the hyphens that define my life

Chim-chim-cher-ee November 20, 2013

Before getting all comfy cozy in front of our fireplace this year, we called a chimney sweep out to clean and inspect our chimney.  We learned from our neighbors that some chimneys are not lined, like theirs.  If a chimney is not lined, with terra cotta tiles, metal or something else, air can seep in through the bricks and mortar and cause issues, including fire hazards.  Fantastic.  Safety first, let’s get the chimney inspected.

Everyday in Spokane is an opportunity to learn something new.  First gas lines and now chimneys.  We learned our chimney is indeed lined (hurray!) so no issue there. The issue is with our fireplace itself.  Did you know that there is a formula for determining how big your fireplace opening should be?  The chimney sweep and my husband were throwing mathematical equations back and forth, rapid fire, doing the math in their head, while my head was spinning.  Turns out our architecture designer-builder didn’t know there was a formula to determine the correct size of the fireplace opening.  His architecture instincts led him down the path of aesthetics and not practicum.

I love architects.  I work with them every day.  My husband works with architects every day.  Architects make our world go round.  Yet not necessarily in the same direction or without bouncing all over before getting to where you need to be.  I love architects.

The problem with a fireplace opening being too big is that there is a conflict between too much air coming in from the house that can’t escape up the chimney top.  What happens with too big of an opening, or if your formula ratios are off, smoke will billow back into the house.  Fantastic.

This is the joy of owning an old home.  You start a project thinking it will be an easy breezy slam dunk then you add another project to the list.

Here is our fireplace.  You can see the smoke damage on the bricks resulting from the above issue described from previous owners.


Here’s our chimney sweep.  No tie downs, we even provided our own for their use, no thanks.  Yikes.  I wish our chimney sweep was more Dick Van Dyke-like and sang Chim-chim-cher-ee chim-chim-cher-oo.  It would have been truly fantastic if Mary Poppins herself dropped in as well.  They didn’t even have soot on their faces.  Nothing worse than a clean chimney sweep.

chimney sweep

Our fireplace fix, my Mr. Fix It husband tells me is relatively easy.  A piece of sheet metal will go on the back of the top section of the grate. Add some insulated rope around the edges and done, problem solved.  The trick is getting Mr. Fix It to fix it.  Temperatures this week are in the teens at night and mid-30s during the day.


The chimney sweep was here over a month ago, the fireplace is still not operable, the smoke is still not acid washed off the bricks.  My dining room is painted and our bedroom will be painted this weekend.  We’re making slow but steady progress but the list is still long.  I offered to sing the Mary Poppin’s soundtrack to expedite our projects but my idea was rejected not only by my husband but the rest of the house.  No appreciation for the arts, or perhaps my supercalifragilisticexpialidocious singing.


Bi-cycle! Bi-cycle! Bi-cycle! September 19, 2013

I want to ride my bicycle
I want to ride my bike
I want to ride my bicycle
I want to ride it where I like

~Queen, Bicycle Race

My super stealth new bike is AWESOME!

Maybe it isn’t so stealth or super or new, but I do have a bike to peddle around town.  Last weekend, we bought this vintage three speed, wicker basket included, through Craigslist and managed to meet a cool couple in the process.  We dropped the bike at the bike shop for a tune up and new tubes and picked it up this morning, shiny and new to me.

I am giddy.  I want a mountain bike (a basic model like the one my husband sold at our “we’re moving” garage sale) to take on the awesome trails around Spokane, and/or I want a road bike, to compete in at least one more sprint triathlon and to ride the Centennial Trail through Washington and Idaho.  For now, my Sears Robuck, 70’s model, brown 3-speed with boss orange and yellow stripes will take me where I need to go.

My first ride was at lunch today.  I went at midday mainly because it was 45 degrees (F) at 6 AM when I could have gone instead.  No thanks chilly weather, I’ll wait until the day warms.  I set out for the library branch that is nine-tenths of a mile from our house.  From there, I headed to the grocery store and picked up a couple of things I needed for dinner.  Within 31 minutes, I rode 3.6 miles roundtrip and burned 257 calories (thank you Endomondo App). AND I managed to run two errands while getting some exercise.  That’s efficient multi-tasking right there my friends.

I would love to tell you that my ride was smooth and the bike is flawless.  No.  Like me, the bike is aging quickly.  I only found two of the three gears and though I was shifting, the gears changed when they were good and ready.  No worries, I understand.  My spiffy new basket was great empty and performed well with four library books.  However, when I added a bag of groceries it started squeaking like a mouse.  Eek, eek, eek, eek, eek, the entire mile and a half home.

Spokane roads are rough and rugged.  Locals will tell you that all the state money goes to Seattle so our roads get little to no attention.  Local legend also claims that studded tires that people use all winter tear up the roads.  I don’t know about funding, but studded tires are not the issue.  Freeze and thaw yourself time after time and you’d buckle eventually too.   The roads in a car feel bumpy.  On a bike, let me just inform you that I stood up a good portion of my ride.  The bike does sport a very comfy fat ass seat for which I am thankful.

My boys told me that it looked like a Mary Poppins bike.  Wrong, Mary Poppins had a carpet bag. My friend asked me “Where’s Toto?” I can only assume she was calling me old spinster Miss Gulch.  Hmph!  I love my bicycle and really don’t care if I look like Mary Poppins or Miss Gulch or Kermit the Frog or even worse.  My boys won’t laugh when I can outride them on their bmx bikes. My gears will kick in eventually.

Bicycling around my local neighborhood has me super excited, if you haven’t noticed.  I can’t wait for my next ride.