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.

Monday, February 16, 2009

hey good lookin'!

Today was a great day... Casey and I finished painting the dining room and living room!

The color choice was stressful, as picking paint colors always seems to be. I painted about 5 different color swatches on the walls, and didn't think I liked any of them enough to be the basic, all over neutral I was hoping for. The color we went with is actually the color in our current apt dining room: Cobblestone by Ralph Lauren. I LOVED this color in our dining room, but when I painted a swatch of it at the new house, I thought it looked muddy and dead and not that lovely. But, in the end, we went with it (I'll spare you the boring dramatics of going back and forth on colors and Bryan's (and eventually my) disenchantment with the whole color selection process), because we had 10 people showing up the next day, and painting needed to happen. So, away we went to Home Depot and plunked down our shekels for 4 gallons of paint that I wasn't sure I was going to like. But in the end... looks awesome!! The color is kind of a magic color - is it grey? is it beige? is it taupe? It works with pretty much anything. And, it contrasts nicely with the white trim, which was my ultimate wall color goal. Check it out:

From this:


To this!

Living room facelift

Dining room facelift

Oh Nutmeg, where art thou?

Well, I suppose it was bound to happen one day, but I thought perhaps it would take longer than 2 weeks -- Nutmeg ran away. Kinda. She got out of the backyard by squeezing through the gap in the gate entrance. I think she escaped to go look for us, since we had inadvertently left her in the backyard for a bit. But she decided to look for us way down the street and head towards the main road with lots of traffic. Luckily Casey, Bridgett, Heather, Jen and Neil were on hand to help look. Neil saw her trotting down the street and engaged in Boy Scout-like behavior by chasing after her and bringing her back home. Way to go Neilski - thanks for saving my dog from getting run over... that would really have put a damper on the day.

Other than dog excitement, this was a less productive day. Oh, we did get to test out the hot water and downstairs shower in the house ... we woke up this morning to no hot water in the apartment, so Bryan, my mom and I popped over to the house (oh the convenience of having bought a house 1 stoplight away!) for our morning showers.

Later in the day, my mom worked her cleaning magic on the upstairs bathroom, I touched up some paint, and then we headed for IKEA and some swedish meatballs and ligonberry soda. IKEA also has the best french fries. YUM. We checked out kitchen cabinets and rugs, mostly.

While the girls were out exploring Swedish innovation, Bryan and Nathan were back at the homestead, continuing the backyard leaf extraction project, and proving their lifetime membership in the Handymen Club by pulling off a pretty awesome plumbing fix. I'm sure Bryan will write about this and provide pictures of the nasty goop they pulled out of the pipe, which was causing our kitchen sink to back up. It was pretty impressive!

Sunday, February 15, 2009

It takes a village

Happy Valentines' Day! To celebrate the Hallmarktastic holiday, we invited a bunch of people over to the house to check out the new place and engage in some voluntary labor on our behalf. We had a cast of seeming thousands and a lot got done, thanks to all their hard work. My mom also flew in from FL for the long weekend to help us with the house.

The Cast of Characters:
Powell brothers Eric and Nathan; Nathan's lovely GF Jaricia; friends Jeanie, Mike, Mike's daughter Alyssa; Bryan's cousin Michelle, husband Matt, sons Noah and Sam (4 wks old!); my super-awesome friend from grad school Casey, and my mom!

The many accomplishments included:
  • a first coat of paint in the living room, dining room and cat-pee closet (our affectionate nickname for the main (only) downstairs closet, which appears to have doubled as a cat box for the previous tenant) - thanks to Jeanie, Jaricia, and Michelle)
  • scraped up nearly all of the goo off of the hardwood floors upstairs (a tedious job that was rocked by Nathan, Matt, Mike, Jaricia and Eric)
  • raked up approximately 400 cubic yards of leaves from the backyard, which made a huge difference (thanks to the brothers Powell)
  • removed the hardware and gorgeous glass doorknobs from our awesome original wood doors (thanks to our Director of Restoration Services, Casey B.)
  • took downthe wire shelving and pulled up the cat pee carpet from the cat pee closet (thanks Eric)
  • hard-core cleaned the kitchen and downstairs bathroom - thanks to my mom. Cleaning is her unique (and apparently non-genetic) expertise. The kitchen cabinets look 250% better than they did before her elbow grease.
We kicked butt today, thanks to everyone's help!

Monday, February 2, 2009

Day 5 - The floors!

Tonight after work, we ripped up the (ugly, burgundy, indoor/outdoor) carpet upstairs! I'm pretty impressed with what we got done - all the carpet and padding is up, and the staples and tack strips are out of 2 of the rooms. So just the smallest room and a bit of the hallway are left! (Oh, and the stairs. We left the carpet there for now, for traction and Nutmeg's benefit) The floors in the two rooms we finished tonight are in really good shape and are rather nice-looking - although, interestingly they seem to be different colors. One is a reddish-brown, the other is a maple yellow. The hallway and the small room have a layer of black glue or something on them that will need to be scraped off. It's interesting to peel away layers of the house and wonder what the thought process was behind the choices people made. Why would they have put linoleum (or whatever it was) in only one room and the hall? And, really, every staple I pulled up made me wonder why anyone would have covered up such pretty wood floors anyway.

Two things pain me about the house, so far. One - that we're taking out the old windows upstairs. They're the original windows to the house, 6-over-6, individually paned, double-hung glass windows. With the original weight mechanisms intact in all of them. Bryan pulled off the trim around the windows to see what we're dealing with, and seeing the weights hanging beside each of the windows is very cool. I really wish we didn't have to do it, but they're old, painted all over, some of the frames are rotting, and they aren't particularly conservative on the energy front. But, I've read just enough about historic preservation of old homes to feel like we're desecrating the spirit of the house by pulling out the windows and replacing them with newfangled vinyl windows. There's not very much of the original character left inside the house, so I feel rather wistful about removing something so integral to the original structure.

Number 2 - the fireplace. We have a red brick wood-burning fireplace in the living room on the main level. However, someone in the past decided it would be a great idea to afix a ceramic tile border directly onto the brick around the fireplace opening. Not interesting, unique, artistic tile, mind you, but boring, run-of-the-mill 8" x 8" creamy beige ceramic floor tile. Why?? What did that lovely red brick ever do to them? And since the tile is grouted directly to the brick, the chances of removing it are pretty slim.