Monday, March 31, 2008

You know you don't get out enough when...

So we didn't get a thing done on the house this weekend. Instead, we made a whirlwind trip to New York for a friend's wedding. We arrived a few hours before the rehearsal dinner, and left a few hours after the ceremony. All in all a good trip-- far too quick for my taste, but nice, too. I lived there very briefly, so my time there is rarely pressed. I've seen what I want to see. No pressure to run from place to place, sight to sight. Just nice, leisurely strolls.

Anyway, the rehearsal dinner was at Vento Trattoria, which is in a Flatiron style building-- narrowing at one end and broadening out at the other. The food was excellent, the cocktails were fabulous, the wait-staff were fun, opinionated, and efficient, for the most part. However, Adam and I spent much of oour time staring at the awesome plank floors, and the carved wood columns holding up the beams that went from one end to the other.

It was pretty great.

HAHa! I was about to type something about the ceremony location (Cipriani's banqueting hall in the old Bowery Bank building-- gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous) and when I thought I was cutting and pasting a sentence, I actually pasted the ENTIRE TEXT OF ANNE OF GREEN GABLES, which I cut earlier. From Project Gutenberg. It almost crashed the computer.

So yeah. My point...Something about being easily preoccupied with the architecture, even with awesome food and drink in reach...Hm. Maybe not much of a point, seeing as how I appear to be easily distracted by small shiny objects.

Clearly too many cocktails and too little sleep just addles a poor girl.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Then there's the countdown to mummification

I said in that last post that everything I'd listed was the main stuff...
Guess it goes to show that you can live with just about anything and eventually pay it no mind...

Something has died in the wall. In this wall to be exact:

That's our exterior walls-- the perimeter of our house is 2 1/2 brick thick all the way around. Something small, but powerfully stinky, has wedged its way into some crevice and is now stinky pantsing the place up. We had taken off this piece of front door trim to repair a section of the door jamb and just haven't gotten around to putting it back.

So if you sit on the couch for more than a moment, you get waves of stench as the air wafts through the wall, out of this opening and into the room.



99 boxes of shit to unpack,
99 boxes of shit,
Unpack one,
Think you're done...

There's still 99 boxes of shit of unpack.

I don't know how that happens, but it never ever ends. It's like they sprout a replacement every time I get one emptied. I think they're some freakshow mythological figure that just grows a new head each time you cut it off...Anyway...Pretty!

So I guess it's been a while. Not for lack of progress in general...Mostly for lack of time. Lack of visible progress. Lack of wakefulness. Spring break. Weather that actually promotes being outside at the grill over inside at the computer (weird, right?). And Easter.

Adam has been diligently priming and painting the kitchen trim, among other little projects like cleaning out the garage and ordering drawer glides that don't work. I kid!

Uh, actually, I don't. We so wanted drawers that pull all the way out-- the fancy, smooth gliding, ball bearing, full extension drawer slides. So we found a good price online, ordered them along with the special attachments for face framing, and promptly discovered that they were unusable.

So we went to Lowe's and stocked up on run of the mill, undermount, single track glides. The upside? $16 as opposed to $75. It really dulls the blow of the whole episode. So this:

Has led to this:

Followed shortly thereafter by this:

And this:

Ok, so pretty much none of these items will stay in their current locations. But it does mean that they are off the floor, out of the boxes, and free of the black garbage bags they were reduced to when we ran out of boxes.

Unfortunately, the rest of the house looks like this:

That weekend was particularly productive. We fixed our two year old couch. Two boards in the support frame had completely split and the whole couch sank in the middle. What!?! So we've been eating a lot of fast food since this whole project started...and maybe I kinda let the membership at the gym lapse...a year or so ago...Let's not talk about it anymore. The couch is fixed.

Moving on.

On the same day that we did our furniture repair, drawer slides and cabinet filling, we also FINALLY mounted the bathroom wall cabinet:

And I am pleased. Yes, this room is also still a mess, and no none of these colors photographs well together, and yes the window is still covered in paper towels (even though you can't see it.; full disclosure and all that). Add it to the long list of shit we have to deal with, which includes unpacking so that I can find my jewelry pouch and two favorite black t-shirts that have all gone awol since the move, as well as this big ass hole in the hallway ceiling:

There was an old attic fan here-- you pulled a cord in the pantry, and that cord you see there pulled a piece of plywood back from a grate in the ceiling. Unfortunately, that attic fan is no longer functional, and we'd like to put a new one in, but that's not in the cards right now. So this will become an attic access point. Which will sure as hell beat the teeny tiny space in the pantry.

So, um, that's the main stuff...My dog has finally come to live with us, more than ten years since I left home. He was kind of the family dog, but was always definitely mine. A bit of a "one-owner" kind of situation. My mom was allergic to him and he was quite a barker in his day, so he really didn't get a lot of attention. Now, he and the kiddo have become fast friends and he's quietly taken to sleeping on my pretty monkey grass, smushing it totally flat. Next step will be bringing over his boon companion, the cat who thinks she is a dog. More about her when she makes the move.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Extoling the virtues of the stinky pear

Back in the 80s, some sort of freakshow Bradford pear (callery pear) lobby must have pulled a fast one on city councils everywhere, because it seems like a lot of towns across the country have these as their "city trees." And I see why. They have a lot of Pros:

  • As you see from the pictures, they're absolutely lovely in spring-- one big mass of white blooms.

  • Positively perfect in shape, requiring next to no pruning or shaping.

  • They usually only grow to around 30 or 40 feet tall.

  • They're disease resistant.

  • They grow pretty quickly.

  • And they are the most vibrant flame red until late in the autumn.

All this making them excellent for landscaping large parking lots, boulevards and walkways. They can be quite dramatic.

But there's a good many cons here, too. The top of my list would be the stank factor. One tree isn't that bad-- in fact, I was only getting a brief whiff of it here and there while I raked Sunday. But when you have a whole town full of them, it ain't pretty. I would describe it as fish meets electrical fire. However, wikipedia describes it as, "a sickly-sweet smell, often compared to the odor of human semen." Um. Ew. Not really how I'd put it, so take that as you will. (Disclaimer: Adam tells me that he does NOT think they smell bad-- merely sweet. I know that I'm not alone in this, though...)

Also, they are really weak trees. "Why do I only see half a tree in the picture on the previous post," you ask? Well, there's only half a tree there. We get tornadoes, ultra high winds during storms, and the odd ice storm. The branches diverge from the trunk quite low and extend so far up and so vertically, that the trees just split with any stress at all. And these trees don't really bear fruit-- they have little berry/acorn-like nobbies. Oh-- and while they are the first to bloom in spring, they are last to lose their leaves, which I would consider a pro AND a con.

So I would say that, overall, I'm thrilled to have mine-- it's just gorgeous in autumn, and the stench won't last that much longer (not to mention the fact that, even if we didn't have one, we'd be smelling them all over town anyway). And I'm clearly sort of late in the game when it comes to raking leaves as it is.

It's just that I would rather have, I don't know, another dogwood. Or a tulip tree-- I DO covet those tulip trees.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

A funny thing happened on the way to respectability...

Of all the things we've been over our heads on, I have a feeling the yard is going to rank up there. We've always been Those People. Those People who don't mow, Those People who don't rake, Those People who don't weed, don't edge, don't plant, don't DO YARDWORK. Period.

I used to do it when I was young with mother every spring. We planted caladiums and columbines, and a vegetable garden; we put impatiens and petunias in the window boxes, African violets for indoor pots, and herbs. I know plants well-ish; as in, I can identify them better than average. Somewhere along the line, between school, then work and living in apartments and rentals where the landlord refused to paint or roof the house, it stopped being worth it. Either I didn't have a yard, or the yard I had was so marred by the ugly house it surrounded that it hardly would make a dent to do anything to the landscape.

But I'm ready to turn it around. I am! The Bradford pear tree in our front yard is in bloom:

It's pretty. But it's stinky. It's unfortunately the "town tree" and it smells like fish when it blooms. Still pretty.

Wildflowers abound:

And so do the leaves...

Yeah, so...we got started on the leaves way back when. They made it into piles. And then it became so cold and we got in such a hurry to move that the yard was neglected. Above is the Before pic of our front yard's brick-lined flower bed this morning, pre raking and bagging and mowing.

And here's after:

Still need to rip out the remainder of the vinca that had overtaken the bed. I'd like to put some monkey grass and pansies or columbines...Also will likely seed the grass that died underneath the piles and piles of leaves. And who doesn't love a bird bath?

Overall, an improvement. We're new at this! It kind of went over us that the grass would disappear under all those leaves. Live and learn. Or something.

I feel confident that we're well on our way to shaking the Those People stigma.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Watching from the sidelines

I feel so left out. Everything is happening without me these days at the house. Very little was accomplished beyond putting away some clothes this weekend; the kiddo had a horseback riding thing (Sounds very swish, doesn't it? It was with the Girl Scouts-- I think they earned 2 badges. My Girl Scout troop didn't do anything that cool.). So we spent all day Saturday with Adam's folks while she did her Girl Scout stuff.

Anyway! I have begun the daily commute and Adam has been able to stay home and make progress toward "completion" so we can get the city off of our backs. To wit:

Lights. First, we have the easy one-- a 1950s (60s? 70s? clueless) shade to replace the crazy $4.97 shades we installed:

I'm looking at this pic and realizing now that wiping it with a dry cloth as I did isn't really cutting it. So I'll scrub it down a bit more with something more aggressive. ANYWAY. This is in the kiddo's room, and when it lights up, you can see through some of the unglazed dots so it looks like galaxies behind those big starbursts. We have a different one with metal edging and sweet little brass details that we'll put in our bedroom later. (Update: Yes, I am aware that it is a somewhat tacky shade. Whatever. I remain charmed.)

More lights. Adam had to pull out the old boxes, install newer and straighter ones and buy a new lightbulb to replace the one crushed in shipping. But the end result, is bathroom sconces that weren't Photoshopped:

Though maybe they should've been. It's still dark outside, so I'm taking this pic in the dark with the flash-- taking it with the lights on just creates glare. We may even put in lower wattage bulbs. Mind, the bathroom is still a bit of a construction zone. And the wall looks too red in that pic. Sigh. At any rate, I love them. Perfect size, and the chrome and white is marvelous. We still have to hang the wall cabinet and the shower curtain rod-- which, by the way, went even lower in price. We waited so long that by the time we got around to it, it only cost $3.

(Also, should I consider changing out the white outlets and covers on the wall with black ones? Black outlets and paint the covers to match the wall? They don't bother me a LOT...Just a little...)

Note to self: buy towel rods and vinyl film window covering to mimic old-fashioned bathroom/privacy glass TODAY.

(Yes, that is painter's tape and paper towels. Our bathroom window looks directly into the neighbor's kitchen window above their sink.)

Apparently Adam has also prepared all the trim for this sad little kitchen window:

as well as the trim for the backside of a doorway that was closed up long ago between kitchen and laundry. We drywalled completely over the hole on the kitchen side, but it's still there on the laundry side, complete with all the door trim. We'll just fill in the middle. I personally like the ghost door. It's a slight nod to the old butler's pantry that was sacrificed to the laundry/mud room.

And everyday, there's a little more walking room available within the house. He's put together the futon and desk for the office/guest room. He's set up dressers, cleaned out the pantry, set up our wireless internet, rehung most of our doors.

And this is all in addition to the plumbing. Me, I've done some laundry. Some dishes. I've cooked a few times. Maybe I'll mow this weekend.

Hey, I ordered the backsplash. I'm doing something.

Monday, March 10, 2008


It's fixed!

There was indeed something stuck in the line. It was hanging up in the handle of the faucet, I think... We were pretty sure it'd be something that we'd kick ourselves for after it was said and done, but that's ok. The plumber only charged about $50, so I'm a happy camper.

I get to have clean dishes tonight!


We give up. We surrender. We're packing it in.

In a few moments, I will be calling the plumber to get our hot water pressure issue fixed.

A little more experimentation gleaned that there's something in the pipe between the kitchen sink and the heater. We can flush it out so it's loose, but we can never completely dislodge it from the system. We'll get it to work great for a few minutes, and then it suddenly looses pressure.

We've replaced valves, replaced washers, snaked the line, backflushed scraped with wire, and we still got nothing.

White flag's a-flyin'.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Thing #1 that I love about my kitchen

No, it is not the many boxes in varying states of unpacked that have taken up residence in the room...

It's the fact that there's counter space RIGHT NEXT TO the stove. My feet get to stay firmly planted while I stir, sauté and chop to my heart's content. I'm so happy.

Nevermind the mess...nothing to see here...

Hot water update...

Thanks for the tips looks like the problem is in the lines and not the appliance. Every other tap in the house has great pressure and temperature-- we checked everything. The only problems really lie in the sink and dishwasher. However, we are following all leads!!

We'll keep testing and see what we can come up with. If we're still stumped by week's end, then I guess we'll have to call in the big guns!

Hot water help!

So now that we're all staying in the house at the same time, we've noticed some hot water issues.

It first became apparent that something wasn't right when after Adam took a nice warm shower, I hopped into what quickly became a tepid-to-cold shower. Well, we thought, we haven't really got the hot water turned up very high; we'll crank it on up a little more...

And then the dishwasher started flashing that it wasn't getting enough hot water, or water that was hot enough. Same difference, I guess...details...Anyway, that means it heats up the water with its coil and that's really inefficient. We turned it up some more.

Then we noticed that the hot water tap in the kitchen runs really slowly. There's no water pressure in the hot tap only. Cold is fine. And it's isolated to the kitchen/laundry side of the house. The bathroom pressure is ok, but don't know about temperature yet-- we've been afraid to take back-to-back showers since then. I do know that I had only the hot water on, and it wasn't quite hot enough for my taste. But then again, I've developed "mom hands"-- remember how your mom could wash dishes in the hottest water imaginable with no adverse effects? And then she'd hand you a hot soapy rag to wipe the counter and you thought your fingers might burn off? Yeah, I've developed the "mom hands" over the last several years and the effect's migrated to the shower.

So here's what we've tried. As I said, turning the heat up. I think the water is maybe hotter, so it can be more diluted with the cold water and last longer, but I dunno if it's as hot as it should be.

We also tried draining off a few gallons of water from the tank. Then we tried backflushing the pipes (stopping up the kitchen faucet and running the cold water; it backs into the hot pipes, into the tank, and out the drain hose to the tub). Some sediment came out, and after we let the tank fill up a bit more, it seemed to have some better pressure. Then once the water coming out of the tap was hot, it had slowed down, and I noticed a little sputtering at one point.

So...anyone have this problem? Any ideas? It's a 40 gal Kenmore PowerMiser gas tank; it's 12 years old. Should we backflush again? I wondered if maybe something had become dislodged and then lodged again when water started flowing the correct way again.

We really want try all the tricks up our sleeves before we call a plumber who will charge us a few hundred bucks and tell us we need to spend $400 on a new heater.

Just in case.

I think I'm ready...

Ready to talk about the move.

Let's start with the reassurance that all is well now. As you see, one little explorer is finally comfortable enough with the place to venture into the thinner atmosphere of the mantle:

However, it was not always so, for everyone involved. I'll warn you here, though, this may be terribly boring. It was traumatic to me and, like a no-good-very-bad hangover, has me saying I'll never move again. I think it's mostly a testament to how ill-prepared we were. At any rate, I won't be offended if you stop reading here ;-)

A couple of weeks ago, I began the task of reserving a truck. Uhaul gets terrible reviews and ain't cheap. Ryder and Budget are, you know, there. And are a little cheaper. But Penske seemed to be the best deal around. We got a 16 foot truck, including insurance and tax, for 48 hours and with no miles restrictions for the same price as a 17 footer from Uhaul for 24 hours with 85 miles before tax and insurance. I thought this seemed like the way to go just in case. Just in case we needed to make 2 trips. Just in case something happened to the truck. Just in case we needed to make a few extra stops. I didn't see any of this being an actuality, know...just in case.

Day The First. We go to the mattress place with the truck to pick up our Denver Mattress (I know not house related, but I'd like to extol the virtues of Denver Mattress of Springdale, Arkansas in a later post). Well, the warehouse is closed on Thursdays and so a salesman-- the ONLY salesman-- had to get our mattress for us. A bit of a wait.

Then we had some car jockeying to do. This involved the jockeying of usable car batteries as well. And then driving 2 of these cars to Adam's parents' house. Then we had to rummage through his dad's tools to find allen wrenches that fit the passenger side mirror of the truck (it was waaayyy loose). By that time we needed lunch.

Speed up to the end of the day...Everything didn't fit. Everything we'll keep probably would have. However, we hadn't really thrown everything away that we'd planned to or taken everything to the salvation army. Trips to the landfill cost a small fortune in that town and we have some ridiculous extra cahrges for each bag of trash that sits outside the ONE trashcan. It's good for restricting waste, I guess. But bad for cleaning out the house. Fort Smith, on the other hand, has none of these problems. So we drove it down packed full of our furniture, unloaded our new mattress and slept with plans of returning the next day.

Day The Second. We got up early, unloaded the truck, drove it back up and loaded it again. Glad we had unlimited mileage. Glad we had 2 days. This time, we filled it with a lot of trash in addition to our stuff. We had also planned to clean and be done by day's end. Well, midnight rolls around, we have a sleepy ten year old and still have done no cleaning. So we leave. Unload the trash that night into our trailer. Unload the cats. And here's where it got really bad.

Our little guy you see up there? Totally laid back. Very chill. Nothing perturbs him. Easy going. The girls? They are total neurotic messes. One cried the whole way down, the other had to be cornered by two of us, one with a sheet and the other with a carrier and stuffed into her box. She kept trying to bite when we tried the more conventional route of, you know, just putting her in the box. Anyway, we took all their favorite blankets and toys and litter boxes and scratchers and cleaned out the laundry room for them. We didn't really think they'd need to be restricted to one room. This was just in case.

Well, we let the little man out of his box and he growls, bites, hisses, snarls, spits, grunts and otherwise acts like nothing we've seen from him. He won't let one of the other cats out of her cage. He cowers and lashes out at us. Meanwhile, the one that had to be trapped like a wilder animal than she is, was fine. She sniffed, she was interested, she let us pet her. It was very strange, indeed.

However, you can see that all is now well. It took a few days, but we're ok now. Better than before, I think. We'll see. So back to the move...

Day The Third. Get up at 6 am and unload truck. Return truck. Take trailer to dump. Wait in line at the dump for 45 minutes (it was $5 day at this landfill, making it a popular spot). We passed 30 cars in line on the way out. I'm not sure it would be worth saving the money at that point. Lunch-- mmmmm IHOP.

And a little leisurely unpacking, doing a few loads of dishes-- yeah that's right! We packed our dirty dishes. And our dirty clothes. Gotta test out the new appliances, right?

And here was the nice part-- it was 70º all weekend. Beautiful. Sunny. We grilled out and spent much time on the porch and patio.

Day The Fourth. Mill around house in the morning, and spend all afternoon at the old house cleaning, saying goodbye, and otherwise reminiscing.

And now we're in. It's been a long, long weekend. But we've cooked a couple of meals in the kitchen. Used all the appliances. Run into a few problems with the hot water heater. I'll post about some of those things later.

It just seemed like the move alone deserved a little special attention all by itself.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008


Snow. Day.

Doesn't look like much, does it? It's not. We didn't get much to begin with and it was 70 degrees all weekend, so not much snow stuck to the roads. But an hour north, up in the mountains where I work, they got a fair bit more and the university closed for only the 19th time in 100 years. I feel so lucky.

I now have aaaallll day to clean out the pantry and to try to unpack the kitchen so I can get through it, and do laundry, and chill with the kitties.

Monday, March 3, 2008

It's been real.

Goodbye, old house.

It finally happened. After 4 long, long days of moving, the nostalgia hit last night during our final Swiffering and key collection. You know, it wasn't a bad house. As mid-century houses go, it certainly had a lot of the things I don't like-- small, louvered windows and outdated appliances, low ceilings. It had rental grade hollow core doors, and years of floor abuse (ours included). But for the first time, I could see some potential. The floors could be beautiful, and the rooms would benefit tremendously from some crown molding. A kitchen update would go a long way, as would central air so that the tiny windows aren't entirely occupied by A/C units. It's been a solid little house.

I know, however, that there's not a great likelihood that someone will renovate it. All the houses in the neighborhood are falling one by one to be replaced by apartment complexes. Our house has an empty lot beside it, so I imagine it'll start looking pretty good to a developer soon. And that makes me sad for the house and for the neighborhood in general.

During our 3 day epic cleaning spree, we discovered all kinds of things we'd never paid attention to-- like the fact that the used refrigerator that we got to replace the avacado green monster, was the same brand as the rest of the appliances.

Lots of good memories in that house.

A few neat little mid-century details:

The Roper brown range and oven, with pink Formica surround:

Louvered picture window:

Thanks, little house.