Looking for more house tips? Search through Houseblogs.net!

Monday, December 15, 2008

tis the season, or something

The holiday season is in full swing here. All work on the house has, predictably, halted, because we're far too busy cooking and wrapping and socializing and (occasionally) working. I'm about to run out to the post office to ship off the last of the far-away gifts. The living room is Holiday Central; wrapping paper, shipping boxes, cards, envelopes, tags, and three different kinds of tape are scattered over the big tables in the middle of the room, and wrapped presents are stacked up along the far wall (along with some holiday-themed beer somebody brought over, but we won't go into that). Every time I go through a roll of wrapping paper, Don claims the empty cardboard tube -- he's got three of them leaning up against the wall already and I predict a grand swordfight next time our friends are over. Because, you know, we're grownups.

In any case, that's what's going on here; no pictures, as a) my camera battery's not charged anyway and b) you never know who's reading this thing and there are still a few unwrapped presents scattered around. Don and I are both lucky enough to be able to take off of work for the holidays; I anticipate lots of relaxing and a great deal of hot chocolate being consumed.

We're kicking off our relaxation by attending the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra's Holiday Spectacular on Friday night -- it looks like it's going to be a lot of fun and we're both looking forward to it. If you're local, you should consider going. If you're going to be there, let us know! I'm thinking dinner at Sascha's beforehand.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

a belated anecdote

So, that plaster area over the top of the front porch? Inaccessible by any means other than joist-walking? Guess who made her way over there back while I was in Washington because it looked like a great place to nap and then got stuck, couldn't figure out how to get back over to the "safe" side, and howled her heart out until Don took pity on her and managed to get across the joists to rescue her?

Yeah. And then the ungrateful little monster made a panicked leap for the bare wall you see in the picture when he was halfway back across the joists with her, nearly knocking him down into the living room below, and then got stuck THERE until he finally managed to pry her loose and get her onto firm footing.

For once, she seems to have learned from a negative experience -- we haven't caught her over there since, no matter how tempting a nap-place it must seem.

She also managed to crawl into the underside of one of the upstairs bay windows while I was gone -- Don called me in a panic at three in the morning because she was howling and he couldn't reach in there to get her out. Three phone calls and some cussing later, I told him to open a can of tuna and stick it next to the hole she'd crawled through and ignore her. Lo and behold, one free cat (with some help -- once she got close enough he was able to grab her and help her out, as the drop was honestly too high for her to jump back up). We've blocked up those holes. And imagine, since I got back to pay attention to her at all hours of the day we've had only the normal kitty craziness. Spoiled!

Thursday, December 04, 2008

a vast wasteland

I promised pictures of the upstairs destruction -- here they are. In the top photo, you can see pretty clearly the plaster disaster over the front half of the master bedroom, which is what's over the top of the front porch. You can also see that the staircase railing is gone. It's sitting out on the front porch right now. It'll get put back later.

In the photo below you can see pretty clearly straight down through to the living room, where the remnants of a dinner party are still sitting out on the large folding tables we've put in there for dining and entertaining purposes. You can also see that Don installed a temporary railing where the floor ends to stop me from falling to my death in one of my clumsy moments. He's so considerate.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

the return of the chute

I hope you all had a lovely Thanksgiving, if you celebrate, and an equally lovely Thursday, if you don't. We had a nice time at Don's parents, and I spent the rest of the weekend selling jewelry at a convention while Don, predictably enough, played World of Warcraft. Work on the house is pretty much stalled until January -- Don's dad has too much to do between schoolwork and holiday preparations, and our weekends are filling up with events as well. But some things have gotten done, as I mentioned before. The project in progress right now is the upstairs floor. Don and his dad have ripped up most of the floorboards -- everything back to the third bedroom, where we're staying, and a little bit of hallway so we can get to the stairs. I'll post a picture later this week. In any case, when they ripped up the floorboards over the front porch, they discovered to their dismay that the builders of the house decided to add a little weatherproofing by pouring plaster -- the same crumbly, messy, gross plaster that we ripped down off of all of the walls -- down in between the joists over the porch. Needless to say, since we need to replace or repair all of those joists, that plaster has to come out.

And so out came the dumpster chute, pulled from its retirement in the garage to fight the good fight once again. I'm glad we saved it -- we didn't realize that WE would be the ones needing it again, but we were sure SOMEBODY would. This time, we've hung it inside the house; the plaster is all at the very front and there's no sense carrying it all the way to the back window when there's no floor to walk on. The chute is attached to one of the few walls still standing upstairs, and dangles down through the empty space between two joists into the living room and thence over the basement stairs to the side door. When they're working, Don and his dad can open the door and place a large barrel or another garbage can at the base of the chute, work til it's filled with plaster, then run down and upend it into the dumpster. I'm told it works pretty well. Don's planning on getting the rest of the plaster out himself sometime before January so that they can forge ahead with the new floor; we'll see how that goes.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

items of local note

Please pardon the "linkdump" you're about to get, but I've had a few items that I wanted to post about and I'd like to get them all out there for you local types (or even you not-so-local types!).

In the "Really Cool" files, I'm excited beyond belief about this new project -- an organic farm to be operated by and for the education of Baltimore City Schools. If they start a CSA I'm SO buying into it. In the meantime, if you can think of a way you or someone you know can help with this project, please spread the word -- it's so very worthwhile!

Two local events that are all about the Anapurna side of my life -- first, Darkover is this weekend. This was our very first real convention last year, and it's a great one to go to if you've never been to one -- not overwhelmingly huge, and full of really, really nice people. Feel free to swing by our table in the dealer's room and say hi! Second, the Walters Art Museum is currently running an exhibition called "Bedazzled" -- five thousand years of jewelry history on display. The exhibition is getting rave reviews, and I'm really excited to see it. It's only running through the beginning of January, so if you can you should get yourself down there. And if you've never been to the Walters, shame on you -- it's one of my favorite local institutions and it has some truly amazing collections.

Finally, I should have mentioned this before but the posting lull caught up to me -- our dear friend John has recently opened a bar in Fell's Point -- it's called Bad Decisions and it's turning into a pretty popular place to have a drink and hang out. From years of personal experience, I can highly recommend the bar staff's mixing skills, and Sam at the Baltimore Sun seems to think the same. If you're in the mood for some local celebrity, I hear there's a good chance you can occasionally run into a Charm City Roller Girl or two down there. If you can't get down to Fells right away, you can always follow Bad Decisions on Twitter and see what's going on.

Monday, November 24, 2008

i'm back and my clothes are clean

Count Don among the multitudes offended that I haven't been posting here. "Why haven't you AP'ed?" he asked me in an aggrieved tone a few days ago. He knows the answer very well, of course: this happened, sending me winging off to Washington for two weeks, and then this was released, causing much household excitement, and of course this is coming up, meaning I've got a lot of stuff to do. "You could do it yourself, you know," I said. "You know the passwords."

He rolled his eyes. "I don't want to blog," he said. "I want to be blogged about."

Well then. In the interest of maintaining his Internet celebrity status, allow me to give you the big, huge, incredibly exciting update:

We have a washer and dryer. And they work! When I got back from Washington, Don met me at the airport with flowers, took me out to dinner, and then whisked me out the next morning for a full day of shopping with no complaining on his part (I know, he's awesome). In addition to ogling jewelry and watches we would never buy, trying on strange clothing items, and buying some long-awaited new shoes for him, we also managed to (finally!) agree on and purchase a washer and dryer. Don and his dad had actually finished with all of the necessary plumbing before I left, although I didn't expect him to be willing to buy anything yet. But lo, Sears was having a sale, and they had the models I wanted, and there we were. So, rather than spending three hundred dollars each (!) on platforms to raise the machines up to the level we liked, Don spent the week before the delivery building a serviceable platform that cost nothing, as we had all the appropriate lumber around from working on the floors. We will eventually replace it with something sleek and fabulous (and maybe with storage) when we re-do the mudroom, but for now it -- and the temporary plywood floor, and the bare walls -- will do.

We've decided to open the mudroom up and make it part of the kitchen, giving us better flow and a little more space. This means that mudroom renovations, for now, went just to the point of getting the laundry facilities in place and functional, and all the rest will wait until we undertake the big kitchen renovation. The machines were delivered last weekend, and I've spent the last week washing anything and everything made of fabric in the house, up to and including the cat.

Okay, maybe not the cat.

Monday, October 13, 2008

plumbing accomplished

I was, for the most part, too buried in work to even take a breath this weekend, but Don and his dad managed to install the water line for the laundry room while I was glued to the computer. I took a break for five minutes this morning to risk life and limb holding things out of the way while Don completed the last few solders, and lo! It's ready. Don spent most of today on his back in the crawlspace wrapping the new pipes with heat tape so we won't have a repeat of last year's pipe-bursting disaster. Or... uh.. the one the year before that. See, progress! We learn from our mistakes! Or rather, other people's mistakes.

In any case, I am officially allowed to start shopping for a washer and dryer now, although we're waiting until at least the second paycheck from Don's new job to come in to actually buy anything. Not that it matters -- I've got five proposals due in four days next week, so washers and dryers will take a second-place to work for a while. Good thing I work from home in my pajamas -- don't have to do laundry nearly so often as I used to!

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

nothing to report

Family emergencies (on his side), work overload (on my side) and a bad cold (both of us) prevented anything getting done on the house this weekend. Figures. Scheduling is once again up in the air; we know what we'll be doing next but we just need to find the time to do it.

In the meantime, I'll be lying here in bed with a box of tissues and a vat of cough syrup, watching the cat ignore me because the new bay windows? With squirrels outside? SO much more fun than being petted or snuggled. Or so I've heard.

Monday, September 29, 2008

two weekends of progress in a row?!

This weekend was eventful all around. On Friday, we went out to dinner with Don's family for some fantastic food at Roy's. Saturday, Don was supposed to go to a fraternity golf tournament and I planned to go downtown to the Baltimore Book Festival, but weather forced us to find other, more indoor plans. I had a draft to work on for work for most of the day, but we were able to steal some time to head out and go shopping, because Don starts his new job today and was in desperate need of some pants. Sunday was our work on the house day. Don's dad showed up bright and early -- 8 AM -- and the two of them got an astonishing amount of work done upstairs before they called it quits at around two. They removed the wall which separates the master bedroom and the master bathroom and replaced it with a header, which means that we can rebuild the wall a few inches over, giving us room for the shower in the master bath. Then they got started ripping up the floor in the master bedroom. They finished tearing up the floor in both the bedroom and the bathroom, and will move on to the master closet and the middle bedroom and parts of the landing next time.

From what I understand, the current plan -- such as it is -- is to tear up the floors all the way back to the chimney, in the middle of the house, and then go ahead and level the joists and put in a subfloor in that area (long-time readers will remember the process from when we did it on the main floor -- but never you fear, newcomers, the pictures they are a-coming anyway). Then we'll move our bedroom from its current spot in the back guest bedroom into the master, and the office from the dining room to the living room underneath the master, and the same process will apply to the back half of the house. And then the floor will be done.

That said, however, I have been promised that before they get too involved in the upstairs work, they'll finally install a new water line to the laundry room and slap down a temporary subfloor in there (we're not finishing the space for real until we renovate the kitchen), which will mean, glory of glories, that I can FINALLY buy a washer and dryer and do laundry in my own home. Hallelujah! Tentative plans have that work being done this upcoming weekend, although as usual there are no guarantees. That doesn't stop me from drooling over appliance websites all week, though.

Monday, September 22, 2008

one giant step forward

Last week was pretty eventful. On Thursday, in particular, we had a veritable swarm of people running around the house: the window guys were working on the glorious dining room bay window you can see in the foreground of the picture below (and which I am sitting in front of right now, having moved my little work table over in front of it so I can watch the squirrels chase each other around the tree in the side yard); the lawn guy was mowing and also giving us an estimate for some yard cleanup; our new ADB representative was here getting some papers signed and getting the grand tour; and the HVAC guy was here (finally) fixing the upstairs air conditioning. Whew! Everybody said hi to each other -- the lawn guy took a card from the window guys -- and everything got done in good time.

And now, here we are. The huge hurdle we've been waiting to get over for months and months is rather anticlimactically past (okay, maybe it's only anticlimactic to me -- everyone who's come into the house so far and seen the new windows acts pretty darn climactic), and we're finally ready to move forward. We've been waiting and waiting for the windows and the HVAC for so long that it's hard to transition back into the mindset of DIY; it's been contractors this and financing that for most of the year, and now it's finally back to Don and his dad, working on the weekends and getting things done.

The next big step -- and really, the last of the overwhelmingly huge projects -- is the upstairs floor. We're doing the same thing we did downstairs, if you can remember -- tearing up the original, sadly unsalvageable floors, sistering or installing new joists to create a level plane, and then installing a level plywood subfloor.

A new dumpster got delivered on Friday, ending my brief period of dumpster-free bliss (although, amusingly, the HVAC guy told us that he drove right past our house on Thursday, totally missing us because there wasn't a dumpster in the driveway). It's ready and waiting, and Don plans to start ripping up the floors upstairs while he's home this week. Other things that'll go into this hopefully last dumpster (sorry, Benjer): the drop ceiling in the front screen porch and the one in the kitchen; the mudroom, in its entirety; the old desk in the basement and the platform it's on; and the vast majority of the things Don's grandfather seems to have crammed under the basement stairs.

And that's it. From then on, it's all construction, all the time. Once the floors are done, the plumber will come and install the plumbing for the two upstairs bathrooms, while Don and his dad create a wiring diagram and pull wires and install outlets. Then, insulation and drywall and a practically finished house.

Please try not to place your bets too high on when it'll all get done.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

please buy some windows

I can't say enough about how fantastic our window people are. They're friendly, interested in our project, and most of all, they are both really good at what they do and totally communicative. Our windows are beautiful, well-built, and perfectly installed, and we've known exactly what was going on every step of the way. The installers have been able to rearrange their planned installation schedule according to some special requests from us, and have made sure that we know and are comfortable with every part of the process. They even let the cat sit in their tool bag. And here's the thing -- they're getting laid off tomorrow. The company doesn't have enough work to keep them on, because the current economic mess means nobody is buying windows these days. It really, really sucks.

So if you're local -- anywhere in the greater Baltimore area -- and you've been thinking about buying some windows, now would be a really great time to get it done. Call American Design and Build, tell them we sent you. They really, really want to keep their crews employed, and they'll do everything they can do get you a great price so that you can get your project done and they can keep their crews. (And yes, they do stuff besides windows -- they did our roof, too, and they also do siding, doors, and lots more.)

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

before and after

So yesterday, the front wall of the living room went from this:

To this:

It's all very exciting.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

and then this happened

Every contractor should have one of these in his tool bag.

Monday, September 15, 2008

like a whole new house

This weekend marked another major change in our progress: we moved! The goal was to leave the office where it is (currently in the dining room) and clear out the living room (which was serving as our bedroom) so that the window guys could start the downstairs installation there. While we did manage to accomplish the goal, there was (as usual) a fairly major hitch in our plan. Originally, we were going to move the bedroom back upstairs, into what will become the guest bedroom. We'd leave the office downstairs, and keep the upstairs mostly clear except that one bedroom so that Don and his dad could rip up the floors up there. Well, we got most of the way through moving our racks of clothes and a dresser upstairs on Saturday when we realized that even though we'd turned the new air conditioning on up there it wasn't getting any cooler. Quite the opposite, actually. And if any of you are local, you know just how hot it was this weekend. I promptly got heatsick, of course (I thought we were done with that for the summer!), and we stopped moving and tried everything we could think of to make the air conditioning work. No such luck.

So now the bedroom is in the family room/library downstairs -- where, thank heavens, we had the foresight to have the window guys finish up the installation of two double-hung windows last week. The living room is clear, and they're in there sawing and banging as I type. Don got hold of the HVAC guy on the first try this morning, miraculously enough, and he has promised to come out to take a look either tomorrow or Wednesday. If he fixes it, we may move upstairs this weekend, although I have to confess that I like being downstairs better -- proximity to the only bathroom in the house right now gives this setup a whole lot of bonus points in my book.

In the meantime, we're enjoying the novelty of having two separate rooms to live in (how luxurious!). Don is home for the next two weeks before he starts his new job, and I work from home full-time now, so with both of us here all the time it's awfully nice to be able to put a wall in between us if we want to, even if it's just made of black plastic. Right now I'm working on a table in the bedroom, and he's at his desk in the office. And, of course, the window guys are in the living room. Pleasant company all around.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

speaks for itself

But I'll talk about it anyway. This is the new bay window in the guest room -- if you come stay with us, you'll get to check out the great view it provides of the yard. It's still missing its little hip roof -- the wee roof that attaches to the main roof and eliminates that weird gap at the top. The framework for the roofs for both bay windows -- the front one is in, too (check out this view of the front one from inside the room) -- is sitting upstairs in the middle bedroom. I'm assured it will go in today.

I had to go in to the office yesterday, so Don got to stay home and take pictures for once. He called me with hilarious updates throughout the day, like when the army of window guys were all standing around cussing while they tried to figure out how to get the bay windows upstairs. Later, they told him that this was literally the first time they had ever been unable to get a window up by means of the regular stairwell -- ours has a lot of narrow turns. Eventually the windows went up by means of ladders to the kitchen roof and a lot of sweating.

The upstairs windows plus two in the downstairs family room are all supposed to get done this week; over the weekend we'll move our bedroom back upstairs and the office into the family room so that next week, the remainder of the downstairs windows can be installed (including the dining room bay, which may be the biggest one they've ever installed). Talk about progress!

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

the curse strikes again

The window guy called this morning -- he had some sort of unspecified emergency and won't be able to make it out today. But he promises that the windows in the family room AND both bay windows upstairs will be done tomorrow. Fingers crossed.

Monday, September 08, 2008


Window guys are here. Right now. Installing windows!!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

ready for freon

Don and his dad were busy this weekend. They spent Saturday at Chez Brinkley, ten blocks over, working on installing a trailer hitch on one of the vehicles over there. Then Sunday it was our turn, and the dangerous duo were over here at our place to wire up the last piece of the HVAC system.

The HVAC guy says he'll be here tomorrow or Friday. I don't have high hopes.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Thursday, August 07, 2008

keeping up appearances

Longtime readers of Ancestral Pile may know that we've been waging a long-term battle with our yard. Our particular area has extraordinarily fertile soil; I don't know enough about biology to know if it's because it was once a plantation or if it has more to do with our height above sea level and humidity and stuff. Whatever causes it, plants grow like gangbusters 'round here. Which was great for Pop-Pop Brinkley, when he had his lush vegetable garden on the back half of our property. Not so great for Pop-Pop's grandson, who's been battling the weeds back there since we moved in. No traces are left of the garden, sadly. We've been trying to control the yard since we bought the house two years ago; last year we lost the battle rather dramatically. This year, we've given in to reality and hired a lawn service. Our grass gets cut every two weeks and it's worth every penny.

The lawn service can't do anything about the huge weeds and shrubs, though -- we just pay them to cut the normal stuff. So Don was out this weekend, strapping on his Ghostbusters backpack and spraying the property with weedkiller. This is what we did after last year's drama, in the back half of the property, and the end result of that treatment is that the lawn service mows that area just like the rest of the lawn these days, because it's not a jungle anymore. So now we're on to the second stage; the new jungle: the front and side yards.

Isn't he cute with his little sprayer? The not-so-cute side of the situation is that Don is actually allergic to mosquitoes (I know, it sounds weird, but he's MORE allergic than regular people just like I am with poison ivy) and the vines growing along the fence and over the rosebushes at the side of the house have created a little shaded flooded area for standing water, which we didn't realize. The mosquitoes have been taking advantage of this little resort facility, and Don came back inside after finishing his spraying in a LOT of pain. His legs and arms were completely swollen and gross.

Hopefully when the sprayed vines die (they're wilting already, thank goodness) the area will dry up and the mosquito problem will be solved. If not, I see rubber bodysuits in our future.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

the latest

What you see in the photo above is not, sadly, an old-school Dr. Who-style robot living in our attic. It's actually the tail end and some of the ductwork for the upstairs HVAC unit, which is almost all the way installed. We had our friendly neighborhood plumber come out and install a gas line to the attic, and then the HVAC guy got to work in a relatively timely fashion. This time around, the delays have been mostly our fault. There were delays in getting the attic ladder put in, delays in calling the plumber, and finally the most recent delay, which is actually not entirely our fault but still rests on our shoulders. After the unit itself was placed in the attic and the ductwork was run, Don and his dad had to install the electrical setup for the unit, running wire to it so that it would do important things like turn on. They eventually got together and did the work, but then they ran out of wire -- they were short by approximately seven feet of wire. So things got put on hold until Don could run out and buy some more wire. Well, it took us approximately three weeks and five stores to find the damn wire. NOBODY had it. Apparently everybody else is running wire, too, because the stores were all sold out. We finally found some a couple of weeks ago, and now it's on Don's shoulders again to get the wiring finished. Once that's done, the HVAC guy will come back out and put freon in the lines and fire the whole thing up and we'll be done, finally, with this ridiculous saga.

Monday, August 04, 2008

household duties

The cat likes to help me fold the laundry.

Friday, August 01, 2008

a ladder for the ages

This house, like many older homes (and, for all I know, lots of newer homes) has a big huge attic, accessible by one of those trapdoor ladder things. The original ladder was installed by Don's grandfather, and, like many of the things in this house, was both very clever and very frightening. It was held up by a terrifyingly visible pulley that involved steel cable and a screw eye sunk into the guest room floor. Folding the trapdoor back up into the ceiling was a two-person job; one person had to stand on their tiptoes and push the unit up into the ceiling and hold it there while the other one pulled with all their weight on the pulley cable to get the hook to slip over the edge of the screw eye.

In addition to all that, the ladder itself was... shall we say... nonstandard. It was approximately one foot wide, ensuring that nobody with hips could get up into the attic; it was constructed -- possibly by hand -- entirely out of wood; and, mysteriously, it was blue.

Our HVAC contractor, on his very first trip out here (something like TWO YEARS AGO ARGH), told us flat out that there was no way he could install our upstairs HVAC unit without a new ladder. Aside from the safety issues, which didn't concern him overly much although they terrified me (did I mention that there was a LIVE WIRE crossing the opening, for no good reason?), the hole in the ceiling was simply too small to fit the unit through. So one of the things that had to be accomplished before we could have the last of the HVAC installed was to replace the ladder.

Fortunately, it turns out that you can just run over to your local home improvement superstore and buy attic trapdoor ladders. In boxes!

The original ladder was in the middle of the three upstairs bedrooms. We decided that if we were going to replace the darn thing anyway, we might as well put it in a much more convenient location so that our use of that room would be unfettered. The upstairs landing, as most of you know, is absolutely gigantic, so we decided that the landing was the place for the new ladder.

So Don and his dad framed in an appropriately sized hole, and installed the new ladder over a weekend in April, with much swearing. Like everything around here, it took longer than they expected and involved a lot of shimming. But it's in, and it works, as you can see.

We haven't taken down the old blue ladder yet -- it's bolted into the joists, and we just haven't gotten around to dealing with that. Just ignore it and admire the shininess of the new one.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

er... hi

Oh... hi, Internet. You're still here? Been here all along, you say? Waiting patiently? Thinking about leaving for greener pastures? Sorry about that. I don't really have an excuse. I've been unmotivated and lazy, plain and simple. Yes, there's been a lot going on -- a busy convention season for Anapurna, submission and eventual wins on several big proposals at work that I can't talk about, helping Lindley and Molly move into their respective new places, planning a vacation, writing chapters one, two, and four of a novel (yes, really!), and of course house stuff -- but I've posted through busy times before, so really it comes down to me just not feeling like it.

Sorry about that.

But all is not lost. I've finally broken out the camera again -- we won't talk about the layer of dust that was on the case -- and I'm going to try to get everybody up to speed with what's been accomplished during our blogging hiatus.

First up: more demolition. I know, it's the last thing you'd expect to read about on this site! Har. We're looking forward to the day when that 'demolition' tag in the tag cloud over on the right isn't the biggest thing on the page, believe me. But there are only a few more things to demolish, even though it feels like the dumpster is a permanent part of our driveway. One of them is the old deck that Don's grandfather built to connect the poolhouse to the now-absent pool. A little crowd of friends came over rather unexpectedly one day (quite a while ago, I admit it) and made a huge dent in the tear-out-the-deck project. There's still more to do, as you can see, but it was an unexpected and appreciated windfall of help.

Coming soon: HVAC drama (big shock), window drama, and a new attic ladder with refreshingly little drama.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

true baltimorons

Am swamped at work and valiantly trying to recover from a bad cold that put me totally out of commission for several days. Only have time to post this positive proof that Don's family are in fact true Baltimore natives:

Because a house isn't a home without a Natty Boh sticker in the window.

Friday, March 28, 2008

still here

Oh my god, it's been a month. I'm sorry, you guys. I'm working on picking up the pieces of my utterly shattered life right now. My office moved, which bumped my commute up to over an hour each way, which really doesn't work in the deadline-driven proposal business. So after a few weeks of hell which included poor Don going hungry pretty much every night because I didn't have time to make any sort of food or even go shopping for groceries, I've officially become a sort-of telecommuter. I'm now working from home whenever possible, although I have to be in the office whenever we're printing and shipping a proposal. And speaking of proposals, turns out early spring is the busy season. Kind of like winter and fall were. Who knew?

But while I've been flailing around trying to reconcile fifty gazillion proposals and a new office and a total lack of things like pens (which all appear to have been lost in the move), plus normal things like keeping up with the sheer volume of dirty dishes two otherwise normal people produce and remembering that the little fuzzy creature who sleeps on our bed needs food, Don and his dad have been busy. Here's a preview:

The upstairs demolition is officially complete. Not only that, but we've had the HVAC guy over (!) and he's working on getting his materials ordered and ready to go, having taken all the necessary measurements. Don and his dad installed a new attic trapdoor this weekend (no picture yet, the one above is from before, with the old trapdoor ladder dangling precariously from the ceiling), so the new HVAC unit will be able to go up into the attic.

You'll also notice that the wall which ought to separate the landing from the middle bedroom is mysteriously absent; Don had a roaring good time tearing it down the other day so that it can be rebuilt about six inches back from where it was originally, all in the name of fitting a walk-in shower into the master bath. It's all very complicated, but we've officially decided on the floorplans for both upstairs bathrooms and are getting ready to get some quotes from plumbers to see if we can afford to have somebody do the necessary plumbing fairly quickly (my preference) or if Don and his dad will do it agonizingly slowly (guess who wants this option). More on bathroom stuff later; right now I have yet another proposal deadline to meet. But I'm going to keep up here, I swear!

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

no one here but us sleepy kitties

I have no updates for you. The upstairs bathroom is not yet demolished, the attic is still full of trash, the stairs are covered in plaster, and we haven't heard back from HVAC guy (surprise!).

Also, Don has the flu, and I have three proposals and an office move to deal with. So all I can give you right now is this picture of a sleepy kitty:


Tuesday, February 19, 2008

fingers crossed

While I was off making lots of money this weekend, Don and his dad took the opportunity to do some more demolition. They worked all day Saturday, and now everything upstairs except for the bathroom is done. Impressive! So Don called HVAC guy yesterday and left a message saying that we were ready for him to come and measure for the upstairs HVAC and schedule us for installation. We'll see how this goes.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

just call us house delinquents

We snuck off to New Jersey again this weekend instead of doing more work on the house. It was totally worth it. Brazilian barbeque, meeting new people, lunch with the grandparents, spending time with the Cutest Baby Ever, and of course enjoying the luxury of walls and electricity and real floors. Awesome.

Cute story: My cousin was perusing the blog (hi Felise!) and came across this post. She called the Cutest Baby Ever over to the computer, and said, "What is that on the screen?" He paused for a moment to think about it and then answered: "KITTEH!"

Monday, February 04, 2008

fancy a swim?

We've had a lot of rain in the last few days, and our lovely backyard water feature is full. Picturesque, no?

Saturday, February 02, 2008

what you've all been waiting for

Action demolition shots! This is happening RIGHT NOW. I took these pictures all of three minutes ago.

Don, tearing out the back bedroom closet. His hat is filthy because plaster keeps falling on his head.

The real star of this blog, Don's dad, making a return appearance. Pulling down the lathes on the far back wall.

Progress! I took this shot standing as close to the front wall of the house as I could, in the master bedroom. You can see all the way through to the back! They are almost done with the back bedroom, I think. After that, the landing and the bathroom are all that's left (both are virtually untouched right now).

Thursday, January 31, 2008

a little romance

We got our new engagement rings in the mail last week! Don's original ring wore out and broke long ago, and mine was in pretty poor shape -- we bought them when we were starving college students and couldn't afford much in the way of durability in our jewelry, nor could we afford to get exactly what we wanted back then. So we decided to get custom made new rings that we really loved. We had them made by these folks as our Christmas present to each other, and they're truly fantastic:

Mine is titanium with a tension-set black diamond, and his is titanium with an inset band of ebony wood.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

progress, of the extremely slow variety

So, in between jamming my finger on a crowbar and overstraining most of the muscles in my legs, I did manage to help Don get some demolition done on Sunday. We concentrated on the middle bedroom, and have now gotten it almost done. All that's left is the ceiling and most of the back wall, and we can move on to the back bedroom.

This weekend will probably be devoted solely to demolition (other than a brief break for me, to go to the crafting afternoon at Evelyn's!). As always, if you are feeling sledgehammery, you're more than welcome to come and help. If I get an actual confirmation of attendance by anyone other than me and Don by Friday afternoon, I'll arrange to cook dinner for whoever helps.

No photos of the progress yet; at this time of year I'm rarely home when there's enough daylight to go up and take pictures. I'll post some as soon as I get them.

Monday, January 28, 2008

come and craft

Since this is coming right up, I thought I should probably post about it! Stolen directly from Danielle:

What: A Crafting Afternoon

When: Sunday, February 3, 12-3

Where: Evelyn's , 784 Washington Blvd., Baltimore, MD 21230

Who: Anyone who wants to come to knit, craft, drink coffee or just hang out.

No RSVP necessary. Just show up. Hope to see you there.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

dumpster day again

A new dumpster was (I assume) delivered today. Don stayed home this morning to wait for it. So we're all ready for Sunday, except that I haven't yet decided what I'm going to cook. It sort of depends on who decides to come and what they do and don't eat. Not a lot else going on until then, so it's back to work for me.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

yet more demolition

The master bedroom is officially totally demo'd. Don finished it up on Sunday, in the process filling the dumpster the rest of the way. Hopefully we'll get a new one this week -- plans are currently for more demolition on Sunday, followed by a home-cooked (and potentially food-blogged) meal for whoever helps.

Demolition is a really frustrating thing to have dragging on and on. It's much more satisfying when you can get it all done in one violently destructive day or weekend, like we did last time. It seems like it ought to be so easy to get it all done! But the killer with demo, as it turns out, is cleaning up after yourself. If you don't shovel out all the plaster and wood bits, pretty soon you wind up being unable to move around enough to do any more demo. And shoveling is way less fun than hitting things.

Friday, January 18, 2008

all she knows is now i annoy her even more

The cat is not nearly as impressed with my new macro filters as I am.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

all by himself

Before he got sick, Don started to work on finishing the demolition in the master bedroom. He came home early from work one day and did some work on the ceiling, among other things.

Now that he's better, he plans to work on demolition all day on Sunday. The sooner the demolition is done, the sooner we can call the window people!

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

busy busy

I don't generally talk about work here -- nobody wants to get dooced, after all -- but I feel compelled to post a note that I've just gotten my third proposal assignment in since we got back from the holidays. This means I've got two proposals due on February 8th and one on the 11th, plus getting ready to sell jewelry at Farpoint on the weekend of the 15th. We're expecting at least one more RFP to come in, a major one, sometime quite soon. So, uh, I'm busy. No guarantees on posting here.

In the meantime, I've been making a bunch of these in different colors. I love my new Dremel tool and drill press.

Monday, January 14, 2008

house of a thousand flushes

We've been sick. Like, really sick. Like, violently ill. Wednesday night I was up all night making best friends with the toilet in what I thought was a case of food poisoning. It wasn't fun, nor were the two days of unpleasantness that followed, or the third day of intestinal adventures after that as my system tried to restart after the total cleanse (celebrities pay tons of money for this, you know). Just as I began to feel better, lo! We discovered that it wasn't food poisoning, because Don got it too. He's home now, on the third day of the cycle, so hopefully he'll feel better tomorrow.

Because of this, all sorts of plans had to be cancelled, poor Danielle had to scrounge up her own dinner, and no more demolition got done. Very disappointing.

Friday, January 11, 2008

the shape of things

Even though the demolition's not done yet, we are finally able to start seeing the actual shape of the things we've been talking about and planning for. The picture above is what used to be the summer kitchen closet, off of the master bedroom. It's going to be the master bathroom when we're through, and now that all the stuff is out of there it's a lot easier to see how that's going to happen. The big upstairs landing is just outside the door to the left of this picture, and we're going to steal space from it for a walk-in shower. A bathtub will go under the eave (hopefully), and toilet and double sinks should fit in there somewhere. We haven't made the final placement decisions yet, but it's going to be a lot easier to do that now.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

you bend 'em, we mend 'em

Zenchick insisted that I take a picture of the work-appropriate shirt she wore for demolition day. Despite having a messed-up shoulder and stepping on a nail or two, she was an awesome panelling and drop ceiling puller-downer. :)

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

danielle's swath of destruction

She's a menace to anything under five feet high.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

a hint of what's to come

Well, since SOMEBODY who lives in my house doesn't check their email and didn't get my note to take some pictures of the upstairs yesterday before it got dark (hint: it's not the cat), I have no pictures for you of the end result of Saturday's work.

Here's a little taste of what demolition looks like, though -- I took this one while Don was destroying the plaster that remained above the stairwell window so that he could install the pulley for the dumpster chute.

And now I'm going to go sign the cat up for her own email address. She might need it for her fanmail.

Monday, January 07, 2008

pictures to follow

Demolition day has officially come and gone. A HUGE thank you to those who showed up (even though certain people couldn't be bothered). Unfortunately, even though everyone there worked like maniacs, we didn't get done. I was so busy actually helping for once that I didn't get any action pictures -- but by now you all know what demolition looks like. I'll get some pictures of the final scene of devastation and rubble tonight when I get home from work and try to get them posted this week.

Highlights of Saturday included Alex (aka Don's new best friend) showing up promptly at 8 with a big bag full of tools. Danielle was a demolition whirlwind, completely clearing every wall she touched -- up to four and a half feet. She also proved to be the consummate party guest, bringing along both a crowbar and cookies. Zenchick made friends with the cat, who loved the attention, and also managed to save me from being the person to step on the first nail, while Angie and Donna seriously went to town on the nursery closet and cleared that mofo completely out.

After we were done for the day, Alex and Danielle and Don and I all went out for dinner (after taking a break to go to various places and clean up) at Rub, which Don and I had never heard of or been to before. Very good barbeque that even sauce-phobic little me could eat, plus great drinks and a gigantic projection screen where we caught the crucial twelve minutes of that disastrous Redskins game. And wedge salad! I'm a dork for wedge salads. It's also just minutes from the house, which gives it about a million points in its favor. We're always looking for restaurants close by. Turns out if you just go over the Hanover Street Bridge there's all kinds of options. Who knew? I mean, other than Danielle.

Anyway, after that we came back home and collapsed. Sunday we slept in prodigiously, then watched TV and played video games until it was time to head out so I could take Don for his Christmas present: the deep-tissue massage I booked for him for the day after demolition day. When he got out he said it was the best forty-five minutes of his life, which means I continue to maintain my reputation as the best present-giver. After that, back home for more relaxation and a little web fun starting up my latest project.

As for the upstairs, I suppose now we'll just be hacking away at it ourselves until it's done. Don went to work about three hours early today so that he could leave early and get home while there was still enough daylight to work on it. We'll keep you posted.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

how to make a dumpster chute

Finally, here it is: our photo tutorial on how to create your own dumpster chute. We did this last week; those of you coming over on Saturday will get to see it -- and fling things down it -- in person!

First things first: you've got to take out a window. This is the window at the top of our stairs; we built a scaffolding so that it can be accessed a little less precariously (pictures of the scaffolding are here and here).

Next, install a pulley above the window. If you don't know the physics of pulley-installation, I can't really help you. I was an English major. You'll note that we bolted a spare piece of lumber above the window for the pulley to be attached to so it would be even with the window.

Lean out the window to take pictures of the happenings below; get yelled at for endangering both expensive camera and self.

Buy approximately a metric buttload of sturdy trash cans (we cleaned out the supply at both Home Depot and Wal-Mart, which is why there are two different colors). Using a reciprocating saw or other useful implement of destruction, cut out the bottoms of all of the cans. (I had high hopes, but alas the bottoms do not work well as frisbees.)

Stack all your bottom-free cans together, and thread chain through the handles (one roll of chain per side turned out to be exactly enough). Make sure you've bought chain that is strong enough to handle the load; ours is rated for 300 pounds.

Make sure you've got a length of chain at the top of the cans to hang the whole shebang from; Don and his dad counted 60 links back and then looped the chain around the handles of the top can, using a bolt with washers and nut to secure it.

Tie or otherwise secure the other end of the pulley to the midpoint of your hanging-chains; make sure to leave the top section dangling free, as you'll bolt this to the window frame later.

Using the pulleys and some brute strength, maneuver the stack of cans upright.

Hoist the first can to your desired height; the bottom should overlap into the next can so nothing will fall out of the chute. Designate that useless person standing around taking pictures to hold the rope in place while you loop chain around the next set of handles and secure with bolts.

Do it again.

And again and again and again and again and again.

Once the top of your chute has reached the windowsill, run upstairs and bolt those chains into place so whoever your poor rope-holder is can let go. Then come back down and heave the end of the chute into the dumpster. We bolted the last few cans together still stacked, to provide a little stability and weight to keep the end securely in the dumpster.

Take a spare can and create a hood for the top of the chute. When you're not using it, you can just take the hood out and tarp over the window.


There are a few extra pictures in the set here.