Wednesday, July 20, 2011

And I'm off! (...1)

This is it, the end of the blog, but not, by far, the end of the Ruskin Project.  Once my kitchen reno started, I failed miserably at steering away from posts about my kitchen.  Clearly I need a job related to home rehab work.  Construction management perhaps?  How do I find work combining or making use of my media interest, passion for home renovation, love of cooking, and penchant for endurance sports?  These three things take up most of my time and draw me in time and time again, no matter how many challenges there seem to be., the biz venture I'm working on, is combining a few of my interests.  This site will launch in about a week with a splash page allowing visitors to learn about us, sign up to be notified when we launch our fully functional site (December, we hope!), and take a survey or email us feedback.  It's an exciting new business to be a part of and I doubt I would have begun this had I not been laid off.

My home projects and thoughts of buying and flipping a condo are beginning to stir...  Perhaps a plan will be in place soon on this front. 

Overall, I'm so incredibly grateful for this time to explore and learn and let myself see what pops up that I want to do.  How lucky I feel to step down off the work treadmill for a while and run about doing whatever I want, whenever I want, to learn as much as I want!  After many weeks now of getting to feel and think through my interests, I'm looking forward to taking on a focused job hunt.  It will be a rewarding challenge, not a daunting task.  But only because I feel relaxed and excited about it, instead of fearful and pessimistic.

Bring on the next chapter!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The Big Floor Reveal! (...2)

How's this for a before and after picture series?  I think pretty darn spectacular!

Before...crud and dirt and stains and muck...

In comes the Clarke well as a few other large tools...

After a day of sanding, the floors are a lovely blonde caramel color!  I'm stunned and so happy with how much was able to be cleaned off these 100 plus year old floors.

Glossy and gorgeous now with 1 coat of polyurethan.  More coats tomorrow.  The kitchen, plantry, and back hall are aglow with their face lift!  Now all my other wood floors look tired and weary.  

The home rehab never ends...

Monday, July 18, 2011

When Did the Ruskin Project Become the Kitchen Project? (...3)

Renovation work has taken over my days.  That's obvious looking at the last many posts.  I'll have to get back to Ruskin work post blog (or new blog...?).

I spent nine hours today working in the kitchen (pant).  Everything from pulling up floorboard trim in the pantry (very laborious work  when it's put in before the floor boards are!), sanding, vacuuming, and cleaning windows.  I spent two of these hours removing the last bit of glued on laminate that was on the floor beneath the old cabinets.  It wasn't essential to remove, since it should be covered by new cabinets, but I want the area I'm setting the new cabinets on to be as level as possible.  The layer of glue, backing board and laminate was warped and bubbly so I think it was better to remove it and have it refinished along with the rest of the floor.

Armed with two large wet towels to soak the area, a sharp edged spackle knife for scraping, and paper towels to collect the gunk, I went to battle.    It was a fight!  The process is exhausting, as you may be able to see in the pictures.  First, soak towels and lay them on the laminate.  Next, lift up wet sections and scrape a layer.  Repeat.  Scrape the next layer.

Stubborn sections require sweat, tears, and a few curse words.

Finally, the wood is revealed.  I've said this several times before:  I cannot wait to see what this looks like refinished!!  Just a few more days before the dirt and dust layer is sanded away, polished up, and made to shine...

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Imperfect Walls by Tom Atkins My(...4)

My dust covered self, after a long Sunday spackling and sanding.

Here's a poem representing well the fatigue one feels amidst and at the end of a renovation project.  I'm looking forward to the moment, described in this poem so well, when I can sit at my new kitchen island, put on some music (I do love Ella!), and sip some wine (I do love wine!) while I lean back and appreciate all the work that is done.

Imperfect Walls
by Tom Atkins

Ella Fitzgerald plays on the stereo
as you sip cold Pinot Grigio from a paper cup
and gaze the room
in the bright afternoon sun.

It is finished, months of work complete,
the walls glowing gold in the light,
each crack and hole patched and painted.
The rich hickory and cypress floors shine, rescued
from generations of neglect.

You look and see the bend in the plaster
where it was separated from the lathe,
an imperfection left, a reminder
that imperfection has it's own beauty,
in walls, in life and in love,
and you smile more deeply
than those who see you can know.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Floss, Please. (...5)

I felt like a dentist today, and hygienist, as I flossed and brushed the teeth like parts of this large. cast iron radiator.  It was satisfying to remove the caked on plaque like gunk from this monstrous thing, but this won't be a new career path for me.  No thank you.

It was detailed work using highly specialized tools:  A toothbrush, spatula, and tape.  I worked out all the dust and grime collected over who knows how long .  I admit I never attempted to clean the thing since it became mine 6 years ago.  Next, using wet rags and a sponge I scrubbed it clean.  This work was done in just a short amount of time today.  I'd already spent 20 minutes here and there, as I found the time these last few weeks, sanding the loose paint off the radiator. 

Once dust free and clean, I used primer from a spray can to cover the most egregious areas.  After that cured, the high heat enamel paint went on, again with a spray can.

Now, not only does it look cavity free and nicely polished, it looks to me like it should take a bow...what a beautiful spectacle an ancient radiator can be!

Thank you.  Thank you very much (that's the radiator talking).

Friday, July 15, 2011

Plaster, Trees, and Granite...Oh My! (...6)

Today was the 2nd day of wall work.  Not my work...I leave the wallboard and plastering to the pros.  I'd like to be skilled in this area.  Sure, I could hang wallboard, but since this kitchen wall job requires the walls and ceilings to be attacked with all level of skill, I leave this job to the people who can do it fast, do it well, and make it look superb.  I'm thrilled with how things look on day 2!  The walls and ceilings are looking smooooooth!  It makes me antsy to get my paws on a bucket of paint!

With no access to a stove today I headed out for breakfast and went for a bike ride.  Get a load of these gorgeous trees above me on my way back from Concord, MA!

On my way home I took a swing by the place I'm getting my granite from, Empire Marble and Granite, a remnant dealer in Somerville.  It's the same place I found a remnant for my bathroom and they offer a fantastic deal on the stone, templating, and install.  I wasn't absolutely positive about my selection the first time and wanted to take another look, but I've concluded it is the best choice since the piece is large enough to cover the counters, island, and pantry.

Here I am standing in front of the slab of stone...but the image doesn't reveal the true granite color, black.  I think I'd like it better if it was this gray mottled color...

Thursday, July 14, 2011

1 Week and Still Counting Down! (...7)

Today marks 1 more week left of the Ruskin Project.  I'm not sure if I should feel panic yet or not (see post #1).  I'm more low key than I thought I'd be at this point, but perhaps that's because I also feel like I've learned a lot and made some tangible progress toward my goal:  clueing into what I want to be doing.  I don't have an "answer" just yet, but I know that doing the projects I'm interested in doing out of shear instinct and trying some things that scare me are the two best ways to determining what will make me more satisfied in my work life.  I'm not convinced that reading books on the subject help all that much.  I think doing and testing and being active in real life help more.  But as I said, I don't have an answer yet.  More to come in the week ahead and beyond...

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

I Heart Craigslist and Reuse! (...8)

In my 'hood I can't dispose of construction materials in the regular trash.  Instead, I have to pay a few hundred dollars and haul these materials to a nearby dump.  It's a huge pain and requires help to lift some of the heavier items.  A lot of stuff I'm removing from my kitchen falls under the "construction material" label.  To save money, my best bet is to get rid of it on craigslist. 

A few things I was able to sell.  Other stuff I've offered for free, with the hope that somebody clever could do something clever with my old stuff.  This was the case with my old tile (about 125 tiles removed from my kitchen walls, 95% of them intact):

And, it was the case with my old cabinets:

And tomorrow, somebody is coming to pick up a very dusty and decrepit piano in the basement that I've been trying to get hauled out of here for-ever.  It's expensive to hire a junk-removal service to take it away.  Nobody will buy it.  And, it's a shame to trash it when somebody with some repair skills and interest could make it play again.  Thankfully, off it goes tomorrow in the hands of somebody who cares to put it to use!

This is why I heart craigslist.  It's a haven for my junk and treasure chest for somebody else!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Lovely Lights! (...9)

When I went running tonight, the sun was setting.  A breathtaking orange ball in the sky, sinking toward the Mystic River, the sun was a lovely site.  The heat of the day was finally letting go its grip so I went out for a jog to rest my head a bit.  It was dark in the house when I returned, making for a perfect time to turn on all the new switches in the kitchen and look at the lovely lights that are lit for the first time today since the electricians finished this afternoon.  How thrilling to see glimpses of what my new kitchen will look like soon!  These lovely lights are the first new thing installed in there.  Simple, but such a great addition. 

Monday, July 11, 2011

Down and Dirty Kitchen Work (...10)

I'm dusty, filthy, and ready for the clean, pretty paint job to begin.  It's still days away until that work begins.  I have probably three more dusty days like today left in the kitchen.  My skin is suffering as it gets coated with plaster dust.  My clothes too.  This kind of down and dirty work leaves no time for my Ruskin work.  It's hanging over me like a neon sign I can't turn off but I think getting this major renovation done is worth it for the long haul health of my house and finances!

One Dusty Kitchen Collage

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Bikes, Cukes, and Yoga (...11)

A picture is worth a thousand words...This almost looks like an odd Easter Basket, nestled in the grass, waiting for a child to find it.

I'll tell you about this picture.  Today I slept longer than planned, rushed out of bed, made a quick omelet and pot of coffee, and then hopped on my bike to go to Lincoln, MA where the Decordova Museum was having outdoor yoga.  It's about 15 miles from my house, so I sprinted to get there on time, only to realize they were behind schedule.  I got to rest for 10 minutes and then set up my mat, with about 50 other yogis, on the grass, under the trees and sun to do an hour class. It was fabulous.  Fab-u-lous. It was really wonderful, peaceful, and lovely smelling the air and the ground and hearing music along with the breeze.

The museum has an outdoor sculpture garden with a variety of large installations.  We spread our yoga mats out in a field in front of the the Two Big Black Hearts.  This sculpture is by Jim Dine.  It's tough to see in this picture, but when you walk close up, you can see the heart is made up of various objects, like large tools, faces, and shells, all cast in iron.

Now to explain the cukes in the picture.  My friend showed up with some cucumbers from his garden for me.  They barely fit in my small bike bag, but I crammed them in and biked back home with these lovely, green, backyard garden veggies.  A bike ride, getting bendy outdoors in front of two gigantic hearts, and fresh veggies made for a perfect Sunday morning!

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Trim Options (...12)

It's a task with little reward, this searching for trim that looks something like what I already have...nobody will notice it but me, so I shouldn't spend much time trying to find a match, but I'm looking anyway. 

The trim is needed to hold up the open shelving in my pantry.  Pieces of the current trim are splintering apart and breaking when I remove the existing, warped shelves. 

Here's the best match yet.  I'm not satisfied with this option, but hunting this down is about as interesting as reading this post, I bet.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Baseball and Granddad (...13)

Whenever I go to a baseball game I think of my Granddad
and the stories I've heard about him playing for the Red Sox Minor League team, the Charleston Senators Minor League Team, and a team in Nova Scotia.  Tonight I'm heading out to see the Red Sox play the Orioles.  And, I'm donning my very first Red Sox baseball hat (shocking, I know)!

I did a very quick photoshop job with a very quick iphone picture here.  There's something similar about our faces I think.  The lines around our smiles and the shape of our eyes, perhaps?  My ears don't stick out quite so much as his do.  I'll be thankful for that.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

From the Page to the Ceiling (...14)

I read a bit online about how to layout recessed lighting in a kitchen.  It's pretty dry reading unless you're without a general contractor and need to make the right decision down to the inch on your own.  There's rules for everything!  Depending on how high your ceilings are and the diameter of the lighting cans you select, you can make different decisions about the distance you place lights from the wall and from each other.  After a little bit of research I went with the 5" cans, placed 3 feet from the walls and 4 feet from each other, near major work areas.  Over the island I'm going with 4" cans, placed 1/3 of the way in from the ends of the island.

After the research, I added the lights to my kitchen layout:

Today the holes were cut and cable was strung through my ceiling like shoe laces:

I hope this works like I'm expecting.  It has to be better than the one, funky looking Ikea light that's been the only source of light in the kitchen up to now.  And to think I'll be able to turn the light on and off from every entryway...with a dimmer option...with a separate control for the island...Hooray!  It's hard to imagine having these kinds of functional features in my own home.  Very exciting.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

I Can Smell the Fresh Laundry Already! (...15)

I've had a washer and dryer in the basement,  3 floors down, since moving into my condo.  It's more convenient than going to a laundry mat, but nothing will beat having a unit on my own floor.  No more carrying the basket up and down and setting my watch to remember to switch over the load.  No more going downstairs to realize I'm out of detergent.  No more discovering that somebody else has their laundry in and I have to wait a few hours. 

I suddenly feel like the young girl in the Julia Robert's movie, Mona Lisa Smile, who proudly shows off her new washer and dryer set while her friend gasps in amazement.  Kirsten Dunst plays the gal in the movie, but, today I'm playing the part (no cute sweater set, however, it's 90 degrees in Boston):

Oh yeah....I can already smell the fresh laundry coming from my new Maytag washer and dryer.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

To Toss or To Fix? That Is The Question (...16)

Many of the little challenges I confront in the kitchen beg the question, do I try to fix this, or toss it and start anew?  I'm talking about the old stuff in my kitchen, like shelves, trim, and a very very crooked ceiling.  Today I looked into the cost of buying new wood for my trim and for my old shelving. I'm still not sure if I should replace the pantry shelves and the party broken trim, or if I should tackled it, creating an extensive DIY carpentry project.

I wish I had a workshop outback, and my own carpenter, for these two projects:

The red and white and lines in this picture could make for some interesting art.  A little research at Home Depot today tells me that buying poplar to make these shelves will cost $4 a foot.  Pine is half as much and it comes pre-primed in white.  That's a selling point!  But I'm still unsure of what to do for the brackets.  I don't want to mimic what's on the walls already.  The makeshift brackets, made from trim, is not terribly attractive, but it's mostly in good shape.  Back and forth, back and forth...I can't make a decision...

Monday, July 4, 2011

Jully 4th Wool Sweater? (...17)

We stopped in Brattleboro, VT on our way home from Jamaica, VT, because it's a cute little town that you don't want to drive though without getting a peek at the shops and the people.  At a large antiques store on Main St., Bill found a fantastic pure wool, vintage sweater for $20.  It's in perfect shape with bright, rugby-style stripes.  It's also, the perfect color sweater for the 4th of July! 


I looked up the label, "Carlo Gruber" out of curiosity.  It apparently stems from a line of 1970s ski clothing made by the Adidas company.  A blog post on "Cool Hunting" mentions the line was reintroduced in 2005 by Adidas in a limited run.  There's a number of listings on Ebay labeled "Adidas Carlo Gruber Sweaters" priced at more than 4 times as much as Bill paid.  If it weren't 82 degrees out in Boston...he'd be sporting this thing at a BBQ today.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Found: Old Tools (...18)

Antiquing in Newfane, VT today with friends.  We're not avid antiquers, we just enjoy seeing some of the items people have collected.  Once in a while we find something neat for decorative display or something functional at a better price than if you were to buy it new.  I'm looking for unique wine glasses and a decanter.  I'd like to find some chairs to reupholster myself and I'd be happy to find a large glass ice pitcher.  None were found at the Newfane Flea Market, supposedly the largest flea market in Vermont, but we enjoyed seeing what was on display. 

A massive rain storm in the morning encouraged many vendors to pack up and leave the muddy field.  We did a pretty quick tour of the tables that were left, but didn't buy anything.

I was struck with a strong memory of childhood when I saw this sleeve board.  I clearly recall my mom having one of these.  Really neat to see this!

I won't be buying any of these.  I've got enough to recycle at home.

Beautiful hammers?  For some reason they strike me as attractive, lovely tools.

This collection reminds me of how much yard work there is to do when I return to Somerville.

I'm not sure why it's interesting to see several of the same kind of item in a row or a pile, but it catches my eye for some reason.  Maybe it's noticing the similarities and differences in shape, despite the fact that each is the same type of tool.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

It's Another Layoff Dayoff for Me (...19)

Not really.  When you're working on your own projects, entrepreneurial in nature and otherwise, you quickly realize there is no such think as a day off.  There's an endless amount of ideas and research to follow up on and  questions for which you need to seek answers.  But today I'm heading to NH and then to VT to join friends for a two day vacation.  Bike riding, antiquing, and movie watching is the plan. 

Friday, July 1, 2011

I Should Call Him My iPal (...20)

Alex, my dearest housemate who is leaving July 5th, gave me quite a thank you gift today.  An iPad!  What a fun and fantastic gift!  It came with a requirement:  He said I had to promise him I would "plug my iPad into my computer at least once after iOS 5 is out (this fall), so that you never have to plug it again after that!"  He's become aware of my poor habit of never plugging my iPhone in to back it up. Thus, his requirement.  I replied to him with the official Apple swear:  "I swear on my iPhone that I will plug in my iPad once after iOS 5 is out."

I have a new name for Alex.  He is my iPal!  Not only is he a great friend who I've been so lucky to live with the past three years, but he keeps a close and careful eye on all my Apple products.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Ahhhh Summer...No Need for My Radiators Now (...21)

There's no way to feel bad about being laid off when the sky is blue and there's a light breeze in the air.  I walked to a biz venture meeting in the late afternoon.  We ate fresh farm veggies and grilled steak and chicken while we worked.  It's a ton of work, this project, but I've never felt more motivated, stimulated, and excited.  With each meeting I'm aware of how much we don't know just as much as I'm aware of how much progress we've made and how much passion we have for our goals!

Yesterday morning, we got down and dirty doing the nasty job of detaching the kitchen radiator from the floor pipe.  The valve was rusted and painted on quite well, but with a few twists and turns and creaks and grunts and a whole lotta leg muscle, it came undone!

My plan for the radiator is to skip the $200 acid wash and refinishing job (it also includes replacing the valve connector) that a local service shop offers.  Instead I'm going to use steel wool and 80 grit sandpaper to take care of the loose paint and rust, wipe it down, and then spray the radiator with a red metal primer. Then I'll spot paint those areas with high heat enamel paint that I hope I can find to match the mostly-in-good-shape silver coated radiator.  It will get a new valve and then get reconnected.  Let's hope it doesn't leak once I'm threw with it!

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Plumbing Perils and Progress (...22)

I like the sight of new plumbing.  A lot.  The first time I saw the new plumbing with easy hot/cold shutoff valves installed for my bathroom renovation, I was filled with joy.  There's a lot of great things about my old house, but the plumbing isn't one of them.  It could be worse.  I've never had my pipes freeze or experienced any flooding.  I had only one clog in the tub but draino and a new trap took care of that issue.  However, anytime I've had a plumber by for an estimate they say very grumpily "we don't like these old copper pipes!" or "This isn't up to code!"  Yeah, no kidding. The house is over 100 years old.

The past two days I've felt a little bullied by the plumbers.  I don't understand their attitude.  They reviewed the job weeks ago, told me the possible challenges, and gave me the cost, but when they arrived to work this week, it was nothing but groans, complaints, and more talk of the old copper pipes.  Isn't this a plumber's job?

Yesterday's big plumbing day was a success, I'm relieved to write.  The washer and dryer drain was installed form my 3rd floor condo to the basement.  The kitchen sink was plumbed.  The gas line was sunk into the wall so my stove doesn't have to be 6" away from the wall, as it was before.  Today there's a few more hours of plumbing work and phase 1 is done.

Here's a look at the sink wall progress!