Saturday, February 24, 2007

To dream the impossible dream...

This week was one of those weeks I was feeling at odds with things. I'm sure it's partially due to the void of not working on the house. I'm kind of addicted to accomplishing something and the house fulfills that quite nicely. If I'm not getting that fix, I get kind of restless.

The impossible dream, I refer to in the post title, is of course the idea of organizing our basement. Steve and I spent about 4 hours down there going through screws, nails, and tools in the hopes that when we need it, we can find that one screw we are looking for.

I know it's impossible dream, but we have to try. What would the world be without a little Don Quixote spirit. There's a reason why that story is a classic. It's funny, and it can be related to many things from everyday life in my opinion. It's about hope and whether we are aware of it or not, we are all living on hope on some level.

Okay, now that's enough of the introspective stuff, let's get down to what we actually did!

Ever since the BIG project finished up last Fall, we've had a pile of paint cans to go through. You see, we have a "system" for organizing them.

With Steve and I, we are pretty much as organized as our schedules will allow. The busier things get, the harder it is to be organized. Last summer got a little crazy and things got a bit messy.

We write down all the formulas with the room each paint color belongs to. We also mark the cans with a sharpie with what room they belong to. We combine any cans that can be combined.

I also went through the shelves and organized what was there. Luckily all the paint fit on the shelves. We like when that happens.

Then we tackled the (ejem) organization of our various nails and screws and other miscellany.

We have quite a few trays like what you see here with various boxes or little brown bags. We went through all of this. and separated out in categories like: brass screws, black screws, small, med. & large wood screws, etc... Where we needed to, we broke things down more or less. Glazing points, for example, have their own little drawer.

Bonus: We found the extra nail set we'd been looking for!

I even went through our electrical supplies. We still have to go through plumbing supplies.

And the result? This shining beacon of organizational nirvana. Now we just need to get a few more of these and we'll be in good shape.

And while we were doing all this, we were listening to The Drive on our favorite work site boom box. I usually listen to either XRT or NPR, but somehow the station got changed.

The day this thing goes will be a sad day indeed. I have such fond memories of it, that I'll probably have to bury it in the backyard and maybe even mark it with a little stepping stone or something. But let's just hope that day never comes.

Last summer, we realized that the boom box was older than our contractor and found that pretty funny. Funny how such a junky thing can be so treasured. Do you have any ratty old objects that you are attached to like this?

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Off to the Wood Shop!

This is the week Steve is going back to the wood shop. His first project is fabricating bed rails for a headboard and footboard set that my Mom purchased last year.

I don't have photos of the bed right now, but I will post them eventually. The bed is made of walnut and Steve and my Mom made a field trip last summer to Wood World. They spent about an hour going through wood and selecting the appropriate boards for this project. It was not inexpensive, but she got the bed at a yard sale for a nominal sum and its a charming walnut piece with some painted decoration.

We have a long list of projects waiting in the wings. I am most excited to finish the built-in shelving for our pantry. And the plate rack. And the sideboard. And the dining room chairs. You see, we won't be running out of material for houseblogging anytime soon...

Anyone new to this blog can see some of Steve's finished work in the sidebar. Everything he knows, he taught himself from books or from instructors at the wood shop.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Feeling Blue?

We all have our vulnerabilities and weaknesses. One of mine is getting into a bit of a funk in the winter. It's nothing serious really, but it's kind of a bummer (haha).
Out of curiosity, I googled the origin of the phrase "feeling blue" to see where it came from. After all, one could think of blue as a soothing color and feeling blue could then mean something like feeling peaceful.
But, when I saw the origin of the phrase, it makes sense.
I found the following explanation on a navy terminology website.
"If you are sad and describe yourself as "feeling blue," you are using a phrase coined from a custom among many old deepwater sailing ships. If the ship lost the captain or any of the officers during its voyage, she would fly blue flags and have a blue band painted along her entire hull when returning to home port."
Losing a comrade at sea- yeah that's pretty much of a downer and a ship bearing a blue lag and coming into port sounds pretty ominous too. It fits.
I know I miss working outside in my garden or working on house projects, which really dies down this time of year. I also tend to turn inward and find fault in what I am or am not doing in my life. The good thing is I know I am doing this and so I don't take it so seriously, but it still eats at me a bit.
I've been getting a bit more involved with our local Aldermanic election too, which is a double-edged sword. On one hand I meet neighbors and learn more about the issues. On the other hand, I see the meanness in politics even at a local level and it saddens me.
Part of what Steve and I are trying to create with our home is a sanctuary to retreat to. The times Steve and I are working side by side on a project all day on a Saturday, these are some of the happiest times I feel. Just being in the moment and just us and our dogs and our building. Our little world I guess.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

My Grandma's "2-flat"

As many of you know, over Christmas we visited my 93 year old Grandmother Tilly in England.

Grandma has lived in this "flat" since before I was born - a long time ago. When she and my Grandfather first bought it, it definitely qualified as a fixer-upper. There was no heat and she told me the kitchen had a dirt floor!

Grandma's flat is very homey. It's not a large home, but it has 3 bedrooms upstairs and a nice brick walled in yard.
We spent alot of time visiting in the living room and the kitchen while we were there. The above photo is my sister Kimberley, me, nephew Ciaran and my Mom.

Here's my Gran in the kitchen slicing apples for a sponge cake.
I hope when I'm 93, I am walking to the store to get my bread and newspaper and able to walk up a steep flight of stairs like my Gran does.
Just thought I'd share...

Monday, February 05, 2007

Winter surprise: a (short) bird story

I know many of us on houseblogs seem to like bird stories, I know I do. For that reason, I'm going to share my little tale.

A few weeks ago, we were experiencing record high temperatures for January. All the snow had melted and daffodils were popping out of the ground in confusion.

One morning I looked out front and saw of all things a robin! Now to me, a robin is a much better omen than a groundhog any day.

I don't know how many of you recall the scene in the film Blue Velvet in which Laura Dern talks about robins. I guess it made an impression, because it's kind of stayed with me all these years.

When I saw this robin, I said to him, "fella, you are definitely confused."

Weeks passed and now the temperatures here in Chicago are at record lows. This morning, it was 7 below zero and that doesn't even include the wind chill.

So on Sunday morning, when I saw this little guy hanging out in my neighbors yard by the holly bushes, I was concerned.

This is case in point why having birding books handy is a must for me. Steve and I looked up robins in our "Birds of Chicago" reference book and found out that some robins do actually winter here. But these aren't the same robins you see in the spring.

These robins are from the north- think Canada. This weather is balmy to them. I can sleep better now. I'm going to be keeping my bird watching eyes on him now too.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Don't be jealous

You too can buy your very own artwork from the Devil Queen!
I'm an admirer of both his blog and art work and now I have a little piece of the Devil Queen that will reside right here in the 2-flat.
Kind of nice to support a fellow houseblogger too.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Meet the Basement

Ever since we had the post replacement last May, things have been pretty much in disarray in the basement. Believe it or not, Steve used to have his office down there. Happily, he now has moved up the world and his office is on the 1st floor den.

What you see here is where his office was. We had rugs down and less junk, but it was pretty dismal. Especially because there was no natural light. So this summer, when we were adding windows, I insisted that we put a new window into this room.

Before, this window was boarded up and Steve had a huge cork board over it. It is amazing how much nicer a space is with some natural light.

As you can see in this photo, our foundation is stone with brick above it. When we finish the basement, we have the choice of covering the stone and brick with drywall or we could sandblast all of it and leave some of it exposed.

We know someone who did this and it looks nice. Of course, you'd lose insulation, but we were thinking of putting in radiant flooring and that would certainly help with warmth.

Here you see why brick should not ever be painted- a little thing called efflorescence.

Today, we swept and used our new shop vac to clean up as well as threw out as much we possibly could. We are trying to get rid of anything we don't need.

We also installed the shop vac finally. We selected the StorNGo by Ridgid because it doesn't take up alot of space and has 5 horsepower.

I was also on a mission to remove dead wiring and random nails and screws that have no use anymore. Getting rid of all the remnants left from all the hack jobs done in the past makes me feel better.

I'm really not sure how we are going to approach the basement renovation. I have some ideas for cleaning up certain areas that would just be temporary. No basement dig out is imminent as I've said before.

Currently we have some kind of tile on the floor that's been painted over. Underneath that is poured concrete. Of course, it's not unlikely this tile contains asbestos too.

I wouldn't want to scrape the tiles up myself until I have them tested and see what I'm dealing with. It would probably take me a long time and that's the kind of job you want over quickly.

The basement stairs have one coat of brown paint on them. Underneath this is solid oak. I have had the notion to strip them sometime when I'm in the stripping mood- probably not till we can have the windows open again though.

This is the view from our den to the basement. All this is original plaster and it's in decent shape.

I have also had the notion to repair the plaster where it needs it and paint the walls here. I mean why not? It would look cleaner and freshen it up.

Although I've thought of replacing the staircase with a spiral one that saves space, part of me likes keeping the original stuff. Especially when it's solid oak and in very good shape.

Oh, by the way, in this photo you can see who the real pack rat is around here. That stack you see are annual reports that are just a portion of what Steve has for reference for his work!

Anyway, this is just one side of the basement. The other side has the boiler, water heater, laundry room and lots more storage space. Alot of space to be claimed, which is why it is so tempting.

p.s. Greg, we didn't buy a Silent Paint Remover. I was planning to rent one from the hardware store this weekend, but when I went there, all of them were broken (phone first!). They told me that the switches were broken and that the company that makes the switches went out of business. That doesn't sound good and I may have to just use my heat gun now. I prefer to use the heat gun with outside ventilation and it is way too cold for that now, so this will have to wait.