Thursday, May 29, 2008

Thanks Greg and Michael!

This is what our basement looked like when I left last Friday.

And here it is now!

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

city murals

If you spend much time walking around the streets of Philadelphia (apologies to Bruce) you'll notice the murals that decorate the city.  They are part of an initiative called the Mural Arts Program ( and they really do bring a sense of community to the city--there are murals celebrating everything from Philly boxers to Old Blue Eyes to feminism.  

However, the mural that I pass every time I drive to Lowe's or Ikea confuses me.  It's the face of a child surrounded by what appear to be white clouds in a blue sky.  

A closer look, however, reveals that the clouds are actually cat heads.  Why?

Even more strange is the one two doors down of a woman shooting a basketball surrounded by purple squid.  I'll try to get a picture.

weekend away

I spent the weekend in Northwest Arkansas, at a sort of impromptu family reunion.  This is funny, because my family is not from Northwest Arkansas, they're from Oregon (my dad's family, that is).  But my cousin Mindy and her husband Jonathan moved there a while back, and her parents and my grandmother were visiting, so my mom and sister drove down from Indianapolis and I flew in from Philly.  And my dad just happened to be in Tulsa, which is not far away, so he came by as well.  We played cards, ate a Southern Boil, and talked new homeowner stuff, since Mindy and Jonathan bought a house when they moved.  They're painting their bathroom, working on GFI outlets, and growing lilies.

Not everyone in the family could make it, but my grandpa sent out one of his handmade cutting boards for my sister.  I got one in January (pictured above) and have been eagerly waiting to display it in my kitchen at Mercy Street.  It's so beautiful that I'm not sure I want to use it for chopping and cutting.

Speaking of Mercy Street, I missed all the activity there over the weekend.  Greg and our friend Michael made lots of trips from storage, filling the basement with boxes and furniture.  We can't put stuff where it goes yet, because the carpet isn't in, but we're getting ready so that once it's installed, we can unpack!

Sunday, May 18, 2008

general update

This is our basement before I scrubbed it yesterday.  It looked pretty much the same after I scrubbed it, but it was an important psychological step.  It is now ready to accept boxes from our storage unit!  Greg's dad and cousin Roger (who together have done all of the skilled labor on the house) did the work of five men Friday, finishing up the electrical and plumbing work, fixing our refrigerator so that it is FINALLY not sitting in the middle of the kitchen doorway, and some other odds and ends.  There are one or two more projects to go (propping up a joist in the basement, figuring out the best approach to "refinishing" the wood floor), but once the carpet goes in (we're measured and ordered, just waiting for the order to come in and the installation to happen) we will start moving stuff in upstairs.  

Saturday, May 17, 2008

"Why don't I ever learn?  It's never as easy as you think it's going to be."

That was Greg this morning at Home Depot.  We had a few simple plans--to return some unused copper wiring (that stuff is expensive!), to buy some wood, and to buy some jacks.  We failed on the first and last--we didn't have the right receipt for the copper, and the jacks weren't the right size.  We did get the wood, though.  This is Greg trying to get it into the basement:

We decided to bring the copper back to New Jersey, look again for the receipt, and return it to the Home Depot there.  We also loaded up the car with all the scrap copper we had accumulated during the plumbing work, and which we are going to take to a junkyard and try to get some cash for.

The bundle of really thin pieces represent quite a bit of painstaking labor--I removed them all from scraps of leftover wire by cutting through the plastic sheathing.

Here's Greg digging through the many Lowe's and Home Depot receipts.  We did eventually manage to return it for store credit, which was good.  We're not sure what to do about the jacks, though.  We need them to prop up a joist in the basement, which is only six feet high, but the smallest size we can find is 6'6".

Wednesday, May 14, 2008


This is the bathtub nook in our bathroom--the tiles are an ugly peach color, and there's a somewhat tacky plastic insert that covers sits on top of the tiles.  The bathtub, as pictured in the previous post, is also not in good shape.  We decided early on that we would use the area as storage and use the shower, which is in a separate stall, for bathing.  We thought about putting up a shower curtain, but decided that the blinds we got from Ikea would look better--i.e., less plastic.

I'm pretty pleased with how it turned out!  We'll keep cleaning supplies in the tub.

I also hung this curtain on the bathroom window today--very plain, keeps things bright.

And I hung curtains in the bedroom.  The blue is really not that bright--I just couldn't figure out how to get the lighting right for the picture.  The curtains here are a basic beige.

This is just to show the detail of the curtain rod--we got the kit at Ikea and thought it fit our bedroom well.  We call it the Oxford room--Greg studied abroad there and has some pictures that we're going to hang, and something about the deep blue seems to fit.

clean clean clean

This morning, I cleaned the bathroom.  But before I did that, I cleaned the cleaning supplies.

Much better!

The bathtub, which we are not going to use, has served as a receptacle for all kinds of dirty rags, paintbrushes, buckets, etc., and it's become quite colorful.  After some serious elbow grease, I got it looking a little better.  The previous owners had painted it at some point, and painted the tile around it, and as I scrubbed, I realized I was getting that paint up, so I decided to stop.  

Monday, May 12, 2008

the magical floating hutch

Our kichen has a magical floating hutch in the corner.  I was really excited to see the hutch at first, because I've always thought the corner ones are a neat use of space.  I didn't notice the magical floating element right away, but when I did, I felt even luckier!  You'll notice that the previous owners didn't bother painting the whole radiator because it's mainly hidden.

As excited as I was to have a magical floating hutch, it wasn't particularly attractive.  However, a little paint and elbow grease (thanks Greg!) and I'm really happy with how it turned out.

One of the first steps was to try to attach it more securely to the wall, but our efforts were pretty ineffective.  It's attached fairly loosely--in other words, if you shake it, it does indeed shake.  But we can't really take it down and rehang it because we're afraid of what we'll find behind it if we do, knowing that the house is kind of like a giant game of pick-up sticks.  Greg spackled the big holes and cracks to at least make it look a little better.

Here are some more views of the finished product.

I really like these crazy coral handles.  It took Greg a few minutes, but I think he's come around.

Sunday, May 11, 2008


About a month ago, Greg and I stopped by Lowe's to get an idea of what's out there, carpet-wise.  Now, between the two of us, we do all right in terms of negotiating daily life--we make some funny mistakes sometimes, but we're not totally devoid of brain cells.  However, the conversation we had with the Lowe's employee made me feel comically stupid, like I had forgotten how English works or something.  We asked him about the deal Lowe's was currently advertising, and this was his answer, as it sounded to my ears:

"Well, if you look at these ones here, they're going to be the price you see listed, but you have to add in blah for installation and blah for padding and blah per yard for tacking strips.  If you look at these ones on the back wall, this price here [gestures to sign] is what you're going with. Total.  Except for [gesturing vaguely toward a wall covered in carpet samples] that one, that one, and that one.  Those go for the sale price, plus installation, but we might not have them in stock, in which case, blahblahblah.  Is there carpet already in your house?  No?  So you can subtract blah, but you'll have to add blah because blah."

We smiled and nodded, and he walked away so we could look around.  Greg and I turned to each other:
"So, that one is blah?"
"No, that one is blah, plus blah.  But minus blah because it might not be in stock."
"Wait, I thought THAT one might not be in stock.  Which adds blah, right?"

We called him back and got even more confused.  Greg claims that he understood everything perfectly while the guy was talking, but that as soon as he left and I tried to figure out what he said, I confused Greg.  A likely story.

We left Lowe's and went to Carpet Mill Outlet.  We saw a carpet that we liked.  An employee came over, asked for the dimensions of our space, and with a few quick sums on a notepad, said, "OK, with that carpet, in your space, you're looking at a price of X.  Installation and padding included."

Carpet Mill Outlet got our business.  We picked the middle carpet in the above picture.  It's a very tight Berber without any pattern or anything.  It will go in the office, the bedroom, upstairs hallway, and on the stairs.  Hopefully we'll get to schedule the installation soon!

Wednesday, May 7, 2008


I was sitting at home this last Sunday, finishing up a fascinating paper on postcolonial geographies in Flann O'Brien's The Third Policeman when I thought I would procrastinate--er, give Greg a call.

Me: "Hey, how's it going at the house."

Greg: "Um."

Me:  "What's wrong?  Plumbing?  Electrical?  Termites?  Just tell me."

Greg:  "No, it's just that I found more treasure."

Me:  "Money!?!?!"

Greg:  "No."

Me:  "OK, what?"

Greg:  "A half-eaten chicken bone."

Me:  "....ooooh, ewwww, that's soooo grosssss."

Greg:  "Yeah.  I know.  I'm the one that cleaned it up."

Me:  "Eeewwww."

Greg:  "At least we know we don't have rats."


1) High intensity lightbulb: replaced.

Doorstop in Nicole's office: installed.

Faceplate: attached.

What a difference a day makes.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Three Strikes

From our favorite guest blogger, pictured above:

I thought I would stop by the house today, essentially to get some trash out.  Getting up to 12 bags of trash out of the house every Tuesday has become essential in not letting it build up and getting as much junk--some of which you've seen pictured in this blog--out as possible.  I couldn't stay long, as the 76ers were on tap for a pivotal game five with Detroit, but I figured I would make the most of the toll and gas money by stopping at Lowe's on the way and doing some minor odd jobs that have been lingering.

1)  Objective: Replace high intensity light bulb in entryway.  With the help of a Lowe's associate, I found the right teeny, five dollar halogen bulb to replace the one that blew out the other day.  When I got home, I realized that the light socked is not designed to support the wattage of the bulb that was in there, indicating another dangerous shortcut by the previous homeowner.  Result: Failure.

2)  Objective:  Put a doorstop in Nicole's office door.  Except I could not get the dang hingepin out, even after taking the hinge out and banging it with a screwdriver.  Result: Failure.

3)  Objective:  Put a faceplate on only remaining open light switch in the house.  It was far more challenging than you might thing to find the right configuration for the switchplate cover I needed, which was CGI outlet, switch, switch.  After buying the wrong one twice, having my dad try to saw one to fit, and the aforementioned Lowe's associate telling me you can build your own configuration only to tell me they didn't have the right pieces I need, I thought I struck gold when Home Depot had the right one.  Only it didn't quite line up.  So I figured, if I can just loosen the one switch and push it over a centimeter or so, that baby will fit.  I just need to be careful to not this screwdriver to the metal in the BOOM SPARKS EXPLETIVE!  With the circuit breaker tripped, the screwdriver charred, and myself thoroughly shaken up, I decided to put the trash out and call it a night.

It wouldn't have been so bad if the Sixers didn't get thrashed.