Monday, May 31, 2010

Kitchen Frustrations and Functionality

We are happy to announce that we finally have a fully functional kitchen! On Monday night we bought a new faucet to replace the extremely leaky one. We bought a Kohler that looks very similar. The big difference was that the Kohler took about one quarter the time to install as the first faucet – with no leaks. We are very pleased with it. Below are pictures of the faucet and plumbing.

After the third trip to the hardware store and our second round of consulting with the store plumber, Chris was able to come up with the correct combination of parts to make the drain work properly. Chris thinks that it is the ugliest plumbing job he has ever completed but it works and there are no leaks.

One additional source of frustration for Chris was wiring the garbage disposal. The wiring that was there was about a foot too short. Instead, Chris had to install a junction box and BX cable under the sink. It looks (and works) much better now.

Monday night I was able to finish closing off the open wall in the den/sunroom. It’ll be so nice to have the switches at normal people level! Obviously I still have to add a lot of drywall compound and install a lot of trim…

On Tuesday, we finished the range and range hood installations. Now we can finally cook in the kitchen. Because it was getting kind of late we had to go with a quick meal – salad and Skyline chili! As the first meal cooked in the house it wasn’t the most elegant but it did taste good!

On Wednesday, I had to fly to Little Rock, Arkansas for work. So as I stayed in a nice hotel overlooking downtown and ate great barbeque (pictures below), Chris was stuck in the Maryland heat working on the porch railing and finishing the installation of the dishwasher (which included re-doing most of what we had completed before). He is such a trooper!

When I arrived home on Thursday, I was able to help Chris finish up the top part of the porch railing. We still have to install the balusters but it will pass the final inspection this week. At some point in the future we want to remove this little porch and replace it with a much bigger deck/patio but as a temporary measure we think this works well. It is the perfect place to put all of our herbs!

Early Saturday morning we packed up the camping gear, bikes, and dog and headed to Pennsylvania to camp with my family. My whole family was there (minus 2 cousins) – even my aunt and uncle from New Hampshire made the trek. We had a lot of fun biking, kayaking, relaxing, eating, playing games and going to Conneaut Lake Park. This is the campground that my family has been going to since before I was born – we have so many memories of time spent there. Of course I was bad about taking pictures so below is Tucker next to the creek.

We drove back today and knew that we would hit traffic – it took us six hours to get home from my parent’s house because we had to take a lot of back roads. Before we even had a chance to unpack the whole car we had issues.

We had let Tucker into the backyard to run around a bit and on his way back in the storm door slammed hard on his tail and Chris tried to open the door quickly which caused the glass to shatter. Chris ended up with a big gash on his hand but he’s all sanitized and bandaged up now. We spent the next half hour cleaning up all the glass from the kitchen floor and porch. That storm door had been driving us a little crazy for awhile – the previous owner’s dogs had knocked out the bottom half of the glass a long time ago and the door slams so hard and loud every time. We should have taken it off a long time ago but always had other things that were more pressing. Now we have a storm door with no glass that still slams each time it closes…I think removing it might be moving up on the priorities list!

Monday, May 24, 2010

We Love Freecycling (and our new kitchen counters!)

Last week we had picked up a dresser and nightstand from a Freecycler (it’s kind of like craigslist but everything is free). A little bit of sanding, priming and painting (banana cream color to match the bed frame) and we have the perfect addition to one of our guest rooms. The drawer bottoms were pretty ugly so I added some pretty contact paper (Chris thinks it’s a little girlie).

Our friends Kirk and Cat were replacing their carpet for hardwood so they offered the carpet to us. We picked it up on Wednesday night and eventually it will have a home on our upstairs floor. Their house was also overflowing with plants so they gave us several of them. We just think it’s great that we can make use of things other people don’t want anymore.

Next week we are having our final inspection to close out the mortgage. In order to pass we have to finish a few things – the kitchen, electrical, plumbing, and porch railing.

During the week we got a ton accomplished in the kitchen. We installed the desk, dishwasher, and stove. The company we hired to make the countertops had them installed on Friday – a mere week after making the template! We think that they look wonderful!

We are having some issues finishing the plumbing under the sink. The drain line is about 2 inches too high and the faucet we bought leaks like a sieve. We are headed back to Lowes to buy a new faucet and plumbing fittings tonight. Hopefully (and with a lot of luck) our sink will be functional soon. We are really looking forward to being able to use our kitchen!

Even after the plumbing is hooked up we will still have a lot to finish in the kitchen: installing trim and toe kicks, move electrical outlets and switches to new locations, tile the backsplash, install additional lighting, paint and install radiator covers. We’ll put up the “reveal” photos once the kitchen is all finished (later this year).

Over the weekend we also started to install the porch railing off of the kitchen. We only got a couple posts installed before it started to rain. Drilling into the concrete was very difficult and time consuming!

On Sunday, I started moving the switches in the den. We have always been a little baffled by the light switches in the den that are down low to the ground (about knee level). When we were ordering our windows we decided to make the windows slightly smaller so that we would have a space to move these switches. We also want to put an outlet in the sunroom (has to be GFCI because it is exterior). I was able to install both switches but ran into fishing issues with the outlet cable. Once I get that outlet installed we can close the giant hole in the house!

Monday, May 17, 2010

To Granite or Not to Granite

As I wrote last week, the major project right now is finishing the kitchen. We have a rehab mortgage and the requirement is to have the house in livable condition 6 months after closing. This means that we only have until June 7 to get the kitchen functioning.

So this week we had the big countertop decision to make. Last week when we were at Lowe’s we were looking at laminate - $1800, no sink included, installing it ourselves, 3 weeks from template to delivery. This week we got estimates for granite from several companies in the area. We chose Paradise Stone in Elkridge - $2800, double bowl sink included, installed, 7 days from template to delivery. For an extra $1000 it is definitely a no-brainer decision. Plus it will add to the re-sale potential down the road. The difficult decision was the color – so many choices!

We went with Ubatuba – it’s a black granite with gold flecks. Below are the pictures of our two slabs (the kitchen requires two slabs because it’s almost 60 sq. ft. of material). They came to make the template on Friday and this coming Friday they will be installing them!

Thursday night we picked up a very old dresser and nightstand from a woman on Freecycle. They are in pretty bad shape but with some sanding and painting they will look great in one of our guest rooms.

When we went to pick up the furniture, we tried to pick up the dresser and it was too heavy. We started taking out the drawers and found a ton of stuff. She didn’t want any of it and told us to take what we wanted. We ended up with this pretty unique, very heavy chess set (it is missing one rook but with some cleaning the rest of the pieces will turn out pretty nice).

This weekend we were more social than we’ve been in a long time. Saturday afternoon our neighbors came over and chatted for quite awhile and we took them on the house tour. They also did us the favor of taking some of the mulch that is still in the front yard – it was a win-win situation! Unfortunately, they are putting their house on the market next month because his commute to Virginia is over 2 hours a day – quite long when you have a young family.

Saturday night Diane and Steve had us over to a wonderful dinner – it was great to spend time with friends and have a home cooked meal for a change! On Sunday, after church, we worked on the house a bit and in the afternoon we walked over to Wine in the Woods.

That's enough socializing for now…we have some serious work to accomplish by June 7!

Monday, May 10, 2010

Peaches, Plums, and Berries…Oh My!

So Chris and I have learned a valuable lesson – never go shopping for plumbing fittings at Lowe’s because you’ll come home with a new kitchen appliance! Two weeks ago we bought our stove (impulse purchase!) and on Monday night we went in for some more plumbing fittings and walked out with a brand new refrigerator (it still has the plastic cover on it in the picture). Fortunately for us this type of impulse purchase can only happen one more time – we still need a dishwasher!

The rest of the week was spent installing kitchen cabinets and fixing plumbing. We only have two more to install – the cabinet above the refrigerator and the desk.

We tried to order countertops this week but we found out that it’s a lot more complicated than we imagined. Since we have an island, the options for the countertop material and edge are rather limited. So our options are to get an inexpensive countertop with an edge and material that we don’t like or get an expensive countertop with a color that we don’t like. We’re planning on going to some other kitchen or countertop stores this week to finally make the decision. We’re leaning toward the more expensive options for re-sale purposes. Hopefully before the month is out we can have our “reveal” photos for the first finished room!

On Wednesday night, our contractor came over to go over all the items on their list. We’ve been rather frustrated with them lately because everything that they do ends up making more work for us. One example happened this week. They had moved the 220 line for the stove and instead of the 4-prong outlet that is national code, they installed a 3-prong outlet. We made them switch it but in that process they ended up putting two big scratches in the new kitchen floor. We spent so much time on this floor and now we have to fix it. We’re trying to get some money back from the contractor because the list of similar items seems endless.

We spent most of this weekend working in the yard again – at least this time the temperature was much more bearable! Saturday was very windy and while we were out in the yard, a huge limb on one of the trees snapped off (several of the trees have some eaten or rotted wood). Chris climbed up in the tree to remove the rest of it. Later in the day another big limb fell off near the tomato/pepper garden – at least they weren’t close to the house.

Since we’ve become the owners of this money pit, we haven’t had too many pleasant surprises. This week, however, we found that we have several types of fruit growing in the backyard.

There is a huge bush in the backyard that was out of control (at first I thought it might be a rose bush) and we believe that it’s a huge blackberry bush. Under part of this bush are two trees – one is a peach tree and the other is a plum tree (we think!). Because these two trees have been smothered by the blackberries for many years they look a little sad but they do seem to be producing fruit. We cut enough of the blackberry bush away to give these trees some sun. We also have a big cherry tree in the yard and several strawberry plants near the house. Hopefully we’ll have a plentiful harvest and I can try my hand at making other types of jam this summer!

Monday, May 3, 2010

The Jungle is Gone…

Each night this week we worked on finishing the cabinet installation in the kitchen. We still have a few more to install and then we can order the countertops – they may take a few weeks to come in but we’re hopeful that by June we will have a fully functional kitchen!

Since we have been working so much inside, we have been severely neglecting the landscaping/gardening work. It’s not that we just decided to neglect it – up until last Saturday we didn’t have one single piece of powered lawn equipment. In one week we purchased a weed whacker ($40 at a garage sale in PA), a push mower (it cost a 6 pack of beer from a friend at work), and a tractor with a snow plow ($800 Gravely from a guy on Craigslist). Now the grass and weeds in the yard have nowhere to hide!

We are still lacking some things for the house and since this is garage/yard sale season, we decided to go to an estate sale in a nearby town. It was an amazing house – it was built in 1760 and is so cute. The woman who owns it is 68 and runs a bed and breakfast in the mansion (she’s apparently ready to move on and is selling it for $1.4 million – any takers?). We did find a couple things that we need: a really cute twin bed frame, a small table and chairs for our sunroom, some garden items, and fireplace screen. We were really excited to find the sunroom furniture – we are planning on painting the wicker a dark brown and recovering the chairs with a bright color (a project for our free time!)

When we got back from the estate sale, we decided to tackle some yard work. The first step was to remove the large logs and stump pieces that have been in the front yard since January. It took about 5 trips with the truck to get them all to the back yard and one of them was so heavy that we couldn’t lift it (it’s the big one on the right in the first picture - it weighs about 400 lbs!). We’ll eventually have to split them into firewood but we just don’t have the time for that right now.

Chris had enough time to mow the lawn (i.e. weeds) on the whole property. The weeds and grass in the backyard were over a foot and a half tall in most places! Now the house actually looks like someone lives here. It’s not perfect but it is much, much better.

The rest of the weekend was spent planting the rest of our garden and installing fence around them (to keep Tucker out!). We have two garden plots – one that has only tomatoes and peppers (20’ x 16’) and one with everything else (20’ x 35’). We planted tomatoes (Rutgers, Roma, Early Wonder, Early Girl, Cherry, and Grape), peppers (Bell, Cascabella, Habanero, Trinidad, Pasillo Bajio, Holy Mole, Aji-Dolce), squash (yellow, zucchini, butternut), cucumbers (slicing and pickling), corn, Brussels sprouts, beans (Blue Lake, Tendergreen, Black), eggplant, peas (Alaska, Sugar Snap), beets, spinach, lettuce (Romaine, Green Leaf, Mesclun), artichokes, okra, carrots, basil (purple, Genovese, bush), oregano, cilantro, parsley, chives, rosemary, and thyme. We hope to have a bountiful harvest this year!

I’ll leave you with one last thing – someone last week was surprised to read that we have a truck. We purchased it in December for $600 from a guy at work. It’s definitely not the best looking truck but it gets the job done! Gotta love the blue paint with black primer!

We actually got to use the truck a lot this weekend. On Saturday, we took it with us to the estate sale to bring home our purchases. We also picked up two loads of compost at the local garden center (they loaded it with a front loader) and we got to drive the truck a lot in the back yard to get the compost to the garden. On the way to the garden center on Saturday, Chris heard something in the back tire – we had a nail stuck in it and had to get it plugged (we were fortunate that the auto center stayed open an extra 45 minutes that day!).