Friday, January 16, 2015

Simple Fix for Drafty Doors

Our house has two entrances, and the doors in both are original to the home. In 60 years, they've seen their fair share of wear and tear (there's a phrase that would make Dr. Seuss proud).  While Brad and I had every intention of replacing them last year, our priorities shifted as the warmer months wore on; and, replacing doors which were functional was put on the back burner in favor of fixing other things which were less so.  Those projects, I'll cover in future posts.

Now, due to a recent "incident" with the storm door at our side entrance, I have a bit of an emergency fix to take care of today that involves the pneumatic closer.  I hope to share my experience with that in a new post sometime soon.  I'm absolutely thrilled about how simple and inexpensive it looks like it's going to be compared to what I was expecting.

Seriously: under $4.

But, I'll get to that.

Today, I want to talk about our drafty front door.


I know what you're thinking, but try to look past the half-finished priming job that's masking the real issue.

Look closer.

There!  Do you see it?  Watch what happens when I turn off the light...

Wagner tried to photo-bomb this pic. Extra points if you can actually see him.

That, my friend, is daylight peaking in under my door.  It doesn't look like much, and I'd never even noticed it until a few days ago, but trust me, it's enough.  When I put my bare foot down in front of it, I could feel the bitter cold wind blowing over my toes.

I don't know how much heat (or money) we were wasting through that crack.  It may not actually have been that much.  But, now that I knew it was there, I couldn't just let it go.  Especially when there's such a simple fix for it.

We don't actually use the front door very often.  So, all it took was a shower curtain I wasn't currently using.

I folded it up, wedged it tightly along the door, and made sure to double back over the largest part of the gap.  The difference was immediately noticeable - no more gentle breeze dancing across my toes, and shortly thereafter, the whole area in front of the door was several degrees warmer.

Starbuck just had to get his photobomb in, too.  Copy cat.
Simple.  Quick.  Free.  And effective.  What more could you ask for?  This will at least tide us over until it warms up again, and we can have the doors replaced.  In the meantime, I can sleep at night, knowing I'm not just letting money leak out under the door.  And that kind of peace of mind is priceless.

With that, I'm off to tackle the other door.  I should be writing a post about that fix soon, so check back later!

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Kitchen Progress: Drawers

I woke up this morning dreaming in Spanish.

I don't speak Spanish.  Or, at least, I didn't think I did.  But now, I'm not so sure.

Unpacking boxes is lot easier when you have a place to put things (duh).  So this week was all about getting the drawers finished and reinstalled in my kitchen.  I did some light sanding, and added a coat of primer and a few coats of Behr's Alkyd Semi-Gloss Enamel in "Espresso Bean," (which took about 12 episodes of Law & Order: SVU and several days of drying time in between).

Cabinets before we bought the house.

Once the paint was no longer tacky, I lined the drawers with some adorable contact paper I found at Target, and installed the new, brushed nickle cup pulls I bought from Home Depot.  Oddly enough, the holes in one of the drawers were too close together by just a couple millimeters, and no matter what I did, I couldn't get the handle screwed on.

I haven't the foggiest clue how the previous owner installed the old handles.  Some kind of black magic, I'm sure.

So, I had to bust out the drill and shave off just a little at a time to widen the holes enough (without going overboard and making them too wide and loose).  In the process, I split some of the wood on the inside and broke the only drill bit we had to our name.


Luckily, Home Depot sells a small set of probably-crappy-but-functional bits for only a few dollars.  Which was a relief, because drill bits are apparently an investment.  Most of the other sets I saw were $25-50 bucks.  Talk about sticker shock!  I guess that shows what I know.

Now we're talking.

A little touch-up paint over the splintered area inside the drawer (shh!  No one has to know!) fixed that problem well enough, and now I have literally more drawer space than I know what to do with.  Granted, there are still about 476 boxes left to unpack, so I'm sure I'll find something to fill them.  Probably things like my little 2-cup food processor would fit nicely in one of the deeper drawers.  (How I ever functioned in that little apartment kitchen, I'll never know!)

Contact paper is the wrapping paper of the kitchen.

Next step: putting the doors on the cabinets.  Mostly because I don't think anyone needs to see under my sink every time they walk into my kitchen, but also because I recently discovered that one of my cats has taken a liking to sleeping in my pots and pans.

Don't even try to play innocent...
Yeah, that's gotta stop.


Thursday, March 6, 2014

Day 11: And I Still Don't Miss My Dishwasher...

Everyone knows the best way to keep readers interested in your blog is only to post once a month, right?

Since my last couple updates, the missing plumbing was replaced, and with the addition of that modern convenience came an influx of activity.  The past 4+ weeks has been more doing, less reflecting, as you can imagine; and as the last of the boxes begin to disappear and things settle into a routine, I'll be able to sit back and reminisce with you about the process.  And I look forward to that!

Temporary home

Right now, I'm writing from the temporary location we've chosen for our computer in the living room, and listening to a songbird warble a gentle promise of Spring in the morning sun just outside my window.  With the help of a team of friends and family (and one huge-ass truck - thank you, Tim), we moved last Sunday (11 days ago) and have been sleeping here ever since.  We gathered the last of our things a week ago today, and forfeited our keys to the apartment on the 28th.  We officially occupy our house as our primary and only residence.

Pretty little warbler

I would just like to take a moment to recognize that, not only was I fighting a cold/flu the day of our big move, but I had also taken my Krav Maga level 1 test the day before.  If you've never heard of this infamous test, it's essentially several hours of a high-cardio, technically precise workout where you basically prove that, even stressed and fatigued, you can kill anyone who tries to choke you from any angle.  It is intense, exhausting, a little painful... and everyone should do it once.

And I did mine with a cold, and then moved the following day.  Yes, I am Wonder Woman.

My "Wonder Woman" Look

But I digress...

I'm here to talk about our dishwasher.

Oh, tiny dishwasher... what shall we call you?

Yes, this guy.  The tiniest dishwasher in the world.  I feel like he needs a pet name (and not a particularly flattering one).

My new toy

I've used it exactly twice since we moved in.  It just somehow seems easier to wash everything by hand.  I bought myself a small dish drainer (on clearance at Target, thank-you-very-much) that tucks away nicely under the sink when not in use, and I place an old dishtowel under it to catch drips.  Fill the sink with hot water and a bit of dish soap, soak the dishes while I check my email, and come back at them with a sponge.  Let them dry, then put them (and the drainer) away.  It feels so novel to do it in my amazing kitchen that I love so much (more on that in the future) that I actually enjoy it more than loading up the machine.  I often have more than one drainer-full of dishes, so it requires coming back at it several times a day and refreshing the hot water a bit... and I don't care.  I can't explain it, and it probably won't last, but I look forward to this little chore every day.

Meanwhile, somewhere in Ohio, my Dad just stroked out a little and doesn't know why.  If only he knew "Today Me" half my life ago...

Somehow, it seems more manageable than the puzzle that is dishwasher-loading.  I mean, don't get me wrong: I love puzzles.  Sudoku is totally my drug.  But, when that puzzle results in some dishes being disappointingly unclean and needing to be hand washed anyway; or worse yet, with coffee grounds all over everything because I didn't rinse the Mill & Brew grinder-basket well enough... it's sucks the joy right out of it.

So for now, I'm addicted.

(Hi, my name is Lauren, and I wash my dishes by hand.

-Hi, Lauren!)

Which is probably good, because when it's time to replace that machine, I don't know what we're gonna do.  A larger one is the only answer that makes any sense, but that means losing valuable drawer space, unless we can figure out how to rearrange the lower cabinets somehow that makes it less noticeable....  Another dishwasher-related puzzle I'm dreading.

I'm off to drown my sorrows in dishwater.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Kitchen Facelift Pt. 1 - Removing Old Wallpaper

A lot has been happening at Breezehome...

Kitchen - Closing Day

After two weeks of trying every Pinterest idea to remove the wallpaper backing in our kitchen, Brad and I had gotten through about half of it.

After two weeks of wallpaper removal

To say this was discouraging would be to make light.

Now, I'm no rookie.  When I was in high school, my parents enlisted me to remove the cobalt blue hearts on their kitchen walls using a wallpaper steamer they had purchased.  It was tough work, but the steamer made it possible to remove large strips at a time, and it went relatively fast.

Our situation is a little different.  Because the actual wallpaper facing is already gone, the backing that's left behind is thin and flimsy, which means when it gets wet, it tears like a cheap paper towel.  So, no whole-sheet removal.  The best solution I found online (from multiple sources, no less) was to use fabric softener, but even this only helped speed things up marginally.  So, I kept my head down and chipped away a little at a time.

Last Friday, while sharing my wallpaper woes with my parents, they suggested I try using their old steamer.  I know it sounds silly that I hadn't done so already, but it honestly didn't sound like the right solution.  Don't ask why.  Sometimes, when you're feeling that defeated, every new idea sounds like another rainbow to chase.  Anywho, I figured if they were offering, it'd be worth a shot.

Boy, was it ever.

We went to the house the next day, and finished the job in about 2 hours.



Holy crap.

To celebrate, we ordered our first ever pizza at our new house, and basked in our accomplishment.  It looked something like this:

Oh so happy!

Aaw.  Look at that happy face.

That's Pepperoni, Sausage, and Green Pepper, for those keeping track.  And yes, we ate the whole thing.

Here's how we made this happen:

How to Remove Stubborn Wallpaper Backing:


Large spray bottle
Liquid Fabric Softener
Hot Water
Wallpaper Steamer, Clothes Steamer, or any other handheld steaming device
Plastic Putty Knife
Rubber Gloves

1. Pour Fabric Softener into the spray bottle.  I used about 1/4 cup in a big, 32 oz. Rubbermaid bottle.
Fabric Softener + Hot Water

2. Fill with Hot Water.  Shake it up a bit to mix.
Just enough to wet it down

3. Spray the surface of the wall with the solution.  Use just enough to wet it down - you don't need to soak it, you just want to saturate it enough to get the fabric softener working to loosen the glue, and to keep it from drying out when the heat of the steamer gets to it.

Removing some strips by hand as I steam
4. Use the Steamer to heat the wet surface.  Don't rush this step.  You might need to steam the surface for a full minute, depending on how large an area you're covering.  But the longer you steam, the more quickly it comes off.  So, you're actually doing it in about the same amount of time, but you're saving yourself a huge amount of energy.  Make sure you wear rubber gloves here so you don't scald yourself when the steamer drips.

5. Immediately scrape the surface with the Plastic Putty Knife.  It should come off in long strips, and you may even be able to pull a bit off by hand as you're steaming, which makes the scraping go more quickly.  Use the rag to wipe left over drips and debris off the wall, and make sure you wipe down the blade of the putty knife between sections to help keep it clean and sharp.


* Make sure you use a PLASTIC putty knife for this!!!  A metal one might gouge your wall and leave lots of patch work for later.
* The tool you see Brad using in the above picture is a paint shield, used for painting trim, etc.  Since we had it on hand, we gave it a shot, and had quite a bit of success with it.  We generally used it in the larger areas, and used the putty knife for smaller areas or tight corners.  Work with what you've got!  Any port in the storm, I say.
* We found it helpful to work in patches about 1-2 square feet.  Any bigger, and you risk drying out.
* The steamer will not do a very good job of wetting the surface down for more than a few moments - it's primarily for heating the glue to make it pliable without drying it out, so I don't recommend doing to do this without a spray bottle.  You could try following the putty knife very closely with the steamer, which worked for me, but it still wasn't as fast as working in larger patches (and it was also more tiring).

Et voilĂ !  Easy peasy.
Tada!  Oh how... beautiful?
Now it's time to deal with the mess left behind.  I mean, good god, what happened to these walls before that paper went up?!?  I hope it's nothing a good coat of primer won't fix.  We shall see...

Monday, January 20, 2014

Permits & Doors

Progress has been slooooooow at the house!  Over a month after our close date, we're still waiting for the plumbing to be finished so we can turn the water on, paint, and move in.  The subcontractors did most of the work the week after Christmas, but they haven't finished it because they don't have their building permit yet.

Two things - 1: Doing work on a house before you've been issued a permit doesn't exactly give City Hall warm fuzzies; 2: As it turns out, you can't just ignore the word "Heights" on the end of a city name when you're trying to contact their building office.

And now, I pass on to you the first important bit of wisdom I've gained from this experience: If you're having work done on your house, I don't care how much you trust your contractor.  If they tell you they've submitted the paperwork for a permit, call your city's building office and make sure they have a record of this, especially if you've been waiting for weeks.  If the name of your city ends in "Heights," "Falls," "Township," or something similar; OR if your zip code covers more than one city, it's just possible that your contractor might accidentally try to file in the wrong city, and that paperwork could easily fall between the cracks for a very long time.  Even if your city's name is pretty straight forward, still call.  You might save yourself a headache down the road.

On to happier house news!

Upon pulling into our driveway this weekend, Brad and I were delighted to see that we had a new garage door!

The old door was peeling, splitting, and had a broken spring (so it wasn't even working).

See?  It had to be replaced at the request of our lender as a condition of the loan, and we're thrilled to comply.  Now, we can do this:

We're pretty excited.

Also this weekend, our washer and dryer were delivered!  Yay!  Neither has been hooked up yet, but we'll get to that.  One thing at a time.

UPDATE ::  As I was writing this entry, our contractor called and said the plumbing is finished and the water has been turned on!  I am beside myself with glee!  Looks like I'll be spending the rest of the day at the house...

Friday, January 3, 2014

Asked and Answered

So, here's a couple of questions I suppose every blogger has to answer when they start a new blog:

What is this blog about, and why are you writing it?

(Or in less polite terms, why should anyone give a crap?)

So glad you asked.  The main reason I'm writing this is for posterity.  I want to have an account of this time for my own benefit, and so I can share it with the handful of people in our lives who have been interested.

Also, I've gotten so much help and inspiration from other people's blogs - learning from their experiences; benefiting from their expertise, successes, and failures - the online collaboration that has informed my lifestyle recently has been so immensely helpful, that I feel like it's time to become a part of that conversation, instead of just eavesdropping (like the introvert I am).  I feel compelled to chime in with my own wisdom, to gather together some of the resources I've found helpful (into a place that allows a little more narrative than Pinterest), and to offer my experience (be it success story or cautionary tale) for others' benefit.  I haven't the foggiest clue if anyone beyond my closest friends and family will enjoy my musings and antics, but that's not for me to decide.  I wouldn't feel as well prepared to take on home ownership if the author of even one blog that I've been following had let her humility or self-deprecation prevent her from sharing with the rest of us.  So, rather than keeping to myself, my intention is to open up, invite complete strangers into a small corner of my world, and let you the reader decide if I have anything worthwhile to offer.

 Is this the most gorgeous dresser repo ever?  I can't get enough of LiveLoveDIY.
 Is this the most gorgeous dresser repo ever?  I can't get enough of LiveLoveDIY.

That covers the "why..." how about the "what?"

Having just bought a house, most of what I write (at least for the first several months) will be about home improvement projects.  There will be several gallons of paint, even more coffee, and more than a few power tools, I can guarantee you that.  I'm a huge fan of re-purposing, DIY, and doing the unexpected and unconventional, especially when it comes to this sort of stuff; so you will probably see me try and fail at creating a number of things that may have been easier, faster, and cheaper if I had just bought them outright in the first place.  But for me, it's not about "having" stuff.  It's so much more satisfying to know that the things I have were a labor of love; to be able to look at a piece - a painting, a table or chair - and see beyond the object itself to the story behind how it got there: the months of saving my latte money to afford it, the years of waiting to stumble across "just the right thing," the four layers of blue paint under the final and "right" shade of aqua...  This is what I love to do.  These are the things I like being good at.

After a while, the home improvement projects will start to taper off and become fewer and farther between.  When that happens, there are a number of other topics I'll probably start writing about - everything from cooking, to spirituality, to last night's UFC event (did anyone see Weidman v. Silva II last weekend?  I'm still cringing over that ending...)  I know it's a bit of a blogging faux pas to cover such a wide array of topics, but I think somewhere in there is a cohesion of elements that will speak to some particular audience - even if it's only my mom.  =)  I have a vague vision, but I'm more interested in seeing where this blog takes me, as opposed to the inverse.

I expected to see one girl break another's arm... and instead I saw one guy break another's leg.  Not okay.
Won't you join me on my journey?

Wednesday, January 1, 2014


This was a long time coming, but we managed to make it happen.  After years of dreaming, saving, and window shopping on Zillow, last month Brad and I bought each other the best Christmas gift ever:


A house.

This is our foray into home ownership, and our journey (from my perspective) to make this house a home.