Saturday, March 24, 2007

Another Hot Deal

I am going to post one more hot deal I ran across a few weeks ago for Minneapolis residents. Then I will stop for fear that St. Paulites will form a posse and cross the river :-)

I wrote a last summer about how many of the old elm trees that once ran along the boulevard of the city streets had been hit by Dutch Elm disease and cut down. Last summer two of those huge elms on my street were cut down. My house lost it's elm many years ago. It's really a loss for the entire block, because the streets once had these great leaf canopies that stretched across the entire street. Now some houses have replacement trees (mine has a maple) and some just have the old stump.

So, when I read an article about how the City of Minneapolis has partnered with an organization called Tree Trust to offer Mpls. residents a tree for $15, it caught my eye.

According to the info. I have you can purchase Cathedral Elm, Bur Oak, Austrian Pine, River Birch, Cockspur Hawthorn or Autumn Brilliance Serviceberry. It would be great if this prompted people to replace their missing elms with the new disease resistant elms. I like my maple okay, but there really is nothing like the tall V shape of an elm.

Here is a link to the ordering details. It sounds like there is an April 15th deadline and quantities are limited so if you are interested, I wouldn't dilly-dally.

I'd be interested in hearing if anyone plants one of these trees.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Rain Barrels

I've been wanting a rain barrel for a couple of years now. I imagine that it would be so much easier to water my back yard garden with a rain barrel than hauling pails of water or an uber long hose from the one water spigot on the side of my house. I also think it might be helpful in keeping my basement dry.

So, you can imagine my excitement when I discovered that the city of Minneapolis and the EPA are offering rain barrels at 50% the retail cost to residents of Minneapolis. $48.15 to be exact.

You order them online & then pick them up after May 1. There are also a bunch of local sales where you can buy them mentioned on the wesbite. You have choice of green or brown.

I've actually seen them sitting in a back corner down at the ReUse Center priced at $90 and had been toying with the idea of picking one up this summer. Now I am a happy camper.

If you order one, drop me a blog comment. I may need some support this summer when I try to attached it to my downspout :-)

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Distracted. Again.

Well, it has happened again. I am so easily distracted.

There I was freshly home from the hardware two 10' pieces of 18 guage wire in hand...up on my ladder.....looking at my doorbell chime with the cover off. And I got to thinking.

How hard could it be to pull that ishy acoustic tile down from my ceiling? What the heck is under there anyway? And does that flat electrical plate mean wires run under the tile?

Next thing I knew, half my ceiling was laying there on the floor. Before anyone blows a gasket, I had the tiles tested for asbestos a few years ago. It has long been in the plans that the ceiling would come down (I already have the new paint, wallpaper & lights that have been gathering dust while the ceiling was intact). Just not necessarily today. Just not necessarily before I had plans on what would happen next.

Under the tiles there is a series of 1"x 3" strips nailed to the plaster ceiling. Under the wood strips are these funky, grass textured 6"x 6" really thin tiles. They are sticky and I can't tell if that's grime, glue, or just the fact they have been covered up for many years. Not so attractive.

So, now I need to decide: 1) pull down the wood strips and deal with the nightmare that is the cracked & hole ridden plaster ceiling; 2) put up a painted tin ceiling; or 3) put up the Armstrong tin-ish tiles & paint.

This may surprise many, but I'm leaning towards the Armstrong tiles with maple crown (finished in amber shellac like my kitchen cabinets).
The thing that is giving me pause is that the wallpaper I bought is Morris design arts & crafts reproduction. It was quite expensive. If I put up new ceiling tiles and decide later that life is not worth living without the plaster ceiling showing, it means that the wallapaper will most likely be ruined. A dilemma.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Doorbell Button Revisited

A few weeks ago I bought some salvaged stuff from a house that was being torn down. I really, really was interested in the light (which I got), but as an after thought I also put a bid in on an old door bell button. It was an interesting design, but looked like it had seen it's better days.

I only saw the button via a photo (to the left) before bidding....and thought it was an oil rubbed bronze over brass. It looked like it has some serious scuff marks near the button. No one else bid against me, so I ended up with the doorbell.

Yesterday, I took it out of the baggie it came in and took a closer look. First, its a lot larger than what I anticipated. Secondly, it wasn't oil rubbed was just really filthy. I started cleaning it. Lo and behold it is shiny nickel (almost looks like sterling) with a little brass ring around the bakelite button. It has a very pretty detailed design. No manufacturing marks.

Not the kind of door bell button that you would expect to find on a bungalow. But, the house being torn down.....from my guess.....was a 1920-30's house. I do know the former house had a lot of arts & crafts type features. I'd guess this button to be from the late 20's to mid 30's. Even though my front door is all about oil rubbed bronze and arts & crafts styling....I'm thinking StuccoHouse might need this button (my original is long gone).

Thursday, March 15, 2007


I was at my local Post Office this afternoon and saw that the new Henry Wadsworth Longfellow stamps are now in. Kind of a fun idea for those people that live in the Longfellow neighborhood of Minneapolis.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

The Doorbell

This is my current doorbell. It causes me some stress. It's also plastic and ugly.

I made a quick run to Northwest Architectural Salvage this afternoon to see if they had a ceramic pull for my salvaged ceramic sconce (more on this in another post). It's a little salvage store run by a quirky older woman and her quiet son. They have a lot of old, rewired lights, that I personally think are expensive, but are nice. I don't go there a lot, but if you are looking for a bizarre missing piece to something, this is a good place to start. They carry a lot of parts - for lights, for doors, and who knows what else. Parts hidden on shelves, in bottles, in showcases, in back rooms.

So, I was standing up by the front of the store while the owner went to her back store room to find the lone little ceramic pull she had. This gave me a few minutes to browse. Always dangerous.

I spotted a little, old doorbell in a show case. It was small and covered in loads of old paint (sorry, I clearly need to read more about my camera and close-ups). Under all the paint it looked like the cover had some sort of embossed design. The inner workings appeared to be in working order. At 3"x6", it's pretty small.

It was on sale. It was $11.25. I could not pass it up.

I took my newest find home and put the cover in boiling water & baking soda for 30 minutes. After layers of old paint had fallen off, I lightly finished it with steel wool. The last layer of paint, was black and I think it was probably the original color. The cover now clearly reads "Hersh Duplex Signals." I'm guessing it pre-dates my houses...guessing early 1900s. The only markings on it, however, are the words "patent pend."

I don't have a clue about old doorbells, so I'm not even sure it will work on my house. But I figure how much could doorbells have changed over the years? It looks like there are three spots for electrical connections; one on the lower left and two on the right. Next week I may stop at my local hardware store and see what the old timer guys there know about it all. Unless someone reading has an idea......

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Another Piece...

I'm going to keep this one short.

Here is my current bathroom light. Stunning, right?

After 4 years of hunting (who knew black ceramic, two bulb lights & black ceramic fixtures were so hard to find), I finally found a replacement.

Last week after painfully telling myself I was not allowed to buy an almost $300 vintage light at a local antique store (Antiques Riverwalk, for the locals).....I came home to the new Rejuvenation catalog that carries a new, virtually identical light. Mine arrived today.

Monday, March 05, 2007

(Damn) Ice Dam

Last week we received more snow. It's probably reached a depth of about 2 feet in my yard. Nothing too exciting, except all of the snow piled up on the roof and the warm March sun have started to cause ice dam problems on many of the houses.

My house is no exception. I have a worrisome ice dam on the left side of my front entry overhang. This spot has a long history of serious ice dams, and I can see clues of plaster repair on the inside wall of the house where water must have once worked it's way into the wall cavity.

The ice dams are caused when warm air from the living area of the house escapes up into the unheated attic area. When the warm air starts to warm the underside of the roof, it causes the snow to start to melt....and then get the picture. As the water melts & refreezes, it can work its way under the shingles & roof sheathing and into the insulation and ultimately into the walls & ceiling of the house. The first clue are those pretty icicles that innocently start to form at the overhang.

I've worked really hard over the past 4 years in weather proofing my house. And have pretty much eliminated the ice from forming. But, I knew this spot was going to be a problem for me this year if it snowed. I've been removing aluminum from around the house. The front overhang had this funky metal drip edge that had been clipped every few inches, so they could "fit" it around the curve. There is a huge gap that I am sure is leaking warm air. Nothing I can do until I'm able to call a roofer to redo that whole section of roof in the Spring......except periodically knock down the icicles and remove some of the snow. The weather is pretty warm so it should melt pretty fast.

You actually can tell a lot about your roof after a big snow. If I walk around the block, I can see houses where the snow is almost entirely melted off of their roof. This means that a lot of hot air is escaping through their roof and they are significantly under insulated. They essentially are heating their house & about 6" above it. Icicles & ice dams point out specific spots where more insulation or expanding foam should be used to block bypasses. Small footprints, means you might have a raccoon living in your chimney ;-)

My roof will start to develop lines in the snow soon that show where insulation was put between the studs and where drywall was attached directly to the studs (to keep headroom). I have hot air escaping through those studs. The rest of my roof holds on to the snow pretty well, so I'm generally happy.

Last night, one of the tv news stations covered a story about a guy who ended up in the ER after a 40 pound icicle fell on his head when he was knocking down ice from his roof with a broom. He had a pretty nasty gash on his forehead. Only in Minnesota :-)

Thursday, March 01, 2007


For the past two days I've had a headache. The really bad kind of headache where your teeth hurt and that soft spot on the top of your head throbs. The kind that only goes away when you can sleep for 10 hours straight.

The kind of headache that only technology can create.

I've dreamed of being able to work (okay, okay, blog & email my friends) from my couch or the local coffee shop. So, on Tuesday my new Dell laptop arrived. The fact that I was actually home to sign when the FedEx guy arrived seemed to indicate that all stars were briefly lining up in my favor. I took the laptop out of it's box and it was all shiny, new and impressive. I was one step closer to my dream.

I sat down to do the initial computer set up. I've done this quite a few times before. I plugged the laptop in, turned it on and held my breath as the lights began to glitter. I worked my way through the Vista set-up screens. I got to a screen that asked me if I wanted to set up a password. Vista "recommended" that I set one up. I agreed with Vista - after all I didn't want someone to be able to post to StuccoHouse after stealing my laptop. So, I entered one of my well worn passwords. I confirmed it. It was set. I finished up the set-up and the computer shut down & restarted.

As the screen lit up again, Vista politely asked me for my password. Easy. I typed it in & hit "enter." Incorrect. I re-typed it in again, slower this time. Wrong. I re-re-typed it. Nope. Re-re-re-typed it. No. Vista, getting bored with this game, gave me a password "hint." I had a mixture of anger & panic going through my at this point. Fricker, I KNEW what my password was and was typing it in correctly. Vista begged to differ.

I carefully explained to the Tech at Dell that I was giving Vista the correct password. An unconvineced "uh huh," was the response I received. For the next two hours, the nice Dell Tech researched how to remedy this problem. Vista evidently handles this issue differently than previous versions of Windows. And I was the first person in the world (or at least at Dell) that had managed to pull this stunt.

The irony was not lost on me that while I sat on hold with Dell, that cute little Apple commerical featuring a PC and a Mac chatting while a Vista bodyguard in sunglasses behind the PC guy repeates "accept or reject" was playing on tv.

We (the royal we, meaning Dell) finally resolved the password problem. I don't think the Dell guy meant to be snarky when he suggested I wait a while to put on a new password ;-)

So, still fresh from the victory I signed on to my desktop. Very long story short I discovered that both my (dial-up) isp & my work email/host had individually chosen this day to blow up all of my services....and of course, blame some software that is not theirs. Technology overload.

I went over the edge.

Once my headache goes away, I'll need to decide dsl (probably) or cable (pricey). Find a new host for my work stuff (boo, GoDaddy). And figure out how to get a router working. Any advice on this would be greatly appreciated.

Then, hopefully, they will not come out with any new technology for the next 10 years. Except that new iphone looks pretty cute.....

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