Monthly Archives: March 2009

Before and After


Guess what?

I am writing this from the master bedroom in our very own house!  That’s right–moving day has come and gone, leaving a trail of sore muscles, stacked boxes, and happy new homeowners in its wake.  I am exhausted and elated in equal measures.  Recent days have passed in a whirlwind of activity, and I’ve barely had time to breathe, but at last I can sit down and catch you up on all the fun details.

We closed over a week early on the house, and it’s a good thing we did, because the renovating work I so flippantly planned to accomplish in one Saturday before the move actually took about five days, and all the helping hands we could recruit.

In the past week, I’ve learned a couple of things:

1) Home improvement projects always take longer and cost more than you think they will.


2) We have the best friends in the whole wide world.

Since we got the keys to our place on the 18th, a small army of generous, hard working friends has been crawling over the house like worker ants–demolishing the old floor, taping and painting, installing the thermostat, cutting laminate flooring, and generally making me all teary-eyed with gratitude for their willing hearts and hands.  They brought over every tool they own, and spent night after night of their own precious free time wrestling with baseboard molding and breathing paint fumes.  They bent their backs to every large and small task I had on my massive To Do list, and then came back after all that and moved our heavy furniture and our thousand boxes, all with cheerful hearts and unflagging good grace.

A million thanks to:

Ben–our very own Helpful Hardware Man, who has generously donated time, supplies, and his limitless knowledge of home improvement techniques.  Also, he let me use his pneumatic nail gun.  Have you ever used a pneumatic nail gun?  That alone puts him near the top of my favorite people list.

Jim–cheerful and resourceful, he isn’t afraid to dive in and figure things out.  He presided over the destruction of our old kitchen and dining room floors, trimmed down and installed closet shelves, and provided the saw and the muscle for getting our new floor started.  His wife, Alyson, brought lunch for the entire crowd on moving day, including diet coke and my favorite store-bought cookies, Fudge Stripes.

Michael–a jack-of-all-trades, he was there with his wife Jessica every single day, helping out wherever he was needed, from demolition to taping off the molding.  He just showed up and said, “Put me to work.”  What a servant heart!

Jessica–room painter extraordinaire.  She mastered the art of cutting in and using the paint edger without getting goop all over the place (I’m still working on that.)

Brenda–even with a sick child at home and a fast-approaching moving day of her own on the horizon, she showed up to wield a paintbrush and kept us entertained with her witty banter.  I can’t wait to return the favor next week when she’s painting her new home.  (My banter might not be witty, but at least I can guarantee it will be plentiful.)

Martin–taped up the high places and provided chairs and stools for those of us who needed a little help to reach the heavens.

Patrick and Allison–speed painters.  I left for a quick hardware store run and when I returned, the family room was almost completely painted!  Patrick also risked life and limb last night to help Paul maneuver our new fridge up the stairs and into the kitchen.  I just watched from a chair across the room, praying that he wouldn’t get squished.

Ryan–drove in from the Valley to help out on moving day (and to scope out the location of future WoW LAN parties, of course).

Kathy–cleaned out her van (and its impressive collection of kid-related detritus) to haul boxes and spent the day waging a campaign to get everyone to start calling the family room the rumpus room.

Dad–brought his truck, his trailer, and his years of experience to bear on the logistical puzzles involved in moving large pieces of furniture through a narrow split entry.  (Clue: removing the front door helps.)

Yvie–Shop vac operator.  She became a torrent of cleanliness in the crazy mess that was our garage.

Mimi–wheeler, dealer, floor joint sealer.  On Wednesday she helped us close on the house and on Thursday she called to see when the work party would be.  She showed up with tools in hand and proceeded to work until the last floorboard was pounded into place.  Now that’s what I call a full-service real estate agent!

Yes, this is the house that love built.  Or at least the house that love painted and installed new flooring in.  Here are some pictures of the whole glorious, messy process:


Paul's dad loaned us his ladder for reaching the vaulted ceilings.


Jessica and Michael bringing color to the washed-out kitchen.


Well, this explains a lot.


Our own home improvement Ace, Ben. When it comes to "how to" questions, he's the guy to ask.


Brenda getting some practice in before painting her own house this week.


The old floor was destroyed to make way for the new one. I think most of the guys enjoyed the demolition much more than the reconstruction.


Jim and Mimi putting together the world's largest jigsaw puzzle.


Allison making sure we didn't accidentally paint our taupe carpet...taupe. Hmm.


Mimi and the dance of the seven saws.


Our new entry floor.


Ta da!


Green paint: $25. Laminate flooring: $312. Being able to look directly at your kitchen without wearing sunglasses: priceless.


Paul waiting for CSI to show up and outline him in chalk.


The family/rumpus room.


Caleb's blue room. I like the two different shades.


Katie's purple paradise.


Michael and Dad bring in the entertainment center.


Pause for lunch and a little web surfing.


Jessica and Michael taking a well-deserved break.


Paul and the mercifully un-squished Patrick catch their breath after manhandling the Amana up the stairs.

Lily, the littlest member of the moving crew, with mom Alyson and dad Jim.

Lily, the littlest member of the moving crew, with mom Alyson and dad Jim.

Kathy eating "see-food".

Kathy eating "see-food".


Caleb and Katie helping out with the move in their own special way.

So there you have it.  We are clearly blessed beyond what we deserve.

Thank you, Lord, for our new house–and for the friends that make it a home.

Now back to unpacking!

Bob Vila, What Hath You Wrought?


As promised, I’m going to fill this post with photos of our new house and comments about our many overly-ambitious home improvement plans.  Don’t worry, though; I don’t expect anyone but my mother to make it all the way through to the end.  As I mentioned before, buying your first house is a little bit like having your first baby.  Despite all evidence to the contrary, you feel like the first person in the history of the world to do it, and are temporarily rendered unable to talk about anything else.  I promise, long after everyone else has grown tired of hearing about it, I’ll still be posting long progress reports on the status of our basement wiring project and our fascinating plans for mulching the flower beds.

With that said, here we go!

Things we like about our new house:

*Size:  We were looking for a house with at least 1500 square feet and either a fourth bedroom or a bonus/family room that we could use as an office.  What we got was 1975 square feet, a fourth bedroom, AND a big family room downstairs!  We actually don’t have enough furniture to fill it, and that is a fun problem to have!  Now, do we go French Minimalist, or Greg Brady Beanbag Chic?

*Age:  We’ve been looking mostly at new construction, hoping to find something move-in ready with shiny new fixtures and a modern layout.  This house is ten years old, young enough to have some of the shiny left on it, but old enough that the neighborhood has been established and grown up a little.  Also, any major settling in the foundation or quirkiness in the house usually shows itself in ten years, which is comforting when you’re signing away your life savings.  It needs a little more TLC on the front end than a brand new house, mostly cosmetic things, but according to the home inspector, it has good bones and solid construction.

*Openness:  The moment we walked into this house, I fell in love with the big curved window in the living room.  It sang to me (“The hills are aliiive…with the sound of muuusic….”)  The whole upstairs is flooded with natural light, and with the vaulted ceilings in the living room, dining room, kitchen, and master bedroom, it has a wonderful open feeling.  Not to mention plenty of space for the family frisbee championships.

*The cool hidey-hole in Caleb’s room: It’s definitely his favorite feature, and as he grows up, I’ll know exactly where to look for all those contraband items he doesn’t want me to see.

*The built-in closet shelves: They will be definite improvement over our old organizational system, otherwise known as Piles of Stuff on the Floor.

*Vinyl siding: Because real love is never having to paint the house.

*Lots of storage space: Finally, somewhere to put all the boxes we never look into.

Not so great things about the house:

*The garage door opener is broken.

*The home inspection found high levels of radon in the basement, so we have to have a radon mitigation system put in so we don’t paper our lungs with irradiated radon particles.

*The backyard is adequate, but not very large.  So much for my plans to build a life-size replica of the HMS bounty for the kids to play in.

None of those things are dealbreakers, though, so I guess we’ve got ourselves a house!

Now, on to the pictures:


We’re taking it on faith that there is actual grass under all that snow.


This house was built without a deck, and apparently the original owner didn’t feel the lack, so he never added one.  We’ll be building one this summer or next, depending on when we can get the money together for it.  We’d like to build one with a ramp instead of steps, so that the upstairs at least would be wheelchair accessible.  We’ll also fence in the backyard with a vinyl privacy fence.


This is the upstairs living room.  That’s Kirk, one of our realtors, checking out the ceiling.  He was awesome, taking us around to what felt like dozens of houses without the slightest sign of impatience, letting us talk things over and form our own impressions without ever feeling like there was any pressure.    Kirk does all the showings and his wife, Mimi, handles the contracts and offers.  They’re great.


Here’s a shot of the dining area and a little of the kitchen.  We’re going to tear out the carpet in the dining room and the old flooring in the kitchen and lay down wood-look laminate through both areas.  Carpet in the dining room might work for grown ups, but our kids would have a rainbow of food stains on it before a week was out!  We’re also going to paint that back wall a sage green to give some contrast to the white cabinets and countertops in the kitchen.


Speaking of the kitchen, here it is.  Blinding, isn’t it?  The all-white motif really put me off the first time we saw this place, but I think once we get the darker floors in and paint that wall, it will be less severe.  We’d also like to eventually replace the countertops and sink with something darker, but that’s a project for the future.


We get to buy a refrigerator, an entirely new experience for us serial renters.  Paul wants one with the water and ice dispensers on the door.  I just want one that doesn’t show fingerprints.


The master bedroom, or at least one corner of it.  See that high shelf area over the door?  Kirk called it a “plant shelf”, but I totally think we should put a tree fort up there!


This room, right next to the master bedroom, will be the office.  Don’t those shelves look perfect for holding all of Paul’s electronic junk equipment?  I’d like to paint this room, too, but since Paul confessed his recent nightmare that I had painted every wall in the house a different color, I feel I should tread lightly.


The split entryway needs a lot of help.  The baseboards and the banisters are pretty dinged up, and need to be replaced or repainted.  We’re also going to replace the flooring here with the same laminate we’re using in the kitchen and dining room.


Here’s the hidey-hole!  I can only imagine the hours of fun this room will see.  Caleb has chosen a medium blue color for his walls, so we’ll be painting in here and in Katie’s room.  She wanted dark purple and black, but I talked her into a compromise and a nice lilac color.


This is the downstairs bathroom.  The upstairs bathroom isn’t much bigger, but it does have more storage space and a counter top.  We’re going to leave this bathroom white, but paint the one upstairs blue.



These two pictures are of opposite ends of the family room (or, as my friend Kathy would desperately like me to call it, the Rumpus Room.)  Paul and some of his friends are planning to wire this room with speaker wire and network cable, but I don’t know a lot about that.  All I know is that I’m painting it taupe and filling it with comfy furniture!

So there you have it–our first home. I’ll be sure to post some pictures along the way as we make the changes we’re planning!

Oh!  One more thing (and if you’ve made it this far, well done you!)  We need a name for our house.  I was thinking about it, and in all the classic novels, homes have names: Pemberley, Thornfield, Longbourn, Mansfield Park, Windy Corner.  I think our first home deserves a name of its own.  I must give the matter more thought.  I’d love to hear any suggestions!

*This post has been reported to the National Blogging Authority for violation of the Excessive Use of Exclamation Points Provision.  Please amend the offending punctuation or be subject to the maximum penalty: transfer of this blog’s log-in information to the Associated Fellowship of Pharmaceutical Spammers.*

A Roof and Four Walls of Our Own



We found it!  We found our house!

Actually, we found it weeks ago, but I haven’t posted anything about it yet, afraid of trumpeting my joy to the skies only to have some niggling detail along the way derail the whole thing.  It’s not like we haven’t had a few false alarms.

But now that the main hurdles have been jumped, allow me to fling my jubilant bellow upon the air!  We offered, they countered, and everybody signed.  Our house passed its inspection at the head of the class.  The appraisers have come and gone, giving their stamp of approval and freeing the bank to turn the wheels on our loan paperwork.  We are set to close the deal on March 27!

Lest it escape anyone’s notice, that is just a bit more than two weeks away.  And I have yet to pack a thing!

Okay, now I’m a little stressed.

But happy.  Very, very happy.

I have thirteen years worth of HGTV projects tucked away in my head, and I’m going to do them all.


Next time on Notes on a Napkin:  Katrina posts more pictures of the new house than most parents have of their firstborn children, then goes over each and every one of her many home improvement plans in precise, excruciating detail.  Won’t that be fun?

Happy Birthday, Dr. Seuss!



The Cat in the Hat visited our school this morning.  His arrival capped off a week long celebration of the amazing works of the Cat’s beneficent creator, Dr. Seuss.  Students and staff were encouraged to dress up as characters from Dr. Seuss books, resulting in a colorful invasion of Grinches, Cindy Lou Whos, and Thing Ones and Thing Twos.  The Cat himself handed out prizes to the winners of the coloring and trivia contests, and every child received an autographed bookmark to take home.


Even though they knew it was a costume day, several of my students seemed taken aback when they walked in to find their normal teacher replaced by this strange creature:


I’m not sure who I intended to be, but one of the other teachers dubbed me Mrs. Grinch, so let’s go with that.  All I know is that when life hands you the opportunity to wear a neon green beehive wig, you don’t pass it up.