wall, but I’m not so worried about them since they do tend to stay up high.

We also invested in a water filter. I want one for the whole house eventually, but for now, we have one that attaches to the kitchen sink and we can use it or switch easily to regular water for other tasks. That eliminates my worry about potentially contaminated water and the most likely source of giardia.

Finally, I am setting up a container garden and using a ton of ideas from Pinterest to start growing the most dangerous foods myself. That will allow me to ensure that they are grown safely. I’m starting with a wall garden for lettuce, but herbs, carrots, strawberries, tomatoes and other veggies will be close behind.

While we have other ideas in mind, these are fairly easy to implement (well, most have already been implemented) and if nothing else, at least now we don’t have dirt in the house all the time! And happier kids, since they have more space to play. Hopefully we will see an overall improvement in health, as well.

And the Concrete is Done!

The side yard . . . I have big plans for this, since those windows and door are to our room, which, if we ever build a second level, will be the school room. That space will be a container garden with a nice little clay fireplace in the corner and a table and chair so I can sit out there and work.

The breezeway in front of our house. The stepped up bit to the right is because the bathroom is a different level than the house and we have our washing machine up there. I would show a photo of that, but it’s a disaster right now. We have tin roofing making a sort of lean-to there to protect the washing machine, but now that we have all this concrete (there was just a little pad there before) we are going to build a proper room, one that is big enough for my sewing table, which can be switched out with a bed if anyone decides to visit us.

The dirt at the end is where we will have our lawn. It’s in front of the living room.

And here is the entrance. The rest of the “callejon” is not our responsibility, though I’ve considered filling and laying concrete there, too. The next doorway you can see to the left is Vardin’s property.

I took these photos when the entrance was still wet, so here’s a shot from the breezeway, looking down to the side yard. You can see the flower bed continued a little ways. That will have a brick edge on top of the concrete to give more room and a nicer look. We’ll be building a box to cover the pipes and also to put the gas cylinder outside, since I would rather not have it in the house. To the right is the kitchen and the breezeway.

The Yard

As badly as I would like to move, things are not going well enough that we can do that. So, instead, we’ve been working hard to try and make this place more livable. That includes leveling out our crazy, crazy yard. Anyone who has visited us knows that the ups and downs and drop-offs are anything but baby friendly!

We recently began our search for dirt again. Over the years we’ve managed to get a truckload here, a truckload there. I asked a friend about a guy she knew, but he wanted $10 a yard . . . WAY too much for us, considering how much we had to fill in. Irving went out one day to the shop and ended up passing a house where they were digging. He stopped and asked if they had a place to take the dirt and they said they’d give it to him for $2.50 a pickup load. Sold.

Within a few hours, the in-laws’ driveway was piled high with dirt. They were less than impressed. We got the whole family out to help . . . Dominic sat in his high chair, I shoveled and Irving hauled wheelbarrow after wheelbarrow full of dirt to our yard. The big boys “helped” shovel and ran around a lot.

After three days and a lot of blisters, we finally ran out of dirt. Just in the nick of time, since the yard was full. Then came the tedious task of leveling it all out. We realized, a little too late, that Irving had overdone it with the dirt hauling and we were now over the level we needed. Not a problem, the extra went to filling in the alley that runs down the side of the main property. We ended up hiring a couple of his female cousins to help us with the leveling and concrete. Most of the yard will now be concrete, except a piece in front of the living room which will be grass. The idea is that it will be easier to clean concrete and keep kids from getting so sick. Unfortunately, the dog has already arrived to christen the new dirt and so we also need to build a gate very soon.

At this point, we have the yard all leveled out. There will be four different levels in the end, to allow for drainage. This afternoon, we go buy concrete and sand and gravel to start pouring concrete tomorrow morning. I can’t wait! It will be so much easier to keep the house clean if there isn’t dirt everywhere.

Here’s our side yard, before and after:

This is the first time we can really use the door since that room was built nearly 8 years ago! That area will all be filled with concrete and turned into a little container vegetable garden.

Let’s Move!

We’ve been wanting to get out of our place for a while now. I’m sick and tired of living with in-laws and the dog incident was the last straw. Unfortunately, it makes no sense to rent a place when we can live rent free, so it’s been a bit of a challenge to figure things out. We decided to save for a house/piece of land.

Yesterday, we went to look at a gated community in another town where Irving’s bandmate lives. There are only a couple of lots left, but the bandmate’s brother wanted to show us a half built house that was for sale. So we decided it couldn’t hurt to look and it would be motivation to save.

As soon as we arrived, the boys piled out of the car and looked at the house (which was only walls) and asked, “Is this where we’re going to live?” I told them we were just looking.

The house is at the end of a street and backs onto a huge green area, with a playground and pool just a short distance away. The boys were thrilled and asked if they could run around. Given permission, they took off running across the grass and Dominic crawled around after them. We looked at the house and the plans and discussed pricing and assorted other grown up stuff (seriously, it makes me feel like I’m finally grown to be looking at a place like this).

Dorian looked around and said, “So, do they sell the upstairs, too? Because I like this place and we could move in tomorrow. But it might be nice to have the upstairs.” Keep in mind that there was nothing but dirt for floors and no roof on this place! I guess the pool and playground made up for the fact that the place wasn’t actually livable!

The house and lot are out of our price range, but it’s good to know that the kids will have no problems with moving when the time comes!

The New Hutch

The other day, I came out to make my tea and found my hutch absolutely covered in dust. Except, when I looked closer, the dust was . . . moving. Ugh! It really, really creeped me out and I instantly woke Irving up and told him we had been invaded by minute insects.

He was considerably less perturbed than I.

He looked at the hutch, said it was termite leavings and headed back to bed. I dragged him back and showed him that the stuff was actually moving. We googled it and discovered that we had wood mites. Upon opening the hutch, ALL the dishes and food was covered. I was horrified. Irving was stoic. He said he?d clean it up, but he needed more sleep first.

I hate bugs (smart choice to move to Guatemala, huh?) and while big bugs are icky, teensy tiny bugs are just horrible. They can get into places where you will never get them out. You can?t get rid of billions of dust-like specks!! I was having a really hard time with the wood mites, thinking of everything they had gotten into. They aren?t dangerous, but just the thought creeped me out.

So we cleaned. We dragged the hutch outside and all the stuff inside was pulled out. Everything was infested. Tears may have been shed over the harmless, but insanely tiny bugs. I threw out a lot of stuff.

To make a long story short, we decided not to put the hutch back into the house. The hutch was handed down to me from my MIL and it was in bad shape when we got it. A couple years ago, Irving sent it to the carpenter across the street for repairs and he painted it a hideous dark brown. HIDEOUS. I hated that stupid hutch. The doors fell off, so they were mostly propped against the front because the wood was too rotten to put new hinges in. It was one of those things you say you?ll replace when there?s more money or whatever.

Well, it was time.

We hit the market and I trailed behind Irving and Dorian with the other two kids so no one would think I was buying. He hiked up and down the row of furniture shops long after the boys and I gave up and sat on the concrete sidewalk and ate Tortrix. Finally, he came back and said that he?d found a price. A good one.

See, I wanted a little hutch, two doors wide, with a natural finish. For some reason, Guatemalans seem obsessed with this dark brown furniture that to me is just awful. I can?t stand dark furniture, especially in the kitchen. Unfortunately, the only hutches in natural finish were big ones, three doors wide. And they were more expensive. We were quoted anything from Q1,200 to Q1,500.

Irving had managed to talk a guy down to Q850 for a large hutch that I liked. So we got it, they hauled it to our house for us and that was that. Here?s the new hutch:

In the kitchen:

And the old hutch, which has been banished to the laundry lean-to: