Friday, December 28, 2007

The ceiling is gone...

two hard-working guys
Originally uploaded by southsideandy
...and the baby furniture is here.

Luis, my longtime friend and reliable Building a Better Bungalow fan, came over today to help me with more demolition and debris removal, which was awesome, because we made great progress. We took the entire ceiling, which was some drywall-type board, down. As you can see from pictures, we were good boys and wore our masks and eye protection. Actually, Luis cheated and simply wore his glasses.

We had no major finds today, which is a good thing, because I was more worried we'd find dead mice or mice poop or something worse above the ceiling, below the floor of the first floor. But nothing other than a lot of dust and some weird biscuit-shaped hardened blobs of mortar or concrete or something similar. Maybe moon rocks? I don't know. Anyway, THANKS LUIS, for your help today. Was much, much obliged -- I hope the Golden Nugget breakfast and Hooters lunch was enough payment for your hard work!

Also, the baby furniture arrived today, finally. No problems, other than one of the backing boards on the changing table was damaged. So Gina wasn't happy about that. But, all in all, it looks good. My plan is to finish tearing the last wall off the family room and then switch gears and assemble the crib, hopefully.

In the meantime, enjoy the pictures, as usual. There are actually PEOPLE in these again. Thrilling!

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Big find! Little less progress...

Stained glass
Originally uploaded by southsideandy
Check THIS out! I'm so psyched about it. Of course, I had to demolish walls to find this, when really all I needed to do was clean out the utilities room, and it would have been right there for me to discover.

This stained glass window is sweet. It's got a few cracked panes, but overall just needs a cleaning and to be stripped on the "outside" which is painted white (not a big stunner on that point). I'm not sure where, exactly, this window came from. We have a bricked-in stained glass window portal in the living room (that you can see from the outside), but that looks more square from the sidewalk than rectangular, which this is. Also, we have a closet window to the front porch that is rectangular, but vertical, not horizontal, which this clearly is. So I'm not entirely sure where it's from. But, of course, I'm overjoyed to have it and to have found it. Maybe I'll use it as a door on the cabinets in my future bar, with a backlight or something to make it look good. I don't know... :)

Anyway, I cleared another short wall today, but didn't make it around the corner to expose the utilities room entirely. That's because I had to haul the demo debris out to the alley for trash pickup, which is tomorrow morning. It wasn't a ton, but it's enough that it took me quite a while to clear it all.

I also exposed the center post and found, to my dismay, that it's an original wooden post -- cool for nostalgia purposes, bad for structural purposes. Bad because, over 85 years, this post, which is sitting on a concrete footing on the concrete floor, has wicked up so much moisture that the base of the post is very rotted and brittle. I'm almost afraid to touch it for fear that it will crumble. So this becomes a high priority to rent some equipment to shore up the support beam and replace the post as soon as I can. I just hope Home Depot or somewhere rents out this kind of thing. I certainly don't have something like that around here.

Tomorrow is a busy day at Building a Better Bungalow. My buddy Luis is coming over bright and early at 7:30 to help out with the demo. It'll be good to have two bodies working on the project. It should roll along smoothly, and maybe we'll be able to knock out the rest of the walls AND the ceiling. That would be GREAT, but that might be unattainable. We'll see for sure.

Also, between 9 and 11 a.m., we finally get our baby room furniture delivered. Gina, of course, is excited, and I am too, even though it means I'll have to put the basement project aside briefly at some point in the very near future to assemble the crib. But, hey, that's OK. Once I get to a stopping point, which shouldn't be too long from now, I can jump into that.

Tonight, I'm sore and tired. But it feels good to make such a big discovery. Now, if I could only stumble upon the house's blueprints or old photos or renovation plans or ANYTHING else related to the house's history, that would take the cake. :)

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

The holidays are over...

North window and mess
Originally uploaded by southsideandy
...time to roll up the sleeves. Yes, basement renovation is under way. I'm fully aware this is a monumental task. I'm fully aware it's not going to be a quick job.

But, it should be noted: (1) I'm in no hurry; (2) I don't need slate countertops on my bar, nor do I need pure cherry or mahogany or whatever for this, that or the other thing; (3) I'm only renovating the family room, meaning I don't have to spend on a bathroom or anything ridiculously fancy.

So, this shouldn't destroy the pocketbook. Either way, it needs to be done. Thus far, our family room was an oversized catch-all. I want the room to have function. I want it to be the main room in which most of our daily family life occurs, given its size and coziness possibilities (once finished).

Today, I busted ass and ripped off quite a bit of the two-tone wood paneling, as you can see in the pictures. It went, surprisingly (knock on wood), very, very easily. Most importantly, I found little to no mold behind or on any of the walls. The foundation, with the exception of two cracks (one pretty serious-looking, but dry), looked to be in exceptional shape (again, knock on wood).

Tomorrow, demo continues. Also, I have our heating & cooling guy coming to assess the room for fireplace-readiness or if it would be more cost-effective to just install a couple baseboard heaters to tap into the main boiler system. I trust him entirely. :)

The plans, thus far, remain in place as originally hoped, but I'm sure that once I know the heating situation, I'll have to alter my plans one way or another. We shall see...tomorrow is another day! Another day of hard work...and I still haven't touched the ceiling just yet. That's coming, soon enough.

But I will sleep well tonight, because of the lack of major problems (you can't knock on wood enough in my household! knock on wood) and a general tiredness from being on my feet and working all day long. It was a good day.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

A little early, but...

... Merry Christmas from Building a Better Bungalow!

Monday, December 24, 2007

Another sleepless night...

...because the wind didn't subside much, so I didn't sleep very well. The siding banged off the A/C unit pretty much all night.

But, this morning, Nyberg came out and secured it, and about five other pieces they found to be loose, with nails and caulk--just a temporary fix, but a much-needed one. We'll probably have to get new siding in the spring or summer, at this rate.

Also, I've discovered a major, major draft upstairs, and of course, it's in the baby's future room. So, I'm going to have to resolve that problem. In the crawlspace there, the hood vents from the kitchen oven below travel out the roof at that point. Problem is, it's not well-insulated. In fact, it's pretty much exposed. I have a roll of insulation outside in the garage that I'm probably going to have to go out and get and staple or tape around the holes and the vent pipes. I cooked breakfast this morning and checked, and the pipes don't even warm up much at all, so I'm not concerned about heat--they're just exhaust pipes anyway. But, it leaks a lot of cold air into the upstairs, so it needs to be fixed.

But, at least the wind damage from the other day is gone. That's a relief.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Who's trippin' down the streets of the city...

...smiling at everybody she sees? ... Everyone knows it's Windy.

Stupid windstorm. Woke me up at 3 a.m. blasting through. Dozed through most of the gusts of wind...really bad gusts of wind too. Then, all of a sudden, about 5 a.m., a loud pop or two (nails popping free) and a big bang against the air conditioner in our master bedroom. Here's what I discovered (of course, I discovered it while it was still dark outside and from the windows upstairs--these pics were taken around 8 a.m.):

Actually, when it first happened, at 5 a.m., I decided that I needed to secure the piece, because I feared it would snap loose and ricochet into our bedroom window, or fly out into the street in front or something worse. So, I got dressed, got my drill and climbed out the bedroom window onto the little bit of roof outside the dormer. Plenty of space to work, honestly...when there's not 50 m.p.h. gusts trying to blow you off the roof. After realizing that if I let go of the wall with both hands that the wind would knock me down (and likely off the roof), and further realizing I had only two hands, rather than three, I climbed back into the house and decided to deal with it when light arrived. Although I could probably go back out there and work on it from above, on the flat roof, my dad, captain do-it-yourself, told me that I should call someone. And when capt. do-it-yourself says to have someone else do it, it's pretty meaningful.

So I called Nyberg Roofing, who did our roof, and left a plea that if they could help out, I'd appreciate it. I heard back, and Stuart, who is great, is trying to get someone to come out here this afternoon. Hopefully, no more damage will occur. And, if they can get someone out here, I'll be thrilled...unless they charge me 30 billion dollars. Then I'll be pissed. :)

But, seriously, I am quite a bit worried about this thing snapping's cracked halfway where the siding is bent, and it's not as though the winds have subsided any thus far. Plus, you can see the a/c unit facing you in the pictures, right? Well, the panel or two directly above that unit are loose as well, though they haven't peeled off. But they rattle and flutter in the wind, so they need to be nailed down too. Hopefully Nyberg comes through and quickly. I've got all my eggs in their basket, unfortunately.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

So much for that idea...

Well, my Dad and I were going to go get the new baby furniture today. We made the trek to Babies 'R' Us only to find out that the furniture, assembled and then boxed up in HUGE boxes for protection, was way, way, way bigger than we expected.

So, no baby furniture today. I decided to schedule a delivery and shell out the additional $115 or whatever it is, exactly, to have them deliver it. That'll be much easier, and had I known the stuff would have been so ridiculously huge, I would have just done that from the start.

In other news, I love snow. So this current snowstorm we're getting here (a nice 5 or 6 inches when all is said and done should be on the ground) is nice. Looks really pretty too. :)

I should be able to start on the basement family room soon...assuming I get things cleaned out of there. I'm excited, I'll tell ya... :)

More as events warrant, of course! Stay safe and warm!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Ice sucks...

You know why ice sucks? Because it isn't snow and it's impossible to get off everything. Aside from the whole killing people in the Great Plains and all, which apparently it did yesterday. My condolences, of course.

But ice really sucks because it's not snow. At least snow I can shovel and all that. Ice, nope. My neighbor's entire sidewalk was a sheet of black ice this past weekend because someone came and shoveled it. I left my walk unshoveled, knowing that the ice was coming, and it worked out. The only bad thing is, my front stairs, which were snow-free, were coated in ice. So was the entire back deck and part of the basement stairs out to the yard. So it was treacherous-going for a few days.

See, I didn't even think to buy salt. My dad rarely, if ever, used salt--but then again, I don't remember getting socked by freezing rain like this either. It either rained and ran off or snowed. This is like, Downstate Illinois type stuff that we're now getting. So I reluctantly got a bag of rock salt Sunday...reluctantly, I say, because I know it can eat away at a lot of stuff. So let's hope it doesn't do too much damage.

I also got a basement remodeling book, which has gotten me all excited about tearing up and redoing the basement family room now. But I must be patient. Got a couple of things to take care of before I get to that.

Ah well, just wanted to give an update...not much is new with the housework, other than the preliminary planning for the basement family room remodel. More on the other side of this upcoming ice storm. Stay safe if you're in the middle to lower Midwest!

Friday, December 7, 2007

Ah...painting, finished...

I really HATE painting. I like most home improvement tasks, but painting is not one of them. I pretty much always love the outcome, as I like having color in my house; but I hate the process and work to get to that process.

My brother came by this evening again to help me finish, finally, the baby's room. We needed to paint the slanted ceiling and the alcove ceiling a lighter shade of green than the walls are. For the walls, again, we used Benjamin Moore Key Lime, and we painted the slanted part of the ceiling and the alcove ceiling only with B.M. Lime Froth, basically two shades lighter than Key Lime. You can, honestly, barely see the Lime Froth vs. white ceiling, which it borders -- but that's OK. Gina's more of a conservative person when it comes to paint choices, particularly accents wall types of things. I'd personally have gone one or two shades DARKER, instead of lighter, but, again, this is OK. It's her room to decorate, I told her.

So that's done, finally. I don't have any pictures right now though. After it's cleaned up and lookin' good, I'll post more. It isn't much different than the last set.

After getting our $300 gas bill today, which is probably nothing compared to some people, and then reading about heating at The Bungalow Chronicles, I've decided to add a new task to the projects bar on the left -- installing programmable thermostats both upstairs and downstairs. At some point, of course. First, I have to figure out if I need to buy a new toilet for the first floor, as it appears to be broken. Although I could install the old upstairs toilet down here and see if that one works. Probably worth a shot, honestly. But I don't know when I'll get around to either of those tasks, as picking up and assembling the baby furniture is next on the list.

Meanwhile, Gina needs to find new window coverings for the baby room's windows, since the blinds up there are beige/tan and don't match anything now. Of course, then I'll probably have to install whatever it is...unless it's curtains. Maybe she can do those...we'll see.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

More advice needed...

I was sitting around today, just mulling over some ideas, when it hit me.

With the basement family room renovation, a key issue is going to be the installation of a heating system of some sort. There are no radiators down there or anything. The basement basically relies on radiant heat from the pipes and any residual heat from the utility room. Now, it doesn't get COLD down there, but it is definitely cooler than anywhere else in the house, which is not a surprise. So, if we're going to basically live down there most of the time, we need to have a heating system of some sort.

I had figured I'd just have baseboard radiators tapped into the boiler line and that would do the trick. But now, I'm thinking, wait a minute, I've seen this before...

Why not a fireplace?

We have a lengthy outer wall on one side that could easily fit a fireplace.

But, I have NO IDEA how much installation of a fireplace in a BASEMENT would cost. I've seen them before, so I know it's possible. But I don't even know where to start. So, anybody? Anybody? :) I know this is a much more "ridiculous" request than a plumber, but who knows...maybe some of my excellent readers can point me in the right direction...

Walls, finished...

This side done
Originally uploaded by southsideandy
Finally, we're done painting the walls of the baby's room. We also primed the slanted ceiling and the alcove ceiling, which will be painted Benjamin Moore Lime Froth, a color two shades lighter than what is on the walls (Key Lime). But we have to buy that paint and then apply it. So hopefully this weekend, it will be done.

And that, my friends and neighbors, would be HUGE.

Thanks to my brother Tim and his wife Melissa for their endless help on this...and all they got out of it was White Castle and Brown's Chicken dinners.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Am I paranoid, or is everyone else ignorant...

So, as I've looked at Christmas decorations around the neighborhood, I've noticed a lot of people leave their blinds and curtains open, allowing the world to see into their living rooms.

I'm actually kind of frightened to open our blinds and leave them open. I mean, I don't want the world watching me watch TV, or my wife, for that matter. And it's not like we have really expensive stuff, but I don't need the world knowing what I have in my house.

So, am I incredibly paranoid, given my upbringing in a much rougher neighborhood than this one is, or are my neighborhood compadres just ignorant or oblivious to the fact that any day, anyone could walk down their street and see what they have and decide that they wanted it and were willing to do something about it?

I mean, hell, again, I don't have much that anyone would want, but I still keep my blinds shut mostly tight, particularly in the evening and at night. I'm only opening the ones directly in front of our Christmas tree for people to see, and that's enough for me.

Oh, and the Christmas decorations are beautiful. :)

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Blood is thicker than water...and paint...

Well, with some serious help from my brother and his wife (Gina's cousin), we made REAL progress on priming and painting the baby's room on Sunday. Starting at noon, I started priming (first coat, getting the channels) the two remaining untouched walls (behind the photographer below). My bro started putting the second coat of primer on the wall outside the alcove and the west wall (with the four windows). Meanwhile, my sister-in-law grabbed the paint (Benjamin Moore, Key Lime) and started painting the alcove. After we stopped at 3pm to watch the Bears game, she kept going--thus dubbed by her husband as "The Paint Nazi"--I kept telling her she'd done enough, and my bro said not to try to take the paint brush away or she'd bite my hand off.

Anyway, the results, thus far, are below. The walls obviously still need a second coat, but here they are. They're a little more yellow and brighter than the flash on the camera shows. They are literally Kermit Green. Gina's not thrilled, but she picked the color, so too bad for her. :) Actually, I think it looks OK. It's a kid's room, so it should be colorful and's not our master bedroom or the living room. So I think it'll work. Hell, if it doesn't, too bad. I'm done painting this crap once I finish the other walls! :)

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Wintertime is here...

Thanksgiving 2
Originally uploaded by southsideandy
This is a couple days old, but here's what we woke up to Thanksgiving's pretty, in a gardening kind of way. There's another nice shot on Flickr, part of the In the Yard set. Check it out!

More pictures, by the way, coming up soon!

Friday, November 23, 2007

Nice when you know what you're doing...

...of course, that doesn't mean I didn't have to make TWO trips to Home Depot. But that's better than four. :) Reference this post from my personal blog, from when I remodeled the half-bath of our condo myself...thankfully, I did, as it says, 90 percent of the work, so I had "practice."

Thus, when I decided that I'd had enough of these pressure-assisted toilets--specifically the one upstairs--I was only partly worried that all hell would break loose. That was based on only the "curse" of projects and how they go haywire in this family. :) I knew that I knew how to replace a toilet, and that I could do it pretty easily.

As such, ladies and gentlemen, our new toilet upstairs:
It's a Pegasus Westminster(?), I believe, from Home Depot. It's not a pressure-assist toilet, which means that, although it takes a little while to fill the tank because of the low water pressure to the second floor, it will actually still fill, whereas the pressure-assist tank would not. Think of how you blow up a balloon--you're the water supply line and the balloon is the pressure-assist tank. You have to exert more pressure to get air into the balloon than the balloon is exerting to get air out of it. This is what was happening with my toilet up there--too much pressure in the tank was overpowering the weak supply flow.

Now, I still have to fix the low water pressure in the house, but at least this will buy us more time to figure this whole thing out--maybe even a LOT more time. We'll see. At any rate, it took me longer to go to Home Depot, pick and buy the toilet and come home than it did to actually take the old toilet out and put the new one in. So I'm feeling good about that. :)

Finally, of course, Happy belated Thanksgiving...we hosted both families yesterday, as we're now the ones with the most room. And it was great. Hope yours was a good one as well!

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Inching along...albeit foot by foot...

More progress made today...but only priming. Looks like it'll take another day or two of priming, then about three or four days of painting (going by the rate of progress that priming is taking, that is) before I'm done. The good news is, the other two sides of the room are partial walls on both sides, so they might go a little quicker. Here's some pics of the progress...
Gotta travel most of the day tomorrow, and then birth class in the evening, if I make it back in time. Maybe, just maybe (though slim), I'll get more priming out of the way. We shall see, I suppose.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

A little more progress, a little more pressure...

Boy, this is going to be slow-going. I primed more of the future baby's room today, and didn't get too terribly far. Like I said, I made some progress, but not a ton. Furthermore, the added pressure came from the fact that Babies 'R' Us called to tell me that the baby's furniture is in, ready for us to pick it up.

Thankfully, they'll hold it for 30 days. If I can make more really good progress tomorrow and maybe even more during the week, maybe, just maybe, this room will be ready for the furniture next weekend, after Thanksgiving insanity and all. But we'll see...with a shorter-than-normal week for doing stuff like this, I don't know how much I'll actually get done. But I feel a tad bit better about it, knowing I got something done today. Plus, we got a lot of cleaning out of the way today, since we had some friends over. That will help in prep for hosting the families for Thanksgiving. So that'll be good.

More priming and, if I'm lucky, painting, tomorrow!

Friday, November 16, 2007

Big day ahead...and busy weekend too...

OK, well, since the baby's new furniture is supposed to arrive at Babies 'R' Us any day now, I have to get moving. That means tomorrow, I start painting again. Actually, still priming first. Got a lot of that to do yet. But, at least it's a big room. If I prime first, it should be dry by the time I'm ready to start painting. I hope. Here's all that was done the last time I primed. This is two coats of primer (I tend to spread paint/primer really thin...part of my cheap upbringing--gotta use every bit of paint off the brush/roller, buddy!).
See what I mean? Lots to do. But, it's not like I have to finish it all tomorrow. But my goal (realistic or not) is to get all priming done tomorrow, for the whole room (just the wood paneling, though). And if I can get some paint on the walls too, even better. For reference, here are some shots of the rest of the room "before"'s really, really big. The baby is going to feel like he/she is sleeping in a cavern.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Know a good plumber?

Well, I need to collect a list of plumbers who can come out and replace our supply pipe from the city to increase our water pressure overall. Anybody from the Northwest Side of Chicago out there who can recommend a good one? I'm not looking for cheapest--I'm looking for honest, licensed and high-quality worksmanship. In terms of honesty, I want someone who's going to do as minimal work as needed to improve our water pressure (in other words, if we don't need a booster pump, I don't WANT a booster pump--my pipefitter friend says I probably don't need a booster pump, and I tend to trust him--but he's no plumber, as he reminds me).

Please let me know if you do. You can post it in the comments box--heck, that'll give them some deserved publicity for anyone else reading this blog.


Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Where has HE been???

Good thing I had two posts for the price of one last time, since I've been so bad about posting lately. In a sense, it's a good thing, in that I've been busy. In another sense, it's a bad thing in that I've been busy with stuff NOT directly involved with the bungalow. Some of the things I've been up to include:

1. Registering for the new baby. We're expecting the baby's entire room of furniture in the next week or two. That's great. And terrible at the same time. But we got through most of the registering, so that's good.

2. Debating stepping up in the furniture world, in a sense. We needed a rocker and ottoman for the baby's room, for feeding and rocking to sleep. Gina's grandma was going to contribute some money to that, and she still is going to do so, posthumously. And until we went to the Bungalow Expo and saw Plain and Simple Furniture there, we probably would have bought them at Babies R Us or a department/big box furniture store type of place with whatever she gave us. But, after visiting the booth, we decided, for once, to splurge some of our own money too and buy something that (a) will last FOREVER (the baby will be rocked to sleep on it, and then probably will inherit it when WE die) and (b) will serve a second purpose once we don't need it in the baby's room any longer. That is, if we bought a plain ol' cheapy plush rocker/glider, it would have ended up in the family room downstairs, buried. This piece will be a centerpiece in our mission-style, bungalow living room for decades. At least that's the plan. These pictures are close to what we're getting...we're getting a glider though, not a rocker--but pretty much identical otherwise:

3. Getting the cars shuttled all over to get minor tune-ups and fixes.

4. Figuring out, last night on a whim, how to fix both toilets. The stupid handle kept sticking in the open position on the first-floor toilet, rattling every other time you flushed it, noisily and annoyingly. The upstairs toilet has been inoperable due to the assumption that either it was broken or the water pressure wasn't good enough to stop it from running constantly. Well, I figured out there's one adjustment knob on the pressurized tanks that I putzed around with and got both problems least permanently downstairs and temporarily upstairs. We'll see how it goes.

5. I've also been really, really busy working on my latest pet project, which is a small business that me and a colleague are starting up. I've had to design a ton of stuff in advance of our "launch," as it were, but what I've designed has met with good response so far. We'll see how it goes, as there are many, many questions about biz startups that need to be addressed. And, yes, it does have a connection with this blog, believe it or not. I'll be SURE to sell all of you on the idea--I'm betting you'll love it. ;) But we're a little bit of a ways away from that.

So what's next on the docket? Cleaning and painting, in neither particular order. Since the baby furniture's ordered and "on its way," that means dilly-dallying on getting the upstairs primed and painted is no longer an option. Not that I was avoiding it before, but I was just so busy with other stuff that it languished. It happens, as I'm sure you all know and can attest to. But the entire first floor needs to be sorted through, cleaned and organized. We're hosting Thanksgiving, and that means we need room and organization around here! :)

So, my apologies in advance if there's a little more silence around here. I hate to do it, and I'll do my best to avoid it, but just be prepared! Don't forget about me! :)

Friday, November 2, 2007

Two posts, for the price of one...

Wow, what could make me post again so quickly? Well, I tried bleeding the radiators tonight...then went to check on the furnace and all that down in the utility room. At this point, for whatever reason unnoticed before, I looked up the side of the chimney, on the back side of it, and noticed a potentially GREAT FIND, albeit for the future more than anything:

Watch the vertigo here...both of these pics are looking straight up. Now, the first is more promising, in a sense...and more puzzling. As you can see, there's about a 4-inch gap between what appears to be the old bathroom wall (you can plainly see the linoleum or whatever tile pattern on the left) and the new bathroom (shower) wall (studs on the right side). Now, there isn't much the can be done with that, per se, except to give us a few more inches whenever we decide we might renovate the bathroom...again, not a huge deal, probably...just puzzling, more than anything.

In the second photo, however, there's about a good 10 inches or so between the chimney (on the right) and the bedroom wall. The top or bottom wall (in this photo, for perspective) is the wall to the hallway just outside the would be AWESOME to have a small built-in of some sort put in there...maybe there was one originally, for all I know. Now, I can't see up the other two sides of the chimney, so I don't know how much space, if any, is there. But this is definitely an interesting possibility that I'm truly excited about. Albeit, again, more for the future than anything else.
While I was downstairs, by the way, I snapped pics of the handmade sofa we inherited from Gina's grandma (made by her grandpa, which I talked about back in September. I also snapped pics of the handmade coffee table and end tables...the ones with the in-laid wood (coffee table) and the faux marble that I'm going to try to remove somehow (end tables). So, enjoy!

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Ah, nice to be in a family neighborhood...

I've never had serious trick-or-treaters since moving out of my parents' house/neighborhood eight-or-some-odd years ago. In Springfield, Mo., I was in an apartment on the fringes of the city...nothing but a rooster running through the parking lot and cows in a pasture next door. In The Brook, our driveway was too long and we were next to a park--the dark, creepy house at the end of the block that kids probably were more scared of than anything. In Humboldt Park, we got some, but honestly, I had the doorbell ring more in ding-dong-ditch fashion after school let out down the street while I was unemployed and home during the day than we did for Halloween. At the condo, nothing--not a lot of kids around, and a buzzer entry kinda prevents easy access.

So, I was downright excited about the prospects of trick-or-treaters in our new neighborhood. It's very family friendly, and families have flocked to live here. And the trick-or-treaters didn't disappoint. Thank God for Costco's 150-count bags. Although, we didn't go through ALL of it...we probably gave away about half of the three or four bags on the night.

I was giving out handfuls of candy to the kids...I'm pretty generous. But, I had to leave to go to the gym, and I guess we had a good turnout after that.

Either way, the point is, it's nice to be in a neighborhood that reminds me a lot of my old neighborhood when I was growing up. Kids used to be out in force...including us. My mom and dad report that their doorbell rang only a couple times. It's too bad, since there ARE kids in that neighborhood. How things change...

Now, we need to clean, big-time...we're hosting Thanksgiving (I believe) again. Then, can you believe it, Christmas is right around the corner. You don't think so? Then you haven't been to the stores yet! Oh, and, in case you weren't REALLY convinced, check out and see when they're starting their all-Holiday music. I love the Christmas music (have about 150 tracks on my iPod, ready to go), but The Lite never plays enough variety to not drive me crazy by Nov. 22 every year. I get a little boost the day after Thanksgiving, by "instinct" and "habit," but they need to improve their variety. Or just borrow my iPod.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Expo greatness, and some work finally done...I hope...

First of all, the Chicago Bungalow and Green Home Expo was FANTASTIC. If you did not attend, you missed out, seriously. They said there were something like 10,000 people there, and it sure seemed like they weren't lying. The exhibitors were wonderful, and we got some great leads and even some coupons and stuff on furniture, gardening places, tankless water heaters, stained glass windows, etc., etc.

One of the seminars we sat in on was a landscaping seminar, describing how they landscaped the front and side yards with a prairie replica and a rain garden with a french drain between the houses. This is, more or less, what I wanted to do with the area between my house and the neighbor to the west. Not all the way along the houses, but definitely where our downspout comes out into the grass. Hopefully, she will be keen on the idea, or I'll just have to dig on my side of the property line. Either way, I got some great guidance for that project, so I'm psyched about it. All in all, it was really, really good. I even got some serious interest on the side "business" I was thinking of starting with a coworker. I didn't walk around promoting it, but I did bounce the idea off folks who seemed as though they might be interested, and they were. So, I'm excited about those prospects now too.

After the Expo, we had a Halloween party to attend...everyone voted me the party winner for my excellent White Goodman (from the movie Dodgeball) costume. I cobbled it together, drew and constructed the chest plate and belt "buckle," (Gina sewed the shoulder pads to the shirt...thanks honey!) and generally did a great job, honestly. Thanks, Luis, for the boots...they were perfect! Here's a picture of me and Gina, who played Kate Veach, the chick from the same movie:

This morning I woke up and decided today was the day to patch the concrete around the stairs and the wing walls as best as I could. So I went to Home Depot and bought some simple Portland Cement and filled in the cracks and attempted to rebuild the crumbled portions of the wing wall foundation. Here's a pic of my haphazard attempts at holding the concrete in place...also, obviously, I don't care if the cement matches the concrete or not. I just care that it is solid and doesn't let anymore seepage into the basement room underneath the stairs. We don't get much, but if water gets in these cracks and freezes, it'll get worse before it gets better.

So we'll see tomorrow how it holds up...if it holds up at all. :) Oh, and last but not least...Gina learned a hard lesson about why you don't leave a real pumpkin out on the porch before least the squirrels got to it before the neighborhood kids did. That may have ended up being worse.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

I don't think I've ever seen or read a worse book...

Preface: 1. I'm a journalist, so I'm a little biased as to what good writing is (but still, this is brutal--to put it in perspective, fellow bloggers, you'd probably never read a blog written this poorly). 2. I also understand how tough it is to write, or to be a fledgling writer, particularly today. 3. I applaud the self-publish movement, when it's done right--this book would be Exhibit A if someone were to argue (for some reason) against self-publishing services. 4. I'm mostly angered by the promoters of the book, for doing a great selling job and allowing me to assume this was a fine piece of writing. It wasn't.

T-h-a-n-k-s G-u-y-s is the title of the book. Do NOT buy it if you are expecting a good read or any kind of depth to any stories within. It is basically the poorly recorded, poorly executed and poorly written memoirs of a former Southwest Sider and his failed attempts to really qualify and quantify the wonderful friendship he and his buddies growing up have maintained. Very cool concept (because it IS rare), but about the worst execution you could imagine.

So I'm done with the book...I basically skimmed about 15 of the remaining 40 pages I had and got the idea. It still sucked.

Anyway, sorry to rant and drag this book's not usually like me. On to bigger and better things...thinking about writing my own book that does a better job than the previously mentioned book does, and dreaming about house projects (oh, and working my ass off at a convention in town this week...our biggest of the year, every two years).

I'm trying to figure out what I need to keep on my mind while walking the Bungalow Expo...for once, I'm a buyer, or at least a prospective buyer, and I'm psyched about that. It'll be nice to look at exhibitors and think, "that's cool for our place," or "that totally is a waste of money," or "hey, we already have that, and that's OK."

It's gonna be fun...but, before that, I have work...and tomorrow I have to be at McCormick at 5:30 a.m., so I'm calling it an early night tonight!

Monday, October 22, 2007

Reading, and waiting for the Bungalow Expo...

I've been spending most of the last week or so creating my Halloween costume, and thus not working on the house much. Although, chalk up a small victory, I was able to replace the burned out lightbulb on the back of the house with the straight ladder we "inherited" from my aunt. So thanks, Auntie Rose! :) Small victories.

Really, I'm kind of in a holding pattern at the moment, because this Saturday is the Chicago Bungalow (and Green Home...whatever) Expo at Merchandise Mart. Gina and I will definitely be there--it's our first Bungalow Expo, and we're hoping we'll be able to get some good leads and good ideas and just take it all in. Ought to be fun, or at least, applicable--this would be the first home show I've ever gone to while actually owning a home, so it becomes immediately applicable. :)

In the meantime, I bought a book on a recommendation from an acquaintance (who is not a journalist, so I shouldn't have trusted his judgment) who also grew up on the South Side (or something like that). It promotes itself as a story about six decades of friendship on the Southwest Side. I've read 40 pages of this thing...was excited to find out it was centered around a neighborhood about a mile from my house (and my dad's house, as he grew up in the same house as I did). But the writing is TERRIBLE. I assumed it would be solid, since it was available on and in Barnes & Noble, Borders, etc. But silly, silly me forgot about the "self-publishing" services out there nowadays. I took a look, and lo and behold, this one was obviously self-published (and not edited...or edited REALLY poorly...REALLY). Furthermore, it pitches itself as telling much more of a story than it actually has told so far. Now, in longer books (this one is short-ish), 40 pages often is the setup...but I'm already through about three chapters in 40 pages, so the setup is long gone.

As of now, I'm pretty highly disappointed...but also ENCOURAGED. Why? I told a friend I was eyeballing this book, and she said, "Why do you want to read that, if you lived it?" I answered with a three-fold reason: 1. The events in this book took place from the 1950s on, 2. It's always nice to read about something you can relate to, and 3. if it sucked, and I think I can do better, then I have motivation.

As of now, I'm motivated. Further fanning the flames...there's been talk of an impromptu grammar school class "reunion" of sorts. That, and this book, have helped some of the memories come rushing back...with the proper "research" amongst my old and current friends, this could be good--but obviously a major work-in-progress. Maybe when the baby comes and I'm up all night with it crying, I can jot down notes. :)

Motivation is one thing, of course...actual execution, on the other hand, is another. Just look at the paint job in the baby's room for an example. ;)

Saturday, October 13, 2007

All right, more mess...

Just when we felt as though we had most everything put away (not really), it's about time, we went and cleaned out the storage facility. Thank you very much, that's $120 a month back in our pockets. But it's a mess around here again, of course. :) Of course, one of the neighbors we had not met walked by and asked if we were moving in...I said, no, actually, we've been here for about 5 months now...yes, it took us five months to find the time to clean out the storage unit...that sucks, but hey, time is what it is.

The good news is, we had no problems getting Gina's grandma's fridge, and -- what I was more concerned about -- her sofa, into the basement. We had to take two doors off, but we got the couch in! So that's sitting in the basement family room, waiting for that room to be refinished, probably over the winter, I hope. When I re-locate the camera, I'll take a picture of it, so you all can see the fine craftsmanship -- Gina's grandpa built it from scratch long, long ago. So, it's an heirloom, it's a little "vintage" looking, but it's not out of style, I would say.

We also were able to get the old basement fridge out and the "new" fridge in without a problem. The old fridge was gone within 30 minutes of being in the alley...those junk guys move fast, let me tell you.

Tomorrow, I have to go to my aunt's house down on the South Side to see what we can inherit from there...for some, this would be a morbid weekend, in that we're picking up furniture and such from the homes of deceased relatives, but it's not.

Really, it's more tiring than anything. So now the fun of going through all this stuff begins. Hopefully, we'll be able to find space for everything.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Superstars in the making...

OK, well, not really. But, still, our episode of HGTV's "Designed to Sell," which aired last night, was good. We were pleased with how it came out and laughed quite a bit. If you missed it, I believe it's running again on November 12, so check your local listings and mark your calendars!

Otherwise, I visited my old haunt, Springfield, Mo., this weekend for two friends' wedding (marrying each other--I teased them that they owe me for moving out and getting "out of their way" so they could get married). It was good to see them, even though I was there for about 24 hours only. I did, however, realize I had never really looked at the housing stock out there before. Probably because I lived there right out of college and wasn't really in the market for a house 10 hours away from Chicago, the center of my universe, pretty much.

But this time, while driving around town, I peeked at some houses, and didn't realize how many very pretty arts & crafts and California-style bungalows they had. Some really pretty Victorians too. I was surprised, and then somewhat bummed, particularly knowing that these houses probably were a "bargain" compared to what we pay for housing in Chicago.

It got me somewhat nostalgic and marginally saddened that things didn't work out for me down there--that my situation, in a sense, at the time, gave Springfield the shaft of sorts. I tell Gina all the time that, really, Springfield is a very nice place to live, with lots of benefits, particularly if you have a family. But, because I viewed it as temporary from the get-go, didn't make many friends or get involved in anything substantial, didn't have any relatives, and worked the night and weekend shifts at the paper, the city didn't get a fully square deal from me--even though I was able to see the promise there. Yeah, there were negatives, but the positives outweighed them a little more.

In fact, I spoke with my former supervisor at the paper, and we were talking about how Springfield was "growing up," and I said I had a good time, and it was well worth it. And she commented that even though I might not have viewed it as progress personally for myself, it was progress professionally. That's very true...and it got me to thinking that, really, personally, it was progress as well.

I'll always have a tie to Springfield, emotionally. Why? Well, it's where I spent the most formative year of my adult life thus far, really. I was on my own for the first REAL time ever, with only the phone to reach out and get help from family. I had to figure things out for myself, stand up for myself, become responsible and grow up really fast. I had to learn that, regardless, work was different than anything I'd ever been involved with, and that I was now a "working man" who had to hold that job down or face the consequences. I also had to learn, very quickly, that the world wasn't going to bend over backward to help me, no matter what happened in the past. I had to fend for myself, make my own choices and transform myself into an adult.

Springfield, people said, would be a culture shock for me, the northern big-city Chicagoan. They were right: It was a culture shock...but more so a shock to my personal systemic culture than to the big-city persona I exuded.

Thank God I'm a fast learner. But part of me will always miss Springfield and will always wonder what might have happened had I not sent out those unsolicited emails asking for jobs with the three Chicago newspapers, or had one of those papers responded and subsequently brought me home. It's amazing the difference one instance (a "Choose Your Own Adventure" style of decision, for example) can make on an eternity.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Mold? Probably just's been a bad year...

So, I was growing more and more concerned about the hidden presence of mold in this house, particularly as I found myself sneezing and occasionally coughing, despite my continuous battle through the use of Claritin on a daily basis to combat my vicious hay fever bouts.

Then, yesterday, my fears were partially allayed when I found out my Dad (from whom I inherited the wonderful hay fever gene) was basically leveled by a hay fever attack in the morning. He and my Mom were going to come over and help prime and paint the baby's room, which still sits only partially (and I stress partially) primed. Well, after that downer, of sorts, I decided to take the day off, as well, watch football, do some overdue shopping and just outright relax. It worked out, because I actually got my own hay fever attack in the evening that lasted into the night and disrupted (somewhat) my sleep, making me a bit tired today. Made me feel a little better about maybe there not being mold hanging out in our walls. But I'm still leery that when I pull that wood paneling off the basement family room walls, I'll find a jungle back there (I know, mold isn't a plant, but you get my drift). We shall see, we shall see.

That said, we've not made a lot of progress on things. We've been soooooooo busy with other things, it's been ridiculous. Hopefully, we'll get a couple weekends' respite before the holiday madness kicks in.

That said, I'm renting a van, once and for all, and we're cleaning out the storage space on the 13th of this month, come hell or high water. We could use that extra $100 that is going to line the pockets of the folks who own the storage facility we don't need. So, I'll get a crew together and we'll clean it out, pick up the couch and fridge from Gina's grandma's old place, figure out how to get it all in the house, and go from there.

Then, hopefully, we'll get the ball rolling on a few other things too.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Reviewing "Devil in the White City"...finally...

Finally, I finished reading "Devil in the White City." It was a really good book, no doubt...particularly just from the standpoint of Chicago history and whatnot. So it was really cool to read about the trials and tribulations and all that regarding the World's Columbian Exposition. The murder parts were intriguing, but really, given the monumental nature of the fair, it was hard for the writer to give that its "just desserts" as an equal part of the book.

But it was definitely interesting to read the juxtaposition of the Exposition and this serial killer's own plans and actions, going on at the same time.

However, I thought there were some serious flaws with the writing style. Although I enjoy the kinds of stories (whether they be books, movies or TV shows) that look at several different characters and what they're doing at the roughly exact same moments, I think this writer involved too many characters. He certainly ties them all together at the end and brings closure to all the characters (as to what they ended up doing after the Exposition ended and whatnot). But by the time I got to that part, some of the characters had slipped my mind. Not because I'm forgetful, but because this is not a book you can read in one sitting, unless you're flying to Europe or Asia or something--it's a long book. So, there were too many characters for the length of the book.

Second, I didn't like his "reality/game-show TV" style of writing. He would end chapters with teasers, as though he was paranoid that you'd put the book down and never read it again if he didn't give you a teaser to get through to the next sub-chapter that included this particular character. Although Kurt Vonnegut, my favorite author, loved to do the whole sub-chapter thing and even had some teasers, he did it with a handful of characters and always came back to those characters before they had vanished from memory. This writer often had way too much in between sub-chapters on particular characters to where you had to pause and think what had happened prior.

Otherwise, though, his writing style was good...I liked his pointing out of certain things that were "invented" at the exposition, and famous folks who went on to greater things.

Overall, it's definitely a great read for anyone who likes Chicago history, Daniel Burnham or the World's Columbian Exposition. It's actually pretty appropriate for today's Chicago Olympic bid to see how a much smaller Chicago in that day beat the odds and held a very spectacular event.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Lots of other things...not a lot of reading...or working...

Well, I guess I neglected to mention that Gina's grandma died last Friday in my last post, but because of that, it's been pretty darned busy around here, with the wake and funeral last week and all. So there wasn't much done around here at all, really.

Further adding to the list of things to do, we're getting her Grandma's sofa, which was handmade by her Grandpa (whom she never met) back in the day. It's a really neat design, truthfully...I'll post pictures once we get it. Some might think it too "Victorian" or loungy or something like that, but I think it's really nice, actually. You couldn't get a couch like this.

It will be the first legit piece of furniture in our basement family room. Which has yet to be remodeled, of course. But, hey, sometimes, you don't have a choice as to when you get things and when you don't. In this case, we don't have a choice. Also, we'll be getting her fridge, which is old, but in much, much better shape than our basement fridge, which is rusting and partially broken inside.

So that means, next weekend, we're going to be working our asses off...on Sunday, since I already have plans for Saturday. I'll have to rent a truck, and maybe we'll also clean out as much of the storage space as we can. It's going to be an exercise-filled weekend, that's for sure.

But, in the meantime, maybe I'll try to paint a little bit tomorrow. We'll see. I haven't TOUCHED that room in ages. All these commitments and things, I tell ya. :)

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Lots of reading...not a lot of working...

Thanks for the ID on the I went and did some research as to what plants Black Swallowtails like and whatnot, and I see that parsley, dill, etc. are their favorites. So, next year, I'll have to find an out-of-the-way spot to plant some of this stuff and maybe I'll have more. I've always wanted to plant milkweed, because Monarchs apparently lay their eggs on that. So we'll see if I can increase the population of these guys around here.

Meanwhile, I'm continuing on with "Devil in the White City"'s been good so far. No major complaints. I'll probably go read a little more today before a wedding we have to go to, because I'm super sore from softball last night.

I play every Friday in a 12-inch slow-pitch men's league in the southwest 'burbs (so it's a bit of a hike for me, but it's worth it) with a bunch of guys I grew up with. I've known most of these guys for just about every year of the 30 I've been on this fine Earth. We grew up in the old neighborhood together, most of our parents actually still live in that neighborhood, despite the complete cultural and ethnic upending that has occured there in the last decade and a half, and we've stayed in touch over time. It's rare, I know. How many people can say they still talk to about 6-10 friends that they've known since birth, but that all run together in the same group? Not many, really. There's a book out there about such a relationship, ironically, among a group of South Siders like ourselves, which I have not read yet (and, of course, the name escapes me right now). I'd like to get it and critique the hell out of it, and then write my own version, based on my reality.

Anyway, we all grew up playing softball (16-inch, though...a Chicago classic...not 12-inch) on the corner, Little League at the local park, fast-pitch against the local schoolbuilding, football in the grassy patch of another school, basketball in any number of alleys, among other things. But, we're all getting older...and this is the second week in a row that I'm feeling the aftereffects...during the summer, I play three times a week. But one game, three times a week. This fall league is all double-headers. So I'm still getting used to it. I'm less sore than last week, but still sore.

Ah well, thanks for listening to my tangent. :) It actually sheds some light, if you think about it, as to why I went and got a bungalow and am living in the Bungalow Belt as well. Stick with what works. :)

Thursday, September 13, 2007

What butterfly is this???

OK, butterfly lovers (or people with more research ability/time than I have, obviously)...I've seen maybe one of these in my life until this evening, when I found one out in our yard on the Butterfly Bush (where else?). So what kind of butterfly is it? It's exciting to me that we get these great butterflies, being in the city and all! Let me know if you know what this is...

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Catching up...

Well, let's see...what's going on around here?

Not too much in the way of house duty, although I did buy a few more flowers for the back garden and some Dianthus for out in front around our little sapling tree. But progress on other things, such as the priming/painting of the upstairs future baby room has stalled for the moment. It's just been hectic.

Today, I traveled, which this blog is not about...but, I did want to mention that I finally bought and started reading a book that I'd been told by many that I should read for a long, long time, and that is "Devil in the White City." Those who know that Daniel Burnham quote up above as being my life motto and all-time favorite quote, in particular, have told me they couldn't believe I hadn't picked up the book and read it yet.

But, I read for a living, so it's tough to come home and read more in books. That said, they were right. So far, it's been a fantastic book. I'll give more of a "review" when I finish.

For now, I'm off to bed. :)

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

New friends in the garden...

Filled in very nicely!
Originally uploaded by southsideandy
So, tired of painting and whatnot and needing a more robust exercise for the weekend to keep my diet on track, I decided it was time to expand the backyard fence garden.

Busted my butt to dig and hoe out the lawn that was there, and probably doubled the space of the garden in a few hours' time. Gina even helped by hauling away the dug-up sod and planting it elsewhere...thanks, honey!

Anyway, you can check out how much the old portion of the garden has filled in, and see the bare-looking new half of the garden on my Flickr page.

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Progress made, but slow-going...

I've primed with two coats the wood paneling inside of the gable, just having finished that earlier today. Of course, I'm really busy today, since my fish are sick and our kitchen sink clogged. For the fish, I had to remove all the plants in order to treat with medication (the medicine would kill the plants), which means they have to sit in a rubbermaid tub of water outside...and hopefully they'll do OK out there. Last time I had to do this, it was fine.

For the kitchen sink, of course, we had no drain-o or anything like that. So I had to go to Home Depot. Which, I guess turned out that it wasn't so bad, because I was able to pick up several more plants for my garden at sale prices. Now, I have to find the time and energy to plant them. :)

I'm coming to the realization that I need to locate some friends to come and help me paint that room upstairs, or it might take a full 6 months to paint. :)

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Let the fun begin...again...

And you thought I was done working on the house, didn't you? :)

Not so, friends, acquaintences, well-wishers and just-stoppers-by. I present to you, the baby's future room, a collection of "before" pictures...well, except that I taped the baseboard and crown molding last night. That's the lime green stuff, in case you've never seen that before. Duh.

Since I can't really paint this wood paneling until its primed (if I want it to look right), I have to prime first.

I primed the small wall next to the shade-less lamp and the small gable windows in the back (visible in the third picture). It took me about 2 hours. But that's because I decided to just use a brush, rather than the roller. Didn't feel like pouring paint into the pan and dirtying up the roller and everything. It looks good...but more once the walls are all primed...and/or painted.

As you can see, there's PLENTY of wood paneling that needs to be primed and painted. That will be all that will be painted--the bare angled wall and ceiling will remain, most likely, the colors they are now. This could take a while. Good thing we have about six months! :)

Monday, August 27, 2007

Fantasy football vs. housework...

Fantasy football wins, hands down.

Too busy with fantasy football drafts both Saturday and Sunday to work around the house, but not busy enough to not play around on the computer with my newest design program and create a new, nice title image that makes a better, more artistic (and nicer) use of the picture of our Chicago-style bungalow.

Hope you like it!

Painting of the baby room is on the horizon...the paint, primer and tape have been purchased and are patiently awaiting me.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Comparatively speaking...

...we got lucky. Our backyard flooded, and for a time last night, I thought it was going to make it to the house (and thus, the basement stairwell). If it reached that stairwell, all bets would have been off. I don't know if the drain outside that door works, or if it could even handle that amount of water flowing in. Thankfully, it stopped about 10 feet short. But, even now, there is still water to the west of the garage, as seen in these pictures, about 4pm. Last night, the water was all the way to where I was standing in the first picture, a good 10 feet or so from where the water ended (as best as I could tell) in these photos. Unfortunately, this is the area where I want to plant my major garden--not the prairie idea (as referenced in "Garden planning..."--wow, two references in two days!? Have I been doing this long enough?). That means that I'll probably have to fill this area in pretty good in order to prevent it from becoming a wet mess every time--and really because I don't particularly WANT wet-soil-loving plants, mostly. Gonna have to get them high and dry.

Anyway, as I mentioned, the water has receded a lot, but it's still pretty deep. That grass that you see submerged is quite long--it hadn't been cut in a while. So hopefully it will go down and we'll get minimal rain tonight. It would be nice.

Also, I realize this is really minimal problems compared to some others (Our Little Bungalow, for one example...two coworkers who ended up with three feet plus of water in their basements another example, among others), but for me, at least, this is a big deal...thankfully, it wasn't any bigger a deal--hopefully it stays that way.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Eh, we got six months...

OK, hold the phone, baby.

Today's insane rain, coupled with the insane rain that fell mainly on the Plains and somewhat here over the last week, finally did in the foundation of our front steps, more or less. We had a pretty drippy leak under there this evening that I'm going to have to continuously check on now.

It also means that our "Next projects" list needs to change again. Newest member of the "Next Projects" list? Repair the stairs and concrete foundation on them, as well as any tuckpointing on the stairs that needs to be filled.

I had wanted to repoint the entire face of the house (see "I can repoint my bungalow"), but I guess that entire project will have to wait and we'll have to install a temporary fix of some sort (for the tuckpointing portion, not the concrete).

Let's hope that the rains, which are supposed to continue all night and most of the day tomorrow, ease off some and don't seep in beyond that one little enclosed room. We shall see.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

"A baby changes everything"...

Well, that has become true in terms of our house priorities, anyway.

Obviously, we're going to paint the future baby's future room. Gina is supposed to go get primer and paint today for that task. I'll have to prime and paint the upstairs second bedroom, which is covered in wood paneling. This is going to be a long process. But at least I won't need any ladders, since it's a lower-ceilinged room. OK, I might need a stepstool to get at the truly higher portions. I'll be sure to post pics of the room. It's cool now, and will look that much cooler after we paint it. The kid will have TONS of space, no doubt about that. And an air conditioned room! I never had that growing up...the brat is spoiled already. ;)

Once it cools off outside a bit, we've decided that it's time for the collapsing fence(s) to go. We'll either replace the entire backyard fence at once, or half in the fall and half in the springtime. One half isn't as bad as the other (right now, anyway). It all depends what we can afford, of course. That will be a fun, fun project...but we're going to do it ourselves. My dad put up a nice wood fence in his yard, so he can supervise/oversee the project. Which, with my dad, means that he'll pretty much take over and do most of the work. :)

After that, we're going to have to perform two renovations at once, most likely. The plumbing will have to be retooled to give us better water pressure--and we've decided to devote the fall, winter and probably part of the spring to remodeling the basement family room. If we time it right, we can replace piping while we have the basement walls torn up, minimizing mess and other issues. Originally, we were thinking we'd wait on the family room. However, since the massive rains did not cause any seepage or flooding or anything, we feel much more comfortable with our basement's solidity. The other thought is, once the baby gets big, we'll need a decent-sized space for him/her to play, and the frontroom upstairs and dining room simply isn't the answer.

Another reason seems selfish, but really isn't...and that is, I can wall-mount the 125-gallon fish tank that is sitting in the garage right now, taking up space. I probably won't set the thing up, i.e., put fish and water and stuff inside. But I can blow out the wall, rebuild it, build the stand and set the tank in place, ready for a future of fish. Yet another reason IS selfish, and that is, I can build my bar downstairs and get my flatscreen TV. :) Has to be an entertainment mecca, you know. :)

So we have big plans...and hopefully we'll have the budget to take care of most, if not all, of them and take care of them well. That said, I still need a ladder to get on the roof and figure out why the skylight in the bathroom is seeping a bit during some big rains. And then basically seal it shut, if needed.

Saturday, August 18, 2007


To fill the deafening silence lately here, instead of crickets (as the title suggests), I bring you...

A monarch butterfly on our Butterfly Bush.

This one was actually nice enough to open its wings and let me take a picture of it. We've had quite a lot of butterflies and bees and other insects, which is nice. Makes me know that I planted some good flowers. I don't remember having this many butterflies and bees in my garden when I was out in Bolingbrook, and that was a much, much, much larger garden. I guess size doesn't matter after all! :)

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Where have you gone, Mr. Bungalow?

We're still here...just had a bit of a more relaxing weekend...well, not really. I had a hay fever attack that really limited me on Sunday--though I did fight through it to cut the grass, which needed it. Otherwise, I've been slowed by busy-ness at work and in life in general to really get anything done around here. Not that anything's truly pressing right now. Sure, there's things to do, but nothing super urgent, you know?

Anyway, I know Gina and her parents have been busy cleaning the second bedroom upstairs in anticipation (nearly 7 months ahead of time) of the new baby. She COULD post about it, but I don't know if she even knows how to do so. Not much to fully report there anyway, I guess...They're prepping it so I can prime and paint it. I'll have before and after pics when we get down to the nitty gritty. It's about half drywall and half wood paneling. I'm just going to sand down the paneling and paint it. I'm not ripping it all out. It's not worth it (at least not at this stage, anyway)...of course, that opinion may change in time. We'll see.

I've been eyeing a bunch of furniture and a new light fixture/chandelier for the dining room, but we'll have to see. I'm afraid to pull the trigger...maybe something will push me to do it. We shall see.

So many ideas just bouncing around in my head, and so little funds and time to do such things! :)

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Storm windows--they're dear to my heart...

So, I happened to notice a bungalow owner on Craigslist selling what appear to be original wood storm windows and screens. I'm so tempted, but I don't understand why...well, I kind of do.

My parents, who don't have what one would call a bungalow (although it is a precursor to the Chicago-style bungalow and shares some similarities), have the original wood storms and screens that have to be put in and taken out every season change. They're held in with little wingnut-type clamp thingies, and they fit the windows nicely.

Furthermore, one of the few things I can remember really clearly about my grandparents' bungalow was the storm windows--simply because it's one of the things I actually helped my grandparents with. I can remember one time, by the time I was old enough by their count to climb on and be trusted on a ladder, that I think my grandma had me wash the storms, which were installed on the windows. It was funny, because I didn't use rags or paper grandma had me use windex and newspaper to clean the glass...I don't quite remember why--I believe it prevented streaking or something. But I do remember being up there and feeling a sense of duty, especially since my grandma left me alone to do the job, unsupervised. At this particular age in my life, this was a big deal, because even if my parents gave me something to do, they were always watching over my shoulder to make sure I did it right and/or did it at all. :) It was much different at my grandparents' house. :)

My grandparents either (a) didn't care, or (b) trusted me a lot more. They let me be a kid when sometimes my parents wouldn't. I'm not saying my parents were wrong for that or anything...not at all. I wouldn't change it one bit. But it's part of why I love the bungalows so much, really...they're associated with fun for me. I remember my grandparents' kitchen of those old-fashioned, basin-type ones that people now probably pay hundreds of dollars for. I remember that because I had to do the dishes at my grandparents' house--but they then let me play with my toy boats in the sink afterward, and didn't care if I got a little overzealous with the splashing. My grandma used to let me also just go into the fridge and mix up a bunch of stuff and make up my own "recipes" or whatever. She didn't stifle my creativity either...she let me just grab whatever, mix it together and try it. Honestly, it's really amazing that I didn't go into some culinary field or something, based on that.

But, anyway, back to the storms...we don't need storms or screens, as we have newer, metal ones, and triple-track storm screens in the front even. They're all painted and in good shape, so there's no reason to go through the trouble. But, part of my heart wishes that we had those original wooden ones...with the three weep holes drilled out of the bottom.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

A day of rest...

Yesterday just killed me. Let me tell ya...those air conditioners took a lot out of me.

So today I decided to try to convert half my fish tank over to a sand bottom, which is supposedly better for the plants and the catfish I have. So, we'll see how that goes. Worth noting--I had to fight heavy impulse to purchase several flowers at Home Depot when I went to buy the sand...I successfully fought those off, thankfully. I don't have the energy or the time in the next couple of days to plant anything.

I had planned to clean out more of the crawlspace--there is STILL stuff up there--but I was just too tired for that today. Still, with a small a/c unit in the living room and the crawlspace mostly cleaned, I'm going ahead and registering those two "projects" as being done, on my count on the left. Hey, it's my project counter, so I can cheat if I want to.

Meanwhile, last night's storms caused some water leakage in the main upstairs bathroom around the skylight AGAIN. So that tells me that the skylight is the problem, potentially speaking. For all the rain we got, though, there wasn't much more than a dollar-bill sized splatter on the floor. So I'm not sure exactly what that means...maybe the rain came down so fast the water puddled on top of the skylight for a few minutes, causing it to seep in between the window and the frame? I mean, I poked my head out the skylight to look at the roofwork around it, and they really sealed up the flashing and everything quite a bit, so it couldn't have come through the roof, I don't think. So I don't know. I really, honestly, just want to take the skylight out and rebuild the roof or build a mushroom-cap access hatch of some sort and be done with it. But, at the same time, I'm really nervous about getting into that type of "project," especially with many others needed before it.

Also, I tracked down a gentleman who shares the same name as one of the key former residents here--the family history stuff I found yesterday in the attic. He says it sounds like it's his family, and that he was going to check around and see if anyone knows about the stuff. Doesn't matter to me whether he wants/takes it or not. It's no skin off my back. I just know that if it were MY family's stuff, I'd be all over it. But I realize not everyone's that way, so I put the stuff in a better box and put it back in the crawlspace, and then told him to take his time figuring out things...I'm in no hurry as of yet.

Aside from that, really, today was a low-key day around the bungalow. More as events warrant, of course. :)

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Decoding the past...

Well, I started cleaning out the crawlspace in the attic today...I'm really tired. So the rest will have to wait. :)

There were three air conditioners in the crawlspace. One was a small one that currently sits in one of our frontroom windows. Another was a very big 18,000 btu unit that is sitting on the floor in the dining room, because I couldn't find the outside shell for it (I checked the basement crawlspace, which is where it was...don't know why they were separated, but oh well). The third was this ENORMOUSLY HEAVY unit that looked like it was from the 1960s or was so old it was rusty in a lot of spots. I didn't even bother to try and turn it on, for fear that it would explode or something. :)

Thankfully, my brother-in-law came over to help me struggle down the stairs with that one...even so, it took a LOT of energy and maneuvering--I'm betting that thing had not moved from the attic/crawlspace since the 1950s.

More interesting a discovery, however, was a box of photos/albums/family history on what must have been one of the previous owners. I mean, literally, there are hundreds of pictures, a couple family albums, two wedding albums, two diplomas, a high school yearbook, numerous grammar school class photos, Mother's Day cards, baby shoes, etc., etc., detailing a family's history. I believe that the parents in this family must have owned this bungalow at some point, and somehow, this box was either forgotten, left or lost in the attic or somewhere in the house over time. Anyway, I thought, "Boy, if someone found this kind of stuff for my family, I would want them to track me down so I could have it." So I hunted for the people online, and found a guy who has the same name as one of the kids in the family history. He responded and said he would ask around his family to see if indeed this stuff was theirs...I didn't share too much info with him (partially because I don't want to give this stuff to someone who technically doesn't own it--even though the last name is not "Smith" or something like that--it's pretty "rare").

I told him all I'd hope for in return was any historical info on this house that he or his family members could share, since that's really what I'm after--especially if they indeed lived here for any length of time. Otherwise, it's all theirs. Sadly, there were no pictures of this bungalow among the hundreds in there, so we'll see. Maybe this guy rented the upstairs here and forgot this box when he moved out, and thus his family never actually lived here--I don't know. I guess I'll find out sooner than later... :)

Friday, August 3, 2007

Functional, restored wood windows...

Crazy week of travel this has been for me. But at least today, after landing at O'Hare at 3am last night and finally getting to bed at 4am, I woke up to the Chicago Bungalow's best friend, Just Sashes. :) You may have seen John and/or his son on other bungalow blogs restoring windows. He's very knowledgable about these wonderful houses--I believe he said he has one himself...and he was telling us all about the woodwork and window work and such. He knows his stuff, that's for sure. Let me tell you, for the money (in other words, to replace the windows entirely), John's firm is worth its weight in gold if you're looking to restore your windows.

Instead of replacing 5 windows with vinyl replacements at a cost nearing $3,000, we were able to have Just Sashes restore all 11 vintage windows in the house for significantly less. So now we can open the front windows and actually use them! That's awesome. And, of course, now our house is safer too, since this:
Has been replaced by these:So, we're happy about that...maybe tomorrow I will pull out the window air conditioners and see if they're working and which we could put in the dining room and/or 1st floor office. Also, we can clean out the attic crawl while we're up there. For once, we don't have much to do on a Saturday, which is amazing.

John also pointed out that our two bedroom windowsills are quartersawn oak. He says that's funny, because probably when they built the house, some dumb kid just threw it in for the carpenter, but obviously, quartersawn oak is a really expensive wood (in comparison). Here's a pic of the windowsill in the 1st floor office. I knew what quartersawn oak was, but I didn't realize these two sills were quartersawn oak. :)
Well, now it's on to bigger, better things...since Gina is pregnant--I didn't announce that here, I guess...well, Gina's pregnant--we're going to have to fix the upstairs bathroom toilet...which means having to spend money on the low-water pressure problem before anticipated. Then, if that doesn't fix the toilet, we'll have to replace the toilet. But I want to try the water pressure issue first. And go from there...have a good weekend, everyone!

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Pure infuriation...

I HATE water supply lines. I HATE THEM.

Went and purchased a new kitchen faucet yesterday...thought, "Oh, this shouldn't be too bad to replace it." Having replaced three faucets in the past two years, I figured it would take a few hours and I'd be done. Silly, silly, stupid me.

First, I found out the idiot PO didn't have shutoff valves put under the sink. So I had to shut off the supply to the entire back of the house. Only one bathroom was working, the kitchen was out, the laundry room, the outside spigot. All shut off.
After fighting the old faucet to get it out, which took at least 30 minutes and practically breaking it apart to get it out, I discovered that the new faucet's supply lines didn't go down far enough to accommodate the hoses. They fell about a 1/2-inch short. Fury building at this stage.

I had somewhere to go in the evening, so I said, "All right, screw this, I'll go buy shutoff valves tomorrow morning, and that will make up the 1/2-inch difference easy enough.

Today, I go to get the valves, and I can't find any that bridge the gap between the copper pipe fitting and the supply hose. Again, the 40,000 different measurements possible on these f-ing things baffled me and confused me. So, I think I have it right after deciding to just buy new hoses to match the shutoff I believe is right, making sure the top of the hose matches the faucet male connection. So, after about 20 minutes of checking, I get home and find out that I got the wrong size input--there's a fitting on the end of the pipe. Fury exploding at this stage. I decide to pull the fitting off and take it BACK to Home Depot and find a NEW FITTING...I figure out that I bought a 1/2-inch shutoff valve--so, I need a fitting that's 1/2-inch on both sides (pipe and shutoff side). I hunt for the brass fittings, which aren't in the same aisle as ANYTHING else similar, buy them and leave. Finally, the faucet is on and working (so far)'s a pic. Note, we got the black's just not on the Web site. It's simpler and easier to use, and the water flow out of it is much better than it was before. Also, I bought the new hardware for the china cabinet and installed it...even that was not without it's problems. I bought a Mission-style bar pull and a backing plate (to cover the fact that there were two holes from the previous hardware). They're pretty, and there's pictures below. Anyway, this was basic length on the screw included, and I kind of assumed they'd give you enough length to go through the door AND the backing plate (they were sold separately, but still)...but they didn't. So, thankfully I discovered this before going back to Home Depot, so I could buy some longer machine screws in that trip as well. They look sharp...

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Fridge is in, cabinet hardware next??

Got the fridge earlier today. Apparently, the delivery men had a better time bringing the thing in through the front door, rather than going out the back. Ah well...that's OK. So it's in place, but I don't feel like taking a picture of it right now, so you'll all just have to wait. :)

Hopefully the window guy will call us tomorrow to schedule for next week. We gotta get these windows redone before we commit the money elsewhere. After the windows are restored and repaired, we'll probably ease into other projects. I still have to buy some new hardware for the china cabinet. I'm looking a set of Mission style knobs and backing plates, or possibly Mission style backing plates with bar pulls. Probably will go with the knobs and plates (to cover the double holes from the current hardware). But I have yet to measure to see if the plates will fit. That's kinda important, I know. But, I have to make this interesting for you all to read, don't I? :)
Anyway, that's enough for now...more as events warrant.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Ah, another [insert last name here] project...

Well, the "not so old" fridge is gone. But not without a brother and brother-in-law came over to help me wheel out the fridge to the garage. Thought it would be easy...but as the title says, it was another [my last name here] project. Welcome to my world. :)

We made, literally, five attempts to get the thing out the door. First, we had to take off the doors. Then, the hinges got in the way on the bottom. Then, the water supply hose in the back got in the way. Then, finally, some random bolts on the bottom of the fridge wouldn't let us through. Finally, we got it out the door.

I half joked that the deck would collapse under us once the fridge was on it. Part of me was surprised it didn't.

I apologize for no fun pictures of us struggling with the fridge...I still have to teach Gina to grab the camera rather than sit and worry about us scratching or damaging this, that or the other thing. Instead, here's a couple pictures of the blank spot where the fridge was and where the new fridge will go.

I hope the guys delivering the fridge tomorrow have an easier time of it, especially since I won't be here to help. I also hope they don't screw anything up.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Garden happenings...

Bought one new flower today, but I had to weed, and I also bought some mulch to try to keep the weeds at bay. In all the gardening in Bolingbrook that I did, I never used mulch. Partially because, well, if I did, I'd have gone broke for all the mulch I'd have had to buy. :)

Anyway, check out the photos...the plants are doing really well...although I need to next year give the Butterfly Bush better support from the start, rather than halfway through the summer, when the thing has flopped over already. But it has drawn butterflies to the garden, as it advertises. :)

The mulch was on sale at Menard's, so I grabbed three big ol' bags of it for $1.99 each. Good ol' Menard's. I have more than enough mulch now, since I used only 1.5 bags of it for this little bitty garden.

So yeah, they say mulch does a good job of keeping weeds at bay, so we'll see how it goes. The frightening thing, which I didn't notice until I snapped these pictures? You can tell just how old the fence is compared to the color of the fresh mulch next to it. Hopefully that fence will be replaced next year...hopefully.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Thank you, HCBA...

...because of you, I no longer have to deal with a side-by-side fridge.

Today, we went and bought ourselves a new fridge with the HCBA's appliance voucher. Here's a picture, and a link to the site. It's a really nice fridge, obviously. We had a little money saved up too, so we were able to splurge. Thanks to all of you who gave us any kind of monetary gift for our housewarming--you can see where the money went! :) Seriously, though, I'm sure I thanked you, but thank you again. We get our beautiful new fridge on Thursday.

Now, we need to do something with the former fridge. You see, it's a really nice fridge, and it isn't that old, I don't believe. It works perfectly fine...for someone who wants a side-by-side. I CANNOT live with it. Personal preference, of course. So, we're not even putting it in the basement to replace the ancient top-freezer fridge down there. What's the point? If it's going to be a storage-only kind of fridge, what could we truly store in a side-by-side, really? Sheet cake? NO. Frozen pizza? NO. Leftover pizza? DEFINITELY NO. So screw it. I think we'll just clean it out a little more (it was cleaned when we moved in) and sell it...if I can get a few hundred bucks for a nice fridge (did I mention it has a wood facing on match cabinetry?), then that's fine with me.

So if anyone is interested here and can wait a little bit, please let me'll have to pick it up yourself, sorry...but it's a good fridge (for those who can deal with side-by-sides).

Otherwise, I've spent much of the down time this weekend researching stuff for my aquarium...more than doing house stuff, that is. Although, in an indirect way, that is house stuff, since it'll lead to the 125-gallon tank being taken care of sooner than later. Anyway, for those who like pictures, here's one of my 38-gallon tank, for which I just bought a new, brighter light fixture (since all the plants except for the really tall one on the left are live plants).
So that's about it for now. More as further events warrant, of course. :) Enjoy the rest of your weekend!