the good, the bad and the ugly

I have a confession to make.  I HATE my craft room.  Hate it.  It makes me really not want to craft.  It’s a constant disorganized mess.  It doesn’t feel comfortable or welcoming or conducive to creativity. 

Let’s dissect things, shall we?

1. I just have way too much crap, which is sort of ironic because I seem to have mountains of supplies but never what I need at that moment.  

2. I never painted the trim, and it’s just a grimy mess.  Not to mention this crazy situation happening around the window: 
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3. I’ve had a giant half-dead plant hanging around up there for ages that just doesn’t want to die.  Dead plants are bad feng shui.  

4. I have this wall of bookshelves for storage, but I’ve never been able to find the right kinds of storage boxes to put things in.  I also just can’t seem to find the right method for grouping things together:
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5. I have this old Ikea dining table in the middle, which is a decent size but a little wobbly and, I don’t know, just not a great table for crafting. I also have additional boxes of crap sitting under the table – clothes that don’t fit “yet”, clothes that I’ve told myself I’m going to alter into something else, clothes that need to be mended, empty photo albums, random craft supplies I’ve inherited.  It means that putting the chair under the table doesn’t work so well, and it also means that tumbleweeds of dust and animal hair accumulate around the boxes:
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6. I have the old Klackbo chair, which I do really like, and I thought I’d keep it up here as a comfy reading chair, but let’s face it, rather than reading in it, I just use it to stack piles of transient crap that have no home, including stuff from my old desk at work, mail that needs to be filed, and a box of old papers underneath that need to be filed or shredded or something:
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7. I have this closet that goes way back into inaccessible crevices, and that I haven’t really found the proper storage solution for.  Right now it’s full of things that won’t fit anywhere else, stuff from the wedding, old wrapping paper, etc:
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8. It might also have to do with the fact that it’s a located on the generally unpleasant third floor, where the walls are unpainted, the office is a disaster, the hallway is strewn with unhung artwork that I don’t even like anymore, and the ugly linoleum floor is peppered with dust bunnies, stray kitty litter and cat food bits:
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9. I think honestly one of my biggest problems is that I just don’t do enough crafting to use up any of these supplies that I keep accumulating.  But again, I don’t really do enough crafting because my craft room isn’t conducive to crafting.  But it’s not conducive to crafting because it’s too full of crap because I don’t do enough crafting to get rid of the crap.   AAAGGGHHHH!!!!

Ok, so here’s what I *do* like about it:

I like the wall color I picked, a nice fresh minty green.  And of course it would look more fresh if I painted the trim a nice fresh white.  I like the shelves, because they’re not too high so they don’t overwhelm the room.  But that’s pretty much it.  

Any ideas folks?  I could really use your help on this one.  How do I make this tiny room into a more comfortable, inviting and productive space?

The 2011 Challenge

Folks, the Passyunk Palace weighs on my mind in a lot of ways. I know that a home is a constantly evolving thing that can never truly be considered “finished”. I’m ok with that, and if it were I’d probably get very bored very quickly. My problem is that in the three and a half years since we’ve moved in, I have never felt that the house has even reached a good jumping-off point for changes. Yes, we’ve had a lot of things done to the house, but they’re still half done. So for example, we had a contractor remodel the guest room and bathroom, but we haven’t done much since then other than slap a coat of paint on the walls. We spent a fortune having the kitchen redone and I don’t even have a curtain in the window. I feel like we’re still in the remodeling phase and I can’t even feel comfortable transitioning to the real “decorating” phase. As a result I have all sorts of ideas floating around that I can’t explore yet, and the house doesn’t really feel like home.

Added to this is the general feeling that I’ve been losing focus in the past few months. My days don’t really add up to anything and I don’t really feel like I’ve accomplished anything in quite a long time. Most nights I come home from work, make dinner, maybe do some reading or watch a movie, maybe vacuum or dust, but my weeks sort of pass by and in the end I feel like I can’t even say what it is of any real value that I’ve accomplished in that time.

So, what is to be done about this? Well I’ve decided that to get myself focused and back into the game, I’m setting a challenge for ourselves: Greg and I must finish everything on the house to-do list by the first day of summer, June 22nd 2011! (Do you like the way I’ve included Greg on this, despite the fact that it’s me who feels unfocused?) I think an official challenge like this might reinvigorate me to get things done in the new year, and a deadline (that I will blog our progress toward, of course) is the perfect clincher.

So this leaves us with about 21 weeks to complete the following list. At which point I can change my focus over to the more fun details of frivolous decorating (and re-doing things I wind up not liking). Not too bad, presuming we can quit our whining and get off our asses. Oh, and maybe as added incentive, we’ll have a big party when it’s finished!

Here’s our updated to-do list:

Living Room
new tv & stereo stand
– strip and repaint fireplace
new armchair
– paint ceiling trim
– paint front window frame
– paint and add legs to record storage

Dining Room
paint walls
– new sideboard
new windows
curtains
– frost windows
light fixture
– paint hutch
– skim coat walls
– repaint
– new rug
– new basement door

Kitchen
gut completely and new everything!
radiant floor heat
new floor
new drywall
brick up north window
rewire
new ceiling
open up archway
new cabinets
subway tile backsplash
paint walls
paint trim
paint door
stain outside of door
– shelf in window
– curtain
– artwork
– mug storage
– reseal counter tops
– touch up paint

Front Entrance/Vestibule
table for mail, keys, etc
– paint entryway table
– hooks for coats
– retile
– paint/wallpaper vestibule

Hallways
scrape wallpaper
– spackle holes from wiring
light fixtures
– paint walls
– paint stairs
– table at top of 3rd floor
– new shelves/table in 2nd floor hallway
– 3rd floor hallway curtain

Powder Room
– wallpaper
– new floor
– new door

Bedroom
paint
– shelves in closet
new windows
quarter round
– new door
– artwork over bed

Dressing Room (now closet)
scrape wallpaper
paint
quarter round
new window
rewire light fixture
– dresser situation
new doors
– get rid of door
– accessories storage

Laundry Room
– more storage boxes
– curtains
– artwork

Guest Room
empty out boxes
rewire light fixture
quarter round
sand walls
new windows
paint
furniture
– new door
new outlets
get rid of old wall air conditioner
– dresser
– artwork

Bathroom
remove/replace paneling
vanity & sink
– shelves
new medicine cabinet
new window
– new door
rewire light
– paint trim
– hang shelf
– artwork
– shower curtain
– curtain
– touch up tub

Office
paint
wall shelves
shelves in closet
quarter round
– re-hang door
more storage
new windows
– add more outlets
– get rid of crap
– touch up paint
– hang artwork
– better closet storage
– new filing cabinet
– get rid of old computer
– paint small storage dressers
– new curtains

Craft Studio
paint
scrub floor
paint closet
storage
furniture
put up shelves
new window
– paint trim
– new trim around window?
– closet storage
– better storage boxes
– new desk/table
– big pinboard
– curtains

Patio
paint cinderblock
trellis for privacy
– new gate door

Everywhere Else
– house numbers
fix wood piece alongside 2nd floor roof
replace stack pipe
– get rid of old washer and dryer
– clean and reorganize basement
– new storm door
– new front door/paint front door
– paint trim around front entryway

What do you think? Are we up to the challenge?

home after the holidays

Happy New Year all!  As usual, one of my resolutions is to blog more.  My mom said she’s sick of seeing the same post every time she comes to the site, so I’d better get my tail in gear and shake the dust off this old thing.

We had a pretty respectable holiday season around here.  After a rocky start to the season, involving my car dying two hours away with the Christmas tree on top and my wonderful brother having to drive us back to Philly (and the following weekend mainly consisting of driving many hours to pick it up) things went smoothly from there on out.  My sister and her husband came in from California and were able to take advantage of the newly done-up guest room (related entry soon to follow, I promise!).  It was really nice having visitors around over the holidays, it made the house feel a little warmer and more festive.  Christmas Eve was our tradition of having Greg’s family over for dinner and merriment, and Christmas day we drove up to my brother’s house in Connecticut for a delicious dinner. 

The new year for me is usually filled with grandiose plans and resolutions for the upcoming year, but I feel a little differently this time around.  Aside from the obligatory “get down to my goal weight” and “finish fixing up the house”, I don’t really have any big plans for 2011.  I’m realizing that actually I feel pretty content these days, and my life doesn’t really feel like a fixer-upper at the moment.  In the past few months I’ve changed jobs, which resulted in everyone at my old job finally really showing their appreciation for me, and a new position that will hopefully be less stressful and allow for a little more enjoyment of my free time.  The house is coming along, I love my husband, I get endless entertainment out of the animals, and I have a Kindle full of good books I can’t wait to read.  Life is good.

If I have any resolutions this year, it’s to focus on the small things and don’t let the big things overwhelm me.  Break scary things up into small 20-minute chunks. Take time to do some craft projects, hang artwork, knit a scarf, take pictures, tend my houseplants, cook good meals.  I tend to put off the little things because sometimes the bigger projects overshadow everything else, and especially where the house is concerned, it feels like putting lipstick on a pig.  Just because the hallway isn’t painted yet doesn’t mean that the guest room doesn’t deserve to have some artwork and nice curtains.  And just because the bedroom doors are ugly doesn’t mean I shouldn’t make a terrarium to put on a shelf somewhere.  Maybe the little things will really be what transform the Passyunk Palace from a house to a comfortable home.

Without further ado, here is a brief pictorial summary of our holiday season (which makes me think that my other resolution needs to be practicing with my SLR):

Selecting that most important of Christmas symbols:
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Despite freezing our arses off, we had a great day in New York visiting Rockefeller Center and Bryant Park:
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Santa brought Greg and his brother these horse head masks, which were the hit of the evening:
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Dave

Porter wonders who this new family member is

Matt is a dapper horse

a little known fact that horses enjoy beer

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the lovely equine couple

Porter decides he likes squirrels more than horses

Christmas dinner with the Lynch family
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Santa also brought my nieces some mustaches, which everyone proceeded to steal:
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another nail through my wall

After 3+ years of living here, I still feel like I haven’t entered the “decorating” phase of home renovation. Why is that? Even though many of the rooms are for the most part “done”, we haven’t done much with them beyond the painting phase. Although maybe the issue is that as soon as we get a room painted and “finished” it proceeds to collect mountains of homeless crap and in the end I’d rather just close the door on it. And there’s also that dreaded feeling of messing with the plaster, it feels so permanent. But sometimes you gotta just take the bull by the horns and put a few holes in the wall. I was cleaning the bedroom today and for the fiftieth time had to vacuum around the two paint-by-numbers sitting on the floor and I thought, dammit, I’m just going to hang these up. They didn’t come out perfectly (I hung them too high – classic decorating mistake) but they’re just two tiny holes that we can patch up later. For now at least I got them out of harm’s way AND filled up that giant space on the bedroom wall.

paint by numbers in the bedroom

what I did on my summer vacation: pt 3

A couple of weeks ago we decided to have one last hurrah of summer and spend a few days at the beach. It also happened to be the weekend of our 3-year anniversary! Although the wind was a little chilly and the water a little rough, every day was beautiful and sunshiny, and every evening brought a sunset perfect for a long walk with Porter. Our friends Adil and Kara came down for a night too, and we had some delicious beer cocktails and good junk food on the boardwalk. It was a great end to the summer and I feel like I got it out of my system enough to embrace the incoming fall with open arms.

anniversary weekend in ocean city, nj

anniversary weekend in ocean city, nj

anniversary weekend in ocean city, nj

anniversary weekend in ocean city, nj

anniversary weekend in ocean city, nj

anniversary weekend in ocean city, nj

anniversary weekend in ocean city, nj

anniversary weekend in ocean city, nj

anniversary weekend in ocean city, nj

anniversary weekend in ocean city, nj

anniversary weekend in ocean city, nj

anniversary weekend in ocean city, nj

anniversary weekend in ocean city, nj

anniversary weekend in ocean city, nj

anniversary weekend in ocean city, nj

anniversary weekend in ocean city, nj

anniversary weekend in ocean city, nj

anniversary weekend in ocean city, nj

anniversary weekend in ocean city, nj

anniversary weekend in ocean city, nj

anniversary weekend in ocean city, nj

anniversary weekend in ocean city, nj

anniversary weekend in ocean city, nj

anniversary weekend in ocean city, nj

anniversary weekend in ocean city, nj

anniversary weekend in ocean city, nj

anniversary weekend in ocean city, nj

anniversary weekend in ocean city, nj

anniversary weekend in ocean city, nj

anniversary weekend in ocean city, nj

anniversary weekend in ocean city, nj

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what I did on my summer vacation: pt 2

Whoa, two posts in a week? Could it be that I might actually get my ass back in gear with this thing? Ehhhh….let’s not get crazy.

Back in August we took a leisurely drive up the Pennsylvania turnpike to Mauch Chunk, better known by it’s newer (and dare I say less terrible) name, Jim Thorpe. I’m still not entirely clear why the place is called Jim Thorpe – something about a Native American football player needing some place to be buried and Mauch Chunk was the only town that would take him, despite the fact that he was from Oklahoma and had never set foot anywhere near the place. I don’t know, the visitor center was a little vague in their explanation. What I do know is that it’s a pretty cute little town, was nicknamed “the Swiss Alps of the US” (although I’m betting this was before anyone in the US discovered Aspen, Colorado), and at one point was the second most visited tourist destination in the country, after Niagara Falls. Am I a geyser of knowledge or what??? Anyway, it was a nice little trip and a perfectly good alternative to spending an afternoon sitting on the couch saying, “What do you want to do? I don’t know, what do YOU want to do??” Of course the one thing in the town I didn’t take a picture of was my favorite thing – an amazing mint condition orange Karmann Ghia in the municipal parking lot.

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what I did on my summer vacation: pt 1

Oh, hi. Where have we been, you ask? Nowhere special. Just on picnics, and beaches, and walking around, and at the bar down the street, and just generally trying to enjoy every moment that we’re not sitting at a desk in front of a computer. And mainly not in the house doing stuff. Of course all that’s about to change with Old Man Winter heading our way – we have a couple of projects that we’ll be taking on (and paying people to take on), as well as some overdue photos of projects we’ve completed. But for now let’s keep summer alive and take a little peek of how we spent our summer vacation.

First up, camping!! Every year we tell ourselves that we’re going to go camping more often, and pretty much every year that doesn’t happen. We only went once this year (not including a dudes-only trip that Greg went on with his friends), to Promised Land state park somewhere in the Poconos. It was a good time, barring the horrible and insanity-inducing flies, and I definitely think we’ve gotten much better at it overall. My proudest accomplishment was bringing a kettle for hot water and a french press so we could have the luxury of hot coffee in the morning. I wish we would have gone a few more times, but in all fairness there’s like a combined 4 weeks of summer where the weather is conducive to a pleasant camping experience.

camping in Promised Land state park, PA

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camping in Promised Land state park, PA

camping in Promised Land state park, PA

camping in Promised Land state park, PA

camping in Promised Land state park, PA

camping in Promised Land state park, PA

camping in Promised Land state park, PA

camping in Promised Land state park, PA

camping in Promised Land state park, PA

camping in Promised Land state park, PA

camping in Promised Land state park, PA

camping in Promised Land state park, PA

camping in Promised Land state park, PA

camping in Promised Land state park, PA

camping in Promised Land state park, PA

camping in Promised Land state park, PA

camping in Promised Land state park, PA

camping in Promised Land state park, PA

camping in Promised Land state park, PA

camping in Promised Land state park, PA

camping in Promised Land state park, PA

camping in Promised Land state park, PA

camping in Promised Land state park, PA

the early bird gets the worm. and then the worm in turn gets it.

The other night Greg came back from walking Porter and said, “Wow, something totally weird just happened. This girl stopped me and said, ‘Oh I recognize your dog from your blog!'” Apparently this gal Googled “Passyunk Square” and our blog came up, and she started reading it. So we actually have a reader that neither of us are related to, yay!! Which of course means damn, I need to get on the stick about updating this dusty old blog.

Our most recent adventure was one that I should’ve taken photos of, but I was a little too grossed out to think about documenting it for posterity, and you’ll probably thank me. A couple of weeks ago, I woke on Sunday morning and stumbled into the bathroom half asleep to find two tiny worms in the soap dish. I rubbed my eyes and looked around only to find about a dozen more – on the sink, on the floor, in the tub – everywhere! I yelled in to Greg (who, by the way, had just come from the bathroom himself and made no comment) to come look at my gruesome discovery. He responded, “Huh, that’s weird,” and left the room.

After squashing all the worms I examined the room, trying to figure out where they were coming from. I Googled “worms in bathroom” and found a bunch of articles about drain flies, these little flies that live off the gunk in your drains and hatch into flies. Ok, they’re coming out of the drains, that I can handle. I went to the store and picked up some Drano and we commenced with cleaning out the disgusting drains that really should have been cleaned months ago.

You have to understand that the bathroom is one of the (many) rooms that I try to pretend doesn’t exist. The m.o. is go in, do your business, maybe shower, and get the hell out of there. The room needs to be redone in a major way, but we’re just not ready for that quite yet. So bottom line, finding out that things were hatching in the drains was sort of like *finally* getting a notice for your overdue library book – you knew it was coming, you’re not really all that surprised, and mainly you’re just embarrassed that you waited til that point to return it.

After Drano and several batches of boiling water, the number of worms we were finding was greatly reduced, but they were definitely still appearing. The coast would be clear, you’d leave the room for two minutes, go back and and find one on the counter. I just couldn’t figure out how they were moving so fast behind my back. Then at about 11pm I was brushing my teeth and it happened – one fell out of a crack in the ceiling paneling and landed on the sink. We’re gonna need a bigger boat.

So I got Greg out of bed and he donned a face mask and goggles and got to work prying open the ceiling panels. Meanwhile I went on and on about how we would probably have to gut the bathroom immediately to get to the root of the problem, and then find a contractor to fix it ASAP and wah wah wah cry cry cry. After about an hour of poking around up there with (luckily) no big results – I think both of us were half expecting a huge pile of worms to fall out onto his face – we decided to give up for the night and call an exterminator in the morning.

I found someone to come out that afternoon, and of course by the time he got there, the worms seemed to have disappeared. I ran him through a few scenarios – we just got the stack replaced, maybe something crawled out of there, the drain fly thing, the leaky roof. Then we came up with what he considered the most probable situation, and possibly the grossest. I told him that we had the roof fixed the week before, and that birds had been getting in under the eaves. When they fixed the roof we’re pretty sure they closed in a nest, or at least one bird, in the wall above the bathroom. When I told him that he immediately smiled and nodded and said, “Yep, that’s it.” They were maggots. Maggots coming from the dead bird in our celing. Does it get any more disgusting than that?

The upside is that he said once they were done feasting on the bird carcass, they’d just die off, leaving a tiny bird skeleton entombed somewhere in the wall. He sprayed up into the ceiling as best he could, and climbed out on the roof to fully seal up the remaining space where birds could potentially still get in. And, knock wood, we haven’t seen any since then – that was last Monday.

So the moral of the story is…ummm….I don’t know. Birds are a pain in the ass?

clean slate (and sheets)

Unfortunately the completion of the laundry room project has coincided with general craziness at work, which means I have no desire to spend any length of time on the computer when I get home.

But yes, the project is coming along! And by “coming along” I mean the contractors have come and gone and now it’s up to us to finish the job, which is of course why the whole thing is dragging. Also, taking photographs of tiny rooms is not the easiest thing, so I’ve been avoiding it. But we now have a functioning (and may I add fancy) washer and dryer, along with a plethora of shelves for storage. We’ve still got some finishing touches to add – we need a folding table, a place to store the detergent, some hooks to hang an ironing board, and other small things. But I’ve been catching up on a huge backlog of laundry for the past week or so (Porter is very sad that neither of his dog beds smell like cheese anymore) and it feels sooooo good to put on clean soft clothes and sleep in crisp sheets again. Oh, and the days of the harsh buzzer are gone – our washer & dryer actually plays a happy little song when the clothes are done. I never thought doing laundry would actually be fun, but the sound effects really get you pumped to do some washing.

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laundry1

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We haven’t done much with the master bedroom closet other than paint, so no progress to report there. Oh, and as for the collateral damage, it’s pretty much as patched as it’s going to be at this point, until we get around to redoing the bathroom, that is.

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how bad is it? we’re living in a swiss cheese with doors

Sorry for the repeat title for any of my Facebook friends, I just feel it really suits our house at the moment.

Well, the project is coming along. I *think* well, but I couldn’t swear to it. We have two separate rooms now, and the plumbing is done. This is sort of two projects together – the laundry room/closet, and also replacing the stack pipe. We decided to have them done together because our contractor could use the open stack chase to run the wire, and then patch up the wall when the stack is done. Of course the stack turned out to be in worse condition than we thought, and needed to be replaced from the basement up to the second floor toilet. Apparently you could basically break the cast iron with your hand if you tried hard enough. So despite the extra damage that was incurred, I feel that a few big holes in the wall are a fair trade off for keeping raw sewage out of the walls, right?

On a good note, the rooms look great so far. The laundry room is pretty sizable, plenty of room for lots of shelves. The closet is pretty big too, although it’s tough to tell how spacious it will be when we actually get shelves and bars in there.

It’s also incredibly difficult to take good pictures of a tiny room that is nothing but drywall. And also I haven’t had time to figure out how to use my fancy camera properly yet, so that’s an issue in itself. But in the interest of documentation, here’s some photos:

Closet in bedroom:

early stages of the new bedroom closet

Laundry room:

early stages of the laundry room

Stack stuff:

stack replacement

let's look at the damage together

will you please look at my damage?