Floor Fixing

A year or so ago this random guy stopped by our house while we were out trimming trees. He said he lived in this house in the nineties and occasionally drove by to see the place. It was a great opportunity to hear more about the history of our home, so we invited him in. He talked about an old stove that was in the kitchen, the shower that was in the downstairs bathroom, the doors that used to hang between each of the rooms downstairs, and even told us the floors were painted when he lived here. (What?!?)

Our wood floors are original, as far as we can tell, and are in decent shape. Charlie’s done a number on them, of course, but they’re not terrible… except for one really bad spot between the front hall and the dining room.

Shortly after moving in we followed the advice of This Old House, which involved stuffing a length of rope between the cracks. It didn’t go well, but we’ve been afraid to tackle anything with the floors since then. So we finally hired a carpenter guy to came over one day, and he had it done in three hours!

He had to use big screws, rather than little finish nails, to attach the boards to the floor joists because this part of the house is right by the exposed chimney that has pulled the house downward over the last 130 years. The floor boards bent as the chimney sank, and they were super bowed. Because we weren’t replacing all the floor boards, we needed to keep some of that bow in order for there to be a smooth transition from old board to new.

And, by the way, I’m calling them “new boards,” but they are actually reclaimed from our master bath remodel. Tony ripped up carpet, stripped several layers of linoleum, and used a drum sander before pulling the boards up for future repairs, rather than covering them back up with tile. We’ve had a whole pile up in the attic since then.

So, after carpenter man did his thing, we filled those screw holes with Bondo wood filler. By the way, I don’t recommend that product. It smelled awful, and its “stainable” label was less than accurate. In order to match the stain color, we had to color over all those screw holes with Crayola marker! (We tried sharpie at first, but Crayola blended the best!)

Then we sealed the stain with polyurethane, and it looks fantastic!

Unfortunately, in fact, it now looks way better than the rest of the floor. I’ll be honest, this was part of my previous hesitation to carry out any floor repair. But I’ll try some Restore-A-Finish on the old floor to deepen the color and that shiny new polyurethane will fade a bit in time, and it won’t even be noticeable. I’m just glad we are no longer in danger of losing anything down those old cracks!

(Yes, that really did happen! Carpenter Man found a toy of Edmond’s down in the crawl space that had slipped through the floorboards!)

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A Facelift for the Birthday Girl!

Our house is 130 years old this year, and isn’t she a beauty?!

Well, she had been looking a bit shabby, with faded and peeling paint and stained gutters.

The porch was painted last year, but the new colors didn’t match the old ones.

Tony swore he’d move rather than paint this house, with its multiple colors, intricate details, whole house trim, and high peaks. Well, here we are almost 8 years later, and we haven’t moved yet! So… he painted it!

EO “helps” Tony with the sprayer.

I chose a base color that was a little more gray (Behr Letter Gray) without the brown undertones that were in the old color, but it’s pretty hard to tell the difference in photos.

The wall near the ladder had just been sprayed as Tony started on the front of the house.

While Tony did 96.5% of the painting himself, even the high peaks, any accent colors were my responsibility. I also helped with some of the white trim.

35 flowers painted and just 97 to go!

The flowers still aren’t finished, but I’ve enjoyed laying in the kids’ saucer swing and admiring our handiwork!

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Paneled Living Room Wall

From all cracked up (left) to neat and orderly (right).

There’s nothing like a project to take your mind off a pandemic! Actually, I’ve been planning… Er… putting off… this project for months, and a whole week off work (Spring Break) with a forecast in the 40s and rainy seemed like the perfect time to tackle it. That, and Tony didn’t know what to get me for my birthday, so I conned him into helping me with the wall! Who knew what a regular old Spring Break would turn into…

Anyway, you see these cracks along all these sheetrock seams? They have gotten worse and worse each year, and they drove me crazy. We’ve fixed them once before, but they’ve gotten so bad again that the paint/wallboard was literally falling off onto my couch!

Well, I’ve had such luck just covering over those unsightly seams (like in the small bedroom and the front hall), that I thought I’d do it again!

As with all projects in this old house, nothing is straight, level, or plumb, as evidenced from this photo on Day 1. Check out that gap at the ceiling!

Day 1

And at one point, likely where the 2nd chimney is tucked behind, the wall bows out at least an inch. So, it definitely took two of us to get those boards up… if only because neither of us could use both levels to match up the boards, hold the wood, and pick up the nail gun by ourselves (especially at the top, standing on the ladder)!

Day 2

The first day we got the top pieces up (after A LOT of sanding to conform to that wonky ceiling) and all the verticals before the kids woke up from naps, but we finished all the horizontals on Day 2. I nailed while Tony cut, then we measured, leveled, but ultimately just eyeballed it, and did another set. This is why projects are so frustrating for Tony – his core screams out that everything must be level, but that just makes it LOOK crooked! Days 3 and 4 were spent wood filling, sanding, filling, sanding, and caulking!

Day 3

But, then, the painting! Cue angels singing, because we finally got to the best part! The part that just pulls everything together!

But then I realized the color isn’t quite the same, so I repainted the whole room. No biggie.

Day 5

That also meant wall repair, new caulking at the trim, a fresh coat of trim paint, etc. I’m still working on all that, but the paneled wall part is complete!

No more cracks!! Now I just have to figure out how to decorate it!

A few things I should probably note:

  • Our top boards are 8 inches wide by 8 feet. That’s because there’s another seam 8 inches from the ceiling that needed hiding.
  • All other boards are 3 inch strips of cabinet grade 1/4 inch plywood that Tony ripped (cut to size) on his buddy’s table saw – thanks Nate!
  • I used wood filler to fill the gap between our top board and the ceiling because it was up to an inch in some places. Then I applied a thin bead to caulk at the ceiling.
  • Tony taped the ceiling (I couldn’t reach it!) before I caulked, then we immediately pulled it off – best caulking line ever – great trick! We don’t have the ceiling paint for that room, and it’s tinted, so it was super important to have a clean caulk line.
  • I didn’t use this tip, but I wish I had – shim behind the boards with folded paper to ensure the boards come off the wall at a uniform height.
Posted in Board&Batten, Wood, NailGun, Paint, Decor, Living Room | 1 Comment

Plumbing Problems

Words no home owner wants to hear: “I’ve never seen a sewer problem like this one!”


It was 17 degrees yesterday when the workmen arrived to continue their work. The previous day they removed our House Trap. (Know how your sinks and toilets have a “P” Trap? That U-shaped bend is designed to contain sewer gasses. In addition to a Trap on all our fixtures, we had one located just outside the cellar wall – a Whole House Trap. I’m sure they were quite common in the 19 teens or 20s, when we believe our plumbing was installed. Now, notsomuch.)

I should add, though, we have had only two sewer issues since moving into our house – one last year about this time, and one last month, both related to the Trap. So when I heard a quiet gurgling sound coming from the kitchen sink the other day, I figured it was time to follow through on our plans to replace the House Trap.

We didn’t know that our ancient clay pipe (which apparently was only made to last 40 years and has likely been around at least double that) would make a 90 degree turn toward a different street than the one we thought it went to (therefore running under all the trees in our side yard) and would have a collapse at 43 ft. to the point that the workmen couldn’t run their equipment through it to replace the pipe.

It’s snowing/icing/raining today, so the two giant holes in our yard remain unfilled, and the new pipe sits on the easement, ready to install.

Plumbing issues suck. And spending so much money on things that get buried in the ground is never fun. It’s necessary though, and we have many reasons to be thankful about this project and its timing:

1) Our crew from Bob Hamilton Plumbing has been incredibly kind and hard working. I have been very impressed by each of them as they explained things clearly and answered all our questions. They worked outside all day in frigid temperatures without complaint, and they’ll likely be back again tomorrow, a Saturday, to finish the job.

2) The city is replacing our sewer main line as part of the road refurbishment project that’s just getting underway. Their part of the project won’t start until summer, but since they will be replacing the main and all the connections to the main underneath the sidewalk, our crew doesn’t have to dig up any concrete. Two of the guys who are in charge of the project even came out to talk with our workmen and mark where the city’s part of the replacement will end. By the time the street refurbishment project is complete, our entire sewer line (and water line, since we replaced that a few years ago) will be brand new, as will all the plumbing inside the house, since Tony did that when we remodeled all the bathrooms. If the city wasn’t already planning to replace our connection to the main, this project could have run us $30,000+.

3) We have savings, and thank the Lord, we don’t have to use all of it on this project.

I’m hesitant to publish this post, since the work isn’t yet complete, but maybe you can help us out. If you’re the praying type, send up a good word for us that the workmen can get things finished tomorrow without any more trouble!!

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White Sand Christmas 2019

It’s 17 degrees outside here in KC, which seems like the perfect reason to reminisce about our recent trip to Indian Rocks Beach, Florida!

We left our house at 3am on Christmas Eve and took 3 flights before noon, but look at these goofballs!

Last Christmas Gem wasn’t walking yet, and she spent most of her beach time sleeping in the tent. This year we set her down on the sand that first morning, and she burst into tears. Once we got her a bucket and a shovel, though, she was happy as a clam!

Our days were blissfully predictable: breakfast, beach, lunch, naps for the children and reading on the lawn for mama, then sunset on the beach, dinner, ice cream, and bed!

Indian Rocks Beach, known locally as IRB, is about 45 minutes from the Tampa airport and is just a few beach towns north of Treasure Island, where we stayed last Christmas. The weather was cold on our first and last days, but it was sunny and mid 70s all the days in between!

We went to the same spot on the beach, just across the main road, and built a different sand castle each day. The children started off very excited each time we picked up the buckets, but I’ll admit, most of the actual building fell on Tony and myself.

EO’s preferred project was The Great Blue Hole…

… and trips out on the paddle board, of course!

We took one morning off from the beach to go out on the water with Captain Glenn.

Glenn was our neighbor last year at Christmas, and EO loved sailing with him. This year Glenn was captaining the Tiki Boat. We must have looked pretty funny tooling around in this thing at 9:30am!

We ate most of our meals at our rental house, because toddlers. Just at the end of the block, though, was a little hole-in-the-wall place called Groupers that was so good we ate there 3 times! Their grouper sandwich was fantastic, as was the shrimp. We also went out to Crabby Bill’s, which was actually worth all the hype. (Though not the two hour wait! We found a spot in the bar instead.) Our favorite ice cream place (We tried all 3 in town.) was a couple doors down from Crabby Bill’s, though The Kooky Coconut was good too.

No trip is perfect. Our groceries weren’t delivered on Christmas Eve like they were supposed to be, so I had to take an Uber to the only store that was still open at 6pm. That affected our afternoon plans, but I was still able to get to a Christmas Eve service at the church down the street after the kids were in bed. At various points both children were sick too, but we took them to the beach anyway. Salt air heals all, right?

It was a great trip to sunny Florida. We even found a couple great parks to play at when it was too chilly for the beach.

I wouldn’t be surprised if we visit IRB again sometime!

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Christmas Decor

Each year I try to remember where to put the Christmas decorations… since I couldn’t find last year’s pictures, I’m creating a post so I can refer to it next year!I used cuttings from our tree to make the banister swag, and I’m loving our photo ornaments!

Looking at this tree, I can’t help but be reminded how truly blessed we are to have a beautiful family and a beautiful home. Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, and Happy New Year!!

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Refinished Cabinets, Take II

Last week’s Thanksgiving holiday meant time for a house project! And this one was long overdue. One of our first kitchen projects, 6 years ago, was refinishing the cabinets with bead board wallpaper and new paint. At that time we were expecting to do a full kitchen remodel, so the wallpaper was temporary. Since we’ve put off the kitchen remodel indefinitely, the wallpaper was in dire need of replacing. I’d grown tired of repairing the nicks with superglue, and the ones I couldn’t repair bugged the heck out of me each time I opened a door!

So Tony picked up a sheet of thin , beaded fiberboard and cut 9 pieces to size. But before I could use liquid nails to attach the new insets, we had to remove the old wallpaper. I was dreading this step, but had prepared by purchasing a wallpaper removal spray and cutting tool.

Thanksgiving festivities were finished and the kids were eating a bit of dinner before they went to bed, so Tony picked up a razor blade and cut away some of the old caulk. Then the whole sheet of wallpaper peeled away in one piece!

A little water and the rest of the paper backing wiped away. We had all the paper removed and the cabinets cleaned before the kids finished eating, and I never opened the scoring tool or the special spray!

Man! As much as I hate redoing a project, it’s a good reminder of how bad those cabinet doors looked when we moved in!

Gluing the new insets was super easy, though we didn’t have near enough clamps, so Tony loaned me his set of encyclopedias to use as weights.

The most challenging part of the whole project was waiting for the caulk to dry so I could start painting!

It was weird doing a project where the end result looked just like the starting point, but hopefully these new faces will hold up a lot better.

Lesson learned about paintable, textured wallpaper- it’s great for walls and surfaces that don’t get a ton of use. It still looks fantastic behind our open shelves!

But for cabinets and surfaces that get banged up by dogs and children, it’s got to be hard wood.

Posted in Cabinets, Decor, Kitchen | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Front Porch Painting

Tony and I typically divide and conquer on house projects, and painting the front porch (which was badly needed for years!) was no different. Last summer (2018) my mom and I took the children to Green Bay, and Tony stayed home to work on school work. He also did his part of the porch project. So, while I was doing this:

Tony was doing this:

He scraped, primed, and sprayed all the pillars. He rebuilt and repainted the railings and spindles. When we got home, I helped him roll the floor (along with Teeny Baby Gem Gem!) and reinstall the railings.

And that’s where the project stopped for the next 12 months. It was my job to complete the accent paint, and I just could not get motivated. I couldn’t even decide on the colors! Then I was at the store in late July looking at paint samples for a school project, and I grabbed some for the house too.

I am so happy with the results!

If you look in real life, you can easily see all the wear and tear on these geriatric pillars. One was in particularly rough shape though – entire chunks were missing, right next to the front steps. We kicked around a number of ideas to fix the pillar, but the winning strategy was to trim down a large round block to fit the holes. Tony attached it with liquid nails, and I caulked as best I could.

Once the paint was on, you could hardly tell anymore!

Here’s another before, when it was all white, and after, with the accent colors.

Now we just have to become brave enough to carry these colors up to the decorative clapboard at the top of the house!

Posted in Decor, Outside | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Weekend in Toronto

Tony was presenting at an Educational Research conference last weekend, and I decided to tag along. He actually presented at the same conference last year, but Gem was only 10 days old at the time, so he didn’t stay for much of it. This year’s conference was in Toronto, so we left the kiddos with Mimzy and hopped on a plane!

It’s been a long time since we’ve traveled without children and their massive amounts of luggage – this was a breeze! Someone even commented that we seemed like TSA pros. Clearly they didn’t see us on our way to Oregon last summer…

On our first afternoon we went down toward the water to check out the sites, like the CN Tower and the old train roundhouse. There was an itty-bitty restaurant called Indian House Roti – it was incredible! I had the butter chicken roti and Tony had lamb curry. Basically, a roti is like a burrito shell with delicious filling. One of our old coworkers from Guyana used to make them for us. These were more Indian flair than Caribbean, but they were fantastic! Later that night we tracked down an ice cream place called Sweet Jesus! They serve gigantic soft serve cones loaded up with toppings. Ours had cookie dough pushed into it and was then coated with three different kinds of cookie crumbs!

Turns out there’s not that much to see in Toronto… so we decided to continue eating our way through the city. Sunday started off right with a massive, and delicious, breakfast at Cora’s. I had eggs and toast, bacon, blueberry pancakes, potatoes, and fresh fruit! Tony attended some conference sessions, then we went exploring with our Metro pass. On weekends you can get a family pass for up to 2 adults and 4 kids for just $13CD. We crisscrossed the city on subways and trams. In Kensington Market we ate empanadas and gelato. Then we went to the Distillery District – they don’t distill there anymore, unfortunately. In Chinatown we had noodles. Then we finished the night with nitrogen ice cream – it literally smoked!

Toronto is a nice city. It’s easy to get around the downtown area. Trams and subways cover most of the downtown area, and its very easy to walk all over. The city’s population has exploded over the last 50 years, so the skyline is quite modern, and we were amazed by both the stunning amount of glass and the sheer number of tower cranes on top of buildings still under construction. Clearly there’s still a lot to build! There are awesome old buildings interspersed among the modern high rises and lots of cool architecture.

We didn’t find Toronto to be nearly as clean as we’d heard it would be, and the ubiquitous pot smell was unappealing. It did make for a “fun” game of taking a big breath before leaving our apartment and trying to hold it until we made it through the hall, down the stairs, and out the front door!

While I don’t expect we’ll visit Toronto again anytime soon, it was great to get away for a few days and to see a place that was new to us!

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First Birthday Party

Our little Gem stone is almost one year old! This morning she got all dolled up for a birthday brunch with all her friends.

I tried my hand at a semi-naked four layer cake with vanilla buttercream frosting.

After quiche, potatoes, cinnamon rolls, and yogurt parfaits, it was cake time!

I think she liked it!

Happy birthday Sweet Lady! And thanks to all who helped us celebrate!

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