This Summer’s Project…

The back yard has been something of a work-in-progress for awhile. The hostas were never Brooke’s favorite, grass wouldn’t grow well close to the house, and it wasn’t really usable space (as in, we didn’t sit there, didn’t throw a ball there, etc.).

Separately, I’ve never been completely satisfied with having my grills up by the garage. They’re fine there, but there are times when we’re entertaining guests and we have to move the car out of the way in order to sit closer to them.

Thus, we had the brilliant idea of putting a patio in that would help solve some problems. We figured it’d be a relatively cheap operation and something we could handle ourselves. We had Lowe’s and Spingwater deliver stuff so there wasn’t a lot of transporting back and forth on our part, aside from a few incidentals we needed to help fill in.

But first, we had to get started…

First, we had to spread things out a bit. We tried to level it as much as we could, but the dirt was pretty clumpy and I wasn’t about to bring Dr. Gault’s tiller over… Still, Brooke spread out the remaining mulch from that spot and worked the dirt around to get a pad started.

Brooke figured out her brick edging system with the storage shed we put up a few months ago, so she put her experience to work with the edging here. She really did a good job with it, leveling each one, digging out the pathway, and stacking where necessary to get them perfect. It took her quite awhile, but got it done! I don’t think her back felt great, though….

In some of the space between where the patio was going to go and the retaining wall, we moved over some of the big rocks we had left over from the porch remodel last year. Mostly, we did this as “filler” so we wouldn’t have to put so much mulch and topsoil down, but while we were at it, we placed some flatter ones around as stepping stones.

Next step, after placing those rocks and adding in some topsoil, was to start laying down the layers under which our pavers would rest. Again, this is the same process Brooke went through in April, albeit on a larger scale. Brooke used the calculator function on Lowe’s website to know how many backs and bricks we’d need and, for the most part, we think we had enough…but honestly, we could have probably used a few more bags to get the layer a bit thicker.

The sand is where we really noticed it, though. The instructions suggested 1″ thick sand and we simply didn’t have anywhere near that. We hemmed and hawed about what to do, I made some phone calls to local stores, Brooke made a trip out to a few to ask around…but in the end, no one in this town had sand for sale. This was possibly due to the flooding of the Missouri River nearby where sandbags were made, but who can say… We even stopped in Moberly on the way back from lunch with Brooke’s parents and their Lowe’s didn’t have anything for us.

So yeah, I ended up getting a few buckets of gravel from Springwater to try and move the edge of the pavers out a bit. Definitely not ideal, but serviceable. After we got that far, we put down the pavers and the plastic edging that should hold them in place.

The pavers are…sadly…not level… But they’re pretty close and the grills roll over the pads effectively, so we’ll see how it goes. We can always pull them up and add some sand underneath as they settle, so we may just go that route when we get some motivation.

For the last addition, we picked up a post from the local hardware store and some concrete to put in a set of hangers for some plants. Brooke applied a nice stain to it. It’s pretty.

The mulch was the last bit to add. Springwater brought 200 cu ft (because we ordered 100 cu ft last year and I conveniently made a note saying we’d need more than that….and we totally did…). That amount was barely enough to cover the back space of the yard and didn’t make it around to the front.

Brooke also picked up a nice wooden plant holder to put a citronella plant in. I’ll report back if it actually does any good…

The plants look good on the hangers, too! Brooke picked up a few more hooks so we can hang a bluetooth speaker and other things if we find a need.

She also added another step just down from the retaining wall that will transition to the walkway I’m in the process of extending. I’ve got one more pad to install, but we’ll see when I get around to it. Maybe this week. Who knows.

Last but not least, I re-edged the front porch to hopefully make those bricks more stable, and then bought another 10 bags of mulch for the front (and I could probably stand to pick up a few mores when i get around to it).

That’s it! The exterior of the house could still use a good spray-down of the siding, but otherwise, I think we’re going to “coast” for a bit while we work the garden (per usual) and get grass seeded where needed.

Now, I just need to pick up some pork chops and brats and break in the new patio!

New Furniture!

I’ll be honest: I don’t exactly remember what sparked this. It definitely wasn’t me. Perhaps it was Marie Kondo

Brooke wanted to re-arrange the living room a bit, and as she thought more about how that would look, she also started looking at furniture. When we moved to Marshall, we picked up a really nice wooden futon that was just fine for our needs, but wasn’t particularly comfortable. We could have just picked up a new mattress for it, but it also kinda felt like it wasn’t “Real Furniture for Adults.” At the same time, having Sam has meant certain…compromises…with regards to furniture. The cat has claws and has taken them to our couches over the years. We got a pleather couch for Iowa that he made short work of. We had a microfiber couch in St. Louis that lasted a bit, but he still ripped up…

Thankfully, Sam’s a bit older now and doesn’t seem to be scratching at furniture as much. There’s no guarantee he won’t do the same thing to this furniture that he did to other pieces, but Brooke inherited a couch that we’ve had in the music room and, for the most part, it has survived shockingly well. Brooke also ordered a carpeted cat scratching tower, so hopefully Sam will eventually use it. To date, he has hopped off of it every time I’ve put him there. Figures.

Anyway, Brooke did some shopping and decided to visit one of the furniture places here in town. After looking around a bit at prices, talking with the sales folks at the furniture store, etc. she settled on a Lay-Z-Boy couch covered in blue velvet upholstery. So far as we can tell, it should hold up to cat claws relatively well (because the fibers are so tightly woven…he shouldn’t be able to get his claws in there…shouldn’t) The velvet is a “low pile” variety so it feels really nice, but doesn’t seem to catch much cat hair…yet.

Originally, the plan was to just get a couch, but for awhile, Brooke was looking at sectionals for additional seating. After thinking over it, she decided just getting another chair would probably be fine, so we got one of those, too, under Lay-Z-Boy’s England brand. She went with a gray fabric for that one that turned out really nice. I’m not sure how often we’ll actually sit in that chair (as it’s probably more likely to be used when we have company over), but Sam, so far, has liked falling asleep on it. And it definitely doesn’t catch cat hair all that badly…yet.

Anyway, it’s taking some “getting used to,” as the new couch sits up quite a bit higher, making it harder to use the coffee table as a foot rest. I’m sure we’ll make the necessary adjustments eventually, but at least for now, I can say they’re all quite comfortable!

Blizzkrieg 2019

Early last week, they started forecasting snow for this weekend, but depending on which site you looked at or which day you checked, the estimate varied from 2 to 10 inches. Thankfully, most forecasts thought the bad weather would hit on Friday rather than Thursday, making it more likely it would head into the weekend, therefore not disrupting work or school.

It turned out that a Winter Storm Warning went into effect at noon on Friday. With everything heading in, Calvin’s school (and mine…) were called at noon and Meg’s at 1:00. Brooke new the bad weather was coming and “battened down the hatches” at work, so she was ready to come home a little early, too. I went ahead and hit up the Y before picking up Calvin so I wouldn’t feel the need to run on Saturday.

The snow started right around noon on Friday…and kept going…and going…and going… We had maybe 4 inches late-afternoon on Friday before settling in for the night. By morning, we had 8 inches on the ground.

And it kept going from there.

About mid-morning, Meg and Calvin were invited over to a friend’s house to sled and make snowmen. With the depth of the snow, I wasn’t sure how sledding would go, but they packed it down well enough to get a few good runs in. Otherwise, the temperature was in the low-30s, so they still had fun just messing around.

Brooke and I drove out to their house twice, so we got to head around town a bit. Odell was fine, but our street was…bad. Thankfully, the Forester handled it like a champ, though it did struggle in our alley a bit. The slush in the intersections was difficult to get started in if you were moving slowly, and we ran into a few drivers that caused us to come to a complete stop. The second time around, we drove in from the northern end of the alley, and that was the better call. We also ended up helping to push a few cars, getting them moving again.

After coming home, we did lunch and rested a bit before going back out later.

Eventually, we clocked at least 12 inches in the alley, though it continued to snow more as it went along. I don’t know the official tally, but when I looked out the window a bit ago, my driveway was covered….again… I wouldn’t be surprised if we had over 13 inches.

Anyway, the kids went outside again later in the afternoon, so I watched them from the window while playing on the Switch. Much warmer that way… 🙂

The last time Brooke and I saw this much snow, we lived in Iowa. The crazy thing is, we apparently recorded 10.7 inches that day in early February, so this was more by a substantial amount. Granted, the snow drifts up in Iowa were considerably taller than anything we had here, but still.

Hopefully we’ll get more sledding in tomorrow! Who knows if they’ll have school on Monday – probably depends on how many rural roads get cleared tomorrow. Regardless, we had fun today! The kids loved the ridiculous amount of snow!

The Saga Continues

Well this looks good…

So, as mentioned in the previous post, we had a bit of rain coming through and had to protect the porch as best as we could.  We hung some tarps from the roof line because it wasn’t supposed to be all that windy and it was more likely that any moisture that did get onto the floor would evaporate faster than it would if we just laid tarps out on top.  For the most part this held true, though the mailman had to walk up onto the porch and tracked wet foot prints, so it wasn’t a perfect solution.  Still, it was better than the alternative.

Eventually, after a few days, the sun returned and we were able to get to work on painting.  We put two coats of primer on and two top coats on the floor, as well as one coat of primer and one coat of a more “cream” color on the columns and previously-white portions of the porch. 

Unfortunately, toward the end of the primer coat on the columns, we noticed something going on down in the foundation…

Brooke noticed it first.  Some of the rocks and mortar from the supports had fallen out overnight.  This happened after we’d been on the porch with our initial priming work, so we’d been on there quite a bit, but never felt any shifting.  However, clearly something happened.

Even the floorboards had separated a bit, so now pine between the boards was exposed and, obviously, wasn’t primed against moisture.  The floor had dropped ~4 inches, so it had also separated some from underneath the siding.

Needless to say, this wasn’t good.  We called the construction folks and had them come out the next morning.  They looked it over and decided the supports had to be replaced.  As we couldn’t prove that this was necessarily their fault (and, honestly, we can’t know that for sure…it could just have been a coincidence, but seriously, we were not wanting to spend more than we already had!), we were going to have to shell out more to have them lift the porch and replace the supports with fresh cinder blocks.  And this was going to take more time, which meant that we couldn’t paint anything because it could move again!

So, they came that same afternoon to remove the supports and replace them with temporary wooden ones while they poured concrete bases for the new blocks to go on.  This part was done the afternoon we first contacted them.

Then, another guy was supposed to come do the masonry work…but he was engaged in another job elsewhere, so it took four days for him to finally come and take care of it!

By the time it was done (on a Saturday morning…the weekend we took the kids to Columbia to be out of our hair while we finished this…), the blocks looked good and everything was solid.  It just took substantially longer than I wanted to get done!

Granted, you can’t make plans around construction, because “things happen.”  Still…I don’t have to like it…

Once the blocks were in place, we could finish the painting of the floorboards and trim, and also do all the landscaping we had planned.  Brooke picked up boxwood bushes, blue rug juniper, and sky pencil holly to go in the front from our local landscaping place, and we also had 100 cu. ft. of mulch dropped off.  (Side note: apparently 100 cu. ft. of mulch isn’t enough, so get 150 next time!) We struggled to find landscaping pavers we really liked, as multiple places in town didn’t have anything in “grey” and we didn’t really want to drive down to Sedalia, but thankfully we lucked into some for $1 each at Wal-mart, so that worked just fine!  

We put those in and did our best to secure them, though we didn’t use a shovel to dig a ditch for them like we probably should.  I’m hoping that they’ll settle out over the winter months and be fine for next year, otherwise I’ll knock them over while mowing…

The landscaping was mostly done by Saturday, but we had to wait until Sunday morning for the construction folks to remove the supports and drop the floor for us to finish painting and put the lattices back up.  Brooke also spent a substantial amount of time with a small paintbrush filling in the gaps in the floorboards to limit the water that could cause damage.  While she finished that up, I grilled some awesome steaks out back… 🙂

The next day after church, we put the railings back on, as well as the lattices.  The lattices went on alright, though they don’t fit quite as well as they did with the new supports.

That part wasn’t so shocking, but the railings proved more difficult than we’d expected.  Apparently the columns weren’t put back in exactly the right places, so we ended up having to saw them down a bit to make them fit appropriately.  I also had to run out and grab a few more brackets that would fit the railings better (because the ones we bought fit some railings, but not all railings…ug…).  Still, they’re a bit wobbly as they’ve always been, but they’re far more secure than they were before!

Finished product!  Those pencil holly should grow up to ~6 ft high, so we’ll have to trim them, but they’ll drive people toward the center of the stairs.  The plan is to remove that center railing once we get some time.  It’s falling apart and a coat of paint isn’t going to fix it.  We also switched around the furniture relative to where they used to be because we realized during the course of work on the lattices that the western side of the porch is actually longer than the eastern side, so it makes more sense to have the couch and chairs/table switched.

Lastly, because we were waiting for paint to dry, Brooke took it upon herself to finally, ultimately, gut the yucca plants.

Seriously, she’s been waiting for years to get rid of them.  When the bees were here, the yuccas provided some useful shelter in the winter, but without bees, we don’t need them!  They’re gone!

That’s it!  It took a lot longer, and a lot more money, than we’d originally hoped, but I suppose that’s to be expected with home improvement projects.  We’re happy with the finished product, at least!

A Memorial Day Weekend Project

Those bushes…

The bushes in front of the house have been there since, likely, the 1950s.  It’s hard to know for sure, but considering how “full” those things were, it had to be for decades.

They weren’t particularly good looking and housed wasps and ground bees from time to time, so we’d talked about removing them for the past few years.  The floorboards on the porch have gotten worse this year and needed replacement, so we were prompted to move up our timetable a bit on removal of the bushes.

We need to do some work on the porch…

We haven’t had much time this Spring so far, so Memorial Day weekend was the best option to try and get some of the work done.  Last weekend in Columbia, I picked up a new reciprocating saw and some blades; we picked up some new clippers for Brooke for her birthday; and we borrowed my Dad’s chainsaw.

We went at them with the clippers first and then employed the reciprocating saw to go closer to the stumps of the bushes.  There were two bushes in the front on each side that we were trying to remove, as well as one pine tree on each side.  The spirea bushes were also overgrown, but we wanted to keep them and our local landscaping company, Springwater, recommended trimming them back substantially and letting them grown out again.  Springwater also gave us some other landscaping ideas that we’ll employ as the Summer progresses.

Demo time!

The first two bushes went down relatively quickly and we had the next two trimmed down before lunchtime, so we made good progress before the temperature increased, though the sun got intense as the afternoon went on.

High of 93 F that day…

We took some breaks, of course.  The kids were in the backyard with the pool up and various water toys, so they were entertained while the grown ups did actual work on their Memorial Day weekend

I ended up using Dad’s chainsaw on the stumps and was able to flatten them out a bit to make it easier to cover them up.  The stumps proved a lot stronger than we’d anticipated and the chainsaw proved useful, but not enough to complete the job.  I hacked at the last stump as best I could but may need to let it rot a bit first before I can take an axe or something to it.

Done for now!

The wood under the porch floor seems to be pretty well intact, so we don’t think we’ll have to gut the whole thing and should just be able to replace the floorboards.  Obviously, that could change (because we’ve never done anything like that before…), but we’re hopeful that it should be a relatively easy project.

We’re going to wait until after vacation before we kick that one off, though!

The “Half-New” Play Room

After setting up the new shared bedroom for Meg and Calvin, it was time to do something with Meg’s old room.  However, after putting a week into that new bedroom, I wasn’t really in the mood to scrape even more wallpaper, so it was decided that the second room would be turned into a play room.  In the interest of maintaining our sanity over this Christmas Break, we decided to leave the carpet and wallpaper for now and consolidate all of the toys into that room.

Well doesn’t that look cozy!

We now have another TV set up for the first time since living here and we have a Fire TV Stick on order to make it a little “smarter.”  The only station it gets over bunny ears right now is PBS, but we can live with that.  We’ve also got the Lego table set up in front of one of the windows.

The wall isn’t quite…”done”…yet…

Brooke had a crazy idea about the wall that will improve over time.  As the kids draw more pictures and do more “art” at school, it’ll get clothespinned to the string she put up for all to see.  The easel is also near two new tables we picked up from IKEA to replace the two we previously had, only this time, we put some chalkboard contact paper on it.

“Look, Mom! We can write on the table and erase it again!”

Honestly, I’m not quite sure how the contact paper will last on the tables, as they’re also intended for Play-doh and other things.  The idea was that roads and towns could be drawn on it for Legos, cars, etc.  We’ll just have to see how they use them…

Storage!

The last wall involved a purchase of a 9 cube organizer and some bins so we could put all those toys in a mostly central location.  Their Kindle Fires can be charged because of the port behind the shelves, so that’s where they’ll live and not in the bedroom (unless it’s during the day).  Hopefully we can foster some better habits that way.

It’s going to be a work-in-progress for awhile, but it’s more organized than before!  And now the Music Room downstairs has many fewer toys just lying around because they’re all upstairs!  There was also a “culling” of baby toys that the kids otherwise wouldn’t get rid of on their own, so this was a good opportunity for “Winter Cleaning.”

The New Bedroom, Part II

Check out the previous post here…

So, the scraping started on a Tuesday and we were mostly done by that Friday, though we got slowed down by the kids getting released early from school due to weather.  That, and we were heading to my parent’s house for Christmas stuff that weekend.

As a brief aside, we were on the road to Columbia for 4.5 hours that Friday due to the weather.  That trip should only take an hour.  It was great fun.  Ug.

Gotta get all primed…

Anyway, after we got back from Columbia, we finished patching things up and finished scraping the walls so that, on Monday, I could prime everything and paint on Tuesday. We had to go with 2 coats of primer in most places, including the trim, and went with 3+ coats over the wallpapered section of drywall that was unscrapable.  We’re hoping the water-based paint doesn’t cause the paper to bubble up, but considering just how stuck it was to the drywall, we don’t anticipate too much trouble.  All the primer was enough to hide the floral designs underneath.

We went with an “off-white” color for the trim so we wouldn’t have to do the doors and windows quite yet…

The trim got a somewhat “off-white” color.  Bright white would have been preferred, but at this point, we really didn’t want to take the doors off the hinges or fight with the windows, so we figured this color would at least half-way match the doors/windows while still meshing well with the chosen paint color.

More of a blue-grey for the rest of the walls.

Like we did downstairs in the music room, Brooke went with a color that was approved by the National Historic Register.  The picture above still had wet paint, and the lights were off, but you can see the blue-grey hues pretty well.  We went with 2 coats of paint for most of the way around and, thankfully, it dried pretty quickly.

While we were doing the painting, Mom and Dad were downstairs assembling the twin-sized bunk beds so we could just carry them up the stairs when we were ready for them.  The room couldn’t really fit more than 3 people anyway, so it was a good way to divide and conquer.

Pulling the carpet up went remarkably well…

Once the paint was dry, we pulled up the carpet.  Dad and I did this the winter after we moved in on the landing to the top floor, so I drafted him into helping for another round.  The hardwood was very much intact, though the color differences between the middle and outside of the room was a bit odd.  Again, someday, we’ll re-finish the upstairs but, for now, rugs will have to suffice…

All done!

After carrying the bunk beds upstairs, laying down the rugs, and installing the new curtain rods and freshly dyed curtains (repurposed from those that were in the room to begin with, but now a darker navy color), we were all done!  We also moved Meg’s vanity (my grandmother’s, but painted last winter) into the room to give them a little bit of storage.

We’ve made it clear to the kids that this is a “sleep room” and not a “play room,” so with the exception of a few stuffed animals, no toys are supposed to be in the room.  Clearly, this is easier said than done, but we’re going to try and keep it that way for the time-being.  Hopefully that’ll stave off any markers on the walls for a few, er, days…

A view of the other corner…

Meg’s old bed was moved in and new sheets/blankets were added to match the bunk beds.  Obviously, the bed color is different, but oh well…  It’ll serve as a good guest bed should we need one!

Calvin enjoying his new big-kid bed!

Calvin was at school while we got all this done, so he was pretty excited to lay in his new bed!  He had a toddler bed after his 2nd birthday and, while he still fit in it, the twin sized bed is substantially larger!  He’s slept in big beds already, but this new spring mattress should be a bit more comfortable.

Meg’s up in the top bunk!

Meg’s up on the top bunk, as she’s the older kid.  Eventually, we can relax for Calvin, but for now, he won’t be sleeping up there.  We’re doing our best to keep him off the top bunk unless a grown-up is upstairs to monitor their play time, but again, this is easier said than done…

We’re pretty pleased with what we were able to accomplish in about a week!  It certainly went faster than the music room did!  And help from Mom and Dad was greatly appreciated!

Now, the play room…eventually…

The New Bedroom, Part I

Here’s what we had to work with…

So, Calvin’s been sleeping in a room with creepy quetzals (or some other bird…I’m not an ornithologist) since we moved in, but we’ve left it up until we could decide what the long-term plan was for the bedrooms, and also because we had other projects on the docket first.  A few months ago, the kids started sleeping together on weekends and, for the most part, they’ve done pretty well with this arrangement.  The idea of bunk beds came up at some point, so we all decided that the kids would share a bedroom for a few years, and the other room would serve as the kid’s “play room.”  For various reasons, Calvin’s room seemed like the better choice for “sleeping,” while Meg’s substantially larger space would become the “play room.”

It begins.

As we already knew, plaster was behind the wallpaper.  Some parts of it were cracked, necessitating patching with plaster and joint compound, but there wasn’t substantial damage to the plaster like we had down in the music room.

There were 3 layers of wallpaper in total, as well as an old border that was running along the top.

In this image, you can make out the green-ish wallpaper underneath the “quetzal paper,” as well as a border along the top.

The scraping wasn’t as bad as it could have been, honestly.  It took at least 4 solid days of scraping (largely completed by yours truly), but again, it could have been far worse.  The dust got pretty bad, but we kept the carpet in for the time-being to let it “soak up” the debris so we could remove it later.

We did run into a little issue on one wall, though…

…a little hiccup…

I started scraping it and the material underneath the wallpaper was quite a bit different than the other walls.  This is the one that was on the bedroom door side of the room.

…yup…that’s drywall…

With a little more investigating, it turned out that, somehow, drywall had been used on that one wall.  It’s possible that the wall had previous damage to the plaster, so the owners had to replace it with 1950s-era drywall, and then wallpaper over the whole room at that time.  Indeed, there was only the top layer of wallpaper covering that wall, so the whole room was done at the time the wallpaper was put on.

There’s a special place in Hell for people who wallpaper over joint compound…

On the wall adjacent to the drywalled…er…wall…we also ran into some large patches of joint compound that were directly wallpapered over, which slowed things down considerably.  I ended up scraping off a layer of joint compound in a few spots…

Ready to prime!

After I got scraping done, Brooke came back through with vinegar water to clean off remaining glue, and then worked her plaster magic to patch the walls.  You can see in the corner all the wallpaper that had fallen onto the carpet, so it was great fun tracking bits of trash throughout the house for a few days…

The rest will appear in another post.  That’s enough pictures for now!

For the second part of this project, click through.

Some Spring Break Work

Garden 2.0
Garden 2.0

I’m on Spring Break this week (yay!), so we’ve been trying to get some things done around the house. Though it’s been somewhat wet, we’ve been able to get a shocking amount done. Mark and Diana were kind enough to haul along their tiller this past weekend when they were here for Meg’s 6th birthday (Happy Birthday, Meg!), so Mark turned over the garden for us.

Some new plots...
Some new plots…

He also made a few more plots for us. The one in the foreground has peas, carrots and radishes in it. We’re planning on installing raised beds for herbs closer to the house, so the tilled space is a bit smaller than the large one from last year that sits next to it. The narrow patch in the background next to the berry bushes is intended for rhubarb and asparagus, as they should return each year just like the berries will. It may take a bit to get those established, so we’ll see how that goes…

Moved some appliances!
Moved some appliances!

For the past few months, we’ve also been meaning to move the chest freezer and one of our (three) refrigerators from the garage into our basement. Now that it’s warm outside, it’s kinda past the cold period of the year when you don’t want to go outside to the freezer, but oh well. The fridge will likely get used for beer, mostly, and the other fridge will remain in the garage for lawnmower beer, soda, juice boxes, and other stuff we’re likely to want when we’re actually in the garage this summer.

Garage 2.0
Garage 2.0

Speaking of the garage, we also got some organization done in there. Brooke stayed home from work today to get some other stuff done, so while she was here, we took this opportunity to rearrange a bit in a fashion that makes more sense than the way we had things. The other fridge is in front of my car now (not pictured…), and we mounted our new car top carrier on the wall over the wagons. The fridge is a bit further from the door to the garage now, which isn’t ideal, but we’ll live.

SOOOOOO much better...
SOOOOOO much better…

The real reason to get this done, though, was to open up the tool bench and organize the tools to access things more efficiently. Seriously, that table had everything piled on it for the past year or so.  The power tools and other bins are on the new shelves we picked up, and Brooke brought up the pegboard from our basement and put it up on the wall in the garage where it belongs so all those tools can be mounted and accessible.  The various battery-powered tools have their chargers working there on the corner as before, but at least now, all the tools are off the table, leaving it open for actual, you know, work.

We aren’t completely done with everything in the garage yet, but this is a good start.  The garden stuff and the kids toys still need to be organized, but it’s way better than it was.  The toys will go on a shelf between the two garage bays, and I think we’re going to put in some other shelves for the garden stuff closer to where the door is.  I’ll probably pick up another shelving unit tomorrow for these various purposes.

But hey, not too bad for Spring Break 2016, right?

The Music Room

1

When we were looking at this house, the main level had an interesting floor plan: it was very open with doors between the living room, the dining room, and this “extra room” that had a fireplace.  It was referred to as a “den” on the listing, though its bay window provided enough light that “den” didn’t seem right.
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This room also had some “extras” to it, specifically some additional woodwork that was not original to the house.  They made up a bench, a toy box, and a series of “cubbies” that you could stash a variety of trinkets in.  They didn’t look all that great to us, nor did the aged wall sconces, many of which didn’t work.  When we had the electrical re-done, we kept the sconces next to the fireplace, but had the others disconnected.

We decided to christen this space “The Music Room,” as we needed a place for all our musical instruments to go.  The guitars would go up on the walls, the drums would be put, er, somewhere, and we’d also put the kids’ downstairs toys (i.e. everything that isn’t in their rooms) in here.  Generally, we thought it would make a good play space for kids and adults.  But, the wallpaper and extra wood had to go.
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Brooke decided my Spring Break was a good time to get this started, so on March 13th, she took a day off of work and took a crowbar to the wood shelves.  We found red paint on top of old layers of wallpaper behind them.  Also, some plaster started to come along for the ride.  Lastly, the floors were covered in dirt, much of which we ultimately couldn’t remove (without taking a sander to the floor…).

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The wallpaper was hit-or-miss in its removal.  We had a series of metal scrapers to use, as well as a spray bottle of dilute vinegar to loosen up the layers of wallpaper.  And by “layers,” I mean four.  Oddly, there were two layers of the same wallpaper

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…the same wallpaper, mind you, that was lined up and matched.  Very weird.  You can tell how dark that outer layer was, likely caused by decades of cigarette smoking.  These outer layers weren’t all that much trouble, but the layers beneath this were more challenging.  In total, it took a few weeks to get all of it off.  We worked our way along the larger sections as best we could in the evenings, but weekends ended up being best, as scraping on the walls of the house tends to get a bit noisy when the kids are in bed.  I stopped jogging in the afternoons after 3:00 so I could come home and keep working on it before picking up the kids.6

Ultimately, the walls underneath weren’t in terrible shape.  We couldn’t remove the painted-over sections that were behind all the wood additions, as they were effectively sealed onto the wall.  Brooke used a “screen mesh-style” sander to smooth everything out as best as possible.  She also used a mix of plaster and joint compound to fill in the various holes in the wall.  In the pictures above and below, you’ll see circular patches where a wall sconce used to be, that Brooke filled in with either plaster or joint compound.  It just depended on how large the patch was.
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We tried to be somewhat careful about the woodwork that we wanted to keep, so Brooke made sure to use plastic tarps to cover the fireplace and other sections of the room.  The existing wall sconces didn’t put out much light, so we had to rely on them in the evenings, as well as a portable light fixture we brought in from the garage.
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Eventually, after all the patching was done, we took primer to the walls.  Lots of primer.  Especially in these corners, where we were trying to cover up the red painted-over sections of the wall.  We spent a few days priming to make sure we got good coverage.  Brooke also had some plaster to fill in at points, so we had to prime over that, as well.10

Brooke wanted to do most of the detail work…though, I was up on the ladder more.  Getting around that bay window took some extra effort, as the wallpaper was somewhat difficult to remove.
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The space above the fireplace cleaned up pretty well.  For some reason, it seemed like the paint roller wasn’t working very evenly, though we never figured out why.  It seemed like the previous owners played with joint compound a bit more than they should have, and laid wallpaper on it before the compound had finished drying.  There were a few spots on these walls that featured near impossible-to-remove sections of wallpaper…12

Finally, after about a week of priming, we put on the paint.  We went with a color that would be similar to the old color, but a bit brighter.  We also chose a color that was approved by the National Historic Registry, so it should be a color that was somewhat common at the time this house was built.13

Brooke spent a good afternoon on hands and knees scrubbing the dirt off the edges of the floor.  It definitely looks way better than it did on that first day after removal of the wood additions, but it’s still pretty noticeable.  However, we’ve put some stuff along these walls, so perhaps it isn’t that obvious.  When we have these floors refinished someday (after we don’t have a 1.5-year-old dropping things on it all the time), it’ll finally go away.

Also, notice that corner in the picture above.  That was one of the worst spots, where Brooke had to put a few layers of plaster and joint compound to fill in the gaps.14

The color during the day looked quite a bit nicer than it did at night!  Brooke also made some lace (and later sheer…) curtains to go over the windows.  In the picture above, they aren’t all around the windows yet, but the window facing the porch has it.

Also on that porch window, you’ll notice the toybox is still there.  That’s a pretty functional piece of woodwork that we keep toys in, and can eventually hold blankets, pillows, and whatever else someday.  Though it doesn’t match the rest of the wood in the room, it still fits the space pretty well.

The last thing to go up in the corner pictured above was the guitar holding system.  We looked into a few options but decided to get the slatboard music stores use to display guitars.  The main reason was so that we could add and remove guitars from the wall without tearing holes in it each time.15

The guitar display worked out pretty well, we think.  We primed and painted the panels the same color as the wall and positioned it at a level high enough to keep Calvin from it (for the most part…).

…also, we don’t know where that purple bin is going to go, yet…but it looks hideous and out of place in that room.  It’s got all of Meg’s craft stuff in it right now, so we need some kind of replacement…
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Here’s more of a “wide shot” of that section of the room, now with the sheer curtains over the bay windows, a bench Brooke picked up underneath the windows, the rug we used to have in the living room and moved into the music room, and the various instruments.18

The last section to finish was the fireplace, which involved finding something to go above it, and finally replacing the functional sconces in the room.  Brooke picked up the new sconces last week and we made my Dad install them on Mother’s Day (because it was Mother’s Day…so, Mom couldn’t do it…).

We couldn’t decide what to put above the fireplace, but Brooke found this canvas print that seemed to fit the vibe and color scheme we’d set up in the room.  We may eventually replace it, but honestly, it seems to fit pretty perfectly right now, so I suspect we’ll keep it for a few years.

That’s it!  Long process, long post!  We don’t really have anything else in mind for upgrades on the house in the near future, though sometime this summer, I’ll likely get started on the kitchen, which needs a serious fix-me-up…