Friday, October 29, 2004

Mental Puzzles

I am still unpacking! The progress is very slow because, between work and rehearsals, I have about 30 minutes a day to unpack. The unpacking is a priority over any home improvement. The carpet man is ready to come install the carpet, but he wouldn’t be able to get it inside at this point. Mike and I will be out of town this weekend, so no progress will be made.

I have made a lot of mental progress, as I ride the bus to and from work. The result of my imaginary home improvements is a lot of questions:

How heavy is a stove? Can Mike and I lift it into my Subaru and drive it home?
How hard is it to install a dishwasher? I’m taking the old one out, and installing a younger version.
Does anyone else hate fiberboard furniture as much as I do? It is heavy and disintegrates if you take it apart and put it back together too many times.
How hard would it be to tile a compass/sunburst pattern in the sunroom?
Do you have to clean walls with TSP before you paint or is using a Swiffer enough?
How do you keep raccoons out of the garbage?
What kind of sewing machine should I buy to create mostly home decorating items (curtains, bedskirts, cushion covers, etc)?
What experiences have other people had with cork flooring?
Are the Home Depot 1-2-3 books any good?

Please help me further my daydreams!

Monday, October 25, 2004

Karastan area rug. The border is made up of overlapping moths and butterflies. The colors are vibrant and jewel-like. Posted by Hello

Filling up the House

The house looks much the same as it did at the time of my last entry – a sea of boxes. The sea is now punctuated by knickknack flotsam and tchotchke jetsam, but remains daunting nonetheless. Opening the boxes and pulling things out was so much fun! Figuring out where to put everything is not so much. So, what to do when life gets you down? As the Bare Naked Ladies say: “Let’s go shopping!”
While I was in Okinawa, I bought numerous pieces of wooden furniture – made of all sorts of non-PC wood, like teak and mahogany. It is lovely, but hard. Despite searching the base furniture store on a weekly basis, I never found a couch or chair I liked enough to buy. We had to sit on something, so we borrowed two beat-up, blue LaZboy loveseats from work and rounded out the seating with a disintegrating, stained papa-san chair. I couldn’t wait to get to the states and buy something new!
My mom came to visit last Friday and I saved the shopping experience for us to share together. We took the mission very seriously. I had a list of stores and an agenda for each day. We carried a notebook, pen, and tape measure. I had a color scheme. After 18 hours of sweat and toil, we came away triumphant.
I bought the Market Street sofa in persimmon (orange) micro-fiber and the Fletcher recliner in ruby chenille. I also bought a Karastan rug for the living room. So, while there is barely room to walk through my house at present, I am planning on adding more items to the mix. The rug will be ready for pick-up in a week and the furniture will be delivered in four to six. I guess I had better get busy and clear a space for the new additions.

Thursday, October 21, 2004

My ship has come in!

Mike, the long distance trucker, arrived yesterday with twenty-four feet of our household goods. This was our main shipment of furniture from Okinawa, Japan. We packed it up in February and have been living very spartanly ever since. Although the truck is only halfway unloaded, our quality of life has vastly improved. We have horizontal surfaces to set things on! We have more than two chairs! We have good pillows!
Smell is a powerful link to memory. We have a few fragrant teak pieces, sealed with oil. The odor has permeated the house and brings back fond memories of our time overseas, living in our “penthouse” apartment. Isn’t it nice how the memory edits out the negative? The typhoons, four flights of stairs, and weird garbage rules are blurry. The sunny days, beach views, and sense of freedom are crisp.
Of the things we have unpacked, the damage has been minor. I have not yet uncovered any damage that could not be fixed with glue or a furniture crayon. Considering that our things were shipped on the “slow boat from Japan,” they look great. It could be worse – I heard of one military family that lost all their household goods when their container slid overboard during a storm! They were reimbursed, but nothing can replace items like photographs and other memorabilia.
Our house has gone from being a cavernous shell to a furniture gallery. All of the pieces that will reside upstairs (after painting and carpeting) are currently being held on the main floor. It is rather maze-like, but I am not complaining! In fact, I think I’ll go home, grab the couch cushions and a blanket, and make a fort.

Friday, October 08, 2004

Playing House

Most little girls play house and dolls. These were the game of choice with my sisters and my friends. Unfortunately, I never really liked playing either game. I liked playing “make house.” I enjoyed constructing walls out of couch cushions and beds out of baby blankets. I set up my bookshelf as a 4-story Barbie mansion, complete with ashtrays and credit cards. I spent hours inventing new home designs with Legos. When it was time to “play,” I didn’t want to participate - unless I could be the pet dog that peed on everyone or play prostitute Barbies.

So now I’ve graduated to real estate (but no doll/baby) and I still prefer to “make house.” The game has nothing on the real thing. Instead of couch cushions and baby blankets, I have walls to paint and bedding to make. I can set up my “mansion” any way I please (without the ashtrays). I will be entertained for quite awhile with the 36 projects I have lined up.

So, when it is all finished, will I lose interest and be driven to standing on a street corner urinating on passers-by? I only hope the projects never end…

Monday, October 04, 2004

A North-of-Northsider visits Northside

This Sunday, my friend Kathy and I participated in the “Treasures of Northside” tour of homes ( As a newcomer to Cincinnati, I am still trying to figure out what “Northside” is. I live north of the city (about 3 miles north of the tour) in College Hill, so I figured that I was a part of Northside. I was corrected by a home owner early on in the tour. Evidently, the Northside encompasses a small community along Hamilton Road, just north of I-75, also known as “Cumminsville.” College Hill is definitely not Northside and I am not a Northsider. Despite being denoted an outsider, I enjoyed the tour.

To Mike’s eternal dismay, I love peeking in other people’s houses. I welcome opportunities to gawk at strangers’ personal spaces. Voyeurism aside, I was also hoping for some home decor ideas on the tour. Most of the interiors were not my style, but interesting nonetheless. I listened to one woman describe how she painstakingly removed the layers of paint from an elegant, carved mantel, restoring it to its natural, wooden beauty. I was impressed by the man who had whipped up all of his own bedding, including a canopy. I marveled at the patience of the woman who had embellished her walls with a rococo of wall paper borders and paint treatments.

The architecture and renovations were simply amazing. Cincinnati is filled with beautiful old homes that have fallen into disrepair. The houses have great bones, but often rotten guts. It was inspiring to see how the residents had come together to rejuvenate the Northside. After seeing their pride in their hard work and sense of community, I wasn’t so put out at being seen as an interloper.

Saturday, October 02, 2004

What lies beneath...

Renovations began today! The first project is the upstairs/attic bedroom. I have decided that it will become our "master" bedroom. It is the largest room and, most importantly, has the largest closet. Because this room will be our haven in the months to come, I want it to be finished first.

The wood details in the room are nice. All of the woodwork is stained reddish brown and covered with shiny polyurethane. The stairs have a smooth handrail and lovely newels at the top. The baseboards and window frames are in good condition.

Not nice: the loud, 70's-style carpet. It is orange and red and brown with an octagonal pattern. I am sure it was "swingin" at one time, but now it is just ugly. We knew the backing was firmly glued to the floor. We did not now what was underneath...but we were hoping for the hardwood we found in the closet.

Ripping up the carpet was a piece of cake! What came next, was not. The gray, spongy backing was stuck to the floor. We came prepared: with a scraper tool from Home Depot. It has a long blade attached to a 4-ft metal handle. We diligently scraped the floor and picked up the pieces, eager to see what was beneath. Under the fog of glue and remaining backing, we could soon pick out black and white diamond-patterned linoleum. I was a little discouraged by the thought of one more layer to remove, but I kept the thought of gleaming hardwood floors in mind.

We had nearly removed all of the carpet backing when we found a place where the linoleum was loose and peeled it up. Beneath it was plywood - sheets of plywood, nailed to the floor with about a million nails.

The linoleum removal is still in progress. We need to come back with a putty knife for the remaining linoleum and a trash can for the stuff we have ripped out. Once it is gone, we will have to recover the floor. The plywood look isn't to our liking.

I am a little overwhelmed by the choices of covering. Should we cover it in carpet, tile, or laminate? (NO LINOLEUM!) Mike likes carpet. I am leaning more towards tile or laminate. Whichever covering we choose, we will also opt for professional installation (there are stairs involved). I have not yet investigated the cost. Any thoughts from the peanut gallery?

Friday, October 01, 2004

Our new home. The picture doesn't do it justice. Posted by Hello

The first Cape Cod we liked. The owners wouldn't deal. Posted by Hello

Beginnings in Cincinnati

I am a West coast girl. I have lived in Washington, Oregon, California, Arizona, and Alaska. I never would have imagined that I would end up on the wrong side of the Mississippi.

Mike and I arrived in Cincinnati on July 7th. We chose the city because of its law school, University of Cincinnati. It was the most highly ranked school that Mike was accepted to. We found an apartment with a month-to-month lease and immediately began the house hunt. It was complicated by two factors: first, we had trouble finding anything we liked, and second, we were both unemployed! Nevertheless, we continued both job and house hunting through the summer.

Things were looking up when a house we had seen in June turned out to be still available and I landed a job with a great company. The house was a Cape Cod in Bridgetown with 3 bedrooms and 2 baths. Everything else in our price range seemed to either be a ranch (not a fan!) or rundown. We made an offer and were flatly refused. So...we moved on.

We got lucky again a week later. We found another Cape Cod that we loved. It had a large, secluded yard. The house had hardwood floors and coved ceilings throughout. It came with appliances. It was on a quiet street. It had a sun porch and a large deck. Mike liked it, I liked it, so we made an offer. One counter-offer and acceptance later, we were buying a house!

Perhaps it is "buyers regret," but it when we first saw the house, it was funny how all I could see were the "good" things, and after the home inspection, all I could see were the "bad" things. The deck is not level, the furnace is old, the upstairs carpeting is stuck to the floor, the roof has only a few more years left. Fortunately, the panic subsided by the next day. It was replaced with a solid determination to leave this house a little better than the way we found it.

So begins my Cincinnati Cape Cod blog. I will post interior "before" photos soon. It is not in bad shape. (I would not have known where to begin with the 1912 Bungalow! However, although I have time and determination - - I presently lack the tools and skills. Not all is lost. Tools I can buy. Skills I can learn (with the help of some classes at Great Oaks Institute of Technology and Career Development And any advice from my readers would be appreciated!