Wednesday, September 2, 2009
Life has been so good to us this summer. Our house, yard and garden have become our retreat, our sactuary, our fortress against "the real world", that is to say, all of the facts, such as the fact that my fiance hasn't had a single day off from work in about a month, the fact that I have really complex classes starting fall quarter on a campus which my female brain (sans decent spatial reasoning skills) as of yet seems incapable of navigating, the fact that somewhere amidst this busy chaos we have a formal, intimate wedding to plan. These facts loom. Yet the warm breeze of the coolest summer on record still insists that global warming is by far the hugest hoax in history, and it makes me happy. Our big, cool house and its big cool rooms make us happy. I take solace in still another fact, not the looming kind, but instead, one of the reassuring variety: after an impossibly long and stressful day I will arrive home, here, to my own house, still collapse with a sigh into a warm bed in a beautiful room, and when I wake, this summer will be all but over, and I'll have the first fall of leaf-lined streets in my new neighborhood to look forward to.
Perhaps I am too optimistic, but I am compelled by everything that has ever happened to me to believe fervently in a benevolent universe, one in which mostly good things happen. And lately, mostly good things happen to me.
Wednesday, August 19, 2009
Sunday, August 9, 2009
You know what else is disturbing? A guy came to our house today to analyze our drinking water and made a glass from the tap look like Nigerian well water. Wow. Gross. It was rather unnerving to see all of the minerals, chlorine and sediments that are in the water coming out of our pipes. So unnerving, in fact, that I might be brushing my teeth with Culligan water tonight.
Seriously though, despite the hidden grossness, I count myself extraordinarily lucky that my water is as clean as it is. I mean the odds of me getting giardia from drinking my city water are infinitesimal and that is something I quite appreciate. However, eww. All the sediments and minerals and icky floaties this guy showed us in our water gave me the creeps. No wonder our water tastes like crap! No wonder it takes me a handful of shampoo to wash my hair! I was seriously considering investing in a combination softening/filtration system to clean and soften all of the water that we use in the house.
But is it worth it?
The salesman that came to conduct the test was (of course) also peddling the solution to our every water quality problem: a whole-house water purification system. It cost more than my car. However it is said to extend the life of water-loving appliances, like the dishwasher and clothes washer, as well as cut our costs on cleaning and soap consumption, as well as make our daily personal hygiene practices and household cleaning tasks "green", which simply means it would make biodegradable soap and cleaning products their most effective. It all sounded good. But I noticed our salesman/mad scientist had a few tricks up his sleeve. For example, when testing our water's hardness, he used the hottest water from the tap in order to ensure his sample contained sediments from our ancient gas water heater. I thought that was funny at the time, but now I'm really curious- how hard is the cold water that we use for 90% of what requires water, like cooking and clothes washing? I should have asked!
Alas! Amidst the noise of rushing water and clanking beakers, I was whisked away to Clean Water Land. Dr. Salesman had us wash our hands, one hand in the purified water and one hand in our icky water. I fell in love with the softness of my left hand, and discovered a fresh hatred for tap water due to the gritty feeling it left on my right one. He tested two glasses of water, one which was straight from the tap, and another glass of tap water which he'd had Jason swish his fingers around in. The tap water contained chlorine; the finger water did not- proof of how human skin absorbs toxic chlorine every time you shower, wash your hands, or wash your face! Save us, Dr. Salesman! He then went on to prove, through a series of simple tests, how poor a rinsing agent hard water is, how abrasive it is to clothing in the wash, and how much money we "poured down the drain" by using too much soap to compensate for our hard water, among other things. "This unit will pay for itself in just a few years! Think of your health!"
This company, which is endorsed by a major home improvement store, seems rather reputable. The water tasted good and felt luxurious compared to the gritty city water we drink and (attempt to) lather up in daily. But I'm torn. Is $5,000 (around $75- $100 per month for 5 years) a reasonable price for *better* water? Or am I just being lavish with myself? I mean, there are people in the world who contract unspeakable illnesses from their drinking water, and I'm concerned about the ~luxurious feel~ of mine?
Saturday, August 8, 2009
UPDATE: Our water is HARD. Almost as hard as water can get!
Thursday, July 30, 2009
Sunday, June 28, 2009
Despite this cucumber beetle situation, I simply could not bring myself to spray my plants with anything, not even a home-made organic solution like pepper spray or a diluted soap solution. The home's previous owners took perfect loving care of this garden and its soil since 1948, and I simply cannot bring myself to do anything to the plants and/or soil that might damage its quality. Our soil is famous throughout our neighborhood because it has been so well cared-for and expertly cultivated for so long. I simply can't risk changing it. Especially after how my pumpkins have taken off!!!
My pumpkins are growing like MAD. In just a few weeks, the two pumpkin plants in the back of my garden have reached out their little curly-cue phone-cord-looking vines and pulled themselves about eight or ten feet into my garden, sprawling out hugely into several of the spaces between the rows. Big, bulbous female flowers have started to sprout, which I can only pray will fill out into huge orange moon-like gourds come September. I am praying that they have really overcome the horrible onslaught of cucumber beetles, (the damage from which is evident in the picture of my pumpkins chewed-up flowers above.) But I suppose only time will tell. My success with this plant has so far been my only victory, which might account for why it makes me so happy. My neighbor's garden is really something to envy but my pumpkin plant is bigger than hers. She said she thought my pumpkin was doing great and I just beamed with pride. (Because I've never grown a pumpkin before and she really knows her stuff when it comes to gardening so I took it as quite a compliment! I think the only reason my pumpkin is doing so well is because of the conditions of my garden. Her garden is a little shady, and very full of other much more delicious and fruitful looking stuff, so the pumpkins don't have as much room as they might like to sprawl out in the brightness. My garden, on the other hand, has so much room and sun and good fertile soil, that even though I hardly do anything to the plants I've planted there, I can hardly contain my pumpkin. It's growing like a weed.
The other above-mentioned plants, however, are only doing so-so. Have I mentioned I know almost nothing about gardening?!
Tuesday, May 26, 2009
Our basement flooded* this past week and though we've had RotoRooter out to the house, black sludge keeps bubbling up around the drain every time the washer spins out. I suppose it's simply residual, and hopefully, it will go away soon...
On the bright side we have succeeded in:
-removing all wallpaper
-patching the plaster
-caulking several rooms
-finishing one bedroom
-"finishing" the bathroom
-painting the kitchen
Correction: My boyfriend, Jason, has alerted me to the fact that when I said "the basement flooded", some people might take that to mean that the basement actually flooded. As in 'severe water damage' as in a foot or more of water on the floor' or something to that effect. In actuality, however, a floor drain simply backed up a little and a puddle of water about 18 inches in diameter began to pool in the indentation around the drain. It was far from an emergency, but unsettling nonetheless! Sorry if I made it sound worse than it was!
Wednesday, April 22, 2009
Jason, an avid smoker, was taking a break on our back porch a few days ago when he noticed something moving near the garage. A bunny. It noticed him and froze. For several motionless, unblinking moments it simply sat and stared him down. That is, until Jason headed back inside to get back to work. A few hours later, right on schedule, it was cigarette time again. When Jason came outside, the bunny was sitting in the same spot! Later, Jason came back outside to get something out of the garage, the bunny was gone, and all that was left of him was a little matted patch of grass where he'd been sitting. A few days later, we realize he'd been scoping the place out. Only one sprout remains of my four newly-transplanted pumpkins. I can only assume that the bunny got them.
Jason has decided that, for the sake of my pumpkins, he must build me a raised-bed garden this year. Which is quite ambitious considering his knee is broken. Yesterday, when the refrigerator repair man came to inspect our vintage fridge, Jason somehow managed to sprain his knee bending down to pick up a piece of paper. So he was incapacitated for the majority of yesterday, had to call off work, and will probably have to stay home again today. Washing and patching the walls has been put on hold due to this unexpected injury, but I do have good news! I have finished painting the guest bedroom Sherwinn Williams' "Morris Room Grey" and got a first coat of "Rembrandt Red" on the bathroom walls, which I'll have to finish tonight. So far, things on the second floor are looking good!
UPDATE: One pumpkin completely recovered and I've planted two more! We should have the rest of our enormous garden tilled and planted soon, so stay tuned!
Monday, April 20, 2009
I bought a little cup of pumpkin seeds and seed starting soil from Lowe's about a week ago. It was like a little seed starting kit for kids, the kind just for them to see how plants sprout, then the parents toss them, you know? I thought for sure they were just baby pumpkin gourds. Turns out they're real pumpkins, and there are 4 of them sprouting in a Dixie cup on my kitchen counter as I sit here and type this. They are so crowded; I need to transplant them ASAP. It just might break my heart if my first pumpkins don't survive. I think I'll stop somewhere on my way home and pick up a little rake and trowel. I need to clear out some space to make some little mounds in which to plant them. I really hope they thrive. I think they will. Jason (the farm boy) said that his family had pumpkins when they lived on the farm and that no matter what they did they sprouted every year. That's good. I can't think of anything (except maybe painting and decorating our new house) that would make me happier than having a little pumpkin patch. It is my childhood dream! Of course I also have sweet corn, green beans, cucumbers, Chinese giant red peppers, California wonder green peppers, and homestead tomatoes to plant. I really need to get to work!
Sunday, April 19, 2009
Even more yuck: what I found underneath it. Mildew. Ugh.
I cleaned it up, though, and we should be ready for primer tomorrow! Yay!
BEFORE: beautiful old craftsman foursquare home in dire need of a total makeover with no one to love itAFTER: beautiful old craftsman foursquare home in dire need of a total makeover with only one overly ambitious, totally naive young couple to love it. (and we do!)
BEFORE: gorgeous stained glass window
AFTER: hideous leaded glass vinyl-framed window with what I'm fairly certain is a satanic symbol of some kind
BEFORE: really ugly wallpaper
AFTER: much more tolerable robin's egg blue plaster
BEFORE: pretty much the ugliest wallpaper ever designed AFTER: not so bad mauve-taupe plaster
BEFORE: an amazing feat of physics: an entirely wallpapered stairway- including the eight feet of vertical wall over the stairs. (though the most puzzling question is not how, but WHY? WHY?)
Insert a death-defying steaming session where man + steaming hot home improvement appliance + precariously perched step ladder miraculously does NOT = untimely death...
AFTER: Instead, it yields some of the world's most difficult-to-reach-with-a-paint-roller plaster, desperately in need of paint.
NEXT TIME ON 1926 Foursquare: something is lurking behind the pea-green wallpaper of the breakfast nook... stay tuned to find out what!
Thursday, April 16, 2009
So April 13, 14, and 15 were spent stripping wallpaper. Upon moving in, only three rooms in the house, (not counting the basement and attic,) were without wallpaper. The previous owners had graciously stripped the kitchen, and the smallest bedroom was recently stripped and/or freshly painted. And obviously, (or is it surprisingly? I cant decide!) the bathroom was not wallpapered. Other than these three rooms, the house was completely wallpapered. It's not just the main rooms and the bedrooms- it is in the stairway, the hallway, the closets- it is ON THE CEILINGS OF THE CLOSETS. It amazes me that a person could be so persistent, consistent, and downrights in love with wallpaper. The best part: it is all yellow. Even the seemingly pea-green patter of the kitchen wallpaper was peppered liberally with yellow! How? Why? It matters not! The only thing that matters now is our determination to rid ourselves of it!
And the process has begun. The first day, Jason removed almost every scrap of wallpaper from the living room and dining room. It peeled like a banana. He simply grabbed a corner and pulled, and it came off in sheets. Not so in the hallway, he found. that stuff is the texture of newspaper. The glue has penetrated both the paper and the plaster it seems. Same with the upstairs bedroom (the largest one, our future office). No amount of DIF will pursuade it to loosen its hold. So I, of course, chose that first night to tackle the most stubbornly wallpapered room, the office. It is AWFUL. I have not managed to uncover a complete wall. I have spent at least 20 ours scoring, soaking and scraping, and during 5 of those hours I had my sister's help! Yet such little progress! How depressing.
In taking a break from the office, however, I curiously entered our bedroom to find that the wallpaper in there is quite peelable as well, and that after only an hour or so of peeling, it is almost completely de-papered. Just what I needed to lift my spirits! At last! One completely de-papered room that I can take all the credit for!
This process will be long and arduous, but by move-in day, we are determined to have completely painted walls throughout our home. I remember when painting was such a chore... Now it seems like the icing on the cake!
__Things to Do__
By May 1, 2009:
-strip all wallpaper
-patch all plaster
-prime and paint all walls
-repaint kitchen and guest room
-remove kitchen cabinets as necessary
-install gas stove
-repair and/or install refrigerator
-sand kitchen cabinets for painting
As Soon as Possible:
-start vegetable garden
-screen attic vents (there are bugs coming in!)
-do SOMETHING about the landscaping
-scrape, sand, prime and paint entire exterior of house and garage
Some immediate problems we've noticed include:
1. There is nowhere to plug in an electric dryer, so we have to install the proper outlet.
2. We have some kind of mold in the plaster in the corner of the breakfast nook.
3. The coal chute (to nowhere) needs a new door/ possible insulation.
4. We have cable lines coming in through the strangest places, a dining room vent and the fireplace, for example, which need to be removed or relocated.
5. We need a new mailbox.
6. We need to repair or replace some of the window screens.
Nothing too major thus far, thank God!
This was what the living room looked like when we first walked in, including the "back hall" of the kitchen. This wallpaper must have been the envy of the neighborhood in the 1950s (it was meticulously, perfectly applied) but by today's standards, it is borderline grotesque. And look at the love seat: it's almost camouflaged!
This is the staircase just to the left of the view above. (Note the crazy tea kettle lamp!) This wallpaper (a different pattern from that in the rest of the living room decorates the staircase and the upstairs hall) seems extremely stuck.
This is the front door, which I love. It has so many different locks, two of which are quite antique and quite unstoppable. It has an old 1920s automatic lock that locks on its own each time the door closes. Note to self: never go out to get the mail in your bare feet and jammies!
This is our fireplace and gorgeous windows, on the other side of the living room, near the dining room doors. The fireplace, it turns out, was rarely used as a wood burning fireplace, but never should have been used at all, as its design will not accommodate the high heat. We are thinking ventless insert.
Beautiful french doors open into our dining room. I love its openness. One thing the realtor did not advertise: a stunning stained glass window of grapes and vines was built into the bump-out, which is obscured here by the door on the right. (I'll post pictures of it later.) It did not convey. I assume it was crafted by a member of the family, or at least was well-loved by the family, (who had owned the home since 1948) because they took it with them when we closed. They replaced it with an ugly, vinyl-framed factory-made leaded glass insert... but again that is a story for another post!
This is our kitchen (so tiny) but thankfully it comes with an adjoining breakfast nook that is a generous seven feet by seven feet. This wallpaper was a NIGHTMARE. It was thick and vinyl coated, so it was easy to remove. However it was greasy from years in the kitchen and left your hands feeling sticky and filthy. Eww. Not to mention it was a hideous pea-green village scene. Yuck! Anyway, the cabinets are three different kinds, two different colors (wood and white) and three different kinds of hardware. But I love the rounded shelves near the window so I can't bear to part with them. I foresee a lot of sanding and painting in our future! Aside from its daintiness, our kitchen is layed out in a very odd fashion. Once we put the stove in (the only place the stove can go given the outline on the linoleum and the gas line access) We won't be able to open the entire set of drawers on the left side of this picture. And even though we purchased a 1950s General Electric Spacemaker refrigerator, given the cabinet placement on the other side of the kitchen, even this tiny fridge won't fit! The space left for the fridge, (again, the only place to put it) is a little over 5 feet tall, which I only know because I barely fit under it, and I estimate it is only about 3 feet wide. Something will have to come out of that kitchen to accommodate it. That's all there is to it.
This is our bathroom. (Or rather our vanity.) I adore the little unpolished 1-inch porcelain hexagon tiles. But alas, their condition is too poor to salvage. Our lofty ambition is to replace the floor with similar tile and to put in a restored claw foot tub. I'll keep you posted on that one. Once you see the rest of the bathroom, you'll know just how ambitious our scheming really is!
This will be our bedroom. This wallpaper peeled RIGHT off to expose a rather pretty robin's-egg-blue painted plaster. There are little groove lines in places from a craftsman's trowel. I love these little imperfections too much to smooth them over! I really would like to keep them. But we'll see what boyfriend says, since it's his room, too!
And a darker, different-angled version of that same bedroom.
Also in the floor plan but not pictured are two additional bedrooms, 5 closets, an attic (accessed by disappearing staircase), a full basement complete with 9" asbestos tile, a shuffleboard court, and two "coal rooms" under the porch. But this is as we saw it online- the third day it was on the market. It was love at first click.
Tuesday, April 14, 2009
Introducing our 1926 Craftsman Foursquare home! Situated picturesquely in a quiet neighborhood in southwest Ohio, this gorgeous home was well cared for and well loved by the same family for decades. They maintained most of the home's original features, such as the original woodwork, (most of which is unpainted), the original wood siding and trim, the original (and expertly crafted, I might add,) three-over-one weighted hardwood windows, the original front and back doors, complete with original patina-ed brass hardware, and endless other details which are too numerous to list in this brief introduction, but fear not! For I will get to them eventually!