Friday, May 27, 2011

Office/Guest Room

This is a room of many names, but I envision that it will soon primarily be used as an office, and occasional guest room. Part of that vision includes removing the wallpaper, repairing the plaster, removing an extra doorway and repainting the room. Easily enough work for two people for a couple weeks.

But while I had the house to myself for a few days, inspiration struck. I decided I would see how far I could get on that room, working solo. I set a goal to do all the dusty work while I was home alone- stripping paint and wallpaper, tackling the doorway and repairing the plaster. That way, the room would be paint-able by the time my week was done. I picked up a lot of momentum removing the wallpaper.

As in the dining room, there were staples holding the wallpaper up in a few places:

Under the wallpaper, I found some caulk in the plaster... uh-oh...

What the in the world happened here??

We have several very nice neighbors, and one such neighbor helped remove the extra doorway. He, David, did almost all of the labor and advised me on what I would need to buy to complete the job. David is working on his house right now, and shared some of his tools. His house is a few years older than ours, and has some great features. He's also finishing the basement which will be attractive, comfortable and totally "Portland." His place is going to be very cool when he's done.

Here are some pictures of David in action:

I kept telling David "You're an animal!" but he wasn't sure it was a compliment. I assure you, it was. It was impressive to see how quickly and easily he could handle removing and closing a doorway.

I started stripping paint, and was about 30% through, while still working solo. I removed the hardware, in order to strip the paint. Here is a close up of the back of one of the hinges.

Have you seem this mark before? I haven't figured out what manufacturer it is yet. Do you have any cool stamps on your hardware?

Though I didn't reach my goal by the time my week living solo was done, I was glad to have my husband home and (fortunately) he was excited by my surprise project. Working together, we stripped a bit more paint, but now it's time for me to regroup, finish stripping paint and get on that plaster repair.

I am so excited to paint this room, and have it "complete." If you click that link, you'll see some colors I was playing with. What do you think of the greens? Let me know!! If you have a favorite wall color, we'd love to hear about it!

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Flooding, Storms and Preparedness

In Portland, the Columbia and Willamette Rivers are currently swollen from a long/late rainy season and snow-melt. Local news outlets are calling for more bridge lifts, and the highest river levels since the historic flooding of 1996. We are currently "near flood stage" according to the National Weather Service.

If you've been following the news, you've likely heard more about the flooding currently going on along the Mississippi River than the Willamette or Columbia. The images are just shocking, and my heart goes out to everyone in the South whose lives have been impacted by recent flooding and tornadoes.

Here are a few pictures that really pull at my heart-strings:

You may remember The Great Flood of the Mississippi River in 1993:

The tornadoes that blew through the South a few weeks ago shocked and horrified residents and those watching from afar. Tuscaloosa was hit especially hard:

Please keep the families living in these storm-ravaged areas in your thoughts. And consider this question: Do you have an emergency plan? These recent events should remind us all to spend sometime preparing (as much as possible) for the "worst case scenario."

In the event of an emergency, our best assest is preparedness. Visit and remember to make a kit, and make a plan. Discuss your plan regularly with your loved ones, practice what you would do in an emergency situation, and keep supplies current.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

The Plum is Re-homed!

Thanks to Puddles for coming to take the plum tree to its new home! Glad to save this tree by giving it new life in another yard!

Now, to mow that grass...

Found some great stones!

The other night I was searching the internet for pavers. I found these stones:

They are currently available in Tigard, Oregon. Click on the source link to check out the listing.
They remind me of these:

I took this picture downtown (in Portland). This is the only picture I have of them. If i get another, I'll update this post, but you get the idea. I love that the stones are less than refined, but are still fairly regular and even. For now I can only hope to find something similar when we are actually ready to use them.

I know many people search Craigslist for building/landscaping materials, fixtures, furniture and appliances. Have you found any great steals on Craigslist? Do you know anything that is listed currently that shouldn't be missed? It would be great to know what's out there!

Monday, May 9, 2011

New Homes for Old Friends

I am happy to report that I have found homes for the plum tree, the Japanese maple and the lilac.

The plum tree was handed to me 2 years ago, after it had been out of soil for nearly a week. It has ONE root (picture a dandelion root, or a twisty carrot) and no foliage. Even though I see lots of plum trees doing really well around Portland and the Pacific Northwest, our tree has not yet bore fruit. I'm sure one day it will have at least a few delicious fruits, but they will be enjoyed by our friend, Puddles.

I will miss the lilac the most. My grandma had a lilac for years. I remember it was big, and tons of [almost too] fragrant blooms. I loved that tree, and have enjoyed this one as well. I think our friends Rebekka and Randy are going to love having this at their house!

The same folks are taking the Japanese maple. This tree is still young, and will likely do well in the hands of a Green Thumb who knows better how to care of it, and can help sculpt it into a graceful, mature umbrella shaped canopy.

Some Home Improvement Perspective

Three years ago, I was reading the 1912 Bungalow blog, and followed a link to Joyce Wadler's 2008 New York Times article titled "Don’t Hate Me Because I’m Solvent." If you have ever worked on a home improvement project, if you enjoy old houses, or need to hear someone's story (because the house in the article was in way worse shape than most!), I recommend reading the NYT article (and pictures).

Early in the home's life:
Taken from the article, the following points were pulled from home owner (and home-improvement saint) David Giffels’s list of tips for taking on would-be-condemned house, found in the NYT article. These particle points really spoke to me:

"Invest in a heavy-duty vacuum." I couldn't agree more! A good, heavy-duty vacuum can be really helpful when trying to control dust, clean up after a job or sweep up spilled dog food/flour/anything. I used one today to dust the back the desk.

"Exploit the sweat equity of family members, but remember that if somebody gives you a day of work, you have to give one back down the line." Amen! We have a few neighbors that are GREAT at lending a hand. Because their houses are also in various states of home improvement, there is usually SOMETHING we can all pitch in to work on. And the work seems to easier when working as a group, I think.

"Do not be afraid to try things you have never done before." So true! Speaking of the neighbors, I'm always amazed as I watching them tear (sometimes, litterally) into a new project. It always encourages me to go home and dive into our next project.

“Anyone who paints a hinge spends one day in purgatory for each hinge that she or he has painted.” and “Every single person you ask how to get rid of squirrels will have a different method they swear is foolproof, and none of them work.” These two just make me laugh!

"Do not begin one project until you finish another." I swear, my husband must have read this list. He insists on finishing one project before starting the next. It drives me nuts at the time, but later I am grateful.

“... the last 10 percent of any project takes as long as the first 90 percent...” True of removing wallpaper, stripping paint, and just doing the laundry. So stinking true.

Do any of these points speak to you too? If you read the article, I'd love to know what really stood out for you. It's a great story, and easy to relate to. It's what we're all doing, but it is definitely on a greater scale than here at our house.

Several generations of the Giffels's work boots:

I want to give credit where credit is due, so again, the 1912 Bungalow post can be found here, Joyce Wadler's New York Times article can be found here, and the photos are posted here. Enjoy!

Friday, May 6, 2011

Saving on Power

Like us, frugal home owners everwhere are unplugging the dryer, have the television, gaming platform and DVD player on a power strip and have been known to shower with the light off (no? Just me on that one??). Then, I learned about something else: variable billing rates on electricity.

There are many similar programs out there, but I'll focus on our local service provider Pacific Power and their program "Time of Use" billing. After enrolling in Time of Use billing, for 12 months your power bill with reflect usage during On-Peak & Off-Peak Hours.


In the Summer, On-Peak hours are billed at a rate of $0.06124 per kWh. Winter On-Peak Hours bill at $0.03316 per kwh. Year-round Off-peak hours are billed at -$0.01125 per kwh. Did you see that NEGATIVE rate for Off-Peak hours??

"You will receive a credit for the number of kwh of electricity you used during off-peak hours and an additional charge for the electricity you used during on-peak hours." source

I'm still reeling.

So, should you make the switch? Pacific Power recommends taking this short quiz to help you make the decision. We scored 10 points on the quiz, so I'm feeling pretty good. But I'm happy to know about this program. This may be something to consider in the future. Maybe by then we can talk the oil companies into "off peak driving hours" or maybe the banks will offer "off peak spending hours"...