Monday, August 29, 2005


You guys are just a bunch of smarties. Much more witty than me on a Monday that's for sure.
If only it were a stripping machine and I would have come home to exposed woodwork everywhere, but that is only something that could happen to the fortunate among us who attract the likes of fairies.

I believe in fairies. I believe in fairies. etc... etc... (Damn- it still hasn't worked!)

I especially like the "tenant-remover" idea. It could work indirectly, but I doubt it.

Actually, our tenants tend to grow on us, but kind of like a fungus; like the mold that grew in their closet from the pile of damp clothes left in there to rot for a while.

Sense of humour: imperative!

But really the smartie prize goes to Ron, who guessed it right. Our street is being resurfaced and will be all pretty real soon. I don't have a prize, but I could send you a little placquard that says "smartie" on it- just let me know :)

Today, riding my bike home from work I got 2 unexpected and pleasant surprises.
1. As I rode by the el train a few blocks from my house, I saw the police arresting the woman Steve refers to as "crackhead"who has been plaguing our block for the past few months. (No photo sorry.)
2. The next door condo building finally put in some of their landscaping. (see photo left)

Even though I was quite the cranky girl at work today, the day ended on a positive note and all your witty comments brought a smile to my day also.

Now in a few weeks hopefully the city will come back and re-pave.

I can dream can't I?

Monday quiz show

Okay, who knows what this machine does?

It's not too often that you get a machine such as this parked right in front of your house.

This morning it's in action and the city blew their "fog horns" to warn everyone they would be towed. On cue, one of our upstairs tenants raced downstairs in his boxer shorts throwing his pants on and yelling, "hey!" In fairness to him, parking around here is a nightmare, but they make this handy contraption called an alarm clock to handle situations like this.

I'll post pics tonight of the machine in action to answer the above question.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

The good news

is that the wheels have started turning again albeit with an exertion of will. I spent Saturday washing the remaining trim for the entry with denatured alcohol and then sanding all the boards with 80 grit on the orbital sander.

To the left is all the wood cleaned and stored on our enclosed back porch.

Steve continued his framing of the entry. He has a few more boards left to add, then the door strikes and since next weekend is a long one, we will at least start drywalling that room.

Nothing to exciting here really. We did meet some nice people around the neighborhood this weekend though. We have discovered that one great way to meet people is to just stand in front of their house and admire the work they have done. One guy actually brought us inside to show us the porch he had built.

He had a 2-flat very similar to ours and he had a beautiful wood porch built with French doors opening onto a small deck for the 2nd floor!

We also did some solo-forensic investigating on our building this week also. We are pretty sure that there used to be a full porch around the front of the building. You can tell because there is some paint residue left along the line of where the porch floor was and also where the overhang was.

The photo to the left shows the paint residue. There are traces of it all around the front, which we believe indicates a porch used to be there. We can't think why else there would be paint there.

The photo here shows the upper portion where the overhang would have been. Not sure you can see that well in the photo, but there is a definite impression that something was there before. There's even a spot where brick was repaired.

Now, more than ever we want to get over to The Chicago Historical Society to research the architect and maybe find the original plans. That would be so cool.
I already got some good info on how to research this from Preservation Chicago. This will definitely be a winter project for us and I'll post about it later on.

I have admired this other rehab in our neighborhood (see left) for a while because they have this fabulous Japanese-style garden with rocks, evergreens, and Bamboo in their yard (Yes, bamboo grows in Chicago and is evergreen in winter-I was shocked to find out).

On Friday, we were standing in front admiring it and the owner came out. We had a long chat and it turns out his wife who is not an architect, taught herself how to draw plans and she re-designed the house and got the permits for it and everything and according to them they got the plans approved in 2 days.

You have to understand that this is unheard of. Everyone you talk to says 4-6 months to get plans approved by the city. We even asked if they bribed anyone, and they said no.
Now she was very cute, but I didn't know cute could get you a permit in 2 days- this is good news.

Steve has been researching a really BIG project for our building that I have not yet posted about because it might not happen depending on whether the building can support it and the costs involved. More to come on this later. Here's a hint: we'd have to change the name of our blog to "Chicago 3-flat".

But you know us, the only way we'd ever add a third story is if we were to maintain the architectural integrity of the building; i.e. same face brick, common brick sides, same interior finishes (trim, solid doors, vintage hardware etc...). The third floor would be (believe it or not) another rental unit. The longer term plans are to dig out the basement for higher ceilings and duplex the first floor for us and then have 2 rental units upstairs.

Like I've said before, we are in this for the long haul!

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Whilst I whiled away the weekend in Connecticut

Steve was busy with the following:

Being a landlord
(It's a dirty job, but someone has to do it.)
The exterminator came to set up the mouse traps upstairs.
I don't even want to tell you what they caught in one of their glue traps over the weekend because it made it difficult for me to fall asleep last night.

Framing the entry
(still not finished- it's a work of art and these things take time right?)

Notice the Great Stuff filling in the gaps- we love Great Stuff! Well, actually we love the stuff except for the fact that a can fell off the ladder onto Steve's head on Saturday- that kinda hurt.

Steve has a few more boards to go and he needs to put in the door strikes before we drywall.
We also are big fans of shims. God bless the ability to buy shims right off the shelf.

and most exciting...going to the Woodshop
(in Lincoln Park not our local one, which is sadly closed for the time being)

Word on the street is that it will reopen after they manage to hire someone, which takes a while since they have to do FBI background checks and alotta paperwork before anyone gets hired.

Steve cut out the finishing pieces for our brackets. These will go in between the brackets under the shelves and hide the under shelf light fixtures.

This weekend I have more wood to "clean."
Maybe I'll insulate the ceiling in the entry depending on how things go. It's a small room and it's hard for both of us to work in there at once. Been there - done that- in our bathroom.

Monday, August 22, 2005

The girl is back!

I am pretty sure I mentioned I was headed for CT to visit my sister and her husband. I was planning to post from there, but their computer is out of commission. In a way it was nice because I spend 3 entire days off the computer and the house.

It was a great trip and I enjoyed it immensely. Besides getting to see my cute-as-pie sister pregnant, we went to The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art and they had a special exhibit of Beatrix Potter. I was in heaven.

We went to Amherst and walked around a lovely and deserted college campus, went for a nice hike to an old castle, hit the dinosaur park, and saw the Mark Twain house (see above). Again, heaven for an old house enthusiast like me.

Here are some more photos of Mark Twain's house. He lived in it for 17 years and created his "Mark Twain" persona there.

She really isn't an elf
but standing beside
an Elephant Ear
she appears to be!

Other plant comments re: Connecticut
Huge rhododendrums!
Big huge pine trees everywhere!
Lots of Blue jays and robins...

and here's a photo of the largest Sycamore tree in Connecticut.

Thanks Kim and Sean for such a nice respite from the usual grind! It was great to see both of you!

Right now as I type, with the weather in Chicago sunny and in the 70's and all windows open, Billie Holiday playing on the cd player, life is good! Looking forward to reading everyone's blogs and seeing what's been going on with you guys.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Big 'Ol Slacker

Yep that's me. I did nothing for the house this weekend except mow the lawn, bid on a few items on eBay and sell our fish tank (also on eBay).

Good bye Orangey and Catfish! We're too busy to take care of you anyway.

I have a few other things to sell on eBay, namely my old manual camera, which I haven't used for years. Why store things when you can have some cash in your wallet right?

Last night we went to the CAPs meeting and reported the suspicious activity on our street.
I am referring to the resident prostitute and drug dealer.

The police were like, "Wow, it's great that you are so aware of what's going on on your block." I had to laugh to myself because Steve and I are like a couple of old ladies watching everything. Any "strange" noises and we are peeking out the window to see who is disturbing the peace in our little haven. But you know what? That is okay by me- no one can say we aren't concerned citizens.

And then our beat cop talked about how he thinks that landscaping and sweeping your sidewalk have an impact and are a deterant, and I was like elbowing Steve, "I sweep the sidewalk" - see see! Although I like to think of myself as individualistic, I also like to be validated by authority.

We are also going to work with the Rogers Park Community Council to try and get that building cleaned up; they work on landlord issues in our area.

Oh and here's the funny thing. After we report the "problem" building last night, Steve finds this on the ground in front of that very same building. Strange....huh?

Saturday, August 13, 2005

and on the 234th rained

What a sight for sore eyes and finally a week where we don't have to water - everything - constantly.

(Illinois has been in a drought in case you didn't know.)

and a good day to take a break in our case- we are recharging... and of course plotting for the future...

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Nothing to Report....well, sort of

I can honestly say this week that I haven't been concentrating on the house. I've actually been resting for once. Oh, we're still talking about stuff while lying in front of the tv of course, but not moving from the reclining position.

We received a panicked call from Thadeus, our 2nd floor tenant this week. It seems he's being overrun by mice. I have to tell you that we have not one mouse here in our floor. The upstairs tenants have very bad habits and they have called us before asking for the exterminator to come out. They leave bags of rice on the floor and garbage on their back porch with the back door wide open all the time. Their stove is caked with food. It's a virtual fiesta for a mouse. Hell, if I was a mouse, I'd live there.

(Disclaimer: The only reason we renewed their lease is because we have alot of work to do in their unit and we wanted to wait until next year to do it.)

We have talked to him before and told him he is attracting the critters but we are going to have another strong talk with him again and this time we will bring in outside help. We have used bait and traps in the past. Steve told him no more storing garbage on the back porch and he agreed.

I told Steve that, "these tenants do nothing but jeopardize the integrity of our building." They do things that can keep me awake at night worrying. The best way to deal with things such as that (for me anyway) is the "it's only temporary" mantra. It works like a charm, really.

But never fear, some plans are afoot here and after we get things figured out a bit more, I'll post about it.

In the meantime, it's business as usual with slow deliberate steps toward completion of
the entry, kitchen minutiae, and the pantry Stay tuned...

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Window stripped

and the good news is I didn't break the pane. I taped the edges of the glass to avoid getting paint goop all over the window, and hit the surrounding trim with Strypeeze like 3-4 times. It's clean now and I was very good and patient and did not gouge anything.

This is that same soft wood that all our original windows were made of. Some have said they think it's old growth pine, we suspect poplar. I still don't know. But after my first experience of breaking the glass and gouging the wood, I do know to be gentle now.

While I was delicately scraping off paint and stripper gunk, I got to witness the neighborhood in all it's splendor. The woman who moved into the "problem building" down the street who we are certain is a "lady of the light" (and that is a better title than she deserves) and a crack addict, was yelling after some guy that he "stole her crack" and snuck into the hallway the night before and "smoked it all up." Sigh! Can you think of any reason that someone would be coming and going like 10+times in a few hours other than drug dealing? I can't.

Steve worked on framing on Saturday while I was making dinner etc..., which incidentally was a success. A good time was had by all and we slept in till almost 10am this morning, which is unheard of.

The framing is slow going because he has to remove the old boards and some of them don't want to come out, but he is planning to finish next weekend and then the following weekend drywall while I am visiting my sister in Connecticut. I am going to finish washing the trim down with denatured alcohol and maybe start sanding it next weekend.

Friday, August 05, 2005

Weekend Plan

Nothing too monumental happening this weekend except the baby steps that will get us to the finish line on the entry. Steve will be working on finishing framing the entry tomorrow.

I will be doing the domestic dance as I dash to the Farmer's Market, Whole Foods, and then prepare a roasted chicken dinner with garlic mashed potatoes, green salad, and roasted veggies for our first mini-dinner party since the kitchen reno. My Dad and his life partner Dave will be coming over. On a personal note: I am very lucky because it's like I have 2 Dad's and I have a great Mom too. And they all appreciate culture, old homes, architecture, love dogs, are very supportive etc... What more could I ask for?

Anyway, I am hoping to work on finishing the trim on Sunday. All I need to do is wash some boards down and strip right around the glass on the transom-type window in the entry. It's now a normal 82 degrees down from 95 earlier this week. Life is good.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

therapy over the rainbow

I did something that really made my heart sing this week. It's something I highly recommend to anyone who has worked on a big project or room for a looong long time as we have with our kitchen. (keep it clean people)

I made a before and after slide show on I get to magically watch my kitchen go from a dingy dirty hellhole to bright cheery shiny happy people place.

I feel like REM's "Shiny Happy People" should be playing in the background here- can you hear it? Or maybe it's an older song, something more nostalgic. I think you know the one I mean.

I just keep watching this slideshow over and over- it really brings home the amount of work we've done. It's an affirmation. Like I said, I highly recommend it. It's easy to get caught up in what still has to be done (and it's quite a bit) but it is so important to acknowledge our accomplishments.

I decided I'm going to make one with more different stages. I took pictures from the same angle so it works really well. I have to figure out a way to post it on the blog as a link because that would be a nice thing to have.

Monday, August 01, 2005

Salvage Source

Just saw this site in today's Crain's Chicago Business and thought I'd post it for anyone who is interested. It's a national site for salvage, not just for the Chicago market. They do exchanges and you can post if you are looking for something - and it's free.

Crain's also had some interesting coverage of the teardowns in Chicago and ranked neighborhoods by the number of demolition and new construction permits. Our area came in 37th with 15 new permits issued in 2004. Just to get a comparison, Lakeview, home of the Chicago Cub's historic Wrigley Field, came in #2 with 199 permits.

Maybe some of you remember that teardown next door to us. Well, they have had some problems. The original contractor was fired for a number of reasons. We talk to the developer, who inherited the property from his mother, and he said the porches were not built to code. As you may know, we don't mess around with porches in Chicago anymore. We also heard that the trimwork was installed shoddily and all has to be redone. He has a new builder working on the project now, who seems a lot better.

The building is still not done. I've been waiting for the landscaping to go in to post photos of before and after. Maybe by the fall they'll have the landscaping in.