Bathroom inspiration: J's 3/4 bath

A few months ago I was at my cousin J's house and took a few quick shots of her bathroom. Aside from the wood floor (we're planning on tile), this is almost exactly what we want to do with our bathroom. Her husband R and his dad did all the work. I'm thinking we should invite them over... :)

The pictures aren't great quality, but you get the idea. They used the Kohler Memoirs toilet and sink, which are absoloutely goregous. I'll have to ask about the mirror, since I love that too. And the subway tile...! *sigh*

Congrats to J and R on a job well done!


In the news today: More doom and gloom

Yahoo News published an article today titled "Everything Seemingly is Spinning Out of Control". Poor word placement aside, the article puts into words what most of us are probably thinking, in one version or another: is the world coming apart at the seams? Although we've escaped the floods, droughts, tornadoes, and earthquakes here in northern Indiana, our gas prices are high and food prices are rising as well. Thankfully, hubby and I have good, stable jobs, but we're starting to feel the economic downturn. I haven't much altered my purchasing, but I've always been a cheapskate frugal, so we don't spend unnecessarily. Still, I worry what the future will hold and wonder what the changing economy will mean for us.

In many ways, I feel that the slowing economy is a good thing. Americans have long consumed too much. We take our plentiful food, water, and money for granted and generally waste these gifts. Most people seem to feel like if you can afford the biggest house/car/soda, than that is what's best. And our culture encourages it, through advertising, entertainment, examples of the rich and famous, and improper lending practices. I thank God that hubby and I were intelligent enough to decide what we wanted to pay each month for a mortgage and stick to it, even when the bank would have approved us for tens of thousands more.

The current "energy crisis" will help us to cut back on our extravagant usage of the world's resources. The "food shortage" will encourage people to plant gardens and become more aware of where their food comes from and its effect on the earth. The "housing market collapse" will help old homes become desirable again and remind people that newer isn't always best.

Perhaps the 21st centure will truly be about the "unraveling of some things long taken for granted," as the article claims. But is that such a bad thing??

Almost nutritious, homemade granola bars

After buying a wonderful thing called a "trek bar" from the Great Harvest Bread Co. at the Farmer's Market, I've wanted to make my own chewy granola bars. They're healthier, you can put in whatever you want, and they taste much better. After searching a bit on the internet and cambining a few recipies, I made this one up:

2/3 C brown sugar
2/3 C peanut butter
1/2 C honey
1/2 C melted butter
2 t vanilla
1 egg

3 C old fashioned oats

1/3 C sunflower seeds
1/4 C milled flax seed
1/4 C Craisins
2/3 C dried cherries and blueberries

Other goodies may be added as well, so long as the total doesn't much exceed 2 cups. Options include nuts (chopped or whole), chocolate chips, carob chips, and/or dried fruits.

Preheat oven to 350 °F. Combine the first 5 ingredients and mix well. Add the remaining ingredients one at a time, stirring well. Spray a 9 x 13 pan with cooking spray, then pack the "dough" in evenly across the bottom of the pan. Cook for 15-20 minutes, or until golden brown. Let cool completely, then cut into bars.



A reminder...

I've never really been dissatisfied with my house. Some days I'll wish for a walk-up attic, or larger bedrooms, or less wallpaper to remove, but then I just have to remind myself of all the things I like about this house (and there are lots of them), and I'm usually able to pull myself out of my pity party. For the past couple of weeks, though, it seems like all I can see is the negative. This hasn't been helped by planning to start a family. We're too far from other kids; the school system we're in is not so great; we can't walk or bike to the library/store/pool/etc.; there are no sidewalks; blah, blah, blah... This was further fueled by a ride through one of South Bend's historic neighborhoods. Beautiful old homes, at least 6 parks nearby, practically on the St. Joseph River, near stores and libraries and other amenities...

Sometimes I miss the city. Not that South Bend is a big city by any means, and it's not like we live out in the sticks. We're less than 7 miles from the downtown area (as the crow flies). I miss walking to the Chinese restaurant, being able to bike to my mom's house or to the store, free concerts in the park, bike/rollerblade paths. Tree-lined historic neighborhoods, filled with beautiful homes and people who care for them.

And then I remember why we moved: high property taxes, crime, small lots, and noise.

I can walk outside at night and see the stars. I can see the shadows cast by the moon. I can go for a run at midnight and not worry. I can bike to the farm market. I can send my children to preschool a block away, and grade school not much farther, instead of bussing my kids all over town. Our half acre of property might seem small sometimes, but it's a nice parcel and has minimal taxes. There is virtually no crime in our "neighborhood".

And then there's the house itself. It's not big. It's not fancy. In fact, it's about as plain as a craftsman home can get! But I love this house more than I ever imagined I could, even though it's not a bungalow, or a Tudor, or even a true foursquare.

I just needed to remind myself of that.


The joy of nakedness

My office walls are naked! They're ugly, cracked, and a horrible mottled turquoise, but I think they're glorious. See what renovating an old house does to you? Most people would look at these walls and run away screaming. They really are hideous, but they reperesent another battle won in the war against the wallpaper. Just the dining room is left.

Because I'm a geek, I actually did some figuring to estimate how much wallpaper I've stripped off the walls so far. The living room had 4 layers, the stairway had 1, the upstairs hall had 4, and two of the office walls had 2, while the other two walls had 5.Some of the paneling had wallpaper over it as well, but I didn't count that, since I just ripped off the paneling without stripping the wallpaper. My estimation was 2880 square feet, which is a little over twice the size of the house. What a waste of trees...


The Big One (and progress photos)

I think at one point our chimney was trying to escape. There's a BIG crack along the entire chimney line in the office wall, and the plaster is even pushed out about 1/4". It's not something a bunch of plaster washers can fix, since there's absoloutely no give in the wall. Our chimney just moved and took the wall with it.

The chimney movement seems to have happened pretty early in the Prairie Box's life. The lovely 1940s-ish wallpaper was covering the crack, as was the painted "liner paper" (for lack of a better term) that is in every room in the house. But, underneath the liner paper was a strip of fabric tape. Also, the walls in here were originally painted turquoise, not naked plaster like the living room and hallway.
But the good news is that I have 3.5 walls that are wallpaper-free.I'll be done this afternoon (woohoo!!). I also have an appointment with a plaster/drywall man tomorrow evening. I'll wait to talk to him before priming anything, since these walls were originally painted. But between then and now, all I have to do is take off the woodwork and drive it over to the Strip Shoppe. How wonderful not to have to do it myself!!


Then again, maybe not

So much for a backpacking trip... Flooding, 90°+ temps, and humidity down south; severe thunderstorms and tornado watches up north. I give up. Maybe God is trying to tell me to work on my house.

So, now that I have a full 4 days of shitty weather before I go back to work, I suppose I'll put them to good use working inside the house. My goal is to get rid of the office wallpaper once and for all. There's not much left, so it's not that huge of a project. Maybe 4 hours of work. I'll also take off the few pieces of woodwork and take them to the stripper. I was considering repainting it, but I think I'd rather just refinish it and be done. I wonder how long we can live without a bathroom door before we go nuts? I'm thinking we'll temporarily move the ghetto curtain (the curtain we hang between the back porch/laundry and the kitchen to prevent heat or a/c loss out the uninsulated porch). Next up will be priming the walls so that the mud will stick to them.

And I think I can do this all in 4 days.


Planning ahead and lack of patience

I'm great at planning ahead. I can come up with all sorts of plans and ideas, it's the execution of the plans where I get hung up. I procrastinate. I get impatient and start another project before I finish the first. I spend money on stop-gap measures instead of saving for the big overhaul. Granted, some things need a temporary fix. The kitchen floor. The office carpet. The dining room walls (I never blogged about that... Hmmm. Well, they're now a warm tan instead of red and yellow. Still paneling, but an improvement).

After realizing that there's a good possibility we'll need to rip out the kitchen ceiling when we move the bathroom plumbing, we decided that it's probably a good idea to renovate the bathroom first. I'm now having to restrain myself from painting the kitchen cabinets and buy new hardware for them, since they're so fugly. Shayne won't let me, thank God, but I'm driving myself nuts... But, since I like to buy things for the house, I've decided it's a good idea to start buying materials for the bathroom bit by bit. This way I won't have to actually save the money for as long as it takes, so there's less chance of it being appropriated for something else. Plus, I'll feel like I'm accomplishing something just by buying faucets, towel racks, grout, cement board, and boxes of tile.

The bathroom is a good idea for another reason: it's a feel-good measure. Once it's done, the upstairs will be a sanctuary from the rest of the restovation mess. Sort of an oasis above the rest of the chaos.

It's still a ways off, but I already can't wait. I've been thinking about the bathroom since before we even moved into the house...


New Year's Resolutions: Halfway Point

Well, half of 2008 is gone (yikes!), and I'm wondering if I'll ever accomplish any goals I set for myself. Here are my house resolutions:
  1. Finish office, master bedroom, and little front bedroom.
  2. Find and install a "new" front door
  3. Finish the stairway

Here is what I've accomplished:

  1. Last pieces of paneling removed from office, little front bedroom (nursery!) done except for floor refinishing.
  2. New front door found! Carpenter AWOL.
  3. I've vacuumed the stairway several times and removed 1 nail. No progress.
  4. New laminate floor in the kitchen after ripping out the unsanitary carpet.
  5. Gotten rid of 90% of unnecessary junk in the house. I'm pretty proud of this one :)
  6. Begun restoration of 1941 Chambers stove. I've thoroughly cleaned everything and replaced the service cabinet door and floor, plus gotten the parts for natural gas conversion. I'm waiting for hubby to remove 5 stripped screws from the chrome top. Once that's done, we can send it to be rechromed, and then we're ready for reassembly!
  7. Edged the flowerbed with brick pavers.
  8. Agonized over how little I accomplish.

On the personal goals:

  1. Create a vegetable garden and grow carrots, corn, potatoes, tomatoes, and maybe broccoli.
  2. Learn to can my own veggies, sauces, and meats.
  3. Increase our food storage to a 3 month supply.
  4. Take at least 6 backpacking/camping trips (to keep my sanity)

And my progress:

  1. Veggie garden created and planted. Everything but peas eaten by moles and rabbits...
  2. No canning.
  3. Begun adding to our food storage, but I'd still say that we only have maybe a month's worth. It doesn't help that food is so freakin' expensive right now.
  4. No camping due to bad weather on my days off. I'm supposed to go this weekend, but of course, thunderstorms are predicted. I did take one hiking trip in February, but I stayed in a hotel overnight and not my tent.
  5. Gained 5 lbs. *sob*

So that's my year so far. I guess it's not too bad, but I always feel that I don't accomplish enough. At least the living room is finished, though, so I can look at it and know what I'm capable of. That room is my refuge and my inspiration. Just sitting in it makes me feel happy. Someday, I hope I'll feel that way in every room of this house.


Thank you, Blogged!

While checking my spam folder for misdelivered e-mail, I came across a message from Blogged, saying that my site had been rated 8.3 (great) by their team. Now, I'm so pop culture impaired that I didn't even know that Blogged existed... But I'm still excited that more people than my mom and best friend read my blog. So I now have a neat little widget on the sidebar proudly proclaiming my "great"-ness.


The office is paneling-free!

After who-knows-how-long of little bits of work on the office, the walls are finally liberated of paneling. What this really means is that I have found the motivation to work on it again. It's also brought on another case of severe loathing for the previous owner who put up the paneling to begin with. These are the same folks who made 3 perfectly usable closets into 2 dysfunctional closets. And messed up the ductwork. If not for all the holes they put into the walls by putting up furring strips with 5" nails, creating closet doors where none should be, and nailing up paneling, and carving holes in the walls for the "improved" ductwork, the walls and ceilings would have only a few cracks instead of needing major cosmetic surgery. I just don't get it.

The way it looks now, we're going to need to replace most of one of the walls with drywall. We re going to put in a large drywall "patch" anyways to re-enclose the hall closet. After tearing out the paneling and looking at the crumbling plaster, I think it might just be best to remove it. There's water damage from floor to ceiling, probably from leaking around the chimney. Where they carved the doorway for the bedroom closet/hall closet combo, the plaster is just barely hanging on.

We're also going to remove some more plaster from another wall to expand the closet opening. I'm having qualms about it, but the closet will be much more functional and accessible if we do this. Otherwise, it'll essentially be a 2' deep walk-in closet. It just stinks, because that's one of the least damaged walls, and I'll be tearing it out...