The money pit

Do you ever get the urge to open up your front door, step outside and scream “AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!” to the WHOLE ENTIRE WORLD????!!!!

I am having one of those days.

We’ve had a lot of work done on our house the past few weeks. And as you know, Skilled work = EXPENSIVE WORK. We had the electricians rewire the whole basement & 1st floor. Last week they installed a special 220 volt outlet on our 2nd floor. It’s for a new stacked washer & dryer we’re putting in an alcove outside the bathroom. And this is a very good thing. For it will mean we (mostly me) will no longer have to go down three flights, up and back, carrying load after load of laundry in a never-ending quest to stay atop the mountain of smelly dirty socks and underpants which accumulates unceasingly at the feet of our beds. But convenience doesn’t come cheap. Total cost, including appliance, almost $5000.

Last week my husband also invested $1000 in insulation for our basement and attic, which he single-handedly went out, bought and hauled home in a rental van, and then (mostly) carried up 3 flights. If that does not earn him HE-MAN status, I cannot imagine what would. Especially since I just tossed my bundles down the stairs into the basement. Not quite the same level of work.

He enlisted me last weekend to begin the installation process – and talk about gruesome. Nasty piece of work, fiberglass. We both had on respirators (just the flimsy paper kind, mind you), but they make the skin around your mouth itch and sweat. The condensation feels so gross, and you just want to rip the stupid thing off your face, but you know it’s the only thing keeping the crap out of your lungs. UGH. Then the poinky fiberglass dust gets into your eyes, and I couldn’t keep my glasses on b/c they kept getting fogged up. ARGH! So we’re jamming this sh*t in above our heads, my husband’s rolling it out, squeezing and pressing it between the joists, and I’m tamping it in with (of all things) a metal mop sans sponge – which by the way is a really effective tool for this particular use. My husband could only find one utility glove, so his other hand’s getting coated in the insulation. He’s itching and I’m bitching. What a hoot. We managed to put up a single roll (out of 20) before we both looked at each other and said ENOUGH. THIS is why people hire OTHER PEOPLE to do these jobs. It’s not that you can’t necessarily do it yourself, it’s just that you do not want to.

We also finished a project on the 2nd floor which involved closing off two doors and opening another two into the hallway. It sounds complicated but think of the old BBC drama Upstairs/Downstairs. We live in a circa 1900 Victorian in which all of the rooms on the 2nd and 3rd floors are connected through a series of inner doors, completely separate from the hallway. There are openings at either end of the hallway, but up until now, absolutely no way to access any of the other rooms directly – including private bedrooms as well as baths. This isn’t an issue on the 3rd floor where my husband and I reside, because we get our own very private suite. But the 2nd floor where our kids live is a whole other drama. It gets old having to wind one’s way through a labyrinth to get to a room, but add the challenge of refereeing between two kids over “so-and-so’s cuting through my room again!!!” and it gets OLD REALLY FAST.

So last year (or perhaps it was 2006?) we began the process of rectifying this situation. My husband sledge-hammered his way through the wall from the hallway into our younger daughter’s room. Fortunately there had once actually been a doorway there, so it was at least framed minimally. We went out and bought a gorgeous solid oak door, which my husband hung, and thus it remained for the next 8 months or so. The door worked fine, but the wall surrounding it was still completely unfinished. And people – whoever came over – would inevitably ask “so what’s the deal with this?” I couldn’t have cared less about our friends saying this, but when my folks started commenting we knew action needed to be taken. My husband did not want his in-laws thinking he was not properly caring for their beloved daughter and grandchildren. And yes, it did look bad. You could see into our daughter’s room through the uncovered plaster around the door. The baseboards in her room as well as the hallway had been removed, and plaster would fall out from the bottom onto the floor. It was messy. PLUS we still had the issue of “so-and-so cutting through my room.” b/c the second doorway into the bathroom remained.

So finally, just before Christmas, we hired a friend to come seal off the extra doors, shutting them off forevermore. And he did a really nice job. Then my husband sledge-hammered his way into the bath from the hallway (a process he again enjoyed very much), opening up the doorway that used to be there. So now it was open, but it was minimally framed and we wanted it to look really NICE. So we paid (through the nose) to have authentic woodwork cut to finish the whole framing process. To do this we had to have a unique “key” cut to reproduce our existing woodwork. Fortunately we have an excellent carpentry shop just around the corner, where they did it all, including staining the wood (and our new door), cutting everything to specification and hand-delivering it. Then we hired a second friend to come and install everything, and he did a terrific job too. Once I repainted my daughter’s room, as well as the hallway, it was FINALLY DONE. Now it looks just like it did back at the turn of the century, but at everyday modern prices. Total cost: over $2200.

The plumbers were here all day yesterday, refitting, replacing and generally repairing the pipes leading from our 2nd floor bath into the alcove for the new washer/dryer. Additionally they installed a plastic pan beneath the unit equipped with a high tech sensor which will shut off the pipes if the thing starts to leak (saving us serious amounts of money were the thing to fall down into our dining room). Out of this deal we also got a new faucet and taps for the tub, as well as a new drain plug. All of which are shiny and new. And look way better than the ugly old corroded ones we used to have. But now they are so new and shiny they make the rest of the bathroom (especially the mismatched crappy caulked-up tile behind the tap) look even worse. The plumber recommended a tile guy he knows. But we haven’t gotten the plumber’s bill yet. SIGH……

And so finally last night, I went downstairs to get a bottle of wine. It was after all Survivor AND Lost all in one night of unbelievable television. So, I went to get some vino out of the Haier, our little glorified wine rack, and was struck by the fact that we now have some sort of furry little fungi friend growing in the very bottom of it – right next to the pretty glass door. Which means the thing is now so NOT COLD that it’s begun culturing wildlife. The stupid thing isn’t even a year old. I followed my husband’s advice and just unplugged it. It may not look as nice, but our wine will stay colder if we just stick it out on the back porch. And I think I’m going to need to keep drinking. heavily.

Gettin wired.

In September I posted about some wiring issues we’d been having here at our palatial West Philly estate. Well, today, our electrician returns. He and his team of experts will be completely rewiring our basement, as well as installing MODERN! (read: grounded with actual 3-prong fitted) outlets on our first floor. After we recover from the shock of how much this is costing us, we may have him re-do our 2nd and 3rd floors as well. But right now I am not thinking that far. I am excited about this new wiring though. Can you imagine being able to plug your microwave into the wall without having to use a 20 foot extension cord with adaptors?!! Now THAT’S fancy living! Also, I can stop worrying about going up in flames in the middle of the night, or losing everything while away on vacation in some faulty-wiring sparked inferno. So that’s good. But as we’re not made o’ money, my husband and I have been throwing around some ideas as to how to pay for these upgrades. One of these is a new magazine we feel would sell quite well, if we had the money to start it up. See, we subscribe to This Old House magazine, and it is a fine magazine. Lovely color photos. Beautiful rehab jobs. Love those articles! Like KITCHEN REMODELS: for $10,000, $20,000, and $40,000. Unfortunately, in our universe we do not have even $10,000 for the low-end kitchen remodel. We are living on Planet REALITY for Poor People. So, my husband and I would like to create a magazine that speaks more to our sort. We would call it This Old POOR House Magazine. And gear it to those who live in vintage dwellings, who like classy looks but don’t have the money to pay for them. We could have articles on all sorts of things. Like, KITCHEN REHAB $3000 and under. How to get rid of mice and How to get rid of mice TOO in the BE YOUR OWN EXTERMINATOR! series. And so on. Let me know what you think.

I am also happy today because I should be getting my BRAND NEW tote bag of goodies from Stonyfield Farm yogurt soon! YAY! I like yogurt. I wonder if they will be sending me some? Maybe I wouldn’t want to eat mailed yogurt, but I still would be proud to get it. To be honest, I didn’t even know they’d entered me into the contest, but boy was I happy to get the email yesterday alerting me that I’d won. I think I’ve been up on the website for months now and didn’t even know. WOW. See what you miss when you don’t spend enough time online?! I did send them a photo – one in which I am smiling and even looking at the camera. I am looking forward to see my face looking back at me from their website. That will be very cool. I hope it makes people want to eat my recipe.