Friday, April 29, 2016

A cleaner slate

People who know me in real life, and maybe my blog readers too, know that around the first 70 degree day of the year, Shaun and I go a little crazy.  We tend to immediately drop whatever inside project we were working on (or in this stage of our life, dreaming about one day accomplishing) and turn our focus outside.  We are addicted to landscaping, it has always been our favorite thing.  It's something we started working on immediately on Russet street.  That was fun, since there were hundreds of flagstones buried all throughout the yard.  Who does that?  Oh yeah, Boozie Susie!!
We also jumped head first into the yard issues with our Minnesota house.  THERE WERE MANY.
Yes, this time of year a simple visit to the grocery store or Target usually ends up with me pulling into the parking lot of a garden center, nursery, or (if I'm desperate) Home Depot - then wondering what exactly I'm doing there.  It's a sickness.  Luckily, I'm not able to get out of the house much, so maybe we won't put all our money into plants this year.  Anyhow, here's the fug outside of our house when we bought it last September. 
Grandma, are you there?  Now, I'm not saying our house looks run down, it was nicely maintained (ONLY on the outside, let's be clear about that!) with manicured 'mustache' bushes and virtually no weeds in the grass.  It was just so old fashioned.  I know why evergreens are so popular, because they don't drop crap all over your lawn and provide color in the winter.  HOWEVER.  I dislike most evergreens because they are boring, everyone has them, and they do a great job of blocking light to windows.  Why put windows in your house and then plant a huge bush in front of them?  Curtains and blinds, people!
Stuff like this blows my mind.  When we bought this house, the first thing we both said was 'these bushes have to go, immediately.'  But then I was hugely pregnant, and we spent our time working on the inside before our new tiny human was to arrive.  Now, here we are at the start of landscaping season.  Faced with the possibility of ripping out all these bushes ourselves, I decided to use my brain rather than my brawn.  I put all the evergreens on Craigslist for free if the person removes them.  Success!
I had a ton of interest, but ended up choosing a man who was having a landscaping company come take them out and replant them at his house 30 minutes away.  It was awesome to not only have it all gone, but removed professionally.  For free!  We removed all the lilies and hyacinths first. 
You can see we removed the silly burgundy shutters, too.  A real pet peeve of mine is shutters that are slapped onto any house, regardless of relevancy or whether the shutters could actually cover the windows if they shut.  I do wish the windows were bigger, but I still think the clean look is much better. 
Good thing I have curtains downstairs, to prevent creepers like this from looking in.  After removing the ugly retaining blocks, we decided to backfill a little more dirt against the house because we thought it wasn't sloped away from the house enough. 
You know how long it takes to do something with your 3 year old helping?  About three times longer than it would have without them.  Luckily, we have a child-sized shovel so he could remove the dirt we'd already placed while we weren't looking.  The people from Craigslist also took the huge evergreen on the south west corner of the house. 
They left a nice hole for us to plant something new, too.  Jury is still out on the three lilacs that were ruthlessly trimmed into a hedge between the driveway and walkway.  I'm not sure if we will keep them, it depends on how good they look, smell, and if we can move them to the backyard or not. 
I love lilacs, but this is just too big to keep in this area.
Now we have to come up with a plan for the front of the house.  I really don't have any idea what to do, since we can't cover the lower windows and the house is really tall and boxy.  Hopefully inspiration hits, because the people in our neighborhood with houses like ours are definitely not winning any landscaping awards!  Oh yeah, and there is the little issue of the ugly door, railing, mailbox, address plaque, and light
Not sure what we can afford to do with this mess right now, but I'm thinking!

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

From marvelous to money pit

I was so sad to learn a few days ago that our old house on Russet St has been relisted.  I am actually unreasonably upset by the news, and I can't quite figure out why.  Maybe because I thought the people we sold to really loved the house, or because it's weird to see our house with other people's furniture in it, or maybe, because we can't buy it back.  Anyway, it got me thinking about our life there a lot this weekend, and I'm trying to not dwell on how much happier I was there than any other place we've lived. 
I can see from the photos that (ignoring the photographer's over saturation problem) they haven't changed a single paint color.  They also kept all the furniture and accessories we left there, which is great that it all got used again. 
We've been having a lot of setbacks at our house in Illinois, so I tend to get really down and spend way too much time looking back, instead of forward.  Let me take this opportunity to share with you some of the WTF problems in this house, just for fun.  A couple weeks ago our sewer backed up into the garage drain, and we had quite a mess since our garage is still full of all the stuff we have no place for.  Plus there was all new wood on the ground for a guest room wall project that we have no time to complete.   
Nothing like poop in your garage to make your Friday.  Turns out our old clay pipes are just laid nicely next to each other without mortar around the joints, so lots of roots and crap were growing throughout.  The plumber we hired rodded the pipes Friday and used a camera to show us how bad it was, then they had to come back the following week to do an 'extensive' rodding of the pipes with these little blade attachments.  It all cost us $1300.  But wait, there's more!  The elbow that supplies our house is not fully connected to the main anymore, so we technically should dig it all up and replace it.  To the tune of $6500 or more.  He says we can avoid that by rodding every 6 months to keep the flow we do have clear, at $400 a pop.  Awesome.  Moving on... 
I was sitting on the toilet in our master bathroom the other day (love the visual, eh?) and looked down to see this tile on the shower curb was totally cracked.  I have no idea how this happened, but I'm wondering if I hit it with the Baby Bjorn bouncer while trying to keep my little angel from screaming bloody murder while I shower.  Anyway, we don't have any replacement tile and it's super annoying that this happened.  Next...
We probably have to tear off the entire deck on the back of the house, since it's NAILED onto the house and isn't safe.  The stairway is sinking into the ground because they put nothing underneath it, and all the steps are breaking.  We may be able to just secure it better, but I'm not holding my breath.
Some other dumb issues we've had in this house:
  • When we moved in, there was a cracked tile at the threshold from the kitchen to the dining room.  Removing the transition strip to refinish the floors basically pulled the chunk of tile out, so we had been living with it (and tripping over it) like this for several months:
Luckily, the previous owners did one thing right and had leftover tile for us.  We found a reasonable handyman company to come over and fix it because we just didn't have the time to do it ourselves.  It was honestly the best $265 I've ever spent!  Our floor guy left that new wood transition for us back in September.  I'm so happy it isn't leaning up against the kitchen wall anymore!
  • The main bathroom floor/tub surround leaked if water got on it.  We've already had water raining through recessed lights and a closet in our newly renovated lower level.  We've regrouted and recaulked everything until we can gut the bathroom, so far it's working when our energetic kid is in the tub.  The cool retro tile is in terrible shape, the spaces between the tiles are crazy big.  You can see all the grout we had to use around the edges.
  • I had to hire a locksmith to change out our locks and handles on front and back door, not because we wanted new locks, but because they were installed incorrectly and were so impossible to use I didn't even lock our doors for the first month we lived here.  Cost us $500.
  • The door opening to our garage from the house is abnormally small for this type of door, at 28 inches wide.  This means I had to have a steel entry door special ordered to replace the dumb hollow interior door that was there. 
We wanted aluminum, but it wasn't available anywhere in that width.  With the labor of the installer, this cost us $990 total.  It does look nice, but OMG it's a plain door that isn't even painted. 
  • We had a ton of plumbing issues in the entire house when we first moved in, including the busted master faucet, lots of leaks, and a running toilet.  It cost us $1100 to fix all of them.  I won't go into the details, but we still have to gut the main bathroom and change out two more one piece (of crap) toilets. 
  • We've spent about 3k on electrical work to change the obsolete 50amp panel to 100amp, put lighting in the lower level, fix all the shoddy work on the main floor, and replace all the ugly ceiling fans with lights that turn on with the switch.  We wanted a bigger amp panel, but it would've required permits and the electrician suspected that our deck would cause issues because it's too close to the panel on the outside.  We decided to just stick with 100 and hope it's all we need.  We still have outlets outside that are not meant for outside, and there is no outlet in the downstairs we have to get those taken care of. 
  • This one is petty, but our ice maker in the frig stopped working a couple months after we moved in.  It's a common problem I know, but it isn't any less annoying and I refuse to pay some company an $85 trip charge plus a few hundred to repair it. 
  • We had to replace our garage door opener pretty much right away because it was not working properly, and it sounded like a freight train was running through our house every time it opened and closed.  We got a good one that was belt driven instead of chain, and it is much nicer and quieter - but cost us $550.  
  • We replaced our furnace in November because it was 18 years old, loud, and the back of our house (mostly Ashford's room) was always cold.  $2300 later, the new Lennox furnace is a bit quieter, but his room is still cold.  Annoying.
  • The worst yet, we just got our property tax assessment and they increased our value by 70k.  There is absolutely nothing we can do about it, because the house probably would be worth what they say after all of our recent improvements.  I estimate this will raise our already high property taxes by over 2k per year.  This place is just not worth it!
So, on a better note!  Zach has started sleeping better at night, in his CRIB.  Once for 8 hours straight, and that makes me very happy.  He still does not nap during the day unless he's nursing or laying on me, but I'm hopeful that won't last much longer.  At four months, he's as big as Ashford was at nine months!  Here is my chunky 18 pounder:
And here is a comparison between him and me as a baby.  Crazy how much he looks like me!
Ashford has officially entered the 'superhero' stage of his childhood, and so I had to do a little photoshoot of the boys wearing some Captain America gear they got for Easter.  Love it!
Sorry for my sporadic posts, I believe it took me three entire days to write this one.  Ah, kids.  Thanks for letting me rant a little, and I'd appreciate your house horror stories to make me feel better!

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Our master bedroom

Prepare to be underwhelmed, here is our master bedroom.  Please don't mind the cluttered dresser and random stuff on the ground, it's a miracle I got the room this clean!
This is a very modest room, it measures 13x15 and has nowhere near the square footage or storage of the previous masters we've had.  When it's clean, it's not too bad in here.  Alas, it's never clean.  These photos required 15 minutes of carrying crap to Ashford's room to clear it out. 
We still have a pile of framed art in the corner that we're not sure what to do with.  I don't love the Cycles Gladiator print anymore, but I'm not sure if it's the frame or the print.  I do love the curtains, but the (Behr) Aqua Smoke wall color, curtains and rug together make for very limiting bedding options to avoid being too busy.  I really need to find a nice neutral/solid comforter set.
A new addition is the headboard from Wayfair.  I wanted something lighter than the dark brown one we've had, but I wouldn't recommend this one.  Especially at the current selling price of $500, I paid $300 in December!  It's very thin, was advertised as 'cream' when it's clearly a natural/tan color, and it's not super secure because the holes don't line up with the holes on either of our bed frames.  It may be moving to the guest room so I can get a nicer one for us. 
I'm so tired of our furniture.  I've had this set since I was 22 years old, and I'm dying for something new and less matchy.  But it's in good condition, it's pretty classic in style, and I wouldn't get much if I sold it, so I have to live with it for now.  Did you see the 'Keep Calm and Carry On' poster still up on the wall?  YOU GUYS.  Shaun loves it, and won't hear of not putting it up.  Embarrassment.  I'm sorry.  I should at least get a new frame that isn't dingy like that old Ikea one. 
My very small closet does not have any hope of holding my clothes.  The doors are also on pretty wonky since we got our floors done and had to remove them all.  Luckily, the doors themselves are fine looking and I was able to dress them up a little with some beautiful knobs from Anthropologie
I also added a couple nice hooks from Home Depot in between them to help keep stuff off the floor.  I loved that they went well with the dark curtain rods and light fixture. 
The light fixture is from Shades of Light, and it was worth the money in my opinion.  It gives a ton of light, doesn't hang down too far for my bed-jumping kid, and the crystal on the bottom ties in my lamps and hooks. 
So, that is the end.  Not a bad before and after, eh?
As far as budget, we had some whole-house work that happened in this room, including the floors, trim, and swapping out fans for lights on switches throughout the house.  The rest of the items that I can remember:
Curtains (fabric and seamstress): 150
Curtain rods: 35 steal at TJ Maxx
Curtain rings: 20
Light: 278
Hooks: 16
Closet knobs: 40
Headboard: 300
Paint: 60
Total: $899
Not cheap, but considering the headboard and light are 2/3 of the amount, I think I did pretty good.  And here is a regular sight in our room....why he wants to sleep on our floor is beyond me!

Friday, February 19, 2016

Our master bath and baby ramblings

While I would love to totally rip our master bath out and start over, there is no way that is happening, so we are making the best of this teeny room.  It's certainly a NICE remodel, but it's nice for someone else.  The travertine/traditional look is definitely not my style.  Here is how it looked when we bought the house:
You can barely see the burgundy valance over the window.  It was coated in dust and was taken down immediately!  I absolutely hate this dark sage green paint, and the previous owners used it in the master bath and bedroom, and the half bath in the lower level.  It felt so good to prime over it!  This makeover is not a WOW or anything, but I think it looks a lot better now.
I used BM Natural Cream on the walls, the same color we used in our Minnesota house main bathroom.  It is a nice warm gray.  I couldn't tolerate painting the walls to match the fleshy/yellow beige of the tile, and there is veining in the tile that matches the wall color, so I think it works ok.  The rack above the toilet is from Amazon, it was so easy to install and give us a nice place to stack a couple towels.  It was hard to find a towel rack because that little wall is only 24 inches, and most '24 inch' racks are actually almost 26 since the measurement only accounts for the bars.  Love Amazon!
The window is bare since there is privacy glass, but I may do a little window treatment one day.  For now, it's fun to be able to use whatever color towels we want.  The ugly wood TP holder is a project for another day!
We had to replace the faucet the first week because the existing one's pop up drain assembly wouldn't open and the sink couldn't drain.  How that got past inspection, I have no was seriously like it was super glued down.  Replacement drains wouldn't work with the existing faucet because it was all one piece, so an entire new faucet was needed.  What an expensive problem!  We are finding the previous owners used cheap materials and we are now fixing all their mistakes.  I chose the Moen Banbury faucet and got the matching towel bar since there wasn't one before. 
I would really like some hardware on the vanity, since you literally have to claw the drawers open, but I can't find anything I like.  I feel like satin nickel to match the rest of the bathroom would be too obvious, so I'm thinking dark to match the dark glazing on the wood.  But the fancy edges make placing a knob on the door hard, so maybe a large pull in the middle of the door to match smaller pulls on the drawers?  Or, nothing on the door and just pulls on the drawers?  Help!  Another thing I really need to do is update the can lights.
I would love to rip out that dumb soffit and move the box to the wall for a nice normal vanity fixture, but that is just not a priority right now.  In the meantime, I will just get new flush can inserts and call it a day.  I also fight a daily battle with soap scum on the glass enclosure. 
I try to squeegee the water off after every shower to prevent this, but that doesn't always happen, or work.  I'd love to hear any good methods for keeping the glass clean!  So, that is the tiny bathroom we use to shower and (at least for me) basically nothing else.  I wish there was more room, but it's nice to have, anyway.  Life has been very hard this last month.  Zach's face usually looks like this unless he's nursing.
He still will not sleep decently unless being held.  He usually sleeps for one 2 hour stretch per night in the rock n play (the rest of the night on me) and a single 1-2 hour nap in the swing during the day if I'm lucky.  Some days he doesn't really sleep all day long, just little cat naps while nursing.  It's so exhausting and it's not just me, he is also super tired.  But he won't tolerate a swaddle, he won't take any pacifier I've tried, he won't even take any bottles - so I'm trapped at home with him.  He is also so big that it's tiring to wear him in the carrier.  He weighed 14 lbs 4 oz at his 2 month check up!
I was dairy free for four weeks, and we didn't really notice a difference in his behavior or desire to be held/hatred of laying down, so I started eating some earlier this week.  Then he became extremely fussy and cried even while being held, so I'm back to no dairy hoping it will at least cut out some gas.  It's hard, but I still manage to find some happy baby moments to take cute photos of Zach.  I am determined to take as many photos/videos of him as I did with Ashford, I think it's so sad that first kids always have more!  I've committed to doing a 365 book of Zach, the same as I've done for Ashford in 2014 and 2015.  It will be so fun to see him gradually growing in each photo!  Here are some of my recent favorites:
This one has a little glimpse of a new rug we got for the living room.  The living room is in transition right now since Shaun wanted the sectional downstairs.  It's such a mess!
And despite Ashford not wanting to participate in photo sessions with his brother, I managed to get some cute shots for Valentine's Day...
There has been some exciting progress on the lower level, I will try to clean that up and take some photos for you all this weekend!