Steady March: This and That

Good Man and I have been getting some random things done around the house (and are in the middle of a massive—to us—tub issue, actually).

The kitchen hasn’t been painted yet. The previous owner was…lazy.

Lazy!

He didn’t remove this phone jack when he painted. We don’t need it, but if we remove it, you’ll see multiple paint colors.

Ugly Phone Jack

We have been dumping our lunches, my purse, etc all around the kitchen. So we picked up a rack and covered the phone jack. Now the kitchen is cleaner and the jack is covered until we can paint it.

Landing Strip

The kitchen has wired under-cabinet lighting. One of the bulbs burnt out, but it didn’t bother us until a second bulb burnt out. And that’s when I discovered that every other bulb was out.

Huh.

I don’t know how we hadn’t noticed that.

I figured the previous owner was just saving money, since the bulbs are a bit pricey. So I went to Ace, picked up new bulbs, and installed them.

One of the lights (there are seven bulbs over four lights total) doesn’t close/seat properly, so you can’t use the on/off switch. Annoying.

But that was minor compared to the single socket that did this to the halogen bulb.

That Can’t Be Good

We decided to leave that socket empty!

Moving from the kitchen, we put a gripper rack at the top of the basement stairs. It’s such a simple thing, but it is so nice to have a place to store our mops and brooms that is out of the way.

Easy to Reach

Photos

Finally, something is popping up around the yard. We just aren’t sure what yet. Crocuses and daffodils? Wild onions?

Something’s Growing

Any Idea?

Surprise!

Steady March: Korean Cabinet

The Steady March of Home Improvement continues in our dining room.

Our house is a typical Cape Cod, with two bedrooms on the first floor. One was converted to a dining room. The chandelier and chair rail are very dining room-esque. The closet? Not so much.

I wanted to get a China hutch or something similar to put into the closet. I browsed around online shops and we looked at IKEA. Traditional China hutches were too expensive, too large, and too…traditional. IKEA had some options, but they were too expensive and too…IKEA. (IKEA lovers, relax, IKEA will appear soon enough.)

So I turned to Craigslist, where I found this cabinet. It was advertised as Korean, and looks similar to things I saw in Korea… but there is certainly no maker’s mark on it, so I take the label with a grain of salt.

Cabinet

Space

The cabinet has solid shelves on the top half, and slatted shelves on the bottom half, but long drawers dividing them. It’s six feet two, and about two feet wide and deep.

I took all the drawers and lower doors out, cleaned it up, and put Old English Scratch Cover on it. Good Man and I also replaced the tassel on the brass pin. No, I don’t know why the green strands are longer.

Old Tassel

New Tassel

Lotus Blossoms?

I put our wedding geese on it, and might put my wedding shoes on the very top. I am strongly considering putting the whole set of Korean dishes in it. Right now, it’s empty.

I really like how it looks in the dining room and am glad we didn’t go with anything from IKEA!

Korean Cabinet, Without Flash

Korean Cabinet, With Flash

Steady March: Kitchen, Cat Door, and Thermostat

While Good Man was working on the closet, I decided to work on the kitchen window.

Our kitchen has a window facing the street, which is covered with blinds from Blinds Galore (good experience, for the record!). And then we have the window on the door, which was covered with some plastic, cheapo, stick-on “blind” as the window treatment.

The window is made up of a cover that makes “panes.” I decided to unscrew the “panes” so I could put a piece of rice paper film over the entire window at one time.

This was not my greatest idea, because the entire window started to fall out. Ahhh, duh. The “pane” divider is what actually mounts the window in place. I called Good Man in to help, interrupting him while we was working on the closet.

(He really, really didn’t like me in that moment. He called me “Reverse Midas.”)

I did realize that the rice paper wasn’t going to be enough coverage, so at least some good came from the experience.

We used frosted film and applied it. It didn’t turn out perfectly, but it turned out good enough. I realized if the choice was between perfection and completion, I was going to go for completion.

Complete!

Completion, however, was short-lived. A few days later, I removed two “panes” and redid them. They still aren’t perfect, but they are much better. (I don’t have a photo.)

While I let the window “breathe,” I worked on removing the adhesive from the cheapo blinds.

Douse with Goo Gone, wait a few minutes, scrape, repeat. For over an hour. If we ever buy another house with that stuff on it, I am knocking hundreds of dollars off of our offer price. Those blinds are evil.

Finally, I got enough adhesive off to be happy.

Unstuck

The two faux panes are since re-filmed (and those bubbles are pressed out), and I can walk in the kitchen without worrying about the neighbors seeing me. Tonight, Good Man opened the door and startled me. The frosted film really does let light in but block the view!

***

While I was working on the closet rod, Good Man worked on the thermostat, which has been loosely hanging off the wall since Dad painted, way back in August.

It was an easy fix, but since I managed to knock the wires out of place last time (cutting off the AC), and I wasn’t sure how to fix it, I just kept putting it off. Good Man took care of it for me. Thumbs up for him.

(Wow, I really need to Windex the heck out of that thermostat and find the cover for it.)

Good Man Gives a Thumbs Up

***

This house was built for a cat. We have a cat tunnel, a cat perch, a sealed-up cat pass-through (I think) and a cat door.

The cat door is blocked from the inside, so the cat can’t get out, and a raccoon can’t get in. But it is very, very drafty. And I know insects can get through the house through the door, too. (We had a Cricket Death Corner of the basement this summer. I think I know how they arrived.)

Front of the Door

Back of the Door

Really Filthy Inside of the Door

So Good Man and I worked together to fill it with DapTex foam. It worked! It’s no longer drafty. A cheap fix, but good enough for now!

Foam-Filled Cat Door

Steady March: The Closet

Remarkable! Behold the steady march of progress toward no discernible endpoint that is home improvement!

—Mark, in an email

After all of the work we did on the house this summer, I just wanted (needed?) to take a break. But the last few weekends and evenings, I’ve been all, “let’s get it done!” Fortunately, the huge stuff is done. Unfortunately, that means the stuff we’ve done seems really minor.

The hall closet doors were driving me crazy because they kept sticking in their tracks. So in a fit of anger, I demanded we remove them.

Good Man Is Very Patient

I don’t even want to know what that gunky brown stuff is.

Eww

I pulled up the track and found…termites? I don’t know, but they were all dead.

Really Eww

The floor track was easy to remove. The ceiling track, though, was another story. No matter how we tried to get the screws out, they were holding fast. Good Man ended up bending back the track as much as possible (quality metal, so not much!) and used pliers to remove each screw (five of them), about ten degrees at a time.

I am pretty sure he hated me at this point.

I Bet That’s Lead Paint

Two hours later (yes, you read that correctly), the track was gone!

Of course, removing the track meant removing some paint. It also exposed the unfinished floor. Those will be dealt with this summer. (And I am glad we didn’t refinish the closet floor, because if we had, we would have one weird strip!)

We found a tension rod and a curtain. I wanted a plain, draw-no-attention-to-it curtain. Good Man wanted this blue curtain (which is not photographing well). I said, “It won’t match anything in our house.”

“Have you seen our house? How many colors do we have on the walls? Four? Five?”

“Six, if you count the trim.”

I obviously need to iron the curtain, but I have to admit…I like the massive pop of color when we come downstairs and turn the corner. We turned the curtain around so the flowers are closer to the ground. I wish I could get a good picture of the color of it. The flower embroidery is a very pale cream, not yellow.

We’ll Paint That Later

Take Note of That Thermostat (It Will Appear in a Future Post)

An Unfinished Floor

But the closet excitement isn’t over! Ohhhh, no.

Do you remember this ugly closet rod?

Original Closet Rod

It was one of the first things I removed in the house. Back in August or September, I bought a rod and brackets. Then I lost the brackets, because that’s how I work. It didn’t matter though, since it was so warm.

Then, we got a massive cold snap, and I got tired of dropping our coats on the office floor. So a week after we removed the doors, I sawed the rod down to size, sanded it to final size and—look! I can hang up my coat! Right now it has three coats on it, and it’s still holding! I need to invite friends over so I can share the glory of the closet rod.

Remarkable!

The closet is not done. I need to fix the ceiling, paint, refinish the floors…but that can wait. The next step is to move the cat box in there, but we need to move it only a few inches a day, so it will take a week or so to get that done. By then, I will have mounted a broom and mop rack in the basement so we can remove those from the closet, too.

Mom Came for Visit

At the very end of October, right before Sandy hit, my mom came for a visit. We used the time to get a ton of yard work done. Slow-going yard work, since she has been dealing with back issues and my tailbone still hurt quite a bit!

My uncle wanted to see some photos of our yard to see how large it is. These were taken after most of the yard work was done, right before Sandy hit. (We did secure/remove all those loose planters and the like.)

Picnic Table View

Fireplace View

We did some fun stuff, like spruce up the front steps with some mums. But most of the time was spent doing Sandy-prep. We cleaned the gutters, took down widow makers that the neighbors were ignoring, limbed up and took down trees.

This Tool Was a Massive Fail

Mom Couldn’t Get it to Work Either
Mom Uses the Pole Trimmer to Scoot Siding into Place

A Limbed Up Tulip Poplar

This Tree is Holding Up the Fence

Widow Maker No More

The battle with the English Ivy continues. I’ve removed 385 gallons and made a dent on, oh, maybe 10% of the yard. Good Man had fun smooshing the ivy down for me.

Sure, I Can Step On This…

And Then Walk Away…

Because I Am…

Good Man

The most exciting work was taking down a bunch of trees. We whacked down a whole bunch of weed trees along the south fence, and then we looked at this Dr Seuss tree on the north side.

Pretty Leaves

Weird Tree

The tree had very few leaves on it on our side and was struggling for light. We asked the neighbors if they would care if we took it down since most of it was over their yard. They were delighted at the idea, and told us not to worry about the fence.

Where Should the Brick-Rope Go?

We had taken down a bunch of trees and large branches with the rope, so Good Man knew what to do.

Hold the Rope

And Pull

Unfortunately, the tree decided it was not going to obey, bound the chainsaw up, and went over the fence.

Whoops

It wasn’t a big deal, though. Mom and Good Man went over to the neighbors’ side of the fence, chopped the large stuff up and dragged it to the street. The smaller stuff got thrown on our side of the fence.

Even with that tree going wonky, the backyard looked like a tree graveyard.

Tree Graveyard

Truth be told, the backyard is still a bit of a mess. We spent several weekend chopping up trees and branches, leaving an eight by four by three foot pile of brush for the crane truck each week. And gallons of ivy. And piles of leaves for the vacuum.

I finally gave up and dragged the remaining stuff to one side of the yard to rot. It’ll be good for the soil. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

The End

The House Built for a Cat

This house was built for a cat. Or, rather, this house was customized, post-build, for a cat. There is a cat door (now closed off) in the basement door. There is a hole in the drywall of the basement, near the stairs. On the other side of the hole is a cat perch. There is evidence of a pass-through hole from the living room to the basement stairs.

And the hole in the closet floor? The one I thought was for some old heating vents or something? Well…

***

My mom came to visit last week, and we needed to find out something about trash and leaf pickup. The second page on the drop-down menu on the city’s website is ADOPT-A-PET. I clicked on it on a whim and found Trouble, a 14 year old cat.

“Oh! We have to get him. If he don’t adopt him, he’ll die alone, in the shelter!” I said.

After some tears (I have too much jeong) and a day of thought, Good Man said we could get a cat if I let him get whatever tiny dogs he wants this summer—even a shaky dog. (Shaky dogs sort of freak me out.)

I said I thought that was fair, and Good Man laughed, “That was my plan all along!”

We met Trouble on Tuesday, after Frankenstorm Sandy blew through. He seemed friendly enough, if not a little shy. He had been in the shelter for nearly four months!

We adopted him Wednesday, took him home and…!

In three minutes flat, he disappeared in the house.

We searched all over. All of the rooms, all of the floors, including the basement. I was panicked, concerned that we had left the kitchen door open, and that he had darted out the door. A black cat, out on Halloween?

Finally, I calmed down enough to notice little kitty pawprints in the dust of the closet.

Pawprints

“He went down the hole!” I said. “Oh my God, what if he’s trapped somewhere?”

Good Man poked around the hole with a flashlight and got dusty, but didn’t see Trouble.

Dusty Good Man

We searched downstairs and I finally saw a lone, furry tail.

There He Is!

It turns out there is essentially a tunnel built into the ceiling of the basement. I truly think this was created for a cat!

Slinking Along

We left a trail of treats outside of the hole. Trouble jumped out, and we thought we had won! We ran back upstairs and Trouble jumped back into his hiding spot. For the next few hours, he jumped out just long enough to grab the next treat before hiding again.

Silly Trouble!

After a few hours Trouble did come out and start marking us and the house as his. By the end of the night, he was purring (which Good Man had never heard!), cuddling, meowing, and eating.

But Good Man really wants to change his name. “Names are too important. They have consequences.” He’s thinking Black Jack instead.

Yard Work, Good Man Style

Here are some remaining photos from last week’s yard work.

Maple Tulip Poplar on Sunday 10/14/2012
(Thanks, Jonathan!)

Mess of Greenbrier

Thorns, Thorns, Thorns!

Hidden in the Ivy

***

We did some more work today. You can see the maple tulip poplar behind Good Man. The whole thing went yellow in six days.

Good Man Prepares to do Work

I got most of the ivy off of the fence…in some sections. I talked to the neighbor, who said three years ago he got all of the ivy off of his side, but nobody on our side ever ripped it off. Now that we both know we’re trying to get rid of it, maybe we’ll have a fighting chance. I’m going to just keep chipping away at it.

(In this picture, at the base of the tree, you can also see some flat stones. I’ll probably use those for landscaping, as well as the concrete, bricks, and big rocks I’m finding under all of the ivy.)

Almost Free

The greenbrier was nearly waist-high. The tube of thorny vines was several feet long (about eight). I started stepping on it to flatten it out a bit. Good Man had a better idea. He put cardboard on it, then crushed the greenbrier. Fold the greenbrier over and repeat…

Good Man vs Greenbrier

Jump! Jump!

Wha-Hoo!

Finally, I was able to carry the vines, in a much smaller mess, out to the curb for trash pickup.

Easy to Carry

Good Man also used the string trimmer to whack back a bunch of low branches. We left those on the ground. We’ll deal with them another day.

Grinning

Good Man claims to hate yard work, but I think he’s lying!

Hedera helix

One of the things I loved about this house was the ivy in the backyard. So charming! So romantic!

English Ivy

Now that we own (part of) the house, I know that we need to get rid of this ivy. It’s choking the huge catalpa tree in the backyard. It’s hiding treasures in the corners. And while ground cover you don’t need to mow is awesome, it harbors slugs, encourages mosquito breeding, and weakens the old trees.

So Good Man and I attacked the ivy today. We cut it off the trees, we pulled it off the ground. We also whacked down a lot of weedy growth along the fence. (Whose fence is it? We don’t know. The neighbor says as far as he knows, it’s original to the property.)

We’re nowhere near done. And the backyard is a total mess…

Slug!

Ivy Attacks the Catalpa Tree

Ivy

Ivy on the Outdoor Fireplace

Chuseok Change of Plans

Originally we invited ten people to Chuseok. Then I realized there was no way I was going to be able to entertain ten people with my condition, so we scaled it back food-wise and people-wise.

Mark, his Lover, and Mark’s parents came over for spicy pork, mandu (from our freezing escapades), brown rice, pajeon (scallion pancakes) with a dipping sauce, sesame leaves (from my garden), quail eggs in soy sauce, tofu in a spicy sauce, three seasoned veggie banchan dishes (purchased), kimchi (purchased), songpyeon (purchased), Asian pears, and some wine they brought, as well as the champagne our Realtor gave us as a housewarming gift!

A few days prior, I asked Mark to bring some extra chairs.

“To sit on?”

“What else do you use chairs for?”

“When I think of Amanda and [Good Man]’s house, I don’t think of chairs.”

Well, that’s true. In our old place, we always ate at our small Korean table.

The food was enjoyed by all, and it was great to entertain in our dining room—with chairs!

Chuseok