Monthly Archives: July 2014

running total

Money spent to date on the container cabin project: $5546.08.

Oy vey.

I’ve gotten some random things done while waiting for my second run at the electrical work on July 31st. To keep the momentum, I’ve painted the floor (previous post), built a shelf unit, put up the ceiling beams, and cleaned the residue off of my mid-century modern crackle-glass kitchen table.

I’m running out of money, which seems to happen often with this kind of endeavor. I’m subbing at work for whatever comes up, which isn’t much. Summer is the hardest time of year in my industry, as educational interpreters are out of school and glutting the market. (I’m not faulting them; hell, some of my friends are educational interpreters.) It’s tight. Luckily I will be able to eke my way from payday to payday if I mind my Ps and Qs, which, it should be said, do need some moderate amount of minding.

This project has indeed disrupted my usual safety net to an uncomfortable degree. If I look at things from outside the project, the worst thing might be that I don’t have the money to insulate before temperatures drop below the required 60°F threshold for the spray-foam insulation. That would put the project on hold — and mean that I effectively don’t have a bedroom and workspace to myself — until at least May 2015. I’d really like to be done this summer.

One nice thing that could happen would be in the Veteran’s Administration would cough up our dependent money. It’s been two and a half years since I was married and we ain’t seen none of it yet. I know there are people who need their VA money much sooner than I do, who are truly screwed and injured and devastated, and I’m NOT saying we should get ours before them; NEVER. But for their sake and (later) mine, couldn’t the VA hire some more people to work on the backlog? That would help everyone a whole bunch, for sure.

Until then, I continue minor yard projects, embroidery, website maintenance for a motorcycle group, floating on lakes and in rivers, and watching reruns of 30 Rock and Parks and Recreation and The Office and Star Trek (all of them except Enterprise).

And I keep watching the email for sub requests.


floor! the musical

I painted the shelf and the floor a few days ago. The color: “wool coat”. But it didn’t come out like the color sample, and I wasn’t sure if it was the light, the plywood and its various unknown chemicals, or what.

Figured it out a few days later, when I went to Home Depot to get a color more like what I had wanted: they took the tint information from the color sheet for Behr latex-based porch paint, and then put the pigments in Glidden oil-based floor paint. Um, that’s not gonna work. I know they say that custom mixed paint is non-returnable, but they screwed it up. I’ll give it one good try.


I picked Glidden again, because switching to latex made no sense at that point. Okay. This time, I picked something distinctly yellow-ish to make sure I wouldn’t get pink tones: Natural Straw (I thought at first I had picked Jonquil, but nope). If you look it up on the internet it looks a lot more vivid than it is in the can. It’s really just a strong butter color, and not at all gold or daffodil.

Here’s how it looks on my floor:

yellow floor

I used Photoshop to put in the right color, because the iPhone just couldn’t reproduce it in the late afternoon light. It’s going to be great with the furniture and fixtures in there.

Consider it with my linens and ottoman-cart and poppy-red doors:

This container cabin won’t be perfect, but it’ll be damn funky.

love what I have

Dreams are excursions into the limbo of things,
a semi-deliverance from the human prison.
-Henri Frederic Amiel

I had grand dreams about a container dwelling that looked like something out of Sunset magazine. Reality set it, and I downgraded dreams to more realistic, rustic expectations. Then I was going to complain that I’m in limbo about the container project, but I’m not, really. Or I should say, I’m not anymore.

Last week I had a period of time when I questioned the smartness of this decision, the wisdom of finally sinking time and money and tears into the container project. I second-guessed everything. “Am I just sensitive and selfish? Why can’t I live in the house like everyone else? Wouldn’t the money be better spent on other things?”

Then I remembered all of the rational, practical, non-emotional reasons to finish this project.

To find out how it’s done (and not done). I wanted to experience building something so I’d know what to expect. What I didn’t think about in any depth was how there would be setbacks and how I’d handle them. I’ve been frustrated with money and time limitations; now I have to accept them and move on.

To live in a small space and see if it’s for me. I think I can live in the container cabin, but until I do, I won’t know for certain. Even as I build this, I realize there isn’t a shower, or a complete kitchen setup, or an actual bathroom (I don’t mind a sawdust bucket). Will I be able to live without many of my books, gear, etc? I’ll find out now, while I still have the big house to fall back on. Maybe this ultimately isn’t going to work for me. Won’t know until I try.

To become less attached to stuff / cherish what I have. I’m already getting rid of clothes if I’m not absolutely in love with them or I don’t actually need them. I’ve sent family heirlooms and furniture to my sister and brother and mom so that they aren’t in my space but I don’t feel they’ve been lost.

To free up time. Less stuff in less space means less time devoted to cleaning and maintenance, as well as less time working to pay utility bills for a larger space. An outgrowth of this will be, eventually, taking the leap to actually join activities I think would be fun. (I tend to stick with known activities, and to socially isolate instead of trying new things.)

To make room in the big house. With newly mobile teenagers coming and going, it’s possible they might decide to live here at some point. If so, they need to know their room is their private space. They can have theirs, I can have mine.

To have a place of my own that I can put somewhere else, later on. Even if I/we decide that container living isn’t for us, we’ve still got a cabin to plop down somewhere.

And so, having reminded myself that there are dispassionate, practical reasons for the project, I will continue. The money part will be what it is, and I will still push through to the end.

bottom to top

Painted the floor today. But before I could do that, however, I had to:

– cut 2 x 4s to length and screw them into the headers

– remove everything from the container

– sweep the floor

– vacuum the floor and the spaces behind the studs

– scrape off tape and drips of varnish

– remove dirt in floor voids with a wire brush

– sweep the floor again

– find the extension pole for the paint roller

– thin the paint just a bit

– cut in paint around the floor borders

– roll it on!

Photographic documentation, enlargeable through the magic of mouse clicking:

Scraping the floor is quite glamorous.

Scraping the floor is quite glamorous.

I can't believe I finally get to paint the floor.

I can’t believe I finally get to paint the floor.

Beams are up, secured, and ready for the ceiling panels.

Beams are up, secured, and ready for the ceiling panels.

All painted, first coat.

All painted, first coat.

Newly painted floor in dappled sunlight

Newly painted floor in dappled sunlight

What I've done and will do.

What I’ve done and will do.

cubby done

I took advantage of the heat and painted the cabinet. It was painted by ten a.m. and dry by noon. I slaved over the red doors, fastening the two so they would become one, but once I put them on the cabinet I decided they looked stupid. Not sure if there is going to be another attempt on those.

Once I got it into my bedroom, and after I took some time to cool down, I unloaded my sideboard-used-as-dresser and filled the new shelves. I used Cling-Wrap on the shelves for now, just in case there were hidden tacky spots. I think it looks excellent for a day’s work and a hundred bucks.

Maybe I’ll paint the front edges of the shelves with the red paint. Maybe they’ll get some other, more odd and crafty treatment. Collage? Shells? Those flat glass marble things you steal from nice flower arrangements at special events? Suggestions welcome.


“Cubbies! I totally forgot about cubbies!” – Jim Halpert, “The Office”.

Seldom does a project turn out as close to the vision as this one did. I had the basics of the cubby-cabinet worked out in my head, and then modified as I went along. I made sure the left column would hold books of particular sizes. The middle column is for small stuff like underwear and socks and whatever. The right column has two shoe shelves on the bottom, and just above that, a shelf specifically for the three pairs of boots I own (two felt, one motorcycle). Above that it’s just general storage for shirts, pants, and sweaters.

I started the day at Home Depot buying the boards and related cabinet stuff. I also bought floor paint (color PFC-16, “wool coat”), which will go not only on the floor, but also on the cubby thingy; unified colors and all that. I’m not at all enthused with having to sand the floor, but there is no escaping it. I met a Deaf guy that works at the Spanaway HD and we had a nice chat. He uses a competitor’s video phone, but I don’t hold that against him. 🙂

The plan was to build the cabinet outside, in the lovely cool shade of my back yard. Alas, I realized I needed the assistance of a level surface, and moved the operation into the container. If I had to guess, I’d say the temp was somewhere just south of 100° in the can, but I persevered with the assistance of a liter of water and continuous episodes of “The Office (US)” on my laptop.

Just around 9pm I finished the build. Now I’m in bed with Sampsa Kitty-Boy curled up next to me, and we’re both watching more of “The Office”. It’s his favorite show.


meantime . . .

Rather than sit around twiddling my thumbs while other project components come together, I have decided to use my time wisely, take advantage of the warm weather, and carry on with other necessary parts of the overall container project. Tawanda!

Floor: The hot weather will create the perfect conditions for painting the floor. It was sanded and varnished a long time ago, and it’s looking a bit sorry after three years. I’ll clear out everything, sand the floor, wipe down the walls, vacuum and damp mop the floor, and go to town with the paint. I’ll use a low-gloss porch paint in a light, neutral sandy shade. It covers 400 square feet, which leaves enough for:

Storage: I’ll be building a shelf unit out of 1″ x 12″ x 8ft common boards. Finished size will be 4ft wide, 6.5ft high, and 12″ deep. This time I’ll make sure the shelves are wide enough to accommodate all the baskets I own; last time I made shelves I made them about ¾ inch too narrow. (What’s that saying? Oh yeah: “Measure twice, cut once.”) I’ll cut down a piece of cheap plywood for the back panel, and will secure the corners with 4″ zinc heavy-duty corner brackets. The body and interior of the unit will be painted with the (plentiful, leftover) porch paint. I was thinking of black, but I changed my mind. Light colors used throughout the build will enhance the feeling of space. The red louvered doors will go on the front. Ooh, I get to pick out cool knobs! Squee!! And then the Oldest Girl gets to keep the black shelves in the big bedroom, which goes along perfectly with being artistic, dramatic, and seventeen.

Glass: I’ll search for a replacement pane for the front door, likely at a specialty glass dealer. Ideally I’ll find something very similar to what is already there, otherwise I’ll have to replace all four panes. Well, I don’t have to; I mean, funky is good, but dang, I was so happy with that pebbled privacy glass. I’m hoping I don’t have to pay too much to get something that will maintain the dignity and overall look of the doors.

I just might have to get another set of sawhorse brackets. Last time I bought just one kit, and realized that it would only make one sawhorse. Rumor has it that they usually come in pairs, don’tcha know. Doh!

While paint dries, I’ll set out the garden hoses and weed the beds and maybe hose out the gutters, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. Never a paucity of yard work around here.

I’ll be home for the next four days, so come on over. I promise I won’t make you work unless you’re looking for something to alleviate your summer boredom. And I’ll make tea.