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doorsixteen_backyard_fullview2

Between the front and back of the house, I spent about five hours outdoors yesterday doing a major cleanup in preparation for spring. Aside from a few secret crocuses, absolutely nothing is blooming in Newburgh yet—winter has been dragging on forever, and we’re only just now starting to have slightly warmer days that feel vaguely spring-like. After “finishing” the back garden last summer, I have high hopes for lots of lush, full growth as the plantings we did a year ago start to fill out and get more established.

I am noticing a lot of projects that still need to be taken care of, though, things that we’ve been talking about doing for years but never seem to get around to. Of course the major exterior project that continues to loom is addressing the windows, which need an awful lot of repair work (including having the rotted casings replaced—oy vey)…and, eventually/hopefully, new storm windows. That’s going to have to be put off at least another year because of the expense involved, but in the mean time, I want to tackle some of the more manageable things.

doorsixteen_backyard_junk

First things first: WE NEED OUR JUNK GUY. Since we don’t have a driveway, there’s nowhere to put a dumpster (or one of those Bagster things) when we’re renovating. Yeah, we could apply for a permit to put on on the street, but that would have to be for a very limited amount of time—something that doesn’t really work with our snail’s-pace approach to renovation. The only solution we’ve come up with is to put smaller construction debris into contractor bags, stash everything in the basement, and when the basement is full, hire a guy with a huge truck to come and take everything to the dump. That’s worked pretty well for us over the years, but now the basement is full—and the bags and other debris have spread to the garden. See that stack of plywood leaning against the fence? That’s our old kitchen subfloor.

Sigh. So yeah, we need the junk guy to come and take this mess away. Hopefully we’ll only need him one more time in the future, when we do demo work in the basement.

(Hmmm, we also need Verizon to come and take care of that downed telephone line…)

doorsixteen_backyard_basement

This basement window was piece of broken glass in a rotted frame covered with plywood when we bought the house, so this little vinyl slider is definitely an improvement over that, but it’s still an eyesore. Rust-Oleum makes a spray paint specifically for painting plastics. I’m just going to go for it. That window will fit right in with the brick if it’s painted black, and that’s what I want.

I also want to replace that temporary (“temporary” = 8 years) plastic dryer vent hood. I’m going super-fancy and splurging on a copper one. We couldn’t afford to install copper downspouts (that’s just galvanized steel painted black—which has held up really well, by the way, in case you’ve considered painting your downspouts), but I’ve been wanting some kind of copper accent on the back of the house somewhere…so, a copper dryer vent it is.

doorsixteen_backyard_basementbilcos

The steel doors leading to the basement look terrible, but they’re actually in perfectly good shape. The wood framing surrounding them, however, is not. It’s so badly rotted that I can push a hole straight through with almost no effort. Because this is a spot that gets very little sunlight, rain and other moisture tends to sit for longer than it should. Rather than replace the rotted wood with new wood, we’re thinking about using a fiber cement-based product like HardiePanel. It’s paintable, rot-proof, and durable. And, of course, if the new framing and the doors are painted black, they’ll disappear visually. I’m sure the paint will need to be touched up every few years (this is a lesson I’ve earned about black paint outdoors—everything shows), but that’s OK.

Once that’s done, we can fill in the rest of this area with gravel. That’s what we did with the rest of the broken/mossy-concrete part of our garden—we just dumped gravel on top. It looks great, and it helps with water dispersion so rain runs off the way it should instead of pooling up and making mud puddles. Much cheaper than having all of the concrete removed and hauled away, too!

If you’re trying to figure out what part of the house this is, that’s the dining room window above the basement doors, and the kitchen window above the radiator (to the left of the refrigerator) on the right. The brick wall on the left is the side of our neighbor’s house.

doorsixteen_backyard_grass

doorsixteen_backyard_hinge

As I’ve mentioned on numerous occasions, I loathe the exterior kitchen door. The embossed steel panels on the bottom are fake, the plastic mullions are fake, and the whole thing makes me sad. The original door is nowhere to be found. Rather than put in a vintage replacement, we want to go very contemporary and simple—something like this. We’ll get the advantage of a well-insulated modern door and let a ton of additional extra light into the kitchen, without any of the fussy fake-everything elements of the current door.

We’d also like to put in a screen door at the same time. Upstate New York is too full of mosquitoes and flies in the summer to just leave a door open, but it would be so nice to have that breeze! Fun for the dogs to be able to look outside and groundhog-watch, too. We made a pathetic attempt at installing a screen door a few years ago, but we really only got as far as installing these beautiful screen door hinges before we gave up and moved on to something else.

Replacing the porch light (currently just a bare flood lamp) will be a much easier project! I haven’t really started looking yet, but this industrial guy would look great with the currently exposed conduit. I do LOVE that orange color…

doorsixteen_backyard_fullview1

doorsixteen_backyard_porch

The previous owner put in this back porch (I hesitate to call it a “deck” since it’s only about 5×6′), and while it’s perfectly stable and well-built, it’s got more of that faux-Victorian thing going on with the spindles, and I am not a fan. I’d also like to cover up the underside of the porch, but standard lattice is too fussy. I need to sit down with a pencil and paper and come up with a real plan, but my goal is to get rid of the spindles and have spaced, horizontal slats enclosing the whole porch—from top railing to the ground. Similar to what Morgan did with her front porch, but obviously not up that high. I’ll try to sketch something up next weekend. I don’t think it’ll too difficult or expensive, and it’ll make a HUGE difference.

I’m so excited to get moving on outdoor projects! As exhausted and sore as I am today, it was really nice to be working in the fresh air and sunshine yesterday. Fingers crossed for continued good weather—I really hope there’s some bud and blossom action happening by the weekend. I’ve got a whole list of projects lined up for the front garden, too, but I’ll get into that later!

doorsixteen_sundaytodo

Oh boy. You know how sometimes work vacations wind up being worse than not taking a vacation at all? That’s how I’m feeling about this Monday. I took TWO WHOLE WEEKS off work, and now I’m in a panic about how in the world I’m going ever going to catch up on everything when I get back into the office. Ugh. I’ve been trying to get as much stuff as possible done at the house during my time off, but exhaustion has gotten the better of me and I’m feeling a bit guilty about not having done more. Ugh again.

Anyway, I do have ONE LAST DAY to check things off my to-do list before I have to switch back into work mode, so I’m making a sub-to-do list of what I (reasonably) think I can get done today.

Do these things:
✚ Take photos of stuff for eBay auctions
Take photos of dining room
Brush Bruno
Laundry
Clean bathrooms
✚ Organize pantry
Set up kitchen coffee area
Bring stuff down to basement
Frame and hang at least one more thing
One more trip to Goodwill? Nope.
✚ Sand, patch and prime benches
✚ Make hook for ceramic planter

Do not do these things:
✚ Drink too much coffee

I’m serious about that last thing there. I have been drinking SO MUCH COFFEE during my vacation. Way too much. It’s just so easy and so delicious and so addictive. I don’t want to eliminate coffee from my life, but I gotta get myself back down to a single cup a day. OK, maybe I’ll wait until Monday to cut back, because today is going to be hectic and I want to get a little coffee area all set up in the kitchen and it’ll be right there. But then tomorrow is going to be even more hectic…hmmm. Tuesday? Tuesday. Less coffee on Tuesday.

doorsixteen_skullgloves

I have a few things to do in the city this weekend so the kitchen won’t get my attention for a few days. The past couple of weeks have felt almost unbearably long and hectic. To cap thing off, I spent all day Thursday thinking it was Friday, so today felt like going to work on the weekend. I’m sure it’s Friday for real now, though, and it’s past 5:00pm, so…I’M FREE! I’M FREEEEEEEEE!!! I want to make the next couple of days as productive as possible since it’s been ages since I’ve been at the apartment during daytime hours. Time for a list!

Vacuum, including entry stairs
✚ Cut anti-slip pad for new kitchen rug
Drop off laundry
Bring winter coat to cleaners
Scrub bathroom to death
Put new locks on the windows
Remove air conditioner from window
Vet appointment for Fritz & Bruno
JOHNNY MARR CONCERT AT WEBSTER HALL WOOHOO
✚ Paint the stairs (c’mon, Dorfman, you can do this…)
Dye hair + trim bangs
Pedicure
✚ Write a billion emails
Learn how to properly set the thermostat, then set it properly
✚ Make a big pot of chili (it’s that time of year again)
Belated birthday lunch with Laura

Totally doable, provided I start tonight with the cleaning. I’ve been really lazy about thoroughly cleaning the apartment lately, and it’s starting to weigh on me. I’m not as fastidious about cleaning as my reputation among my friends and family would have you believe, but I do like to be in relatively clean surroundings. Right now there are dustbunnies the size of grapefruits (and no, I’m not talking about Bruno) clustered in every corner, and I can write my name with my finger on any piece of glass in the apartment. Time for a real scrub-down!

Starting a pot of coffee and putting on The Messenger now!

p.s. Yes, those cashmere skull gloves are just as soft and warm as they look. Skull Cashmere very kindly sent me a pair after seeing their blanket in my skull-love post, and I have been waiting for months to wear them. Now I never want to take them off…

It has been a LONG time since I posted a mixtape! I’ve had this one in the works for a while now as a follow-up to 2011’s original Summertime Jams mix, but between the too-hot-to-think weather we had in July and all movies I’ve been going to see, I just hadn’t been feeling it. Something happened last week, though — we started having the best summer weather here in New York, the kind you fantasize about during the winter. Cool breezes in the evenings, great sunsets, people out and about at night, hanging out on their stoops and eating late dinners at sidewalk cafés…perfect.

Anyway, I’m in love with this mix, and I hope you like it too. If the Bar-Kays alone don’t make you feel like summertime, then your funky might be broken. Enjoy!! And if you need more music…
Here are all of my previous music mixes!

I guess it’s a little silly to make a weekend to-do list on a Saturday afternoon, but I’m feeling a bit panicked at the moment about not getting done everything that needs to get done. We have guests coming to stay at our house for a long visit, and I want to make sure everything is comfortable for them. Hail the productivity a good to-do list can inspire!

Do this stuff before tomorrow afternoon:
Laundry, including hand-washables
Clean bathrooms
Vacuum
Fresh linens in guest bedroom
✚ Set up closet in guest bedroom; empty drawers/install hanging rack
Clean exterior dryer lint trap
✚ Move stuff in the basement so the plumber doesn’t hate us
Bring excess recyclables to Mommy’s house
Make list of local restaurants/shops for guests
WEED FRONT GARDEN, trim plants
Finish installing butcherblock in kitchen
Oil treatments for butcherblock x3
Make iced coffee

I’m cutting myself off there. I can think of a dozen other things I wish I could get done this weekend, but this is what absolutely HAS to happen.

p.s. GOOD NEWS: We finally got a quote from plumber #3 for removing and re-piping/moving our kitchen radiators at the house. Now we just have to schedule him in here for a day, and then I can FINALLY finish tiling the last two kitchen walls…and we can rip up the carpenter-ant-ravaged subfloor and see what’s going on underneath. I am very anxious to get back to work on the kitchen, so YAYYYY.

doorsixteen_weekendtodo

Our house has been so neglected lately. All of our focus has been on the apartment, and since putting the shelves up in the kitchen a few weeks ago, our house has kind of been a chilly dumping ground. I’m determined to change that today! I really need our home to not feel like a project site. There are tools all over the place, tile dust everywhere that I still haven’t vacuumed up, construction debris that needs to be bagged…it’s a mess.

(By the way, for newer D16 readers who are confused: Yes, my husband and I have a house AND an apartment. The house — which we’ve owned for a little more than 7 years and have been sloooooowly renovating — was built in 1891 and stands on a bluff in the City of Newburgh in the Hudson Valley region of upstate New York. The apartment is a rental in Brooklyn. For the past 3 years, we’ve kept a city apartment for the sake of easing up on the 4 hours of daily commuting we did for 5 years. I’ll write more about that whole situation in a future post, but for now, hopefully that clears things up a little about what’s going on where! If you’re ever unsure about whether I’m talking about my house or my apartment, just check the category at the top of the post in the left column.)

I need to make myself a project checklist for today/tonight, or else I’ll just wind up lying on the sofa writing emails and drinking coffee.

✚ Clean up in front of the house — trash, rake, sweep, gutters
Rake the back garden, bundle branches, turn compost
LAUNDRY
Box up unused kitchen stuff for friends + Goodwill
Bring old kitchen cart to basement
Organize pantry, put stuff in jars with labels
Clean out refrigerator
DUST + VACUUM
✚ Bag up clothes for Goodwill (this isn’t going to happen, but I put it on my mental list every week anyway)
Refinish shelving unit in basement
Cut boards for built-in shelving at apartment

Yeah, that’s ambitious, I know. I’ll feel SO MUCH BETTER if I can get these things done, though. Then I can spend tomorrow lying on the sofa writing emails and drinking coffee.


Photo taken by Captain W. F. Wood of the S. S. Etonian on April 12, 1912 (via Bidtracker)

I saw this photo a few days ago when a coworker linked to an auction of the original, and I can’t stop thinking about it. The iceberg depicted is the one that would sink the Titanic three days later! Isn’t it amazing that such a thing has survived—or even that it was taken (and recognized for what it was) at all? Yes, I suppose it’s a bit of a sad, morbid way to start the weekend—but on the other hand, when this photo was taken, it was still just an iceberg. The photo is beautiful, ensuing tragedy aside.

Anyway, this post has nothing to do with that photo (um, at least I hope it doesn’t!), but it does have everything to do with motivation. I have been talking about getting moving with my kitchen renovation for years now, and this weekend I’m actually going to start digging in. I went ahead and bought the Karlsson Big Flip clock after a bunch of you assured me the Amazon reviews are bunk and it works just fine, but that’s the sum total of my “progress” thus far. I think it’s time for me to start making lists and checking them twice…after all, it is December!

Take a shower, then do this stuff:
✚ Rake leaves in front and back of the house
Go through clothes and see if I own any sweaters without holes (I don’t)
BUY SUBWAY TILE (and order more if they don’t have enough)
Buy thinset and grout and a decent sponge and a couple of small buckets
✚ Box up non-essential kitchen stuff, store in basement
Take down shelving over coffee station, patch holes
START TILING
✚ Eat decent food and drink lots of coffee

If I wait until we can do the whole kitchen renovation at once, it’s never going to happen. As much I’m not looking forward to living in a renovation zone for months on end, that’s just how it has to be. Our bathroom renovations (which were much more extensive since we actually had to remove walls and floors—all of that stuff is already done in the kitchen) took more than six months each—we are slow and careful and we want to do a good job.

So? Tiling this weekend. It’s happening! Finally. I’ll take photos to prove it.

I’m puttering around the Brooklyn apartment this 3-day weekend, still getting over the remains of a head cold and avoiding the flash thunderstorms we’ve been having around here lately. I’m determined to use the time to get this place looking better. I made a to-do list I think is pretty realistic.

Clean/vacuum/etc.
Order new sconce for bathroom
Mount hanging rail in kitchen Hmmm, I actually think we don’t need it…
HANG STUFF ON THE WALLS
Install closet shelving
Organize closets
Pack up winter clothes
✚ Figure out how to hide the electrical panel (I need to think about it more)
✚ Plan food for the week (I’ll do that tomorrow)
DON’T DRINK COFFEE

Yeah. So. That last thing. Coffee. Not drinking it. I know, I know. I have a reputation as being a bit of a coffee fiend, and it’s no joke. I’m not one of those people who drinks cup after cup, but I definitely have at least one giant cup of the stuff a day—and more often than not, two giant cups. Or maybe three. I don’t really need it to get going in the morning, but I cannot make it past noon without coffee if I want to avoid developing a massive, throbbing headache that never fails to make me think I’m dying. Then I have a coffee, and everything is better.

Next week is going to be a bit of a “detox” test for me, though. I’m doing a three-day BluePrint Cleanse and eating raw food for three days on either side, and I want to cut out caffeine completely for a full week. It’s a bit of a reset, really—I need to get myself back on track with eating well. I don’t really believe in temporary “cleansing,” but mentally I do think that having a regimented diet for a set period of time is a very good thing for me. I’ve been eating way too much packaged, processed food lately (seitan, frozen veggie burgers, Spicy Sweet Chili Doritos…you get the picture), and I just don’t feel good.

I’ll let you know how THAT goes, and I’ll take photos of the apartment as it comes together, too. I’m excited about both things!

→ “It’s Always Worth It” print by Lisa Congdon

The new apartment is really not feeling like a home at all yet, which is why I haven’t shared any photos. I like DUMBO and of course I love Brooklyn, but I have to admit to feeling pretty detached from the apartment itself. The building itself is from the late 1800s (that’s it on the right in the photo, and yes, it’s on the movie poster for Once Upon a Time in America, and yes, apparently it’s also used in the exterior shots of someone’s loft on Gossip Girl), but the interior is completely new. The entire building—formerly a cardboard factory—was totally renovated and converted into apartments last year.

With the exception of my college dorm room and a Brooklyn townhouse we rented briefly before moving upstate, I’ve never lived in a post-War structure. It’s very strange for me to not have the quirks and faults of an old home to fall back on. I’m someone who relies heavily on restriction and limitation in order to come up with solutions to problems, which is really the reason why it’s been so easy (conceptually, at least) to make the house feel like home. I’m used to depending on 120+ years of history to give my surroundings warmth and meaning and a sense of permanence.

I wasn’t prepared for how it would feel to suddenly be in a white box with absolutely no history, no mistakes, no damage. It’s funny how differently something like a plain pine board used as a shelf reads in an old house versus a new one—the meaning is totally different.

But really…I need to stop complaining. I know this. I have to just start doing what needs to be done in order to make this apartment not feel like a hotel room.

TODAY AND TOMORROW:

Assemble dressers for closet storage
✚ Spray-paint dresser knobs (too windy!)
Spray-paint sofa legs
Put two coats of matte poly on the desk top
HANG STUFF ON THE WALLS (some done, more to go…)
Assemble sideboard; organize contents
Figure out what needs to happen for closet storage
Mount swing-arm lamp in bedroom
✚ Buy drawer organizers for kitchen
CLEAN, CLEAN, CLEAN
✚ Think of ways to minimize the harsh bathroom lighting
Deep-clean the triangle rug and make the dogs promise to not pee on it anymore (bribery may be required)

That’s not so bad. Once this is all done, maybe I’ll feel like I can take a few photos. I hope so.

The bookshelf-building project has been going well (aside from the fact that the shelves don’t really have many books on them yet), but it’s been at the expense of the rest of the house. You know when you start working on something and you wind up having to make the most giant mess in the world and then you realize you have to actually finish this other project first and that leads to a secondary giant mess on top of the first mess, and you were up until 4AM and it still didn’t make any difference and now you just feel sick but you also don’t want to live in that MEGA-MESS you created?

That’s how I’m feeling right now, and I have approximately 10 hours in which to make things better. Get it done.

TO-DO BEFORE 6PM:

+ PUT AWAY ALL THE STUFF.
+ Cut and mount roller shades in the kitchen.
+ Cut and mount roller shade in the guest bedroom.
+ Bring the records downstairs.
+ Hang the Flentsed mobile.
+ Hang the String light.
+ Clean bathrooms.
+ Clean kitchen.
+ Bring all tools and supplies to the basement.
+ Dust.
+ Vacuum.
+ Mop.
+ Frame stuff and then hang it on the walls.

(You’ll note that several of these items are carried over from my vacation to-do list from a few weeks ago. Sigh…)

I’m not going back to work until January 3rd, and I have a TON of stuff I want to get done around the house between now and then. The last few (six?!) months have been so hectic, and nothing around here feels complete or organized. There are little piles of stuff all over the place—papers needing to be sorted, recycling that has to go out, tools that either need to be put to use or put away, out-of-season clothes…ugh.

WINTER VACATION TO-DO:

+ Laundry.
+ Vacuum.
+ PUT AWAY ALL THE STUFF.
+ Organize kitchen pantry.
+ Clean out kitchen cabinets.
+ Clean the refrigerator.
+ Cut and mount roller shades in the kitchen.
+ Screw down the threshold in the vestibule (this has been on my to-do list for almost two years!).
+ Figure out what frame sizes we need, and maybe even buy frames.
+ Refinish that dresser, already. OK, this isn’t going to happen.
+ Paint the dining room.
+ Figure out the materials list for built-in bookcases.
+ Put the new slipcover on the sofa.
+ Put the new blankets on the beds.
+ Hang the Flensted mobile (thank you, Mommy!).
+ Figure out where to put the String light.
+ Wash Bruno.
+ Bring out all recycling on Friday. DON’T FORGET.
+ Shred everything in the shred pile.
+ Moisturize. (ongoing)
+ Take pictures.
+ Write real blog posts with real pictures in them.
+ Redesign this blog.
+ Get the oven repaired.
+ Bake something.

OK, so I have nine days to get things done. I hope I can cross off most of these items, but honestly, if I just get as far as putting away the bottle of Pepto-Bismol that’s been sitting on the dining room sideboard since August, I’ll be feeling pretty proud of myself.