Friday, April 29, 2005

Little bags of screws

Does anyone else have this problem? We have all these small brown bags from the hardware store from small screw purchases. What is so funny is with the myriad of screws we have on hand, whenever we need a miscellaneous screw for something we are doing, we never have the right type or size! It must be a Murphy's Law of home repair or something.

This falls into the same category as the missing much needed tool. And the ensuing argument over who moved it and put it somewhere where the other cannot find it. Saturday mornings at our house...

Steve: "Where's that file?"
Jocelyn: "Isn't it in the tool bucket?"
Steve: "No, where did you put it?" with aggravation.
Jocelyn: "I didn't touch it! You can never find anything, I bet I'll find it in 5 minutes."(eyes roll)
(Really, we do like each other I swear)
Jocelyn hunts around and usually finds the item in the alotted time or else they both give up and go to the hardware store...again.

I don't want to offend anyone, but I really feel like women find missing items better than men.
I don't know why, but it just seems so. But not to slight men, they are good at an awful lot of other things. Why Steve is absolutely brilliant when it comes to woodworking in my estimation. He teaches himself everything from books and talking to people.

Speaking of missing items, tonight we put the missing bin pull on the last remaining kitchen drawer. Why was it missing? Because despite double-checking our order for Rejuvenation for polished nickel bin pulls, we were one short and had to place another order for the missing one!

We were about to put the doors back on the sink cabinet, when we realized the screws were missing. Why, why didn't we tape those screws with masking tape to the doors? They were in a little baggie, now where did it go? I think I sense a pattern here...

And thanks to Jeannie at HIP and Nick over at Pigeon Point for correcting my booboos on the last post: Sarah Susanka and Pattern Language!

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Plug for someone who's building it right

This is only mildly off the subject, but I think it might be of interest. At my job we were looking at reconfiguring our office space and I suggested we talk to an architect I knew of whose office was in Rogers Park. I knew he had created a really interesting plan for the lakefront here, and since I know my boss likes people from the community, I asked him to come in.

Well, we haven't moved on the space issue, but Mark Miller is keeping us in the loop with what he's doing, which I think is great. He has a really great aesthetic, he likes Sarah Susanka and he has just built a Prairie style home in Skokie and I think it's worth checking out if you're interested. He has what I would describe as a holistic approach to architecture and won a Green award in 2003.

It's nice to see someone building homes of quality and homes that are livable.
Anyway, if you know anyone interested in purchasing a lovely one million dollar home in Skokie, he's your guy. It is out of our price range, but maybe some of you out there know some richies who could afford it.

I also wanted to mention how great is was to get together with Aaron & Jeannie of HIP and Brian of The Old Man. I am going to order Pattern Language and Patterns of Home Patterns of Home books immediately. They both sounded really fascinating. I also can't wait to see pictures of "The Red Fan Of Death."

On the homefront: The dishwasher is operational. Yes, it's true, they have a dishwasher and it works. Now for that digital camera...

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Got a question for ya

Let me preface it by saying it's kind of a silly one.
I'll start by saying that anytime we have gutted a room there's always the small hope that we'll find something cool in the walls or under the floor etc... I know some among us (I won't name names you know who you are) didn't even have to take a wall down to find a slew of mementos, but others would love to find a little something echoing back to simpler times.

Here's my first question, what if anything have you found in the de-construction of your home? I thought it might be fun to hear. Our 2-flat was a rental for a number of years. We have found some old newspapers in the walls. But, the funniest "relic" or leftover from previous tenants is this cabinet in the basement that somebody kind of graffitied in permament black marker. There's a picture of a kind of fu-man-chu guy and Latin King symbols and it says "King Choco."
So maybe we had an aspiring Latin King member living in our basement- nice. And I don't mean "king" as in royalty. Somehow this isn't the quaint kind of thing we'd hope to find...

Anyway, let us know what you found if you care to share. Part two of this question coming soon...

A photo of "King Choco" for posterity

P.S. As long as the plumber shows up we will have a working kitchen sink and dishwasher today when I get home from work. I think I'll just lay on the kitchen floor chin in hands and watch just cause I can. ;)

Friday, April 22, 2005

Next Steps…

I am probably just excited from drinking too much coffee, but it could be due to the fact that we are really close to having a working kitchen. We worked on mapping out the tile this week or I should say Steve did. He also finished filing the sharp edges on the formica. Me, I did my usual dish washing duty in the basement.

So, this weekend we will be tiling. We have three 6” x 6” Motawi tiles we are using as accent tiles and then the remaining backsplash tile will be Cobsa Wave subway tile in white. I think it will play nicely with the white farm sink and contract with the blue/green (Lichen) formica. We sources subway tiles from a number of tile stores over on Lincoln Avenue, including Peerless and Home Carpet One and of course, the old standby Home Depot. Home Depot had the cheapest price of course, and Peerless was the most dear, but Home Carpet One had the cobsa, which has a wavy quality that makes it look more handmade, which we like.

Next week, God willing, the plumber will come and we will have (gasp!) running water and our first dishwasher. While all this kitchen work has been going on, our water heater has decided to leave us. It’s slowly been dwindling in the past 6 months. We drained it, but that didn’t really help. We researched going tankless, but the cost is so much higher and we have an issue with multiple people taking showers at the same time with our tenants upstairs. This would require us to get a more expensive higher capacity tankless heater.

Just curious, has anyone out there gone tankless?

We are looking at a few brands A.O. Smith, Bradford White, and Rheem. We are looking at a 65 gallon, 100+ first hour rating. We are getting quotes right now. We got one quote today for $2000, which we thought was excessively high. If anyone else had one installed lately and cares to share, we'd love to hear from you.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

The Lost Weekend

You know you're working hard when the guys working on the new condo building next door call it quits before you two days in a row. We just finished our countertop and it's 8:30pm. We started today at about 8:30am and yesterday we were working till dark also. Steve had the little head lamp on his head routing out the last two pieces.

The most time-consuming part was probably all the precision cutting, filing, and sanding of the opening for our beloved farm sink. Towards the end of yesterday, I was at the never again point. We will never again install a formica countertop with a farm sink. Much easier to do an overmounted stone countertop. We had one other problem and we discovered it after the first piece we laminated. The router was scraping off the finish on the edges when we routed the overlapping pieces- we adjusted what we were doing by taping the finished edges so they wouldn't get scratched. I wonder if that is a common problem? Steve has done alot of laminating but it had been a while (like 10 years) since he had done any. He said filing the edges came right back to him though (Filing them so they aren't super sharp and slice someone's hand open).

When I was younger, say in my early twenties, I used to have "lost weekends" more in the way of Truffaut, now there are more like living a This Old House episode.

Just now over slices of pizza cause that's about all we could manage for dinner last night and tonight (One bonus I can eat a slice of greasy pizza for dinner and after all that work feel not one smidgen of guilt), Steve and I started arguing over the last time his parents had been here. I swore it was "early Spring" and he said "This is early Spring, it was like 6 months ago." I remember when they came because we were painting the kitchen that weekend, a milestone in our little microclimate here. After I went so far as to pull out my little album with progress, I realized he was right and we had painted the kitchen and seen his parents about 6 months ago.

So, not only have I lost a weekend, now I am losing months it seems. Maybe it's all the fumes... Speaking of fumes, I was practically sick to my stomach with the fumes from the contact cement and we were working outdoors.

Hey, also some other good news, it pays to be nice to your neighborhood contractor, ours put up the fence nice side facing us. Must be some kind of payback for using out water for the past year or not complaining or something. Anyway, they started putting it up this weekend and it looks great. Countertop done- next week backsplash tile! We are so close to running water I can taste it!

Monday, April 11, 2005

Fence Update

I appreciated everyone's comments about the fence situation. Today they put the fence posts in the backyard and they were off the property line by about 6 inches. We decided to let the issue drop in the front yard because we weren't planning to redo the fence there for a while anyway. It's low on the list. We try to get along with our neighborhood contractor, although at times the construction has been a nuisance (noise all summer, mortar all over the side of our house, workmen "borrowing" our hose etc...)

Our main relief with the building next door, was that they put brick all the way around the building. Therefore, we don't have to look out our dining room window at cinder block walls and feel like we are in a prison. We hate cinderblock! We have our Alderman (Joe Moore) to thank for the brick- he insisted on the brick.

In case you are interested, here is a photo of the perfectly lovely single family home they tore down to put up a 6 unit condo building. It needed some TLC inside, but if one of you had only gotten a hold of it. It could have been someone's dream come true... ;o)

house next door shortly before teardown...

house next door - day of teardown...and below the results of one days work demolishing the house. Many of you know what it takes to build a house. It is really something to see how fast they can make a pile of debris out of one.

Why are you working and not taking us to the park?

See the looks I get from my dogs? Or maybe I am just haunted by my own guilt. When it gets nice out, these are the kind of looks you get from them. Photo taken Saturday morning a few weeks ago- a working Saturday. Off to my day job now- happy Monday everyone!

Mojo & Billie Posted by Hello

Sunday, April 10, 2005

And miles to go before I sleep...

I am having one of those periods where I can't seem to dance fast enough, or my eyes are bigger than my stomach. Basically, I look at my house and am thinking "we need this and that and this and that and this and that" -oh my! Seriously though, sometimes it's hard to know what you want and know what needs to be done when you cannot for many reasons do it all at the same time.

I do know for a fact that even if we were paying others to do all these little things and for some of them we will be doing just that, that even paying others to do it, you still can't get it done as fast as you'd like. I am witnessing this right now with my boss, who is having a large addition on her home done. Trying to get the designer's attention and get suppliers to respond and then ordering everything on schedule seems like it just does not happen. I wonder if somewhere, there is someone who has experienced a smooth renovation? Probably not. In fact, I wonder if doing the work yourself makes it go smoother in some ways because you can (usually) control yourself better than others...

I also wanted to ask people's opinion on an issue we have come across. They are putting up a fence next door on the new 6 unit condo building. Two things happened: (1) they put the "back side" of the fence facing us and (2) they put the posts right on the property line.

Steve says that "in the old days" people would never put the bad side of a fence facing the neighbors or facing out- does anyone agree with that? What would Robert Frost say? Were people more courteous back in the 1930s or 1940s for example? Steve said there is a company called that makes a fence called a a good-neighbor fence, which is attractive on both sides for you and your neighbors. I looked up this so-called "good-neighbor" fence and it is lovely, but won't work for the rough around the edges area we live in- we need a privacy fence here.

I am pretty sure they should have put the fence 5-6 inches off the property line because if we ever want to put a fence there, there is no where for us to put it. Our sidewalk runs right up to their posts. We will be watching carefully what they do in the backyard this week...

Saturday, April 09, 2005

Off the subject

We saw a great movie tonight and I have to share: The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill. I think we house bloggers will like it because we like real stories about real people and that is what this film is. And we also tend to like gardening and nature and... birds, which are featured in this film along with the fascinating Mark Bittner, a "dharma bum" who found his calling caring for wild parrots living in San Francisco.
It was funny, touching, and inspiring. It shows how one person can make a difference, which we can all forget from time to time.

And it made me so anxious to get that row of specimen arbor vitaes that I want to line our yard with so that our city lot becomes a sanctuary for birds! I only wish I had the money to do it right now, but I can say this, it will happen in the next few years at least. We have a vision for our yard that just won't quit!

I was so inspired by the film, I went right to Barnes & Noble and bought his book and another book called Red-Tails in Love. If I wasn't so busy with my house, I might become an avid birder.

I bet there are some bird lovers out there in the house blog world or some of you who could use a little pick me up- this movie fits the bill.

Friday, April 08, 2005

Picea Orientalis Skylands and the story of the Rocks

This is the pine tree we planted going on 2 years ago when it was first planted.
(see below photo)

tree  Posted by Hello

This is how it looked last summer(see below photo). See those boulders around it? We had those delivered to the alley about 20 feet from where they are now. We had quite an afternoon moving those rocks.

First off, the guy who delivered them a kind of Harley biker-looking type guy almost ripped his arm off while lowering them off the truck with a boom crane and nearly missed taking out the power lines all in one fell swoop. You can see the power lines in the photo. Then he emptied them all onto the ground with a loud clanging and rock clicking sounds. I appraised the rocks and pointed out a smaller one "Oh, I'll take that one- I can carry that." And he said, "Oh, I'd like to see that."

I had thought the smaller ones were about 50 pounds no biggie. I've moved dry wall and top soil bags, particle board, no problem. I was mistaken! I tried to move the smallest one and realized it was complete dead weight. No wonder they use stones to sink a body!

So there we stood with a pile of river rocks and 20 or so feet to go. It was then that Steve came up with a brilliant idea: move the rocks using the methods of the ancient Egyptians.

"Perhaps the Egyptians rolled the stones by placing them on platforms and used round logs under the platform to push the stones along. However, the same difficulty of getting the 5-ton block off and on the platform exists." See this website for further dicussion of the Egyptian techniques for moving heavy objects.

Instead of logs, we used broom handle sized wooden dowels, which being the crafty woodworking types, we happen to have a few dozen on hand. Personally, I still can't believe we moved all these rocks without any back injuries or crushed fingers or feet.

At the end of the day, we got stuck on the very largest boulder but we were rescued by Dan, the local good samaritan who happens to manage the apt. building down the street and saw us in the alley all red faced and breathing heavy and took pity on us. Dan reminds me of the classic muscleman in the circus- he has a very big neck and he's a strong guy. He helped us get that last beast of a boulder in place.

Our tree with the rocks that will be there forever. Who would move them?
We moved the log from the lake 7 blocks using a wheelbarrow. The wheelbarrow was ruined but we got a free log!

A Picea Orientalis at full maturity (not exactly the same as ours) at the Chicago Botanical Gardens in Highland Park. This species is known to be compact and good for city environments because it doesn't get too big, but we've heard some conflicting reports. That's Steve by the tree to show scale.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Kitchen Update

Well, here are the latest photos of the kitchen. These pictures show the work we did on the moldings. If you look at the before photos, you can see we had no doorway between this small hallway and kitchen. We restored the original doorway. Originally, there used to be a door to the kitchen, but we feel that the space is too tight to warrant it. Our house had alot of doors separating small spaces- maybe so people could have privacy or quiet separation.

Hallway view toward kitchen with sanded and finished original maple floors and most of woodwork in place. A few missing pieces still to be put in place. You can also see our Humboldt light from Rejuvenation. It casts a warm golden glow. There was no light there before. We will be putting a swinging door between the dining room and the hallway that we can use to close off the kitchen and bedroom from the front side of the house in hot weather and to keep the bedroom quieter if someone wants to stay up late watching bad TV.

Here you can see the tongue and groove Oak Beadboard we got from Owl Lumber. They have by far the best selection of exotic woods that we have encountered. Again, you can see the refinished floors. We are pretty happy with them. We rented a U-Sander and went through tons of sandpaper. It was one of those start at 8am finish at 10pm days, but we did it!

Hallway view towards dining room. The one thing we would have done differently with the molding is select straight grained wood to stay truer to the period. Some of the original molding in the house has more pronounced graining, but most is straight grain. Personally, I think the grain is pretty and interesting to look at. Anyway, these are the latest pictures of our kitchen.

Saturday, April 02, 2005

Weekend Warrior

I seem to be a weekend warrior with my blog too. It's probably because during the week I have to go to my day job, and not alot often happens with the house. But that's probably not uncommon. Last summer and spring I had been laid off my job with a decent severance package, so I had about 4 months off before I started to get nervous and took a job.

We used the time to demo the kitchen and I stripped and sanded ALOT of wood trim and 3 doors. My arms would get so tired from that. And I'd experience that "weekend warrior" syndrome where you go to work Monday (or in my case, back to the job search) and you're like, "Why do I do this to myself?" Some people overdo it at the gym, me it's digging a new flower bed and hauling bags of mulch and top soil around, planting a hundred bulbs in 2 weekends, or hunching over a work table scraping paint off wood.

The nice thing about making your house your workout of choice is that something is actually accomplished. Work gets done! Now I know that for people that go to the gym alot, the evidence is all over their physical being, but I just don't find that as gratifying anymore.

At my old job, I used to joke when people would ask me what I was doing over the weekend, "Oh, I'm stripping again." They knew what I meant. I remember when I first met Steve and I had my own apartment. I didn't really understand why he was so tired after working on his house(now our house) on Saturdays. After I started doing the work myself, I understood!

Anyway, since Steve got a bunch of work in his business and we can't do much on the kitchen this weekend, I decided to pay a visit to one of my favorite places Gethsemane Garden Center. I bought some pansys and some willow branches to put into pots on my front porch. If I had that digital camera, I'd post a photo, but I haven't gotten around to buying one yet.

photos added 5.7.05 (I am going crazy with this new toy)

I am truly like a kid in a candy store or a bride at Filene's wedding dress sale when I go to Gethsemane. In peak season, when I go there, my heart begins to race and I have to consciously avoid impulse or over-buying. Why? Because I have a small yard and there is a limit to what I can fit in it. Unless I want to dig a new bed, I am pretty much at maximum capacity right now. And today, I so wanted a climbing rose, but I need to buy an arbor and figure out where to put it before I buy the rose. I ended up with the pansies and 2 pots of Irish Moss. I am planting it on a little mound in my front yard that has my baby Peony on it. I am hoping the Irish Moss will take and discourage erosion on the little hill and discourage the squirrels from disturbing the mulch there too-which they always seem to do.

Steve thinks the squirrels bury stuff there because it's an easy spot to remember. Funny, huh?

Friday, April 01, 2005

Steve's Craftsmanship

As we continue working on our kitchen, I thought I'd post pictures of the furniture Steve has made for the house. He uses all quarter sawn white oak, mortise and tenon, as well as fuming rather than staining in the arts and crafts style. Below you can see a coffee table he made. It also shows a view of our living room, which is finished as much as it's going to be for now. Steve plans to make a light for the living room out of wood and art glass. I like to say, if you don't like wood, you won't like our house. ;o)

In the living room, we stripped all the woodwork and repaired the plaster using plaster plugs and skim coating. It was a first attempt and is not perfect. We still need to refinish the floors in the house also.

Steve made this Dining Room table-not the chairs- they are still to come. He also stripped the coffered ceiling. When I met him, he was just finishing it. I helped him sand it and stain it. I was very impressed that he had done all that work. Because our kitchen is "in transition," we eat at the dining room table every meal. Who says people don't use dining rooms anymore?

You can see the teak medicine cabinet he made on the bathroom post. Next on the furniture agenda: a plate rack for our kitchen and a light for the living room. I'll post some pictures of design ideas for the light later on.