Friday, September 29, 2006

A Stuck-Drawer Treasure?

We have awesome original closets in every bedroom with two drawers underneath. The drawers are deep- perfect for holding sweaters and other bulky items. While we were organizing winter clothing last night, I found one of the drawers in the master bedroom closet had been painted shut. My first thought was what an inconvenience this was. I got the utility knife and prybar (which happened to be handy in the next bedroom from opening painted-shut windows!)
and went to work.
Sean came upstairs, and he asked what we might find in the drawer... after all, the p.o. could have painted it shut with items in it, and then forgot about them.
Hmmm... that idea was intriguing.
She was a fairly eccentric lady.
We've found all kinds of other forgotten "treasures" in the house.
What could she have hidden there?
Sean started working on the other side.
The drawer was quite stubborn. We pried and it stuck.
Would we find more old-house history?
Secret bedroom items?
one million dollars?! (said in my best Dr. Evil voice)
The potential treasure we were sure existed in the drawer grew more and more fantastic.
When it finally gave way a good 20 minutes later, we both sailed halfway across the room from tugging so hard. And we found... empty drawer.
Isn't that anti-climatic.
But, we did note that if we ever want to hide anything in a very safe and secure place, we just
need to put it all in a drawer and seal it with a coat of paint!

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Creative Tool Use #478

The house might be winning if....
... you have more tools in the kitchen than you have kitchen utensils.
Let me explain.
Last night, Sean was making dinner... nothing fancy. (When you are working on your house, "fancy" these days is something that requires more than one pot to cook!) The 3 lbs of ground beef we had was frozen, and he didn't want to defrost the whole chunk in the microwave, just to put most of it back into the freezer. There was no knife in sight- no cleaver, no butcher knife...
So he grabbed what seemed like the next most logical item: the coping saw!!
And yes, he proceeded to "cope" the meat apart.
It did the trick, albeit a little unorthodox.
Good thing it'll go in the dishwasher!

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

3 down, 6... er, 9, I mean 11.... no, 14 to go!!

How did we get so many windows in this house?! OK, they were there when we bought it, but when you look at a house room-by-room, you don't notice that there are 22 windows in it!! Don't get me wrong. I love our windows.
But there are 22 windows to take storms off, 22 windows to paint, 22 windows to clean, 22 windows to put storms back into- 22 MORE storm windows!!! That's 22 storms to clean....
oh my, oh my.
We got 3 more storms on this weekend- And now that's 14 more to go. We can do two more tonite.

It might seem like a simple task- this putting storms back up. But no- there's quite a process. First we have to locate the correct storm frame (since painter just put them all in the garage in one big heap together)... Find the pieces that go with the frame (since painter let panes and screens come out of frames and didn't put them back together)... Clean the window panes and storm panes... Scrape paint splatters off the windows (because painter was REALLY sloppy)... Scrape extra putty off windows and storm frames (again, painter was REALLY sloppy)... screw the storm frame back into place... put the panes and screens back in the storm (provided we have FOUND all the panes and screen that go back into the storm....)
Ol' man winter- stay clear 'cuz we ain't done yet.
Indian summer- come on!!

Monday, September 25, 2006

Layman's Guide to Fixing Wood Rot

To a house made of wood, wood rot is like like rust on a boat- cancer. It can lurk silently, unnoticed for years, slowly eating away sills, joists, windows, siding...
We found our wood rot when we began painting the house. The scraping process is unforgiving to wood rot- the slightest touch of a scraper to rotten wood sends it crumbling. Luckily, we didn't find much rot in the siding. The window sills and trim boards were another story.

Fixing wood rot isn't hard, but it does take an understanding of important chemical products. And when you go to paint an old house, it is likely that you will find some. (DON'T just paint over it!)
Sean, the carpenter in the house, knew what to do when he saw the rot. Here's my "layman's guide":
Tools you will need:
* Wood Hardener or "Penetrant"
* Epoxy Filler
(see description and recommendation of brands below)
* Rubber gloves
* Disposible containers for mixing products
* Putty knife
* Sandpaper/ Sander
* Paint to finish
Products that restore rotted, severely damaged wood components are especially valuable for parts that cannot be replaced because of size, shape or other reasons. They are also helpful for parts that are particularly difficult to replace- like window sills.
Here's the chemical lingo:

The penetrant:
Reinforces, rebuilds, water- and insect-proofs wood by hardening after penetrating. Halts rot in windowsills, frames, structural and decorative parts, furniture, boats, columns, floors.

Epoxy fillers:
Like a structural adhesive putty and wood replacement compound. They are a high-strength no-shrink adhesive paste to fill, repair and replace wood and other materials in structures, walls, floors, furniture, sculptures. They are unaffected by water and insects.

Wood Rot Products:
Abatron's LiquidWood and WoodEpox
Advanced Repair Technology Inc.
Rot Doctor's Penetrating Epoxy and FILL-IT™ Epoxy Filler

The steps:

1) First, why is there rot in the first place? Check for the obvious - roof and plumbing leaks, and missing or punctured flashing. Look for stains and drip tracks caused by ice dams. Are eaves wide enough to prevent water from cascading down sidewall's? Are gutters poorly maintained or missing? Do finish grades slope towards or away from the foundation? Are foundation cracks admitting water? Is untreated wood in direct contact with concrete, masonry, or soil? Finding and treating the source of the rot is as important as fixing the structure.

2) Find out how bad the rot is. Take a scraper or knife and gently tap the rot until you get to solid wood. It's important to know how much rot you have and make sure you have an area appropriate for fixing. What's appropriate? When you take a look at the prices of the epoxies and penetrants, you'll get a sense of that! ;) (Our pics also give you an idea). If it's a really big section of rot, you will probably need to replace, rather than repair. If it is rot on a serious structural piece if the house (Joists, for instance), also consider replacement. If replacement is necessary and only part of a board is rotted, you can also cut and replace only that portion of the board to save materials and money.

3) Once you have the rot cleared away, you will need to apply the wood hardener, or penetrant, to all the remaining wood to stop the rot. Read the instructions of the product carefully. This needs to absorb and set, usually for about a day.

4) After you have hardened the wood, you are ready to apply the epoxy. Again, read the instructions for the epoxy you choose. This is where the mixing comes in, as most of them come in two parts and need to be mixed to harden. Use gloves! Apply the epoxy and work it into the shape of the wooden structure you are fixing. It's a little like working with playdough...

5) Let the epoxy dry- also about a day- before sanding. Sand it into the final shape, and it is ready for painting.

Voila! New wood. (Sort of.)

Wood Rot Resources (Highly Recommended!):
Restoring wood with epoxy
Wood rot repair

Friday, September 22, 2006

The window decision...

Ok, now after I started all that window discussion, we have finally decided (sort of) what to do with ours:
(I know you've all been holding your breath for this! ;)
We are taking a piecemeal approach. We are going to replace (yes replace!) the worst windows (but only 4 of them) right now (before the Minnesota winter hits!).
BUT don't despair, all ye fans of window restoratation, because we are taking a stab at restoring (yes, restoring!) the best ones next spring. Then, depending on how the restoring process goes for us, we'll restore the rest a few at a time- especially the ones with the stained glass.
So, hopefully we have the best of both worlds.
For replacement- we have carefully chosen Marvin Ultimate Double-Hung Insert replacement. These only replace the sashes and leave the original casings/frames intact. After a LOT of research, this is the product we felt is most historically accurate. They are 100% wood on the inside and out (NO vinyl or aluminum clad).
Yes, they are a little pricey. But they are also a really good quality window.
Thank you everyone who weighed in on this- I got the books you suggested and did a lot of research. It was all very helpful.
NOW- this leaves me with one final question- we will have four double-hung windows that are up for grabs for anyone who might want them. The replacement will probably happen in about six weeks. SO! If anyone in houseblog-land out there would be interested in having them, we are certainly interested in figuring out how to get them to you. Please let me know and I can post measurements, but here are pics to start:

They are all about the same size (35 " ish by 68 " ish) NOT EXACT measurements yet! Panes are cracked on two of them, and with one, the pulley mechanism is completely shot. But you could fix these things, I know. :)

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

You MIGHT Live in A Fixer-Upper If...

I loved this... (story of my life!)

  • You have had a piece of drywall sitting in your dining room for so long that you forget it is there and assume that it is part of your decorating scheme;
  • You subscribe or watch TOH regularly and can refer to the cast members by their first names;
  • The most exciting thing about your summer vacation is that you have new electrical and have your choice of which fabulous switch or outlet to use (who needs vacations anyways??);
  • You have a playlist on your iPod called "Workin' On The House";
  • When you go to an upscale shopping center you get a headache from all the pristine, perfume laden customers and you long to be back at Lowe's or HD where you actually feel more comfortable now (and this reality is sad and a total 180 from your former, pre fixer-upper self);
  • You consider going up and down the ladder a good form of exercise;
  • Not only is the piece of drywall part of your current decor, so are ladders, hammers, extension cords, drills, etc.;
  • People have stopped asking what you did over the weekend because they now know that the answer is usually: 'Oh, you know, we worked on the house.'
  • You have a thin layer of plaster dust over everything;
  • Due to a current project your microwave is sitting on the kitchen floor and instead of finishing the project asap and returning the microwave to its home, you just use it on the floor;
  • Sipping coffee and reading the latest on houseblogs has become part of your morning routine;
  • You traded in your sport car for a truck;
  • Collecting paint chips and scrutinizing the difference between "soft pumpkin" and "pumpkin cream" have become your new passions;
  • You have accidentally ordered a "sconce" instead of a "scone" at your local Starbucks (yes, I actually did this);
  • Sometimes you lay awake at night thinking about what to write for your next home improvement blog entry.
(Courtesy of Irvington Bungalow)

My Mother- Cleaning Queen

There is no question that any "House in Progress" is not the most immaculate house on the planet. Sure, there are rooms you can keep "clean"- there is a standard of organization you can try to maintain- but no matter how hard you try, the house in progress will NOT be as clean as a house that is not actively being repaired, renovated, or restored in some way.
I tried to tell my mother this.
My mother, who lives in Michigan, flew out to visit us this weekend and see the house for the first time. And, though I tried to prepare her for the chaos she was about to encounter, she was in no way prepared.
Now, to understand my mother's version of "cleanliness" you need to understand a thing or two about how I grew up:
* We were always required to make our beds before we left the house in the morning.
* No dishes were allowed to be left in the sink. EVER.
* My father vacuumed every single day, and sometimes twice if he was bored.
* My mother has always cleaned floors by getting down on her hands and knees and scrubbing- no new-fangled mops do the job as well.
* Laundry came immediately out of the washer and put into the dryer, and then was immediately folded and put away.
There's nothing wrong with any of this... it just doesn't happen in our house right now.
We're buried in frantically fixing wood rot so we can get paint on and storm windows back up before the Minnesota winter sets in.
So, the indoor-cleaning chores sometimes take a bit of a backseat on the priority list.
Now, my mom felt bad about not being able to help us move, and she was hoping to help us with something around the house, although she doesn't know a philips-head from a flat-head. But, when tufts of dog hair and a pile of unfolded clothes greeted her in the living room, she announced her calling at our house: she must clean.
At first, we protested- Surely, she didn't want to spend her time with us cleaning. She was a guest, and my mom- not a maid. Didn't she want to have fun?
After two days of protesting, we finally gave up. I showed her the cleaning supplies and let her go. And then I realized- she was having fun. She was helping us with something we needed, doing something she was very good at.
And, I have to say, it was a most helpful house-warming gift. It's quite a relief to not have to think about all the undone chores inside while we are finishing up outside. Our floors and our kitchen have never been cleaner.
And they may never be that clean again.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Hurricane Katrina: How Housebloggers Matter

Six months ago, I had the responsibility of leading a group of college students in relief efforts for Hurricane Katrina. We went to Biloxi, Mississippi six months after the storm hit, prepared to do whatever was asked of us assisting residents in the clean-up. The seven days we were there were some of the most intense, emotional, hopeful, heart-breaking days I've ever experienced.
Seeing first-hand the destruction of homes and devastation of lives was nothing I could have been prepared for.
As a nation, we paid eager attention to the area for several weeks- slight attention for several months... and then we lost interest. Two weeks ago, the one-year anniversary of the storm passed with barely a nod in the direction of the south, while hundreds of thousands of people's lives are still in chaos and may never quite reach "normal" again.
It seems that folks have a lot of "know-how" in terms of renovating, restoring, and re-building, so I thought I would call attention to the Relief Trip Link I've added to my page. I've also linked to short video clips of the past year's progress and the homeowners talking about the work that needs to be done. If you want to get a picture of what we experienced, I suggest downloading the "Long Slideshow".

We are all crazy busy with our own lives and our own houses, but folks in the Gulf Coast will be re-building for years. Individual homeowners and families like you and I are going at their rebuilding alone, many without any knowledge of basic home improvement, and the assistance they get from volunteers is priceless. Volunteers who know how to do simple things- like drywall or hang doors or frame closets or lay floor tile- are especially needed.
Consider spending some time assisting. There are many avenues out there to participate, including Hands On! Gulf Coast and Presbyterian Disaster Assistance. These are both great organizations that I personally had experience with while in the Gulf. If you are thinking about putting together a trip (or if several houseblogging folks want to put together a group to go together?!) I'd love to talk more about it.
Ok, off the soap-box... (*for now*! :)
Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

We Met Online...

In the past few days, Sean and I have been reflecting on our relationship over the past 10-ish months with a bit of giddy disbelief. At this time last year, we didn't even know each other.
In fact, we had both just gotten out of relationships and were only starting to think about dating again.

Enter (This isn't an advertisment for that site in particular- it worked for us then, but it's also changed a lot since then too.)
He *winked* at me. I took a look at this profile. He was handy... a carpenter by choice. He had a dog... had liberal politics... was pretty cute in his picture. All big pluses in my book. So I wrote him a short email. And he wrote back a longer one. He liked some of the same restaurants in my neighborhood... he had just been to the apple-orchard I was going to... we both loved the same home-made ice cream places in the Cities. He did agility with his dog!
We talked on the phone. Three nites in a row.
We set up a time to meet, but then I got stuck at work and couldn't make it.
We talked a LOT on the phone. Hours.
We finally came up with a time to meet- for dinner (normally against my blind-dating rules... but we seemed to connect so well that I made the exception.)
Mexican food.
I wore red. (I always wear red on first dates.)
He remembers the necklace I wore.
It wasn't one of those dates that lasted hours and hours into the nite like in Hollywood-land... I had to go back to work to screen a film for a student group and he had planned on just dinner also.
But it was a good date. A really good date. At work the next day, a friend asked how it went, and apparently I "glowed."
I told her (in my typical understated way)- "It went alright. I'll probably see him again."
That was 10 months ago.
Now, together, we have a house- a home- a family, of us and our dogs- thinking about a family that gets even larger- looking at our names side-by-side on contracts and deeds, thinking
wow... this is real.
this is perhaps the most real thing i've ever been a part of.
and certainly the best thing i've ever been part of.
10 months ago is so far away.

(I realize I'm supposed to be blogging about the house, but the house and our relationship are so intertwined that it seems like you would be missing part of the story if you didn't know how we got together and ended up with the house to begin with!)

Checking little things off the list...

Yesterday was a pretty low-energy day... I was recovering from a migraine and Sean had to work late, so I worked on some of the detail work that has been neglected in favor of the bigger projects.
* I touched up the paint in the master bedroom.
* I put up two pieces of artwork on the walls in the master bedroom. (Amazing what a difference it makes when you have things up on the walls- finally!)
* I finished putting up two shelves in the laundry room.
* I put the light switch covers back on in the kitchen.
Now all these rooms look a little more "finished".
Sometimes, checking the "little things" off your list is just as rewarding as finishing something big.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Choosy about paint colors? Join my club.

If you've been keeping track, we've done a LOT of painting. I'm the primary painter of the household- I actually LIKE painting. Sean does not. So, I (stupidly) volunteered to be the chief painter extraordinaire, as long as I got to pick out colors. He (wisely) agreed to that, as long as he retains color veto power.
Choosing paint colors for this house has become like an art form to me. It's a commitment. You LIVE with your colors for years. (Or you are going to spend your lifetime painting and re-painting.) The colors on the walls help define a room, define your mood, define the furnishings , the decor, the function....
I've probably spent as many hours looking at color schemes and samples as I have with a brush in my hand. The folks at Sherwin-Williams and our local Abbott Paint store know me by name. And my dog's name (gotta love dog-friendly paint stores.)
So, I thought I'd put together a little anthology of my thoughts on choosing paint colors...

* I crawled through websites when I was choosing colors- Those "paint-the-room" web programs on the major paint brands' websites are pretty cool. In the end, they were better at giving me ideas than helping pick the specific colors, but they are worth a visit.
You can find good ones at:

* Good paint stores have someone in-house that will help you pick colors for FREE. Bring in pics of your rooms, and you have a free decorator at your disposal (big box stores don't have that!). I spent a couple hours with a gal who helped a TON- she looked at my pics together, helped me define what I was looking for in each room, and loaded me up with samples. And you DON'T have to buy paint there to use the service (although if you do, they usually will give you a discount! Make sure you ask!) If you really want to spend a lot of time with this, don't go on the weekend- try a weekday afternoon or evening.

* It was worth spending $$$ on more expensive paint. The cheaper stuff took more effort and more paint, and in the end didn't look as nice.

* I LOVE Benjamin Moore colors. Mmmmm.
* I REALLY love California Paints historic palette. Get a complete brochure from a store.

* They now sell small vials of sample colors- this is the greatest invention since sliced bread. You can actually see how the color will look and compare a couple for a pretty reasonable price- and you get WAYYY more coverage than that little paint chip sample card. At first I thought it was a little extravagant to buy several small samples just to test colors. Going through three gallons of different reds for the dining room before we found one that worked made me re-think that.

* If the color you bring home doesn't look quite right when you put it on the wall, you can take it back to the store for an adjustment for FREE. It helps to be as specific as possible about what you would like done with the paint... Darker, lighter, more red, less pink... even if you have a color chip that you are hoping to move towards. Then they can add pigments and test them out to get the color you want. It takes awhile sometimes to do this, but a good paint store will do this without blinking. (This is why they know me by name...)

So far, I'm really happy with all the colors we have chosen (although the dining room was a vendetta!). I'll try to add the names of the colors we chose in another post with pics.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Girls' Weekend.... Painting

This weekend, Sean had a "guys" weekend, hanging out with two of his buddies at the lake. I could have gone, but I declined so I could have a "girls" weekend and hang out with Jessie, probably my closest girlfriend and another partner-in-house renewal-crime. We PLANNED to go camping, just us girls and the dogs, but we were deterred by the 50 degree weather and rain. Yes, we were wimps. The thought of being cold and wet all weekend just didn't appeal to us like it used to.
Instead, we decided to work on a house project. Jessie said she was in a "painting mood". And you NEVER turn down help from a friend who is in a painting mood!
So, we set to work on the kitchen. A side prioritywas to buy a portable dishwasher, since the task of doing dishes has become a nightly challenge for us. I thought that would be a nice surprise for Sean to come home to. And, THANK YOU, CRAIGSLIST!
I found a relatively new portable unit from someone who had only used it a couple of years- then got an under-the-counter one in their kitchen remodel. Lucky bastards. I can't wait until we can remodel our kitchen.
Ironically, the women I bought the dishwasher from lives in an old four-square herself and the windows guy had just shown up to talk to her about window replacement. I told her to give me a call if she wanted to talk about it later. (I think she thought I might be a little crazy, but I figured I would offer, since that decision has been my life in the past week.) So, we loaded that find up and brought it back here, and then we went to work on the walls.
The kitchen walls were really bad. So bad that we were originally planning on putting up drywall OVER the plaster because they were in such rough shape. They have been wallpapered, bordered, and cracked all over.
But, as projects have gone on over the past couple of months, we have realized that we are not getting to drywall in the kitchen anytime soon. And I can't take looking at the walls the way they are. So, we started by taking down the wallpaper border- probably the best of the borders in the house, but I still don't do borders. Then we got out the spackle and the sander, fixed all kinds of cracks and holes and uneven surfaces, and started painting.
In all, we did two walls in the two days (with some pizza and movies thrown in... we had to have SOME girl time), but considering the prep work that had to go into it, I think that's not all bad. I'll have some "after" pics up soon.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Brilliant Digital Camera Usage #4686

Or, well, at least I felt brilliant when I thought of this.
As a primer on the plumbing project: To replace the plumbing to the upstairs bathroom, we have to get replacement pipes up to the 2nd story. To avoid taking down walls, we want to feed pex tubing into existing walls, since it is fairly flexible. We thought we could use the same channel as the existing pipes in the dining room wall, via the 6 inches of open ceiling in the dining room, since there seems to be enough room between them to put in new ones. Our plan was to snake the pex down through the opening in the top of the wall where we took the dining room ceiling down. Except that we can't see what is in the wall, and when we tried to snake the pex down, there was clearly something IN THE WAY. :(

After trying to unsuccessfully drill through what we though was the wall plate, we were pretty discouraged at not being able to get up to SEE what we were doing.
After a little cursing and crazy brainstorming, we spotted the camera, and thought-
Yes! We could take a picture of what we can't see! The little camera could fit where we could barely even get the drill...
And it worked like a charm.
You are looking down the wall at the block between the two pipes. See the nails that are actually holding the pipe to the wall? And our attemp to drill another hole with a spade bit?
We aren't sure how thick the block is (we may try another strategy to get the pipes in now) but we are certainly going to keep the camera handy for the rest of this project and all the tight spaces that we can't quite see into just yet!

I was so excited at that discovery, I raced down the stairs to take a pic of another hard-to-see part of the plumbing project- it's over a support beam and up into the ceiling of the basement. I knew the pipes went from copper to gavanized at some point, but couldn't tell where or how they were fitted together, so I couldn't really plan my attack. But I have a great view now!

What did we do before technology? It seems like I wonder that on a daily basis these days...

Friday, September 08, 2006

The Painted Radiator

It's Friday and thought it's been a short AT-work week, it's been a long at-home week. We are trying to close the books on some outstanding projects out there. So, today I post a finished project: The Master Bedroom radiator!!
I read a few posts about elaborate things some folks are doing to strip and paint radiators... I was a lazy schmuck and spray-painted the thing.
I donned a respirator that is good for all manner of toxic substances, including asbestos and lead-based paint (not the flimsy N-95 ones, but the "Talk-like-Darth-Vader" kind), and scraped all the chipping and peeling paint. Toothbrushes and wire paint cleaning brushes work wonders!!
Then, after we disposed of the chips and dust, I went to town with the spray paint. I taped newspaper all around it, including around the feet on the floor. With two coats, any remaining lead paint was sealed up again.
And this way, I didn't have to unhook it or haul it anywhere to be stripped.

This is the second one I have done this way, and both turned out really well. I used a brass hammered-metallic finish on the first one, and it hides imperfections (ie imperfect scraping jobs) on the radiator well.
Voila! Project complete!
Here's the Before-and-After!

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Plumbing update

We are finally making some progress on the plumbing...
We have drilled part of the hole through the wall plate where the new pipes need to go.
Yes, PART of the hole. The spade bit we had wasn't quite long enough to make it all the way through the wall plate before we ran out of room for the drill, so I am off to the hardware store to get another bit- one that is hopefully a little longer (but not too long, or it won't fit in the space!).
THEN we can really get started!
To do this, we got a nifty new tool for the drill that allows it to drill down at a right angle.
It was a great alternative to getting a right angle drill, and works just as well (and was much cheaper).
And, now that we know we don't have asbestos in the ceiling tiles (thanks to that jackpot of historical info on the house!) we can take those tiles down in the basement to get to the pipes there.
Isn't it the "getting started" part of a new project that is often the hardest?

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Replacement window help

I posted a question in the discussion forum, but I don't have a good feel yet of which people respond to yet- posts or discussions. So, I'll post it here too!
Basically, I want to know what ya'll have done to replace your windows.
We have a whopping 26 windows in this house- all original from 1911- and we definitely need to replace a few of them before winter- we know we can't afford to do it all at once, but we want to make a long-term plan and are comparing products. One of our challenges is that we have stained and leaded glass in many of the tops sections of our windows (see pic) and we don't know how to salvage that with replacement. The best window companies have told us is to take the panes out and hang them next to the new window with eyehooks...

We are considering both Marvin Ultimate Double Hung inserts (pricey!!) and Marvin tilt-pacs...
advice anyone?
Has anyone ever installed the tilt-pacs themselves? Is it as easy as they claim? Suggestions on other brands, or anything?

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Cutest Dog Pic

I'm shameless about showing off cute dog things...
We did actually do some work on the house this weekend- I finished painting the bedroom radiator and Sean worked on the dining room window project, but we had a little fun too. You know this trick- it's the one where you stick a treat on their noses and make them wait for your signal to snap it up? Shadow has had this one down for awhile, but it's a new one for Hannah. And with summer sausage, it was a real challenge. They sat so still and stoic, we had to get a picture. Yep, that's little bits of summer sausage on the tips of their noses! They're just waiting for the sign!

JACKPOT!!! House records galore....

Ok, all you old-house owners out there...
You know all those things about your house that you just wonder about? You wish the walls could talk... to tell you if there's asbestos ceiling tile, or why on earth they decided to move the plumbing over THERE?
We just found a jackpot of answers.
Our previous owner left some stuff in the house- she moved out about six months before we purchased it, but it was "staged" for selling. She had intended to remove everything, but her mother had a stroke the day before closing, so she paid us a little extra to not have to move the rest of it out.
And now, two months later, we have finally gotten around to going through some of it.
There was a very nondescript blue bag with a lot of old-looking papers in it, and as I started going through it, I realized... this was TONS of house information from the past two owners!!
* Blueprint drawings from when they finished the basement, and the contract that specifies all the work they did AND materials used (1975)!!
MYSTERY #1 SOLVED: It IS asbestos floor tile. We figured.
But the good news- no asbestos in the celiing tiles!! YAY!!
* Blueprint drawings for the back porch... there WAS an entry out there at one time!
* Receipt for the boiler (1975)
* Receipt for the storm windows (1980-something)
* Repair receipts for plumbing, the boiler, the washer, the dryer (1970-1998)
* Contract for the last roof (1975) Wow- that roof was 30 years old. And it looked it.
* Contract for attic insulation (we laughed at that- it was never done!)
* Even the letter from the bank that states their loan amount and interest rate when they purchased the home (for $8,000 in 1967- doesn't THAT make you want to weep!)

Very cool to have found some of this stuff. Now we want to pry open the top of the stair column to see if there are actual house blueprints in it... Anyone actually find those in there?

Friday, September 01, 2006

The Dogs

I know I talk about the dogs a lot.
And really, they are fairly central to this story.
After all, Sean and I connected in the beginning partly because of our own dogs, and our love of dogs in general.
Now that we live together, we consider ourselves a family of four, two of whom have four legs.
So I thought they deserved a posting all of their own.

Hannah is my dog- a princess, for sure. She's a pound-puppy mutt- the best kind. Different people have told me she looks like she has all manner of breeds in her: Border Collie, Brittney Spaniel, Sheltie, Australian Shepherd, Beagle...
I got her when she was about six months old.... and I was about two months shy of finishing grad school- Jobless and next to broke, with no intention of getting a dog.
I went with Jessie to the Humane Society- she asked me to be her "voice of reason" as she picked out HER dog.
(Sound familiar, any of you dog owners out there??)

And there she was- sweet and energetic as any puppy. But quiet as could be- She was the only dog who didn't bark up a storm when we opened the door to the kennels. So I chose her to take for a walk. And then it was all over- I had to take her home.

Jessie, on the other hand, went home dog-less (although she got her Ellie-puppy about a week later.)

The way Sean tells his story, he ended up with Shadow in much the same way.
He stopped at a sign that said "Free Puppies" and came home with Shadow, just after finishing a semester during his undergrad years of college.

They are both diva dogs, used to all the attention, all the toys, all the fetch... so it took some getting used to to learn to "share" us. Now they are thick as thieves... and sometimes actually do some collective thieving (most recently the last chocolate brownie off the coffee table!)