Archive for the ‘On Moving In’ Category

Earth Day Willow

Found myself at Takoma Park Earth Day this morning – and I was given a willow tree!

So I put it in the ground.


It had a great root system…hope it makes it!  Also picked up an Elder bush.  Not sure where I’ll be planting that…but I look forward to making some elderberry syrup in…5 years or so.


L’Histoire de Mancave: Chapter 1

They say home ownership is a never ending series of projects and improvements.  Exhibit A: the Mancave.  This will be a long post, I actually had to strengthen my resolve in order to blog about this, traumatizing as it was!  So grab some tea, and let’s get to it:

L’Histoire de Mancave.  Chapter 1.  During the house inspection, it was quickly made evident that the previous owner was a bit of a hoarder.  It was packed with boxes and clothes hanging from the exposed pipes.  Wading through the basement was akin to walking through Prof. Kirke’s wardrobe, I was half expecting to bump into Mr. Tumnus when I got out on the other side!  We had to delay in signing the contract TWICE because it took them so long to clear it out.  But finally, closing day came and here’s a look at the basement before I moved in from January 2012:


With so many other things in the house needing more immediate attention (READ: I had to sleep in the dining room for a week until the floors upstairs were done!)  We moved everything into the basement and started working on the house from the top down.  The Mancave had a dividing wall between the finished/carpeted “living area” and the washer and dryer room.  Here is a shot from April 2012:


The worst day of home ownership for me actually involves the basement.  I don’t think I posted about it because it was too raw and painful of an experience.  The goal was to move the washer and dryer next to each other.  Simple enough, right?  WRONG.  One by one, the water pipes started to burst, from the back of the basement, literally to the main water line.  It. Was. Horrible.  I counted 10+ visits to both Home Depot or Annie’s Ace Hardware to get the right sized pipe, tool, connecting part it was a very cruel welcome to the DIY world.  12+ hours later, we still had leaks and my friend Will STILL had to come back the next day to do one final correction/connection and we were officially SEALED.


But in the end, I basically got plumbing 101 certification.  They say education is expensive, and at the time I was cursing my stubbornness (and cheapness), but in hindsight, one day of hard labor to know my pipes are now all basically new and sealed is worth it.  That said, the only other times I’ve used that blowtorch was to make creme brulee, and I prefer it that way.  With this task done, I was adamant that NOTHING major be done to the basement, until further notice.  I needed time to regroup, save and plot.  So even discussion of basement renovation was tabled until a later date.

Fast forward to June and in order to get ready for Crabfeast 2012, I ripped out the carpet, painted the floors black, took out all the old telephone wiring – relatively small cosmetic projects in the grand scheme of things – and voila!  The first iteration of the Mancave was created:


Within only one year of occupancy, the Mancave has served as the venue to countless movie marathons, award show parties, karaoke fests, guest accommodations, and extended stay housing for my nomadic friends.  GOOD TIMES.

2012-06-23 22.03.30

So why mess with a good thing?  Well, good question!  As with so many things in my life, the basement remodel became victim to escalation.  It started with installing overhead lighting.  Then electrical sockets.  Then – let’s paint the ceiling black!  Then, you know what else would be great?  Let’s add a bathroom.  More on that in a previous post.

And if you’re going to add a bathroom, you may as well redo the floors.  But if you’re going to redo the floors, then you may as well paint the whole space.  Next thing you know, and $9K+ later, as Fawkes rises from his ashes, a newer, brighter version of the Mancave is born:

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The wall that separated the washer and dryer room was taken down to accommodate the bathroom addition, and the room got a fresh coat of paint on all surfaces.

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Still toying around with room set up.  But have decided that TV stays on the biggest wall.  And I’m not getting new furniture, at least not immediately.  So there will still be a bit of the Mancave spirit in this new calypso iteration.

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If I’m ever home long enough one of these weekends, I’ll start restocking the bar and sorting through all the stuff that was moved upstairs that doesn’t need to be moved back downstairs.  Georgia Avenue Thriftshop is going to get a sizeable donation from me soon!

And there you have it friends.  I hope this space continues its mission of facilitating epic events of Mancave worthiness.  A launch party for is scheduled for Veteran’s Day Weekend, in conjunction with my annual themed potluck of “Food From Countries We’ve Invaded.”  We are also rolling out a new karaoke machine and surround sound.  Hope you can make it.

Cabinets Are In!


Looking forward to cooking my first meal in weeks – a Seder just in time for pesach.

Surprised By Hardwood!

The main floor of this house has a sunroom extension that we have dubbed, “the solarium.”  It’s 105 square feet of windows facing my backyard, right on the other side of the kitchen and dining room.  My vision is to install benches that would allow for a breakfast space as well as additional storage that my kitchen severely lacks.

I bought a generic white kitchen cart/butcher block with two stools that will be extra work space for cooking, and I expect that it will also serve as the table where most of my casual meals will be eaten.

So only thing left  to sort out is the flooring.  It is the second to the last room with the nasty carpet left over from the previous owners.  We easily disposed of the carpet, padding, tack and staples.  Literally, it probably only took us half an hour.  But what we found underneath was a little disheartening – 1950s sheet vinyl.  Which would have been fine, except at some point someone tried to paint a patch of it silver. Which actually looked pretty interesting – the paint didn’t cover the tile design entirely, so it almost looked like tin.  But for whatever reason, someone clearly stopped in the middle of that project.  In addition to this, the vinyl had tears and was worn down to the plywood at certain points.  So my only option was to remove the vinyl.  Which was a long, arduous and painful process.

Two hours or so later, we discover, under the vinyl by the door, there was some black mold.  So at the very least, this patch plywood would need to be replaced.  After abating the mold with bleach water, I let it sit overnight with the plan of removing the one patch of plywood and just throwing another layer of laminate on top of the existing plywood for a new floor.

Well – SURPRISE!  Under the plywood was another layer of pink laminate tile.  And under that?  THE ORIGINAL HARDWOOD FLOORS!


I’m convinced this is the original hardwood from 1920 because it’s the same wood as can be found in the kitchen and upstairs bedrooms – pine.  And the size of the boards are the same as well.  Here is a shot of the floors in the kitchen.


I need to pull all the plywood up to check the condition of the hardwood throughout the 105 square feet, but if it’s anything like the kitchen, I’m going to want to refinish it.  Needless to say, I’m pretty excited to find that I have the option to expose all the old hardwood.  I’ll need to stain and poly the floors once the plywood is removed, but that’s a small price to pay to have hardwood flooring all throughout the main floor of the house!  And while a “solarium” would probably be better served with laminate flooring, I’m happy to be getting back to the original look of the house.

Ready Strip Works!


Putting “Bath” Back In “Bathroom”

Part of the charm of buying a house that was built in 1925 is stumbling upon all of the wonderful little details common to that era.  Ridiculous molding over closets and doorways.  Five inch baseboards.  An early craftsman-esque bannister for the staircase.  Radiant heaters built to survive a nuclear holocaust.  And what many consider among the most charming of all, a cast iron clawfoot tub.

I’m not a big bather.  I like showers – they’re efficient, ecologically better for the environment, and the thought of sitting in filth makes me feel a bit gross.  That said, soaking in a tub after a long week isn’t such a bad idea, just something I think is a better idea than a reality.  But that’s just me.

Well, the bathroom came with a cast iron tub AND cast iron sink.  Through the usual wear and tear of use while painting the house and cleaning brushes, I noticed the paint started to peel and chip in some parts.  And what I found underneath was yet another very pleasant surprise: porcelain enamel!

According to the guys at This Old House, older cast iron tubs were actually porcelain glazed.  So just like the famous Le Creuset cookware company enamels their signature cast iron pots and dishes, apparently that’s how early cast iron bathtubs were coated.

While paying my almost daily visit to my newly opened local hardware store, Annie’s Ace Hardware, I talk to the plumber and paint guys on staff to discuss my options.  Even Annie joins in the conversation to add her two cents.  You never know what you may find when you strip away paint.  So they were all cautiously optimistic.  That said, I bought a bucket of Ready Strip Paint and Varnish Remover, some scrapers and with a pat on the back and wish of good luck – I was off to the races!

It says it’ll take 4 to 24 hours for the stripping chemicals to work.  The paste will magically turn from green to white when its ready and then it’s time to start scraping.  I started with the sink, to just test the waters.  I already regret putting in a non-period toilet in the bathroom, so if at all possible, I would really like to salvage the sink and bathtub.  It’s just a matter of being able to do so myself, or having to shell out the $$$ to have it done professionally.  Stay tuned!

Vintage Purple Walls With Newly (And Over) Stained Floors