Friday, May 30, 2008


As part of our rewiring project, the basement lights got all screwed up. They used to be operated by pull switches and used the old wiring. We cut a lot of the wiring during the rewiring, and have plans to wire the lights so they all turn on with one switch. We haven't gotten there yet, though, and as a result, our basement is pretty dark.

Anyway, the point of all this being that when I grabbed clothes out of the dryer this morning to wear to work, I grabbed my gardening jeans rather than the nice pair in the same load. I didn't notice until confronted with my image in the mirror at work.

Oh well.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008


I know everyone and their mom posts about restoring their windows, but I think our situations are all different, and so it would be worth writing ours up as well.

First off, we have giant windows. There are actually only three that we will worry about for the time being. One in the dining room (2'8"x 5'5"), one in the foyer and one in the living room (both 2 1/2' x 5 1/2') What makes our situation interesting is that the PO decided to caulk the windows shut. Yes, you read that right: caulk. On both the top and the bottom of the bottom sash. Supposedly this was a way to keep out drafts. Personally, I would have tried fixing the windows, but hey, at least they didn't replace them, right? Anyway, the bottom sashes were successfully removed from all three. Unfortunately, the glass on all three broke while I was trying to remove it. Which I guess is fitting to the title of this blog. Especially since, after breaking the first one, we didn't change our methods. Cause doing something the same way that didn't work the first time (or the second) always works, right?

I want to make it clear we did research before jumping into this. We actually do an extensive amount of research before jumping into projects. We knew how to remove the glass. What we didn't factor in was the hundred year old glazing putty, coupled with the two or three patching jobs from various decades over the hundred year old stuff. What worked for one chunk didn't work for another. Now we're going to try stripper or the heat gun with heat reflective tape. Anyway, as far as the window frames that I broke go, Kevin has one window almost stripped, and I have two more frames lined up for him to do.

Note From Kevin who is dipping his feet in this blog thing: The big question: should we paint the interiors on the windows or not? The opposing sides of this argument are that they look neat as natural wood versus they will be better protected from UV light if they are painted.

Anyway, here is a picture of one of the windows. I know that's not the best picture, but it gives you an idea of the size.

Quick Note: This picture, for some reason makes me proud. It was taken the day we closed on the house. The carpet? Gone. The vinyl roll shade? Gone. The ugly plastic like curtain and ugly metal rod? Gone. Gone. Oh yeah, and the ceiling fan? You guessed it. Gone. We put in a 1930's? glass bowl light fixture.

The dog?

He stepped out for a moment.


I know I said hardware store break in that last post, but over the week it kind of evolved to Home Depot break. So we tried out a new hardware store in the neighboring suburb. It was a nice change. It smelled like a hardware store. People were friendly, and helped us find things. Which poses a dilemma for us: when possible, Kevin and I try to live responsibly. We try to shop locally, walk or bike places, and buy used when possible. We haven't purchased meat in almost two years
(with a few rare exceptions). We own one, small compact car, and Kevin commutes by bike. Anyway, the dilemma: walk to Home Depot six blocks away, or drive to the suburb to shop local?

Really, though, we totally cheated and bought house stuff.

Monday, May 19, 2008

House Philosophy and Crappy Rooms

Kevin and I are taking a hardware store break. This doesn't mean we are not working on the house, but rather we are not spending any money on the house. Ideally, this serves two purposes. The first being we won't spend any money (the $200 weekends were getting old) and second, it forces us to finish tasks that require no money but are just as important. For instance, Kevin rehung the garage door so it now closes and locks. It is important to us that we don't go into a huge amount of debt on the house. Therefore, we plan to only do projects as the funds become available. Unfortunately, it means that things stay crappy for longer.

Those pictures are of our bathroom and kitchen. The shower curtain has been removed, but the gold fleck still remains. On everything. The kitchen might just win an ugly kitchen prize. That flowery stuff acting as a back-splash is contact paper. The countertops have a metal edge that most certainly has collected food for thirty years. There is wood paneling covering the other walls. I have dreams of this kitchen gutted. The more we live with it, the more satisfying its demise will be.

This weekend was beautiful. We spent most of our time outside working in the yard. Kevin's parents came up and I put his mom to work in the front yard with me. We planted MN native wildflower gardens where the overgrown bush used to be. Once the rain stops I will go out and take pictures. It's not much now, but I think it will look great in a month or two.

Kevin and his dad finished mudding the drywall we put up in the hall ceiling. Then we all cleaned up and went out to eat to celebrate his cousin's college graduation. Congrats, Sam!

I always love when our family and friends come over and seem impressed by the work we've done. It's hard to put the house into perspective when we're living in it.


After a beautiful weekend, I got home today to find the house at a chilly sixty degrees. I grabbed a blanket, the dog and the laptop and settled in, determined to not turn on the furnace again (we had turned it off last week). When the dog/blanket combination seemed to do nothing, I spent about a half an hour working up the courage to turn on the heat. Why, you ask did it take courage to turn on the heat? Because we have an old gravity furnace that scares the living bejeebees out of me. The thought of turning on the gas and sticking my hand in to light it took some serious contemplation.

Finally, when I could stand it no longer, I went down to the basement. The furnace and I stared at each other awhile, trying to decide whether or not to trust one another. It took me a few minutes (fine, twenty minutes) to figure out how the pilot light mechanism worked, and then, in one glorious whoosh! we had heat. The dog and I ran upstairs and warmed our toes in front of the vents, listening for explosions.

So far, so good.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Moral of the story: before cutting down a tree, check for nests.

We had a giant overgrown bush (an ewe, I think) in front of our house. It blocked the view, probably dug into the foundation, and just looked weird. It was taller than the house. Plus, it was dying. I say had, because on Sunday, Kevin's uncle, Jim, came over and chopped it down with his chainsaw. Very exciting. Until... Kevin spotted four baby robins laying on the ground. We stopped everything. Jim put the birds back into their nest, and moved it to a nearby tree. I went in and called a wildlife center. They said to leave them alone, and if the parents didn't come back to bring them in on Monday. We went inside and watched as both mom and dad robin tried to make sense of the missing tree. Finally they found their babies, but wouldn't go and feed them. We thought they were just making sure it was safe. Mom and Dad hung around in the yard all day, so we figured they must have eventually started to feed them again. Kevin checked on the birds today. All four were dead.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

We have light!

When I would tell people we were rewiring our house, they would almost always have the same reaction: something relating to blowing ourselves up, starting on fire, or electrocuting ourselves. Which, when my dad and Kevin were first talking about rewiring the house, was my reaction as well. I mean, it does sound like a scary project. Especially for someone whose electrical understanding consisted of teaching fifth graders how to make a flashlight out of pop cans and duct tape.

What I realized, as the project went on, however, was that it's actually pretty simple, and pretty benign. Kevin says it's like paint-by-numbers. As far as danger goes, it's hard to mess up rewiring to the extent of starting your house on fire. And the house is much safer now than it was before. The smoke detectors are hardwired together so if one goes off, they all will. We put in arc-fault circuit breakers for all three bedrooms. Also, the whole thing was checked by an inspector.

The only scary part was when Kevin installed the circuit breakers. The main power to the house is shut off, but there is still live power coming into the box. It is considered safe to work on, as the power would be pretty hard to accidentally touch, but it still made him nervous. I sat on a five-gallon pail beside him for moral support, though I was armed with a wooden broom handle and a cell phone. We flipped on each circuit breaker together.

I think the whole project came in a little under a thousand dollars. Most of that cost was in the circuit breakers and wire. The boxes, outlets, switches and cover plates were all pretty cheap, but we installed over fifty.

Light fixtures were one of the least expensive aspects, actually. I rewired the originals from the upstairs, and (gasp!) spray painted them antique bronze. Before anyone freaks out, they are metal, not worth a whole lot, and pretty darn ugly. Now, I think they look quite nice. I would say they were each about ten dollars to restore. I also rewired the cool porcelain fixture that used to hang in the foyer. It's going in the downstairs hall. The new foyer light is the one at the top of this post. It was cheap at the Depot. Don't mind the bad plaster job in the photo, just hasn't been fixed yet.

Anyway, point being, electrical work is not so scary. Especially once you're already in over your head financially and your moral has been strangled by extension cords. We've decided to take a project break and build up funds and energy. One can only go so long peeing by camp light before the ripped-up house thing gets old.

Friday, May 2, 2008

An open letter to my sister

Note: My sister moved into our house the day after we did to do an internship in the cities. Yesterday was her last day at our house.


We, Sarah, Kevin and Arlo, would like to apologize for robbing you of your innocence. Parts of the life you once pictured, an old house to fix up, a dog to play with, have been tarnished in the short time you've been with us. These are the specific incidents I feel like we need to apologize for. If there are others we've forgotten, please remind me.

We're sorry the floors of the first room you lived in were so slanted your furniture wouldn't stay in one place. We're sorry that when you tried to clean the tub, it turned into a two-day project requiring plumber's putty and a gasket. We're sorry that you came back from a weekend away to find extension cords running throughout the house and wires sticking out of your walls. Most of all, we're sorry that when you left a month later, there were still extension cords running throughout the house and wires sticking out of your walls.

Arlo would also like to apologize for ruining your idyllic visions of life with a dog. He is sorry for throwing up all over your window. And eating it when you went to find something to clean it up with. He's sorry for jumping on your bed and getting mud all over it. He is sorry for sucking on your pillow, stealing things and running away with them, and getting dog hair all over your bed.

Anyway, I hope this covers most of our wrong-doings. Understand that we meant no harm and truly enjoyed your stay. Know that you're always welcome, and that future visits will not be so painful. We hope.

Love Sarah, Kevin and Arlo