Category Archives: home

Hall of Fame

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Let’s make it clear: I despise wall-to-wall carpet. It just captures dirt and dust and can’t ever really be cleaned. I especially despise beige carpet. I super especially despise beige carpet padded so thick you feel like you’re walking on a pillow. And that was what we had on the stairs (where it really constitutes a balance hazard) and in the upstairs hall – I’d already torn it out of the bedrooms. The stairs, I started in on renovating about this time last year. It took a while, but I did get it done. The upstairs hallway was next.

Partly we were inspired by what we wanted to put there: a rug. Not just any rug, but a custom-made knit rug sized exactly to fit in our long, narrow hallway. We were wandering around Kathleen’s Fiber Arts in Troy and were enamored of some small wool rugs she had knit, and thought how nice it would be to have one of them in our hall – only, you know, longer. Turns out, not a problem. She was most happy to do a custom job for us. Now, having someone knit you a rug is not cheap, but we thought of how much more we would like it than anything else we could possibly find. Some commercial remnant? Two runners shoved together? It just made more sense to get what we really wanted. So we ordered it, and aimed to have it done in time to be our Christmas gift to ourselves. So it was.

That meant, of course, having to get the old carpet out and refinish the floor, which is always a leap of faith in a 116-year-old house. There was no telling what was underneath the carpet. The stairs hadn’t gone too badly, although the entire house is floored in pine, but when I took up the carpet in the main bedroom, there were some gaps between boards, and a gigantic former stovepipe hole that had to be addressed. So, in the hallway, who knew.

But it turned out not to be too bad. I mean, of course there were 400 million staples that had to be pried up, one at a time. There was one little place where some rot had happened at some point. There was some unevenness, and some boards that needed to be screwed down.

Sometimes, it’s better not to know. I lifted up one of the loose floorboards just to see what was underneath, and found the dry skeleton of old knob and tube wiring that apparently traveled in the floor space way back when. I put the board back, and quickly.

Oh yeah, there was a gap. Held together by screwed-in bits of sheet metal. (Drywall screws, predictably.)

As messy as it was, a little (or a lot) of sanding and it didn’t look too bad.

Four coats of Minwax oil-modified water-based polyurethane later, and it looked pretty good:

So, finally, with the rug (very soft on the bare feet, by the way) in place:

I’m Used to a Stair with Some Stares

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(If that “Arrested Development” reference means nothing to you, just let it go.)

When we moved, our house was what they call move-in ready. We had to do absolutely nothing to move in (other than desperately try to squish all our belongings into a much tinier house). But of course what “move-in ready” really means is that it’s painted in some nice neutral colors that you will come to hate and become desperate to do something about. And, in our case, that it had fresh carpeting all up the stairs and in the upstairs bedrooms. Problem: we hate carpeting. It’s really never clean, it’s terrible for people with allergies, and this was that shade of oatmeal beige that got dirty just by existing. I tore it out of two of the bedrooms before we had even moved, but it remained on the stairs. I hate carpeting on stairs even more – it always feels like I’m going to trip. I like to connect with a tread. So, eventually, the stair carpet had to go.

Of course, that left the question of what was under the carpet. In our old house, removal of several layers of dense enamel paint had revealed absolutely gorgeous maple stairs that were worth the roughly two years it took me to actually finish the job. In this house, I found what I have found everywhere in this house: old pine. So the decision was whether to rehab soft, splintery old pine, or do a full replacement. Thought I’d try the rehab first. This is what was under the carpet:

Under the carpet

So, the good news was that they weren’t heavily painted. The bad news was that they were painted just enough, and rough and splintery enough, that getting down to bare wood and whacking it with a thick coat of polyurethane wasn’t going to work. The answer would have to be paint.

The stairs, under the carpet, pulling out four million staples

First, I would have to remove approximately four million staples. Whoever put in this brand new carpet that I despised, I would highly recommend for a carpeting job. They did it beautifully. Even trying hard, it was a massive chore to get that carpet off the stairs. And every single one of those staples had to be pulled out by hand. Even by the time I was ready to paint, I was still finding some hidden staples.

So, there was the issue of figuring out paint. I found a couple of rather elegant paint patterns that I liked, including something with a set of highlighting stripes that I thought would make some plain old pine stairs look quite nice. What I wasn’t sure of was whether it would be possible to create nice smooth stripes on such rough old wood. Even with significant sanding (oh, and there was sanding), you can only get this stuff so smooth.

And then there's the woodwork

Yeah. Not so smooth. But we decided to go for it anyway, and figured if we hated it in the end, we could just start all over and replace the stairs entirely. So, final sanding and then two solid coats of Kilz high-hiding primer:

The stairs, fully primed

You’ll note the weirdness of the lack of balusters and banister on the right. What was there was a horrible piece of cheap pine, poorly arranged, that took the place of where railing setup would normally be. We liked the openness and didn’t want to enclose the space, but we had to have a nicer piece of wood. We thought about several fancier treatments, including using some live-edge wood that would have been an interesting effect, but in the end decided to make it simple.

Setting the stripe

To make the stripe, first I painted the color I wanted the stripes to be on the treads and risers. Then, I had to bring the tape down over that color, and I would then paint the darker color everywhere the tape wasn’t. The cardboard is a template for laying the tape because this was, of course tricky. The house was built in 1900. The stairs are not the same width at the top as at the bottom. If I put the stripes a uniform distance from the left or right walls, they would have ended up looking very funky. So I had to pick a spot at the top of the stairs and run down from that, keeping the space between the stripes exactly the same but letting the outside margins drift.

I used Frog tape, which many blogs said would work better than the traditional 3M blue painter’s tape, particularly on a less than smooth surface; those folks turned out to be right. It was a bit tricky getting it tucked into the corners perfectly where the treads met the risers, and wrapping it around the bullnose nicely while still maintaining something like a straight line, but it worked out pretty well.

Then, and this was absolutely key, I painted over the edges of the tape in the color of the stripe. That would prevent the darker color from leaking under the tape, because if there was to be any leakage, the lighter color would have already done it. So: paint the color you want to protect, tape over it, then paint the edges of the tape the same color. It’s brilliant.

Behold the Blue

Then comes the main color, the dark blue. Here you can see it applied to most of the risers and the sides of the treads – that was so we could still go up and down stairs while a portion of it dried. I used porch and floor paint from True Value that dries pretty quickly and pretty hard, but it still preferred to rest for a couple of days before getting really challenged. I waited to do the treads until Lee was going to be out of the house for the weekend and I could try to just walk up the edges while they dried. Here you can see I was also deciding whether to paint the railing and the not-a-baluster board the same color.

Then, of course, came the problem. That cheesy piece of wood wasn’t ever really set in place right, and didn’t have a proper support underneath, so when it was time to replace it, I had to cobble together a new support column.

There was much checking of angles, let me assure you. I’m terrible with angles.

Then came the moment when I could take off all the tape. My history with the blue tape is that inevitably I would snag a strip of paint at some point and undo some of my work, and then have to go back and touch up. That did not happen with the Frog tape. There was absolutely minimal leakage – just in a couple of spots where I hadn’t been able to get the tape tight enough as it came through a corner – and the lines were razor sharp. I ended up doing just the slightest amount of retouching, all of it in the corners. The rest of it was amazing. Here’s how it came out:

The finished stairs

Nice, is it not? The iPhone and the ambient light aren’t really capturing the color here. Trust me, it came out pretty sweet.

You can’t go home again, but home does ship UPS

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When we moved from Syracuse back to the Capital District, there were a few things left behind that we knew we’d miss and had a hard time finding replacements for – Hofmann’s coneys, fisherman’s cheese, Hyman Smith coffee (and, in restaurants, Paul deLima coffee). But we settled in and picked up the food traditions of greater Albany, and largely forgot that when we moved to the depths of Pennsylvania, there would again be some things we would miss. Some were to be expected, some were complete surprises. And while the local devotion to pretzels is . . . charming, and there are these satanic cookies called Sweetzel’s mini-cremes, it doesn’t quite replace what we left behind.

  • Bagels. You don’t have to tell me that, on the whole, bagels in the Capital District aren’t like bagels in New York City. I know. (But, hey, try Psychedelicatessen’s, because they’re pretty damn good.) In fact, these days most of the bagels in New York aren’t like the bagels in New York. But trust me, if you lived where I live now, you’d be dying for something that even remotely resembled a Bruegger’s bagel. Most of them come out more like a hard roll than a bagel.
  • Ginger biscotti from Our Daily Bread in Chatham. Please, ODB, please: Offer to ship. Right now we rely on friends, relatives and our occasional trips back home to keep our stockpile going.
  • Lucy Jo’s Coffee. While we love what they serve up at Spill’n the Beans, we became big fans of Lucy Jo’s as well. We didn’t think we’d have trouble finding another coffee roaster in the trendy suburbs of Philadelphia, where we have a whole foods store that isn’t that whole foods store. But, weirdly, haven’t found anything local that wowed us. Happily, Lucy Jo’s does ship, and quickly, so we can keep getting our Brink on.
  • Not actually from the Capital District, but similarly, we haven’t been as smitten with local pasta makers as we were with Flour City Pasta, which makes a tremendous variety of grain types and flavors, and it’s all of such quality that I swore off ever eating grocery store pasta again. They’re from Macedon, out near Rochester, but they come to the Troy Farmer’s Market most weeks, and are also more than happy to ship us their great stuff.
  • Fish fry. I didn’t understand that fish fry was a regional thing. Don’t misunderstand: there are restaurants with fried fish of the haddock/cod variety. It exists. But there aren’t delicious homey little seasonal fish fry stands that serve a simple fish fry in a paper boat with enough fries to put you under.
  • Cider donuts. Pennsylvania has amazing apples. Pennsylvania has good cider. Pennsylvania has good donuts along the nature of a fry cake. But do they have cider donuts as an upstate New Yorker would recognize them? They do not.
    • I need to qualify that statement, and then unqualify it. When I tell people around here that I can’t find a cider donut, they look at me amazed, and then recommend places where they are supposed to exist. Most of those places are miles and miles from here, and on the rare occasion when I have tried to hunt them down I’ve found something that really wasn’t what we’d consider a cider donut – they may be donuts, and they may have cider in them, but something isn’t right. And then I make the point that I shouldn’t have to drive half an hour (around here, that’s about 10 miles) to find such a thing, that in fact I can hardly cross the street without tripping on one where I come from. Further, we have stopped at tens of farm stands that absolutely should have had cider donuts, only to be greeted with quizzical looks.
    • Then, at the local farmer’s market, one of the cookie and scone bakeries had cider donuts. I kvelled for a minute, in a way that may have startled the proprietress. She asked, “How many do you want?” I said, “I want ALL the cider donuts!” “Oooohhhkay.” “How much are they?” “Two dollars.” I thought I had misheard, because surely a half-dozen cider donuts has to go for more than two dollars. Well, I had, and it does . . . because what she meant was two dollars per donut. And by that time, I was so desperate for a fix that I paid it. It was, if you have never had an upstate New York cider donut, a perfectly fine piece of confectionery . . . a firm, flavorful fry cake that in absolutely no way whatsoever resembled a cider donut.

A year later

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Phoenixville markerSo, it’s been more than a year in our new surroundings. If we’re friends on social media, you already know that we’re completely enamored of our new town. We can walk nearly everywhere. It’s a short ride to the bike path (although road riding around here is not great). We’re five minutes from great kayaking where motorboats can’t go. There are great coffee shops and open mic nights with serious talent. We get into Philadelphia from time to time (visitors are surprised by the mustard). It’s fantastic.

On the other hand, we’re part of the disaster that is metro traffic and live in a town that isn’t connected by rail. Some select bridge outages have made this the summer of whining around here, not without reason, and extensive roadwork has made things temporarily worse. Getting back and forth to Albany/Troy is either smooth as silk or rough as burlap, and then there was that one time when flooding in New Jersey made us those people who drive through floods and took more than 7 hours to make a five hour drive.  Getting to Worcester is never easy. Who knew there was so much Connecticut, and so many opportunities to enjoy it at zero miles an hour?

I determined after several summers of total dedication to renovations that this would be a summer of some level of fun, so not a lot got done on the house, but it is slowly turning into what we want it to be. We solved the problem of the sectional that was bigger than our living room, and got up some stylish shelves. The dining room table, made of beams reclaimed from an 1864 Troy building, is finally finished (well, the surface is. Still don’t like the legs). Many books still need to leave, but since our local library doesn’t do a used book sale, we’re dragging our excess back to East Greenbush. Daughter’s room got half-painted before she left again for school. Air conditioning was installed. There was less cycling than I would have liked, but considerably more canoeing and kayaking than we’ve been able to do in years.

Now, fall will be coming soon and we’ve got plans for painting, rearranging, lighting, and a crazy thought about what to do with a stair rail (so crazy it just might work). Hoping to get into all that soon.

But first, a quick trip back to the ALB.

Remembrance of things past

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The morning light when it's in your face really shows your age.We’ve moved. Downsized. Empty-nested. All at once. Of necessity and by design, since we moved into a narrow rowhouse from the turn of that other century, many things that had followed us relentlessly, like puppies or perhaps more like bedbugs, had to be left behind. This included furniture we never loved nor wanted, supposed “heirlooms” that had simply once belonged to some aunt that were cheap furniture even when purchased and were mostly useless even in our old house, which had some room for nonsense. The new house can brook no nonsense.

But not all sentimentality can be surrendered, and so there’s this thing. This window. It came from the house I grew up in, in Scotia. Actually a perfectly ordinary window for its time, in a pretty ordinary house that was built somewhere around 1910, if I recall correctly. It was at the landing where the stairs curved. When I was growing up, ours was a two-family house; our apartment was downstairs, and “the lady upstairs,” as we always referred to her, lived, well, upstairs. And this window let colored light into the stairwell, and made the old gray house look a little bit more colorful from outside.

Later on, when I was around 10 or 11, my parents bought the house and set out on a very long project of converting it back to a one-family. Once that happened, and we finally moved our bedrooms upstairs, I would pass this window every time I went up or down the stairs. When the house was empty, that little curve in the (extremely steep) stairs was one of my favorite places to just sit, with this window open, looking out at the day and letting the breeze in, or letting its colored light fall on the pages of whatever I was reading. (It’s my belief that the center pane was originally a color, too, possibly blue. But at this remove, I’ve seen so many other of these windows, with colored, clear and frosted center panes, that I honestly can’t tell you what it really was.)

At some point, in one of her endless renovations to the house, my mother decided this window had to be replaced, but she had the foresight to ask me if I was interested in it. My wife had a mirror put in the middle and gave it to me as a gift, and it hung in our house in East Greenbush for most of the 23 years that we lived there. And when I saw the perfect little half-bath in our new house, with a brick wall and a heavy dose of morning light, I knew the old window from Scotia simply had to find a new home here in Phoenixville.

So even in this current mood of blowing up everything and letting go of the past, some of the more important parts still have to stay with us.

A Fine How Do You Do

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Main Street PhoenixvilleOn our first night back together in our new town, exhausted from moving, we strolled down to the ice cream shop. An incredibly perfect summer evening, and it’s a stroll of almost two blocks. We sat out on the bench on Main Street, with a steady stream of happy people going in and out of the shop, families gathered around enjoying ice cream, little kids experiencing their first cones.

A beautiful little girl walks by with her father. She can walk and talk, but only has a few words. She stops in front of us to show Lee her pretty dress. Then she points to her sparkly pink shoes. Then she shows us her several pigtails, done in pretty pink rubber bands. Her father is patiently asking her to come along, but she’s enjoying showing off. Finally she is ready to go, but before she can go, she insists on giving each of us a goodbye hug.

And so that’s how we were welcomed to our new town.

O the things you will do!

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212 Hall StreetIn terms of things that need doing, life has reached a maximum. With all the events that come with the end of a school year anyway, add all the things that come with senior year. With all the family events that normally come around this time of year, add in a couple more special events. Work has been insanely busy, and then there’s the small matter of buying a house, picking up stakes and moving.

If you’ve never experienced a “hot” real estate market (and if you’ve only lived in the Capital District, you have not), let me explain what it’s like. A house that you might like comes on the market. Five minutes later, you get a note from your realtor asking if you want to see it that day; if you see it and like it and decide to invest hundreds of thousands of dollars based on a 10-minute review and some shaky iPhone pictures, then you’d better be prepared to make an offer that night, because the sellers are reviewing the offers first thing in the morning. If you need some extra time, well, you can just look elsewhere. If you want to make the sale contingent on selling your own house, well, perhaps something along the lines of a garden shed would suit you better. And those 27 perfectly acceptable houses taunting you on Zillow? They’re all under contract. You need to wait for something else to be listed, and don’t get far from your phone.

So that’s what it is, just a whirlwind. Found a place that I desperately loved (and could afford) on Monday, scrambled to put in an offer (while also paying attention to an important meeting, mind you) on Tuesday, got beat out by a cash offer on Wednesday. (By the way, anyone with cash is suspect, in my mind, and should be thoroughly investigated.) Had all day Wednesday to experience the mixture of let-down and relief, got the same call on Thursday, checked out a place that didn’t quite work but that we loved anyway, and had to put in a bid Friday night for a Saturday decision.

And while we’re doing all that, we have to fit in the final (final!) dance recital, prom, a string of honors events, the graduation itself, and I’m sure I’m forgetting something. Oh, yeah: work. Lots and lots of work.

Nevertheless, despite the fact that we’ll be giving up a lot, in terms of both space and personal history (not to mention the fact we largely rebuilt this house ourselves), we’re both very excited about the chance to move on. If we’re going to be empty nesters, why not be empty nesters in a gorgeous little community that people seem to love living in, within steps of a nicely vibrant downtown?

And as a special snub to the Capital District, I’ll note that no matter what house we end up with in our new town, the Wegman’s will be about four miles away.

The Farewell Tour

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Autumn 2013 049aSo weird to say this. I never really set out to make Albany (actually, Albany semi-adjacent) my home. It just happened. Grew up in Scotia, lived 11 or so years in Syracuse, landed a job in Albany, and 24 years went by. We bought our house in the Grönen Bosch in 1991, reared our kids here, were very happy here, but with our younger one finishing high school, we were thinking about a move somewhere else in the area. The job situation was unstable at best, and suddenly an opportunity arose to become much more stable and remove myself from the vagaries of political winds. But after years of dismissing offers to move to NYC and Boston out of hand, we suddenly found ourselves deciding to move to Philadelphia. Western suburbs, most likely. Valley Forge-ish; I hear the winters are delightful.

Just like our last big move, we’re not going to do it all at once. I will act as scout and ensure the area is free of both Indians and Quakers before finding a new homestead and moving my spouse; both children will be safely esconced in pricey Eastern colleges by then, and unable to prevent us from tossing their precious comic books and Matchbox collections. If they had such things.

As a result, I’m on a bit of a weird farewell tour, driving and biking to places and realizing it may be the last time I get to see them for some time. I’m probably not going to be able to climb up to Dutch Church again before I go, and our recent visit to the mummies was probably the last time I’ll see the Albany Institute for a bit. While I’m glad to see progress being made, I’m a bit miffed that the Black Bridge, the key to biking to Cohoes without having to try to cross a six-lane highway where the lights won’t change for bicycles, is finally open now that I will almost never need it. (And actually, I’ve used it three times so far this week, just out of spite.) I had the sense that these may be my last visits to the Waterford visitors center, where I like to rest my legs and sometimes talk to the boat people. I even visited my father’s grave, a location that doesn’t carry much emotional weight with me, and realized it may be a while before I’m back. Other things are done without a chance for farewell: ice skating at the Plaza after work, for instance. The lesson in all this, of course, is to take your chances while you can, because something may change and you’ll never have the chance again.

It’s a weird thing to have to prepare to become unattached to a place, when not only you and your children but your parents and generations of ancestors have had some connection to it. My family in Albany and Schenectady goes back to the Norman for whom they named the kill, and even though I don’t come from the kind of family where that kind of history was handed down, that sense of place resonates deeply with me, and I’m oddly emotionally connected to the history of this area.

But perhaps even weirder is that I feel perfectly prepared to become attached to a new place. Quite where that will be, we don’t know yet, but living in this age of the internet, it’s amazing what a sense of place you can get without leaving your wifi connection. Between Twitter feeds and StreetView, the world is a very small place indeed.

So all this will go on. This blog may become a little more frequent, if only to make “winter in Valley Forge” jokes, because the uncertainty that has been hanging over me for a very long time now is gone, and I feel more free to write about what’s going on in my life. Hoxsie! will continue — obviously I can’t stop writing about the Capital District’s amazing history just because I won’t be here anymore. It may become a tad less reliable as the actual work piles up, but be assured it will continue.

But here is the truth of nostalgia. We don’t feel it for who we were, but who we weren’t. We feel it for all the possibilities that were open to us, but that we didn’t take.

     — Welcome to Night Vale

Hannaford, you’re screwing with my breakfast

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wheatgerm.jpg

Hannaford, you’re screwing with my breakfast. It’s time to stop.

Since about, oh, say, 1985, I’ve eaten pretty much the same thing for breakfast every day. A bowl of Grape Nuts, mixed with some form of granola, Kretschmer Wheat Germ, and blueberries, raisins or dried cranberries. All these years, nearly the same thing. It’s what I want, it’s what I like.

For the past few years, I’ve used the Hannaford house brand, Nutty Nuggets, in place of Grape Nuts, which for a while were crazy expensive. In time, I’ve come to prefer the house brand. Just fine. For my granola, I came to prefer something called Chappaqua Crunch. In place of the fairly pricey Craisins, I was perfectly happy with the much cheaper Nature’s Place dried cranberries. And most essential to all this was the Kretschmer Toasted Wheat Germ. Tasty, fibery, and just about the last thing in a grocery store that is sold in a vacuum jar – every time you open a new jar, there’s that satisfying “whoosh” sound and a mini-whirlwind of wheat germ. I looked forward to that.

Years and years and years, all this came from the Hannaford. I’m not one of those people who likes driving all over creation, to Super Saver for this or Peddler Bob’s for that. I want one trip to the grocery store, some other stuff from the farmers markets, and that’s it. Then Hannaford started screwing with me.

First, Chappaqua Crunch disappeared. Or stopped being available on the shelves. It was moved to the bulk section. Okay, I’ll pretend no one sneezes into those bins and just go ahead and get a couple of pounds of the stuff every few weeks. That was fine. Then Hannaford put up a sign promising exciting new changes in the bulk section. Exciting! New! Changes! Which meant, as it turned out, shrinking the offerings by about half, and eliminating the brand of granola I favored. Okay, there are other granola options; I just liked that one. I can deal.

About the same time, the dried cranberries disappeared. It was like a miracle when the Natures Place cranberries first showed up on the shelves – they were about half the cost of the Ocean Spray brand, organic, and just perfect. Came in a bigger bag, too. So I can’t help but wonder if they were threatened off the shelves by the Big Cranberry lobby, because they’re gone, and I’m back to paying what the powers that be insist is fair for dried cranberries. I’m back to where I was, but I can deal.

But now, my precious wheat germ is gone. Kretschmer Toasted Wheat Germ, in the convenient and entertaining vacuum jar, has disappeared from the shelf, and more junk cereals have crowded into its space. It left no trace. Yes, there is another form of wheat germ in the store. It is not toasted. It is not jarred. It makes no “whoosh.” I cannot deal.

Hannaford, if I have to go to another store to get my jars of wheat germ, I’m going to another store to buy everything. That’s how it works with me. And know that I’m serious, because I HATE the other store. But if they have Kretschmer wheat germ, that’s where I’m going. Because you’ve committed several offenses against my breakfast, and, worse than all of those offenses, you’ve turned me into a food blogger. With this, I cannot deal.

How this all got out of hand

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It all started so innocently. After 80 years and several
rehabs, it was time for our glassed-in porch, with its wood-on-wood sliding
windows and door that wouldn’t fully open, to be replaced. There was simply no
fixing it back up anymore. We had a brief fling with the idea of making it a
proper addition, a bit bigger and hiding a half-bathroom. The estimates (the
ones we could get, that is . . . good times or bad, contractors don’t seem to
want my money) came in at about a third of the value of the house . . . way too
much to put into a place in our neighborhood. So back to square 1.5, which was
replace the walls, windows and door on the porch, ourselves.

So here’s how it starts to get out of hand. This is my one
chance to insulate the porch, something I should certainly do to justify the
fancy new windows, and make it a good 3-1/2 season room. And that meant
crawling underneath, insulating the joists and sealing it up. And if I do that,
I have to insulate the ceiling, which means pulling down the old
tongue-and-groove ceiling that we love, and realizing that it really needs to
be refinished, so that’s 76 pieces of t&g that needs sanding and staining. Oh,
it’s also my one chance to spread some electricity around the porch, and get
light from something other than a centered fan, so let’s run some wiring,
outlets all over, two new sconces, a ceiling light, a new fan. And power for a
closet that we haven’t designed yet. And if we want to get the most use out of
it, wouldn’t a little space-heater make more sense than trying to get ductwork
out there? And when I get to the flooring, just putting it down over the old
stuff won’t work, so let’s cut a new subfloor layer.

And then, of course, there’s the matter of siding. The house
has 50-year-old asbestos siding, which lasts forever, insulates beautifully, is
easy to paint and nearly impossible to get rid of. But it’s getting brittle, it’s
hard to repair, it hurts the value of the house, and I’ll have to put something
else on the new porch, so let’s just get new siding at last. Well, if we’re
going to do that, that’s the time to replace the kitchen windows, which take up
too much wall space and ruin the layout.

Oh, and I’ll need to repair a couple of pieces of garage
wall before it’s sided. And replace a window that was never really a window
(just a tacked-on aluminum storm window). And repair the rotting roof deck at
the eaves.

Oh, and after the workers yank off all the old siding, I’ll
notice exposed wire on the electric service to the house, and decide that now
is also the time when I need to finally replace the old cloth-wrapped wire on
the electric service, get a new meter box, and get a new desperately needed
circuit breaker box. For that, for the siding removal, and for the new siding, I’ve turned to contractors. Otherwise, the pain is all mine.

Sometime soon it’ll all be done. Well, not the inside of the
porch, that’ll be another few months, but all the noticeable stuff from
outside. It’ll all look sensational, like a real house. And I will be, as I am
now, absolutely and utterly exhausted.