Friday, December 28, 2007

An almost fire in our fake fireplace

Perhaps we are the only people who don't know about this, but anyway...
we have a decorative fireplace, like so many other bungalows. It has a pipe showing that it was originally gas, good nasty coal gas, with no vent, but that was capped and disconnected ages ago, fortunately. We still have the cement logs for decoration. We were debating whether to go the candle scene or what, when we found the magic of fireplace gel cans. They are much like glorified sterno, but burn red instead of blue and have a built-in occasional crackle. Apparently there are several companies, such as Real Flame, Sunjel and others, and they have been aroaund for over 20 years. Huh.

This is a picture, which doesn't make it look nearly as cool as it is, so I blame the camera. The alternative was a totally dark picture with a flame in the center, not too informative. We burned two cans and it was really pretty cool. Little to no smell, a tiny bit of heat and lots of atmosphere. The child likes to curl up on her new beanbag chair in front of it. They say a can will burn 2-3 hours and that seems true. We have done one longer and two shorter fires so far. Debating whether to spend $200 on a log set that hides the cans better (ours are in a pan stacked on bricks behind the logs). But so far, so good.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Urban wildlife in action...

So this summer we have seen, in our pretty darn urban area, countless birds, rabbits and squirrels, several possums, a bat, a very large raccoon, a Peregrine falcon (the last two making quick visits to the neighbor's yard) and yesterday, a fox managing not to kill itself on a main residential street. All but skunks, which we have smelled but not seen, and we are on par with our former suburban abode. Of course here there are tons of trees, plants and flowers everywhere and there it was endless goose-plagued lawns. So much happier now.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Finally back at it

Summer was a time of little progress house-project-wise but at least there were occasional bits of seasonal fun.

Now to get rid of the icky wallpaper in the bathroom.

Presumably they are so in love with the pattern, that they can't imagine anyone wanting to get rid of it, not even thirty years later. Argh. We had this in our last house, similarly bedecked in the '70's and made a mess trying to get the stuff moist enough to be scraped off without taking the whole face of the wall with it.

At least the rest of the rooms are still plaster...

Monday, June 18, 2007

Cool, affordable house numbers

Wow, some folks are actually reading this! Thanks! I'll have to try harder to be interesting and amusing. So, I'll just add small things when I can, instead of always apologizing for not updating more frequently.

Our latest token home improvement is new address numbers. So far they were only on the door and not too visible. These will go on the front of the porch roof, much better.

We used House Numbers Only, a website with lots of funky styles, for about $10 each. Powder-coated steel, in black or copper color, about 5x2.5 inches. We went with the Craftsman, no surprise.

I emailed them to ask, and they said they are made in USA, yay. A bit of a hand-cut quality to them, but I think that is actually fitting in this case. Now to actually put them up...

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Our five-year-old says:

Our Spiderworts are very beautiful. Our house is very nice. I like everything that's here and I like the yard. Better than our old house 'cause they tore down houses there [Gotta instill values somehow; maybe a bit much warping though. Ed.] and it's nice living in this house and I have a lot of new friends.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

New copper mailbox

Apparently our 89-year old house has never had a mailbox. We are used to having one, and got tired of having our magazines and such folded and crammed through the mail slot in the aluminum storm door.

Trying to keep with our arts and crafts theme, with Celtic accents, we went with a handmade (but not obscenely expensive) one at

Two days and no one has swiped it, great. We do read about people stealing copper downspouts nearby, so I don't think we are worrying needlessly. It's nice and solid and works great, though it is a bit rough in a handmade (in Turkey) sort of way.

It is bare copper, and we are a bit torn over letting it get a natural patina vs. trying to lacquer it and keep it shiny. Going the natural approach so far; worst
case we can polish it and spray it with something later.

Monday, May 21, 2007

We found a Linoleum Rug!

Ok, so we didn't buy anything at the Arts & Crafts Expo last week. Saw some Great Mission style furniture to long for. Maybe we can work up to a rocking chair one of these days.
In the closet under the eaves off the back dormer, we pulled up several layers of 70's carpeting and found a linoleum rug---

I guess the people we bought it from saved it when they redecorated thirty years ago, which was cool of them to do, though they never mentioned it to us.
It makes sense given that they said the place had original blue linoleum in the kitchen and white with blue hex tiles in the bathroom (which they covered with
beigh 80's tile, argh...).

I learned a lot about such things from Jane Powell's book Linoleum. I love that it is an all natural product that is so much more environmentally friendly and healthy than vinyl and gosh, they invented it in the 1800's. At least some companies are again offering the stuff, such as Marmoleum.
We hope to use that for our kitchen next year in something very similar to the original blue marblized pattern.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Arts and Crafts Chicago Expo this weekend

Can't wait to check this out. It is the second annual event, in River Forest, May 12-13, '07. Lots of vendors of all things Arts & Crafts. Hope they take credit cards :). Click on the photo from their website for info.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Native Plants and Arts & Crafts

I will definitely ramble on more about this later, but for now, here is a photo of the currently blooming Shooting Stars (Dodecatheon Meadia). They are in the fledgling prairie garden along the south side of the house, with a bit of Prairie Smoke in front and yet-to-bloom Spiderwort and Nodding Wild Onions behind.

Definitely finding it cool, the more I read about the Arts and Crafts movement, the more I see how I have fit into all that all along, living more in tune with nature, having houses made of local materials and so on.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Getting back on track for Spring

It was winter hibernation time. We did nothing to the house over the holidays except decorate in a minimalist way. Sorry for the lack of pictures to anyone actually reading this.

The spring to-do list begins, which will definitely take years...even though we don't have tasks as major as many bloggers, like moving walls. Yet. (This is mostly for my own thought organization after I woke up at 4 a.m. thinking about fixing the front porch.)

  • Front Hall: Shortterm-strip 70's wallpaper, patch plaster, paint.
    Longterm-Replace wood flooring (use it to patch elsewhere) with cool porcelain tile. A light in the closet would be nice.
  • Living Room: This and the dining room have barely been touched in 80+ years and that is a good thing.
    Shortterm-patch picture hook holes, paint. Take down lace curtains and replace shades with blinds I think. Get area rug.

    Longterm-Replace IKEA and hand-me-down furniture with cool Craftsman style items.
    Convert decorative fireplace to real (way longterm as it would mean moving the art
    glass window that is centered over it).
  • Dining Room: Short/medium term-paint, perhaps add Arts & Crafts style border above plate rail. Same window treatments as above. Replace 70's light with cool antique or reproduction fixture.
  • Bathroom: Shortterm-remove '80s floral wallpaper. Paint.
    Mediumterm-new toilet, light above medicine cabinet, ceiling light/fan.
    Longterm-The whole vintage thing, replace vanity, go back to original white with blue trim hex tile on floor that previous owner happily covered up. Restore bricked-up window. Better ceiling than suspended acoustic tile. Subway tile on walls, you name it.
  • Kitchen: Shortterm-Remove '70s wallpaper. Paint. Figure out floor covering to replace '70s tile/pile carpet. Same window approach as living/dining rooms. New cabinet handles/knobs. Replace fruit-themed leaded glass hanging light. Get cart/island. Remove leaky '70s dishwasher and replace with recycling bin cabinet (Yes, we really are retro, we wash dishes by hand).
    Mediumterm-Restore bricked-up window on west wall (not in the way of anything).
    Longterm-Again, the whole retro/vintage treatment, new cabinets, remove cornice, restore other bricked-up window, maybe vintage or Elmira Stove Works appliances when we have a LOT more money.
  • Master Bedroom: Shortterm-Replace green vinyl blinds with wood.
    Mediumterm-Figure out if we like the willow-patterned wallpaper on two walls. Maybe make other walls less white. Pull up carpet, refinish floors, get cool area rugs.
    Longterm-We'd Really like to expand the rear dormer (from smallish gable to
    full-width shed roof), to create a master suite with bath, and maybe rear balcony.
  • Second bedroom: Shortterm-patch wood floor where previous owner expanded closet door. Paint whatever bizarre color scheme our child demands including funky
    area rug. Refinish floor.
  • Third bedroom: Remove wallpaper. Otherwise, not sure yet.
  • Basement: Shortterm-resolve moisture issue in workroom.
    Mediumterm-Replace suspended ceiling panels with tin-look ones in finished part.

    Exterior saved for the next post....