Thursday, November 30, 2006

Tropical birds and a blizzard a.k.a. Chicago Fall

As I write this we are waiting in great anticipation for the first major snowstorm of the season. 8-12" with high winds as a bonus. Of course, that could really translate into anything from 1-3" to 2 feet. (with the combination of "lake effect snow" and the unpredictability of the weather-we've had the pendulum swing both ways after a snow prediction.

So, imagine my surprise when I survey my outside (after the cries of the next door neighbor's doberman that lives outside year-round) to find these creatures:

Sort of seem out of place-don't they? (there were 5 of the bright lime green birds eating those berries). I'll have to see if they come back on Friday and I could get a better photo.

After some careful research (performed by Glenn)I think we pinpointed who these creatures are.
Monk parakeets

And, for the record, we do not live in Hyde Park-so these guys are moving at least a little from there. Still a far cry from Argentina.


Monday, November 27, 2006

We're back -kitchen remodel across many miles

From arguably our most ambitious project ever. We loaded up our tools and braved the 14 hour drive to Connecticut to renovate my mom's kitchen the week of Thanksgiving. Some questioned the feasibility of actually getting it done within our constraints (I promised my mom we'd be out of the kitchen Wednesday/Thursday so as not to impede Thanksgiving). I would have liked to have done some posts while we were away, but we only had one computer between us, and Glenn had to sneak in some work on it each night after the kitchen work.

I'll break up the project into 2 posts-this one, which will give an overview, and another one with more of the nitty gritty details.

Our goal with the project was to increase the marketability and selling price for my mom when she sells her place in the spring. We saw the most value in the kitchen, and decided to paint the cabinets, dress the cabinets up with molding, install a new counter, sink, and hardware, and upgrade lighting. (also in some other areas of the house). Before we arrived, my mom emptied her cabinets, and took down some of the doors. We were able to complete the project over 5 days, with largely just Glenn and I working, and a fair amount of the day on Thursday taken up by Thanksgiving. The total cost (materials) was less than $600.

But, without further ado, how things looked when we finished up:

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Thursday, November 16, 2006

Our little side project

As I mentioned, we are in the middle of planning a renovation of my mom's house before she sells it. This past weekend was spent largely doing preparations for the renovation. (and not one iota of work was done on our house) In honor of Veterans Day, we had a 10% discount off at Lowe's and Home Depot, so we wanted to get what supplies we needed-and that was only this past weekend.)

Our plan right now is to remodel my Mom's kitchen (paint cabinets, change hardware, replace counter and sink). Time permitting, we will also be changing out some light fixtures, and perhaps some other tasks. (the list is long, but Glenn and I could only do so much in a short visit).This weekend, we also wanted to figure out all our options for tweaking the cabinets. (they were made on site from plywood).

The whole process has been extremely challenging even before we get started with the physical labor. Largely because of the lack of information. I've only spent a few days in my mom's house (not the house I grew up in) and I haven't been back that way for about a year. It's been hard to come up with a plan without photos (getting any sort of photo is quite a challenge, and the ones I've gotten are largely extreme closeups of items). Then, there have been delays in getting measurements etc. We have certain ideas of what needs to happen (ie. the money is in the kitchen and the bathrooms) While my mom, since she's been living there, has different pet peaves (popcorn ceilings). I think we have finally reached a consensus of what needs to be done.

Because of the distance between our house and my mom's, we need to have planning done before hand so we aren't wasting a day figuring out a plan. The closest home improvement store is 45 minutes away. (we anticipate many trips to the store so plan on staying close to the home improvement stores).

I imagine much of our free time in the near future will be related to this project as we finalize details, collect materials etc. (not too exciting blog material, but we will see)

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Saturday, November 11, 2006

Thank you to Veterans

In honor of Veterans' Day, I just wanted to thank all the Veterans out there who might come onto our blog. We really appreciate the service you have given to our country and the sacrifices you have made to insure our freedom.

What next?

After our furious preparation before winter of projects outside and the big radiator stripping project our project list is open for negotiation. Of course, the impending holidays of Thanksgiving and Christmas will also jockey for position. (and we might move into operation "clear space for tree"-but that will wait for a couple weeks) Funny how R&R is so necessary for sanity, but it's also really great at pushing you off the motivation train.

On our "short list"

1. Prepare rental for renting including some ceiling patchwork related to the flooring project, some painting, reworking the lease, and prepping the marketing plan, as well as some other things.
2. Install the door molding we just found. (this should go pretty quickly, I just need to prime/paint it).
3. Finish off an old doorway we converted to a passthrough from our dining room to kitchen. (this actually is a fairly big project as we need to install a built-in, do some electrical work, figure out the molding around the brick, and figure out counter material) It would be great if we finished this before the new year, but with the holidays and all that those entail, that might not be feasible.

As a "side" project, we are also simultaneously planning a quick renovation of my Mom's house before she sells it. I'll have to write a whole bunch of posts about all the trials of planning a renovation at someone's else's house-but that will come later.

We also are still sort of in "unpack" mode rediscovering our winter clothes and trying to figure out where to put them in the improved dressing room. (I'm still missing some clothes, so I'm hoping to find them soon!) It's sort of funny right now, because we also have 5 or so dining room chairs sitting in our bedroom, as we are trying to keep our dining and living rooms clear while we work.

But, today, our day will largely be spent doing non-house stuff. It's both Member's appreciation day at the Art Institute and Veteran's Day.


Tuesday, November 07, 2006


I hope everyone did it. This was a very challenging voting year for me. But, despite the choices in front of me (and how meager they might be), I'm very thankful to have the right to vote.


Monday, November 06, 2006

We almost had a contractor...

We were "this" close to having someone come in and do our stairs. I suppose, there's still the possibility. I just saw the potential contractor (he was to start Wednesday) and we were going over the work again. It came out that he wasn't planning on staining our stairs. (which is what we wanted). His contract says "refinishing" Whenever we get floors refinished, that includes stain. (which I explained to him) When he came around the first time, he never asked if we wanted stain. Then, he acted surprised that I wanted stain. (and wanted to charge me an additional $200 for it!) I'm already shocked at how much the stairs would cost when we've done the vast majority of the work already.

So many contractors write very vague contracts and it's just bound to make both parties unhappy. I make a point to make sure everything is written down ahead of time before work is started. We had some situations with "oral" contracts, or where one party speaks English as a second language and that compounds the problem-one of us thinks one thing and the other something else. We've learned...

The reason really why we were going to go with him was because of the drywall work that he was going to do. I might still ask him to do that. (It's to repair some ceilings after the big flooring project).

This weekend was spent doing prep work for this contractor, oh well.

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Sunday, November 05, 2006

Home Sweet Home

Last night we spent our first night in our new and improved bedroom. (As a recap, we moved out of our unit back in May for a big flooring project, and we're supposed to move up again by July 1. Due to an unexpected garage project, trying to figure out molding patching problems, and radiator work that kept the heat off, our move-in was massively delayed.

But, we are now mostly moved back. (still moving things in the bedroom/dressing room/bathroom-that should be done today)

It's great to be back home!