Sunday, January 29, 2006

The void being filled

As you can see at left, I finally was able to satisfy my need for removing paint from wood. As I stood heat gun in left hand, scraper in right hand, feeling the burn in my forearms after a few hours, I thought to myself,"I missed.......this???"

I tarped off the room and had a fan blowing the air out to keep the fumes down, but I didn't wear a dust mask. Therefore, last night I kept smelling melting paint even though the work was long over with. My eyes got a little irritated too, but not bad.

But, I did manage to expose some nice oak! It adds so much definition to the room. The colors underneath the layers of whitish paint were in this order going back in time: lilac, baby blue, a dullish green, yellow, tan, and then finally and blessedly: shellac. God bless shellac for its protective barrier.

The stickers to the left are on the door in the den that leads to the basement. They are on the inside facing the basement. We think they are kind of interesting and plan to keep them when we clean up the door. We have no idea how old they are. They look kind of old.

I just now googled "The Culpeper Minute Men" to see if I could find some info and lo and behold I did. Culpeper is evidently a very historic place in Virginia and their militia were called "The Culpeper Minute Men." The top sticker is a replica of their flag. They were attached to the First Virginia Regiment, led by Colonel Patrick Henry, who is famous for his statement, "Give me liberty or give me death!" One of their members, John Jameson was instrumental in exposing Benedict Arnold, whom we've all heard of.

Replicas of this flag are sold on a number of sites on the web.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

It's official

We have had our property downzoned from B-3 to RS-3.5. For those of you who don't speak Chicago Zoning Codes, this means that our property and our neighbor's property are now zoned for a single family or two-flat and cannot be leveled to build monster condos.

The former B-3 zoning was actually a business zoning, which would allow a building to be built from property line to property line- right up to the curb. We had visions of some monster condo being built where Mark's house is and right up to the property line. Now, this can't happen and we have made an effort to preserve our building and our neighbor's.

Now, If I can just get them to put that Stop Sign in.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Help Wanted

Putting a call out for referrals in the Chicago area. We are in need of some outside help for the 2nd floor gut rehab.

Steve has been working on drawing up the plans to get the required city permits, which will involve moving a wall here and there to make for a larger master bedroom. Truth be told, even this larger bedroom still doesn't seem big enough to deserve the word "master." What's up with that terminology anyway? It sounds like a plantation house or something. That has never occurred to me before- how strange. Anyone know anything about the etymology of this term? (Holy tangent!)

Back to business. We are looking for a few good men (or women) tradespeople with rough and finish carpentry skills to frame out and drywall the upstairs as well as put the trim back in so that it looks (ejem) good.

If you have any referrals, we would love 'em. We need to get some competitive quotes for this job. We've gotten one decent quote, but we know we need to get at least three.

We have already gotten quotes on the roof replacement, tuckpointing, heating & cooling, and electrical work. We are planning to do some things ourselves such as painting and tiling and probably some finish carpentry.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

The void continues

Sigh. Warning. Don't read this post if you abhor whining. Work was so busy this week that I stayed late every night and was slammed from the moment I came in the door. I even went home one night and spent 45 minutes responding to emails I couldn't get to during the day due to being so busy.

At work: Someone had a baby, someone else quit with one week's notice, and someone else just walked out in mid-December. We hired three new people, but they are new so can't do that much.

I am pooped and so I'm not stripping wood this weekend. Now, a normal person would be happy about this, but not me! And on top of this, Steve hurt his arm (God knows how) and is sleeping on the couch. Now a normal person might see their boyfriend sleeping on the couch and be like "Oh, how sweet." But not me. I am like, "He should be working -look at all we have to do- we haven't finished anything in months- blasted holidays damn winter- damn it all." Fortunately, I am able to keep these thoughts to myself for the most part.

I am going to a yoga class now and hopefully this will improve my mood.

It's important to document this part of the restoration process of our home as it is definitely a very real element.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

The void

Okay, I am now experiencing "the void" that is me not working on house projects. Yes, I'm taking a yoga class, and reading some good books, and I enjoyed the holidays, and my sister had her baby and I'm planning a trip there in a few weeks to meet the little fellow.

But I have that itch to pull out the heat gun and start removing paint on the remaining painted trim or rent a Silent Paint Remover from Clark-Devon hardware and strip a painted door. Or have a bookcase made to order or something. And yes, I've been trolling eBay too but haven't found anything of interest so far.

The problem is I prefer to avoid lead particles floating throughout the house. Oh, I could strip a door in the basement I suppose, but I prefer to work outdoors. And it's just too chilly for that.

So today, I baked cookies and did laundry while Steve is working on the entry trimwork using our trusty new Power Planer. I lent my Mom my camera for her visit with my new nephew so no pictures I'm afraid.

Maybe next weekend I can start something. I do have a turkey in the freezer that needs cooking too...

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Recycling Your Christmas Tree

The City of Chicago will mulch your x-mas tree for free, but of course you have to bring it to the site and bring the mulch back home. Since we don't have a pick-up truck or even a car, I came up with another way to re-use our tree this year.

x-mas tree past its prime
stale bread
peanut butter
apples and oranges
wild bird seed mixture
niger seed
suet bar
pot for planting

Cut off the lower branches of the tree so it fits into the pot. Dig a shallow hole to rest the pot in so it doesn't (hopefully) blow over.

Spead peanut butter on bread and dip into bird seeds. Shove pieces of bread and fruit into the recesses of the tree. Hang a suet bar.

Optional: use trimmed boughs around the tree for more bird shelter.

Should result in a virtual fiesta for the neighborhood birds and somewhat ease the conscience of those guilt about wasting a perfectly lovely tree!

Friday, January 06, 2006

Look who got a new power tool!

With the demise of our neighborhood wood shop, Steve has been taxed when it comes to projects. He used to be able to walk 4 blocks to the shop carrying a few boards, run them through the band saw etc... and walk back home and install them. Now, the nearest wood shop is a 20 minute car ride away and we don't have a car so that makes it even more of a challenge.

We haven't been able to finish the entry trim work because Steve hasn't had time to get to the wood shop. We figured out a solution though. No we haven't bought a table saw. That would be about $2K for the quality Steve would need for his projects.

We got a power planer. To be specific we got a Bosch 1594K 3-1/4" Planer Kit with a Bosch VAC002 Adapter 35mm-1 1/4" . We read reviews on Amazon and I had remembered reading about House in Progress buying a planer for their trim work sometime recently and we saw that they chose the Bosch as well. So we're in good company. We bought the shop vac attachment in case we do this inside and to minimize the wood shreds everywhere.

There were mostly positive reviews on Amazon. A few reviewers criticized the fence saying it was shoddy and the fact that the hose attachment did not come with the unit. Some others said that the fence was good though. We will find out for ourselves soon enough. If we have any problems or good things to say, you'll hear about it right here of course.

Now Steve can plane down the boards to whatever size we need and we can finish the trim. Now if only the wood shop would reopen. I'm hoping Greg's fairies can help us with this one.

Everyone together now, "I believe in fairies , I believe in fairies ..." You know you do. Maybe the fairies can take our tenants away to NeverNeverLand too...

Monday, January 02, 2006

Would you throw this away?

I decided to share this little anecdotal story about our tenants on the blog after telling my Dad the story last night. When Steve relayed it to me, I just laughed at the absurdity.

As you know we had a toilet overflow upstairs and pour water down into our unit. Steve was pretty mad because he feels that for a toilet to overflow like that, it had to be acting up for a while and they didn't say anything. Plus, he blames the fact that they treat this place like a flophouse and always have friends coming and going, which is true. So far, we see no apparent damage to our ceiling or walls, but time will tell.

Since then, we've had a plumber out twice to snake out their toilet ($50 a pop)and then Saturday it was acting up again and Thadeus came down to let us know. We had bought them a plunger right after the first incident because the one they had was totally useless. Steve also showed them how to shut the water off on the toilet in case it ever happened again.

Well, Saturday when Steve went upstairs to plunge the toilet, the following conversation ensued:
Steve: Where is the plunger?
Thadeus: We threw it away.
Steve: Why would you throw it away?
Thadeus: It had feces on it.
Steve: I can't believe you threw that away. We bought that for you. You could have taken it in the basement and rinsed it off. I can't believe you threw that away.
Thadeus: Oh, we will buy another one.

Honestly, I don't think they have the stomach or wherewithal to really plunge a toilet. What's so funny to me is that they have no problem leaving food around, attracting rodents and leaving milk to sour and stink up the back porch, etc...but they can't plunge a toilet and problem solve enough to think how to clean off a plunger. Maybe rinse it in the toilet after you've plunged it?

No, to them a plunger is like toilet paper (which also touches the dreaded feces) and must be thrown away.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Life as a House

Looking back on this year, I could come up a really long list of all the minutae that we have completed, but then I've covered most of it on the blog. The main acheivements (on the house) this year were (of course) finishing the kitchen and almost finishing the vestibule/entry.

We still have the pantry to do, but it is working okay as is for the time being. In the entry, we have the following left to do: install remaining trim and fix the interior lock on 2nd floor entry door. Not too much really to do there.

I don't really think about how much faster this work could be done if we paid someone because quite frankly, we didn't want to do that. We just refinanced and are using that money to renovate our rental unit upstairs. The jist of our whole strategy is this: If we do as much work ourselves as we can, we will be able to afford a nicer home with more expensive and high quality accoutrements than if we used that money to pay someone else to do the job. In any case, half the time the work we see paid tradesman do is sub-par compared to what we are able to do ourselves. We take a while to do it, but when it's done, it's done right.

This is going be a banner year for us. We have plans to have the building tuckpointed, a new roof put on, the upstairs completely renovated and tackle the den/office in our house, which is the one room that has not been touched at all. I am very optimistic that we will have the floors refinished in our home as well, which will bring things to a very finished state. Oh, and we will be rid of those pesky tenants to boot.

And having the bulk of the work behind us will enable us to do something we haven't gotten around to, get married! Ever since Steve and I met, we've been working on this place. Most people get married and then get a house and work on it. To us, the need of the house was more pressing than our need to make our union official. It would be different if either of us seemed unwilling to marry the other- but that just is not the case.

I come from a pretty untraditional family (in some ways) and I get pretty much zero pressure from anyone to get married or do anything in particular except maybe take a yoga class once in a while. Steve's Mom has brought up the subject in a mildly exasperated tone. "When are you guys going to get married?" but we don't see her too often as she lives out of state.

I have to admit my response to any pressure is to rebel especially because me and Steve are already totally committed to each other and being married is merely a formality in my mind.
I didn't used to be this way. When I was younger I planned to be married by 23, and have kids at 27. But what did I know back then? As time has gone on, a big wedding, dress, and event has just grown passe to me. Sigh. But hey, it will cost less this way.

I know we will be working on our home for years to come. It's what we both enjoy doing. And when we finally do get married, we will come home from our honeymoon to a place that we both love being in- a place that represents the fullfillment of our dreams. Home is truly where our hearts are-- (as if that isn't obvious by now).

Happy New Year to everyone and I hope your dreams continue to come true in 2006!