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It is a slow process, this current renovation. If I’m being honest with myself I will admit that we’ll never actually be “done” and that’s fine. What would we do with ourselves if we finished? Start over somewhere else, I guess. And I’m not remotely interested in moving again so I plan to draw out this renovation for our eternity. Today happens to be a gorgeous one so I thought it was high time to show a before + after of what we’ve done to the back of the manse.

Way back in the olden days:

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Step one was to remove the crazy arborvitae that was glomming onto the house.Image

Step two: blow a big hole in the back of the house.

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Step Three: Have Bradley and Bradley Jr from Decks Decks Decks come out and work their magic.

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Step Four: make a margarita and then another and then another.

And just like that (2.5 years later) we have a great space to live in and hang out and watch the hens doing their thing in the yard below.

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Happy Spring!

Contrary to what this blog would make you think about our lack of progress on the house we have been working like crazy. Our recent big project was a hen house for our girls, Chunky Penny, Lady Whistle and Ms Jackson.

Naturally before building a hen house we thought we should go ahead and tear out the non-retaining retaining wall that the previous owners “built” out of broken bricks and concrete blocks. Here’s a quick BEFORE shot to make you see just how heavenly our back yard looked when we moved in:

FULL DISCLOSURE: the yard didn’t look this nice when we moved in. I took this the morning we started the new retaining wall which was just a couple of months ago. Since we moved in we added the butterfly bush and the rain barrel that will eventually catch the run off from the garage.

Anyhow – after a day of building the wall and learning that our next-door neighbors are really amazing, wonderful and generous (even moreso than we previously suspected) this is what we had to look at:

 

 

The next step was to build the hen house. Little Brother Anthony arrived (in jorts) to aid in the construction.

 

 

We made a ton of progress that weekend and then promptly walked away from the project for awhile due to work, travel, etc. You can see by the change in attire and the leaves on the trees how much time passed.

TIME WARP:

This is much nicer to look at, no?

Now the girls live out there as happy as can be. I love to look it every day as more leaves fall and it settles in to look like part of the landscape.

This project would not have been possible without the help of friends and family who donated time, supplies and food. I feel like I’m dedicating a book. Huge thanks go out to Anthony for jumping in and getting us moving on the construction; to Sierra and Tommy for helping to engineer and build the wall; to Ton and Sonja for lunch, tea service, gravel and dirt moving and all around moral support (and for giving birth to Sierra all those years ago); to Tammy, Barbara, John, Eric and Jan – neighbors who donated scrap lumber, chicken wire, shovels, etc.; to Dad, Kate L, Terry, Natalie, Cliff M and Janice D for donating license plates; to Mom for hanging out with Whistle and most of all, to Steve, who continues to indulge every crazy whim I get.

I am so happy to have built something for the hens to live in that makes our home a more interesting, fun place to live, with the generosity and kindness of so many people involved. My heart swells.

 

 

You may remember that when we bought our house it had two kitchens. “Ooh la la” you might say. You would be wrong. Both were/are totally gross (but workable). The upstairs kitchen is now well on it’s way to being a super awesome big-boy room for Whistle. I’m too busy getting ready for my show next week to go into much detail but here are some pictures of the before and during. The after will have to come later.

Kitchen: before. To me this was the cutest room in the whole house when we bought it. But we didn’t actually need two kitchens, let alone one on the second floor.

These cabinets/counters/sink caused  a small bidding war on Craigslist. Believe it.

Steve took up the vinyl flooring and we had the floors redone and the plaster walls/ceiling repaired. The former owners used 3″ nails for every home “improvement” project so when we removed the cabinets we destroyed the walls.

View where the cabinets used to be. Steve cut new baseboards and put down new 1/4 round in the room. The after pictures will show that.

Now, back to work for me.

It’s been a wild summer around here. As you know, I work for this fine group and we exhibited at the National Stationery Show this past May. All went well and we came home with a suitcase full of orders for our cards and such so I’ve been packing and shipping like a mad woman since then. As such, we took a little break from house projects. I am feeling the itch though so I’m dipping my toe into the water this month.

We painted the bannister this weekend (don’t yell at me for painting over wood – it’s been painted a bunch before and the wood isn’t in terrific shape and we don’t have it in us to strip the newel posts and spindles and such!) and that feels major.

Not sure if you remember the upstairs kitchen? Here it is:

I considered it the cutest room in the house when we bought it. Our plan is to turn it into Whistle’s Big Boy Room so I started by tearing out the cabinets and sink because no four year old needs a stainless sink in his room. My husband hates demo. I love it. This wasn’t truly demo since we put the whole thing on craigslist and soon had a bidding war on our hands. So we gingerly removed the units from the crooked wall and some nice guy hauled them away AND gave us cash. What a wonderful world.

Look what caused such a ruckus on Craigslist:

I’m not sure what’s next. We’ve put a few things on hold until next year (rebuilding the retaining wall, building some raised beds for gardens, etc) but this year’s list still looms large.

I have Fall Fever like crazy and I thin I’m sort of “feathering the nest” for Winter. Our first delivery of firewood happens this Thursday. It’s really happening…

I was talking with a new acquaintance recently and she said “I checked out your blog. How’s the house renovation coming?” and I realized I have been terribly remiss in posting before/afters. And remiss in posting at all. But I won’t let it become an orphan, I swear it. There are at least three people who would notice.

It’s early in the summer but it’s already jam-packed with art festivals, screen printing, poster shows, house renovations, husband-making-a record, maybe a little light traveling, and worry about the future of our planet.

I swore when we moved into this house and tackled yet another renovation project, that we would not jump into new projects until existing projects were complete. What a funny joke that was. We have a minimum of four incomplete projects right now that show no signs of imminent completion. I was thinking about the house and this post and realized we have made great strides in the exterior of the house (repointing, fence, deck, glass doors, planting, pruning, etc) but not a ton in the interior. I love color and mixing inks and picking paint colors but for whatever reason this house has proven to be a wooly-bugger in terms of picking wall color. Not much works. Maybe it’s the light? The color of the pine floors? Not sure but nothing works. I’ve been stumped and, as a result, crabby about painting. So all of that is on hold. Currently we’re thinking about ceiling fans and dishwashers – I miss the finer things in life like an energy-efficient dishwasher. Or any dishwasher. I think this horrific oil spill has me sensitive about all the areas in my life where I am less than gracious to this planet. Hand washing dishes seems water-wasteful to me. I digress.

So, I have one wee little before/current (I won’t call it an “after” as we still plan to paint the trim and downspouts, plants more stuff, add railings or “cheeks” to the front stoop, hand a light fixture, yadda yadda yadda) of the front of the house. I promise we have been working on the rest but this is what I can offer you right now. And now I have to wrap up – the boy just announced that he is “a crabby man.”

Cheers to summer and you and yours.

ps – it always bothers me in those weight loss (or any) before/after photos, the model is wearing some crummy outfit with greasy hair in the ‘before’ photo and then all dolled up in the ‘after’ photo. You can’t help but think her extra pounds wouldn’t have looked as bad if she’d washed her hair and replaced the NFL jersey in the first place. So I know the “after” picture above is sort of cheating: the peonies are in bloom, the front beds are filled in, etc – but it DOES look a little warmer and lived in, right?

I finally have my first working rainwater collection barrel. I took a class on this years ago but it took until now to finally take all the steps to make it happen. I love my funky barrel. I had planned to set one up and see how this Spring season goes and how much water I collect. But then we had a fairly rainy weekend (and I wasn’t ready) and I was collecting watering cans and then dumping them on a new baby Dogwood tree. I went through at least five gallons in the watering cans. This olive barrel holds 55 gallons. I think I may have to go ahead and set up the second olive barrel for overflow.

If you’re interested in some tips, start with this video and then find a really helpful dude (or lady!) in the plumbing department of your hardware store and ask some questions. I paid $15 for the barrel and about $20 for the rest of the supplies – hose bib, silicone, washers, adapter plug and mesh screen. So worth it!!!

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This new old house is filled with texture. Cracked plaster, new plaster, sanded wood, stained wood, cracked paint and on and on. Overall the feeling of the house right now is a little bit mayhemish but there are these tiny bits of beauty that I love. I think they keep me focused on what this place will be for us. I think it’s the first place we’ve lived in that we truly see ourselves living in for – well, a long time. Recently I clocked the distance to the high school (there are no buses here. Kids walk to school – gasp!) to make sure it’ll be manageable for the boy. He’s almost three. So we’re thinking long term for the first time. I love the calm I feel about this.

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When I started this thing my husband said “just don’t let it become an orphan.” And then I did just that. To my credit, in the past six weeks we packed our whole house up and moved to a new fixer-upper and then tore out some carpet, removed some walls, pulled out 4356 nails, get the floors redone, had plasterers camped out for three days, balanced buckets all around the basement to catch the surprise leaks, met some new neighbors, applied for permits, got bids and everything under the sun and played a lot of trains with the boy.

So, I’ve been too busy to paint or draw or print or make any art. And certainly no time to take pictures of it and throw it up here for six people to see! I do miss it. I am so guilty of looking at other peoples’ work and being green with envy – not necessarily at their image making or talent or anything – just jealous of the fact that they made the time and DID IT. I need to get back on the horse. I’m too good at making excuses. I need a deadline.

In the meantime, here are some pictures of what life looks like at Camp Foxbury.

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So I mentioned that we’re selling our house and eyeing another fixer upper (WHAT are we thinking!?) and a friend suggested that we capture the process on film (but not really film – just little digital blips of zeroes and ones that magically turn themselves into photos that people can see on their computers a million miles away – yeah, that). So I’m thinking about it and I wonder if I can be that organized. I tend to jump into a project and a third of the way through realize that we’re completing a total transformation and should have really snapped one simple “before” shot.

Still thinking about it.

Once we’re slightly further along in the process of buying this place I will post some of the MLS listing photos which will suffice as “before” shots. And in honor of this undertaking, and because I’m ambivalent about leaving the place we’re in now and have called home longer than any other place, I will post a couple of before/afters to tide us over.

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More to come.