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!