Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas from our house to yours!

Merry Christmas to all!  Since I've gotten some feedback from loyal readers (or, viewers I should say.  ahem, ColinandMaura) that a non-verbose Christmas post was in order, here you go....lots of pictures and small amounts of text (I can't help it I'm a talker!)

Look!  Justin Claus on the roof!  He was dropping off my presents (and while he was up there, figured he'd take care of the little entranceway that had developed for our furry friends the squirrels.  Sorry guys, guest room's not for you!)

Presents under tree (I am waiting patiently to open them while writing this).  Also note our "couch" which is really a twin bed with a "slipcover" aka the future kitchen curtains that I haven't made yet.  I'll fake it 'till I make it!  Also, the presents aren't all for me...but there are 4 with my name on them!

Our first Christmas tree, moments after claiming it as ours!

 Christmas tree set up inside 

Nativity scene (try not to be distracted by the horrendous peach walls & blinds)

And last, but not least, check out the other present that Justin Claus built yesterday!  That guy is so multi-talented!  Hooray for a closet in the master bedroom!  We're one step closer to moving upstairs!

Here's wishing all of you a very Merry Christmas.  I hope your heart sings out with joy like the angels on that first Christmas.  I think that mine is :)

Monday, December 20, 2010

A Christmas sneak-peak

It's incredible the amount of house-related accomplishments that we can rack up in a weekend when Justin's not hunting and I'm not working (as has been the case every other weekend in December).

I'll have lots more to show you over the next week (both in terms of Christmas decorations, as well as a downstairs tour - we're no longer embarrassed to show it off!)

For the time being, I'm exhausted, but wanted to show off one picture of our outdoor decorations:

Please admire, as I have, my husband's perfect star selection, as well as his idea to place the tree directly behind the window, resulting in the perfect placement of the star above the creche.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Home Sweet (song) Home

Just a quick post/quick update.  Today, we did a lot of Christmas shopping AND bought our Christmas tree decorations.  We also tried to buy a Christmas tree stand, but thus far have been unsuccessful.  (Only Walmart was open by the time we finished with other shopping, and would you believe that they didn't have a single Christmas tree stand in the whole store!?)

Anyway, we walked in the door, and Justin started singing "Our house..."  He asked if I knew the song, and I started singing " the middle of the street...." as in the 80s pop tune.  You know, the one with (partial) lyrics as follows:

Our house, in the middle of our street
Our house, in the middle of our....
Our house it has a crowd
There's always something happening
And it's usually quite loud

Nice catchy tune, but not the song Justin had in mind.  He was singing the far more sentimental Crosby, Stills, and Nash song with the following lyrics:

I'll light the fire
You put the flowers in the vase
That you bought today

Staring at the fire
For hours and hours
While I listen to you
Play your love songs
All night long for me
Only for me

Come to me now
And rest your head for just five minutes
Everything is good
Such a cozy room
The windows are illuminated
By the sunshine through them
Fiery gems for you
Only for you

Our house is a very, very fine house
With two cats in the yard
Life used to be so hard
Now everything is easy
'Cause of you
And our la,la,la, la,la, la, la, la, la, la, la.....

Our house is a very, very fine house
With two cats in the yard
Life used to be so hard
Now everything is easy
'Cause of you
And Our

I'll light the fire
And you place the flowers in the jar
That you bought today

We might not have a finished upstairs, or any upper kitchen cabinets, or a washer and a dryer, but we've got eachother and our home - and we're both very much in love on both accounts.  The kitchen doesn't have to be pretty for slow dances to our new theme song.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Happy birthday, hubby!

 I hope that you, my readers, have been pleased with my recent posting schedule.  I promised that a new computer (and the finding of camera, cord, etc) would result in more entries.  Granted, they're not all necessarily about renovation projects, persay, but they do relate to making our lives better here at the house, and that's home improvement enough for me!

Today, we celebrate Justin's 25 birthday!  He spent the majority of the day finishing a final paper which is due tonight.  I worked a half day, then came home to prepare a birthday celebration for my favorite guy.  I take birthdays pretty seriously, and I wanted his to be great.

As you probably know, the way to a man's heart is through his stomach, and though I've already managed to win Justin's heart (lucky me!!!!), I still figure food is a way to show him just how much I love him.  I tried to incorporate all of his favorite foods into one delicious meal. 

Our menu:
  • Red leaf salad with beets (I introduced you to this favorite food here)
  • Lentil salad (with balsalmic vinegar and feta cheese)
  • Salmon chowder
  • Shrimp cocktail
  • Baked Potatoes
  • Corn
  • Garlic bread
and....LOBSTER!  Here's Justin, doing the honors to cook up his birthday treat:

Did you notice a theme?  Basically, give the man some seafood, and he's happy.  There's precious few things in life that bring me as much joy as watching him enjoy a meal I've cooked.  So, today was a happy day all around.

Few decorative items have made it to Ithaca from the Harrisburg gift storage, but fear not - I pulled together a festive table none-the-less.  The tablecloth is a piece of fabric my mom and I bought several years ago, thinking we'd make me an Easter outfit.  Obviously I'm not wearing it, and I'm considering using the fabric for curtains in the master bedroom  For now, though, it worked just fine as a table cloth!

The "Happy Birthday" sign is a wall hanging I quilted last year.  The letters are appliqued on with blanket stitch.  Up close, there are fun details such as beaded sprinkles on the cupcake.  Up close, however, you'd also see that I've yet to finish all the edge seams :)  At least if this freezing cold weather produces a snow storm, I'll have PLENTY of things to keep me busy!

Happy Birthday, Justin!  I love you, and look forward to celebrating many more birthdays with you :)

Stay tuned: upcoming posts include our first Christmas tree, outdoor holiday decorations, and more....Thanks for reading!

Monday, December 13, 2010

A healthy appreciation for renovation

Well, it appears that Mother Nature read my last post requesting more time, and provided it - in the form of a sick day.  Unfortunately, spending Sunday and Monday napping and watching movies didn't exactly fit into my to-do list, but aside from the fact that the rest and relaxation helped me begin to shake this virus, it also provided some, well, rest and relaxation, which isn't something I regularly schedule.

You see, I have a bit of a complex with sick days, and usually second-guess myself, thinking that I could have probably made it through the day.  (This has been a lifelong problem, as I often got sent home from school sick, after convincing my mom and myself that I'd be fine; even having mono a few years ago had me feeling guilty for missing work, and actually went back to the office after a few days at home, only to be sent home after barely making it through an hour).  I can't help it; my name means "industrious."

Anyway, today I realized that I truly was feeling pretty sick, given that yesterday I watched 3 movies straight without even so much as a thought towards the many projects I want to do.  It's unusual for me to relax without being distracted by something I wanted to take care of, make, or organize.  Just ask Justin, who isn't renewing our Netflix subscription given that I never sit down long enough to watch movies (except the occassions when we start one late in the evening and I promptly fall asleep).

The good news?  This evening, I started to feel creative juices flowing.  I stopped searching Netflix for romantic comedies and headed out to the great Internet for answers to my latest home thoughts...can you paint our old, ugly shingle siding?  (yes!)....How would a closet look with curtains instead of doors (pretty good, if it's done right)...What cool furniture is available currently on craiglist for me to snatch (unfortunately, not the hutch I'm looking for).  Just the mere fact that I was looking for ideas and planning new projects made me realize I was feeling better.

I thought I'd share it on the blog because it made me chuckle that the home renovation has become my health benchmark.  Thank God I'm feeling better; I was already getting bored of being sick, plus someone special has a birthday tomorrow, and I want to make it wonderful for him :)  He especially deserves it after his loving attention and chicken-soup provision over the last two days.

Friday, December 10, 2010


...more time in a day.  Anyone with information on how such an arrangment could be made, please let me know immediately.  An acceptable alternative would be a clone of myself (that's almost like having more time, although I do admit it wouldn't be a very kind thing to wish on my dear husband, as one of me is surely enough).

In any regard, I was just daydreaming of all the things that I would like to accomplish at our house.  Progress is certainly being made, and I have yet to reach a point of frustration in which I wished for a less-work-intensive house, but it sure would be fun if I had a few more hours each day to paint, organize, craft, sew, and otherwise transform this house into the vision I see when I look beyond its current mess and dilapidation.

Here's hoping I have some progress to show you soon ~ but certainly not tonight!  I've lost my collegiate ability to spend extensive period of time on little sleep [studying, not partying - you know me!].  Perhaps my infamous motto of "I'll sleep when I'm dead" would have been better phrased "I'll sleep when I'm an adult."

P.S. Apologies to Colin for another picture-less post.  :P  That is, if you're even reading this one!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Our other home in Ithaca

Lovely Readers,
Hold on to your hats, lest your heads explode. . . Emily posted twice in two days!  I told you, this new computer is like magic.

Anyhow, tonight I thought I'd give a little update on our other home here in Ithaca - our spiritual home - our church.  Anyone who knows us is aware that our faith is a big part of our lives.  A large part of that faith is being active in a community.  In fact, many of our close Bucknell friends are those from CCM (Catholic Campus Ministry), and our involvement with CCM certainly didn't hurt our blossoming collegiate romance, either.  After graduation, I returned to my home parish in Harrisburg to be involved with the Parish Council and other activities, and Justin was active with the Cornell Catholic graduate student group.

Coming from such environments, it was easy for us to feel a little out-of-place at a church where no one knew our names.  We were very excited this evening to attend Mass and a Potluck dinner at our parish to celebrate the feast day at - fittingly - Immaculate Conception Parish.  We met a lot of great people and already feel right at home.

At a potluck, you always know it's either very good or very bad when someone says "who brought such and such [insert item you brought]"!  Happily, this time they were looking for the recipe because they liked it.  I really can't take any credit for the many recipes my mom has passed to me, but I'm certainly glad to have them!  Thanks for making me look good, Mom!  And to whoever gave my mom this recipe, thanks to you, too!

Since I have been asked for this recipe many times in my (short) domestic life, I thought I'd share it here, as well.  And so, without further ado, Orange Fruit Salad.  (Also known by my 5-year old cousin as "Aunt Pat's DELICIOUS fruit salad)

1 small box instant vanilla pudding
1 1/2 cups milk
1/3 cup orange juice concentrate (approximately half of a 12 oz container)
3/4 cup sour cream

1 chopped apple
2 medium bananas
1 can mandarin oranges
1 can peaches
1 can pineapple
halved grapes

Mix pudding mix and milk.  Stir in orange juice concentrate and sour cream, then add fruits.  I always use the mandarin oranges, peaches, and pineapples, but change the others depending what I have and how I'm feeling. 

Enjoy :)  I promise that it's easy and delicious.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

What we've been up to

This post will not fall under the category of "major changes."  Our recent activities have not involed tearing things apart, putting things back together, or even painting them.  However, we have been busy, and I know that the loyal readers have been waiting far too long for a post. 

Allow me to introduce you to our kitchen: 

Notice anything missing?  Yep, our kitchen came without upper cabinets.  While this arrangement was likely just fine for our predecessor (we're guessing she was quite short, given the average height of all of her relatives we have met; and we know that in her later years she was wheelchair bound), it is not an ideal solution for two tall people who have a large assortment of shower and wedding gifts to store. 

Down the road, I have big plans for adding more storage than I'll know what to do with that I'll use to store the remainder of our kitchen gadgets that my parents are graciously storing in their basement.  We also have big plans for replacing the wood paneling, changing the color, finishing the drywall seams on the ceiling, and all those other minor details (ha!).  However, there are many rooms in line in front of the kitchen for major renovation, so the current goal was to find ways to make the current space functional without being too ugly, since it will remain this way for at least a year.  Previous to extra attention that the kitchen got over the last week, it was a semi-organized space with haphazard storage, a continual pile of (clean) dishes since we couldn't figure out how to put them all away, and - frankly - a space that could pretty instantly make me grumpy.

To meet our non-ugly/functional/non-grumpy-Emily goals, we used the following tactics:
    1) Adding shelves for additional, non-counter-space storage
    2) Making storage pretty
    3) Thinking strategially about what should stay where

The shelf is actually one I had in my college dorm room.  Now, instead of textbooks, it is home to the coffee pot, the salad spinner (our favorite kitchen tool), the larger pots and pans, and other things that were a waste of space in our 2 cabinets.


Looking ahead, I have plans to paint the shelf and make a curtain to hang across the front.  For now, even though the storage is open, it doesn't look half-bad since the items are arranged neatly.  Since there are a limited number of items on each shelf, I'm hopeful that it will actually stay looking this nice!

Another big improvement to the kitchen was the shelf my dad installed during my parent's recent visit (I hinted to my excitement about that addition here.  This allowed me to keep items like the knife block, the spice rack, and the recipe box within reach, but off the limited prep space on the counter.

In terms of making storage pretty, this has mostly involved losing store packaging and replacing it with glass bottles/jars.  There is a jar of popcorn kernels on our counter (for easy access and use with our second-favorite tool, the popcorn maker).  On the shelf, we have all of the items needed for Justin's favorite salads.  Seriously, he would survive on salad alone if left to his own devises (and, I think, did for much of his bachelor life in Ithaca).  His favorite salad includes red leaf lettuce, peanuts, garlic, pepper, and oil and vinegar.  As you may be now, I was skeptical when I first heard of the combination, but have since come to enjoy it.  Given the frequency of use for these items, we store them right next to the dinner table.  And I think the current solution looks a lot prettier than the plastic grocery store bottles of oil and vinegar!  (p.s. I thought I should clarify while we're talking about salad that the philodendron you see here is purely decorative!).

The third tactic to finding kitchen sanity was to think logically about each item and where it should be stored.  This came into play not only with the addition of the shelves and the glass storage containers, but with each item that we have in the kitchen.  As much as I would love to have all of our new shower/wedding gifts in the kitchen (and even in New York state!), I knew that it simply wasn't practical, and had to decide which things were most needed.  Anything that isn't absolutely necessary doesn't currently have a home here right now.  This also includes the majority of our dishes - there aren't any large dinner parties planned in the near future, so six placesettings in the cabinet is more than enough, even if we went on a huge dishwashing strike!  Seemingly limited, this approch to storage is actually very freeing.    In fact, this is the approach we're using throughout the house.  Things that aren't used, or don't bring us joy, don't stay.  As a side note, the fact that one of my primary job responsibilities is to  manage a free secondhand clothing/linen closet is extra incentive to embrace the lifestyle of reducing clutter!

So, as I mentioned, this post isn't terribly exciting.  Organizing a kitchen isn't as cool or blog-worthy as rebuilding a bedroom.  However, I've set out to document our home progress, and this has been the progress recently.  I haven't even picked up a trowel for more spackling since my last post!

In terms of other progress, you've probably noticed that the ol' blog looks a little different.  Having my (awesome) new computer has given me more time and interest to play around with the blog - and it doesn't hurt that Blogger has, in my hiatus, come out with much nicer editing tools.  Plus, I decided that my blog, which documents the swan transformation of our ugly duckling house, shouldn't be so ugly itself!  Check back to the now-attractive blog soon - having exhausted most excuses (missing camera parts, no internet, heat waves) for not posting more frequently, I seriously think that I've finally got everything together to actually keep everyone in-the-know.

For today, I leave you with our sign of the season.  If you're confused about why there is pink and purple instead of red and green, read here.

O Come, O Come, Emmanuel!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Like the prodigal son...

There is much rejoicing (on my part, at least) that my camera battery recharger has been found! Lots of credit to Justin, who told me to look in his orange bag a week or more ago (but I didn't believe that it could have possibly ended up in there).

I also anticipate rejoicing on the part of my many (ha!) readers, as the long dry spell of posts will be coming to an end. In addition to finding the camera cord, we just submitted an order for a laptop!! I will soon be able to write blog posts without feeling like I'm stealing away valuable educational time from the Dr.-to-be.

Now we can all go slaughter the fattened turkey to celebrate! There's lots to be thankful for (even without the new found technology).

Saturday, November 13, 2010

I'm not dead...

...but my camera is :( I haven't been able to locate the battery charger since our honeymoon. I'm hoping that it wasn't on the nightstand in the hotel, and there's certainly enough stuff in transition for it to be hiding somewhere in the house!

So between lack of pictures, limited computer access, and lots of visitors and projects, the blog has clearly fallen by the wayside. But I'm ba-aack! (I know, you've heard that before).

In the "big things" department, there is no longer a bed in the kitchen, there is drywall in the extra bedroom, and we have a new furnace (complete with a programmable thermostat that looks like it's capable to communicate with the space station as well as with our heater).

In the "little things that seem like big things to Emily" department, see below:

Excuse the quality of the photos, they're both from my cell phone (given the aforementioned camera issue). Huge thanks to my parents who are responsible for a large portion of the completed work! There are some other big things underway...stay tuned (for a short time, I promise) to see more progress :)

Friday, October 29, 2010

Happy fall

Well, we're slowly starting to be settled into the house. We're slowly correcting the issue (due to moving in and having limited finished space) Justin described as a fear of walking from point A to point B in the dark. It was, in fact, pretty scary due to the clutter. We can successfully navigate the bedroom, and all of the clothing has a (temporary) home. I spent last Saturday putting together a dresser from Target and we have a stand-up clothing rack that serves its purpose to hang clothing - for the most part, except when it crashed down in the middle of Wednesday night.

So, there are minor setbacks to getting set up, but I can still see progress. I could even get my sewing machine out this week, so naturally I felt right at home.

We also have been enjoying the fall, including the nice two Indian Summer days. Wednesday evening I felt like quintessential Americans raking leaves (my neighborhood growing up didn't have big enough trees for substantial raking, so it was my first real autumn adventure).

And, believe it or not, this is something I actually saw in the leaf pile - no set up by me! (I did move it so I could photograph it without it getting swept into the bag, but I swear this is how it looked when I saw it on the pile).

Happy fall!

Oh, and good news, our furnace replacement is beginning next Wednesday. It's starting to get pretty chilly without it, so we're excited for that step! Additional construction projects and really moving in coming soon.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Our biggest improvement yet

Now, our house is a home because there is a family within its walls.

I'm excited almost to the point of tears that I get to spend my first night ever in OUR HOUSE. No more drives across town! I just put our new sheets on our new bed...and, conveniently, the quilt I made for Justin for Christmas in '08 matches the brown paint of our temporary bedroom (the den). It was an exciting moment for me that even in our chaos (seriously, you should see the stuff everywhere) I could feel somewhat coordinated!

So, believe it or not, the best we can find for an old 1880 house isn't found at Home Depot, but at Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament Church. This house needed (and still needs) primarily love - and we've got plenty of that to share. Thanks to all of our amazing friends and family who shared with us on 10.9.10.


Sunday, October 3, 2010

Productive relaxation

Fun fact: it is possible to reach the end of a weekend and feel both well relaxed AND well accomplished. Typically, these two have been mutually exclusive for me (perhaps because most of the Ithaca accomplishments to date have included a manual labor component).

We enjoyed the weekend immensely (Justin particularly so because we finally timed it right to attend our favorite restaurant on all-you-can-eat crab leg night) and I've got 25 checkmarks on my wedding checklist (fewer than half of that number remain). In addition, the quarter rounds for the den are cut & painted, and the heat vents are looking MUCH better.

Ironically, this simple task (painting the vents) was one I was looking forward to for a long time. It's one of the things that embodies what I love about restoring this home - a little elbow grease can go a long way. In this case, it was mostly just finger grease that got these looking good. After scraping the crusty rust with a wire brush, I sprayed them with high-heat black spray paint and they're looking several decades younger.

This isn't the same vent in the "before" picture, but they all looked equally as bad. Notice the carpet to wood change, as well!

Those pictures are about all I've got to show for the weekend, but in other home-related news, we purchased a queen size bed on Saturday, so we will NOT have to return from the honeymoon to share a twin.

A good weekend all around! The best part - as I said - is that despite all of the progress, I'm not going back to work with sore muscles or utter exhaustion :)

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

And you thought I was slacking...

I know it's been quite a while since my last blog post. But rest assured, we haven't just been resting up here in Ithaca. In fact, there hasn't been much rest at all!

In between the daily life (you know, work, cooking, etc), and planning to host a major party for 250 people next weekend, we've managed to turn this:

Into this:

Sadly, at least on my computer screen, you can't tell the magnitude of the change from construction worker orange to rich, chocolate brown.

One thing you can see is the transformation of the wall sconces:

After all of the manual labor we've done so far, it was fun to do a less intense home related project! I have learned that one key to successful purchasing is to clearly define what I'm looking for prior to the shopping trip. (This is true in all cases except for the major purchase of this house itself, in which we met maybe 1 of our 5 key criteria - but couldn't be happier!) So, I embarked upon a search for a rug that was approximately 30" by 80", had a brown and green pattern, didn't look too much like an Oriental rug, was dark enough in color to handle shoe traffic.

Enter stage left:

(Excuse the less-than-great picture)

Aside from protecting our now-gorgeous floors, the new rug unifies the living room and den. I hope to create a little home entrance area.
For those of you who are not yet familiar with our house lay-out, the den is immediately to your right as you come in the front door. I grew up in a house with a foyer, so it's a bit of an adjustment to come in the front door and *bam* you're in the living room. Down the line, we'll have coat hooks, etc to make this a more useful entranceway.

For the short-term, we have this weekend to turn the den into a temporary master bedroom. This involves purchasing a bed (I vetoed Justin's half-joking "let's share my twin bed" suggestion), hanging blinds/curtains, and finishing the last remaining renovation tasks (painting the baseboards and installing the quarter rounds where the floor meets the walls).

We're pretty proud of our first room and the checks on the to-do list that got us here!

Hopefully next time I can provide a more step-by-step view of our progress! I suspect that once I have my own working computer (and don't have to mooch off Justin's when he's not doing homework), I can increase my blog presence. In fact, I have dreams of a daily lunch-break post (don't get too attached to the idea yet!) The next few weeks may be a little slow though - the wedding's right around the corner!

(That's all that's left of Justin's 365-day countdown chain I made him last year for our negative one year anniversary). Single digit countdown starts tomorrow!

Monday, September 13, 2010

A marathon kind of weekend

We had a really great weekend up here in Ithaca. It was the kind of weekend that reminded me that this is really the life God planned for me to be living. I've told a lot of people that I never realized how unhappy I was at my job in Harrisburg until I left. Granted, it was the best experience I could have had for those 2 years to develop my professional confidence and prepare me for what I'm doing now...but it's such a wonderful feeling to be in the career I really am meant to be doing, to have the work-life balance I never had in Harrisburg, and to be able to enjoy a really cool place with a great guy by my side!!

Friday night, we kicked off the weekend at the Chem-E grad picnic. Despite it being chilly (who expects to wear 4 layers of long-sleeved shirts the second week in September??), we had a great time playing soccer with a mixed group of grad students, professors, and assorted kids.

Saturday, it was up bright and early for another Chem-E activity: the inaugural 2010 lab group bike ride. While I was skeptical about a 25+ mile bike ride, I ended up really enjoying it (and, miraculously, woke up Sunday still able to walk - and even without pain!). The weather was absolutely gorgeous - perfect temperature, beautiful sunshine. Justin's advisor mapped out a great route (minus a few tough hills!) that led through the beautiful NY countryside. I was pretty proud to have completed a marathon (albeit on a bicycle!)

Sunday, it was more marathons - a catch-up of Office episodes from last season (we've gotta be ready for the upcoming season premiere!) to relax, then grading homework for Justin and painting in the den for me. The whole space is primed and the trim has been painted. Ready for some ceiling paint tomorrow and color on Wednesday!

Today, I took a break from home renovation to enjoy another aspect of "Former Glory." Being the traditionalist that I am, I took a course from the Cooperative Extension on canning foods. I'm still game for canning the yield from our dreamed 2011 garden, but I may be wooed by the other (easier?) methods (such as freezing) that are covered in next week's class.

Pardon the lack of pictures from anything; didn't want to leave you hanging without a post! I'll now tiptoe out of the kitchen/office/bedroom so as to leave sleeping Justin to his peace. Good times ahead when we have more than one computer...more than one room...etc! But for now, I really can't complain. Life is good - and will only get better. 26 days 'til the wedding!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Decorating the den

Today, we celebrated our negative one monthiversary (thanks, Maura, for the term!) by hanging woodwork in the den! The floors need just one more coat of polyurethane, but Sherwin Williams is out of the high-gloss stuff we need, so we're working on other things until they're able to deliver more from other local stores.

Here's the before, with the ugly remains of decades worth of different curtain holders:

And here's the after (not quite done because I snapped the picture before I filled the nail holes):

And check out those gorgeous floors in the "in progress" picture:

Based on the delays we've had, it's unlikely that the upstairs will be finished for our honeymoon return. That's ok, though - the den will make a nice temporary bedroom. Looking forward to being a resident of the house! The final countdown is on ~ one month to Mr. & Mrs.! :)

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Oh, deer.

Today, as we pulled into the driveway after church, Justin suddenly could not believe his eyes. At first, he thought the neighbors had gotten a horse...but soon realized there was actually a deer in the small wooded area at the back of our property. For the first thirty seconds or so of this conversation, I did not see what he was seeing and didn't really believe that there was a deer in the backyard. (Side note: we have continually discussed that, although we frequently see deer all over Ithaca - including 10 at once in my apartment backyard, our garden will be safe because of our non-woodland-proximate location and near impossibility of a deer making it safely across major roads to our neighborhood).

Well, we were wrong. Deer can successfully make it to our yard. Not just 1 deer. 7 deer. Yes, imagine the shock of two Pennsylvania kids (one of whom has spent a significant amount of his time in the woods hoping to find deer) finding 7 deer in their semi-urban backyard. To add shock to the whole crazy situation, our next door neighbor was cutting the grass. The motor sound didn't scare them at all, despite being only about 15 feet from the mower. They also weren't scared of us until we were practically close enough to touch them.

Eventually, the majority of the group ran away (with a bit of prompting from the proud gardener Justin) but there was one doe (and we think maybe one of her fawns) that stayed in the brush all day. Although in the middle of Ithaca there's obviously not much he can do about it if she does eat his grape plants, Justin has repeatedly threatened the deer, reminding her that he's a hunter.

If anyone is doubting our story, here's a picture (look right in the center - one of the deer is facing away, and the other is turned slightly).

What a crazy thing to see - and yet so cool. They really are beautiful, and it was really nerve wracking to watch them run across the nearby busy road. Luckily, they all made it, as far as we could see!

Speaking of other beautiful brown things, you should see our wood floor in the den!!!! I pre-treated it and stained it today, and it's by far the most effective home renovation project I've tackled so far. I love when you can really see results. Tomorrow, we can put the finish on top and also move on to staining the living room floor. I'd show pictures, but I'm so exhausted from the day that I'm avoiding the trip outside to take pictures (due to our dust-control measures, there's plastic sheeting hanging in the doorways, and this requires walking out the backdoor and in the front door to get from the kitchen to the front rooms). I'm also giving my camera battery a good charge right now, so hopefully tomorrow both it and I will have the energy to photograph the amazing transformation that's underway in the den!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Is there a chemical engineer in the house?

Growing up, I always found it very helpful to have a medical professional around. When someone fainted in church, my dad was right there. When my uncle accidentally hooked another uncle (instead of a fish), again it was dad to the rescue. There's a certain security in knowing that there's someone there that can take care of things (or several people...given that I'm the only non-medical "black sheep" of the family). Between a surgeon dad, a nurse mom, an EMT / doctor in training brother, and a hospital volunteer / nurse in training sister, they really cover all the bases.

I've decided that chemical engineers are handy to have around, too. After the late-night sanding adventure (Justin saved money by using a 4 hour rental that spanned Home Depot's closing-opening hours, as opposed to the full 24 hour rental), we - ironically - found stains under the old stain. Confused?? What I mean to say is that after removing the old, intentional wood stain, we discovered some unintentional wood stains that couldn't be sanded. While I would have simply chalked it up to being an old floor and moved on with the new stain/coating, my chemical engineer realized there was something that could be done!

Enter "wood bleach" or oxalic acid. Check out it's success in the test areas (the screwdriver is pointing to the place where it was applied):

After applying this over all of the stained areas, we'll have an even colored surface to stain, so the finished product will look even more beautiful!

That chemical engineer is good to have around - I think I'll marry him :) That reminds me - today, we got an early wedding card & check in the mail addressed to both of us with one last name!  Seeing that for the first time was pretty exciting!

Here's another in-progress picture of the floor sanding. This is the living room, which has decidedly fewer spots than the den. You'll also notice our amazing shop vac (that thing is a life saver, especially with the dust we've been kicking up lately!) as well as our new kitchen chairs (thanks again, Craigslist!)

In closing, I'd like to give a brief advertisement for another great chemical. Scuffed wood furniture looks new almost instantly with a few rubs of Old English scratch cover. This stuff just fuels my Craigslist fire. Man, it's awesome! The results are pretty addicting, and I've been polishing our kitchen cabinets, the new desk, the new table and chairs, and basically any slightly worn wood surface I can get my hands on. (Yes, I'll admit, I even tried a tiny spot of the awful wood paneling in the kitchen, just because the bottle suggested it. Looks nicer, but still not enough to convince me not to paint over it). I'm not sure if the results of this amazing product would show in pictures...but try it! It works!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Life in a kitchen

Do you ever feel like you live in your kitchen? I'm pretty sure my mom does, especially when all of us are home - including my brother, Colin, whose huge appetite reminds you a little bit of a vacuum cleaner (yet whose figure reminds you of a pipe cleaner!)

Anyway....for those days when you feel like you just can't get out of the kitchen, think of poor Justin:

(That's his bed in the corner where the kitchen table should be). At least on the bright side, he doesn't have to go far for a midnight snack. However, the arrangement is obviously less than ideal. Things got a little better in terms of feeling less displaced when we purchased this steal-of-a-desk. (When the woman told us the asking price, I seriously thought she forgot a zero. Who sells huge mahogany desks in excellent condition for $60, then throws in a free lamp!? Craigslist is my new best friend)

What I wish you could see in this picture is that it is actually a home improvement action shot. Justin is working on the list of fuses to post near the electrical box - aptly titled "It's Electric."

Now that Justin has a manly desk, we're trying to finish his manly room. He's always wanted a den, and the front room in the house fits the bill perfectly - or at least it will, once the work is done. I've gotta run now, I think it's my turn to "drive:"

(That's right - sanding underway! Woo woo!)

Saturday, August 21, 2010

We're practically Amish

Sure, the Amish roofers had an amazing work ethic (and quite the rigorous schedule!) but there were a few other secrets to their success...

We tapped into some of those today, and the results are paying off big time!

First of all, putting on our roof was the Amish guys' full-time job. After 8 hours at Cornell/Catholic Charities, Justin & I unfortunately can't accomplish a whole lot of renovation stuff in the evenings. A Saturday in Ithaca without other plans, however, is golden!

Second of all, 6 hands are certainly better than 4. We had extra help this weekend - another great visit from Justin's dad, plus our good Bucknell friend Mike. Justin's dad got us off to a great start Friday on the demolition of the old wooden slats in the wood bedroom (or, as my sister calls it, "the birthplace of Abraham Lincoln" - yes, it looked that primitive when she saw it last week).

Today, Mike and Justin went full-force finishing the demolition, removing the old, relatively useless insulation, taking the old stuff to the dump (we really are indebted to our kind neighbors who continually loan us pick-up trucks). Then, after [another] extensive Home Depot run, we had some pizza on the porch and went hard to work with insulation.

We're ready for drywall! It's hard to believe that much could actually be accomplished in one day. It was great to have a full day to devote to renovations, and literally taking a room apart and putting it back together again is very gratifying work. In addition to the upstairs progress, I was also able to spackle the cracks in the wall/ceiling in the den. Painting (and the infamous floor sanding) coming soon. It's full-force ahead all around! Good night; I'm off for some celebratory ice cream :)

Friday, August 20, 2010

The little things

If you are a very attentive blog reader, you will remember the white tin basket I hung on our front porch. (If you need to go back and check, it's in one of the pictures in the Front Porch post).

This little item is one of the things that makes me really excited about making a house a home - it was a $3 Michael's clearance purchase, and in my opinion it makes a huge difference on the otherwise very bland gray wall.

In the last picture you saw, it was filled with some extra branches from when I trimmed the front hedges. This week at work, one of my volunteers brought me some beautiful flowers from her garden. Dahlias, I think. (Mom, a little help here??) It seemed a shame to let them go to waste all weekend on my desk, so I plucked them out of the vase on my way out the door. When I stopped at the house after work, I stuck them right in the basket on the front porch - partly for ease of unlocking the door, partly because I didn't know where I could find another suitable container, but most of all because I love decorating the space!

I'm looking forward to keeping the basket filled with seasonal decor - some leaves/branches in the fall, holly around Christmas, tulips in the spring. Since we have a storm door on the front, my wreath options are limited, but this is a bit of an extension - and oh so fun!

Despite my excitement about "little things," big things are happening around here, too. I don't think I ever confirmed that our big pile of junk is finally gone from the backyard. Would you believe that it was more than a ton (literally) of stuff. Demolition continues this weekend - the wood lathe in the "wood bedroom" (we're very creative with our names) is coming down, insulation is going in, and drywall is going up. All of this is to keep us on track for building a closet in the master bedroom, carpeting the upstairs, and getting the master bedroom ready for post-honeymoon residence! And we didn't forget about the den, either. Justin unfortunately couldn't finish the sanding because Home Depot was out of the sand paper necessary to run the rental sander. However, we'd like to get that done as soon as possible, too. Lucky for us, we've got more visitors (and helpers) this weekend!

Thanks to everyone who has sent messages or comments about the blog - it's nice to know there are readers out there who appreciate the posts :)

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Amish jealousy

If we were all Amish, the entire house would be finished already.

Case in point:

Yesterday, our roof looked like this:

Today, our roof looks like this:

Did I mention they only started working at 2 pm yesterday? All of the work was done by three "Amish youth" as Justin referred to them - they were all younger than us. While they were working, it sounded from the inside of the house as if they were running on the roof, that's how quickly they work. When you watched them from the outside, the reality wasn't much slower!

Once the old roof was off, they let Justin climb their ladders and dump our many bags of kitchen insulation back through the opening. We'd figured this was a smarter way to work (as opposed to fighting gravity and trying to put it back up before the drywall project was completed). He called this morning to let me know it was complete - at 7:45 AM. The Amish youth do not mess around.

With my Amish-helping fiance already asleep for the evening (it's 8 pm), I spent time on the front porch cleaning up the shingle dust and arranging the furniture (the last of which we picked up this evening). It's still in need of a few minor projects, but it's really coming together and I've immensely enjoyed sitting out here and eating dinner, chatting with neighbors, and working on the blog. I'm counting down the days (52!) until this will really be my house, too, and I can come out in the morning with coffee. A basement apartment doesn't offer such amenities, but I sure am thankful that I found the space!

With all the work that went on, I felt like I witnessed a little part of a barn raising. We might not be as fast, but slowly but surely we're turning the house around - and I'm enjoying [almost] every minute! Thanks for reading, and stay tuned!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

The Front Porch!

Well, the long-awaited day has come: I am pleased to report that my camera, my camera cord, and myself are all in the same place - and there's an internet connection! I suspect that this should be a much more frequent occurrence going forward, and I hope my loyal readers haven't lost interest in our progress during our time of disconnection!

When we first bought the house, I knew that the front porch was one of the places where we could get a good bang for our buck - both in terms of time and money spent - towards increased curb appeal.

Here's us, on the day we signed all the papers:

Here's the light and the lovely, psychedelic house numbers - before:

Here's the "after," or I supposed I should say the "on the way:"

Please note that the gray blobs are not really part of the house - just my unskilled attempt in Paint to maintain some internet security about where we live!

In the photos, you may also notice that the prior owner's name was displayed on the front porch - and it happens to be the name of Justin's hometown. Some things are certainly meant to be.

Also, there was some aging indoor-outdoor carpet that we've removed. The floors will be repainted next spring or summer, but for now they're looking better than before! In front of our door, check out the awesome doormat from Justin's sister :)

On the corner of the porch, we now have a flag (thanks, Colin!), a fern, and another beautiful plant from my bridal shower (thanks, Lisa!):

We also purchased some brown wicker chairs and a table from Lowe's. I'll be picking up the table on Tuesday, so stay tuned for additional "after" porch photos!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

One tiny step for our house, one giant leap for the blog

Well, folks, I am [VERY HAPPILY] sitting on my front porch and typing a blog post.

This is a very exciting occasion in two regards:

Thanks to my genius engineer husband-to-be, there's a wireless router sending signals my way. As I mentioned in my last post, I have been waiting (mostly impatiently) for a while for a connection. My apartment doesn't have internet, so any online use was limited to a quick log-in on my lunch break. I feel a little silly for how lost I felt without being able to regularly check my email or google things, but I suppose it's simply a sign of the times. And besides, I've got some loyal readers to update on the amazing progress we've made at the house while Facebook wasn't a distraction :)

2) We have porch furniture and if you were to look only at the front porch, you'd think the house is set up and lived in! Granted, it is in fact lived in, but only in the sense that Justin is currently sleeping here - on a mattress in the kitchen. It has a long way to come indoors to looking like a real home, although day by day we see progress and get more excited about having a residence as opposed to a falling down structure.

With internet access, I plan to post blog entries much more frequently. I also have lots of pictures to share, but of course getting me, the computer, the camera, the camera cord, and the internet all in one place can be a challenge. As soon as I get the camera cord from the apartment, we'll be in business to show you the new porch furniture, our American flag, new light fixture, mailbox, and numbers, and many plants.

This weekend, I'm headed to Harrisburg for a dress fitting, taste testing, floral meeting, and other wedding planning. Justin will hold down the fort up here and work on the den. The floor is about half-way sanded using a belt sander, but Justin (after remarking that the belt sander feels like he's cleaning the floor with a toothbrush) plans to bring in the big guns this weekend with an orbital sander rental from Home Depot. We've picked out the wall color (brown) and the stain color for the floors, so we're getting close to having a finished interior space!

Woo! What an exciting day :)

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Newfound glory...

You don't realize how attached you are to the internet until you are disconnected. Since my new apartment doesn't have a wireless connection, and the house is also currently unconnected, my internet access has been very limited to say the least! Justin has everything set up for when they (hopefully!) turn on the internet at the house tomorrow, so I'm hoping to be able to post some great updates soon. I'll plan to do that from the newly-fixed-up front porch, photos of which will also follow.

Stay tuned!

Friday, July 30, 2010

Showered by love

Last weekend, on the way to (what I thought was) a meeting with our priest, I was surprised by my lovely bridesmaids and my family by a wonderful bridal shower!

This weekend, we're off for a (non-surprise) co-ed home-improvement shower hosted by Justin's mom.

In between all of the showering, we moved Justin to the house. It's beginning to seem a little like a home, now! While we finish sanding the floors in the den (Justin's temporary bedroom), he's got the mattress in the kitchen. When you don't have a kitchen table, it works!

We (actually, Justin) also hung up a new light in the kitchen. Although God got it right the first time He said "let there be light," it only took two tries for us to have the kitchen brightened by a lovely new ceiling light!

I have pictures of both the shower and the light (and some funny pictures of the transitional furnishing in the house) but can't seem to make things connect at the moment. Many apologies for the delay in postings - without any internet access during the last week, blogging has been tough! One of the next home improvement projects is to get the Verizon wireless set up, so I'll be able to send some updates during my evening work sessions over at the house. I'm also moving from my coworker's house to my new apartment on Sunday, so that's exciting as well.

Stay tuned next week for a "guest blogger" who is visiting Ithaca for some gorge-swimming, house-renovation, and sister time :)

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Take it off...

The title of my blog post this time does not refer to the fact -which you may have noticed in pictures- that my lovely fiance does the majority of his housework without a t-shirt (I joked that the neighbors might not think he owns any shirts since they usually see him in shorts only). Instead, it refers to our house, which Justin now deems naked.

We've been busy little beavers over at the house, trying to get everything ready for its first occupant next week. A lot of these preparations involve the dirty work of demolition - thus why Justin says the house is now naked. You already know that we ripped out two rooms worth of downstairs carpet. Since that update, we've removed two upstairs carpet, the [falling down] wood paneling in one upstairs bedroom, and pulled the carpet off the steps.

(No one misses the emerald green carpet from before...even though the current state doesn't look much better!)

I know, I know, the stairs are really ugly now, but I've got a vision for more scraping and sanding, then painting and a good runner. Stay tuned, I promise it will look nice!

We're racing against the clock with projects that create a lot of dirty dust (we rationalize that although we still need to spackle the kitchen ceiling, the dust created from that job will at least be from a known source, rather than potentially scary old dust in and under the carpets). We're also trying to get all the big stuff out of the house as soon as possible so that we can make a dump run and stop looking like red necks (we currently have a huge pile of debris, ranging from carpets to ramp wood to ceiling slats, in our backyard). Out of respect to our kind next door neighbor, Judy, we'd like to take that to the dump as soon as possible, but it seems silly to make little trips all the time, especially since such a visit requires borrowing the pick-up truck from our other neighbors. (I haven't mentioned it yet on our blog, but we have been blessed with AMAZING neighbors who have loaned us ladders, a truck, drywall equipment, a sander, and other tools, not to mention the food, water (and even a band-aid) that they have provided!)

Now that the carpets are out, we've been working on scraping the paint and removing nails and staples. When we went to Home Depot to inquire about renting a floor sander (prior to realizing that our neighbors actually owned one), a gentleman (who informed me that he had professionally stripped for 10 years) gave us a lot of good advice - and sold us a very helpful tool - to strip off all of the paint from the floors prior to bringing in the sander. We've heard it both ways - that you can just go in with the sander, or that you need to scrape first - but we're going the more conservative route, especially where we've got thick paint or remaining carpet glue.

I was scheming about a subtle blog post that requested visitors (read: laborers) when Justin's dad gave us a wonderful surprise visit yesterday. He was amazingly helpful in cleaning out the entire living room of paint, staples, etc, as well as completing a lot of other random tasks around the house. Justin and I both thoroughly enjoyed the magic of arriving at the house after work and having jobs accomplished while we were gone! I took a few pictures of the father-son team at work this evening. It's been great to visit, and great to have his help. We do welcome any visitors, and I'm just joking when I say that we'll put you straight to work (we like to have fun and show off Ithaca, too!!)