My husband had not been inside our house since January 3 when he arrived home on June 21. That was 169 days for me to ruin everything, burn the house to the ground, create a massive mountain of dirty dishes… basically it was a lot of time for any number of things to go wrong.
Thankfully I — and the house — survived the long separation without any major damage. In fact, I wanted to surprise my husband by improving some of our space while he was away.
First a friend helped me clean and organize the closet in my office and at the same time we completely cleared out the small extra room. But that wasn’t much of a surprise to my hubby since I had blogged about it, allowing him to see the pictures of the improved space.
What he didn’t know was the next weekend the same fabulous friend came back and helped me repaint our bathroom, changing it from the very vibrant blue it has been since 2009 to a lovely new shade called Bavarian Cream. We also hung a piece of my mom’s art, adding a splash of color. These two projects combined with the bathtub refinishing that happened in February and it seems like we have a new space! (Ignoring the 80-year-old tile and terrible Home Depot vanity…)
Needless to say he was surprised (and pleased) with the new look when he walked into our bathroom for the first time in 6.5 months.
On Saturday a fabulous friend came over to help me organize my office closet and, by accident, also cleaned up my “little room” aka our craft room aka a room that has traditionally been filled with lots of random stuff since we bought our house.
A few years back my in-laws helped us paint the room. Now that it has been cleaned out (again) it’s ready for sewing, painting, and any other craft project that may strike my fancy. I just hope I can find the time to take advantage of the space now that it is ready for action.
The office also benefited greatly from the weekend makeover. I went through multiple old file folders full of pay stubs, receipts, and other miscellaneous documents from the early 2000s while my friend organized all the random things in the closet — luggage, wrapping paper, and keepsakes. Not only are all of those things much tidier, the closet had enough space left over for us to add in the small filing cabinet that had previously been kept in the craft room.
There are still a few piles to go through before I can consider the office seriously cleaned up, but considering I can now see the majority of the floor in the little room and my recycling and garbage cans are full and ready for pick up, I’d say it was a highly productive weekend!
After being at work for 74 years, I’d say it’s definitely time to retire, right? Last Friday we said goodbye to seven of the original windows in our house. They had been in place since the house was built in 1937, were single-paned glass and simply were not efficient at keeping out noise, wind, bugs…pretty much anything.
For example, in the winter if you held your hand near the bottom or side of some of our windows while they were shut, you could literally feel a draft. Not just coolness, but an actual breeze! As you can see from the picture, the wood was pretty beat up in places.
The rest of the year when we wanted to feel the breeze, we had to prop the windows open on adjustable half screens because the weights that should have held them open had all broken. And they didn’t have full screens anymore (or ever, who knows). Also, over time some of the windows had become increasingly stiff and I was unable to open or close the ones in our living room or kitchen.
Despite all of their flaws, we loved the way our windows looked (from a distance) and in making the decision to upgrade, we really wanted to maintain a feel that went with the rest of the wood detail throughout the house.
Our new windows are double-paned and look practically identical to what we had before except that they are clean, actually seal when closed, have full screens and I can open them all—yay! After 5 hours of work by the two installers, we now have new (and beautiful) dark brown windows in our bedroom and living room while the kitchen and craft room have been outfitted with white wood windows. Thankfully they did all the work from outside the house, so we didn’t lose any of the molding.
Without further ado here are some before and after photos of our windows!
A few days ago I suddenly realized that the second anniversary of the day we bought our house was nearly upon us. Here’s what’s been accomplished around the house since March 12, 2010:
• We started hanging things up. It is true that there was a little art here and there during the first year we lived here, but we have recently gone on a hanging spree, finally adding art to our dining room, bedroom, hallway, stairwell and, most recently, our living room where I love how the addition of three ceramic plates we picked up in Jordan add character to the space.
• I spent a lot of mornings at the garden. We also tried to grow a few things on the front porch, but didn’t have nearly as much success with that as the first summer we lived here. This year we will be back at the garden plot, but we are hoping that during year three we can finally work on our backyard and have our garden here during summer 2012.
• With the help of my mother-in-law, we planted some daffodil and tulip bulbs in the front yard alongside the hyacinth and mini daffodil bulbs that we had planted when we first moved in. The new bulbs are just starting to come up and I can’t wait to see the flowers for the first time.
• Our bathroom skylight got a face lift, thanks to the hard work of my in-laws who cleaned up the window and the skylight space which look so much cleaner without the snowmageddon water damage. Speaking of the bathroom, my father-in-law also installed a vent in our basement bathroom, which has been a great addition since you can’t open the window to get any fresh air in there.
• We finally tackled our “little room” — clearing out all the storage, painting it and setting it up as a craft room. We have yet to actually craft in there, but I have high hopes that this year we will make that happen.
• My husband and father-in-law repaired a water damaged area on our lower back porch wall. It looks much cleaner, but despite being enclosed it is still freezing out there in the winter. They also installed a ceiling fan in our living room, providing some much-needed air movement during the sticky summer months.
• My husband put together a storage area in the basement and it seems we are kind of heading in the direction of making the room a more appealing space for guests. We’ll see!
There is a lot on our agenda for the next year — new windows for the front of the house, possibly a new boiler, replacing the futon in the basement with an actual bed and the large, boxy television with a flat screen, the list goes on and on. There are bigger items — air conditioning, solar panels, refinishing the back porches and knocking out the wall between our kitchen and dining room — on the list for a few years down the road. Despite the never-ending list of things to do, I am so grateful we have this beautiful place to live. And all quirks that come along with it.
It seems that everywhere I look, our house is filled with piles. Piles of empty boxes (and full boxes), mail, newspapers that haven’t been recycled, coats — basically if you can name it, we probably have a pile of it somewhere. I feel like no matter how often I try to attack the clutter, there is no end in sight.
There are a few key factors in the pile problem that I know need to be eliminated, but where’s a girl to find the time?
• Boxes that have not been unpacked since we moved into our house. Now there are only a few of these, but they still take up room. And since we cleaned the craft room they are now living in my office. Every time I look over my left shoulder it appears that the closet has thrown up thanks to all of the things in front of it. You might think that since these boxes have remained untouched for the past year and a half they could just be tossed out. I am starting to agree that this may very well be the best solution!
• Old Books. When our things from California were delivered here in May, we determined that we did indeed have too many books (something that no one in California managed to convince us of). A 2003 political science overview book doesn’t need to be kept around “just in case.” Same goes for a case study about the way of life in a small town in France in 1647. They just are not going to be pertinent again. So we set aside four boxes of books to donate to the library. That was in May 2010. It’s January 2011 and those boxes remain next to my desk where I think they might spend eternity. The benefit is that they make a nice flat surface for us to pile more things on top of. Er, wait, never mind…
• Bags of clothing to donate. It’s been at least a year since I did a sweep of my closet and pulled out three large bags worth of clothes to donate to the Goodwill or Salvation Army. It took another 6 or 7 months before I inventoried the items (which I finally did, thank you very much), yet the clothes remain in the corner of our bedroom where they are helping no one and driving me crazy. Maybe this will be the week that I finally get those items donated and free up a few feet of floor space!
Thanks to my in-laws help, we were able to make a huge improvement to the space over the past few days. Last week they started by helping us de-clutter the room during Phase 1 (i.e. they dumped all the random stuff that was in the craft room into the corner of the office). After much scraping and sanding, the walls were ready to be painted on Saturday evening. It’s a good thing my husband and I were able to decide on a color on Friday — Benjamin Moore’s Soft Chinchilla. I’ve never seen a blue Chinchilla, but I guess that is why you have to love paint names.
With four people in the small space the room was done in about 2 hours, at which time we were all ready to celebrate. And celebrate we did with Herb de Provence Chicken, mashed potatoes and carrots followed by poached pears in a wine sauce over vanilla bean ice cream for dessert. And a couple bottles of wine, of course!
Sunday afternoon my husband and father-in-law touched up the trim and finished installing the wire contraption for hanging art and posters along the back wall. Now all we have to do is go through the stuff in the office and decide where it really belongs.
Soon I hope to undertake my first project — curtain making — an event that may or may not provide us with any usable curtains, but will surely be a story for another blog post!
Mulch. If one word could sum up our weekend, it’s mulch. Last year we made a vain attempt to tame the front yard in May after the weeds had had a chance to really dig in. It took days. In fact, I believe the struggle with the weeds lasted over three weekends. This year we decided to get at them early.
After an early morning struggle to determine whether it made more sense to go to our local hardware store or Home Depot, our inability to access either stores phone number (thanks to non-functioning internet service) led us to the local store even if it was likely to cost more. Our local hardware store is pretty awesome. It’s packed into three old row houses, with a garden area in a neighboring empty lot. The aisles are about two feet wide and are crammed from floor to ceiling with nuts and bolts and gadgets galore. I found some child-size gardening gloves that actually fit my hands (the cute ducks and alligators didn’t hurt either), a foam kneeling pad and some potting soil. My husband wandered around “aimfully” (while we know where most of the areas are now, we always end up asking for help, usually to be directed right back to where we had been looking in the first place and just couldn’t see it), picking up various odds and ends to complete some projects back at home. And on the way out, we stocked up on, you guessed it, mulch!
Once we returned home, my husband went to work on the front yard straight away. The soil (and I use that term loosely) is mostly clay and not conducive to many plants, so we’re trying to amend it. Mulch is a key part of the process, but it’s really just the last of many steps. First he set to weeding out dandelions and what oddly appeared to be spring onions, then turning over the soil around our plants to mix in the decomposing mulch from last year and finally laid down a thick cover of new mulch to deter any new weeds (we hope).
At first I was putzing around out front with our seedlings, but then I went to check on our internet service. When I found that it still wasn’t working, I decided it was a better use of my time to sit upstairs (where it was decidedly warmer than out front) on the phone with our internet provider’s customer assistance for 40 minutes, explaining which light was blinking—it was quite exhilarating, let me tell you! Eventually when the internet problem had been solved, I figured I should head back out to the chilly outdoors. I set to work relocating our seedlings that had grown like wild in their tiny starter pods, into larger containers. Hopefully their new, larger homes will help the cucumbers and cherry tomatoes grow sturdier and ready for the actual garden plot. Even though they are taking off, it isn’t nearly warm enough for them to be planted in the ground just yet.
While I am looking forward to the chance to start gardening and spend more time outdoors, my allergies have done their best to keep that vision foggy and interrupted with sneezes. I have resorted to actually taking allergy medicine and switching to my glasses when my eyes can’t seem to take any more from my contacts. The fact that my contacts bother me in the spring is a bit of a conundrum to me, too, because they seem to block out the onion vapors that cause my husband to tear up. You’d think the same would apply to the stuff blowing around in the wind. I’m not a fan, but I digress.
After spreading the mulch and re-potting the seedlings, we set our sights on the inside, my husband tackled a few projects while I cleaned up the kitchen and did the laundry. The highlight of the day was finally hanging a photo collage in our dining room. The long wall in there had been awfully lonely for the past year, but we were having trouble finding something big enough to fill the space. Also there is now an old four panel window that’s been turned into a full-length mirror hanging in the stairwell and hooks are adorning the inside of closet doors.
But that was yesterday’s fun. Today we targeted our efforts on an area of the house we hadn’t really been in all winter: our back porch. Of course, having not been in the room for a number of months meant that I had to confront continued irritation from my allergies. Before, it pretty much looked like a tornado had come through and not bothered to pick up after itself (naughty tornado). After a few hours of sorting things to be trashed, recycled or stored someplace else, the room has been vacuumed and the pantry area looks neat and well-stocked.
I think it is fair to say we’ve had a productive, house-project-completing weekend. And it’s only 2 p.m. I think it is safe to say that we are going to take the rest of the weekend off…