Of course, this is when all of the writing occurs. After midnight when everyone in the "transitional house" is asleep and the dog is snoring and I am up in the loft wondering, "What on earth have we done?"
What did we do? We bought our first house. Our second anniversary is Monday. And I have never been this thrilled, tired or scared since the week before my wedding. Though I was a LOT less dirty around the time of the wedding. Every day since last Thursday has been the same thing...work at my "real" job, go to the TH* (transitional home), change into work clothes, take the dog to new house and work like a gerbil sorting and hauling debris. Stumble home to peel myself out of layers of grime. And marvel at the amazing resiliency of a mistreated house.
I will catch everyone up on the story in the next few posts by cutting and pasting some correspondence that "sets the scene". Then we can get to the latest installments.
Every day, there are discoveries at the new house. Those funny looking sink drains that I thought was just extra hardware? (They were thrown onto the hardware bench versus tossed out.)
Collectible flower frogs. Who knew?
At this point, we just want to peek behind the fireplace boards and get the first floor clean. And evict the raccoons from the attic.
J did a great job of providing the history of our situation in her previous post. I'd like to point out the great support and feedback we've received from the American Bungalow discussion boards. That group has provided us with great advice and encouragement through a challenging time. Thanks to each of them/you for your help and encouragement. I don't know if we'd have had the courage to buy this great old house if it weren't for the wisdom over at AB!
Plus, they deserve credit for this weblog! So many people had an interest in our situation--it was because of them that we realized that we had a somewhat interesting story to tell. (Plus we were trying to keep our relatives up to date on our situation...and they are scattered all over the place.) So yesterday I threw together this site and convinced J to commit to her job as an "embedded journalist" for our project! :-) If it works out, we think it will be fun to keep this site as a record of our progress and also keep in touch with the many friends we've developed through this experience so far.
So thanks again to the regulars over at AmericanBungalowMagazine.com. If it works out, we hope this new site is a useful (and fun!) way for us and for all of you to stay updated with each other!
P.S. - If you've never participated in that site's message boards, I recommend it highly. If you're interested in more background on our story, you can access the various posts/threads J has been involved in here.
Parents came in for the cleaning "blitz" of the first floor. Photos should be ready soon. A & I bought ourselves 2 concrete pots for the front steps for our anniversary and then decorated them with red impatiens. We began trimming the hedges and mowed the lawn, set up the grill and have been sharing our abundance of overgrown backyard peonies with our neighbors.
It seems as if the "story" of the house's move-in condition has made it around the women's circle at church. Their enthusiasm to help clean is only matched by their curiousity in getting a glimpse inside of the "famously junky house."
Had a Geraldo moment as Dad and A pulled aside a board in front of the fireplace to see if the fireplace was still there ...yep, it's still back there. The front of it is gone, but the skeleton remains of the old gas fireplace. Wild. We'll eventually resuse the hickory boards for a built-in closet upstairs.
I should be able to publish LINKS to other pages at least...meaning, the pictures are going up. Not the Ofoto "before and after" shots, but we will be recording the work in progress and showing everyone what interesting "treasures" were left behind.
And we want your stories about these treasures! Maybe you remember your grandmother or great aunt having one. Let us know! We'll publish you.
Mysteries of the week:
Whew. An all nighter. I haven't pulled one of those since college. But these days, it is the only time I have in front of the computer.
So, more new pages are up...more pictures. I go over to the house today to meet with the pest inspectors (gulp!) so I'll ty to take specific pictures for those who are interested. Then I have to make a slew of phone calls and tidy up the garage. So I'll be back this evening with more of the story about the house itself. Enjoy!
I've decided that FOX needs a new game show. Well, actually, it's a new take on an old game show. I'd call it...
CLEAN FOR A DAY
Rather like the "Queen for a Day" game show that our mom and/or grandmom watched, the winner would have all 70 years of dirt and grime and nicotine in his or her house (mid-renovation) sucked up into oblivion. They would be given a big bar of scented soap and led to a sybaritic white tiled room...with sun drenched skylights...to soak and talk on the phone to their friends or (if they prefer) to soak while watching a marathon of mindless TV or read trashy novellas. Water sprites would serve pina coladas silently and make sure that you don't slip below the water before being wrapped in dustless sheets on a clean, clean, cozy bed to snooze.
And there wouldn't be any raccoons for miles and miles around. Especially not howling on your roof.
I am exhausted.
First the raccoons. Two of four. With massive apologies to our newly-deafened sleepy neighbors, especially Krystina, Jay, Alex and Caitie (since the raccoons were on that side of the house).
Then, the accounting software at work was determined to break me today.
Then, my lovely mom-in-law and her lovely friend Millie went above and beyond to get me to a meeting for selling some of the camera equipment because the keys to the car went missing.
Things go better at the Chicago Camera Collectibles meeting. Great chaps. Know their stuff! I took a few things home again, but they were being kind about price and about a collection which to REALLY seasoned collectors must seem a little yawn worthy. They were terrific really.
I'm crawling to bed soon. There is $46 in my pocket which will be great to pay a little bit towards the rental fee for stashing our things when we couldn't move in because of all of the stuff. Plus a lot of new introductions into a pretty cool group of people.
Sorry, I keep yawning into my keyboard. More new items up on: What on Earth!?" Check it out...
I take that back. Make that two of FIVE raccoons. How did we miss that she had 4 babies? And that she is too smart to let the remaining 2 get near the traps? I cannot see a pretty end to this.
Not much today at the house. Except the advice that people gave us running through our heads..."everything will take 3-5 longer than you think it will." Yes. That is because you get so so so so tired.
A and I are trying to think of ways to keep this fun and not let it drag our relationship around. We are trying to be pre-emptive. Advice from seasoned veterans on that one is welcome. He is working very very hard at the office and I bounce from part-time office to house and back. The movers are scheduled for Friday afternoon and I am just nervous about getting the rest of the first floor clean and hoping we can fit our furniture all into the first floor of the house. Plus, how much to unpack? I'm tempted to say "Nothing!" but then, where else do you put it?
At this point, there are enough things in the house for 3 garage sales. Everyone is also saying "Ebay!" but every item would be so time consuming that you could do this full-time for a year (or more). We'd like to donate one garage sale's worth to the Senior Youth Group at church so they can finance their retreat. One garage sale for us to help finance home repair and what it is costing us to delay moving in. And donate a number of items to World Relief and other worthy causes who could use basic household items. A few things we need to sort out and investigate. Like the lithographs from Japan and Europe. Artwork? Garage sale worthy? Who knows? The research alone is mind boggling.
I took a long shower today before going to a lovely goodbye dinner for our Pastor and his wife, who are retiring. I adore them. He married A and I, was my first "non-Catholic" pastor and they are such a beautiful, loving couple. I will never forget, after being dreadfully, doggedly sick for 3 months last year when we couldn't figure out half of my symptoms, I returned to church and sat on the back bench with A while he ran sound. It was a huge milestone for me to be up and out of the house. During the recessional and before the benediction, Pastor A strode down the center aisle of our large, lovely church--a tall distinguished man--heading straight for me with no hesitation and just wrapped me in his arms in a gentle, loving hug. I was so surprised that I still burst into tears at this memory. I was still pretty frail then and not getting around so easily and I was so moved by this homecoming. This neighborhood means so much more than this broken, sad house (that will be beautiful again). It is filled with beautiful families who feel like home. I did get a compliment on my hair tonight...one on how it looked and another on how good it smelled. What can I say? I cleaned up for this occasion :)
Today, I saw kids riding their bikes and playing up and down the lawns like I used to do in Pearl River, New York with my cousins or in Pittsburgh with the neighbor kids. This was IN THE CITY. In the suburb where we were, though I am fond of it in a way, I never saw kids without parental supervision every moment. This is better. Much better.
And I need to remember that when I am cleaning and dragging myself through the selling off of things and battling raccoons. It is the bigger picture of creating a home.
Okay, three raccoons transplanted. The mother and one of the babies still elude us. When we're finished with the raccoons, we can begin with the squirrels :( They are living above the porch.
Emotionally, I bounce all over the place about the house. As I wrote to my friend K when I wasn't sleeping well in transition and was trying to read myself to sleep, "I just finished the "Little House on the Prairie" books. Again. For the one zillionith time. I found myself saying goofy, dumb things like, "A, if PA can build a house ON THE PRAIRIE from NOTHING, than we can restore this house." And some days, I believe that. Other days, I go home and weep. Like tonight. Some relatives were visiting and were curious about the house. They were shocked and dismayed. Seeing it through their eyes, I was dismayed too. I am going back to read a few passages from Little House on the Prairie again tonight. Do all these people think Rome sprang from the ground fully built in a day??? Well, then again, Rome was probably never this filthy dirty.
Reading Mother Theresa's biography didn't help me either. I found myself crying, again, and thinking "I'm not worthy for God's world! I must get a sari and begin serving mankind immediately!!"
Well, tonight, wearing neither sunbonnet nor sari, A and I lugged 10 trash bags full of yard waste to the dumpster in front of my in-law's house. This is so we can leave more trash for the regular city garbagemen and work our way towards getting a garage back. I was in the same jeans that just WILL NOT come clean. Because the previous owner never cleaned. And now it is ground into my jeans. Honest. We were vacuuming 1-2 INCHES (no exaggeration) of dust off of boxes and trim. There were old mouse "party favors" STILL IN THE KITCHEN. We know there aren't any mice IN the house because the pest inspector and I crawled over that place for 3 hours. Only raccoons and squirrels. But, well, gross! If you had mice at one time and you knew about it (we knew she knew because we found an ancient trap)...wouldn't you clean your floor???!!!
I am only thankful that I do not have toddlers at this point in time and I break out the bleach.
The remaining raccoons are accounted for! No more raccoons in the attic! (Thanks to Lou from Critter Detectives for your hard work and perseverance!)
We think the squirrels may have been scared away in the raccoon scramble. Lou put some paper over the hole to test it and if they haven't broken through by tomorrow, we are boarding that bad boy up! Meanwhile, the stainless steel grille cage for the mushroom vent/fan goes on in 3 days when the attic is officially declared "raccoon free".
Today we moved our furniture in (all on the first floor) and we move in with cat and dog tomorrow. We also had our second dinner guests (after my parents)....A & L. We tested out the new grill in the back yard which will function as our kitchen until the weather becomes too cold for words. The current kitchen is a little hard to cook in.
And the "Silent Paint Remover" arrived. Everyone on the street and the alley has been offering us unlimited use of tools and equipment and that is really saying something. We have some pretty handy people in our neighborhood, all of whom know what kind of shape the house is in. After doing the math and adding up the cost of liquid paint stripper for everything needed inside/outside of the house AND the outside of the garage...the SPS was the way to go. It uses infrared heat, doesn't give off the fumes and other hazards related to heat guns, does tile/paint/varnish/and more, AND it's from (well, where else?) Sweden. So, we'll let you know how that goes. The guys on TOH gave it a big thumbs up. Hopefully, we will too. So now we have our own unusual power tool to lend to helpful neighbors because, well, with a contractor and handy ma'am for neighbors, what do you lend to the couple who have everything?
I feel better with our things in the house. Though I need to clean it again (this will be the fourth time) to get the rest of the dirt/grease/grime/dust that I didn't get first 3 times. Soft Scrub is my friend.
(insert bars of dramatic organ music here)
We are IN the new house. First night. So, of course, I cannot sleep.
We have crammed our boxes and furniture all on the first floor since work will begin with gutting the second floor entirely. We will be saving every piece of trim, every door, every beguiling bungalow feature and dragging out everything else.
The house had only 1 bathroom and 5 bedrooms until 1951 when W decided to purchase "brand new watercloset accessories" and convert the upstairs bath into the strangest, elongated bathroom you have ever seen. While expanding the possibilities for bathroom usage, it is not the most elegant of solutions. The bathroom-related portion covers 1/3 of the room. The rest is just...well...open space. Plus, lack of proper ventilation has made a mess of things and a broken wax seal on the plumbing years ago that went unattended to made a mess of the ceiling of the bedroom in which we camping out. Since we have to lay at night and look at that for up to 12 months or more, we purchased 4 inexpensive tablecloths from Le Target and will be pinning these to the ceiling in the manner of a sultan's tent. Self-denial is a balm to the renovator's senses.
Today was a little more, um, organized.
So we are moving the furniture into the right rooms but...ugh. It is unbelievable to be so dirty ALL OF THE TIME! Dave the Cat snuck onto the second floor today and came down happily two hours later with black paws. Fine, except his paws are usually snow white.
Have you ever tried to wash a cat's paws when they are unwilling? It is like trying to shake hands with a slot machine over an extended period of time. That arm just keeps shooting back.
I am so tired of recleaning. We're on recleaning #4. Or #5. Something like that.
So instead I offer you the newest edition of What On Earth? You get to guess whether the items are random or related.
If you haven't been to pages 1-7 of "What On Earth?", by all means please help yourself to the link in the right-hand column of this page. Sorry about the ancient page design. We're waiting for the new, improved version of Blogger and we're just holding ourselves together (barely) in the meantime.
Just like everything else.
More cleaning. More unpacking.
We even went back to my husband's parents' house today to try to undo the damage that 6 weeks, 2 transitional adults, a hairy cat and a hairy dog will do. And I learned something. My pets are ambitious. Their "shed ratio" increases with house size. In the old condo, the cat was content with one chair in the living room and a bench in the bedroom. In my husband's parents' house? The cat was a fat, fuzzy, gray "Goldilocks-wanna be". This chair is too big. This chair is too small. This one is too warm. This one is too cool. And around and around. We lint-brushed cat hair off of each chair in the entire house, I think. Enough to make a new cat. And it doesn't help that our cat has hair the consistency of cotton candy. Enough said.
We've gotten many requests for pictures of the creatures. Here they are:
Coco and Dave the Cat
We are squeezed onto the one (relatively) clean floor of the new house and still are unpacking. And yes, there is still more stuff in A's parents' garage and basement. Mostly books. Because we cannot find the fasteners that put the shelves on the 8 bookcases that we own. We put them in a "safe place" before we left the condo. Which means that they are at the bottom of one of many boxes.
Lastly, it is 85 to 90 degrees in Chicago this week. Which should be okay because we have two large window A/C units on this floor. When the owner was leaving, she (probably guiltily) took us aside and explained that they were "a little unreliable". We were puzzled. We had tried them out during the inspection--we knew they worked. But now we know better. As in the entire front of the house (2 A/C units, living room, sunroom, entry way, dining room, front half of basement) is on ONE circuit breaker. Oh. As in we can have one A/C unit on AND use the portable phone. But add a light or TV to that combination and we are plunged into a sweaty, dark nightmare. Have we told you that all of the windows on the first floor are painted, stained and (in the kitchen) GLUED shut?
We don't have any massive monthly assessments anymore though. And our washer and dryer are in the same building that we are in. Life is good.
Some days are more adventurous than others.
The one thing I like more than anything about this project is the people. Our cool neighbors, the talented craftspeople we are discovering, hearing from people who read the website and have their own stories to tell, fellow bungalow owners.
I haven't been in touch with my bungalow pals as much as I'd like these past 2 weeks. We are cleaning like mad. Floors are scrubbed and rescrubbed. The insides of closets, walls, trim, everything covered with grime and dirt. Plus, garage living and newsprint have not been kind to our things, so they all need to be washed and freshened.
Discovery. For better or worse, this whole project is about discovery. And vision. Can we make these walls bend to our will? Turn back the clock? Sometimes others don't see what we see and even tell us, "Yuk. Glad it's not me." And that makes me sad. I wish I could show them what we see. The fully remodeled upstairs that keeps all of the trim and windows and floors and lovely nooks, but straightens out all that was muddled. The lovely living room that is rebuilt with the original fireplace, stained glass windows and bookcases. The really sunny kitchen with its bungalow touches of cleverness and efficiency.
It's at times like these, when no one else can see your vision, that you do realize that your husband is your best friend and confidant, your best grill chef and organizer.
p.s. I'd like it to rain now, please. We need the cooler air. And the plants in the backyard, especially the rosebush which has painted itself against the white clapboard wall of the tiny garage, are thirsty.
I washed the kitchen floor 2 and a half times today.
I had to.
The first time around, I was just making mud.
I cooked on the grill for the first time all by myself because it will be our kitchen for the next year.
Which should make Christmas dinner pretty lively.
peace. and good sleep to all.
We've added comments!! Now anyone can comment on an individual posting by clicking on the "Comments" link below each entry. We'd love to hear your thoughts or ideas, so comment away! :-)
Let's take a trip back in time and then look at...
THE FIRST SURVIVABLE FLOOR
I can only do the front half tonight...tomorrow is second half. Then we're back to the stuff we've found and BOY! Has it gotten interesting! (Are you intrigued? Please be intrigued. It motivates us to keep going.)
Living Room BEFORE we bought
Yes, this is where the fireplace and built-in's were. They will be back someday.
I just posted pictures of the first floor, "Before We Bought" and "After We Move In". I thought, "Weee...we are making progress here! This is livable!"
And then I discovered the drawbacks of photography.
It looks a little bit better 2-D. But to really appreciate the amount of space we have and the progress we have ALL (A & I, his parents, my parents, our neighbors who helped) made...you need to SEE it 3D. And SMELL it. (No moldy, dust, yuckky smells.)
Right now, it's about the quality of a college apartment. But with a lot more potential.
And better furniture. And healthier food in the refridgerator. And no finals. You get the picture.
P.S. Hey! A big shout out to all of the grandparents in our families following along as well as the folks from the American Bungalow Magazine forum...peace!
Let's take a trip back in time and then look at...
THE FIRST SURVIVABLE FLOOR
The second half of the first floor. Tomorrow, it's BACK TO THE STUFF.
Back to the stuff...tonight's edition of "What on Earth" (Batch 14) is in honor of our American Bungalow forum pal, Kitschywoman. It's a quiz for all of you playing at home, with a few ringers thrown in. Do you know your kitsch? Are you sure? Here's your chance to throw that gauntlet down :)
It was a busy weekend with A's family in town for the ordination of A's mom (go D!). Some of the group were going to go downtown to see a few museums on Saturday. After touring our home on Saturday morning, they decided that was good enough and they were free to ride the EL around the Loop and visit the John Hancock tower instead! (No fooling.) Yes, we're officially competing with The Field and the Museum of Science & Industry now.
A neighbor who was mowing his lawn waved at me today.
That made trimming the bushes and falling in that thorny rose hedge last weekend worth it.
There is something about cleaning up our yard that brings out the approval-hungry teenager in me. "Love our lawn? Aren't we good neighbors? Aren't I a good person? Do you liiiike mmeeeeeeee????????"
Marketing companies must chortle in glee over people like me, grab their phone and dial up the advertisting buyer for Home Depot. "No, really!!! One more $80,000 ad in this Sunday's ad circular and she is all yours!!! On a silver platter! I promise you, man..."
I am so transparent.
The dog and I are sharing a new experience...allergies.
I just get headaches. The dog has these "5 in a row" sneezing fits that are so fierce, she bangs her head on the floor during the blowback.
So now when I hear her start to wuffle, I throw my body between her chin and the floor. I've only managed to prevent a few "sneeze hits". Generally, she is so startled, she forgets about sneezing entirely.
I'll have more exciting things to post after a holiday weekend working on the house. I will be attempting to make (ta DA!) curtains. Temporary ones for the downstairs windows which currently have sheets on them.
Wish me luck. I'm going in.
Okay, so I cleaned out part of the basement today. One of the TWO toolbenches. W was a real "do-it-yourself" guy. I found a bunch of old tools, parts of things and a LOT of dirt and rust and broken glass and pieces of wood and string.
Life is not all eBay excitement here.
Welcome to our new digs! We decided that we were having a lot of fun with this and that we should get a proper set of tools and our very own web address! :-)
We hope you like the new look. It also has cool new features, like the category buttons along the right. Try 'em out!
It's a HOUSE! (A crazy house!) It's a WEBLOG! (Mom, that's an online diary...) It's a, um, HOUSEBLOG! A HOMEBLOG! A CHAOSBLOG? Chaosblog seems most appropriate for the moment.
PS - Thanks to AJ for the webhosting. If you're looking for a good service try him out at aefjdesigns.com.
This isn't living. It's survival.
How did vintage bungalow people do it?
I mean, sure. Their windows opened back then. But they had petticoats too.
Yesterday, the thermometer topped 93 degrees outdoors. I don't even want to think of it indoors. Meanwhile, for the hottest part of the day, we (2 humans, a cat and a dog) huddled against the A/C in the bedroom with the door closed and prowled around at night. Until we all fell asleep at 4 a.m. That's when we found out that contractors don't work when the rest of us do...they are tireless.
I waxed my bathtub today.
Just for the record, I do not wax anything else in my life. Car, floor, legs...(I'm a razor grrl).
But when Tim says "Wax the tub every 5 days for the first 30 days", I become a Turtle Wax devotee. A slave to bungalow renovation.
I also caulked some fixtures and reassembled them. (Caulk is messy.) And realized, dispairingly, that before we tile the walls in the first floor bathroom, we're going to have to go into the wall behind the fixtures and fix whatever is lurking there first. I guess I feel better that we don't have to go through TILE to do that...because the tile is already gone. But we have LOOKED at replacement tile...3 x 6 subway tile...so proper for a bungalow.
Before I moved into this house, I was a total wuss about anything with more than 6 legs.
I mean, there were things with six legs I wasn't keen on either. Like the Palmetto bug. These bugs have six legs but THEY ARE LARGER THAN MY SHOE, therefore making them part of the "HTK" (Harder to Kill) category and super scary. (Click to make photo larger...IF YOU DARE!!!)
My friend, K, is going to bust me on this one because I think that is actually a picture of a giant roach. But a palmetto bug LOOKS like a Giant ROACH to me. So. There.
Well, we don't have these. But! We do have icky SPIDERS:
Today our site was featured on the popular site boingboing.net! (You can see their description of our site here.)
As a result we saw a HUGE spike in traffic today!
Many thanks to Cory and boingboing.net! :-)
This entry is totally random. My life has become random.
Things I'm thinking about:
- I do not miss cable TV except that I can't get any news of the outside world. This may be because I ONLY get my news from one source...The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. Because if we weren't laughing, we'd be crying. (But it REALLY bothers me that you have to get through ads to get to their site now...Jon, I love you. Now stop that.) Okay. Enough politics. Or big JW is going to jump in here and rant at me. :)
So, we continue to sally forth.
Today we awoke to a sticky kind of heat...the kind of heat that makes you wish that you could just sprawl in a kiddie pool all day long. Whoa. We COULD get a kiddie pool. There is no condo board here!
A is sketching different tile strategies for the bathroom. TILE is HARD. Not floor tile so much...we're digging that American Olean has 1" hexagon tile and other neat patterns with backing so you can install them in sheets. (Cheating, I know.) But WALL TILE.
That's a whole different story.
If you have good wall tile, go thank it before you go to bed tonight. Say, "Nice tile, nice tile" and brush your fingers along its straight, geometrically perfect grout lines.
For fun with tile, go to this site. Can you believe that this is my brand of FUN these days? :) I used to go clubbing. Now, I play with tile software.
"Adventures in homeownership"
We took the evening off.
After I got home from work and used my new CLEANER OF CHOICE (vinegar) on a couple of things (it really does work)...
...we went sailing for the first time this season. A's family has had a trim little sailboat in the family for three generations so we headed out for the evening on Lake Michigan with our pals, AJ and L.
So relaxing. When the water is calm, the breeze is steady and its dusk...it's like sitting in your living room with the coolest view of Chicago in the world. And...you're moving.
Ok. So. Anyway. When we got home, we took the dog for a stroll around the new 'hood...
Last night I used vinegar successfully to take some funky stains off of some vintage Pyrex glassware, but then set off a huge cloud of acrid smoke in the basement when I turned on the mangle to try pressing some towels.
At 3 am.
So A and I had to drag that thing into the back yard (with it screeching and protesting and belching smoke the whole way--I am terribly sorry for our neighbors) so we didn't have to worry about it exploding before morning. I turned the hose on it a few times for good measure.
It was the sorriest sight to see over morning coffee.
The poor thing looks like it tried to crawl out to the garbage and died on the way there, next to the sidewalk.
This sleep deprivation thing is a huge bummer.
You know...this Internet thing is super fun.
I had no idea the interesting sites that I would find by looking at people who had looked at OUR site. This is one big Internet-fest. Sorry I sound so much like a geek but honestly, this blog thing is a pretty new phenomenon to me. Though I really miss the Table Talk crowd at MWT for Salon.com. :(
And to those of you who are tuning in to just our site (like my family), roam around a little bit. These folks, especially some of the livejournal crowd, are very good writers and FUN!
Our top ten linked sites (according to web stats) are:
1. BoingBoing - This is some very cool stuff served up piping hot daily.
2. American Bungalow Magazine - If you love the site, the zine will have you swooning. Plus, such a helpful house restoration crowd.
3. Old House - If you have an Old House, you need this site. Not to be confused with "This Old House".
4. Purejuice - She's a great writer, she's got soul, and she's got a kickin' site. Also voted Livejournal user we'd most like to have a margarita and conversation with.
Rest of top ten if you click the link...
Today, after I got home from work, I put on a brave face and started to sort and tag. For the garage sale, that is. Man, but researching what things should cost is stressful. There is a LOT of stuff in here. And a lot of it is worth very, very little. Trust me on this. Old does not necessarily equal valuable.
A good thing and a not so good thing happened.
I did drag our BIG PRIZE SCORE from the dangers of the unventilated bathroom to the dry comfort of the storage room in the attic. This part of the attic has a cute little door and everything. Very sweet...
As is the TRUNK! (Our aforementioned big score...)
So, we are at that place where we feel like we are losing momentum rather than gaining it. After the initial cleaning and before we've had time to begin anything major and drawn out. Before the hot and muggy weather is gone.
Luckily, a phone call to L in Boston has me laughing instead of blue. Not only do her sister and brother-in-law live in a gorgeously renovated Victorian in Northampton, but they have put themselves through this more than once! Is there a type of -mania, like "kleptomania", except with renovation? What IS that Latin word for "renovates endlessly putting themselves through torture repeatedly"?
She's says I'll be alright. That is the absolutely most yucky stage.
Well, that's good.
So, before we fall asleep at night, A and I read our little "Do It Yourself" picture books and gear up for the weekend. Here's a snippet of our conversation from last night:
A: Listen to this. Who writes the copy that goes with these pictures? (reading aloud) “…sometimes, though, you want to go beyond the basics and experience the real pleasure of bathing. The deep relaxation of hot water. The therapy of quiet immersion. The peaceful pleasure of bathing with family or friends…” (stops reading) Whaaaaa? (makes funny cartoon shaking head noise)
You know, researching the history of historical and vintage items is so much more difficult than we thought, After many trips to the library, and bookstores, and MANY searches on the web, I still have the following questions:
1) Who is the pottery artist named "de Vegh?"
2) What is the story on the Gefle company in Sweden?
3) Who is Lewis Weil?
And many others. It's back to the books on this one.
The objects themselves are interesting, however, it's the story behind each one that I find fascinating. I spied this on a book list somewhere and thought it might explain my general fascination. Objects of Desire: The Lives of Antiques...
The cable person stood me up today.
I feel like I am dating again.
I thought A and I were safely tucked away within the bonds of matrimony and suddenly we've been thrust into the front lines of THE HOME REPAIR GAME because we have bought a fixer-upper. Waiting by the phone? Yes. Wondering if they'll like you enough to come back? Yes. Moping around until you hear from them? Yes.
I'm in high school all over again. I'm scanning the "Ask Norm" column in This Old House magazine as feverishly as I used to scan the "Dating Tips" column in Seventeen Magazine.
So, we did a lot of stuff ourselves this past weekend while pretending like we didn't care that the most POPULAR contractors were spending time with OTHER clients. Probably cheerleader clients.
Today was a very unusual day.
Coco had a yucky day. She ate something that didn't agree with her and didn't feel well.
She didn't feel well many times. On almost an hourly basis for about 5 hours. This kept us on our toes all day.
And it rained VERY hard today. And also hailed.
You know, when this whole process becomes too overwhelming, we are thankful for our friends. Because they make us laugh. And think hard about world issues. And help us through the rough spots. (But...at the end of this story is a surprise appearance by the EMPEROR of creepy crawlies...be careful when scrolling.)
Today, K came in from Law School in DC...we were SO HAPPY to see her! She and her sister, B, as well as friends L & A helped A & I to celebrate a mild Friday evening in the flowery backyard. And to break in the new (old) lawn furniture! (Okay, okay...I'm the one next to L on the seat...with the blue dress. A is taking the picture.)
Sometimes, while you are reading this blog, you may be thinking, "Who is nutty enough about a type of ARCHITECTURE that they would put themselves through that renovation stuff?"
Well, we are. But we're not alone!
We have plenty of Bungalow Pals who get us through our ups and downs. Including many on the American Bungalow Magazine forum. People who love bungalows are more than a "group"...they are a movement! Much like the movement between 1910 and 1940 when most of the bungalows across the country were built. Bungalows may look little but they live LARGE, are esthetically pleasing, and have a lot of heart AND soul.
We have many Bungalow Pals who have blazed the "un-muddling" trail ahead of us...and lots of bungalows we admire. The folks on the AB Forum are a nice group whether you have a bungalow or just want to talk renovation and interior design (and furniture and paint and so on). Maybe you have a Georgian, a Colonial or other type of home...this group that will invite you in, shake your hand and settle you down on the porch with a glass of wine.
We can't list ALL of them here--there are so many! But here are few cool places to check out...make sure you click the links to review THEIR before and after photos.
Coco and I went on a mission together in the car.
We were looking for....craftspeople.
Okay. Remember this guy?
Alright. So HE is how my day ended. Let's start from the top.
Wake up in a seated position on the couch with the laptop in your lap and an aching neck. Because you still have insomnia and are having a problem synching up the "sleep" software with the "laying down on a comfortable bed" software.
Find the Advil. Do a load of laundry and wash the dishes. Feed the dog and the cat because they both are hanging on to your ankles. Think long and hard about someday being a parent. Decide to just leave it up to Providence.
Some days we make more progress than others. Today was one of the others...
We did have a nice dinner with my parents and grandparents, though. It just didn't result in any progress in our estate-sale preparation or our home improvement quest. Oh well...
Okay, cool. We may have found an electrician. A guy that digs plaster walls, has loads of experience and is very pleasant. We saw his work in progress on C & D's house and called him. He has the precision of a surgeon when it comes to plaster walls and ceilings. Until we are sure that we haven't scared him away, we will have to refer to him as
(cue organ music here!)
Okay, before I launch into our very fun experience yesterday, I just want to give you a small visual update.
THIS room used to be FULL to the BRIM with things. And now, most things on the second floor have been researched, tagged, photographed and put in their proper temporary storage place. Either for sale or for keeping. We worked on this floor today. (click to make things larger):
Another scorching day. Another day spent by the A/C unit.
I didn't know whether I should write about this next topic or not. But, in the absence of further progress on the "de" construction (and at the insistance of my dear spouse), I shall now bring up a very VERY serious topic with all of you.
The matter of what to do with your wedding band during home improvement projects.
Really. You need to take a break from looking at home, um, improvement. It's Labor Day. Meaning a day to celebrate by NOT laboring. A day to fire up the grill and invite some pals into your backyard so they can look in horror at the mess you've bought.
Like we are.
So, while we are out in the yard, we can offer up these sites that we find interesting, clever and amusing (and educational!) and that we aren't usually able to feature because they have NOTHING to do with our topic. Home De-construction.
Check them out. You'll enjoy yourself. And have a happy Labor Day. From all of us at Home in Progress.
Chaos Kitty: Simply elegant and funny.
Ze Frank: Still the master of creativity and having a good time on the Internet. And, he mentions his mom a lot in his blog...always good to give a little love to the mom.
Things that are broken make me want to fix them. (Except companies. I've gotten out of that now. Because, well, they don't want to be fixed.) Plus, Mark Good is a very nice down to earth guy who knows his stuff.
This American Life...the real one.
My life right now. Except I'm in one house and these guys are everywhere.
Chicago Uncommon. Some of the most beautiful photography to be found documenting a city I love.
Ask my mom. She will tell you that I was born marching to the step of a different drummer. Which means that these following links will be of no surprise to her. But, if you just want to keep to the lighthearted portion of this holiday....do not cross this line, please.
We were enjoying ourselves thoroughly at our BLOCK PARTY tonight. :) Neighbors are cool. Plus, we are thoroughly convinced that we live on one of the coolest streets of neighbors in Chicago. They've been doing this block party thing for 20 years! There was live music and great food...it was much fun.
So, with little time before I head downstairs to rummage, I checked out our "stats" on the site, which I do occasionally. It's fun to see which countries access the site and so forth.
I'm always intrigued by what people are LOOKING FOR when they stumble across our site via an Internet search engine, like Google or Yahoo or MSN.
...and no sudden moves.
Our favorite electrician out of the bunch we reviewed is BACK! We are so excited. More about Mr. X later.
Some days I am quite sure I know why we bought this house.
Other days, as I am vaccuuming yet more dirt from the floors, or brushing plaster dust from my clothing, or washing my 4th set of dishes that day, I think...
What did we SEE in this place?
Okay. Okay. It was the location (in A's old neighborhood near his parents and near our church). It was the neighbors...awesome. It was the "flow" of the house...very nice. And it was the details. They obviously blinded us to all else.
The built-in cabinets>...(click on a picture to make it larger)
If you double-click on this picture, you will get an impression of what it is like to grab a quick burger between tagging and cleaning in our house.
You are never, ever eating ALONE!
And, by the way? Since we published the search engine phrases that have led people astray and to OUR website, we've actually had a few funnier, some definitely puzzling, and more gross ones, like:
Today we went to the Restoration & Renovation Expo at Chicago's Navy Pier.
Well, not complete happiness forever and ever. But a little "whee, kicking up my heels" happiness for the moment. And that is nice.
Our very small dishwasher...She is working! And that is HUGE! Even though she is not. Huge that is :)
She joins the ranks of admirable appliances here at Chez Mess. Mr. Vacuum, Mr & Mrs Washer and Dryer and Mr. Electric Lawnmower.
A long time ago, I used to think that washing the dishes was soothing and pleasurable. Here, it is the battle of Sisyphus against grime and dirt.
Would someone out in Readerland please read this dog's mind and tell us what she wants. Please? (click on the picture for the full effect)
Because we honestly DON'T KNOW.
Her nightly ritual at 9:45 pm has become *grrr, grrr* then BARK! BARK! BARK! then a series of meaningful looks that plead..."you KNOW what I want. C'mon. Give me what I want."
But we DON'T know. We know it's not "out". We know it's not "play". We know it's not "toy" or "cat". All attempts are met with only frustrated sighs and dog groans.
I guess I don't even need to say that this never happened in the old house.
As I type this, the cycle has been repeated twice and it is beginning again. From the top. With the *grrr's*.
WHAT DOES SHE WANT????!!!!!!
Today, we tried and tried to get the best of our "to do" list, but some days it IS hard.
The dust left in this house does not help. In the beginning, it got into everything...our hair, our clothes, our food. We clean and clean but it will take awhile...and that is BEFORE the work begins! It is dust you can write your name in.
I wasn't kidding! This is the top shelf of a bookcase we tipped over to carry down the stairs.
Not a garbage strike! No, please, not that!
And, what will we...I mean, where will...what will we do with the LITTERBOX????
Come to think of it, the collectors probably should get more money based on our house alone. Sigh.
I am sick. I am also tired. Mostly this is due to the cold season coming on (I work near pre-schoolers and with folks in college.) I tend to pick up every "bug" imaginable.
How tired am I? Last night, I climbed into bed with my dinner (a stack of plain rice cakes) and my book. I don't remember anything until waking up this morning with the book on my stomach and a totally complete rice cake STICKING OUT OF MY MOUTH!
I hadn't moved all night. Even to chew. I was THAT tired. I must have breathed through my nose, which is a miracle.
Why neither pet took advatage of my plight shall always remain a mystery.
The last time the Cubs won a (postseason) Series is BEFORE THIS HOUSE WAS BUILT!
Which means that there will be a lot more of this happening around here for a little while.
Yeah. The last time there was no house. No TV. And that chair certainly wasn't around. Wow.
This is all a mind blower. Right, A? A? A?
Something tells me I'm on my own for researching and tagging for the next few weeks.
How does one live in transition? Live in a house while work ON the house is ongoing?
You go a little nuts trying to keep up. Then you set your priorities and your expectations around everything else sinks very VERY low.
Then, you go into a frenzy about every 2 weeks crying out, "Please! No more dust!! NO MORE DUST!!!"
Because, every 2 days when you dust (no longer is it 1 week or 2), you have this:
I'm not a big fan of reality TV.
I don't consider it very "real". Even shows which are fun about home improvement are a little SURreal...where's the disagreement about door placement? Where are the 18 trips to Lowes or Home Depot or the local lumberyard?
And NO WAY can you do the amount of work they're doing in 60 minutes. With commercial breaks.
BUT! TBS and Lowe's have just announced a NEW reality TV show called "House Rules." If it shows just ONE real thing about a couple working on a house that is a mess (some quiet crying maybe? Or a trip to the Emergency Room?), I will consider this to be "the real deal".
If you are or were one of the couples who responded to this site, hats off to you, mates. You are brave souls.
It is 5:00 am and I cannot sleep again. There are many things weighing heavily on my heart and mind. I won't put them here.
I stepped outside of the back door this evening and found this little tree just blazing Fall glory with all of its might...the leaves actually seemed to crackle and burn with colour.
Fall is such an appropriate season for letting go...but it is difficult, because the colours call our attention to the beauty of everything that will soon be hidden.
Which is more frigthening? You decide...
The STEPFORD WIVES?
(A bunch of housewives in the 1970's become faceless, expressionless zombies, who are pleasant, malleable and ignorant. But WHO or WHAT is making them THAT WAY? Intrigue, gender power wars, the "perfect wife", robots, murder, strangeness.)
This weekend we had a "mini-retreat" from the house. We spent a night at a Comfort Inn in Milwaukee (J had to fly out the next morning), and a hotel room never seemed more deluxe!
Working light fixtures, clean floors, no dust! Who would have thought that these "normal" comforts could seem like such a treat!? Actually, the best part was the jacuzzi tub we were upgraded to when our first room was by the elevator and too noisy. After a bath we were cleaner than we had been since June!
Coming back wasn't a downer. It was just nice to spend a night with the comforts that we'd grown so used to until we took on the challenge of the live-in renovation. I'm sure there will be more "sanity retreats" in our future...
So, we had a smelly basement and thought we had fixed it. We felt so clever. So superior. So...naive.
It's back. The SMELL IN THE BASEMENT!
Why I can smell things before A can or even when he cannot, I have no idea. Luckily, other people do. Otherwise, A would think that I was a complete nut.
I can't help it. It's like...well...it's like playing with a thread that is unraveling from your sweater. Or scratching a mosquito bite.
You KNOW you're not supposed to do it. But, it FEELS so good. You know?
I get that way with this house. So much stuff peeling and flaking and tearing away and drooping around here. It's so HARD not to pick at it.
So, I'm on the phone and completely engrossed in the conversation and my eyes naturally drift to my kitchen floor. And to the obvious border that USED to be the outside wall of the house before they moved the back door 3-4 feet to the west.
Coco and I took first shift of trick-or-treat duty since A was commuting from work.
She decided to go as the "Wolf who Ate Grandma in Little Red Riding Hood"
I told her it was a very scary costume. Good choice!
As a couple, you don't get to spend a lot of romantic time staring into each other's eyes and being mushy when you have a lot of work to do on a house!
So, you have to get creative. So, maybe you're stripping the tile backing off of a wood floor one day. Your dear spouse is working in the basement or off to try to find tile under the tar in the bathroom.
So you proceed to strip the floor...around the carpet anyway. 89% of the thick black dust in this house can be traced back to this flaky floor.
What a weekend. It WAS work, work, work. But, oh so worth it.
A's dad was in town this weekend and so was mine! It was Dad heaven! Dad's are great for many reasons, one of which is that they offer help, advice and skills with home repair.
See TV Dads for more dads. Except our dads are married dads. Remember...always give props to the moms too.
...to my pal, BFx. And since tonight's other posting, about electrical work, is not finished (and I'm actually tired before midnight...hurray!) then what better time to scan our more fun stats, "countries that are vising us" and "Most Popular Search phrases"?
Top of the list are the ones you'd expect...the United States, Canada, France, the United Kingdom, Japan. They like the voyeurism of watching a young couple freak out about the house...
Not expected? So many visits from the US Government and Military, New Zealand, the Russian Federation, TOGO (!!) and Uruguay.
(Many pardons to the 20+ other countries not mentioned...we love you too!)
This weekend we were overwhelmed. We worked on the house, got little sleep and volunteered to host an event gone awry in our future bedroom.
Twenty folks were originally going to take a hayride on Saturday night. It didn't work out. So we offered up the now empty second floor for an inpromtu "hayride substitute evening."
And now we know that 20 people can fit into our future bedroom. Not that we will EVER EVER need to know this once it is ACTUALLY a bedroom.
I'm really tired. And babbling. I'll stop here to prevent further embarrassment. Go about your web surfing as usual, everyone. Thanks.
Surprise Norm! By now you know we weren't at home posting in our diary this weekend after all. We were celebrating your 80th birthday with you in Seattle!
And it was a lovely, grand affair. Besides the fact that J was able to meet many Seattle and Bellingham relatives she'd never met (whose warmth defies description)...A & J were also able to spend a little quality time with H in Bellingham in her beautiful home on Friday evening.
It was a weekend of clean, soft sheets and relaxing soaks in a bathtub...ahhhh! The decadence of a beautiful morning view while quietly sipping coffee.
The last night there, the big surprise was on us. We felt like we had won the LOTTERY!
Dave the Cat makes his position on our 48 hour absence pretty clear.
No more travel unless we:
a) take him along, or
b) go without luggage.
NEWSFLASH! Young TAD LINCOLN saves the White House Turkey from executioner's clutches!
And meanwhile, bless these women. After I read their lists of how they prepare for Thanksgiving, I was thankful that I was not doing the same. Especially "vacuuming the ceiling".
That's it. Sleepless tonight. Wide awake. And just waiting for the dog to stop snoring.
Last night we put up some nice Christmas lights. (You will have to click on pic to see them...kind of....real life looks prettier.)
They kind of take the attention away from the huge crack in the side of the sunroom. We'll be getting that footing repoured in the Spring.
And A lit the Christmas Candle his dad had brought back to us from Norway. It is a long white taper that counts out the 25 days. It burns brightly and slowly :) I suppose many Norwegian children silently pray for the wax to melt a little faster towards Day 21 or Day 22. All of us are able to push the buttons of our childhoods at this time of year and feel similiar things.
And if we need to make new memories, we make new ones to replace the old ones. Better ones. A and I are lucky....we remember very good ones.
Though I miss a tree so much this year. These is no time, nor space, nor energy. But I'm looking ahead to next year already. Nothing can stop me then! Real tree, smell of fir and pine, white lights....magical.
I should actually have a "Don't Do It Yourself" category for this one.
So, after my "sleepless" post a few nights back, I was bored and decided to "fix" our floor lamp. It's a lamp I've had since I moved to Chicago in 1988 and I love it. It was last in our lovely old condo...clean, pretty, fixed old condo.
(You're going to want to double-click on ALL of the pictures to see them more closely.)
The main cord with the plug had "rotted through" as A found out when he switched it on the other night and the frayed part went *SNAP! CRACKLE!* Not good.
So we really wanted one of these for the first floor bathroom but can't bring ourselves to plunk down the $400+. We pondered trying to make our own...whether that would be the start of a fun new hobby or a huge disaster wasn't clear.
But then we went on eBay and immediately saw this!
I am very thankful for email right now...very VERY thankful. Because I have lost my voice. Entirely. Gone. Due to a bad viral infection. (Though I'm sure inhaling 90 year old plaster dust and mold helped too :)
During the few times a day I can whisper something, I sound like someone from The Godfather:
(Theme from The Godfather plays softly in the background. Jeannie sits upright in the front parlor, a comforter tucked around her and her glasses on her forehead. Her eyes are closed. The phone is ringing but no one answers it. Aaron crouches down on one knee and touches her arm lightly to get her attention...)
Aaron: "Jeannie, what can I do for you?"
Today the knob fell of the front screen door. We're trying not to take it personally. It just seems so much like a scene out of the The Money Pit.
The knob on the old aluminum screen door in the front of the house wouldn't go back on. Hmmmph.
So we took the wicked thing right off the house. Hinges and all. (Hint: Click to make the photo larger.)
(Click on the images to make them larger)
I mean, really.
Leaving the warmth of the house when you have to "go out" isn't always appealing...
As if protesting the screen door's demise, two of the metal shelves in the basement collapsed. No collateral damage. But true to our word, out they went.
Are we being tested? It feels like a revolt is brewing in here. It is really difficult not to take this stuff personally.
We haven't had a lot of time to check the stats side of the site lately, but I have to say...
A majority of you are looking for solutions to a similar set of problems that we're experiencing with the house. In summary, these problems (so far in the month of December) seem to be:
Number 1 issue! Almost 300 of you were looking for help with your steam radiator and boiler within the last 16 days.
Number 2 issue! 200 of you were looking for information about tubs. Slipper. Clawfoot. Subfoot. Repair. Refinishing. Salvage. A real range of issues here.
Number 3 issue! 150 of you were looking for information on removing part of your structure that is LOAD BEARING. See my panicked notes below.
Number 4 issue! Fishing coaxial cable through the walls of the house. 100 of you in the last 16 days.
Well, at least we don't feel so alone :)
Here are some lessons we've learned about what you're looking for and a quick list of the more, um, unusual requests on the site.
Sometimes it is better NOT to know things.
Like, what your house looks like between floors. The first and second floor in this case.
I stuck the camera up as high as my arm could reach and took these pictures because I couldn't see up there myself. I didn't want to drag the stepladder up from downstairs.
I regret that now.
Well, it's Christmas Eve.
And why look at pieces of the house? Like the living room ceiling?
When you could be looking at this.
Mood: Overwhelming sadness.
Nothing is as important in the world as the ones we have loved. Not this work. Not anything.
Patricia Liguori -- - Pat and her brother, Jim - The girls showing some leg -
I thought the earth remembered me,
she took me back so tenderly,
arranging her dark skirts, her pockets
full of lichens and seeds.
Well, I'm telling this story for a reason. Besides the fact that I think my Aunt Pat would have found it funny.
(Thank you all who have sent condolences and shared experiences of your own. You have truly comforted me and I appreciate it.)
Rule #1, 2, 3 and well, ALL in home renovation.
PLAN FOR THE UNEXPECTED. Or, maybe that should be "don't try to plan TOO much because things will go wrong and real life will intervene and the house is not always the top priority and sometimes the timing of these are when they are timed, for better or for worse."
Case in point: Early in the evening on Christmas, we receive the call that we were hoping to escape this Christmas at my sister's house in Pennsylvania. We needed to rally for a funeral and fast. Second one in less than four weeks for the family. We are in shock and in motion.
We wanted to share the a few things before we plunge into the New Year...2004...with a fresh start.
We have had between 50,000-60,000 visits to this website since we launched it on July 4, 2003. That blows are our minds and we thank you. Who knew a little site put up to entertain our family and friends back East would connect us to so many cool people?
As thanks to those who have bought items from our Estate Sale and eBay (the funds from which go to keep this website going and towards the renovation), we are keeping a list of names and dates--and hometowns if we have them--that will be put into this bottle:
...and enclosed in the walls of the house. In decades to come, when someone else finds the bottle, they (hopefully) will be able to publish the list on the Internet and help descendants understand how their relatives contributed to the rebuilding of this modest little bungalow.
Many years ago, J started a scrapbook.
It was a collection of all her hopes and aspirations for the design of her future home.
This is how we spend our Saturday nights.
It's too exciting for words, isn't it? (Home improvement does nothing for your complexion or your eyebrows. As you will see here. But I know you all want a mask like mine, don't you? You know you do.)
It is 3:00 am. I cannot sleep. I stay up and read a book that I had chosen in an airport (where? Minneapolis?) when I was desperate for some distraction.
We had 1500+ books here when we moved in. With hundreds left, I had held back the most intriguing titles--this strange and unexpected out-of-print library--for "gobbling up" at night. I cannot resist these authors.
This current book is not from the library...it is called "An Unexpected Light: Travels in Afghanistan" by Jason Elliot. It is an amazing story which is playing a cruel game of catch with my emotions...first, this quote from St. Exupery:
On ne voit bien qu'avec le coeur
L'essential est invisible par les yeux
(One sees truly only with the heart
The essential is hidden from the eye.)
Bride-to-be, KJ, was visiting from Alaska for the holidays. So, of COURSE we put her to work!
She TAWANDA-ED* that floor! She's swinging that hammer so fast you can't even SEE it!
If it snows on the steps and sidewalk, and a "handy household hints" guide suggests sprinkling kitty litter on the snow to make everything less slippery...?
Do NOT use kitty litter that CLUMPS.
Just use the regular kind. The stuff that is like sand. Better yet, use sand.
Or you will be cleaning shoes for the rest of the year.
Just a tip. That is all for now.
I think "sauntered back" wouldn't begin to describe the chutzpah with which Dave wandered into the kitchen this morning.
This is after we:
- Scoured every closet, drawer and cabinet.
- Checked under every piece of furniture -- 3 times.
- Walked around the block in the cold calling his name forlornly -- 4 times
- Used the big flashlight to look in the walls and between the floors where we had openings
- Went to bed sad and frustrated, wondering how fast we could put up posters in the morning
We still have no idea WHERE he WAS. And he won't say. But he is WAY "over me" as I try to take a celebratory photo of him.
It is amazing, with a weblog and email address that is so public, how many people PER DAY write from a foreign country to tell you that they have an uncollected inheritance that YOU can get a cut of if you just provide a little personal information. Like your SS#. Or your bank account numbers.
We are contacted by an average of 3-4 princes, princesses, businesspeople, damsels in distress, colonels, generals and such of said country per day. We could be ZILLIONAIRES!!!
Are ALL folks who maintain weblogs this lucky? Or is it just us? weary sarcasm> Wait! Another one just came in! Continue....
When we first bought our house, American Standard just happened to launch their "Ugliest Bathroom in America" contest.
For obvious reasons, we figured we'd have a fair shot.
How wrong we were! The winner was just declared and boy, it is U-G-L-Y, ugly!
Check it out: link
For once REALLY happy not to have won.
Today was a heavy cleaning and tidying up day. That gave A a chance to spend some time downstairs organizing the workshop. With so much work ahead of us, we've really needed a good space for project work and to keep our growing collection of tools organized.
After many months, it's finally coming together:
Taking a shower when restoring a house is a necessity AND a luxury. This is why, even though only the yucky one is working, we are thankful to have ONE.
We are SO CLOSE to a new bathroom overall (it's a matter of days now) and our current things KNOW this. THUS, they feel no need to hang on to this life.
I went upstairs to slip into a little "water paradise" when, um, the handle broke off. (Seems to be a theme now.)
I was a kid who always liked to stroll sidewalks at night when I lived back East. And I'm an adult who cannot shake the same habit.
I am a 21st century home voyeur.
A few friends and I have shared the habit over the years. Lest we sound like social deviants, let me explain more clearly. I've NEVER been interested in seeing PEOPLE at home.
We NEVER WANTED to see people. In fact, that ruins the effect. Because the point is, of course, projecting yourself into these different habitats and trying them on for size in your imagination. Which house would "fit" you?
The best houses for viewing leave all of their lights on and you can just peek inside lighted windows and see kitchens, stairways, living rooms, ceiling lights...dreaming, assessing and thinking of what you might do differently.
I really LOVE our neighbors.
No, really. REALLY!!
It's been snowing here almost every day for a week. K, our neighbor to our left, and I have begun walking in the morning to jumpstart the day. We head over to the campus or to the nature preserve (Yes, this is IN the city...Chicago is a city of trees). This is AFTER we have tried to beat each other out the door to shovel the other person's sidewalk.
It's become quite funny...who willl get to it first? Who will win? It is a strange feeling to suit up for the cold, grab your shovel, open the door and....
When I was a little girl, my dad used to tell me, "You snooze, you lose." Meaning that if you didn't pay attention, you might miss something that you want.
Dave was snoozing and won. Disproving Dad's law.
The little weasel got my spot in bed!
Why? WHY? Why did we get ourselves into THIS?
Honestly. There is so much dirt/dust and peeling paint and broken stuff that last week I froze in my tracks, horrified at the thought...
WE ARE PAYING GOOD MONEY TO LIVE LIKE THIS.
That's right. PAYING. No one is paying us. We are paying OTHER PEOPLE. Specifically, people from the bank and the city tax office and people who help with specialty repairs. Repairs that involve....oh....running water. Heat. Lights.
I feel like I am on the set of a really bad C.O.P.S. episode. Everyday. Except without the illegal drugs that the bad guys get.
Some people see poetry in the search string phrases that people use to find the site. Though I have to admit..."smelly drains" does not inspire me to write poetry, usually.
Whole house restoration (deconstruction plus construction) creates a house full of DUST.
A houseful of DUST creates a houseful of ALLERGIES.
A houseful of ALLERGIES creates a snoring WIFE and DOG.
It was A's birthday today. I tried to find him the perfect gift.
Happy Birthday A :)
Earplugs. Preserving marital bliss along with old houses since...well...since they were invented probably. tm
Today Yahoo added a cool new feature--you can now track other websites on My Yahoo! As Yahoo users who read lots of other blogs ourselves, this seems really cool.
Thanks to the magic of RSS (geek info here), this can make it easier to keep up on our 'progress' without having to remember to check the site for updates.
You can add us to your My Yahoo page simply by clicking here:
This is a simple test of your vision and the quality of your monitor...match the three pictures below with the correct label:
1. A white cow in a snowstorm.
2. The Beatles' White Album
3. Our first floor bathroom project
Reminder: You can click on each image for a close up if that helps. ;-)
For you locals, we just noticed today that the Chicago Bungalow Association has posted their 2004 seminar series and a "save the date" notice for the 2004 Expo on May 1st.
You'd think, being a homeowner and all, I would just get with it already and buy that spine that I've been dying to own. The one that would allow me to be firm yet fair.
When it comes to home improvement, I am a jellyfish. An amoeba. Spineless all the way.
Sorry for the late post. Coco and I were up all night after her "birdseed bender."
Did you ever have one of those years in your life where you felt like ever dollar you have ever made was just slipping out of your hands?
Yes. Right. Well, this is one of those years for us.
My mom is a little disappointed. We talked on the phone last night.
You have to know that this is the woman who, upon first driving out to our bungalow from her house in Virginia, leapt out of the car and dragged the following item up the front steps:
Subtle? My mother? When it comes to cheering on her brood towards procreation, she is about as subtle as a brick dropped on one's head.
Today was a very sunny day. And more on the warm side. Which means only one thing...
IT'S TIME FOR SPRING CHORES!!!
And twice the amount of work we are usually doing. How do we know this? Because the book that my sister got us for Christmas says so.
Is she trying to tell us something? I think so.
My artist friend Liz creates magnificent cards of her own design and sends them in beautifully decorated glassine paper envelopes. They always cheer me up. (Plus, her handwriting is amazing. It is art too!)
Years ago, she and I were having a bad day at work and she created a different kind of card highlighting the character from one of our favorite books, "Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day" by Judith Viorst. So, it wasn't an original design, but it summed up how we felt about some folks who we wanted to send a card to on our terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.
Sorry about the site being down. It was a surprise to you and a surprise to us...thanks to A Johnson of AEFJ (our host) who quickly brought us back up again and didn't even bat an eye. He is truly a wonder and we thank him profusely.
We might as well confess that we think the jump in traffic occurred because the April edition of Chicago Magazine hit the newstands this week. And we're in there...somewhere...about people who maintain weblogs in Chicago.
There are very nicely illustrated pixel people that depict A and I...either pixels really improve your looks or the illustrator has earned my undying admiration for giving me the, er, figure I always wanted but never had.
(This is NOT the illustration :) This is courtesy of This Old Toy)
Hope looks like the first crocus.
Sounds like the whistle of the mailman coming up the walk.
Smells like new paint and clean laundry.
Feels like a new season gliding in behind the old one.
Spring is here and April showers are a little early. Which is fine with me. Because I enjoy warm rain in the spring. It is squishy and clear and drippy and clean.
I was stripping the built-in cabinet and listening to the house in the quiet when I heard a *plonk, plonk, plonk* I mean, *drip drip drip*...this is a sound I know. But plonk? It was like hitting one note on a xylophone...or a....
Sorry. Short entry today. Work, work, work and the car was broken into. (They didn't steal anything, but we have to replace that window.)
More at 11.
(Well, not really.)
I need to stop thinking so much. I WANT to stop thinking so much. I tend to imagine the worst possible scenario and then push way beyond that.
I'm one of those people who ride in the passenger seat of life, furiously pumping an imaginary brake with her foot or making little gasping noises when an 18-wheeler comes too close.
Having hit the lowest point in my online diary regarding the home renovation (it can only go up when you're down), I also have a burning need to figure out the benefits of our situation...slanting floors and all.
And it's tax week, too.
#1 Change. We don't feel at ALL guilty creating massive chaos to get the house to be exactly how we want it. It is ALREADY so bad, we have unlimited choices on how to fix it.
Last night, we snuck out of the house like two guilty, gleeful kids. Went to have dinner at a local Japanese restaurant with some new pals and laughed until I inhaled my drink. (Bad idea...breathing liquid. Good idea? Dinner out with achingly funny, whip-smart kind people.)
Of course, we got lost in our OWN NEIGHBORHOOD on the way to the restaurant. An important indicator of how we need to get out a wee bit more.
Each time the season changes, we have to learn how to maintain the house...which is quite different than restoring it. Maintaining is done year after year. It is the necessary investment in time that you make to protect your financial investment in the house.
Sunday, we worked on the exterior...weeding, patching gutters, inspecting the roof, taking off the storm windows and putting up the screens (hooray!) We also hauled a lot of stuff out of here for disposal.
We love our dog, Coco. She's not the "brightest bulb on the tree" but she is such a good, good dog.
Yesterday, she was POSITIVE that she heard Aaron coming home from work. So, I let her hang out on the front porch to greet him while I did some work in the front room.
And there she waited. Patiently. For 45 minutes.
THAT is devotion. A little early, perhaps, but devotion nonetheless.
...on Saturday mornings, contractors working in the neighborhood ring your doorbell just because "I'm working down the street and noticed that your place could use a little work."
Tonight, after a work filled weekend (we'll fill you in later), we took a few hours off to go "a little crazy"...out for some posh Vietnamese cuisine (yum!) and then on to some highbrow entertainment.
From 7:00 am to 10:00 am today, we have had a plethora of adventures.
(What a good word...plethora. Say it out loud. Sounds good, doesn't it?)
7:00 am We pulled M's old dining room rug outside to finally air it out and beat the dust out of it. Meanwhile, we found a few large water damage spots underneath it (sigh).
You know, the statistics from this web site are pretty interesting to us. Many folks find their way here via a home improvement topic or maybe a phrase that exists in our "What on Earth?" section.
And some search engine phrases...well...we don't know how they connect to us.
But we learn a lot from them.
For instance, a searcher recently typed in "how fast does a spider run?" and it directed them to our web page. Because we HAVE discussed spiders, but have not answered this specific question, I became curious. How fast DOES a spider run...on your bedroom ceiling...at 2:00 am?
Luckily, this site had a clue. It tells us that a spider can run 330 times its length in 10 seconds. That is too fast to make me comfortable. That means a one inch long spider can sprint from 27.5 feet ACROSS THE ROOM to ABOVE MY HEAD in 10 seconds. If I don't see it before it sees me, that is.
Today we prepared for the next wave of attack on the house by moving our things to the other first floor bedroom.
This will allow us to remove the ceiling from the first bedroom. It's in pretty bad shape, so it was coming down eventually, and at this point we'll need to get in there to sister the joists below the master bathroom upstairs.
So, in a way it was "moving day" almost exactly one year after we moved out of our condo! Aside from the new bedroom being slightly smaller, the biggest change is probably just the scenery...
...you know that a "Code 3" at Lowe's means they need more cashiers.
They seem to come in bunches! We'd been working on our own for a while now, when all of the sudden we've had three in a week. Last Monday it was attic insulation removal and decontamination, Thursday it was an estimate on the chimney repair, and today it was another estimate--air conditioning.
The nice thing about the A/C one is the more direct benefit we'd get from it, versus the repair-related work. The down side is that we're going to end up taking night shift jobs to pay for this all.
While sympathetic, the A/C guy seemed cool (pun intended) to my suggestion that they consider doing it for free as a tax-deductible act of charity.
We've been behind in posting this week because very little "Progress" is taking place. E is in town and is our guest for a few nights as his brother graduates from seminary this Saturday.
Regular life intervenes sometimes...
p.s. Rev Michael Louis Pflager and Rev. Dr. F. Burton Nelson received the honorary doctorates at the ceremony. Sometimes the good guys, who stand up for social justice and REAL compassion, do get recognized...
After having one of our tools break the other day, I realized that big-box retail has really changed shopping. There's something to be said for the local hardware store that knows your name or the Sears store with their walk-in lifetime exchange guarantee. (They do still do that, don't they?)
For some reason, one of their commercials really sticks in my head from when I was a kid. A guy walks into Sears with a broken hammer (or was it a crescent wrench?) that he's had forever. He apologizes for not having a receipt, but the salesman says, "That isn't a problem." He walks over to exchange the tool for him. That was it. People in commercials sure were nice back then.
We are very, very lucky to live in a neighborhood where our friendly vet ONLY makes housecalls.
Less overhead...easy on everyone.
So Dr. Jim came this weekend and Coco was a very brave patient as she had some growths removed from her sleek brown head, her nose and her ear (she was starting to scratch them...that's when we decided to call him in.) He had only expected to give her a heartworm shot...right there in the dining room...but quickly and easily performed a little surgery with antiseptic, needle, local anesthetic, sutures and Nurses JM and Aaron attending.
Do women want diamonds and pearls? And silk dresses? Or furs?
(Double-click on any of the above to take a closer look...they are from a copy of Harper's Bazaar)
HGTV continues to churn out 30-minute programs as quickly as they make home improvements look like they'll take. (And that is SO WRONG!) The latest show we've been Tivo-ing is Restore America, a show focused on historic and vintage properties.
Better than average, the show still suffers from the two shortcomings common to nearly all such shows:
- It looks too easy.
- Someone won the lottery.
That said, the episode we just saw was kind of cool, featuring three restored properties that included one California bungalow.
What? Doesn't everyone have creeping black mold in their computer room forcing them to work like this?
I have a deadline. To finish this media project before it kills me.
OK, so another funny milestone along this strange journey. Yesterday the story of our house adventures was on our local public radio station, Chicago Public Radio, on the local show 848 and during All Things Considered.
This Old, Stuffed House
Lisa Labuz ? Correspondent, Chicago Public Radio News
We hear the story of a Chicago couple that bought their first home...and got a whole lot more than they bargained for.
You can listen to the story in their online archives if you have Real Media Player. Click here. Or click on the June 7th broadcast and scroll down to that segment....or search for "stuffed house" on the Internet.
PS - Yes, we're fans and members of public radio. You should be too, even if you live outside of Chicago their programming is worth an online listen! Join here.
Aaron's sister is married! Congrats Kj & Joe!
I am realizing that our digital camera is revealing more than just the interior of our house...it is exposing how my mind works.
And that is really frightening to me.
Everyone ELSE was fascinated by Alaska's majestic beauty as seen from the lovely town of Seward at the edge of Resurrection Bay, surrounded by gorgeous mountains and icefields.
I was worried that the little guy on the sign wasn't running fast enough to escape a watery death.
So, we flew back from Alaska on United and their June issue of Hemispheres magazine featured an interview with Norm Abrams from This Old House. Hemispheres is actually a great magazine, so not surprisingly the interview was well done. It focused on the legacy of the venerable home improvement show (now in its 25th year), the status of home restoration in America, and even how This Old House has gone rather high-end in recent years.
We are researching ways to restore the brick for the chimney and side walls, as well as equipment for (maybe) installing central air.
And not kill our budget.
And work outside of the house at our real jobs has been pretty crazy.
But in an interesting development, it is the thousand legger time of year again for all you fans out there. Here's the lovely speciman we found in the bathtub.
Two great community-focused ideas came across my reading list over the past week that seemed to have great potential:
While both great, couldn't these be even better together? I think a local website that focused on a neighorhood and facilitated the sharing of information and resources could be incredibly powerful. Existing libraries or community centers could even act as a hub for this type of thing as an extension of their existing services.
It would take a pretty tech-savvy neighborhood to work, but you never know...I was impressed to read recently how a a neighborhood listserv was used to share community news over on the Little White Bungalow weblog.
I haven't written much on the blog in the last few weeks. It isn't that I have run out of things to say about the house and the work on it (oh no!) But my body seems to be working against me these days, which makes posting a bit harder.
Map courtesy of Holt, Rhinehart and Winston
Often in the middle of an attack of insomnia, I will turn to Coco as my sounding board. I register complaints, fears and dreams about this house project with her.
But this year, it is not a JUNGLE in HERE...thank goodness.
We had a raccoon family living in our attic. This family has decided to live in the grape arbor a few doors down. Easy pickins' eh?
Click the picture to get a closer look. It's like playing Where's Waldo?
I know. I know. They can be helpful. They kill other bugs.
But the bathroom is mine, darn it. I'm defending it with my life (and a great big old flyswatter.)
They have the basement, the attic, the crawlspaces, one of the first floor bedrooms, the second floor and garage. I want to have the little part of the house that we are camping out in. (About 600-700 square feet).
(Yes, he is 2.5 inches long...plus some probably.)
We worked and worked. Right through the holiday. Next couple of entries we'll let you know how it went.
Right now, I'm just going to share some snaps of the debris after dinner in the backyard.
Mark (Aaron's dad) snuck up on us with some Black Cats :)
It has been amazing to discover the most important side benefit of all to keeping track of our Home Renovation Adventure!tm in photos and a daily diary.
Most Important Side Benefit
Keeping your sense of humor.
*I think Home Renovation Adventure! sounds better than Home Renovation Nightmare!, don't you? Much more positive. It's all about "spin," you know?
I was searching for something on the 'Net tonight, stumbled across this photo, and it made me laugh.
sorry for the lack of posts...our DSL has been down the last few days. It is easy to forget how s l o w dial-up is!
Anyway, SBC is sending a tech specialist out tomorrow so hopefully we be postng again regularly soon.
Is there a law that Murphy proposed that maps the relationship of things that break occuring at points in linear time?
Because, if there is, it would probably read something like this:
"One major appliance or vehicle breaking down and needing major attention that requires payment for repairs will inspire a Mechanical Item Revolt whereby ALL mechanical items will be affected."
Therefore, the lawn mower decided to join two cars, the DSL, the washing machine, the sewer line, the grill and the oven in the Great Mechanical Item Revolt, Summer of 2004.
This entry will not have a photo.
Living in chaos (walls down...stuff everywhere) it is common for us to run around in the morning trying to escape from the house for work, errands, appointments. This involves climbing over, around, down and through things. Quickly. The dog is trying to follow you and panting. The phone is ringing. The cat is meowing. You look for your glasses and often find them on your head. Well, I do anyway.
So it shouldn't be a complete surprise that after flying through the house, fishing around for keys, loading things in the car, dropping things off, popping in at my mother-in-law's office, looking for change for the meter, whipping through Target and taking the car in for its air test that I would be distracted.
Shhh! Aaron's sleeping and so is Dave the cat. I thought Coco was too, but she is trying to get my attention. She's led me here...
...to the refridgerator.
Coco is waiting. Watching. WANTING. Something.
I think that's it. August in Chicago. We could all use some right now.
p.s. Coco's giving a shout out to Cincy pal, Scout!
Scout is at the ready to relieve Coco on A/C Watch. 'Cause dogs hang together like that, y'know?
Apparently, the crew of Trading Spaces descended upon the Chicago suburb of Glen Ellyn last week. The article confirms what you'd expect--the work became a neighborhood spectacle and there were two contractors behind the scenes for every person on camera. It sounds like the speed of everything makes for a hazardous work environment, too...
"Pastor...shot herself with a nail gun Wednesday night and had to be taken to the hospital, according to neighbors."
Today, I want to run away from home. Well. Maybe not "from home." From "this house."
No particular reason, except that I feel burnt out on broken house/car/body. All the
party people renovation people in the house, give me a "Yeh! Yehhhhhh!"
I woke up late this morning, which meant that I woke Aaron up with a shout from the kitchen, "How much do you love me?"
Everyone who is married will recognize this for the unfair and manipulative question that it is. For him, I'm sure it was like being woken up at some twisted marriage bootcamp.
"Very much, ma'am! Reporting for duty, ma'am!"
Yeah....we love AUGUST in Chicago.
What is up with this weather? Pollution blotting out the sun? Global warming? Or a REALLY big bird? Your guess is as good as mine.
(Sorry, I HAVE to include this because it is one of the most unfortunate logos EVER...
We think that this house is trying to break us.
We are trying not to take it personally.
Now that MY back is better, Aaron has thrown out HIS back. And, at 6'7", he has a MUCH larger back to throw out.
(subtitle: A very real renovation story)
We don't know if Heather and Jon live in a bungalow. And that isn't the point anyway.
Heather's account of their kitchen renovation in her 8th month of pregnancy is so poignant, so hilarious, so...so...full of Chuck goodness that it is worth passing along.
p.s. I was catching up with The Rage Diaries this morning (August 17th) when I saw that they had ALSO linked to the Armstrong story....and....to our blog in the same entry. Whoa. Can someone say synchronicity"? (Jung, not Sting) No? You can't? How about "strange coincidence"? That should be easier....
Would the cheerleading squad please report to the House in Progress? Any fellow Old House people in the house?
'Cause we have an old house motivation emergency!
I am a frequent poster and reader of your site and I am in serious need of motivation lately. I was looking on the internet and the forums, newsgroups etc. about WHAT exactly motivates us Old House people?
So my dad and I went to Lowes today to pick up a replacement attic fan and a few other things J and I needed. We also went to the lumber section, since my parents need to replace some rotting planks in their deck. He needed cedar but we also walked by the standard pine 2x4s where I stopped and noticed...wood prices have gone through the roof!
I am a better person as a result of owning a dog.
This story is so awful. I can't even imagine. I'm speechless.
Whoa. What happened?
When did Fall start? DID Fall start? Where was I?
We decided to hoof it out of town for Labor Day to visit my parents and one of my sisters. We felt somewhat guilty, yet also defiant, sneaking out of the house and heading towards relaxation. No "to do" lists. No schedules. It was bliss.
We were hoping the whole house did not crumble in our absence. It did not. Dave the Cat opted to stay home in the arms of Caitie, our compassionate neighbor, whom he adores.
My family is camera shy. So here we are sitting around playing cards, drinking wine and trading barbs with each other. We also started to talk politics...a topic you should never discuss with your family. Oh well.
Home Depot has been building a new store north of us, and today was their grand opening. I'm trying to ignore the fact that they managed to build an entire store before we could finish our upstairs renovation.
I was going to take a walk through the new store but when I drove by there was a line of more than 100 people outside! At first I wondered if there was some first-day discount, but then I noticed lots of kids so I figured one of the Chicago Cubs or Bears was signing autographs. I had a trunk full of groceries so I decided not to wait and headed home.
Although I was grouchy earlier in the week, this isn't my fault!!! Honest!!!
Tropical Storm Jeanne
I have a feeling that my sisters will have something to say about this.
Jay's been over the last few nights installing the skylights.
He should finish up tomorrow. We'll post the photos then.
Aaron did an admirable job of holding down (and proceeding with!) the fort this weekend while I snuck away for some spiritual renewal.
Sorry for the scarcity of actual "work moving forward" photos.
We are really, REALLY tired. I look especially bad when I am tired. Here I am from last night. I put on my "thinking cap" to try to come with some rejuvenating ideas.
Nothing. I've got nothing. Even my cap was too tired.
ohmigosh, it is almost midnight and I am just getting home from work. On a Friday.
Please forgive me if I just zone out and have nothing, absolutely nothing, original to say.
It is eversokind of you to keep dropping by when we have been so lame. Here...um...read some interesting House Stories. These are fun.
Here are some more things to keep you busy that you'll enjoy...
No, not ours :( We still have no room!
A friend of ours is moving to a smaller apartment after decades in her flawlessly maintained Chicago-style bungalow. She is selling the contents of her house.
I cannot go because we are still trying to deal with the contents that we inherited! But she is a VSP** who will no doubt have a lovely, organized sale of vintage household items.
5236 N. Bernard Avenue
8:00 am to 3:00 pm
Friday, October 1st
**Very special person
Everyone has some kind of horror story about a couple breaking up because of a house renovation.
Which would really be quite awful. I mean, wow, like who would get custody of the miter saw? And how could Aaron live without my awful hat?
About a week and a half ago, we asked people to send in their worst house stories when we posted this picture of Derek's "Mother of all Mouse Nests"...
Now it's time to VOTE FOR YOUR CANDIDATES!!!
This was supposed to be a different post than the one that follows. But this is what really happened during the course of my day. So it goes...
1) Get home from sleep study at 5:30 am. This sounds like an oxymoron. Is it really a sleep study...if you have to get up so early?
2) Left new book, America the Book: A Guide to Democracy Inaction, at the hospital. Feel frustrated with my increasing absentmindedness.
3) Dave the Cat is angry with me for being gone overnight.
You know, when you take on house renovation, you tend to hear a LOT of horror stories. I think my "skin crawling moment" happened when I read about Heather and David's episode with the mites this past summer.
And ALL of the stories have been uniquely horrifying moments that any home owner could look back upon and hope (HOPE!) to be able to laugh at one day.
The voters for HIP's contest have spoken. Although all of the entries received votes, a winner clearly emerged by midnight on Friday.
Dave--a good friend, fellow bungalow owner, and architect--forwarded on an ad for a book he came across. It was so disturbing I had to post it here...
Increase your effectiveness in requesting change orders, while simplifying your work and boosting your change order approval rate.
I can't believe a book like this exists! Wait--yes I can.
I am so out of the closet about my lifelong relationship with depression that it has become very old news.
But if you are wondering why I have started, but not completed or posted umpteen (that IS a number, right?) entries on the house lately, blame my biochemistry.
I was in Home Depot recently where I started out simply looking for a old storm window "push out" hinge and ended up in a tradin' smack talk episode with an HD employee in Aisle 8 who was trying to convince me that I was a fool for not replacing my wood windows with aluminum clad.
(Thanks, Tony, for the link about HD)
You'd think, since I am 38 and he was looking down the far side of 50-something, that both of us would be above the, "Oh yeah? Well, let me tell YOU something..." rhetoric from fourth grade.
We were not, I am sorry to report.
In the middle of doing laundry last night, our 1993 Kenmore Heavy Duty dryer turned on me...it actually growled and opened its maw and spit out the words...
NO. MORE. TOWELS!
Most days it seems imperative that I get all of the storm windows fixed as soon as possible. That every hour needs to be about getting it all done.
And then...there are moments like this.
Tonight, Aaron came home while I was cleaning the bathtub and coaxed me upstairs to the roof...to watch the lunar eclipse.
Leaning back against the peak of our bungalow roof, we felt pretty calm and peaceful. It helped that our bungalow roof is the classic low pitched roof.
(Image courtesy of the DiscoveryChannel.com because my camera couldn't capture this.)
By the little tree in my backyard, I can see that it is no longer Fall.
This weekend has been a tougher one than usual..med complications had laid me low on the one night in weeks (last night) where we planned to have some fun and enchantment with pals.
Instead, I spent the evening shivering in my bed with a cup of cammomile tea, classical music being piped into my headphones and praying for the release of sleep. My best prayer I learned from Anne Lamott. It is quite easy. It goes like this: "Please, please, please, please..."
No whining, though! Especially since the party came to me tonight. :)
All of a sudden, everything looks grey to me, like those grainy photographs from Dorothea Lange:
You may not want to read on. This is one of the few entries not about the house...but about a different kind of improvement.
...you find yourself giving a house tour to friends, and you REALLY see things you hadn't really noticed in awhile THROUGH THEIR EYES. You realize that you are comfortable living with things that others find quite strange looking.
Here's the paneling that we removed when we were assessing the condition of the original fireplace. Six months ago. Somehow, we have become comfortable with this wrecked wall behind the piano.
Coco and I actually pulled it together and got some things done today. So, we went to the drive-thru Starbucks to celebrate with a rare treat.
Here, Coco is thinking, "You know, I bet they sell cookies in there."
Back when I used to hang out at the Old Town School of Folk Music, I learned a song called the Lincoln Park Pirates.
It is about tow truck drivers in Chicago.
Today, Aaron came home with the sniffles and a slight fever. Which never happens because Aaron NEVER EVER GETS SICK.
Okay, true TRUE confession time. When I was a teenager, I could not WAIT to get away from my parents. But now that I am an adult with a large dirty, broken house; and I seem to be hungry and cold all the time?
I WANT MY MOM! I WANT MY DAD!
Are they not hot? Yes. Yes, they are hot. They are SO MUCH MORE hot than the poor guy in the link.
There is an extra bonus photo below of my dad without the moustache.
We awoke this morning to the beauty of Chicago's first snow fall...
We have a lot to be thankful for (sometimes, it's good to remind yourself of that in the middle of a house renovation.) Like...
The holiday recipes on my mom's side of the family are taken so seriously, they are successfully used as blackmail over future generations.
You think I am kidding about this? I am not. I am almost certain that my mother is withholding an ingredient from the list for the traditional gravy recipe so that she will always have that bargaining chip until the end. I fully expect my sisters and I, decades from now, to be gathered around her bed with our index cards in hand as my mother gives her final lesson.
"Remember! (cough) Flour, NOT corn starch. Your Nanny insisted on this. And the last ingredient is...is..."
I went to grab a towel from the linen closet and....whoa! What's this?
Yes, you read that correctly.
Aaron has a new name for me. The House-pochondriac. He's says that this is a bit like a HYPO-chondriac, only different.
Just because I tend to wake him at 1:00 a.m. with:
- Is that the dishwasher? Ohmigosh. Why has it been running for FIVE HOURS?
You know, insomnia is SO PRODUCTIVE. Inspired by the Clark Creek House's advice to use Photoshop instead of dusting to "reframe" my reality, I went into action to transform the front of the house.
I used Photoshop late (LATE) one night to experiment with how our house might look with a new paint job and new landscaping. Not our best choices, but I was working fast and tired. This "paint your own reality thing"? It really has promise!
I've been looking through all of these theme albums and there are NONE that apply to us. None.
There ARE no albums for Old House owners trying to fix things up. So, you know what?
WE ARE GOING TO CREATE ONE TOGETHER for the holidays!!!
When my parents came out for the holidays, they brought some photos with them.
They had driven through the little town where we had rented a house on a farm when I was in the first and second grade (St. Marys, Ohio). This was my first old house. It sparked my love of old houses.
You sent in your ideas and, from those, we created the ultimate old house lover's collection!!! We tried to cover a variety of artists and styles so that you could tailor your own favorites from this list.
We ended up with over 130 songs from the submissions on this site, Fine Homebuilding's Breaktime Forum and our own research. They were so much fun to put together, I didn't think publishing a list was quite enough. So, we published our very own iMix Playlist in iTunes...
Note: You'll have to have iTunes installed to use this link. Don't worry--it's free!
iTunes will let you listen to 30-second samples of each song in the iMix, then buy the songs you like if you want them. Or you can dig them out of your own record collection! (This allowed us to share the fun without running afoul of copyright issues.)
Yesterday, in the comments section, I professed my true feelings for the community of folks who are working on old houses...
If you didn't catch it...
I love you and you guys rock my soul to the ground.
I was feeling grumpy and very Scroogish. Insomnia has been kicking me in the head and I have been averaging 3-4 hours of sleep per night (whoo! hoo!) since last Thursday.
And then everyone wrote such nice things that I felt very ashamed of my hand wringing behavior and felt all warm and fuzzy and...well. Let's just say it was like cuddlin' with my cat, Dave...but without the hairballs and Little Friskies breath.
I think we need to have our own national festival or something.
Aaron is the calm, brave action-oriented spouse.
I tend to be the frantic researcher who seesaws between introversion and extroversion, joy and despair, black and white, night and day...I think you get the picture.
I will be intrigued by something...a laundry chute, for instance. And I will research laundry chutes, examine other laundry chutes, take measurements, calculate the mass a wadded up bedsheet will create in a laundry chute.
Aaron will simply cut a hole in the floor and get it going.
Okay, sorry for the double post, but Coco wanted to wish everyone a Merry Christmas.
After a year and a HALF (wow), we are taking our first vacation from posting on the site. With all of the activity and the relatives and the making merry, we thought, "Hmmm. We are dolts if we don't try to get some of that!" So, we are.
Please PLEASE PLEASE come back by the Monday AFTER Christmas for some more HouseInProgress.
What's coming up before New Year's Day? PLENTY!
Oh, man. Time off from chores. The best pre-Christmas gift ever.
(Thanks to the illustrator from Chicago Magazine who drew this graphic. They cleaned us up nicely. And made me feel a little like Laura Croft. In reality, everything is not in such good shape, if you catch my drift.)
Hmmm. The AirGuide Company tells me it is 30 degrees outside and 58 degrees inside.
Here at HouseInProgress--home to the strange and whackaloon--we offer you this little musical number composed during an afternoon of breathing more rubber cement fumes than can be good for you. We give you...
The Twelve MONTHS of an OLD HOUSE Christmas
aka "The Priority Song"
(Sung to the tune of "Twelve Days of Christmas")
For the 1st MONTH AFTER Christmas, while sweeping up debris,
I sighed, "...We really should take down that Christmas tree."
Personally, I'm not a fan of resolutions. Just beginning the New Year with yet ANOTHER list of things to do or not do seems rather daunting right now.
Coco and Dave made their lists so I thought I would post them here. So, you know, they would feel supported and all. (Lisa? Have Angus & Larry made their lists yet?)
Dave's 2005 Resolutions
1. To get more exercise. Or at least try to move my body from place to place for more than my current 20 minutes a day.
2. To not tease the dog by lying in front of her food dish.
This bathtub...(secondhand purchase, the real vintage deal)...
The trick to Survivor Bungalow is to OUTLAST your funds, your energy level and your desire to chuck the whole thing.
I am, of course, being overly dramatic. :)
We have been sleeping in the "map room" for much too long now.
With no heat. Waking up with grit on our front teeth from all of the renovation flotsam and jetsam that hangs in the air. Climbing over boxes and belongings to get to the bed.
And I'm starting to see things in the maps on the wall before I turn off the light at night.
I stare at this map, wishing for sleep.
As a little girl, I used to go with my dad to the community lumberyard in SW Pennsylvania.
I loved it.
I loved the smell of wood. I loved hardware and doors and windows and trim. I loved the enormous cavern of a room where the wood was stacked.
So, when Aaron asked me to go on an errand with him this morning to Lee Lumber, I jumped at the chance.
OK, Jeannie's really tired so I'm on deck for today's entry. Trouble is, as much as I try to focus on home improvement stuff like this...
...my mind keeps wandering to cool toys like this...
With the snow and cold this weekend, our regular kitchen facility is a little...um...chilly.
So, we adapt. Working on an old house requires you to be very adaptable. Especially if you are living in it while working on it.
...you feel guilt for any seven-day period when you don't work on your house...even if you've been working on the house non-stop for months.
Just as a tip...if this makes you feel guilty then definitely DON'T start a blog where you write daily about your progress. Then you feel REALLY guilty when you don't work on the house.
Old house lovers are very passionate people :)
Only one entrance in and out of the second floor and it is straight through the dining room and living room...or the dining room and the kitchen.
Someday. Grit free. 48 hours.
p.s. Yes, that is actually a hole in my clog. It's one of three. New clogs as soon as I have somewhere clean to keep them.
Being sick is totally, TOTALLY boring. That is, after all of the pudding is gone. (Don't worry. I'm not terminal or contagious. I think.)
Anyhoo. Being bored AND sick AND having access to a computer, I decided to let my brain jump the tracks today and present you with abode-related linky goodness not entirely having to do with our own House In Progress. I decided to comb the internet for fun house-related stuff around the internet neighborhood.
Don't worry. We'll return to our regularly scheduled programming tomorrow.
Last week, some guys helping to deliver some materials forgot to shut the front door behind themselves.
Three hours later (!) when this was discovered, you can see:
a) where the mailperson neatly stacked the mail inside of the doorway.
b) we are heating the city of Chicago.
c) Dave's wistful look as he discovers the open door the same time that I do. If he hadn't been napping, the world could have been his oyster. Or cat toy. Or...whatever.
Poor Dave. Poor Dave.
It's raining here this morning. We're gearing up to head down to the basement (gack!)
And then, we had a super cool visitor!
Valentine's Day + Aaron's Birthday = Whoo hoo! Celebration! Busy-ness
So....surprise Valentine's dinner on the still to be finished second floor...
Today we have something new to share. It's a little project we've been working on in our spare time (when it's too cold to go to the 2nd floor) that we've decided to share with all of you!
If you're a fan of home improvement like us, you've noticed that a lot more house-related weblogs have been cropping up. Keeping track of all these 'house blogs'--and even finding the newest ones--is a challenge.
So after talking about it for a while, J had a bit of a brainstorm...
I've avoided writing about this because I'm just not comfortable with the concept of it happening. However, in the interests of "keeping it real", it's important to me that we record exactly what is going on at HouseInProgress. I've been laying low for a number of weeks (and will continue to be) in my quest to straighten out some health issues that are related to one another and complex and not at all very fun.
So, heads up 'cause my mom from Virginia is coming for awhile to help hold down the fort. (w00t! Go Mom! Chicken soup for everybody!)
My younger sisters and I excel at making inappropriate jokes in the face of adversity... especially if that adversity is our own. I can't share these jokes...you just have to trust me here. Trust me that you would be horrified at my lack of respect for the authority of adversity. If Miss-Fortune was a mean teacher at an all-girl's boarding school, my sisters and I would be constantly in trouble for wearing purple glitter fingernail polish (not part of the uniform dress code!) and sneaking smokes behind the gym.
Not that we ever, EVER did that in real life. Ever. Actually. Ahem.
You'd think that two people who broadcast their trial-and-error home improvement stories over the Internet for thousands of people to read would have pretty thick skin. Of course, you'd be wrong.
Bring just one contractor into our house and suddenly I'm tripping over myself apologizing for past mistakes. Bring a whole crew in and it's enough to send me into hiding.
Mom and I are keeping busy knitting while Aaron's been taking care of things. (What a hunk he is!)
Hey, we're a part of a middle school Social Studies assignment! (Scroll down to 'Resources' and 'Family Stories About Bungalows.')
Because we both have worked in education, we think that this is really fun...
Being a dog is 90% fun. And 10% bathtime.
(Yep. We've got towels on the bottom of the tub to protect the refinished surface.)
We're at another one of those moments...working on the house can be a rollercoaster of "How cool is this! We're creating our own space out of this old house!" and "Again? We have to work again this weekend? Sigh."
That's when we really have to grope around for inspiration. To recharge our batteries. To refuel our passion for all of this.
To do this, we might have to head up to our old stomping grounds (Evanston, Illinois AND Northwestern University) soon...to the Block Museum!
This winter it has been especially dry in the house. Static electricity...dry skin...the works. The cat looks perpetually electrocuted. Fur sticking straight out in all directions.
And a I have constantly stuffy nose. *Sniff!*
Before I went out to look at humidifiers, I decided to try an old-fashioned remedy. I went down to the basement and came back up with some of these. I scrubbed them out as best I could with vinegar and water, and then attached them to the radiators.
Whew! Aaron was rocking and rolling this weekend! He got the new design of HouseBlogs.net up!
Yesterday, winter seemed to be dragging on FOREVER. Grey skies day after day after day. February and March have the same affect on me as it has on gardenias...
...you start to calculate small projects (like new light fixtures) in terms of the number of Starbucks trips you could skip to offset the cost.
So, I was at a work-related party last week. As is always the case, conversation eventually drifted to our fixer-upper (people always ask "Still doing that website?") and then to home improvement in general (my attempt to shift the focus from what can always be a very long story).
Often I can trump others with at least one of the wacky stories from our own place, but this time I was pleasantly surprised that the most outrageous story of the group came from someone else!
So, I figured I should share it here on their behalf...
Is this all made even more bizarre by the fact that NPR did a piece on synchronicity while I was driving home Monday from work! A sign that good things are headed our way!? You decide...
For those who celebrate it, have a happy Easter weekend!
(found via Wooster Collective)
...to bring you the Final Four.
Dave is bored since we are otherwise occupied. Back to work tomorrow though.
Oh please, please, please. Don't let this be a tease. Please tell me that Spring is REALLY here and we aren't going to be socked with an April snowstorm.
It's Jeannie's birthday today. But don't tell anyone, because she doesn't like to make a big deal about it.
What's she getting for her birthday this year? What everybody working on a fixer-upper needs--breakfast in bed and no work on the house today! ;-)
What a nice birthday...thanks all. From breakfast in bed, to time spent with friends, to the day off from housework :) A very sweet day.
When good friends Kurt & Jenna came for brunch (at Tre Kronor, of course), they left this surprise in the garden...
Now I know that it is Spring for sure.
Because the city workers have emerged from hibernation. It's like seeing the first robin of Spring, but driving a blue truck and wearing a yellow safety vest. Ah, the tree pruners.
So I have written a special poem. With apologies to Joyce Kilmer.
Mike from Yet Another D*mn Blog has one of the best tips EVER for finding local contractors and such.
It's also one of the funniest to someone like me who, even though technology advances in leaps and bounds, can't always let go of her Luddite ways.
...you feel bad on a Sunday that you didn't accomplish enough during the weekend, even though you put in over eight hours on projects.
Overly ambitious expectations are a dangerous thing.
Coco and I took a break on this beautiful day to hike down to the local grocery. When I experience days like this in Chicago (temperature in the 60's, sunny, blue sky), I remember why I love to live here and why I put up with February.
We live in such an interesting and ethically diverse neighborhood. I love the countryside, but I would really miss the tiny ethnic restaurants that line Kedzie Avenue.
Especially when you can feast on half of a roast chicken with fresh garlic sauce for $3.50!!! Take THAT, you fast food restaurants!
My pal Lisa and I are both in the market for a combination storm/screen door.
It would be nice to have a wood storm door, but many places we checked into don't have a great reputation for the sturdiness of the work. So we contacted a local contractor for a quote. Nothing overly fancy. No fancy moulding. No carvings or special details. But sturdy. Something that won't fall apart in a year.
And then we got the quote. Lisa got hers first and called me immediately.
Last night, Aaron and I headed over to Hopleaf in Andersonville for a special houseblogs occasion...
My sister and her family are moving! They are selling their cute little house north of Pittsburgh.
Our kitchen is currently back online and working, thank goodness, but I was thinking of our old "out of commission kitchen" while making dinner last night.
Even though our kitchen is working, sometimes it is difficult to make dinner after we're messy from working all day or too tired to slice and dice. I always fall back on my "out of commission kitchen recipes" when this happens.
Before we sunk all of our savings into "the house", Aaron and I spent three weeks backpacking through mainland China...from the southwest to the northeast. And, most days, we ate "hot pot"...often in a house or back alley stall. There we learned to appreciate the simplicity of one dish meals.
Yesterday, we attended the 2005 Chicago Bungalow Exposition. We hadn't gone since 2003 and it certainly had grown!
The first year for the expo was 2003. There were more vendors in 2005, but there was also much more space. In 2003, I remember crawling through crowds to each vendor table in a space barely larger than our living room. This year they'd reserved about five times the space and it certainly helped.
I have officially crossed the line into the realm of the house obsessed.
Last night I was reading an old clothing catalog before tossing it away (in a fit of decluttering). I realized halfway through that I was no longer paying attention to the models or the clothing.
I was very interested in what was BEHIND the models and the clothes. So instead of seeing a page that looks like this...
I stayed up late last night and was sorting through some old photos of our condo in Evanston. It is hard to remember what it was like to live in a space that was relatively easy to keep clean, where you could invite friends with children and not worry about stray nails or plaster dust.
But we did live in a clean space once upon a time...
Really. We really did.
Does anyone out there know of a particularly good product/method for sharpening hand tools?
It's been years since my tools have gotten such a workout! And a sharp tool is an efficient tool. I was using one of the block planes for scribing trim and realized that many tools in here are WAY overdue to be sharpened.
File this one under lessons learned. After two years, almost all of my clothes seem to have a DIY-related hole, stain or smudge of paint on them. (We'll ignore the cat hair for the purpose of this discussion.)
My way of handling this? Continue on my merry way and just get frustrated each time it happens. I continue to absent-mindedly wear these clothes to work, which you can only explain away for a while ("You see, we bought this really old house full of stuff...")
Jeannie, being much smarter of course, finally sits me down and makes me do two simple things...
Pointed out to me recently...the irony in decluttering the basement and attic while continuing to keep stacks of...
Real Simple Magazine.
With many apologies to William Carlos Williams...
Feeling a bit of DIYer-fatigue combined with blogger-fatigue, we're taking a one day posting vacation (and going to see Star Wars tonight, too!).
If your looking for good house reading, you can always check out everyone elses musings over at HouseBlogs.net! Since this is the week of the National Hardware Show down in Vegas, the HouseBlogs site has lots of posts on the fun gadgets being introduced at the show.
See you tomorrow!
Here I was, after 11 pm last night, when everyone else was asleep...
What was I reading while trying to get to sleep? A romance novel? A mystery>
|Saturday marked the two year anniversary of our purchase of this house. Like the first year, we didn't accomplish as much as we would have hoped. Reviewing our first year anniversary write-up, we hit about half of what we said we hoped to do in year two. Yeah, that sounds about right...|
How to quickly confuse the guys at the big box hardware stores?
I vaguely recall discussions in which I questioned the "costly" investment in central air when we had so many other improvements to get done.
I take it all back...
Didn't we just celebrate one of these? Oh yeah, that was a different type of anniversary...
Yesterday marked the fourth year of our marriage. We went to a favorite tapas place to celebrate. We went because had a gift certificate, which was thrifty but which also made us feel older and less hip for some reason...?
The funniest moment was probably when I told J how I felt so lucky about all the things that had happened in my life since meeting her...and she could only think of this. She thought I was crazy.
Call me nuts, but I'd do it all again...
I trooped downstairs this afternoon to snap this photo of Aaron working on a few pieces of trim that he needs for the second floor...
ChrisC of A Fisherman's House fame sent us a fun set of interview questions as part of meme that is circulating around the blogosphere. (You can read the answers to her meme questions as part of her other blog, A Pretty How Town.) So, I jotted down my answers and then asked Aaron for his input. You'll be able to tell from the text here which one of us is the chatty one and which one is the strong, silent type. ChrisC would make an excellent journaliste.
1) What has been the most challenging aspect of renovating this place for you as a couple? What about you individually?
...you start to think that your odds are probably pretty good at winning that $5,000 gift card if you'd just gather up all your receipts and go online to do that Home Depot's customer satisfaction survey.
We did get some good work done on the bathroom trim this evening (almost there!) but we didn't take any photos. We should have an update tomorrow, though, so check back in 24 hours if you like.
In the meantime, if you're looking for good home improvement reading check out what other people were up to, as summarized in This Week in Houseblogging...
Um, wow! We just got an email letting us know that a bunch of houseblogs are in today's edition of the Wall Street Journal. So, I darted out at lunch and snapped up a few copies from a local bookstore.
And, what do you know? There is an article! (You can read it online by subscribing to the WSJ Online.)
or, LOCATION! LOCATION! LOCATION!
Just wanting to remind all HouseBloggers to check their position on the new map over at the HouseBlogs.net site.
Aaron didn't have coordinates for everyone and didn't want to locate someone hundreds of miles away from their house by accident. (Though Chicago Two-Flat accidentally moved to Seattle for the weekend...welcome back guys!) And some we are still researching coordinates for.
We got a lot more comments on Tuesday's post than I expected. There are obviously lots of great techniques and lessons learned out there for refinishing heavily painted woodwork. So it got me thinking....
I'm wondering if it's possible for other housebloggers out there to write up summaries on your techniques for stripping & refinishing trip. Whether your doing it now or it's been a while, a step-by-step "how to" recap is what I'm thinking of. Which tools? What chemicals? Tricks or lessons learned? Mistakes to avoid? A simple write-up would do, but the more photos the better.
I'll post my own more detailed write up this weekend, so more to come shortly. As for others folks out there, I'd love to see your approach. If we get enough I could see creating a mini-index of them over on houseblogs to help us and others learn from first-hand experiences.
Anyway, just a thought...
...while Aaron was talking to a co-worker about our house...
"Well, it's more SPECTACLE than SPECTACULAR, actually...."
This is just an extra entry to direct you to the story about The Fallon Project on the front page of HouseBlogs.net today. If it doesn't move you, you can't be moved with the biggest backhoe ever.
To see the project for yourself, you can visit the Fallon Project site directly.
OK, so we're out of the house tonight and staying at my parents house tonight because OUR HOUSE TOTALLY STINKS! The fumes from the stain are too strong!
I didn't even get to see the stain myself, because it was still drying when I got home.
Jeanne was there during the day, though, and says it looks really good.
We'll see if we can get a few quick pics tomorrow so we can share how it's shaping up...
Finishing any large project always involves finishing a hodge-podge of random, tiny tasks. Since there's no connection between those tasks, each one takes a ton of time.
Finishing an entire floor extends that process tenfold, I think.
We don't know precisely what the site has to say (Japanese-English translation sites leave something to be desired), but Taka tipped us off today that we've arrived in Japan.
We'll definitely go on the record as saying that it would be fun to see someone start a houseblog in Japan... :-)
...you seem to get more flyers from contractors on your front steps than all your neighbors.
While we're at it, the flyer we got today said 'mention this ad and get 30% off!' 30% off!!?? And that would be off of the 130% starting price, I presume...
This weekend we took on a special project beyond the normal fix-up stuff around the house.
With Coco continuing to get older (she's now 14!) she's been struggling more and more with the back stairs. This is actually part of why we moved to this house from our condo, too, since that was three full flights of stairs. Even so, the short flight in the back yard is rather steep, so we had to to something to help her out (short of carrying her up and down, of course).
Actually, it's a bit too steep for wheelchair use (18-ish degrees) but it suits four-legged folks just fine.
Action shots after the jump...
Well, today houseblogs.net passed 100 members. After a modest launch six months ago, the number of new members has really picked up in the last eight weeks or so. It's now an amazing and diverse collection of DIYers, each with their own unique and fascinating story.
So, if you haven't already you should take a wander through the member list. You might lose an hour or two, but I bet you'll be entertained...and maybe learn something, too! ;-)
Someone needs to come up with a term for being "off the blog" for an extended period of time. Maybe some sort of official name for it will make it seem more ok and address the blogger's guilt of not keeping up with one's writing...
Anyway, we haven't had much to share on the house. What we do have is fun, though. We went up to Lake Geneva, Wisconsin yesterday for a fund raiser that turned out to be at a beautifully restored mansion.
We were lucky that we brought our camera and we snuck away from the crowds to snap some fun shots here and there.
Well that was no fun. Both J and I have been just run ragged over the last week. We've each had packed days at our respective jobs, come home late every night, and gone to bed exhausted. Wake up the next day...repeat steps 1 through 3.
All that said, we were obviously looking forward to a Saturday morning with nothing to do but sleep in...
Wouldn't it be nice if there was an easy way to actually search all the houseblogs to research questions like these? Good news: now you can.
Good questions, now with easier answers. ;-)
So, we escaped from the house and work and obligations last night to indulge in some good Chinese food downtown.
And this is what came in my fortune cookie:
"You will have no problems in your home..."
Oh, please, please, please, please let this one be true forever!!!
Or maybe not. I wouldn't have this blog if it weren't for problems.
A few people have asked me about this blog and what inspires me to write. When things fall off of your house on a daily basis, it's not difficult to feel inspired. Frustration is a healthy motivator.
Even with a house in significant disrepair, tonight we have an overall appreciation for how blessed we are to even have a home as many people impacted by Hurricane Katrina now don't.
For a touch of what the tragedy means to real people, check out the latest update from fellow houseblogger That Old House, who live in New Orleans.
Our hearts and prayers are with them.
While yesterday was another productive one (we've got a ceiling fan in the master bedroom now), the most important thing we did was relax at the neighborhood's annual block party. The first families were out as early as 7:30am to fire up their smoker grill, but with our long to-do list we didn't pull our grill around front until after sundown.
Well, I caught a cold that cropped up early Saturday morning. While I feel embarassed about slowing down on house work for something so small, Jeannie keeps saying something about not operating power tools when taking medication.
We did get in a short field trip as part of breakfast Saturday--we visited a few more Chicago neighborhoods known for their historic bungalows. We'll try to post the photos in the next day or so.
Well, I'm going to bed. Aside from the power tools thing, Jeannie also claims sleep is supposed to help. Who thinks up this stuff...?
With the finishing touches wrapping up in the master bedroom, our minds have turned to moving in. (Hooray!) We're even optimistic that we can start moving some things upstairs as early as this Sunday if we can get enough of the trim installed.
Unfortunately, this brings us to our latest dilemma...the small door and narrow stairway up to the second floor.
I'll bet you can guess where this is headed...
As planned, our new mattress arrived yesterday and sure enough--it fit up the stairs! And so after one year and four months of work, last night we actually slept upstairs in our master bedroom!
It probably seems silly, but I really think we can't believe this milestone has finally come.
Friday night our plans fell through so we ended up around the house with no set plans. We ended up gravitating upstairs (not surprising, as it is now the cleanest place in the house) and just watching planes pass over the skylights. It was something I was eager for ever since we were first designing the room two years ago.
We ended up reflecting a lot about the past two years. It was an interesting discussion about the real implications of doing this renovation ourselves, so I thought I'd write about it here.
Today I'm unexpectedly working from home because one of our radiators started leaking last night.
It was one of the first times we'd started up the heat this fall, and the problem arose from the radiator we'd disconnected while we worked on the master bedroom. After trying a few things myself to repair it, this morning we decided to call in the pros...
Thanks to StuccoHouse, we found out today that we're mentioned briefly in the latest issue of the Twin Cities Bungalow Club newsletter. Cool! Welcome to anyone who might have arrived here via that article...we haven't seen a copy yet but hope to.
For any new visitors (or anybody who cares, for that matter), we haven't posted in a few days but fear not..work continues. I've got a full six coats of spar varnish on the front door now, so it should be ready to go shortly. I'll post pictures tomorrow...
Rules of Redecorating That We Swore We Would Never Break That We Have Now Broken in the Kitchen Makeover
Rule #1: Never paint over wallpaper or wallpaper glue. â€“ Check! Broke it.
Rule #2: Never paint over laminate or particle board. â€“ Check! Broke it.
Today was our first snowfall in Chicago. It wasn't a whole lot of accumulation, but it sure was cold. For me, the first snowfall is always a time when I get a bit nostalgic for soup.
My mom always made the best chili and chicken noodle soups. The were never elaborate, but with the weather turning cold they are great comfort food. The best part was that she would always make huge batches, then put the leftovers out on the back porch...it was cold enough so that was just as good as putting them in the fridge.
I learned her chicken noodle soup recipe a long time ago, but tonight was the first time I tried the chili. I fudged the recipe a little bit (her recipe doesn't include the Killian's Irish Red), but it was just as good as I remember it.
Just a brief note to acknowledge that we're having some technical difficulties over at Houseblogs.net that are preventing the member feed from updating. Actually, right now I can't add or update items, either, which is why I'm posting this notice here.
Our hosting provider is aware of the problem and working to resolve it, so I hope everything should be back to normal shortly. Thanks for your patience.
Our hosting service fixed a bug and houseblogs.net is working properly again. Sorry if the problem prevented anyone from getting their regular houseblogs fix for a few days. ;-)
Beyond just repairing the site, we've added something new too: Ask Houseblogs.net is another little experiment to support the houseblogging community, this time specifically to tap in to all that DIY knowledge out there. You can get more details on what it is and how it works here.
We're not exactly sure how or how much this feature is going to be used, so we hope everyone takes it with a spirit of experimentation. Likewise, if you have feedback or suggestions on how it could work better feel free to comment.
...you've had a miter saw sitting in your dining room for over two weeks and you only put it away because there's company coming over.
This Thanksgiving has been a special one for us for a couple of reasons. First off, it's the first one we've spent with a good portion of my side of the family in over five years. We had dinner over at my parents house, where we were joined by my dad's parents and his oldest sister's family.
After dinner there was another special treat that J and I weren't expecting...
...to clean off a Chicago sidewalk in a snowstorm? Just one. However, you'll have to go out and use it three times.
Seriously, it's just crazy with snow here today. I was out at 6 pm, then J went outside to clear a small path for the dog (just beyond the ramp) and now I'm about to head out again for a final pass at things before bed.
Jeannie just pointed out to me that Lee Valley Tools has a special section of their website with tools suitable for children. Brilliant!
I'm excited about this...with our first on the way, it appears we can actually get some return on our investment in this kid much earlier than I really expected.
It certainly should work out much better than having pets. Coco really hasn't been much help in the "working on the house" department...
Yesterday evening, I hauled myself up the front steps after work and came face-to-face with a waterfall on one side of our new front door. Brown water was pouring out from the beadboard ceiling above the front porch and down the face of the stucco.
Before this house, I used to have a Christmas Party every year to celebrate friends and decorate an outrageously large tree and consume massive quantities of holiday goodies. I really miss having that and I'm looking forward to when we can start those up again.
While we were decorating the tree last weekend, I reminisced about those past holidays. Each ornament has some special meaning to me connected to its giver. We had "Santa Kurt" for the kids and lots of music.
Oh! And the Feuerzangenbowle!
Yesterday, I picked up a newspaper on my EL ride home from work and read a heart warming article from Chicago Tribune Reporter, Tracy Dell'Angela.
Well, it's 2006.
Don't get me wrong, I'm really thrilled. It's just that I've got the same muscle pull in my neck that I had last year--three days ago, that is. The reason is that I was crawling around in our attic crawl space this past weekend and, again, did something that I probably shouldn't have.
Soooo, it is Thursday at 6:30 p.m. I have stopped working waiting for, you know, the BIG EVENT during which I imagine I will experience something akin to "pushing a wet St. Bernard through a cat door" (as an online acquaintance once wrote.)
I'm still in my pajamas. I'm not proud of this. But there it is. I'm hiding from the mailperson because I'm LARGE! ENORMOUS! CRABBY! You could re-brand me as "Just like the old Jeannie, but now with more PAUNCH! And BUTT!" You could actually write that sentence across my posterior and have room for many, many exclamation points.
I was catching up on my blog reading and tuned into one of my all time favorites, Gaper's Block, which covers Chicago like no other media outlet can. Funny, insightful, timely, creative. I'm a big fan. And what did I find there? Hmmm?
So, with a little new person in the house (who hasn't helped out at all around the house yet, btw) what counts as a busy weekend is completely redefined.
Grace has been wonderful, but a lot less is getting done around the house. Not that she really seems to mind, but still...
Well, at just over two weeks old now Grace passed her first test as the child of DIY home renovators. This afternoon I was able to pound nails and use an electric screwdriver while she slept in the room next door, oblivious to it all.
If only Jeannie and I could learn that same trick. :-)
Have I mentioned that Jeannie's mom has been staying with us to help with Grace for a few weeks?
She seems to have gotten a few things from Jeannie's sister Elaine and the family in Pittsburgh.
Okay, it's been four weeks today since I began my descent into Sleep Deprivation Land, my arms pinned down under the weight of a cute, yet squirmy, infant. It's odd, at 3:00 a.m., to be pacing the floors with said infant and thinking things like, "I really need to install the rest of the pulls on those drawers" and "What is going to be our plan for repouring the footing on the sunroom?" When I SHOULD be thinking, "How on EARTH am I going to pay for this kid's college education??!! And will it really cost as much as one family vacation to a certain Orlando themepark??!!" (I think so.)
But today! Today I was able to strap the kid in the Bjorn and WHOO HOO! Free at last! Free at last! My hands were free at last!!! And, holding my tools certainly felt good...for 10 whole minutes.
Coco left us last night. I'm not sure what else to say. How do you pay adequate tribute to the most perfect dog friend? She was very much loved and I am completely undone.
Much thanks to Jim, our vet, for giving her such compassionate treatment over these past few years. And to the Burke family for allowing her to become part of our family.
This was supposed to be a pretty lazy weekend. We stayed in last night and planned to go over to my parents house for brunch today (my birthday was this past week). Throw in some baby watching, maybe a little home improvement work, and that was it.
Then at brunch today we got a big surprise--my sister Kjerstin and brother-in-law Joe are here from Alaska!!
We were totally caught off guard. Turns out Kjerstin and Joe had bought tickets way back in November, in anticipation of Grace's arrival. Later today we found out that J's mom (who will be staying with us for one more week to help with Grace) was in on it, too.
Working on our house--much less keeping up this blog--hasn't been much of a priority. We're amazed some of you are still around, actually. Thanks so much for all the kind words folks have left about Grace and about Coco. They've all meant a lot.
The fun news is that we actually might get back to the whole 'house thing' (and 'houseblogging thing') here shortly. In part, we're hoping we're getting a bit more proefficient at juggling baby stuff and other things at the same time. In part, well...it would just be nice to have a bit of variety in our life again.
And in part, it's because I'm really itching to try out the new
toy table saw I just got for my birthday! :-)
Many readers of this site are familiar with our second website, houseblogs.net, but some of you probably aren't. It's a website we started a year ago to track and organize other DIY-focused home improvement blogs like this one.
Today we passed a milestone, accepting our 200th member site. After 12 months, it's grown from "a little project we're working on" to an active community hub that showcases the inspiring day-in, day-out effort people put in to building, improving, and restoring their own homes.
So if you haven't been there before, check it out! If you're already a regular, thanks for everything you do to inspire us and other DIYers out there...and keep it up! :-)
For some reason, when the new year rolls around I seem to get an itch about new blog ideas...
Last February it was Houseblogs.net, which has been a fun ride over the past 12 months. With the site now surpassing 200 member houseblogs, it's actually grown far beyond what we expected it would become.
With another year rolling around, I've started tinkering with a third home improvement blog. Since we now get so many press releases, catalogs, and emails about new tools, I decided I might as well put them all to good use.
With Toolspotting, we'll be following the latest, best, and most unique tools available to the DIY enthusiast. Like Houseblogs.net, it's still an experiment right now and I'm sure it will evolve over time.
For those housebloggers reading this, we're also looking for some contributors--you can check out houseblogs.net for more details about how you can join in.
If you have any thoughs or ideas feel free to send them our way!
This morning, as I was blearily punching up my email while simultaneously burping the baby, I received a note tipping me off to an article in the New York Times Magazine insert. An article about houseblogs. In which housebloggers are compared to the protagonists of Jane Austen's novels AND publishers of smutty pornography at the same time. (Well, he actually seems to go much deeper into comparative literature and makes all sorts of excellent intellectual points according to Aaron. I'm just skimming because, you know, sleep deprivation.)
I immediately looked down at my uniform these days of sweat pants, spit-up streaked nursing shirt, clogs, burp cloth and "baby as appendage". What I would give to channel either Lizzy Bennet or Pamela Anderson right now! Okay, maybe not Pam as much. But she did used to be the "Tool Time Girl." So, there is a connection there, however slight, right? I mean, Pam and I have both worn tool belts. And that is where the comparison sadly ends.
So, I went to brush my teeth to make myself feel better. (I can look like a mess and brushing my teeth always makes me feel a bit more human. I don't look cleaner but...hey! Minty! Fresh! Breath!)
In our attempt to stem the tide of obnoxious spam comments (40 per day!) that we've been raking in lately, we implemented a new "security code" system for commenters. So, if you post a comment, the system will require you to submit a unique number that is constantly changed. But something went wrong.
And somehow, a LOT of comments from you...people we LIKE to hear from...got lost in the "junk mail" file. But we went in there and fished 'em out! So, thanks for all of your comments. We like hearing from you. It's nice, you know? You are appreciated. For more information about the changes, read on...
More than once over the last three years, I have really, REALLY wanted to ditch this house.
There. I said it. It's off my chest and I'm relieved. I have daydreamed about leaving the door unlocked with a sign on it that says, "Help yourself" and taking the first flight out of O'Hare to...I didn't care where. Somewhere far away where I could rent an apartment or, better yet, sleep on a beach and work as a waitress and never pick up a power tool again. This has happened more often than I've let on. And regret is a nasty roommate at 3:00 a.m.
So...a few nights ago when I climbed the stairs to the second floor, I surprised myself when I actually had WARM feelings towards the house. For you see, working on the house was not my first choice. It was a means to an end. The location was the thing, along with the ceiling height. To raise a child near family. We didn't relish the thought of strapping ourselves to mountains of restoration/renovation. But, the house was more affordable than our options and in the right place. There have been times when I have (whispers) HATED THIS HOUSE. Which is why I am amazed that I am warming up to it so much now.
So there it is...I am not the virtuous, self-sacrificing home renovator that Mr. Metcalf referred to in his article. I re-read it after this recap in the Rage Diaries and was deeply ashamed. I've had many reservations about this project. I want to love this house and, until this week, really didn't feel like I did. I was resigned to it. But I wasn't in love with it.
At the top of the stairs, I walked through the dark rooms to look out of the front window at the snow and the moon.
Did I say that I was warming up to the house? Perhaps I spoke too soon.
I went down to the basement to finish the laundry and found this. Good gravy. What now?!
About a week ago, I confessed on the blog that I was reluctantly warming up to this old house. I felt that we had turned a point and things we getting easier.
Ha ha ha ha...(cough cough). The house obviously heard me. There was the water in the basement a few days later and, last night? The house barked out a "Take this!" and rattled its gutters with glee.
On the way back through the backyard after taking out the trash, I heard a loud hissing coming from under the back room crawlspace. This is a room of the house that was added in the sixties or seventies, we think. To heat it, the previous owners took the radiator out of the nearest bedroom and ran the steam pipe to a jerry-rigged baseboard steam radiator.
(We plan on tearing this room back off of the house at some point before it falls off. Yes, it is that bad.)
Okay, who am I kidding? New babies plus home improvement do not equal progress. I am typing this after spending three (yes, 3) hours scrunched up on our bed with the kid, pumping her little legs back and forth, and trying to convince her that having gas does not mean that her body will explode with the intensity of a supernova. She disagrees and is expressing this disagreement in eardrum-piercing shrieks and foundation-rattling grunts. She is now limp and exhausted, eyes half closed with a binky hanging halfway out of her mouth, looking a lot like Jim Breuer.
I need advice.
In case you haven't looked recently, things are picking up at our new site Toolspotting...
Thanks for all of the great advice in the comments! There are some really wonderful ideas and advice in there. So many that I'm not quite as dispirited as I stare at the ceiling in the guest bedroom.
Yes, this is the ceiling. (By the way, Hans and Steph? Don't panic. We promise that you'll have somewhere to sleep that doesn't have this view for the college reunion next year.)
(Photo via Wilmette Historic Preservation Commission)
On Saturday, April 22, 2006, the Wilmette Historic Preservation Commission and Historical Museum is presenting an Old House Preservation and Restoration Conference. And there will be some great speakers there!
(More after the jump...)
From time to time, I write about our neighborhood because it IS such an important part of owning a house. A sense of place is important...the people who live there, the energy of the place, what you see, what there is to do. And our neighborhood (North Park / Albany Park in Chicago) has never been written about very much until lately. Which is a shame, because more people should know about it. It's the United Nations of neighborhoods, one of the most ethnically diverse in the entire country. (Though our political leanings? Not so diverse. 97.47% of Albany Park residents voted for Kerry in the last election. :)
Lately, my favorite place to hang out for coffee and a cookie (or quiche!) is the newly-opened Open Hearth Cafe on Kimball near Foster.
We had another surprise today when my Google News email subscription picked up a reference to 'houseblogs' in the online version of the San Francisco Chronicle.
Sure enough, Norma Shattuck has written a nice piece on houseblogs that references this site, as well as several of our fellow housebloggers like House Made, Raise the Ranch, and Serendipity House. Fun!
Her article casts the recent phenomenon of houseblogging in the context of a century-long home improvement trend: "Though modes of living change, a predisposition to make works-in-progress of our living spaces seems to be a constant in the culture." The article goes on to detail a pretty interesting chronology of the urge to 'do it yourself,' including the fact that the phrase 'do it yourself' was first coined by an unnamed magazine in 1912.
It is gorgeous here in Chicago today. A balmy 64 degrees...warm and breezy. So, Grace and I decided to go for a long walk and check out some of the cute bungalows south of campus in Albany Park. I like to look for ideas and Grace just likes to swivel her head back and forth, like a bobblehead baby.
And then. Around a corner, it loomed before us. One of the scariest things I have ever seen. At first, it looked like any ordinary two-flat which is being renovated.
But, as my eyes traveled upward, I beheld....
Look. I know that it takes a little more thought to build "up" on your typical Chicago bungalow. City lots are notoriously narrow, so first story additions are out of the question for lots of folks. I get that. I really do.
Lest you think that our neighborhood is populated with doublewide trailers perched atop of poor, unsuspecting bungalows, I feel obligated to point out that there are some better examples of bungalow expansion. However, I realize that beauty really IS in the eye of the beholder and I am just one beholder and yadda yadda.
If I seem obsessed with this, it's because I am trying to figure out WHY these bungalows look better to me. What are the specific reasons that I look at a bungalow like the one below and think, "Hmm. Not a bad expansion."
Yesterday afternoon was bright and sunny here. A welcome change from grey winter days. So, I snuggled Grace on the pillows of our bed under the skylights and began to fold some laundry (because that is what a baby brings with it...unlimited laundry). Out of the corner of my eye, I saw something move.
It was a yellow jacket. In the house. On the window.
(This picture is why digital cameras have zoom lenses. So you can stand far, FAR away and take a picture.)
(With a surprise photo at the bottom of this post. Thanks.)
It was interesting to read the comments in response to this post and I really, REALLY appreciate the time folks took to weigh in on the subject. Thank you.
I really struggle with my own opinions on this issue. On one hand, I am an enthusiastic fan of authenticity in the design of homes and harmony in the design of neighborhoods. On the other, I acknowledge that it isn't realistic to believe that nothing will ever change in all neighborhoods and sometimes someone will have a practical reason for initiating change that may have nothing to do with wanting to make a profit. As someone who studies people and places and things, I get it. I really do. And not everyone has the money to hire an architect or to use the most expensive materials to get a desired effect.
But...does a workable and pleasing design HAVE to be expensive? Does it have to be costly to create something useful and beautiful? (I know the reverse is not true. I've seen LOTS of expensive, bad design. Whoo boy. That's a whole other story.)
And, is good design entirely subjective? A matter of personal opinion? Or, are there certain principles that someone could point to and say, "Follow these and you won't go wrong ninety percent of the time."
Hurray! Apartment Therapy...now available in Chicago. Great design ideas for small spaces courtesy of Maxwell and crew.
When you are old enough to ask us about this house and why we were crazy enough to begin this project...to sleep for two years in a tiny, unheated room...to spend all of our weekends with wood stain soaking our hands and sawdust up our noses...we will give you these two reasons:
1) So that we could be four doors down from your grandparents and spend a happy afternoon visiting with them; and
2) So that we could enjoy mornings with you in a room like this...
Three things that I love colliding in one place: research, house stuff, writing. Aaron and I are attending the K/BIS Show and Industry Conference in Chicago next week and I am JAZZED! We're blogging it for HouseBlogs and, hoo boy, I am dragging out my running shoes in anticipation of skipping through ACRES of kitchen and bath products, solutions and trends like a giddy schoolgirl.
So, what should we look for? What kitchen and bath problems are you dying to solve? Space? Storage? Energy savings? New materials? Retrofits? Need design ideas?
Do you want to figure out a way to clean your teeth and trim your nose hairs at the same time while washing your toes? Because I am your personal errand girl for solutions...at least for a few days. I'm serious. Send me on a mission. We'll try to accomplish as many as we can in the time that we have there. Feel free to use the comment section of this entry to give us assignments. We're going to post a few planning ideas and questions over in the HouseBlogs forum in the next week, too, so if you're really interested you can chat about it over there as well.
Do you need to know more about the Kitchen and Bath Show? Read on for a few details.
Best alley pickings EVER!
Perfectly beautiful radiator cover...the ideal size for our upstairs bath. Free for the taking. ROCK ON!
(Says the weirdo who obviously gets WAYYYY too excited over other people's garbage.)
Because we see daffodils? Because we see robins?
Because the Silent Paint Remover came out of its case, saw its shadow, and decided to blast a few layers of paint off of some exterior trim.
This is kind of a good news, bad news entry. First...the bad news. It's tax day. I'm all for paying taxes, actually (when the money is spent for the public good) but it is never any fun. It's like going to the dentist. Fresh, clean teeth! And...that scrapey-thingy. You know.
Now, for the good news!!! (Especially for housebloggers.) We received our new "Home Sense" newsletter in the mail from our pals at Unique Heating and Cooling. Right on the front page...?
Tomorrow night, we begin our coverage of the Kitchen and Bath Industry Show here in Chicago at McCormick Place. A few of you have made requests for new ideas around the following:
Part of the work of preparing for the conference has been sifting through the enormous amount of vendor public relations correspondence and trying to decide how to make the best of our time there. We've been meaning to get to our new post office box to pick up our mail related to the show but didn't make it there until last Saturday. True to form, we forgot our post office box number (First! Time! Users!) and stood facing a wall of little doors with our two keys and absolutely no idea of what to do.
So, we've spruced up the site a bit today--most notably we've got new banners. Jeannie did all the photos, which I think are pretty sweet. It's just part of a plan to streamline the look, which will probably result in a few more layout changes in the next few weeks.
We wouldn't normally mention it, but the banners were something we wanted to get done today to 'dress up' a bit before we go to K/BIS...plus there's a bit of a special occasion we're involved in tonight...
So, as we said yesterday we attended a special 'Swatchbox Gathering' event last night on the eve of the Kitchen and Bath Industry Show here in Chicago. We went as guest speakers at the invitation of the guys at Swatchbox Technologies, who we got to know over drinks a few hours before the dinner.
Andrew Jenks (center right) and Jesse Engle (right) are the President and VP of Business Development, respectively, for Swatchbox and are really great guys. The chat gave us some time to get to know them a bit and to hear about their work--they've done some interesting things with their clients to develop software that helps consumers visualize home improvement ideas like flooring, paint options, etc.
After a while we headed downstairs to the basement of the Chicago Firehouse where they'd reserved the wine cellar for the dinner.
Well, it's the morning after our first day at the KBIS Expo and we're wicked tired. Our initial plan was to 'live blog' the whole show just like we did with the Swatchbox Gathering the first night. Then we got home after 12 hours walking around the show and, well, that just ain't happening. :-)
Even more importantly, we arrived home to find a neat distraction...this site and houseblogs.net are mentioned in today's Washington Post! The article--Building Blogs--talks about home improvement blogs in general and focuses in on DC area housebloggers Nightmare on Elm Street and The Home Improvement Ninja. Congrats to them!
So, we're decided to delay our detailed "coverage" of the Kitchen and Bath Industry Show by a day so that we don't flood the houseblogs.net latest 100 entries with a ton of the kitchen and bath products that we saw. For now, we'll just put a few teaser photos and comments here to whet your appetite...
After rolling out of bed at the crack of dawn, grabbing coffee and sprinting to the car, we sped towards McCormick Place only to come to a screeching halt in bumper to bumper traffic on Lake Shore Drive. Of course, the computer with Photoshop on it had died last night, I couldn't find my cellphone, and we left the printout of our schedule back at the house...but hey! We're housebloggers! We're used to the cycle of "Hurry up! Wait! Unforseen glitches! MacGyver it and press on..."
After getting our press passes and our cameras tagged, we joined the press corps in the age old conference ritual called "The Stuffing of the Fed Ex Boxes" in a room where entire forests go to die. The press kits were overflowing with good information...about 60 pounds total of good information. So, we stuffed three Fed Ex boxes and then took them back down to the trunk of the car to save on shipping costs. Because we are frugal that way.
And so, it began...
By the way, I have never seen so many (Amish? Mennonites?) in my life outside of Pennsylvania. On second thought, they must be Mennonites, yes? Because Amish wouldn't be interested in a conference that features running water perhaps? Though, I am not up-to-date on my Amish culture.
I bet they are wearing more comfortable shoes than I am at this thing. Lucky ducks.
I'm a person who sorts things. Unfortunately, instead of then neatly stashing those "sorted things" in color-coded boxes and cabinets, I tend to leave them in cheerful piles because "piles" is my system. Hey, it works for hamsters and beavers. Don't judge.
Anyway, I couldn't resist the temptation to categorize the topics we will be covering and, happily, it will be easier for you to find things with our site's search engine (right-hand column, scroll down) than it would be to find things in my real life piles. So, here is a preview of some of the things we will be writing about:
We'll be posting the narrative here and the specifics in the Idea Guide. Everything ends up feeding through the HouseInProgress and HouseBlogs homepage, so you don't have to worry about missing anything.
(Faucet Eye Candy courtesy of the Franke Booth)
Certainly there were other bloggers covering KBIS formally, such as Richard Wall at HGTVPro.com and the podcasters at the KBIS website. But even more interesting were the bloggers who were there and who never intended to be. For example:
- Dooce was mentioned by a marketing exec at the Swatchbox dinner on Friday night during the discussion on blogging. Technically, Dooce's sewer line is experiencing problems this week so she and John are honorary housebloggers for a short time. At this point in the discussion, I was pleasantly buzzed on my first few glasses of wine since the birth of the kid four months ago and relying on a concrete column for support. As I stood there trying to formulate my next answer to a question, I could only think of how, if Dooce were in my shoes, she would probably be acting a lot more natural after only two or three glasses of chardonnay. I, however, was trying to keep my face from looking crooked. Thus, Aaron and I have added a new definition to our use of the word "Dooced" in our vocabulary:
Dooced (adj.): To be somewhat sloshed during an event with business professionals but still trying to act natural.
- Apartment Therapy and Brownstoner were the blogs most recognized by the exhibitor marketing reps from NYC as we were being asked to explain what HouseBlogs were and who writes/reads them. (Them: "Is it like Apartment Therapy for people who live in houses?", Me: "Um, I think Maxwell Gillingham Ryan would be appalled at the condition of my closets...")
It is a small world after all. Blogging: Kind of viral like the flu--but with less phlegm.
Stepping into the KBIS Exposition Hall, my heart began to exhibit a bit of an adrenaline-induced arrhythmia (and, no, it wasn't the Starbucks coffee we had just chugged to keep us awake). I was speechless. Aaron's first words were, "I had forgotten about all of the body parts we'd see here."
Kitchen and BATH show. Bathing. Full color screens of armpits and torsos and sinewy legs all lathered up and thirty feet high. The spectacle of it makes you want to suck in your stomach a little and resolve to spend more time at the gym.
I'm not in good enough shape after my pregnancy to be considering a stylish bath, obviously.
The main exhibits are stages and the products are rockstars. Overwhelming. Elaborate. Glamorous.
I'm not even qualified to be a decent roadie at this thing.
Ahhh...back to work again after a crazy week covering KBIS. We still have a few more items to share but we'll be posting them in and around our regular HiP (as we refer to the HouseInProgress) blogging.
Note to self: Don't let others take photos that look up your nose. Not good. Nope.
I no longer like "stuff".
As a kid I LOVED stuff. I kept everything. Pins, buttons, small stones, pieces of paper, plastic trinkets, ticket stubs. Drawers and drawers of stuff. It wasn't about the stuff, per se. It was about two things. Either the memories associated with the stuff or the desire to please others by having what they needed immediately so as to solve a thorny problem. If I kept the parts to everything, if I kept all of the remnants of things, I would always be prepared, right?
(Part 1 if you haven't read it yet.)
...but there were the things that I have not been able to let go of yet:
So, here is what I am learning about living without clutter:
The more that I like the design of a space on its own, the less I feel I need to put things in it.
I can really see that in the rooms we've finished up until this point. Especially the bathrooms. They really stand on their own for me, not needing much more adornment.
I snapped this picture this morning, Mother's Day 2006.
It's my nightstand.
As I am thinking about decluttering and home improvement, it is difficult NOT to think about space versus stuff and where the money goes.
You know what I mean.
When I began decluttering in earnest, I couldn't help but think, "How much money has been spent on all of this stuff?" Did I really need two toasters? Well, at the time, I did. I got a cheap and quick toaster that promptly broke at the time when I needed a toaster most. I ran out and got another cheap one because I had to have one on the morning that the first one broke. So, now I had two toasters...one that I intended to fix when I had time (yeah right!) and one that didn't work very well and burns my bread more often than not and is impossible to clean.
Yesterday, I posted about Stylehive, which may have seemed strange to some of you on the heels of my ranting about too much stuff. And I am admitting my guilt now...I've kinda houseblog hacked the Stylehive.
Hacking? Well, it has many meanings but it can mean to take something that already exists and make changes so that it is more useful to you.** I have this ridiculously long list of bookmarks/favorites for my browser. I see something...anything...that I want to remember and I bookmark it. I don't always remember why I did. Because of the sheer volume of bookmarks and the cryptic way that bookmarking technology "names" them, I'm not always able to find these ideas again easily.
Long ago, I kept a physical notebook where I kept my house and design ideas. We referred to it as the "Idea Book" and recreated it virtually on the blog in the Ideas section. But this isn't always the best solution when I'm moving fast and don't want to write a whole blog entry on something that I have found.
I kill plants.
I don't mean to kill them. You might say that I respect their independence a little too much. And, due to my black thumb, I have sent many a plant to an early grave.
Last night, I couldn't sleep from a bad case of "fretful-itis". This is where all of the competing demands of our lives collide...in the dark at midnight. Poor Aaron. Because I usually want to talk about what is bothering me in order to purge it from my nervous system. And guess who is right there with a sympathetic ear? My very patient spouse.
None of us HAVE money. Hilarious! That is where the phrase "house rich, cash poor" comes from. Or, in our case, "house poor, cash poor." Sigh.
Sure enough, we found an online version of their picks for the 16 best real estate websites on the internet and Houseblogs.net made the cut!
They categorized the site as the 'best way to steel yourself for a remodel' before jumping in to a home renovation, and that definitely seems like a fair characterization. They've also encouraged readers to join in and start their own houseblogs.
If you're here for the first time because of the Money article, welcome! We'd love to hear from you in the comments below this entry. You can get oriented to our own bungalow renovation by reading our About Us page. Even better, go on over to Houseblogs.net and check out the 250 other people journaling their renovations too.
What summer sounds like to me...
Enter the RainBird Virtual Museum to hear summer arriving.
What does summer sound like to you?
"Pssst! Aaron! Aaron! Wake up! What is that noise?!"
(One eye opens, looks at me disapprovingly) "What time is it?"
"It's 6:30. Do you hear that?"
"It's Saturday morning. It's early."
"But do you HEAR that?"
Since I was corresponding with Ranch Redo over her bathtub dilemma, I realized that I haven't been fully disclosing the variety of housing styles within walking distance of our neighborhood. We have LOTS of mid-century modern houses around, scattered among the bungalows. Many of these houses have never been seen by lifelong Chicagoans who don't venture this far north in the city OR skip us entirely on the way to Evanston and beyond.
I'm talking about Budlong Woods...a neighborhood as unknown as North Park itself. (Lincolnwood is a suburb within blocks of us which is also saturated with mid-century modern, but I'll write about that another time.)
Aaron and I loaded Grace into the stroller early Saturday morning and took a long walk so I could practice my photography skills and so we could gawk. I'll be publishing the results of our mid-century expedition in a few installments.
So, I really think that mid-century modern houses are going to finally get some loving in Chicago soon. And there were plenty to love up in Budlong Woods.
...what do DIY mommies do?
Do they get a glass of wine? Put their feet up? Read a magazine?
We talked about Budlong Woods and North Park (our neighborhood) in the blog posts about our search for mid-century modern in the vicinity. But I wanted to take a moment to talk about the revitalization of the area itself.
This area of Budlong Woods is nice. North Park and Budlong Woods share the banks of the North Shore Channel. (The North Branch of the Chicago River flows along the south border of North Park). There are some lovely restoration projects going on which are making the river more healthy and recreational again.
There are paths for runners, walkers, bikers and skaters. And for people who peddle ice cream carts.
Occasionally, I troll around for new blogs or follow links through the Internet aimlessly. Why? Um, it's 12:30 am. I'm waiting for the baby to cry so I can feed her. I'm avoiding laundry.
Anyway, I found this blog from following some of the blogs that link to us. And I started to laugh out loud which wasn't cool because a) you know, baby, and b) understanding husband who still doesn't like to be awake at 1 am.
What is COMPLETELY IMPRESSIVE is that this uber cool mama who has seven kids would still FIND THE TIME AND ENERGY to plant a tree. And then to write it up and make me laugh when I can't sleep.
And now, I feel like a complete slacker for not being able to remember where I put my socket wrenches, let alone use them in a responsible manner. For instance, using them to fix the dishwasher and NOT using them to pull the caps off of many, many bottles of Guinness at 10 o'clock in the morning.)
I also liked Number 28 on her "Forty Things to Do Before I'm Forty" list. Especially since Number 28 is on my "Fifty Things to Do Before I'm Fifty" list, now that I am 40 plus 67 days old. However, finishing the house appears nowhere on my "25 Things to Do While I Still Think I'm 25 Even Though My Body Can't Hang With That" list.
Good writing. I love the internet.
I just wanted to take a moment and thank my lucky stars for the cool daddies in our families.
Aaron and I are very appreciative of the guidance and help that both of our dads have offered over the years, most recently with the House In Progress. Given the size of the project we're tackling, I really wouldn't have blamed either of them if they had changed their phone numbers the minute we closed on the property. But they are good sports and handy as well.
(They seem to be especially good with doorjambs.)
So I wrote this rocking blog entry about the work I've been doing on the house. It was witty and informative and punctuated with pretty photos.
And, i lost it.
Now, i know that sounds a lot like "a dog ate my homework." But, but, it's true! Okay, maybe it was really ONLY witty if you were being kind and had a few glasses of wine. Informative, perhaps, depends on how you define "inform". (I think of it as a lot like "blurt out uncontrollably, perhaps in an awkward way.")
So there you have it. I'm going to try and get some sleep tonight and I'll be back on my game tomorrow.
p.s. Well, not really the end. I wanted to point out Aaron's, um, Father's Day gift to me (that is backwards, isn't it?) A new website design!!! Hurray!!! Don't worry...we're trying to figure out something new to do with the blogroll...it will be back...
Normally we put our posts about houseblogs.net over on that site and not here, but there are some interesting discussions going on over there in the discussion forum and we thought our regular readers here might find them interesting...
...friends send you this email.
We snuck out of town. We needed to do this quietly so the house wouldn't suspect anything and hurl roof shingles at our backs as we hightailed it down the sidewalk towards O'Hare.
It felt good.
Aaron's parents had a wedding to go to in Victoria, British Columbia and they used the trip as an opportunity to gather us all together for a family vacation. When they invited us along, it took 0.3 seconds for us to reply with a resounding "Yes! Oh, thank you! Yes!" Why did it take us so long to respond? The internet was really slow that day.
We didn't realize that HouseBlogs.net had been mentioned on the Editor's Page of the July 2006 edition of Old House Journal until we returned yesterday from a vacation. We caught wind of the mention via other housebloggers. Some of the language in the article seemed to rub a few folks the wrong way and I was intrigued since I've been a fan of OHJ from WAY back and still have all of the issues I've ever received.
So, we went out last night to pick up a copy...
Before I even read the article, I was feeling a little apprehensive. When you decide to buy a fixer-upper, you have a target painted on your back from the moment you leave the realtor's office as there are MANY people who will question your sanity. Often. Often loudly. Many times you can shrug it off, but sometimes it hurts a bit, no doubt. And if you blog about it? Paint a bullseye on your front as well, because, well, why on earth would you waste all of your time (not my words) on THAT endeavor when you could be (fill in the blank here)?
Hence, my nervousness when I imagined that my sanity was being called into question in a magazine. Published by fellow old house lovers. With a much broader readership than anything I could write. Ouch.
While we staying at Aunt Marvel and Uncle Hootie's house in Birch Bay last week, we woke up one morning to a bee swarm in the backyard.
Not content to just stare at it through the window, I thought I'd get a little closer to take a photo. I believe that my last words to Marvel were, "If they get me down onto the ground, will you drag me inside?" But if I had been her? I would have just let me lie there with my camera, bee stings and stupidity.
NOTE: Don't do what I did. I was able to zoom in with my digital SLR and was also able to zoom in on the photo more in Photoshop. At 25 feet away, I still think that I got too close. Usually I am not such a candidate for the Darwin Awards but this may have qualified me. Instead of being me, just call a local beekeeper to remove the swarm. Typically, bees hanging from objects are honey bees. But you don't want to find out the hard way that what you really have on your property is yellow jackets.
Liz and Chris, the owners of an East Boston House, are REALLY baring it all.
The This Old House crew is filming their every move. AND they're blogging their house renovation as well. Old House My House relates their experiences as owners working with contractors who just HAPPEN to be affiliated with a high profile TV show and magazine. This week, they joined the community over at HouseBlogs.net. And, if I thought having a baby during a renovation was complicated? I had little to complain about when I read Chris' latest post. Hop over there and wish her well.
Grace and I had a little visitor a few months back...
WHAT A CUTE STUBBY LITTLE TAIL!!!!
And, am I the last person on the planet to know about this?
The Chicago Tribune (our hometown paper!) wrote a very cool piece about housebloggers today called True-life confessions of the weekend warrior. The tagline almost made me spit tea onto my keyboard: Bloggers detail the good, bad and ugly of rehabbing; call it 'therapy'. Hee.
Over the past weekend, Aaron took up the paint roller in order to prime and paint the two first floor bedrooms.
We lived in the first bedroom during the first few months that we were in the house, even though the plaster ceiling threatened to fall on our heads at any minute. After that, we moved into the back bedroom. A bedroom where the radiator had been removed for some reason before we bought the house. A bedroom which opened up onto an uninsulated back porch that was built onto the house sometime within the last few decades. A bedroom with an unusual view that assaulted your eyes before you fell to sleep each night.
Thank you for your recommendations concerning what could be done with the Map Wall. In the end, we decided to temporarily paint over it, though that is something that I hate, hate, HATE to do. But, within the next four or five years, this wall may not be there anymore. Actually, it won't be there. But that is another story.
So the end goal was to not spend TOO much time here, but to make it decent enough to temporarily use the room without gagging.
Good thing that this fix is temporary. When I primed the wall over the old maps, the moisture of the primer caused the maps to begin to bubble.
Not a look that I would want to live with in the long run.
I've started a handful of entries over the past few days which I haven't finished yet.
We have a HUGE crowd of family coming in this weekend to see Grace. For the first time in three years we will be able to host guests. Offer them clean rooms to sleep in. Offer them a FULLY FUNCTIONING bathroom. Okay, so the kitchen is dismantled right now. But we have a grill! And it feels SO good to get back to hospitality because we love, love, love house guests.
My niece, Morgan, was in town over the weekend for Grace's baptism. She is my goddaughter and we both love to take photographs. Though, at eleven and armed with a less expensive camera, she already takes better photos than I do. She is very artistic.
I'm always swearing that, once we are finished with the HouseInProgress, I won't ever do this again. I insist on it all of the time when people ask me.
Ahem. Aaron and I were strolling Grace around North Park this evening when we spotted a rambling, old stucco house sitting on three city lots. It's huge. Enormous. And from the outside, it looks seriously foreboding. Haunted house foreboding with tons of bars on the windows. It had a sign advertising it on buyowner.com. And we're nothing if not nosy. So we looked it up online.
In solidarity with Jocelyn from Chicago Two-Flat, I am posting the most recent pictures of my house-related boo boo's. Though I have to say that a) hers is more ouchy than mine and I hate getting stung by anything, and b) mine are accompanied by a lame story about how I sustained my injuries. Jocelyn's boo boo is to be admired because she EARNED HERS through working hard weeding her lovely garden. Mine? I got mine because I am a spastic dope. (This is a photo of my right elbow.)
The view from our front porch yesterday
Every once in a while we have something to share on this site about our other little online project--houseblogs.net. Today is one of those occasions, because we've launched an upgrade that we've been planning (and talking about) for a long time...the Houseblogs.net Community.
First off, you'll notice the fancy new banner, but there are a lot of new features hidden in there too...
It goes without saying that I will be getting in trouble for posting this.
I believe it was Mindy who asked about how we manage to crank out houseblogs.net while renovating and bring up baby and working at other jobs.
Behold our Saturday evening, about midnight. Aaron has fallen asleep programming at his laptop once again. How did I manage to catch this photo? Because, there I was, with my laptop and camera, right next to him. I'm trying to learn some basic programming in order to bring back a new and improved blogroll.
This is what happens when geeks are allowed to marry.
Renovation Source of Chicago is closing its doors after many, many years in business. This weekend, you can catch some AMAZING deals in everything for an old house. Doors, windows, trim, fretwork, tile, hardware, reclaimed wood flooring, mantels, lighting, banisters, built-ins, EVERYTHING. I can't even list it all...just trust me. It's everything.
On Saturday, every single thing in there will be more than 50% off of the ticketed price. On Sunday? Everything will be rock bottom prices. If you have something specific that you want, get there tomorrow at 10 am. If you're open to anything, also show up at the end.
Their warehouse is packed to the rafters and it is all on sale to move so they can sell the building. Get going!!! Seriously, people.
3512 N Southport Ave
Chicago, IL 60657
You've got ELEVEN hours to take advantage of this awesome event.
Saturday, September 16th : 10 am - 4 pm
Sunday, September 17th: 11 am - 4 pm
They'll take cash, VISA or Mastercard. And then? That's it.
Yesterday, as I strode out to the station wagon to haul some radiators, I saw one of the neighbor's dogs in the middle of the street. He was barking like crazy but I couldn't see what he was barking at. A car was slowly driving down the street to avoid hitting him. Because of my alternate identity, "Advocacy Woman...Defender of Global Justice", I decided to get involved, save the dog from being run over, check out who he was barking at, etcetera.
As I walked closer, I spotted our mailman standing on the steps of the house across from the dog and holding a broom. Which seemed necessary because this dog was mad--hackles raised, ears halfway back, ignoring the car which had come to a stop just a few feet from him. His teeth were not showing and his tail was not lowered, but he seemed to be demonstrating that he was anxious. Now I was nervous because, even though I have met this dog a few times, I would rather tangle with a tow truck driver or Home Depot employee than tangle with an angry dog.
As fate would have it, I have been reading "The Other End of the Leash" by Patricia McConnell before I fall asleep at night. It's a fascinating study of how dogs and humans interact and frequently misunderstand each other.
We put a finishing touch on the back bedroom just in time for a house full of guests this weekend.
This past weekend was Aaron's homecoming and we hosted many friends from near and far since his undergrad alma matar, North Park University, is just a few blocks away. Since it rained on Friday and Saturday, the house became an unofficial gathering place for many alums as the outdoor activities became rained out.
At first, this made me a little nervous since we have only hosted family thus far and they already know that we are nutty for having purchased this house.
Actual conversations from HiP this morning:
Aaron appears in the doorway of the room where I am playing with Grace.
Aaron: Hey, i didn't want to wake you up last night and freak you out about what I found in the kitchen.
Me: That doesn't sound good.
Aaron: I saw a mouse.
Me: A WHAT?!? Oh, shut up! You did not!
Aaron: I did. But it's okay. It was riding a motorcycle.
Well, the dust seems to be settling down after a week of heavy traffic--if you didn't see it, an AP article on houseblogging came out on Wednesday, September the 20th. If you've been checking us out for the last few days after reading the article...welcome! :-)
That was pretty cool, but we were amazed to get a second email from Bill Thursday afternoon pointing out that it was the feature story on the Tech section of CNN.com!
Yeah, we're behind a little. This is just for the weekend. There isn't a blackboard large enough for the Master To Do list.
Aaron speaking to me in the kitchen last week:
"Wow. Your newfangled mouse trap must be very scary to mice. We haven't seen one since you put them out."
I couldn't answer him. I was too busy sticking out my tongue.
I hate setting traditional mouse traps. So this one, with its easier one hand setting, seemed interesting.
Well, the sandblasting guys called earlier this week to tell me that the radiators were done. Which is unfortunate for us because I had the manpower and the resources to pick them up LAST week when they were supposed to be done. (My own fault for getting them pulled out so late in the year.)
Because this is Chicago, the land of four seasons in one week, we woke up to this earlier today:
The kind of trap Aaron brought back from the hardware store was your garden variety, 39 cent Victor mouse trap. Looks like this:
He baited them with peanut butter. The instructions for the Tomcat trap said NOT to bait it, and I was skeptical. No bait? If I was a mouse, I'd think, "What's the point?" But I decided to follow the instructions and give it another go. I nudged both kinds of traps into a little semi-circle in front of the hole we had discovered. With no room between traps. A mouse gauntlet, if you will. I can never tell if Aaron is amused or worried about my state of mind when I do things like that.
After Aaron and I set our traps, we put the baby to bed and started working in the living room. We were in the midst of a heated debate about course curriculum (nerds! nerds!) when we heard *SNAP!*
Two weekends ago, we left the house behind to attend the wedding of some family members in the town of St. Michaels, Maryland. The place just oozed charming. So, we got a few shots of eye candy in and among the walkabouts and steamed crab. Many colonial, federal and Victorian houses with a couple of bungalows thrown in.
This little orange tabby cat has found himself a lovely porch to perch on.
Our friends, Kurt and Jenna, are embarking on their own major renovation project. They are going to be renovating Kurt's family's homestead in Woodstock, Illinois. Last Sunday, we went out for a visit.
The house is a "built-as-needed" farmhouse with barn, corncrib, milkhouse, silo and other buildings. I say, "built-as-needed" because that is how it evolved. It began as one room and, as money/time/need allowed, previous members of the family added on to it over the years. Now it is a two story, eight room house with a cellar that needs work. While Jenna and Kurt lived in Hong Kong, it was a rental and that has taken a bit of a toll on it as well.
Here Kurt is pointing out the various things that he'd like to do to it. This includes removing the manufactured siding that is covering up the original wood siding. And removing the industrial light fixture that was affixed to the second floor. And rebricking the chimney.
Normally we acknowledge press coverage for this site or for our fellow housebloggers pretty quickly here, so we just wanted to do a quick post and say a quick 'hi!' to any new readers who found us via yesterday's article on houseblogging from the Edmonton Journal.
They focused primarily on the 20+ Canadian housebloggers who participate at Houseblogs.net (you can find them via this link) and they also had a few nice quotes from Jeannie based on an interview she did with them this past Monday. Go Canada!
Anyway, we're doing a project day here today--Jeannie's currently off to rent a truck and pick up our radiators while I stay home on babywatch. Hopefully we'll get the final painting done today and we'll have heat again in the house by the end of the weekend. (Brrrr, let's hope so...it's been cold in here!)
Do you know what the difference is between a 1 1/4" Matco-Norca Radiator Angle Valve and a 1 1/2" Matco-Norca Radiator Angle Valve?
A half inch, you say? Well, yes, but that isn't all...
1. Play THEY MIGHT BE GIANTS at a very loud volume. Dance around the room before your daughter becomes old enough to pronounce your dancing, "Dorky."
2. Dress your daughter as shrimp sushi, put on a kimono, and take her to her father's office for a visit.
I've already explained before how I am a terrible sissy about thousand leggers and spiders. This is especially the case when I have run across them in the house, Aaron always sighs, picks up a shoe/magazine/paper towel, and removes the disgusting critter before it can run at me, legs flailing, shouting, "Gonna getcha! Gonna getcha!!! Mwah ha haaaaa"
So, imagine my surprise last Sunday when I heard a deep baritone voice shout "AUGH!!" and heard footsteps pounding up the stairs from the basement.
Aaron: There is a bird. A bird. A bird in the basement.
Me: Really? Cool! Where's my camera?
Aaron: It FLEW at me!
Me: But, it's just a bird, right? You know, feathers? A beak? Not a bat?
Aaron: It's a bird.
Since I had a few requests for the story of the White Crow, I'll put it up. Though I must warn you...it is a sad story that still makes me melancholy when I think about it. Anyway, here is the original story as it was written from June 2002. I'll post the follow-up tomorrow.
Walking the dog after a damp, misty rain this morning, I stand on the sidewalk, my shoulders hunched in my rain jacket, one hand playing with the key ring in my pocket. The dog pads across the sidewalk to bury her nose in the wet grass of the lawn. I am stumbling around, physically and emotionally. This week my doctor confronted me about being tested for Multiple Sclerosis. The news broke like a bottle upon my head. I am young, newly married and now I am suffering debilitating mini-seizures, gripping depression, weakness on my left side and struggling with my memory. Walking the dog is no longer a pleasant chore, it is a monumental task.
Further ahead on the sidewalk, something faces me. It looks like a seagull. It opens its mouth and a squeaky "caw" comes out. Which doesn't quite make sense. Looks like a seagull, sounds like a crow?
If you haven't checked for a while (or, well, ever) at Houseblogs.net we continue to add features for readers and housebloggers alike.
The latest eye candy? The return of the Houseblogs Map. But the fun thing is we haven't just brought it back--we've added some cool new things like individual maps on each houseblogs.net member's profile page. Check out an example on our own profile page.
(Note: Right now you need to be logged in to view the map, so if you haven't registered now would be a good time to create an account ...we expect to correct that and make the map publicly available without any registration shortly.) The map is now viewable without registration.
The map provides one more way to find other home improvement fans by location, complimenting other recent features like our recent topical tag-based directory of members.
More features will be coming and we'll share the better ones here, but if you haven't already we'd suggest you go on over, set up your own account, and add yourself to the map. :-)
Wow. It feels so awkward to run into you like this. Yes, I'm sorry for not answering your emails. I, well, I needed some space. We've been together for over three years now and I was feeling a bit, I don't know, restless. I needed to see other websites for awhile.
A knock came at the back door yesterday. I wasn't expecting company so I was surprised to see two faces peering through the window into the kitchen.
A couple of extremely polite eighth graders from the nearby public school. One of them was holding a rake.
"Hello. Would you like us to rake your yard?"
Is it my imagination or is this season much, much too short? I love autumn. It is my favorite time of the year with its crisp weather, colorful leaves, apple cider and winter squash harvest.
But the autumns of my youth seemed to stretch out forever and ever while the most recent autumns in my memory are over too quickly. They last three, four, five weekends and then everything is grey.
Okay, so Joe and Co. at Ace Sandblasting helped me to load the truck up with newly sandblasted and primed radiators. Off I went in my U-Haul rental van to the house where some guys from the neighborhood were to help me unload them.
1951 Ranch Redo is requesting input from houseblogs.net readers and members for a paper she is writing as part of her graduate degree in Library Sciences.
We, at HouseInProgress, love librarians. Love them. Librarians rock. They are the superheroes of the research world, the curators of history and memory, the ambassadors of content and story. 'Nuff said. So click on over to her site and contribute some insight to her paper so she can snag that graduate degree and become the Supreme Goddess of Info-Geekdom that she desires to be.
I only mention the blogroll because it helps me to keep track of sites that I find to be extremely helpful when I am researching home improvement and DIY, not to mention bungalows and vintage finds.
The old blogroll had gotten out of control, so with the help of the Ask Metafilter community, Aaron and Brooklyn Rowhouse, I replaced it with this nifty expandable and categorized one. (Yes, the font size is tiny but some of these site names are LONG! I had to fit them in the column.)
The new one is over there, to the right.
...on the house.
It's late, I'm tired, I'll post our house stuff again starting Monday. In the meantime, this is how we are entertaining ourselves lately.
The summary so far: I took the radiators to be stripped much too late in the season. Then tried to paint them while it was too cold. This made the paint on the radiators a bit streaky and uneven. We hauled them into the house and installed them. And then we turned them on.
And steam filled the living room from one radiator while hot water sprayed from the release valve of another.
We are experiencing technical difficulties that are different from our regular technical difficulties (like not being able to fix our tempermental oven or coming to grips with the fact that Jeannie will never be able to execute a parallel parking job that leaves the car less than a foot and a half away from the curb.)
No, our technical difficulties are of the blogsite kind and we hope to have them conquered shortly. Thank you for your patience and we hope that you had a lovely Thanksgiving.
Update: Once Aaron had a spare minute and sat down to look at it the problem was pretty simple, actually. We'd maxed out our hosting space...woops!
Hello? Hello? Is this blog on? (tap, tap, tap) Ahem. I guess Aaron got the blog working again.
While I was waiting for the blog to be fixed, I was clicking around on the internet, poking my nose in here and there as I am wont to do. I stumbled across the blog A Bunch of Grapes (fellow Chicagoan, amazing Flickr photos) and she posed the question:
As winter approaches, what do you tell yourself?
Which is an excellent question. I talk to myself, a lot. I usually have a running monologue streaming through my head. What do I tell myself as winter approaches? Well, Winter is like that guy I got all excited about in high school. It starts out all crisp and new and exciting. And then I find out that there is slush and darkness and layer-ing of clothes and blahness. I usually want to break up with winter before Valentine's Day so I don't feel obligated to get it anything. I am happily gushing about winter for the first six weeks or so. Then I am bitterly complaining about winter to my friends and wishing that I'd never given winter my number.
...since I last blogged:
-Our station wagon (new head gaskets = yuck)
-Aaron's iPod, which is also his car radio since that was broken awhile back.
-Dishwasher (but I fixed it)
-Windshield wiper on the station wagon.
In other news, we have broken through the ceiling in the front room (whoo hoo!) and I am happy to report that, although too shallow and kind of bouncy, the joists are not broken. And that is a very good thing.
(White Crow and Radiator stories to be ended soon, I promise. However, this really needed to be shared.)
We boarded up the doorway between the living room and dining room with the plywood we bought. Here is my ever-so-patient spouse making our world much, much smaller.
You can spend all the money that you want, research each selection for hours and hours, wrap the gifts as nice as can be, but the favorite is still going to be the same as it ever was.
We just found out today via Chicago 2-Flat that this site was mentioned (very briefly) in an article posted online by NBC5 in Dallas/Ft Worth.
The article, Don't Do It Alone, focuses on interviews with a number of our fellow housebloggers and focuses mainly on why people write houseblogs like this one and the social community aspects of it all.
Sometimes, when Mommy isn't feeling well Daddy is in charge of breakfast on early Saturday mornings.
Okay, speaking of color...
I know I'm getting ahead of myself here because we are NOWHERE near the point of being able to paint the living room or dining room. However, I've always had a crush on what I like to call "Parapluie Yellow." The warm yellow color that provides the background for the Parapluie-Revel poster by Leonetto Cappiello that I have been seeing everywhere for years.
That shade is so perfect and yet! The mystery taunts me. Does anyone know what that shade of yellow is called?
A New York Times article that I was interviewed for came out today. It's about couples who renovate and their irreconcilable differences. (Addition to the to do list: Quickly get back to the gym to resurrect my pre-baby body. Sheesh! Also, never appear in a photo wearing Polar-Tec again.)
If this is your first time visiting the HouseinProgress, you can find out (nearly) everything you want to know about our project and its history here. And here are other stories that the article referenced that you can explore further:
The drywall upstairs
The skylights in our now finished Master Bedroom
Also, a few more things...
My mom and dad came for the weekend to celebrate Grace's first birthday. They arrived at the house at 3:40 pm.
This was my mom at 3:41 pm.
Tomorrow, it will be back to house-related stuff. Today, I owe my mom this entry in order to beg forgiveness for yesterday's "smart-alec entry" (her words, not mine). I will win her back by posting pictures of her grandchildren. The photos from Grace's birthday party this past weekend when we celebrated at my in-laws' lovely home down the block instead of attempting a celebration crammed into the bedroom/office turned dining room at casa disaster.
"What? A party? For ME???"
Someone who read the story in the New York Times asked me about the decision-making we engage in here at HouseinProgress. They were curious about the "five things" that were mentioned there. So, here is the whole story about the five things.
Aaron and I are both very design-oriented people with strong opinions. (I just tend to be more dramatic in expressing mine.) Neither one of us is the type to just throw up our hands and say to the other one, "Okay, go ahead. Do what you want. I don't care." We care. We care very much. From wall color to furniture to the kind of technology we're using to the style and size of our coffee mugs. (Large. Must hold at least 12 ounces of java. Red.)
Oh, sure. There might be some things that we hand off to the other person. But since I can't think of any as I am sitting here, it's obvious to me that there aren't many of those things.
So much to follow-up on! Now that we have our trusty laptop back from being repaired, I'm digging up all sorts of photos that I never posted.
In the REALLY delinquent category? In August of last year, we had been rushing to complete a temporary make-over on our two first floor bedrooms in order to accomodate friends who were staying with us for Aaron's 10 year reunion. We painted over (most of) the map wall but you never got to see the finished product, did you?
Sorry, but we've been a little slow to post here at House in Progress. That's partially a reflection of exactly what you'd expect--we haven't done jack on the house in the past few weeks. However, it's also due to the fact that we've been doing lots of work related to the other site we run--Houseblogs.net.
The big news is that we've launched a new section called Topics in order to help readers find and monitor their favorite home improvement interests.
As for us, we'll be using this new feature to keep track of things relevant to our own fixer-upper like bungalows, stucco and Chicago. We'll also be tracking project related topics like living rooms, hardwood floors and fireplaces.
If you're interested you can register for a Houseblogs.net membership and track your own topics of interest. You can read more about how it all works here.
In related news, we've also launched a cross-promotion between Houseblogs.net and the DIY Network focused on log cabins. As part of their Blog Cabin campaign, they'll be blogging about a cabin they're building in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains before they give it away in August. To get in to the blogging spirit, they're featuring excerpts from the Cabins section of Houseblogs.net on their own blog. They'll also be contributing blog entries to Houseblogs.net as the construction begins.
So, as you can see we have indeed been busy--just not on the things here around the house. We really need to get to that, come to think of it. We can't have the living room boarded up forever, I guess... :-(
During a late night run to 'the Jewel' to pick up some milk, I decided to glance through the Chicago Tribune on my way out. We don't subscribe and it was late enough in the evening that my first assumption was that all the interesting news had already happened for the weekend--probably not worth a buy.
To my surprise, the insert copy of Chicago Tribune Magazine just happened to be speaking directly to me this weekend: "Renovate!" was the cover story. Even more interesting, one of the cover stories teased "3 Architects Rethink the Bungalow." Realizing I was squarely in the middle of this week's target market I decided to pick up a copy.
For anyone interested, the full content of the article is located here (registration required). Rather, I should have said the full content of the article minus pictures is located there. For an article specifically featuring floorplans, I've got to take a minute to say that's a major oversight by any publisher these days. I'm sure an automated computer program made that decision somewhere deep in the bowels of the Tribune building, but come on.
Anyway, three floorplans are featured in the article by three Chicago-area architectural firms. They were each thought provoking in their own way, so I thought folks who follow the bungalow renovation we're doing might also find these of interest so I'll blog each of them here...
Everytime I talk to my mom on the phone lately, she asks me about the blog.
"Why aren't you posting? When are you going to post?"
"I'm busy," I tell her. "What I'm doing takes a lot of energy. So much energy that I fall in bed at night exhausted and wan, a mere husk of my former self because all of the spirit has been sucked out of my body."
What is it that I am doing? I am fretting. That's right, fretting. And not just any fretting. Fretting over figuring out what to do about the fireplace. Fretting about which contractor to trust in our pursuit of putting the living room back together.
Contractor-related fretting is the most intense kind of fretting ever. Worse than worrying if you will ever get asked to the prom and by whom, because you can always go hide in the bathroom at the prom if things go badly. I never have to look at pictures of my prom again if I don't choose to. I didn't have to keep the dress. And I eventually dropped the "Farrah hairdo."
But I would have to wake up every morning and look at what the wrong contractor did to my house until we sell the house. *shudder*
We have spent the last month with our noses to the grindstone and our schedules scattering us in all directions. It's been nuts. And then, snow. A LOT of snow. So much snow that the awning on the back porch collapsed under the weight of it. We probably should have folded that up before winter came. But it was stuck when we tried to close it and we were short on time and...ah well.
We've been busted. I thought we had flown under the radar of the 5 Things Meme careening around Houseblogs.net, but Enon Hall called us out and I don't have time to write about what I was going to so here goes (Aaron will have to write his own five things):
Five Things That You Don't Yet Know About Me Even Though I Seem to Talk About Everything on This Weblog to the Embarrassment of Many, Especially My Mother
Bonus thing. Aaron and I had only been dating for a couple of weeks when this picture was taken (even though we had known each other for a year). It was his birthday. After we all had cake, I gave him a gift. It was a little rock. It was kind of heart shaped. Hey, I had no idea what to get him and it seemed like a good idea at the time.
Many thanks to Derek from Kensington Bungalow who tipped us of to an article in today's Vancouver Sun about houseblogging that happens to mention our blog here at House in Progress. The great thing about this particular article is that it really spreads out the citations and names a whole boatload of the blogs registered over at Houseblogs.net. Congrats to everyone.
If you're new to this site and enjoy renovations or home improvement, we'd suggest you wander over to Houseblogs.net to find hundreds of others like it. It's a community anybody can join, too, so if you're working on your own fixer-upper be sure to sign up, create a blog, and "share the misery of your own renovation!" :-)
We are not the first people to try recreating a craftsman style living room out of next to nothing. Behold! A living room in a stucco bungalow that had been modernized before Michael FitzSimmons Decorative Arts brought it back to life:
Kristen (Bungalow 1926) left a comment about our living room that contained a reference to our "piano windows". I had no idea those tiny windows on either side of the fireplace were called piano windows. What a cool name.
I couldn't find anything on the origin of the name though. "Piano windows"...why that name?
When we took down the ceiling in the living room to reinforce the joists, we saw these, um, things above the ceiling. They are located above the wall in the front of the house. I'm just curious...what are they? Anyone know?
...for the first time in decades. Very messy. Yuck.
Last week, we snuck out of town again. But I did not feel ONE BIT GUILTY for leaving the house behind. March is my most "blah" month. It is the month that I am gray, flat and stale, dragging behind the tail end of winter. So, when my generous parents told us that they would put us up for a week in the guest room of their rented condo, I couldn't hightail it out of here fast enough.
They were staying on a little island called Anna Maria on the Florida Gulf Coast. I must confess here that I am not a beach person. I am a mountain person. Or a city person. But I have never been a laying out slathered in oil, happily bikini wearing, thrilled by the smell of seaweed, contentedly sweating-type person. Until I visited Anna Maria Island.
Here are some of the bungalows, cottages and little Mediterranean hideaways from Anna Maria...
This cute little bungalow is for rent...unfortunately, it's too steep for my pocket book. But look at those lovely shingles! Those cunning braces! Sigh.
When Aaron and I were down in Florida a few weeks ago, we had to go and visit the Historic Kenwood neighborhood in St. Petersburg for a little house voyeurism. Because we are naughty that way.
Whooo-ee! Look at the paint job on that bungalow! Hubba hubba!
I will admit that I don't know much about the intricate workings of this internet website thing. Sure, I can blog and do some simple HTML and amateur graphics work.
So, when Aaron told me that we needed to go to a dedicated server for everything to handle the volume of people in and around Houseblogs.net, I said, "Um. Okay."
He performed a little bit of behind the scenes magic and, well, I'll just take his word for it that we have a better server set up than before. Out there somewhere. In Internetland.
However, I still have to figure out how to get my photos to show up on my blog entries. So, yesterday's post? Today's post? Still in queue. I'll have to resort to my very professional web management skills in order to make everything right again. This involves me whining a lot at Aaron and chanting things like, "Make. It. Work. Make. It. Work." and "please please please please!!!!" Because we are nothing but professional here at HouseinProgress.
Today our site was featured in the Home section of the San Francisco Chronicle in an article about home improvement and renovation blogs. The article (Have Hammer, will blog) interviews us among a number of other people who have chosen to blog about their renovation adventures.
We like sharing our own story, but if you are new to blogs about home improvement there are a lot of other great renovations being written about by members of the other site we run--Houseblogs.net. Whether you own a bungalow in Seattle or a Victorian in Cleveland there's bound to be something over at Houseblogs.net for you.
As for us, if you're coming to this site for the first time we're flattered that you decided to visit. The fastest way to learn about our home and story is probably to check out the About Us page. We hope you find something that helps you with your own house...or at least something entertaining. :-)
We were on a roll. And then...
I got food poisoning. (Shockingly, not from my own cooking!)
Grace had a fight with a door and lost her thumbnail. She gets to keep the thumb, but neither Aaron nor I want her to go through anything like that again. When the ER tech had to strap her to a board with velcro in order to keep her still, I wanted to weep.
I'm having a little blogger crush on a blog that I found through Enon Hall. Liselotte is a graphic illustrator in Denmark who takes the most amazing photographs. And she has a lovely house and garden.
So, you know. Nothing serious. Just a little fling.
Hopefully, the HouseinProgress won't get jealous and spring a roof leak or anything.
I still haven't taken the close up photos that I WANTED to, which would have required an all night scrubbing marathon of the master bathroom. And I'm still feeling pokey from my tango (salsa? mambo?) with food poisoning, so that will have to wait.
However. I did take a few snaps after Grace went down for a nap because I realized that my white balance was all off in the previous "far away" photographs of the almost finished master bath. And that made the color all wrong. The tiles on the floor are not black, they are actually a very cool grayish blue. Hopefully, the color easier to see in this photo?
I swear that I did not set this up. I came around the corner and there she was. I grabbed the camera to record it for posterity.
"Hmmm. Built-ins and Storage. That sounds like a good story."
I celebrated National Rebuilding Day by crawling out of bed at 5:30 am last Saturday morning, tossing my toolbelt into the back of the Subaru station wagon, and limping through a coffeehouse drive-thru where my barista was WAY too cheerful for such an early hour. What do they put in THEIR lattes? Is it legal? Because I want whatever it is.
National Rebuilding Day is on the last Saturday in April each year and it brings together thousands of volunteers to complete home repair projects in one day. Teams are made up of folks who bring a variety of skills to the house that they are working on and we tackle everything needed, all at once. It's fun, it's a worthwhile community project, and you get to work alongside of skilled tradespeople if you choose to, which I did and I learned a lot. (Check to see if there is a Rebuilding Together affiliate in your city.)
The project is sponsored by Rebuilding Together, a not-for-profit organization which improves the homes and neighborhoods of elderly, disabled and low-income residents so that they may continue to live in warmth, safety and comfort. They are working hard to also respond to the needs of the victims of Hurricanes Rita and Katrina, and injured military veterans who need home modifications in order to live safely and in dignity in their current homes.
I have many people to thank for making the day a fun and rewarding one, not to mention educational! For example:
To REMY...philosopher, carpenter, teacher. Thanks to you, I did not cut off my fingers in the table saw and I know the proper use of a cow pill. (You tie it to your tool belt and use it to pick up dropped nails, of course.)
If you believe what you read in the press these days, you'd think this house is putting our marriage at serious risk. We're here to tell you that while we could use a little free time without deadlines, things are just fine. Seriously.
It was really just a coincidence that the same week we were first contacted by the New York Times for their article about how home renovations can strain relationships we were also contacted by an editor at This Old House asking if we'd be interested in contributing an article on...how home renovations can strain relationships.
I am so, so, so, so, so sorry.
The inside of the house has been such a total time sponge these past four years that I have spent very little time on the exterior. And when you raise your eyes from your newspapers or when you are walking the dog in the evening, you have been forced to look at this:
Thanks to a tip from Jamie from the Heritage Conservation Network, I've learned of this pretty awesome program where you can volunteer for a week to help restore a historic building AND take workshops from a master carpenter who will teach you the skills needed to do it. What an amazing idea!
What kind of bee is this?
Does anyone know?
(The title is to make my friends Jeff and Heidi laugh. And anyone else who has read William Steig's book.)
Yes, the bee. It is a carpenter bee. They are heading straight for the little gap between the gutter and the gutter board that was left unpainted by the previous owner. Hopefully, the damage will be easily fixed.
I'm sure that some people (hi mom!) are wondering what we're up to these days and if we've gotten any work done on the fireplace. Um, no. Once the weather became sunny, we quickly switched gears to take advantage of it.
We're on track to finishing the wood window restoration project and we also plan on painting the exterior of the house this summer. What is that saying? Make hay while the sun shines? Ours is now take windows out of the frames when the temperature is well above freezing. Almost four years into this project and we've learned THAT at least.
Scene: College graduation party of distant cousin from Sweden yesterday.
Him: What will happen to your blog when you're done with the house?
Me: I don't imagine that we'll ever be done with this house. When we started, we knew that it was a ten year project at least.
Him: Wow! A ten year project. Don't you get tired of working on it weekend after weekend? Are you very disciplined?
Me: I don't think that we're disciplined. I think we're desperate.
It's gorgeous outside. I think. I wouldn't know first hand because I have been spending the day in the basement working on the wood windows. I'm three-fourths of the way done and I'm on a roll! Whoooo hooo! Plus, I only have my parents for a day and half more so I'm trying to take advantage of the fabulous free babysitting. (Love you mom!)
I'm jamming to NPR on this vintage Zenith H725 AM/FM radio that came with the house. It works amazingly well. (Click on that NPR link and you may understand more about how all of this stuff came to be in the house we bought. NPR's stories ROCK!)
I'll try to write up the description of what I'm doing over the weekend so I can post it next week. If I don't end up buried under a pile of old storms and screens, that is.
Highlights of a weekend:
1) My parents were here and pulled around the clock babysitting duty with gusto. Even after we gave them the Stomach Flu de Diablo. Mom? Dad? When are you coming back? Grace promises to wear a surgical mask next time.
2) Because of their kind dedication, we were able to go out for two (2!) evenings. IN A ROW. I don't think that even happened BEFORE we had the kid.
3) The first evening involved a funky corner bar in Bucktown, Schadenfruede (the comedy troupe not the state of being), a few pints of beer, and a goofy dash through town folded up like origami in the backseat of a Mini Cooper with my friend Jane. We whined until our spouses took us through the McDonald's drive-thru for fries, but we stopped short of TP'ing the front lawns of any neighbors. We ARE mature and moms now, after all.
4) The second evening culminated in my basking within the glorious wit and irreverent glow of Jon Stewart. IN PERSON. I contemplated throwing my unmentionables at him but sadly realized that I didn't have enough elastic in my waistband to back up my intentions since I was easily 100 feet from the stage. Oh, Jon. Oh, motherhood. Ah, well.
Photographic evidence of the importance of having the drains under the house cleaned out at least once a year.
Roots. Lots and lots of roots. And what looks like baby wipes. Not quite sure who flushed those. That's a no-no.
(Hi Mom! Hope you weren't eating breakfast in front of the laptop this morning!)
When attempting the restoration of wood windows, normal people take it a room at a time. You know, spread out the work. Don't overdo it.
I'm obviously not one of those people as I am speeding towards finishing them all. All of them. All forty of them. Which is an insanely large amount of windows to try to do all at once. This is where my OCD tendancies can be seen as helping me or hurting me depending on how strongly you feel about the wood windows versus my ability to get anything else done.
Aaron has been incredibly patient with the eerie light in here due to the 6 mil plastic sheeting and plexiglass.
Still here. We taught out last class of the semester last night up in Evanston and our students organized and hosted an amazing all day conference last Saturday. It was amazing. And I am tired.
Between Grace and teaching and other things, the windows restoration project is chugging along.
My trusty iMac has let me down and isn't hooking up to the internet. Sorry for the lack of posts. I'm typing this on an old laptop that I can't upload photos to (easily). Hmm. This whole post is beginning to sound like that old joke about fortunes in fortune cookies.
Help! I'm being held captive in a fortune cookie factory!
Except it would look like:
Help! No iMac! Send wifi!
And, for those of you who are keeping score, I am down to TEN big windows and THREE tiny ones. Out of forty-odd. WHOO HOOOOOOO! The end. It is in sight.
Sorry for the interruption. We're alive. And we'll soon be back to our regular programming. That is either a promise or a threat depending on how you view this blog.
And, pray tell, where have we been? That's easy. NEW NIECE!
Every year we go on two family vacations. One with Aaron's family and one to visit my family. Both families are very generous and go to great lengths to lure us away from the House Where To Do Lists Go To Die. In March, my parents lured us to Florida. At the end of June, Aaron's parents lured us back to the Pacific Northwest. It also helped that we got to see many of the "grands" from Aaron's mom's side of the family, as well as Grace's newest cousin.
(Since I have so many of both, I'm going to mix up my window-related entries with my being-outta -town-related entries over the next few days...)
There are not many things that make my heart seize up like a clenched fist. But lead paint is one of those things.
Don't even get me started on the topic of our government, their knowledge of lead health hazards as early as the 1920s (as in the National Lead Company publicly admitting lead is poison in 1921), and their refusal to ban lead paint here in the US because it would be harmful to some CEO's bottom line. Idiots.
We know our house has lead paint on the exterior trim, windows and garage. We had it tested. Now all that remains is to either remove it or stabalize it so that it doesn't pose a health risk. If you think that owners of (really) old houses are alone in this battle, think again. Lead paint wasn't banned in the US until 1978, therefore, any homes built before 1978 have the potential for some kind of lead paint in or on them.
When we booked a hotel in Seattle for two nights through Hotwire, we werenâ€™t sure what weâ€™d get.
If you are unfamiliar, Hotwire is one of those online services which can get you deep discounts on hotel reservations as long as you are comfortable with the fact that you wonâ€™t know exactly where you will be staying. After you put in your credit card number, they tell you the name of the hotel where you have booked a reservation. A reservation which you cannot cancel.
We were looking for a kid-friendly place to stay in downtown Seattle and, being that we are now a traveling family on a budget, we wanted to take advantage of any discounts we could find. So we rolled those crazy internet dice and booked through Hotwire.
And that is how we ended up with a room at the W Hotel.
While we were only in Seattle for a couple of days, we had a visit to make. To see one of the CUTEST FAMILIES EVER.
Yes! It's Nick, Trissa and super hunky, Atticus, from Pigeon Point Project. We barged in on them nice and early, and they were still kind enough to give us a tour of their spectacular place. This included showing us the furniture that they have built themselves and the wine cellar that Nick is truly famous for.
This is what happens when I am tired and shouldnâ€™t be handling tools. When I am removing old glazing putty from a window, when Iâ€™m not paying attention, when the glazing knife slips.
I end up looking like a movie extra from Girl, Interrupted.
Note to self. Step away from the work bench after nine oâ€™clock at night.
Note to you: You may not want to click on the link if you are squeamish.
So, where were we when we left town last month?
Every year, my husbandâ€™s family generously invites us on a family vacation somewhere. We only need to get there and enjoy the time with a lovely group of people who like to visit beautiful locations.
Since Aaron's sister's family lives in Alaska and others live near Seattle, this is often the only time we get to see them all year.
Last year, we took five month old Grace sailing. This year, we all met up in Whistler, British Columbia. The house that they rented was a stunning, four-story affair on the side of hill about a mile from town. Iâ€™m always a little floored that a home like this is someone elseâ€™s SECOND home since my first home would fit inside of it. Like, two and a half times over.
It had a sauna, steam shower, a hot tub, radiant heated slate floors, a heated driveway (it IS ski country, I guess), two fireplaces, a two-story high living room ceiling, and three levels of outdoor balconies. The drama! The heating bill! The screaming echoes of a toddler who does not posses a volume control!!
Well, it's never a party for us until something falls off, melts down or smokes us out...
Do you think our house can actually make long distance phone calls...to other houses? Take out a hit on us?
The first thing I notice is the dark winding ribbon on the pavement.
We are on the interstate driving through Seattle. Iâ€™ve been jolted out of a fitful doze in the backseat by the squeal of car tires. I automatically throw my arm in front of my daughter who is sleeping in the car seat next to me and search the road ahead of us through the windshield but I can see nothing. Just the brake lights of a dozen cars.
Within moments, sirens and flashing lights are streaming past us on the shoulder of the road. A delivery truck dutifully begins to merge into the lane ahead of us to avoid something. Perhaps a blown tire or a fender bender. I settle back into my seat.
BlogHer is in Chicago this year.
So, I'm going. I wasn't going to go, but then I found out that Chris from Notes from the Trenches is going. And I'm a big, geeky fangirl of Notes from the Trenches.
So, I'm going. I mean, I'm going downtown. I'm already in Chicago.
Weâ€™ve been Starbucked.
We came home from our vacation to gaze upon the newly stylish faĂ§ade of the coffeehouse that opened a few blocks from our house. And that Open Hearth, the independent coffee shop where I frequently sit and write, had abruptly closed. The two events were unrelated, but still sad.
I am neither hip nor stylish. I wear Borns (because they last a minimum of 10 years) and a carpenter belt. I love being in the wood shop more than the kitchen. I have been an artist, a musician, and a teacher and a bartender. I often move in all directions at once, though I can sit quietly and give you my full attention if required. I like to connect people who don't know each other, building with human tinkertoys. I am more impatient than I would like to be. I overcommit and overprepare and overapologize.
I have no memory for names (which pains me) but I remember faces. I am a repository of strange trivia. I dislike the telephone. I am the survivor of a long struggle with chronic illness and this has left its marks on me, including the crease in the space between my eyebrows and my irreverent sense of humor. I can't remember birthdays but I will be the first person to come to your rescue at two in the morning when your car has been towed and you're stranded. I am cautious yet hopeful.
One part inspiration, one part admiration, one part "huh?", and one part high school anxiety flashback. That sums it up for me.
I'll be honest. I was looking forward to the conference and also secretly dreading it. I'm a socially anxious person who tries desperately to hide behind expressive enthusiasm. (Lots of "HELLO!" and so forth.) This often results in awkward moments and blunders and miscommunication. Which in turn creates this chain reaction in my head of "stupid! stupid! stupid!" and the desire to bang my head against a wall. So, conference + me = psychological train wreck, usually. Plus, cool tech women! Who dress stylishly! Who I think I might like if I met them in person!
And here I am, without a table saw to hide behind.
...offer the family two choices the next time I am out-of-pocket for four days:
1) Do laundry while I am gone, or
2) Remain naked until I return.
..to bring you something pretty cool.
This next wood windows entry needs graphics which I didn't have time to design today.
So cool your heels by clicking over to the July Finalists in the Houseblogs Photo Contest and voting on your favorite. Which will be difficult because there are some tremendous entries in there.
Photo contest idea was the brainchild of Bill from Enon Hall, who has a cool house and a cool site, so check it out!
The windows were finished last weekend. Did I take the weekend off to celebrate?
The small, midwestern family had been tormented by fevers, runny noses and days of rain. Bored and on each others' nerves, they set out in their
Conestoga station wagon for the Swedish-American home improvement mecca.
sat on her tuffet. Except, it wasn't a tuffet. And this thing was in my bathtub. And, at 6:30 am, Miss Muffet screamed, "AARON!!!! AUGH!!! HELP!!!" I won't need any coffee for the rest of the day.
What kind of monster spider IS THIS??!!
And why does it want to live in my bathtub?
Zach, our internet pal who was interested in the wood window restoration, asked us if the windows were difficult to open and close after they were restored. I told him that I would take a video (whoo! multi-media!) for him so he could see our windows in action.
Now, you have to know how much I hate (HATE!) being on camera to appreciate what it took for me to post this video. And this isn't false modesty talking. I've never liked being on camera, even when I was a kid. If it's true that the camera steals your soul, I'd like to make it out of this life with more soul than, say, Paris Hilton or Lindsey Lohan. That's my reasoning and I'm sticking to it. The Loch Ness Monster and Bigfoot are not fans of the camera. I'm not either. I figure I'm in better company with Bigfoot than I would be with Paris. Less drama.
So, Zach. This little video cost me a piece of my soul and I hope that you enjoy it. No guilt though, eh? (I kid, obviously. Kinda.)
In my rush to finish the windows project, I neglected to clean the rain gutters on the back porch.
Then we had a really big storm last Thursday night. And I remembered the gutters.
Funny. How a sheet of rain pouring out of your gutters and onto the steps leading into your basement will spark your memory just like that.
I was still awake and working at midnight on Sunday. I had a small bag of trash (okay, it was a stinky diaper) to take to the garbage can in the alley. I decided it couldn't wait until morning.
As I stepped out onto the back porch, I noticed our garage door was open. And that I could see through the garage into the alley because the LARGE garage door was open, too. My heart sank. I immediately knew what was happening.
Just when I was ready to be all cynical and crabby and Grinch-like about the human race in the wake of my barefoot dash down an alley after my stolen lawnmower, I got an awesome email from Denise at the Bungalow Chronicles. (As well as many supportive and sympathetic comments from many of you.) But the email from Denise...well...
Let me give you some backstory.
Part of my work these days is scheming about how to tire out Miss Grace before I fall over from exhaustion. This is one of the most challenging projects I have ever tackled, hands down. Harder than the attic insulation removal project. Harder than the wood window restoration project. Why? Because I am never finished. Every day I begin ALL OVER AGAIN!
That sleepy little toddler who passed out in the middle of her applesauce last night? She has suddenly awakened with the energy of eight thousand turbo jet engines, is armed with an egg beater, and is headed straight for the toilet bowl. This scene and its variations will repeat themselves daily, much like the movie Groundhog Day.
In an effort to help burn off a little of that energy and get some garden inspiration for next year's project plan, we visited Chicago's Garfield Park Conservatory last week. Designed in 1905 by Jens Jensen in collaboration with some very talented Prairie School Architects, the conservatory is a complex and beautiful green oasis within the city limits.
loses an eye has to lance the ceiling.
My apologies to Danielle for standing on her dining room table in my bare feet. Especially after she fed me, gave me wine and taught me Bunco.
This week the September/October issue of Chicago Home Magazine arrived at our local bookstore and our site was among five websites listed under the title Design Diaries: Five local home blogs that keep us coming back for more.
It's a very complimentary write up...and now we can add 'schadenfreude' to the list of adjectives that people have used to describe our lives, our blog and this house. However, I laughed because the September/October issue is the LUXE issue. And we are not exactly the definition of luxe.
The other four sites they listed are also great reads:
As the only houseblog on their list, we'd be remiss if we didn't point out that there are actually quite a few people around Chicago who do online renovation journals. You can check out their latest adventures on this page over at Houseblogs.net.
We labored on Labor Day Weekend by beginning to paint the trim on the house. We didn't finish, but it's a start!
We flew to Anchorage last weekend for the christening of our niece, Svea. Such a lovely baby! We all miss her already.
Of course, we were able to check out Svea's parents' new ranch house as well. I couldn't resist taking a few photos.
I rarely indulge in a purely "mommyblogging" entry, but I'm...well...okay, let me just say it.
This morning, I
blew off postponed some work I had to do and took Grace to the playground. Not our regular playground. A different one. For variety.
I should also mention that I hopped up and down for joy this morning after reading my bathroom scale. It's no secret that my thyroid went wonky after I had Grace, that my doctors are still trying to get my Synthroid dose right, and I have been wrestling with getting back into to my pre-Grace clothes. Still not there, but closer. So I triumphantly slipped on a pair of khakis in the next size down (they weren't tight!), pulled out the stroller (the one that hadn't been stolen), and went for a power walk.
Things we did this weekend:
- Kept painting trim on house and garage (only the top half of the house is left to be done...yay! And our neighbor was delirious with joy.)
-Began installing new version of Houseblogs.net with upgraded features, new look, and many bells and whistles which will be appearing slowly over the next two weeks.
Me (while Grace is napping)
We have been diligently putting a contrasting trim color on the house and the garage. In the midst of the earnest painting, I thought, "Hey! We never get to DECORATE! We're always too busy replacing a ceiling or fixing a furnace. Our cute, decorative stuff is STILL packed away in boxes from four years ago. Maybe we should DECORATE??!!!"
It's not turning out as I had hoped.
Having a really beautiful spot to watch the harvest moon rise over the water while picnicking with friends.
We think you should take this Saturday morning off from working on your house and GO GET INSPIRED!
I mean, come on. How often do you get to be nosy inside of a house that looks like THIS?
And that is just the foyer.
(All photos and graphics courtesy of the Pleasant Home Foundation.)
Soooo. My pal Danielle (of the lanced ceiling) called me up and invited me to this shindig out in the suburbs last Wednesday. Although it was a weekday night, she said the magic words. Those words were:
"You'll learn how to make food that doesn't come from a can. And wine will be served."
For you see, as I've mentioned before, I have a cucinaphobia. Fear of kitchens. I WANT to be better at cooking. Especially now that I have a kid and there is this whole thing called, what is the word? Nutrition? And because she is a toddler, there is the OTHER word? Pickiness? So making an entire meal out of half a melon and a handful of rice crackers--for five days in a row--doesn't cut it anymore.
Plus, I will be without a kitchen sometime within the next five years when we fully renovate it. And that scares me most of all. Especially since we are not known for speed in renovation. Case in point, I have been without a living room since November 2006.
So, I went wanting to get over this fear of feeding my kid. And possibly learn some ways to make food that may not involve a fully-functional kitchen. And drink wine with the mommybloggers.
That's me, being all klassy and refined, with Grrrlfriend Jess.
My niece, Morgan, visited me in August. She has a natural eye for photographic composition. So, I took her to the most interesting place I know in the neighborhood for taking photos after dark. Lincoln Avenue in Chicago.
Sorry. I have to brag about my niece one more time. She took this photo, on a cheap little digital camera, when she was ELEVEN. I absolutely love this photo and I cannot even explain why in any adequate way.
And the hex tile work that they did in the bathroom? Not to be missed. Seriously. I swooned.
We've been transitioning Houseblogs.net over to a new server. Which means that we need to transition HouseinProgress over to a new server. Which means that I can't post on HouseinProgress until we're done. (Gah!)
So, um, in the meantime, please give these folks some advice since they are asking nicely.
And prep for Halloween here.
I hate it when I can't post to the blog. I go into this kind of blog withdrawal that involves eating all of the leftover Halloween candy. It's tragic, really.
I wasn't going to take Grace out because I don't want her to know about the existence of C-A-N-D-Y. As I wrote to Chris a few weeks ago, I'm enough of an addict that I don't want to see my kid using Twizzlers and Kit Kat bars. From there it's all downhill until the day we find her passed out with Pixie Stix dust underneath her nose in a pile of Snickers wrappers behind the 7-11. And no parent wants to face that.
But Aaron's office had trick-or-treat and he asked me to bring her, so I had to whip up a costume at the last minute. Our hippie-love church was cleaning out the closets and found this hilarious outfit from the 1950s which they lent to us for the week under the condition that we take photos. Since Grace wouldn't stay still for pictures (she is in constant motion), here is the best I could do for now. (To the Grandmas: We'll have a reenactment and I'll get better photos, I promise.)
I hate my stove, not only because it is electric, but also because it is never clear which knob controls which burner. I actually had to put painter's tape next to two of the controls in order to remember or risk burning the back of another wood cutting board.
Of course, I blame all of my poor cooking skills on my stove.
Two Oak Park housebloggers, John and Jen from the Humphrey House, were on the Today Show this morning.
It's a great segment and you can see it here.
Lots of demo action but no cocktails were spilled. :)
I am a geek about tools, even though I'm not an expert woodworker or builder. And I think I know where it started.
When I was in sixth grade, I was the most uncoordinated kid ever. While other kids were dashing after volleyballs in gym class yelling, "Mine! Mine!", I was crouched down to the side with my arms protecting my head and screaming out, "Yours! Yours!"
But in wood shop and metal shop, I felt confident. I could cut a straight line! I could use a drill press! Math made more sense when I used it in wood shop.
So when this very talented woodworker I know asked me if I wanted to borrow his benchtop router table, I was in awe. Amazed. A little overly excited. Because, um, YEAH! I get to try out a router table!!! Whooooooo! (Thanks TK!)
Wood shops are disappearing from schools all over the country, along with art, home economics, drafting, and anything not considered to be directly related to standardized testing. This makes me deeply sad. Especially since DIY seems to be more celebrated than ever and a lot of adults AND kids want to learn to do things for themselves.
Which is why I am excited to share a very special secret with folks who live in Chicago. One that Steve from Chicago Two-Flat shared with me and that I was delighted to discover is much more far reaching than I had imagined.
The Chicago Park District has wood shops for Chicago residents. Seventeen of them to be exact. They aren't well advertised and it is difficult to find the master list of locations but I will be posting the master list on THIS VERY WEBSITE soon. So, whooo hoo! All of you apartment dweller crafty types, weekend DIY warriors and Norm Abram wanna-bees? This entry is for you.
We'll explore the wood shop in Horner Park so you can see what I am talking about.
Whether you are an apartment dweller with no room for a table saw or a novice with a desire to learn how to use a chop saw, if you live in Chicago, a wood shop may be available to you.
The Chicago Park District runs seventeen wood shops in and around the City of Chicago for the use of Chicago residents. Each park offers a variety of classes tailored to a wide variety of interests and ages.
This is for my little sister, who just had her second hip replacement surgery, a crazy operation for someone so young.
Chrissy, I've thought of the pro's and con's here. And, yeah, surgery is definitely a con. As is bed rest and rehabilitation.
But the pro's? Chrissy. You are now officially bionic. BIONIC! How cool is THAT???
Get well soon! Grace sends smooches to her Sissy!
I'm not quite sure how I feel about this site.
It allows users to share professional documents and legal agreement samples on a variety of topics, including quite a few related to real estate and rentals.
Sometimes I wish my life came with a giant Tivo control, so that I could pause it and catch up with all of the things that I am working on. So I could finish them and sit down with a cup of tea and absolutely nothing left on my To Do List.
Plus, you know, I could skip a lot of stuff. Like washing dishes. Or doing laundry. Or crawling under the sun room to check out the footings under there.
Yes, that is the ridiculously large vertical crack in the sun room footing. And if I had a life Tivo, I could skip over dealing with that entirely.
A few weeks ago, Chris from Notes from the Trenches asked me what I thought would be great gifts for DIY'ers or Housebloggers.
As I usually begin thinking about gift giving on December 23rd (or thereabouts), I was caught off guard. I had nothing. What does one give to complete geeks like me who get very excited about choosing tile?
A few weekends ago, Aaron, Grace and I got the pleasure of visiting and touring Old Man and the Street. And, whoa. It is a GORGEOUS house. Breathtaking. After Grace's coat came off, she ran around the first floor yelling, "Wow! Lookit THAT!!" around every corner.
Obviously, our house voyeurism geekiness is embedded in our DNA and has been passed along to our offspring.
But, nothing, NOTHING prepared Grace for her meeting with the famous Red Fan of Death.
Because this is getting terrible.
And it needs to be relatively cheap. And easy to lug from our basement to the recycling center. And easy to keep clean because, hoo boy. Old recycling can be yucky.
P.S. I use big fabric bags for my groceries. Except for the days that I forget to bring the bags. Ergo, the paper bags. Sigh.
This year, we have no living room again and all of our furniture is squeezed into a tiny, claustrophobic space in order to accommodate various power tools in the space where the living room will be.
Therefore, no tree for us again this year. We will be enjoying the fabulous tree efforts of others.
AJ and Lenore invited us to help them select their special Christmas tree at a tree farm outside of Chicago, so we all caravaned up to the Richardson Tree Farm in Spring Grove to go tree hunting.
Wes and the boys were working hard over the last few days to fix the electrical situation in our living room. A living room which I have not lived in since November 2006. So, we could call it a non-living room. A limbo room. The Room of Exposed Joists and Brick and Mess.
So, what finally did jump start this frenzy of work in the front room after this mess had lain dormant for so long?
We were doing a little light "blog housekeeping" over the weekend. In light of the fact that I have had NO time to list new things in The Shop for The Virtual Estate Sale, we have replaced the Virtual Estate Sale with an Amazon Shop of all of our favorite House In Progress things. We've only included things we've used or that we own. And we haven't been paid to list anything that is in there.
(And yes, there is still stuff left in the house that I haven't blogged about or even looked at yet. I'll get to it sometime and we'll revive "What on Earth?!" once more.)
No living room? No place to put a Christmas tree?
The upside? Less needles to mix in with the sawdust.
You can look at the pictures from the demolition a few years ago. Thankfully, Grace's room looks nothing like this now.
I'm wondering if using the kind of brace needed for stabilizing a ceiling fan between joists would do nicely. Just for added support. It holds up to 70 ceiling fan pounds. Or if the joist would be fine on its own. I want it to be very, very sturdy.
The previous owners didn't leave much furniture in the house. And because the furniture was the only thing that the estate sale people could identify among all of the cardboard boxes of stuff, they grabbed the all of the furniture and left all of the boxes of
crap vintage treasures behind.
Today, Grace and I played around with the only furniture left behind in the house. The dollhouse furniture.
Sankta Lucia at North Park University. Because, seriously, what little girl is NOT excited by seeing older girls parade around with their heads on fire? It's magical and lovely and just a teeny bit daring. Mommy's headlamp looks lame next to this.
I seem to be somewhat confused.
I am very much in the middle of hating small changes, and yet yearning for large changes. I love my blog, I hate my blog. I love my house, I hate my house. I love the holidays, I hate the holidays.
Are you sensing a pattern here? 'Cause I am.
This is Part Two. For Part One of this entry, click here.
We were in Pittsburgh over Christmas to spend time with my side of the family and to visit my sister (with the bionic legs) and to make ourselves insane by driving 8 1/2 hours in a car with a two year old who doesn't ever stop asking for things and who refuses to take "no" for an answer. A two year old who does not sleep in the car at night, or so we discovered. A two year old who I was tempted to sell at a truck stop somewhere in Ohio.
Another break I took over the Christmas holiday? Dragging my young niece on a photo-taking adventure in Harmony, PA. Harmony is a historic town close to my (bionic!) sister's house that was founded in 1804 and was the cradle of the Harmonist movement. Although the town's founders moved on to New Harmonie, Indiana just ten years later, the town and many of its buildings are still there today.
Pretty. I'm digging the red trim. It would be awesome if that were milk paint.
To say that I am a geeky fangirl when it comes to Taunton is putting it mildly. I have had daytime fantasies of showing up unannounced at their headquarters in Newtown, Connecticut (yeah, I see you Taunton) with flowers and fresh coffee and warm muffins and pony rides for all of the pain and aggravation that they have saved me over the years. Not to mention the wisdom, experience and skills that they have imparted to me with their superb instructional design and commitment to quality.
And I don't usually call out certain sales because that would require that I post more than once a day EVERYDAY because, whoa, do you know how many sales are out there for stuff? My inbox is full of press releases and ads.
How did we get rid of our old house, end of the year, still don't have a living room, ceiling in the basement is falling down blues?
We checked out the show of our neighbor across the street, Joel Frankel, who was playing a gig at First Night in Evanston! Danced with our toddler until we we're ready to drop!
(This track is awesome! Very Tom Petty-ish. Joel rocks!!! Buy his CDs! << shameless plug meant to thank him for playing the annual block party all these years. And I'm serious about the fact that he rocks. He opened up his set on First Night with a custom cover of The Clash, people! Parents went wild. )
One of our favorite home and garden bloggers, Charles and Hudson, caught up with Kevin O'Connor of This Old House for an interview about his career, his own house and DIY coverage on the Internet. Of all of the TOH hosts over the years, I'd say O'Connor definitely tops my list and, given the choice between Kevin and other hosts (**cough**Bob Vila**cough**), Kevin is tops.
Of course, I found this part of the interview to be fascinating:
C&H: What is your take on the growth of online DIY sites especially independent publishers such as ourselves or Houseblogs.net? Do you ever refer to any particular online resources besides ThisOldHouse.com?
We loved Iowa City.
We loved the old houses. We loved the people. We loved our hosts from Foxcroft. We loved talking to the folks from the Friends of Historic Preservation. We loved meeting Becky and Elsa from That's a Cute Little Farmhouse. We loved it all. Iowa, we loved you. Even after we had to travel a few hours in below freezing weather to see you.
We loved Mike and Lisa's house (Foxcroft) and really think that he has been holding out on his houseblog because, zowie! What a house!
In our (seemingly) never ending quest to put the living room fireplace back into place where it used to be, we've enlisted the talents of our friend, T.K. In fact, if it wasn't for T.K., we would probably be without a living room for at least another year. Why? Well, we definitely underestimated the difficulty of making progress with a VERY lively two year old in the house. A two year old who wakes up every morning at 5:00 a.m. Every. Single. Morning.
Therefore, T.K. has been sucked in by the magnetic pull of the HouseinProgress...a pull which threatens to drain the very life force from his body. He decided to try and tame the beast by cutting the casement window frames BACK into the wall where they were stucco'ed over decades ago.
To refresh your memory, here is the BEFORE picture.
This is T.K. and Sarah's dog, Molly.
(Written a couple of days ago, posted now.)
This weekend, I am away.
Before I was married, I used to take at least one vacation by myself each year to regroup, relax and decompress. This led to a love of bed and breakfasts, of wandering unfamiliar streets with no agenda and striking up conversations with strangers in coffee houses and pubs.
Case in point: I had just met these people two hours before this picture was taken in Salzburg, Austria. September, 1995. I have no idea why we are posing like that.
I haven't had time for very much lately, including my blogroll. It has been a few months since I've visited some of the other blogs that I used to read daily or go to for advice.
I'm more than a little blown away to learn of the passing of Anita Rowland a little over a month ago. I had never met Anita in person. Wayyyyyy back when I started blogging, I was quite an amateur compared to the enthusiasm and prolificness of someone like Anita. She was kind enough to link to me very early on which was encouraging to small potatoes blogger like me. There were many insomnia-fueled nights when reading a comment from Anita at midnight (she was on Seattle time) made me feel less alone in this dirty, smelly, cluttered house.
I'm going to leave Anita's blog listed on my blogroll as long as it stays on the 'net, I think. She was one of my first blogroll pals and my blogroll would definitely seem lonely without her.
Aside from being an awfully cute town that is just a quick $6.00 Metra ride from Chicago, Woodstock is famous for a couple of things:
Did some minor work on copper plumbing in basement. Now, green sand is coming out of the bathtub faucets and it is kind of disturbing.
Are they oxidized copper particles? The result of too much solder? Something funky happening with my water heater?
I am officially perplexed.
OK, I think we're back.
House in Progress was down for nearly two days due to problems with our hosting service. Unfortunately, our blog is a little too large (and processor intensive) for the hosting package we were using. After trying a few tweaks to Movable Type, the site kept bringing down their server so they'd need to shut it down. For those who tried to visit us, that's the reason you got the 'suspended' message.
Anyway, I don't think we should have any more problems.
Thanks, btw, to everyone who sent us concerned emails. It's always fun to hear from you! :-)
Living in the city, your windows are usually smashed up against somebody else's windows, or a brick wall, or the face of a potential burglar gazing longingly at your stereo. That is why I like window solutions which let in light, but block the view. So, I'm always looking for new ones.
Most of the year, I keep my political angst bottled up inside of me and off of the blog. Once a year, I channel it into one post to get it off of my chest. This will be that post. So, unless you are very masochistic or a political junkie like I am, you might not want to click on the Continue Reading link. So, put your hands in your pockets and whistle while you stroll on by. There is a lovely Houseblogs button to the right of this post in the middle column (there it is! See it?) and you will find much domicile talk over there. Nothing to see here.
As for the rest of you? I gave you fair warning. Especially my mom, because I mention the u-word and the v-word in here. (Well, the v-colloquialism, anyway.)
Can you guess what this is?
Hint: It's going to consume most of the next two weekends, hopefully no more than that.
Sometimes I miss the relatively carefree days of condo or apartment living. When snow removal and major repairs to the roof or foundation were taken care of without requiring hundreds of hours of lost sleep on my part.
But then I remember the advantages of having a yard to play in.
Quite often, we receive very polite emails from folks who have read about something on the blog. Maybe it was about the windows, or our air-conditioning, or our refinished bathtubs. They are inquiring about our happiness with prior decisions now that 2 or 4 years have passed. And I am always happy to revisit those old decisions, for better or worse.
Most of the emailed letters read like the following:
Man builds fashionable cottage of straw for $7800 (or 4,000 GBP). Cringes at Big Bad Wolf jokes made by neighbors.
It's adorable inside, too. Now I feel that anything I work on for the HouseinProgress is severely overdoing it.
This has been my life for the last few days.
I'm sitting here with the laptop, watching the Democratic debate, and checking my email. And I received this note:
I was just on line looking for the obituary for Uncle Siegfried when I saw your post.
Mr. Weng died Tuesday night in Evansville, Indiana. He was nearly 104. He was my husband's uncle.
As I sat on the edge of the bathtub and watched water spurt out of the radiator this past week, I glimpsed something that I become aware of from time to time but never blog about.
I was frustrated. I was tired. It was cold outside and I was trying to do my best keep my cranky toddler entertained and out of the water on the floor. I worried that the water was dripping into the basement downstairs and onto the freshly sanded wood trim that I've been slaving over. I worried that Grace would be scalded by the hot water and steam.
But I was lucky, very lucky. I knew how to fix the problem myself for twenty dollars or less. There were no frantic phone calls to a professional that I might not have been able to afford. No begging for someone to come and help me deal with this. No other problems that resulted from not fixing the radiator (which could have piled up like a big problem avalanche and have leveled me emotionally).
I learned how to use power tools by following a farm boy around and watching him fix things. I also learned how to do things from reading the internet. I think there should be more practical, hands-on workshops for women on how to use power tools and home repair because I think it builds self-reliance. I would teach a workshop like this if I had the opportunity. Or there should be more cute farm boys to follow around. Or something. World peace?
There. That's better.
Murphy's Law of Hard Drives
Your laptop hard drive will unexpectedly and terminally fail after you have spent two months taking/saving photos that you have not saved anywhere else because your usual backup system (loading them on more than one computer and transferring files between computers) was out of service for two months.
And it will fail while you are on vacation.
And recovering the data on your hard drive will not work through any normal method.
Instead, it will be estimated to cost over $1200 to recover the data in order to retrieve photos of your child between the ages of 24 and 26 months as well as any photos you haven't blogged about yet. And the retrieval of said photos will not be guaranteed. But the departure of the mythic $1200 from your bank account would be for keeps.
So you will be forced to choose between being able to FEED your child for two months and having those photos back.
p.s. I chose the groceries. So it goes.
While the departure date of our yearly vacation with my parents loomed large, Aaron and I whipped together a list of things that needed to be completed before we left.
For the house, this included stripping the remaining woodwork (door jambs, trim in the sunroom) and finishing it off by rubbing it with denatured alcohol and steel wool. Tracking down the window order for the windows, the tile order for the fireplace, the electricians for installing the remaining electrical, etcetera. Why the hurry?
Images from the Earth Hour celebration at MorMor's house.
Grrr! Don't mess with me or my biscuit joiner!
Ah, just kidding. He's relatively harmless. Just ask his wife, Sarah. :) She keeps him in line.
In our neighborhood, it's sometimes known as the house that everybody wants to live in. It is a clever, beautiful house. And we're enjoying our temporary stay here. (Don't worry, MorMor and FarFar. We will move out. Eventually. I promise.)
I've been kind of argh-y about blogging lately.
Not because I don't like to contemplate my navel, or take photos of inane things, or get truly sweet emails from folks out there in Etherland (who aren't trying to sell me v1agra 4 cheep or Bacheelor/ MasteerMBA/ Doctoraate diplomas). Because that part? Is awesome.
(Here is my obligatory, cheesy, artsy, navelgazing blogger photo. Sans makeup and morning shower so I can claim to be NAKED on my blog. Time to get my roots done.)
I've been dreaming of this day since January 2007 when I first wrote about my search for the perfect shade of "bungalow yellow".
I never thought I'd want to paint a room with yellow paint. Isn't there a rule of home decor that requires you to forever hate the colors of the bedroom you had in the sixth grade? Because it will revive long forgotten trauma about Brian WhatsHisFace making fun of your long toes when you wore your first pair of platform sandals to school? I think there is a rule like that. It's also why I will never have burnt orange shag carpet or rainbow sheets anywhere in my house.
(All of my own choices, by the way. I can't blame my mother for any of it. Darn. Where was Apartment Therapy when I was 11 years old?
My heart starts beating a little faster when I find a brown box from UPS on the back porch.
...and the earth moved. Glorious lakehouse.
Oh. That was an earthquake? Huh. Well, I still think this space is amazing.
(Eh, who am I kidding? I slept right through the earthquake. In fact, I went to bed at 9:30 pm and slept like the dead. If the dead had expired from chasing a hyperactive midget, that is. I'm thinking about tying weights to her ankles. Give myself a fighting chance.)
By the way? Worst neighbor of the year? This guy.
Interesting. Peter Walsh is convinced that clutter and weight gain are related.
(This is a photo of the room that would eventually become Grace's room. Taken on the first day we moved into the house. I have no idea why I didn't just run screaming out of the house at this point.)
What do you think?
I'm still mulling it over. It's an interesting connection. If it's true, the fact that I am no longer my svelte size 6/8 self after purchasing this house has everything to do with this:
We had a cougar, people. Yes, a cougar. In an alley. On the northside.
No, not this kind of cougar. We see these all of the time in urban environments.
This is the list. The list of everything that we had planned on doing to the house when we stayed up until 4 a.m. some night after we moved in.
The list that we finished and, with unexplainable optimism and foolhardiness, pronounced "do-able".
I love Craigslist. LOVE Craigslist. If I ever meet Craig Newmark, in the flesh, I plan on giving him a big smooch on the top of his shiny, bald, programmer-geek head.
(p.s. Craig! I used to live near Morristown when you were in high school! I was four when you were eighteen, but, whatever. We still could have been friends!)
Yes, this electrician needs pants. So there is no question there.
What is up with me lately? Seriously. My face has totally broken out, I've eaten an ENTIRE APPLE PIE and TWO packages of chocolate chip cookies (by myself) within the last five days, I'm tired and irritable, I haven't felt like blogging. Or getting out of bed. Or (uh oh) showering.
I think I'm suffering from Post Renovation Depression. I wish I was kidding. But I'm not. I feel like I've been hit by a truck.
Here is Grace recreating my week for you:
This WAS a pot of pansies that I have managed to keep alive for almost a month! A record for me, someone who would be considered a "black thumb." Every two days, I've been giving Grace a cup of water and she has skipped out of the front door to water her "flouh-lers". And they flourished and I thought, "Wow. Post-motherhood, I have reformed! I can keep plants alive!"
And then we opened the front door this morning to a scene that looked like someone had set off a grenade in a pile of dirt.
A squirrel-shaped grenade.
Actual conversation with my mom when she visited last week.
Me: Look Mom! I have eradicated the dandelions from our lawn! Aren't you proud of me?
Dear Jeannie: Stop being such a lethargic lump. Go work on finishing the sun room trim. Or start the storm windows project. Or just do laundry. It's not like you have a broken limb or something. Just DO IT.
But I don't want to.
Why? Why don't you want to? **sighs impatiently, taps foot**
I have no idea. I'm tired and I drank too much coffee and now my mind is racing but I want to fall over and sleep on the rug. I don't want to go down to the dark and cold basement. I don't want to sniff denatured alcohol. Leave me alone.
Money Magazine just published a few articles about real estate in the most recent issue about the usual clutch-your-heart-in-panic stuff (FORECLOSURES! FALLING HOME PRICES! REVERSE MORTGAGES!). Tucked in there alongside of that was a rather nifty illustration by Tom Burns showing the evolution of housing in the United States. Here was the timeline:
50,000 B.C.: CAVE: Tons of natural stone! Hand painted walls!
1870 A.D.: CABIN ON THE GREAT PLAINS: Unobstructed prairie views!
Usually, I get notified by email when someone comments on the blog, but that has been spotty lately so I have been, like, "Oh, no Internet love for me. Boo hoo hoo." And then I went back and read some old entries and HEY! COMMENTS! HI THERE, INTERNET!
I want to clarify something about the dandelion post. I did not get all self-motivated and decide to eradicate these dandelions all by myself. Oh no, no, no.
Do you see the perfect lawns in this picture? The ones with no weeds? No, not the scrappy lawn at the bottom left. That's still my lawn. Look beyond that.
My only excuse for not blogging is that Aaron was in London for a week. And my regular sitter had to go out of town. And my daughter wakes up at 5 a.m. going 75 mph and doesn't stop until she crashes at 8 p.m.
What did I learn from last week? Basically, that I would suck (SUCK!) at being a single parent who works part-time. Or just a single parent who doesn't work at all. Single parents deserve all the respect in the world. And if you were raised by a single parent, you should call that parent RIGHT NOW and tell them that you are indebted to them forever for not leaving you and your siblings outside to be raised by marmots.Because I promise you that they thought about it. Probably more than once.
We should have cracked open the champagne or something, but I was glued to CNN and MSNBC all night in our PRETTY NICE (still unfinished) LIVING ROOM.
Which, five years ago this week, looked like this:
We've been doing this:
Hi TK! I made you this! TK? TK? TK?
If you've ever flown United, you're probably familiar with the Three Perfect Days series in their Hemisphere Magazine. It picks a location and then outlines the activities and lodging required to spend three perfect days in that location.
It is only possible to do this, of course, if you have stellar weather and no small children in tow. Thus, I bring you our version of Three Perfect(?) Days in Seattle with a Two Year Old. Enjoy.
Day One: Wake up early because you have no choice. Your toddler believes that she is still in Chicago and thus, it is 4:30 am Seattle time. The sun is not glittering on Elliott Bay nor the snow-covered Olympic mountains because the sun is not up yet. But, good Lord, you are. And there is a toddler bouncing around your room and demanding to go "yo'side". Reach quickly for the remote control. Try to find cartoons on a Seattle station.
At 5:30 am, open one eye to see the toddler drawing on the wall of your sparsely-appointed room at the Holiday Inn near the highway (and Seattle Center!) with the antiperspirant that she has stolen from the duffle bag. Decide that it might be best to take her outside now.
Wander around Seattle Center with an overactive and gleeful toddler while trying to scrounge up some coffee. This is a town known for its coffee, right? RIGHT??? OMG, WHERE IS THE COFFEE?
Also, no one else in Seattle is awake yet.
I usually don't do this kind of thing, but I met this dog and she is a total sweetheart. She is being fostered by our neighbors, Joel and Helen, and she is looking for a permanent home.
There are good dogs and there are great dogs, and this one, who is really special, is desperately seeking a home. Her name is Lunar and she is LOVELY. The sweetest, gentlest dog I've ever met - great with kids, great with other pets, great watchdog. She is two years old, medium/large sized and has longish red fur. She came from a household that neglected her and the physical signs are evident, but she is emotionally a very happy girl.
Temporary light shade in our sunroom. Left over from a long ago house party in our old condo. It will be staying there until we can find a light fixture that we a) agree on, and b) can afford.
It's possible that it will be there awhile.
If you're a regular reader of our blog but haven't visited Houseblogs.net recently (a site we also run) you might be interested to know about a contest that we started there yesterday.
For the next week True Value is sponsoring a "Look What I Did" contest for housebloggers - three winners will receive $300 AMEX gift cards to spend at a local True Value store.
The contest is pretty simple and should be a fun way for housebloggers to show off our favorite projects. Anyone can participate and the instructions are available on Houseblogs.net. Don't wait too long though, since the deadline is next Wednesday.
We'll post our own entry here shortly (although I'm guessing we're not eligible to win since we're helping to run the contest!)....
This post was written for Houseblogs.net as part of a sweepstakes sponsored by True Value. Housebloggers can register to win a $300 AMEX gift card but entries are due by Tuesday, July 21st--go here for details.
Since we're running the contest we're not eligible to win, but we thought we'd participate anyway. It's always nice to reflect back on what we've gotten done around the house! So, on to our favorite DIY project pick....
Old house owners don't often have much to feel smug about as we spend our weekends hanging from ladders and scraping trim.
So, this was nice.Heavy? It Might Be Your Neighborhood's Fault.
Obligatory photo of the midget.
Most of this month, I have been wandering around and just working on whatever is directly in front of me. At times, this has involved fitting screens into windows, picking up toy trains from the floor or using my fingernails to scrape stickers from the plexiglass that we installed over the TV screen. Unless I want to imagine that the anchor on Nightline really DOES have a Winnie-the-Pooh head. Then I just leave it there.
It is no secret that I have problems keeping plants alive. Unless they are able to grab my ankles as I wander past and scream, "WATER MEEEE!", I often forget that they are there.
To survive in my house, you have to speak up. Grace has developed a 60 decibel screech and I think that demonstrates the theory of acclimatization pretty well. Smart kid.
But I have REALLY been making an effort with the garden this year. I've kept it weeded (more or less) and have been clearing out the dead things. Aaron has helped me keep what is left of the grass under control. At least, we are no longer the neighborhood lawn losers.
I still get confused, though, because I don't know which plants are desirable and which plants should be banished.
So I'm turning to those of you in blogland who know more about green and growing things than I do...keep or throw on the heap?
This past weekend, we spent 24 blissful hours with friends on their farm in the country. We either strolled around and laughed together, or drank wine and read, or ate fresh veggies, or played with the kids in the magnificent milk house/playhouse, or caught toads.
Grace is crooning to it in a soft voice, "Hi buddy...do you want to play?" The toad? Freaking out.
I love a British accent.
I love being told how to polish my shoes with a banana by a guy with a British accent.
I could listen to these videos all day. I don't even care if they are correct or incorrect. I also don't care if they are something I don't need to know how to do. Like throw a card through a window. Give a man to man hug. Fight a duel. Or polish a shoe with a banana. I hear the accent and want to hurl
my panties my congrats (to the VideoJug for making such a wonderful short film) at the screen.
Yes, the accent gives me goosebumps. And, if I ever need to, I know how to play the ukelele. So, you know. Bonus.
WAY back in the Spring, we visited our friends Jeff & Heidi down in Gainesville, Florida. We love visiting Jeff and Heidi because a) they are super cool and very fun, and b) Heidi has no problem saying things like "DIVA CUP! YOU MUST TRY IT!" in public to Jeannie which makes her laugh. We try to get as much Jeff and Heidi as we can before they make the move to Haiti for Heidi's work.
Heidi, Haiti, Heidi, Haiti. Say that three times fast. Can you tell I've had too much coffee this morning? Anyway...
When we were in Gainesville, they took us to Satchel's Pizza. Where the pizza place is just as compelling as the pizza.
Satchel's built a little recycled materials playground for kids that I fell in love with. It's mod, eco-friendly and fun.
Who am I trying to kid?
I've been working on the same entry over and over for a few days now but my mind is always elsewhere.
Are we back to a country divided now? To a presidential campaign where one side sinks to throw snarky insults and unfounded accusations at the other to try to drive the discussion away from the issues? Really?
Back to the assumed mantle of victimhood and hypocrisy? Of pundits saying something one week against one side and then smoothly saying the opposite the next week in favor of their candidate?
With no shame or embarrassment?
I won it in the raffle at our annual block party. Our neighbors, Rick and Tom, had a huge stash of things that had been abandoned in the wake of the International Housewares Show. So they raffled all of the things off to the neighbors. It was wonderful.
We moved over to MorMor & FarFar's house to camp out while I worked for 48 hours to stain the new built-in's in the sunroom. So, everyone escaped the fumes. Well, except for me. But most of my braincells are already compromised anyway.
Here is an example of the unstained version of the poplar benches and radiator cover that TK made for us.
What do you get when you combine an old house lover with a tech gadget obsessed spouse?
I have been going nuts over the wires. The cables. The outlets. The plugs. The "docks". Trying to keep Grace from the cell phones, the digital camera, the car keys, and our wallets has become a game that SHE loves and which I hate. Hate. Hate.
So, when Aaron and I read about this over a year ago, we swooned. We yearned.
If you like old houses, maybe you take a drive in other neighborhoods now and again to gaze upon their beauty. And then you go for ice cream.
If you are a BIG, DORKY, HOUSE GEEK, you get down to the Ballroom of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago at 7 pm on a Wednesday in September to see Sarah Susanka.
Because if you are into design, architecture, small spaces or old houses, you would really enjoy Sarah Susanka. She is the best-selling author of the "Not So Big House" series, she is an award winning architect, and she advocates the "build better, not bigger" approach to design. She can explain, better than anyone I know, specifically why a space feels cozy, warm or inviting so that you can use those principles of design in your own living spaces.
Do you think it would freak her out if I showed her my "Not So Big House" tattoo?
Wednesday, September 17
Time: 7 pm
Location: Ballroom of the School of the Art Institute, 112 South Michigan Avenue, Chicago
Admission: $20/Preservation Trust member; $25/non-members
Perhaps you've heard about the enormous amount of rain we're getting in Chicago. In fact, it was the most rain ever recorded in Chicago history.
Pictures say more than words, so here are a couple of photos from just south of our neighborhood...
(Photo credit: Chicago Tribune readers)
Those photos are south of us. Early in the day, Grace and I headed north to a bookstore. Here's an afternoon photo of one of the underpasses we used. If the photo isn't clear, that would probably cover our car now by a good couple of feet.
Anyway, we're very happy to share that we've been lucky--aside from some minor damp patches and known leaks our basement is dry. For now. The weather is supposed to stay rainy all day today too.
It's certainly no hurricane and our thoughts are mainly with folks in Texas and the south, but it isn't every day you get the most rain ever recorded so we thought we'd share.
If we go out and take any photos ourselves later today we'll share those too.
Three out of four dorms at North Park University had to be evacuated.
Guess who learned how to open the refrigerator by herself?
Thanks for all of your kind concern in the comments on that last post (except for one poster who implied that I'm just not watching Grace closely enough. Now, at various points in the day when things go wrong, I yell out "WHERE'S THE SUPERVISION???!!!" and crack up. The guy at the Post Office didn't think it was as funny as I did.)
We've been doing the Montessori thing with Grace. Putting her plates and cups where she can reach them. Putting her healthy snacks on lower shelves. Giving her choices. And she has been a great sport about all of this, really. Things were going pretty well. And then, well, see for yourself.
So, my bronchitis is finally on its way to someone else's house. I always seem to get something nasty right as school starts and this year was no different. Germs + Toddler = wanting to lie in bed and moan but gamely pushing Fisher Price people through the door of the Fisher Price house instead. Over. And over.
But, this morning, I'm huddled next to the fireplace with my laptop. Grace is off at the sitters for a few hours and I'm trying to get some work done. And I am oh-so-thankful for having a living room this year. This is lovely.
As some of you may know, in addition to this personal houseblog we also run the website Houseblogs.net. It's a bit of a labor of love that's grown over the years and is now somewhere between a hobby and a real, mainstream website that people actually use.
Unfortunately, the site did a faithful impression of the US Economy in the past few weeks--it crashed. Hard.
It took us a while to get it working again, largely because the side job status of the site makes it hard to carve out the time to dedicate to big projects. Also, it took some technical skills that we simply didn't have. Luckily, we have a number of good technical friends who came in to the rescue. Thank you to each of you.
So, the good news is the site is back up and running! You can see for yourself.
Now, if only we had a friend who was as good with macro economics....
Today I came across a link to HomeVestor's 2nd annual Ugliest House of the Year contest. Even though it's been over five years since we first moved in to our own fixer-upper, photos like this one still give me flashbacks.
Thankfully, our place was never as bad as some of the places in this contest but it does look like some of the rooms in our house when we first took position. It all makes me wonder how we lived through it all...
Check out more of the ugly home entries in the contest here.
(Contest link found via Gapers Block)
Just a public service announcement to let the readers of HouseinProgress now that we have not disappeared. We have not quit the premises. But we have been the unwilling recipients of 3-4 colds in a ROW. To the point that Aaron has now been officially diagnosed with walking pneumonia and Jeannie doesn't even want to know what she has now that the bronchitis is over. And Aaron never, ever gets sick. (Ahem.)
Except for a little dry cough left over from her cold, Grace is feeling feisty and fine. This, of course, presents a whole different challenge for her wheezing, fumbling parents. Namely, how to entertain a bored toddler and keep her from eating the butter right out of the dish when we'd rather snuggle up under the table with a vat of Theraflu.
We'll come crawling back at some point. We always do.
This post was written for Houseblogs.net as part of a sweepstakes sponsored by SC Johnson's Right@Home.
It's hard to believe that this will be our sixth Christmas here since we first moved in.
It's even more amazing to me that in all that time we've only had one Christmas tree in all that time. Seriously.
Many years we've traveled to visit family, so I guess that's a pretty good excuse. Other years, though, it's often because we simply didn't have the space. Last year, for example, our dining room was our temporary living room and a big plywood barrier separated us off from the construction zone where we would have normally put the tree. In hind sight, maybe we should have covered the plywood with wrapping paper.
Anyway, all this simply means that because of our limited history of holiday decorating here at the house, we've got to reach all the way back to 2005 to find a photo we can share of how we've parepared for the holidays.
Without further delay, here it is:
Now that we've moved back in to our living room, maybe we'll finally get to do our second tree....stay tuned! :-)
I'm curled up in front of the fireplace right now, listening to the sweet sound of my neighbor from down the street snowblowing the sidewalk and walkways for THE ENTIRE BLOCK.
I have the nicest neighbors on the planet. People here do stuff like this all of the time. It's crazy cool.
It's even cooler that he is an award-winning documentarian who used to do a lot of work for the BBC and who has a film school named after him. But he would never tell you that. Instead, he would throw on his hat and gloves and come over to help you fix your lawnmower. Or garage door. Or share a beer with you at a neighborhood potluck.
Excuse me. I need to go out and buy a snowblower hero some brews.
So, there we were, just jamming along with the house and getting the new living room done, blah, blah, blah. And I'm blogging it.
And then. FACEBOOK! GERMS! POTTY TRAINING! ELECTION! MORE GERMS! POTTY TRAINING REGRESSION! OMG THE KIDPEEDONTHECOUCH! FACEBOOK! FACEBOOK! FACEBOOK!
That's it. It's not a great set of excuses, but there they are. Quizzes about 70's child actors and Superpoking people and time spent looking up all of the popular kids from my high school to see if they are old-looking and fat have entirely consumed me from mid-November until now. I'm a tweenager trapped in the body of a forty-something.
Don't even get me started about the potty training. While we were all sick. At the same time. Because we want ALL THE BODY FLUIDS! ALL AT ONCE! BRING 'EM ON!
So, 2008 didn't end with a bang. It ended with a series of squishes, sneezes, snotty noses and thrown sheep.
I'll catch everyone up soon. And by everyone, I mean my mother.
This pretty much sums up the extent of my house-related work over the holidays.
January 2003 (Even though we weren't in the house yet, she hadn't taken down her Christmas decorations when we looked at the house in March 2003. So, I'm including it.)
Since we embarked on this crazy adventure at the HouseInProgress, we have only thrown three shindigs in over five years.
Giddy on the heels of how successful the birthday party was, I was not quite thinking clearly when a representative for the kind folks at Quaker Oats contacted me and asked if I would host a blogger brunch on Inauguration Day. They would supply the food and the guests and all I would need to do was shower (well, they didn't say that last part specifically, but I know they would appreciate it). And it was for a good cause! Their Start with Substance campaign which aims to serve up 1 million bowls of oatmeal this year to families in need.
Did I say, "I'm sorry. We still have paper shades hanging in our windows, and a dishwasher that is only 14" wide, and a non-working oven, and radiators that are still in the garage? And we never have hosted strangers before because they'll realize that we are insane for attempting to renovate this monstrosity? But thank you for considering us, and by the way, I love your oatmeal. And I really love Wilford Brimley."
No, I did not. I said yes. And now, OHMYGOD I HAVE A BOATLOAD OF BLOGGERS COMING TO MY HOUSE AND THEY WILL KNOW THAT I STILL HAVE NOT FINISHED INSTALLING THE TRIM ON THE SECOND FLOOR AND MY DAUGHTER'S ROOM HAS NO DOOR AND MY BASEMENT IS A HOLE. I'm a little stressed.
But, bonus!!! I love oatmeal. And no, they are not paying me. THEY ARE FEEDING ME. And I guess I'm just that easy.
So, the official unveiling of the HouseInProgress for a herd of people we don't know will be in SIX DAYS. And, oh yeah. We get a new President, too. And breakfast!
I'll write more tomorrow. Right now, I'm going to hide in my closet that has no door (it's a theme!) and weep quietly.
...goes to Stuart Elliot of the New York Times for this little bit:
And Quaker Oatmeal will host house parties on Tuesday morning in 11 cities -- Washington included -- where women who write so-called mommy blogs will serve breakfast to friends and other guests before they watch coverage of the ceremonies.
Be careful with the thinly-veiled disdain, dude, before I bludgeon you with my Master's degree from Northwestern and my prybar.
The last time I felt that kind of chill from the mainstream media, I was attending a dinner with an editor from This Old House who sniffed, "Nice work if you can get it" upon hearing that I was a houseblogger. (She sat there in her carefully tailored NYC designer jacket and her high heels while I wondered if she talked to Norm Abram with that mouth. I believe I had just given birth two weeks prior and parts of my house were still boarded up.)
For Pete's sake, Stuart! We're women who have brains and opinions and street cred and experience and careers...who also write blogs. Well, the other so-called mommy bloggers have those. I just have an awful house story that unfolded in the early days like a slow moving car wreck.
What I guess I'm trying to say, Stuart, is that you can just call us "bloggers".
Not necessarily in this order:
A friend from another city IM'Med** me yesterday about the pink drawers full of treasure that I referred to in my last blog post.
"You don't really have stuff left over from when you moved in, do you?"
Oh. Don't we? Yes, we do. To Aaron's dismay. We've managed to unload quite a bit of it, but you don't get rid of 70+ years of debris overnight. Not when you are married to a research wonk.
Behold, the wall of pink drawers.
Okay, so I just checked out the Quaker Facebook group and we need MORE MORE MORE Quaker hot cereal UPC codes entered in there. Or we need more of you to join Facebook. Or both!
We need to feed the people, people.
Here's the cool part about the Start with Substance campaign. I don't get anything when you enter the UPC codes. When you enter the UPC codes, Quaker has to pony up free food to needy families. You type, they feed. I get to watch the little numbers tick upwards and that makes me happy.
This kind of thing jazzes me to no end. It's why I've happily volunteered over the years for organizations like Habitat for Humanity, Inspiration Cafe, Rebuilding Together, the Greater Chicago Food Depository, Cabrini Alive, La Rabida Children's Hospital, The Night Ministry. Helping others is cool. It's energizing. It makes you appreciate what you have so much more.
Honestly? That is why I agreed to do this thing. Why make myself crazy and fret about a herd of people descending upon my tiny, still broken, weird house? Clean the bathrooms? Run to stash this stack of unfinished trim somewhere and figure out a way to heat the back room and gnash my teeth over the paper shades still hanging in my windows?
Because it is worth it. Feeding hungry kids, that's worth it. Especially when it is as easy as just going to my pantry and pulling out boxes of oatmeal and scanning the back of the box.
I snapped a few photos. It's so often we look at this house and fret about the things still left undone that I have to stop and reflect on how far we've actually come.
Here we have the new dining room table and chairs. Our first set ever. I am in my forties and this is the first set of dining room furniture I have owned that hasn't come from Goodwill and the alley. I feel so...so...grown-up! (Note to self: Need to reinstall radiator, replace missing french doors, reinstall window stops, get real curtains instead of these temporary dime store ones. And, for Pete's sake, hang something on the walls.)
We're big fans of our neighborhood and that is no secret. However, with real estate depressed pretty much everywhere, we wondered how long it would take our neighbor (who is getting married and moved to another state) to sell her house.
We were especially intrigued because her house was built by the same builder as ours wayyyy back in 1914. They look almost identical, save for some tweaks to the layout.
As a homeowner, you can't help but draw up a checklist of comparisons inside your head when you hear that a neighbor's house is for sale. It's similar to the checklists you used to draw up inside of your head in high school when you contemplated your chances of that cute new boy asking you to the prom and not asking Suzy "Lucky" Buckman. Instead of
"Okay, so her hair is cute and she is captain of the cheerleading squad, but she has a terrible laugh. Plus, Lucky? Who wants to go out with a high school junior who still calls herself LUCKY? More like Yucky, amirite?",...your internal dialogue sounds like
"Her kitchen is new and her basement is clean and finished. She has a new deck and a landscaped yard. She has an open stairway and ours is more closed. But we have central A/C and our bathrooms are brand new. We have four bedrooms (well, three of them are heated) and she has three bedrooms. So, if she really does get her purchase price, would we be worth more? Or less? Oh no! What if Lucky Buckman moves in there?"
We hoped for the best for her, but had visions of any house in this market sitting empty for months.
A week. The house sold in a week. It closed immediately and new neighbors have already moved in. And it has sold for the highest price of any house on our little block in paradise.
Not that we're going to be selling anytime soon, but it's nice to know that real estate isn't depressed everywhere.
Sorry! I was so excited about how spiffy the place was looking that I forgot to post the "before" pics. So, if you really want to see how far we've come, click for the rest of the post and PREPARE TO BE AMAZED.**
**Amazed that I didn't run down the street screaming, never to return.
I'll write up the Obama = Oatmeal / Start with Substance / Inauguration Gala later today, but first I want to pay tribute to Melissa Velez-Luce from My Very Own Chef who served up an oatmeal that was so decadent that I felt like I had to go to confession after eating it.
I get very few chances to hang our with groups of bloggers. I have blogger pals that I hang with one-on-one, not in the context of blogging. So, to be able to join up with these cool women for such a great cause on a great day was a load of fun.
Besides, isn't it TIME that we finally get to enjoy the fruits of our labors thus far and get to entertain? We did so much of it in our old condo. Before we got married, or even knew Aaron, I was an entertaining machine at 421 West Belden Ave. So, yeah, five years has been too long to go without having parties in the house.
I am not a fan of closets only because I am not a fan of hangers. Not just wire hangers, any hangers. They make your clothes and coats hard to find, they get tangled, they get stuck, things get crowded. I hate hangers.
Hooks? Hooks, I love. Give me a wall full of hooks and I don't care that all my duds are out there in the open for everyone to gawk at. Because I CAN SEE THEM, TOO! Everything. Easy to find. Right there. It's beautiful.
So, it's understandable why I've hated our front hall closet since we've moved in.
I love, love, love design and products from Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Finland for three reasons:
The Sweden Shop sells the kinds of items that you will use everyday and pass down to the next generation. And, rumor has it, they are having a big SALE starting TODAY! (January 24th through February 1st)
ALL BLANKETS AND DALE OF NORWAY SWEATERS ARE 30% OFF!!
ALL CHRISTMAS MERCHANDISE IS 25% OFF!!
**I can't include IKEA in the durable category. Sorry, IKEA!
Wowza, thanks to everyone for the emails. We are, indeed, still here in the HouseinProgress, though life has been in fast forward for the past few months.
Everything is fine. Well, there were a few bumps in health and logistics, but everything turned out fine.
Finding that having a three year old who gave up her nap for good in January, increasing the hours of our respective work commitments outside of the house, and trying to stay on top of our volunteer activities put a bit of a crimp in our blogging. That and the fact that our WYSIWYG is broken and I am tired of HTML.
It's SPRING here at HouseinProgress (FINALLY! Gee whiz!) and you know what that means, right?
(Behold! The labor of a long, desperately crafty, how-is-Mama-gonna-keep-you-busy winter...)
We received this email today. Is it me or does the first sentence undermine the first sentence of the second paragraph?
I'm dropping you a line to see if you accept guest bloggers on [name of blog]. I like to write about home improvement projects and thought an article about home improvement would be a good fit for your blog.
The post will be 100% original, written just for your blog and will not be posted elsewhere. I would appreciate an author bio with a followed live link back to my site, or link within content. If you're interested in this idea, please get back to me.
OK, after coming out of blogging hibernation with a teaser photo a few weeks back we'll go ahead and start sharing what we've been up to for the past nine months. It's a number of projects, so it will need to be broken up in to a few blog posts.
To start with, the dumpster we rented was for a weekend project - we tore the old siding off our enclosed porch. No reason to wait - here's the money shot:
A few more photos and an explanation after the break...
Here's our submission for the DIY Drama contest currently running over at Houseblogs.net. We aren't technically eligible since we're also running the contest, but it gives us something to write about... ;-)
Our latest (of many) lessons learned is also part of our latest project. (No surprise, I guess, since we seem to have one for every project.)It has to do with rebuilding our back porch.
We want to maximize the usable space on our porch. That's why in our new design we're moving the stairway from within the footprint of the porch to now be straight out the front.
That also means we need to eliminate space required by the old basement stairwell. The old stairwell came straight off the back of the house here.
As if we didn't have enough going on with the new back porch, new fence and the new basement stairwell, we have another project in the works: our basement.
The basement has never been finished, so for the first time we actually have a clean slate to work with...albeit one that's always been packed with quite a bit of stuff:
The good news is that this 'before' photo is from quite a while ago. In fact, the basement is now cleaned out. (That was the other big use for the dumpster we rented this summer.) We're guessing this is the first time that the basement has been this empty in it's 95 year history.
So, what's the plan for the space? Well...
Well, a bit last minute but in the spirit of playing along with everyone else here is our entry in to the latest Houseblogs.net contest.
Our first DIY project for our house was one we didn't really plan on: cleaning it up.
For long time readers this isn't news, but if you haven't been following along since the beginning I'll explain.
When we first bought our house it was packed with stuff. Packed to the rafters. Crazy stuff, like this.
And we had to clean it all out. So, our first DIY project wasn't painting, or redoing a bathroom, or uncovering original oak floors, or anything like that. It was cleaning, and lots of it.
Why, you might wonder? Well, that was the stuff of several years worth of blog entries. If you're interested this entry is a good recap and jumping off point. Cleaning all that out became years worth of work and in fact it's technically not even done...it's just all moved to the garage at this point. It was our first DIY project and it's possible that it will even be our last!
Over Thanksgiving, we had to quarantine ourselves because we all came down with the respiratory virus from hell. Grace recovered faster than her miserable parents, so we were desperate to keep her entertained while we tried to catch up.
Enter: the simple machine. Phooey on all those fancy, schmancy newfangled plastic toys. When we were young, we played with pulleys, inclines, levers, wheels and gears, AND WE LIKED IT. No, actually, we liked it. Simple machines are fun!
I was reminded of my pulley playing childhood in a barn in Ohio when we got back from visiting friends in Woodstock. They have pulleys in their playhouse for lifting things from the floor to the loft. Since we just finished the back porch, perfect for a new pulley!
- 1 pulley from a hardware store
- 1 ceiling hook
- Some clothesline
- A bucket
- A small carabiner (optional)
Total cost: approximately $10 (we got all of this stuff cheaper at our local hardware store)
It is actually amazing how entertaining this is to kids of all ages. Before the weather got cold, Grace wanted to be on the porch all of the time, putting toys and animals in the bucket, sending them up and down, taking them out again. If she is anything like I was as a child, she will graduate to trading secret messages with friends, taking orders and delivering snacks, and sending her future hamster for an elevator ride (sorry in advance, future hamster!) Later on, we'll use it to lower a beer to Dad after he mows the lawn. That was all the encouragement Aaron needed to rig it up.
(cross-posted at Life in Progress)
This is one of my Design for America students, Mert Hilmi Iseri, and his solution for getting kids to clean up their rooms.
Forget kids! I WANT TO DO THIS!!!
Last summer, someone I used to work with (when I had a 9 am - 5 pm job instead of a 5 am - 9 pm job) contacted me about some of the stuff that was left behind in the house. He had a new gig working for CB2 and wanted to know if I had an old picture of a tchotchke that I could submit to the new CB2 blog. Oh boy! Did I! Even though we've unloaded lots of things, we still have quite a few items rattling around the old house. It was fun to see our little blue elephant up on their blog in August since he still brings a smile to my face when I pass the sideboard in the morning.
It was exciting to open up my email this morning and get a note from Beth in Chicago (researcher par excellence, obvs) who has tracked down the identity of our vintage baby announcement family. And the story, as it unfolds, is pretty cool. I've omitted some of the more personal information she found.
After receiving Beth's note, I did a little digging around regarding Paul M. Ressinger. Here's what I found:
Earlier this week, I began a scanning project for the ephemera left behind in the house. I would love to post the results both here and on the LifeInProgress blog, but can't. The software for the LifeInProgress blog is better suited to entries with multiple photos and is more efficient. So, if you are interested in that project, you might want to keep checking in over there or on our Flickr feed. Thanks all!
Just like last year's holiday gingerbread project, our little cookie house has become a metaphor for what is happening in our real house.
Right now, the top floor and front of the first floor are toasty warm and lovely. But the back two rooms on the first floor? Since we are still smack dab in the middle of the porch and basement project?
Big gaps in the walls. Freezing. Enter at your own risk.
Regular readers of the blog already know that I am a big, BIG fan of Fine Homebuilding. (And that I have fantasies of baking them muffins and showing up at their headquarters as a ploy to get them to autograph my Sawzall in silvery ink. Yeah, I'm crushing bad.)
Why are they so awesome? Practical and easy-to-read technical information on a well-designed website. A healthy respect for homeowners who like to use quality materials and who are interested in value over trendiness. Writers who got their hands dirty as craftspeople BEFORE they became writers. One of the best moderated and helpful forums (Breaktime) on the 'net to turn to for help and advice. Yeah, Fine Homebuilding is the gold standard in my opinion.
They've reorganized their Remodeling content into one clean and sleek section, which is happy news for those of us who are more about remodeling than building from the ground up.
They've also incorporated excellent guides for:
After six years, we feel like we've reached the tipping point. As of this winter, every single room in our house has had SOMETHING done to it. They may not be finished, but we have messed with every room in one way or another. Including....
The basement was really a last frontier of sorts, the repository for everything we didn't want to deal with or wanted to keep away from Grace. We used to make it the last stop on house tours so we could say, "And HERE is what the house looked like BEFORE we did anything." It was effective in eliciting gasps of amazement from visitors who congratulated us on our bravery/masochism/stupidity for taking on such a crazy project.
No more, my friends, no more.
Grace's new obsession is Alvin and the Chipmunks (sigh). I have to admit to a certain fondness for the Chipmunks when I was her age and begged my parents to play that crazy Christmas song over and over and over again. Now that I am a parent, I feel their pain.
The only thing that has made watching this movie more than once even slightly bearable is a powerful, sexy presence in the film. Every time this presence comes on screen, I perk up and squirm to the edge of my seat, my eyes fixed on the screen.
I'm talking about Dave's bungalow neighborhood.
Having lived with paper curtains for the last six years while the house has been under renovation, I think I should just embrace the crinkled look and get some of these.
At least I could get cool points for it.
A set of lovely painted scrolls from Balinese painter, Ida Bagus Rai?