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Good news! And bad news.

I woke up this morning to the sound of machinery, which isn’t that odd since the last two mornings I’ve woken up to the sounds of roofing…noisy machines and men. Today though was a truck. Very close to my bedroom. Welcome to life in a small city. I’m certainly in a nice neighborhood part of the city, but houses are still close together. And my back yard neighbor is getting to work. Or having workers get to work. That is much more accurate.

This is the same neighbor that just finished jack hammering the flooring of her garage out to prepare for a new one being poured. This is the same neighbor that a branch of my tree fell and knocked over a 4 foot section of her fence during the blizzard we bought the house in and was over here the next morning banging on our door letting us know we would be paying for ‘the damage’. I say that in quotes because she had herself plowed out that same day, while we were stuck on our cul-de-sac for 3 days and literally it was one 4 foot section of wooden fencing which costs $50 bucks at Home Depot at most. Trust me, she’s way more than good for it. She lives in the estate (yes for real) with a tennis court and sprawling lawn and large house for her husband and her. We live on a street that takes up the same amount of space as her property, but it holds 7 properties all with a decent amount of space.  And our properties are not McMansions that have sprung up over night. No, these were all built in the 50s-60s.

Our street-Neighbor's House

Nice comparison there…the neighbors house is the property on the bottom of the photo. Back to the point….

The tree that overhangs our house is coming down! Whoop whoop!! It was the one scary thing about our house. No actually, it wasn’t. There have been lots of scary things related to furnaces and hot water heaters and electrical stuff, but we dealt with all of that before we closed on the house. We had some semblance of control over those items. Some. This tree however, overhung a large majority of our house and was huge. This is also the very tree that let a squirrel fall down our chimney and terrorize me one morning.

So, to help you visualize the back and forth tree ‘issues’ I present this next pic.

Tree Arrows

This Google Earth photo was taken early this spring before the leaves grew in. You can see the blue arrow which points to the shadow of a tree, there aren’t any leaves on it. It hangs over the fence of the two houses on the street. Ours on the right, and our other neighbors on the left. That is half of the tree, the rest of the tree fell off backwards and laid over the driveway for less than 12 hours, right along the blue arrow.

The purple arrow points to another shadow of a tree, this one also without leaves. You can see it’s shadow all over the roof of our house. Not a good thing. Miraculously it survived Hurricane Sandy and the Blizzard, so we weren’t really worried, but it is nice to go into winter not having that hanging over our heads. Literally.  ha haha haha (my father-in-law will get a kick out of that)

In this pre-purchase MLS listing photo you can see the towering tree behind the lower point of our roof. Those sprawling branches literally cover the roof, almost sticking out in front of the house. It’s crazy. While I have this picture out, it’s pretty crazy we saw this house and somehow looked past all of the crazy design choices and backbreaking work to see what it could become, and we aren’t even part of the way there.

Screen Shot 2013-10-31 at 9.41.57 AM




Now. There is still that concrete pad to paint, and that ugly light to replace and some window trim to paint. But there is no more gravel! or dusty blue color! or weeds! And we have added plants and green things and life!


Oh and as for the bad news I referred to at the beginning of the post? I didn’t know what was going on outside so opened a curtain and peeked through. And there to my surprise was a man sitting in the cab of the tree cutter’s truck, looking right over the fence at me in my winter fuzzy bathrobe. Caught like a deer in the headlights I waved and then ducked back inside. Oh boy oh boy. I don’t really care though because a) I get mistaken for a teenager all the time so I doubt he thinks I’m the homeowner and therefore a grown woman. b) it was a white robe through patterned sheers curtains so he probably doesn’t have a clue c) he seemed nice and waved back.

Happy Thursday everyone!


Window Repair…Replacement

We bought a house with wood windows. Some of those windows were in better shape than others. Those others needed peeling paint and bits of rot chipped out and re-puttied, painted and sealed. Being the sensible people we are (ha), we planned to fix the windows to make them last longer until we could afford to replace them. There were two sets of awning windows in the office/library that we hated. Some didn’t open, some didn’t shut; it was a hot mess.

Three weekends ago while I was working on painting the garage doors, Bryan was working on the windows. He’d spent a while scraping everything he could/should off of the windows and was going to start working on the sill. To do so he needed to take out the window sash. Catastrophe struck. The window, though definitely not to heavy for him, was heavier than he expected and it slipped the 5 inches to the deck and shattered. He came out front to get me and show me what happened.

At this point, we were experiencing two very different sets of emotions. He was ticked, angry, annoyed and all bent out of shape because it was (in his words) stupid, aggravating, annoying, and an expensive mistake. I was calm and unruffled. Why? Well I hated the windows as much as you can hate an inanimate object. They were eyesores and ugly. I was excited we’d get to put something nice in their place, but slightly worried about the cost, and how we would go about doing it. I also couldn’t be doing fist-bumps around the library yehawing like a crazy person because Bryan was upset. So I just said, ‘hey, it’s ok. It’s only a window, and we aren’t going to the hospital right now.” Then I added, “besides we didn’t like them anyways so think of it as a good thing.” All the while the Hallelujah chorus is blaring in my head. I kept a straight face through all of this, I have a very good poker face.

Thankfully, even though the glass shattered, they were double pane windows and there was only one small sliver where the glass fell out in both panes, so we packing taped that window up and shut it for the time being.  (Here is where i should have at least one picture, but I deleted them thinking I had already uploaded them. Just picture a large grid (80″ x54″ total) of four windows that crank out. Hideous. Expensive. We knew we didn’t want awning windows anymore, but to replace just that sash from Anderson was $400. Heck no. We could buy a really nice window to replace a pair of awning windows (turning them into one double hung) from Home Depot for $317 (the only option in our size, just glad there was one!), or Home Depot could install one not as nice double hung window for $800). That’s not even getting into what an 80″x54″ inch solid pane window would cost. (We have two of those in our kitchen, praying now they never break!)

So what did the two of us who had never replaced a window decide to do? Watch some installation videos for replacement windows and get to work ourselves. Dun, dun dun.

So Sunday afternoon (never start a major home renovation project on a day when you work the next day) we started on the windows. We decided we’d work on just one window at a time, to make sure we didn’t have a huge hole in the house when it was time for bed. We quickly removed two sashes, and hardware and started cutting center bar of the frame out so the window would fit. We were set to go, our rough opening matched what the window needed. We opened the box and once we got over how much nicer this window was than the ones we just removed we realized this wasn’t a simple replacement window where you install inside of the existing frame (making a smaller window) this was a full frame replacement. And to do this right we needed to remove the entire 4 sash window and lift up some siding and really tear our house apart. At three thirty. And we couldn’t just put the windows back in because we’d taken out the hardware and the crosspiece. It was scary. And overwhelming. And we already had the hole in the wall so I couldn’t just curl up in the fetal position, we had to get to work.

So we re-did our measurements. Watched some Anderson full frame replacement windows for the 400 series windows we had. Bryan sent me off to Home Depot to get some 2x4s to frame out the windows, some flexi seal water barrier, some roofing nails, and a miter box. Right around this time a been-there-done-that couple from church reached out to see how we were doing with the project. I told them we were caught by surprise with the full frame replacement, that I was heading out for more supplies, and if they had any tips we’d love it. They did one better and offered to come help. Not sure if this was a we’d-like-to-come-help offer, or a we-are-being-nice offer, we replied, “we had watched a couple of videos, but would certainly welcome your tips and advice but we don’t want you to make a special trip for it.” They said they were on their way. WOW! We just went from to pretty near clueless and relying on help videos to a veritable pro helping out.

photo 1

By the time I got home from HD, Bryan had gotten the entire window out of the wall, and our friends had just shown up. Not only did Bryan get a hand from someone who actually knew what they were doing, I got to hang out with his wife and two sweet kids. Together the guys installed the windows, getting them to the point they could be left for the night, and we celebrated with some take-out pizzas. Certainly not payment enough for their help, but it’s a start at least.

photo 3

Last night Bryan did the final waterproofing and stuck the existing trim back up. It’s ugly, but it does look a little more finished that totally exposed flexi seal stuff. Though the grubby areas where the previous owners caulked with off-white are pretty bad…. still it’s infinitely better than before! And we are at a good place to figure that out. No holes, no leaks (it’s rained both of the last two nights) We have working windows!


So, in a nutshell, unless you have friends who are going to show up and help who know exactly what you are doing, don’t tackle major home repairs like this one on a Sunday afternoon. Hopefully I remember that. We do have another set of these awning windows on the other side of the room, but they are not broken (well cracked, some still don’t close all the way, or open) so we aren’t fixing them. Yet. Maybe next month. Maybe in the spring. When the budget allows, and we are feeling up to it. It was trial by fire, but I’m sure Bryan could do it again.

Anyone have any crazy, survived home repair by the skin of your teeth stories?

Einstein Moment…

oh goodness, I’ve been diligently working away on stripping this LAME wallpaper off my bedroom wall, and Bryan has been right there along side (gotta give the credit where the credit is due) and finally he pointed out yesterday, not only are we stripping off the wallpaper, but he’s pretty sure we’ve been taking off the paper cover of the drywall and the glue holding it on as well. Maybe we are, maybe we aren’t. We probably are, since now that he’s mentioned it, I realize there was only one layer of wallpaper, and that top layer came off quite easily. Darn it, I could have been done weeks ago.


shoot I took this picture over a month ago. I have got to get done.

One thing I do know is that we are amateurs, and the only wall-paper stripping experience was the half bath off the kitchen which included three layers of wallpaper, some of which were painted, on a plaster wall. So there has to be some sort of break in there for our confusion. We had no idea it could be really that easy, so we made it harder than we needed to. Who knows, I don’t really care because it’s going to be so nice to finally fill in all the holes in the wall, and paint it. The entire room that is. Five months in and we’ve steam- cleaned the carpet, added some shelves to the closet, took out the electric baseboards, and are almost done with the wall paper removal. Thankfully, we’ve gotten a ton done elsewhere in the house so i’m ok with the progress in here. It’ll get better. And soon I think.

photo 1

The yellow bits are paper still to be removed. A fresh coat of paint will go a long way. And then it will mean we can actually move our bed up against the wall, instead of having it hang two feet out like it’s been ever since we moved in. I’m sure that will make the room feel even bigger than it already does. And then I’ll have that problem to solve. (I guess it’s a problem?) I’m not complaining about the large room or anything but there’s only so much stuff you want in a bedroom. We already fit two large dressers in there, and our queen sized bed, and a way to small trunk at the foot of the bed. My eventual plan is to get a loveseat for the family room and move one of those chairs down to our room, but then we still have all that space, enough for another queen bed practically. Who knows what will happen in there.

Chalk our wallpaper strife up to inexperience, or too much time in the sun(NEVER!), or an slight ‘type A’ that just needs to get it all off, I’m not sure, but we are almost done and I just can’t wait. NO MORE WALLPAPER! Thankfully, this is the end. There isn’t anymore left in the house. Except for the big pile on the floor of course…

photo 2

In other home-improvement news, we finally got rid of the last of the blue shag carpet in Friday’s trash pick up. Wohoo, now we can actually organize the garage.

Am I the only one that has ripped off more than I should have?

The Best Laid Plans of Mice and Men Often Go Astray

So in my last recap of these last two weeks of no internet to update all you lovely people back home I covered the actual buying of the house. And I also told you what our plans for the weekend Winter Storm Nemo/ Blizzard Charlotte hit.

Family room before purchase

Family room before purchase

To refresh your memory:

  • Paint family room, the family room came with lovely pale pink walls and a singular wooden wall, and slanted ceiling that was also wood. Originally we thought these were some sort of horizontal paneling, thankfully it turned out to be real wood, tongue and groove, similar to a ship lap wall.
  • Paint Guest room. We have three guest bedrooms in our house. Two are going to be used as such, and one will be my art studio. The rooms are nicely sized and have a lot of closet space, but the largest one was burn-your-eyes-out pink when we bought. Both of our father’s made jokey comments we would have to paint those walls before they slept there.
  • Clean. This house already being older, and having been rented for the last two years by people who were anything but fastidious.
  • Move.

Thankfully we bought all the paint necessary for the family room and guest room Tuesday. My father-in-law worked as a painter in college, and had volunteered to paint whatever we wanted this weekend. The joke was to paint the pink bedroom first so he wouldn’t have to sleep in it, but since we were sealing the wood walls in the family room to prevent wood oils from seeping through (and that takes forever to dry) the family room got paint first, which in turn meant pops got to sleep in the pink bedroom after all.

Much brighter in person guest room

Much brighter in person guest room

In our earlier discussions of cleaning, and especially after some later walk-throughs of the house we decided having a carpet steam cleaner would definitely be the way to go. All of the bedrooms are carpeted and they looked bad. So bad I was convinced we would have to replace them. The same Tuesday we bought the paint we stumbled upon a row of carpet cleaners you could purchase. One seemed reasonably priced at 120, and with thousands of reviews, it still got 4.7 out of 5 stars. Then we checked out the price to rent. 30 dollars for 24 hours. Unsure about what to do, we left the store to think about it. Wednesday night Bryan decided we might as well just buy it, if it didn’t work well we could return it. I wasn’t too sure since I knew we would be spending a ton of money, but agreed and we took it home. If we had just rented it we would have done no carpet cleaning because we were planning on going Friday after closing. If we had the foresight to rent it on Thursday night it would have been Monday before we could return it, and that would have been $120 dollars worth of renting. We bought it, and my mother-in-law worked it like a champ. All the carpets in the house were steam cleaned, twice! And all of them were clean enough after steaming I could now lay (face!) down and breathe easy knowing that they were clean.

The view of our street, our house is behind those trees on the right

The view of our street, our house is behind those trees on the right

So not only did we make money on the steam-cleaner (we have since used it again when the cat knocked over a full cup of coffee on the dining room chairs and the color wouldn’t come out, and Bryan dropped melted chocolate on our light colored family room rug which would have been another 30 dollar rental we didn’t have to make) we saved buying new carpets, since even my mother-in-laws fancy Dyson didn’t make a dent in the dirt on the carpets. Wohoo to one $120 dollar machine and a $9 dollar gallon of carpet cleaner saving us thousands of dollars! If you need a carpet cleaner I highly recommend the Hoover Steam Vac Spin Scrub The link says it’s 179, but Home Depot sold it for 120. Maybe it was a special, I don’t know, but even at $180 it’s worth it. We must have put 24+ hours on it with no problems. And no, I’m not getting reimbursed for saying this,

I just really really love my steam cleaner!

Anyway, back to how our plans changed…..we were snowed in. The roads were closed, Connecticut was in a state of emergency, and we were not even plowed out until 5pm on Sunday. That meant that the four of us were trapped in a house for 52 hours. No internet, no tv, so we did they only thing we could do to not get insane cabin fever. We worked. Pops painted like a champ, he did the entire family room, and the guest room before Saturday night. Momma tackled the kitchen while I scrubbed the bathrooms from ceiling to floor.

Bathroom with fuzzy wall paper

Bathroom with fuzzy wall paper

I scrubbed the floors, and Bry ran around doing everything else. Changing burned out light bulbs, switching light fixtures around, refilling the steam vac for his mom, helping paint, and shoveling. Lots and lots and lots of shoveling. There was a nice layer of thick wet snow that fell first, 6 inches of it, plus a super fine powdery foot+ of snow on top.

Needless to say we were busy, but by Saturday night we were still snowed in, no telling when we would get out and we had pretty much finished our house related goals for the weekend.

So we started peeling the fuzzy, pastel wallpaper from the bathroom (yes it really was pastel shades of the Florida-elderly decorating scheme, and yes it really had a fuzzy, not quite velvety texture to it). My father-in-law fixed some bubbling parts in the walls where moisture had gotten in once-upon-a-time, and I ripped up the bright blue shag carpet.

wallpaper detail

wallpaper detail

The guys then tackled the carpet pad, and the tack-less strips, and us girls continued to get all the wall paper off the

walls in the powder room (several layers with paint in between yippee!). To accomplish this we had to take out the light fixtures, the mirror, and the toilet. But we got it all done (men moved the toilet).

Sunday saw pops Spackle-ing and painting the half bath wall, and the painting of trim by us all. The plywood sub-floor of the family room also was met with some paint, so at least we have a habitable floor while we decide what we actually want. I miss the pretty color of the wood floor, but I’m happy to not have unfinished dust traveling around my house excessively.

late at night wallpaper peeling

late at night wallpaper peeling

With that the streets were plowed and we could get out, go back to the rental, have a dinner of Chinese food, hot showers, and warm beds. We never got around to moving on Saturday (obviously) but we got so much more done than we were planning on (carpets cleaned (except the blue shag), shag ripped out, wallpaper removed, half bath repainted. It felt great! But I wish some more people than just the four of us had seen it in it’s ‘ugly’ state so they could appreciate it better now. Ah well, that’s what pictures ‘are kind of’ for! Though since we were busy, and didn’t have a camera with us (except on phones) we didn’t really take blog worthy photos of the details of the awfulness we fixed. So you’ll just have to use your imagination. Stay tuned for the next post (coming after I’ve actually gotten some work done today to have more pics!)

We were very blessed to have Bry’s parents with us for the weekend. They gave up warm beds to help us get a lot done and really enjoyed themselves in spite of being snowed in and having a lot to do. To top it all off they were a huge calming presence when the first homeowners issue happened, less than 24 hours after we had signed the papers. (don’t worry that post is coming as well!)

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