Sunday, May 31, 2009

Still here...

Hi there! We're still here -- there's just been a lot going on and intermittent internet access. Let's see...we moved out of the apt (finally.) around the 9th/10th. With some assistance from a big team of awesome helpers:

The moving crew, after the second load up.

We then spent a solid week cleaning and re-painting. Which took way longer than we expected. Our lease was up on the 21st of May, and we made it by the skin of our teeth. But now all of our stuff is in one place. And I mean ALL of our STUFF (two 17' truck loads and a later 10' truck load. sheesh.) The house got full pretty quickly. I'm hoping we can do some more culling as we unpack.

where'd the floor go? sigh. the kitchen.

Also - the peonies bloomed! (and more roses. and some irises!) Gorgeous. Alas, it's a fleeting gorgeousness, since peonies only set buds once a year. Really, I'm finding that nearly all of gardening is a pretty big life lesson in appreciating what you have when you have it. Mother Nature is on her own time table and doesn't care that you want peonies in September, because she only provides them in May.


So, that's the current news in bramberville. Doing lawnwork (that grass grows fast!), unpacking boxes, dreaming of house projects, and returning to wedding planning (less than 4 months away! yowza.)

Oh, and for a cliffhanger, I'll leave you with a tease -- we'll have to tell you about our new friend Rosemary. Maybe Bryan will write about her :)

Friday, May 8, 2009

stop and smell...


Rose #2 of the season :) Gorgeous, no?

Monday, May 4, 2009

sanding, staining and sealing, oh my!

"I understand why people pay to have this done." -- Bryan Powell.

The floors. Wow. Refinishing our upstairs floors has been intense. It's A. LOT. OF. WORK. Work commenced last weekend--Bryan, Nathan and Dan kicked off the whole project and started sanding. And sanding. And sanding. I was out of town, but fear not, I definitely didn't miss out on anything, because this past weekend we continued. And we sanded. and sanded. and sanded. Oh, and then for a change of pace, we finally got to stain. Oh, and vacuum. And sweep. Over and over. I did more vacuuming and sweeping in those 3 days than probably in the last two years (of course, those of you who know me are probably thinking that that's not saying much. And you'd be right. But really, I did it a LOT this weekend!). There was sawdust everywhere. But Bryan engineered an air flow system with a window fan unit that seemed to minimize the dust spread beyond the second floor. He's pretty handy like that.

I am woman, hear me sand.

Dust, dust, everywhere!

de-dusting all the nooks and crannies

Bramberville product placement

Sooo... as of today? Our floors are looking pretty awesome. Minwax wood stain Provincial #211 is doing us pretty right:


It's a bit darker than I think we bargained for, but the first coat of poly sealer is down as of this moment and it's looking fantastic- 2 more coats to go! The second floor and staircase are going to be noticeably darker than the lower level, an issue we thought we were mediating by picking a stain color in between what we really wanted (fairly dark) and the downstairs color, which we would not have picked had we been given the option, but, oh well. Maybe someday we'll forget about how much work this was and attempt the downstairs for a match. Maybe.

Speaking of the stairs; they're not done. We finally unmasked the staircase on Saturday, which was my pet project for the day - I pulled up carpet staples, ripped off tack strips, goo gone-d the double-sided tape that was for some reason on the treads ... and then started sanding. And spent literally 45 min sanding one single step. And it still wasn't near done. Since simple math led us to the conclusion that: (1 hr+) x 11ish steps = more time than we had, we abandoned ship for now. We had to keep our eyes on the prize, which was getting the upstairs floors done so we can move in next weekend. So, it kind of sucks that the stairs aren't finished but we came up with a plan to get it done much faster when we can finally return to the project, so fingers crossed.

In other news, spring has sprung at the 5407 -- we've got gorgeous hot pink azaleas in our fairy circle (our nickname for the random circle of plantings that is in the middle of our front yard), rose bushes that have produced our first rose of the season (which smells FANTASTIC) with many more buds on the way, and my prized peony bush gets bigger every day and has 8-10 buds waiting to spring forth big, fluffy, gorgeous flowers. And the buds have developed enough that I'm pretty sure they're pink peonies, which is exactly what I was hoping for!


We need smellavision...

Peony buds -- pink!

I think that's the news fit to print. We are planning to rent a moving truck this Sunday and make the big move... hopefully that will go smoothly! Still lots to do before then - you know, like pack the apt. And, I'm hoping to get the upstairs walls painted this Friday and Saturday.

Lots more photos at Flickr -- link at the top left of this page.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Gettin' dirty.

Today we had a 60 degree and sunny afternoon! So we took advantage of it and spent the day outside at the house, mostly playing in the dirt. We did a little sprucing up of one of the backyard rosebush beds, which has much more in it than just rosebushes, we found. We dug up mystery bulbs that haven't yet sprouted, and some tiny little sprouting plants that are also of an unknown variety. We replanted the bulbs in a different area, and stuck the seedlings in a pot to see if they are something we want to keep. Bryan sifted dirt in his homemade dirt sifter and resurfaced the bed.

bryan at work
Name this plant!

I got to meet the next door neighbor to our left, in the brick house. Her name is Frances and she has 8 children who take turns coming over to visit on the weekends and help her with her yard and house. She's very nice, and Bryan spoke with her about the fence we share. Apparently in the past, one of her children's dogs got into our yard and killed a dog that lived in our house. Scary! This explains why there was a fence extender on that side of the yard! Bryan took the extender down this afternoon, which prompted a visit from Frances to give us the backstory. That dog is no longer living, so the coast seemed clear. But can you imagine? Probably wasn't the best thing for neighbor relations...

Perhaps most importantly, to me, we hung 2 sets of the shutters on the front of the house today, to see if that would ease my concerns about the siding. I think the shutters do help quite a bit. Partly because it covers up some of the siding I don't like, but also because it give your eye something else to look at. So, that's good :)

New shutters

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Meanwhile, in Bramberville...

I know, I know... long time no post. (wow - nearly a month!) Things have been nutty. We haven't had much time to head over to the house the last couple of weekends, but even in our absence, lots has happened on the house front.

Our new chocolate brown roof was finished 2 weeks ago and the siding has been replaced. The roof looks pretty good; however, the wrong style siding was put on the house! The contractor totally admitted it was their error and has offered to replace it with what we ordered, but they've also offered a pretty substantial discount off of our total bill if we stay with what we've got. And I think we're probably going to take them up on it. My concern is that the style we chose makes our cute little 1940s house look like a prefab mobile home. And I still mostly think it does, but I think we're going to sell out and take the money... I also think that with the addition of the black shutters we've purchased, a revamped stoop/front door and some actual plants around the front, it will look much better. Bryan says when we're rich we can replace the siding. :) I won't hold my breath for that...

Roof in progress!


The new windows upstairs are also in, but there were some installation issues with several of them, so there will be some reinstallation/replacement happening in the next couple of weeks.

Other bramberville news? We've continued to work on scraping the upstairs floors and cleaning up the hardware from the doors (which is looking great!). Bryan has been fiddling in the attic with clean up and wire-wrangling, and digging holes in the back to investigate our soggy backyard.

look ma, no paint!

Our Director of Restoration Svcs, at work

Attic adventures

We've also been thinking about the landscaping as the weather starts to warm up -- we've got lots of mystery plants and bulbs starting to leaf and grow, so we are looking forward to seeing what we've got to work with. Casey and I worked on one of the beds in the front yard a week or so ago, and unearthed a lot of neon green, stunted bulbs growing underneath about 6 inches of dried leaves! One mystery bulb in the front yard has a giant bud on it, and it doesn't seem to be a tulip or a daffodil, so I'm very curious to see when it will finally open and let us see what it is!

practicing to be Garden Martha.

oxygen starved plantlings...

look what was hiding under 6" of leaves!

Today we bought grass seed and fertilizer to try to bulk up the lawn a bit and took measurements for the big herb box we want to build and put along the front of the house (to the left of the stoop).

That's all the news fit to print from bramberville (...with Bryan involved, there's totally some news NOT fit to print, but you'll have to come visit to hear about it.) And, don't forget, if you want more photos, less talking, then check out our Flickr set. :)

Watchdog at work


Thursday, February 26, 2009

Coming attractions and house flatulence.

It's going to be an exciting few weeks at Bramberville! On tap we've got:
  • a new roof (shingles) going up this Tuesday. The stacks of shingles have already been delivered to our rooftop and are awaiting the roofers' attention.
  • new siding! We've chosen a medium tan color to replace the white. This is scheduled to be installed at the end of next week or early in the following week, along with...
  • new upstairs windows. We're replacing the 6 original windows upstairs, but keeping the old windows to sell or use otherwise.
  • new gutters to replace the cruddy, falling apart plastic things on the house now.
It'll look like a whole new house! Pictures to come...

In other news, we got our first gas bill in the mail. For 19 days of service, the bill is $230+. Good times. Looks like we'll be turning the thermostat down. Maybe lighting the fireplace. Maybe wearing a sweater or two. Maybe learning about solar panels...

At least we're heading into spring before long.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Amethyst Stone = not a stripper.

Ladies and gentlemen, I'd like to introduce you to Amethyst Stone:

yay! purple!

No, not the girl. That's Casey, modeling the new room. :) Amethyst is the paint, silly. And she's awesome. The new purple addition is the nook area in the downstairs yet-to-be-assigned-depending-on-who-you-ask room. The white sheers were repurposed from Casey's second-to-last apartment and definitely complete the look. And I now have a fantastic, fantastic purple room.

Funnest fact: While we were painting the room, Purple Rain came on the radio. No joke. If you are aware of my love for that song and my love for purple, you will know that this is truly Fate at its highest work. :)

Saturday, February 21, 2009

New acquisition!

Today, we picked up our first piece of new-to-the-house furniture. Unfortunately, Bryan is not a fan. But I fell in love with it on craigslist and had to have it. I got it for a song, and love the stripes. So, like a good partner, Bryan accepted this, and I, in return, promised not to put it in the living room. I think it will be the design touchstone for a future guest room :)

Here's the photo from the craigslist ad, I'll post a picture of her in her new home soon...

New chair!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

More vino? No thanks...

Exchange of actual conversation from our Restaurant Week dinner:

Amber: "Your wine smells funky."
Bryan: [re-smells wine] "You know what it smells like?"
Amber: "what?"
Bryan: "the cat-pee closet"
Amber: [gag] "It totally does."

Edited to add: Bryan says this story needs to be embellished. So, you can await his re-telling. If it's anything like they way he retells Bible stories, you'll be in for a good time.

Tale of the Ancient Sink-Clog


I'm throwing up some details concerning the plumbing issue in Amber's previous post, because you need to be amazed by the awesomeness of our skills.

We've had problems with the house since before we were handed the keys. Yes, the siding. Yes, the roof. Yes, the floor. Yes, the electrical. Yes, the basement seepage. Yes, the hot water heater. And... yes, the plumbing.

The need for our very first home repair was diagnosed before we bought the house. We wanted to get an idea of how bad off we were with the 'not having water where we're supposed to have water' problem. The upstairs bathroom didn't appear to be an issue: a broken off faucet handle. Our Joe the Plumber, whose name is Jim and actually is a plumber, broke the union under the sink and got water out. Score. We were already going to replace that fixture, so he verified that the new faucet would fix the problem.

The problem of the day (POTD) was not having water in the tub in the downstairs bathroom. After a few minutes of poking around (and simultaneously fixing another problem I knew about but for which I hadn't mapped out a plan of attack) and a couple of turns of the wrench later, we found out that our potentially multi-hundred dollar, rippin' out walls plumbing problem was a $20, 5 minute fix. Score, part deux.

So we buy the house and meander along towards our desired state of move-in-ability and come to find that the kitchen sink backs up. A lot. It drains eventually, but not in a good way. Another trip to home depot, more (electronic) bills slapped on the (virtual) counter and we walk out with a new toy for Bryan. A toy that didn't fix the problem. Don't get me wrong--it got better. For a bit. Then it wasn't better. There was some plungering and some cursing and were some silent pleas to the heavens.

Then super-brother Nathan steps on the scene, (imaginary) cape flying, and we go at the problem from the back end. Or downstream. Whatever.


Scene: Sunday afternoon, light breeze, lightly overcast skies, and freaking cold outside... again. Setting: basement. While the performing of the mapping of the plan of the attack I found a pipe union in the ceiling... covered over with drywall. Nathan and I measured back from the access panel we did have in the ceiling and approximated a location where a controlled, localized destruction of the ceiling would provide access to the union. Success!

Of my toolset, I did manage to have a couple (4) pipe wrenches on hand. There was some discussion about the proper placement of the second wrench, but I wanted to try just putting some torque on it and seeing what happened, based on too many cooks being in one pot at the same time. That makes sense in my head.
One torque enhancement device (cheater bar in the form of one of those additional torque wrenches) later, the union broke free.

Now, anyone that has ever done any plumbing work on the back end of the apparatus knows what I'm about to say. Feel free to relish, or skip on to the next paragraph. First, we were lucky to be working on the back end of a sink. We were unlucky in that it was a kitchen sink. Second: stank. Third: nastiness. For anyone who hasn't worked with it before, there's no way to describe the breadth of it, nor how penetrating it is. Sometimes you can't wash it off with just one scrubbing.

We struck gold, sort of. The clog was exactly there, and upstream of there. There was some blockage downstream, but the outright plug was at and less than a foot upstream. I know that it was less than a foot upstream because when we had put less than a foot of the rotary pipe snake up the pipe a whole mess o' crud came gushing out with a couple of gallons of water. No, we were not ready for that to happen.

Any of the unpleasantness of the whole situation was wiped away by the relief I felt at the problem being that, and just that. We got about two quarts of what looked like very fine cottage cheese looking material out of the pipe, and most of it ended up in the bucket. The rest of it did not end up on the floor, if you get my drift. We worked the snake with a trickle of running water until we got a clear flow out of the pipe, and declared victory. Just to be sure, we snaked the downstream pipe for a while, then buttoned everything up. We were further pleasantly surprised to find that the union didn't leak after the initial reassembly. To tempt fate, we put about 30 gallons of water through the drain and found no problems.

The day also saw my awesome brother awesomely taking off another awesome truck load of leaves. About 150 cubic feet worth... compacted. And more remain. There is mulching in the future of Bramberville, but I don't know that we'll be using all of the leaves for that. As of this writing, though, the pile is manageable and contained.

I do have to mention that we struck up a storm of yardwork on our street. The next door neighbor, Hibi, and (I assume) a daughter raked up their front yard. Last night while driving to the apartment from the house, post paint-job admiration, I saw about 20 bags of leaves on the sidewalk in front of the yet-to-be-met (but-looking-forward-to-
meeting) down-the-street 'dirty hippy' neighbors, out for pickup today with the trash.

So ends another chapter in the ongoing saga of Bramberville.

Windows, windows, every where,
Nor any draft to seal.