Monthly Archives: May 2013

Calling Mr. Camin

So in our kitchen we had the original wall-mount telephone jack. Straight from 1960, it even has the Bell logo on it. Talking to my mother and aunt about it before, they mentioned that there was always the kitchen phone when they were growing up – a big boxy rotary phone – and it was the only phone they could use. The only other phone was in my Grandparent’s bedroom. I even recall it there when I was a kid. By the late 1980’s it had been switched out for a cordless phone, and when we moved in a cheap white corded phone was hanging there.

For the kitchen, I found a great vintage phone – a Western Electric 554A/B in yellow. It’s the rotary phone you think about when they say “old kitchen wall phone.” It’s built like a tank because, at the time (pre-1984 breakup of AT&T), the phone company owned the phones – you simply leased them. If it broke, they had to repair or replace it. It turns out it’s a great accent in our kitchen and complements the yellow backsplash tiles (original) and Rejuvenation Astron pendant lights over the banquette. It’s practically a piece of mid-century art on the wall:


But of course with no landline, this would just be for show. I wanted to correct this, though. After doing some research I figured out that I could do more – much more in fact.

I got to thinking about how it would be great if I could still actually use these phones around the house. Given that our cell phones have bluetooth, surely there must be a way to link all of this together? It turns out there is. A little bit of research led me to purchase an Xlink BTTN “Bluetooth Cellular Gateway” – this is basically a device that, when your cell phone is in the house, uses Bluetooth to connect the box to your cell phone. When someone calls your cell phone, it rings any phones (like your home ones) connected to it. You just pick up any phone to answer. Another call comes in? It supports Call Waiting. Have a Caller ID phone? It will send the Caller ID to the phone. It links three separate cell phones to the device and can juggle them. Oh – if you have an iPhone, you can pick up any handset, dial ## and use Siri too. It’s pretty spectacular. The only real limitation is that Bluetooth only works within about 15 feet, so you have to leave your cell phone near the device. I don’t want this limitation, so I’ve ordered an external antenna and am going to hack the device to enhance the Bluetooth range.

But now for us, the bottom line is that when someone calls us on our cell phones, we don’t have to run across the house to figure out who it is – the kitchen phone rings (with it’s awesome bell ringer), and our cordless phones get Caller ID identifying not just the number but (if the person is in our phone book) the name of the contact as well. We can literally grab any phone to take the call.

VCT Floor Care

When people see our vinyl tile (VCT) floors, they usually ask how we get them looking nice and shiny and keep them that way. The old school way – the way my grandparents did it – was to put paste wax on and sit with the electric buffer. (I have one of these in the basement, by the way. It’s pink.) The tile did shine, but it was slippery.

I have developed a super-secret process for cleaning the floor and adding a fancy wet-look polish, and I have decided I shall release this super-secret process to the world so all VCT floors everywhere can enjoy this level of shine, since I get asked a lot.

So you can see the results, our foyer floor looks like this now:


Without further ado, here is how we get that look:

1. Clean it with “Krud Kutter” spray. This stuff is awesome. You spray it on, let it sit for 30 seconds or so, then give it a good scrubbing. You’ll notice that your tile will return to it’s original unfinished matte look. I did this with rags on hands and knees for best results.

2. Using a damp microfiber twist mop (they have nice ones for $10) put on Zep Stain Resistant Floor Sealer. I do two coats – you wait about 10-15 minutes between each coat. The stuff self-levels so you just spread it on with the mop and are good to go. You’ll notice a light sheen coming back on the floor. This step prevents anything from staining the floor if it gets on it. VCT floors will absorb spills if they are not protected so this is very important.

3. Rinse the damp mop and switch to Zep Wet-Look Floor Finish. I put on 3-4 coats, waiting 15-20 minutes between each one. You won’t notice it getting real shiny until the 2nd coat dries. This also self-levels so you just make sure you don’t miss spots and you’ll be fine.

I didn’t need a lot – one gallon of each of those covers something like 300-400 square feet. The other cool thing about the Zep products is that while they are shiny, they are not slippery. Apparently they formulate the wax so it shines without turning your tile into a skating rink, which is awesome. The very first time I waxed the foyer floor I used old-school SC Johnson Paste Wax (the original stuff) and buffed it. It wasn’t as shiny as I wanted and it was downright dangerous, unless we were doing Tom Cruise “Risky Business” re-enactments.

And there you have it, the super-secret vinyl tile floor care method.

Land Baron

Now that I’m a land baron, I must have the proper machinery to take care of my stead:


That’s our new John Deere D110. I picked it up a few weeks ago. In just a few weeks I’ve managed to learn how to mow the whole property (1.1 acres) in about 2 hours. Including the meadow. One of the big adjustments from living downtown to living in suburbia is lawn care. Given that we’ve got (relatively speaking) a very large lawn, this has become quite the endeavor. I’ve been out cutting low branches, picking rocks, planting grass in different areas and more. I feel like George W. Bush circa 2004. You know, clearing brush on the ranch.

Next on my list? Building a picnic table for out back. I’m going to do it myself.

Things in Bloom

We’ve been watching the various things around the house come in to bloom as spring has progressed. This first year we’re mostly just checking everything out and documenting what’s here. Next year there are some plans to make some changes – add a bed or two, re-do some of the landscaping, etc. But it’s always best to see what you have to work with to start: