Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Fall Harvest

The frost has finally come, and out ahead of it, we picked the last of our vegetable bounty. We grew the usual suspects, mostly: cherry tomatoes, heirloom tomatoes, green and orange peppers, habanero peppers, basil, dill, oregano.... All of these plants did very well. This is the third year I've done a vegetable garden, and I feel like I learn more and more every year. This year, I tried something new: baby watermelon. I LOVE watermelon, and the thought of being able to harvest them from my garden had my practically dancing when I found the plants at the garden store. I nursed the plants through the summer drought and had two baby melons growing by mid-summer. Alas, the squirrels took one out, which left me with one. And here it is. Smaller than I had hoped, not as sweet as I would have liked, but a baby watermelon from my own garden, nonetheless. So I'll try again next year!

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

House History

When we purchased the house, we were eager to learn as much as we could about its history. Luckily, the house had been in the same family since it had been built in 1911, and the previous owner was happy to share her stories with us. Here are some of the more interesting details:

1) At one point, each of the upstairs bedrooms were rented out by different single women. One of them was a milliner (a hat-maker) and had the whole room decorated with hats.

2) The house next door was built for the original owner's daughter. It stayed in the family until the current owners purchased it. How'd you like your mom to live right next door?!

3) A late state senator was the ex-husband of the most recent previous owner, and the home hosted many DFL fundraisers and political parties.

4) There used to be a back door to the house. In the late 1970's, they finished the back mudroom and the basement and got rid of the back door.

5) The house has been a number of different colors, including tan, grey-blue, and pink!

6) Upstairs in the attic, there are wires that run around one of the dormers. After much pondering about what they could have been used for, our home inspector guessed they were old antennas used with old radios back before television. Sure enough, one of the owners came up to the attic to tune in the old-time radio for entertainment. These days we joke that the men go to the garage... back then, it must have been the attic!
It's kind of fun to think about someone sitting up there just listening away...

We were also able to find a copy of the original building permit from 1911 at the Ramsey County historical library!

Friday, October 19, 2007

Laminte floor, do not vex me!

Installing a laminate floor is not rocket science. I know this because I learned pretty quickly how to lock the tongue and groove together and gently tap panels into place. And I am no rocket scientist. Our kitchen floor went together very well. I can honestly say that I really enjoyed that project.

It works like a jigsaw puzzle, really. And I like jigsaw puzzles.

But this puzzle wants to come apart.

There is one seam in our basement floor that simply will not stay completely tight. It fits together like a glove until we get about four rows away, and then we look back and it has separated just a wee little bit.

It might have something to do with the fact that our basement floor is considerably less-than-level. A wavy line would be a more accurate depiction of it, actually. But I’m not sure “level” was a highly sought-after quality when they poured basement floors about 100 years ago.

The first time we saw the seam, we thought we might have missed it before. And we weren’t so far along that it was painful to go back and fix it.

(ok, it was a little painful. But we thought it was worth it to have it done right.)

And so we tightened it up, put humpty back together again, and continued on. And then looked over to that same very spot to find the teeny crack reappeared.

So, we (Translation: “Sean”) tore the laminate up and put it back together three times (now THAT was painful). And there is still a teeny seam in that same darned spot.

I think we are at the point where we have to live with it.

But it’s a basement, right?

More tin-ceiling wallpaper pics

Friday, October 12, 2007

We're at it in the basement... again!

Sean has lovingly finished trimming the egress window... I say "lovingly" because he does, in fact, love trim work. We used a laminate for the deep sill (to withstand any water or weather that may, in time come in the window) and birch for the rest. We may or may not stain. What do you think?
Here's the before and after:

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Historic Saint Paul pics

I posted a couple of weeks ago about the National Historic Preservation Conference that came to the Twin Cities last weekend. Turns out, folks were impressed with the efforts people are making in historic preservation here in St. Paul. PreservationNation blogger Sarah Heffern highlights some of what she saw. These pics happen to be taken just a few blocks from where I work! They also visited my neighborhood... Thanks to Historic Saint Paul for their organization of the Dayton's Bluff and w. 7th tours. I'm particularly obsessed with the Dayton's Bluff neighborhood at present because, as part of my work, I am working on a neighborhood immersion experience for work. There is a rich history in this part of the city, which is directly west from my neighborhood. Old house lovers... take a look at the photo tour and drool over some of these gems...

Monday, October 08, 2007

That thing you smell

So you go on vacation. You forget to take out the trash. You come home to a wonderful aroma or week-old trash reeking from your garbage can. Come on, we’ve all done it once or twice. You know the smell. Blech.

So, what if you haven’t gone on vacation? And you haven’t forgotten to take out the trash? What in the world is that mystery odor? And why is it getting stronger every day? Even though you have, in fact, just cleaned the garbage can with bleach. And taken out the trash. And cleaned the fridge…. The upstairs fridge, at least.

(This is a story that tells you we haven’t resumed our basement projects yet!)

We finally followed our noses to the downstairs fridge to find it hot and dark. Although death is usually indicated by cold clamminess, the fridge death was marked by a clear sense of warmth. Uh-oh. We only store freezer overflow down there, but at time of fridge death, the freezer overflow consisted of one full size turkey. We’re not sure how long it sat at room temperature in the dead fridge, but it smelled like death itself when we opened that freezer door. The turkey had started to rot and, well, ooze… I’ll save you the rest of the gory details. We promptly took everything out, cleaned it out, sprinkled baking soda around the whole thing. But it still reeks.

The fridge is only a few years old, and although it’s probably still under warranty, the smell is so bad we are thinking we might just need to get rid of it.

So I’m soliciting ideas. Anyone have suggestions on how to successfully un-stink a very nasty fridge?

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Sunflower Success

If you thought I was obsessed with sunflowers before the wedding, you should see me now. I have a bit of history with the sunflower. To briefly summarize: They were my grandfather's favorite flower, partly because they are the national flower of the his homeland, the Ukraine. As a little girl, I remember him pointing out wild sunflowers on roadsides. At about age 6 and approximately 3 feet tall myself, I marveled at their towering height and simple beauty in his small garden. To honor him, I chose them as the flowers for our wedding. And, to save money, we decided to grow them ourselves.
After some research, I ordered seeds and sowed away.
After that experience, I would highly recommend adding sunflowers to any garden. Here are my favorites: Strawberry Blonde

The Joker
These are all pollen-less varieties, so they work well for cutting.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Historic Preservation Conference

In October of 2007, Saint Paul and the Twin Cities area will host the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s National Preservation Conference. The theme of this year's conference is "Preservation Matters!" Hosting the conference provides Saint Paul a unique opportunity to showcase its historic character to a national audience.
For all you preservation buffs, take a look at the conference!

Also take a look at Historic St. Paul's website... the neighborhood tours are fantastic. It's also a great model of a community grassroots organization that was started with neighborhood historic preservation as a goal. If I'm lucky enough to get the time from work, you can find me on the Restore St. Paul tour.

Friday, September 21, 2007

The most exciting thing we did this week

Hold onto your hats. I’m about to tell you the most exciting thing we’ve done this week.

We bought a new alarm clock. Yes, this week has been a cliffhanger. But, this isn’t just any old alarm clock. To us, the newlyweds, it’s a rather significant symbol of unity… the dual alarms- “his” and “hers”, if you will- all combined into one sleek vertical unit sitting atop the bedside table, where two alarms previously took up twice as much space. It even has a built-in CD player, so we can find another use for the portable boombox taking up floor space by the bed. Our old alarm clocks were circa 1989… the same ones we used in high school, probably. In fact, you may be familiar with the rwaaaaaeeeeeeeeeepppp, rwaaaaeeeeeeeeeeeeeep sound that blasts from these ancient beasts. The new clock has a new sound. A more modern sound. It’s more subtle. A bit more soothing. Yet insistent enough that I still get out of bed to turn it off. It’s a small change, with a big impact. I grew up with the old clock. I woke up to it almost every day, slapping for the snooze button, dosing until the familiar reaaaeeeeeeeeeeeeep, rwaaeeeeeeeeeeeep jolted me to consciousness again. It saw me through college, my first job, graduate school, my second job…. If I had a schedule, it helped me keep it. A single girl, a single body to get out of a single bed. When we moved in together, our two ancient clocks stacked awkwardly on top of each other, each set for its own time, each with its own idiosyncrasies the other knew nothing about.

And so the change fits. The dual alarm is our new life. Two schedules, one sleek unit.

A new alarm really is a little more exciting than I originally thought.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Hello, how I missed you!

Hello again.

Life got a little crazy this spring, and work on the house all but halted. With not much to write about, I all but fell off the face of the blogosphere. But now we’re back. So, what did you miss?

Here’s the soundbyte version, with the end-of-story written first, since all the stories have happy endings, but they were not such happy stories in themselves.

1) My mom is doing great and just went back to work full-time!

Beginning of story: My mom fell and hit her head in a freakish incident, resulting in a traumatic brain injury. After several weeks of hospitalization several months of rehabilitation, she is well on her way to a full recovery. The in-between time was scary and stressful, and I have gained great empathy for anyone who has a loved one with a traumatic brain injury. Her physical and occupational therapists say that her return to work is nothing short of a miracle. Morals of this story: Protect your head and the heads of those you love. Believe in miracles.

2) My health is getting better and I am back to work full-time. And hopefully able to work on the house with more vigor soon.

Beginning of story: After battling recurring and unexplainable dizziness, weakness, and fatigue, I have found a doctor that knows what is going on. I was diagnosed with Postular Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome (also know as POTS). It’s a long and scary-sounding name, but what it really means is that my blood pressure goes haywire sometimes, dropping to freakishly low levels, while my heart races. It’s aggravated by changes in posture (not so great for working on a house.) The good news is that, with cardiac rehabilitation and some prescription medication, I am feeling much better. My job now is to eat as much salt as possible, drink gallons of water daily, and walk a lot, but slowly. Moral of the story: There are smart doctors out there... you just have to find them. And believe you will get better.

3) We’re MARRIED!!! That’s a happy ending to a happy beginning. We had a lovely wedding on August 25th , a lovely honeymoon in a place like heaven, and have happily adjusted to life-without-wedding-craziness.

In the midst of all this, we did finish a couple of projects. The upstairs hall got painted. The dining room was completely cleaned of any remains of the ceiling project. The drywall in the basement bathroom got finished. Most recently, I reclaimed our foyer from the mountains of extraneous packing material that comes from receiving wedding gifts. That may not sound like a home improvement project, but for those of you who have gotten married, I’m sure you understand. In the scheme of things lately, the house projects have all seemed small in the bigger picture. Don’t get me wrong… I love the house and can’t wait to finish that basement.

But we’ve also been enjoying a few blissful weeks of doing absolutely nothing.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Friends School Plant Sale!!

For all of you near the Twin Cities, take note... Stuccohouse has made the announcement, so I'll just pass it along: The Friends School Plant Sale is coming, May 11-13! If you like plants of any kind, you should check it out. Take a look at the "How-to-do-the-sale" section if you've never been before. I was a little overwhelmed my first time. I just got my catalog in the mail, and I poured over it like a kid in a candy store.... Since we're planting our own sunflowers for the wedding, we don't have room for much more, but I'm sure I'll find something I can't leave without.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Show me your fences!

If I am be so bold to ask...Where did you get your fences? Did you buy them? Online or in a store? Build them? (And how much did it cost you, if you are willing to share...)
Right now we have an ugly chain-link fence that is waaaaaaaay past its prime. We are going to be having a lot of company for the wedding in August, and it would be nice if we could do a fence upgrade by then. But we weren't exactly budgeting for that now...
Our house is on a corner lot, and we have some fence "restrictions," in the front yard's corner, given the line of sight traffic needs to be able to see any cars coming. The front fence is limited to 3 ft high, and the side yard fence is limited to 3 ft. high for the first 6 ft. onto the side street, and then it's limited to 6 ft. high after that. It's a little complicated, but the nice city-fence-permit man sent us a great diagram.
So, anyone have suggestions for fences that:
1) Go with our house style
2) Is see-through enough for traffic sight-line on the corner
3) Can be adapted to be different heights and not look wierd from the front to the side yard?
4) Is fairly affordable (yeah, what does that mean?!) and perhaps maintenance-free
We've decided we don't want a privacy fence all along the side yard, even after we aren't restricted for height. It would block too much light for the garden I want on that side, and it might give any unsavory activity on our corner a little too much privacy on the street-side.

We like the fence on the cover of TOH's current issue:

And I found these pics that I like, but not a lot of other details.
Hmmmm.... what do you think?

Friday, March 23, 2007

Tin-Ceiling look-alike contest

We're pretty proud of our new dining room ceiling. It was, before we moved in, an icky dropped ceiling hiding a huge plaster mess.
NOW, it's a tin-ceiling look-alike.
See, we reallyreallyreally REALLY wanted a tin ceiling somewhere in the house. They're just cool.
And we like cool things.
But when we priced them, there was no way they fit into our budget. Unless we sacrificed something like, oh, eating for a year. And there are very few things cool enough for us to sacrifice eating for. So, plan B: Textured wallpaper + copper metallic paint. Voila! Tin ceiling! (Sortof.)
We purchased the wallpaper at Menard's, but it's widely available online as well.

After the wallpaper was in place, we painted it with Copper paint.
Total cost, including wallpaper, paste, and paint: $200.
Total cost of real tin ceiling: $2500-$3500.

Here's a brief summary of the steps (a more complete guide can be found here.)

1) Hang the wallpaper on the ceiling. This is a two-person job, and a scaffold is VERY helpful. The wallpaper we got was prepasted, but they recommended that we use additional paste, since it was going on a ceiling. We prepasted, booked the wallpaper for the appropriate time, and began to hang, one piece at a time.

2) Carefully line up the seams of the wallpaper- this is probably the most tedious part of the project. We found the easiest way was to have one person in charge of lining up seams, with the other person firmly pasting behind. You have to move fast so the paste doesn't dry out!

3) Schedule a massage to soothe your sore back and shoulders from the wallpaper-hanging -on-the-ceiling process. (I'm not kidding- you'll need it... and deserve it- think of the money you are saving!)

4) Use a paintbrush or small, thick-napped roller to apply the paint. We found that, with the texture, we needed to roll on the paint, then use the brush to get the paint evenly into crevices without glops. Again, a scaffold is very, VERY helpful.

5) Have friends over to see if they can tell it isn't real! (This is the fun part!)

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Jeremy and Teri are Moving to MN!!

This is an exciting post for me- For those of you who don't know me personally, here's a synopsis:
I moved from Michigan to Minnesota about 6 years ago to attend graduate school. I loved the Twin Cities, so I stayed. My family lives in Michigan, and they don't get out to sunny Minnesota very often, (despite my consistent recruitment!) I have been lobbying both of my brothers (as well as various friends, and oh yeah, parents) to move out here. For a brief instant, it seemed like I might have a chance with my brother Jeremy, when he applied to medical school at the University of Minnesota and at Mayo Clinic. But, alas, he stayed in Detroit for medical school, lives next door to our other brother, and an hour away from our hometown- which is TWELVE hours from me, by car.
BUT NOW!! He is graduating from med school and had to choose potential places for residency. Again, the University of Minnesota and the Mayo Clinic made the list. He interviewed at 13 places, and finally got his match- the MAYO CLINIC!!!
So, my brother and sister-in-law are bound for Rochester, MN, about an hour-and-a-half away from MEEEE!!
I'm pretty excited.
And now I'll have help recruiting everyone else.... Christopher? Mom? Dad?

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Living room additions...

Who says hand-me-downs are second rate? We just got a very comfy easy chair from Sean's parents to help complete the living room. After we got that all positioned, we decided that the short bookcase in the opposite corner was just a mess. And with the living room so close to being done, we just had to go get a different bookcase. Right then.
So, off to IKEA we went.
I know, I know...
Yes. For our budget and space, they got what we need.
So, behold: Orange chair and new bookcase!

Friday, March 16, 2007

Sound-Proofing with Mass-Loaded Vinyl

Is your old house noisy too? I'm not just talking squeaks and creaks in the floorboards- we're used to those. I'm talking about being able to hear a whispered conversation through the walls. Or floors. Which is not so much a problem for just Sean and I- but wethinks that when we have someone renting out the basement, we want a wee bit more privacy.
So, I started looking in to how to do some sound-proofing.
The solution: Mass-loaded vinyl attached to the ceiling. What the heck is mass-loaded vinyl anyway?
Well, let's do some word-deconstruction here.

Vinyl: Any of various typically tough, flexible, shiny plastics, often used for coverings and clothing- and especially records.

Mass: A property of matter equal to the measure of an object's resistance to changes in either the speed or direction of its motion. The mass of an object is not dependent on gravity and therefore is different from but proportional to its weight.

Mass+Loaded+Vinyl: Very very VERY heavy flexible vinyl (b/c it's loaded with lots of mass, apparently). That's the laywoman's explanation.

Ok, end of physics lesson. (More info on the product here.)
The real story here is that, after a bit of internet research, we (read: I) decided that MLV was the optimal solution. One sheet of it, under drywall, can give a wall an Sound Transmisson Class of 51- which is apparently pretty darn good. Sean looked at my research and agreed, and then he went to go pick up our order. Good thing he took his brother and a heavy-duty truck. They told us it was heavy, but we didn't realize how heavy. About 200 lbs. for a 200 sqft roll.
So they brought it home.
They lugged it down the stairs.
And then they looked up and asked: How the heck are we going to get this heavy stuff up on the CEILING?!?

See, everything I read about installation suggested installing it under floors. That would make sense if we were re-doing a floor, but we aren't. We have access to basement ceilings, and we aren't about to tear up the hardwood upstairs. The gentleman I spoke to assured me that this type of installation would work- but it would require more manpower. More manpower, indeed.

After we did the kitchen ceiling with a makeshift lift made out of 2x4's, we decided we need to rent a drywall panel lifter for the big room. I had enough of holding up heavy, clumsy vinyl with my head and arms while Sean wielded the drill as quickly as possible. (And he had enough of me yelling "Hurry- umm, hurry, my arms are going to FALLLLLLL OOOOOFFFFFFFF!")

About the product: everything I've read about it sounds great. So far, we think it will make a really big difference. Keep your ears open, and when we're done, I'll post an update for you.

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Egress Window- Do as we say, not as we do.

You may remember reading about the "Big Hole in the House" a few months back and wonder how that story ended. Note in the "after" picture to the left- there is a window! But for anyone out there thinking about putting in their own egress, read on...

We started the egress project on a warm Saturday in December. (Yes, thanks to global warming, even frigid Minnesota has warm Saturdays in December!)
Although we had never done this before, we had good instruction- (See How to Install an Egress Window) and we thought we could do it.
A simple summation of project tasks:
1) Cut a very large hole through a 100 year-old, 18 inch limestone foundation.
2) Frame in the window
3) Install the window
4) Seal the window
5) Attach the window well to the foundation

We thought it would be a two-day project: one day to cut the hole and another to put the window in and seal it (We already had dug and prepared the hole in the ground for the well).

We thought we had the right tools.

We thought we knew what we were doing.

And we were very wrong.

Day 1:
Our first cutting tool of choice was a 12 in. concrete saw, rented from our local tool rental shop. Our instructions recommended either calling a professional to come cut the hole, or renting chainsaw with a diamond blade.
Well, this was a do-it-yourself job, and we weren't calling anyone to simply cut the hole. And when we found out diamond blades cost about $400, we laughed, defied instruction, and proceeded to rent the normal blade to cut the hole ourselves.
Now, if you do the math, an 18 inch foundation and a 12 inch concrete saw don't quite match up, as 12 in. concrete saws only actually cut 5 inches in.)

Part of the problem, we discovered, is that limestone is such a soft stone and it crumbles very easily. So, with the vibration of the saw coupled with the not-so-smooth normal chainsaw blade, we ended up with a very jagged cut, and only partially through.

So, our second tool of choice was a hammer drill.

This is the part where you can laugh at us if you want. Please laugh at us. We deserve it.

We used the hammer drill to break through and chisel the hole. Result: We got the hole we needed. But again, a very very very jagged edge. Not so conducive to nailing a frame for a window. That was the end of Day 1. And we were not happy.

Day 2:
Brainstorming begins. We thought we could smooth out the sides of the window by mixing our own concrete to patch the jagged edges. We used a few creative options to try to get the wet concrete into the small crevices and up against a smooth surface to cure. That only "sort-of" (read: not really) worked to give us a good enough surface to nail into. We didn't know what to do next. So we cursed. End of Day 2.
And, oh yeah, the warm December weekend was about to turn really, really cold.
Cold and concrete don't mix. So, more cursing.

Day 3:
We called the "professionals"- ie, the people who really had the right tools. But even then, they had differing opinions on how best to handle the problem. It was clear that a couple of the guys we called were as stuck as we were about what to do next (not that it made our egos feel any better.) The guys that ended up helping us finish the job were true professionals. Having done about 2000 egress windows in old houses, they had come up against this challenge before.

They dug a bigger hole in the ground, smoothed out the edges of the hole in the wall, then framed, installed, and sealed the window, and attached the window well. A big bonus: their work comes with a warranty. So, if it leaks, they come fix it. It did cost us a little more than we had planned, but in the end, we are confident that we have a job done right. And, considering the things that can go wrong when you put a big hole in the foundation of your house, we are pretty happy it ended up this way.

Moral of the story: Call the pros, or rent the diamond blade. They weren't kidding.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Guest Bedroom FINISHED!!

When my brother and sister-in-law announced they were going to be staying with us for a week while my brother interviewed for medical residencies in the area, we knew we had to finish the guest bedroom. It had been our room while we worked on the master bedroom, and we hadn't touched it since we moved out. I had the paint, so I went to town weeknites after work.
The color isn't showing up quite as rich on the computer- it's Benjamin Moore's "Whipple Blue" from the Historic Collection.
Add artwork, a new rug, and, oh yeah, make the bed, and viola! Guest Bedroom FINISHED!!

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Puppy pictures, and oh yeah, the house...

Ok, before I start, I had to share these. We think she might be a mix of Bernese and lab. Any other ideas? We know the Bernese for sure, but nothing else...

So, you wonder how the whole renovating-a-house thing is going with the arrival of the new puppy? Well, we DID actually make some progress this weekend. Granted, it's not as much as we would have done pre-puppy, but we are still moving along. I built one (1) IKEA kitchen cabinet.
And I painted one (1) kitchen wall (not the most earth-shattering accomplishments, I know, but the wall did take 3 coats of red paint.) Sean did a little more- He finished sheetrocking/taping/mudding the last kitchen wall and helped his brother finish the basement lighting. Since the main basement room is so big, we divided up the lighting into two zones on two dimmer switches to create the illusion of two separate spaces. I need to take some more un-puppy related pics and I'll add them.
AND now we can insulate and finish ANOTHER ceiling!! (If I never have to do ceilings again in my lifetime, you won't hear me complain.)
Tonite my goal: One (1) more IKEA cabinet. (Hey, they say you travel a road by taking one (1) step at a time....)

Friday, February 16, 2007

Yes, we're crazy. And in total puppy love.

**Addition** Sean has started a "New Puppy Blog" for all you dog-lovers! Puppy advice greatly appreciated!!

For those of you who haven't heard the story yet, we have a new addition to our family. As it happened, on Sunday, on my way to the grocery store, a yellow lab ran out into traffic and nearly got hit. I stopped and opened up my back door, and he bounded right in. He didn't have a collar or any tags,so I took him up to the humane society. While I was there, I decided just to take a look at the puppies.

Well, it just so happened that they had a new litter of 6 Bernese Mountain Dog pups. Which is what Sean and I had decided we wanted once his dog, Shadow, passed. These dogs are hard to come by, and they are pretty expensive. And so, the long and short of it is-

After 3 days of discussion about whether we are crazy to consider another
dog or not (the verdict: yes, we are crazy, but we love it.)... Here she is! (and another
happy ending to the story- the yellow lab got picked up by

its owners the next day. :)

To see more info on Bernese Mountain Dogs:

Ours is NOT purebred- her littermates had more brown color in them than she does.
We aren't sure what she's mixed with, but we have never cared much about pedigree.
Any guesses?

More pics to come...

Monday, February 12, 2007

Poll: Are we crazy?

We are thinking of getting a puppy. We've been talking about this for awhile, since Sean's dog, Shadow is getting on in her years (she's 10). We know we would get another dog when there's no more Shadow... (although she is in decent health right now). And we've thought about different breeds and done some research- deciding a Bernese Mountain Dog is one of the top contenders. And NOW our local Humane Society has a new litter of 6 Bernese Mountain Dog pups. They are mixed and look like they may be mixed with lab (the pics are labernese). It's a long story about how I ended up at the Humane Society and stumbled upon them, but the question at hand now is.... do we get one??
Two dogs... a puppy... the house... a wedding....
are we crazy for even considering it?

Friday, February 09, 2007

The Blog Has Been Dark and Quiet...

Yes, I have been absent from my blogging. If you are wondering where I've been, well, we've been planning a wedding. We made a promise to ourselves when we got engaged that we were not going to make wedding planning the focus of our lives until the wedding (we do have LIVES, after all), so we vowed (nice pun, huh?) to get as much planning done as soon as possible. Then we could get on with our lives. And our blogs. And our house projects. Which, namely, is THE BASEMENT, currently.
So, we have planned, and the planning is nearly complete. At least the big stuff, anyway.
I'm going to spare all you housebloggers the agony of reading through endless posts about the wedding planning process, but some of it has proven to be good writing material. So, if you wanted to check out the new "Wedding Blog"- you can find it all there.
Here's the only thing I'll cross-post. I promise. And then back to all the juicy details about the new lighting in the downstairs kitchen... :)

The Anti-Bride Plans a Wedding

Those of you who know me know that I have been decidedly anti-bride pretty much my whole life. Now, by "anti-bride" I don't mean I am against getting married, or against weddings as a whole. I am just not into all the hoopla that a "having a wedding" has become.
It makes makes me a little ill that there is an entire "wedding industry." It makes me even more ill to know that we, as a nation, spend the equivalent of the gross national product of small countries on these events. AND it makes me even MORE ill that there are those people out there (you know who you are) that knit-pick every teeny-tiny detail of each wedding "extravaganza," comparing one to another and deciding which events were "fabulous, dahling" and which were just "blasse."
Weddings have become a status symbol.
But not ours.
Oh no.
After being an anti-bride for nearly 30 years, I am now getting married.
And I'll be damned if I am going to be that bride.
Here's my day-by-day story as I try to stay calm, sane, and most importantly real about the whole thing. Cheer me on. I might need it.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Great Realtors in the Twin Cities

I've been meaning to write this post for awhile to give kudos to two very important people- our realtors. Finding a good realtor isn't easy, especially if you're new to an area or are a first-time buyer. So, please allow me to introduce Jay Theriault and Ruth Hjelmgren, the husband-and-wife realty team that assisted us in the purchase of the home you are reading so much about.
You can find their resume, etc at their website, but here's what you really need to know, from a real person who has worked with them:

* They know the Twin Cities, and especially St. Paul, like the back of their hands- they have been doing this for a long time and understand the local market very well.
* They live in an old historic home that they restored themselves, so they know a thing or two (or a million) about old houses.
* They really do listen to your needs and wants. They help you prioritize. And, they are realistic and pragmatic about the pros and cons of a property, new or old.
* They have the "know-how" to guide you through every step of the way. They have even been a resource to us after the sale, above and beyond the call of duty... Calling to make sure we filed our important tax paperwork with the county before the year's end, and helping us trouble-shoot house disasters, like our sudden loss of hot water.

We've had a lot of experiences with a variety of service providers on our house-restoration adventure so far, and when we find really good people, we feel like you should know.

Monday, January 22, 2007

R.I.P Dining Room Scaffold

Some of you probably have dining room tables. We, on the other hand, have a dining room scaffold. The dining room scaffold is the first piece of "furniture" we moved to the house. Originally, it served the purpose for which a scaffold is intended: providing a safe and efficient way to work on high spaces. We put it up to work on the dining room ceiling project, which began several hours after we closed on the house.
Now, exactly seven months later, the scaffold has become a permanent fixture in the room. We have eaten on it, rested on it, stored things on it, had nervous breakdowns on it... in fact, it's hard to imagine the dining room without the scaffold, since we have never lived in the house without it there.
Now, I'm not so fond of the scaffold. It is the most obvious indication that our house is on the verge of being zoned a construction site. But I've come to tolerate its existence in the dining room.
(Ironically, we do also have a dining room table. It's just presently living in the living room.)
And now, the dining room scaffold days are quickly coming to an end.
See, the old drop ceiling has come down.

The damaged plaster (read: entire plaster ceiling) is gone.
There is new electrical wired for new dining room lights.
There is new plumbing in place between the dining room ceiling joists (for the upstairs bathroom).
The new drywall is up, taped, and skim-coated.
The nifty textured wallpaper designed to look like a tin ceiling is in place.
It's now painted with a cool bronze-copper color, thus achieving the tin ceiling effect.
AND the crown molding is stained, poly-ed and starting to go up.
Yes, we are in the very very final stages of need for the dining room scaffold.

And very soon it will rest properly in the basement, until called upon again. And I will once again be happy-dancing.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Food for Thought

A completely un-house related post:
This signature line on an email resonated with me today...

"We are living in a time of unbearable dissonance between promise and
performance; between good politics and good policy; between professed and
practiced family values; between racial creed and racial deed; between
calls for community and rampant individualism and greed; and between our
capacity to prevent and alleviate human deprivation and disease and our
political and spiritual will to do so. What can we do about it?"

~ Marian Wright Edelman

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

5 Things You Never Knew...

I've been "tagged" by Andrea at Litterbox House. (Thanks for thinking of me! :) I didn't realize this, but "tag" is a blog game where you have to reveal 5 things about yourself that other people probably don't know. I feel like I blab about nearly everything here, but I'll try to think of some new material for ya'll. (note: this is "5 Things You Never Knew About Nadja"- Sean would have to write his own...)

1) I've never driven anything other than a stickshift (manual transmission). And I actually have a hard time driving a vehicle with an automatic transmission. I nearly put my left foot through the floor trying to find the clutch that isn't there. And when I'm stopped, I forget that if I don't keep a firm foot on the break, the car creeps forward. ("Hey, why are we moving? Oh! Wait! DOH!")

2) The only place I have been overseas is Sweden. (I feel WAAAAY undertraveled after reading some of the other "tags"!). After college, I had a roommate from Sweden. It was one of those things where I posted an ad on the internet, she answered it, and we ended up becoming great friends while living together. When she went back to Sweden, I went to visit for three weeks- one of the best vacations I've ever had. I felt like a guest- not a tourist... Her 4 year old nephew taught me Swedish, we borrowed a car and drove for 10 hours down the coast, we stayed up all nite and the sun never set... it's a beautiful country- I highly recommend it. Perth, Australia and Tuscany- Italy are on my "places I need to go before I die" list.

3) I'm addicted to "Friends" re-runs. Ok, I was addicted to the show when it was on. Now I can watch several hours of re-runs in one sitting, without even realizing a few hours has gone by. In my defense, I am often multi-tasking when they are on.... painting the dining room ceiling, staining trim, cooking stew, cleaning house...

4) I'm pretty political, and I'm a complete news junkie. I like a newspaper, or two, or three every morning. And a jolt of news on TV when I get home. You can find me reading political blogs, doing midnite madness literature drops on the eve of election days, attending lobby days and rallies at the state capitol. But I'm fairly quiet about my opinions on political things unless you say something to really piss me off. :)

5) I want to write a book about my grandparent's lives someday. I don't know whether you would call this a memoir (since it's about someone else?) or just a type of creative nonfiction... but their story is one of the most incredible I've ever heard. While fleeing the Ukraine, they were captured by the German army and worked in German labor camps in captivity until Germany was liberated. They came to the US in the early 50's as displaced persons, and they built a life for themselves and their two kids (my mom and uncle) from virtually nothing. Amazing people...

So, now I tag five other people...
Add to the game when you get a chance.... Adventures in Domesticity, Old Minneapolis House, Emery Restoration, M and C Build a House, and Detroit Woodbridge Duplex

Thursday, January 11, 2007

What the HECK is THAT???

These always crack me up. Clearly, I have too much time on my hands sometimes!!
Take the "This Old House" quiz here!
(fyi- I missed almost ALL of them. How'd you do?)

Happy Thursday... hang on Friday is coming. :)

Sunday, January 07, 2007

We're Engaged!!

Yes, in case you haven't heard, we're engaged.
Here's the story!

As a carpenter, Sean sometimes travels out-of-town for work. In November, he warned me he might get sent to a job over Christmas. Although his company would fly him home for the holiday, he would have to go back quickly and the work would likely extend into the New Year. This was to be our first Christmas together as a couple, and we planned to spend it with my family in Michigan. Living in Minnesota, I only get to see my family twice a year, and Sean hasn’t spent much time with them at all. I was excited for our holiday vacation and naturally disappointed about the work plans. But, as a carpenter, Sean is thankful to have winter work, and I tried to be supportive.

On the day he left for the job- the Thursday before Christmas- I dropped him off at the airport and started my 12-hour drive to Michigan. He was scheduled to fly in to Michigan on Saturday, stay for the holiday, and fly back to work the next day.

When I finally arrived at my mother’s, I got ready to go to “Dad’s Christmas.” My parents are divorced, so my dad plans a separate dinner for us to celebrate with him. Although I had told my dad that Sean wouldn’t be there until Saturday, he scheduled his Christmas dinner for Friday. My dad wanted to go “up north” to his cabin for Christmas as soon as possible. I was really irritated they couldn’t wait an extra day.

As I got ready, my mom said she was going along too. Dad had been by her house earlier in the day to pick up his mail, and he invited her to join us for dinner. “Well, that’s weird,” I thought. Although my parents get along, they don’t spend much time together. But, I thought my dad was being extra nice, since he knew I was mad Sean wouldn’t be there.

My mom and I arrived at the restaurant first- the Fenton Hotel, a very cool historic building that has been operating as a restaurant since the 1800’s. We sat down, while my brothers, my sister-in-law, and my dad and his girlfriend all arrived.

We were pouring over menus when I suddenly became aware of Sean standing next to me- I was so surprised to see him. I stood up to give him a hug and, before I could say anything, he got down on one knee, ring in hand. He said, “I’m here because I want to ask you a very important question- will you do me the honor of marrying me?”

I of course told him an enthusiastic “Yes!”, and then turned around to see my whole family smiling and tearing up, dad included. They all knew about the plan and had helped him hatch the surprise. The work trip never existed! When I dropped Sean off at the airport, he flew to Michigan and spent the day and evening with my dad and my brother getting this whole plot ready. We spent the week relaxing with family and friends in Michigan, and Sean drove back with me to Minnesota. And so here we are, back into life as usual.

The wedding details:
August 25, 2007 at 490 Summit Ave, St. Paul, MN (

I'm not much for wedding planning, so we picked a place where they basically do everything for you. Mark your calendars! :)