Saturday, February 26, 2011

Dear house

Dear house,

Happy second anniversary! In the 720 or so days we've been together, we've been though a lot. You were there for me when Hubs and I got engaged in the dining room and as I made mimosas in the kitchen on our wedding day. We built you a beautiful new deck and patio and you were just the right size for a second little cat. You've helped us host great parties, given us plenty to do, and been a good and warm abode.

I have to say, this past year was a little rough. That bupkis you pulled in August - flooding our basement just weeks after we finished a beautiful outdoor renovation? That was not cool. But, we love you and want the best for you, so we started that basement from scratch - you even got some amazing new windows for a second anniversary present this week!

I think we've all moved past that little bump in the road and as long as you behave like a good little house should, we can all hang out for years to come. Now that you're 66, I hope you can settle down a bit and sit patiently, warm and watertight while we finish up the basement and start measuring the attic for your next big face lift.

Thanks for letting us crash here,

Alexson & Hubs

P.S. Remember how magical our first year together was? Let's recapture some of that.

Friday, February 25, 2011

A journey

We begin in an under-utilized corner of my house.

 The windows are original.

 The windows are ridiculously ugly.

These guys didn't even open.

They were neglected, leaky and unloved.

They were rusty and sad.

 The basement windows were even worse.

They leaked during the big rains last summer, soaking our poor drywall.

But, wait! What's this?

Big, airy, open windows that really open? Game. Changer.

 How rad is this?
 No leaks! No rust!
 Nothing but light, light, light!
And below deck? The glass is semi-frosted for privacy, so we don't even need creepy basement curtains.

Oh, glorious day!

I've been waiting since December for these new windows and it was so worth it. No matter how much pretty paint and furniture we put in the old window rooms, they just never sparkled. It's amazing what a new window can do!

We still need to paint the new trim in the bedroom and make window boxes (as in boxes that trim the window indents in the basement, not boxes for flowers outside the windows), but whatevs. This is a huge improvement!

Have a good weekend!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Basement Boogie: Get real

When Hubs and I decided that we would be gutting and renovating the basement back in August, we set a self-imposed deadline of St. Patrick's day. It seemed far enough away, but close enough to keep us motivated.

St.Patrick's Day Shamrock Shutter Shades
As partially-Irish fans of booze, aged cheddar and drinking songs - we are pretty enthusiastic about March 17. No surprise there.

But, there were surprises with this reno. First, our rebuilding contractor surprised us by never calling us back. No money changed hands, so we were safe there, but we decided the best (read: cheapest) route would be to DIY. Surprise number two.

Add to that a million little changes, surprises, extra steps and setbacks and here we are: February 24.

We might still hit our deadline and be able to invite our pals over for a timely ribbon cutting/Wild Rover sing-a-long. But it's not likely. At least, not without a surprise bestowment of two weeks paid off from work or a sudden, intense desire to stay up 24 hours a day mudding, sanding, priming, painting, laying floor, laying trim, installing heaters, finishing built-ins, building the concrete countertop and moving everything back in.

Don't hold your breath for that, friends.

Despite our competitive and type-A natures, we're OK with letting this deadline slip by. After all, we set the deadline having no idea what all went into a basement gut-job and we think we'll still finish in March, so we weren't too far off.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Basement Boogie: Where everyone knows your name

I'm so glad I married a math-y guy. In fourth grade, my teacher preferred putting on plays and having the class read aloud and ever since, my math brain just hasn't worked right. BUT. I can impersonate Sally Ride very well and would probably smack Levar Burton down in a read-off. So, there's that.

Hubs' math skills are impeccable and his left brain-ed-ness made this possible:

Hell yeah, homeslice - that's a custom counter for behind the bar. We built it in just a few hours and didn't even make any grave measuring mistakes.

We'll put doors over the left side and leave the right side open for a wine rack and microwave. Next to that, is our prized kegerator. We'll paint the whole thing and cap it off with a DIY concrete counter top and teensy tiny tile back splash.

Thank you math, for getting this party started.

Also: You guys, I was recognized today. Like, for writing this blog. By a total stranger! I didn't catch my fan(! I know!)'s name, but she was super nice and she made my day by allowing me to now back up my claims to my far-flung family that I'm "really big in Des Moines." Thank you, reader! Can I say I've arrived now? When do I get an entourage? Do ceWebrities (thank you, Ms. Socialize for coining that term!) get free cheese anywhere in this town? If so, I'd like to be taken there. In a carriage. Like now.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Weekending like normal folks

With the basement project taking over every minute of time we aren't at work or sleeping, we have kind of lost touch with how all you regular people spend weekends. This has been more than a little draining.

So, we spent this last weekend taking some time off and acting like totally normal, above-ground people.

It. was. glorious.

We both took Friday afternoon off and went to a swanky Living Social-subsidized lunch at a local restaurant. I had seared ahi and reisling. For lunch, y'all. Not a Jimmy John's No. 6 (no sprouts, no cucs) and Diet Coke, as is per usual on work days. Amazing.

We also made a major Costco run, thereby marking the first grocery shopping trip we have done outside of emergency runs over the lunch hour in more than two months. Astounding.

Saturday, we did work. We're mudding and waiting 24-hours for it to dry and then mudding again, so I'll spare you the boring photos (unless you want to see what one coat, versus two coats, versus three coats of mud look like? No? Ok.). But, we also got massages, which totally saved this whole project. Aaaahhh.

Other highlights included selling all our drywall scraps on Craigslist and stumbling upon the soft reopening of our favorite neighborhood pizza place and being so excited that we ate dinner at 4:30.

While the mud is drying, we're working on built-ins for the bar and the bookshelves. Which. Is no where near as awful as I imagined. They look really good and I promise I'll post some photos soon.

That light? It's the end of the tunnel!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Basement Boogie: Le Grand Tour

Hanging drywall isn't so hard. It's kind of heavy and you have to be pretty spot on with measurements, especially around electrical rough-ins and other weirdness, but it won't kill you. You might cry, but you won't die (note to self, keep that phrase in mind next time you go camping/have to kill a spider/embroider a pillow).

Tip from a seasoned pro: Do not attempt any drywall hanging without: a collated screw gun, the number to Jimmy John's on speed dial, a math-minded friend, a six-pack icing down in the fridge.

Ridgid R8660 18-Volt Collated Screwgun
Best $100 ever spent.

So, now that we're done with the drywall hanging, it's time to mud. We started last night and got the first coat of mud and tape down in the fooseball room. 

Video tour time!

Though there are varying theories on the amount of layers needed for drywall, Hubs and I decided to go with : Mud - Tape - Mud - Mud - Mud (some books we say said you only needed two post-tape coats of mud). But honestly, compared to hanging drywall, mudding is like a spa day. It's relaxing and goes on fast, so a third coat doesn't bother us too much. 

I compared it to the little Zen sand gardens you buy at the mall. Scrape, scrape, smoooooth. Scrape, scrape, smoooooth. Om. Om. Om. 

Anyone else mad for mudding?

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Cadbury-d alive

I'm not one of those ladies who love chocolate. I'm just not a sweet-tooth gal. I am more of a salt-tooth - I mean, even my wedding cake was savory. So the list of candies I love and adore is short. It is in fact, a list of one.

And that one - is Cadbury Eggs.

I wait all year for their first appearance and it takes every fiber of self-restraint I have to not live off these little goo-filled gems for the three months they are available.

True story: The spring I studied abroad in Ireland, I entered a Cadbury Egg eating contest at a pub - the first competitor to finish ten eggs won a keg's worth of beer. I was the lone female contestant, fighting for the title amid three dudes. When the bar tender started the clock, I quickly unwrapped the eggs and started chowing down (this had proven to be fastest in my various training sessions).

On egg number eight, I heard a crack. I kept eating, but there was a chunk of something hard and awful among the candy. It was a part of my tooth (not really, I had porcelain veneers put on, so it was a part of the facade that is my teeth, but this is what we call dramatic emphasis). This realization wasted precious time and I lost my lead. It was perhaps the most tragic moment of sport I have ever been a part of.

The first egg of 2011. Not the last. 

Fast forward to today, at lunch. I ran to the grocery store because with work being busy and the basement eating up all our free time, we hadn't been food shopping in two weeks (proof things are getting a little to Mother Hubbard-y up in here: Hubs ate a hamburger bun toasted for breakfast this morning). As I was darting around, getting milk, pasta and cereal - I spotted a familiar green and blue glimmer.

So, I bought one.

I waited an hour to eat it. That is a huge feat.

The first egg of the year deserves a quiet celebration and respect - not a quick gobble in the parking lot.

Another true story: I used to wake up earlier than my younger sisters on Easter just to swap out their Cadbury eggs for lesser candy. I always replaced the stolen eggs with those lame Reeses eggs or jelly beans, so it didn't seem too obvious.

Sorry, sisters.

I know Cadbury Eggs are one of the great polarizing issues of our times. What's your stance? Pro-egg? Anti-egg? Member of the fringe caramel egg party?

Monday, February 7, 2011

Basement Boogie: If these walls could talk

After a real crackerjack Friday, Hubs and I were up and at 'em early to start the magical process that is drywall hanging. The day started (as all our Saturdays do) with a run to get donuts and get supplies at Home Depot. As we ticked items off our shopping list (we were there for drywall mussing and taping supplies), we wandered over to the power tool area. Nay, we were drawn to the power tool area by a force stronger than ourselves.

And we fell in love.

Weekend warrior

This screw gun was a steal at $100 and worth every penny of impulse-buy. It cut our drywalling time in half because it loads a clip of drywall screws and feeds them through as you need them - no reaching into your pocket for screws, then holding them straight and dropping them. Love! Love! Love!

We managed to get the top half of the drywall up in about 80% of the basement over the weekend and we're hoping we can finish the tops tonight and start on the bottoms.
Bar end of the fireplace room.
Fireplace end of the fire place room (the fireplace is still open because we have to order fire retardant insulation for it - right now that corner is un-insulated and fa-re-re-zzing!)

Of course, putting up the drywall meant covering up layer upon layer of love. Graffiti, caulk, vapor barriers, insulation, electrical and framing - all never to be viewed again (Lord willing). I may have been a little choked up under that heavy duty dust mask.

 Good thing we had our trusty foreman to keep to keep me on task.
 His cohort was unavailable as he was in the sink, licking our breakfast dishes.

What's on tap for your Monday?

Friday, February 4, 2011

Basement Boogie: Happy smiling faces

Why am I grinning ear-to-ear?
  1. It's Wear Red Day! And I got to hear some amazing stories from survivors and women who are doing everything they can to keep their hearts healthy. It was an inspiring and uplifting day (made even better by getting all the local news channels to cover our event - but that's just the PR geek in me).
  2. We PASSED our second major inspection - the building inspection -yesterday! It was the same city inspector who looked at our deck (you know, the project with at least three failed inspections?). He stopped by for our supposed final (we failed) deck inspection the day I was hauling all of the wet carpet out of the basement (picture me: drenched in nasty basement water, covered in carpet pad bits, muttering A LOT of bad words), so Hubs said he was glad to see we were building it all back up.
    •  That means drywall is up next (after a quick happy dance, of course).
  3. Our furnace fans stopped working last night and I woke up to a house that was 57 degrees and getting colder. Not so cool when it's my busiest work day of the year! But, I'm smiling because good old Hubs handled the furnace guys and got everything all fixed up today (it was a simple fix - no new furnace for us yet).
  4. New reader, Amber, inspired me to list out what projects we're doing in the basement versus what we pawned off on the pros. Turns out, it's a damn impressive list and I would like my Girl Scout badge for DIYing now, please.
    • Paid someone:
      • Mold remediation
      • Waterproofing (interior French drain)
      • Furnace fans (though we tried to fix the problem ourselves)
      • Window installation (hasn't happened yet, but will next week or so
And so, it is time to celebrate! And by celebrate, I mean have a glass of wine and maybe a homemade bagel before I change back into a mole and get back to work in the basement. No rest for the wicked around here.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Getting Red-dy

Happy American Heart Month, everyone!

Just a friendly reminder to wear red tomorrow to show your support for people who have had heart disease or a stroke. These are the No. 1 and No. 3 killers of both men AND women in America, and frankly that bums me out and gets me a little heated. Because there are things you can do to prevent heart disease and stroke - even if your family history is stacked against you. Easy stuff like moving more, using fewer Paula Deen recipes (the woman love her butter!) and being realistic about how healthy you really are.

Between you being mindful of your body, more people learning CPR, researchers developing new life-saving techniques and drugs, schools encouraging healthy habits early on, and legislators making laws that support heart health, we can reduce the number of deaths due to heart attack and stroke.

If we were able to eliminate deaths from cardiovascular disease, the average American would live an additional seven years.

I'm passionate about this cause because I want those seven years and I want my people to have those seven years.

Hope you'll be supporting the American Heart Association* and wearing red tomorrow! Spread the love with your own Wear Red Day post and link up below.

(You guys, this is my first link-ing adventure, but at least it's for a good cause, right?)

*Yes, my employer. But also an organization I believe in and supported way before they let me start working here. 

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Basement Boogie: Legal beagles


This is the wiring for a hardwire smoke detector. And it passed!

This is an empty box last week. We have about 30 more just like it. Except they are all now filled with wire. And they passed!

On the first go. This is amazing. We are thrilled! It's a high unlike anything else. I've never skydived (skydove?), but I imagine the feeling of passing an electrical inspection on the first try (of your first DIY electrical project) is akin to landing your first skydive and not being smashed to bits.

In other news, we also have a bar. This photo was taken pre-wiring.

Tomorrow (ish?), our BFF, the building inspector, is coming by for a peak at the frames and then (oh, then!) we will drywall like mad dogs.

What's your greatest DIY accomplishment to date?
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