December 23, 2012

Happy Holidays from a Pagan

All is well here in Holyoke. In 2012 we've made a few stumbles and made a few leaps. But love continues to reign. Love for you, our readers, love between me and Mr. Man, love of a well decorated tree, and love of a very sausage-y looking Boston Terrier (how did he get so ROUND?!)
 Wishing peace, joy and love to you and yours.

September 11, 2012

Perfect Floor Find

I found this scratchy door mat on sale at Pier One and thought to myself, 'Self. I think that yellow is exactly the yellow of the kitchen floor. "
Yup. And the blue brings out the walls. Boo yah!

September 6, 2012

Frosted Glass Lowers Your Blood Pressure.

Remember this view?
How about this one?
Not to 'yuck' someone else's 'yum', but YUCK.

Based on your suggestions, I decided to frost the glass partition between our house and our neighbor's. It's not a big deal - it's her front porch, she can do what she wants. But the ghetto ceiling is depressing and the whole cat situation raises my blood pressure every time I see it. I should explain: It's not the actual cats, it's their poop, which lands fresh daily in my front, side (vegetables there) and back gardens and makes my blood boil. So basically, frosting glass reduces your blood pressure.

Based on a suggestion from That Library Girl, I looked into static cling window film because it wouldn't involve anything permanent. Unfortunately, I couldn't find any that was rated for outdoor use.  Enter Glass etch paste. I tested it on a piece of glass because I didn't want to eff up something on the porch, and THANK GOODNESS I did because the results were VERY uneven and drippy on a vertical piece of glass.

Then I tried spray etch, and the 'look' was too similar to that fake 'snow' your preschool teacher sprayed on your classroom windows in December. Plus, I'd have to block off ALL the surrounding woodwork, which sounded like a total pain in the ass.

So....back to static cling window film. I bought the most heavy duty I could find and (I am not being paid to say this) a company called Artscape won. It was easy to apply and surprisingly sturdy.  And so far, it's impervious to rain, wind & sun. We shall see. TA-DA:
Up close, you can still see all the gradoo on her side, but from a distance, it's lovely.

Frosting the windows has completely changed the experience of sitting on the front porch.
(clearly I ran a muck with Photoshop filters in the photo above, sorry) It feels like a room now, and Not like a high blood pressure inducing stress fest. Happy happy.

September 4, 2012

Insulation Wrap-Up (Still On Lock Down)

Welcome to our row house front porch. See how we keep everything locked down? At least we have a nice place to sit down after all that sweating and cursing about insulation. Let's have a little glass of wine as the sun goes down and I'll tell you more. White or red?

If you live in a row house, you MUST insulate your crawl space. Before insulating the attic, from June-September, for each step I took upstairs, my skin was assaulted by a two degree difference in air temperature. Up, up, up the temperature went with each step (Since I am not Mr. Man, I never measured the difference, but I was usually crying at the second floor landing). Post-insulation, I don't notice a temperature difference UNTIL I get to the top of the stairs and it's like this, "Humh. Feels a little warmer up here." THAT KIND OF SANITY IS PRICELESS.

So now that some time has passed I'm going to recommend that you save up the extra $600-$1000 and PAY someone to install the insulation for you because it's money well-spent.

August 28, 2012

The Big Blow: Part II

When last we left off, our intrepid, innocent, gung-ho home owners received two pallets (40 twenty-five pound bags) of cellulose insulation. The next step? Actually installing the stuff.  Look closely at their excited faces. BECAUSE THEY ARE ABOUT TO DIE. SWEAT TO DEATH. SWEAT AND CURSE TO DEATH. Be really sorry.

Actually, Mr. Man is probably not sorry.  As he says, AND I QUOTE, "It's just labor". But I am sorry. I am very very sorry.

I invented a new word to describe my cellulose insulation experience (and a new-found respect for professionals who install insulation for a living): EXHAUSTIPATED. If I didn't live with Mr. Man? There is No. Effing. Way. I will. ever. EVAH do something like this again. The whole thing was a nightmare. A thankless, sweltering, exhaustipating, covered in a fine dust nightmare. Also? I win 'shittiest blog post' award because I took NO photos. Not even one. I totally forgot to document the miracle of cellulose insulation installation.

ISSUE #1-SHE'S A BRICK HOUSE
The blowing machine (pictured above) weighs about 700 tons and I am only exaggerating a little. It weighted 200 pounds. Mr. Man and I were getting it off the back of the truck and he accidentally dropped it and I've never seen his eyes get that big. We both just kind of stood there blinking. And getting it up three front steps was so difficult it scared me. The flight of stairs required a phone call to the strongest man we know (Thank you Michael).

ISSUE #2-SHE'S A FUSSY BITCH
Once in position, respirators on, it was my job to continually drop enough cellulose insulation into the blower hopper to ensure a steady stream for Mr. Man, who was sweating to death at the other end of the hose in the attic crawl space. This is how it is supposed to go: http://www.ehow.com/video_4418034_filling-insulation-blower-insulation.html  It did not go like that. It went like this:
1. Turn on machine and drop chunk of insulation into hopper. Thar she blows!
2. After a little while, rotating thingees jam.
3. Turn machine off. Attempt unjamming rotating thingees using broom handle so Mr. Man doesn't have to crawl out of attic. Remove cellulose insulation at BOTTOM OF HOPPER using orangutang arms and Tupperware container, in an attempt to see what in the fuck. Go back to work with broom handle. Tupperware/orangutang. Broom handle. Swearing.
4. Prayer/crying
5. Mr. Man sighs, crawls out and gets machine started.
REPEAT 1-5 seven more times over 6 hours.

I wanted to do this to the machine

This being a home improvement blog, I should probably now share lots of helpful hints, advice and counsel for you, but all I've got is this: CALL A PROFESSIONAL.

July 23, 2012

The Big Blow: Part One

Mr. Man and I are using Cel-Pak - cellulose insulation made RIGHT HERE in western Massachusetts by National Fiber. I wouldn't use ANY OTHER cellulose. Wouldn't. And I'm not being compensated in ANY WAY to say that (I'm happy to show doubters the receipt from RK Miles showing what we paid for insulation & delivery.) SPEAKING of delivery. How BAD ASS is this?

Like spaghetti a la carbonara, cellulose insulation is not complicated. But like the famous pasta dish, the quality of your ingredients have a HUGE impact on the final product. Cellulose insulation has two ingredients: paper and fire retardant. That's it. Paper, and a fire retardant. Now. There are all kinds of paper and all kinds of fire retardants, and National Fiber uses ONLY the best of each. Let's talk fire retardant first.
The best fire retardant? Borate. Most expensive? Yes. But best? Yes. Other companies use lesser quality fire retardants like Ammonium Sulfate (hint: the word 'ammonium' is part of the ingredient). If cellulose insulation containing Ammonium sulfate comes in contact with water, it creates an offensive odor and a low-grade corrosive acid (and if it's near a pipe, that's bad). And as every homeowner with a flat roof knows, ALL ROOFS LEAK. So it was really important to me that our cellulose be a Borate only product.
Second, let's talk paper. You can use any kind of paper to make cellulose insulation: newspapers, magazines, cardboard, pizza boxes, etc. National Fiber only uses un-coated PAPER. No cardboard, no glossy magazines, they even pull out (BY HAND) the Sunday magazine from your local paper. Why un-coated paper? It has the longest fibers which trap more air, which means more insulating value. And by using the same kind of paper throughout (as opposed to some magazines and some cardboard), the insulation is nice and uniform. 

ALL forty 25-pound bags. 

That we carried up the stairs. 

All of them. Nice and uniform.

July 9, 2012

Insulating Our Row House

Like a lot of kids, I grew up in an un-insulated old house with an attic crawl space.

In warm weather, the roof gets sizzling hot during the day and radiates the heat into our living spaces at night. We spent many summer nights falling asleep with our heads lolling out the window to catch a breeze, listening to the Northern Katydid song for comfort. Unlike a lot of kids, my parents were EDUCATORS! So - I learned - the reason I woke up sweltering, brown bangs plastered to my forehead in clumps, was because of the magic of 'radiant heat' and 'thermal gain'. ISN'T SCIENCE INTERESTING?

The magic of science is happening in our house.

There are two steps to the insulation process. First, air sealing. Second, actual insulation. We're 1/2 through insulation and about 3/4 of the way done with air sealing. I am my parents' daughter, so you know what's coming, right? EDUCATION about AIR SEALING!

All air has moisture in it, and moisture has a dew point. The dew point is the condition below which water droplets begin to condense and dew forms.  Think of the back of your toilet on a hot day: hot air hits cold porcelain surface. Voila. Dew.

So, if you've got 50% humidity at 70 degrees, that same volume of air, when cooled to 40 degrees will condensate. In an attic space in the winter, you have a cold roof. If any moist air hits that cold surface, the moisture will condensate. Why do you care of condensation? You care because it can lead to mold.  If no moist air gets into that interstitial space, you don't have a problem because there's nothing to condensate. If you air seal perfectly. Air sealing also stops the movement of air that you've spent good money to heat or cool. If you can stop air from moving, it's not going to take the warmth (or cool) out with it.

To save money, Mr. Man is air-sealing our attic himself. The back half of the house was easy - BECAUSE WE TORE DOWN ALL THE CEILINGS in the back half of the house.


The front half of the house is a little trickier to air seal because we did NOT tear down all the ceilings. Mr. Man has air sealed about 3/4 of our 'attic' by crawling around on his belly patching any holes in the 3 chimneys and blowing air sealing foam from a giant can into the space between the furring strip on the exterior wall and the attic ceiling.  He's got a little more to do, then we're ready to insulate. Which is good, because it's hot up in here. AGAIN.

July 5, 2012

Happy Birthday America: On Lockdown

I grew up in Grand Rapids, Michigan, in an old farm house at the intersection of a busy street and a less busy street. The house sat in a good school district, but right on the edge, one block from a....."transitional" neighborhood (Easttown).  A lesson about home ownership looms large from where I grew up: If it's not locked down? Don't be surprised when it disappears.

Between the ages of 7-17 my heart was broken three times when bikes were stolen from our enclosed-on-three-sides porch. For a kid, your bike in the summer is EVERYTHING. Bike=access to candy at corner store. Bike=getting to the house of a friend with a pool on a hot day. Bike=freedom. I remember the glory of riding home at night, pedaling so hard the thin film of dirt/sweat coating my little body evaporated in the wind.

I can still hear my mom saying (the second and third time my bike was stolen) "If a person does not lock up their bike? Perhaps a person will need to use their babysitting money for a new bike."
Holiday decorations were lifted from the house too: strings of twinkly white Christmas lights or 4th of July bunting. It broke my mother's heart deeply, so deeply in fact that she eventually stopped putting out decorations. It absolutely escaped her how a human being could walk up to something lovely that didn't belong to them and take. it. Money was tight and she'd gone to all that effort to create something beautiful. I learned my version of this lesson last summer when one of our Boston fern hanging baskets disappeared.

Now EVERYTHING I put out is on lock down.
Happy Birthday America.

June 27, 2012

Front Porch Progress and A Request

Directions: Scrape scrape scrape (pause). Scrape scrape scrape scrape (pause as Hulkish shoulder muscles start to get that burn-y feeling.) - REPEAT MANY TIMES OVER TWO WEEKENDS.
Paint paint paint paint (pause.) Paint paint paint paint (pause.) Stand back in awe while giving Hulkish shoulder muscles a rest. ALSO REPEAT. A LOT.
The fixture is from School House Electric. And no, they didn't give it to me. I paid for it bey-otches! My shoulders, by the way, look really hot from all the overhead scraping, caulking, cutting in, and painting. If there was a shoulder muscle museum? Mine should definitely be in there. We used the same colors as the back porch renovation:
  • Pratt and Lambert exterior oil semigloss paint on the floor in London Fog (color 28-20). 
  • Pratt and Lambert accent exterior acrylic semigloss in Wolf (color 25-20) on the posts and rails. 
  • And Pratt and Lambert Laurel Mist (17-28) in semigloss on the ceiling. 
Pratt and Lambert paint is so thick and creamy I want to lick it like an ice cream cone. A REALLY EFFING EXPENSIVE ice cream cone.

Now what to do about that view.....

June 22, 2012

A Bennington Owl & Two UFOs

So what did I actually bring home from Brimfield?
I know NOTHING about Bennington Potters.  Only this: now I'm interested in learning more. The owl trivet in the image above was designed by the founder of Bennington Potters, David Gil. I've seen other hand painted owl trivets on e-bay and the colors are almost garish in comparison to this one's earthy browns and dirty greys. I'm digging the the mix of naturalism with utter whimsy.
 What do you think with it next to my John Derian plate?

May 28, 2012

Just Call me 'The Bill Cunningham of Brimfield'

With a tip 'o the fascinator to Bill Cunningham (photographer and author of the New York Time's iconic 'On The Street' weekly column), I'm straying from our usual topics (home improvement, home despair, etc). I know - I'm really milking this one Brimfield excursion for posts, but I just HAVE to share a few pictures. It was a rainy day and I kept spotting all these amazing looking women dressed in wonderfully chic rainy weather garb!
This post is about Brimfield Antique Show Fashion. While visiting the show with my parents, I noticed It almost an unofficial uniform among female attendees! It was spooky how many women were dressed EXACTLY the same! The wet weather required sturdy rain boots. Tall 'Hunter' boots appeared to be de rigeur.
 Then - casual pants tight enough to tuck into your boots: jeans, khakis, or black Lulu Lemon leggings.
Pants were topped by a hip-length, slightly fitted, usually black jacket.
There were exceptions, of course. Fabulous, fabulous exceptions. Next I'll tall you what I actually bought at Brimfield.

May 24, 2012

Brimfield is like, "BONUS!"

There are approximately one-hundred thousandy billion antique booths at the thrice yearly Brimfield Antique Market. Approximately.
My parents came out east for the first Brimfield of the 2012 season. I happen to live nearby. So for them, attending Brimfield is like, "BONUS!" Engage in a hobby, CHECK! Visit one of your children, CHECK!
Mom and Dad have very different approaches to antiquing. My father's approach:
1. Walk down one aisle
2. Eye booths on both sides of aisle
3. Look for (what he calls) 'good cover'.
4. If you see good cover? Go inside booth. 

Like a birder or hunter, he's looking for 'habitat' that's likely to have what he's looking for, thereby maximizing the number of booths he can visit before he's walked around so much his feet begin to throb like a teenage girl's heart for Justin Bieber. The image below is 'good cover' according to me.
My mother's approach is  Slower Exhausting surprisingly meticulous for someone with adult ADHD. Mom walks into each booth on an aisle (unless it features only jewelry or other things she's not interested in) one     at       a          time.  Looking.  At.       Every.                  S. ingle.                                             Thing.

Okay, now everyone clutch your hearts and prepare for my mom's 'Oh. That makes me a little sad.' face. Not even Justin Bieber could fix your heart after this face. Mom, I'm sorry but it's true. At antique shows, you are Go Children Slow. But you know what? If it makes you happy, WHO CARES?!?!?
Here are some items that caught my eye, but did not end up in my cart.


 She wanted $1200 for the deco-era light fixture above. Oy.
These lamps were all OVER the place. Or was it just that I'm just now SEEING them?
Wouldn't these two chairs look great in my living room?

So - how do you work a field of antiques? What's your approach?

May 9, 2012

Baby Got Back. Now Baby Gets Front

We adore our back porch renovation. In fact, as I type this, Mr. Man is sipping hot coffee with the sun on his handsome face. Eating waffles.
It's time to tackle the front porch. My approach? Top down (so as to make a giant project feel like one tiny little step at at time.) So, in order, here's what I'm committed to doing:
-Remove Ghetto light fixture
-Demo plastic ceiling
-Pray that original bead board ceiling is in good enough shape that we don't have to install new.
-Do happy dance because bead board is okay. (You can see two previous colors of paint under the white.)
-Scrape and paint ceiling same color as back porch ceiling.
-Install new light fixture from School House Electric after moving fixture about 6 inches to the right.
-Remove black paint from brownstone window sills.
-Buy a new screen door.
-Scrape columns and paint them the same color as the back porch railing.
-Get these guys to design us a REALLY COOL wrought iron railing.
- Scrape and paint floor same color as the back porch floor.
- Figure out what in the holy heck to do about the stairs. Two current options are
1. Cut out concrete and install wood
2. Cut out concrete and install vintage brownstone steps rescued from another Holyoke home.

Wood steps or brownstone steps? WHAT SAY YOU!?!

April 24, 2012

Back Yard Update



MUST remember to look at these pictures in the fall when I plant the 300 bulbs I just ordered from White Flower Farm (thanks Mom!) Because I WILL NOT remember where all the naked little spots are. Because I will spend the next 3 months filling in all the little naked spots.

April 10, 2012

What Does Irony Smell Like?

To say my parents dabble in antiques is like saying Pop Tarts dabble in corn syrup. Antiques are their thing. It's what they do.

And to say that I dabbled in obstreperousness as a teenager is like saying something totally ridiculous. I was the DEFINITION of 'obstreperous' AND 'ness' (if you need an *actual* definition, click here.)

So it shouldn't surprise you to learn that I was VERY VERBAL that I would not have things from the days of  y'ore when I was a grown up person. NO. I was going to live in a NEW apartment with NEW furniture that was shiny, black and NOT curvilinear. And I liked to say I A LOT.

Now is the time in the post when maybe you begin to smell a little 'irony'. Sniff, sniff. What does irony smell like? It smells like curvy things from the days of y'ore.
 I've recently found myself attracted to mid-century carved objects that look as though a clever kitty got her paws on it and carved away a little design.
 And they just happen to look fabulous on our new dining room piece
Oh! And yes, that IS a John Derian plate. It was a wedding present from a DEAR friend. If you need a stylist? She's your gal.

April 2, 2012

The Only Good Thing About the Neighbors

This flowering tree is the only - and I MEAN o.n.l.y. -  good thing about our neighbors. Believe me, it is a loooooooong time between compliments: one year.
When the blossoms just are past their peak, white petals cascade and flutter to the ground like an ethereal rain storm dreamed up by a princess-obsessed four year old.  On slightly windy days, when the fluttering is particularly copious, I stand in my back yard, turn my face toward the breeze and let myself be bombarded.

Soon it will be time for outdoor eating to commence and compliments to cease.