Monday, April 28, 2008

another basement discovery

I have no idea what this is, but Greg found it behind some paneling in the basement.

bathroom update

Over the last few years, Greg has been slowly turning into an old man.  It's not that he has gone gray or hard of hearing, but that he's started shaving the old-fashioned way, with a non-disposable razor and badger bristle brush rather than a Bic and a can of Barbasol.  This stuff was his Christmas gift last year, and this year he got a terrycloth bathrobe and slippers.  

All that is to explain why he hung two hand towel racks in the bathroom--one is for a hand towel and the other is for his shaving towel.  I'm cool with it as long as he doesn't start referring to me as a broad or a skirt.

And here's the new light fixture above the mirror.

And very important as well, the toilet paper dispenser.  I much prefer this kind (slide-off) to the kind you have to squeeze and maneuver while you're indisposed.  

Sunday, April 27, 2008


If you know me well, you know that my favorite place to eat is Penang, in Philly's Chinatown. So imagine how cool I thought it was that the local South Jersey paper did a review of Penang!  Well, then I read it.  I don't want to be the stereotypical hyper-PC grad student, seeking out racial, ethnic, or gender slights at every opportunity.  

But DUDE.  He said the waiters looked like NINJAS.  

I sent the author an email.  I won't reproduce it here because I tend to get long-winded and rhetorically self-indulgent when I write angry emails, but I'll let you know if he responds.

good art, good food

When I first came to the Philadelphia area for college, one of my first trips into the city was to take part in College Day on the Parkway.  On a Saturday in September, all of the museums located along Ben Franklin Parkway are free for college students.  It was such a great experience, especially because it coincided with the Steuben Day Parade, so as we walked up to the museums, we watched people in lederhosen shepherding ducks along Philadelphia streets.

The Ben Franklin Parkway is a wide avenue with City Hall at one end and the Philadelphia Museum of Art at the other.  It's lined with museums--the Franklin Institute, the Moore College of Art and Design, the Rodin Museum, the Free Library.  It's a very grand section of the city.  It's also lined with the flags of the nations, but as you can see, the United Arab Emirates flag is showing some wear.

Yesterday, Greg and I and two other couples met up at the Art Museum to go to the Frida Kahlo exhibit, which was a nice break from working on the house and on papers.  The exhibit was really interesting--they displayed a lot of photos from a private collection that had never been exhibited before, as well as, obviously, many of Kahlo's paintings.

Thorn Necklace

I'm no art critic, so I won't try and make up some kind of uninformed review of the exhibit, but I will say that one interesting element of the exhibit was that the walls were painted really bright purples and blues.  I'm only used to seeing art displayed on clean white walls, so the colors were interesting.  Either it was a really cheesy way of recognizing the "exotic" "vibrancy" of the Mexican artist, or it was meant to evoke Frida's house, the Casa Azul, which was painted in these kinds of colors.  

I'd like to give the exhibitors the benefit of the doubt that it wasn't cheesy, but the gift shop that the exhibit dumps you into seriously undermines that reading.  Frida prints!  Frida postcards!  Frida notebooks!  Bright paper Frida flowers!  Frida umbrellas!  Frida jewelry! Alas, I didn't see any Frida shot glasses.  I guess that would be considered tacky.


After the exhibit, we had reservations at a tapas restaurant called Tinto.  (Greg and I decided to count this as our anniversary gift to each other for last year, since we had celebrated by me cooking tilapia and green beans, which I cook roughly once a week.  In other words, it had been nothing special, so we used it to assuage our guilt about going out to such a fancy place.)

Tinto's chef is considered one of the bright lights of the Philly restaurant scene (wow, that sounds sooooo lame for me to write that, sorry) and the food did not disappoint.  We ordered the Chef's tasting, which meant we didn't have to decide what we wanted.  They just kept bringing food!  At one point they cleared our plates and we thought we were done, but then they brought new plates and several more dishes!  Most of the people at our table thought that the duck wrapped in serrano ham and served on a slice of baguette with blue cheese and a cherry was the best, but my humbler palate was delighted by the mini crock of black beans, sausage, and braised cabbage.  There was also a dish that was basically really fancy tater tots.

Greg and I are such dorks that on the way home, we stopped at Blockbuster and picked up the movie Frida.  I had seen it before, but Greg hadn't.  All in all, it was a totally indulgent, educating, and appetizing day.  And now it's back to work!

Monday, April 21, 2008

basement treasure

We really haven't had the stamina or the financial wherewithal to address the basement yet.  The original listing called it a finished basement, but what that meant was that someone, many years ago, stuck up some paneling against the dungeon-like stone walls.  It's really dirty and shoddily done.  We plan to refinish it at some point, but it's not a priority.  However, we realized that we should probably at least try to clean it before filling it up with our junk. Greg attacked one of the closets today.  He pulled the paneling down to reveal some haphazard insulation, mouse bait, piles of dirt, and, oddly, the painting pictured above.

cool product

As I pointed out in a post last week, we have lots of leftover paint.  More importantly, we have lots of half-full or less-than-half full gallons.  We don't want to get rid of it because we'll need to touch-ups every now and then, but the gallons take up a lot of space.  Luckily, Greg discovered these really cool little tubs.  You can fill them with leftover paint, and the top has a brush attached so that when you do touch-ups, you don't have to dirty a brush.  Best part: they cost only $2.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Big week for PA

(Disclaimer: This post mentions politics, but it's not political.)

As you probably know, Pennsylvania hosts its primary Tuesday in the hotly contested race for the Democratic nomination.  It's been fun to see the city so engaged--Mayor Nutter was on the Colbert Report!  Greg and I went to see Obama speak last night, and it was quite a feeling to be sandwiched in between Independence Hall and the National Constitution Center, surrounded by 35,000 people who are excited and hopeful about the future.  I should probably say that we went to hear Obama speak, because we were too far back to actually see him.

Below is a picture of Independence Hall.  This building has recently taken on new meaning for me because I'm training for a new job this summer.  I'm going to be a tour guide for the Philadelphia Ghost Tours!  I can't even explain how excited I am about the job, and everyone I mention it to seems excited as well.  And then they threaten to come see the tour, which dampens my excitement and makes me nervous.  I'm still in the early stages of training--I've only memorized one of the stories--but it's giving me a whole new appreciation for Old City.

minor announcement

If you've been reading this blog lately, then you might have noticed a decreasing number of renovation-related posts and an increasing number of posts about life in the city.  This is partly because the stuff going on with the house right now is pretty boring--it seems like we've been painting for weeks.  Oh wait, we have.  But it's also because I've been enjoying the blogging so much that I want to write posts even when there's not much house-related stuff to talk about.  

When I started working on the blog in December, I figured it would be a good way to let off steam while we were doing the repairs, and when we moved in, I'd have a record of all the work we had done.  But now I'm planning on continuing to post even after we move in, writing about the places we discover in our neighborhood, what it's like to move from the suburbs to the city, and probably many other things.

So if you're only reading for tips on how to gut a rowhome, feel free to jump ship.  But I hope you'll continue to read and comment!

Friday, April 18, 2008


I have packrat tendencies.  I've managed to keep them fairly well-hidden because I've moved a lot, and when you move, things tend to get thrown away whether you want them to or not.  I remember a particularly traumatizing experience when an unexpected move meant that someone else--who meant well and whom I love dearly--got to go through my stuff and decided that I'd rather keep my stuffed animals than my box of letters, notes, and poems.  I was 13.  I didn't really want my stuffed animals.

In any case, as we plan to move into a space that some might consider small, Greg and I are determined to keep things light and as clutter-free as possible.  I've committed to parting with a few of my 20-odd boxes of books, and Greg is going to do one of his routine T-Shirt purges.

Also weighing on my mind is all the stuff we have in storage that we won't need--a microwave, a set of dishes (we're finally going to break open our wedding gifts, yay!), the list goes.  Yard sales, Craigslist, Ebay--hopefully we can dispose of things without having to throw them away.

But then there's this stuff.  Paint, plywood, drywall, an almost-whole roll of insulation.  What to do with it?  It will surely come in handy at some point in the next ten years, but it's cluttering up our basement and we haven't even moved in yet!  

Wednesday, April 16, 2008


One of the reasons we ended up buying the house we did was because of that old real estate maxim: location, location, location.  For those of you not familiar with Philadelphia, it's very helpfully laid out in a grid.  Broad Street runs North-South and Market Street runs East-West. The two intersect at City Hall.  Our place is about two miles south of City Hall, and Temple University, where I am a student, is about two miles north.  

All I have to do to get to school is walk a block, hop on the subway, and ride for 15 minutes.  It's very convenient, especially compared to my current commute: drive to a regional rail station (10 minutes), ride the train (30 minutes), walk a few blocks to the subway (5 minutes), ride to Temple (10 minutes).  When you add in waiting for the trains, it's easily an hour-long trip.  I don't mind too much because I get a lot of reading done, but it's not like I can just hop on over to school to pick up a book at the library or check my mailbox.  Additionally, it's not cheap--the round-trip fare is almost $10. When we live in the city, I will be able to get to school quickly and cheaply, and we will be able to get rid of one of our cars and reduce our expenses and carbon footprint.  

These are a few pictures of Temple, which I took Saturday.  I spent the day in the library while Greg was busy working at the house.  These pictures show the more picturesque parts of the campus.  The building I spend most of my time in is actually really ugly and poorly-designed to boot.  It's a very neat place, though.  The campus is huge (at least compared to the other schools I've attended) and urban and always PACKED with students--total enrollment is over 35,000.  

One of the best-and most dangerous-aspect of the school is that you can get any kind of food your heart desires, from Middle Eastern to pizza to Vietnamese to cheesesteaks to Korean to crepes to salads.  I have to walk past a lot of these food stalls to get to my building, and resisting the delicious smells is definitely an act of willpower.

There's the Temple Owl.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

two amazing images

This first one, which is right around the corner from our house, pretty much speaks for itself.

This second one didn't turn out too well in the picture, but I still have to post it.  It's an ad that came in the South Philly review for Glock Day!  According to one of the little bubbles, "Members can win a Glock just by walking in the door."  To which there is only one appropriate response: AWESOME.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Mmm, tasty

These are just a few of the items I pulled out of the basement ceiling a few weeks ago. There are probably a hundred more where they came from, so if anyone does found art with rusty nails, let me know and I'll get them to you.

odd jobs

When the drywall first went up, this is what the doorbell looked like.

Now it's got a nice cover.

Also, the holes in the bathroom ceiling (from removing the high hats) have been patched and spackled.

And resident handyman Dennis patched a few holes in the floor.  I guess these holes were for the cable, but there isn't a very good explanation of why they had to be so big.

Nothing as exciting as paint or fixtures, but these things do have to get done.  

Sunday, April 6, 2008

A South Philly favorite done right in South Jersey

We didn't make it to Mercy Street this weekend.  Greg is nursing a sore throat and I'm working on end-of-the-semester papers.  However, we did make it out for a stroll to the Water Ice Factory, which is just a few blocks away.  Water ice is a local delicacy, not to be confused with slushees, sno-cones, or Italian Ice.  It's frozen yet creamy in texture, and in my opinion, tastes best in some kind of tropical fruit flavor, like mango or coconut.  Looks like we'll have to do the hard work of testing all the options in our new neighborhood.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

The bathroom sink

We continue to find new problems that have to be taken care of.  The good news is, we are running out of rooms to discover problems in!  Hopefully the bathroom will be the last, because at this point, we've rewired every other room and torn down the walls in every other room.  The bathroom and kitchen both looked like they had been redone in the last few years, but we're coming to realize that only means that the coverup of faulty wiring and electrical hazards was more recent.  

For some reason, the bathroom has a ton of lighting fixtures.  A three-bulb fixture over the sink, 5 high-hats in the regular ceiling, a fixture over the tub, and another high hat over the shower.  Roger had been working with the electrical in the kitchen and bathroom, but couldn't figure out the wiring in the bathroom because of how shoddily the previous owners had done things.  So, he made the executive decision that he didn't want us to live in a house that could explode at any moment and decided to put some holes in the ceiling and redo things.  Frankly, we think it was the right decision.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008



Goodbye to Mercy Street

A few days ago, Greg and I got a call from a local South Philly developer.  It turns out they are interested in razing the rowhomes on our street and putting up an apartment building.  We talked to a lawyer and there is not much we can do to resist.  They are giving us quite a bit more than we paid, which is nice, but it is also bittersweet because we have put our blood, sweat and tears into that house.  

So, thanks for reading, and hopefully before too long we'll find something else.