The one with the stairs…

Twas the month before Christmas and all through the house, was the sound of Jesse cursing and crying to her spouse.

It was the morning after our first ice storm here in the new house. The trees were glistening, the air was crisp, icicles hung from the rock ledge over the fish pond, it was beautiful and serene. Then… I fell down the stairs and promptly turned into the dad from a Christmas Story when the furnace breaks…

Let me rewind. We had been discussing for a few days now how we really needed to do something about our outdoor stairs situation. We have two entry ways to the house, and both involved treacherous stairs. On the left side, we have a narrow wooden staircase where the rise was 9″ instead of the standard 7″. I know, that doesn’t sound like much. But when your body is conditioned to stepping up 7″ instead of 9″ for your entire life, you really notice the difference. It makes you much more likely to trip and fall, exactly what we want our guests to have to worry about. Oh and the second step from the bottom was broken in half (across the width of the stair). So not only did you have to step up steeper than normal, you had to make sure that you were stepping on the back half of the stair so as not to land on the broken part. This was really ideal for carrying groceries.

On the right side of the house was a stone staircase that originated in the driveway and delivered you to the paver patio on the side of the house. But it lacked a railing, and the stones it was made out of were all of varying heights, depths, widths…you get the idea. It was more of an ornamental staircase than a practical one. This wouldn’t have been an issue because when we bought the house, there was a nice stone driveway all the way to the right of the house that we used to be able to walk up, and even allowed us to park all the way up by the patio. But since the new septic tank was buried literally in the middle of that driveway, it is now a grassy slope that we can’t park on. So we are forced to use the spiral stair death-trap (see below).

 

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I knew this was going to be an issue as soon as the driveway was taken out, but it didn’t really seem pressing until the winter started threatening us with ice and snow. My trips down the stone steps were already interesting in the morning, in my flats or booties carrying several bags with hot coffee in my hands. But now I would have to worry about doing that with ice covering them? Then there was the issue of several of our family members not being able to visit because they needed a better way to get into the house, one that wouldn’t require balancing acts or hyper-stretching the hamstrings to reach the next stair. This truly upset me and finally I broke down to Seth. He agreed that something needed to be done about it, and soon because we were going to be hosting Christmas Eve dinner and wouldn’t even be able to get our family up the stairs to the house.

So with us being complete geniuses, we decided to go out the morning after the first ice storm and survey the situation. We used the wooden stairs and I followed behind Seth. I went down the first two steps very cautiously.  Then the third. And then, silly me, I forgot about that 4th darn step being broken because it was covered in ice and I couldn’t see it. So I slipped down the steps, bashing my hip and back hard (oh and this was one week before my black belt test that I had been training for for 3 years so an injury might have sent me over the edge). Before I knew it I was crying, like a little baby! It was almost instantaneous. Seth turned around and saw me laying on the icy stairs crying in pain. He came running over, and didn’t even laugh (which he later rubbed in because, well, he fell down the steps one time and I laughed …he says hysterically… and he won’t let me live it down). I cried that this was the last straw. We needed to do something about these stairs immediately. I angrily stood up and used my foot to bash in the broken part of the stair so all that was left was the non-broken part. It felt great, I can’t lie.

We started planning the new stairs and tried to figure out how we would widen the wooden platform on them while making them less steep. We had an idea but it would involve moving a post that was currently supporting our sunroom. Hmm, not the easiest but the other side of the house involved us digging out all of the rocks (more like boulders) in the cold, adding dirt, reshaping the slope, and building stairs out of something. That sounded more difficult than moving a post. But our consultants (dad and brother-in-law) convinced us that we weren’t savvy enough to move a support beam by ourselves (probably smart) and that we should go with the other option. So with merely two weeks until Christmas at this point, Seth got to work.

First he had to rake out the beautiful ground cover that was next to the stairs. Then he had to painstakingly remove the gigantic boulders and find a new place to put them. He was left with a big dirt slope.

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Some of the rocks didn’t get moved yet and I was able to snap a picture of them. Pulling these out by hand could not have been too fun. Seth also found some interesting bugs while he was playing in the dirt. We believe they were cicada larvae. Sorry to disturb ya, buddy! Go back to sleep for another 15 years or so!

We decided that the best way to build new stairs was to use garden timbers and create a 3 sided box. We spent an hour or so watching some youtube videos and doing lots of geometric calculations (see kids, you DO use it when you get older!) and then went out to Home Depot that same day and got all of the supplies. Seth then spent the next few very cold hours building the boxes in the back of the truck. I don’t deal well with temps that cold so all I was able to do was offer him moral support from the window and an occasional beer to keep him warm. Before long, he had built 13 sturdy and very heavy boxes, and the sun was setting.

The next few days, Seth enjoyed slightly less chilly temps while he worked on installing the steps. He would shovel out the dirt underneath each step, place the box, put a rebar stake in it and then fill it back up with dirt. Then he would decide the angle of the next step on top of it and repeat. One issue he faced was that the entire slope was filled with small rocks. It was as if someone had dumped an entire field of rocks into one little area. Then we realized, well yea, we live on the side of a “mountain” so I guess that makes sense. Fun times. Because of work, I was only able to help with the last section of stairs. We used as much dirt as we could from our own property but eventually needed to get some extra.

Luckily, this small farm up the road has dirt for…dirt cheap! HA! I didn’t even do that one on purpose. We filled up the back of the truck with dirt and then mulch to lay along side the stairs so that the upcoming rain wouldn’t wash all of the loose dirt down into the driveway. We took turns shoveling and wheeling the dirt around to fill up all of the stairs. I was glad I could finally help!

Next, we raked out the dirt beds along side the stairs and mulched them. Then I tried as best as a could to make a somewhat flat surface at the top of the stairs out of some of the rocks we had pulled out of the slope. We will eventually replace these with pavers but for now, it is good enough.

After a few days, we had miraculously turned our scary stone stairs, into beautiful garden timber stairs!

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We still had several issues to work out, such as lighting and what to fill the stairs with. Because of some weird electrical issue that occurred a while back, we still had no power to the exterior front of the house, as well as in the sunroom, office (our old closet-room)  and interior stairwell. So essentially at night, the outside of our house was pitch dark. And I mean DARK. There are no street lights out here, and essentially no white noise so once that sun goes down, you better hope the animals don’t see you before you see them. Okay, maybe that is just my scary imagination but either way, we needed light! So we decided that the best bet would be to get two solar lanterns so that we didn’t have to worry about the wiring since that had been quite problematic for us. Seth installed the lanterns high towards the top of the staircase so they would provide light the whole way down. They work really well and we are very pleased with how they look!

We figured we were good to go for now until spring when we would fill in the stairs with pavers or stone. However, Christmas Eve rolled around and while we were busily preparing our luncheon, it dawned on me that it had been pouring all night and the dirt that once filled the stairs was now mud and puddles. Our family was going to have to climb mud stairs to get into the house. Crap! This whole thing was to make it easier for our family to visit. So I turned on my best charm and asked Seth if he could just take a few of the pavers (that a friend of ours had given us for free) and at least make a little stepping stone on each step so that people could avoid the puddles. He wasn’t too happy with this request but while I cooked the chicken piccata and potatoes, he went out there and being an overachiever, he dug out each step and essentially filled the entire staircase with pavers. Woohoo!! No muddy feet for Christmas!!

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So even though these stairs are not yet done, they are damn near close and a vast improvement over what was already there. Thank goodness! I wish I could say I did more to help with this effort but Seth was truly the rockstar of this project by himself. It may have started with cursing, but it ended with with a beautiful staircase and lighting that would make The Christmas Story leg lamp jealous.

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Costs:

2 solar lanterns: $180

2 solar lanter posts: $102

Pavers: free!!!

Timbers & nails: $240

Rebar:  $10

Dirt & mulch: $60

TOTAL: $592 

Man vs. Wild … in the kitchen

Are you familiar with Bear Grylls popular show Man vs. Wild? We always loved that show in our house. In fact, when Jordan and my nephew were really young they used to request that we watch it and referred to it as “the dangers”. It is a great show! I think the appeal of it is the idea of man, going back to his indigenous roots and battling the elements of nature to find safety (not to mention, who doesn’t love the way he pronounces crevice and glacier). I have to say though, watching Bear defend against wildlife is much more entertaining than say, doing it yourself in your own house. You know how we figured that out? Well, it all started with a box of Jello Puddin’…

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Notice the little tuft of fur by the ripped opening.

I know what you are thinking. Big deal… a mouse got into your cabinet, it happens, especially when you buy an old house in the woods.  Okay, so we were down one box of pudding. Nothing to cry over. Well then…

We were down an entire drawer of pudding (oh and don’t judge the amount of pudding we had, it was a phase). And one night we went to make tacos and saw that yet another drawer had been broken into, and the taco seasoning had been eaten. Taco seasoning?? What the heck. That mouse must be desperate to eat dry, spicy, orange dust. So we decided enough was enough and we set out two humane traps in the drawers and on the floor. We figured the mouse must be coming up from under the dishwasher and climbing behind the drawers to get in them. If we baited the humane traps with some yummy morsels, we should be able to catch this thing in no time.

The next day we were disappointed to find that the humane traps had not been successful, but at least nothing else had been broken into. Later on in the afternoon, I was sitting home with Ted (the pup) folding some laundry when all of a sudden Teddy started growling. He ran into the kitchen and started sniffing around by the cabinets. Then we both jumped when we heard a loud sound coming from the drawers that had previously been violated. The sound was … alarming. It was as if a large, heavy piece of plastic was being dragged back and forth in the drawer. It just kept moving around and Ted just stood there in front of the drawer, tilting his head back and forth with curiosity. I didn’t know what to do! It must be the mouse! It must have gotten into the humane trap and now it is banging the thing around in the drawer. I slowly made my way into the kitchen, with Ted shooting me a look as if to say, “watch out ma, I don’t know what the hell is in there but it ain’t right.” I grabbed my phone and started video taping. Why? Um, well I am not really sure. I guess I wanted evidence to show my husband in case the mouse attacked me and won. The thing is, it actually sounded way to big to be a mouse. But I thought, I must be crazy. So I went over and with my non-video-recording hand, I quickly ripped open the drawer. And what did I find?

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An empty bag of cornmeal. What the? This mouse that was just making all this racket in the drawer someone got away, and it also ate an ENTIRE BAG of cornmeal?!?! What kind of mouse are we talking about here? How fat is this mouse?! I was perplexed. I figured that it might be a good thing because the fatter he got, the more difficult it would be for him to move around.

Later that evening, Ted and I were watching TV when we heard the same loud sounds coming from the butler’s pantry right outside the kitchen. Now it sounded like a cable wire was being shaken around inside the drawer. Teddy and I stared at the drawer, not knowing what to do. I went over to investigate and the sound stopped. I gave up the search and went back to binge-watching Chopped. A few minutes later, it happened again! That’s it. This thing is taunting me. It is as if ever since we put the traps out, he is intentionally trying to mess with us. I called Seth and told him all about what was going on. He said he planned on getting some less-humane traps for the little pest, and I begged him to let us give the humane traps a few more days to work.

A few days later Seth got home from work and brought in some groceries. We had been so excited because we got a bread maker and our crazy cool pantry actually has a built-in spot for a bread maker with a plug and everything. So Seth had picked up some flour for us and we made plans to make our first loaf of bread the next day. We went to bed and yet again hoped our humane traps would do their magic over night.

The next morning when we came downstairs, we discovered that we had forgotten to put the flour away the night before and had left it on the counter…

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Seriously?! Now this thing is interfering with our bread-making plans?! We were so pissed that we couldn’t make our bread (because obviously we need more carbs…) that we didn’t even realize how weird the placement of the rip was on the bag. Normally, mice eat food from the bottom up. They are, of course, small. If you notice in the picture, this had been attacked from the top of the bag. We sent the picture to some of our family members and they all agreed that this looked more like the work of another kind of animal. They suggested that it was perhaps a….rat……

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A RAT?!?!?!?! IN MY KITCHEN!?!!? I couldn’t even consider this to be an option!!! You all know how I feel about rats (Reno. Week 4- It started with a Rat and ended with a mouse). I immediately pictured a rat standing on my counter on his hind legs feasting on the bag of flour and licking his chops. That can’t be right.

But it would make sense because the humane traps weren’t working and they would be too small for a rat to fit in. Oh my god, something has to happen. This thing needs to be taken care of. I finally gave in and told Seth it was okay to get the god-awful sticky traps that people swear by. We used them in the house I grew up in and I will never forget the day my mom was sitting on the couch and put her foot down and her shoe got stuck to the edge of the sticky trap that had been under the couch. When she pulled her shoe out, we saw that the sticky pad was not only stuck to her shoe, but also to a mouse!! Looking back it is hysterical, although at the time we all screamed like little girls.

So Seth set up the traps in one of the drawers that this guy had made his personal hangout. He strategically placed a tube of icing in between two traps that the rat-mouse had already helped himself to on a previous endeavor. This thing was going down!

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That night, I woke up to Teddy growling and barking at the floor of our bedroom. This was the 3rd or 4th night in a row that he had been doing this and we were not too thrilled about it. At first we thought he was going crazy. But then, I realized that he was growling at a sound he heard downstairs, not the bedroom floor. I listened and I heard a few loud bangs coming from the kitchen. I tapped (or smacked) Seth and told him to get up. He asked what was up and I said “someone is downstairs…or….”. We looked at each other and a smile stretched across Seth’s tired face. “THE MOUSE!” We ran downstairs like two kids on Christmas morning. We must have caught this thing!

….nope.

But mister mouse had in fact enjoyed our icing tube. He not only feasted on it, but he dragged the entire tube and a sticky trap OUT of the drawer all together. Ok, this is definitely not a mouse. Other hints that suggested we weren’t in mouse-town anymore were the new items we found that had been snacked on…

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Hard plastic, heavy cardboard, oh and the particle board behind our cabinets.

We were in shock and felt helpless. One day I was staying late at work grading papers and the custodian, Woody, came in. He asked how things were going with our new house and I told him all was well, except for this little issue we are having with some sort of rodent. I told him all about it and he agreed it definitely wasn’t a mouse. When I described the hard plastic it had chewed through he suggested that perhaps it wasn’t a rat, but maybe a chipmunk.

A CHIPMUNK! Genius! Now I could have sworn I had posted about a chipmunk previously on this blog but I can’t seem to find it. All summer long we had one chipmunk that we would watch as he ran up and down the rock wall right on the other side of our kitchen window. He was so cute, and so fast! We would discuss how his movements were so quick that it was like they were happening in fast forward, and we would talk in slow-mo voices and ask each other if this is how he hears our speech since everything is in hyper-speed in his world (yes, we are weird). We only ever saw one, and boy was he nice and plump by the end of the fall. It suddenly occurred to me that perhaps that little guy had somehow gotten in to the wall of the house and was now filling his belly with our baked goods…

…and our dishwasher insulation…

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…and some old diet food that we kept on top of the fridge in a basket and he climbed up there and knocked it down behind the fridge to snack on.

Well if the diet food doesn’t kill him, we don’t know what will.

We figured it was time to get more traps. This thing was really starting to destroy our house! We went out to Home Depot (of course) and got these rat traps that look like industrial size mouse traps. Most stores don’t sell “chipmunk traps” because let’s be real here, who the heck gets chipmunks in their house? And honestly, the idea of killing this thing upset me so much, but it had to be done. So Seth set the traps up in the drawer in a way that we were sure Chippy could not escape. He put the infamous tube of icing in one corner, and literally surrounded it by traps on all sides. Sticky traps and industrial size rat traps. To get to the icing, the chipmunk would HAVE to cross at least one, if not all of these traps.

Days went by, and nothing. Perhaps he had moved on to some other poor cottage in the woods?

Late one night we heard loud sounds again coming from downstairs and Seth ran to see if we had caught the spawn of satan, I mean the chipmunk, and he actually got a glimpse of him! He saw the chipmunk run out from under the fridge and duck right underneath the dishwasher and disappear. It was confirmed. Woody the custodian is a genius. We stayed up for a while and held a stakeout but Chippy didn’t show his little face again that night.

The next day while we were getting ready to cook dinner, I stepped into the pantry and had that really terrible feeling of stepping in a puddle with socks on. Ew. What the heck did I step in? I looked down and realized that half of the pantry floor was soaking wet!

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I called Seth frantically and we tried to figure out where the water was coming from. Seth looked as though a light bulb went off in his brain and he ran to the kitchen. He pulled the fridge out and we saw the water supply hose that goes to the ice maker spraying water like a firehouse! The hose had a tiny pinhole in it and must have been spraying for most of the day while we were at work because it had soaked through the floor and into the pantry on the other side of the wall! Seth ran downstairs the shut off the breaker for the fridge (ya know, so we didn’t electrocute ourselves) while I tried to hold off the firehouse by pinching my fingers, which didn’t work out too well. Finally we got the water supply turned off and we were able to step back and assess the damage. The whole area was drenched. We got out some beach towels and a big fan and started drying up the floor. We realized that when little mister chipmunk had been messing around with his favorite diet-snacks behind the fridge, he somehow damaged the water line.

Oh and Ted helped where he could…

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It seems irrational to hate a chipmunk. I mean, they are adorable. But man, this thing was on my last nerve, which says a lot. Fool me once… oh forget it. This thing has fooled us like 10 times. We are definitely being manipulated by a woodland creature.

Time to bring out the big guns (not literally, to Seth’s dismay). Rat poison.

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So because it is poison and there is no way of telling if it has been effective, I unfortunately can not tell you if we have been successful in our war on chipmunk-terror. I hate to leave you in suspense. I can happily report that we have had no more water leaks, or food destruction, or loud sounds waking us up from a sound sleep. So *knock on wood* we assume the issue has been taken care of and that Chippy is swimmin’ with this fishes. But I guess, the world will never know.

The moral of the story is, if you ever find your house being vandalized by a chipmunk, good luck, prepare yourself for the long haul, and start with poison.

Oh but if anyone needs any rat traps or humane mouse traps, we have a plethora!

Highlights Reel- Autumn 2016

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Fall… our favorite time of the year. Cool crisp air, beautiful leaves and pumpkin spice everything (this year I discovered Ghiradelli has pumpkin spice chocolate..). We usually start off the Halloween season by going to a local farm for pumpkin picking, hayrides and a corn maze. Unfortunately, this October was a little hectic and we settled for just getting the pumpkins at a local farm stand. But we have enjoyed a few fall family traditions over the last several years and we were excited to bring them into our new home, despite our crazy schedules. First up was pumpkin carving! My stepdad, Bryan, is the master pumpkin carver, or so we like to call him. The truth is he just really enjoys carving with the kids and doesn’t mind pulling out the pumpkin guts that the boys usually complain about. We were able to host the carving this year and got great use of our outdoor patio space. This was one of those days that I was so relieved to have the patio. In our old condo, we would have had to sit in the grass or carve inside which is not nearly as fun when it comes to cleanup time.

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The kids came up with some great Jack-o-lanterns this year and carved them mostly themselves (which was scary…knives…kids….AH!). Liam was very proud of his “pumpkin puke” and the animals of the neighborhood sure appreciated it.

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Back when we lived in the condo we used to host Halloween for my sister’s family and my mom and stepdad. It worked out well because we lived in a development and the kids could go trick-or-treating there and then come back to our house for pizza and our traditional ghost cake (it’s devils food cake in the shape of a ghost with white frosting and it is fantastic). I was afraid that because we moved to the middle of the woods, we wouldn’t be hosting Halloween anymore. Luckily, we worked it out to where we went trick-or-treating in another development close by and then all came back to the house to celebrate afterwards. I love that we have a space that we can comfortably entertain in! We still have a lot of work to do in the house and that can be super stressful but as long as our families can comfortably visit us, I can make peace with our crazy abode. Halloween 2016 was a success!

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Part of the reason we were so busy this fall was because we had a big family trip planned for Disney World (and Universal Studios) in early November. It was pretty insane, with 9 adults and 6 kids staying in one house and all going in different directions, but we had  a blast. Our kids particularly loved Universal Studios and Seth and I totally nerded out in Harry Potter World. It was an expensive trip to say the least so it probably won’t be happening again for a long time but we are very lucky that we got to experience Disney with our kids for the first time!

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Disney also gave me some ideas for the house (because when you are renovating, you find inspiration everywhere). The curtains in our house were absolutely gorgeous and I decided I need that fabric in my life. My good friend Ariel found a similar pattern online so now I just need to think about what I want to do with it (pillows, curtains, so many options!). I also really loved a scarf display at a store in Disney Springs (Sugarboo & Co., awesome stuff but WHOA to those prices!) and thought it fit in really well with our bedroom and my massive scarf collection. I can’t afford your coasters, Sugarboo, but thanks for the free idea. Another inspiration was from the master suite in the house we were staying in. Every room had a theme and the master suite was Frozen. The Frozen bathroom had a great color scheme and these beautiful chandeliers hanging over the double sinks. I decided that our new bathroom would look awesome with fancy chandeliers (I’m not sure that I told Seth about this one yet so….surprise hunny!!).

When we got home from Disney we needed to get back to work. A week out of state was great but man, we felt like the clock was ticking, especially since daylight savings time had hit and we were now in the dark by 4:30pm. We also felt set back because the trees decided to retaliate while we were gone and shed pretty much ALL of their leaves at once. Raking would have been okay if they were in the yard but the majority of the leaves were on the patio and the stairs. It was time to purchase some heavy duty artillery to get this job done. Never in my life have a used a leaf blower but a nice lady at Home Depot helped me pick out a comfortable backpack kind that was fairly user friendly. I am not going to say I was “good” at leaf blowing but hey, there’s a learning curve for everything. By next fall I should be an expert (or maybe just much less terrible).

Our trip to Disney was also a shock to our system because it was 80 degrees down in sunny Florida and pretty damn cold when we got back to NJ. Luckily we had a warm day before we left for vacation where we were able to convince the boys to help us stack up the cord of firewood we ordered. They were pretty miserable about it (seriously… kids used to do this crap all day! What the heck!) but we all worked together to get the job done.

We are now ready to bring on the next season in our new home, our very first winter in the woods! We have a few big projects to get done before it starts getting really nasty out, including redoing outdoor stairs and setting up better outdoor lighting. We also need to finish up Liam’s room and then get started on the bathroom and laundry room upstairs. So much to do, so little time!

Thanks for reading folks. Time to go snack on my pumpkin spice toast with pumpkin spice cream cheese… nom nom nom.

Even superheroes need breaks!

I might not be able to scale a wall or fly, or do anything that superheroes can do for that matter, but this home renovation has made us feel like freakin’ superheroes! We have been working ourselves nonstop and accomplishing huge tasks since July…well until a few weeks ago that is. We seemed to have hit a bit of a slow spot in our journey, and every time we go to beat ourselves up about it, we just need to remind ourselves that even superheroes need an occasional break!

In all fairness, we haven’t completely fallen of the wagon. Seth has been working whenever possible to get Liam’s room drywalled and now spackled. The first coat of spackle is done in the majority of the room, and we should be able to get paint on the walls in the next week. Liam has been super patient, but we know he will be super happy when he finally gets his own room!

We also have been doing a lot of things to get our house ready for fall. We discovered that fallen leaves is not the biggest problem we will have in the fall, it will be these pesky pine needles! Holy crap, they blanket every inch outside, including the entire surface of the roof over our patio. Hello fire hazard 😦

I thought to myself as I was sweeping them up unsuccessfully that we should really invest in a leaf blower. The more I looked into it though, I realized that leaf blowers won’t work well on pine needles because there is no surface area to lift them. So it looks like we will just be refining our techniques as we go here. Every day presents us with a new challenge, that is for sure! At least it will make good compost?

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Seth and I also used some of the last two weeks to take some time for ourselves and our family. We even got to take a trip to beautiful Gettysburg for my stepbrother’s wedding! It was a lot of fun and we can’t wait to go back. The quaint little shops, the colorful leaves, the rich history… it was a breath of fresh air!

Back at home, the autumn has been beautiful so far. We had quite a warm spell last week (prolonging my desire for air conditioning in my classroom) and our lawn took full advantage of the heat. Look at the beautiful green grass! Yay!!! (this is what adulting is, right? celebrating grass?)

This week we are back to cooler temps and that means time to get the wood stove crankin’! We are still trying to figure it out honestly, and have just ordered our first cord of wood for $200 to be delivered on Friday (I say that like I know what a cord is, but in reality I have no idea… am I even spelling that right?). Where do people find free firewood?! It’s been great so far because we have been using free wood and heating our house for free but we aren’t sure how cost effective it will be to pay for wood versus paying for oil. Yet another thing we will need to figure out as we go! I think I need to make a graphic organizer or rubric to help us. At least we can enjoy the sites of fall while we calculate…

So for these superheroes, it has been a slow October. But we are recharging and getting ready to go full steam ahead again soon.  We leave you with this shot I took up the road from our house. This, right here, is why we live where we live. This is what makes it all worth it. Wide open spaces (yup, totally signing Dixie Chicks in my head now), rolling hills, and bright blue skies. Home, sweet, home 🙂

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Reno. Week 8- When nature calls… hang up!

The calming sound of the wind rustling the leaves overhead, the smell from a wood burning stove in the air, the beautiful array of oranges and reds and yellows as you drive up the road to your house. Autumn is here, and it is fabulous. Seth and I love this time of the year, and we are excited to be here in our house for the change of the season. We are making great progress and finally got to sleep in our bedroom this week. We were so excited that it was seriously hard to fall asleep that first night! We felt like kids on Christmas Eve!

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I realized as I was laying in our room that I never got to show off pictures of our awesome bedroom ceiling. We decided to leave the beautiful tongue-and-groove ceiling open (it is fully insulated) and it makes for an open, airy feel to the room.

We also got some of our clothes put away in the room, although we are going to wait to complete the shelving in the front closet until after Liam’s room is done. It took a whole day to get all of the boxes of fall and winter clothes out from the workshop across the street and put away upstairs. But at least now I can stop wearing flip flops to work.

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It felt great to finally be getting settled in the house. And apparently, we weren’t the only ones who want to be in the house. Mice and bugs and big ass spiders seem to think our place looks cozy. I’d love to say that the theme of this week was work on the house, but in reality it has definitely been… unwelcome intruders.

It started off immediately after my last post when our dishwasher just suddenly stopped working. We figured it was an electrical problem because, well, everything else has been an electrical problem so it just made sense. But the more we looked into it, the more we realized it was something else; it was turning on but wasn’t filling up with water. So while Seth instantly wanted to start tearing the machine apart, I figured it would be best to look up videos and tutorials on how to troubleshoot the problem (silly of me, I know…). We pulled the dishwasher out from under the counter top and were horrified with what we discovered. Poop… mouse poop… ALL OVER THE PLACE!

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We knew this wasn’t going to be pretty. It took a little while to get the dishwasher out from it’s spot (we actually had to do some impromptu wiring because it was hardwired right into the basement breaker through the floor and the wire didn’t have enough slack to let us pull the machine out… ugh!) but when we did, we discovered WAY MORE than poop. This mouse had decided to make a home for itself, a huge nest, right under the dishwasher.

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Not going to lie, that freaked me out. I think mice are cute but their poop so close to my clean dishes and my food, not cool! We got the shop vac out and Seth took care of the nastiness. Hopefully, the mouse finds a new place to make a home, and not inside MY home.

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After an hour or so of pulling random hoses and plugs out of the dishwasher, we decided that we truly had no idea what we were doing and we needed to call a repair man. DIY only gets you so far sometimes. So for the rest of the week, our dishwasher remained out of commission.

A few days later, an appliance repair man came by and diagnosed our problem. A wire underneath the dishwasher had been mysteriously chewed through, most likely by an animal, he suggested. Hmm, I wonder what animal might have done that. Perhaps the one living in my kitchen!! Ugh, that’s it mouse… you now cost me money AND grossed me out. This means war.

I wish I could say the mouse was the only intruder this week, or that the dishwasher repair guy was the only professional we had to call in for help. But that would be a lie. After the first few nights sleeping upstairs we started noticing little winged ant-like bugs on our mattress when we went to lay down at night. Some were living, some were dead (probably squished by us in the middle of the night, a sad fate). We were afraid these were the dreaded carpenter ants mentioned in a previous post, although they were much smaller. We decided to call an exterminator (who I later found out was a parent of one of my students… I seriously hope my bras weren’t hanging out when he was inspecting the bedroom, awkward!) to have the situation properly assessed as we are definitely not bug experts. After I had the appointment scheduled, Seth mentioned that he had found a second good reason for the exterminator to come out. He mentioned it sheepishly and I instantly knew what he meant.

He must have found spiders.

Big spiders.

Wolf Spiders.

(google what they look like, I can’t even put a picture on my blog of one without making my own skin crawl)

Sure enough, he confessed that he had found two wolf spiders in our bathroom two days in a row (and hadn’t told me yet because of the obvious freak out that would ensue). They were big, and one of them had been in the bathroom with me while I was brushing my teeth because Seth saw it on the floor right after I walked out. It had been in there… WITH ME. Oh this was so not okay. I mean, I don’t mind most bugs but certain kinds, and spiders (which, I know, are not classified as insects) are definitely NOT okay. I realize that we live in the woods now, and that it is common to have spiders come in the house during the early fall to seek warmth, but by no means do I plan on letting them stay. I had another pep talk with Ted, similar to the one we had about the rat, but he just blinked at me. Oh, exterminatorrrr! I have a jobbbb for youuu!!!

So at this point in the week we had been invaded by mice, ants and wolf spiders. It was shaping up to be an interesting week. Luckily, the weather was gorgeous for most of it and we could get some things done outside. Part of the deal when we moved into the house was that Jordan was going to get a basketball hoop. This has been all he’s wanted for years and we were never able to have one in our condo (association rules are rough). We obviously had to wait for the septic craziness to be over but finally, we were in the clear. After waiting 6 weeks for the hoop to come in (Dick’s sporting goods really needs to work on their customer service!!), we received it and Seth set it up. Jordan hasn’t seen it yet, and I am pretty excited to see his reaction! 🙂

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Even though the weather outside has been great during the day, the nights are getting pretty chilly. We decided it was time to get our wood burning stove checked out, and the oil-burning furnace as well. It is a good thing because the oil furnace downstairs was so clogged that we were very much in danger of a carbon monoxide issue! Dodged a bullet there (PSA to call your furnace guy, people!). We really wanted to try and avoid using the oil heat all together and just stick with the wood burning stove to heat the house. The previous owner said that’s basically all he used in the winter. How difficult can it be?? The first task was getting the wood.

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Luckily the guy who came to clean the furnace told Seth that he is welcome to come by his house and take as much wood as he needs. We also have offers from my step-dad and another family friend. Free firewood=free heat… I am all about free!

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Plus it just looks so nice and cozy 🙂

Turns out though, using a wood stove is not as easy as you might think. It is hard to get it hot enough with kindling to get the flames really going, and if it is even a little bit colder inside than it is outside, the smoke doesn’t get pulled up the chimney as easily and you can smoke out your house (not that we know from experience or anything… who am I kidding, yes we do, it happened). It is also hard to control the amount of heat that comes off of it. The first night we had it going we were sweating watching tv and then woke up in the middle of the night freezing. So yea, this is going to take some getting used to. Any suggestions are welcome!!

Given all the craziness this week, it has still been a good one. Seth got some sheetrock done in Liam’s room and I moved over a lot of stuff from the workshop across the street. We have a wedding this weekend in Gettysburg so we will be taking a few days off of the reno-work but we will be back at it next week! Ted will also be resting up for a few days because, well, that’s all he ever really does…

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We wanted to open up the blog for any questions our readers might have! We have gotten a few in person asking specifics about certain projects, or the layout of some rooms, so we realized that many of you might be wondering the same things! Let us know in the comments here or on Facebook if you have any certain questions you would like answered or topics you would like featured.

As always, thanks for reading and enjoy your first few weeks of this beautiful season 🙂

Costs this week:

Furnace Guy: $125

Dishwasher Guy: $107

Exterminator (Hero): $125

Home Depot (sheetrock): $80

Total Costs this week: $437

Total Costs for Weeks 4-8: $2027

 

 

Reno. Week 7- Out of the closet!!!

I know, I know, it has been over a week since I last posted and you have been waiting on bated breath to find out the latest update. I apologize, my loyal fans. But trust me, it was totally worth the wait!

Week 7 start out kind of boring. Spackle, sand, spackle, sand, lose power, spackle, sand. The monotony was exhausting. Luckily, my dad came up again on Monday to help Seth out while I was at work during the day. They got a lot of things cleaned up in the upstairs and on the back patio, and finished all the sheetrock in the master bedroom. My dad corrected my “bad spackle job” which I blame him for because he never showed me how to properly spackle and that’s in the Daddy’s Girl handbook. Yes, I am 29 and still blaming my parents, but that’s how it goes right?

(Side note, I can’t begin to tell you how annoying it is that for the last 7 weeks I have been writing the word spackle in this blog and it spellchecks it EVERY TIME! Webster says it’s a word, WordPress. Get with the DIY times!)

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Spackle, sand, spackle, sand, spackle, sand.

 

Finally, days later, the majority of the sanding was done. Thank God for the vacuum attachment on the power sander or Seth would probably have a respiratory illness by now. There are still some spots that are pretty rough or need to be patched, but the important thing is that most of the dust was contained before we move our furniture and clothing upstairs.

Next up was painting. We had already picked out the color for our bedroom weeks ago, on a whim. We didn’t get any samples or anything, we just picked it out during one of our many trips to Home Depot (or Homey Deeps as we call it in our family thanks to my step-bro). It was called “White Lavender” by Behr. I was in love. I have always wanted a lavender room. It is such a calming color to me, and bedrooms should be just that! So Seth let me play interior designer and didn’t complain about the purple bedroom in his future. We decided to go with a standard white for the closets since there will be white shelving in them and we want it to be as bright in there as possible (plus it is the cheapest paint and who needs fancy in a closet?!).

While we waited for some last minute spackle spots to dry in the master bedroom before we could finish painting (this damp, cool fall weather has made that challenging and we actually had to kick the heat on in the house), we got to work in the closets. Seth got the flooring down in the back closet and we picked out a shelving system that we hoped would work.

After a few hours and some missteps with directions, we had our shelving system in place! We will be adding another small shelf on each side wall but there is no rush to get that done. Finally, Seth won’t have to sleep under my hanging clothes and I won’t accidentally drop them on his head in the morning when I am trying to get ready for work! Oh, and did I mention that at the very beginning of week 7, the power in our closet-room mysteriously went out? We have no idea why, and our electrician friend couldn’t figure it out in a short period of time. We opted to have him work on more of the upstairs stuff so we could just get the hell out of the closet-room once and for all. We can figure out the power situation some other time. So we have been charging phones in the bathroom at night, picking out clothes in the dark, and waiting even more impatiently to get into our new bedroom.

The back closet was starting to really look great. So of course that means something had to go wrong. When my dad was up, he decided to start working on framing out the shelves that we will have between the back closet and front closet. We couldn’t just make it one big closet because these are load bearing walls (there are actually 2 of them sandwiched next to each other). Instead we just have the two closets connected with a doorway and we will have some open shelving on each side of the doorway. The problem is, which they figured out as soon as they started framing, the two walls are crooked. Surprise, surprise! They are much closer together on the bottom than they are on top. So that means that the top shelves are going to be a few inches wider than the bottom shelves, and that we have to figure out another way to frame this out because, this, just can’t fly…

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After we were satisfied with the back closet for now, Seth worked diligently to get the flooring done during the days that I was at work, and before he went in to work at karate. The poor guy is beat. But man, this room is really starting to shape up!

And that, folks, was why I wanted to wait to post to the blog! I didn’t want to leave the post like that, with a half done floor, when we were SO close! So instead I waited until today, when Seth finished the floor in our master bedroom. YAYAYAYAY!!!!! He even got the base moulding on and it looks flippin’ fantastic. I am completely thrilled! I wish I could put emojis on here!!

As soon as I got home from work today we got started moving our bed out of the closet downstairs and up into our new master bedroom. We assembled our bed frame that we had built last year (it isn’t totally set up in the picture below but it is good enough to sleep on for now!) and carried our mattress upstairs. We decided that we are definitely going to be getting a new mattress soon but for now, who cares, we have a bed… in a room!

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I can’t WAIT to get this room decorated. We are trying to decide if we want to paint the “shiplap” wall or if we want to leave it the natural wood color. Hmm, decisions, decisions. Oh, but just picture the flowy drapes framing out the long glass window (once that’s in…thank God I have a good imagination). It is going to be fabulous.

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In all of the excitement, I realized that I never got a good picture of our closet-room. I realized it right as we were dragging the mattress out of is and it was far too late to go back. So I decided to show you the closet-room anyway, without the mattress, messy clothes and all, with Ted and a standard pillow for size comparison. Our queen mattress literally took up the entire floor. One day, this will be an office… and the memory of it as our bedroom will be long gone.

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So for the first time since we moved in July… we will be sleeping in a bedroom tonight. And that my friends, is a wonderful feeling. Big shout out to my husband for being such a rockstar and working so hard all day long. If he wasn’t so dedicated, it easily could have taken us several more months to come this far. It has been so much fun working along side him and as exhausted as we both are, we are so excited to see our house turning into a home that we are building together. And as if that weren’t sweet enough, our grass is starting to grow 🙂

Week 7… one for the record books!

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Costs this week:

Home Depot #1 (dry wall materials, wood framing): $177

Home Depot #2 (paint, closet organizers, box fan): $190

Home Depot #3 (more paint, rollers, wood): $89

Home Depot #4 (WeMo light switch, doorknobs): $90

Home Depot #5 (paint stuff, drywall repair patches, more shelves, ceiling fan): $322

Total Costs this week: $868

Reno. Week 6- Septic Success!

You know it is going to be a good week when you step out of your house bright and early on Monday morning, all ready to go to work, and you put your foot right into a gigantic pile of mud…

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Good thing those were my backup shoes, and that this wasn’t actually an indication of the week to come.

Week 6 of our renovation adventure actually brought on a huge success, the completion of our super expensive, state-of-the-art, poop tank (Okay, sorry for the gross term but it’s hard to believe we are spending this much on a big hole in the ground for our family’s waste to go into)! Since we bought the house we have been griping about how the cesspool that was in place was actually fine and it seemed unnecessary to rip out 5 trees, haul 56 dump truck loads of dirt and sand, and spend $42,000 on a new septic. Well, after excavating and investigating the cesspool, we determined that we were wrong. This thing was in serious need of replacement. It was essentially just a small pit in the ground, not even that far down below the surface, that was lined with bricks, and was leaking into the adjacent dirt (… come to think of it, I seriously hope that was MUD I stepped in…).

Totally sanitary, right?

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It was in fact, very inefficient and gross. So at least that gave us some piece of mind and I can sleep better at night knowing that I didn’t sign off on the destruction of mother nature for no good reason.

The septic crew disposed of the nasty cesspool and before long, they were installing our brand new septic tank. The tank is made of solid concrete, and as you can imagine, weighs a ton (I am actually not sure of the weight so I am using ton figuratively). Check out the progression of how they did this. It seems insane to me that 2 or 3 guys got this done in a few hours.

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Next up they covered the tank with sand and dirt and graded the yard so that it was a less drastic slope. They also redesigned the stone wall we had there so that we could fit a new parking spot into the lower driveway since we lost one in the upper driveway.

In the process of the boulders being unloaded and the 56 dump trucks delivering dirt, several parts of our driveway were destroyed. We had planned on this and got a quote from a paving company before all the work began. We were pleasantly surprised when one day we got home and the septic crew had brought asphalt in and covered up the damage they had done, plus paved the new parking spot! Now we only have to pave a little patch off to the right where a 5th car can be parked. We are super happy with how the front yard and driveway are turning out. Everyone keeps telling us it looks so much better so that’s a good sign (or the house was just THAT bad before)!

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The main yard was also seeded and blanketed with straw and should be green in no time (as long as frost doesn’t come in too soon, we are racing mother nature)! It looks freakin’ awesome, if we do say so ourselves. The only thing we have left to do is put up a split-rail fence, so nobody accidentally goes diving off the edge of the 6ft wall into the road.

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While we anxiously awaited the completion of the outside jobs, we got to work on the inside. Seth had a lot of stuff to do in the basement, so in between that he finished sheetrocking the majority of our bedroom. I spent a few days spackling and got the 1st coat in our closet done, and a lot of our bedroom. Teddy was, of course, good company.

Seth’s work in the basement was not the easiest and frankly I was pretty nervous about it. Basically he needed to add some supports underneath the first floor to maintain the integrity of the structure. One of the support beams was actually a tree limb. No, not like a piece of lumber that was designed for the job. Like, a piece of a tree that someone found in the woods one day and said, hey, this looks like it could hold up part of a house. Clearly that failed inspection.

The work involved cutting into the concrete floor, sledgehammering chunks of it out, digging down about a foot and a half, then installing 3 lally columns and cementing them into place. It was a sweaty, exhausting and extremely dusty process. Concrete dust from the basement even made it’s way up to the first floor of the house. Nothin’ like a cloud of concrete dust to make this asthmatic feel good…

But alas, the tree limb was reinforced with a proper lally column and we will hopefully pass inspection this Tuesday (fingers crossed for us people). Obviously we kept the tree limb up for nostalgia, and a conversation piece.

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We did hit a wall this week with our frustration level. On Friday night we just decided we needed to get away and go somewhere else for a few hours (my sister’s usually, A.K.A. the land of good food and wine). It has been hard to work full time jobs and then come home and work full time on the house. And it feels like it is going to be this way forever! But we just needed to throw a pity party for a night and get over ourselves. And that is exactly what we did. It was also nice to be reminded of why we fell in love with this house in the first place… its beautiful setting in the woods. One day I spent some time just observing our fish and frogs, and saw a cute little inch worm crawling around. Then another morning Seth went to the kitchen sink to do some dishes and saw a cute doe back behind the house. It is moments like these that make it all worth it (or so we keep telling ourselves!).

I leave you with some pictures that to us, speak volumes: some before and afters of our yard spanning just 6 weeks time. We need to remember how far we have come when we start getting stressed about how much more we have to do! We have also discovered oil diffusing aroma-therapy this week, and got another 5 gallon supply of grape juice that we will be turning into wine, so stress-relief is underway.

 

It might be a work in progress, but at least it’s ours 🙂 Now, let’s just hope the inspection gods smile upon us this week….

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Costs this week:

Home depot trip #1 (lally columns & dry wall): $234

Home depot trip #2 (outlet extenders, dry wall, and an orange soda apparently): $104

Home depot trip #3 (cement, spackle, a bunch of outlet and lightswitch covers): $139

Oil-diffuser (totally necessary…): $25

Total costs: $502

 

Reno. Week 5- the children were nestled all snug in their beds

Renovation Month #2 is underway and in full swing. This week we took a little bit of a break for a few days, you know, to try and do this thing called “relax”. Although short lived, our rest was much needed and appreciated. But that doesn’t mean we have nothing to be proud of this week! In fact, we had our biggest and best accomplishment yet.

First up on the to-do list this week was the gigantic pit that was our front yard. It was quite the eye sore and needless to say, extremely dangerous. Walk a little too far to the left when you got out of the car and you were a goner. But the septic company we hired worked insanely fast. They got 28 trucks of sand emptied and deposited into the field in one day. Yes, 28 dump trucks…

Before we knew it, the hole was mostly filled in, and our driveway was subsequently destroyed.

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We are now sporting a second piece of heavy duty construction equipment as well. Dwarfed by the excavator, this little backhoe loader (I have no idea if that is what this is…I bet our nephew Zach could tell me without even taking a second look!) was crucial to flattening out the top layer of dirt over the leach field.

Those of you wondering what a leach, or drain, field is (shout out to some of our city friends who were completely horrified by the description of a septic system haha), here is a cute drawing to explain that the leach field is where the poop water goes. functional-design-leach-field

Just imagine, one day this disaster will have a nice little vegetable garden on it, and a grassy patch for a cafe table. It sure is different from the shaded “yard” we had when we bought the house.

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The only problem we had this week with the work was that the next step after completing the leach field was to dig out the old cesspool and make room for the septic tank. The area that this all needed to happen in is right outside our patio, a.k.a. the main way we get into our house. So basically if you want to come visit us anytime soon, you need to climb a tall sandy dune, or play hopscotch on some unsteady rocks that used to be a retaining wall (to the left in the second picture). It’s even more interesting in the dark!

Of course the work inside the house was not without scary incident either. I mean, what fun would that be! This week’s scare was brought to you by my dad, George.

That yellow wire there was live when the damage was done. My dad was drilling a hole in a stud to run a wire through, and accidentally drilled into a wire that was already there. Luckily, nobody was electrocuted and we all lived to tell about it. He also hit his head on a nail (or 2) and went the next day for a Tetanus shot. I can report that he is healing nicely, and still loves me despite all the trouble my house has caused (oh and he may or may not have caught my cold while he was up here too…).

The absolute BEST part of the week was the day that we were finally able to give our boys a legitimate place to sleep again! This was in the works from last week when Seth got Jordan’s room sanded, spackled and painted. Now we just needed to do the flooring. The day my dad was up working on some other things, Seth was able to get the laminate flooring and base moulding down all before lunch. I am so excited with how it came out.

After work that night we got started on assembling both of the boys’ beds in Jordan’s room. Unfortunately we will have to take Liam’s apart again in a few weeks when his room is done, but it was worth it.

So here they are, on their first night sleeping upstairs in the new room!! They may not have their bedding back yet (not sure what box I packed those in) but at least they are not sleeping on couches!

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A few other small things were accomplished this week, but we really did try to relax a bit after the boys got into their room (and by relax, I mean binge watch Madam Secretary on Netflix… season 3 countdown= 12 days). We also were lucky to have a few unexpected visits from family friends! Everyone is curious about this crazy cottage we call home (including a stray beagle that we had to call animal control on).

In fact, one super busy Saturday morning, I was home alone with Jordan and looked out the window and saw the previous owner of the house talking to the septic crew. I couldn’t believe it. I mean, we really like this guy and he was super nice so we told him to come back and visit any time. But right now!? He is going to see his beloved home that he was so pained to leave in shambles! As I was mid-panic, I heard the knock on the door. I can’t lie, I contemplated hiding. But, I put my big girl pants on and went over to greet him. I invited him in and of course he wanted to see all we had done with the house. I avoided the downstairs (because I was nervous that us painting the paneling in the dining room white would make his blood boil for some reason) but showed him the whole renovation upstairs. He seemed to handle it well and said the house had been through many additions and renovations in its time. I tried my best to show him how we were saving lumber and trying to keep as much of the original elements as possible. Between seeing the house ripped apart and the front yard as a big mud pit, I can only imagine how he felt. Despite how well he handled it and how nice he was, I breathed a huge sigh of relief when he walked back out the door. Hopefully next time he visits we have grass in the yard and sheetrock on all the walls. I better keep those big girl pants nearby.

Week 6 is starting off with some much needed rain, which should be very interesting given the status of our front yard. But we won’t let that stop our progress inside the house! We hope to get the sheetrock in our room mostly done, and get some spackling and sanding completed. We should be able to move into our room in a few weeks if all goes as planned… but, really, does it ever!?

Stay tuned as always 🙂

Costs this week

Home Depot Trip (sheetrock, and lally columns which I will explain later): $220

Dad’s Tetanus Shot: Free at work clinic, woohoo!

Week 5 Total: $220

 

 

Reno. Week 4- It started with a Rat and ended with a mouse

Imagine the scene. You are sitting at your dining room table one morning, soaking up the last of summer’s opportunities to sit and relax with your coffee and cereal, when something catches your eye out right outside your patio door. You turn quickly and notice a furry little creature peering in the door into your house, mere inches away from your dog. You think to yourself, as your dog snores lazily, “Wow, that is a large furry creature… I wonder what it could be.” You stand up to further investigate and it is then that you realize, it isn’t a cute little chipmunk or squirrel like you imagined. Oh no, it is not. It is your worst nightmare… a RAT. A FREAKING RAT! You panic internally and think you are hallucinating. Are you in a subway station? Are you in the back of a gross truck stop convenient store? No. You are standing in your dining room!! WHAT THE…!???!?

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I couldn’t believe my eyes so I asked Seth to verify. Sure enough, he agreed, it was a rat. As soon as I reached for my phone to snap a picture, it scurried away. I stood there horrified, fumbling for words. Seth started laughing at me. His point was that I think mice are cute, and here I was so scared of a rat. I explained in the calmest tone I could (yea right, I was completely shrieking like a lunatic) that a mouse is cute but a RAT…a RAT IS NOT CUTE! They have scaly, nasty tails and big buck teeth and they carry the plague!!! Although the whole thing was nightmare-inducing, there was some humor to it. Here was Ted, while this whole thing was going on (the rat was literally right on the other side of the glass from him and he had no clue):

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I had a pep talk with Ted and explained that it is HIS JOB to scare away rats from our house. I think he understood.

I was somewhat comforted when the next day I saw a family friend who lives a town over and they said that they saw a rat in their tomato garden earlier that morning. They also live in the middle of nowhere and have never seen one before. We determined that these must be wild-type rats, not city dwelling, garbage-devouring rats. Someone please tell me it isn’t the year of the rat or something. Are rats symbolic of anything bad to come? AH!

In spite of that horrific start to our week, we made great progress! This week’s theme was still definitely electric, but we got to do some more stuff in between. Our push to complete upstairs was spurred on even more by the events that transpired on the evening before my first day back to school with my students. Jordan has a bit of anxiety and is not a fan of sleeping in the living room by himself. The plastic drop-cloth sheet rustles all night and the windows by the patio give more of a reflection than a look outside in the dark.  Liam wasn’t home so Jordan begged to sleep in our “room”. I explained that because we were sleeping in a glorified closet, there wasn’t any room for him to sleep in there. Our feet and heads are up against walls and there is only a 13in. path next to the mattress for someone to walk on. He opted to sleep in the 13in. path. While this was all going on, Teddy also decided to retaliate against back-to-school and decided to pee on our mattress while I stood right next to him, something he has never done before. SO here we were, on the last night of summer, squished into a closet-room, sleeping on a sheetless mattress, with a scared (and farting) 13 year old next to us, and a dog in between us who had just peed on our parade.

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This renovation needs to get done, like yesterday.

Our electrician friend, Dan, has been such a godsend. But he works full time so he can only come up on off days (he even put in a long day on Labor Day). So in the meantime, we started sheet-rocking whatever we could. This was my first week back at school with my students so I wasn’t of much help. Seth did pretty much every last bit of work this week without me, sadly. So that meant getting all of the supplies into the house himself. Clearly he needed to be creative. He got the system of bringing sheet rock upstairs down to a science, that he was more than happy to demonstrate when I got home from work…

The last pictures in that lovely series show him balancing the sheet rock on a single 2×4 and running up the stairs to catch the other side of it before it fell back down the stairs. I am glad I didn’t see him do this earlier in the day or I probably would have had a panic attack.

 

In addition to the work inside the house, this week we were also pleasantly surprised by a call from our septic crew that the Board of Health had approved our amended septic plans and we were okay to build a 6 foot wall instead of a 9 foot wall. How? I’m not sure. But we were good to go! The next morning the crew was out and by the afternoon they had the majority of the boulder wall built. It was amazing!

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I call this “Teddy on Pride Rock”.

The next few days, the crew worked on digging the 10 foot hole in the front yard. When I say “in” the front yard, I guess I should just say, they dug up our entire front yard.

I will have to get a picture of one of the guys in the actual pit tomorrow so you can tell just exactly how massive this thing is. It is 10ft deep, approximately 35×30 feet wide. They have to put 7 feet of sand in the hole due to how thick the clay layer is (they have to get below the clay layer to get to permeable ground). The sand alone is costing $6500 or so. On top of the sand will be rocks and pipes and then topsoil. Pretty crazy.

While I was investigating the fresh dirt, which has turned up massive amounts of earthworms by the way, I noticed that Teddy was a fan of how the fresh dirt tasted. By the time I caught him, he was already sporting this dirt goatee. He got sick over it the next day, on our mattress…………

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Teddy wasn’t the only form of wildlife not behaving. We also discovered these carpenter ants upstairs (I believe this is what they are), which Seth killed by freezing them with the keyboard-cleaner spray stuff (I think he enjoyed this a little too much).

In addition to that, Seth found some traps in the storage closet in the eaves of the one bedroom. No big deal except they were very large traps… perhaps for squirrels? Or…RATS?!?!? I dare not to think of it. Luckily we don’t need to even use this “closet” and it isn’t easily opened.

One awesome thing that Seth got done this week that I am SO excited about is the wall of our closet. We decided to do a “ship-lap” look for it, because clearly I watch too much HGTV. We will be painting this an off-white color and putting a sliding barn door on it. I can’t WAIT to see how it turns out 🙂 🙂

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The most exciting part of the week is that we got the electric in Jordan’s room pretty much done, and Seth was able to sheet rock, spackle, sand and then paint the walls and ceiling. Tomorrow he will work on the flooring and by midweek, we should be able to get the boys set up in actual beds! We obviously still have a LOT of work to do, but this will be a huge step for us. The idea of having our kids sleep on couches for the beginning of the school year has been keeping me up at night (or am I not sleeping because there is a farting teenager next to me…).

The week ended with me getting sick (thanks for the school germs kiddos…) and another interesting encounter with mother nature in our house. As Seth and I were sitting on our couch binge watching Madam Secretary before bed (after he put in a 13+ hour day), I noticed a little mouse peeking it’s head out from behind a shelf a few feet away from us. I showed Seth and then we spent the next 20 minutes trying to capture the mouse in a bucket so we could release him outside. Our efforts were in vain. He is still scurrying around the house somewhere and I know what you are thinking, Teddy will get him. But no, the mouse was 2 feet next to him and there he stayed, sleepily peering at us from his comfy bed as we tore apart the living room. At one point he did get up and start sniffing around. He even stuck his nose right under the cabinet where the mouse had been hiding. But instead of pulling out a mouse, he pulled out a stuffed hedgehog toy of his, as seen here…

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So after 4 weeks we feel like we have made a decent amount of progress. Still much more to go and a lot more stress to get through but hopefully within 2 more weeks, we might actually be able to sleep in a bed, an actual BED!

That’s all folks.

Costs this week:

Home Depot Trip #1 (wire stuff, more wire stuff, and some outlets): $61

Home Depot Trip #2 (sheetrock, paint, paint stuff): $236

Ship Lap wall: $183

Home Depot Trip #3 (ceiling fans, more wiring stuff, spackle, sander): $111

Home Depot Trip #4 (thermostat, baseboard heaters): $396

Total Costs: $987

MONTH 1 TOTAL: $4072

Reno. Week 3- We get by with a little help from our friends.

The alternative title to this post was “It’s electric, boogie woogie woogie!” because this week was allll about electric. But instead, I opted to highlight how lucky we are to have such great friends and family who help us with this big project. Plus, a LOT more happened  this week than just work on the electric. Ooooh what a week it was.

We started off bright and early on Monday with the septic people coming by to take out the rest of the logs and the huge tree stumps. The loaded up a few trucks and had the yard cleared before we knew it.

One of the most shocking parts of that whole ordeal was seeing the head contractor riding around in the bucket of the huge excavator. Not for nothing but that just doesn’t seem like the wisest choice! It was even scarier than Seth teetering on the top of that 6ft ladder. Teddy was scared by the whole thing anyway and continued his two day streak of hiding in random places from the loud noises. Here you can see him hiding in a corner of the bathroom behind the toilet paper dispenser. Poor little guy.

The yard was all cleared out in one day and we were left with this GIGANTIC excavator in our yard. This thing is massive. I am not sure if it is the removal of the trees and shrubs or this huge piece of machinery but our front yard suddenly seems so much smaller! It did come in handy when describing to food delivery people where our house was. “It’s the one with the big excavator in the front yard.”

The next day the septic crew arrived with a dump truck full of boulders. These are actually from the lead contractors yard so I guess we are saving some money there? Not everybody just has boulders laying around their back yard. But now we do!

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Every time I step outside all I can think of is Shrek:

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So on boulder day we were hit with some pretty terrible news. The septic crew was going to begin building the retaining wall between our property and the street using these boulders. The engineer’s report called for a 6 foot retaining wall. Problem was, the septic crew said that the engineer measured wrong and in fact it was supposed to be a 9 foot wall. I repeat, a NINE foot wall. I knew we were going to have a rockwall between us and the road but I was NOT prepared to be living in a fort! What the heck?! They also said that the engineer made our yard bigger in the drawings than it actually is. So the engineer would need to come BACK out, remeasure and re-do the entire plan. Then this plan would need to get submitted to the Board of Health for approval, etc. etc. So we were looking at a stall of at least 2 weeks. To make matters worse, the septic contractor said that they can’t do a 9 foot wall out of the boulders, it would need to be an engineered wall. Apparently, an engineered wall of 9 foot would need to be 8 feet wide on the base, which would then cut into the part where the septic field was supposed to be. Soooooo… who the hell knows what is going on at this point. We sit, we wait, and we stare at the beautifully useless boulders in our yard.

We figured there is nothing we can do about the septic issue, so we might as well make progress inside the house. I started back at work (teaching at the local High School) for 3 in-service days so Seth did a lot of solo work during the day. He got several of the doors done, including the cool pocket door for Liam’s room. The only door we have left to do is the door to our walk-in closet, which we think we are going to DIY a barn door for. Stay tuned for that project!

And so began the help of our friends and family. My dad came up Monday night and stayed over into Tuesday. Seth and him started trying to figure out the electric. This was pretty much an impossible task. Seth and I had tried to go about cutting the wires as carefully as possible but after several days of dealing with convoluted electrical messes, we had gone a little snipper-happy. I say we out of solidarity but really, Seth was the mastermind. My brother-in-law stopped by at night to try to give us some guidance (he was a contractor for 10+ years). He couldn’t help but laugh at the mess we had made and called Seth, “Edward Scissor Hands” for cutting all of the wires and not properly labeling where they had come from. It wasn’t ALL our fault, but okay, we admit, we messed up here. And apparently we didn’t tape up the live wires adequately enough. This is where being an amateur house DIY-er really shows. At least we lived to learn our lesson for next time (if there is a next time…)!

The men spent the night pondering what the best solution to the electrical nightmare was.  Honestly, I consider myself a smart person, but electrical crap has always been over my head (although, now I am learning a lot!). At one point they decided to call it a night and I figured I was safe to go shower and get ready for school the next day. Well when I got out of the shower I heard the all-to-familiar sound of demo. I left Seth and my dad alone for 15 minutes and I came back out to them ripping down a wall that we were supposed to keep in one piece. Apparently, a lightbulb had gone off and they needed to take down more sheetrock to solve the electrical mystery. All I could see in my tired daze was more mess (captured in this photo of my “patio” as I left for work bright and early the next morning…).

Dad was going to come up again Friday morning (at 5:30am) and do more work with the electrical. So Seth and I went around the upstairs and marked up where we wanted outlets, lights and switches. It was nice to have some say in where these things go in your future room! We could build in outlets up high for the mounted TV’s and make hiding the wires so much easier.

I can’t forget to mention that also during this week, it was Jordan’s 13th birthday! I am still in shock that I have a teenager. It sounds so old! But here he is on the morning of his big day, snuggled up with Teddy. Did I mention that our children are sleeping on couches until the renovations are over? No pressure there….

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My dad came up as promised at 5:30 am on Friday. I woke up at that time to the sound of what I thought was the sawzall. I panicked because there wasn’t anything left that needed to be sawzall-ed!! What the heck were these guys up to? Then I realized that Seth had run to Home Depot and my dad was upstairs using power tools unsupervised! I was actually afraid to get out of bed. Luckily, it was just the drill bit hitting nails (because good ol’ George doesn’t take the time to see if their are nails in the studs before he starts drilling) as my dad cut the holes for the wires to go through. Phew! Crisis averted.

I had a fun time that morning helping my dad drill the holes in the studs and snake the wires through from outlet to outlet. We got a good amount of work done, and I only had one close call with getting nasty sawdust in my eye even though I was wearing my safety goggles. Drilling above your head really just sucks.

A friend of ours who is an electrician came by around 4:30pm that day and helped Seth with the electric for 6 hours. It was so helpful and they were able to re-run a bunch of wire, and get power to the master bedroom! We actually had working lights again! Woohoo!

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Seth had been up working from 5:30am until 10:30pm. He was completely spent and covered in sweat and sawdust (sort of a tar and feathered effect). We were both ready to crash so Seth decided to go and take a shower. Well here is where the second big problematic event of the week occurred. The water, wasn’t working. It would come on and then run for a few seconds and then kick off. Seth went down into the basement (in his underwear might I add… you have to walk outside to get to our basement…sorry neighbors) and saw that the fuse for the well pump had been tripped. He turned it back on and I tried to turn the water on again. Sure enough, he heard the well pump kick on, click a bunch of times and then the fuse blew again. For some reason, our well pump was not working. Was our well dry?! We had no idea. But what we did know was that we were totally defeated. It had been a one thing after another and as soon as Seth felt like he had accomplished some progress that day, we are hit with yet another issue. Ugh! All we could do was go to bed, filthy and frustrated.

The next morning (7:30am on a Saturday morning) we called a local water pump company. The guy said he would be out in a half hour. We were so relieved. Seth helped him out in the basement (note the pile of stereo wires on the basement floor, that’s a story for another day…) taking the well pump apart.

What they found was shocking. Our well is heavy in iron and I guess over many years of not being serviced, the sediment had clogged up the pipe from our well to the pump entirely.

All the water to our house had to travel through this crazy small hole in this mud plug. Yuck! Apparently these pipes should be serviced every year. Yea, that definitely hadn’t happened in a LONG time. So, we needed to replace the pipes and our problem would be fixed. We also would have better water pressure when all was said and done. So after a few hours, and approximately $450 later (ahhhh! dang emergency rate!), we were back to having running water. Time to shower, brush our teeth, do the dishes, and everything else that we had taken for granted up until the night before!

So that pretty much sums up Week 3. At this point we have all of the doors (except our closet door) done, electric to the master bedroom done, and dates set up for next week to get more work on the electric completed. We picked out our lighting fixtures for the hallway and picked up the ceiling fans for the boys rooms. We have no idea what is happening with the septic, but we have brand new stainless steel pipes going to our water pump. Next week… we start sheetrocking!!! Yayyy!

Costs this week:

Dump Run 8/29: $30

Home Depot (two framed doors, one unframed door, digital clamp meter): $290

Home Depot (lights, electrical boxes, ceiling fan): $374

Dump Run 9/1: $30

Emergency Water Pump Service: $450

Friends & Running Water: priceless (yet again)

Total Cost: $1174