Friday, December 28, 2007

New Year’s resolutions

My best girl is going to get some major work done in 2008…as long as my checkbook does not burst into flames from too much use. I’ve got to prime, caulk, and paint the interiors on my windows—a leftover project, if you will, from 2007. That’s old houses for you. Everything takes twice as long and costs 4x as much as you expected. Ain’t life grand? :)

Then comes the fun stuff. Ideally, I would like to get the steel siding stripped off to see what’s hiding underneath. Also ideally, I’d like to find someone who will do it for the taking of said siding for the scrap value. Or maybe I can pull down the siding and get it hauled away for the taking. But then, if I’m doing all the work, I want to get the cash from scrapping it! Of course, I can probably only fit half a length of siding—if that—into my dependable old Hyundai. That’d make for a fun +/- 247 trips back and forth to the scrap yard.

More reasonable project goals for 2008:

  1. Begin stripping wallpaper. This, I’m sure, will be super duper fantabulous fun. Just like running a splinter into your foot is fun. And I’ve got 11 rooms’ worth of splinters. This is one of those projects that I just have to start on a rainy day because I’m antsy but don’t want to go outside. Ever have those days? They can become quite productive if channeled. Or they can become flop-on-the-couch-and-watch-old-movies-all-day kinds of days. Very nice.
  2. Start patching holes. You know the holes the electricians made when they fished the wiring through the house? Yep, they’re still there, in all their crappy-looking glory. They’re generally high up on the walls and have been a little out of sight, out of mind…but lately I’ve been noticing them more and more. Probably because I’ve been living in a house with freakin’ holes in the walls since September of 2005. Think that might be it?
  3. Readhere the plaster ceilings. I’m not seeing a lot of sagging on my plaster ceilings, but they are cracking, and right now I’m not sure whether their keys or the canvas/wallpaper coverings are holding them up and in place. Seems to me that it'd be wise to take care of it now, before it turns into some house-related crisis. I have enough of those already, thankyouverymuch. So some month I am going to break out some scaffolding, drill some holes in the plaster, and inject a flexible adhesive, then brace it all with plywood and 2x4s until it’s dry. And I will repeat this magical feat room by room until I have no more saggy ceilings. It sounds like a lot of work when I put it that way. Gawd.
  4. Paint. Sounds simple enough, right? Paint can change the whole feel of a house, right? Yeah, sure—easy. I just have to strip the wallpaper, patch the holes, and/or fix the ceilings before I break out those brushes and rollers.
  5. Pull up the remaining carpet. Notice how I list this one last? I’m doing it last so I won’t have to be careful of my floors when I am working on projects #1, 2, and 3 . . . at least I won't have to be careful in the three rooms that are still carpeted. In all the others I’ll be in floorcloth hell. I particularly hate to put tarps/floorcloth/dropcloths down because no matter what, they seem to slide around on me just as I am near the top of a ladder doing something that requires me to not think about the fact that it feels like my ladder is sliding out from underneath me. Think of me, please, and write something nice about me when I’m gone.

    Some list—just five things. I will consider myself extremely lucky if I manage to finish them all before the sun sets on 2008. And that’s just the house.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Bathroom kitty hunts for wild toilet paper

V took in a stray kitty Saturday. Until we either find her owner or find her a new home, she's setting up shop in our bathroom. She is absolutely lovely and part of me wishes to keep her, but it's just not feasible.

Anyway, this morning, I kept hearing this weird sound as I was getting ready. I had no idea where it was coming from, but as I headed downstairs to brush my teeth and leave, I noticed the sound was getting louder....and then when I opened the bathroom door I was greeted by the sight of stray kitty gleefully shredding the toilet paper roll. She was rolling it off so fast that the holder was tipping back and forth (hence the sound). Talk about a cat having a good time. She was very irked with me when I removed said roll from the holder and laid the holder down so she wouldn't tip it over and bop herself on the head with it. I wish I would have gotten pictures, but I only had time to clean it up and scoot out the door. There was toilet paper everywhere.

Toilet paper=0

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Painting windows, or, as I like to call it, hell-on-a-stick

Now that the new windows are all installed (and they’re looking gooooood), it’s time to prime, paint, and caulk. We had Marvin prime them for us at the factory, but being the cheapskates we are, we decided we’d paint them ourselves. Maybe that was, in hindsight, overly ambitious.

Saturday was painting day. Yippee. I started early in the morning and worked until it was dark. First, I pulled the sashes from their frames and gave the sashes an initial coat of paint. While that was drying, I worked on the exteriors of the frames. Because I was too lazy to get a ladder, I used a stepstool to get up onto the windowsill and then stood on that. Thank goodness for thick, old-growth-wood sills! I planted one foot on the interior sill, and one foot on the exterior, and used the interior window trim as a handhold (it’s got fantastic depth—about 5 inches—and has lots of curves and cuts that make lovely fingerholds). Then I’d dip my paintbrush and paint away! Made the neighbors a little nervous, I think, but if you can’t freak out your neighbors, where’s the fun in home improvement projects, right? :-)

Actually, it was probably safer than being on a ladder up all that way since my extension ladder does not have a stabilizer on it. Trust me, though, it’s on the ever-growing, never-ending list of “Things I Need for the House.”

After the first coat dried, I slapped on coat #2, waited for it to be bone dry, then put the sashes back in. Thankfully, I did in fact wait until they were dry enough—I’m proud to report that as of Sunday I had no painted-shut windows!

One funny thing—or maybe not funny so much as, ummmm, lazy—when I first started on the sashes I taped them so very carefully before beginning to paint. MAJOR pain in the you-know-where. Gotta get nice even tears to make nice even square corners so it's a nice even paint job. Bleah. To add to the frustration, when I pulled the tape back off after painting the first couple of panes, I could see that it didn’t really do a stellar job of keeping the paint where I wanted it. So I decided to scrap the tape and just paint very, very carefully. What a difference! I saved the time I would have spent taping and used it to take a smaller brush and carefully paint the muntins. In the end I’m positive that it took less time, and I was much happier with the results. If I slipped a little (and of course I did!), I just cleaned it up after the fact. I believe I may have read of some other HouseBlogger doing this....EnonHall, maybe? Anyway, I will never again tape a window to paint it!

I thought I took pictures, but now I can’t find them in the camera. Maybe I used the other camera. Maybe I just took pictures inside my head. Hmmmmmm.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

A NICE surprise for once

I got a wild hair last weekend and decided to pull up the carpet in our upstairs hallway. This was a project that I approached with a bit of trepidation after my last carpet-pulling-up issues. There’s a post in here somewhere about it; it’s too painful to relive. Anyway, I digress. Back to the carpet project at hand. I pulled it and noted that the pad was just gross. Super fun! It shredded as I attempted to pull it up, so I ended up taking a squeegee and just “raking” it all up. Blech. But….but…..but… I revealed the floor underneath I was richly rewarded by Father Time and the House Renovation Gods. It was gorgeous, beautifully patinated wide-plank heart pine, in awesome condition, the same wood and condition that seems to be in most areas of the house. Behold the beauty—and this is even before mopping! Once I give it a nice nourishing snack, that floor is going to be a show-stopper.

That leaves just three rooms to pull: the living room, dining room, and upstairs office. Maybe I’ll start one of them next weekend.

I should mention that it took me a full 1.5 days for this project. The following picture may give you some indication why. I had a lot of “help.” A lot.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Viva la fresh air!

Like I mentioned in a previous post, we recently contracted with Marvin to install 19 new windows. Although the project has not been without its glitches (and tell me what old house project isn’t!), the windows are now in and they look just beautiful. Marvin’s installation crew showed up when they said they would, worked fast and with good-quality craftsmanship, and left the house as clean or cleaner than before they began. Overall, it took about a week to get everything squared away; from Day One I came home and opened/closed windows, opened/closed windows, opened/closed windows. It felt so luxurious to be able to do that after 2+ years of not being able to open them for fear they would literally fall apart in my hands (true story—it happened with one of them).

I even managed to enjoy a few days of lovely temperatures before they inexplicably soared bark up into the ’90s. What’s up with that???

And here’s some window porn for your viewing pleasure. The frames (interior and exterior) will be painted white. I’d like to say that at some point I’ll get around to stripping the paint from all our trim, but that’s going to be a m-i-g-h-t-y long time, as in probably years, and if I ever actually do it, I’ll just strip the sashes too. So years from now, when I’m pitching a bloody fit about stripping these #*#^# sashes and who in God’s name would have painted them anyway?, please don’t say you told me so.

Aren't they pretty? I heart wood. Get it? Heartwood! Ha! I crack myself up. :)

Monday, September 03, 2007

MAY??? Seriously?

It has been waaaaay too long since I've posted, apparently. I logged on today and noticed that my last post was at the end of May. Um, busy summer, much?

A lot has been happening. Our auction is over (don't ever send a houseful of stuff to an auction if you want to make big money 'cause it ain't gonna happen) and we totally cleaned our upstairs storage room, which is also the largest bedroom. We might just take it for ourselves once we strip the wallpaper, paint, etc.

The biggest house happening is that our new windows will be installed starting tomorrow! Woohoo!!!!! Goodbye, craptacular aluminum replacements from sometime in the '60s. We so won't miss you. We ended up going with Marvin because they had really great customer service, they've been in business a long time, and we were able to get semi-custom windows for *fairly* reasonable prices. I think it's the happiest we've ever been to write such a humongous check. These windows cost more than my car. There--that puts it all into perspective, doesn't it? :)

Friday, May 25, 2007

Cooking out

We're having a little cookout this weekend for some friends and I am so looking forward to breaking out the grill for the dozenth time this year!
Why is it that anything cooked on a grill magically tastes better than if it had been cooked another way? Case in point: hot dogs. I definitely can't stand them boiled. Pan fried they're pretty good. But grilled....MMMMMM! They get that crispy skin on the outside and have that awesome "grilled" flavor. Ohboy. Even bread tastes better grilled than, say, toasted.

I realize this post is completely random and quite pointless, but some days I'm just like that. :)

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Last night's planting

I planted 8 hostas, 2 foxgloves, some unidentified but cute groundcover, several dead nettle, and a couple of perennial phlox. Boy oh boy was I a sweaty mess. It was 87 degrees last night! Seems as though we went straight from winter to summer.

Our shade bed is going to be shaping up nicely this year, I think. And with my little winter-sown sproutlings we'll have a good bunch of plants for a sun bed too.

I love to garden. Hard work aside, it is so fulfilling and I enjoy the sensation of digging in the dirt, of nurturing, and of seeing the results of hard work. It just doesn't get any better!

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Half-empty...or at least no longer STUFFED FULL

V and I made some decisions about the contents of the house. There are some items we may put up on eBay, but in the end it was just too exhausting to think of listing all of it, which is why I spent last Friday trying to supervise the folks from the local auction house who came to cart some items away. They were all very nice, and they were VERY efficient, but it's tough to keep an eye on four people at once. Each room had some things that went and some things that stayed, so I was trying to make sure everything ended up in the proper place. And I must have walked up and down our stairs a hundred times. Muh legs was tired.

Happily, the end result is that some of our rooms now resemble rooms again. The upstairs bedroom that had been relegated to storage for the past two years? We can walk through it! What a triumphant feeling that is. :) We're really hoping the auction does well and we can use some of the proceeds to fund part of our window project (whenever we manage to get them, that is).

Now we just need to get our butts in gear and get on eBay to list the stuff that didn't go local. Sigh. The "to-do" list never ends, does it?

Garden work = hard work

Even though I make new beds the lazy person's way (I think I posted about it before...maybe not), it's still really hard work. Our land has some spots that are downright dangerous to mow--so we plan to cover those spots with lovely garden beds. At our last house we left no blade of grass in front of the house and ended up with an awesome little cottage garden. Our plans here are for a rose garden, herb bed, and perennial bed.

So last night I spent about four hours laying cardboard, wetting the cardboard, laying newspaper over any lesser-covered spots, wetting that, and then covering the whole thing with about 5 inches of straw. The cardboard smothers the grass below and decomposes, as does the straw. Eventually we're left with lovely, weed-free dirt that plants just looooove. But all that stooping and lifting and stooping and lifting and hefting around of the hose wears a gal out!

Tonight we'll be planting a whole GOB of plants that our awesome neighbors gave us. She was dividing a lot of her hostas and some other perennials and just brought them over. We seriously lucked out with the whole neighbor thing, especially given our totally psycho neighbors at the last house. Country life is great!

Monday, May 21, 2007

"Sure we have a true divided light...but we call ours 'simulated divided light.'"

This post is not for the faint of heart when it comes to windows. V and I are looking into replacing the windows in the old gal--but before anybody goes nuts on me, let me tell you that the house already has craptacular aluminum replacement windows from the 1960s that are failing miserably. On a windy day the curtains actually move inside the house from the drafts. Yup, it's time to replace!

Enter true divided light wood sash inserts. We already know what we want. Easy, right? Wrong. I have called numerous window companies ranging from mom-and-pop shops to the big manufactureres. Our wish list is straightforward: we want true divided light wood windows in a 6/6 configuration. Beyond that we are negotiable.

I won't name names, but the first place I called said "True divided light wood sash inserts? Sure, we have those...only we call ours 'simulated divided light.'" I gently explained to her that, in my version of reality, "true" is not synonomous with "simulated." So she very enthusiastically explained how their "true divided light" has grilles on the inside and outside, with a spacer inside, "so you can see that they really are a true divided light, it's just that we call them simulated." And she was serious.

The second place I called told me I don't really want true divided light. Hmmm, really? And why not? "Well, because if something goes wrong you'll have to replace that pane of glass." OKKKKK, and what happens if something goes wrong with a simulated divided light window? I'd have to replace a much bigger pane of glass, correct? "Well, yes, but at that point you could just replace the whole window and it'd be much easier."

Holy crap.

I did actually find a few places who would quote me a true divided light wood sash insert in the configuration I want. We'll see where those estimates come in. I have a feeling I'm going to be afraid. Very afraid.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Reflections on the installation of carpeting

Someone decided to carpet certain rooms in our house in about the 1960s using the following guidelines:
  1. Staple the pad down every, oh, 4 inches or so THROUGHOUGT the entire space. Just in case the house is located directly on the freaking San Andreas fault and you're concerned the padding and accompanying carpet will shift wildly.
  2. Put the tack strip down with sinker nails every two inches, and then when you run out of sinker nails, look around to see if you've got any screws. Those'll work, right?
  3. Lay down the tack strip in varying lengths, from 2-12 inches, even if longer pieces would easily fit. Those 2-inch lengths were leftovers and wasting them would be a pity. Never mind that they reduce to splinters when some poor schmuck in the future tries to pry them back up.
  4. Once the carpet is tacked in, be sure to glue it down at the thresholds and then staple through the glue. You don't want that pesky carpet popping back up on you!

I spent far too long ripping up a 4x4 square of carpet today (in our upstairs small hallway). And then, when I finally got it pulled up, I discovered something not-so-pretty. Something that deepens the mysteries of our little farmhouse. There is a large -- about one inch wide -- slit cut into the floorboards, extending about 2 feet out into the middle of the hallway. It doesn't seem to be coming from or going to any particular place, and the wood all around the slit matches what we've got elsewhere in the hallway and throughout the house. So I can't for the life of me figure out why exactly it's there. The hallway floors definitely have indications that they weren't always carpeted, so I can't imagine the slit was always there. It's weird.


Friday, February 16, 2007


Sorry I haven't posted lately but I have been sliding on my back through a freaking crawl space in a failed attempt to thaw out our frozen pipes. Do I sound bitter? I hope so, because I am. Well, not really bitter per se. But I also can't say I'm thrilled-over-the-moon happy about it.

We had already made it through several weeks of frigid weather. Below zero every single day, wind chills into the negative double digits. Cold. Really, really, really cold. And our pipes had emerged unscathed. Maybe we got cocky and good ol' Karma came around to kick us in the butts. Maybe it was just too danged cold for too danged long. Whatever the case, we came home last week to frozen pipes. Nuts.

Most of our pipes run through the cellar. Some of them run through an unheated crawl space. The pipes themselves are insulated, but you probably know (as we did) that insulation alone isn't going to keep a pipe from freezing in -10 degrees. So we piled bales of straw around our foundation in an attempt to provide a little extra insulation. I honestly thought that'd do the trick. Apparently I thought wrong. We discovered the big freeze on Wednesday evening. Thursday I decided to stay home and try to thaw them out. First I tried heat in the crawl space. It was like trying to heat the outdoors. No go. Then, I tried going into our laundry area, the most suspect area I could think of in terms of the probable location of the freeze, and directing heat at the pipes as they came out from the floor. I figured that since copper conducts heat, eventually the heat would make its way down the pipe and thaw it out. Nope. So then I was faced with the not-enviable task of crawling under the house with said space heater. Let me tell you how NOT warm the ground in an uninsulated crawl space is. I put down plastic so I wouldn't have to scoot on my back through God-knows-what, but it did not protect against that cccccooooollllllldddd ground. I pulled the insulation off, tried to thaw the pipes out directly. No luck. I think they were freezing as fast as I could get one area thawed.

At that point I gave up on the idea of thawing them out manually, and resigned myself to waiting them out. But wait!, I thought, I can at least protect them so this doesn't happen again. Off I went in search of heat tape. It would seem as though everyone in our metropolitan area had the same wondrous idea. I went to no fewer than 15 hardware stores, from the big-box places all the way to the mom-and-pop places, and every single store was completely out of heat tape! I'm actually on a wait list for it, if you can believe it. If anyone would have ever told me I would be on a wait list for flipping heat tape I would have laughed. Not laughing now--no sir!

Maybe my next post can be about something from which I emerge victorious. I sure hope so.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007


This morning V and I discovered that we'd forgotten to turn off our little space heater/radiator downstairs (in itself a bit frightening but thankfully nothing bad happened). It just so happens that said heater is in the same room as our thermostat. Can you guess what we woke to this morning? Icy, icy, icy bedroom. The heat probably barely kicked on all night. When I woke up and yawned I could see my breath. Brrrr. You might also surmise--correctly--that it made for a freakin' COLD shower since our bathroom relies on heat from the kitchen to be any semblance of warm at all. No furnace running = cold kitchen = FRIGID bathroom. I wasn't sure my goosebumps would ever go away.

As I was leaving I brushed against a window and heard a slight crunching noise. Whaaat? Turns out our upstairs windows had a pretty darned good layer of frost on the insides, and I managed to scrape a bit of it off with my purse as I passed. Again, brrrr. Thank goodness for our uber-warm Ralph Lauren down comforter! Many has been the night when it's been almost too warm under there, but it paid for itself last night. We didn't even notice that the heat never kicked in.

Ahhhhhh, this is the life. At least that's what I tell myself. ;)

Monday, January 15, 2007

Architects, designers, and contractors--OH MY!

Over the past two weekends we have been hosting little get-togethers for various people at the house. These have not exactly been social in fact, we are gearing up for our BIG SPRING PROJECT. The BIG SPRING PROJECT (I've begun to think of it in all capital letters because of what it may mean, good and bad, for our lives) will either be a new garage with studio space on the second floor or it will be an addition with a laundry room/bathroom on the bottom floor and a master closet and full bathroom on the upper floor.

So we've now had three architects and as many contractors out to check out the place and offer their preliminary estimates on cost, feasibility, etc. What a difference from person to person. Some really seem to have an appreciation for the house, some seem like they just want to get out of it as soon as possible, and some don't seem to care one way or the other.

This is going to be a very interesting venture. Right now, we're thinking we'll do the garage first. That would make me really happy because I'm hoping to use the upstairs studio space--at least part of it--as a soaping room. :) Then again, having a real-for-sure bathroom (OMG, and a closet!!) wouldn't be anything to sneeze at either.

Regardless of which project takes precedence, I think we'll have drawings done so that we've got them on the shelf and ready for whenever project #2 gets off the ground. And we're looking into having measured drawings done of the entire house. I think it would be really helpful to have a complete set of drawings for the old gal.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Making a house a home

What does it take before you consider your house a home? Is it simply living there? Or do you require a little something extra psychologically? I do. Normally I don't feel like I'm "home" until I've lived someplace for at least a couple of years and have put down some good roots. The weird thing is, this house has been home to me from the first moment I stepped through the kitchen door. I still get a little thrill when I come up the driveway, and I still smile when I round the bend in our driveway and see the house. It's an awesome feeling.