Category Archives: Our House

quick garden update and a little devil

When I last left off, two months ago, I had what I thought was a pretty solid plan for our gardens. For the most part that’s still the case, with two big changes: one, I have eliminated garden 3. Last year Enli completely flattened it, and she and the new puppy did so again already this year.

So yeah, we got a puppy. Darren had been wanting one for at least a year, and I finally caved. Her name is Madeline, she’s almost six months old, and I’m ready for her to get older, calmer, and house-trained, because puppy shenanigans and this major change in our routine is destroying me. No more puppies in future. She’s lucky she’s cute.

why yes, she does look very much like her big sister.

Anyway! Garden three is gone, I’m trying to replace it with grass. Once that grows in, at some point we’re going to purchase a small storage shed. Then we can quit keeping outdoor stuff on the back porch, and we can move the lawn mower so Darren doesn’t have to haul it up and down the steps to the garage all the time.

Meanwhile, big change number two is that garden 6 has been thoroughly constructed, instead of waiting until next year. It’s been filled with more plants from Paula (plus my rose bush, which has grown quite a bit!). Over all, Operation Whimsical Yard is progressing quite well.

the gardens are happening

Every decent-weather weekend for the past couple months, I’ve been getting our flower beds back in shape. It has been a slow, but very satisfying process. Here’s a zero-skills map of our gardens:

hahaha, thanks Google.

Beds one and two are on either side of our front stoop. Three is the one beneath the kitchen window that I dug out. Four is on the east side if the yard, and five is down the steps next to our tiny driveway. Six is a future foundation bed that I’m going to slowly start building.

After the snow melted, beds one and two were in reasonable shape. I pulled out all the dead weed stalks and trimmed off the dried hydrangeas. There were bald spots on either side of the steps, so I planted lilies in each of them (courtesy of my coworker Paula).

Last fall I totally dug out bed three. On a random nice day in March, I raked it and tossed a bunch of pollinator seeds down. Those are growing in nicely, along with some ferns that survived my fall massacre. I moved the ferns to the back of the bed. On Sunday I added some ground-cover sedum, also from Paula; we’ll see if that takes root.

On the same nice March day, I raked out bed four and then proceeded to ignore it until this weekend. It was completely full of grass among the plants. Instead of digging out all the grass, I cut up a bunch of yard waste bags and laid them out, covering the grass while strategically arranging the paper around the plants. Big thanks to the internet for this tip! It suggested several layers of newspaper, but why track down that much newspaper when the bags are so cheap and biodegradable (and similar in thickness to 5 layers of newspaper)? Once the whole garden was papered, I watered it and then put down mulch. It looks so much better!

Bed five got raked out in April, and I pulled out the weeds a couple weeks ago. It got mulched this weekend, too, and I put up a little border fence (although I don’t love it and will probably replace it with something sturdier) to hopefully help keep trash out. Alleys are gross. Alleys in North Mpls are somehow extra gross.

I picked up a baby Knock Out rose bush on Sunday and planted it in what will be the eastern side of bed six. I also planted two irises along the wall there. I’m going to do the same trick with paper bags to get rid of the grass, which means those three plants are probably all that will go down this year.

At some point in the future, we’re going to build a couple small raised beds for veggies. Those beds will go near the fence-line on the north side of the yard.

Slowly but surely achieving #yardgoals, you guys.

 

leak-no-more

A few months ago I made a passing comment about smashing a hole in our kitchen ceiling. We got home from Christmas dinner and there was water dripping from the ceiling. We promptly pulled down a large chunk of drywall in an attempt to figure out where it was coming from, having forgotten in that moment that all the plumbing from upstairs runs straight down into the basement and isn’t in the ceiling at all.

We did discover a vapor barrier, though, which was trapping a lot of the water (the eastern quarter of our kitchen doesn’t have any rooms above it, so the ceiling was insulated and the vapor barrier was installed to, I dunno, keep it in place?). You can sort of see it in this photo. There was enough water in it that it had found the edge of the plastic and was dripping from there through a seam in the drywall. We sliced open the plastic and let the water run out. It was immediately obvious that the water was coming from the friggin’ monsoon outside. If you’re in the general Twin Cities area you may remember the unseasonable horror show that happened on Christmas. Which, side note, we probably should not have been driving in. Oh well.

The next day, post-rain, we went out and looked and found this:

gee, I wonder how that rain got in.

Ta-da. What happened next is a long story of nothing actually happening. Insurance doesn’t cover the roof repair, and their estimate for the ceiling repair doesn’t meet our deductible which I’m not really mad about. We’d have to wait until spring for someone to get up and fix the roof, so we might as well wait to fix the ceiling as well in case it rained enough to leak more (while it did rain several times, no more water ever entered our kitchen).

Well! It’s spring. I hopped on Home Advisor last week, and they sent my contact info to three companies. They all called me back the next day. One guy came out that afternoon and gave us an estimate. Another took too long to call me back with his schedule. While I was waiting for estimator-guy to leave, I returned a call to the first company that had left me a voicemail and, spoiler alert, they’re the company who handled the repair. Because we had a smaller job, they could send a service tech out to do an estimate and repair all in one trip. Yesterday, Jerico from American Building Contractors came out, did a proper inspection to verify that the hole in our siding was in fact the source of our leak, and then fixed it. And not only was it super affordable, it was just shy of half the cost of the first estimate. I’m calling this a win. Now we just have to wait and see how long it takes us to get around to fixing the ceiling hole. Maybe a DIY? We’ll see.

frozen pipe problems

Early Sunday afternoon I discovered that the water supply line to our downstairs toilet appeared to have frozen. The toilet is on an outside wall and it was like 20 below outside, so I was annoyed but not surprised. That bathroom and the three-season porch next to it are not original to the house, so the underside is only accessible via a crawl space, which you have to climb into from the basement (after pulling out a bunch of insulation that was just haphazardly stuffed in). Next to the entrance hole is a smaller hole that the heat and water lines are run through. Wow, our basement is super jank, isn’t it? I took a peek in and realized that while the far wall of the crawl space is insulted, nothing else is. It perhaps had been at some point, but all that insulation is now just sort of laying around in there. The pipes themselves are bare. Neat. But the pipes leading to the sink are also exposed, so it seemed weird that those lines weren’t frozen. Weird but good!

Darren had to work, but he called his dad. Lee came out and climbed in the crawl space, which was unexpected. I was all set to get under there myself. He brought a pipe-warmer that would need to be plugged in, requiring a 25 foot extension cord which we do own but would basically never be able to be used for anything else ever again. I think we’re going to return that, because pipe insulators are inexpensive and don’t require electricity.

Anyway, he got back there and deduced that the pipe had broken, and it had iced over. He thought he would be able to fix it, but it would require a trip to the hardware store and a bunch of supplies and, at the end of the day, a non-professional solution to a problem that really should be handled by a pro. Darren left a message for his plumber buddy and Lee went home.

Darren called me at work this morning and asked “should the toilet tank be filling?” It appeared that things had defrosted enough to let water flow again, and perhaps the pipe was okay after all. Indeed, the plumber (not Darren’s friend, but his employee) came out and determined that the pipe had not actually burst! It turns out we just had a leaky toilet. The water from the leak froze, which lead to a smaller frozen section of pipe. Everything has been fixed, but the plumber said that the crawl space needs to be re-cemented and insulated. Darren and I will DIY that, and we’ll insulate the pipes as well.

I’ll leave you now with this picture of the treasure we found just inside the entrance to the crawl space.

garbage and dust

garbage and dust

finished table is finished

This weekend I finally wrapped up Project Dining Table. Well, the top could use a little touching up, but in the meantime it’s done.

I’ve already posted about using chalk paint on the chairs and table base. I stained the seats a lovely chocolately brown several weeks ago, and finally finished the top on Sunday. All the stained bits received a coat or two of polyurethane as well. Unfortunately I did all the work on the table top in the basement, and thanks to the poor lighting down there I failed to notice a few uneven spots. So there may be some light sanding and re-staining in the future. Not the end of the world.

The whole living/dining space feels a lot cozier now that this table is there. The two other chairs are functioning elsewhere in the house, and the leaf will live in the basement until it’s needed.

photo taken in early morning light

photo taken in early morning light

photo taken at night with as many lights on as possible

photo taken on a cell phone at night with as many lights on as possible. ha

rugs

I know that in the design world, the general advice is to decorate your home slowly, with intention. Not just filling space with whatever fits. Sometimes people wait years until they find the perfect whatever for the space that needs it. I am all for this, but here’s the thing: it’s going to be very cold for the next several months. For that reason and a few others, we needed rugs as soon as we could find ’em.

That said, I wasn’t about to spend money on rugs I didn’t like, just because they were cheap and did the job. BUT I didn’t want to spend a fortune on anything either, because 1) we’re not made of money, 2) pets are messy and 3) rugs aren’t something I’m overly picky about, at least for the most part. I didn’t necessarily set a price range for myself, just sort of trusted my gut when it told me “nah, too expensive.” I have looked at a lot of rugs both online and in person over the last few months and I’m glad to be done with it for a bit.

I knew we’d need a living room rug pretty quickly, because Enli is totally allowed on the couch and it’s hard for her to get on it without something for traction. World Market has the most amazing rug selection and when I saw this glorious jute rug online (and it was on sale!) I knew I had to see if my local store had it. They had one, and I had a coupon on top of the sale so I scored this beauty for 90 bucks.

lr-rug

Next up was the office. Darren had put an old blanket down so his chair wouldn’t damage the floor, which is a perfectly workable but definitely short-term solution. I’d heard great things about RugsUSA and had been spending a lot of time on their site, and finally found a rug in their Final Sale section that Darren and I both liked. It was $79, what a deal! But holy shit did I ever run in to a problem with the shipping.

Story time: I got a shipping notification and tracking number for this rug purchase on October 17, with a scheduled delivery date of the 20th. On the 20th, the tracking indicated that the rug hadn’t even been picked up by FedEx yet. I emailed customer service, who said they’d reach out to the warehouse and get back to me within 24 hours. They didn’t. So I called – I think the morning of Monday the 24th? I should’ve written this down –  and was told they’d escalate my call and contact the warehouse again, and they’d get back to me within 48 hours. They didn’t. Once the 48 hours was up I called again, and was told they couldn’t issue a refund on a item once a tracking number had been assigned (what?). But the CS agent I was speaking with did a little digging and said they had just heard back from the warehouse that they were looking into it, and she’d email me by the end of the day. And she did! The warehouse told customer service that FedEx had lost my rug, and they’d send a new one with the same tracking number. Sure enough, they sent me a rug. It was, in fact, the rug I ordered, with the original tracking label with the original shipping date of 10/17. They could very well have re-printed the shipping label, but the rug I ordered was final sale and the only one available, so… how did I end up receiving the same rug that FedEx allegedly lost?

ANYWAY we got our office rug and it was a headache but it’s a good rug so yay. *breathe*

Enli says hi.

Enli says hi.

Meanwhile, I had gotten tired of waiting for the RugsUSA debacle to be resolved and Target was having a 30% off rug sale, so I bought another one. I hemmed and hawed for a good long time, because I wanted something that could either work in the office (in case the RugsUSA one never showed) or in the guest room. I landed on this Rowena Accent Rug and while it worked fine in the office, I really dig it in the guest room. Hooray! Plus I got it for less than $60. Double hooray.

gr-rug

the guest room still needs a bed.

Last but not least was the bedroom. That was much trickier because of the size we’d need. 5’x8′ is too small, 8’x10′ is too big. Ultimately we knew we’d need either a weirdly-sized rug or a square one, and it would be more of a splurge than the others. I finally found this 8’6″ square shag sucker on Amazon and bought a “Used-Very Good” one available, which saved a few bucks.

br-rug

still to do: different lamp, second nightstand.

We love it, the pets love it. The door juuuust clears the edge. Money well spent.

Another list item checked!

little weekend bits & bobs

At a record-breaking 72 degrees, Saturday was the perfect day for yard work. I pulled up as many vines and weeds as I could (it was mostly vines, effing Virginia Creeper) from one of the no-longer-flowery flower beds until our yard waste bin was full. If only we had two! Once that was done, I only had inside projects on my list for the rest of the weekend:

  • Finally hung our full-length mirror in the bedroom
  • Cleaned ALL the mirrors
  • Washed our bedding & the rest of the laundry
  • Hemmed the curtains on the porch
  • Made a couple handkerchiefs with this amazing fabric
  • Did a bit more sanding on the table and chairs (this project is going to take 100 years because sanding is boring and I barely do enough at one time to notice)
  • Painted the shelf in the laundry space

Now, lemme tell you about this last one. It’s the dumbest thing, but I love it. Someone at some point built these simple, sort of sad shelves between the washer and dryer.

shelf-1

They serve a purpose but looked gross as hell.

shelf-2

Meanwhile, someone who had rented this house once upon a time decided to paint one of the bedrooms bubble gum pink. It was painted over after she moved out, but about half a gallon of paint remained (one of many cans we inherited upon purchase). I got the idea in my head a while back to dig out that pink paint and snazz up the laundry shelves.

shelf-3

I half-assed this job for sure. It’s also 100% ridiculous but it makes me laugh. Maybe I’ll pick up a pink rug to match, plus I have some cute laundry art to frame for the unused top shelf. I can pretend we have a real laundry room instead of just a corner of the crumbly old basement.

Oh, here’s a fun thing: I discovered a small leak in one of our water supply lines. Tra-la, how great. Fortunately Darren worked for a plumber for a hot second, so he came over and fixed it for a reasonable price.