Friday, November 28, 2003

Wet Paint

For the past 2 weeks I have been totally immersed in paint.  House paint that is.  There are so many choices and decisions to make, painting a room can become a career.  The best advice I can give you is:  If you can afford it... hire a painter to do it for you.  Besides brain surgery, this is one thing you really shouldn't do yourself.  If you must go it alone, wash down the walls before starting (don't groan this is important unless you want to do it over again 6 months from now), and... USE A DROP CLOTH!  I mean... cover everything in sight.  Even pets and small children if you can't put them in another room.  NEVER do it 'together' as a couple if you've been married any longer than 3 weeks.  Don't even start painting if you are planning to have a party in that room in less than one month or are simultaneously experiencing one or more other crisis's or major life changes including menopause.  Most importantly... if you ignore everything else I tell you... NEVER PAINT OVER PRIMER UNTIL IT HAS DRIED FOR A FULL 24 HOURS.  I don't care what the directions tell you.  Knowing that my mistakes have helped others avoid disaster will lessen my pain and suffering.  I looked at hundreds of shades of white once I decided that was the color I wanted to paint most of the walls and ceilings.  I finally narrowed my choices down to Whisper, Lace and Snowy White.  I had decided against Linen, Indian and Fantasy White.  But before you go dipping that brush into the can you need to know who you really are.  Are you a slob? You should consider easily washable or scrubbable paint.  Just generally messy?  Better go with spatter resistant.  Like to linger in the shower or daydream in tub?  You definitely need mildew resistant.  A klutz, perhaps?  You'll be happier with the chip, scuff and stain resistant brands that are also easy to touch up.  Painting is no longer a specialty... it's a science.  Grads have M.A.B.'s.  You laugh.  Ever hear the question, "Is Primer really necessary?" on any of the big TV game shows like 'Jeopardy'?  No!  That's because that question is too hard to answer!  Now I know what 'The Thinker' statue model was really agonizing over...  "Should I use semi-gloss or high-gloss paint on the trim?"

Wednesday, November 26, 2003

No porch for you, Missy!

Ray and I went to see 'Todd' this morning.  According to him, if you take away the footage in front of our house that belongs to the township and to the sewer company, we do not have the required 35 feet between the property line and the edge of the proposed porch.  Therefore we cannot build a new porch, even though it would be placed in the same exact spot as the old one.  I tried to explain to 'Todd' that we had already torn down the old porch as it was rotting and near collapse, leaving us with no access to our front door.  Other than using the back door from now on, the only other thing that 'Todd' could suggest to us was to apply for a variance.  That's where you go in front of the Township Zoning Board and beg them to let you do something that is perfectly logical, justified, and reasonable but presently prohibited.  Before they allow you to do even that, you must fill out a 50 page booklet outlining your plans to a degree that would rival the raising of the Titanic, including documentation to prove you have notified every neighbor  within 200 feet of your property of those plans, have posted a newspaper advertisement to alert any all community members of your proposal and, maybe most importantly, enclosed a check for the amount of $550.  The Board will then decide if they will hear your appeal, and then you will be notified if and when this hearing will take place.  At that point you must re-notify all the neighbors of the hearing date in case they would like to attend.  If you can afford the cost, have nothing else to do, and you are still living by the time they approve your variance then you may feel better knowing that you did it legally and with the blessing of the township.  Personally, I think doing it without their darn consent is worth sitting in jail for however long they send me away.  Even though I really don't think that we'd get caught, Ray doesn't want to take that chance.  Is it too much to want to come home after work and be able to sit out on the front porch?  Heck... at this point, I'd just like to be able to just walk up to and get in the front door!   Happy Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, November 25, 2003

It's A Conspiracy I Tell You!

I decided to call the township this morning to check on the status of our front porch plans.  Afterall, the girl in the office did tell Ray that she would try to "sneak it through a little faster" for him.  And that was ALMOST TWO WEEKS AGO.  They put me on the phone with 'Todd'.  He told me exactly what they told me FIVE WEEKS AGO when we first submitted the plans.  "I'm sorry.  The township does not allow anyone to build structures on their properties that are this close to the street."  I was stunned.  We had to give the original surveyor another $150 to come out and re-measure the property and draw up a new plan to show that the porch was NOT too close to the street.  Then 'Todd' informed me that they must have "misplaced" the new survey as he couldn't locate it.  I explained to 'Todd' that we had been patiently waiting for this permit for a long time.  That we had wanted to give out Halloween candy to neighborhood children from that porch last month... but it wasn't to be.  That we had hoped to bring Ray's mother over from Philadelphia for a Thanksgiving Dinner on Thursday but the only door that was wide enough to accommodate her wheelchair opened up onto the porch that wasn't built yet.  (She isn't really in a wheelchair, but I'm beyond telling them the truth at this point).  Then I told him that the only hope we had left was to hear Carolers outside our house on Christmas Eve...  BUT THEY WON'T BE ABLE TO SING IF THERE ISN'T A PORCH FOR THEM TO STAND ON!  'Todd' assured me that he will personally approve the plans on the spot if we bring them into his office tomorrow morning.  All this to get a permit to build a porch the same exact size and in the same exact place where it had been built 15 years ago.  Deja vu I guess.  Speaking of which... where's that bottle of Scotch from last month...?

Monday, November 24, 2003

Love me... love my stuff!

Before I moved in with Ray last April I had been living in an apartment with my 2 daughters.  I left most of MY stuff there for them to use, as Ray had more stuff than any one person on the face of this earth could ever possibly hope to use.  It's hard to believe that his ex-wife already took half of their stuff when she moved out and they divorced. But now my girls are moving and I have to take whatever stuff I want out of the apartment and bring it to Ray's house.  Anything that I leave behind will be stored in their father's garage, where it could be confiscated by his insignificant other if she happens to take a liking to it.  The problem is that Ray already has so much stuff laying around, that there is no room for any of MY stuff.  There isn't even enough room for all of HIS stuff.  Even his stuff has stuff.  He is a major pack rat.  I figured if I wanted to get rid of any of his stuff that I would have to do it while he was out of the house, and dispose of it in someone else's trash.  "Honey?  You didn't throw away an old, beat up teddy bear, did you?"  It was under the bed, torn, tattered and dirty.  What possible reason could he have to keep it?  "My mother gave it to me last year.  She said it was mine when I was little and I slept with it every night.  She wanted me to have it in case anything happened to her.  I had to take it after she told me that she kept that bear for over 45 years..."  I have a sinking feeling that I will NEVER be able to live this little momentary lapse of judgment down...  

Sunday, November 23, 2003

Oh! That Wedding!

The Wedding was unbelievable!  The finest of everything from the valet parking to the top shelf liquor served throughout the entire reception with 300 invited guests.  It was held in the Benjamin Franklin Hotel in Philadelphia in the Grand Ballroom.  TWO STORIES!  The second floor was like a huge walk around balcony that over looked the dining room.  It was decorated for Christmas and everything sparkled and twinkled. There were 3 ice sculptures including a Porsche, since the groom was in the car business.  Each table had a centerpiece that consisted of a 2 foot clear glass cylinder containing fancy gold fish and betas swimming around inside with a large white lilly bouquet cascading down from above.  It was a sit-down dinner where they served filet mignon or Chilean Sea Bass, each entree decorated with an orchid.  And Lemon Intermezzos in between courses.  A 10 piece live band... or should I say orchestra played a wonderful array of music all night long.  The actual wedding ceremony was beautiful and fraught with many Jewish traditions that I had never been privileged to witness before.  The bride, who would have looked beautiful even if she didn't come from a family who owned and operated a large beauty parlor and spa, was also a semi-professional singer.  She wrote and recorded a song for her new husband and had it made into CD's adorned with fantastic pictures of the couple taken by a photographer on a secluded beach, which were given out to each guest as a memento of this day.  As if anyone would ever be able to forget this wedding. Now... they have the rest of their lives to make home repairs and design renovations... together.  It doesn't get any better than that.

Saturday, November 22, 2003

And Let There Be Light... THREE Of Them!

Lamps Plus wrote to me today to tell me that they have shipped the light fixture that I ordered.  Great news... except that I ordered three light fixtures.  I know it wasn't a typo cause they re-adjusted my bill so that I was only paying for one.  It was very honest of them to do that, but I wanted to pay for 3 lights.  That would be like booking a trip to Disney World only to find out that you're only going to Busch Gardens instead.  You discover that you were only charged for a trip to Busch Gardens... you know that you'll still have a good time... but you wanted to go to DISNEY WORLD damn it!  I wrote back to them.  Hopefully they will be able to send the other two lights out right away.  Since I woke up in a hopeful mood I might as well hope that the township will call on Monday to tell me that they have approved the plans for our front porch.  And the Siding Guys will come back and power wash the house to remove all of the fingerprints that they left behind.  And I won't look too fat in the dress that I'm going to wear to the wedding we were invited to tonight...

Thursday, November 20, 2003

My Cistine Chapel

I'm back from Atlanta.  We were stuck in the airport for over 6 hours because of the weather, and I was almost bored to death.  Luckily, I had a few Home Improvement magazines and mail order catalogs with me to read.  We'll have to take out another loan just to pay for the things I want to order.  While we were away my son Joe painted a few rooms in the house.  What a difference a fresh coat of paint can make!  Everything looks newer, cleaner and bigger.  He also replaced many of the old light switches and electric outlets with new ones, and insulated them from drafts by using spray foam caulk around the edges.  Lowes delivered the composite wood we are going to use to build the new front porch, but it will have to sit in our driveway until the township approves the plans.  I hope no one steals the wood in the meantime.  I don't think that I'll ever leave Home Depot, but I'm definitely having a fling with Lowes!

Sunday, November 16, 2003

I'll leave the porch light on for you...

You're remodeling your house and you need new lighting fixtures on either side of your front door.  You and your oh-so-significant other are mature adults.  You either go to Home Depot together and pick them out or you browse through an on-line catalogue and order them.  Or... you both spend every spare minute of the last month scrutinizing, comparing and agonizing over thousands of light fixtures from every on-line store across the country.  You each print up the ones that you like, which unfortunately, are never the ones that your partner likes.  Initially you say, "Oh, honey... I don't know about that one...".  Soon it's, "Are you out of your mind?  Where is your taste?"  Some companies are cheaper than others for the same exact light fixture.  Some companies have free shipping.  Of course it's not REALLY free unless you actually ORDER it.  Thank God for coupons.  They can help you make a decision that may have otherwise taken you the rest of your life to make.  One of the companies that I have been screen shopping (that's like window shopping only done at the computer instead) put a 'coupon' on their site that can only be used this weekend.  You simply enter a special code number when you finish your order.  Ray got to save himself $100 and I got to end what could have turned into a life long quest.  I can leave on that business trip to Georgia today happily knowing in my heart that somewhere in America my new lights are being loaded on to a truck to be delivered to me.  As long as they don't get lost in transit...  Or go to the wrong address...  Or get stolen if the UPS guy leaves them outside the house ...  Or get broken along the way...  Am I turning into a pessimist?  Nah.  I'm going to Atlanta for a few days and I will not even THINK about home remodeling until I get back.    PS:  This is NOT the size font that I picked.  I'm middle-aged now and half blind.  I'd never pick a font this small.  Uh-oh.  Is this an omen?  My new lights will be smaller than I expect... won't they?  That's OK... for the next couple of days all of my lights will be big and bright.  As long as the plane doesn't crash...

Friday, November 14, 2003

Did I hear the phone ring?

When Ray dropped the new survey off at the Zoning Office yesterday the girl behind the desk told him that she would "sneak it through faster" for him and that she'd call him later in the afternoon to let him know if it was approved.  He sat there grinning at me... trying to show me that a little patience, kindness, understanding and a friendly smile "can get you almost anything."  Not that phone call though.  I KNEW that she was just telling him that to get him and his friendly smile out of her face and away from her office.  She never called him back yesterday.  Or this morning.  I called her.  Her machine came on and said she "was not at her desk" and to "try again later."  I did.  She wasn't.  This time she was "out for lunch."  Finally someone answered the phone but told us that the girl we needed to speak to was "busy waiting on another customer" and would "call us back when she was finished".  We waited.  Ray told me not to be "a pain" and to "stop bothering them."  I did.  She still didn't call.  I dialed her number once again.  This time the recording said that they were "gone for the day."  I could feel a hot flash coming on.  To make matters worse the recording went on to list their days and hours of operation.  None of which included Fridays or the weekends.  I guess all the patience, kindness, understanding and friendly smiles are going to get us all the way to MONDAY now.  Actually... even farther.  We leave on Sunday for a business trip to Georgia and we won't be back until Thursday.  It will take at least a week after that to get the porch approved by Buildings and Inspections.  Maybe longer since we'll have the Thanksgiving Holiday in there.  But I'll still be ... thankful.  For that bottle of Scotch I have left over after putting in the master bathroom shower last week...

Thursday, November 13, 2003

I'm gonna miss those guys!

The siding is finished.  It looks incredible.  They have to come back and power-wash the house though, as they left a million dirty fingerprints all over it.  Most of those marks are on the second story... too high for me to reach without a ladder.  When I was younger I would have climbed up there myself to wash them off but now I realize what things in life are worth risking a slipped disc for, and those prints are definitely not one of them.  We finally got the property resurveyed to show the Township that the porch we want to build will be within their regulations and we resubmitted those papers today.  I hated having to file the papers once.  I detest doing it twice.  Ray says that if I don't start being nicer to the lady at the desk I might be doing it three times.  Everything that we still want to do outside is on hold until we get a permit.  I think that seeing the incredible transformation that all the work has done to the house has gotten me ... addicted to it.  Sitting here, wasting days at a time, doing nothing is driving me crazy.  I am so eager to go on to a new project.  Finish it even.  Christmas is coming and I'd love to have people over.  Ones who weren't wearing work boots...  I do miss the guys now that they aren't here.  You really get to know them when they're working in your house 5 full days a week.  Bobby's getting divorced and his wife gives him trouble about seeing his kids...  Rick's little girl will be 4 years old this weekend...  Jack has been married 3 times and his uncle was electrocuted at a construction site...  I wonder if Eddie's mother was admitted to the hospital?  Hmmm...

Wednesday, November 12, 2003

The Gates Of Hell... Wipe Your Feet First!

Sometimes I think that this house is fighting me every step of the way.  Maybe it knew that I didn't really like it when I first saw it, and even though I am beginning to love it now, it just can't forgive me.  Maybe it liked Ray's ex-wife better than me.  Or maybe... it was built over the entrance to hell itself.  And every evil, miserable and hopeless soul on their way to meet the devil has to walk through my front door first.  The porch collapsed, the pipes burst, the living room was flooded, the plumbing under the kitchen sink rotted through destroying the flooring of the room beneath it, the motor to the garbage disposal burnt out, the dishwasher valves cracked and today the sump pump broke in half cause it was rusty.  Our neighbors tree roots are lifting up the driveway out front and the Township keeps denying our remodeling plans.  The alarm system isn't working and the lighting fixtures are blowing... one by one.  I am going to make this house into a beautiful home if it kills me.   I can hardly wait to light the fireplace this Christmas Eve...

Monday, November 10, 2003

Build me a laundry room... and I'll do the wash!

Ray's old laundry room was so small I barely had enough room to stand in there while taking the clothes out of the dryer.  The storage room beside it was piled high with all kinds of items completely disorganized and almost impossible to get to.  We tore down the wall between the two rooms.  Left only one doorway but made it larger so that we could bring items in and out easily.  Because the room was next to the basement and had been flooded in the past we put a wooden sub-flooring that had plastic channels glued to it over the cement slab first.  If the room was ever flooded again, the water would be directed towards the sump pump located in the pipe room, and wouldn't just lie there and rot the new floor.  $350 well spent I believe.  We built a closet inside of an alcove for storage and we'll also add some cabinets.  I'm hoping to replace Ray's stackable washer and dryer with full size ones in the near future.  My son Joe is going to build a center island for me to fold clothes on.  You have to check out the before and after photos below.  Some of them are so dramatic.  A beautiful laundry room may not win a woman's heart but it's definitely on the way there!

Saturday, November 8, 2003

Sun Glasses at Night

Although we still haven't decided on which decorative light fixtures to put out in front of the house, I did get new flood lights and had the siding guy put them up.  The 2 in the front of the house automatically go on at dusk and off at dawn.  They will have to be adjusted though.  Maybe if they point down more the house won't be as bright and as visable as a baseball field during the 7th game of  the World Series at night.  The lights in the back of the house are supposed to be motion detectors.  Either they don't work or everything in my backyard is totally dead.  Which wouldn't suprise me at this point.  I was only going to re-use 2 of the lights that we already had.  When the siding man came to put them back up we realized that one of them is missing now.  Maybe it broke and one of the guys threw it away?  I'm sure they laid them very carefully in the MUD somewhere amongst the DEBRIS piled around the house in the past few weeks since they started this job!  I guess that wire will just be sticking out of the wall until I go out and buy another one.  The light on the inside of the front door doesn't work now either.  The siding man says that it's "just a coincidence" and that it doesn't have anything to do with "them."  I'll just add that to the list of things to look at this week.  Along with the 2 new pipes I discovered  leaking yesterday.  After the dishwasher broke down...  If I scream "help" would anyone come to rescue me?

Friday, November 7, 2003

Tap... tap... tap...

Ray's clothes are hanging in the new walk-in closet that used to be the attic.  He's thrilled.  The walls in the storage room are down and the new walls and doorway have been framed out.  We put in a new fixture so that we'll have plenty of light in the new laundry room when it's finished.  The Township rejected our plans for the new front porch even though it was the same size and in the same place as the old one.  It was even included in the old house survey that we have.  But the survey company didn't include the ground that the township owns on our drawing, so it looks like the house is closer to the street than it really is.  There is a rule here that there must be a minimum of 36 feet between the street and the house or any part there of.  Well... there is... but it's not on the drawing.  The only thing that we can do is have a new survey made.  All the work outside will be on hold until we re-submit it and hope that it's approved.  So that we can build the new front porch.  So that the stone layer can put in the steps and finish the walls.  So that the landscaper can plant the rest of the trees and shrubs.  And to think that it will cost us $150 more to get approval to re-build the same exact thing that we already had.  Which, of course, will lead to the re-assessment of our house causing an increase in our property taxes.  Sometimes it seems like we'll be paying for this project for the rest of our lives.  Even longer.  If we keeled over and died... the kids would have to pay an inheritance tax.

Wednesday, November 5, 2003

Don't stop me now!

The vinyl siding is almost done!  When I pull into the driveway I can't believe that it's the same house!  We still have to build the front porch, have the rain gutters put on and get exterior lights.  Ray and I just have to come to an agreement as to which lights to use.  He likes ultra-modern contemporary lights and I like the traditional kind.  We're also limited in which kind we can pick by the space that the siding guys left for the light fixtures.  I wish they would have consulted me first.  The landscaper will  also add his own garden and walk-way lights.  I can't wait.  In the meantime, we'll be busy inside.  The master bathroom is finished.  It looks great!  I painted it a light brown first, but it didn't look as nice as I had hoped.  I was afriad to use a dark brown cause the room was so small.  I decided to just take a chance and I painted it a very dark brown.  I can't tell you how nice it turned out!  We're on to the laundry room now while we wait for the township to approve the plans for the front porch.  We're going to tear out the wall between the old laundry room and the storage room next to it that was flooded by the pipe under the kitchen sink upstairs.  OK...  I'm going in!

Tuesday, November 4, 2003

The Before and After Photos

These are the before and after pictures of the renovations we did to our house.  Actually... it's not a renovation... it's more like a RESURRECTION! 

Please click on the "View Larger" option.  It will put the pics in an album so you can see the before and after effects side-by-side.

I will keep adding more pictures and updating old ones as we go along.  Don't miss reading the story though!

The Sweet Taste Of Success!

The siding guys are finally making some headway.  They have finished the back and sides of the house and are almost done building a roof over the front door.  The landscaper put in the trees and bushes in the center island and on both sides of the driveway.  What a difference!  I am really starting to get excited!  Many neighbors have stopped by to tell us how great it looks!  Even passing joggers in the park yell compliments to us if we're standing outside!  We ran into a little trouble with the attic closet though.  Once again I had to run back to Home Depot many times to get just the right parts for the ClosetMaid shelving system.  Then... after we put the shelves up, I discovered that they weren't high enough.  All of Ray's suit jackets touched the floor.    I hated to take the shelves down and start over, but the clothes would get dusty and wrinkled if I didn't.  The back shelf couldn't go any higher, but the two sides could.  THANK GOD the walls were high enough so that the suits didn't touch the floor when hanging from the rod.  Also good that Ray isn't any taller than he is!  Joe had to replaster and touch up the paint from the marks of the previous holes, but when he finished it looked as though they were never there.  I am raring to go now that I've had the sweet taste of success!  Even if it was just a morsel.

Sunday, November 2, 2003

Alcohol... The Home Remodeler's Best Friend

I realize that things don't always go as planned.  It's not unusual to encounter obstacles, delays and unexpected expenses in life as well as home remodeling.  BUT DOES EVERY SINGLE DAY HAVE TO BE THAT WAY?  Can't there be one day that goes smoothly?  I bought the sink and the cabinet base it attaches to for the master bathroom.  Three times.  Once I found a nicer cabinet, once the sink was too big for the base and once I discovered that the sink was chipped.  I had to lug them up 3 flights of stairs each time.  The linen closet came in a box with no less than a million pieces.  Four of which were missing.  Back to Home Depot once again to get replacements.  I accidentally got some adhesive on the exterior vinyl wall of the corner shower while we were gluing it in place.  I tried ammonia, nail polish remover, peroxide, toothpaste, Vaseline, Massengill and alcohol.  The rubbing kind didn't remove the glue either, but the drinking kind made me feel a lot better.  My son finally got it off with 10W40.  The new sink and linen cabinet were a lot wider than the old sink had been and I feared that there wouldn't be enough room on that one side of the toilet now, as they were all on the same wall.  It seemed OK to me when I sat down on it, but Ray said, "Honey?  Look!  I keep banging my right elbow on the sink when I turn the pages of the newspaper too fast!"

I told him to quit speed-reading and I poured myself another drink...