Wednesday, July 27, 2011

"We Have the Tools. And We Have the Talent."

Well, we have the talent. The tools we'll have to rent.

As C alluded to in a previous post, we bought new flooring for the family room!

One of the main projects to renovate the house is now officially underway! The flooring is solid wood, but it's not hardwood. Actually, it's not really wood at all. Technically, it's a grass. It's bamboo. We can't really say that we went with bamboo because it's "ecological" (although I think there are good questions to ask about the chemicals that are used to make bamboo flooring), or that it's price effective (we did find some bamboo flooring that was a lot less than solid hardwood, but not so much with the bamboo flooring we selected). We just really like how it looks. And the fact that it's harder than many real hardwoods is also appealing.

The wood has been sitting in the living room, acclimating to the house climes, waiting for us to assemble the tools and manpower to install it. That time finally came two weekends ago when our friend Miguel came out from NJ to: 1) join us at Lincoln Financial Field to see the Philadelphia Union give Real Madrid a run for the money (Union lost 1-2, but we're the only MLS team to score a goal against and to lose by only one goal to Real Madrid during their summer tour of North America - it's a small "victory" but I'll take it), and:

2) Provide his wealth of knowledge and expertise with installing the flooring. We began Sunday at noon.

We had one issue that needed to be resolved before we could start putting down the new flooring: the edge of the fireplace:

Where the stones of the hearth end, there is a thin lip of cement extending an additional half inch or so:

The edge of the cement lip is much lower than the height of the flooring and it isn't completely straight:

It's not a good edge to start laying flooring against (which is the plan). So to fix this, we framed the hearth and filled in the space between the flooring and the stone with a pre-made cement mix:

The idea is that once the cement sets, we can remove the wood framing and have nice straight edges to start laying the flooring against. Yeah, it didn't work:

When we removed the wood framing, half the cement came with it. We still had the bottom original cement edge of the hearth that was straight enough and we did our best to get a good starting line of flooring planks:

We used 2" flooring nails and a handy-dandy pneumatic nail gun. NICE. Here's what the room looked like once the floor was stripped down to the subfloor before we started installing the flooring:

Once we got that first row of planks installed, the following rows went smoothly:

To finish the spaces on the left and right side of the fireplace, we used a spline to reverse the direction of the boards and had to nail the last two rows by hand using finishing nails - extra big thanks to Miguel for this brilliant idea:

There are no nails showing on the floor. Amazing. Once all the flooring around the fireplace was finished, we went back and filled the space between the flooring and the hearth stones with cement:

I have to say, this came out even better than I originally hoped. So, here's what the room looked like before (when we first moved in):

And here's how it looks with the new floor:

We're really happy with how the floor turned out. We learned a few things about installing bamboo flooring and when we tackle the next flooring project (living room?), hopefully it'll go that much smoother. Next: painting!

Monday, July 25, 2011

Mystery Tomato Solved

The mystery tomato has appeared:

It is a nice, normal, red salad tomato – probably about two-and-a-half inches across. But it wins in the non-cherry-tomato ripening contest.

A much bigger post to come from E. Stay tuned.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

[Insert Cliché about What Homeowners Do on Friday Nights Here]

Yes, yes, once you have a house, you start finding fairly mundane things to be exciting, we've all heard it before. But that's the thing about clichés – as boring as they can be, they often carry a grain of truth.

And that is why we found ourselves spending our Friday night painting the basement wall. Willingly, even happily.

When we had our house inspection, inspector Val (Walter really, but he's from Austria, so all bets were off) recommended that we paint the basement walls with a moisture-blocking paint. It is already a decently dry basement, but we do feel it necessary to run a dehumidifier there in order to be able to store things and keep them from getting too damp for comfort. Hopefully the paint will keep us from having to run the machine as much as we do now (or did, until our recent dry spell here). But I digress.

The drag of it is that the first of the two required coats pf paint must be applied with a brush in order to get in all the nooks and crannies a cinder block has to offer. Thus, it is a slow, and somewhat tedious process.

Here's what E had done before I got involved:

This isn't a true before shot, but it gives you an idea of a wall we have yet to tackle:

E felt this picture had a Soviet, triumph-of-the-worker feel to it:

Action shot:

Our night's work:

Unfortunately, this is one of the short walls of the basement, but still, progress!

Now for a sneak preview:

Intrigued? More soon.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Shutters: Before and After

Before: April 15th.
After: July 13th.
And look how much more green there is in the second photo.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Happy All Shutters Eve

The shutters are done! It was late when I finally hung the last one so the lighting wasn't good enough to take a proper photo. But it's one of those warm summer nights where the moon is almost full and it feels like it's daytime:
So I set the camera for an extended exposure and got a photo that will serve as a preview of an official daylight photo that I can hopefully take tomorrow:
Next for the front of the house: painting the posts and trim around the doors white!

Monday, July 11, 2011


We have central air. For the first time ever. And let me say it has been yet another welcome technological advantage of this house in the last day or two.

Usually, we are fresh-air, open-window people, and our house, we have noticed, is blessed with great breezes.


When the air stops moving entirely, and begins to liquify and condense on your eyes, it's time for plan B.

This has not stopped the occasional venture outside, if only in quick and futile bursts for much needed activities. Like picking our first bell pepper.

I may have jumped the gun a little bit – it was still a bit small and green on the inside. But it did the trick without going to the store, which is exactly the point. Success!

In other news, the flowers are at that point where they're looking a little beleaguered, especially due to the heat of the last few days. But the daylilies are in! Here is one I inherited from the previous owners:

And here's one I planted:

Not bad for not knowing what colors the previous owners had planted, amirite?

I also bought some red ones, which are planted directly between two beds of orange ones aand will throw everything off. Ahh, chaos.

Other views, just for nice:

E's shutter project is nearing completion, at least for the front side of the house. Look for a post on that in a day or two.

Inherited butterfly bush:

So its just us and some dry, dry land, some never-say-die plants, and heat by the pail full. Midsummer has arrived.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011


The first produce from the vegetable garden is in!

To add some perspective:

But still. Glee!

So the Sunsugar tomatoes get the yellow jersey in the race to ripeness. (Yes, the Tour de France started this weekend, and we'll be watching for the next few weeks. So relaxing to watch, so ridiculously difficult to ride. Each broadcast has beautiful scenery mixed with brief moments of drama and the occasional fight on wheels. Awesome.)

In news of produce we didn't, well, produce:

As I'm sure I've mentioned, E and I have a black raspberry addiction. The very short growing season for this particular berry makes us go a little overboard. Today we made our annual trip to the local pick-your-own farm and came home with 7.5 pounds of loveliness. What will we make, you ask? Our fingers purple. That's about it. If we get a little crazy, we'll throw some on vanilla ice cream. Outside of that, it's just shoveling them into our mouths as fast as possible without dropping them down the fronts of our shirts. Oh, summer.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Happy Independence Day!

All the best to the U.S. on its 235th!

E came home from a trip today, and I was happy about that.