Saturday, December 28, 2013

Painting My Office Ceiling - Part 2

Got quite a bit of progress done lately on painting my office ceiling...  Which is good because I can't wait to get my office back-- it's a mess!

Here's one photo of the result.  I'm really glad that I left the strips of trim unpainted.  They tie in with the walls really nicely, I think. 

Friday, December 27, 2013

Traveling For the Holidays

K and I went to Wisconsin to visit our families, as we do every year.  We had a nice, long break and got to see a lot of family.  It was great for both of us to see our grandparents -- we're so blessed to still have them with us.

But after that busy, busy trip, I have to say that I was SO happy to get home!  Our house may be a mess and our To-Do list is very long... but it's still home.  Our own space, and it's getting better with every little improvement that we finish.

Very grateful for this little fixer-upper.  <3

Saturday, December 14, 2013

New Laundry Room Appliances

In August, our washing machine was pretty much breaking.  It had leaked from somewhere inside ever since we bought the house, but worked okay otherwise.  It began to leak worse in August, and although K tried to fix it, she thought it just wasn't going to be worth the trouble.  We picked out a Samsung and ordered it from Best Buy.

We maybe should've gotten a new dryer at the same time, but we decided to avoid the expense, for the moment.  Which turned out fine, since we got another 4 months of use out of the dryer.
But then it, too, died a few days ago.  Not slow like the washer, just wouldn't heat and tumble one day.

With the dryer on the way, we thought we'd do some cleaning up in the laundry room.  We cleaned the floor underneath and the walls behind the dryer and utility sink, and painted this area with waterproof paint.

K also picked up a new utility sink, since the one that came with the house was so gross.

Laundry area, pre-cleaning

Hello pink paint!

That same bright pink/coral paint!

It sure looks better down there!  We hadn't painted before we had the new washer hooked up, so sometime we'll have to move that again and paint, but that will probably be when we get around to working on the rest of the room.

It feels much cleaner and brighter in this little area now!


Saturday, November 30, 2013

Painting My Office Ceiling - Part 1

Here's the thing with this office--  The wood in here is beautiful.  Even with a thousand staples and nails in the walls and ceiling, it's still so pretty.  The color is warm, golden, and I love how the sunlight looks in here.  But the wood just sucks up any bit of light.  The one ceiling fixture only illuminates the middle of the room, even though it has three bulbs.  I have two other lamps and two other hanging lights elsewhere in the room, and when they're all on it's OK in here.  But it's still difficult to do any art or sewing projects with the light that's here, and I want this room to be more functional.

I have gone back and forth a hundred times on whether or not to paint the ceiling in here.  And if so, which parts?  Just the middle, or the sides, too?  Or leave it as it is-- pretty honey-colored paneling that matches the knotty pine walls...   Once daylight-savings came this fall, I really got my answer.  There is NEVER enough light in here.  If I want there to be more light, I need to paint the ceiling.  I won't touch the knotty pine walls, but I need some white on the ceiling to help the light reflect through the room better.

Since the test primer stuck really well, I got started on painting the ceiling today.  It's late and I'm too tired to continue, and... I'm almost done.  There are a couple areas that are tough to get to, because I didn't move my stuff far enough away.  And the ceiling over the staircase is going to require some creative ladder-ing.  K will get some ladders set up for me later so that I can do that part.

Taping and plastic everywhere, and lots of painting by hand....  I'm trying to leave the two strips of trim unpainted, so there are all those edges to paint carefully. 

There were also quite a few things that needed to be removed from the ceiling before I could paint...
The first thing I did right away last year after we got the house -- there were about a thousand staples and pushpins and nails that needed to be removed from the walls and ceiling.  The previous tenants had obviously papered every surface in here.

Staples with tiny bits of paper...  Everywhere.

Then there were the letter stickers on the wall and ceiling.  Brilliant gems such as "Jazzer Size," "Fun Wasp Life," "Oops I Pooped," and "Golly G."  Actually, I think it's funny that I didn't take those off until now!  I guess I just got used to seeing them.

And the last thing were these mirror circles, stuck on the slope of the wall.  I didn't mind seeing them, and they actually reflected light from one of my lamps.  But after prying them off the wall, I want to kill whoever put them up there!  The adhesive has gotten SUPER sticky, and I'm pretty sure I've lost a layer of skin to the back of these things.  And I sliced my index finger with my razor scraper when I was trying to pry off a circle.  Not all of the glue came off the wall, but luckily the primer covered it up pretty well.

EVIL glue behind those mirrors!

The priming went really well, though.  I'm using a low-VOC oil-based primer, some that K had in the house already.  It's sticking very well, and covering everything I hoped it would -- there were random paint and marks in quite a few places.

I can't wait to be done with this project, because my room is a mess.  And I'm anxious to see what it will look like.  With just the flat primer, there's already a huge improvement in the light in here!

And K's been working all evening on shelving in the basement storage room.  She's re-using a bunch of the wood from the old work-bench.  I can't wait to see how it turns out!

Friday, November 29, 2013

Basement Storage Room - Part 1

Four-day Thanksgiving weekend seemed like the perfect time to get a project done...  Or at least started.   K got the idea that she could work on organizing the storage room in the basement -- getting rid of some things, organizing her tools.  And that turned into an all-out demo, cleaning and painting of the room!

This is how the room looked when we walked through the house the first time.  The tenants took the dresser with them, but the workbench was built in.  The carpet, the posters over the windows, and all the paint cans stayed and waited for us, too.  And once we moved in, we just put more stuff in there -- air conditioners, cabinets, tools...  Since it's out of the way, it was an easy place to stash things.

Workbench mid-demo

K was going to keep the workbench, because it was a nice size and she could either use it as a workbench or for storage.  But it was built right next to the walls and at some point there was moisture down there, so the wood had gotten a little rotten and weak.  It seemed like it would be better to start over, plus we could really clean the wall behind it and the floor beneath it.  Surprisingly, there wasn't much underneath the workbench-- just a lone flip flop and an empty condom box.  

First came vacuuming all the dirt and old spiderwebs, and then we did a good scrubbing with bleach & water.  The walls did have water-barrier paint on them, already, but it was dirty and the bottom had old mold on it.  The floor was mostly painted at some point, too.

We put new water-barrier paint on the walls, and caulked around the windows to keep spiders from crawling into the house that way (we can see lots of old nests on the other side of the window!)  And since the windows aren't functional right now --they are covered with insulation and siding-- we decided to paint over them, to cover the caulk and so we don't have to stare at the insulation.  Someday, when we replace the siding, maybe we will replace the windows with some that seal and insulate better.

The floor, as it was drying

Painting the floor was as big an improvement as painting the walls, I think!  The room is brighter and doesn't feel gross and dirty anymore.  We'll be putting some shelves and cabinets in there for storage. 

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Happy Concrete Slab Day!

It's 7:20pm and the concrete guys have just finished up!  The poor guys were working out in the dark and cold for the last few hours.  K helped them through the day, but they did the finish work alone.

This is the picture K sent me in a text at 2:15 today:

"Check it!"
It was probably about 30 degrees in the early evening when they were working.  And once the sun dropped out of the sky, the guys were working in the dark by truck headlights, work lights, and little LED headlamps.  Pretty amazing stuff.  I watched them from the patio door.

Now they're putting the insulated blankets on the slab, and they'll let it cure overnight.  K will cut lines into the slab tomorrow. 

K is EXHAUSTED.  She worked this morning at 7am, then left at 11:30 to come home and help with the concrete.  She's overtired, but still thrilled.  I can't wait till she's done with the cuts tomorrow, and then the relief can really set in.  Already tonight, she got excited for a moment -- "All the boring stuff is done, and now comes the fun stuff!  The framing!"  And she means it -- framing is her absolute favorite.  And this time she'll be building something that will belong to her, to us.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Speedy Inspection

Yesterday when I got home from work, K had great news!  It had been pouring rain yesterday, so she had a rain day at work at around noon.  She called the inspector again about our concrete form, and said 'Hey, I know it's last-minute, but I'll be at home today if you can come by.'  And it turns out that the inspector could!

It was also a good thing that K was home when the inspector came by because she (the inspector), had questions about our lot.  Since it's such a weird shape, she wasn't expecting the markers to be where they are.  But K was there to point them all out to her and they got the inspection done quick and easy!

So now back to bids from concrete crews.  A few months back, when we were optimistic about the project going quickly, K had posted an ad on Craigslist and got a handful of good responses.  This was a few months back, however, and concrete companies are busier in the summer.  Now that it's late fall, her new ad got a flood of responses and the bids were much lower!  She'll probably save at least a couple hundred dollars having the slab poured now, versus in the summer.  That's comforting, considering how frustrated and apprehensive this project has made her feel. 

She's hoping to line someone up for Friday, so we very well could have a slab done by next week!

Monday, November 4, 2013

Finished Prepping For The Slab

Lucky for us, this weekend was gorgeous!  We were able to get so much work done for the slab, and now it's all prepped and ready for inspection and pouring the concrete.

Started out with me taking a trip to the rental place to get the plate compactor/tamper, again.  Since the one didn't work well last time, we got a credit for another use.  This time the machine worked like a champ.

We put down all the rock and soil that we had, and got it compacted really well.  K dug trenches all along the sides of the form.  She's making a reinforced slab, so it can carry the weight of the garage and hopefully won't crack too much in the future.

In this picture, you can see that we really had to build up the left side of the garage floor to keep it level.  The ground slopes quite a lot in the back yard, so we dug down the right side a bit, but still really had to add to the left side.  The floor does slope to the front just a little, and the driveway will slope down to meet the existing asphalt.

The next step was to add a layer of poly as a vapor barrier.  The garage will be heated with some kind of space heater, and the poly will be there to help keep moisture from seeping up from the ground into the concrete slab.

It was a windy day, but we got the three long sheets of poly stapled to the sides of the form and taped along all the seams.

Next was the rebar, and we did this mostly in the dark, so I only have one photo.  K put rebar posts into the ground every few feet, and then we connected two rows of rebar to those posts, horizontally.  These will give strength and structure to the thicker sides of the slab.

It was pretty chilly by the time we were working on the last of the rebar, but we got it done.  K covered up the whole thing with tarps again last night, and this morning she called the inspector to see about getting it looked at.

Really, really hoping we can get that slab poured this week or next.  It will be a big load off K's mind to have that done before the cold sets in.  And then she can work on her plans for the building and materials, and take her time.  If the cold and snow holds off, maybe she will start building this year.  And if not, she will be good and ready by the spring.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Researching the History of Our House

I was able to head down to the library downtown and do some research on our sweet little house.  I didn't get a whole lot more information than what I was already able to find using regular online searches and  But I was able to have the permit cards for our property right in my hand and see when and what was done on the property since 1901!

Part of our property's permit card - dating from 1901


The city directories were also a lot of fun.  Lots of those are archived on, but you have to be looking for the correct name.  When you're looking directly in the book, you can look up the address.  And that's helpful because the names are sometimes misspelled, or just spelled differently from year to year.

1950 City Directory

Charles Olek worked at the Pillsbury Mill downtown - 1939

As you might imagine, there aren't usually pictures and a lot of historic information on private residences, unless they were significant in some way.  Since our house is just a 1950s same-old-same-old, there weren't any pictures of our house, just the permit cards and directory listings.

What I was able to find a lot about was our neighborhood.  Ever since we bought the house, I wondered about the big building across the street.  It's apartments now, but it doesn't look like that's what it was from the beginning.  And we've met one of our neighbors who lives there and he says he thinks his apartment used to be a gymnasium.  So I looked for the building and the librarians brought me 3 huge envelopes that were bursting with newspaper clippings.  Turns out the building used to be the Margaret Barry Settlement House, up until the 1970s or so.  What's a settlement house?  Since the Northeast neighborhoods were largely settled by immigrants, settlement houses were a place to gather and find resources.  From what I read on the Margaret Barry House, there were English, typing, and parenting classes; job and living resources; preschool and childrens' education; and frequent dances and gatherings for the teenagers of the neighborhood.

Margaret Barry House - 1925

Article on the Margaret Barry House - 1932

I also found a really cool photo of the building where a couple of our good friends live, just a mile or two down the road from us.  It was built by the Cream of Wheat company for the offices and factory, I believe, and it has been converted into very cool lofts. 

Names of people who have previously owned our property:
        Lucy Doyle and Edward J Doyle  (1901-1910)
        Vincent and Sophia Fanzig, Charles and Sophia Olek  (1931-1943)
        Angelo and Conjate Cremisino  (1943-1945)
        Charles A Pettis  (1945-1946)
        Didrick J Orfield, John F Sandstrom  (1946)
        Kenneth A Chase  (1946-1949)
        Hope A Quinn (1949-1951)
        Frank J & Rose M Flanigan  (1951-1971) - they built our house
        Harold L Fletcher (1971-1979)
        Paul Wesley Irwin & Diane E McKay-Irwin  (1979-1999)

1865 City Directory

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Rock & Bobcat

Yesterday we got some work done in the prep for the concrete slab, but not nearly as much as we'd hoped -- because it rained!  Wet ground is much easier for bobcat tires to sink down into.

K got everything organized right in the morning -- rented a bobcat and a plate tamper, and arranged for the delivery of a bunch of Class 5 rock.  She had gotten the 3rd side of the form built within the last couple weeks, so now we needed to level and compact the ground that will be beneath the concrete slab.  The Class 5 rock was to be put on top of the soil -- it compacts together very tightly and makes a strong, dense layer.

Delivery of the Class 5 rock

K was zooming all over in the bobcat, using the shovel to scrape down the dirt.  It was a fairly small bobcat, kinda light, so it didn't quite have enough weight to really move the dirt without a few passes.  But once the rain started, the thing really sunk into the ground and the tires made deep ruts.  So I suppose it's better that it wasn't a heavier model.

Another glitch was that the plate compactor/tamper quit on us fairly early in the day.  It was working for a bit, but then the engine was quitting and wouldn't restart.  I got quite a bit of the rock compacted, but as the rain continued and the bobcat drove over it again, a bunch of the rock got churned into the ground.

Right before the compactor quit and the rain got heavier

It was a very long, grueling day.  I have no pictures from later in the day, because we were trying so hard to just get done.  We finished in the dark, after we used all the rock, and were very frustrated with our progress.   Poor K was beYOND annoyed.

Luckily, we're getting a credit from the rental place on the tamper, so we can continue and hopefully finish up in the next couple weeks.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Late Garden Harvest

It was a beautiful Sunday today.  It rained on Friday evening, and was kind of chilly yesterday, so today seemed even more lovely.  It's supposed to rain most of this week, so I guessed today would be one of the few days when I could grab the remaining herbs from my garden and work on preserving them.

Got that huge pile of catnip cut down and bundled, and grabbed some of the long stems of mint, to dry.  Then our neighbor had me come over to get some things out of their garden -- parsley, lovage, tarragon, oregano, and sage.  And lots and lots of Swiss chard, which I'm having for dinner. 

I've decided to dry the herbs in a seldom-used closet.  It's dry and it will be dark.  And I found the perfect hanging device in there -- a hanger made to hold 4 skirts or pairs of pants.  It is long, with 8 clips spaced on each level.

Bundled all those herbs with string and clipped them all on!

Now the herbs are spaced out, and not just in a thick bundle.  It's all hanging nicely in the closet.

AND, there was a nice surprise waiting for me in the garden --  The green beans grew!  We had so many plants, and they all grew thick and huge and tall!  But because they were planted so late, and were just blossoming in September, I figured we probably wouldn't have any beans.  It would get too cold before the beans could grow.  But it's been a mild autumn so far, so we have beans!

I've also picked all the little green tomatoes, and I've got those in a paper bag in the kitchen.  Maybe, hopefully, some of those will ripen up for us.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Concrete Form Day 2

Late start on the concrete form today, because it rained again.  Quite a bit, actually, in the early afternoon.  Eventually, we ran over to Home Depot to get some more wood for the remaining sides of the form.  As soon as we got back home we started working on the back side of the form.  One of the boards that looked pretty straight in the store was actually giving us quite a bit of trouble -- too much bowing and twisting.  We worked until it was dark, and then K brought a work light outside so we could keep going.

The lights behind the trees are a train going by  

It was actually kind of fun once I got a sweatshirt on to keep warm.  We had the radio on, lots of good tunes, and I was dancing around whenever I needed to warm up.  K was determined to get that side done tonight, and we did it!  Eventually got things all straight and square.  Should make the other two sides easier to complete.

So... one side of the form per week, so far.  Plus leveling some of the dirt and adding the gravel and rock after that...   Means we'll be ready to pour the concrete in, like, November?  

Saturday, September 21, 2013

First Baby Step of the Garage

First chance we get to start on the garage, and it rains on us.

K took this week off work, mainly to figure out the garage situation/start on the project, and partly to just get a break from her extremely busy job.  I took today off work, because my bosses were out of town, my work was a little slow, and I figured I could help K for the day.

It was kind of a gloomy day, and then when we got started in the afternoon, it rained.  Off and on for a while, and then eventually it was just sprinkling.  We each put on one of K's work rain jackets and kept going.  We got started on making the form for the concrete slab, and got one side completed.  It's a lot more work than you might think -- each corner needs to be square, each board that you use probably has some bend to it so you have to make it level and straighten any bowing.  LOTS of tweaking.

Finished the one side in the dark.  Then looked at and thought, Wow, that's it?  There's so much left to do!

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Garage - Change of Plans

Well, our initial plan for a large 3-stall garage has been changed.  Last week, K brought her amazing plan and documents to the Minneapolis permit office to get them approved and to purchase the permit.

Since our lot is quite large, we figured that we could also go big with the garage.  And actually, we can.... But since it's larger than standard size, it require some special considerations.

1)  The permit would cost $200-300 more than a standard permit.
2)  A variance would be requested, meaning that an inspector would come out to our property within 2 weeks to make sure our plans were done properly.  Construction could only start after we got approval.
3)  The roof pitch would need to be the same as our house.  So our garage would be as tall as our house, and have a very high ceiling.  Yes, it would be cool to make a 2nd floor and have a studio or maybe even a guest room above the garage, but in reality, we'd just be heating a bunch of unused space for a very long time, until we could someday get to that project.
4)  The roof needs to face the same way as the roof of the house.  So, the shingles would be facing the street, same as the house.  We couldn't put the gabled side on the front, which would be better if we wanted to put up a basketball hoop someday.
5)  The siding has to match the house.  Right away.  We'd either need to side our garage in pale-yellow aluminum siding (not going to happen), or re-side our house at the same time as our garage.  Yes, that would be amazing!  But I can't imagine that we'll be able to afford all of that at once.

Plan B for building the garages, according to the permit office, is to build a standard 2-stall garage and then build another 1-stall garage next to it.  ....Really??  I mean, we get that a large 3-stall garage is a more complicated structure, as far as building goes.  It was certainly going to cost a lot of money and require more specialized supplies.  But, we can build our 2-stall, and then build a 1-stall a couple feet away from it, if we want to. 

And for a standard 2-stall, there were no special restrictions.  Once the plans are approved, a permit is handed to you and you can begin building immediately.  Your roof can be whatever pitch and face whatever way you prefer.  Your siding can be whatever you like.  If we wanted our garage to be bright pink, we could do it. 

So, 2-stall it is.  K had to come home, completely re-draw all of her plans to show the 2-stall garage, and go back to the permit office the next day.  Permit in hand, we could start building.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Fall Garden Harvest & Potato Salad

It's been a mild fall so far, so my garden has been able to continue to grow.  Which is great, because it was planted so late!
Happy garden!

The tomato plant is huge, but the blossoms got started so late that I still just have green tomatoes and some remaining blossoms.  But they're all so pretty!

Green tomatoes and blossoms

And the green beans are probably not going to grow this year.  The vines are huge and healthy, but they've just started to blossom.  I'm not sure they will have enough time to grow actual beans before the frost and cold nights arrive.
Tiny green bean blossoms

And we have a huge pile of catnip!  Which is great, because I only planted those seeds once we had finished the garden bed.  They took a little while to germinate, but now they're doing great.  I've brought a few branches in for the kitties and they go nuts over this stuff!


I cut most of the dill today to use for potato salad.  And I took out the radishes that looked grown enough.  I definitely planted some of the radish seeds much too close together, because those are just growing straight up and tangled together, and not forming any round little radishes.

Bowl of goodies from the garden

All those radishes and dill were used up in the potato salad, which turned out really good!  It was a little spicy -- those radishes are pink and adorable, but they really have a bite.

Pink, spicy radishes

Red and yellow potatoes with pink radishes
Vegan potato salad with cider vinegar, dijon mustard, carrots, red onions, and CUPS of fresh dill!!