Thursday, June 30, 2011

No excuses

Hi again, folks.  It seems as though my "post-a-day" celebration of our one-year house anniversary got severely sidetracked, first by lack of internet, then by a variety of other things, not limited to the following list:

- my inability to estimate the number of things I can accomplish in a day
- preparing for weekend visitors
- having a great time with weekend visitors (Justin's dad and grandparents)
- spending time with friends
- checking out kitchen renovation books from the library and beginning to freak out about the proximity of our August kitchen plans
- my (somewhat crazy) solo trip to Harrisburg (round trip less than 24 hours) to attend the retirement celebration for my dear friend, Sue
- attempting to recover from aforementioned crazy driving trip (8 hours in the car)

More than anything, I think it's been me enjoying life.  Justin and I sat down on our porch last night (yes, there are lots of updates out there that I need to photo document) and in that moment, I had such complete happiness.  Sitting there, relaxing with my husband was so wonderful.

So I apologize that I often do get so caught up in living life that I don't get the chance to document life.  I have several half-written posts that I will update soon (although not too soon, because we will likely be quite busy enjoying our holiday weekend).  So thanks for checking in.  Keep coming back....I will eventually :)

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Technical difficulties!

Our lack-of-internet service last night prohibited the fulfillment of my post-a-day promise in honor of our House Anniversary!  Thankfully we're back in business, and I'll hope to get an over-due post up tonight :)

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Unsung renovation heroes

Pretty early on in the whole blogging gig, Justin politely called me out on my often inappropriate use of pronouns.  For example, he correctly noted, I often reported that "we" completed a project, whereas my personal contribution wasn't much more than handing tools or holding things.  On the other hand, if I take the lead on a project and Justin is the tool-handing helper, "I" did something.  So, my apologies.  And thanks where thanks is due.

To that end, I thought it would make sense to devote a post to all the other unsung renovation heroes who have gotten us through the last year's worth of work.  These are people who have gone above the call of familiar or friendly duty, and taken it upon themselves to willingly trade their free time for hard work, sweat, and crazy renovation dirt.

First, let's thank my sister, Maura.

This is the girl who has a whole room named after her around these parts. She spent a week here in the summer, as well as another week in March.  Justin and I would return home from work to find her having accomplished more in that one day than the two of us had collectively finished in a week.  One particular day, she rattled off the list of things she did, and my chin was already on the kitchen floor, before she said "Oh yeah! And I forgot; I mowed the grass and weeded the garden." She's amazing.  How many college freshman willingly spend their spring break using the Shop-Vac to suck flood waters our of their sister's basement?

Second, our dear friend Mike.  Mike lived down the hall from me my freshman year at Bucknell, and subsequently became a close friend to both Justin and I.  He has made the trek - not once, but twice - from near Philadelphia to spend time at our house.  It was awesome enough that he drove 4 hours each way just to visit; but then he got his hands (very) dirty on some of the worst renovation jobs (tearing out the old sewing room walls and installing new insulation on the first trip, then sanding drywall on the second visit!)  True friendship, right there.  Thanks, Mike!

Thirdly, my father-in-law, Steve.  One day last summer, Justin and I were eating dinner at his apartment when we looked out the window and saw a white car on the street in front of the apartment.  "Hey," Justin said, "that looks like my dad.  That IS my dad!"  Steve's surprise visit was certainly a pleasant surprise, not only for his company, but for his willingness to complete several difficult and/or annoying house-related tasks in the hot sun (searching the driveway for errant roofing nails, breaking up blocks of concrete and posts from the old handicapped ramp, and scraping paint off the newly discovered hardwood floors all come to mind).

So those three people really deserve medals of appreciation for their help over the course of the last year.  But they aren't the only ones.  A huge thank you also goes out to my cousin Rachel who is Maura's partner-in-crime and was also a huge help over the summer.  The only picture I can find is us as we were getting all dolled up for the wedding, but I assure you that she was also very willing to get her hands dirty up here at the house!

Also thanks to my brother, Colin, for his help.  I have to put his picture in so he knows I'm thankful.  He claims his intense Johns Hopkins pre-med coursework already contains more than enough reading, and his sister's blog should contain fewer words and more pictures.  In case you are reading, Col, thanks for your help and also for your ideas.  A lot of very helpful constructive criticism and also brand new ideas have come out of this guy:

And my dear-ol'-Dad, who is not only our resident home security & safety consultant, but also has put in lots of time hanging things up in this house (whether that be drywall, coat hooks, and new shelves).  On one visit, I asked him to hang a piece of plywood in the kitchen to add some extra space before we get more cabinets.  But now I have a really nice wood shelf with fancy brackets.  It's seriously the nicest thing in my kitchen; all because my dad never fails to make sure that he gives all his best.  To everyone.  And did I mention that he makes sure we're safe and secure?

And let's not forget my Mama.  She is overwhelmingly helpful.  Like the time I sat up in bed, looked across to the guest room (we're still doorless upstairs, except for the bathroom) and had the following conversation: Me: [sleepy face].  Mom: "It's about time you wake up!  We have LOTS to do today!  Like right now, we're going to wash the windows."  And she proceeded to scrub the windows to the point that they're dangerous to neighborhood birds.  I had to tear her away from the project to eat breakfast.  She doesn't stop working the whole time she's here (or the whole time she's at her house, for that matter).  Also she taught me everything I know about being creative and working with my hands.  And she listens on the phone to my daily litany of complaints, updates, and musings about the whole house renovation process.  That's a lot of listening.

We also wouldn't be here without the incredible advice of many, many family members.  I distinctly remember a conversation with a coworker before I left Harrisburg.  I told him we had just purchased a fixer-upper house, and that we planned to do most of the work ourselves.  "Have you done anything like that before?" he asked.  "Not really," I told him, "but a lot of our relatives have, so we've grown up around it."  "Is that like saying, 'Hey, my uncle is a heart surgeon, I'll do your surgery?'" he asked.  Touche'.  But thankfully, all of the uncles, grandfathers, and others who are electrical engineers, architects, carpenters, and other very experienced renovators were very willing to guide us through heart surgery home renovation over the phone, email, or other conversations.  Sorry that we tend to always steer the conversation that way over Thanksgiving dinner!  I may miss some people, but sincere thanks to Pap-Pap, Uncle Mike, Uncle Kevin, Uncle Tom, Uncle Paul, Uncle Tim, Uncle Curt, Pap, Uncle Bob, Uncle Joel, Uncle Barry, Uncle Rex, Uncle Ismael, Greg, Evan & Jordan!

We also owe huge thanks to our neighbors.  Across the street, we have a wonderful couple who came from Italy in the 1970s.  They are like our Ithaca grandparents, and besides feeding us amazing food and taking care of me when I cut my finger and had yet to have any Band-Aids in the house, also look out for us, provide lots of advice (he was a carpenter back in Italy and renovated his entire house here), loan hundreds of tools, and let us drive their pick-up truck.  Next door, we have another fabulous neighbor who loans us ladders, wheelbarrows, her pick-up truck, etc., and doesn't complain when Justin uses the noisy power sander all night long or when our "to go to the dump" renovation junk pile is visible from her back deck for longer than is polite.

I also owe a big thank you to everyone reading this blog.  Your support has been incredible, and your excitement at following our progress has spurred me on  more than once.  Also your patience (in waiting for posts, and also waiting for me to shut up about house projects once we get together in person) is much appreciated.

Finally, just in case you missed yesterday's gushing tribute, thank you Justin!

Monday, June 20, 2011

Remember when?

I'm back for my "housiversary" celebration ~ a week long blog party celebrating our survival of a first year of renovation.  Perhaps more accurately, it's a celebration of the house surviving a year being owned by two naive kids who were determined to tear apart the house and put it back together again; with relatively little knowledge.  It's a celebration of 365 days of progress.

As if I wasn't already feeling sappy enough about this anniversary, I've added some country music to the mix.  Feel free to listen and be emotional with me.  Or just skip this part and make fun of me for a) liking country music, b) applying a song more appropriate for 50-year wedding anniversaries to our tiny little one-year house anniversary and 8 months of marriage, and c) getting teary eyed over all of the above.

So it's true that Alan Jackson's "Remember When" is reminiscing of milestones Justin and I have yet to meet, but that doesn't stop me from liking the song.  Nor does it stop me from providing my own version of Remember When.  Here's a look through the last year ~ most of these are pictures I've never posted on the blog.  I wholeheartedly invite all of my readers on this memory lane journey, but it's really written to one special person.  You can probably guess who that might be <3

Remember when you let me unlock the door, then carried me over the thresh hold?

Remember when we owned the house for 3 minutes and were already tearing it apart?

Remember when our lifetime spending at Lowe's was still under $1,000?

Remember when we had our first picnic in the back yard?

Remember when we still didn't know the kitchen ceiling was falling down?

Remember when you could see the roof when you stood in the kitchen?

Remember how proud you were the first time you installed a new light?

Remember when our stairs were crazy green?

Remember when they spent even longer being sticky and gross?

Remember when we couldn't go inside without masks?

Remember when we found the hardwood under the carpet?

Remember when we had a contractor over to look at the roof, he offered to sit down and discuss it with us, and this was the only chair we owned ~ inside OR out?

Remember when you slept in the kitchen?

Remember when we slept in the den?

Remember when your desk was still in the kitchen?

Remember when you stayed up all night sanding the floors?

Remember when I got really tired of sanding drywall?

Remember when you built a closet on Christmas Eve?

Remember when I believed that our Christmas decorations could possibly distract the eyes from the crazy mauve walls?

Remember when there was this much construction dust...everywhere...yet you left me love notes anyway?

Remember when the sewing room was still paneled?

Remember when the upstairs bathroom still looked like a junior high locker room?

Remember when we had the crazy blue door to our bedroom?

Remember when you first got the Internet to work?

Remember when we put our dreams up on the wall?

Remember when the carpet came and the upstairs was clean for the first time?

Remember when we ate our first homegrown food?

But most of all, remember when... made my dreams come true?

and being on top of the world on our honeymoon....

...was nothing compared to making my home with you?

I love you, Justin.  Thank you for indulging me in this crazy project we call home.  Thank you for being by my side throughout this whole year.  Thank you for your sweat and blood you've poured into building my dreams.  Thank you for putting up with my incessant planning and scheming about the next project.  Thanks for being you.  And don't ever forget all that we've done in a year!

For anyone else who is reading, seeing as you don't see the house everyday, you might not recognize some of the "befores" or remember some of the "afters" to give all of this context.  I plan to show some more specific "hey, look how far we've come" pictures later this week!

Saturday, June 18, 2011

We've come a long way, baby!

Celebrating one year!

Last year on June 18th, we purchased our house.  Like most anniversaries, it is simultaneously hard to believe that a whole year has gone by, yet astonishing that it has been only a year!

The last 365 days have been filled with lots of sweat, blood, and yes, a few tears.  And from the sweat, blood, and tears, we have celebrated both minor and major accomplishments.  We've built our dreams, we've made our house our home.  We've had setbacks and moments of frustration, angry at our house and even each other.  We've loved, laughed, and shared.  We've made it.  We hosted friends and family.  We learned a lot.  We fell even more in love.  We worked some more, and learned to live with the dust and the imperfections.  We're proud of what we've done in a year, and excited for what we can do in the next one.  We've traveled, but more importantly, we've come home <3

In honor of our house anniversary, I plan to post every day this week, so stay tuned!  :)  I promise LOTS of photos to remember just how far we've come.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Happy Friday

In a rare change of events, I'm spending a Friday afternoon on our couch.  It's decidedly more peaceful than the last seven weeks, during which I have spent the hour immediately following my 4:30 end-of-workday throwing belongings into a suitcase for a weekend on the road.  (Granted, I did get to stay home two weeks ago, but I packed Justin's stuff that particular time around).

We have food in-progress for a friend's potluck dinner tonight, plans to finally buy some "adult" bedroom furniture this weekend (my definition for anything beyond our mattress-on-floor / tiny presserboard dresser set-up), and a whole weekend to work on whatever house projects we choose :)

Oh, and our garden is growing up a storm!

Life is good!  Hope your Fridays are equally as happy :)  Anybody else with exciting (or blissfully dull) weekends planned?

Arbor Amor

A few weeks ago, I posted a little sneak peak of the newest addition to the backyard patio....the grape arbor!  I'm back to give more details and pictures, and to confirm our swelling amounts of arbor amor (I have to say, I'm disappointed that "Arbor Amor" doesn't sound half as cool as it looks in writing; unless you get really fancy and pronounce arbor in an overly fancy, yet rhyming "arbooor" way.  And we're not quite that fancy, even if I do sneak in Latin words here and there.  (Amor is love for anyone who wasn't sure)).

But I digress.  And I'm coming back to the arbor only long enough to digress again into a discussion of the grapes.  Over a year ago now, Justin ate some grapes, harvested the seeds, and has babied the grapes ever since.  This has included a stint of winter simulation for the grapes in the freezer, lots of time, care, and attention from Justin, and a nice sunny window at his office throughout the cold (real) winter.  My cell phone memory is approaching full as a result of the number of pictures the proud gardener sent to me.  I have said before, and continue to believe, that if Justin someday cares for our kids with 1/2 the love and attention that he has provided to the grapes, they'll be in really good hands!

So as Justin's grapes were growing from tiny seeds to 6 foot plants, his dreams of a grape arbor were growing even faster.  While he has sometimes enjoyed, but mostly tolerated, my ongoing excitement about all things house-renovation-related, the arbor and gardens in general have shown Justin's passion; something into which he is truly excited about investing time, money, and brain power.  That alone has made this project extra fun and special.

We had initially planned to build the arbor like others we had seen from metal pipes.  However, we soon grew hesitant of the prices and our inability to find the fittings that would create the structure we envisioned.  On a suggestion from a neighbor, we found that we could meet all of our goals with components of chain link fencing.

We used the galvanized chain link pipes (which, unlike regular iron pipe, we could cut to length ourselves using a circular saw), as well as some of the standard pieces to building a chain link fence, used in slightly less-standard ways...

We basically built a rectangular upper frame; added two support bars parallel to the shorter sides, then connected this upper frame to 4 posts, which were cemented into the ground.

Gate corners and post caps form corner of upper frame, and connect frame to support posts:

T-clamps connect the support beams to the outside of the upper frame:

Justin also drilled holes in the pipes and added cross wires, which will eventually provide support for the growing grapes.

Obviously, as the grapes continue to grow, it will look better.  Eventually, the whole top will be very leafy.  There are also several projects to go to have the patio looking really good.  But I am really excited about our new solar-powered lights from Target!  They're the first step towards a festive summer patio ~ we're looking forward to lots of picnics and dinners out back :)

Monday, June 6, 2011

The evolving revolving door

You may have picked up on the fact that we've been quite busy lately.  After hosting Easter guests, we were off & running ~ for 5 consecutive weekends.  Along with our big bike trip around Cayuga Lake, we made 5 trips to Pennsylvania (3 together, and one each in separate directions).  Between the two of us, we visited Scranton, Levittown, Altoona, and Bradford.  If you know your PA geography, that's all four corners of the state.  Not to mention the time we spent in Milton and Harrisburg (our respective hometowns) in central / southcentral Pennsylvania.

With 6+ hours in the car (or on our bikes) each weekend, renovation time has been severely limited.  Don't get me wrong, I've had a fabulous time visiting with lots of family and friends, but that much road time really gets exhausting.  Perhaps another reason I tired of so much coming and going was our super ugly front door.

Here is was, as of our purchase date:

And the inside (as of this week) still looked awful as well.  Between the residual orange paint, the many dings/scratches/random marks, the crazy weather stripping, the can't-be-cleaned smoke film from the previous owner, and the really dirty blinds, I had really had enough.  I basically avoided our living room (and our nice new couch) because I couldn't stand the front door.

Here's a close-up, just in case you couldn't see before just how ugly it was:

Is everyone thoroughly convinced that it was B - A - D?

Not any longer!  :)

I used leftover paint from the sewing room dresser to freshen up the frame and both the inside and outside of the door.  It's technically just interior paint, but since the front of the door is protected by a storm door AND a covered porch, I figured it would be OK.  

I also made a snazzy little roll-up curtain using two pieces of fabric.  I simply cut two rectangles of fabric 1 inch larger than the measurements of the window, sewed them together with a 1/2 inch seam, and then flipped them right-side out, stitching around the edge to hold it in place.  

Here's the curtain when it is down:

However, I like it even more rolled-up!

The tabs are the only part attached to the door.  I wanted to make sure I could take the curtain down to wash and/or iron it in the future, so I added button holes to the tops of the curtain, as well as to the end of the tabs.

When it's removed, it looks like this:

It's attached to the door via a highly sophisticated method known as the staple gun.  I temporarily thought it might be cheating, but it was easy, and the buttons hide them, even if you're up close.  And no one will ever be this close:

I was also inspired in all of this door renovating to make a wreath for the front door with a grapevine wreath, some dried flowers, and ribbon from Michaels.

The wreath is also attached to the door using my friend, the staple gun.  I just stapled the ribbon to the top of the door.  Even if I change the decor down the road, no one will see tiny holes on the top of the door.  It's the same method I used to hang my yarn wreath in the sewing room, which has worked well thus far (with lots of opening and closing of the closet).

Not a bad weekend, overall!  It was nice to spend a weekend at home; especially one that will make our future comings-and-goings more sweet!

Annnd...because as I wrote when I introduced this blog, do-it-yourself house projects make me want to shout from the roof-tops and tell the world....I'm linking my project to the DIY Project Parade at The DIY Show-off.
The DIY Show Off