December 28, 2009

Upstairs Bathroom Progress?

Upstairs bathroom progress? Not so much.  Well.  Maybe a little.  I'm thinking about maybe being almost ready to sort of consider the possibility of starting the upstairs bathroom renovation project. Since we have two full bathrooms, it's been easy to put off renovating one.

Let's recap the Holyoke Home upstairs bathroom, shall we dear reader?  Ok.  When we moved in, the upstairs bathroom had vinyl floor glued to plywood nailed to original fir floor.  The walls were covered in hideous wall paper from the waist up and hideous HUGE vinyl panels from the waist down. BUT ONLY ON ONE SIDE.  The other side had the same original wide bead board we found during our kitchen demo and renovation.

Since August, we've removed the drop ceiling, removed the linoleum floor and prepped the original fir floorboards to be painted; removed the hideous vinyl wall panels; removed the hideous wallpaper; removed the toilet, vanity, and wall lights.  And voila:

Our budget for this renovation is SMALL.  Super small.  Super duper small. Like maybe $100 plus the cost of electrical. My first project will be refnishing the floors.  I've chosen Cumulus Cloud by Benjamin Moore.

December 23, 2009

Best Holiday Card Ever?

Huge thanks and hugs to Susie Roselle from Dottie and Belle, for making Holyoke Home's holiday card! As in our 'We've Moved' card, we used a section of the 1877 map of Holyoke, downloaded from the Library of Congress' website, roughly showing the part of Holyoke in which we live.  Looks like Santa's on his way to Northampton!

December 17, 2009

Someone Stop Me

Someone stop me before I start sticking 'winter berry' fronds into random flower boxes/front yards/ears.  Those shiny red globes provide the nicest little visual break from the cold and brown of winter in western New England.  Those are boxwood branches in the back, and some ivy that turned red all on its own in front.

December 15, 2009

Air Sealing The Attic - Post One of God Knows How Many

I came home to find this at the top of my stairs:

Then some shuffling noises and this:

Then some more shuffling and:

Holyoke Home Owner #1: What are you doing in the attic crawl space?
Holyoke Home Owner #2: Spelunking
HH1: Spelunking for what?
HH2: I was looking to verify the attic conditions so the contractors can match the work needed to their bids.  I took lots of pictures.
HH1: So what is involved in air sealing?
HH2: It's basically sealing pathways of air from the conditioned air in the house into the attic, either up through hollow walls or between the exterior brick wall and the interior plaster.
HH1:  Do we need a lot of air sealing?
HH2: No.  It's actually not that bad.
HH1: And then after air sealing, we'll blow in cellulose insulation, right?
HH2: Right.
HH1:  Did either one of the insulation contractors call you back?
HH2: (grumbles.)

December 8, 2009

The True Meaning of the Holidays

My mother spent last December on her hands and knees in a crawl space.

Year after year, she carefully balanced mountains of holiday CRAP in the pine scented closet under her basement stairs.  You want to see what forty years of Christmas YA-HA looks like?  Okay.  All we ask is that you open the door CAREFULLY: A collection of green Santas, (Seriously.  If it was Santa? And he was green as opposed to red? He's probably in there),  innumerable ornaments, swags a go-go, christmasy candles, giant shiny balls, at least two creches, advent calendars, wreaths,  all sizes of plastic trees carefully packed up with lights and ornaments intact, holiday themed welcome mats, and a multitude of heavenly hosts singing, "Glory to God on the Highest! And Peace to his people on Earth!"

She decided to "weed out her stash" and asked what my sister and I wanted.  I could have had it all:  A smorgasbord of green Santas.  A ton of tinsel.  A plenitude of painted pine cones.

But the only thing I wanted? The one treasure? A Christmas ornament my mother bought for me years ago, when I was a little girl with dark brown hair and awkward little-girl glasses, who was crazy about Wonder Woman.

Someone took a clothes pin and dressed it up to look like my hero.  Right up there with turning water into wine if you ask me.

December 7, 2009

Goodwill Find

Holyoke Home follows Goodwill on Twitter (Hi Goodwill!) because I love to visit our local Goodwill stores and Salvation Army stores, and other thrift stores.  Maybe it comes from having parents who were antique collectors and dealers (for a little while), but I definitely am cheap, like to get my shop on without spending a lot of money, get a thrill from the hunt care about reducing, reusing and recycling.

One of these days, I'm going to create a 'Holyoke Home's Guide to Local Thrift Shops' because there are truly some INCREDIBLE thrift stores (there are four Salvation Army stores within 10 miles ALONE.  But only one of the four is worth visiting. Maybe I'll tell you which one some day)  but for now, I want to share this find.

It is a white and yellow enamel bowl.  I know nothing about it other than: I love it.  The clean lines, the modern design, the shiny.  Everything.  Thanks Goodwill!

It hasn't found its final place in our home.

December 4, 2009

Holiday Card Is Coming!

Remember our incredible 'We've Moved' card?

It was designed by my incredibly talented friend and designer Susie Roselle (seriously.  Check that link.  Her work is AMAZING.)  Well, Holyoke Home and Dottie and Belle (Susie's company) have teamed up once again to create a Holyoke Home holiday card.  Susie sent me the proof yesterday and can I just say:  Oh. Yeah.

You're probably already on my list, but if you leave an address in the comments, I'll be sure you get one.

December 3, 2009

Okay! Okay! I'm Reconsidering the Lights!

Boy.  Y'all really liked my five-drop pan lights.  Holyoke Home hasn't had 17 comments since I posted a blog entry about skimcoating over wallpaper.

I've learned a lot from your comments and done some research of my own.  The lights (two out of three) may possibly be original to our old brick row house,  but they are definitely of the era.  Upon closer examination, two of the three lights are IDENTICAL.  How did we not notice before?!

The style is called a 'pan light' and the lights are called 'drops' so, our lights are 'five drop pan lights.'  I still don't know what they're made of, but apparently, if they are super heavy like ours, they could be made of 'pot metal,' which is zinc and brass with some kind of applied finish.   I also learned that the 'cup' things on the bottom of the lights (see image below) can be screwed off.  I was so hopeful when I screwed it off because I figured that maybe I could screw a nice glass shade back on, but alas, I can't locate any shades with a one and three-eights inch opening.  The smallest shade opening I can find is 2 1/4

And also? Holy cow  They might be valuable.  A similar light sold online recently for $600.  That could buy a lot of mulch and flowers for  the backyard things we really need.

I'm still not sure what we'll do with our pan lights, but I promise to keep you updated.

November 27, 2009

Is it Too Early?

Could. Not. Resist. The. WREATH!

November 26, 2009

Thankful For.....Winter Farm Share!

Once a week, from May to the end of October, my friend and I carpooled over Mt. Tom and down into Easthampton.  We were headed to Mountain View Farm to pick up our weekly farm share.  From the almost sweet baby radishes in May, to the earthy leeks in October, the farm provided Holyoke Home with an incredible amount of organic, fresh vegetables.  I am bereft that the farm share season is over.  

In addition to its regular share, Mountain View also offered a '100 Pound Winter Share' that my share partner and I eagerly signed up for.

I felt nostalgic to be at the farm again and gaze at the fields that - just a few short months ago - grew the strawberries I couldn't get enough of and the kale I always took home and never cooked.

But I also felt awash in a familiar farm greediness.  Look at all those organic squash.

From my 50 pound stash, today I'll be making roasted brussels sprouts to take to a generous friends' house.  And I'm very thankful.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone.

November 21, 2009

First DIY Project (sorta)

After moving into our row house in August, the first thing we did was demo ALL the floors ourselves.  Because, hey, how hard could that be? We ripped up plywood floors, cat urine soaked carpet padding, carpet, and carpet tacks, exposing three-inch wide, unfinished pine or fir throughout. Did you know that every time a nail is pulled out of plywood, an angel gets his wings?  Not knowing any better, I crawled around on my hands and knees for a day removing plywood and carpet nails without investing in some industrial knee pads.  Derrr.   

Last, we vacuumed up all the nastiness between the floor boards and cursed the cat urine stains.  Effing cats. Then our floor guy sanded the floors and applied one coat of oil-based sanding sealer. They topped the sanding sealer with three coats of Bona (brand name) professional grade water-based polyurethane. The professional grade is harder than the commercial grade poly. Even though the professional grade was $50 more per gallon, we thought the cost was worth knowing we'd done all we could to minimize damage by our four legged resident.  We are really, really happy with the results.  Before:


November 19, 2009

Should They Stay or Should They Go?

The row house features not one, not two, but THREE super heavy chandelier-ish lights in the downstairs rooms: one in the front room, one in what we're calling the 'library', and one in the dining room.

Much like the Kardashian sisters, our ceiling lights are each a little different, but definitely from the same family.  Each weighs about fify-seventeen pounds (an estimate) and feature one UFO/platter-ish shape, from which dangle five individual lights.

A local friend suggested painting them one consistent color and adding some modern shades.  Dear reader, should they stay or should they go?

November 16, 2009

Original Row House Details - One of these Kids is Doin' His Own Thing

Our row house features a lot of really nice original details.  I've shown you our incredible original brass hardware.  Now for a detail that cracks me up and makes me feel like this might actually be my house.  Notice anything unusual in the photo below?

I've got about five stories in my head to explain why one of the balusters is upside down.

November 10, 2009


I was SO excited to finally live in an actual house, where little children might actually trick or treat.

For the past five years, I've lived in: a sketchy neighborhood where children don't go around at night in costumes, and then a giant mill building, and then a condo complex.'s been awhile since anyone younger than 12 has come to my door dressed as a witch.

I scrambled from the office at 4:30 pm on Halloween to buy candy.  And may I just say?  I got the good stuff.  I did not mess around.  May-jah.  Epic.  Candy.   Then I scrambled home to carve a few pumpkins.

Our doorbell rang a grand total of three times.

So sad.

Maybe next year?

November 6, 2009

Holyoke Home-us Interrupt-us

Work.  My job.  My work/job just got VERY VERY BUSY!  What?!  You don't want to hear about it?

Postings will be slim around here for a week or two.  In the mean time, feel free to dilly dally in our fun-filled archives.

November 4, 2009

Coming Into The Light

Welcome to the fourth and last part of our tour of Holyoke's green power system.  In our first post, we described Holyoke and its green power system. In our second post, we looked at electric water wheels in the basement of a mill building. In our third post, we went inside the actual wheels and out the tailrace. So here we are down in the canal!

Holyoke Gas and Electric (our municipal electricity provider and the operators of the dam and canal) once used the canal system 'down time' as an opportunity to dredge the canals.  However, with the advent of the endangered species act, even though the canals are man-made structures and waterways (as opposed to a river/stream. etc)  HG&E is no longer allowed to completely drain the canals OR dredge the canals because an endangered mussel species found it's way into the canal bed. That's why you still see a little water in the photos below.

 The photo above shows seven of the original 13 operating mechanical wheel tailraces.  As I've said in previous posts, two electric water wheels remain operational.

Climbing the sediment in a non-operating tailrace.
Everyone needs a hand now and then.

Um.. Ladies?  May I suggest using the ladder?

Dearest reader, I hope you've enjoyed the tour!

November 1, 2009

Deeper Underground!

We're on a tour of Holyoke's canal system. If you missed part one of our canal tour, or part two, click those hyper links!  In the basement of Open Square,  we saw the hydro electric generators, then we ventured down into the actual water wheels, now, we're going even lower, into the water wheel tailraces and out onto the canal beds.

From inside the water wheels, we walked out the tailrace.  When the canals are full, the space in the picture above is filled with water.

Getting closer to the second level canal in the photo above.
Nature is everywhere!  After all the grey, black and brown machinery, metal, and wet wood, lit only with flashlights, we came into the light.
It almost looks like a vernal pool, or some ancient greek aquaduct.  The arch closest to us in the photo above is an active tailrace - one of Open Square's two active tailraces.  The other two arches have sediment in them because they are no longer attached to active water wheels.

Our canal tour has one more post! Please join us!

Kitchen Before

October 28, 2009

Down into the Depths!

We're on a four part tour of the Holyoke Canal system. This is part two. In part one, I gave an overview of Holyoke and its canal system. Need a refresher?  Click here. In this post, we'll go inside Open Square to look at the waterwheels!

What in the hell is that?!?  That is an 1852 Fourneyron Turbine.  (That last hyperlink? A REALLY COOL WEBSITE.  But come back, okay?)
What in the hell is that?!?  That's the D wheel.   That's a Leffel Z water wheel.  No one knows why it's called the 'D' wheel, but trust us - it is. The Open Square complex originally had 13 mechanical wheels, and some were converted to electrical power in the 1920s, of which two remain active.  The other wheel is called the 'G' wheel.  Despite what mom says, between the 'D' wheel and the 'G' wheel, there IS a favorite.   But I'm not telling.
Our guide demonstrates how he matches the electric sin wave of the wheels to the sin wave of the grid before connecting the wheels to the grid. When the dial in the background gets to the 12:00 position, green lights flash and he punches a big red button. I shit you not. The list of folks approved to 'start up the wheel' is VERY SHORT.

Next post, we'll go down EVEN FURTHER into the canal system.

October 26, 2009

And Now, For Something Completely Different. Well not really COMPLETELY Different, but...Pretty Different

The next four posts are about Holyoke, Massachusetts.   So - I should probably do a little 'lay of the land' for those you not from 'round these parts, lest I LOSE YOU to a less confusing blog.  I don't want to confuse anyone (except Dick Cheney, when he's asking for directions.  Then I want to be REALLY confusing.)

Okay.  Ready?

Holyoke - as we know it - was built in the late 1880s.  It was the first planned industrial city in the country.  It's dense urban core and three-level canal system were built around a 60 foot drop in the Connecticut River to power INDUSTRY! INDUSTRY! INDUSTRY! Holyoke's tight street grid wraps around the broad canals, following an elegant curve in the Connecticut River. The ingredients that made Holyoke a great city - renewable water power, a dense urban core, and GORGEOUS mill buildings - remain.

Approximately 50% of Holyoke's electricity comes from hydro electric generators at the Holyoke Dam and along the 4 mile canal system.   I was lucky enough to join a tour of the two operating water wheels at a REALLY FREAKING COOL MIXED-USE DEVELOPMENT that sits between two of Holyoke's canals.  Welcome to Open Square:
Open Square donated a tour of the canal system as a silent auction item for a local fundraiser. 

Please join us on the tour! But first, please put on some really unattractive footwear.
Open Square operates two water wheels - producing 1/2 a megawatt of electricity. Twice a year, Holyoke Gas and Electric (HG&E) drains the canals for maintenance. The photo below shows an empty headrace with a safety grate exposed. 
With Boots on our feet, flashlights in our hands, and cameras at the ready, we ventured down into the the next post!

October 23, 2009

Last Day in Boston

On our third and last day in Boston,

Oooh!  Wait!  Did I tell you about our meal at the Eastern Standard?  Laudy, laudy was that good.  I highly recommend.  It's in Kenmore Square, right on Commonwealth Ave.  Oh dear, now I need a moment to remove the thought of house-smoked trout with arugula and pomegranate salad and creme fraiche from my head........okay.  Wait.........Okay.

On our third day in Boston, we made a very disappointing trip to the Boston Design Center.  We were looking for lobby lighting for a REALLY FREAKING COOL MIXED-USE  DEVELOPMENT in downtown Holyoke. 

One of us (not me) is an architect.  Being an actual architect, with a stamp and everything, entitled one of us (not me) to walk around the Boston Design Center wearing a sticker that read 'Design Professional', while I was forced to hide a lousy 'Visitor' sticker under my coat.  How can a man who's never heard of Scalamadre or Lee Jofra call himself a DESIGN PROFESSIONAL?!?  Okay, okay, he can build stuff real good. But I pick out soft furnishings real good.  So there.  'Visitor' indeed.

I've never experienced the 'to the trade' thing.  Ever.  While I adore my shelter magazines, I buy my trash cans at Target thank you very much.  I think the closest I've come to 'to the trade' was via my mom's once a year trip to the Baker Furniture Factory Sale in Grand Rapids.  Once a year, if one rose at the butt-crack of dawn and stood in line, one could gain entry to a factory floor full of Baker Furniture and fabrics at ridiculous prices. 

I found the Boston Design Center to be Very Dis-a-POINT-ing.  There was not one, not even in a catalog, modern looking light fixture in the whole building.  Is it possible that the Boston design market doesn't purchase lighting that looks as though it was made before 1940?  Luckily, we did find a really cool light store on Boylston Ave.  Neena's Lighting was AWESOME and full of inspiration.

Neena's may even have had a light fixture for the REALLY FREAKING COOL MIXED-USE DEVELOPMENT lobby.

But you know design professionals - they're very finicky, so we'll have to wait and see.

October 21, 2009

We Drove Ninety Miles from Holyoke To See a Show About Holyoke

Before leaving for Boston, we got a postcard alerting us to the fact that the Holyoke History Room (Hi Penni!)  had collaborated with the Massachusetts State Library to create an exhibit about Holyoke at the State House Library.

Since we were already in Boston, and we are total Holyoke geeks, we decided to pay a visit.

October 20, 2009

Kitchen After!

October 19, 2009

Another Day in Beantown

We spent our second day in Boston (of two.  Just two.  No more.  Sigh.) visiting the Institute for Contemporary Art (ICA), and walking around a park WHERE A GIANT HIGHWAY USED TO STAND.

I am embarrassed to tell you this, because, well, it's embarrassing, but I had not seen the Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy park over which a giant, dirty, noisy highway (Route 93) used to pass, and under which a giant, dirty, noisy highway now passes.  In other english words?  As many times as I've been to Boston in the past 5 years, I'd never seen the impact of the Big Dig.

The transformation was nothing short of stunning.  

My best friend in high school and I used to take the ferry from Quincy to Rowes Wharf during the summer, and scramble under Route 93 and various construction projects to Fanieul Hall  - to buy ridiculous sweaters at The Limited, etc.  And now, exiting Rowes Wharf, there was nothing to scramble under.  Only a clear view of the Boston skyline and a green park in between.  It was shocking.

There are two really enjoyable exhibits at the ICA now.  The big show is a retrospective of Mexican artist Damien Ortega.  The second is the wall exhibit in the photo above.  Both are worth the trip (in my opinion.)

What do you think of the ICA?  Have you been?  I really love the building's interior architecture.

Next post?  I'll tell you about our last day in Boston and our visit to the Boston Design Center....oooooh!

October 14, 2009

Beantown for a Few Days

We spent a few days in Boston.
Apparently the Irish are not early risers?

We splurged on a hotel room with a nice view.  That's the golden dome of the State House on the right and the Charles River in the distance.  The tall building on the left is the Prudential Center, and beneath all those trees?  Boston Common.

It was nice to get away for a few days.