Friday, December 30, 2005

Holiday Recap

I've been off work this week and I made a conscious decision to not work on the house. It doesn't make for an exciting blog entry or give me the gratification that getting work done does, but it pays off dividends when I return to "house" work with new zeal and energy.

So, what did we do this week? Went out to for some nice dinners, hit the annual clearance at Anthropologie and REI. Spent time with Mom and Dad & Dave. Went to see Brokeback Mountain and going to see David Sedaris' "Santaland Diaries" tonight. Took some good long walks and actually tried that yoga class I've been meaning to get to for a long while.

One of us got a new 1/4" chisel from Woodcraft this year- guess who? But my most exciting gift is a new Web Camera. The reason for this camera is so I can keep in touch with my sister in CT and her husband and new baby. You see, I am about to become an auntie!

New Year's we like to be very low key. As I've said before I cannot abide expectations of certain days and I just feel like everyone expects too much out of these days we designate as holidays sometimes. This year I did really well and kept an even keel and just relaxed. Another benefit of not pushing myself to work on the house amidst the festivities.

We got a Honey Baked Ham for x-mas dinner and have been eating it all week. And I've been savoring the chocolates from Anderson's Candies that we get from my Dad every year.

Tomorrow, we do plan to work on finishing the entry trim, so we are doing a little bit. I am going to work on a recap of the year like I've seen HiP do. I think it's a great idea to look back at what's been accomplished in the previous year. It's so easy to just keep looking at what needs still to be done.

I am planning to do a recap on installing the new front door lock as well- just haven't been online much this week. That's it for now!

Friday, December 23, 2005

We wish you a Merry Christmas

We wish you a Merry Christmas
We wish you a Merry Christmas
And a Happy New Year!

Best wishes from Chicago 2-Flat!

The above photo is of my Dad circa 1938.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

The crew is illin'

First it was me coming down with a cold/flu on Friday night. Must have been the damp.
Now it's Steve with the same thing. I hope for his sake he doesn't get it as bad as me. It's amazing how one can blow one's nose every 30 seconds all day long.

I am from the school of no suppressants and suffer through to get better faster so 2 days this week at work I renamed myself "sniffy". If you're going to be all gross at work, some self-deprecating humour never hurts.

As you can see, not much work will be happening here till after x-mas. But then, this gives us a chance to just enjoy our house, which is after all, what we are all working so hard for isn't it?

I know I've mentioned before that it's hard for "people like us" to just relax and enjoy the house. When we are not working, we tend to start thinking of things we need or can do to improve the house and its furnishings. The list of furniture for Steve to make keeps growing. We need that wood shop to reopen! I wish we could make a wood shop here, but we still have the upstairs to do and money for that project but not for a woodshop right now.

C'est la vie!

Monday, December 12, 2005

The miracle door

I feel pretty sure many out there can relate to this one. You know how we are all so often busy mired in a BIG project? Sometimes those little things fall by the wayside.

Take the inside front door to our home. It's never shut properly ever since Steve moved in here in 1999. It just hasn't been catching. So you'd have the juggle the handle and try and get it to catch. Or else you'd have to have the deadbolt activated and then the tendency was to lock oneself out while accepting a pizza delivery while little naughty dogs bark like mad on the inside.

Well, this past weekend, Steve disassembled it and simply oiled it and voila- perfect functionality. They sure made things to last as this lock is as old as the house and works with a skeleton key, which we don't use. We use the deadbolt for security. But now, we can disable it and still shut the door.

That's why I call it a miracle door. If only every ill could be cured as easily with some WD-40.

The whole situation with the door reminds me of the part in "It's a Wonderful Life" where Jimmy Stewart as George Bailey keeps pulling off that knob on his staircase and wants to throw it when he gets mad. That is just too true.

We watched the movie on Saturday night. I noticed something different this time. Notice how Mary falls in love with that old house? And notice what happens to the house in the world where George was "never born"? The house falls into ruin. And wasn't the world in that movie a better place with George, Martini's bar, Bailey Park, and that beautiful old house?

Funny, how I never noticed that part of the movie so much before.

Here's our tree all lit up.... and here's my favorite Santa figure greeting people as they come to the door.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

a little holiday cheer

I did get the tree up this week and this is the first tree we've ever had here at Chicago 2-flat! We've always been too busy with projects to take time and have a tree so this is a very nice thing.

I have to admit that there is a part of me that loves the tree, etc... but also I tend to be anti-holiday. I don't like the pressure of having to do all these extra things, go to parties etc... I am such a wimp when it comes to social obligations- I seem to just like a quiet little life with occasional social engagements.

Plus, I come from a divorced family and they say that the split family can make holidays more challenging. I also tend to put pressure on myself to make everything "perfect" and get overwhelmed- but it gets better as I get older.

Okay, now that you know about all my holiday neuroses, how about that tree?

p.s. The plumber came and went and everything seems to be okay right now. It was just a clogged toilet it seems. That bathroom on the 2nd floor is so ready for a rehab.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Oh my God

We had an "Oh my God" moment last night and it wasn't a good one. I was walking through the dining room towards the kitchen and I heard water- like a heavy rain sound in the house- not good.

I got to the hallway and saw water pouring out of the spaces between the trim over the bathroom door. Our tenants toilet had backed up and overflowed. Steve ran right upstairs and turned off the water. Then out came the mop and bucket and towels.

Fortunately, I was too tired to get upset and besides what can you do other than clean it up and call a plumber and pray the water came straight through and didn't damage the ceiling too much? Sigh.

Of course when you have tenants like ours, the first thing you think is "what did they put down the toilet?" or "How long has thier toilet been acting up and they didn't tell us?"

Steve plunged it last night and it was okay, but we got a call from Thadeus today saying it was filling up with water again- it's clogged. We called a plumber because we don't have a good snake for this job.

I feel kind of depressed about this happening, so I'm watching Turner Classic Movies today and not working. The plumber just came and he's up there now.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Basement Re-org

We had tidied up the basement a few weeks ago, but there was still no work space, which put us in a bad spot since we can't really work outdoors anymore as it's like 20 degrees out.

Also, we had all this wood for the pantry that has been sitting in one spot for months and it needed to be flipped over to prevent it from warping. We moved the wood onto 2x4s in another part of the basement so now there is a work space for us.

The pantry has been delayed because of the entry project but also because of the local wood shop closing. It's more of an undertaking to get to Lincoln Park for Steve and we have to rent a van to bring the wood there etc... It's coming soon though.

I am really excited to have this little work area now. Today I sanded the shoe moulding, hit it with linseed oil and a coat of stain. See below photo.

The shoe moulding is for the kitchen and the entry.
It's about the last thing to go into the kitchen. We still have some odds and ends such as nailing the moulding down permanently. It's just tacked on with minimal nails right now. No, it won't fall off, but it's not nailed on like it's meant to be there for the next 100 years like it was when we removed that. Ever try and remove trim that's been in place for 100 years? It's like -petrified.

Anyway, we have that and a few thresholds to put back and that's it. Oh, and readjusting the hinges on the swing door. And that's besides Steve's furniture projects in there which include a plate rack, work table, and the pantry.

Still plenty of good things to come in that part of the house.

I can't believe how happy this basement re-org made me. Nothing like getting more usable space I guess.

Today, Steve was installing a new entry lock on our front door. This one will work with the strikes we got for our entry system. I'll post about that tomorrow! He's still working and it's almost 6pm. We need to be able to lock the door before we go to bed at least.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Looking for love

No it's not me, it's this house. It needs a new and loving owner to bring it back to it's former pinnacle of homey-ness and grandeur.

Look at those columns! and those brackets! and those round eyehole windows! And that lovely huge pine tree!

This house is in my neighborhood and up for sale. It was actually featured in one of my previous posts as part of the The Good , The Bad , and The Ugly series. It was featured in The Ugly because it's "ugly" when an architectural beauty such as this is allowed to let herself go or rather her owners let her go.

Of course, I'm concerned about it being torn down and having something much more ordinary minus the sense of history replace it.

When you read the listing on Century 21's website, you can understand why I'd be concerned. They call it a "Developer's Dream!!!" (their emphasis not mine).

I already posted about it and the house next to it on my other blog and wrote to one of my contacts at the Alderman's office to see if he knows anything. Nothing is going to happen for a while as the ground is frozen at this point and developers move slower in the winter, but I'm keeping my eye on this one.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Getting quotes

We have secured our financing for the upstairs renovation. We close next week- now all we have to do is get permits and get the tenants out-ha-ha.

Seriously, we aren't sure what we will do about the tenants. I've started writing on the calender every night that they disturb our sleep. Yes, it's getting that bad folks. We are going to get some area rugs and put them in the bedroom above ours. I wrote them a long emphatic note that I gave them on Saturday also. We also consulted a real estate attorney about what we would need to do to get them out legally.

Some here have suggested bribing them to leave, but I think that it would take more than one month's rent and then the apartment isn't rentable in it's current state. We may just have to "go zen" and deal with them for a while. I really need to grow more spiritually anyway- you know?

We are getting quotes now for the upstairs work and we will be commencing getting the permits. I'm sure I'll have a story or two about that. Dealing with the City of Chicago buerocracy should be interesting. We've just seen way too many "Stop Work Order" signs around here to even risk not getting permits.

We know someone in our neighborhood who completely gutted their frame home and she drew all her own plans and got it approved. We are going to talk with her and a few others before submitting our plans. Permits must be issued for the electrical, plumbing, and heating and we have to hire licensed contractors for these trades.

Anyway, I haven't really posted about the whole upstairs project much, but we've been working on it quite a bit.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

The Big Reveal

Well, it isn't a reveal for the readers of this blog because you've seen our kitchen. But this weekend was the big reveal for Steve's parents, sister & niece and my sister and her husband, who hadn't seen our kitchen for over a year.

Steve's parents are the best audience for our work- I love when they come. They notice every little detail and they like our taste. It's probably because they are do-ers and do-it-yourselfers themselves and they know what goes into doing the work that they appreciate it so much. Plus, they are among the select few that have seen this place before anything was done to improve it. They saw it in its raw state needing of much TLC. Steve said when his Mom came here and saw this place, she said "You paid way too much for this place!" They thought he was crazy and they prayed for him to get a girlfriend. Then, I came along and signed up for the work camp and the rest is history.

We all had Thanksgiving dinner at my Mom's house. It was definitely a group effort as far as the cooking goes. After Wednesday night, which I spent peeling and chopping more root vegetables than I care to count, I had the realization that somewhere in the 3rd circle of hell people are peeling acorn sqaush. But the dinner was great and it gave me a very warm feeling to have both Steve's family and mine together and having a good time.

Alot to be grateful for really!

Sunday, November 20, 2005

The report

Well, our Field Trip to the Student Sale at the Art Institute was a success. The prices are unbelievable and there is alot of great work. Next year we will definitely pay the $50 for the Preview Night as we were told by many students that 30% of the work sells on that night. I am happy that we've found a solution to Steve's "only original works of art may adorn our walls" aesthetic.

Above is a monoprint we purchased for $30. We also bought a small oil study of a seated nude for $30 and an ink line drawing for about $15. It was really nice to interact with these young artists too. You get the feeling this is their first time selling their work or at least one of the first times and they feel good that people want it. Maybe I'm just reading into it, but I'd imagine that's how I would feel if people wanted to buy things I made.

Last night we hung some pictures in our bedroom, including the oil painting. Steve is going to make frames for all three pieces, which will save alot of money. Framing is quite costly we have found. I like the look of a full wall of small framed works and am starting to realize how costly that can be if professionally framed.

Of course, once we hung all the pictures, I thought how nice a long table would look along that wall and then we could put some small lamps on it and store books on the shelves underneath the table. It's amazing the way one project just leads to another and then another. Times like this, I wish I could make it stop and just be satisfied. I feel fated for being featured in a magazine like "Renovation Style" or something, with a storyline like this, "Jocelyn and Steve have been painstakingly restoring their Chicago 2-flat for about 10 years..." The fact that I think this way proves that I am truly doomed!

Today we are going back to Jan's Antiques to help my Mom find some hardware for a headboard she bought at a yard sale. And we are going to pick up some old screws because we never have enough. I'll bring my camera and take a few photos of Jan's place. It's pretty amazing.

Above is the "picture-hanging" we did last night in our bedroom.

You can see the oil painting we bought on the left.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Field Trip!

Today we're going on a field trip to the Art Institute of Chicago. Our main objective is not to visit the museum itself though. Rather, we are continuing our ongoing quest for artwork and checking out their student art sale.

When you aren't made of money, you have to get creative. Who knows? Maybe one of these students will get famous and then we'll have one of their earliest works.

But really we just want some inspiring art for our walls. I'll let you know how it turns out.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Curb Appeal

As long as I have lived in our home, I've wanted to clean up the front entry and front door. This year we really made some headway in this area.

This weekend, we put in the new glass to replace the cracked piece and the afore-mentioned jimmy-rigged sidelights. The new glass is so clear that from inside it looks like there is no glass.

We used silicone caulk to weather-proof each panel.

I also finished painting the interior doors in the vestibule and touched up the outside door for the winter.

Steve had to go up on the roof and finish winterizing. Between that and installing the glass, no trim was installed.

Even though we are still missing alot of trim work, the room is cleaning up well. It's such a small room, it's very hard to get good photos, but here's a shot that shows the now matching doorways.

I can't wait to see it with all the woodwork.

Here's a few before shots to give the full effect:

I'm waiting till the end of the project to clean the floor, but I will post some info on that project since a few people have asked. Not much else to report, just many things on our to do list as usual!

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Yep, it's fall alright

My next door neighbor Mark's red bud is showing spectacularily this year.

And our Japanese stewartia is no slouch either.

and our pal Scrappy is getting ready of course...

Catching up on houseblogs the past few days, I read about alot of folks glazing and and prepping windows , lining a chimney, planting bare root plants, and getting ready to hunker down for the winter with new furniture or a snazzed-up kitchen.

Winter is definitely a slower pace at our house. All stripping of woodwork comes to a halt. Maybe this year, I'll strip a few doors in the basement. We'll see. I just can't do a heat gun indoors with no ventilation- it feels too risky.
And forget about using chemicals inside with fumes.

The upside is by Spring I am raring to go.

What do you guys plan to do this winter?
Here's our list:
(for fall & winter)
Finish installing trim in entry
Finish painting in entry
Install new front door lock/door strikes
Install replacement glass in entry & curtains
Adjust hinges on swing door so we can prop open with hardware we bought
Put in thresholds in bedroom & dining room
Misc. wood patching in door jambs

Oh, yes and then there's the pantry, which will be pretty big project.

This and the holidays should keep us occupied.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

The Scary Basement photos

Thank God for our basement. It's where we keep all our "building materials", tools, and items that can't be put away because our pantry isn't done yet. It also houses many boxes of my books, which await the construction of a wall of bookcases in our den.

This is a picture of the basement after I "tidied" it up this afternoon. Yes, this is "tidy."

Here lies the pile of oak for our pantry shelving:

Yes, those pipes are coated with asbestos- we had it tested.
Someday, we'll have all the pipes re-routed for the basement dig out/conversion and have abestos abatement done at that time.

This is only one part of our basement actually. The other side is Steve's office and it's quite a bit more finished than this side.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Back in the saddle

I guess I'm back on track with the blogging. Truth be told, I like our little community here quite a bit. You guys understand me and my life, while so many others do not!

The appraiser is coming Saturday so I was tidying up a bit tonight for that. And we signed the paperwork- lots of signatures. I'm glad Steve likes handling all that paperwork, because I do so much of that stuff at work by the time I get home I'm over it.

I am very excited about some of the things we are going to do with the loan money. Perhaps most exciting is restoring the French (sorry Gary) doors on the 2nd floor. We aren't getting real French doors though. We have been looking at Anderson sliding glass doors made out of wood the 400 series. We believe these will be more energy efficient than true doors. They would have muttons on them to match our existing windows so they'd have a more authentic look, but be modern in function.

We are also planning to have a decorative iron balcony outside the window. Something that reflects our aesthetic.

I wish we could live upstairs, but we like easy access to the yard and basement for projects etc... Maybe someday we can have the whole building to ourselves...(evil maniacal laughter echoing)

Other things on the agenda: tuckpointing, new roof, gut rehab upstairs etc... One big ticket item that probably won't make it is a new back porch. I've said it before, but this particular project is even more $$$ in Chicago after the porch collapse scandal.

Everyone please pray that Steve will work on trim this weekend and not be chained to his desk working the day job!

On a side note, it's pitch dark now at 5:30pm when I leave work. But today was like 70 degrees- very neat.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

the 2nd floor (present & future)

I mentioned in my previous post that our tenants had a little "soiree" this past weekend that kept me up till 2am. I was all psyched about getting some extra zzz's from daylight savings, but they ruined those plans. I gave them until 1:30am and then I called them. In brief, the conversation went like this:

Me: "Thadeus, I cannot sleep and I want you to break up this party. The music is not loud but people are walking around in hard shoes and up and down the back stairs and I need my sleep etc..!"

Thadeus: "Jocelyn, I can't do that- these people came from far away. And I can't tell them not to walk around the apartment."

Me: "I have lived in many apartments and this (meaning disturbing other tenants at all hours) is not allowed. If it doesn't quiet down, Steve will be calling the police."

To add insult to injury after I hung up the phone, someone upstairs stomped all around the apartment- a very low blow I'd say- childish, which is how their guests tend to behave and doesn't incline me to be more tolerant.

Funnily enough, it wasn't any loud music that kept me up, just a dozen or so people walking around constantly in hard soled shoes- even high heels. Steve and I have decided we will profile future tenants by their choice of footwear.

Seriously though, we are plotting how to get them out early. We are right now securing our financing to have work done up there. The appraiser is coming this weekend.

Something you strippers might find interesting. We have been pricing out the cost of getting woodwork stripped. We were quoted $1.00/per linear foot and that was the cheap price. The higher price was $3.00/per linear foot. And we got another quote tpday that was $8/per foot. Who knew? We have to measure all the trim and figure out the price of this now.

The difference in price is the difference between "dip" stripping and hand stripping (preferable). As we all know, hand stripping takes a bit more time than throwing some boards in a vat and letting the paint slide off. Some say dip stripping damages the wood and I'm sure it could if the wood is left too long. Guess which one we can afford?

Getting there- weekend by weekend

This weekend I sanded the remaining entry door and then painted 2 of the 3 doors. We also ordered the replacement glass, which will be ready this week. Next weekend we can put in the new glass, finish painting the remaining trim and front door, and then Steve can work on finishing the trim.

A dear friend of mine from my old job who moved to St. Louis may come by Saturday. It will be her first time seeing our work in person. I hope you come Jen!

Steve was working up on the roof doing damage control. He does this every Fall. He also weatherstripped the 2nd floor back door for those ungrateful sots that live up there (sorry they kept me awake until 2am on Saturday- they are on the BAD list right now).

Above is a tight shot of one of the painted doors with cleaned up hardware and stained trim minus door jambs.

The plate is original and like all the other hardware (window, hinges etc...) in the house has a copper-color finish. It's a bit worn. I suppose some day when we have nothing else to do we could get these replated. Any opinions on that? I am certain it is not cheap, but what do you think about "the look"? I don't mind age and patina and even some wear, but what do you think?

The black knobs ( I have a pair) came from the frame house my Dad sold several years ago. Before he sold it, we grabbed a few doors for our house and these knobs.

I wish I could work on the house more, but with my demanding job, it's hard. But at least I know working every weekend we continue to make progress.

Saturday, October 29, 2005


I know I've been cutting back on posting and there are a few reasons. One is I've been getting a bit more involved in community activism as I've covered on this blog a bit. That takes up some of my time and energy. My day job has also been pretty demanding with no let up in sight.

We've also been planning the remodel of the 2nd floor and how to get our tenants out early so we can renovate in time for peak rental season- very important since the rental market has been soft for a while now.

We are still plugging away on the house as usual. I'll post an update on the entry tomorrow.

I just wanted to say "hey" to everyone and let you know I'm around just not quite as frequently as before.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Archeology of a door

Here's our front door as it is today. Yesterday I removed the front door and one of the vestibule doors to prep them for painting outside.

The good news is that they are pretty darn solid and also beautiful oak!! I can safely say that next Spring I'll be stripping them to expose the oak.

We knew that the existing door was not original, but we are not sure when it was added or of course, what was originally there. And as you know, inquiring minds want to know.

What we realized yesterday is that the transom window up top is original. It's made of the same wood as all the original windows in the house: a softer pine or poplar- not sure.

The side panels are all made of newer pine and not original and neither are the "leaded glass" (not real lead probably aluminum) side lights. It looks like what was originally there were double doors. We found these old hinge cutouts that indicate that.

We removed the side lights yesterday because one has been cracked for a while and was getting worse. We had a stack of glass panes we were pretty sure were replacement panes in the basement and pulled them out.

You know how it goes, you hope it will be a simple fix, but you never know what you are getting into when dismanteling someone else's work.

As it turns out, the metal frames that were holding the glass in were pretty jimmy-rigged and the panes from the basement were all thicker and didn't fit well into the metal frames.

We also realized how much air loss was going through these windows and that they were way less than airtight. We tried putting glazing in, but then the glass panes wouldn't fit the space.(drats)

So, we removed the glazing and jimmy-rigged the whole thing back up with the trim holding it in place. And we've decided for the time being to have full size panels of glass made for both openings to keep the heat in and get rid of the "leaded glass"(again not real- not original-jimmy-rigged- so no great loss).

Ultimately we want to replace this door with either a salvage door or a Steve-made door in a few years.

Oh, here's another indication that this was a double door. The top of the door has a little cut out where a little inset latch would keep one side of the door in the closed position. My Dad has these kinds of doors on his 2-flat and usually one stays in place and does not open unless you need to get something large inside like a sofa or bed.

Besides the glass fiasco, Steve starting hanging the trim. Some will go up easily and some will require some shimming to make it level due to not perfectly level walls. I was filling, scraping, sanding, and deglossing the entry doors for paint prep as well as stripping door hardware.

Here's a shot of some of the trim up:

and that was our Saturday. At least we were able to get the glass back up and didn't have to board it up or anything right?

Thursday, October 20, 2005

2-flat saved from demolition!

I am absolutely thrilled to report that after a meeting with the Alderman and neighbors last night, this beautiful building will be spared the wrecking ball. After receiving numerous letters and phone calls from concerned neighbors, the Alderman spoke to the developer and they agreed to develop the adjacent lot with a 3-flat and keep the existing structure intact. But wait, it gets better. That is the worst-case scenario. Best is that the neighbors found a few people who are willing to match the developers price and not develop the beautiful side yard that is a garden that was developed for over 30 years!

And even more good news. The Alderman agreed to downzone their block and ours to avoid further teardowns of solid 2-flat buildings. The zoning change has to be processed and the Alderman has to work with developer and building owner (sale has not closed- no permits issued yet etc..) but things are looking quite good.

Here's the letter I sent to the Alderman:

Dear Alderman Moore,

I am writing to you to express a significant concern I have for our community. I and many other residents are concerned about the development going on in our area. I myself am in favor of thoughtful development, but urge you and your staff to think about the long term when it comes to allowing such things as teardowns of irreplaceable historic buildings and increased density.

All around me, I have seen teardowns. In fact, I live right next door to 6922 Lakewood, where a solid brick single family home was leveled to make way for a 6 unit condominium. Down the street there are plans to teardown a single family home on Lakewood as well. The destruction of this building planned for Spring 2006 was not so troubling because it has been blighted and not well-maintained as well as being a frame home. In addition, that block is full of multi-unit buildings. There are only 2 single family homes left on that street and one more will now be gone. In my mind, the multi-unit replacement building will not mar the appearance of the street. I do hope that you request that the developer use brick and not cinder block on the sides of the building. Myself and others brought this up at the community meeting a few months ago.

More recently, I was distressed to hear that 1225 W. Farwell, a pristine greystone two-flat is going to be town down also to make way for 6 condos. I also know of two other brick and stone
two-flats that have been torn down recently: 6745 N. Clark and 1528 W. Greenleaf. All three of these buildings were solid construction and of superior quality to what is currently being built.

I would urge you to encourage development with a conscience. Let’s not destroy the character of our neighborhood as has happened in Lakeview and Ukranian Village for example. A good example of thoughtless development is what happened in Edgewater in the 1960’s. Kenmore is full of four plus one buildings and will never be what it once was. People recognized at the time that the destruction of the Higgins mansion was a tragedy but were unable to stop it. Rogers Park is recognized for its architecture, let’s keep it that way.

I object to these historic buildings being town down willy nilly, with no planning to preserve the character of our neighborhood. Many others object to the increased density this will bring as well. Rogers Park is already very densely populated. We need to thoughtfully pick and choose our developments. I would ask you to consider downzoning some areas and lots with two-flats and single family homes so that greed does not prevail here.

1225 W. Farwell could easily be converted into 2 duplexes and the adjacent lot could have a two or three flat built on it. This would be a much more appropriate option than tearing down a solid stone and brick structure that will most certainly last another 100 years if maintained. We can only hope that many of these new buildings will be around that long.

I know many share my feelings about this from my conversations with neighbors and community members. I know many people were very sad about the building next door to me (6922 N. Lakewood) and expressed regret that had they known they would have said something.

I am attaching an article on problems with cinderblock to illustrate my case. I would appreciate a response to my letter and would like to hear from you regarding where you stand on this very important issue.

Best regards,

Jocelyn Meyer

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Cheap Art

Well it started out that way anyway. Old magazine ads off eBay for less than $10 each. Someone is making a good buck off selling all those. But then came the professional matting and framing and ouch! Not cheap. But we like 'em. And now the kitchen has a bit of whimsy.

Yes, we like dogs here.

In my house, we have little battles about what is acceptable to adorn our walls. I have heard from other friends about "the battle of the chotchkees" with their husbands.

Steve feels our home should be "inspiring" and "like a museum". I take a more sentimental approach. If one of my parents gives me something, for example, (and I like their taste for the most part) I like putting it up because it's a gift from them. Steve has none of this kind of attachment- unfortunately for me.

And he is picky with a capital "P". The other day I got so mad I told him I'd post photos on the blog and illicit others (whom I consider to have good taste) opinions on the objects in dispute.

He caved in on these ads because they are "authentic" relics.
It's hard to be me sometimes...

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Paint? Check

It's kind of like that right now- plodding along (not downtrodden- but down to business). Saturday I painted the first coat and Sunday the second. Steve hooked up the light from Rejuvenation this evening.

Steve will start installing the trim next weekend. If you look at the photo, molding will go over the part where the color changes all around the room.

I will remove all three doors and sand them and fill any gaps and then hit the, with black enamel paint. I am not up for stripping the two entry doors right now, so we are just cleaning them up for the time being.

The outside door will be replaced at some point and isn't a really great door worth stripping/restoring.

Here's the remaining punch list:
1. Install molding. This includes fabricating and replacing a few boards that were pine not oak.
2. Sand and fill 3 doors and paint.
3. Replace cracked glass panels and obscured glass in one door.
4. Install curtain rods and curtains on inside of doors.
5. Use heavy acid cleaner to clean tile floor.
6. Install door strikes- requires a new entry lock to be installed.
7. Install shoe molding.

We are making good progress on this project, but the pantry has completely fallen by the wayside due to it. Oh well, we should have a pantry by early next year.

Scrappy's hungry

You may remember our hairy little pal- the wood chuck possessed little critter? I guess he likes pumpkin. Maybe he'll chew a face for me and I won't have to carve it.

One less thing to do anyway!

Monday, October 10, 2005

Sunday: Day of Rest (Not)

It's a good feeling to move towards your vision. The outside of the building is part of my vision of our home and the way I want it to fit into the surrounding community. I have this vision of finishing the bulk of the work on the house and having our yard be the place for neighborhood parties, Block Club (that we are going to start) meetings, and time spent reading good books under a sunbrella.

I am sure some may think I'm a sap with utopian dreams but I can't be bothered caring about that.

I'm also just as sure that most of us have this vision of a chaise lounge at the end of the long rehabber's day.

See what yard work does for my spirits? Must be the endorphins from all that fresh air and digging and lugging top soil.

Here's how it goes:
17 bags of top soil $22.24
3 bags of manure $5.97
5 bags of mulch $15.00
I-Go 2 hour car rental $12.00

5 hours of backbreaking work? Priceless.

Here's the coolest thing that happened last week (endorphins talking again-yard work aficionados/aka die-hard gardeners will understand): My neighbor has a Red Bud tree in front of his house. Coming home from a walk with our dogs after dark I looked over and what did I see? A possum in his tree. For this city girl that was way cool.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Fall Dig Out

See this big patch of dirt? Well, this morning there was grass there. I bit the bullet and dug up all the sod. The whole front yard will be flowers and shrubs. Grass is so high-maintenance and it's such a little patch to mow, it's silly. See that sidewalk on the right side of the photo? Well, next spring I'll be renting a jackhammer and eliminating that for more planting space.

There used to be an entrance there I believe with steps, but we have one on the other side, so we'll just keep that one.

We are also going to add stepping stones (like the one you see to the left)through the middle of the bed so I can weed etc... I have some bulbs (iris, allium, camassia) that need to be divided that I can add to the bed. I also have some lilies I want to move there and some coneflowers and a few other crowded plants. Next spring we'll add the bigger stuff- hydrangea and some dwarf evergreens.

Tomorrow, we'll go get top soil, manure and mulch using our new means of transport: the I-Go. It is quite convenient and way less than renting a car.

I also mulched the trees today and some of the other beds and dug out a little trench around the front of the building and put gravel in there. This was a "Steve" project. He can't abide dirt and water near our foundation.

So while he sanded and primed the entry, I finished this little project. Oh, I also put another layer of grout sealer on the grout in the kitchen. Not a glamourous job- but needed to be done.

I'll leave you with some fall blooms from my yard:

Aster- the bees last hurrah

Morning Glory

Since digging up sod is pretty physical, I'm tired and I am going to go rest now. I do love working outside on cool days like today- lower 60's. And afterwards, a hot bath and curling up indoors is just the ticket!

Monday, October 03, 2005

Before and After

Everyone likes a good before and after shot. Some may remember the house next door that was torn down over a year ago (I can't believe I did nothing to try and stop it- I really could have).

I promised to post photos of the completed project and it's just been landscaped. They had loads of problems, fired the original contractor, had to rip out poorly installed trimwork etc...

Anyway, here's what is there now. The one blessing is it's brick sided so we don't have to look out at concrete, but I think it's a little funny looking- what do you think?

It's not terrible, but the proportions just don't seem quite on the mark. Steve, being a graphic designer, said the sign was poorly done. The spacing on the lettering is off, which is a shame.

Here's the street view now.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Paint colors for the entry

Some things are easy and some are hard. For us, picking paint colors is relatively easy for some reason.

I think I said last post that the bottom of the wall will be the darker Toasted Wheat color and the top will be Creme Brulee. The colors will be separated by wood trim (color in photo)running around the room with a few strips perpendicular on each side of the room. Think of it like a "pie" symbol on either side.

Both sides will keep the doors painted black but right now one door has obscured glass, which we are going to replace so both are consistent. I have matching curtains so it will be much more coordinated than before.

I think it will be nice, much better than before.

Steve is skimming the walls today. I spent 1/2 the day cleaning the house thoroughly- we had border collie dust bunnies and little red dachshund bunnies running around.

I gave Billie a bath. She is one of those dogs that stays clean for like 3-4 days max- she's a regular dirt magnet, but we love her anyway.

During the week we went to a really great framing place nearby and brought in some 1930's magazine ads I bought off eBay to be framed. Framing sure is expensive, but we need some art for the kitchen.

In case anyone's interested to hear about the 2-flat teardown I posted about a few weeks ago, here's an update. The neighbors around the building have a meeting scheduled for Oct. 10th with the Alderman- they have a petition going, which I signed of course.
The owners were a bit miffed that I sent a letter to our neighborhood watchdog who posted it on his blog. On that site, I am known as : RPNeighbor. Such the drama in the hood lately!

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

2-flat conversion

I have talked here about Steve's idea to add a 3rd floor to our building. Well, after some discussion, we've decided not to pursue it at this time. It just feels like too much. We've decided instead to renovate the 2nd floor after our tenants lease is up. They have the option to leave at the end of May (cross your fingers) or else end of July (boohoo). Maybe we'll just ask them to leave early. We have done alot of favors for them and they owe us.

Along with updating the upstairs, which will involve pretty much a gut rehab that we will hire out, we are planning to have some work done on our building including the following: tuckpointing, new back porch, back yard fence and some other small things. The goal is to get our building to a point where we can focus a bit more on other interests and that is why we are planning to bite the bullet and get this work done.

Anyway, for interest, I thought I'd show you the only 2-flat converted to a 3-flat that we have found so far. Well, of course there are the nasty frame additions on stone buildings but those don't count because we would never do that.

This one was handled by a Chicago architect that we contacted, but never met with. There are details and photos of the project on this website under Projects-Chicago-Ashland. They did this one way better than many others, but I still don't like it. The "stone" on top tries to match the accents on the building, although the 1st floor stone accents are painted white, but it just doesn't quite look believable.

What would your rating on this 3rd story addition be on a scale of 1-10 with 10 being the best and 1 being the worst?

I think if they got the paint off those accents and had matching windows on the entire building as well as changing the color on the porch, it could look better, but we wouldn't want our building to look this way. They did splurge on common brick sides to the building so it matches very well.

My new rule: one floor at a time.

Here's what that building looked like originally :

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Where once there was darkness

now there is light. Wish I could say where I was blind, now I see, but I don't feel that close to that kind of light right now.

I've been quite remiss in posting. We had a busy past week or so. We had my Dad's two border collies again, two neighborhood meetings, two rounds of flyering for neighborhood meetings, a petition to get signed and then my birthday last Thursday. Whew.

But even with all the extras going on, we did work on Saturday and completed the kitchen shelving. We installed the lights under the shelves and Steve added the missing pieces so now that project is completely done.

Then, on Sunday, we mosied on over to Jan's Salvage & Antiques. This place is like heaven to folks like us. It's overwhelming. All the doors, hardware, bathroom fixtures, and architectral elements are just overwhelming.

We found this really interesting brass plaque that we plan to hang on a wall somewhere- haven't figured out where yet. Neither us nor Jan (yes, there is a Jan) knew where it came from. It's brass and very ornate. If you know or have a guess, give a holler. Here's a photo.

It has 5 holes where it must have been bolted to something. We were thinking of hanging it up over a doorway maybe. But maybe that would be tempting fate. I used birthday money to buy it.

I was pleased with myself because I made her an offer for $60 less than what she originally asked and she accepted.

We also went over to our favorite Garden Center --Gethsemane and picked up a plant to liven up that blank corner in our kitchen.

It's called Aglaonema, commonly known as Chinese Evergreen. It likes low or filtered light, which is what we have in that spot.

In addition, Steve finished the mudding of the entry this weekend and is planning to sand and prime this coming weekend. I will probably work on doors and sanding and staining the shoe moulding for the kitchen, which we got at Home Desperate last weekend.

Oh, and we picked paint colors for the entry. I can't find the colors online but they are from Behr and they are called Creme Brulee and Toasted Wheat. We are going to have the original oak trim going around the room at about 5 feet high. The Toasted Wheat, which is kind of a warm light mocha color will be the bottom half of the room and the Creme Brulee, which is a creamy color will be on the top and ceiling. I think it will look nice with the burnished brass fixture we selected too.

Anyway, even when not posting, we are usually keeping the fire burning. Now I need to spend some time catching up on other's blogs!

Monday, September 19, 2005

House update

Steve finished the taping and some mudding. His plan is to finish the mudding this weekend and then sand and prime the walls the following weekend.

Together we installed the under shelf lighting on Sunday and sanded and stained the finishing pieces of trim to hide the lights from view. We didn't get to install them though. Maybe during the week. I am going to wait on the photos until the trim is in though.

I went over all the boards/trim for the entry again and then stained them all. Here they are drying in the backyard.

Thanks everyone for your support on the teardown I posted about yesterday. I emailed my neighborhood pals, the Alderman's office, and Preservation Chicago. Now I just have to follow up with phone calls.

Tonight we went to the CAPs meeting and I got more signatures for my petition . Being a good neighbor sure is hard work.

Sunday, September 18, 2005


I found out on Saturday that the pictured building has been sold to a developer who plans to tear it down and put up 6 condos. I literally felt sick to my stomach.

Steve knows the guy who owns the building. He's a former Loyola University professor and has lived there for over 30 years. His wife is getting arthritis and the stairs are getting to her etc... They are moving to a high-rise in nearby Evanston and I think they plan to travel alot.

This property is on a double lot, which is why the developers want it. They can build their million-dollar-making 6 condos on the land.

As soon as Steve told me, I stopped working (I was staining trim) and walked the block to their house with my camera.
The woman (I don't know her) opened the window as I was taking these photos and asked me what I was doing etc...

A conversation ensued about how I was really upset that this perfectly maintained building was going to be torn down. I won't go into all the details, but from what she said to me, she sounded like she'd been brainwashed by developers. She said things like this:

"No one would want to pay the money to do the work on this place in this neighborhood."

Now, I know you guys will all agree with me on this, that this simply is not true.

"All the other offers we got were $200K less."

Frankly, I think this is an outright lie. I never saw listing signs on the building and believe some developer told her that or maybe a mortgage broker who is in tight with the developers.

"Do you have someone who can buy it?"

sigh. sniffle...

I will do what I can on this one. Call the Alderman, rally the troops, but it may just be too late. But you bet I am going to show up at the perfunctory Meeting the Alderman has regarding this property and give them a jar full of vinegar! I'll let you guys know how it goes.

I'll post on the work done this weekend during the week. Despite this, it was a productive weekend at our house.