Nothing Left but the Curtains

JJ & Viola, co-existing quietly in the same room since July 2014. A moving miracle. (Possum is still hiding.)

JJ & Viola, co-existing quietly in the same room for the first time since July 2014. A moving miracle. (Possum is still hiding.)

Yesterday at 1 p.m., I began signing the closing documents. At about 1:15 p.m., I teared up as I signed over the deed. Then I met my realtor to look at a place that simply won’t do (it had a visible compound lean and lots of rotted siding – funny how that kind of thing never shows in the listing photos). And last night, I slept for more than four hours for the first time in three weeks. (Good thing, because today, I had to help clear space for the Lie-Nielsen show at work this weekend, and set up workbenches. I’m always moving furniture somewhere!)

While the movers got the majority of my stuff onto the truck last Saturday (a lot of late nights and early mornings packing that!), I still had a lot of work to do in the house before 8:30 a.m. yesterday (the latest I can leave for work and make it on time). I was there every night until well after 11 p.m. and by every morning by around 5 a.m. for the last five days.

Now, there is nothing left but the curtains, and perhaps a little sawdust. I’ll retrieve the curtains after the new owners buy some and get them hung. The sawdust is theirs to keep.

Currently, I’m staying in a house a friend owns a few miles away from the old ‘hood; it’s for sale, so I have to keep it neat, and vacate for showings when necessary. I’m going to install shoe moulding for her in three rooms while I’m there, and do my best to keep the grass cut nicely (I’ve not mowed grass since I was 16). If she goes under contract before June 16, I have to be out by the end of that month.

I’m in a hurry to find a permanent home; I don’t want to move again unless it’s into it. But I’ll hold out for the right one.

In the meantime, while I’m sad to leave the house into which I poured years of hard work and money, the place I’m staying is magic: JJ and Viola cats, who have been fighting violently since last July, are now getting along – well enough, anyway.

So much for every single one of Jackson Galaxy‘s recommendations. The real key to feline felicity is apparently to spend tons of money on roofs, sewers and moving, redo six rooms at high material and personal cost, then experience emotional distress at giving up the first-ever house you’ve owned, with niggling worries that you’ll ed up on the street. In other words, fear and dislocation. Seems reasonable.

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An Incredible Mess (Me & the House)

SHopDuring the last week of March, I was given one day’s notice that the appraisal would be (finally) be happening. Concurrently, I had plumbers scheduled to clean the sewer line, and a roofer lined up…if ever the rain would stop for two days in a row.

But the closing has long been scheduled for April 15 – I had been awaiting the appraisal to start packing…but I ran out of time. All of my non-house tools (read: the good ones) are now in the shop at work. If only I knew what was where in the many boxes, bins and chests…a project for later this month, perhaps.

And my Petite Roubo and Anarchist’s Tool Chest are also at work (thank you Christopher Schwarz for your help in moving them).

This is no way to live.

This is no way to live.

Thank the gods that I “passed” the appraisal; I’d have been apoplectic had I to move them right back home.

The sewer is clean (relatively speaking), and the work that should eventually be done needn’t be done immediately – so the buyers are saving up for that (I presume…and it will be a lot less costly than expected – whew!).

The roof is only half-done; we’ve had torrential rain all week. It’s supposed to be clear on Saturday and Sunday, so (I hope) the roofers will return to finish. But the movers are showing up Saturday morning. I hope the ladders won’t be in their way.

So every night since the appraisal, I’ve been frantically packing and sorting all my stuff  …wow do I have a lot of stuff crap. (Thank you Michele Griegel-McCord for your help with that…and for storing my pictures…and for making me realize it’s OK to put non-like things in the same box – though I’m still having trouble with that one.)

So...this is maybe one-sixth of the books packed.

So…this is maybe one-sixth of the books packed.

I’m be staying for at least six weeks at a friend’s house that is on the market, and has been empty for a while. So I rented a panel van and took a few (small) furniture pieces over there last night to “stage” the house and make it look more homey/less vacant. (Thank you David Manktelow for your help with that.)

And, I’m going to replace some missing trim work and a few other fixes while I’m there (because I am very bad at doing nothing). But if that house is under contact by June 15, I’ll have to find a new temporary home and move the stuff (and myself and the cats) again by the end of the month (or before her closing – whichever comes first).

The bulk of my stuff will be loaded onto a truck, where it will stay for the near future. (The non-regulated temps will be a good test of my wood choices, wood prep and joinery. I hope to not be sharing inadvertent furniture-explosion tests with you in a few months.)

Sure wish I'd not packed quite all of the silverware. Oops.

Sure wish I’d not packed quite all of the silverware. Oops.

So my hope is that in the next two weeks I can find the place I want to buy (and die in, so that I never have to go through this again). That would give me a month to get the inspection done, finances sorted, etc.

But I don’t expect that will happen. Little else recently has, after all, gone what I’d call smoothly.

So I made a point of putting my tent and sleeping bag in the back of my car, just in case I’m truly homeless in six weeks. The cats? Well, I’ll guess they’d have to learn to hunt.

I’m off work tomorrow to finish packing…and to herd the cats into the hated carriers to move them. Then, I’m calling 1-800-got-junk. I’ve done as much hithering and yonning to donate stuff as I can stand, and none of the charities that do pick-up are interested in 40 half-used gallon cans of paint or three broken sawhorses.

But of course, until we all sign the closing documents (next Wednesday), I suppose things could still go ass over teakettle.

So fingers crossed a) it stops raining b) my cats don’t scratch me and leave me to bleed out c) no one develops crippling carpel tunnel syndrome (until after 2 p.m. Wednesday) d) I find the “perfect” home and shop in the next two weeks.

Oh – and e) I get over this painful seller’s remorse soon. I almost never cry. But I’ve wept every night for the last week. Sure, it might have something to do with the large number of large checks I’ve had to write lately. But more likely, it’s the saying goodbye to the first (and so far only) house I’ve ever owned. I’m looking forward to tears of joy when I walk into the next one.

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The Price of Nostalgia


For the last couple weeks, I’ve been making a desultory effort to literally lighten my load – the moving company charges by weight for storage, and the less to pack, the better. Like most people, I suspect, I’ve for years been hanging on to too much I’ll never again listen to, fit into or use. Some of it, such as my grandmother’s costume jewelry and beaded party sweater, I simply can’t bear to let go.

But I’ve made great headway into cleaning out my closet. Yesterday, I donated to Dress for Success (a non-profit that helps women entering or re-entering the workforce with appropriate clothing and coaching, among other things) a backseat full of business clothes that I hope will help make a newly employed (or soon to be employed) woman feel at least a little bit empowered.

I, on the other hand, feel empowered by saying goodbye to those eight suits, 34 pairs of dress pants and 15 or so skirts, silk blouses, twin sets and other business non-casual items I hope I’ll never have to wear again (I did keep the only suit that still fits, just in case).

But here’s the depressing (and rather shocking) thing: I added up the cost. I’m claiming $4,000 on the donation form (that I’ll no doubt lose before tax time next year). The actual amount I paid for those items over the years is probably closer to $6,000.

Shelves1Today, I began to tackle “the room where things go to die” (chock-full of stuff I should get rid of, 50 percent of which I likely won’t).

On our local online bulletin board this morning, I posted a couple of free-for-the-taking items, including a barely used NordicTrack ($500), the lovely L-bracket “joinery” pine shelves I built in 1988 or so (the first piece of functional furniture I ever made, actually…still standing – priceless!), a microwave and a few other ridiculous things that for some reason I carried to the third floor instead of giving them away initially (a Mickey Mouse waffle iron, for example – I don’t even like Mickey Mouse. I’m more of a Looney Tunes girl.) They’re all already claimed, and some are already out of the house.

Then, I boxed up my cassettes, both the commercial ones and the little-heard (and not worth hearing) ones of me playing the piano and singing in a school musical. Not to mention the 20 or so tapes I recorded while listening to Kasey Kasem’s Top 40 Countdown (or is it Kountdown?) on Sunday mornings. I sure liked Chicago. Total cost (for the commercial ones): around $3,000. I’m sending those off to GreenDisk tomorrow for recycling.

CDTowerThen there’s the CDs. Holy Cats did I drop a lot of cash on CDs (most of which are now on my computer and/or an external hard drive).

That CD case at left is only about half of them; I have seven 100-slot CD wallets full, too. On the commercial ones alone, I spent enough to cover the cost of the new roof.

Do stores still buy/sell used CDs? I hear vinyl is the hot new thing (unfortunately, those I unloaded prior to my last move). I’ve made a list of the ones in decent shape; perhaps I’ll shop it around.

I’m not complaining, mind you – merely stating fact. I enjoyed wearing those clothes (for a while); it was (and still is) rewarding to finally have a professional job after a decade as a sales clerk, barista and bartender. And I had a great many great evenings and road trips listening to that music (yes, even the Chicago) – I wouldn’t trade any of that.

I have the memories; I no longer need the physical manifestations thereof. Still, it’s difficult to let them go.

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Painted Cabinets & Shiny Hardware


Colin asked me to comment on painting my kitchen cabinets. I started to simply respond, but I figured why not just post it (and I’m surprised I haven’t already written about it!).

So: The why, how and what of my kitchen cabinet finishes:

I built the cabinets intending to paint them. I simply prefer the more casual look of painted kitchens to clear-finished wood, at least in a “workingman’s Victorian.” Were this an Arts & Crafts home (or a fancier, high-style place), I’d likely have chosen oak or another appropriate hardwood.

I used 3/4″ maple plywood that was factory-finished on one side – that became the interior cabinet surfaces – with a paint-grade reverse. The boxes are simply rabbeted and screwed. All the plywood shelves (which are adjustable, of course) are edged with a 1″ x 1″ strip of hard maple. That edging is finished with Formby’s Tung Oil Finish (low gloss, 3 coats), which is the same finish I used on the beech countertops (7 coats for those…or maybe it was 8).

After filling the screw holes with Durham’s Rock-Hard Water Putty and sanding those areas smooth and flush, I painted the exteriors using a brush for the edges at the wall and a smooth roller on most of the surfaces. Sure, it would have been easier to paint them before installation…but I was too eager to get them hung and build/apply the poplar face frames so I could get started on the door and drawers. It also would have been faster to spray them (before installation), but I don’t have paint-spraying equipment – plus the late autumn/early winter weather precluding setting up for that in the backyard (also known as my spray booth).

With the cabinets installed and painted, I hung and fit all the doors, then removed them and painted them with brushes and rollers. The drawer fronts were painted in place; I just had to remember to not shut them as the paint dried. (That was difficult; there is little that bugs me more about furniture than doors and drawers not in their proper positions.)

For the paint, I decided on the same as is on my interior trim work – Valspar Reserve (semi-gloss) in…I have no idea what color – some sort of slightly antique white. It is theoretically “one coat, stain-blocking Paint + Primer” that holds up to scrubbing/washing (which it really does!), has “super adhesion,” “maximum hiding, anti-fade formula” and is “mildew-resistant.” Also, it doesn’t smell bad during application, which is a plus.

It is not, however, one coat on a fresh surface (nor over existing paint on walls, for that matter). I applied two coats on the plywood, and three coats on the face frames and doors/drawers. Had I not been wanting to match the trim, I’d have probably gone with Valspar’s “Chalky Finish” paint, because I like that dead-flat, milk-paint vintage look.

I know a lot of folks who swear by Benjamin Moore’s Aura paint for interior work, but it costs about one-third more than the Valspar Reserve, and I’ve found it more difficult to apply, and with no better coverage – though I can’t comment on long-term durability/fading differences. I used Aura in my dining room, but only 4 years or so ago. The yellow in my kitchen is Valspar flat, and it was painted at about the same time. Neither has faded, and both have been scrubbed in areas a few times, with no adverse effects.

The “Mission Bin Pulls” with a brushed-nickel finish are from Rejuvenation, which also offers an amazing array of very well-made period reproduction lighting. I love those bin pulls – I used them on the cherry coffee table and bookcase I built for the living room. But I will say I liked the company a lot more when it was privately owned (it was bought in 2011 by Williams-Sonoma). I’ve been less-than-impressed with the customer service in recent years – but their product is good enough that I suffer it.

The “Classic Kitchen Knobs” and “Non-Mortised Hinges” (I think of it as “efficient” rather than “lazy” in this application) are from the family-owned company Horton Brasses. I quite like the company’s cabinet hardware – it’s what I and others use for a lot of the furniture pieces you see in Popular Woodworking Magazine, and their customer service is unfailingly friendly and fast. Heck – the owner himself (Orion Henderson) often gets back to you. You really can’t ask for more!

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Cincinnati Plumbers: Take My Money, Please!


The sewer camera is controlled by a Wii, I think.

Warning: Not for the easily grossed out.

Two plumbers ran a camera scope from the clean-out port in my basement out toward the main; both said I had a blockage. I refused to believe it.  After all, I’ve had no backups, and the toilet keeps working.

So I called the Metropolitan Sewer District, and they ran a camera up from the other end, and crossed well beyond the point of the alleged problem. No blockage; just a little bit of what we’ll delicately call “sludge” and standing water behind it in a flat area of the line. The dye we dropped down one of my toilets came flowing out the other end in good order – and was a lot prettier than what usually comes out there, I’m guessing. (Note: Thanks MSD! Everyone there is incredibly responsive, kind and helpful.)

Allow me to show off my drawing skills. (And now you know why I use SketchUp.)

Allow me to show off my drawing skills. (And now you know why I use SketchUp.)

What we did discover, though, is that my line (which doesn’t appear on the MSD map), connects to my neighbor’s line underneath his house, then runs out the back into the alley. MSD’s best guess is that what the plumbers hit is the edge of the Y-shaped pipe that connect the two lines. And there’s also a floor drain tying in on the stem of that Y from my neighbor’s basement. Gotta love old houses, old neighborhoods … and old sewer systems.

So, my potential buyers (yes, we’re still under contract) want the line cleaned, just to make sure there are no problems hidden under the “sludge.” Sounds reasonable.

But my neighbor is out of town; I don’t want to force water at a high psi down the pipes until I can get into his basement to cover up that floor drain. While it’s unlikely that the water and “sludge” will travel upward 4′ or so through that narrow pipe, I really don’t want to chance having to clean his basement of who knows how many years of “sludge” – only 13 years of which is my “sludge” (which makes it no more easily stomached).

But it hardly matters. I can’t get a darn plumber to call me back. I’ve had five – FIVE! – calls out since last Thursday. Nothing. I fail to comprehend this non-responsiveness by a business. Why does no plumbing company want my money, and for what I understand is a fairly simple procedure?!

In the meantime, weather permitting, the roof and gutter work is supposed to commence on Friday. And I hear the appraisal is supposed to be sometime this week.

This better not all go down the drain.

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A Short Video Tour of the Finished Kitchen

If my luck improves a little bit and I’m able to get the sewer crap sorted in a timely and affordable manner, my mom won’t get to see the finished kitchen project (she lives 600 miles away and gets to Cincinnati only once or twice a year). My fervent hope is that new owners are enjoying it and the rest of the home by her next visit to town.

So I shot this iPhone video for her. The production quality is not the best, but I have some minor plumbing repairs and plaster patching to which I must attend. No time to haul out the “real” camera or for fancy editing. If you’ve been reading for a while, you’ve already seen everything here in still-image bits and pieces.  (Just trying to save 2 minutes and 4 seconds of your time.)

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Trouble Above, Trouble Below

Notice that manhole? It may be soon become of great importance to me.

Notice that manhole? It may be soon become of great importance to me.

I got and accepted a surprise offer (friends of friends) on my house in late February, just before I put the finishing touches on the kitchen. I’ve not said anything publicly because I didn’t want to jinx things. I might as well have; “jinx” doesn’t begin to approach what’s been happening since. Malediction? Curse? Execration? Yes – “execration” is the word – because it’s close to “excrescence” and “excretion”; the waste system is one of the problems.

Above my head, the ice damming problem happened just one day after I’d signed all the disclosure forms. And now there’s additional plasterwork and painting. I’d so hoped to be done with plasterwork and painting for at least a month. Oh – and during the melt, part of a soffit came crashing down due to the weight of an icicle. So I’ll be fixing that, too.

And I’m putting on a new roof, a possibility for which I’d budgeted. The current roof would, I’m told, likely last another 3-4 years, but I understand not wanting to buy a house that you know needs major work in the near future … if that’s not the kind of house you’re wanting to buy. It is the kind of house I want to buy. But I’m weird.

OK – a new roof and a brand-spanking new kitchen. All set! What else could possibly go wrong?!

My optimism was misplaced.

I live in what’s called the Lower Mill Creek area of Cincinnati (which I believe is composed of five neighborhoods). In it, much of the sewer system is old and the pipes are too small to handle the influx of sewage from heavy rainwater, so once in a very great while, my basement drain backs up a tiny bit, then drains and is dry by the next day. The Metropolitan Sewer District of Cincinnati is currently underway with “Project Groundwork,” which (among other things) is supposed to alleviate this issue.

Of course I disclosed this drainage “problem” – except I didn’t really think it was a problem; I thought it was merely a result of the old sewage system the city is in the midst of fixing.

I was wrong.

Like the smart buyers they are (and I was not), they had the sewer scoped earlier this week during the inspection. It turns out there’s a root-ball blockage, and the old clay pipes are cracked. But that’s not the worst of it. The pipes seem to connect with the neighboring house’s system…under their addition. MSD has no records of when or how this happened, but I’m hearing now that it’s not unusual in old neighborhoods with small plots.

The company that did the scoping wants to use a hydro jet to push out the blockage. No way no how am I (and four out of five experts agree) allowing anyone to force a massive amount of water at high pressure through cracked 50+ year-old clay pipes. That run under my neighbor’s house. Perhaps the blockage can be augered out (with a very long snake drill). But that still doesn’t address the likely imminent problems inherent to 50+ year-old clay pipes. I suppose that, with the blockage cleared, one could have the pipes sleeved or lined, but I would not be comfortable perpetuating the joined system – and there’s no guarantee there aren’t additional problems farther down the line. So I’m worried about paying a lot of money for wasted work, and am investigating alternate solutions.

Tomorrow, I’m having the line scoped by another company, and getting a quote from them on connecting directly from my property to a city main. I sure hope that manhole cover in front of my house denotes a place at which one could tap in; it’s only about 30′ from my main sewer drain. Expensive? No doubt. For this, I did not budget. But I’ll cover the cost of the re-scoping etc. at least, and we’ll go from there on the negotiations and decision making.

So on one hand, I feel lucky that all my hard work has paid off in the form of a good offer from a couple I like a lot, and who would (will, I hope!) love the house and fit in well with my friends here. On the other hand, the luck of the Irish? What a crock of shite.

The old sewer maps are quite lovely. And quite useless.

The vintage sewer maps are quite lovely. And quite useless for my purposes.

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