You know how it feels when you’re falling in love? At first, it’s all hot and heavy and you can hardly think of anything but being with the other person. You live them, breathe them, you almost want to EAT them! But things eventually steady. The boil, though still burning, simmers down and you start to see stuff you hadn’t seen before. And often it’s these subtleties that’ll either END IT or enchant you all the more.
What do you get when you cross a man, a woman, a 250 year old house, and a big green insulation machine? Labor and Delivery, Dole House Style!
I know you’ve been wondering where I’ve been. While I’d like to offer some excuse, I’d rather brag blog about our latest home improvement project!
[Insert loud applause]
Thank you, thank you. Now. To recap. My husband & I bought ye olde village manse 10 months ago. Maaaaaaany people had looked at this house before us, but turned tail & fled when they realized the amount of work it would require to maintain, let alone restore. My husband & I (dreamers through & through) saw a shining gem of a colonial that with much polishing & SWEAT EQUITY could be Home (capital H).
When we moved in 10 months ago – and that alone is hard to believe, this was our office.
Okay. technically it wasn’t our office yet. Although it may look spectacular in the photo (if you are standing reeeeeeaaaallly far away and squinting a lot), our office needed HELP (capital H). For starters, it lacked a real floor. Also the walls needed finishing and the original paneling and columns framing the fireplace needed attention. Plus those curtains had to GO. But you know what? Once those curtains came down, the light came in even better than it had before. Sure it made the room look even worse, but that only propelled us to complete our task more quickly.
So fast forward 10 months. My husband and I – once we’d finished lining the chimney, installing a wood stove, tiling two bathrooms, renovating our dining room and after that, kitchen, cleaning out the basement and tackling the garden outside – we GOT TO WORK! And lucky for us – we had just the right combination of craziness, vision, and tools necessary to complete the job. Well, mostly just insanity and a few tools. But we needed more. Like flooring. Good thing we’d invested in stunning, wide white pine from Carlisle wwaaaaaayy back in the fall, before all that OTHER work began. (B/c we’d run out of money shortly thereafter.) BUT Those floors were worth every penny! (*wink*)
So where was I? Oh yes. Many saner individuals had taken a look at this task and run away. Whereas my husband & I tightened our belts even further and took that first step towards NEW OFFICE. And I am so glad! B/c now I am sitting in my beautiful new office, writing this post, while also reading a book AND simultaneously playing the piano!! Rather than bore you w/ more details of HOW WE DID IT, I am just going to SHOW YOU. Before & After pics speak a thousand words, and frankly, I deserve a rest. Seriously.
And here it is today, June 26th. Office Sweet Office.
Last week was Vacation Week here in Maine. If you are picturing me lounging in the sun, fruity drink in hand, keep dreaming. The only downtime I got was Sunday, between the hours of 12:30 and 2pm. I didn’t see a single fruity drink the whole week, unless you count the orange juice I had to wipe off the windows when the kids missed the sink. The one highlight? My husband also took the week off. Normally this would have rocked beyond belief. But since we are LIVING THE DREAM of 250 year old home ownership, Vacation Week was Hell.
Highlights of Hell included:
Cleaning out the basement. Normally I wouldn’t complain, a little tidying here & there, but our basement was so congested we had to rent a jumbo sized construction dumpster. It arrived Friday afternoon.
Let the Vacation begin! Our super duper olde house had some super duper olde wood in the basement. As you can see here:
All the construction debris from upstairs had to be stowed somewhere. Unfortunately, the recent rains which flooded our basement also waterlogged much of the discarded material. Causing it to mold as well as rendering it ungodly heavy. The rodent excrement peppering much of it was just a bonus.
It took us four days to haul everything outside to the dumpster. And if the backbreaking labor wasn’t memorable enough, its aftermath was truly unforgettable. Likely b/c of something I breathed in/touched/otherwise ingested while hauling all that crap, I spent two nights splayed across the bathroom floor, longing for death. There is something about a severe GI upset that scars a person. Twice in 3 days is enough to induce psychosis.
In between the wood hauling, full body chills & bathroom trips, we enjoyed nature. And we didn’t even have to leave the house! When you are Living the Dream like we are, you discover all sorts of things you never knew you had. Like red squirrels!
OOOooOOOh! Yes he (or she) IS VERY CUTE. My older daughter was beside herself with worry and desire, both to save and KEEP the squirrel. I am wild about animals. but frankly, I draw the line at eyedropper feeding an infant squirrel ten times a day for the next who knows how long. After 2 days of trying unsuccessfully to reunite baby w/momma, we took him (her) to the nature refuge.
So, where was that squirrel hiding?! Remember all that wood in the photo above? Well, it’s reeeeaaallly hard to see, but there in the back you can faintly make out some wood paneling/shelves. These walls/shelves were put up by the former owner, who had hoped to use the basement as a workshop – before realizing how high the water table is. Back before we bought the house, our home inspector urged us to remove as much of this stuff as possible. 50 years of flooding hasn’t been good to this wood. These walls/units were serving no other purpose than to 1) hold water, 2) mold, 3) conceal stuff. Stuff like the squirrels who’d been living behind them. As well as a lot of chewed up batting, poop, and potential structural issues – which, thankfully, we’ll now be able to see before they wreak havoc. Here is the space with the beautiful brick archway exposed.
But the nature discovery didn’t end there. Oh, no. With all that work we’d been doing INSIDE, we hadn’t noticed just what a beating the outside had been taking.
When we moved in 8 months ago, we had a green lawn. Over the winter, the green naturally turned brown. As spring has sprung, much of the grass – mostly out back – has regained its verdant look. But the lawn out front? About a month ago, these strange brown patches started appearing. Subtle at first, now downright ugly. Initially the dead grass fit the pattern of being urine burned. Along the edge the sidewalk, where dogs do their business. Or, as one neighbor suggested, it could have been salt burn from the snow plowing. Initially this made sense, until these brown patches began to grow, moving up from the sidewalk to the upper part of the front yard. My husband and I wondered whether it could still be dogs? But our neighbors are courteous, and we had such a mild winter. Surely, neither explanation could account for this, and no other yards seemed touched. The dead zones kept spreading and our concern grew.
I went out late last week to investigate. I brought along a heavy metal rake, and began first by poking, then by scraping the surface of the grass. The brown dead areas came off effortlessly, and just below the surface, to my horror, I found:
AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!! WHITE GRUBS. Dozens and dozens of them. I spent some time removing the dead zones, which of course just so happen to be DIRECTLY IN FRONT OF OUR HOUSE. Facing the street. Where everyone can gaze upon them.
Ughhh. Yes, it is UGLY. Having had a mere postage stamp of a yard in Philly, we had no freaking clue. How could we have possible hedged against a nemesis we didn’t even know existed?! And so, we got to work. Once again. We spent time researching online, investigating natural and chemical pesticides, trying to determine the best course of action. I wish I could tell you we did it the happy holding hands way, but this time – it was us or the grubs. We decided to take the dirty route and poison them using Grub-Ex. I did not want to do it, but dammit, we have invested everything we have & more in this house and I will not let some white grotty grubs take my beautiful lawn away. OH NO. Our next door neighbor lent us her spreader and we put that Grub-Ex down on every inch. 2 days of work and the lawn’s still ugly as sin. But hopefully it’s on its way to health. Time will tell.
The icing on the cake came at the least expected time. I went to relieve myself and was greeted with this.
No droppings in the (lived in portion of) the house, no sign of them at all – then BAM! a dead one in the TOILET?! When the mice are jumping ship, is that a sign? Sigh..
The other day I wrote a post on YE OLDE MONEY PIT, and my pal Curly requested photos. So I went to work. I would have preferred sharing pictures with better perspective, but as our palatial West Philly estate is really only a *twin* and only yay deep, I did what I could. SO… for all you housey types out there, BEHOLD, a post for YOU.
Some background. We live in an old house (100 years) which had been semi-converted to accommodate rental – 1st/2nd floor as a single unit and the 3rd floor as another. The previous owner had removed doorways from the 2nd and 3rd floors, apart from those at either end. My husband rectified the situation by sledge-hammering his way through the walls on the 2nd floor opening up the previously-enclosed doorways. And there you have it.
Here is the 2nd floor hallway. It used to be a solid straight wall on the left where there are now 2 DOORS. YAY!
My younger daughter’s room. We still have to finish the baseboard and above the door where the electricians had to rewire, but otherwise done. The wall on the left (the shadow behind the door) used to house the old doorway to the bath.
This is what it looked like before. You can see the doorway in the corner, looking straight through to the front of the house.
Our new washer/dryer unit sits in the newly-formed alcove next to the bathroom. Previously I had to haul everything up & down 3 flights to the basement. The new set up brings convenience. Plus, it seems to be warming the upper part of the house (at least psychologically) and makes the whole 3rd floor smell fresh.
The BIG DOWNSIDE: The washer uses a lot of water. When this water drains, it has only one means of escape. The pipe is too small to drain quickly, so the water backs up into the tub, leaving a filthy layer of lint, dirt & repulsive residue behind. Since my 2 kids need a bath at least occasionally, I am now forced to wipe up after my laundry. So, in short, my machine cleans my clothes, BUT now I must clean up after my machine. IS THIS BETTER? Time will tell.
WELL.. at least it is fun showing off my house. You really should love your house when you have dumped as much money into it as we have. And we really do love ours. Since you are here, would you like to see more?
Okay. BUT please wipe your feet because you KNOW how I feel about cleaning. Gracias!
The house looks a little different now. These photos are from 2006. That’s when I went temporarily insane and decided we were going to move. I do not know why, but I think that’s why they call it going insane. So I took a whole lot of pictures for the MLS and we put our house on the market. I think it went well because we got a full-price offer within 48 hours. But then I changed my mind and took it off the market again a day later. Why? I am still not sure. but I think that’s why they call it going insane.
This is a picture of the front of my house. It looks very pretty. We don’t have those ewe bushes anymore b/c my husband hated them and tore them out. In fact, he tore almost everything out, so now our front yard looks like a dirt pit. At least that’s what the neighbors tell me. Also, our house used to have a lot of chipped & hanging-off paint. It was voted second-ugliest house on the block. So once we saved up enough money, we paid my brother-in-law to paint it. He did a very nice job. Unfortunately he is not yet desperate enough to install our insulation. Hopefully he will be one day soon.
This is what I see when I walk through my front door. What you would likely see would be teeth, those of our enormous 150 lb dog who likes to say HELLO and make sure you are friendly. He may hump you if he likes you a lot. And BOY did he really like one of our plumbers last week. We tease him that he is our ‘big gay dog’. But he also likes women, like my sister, so I guess he is our ‘big Bi dog’. You must be o-kay with that. Did you bring me my Dutch oven?
Yes, you do look nice. But please stop admiring yourself, we have more rooms to see. OH! You’re just staring AT the mirror – sorry, I thought you were just being vain. Yes, it is lovely, isn’t it. It’s the reason we bought the house. No seriously. The House itself, well – it’s really just a place to hang the mirror. Okay, through the double doors to your right, here’s the living room.
We don’t have that couch anymore – we actually gave it to some friends and it looks better in their house. They have a couch that’s almost identical and they look really nice together. In addition, they have only one kid and NO dogs – WELL – technically they will have 2 kids soon, as my friend is almost 40 weeks pregnant. She is giving birth at home by the way, but I do not think on the couch. Anyway, we have (as you know) 2 kids and 1 dog. Our big dog used to like sleeping on that couch more than life itself. I know it sounds awful that we took that pleasure away from him, but you see it was not a cheap couch from the thrift shoppe. It was an expensive couch that we bought for a LOW LOW price at the Outlet. But he also started doing THINGS to it – sort of unspeakable things, and so we gave it away before we had to throw it away, if you know what I mean. I miss that couch. It was such a nice looking couch. I am glad it is at my friend’s house. I will be over there this weekend, and I will make sure I remember to sit on it. Ahhhh.
and Here we are in the dining room. We like food, so we of course dine a lot in here. Our big dog sleeps in the corner too, so watch out for his toys. He may try to use you as one if you get too close. OOOPS! Sorry, my mistake. Just threw that one in to make sure you weren’t sleeping -WAKE UP! That’s the dining room from the cruise ship. Here’s OUR dining room.
Not quite so spacious, but it’s home. WATCH THE DOG.
Ohhh, okay – no problem, right through that door.
I’ll wait for you in the kitchen.
Dum, de, dum… La la la……… Oh, no problem. Glad you’re feeling better now. Soy always does that to me too. Well, what say we head out back and have a nice cool drink in the yard? Shoot the breeze, and talk about our inner-most hopes & dreams. Okay, just cut through the sunporch,
and let yourself out the back door.
It IS nice out here. WHAT? OH yes, I HAD completely forgotten that it’s a dirt pit out there right now too. AND that it’s 20 degrees, with an inch of ice on the ground. OH WELL. So sorry ’bout that. A girl can dream after all…. Hey, pass me that wine, won’t you?