Friday, January 20, 2012

The Great Remodel of 2011, Before and After

First, some history. My parents bought the old farmhouse in which I grew up at an auction for less than $30,000. Guess what happens when you buy an old farmhouse for less than $30,000 in the mid-eighties?

You live with perpetual, inconvenient renovations!

J bought the house we now inhabit back in the late nineties for $40,000. It was built in 1885 and stood vacant for 13 years before he bought it.

Guess what happens when you buy an ancient, 13 years-vacant farmhouse that used to be a rental unit for $40,000?

You live with perpetual, inconvenient renovations!

Now don’t get me wrong. I no longer mind the DIY. I’m learning a lot, and we’re slowly making our house exactly the way we want it. Also, two words: sweat equity. (Mostly sweat--have you ever hand-scraped Nixon-era carpet pad some genius glued and stapled to the pine floor boards below? In five rooms? It was so old it crumbled into yellow, rubbery dust. Masks were worn. Sneezing commenced. Knuckles and knees were bruised. Curses lingered in the air.)

My father-in law, hard at work...standing where a shed used to be attached to the house. My brother-in-law looks thrilled to be standing where our new driveway will be poured.

View of the same back door last summer. We painted it purple, just for kicks.

Since we bought the house, we’ve sunk an additional $70,000 into it. First, we started outside, with a new roof, new siding, new porches, new driveway, new exterior doors and windows, landscaping, and a brand-spanking new garage. With a magic door that opens at the push of a button!!!

Hey, I have a great idea! Let's side the house in February!

A cute 'lil birch now grows where two hulking Box Elder beasts used to.

Then we moved indoors, installing a tankless water heater, energy efficient furnace, beadboard wainscoting in the kitchen, new appliances, and *drum roll please*…our fall project: a complete remodel of the entire second story of our house. (We recently got a new computer and I lost most of my before photos in the transfer, but you’ll get the gist.)

This is an actual, unadulterated photo of our “daily-use” bathroom prior to the remodel (minus the mirror). I had to switch to waterproof mascara because anytime I stood in front of the mirror to apply make-up, I wept copiously.

Again, the toilet, which is only code-compliant on the planet “Crap Cobbled Together by Someone With Hand, Brain, and Eye Injuries.” Here were the things that crossed my mind the very first time I laid eyes on this engineering marvel: “There’s a toilet in the wall. Spiders. Gross. Disgusting. Bugs. Ewww. Those lazy bastards. There’s a toilet in the wall.”

In the days before The Great Remodel, there was a Great Purge. In the Purge, I hauled almost every piece of our old furniture to the curb. Countless trips to Goodwill and electronics recycling drives were made. It was time. Most of that stuff had moved from house to house to house with me since college. I finally got rid of the twin bed I’d had since I was three.

I was ruthless in my culling. I became a hoarder’s worst nightmare. I even tried to convince J to throw away an oil painting done by his grandmother, because a) it is buttass-ugly; b) it’s not done by my grandma; and, c) I have a heart made of obsidian and/or am part robot. I let him keep it in the garage, partly to assuage my guilt that I threw away other personal belongings of his when he wasn’t looking.

This looks safe, doesn't it?

I am standing where our new walk-in closet will be. I can't even believe I get to type that. The bathroom walls are completely gone, yet the old, yellow-ochre, 70s phone booth shower stall remains. New doorways and walls to come ...

You have to add a few charming yet unnecessary touches. I'm ashamed to tell you what this switch plate cost. So I'm not going to.

Everything in this picture is new except the windowpanes. Also, I've developed a fondness for wrought-iron.

I love this hallway now; it used to be a big landing with tons of wasted space. I wish I had a before photo, so you could see how ridiculous the layout was.

The "new" spare bedroom, which is empty from The Great Purge. That door is brand-spanking new. That space used to be a closet. I am standing almost where the old entrance was; just three months ago, your only way in or out of this bedroom was through the adjacent walk-through bathroom. So if someone was dropping a deuce and you really wanted to get downstairs, you just had to wait awhile, Nelly. You were trapped.

This might be my favorite room. Once a small, grubby bedroom with peeling walls and a bare, dangling lightbulb that screamed "CRACK DEN!", this is now my walk-in closet / dressing room / ironing and folding station. I can iron a shirt, put on some slacks, and lie down to do celebratory floor-angels on the fluffy new carpet if I want. See that post-demo photo above featuring the shovel? I'm standing in the same spot.

During the demo, we found a decorative old metal grate that we'll clean, repaint, and install over the cold air return at the base of the linen closet; until then, Daisy will continue to sniff the hole cautiously and growl at it in warning so it doesn't suck her down into the furnace.

Oh Pottery Barn, I finally know yee.* (* I spelled “ye” with an extra “e,” because otherwise it would sound like, “yeh,” and I want to be clear. I mean “YEE.”)

This glass door is so new it still smells like silicone caulk and solvents. Still, I'm trying not to lick it whenever I walk by.

I no longer cry when I put my makeup on here. I sing. Which is really hard when you're applying lipstick. See that custom linen closet? It's a pass-through; I can reach through and wave to J in the bedroom, while he's shelving freshly folded towels on the other side. Right, J?

Remember when you were a kid and your Dad said that one friend of yours had a face like a bag full of doorknobs? I know! Me neither! But look—now I have an actual bag full of doorknobs!!! This is one of our last tasks; first we have to finish painting the doors.

J and I leveled the floor and laid this grout-free Duraceramic tile ourselves, which was an adventure. (Helpful tip: Leveling compound is NOT supposed to be lumpy when you pour it on the floor.)

No more toilet in the wall! Trust me when I tell you I now hear a chorus of angels singing Hallelujah every time I sit down.


So there you have it. We'll be turning our attention to the living room, downstairs bath, and kitchen this summer.

Or next. The adventure continues.

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

I Gave Birth to This Blog (For You)

Wouldn't that be a great song title?

Anyway, hi! Welcome back to the place I infrequent. How were your holidays?

My Christmas was chock-full of kiddos, as Christmases are wont to be. So naturally, conversation during one get-together eventually touched on the fact that I remain securely in the “Godmother, I love you THIS much!” card section at Hallmark. I got a bit of ribbing about the barren state of things, tick-tock and such, though I can’t imagine this type of teasing lasting many more years. (Though science continues to advance...Onward, science!)

At one point, I good-naturedly countered with, “With my luck, our kid would totally be an asshole!” And the conversation only devolved from there.

I am closer to 40 than 35, which means there is a 96% chance I will hear this from my doctor should Things Get Real: “If your ovaries have not yet crumbled to dust and actually Leggo a viable Eggo, you are a higher risk than a credit default swap circa 2005 … also, are you aware that if you do conceive, your preggo-pendi will likely become a perma-pendi?”*

I can imagine myself examining the ultrasound results with my doctor. “Ah,” she’d say, “See that? You can already see the laryngeal birth defect forming …”

“What does that mean?” I’d say, sitting up, fighting panic.

“Just that your child will never be able to form the words ‘I’m sorry,’ ‘I love you,’ ‘please,’ or ‘thank you.’

It also means he’ll probably try to set the dog on fire, steal money from his grandparents, deface church property, and there will be rashes. On a weekly basis.”

And I’d anxiously pull up my elastic-waistband pants and leave, huffing to J on the way to the car: “That’s the last time we get an ultra-sound from someone in the WalMart parking lot!”

*”Pendi” is my aunt and uncle’s shorthand for “pedunculus," defined by the Urban Dictionary as follows: “a frontbutt on women (and some men), the pedunculus is the last fatty roll before the vagina.” You're welcome.


In totally unrelated news, I am mulling some changes to this blog, because if I'm totally sick of looking at the layout, I can only imagine the guttural revulsion you're feeling by now. So, here are some new names I'm considering for the site:

1) Tight slacks.

2) I wanted to call this “Two Dinks and a Dog,” but some non-posting asshole already bought that domain. (Yes, the whole sentence. Maybe I'd use underscores for spaces.)

3) That’s not chili!

And now that my most entertaining neighbor is dead, what should the focus of the blog be? Lifestyle, writing, food, gardening, mommy blogger with an invisible child named Sebastian, who is allergic to soy and enjoys crafting with felt? Maybe a weekly interview with J while he reacts to something strange I make for dinner ("Yes. There are definitely subtle notes of construction adhesive at work here, though the overall mouth-feel is playful, strangely evocative of crushed tapioca"). Maybe I could give my dog a monthly guest slot, though every blog she posts would just look like this: "Bark-bark-bark-bark-bark-bark-bark--sound of butt scooting across carpet--bark-bark-bark-bark-bark--sound of retching--bark-bark!!!!" So that would get old after awhile.

Lately I have been in a state of EXTREME anxiety concerning a project at work, so maybe I could document my meltdown? I have a feeling it could be spectacular! Would I be fired if I put this footnote in my grant proposal: "As you can clearly see, the client did NOT trust my professional opinion or provide timely, detailed information. Therefore, instead of a well-developed proposal that could result in meaningful change in our community, you are being presented with a charcoal rendering of Ed Helms' profile, a strangers' grocery list that I found in a parking lot, and a selection of my Best Blogs from 2006. Enjoy!"

Here's what I'm thinking: Meltdown Monday, Testy Teste Tuesday, Wow-What-a-Weave! Wednesday, Thin-Skinned Thursday, and Found in the Fridge Friday.

Or we could stick with the current sporadic, unpredictable, rickety-ass schedule. Which is kind of fun, because who doesn't like surprises?