Thursday, December 22, 2005

A Room with a View

I own a small consulting company. This time of year gets quite hectic as clients hand off work that needs to be done before they leave for Christmas vacations. Good for business. Not so good for accomplishing anything around the house.

This combined with the fact that I got a little overly ambitious last fall when refinishing my windows, I needed to order replacement sash pulleys, and the whole mice debacle distraction......has left me with an upstairs window that is completely without a sash. It has a less-than-effective aluminum storm window, and that's it.

Not a big deal until you consider I live in Minnesota. Last week saw tempetures of -11 degrees. To add to the drama, my bed is less than 4 feet away from that window.

How am I still alive you ask?

3M shrink plastic weatherproofing. No lie. This stuff really works. The window is airtight. I put the plastic over the little crooked curtain and all. Granted not the most energy efficient situation, but surprisingly my energy usage (and bills) have been less than last year. Go figure.

I am pretty sure a 3M endorsement deal is on it's way..........

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Marketing Madness

Am I the only one that has an uncontrollable urge this time of year to fill my house with Chia Pets and The Clapper?

Monday, December 12, 2005

Coming Undone

I am the fourth owner of my house in 7 years. Of those 7 years, I have owned the house for 3 yrs.

My house was lost in a foreclosure, purchased by a flipper and then purchased by a semi-flipper. Each one has left a bit of a legacy.

And every so often, one of those legacies irritates me enough to write a blog entry.

The last owner decided that she would recoup more money by finishing off the expansion space in the upstairs attic prior to selling the house. Good idea, gone bad. Unfortunately, her motivation to increase her return on investment seems to have led to sloppy work.

Insulation was added, only it was put in upside down. It is now black from airflow and needs to be replaced. Outlets were added, but workmanship was lousy. Some of the outlets don’t fit in the wall cavity and sit outside of the drywall. One of the outlets actually shot a bolt of electricity out of it one day when I unplugged a lamp. Cheap carpeting was used and it has now stretched out into gentle waves across the room. It needs to be removed and the fir floors below it redone. Colonial oak baseboard was added because it was stock even though the floors are maple & fir. It needs to be painted. Whoever worked on the drywall didn’t measure the drywall…..so angles are off and straight lines are not straight. Sand the mud? No way. Then to hide the flaws….they sponge painted it all. Nice trick.

Most of this stuff I can deal with. It’s on my “to do” list, and at some point I’ll get around to messing with it. In the scheme of things it’s not really a big deal.

There is one thing though that makes me crazy.

When they added drywall, they did not tape any of the seams or corners. They slapped on some joint compound and called it a day. So, I lay in bed and look at the never ending series of cracks and seams that appear overnight. I know from my energy audits how much warm air is lost to those cracks, so as they appear….I fix them. Eventually, I will probably have the drywall pulled out where it is crooked and then the whole mess skim coated by a pro. Until then, I patch.

I spent a few hours on Saturday doing it. It just seems such a waste of time when I have REAL old house restorations to be made (windows to restore, plaster to patch, storm windows to track down….) to be repairing half-assed work that is less then 5 yrs old. If you are going to do it, why not do it right?

There. I have said my peace. I feel better now.

I am not one to wish bad on others, but if there is house karma……I hope what goes around……comes around.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Out in the Cold

I locked myself out of my house this weekend. It was one of those instances where you watch your hand pull the door shut, hear the lock click, and listen to your brain yell "nooooo" all at the same time. Then you try to push open the door...as if this one time the lock didn't catch and you will be able to shove it open. Ha.

Luckily my neighbor was home and let me use their phone to call The Keeper of my extra key. Because The Keeper lives quite a ways away, I had some time to kill outside on my front doorstep (in 9 degree weather).

First I chatted up my neighbor to the south of me. We negotiated a deal where I will keep him supplied with homemade jams for the winter, and he will use his snowblower to clear my front sidewalk after the bigger snowfalls.

I was quite pleased with this little "jam for snow" deal I had struck, when my neighbor to the north happened to walk by. Still having some time to kill, I asked him if he remembered what my front doorstep looked like before the little wood platform was constructed (replacing this has become my new hot topic).

This neighbor is a wealth of information about my house - he knows what happened, when, by which owner, and what it looked like before. I was shocked when he told me there had been a little wood entryway by my front door. I didn't see this coming. Not by a long shot. An entryway. But it does explain some of the holes in the stucco above the door and why that stucco isn't painted. Another piece to the puzzle.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Homeowner Denial

It's snowing here today. Nothing drastic, but a good few inches of pretty fluff. This is probably the most snow we have received yet this year. Come February, we would be loath to admit it.....but we get excited here on the first snow. We are, after all, Minnesotans. We were starting to worry that winter would never arrive.

With the first snow, all the neighborhood men get to pull out their new toys and finally put them to use. This morning found at least two of my neighbors hauling out their new 200 lb snowblowers to remove that 2" of snow from their sidewalks ;-) Then inspired by neighborly goodwill (and probably a need to see what their new toys will do full throttle), they also cleared the sidewalk for most of the block. Ah, the first snow.

I spent some time (freed up from not having to shovel) putting spruce tips in my front planter. This will be the full extent of my Christmas decorating.

After recent events, I plan to spend a few days in homeowner denial...pretending that I rent.

As a renter, today I will be making blueberry scones (from blueberries my parents helped my pick last summer in 95 degree weather up at their cabin) and blackberry cobbler (from backberries canned by an ex-bf's mother - that I have been hoarding in my cabinets for too long). Maybe I will spend some time online shopping for Christmas presents. A nearly perfect snowy afternoon activity, I think.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Eeek - The Finale

I am happy to report that the mouse "situation" has been successfully resolved . I sealed the lattice work on the front steps with hardware cloth and then covered that with black aluminum window screening. It actually wasn't that difficult as I was able to staple it to the wood of the steps. It doesn't look terrible; in fact I don't know that you would notice it unless you knew to look for it. And like any good project, I ended up with a new tool - a heavy duty stapler.

Once again, I went over every square inch of my house with caulk gun in hand to seal up any little hole in the baseboards, crown moulding, cabinetry, etc. My kitchen has been nuked with a nice bleach solution. I am still trying to figure out how the studs in the walls don't prevent the critters from traveling the horizontal length of a wall. However, I am feeling much better about StuccoHouse.

I am a little embarrassed (yet relieved) to admit that what I thought were mice in the walls of my bedroom, upon further research, turned out to be birds flying south for the winter stopping in a noisy bunch on my rooftop for a few consecutive mornings. This happened to coincide with my mouse discovery. I am not a morning person and not able to process my world very accurately in the early moring hours. Birds landing sounded like mice crawling to me. That's my story and I'm sticking to it ;-)

Of course, the front steps (and gaping whole in the foundation wall that leads directly into my house) will be the first project on the Spring "to do" list. Let's just hope that my little screen repair holds out til Spring .

Friday, November 18, 2005

Eeek - Part II

I am in the throes of a mouse problem. I thought things were under control, but I woke up to mouse noises coming from my bedroom walls this morning.

Two words. This sucks.

Three words. This totally sucks.

One of the previous owners of the house decided that when the top concrete step to the front door decayed they would just chop it up - leave the concrete pieces in a pile - and cover the whole thing up with a pressure treated wood platform. The sides were decorated with a wood lattice. The gap left by the stair near the foundation under the platform was left wide and clear.

This wood platform has been on my list of things to repair. Pour a new concrete step. But I wanted to figure out what my front steps looked like originally (my neighbor has photos). It appears there may have been a concrete arm rail (does that make sense?) on either side of the step.

Now, mice have apparently discovered this little highway into my house. Earlier this week I took off the lattice and discovered the pile of broken up concrete and the gap in the foundation. Its hard to see exactly what is going on under there, but you can see enough to know it is not good.

So, I placed some mouse traps there. I caught a mouse. It was ugly. I'm still trying to erase the picture from my mind. Seems though there is a family of mice - so the trapping continues. Did I say how much this sucks?

Today I went out there and stapled hardware cloth over the lattice and then a layer of black aluminum screening over that. It actually doesn't look that bad and I am hopeful it will work in keeping new mice out. I don't want to make any permanent changes, because once Spring comes I want the whole thing fixed properly (a new step can't be poured now that it is cold.)

I am just thanking heaven that over the past two years I have weatherproofed this house to within an inch of its life. I am fairly confident that the mice will not be able to find a crack into the house. Having said that, there is now a trap sitting in my bedroom.

Sigh. If I actually catch a mouse in my bedroom, I may have to move. Could it get any more gross than that?

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Mudd Lake

I received notice today that Mudd Lake is having their Christmas Sneak Preview Sale.

If you have never been to Mudd Lake now is your chance. This is a fun place that sells all things house decor related. I've bought everything from picture frames to furniture there over the years. They are open on specially announced weekends. The store is located in a great old barn out in the country in Watertown, MN. A very fun drive in the fall and winter....especially when you can sneak out of work early on a Thursday or Friday.

The announcement says the upcoming sale is Nov. 17-20. 9-5pm. They have live music and Santa on the 19th.

If this sounds interesting, check out their website: www.muddlake.com

Monday, November 14, 2005

Eeek!

I was baking in my kitchen on Friday and pulled out a tipsy cake (like a fruitcake but edible) that I had been priming with liquor for the holidays and had temporarily stored on a lower shelf in my cabinets. It was wrapped in Saran Wrap and then a layer of tin foil.

A little scattering of tin foil pieces caught my eye. Then I saw it. The corner of my little tipsy cake was missing. Something had chewed through the tin foil, the plastic wrap and taken out a chunk of the cake.

I spent the weekend in denial. I am not a fan of small, fast moving things with fur....especially in my house. Actually, this is probably an understatetment. More accurately, I am hysterically afraid of small, fast moving things with fur in my house.

By Sunday I came to terms with the fact that a mouse had entered my kitchen. When I first moved into my house I cleaned and repainted all of my cabinets. As part of this process I had also caulked every gap in the room.....except one corner. So, it was fairly easy to determine where the critter was making his entrance. I said a quiet little prayer and pulled out the refrigerator. Thank heavens there were no little corpses laying there, but sure enough I spotted a gap between the wall and the cabinet back. I spent time shoving steel wool in each and every crevice. Those too small for steel wool received caulk.

The foundation of my house is somewhat unusual in that it runs about 18" up the side of my house. There are only small hairline cracks that I have filled in religiously since I move in. So, once again, it was pretty easy to figure out where the critter had entered the house. By the make-shift, wood front steps into the house (more on this topic in the future).

I went back into denial.

Today about lunchtime I was surprised to hear some wood gnawing going on behind the baseboard near my front door. Off to Menards I went. I cleared out the "pest" aisle and returned home with many different kind of traps, pellets, hardware cloth, and expanding foam.

I won't go into morbid detail, but let's just say if he is smart he will steer clear of the peanut butter. I'm not quite sure what I am going to do if I actually do catch something. I can only imagine there will be phone calls made, bargaining & pleading and large sums of money changing hands.

Two thing struck me as quite funny in this process. 1) That the makers of those traps actually advertise them as being reusable - as if; and 2) I managed to attract the mouse who thought he needed a cocktail.

More as it happens..........

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Leaves, Leaves Blow Away


My neighbor has a huge, old oak tree in his backyard. There is also a huge, old oak tree on the edge of the alley behind my house. Both of these trees drop all of their leaves directly into my back yard. In my front yard I have a beautiful maple tree that stubbornly holds on to it's brightly colored leaves until the day after the city will pick up leaf bags.

I am just so tired of raking, mulching and composting.

So, so tired.

You can imagine my secret delight in the weather forcast. A wind advisory. Strong winds. Strong winds for two days.

Here's to hoping my leaves all blow away. Here's also to hoping that none of my direct neighbors read my blog. ;-)

Thursday, November 03, 2005

A New Shine

I've been slowly plugging away at restoring my bathroom in between other projects.

I've installed an L shaped shower curtain rod to protect the window sill, had a new tub drain put in, plugged up plumbing holes with plumber's putty, hunted down a vintage medicine cabinet (downstairs waiting patiently for me), added black ceramic base tile to replace a plastic strip, hunted down vintage black ceramic towel, etc. hardware, stripped & restored the window, currently stripping layers of paint off of the heat return grate......

One item I have been considering for a while is having the inside door knob & back plate (and possibly the plate to the lock mechanism) to the bathroom replated. I first thought it just needed to be polished but soon discovered the chrome finish is worn through. Then I hunted for a vintage replacement knob but learned due to varying spindle sizes replacement is almost impossible unless you are willing to change the entire lock and both knobs.

I'm not overly concerned with it looking pristine (I have rehabbed my old hardware everywhere else), but for some reason this knob always looks grungy & dirty the way it is. Not the look I am going for in my finished bathroom.

So, I'm considering the replating idea. I have seen the company advertised in the old house magazines and have located some companies nearby via the yellow pages.

Has anyone had this done? Does your hardware still operate properly once done? What kind of cost should I expect? Does it wear well? Advice?

Monday, October 31, 2005

House Anniversary

Tonight marks the third anniversary of my owning the StuccoHouse. Maybe I'll celebrate with a Snickers from my trick or treat candy bowl ;-) Who would have thought....three years.....wow....yikes.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Twin Cities Bungalow Club

Welcome Bungalow Club members!

The Twin Cities Bungalow Club had a nice write up on bungalow bloggers in their quarterly publication the Small Home Gazette.

The current Gazette isn't available online, but is sent out quarterly to club members which makes the small membership dues more than worthwhile. They even offer an "out of area" membership.

The Gazette usually contains a nice article from the editor, as well as, reviews of new bungalow/old house books, information on the lastest Bungalow Club house tours, readers' questions, and a topical article (this month is "Lighting the Bungalow") with LOTS of local and national resources. Money well spent, I think.

At any rate, I have created links to the other blogs mentioned in the Gazette article for your surfing ease :-):

1929 Bungalow Blog
1912 Bungalow
House In Progress
Struggle In a Bungalow Kitchen
HouseBlogs.net

Friday, October 21, 2005

Huh.

I'm sure every old house has them. Little things that you look at in awe and wonder "what on earth were they thinking?" My house has plenty. Here are two that are currently bugging me.

# 1 - At some point, one of the owners decided that two of the bedrooms in my house needed more than one outlet. Understandable.

How did they accomplish this? By drilling up through the hardwood maple floor and installing exterior outlets. Two strips in each bedroom. Why they couldn't have drilled up two inches back and 6 inches up from my open basement and put a normal outlet on the wall is a mystery to me.

As you can imagine, to fix this now...I need to hunt down strips of old maple flooring (I have my eye on some from under my fridge)...pull up those old outlet...cut in and refinish the new floor strips....and then fish the wires up to the wall. Sigh.

#2 - Why fish a telephone cord through the wall when you can drill a hole in the oak floor and pull it up there? I have to shake my head every time I see this.

I fixed this one a while ago and the telephone outlet is now on the wall above the baseboard. (The white stuff is foam I used to seal before adding a base shoe - part of a restaining and shellacking the baseboard project I finished up last year). This repair was a little easier as red oak flooring is easier to match to existing old wood and I was refinishing the entire floor at the same time. But, still.


I suppose it's good that I have been exposed to these things because it makes me think about projects before I do them. I ask myself more questions. Am I doing it in the most logical way? If I want to change it in the future, is it going to be even more work for me? Am I just being lazy or cheap and not doing it correctly? Will some future owner of my house post pictures of my silliness, laziness, cheapness, etc. on their future blog and whine?

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Lightworks Sale

Just got a "special invite" postcard to the First Ever Fall Sale at Lightworks in Minneapolis. The sale starts October 24th and ends October 29th. The postcard says 10% off custom orders and 10-50% off their antique lights. Mon -Sat 10-5pm. Their address is: 404 Washington Ave. N. Minneapolis. Their website is in my "Old House Links" section.

I really like this lighting store. I first started visiting their shop when they were over Art & Architecture, Inc......and kept visiting long after A&A moved. On my last visit, I had them custom make a center pole light for my hallway. Reasonably priced....made to order....and best of all, local.

I'm anxious to give them another visit during the sale.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

It's all in the Numbers

They look so simple. An obvious way to number screen and storm windows in order to know which window they fit into each season when you change them.

Who knew they would save so much time?! After spending hours each year trying to get my storms to fit into the correct window frames like an "advanced" puzzle......only to do it again at the change of seasons.....I ran across these wonders in an old house stuff catalog.

I ordered them and last Spring and as I exchanged out the storms for screens, I nailed them into the frames.....and the window sills.

And this Fall I reaped the rewards. Instead of the usual 2 hour job.....I had all the storms in their proper places in 20 minutes. So, simple.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Gasp, Asbestos

This is a quick follow-up to my post yesterday about Grendil. A few people asked and some commented on the asbestos aspect of old ductwork.

Yes, the cream coating on Grendil is insulation fortified with asbestos. For those of you that have heard of the evils of asbestos....but never seen it.....now you have :-)

In making my decision to keep Grendil....being comfortable with the old insulation was a big factor. The word asbestos makes most people cringe, but there is a lot of misinformation out "there" that leads to a lot of unnecessary hysteria. In the end, illness attributed to exposure to asbestos by a homeowner is virtually non-existent. But, like everyone else.....I wanted to mitigate any possible hazard in my house.......so, I did a LOT of research.

The asbestos insulation on my ductwork had been painted by a previous owner in what I think was a misguided effort to encapsulate it. The paint is deteriorating because of exposure to heat, but the insulation itself is solid.

So, I decided to find a product to effectively encapsulate the asbestos fibers. I saw the "encapsulation" method mentioned in many, many publications regarding how to effectively deal with asbestos. However, not one of those publications mentioned a specific product.

Thank heavens for the internet. After much research and many phone calls, I discovered a company named TKO Coatings. They make a product called Tuffide. In the specs of this product they specifically address it's uses in encapsulating asbestos insulation. To confirm, I called the company and they allowed me to speak with one of the company chemists who confirmed that I could use the product for coating my ductwork. They also recommended a product of theirs called Bindercoat that "froze" any loose particles in place prior to coating with Tuffide. This eliminates any need to sand down or wash what could be hazardous materials. (As an aside, this is the same company that makes Krack Kote for any of you that have used this product on your plaster walls.)

Tuffide comes in a variety of colors. I chose a light grey. When you call in your order, they will tell you what colors they currently have in stock. I ordered the products and they arrived, but I have not started this project yet. I will report in full once I do.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Meet Grendil

This is Grendil. Grendil is my gravity furnace (also know as octopus furnace in some circles). This furnace has been in my house since the day it was built in 1924 and has kept countless owners warm and toasty over the years through some pretty wicked Midwest winters.

When I first moved into the house, my plan was immediately to rip out Grendil and replace him with a high efficiency furnace and central air conditioning. That was before, well, I met Grendil.

In the midst of getting bids that first year to remove & replace Grendil, I had a furnace guy come out to certify that the heater would be safe for me to use for a winter.

The heater guy was an "old timer" and was able to tell me Grendil's life story. This gravity heater started out life fed by coal. Someone shoveled coal into its front door from the nearby coal room where the lumps were stored. You can still see the little coal door with the fancy handle. There is also a little "humidifier" dish where a person could pour water in order to have the coal heat humidify the air. Every now and again on a cold winter night, I try to imagine what life was like living in this house and having to get up every few hours to shovel coal into the furnace (yikes!).

Sometime in the very early 1950's Grendil was switched to gas. He has loyally served the house in this state ever since. No moving parts, and virtually noise free......the furnace guy assured me that Grendil had every potential of outliving me.....at 75-80% efficiency.

Of course, knowing all this there was no way I could rip out Grendil.

Friday, October 07, 2005

The Heat is On

There is nothing like a few nights of frosty temperatures to get a girl motivated to finish the restoration of her windows. Especially, when three of the windows currently on horses in the basement are from her bedroom.

Even my down comforter has its limits in keeping me warm.

I’ve been putzing with this project since last summer (2004) when I started my first window. I am not proud to admit that I discovered I would not freeze to death if I put up that 3M window shrink wrap plastic over the storm window….and kept that one window out all last winter.

This summer I found myself spending a lot of time trying to decide:
1) if I want to use ropes or chains,
2) if I should remove the pulleys and rehab them,
3) if Plexiglas should be used in the bathroom (I did, but for the record….a mistake),
4) if I should nail or screw the inside stops back on,
5) if the bottom edge of the sash should be inside (oil) or outside (latex) paint,
6) where the interior paint should stop…..if I plan on painting the exterior window wood next summer,
7) what to trim if the meeting rail doesn’t meet,
8) if I should install bronze spring in the window frame.

I am a bit of a perfectionist. I finally realized that if I change my mind next Spring….I just need to pull out a few pieces and change whatever it is I want to change. This took some of the pressure off ;-) I just need to get the lead out (a little old house pun) and get these windows done.

I went out and bought rope this afternoon. Will put the last coat of paint on the remaining sash tonight. Then I just need to track down some replacement inside stop strips. Finally need to paint the inside trim. Whew…..looks like I’ll be able to wind things down just as the first snow falls. And those windows…..they do look good.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Down Came the Rain

We had 6 to 9 inches of rain here last night. One wave after another of thunder, lightening, rain. There were cars floating, evacuations of houses by creeks, roads closed, news weathermen in a frenzy and generally a big mess that is still being cleaned up today.

I, however, am proud to report that my three year compaign of cleaning gutters, adding downspouts, regrading soil, planting and foundation caulking, foundation caulking, foundation caulking (did I say foundation caulking?) and general bargaining with God has paid off.

Although, I must admit to being nervous around midnight when I saw water rushing over the street curbs.

Except for a very faint shadow of moisture along one particularly problemsome wall......my basement is dry! Hurray!

Friday, September 30, 2005

Tiptoe Through the Tulips

The Friends School of Minnesota Third Annual Bulb sale is this Saturday from 10:00am to 4:00pm. The bulb sale is held at the school building at 1365 Englewood Ave., St. Paul (not far from Hamline University)

I'm not affiliated with this organization in any way, but have gone to their Spring plant sale for the past few years and have had a lot of fun and have been impressed by their prices and plants. The tomato and bleeding heart plants that I purchased from them last Spring have been very sturdy. So, I imagine the bulb sale would be just as fun.

They took preorders this year, but I was out of town the week of the deadline and missed it. So, I plan to go and just see what they have available. This year they also have peonies.....which I hope to add to my garden.

Even if you can't make the sale, you can download their catalogs from their website. They are a wealth of knowledge and really fun to look through. In addition to describing the plants, there are some interesting articles. As a novice gardener, I learned a lot reading through them because they are aimed at Minnesota gardeners.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Drip, Drip, Drip

The previous owner of my house remodeled the bathroom. Notice I did not say restore or refurbish.

There are things about it I like. I like the white tile with the black subway trim. I like the fact that they removed the window trim before putting up drywall, so the trim is at the proper level. The original hex tiles are still there.

There are things I just can't figure out. Why on earth would you think it is ok to put a wood "shim platform" under the sink so you don't have to do anything with the pipes? Wouldn't it have been easier just to leave the old wall sink there? Why would you buy a new toilet that allows only 5 inches of clearance to the tub....forcing everyine to sit sideways? What on earth were they thinking when they bought those lights?

...And then there are those things that I continue to discover over the years. The coat of latex paint that was slapped over the oil paint w/o prep (yea, its now peeling). The windows (same latex)...painted shut.....which made my ongoing window restoration a pain in the neck. The heater grate moved upstairs.

Today I added another to the list. Shortly after taking a shower this morning, I went downstairs. Directly below the tub there were water droplets on the floor. I panicked thinking the tub drain pipe blew out again (yup, I said again - that was a whole ugly story I'll retell when I'm to the point of being able to laugh about it).....but upon closer inspection I realized the drain pipe was ok. I pondered over the water most of the afternoon.

All of a sudden it dawned on me. I went into the bathroom and unscrewed the spigot, water handles and shower head. As suspected, behind each was an open hole. So, for the past three+ years.....water has been falling from the shower head down on the handles & spigot and then following the pipe and dripping back down in the hole behind the wall.....to the basement.

Nice. Off I went to pick up some plumber's putty to seal the holes.

It's these kinds of things that make me crazy....watch for a "we don't need no stinkin ruler or drywall tape...." post one of these days.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

New Haul

Anyone that has read my blog for some time can probably guess my weakness. (Coach purses and music cds, yes.....but they are not house related)

I like old furniture. I admire the valuable, pristine, predigreed furniture that gets ooohs and aaahs on the Antiques Road Show. But, the kind I really like are the odd pieces of misfit furniture that end up in the back room of some small antique shop. You know the kind.....painted way too many times, scratched, dirty, and no maker's name to be found. But like a mutt puppy, they have their own charm. I think I like the story they tell.

Well, long story short......I adopted two new pieces last weekend. On weekends when I am bored.....I wake up late on Sat......run to the local coffee place for my iced latte.....and drive a quick loop to a few of my favorite antique stores. My favorite shop puts pieces outside, so I can drive by and stop if I see anything that interests me.....or continue on my way. This past week nothing caught my eye, so I continued on my route.

My second favorite place has a brisk turn over......some of it good, some of it on its last leg. The place is piled floor to ceiling. The prices are good. It's small enough that I can do a quick walk through and not spend an entire afternoon (I am not a good shopper). This week out on the sidewalk in front of this store was the cutest, tiny folding table I have seen. It had the usual bumps and bruises.....but on top was a hand painted checker board. It is just the cutest little thing. I wondered how many games of checkers and chess were played on that table by the painter.

After I spot something I think I "need" I force myself to take short a "cool down" walk before I buy it.

This brings us to the store next to my "Second Favorite Place." The stores are kind of attached, so I've walked through this place a bunch of times. It has always seemed to me that there is something odd about the furniture in this store. I've been in there when the owner has been stripping down a piece of furniture with a vengance. I've never been able to put a finger on it, but I've suspected he uses some odd process. They have a dull look to them...they just look off. I don't buy furniture that has been refinished......if it needs to be done, I prefer to do it myself. So, I've never bought anything in this place. But, I was on my "cool down" walk after deciding to buy the checkerboard table....so I decided to swing on through.

Sitting to one side of this shop, I spotted a cute little bird's eye maple desk with - lo and behold - it's original finish. I've been looking for a maple desk to put upstairs, so I went over to check it out. Like any good antique shopper, I asked for and received a nice discount......so I made up my mind to buy it.

The owner asked me how I planned on finishing it. I told him I had no intention of touching the finish and would just clean it up with the traditional mineral spirits mixed with a few drops of boiled linseed oil. Hmmmm....he then told me this would not work and showed me a product he uses to "repair" the finish, with steel wool.....and then puts on a coat of straight tung oil. Ah, suddenly it was clear......I don't think he knows he's damaging the original finish and then putting on another finish over the existing. How he gets tung oil to dry over varnish or laquer is a mystery. But this explains that wierd look to the furniture in his shop. I nodded to him and smiled sweetly.

So, home I came with two new pieces :-) (Wow, that wall looks really purple)

Monday, September 19, 2005

One if by Land....

I spent this past week in Boston. There is nothing like a city celebrating 375 years to put a little perspective into what actually should be considered an old building. Turns out my 80 year old house is a relative baby.

After work each day, I'd rush out to tour the Freedom Trail and other sights in the city. I was staying at the Parker House (oldest continuously operating hotel in the US).....so I had some fun considering that Malcom X, Ho Chi Minh, JKF, Charles Dickens, Longfellow, Thoreau or Hawthorne may have walked down the same hallway as me (yeah, I was an English major).

I'll spare you the complete tour, but there were two items I will mention for other old house owners.

1) Paul Revere's house (The small green building). Built in 1680; bought by Revere in 1770 and sold in 1800. It was bought in 1902 to be saved from the wrecking ball. Debate raged for the next 5 years over to which century the building would be restored. The period in which it was originally built.....or the period in which its most famous resident lived in it. The 17th century won out and the third floor added by Revere was removed. Some things never change, huh?

2) The Old Corner Bookstore. You could spot me on the tour. I was the one checking out the window glazing putty technique and taking pictures of the wavy glass. Anyone that has worked on restoring their own windows will understand this preoccupation. Very cool. Oh yea, and some of the most famous authors this country has ever seen also frequented the place.

Ended my stay in Boston by meeting up with my college roommate and her three daughters for pizza in the North End. Fun week.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Be Prepared

It's probably the ex-girlscout in me that was drawn to this little item. That, and the fact that Los Angeles is currently in the black out and New Orleans is still without power in most areas. Be Prepared. This is my new motto.

After all, tornado season is still here and winter snow storm season is just around the corner. Not to mention the ocassional road trip.

My new little LLBean radio is powered by a hand crank. No batteries or electricity needed. One minute of hand cranking produces an hour of radio play. It picks up both local and world news, AM/FM, weather band and TV band. And it even will charge my cell phone battery.

Very cool, I think. I love gadgets. Now if it would only scrape the paint off the rest of those windows.......

Friday, September 09, 2005

I Did a Bad, Bad Thing

I will start off by stating in my defense....I have made an effort since I moved in to meet and chat with on a regular basis.....those neighbors living on all sides of me.

I know the statistics. In neighborhoods where neighbors are active and know one another, crime falls. One way to get people involved is to have neighborhood get togethers. I know this and I agree with it. Besides, it's just nicer to live in a friendly atmosphere.

That's what makes this so shameful to admit. My neighborhood picnic is tonight. I can't force myself to go. The thought of walking across the street with a pan of brownies (which I blew off making this afternoon anyway) and making awkward small talk with my neighbors about their kids is just not my forte. I want to unequivocally state these people are perfectly lovely and this is all about me being the bad apple, not them. Although, I have noticed that the other neighborhood singles also seem to make themselves scarce during these events....so, maybe I'm not totally alone in this.

Who knows. At any rate, for the record, I feel really bad and guilty. And I will have to slink around the 'hood this weekend holding my head down in shame (humming Chris Isaak - for those of you that recognized the title :-).

Monday, September 05, 2005

Nature. Again.

A few months ago, for my birthday, my parents bought me a small garden statue of St. Francis for my backyard shade garden. He's the patron saint of animals, for those that don't follow that sort of thing. It seemed pretty fitting & a little humorous considering the parade of wildlife I've had going through there this past year.

This morning I ventured out to my vegetable garden to pick tomatoes and much to my surprise when I glanced over at the shade garden I spotted the ears, feet and fluffy little tail of what was once a rabbit laying at the feet of St. Francis surrounded by blooming hostas and bleeding hearts. Hovering overhead was a small cloud of flies. I'll spare you the photo of this one.

I'm thinking I may have a faulty statue.......

Thursday, September 01, 2005

A Little Break

Like most of you, I've been glued to the tv watching the terrible events unfold down south. It's hard to write about my house when so many people are without theirs. I'm gonna take a few days break until we start hearing some good news.........

Saturday, August 27, 2005

What a Deal!

A quick little post just to let those in the Twin Cities know that the ReUse Center is closing their store....and everything is 50% off.

Items of note on my quick walk through this afternoon - 4 claw foot tubs.

Also check out the basement for a big selection of doors - if I heard right $6 each. Also, if you have measurements for needed storm windows....they have those in spades. It actually might be worth it to buy windows for the old glass and storm window hardware.

Things were going very fast, so if you are interested...you might want to run over there.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Green Acres

My garden this year has needed more attention than most small children. No exaggeration. The people at the local garden store now openly laugh at me when I come in. There is no more polite stifling their snickering. They insist it is not me.....just bad luck.

raccoons, squirrels, slugs, squash vine borders........if locust lived in my part of the country, I am sure they would be just over the hill.

This week my pumpkin vine, my acorn squash vine, my zucchini and my cucumbers have developed a severe case of Powdery Mildew. It has also spread to my phlox and my lilac bushes (which surround my entire yard). Powdery mildew forms a white powdery coating on all of the leaves.......and grows a kind of white fur on the top of the soil.

Not quite as bad as the squash vine borers, but pretty unattractive none the less.

I'm tempted to just let the whole thing die at this point. But, as luck would have it there is a pumpkin and 4 acorn squash on the end of those vines. And for some damn reason, I can't let them die. Not like this.

So, off I went to the local garden shop to get advice and MORE chemicals. Of course, this is tricky because we can't use anything that would harm the fruit. They pointed me to a spray. I plunked down my money and I was off. I spent the afternoon, yes the entire afternoon, spraying down those leaves - top and bottom.

Then suspiciously, I sneezed. Then I sneezed again. And again. It dawned on me too late that mildew (a form of mold) would trigger my rather bad allergies. It's that horrible feeling when you are at the very top of the rollercoaster and about to go down the other side really fast......

Anyway, a few days have now passed and the vines are looking better. My eyes are no longer swollen shut and the hives have disappeared. The air purifier is humming quietly in the corner, and I am hopped up on Allegra, etc. Once again, all is well at StuccoHouse :-)

Monday, August 22, 2005

Window Trim

I spent some time this weekend stripping window hardware. Not a glamorous job, but fairly easy and rewarding. Like every other old house, the hardware in my house had been painted over a bajillion times (in addition, note the lovely paint/glazing job on the picture)

I've been restoring my 80 yr old windows one at a time. Admittedly, this project has taken a really, really (did I say really?) long time. Mostly, because I don't like disassembling the whole contraption. Secondly, because stripping paint is a pain in the neck (even if you have a "method."). But, I'll talk more about the windows themselves in another post.

The windows I am working on were in various stages of waiting for primer to dry, for glazing to skim over and for mildewcide to be added to paint........so, I decided to tackle the hardware.

Most old house owners know (or quickly learn) the trick of boiling painted hardware in water & baking soda (I tried just water once and it didn't work as well). It works nicely. I have an stainless steel pot devoted to this task. I throw the hardware in the bottom and cover it with the solution and then bring to a boil for 15-30 minutes. The paint just peels off. You are left to polish the hardware up with some steel wool.


Its always fun to see the hardware once the paint is gone. The top row in the picture is from the bathroom....a nice shiny nickel finish. That is except the window pull which is a flat cast metal. I have these pulls on all my windows. I actually wonder if they were meant to be painted as they are pretty utilitarian and do not match the other hardware.

The bottom row is from my upstairs window. This set is kind of cool because it mixed two types of metal - brass and a silver colored cast metal. At first I thought that a coating on one of the pieces had just worn off, but then discovered my kitchen hardware is the same mix of two colors. These are my favorite. I haven't seen them anywhere else - original or reproduction.

Finally, on the far right in the top row are copper holders for a roller shade. These copper shade holders are on all of the windows on my first floor. The other window hardware on first floor is otherwise all oil rubbed bronze. All in all, a nice mish-mash of different metals.

Friday, August 19, 2005

Hardware Stores - The Real Deal

I stopped by the local hardware store yesterday to get glass cut for a window I am restoring. I've been stripping my 80+ yr old windows down to bare wood, reglazing them, repainting, adding new sash rope, and reinstalling (more on this later). Anyone that has tackled this project (or any other, for that matter) knows that your local, old fashioned hardware store can be your best friend.

I frequent 4 hardware stores in town:

Falls Hardware Hank - Is probably my favorite. It is a tiny hole in the wall with shelves stacked to the ceiling. It is a hangout for retired tradesmen. I've lucked out on trips there when a retired plumber and and a retired electrician were there to hold my hand and walk me through projects beyond my skills. They know old houses here. They even fixed my broken keychain there for free while I waited for my glass to be cut :-)

Grand Avenue Hardware - I could spend a day here just looking at stuff. They have a housewares section (which carries my beloved canning jars) and a hardcore hardware section. 2 floors. After searching high and low, I was able to find the allusive asbestos testing kits here.

Bayers Do It Best - I went in there a while back to buy a mouse trap. Not even the hint of a snicker crossed his face when I told him it needed to be instantaneous, bloodless and able to be scooped up from a distance with a shovel and tossed. He found me just the thing and sent me on my way.

Olson Hardware. Family run. Excellent service. They spent almost an hour brainstorming with me one day about where I could get a vintage stove rehabbed. They always have what I need or will order it.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Organized Basement

Typical of bungalows in my neighborhood, my house has a fairly large, unfinished basement. Perfect for storing a lot of crap :-) Unfortunately, in my house that crap had started to form big piles on the floor in all corners.

When I first moved into my house 2+ yrs ago, I immediately made a trip to Menards to purchase a bunch of sturdy metal shelving. The shelves turned out to be a little more difficult (huge understatement) to assemble than they promised on the packaging. I managed to get 5 units up and then stalled. The boxed shelving then sat in a corner until today.

Well, this afternoon I had some willing & motivated help. All told, we managed to assemble 4 more units. Yeah! Yippie, I can see my floors again!



Saturday, August 13, 2005

In Print

Nice article on house blogging in the local paper, the Minneapolis Star Tribune, today.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Plant Surgery

My acorn squash, pumpkin and zucchini vines have flourished and grown to great lengths. However over the past week, I've noticed some of the leaves turning brown. After slaving over them for months and then checking their progress daily......I was concerned. So, I did a little internet research. My vines were demonstrating the classic symptoms of squash vine borers (SVB for those in the know).

One would assume that after thousands of years of perfecting the art of gardening, a simple spray or powder would have been invented to cure this little problem in a jiffy.

I was soon to learn that if one assumed this, they would be wrong. After visiting a number of websites and trusted local garden stores, I learned that the only way to cure this problem, once it has begun, is to cut into the vines and dig out the big, white grubs and squish them dead. Then take a hat pin and continue stabbing them for a few more inches up the vine. Could this be any more gross?

The helpful lady at Leitners Gardens felt my pain/horror and suggested that maybe I could find some jr. high boys in the neighborhood that would think it was cool to kill them for a quarter a piece. (Damn, this is the perfect example of why I should have gone to the neighborhood picnic and chatted up the neighborhood kids. Mental note for next year)

There was no way those plants were going to die without a fight. So, this afternoon....pocket knife and hat pin in hand, I performed major surgery on my squash vines. There are a number of little, white SVB corpses laying in the dirt to prove it. Now I guess we wait with bated breath to see if my "patients" survive.

I've finally stopped gagging, but I think I'm going to skip lunch ;-) Next year I'm hoping for something simple like aphids.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Log Cabin

A number of years ago, my dad designed and built a log cabin.

The cabin was built on land that has been in our family for many years and was the site of an older log cabin that my dad used to visit when he was young. There are many great stories associated with that old cabin and the surrounding back woods....as well as building the new cabin.

Anyway, after some prompting, my dad has started a blog to write about his experiences building the new cabin......and memories of the old. If interested, you can find his blog at www.deertracksandtrails.blogspot.com.

He would love to hear your comments, I'm sure.

Friday, August 05, 2005

How Much is that Doggy in the Window?

StuccoHouse is contemplating getting a dog.

I am a low-key, big dog fan, I think (think black lab). However, the bungalow is more of a medium sized dog house, I think.

The StuccoHouse neighbors are definitely non-yippie dog types ;-) I also have allergies to animal hair, so a short hair breed is a must. And although I have a nice fenced in backyard, this dog would be a city dog.

Oh, and I have never owned a dog.......so, it shouldn't be too fragile :-O

Suggestions?

P.S. extra points to anyone that remembers the last part to the song in the title of this post.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Water, Water Everywhere

Here is my latest purchase. No, its not jewelry. No, its not a new outfit.

It is a brand spankin new lawn faucet and inside stop valve. Green to match (some of) my house trim. Only an old house person could get excited about this.

After 82 years of loyal service, the original spigot and inside pipe/turn off valve gave up the ghost. While my garden plants liked the slow leak of water coming out of my garden hose, I was not thrilled with my last month's water bill. I'm pretty thrilled at not having to stand in the basement anymore chanting "righty-tighty, lefty-loosy" anymore while trying to turn off my water overhead.















I have used the same plumber for a number of years (except for one bad, bad experience elsewhere). He heeded the call the day after I closed on my house when the kitchen faucet blew (the previous owner had held that together by sheer will power until an hour or so after closing). He also arrived on my doorstep post haste when I used way-too-strong drain cleaner on my bathtub and it ate through one of the few remaining old pipes and spewed acid all over my basement (lesson learned). So I was pleased, but not surprised, when he told me he could fix my outdoor spigot on the same day I called.

This plumber knows how to work on old houses, he answers my questions, he endures my purist side that insists on keeping my old fixtures (even if parts are hard to find), he works hard to get me into his schedule and his prices are reasonable. For those of you in my neck of the woods, Lakes Area Home Improvement.

Well, now I am off to pick up my second-latest purchase. New brake pads and rotars. Does the fun ever stop?!

Saturday, July 30, 2005

Details, Details

I'm being a slug today, so I got to thinking that I don't think I have ever posted photos of my old condo. It is the place where I lived prior to buying my current house. It was built in 1928 as apartments and converted in the 1980's by the original owner into individually condos. The original ower lived in one of the condos until the mid 1990s. The unit I owned was essentially unchanged (except for decor) since the day the building was built. I think it was the only one that had not undergone major renovation......and its original condition was the reason I bought it. It was a bit of a landmark in the neighborhood, and when I held my open house to sell the place, more than 300 people came through.




Before moving out of the condo, I took a lot of photos of the details of the building on the chance that I would want to replicate something in the future. You might notice more than a little similarity between my old place and my new house.





















Sunday, July 24, 2005

Changes in Attitude, Changes in Lattitude

I am bored to tears working on my house. Bored. To. Tears.

I have lots of projects to get done and can't bring myself to work on any of them. I just don't have the will.

I'm tired of stuff half done. I'm tired of stepping over boxes. I'm tired of a dishwasher on wheels. I tired of spending every waking free moment doing house stuff. There, I have said it.

The plan was to tear down my yucky kitchen ceiling this weekend and finish painting my upstairs. Ha. What actually got done was a few bike rides around my neighborhood, a trip to the mall, and a lot of just wasting time. Omg, this is what I have become in my quest to avoid working on my house.

A few days ago I was reading an intersting blog by someone that just had finished their upstairs expansion. They expressed surprise that they were able to live in their house for 3 yrs without getting some of their more important projects completed. 3 yrs!, I though to myself. I felt sorry for them. Then the horror of it hit me. I will have been in my house 3 yrs on October. 3 yrs. My pity for that blog writer became pity/disdain for myself.

I'm going through what I think is an "Opportunity Cost" phase. What am I missing out on while I devote my energy to this house? (I'm sure my accounting teacher would be minorly impressed what I remembered the concept). I used to travel. I used to travel a lot. I miss it. I'm suddenly missing it a lot.

I have a suspicion that this is all brought on by the allignment of a few different factors: 1) listening to too much Jimmy Buffett (Buffettheads, will probably recognize that my past few posts have modified versions of the titles of his songs); 2) Stumbling across too many eposides of
Globe Trekker in the wee hours of the morning; 3) the never shortening list of things to do in my house; 4) very vague memories of having fun in the distant past; 5) the realization I don't have the stamina/drive that other house bloggers do.

I need to get away. I need a road trip. Or a plane trip. If my passport gets to come, all the better.

Friday, July 22, 2005

It's a Jungle Out There


My garden has made some progress in the past few weeks.

I am obnoxiously excited about the asparagus plants that appear overnight and the next morning stand about 4 inches tall. I am in for a long haul with these little fellows as it will be another two years before I can harvest them.

The tomato plants in this garden are now well over 5' tall and I've had to buy additional 7' stakes to keep them upright. They have me a little freaked as each plant (there are 9 in all) currently has 30-40 little green tomoatos hanging from it. I have my canning jars ready to go, but you know they will all come ripe at precisely the same moment on a Monday afternoon in 95 degree heat.

My beans are ripening and will be ready in a day or two and I have big plans to make them into neat little jars of lemon-rosemary pickled green beans. I pulled out some old fence pieces from my garage and nailed some netting to them..and the climbing beans seem to like it.

Then there is the zuke plant. For dinner last night I picked my first zuke and sauted it in onions and garlic with parmesan on top. Yum. Everyone has warned me that this plant is just warming up and soon I will have zukes coming out of my ears.

I'm new to gardening, so you will have to bear with me....and the things I think are interesting. But my acorn squash and pumpkin seem to have developed minds of their own and are now slowly crawling up my sidewalk towards my house. I keep thinking of that episode of Saturday Night Live where the shark is knocking on the door saying they are the pizza delivery guy. If one day, they find me missing and my back door open.....tell the police about the squash.

I've lived my whole life in the city, but I'm thinking I'd probably do ok as a farm girl. This is kind of fun.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Different Point of View

Here is a short story about being a homeowner from a slightly different point of view.

This past weekend I was going to take my motorcycle out for a ride after a bit of a hiatus. When I pulled the bike out, I noticed that the tire air valve caps were missing. I thought about it for a few minutes and realized that somewhere there is a 16 yr old with almost new Suzuki chrome air valve caps on his off street bike. And I got to thinking, once again, about a little "situation" that I have had going for the past year.

Last summer an acquaintance came to my house to help me with my roof. He brought his teenage son with him. Nice kid. The son volunteered to mow my lawn for me while we worked on other stuff. Later that day, the son stayed at my house to watch TV while we ran some errands.

When we got back from running errands, I knew instantly upon walking into my house that something was amiss. I have this uncanny ability to notice when anything is out of place (it used to drive my college roommates crazy when we were in college and I could tell when they borrowed my clothes on the sly). I noticed drawers and cabinets in my dining room and kitchen had been opened. I also noticed the door to my bedroom was now open....the dvd player had been used.....there was scratches on my floor where the dog had followed....and it looked like my dressers had been gone through.

It's a strange feeling trying to figure out what is missing from your house. At the oddest moments, something will dawn on me. Oh, the Vin Diesel dvd is gone (lol...perhaps a blessing). Ah, the air valve caps are gone. Etc. I couldn't care less about most of those items. They don't mean anything to me (although I have spent a fair amount of time mentally inventorying things of sentimental value to me that were in those rooms). I've had to spend some time thinking about why this bothers me so much. This is a nice kid with some "issues", so it is fairly easy to get over that aspect. Beyond that, I think it's a change in the way you feel about how secure your house is.

For those of you that have read my blog for a while, you may remember that two Marshall Fields furniture delivery men (allegedly) stole my purse (and my identity) shortly after I moved into my house. My house and my life went into security lockdown after that happened. So, I've had a chance to think about this for a while....

As a homeowner you spend a lot of time and energy getting attached to your house and making it a cozy place to live. It's odd the things that can affect how you feel in and about your house and what a big and unexpected impact they can have on you.

Switch to Blogger

Well, its official.  My blog site will switch to Blogger as of today.  I'll keep the archives on this site for the sake of nostalgia (mine).

The new link is: stuccohouse.blogspot.com 

Interesting, I see that AOL has now decided to reset my hit counter back to zero.  Just one more reason.......

Friday, July 15, 2005

Website Counter

Ok, I'm about ready to switch over to Blogger. However, I am finding it hard to believe that Blogger does not offer a website counter. I mean, come on. They do provide a link to a number of third parties that offer counters & website stats. For this you need to surrender to their "privacy" policy, provide the password to your blog and place their ads on your site. If you read the html code that one provides, it is actually run by online casinos. Yuck.

I don't want website stats. I don't want my visitors tracked by some unkown party. I want a simple counter. Pure numbers, that's it. Why is that so difficult?

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

New Blog


I suppose it's only fitting that my new blog start off with another freakish backyard wildlife story. I've had a brief respite from racoons, brown squirrels, crows, ants and slugs. However while sitting in my backyard the other day, I was quite startled to have a white squirrel crawl under my fence. At first I thought it was a big white rat.....but the fluffy tail finally gave it away. Knowing no one would believe me at this point, I raced in to get my camera.

You can see my hew little buddy wrapped around a branch midway down the photo. Is a white squirrel sighting good luck or bad?

My old posts can still be found at my former AOL blog pages.

Irony - The definition

Irony:  sweat running down your forehead while you put together a little platform for your double hung window sill to hold your new air conditioner.

Monday, July 11, 2005

Blogger

I'm contemplating a move from AOL Journals to Blogger.  I came to terms long ago with being part of computing for the masses at the lowest common denominator, but I periodically have a really disillusioning experience with AOL technical support that sends me over the edge.  Usually I solve it myself or just get over it as inertia sets in, but this time I think is different. 

Optional reading: Long story short: if the AOL tech, in his office somewhere across the world, is having the same problem I am having in my little home office......then it seems logical to me that it is an AOL systemwide problem and not something wrong with both of our computers.  And it alarms me that I, not a computer expert by any stretch of the imagination, can figure this out......and the AOL tech can't.  Sigh.  Well, to their credit....after the first two techs couldn't figure out what was wrong and were accidentally "disconnected".......the third tech *did* realize this.  Heavy sigh. Rant over. 

This, and now Blogger hosts pictures.  I have gone so far as to set up a new Blogger site.  But, I'm now coming to the realization that in order to get the blog exactly the way I want it.......I will need to learn the behind the scenes of Blogger.  Also, from my test run Blogger seems to take an abnormally long time to update itself.  So, now I am mulling over how much time I want to spend on front of my computer....knowing how easily I can get sucked into these things......

Will keep you posted (no pun intended....well, maybe a little one).

Friday, July 08, 2005

Racoons, Blood Meal and other Horrors

I've had racoons prowling my yard this summer.  I didn't realize how big the problem was until I heard screaming outside of my window in the wee hours one morning and when I looked outside, saw a pack of 6 racoons in some kind of turf war.  Of course, this was taking place near my beloved garden.

So, in my ever escalating war against wildlife, I went to my local garden store to ask their advice.  Without hesitation, they recommended "blood meal" as a sure fire deterant to racoons.  Sounded good to me.  They pointed me towards a neat little white bag, I paid my bill and off I went.

This week I actually got around to applying it.  In reading the directions, the horror hit me.  This was DRIED BLOOD.  A BAG OF DRIED BLOOD.  Of course it would deter racoons.....it would deter anything.  I am a city girl....my mind does not work like this.  I sat out in my lawn chair for a long time.....and debated what to do.  I finally decided that if a bag of dried blood would get rid of the racoons threatening my garden......then a bag of dried blood it would be.

I know myself well enough though to know that I couldn't put the "blood meal"  directly in my garden.  Eating a tomato or cucumber that I know was raised on blood isn't something I could do.  So, I sprinkled that bag on the lawn surrounding my gardens.  I am sure my neighbors wondered what the hell was going on watching me sprinkle this bag of red powder and gagging.  Or maybe they don't even wonder anymore.

As it turns out, DRIED BLOOD does deter night time wildlife.  But it does attract flocks of big, scary crows that smell road kill.  Its like a scene out of an Alfred Hitchcock movie.  They land loudly on my roof in the morning and then spend the day circling the yard during the day.  Live and learn.

Now, maybe I can get back to working on my house......

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Finding New Neighbors

The house across the alley from mine is for sale.  It has been for sale on and off for about a year.  I believe it is the owner’s second house and he is not overly anxious to get rid of the house unless the price is just right.  Fair enough.  It is a cute post war cape codesque house.  I suspect it is very well maintained.  I base this on a few observations:  1) that I have never seen the lawn not perfectly mowed. 2) This guy is out there the minute the last snowflake has fallen and has shoveled his driveway before I am even out of bed.  Both very good predictability factors, I believe, in how well the house on a whole is maintained.

 

The only thing…..is that it is painted a kind of odd gold color….nothing outlandish, but enough to make a buyer with limited imagination possibly pass.  However, the price…which was on the high end last year is now on the low end of the market.  Appreciation in this area is brisk.  I have no good answer as to why it has not sold.

 

The realtor occasionally plans an open house on weekends.  Often I have been out working in my backyard as potential buyers check out the backyard of this house.  A few have seen me and asked my opinion of things.  I give then the Cliff Note version of the neighborhood and my opinions of the house.

 

One day it dawned on me.  I can play a role in finding new neighbors for myself.  Huh.  Perhaps living next to a single, hunky electrician/plumber/landscaper is worth a little extra effort on my part.  Huh.  This put a whole new spin on things for me. 

 

So, now I have varying pitches that I give out regarding the house…based on how desirable the potential house buyer is.  If that realtor only knew ;-)

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Chemicals

Today was my day for working with caustic chemicals.  I like to batch my exposures instead of spreading them out over an extended period of time. 

A few weeks ago I found a deal on an little, old telephone stand.  Solid wood....covered with layers of paint....the most recent, a hideous brown.  I took my heat gun to it first and uncovered layers of cream, green and brown paint.  I finally reached a nice red stain.  The type of wood is still a mystery to me.  When I removed most of the paint I pulled out the paint stripper.  I will tell you now I use the methylene chloride version.  I have tried the non-caustic strippers and have many, many half used bottles in my basement.  My theory when working with old (and probably lead based) paint is to get in and out fast.  Get that old paint off as fast as possible and dispose of it properly.  To that end, I have a cute little stripped telephone stand outside my front steps as we speak (well, as I type).  I still need to get the odd paint specks off...and then I think I will restain it the original red color and finish it.

My next chemical exposure was not nearly as fun.  I once had a bat, but that bat is now gone.  This is a very long and complicated story (that I will post about one day when I have the energy), but suffice to say that bats eat lots of bugs...including ants.  Carpenter ants.  And there are a lot of ant treatments....and many old wives tales on how to get rid of ants....but few of them work.  So, today I drilled holes in my plaster wall and applied permethrin dust into the wall cavity.  Then I raked up all the oh-so-attractive-to-carpenter-ants wood mulch and created a perimeter around my outside foundation dirt with permethrin spray.  I then laid down some rubber mulch in the two feet surrounding the foundation (it actually matches the real stuff that is now pulled down into the flower bed).  All in all a lot of work for not so great rewards.

So, to recap - methylene chloride and permitherin.  But fear not, I'm sure the radon and asbestos will get me first :-)

Thursday, June 30, 2005

Kitchen, the ongoing saga

Last night I did some canning.  Mango-Blueberry-Frangelico sauce.  While the jars boiled away in their boiling water bath, I had a few minutes (20 to be exact) to reflect on my kitchen.  I will warn you now, this entry is a stream of thought thing....

My kitchen has been an ongoing "thing."  I hestitate to call it a "project" because I don't think activity levels warrant that term yet.

We pulled down the 1970's oak cabinets last summer.  I have tested the old ceiling tiles for asbestos.  I purchased the wallpepr, lights and paint.  I located a place that will make custom maple/birch moulding to match the existing and replace the missing sections.  I cleaned (gag) and repainted/stenciled all of the cabinet interiors.  We replaced the wall sink faucet so the water no longer splashed directly over the edge. I have managed to locate some replacement drawer pulled at Restoration Hardware only to discover their quaility was crap and have the screws snap off in the drawers. And I have started to slowly strip the old shellac from the original cabinets and reshellac them.  This has been a 2.75 yr process.

Still the majority of the work still needs to be done.  Like all old house projects, one step hinges on 25 other steps.  This drives my friends and family crazy - they are get it done type people.  I am a take my time and get it exactly the way I want it....and aren't there a jillion things to do besides housework....type person.

So, today I took one more tiny step.  I pulled down a strip of the painted crown moulding (this needs to be removed to get to the old tile) to see if it is old or new.  Much to my relief, it is new wood.    I say this with mixed feelings, because if it was old wood....being a purist.....I would have needed to strip off the paint and shellac it to reinstall after the new ceiling has been installed.  This way, I won't have that nagging guilt when I go buy new maple crown moulding.  Of course, there are all of those miter cuts..... 

Friday, June 24, 2005

Wallpaper

I ran across an ad for a new idea in wallpaper.  I am always up for a trendy, artsy gimmick, so it appealed to me.

Interactive wallpaper.  The wallpaper is a series of frames (the product name is fittingly enough "Frames") of different sizes & design.  The concept is that the owner then fills in the frames by pasting photos or art.....or creating "art" directly on the wallpaper.  Fun for kids.....and kids at heart (me)....and the seriously artsy.

I think it would be fun used as a wallpaper....or also as a bulletin board.  At $19.95 for a double roll, this is a pretty reasonably priced venture.  Looks like it is available at Home Depot, Lowes, Shewin-Williams.....

Unfortunately, the company's website doesn't have this product listed yet.  I couldn't even find a photo to show you :-(  If you roll across the middle bottom square on their home page....you can get a brief glimpse of the product.  Their website is also worth checking out for their other tres funky products.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

So close, yet so far

The temperature hit triple digits here today.  Not much for those Southern folk, but those temps will wilt a Midwesterner fairly quickly.

I have an old 1920's gravity furnace.......and thus no central air.  This generally isn't a big deal....although my friends think I am crazy.  I haven't had central air in any place I've lived in since my parent's house.....and my memory of that has long since faded.

Cruelly, the previous owner of my house left a gigantuan window air conditioner in my upstairs attic.  We are talking big.  Very big.  As some point when work was being done in my attic, it was heaved into the closet space that has the attic access and there is sits.  I step across it to get to my clothes.....I even display shoes on it.

This thing is a monstrosity.  It is so big and heavy that I can't move it.  Not an inch.  I have spent many an hour laying on my bed....looking into the closet....trying to figure out which window this Titanic could have even fit into.  It's frustrating to have cool, crisp air just out of reach.

I've also spent many an hour trying to figure out how to get it out of the closet, down the stairs and out to the trash.  Other than taking a screw driver to it and removing it piece by piece....I honestly don't think it can be done.  As near as I can figure only an Act of God could have gotten that thing up the stairs....and only an Act of God will get it down.

That air conditioner must have sensed all of that hostility.

Today.....in 100 degree temps.....it sat there and taunted me.  When it got quiet mid day.....you could hear it whispering "ceiling fans keeping you cool?"  Just plain mean.

Tomorrow is supposed to be cooler.....and my plotting to get rid of that thing will double in effort.

Here is the beast (ignore the shelving currently holding shut the make shift attic insulated door). It looks a lot more benign sitting there in a photo.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

1920's Wood Screens

A number of people have asked me to post more pictures of the construction details of my wood screens. Here goes - some of the photos are pre-rehab, some midway, some as the paint dries.

A few items of note.....

The PO got the paint on the screens, not me :-)

The screens lay on top of the frame and are held in place by a three bead "screen mould." These strips can be found in old style lumberyards....I also saw them listed in Rejuvenation's Millwork Catalog. Next year, I plan on replacing the screens.

The frame of my windows is essentially the same as the wood storm windows (frame thickness & design)

















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