Checking in on the Hallway

I had visions of being completely done with the hallway by now!  Unfortunately life and a pissy thyroid ate up a lot the time I had planned for this so I’ve very much not done yet. I thought I’d share my progress anyway though.

If you need a refresher on what I started with, check out this post.

The Staircase

One of the first projects I had planned was replacing all the busted newel caps on our staircase.  I had a good start on it but petered out.  So right now I have replaced…. one.  Yes. One.  But that one looks good!

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The chunky post at the base of the stairs in all original, but the second post has a brand-spankin-new newel cap.  Is a it a perfect match?  No.  But is pretty darn good?  I think so!

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Even in old houses I think it makes sense to weigh every investment.  Is it 100% historically accurate?  No.  Is the cost of a 100% historically accurate reproduction worth it for this particular house?  Sorry, but no.  It’s a pretty basic, standard old house for St Paul (heck, there’s even a near-perfect doppelganger house a couple blocks away!).  It’s sort of like trying to make an average 1950’s ranch a high-end MCM masterpiece. We’re also not restoring this house, we’re renovating it.  We’re just renovating it while still trying to be mindful of it’s origins.

Ahem.

Anyways… one newel cap down, 5 more to go!

The Doors

Oh the doors!  I had such high hopes that they would have been done weeks ago!  Unfortunately barely being able to get off the couch for nearly a month set me back a bit.  We’re 1/2 way there though!

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I posted about my love of black doors a while back, but Matt was adamantly against it.  He also didn’t want to paint them white (so picky!) so we compromised with a darkdark stain.  It’s a shit-ton of work, but I think it looks pretty fab.  Please ignore the orange-y railing, I’m working on it.  Slowly.

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I also ordered glass knobs to replace the black ceramic ones.  Yeah, the ceramic ones were probably original, but they just disappeared into the dark stain (the brass back-plates are more noticeable in real life, but I’m still thinking of cleaning them up a bit).  Half the upstairs door knobs were already glass anyway and I wanted continuity.  I ordered these beauties from House of Antique Hardware.  It might be my new favorite place on the internet.  I could make a shopping list a mile long from this place if I had the budget for it, but alas. I still may get the dust corners at some point because they’re super cute and cat fur clogging up the stairs is a legit problem in this household.

The Cat Tree

Why is pet furniture so often really ugly?  I mean, where are the homes where the standard fleshy-beige cat upholstery fits in?  My best guess is that it’s designed to hide most fur colors.  These are the sorts of things I tell myself to make sense of this crazy world.*

Regardless of the reason, the fleshy-beige had to go! The scratching posts sections had also gotten pretty beat up over the few years we’ve  had it.  It’s seen a lot of love from the cats and needed  a makeover.

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I dissembled the whole thing, wrapped the flat pieces with a faux sherpa fabric, and wrapped the polls top-to-bottom with jute.  I did a bit of reconfiguration of the pieces too to make it visually lighter and provides the cats with a taller section they so they stretch out and scratch. They usually only hang out on the top section anyway, so it really didn’t need the extra bulk. I still am not sure what to do about the top basket yet (helloooo weird blank space and lonely screw), but I’m working on it.

Still Working on:
  • Newel caps
  • Staining the railing
  • Refinishing the doors
  • Planning a gallery wall
  • Lighting
  • Building a new cabinet for the entryway

 

So that’s the current State of House address.  I’m planning on doing a check-in with the kitchen too to let you know how my temporary fixes are holding up. I just need to clean it first…

 

*At least I’m not alone in my “Why does pet furniture have to be ugly” thoughts.  There is a shop in St Paul called–I shit you not–Custom Cat Purrinture.   Yes, Purr-niture.  Believe it or not Matt and I haven’t checked it out yet.

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And Then We Found a Dead Body Under Our Garage

Well, part of dead body.

And probably not a human body… but other animals still have bodies and if you only find a part of it it’s still very clearly dead.

Matt pointed out that title is rather misleading, but that’s just how headlines work.  Sure, I could have said “And then we found part of a dead body under our garage.”  or “And then we found a bone fragment that was probably some dog’s chew toy under our garage.” But neither of those is very click-baity and my SEO app is already yelling at me about the length of my current tile (that thing is horribly judgemental).

Perhaps I should start at the beginning.

Our garage is… sad.  When we bought the house the inspector couldn’t even get the garage door open so for the past year we’ve basically had a giant storage shed that will fit anything that would fit through the smallish side door.  Awesome, right?

Also, the whole structure was leaning and wonky, and we weren’t even 100% sure that we would even be able to get a new garage door installed or if the entire thing would need to be torn down.  Yeah, it was just that good.

Recently we had a garage door company take a look at it, and thankfully they said they’d be able to add a functioning door.  Not only that, they even said they’ve worked with worse.  They came, they installed, and left us with a functioning garage that was still incredibly wonky.

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For the past couple weeks Matt’s been working on adding extra supports, sistering split or rotting studs, and digging out around the base to replace decaying boards.  I told you it was is pretty sad shape.

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On Saturday we dug a trench along the final side of the garage to expose all the rotting boards.  This wasn’t quite as bad as I anticipated, except for the tree roots that are clearly trying to eat our house.  And our garage.  And possibly us.  Hell, I think from now on I’ll just refer to the big tree in our backyard as Audrey II.

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About 10′ away from the tree there were still roots as big around as my wrist.  There were also TONS of the little spidery roots that had invaded everything.  As I pulled them out I also pulled up chunks of rotted wood that they had clearly eaten.  They were also starting to work their way up the side of the garage.  Awesome.

Also while digging out our trench we came across other assorted randomness.  A straw, tons of broken glass, plastic bags, rusted wire, and a coffee can lid.  Once I found the coffee can lid I was really hoping to find the rest of the can (filled with someone’s buried fortune of course), but it never turned up.  A short time later I exposed a strange, lumpy thing and was mildly taken aback.

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I thought it was a small vertebra but it ended up being the deformed top of a metal spike.  Bummer.

Me: No coffee cans filled with money, no dead bodies…. it’s like all those books I read when I was little lied to me.

Matt: Um, sure.

Me: I bet the Bobbsey twins were really the murderers/robbers/whatever just so they could set up crimes to “solve” and then cunningly frame other people.

Matt may have stopped talking to me at this point.

Later that afternoon I was standing by one of the dirt mounds, waiting to be useful, and I see something buried in the dirt.

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If you’re wondering if I can tell the difference between a stick and a bone in a random pile of crap the answer is apparently yes.  I have no clue what kind of bone because I’m not a boneologist…. er, wait, Latin… osteologist?  Maybe I should Google this…

…omg I was right!  I even spelled it right! (although spell check disagrees and suggests Meteorologist).  It’s like taking all those advanced Bio classes paid off… but only a little since I still can’t identify the stupid bone (but at least I’m still better at science than spell check).

Anyway, I found part of a bone buried under our garage which means I at least found part of a dead body.  Or the remains of a dog’s chew toy…. but dead body sounds much better.**  And just think, anytime you give your dogs pigs ears or beef bones to gnaw on you can refer to them as dead bodies.

“What’s Buster doing?  Oh, just burying a dead body in the backyard to save for later.”

“I had to get Fido a dead body so he’d stop eating my shoes.”

“Rufus hates being left home alone, but if you leave him with a dead body as a treat he does much better.”

Sadly, this is still not as exciting as the time I found a skull in Chicago.***

 

*Whether or not I can tell the difference between a bone and twisted piece of metal is an entirely different story.

** Or maybe it’s just me?

***True story!  And no, not a human skull.  It was probably a deer skull…. but it was just randomly in a locker in the train station.  For realz.  It was a little before Halloween and I was having  a party so I brought it back home with me.  I was maybe 12?   And possibly a bit different from other middle school girls….

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The Great Door Compromise of 2016

It’s been a little quiet around here lately.  My actual, money-making job has been insanely busy–we’re operating at about 1/2 staff between vacations/medical leave/maternity leave so stress levels have been through the roof and my energy level once I get home hits the floor (or rather, the couch).  We’re still working away, just slowly, so I thought I’d give you a little sneak peak at my current project.

A while back I mentioned that I was sort of swooning over the white trim + black door combo.  Matt, however, was Not a Fan…. but he didn’t want me to paint the upstairs doors white either and I certainly wasn’t leaving them honey oak.

Ok, I can stain them super dark, it will be almost like my beloved black doors, right?  Only re-staining is rather a giant pain in the ass.  But wait, there’s this magical gel stain that is all over the Pinterest!  I bet it’s a miracle worker.  I bet its secret ingredient is unicorn snot.*  I bet it…. doesn’t do a damn thing to these doors.

Yup.  I tried the General Finishes Gel Stain with minimal prep (mineral spirits and an abrasive scrubbie) and it did absolutely jack.  Sure, some of the inside corners got a little darker but otherwise it was very underwhelming. Sorry, no pictures, I was too distraught.  Just imagine a door that toddler wiped a brown ink pad over.

And Matt still didn’t want me to paint the doors.  Matt, I’m continuing to try because I love you.

Now it was time to try what I had wanted to avoid in the first place–stripping and refinishing.  Ugh.  It’s not that it’s a difficult process, it’s just time consuming–strip, sand, wash, stain, poly, with waiting or dry time between nearly every step.

I had already taken 2 of the hallway doors down while I was painting the trim, so I used one of them as my guinea pig.

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I’m on the fence if I think it’s really worth the effort (that’s about a week’s worth of work right there!) but Matt really likes it and marriage is about compromise or some such crap.

Actual conversation we had as I was pondering the door (which by the way, is currently just leaning in place and missing all hardware, just FYI):

Matt: We should really try to get together with some people this weekend.

Me: Sounds good, go ahead and email people.

Matt: Why me?

Me: Because I’m busy stripping and refinishing your damn doors!

I’m going to try and start door #2 tonight and try a slightly different technique once I get to the stain.  I like the final color on the one I have done, but the finish is a little splotchy.  It’s also worth noting that the staircase railing is going to get darkened up (and de-oranged) too, and we have dreams of refinishing the floors to be much darker (although the latter may not happen for quite a while…).

 

*Because unicorn tears would make it too runny to be a gel stain.  Duh.

Stove Shopping

Finally, the post that was supposed to happen about a week and a half ago….

Our original plan when buying our house was to replace appliance as they broke down.  None of them are very nice, but all were still functioning.  We finally gave up on that plan with our stove though.  This thing is AWFUL.  The oven temp is off by 10-20 degrees, the burners only go from Off to High, it has pilot lights for the burners (instead of a sparking system) which keeps sections of the top super hot and instantly bake on any spills making cleanup impossible, and the whole thing leaks heat which has just sent us over the edge this summer.

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Ugh,  Just…ugh. It actually looks better in this picture than in real life because you can’t see all the baked on crud over the pilot lights.

So what did we want in a stove?

  • Gas
  • 30″ freestanding
  • Upper broiler (vs bottom drawer broiler)
  • Edge to edge cooking grates
  • Oval 5th burner
  • White

We were also hoping to spend around $600, but had some wiggle room if we found a stove with All The Things.

We started out by hitting the nearby stores–Menards, Home Depot, Best Buy, and Warner Stellian.  I snapped pictures with my phone of the full range plus a closeup of the sales tag (model # and price) and then we did some follow up research online to check out reviews.  How the heck did people buy anything before the internet?

Our top 3 favs:

Whirlpool 5.0 cu. ft. Gas Range with Self-Cleaning Oven in White
Whirlpool Model # WFG515S0EW
Top broiler, edge-to edge cooking grates… what else could you possibly want?

 

GE Model # JGB660DEJWW
GE Model # JGB660DEJWW

Top broiler + 5th (oval!) burner…. and all in white.  Whoa.

LG Model # LRG3061ST
LG Model # LRG3061ST

Matt kind of fell in love with this one because it was on mega-sale so it actually fell in our budget (plus a 5th-oval!-burner and a gorgeous blue interior).  The blue interior would have totally sold me if I was looking for stainless (they didn’t make it in white).  Why wouldn’t you want to smile every time you opened your stove???

 

And the Winner is….

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The GE was the most expensive but Matt decided that he loved the 5th oval burner and since he’s the cook in the house, who am I to argue (and I just couldn’t get behind the stainless when there were white options out there)?  Plus, after the delivery fiasco and the second delivery scandal, we were ultimately given rebates which brought it back down to within our hoped-for range.  Quite honestly though, I’d have much rather just gotten the damn thing on time and without the headache.

While I will certainly continue to shop at Home Depot (our local in-store employees are awesome), I will say I am VERY skeptical of doing any special orders from them in the future.  The main reason is because if something goes wrong they just don’t seem to have the control to do much about it.  It’s rather unfortunate because we have a bunch of appliances (fridge, dishwasher, washer, dryer, water heater) that will need to be replaced in the near future, plus a full kitchen remodel (countertops, cabinets, sink, and back splash), bathroom remodel (tile, tile, and more tile), and assorted flooring projects all on our radar. In all honestly I’ll probably give them a second chance but they’re not exactly my first choice at the moment.

 

 

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The Stove Saga Continues

If you’ve  been following the blog, you’ll know we had a breakdown and ordered a new stove… and then just continued to have additional breakdowns because getting a stove delivery is apparently a positively hellish experience.

Via Just Memes

We got it ordered and the delivery date was scheduled for Friday of the same week (last Friday).  Awesome, right?

Awesome until the stove arrived anyway, because it was the wrong frickin stove.  Right box, wrong stove.  WTF?  It wasn’t ever the right color OR model! It seemed like one of the those “you had ONE job to do” situations.  So the stove went back, and our old one came back in after they had already hauled it out onto the truck.

And then the oven pilot wouldn’t light.  And the delivery company never got back to us about when we would get the RIGHT stove.  I called Home Depot after I got home from work and they said they would try and get in touch with the delivery company and also try and get a tech out to fix our existing oven.

Then there was no word until Saturday evening which basically said they still didn’t know anything (and no word about a possible tech).  While I respect the fact that they followed up with us, this was not the news I wanted to hear.  This conversation then rapidly went downhill (oh yes,  it keeps going) when the guy I was talking with offered the following options.

  1. Google what was wrong with our current stove (how about it’s old and something got jarred/broken when it was moved in and out of the house?)
  2. Come into the store and pick up an in-stock stove that is nothing like the one we ordered (other than it was white and gas but was otherwise missing every feature we wanted) and also a significantly cheaper model AND haul it home ourselves with no word on how our old stove would be hauled away.

Basically I got off the phone and was furious.  While I like Home Depot, I very much do not like that they contract out their delivery which leaves them pretty incapable to sort out problems for their customer.

Monday evening we still didn’t have an update on delivery so I called the store again! I got some manager this time (probably should have insisted on that the first time around because I think the first guy was just out of his depth) who proceeded to tell me that the earliest delivery date would be this Friday, a week after our originally scheduled delivery.

Ok, fine.  Matt was already going to be home that day anyway, but that was because we were leaving that afternoon to go visit family.  So I said we would need to have the stove before 3 that day and was told there was no way they could guarantee that.

%^$%^&%(*&(

That’s most of the frickin day!  How can you have  system that wouldn’t even let you add comments? I was steadily freaking out at this point because with travel and meetings the next day that would work for us would be next Wednesday and we still had no working oven.

At this point I will say the manager I was speaking too kicked it up a notch.  She called the delivery company the next day to explain the situation, then called me to assure me they would get us the stove by 3 and if we weren’t given a delivery window in the right time frame (because apparently the route is computer generated *headdesk*) to call her on her cell phone and she’d sort it out with the delivery company.

Ugh.

I was getting ready to post this when Matt’s phone rang.  It was GE calling to tell us there was a problem with the delivery, i.e. it would not be happening.  Something in their system was wrong somehow so no stove for us tomorrow.  We had even gotten a call earlier in the day (finally!) confirming our delivery window.  WTF????

Now we are not scheduled to get the stove until next Wednesday–a week and half after we were supposed to get it!  Plus, we’ve had no functioning oven for nearly a week now because of this whole debacle.  I’ve spent the last few hour periodically giggling to myself in that oh-dear-god-what-else-can-possibly-go-wrong sort of way because this is starting to feel a bit surreal.

Buying a car was way less of a headache.  Matt mentioned that we’re still paying off the car but at least the stove is fully paid for.  Yeah, but we fully paid for a stove that we don’t even have yet!

Keepin’ It Cool

We recently hit the height of Minnesota Summer.  The last couple weeks have been toasty.  Like temps in the high 90’s and heat index of 110+ kind of toasty.  Yeah, yeah, anyone in Florida or Arizona or some such place may be laughing at me, but I’m sure ya’ll have central air.

Point is, we haven’t the ideal conditions for painting an upstairs hallway so I’ve had to turn my attention elsewhere.  I decided to tackle my basement work space because it’s virtually nonexistent at the moment.

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It’s really just a corner of the basement where we stash our tools, but it’s totally disorganized and generally ucky.  I needed a place to organize tools and store supplies, and also a place to work without me constantly crouching on the ground since my back has decided to rebel ever since I turned 30.

I started by peg-boarding the ucky wall.  The space was 3 inches too long to get away with 2 sheets of peg board so I had to buy 3 sheets.  ARGH!  Luckily it’s cheap.  I had the hardware store cut the sheets down to the sizes I needed because I have a small car and no table saw.

The boards were all cut so the edges would center on the existing studs.  This was so I could both anchor the edges well and fit everything into our car.  And, of course, because it’s our house, none of the studs were evenly spaced so had boards that were 30.5, 22.5, 23.5, and 24.5 inches wide.  Brilliant.

Now I just had to cut out holes for the outlets and pipes.  First I tried using a handsaw but it was way more of a PITA than I anticipated.  Then I tried my dremel with a cutting wheel but it started smoking and then the wheel shattered.  Oops.  Finally I broke down and demanded that we buy a jigsaw.  They’re actually cheaper than I expected (at least they can be, they can also be pretty splurgey, but I didn’t need anything fancy).

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It’s been YEARS since I used a jigsaw and I didn’t actually have the correct blade to cut hardboard so the cuts are pretty rough.  I also started with the most complicated panel and ended with the easiest.  Brilliant right?  And then in the middle I totally effed one of my measurements around the the outlet.  So basically it looks kind of crappy, but it’s a basement right?  It doesn’t have to be perfect, just functional, RIGHT???.  Please humor me here otherwise I may go out and buy more pegboard to fix it because, yes, I am that insane.

Speaking of insane, I also switched out all the outlets for white ones so they’d match the pegboard.  While switching out the outlets, I added spacers to bring the outlets even with the front of the pegboard as well.

Once the pegboard was all set up, I picked up a work bench kit.  I wanted to use the 2×4 Basics connectors to make a custom sized one, but an 8′ long top would be really hard to fit in my car so I opted for a 6′ kit instead.

When you see “kit” would you assume pre-drilled holes?  ‘Cause I sure did and was incredibly disappointed.  What I imagined taking a couple hours ended up taking several evenings worth of work because I would get frustrated and walk away.  It went way smoother when Matt was free to help me–he held stuff in place and drilled pilot holes while I followed with another drill to screw everything together.

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Fast forward through a few hours of swearing, a trip to IKEA, and a few more hours for organization and voila!  I have a somewhat organized work space!  I still need to pick up a miter saw table since the work bench isn’t big enough to set that on, and I’ll be need a stool as well.  All and all though it’s a pretty awesome improvement, and I got do it all while hanging out in our (comparatively) cool basement.

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Repairing the Stair in the Lair Part 1

When I ran through the Before pictures of the stairway I mentioned that the railing was in need of some tender love and repair.  In general it’s a mighty fine looking staircase, but the finish is a little worn and most of the newel post are missing chunks of trim. Sure, it’s actually not all that noticeable if you’re not really paying attention, but this staircase deserves better.

I started by ripping off the existing caps on the newel posts.  I left the one on the large post at the base of the stairs and the one up by the attic door since it was that one would need some more complicated cuts if I tried to replace it.

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If your house has standard sizes, you can order Newel Cap kits which would be super easy.  Nothing in our house is standard though (the kits are designed for 3.5″x3.5″ or 5.5″.x5.5″ and our posts are 4.5″x4.5″) so I had to go custom. Because I want to keep (most of) the stairs natural wood, I picked some red oak to make my replacement caps.

I was lucky enough to find a small crown molding that was reasonably similar to the existing trim.  I started by staining the whole piece as close to the existing wood finish as I could.  No worries, that it’s not perfect, there will be another layer coming later on.

If you need a lot of pieces cut to the same size, the easiest thing to do is to create a jig of sorts.  Once I figured out the size I needed for the trim, I cut a bunch of pieces about 2 inches longer than I needed (I just eyeballed it).  Then I flipped my saw around so I could cut the opposite angle, and using my already-perfect piece as guide, clamped a piece of scrap wood into place.

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Now I just have to butt the short pieces up the block and cut off the excess.  Voila, perfect sized cuts every time!  I did still double check each post before cutting the trim pieces because I’m neurotic and the slightly variation in size could make this fail miserably.

I was a little worried about what to do for the top piece.  I only have the tools to cut a square block.  Laaaaame.  It would have looked sadly out of place.  While idly wandering through the hardware store* I started checking out router bits.  There was one that was super similar to our existing caps that I started eyeing.  Twenty bucks for a router bit?  Yeah, I’d spend that…. but another $200 for the router itself?  That I may never use again?**  Umm, not so much. Then I remembered a conversation I had with my dad several years back.

Dad: I got a new router!

Me: Computer or power tool?

Dad: Both actually!

Yup, dad’s tool hoard to the rescue!  Matt and I were even making a Milwaukee trip to celebrate his sister’s college graduation.  After the party Matt hung out with his family and my dad and I Got Shit Done.

Like most projects, the bulk of the time is spent on prep.  I brought a set of trim pieces with me so we’d have the exact sizing but then there was math.  The router bit we bought didn’t tell you how much it took off from the bottom, which was the measurement we really needed.  We measured a piece of scrap wood, ran one side through the router, and measured it again.  Our chosen bit took off a 1/2″ so we needed to cut blanks 1″ larger on all sides so the bottom would line up with the trim pieces.

Stair repair edging

When cutting the test piece we also learned that the way the router sat in the router table left a super skinny edge on the top of our finished piece.  Stairs are high traffic areas and take plenty of abuse.  Skinny edges will break easily.  Baaad combo. We couldn’t really lower the router, so we decided to raise the table surface.  Dad’s scrap wood hoard the rescue!  He had some left over pegboard that was perfect size, so we cut out a notch  to go around the bit and then clamped it onto the table.

Router table setup

Alright!  We had all our blanks cut!  We had the router set up!  We were ready to Do This Thing!  Aaaand it’s time to leave for dinner.  Matt and I were planning on leaving the next day right after lunch so he was a little concerned when he learned we still had to route about 90% of the pieces and we had already put in about 3 hours worth of work.

But everything was set up for the easy stuff now!

Routing newel caps

Now we just had to zip everything through the router.  Easy peasy!

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After everything was cut (and transported back home) I took my palm sander and rounded down the edges and corners so they would look a little worn.  Then I hit them with a couple coats of the stain I used on the other trim so they’d be in the ballpark of the existing railing color.

Now we just have to attach and the new caps and wait for the humidity to come down so I can stain the entire thing.

 

*Yeah, I do that.  Anyone surprised?

**According to my sister though, once you have a router, you will find things to route.

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Ladies and Gentleman, We Have a Wall!

When we last left our basement we had a giant, gaping hole that was in desperate need of some masonry work.  Thankfully our mason decided that this past week (with temps in the uppers 90’s to 100’s) was a good time to work on a basement project instead of out in the blistering sun.

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Lovely, no?  Ok, not really… but it’s way better than the the rotting door and collapsed stairwell.

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The outside has now been upgraded to Giant Treacherous Pit.  Thank god we have no small children, but we still need to get this filled in the near future so we don’t have to worry about small animals or wandering Pokemon Go players falling into it.

We had a little bit of water leakage this weekend because it was pouring on Saturday, but we’re hoping that water-proofing and proper fill will prevent that in the future. We’re also planning on adding a concrete patio over that section of our yard so if all else fails THAT should stop any water.  I think pavers would look better than poured concrete (and be DIYable!) but concrete is more water-tight and our house doesn’t have gutters.*  I’m keeping my fingers crossed that stamped/stained concrete will be in the budget, otherwise rock what ya got!  …but that’s all a project for another day.

 

*We plan to get gutters in the future, but it’s pricey and we haven’t had water issues so far so it’s not at the very top of the list.

Not Dead Yet!

A while back we pillaged a bunch of plants from our friends and their neighbor.  And by “pillaged” I mean “took all the shit they were digging up and getting rid of anyway.”  We got a bunch of ferns (with some bonus Bishop’s Weed that you may either love or hate*), some hydrangeas, a clump of purple violets, and something that was pretty but I have no clue what it is.  We even held off painting that day so we could add them to our garden right away.

Things immediately started to look really sad after they were transplanted.  According to my dad ferns (and lilies) tend to look awful right after they’re transplanted but should bounce back in a few months or at least by the next year.  “Awful” is one thing, but mine looked straight-up dead.

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Whomp whomp.  Epic gardening fail, right?

Not quite!

All but a few of the ferns are starting to make a comeback.  See the cute little fiddle-head?  All but one of the dead patches are now showing signs of life!

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Our yard also got a little pummeled by a nasty storm the other week.  We only lost a few, already dead, branches from our trees which is better than a good chunk of our neighborhood, but our plants also got a little flattened.

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My mini container garden is still going strong though!  We’ve got around 6 baby tomatoes!  The basil I planted isn’t dead yet either!  In fact, it’s still going strong which for me is some kind of miracle!

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And more and more things are coming into bloom!

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Now that I’m seeing what’s-what, I’m starting to formulate a plan.  I want to try and keep as many of the existing plants as I can (plants ain’t cheap!) but move them around so they look a slightly more landscaped than hodge-podge.  I’ll admit though, my absolute favorite garden feel is the slightly-overgrown look, our current setup just needs a little organization first.

 

*I’m actually all for a fast-growing ground cover that may take over my entire yard, so I deliberately kept it.

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Rain Rain Go Away. No Really, We have a Giant Hole in Our Basement.

When it was built our house as designed with a cellar entrance.  By the time we moved in the outside was boarded up, the stairs had collapsed, and any wood pieces had rotted away.  The door inside the basement was still there but super nasty and didn’t close all the way.  This was the cats’ favorite place to explore and I’m pretty sure it’s where Schmutz found her dead mouse (it’s also probably where the live one gained entrance).

What I’m saying is, we had this unsightly, ancient door in our basement, an unsightly cover in our yard, and a prime weak spot for vermin to sneak in.  Not. Good.

We’ve been trying since last fall to recruit a mason to brick the whole thing up.  You’d think this wouldn’t be too hard, but it was a giant PITA.  They were busy, they wouldn’t work over winter, then they wouldn’t give us an actual date, only vague answers, and that was IF they answered the phone.  Matt finally tracked down a different mason (who was also way cheaper!) who checked out our hole and told us what we needed to do to prep.

Pro-tip:  If you want to save some money, try and handle the “easy” manual labor yourself.  We didn’t really want to pay mason rates to dig and fill a hole. Is it a lot of work, yes.  Is it totally doable, YES.

We (and by “we” I totally mean Matt*) started by clearing out the excess debris and digging down about 10″ so the mason could pour a concrete base for the blocks.  It was a combination of dirt, sand, giant rocks, and tree roots.  Good times.

Basement Interior Believe it or not, this is the After and looks WAY better than what we started with.

After we had excavated, we (again, meaning Matt) turned to demoing the outside cover.  The visible cover lifted off (it was heavy as hell, but not actually attached to anything).  Under that was another layer of shingles, under those was sort of thin sheet metal/flashing, and under THAT was the wood that you can see in the picture above.

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Whoohoo!  We have a hole!  Unfortunately the mason wasn’t going to be in until later in the week, so we had to cover the giant hole back up.

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We also have a backyard that is starting to resemble a junk yard.

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We added a tarp and then put the pre-existing cover back and thought we were being pretty smart.  And we were… at least mostly.

It rained that night though.  Like a lot.  I went down to check how things had help and promptly informed Matt that we had “a good-news, bad-news sort of situation.”  The good news was that not much water ended up in our gaping hole.  The bad news was that a TON of water had pooled in the tarp and wasn’t about to go anywhere on its own.

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Luckily we had a bunch of buckets.  Matt cut a small hole in the tarp and let it drain into a bucket.  I was on standby with another bucket so he could swap them out and I could dump the full one down out utility sink.  This took quite a while we estimated that we emptied out over 20 gallons from the tarp.  Peachy.

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Schmutz has been very upset about what’s been happening to her cave and decided to come and investigate further.

On Monday the mason came to pour the concrete–yay progress!  Matt I also attempted to re-jigger the tarp (since it now has a hole in it….).  We’re supposed to be getting more rain throughout the week, so keep your fingers crossed that we don’t end up with an indoor water feature!

 

*I helped a little, but I have some serious Arachnophobia and refused to actually enter this particular spider-pit.

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