November 30, 2009

Long Weekends are the best.

Over the oh so wonderful extended weekend Pete and I managed to get a massive amount of stuff done! I love having the time to get everything and visiting everyone in, four day weekends should be a mandatory once a month happening.

Quick run down of our weekend:
Thursday- Thanksgiving! Included all of our families, the customary different Lunch/Dinner locals and required five hours of driving.

Friday- Sleep in and Black Friday shop a thon. Except we don't do the normal door buster shopping. The name of the game on Black Friday is to go on a mini road trip to shopping areas and to hit a new mall. What can we say? We're from Jersey, Malls are in our blood. This year we headed south and shopped for home improvement supplies.

Saturday- Worked on the Wee house. Which included two trips to the dump. Got to the Tree farm and picked up our Christmas tree!

Sunday- Cleaned the house, cleared out my DVR while ironing/folding laundry.

...and now its back to the daily grind.

November 25, 2009

Cans for Comments

I'm not sure how many of my readers (all 5 of you!) are local to the Philly/ South Jersey area but, I'm addicted to the Preston and Steve Show on 93.3 WMMR. Their morning show gets me through my 40 mile commutes and the podcasts are a huge reason why I can make it through an entire day of working on the house without high crank levels.

Every year Preston and Steve host a week long food drive called Camp Out for Hunger. All the food collected goes Philabundance to help stock area pantry shelves and feed those in need.

I've been meaning (the best of intentions) to get there and donate for years now, but never have. Usually I go the easier route and bring my canned goods into work, where they also go to Philabundance. This year I've decided to participate in Cans for Comments in order to make sure I get my butt out there!

Cans for Comments is simple, for every comment I get on the blog between now and Wednesday December 2, I'll match it with one can donated to the camp out*. You can comment on any post, old or new. Even a simple "Hi!" counts! I'm definitely going to get out there and donate anyway, but I just thought this would be a fun way to potentially up the donated amount.

* and because I have to be realistic about my own wallet, I'm going to have to cap this at 400. which is kind of a ridiculous goal anyway.

November 23, 2009

Rotted Floor board. Not that bad!

This weekend I continued on with the removal of the plaster from the floor of the living room. While tackling one of the last corners of the room, I pulled up a carpet tack strip and noticed that I could see sunlight streaming from under the floor. Ugh. Not a good sign at all.

Probing further with the crowbar I jabbed at the edge of the floor coverings, peeling back the layers only to reveal that there is indeed a gap between the wall and the floor. The floor gives way as I put the crowbar through to the basement. Flip me. Now I'm really starting to freak out, because this could mean a lot of significant damage to the original floors. The same floors I was just really hopeful about getting spared because of all the covering layers.

Since the living room is still covered with lath, plaster and multiple layers there is no way I can see the extent of the damage from above. So I go right to the basement to check everything out from below. Let it be known that at 26 I'm still more than a little freaked out by basements. So I rarely go down into either of ours. Once in the basement it is not that hard to spot the damage. Right in the corner, by one of our basement windows (hence the sunlight that I could see) is a plank of wood that is completely rotted away and I can see right up into the living room.

However there is also some really good news, because from underneath I can not see another plank with that level of rot. In fact, the rest of the floor looks awesome from the underside! Gives me back the hope that we really will be able to refurbish the original floors eventually.

Cross your fingers for us! But please don't hold your breath, refinishing the floors will be one of the last things we're going to do in the house.

November 20, 2009

Hope for the original floors!

When we bought the Wee house the living rooms had the worst flooring in the whole house by far. I've mentioned the condition of the carpets in previous posts but to quickly recap they were dog pee soaked and extremely worn. The first thing we did after buying was rip the carpets and (what was left of) the padding up. Bet you didn't know that padding could essentially disintegrate? Well padding can wear away over time and it can also merge itself to be one with the carpet backing.

There were two big reasons we got the carpet up ASAP. The main reason was the smell. It was the kind of smell that makes you not want to breathe and had made permanent home in the carpet. No amount of airing out the house was going to get rid of it. Second reason was the floor underneath. You can see from the basement that the house has the original random width pine flooring. We were afraid of the damage that could have been cause by the wet carpets and wanted to get them off the wood immediately.

The thing about renovating an old house that rings true for everyone and every project is that one never knows what surprises they'll find out after uncovering things. Our carpets were no exception.

Sitting under the carpet on one side of the room was a layer of vinyl tiles that can only be described as the same ones my elementary school bathroom had. Head scratchingly odd right? Underneath those tiles there is a layer of a thin floor leveling type sheet. I only know this because I peeled away the soggy tile to see if they were attached to the floor or not.

We think these are the same tiles, except in our attic landing area. You can see the dry version of the under layer here, which hopefully has helped to save our floors from all the moisture.

On the other side of the room the carpet removal revealed an extra top layer of floor leveling stuff. Except it is not installed well and has high bumps all over it, so the floor moves around as you walk. Fun times.

Since tearing out the room lead to reclaiming the original shape I was able to see a tiny bit of the real floor that missed all the layers because of a beam that was placed there. Which lead to the discovery that there is a layer of 1/2" plywood down underneath the tiles and thin layer. The arrow is pointing towards the end of the plywood and you can see a tiny smudge mark where I tried to see the actual floor. Quick little spit shine.

Another layer of flooring! I was afraid that the wee had leaked below the under layment to the real floor because in some of the areas the tiles are still soaked and peeling up. I guess that means the underfloor does a good job of keeping moisture on the surface and not below it, but you never know. Left arrow is pointing out tiles I've accidentally scraped up, right arrow is showing a still damp area, despite having moisture sucking plaster dust on top of it for months...

The best part of all these layer of flooring? The act as the best shield between my plaster shoveling and the real floor that I could ever ask for. I don't have to worry at all as I scrape my shovel along the bottom scooping up dust. If we didn't have this protection I can tell you the job of removing all the plaster from this room would 10 times harder. I'd be a total freak about not messing up the floors!

November 19, 2009

Daytrip to DC.

I have a case of writers block/hating what I wrote. I'm also tired of complaining about our house being on the market. So I decided that I'm going to deviate from the house talk a little and write about something that inspired me earlier in the year.

This past February we decided to celebrate our 7th Valentines day together by taking a little road trip south to spend the day in Washington DC. And it was the best day ever.

Started out with the Smithsonian Natural History Museum, which was mobbed. But that didn't matter since we weren't in a rush. To escape the crowds a bit we visited some of the less popular exhibits such as the soil one (which is really cool!). We also hung out in the hallways just looking at the architecture of the building.

After a few hours of being jostled by children we left and decided to walk to the Library of Congress. Despite going on vacation to DC for my entire childhood I had never been there!

Consulting the map on the Mall to figure out the best walking route to the Library of Congress. Which is not as close as it seems on the map. Well worth the walk if you have the time and the weather is nice.

What an amazing building. It was relatively empty so we were really about to take in the grandeur and magnitude of the area as we walked around it.

Then we entered the Library of Congress. And I pretty much died of happiness right away. I can't even describe to you how amazing the building is. There is something to see and marvel at in every single square inch of the space. You could stare at the stairs alone all day long and still notice something new every minute.

The whole building just felt amazing to me. I snuck a peek inside the actual library and vowed that I would get in there some day. They keep the library off limits to the general public, so you have to get special permission to access it or be part of a special tour. Everyday tours can see the library from above, but I want to be in the middle of it.

The Library closed at 5, so headed back over to the Smithsonian just in time to see all people pour out and the tour buses pull away. There were special extended hours on the Natural History Museum until 7, so we went back in and enjoyed the practically empty museum. All the really popular exhibits were so empty! It was fabulous. Except I lost my hat. Which was not so fabulous.

Jumped on the metro and headed over to our waiting romantic dinner local.

It was a wonderful dinner to end such a great day.

Sometimes you just need a break from everyday life. Even a day getaway can be enough to recharge your batteries and fill up on inspiration.

November 18, 2009

The never ending plaster clean up.

Half of the living room all spiffed up after a trip to the dump. During which said trip to the dump I grossly over estimated my upper body strength while loading the plaster buckets onto the trailer. Somehow I thought I should carry two buckets outside at a time, instead of my usual one, in the name of saving time. The buckets are a good million pounds each. I am not strong enough to carry two million pounds at a time and paid for my impatience dearly the next morning when I could barely get out of bed.

The good thing about that though, is the muscle fatigue doesn't kick in until much much later. So I could spend the rest of the day shoveling more plaster off the floor!

With the foyer mostly cleaned of plaster chunks and still shag carpeted, I turned my attention to the other side of the room.

The plaster lays in high high piles over there. With the stacked planks in the middle of the room creating a sort of barrier that cause plaster/lath drifts. The usual method of removing and stacking the lath first comes into play here, because it is way easier to shovel up the plaster bits without lath mixed in. Just trust me on this one, a stuck piece of lath will cause many BLEEPS to come out when you are trying to get your plaster shoveling on.
Because of how high everything was piled up, it caused me some serious time delays. Took me over two hours to clear out just the smaller side of the room. I started on the other side of the room, but unfortunately lost the daylight and my motivation shortly afterwards.
Looks... better? I guess...

Lesson learned- I am not as strong as I think I am. Thankful for ben-gay back rubs.

November 17, 2009

Show Time! or not...

The sound you are hearing is my head meeting my desk.

Why? Oh because yesterday we got our first call for a showing in over a month. And we had to say no go to a request for a 3pm house tour. Reasons why not you ask?

Anyone inquiring about our house is notified that we require 24 hours notice for a showing. There are good reasons for that notice too. Both of us work full time about 45 miles away, so there is no swinging by on the lunch hour to make sure everything is show ready. Yeah, who is shocked that I don't live in a show ready 100% of the time house? Don't all raise your hands at once now...

Then there is the second issue of the pets. We have a cat and dog and they leave the house with us during showings. Especially the puppy, she can not be in the house with strange people and wouldn't do well crated in that situation. I don't know if you've ever toured a house with a dog, but its not a pleasant experience no matter how adorable the puppy is (or isn't). People want to see our house, they don't want to have to worry about a Bichon running all about and barking at them from the top of the stairs. And then there is the cat box issue. No one wants to smell a cat box. Even one that is clean and scooped, cause they just smell. So we clean ours and then hide it in a trunk for showings. Now you know our dirty selling secret.

Of course I don't mind someone trying to see if we can accommodate a less than 24 hours request on the house. Never know unless you ask! In fact we've OK'ed short notice buyers showings multiple times in the past whenever it has been possible. Even to the point of massively inconveniencing ourselves in order to get the house ready and pets out on time. That is just something you have to do when you're selling a house in this lame market. But some requests are just not workable.

It bums me out that we might miss this potential buyer, but then again I'm so bitter and jaded about selling that I don't care too much. Maybe they'll be interested again in a week when we drop the price and make an appointment again. Maybe not. I'm not convinced that our buyer is even out there. It feels like we are going to own this house forever.

November 16, 2009

Dust Bunnies (Are Evil)

Yesterday I deep cleaned our bedroom.

I am shocked at how much dust two people are able to create. Seriously. I had to vacuum my dust mop, that is how bad it was. As much as I like to think my cleaning skills have improved over the years (and oh how they have!) the dust amount under my bed is proof I still have a long way to go. The bedroom is by far our most used and lived in room, so don't think that the rest of the house is as dust coated. (um, but it might be)

Someday I'll get the whole keeping on top of the housework thing down pat. I'm convinced that will come along at the same time I stop spilling my coffee down myself in the mornings. The two go hand in hand.

November 13, 2009

Selling in a Bad Market

Our Realtors came over earlier in the week to discuss a new selling strategy. The WTown house has been on the market since June and unfortunately we still own it.

Pete and I have talked for hours about all of our options regarding what we want to do about getting this house sold. It is well known that winter is notoriously bad time to sell a house. The buyers are few and far between, with most people choosing to stay put through the holiday season and dreary winter months. Early spring is when buyers start to look again, focusing on closing during the late spring/summer so children can finish out the school year.

Do we keep our house on the market through the winter? Out goal after all, is to sell and ones house must be FOR SALE in order for that to happen. But do we hold out hope for the rare winter buyer? Or do we re-list in the spring so the house can get a fresh and clean appearance on the MLS hot sheet?

I've already seen a lot of homes in my town go off the market because of the impending slow season. Which is fine by me, because I'd rather be in a smaller sales pool where the house has a better chance of standing out. We learned that pulling your house off the market and then re listing in the spring does not reset the dreaded days on market count. I wonder if these people think that four months off will bring the counter back to zero. That Days on Market counter scares me, I don't want to be that house with the high number, cause then I think it scares buyers too.

After talking about all our options with our Realtors, we decided to keep the house on the market through the winter and in two weeks we're going to do (ANOTHER) major price drop. Two weeks because that will put us right past Thanksgiving and we'll have decorated the house for the holidays. Our house always feels really cozy and nice during the holiday season, so we think that it can only help if we manage get any showings.

So, There is our plan. Hopefully it works! and fingers crossed that we don't have to come up with a new one.

November 12, 2009

Blog Award

Jeannine over at Small and Chic gave me this Kreativ Blogger award, and it totally helped turn around my day! Thanks Jeannine! Everyone go check out Jeannine's blog because she has a killer little condo in Charlottesville, a great eye for design and an adorable dog! I'm a sucker for a cute pup.

In order to claim my blog award, I have to give 7 facts about myself and then pass on the award to 7 more bloggers.

1. I have a Type B personality.

2. I'm also a Gemini. Which, if you believe in Astrology, explains a lot about me.

3. One of the nicest things that Pete recently said about me was that he'll never be bored by me.

4. I like to think that I'm not predictable.

5. I love the state of New Jersey.

6. I don't know if I could ever live someplace where I couldn't get to the beach within a few hours of driving.

7. I'm really afraid of the dark. This spring we drove through the California/Nevada desert, the route between LA and Las Vegas. Pete pulled off the highway around midnight so we could look at the stars in a rare place with little light pollution. I wouldn't get out of the car because I was so scared! I think there was something said along the lines of renegade desert sand pirates mentioned as the reason. I looked out through the window (and locked door) at the stars.

Now to my seven bloggers...

Look to the right and see my new list of House and Home Bloggers? If you're on the list, consider the award awarded to you! Feel free to write up your own 7 things list, because I like learning more about all the people who give me interesting and inspiring things to read during my work day.

November 11, 2009

Veterans Day

Thinking about my favorite Veteran today.
My Grandfather
Served in WWII

Passed away this Spring.

Love you and miss you.

Cleaning Up Plaster...still.

Starting Point:

And a few hours later...

Please tell me that I'm not the only one who can see a difference between the before and after. Look closely, there are significantly less inches of plaster on the floor in the after. The original foyer still has some very stubborn carpet on the floor. You know why? Because who ever laid the carpet put down the carpet first, and then nailed the tack strips ON TOP of it. So lovely to kneel on when you're picking up lath.

Lesson learned- knee pads are needed. Danger everywhere.

November 9, 2009

Demolishing the Bathroom!

Starting with our first cleared out, semi torn out future dining room at the beginning of our work day. I love seeing the walls mostly bare and the floor broom clean. It gives me inspiration to keep going until the living room area gets to this point.

With renovations it is impossibly hard to keep an area clear and clean, until one is completely done working on it. And since we're light years away from being DONE on this room (and house) it was only moments until the room got all reno junked up again. Because it was now time to clear/ tear out the downstairs bathroom, which borders the dining room.

The separating wall between the bathroom and dining area. It was plaster, but a newer style that involved a heavy duty wire mesh screen placed behind the lath. The plaster seeps through the lath and glops into the wire openings, creating a death grip on the wire. In simple terms- this stuff is a bitch. Even the biggest plaster pia is no match for my husband. A little bit of saws all action and the wire mesh came down, sprinkling little bits of the honeycombed plaster everywhere.

The person who did the bathroom addition used a lot of paneling to create the interior walls, but had back the room with heavy duty plywood. I let Pete handle the task of ripping all the walls out while I manned the camera/worked on the living room. Like all the hanging wires? We found a GEM of DIY electrical job in this bathroom. Makes us really glad that we're keeping the electric mostly off and that eventually the house will be completely rewired.

Open floor plan! You can see into the living room now, but it won't be like that forever because the wall studs between the rooms are load bearing and we're not messing with that. We also don't think a completely open floor plan fits with a Victorian era house. For now it is fun to wave at each other while we work though.

No pictures of the cast iron tub being sledgehammered. It was in very poor condition, no shape for donating, so Pete got to work with the sledge hammer. I stood out of the way, cast iron sends out massive shrapnel. As you can imagine, the room was no longer clean at the end of the day.

November 3, 2009

History in the back of the closet.

Remembering back to this summer when we discovered that the past owners ripped off the original floor moldings, all so they could install the faux wood paneling flat against the wall. You could see the outline of the trim on the bare plaster. It was shortly after taking down the paneling when we realized that it was the original molding hacked up and nailed to the ceiling being used as the anchors for the disgusting drop ceiling. Of which, the track for the drop ceiling fell on my head when I was taking it down. Talk about adding injury to the insult.

I'm still not over this discovery. I hold grudges.

Hidden at the back of the foyer closet was this little bit of the houses history. The only remaining section of the downstairs that shows how the living room used to look. See the floor molding?! And that fantastic wallpaper! A little bit inside of me cried when I saw this.

This is like dangling awesome potential right in front of my face before quickly pulling it away and replacing it with wood paneled crap! I'm trying to peel off a little bit of the wallpaper to put in our scrapbook for the house. Its just too awesome to not try and save a piece.

November 2, 2009

Wee House- Attic

Welcome to what is sure to be my favorite area in the house! I have some grand plans for our attic and can't wait to get started on them. Although, I'm going to have to wait, since plumbing and safe electrical wiring are a smidgen more important than my future library!! That's right, a library! My very own library. I can't tell you how excited I am to have this space for all my books and cushy reading area.
The vision I have in my head for the library is what keeps me going through the renovations sometimes. When I really need that burst of non cranky work time energy, I daydream about the library, and usually I perk back up.
Right now the attic holds about 4 things: a record player, bed springs, unidentified furniture and a mummified dead mouse. Everything, except the bed springs, is pretty cool. All the wood on the floor has been cut in random areas, we both think it was during a hack DIY electrician job. That annoys both of us on different levels. Me, I'm annoyed that they just cut right through all this old flooring and ruined it! My husband is a little more logical and is annoyed that they might have jacked up all the wiring. Making it harder for him to fix in the long run.

ETA: Sorry about all the random shots with just my disembodied hands floating around. I was enthusiastically throwing my hands into the air and the husband decided to cut his spastic then fiance out of the picture.