Nothing to show

No excitement around here for the holiday weekend, other than we can now get our cars in the garage. The basement has some extremely well built shelving under the stairs. A bit short for our needs, we removed two levels through much hammering and prying, then cleaned and moved boxes and storage tubs to the basement. A few boxes came inside to be unpacked, and everything else was organized and stacked before I swept out the leaves and dirt.

We're starting to amass some debris with the shelving lumber, closet doors, and a shelf I pryed down when stripping wallpaper in the corner bedroom. A few more closet doors (sliding doors suck, you can't see what's in your closet!), a built in desk, and some drapery valances and I'm going to have to have things hauled away. Locals, I need a recommendation.

Our garage is paneled in a sort of oversized beadboard, and while it's tired and woody at the moment I think it would be really attractive painted. A lighter, brighter color would also help the light situation. Brett says that's way down on the list, and it will be a job with the cleaning and priming and fixing some old termite damage, but I think the end result will be worth it. It's unheated out there so it won't be until spring, but I'll be thinking of colors (a pale gray-green currently leads the pack) all winter.

On the wildlife front, Fox ran past the house heading south on Valley about a half hour ago.

Finally, the weekend mail brought the monthly homes association newsletter. Controversy! There's disagreement about the election of members, how many actual members are proscribed by the by-laws, nonconforming garage builds, neighbors with petitions and open letters from the board members. Brett was president of the board at the condo, and I think our plan here is to remain blissfully uninvolved, but it was entertaining reading. We're part of The Homes Associations of Kansas City, which used to be named The Homes Associations of the Country Club District. Frankly I like the former, more pretentious name.

Tomorrow the gutter guys are back to install our new oversized gutters. Yay for downspouts!

Messenger Bag

So here is the only before shot I have of the house. I should have taken some detail photos, but the details were pretty grisly and I just never made it a priority. The house was stone, and white. White siding, white trim, all white. The shutters are falling apart, but at least they're black. The new shutters will be black as well, hopefully debuting by this spring.
Painting is pretty much done now with the exception of some touch up and scraping, and I think Jeff said they forgot a door somewhere, although I haven't found it yet. The siding is Sherwin Williams' Messenger Bag, trimmed in their Navajo White. Soffits and doors, including the garage door, are the Navajo White. Doors need to be replaced and the plan is that they will eventually be black. The garage door hasn't been decided on yet. Clopay makes a glass and steel door with a monster price, but lord it would be cool. We also need to think about moving some electrical from up over the door (on a quick yet short motion sensor), and we're thinking about a pair of lanterns flanking the garage door.
The back of the house. If it looks like the patio is crumbling and the railing is detached, that's because it is and it is.

The back of the house from the other end of the yard, looking toward the back of the garage. Every single bush is coming out as they're all overgrown, although it'll probably happen in sections. I'm really looking forward to landscaping again.

The west side and the big master bedroom corner window. See the smaller window on the left? At the upper right corner of that window there was a huge spot of wood rot that was basically a hole in the side of our house.

A close up of the front gables. Everything has sharp edges now, which I think really helps clean up the look.

East end, kitchen and east dining room windows. Sharp edges here Our big picture windows all look dirty. It's not that we can't clean, it's that it's dirt and condensation between the double panes. They're like that until they're replaced. Grrr.

So there's the big After! It's been funny to watch people drive by and look, which we can do easily as we're short on window coverings. Yesterday Brett was out early and someone walking down Valley Road told him it was looking good. We decided to go ahead with the paint because on some level we wanted people to know things would get better. It's turned out to be an even better decision. There was plenty of wood rot in addition to that hole in the west end, and I feel much better about the coming winter knowing the house is better protected.

Let's talk for a moment about Adam Lambert

I don't watch American Idol with any regularity. In fact, I believe that each season's beginning episodes, the ones where they show the auditions, are just plain poisonous. Personalities comprised of such a raging mix of ego and desperation and entitlement and need have no business competing for anything, airtime least of all. But, I did pay just a bit more attention last season for two reasons: Chris Allen was adorable, and Adam Lambert was so unapologetically gay.

Much has been written about Adam, and while I've read some headlines, that's where I stopped. But a couple things happened this week that have made me think about him a little bit more.

During his performance at the American Music Awards he grabbed one of the male dancers for a little crotch-to-face grind, and ABC has been fielding complaints ever since. Then today, the network abruptly canceled his scheduled performance tomorrow morning on Good Morning America. (CBS, with nothing to lose, has promptly taken advantage of his surprise availability for their Morning Show) The network (ABC) that has so proudly showcased a new show featuring a gay couple, half of whom is being played by my cousin, promptly folded when the gay got a little bit gritty.

There's a part of me that thinks it was a tasteless move on Adam's part, considering the venue. When you perform on an awards show on network tv you know the size of the audience, and you might think that would be the time to tame your act just a little bit. I can totally argue that point.

But then there's another part of me, part of me that has watched Madonna and Britney and Christina and Shakira and countless other performers for years. That part of me wonders if Adam's little face plant was really so horrible? I mean Britney has a song on the radio entitled "If You Seek Amy." And we're upset about a few seconds of simulated fellatio? Come on.

Plenty of those complaints I'm sure came from parents, and their dismay is probably justified. Honestly, might it not be a good idea to put every live award show on a tape delay? Just in case? Then again, having seen what we've seen from so many performers, should kids of a certain age even be allowed to watch? I could argue either way.

Today Towleroad featured Adam's new video for his song "For Your Entertainment." Before I watched it I don't think I ever heard a whole Adam Lambert song. There's a lot to like. The song is strong and sexy, and the video is fun, a den of goth guys and girls dancing and grinding far, far underground. I hate his haircut, but Adam is darkly attractive in a leather suit with silver shoulder spikes and a lot of guyliner.

There's something good there, something that makes me want to see and hear what he'll do next. I just worry that there's a gay/straight double-standard in play, and it would be a real shame if he fell victim to it. Thinking about slasher movies and crime dramas, is a little bit of sex, even man-on-man sex, really the worst thing we could see?

What do you think?

What a difference some paint makes

I should have taken some before shots to illustrate just how bad the paint on the outside of the house was. What might have illustrated it even better would have been a 'during' shot to show the sheer amount of wood showing after they powerwashed and scraped the siding and trim. But as usual, I forgot to do either.

But I will have in the next few days some post-painting pictures to share, and that's kind of exciting. I'll contrast them with the shot of the house I swiped from the MLS listing, showing it all tired and white. The trim is now Navajo White (a bit creamier) with Messenger Bag siding, a nice dark khaki green.

Jeff Chaney Painting has done a great job and taken care of not a small amount of wood rot (we had a hole in our house!) and glazing. Mrs. Blandings and Soodie both gave good reviews and you can now add ours to that list. Photos to follow.

UNRELATED UPDATE: I started this earlier in the evening but posted a few minutes ago, it's just a bit after 11pm. I'm sitting in the dining room with picture windows on two walls, and A FOX just ran down the street. Where do foxes live in the city?

When floor space is at a premium

I know it must seem like I'm obsessed with gutting our bathrooms but it takes a while for plans to come together in my head, so bear with me. The half-bath (with the purple sink and toilet) are way down on the to-do list, but I'm tossing ideas around. Tucked in between the kitchen and the family room, I'm guessing it's about 4 by 6 or so. It's not a bad size, but there are a couple things we can do to make it feel more spacious. One is moving the sink from next to the toilet to the end wall facing the door. The other has to do with the toilet itself.

Pictured above is the Duravit Vero toilet with in-wall tank. Not only does its concealed tank give back a bit of floor space, but look at the sides, all verticle. I'm betting it bolts to the wall rather than the floor, so you don't have to have those flat parts on the sides that catch dust, or those annoying bolt caps that invariable come off when you're scrubbing things down.

My question for you is do you have, or know anyone who has, an in-wall tank? Duravit is a german company and I tend to trust german engineering, but it's very different from what one normally sees so I'm slightly hesitant. Also they're not cheap, so if I decide to go with it (ha!) it's a fairly serious commitment.

From reading around the net, I believe they come with a "service door" that installs on the other side of the wall so you can get in easily should something need a repair. The other side in this case would be my kitchen, but if I place the fridge there (which would make sense in the kitchen plan) getting to the service door could be as easy as rolling it out from the wall.

So, anyone have any experience with these? If you do, please share.

Mr. Blue Sky

The rain is finally gone! The painters are back scraping the house as we speak and the foreman said they hope to work through the weekend. Stay as long as you can boys!

Also serving to elevate my mood, the electricians are in the basement running a 220 line for the dryer.

I'm off to strip some wallpaper, enjoy your day!

Some thoughts on the holidays

NPR this evening mentioned a recent survey report that said 80 percent of respondents planned to buy fewer holiday gifts this year, and a large percentage (I forget the number) was planning to pay cash. Gift buying within our means? And in cash? How un-Christmas-y!

The slow economic recovery and uncertainty about the job market were the reasons that most gave for reining it in a bit this year. Of course this has retailers running scared and apparently the discounting has already begun. (when and how did the holiday shopping season become a business model?) While the report never specifically said it, the general tone was that this was bad news.

Except that it's not. It's not bad news for me, and I hope it's not for you either.

I was an only child and an only grandchild, so I'm completely familiar with a big Christmas. I can remember the piles of boxes and toys. But the thing that I remember most? White undershirts. Always from JC Penney, and always

To: David
From: Grandma & Grandpa

I'm sure they were unwrapped and unceremoniously tossed aside for something more fun, but that memory is still with me because of what it represented: Grandparents who wanted to give me everything I wanted, and made absolutely sure I had everything I needed. White undershirts, as unexciting as they are, meant love.

Brett and I realized a long time ago that we pretty much buy ourselves most things we want, so we downsized our Chrismas. Our hundred buck limit seemed harsh at first, but it forces us to be creative and pay attention. (okay, full disclosure, I actually paid for the sheets the dogs gave us last year) While I like presents as much as anyone, what I like more is when our family obligations are done and we get home, make a drink, and sit down to open our presents together. It's small and laid-back, and only sort of about the gifts, but it's my favorite thing.

I guess what I'm thinking is that as awful as the news seems sometimes, there are some good take-aways if we look for them. It's not our responsibility to prop up the retail sector by losing our heads in December and putting ourselves in debt for months. Nobody needs a bunch of stuff just for the sake of stuff. And just a little bit of thought can make the smallest gift the best gift. Sometimes less really can be more.

And while I'm on the subject, none of this should start before Thanksgiving.

Number please

I hate bad house numbers. I used to think that companies made a lot of ugly digits for the outsides of our homes, but I've changed my mind. I now think that options are relatively slim, and that half the country uses those sort-of-script serif numbers in black. While I think those are bad, at least they're not the number-spelled-out-in-script ones that make my head hurt.

Richard Neutra specified aluminum numbers for his homes, and you can buy them through Design Within Reach. I think they're pretty much perfect, but the problem is, they're 48 bucks a piece. I've got far more pressing needs that I can throw my 200 dollars towards right now, but when everything else is done, these will be mine.

While we wait, these were six or seven dollars at Westlake. Yes, the hardware store. Simple, silver, sans serif. (I like them so much I'm thinking about using them as drawer pulls on a piece of furniture I need to paint)

Plus they're about five inches tall which should show up from the street. We'll mount them over the porch on the now-will-be-Navajo White trim using the floating installation. I think a bit of shadow should make them show up just fine.

And yes, for the photo they're sitting on our unfinished, paint-splattered, long covered up hardwoods. See, plenty of other places to spend.

Firsts! Visible improvement

Tomorrow excitement comes to Chez Malaise with the beginning of our first big project - exterior paint!

The gutter guys should be there early to remove the old guttering and give the painting company a clear shot at everything they need to do. Following them the paint crew will begin powerwashing and hand scraping the house. I'll be very interested to see what results that yields as the paint is so bad it practically blows off in a strong breeze.

As for color, our original plan was to trim in black and add some color to the casa with a dark green. The test patches were bad, and the black was the issue. We're going with the green (Sherwin Williams' Messenger Bag) with their Navajo White for the trim. The white isn't bright and should provide a nice transition between painted wood and stone, and the Messenger Bag should contrast nicely with both stone and trim. The current black shutters are in horrible shape and will be replaced at some point, but will remain black as I still like it as an accent. A new front door is on the list but I'll likely paint the current door black for the time being.

I'll post a shot of the simple silver numbers soon.

Mrs. Blandings comes a calling

Sunday I ran out to the workshop to grab a can of black paint for some color testing on the house. I was getting in the car to come back home when Brett called: "Mrs. Blandings came by, and brought muffins!"

While there is one shown in this photo, our welcome was actually a huge plate of delicious pumpkin muffins. Delicious pumpkin muffins that disappeared in embarassingly short order. Tied with a grosgrain ribbon in her signature black and white.

That was so nice of you Patricia, thank you very much. It totally made our weekend.

Exterior paint and associated good news

It was a full house at Chez Malaise today. Brett's cousin picked up his folks on her way to Kansas City and brought everything for a fun family lunch. Both her daughters (who live in town, one just blocks away) and one of their husbands joined us for house touring and KU Football. The touring and discussing plans was fun, the football, not so much.

I started the day early with a trip to the laundromat, or as my mother says, the wash-a-teria. Our washing machine is in and working (with one hose to change), but the dryer is sitting sadly with no place to plug in until the electrician comes this week. (who has gas dryers anymore?!) I did a load the other night and used the clothesline we found strung in the basement. Rather than the "fresh from the sun and wind" I remember from my grandmother's outside clothesline, I got stiff and crinkly and unwearable. Laundromat technology has certainly advanced since my college days. They have a five-loader washer at $8.75 a pop. Of course I had whites, colors, and sheets/towels so I had to split among three.

During the festivities here the first paint contractor came by to bid our outside painting. We thought we'd wait until spring for that, but frankly the exterior of the house is in such bad shape that it's kind of a bummer every time we come home. The company was recommended by a friend in the guttering business, and once again, technology has come a long way.

He walked around the entire house with us, asking questions and plugging information into his laptop. With all the information on what we wanted, and all the estimates on what we needed, he had a full and extremely detailed quote, with options on a few things we'd discussed, in about 30 minutes.

The good news is that there is far less wood rot than we expected. He found two places where they'll have to replace boards, but that was it. His guess is that the house has not suffered from neglect it's entire life, but rather just for probably the last 20 years. Basically he says it looks worse than it really is.

We'll probably get another bid or two as a number of people have recommended painters, but I have to say, I like this company. I had a lone man paint my first house in Brookside, and while he did a good job, it took just over six months. He'd disappear, reappear, paint some more and then he was gone. Even the best lone painter is going to take longer, and we're running out of good weather. A large crew can do everything needed here in a week to ten days, and more importantly can start late next week.

So we went out tonight and got paint chips to narrow down candidates to sample on the house. And I'd seen some house numbers I liked so we picked those up as well. More to follow.

Firsts! A new series

I'm proud to present what will be a recurring post, Firsts! Where I'll recount both the alluring and the alarming in our little house project.

Starting us off is The Disconcerting Electrical Occurance. 11/1/10, 11pm: Brett flips the switch and the hall ceiling fixture shorts out with a "Zzzppt." I've felt the ceiling and inside of the fixture for warmth, I think we're okay.

And we're back

The move is over...and now the real work begins. Here I am last night ready to head out to the halloween party. Alex wanted to be in the picture too.

And here is the funny thing from moving day, the note we saw stuck to the movers' clipboard:

While it took the entire day, everything they touched was wrapped securely in moving blankets and babied all the way to the new house.