Downstairs remodel complete

As I mentioned in my last post, we finished the downstairs remodel. Because we are in the midst of a 4 month long upstairs remodel, Karim, Andrew and I have spent the last months living in the downstairs apartment together (3 adults, 2 dogs and 2 cats in a less than 1000 sq ft apt. Its a miracle that we still love each other!). So there was really no excuse  to not finish the downstairs.

We took off the week between the Christmas holiday and new years, on the presumption that we would be doing the finishes upstairs. Instead, we took the opportunity to actually do the finishes downstairs, by way of my ingenious ‘chore lists’. Basically me writing down every tiny piece of every remaining little job that needed to done, and then the 3 of us tackling them, bit by bit.

I know I never posted anything about the beginning of the downstairs remodel, to begin with, so here we go with the whole thing!

The downstairs was really the worst part of the house. It’s an entire apartment with a kitchen, and used to consist of 2 bedrooms as well…. Let me remind you that we never went down there until the remodel started, because it was just awful… 3 different adults and a huge dog had been living down there, all smoking (dog included I believe) for years. And the decor consisted almost entirely of cheap, smoke stained paneling and a smoke stained drop-ceiling. I have said it before and its an awful thing to say but feels most apt: it looked like someone had been filming porn down there: ugly, dirty, morally bankrupt and desperate. Take a look: (this is after we cleaned, even)


The foyer


Another shot of the living room

When we first moved in, my dear and very brave sister took a shot at cleaning it. There was food left in the refrigerator! Rotten chicken still on plates. The smoke film was thick and greasy and colored everything yellow – the paneling was not in fact intended to look like a yellowy pine after all, but was after cleaning really more of an ash color. And the fridge was white. 721

It was just bad. At first, we just avoided the downstairs altogether except last winter when we used the foyer window to grow the seedlings. You may remember the ‘ghetto greenhouse’.


Ghetto greenhouse, winter 2015

Well in the spring, we tore the whole thing out, down to the studs:


We moved the washer and dryer from their upstairs middle-of-the-kitchen location into a tiny weird storage room at the bottom of the stairs. I don’t know how to explain to you that there was a length of tubing running from the bedroom into a box in the laundry room, the box was bolted to the joists in there. The box contained – sealed away like a nuclear secret – an industrial fan that was venting the bedroom.  Not an AC, just a fan. And th storage (soon to be laundry) e room itself was awful, too. And needed foundation work and patching and basically everything that a room can need.

I patched and poured, we built a table , put up cheap faux bead-board paneling and installed vinyl plank flooring and called it done. Voila, working laundry room although no one would call it pretty, still.

Simultaneously, we were working on the rest of the apartment. We got a cheap crew to install drywall and a new ceiling. As they were a cheap crew, they disappeared after doing a relatively crappy job (anti-shout out to you, Charles Hindsley).

But at least we had something to work with, which we have been doing every since! I don’t have time nor inclination to point out every tiny job we did, so I’ll just hit the highlights:


The bedroom was first. We went with vinyl tile (tongue and groove) in there, and it is actually really nice. I did the whole thing, ceiling included) in a paint color called shell white….IMG_6038

And it turned out very cute!

On to the foyer…



I’m just catching my breath….

It’s been so long since I posted that wordpress changed the whole layout of their interface for posting! I suppose its no coincidence that the last post was  in September, just at the tail end of the summer (in time for garden pics), and just before we hired someone to do the remodel of the upstairs kitchen and creation of the new living room. (Which believe it or not is still ongoing!). In the intervening months, we completed the downstairs remodel, started a kitchen cabinet project, finished the foyer which as I always suspected it would be, is one of my favorite parts of the whole house. We got a new car, and a new dog, Mara came to visit! Sadie got pregnant!  Caitlin is moving back from Alaska! And a ton more.  Because I have so much to report on, and I’m not exactly sure where to start, I’ve decided in the meantime to do an all-purpose general catch up before I launch back in to a project-by-project recounting.

In no particular order, here are the highlights from the last 6 months!


The kitchen, gutted to make way for the new stuff! You can see where the old wall was to the bathroom, removed to expand the bathroom.


Fall leaf burning


We got a second dog – this is Bodie. Note to self, Andrew is not allowed to go to the SPCA by himself!


I went to Cancun. For work, you know


More leaves. And Chester


Fall really was beautiful!


And then winter arrived

I guess it’s about time to update you, dear friends.. I see that some of you have been faithfully stopping by in spite of the lack of new content on the blog. Thanks!

There has been a whirlwind of activity and progress, despite the lack of proof 😉 It’s because we’ve all been so busy that I have not gotten back here in these many months….

Then I faced the task of figuring out how to present the newest work. By month? By project? My guest host/decorator/family member/friend accomplices?

I’ve decided on a great, big, expulsion of info, not organized at all and neccesarily only hitting the high points (I laugh when I look back and see the detail I was obsessed with in the beginning!).

Part 1: The Garden

We built a pretty rockin’ garden with a custom fence installed by Karim, Andrew and I including sinking all the posts, fabricating all the raised beds, building all structures, etc. Karim built a lovely gate for it which we have yet to attach successfully but does look beautiful anyway….


Here is the location of the garden ‘before’… Me digging some lettuce beds as early as March





    Here it was just before we broke ground in April



    Here we are posts ready to go!

  3. Sinking and reinforcing postsSinking and reinforcing posts

Andrew actually dropped a 4 x 4 on my head. No joking.


About mid way through construction….


Center posts – almost done!


Stained what we could before everything got out of control… (The plants I mean!)


The gate pre-stain


The (mostly) finished product


A nice view from across the driveway….

Part 2: The bounty! (Where I turn into my mother and show everyone pictures of my flowers).


Karim and I turned a section of lawn into a yin-yang early in the summer…..


And turned it into a lovely spot!


With one-half white nicotiana and one-half colorful zinnias….

IMG_0739 IMG_0745 IMG_1273 IMG_1274 IMG_1305  IMG_1309 IMG_1311 IMG_1315 IMG_1322 IMG_1344 IMG_1366 IMG_1370 IMG_1458 IMG_1481IMG_0778 IMG_0779Last but not least (should have gone first perhaps but I’m too lazy to move the pics around!) I know some of you will appreciate how excited I am to be growing Sandia hot New Mexico chili peppers in my garden….


And moonflowers on my porch.



What White People Like #37 Renovations

Is it funny that #37 of ‘What White People Like’ is remodeling and landscaping?


And that #53 is dogs?


Oh, no, I’ve become a caricature of myself

Stuff White People Like

All white people are born with a singular mission in life in order to pass from regular whitehood into ultra-whitehood. Much like how Muslims have to visit Mecca, all white people must eventually renovate a house before they can be complete.

Of course, most white people do not reach this goal until they are 35 or older. But the need to do it is as instinctual as walking.

But it is important to note that white people have little or no interest in renovating a suburban home built after 1960 (except in Southern California). All white people dream about buying an older property (“with character”) in a city, and then renovating it so the insides look all modern with a stainless steel fridge.

Though the seed is planted from birth, it really starts to grow when renovations take place in a family home during childhood. They don’t understand why there…

View original post 84 more words

Spring & Summer Planning

Ok friends & family – It’s already April 3rd! Time to start planning…..

Mom! Come! Pam & Tom, we need you! Mara, seriously woman, are you coming? Jan, ditto! Ed, don’t be a cad, drywall instead! Mautners, camp! Jeremy I dream of your hands in my garden, amigo 😉

I have a big block of time off work, and money to spend on the homestead. Let’s make some progress.

Most Definitely NOT you on the homestead this season ;)

Most Definitely NOT you on the homestead this season 😉

I promise to ply you with beer & wine! Food! Pleasant company! Music around the fire! Possibly $! and plenty of Puppy Kisses!





Tasks to be done in the coming weeks:

Ok folks, your thoughts welcomed. But please, come for a visit!


Welcome a New Member of the Family

So, I got a doggie! His name is Chester (he came from the Chester County SPCA). He joins Kenzie & Eddie, and Andrew, Karim & I at the homestead.



He is absolutely the smartest and sweetest puppy I have ever met! Of course, i am a new “mom” and I think everything he does is delightful, but seriously he learned “come!” in about an hour and does it faithfully, and from any distance. Then he learned “sit” in an evening and is pretty good at it 😉 He even is learning how to walk on the leash – by which I mean he picks the leash up in him mouth and walks me around. Such a smart boy!

I am a advocate of thorough, consistent training – a dog is happiest when he knows where he fits in the family and what is expected of him. I am crate training him, which I have never done before but what they say is right – if you do it correctly the crate becomes a place of safety and security for the dog. He goes in there by himself to lay down. And it helps in potty training since the dog’s natural instinct is to not soil where he sleeps so he learns to hold it.

He is also very gentle with the cats and is trying desperately to make friends with them. Eddie is reciprocating and they are getting close to actual play. All in less than a week.


Chester & Eddie are buddies

You may remember that I lost a dog before I moved to the east coast (that sad event is here). I have been deeply missing the love and companionship of a dog since then and I’m thrilled to have all his sweet puppy kisses.

Gardening in the Ghetto Greenhouse

I posted last month about seed starting. Much has transpired!

In an attempt to warm up the germination process, Andrew erected a clever but ugly ‘greenhouse’ around the foyer area where the seeds live.


It’s actually painter’s tarp

It seemed to be working pretty well although I was worried at first about the temperature control because there is a baseboard heater in there, blowing directly up into the ‘greenhouse’ which is nice at night, but on days when the sun is shining, it’s pretty warm. As it turned out, what I should have been worried about was moisture control.


But it seemed pretty successful and lots of babies were coming up! Including my chili-babies….


Poor picture quality is ok because they all died ;(


At one point I counted 15 seedlings.

But as I said, it was warm in there. And as it turned out, dry. Really dry. And seedlings which had already germinated were trapped under the dome with those who hadn’t.  And then there was a really quick stretch when they weren’t checked enough. Disaster! A bunch of my babies died either of root rot from being too wet, or from completely drying out.

IMG_5535 IMG_5537


So I am regrouping, re planting, and enjoying the things which were successful!

IMG_5631 Tomorrow – March 15 – I will replant chili seeds, and Andrew and i are going out into the muddy yard for the first time, to put the cool spring seeds directly into the ground. Kale, spinach and lettuces.