Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Halloween in Chicago

Our Halloween, despite its irritating beginnings, was overall just what Halloween should be. Then, we heard of an absolutely horrendous ending that saddens and angers me.

The Trick or Treaters started late, but ended up coming out in droves. The vast majority of them said "trick or treat" and wore a costume (and were overall polite). Our first 10 kids at 4:45 were not in costume, and included a parent not in costume expecting candy. (Um..nope) One little princess (probably around 5) came with a lunch bag that was ripping apart, so in addition to her treat she got a plastic bag to help her through the night. Our tenants took over around 6 while Glenn and I left for dinner in Greektown. One bonus this year is that they were able to lock the gate when they ran out of candy. (4 costco bags, not bad). Yes, we still had one year olds (but they had costumes, so they got candy). It was a bit stressful trying to give them something that they might be able to eat. (solid milk chocolate it was)

Now, for the horrible sad news that I was confronted with before bed time last night.

From the Chicago Tribune website:

Pregnant Woman Fatally Shot While Trick or Treating with Kids

followed by:
Car Pelted with Eggs, Angry Driver Shot

It's been a touch week particularly for women in Chicago. We also had a woman with a 2 week old and an 18 month old fatally stabbed in her apartment in Aurora; A mother of 3 jogging in the Sauk Village Forest Preserve who was beaten, had her throat slashed and died; A wife of a police Sergeant in Bolingbrook disappeared. (He's claiming that she left him for another guy. She's his fourth wife. Both wife number 1 and wife number 3 died in a bathtub. (both deaths were deemed accidents). I hope he's telling the truth and she did leave him. Time will only tell. This is just one week, only in the Chicago area. Horrendous.

Labels: , , ,

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

A Housebloggers Photo Montage

I recently switched my screen saver over to display random photos-of course, forgetting the randomness of my photos. I'm all set whenever we have a party to have it in the background. It's the most eclectic group of photos including holiday photos, vacation photos, photos of the tenant's apartment before move-in and after move-out, plus of course the litany of random photos I take for the blog.

For your amusement, just a selection...

Labels: ,

Monday, October 22, 2007


Where have I been hiding? A beach with a mai tai in hand? No, of course not. I've been attempting to save our front fence. Every year, I say, let's do the "must happen in warm weather" projects in the beginning of spring so that I'm not running around like a chicken with a head cut off come fall, dreaming of random house stuff, begging off social committments to get work done. Praying that weather holds off for another week. I hate this.

This year, I started off well- I put together my "spring to-do" list. The vast majority of things didn't happen. The very first thing that was started was fence work. Way back when in April (I think), Glenn cut down the forsythia so we could get to the fence and work on sanding the iron rungs and painting them, as well as do some concrete repairs. (both much easier to do without forsysthia and plants everywhere). I had hoped work would be done before planting my flowers. Hah!

I sprained my ankle which really slowed down house related tasks. I was out of commission, and Glenn was busier trying to do all the "must get done" stuff that he usually does, or I usually do. Then, we furiously got things ready for the rental. Then, my bout of food poisoning...(and various other things taking us away from our task. Our August, September, beginning of October were also riddled with some social and work commitments which were unavoidable (though enjoyable)

Finally, a month or so ago, I said we really need to paint the fence before winter. (and patch a couple holes that were the reason why we tore down the forsythia in the first place). I also want to plant thorny bushes by the front fence to deter plant thieves that needed to happen before the frost).

In preparation for the painting, I pressure washed the whole fence. Once everything was washed, we got to see a whole bunch of other areas that needed to be patched plus a lot of areas where the concrete was worn down to the aggregate.

My wonderful idea? Skim coat the whole thing. So i've been in concrete skimcoating hell. I keep on forgetting to take pictures. Once I do, I'll do a fence post with what I've learned with working with concrete.

Oh-and the other list of "really must get done-please cold weather wait a few more weeks, includes bulb planting, shrub planting as well as the rest of concrete repairs/paint."

I'll be back...

Labels: , ,

Radiator Snafu

You would think, that our radiator saga, written about at nauseum, would be done-or on hiatus. We thought so.

A few months ago, we bought a few new to us radiators. One was for our kitchen (Glenn wants to build a bench over a radiator and exchange out the current radiator) The other two were identical-one for our rental and one for our unit to replace a wrongly installed baseboard.

[When we had heat added to one of our rooms, the professional we hired put in baseboards. The result? The heat never worked. (you can't mix baseboard with cast iron radiators-or at the least you need a whole lot more linear space of baseboard to equal the heat put off by a cast iron radiator. If someone ever recommends mixing the two-bring in someone else, do some research on heat loss calculations-don't assume that since it is a "professional" he knows what he's doing. We found contractors on average hate working on cast iron radiators which makes it hard to get anyone in. (which is why Glenn is our favorite radiator guy).]

I digress. Anyway, a few months ago, we got the radiators, took them to be sandblasted, brought them home, primed and painted them, and installed the one in the rental. A little more piping needed to happen in the basement before the radiator could be filled up. Life happened, and it didn't happen. (the past few months have been very busy with non house commitments).

Yesterday, Glenn finished the piping in the basement and started to fill up the tenant's radiator. (I'm outside, in front, working with concrete on our front fence.) He comes out of the house saying he needs my help immediately. (which, I can't do-concrete can't wait). Apparently, sandblasting must have forced a leak in the radiator as it was leaking-not the valves, pipes, or anything easily fixed, but the actual radiator. Luckily, we had a spare radiator (the one we wanted for the same room in our unit) We then had to spend the greater part of the rest of the afternoon exchanging radiators. There was a risk that sandblasting professionally would spring a leak-but we had been optimistic.

Now we are deciding whether we need to run out and buy a "new" replacement one or wait until the spring. We loved the radiators we had chosen. The had all the scroll work on them and were the perfect size. It's too late for any new radiators to be installed in our unit, as our list of "must do" projects before cold is much longer than seemingly humanely possible. We had already pushed off radiators for us until next year.


Monday, October 15, 2007

Environmental Blog Day

Today, hundreds of blogs are uniting around the world to focus on environmental issues. As a house blog, I thought I'd highlight some of the environmentally friendly things that can be done to renovate a home. Rehabbing an old home is at the core of a environmentally friendly lifestyle-just think of it-what sounds better-restoring the old, or trashing it, and starting a new?

Of course, not everything can be restored or rehabbed. In those instances, there are a number of "better" options than just whatever you can get at the local store. I wished we knew about some of these items when we started:

1. Recycled products-We have been amazed at the wide variety of renovation items made from recycled products. In Chicago, we have Greenmaker's Supply which has a show room with a number of environmentally friendly options. They have a quartz like counter that has flecks of recycled glass in it. They also have recycled glass tiles that can be used for backsplashes.
2. Salvage yards- We've spoken at nauseum about our radiator foibles. We've gone to our local radiator salvage yard for the new radiators we've needed. There are salvage yards around for basically anything-old doors, hardware, molding. Of course, a lot of what you find might need a little elbow grease to use, but the work is worth it. Not only do you preserve some of history, but you cut down on items heading to the landfill or prevent a tree from being cut down for your remodeling purposes.
3. MDF v. solid wood. If you are planning on painting your trim anyway, instead of getting solid hardwood, you can buy trim in a number of different styles made from MDF. As a bonus, the MDF is cheaper. It's not recommended for high moisture areas.

For the garden, here are a few things we've learned.
1. Rain barrels: Instead of wasting water from the tap, why not collect rain water and use that in the garden? In Chicago, the city offers a program to sell rain barrels for $40 (regularly $80+) in its efforts to encourage residents to disconnect their downspouts (that otherwise head into the sewer system prompting flooding in torrential rain storms) We have one that we plan on hooking up to our (to be installed) gutters on our garage. I'll then use that water for the back yard plants.
2. Native landscaping- Depending on your yard, a rain barrel may not cover all your water needs. An even better thing to do is to make sure that you plant native plants. Native plants have adjusted to the water expectations of your environment so are more likely to be able to survive without outside watering. I'd like to incorporate native landscape in our backyard when we get to it.
3. Green roofs-We really would like to do this, but don't know if/when it will happen. The city offers many incentives to install a green roof, but still its an expense we aren't ready for right now. The concept of a green roof is to add plant material on the roof for insulation and a natural water user. Instead of a lot of rain off from rainstorms, the plants would use the water to drink. Special soils are lighter than regular soil. By having a natural insulator, the temperature stays more temperate inside the home, decreasing energy costs.