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Our bedroom needed help. Bdr1 This picture shows the new ceiling fan and brown curtains, but other than that, we weren’t liking the room too much.  There was a wallpaper border – soccer balls and footballs, etc. – running all across the top of the room.  Of course, the clutter and mismatchiness didn’t help either.  There really was only one way I could see to arrange the furniture though, with two doorways, a radiator, two windows, and a California king-sized bed.

 

My plan was to re-do the bedroom without the wife knowing.  Risky undertaking!

First, I gathered bits and pieces over time.  I knew we liked the blue-and-brown combination.  I splurged on a comforter cover at Pottery Barn, a Nouveau-looking turquoise-blue and brown, with some white and orange in the pattern.  I found sheets and a bedskirt to fit our odd-sized bed on Amazon and Target (discovered later, the same sheet set being used on the set of my favorite TV show, “Pushing Daisies”).  I had seen a pair of cool, retro-looking light blue lamps at an antique store, and while I was there, I picked up a small table/cabinet to be an alarm clock stand and book overflow depository.  We read a lot of books.  I wasn’t able to find a pair of nightstands, which was OK for now.  A small wool rug was found on eBay for a quite reasonable price.  I had also planned to make a headboard, but didn’t have a specific enough idea or the time to do it. And I ambitiously wanted to reorganize our sad little closet, but found myself without the time or plans to do that either.  Have to save some projects for another day!

As far as the wall color, I found that choice difficult.  With all the warm-toned woodwork in our place, I have trouble finding colors that don’t clash too much with the trim.  The Pottery Barn catalogs always have such nice uses of wall colors, but the vast majority of those scenes show painted trim.  We won’t paint the trim!  I settled on a gold-ish color.

Removing the wallpaper border was the worst part of the job.  I only had about 8 hours to do the entire room, and the border took up more time than I had thought it would.  I used wallpaper remover spray stuff, and a scoring tool, but with our bumpy plaster walls, those didn’t seem to help much.  Then again, since our walls are bumpy, the border wasn’t too stuck on in a lot of places.  The rest of the job – painting, etc. – was uneventful.

Here are the results:

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I still have to hang up the picture rail, and get some pictures on the walls.  We always have trouble deciding how large the pictures should be, or even what they should be.  But, for about $300, I think it turned out alright, compared to before anyway.  The wife isn’t so keen on the wall color, but that can be changed easily enough.

Last time I wrote anything here, it was March, 2008. Time flies when you’re busy! Now I’ll make some excuses, and then provide a little update.

Excuses:

  1. Our daughter, who was just 4 months old as of the last post, is now 2. Keeping up with her keeps us busy and keeps us laughing.
  2. I took the Indiana bar exam last summer, which took some time to study for.
  3. Started my own law office. Maybe not the best time economically to do that.
  4. Got elected to our village board last year.
  5. We probably ran out of steam (and money) for non-essential projects.

House Update: The electrical rewiring finally was completed in summer of 2008. It sure is nice to have outlets conveniently available in each room.  The circuit box needs to be cleaned up a bit, and we’ll probably do some more wiring in the basement to accomodate a shop area and some finished living space.  There still is no power to the garage, though. I think it was in 2008, maybe early 2009 that I had shellacked some picture rail molding to hang in our bedrooms. The molding is still under our bed waiting to be hung…

Garden Update: The 2008 vegetable garden was a huge success.  We had several varieties of tomato, peppers, lettuce, and radishes. The asparagus we planted early that spring flourished. Our cantaloupes were wonderful. But, the raspberry sticks I planted in the back didn’t make it.  They were replaced by wildflowers I grew from seed.

The 2009 garden, on the other hand, was not so great.  The asparagus continued to thrive, but the tomatoes did not fare so well. The peppers did OK but they seemed slow to grow and make fruit. The cantaloupes sucked. Perhaps it was due to the cool and rainy weather we seemed to have all spring and into the summer. We also tore down the chicken-wire fence around the garden and instead used black fabric to block weeds around the perimeter. That wasn’t successful either. The chives I had planted in 2008 made a surprise reappearance — I thought they disappeared and were dead — and grew well.  And, we harvested garlic planted the year before.

In spring 2008, I dug up pieces of the huge hydrangea row alongisde the house and planted them in a parallel row across the driveway. They did well the first year and even better the second.  Last year I added new cuttings to the row to help fill it in more quickly.  We also planted a ‘Limelight’ hydrangea in front of the house, close to the street, and an ‘Endless Summer’ (I think) hydrangea in front of the house by the foundation.  The foundation also got a low, bushy pine (‘Mugo’) and some holly plants.  Most of the lilies were moved to the back of the house. 

Last fall,  I went on a little spree since a nursery was having a good clearance sale. I got a hazelnut tree, a ‘Black Lace’ elderberry bush, a black pussy-willow, and some other things, but a contorted filbert (aks Harry Lauder’s walking stick) was the best find. Getting everything home was one adventure, and planting it all was another. While planting the filbert, I fell into the hole along with the plant since it was so heavy.

The 2010 garden is still in the planning stages. We considered not planting anything this year, to let the ground recover.  I’m not so sure I can really plant nothing though.  At any rate, there will be some big changes.  Sice our daughter loves berry shakes, we’ll be planting raspberries again.  And, best of all, this year we can harvest the asparagus!

It had to happen sooner or later. Our hot water heater started leaking. I suppose it could have been worse, exploding all at once instead of developing a relatively minor leak, but is there ever a good time to deal with a breaking down water heater?
I raced off to the three chain stores to compare prices. It does seem like most water heaters are gas, not electric. Ours was electric, and we didn’t want to incur even more costs by switching to gas. We ended up buying a Whirlpool 50-gallon heater, with a 9-year warranty. It’s not the best one they make, but the best one they make that was in stock. It has some fancy-schmancy “Energy Smart” feature which supposedly should save some electric operating costs. However, I’d be more convinced by having a thicker layer of insulation around the heater.

Anyway, the store arranged for a local installer to put it in the following day. Since our old one was just leaking, that was fine. We didn’t have to go without hot water (not more than usual anyway). It was installed without a hitch, but the guy had to return with help to remove the old heater since it was so extremely heavy. Turns out, the old heater had a considerable quantity of silt inside, probably from the decades of running off the well I assume.
I didn’t have to lift a finger, except for draining the old heater just to save the installer time.

I suppose it’s time to start planning our first real garden. At least thinking about it helps ward off the winter blahs.

For the vegetable garden, we’re planning on: tomatoes, red/green peppers, hot peppers, onions, pumpkin, garlic, and maybe some herbs. Possibly some asparagus too. I think we’ll end up using a space of about 20 x 10 or 15 feet maximum. Searching on the internet has led me to some unusual vegetable varieties that I’ve never seen in stores, so maybe we’ll try a few of those for kicks.

At the edge of the back yard, I’d like to plant a few raspberry bushes.

As for the rest of the yard, we have to cut down a diseased pine before it infects another larger pine close by. There’s also a not-too-big persimmon tree threatening our incoming power line that we should probably take care of while we’re cutting. Deciding on trees to plant has been difficult. I do know we want an apple tree, but I keep reading that to get apples, two trees are required. I’d like a weeping willow, and a ginkgo, for some variety.

Last fall I hacked away some invasive mulberry bushes (growing inside other bushes). I’ve got a feeling they’ll be coming back from the stumps, so I suppose I should dig them out before they start growing again.

We haven’t thought about flowers at all since it’s not a priority right now. Although I’d like a lilac bush or two. One side of the house is lines with white hydrangeas, and my neighbor says they’ve been there for at least 40 years. Maybe white lilacs on the other side would be a nice complement to those. But they probably wouldn’t bloom at the same time of year.

Under the huge maple in the backyard, there isn’t much grass. OK, no grass. We were thinking about planting some ivy as ground cover for that bare patch.

That’s enough for my escape from winter. I have to drill some holes and do some more prep work for the electrician today. Hopefully by the end of the weekend, the living room and dining room will be rewired to completion! More than 2 outlets in the living room sure will be nice.

In the last week we’ve had a huge snowfall followed by a couple inches of rain. Some of the surrounding towns were flooded.
We didn’t get much water in the basement though; just the tiniest bit of seepage from a corner that already had some cracks. So, project one will be to seal the cracks, and apply some waterstop paint to the concrete walls in the basement to reduce the humidity down there.

Project two was a joy — cleaning out the gutters. I don’t know the last time they were cleaned. We meant to do this in the fall, but got carried away in other things instead. Anyway. A spaghetti spoon did the trick to scoop out the muck. And the “gutter slop” smelled exactly like the small from our basement floor drains when we didn’t have them covered up. So I’m assuming they’re all going to the same place, wherever that might be.

Project three is tuckpointing brick. While I was cleaning the gutters I noticed some of the brick foundation was missing mortar, almost completely in some spots. Sounds like more fun to me.

No exciting pictures to post.

Other than that, the rewiring is still in progress. We have a brighter floodlight at the back entrance now. We’re thinking about how the bathroom’s going to be redone sometime. At the moment we’re planning on a tin ceiling. The only issue will be whether it will be silver/chrome/nickel in color or white. I’d go for silver, but it seems new bathroom ventilation fans only come in white, and a white fan sticking out of a silver ceiling might look strange. We’re planning to keep the silver schoolhouse light fixture in the ceiling. We’ll see!

We weren’t sure whether we’d put up a tree this year with everything that’s going on at the house. But we ended up doing a tree, thinking the bright lights would be something interesting for the baby to look at. And, it’s baby’s first Christmas, so we had to do something.

I was given the order to get the tree. “Not too big, not too expensive.” Oh, and not real, either. Normally I’d go for a real tree, but this year, I agreed that an artificial tree would perhaps be less hassle. I went to the garden store where I knew they’d have a huge selection of trees. And they did. Most of which were way too much money, though a few of them actually looked almost real. I don’t understand why trees nowadays are all pre-lit; are people that lazy to be unwilling to light their own trees? Naturally the pre-lit trees don’t come with energy-efficient LED lights either. And they cost significantly more than the unlit trees, though the only real value added would be a couple of strands of cheapo lights.

After browsing for about an hour, I settled on the cheapest decently sized tree they had. Six-and-a-half feet of fake tree, with white lights, for $40. This one didn’t come unlit. Looking back, I should have bought the colored lights tree instead. Whatever; I don’t see this tree being our main display for more than a few years.

So I successfully complied with Mrs. B’s instructions. Although, if I were let loose on my own to buy a fake tree, I probably would have gone with a white one. since the tree’s fake, it may as well proclaim it’s artificial fakeness to all who see it. The tree’s not fooling anyone. But, I was specifically instructed to stay away from non-green trees.

That’s about it. A few strands of LED bulbs, ornaments and doo-dads, and it’s done. I didn’t even hang up all the ornaments we have.

Secretly I am biding my time until the year I can put up a big, real tree. With the big C7/C9 bulbs, and TONS of tinsel.
Unrelated: the garden store also had picture rail hooks, which have been impossible to find anywhere else locally. And, at $1.49 for a package of 4, much better price than the 2 or 3 dollars per hook that I’ve seen online. Granted the hooks I got are not as pretty, but who can see up that high anyway? Not me!
Since the lights in the kitchen were all taken down during the ongoing rewiring project, I thought I’d try my hand at refinishing them. Sure, I love the looks of the shiny fixtures at Rejuvenation.com, but at about $70 a fixture to replace the ones I have, it’s not a viable option right now.

The one on the left is pretty much a before picture. I found a blog suggesting boiling the fixture in water (with some baking soda thrown in). I tried that, letting the water boil with the baking soda, then throwing in the fixture. The pot then boiled right over, all over the stove, like one of those “volcano” things you make with vinegar and baking soda. I gave up on boiling the fixture to get the paint off.

The fixture on the right is somewhat of an after pic. It’s after I used conventional (nasty) paint stripper and a scraper to remove the paint. Not just one layer of paint either. First, the chunky, thick and drippy white layer. Followed by an easy layer of harvest gold. Finally, an extremely stubborn layer of avocado green paint. Not all the paint came off.

I then tried scraping off the paint on the somewhat-boiled fixture, since the paint on that one did seem not as tightly adhered. A lot did come off, but enough remained to make the effort seem not worth it.

What to do next? Go to the hardware store and spend some money! I got a spray can of Citri-Strip, some assorted grades of steel wool, and some wire brushes. I soaked the fixtures overnight in the pleasantly-scented stripper. Then I wiped off a lot of the residue, and treated the stubborn spots to some course steel wool. I wasn’t worried about scratches since I was looking for a brushed steel finish anwyay. The wire brushes helped get in the crevices. Once the paint was finally gone, I cleaned the fixtures, and sprayed them with glossy clear enamel to prevent rusting. I should have gone outside or in the garage to do that though, since I really stunk up the place with that spray paint.

Here’s the result. Only two more to do, after these!

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