Saturday, March 29, 2008

Cosmetic work

Our Tahiti Breeze fan is up and working!  This might be a good time to admit that I have a bit of a theme going (in my mind, at least) for our house.  The problem is, I don't like the idea of a theme because of how easily it can turn into kitschy knick-knacks and tchotchkes.  Perhaps what I should say is that I'm hoping to evoke a sense of tropical calm, without resorting to little palm tree statues.  To be honest, the fan itself is a little close for comfort in terms of a theme, but we found it on sale and I do like the way it looks.

And we made the blinds work!  

Stain: a story in pictures

Merciless Street

Please welcome our guest blogger again, Greg!

This week was my spring break, so I was fortunate to have a lot of time to work at the house. Many others came and went (Nicole, Dad, Mom, Dave, Roger) but I do believe I was the only person there for six long days straight.  

Anyhow, Roger came a couple of times to take care of some of the jobs that required 1. Someone who knows what he/she is doing and 2. two sets of hands, e.g. securing the loose microwave, tracing electrical, hanging fixtures, etc.  When he slid back one of the drop ceiling tiles in the kitchen to see what maze of wires awaited him to sort out, he noticed a problem.  As any good plumber will tell you: 1) don't bite your fingernails and 2) shit should flow downhill.  Well, "the homeowner," as Roger calls him, or one of his buddies, had installed relatively new pipe when they installed the shower but the pipe was going uphill, causing our tub to not drain properly (a problem we had noticed but not gotten to).  Note the picture of the brown stained shirt that leads off this post.  That is the result of me holding the bucket while Roger sawed open the pipes.  The first cut caused brown smelly water to spray the entire kitchen including us, the second cut was a more greenish hue, which we were relieved to realize was just the lime green living room paint which had been sitting in the pipe.  After a lot of laughs, a change of shirt (thanks Dad), and an hour or so at Home Depot trying to figure out how to put together a new piping puzzle, we will now be able to sleep easy knowing that our soapy shower water and dead skin cells will leave the premises rather than hover above us while we cook our Sunday gravy.  [Editor's note: Sunday gravy is marinara sauce for you non-Italians.]  

There were other snags, such as an electrical fiasco that has yet to be resolved that I could never explain to you even in person, much less in this short space.  The short version is that after all of the plumbing issues, Roger installed one light fixture and said, "When I turn this breaker on either we can pack up and leave or there will be fireworks."  When he flipped the switch the power in the whole house went out, and we stayed 3 more hours trying unsuccessfully to sort out the shoddy craftsmanship.  

There was a time when I thought my spring break would be move in.  I would appreciate it if our street started living up to its name.  

Wednesday, March 26, 2008


While I've still barely thought about things like what kind of furniture I want to get, for some reason I have known since before we bought our house that I wanted these specific blinds. They seem very natural and simple, which really goes well with the look I'm going for.  Every time I've walked through Ikea in the last six months, I point them out to whoever I happen to be with.  The other night, that person was our friend Leah.  The only problem was that I couldn't point the blinds out to her because they weren't there.  I panicked.  The idea that they would go out of stock had never crossed my mind, and I planned to use these blinds in almost every room!  

I was hoping against hope that maybe this particular Ikea didn't keep them in stock, but that I'd surely be able to find them at my South Philly Ikea.  So Leah and I kept going, reliving our experience in a German Ikea this past summer.  During that trip, our husbands, who have two graduate degrees between them, got so lost and confused among the Flarkes and Basisks that they looked like scared little puppies when we found them.

As we were about to check out, Leah suddenly pointed to a big sign that said something like "LAST CHANCE."  Underneath the sign was a bin full of my blinds!  On sale!!  I loaded up my cart, brushing aside the fact that I hadn't measured any of the windows and actually have no idea if the blinds will work.  Thanks to Leah for helping me preserve my vision.  Perhaps there'll be a later post about the tragedy of the blinds that just don't work, but I'm hoping that's not the case.

Let there be light!

Word on the street is that our electrical stuff went in today (lights, fans, outlets, etc.) but since I'm stuck working on a presentation, I can't verify said word.  Bah. 

Greg's having some trouble seeing, too.  He went to the eye doctor today and had his pupils dilated, and since he forgot to bring sunglasses, he had to wear what the doctor gave him and walk around looking like a fool. 

Monday, March 24, 2008


Last Monday, Greg and I stopped by the house after work/school in order to take care of a job we had really been looking forward to: getting rid of the carpet on the main floor.  In our minds, the carpet was the last remnant of the previous owners--full of their dirt and cigarette smoke (as well as a fair amount of our own dirt), we had left it on the ground so that we didn't have to worry about dripping paint on the hardwood.  Now that the painting was done, we were ready to get rid of that bad boy.  We fantasized about pulling it back to reveal the shining, beautiful floors, and anticipated how fresh and clean everything would feel once it was gone.

Sadly, we had forgotten to take into account the H, SAD.

The H, SAD is my polite way of referring to the previous owners' dog--the acronym refers to the words Hairy, Stank-A** Demon.  We have been dealing with the hairy part of the H,SAD since day 1, when Barb cleansed the fridge of a multitude of coarse black hair.  When my mom was in town, she put her plumbing/cleaning skills to work, getting a clog of demon dog hair out of the bathroom sink.  We also discovered many spots, particularly on the radiators, where the previous owners had painted over clumps of hair, leading to general grossness.  Greg spent quite a bit of time trying to sand the painted-on hair off of the radiators, trim, and walls, but I know there is a lot left.

That accounts for the hairy--on to the stank.  When I pulled back the carpet, starting at the back near the kitchen, I was accosted by the distinct scent of urine.  After all of the unexpected setbacks and grueling labor, this smell left me the most discouraged I have been.  The smell was compounded by stains in the wood--the beautiful hardwood I had been so looking forward to.  

I didn't last long on this job--the dander kicked up and my allergies kicked in, so I let Greg be a gentleman and do most of the work.  When he was done, we surveyed the damage.  Luckily, 75% of the floor was beautiful.  But that other 25% was bad.  It seems that the H,SAD hung out next to the stairs...and had a bladder-control problem.  The pee had worn the finish off of the wood and then soaked in.  The more we tried to clean, the worse the smell became.  The picture above shows our latest attempt--covering the entire region in baking powder.

We're not sure where to go from here.  We could put a rug down, but I really want to show as much of the wood as possible.  We could try to match the stain and hope that the smell eventually fades.  We could look into refinishing the whole floor, but it would probably be costly, and much of the floor is in good shape (see picture below.)

Any suggestions for getting rid of the traces of the demon?

Poor decision making

At this stage in the game, a multiplicity of ticky-tack little jobs have replaced the big jobs (tear down the walls, put up drywall, etc.).  Now we're busy doing things like painting radiators and installing doorknobs.  The closet door in this picture, for example, represents several hours of labor.  I had the brilliant thought that rather than buy a new one, we'd repaint and reuse the existing door.  Which is a good idea, in theory.  But when you've had at least three people trying to get decades of dust and dog hair out from between each slat, then sanded, primed and painted, you realize that maybe a new door wasn't such a bad idea. 

Funny flier

It's a tough call as to what is most amusing about this flier, which was waiting for us on our step today: the fact that Kelly decided to name her cat Buttface, or the fact that she thinks Buttface's polydactlity will help us identify him.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Our current residence

Having devoted so much space on this blog to our future residence, I thought it might be interesting to have a look at where we're staying while we do the work on our house.  Greg's parents have been gracious enough to let us crash in their guest room for...well, going on nine months now.  Before that, we lived in an apartment with two large bedrooms and tons of storage space.  (The bathroom was another story--I banged my elbow against the door whenever I tried to flush the toilet.)   When we moved in with Greg's family, we only expected to be there a few months, so we stored all our winter clothes along with our furniture--whoops. As the months went by, stuff accumulated...

Here's a tour of our current space:

The bedroom

The office

The living room

The hallway/dining room/dressing room/sitting room/sun room

The closet

All kidding aside, it's a very nice room, pleasantly decorated with a nice view and a comfortable bed.  But between Greg's shoes:

and my pile of schoolbooks that multiplies daily as the semester draws to a close:

we're looking forward to Mercy Street.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

More color

Another Saturday painting with the help of a friend.  Below, Jim watches as Greg unveils the color for the living room.  I'm not sure he's sold on the idea.

But what could be so bad?  Surely a nice, neutral...lime green.

I've been planning on lime green for months now, but I have to admit, I was a little concerned about how it would look on the wall.  This picture (below) does not do it justice at all--it's much greener than it looks here.

That's more like it.  It's vibrant, to be sure.

I decided to balance it by painting the wall that goes up the stairs a clean white.  Hopefully it will keep the green from completely overwhelming things.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008


Here it is, our room with a blue.  It's the bedroom, and it's a fairly intense color, but I'm really happy with the way it looks.  Once all the stuff is in it, I think it will work very well.

Here's the office; kind of a pale grey-blue.  Dave picked up this paint for us as a mistint, which is fantastic and cheap.

The only real problem with the blue paint in the bedroom is that it makes the wall-installed air conditioner stick out crazily.  I painted the cord blue in an effort of camouflage, but it doesn't help much.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Primed and ready

Another weekend painting.  Our friend Rachel came up from D.C. to lend her expertise, which was considerable.  I now understand the W much more than I did before.  Above, Rachel and Greg put the final coat on the downstairs ceiling.

Rachel models her new painting shoes that we picked up at Sears Essentials.  It's hard to tell, but those are little broken pink hearts.  Painting with pathos.

This is the first coat in the office going on over the primer.  We managed to get the second coat up in the waning hours of daylight--Daylight Savings Time means more time to work!

This is what the paint for the bedroom looked like when we first took off the lid.  Luckily, once we stirred it up, it looked more like the color I ordered.  Which was definitely not magenta.

Pretty swirlies!

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Finally, paint!

This weekend we finally began painting!  My friend Jamie flew in from Chicago and I put her right to work.  For some reason, Greg recommended that we start with  We didn't do any work Saturday because Jamie's husband Jimmy came down from where he had been working in Long Island and we figured we shouldn't treat them like visitors rather than indentured servants.  We walked from our house to Pat's for cheesesteaks.  On the way there, we passed a store selling butt pads.  They looked like underwear with padding in them, I guess to enhance one's derierre.  Lovely.

Sunday we brought in Dave, Erin, Dennis and Barb.  

We accomplished quite a bit: we painted the shelves in the closets, primed the office walls and ceiling, and primed the bedroom walls and ceiling.

Even though it's just primer, it already makes the place look much more pulled together.