Friday, June 29, 2007

Living the American dream

We've finally caved and become a two-car household. So now we have two cars and two houses...I'd say that about covers the standard "American dream", right? I will say however, that one of our houses is not particularly livable, and the second car is only going to be driven a couple of days a week for no more than 7 miles each way. :) Do note, that I did not say this is our American dream. I would be much happier with only one car (I do like having the two houses--mostly because I like doing demolition and that's generally not a good idea in a house that you live in).

We bought a 1992 Nissan Sentra this past weekend for Mark to drive to work. Most days we can still carpool, but there are a couple of days that he doesn't go in until noon or 1pm, which makes it a little difficult to get both of us to work with one car. It's still doable, but it involves a lot of driving back and forth across St Louis for one of us. Amazingly enough, the car passed both safety and emissions inspections, and we'll get the license plates today (Mark got temporary tags for it on Tuesday).

Tonight is a birthday dinner for a friend and then "Grease" at the Muny. Hopefully it manages not to rain all evening. We've had pretty consistent rain for the past few days, but it's supposed to clear up tonight. As a consequence of lots of sunshine followed by lots of rain, we have a squash plant that is overtaking our garden. I think the only harvest we'll have this year is a lot of squash and a couple of watermelons!

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Apparently we should have gone to Juilliard

**I apologize in advance for the spots on the pictures. For some reason the camera lens seems to be dirty...**

Tonight is our second concert with the University City community band (7pm, across from St Louis Bread Co/Panera on Delmar!). Last night we were asked to be put on the sub list for the St Louis Wind Symphony, which is apparently a professional-level ensemble although they don't get paid. Not bad for two weeks worth of playing, especially as rusty as we both are.

Speaking of rusty...
This is why we think our baseboards are either original or pretty close. These are square nails, and they are in every piece of baseboard we have pulled off minus one. I need to double-check the nails the next time I'm at the house--I may be able to get a little more information from our nails based on this site.

I'll let some of the pictures speak for themselves:
During (you already saw "before")...



Mark removing baseboards very carefully:

Mark removing a section of the wall that had been drywalled (not so very carefully):

Like the purple??
Keep in mind that you don't see any pictures of me working because I am the one taking the pictures. I am working too. Really. :) Just ask the electrician who came last Friday, who had to help me break into the house by holding a ladder so I could shimmy up onto the roof and climb in a window. I now have my own set of keys, thank you very much. And we have an electrician. :)

**Call me whatever kind of music geek you like, but I just found a little slice of heaven on the internet. In the process of looking up Juilliard (to make sure I spelled it right), I came across this. Is it possible to be in love with a website? They've combined really old documents, music, and technology. I am overwhelmed with emotion.**

Monday, June 25, 2007

We are busy bees!

Friday was our first show at the Muny, Oklahoma!. It was such a fun show and both Mark and I had a great time. We got season tickets this year, so we've got Friday night dates almost all summer. :)

Saturday was ALL DAY at the house. Whew. Hard, hard work, but it's so much fun to see the changes and to make all of the little discoveries along the way. I have some pics from Saturday but they haven't made it onto the computer yet.

On Saturday, we pulled down the rest of the dropped ceilings from the front two bedrooms--yucky, nasty work as plaster falls on our heads. We are wearing dust masks designed for drywall and plaster work to try to keep as much debris out of our lungs as possible. Basically we have areas where the plaster ceiling has collapsed onto the dropped ceiling below, so as Mark is pulling the ceiling tiles out and handing them to me they are covered with very heavy, crumbly, OLD plaster--complete with horsehair. The horsehair is an additive to give the plaster more substance, and is even used today when people are trying to repair or replicate old plaster. I'll post some pics of the holes in the ceiling a bit later.

We also finished pulling out the closets in the front bedroom--that was actually fun! The walls were made of normal 2x4 studs, but instead of actual wood of some kind for the walls they had nailed luan (a very thin plywood) to the studs. The best way to take it off? Kick and punch it off!! Seriously!! You stand inside the closet and kick off the luan panels. Ahh...stress relief. We really should have gotten some pictures of me doing that, but I think Mark was a little more concerned with where the luan was flying to across the room than taking pictures. ;) However, here is a picture of the closets before I attacked them:

After kicking out the walls, we removed the studs which were framing out the closets and it was a lot like cutting down trees--take a few screws and bolts out and watch to see which way the whole contraption was going to fall. It really was a riot--we had a great time tearing out those closets. The rest of the day Saturday was spent removing baseboards as carefully as possible. We'd like to try to keep as much of the original woodwork as possible, especially because we now think it may be VERY in say 1890 or so. I'll post some pics as to why we think it's so old.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Upstairs we go

This is the enclosed exterior stairwell going upstairs (as well as downstairs into the basement). Like the orange shag and faux wood paneling??

This is the upstairs landing. You're looking at what used to be a window (the white rectangle), which is now the back of a closet. But the most important thing to notice is this:
This is a close-up view of what used to be the exterior wall. Look very closely, and you will see that someone has painted the bricks red AND painted in black lines over the mortar. The entire wall, two stories worth, is painted this way. Someone had a lot of time on his hands.

This is the view from the back bedroom looking towards the front of the house.

I really didn't think it was possible to have too many mirrors, but this bathroom has the mirror wall hanging that you can see, a mirrored medicine cabinet that you can't see, the mirrored tiles over the shower wall (they go all the way around the shower) AND a small mirror stuck to the wall hanging mirror.

I'm going to wait to show you the front bedroom until I can give you some "before demo" and "after demo" pics--we've already demolished the closets that were in there. But here's a pic of the back of the house:
You can see the enclosed exterior stairwell and the back addition pretty well here. I think I'll spare you all pictures of the basement, but you are going to see pictures of the TEAL ceiling. *sigh* I really don't know what someone was thinking. And in response to some of the comments, no, we are not keeping the pink wall--especially since you can see through the paint to the tree wallpaper behind it! If you look closely at the picture of the mirrored wall you can see it.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

A few more

This is the kitchen, more or less. The old, scary stove is already gone. Don't be impressed by the brick wall--it's not real, although it does hurt if you scrape your knuckles across it.

This is the other wall of the kitchen, where they have changed an exterior window into a pantry, complete with hooks for mugs. The door is formerly an exterior door which now leads to the enclosed staircase to the upstairs. Notice the transom window above the door. While there's been some odd stuff done to this house, they've actually left a lot of the original features (like the transoms) which will be great to incorporate into the new plans.

This is the first floor bathroom, which if you look at the layout of the house was obviously added well after the house was built. Notice that the door can't even open all of the way since it hits the toilet. Also notice that we actually have a chandelier in the bathroom, as well as a sparkly butterfly motif. Classic. :)

This is the addition, tacked on to the back off the house. Obviously added much later as it is over a crawl space (not the basement) and has modern wiring. Again, fake brick wall but lots of cabinet space. This will become the mud room/laundry room in the current plan.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

A few select pics

I know this is going to make all of you want to run over to visit, but you're just going to have to be patient. ;) As promised, I have (finally!) managed to get a few pics of the new house on here. All of these pics were taken the weekend after we closed, so a few things have already changed.

This is the house. It is actually two stories, both with ten-foot ceilings, but it looks like a midget in between the two giants next door. Both of those are vacant, by the way, so you might be looking at our next projects.
The infamous wall of mirrors. When we bought this house I thought we had managed to get into our first house ever without any pink--not so. This "hole" was covered by a very large mirror when we viewed the house. Basically we have a 10' x 15' wall of 12" x 12" mirrors, minus a few in the middle.
The ever-appealing faux wood beams. Seriously, they're U-shaped pieces of styrofoam glued to the ceiling. This is the living room ceiling, minus the two beams Mark already pulled off. We have these attractive beams in the living room, dining room, and kitchen.

You're now viewing two of my favorite pieces in the house...the chandelier in the dining room and an example of our windows. If I had to guess, the windows are original and they are beautiful! Well, they will be once we get them refinished. They have the old chain and weights down the sides and they are between 7' and 8' tall. I cleaned up the chandelier and it is now so sparkly. I love it! To be continued...

Monday, June 18, 2007

He's employed!

Mark was offered and has accepted a position at St. Louis Children's Hospital doing pediatric orthopedics! He goes in for a TB test, etc., this Thursday and tentatively will be starting next Monday. This is the "dream" position I had mentioned last week, so we are both really excited about this. :)

Friday, June 15, 2007

Excitement for the technology-challenged

We are really only technology-challenged in the fact that we don't have much technology. No Ipods, no Tivo, no microwave, no dishwasher (okay I know it's not really technology but...). And that we couldn't figure out how to use an MP3 player when we were baby-sitting. *sigh* We're going to need kids soon to help us navigate this new world. ;)

So the most exciting thing this week was we got new cell phones! Same phone number, so those of you who have the number(s) are still good. We had a small problem getting them activated since the number is a Michigan number and we are in St Louis (Missouri, not Michigan. There is actually a St Louis, Michigan. We were there for a wedding.). I had to call Verizon and lo and behold I spoke to someone who was completely understandable AND was able to fix the problem. :) A rare occurance in customer service these days, it seems.

You have no idea how behind the times we really are. Our new phones are not Blackberries, they're not Razrs, they're not Chocolates...but they are actually flip phones. :) :) These are the first flip phones we've had, and so far they are fantastic. We got the LG VX5300. Ooohh, and we got them for free since we've been with Verizon for so long. Of course, we just signed another two years of our lives away.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

The best laid plans of bloggers...

I've been meaning to post for three days about the things going on and there's been so much going on it hasn't happened. :)

Saturday was our clothing drive at church. We work with Master Provisions to collect, sort, and pack clothing which is then sent to Ukraine. You can read the full story of the impact of these clothes on their website. Mark and I have been to Ukraine (and Kosova) with MP and can vouch for the amazing work they are doing. It was great to see Jim and get to catch up on the things happening in Ukraine and Kosova and to our friends over there. We collected about 1.5 tons of clothing that will be shipped over to Ukraine (most likely Brovary, a small suburb of Kyiv) later this year.

We have the top floor of the property we are managing rented out, and we sign the lease for the bottom floor tonight. It will be such a relief to get those both rented. Now we're into the "the shower is leaking" and "the kitchen faucet is leaking" stage. Tuesday Mark replaced the showerhead and yesterday he replaced the kitchen faucet. He hasn't been able to work on our house since Friday!

We started community band on Monday. I'm playing French horn and Mark's playing euphonium. So far it's a lot of fun, although it's a lot different than playing in the musical. It's a lot louder. Which sounds really stupid, but when you're used to being the only instrument and tuning to a small group it's a little overwhelming to be in the midst of 100 or so musicians, some of whom can tune better than others. ;) Next Tuesday is our first concert.

Mark has been interviewing like mad, and currently has two open offers and is anticipating another on Monday. We are really hoping for a good offer on Monday, as this could be something of a dream job for him, but we'll have to wait and see. I will definitely keep you posted!

Ukraine is still not accepting dossiers until the first of July. They filled their quota of dossiers to accept for the last quarter, so they won't start accepting again until the start of the next quarter. We are hoping for a quick submission but it's looking like we may have to redo documents again. *sigh* Please pray that our dossier would be submitted in the beginning of July.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Hard work

Mark has been working so hard this past week! Yesterday he mowed three lawns (ours, ours, and not ours), installed a steel exterior door (including the frame) by himself, moved a bunch of things within and outside of the new house, cleaned out the 'not ours' house, met with a guy to collect a security deposit for the 'not ours' house (hooray--one unit rented!), and figured out which parts we needed to install the new stove. Then he was up at 2:30am this morning to drive a friend of ours to church to leave for a mission trip to Spain. I didn't wake him when I left for work this morning--he needs the rest!

Last night we went to Lowe's and picked up a bunch of little things we need for the new house. Mark will be connecting the new stove today. Yes, Lowe's decided to deliver it yesterday. I called yesterday morning and it was already on the truck. I'm not sure if they were planning on telling us that or were just going to show up, but regardless we have a new, beautiful stove. The delivery team yesterday was not the same delivery team from Monday, and we were much happier with this second delivery team.

Discoveries continue to happen at the new house. Earlier this week Mark found a beautiful marble hearth for the living room fireplace. The hearth is currently covered by hideous brown carpet, but will eventually be complemented with hardwood floors. I'm going to have to post a picture of my absolute favorite part of the house. It wasn't much to look at when we got the house, but it's fantastic now!

We're in the process of finding an architect/designer to draw up plans for the new house. We need to submit plans in order to get a building permit, and with what we're planning we definitely need a permit. :)

Oh, and I forgot to mention that on our anniversary we bought a planer off of Craig's list. An older gentleman is giving up woodworking and is selling off everything in his basement. We got a great deal on a planer and that's something that Mark has been dreaming about for quite a while, so it was a perfect anniversary present together.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Pizza for me

Yesterday was our 8-year anniversary! Mark picked me up from work and asked what I wanted to do for dinner:

Me: "I really want Pizza House." (a pizza place in East Lansing, MI, with great Chicago-style pizza)
Mark: "Well, if we left when you finish work on Friday, we could be there by 9pm..." (it's about an 8-hour drive)

Yeah, we really did consider it. We would also be the people who drove 1.5 hours to Detroit for dinner and 3 hours to Chicago for lunch while we were living in Michigan. After living in Texas you just get used to driving long distances to go anywhere. :)
We ended up deciding to try a pizza place here in town (maybe a mile from us) that has been highly recommended--Black Thorn Pub, on Wyoming west of Grand. It was fantastic!! During the 30-minute wait for our pizza (we got Chicago-style, of course) we plotted out things to get done on the house and which things we need to do first. Then we dug into our 9 lb pizza. Yes, you read that right. Nine pounds...and oh was it good. We both ate over 2 lbs of pizza last night. I can't believe we didn't get sick. It was an awesome anniversary dinner. :) :)

And the new house has a new shower head--and a garbage bag taped over the missing tiles in the shower. I'm hoping to post some pics soon. We're making progress slowly but surely...

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

It's ours--happy anniversary!

On Friday we closed on the house. I was able to attend the walkthrough with Mark and the realtor, and we were very impressed with how little was left in the house. The tenant did an excellent job clearing it out. We did/do have a few things left over--a stove, a fridge in the basement, a small kitchen table (also in the basement) and various other odds and ends. We spent the weekend at Mark's base ball festival and all of our spare time cleaning the house.

Yesterday, Lowe's was supposed to deliver the new fridge and stove between 8am and noon. They showed up at 12:40p, and then there was a huge dent in the stove so Mark sent it back. Now we have no stove in the new house and no idea when it will be arriving. *sigh* But the fridge looks great! I cleaned the floor where the old stove and fridge were last night. That was very disgusting.

On Sunday, we had our last dinner with Scott and Heather. We swapped items we had borrowed from each other and we took a bunch of things they were getting rid of--cleaning supplies (we certainly need them!), clothes for the clothing drive this weekend, wood scraps, etc. They leave today for Vegas and there's a chance we might get to see them on their way out since they will pass right by where I work. This next post is a great opportunity for them but we really will miss having them around. On the up side, flights from St Louis to Vegas can be had for pretty cheap! :)

Friday, June 01, 2007

Homeowners once again

In a few hours we will close on the new (117 year old) house. Mark and the realtor are doing a walk-through at 10:30am to make sure nothing unexpected has changed since we signed the contract. It's been a crazy week. On Tuesday evening (yes, 3 days before closing), the realtor called and said the current owner wanted to know if the tenant could stay an extra month and pay us rent. If we had known about this, say, a few weeks ago, we might have been able to work something out. But we've got inspections next week, and appliances being delivered, and there's just no way.

And this week we became property managers for a friend of Mark who is moving out of state and will be renting his two-family house. Mark's been fielding phone calls about the apartments and showing them--3 times yesterday!--to prospective renters. We think we've got both units rented out, but the leases aren't signed yet so we'll see. We'll be glad to get them rented so all we need to worry about is maintenance.

God is moving in some unexpected ways in our lives with the house and the property management. It will be interesting to see what He's got planned for us. Right now I think we pretty much feel like we're along for the ride. :)

And Wednesday night we got to babysit! We watched Ashley (4 yo) and Maggie (almost 2), Scott and Heather's girls, while they had rehearsal for worship for church. Their usual babysitter was unavailable at the last minute. We met all of them for dinner and then we finished up dinner with the girls and took them back to the base. It's fun knowing them and the girls so well that we know their exact bedtime routine. It was a little more crazy than usual since their whole house was in boxes--we couldn't even find a book to read for bedtime stories! But definitely a lot of fun. We're going to miss them a lot. :) We'll see them at least one more time before they leave as they're coming out to see the house on Sunday (plus we're holding their camcorder hostage to get video footage of the new house ;) ).