Tuesday, December 28, 2010

All I Want for Christmas...

is this kitchen to be done.  That, however, was not meant to be.

We primed the ceiling and walls last night and the night before and contractor-father-in-law made the opening between the dining room and kitchen and laid the subfloor this week.  Progress!  It's being made!  Hopefully, we'll be talking about cabinets here in like two weeks.

Unfortunately for me, my little camera card reader doohickey has died a horrible, horrible death, which means I can not get any pictures off my camera to show you the opening or the walls.  Sad!

I need to pick up another one this week.  Today, we got paint samples for the trim and more paint to fix up the dining room wall and potentially paint the kitchen.  (The same bamboo shoot green as the rest of the downstairs.)  More details when I have the actual pictures.

In the meantime, my awesome husband got me How to Survive a Garden Gnome Attack: Defend Yourself When the Lawn Warriors Strike (And They Will)  for Christmas. Attack Gnomes! Awesome!

Looking very innocent, isn't he?
I am thinking about getting this this growth chart to hang up somewhere in the kitchen.  My parents would measure us when we were growing up on various walls in various kitchens, but we moved every three or four years, so I kind of like the idea of something we can take with us.  Not that I am going anywhere, when this kitchen is done.  

I am actually wondering if my red/white/green thing I end up having in the house is really gnome related and not very woodland-ey at all.  

In any case, we had a great holiday, and I hope you all did, too!


Thursday, December 23, 2010

How we bought our house

A friend at work recently asked me for advice about buying a house.  Although I have only purchased 2.5 houses in my life, I am full of advice for a few key reasons.

  1. I am an irritating know-it-all/ex-librarian who over researches everything.
  2. I just got done buying basically the house my friend was looking for, so I knew what I did.
  3. My parents bought and sold houses (and in some cases still do) to make their livings my whole growing-up life.
This gnome has nothing to do with anything, except that I love gnomes and he's in my yard.

Another friend who lives in Finland recently advised me to buy an apartment in Estonia.  Sorry, pal, I have no immediate plans to procure an apartment in Estonia, but apparently they are going on the Euro in 2011.  His belief is that he will buy now, and then their economy will shoot up over the next year, making his purchase worth heaps more than he paid.  I wish him luck!  I do not think my husband would be amused if I bought an apartment in Estonia.  

In any case, I thought I would babble on here a bit about how we went about buying our current house, which was a much more organized deal than our first house, which was basically:
  1. Mom called me, told me a house was for sale across the street.
  2. Husband looked at it and told me not to buy it while he was at a conference.
  3. I met the owner and agreed to buy it while husband is at said conference.
I should also point out that I am not a real estate agent or any sort of financial professional, so this is all me babbling about what I thought and did, and not meant to be anything other than that.  

In the current house, I spent a good long while figuring out what we were looking for.  It came down to wanting to be in a good school district, a neighborhood that's walkable to useful stuff, not on a street with any double yellow lines.  

After going to like fifty open houses and viewings that was amended to add "cheap enough that we can put in a new kitchen".  It turns out that, as someone who loves to cook and bake, I am EXTREMELY picky about kitchens and there were plenty of newly renovated kitchens for sale that were laid out poorly, did not have enough counter space, or otherwise just did not work for me.     

So, really, knowing what you are looking for is step one.

Step two turns out to be knowing what I was comfortable spending.  I point this out because the bank and your real estate agent and the internet will ask you some questions about your income and your debt and give you a figure that represents "what you can afford to spend".  In my experience, that number is super high!  We live in an area where home prices are thankfully low, so if you are in California or New York you might have a different philosophy about this.  We basically took the amount they said we could afford, and chopped it roughly in half.  That number got us to where we could put 20% down, not need an FHA mortgage and have a monthly payment that is about what our old monthly payment was.  It also gave us a good estimate of "how much we can afford to spend on the addition", but I won't even tell you how well that worked out, because that budget is long blown.  But hey!  This is a post about buying a house, not staying on budget while building a huge kitchen.  

The last step, before putting in an offer, was doing my homework about the neighborhood and house we decide to buy.  Trulia gave me an average price per square foot for the neighborhood.  That's useful to have.  In our area, the county has a web site that gave me the square feet of the house and property, as well as what the current owners paid for the house.  I can also look up what the owners mortgaged the property for.  This will vary based on where you live, but it's probably worth poking around your county or municipality websites and see what you can come up with.  

Having this information is important for a few reasons.  I calculated for myself what the house 'should' be worth.  I got a rough idea of what the current owner owed on the place using the mortgage information.  I definitely wanted to make an offer I was confident meant the owner would not need to bring cash to the closing.  

The first time we put an offer in on this house, there were 2 other offers, so we brought a good "what we think is fair" price.  In general, though, I want to offer less than what I want to pay.  The seller will probably want to counteroffer me, right?  So start low.  Great.  

In our case, some other buyer initially put in a higher offer than we did, and 'got' the place.  That was OK, we started looking at other places. Two months later, our agent called.  The folks who put in the highest offer could not get a mortgage, so it was back on the market.  Queue our reasonable, fair offer again, which we increased by a thousand bucks.  After some negotiation, we landed at a price that was $5k over our very first offer, that was still totally within the range of "what I thought was a fair price for the house based on the information I had."  

Going over what I had researched and decided is a fair price has a few implications.  First off, if for some reason, we need to leave the house or the area sooner than we expected to, I wanted to make sure I could sell it to someone else without too much fuss.  Pay more than the house is worth, and then we'll be the one bringing cash to the closing.  Do not want!  Also, having the most expensive house on our block means that I'm not going to get a good return on any improvements we make.  We knew we wanted to things like build a new kitchen and upgrade a bathroom, and did not want to be in that situation either.  

Wow, this was long winded.  I did say how much I over research stuff earlier, though, so hey, what can I do.  I should also point out that I am pretty sure I drove my husband nuts during this whole thing, by plying him with more information than he wanted.  He is a little more "seat of my pants offer" than I am, though.  Between us, it seems to have worked out.  

I am pretty curious how other people went about figuring out where they wanted to live and what they wanted to spend, so if you have a different way of going about this, post a comment!  I'm a data girl, so of course my process involves a lot of information gathering.  

Monday, December 20, 2010

Back to Our Regularly Scheduled Construction!

Did you guys know they now make drywall lighter?  Seriously 30%, and apparently it's not BS.  Husband told me the he could pick up a 8' section with no effort, and the 12' ceiling sections went up awesome.

srsly, it says this right on the sheetrock!
I am only super exited about this because it means that my drywalling is basically done.  Two days and done!  Now it needs to be primed (5 gallons of primer for this, says contractor father in law!) and painted.

Check it out.

Beautiful Sink Windows!
Transoms / Clerestory Windows
Also, crazy pro tip: want a counter depth fridge, but don't want to pay the extra coin and lose the fridge size?  Contractor father in law and his buddy determined that we could recess the fridge into the wall!  Awesome!!!
Hole in drywall for fridge

Close up.

I think we are getting 2 inches out of it.  I think that it's more like 5 inches difference between regular and counter, but it should help a bit to make it look closer to counter depth.  Really, I am mostly excited about having a bit more clearance in that section of the kitchen.



Sunday, December 19, 2010

Cookie Day!

In the Oven!

Every year, the Saturday before Christmas, my mother and I get together to bake ALL the cookies.  OK, we are not really baking all of the cookies, but it's a ton of cookies.  Depending on which ones we make, it ends up being something like 60-ish dozen.  Everyone has their favorite cookie, and we have to make them all.  We use them to take cookie trays to everywhere, work, parties, all the regular stuff.

Yesterday was Cookie Day.  Mom woke up early (at like 6 am) and started making buckeyes and pecan tassies.  I got to mom's house around 9 and we made peanut butter blossoms, snickerdoodles, russian tea cakes, toffee cookies, thumbprints, cut out cookies for my three year old to decorate, and candy cane cookies.

Before and After

You'll have to forgive the terrible iphone pix.  We were too excited to get to cookie day and forgot the real camera.  Oh well.  In recompense, I'll give you all the recipe.

Candy Cane Cookies

1 cup powdered sugar
1 cup butter
1 egg
1 1/2 teaspoons almond extract
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon of salt
red food coloring
Granulated sugar for sprinkling


  • Preheat oven to 375
  • Mix powdered sugar, butter, egg, and extracts in a bowl.  (I used a mixer.)
  • Sift in flour and salt and mix well.
  • Divide the dough in half and color one half with the red food coloring.
  • For each candy cane, take 1 teaspoon of each dough and roll into a 4 inch strip.  
  • Twist together and shape into a candy cane.  
  • Sprinkle with some granulated sugar and bake until very light.  (About 9 minutes).

They look really cute on a cookie tray, and they are not too sweet, which you might appreciate if you had just baked 60 dozen cookies but still needed something to eat with your coffee.

I have not had much of a chance this weekend to post about the construction progress, which is really what I am supposed to be blogging about.  Between cookie day and two Christmas parties, we're pretty beat.  If you want a construction project fix, see this amusing picture of my current kitchen door, which opens to..... the drywall for the new kitchen.

Doorway to Nowhere.  I feel like I'm in Coraline.

When the new kitchen is done, this doorway will be blocked up and the existing kitchen will become a mudroom and powder room.  It used to open onto a small deck.

I think the drywall taping and mudding and sanding will be done tomorrow (Woo!) and then we'll be opening up the windows from the dining room to be the doorway to the new space.

Super, super, super exciting.

Giveaway Day Winner

Hi Folks!

The winner of my giveaway day prize is melaniesenko@yahoo.ca, who I will be emailing shortly.

Thanks for playing, everyone!  

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Drywall is in the Building!

Drywall was delivered and is being hung!

This means we have passed all the inspections (5, I think) except for the final!

I can't even tell you how excited this has me.

(I'm posting from work, so I do not have pics.  Having a job really gets in the way of your renovation projects.  But it also pays for them, I guess.)

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Coquilles Saint-Jacques

Oh, hey, I said I'd post the coquilles saint-jacques recipe, and I totally forgot.  Here it is, loosely interpreted from The New Legal Sea Foods Cookbook.  (As in, this is what I did, but I make no claims that it will turn out like it's traditionally served, because I have never actually eaten this dish prepared by anyone but me.)

3 tablespoons of butter, divided
1/2 cup finely chopped sweet onion
1/3 cup seeded, diced tomato
2 pounds sea scallops, halved
1/2 cup dry white wine
2 tablespoons flour
about a cup of cream or half&half
1/4 cup grated parm
salt & fresh ground pepper
cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley

  • Cook the onions in 1 tablespoon of butter.  Stir in the tomatoes and cook for a few more minutes. 
  • Add the scallops and the wine.  Cover the pan, lower the heat, and simmer for about 2 minutes.  Remove from heat.
  • In another pan, heat 2 tablespoons of the butter, and stir in the flour, cooking over low for about 2 minutes. Whisk in the cream or half&half  and cook over medium low until the sauce is thick.  
  • Stir the cream mixture into the scallops mixture and add half of the parm, salt, pepper, and cayenne to taste.  
  • I cooked this in my big Le Creuset dutch oven, so instead of pouring the mixture into a buttered baking dish like the original recipe says, I just sprinkled the remaining cheese over top, chucked the whole thing in the oven for about ten minutes and served it in bowls with the parsley and some super crusty bread

By the way, this seemed pretty easy to me, but it sounds all french and exciting.  It's totally worth a try for having people over for dinner.  

Construction: Stuff is Happening

This looks much brighter than real life.
This is closer to the right color.
View from the sidewalk

Construction always seems like you have nothing, then a ton of stuff really fast, then nothing, then a ton of stuff really fast.  Repeat for as many months as your project takes.  

I think part of that is that digging a big hole is not super exciting (unless you happen to be a 3 year old boy, in which case it is the best thing EVER), and neither is plumbing or electrical rough in.  Framing, however, and drywall.  Those things look like real progress.  They're big!  You can see them!

In any case, plumbing and electrical rough in and inspections have been happening lately at our place, so it has not seemed like there was a ton of progress, even though logically I realize that's all important stuff.    

While the specialists work on that stuff, however, our contractors and my husband have been putting up siding.  Lovely beautiful siding!  Siding is progress!!!  

I agonized over siding colors for a month.  Classic white?  Sage green?  That beige color that seems really popular right now?  Eventually, somehow, we ended up at red.  The rationale is that it in brick red the addition would not be a big distracting cube of some random color from the street.  In the last picture you can see the view from the sidewalk. It does not look *exactly* like the brick, but that's OK.  I think it's less visually distracting because the colors are similar.   I also don't think they are so close together that it looks like we were trying to match and slightly failed.  (See also: wearing black pants and a black jacket from two different pant suits)

We've picked a bunch of things based on keeping the addition consistent with the rest of the house, so the red siding kind of made sense.  In some cases, we were able to pick some elements that are both consistent with the house now, and consistent with what the house was like when it was built.  (This is hard, because the house was built in 1924.) Unfortunately, money and time are always problems, so we get plain double-four siding instead of the faux cedar shake that I would have liked.  (Though I saw that on our local eat & park restaurant, and it looked kinda bad, so I think I am happy with the double-four.  Also, if I knew more about what double four meant besides "each board thingy has 2 - four inch horizontal, er, bits, I would tell you, but I totally don't.)

We got windows that look like three over one paned, because that's what the original windows in the house were. There are a few left in the house, and lots of our neighbors have them.  (The previous owners replaced some with those grid-like mullions, which are fine, but don't really have the same feeling as the three over one.)  We also got a solid wood front door with nice, straight angles.  It's hard to know, but I suspect the original door would have been something similar.

We're not trying to recreate the house as it was in 1924, but rather to pick elements that seem right in the house, while not giving up modern conveniences.  (For example, the three over one windows are modern flat easy to clean double hung windows that look paned and not all wood single paned. )

I am really digging the mock-clerestory windows on the side of the house pictured, by the way.  I think they are secretly transoms for over a door, but I really wanted three high windows there (to bring in light but avoid having a view of the neighbors back yard), and those are what fit.  Thank you father-in-law-contractor for thinking of that!

Yay Progress!

Now it's tie to watch frosty with the little one.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Handmade Holidays or Charlie Brown Tree?

Fridge and left side of dining room
Right side of dining room

So, our dining room is full of the cabinets, which we are not yet ready for, and the fridge, which needed to be replaced and does not fit in our existing, teeny kitchen. (Hence, the big kitchen project. We did not want to replace the fridge with another small one that fit in the little kitchen when we are like months away from a new kitchen.) This means, there is really no room for a Christmas Tree, because it really only fits in the dining room.

See the pictures of all the boxes. On both sides of the room! I told a friend that the were oppressive reminders of the enormous expense and my unrealized dreams. I was morose that day.

In any case, I got a head cold this weekend, and my husband took pity on me and brought me home a teeny little fiber optic tree. Adorable! Our ornaments are packed up, and not really the right size, so my son and I made some ornaments out of paper and ribbon. Husband and son put them up, and now we have a Christmas tree decorated with homemade ornaments.

See? We're awesome!!! Handmade Holidays, baby! Even though we are mid remodel, busy at our jobs, and sick. I feel so accomplished!

(Yes, I do realize that all I did is punch paper and tie ribbons. I'm on cold meds. Let me have my gleeful success feeling until I'm back to normal.)
Paper & Ribbon!

Range Wonderings: Gas or Electric?

As I've mentioned here zillions of times before, I am kind of obsessive about researching and worrying about things we might buy.

The new thing I am obsessing about lately is what range to get.

First off, I have kind of wanted a slide in, white range with a ceramic top because I have this idea that it's easy to clean.  Kind of like this:  (Bear with me, I am trying this amazon link thing for the first time.)

Anyway, now I am starting to freak out for a few reasons:

  1. Does a slide in need to have some kind of notch taken out on the countertop?  Do I need to have the range before I get the countertop?  Cause I was planning on just using my old gas one for a while and then replacing it later.  
  2. I am moving from gas to electric.  I have never cooked on an electric stove, but I also detest cleaning my gas stove.  I have never had a gas stove that I felt came completely, spotlessly clean.  That may be commentary on my skill as a housekeeper (yeah, I'm no good in that department), but I also don't want to spend a thousand bucks on something that I ultimately don't like
For the record, my brother and sister in law have a smooth electric stove, and were nice enough to let me come over and cook on it once, to see if I liked it.  I made coquille st jacques, and it was fine.  Fab, even.  If people care, I can post the recipe later.  And really, how much fancy gas-range cooking do I need?

In any case, we are having a gas and an electric line run to that spot, so I can dither and change my mind later.  Aieee!  


Sunday, December 12, 2010

Giveaway Day!

Monday December 13th is Giveaway Day at Sew, Mama, Sew!

Edit: Woo! I'm in!

I submitted my request to be involved super, super, super late, so there is a good chance I will not be able to participate. But hopefully, the nice folks at sew, mama, sew will take pity on me. My house is a disaster, after all. I can't even walk into my craft room, and all my christmas baking will be taking place somewhere not at my home. *sob*

But soon that will all be over, and if I get to be involved, then I will be giving away.....

Two yards of whatever Anna Marie Horner is in stock at Sew Mama Sew (under $15 per yard, please). I will ship it to you direct from the store. This one is kinda luscious and makes me want to do something serious with it for the master bedroom, but you can pick another.

You want in? I want in, too. But if I get in, here will be the drill:
  • Post a comment, get 1 one ticket
  • Follow my blog, get 5 tickets
  • Post something in your own blog, linking to my blog, get 10 tickets
After the closure date (December 17th), I'll put everyone's tickets into a virtual hat and randomly choose someone.


Mockups and Boards

So, I have not scanned in the kitchen layout that was made for us by our (really fabulous) kitchen layout designer at Home Depot, but I did find the photoshop top-down view I made of what I was looking for.
Turns out, I did a decent job, because I got almost exactly what I put here. Big differences are that the peninsula is going to be bar height, and not table height. (It will just look better all around.) Also, there is a pantry to the left of the fridge, which pushes the fridge over a bit, but still gives me the 3' of counter space I wanted on the end for the coffee bar. (Basically, that's where our coffee machine and toaster are going to hang out, so the are quick to get to, and away from the rest of the more cooking/baking oriented kitchen.)

Husband and I walked through the space last night. Father-in-law-contractor measured out where everything will go and drew it on the plywood, so we can get a feel for how it is going to work out. I still love it. I had to fiddle with cabinets and windows forever until I got a sink centered on that stretch of wall, under the large window, with the 12" cabinets on top, and the range centered on the back wall. I'm in love. I just need it to be complete!

Also, when I was looking at all that, I noticed a mood board thingy I put together for a friend, who was lamenting the fact that all her bedroom furniture was ikea-colored (that light birch they make everything in.) Our old house, umple corner, was FULL of ikea birch, so I had a ton of ideas about how to make ikea birch look homey and fresh and happy and not like you were living in your first college apartment. Also, I made everything relatively cheap. Saved the high ticket stuff for small accessories, and stuck to Ikea/Target/World Market for the big stuff. I think it's pretty cute.


Fireplace Fakeout

Note: Not our ugly fireplace. Some lovely, decorated fireplace from HGTV.

I dislike our fireplace. I have been trying my best to stop saying that I hate this or that sucks, because our child is a sponge, who last week told me he was waiting for something to arrive. Arrive? You are three! But let's stick with learning 'arrive' and 'have you noticed?' and not 'hate' or 'sucks'. So. Dislike. I mentioned what I'd like to do to it in a previous post.

Since then, a friend came over a few weekends ago and painted the fake brick the same bamboo shoot color as the rest of the downstairs. yay! (I would take pictures of that, but to be honest, our house is FULL of cabinets that were delivered and not yet installed. Like, seriously. I told another friend that they are oppressive reminders of my huge investment and unrealized dreams. So, no pics of the inside. Sorry. Next month, hopefully.)

Anyway, the green looks nice. I still have not done anything to cover the heinous fake brick that's facing the fireplace (and not the wall). I had this idea about tiling it with something pretty. That could still happen. but in the meantime, to satisfy my obsessive nature, I am researching awesome fake stuff I could do to our fireplace without taking out all the brick, doing whatever magic needs to happen to the chimney to make it useable again, and spending probably $5000. No, seriously, a fireplace insert, screen, brick/tile, centering the hole on the wall, and removing all the awful fake stuff, easily five grand.

Brick: Make your brick look like cooler brick. This brick-anew stuff looks kind of awesome. I really like the misty color, but I think the rest of my house lends itself to the taupe. I'm not sure if i would do the existing fake wall brick with one of these and then tile over the fireplace brick. I read that you can trowel joint compound over painted brick to make it look more like a textured wall and less like the sad, sad remnant of the 70s.

Fire: Man, gel fire? That's kind of cool. Also, it appears that you can do this ventless, without electricity or gas, and that it actually generates heat. So basically, a zero-installation solution to "the power is out and we're freezing". I get that it will not keep the whole house warm overnight, but hey, we could plop some mattresses down on the living room floor and probably not die. I'm just saying. Yeah, yeah, I'm probably delusional. I occasionally have these random thoughts of how well prepared we are for the lack of electricity and network access for long periods of time. I think husband would rather just buy a generator, but it's my blog, so there. Love!

Do you guys read any The Lettered Cottage? That chick had an awesome mantel roundup a while back. The link is for part 1, there's also a part 2.

Lots of lovely.

Keep warm, folks!


Sunday, November 28, 2010

Imaginary Porch

It was 25 degrees here this morning. My toes have been cold all day. Also, our siding is like 30% up. These things combined have me dreaming aboutwarm sunny days and being outside.

That's months away, so instead I made a pretend porch.

Our siding is this brick red color. It does not look like it's trying to be the brick the rest of the house is, but it does kind of meld nicely. I am thinking that doing a bunch of black & white stuff on the porch (brick, with a brick colored quarry tile kinda floor) will be fab.

So here is the porch when we bought the house (we have a ton more stuff on it) and also my pretend fantasy porch of black & white. The Jack Daniels sign is only on there because we have it, not because I want to advertise that we are big Jack drinkers. If I actually do decorate the porch, I will prolly not use the Jack sign.

I think it could be fun. It really only would involve painting some trim around the windows (and possibly the porch swing) black, as far as labor. We have a little black metal table like the one here. The lanterns would hang from these hooks I had been using for hanging baskets of random flowers that I inevitably kill. The lanterns would be a kindness to annuals available for sale in the Pittsburgh area.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Wherein everything is broken and my cabinets are coming

My cabinets arrive Monday. MONDAY. I've no where to put them. We need the plumber and electrician to come first and do all the rough ins and whatnot, and then we need an inspection, and then we need a subfloor and a flour and grout and walls and THEN cabinets. I am probably missing some steps. It's been a while since I gutted and renovated a kitchen.

Needless to say, we are mildly freaking out, and husband is cleaning up the basement so we have somewhere to put the cabinets. Which is tough, since there are about 10 boxes of kitchen stuff down there waiting to be unpacked into the new kitchen. Aieee.

List of things that are currently or recently broken
  • Refrigerator died a horrible death. Fridge in the new kitchen will be 4" wider than frige in the tiny old kitchen, so we replaced it with the new fridge, which is in the dining room on a piece of plywood for stability. This is important because it takes space away from where we might store the aforementioned cabinets.
  • Dryer had a tiny part that keeps the door closed that broke off. Now it is taped shut with painters tape. Not even duct tape! In trying to track down the broken piece, Jeff found out that (a) we can buy it for $10 including shipping and (b) it is a model from 1978. Seriously? Ninteen seventy eight?!!? Awesome. I am loving my dryer even more.
  • Basement drain seems to have some internal guts rusted out. Husband could provide more details, but frankly, they sound kind of gross and I kind of tuned them out.
  • Siding color (vintage brick) was discontinued and my father-in-law-contractor replaced it with another color (russet). The claim is that they are identical. I have no way to verify this claim, because the samples were taken away. Oh father-in-law-contractor! Why must you torment me so! Fortunately, father-in-law-contractor does not have a computer or access to the internet, so I an probably safely whine a little here.
  • Scanner on my computer is totally jacked. Husband believes he can fix it. I have hope.
  • Big huge rocking recliner is on my porch. Yeah, it's not really broken, but it's kinda ghetto. It was moved to move the desk to make room for the cabinets coming on Monday.
  • Existing kitchen ceiling tiles are all discolored and jacked up, due to random water dripping down from the basement. I hate ceiling tiles.
I have a bunch of projects on the books that I believe will be happening, big and small, besides the kitchen.
  • Big new kitchen. Yeah, that.
  • Big new game room under neath the kitchen. Maybe next year
  • Deck that will be built behind the kitchen. It will be lovely. I promise.
  • New powder room on the first floor, where the current teeny kitchen is.
  • New mudroom in the other half of the existing tiny kitchen. The existing kitchen door opens into the driveway, so it seems like a great place for a mudroom.
  • Main bath needs to be completely gutted. See previous problem with dripping into the existing kitchen ceiling. Also, it's painted subway tile, probably original. Seriously, people? Painting over original tile? Must you wound me?
  • Mailbox will be getting spray painted with oil rubbed bronze spray paint to match the lights and door knob.
  • Wood floors under the hideous but brand new carpet will need to get refinished. I know a guy who knows a guy, so hopefully not too much money. The floor under the carpet looks ok, not great. But I am almost positive it's the original floor, and I think if we patch some spots and stain it a darker color, I think it will be fine.
  • Painted wood trim needs to get stripped. It's so so so bad. But if not stripped, replaced with oak the same sizes. It's really simple trim, so replacement should be an easy option that looks pretty close.
  • Fireplace and hideous fake brick will wall need to all get torn out and redone. Complete do-over. I am thinking of built ins, a new mantel, and a tiled front of the fireplace.
  • Closet re-do. I want to take the closet in our sons room and have it open into ours, building him a new closet over on the other side of his room. This gets us a double closet. Woot double closet!
  • Window replacement is on the dock since we had to brick up half the window in our bedroom for the roof to fit. Maybe I should have put this in 'broken' and not in 'projects' but I am focusing on the positive.

Those are big lists. We have a lot to do. This is what happens when you buy a house built in 1924. But hey, we will almost certainly be done prior to the houses centennial. Woo!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Windows Windows Windows

Unfortunately, our bedroom window (on the 2nd floor) is apparently too low for the joists to fit. This means we needed to brick up some of the existing window to put on the roof. You can see the crazy bricks outside the window now.

This was kind of a mixed bag. I am disappointed that we have to shell out money to replace a perfectly good window, which was not in the initial plan.

On the other hand, the windows are very low to the ground, and there is no position in the bedroom where the bed or some piece of furniture would not be partially blocking the window. So this could work to my advantage. It would be nicer if we had not purchased new bedroom furniture including a really tall bed last year, but I think we can make it work after the new window is in. Also, the other window on that side and level of the house is one of the 2 remaining original regular windows. It's in the bathroom, and frankly, having an effectively floor length window when you step out of the tub is no great shakes. So hopefully, we can replace them both with identical windows in a smaller size, which will help tie the back together.

In better news, my windows and doors for the kitchen are here and installed! I have the three clerestory-like windows on the side wall, and the door with a sidelight and panel of 3 windows (center fixed, two double hung flanking it). I went with the 3 over 1 pattern for grilles, which appears to be what the original windows were like. They look fantastic! I am so excited I can't even deal.

I'll have another update on the cabinet delivery and fridge later. For now, it's windows windows windows!


Saturday, November 6, 2010


Framing is up for the kitchen level of the addition! (The walk out basement underneath is going to be a gameroom/bar.)

You can start to see some of the things I picked for windows and doors.


The three long rectangles are clerestory windows (kinda), meaning they are mounted high so they bring in light but are private. The door will be a kind of regulation sized door (36"? something like that) with a full glass sidelight. The big huge rectangle is (you guessed it) a big huge window. It's really three windows all together, a big one in the middle that's clear glass,and two smaller ones on either side that open and are going to have a 3 over 1 split (so three panes up top and clear on the bottom).

Saturday, October 30, 2010


I think, at this point, that I have picked all the major finishes for the kitchen.

We ordered cabinets (Kraftmaid, shaker style door, color: Kaffee in cherry), so that's definitely picked. While I was picking out the cabinets, I picked out a countertop (Silestone, in Blanco City).

Now that I think about it, although I knew the styles of things I wanted, I ended up kind of starting with the backsplash, which I am going to use this awesome tile from L'esperance Tile. It looks like squirrels and oak leaves and acorns! My front yard is covered with all three of these things. The tile are really cute, and the seller also makes field tile, so I should be able to do the backsplash in mostly the 'craftsmen glaze', white, peppered with squirrley oakey acorney tiles here and there. The white, incidentally, is not a pure shocking shiny appliance white. It's kind of natural white, I guess. In any case, it's really pretty and it goes really well with the countertops and cabinets.*

I kind of assumed I would paint the kitchen the same green as the rest of the house, which is a sort of light olive. It's called Bamboo Shoot (Valspar) but when I look at bamboo shoot on Valspar's website, it looks awful beige to me. Maybe they changed the color or something. But that's about the right color. I could also try to paint it turquoise, similar to the current kitchen color but a little deeper. The current kitchen's color is a little too baby blue for me.

Also, we are doing a ceramic or porcelain tile floor. We had one in the last kitchen we remodeled and it was basically indestructible and never looked dirty. That was pretty awesome. My husband thinks we can put one of those radiant mats underneath, so it will be heated. We did look at some natural stone (slate, mostly) in a store for the floor, but neither of us really liked the texture. It's kind of .... chippy? Something.

*Incidentally, the L'esperance tile person on Etsy has been really fantastic, and sent me some sample color and sizes of tile. Etsy is so full of awesome people.

Construction is Happening

My son pretty much never wants to get dressed in the morning. About a year ago, we started telling him "Pants are Happening!" We even sing it sometimes. I am not sure if it helps or not, but I do feel like singing "Construction is Happening!"

Lots of framing has been going up in the past week, which makes it start to look like "a room" and not "a big hole in the yard".

These are pictures of the concrete floor for the new lower level man-cave (the big hole will be a big glass door and a sidelight). Above that, will be the kitchen. KITCHEN. I can't even deal. I have this idea that all the cabinets will be in the week of Thanksgiving, and then 2 weeks until we get a countertop templated and installed and then VIOLA finished kitchen. Maybe we need to do the backsplash over winter break. No problem, right! Right?

I realize my plan for the kitchen is ambitious. I am sticking with my original idea of "baking christmas cookies in new kitchen". It's gonna happen. I totally believe it. KITCHEN.


Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Rain Rain Go Away

It was rainy today, and super windy. Still, contractor-father-in-law and his colleague both showed up and got a bunch of framing done. I will try to take a picture tomorrow morning.

When we get home, it is getting dark. In the morning, we are rushed. Weekends may be the only good picture times.

I realized that one of the things I was hoping to do with this blog is to drone on about random house stuff that I might or might not do, such that I do not make my husband crazy. (Husband is a really fantastic guy, who detests window shopping, so my over thinking renovations we're not doing for three years kind of makes him crazy.)

Truth be told, I remembered this almost immediately before I said "hey, honey, we should tile the fireplace brick, that we both hate". Wait, stop. This is the kind of thing that is prolly better for a blog and not for making husband nuts.

So anyway, we hate our fireplace. The chimney is centered on the wall, which is covered in skinny fake bricks painted off white. The hole for the fireplace itself is NOT centered on the hearth, which is covered with some incredibly uneven wide orange-ey brick. There is like a 1X8 or something painted brown in place of a real mantel. Not fun!

The rest of the downstairs is painted Valspar Bamboo Shoot, which is kind of green. It looks more beige on the Valspar website, but whatever. We did not paint the fake skinny brick because it was a pain, but that was a mistake and I want to paint it to match the rest of the walls.

Then I started thinking "Hey, DIY network just told me I could thinset tiles directly only brick. That sounds like a solution for my heinous fireplace problem." In the longer term, we'd like to yank the whole wall down, drywall it, and put in a new fireplace and mantel. I would also like some built ins on either side, which are really appropriate to the style of home. I would actually not be surprised if in the 70s someone took down the existing built ins and faced the wall with the brick to cover up where the built ins used to be.

So, paint, tile, build a thicker looking mantel shelf stained the same color as our door. Maybe a piece of reclaimed wood. That seems like a weekend project I could do all by myself! You know, in March of 2013 when I have a free weekend. :)

I am not an interior designer, or even a designer of any kind, but I put together a little board of the kinds of colors and finishes that would be a nice quick fix. I included one of the matching stained glass windows that flank the chimney, which are almost certainly original to the house. (There are 3 other stained glass windows in the house. The dining room one is my absolute favorite.) I think it's kinda cute.

For now, I have exhausted my fantasy-renovating energy by doing that and writing this post, so I guess it's time for bed.


Monday, October 25, 2010

Healthy Progress!

We got sick. One after the other, after the other. Now we are mostly healthy! While we were sick, lots of progress as been made.

  • Concrete guys came and poured the footer.
  • A big truck came and delivered block. Another came and delivered brick layers. (Yes, it's a terrible picture. I am sorry.)
  • After that, I think my husband and father-in-law-contractor put in a layer of insulation.
  • Then another layer of concrete from the big truck to do the floor.
  • Now we have a delivery of lumber! Very exciting.

We also ordered our cabinets (the night I was starting to get sick). They will be delivered the week of Thanksgiving. Hopefully, we will have a room to put them in.

Monday, October 18, 2010


I am sick and my voice is completely gone.

We are still getting estimates for windows and doors. Contractor-father-in-law and husband got the first flat layer of insulation down, but I have not really been awake much, so not so much with the getting up to take pictures.

Instead, I made an etsy treasury of pretty things I might put in my house or on my self or on someone else's baby.


Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Everything costs more than we think

Today is the day where things cost more than we think they should.
I want this door for the kitchen, opening onto the deck. With a sidelight.

Below the kitchen will be my husband's new man cave. he would also like a door, with two sidelights.

Our estimate for this is more than I paid for my first car. Seriously, door salespeople? Why you gotta mess with me like that?

We may or may not be picking different doors. I am struck with indecision.

In other news, we finalized our cabinet layout. (Yay!)
And a sale on cabinets starts tomorrow (Double Yay!)
We should be ordering cabinets this week!


Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The Current Kitchen: Mini Remodel

A friend asked me to post pictures of the existing kitchen, for comparison purposes. Actually, painting the original kitchen was the first thing I did when we bought the house, prior to moving in. While we were living in our old house (Umple Corner), I spent hours watching TV remodeling shows and photoshop-remodeling pictures of my new house and what it would look like. The reality never works out to be quite the same, but here are some pictures of what we bought, what I dreamed up and what we have now.

My, uh, design sense or whatever you call it took a "red and white accessories are AWESOME" detour after I got the kitchen painted. Also, the reality of "painting something white" is not at all how shiny it looks after photoshopping. I have gotten over it, however.

In new kitchen news, I have an appointment tomorrow night to finalize the layout and cabinetry, and I am going to take a look at some countertops, as well. Now to live with what I've got for another few months.


Monday, October 11, 2010

What is a Foursquare and why woodland foursquare?

According to Wikipedia:
The American Foursquare or American Four Square is an American house style popular from the mid-1890s to the late 1930s. A reaction to the ornate and mass produced elements of the Victorian and other Revival styles popular throughout the last half of the 19th century, the American Foursquare was plain, often incorporating handcrafted "honest" woodwork (unless purchased from a mail-order catalogue). This style incorporates elements of the Prairie School and the Craftsman styles. It is also sometimes called Transitional Pyramid.

So basically it's a big square box with a pyramid top built. If you are from Pittsburgh (which I am), they will seem awfully familiar to you, because we had a heap of houses built in this time period. Our foursquare was built in 1926, in a suburb just outside of Pittsburgh (one of the first "Streetcar Suburbs" in this area).

Our particular street is lined with a bunch of oak trees. It's lovely. It also means that around this time of year, the oak trees are dropping acorn bombs on us like crazy. I actually have been considering making my son wear a hat outside because I am pretty sure they hurt when they land on your head. They certainly scare the heck out of you. This picture is of the trees on our street during the snowmagedden this past winter.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Kicking off the Kitchen

The biggest project we are undertaking with the house so far has just started to get underweigh: The Kitchen.

We knew when buying this house that the kitchen would have to go, and we knew that to do that, we'd need to build an addition to house the kitchen and our home office. The current kitchen is going to be turned into a powder room and a mudroom. We have plans for what goes under the kitchen as well. We have BIG plans. Lots of plans.

Unfortunately, we don't have the time for all the big BIG plans we have, so we are starting with the kitchen, the most egregiously poor room in the house.

I'll post pictures of the current kitchen another time. You'll see what I am working with. For now, enjoy these pictures of the huge hole in our yard that will become the addition.

3 year old son LOVES the hole. Every day when we get home from work "Mommy, can I go look at the hole?"

"No, baby, you can't go down by the hole without mommy or daddy."

"But mommy, it's a HOLE."

"Yes, I understand that it's a big hole."

"I like holes."

This is how the conversation goes. Hopefully it will go differently tomorrow. We have a truckload of block, a bricklayer, and my father-in-law-contractor coming tomorrow.

I have to get to bed. They'll be here at 6:30 am.




I am starting this blog so I have some place to talk, incessantly, about the house we bought last year that we have been (not as slowly as my husband might like) fixing up.

Mostly, I am hoping that I can do the bulk of my obsessing and backpedaling on decisions here, as I value my family more than anything, and I think my indecision and constant mind-changing is starting to wear on them.

So here I am. And here is the house the day we bought it.