Friday, December 28, 2007


It's the end of the year and time to give thanks.

Much help was had in finding and purchasing the place. Thanks goes to:
Karen, our realtor
Chris Coughlin and my parents for quick loans for various tasks
Ariel, Sholom and Yossi, at Parkview Mortgage
Joseph for getting our insurance (this guy was super nice)
And though she's my partner, Jennifer helped me with numerous requests for information, resources and tasks (faxing, faxing, faxing)

Moving day:
Becky, Bob and Willy
Justin (I hate to admit it but he helped)
Chris "I can bench press that anvil" Coughlin

Work on the house:
Bev and Flip Phillips (neighbor)
Cody and Justin
Steve (Cara's boyfriend)
Jerry (neighbor)

Thursday, December 27, 2007

7 Fishes

OK, ok, I will get back to the regular topics later. Here is Christmas Eve dinner. From the bread, clockwise winding in:mussels, crab cake, tuna, snapper, shrimp balls, swordfish, salmon.

Cable Woes

We had been using direct cable coax connections to our TVs, not bothering to set up the boxes. This worked fine until one of our TVs lost said connector on the back. We decided that getting the boxes installed was a good idea.

It turns out the boxes we had were bad. We got new ones. Cara tried getting them all installed, but they did not fix 100% of the problem either, so today the cable guys are here fixing the connection to the house.

It turns out the contractor hired by the cable company to do the original hook up should have done a better job. We've run into incompetence of all sorts in the service industry of late.

Monday, December 24, 2007


Cara, Jennifer (with Lola on shoulder) and Ngaire prepare dinner, and Dad and Margo enjoy a respite.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Three Nights Before Christmas

To show the progress, and the fact that we now have furniture, a tree - stuff like that.

The huge floor grate (which should be to the right of Cara as the video begins) is out drying. Jennifer painted it.

The ending is a nod to Bob Klie :-)

This is an exploded view of a slush machine:

Watching the Walls Go Up

The last two large sheets go in. Here is the wall between the dining room and the downstairs bathroom. Why did we insulate? Sound proofing. Cara helps Mom with the first piece.
Jennifer secures the last piece for that wall. These were the 18th and 19th sheets from the shipment of 20 that we got two weeks ago today.
Cody and Justin ride the train home.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

More On Paint

Lola surveys Jennifer's paint work. Jennifer got to the ceiling a few nights ago. Having bright, white walls makes a shocking difference when the Sun comes blaring in. I love it already.

It's just primer, but after two coats it is starting to look good.

Reinforcing a Wall And Rewiring

The wall behind the downstairs bathroom was in sad shape. There was greater than a 2' gap between some studs. I made sure that for the entire wall there was a stud no more than 16" on center from the last.

Here is the troubled area (shown in a previous post). Note that to the right, the wall ends without studs in place to accomodate hanging drywall. I get to that later.

I removed all the electrical, removed all the superfluous wood. I can't tell what any of it was there for, and it was all held in place with nasty home-made angle brackets. I reused the brackets.
The light is back in and rewired. This shot is more of the corner where I had to place two 2x4's so I have something to nail the drywall to. The previous plaster wall on the right went past the wall on the left (common in older houses).
Did you make it this far? Do you find this fascinating? Or do you think I have no sex life? Do you wonder what makes me want do drink heavy cream and eat cookie dough? DO YOU?

Before And After

Pictures of the progress in closing up the area where the bathrom mirror was, and where the new wiring has to go. I had to rip open the wall and the ceiling for the electrician.

You can see we used it as a shelf for awhile.

Clean up the existing sheet rock.

Replace insulation.

New sheet rock. Whoopie.

And now closing up the ceiling above:

Tuesday, December 18, 2007


We're getting switches and outlets in select rooms!

Sunday, December 16, 2007

More From This Weekend

OMG!!! Paint! Ok, it's only primer, but what a difference from a few months ago. Jennifer has become an expert and painstaking finisher.

This is the wiring behind the wall of the vanity in the downstairs bathroom. Scary, huh? Yes, the picture is sideways.
Cara and I goofing off. She is pointing out the mole under my left eye.
Cara took this shot of Finn as her boyfriend helped us set a panel to the ceiling. Finn loves his big sister.

Starting To Look Like a Home

Jennifer and I managed to put up all four pieces of ceiling in the LR, but we asked Cara's boyfriend, Steve, to help us in the DR. Those are his hands in the foreground.

Here he is again, waiting for Jennifer and me to secure the panel.
Cara and Steve secure the second panel in the DR. Yes, she is working in her pyjamas.
Jennifer tries the new Wagner power roller.
Me, too.

Video Tour Of House, 12/15/07

This starts in our upstairs BR, goes down the hall to Finn's, then to Cara's, back down the hall, downstairs through the DR then to the LR.

Monday, December 10, 2007


Q: Are you living in the house while you are remodeling it?
A: yes. many pictures show our beds and what not.

Q: Is this a "flip"?
A: that depends. most people who flip houses intend to do it inside of 6 months or less. i don't think we'll live in this particular house forever, but we're here to set roots in Beacon, and we're in this house for the near future.

Q: Why is this taking you so long? Why are you doing it all yourself?
A: money don't grow on trees and we have to work to make it.

Q: But you hired an electrician?
A: the city of Beacon is one of two in our county that require all electrical work be done by a contractor licensed in our town. otherwise i would have taken a crack at it myself, with a little help from my friends.

Q: Don't you worry about safety and health issues?
A: yes. we clean up everything after we work - specially sharp objects and power tools. we have sprayed bleach all over the house many times to kill the dust and mold that might be stirred up. we also hang plastic sheets to keep dust from spreading. any time Finn comes to visit or Cara comes home from school or special guests arrive, i clean and wash like a french maid on crack, minus the cute outfit.

Q: Why don't we post ads for hardware or other related stuff?
A: it's been suggested, but we often have scathing opinions about various products, stores or services and i would not do them much good. we also have very nice opinions about others. maybe in the future. we have not looked into it. again, time.....

Q: Why isn't Ken helping?
A: he lives 250 miles away and has a real job. the one time he did visit we decided it should be for fun only. I did get him to help me bring home some sheet rock and other heavy stuff, though - and the canoe!!!!

Q: What do the neighbors think?
A: by and large they are impressed or intrigued. the Phillips helped by lending us a ladder, various other tools, physical labor, and they gave us some old ship lap for the front porch. Jerry offers aesthetic advice and comic relief. I think everyone is pleased to see the place being fixed up. it will only help improve the neighborhood, which is part of the reason we moved here.

Q: Why does it look like Jennifer does all the work? Or her friends?
A: because I am the one taking the pictures, and people don't take pictures of me . . . and yeah, they get irked with me taking pictures all the time.

Q: Do you have to beat Jennifer to do all this work?
A: on the contrary, she more often than not inspires me to get my ass up in the morning and get started.

Q: So, she beats you?
A: that's none of your business.

Q: How did you learn to do all this?
A: I paid attention to what my brother (an architect and Habitat For Humanity volunteer) taught me on a few different occasions, such as when he helped put an addition on a previous house I owned. We watch a lot of home improvement shows, read a lot of books on the subject(s), and we aren't too afraid to try and fail . . . mostly. Edison was essentially correct - it's 99% perspiration.

Q: Why all the pictures of Beacon harbor and boats?
A: my brother Tony and I are big fans of the water, boats, sailing. he can actually pilot large sailing vessels (40') and has. I take and post those pictures for my amusement and as a tip of the hat to him. when i was a boy he would take me on a lot of white-knuckle adventures on a 14' Sunfish on lake Ontario. they are some of my fondest memories. my other brothers enjoy sailing, but Tony does it the most. he who does, is.

Q: You look thinner.
A: we are. I lost about 30lbs due to this and other (ahem) changes in my life. we also quit smoking. we both lost weight and we are both much stronger.

Q: Does it hurt?
A: yes. Jennifer lost a toenail after dropping something on her foot. i got many rashes early in the Summer. we get cuts, scrapes and nicks all the time. i zinged off a fingernail the other day (they put the safety devices on table saws for a reason, i learned), lost another fingernail after hammering my finger into the porch. we go to bed tired every night, we sleep like logs, and we wake up creaky every day. I, for one, can feel every bone in my feet at the moment; not sure what that is all about.

latest injuries include sawing across a finger twice (losing half a fingernail in the process one of those times), driving a finish nail through the pad of one finger, and nearly slicing off a thumb.

Q: Why "Vaclav's Hovel"?
A:Vaclav Havel (note difference in spelling and punctuation) was the leader of the Czech republic after it split from Slovakia. He was good friends with Frank Zappa, whom I admire. I have a passing interest in Dadaism. The Dadaists gathered in a cafe called "Cabaret Voltaire." I always wanted to open a place called "Vaclav's Hovel" as a tribute to Frank Zappa, and make it a place where good music and poetry could be had. Not having the resources to open my own cafe, I was satisfied to call my wireless router, and now, unofficially, my house is known as such.

Working Downstairs

While we are not done upstairs, we decided to take a crack at working downstairs so we can make it liveable for the holidays. I ordered 20 12' sheets of dry wall. The larger sheets mean less piecework and taping afterward.

Shortly before removing the last of the old plaster on the wall between the LR and the DR:
About an hour later. Jennifer put on the hoodie because we turned the heat off - we left the drywall on the driveway (see previous post) and hauled it in as we needed it. Jennifer suggested this would save us time from moving it first into the garage then into the house.
In a front corner of the LR:
...and after:
The next day, putting the ceiling up in the LR. The T-shaped thing before Jennifer is a prop we used to help hold a 10' sheet up while she scrambled to fasten it. We got two sheets hung on the ceiling - pretty good for two amateurs in a few hours.


Not our first snowfall, but the first one in which I got out and did anything. Shortly after these pictures were taken I had a delivery of 20 12' sheets of drywall.

This is the first time Finn has played outside in awhile. He got all numb and went inside for breakfast and hot chocolate.