3.31.2010

Missing Pots & Pans

If you look in our kitchen, it's hard to believe we could be missing a single pot, much less a set of pots and pans. But we discovered this week that my much beloved Le Creuset pots and pans set is missing.
I "bought" the set during my 3L year with Westlaw points that I hoarded for years. I am so sad that the pots are missing. We've unpacked every single box and they're definitely not here. I would save up and buy another set, but I think S would kill me, or at least request fancy meals more often, if I did. Have you ever lost something that you loved during a move?

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3.30.2010

One Stump, Two Axe Handles

We have a tiny, tiny yard behind our house that's more like a walkway than anything else. Problem is you can't really walk anywhere because there's a big stump in the middle of the way, and a oddly placed chain-link fence cutting off the path.

We have grand plans for a new fence and even a little veggie garden. The most suitable place for the veggie garden is on the sun porch side of our house, which, as you may have guessed, is the sunny side of the house. What does all of this have to do with the stump? To get to this great veggie garden location you have to walk all the way around the house, or you can jump the fence, land on the stump, and make your way a very short distance to the future garden location. So in the spirit of cleaning up the yard, prepping for a new fence, and dreaming about a veggie garden, we decided to attack the stump with a nice, sharp axe.

Because the stump was right next to the chain-link fence that cut off our back "yard" path, we decided to remove the fence to give S some axe swinging room. The fence ran from the side of our house to our neighbor's, but there is a post in the ground somewhat near our neighbor's property line so we were able to just remove the one section blocking our desired path. Because we didn't remove any posts, they whole job was a cinch. S just backed out a few bolts, rolled up the fence and our path was born. Removing the stump was the real work.

S hacked away at the web of roots all around the base until the handle of the axe broke. We were left with a chewed-up stump and still no walkway. But, after an evening trip to the 'Depot, we quickly learned that replacing an axe handle is super easy (just make sure the handle comes with a wedge), and we were back in business for another day of after-work chopping.


It wasn't an easy job (or at least I've been told), but we have our walkway and at least that tiny portion of yard is fence-ready for whenever we're fence-ready.

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3.29.2010

Water, Water Everywhere...

It rained last night and this morning we discovered that a sinking suspicion is true...there's something damp going on in the finished portion of our basement.

When we bought the Hive our home inspector found a little moisture in the basement just under a window in the finished room. We asked the sellers about it and they confirmed that they too had felt some moisture in that one spot. Then, after a big rain storm, the sellers had someone come in to re-grade the ground outside, around the window. They also said that they removed the wall paneling and sealed a small crack in the basement wall. This seemed to do the trick for the next month or so until closing. But, this weekend, just about 4 months later, when I was on my hands and knees trying to maneuver a bookshelf into place I smelled the tell-tale signs of water.

I pointed a fan on the spot overnight and the smell and slightly dampish/dirty feel went away. Then since the forecast called for rain overnight, we decided to turn off the fan to see if the moisture would present itself again. It did.

So this morning while I scurried off to my office for the day, S embarked on a little Monday morning, I-really-don't-want-the-answer, investigatory work.
Which is how we discovered that the back side of the paneling is covered with this lovely mold.
And the insulation (which is now bagged up in the trash) looked like varying degrees of this.
The paint on the concrete walls in this section is peeling, blistering and very clearly wet.
We're slightly appalled that one of the previous previous owners, or whoever they hired to do the work, opened up this panel and left what we assume must have been mold-covered insulation in place. It's like a pink nightmare rearing its ugly head in our little basement. Since there were no signs that the moisture stopped at the one panel, S proceeded to pull off another.
And when I heard, "F! Come here...and bring your camera," in a tone that only meant there was something I really didn't want to see, I knew "deal with that basement water issue" just made its way onto the to-do list.

I wasn't quite prepared to see insulation that was completely disintegrated, damp 2x4's, and more moldy paneling.We didn't touch this insulation; it's so disintegrated that it's just not there.
This really can't be good.
"Hairline crack," "fixed the intrusion issue," "everything looked ok behind the paneling." We're beginning to think our previous owners were duped by their contractor.

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3.26.2010

Tweet, Tweet

No, we're not on twitter, keeping up on our favorite blogs is distraction enough for us. We're talking about tweets of the bird variety. When we lived in Florida, we had a pair of loyal cardinals who visited our feeder daily. Birds were few and far between in our feral cat-infested neighborhood so I was a bit irrationally attached to these two birds and kind of sad to leave them. When we moved to the Hive we were happy to discover a huge population of birds hanging out our trees and overgrown hedges and not a single feral cat sighting.

As you may recall, we cut down a prime nesting tree, and just last weekend we drastically cut-back an overgrown hedge. But, I swear to you, we love the birds and we want to encourage them to hang out in our cat-free haven. So a few weeks ago we unpacked our Heritage Farms Absolute II squirrel-proof bird feeder, which just happens to be the best bird feeder ever and worth every expensive little penny.
We positioned our feeder so we could see it from our living room, and more importantly so I will be able to see it from my desk when we move my office to the renovated sun room.
We filled the feeder with black oil sunflower seed and patiently waited for the birds to discover the tasty snacks. Over the past few weeks the bird traffic has increased, but we had notable turning point the other day when a pair of cardinals came back to the feeder several times throughout the day.
And they've been back several times since, most recently perching on the rain gutter above the feeder and just under my current office window. Once we're finished with this whole sun room, and after we've moved on from the fence, and when we've replaced the shed that we secretly hope will self-destruct, I want to plant  a bird friendly garden surrounding the feeder.

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3.25.2010

Waste Pick-up in this City Rocks

The other day when all my stuff from Maine was being off-loaded from a giant truck, S split his time between checking off each box number from his list and chopping the heck out of a waaaaaaaay overgrown hedge. Both activities left us with a huge amount of waste for the city to kindly remove. Our front yard looked like this again:
minus the snow and plus a whole lot of this:
The hard-working trash and recycling guys (they literally run up the hill from one house to the next) took care of all the boxes. But the clippings required a special pick-up. Less than 24 hours after I went online to schedule the brush removal, this guy showed up and expertly scooped up the whole brush pile.
What happened next is what we found so cool. As you can see above, there were some leaves and a few small branches left behind on the street. The scoop operator guy jumped down from the truck, grabbed and rake, raked up every last clipping and leaf, and then scooped it all into the back of his truck.
Then he moved down the street and did the whole process again, rake and all. This guy was thorough and we're impressed. Kudos to our waste removal team.

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Window Drama

On Monday we wrote about the disappointingly poor service we received at a Renewal by Andersen showroom (at the showroom, not from the original rep who visited our home). The experience had us running across the street to the good 'ole 'Depot where we discovered Jeld-Wen windows. Since Monday we've done a little bit more research about Jeld-Wen and remain impressed.

On Monday we also received an email from an Andersen rep who a. apologized for the service we received at the showroom and b. spoke negatively about Jeld-Wen. While we appreciate the apology, we are sorely disappointed with the negative statements about a competitor's product. We understand that the window business is competitive, but we would really prefer to hear about the positive aspects of one brand's windows rather than a parade of horribles about another's. Talk about window drama!

We took the "warnings" from Andersen with a grain of salt, but decided to contact Jeld-Wen to give them a chance to put our minds at ease. So far we've heard nothing but positive reviews about Jeld-Wen from purchasers, sellers, and installers, and to date no one from Jeld-Wen has spoken negatively about another brand. We'll be placing our order for windows next week and really hope this project continues without any further drama. Stay tuned....

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3.23.2010

Sun Room Renovation: Windows

We had a few replacement window companies come to the Hive a few months ago before we decided to try our hand at re-glazing our windows ourselves. While they were here we asked each company to provide a separate quote for sun room windows since right now we just have drafty, single pane, fixed windows and we want something we can open.

My favorite windows were Renewal by Andersen, so this weekend we decided to go to the showroom to ask more questions and to open and close a few windows in person. Unfortunately our showroom visit was less than enjoyable. The salesperson who came to our house wasn't at the showroom and no one who was there would answer any of our questions. Apparently it's all about the commission and not about the customer over there at Renewal by Andersen in Falls Church, VA. Suffice to say that Renewal by Andersen are no longer my favorites. Big old fail for Andersen.

After being sorely disappointed by Andersen, S suggested we pop across the street to the 'Depot to assess our DIY options since we were never really sold on having someone else do the work for us anyway. Friendly door & window guy was more than happy to sit down and run through options from several companies from us. And then door & window guy made our day...apparently Jeld-Wen makes stock windows, as in no special custom size fees, that are TWO double-hung windows wide and fit our rough opening within an inch vertically and horizontally. This is big news. Big.

If the fact that the windows are TWO double-hung windows wide, which means we only have to install four window units instead of eight, wasn't fantastic enough, the price nearly had me jumping out of my seat. Each set of TWO windows will cost what I expected to pay for one window. The windows are going to cost 1/2 of what I expected. So install will be easier and cost will be less. What's not to love?

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3.21.2010

Another Shipment of Stuff, Stuff, Stuff

This week we got all of this:
this:
this:
and this:
from storage and into this:
Which means that early Friday morning our finished basement room went from this:
to this:
in just over an hour as two guys emptied the truck into our basement, sun porch, yard, and kitchen as S stood by checking each numbered box off his list as it passed by.
We've officially melded households, married our stuff, and over-filled our house. We're bursting at the seams. We've made huge progress since Friday morning when S started to unpack and Friday evening when I joined him after work. Our Goodwill and yard sale piles are growing by the minute, but surprisingly we're finding homes for most of the stuff. And now that we have all our wedding gifts in our disaster zone that's littered with pink pillows and manly man crap, it really feels like it's our newlywed home.

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3.16.2010

More Blogs to Love: Made by Girl

I just added Made by Girl to the list of blogs I love. I love Jennifer's style and am particularly fond of the new pink pillows she bought for her living room sofa (a beautiful craigs list find). I'm eagerly anticipating the delivery of my pink pillows as I sit here patiently awaiting the arrival of our moving truck, round two.

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3.15.2010

Sun Roon Renovation: Keeping the Heat In & Cold Out (or Vice Versa)

We insulated the ceiling of the sun room-soon-to-be-office a few months ago during a short stretch of warm weather, but months of snow and cold have held up the sun room renovation since then. When the forecast called for 60 and sunny last week we quickly moved "insulate sun room floor" to the top of the to-do list.

We removed the beat-up lattice trim and S crawled under the sun porch with his tape measure and a pad of paper to figure out exactly how much insulation we needed to buy. With little in-house storage and a shed that's falling in on itself, making sure we do not accumulate leftover project materials is critical. After doing a bit of research online, we decided to secure the insulation with sheets of plywood, mostly to keep critters from building any kind of nest in the fiberglass batting.

With our measurements and a gift card from my brother and sister-in-law in hand we set off for the 'Depot. We picked out the insulation for floors and basements with the highest R value we could find and bought one bundle of sheets for the straight-cut areas, and one roll for the places where we would cut the insulation on a 45 degree angle. Instead of buying the cheapest 1/2" plywood we could find, we opted for 1/4" luan because it was marginally less expensive, but much lighter and hopefully easier to maneuver in the two-foot high crawl space.

We took my car to the 'Depot because it has a rack on top and apparently that makes it more suitable for carrying plywood than S's car. I hardly think it matters. It was a minor fiasco putting the plywood on the car, but fortunately we were at the 'Depot early enough that we didn't gather an audience, so I don't think we'll be showing up on YouTube any time soon. However, I was so nervous driving with the plywood on top of the car that I forgot to take any photos. Boo me.
Once back at the Hive, S suited up in work clothes covering as much as his body as possible, and pulled out the drill, circular saw, and tape measure. He made quick work of the insulating portion of the project as he crawled in and out from under the porch about a gazillion times.
The angle cuts were a bit more tricky, and unfortunately there were a ton of them.
S had his system down and I was relegated to insulation-passer and photographer, two jobs I gladly accepted.

The luan proved to be much easier to work with in the tight space than heavy plywood would have been. The cordless circular saw cut through it easily, which is a good thing since each sheet needed a few inches shaved off of the end and at least once notched out area for the foundation posts.
The whole project took just a bit more than half a day, including the trip to Home Depot. Hopefully all the hard work will pay off in the end. It's just a bit difficult to notice any difference when we still have eight single-pane, drafty porch windows in the room. Guess what just moved into the top slot on the to-do list?

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3.10.2010

Saying Goodbye to a Friend

We gathered with friends and family from all across the country at Arlington National Cemetery on Monday to say goodbye to LT Clint Wermers, a Naval Flight Instructor at Whiting Field, near Pensacola, FL. The ceremony was impressive and touching. My heart breaks for his wife, two young daughters and baby to be born in May. His untimely death severs as a reminder to be grateful for every moment we have with our loved ones.

A memorial fund has been set-up for Clint's wife and children at:
http://www.airwarriorcourage.org/donations.html
Make note in the comments field on the donation page that your donation is for LT Clinton Wermers' family.

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3.07.2010

One Less Tree to Hug

When I was a year old my dad planted small maple trees at the end of our driveway in celebration of my first birthday. The canopies of my birthday trees grew together when I was in high school and now create a huge, arching entry to our driveway. It took several strands of lights to just wrap the lower trunks of the trees last summer for our wedding.

I love trees. Unfortunately, one of our trees at the Bee Hive was growing under an oak tree and suffering from being light-starved for most of the year. We planned to cut the evergreen down at some point this spring. I watched the tree carefully for the past few weeks to make sure there were no birds nesting in it, but today from my office window, I spotted a pair of cardinals scoping out its branches for what I assume would be a nesting spot. I somewhat frantically told S that we had to chop it down immediately before we risked ousting nesting birds.

Not to be foiled by a work-work weekend, S arrived home on Sunday at 4:30 and called his dad to come over with his chain saw, eager to make a check in the to-do list. Several minutes later S was climbing the ladder to tie off the top of the tree while I watched on.
With S at the end of the rope pulling with all his weight away from the neighbor's yard, his dad cut a wedge facing S and then finally all the way through from the opposite side of the trunk. The tree came down precisely where they wanted, which is a damn good thing since in the five minutes it took for the whole operation to commence, we had gathered a small audience.
Now we're left with a bit more yard cleaning work and a few nice fires worth of firewood.

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Personal Photos: Our Wedding

We're not fans of having photographs displayed throughout the entire Bee Hive. It's not that we don't like photographs, and we adore our families (ok so maybe I adore mine and S loves his in a more normal and less obsessive, I-talk-to-my-mom-six-times-a-day way), but you just won't find snapshots of family hanging out in our living room.

I love photo albums, and I whip out our wedding photo booth album weekly, which got me thinking that maybe we should display a few photos from our best day ever. My goal was not to show a ton of friends and family on one wall, but to create a dramatic display that evokes feelings of the sheer excitement of the day.

I identified a spot where we could display them prominently, see them several times a day, and where they would not draw attention away from any other element of the Hive. I bought HUGE frames, which is a bit counter-intuitive given the size of the Hive and our claim that we're not fans of the personal photograph.

Then I waited. I waited two months to finally place an order for five photographs. It took me that long to identify the "right" five photos and to finally decide to order the photos in black & white rather than color. Two days later I had them spread out on the dining room table, ready to be framed.
Hanging photos is an exercise in absolute precision at the Bee Hive, so stay tuned while we torture ourselves over here.

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First Signs of Spring

We're seeing the first signs of spring at the Bee Hive this weekend, including blue skies without a trace of clouds. To celebrate I picked up several bunches of daffodils at Trader Joe's yesterday and arranged them in three Ikea vases on the mantle.
The arrival of spring means we'll be able to start addressing some of our outside projects. We have a tree that needs to be cut down before the birds start to build nests, a shed that's darn near ready to fall over, tons of scrap wood removed from the basement that needs a trip to the dump, and hedges that need a heavy pruning. Hello spring! Hello growing project list!

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3.06.2010

Pulling it all Together

S and and I have somewhat similar styles and he is pretty laid-back when it comes to decorating, but integrating our stuff has been more of a challenge than I expected. I like clean lines, no clutter, simple patterns, and light spaces whereas he prefers a heavier colonial look centered around his prized possessions: ornate wool & silk rugs from the Middle East. I can appreciate their beauty, but the ornate patterns look chaotic to my eye and are anything but soothing. I actually feel agitated in every room we have his rugs on the floor. It's kind of a problem since they're in every room I spend any time in.
The carpets have me completely stumped and frankly, a little depressed. I was excited when we moved into the Bee Hive and started to make it ours. But now that we've reached the point of putting it all together, every vision I have for a room falls apart when the carpets are introduced. Clean lines are thrown in to chaos and any hope for a few brightly colored spring throw pillows violently clash with the dark, heavy, winter blues, deeps greens and burgundys in the carpets. I hate the road block these carpets are throwing at me; we need some serious design help. At this point I can't even imagine what we're going to do if we retire the tired, huge, blue stripe couches to the basement and buy a deep brown leather couch and chairs reminiscent of a windowless library reading room that S keeps sending me links to. I think it's going to be an either-or situation. Dark carpets or dark couches, but not both. I feel like I'm living in a deep, dark man-cave. Someone get me out of here.

I ordered this drum shade from Ballard Designs today, which is one summery-feeling thing that doesn't clash with the carpet in the living room.
We're going to use it on a much needed floor lamp in a corner of the living room. I stumbled on it yesterday when I was quickly flipping through catalogs before tossing them in the recycling bin. I think it should balance out the three Ikea poofs that live in the opposite corner of the living room.
Have you made a room feel light and summery even with a heavy carpet grounding the space? Or do we need to find a compromise and rotate the carpets out for the season?

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3.03.2010

Recessed Lights & Ceiling Paint - Day 4

S ended his part of the kitchen light project on Monday afternoon with our kitchen looking like this:
Except all the lights were hanging about 4" down from the ceiling to give me room to patch and paint. After work on Monday I finished patching around each hole where the plaster had chipped away.

My plan was to paint the ceiling with bright white ceiling paint that our previous owners left in the basement for us. It's a new can of Fresh Air paint from Home Depot, which I've heard good things about, but when I put a little on the ceiling I was just, well, a little too blinded by the white. I had seen ceilings with color around the blog world before, most recently on Young House Love where they painted their nursery ceiling with an aqua color that matched the celery green walls nicely.

With the Youngsters as my inspiration I pulled out a few cans of paint from the stash of grays we used throughout the house, each a few shades lighter than the walls, but in the same paint-chip family. I thought for sure that I was going to gravitate toward the lightest of the shades, but to my surprise I fell hard for Benjamin Moore's White Diamond, which happens to be the color we used on the basement man-room walls, and was the darkest of all the swatches. It's the color on the right in this photo, and while it doesn't look like much here, I swear the one on the right is darker, and that it's only two shades lighter than the walls.
Don't worry, S couldn't see a bit of difference either. I called our local paint shop and had them mix a gallon of Benjamin Moore's Aura with a matte finish, which they recommended for the best coverage given I didn't want any possibility of having to do two coats. Ten minutes later I was at the counter with paint in hand, just before they closed for the day.

I cut in around the edges of the ceiling with my favorite 2" angle brush and then around each can. It got pretty toasty being up next to the warm bulbs, especially since I was bundled in a sweater and down vest that I just threw my painting shirt over. There's no time to change when we're in project mode.
Aura paint can be a little frustrating to use if you don't let it dry before going over an already-painted area. So I left the cutting-in portion to dry while we met S's parents for dinner. Once we were home again I rolled out the ceiling using a 9" roller with a splatter guard. It was my first time using a splatter guard and I didn't get a single drip on me or the floor so I'll definitely be reaching for it again next time around.

After the whole room dried overnight we popped the lights back into place and went from this (god awful photo of me painting in my pajamas the week we moved in):
to this:
I am super happy with how the ever so slightly tinted ceiling brings out more bluish hues in the cabinets rather than the yellowish tint they had before. The whole room looks so cohesive and soothing that I just keep finding reasons to go downstairs for another peek. We still need to find the perfect pendant for the bare wire hanging in front of the window, but that's a project for another day.

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3.01.2010

Recessed Lights in the Kitchen - Day 3

We left off last night with a massive clean-up job and five empty Swiss cheese holes in the ceiling. We popped lights into four of the installed housings and put one reflector trim piece into one of the lights, just to see how it looked. It looked great and even with only four bulbs the amount of light was fantastic.
After we cleaned up the dust from every nook and crack (even those that we had covered), I took out my putty knife and some joint compound patch stuff and carefully patched around the circles. S woke up early to wet sand the dried compound, which unfortunately will need another coat tonight. He also moved the light fixture that was in the kitchen to the upstairs hall. It looks pretty fabulous, minus the fact that the old fixture covered up a big area of green ceiling. Ugh, ceiling paint.

S had the day off today so we headed out to the lighting store as soon as it opened this morning. The counter was packed with contractors, but we were the first customers in the sleepy showroom. It only took a few minutes to swap out our too-tall fixtures for shorter ones and we were back home before I had to start work for the day.

S decided to tackle the shallowest of the holes first. That blurry gray thing is a heating duct, only five inches from the ceiling.
It took some serious finagling, but S got it the light up there and managed, after several tries, to get the trim piece to sit flush with the ceiling. Because there is no insulation in that particular hole we were less concerned about mangling the housing.
Plaster dust started to fly again, my patch job was getting torn to bits, and it was at this point that I retired to my office for the day. I have to admit, however, I did drink at least a dozen glasses of water so I could keep going downstairs to check on the progress.

Now everything is up, the light is great and I just need to patch and paint.
We're tracing around the trim pieces to mark exactly where the perfect, smooth ceiling has to start. This way when we drop the trim out later tonight so I can patch the plaster, I'll know exactly how far past the hole I need to smooth everything out.

Tomorrow night I'll probably start painting the ceiling, but as I've mentioned before, painting one room downstairs means painting them all, and I'm just not excited about that. Plus, I have several sail bags to sew from orders we received this weekend so the ceiling may just have to look shoddy for a few more days.

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