Tuesday, December 27, 2005
What I will bore you with, however, are the details of our first and only (so far) spooky house occurrence. V was doing some tidying up when our doorbell rang. This doorbell is original to the house...has a lever that you push down with your thumb, which in turn rings the bell. No big deal, right? Right, until you consider that the thumb mechanism is seized up and frozen in place, which means that bell does not ring. It wasn't until after V started walking toward the door that he thought "Hmmmm, that doorbell doesn't work. How on earth did it ring?" At first he thought maybe one of the cats had bumped it. Not likely unless one of them managed to grow a foot in height. Then he thought maybe something had rattled the door, in turn rattling the doorbell enough to ding it. But it had made an entire rrrrrrrrring.
Incidentally, there was no one at the door. Thank goodness.
Wednesday, December 21, 2005
We decided this year to cut our own tree. What an experience! We decided to go on our way home from my folks' annual holiday party. V rightfully noted that I was not exactly dressed for cutting down a tree, what with my cashmere coat, my Burberry scarf, and my high-heeled boots (I'm not a fashionista, I swear I'm not. That coat and scarf are warm and soft!!! They're practical! I have no excuse for the boots.). Be that as it may, we headed out into the forest to cut down our tree. Well, actually what we did was walk through the many rows of pine trees they had, look at so many we could no longer differentiate them, and finally decide to "just cut one." Luckily for us, we were inspired to this rash decision while standing directly in front of a great tree.
Next year, we think we'll buy a living tree and plant it after Christmas. We wanted to do that this year but thought of it far too late. Next year we'll plan ahead and dig the hole so it's all ready to make a comfy new home for our little pine. :)
One other thing we (more like it, V) managed to do over the past few days is to put up our various paintings, prints, and photos. Thank goodness for him. I never think of things like that, even though, when they're up, I love the result. Must be missing some sort of "decor" chip or something. Anyway, he hung all of our prints from Spain, our ceramics, the painting I bought for his birthday, and scads of family photos. Our house feels like a home now!
Plaster is awesome stuff. We had plaster walls in one of our previous houses and just loved them. It's such a superior material to drywall. One drawback--removing nails from plaster is h-a-r-d! We tried to use existing nails where we could just so we didn't have to remove them all. And I'm sure we didn't get every last one. There were a LOT of things hanging up in this house when we bought it.
Monday, December 12, 2005
For the above reasons, among others, it gives me tremendous pleasure to say that WE CLOSED ON THE SALE OF HOUSE #1 TODAY!!!! We were afraid we'd jinx ourselves if we rejoiced too soon, but now the papers are signed and all's well that ends well. The buyer seems very nice, and he has friends in the neighborhood, so he'll probably love it. All told, it's not a bad neighborhood, but it was a bit more than V and I were prepared to take on. We've done the urban pioneer thing, but now we're ready for our nice quaint farmhouse in the country. Ahhhh, acreage. :)
That means we're now officially only paying for one home. One. Happy, happy, happy! Now we can be our own little family all under one roof again!
Friday, November 25, 2005
- brine the turkey for only an hour (because the only bowl that will hold enough brine is too large for your fridge)
- heat the oven to normal roasting temp
- prepare the turkey as usual (I use a recipe from Epicurious.com that has never failed....roasted turkey with carmelized onion and balsamic vinegar gravy. Yum!)
- put turkey into oven
- approximately one-half hour before turkey is supposed to be done, check on turkey and discover in a panic that the oven has gone out
- note that the roasting pan is actually cool enough to touch with your bare hands....the turkey, however, is still nice and hot (hopefully staving off botulism)
- relight the oven and crank 'er up to about 500 degrees, then put bird in even as the oven is warming up, which takes a very very long time
- pull the turkey out about a half-hour later, let it rest for 20 minutes or so, then carve
- marvel at the fact that 1) the turkey is just fabulous, and 2) several hours later, no one is sick
I can't believe it worked out so well. That could have been quite the Thanksgiving disaster. Of course, we had enough food that I don't think anyone would have even noticed if there'd been no turkey on the table. Still, I'm awfully pleased with the whole shebang!
Monday, November 21, 2005
A couple of friends are coming over to share in the festivities with us, and we're really looking forward to that. Not so long ago we had one of our best Thanksgivings ever when friends who also did not have Thanksgiving plans joined us. The more the merrier, right? Right!
So, we're making a grocery list and checking it twice. Bird, check. Potatoes, check. Garlic, check. Bread, check. That ought to about do it. I'll let you know how it goes after we've eaten, hopefully without having to spend any hospital time because of my giving us and our guests food poisoning!
Friday, November 18, 2005
One problem that has come up more than once is our love for the setting of the place. How could this be a problem, you ask? Well, I'll tell you how--we're loathe to make any changes whatsoever for fear of spoiling it. That means parking a hundred yards from the house and endlessly discussing where we should/should not put a driveway, barn, garage, insert outbuilding or landscape item here. I knew that reconciling beautiful history with modern convenience was going to be tricky.....but I just didn't realize how tricky it would be on the outside of the house! Sheesh!
Sunday, November 13, 2005
So V and I have decided that, come spring, we're going to make some decisions as to what stays and what goes. To that end, we'll need to inventory what's there in an attempt to get a grasp on it all. We still haven't tapped what all is in the house, I don't think. Nutty!
Some things will be easier than others. Certain pieces just aren't our style, and never will be, and don't seem to have any deep connection to the house, so those will be easier to send on their way. Other things will be much more difficult to box up and ship off. Guess we'll see where it all goes.
Short posts lately. I just don't have the energy to do much else. It's been one of those falls.
Thursday, November 10, 2005
- a wedding invitation dated 1891
- a commencement week program dated 1892
- four whole years of The Etude music magazine, 1909-1912
- a book of postcard views from the 1893 Colombian Exposition (Chicago World's Fair)
- a lovely silk taffeta parasol
- several late-1800s textbooks
- Valentine's day cards from the late 1800s
- the original shutters to the house
- several replacement slates for the roof--those will come in handy someday!
- several "liniment" bottles
- numerous old picture frames, some with pictures in, some empty
- a lovely cast-iron (read: HEAVY) fireplace screen
But wait, there's more! Also of note: the original outhouse still stands to the northwest of the house (it's a two-seater). And the wooden clapboard siding is reputed to be hiding out underneath the steel siding that's currently there.
We love this house. We seriously do.
Sunday, November 06, 2005
In general, the trim is much simpler upstairs, where no one but the family would really have been expected to see it. The upstairs floor plan mirrors the downstairs for the most part. instead of the kitchen and porch-turned-bathroom, there is a single large bedroom. The other three bedrooms all correspond in size to their level-one counterparts. Thus far, two of the rooms are habitable. We needed someplace where we could extend an arm halfway and not hit a box(!!), so we set up our bedroom and a guest bedroom fairly quickly after moving. I will not fib, here...it sure does feel gooooood to walk into those rooms! They feel inviting, and even with what is most assuredly far too much furniture, they still feel roomy! For the first time ever, I get my master bedroom with a sitting area! I'm practically beside myself.
The room that will take the most significant redecorating is the one we're planning to use as our office. The other three bedrooms have heart-pine hardwoods, nice subtle wallpaper (not exactly to our style, but it's still quite nice). The office, however, has seen some redecorating that we will be undoing as we go along.
Here are a couple of pictures (I'm tired of typing for today):
The soon-to-be office
One of the bedrooms
Monday, October 31, 2005
In a cruel twist of the fates, it's already a slow time of year to sell a house, especially one that has a lot of good selling points (nice floor plan, good decor) but some major drawbacks from a buyer's perspective (no garage, kind of small, very little storage) as well. We have moved almost everything we own into the farmhouse, hoping that the lack of our stuff, with just a few life-neccessity items left for V, will help our house in the 'hood seem a bit bigger. We priced it quite a bit lower than what it's probably worth in an attempt to move it quickly.
Suddenly, those past episodes of "Sell This House!" and all of its relatives seem very, very important. C'mon, buyers!!!!
Saturday, October 29, 2005
At long last, I give to you....the kitchen! I know, I know, I spoiled the whole surprise by putting a picture of it into one of my very first posts. Still, the shock value is pretty good, don't you think? I've heard other bloggers refer to it as camping with a mortgage. We're definitely not quite at that level, but this is pretty primitive for us.
This picture doesn't show it, but when we moved in there was a built-in pantry/cupboard structure right about where I stood to take this picture. We had discussed in general terms taking it out and maybe moving the DR cupboard into its place, to liven up the kitchen and to make some room in the DR for our own furniture! Imagine my happiness when, one day, I drive up the lane to see a large pile of orangeish-yellow (same color as in the picture) wood next to the kitchen door. My absolutely amazing hubby had called upon his mighty powers of demolition and had removed the offending cupboard in its entirety! Moments later we were moving the DR cupboard into the kitchen.
What you see in the picture above is the extent (excepting the cupboard) of our cabinetry. It's a Youngstown metal cabinet with built-on sink. LOVE the sink. In fact, I have long had my eye out for one "just in case," but it doesn't look like I need to do that any more. The stove is in great working condition and just needs to be cleaned up. We had a vintage stove in our first house, and I bemoaned having to leave it behind. So knowing this one came with the house perked me right up!
Saturday, October 15, 2005
First, the drawing room. This is the one with the painted slate mantel. This is also the room with our favorite wallpaper of all the existing wallpaper in the house. In fact, we like it so much we are considering using something similar when we redo this room. It's a nice warm gold that seems to go with everything. Who doesn't love that?
One of the most interesting things about the drawing room is that it has five--count 'em, five--doors. There is a door that leads to the cellar, one that leads into the parlor, one that goes outside, one that leads into the dining room, and one that leads into our funny trapezoidal-shaped hallway at the base of the stairs. It's doorapalooza!
The drawing room is a decent size, but because of the plethora of doors and windows, it's been difficult to furnish and will be a little more challenging to decorate. Right now it's our living room and we will probably continue to use it that way.
Before picture (no afters yet--someday!):
This is taken from the cellar door. Note the beautiful gold of the wallpaper. Note also the dark mossy green-gold carpet. That'll go, hopefully to be replaced by the still-underneath-that-carpet heart pine hardwoods. We know they're still there because they're visible at the edges of the vents and at the edge of the cellar stairs. We just hope they're in decent enough shape. The others in the house are positively wonderful, so we anticipate that these will be as well.
Next up, the dining room. This room has some awesome features! Let's start with the moulding panels underneath the windows (probably can't see them in any of the pictures). There are also three doors: one to the front porch, one to the trapezoid hallway, and one to the drawing room. Mystery #1--the door to the front porch does not have glass in it, whereas the other two doors to the front porch, from the parlor and drawing rooms, do have glass in them. Yes, we have three front doors not counting the door to the kitchen. Anyway, this door is a six-panel like the other interior doors. We're scratching our heads a little over that one.
Here's a picture of the DR. The wallpaper will go. Check out the painting that appears to have been made for the spot between the doors! It, like all the other things in this room, came with the house.
Heavens, did we ever luck out! I'll have to see if I can dig up some more piccies. They're fun, aren't they?
This concludes today's tour. Tomorrow, the kitchen! The absolutely rockin' untouched unspoiled kitchen!!!! Have I mentioned how much I love the kitchen?
Thursday, October 06, 2005
This time I promise to stay more focused. Let's see, we know something about the rooms, so let's talk about the little things. The trim work in this house is spectacular. The baseboard moulding varies from room to room and is plainer upstairs (in the family-only areas) than down. All of the trim smacks of great craftsmanship, just like the rest of the house. Mitered corners are beautifully done, joineries are well-fitted, and details are scaled to fit the sizes of the rooms. The parlor has a grey marble mantel, and the drawing room has a painted slate mantel. Both were probably coal or pellet originally, and were then converted to gas at some point. Now they're shut off...we have four cats (fur and fire don't mix!), plus at this point, who knows what condition that chimney is really in on the inside?
The upstairs has heart pine hardwood floors in three bedrooms and pink carpet in the fourth. We're about 80% certain that the hardwoods are still under there, and one day we'll find out. Downstairs, there are newer hardwoods in the parlor (not sure what that's all about), and the other rooms have carpet. The kitchen has interesting linoleum. It's not really that bad, but it's not really that great.
By and large, the walls are three-coat plaster that appears to be in great shape. Our main worry is the ceilings...gravity has an unfortunate effect on plaster ceilings, and although a quick look from the attic side shows them to be fairly well keyed, you never can tell when they'll go. So we might have to make good use of some plaster washers and braces for a while. Every wall and ceiling surface in the house is wallpapered. Luckily, it looks as though most rooms have just two, maybe three, layers of wallpaper, and with any luck it's been put on with flour paste and not modern wallpaper glue. Time will tell on that one!
Fun fact about the parlor. I sent a picture of it to a friend, and she immediately responded with "that room looks familiar to me." Several minutes later she sent me the following image of a painting (shown here side by side with a picture of the parlor):
Interesting, no? I'm sure that's not our parlor, but it could be in many ways.
While we're on the subject of the parlor, check out that light fixture! Someday I'll count the prisms. Someday we'll put that fixture back up; right now we've got that circa-1920-jail-cell-bare-bulb look going. None of our fixtures were wired to code, so our electrician couldn't put them back up. Rewiring is on the list. There are many things on the list.
Enough for now. I'll continue with the house tour another day.
Saturday, October 01, 2005
Now that we're here, it seems as though every nook and cranny has something in it. From silk flowers to books to pens and pencils, we've got it all. Obviously, buying a house contents and all is a double-edged sword.
I just realized that I haven't talked much about the interior of the house itself. It's about 2200 square feet, with four bedrooms upstairs and a parlor, drawing room, dining room, and kitchen downstairs. There is a very small full bathroom downstairs in what used to be (we think) a porch. I would be remiss if I didn't go into a little detail about the upstairs bathroom. It used to be a closet. Now it's a half-bath, but only for those who are not claustrophobic, or perhaps for those who are exhibitionists at heart. I say this because it's so small that, in order to sit on the toilet, you must do one of two things: 1) pull the door shut as you sit, or 2) just leave the door open and let all the world see your wares. Better than an outhouse? Yes, but not by much. We just don't use it. In fact, it will probably become a closet again someday.
Saturday, September 24, 2005
We have very kind and generous friends and family. Friends and family who were willing to come help us move in spite of the fact that the U-Haul was practically floating away. They trudged through the mud and slop, back and forth, back and forth, until finally one house was empty and another was full.
The bright spot of the day was trying to move our behemoth of a refrigerator. We bought it two houses ago, special ordered it in fact so we could get our must-have features, and when we moved to the 'hood we discovered that it wouldn't fit into the kitchen. So we put it into the
Now, moving day is finished. We're exhausted. Our friends and family are exhausted. And the best part of all? We're too tired to put our bed together, so we'll be sleeping in sleeping bags on the floor. Oooooh, comfy.
Saturday, September 17, 2005
We're selling one house and moving into another. For better or worse, we decided not to put our current house on the market until we've moved into the new one. Since the current house is kind of in the 'hood, V will stay there and babysit it and I will live at the new house. Not ideal by any stretch of the imagination. Hopefully it'll be very, very temporary and we'll once again be our own (small) family who owns just one home!
I've got much more pressing things to do than post right now, but I can't seem to force myself to go back into our
Friday, September 02, 2005
Case in point: we began with the dining room, which housed a lovely early American cupboard. I should mention that this lovely cupboard was absolutely chock-full of stuff. Old stuff, new stuff, beautiful stuff, kitschy stuff...it was all there, it was all ours, and it was all in need of cataloging and archiving. Somehow.
Here's a picture to give you some tiny idea of what we will be dealing with. I'm not complaining--not by a LONG shot--but it is a little overwhelming.
Uhhhhh, yeah. This isn't even the tip of the iceberg. There is also a huuuuge cedar chest in the bedroom that is full of linens and blankets. And every room in the house is full. The problem for us will be that it's full of someone else's stuff, and we've got to make room for our stuff. Definitely gonna be a tight fit for a while!
There is such a great sense of history here. You can practically see the timeline of the people who have lived in and loved this house. It's obvious that they loved it--they certainly took good care of it!
Next step: moving day! Wish us luck. :)
Friday, August 26, 2005
Anyway, I ended up planning to go alone on Sunday because V was working on school stuff. On Saturday night I had a fairly spooky dream...I dreamt that I was walking through the house with a video camera and that as I walked past one of the mirrors upstairs, I looked in and saw my face plus another face looking back at me. Egads! I woke up in a cold sweat. What was weird is that it wasn't so much that the face was threatening or anything, more than anything it was the mere fact of being startled.
It was enough to compel me to introduce myself to the house when I went on Sunday (of course I still went!). I walked in and realized that this was the first time ever I'd been alone in the place. So, I took a deep breath and told the house that V and I had just bought it and that if there were any residents still hanging around, they were more than welcome to stay as long as we could all get along. The house feels happy. It just really has a peaceful vibe to it, so I didn't figure we'd be besieged with ghouls and goblins or anything. But I did think it was fair and right to say hello and be polite, just in case. I told the house how much we love it and how incredibly lucky we feel to have found it, and that we hope we will be as happy there as the family who had owned it for so many years.
That day I did indeed videotape the entire house, and what do you know--no spooky faces in mirrors. I'm not saying that my little introduction turned the tide, but maybe it didn't hurt!
Friday, August 12, 2005
In our case the negotiation was awfully easy. We drew up an offer immediately following visit #2. The seller countered with a more-than-reasonable price, and we took it! Wow, so painless. Hopefully they feel like they got a fair shake; we sure know we did. This is really our dream house from a rehabilitation perspective. It needs a lot of work, to be sure, but we can go at our speed and do things right and well.
I digress . . . back to the house. It was being sold to settle the family's estate, and the sellers were concerned that the house should go to someone who appreciates it. Who better than a preservationist and an urban planner? There were a few things, however, that we weren't really willing to tackle ourselves. The house had knob-and-tube wiring throughout, so we had an electrical crew come and and rewire bottom to top for us. They did a great job, fishing through the cellar, walls, and attic in order to preserve the maximum amount of plaster. And they finished ON TIME and in budget. Surprised? So were we, I assure you! The house had a very, very old HVAC system, so we had a contractor replace that. He had to cut the main unit apart with a blow torch to get it out of the cellar. Once all the old stuff was out, he brought in a much smaller unit that, frankly, looks more like a furnace and less like some sci-fi metal octopus! Contractor #2, on time, on budget. We probably shouldn't get too used to this, I'm guessing!
Monday, August 08, 2005
So I called the realtor, sure she'd tell me it was officially off the market. Instead, she mentions that the offer that had been on it had fallen through that very morning. Coincidence? We think not. We asked if we could see it again, and decided that if we still had the same good feelings about it we'd make an offer.
Thursday, August 04, 2005
We'd been looking for some time, but our requirements were pretty particular. We wanted something with a little land. We wanted something OLD. We wanted something that hadn't been "updated" to within an inch of its life. Basically, we wanted something that hadn't been touched. Ever. Well, at least not for a long time.
Fast forward several months, to the day we offered on a grey farmhouse that we both loved. It was built around 1850 and, on the surface anyway, appeared to be in pretty good shape. What an eye-opener the home inspection turned out to be! Bad roof, moisture in the walls (to the point where the wallpaper in one corner was thumbtacked to the stud because the drywall had disintegrated...the sellers had thoughtfully covered this up with a fairly large and heavy piece of furniture--thank goodness we had a strong home inspector who felt that moving furniture was part of the job), drainage issues, you name it. The house had been cosmetically kept up but the major systems had been left to go downhill. We were still seriously considering it: after all, we were wanting a project house, weren't we? But in the end we couldn't make it work, so we walked away.
Funny thing is, we'd looked at the house we eventually bought earlier and had decided it required a tad too much work. So we had turned our attention to the grey house. Talk about irony! Our Victorian farmhouse is in great shape structurally. It's fairly plumb, and the sandstone foundation is laid with absolutely lovely, knife-thin mortar joints. Lovely, I tell you.
Let me tell you a little bit about what attracted us to this place. It sits at the highest point on 4 beautiful rolling acres, yet it feels completely secluded. When we initially called the realtor for a showing, she described a bit about its history, all of which made us positively salivate. Then she dropped the real bombshell: the house was being offered with all of its contents, whatever they may be, as a separate negotiable item. I'm sorry, did you say ALL of its contents? Zowie.
Here's the house:
Nice, eh? It sits on a hill (good drainage--definitely a plus) and is just surrounded by lovely mature trees. Gorgeous! It's a fairly simple Victorian farmhouse with just a hint of gingerbread. It's enough for us. We love the layout, the details inside, and the setting that we practically drooled over.
Welcome to our home!
And here's (for me) what clinched the house. The kitchen. No, I'm not kidding. I'm entirely serious about this. Most historic homes have new kitchens that look new. Nothing against nice, new kitchens, but in my opinion they don't belong in houses like this. We're waiting awhile before we do anything with this, mostly because it will probably cost big bucks, but also because we'd like to do any major work like this sensitively and using appropriate materials. Yes, we're probably crazy. Crazy about this old house! :)
Monday, August 01, 2005
Rehabilitation means that we're bringing it up to code while doing as absolutely little damage as possible. We'll rewire, do some plumbing updates, and update the HVAC system that was installed in the 40s (and which has not been changed since). Other than that, we'll make changes that are sympathetic and in keeping with the style of the house.
Well, that's it. I've blogged. Catch you later!