Adventures in Domesticity

Making our house our home.

Friday, December 29, 2006

We're moving...

Sorry for the unwieldy URL, and for the weird formatting here. Hopefully everything will be pretty enough at the new place to make you forget about the address as soon as you put it in your favorites and/or update your links.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Christmas with Craig and Ellen

There's nothing like Christmas to make your house feel like a home. Especially if your house is small, so the Christmas tree seems to fill up all available space, winding around corners and surprising you in the shower.


I still love it, though, and wish I could show it off with better photography skills. Our tree is pre-lit with white lights, to which we add bubble lights and little red paper balls that make the white lights look red and warm. I've also been adding all the pictures that we receive in Christmas cards to the tree. I really like that, and will probably do it again. And to make it truly our tree, it's topped with a Minnesota Twins hat.

The house lit up at night. Note the appalling lack of snow. I wish we'd get just a little bit, so the boxwoods on the right didn't look so ghostly covered in their shrub protectors for winter.


A cautionary tale - beware the dangers of an unused room. It will be taken over by junk. The fact that it is junk of a holiday nature doesn't make it any better.


It's the baking that really ushers in the holiday season for me, though. It just doesn't feel like Christmas until I've slaved in front of the oven for a full weekend, stepping on Phoebe an average of 17 times per day. I don't know what this says about my character, other than the fact that I like cookies, and I like sharing them even more. Indeed, I have to share them, otherwise Craig would have to roll me into January.


Some of the fruits of my labor - gift baskets for co-workers.


So, Merry Christmas. Feel free come on over, have some cookies, and hang out with us. Help remind us that no matter how long our renovation list is, our home is still a home as long as it's cozy and welcoming and personal. Just don't expect Craig to share his prime spot on the couch.


Tuesday, December 12, 2006

The Basement Chronicles, Part the Second

I feel like the first big step of the basement work is over with. With the help of Carl and Tenley's truck (thanks again, guys!) we picked the panels up from Menards on Friday night and installed them on Saturday. The installation went quite smoothly - it was just measuring, sawing, and fitting the panels together. Manual labor with very little high-level thought.

Craig lays down the first panel:

About a third of the way through. You can see what the bottom of the panels look like to Craig's right. We thought we'd have way too many, but ended up with only two panels left over. The panels have a tongue on two sides and a groove on the other two, so they could really only go in one direction, resulting in a lot of unusable trimmed pieces.

Ellen cleans up sawdust. The combination of the treated plywood and the vinyl on the bottom made for very slippery dust. Please note that I am leaning over, and do not always look like the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man.

All finished. I may just be imagining things, but it felt like having the panels on the floor took a bit of the chill off. Insulation will only improve matters.

In other news, Christmas season is crazy, work is a little slow, and I had my wallet stolen out of my office yesterday. Grrr.

In conclusion, here is a cute picture of Phoebe for no reason at all:

Friday, November 17, 2006

The Basement Chronicles, Part the First

In the long break between posts, we've been busy planning, destroying, and measuring our basement.

A few "before" pictures:

The worst part is that it's not insulated at all. You nearly have to bundle up to take a load of laundry downstairs in January. A close runner up to the worst part is that, like everything that was in our house when we moved in, the entire basement was a pasty brown, this time accented by fake wood paneling.

In a year or so, we hope to have a cozy family room where we would actually like to spend some time. Our plans include a desk/computer station, table/eating area, fireplace, flat screen tv, and general space for a playroom.

So, with the help of Carl, Barb, and Dan, we ripped it all down:

It's amazing how fast it all came down. I am now willing to publicly declare my support for any political candidate willing to institute a steep tax on sales of all wood paneling - tearing out and disposing of one layer of wallboard would have been quite adequate.

After it was all cleaned up:

We cleaned up the walls and painted them over with waterproofing paint, just for good measure. All the walls are white now, which makes things look even cleaner. Next up: permits, DriCore panels for the floor, and deciding whether to use foam panel insulation or fiberglass batts. Ellen leans toward foam because of potential mold issues, while Craig doesn't want to think about it at all.

It hasn't taken us two months to do all of this. We've also had, you know, lives outside our house. Here are the highlights:
- Halloween fun with Phoebe, who was stylin' as spaghetti and meatballs.

- Ellen moved offices and officially began working for all 4 of the College of Education units on the St. Paul campus, rather than just Family Social Science. This has led to a lot more work, as well as a laptop, so we're running about even.
- Traveled to Phoenix for a weekend to celebrate Ellen's grandparents' 60th wedding anniversary. My newest cousin, Audrey, was also baptised that weekend. See the Flickr photoset at if you're interested.
- Started moving photos from Photobucket to Flickr. I like the option of having tags and sets, as well as the cool little photostream thingy that I'll eventually get on the blog. Forgive me if the photos look a little wonky for a while. I'm working on it. As I once said in a job interview, my html skills run about at the level of making things bold, so I'll get there slowly but surely.
- Watched the Hawkeye football team's spectacular collapse into mediocracy.
- Had a number of personal freak-outs about how EVERYONE IS PREGNANT.
- Wondered why I'm not a better blogger - I'm a writer by training and inclination, and I think I'm pretty smart and articulate. But then I refer back to Articles 1 & 2: Full Time Job and Home Improvement. So I'll just have to be happy with checking in on the odd slow day at work.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Angie's List is checking in....

We haven't been doing anything photogenic to the house lately. The last of the brown on the outside of the house is officially gone, though. Between bouts of swearing, dripping enamel paint all over everything, and surprise rainstorms, Ellen managed to paint the awning on the side door to match the house. We also painted the garage door and touched up the rest of the garage. Our house is now yellow, green, and white. Yay!

This summer, we had a local nursery with a landscaping division draw up a landscaping plan for our yard. It's great to have someone else do the designing and thinking for me. It has, however, had a domino effect. All of a sudden, we're gathering bids for patios, sodding, grading, privacy fences, and gutter repair. Angie's List e-mails me almost daily to "check up," wondering how I'm coming with all the contractors I've been researching.

Tentatively, we think we'll have the back yard regraded and sodded next year (they'll also install the beds for our planned plantings) and add a privacy fence. Our problem gutter should get fixed this fall. The grading and gutter repair will hopefully eliminate the trickles of water we get in the basement from time to time. With our plans for finishing off the basement, this would be a Very Good Thing.

So here's a bit of what we've been doing besides making expensive and grandiose plans for the house.

Vegetables! Between my little garden and our community agriculture box, we've been overrun with tomatoes. The last few Friday evenings have found me in the kitchen, glass of wine in hand, making large quantities of fresh heirloom tomato sauce.

Humiliating the dog! Every year, a group of Twin Cities Westie owners has an entry in the James J. Hill Days Parade in Wayzata. The dogs all dress alike, and walk the parade route. This year, the Westies wore tartan sashes and Glengarry hats. Phoebe shook her hat off after about 90 seconds, but she looked cute anyway. The Westies even made the evening news. You can see a clip in the upper right hand corner of this page: The Westies are the middle choice under the video "screen."

Phoebe was a model in a fashion show after the parade. The show was sponsored by the very fancy Lulu & Luigi pet store. Her cute little fur-trimmed tartan jacket cost $90. Yikes.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

A summer lull

So. We haven't been doing much with the house lately. We painted the garage ourselves over the 4th of July weekend, and are ready for a rest. We haven't even done touch-ups yet. The garage doors are both still brown, and clash with the fresh coat of paint. We're not quite to the point of caring yet. Maybe in another weekend or two. Right now, we're soaking up the AC.

I have also found that I lose at vegetable gardening. I think I killed my zucchini. Yes, the garden veggie that produces by the power of thought alone. Mine are on life support.

Now, I'd never grown much of anything before, so I didn't know that zucchini plants grow giant leaves that take over everything. I don't have a lot of space in my square foot garden, so when the zucchini leaves attacked, I put a tomato cage over the plant, and the leaves have more or less grown upward. I've been getting lots of leaves and flowers, but no fruit.

In my infinite wisdom, I decided that this must be because the raspberries were flopping over the zucchini and shading it too much. So I took a bungee cord and strapped the raspberries back against the fence, opening up the space around the garden. "Great!" I thought. "I'll just take the cage out, and the plant can flop all it wants!"

I was very pleased with myself. Then I pulled on the cage, and (duh) the entire plant came with it. I panicked a bit, stuck the whole cage back in the ground, mounded dirt over the poor exposed roots, and gave it plenty of water and Miracle-Gro. If the plants live, I might try pollinating the flowers myself. If not, I'm sure someone will provide me with zucchini this summer.

At least I'll have some basil and knowledge for next year out of the garden. The way things are looking now, that may be it.

Aside from killing vegetables, our weekends have been pretty busy. We went to the Schwarzkopf family reunion in Breda, Iowa toward the beginning of the month. The next weekend was the Minnesota Scottish Fair - nothing like haggis in 100 degree temps, aye? We also went to the Jensens' cabin near Hayward, WI, for a weekend. And look, there we are, feeding blueberries to fish! Thanks to Doug & Kathy Freeman for the pictures.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

House. Painted.

Well, the painters have gone, there's a hole in our savings account, and the various shades of brown on the house are just a memory. The new colors are Sherwin Williams "Jersey Cream" for the body and "Rosemary" for the trim. Here's the progress:

Day 1:

Day 2 - Scraped, spot primed, and test patched:

Day 3 - One coat of the body color is up:

Day 4 - There's another coat up, although it's hard to see:

Day 5 - Some of the trim is done now:

Day 6 - Mostly done, except for a few touch-ups:

The finished product - we have pretty new house numbers, although I do think Craig put them a little too far to the left. (We'll see how long it takes him to notice this comment.) We also have a new copper mailbox that matches the numbers, which will be installed a bit later:

Closeup of the trim color:

All in all, we're happy with the outcome, and happy with our decision to have someone else do most of the work. It was nice to have it go on while we were at work. So why am I so tired?