Tuesday, December 22, 2009


Thinking back over the year, we've actually done more work than we realize on the house. The "To-Do" list never seems to get any shorter so it isn't obvious I guess.
Back in September, I extended the basement shelves, bringing them all the way to the back of the house. Big Steve would have been horrified by my methods! I cannot cut a straight line even with a chalk line. I failed to put in as much support as he did on the shelves themselves (didn't realize that till they were already installed. But mine seem to be holding up just fine!). I also let them free float rather than anchoring them to the ceiling. But the craziest part was installing them. I very carefully used the level and measured the length of each support...once the bottom shelf is installed and level, theoretically, the supports up from there should all be equivalent lengths, right? WRONG! They were all different! I kept thinking "this can't be right". Measure twice, cut once I did and weirdly, the multiple height supports resulted in level shelves. I still don't know why it worked but it did!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Sabbatical ends...

It is safe to say we accomplished nothing on our house over the course of the summer. With winter approaching, we figured now was as good as time as any to get moving on some projects.

This weekend, our focus was on the vestibule and basement. After peeling two layers of vinyl tile, we were left with an ugly layer of VCT, but it should work as a sub-floor for new ceramic tile.

The second project was to get the basement walls sealed, but after doing one wall, the sealant fumes spread into both neighbors' houses and left all of us with a bad headache. We halted work until we can find a better alternative to the low-grade Depot stuff. We may also need some expert masonry work too.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Patio in full bloom

My last post on the patio staining was pretty vague, but a couple of friends have asked how hard of a process it was. Looking at the pictures you can decide for yourself:

One indifferent wife

One post-op dog

Actually two buckets of Behr Semi-Transparent stain colored for Terra Cotta using a roller got the job done in a couple of hours, and most of that was time for drying between hosing the concrete off, the first coat, then the second coat. It looked pretty ugly after the first coat, but the guy at the Depot told us it would.

After we brought everything back into the patio, I noticed our container plantings were looking really good this summer.

I am most impressed with the cactus I took off the hands of my neighbor. I wasn't sure what to expect, but give it a couple of weeks in direct sun and check out the difference.

Basic green and blah

Now flowering and thriving

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Eventually #2 wins

From our last post, we took advantage of Sunday's sunny weather to tackle project #2. What was a gray, cold rear patio was transformed into something warm and welcoming. How do you think it turned out?

Friday, May 22, 2009

What will it be? Cast your vote!

Ok, we have a long weekend in town and Marisa and I have several projects we "could" tackle this weekend, but we need your help. Vote for the project you'd like to see get compelted:

1. Build a second set of shelves in the basement.
2. Stain the back patio concrete.
3. Install a new door bell.
4. Seal and paint the basement walls.
5. Install the cable outlet box in the living room.
6. Sit out back and drink cocktails all weekend.

Please don't vote for #6. We'll most likely do that with or without your vote.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009


See this

Apparently having your gas feed from the main run through your neighbor's house is not a good idea. BGE proposed installing a new main and new meter. See old meter below.

A simple request to be at home at 8:30 AM today has turned into a day-long absence from work and this mess...

The crews aren't too happy. I don't know why they act like I built the house. They underestimated how deep the main gas line will be. The project will require them to come back tomorrow but I already notified Marisa it's her shift to cover.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Healthy Neighborhoods

Wow, has it really been more than 2 months since we’ve posted anything? This year is flying by! Sorry for the absence. I think Steve and I both got sick of the house…sick of working on it, talking about it, and even thinking about it!

We started the blog because Healthy Neighborhoods asked us if we would so I think we should finish the HNI part of our home renovation story…

Back when we signed the paper work for our loan, mortgage interest rates were around 5.75%. One of the risks with doing a HNI project is that your interest rate doesn’t lock in until the project is completed. During construction, you pay interest only and the rate floats with the market. Between June and October, the rates kept ticking up and up. Rates peaked right before our project was SUPPOSED to be finished. All that whining we did about wanting the house to be done, the delays actually became a huge benefit to us. By the time the project was complete, interest rates fell back down from above 6% all the way down to 5%. And as previously explained, part of the benefit of HNI is you get to lock in at 1% under the published rate. That’s right, we got to lock in for a 30 year fixed rate mortgage for 4%! After doing a lot of work on our house, our monthly payment is only a couple hundred more than before. With rates now even lower, HNI has set a floor of 4%.
HNI does more than just low rate mortgages. They also award block grants of up to $3,000. The block residents need to pick a project that improves or stabilizes the block. Our block is working on alley gating and as soon as we get the last couple of signatures we need, you better believe we'll be going to HNI for $$!

Monday, February 16, 2009


I have been meaning to keep the blog updated every Sunday, but given there is no penalty for missing a blog post, I quickly get behind.

After the big basement cleanup, we had planned a relaxing weekend with Big Steve (Dad) and Patti (Mom). After coffee, Big Steve wasn't so interested in checking out museums and instead re-directed us to National Lumber so that we could build the shelves Marisa had designed several months ago. Mom wasn't so thrilled with the plan, but she went along with the change of plans. Only Big Steve travels with the miter saw in the trunk of the car!

Marisa was determined to get her shelves built according to plan and she did.

After a couple of hours, the shelves were built and ready for our bins. To celebrate and thank them, we took them out for a great dinner at Peter's Inn.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Basement Blowout

Sunday's sole job was to get the basement in order so that the following items could occur:

1) The mess from the 1st floor needs to go down into the basement.

2) The mess from the basement needs to be moved to the front of the basement so that we can build shelves in the rear of the basement.

3) The mess from the rear of the basement either needs to be donated, recycled, or trashed.

In the midst of sorting, recycling, trashing and moving, I found some real treasures in this mess.

A bottle of rum...with Marisa and my picture on it from our honeymoon. Letting it age.

A journal I shared with my mom, back in February 2002, until one of the cats threw up on it while it was in the basement. I have "cleaned" it and hope to send to mom soon!

A flea house fogger we bought when Ferris had a case of fleas and we over-reacted. Never needed to use it but too thrifty to throw it out.

Some people are found dead in their homes with years of newspapers surrounding them. Somehow we have amassed a granny's cart full of plastic bags for Ferris' #2s. I think we can spare a plastic bag here.

And finally the best of the day! This great warning not to pack your child with the x-mas decorations.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Whistle Stop & Re-claiming the Flag

We took a break from painting and organizing this weekend to take part in the Obama Inaugural Whistle Stop Tour. We didn't want to miss out on this opportunity so we, along with our neighbor Kelly and her family, and my cousin Philip headed downtown early and spent a very cold 5 hours waiting for Obama to arrive. It was another 2 hours after his arrival before we were warm again but every one of us agreed it was worth it!

We decided we had enough of standing around in the cold on Saturday and we really couldn't top our view or experience so we stayed home in Baltimore and watched the inaugural activities from the warmth of Kelly's house with her and her family. To celebrate the inauguration of Barak Obama, we hung American Flags on our house and Kelly's house. We've had our flag for a couple of years now but just didn't feel motivated to display it until now.