Monday, December 24, 2012

Holidays At Home

We are enjoying our new home for the holiday season.  I am attaching here some photos of the fresh tree we put on the porch.  It is a 6' Frasier Fir and is the perfect size for the space.  I bought new LED lights for it.  They are more "blue" compared to the old lights, even though they are advertised as "white".  I'm not totally thrilled with that, but I can live with it considering the energy efficiency.

Now that we have some space to work, I got out all the Xmas decorations, and we weeded before we decorated, so I now have a box for the next garage sale.  When I un-decorate, I am going to reorganize and relabel all the holiday storage.  It will feel good to finally be more organized.

That's it for today!  Thanks for reading, and don't forget to feed the fish!

:) Amy

Saturday, November 24, 2012

The Shame of Not Posting

Oh goodness!  Shame on me for not posting for more than 3 months.  *sigh*  Ok, I'm over it - and you should be too.  The fact is that life has been very stable, so I really haven't had much to talk about.

School began again in mid-August, and we've pretty much been living in the new house about 80% of the time.  We sleep here, and until it got too cold and dark to continue to hang out on the porch in the early evening, we were eating here as well.

In early November, we moved the table and chairs into the dining room and started closing the porch door at night.  It really does get cold out there.  It has been in the 40s on some mornings when it is in the 20s outside.  The good news is that it doesn't take long to heat it up into the 60s with the small space heater that we have. Yes, there is a built-in wall heater, but we really don't trust it.

Other changes:  We had AT&T Uverse installed in late July - bundle of phone, cable and internet.  That has not been without some minor technical glitches at times, but overall, we are pleased with it.  In August, we bought a desk for the dining room, and I moved my computer over because I knew I was going to need it once school started.  Once we moved the dining table into the dining room, we moved my desk and computer to my sewing room.  It is quite comfy working there.  I honestly now have very little reason to go to the other house... except to deal with clothes.

Clothes.  That seems to be the only sticky wicket I've had to deal with.  Transitioning from summer clothes in the new closet to fall/winter has been a challenge.  More than once, I've wanted something that was at the other house, when I thought it was already here.  The good part of this is that I'm only bringing the stuff here that I REALLY like, so by next summer, I should have a very clear picture of what I can get rid of without missing it.

Now that it has turned colder and gets dark earlier, we don't feel as compelled to eat dinner here.  Lately, we've been going back to the old house around sunset for dinner.  We hang out for a few hours, and then come "home" for the rest of the evening.  We still do laundry over there, and Hubs usually spends the night there once every couple of weeks - just to kind of make sure things are ok.

So, the 2 house lifestyle continues to work for us.  Tentatively I am planning on just decorating New House for the holidays.  I want to get a fresh tree for the porch - we haven't had a fresh tree in several years, so I'm looking forward to it.

I did a little decorating at Halloween.  Thanks to Pinterest, I got some pumpkin ideas.  Here are some photos of what I did:

I have also invested in some new holiday greenery for the front windowsills.  It should last for years, and has battery powered LED lights that are on a timer to be on for 6 hours each evening.

So, that's the November update.  I'll try to post more about the holiday decs in the next few weeks.  Thanks for reading, and don't forget to feed the fish!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

A New Lifestyle

We took possession of New House on March 23.  The remodeling phase was mostly done by the end of April, and by the end of May we had enough furniture in to live fairly comfortably.  The rest of the furniture arrived by the end of June.

We had accumulated enough kitchen "stuff" over the 30 years we've been together to set up the kitchen without having to buy a lot of new stuff.  We did buy some new items, just because we wanted to and not because we really had to.  This bring us to one advantage of the 2-house-lifestyle:  We were able to declutter the Old kitchen to furnish the New kitchen - a benefit to both houses.

Another advantage is something I alluded to in my last post.  With the New 2 car garage, we were able to close out the storage unit that we'd been renting for 2 years.  Most of what was in there was stuff we kept from my parent's house, and most of that stuff just needs to be gone through.  We had boxes and boxes of financial and medical papers.  Some needed to be shredded and some can just be tossed, but it all had to be gone through.  When all the boxes were in a storage unit, it just wasn't convenient to get a box, haul it home and go through it - so we didn't.  Just in the last month, we've been working at a rate of about a box a day and have managed to get rid of almost a dozen boxes so far.

A 3rd advantage has presented itself twice so far - What happens when the power goes out?  So far, the power has gone out at each house once, and each time for an extended period.  We were able to load up the stuff from the "dark" refrigerator and take all that food to the working fridge and not lose anything.  We were also able to sleep in the house with power so we could still have A/C and/or fans, and I could still sleep with my CPAP machine.  (Without which I have to sleep sitting up in a recliner.)  It turns out that even though the houses are close to each other, they are on different power circuits.  So far, they have not both been out at the same time.

As soon as school was out, we started sleeping at New House.  We love being here in the mornings.  The porch is glorious in the morning sun.  The schedule we've developed has sort of evolved, partly because we don't yet have TV service at New House.  We like to watch the evening news, so it has made sense to spend the day at New House and then go to Old House around 5-6ish p.m. and then spend the evening there doing laundry and watching our favorite shows on TV.  Then we come "home" at the end of the evening to go to bed.  We have developed a transition routine for each trip back and forth.  We have a place where we put stuff that goes to the other house, and we are usually hauling clothes, food, paper tidbits from one house to the other.  So far that has been fairly easy to manage.

Both Hubs and I have our computers (with regular internet service) and offices at Old House, so we do our "work' there.  I do have a laptop with a wireless internet connection at New House, but I don't use that for financial things.   At New House, I play the piano, work on sewing projects, read, play computer games - it is sort of a "vacation house" for me.

I'm sure the routine will change once school is back in session, but for now, this 2-house-lifestyle is working for us.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

The Great Experiment!

One of my reasons for starting this blog was to share the remodeling process of our new house with family and friends who live far away, and who probably won't be able to visit in person.  Well, that remodeling process is pretty much done now, except for decorating with artwork, etc...  So, that brings me to the next purpose of this blog: to chronicle the experience of having and actively living in two houses.

For those of you who may not remember how this whole adventure started, let me refresh your memory.  After looking for a new house for 2 years - one that we planned to fully move in to, and then sell the old house - we finally came to the realization that the odds of finding our dream house were slim to none.  We came the closest with a 2400 sq ft home that would have required a 40 min. drive each way to work, which was a deal-killer.  One of the prime features of this "almost" purchase was that it was on a slab.  Not only was it the largest slab home we found in our search, it was the ONLY slab home we found.  I asked our realtor very directly if he thought we could find a house that large on a slab closer to work.  He said no.

We found lots and lots of ranch homes with basements.  One thing I had never realized before is that whenever you have a house with a basement, there are also going to be steps up into the main level because traditional basements are not fully sunken underground, so there will be steps up to the front door, the back door, the garage into the house, etc...   Many of these ranch homes with basements also had some room inside that was sunken - typically a living room or family room.  I guess that was "in" at some point in the '50s or '60s?  The bottom line is that we had to have a house with no steps because of my bad knees.  Realistically, many people are eventually going to need to live in a home with no steps as the aging population falls prey to arthritis and joint injuries.  I guess I expected there to be more no-steps-houses out there, for that reason.  Well, that's not the case in this area.  At least not within an easy drive of my school.  Of course, it is possible to retro-fit existing homes with chairs that carry a person up the steps or with elevators, but both options are expensive and less than perfect.

Now, interestingly enough our old house is a slab home, in a large neighborhood of slab homes.  These houses are Huber Homes - built in the '70s by a man named Charles Huber.  He developed large communities of these small well-built brick ranches throughout the '50s, '60s and '70s.  (In fact, here in Ohio there is an entire city of Huber Homes called Huber Heights, a suburb of Dayton.)  However, one drawback of the Huber Homes in this area is that they are fairly small.  The smallest is less than 1200 sq ft with a one car garage and virtually no storage space besides regular closets.  There are several models, and they vary somewhat in size.  Most are 3 bedroom, and they typically have either 1 1/2 bathrooms or 2 bathrooms.   In our initial search, we didn't even consider another Huber because we wanted more space.  We were already in a mid-sized 3 bed, 2 bath Huber with a 1-car garage that is just over 1200 sq ft.  Our whole reason for moving was to get more space.

After we decided that our "almost" purchase wasn't going to happen, we felt very defeated and out of options.  Then Hubby had a brainstorm!  He said let's buy the house around the corner... and keep this one... and live in both.  WHAT?  SERIOUSLY?  He had crunched the numbers and had a very long list of positives, and after we discussed it, we really couldn't find any downside to the plan.  And so, here we are with 2 Huber Homes within sight of each other!!

The two houses have the same basic floor plan, but there are 3 major differences that were selling points for us:  1. New House has a 2 car garage which has allowed us to close out the storage unit we were paying $100/month for.  2. New House has a large storage room behind the second half of the 2 car garage which Old House doesn't have.  3. New House has a very large and very well-built 3-season room which is something we had seriously considered putting on Old House.

Previously, every time we had talked about adding on or remodeling Old House, we always came back to the issue that we really didn't want to live in remodeling dust and debris and noise and smell, etc...  Nor did we want to half-way "move out" during the remodeling.  With New House, we didn't have to do any of that. We were able to remodel from a distance without having to "live" in it, yet we were close enough to keep an eye on things on a daily basis.  The 3 season room didn't need any remodeling, so we were able to set up that room comfortably for our visits and then close the sliding door to keep out the dust.

With buying this 2nd house, we've gained 1200 sq ft of living space.  I now have a place for my baby grand piano.  Hubby now has a nice workshop area that is well lit and has plenty of space for his workbench, tools, and an area to spread out in.  I also now have a craft/sewing room where I can leave projects out that I am working on (I used to have to work on the kitchen table.)  We now have a good storage space that is temperature controlled and insect free.  We have a lovely 3 season room where we can enjoy the sunlight without excessive heat/cold and bugs/varmits.  If we would have purchased the "almost" house, we would have 2400 sq ft of space, but we would have actually had to "move" to it, and sell Old House.  Now we have 2400 sq ft of space without having to move or sell anything.   "Almost" house had 3 bedrooms - we now have 6.  "Almost" house had 2 garage spaces - we now have 3.

In the days ahead, I plan to talk more about the pros (and cons, although there aren't many, yet) of living in 2 neighboring houses.  So, stay tuned.  You might find that this idea could work for YOU!

Thanks for reading, and don't forget to feed the fish!  :)

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

More Fads and Silliness, Part II

So, the next fad (or trend) on my list to complain about is curtains - draperies - window treatments!  Without exception, dressing the windows in our new house gave us the biggest headaches and led to the most stress and drama of anything we did in this remodeling process.  We have lived in 7 different homes in our married life (soon to be 30 years - woo hoo!), and never before have we had such trouble finding window treatments that we wanted!

Issue #1:  Our new house, which was built in the early '70s has replacement windows that were installed probably sometime in the last 10 years.  They are very nice, and were a definite selling point for us.  Old House, which was built about the same time as New House, has NOT had replacement windows installed.  It still has the original aluminum windows.  The old windows are set toward the outside of the window opening, allowing room within the window frame for mini-blinds to be hung within the opening.  This is quite convenient because the mini-blinds don't interfere at all with any curtains.  However, the new replacement windows have been set farther to the inside of the window opening, leaving no room for mini-blinds inside the window frame.  This was something we didn't discover until after we'd purchased the house (not that it would have been a deal-killer anyway, but it was just a revelation to us because we didn't expect this difference).  

Originally, my thinking was that I didn't want any mini-blinds in New House.  We have them at Old House, and I wanted to try to do as many things as differently as possible, especially since the floor-plans are the same.  However, once we got to working regularly at NH, we started to think that we were really going to need blinds both for privacy and for light control.  The house faces south, and while the wide roof-overhang prevents much direct sunlight in the heat of the day, it is still very bright in the living room and both front bedrooms.  We also have very close neighbors on the west side - also exposed to the front corner bedroom and the back master bedroom.  Again - west facing windows = direct sunlight and heat.  The first time I tried to work in my sewing room with the afternoon sun bearing in, I realized I had to have mini-blinds no matter how much I didn't want them.

Ok - now, no room inside the window frame for blinds means they have to be hung on the wall outside of the window opening, which means their thickness impacts the hanging of curtains.  Most curtain mounting hardware does not extend far enough to clear mini-blinds and still leave plenty of room for free movement of curtains.  Hhhmmm.... problem.

Issue #2:  Have you shopped for curtains lately?  If you have, you've probably noticed that the "popular" models involve curtains with big grommets in the top which are meant to be hung directly on rods.  Second to these are curtains with loops, or those with large pockets which go directly over the rod.  Only in the very back corner of the display room might there be the very rare display of curtains for traverse rods.  Remember traverse rods from your mother's and grandmother's house?  Remember traverse rods that held curtains which could easily be opened and closed by pulling a cord at one end?  Remember how neatly curtains hung on traverse rods?  How nice they looked hanging there?  Yes, well... let me tell you... some designer in some tower somewhere decided that traverse rods and their neatly hanging curtains were "so last decade" and banished them to the back room of stores.  Just try to find curtains for traverse rods now - go ahead, LOOK - I DARE YOU!!!  I am convinced that grommet curtains were designed by some 22 year-old with a nearly bare apartment who was obsessed with change for the sake of change - with doing everything differently from the way Mom did, regardless of how annoyingly impractical the change might be!
Seriously, if you have used grommet curtains, you know what I mean.  In order to open and close the curtains, you have to physically hold the curtain fabric and pull it in the intended direction.  Now, how long do we think the curtain fabric is going to continue to look good, hold its shape and hang nicely after being tugged at in 2 directions at least twice a day?  My mother's traverse curtains still looked good after hanging there and being opened and closed every day for 35 years!  Are grommet curtains going to last for 35 years and still look good?   Perhaps if the opener/closer is tall enough to reach the top of the curtains, some of this fabric-tugging can be avoided, but I can tell you that at 5'2" I need a step-stool to reach the top.

Then, let's put a piece of furniture in front of that window, shall we?  At Old House, I have a large antique dresser in front of one of the windows in the master bedroom.  On that dresser is an antique lamp - it was an old lamp that was converted from gas to electricity - you know, the kind with the big hand painted glass globes...  Anyway, behind this large dresser and lamp hangs a set of grommet curtains - because they were the only things we could find when we wanted new curtains.  Opening and closing those curtains is a nightmare for me.  I have to reach over and around that fragile antique lamp, and every time I do it, I am scared to death that the lamp is going to go crashing to the floor.  Would this be an issue with traverse curtains????  NO!!!  So, I don't open them - they stay closed unless Hubby feels brave and risks smashing my lamp.   At New House, we decided to put the couch in front of the living room window, which has grommet curtains because they were the best we could find.  The only way I can open and close them is to move the couch out.  Hubs uses a yard stick to move the curtains along the rod at the top.  A yard stick!  Yes, I could have put the couch somewhere else, but I am NOT letting the curtains dictate the room arrangement.  How frickin' annoying is this?!  This problem could be solved with traverse curtains!!!

The most annoying thing about all of this is that once again - the fad or trend has dictated what is available for purchase.  In every single case with every single window in New House, we had to compromise and settle for less than what we wanted.  I predict that people are going to realize how impractical grommet curtains are, and they will complain enough, and the trend will revert back.  5 years - that's how long I give this.  In 2017 check the stores and see if grommet curtains are still "in".  I predict they will be OUT  and I will be the first one to be redoing all my windows!!!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Of Fads and Other Such Silliness, Part I

Fads.  I think they've been around as long as there have been people.  Fads happen in most aspects of our cultural life:  in clothing/shoes, hair styles, home decorating, garden design, architecture, art, music, etc...  Some fads seem to be a function of change for the sake of change - the younger generation wants to do something different than their parents did, so they create a fad that goes in a different direction.  Some fads seem to come about because someone of notoriety does something a certain way and others feel they have to follow (Justin Beeber's hairstyles are an example of this).  I also believe that some fads are created by industries in order to sell new products.  

According to the "fad" entry on Wikipedia,  "The behavior will normally fade quickly once the perception of novelty is gone."  Also according to Wikipedia, a "fad" is not to be confused with a "trend" which can often lead to more permanence.   Today I'm here to talk about  - perhaps even complain about - some fads or trends that I've seen in home decorating throughout my last few months of doing just that.  

Hubby and I have spent a lot of time watching home decorating shows on TV over the last few years.  There are many such shows on HGTV.  In addition to the decorating shows, there are shows like House Hunters where each episode features a new family in search of a home - and they usually evaluate and pick from 3 options in the course of the 30 min show.  During their inspections of the options, a lot is said about their interests/needs/tastes in home decorating.  Hubs and I have definitely noticed some "trends" in what many buyers seem to be looking for and wanting in a new home.  This has been confirmed by what we've seen on some decorating shows as well.  

One trend is that many people seem to be shunning carpet in favor of hardwood flooring.  Hardwood floors were popular "back in the day" before carpet and sweepers were both inexpensive and good quality.  Then there seem to be a trend away from wood floors as being "old fashioned", and carpet became the desirable option for those wanting to get away from what their parents had.  It seems to me that in the '60s and '70s in Middle America, there was a huge trend away from hardwood floors and toward carpet.  I know that my family fell into this trend.  Grandma's house, built in the 1920s, had hardwood floors, but Mom wanted wall to wall carpet in her new house in the '60s.  She even bought large rugs that could be cut to fit around bathroom fixtures so that the bathroom could have wall-to-wall carpeting.   All of the homes I was in during my childhood that were built from the '50s on had wall-to-wall carpet.  (With the possible exception of kitchens, although our house had it in the kitchen as well.)  Now, when we watch House Hunters, many new home owners moan when they see carpet and immediately declare THAT will have to go and be replaced with hardwood.  Some indicate a need for a low-allergy environment, or for cleanliness, and others just seem to be speaking the language of the trend.  During our remodeling process, a friend seemed surprised that we were not taking advantage of this opportunity to put in hardwood instead of replacing old carpet with new carpet.  My answer was short and simple:  "I'm not going to spend my life chasing dust bunnies!"   Hubby and I had hardwood floors in the bedrooms of an apartment that we lived in in the '80's, and it was most labor-intensive floor I've ever lived with!  I could dust the floor and 5 minutes later there would be another dust bunny that I had "missed".   Keeping those floors clean was a Sisyphean struggle!  I certainly don't mind running a sweeper over carpet once a week or so, but as far as I'm concerned, wood floors are just too high-maintenance.  Then there is the issue of walking with bare feet - which I do most of the time - carpet = warm, cozy, cushy and nice for the feets - wood = hard, cold, splintery.  NO THANKS!  I love my new carpet, and I plan to hang on to it as long as I can.  I'm sure there are situations where it is more practical not to have carpet, but to me this "trend" is impractical for most homes.  For those of you who have wood floors and love them:  I'm happy for you, and I certainly mean no disrespect.  Please call me to socialize if you have time between dustings!

Trend #2:  The kitchen MUST have stainless steel appliances  in order to be "in".  Ok, seriously, stainless steel appliances?  I'm not sure where this "fad" came from, (and I'm calling it a fad because I think it is going to fade when the novelty wears off), but I have a feeling it has something to do with all the cooking shows on TV, and people seeing that professional chefs have stainless steel appliances - therefore, if you want to have a professional looking kitchen, that's the way to go.  Also, they're more expensive, so they must be "better", right?  Here is another high-maintenance item: fingerprints, scratches, and then there is that sound when you scrape your fingernail on it!!  ARGH!!!  We inherited a stainless steel sink in the kitchen of our new house.  It is a nightmare to keep clean - much more labor-intensive than the old ceramic sink at the old house.  As with the dust-bunnies, the sink always has water spots.  No matter how long and hard I work, there are ALWAYS water spots!!!  

Trend #3:  Vessel sinks on bathroom vanities.  Talk about impractical!  I can see them perhaps in a fancy powder room that is only used very occasionally by a guest, but to have them in a bathroom that is used by the family for everyday tooth-brushing, etc... Totally impractical.   I make a prediction that within 5 years these will be "out" and people who buy houses with them in will be removing them or complaining about them.  I'm not sure where this trend came from - perhaps some wealthy mansion in Europe started it?  Well, you mark my words - by 2017, these will be "so last year".  

Ok, for those of you who are not mad at me and want to keep reading, stay tuned to the next entry for more of my whining and complaining about fads and trends that I've seen recently!  

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Alfred Hitchcock Mocks Me

Do you remember seeing The Birds in the 60s?  I do - vividly.  It is about the only movie I've ever watched that really gave me nightmares.  I would lie awake in my childhood bedroom convinced that there was a huge bird on the top of my dresser staring down at me and waiting for me to go to sleep so it could swoop down and peck my eyes out!  More than once I ran crying to my parents' bedside seeking relief from the nasty ravens.

Fast-forward to 2012.  I am a rational adult who actually enjoys birds of all sorts.  I photograph them at the feeders, I blog about them, I regale my friends with stories of the varied varieties we get in our yard.  My childhood fear of eye-pecking harpies is gone, right?  Of course it is...

Enter... the beast from hell:

In this photo, that is our house - our OLD house.  Visible now from the NEW house.  So there we were, Hubs and I, eating our brunch on our new porch on Sunday, when I glanced over at the old house... What's that on the roof, I asked?  Is that a squirrel?  No, it's too big - maybe it's a raccoon...  I'll get the binoculars... O M G  that's a BIRD!!!  What's it doing?  It's EATING something!!!  O M G a huge predatory bird is eating fresh carrion on our roof!!!  Can you say EEEEWWWWWWWW !!!!

Just imagine - if we hadn't bought a house within sight of our house, we wouldn't know what goes on there.  We could have been there - IN the house - with a vulture eating dead stuff on our roof - and we never would have known!  Ok, so now what's going on HERE when we are here and can't see it???  Oh my, the mind boggles...  


As I sit here gazing at the cute birds on my kitchen curtains.....  

More Stuff...

Hello Readers!  Welcome back!  I have updates and photos to share after several days away.  The first news is that the new front door was installed last week on May 16.  That was an all day project for 1 guy - Tony - the same guy who installed the new patio door at the old house last year.  We are glad we got him again because he was very good the first time, and likewise this time.  Neither Hubs nor I expected that job to  be as long and involved as it was.  It's certainly not a DIY job.  Tony spent a lot of time just taking the old door out - along with all the jam/trim stuff.  Here is the old door:

Once he got the new one installed, we were both surprised by how dark it was. This was something we purchased out of a catalog supplied by Columbus Handyman.  In the picture, the door looked somewhat lighter.  It was called "mahogany", so I knew it would be dark"ish", but this has more of a red tint to it than showed in the picture.  We were also surprised by how low the window was.  We were hoping it would be high enough that a person of average height could not walk up and look in.  However, Hubs can look through the window, and he is only 5'9".  We solved that problem by investing in some window film.  JoAnn's Fabrics had just the right stuff - it has sort of a mozaic pattern and is frosted.  With his great patience, Hubs installed the film on both sides of the window.  Now we have privacy without losing the light, and it actually looks right for the Craftsman style door.   It is hard to see in the photo, but there is actually a narrow shelf under the window on both sides.  It's called a "dental" because it looks like it has teeth.

Tony initially installed the door with the full length screen in the storm door, but we felt that had many "issues" and so we opted to put the glass in.  The pretty door can be seen better through the glass, and since the storm door can also be locked, it adds more security.  We can leave the interior door open when we want more light, and the glass is better for that also.  In spite of the fact that the door is different than what we expected it to be, it really is a beautiful door, and we are learning to love it. It is very solid and should last for many many years.

The next happening was getting a twin bed for the guest (red) room.  We got a frame that matches the queen frame in the master, and got a mattress set from Bedrooms First.  Hubby picked out the sheets and comforter and so here is the finished product:

We were going to put a white bedskirt on it, but then decided it looked fine by just putting a black fitted sheet on the box-springs.  We are mix/matching zebra striped and black sheets, and then the comforter is reversible black/gray.  It is very sharp in the red/white room.  Hubs looked long and hard for a desk, but the size he needs isn't really standard, so he decided to make a desk to fit the space and his needs.  That is in progress in the garage/workshop.  Here is a preview with much yet to be done:

I have been working on sewing projects.  First I made new curtains for the kitchen window:

The window is not centered between the cabinets, so I made the curtains wide enough to span the entire 49" space and put them on a tension rod.  The pattern is birds and butterflies and has very pastel blues, greens, pinks and yellows.  It looks very nice against the blue walls and white tile.

Next I made curtains for my sewing room.  My initial vision was a double rod with curtains on the inner rod and a valance on the outer rod that would hide the ring/clamps.  However, while working in there with no window dressing at all, it became very clear that I really needed mini-blinds at the side west-facing window. It was just too sunny and bright to rely only on curtains to keep out the direct sunlight (and heat).  So, I went against my vow to not have mini-blinds and had Hubs install them anyway.  That meant there wasn't room for both curtains and a valance on the rod I'd already bought, so I gave up the valance idea and just did the curtains.  Then I made a valance for the front window over the wider plantation blinds.  As it turns out, this all worked out quite well given the amount of fabric I bought!  I didn't have enough for a valance on the big window anyway!

My Baby-doctor makes house calls

It is always recommended that a piano be tuned after it is moved.  Today was the big day.  My piano technician has tuned my baby twice when it was in foster care.  The first time he tuned it, he also did a thorough diagnostic on it and reported that there was a lot of restoration that "could" be done.  I opted at the time for minimal repair and tuning - to keep the baby working.

When Mark arrived today, I reported that my middle-C-sharp black key wasn't playing consistently, so he worked on that first.  I was totally fascinated to watch his process.  After sliding off the music stand, he removed the key cover and then took the front plate off that usually stands in front of the keys.  Once all that was off, he slid the entire bank of keys out and balanced it on his lap while he worked on it.

He then pulled all the hammers up so he could work on what was under them:

As it turns out, there is a little brass plate for each key, and the one for the middle-C-sharp was cracked.  That was causing the hammer to wobble from side to side, and thus sometimes it wouldn't strike the string squarely - hence, no sound sometimes.  

After discussing the options, we decided to "rob Peter to pay Paul" and swapped out this little part from the key at the far right end of the keyboard because he didn't have a replacement with him.  In the photo above, you will see that the assembly has been taken out across the bottom where there is a blue square.  (Sorry - I don't know all the technical part names, but you probably don't either, so I'm hoping it doesn't matter to you!)  That missing assembly is for the last key at the right.  Technician Mark then replaced this with the cracked part from the center.  The part that is actually cracked is just the tiny brass part that has the 2 screws in it at the far right in the photo above.  The wooden parts are all fine, as of now.

After he got that one replaced, he wiggled them all... and found that in fact, more than 30 of them are "loose" to some extent, meaning that their little parts have either already cracked or are on the verge.  I'm lucky that the piano works as well as it does considering this factor.  He said he's got maybe 5 of these parts at his shop, and he isn't sure he can get them anymore.  He is going to do some research and let me know if the parts are still available.  If so, he recommends that I have them all replaced at once because it is only a matter of time before the wobbly ones break totally, and the rest are destined for the same fate eventually.  It is simply a matter of aging and wear/tear.  

This is a situation much like having an old car.  There comes a point at which it is cheaper to buy a new one than to keep replacing old parts - especially if those parts are becoming obsolete.  However, when there is sentimental value attached to the piano, it's just not the same to buy a new one.  My hope is that if the parts are no longer available, there are old Chickerings out there which can be parts-robbed.  As I explained to Mark, I am not a concert pianist, and I am not a "hard" player.  As long as I can "gently" play my tunes, I will be happy.  

So, Mark and I chose not to do any tuning today.  Once he finds out about these parts, we will decide how to proceed.  The piano sounds just fine to a non-tuner's ear, and even he said it doesn't sound bad.  My middle-C-sharp is working again, so for now I'm satisfied.  

Excuse me now, I'm going to go play....  

Sunday, May 20, 2012

1st Night In the House

This weekend a huge milestone was reached.  We were finally able to spend the night in the new house!  On Saturday, Hubby put mini-blinds up in the Master bedroom and that enabled us to be able to spend the night.  So we slept in the new queen bed for the first time!  It is very comfy and neither of us had any complaints.  Then on Sunday, we got up and had our first "Sunday Brunch" in the new kitchen/porch.   While we have not officially moved our clothes over, we now have enough stuff there that we can spend the night there in comfort.

Today we went back to Bedrooms First and ordered a mattress set for the twin bed in the red room.  While we were there, we also happened to find a dresser that we liked for the master, and it was on sale for a great price, so we grabbed that, along with 2 pictures that we will hang in the living room by the piano.  We also saw a wing-back chair we liked, but we passed on that for now.

And so, as Hubs likes to say, the puzzle pieces are fitting together, slowly.  I hope to get time to post some pics in the next few days.  Stay tuned... and don't forget to feed the fish!

Sunday, May 13, 2012

The Baby Comes Home

May 12 was a day I've been waiting for since 1981 when I moved out of my parents' house to live on my own. Since then, I've never had room in my various apartments or houses to have a piano, and I had to wait until I visited my parents to get to play a real piano.  At some point in the late 80s or early 90s, I bought an electric keyboard, which certainly served a purpose, but it still wasn't a "real" piano.  My Baby Grand has been living in the home of a very generous foster family since August 2010.  It had a prominent place in their living room.   They took very good care of it for me, and their son took lessons on it and played it regularly.  This foster care situation really worked out well for everyone involved, and I much preferred having the baby in a loving home where it was played and appreciated rather than having it in storage all this time.

We had the piano moved by Integrity Movers - moving pianos is one of their specialties.  They are the company that moved the piano down here from Milan 2 years ago, and they did a great job that time, so I hired them again.  They really seem to know what they're doing.  I have no problem giving them a great recommendation and here is a commercial for them.

Before they moved the piano from Milan, I had no idea how baby grands were moved.  It turns out that the legs and pedals come off and the piano gets moved on its long side.  So, here are some photos of the process of moving it in and unpacking it:

1.  It was resting on a carpeted board and then that was on a 4-wheeled cart.  The whole package was lowered down on a lift, and then wheeled up the driveway and into the house.  

2.  The legs and pedals had each been wrapped individually in their own blankets.  The head guy informed me that the 2 front legs were on backwards when they disassembled it.  I told him that their guys had moved it before, and he seemed surprised by that.  

3.  Once they have the piano where it is going to go, they start unwrapping it.  They take it off the 4-wheeled cart, but leave it on the carpeted board until they get the first 2 legs on.  The legs have no bolts in them.  They have grooves on the end that fit into opposing grooves in the underside of the body, and then they are held in place by a rotating wedge hammered into place by a wooden mallet.  

4.  Once they have the right front leg and the back leg on, they stand it up, and 2 guys hold it while the 3rd guy crawls underneath to put the 3rd leg on.  There has to be a lot of trust with this one!!!

5.  After the 3rd leg is secured, the shrink-wrap is removed, and then the pedal assembly is attached.  We also had them set it far enough away from the walls that we could walk around it (for cleaning and hanging pictures, etc...), and they set it on glass coasters as well.   So here is the final resting place for the Baby in its rightful home:

I must admit, I got very choked up when I sat down at it for the first time.  Knowing how important this piano was to the members of my family for almost 100 years, I feel very honored to be the keeper of it now. 

At some point in going through the papers in my parents house, I came across the paper work for the original purchase in 1913, and I hope to find that, frame it, and put it up by the piano.  

I'm a little rusty... ok, a lot rusty, but I am going to practice every day and try to make up for lost time!!!

Thanks for reading!  Stay tuned for more house-adventures in the weeks ahead!!!  

Catching Up On All The Changes

Wow - was it really May 2 that I posted last?  I apologize to my faithful readers for getting behind in my updates.  Quite a lot has happened since May 2, and that is one reason I haven't posted - I've been very busy. It seems like every day brings new adventures.  Where to begin....

I think I mentioned that once the new carpet was installed, the closet doors no longer worked.  John brought his 2 best "Problem Solvers" out to work on this issue.  They were able to adjust/raise 2 of the sets so they don't need to be trimmed (hall closet and red room).  However, the yellow room and master needed to be removed and trimmed - about 1/2".  Also, when the carpet guys took the doors off and put them back on in the yellow room, they got sort of scuffed up and the paint actually pealed off in places.

Painter Jim took the yellow room doors back to the shop to trim and paint them, and they discovered that this set of doors was not paintable wood after all, but vinyl coated -no-paint- wood.  John swears that the packaging said they were paintable wood (he was there when they were purchased) and that the wrong doors were in the package.  So, then they had to go out and find paintable wood doors.  So, those should be coming back in the next few days.

Hubs has been very busy on two projects.  1 - he took the 24" linen closet door and made it into a work-bench for the garage.  2 - he has made a frame for the window in his room to help block out the light that seeps in around the edges of the blinds. (Sorry, I don't have a good photo of this 2nd project.)

I found a sewing table for my sewing/craft room.  It was the "Josephine Desk" at World Market.  We brought that home and put it together yesterday - it's perfect, just what I wanted!  I had planned to cover that chair, but the more I look at it, the more I like it, especially with the white desk and black Eiffel Tower lamp (from Target).

We got a Queen mattress set for the master bed frame - that was delivered earlier this week.  We got the standard foundation for it, but that made the whole set too high for my short little legs, so we exchanged the standard foundation for a "low-profile" foundation which is only 5" and brings the whole thing down to a manageable height.  I told Hubby it was either a new foundation or a step-stool, and he didn't want to hear me cry when I slipped off the stool and sprained my ankle (threatening to cry always works with him!)  Ultimately, he just wants me to be happy - Good Answer, spoken by a man who's been married for almost 30 years!  Today we got the quilted cover at Kohl's.  It is a queen size, but seems a little small - we'll see.
The 4 posts should be delivered on Tuesday, along with a twin bed frame in the same style for the guest room (red).  Then the canopy top doesn't come until mid-June sometime.  After we get that, I will be making curtains for it.

The living room furniture was delivered by Value City.  We originally ordered a 92" sofa, a 72" love seat and a coordinated side chair.  The day before delivery, the store called to say that the 72" love seat that came in was damaged, and they were sending it back to exchange it for another.  They would be bringing the new 72" in the next delivery with the master bed-posts which were on back-order.  Once we got the 92" and the chair in the room, and started thinking about tables... and the piano... we decided that we didn't really have room for the 72" after all - so we cancelled it.  Now that we have the piano, we're glad we did, because the room just isn't big enough for all that furniture.

We've tried arranging the room with the couch on the long wall at the left; however, this arrangement with the couch under the window leaves more room for tables on the ends and in the middle, and will also be better for sound from the piano.  Stay tuned - it may get moved again.  We are also seriously considering buying a second chair which could be moved back and forth between the living room and the dining room.

I also bought material yesterday for the kitchen curtains - have not had time to start working on those.  That will be the next project I tackle.

Stay tuned... and don't forget to feed the fish!

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

New Stuff

In addition to new carpet, we've acquired a few other new things in the last few days.

I had seen these slipper chairs at Office Max a month or more ago, and I was glad to see they still had them.  Don't worry - I'm not keeping the black flowers.  I'm going to cover this chair, probably with a floral chinz.  If it works out well, I may get a second one too.

And - the table and chairs for the porch.  This was the first thing we ordered - from Ashley Furniture:

I know the chair seats look pink in the photo - they're not.  They're a golden beige color.  We are thinking we'll leave this on the porch as long as the weather is nice enough to eat out there.  If we decide we need to eat inside, we can move the set to the dining room!


Tuesday, May 1 was CARPET DAY at the new house!  This day has been long-anticipated, as you know.  There has only been one time in my life when I've ever had the chance to pick out carpet.  When I was 16, and we moved to our house in Milan, my mother let me pick out the carpet for my bedroom.  I loved it - it was a Victorian floral print which I never tired of.  It is one of the only things I actually miss about my parents' homestead.

However, I digress... Hubs and I got to pick out our carpet for the new house - this was probably the biggest decision we had to make.  After all, paint is easy to change.  Wall-to-wall, whole-house carpet isn't!

Hubs was at the house while the guys worked, and he documented the progress on film for your viewing pleasure.  Allow me to present... The Carpet Installation...

First... the original flooring from 40 years ago was revealed in the dining room.  Scary, scary stuff!!!

I feel sorry for any previous owners who actually had to scrape that off the other areas!  Luckily for us, it is only in the dining room and was easy to cover!!!  Here is the living room - nakey:

Next came the pad:

And... drum roll please... the good stuff:

It is a multi-colored frieze - has strands of beige and tan and darker tan....  

Above you can see the living room from the dining room, including the new 2.5" blinds that Hubs put up on Sunday!!!

As with paint colors, the carpet color changes from room to room, depending on sunlight, and from day to night depending on the lights.  It is dreamy-soft, amazingly cushy!!  And, after 1 day, it hasn't even fallen off yet!!!

We now have a slight issue.  The carpet is so thick, that now none of the closet doors work right. They are all going to have to be shaved.  I think the bedroom doors are ok tho.  

Tomorrow we meet with John.  I'm sure he'll propose a solution for the closets.  


Saturday, April 28, 2012


A lot of progress was made today!  Painter Jim hung the wall paper in the entry and finished all the painting jobs - so he is finished!

We went to Rite Rug and got our carpet ordered - installation is set for Tuesday, May 1 !!!!

We bought a set of 2.5" blinds and installed them in the red room - tomorrow we will get another set to match for the yellow room, and we may buy a set for the living room as well.

The carpet guy encouraged us to vacuum the old carpet so that there isn't construction "stuff" in it that might fly around when they pull it up - and also to get the "stuff" up from around the edges where they had cut the carpet out to paint the baseboards.  So, Hubby got out the Shop Vac and went to work.  He got most of the house done before it got too dark - still the master and the yellow room to do tomorrow.

While he was doing the vacuuming, I was painting the access panel to the attic, and touching up a couple of redwood chairs that we will use on the exterior patio.

It is amazing the difference a few things are making.  Just being able to clean up the construction mess has gone a long way to help us feel better about things.  We also feel better about having found blinds that work with the shelf over the windows - we were sort of stressing out about the window treatments.

It also helps to know the workmen are pretty much done.  John, the owner of CH, will be out on Monday to do a couple of things and meet with us for a final walk-thru - we'll probably get our key back then, so we'll feel a bit more in control.

Here's the schedule:
Sunday - more blinds, more cleaning
Monday - Final work by John
Tuesday - Carpet installation
Wed - Delivery of Porch table and chairs from Ashley Furniture
Friday - Delivery of living room furn and bed from Value City Furniture

So, by this time next week, we are going to have a very different house!!!!

WHEEEEE - the end really IS in sight!

:)  Thanks for reading, and don't forget to feed the fish!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Almost Done?

I'm not sure it is possible, but I think the end of the renovation process might actually be in sight!  Lots got done today.  Carpenter Drake hung the pantry light and put on doorstops while the plumber actually got the bathroom DONE!  He reset the toilet, hooked up the vanity faucet, installed the ceiling exhaust fan and put up the shower grab bar.  Here is a photo of the finished bathroom:

I am very pleased with how it turned out.  We still need a new shower curtain and a new shower nozzle... (gosh, did I say the bathroom was done?).

Tomorrow the painters will come and hang the wallpaper in the entry, and do some touch-ups other places.  
The workers have mostly cleaned up their mess that was the garage.  Hubs and I also spent some time today after they left re-cleaning the kitchen which was covered with a fine layer of sawdust. (I think they usually left the door to the garage open when they were working.)

We also had a meeting this afternoon with the salesman from Levis4Floors.  He brought a sample book, measured the house and then gave us a price estimate.  He also emailed later with a better estimate (after talking with the boss).

Worth noting is that the square footage was different with each person who measured.  TSTSRN came in at 1116 sq ft.  Rite Rug was at 1014 and Levis was at 990.  I'm not sure how they can be so different, but they were.  The first one used an electronic laser gadget, and the other 2 used regular measuring tapes.  

After talking about it tonight, Hubs and I agreed we are going to stick with Rite Rug.  The bottom line is that we liked their carpet better than all that we saw from Levis, and even with a lower square footage, Levis still can't beat RR's price.  

I think that's it for today's updates.  Thanks for reading, and don't forget to feed the fish!