Monday, December 05, 2005

There's no place like home ...

.... and there's no place like our basement. :) It's so exciting to see how far we've come.
Finally having a completed piece of our home gives me new energy. And I can't begin to express how grateful we are to everyone who helped.

Grandpa DUCK, whose knowledge of glass block is only surpassed by his knowledge of charm and stairbuilding. Scott and Sara, who were the first to brave the depths of the basement, and have the lung scarring from the layers of dirt in the ceiling to prove it. Paul Stanke, who gave us direction and lent us drywall screwguns that proved VERY useful. Mark, for tireless sarcasm, drywall skills and helping me hang my first (and admittedly, only) piece of drywall. Scotty, for bleeding all over the place. Frankie, for being so inventive and giving me a great place for wine. Chris, for taking time out of redoing his OWN house to make sure we didn't freeze to death this winter. Kaz, for figuring out how to make our windows pretty. Kenny and Matt, for trekking two and half hours without air conditioning in July to bust their butts in our basement. Hmm, who else, there's Frank & Jerry for holding up the ceiling; Kendall Jackson for great chardonnay; Julie for karate skills; missed work deadlines for giving me the angst-y power to properly use a sledgehammer; Ceece for writing witty odes of love on the walls; Jjessica for seeing the unbelievable potential of the basement before I did; Sara and Scott again for just EVERYTHING; John for the plumbing fun; Marsha and Erika, Mike and Sandy, Rivett and Brandi - the list just goes on, and this is beginning to read like liner notes from a greatest hits album, so I should just stop for now. :) Seriously, everyone has really put in the time, the work and not a little blood, sweat and tears (didn't I warn you all rabidly about safety glasses???) and and I can't wait for everyone to come over and see the end result.

IT'S BEAUTIFUL! See more including before and afters, click here:


Tuesday, November 29, 2005

The Finish Line (level 1)

After a few months of detours, lost paths, and pit stops we have finally reached our first real milestone. Something is finally done. Actually, an entire level of our house!

The basement has reached the final stage (sans decorating), and we even have the official approval inspection from the city building inspector! Wee!!! There was a slight problem when the electrical inspector noticed that there was no grounding wire jumping over the water meter, but realizing that we're doing the work ourselves, he gave us a stiff lecture and an approval. We have it fixed now though [picture]

Sara helped Jen again by putting on an extra coat of paint. Jay had to come back from thanksgiving early to finish off various trim details, but the extra work over the weekend has paid off. The place looks sharp, except where the floor level varied so much that there are gaping crevices under the trim. Not the levelest floor in America, but we'll take it! Just caulk it! (I'm kidding, mark :)

We've got our movers coming in today to bring back our furniture that has been forgotten since we left our condo in July.

View final pictures (pre-furniture)

The empire of carpet

Nothing motivates you like a deadline, right! After all, if you put things off until the last minute, they'll only take a minute to do! Oh, if those words were true, life would be much simpler.

In reality, we decided to bring in some professional help for some of our final tasks. Although Jay helped Chris (and his pal Mario) install carpet in his basement, we just did not have the time, so we dialed that time-tested chicagoland number... "Eight hundred, five eight-eight, two-three hundred; Empire! "

Yes those of you who grew up in Chicagoland are surely familiar with that little tune. It was so popular in fact that when my little brother Rob was three years old and my parents asked him if he knew our phone number, he responded by singing the Empire Carpet jingle. No wonder the poor kid never calls home! (jest)

Honestly, nothing makes you feel closer to looking at something as a living zone (as opposed to a construction zone) than finished flooring, and boy has it ever transformed our basement. The drum roll please...

[follow link to photo gallery]

Monday, November 21, 2005

Things we learned last weekend

As we wrap up work on the basement, Jen and I have learned a few things:

- Wet sanding drywall is just as messy, but in a different way than dry sanding. This has advantages by letting you actually be able to breathe (without dust) and sponge/squeeze the sanded drywall mud instead of shopvac-ing it.

- Vintage doors are quite amenable to reuse. They are crafted with complicated joints, and are much more solid than most modern doors, making them excellent sound barriers for noisy utility rooms. Semi-gloss paint breathes new life into them with ease for a brighter basement.

- Painting and priming stairways with hard to reach places is not fun. Quite possibly the biggest downfall to increased headroom. On the marginally positive side, back and arm muscles get a fabulous workout as they contort into previously unexplored positions while balancing on a ladder.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Powerzoning Humphrey House

Busy weekend as we went about getting a lot of punchlist items taken care of to help us feel better about living in rehab.

Scott came over Saturday and helped Jay seal off the final walls in the basement (actually, the stairway walls going down). And Kenny came up for an extended weekend to help with a number of things that will help make life easier for us as winter nears, not the least of which was figuring out some arcane wiring in our breakfast nook. No wonder the Previous Owners had never had that light hooked up to a switch! It took Ken and Jen nearly 2 hours to sort out the power flow and switching (hidden receptacles didn't help!)

Also on Saturday, Chris journeyed out from Aurora to come do some work on our HVAC system before it got too cold. He and Jay added a register to the breakfast nook, which means we finally have heat on that half of the house! He also installed a new drum humidifier for the furnace that spins around automatically. Looks very similar to a hamster wheel with a pool of water in the bottom!

But one of the most interesting things Chris did was cut a 12" hole in the back of the furnace and putting in a return in our basement. This proprietary technique his company pioneered is called Powerzoning [view website], and acts as a booster for the cold air return. It gives the system a lot more velocity and we have already noticed a difference! An added benefit is that in summer, we can run our HVAC on fan, and it will be pulling most of the air from our basement, which is naturally cooler. This will reduce the need for running the AC. Jay can't wait to see the lower utility bills!

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Hell House

So, I'm feeling a wee bit despondent over the restoration/rejuvenation/renovation of Humphrey House the past few days. "Jen, I feel overwhelmed, too," Jason tells me. But overwhelmed doesn't even begin to describe what I've been feeling. It's not that I'm overwhelmed anymore - that's how it began. Now I feel ... hopeless. The first thing I see every morning when I open my eyes? Cracked walls covered with decades-old strips of green glue that once held on tacky pressboard paneling that now I would even prefer to the shock of utter chaos I see every a.m. And I'm a chaotic person, truth be told, so chaos shouldn't/didn't bother me. But now, I feel like a tornado must after it destroys a small town - spent, wasted, and feeling melancholy for the good old days.

I've never been a fan of cleaning - anyone who knows me can attest to this fact - but I always came through in the end. Now, I don't see a point. The place is a disaster no matter what I do - we have nowhere to put the things we own, why bother inventing a new place all the time? Why not just leave it be? I know this is a bad attitude, but I currently don't know what to do to change it. Maybe I will just have another glass of wine ...

The whirlwind continues

The last month or two has been relatively slow in our progress. Of course, we had other distractions in Chicago, such as 70 degree whether in November, and a White Sox world series sweep, which was truly an amazing experience. Especially in this city! But now the pace has quickened, as we are trying to wrap up our work in the basement and shift our focus to the main floor of the house.

There have been a number of "housekeeping" things to do in the basement. Finish trim, clean out basement, finish installing electrical outlets, installing rough electric for stairwell light, move a crawlspace access door. Now that that is all wrapping up, we are having a final electrical inspection Friday.

And besides raking all those leaves (see post below), there is more exterior stuff we are working on before it gets too cold, such as finishing off the window framing outside, capping the exterior trim with aluminum flashing, cleaning gutters, installing HVAC duct for kitchen nook (this 1/3 of our house is currently not heated!), cleaning out and reorganizing the garage (those construction supplies in the basement got to go somewhere!) and more.

We're managing well, but we're motivated because we want to get our stuff moved out of storage by Nov. 18. Next week! Ahh! The power of a deadline should never be underestimated.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Autumn is the second spring ...

... where every leaf is a flower.

And we got a gorgeous yellow garden. :)

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Don't Fence Me In ... least not till I get pix of the battalion posts ...

Our fence is scheduled to be finished tomorrow, and not a day too soon. It's weird having no sides to the lawn. Part of me is a fan of the openess that seems to make our 20 x 18 yard feel slightly larger, but the rest of me is like "Augh! Neighbors too close! Driving me crazy even without being present! I can't take it!


Monday, October 31, 2005


This is the scene that greeted trick-or-treaters at Humphrey House this year. We had a few terrified kids who never even made it up the steps!

That's Jason as the Grim Reaper and Scott playing the role of Possessed Priest. I had more of a supporting role as the howling prisoner chained in the basement. That, and Lord Voldemort. :) We had well over 300 kids! Learned that you should only hand out one piece of candy at a time. Learned that the hard way. But still, hope your Halloween was half as fun!

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Trimming Out

Where is the water pipe?
Turns out the pipe from the water shut off in our yard to the water main was made of lead (gotta love 100 year old construction!) so the village came out and replaced that for us while we still had a gaping hole in our front yard. They're still repaving the street, but at least our water will be safer now.

On the inside, we've been busy working to clean up after we had mass graves dug inside a room we thought was done. Now, we're really almost done with it. Jen's studio may have a 1 inch water pipe running through it, but we've tried to mask it by painting it the same color as the walls. Last weekend was full of finish / trim work. For both this room and the music studio we:

1. Got foam-backed berber carpet and cut to fit in each room, and then secured it to the concrete with some super-sticky adhesive. We were able to do this without any seams since both rooms were relatively small. The floors feel so much better already!

Music studio2. Installed 90% of the trim needed for both rooms. Jen's studio still needs a bit around the interior glass block window, and the music studio needs some capping pieces at the top of the wainscotting. This made the room look so much brighter, and a healthy contrast to the deep purple walls.

3. Earlier in the week, Sara came by on her day off and painted the big family room, and Jen finished off the fireplace on Saturday. This room is incredibly bright and spacious and is really impressive to walk into now. A little trim and carpet in here, and we can cross another room off the list. All the hard work and planning is finally paying off!

Basement family room

Thursday, September 29, 2005

They're coming for you, Barbara ...

As I keep reminding Jason, Halloween is on its way ... and we thought we'd get into the mood with a little wanna-be cemetery in the front yard.

And we thought we might as well go Ellivytima on the house (that's amityville in reverse) and install a sacred burial ground in our basement, to make up for the lack of haunted history 'bout the joint. Check it out!

Okay, okay, you got me. Fright Night freak though I may be, I wouldn't go *THAT* far. At least not until I have a bigger yard or corporate sponsorship. What you actually spy with your blogger eye are the holes dug by our trusty plumbing contractors to upgrade our water service. While this one-day job has now stretched into THREE days (plus a personal day for me, I can't figure out what to do about tomorrow yet) I have been assured it will all be over by 5pm tomorrow.

Thank god for deodorant.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Law of Diminishing Returns

After 9 months of doing things by ourselves (of course with help from friends and families), we're getting to the point where we need to start bringing in experts. Surely, we are not alone in this affliction. We have it on good word that Jay's stepbrother John Jr (building a house from the ground up by himself) also suffers from this malady.

It goes something like this: The further along in a project you get, the more tasks and sub-tasks arise demanding your attention and resources, thus breaking any focus or concentration to the point where you develop an intimate understanding of the old analogy, "Like a chicken with his head cut off." As focus is broken, productivity drops and you begin to question how you got here.

That's when you say screw it - it's time to call for help! Sometimes, this is a neccesity. For example, Jay's stepdad John, in assessing our bathroom addition plans, was visibly disturbed when noticing that our main water service line is 1/2" galvanized pipe. This pipe (commonly used in 90 year old buildings) has a tendency to develop calcium deposits along the insides which in turn restrict water flow. Since normal size pipe in new construction single family homes averages 1" supply, we are short to begin with, and excess buildup over 90 years is not encouraging. What this basically means is that we'd be lucky to have water pressure above a slow drip if we expand as planned without upgrading service.

Cue calls to plumbing contractors to investigate and estimate the cost of this further! We've settled on a local outfit who has experience dealing with the village's building permits dept, and thus ensure timely permits, inspections and most importantly... completed work! They'll be coming by Wednesday to tear up our basement and give us brand new and improved water service.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Splashes of color abound!

We've made it to the point of paint, at least in the basement. We may have thrown caution somewhat into the wind by assuming rooms won't need any additional work, but we needed to feel a sense of progress.

Jen started off by painting the far corner room of the basement which will be used as her office. This room is one of the few rooms to have a drywall ceiling, as well as a framed and drywalled soffit for the HVAC. Since she will use this as a room to get away (from the remaining chaos now running rampant throughout our house), she chose a nice calming shade of purple, with white ceiling paint (so the headroom isn't intimidating). Looks pretty sharp with that daybed in there, doesn't it!

It was very fulfilling to finally get a sense of accomplishment and progress as we've finally got one room done (Almost. Still needs trim and carpeting). There's even a functional phone and cable jack (if we subscribed to cable that is)!

For this little event Kenny purchased a power paint roller as a gift. Jen rocked and rolled all over the walls with that little guy, and the tool is now her exclusive domain.

Jay got a little more ambitious on the other hand, with the commercial paint sprayer Frankie had lent us and decided to use it on the remaining ceilings (big room and hallway), as well as the music studio. We had trouble deciding on a comforting yet creative color for the music studio, and we finally settled on the same color - Purple! Only a much deeper shade. We plan to use a deep burgundy as an accent color to this.

Painting with a sprayer turned out to be quite an adventure. As Jay was ensuring there was adequate coverage (that is a really dark shade, after all), there was a lot of paint applied. After the room was covered and the mists began to settle, mountain peaks started to form on the walls.. Whoops! Way too much paint had caused massive running. Ah!

Without knowing what else to do, Jay grabbed a roller and went over the runs in an attempt to smooth them out. This quickly developed into a disaster as the roller lifted the paint almost completely off the wall, leaving a pinkish stain where it had once been purple. After deciding to let it dry for a few hours and try it again, there were similar results with only mild improvement.

The runs were gone, but now the room looked like a mural of pink mountain majesties in a purple twilight. Sounds pretty, but trust me. It wasn't.

On the next day the only option was to go over the walls again (with the roller this time) and apply a new coat (or two. or three) to spots as needed and hope they blended in. It may be hard to tell from these photographs, but it actually turned out halfway decent. The room seems much smaller now (and so dark!) but at least the coverage is mostly even.

We had already discussed covering the bottom of the walls with wainscotting (not yet installed) so instruments and cases didn't ruin the walls, so it may just turn out to be okay. The wainscotting may also brighten up the room a bit too. But we're not quite sure exactly how to make it. Do we run the wainscotting 1/3 up the wall (as shown) or do we go higher with it (4 feet off the ground.. about another foot from what is shown)? Any ideas, opinions, or options are welcome!

New Cabinets Already?

We haven't even begun on the kitchen, but we now have some new cabinets!

I know, you're asking if we're crazy. Well, they're not exactly new, but they are new to us. We've infected our good friend Mark with some remodeling bug, and he is revamping his condo's kitchen. Rather than see his old cabinets in a landfill, we gladly accepted his offer. Plus, we know we are desperately in need of help organizing things, as anyone who has seen our 2.5 car garage wonders how we manage to fit one small car in it.

Scott and Mark brought them over and helped move things around so we could install them strategically throughout the garage. After Jay helped Mark install the new cabinets, Mark also gave us two base units as well! One is now in the laundry room and the other in the garage. With all this new space, we might even be able to pull in Jay's new truck if needed!

1988 s10

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Happy Day!

Today is Jay's Dad's birthday, so he made a present:

Off Task Lighting

Once we removed the stairs, we got to see how the backside of the archway in our dining room was constructed. Apparently this used to actually be a rectangular-topped niche originally that some Previous Owner then converted to an arch.. along with every doorway on the first floor.

As a bonus, we saw that when they retrofitted the arch, they actually put some neat accent task lighting in there. Some later PO must have had these removed and sealed over, but all the electrical infrastructure was still there.

So, we once again muttered the three most dangerous words in remodelling: "might as well". As in, Since we can access the backside of the niche from the demolished stairs, we might as well put in some new lights. It would make the dining room look really snappy!

Yeah for Halogens!
Well after taking out the old patchings, we discovered the electrical boxes were only 1/2" deep, which meant surface mounted fixtures. Jen and I both really liked the idea of recessed lights better in there, so we decided to buy some recessed halogen eyeball lights and make new holes. Hence the two black spots (needing to be re-patched) in the photo.

It was a challenging act of ladder dancing to install these from the backside of the niche, as that is where the stairs descend to the basement. But it wasn't too bad (for someone that is mildly afraid of heights as I am). I think Jen was actually more frightened (shock!) than I was.
Don't fall!

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Stairs as promised

As promised, we have some photos to share of our wonderful new stairs, that now allow even Scott to walk throughout the house without worrying about head clearance! Seriously, they have really opened up the house a lot, and are quite spacious! Jay's grandpa Don did all the design, layout, and led the construction. Along the way Jay, his brother Rob pitched in. And Kenny came up TWICE and took time off his vacation to help out, making several trips to the hardware store, adding new doors and all sorts of miscellaneous things. When it was all said and done, it added up to give us this:
Taken from Second Floor

Taken from First FloorThe photo above was taken from the top of the second floor. In the photo at left, you can see we ended up getting a lot more light in the house as well - The windows above the stairs are the only ones we have that face south with full sun all day long. Just look how the sunlight floods through the stairs going up! And the stairs going down to the basement (on the right) will have loads of headroom, and an access door for storage under the other set of stairs.

Now we can start planning for upstairs as we work on finishing off the basement. Thanks to everyone for their help, but especially Grandpa! :) Now we just need to do something nice to thank him for his hard work. Any creative ideas are welcome :)
Don, aka Grandpa Duck

Thursday, August 18, 2005

You might be in rehab if...

  • Every room in the house has at least one tool in it.
  • The new-in-box entry door you bought three months ago still serves as an effective temporary wall in your bedroom.
  • The dishwasher you bought on st. patricks day has moved a total of two lineal feet in the garage (to make room for drywall storage, of course).
  • You've become acustomed to cooking in a small kitchen with a large air compressor in the middle of the floor area.
  • You are only casually annoyed when said air compressor kicks on at 5am due to pressure drops.
  • You consider getting a longer ladder so it is easier to get upstairs, because there are no stairs.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

It's been awhile ...

... and we've accomplished quite a bit! We were able to manage to go on an actual vacation - albeit an abbreviated one - and spend some time not thinking about the house (too much, anyway). Then we came home a few days earlier and got to work in earnest.

Most people know the basement has been a bit of a BYOB project - that is, Build Your Own Bedroom (Scott's got his ready!) But it's really starting to near completion now. I spent the other day painting the office in the basement a mixture of yellow and peach. It looks pretty cool. I also finished the ceiling in the b/room, and Jason and I picked out colors for the main room. Right now, we're just waiting for the stairs to get finished (hopefully by next week, Grandpa Duck is volunteering his time and energy out of the sweetness of his heart) and once that's done, we can get moving on the basement - FULL SPEED AHEAD.

Jason's grandfather has been busy like a bee on our stairwell. He and Jason tore out the stairs completely (photos to come in next post) and designed the new ones. My dad took a day off of his own vacation to spend helping them get started on the actual construction. Jason's brother also has come by to lend a hand. Muchas gracias!

That's all for now. Will be posting some of the more acrobatic photos this weekend. Ever wanted to see Jason walk a tightrope?

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Laundry Test Drive

When Frankie came by last week, he helped assemble our "laundry area" which currently comprises our total livable area in the basement (6 square feet! Woo hoo!).

After wiping off the drywall dust this morning, I loaded up the washer for a test run (towels.. .nothing too worrisome if something fails)..

Well, they made it through the washer with marginal success (slight leakage under the washer though). They are now turning in the dryer.

Hopefully this isn't a major repair and we will be able to avoid any laundromat woes!

Monday, July 25, 2005

S(heat)rock Weekend

Scottie Sprung a Leak!
Lot's done last week. Not only did we move in, we got tons done on the basement. Of course, it helps when you have someone (else) working everyday on the place, as Scotty was able to do. Even Frankie came by for a couple days during the week to help out!

AND, SBC finally made it to hook up our phone and actually knocked on our door this time! Wonder of wonders! As Jen said, sometimes being a you-know-what can get things accomplished! So now we have phone and DSL! Long live the blog!

And although there were some occasional occupational hazards (see image on right when Scottie sprung a leak) along the way, we managed to avoid any major catasrophes.

Perhaps the most newsworthy item in Chicago this weekend was the convergence of music. Grant Park hosted Lollapolooza downtown, and the Vans Warped tour was intown as well, all while the city reached near-record highs of 103 degrees on Sunday! We managed to beat out most of the US in temps. I think only Death Valley was hotter (129 degrees).

Are those water pipes? No! Heating/cooling pipes!Of course, working in a basement provided a perfect excuse to beat the heat! It was relatively cool considering we had fans blowing air and drywall dust out the windows and door. It was so humid out that our heating ducts looked like water pipes!

Once the dust from Scotty's sanding started flying up though, it congealed into a nice sticky paste. That's okay.. Extra insulation for the future, jay says! :-)

Well, after many long hours, much more than expected, we have a ready-to-paint basement including new stairs (which Jay had been avoiding for some time, but thankfully Frankie came up with some clever solutions).
A Stairway nich... awaiting built-in shelves
You can see how we have a small niche under the stairs. This could be a perfect spot for an eventual built in shelving / storage, or a little desk. Jay quickly ran an electrical outlet there in case we need it later. On the backside of this niche is a closet for the "bright room" (so-named due the light that floods it from 10 am - 2 pm in the new glass block window Kenny helped install). We also had a few glass blocks left over, so we put them in the wall of the stairway landing to bring light back and forth between the "bright room" and the stairs. Plus, can you ever have too many interior windows? (joke).

We'll add a photo album later once Jen has a chance to put it together... Jay is photoshop-ignorant. :-)

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

We did it. It’s over. Or just starting, depending on your point of view.

The closing happened at noon today; we’re now full-time residents of Humphrey House, better known these days as The House of Chaos. Boxes throughout the house intermingle with planks of laminate flooring and excavated wood trim with nails still poking out. A fine coating of sawdust and drywall dust covers all the items in the east end of the house, giving even the dishes inside the cabinets a grimy feeling like they’ve just been rolled in sandpaper and ashes. I’ve stopped caring about the dirt on the kitchen floor, and have focused instead on just trying to keep the garbage from getting too full of smashed drywall, broken screws and the endless paper waste a steady diet of fast food inevitably produces.

The second floor smells like a dead pine forest in the dog days of summer after a three-year drought; a single match and POOF! nothing but burning embers.

The residue from the wallpaper glue in the first floor bedroom has begun to stain our bedspread and we’ve had to install a headboard to protect our own hair from becoming streaked with orange like misapplied self-tanner.

The bathroom’s floors feel slightly tacky no matter how many times I scrub them, and the front porch is this close to collapsing under the weight of our picture frames, extra chairs, fax machines, shoes and Christmas decorations.

But, dammit, it’s home.

Our kitty Merlin has come along for the ride as well, and seems to be coping better than Jason or I expected, which is a relief. Merlin ripped the backing material from the bottom of our box-spring mattress in search of the perfect hiding place. Seems he was a bit overwhelmed, too.

Again, dammit, it’s home. He’ll learn.

We’ve not got dsl or even the phone hooked up, so won’t be updating the gallery until next week at the earliest. But it will be amazing when I do. Frankie, Scottie and Jason have been working hard at finishing the drywall and other things.

Expected for completion next week:
- stairs leading up & basement walls
- phone and dsl working
- washer & dryer installed (THANKS AUNT MARGARET!)

adios …

Monday, July 18, 2005

Wake up! Wake up! It's MOVING day! The plow is here! Run for your lives! MOVING DAY IS HERE!

The above is a reference to this cartoon movie I loved as a kid, "The Secret of Nimh." It's about a bunch of mice/rats who live in the farmer's field. Mrs. Brisby is the heroine whose son Timmy is ill and cannot be moved from the cement block they call home, even though it's plowing season. Her husband's Auntie Shrew runs through the field alerting the mice, hedgehogs, bunnies and who knows what else when she hears the plow start up at the end of the field. General panic ensues, of course, and it's really bedlam.

Kinda like our condo. That sense of panic was pretty strong last night. We'll see how it goes ...

Wednesday, July 13, 2005


We move into this joint in FIVE days. Monday we've hired Del's Movers to come out and move out all our stuff. Currently, Jason and his crew (which invariably includes Scotty, but also thus far Scott and Mark, as well) are busy busting their assess hanging drywall while I pack up the condo.

I need more boxes. And more hours. And more sleep. And more speed. I want to be BLURRY with speed.

Yet here I sit.

Check out the gallery. WTF?! I gotta go pack!

Also, BTW, my band, bad nurse, played its first show this weekend: We are soo cool.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Rough Inspection #2

Insulation inspection this morning. Although the inspector was an hour late, he was very apologetic and was at Humphrey House all of 5 minutes. "Looks good. You just need to put some insulation up in the joist bays along the outside walls." So, PASS!

Now Menards is dropping off 60 sheets of drywall later today. Hopefully we'll have walls by Monday!

Rough Inspection #1

The last inspection we had was in mid-March, when the inspector and the structural engineer for the village came out to ensure that our new post footings were dug to the proper depth of 18". During that visit they freaked out when they noticed other things that were not being done properly at the time. Such as glass block windows installed without a header (even though we just put inside an existing opening).

We barely ended up passing, but ever since we have been very concerned that any other inspection would be very scrutinizing and they would be looking for every little detail to fail us. So before the rough inspections, Jay took Jen through on a mock role-play pointing out and asking questions about every possible thing that they might have a problem with so she would be thoroughly prepared.

The first inspector to show up was the electrical guy. Fortunately, he is on the board of directors at Jen's former employer so they immediately had a good rapport. He took his time going through the place, but was encouraging in general and had offered some advice. His main concern was the high placement of outlets along the outside wall (due to concrete). He said if there was a problem he would call Jay later that day. And, the phone never rang. So, PASS.

The second inspector was the same guy who came out before on the footing inspection. Jen was tense, but this guy clearly had a much busier schedule in the middle of building season. His arrival and departure both included cell phone conversations. His total time present looking at everything from post installation to window headers to wall framing and everything took about three minutes. His only comments were "You'll have to have me back for an insulation inspection before you drywall" Okay. And, "You're not going to use any of these rooms as a bedroom, right?" No. Of course not! PASS.

Now we breath a collective sigh of relief. 72 hours of last minute cramming to desperately earn a passing grade... reminded us a little of college. And now, we can begin preparing for the final examination.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Today's deadline

We worked like mad the last five days... spending Independance Day weekend putting the finishing touches on our place in preparation for the building inpection today (Wednesday). Of course we had great help as usual from our family - Jen's dad Ken, Scott, and Jay's grandpa all came by to help us get things finalized.

Now everything will go under the magnifying glass as Jen leads the inspectors through our basement to check out the HVAC, framing, and electrical roughing. Keep your fingers crossed until 1:30... Will we clear this hurdle?

Thursday, June 30, 2005

Getting By With A Little Help From Our Friends

Sometimes Jay and I just sit and marvel at the willingness of our friends to help us on Humphrey House. It's really amazing. You know you have the best friends and family you could ever want when everyone is ready to pitch in like this. I'm more than a little moved by their generosity and goodwill, if you can tell.

Either that, or everybody just wants that trip to Jamaica REAL BAD. :) Seriously, tho, this weekend we had just an amazing WEEKEND WARRIOR TEAM.

Jason's maternal grandpa, "Grandpa Duck," is a tough old guy who runs a handyman business in the city. He came out to assist in some serious window construction, and will be guiding us (who am I kidding, he'll be building it) in the reconstruction of a new stairwell. Grampa Duck rules, and guess what kids, he does one helluva mean "Donald Duck."

Props to Marsha for making the five hour train ride (10 roundtrip) from Carbondale to refinish our front door (among other things). She's my soulsisterfriend from WAY back - the person I've known longest in my life! - and a bit of a slavedriver to boot. It was 97 degrees in the shade, and this girl was outside, in full sun, with JEANS ON, slathering stripper on our new front door (which we discovered had been painted tan, yellow, burnt orange and fugly babyshit yellow before you got down to the beautiful oak [?] beneath) for over FOUR HOURS. Actually, I lost count after that. But it looks AMAZING.

Scott continued working on his "dirtiest guy in da house" reputation by removing the remaining plaster and lathe walls around the staircase, thereby making it the most dangerous space in the house! Scott was, as usual, covered head to toe in black soot. I think I'll start calling Scott "Burt" ... I think that was Ms. Poppin's boyfriend's name in "Mary Poppins." You know, the chimney sweep? :)

It's a long fall from the 2nd floor to the basement ... it's so creepy now walking upstairs and seeing the floor of the basement with every step you take. I think we're making a ban on treks upstairs till further notice. At least until we get that waiver Julie was talking about....

My brother Matt & his fiance Erika also came up and joined in the fun this past weekend. Matt worked on installing the windows, while Erika (a self-proclaimed victim of "project add (attention deficit disorder)" took on a few jobs in the course of the day: stripping with Marsha (woo-howdy!), then stripping the table with me, then peeling off the hideous great-great-grandma-died-in-her-sleep-in-this-bedroom-20-years-ago-and-we've-never-touched-the-room-since blue wallpaper in the bedroom/family room area.

All in all, an incredibly productive weekend. THANKS TO YOU ALL - we'd still be running in circles in a panic in the basement without your help.


Friday, June 24, 2005

And on the 177th day, there was light ...

That's right, folks. We got lights in the basement. Full-on, proper lights, with switches that won't shock you and pull chains instead of shoestring. It really does look lovely. And it was also a learning experience. As in, electricians cost money, but they're better than using your conduit lines for a new perm. The 80s look is in again, right? Right???!?

On another note, many thanks to Judy for bringing the following to my attention: when we move into our shiny house in three weeks, we won't yet have a laundry room. Which means we're back to doing laundry at a laundromat, something I haven't had to do for the past five years. I haven't missed that overpowering smell of dryer sheets and stale sweat, nor the thieving hands who steal my favorite outfits when I go out for a smoke (well, back in the day. Won't need to worry about that anymore.) On the plus side, I hear we can really score big drogas at the laundromat down the street. Woohoo. There's always someone passed out in that parking lot. Ick.

Wonder how many other things like this we have yet to consider?

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Waiting to exhale ...

The ink is dry on the papers now, so I guess we can begin to exhale. We've (again) gone under contract with the condo. The buyers (new folks, from Chicago, but using the same agency) have until the 27th to get financing, then all should be smooth sailing from there. Provided I don't hang a wet towel on the drying rack again, thereby confusing the home inspector into thinking water is coming through the tiles (gimme a break!). Mmmm, maybe I will hold my breath a bit longer ...

We're supposed to close on July 20th. On the 8th is my band's first gig in Chicago, the 9th is a whopper of a bachelor/bachelorette party for Mike & Sandy, and the 16th is Jason's stepbrother's wedding. So, feeling a bit of pressure to really get as much done in the next three weeks as possible. I think I will take Fridays off from working at the house (not that I think Jason will do the same, he's redefining the word obsessed) so I don't lose my mind. But otherwise, should really get something accomplished there each day.

So far, we've got the painting and framing 90% done in the basement. The electric guys are coming back tomorrow to finish the stuff they had to wait on before (apparently, there's an actual ORDER to the way you're supposed to do this stuff, information I wish we'd had BEFORE they came out the first time, and HVAC should be done before electric. Who knew? Not us) and then we can schedule both the framing and electric inspections with the Evil Village. Scotty is finishing the framing today (YAHOO!) so we should be on schedule.

Now we just have to create the rest of that schedule.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

I wanna be ... your sledgehammer

we kicked that concrete's ass.

Monday, June 06, 2005

"So, when you gettin' a dog?"

The first time I ever had something stolen, it was this girl Tracy Young in preschool. It was my birthday, and for your birthday you got to pick out a ring from this box. I picked out a beautiful watermelon ring - I'd had my eye on it since Dusty Salmon's birthday. Tracy sat across from me, and asked if she could try on my ring. When I gave it to her, she said "Finders keepers losers weepers" and blew a raspberry at me. I was inconsolable. The teacher wouldn't make her give it back, either, saying it was my fault for giving it to her. I felt so damned crappy. Although I did sing at Tracy's wedding fifteen years later, I still never really got over it.

I still feel that way every time something gets stolen from me, even now.

Yup, you guessed it, we got burgled (is that really the term? Sounds so dorky). Our garage did, anyway. We'd moved a bunch of power tools to the garage while we painted the basement (apparently not our brightest moment)and lo and behold! they'd disappeared. Jerks broke in through the window. They even stole my dry cleaning - all my best clothes. SIGH.

We've learned a lesson, albeit one I wish we hadn't. Keep nothing of value to you in your garage. Good thing is, I talked to our neighbor and she was cool with the fence, even wanted to talk about splitting the cost. Plus we're going to get a security system. And all our neighbors keep asking when we're getting a dog. Within a ten house radius there are three huskies, two german shephards, an akita, two labs and a yippy little terrier.

Now if I could just get rid of the crappy feeling ...

Sunday, June 05, 2005

Now EVERY room has a view to the basement!

Sunday was interesting. Jason and his buddy Chris got a wee bit melancholy for the good old days admist all their ductwork on Sunday afternoon, spouting weepy-eyed soliloquys on the joys of living in Aurora back in the day, when helicopters and skinny, sleepless paranoid roomates ruled their world, and nothing was more important than whose turn was next on Grand Theft Auto. Well, few things were more important, anyway.

And yes, now EVERY room has a view to the basement, thanks to Chris' trusty saw of some sort that just munches through carpet and subfloor and wood, oh my! But that means we also have AIR CONDITIONING EVERYWHERE! THANKS CHRISTOPHER!

It also appears as though our house is going to have TWO furnaces. More on that later.

Friday, June 03, 2005

Beam It Up, Scotty ...

Our man Scotty was here this week to assist in the re-construction of the basement. Back when we thought we had a pretty severe deadline (see previous posts) we had invited Scotty, an old pal of Jason's brother-in-law with a thorough knowledge of all things constructional, to come down from Wisconsin for a paid gig doing drywall and more.

As usual, we got a little ahead of ourselves.

However, Scotty did prove to be useful as hell. He and Jason did a lot of framing in the basement with Jay's newest toy, a concrete nailgun that uses actual Remington .22 caliber blanks to fire the nails into the concrete flooring of the basement. They also worked on reorganizing the garage after a shitty incident earlier in the week gave us cause to do so. More on that later.

We'll be asking Scotty to come back once we've gotten our electrical and framing inspections completed. Then he can come kick some evil bootay on the drywall. YEAH!

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Rocco and Rolling on the Basement

Before doing any construction downstairs, we decided it would be best to start with a clean space. Especially after all the filth that came down when we removed the ceiling in January.

So Jay called up an old friend (and first employer), Rocco to see if he still had his powerwashing equipment and was able to help us out. It was hard to believe when Rocco told us he had the privledge of being handed Link Wray's guitar (rock and roll guitar player most noted for the early feedback and distortion experimentation on his major hit, the 1957 instrumental "Rumble") during a performance on Friday. But if you know him, you know he is a devoted fan of straight up rock and roll, and Link knew he could cut it.

Anyway, Rocco agreed to come by Sunday afternoon with his truck and equipment to give our basement the once over. It was amazing how much stuff came down off our the concrete. At least five layers of paint were on there, plus decades of filth. We had to blast through the floor drain several times just to make sure the water went down.

Once the dirt was cleared, we realized the basement floors actually have a color - Dark Red! Actually, we knew that already, but we had no idea there so many cracks that were invisible because they were filled in with dirt. And the fireplace is made out of Chicago common brick. It might be nice to strip. but then again, it might easier to just paint it!

When the powerwashing was all over, it honestly had a dramatic affect on the basement. It was much easier to see what needs to be done, and envision where things would go.
Thank you Rocco!

Interesting postscript: Rocco and Debbie had actually recently redone their kitchen / family room, and it was featured on the cover of April's issue of Decorating Ideas. Click to see. This also included polished concrete countertops that Rocco built!

Saturday, May 21, 2005

Premature Evacuation

So ... that whole "we sold the condo - yippee skippy" thing? Maybe a bit too optimistic. While we DID go under contract, not so sure what the *@?! is up now. The buyers had a home inspection on Thursday and apparently, freaked out.

Apparently, they never noticed the windows are original to the building before, and expect us to fix them. SO NOT HAPPENING. Especially since the association is giving owners the option to fix them later this year, and all that info was in the condo meeting minutes, which they received. Plus, they want the bathroom tile re-done.The original glass subway tile doesn't suit them ...

We've told our realtor, after much discussion and not a few choice words, that we'll reglaze the windows (happening today), fix the water stain in the sunroom (it's being fixed by the assoc this week) and patch a hole in a window jamb, but if they want more, they can walk.

As Jason noted, they shouldn't have been looking at vintage if they wanted new construction. I'm just glad I didn't book the moving van. SIGH . ...

Friday, May 20, 2005

A Call To Arms

Looks like we're going to have to move into the basement. Wonder of wonders, we're having issues with the village (again) who have admitted there's really no way that we can get a zoning variance for our proposed dormer (which, although it wouldn't extend past the exterior of the current house, would be six inches too close to our lot line - apparently, our currrent wall is grandfathered in, but if we make a single modification to that wall, we is in BIG trouble, hoss). Which has sent us in a mad scramble back to the drawing board, literally. We have to shave 8 inches off our dormer proposal to be in compliance and start work. But since we have to redesign, we must re-submit plans to the village for approval.

Hear that big cracking sound? Yeah, that was my head splitting wide open. SIGH.


Saturday, May 14, 2005

Oh Frabjous Day! Calloo! Callay!

So ... today has really been somewhat of an outstanding day. As we were headed out of town to see Jason's brother Rob graduate from SIU in Carbondale, we got our second offer on our condo ... which was about $14K low. We countered, and heard nothing. So around 3:30, we started to make our way south. We had a few detours along the way, and were sadly still on the road at 9:30 when the phone rang again, somewhere around Sandoval. They were countering back, more respectable this time. We said we'd consider it and call back the next day.

We finally arrived at the Heller house (home to my lifelong sister soulfriend Marsha, her hubby Scott and their uber-smart 2 year old Logan) in DeSoto, it was nearly midnight and we were exhausted. We stayed up chatting for a while, then crashed - hard. The next morning, amidst answering Logan's myriad "whasssat?" questions and watching all manner of animals parade in Marsha's backyard (hawks, skunks, demon cats and more!) we kind of forgot about the urgent phone call we needed to place. It wasn't until 1:00 and we were on the road to Bobby's graduation ceremony with Jay's dad and stepmom in tow that I realized we should turn my phone on.

Sure enough, we had two semi-frantic messages from our realtor, and the realtor babysitting our account while our realtor is in sunny sunny CA. We decided to do one last counter, and held our breath.

Bobby graduated. It was fun. We watched the graduates all pomp-and-circumstance it with restrained hoopla. Later, we got to see the antenna lab at SIU, thanks to four-year old Michael's wily charms: "This isn't a party. If it's a party, where's the disco ball?" This said to a woman who ended up being the chair of research or something. Then we headed back to Rob's for some unrestrained hoopla.

As Bobby was opening presents, we got a call from the realtor.

Sold. Hurrah!

Now we just have to figure out how to be living in the house by June 24. ACk!

Wednesday, May 04, 2005


We've been feeling a general lack of progress lately since our main efforts have been structural repairs (sistering basement joists, pouring concrete piers, etc.). But all that changed last weekend.

After Jen sent out a blanket email recruiting friends for help, we had a few people take us up on the opportunity to work out some anger management issues on our walls. It was the long awaited Wallbanger's Ball, and boy did things come down!

To begin with, Scott and Julie showed up Saturday. Jay took advantage of Scott's height to do a sister (double-up) a few joists in the basement while Julie and Jen chased each other around the yard with our old-fashioned manual push mower. Yes, we can be Luddites when we want to be, although Jen remarked that it will be gas-powered if I eat a burrito beforehand.

After a few hours, we decided to move on to the fun stuff-- the Demo. [insert maniacal laughter here] We realized we needed to get a handle of how to rebuild the stairs, and without taking all kinds of measurements on the existing wierd angles, we decided to get rid of the walls to make things easier.

What began as a simple task evolved into destructive mayhem on Sunday when Mike, Sandy, and Sara came by and brought out the sledgehammers. I almost felt sorry for the poor old walls as their evil grins peeked out from behind dust masks. Almost.

Mike, got any feeling in your arms yet? :)

On Monday, Sara took a little progressive therapy and finished the destruction in the closet and bedroom, and even cleaned up afterwards. ROCK ON SARA!

All in all, it was a WAY productive weekend, and we even have photos to show for it! Thanks to all who helped out.. We couldn't have done it without you! :)

Originally posted by Jay, edited a lil bit by Jen. All apologies, hon.

Sunday, May 01, 2005

Dreams of Bungalow Color Schemes

Photoshop knowledge, in the wrong hands, can be a very dangerous thing. But we only use our powers for good, at least today. And so ....

Been playing with color schemes lately, can't you tell? Wanna see more? Click Here ...

Energy level is running low, so brief update: mucho thanks to Scott & Julie & Sandy & Mike & Sara for all their hard work this past weekend. We all came together to totally turn Humphrey House into the best haunted house ever! Too bad Halloween is so far away ... maybe we'll just have to bring a lil punkin fun to Chi-town a wee bit early this year . ... say Memorial Day?

More to come, and pix too!

"Om was yesterday's mantra. Today is more along the lines of 'grrrr ..." :) - Gutted: Down to the Studs Of My House, My Marriage, My Entire Life, by Lawrence LaRose

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

I WANT ...

Pretty Tiles.

Also want:

Arts & Crafts wallpapers from - these look pretty cool. I ordered a bunch of samples ($22 just for SAMPLES - so yeah, this is a pricey route) and we've got them pinned up all over the house. Actually, it's a wee bit silly - the house is torn to shreds and dainty little handpainted wallpaper samples are littered about. YEEHAW.

Wanna see what I mean?

CURRENT HUMPRHREY HOUSE PHOTOS Current as of April 22. Enjoy.

And if anybody's in the market, our condo is still for sale - now at $224,900.

I'm gonna miss this joint. Lots of good times here, and it's been so good to us. I've discovered my inner neat freak the last few weeks - having the house clean by 8:30 am every day is really getting to me. And Jason too - I think if he has to hear one more time about his apparent inability to successfully clean out the bathroom sink in the morning, he may go ballistic.

Oh well. :) Later - Jennifer