Monday, March 6, 2017

Forever in Print

I attended the Restore Omaha conference over the weekend. In part to see what other people were doing with their old homes. But mainly to see if I could learn anything to help me with future projects. Turns out I got a third, unexpected bonus as part of the weekend. 

Friday night was the awards banquet. There was a silent auction in which I bid on a number of items. However, I wasn't able to make it over to the corner, where an easel was set up, due to the crowd forming around it. I decided to wait to see what was over there until just before the bidding closed. And boy, am I glad I waited.

I saw that it was a print, and I thought, "well that's not something I need, but I'll take a look anyhow". I am so glad I did!  One of the ladies in my neighborhood had drawn the "Houses of Aksarben Neighborhood" and down in the last row, right in the middle, was my little house! I was so excited I almost squealed. I refrained though; it was a semi formal affair! 

This has to be the best thing I've ever bought. Or won, rather, because I did win it! And soon I'll frame it and it'll have a special place of honor in the house. The house I was meant to restore, for some reason. One day, it'll tell me. Until then, I'll continue to make my project list and prioritize the things she needs. 

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Look What I Found!

I decided my need to hang Christmas lights outside far out-weighed my need to eat this month (I kid, it was quite reasonable, just not planned).  So I now have 2 outdoor outlets, which are pretty cool looking. They are expandable and weather proof. I'm a happy nerd girl, or I will be after I get those Christmas lights out. And hung.

But in the process of running conduit in the basement, my friend Jenn (that's right, this was a group effort) found this incredible piece of history in my north coal room! 

That, my friends, is the builders mark! I had been hoping to find this when the renovation was going on. But honestly, I spend as little time as possible in the coal rooms. They're... Icky. Maybe even scary.

Thank you, E. Sauers, for leaving your mark! Even if it's not easy to show off! 

5/18/23 That's my houses' birthday. I think we'll be celebrating it every year. Especially in about 7 years!

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Budget Constraints and the World Series

Fall is upon us and I had really thought that I would get a head start on winter by ordering and installing some storm windows.

It would appear that I was a little overzealous in that thought. Plus, I decided not ALL my money needs to go into the house this year.

So, instead of storm windows... I attended Games 1 and 2 of the 2016 World Series. My beloved Cleveland Indians had overcome adversity, injury and proved the naysayers wrong by sweeping Boston and clinching the ALCS in Toronto. I watched every evening game, glued to my seat. And when the call came... I was ready.

I left my happy home for a 13 hour one way road trip, a week of sleep deprivation and living like a teenager (staying with my Mom). My job allows me to work from wherever (oh the joys of telecommuting) and I had a friend with Indians Season tickets. And as the online ticket sale prices rose... I sat back and waved goodbye to a couple of storm windows.

I think I got the better end of the deal. Face value tickets, completing a bucket list item and spending time with my Mom.

The final outcome wasn't what I necessarily wanted, although I am 1/2 happy that we lost to a team that hadn't won in a century. But still, no one likes to lose... period.

And I'll just have to wait a few months for those much needed storm windows.  It's not like the steps are completed!!!  (I left the day after the floor guy finished, so it's been 2 long weeks).

I've always love the Cleveland Indians. I'll continue to #rallytogether and try to catch more games next season. Maybe attention Spring Training.  I'm grateful for the memories, the bucket list check mark and the reminder of how much I love the game of baseball! 

#GoTribe !!

Stairway Refinishing

I'd like to thank my Mom for her contribution to my home. Her visit in August netted me some much needed sewing and crafting projects, but her parting gift was a donation to the refinishing of the stairway to my bedroom. Or so she thought. I was actually able to stretch the money and get 3 of the 4 old cold air return patches completed as well. Sadly, the original returns are too expensive to replace, so I opted for a finished look, which is still pretty cool. 

Here's the before on the patches. At some point, when the furnace was replaced, they changed the airflow and size of the cold air returns. Sadly, the original "grates" were replaced by plywood.:
Here's the original return of which I still have 3 originals (this one has a little damage I hope to one day fix. They cost approx $500 apiece to replace and I had 3. (way out of budget. Also, I can't figure out how to rotate the picture):
And here's what I "settled" with (and what I love) Looks like it belongs there, almost:

The stairs are still "under construction". I only had the treads refinished. I haven't decided on what I'm going to do with the risers yet... So many ideas on Pinterest!!

Before, the steps had separated varnish and were ruined by paint and insulation goo from the renovation. I really didn't want to carpet the stairs as they are steep and narrow, so this is what I've lived with for the past year:

Note that these are pine treads. Back in the day, the money was spent on the main floors. These steps went to the attic, so the logic was that no one would see these stairs. Oddly, the landing at the top is oak, but nothing else, except the "storage room". It has hardwood/oak. Now, since it's the way to my bedroom, I wanted to clean it up and be presentable. Here's the "almost after"!


I need to regroup and hopefully decide on what to do with the risers. Right now, they are the blue/green of the bedroom. I know don't want them white. I have a feeling that I'll want either a pattern or stencil, maybe with the gray of the walls. Either way, it's another project that will keep me going for at least another month!

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Post Tour Thoughts


That's about the sum total of my reaction to Sunday. At least the PG version.

What a spectacular turnout for the Restoration Exchange Aksarben/Elmwood Park Neighborhood Home Tour. Incredible. It was a beautiful day to walk the neighborhood and see the homes. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to see any of the other homes, but apparently around 800 other people did. That number is not a typo, folks. 800!! Congrats to Restoration Exchange for having such a well organized event. 

I worry about being "too proud" of my house. Probably because my mother is a big fan of; "pride cometh before the fall". So I was (and still am) very humbled by all the kind words that were said; some directly to me, and some I overheard. 

Here are some thoughts and reactions to the day (again, the PG version).

  • This will be easy. We can ease into it... I have some time to chat with my friends...HOLY CRAP why are people at my door at 11:50!
  • 30 minutes in, I am convinced that 75 million people are on this tour. It was insane, probably because I was number 3 on the tour, but the second house directly down from the ticket check-in at the church! Less than 5 houses away. Can't imagine what it was like for the poor guys who had the house directly next to the church!
  • By 1 PM, we had to have had at least 150 people through the house. And it was starting to get sunny and warm out there. That just meant more people joining the tour.
  • By 1:30 I took a minute to hide in the basement after rescuing one of my cats from underneath the bed upstairs.
  • I wish I had taken pictures of the people in line. Some people took their time, looking at each before picture I had strategically put out. Others just walked through like it was a museum tour, almost.
  • People were SO FRIENDLY! I can't tell you the number of times that I was thanked for opening my home up and for being on the tour. One of the other owners and I joked that they must have been coached to say "thank you" when they got their tickets.
  • I was asked several times "how long have you lived here" followed by "you're kidding" when I said I had moved in, literally, a year ago this week.
  • One lady said my color choices were "on fleek"...another woman said she was as green with envy as the color in my kitchen. Cute.
  • Several real estate agents came on the tour just to see what had been done, specifically, to the house. They had shown the house and saw the "before" in person, many of them recollecting that it sat on the market for over 2 years. They were all pleased and so glad that it had been purchased by someone who loved it.
  • A couple people told me that my house was the best because it was "period specific", not "open concept" and "true to the neighborhood". Also, they could tell I hadn't "thrown money" at it. I think I will take that as a compliment?
  • I wish I had gotten the names of the gentlemen that stopped to give me advice on the windows. That would be helpful down the road. But I do remember a couple of things that they told me. 
  • By 3 PM I was over it. I just wanted to sit. I didn't get to sit. It was a continual stream of people and I felt I had to be available. I was tired of smiling. I was tired of small talk. But I put on my big girl panties and a brave face. All I really wanted was to put my feet up and have a beer. Or 3.
  • I did miss some friends that came to the tour. Those who I did see, I wasn't able to chat with. Thanks for the support, peeps!
  • I had the BEST volunteers/friends helping me. I truthfully couldn't have done it without them. They would make good docents!
  • Only one lady asked me if my "husband" was handy. I told her I would let her know when I found him!
  • One lady thought my master bedroom was small...until she saw the bathroom and "walk in closet". Yeah... it's over 600 square feet. That's small, right?!
  • One friends wife now wants to move east to a "cool" home after being on the tour. (Sorry, not sorry!)
  • One lady asked me if I "did the work" in the master suite.I said "well, not really". Her response was... "but you wrote the check, didn't you, sweetie!" Yes, ma'am.
  • I was going to "live tweet" the whole thing, but honestly, it was completely overwhelming. I could barely text my friends to make sure they were ok, and we were IN THE SAME HOUSE.
  • Several people asked if I would ever restore another old home. Nope. I'm not even done with this one. This house spoke to me and that's why I'm here! My next home is a condo, right about the time I retire!
  • A couple of men are angry with me for the "walk in closet". Long live the future "changing room" with princess chandelier and shoe WALL!
  • People truly liked seeing "to do projects".  Lots of "just do what you can" types of encouragement. "It doesn't all have to be done tomorrow!"
  • I think some were surprised a girl did the DIY work. Especially in the kitchen.Mainly the drywall repair when I refurbished the sink/plumbing.
  • There were no offers to buy it... thankfully! Not that I expected it, but weirder things have happened!
  • I should have asked for a finders fee from my contractors. People took a lot of their information/pamphlets/business cards! Especially on the tub/sink refinishing. I met a few people who also had work done by the same general contractor. It's nice to know that I'm not the only one with such a great experience! Thanks, guys. This couldn't have happened without you all.

All in all, it was a great experience. My real estate agent, who also took the tour, sent me a great email saying he was proud of me and so happy for me. Apparently I was beaming (when I wasn't hiding)! I remember looking at this house with him. He knew, if anyone could take on this project, I was the one. So glad he was right!

Now that my house is clean and somewhat organized, I'm not sure what I'll do with my time. Maybe relax. Or possibly start on the storm windows. But no, I just remembered that I have to prime the steps going upstairs before they are refinished in 2 weeks. The work is never done...

And of course, I couldn't have done any of this without the love and support of my friends. From July of 2015 (even before, when we waited 3 months to hear if the offer was accepted and then 4 more months to close) and continuing through today, you have had my back. When I didn't think I could do something, you boosted me up or sent me YouTube videos. When I thought I was going to have to stop, you helped me to find a way. This was the culmination of my dreams. I love each and every one of you and you should know that this house, my home, holds a piece of each of you within in it. I wanted my house to be full of love and happiness, and it truly is.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Brochure Pictures for the Home Tour

I am so excited and honored to have my house on the Restoration Exchange Neighborhood Tour on October 2nd. Time flies. It means I will have officially been in the house for almost exactly a year. And I've been a homeowner well over a year. What a whirlwind year it's been!

Here are the pictures (many of which will be in the brochure that people on the tour will receive.) Hope to have a good turnout. Hope to see you here!

Front room/Formal Living Room

Dining room that I made into a living room

My pride and joy

Yes, I still have the original push button lights

The reason behind this entire journey

Forgot that I had refinished these!

Master Bedroom/New Attic Space

Adjoining Master Bathroom

Period correct lighting and mirror

Most of my door knobs look like faces! 
Looking more lived in every day!

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Making old Tile look... Better

One of the things I decided to keep original was the main floor bathroom. I had the tub re-glazed, but put in a new vanity and toilet. Some things just don't need to be original. I added wainscoting but left the light fixtures and original medicine cabinet. 

I also left the floor. Good, bad or otherwise, I really liked the original tile. But it looked horrible. Grimy and gross. 

So a few weeks ago, I started the arduous and extremely gross job of getting down on my hands and knees and giving the floor a cleaning of a lifetime. I scraped up paint, construction debris and frankly, things even I wouldn't talk about in public. I just...can't even. 

And then last week, it was time to re-grout the tile. I'll be honest, I didn't know what I was getting myself into. But I learned very quickly. And I made mistakes, which I tried to remedy but now know I can't. But my manicure survived!

Here's the lesson I learned: 50+ year old tile, which hasn't been sealed, will absorb the color of the grout (in some spots). I thought I had gotten the grout off in time, but I don't think it really mattered. It was going to absorb the color regardless of what I did. 

First mistake. Only do an area that you can reach. So I waited a little bit to sponge off the entire floor (without the bottom of my feet being completely black...because who doesn't do this barefooted?) Unfortunately there are some individual tiles that now look to have dark gray thumb prints. I waited a week and tried (with some success) to scrub those tiles but I couldn't get them perfect. But again, I'm assuming the floor is over 50. So I'm not being too hard on myself. 

What I learned is that I should have sealed the tile before laying the grout. I think. To be honest, I'm not sure. So I sealed it the next day (after scrubbing) I think it looks good! A little more shiny and clean! 

That's the first pass compared to the rest of the floor. 
Finished product. It looks better. And clean. So so clean!

See the lower right hand corner? Nothing a few well placed floor mats can't cover up, right? But for now (besides touch up paint and refinishing the door) I'm done in the bathroom. Finally!