Friday, December 29, 2006


I made one of my semi-weekly trips over to the ReUse Center this afternoon. I wanted to donate the sink I decided not to use back to them. I've been hauling it around in the back seat of my car for the past couple of months, and decided if I wanted to take the tax deduction this year I had better get over there.

Of course, I had to take a swing through the place. They are having one of their 50% off the entire store sales. As always, I pulled out my little sheet with window measurements and spent some time confirming that once again they did not have any old wood storm windows to fit my house.

A few things worth mentioning.

One item I never thought to look for at the ReUse Center is a chimney cap. They had 5 of them there all in good condition; I think one was even new. $7 on sale. I can't remember exactly how much I paid for mine, but it was a lot more than $7.

They also have a good supply of old wood storm doors in good condition (80.75" x 36" & 80"X35" were the two I measured). Most are $15 on sale. Too big for my back door and I already have one for my front door, but maybe someone else is searching....

And finally. I saw the oak buffet that was pulled out of the house in my former neighborhood. It was bigger than I imagined from the photo. It was in excellent condition. It looked oh-so-sad to be sitting there homeless. Hopefully, someone buys the buffet and is able to replace one that was torn out of their old house. And all will end relatively happy.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

The Entryway

I thought what I would do over the next series of posts is cover some of the projects I took on in my house immediately after moving in. That is, B.B. (Before Blog). I was reluctant to make too many changed when I first moved in until I got a "feel" for the house. But there were a few hideous things that needed immediate attention.

This is what my front door looked like when I first moved in. It had a fine, shiny brass security plate paired with an equally fine deadbolt...and topped off with a non-functioning door knob. From the outside, you put your key in the deadbolt and pushed the door open......or used the knob to pull it shut. From the inside, you pulled on the security chain to open the door....or just pushed on the door to shut it. The deadbolt was the only lock. The brass in all of it's glory was losing it's finish.....and a strange plastic-type coating was peeling off. I'm sure the entire set could be had at a big box store for $5.00. One of the previous owners also had the idea that slapping a security sticker on it might be a good idea. I had a combination of old holes, new holes, and old holes that had been modified. It was awful.

I had some fun that first month watching people try to silently figure out how to leave my house. I also had nightmares of not being able to get out of my house in a fire.

As luck would have it, I locked myself out of the house a few weeks after buying the place. After hours on a Sunday. I was determined to get my overtime money out of this call, so I picked (no pun intended) the locksmith's brain for more attractive solutions to my shiny brass situation. He shook his head and told me the door had too many holes in it and needed to be replaced.

I couldn't believe it. I started visiting locksmiths & hardware stores and one after another they told me the same thing - replace the door. I scoured the internet and found nothing. I was NOT going to replace and original, oak door so I resigned myself to accepting my situation....or patching the holes & painting the door.

But, I am not one that gives up easily.....and fortunately, one who also locked herself out of the house again. This time I called another locksmith. Turned out he, Dana from Floyd Total Security, lived in an old house in my neighborhood. While he was picking my lock, I asked him if he had any ideas of how I could replace my current set up. Much to my surprise he said "yup."

He pulled out a tablet of paper. The tablet was made up of a little questionaire for locks. He took measurements. He muttered to himself. He jotted notes on the tablet. In the end, he handed me the completed questionaire and the name of the store where I could get the new entry set I needed. Nob Hill. I was given a salesperson's name and instructed to hand her the worksheet. She would show me my options.

Clutching this piece of paper like the Holy Grail, I visited the hardware store. Their motto is "jewelry for the home." When they refer to "jewelry," they are not talking gold filled.....they are talking Tiffany. I located my salesperson and she silently read the information contained on the tablet sheet. She then ushered me to a display of locks. I could choose from three sets. Each one was lovely. The price of each one made my heart palpitate.

I knew I wanted oil rubbed bronze, so this narrowed down my choice to two. I also knew I wanted an Arts & Crafts inspired set. This further limited my selection down to one set. The entry set that fit my qualifications was an Ashley Norton. I rationalized that this entryset was going to be one of the first things everyone saw as they approached my house. I was also going to be using it every day. It made sense to choose top quality.

I ordered the set. It arrived, and Dana installed it. Not a day goes by without me thinking how cool my old door with it's new entry set is.

It was also my first old house owner lesson in: It Is Out There, You Just Have To Find It.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

What I Got for Christmas

I am an undercover Martha fan. I'm a long time subscriber to two of her magazines (Living and Food). When she went to jail, I renewed both subscriptions for two years in solidarity. I keep each past issue of Living in magazine containers in my basement filed according to month. Few people would suspect I'm a fan and I rarely admit it in public, but there you have it.

So, you can imagine my secret delight when I found that one of my Christmas presents was a copy of her new book, "Martha Stewart's Homekeeping Handbook." 744 pages full of everything you ever will need to know about maintaining a house (apartment, condo, shack, whatever).

The book is divided into 7 sections: Introduction, Room by Room, Throughout the House, Comfort and Safety. Moving, Materials Guide, and References. The topics range from the different types of wax to use on floors, furniture, what to do in the case of identity theft......and everything in between.

I know this book will be put to good use at StuccoHouse (we already used it to remove a beet stain on the Christmas dinner tablecloth). I also think that anyone (male or female) that owns a house would find the book very useful. An idea for that next housewarming gift you need to buy.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Vintage Postcards

In my last post I mentioned that I had purchased a couple of vintage postcards at the antique store, Pines-n-tiques.

I've collected postcards for 15 yrs or so. I choose a couple well known tourist attractions near my house and focus on finding postcards with images of those places. I have maybe 10 postcard with the image of a lake that was close to my old house. So far I've collected 5 or 6 postcards with the image of a waterfall that is in the general area of my current house.

I'm pretty picky. The postcard has to be in excellent shape, have writing on the back, have a date stamp, and be under $3.00. Having "rules" makes collecting a bit more of a challenge.

Every few months, I have another postcard framed.
Eventually, the entire collection will be hung on my stairway wall.

Friday, December 15, 2006


This past week I drove to an out of town funeral. I've driven the route from the New Ulm area to the Twin Cities and back again a kajillion times in my life. This time I decided to take a new route home. This is farm country so the back roads are filled with old house, fields and countless barns....all in varying conditions. Ocassionally you will see a barn whose top has caved in. On the next trip by that farm, the barn will be gone.

On my way home I was driving through the town of Plato, MN when I spotted a small hand painted sign advertising antiques. On a whim, I turned off the main highway and followed the signs to an old farm. The entire barn had been converted into an antiques store - Pines-n-tiques. The place was huge.

As I worked my way through the first floor, I started chatting with the store owner. As old house people will do, we started talking about restoring old houses. She asked me if I had seen the wood floor in the back room of the barn. When I told her "no," she brought me back there to see the floor.

As it turned out, the room was a showroom for another local company. The company salvaged the wood from old barns that were on their way to being demolished. Antique Woodworks had set up a sample room of some of the woods they had salvaged and remilled into floors, wainscotting, mantles, molding, and some furniture. Oak, elm, hackberry, fir.....all old growth. Much of the wood dates back to the first settlers. Some still had the original saw marks on it from its original milling. I was amazed.

One thing that I adored about this company is that they laser engrave the barn's & the pioneer's history to the back of the newly milled products. So, as you reuse the wood from these old barn's you know it's history. How cool is that?

Definitely check out Antique Woodwork's website. It is a fun read.

I also found some very cool postcards (I collect them) and a small company that makes homemade soap using the lard & tallow method (the kind grandma's used to make). I'll post more about these later.......

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Ice Box Advertising

When I was working on stripping and repainting my ice delivery door, I ran across this ad for a McCray icebox. I was trying to picture how the little exterior door worked with the interior icebox. Like my delivery door, the advertised icebox opened from inside the kitchen, as well as, via a little outside door.

The ad boasts a special "outside icing feature." Back in the early 1900's, housewives would normally have had to sit around and wait for the ice man to make his ice delivery (some things never change). The advertisement reminds prospective customers that even when the ice delivery man arrived, he would probably track mud and sludge through the house. A nice selling point for the "outside icing feature."

One other little fact made me chuckle. This door on the back of the icebox that allowed ice delivery from the outside of the house was nicknamed "the jealous husband door," because it kept the ice man outside. The 1920's husband had a lot to deal with.....the milkman, the postman, traveling salesmen, the electric meter reader, the gas man and the ice man.

Monday, December 04, 2006


Here's the kind of thing that leaves me scratching my head.

Before I bought my house, I lived in another neighborhood on the other side of the city. I lived in that general area (homeowner & rental) for close to 15 years. When I first moved into the neighborhood it was filled with big old Victorians & Bungalows dating from the early 1900's. These houses are relatively big (2000+ sq ft) and full of the kind of details that would have been available to the upper middle class in the early 1900's. Some of the houses had been neglected for a while, but the neighborhood was on the upswing and people bought the old houses and restored them.

10 years after I moved in, most of the houses had been snatched up and restored. It was a fun neighborhood to take walks in for an old house lover. Plenty to look at & admire. No remuddling here.

Then the neighborhood became trendy. A new crowd moved in. A distict change in the neighborhood took place. People wanted to live there to say they lived there for the prestige. That's about the time I decided I wanted to move out.

Last year, I drove through my old 'hood and was surprised to see an astounding number of old houses being torn down and on those city lots, large McMansions were being built. It made me sad. The neighborhood originally became popular because of the charm of the old houses, but now they were being torn down.

Here is the latest evidence of this phenomenon. A local salvage place sends out information of houses that are being gutted or torn down. They show photos of the items that can be purchased as salvage. Take a look the photos at this link to see what is being stripped out of this old house.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

A Reminder

A little over three years ago two delivery men from Target/Marshall Fields (now Macy's) stole my purse when they delivered furniture to my house. Along with my purse, they stole my identity.

Today, I received yet another letter demanding payment for a bad check written last week at a drug store.

I will spend time early next week ordering & reviewing my credit reports (yet, again), writing a letter to the law firm who is demanding payment & threatening court action, sending proof by certified mail proving that I did not write this bad check, and filing a police report in yet another state.

I'm told, mine is the best case senario of identity theft because I realized my purse was gone seconds after they took it. Although I wasn't able to recover the stolen items, I was able to shut down all of my credit card accounts as they drove off. Still, they were able to write tens of thousands of dollars in bad checks in my name. And surprisingly, the police do not investigate.

A reminder. If you have a stranger coming to work on your house, be there. Even if you are there (I was), do not let your eye off of your valuables for even a split second. Target would/could not even tell me if they do criminal checks on their delivery people. 99% honest folks, but just one can make your life miserable for a long time.

P.S. Next week I will be back to bright and cheery posts about my house restoration. I promise.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Bitter & Jaded

It is with much bitterness and disgust that I post this photo. This is the reason that you will not be reading lovely posts about my new wall sink being kitchen being wallpapered (finally).....and my already purchased kitchen & hallway lighting being installed.....any time soon.

What you see is the liquid that leaks out when your car's struts go bad. Replacing struts and shocks, as it turns out, is expensive.

I so long to return to the days when my house blog was not filled with photos of the innards of my sewer, piles of dirt, crumbling stucco, and dead mice.........

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