August 13, 2012

Insulated

New Storage Platform

What a summer it has been! The insulation crew, electrician and roofers have come and gone. The house feels like it has been wrapped in a big, fluffy blanket. With the wall insulation, the neighborhood noises, both late night and early morning, have disappeared. Suddenly I’m looking forward to a bitterly cold winter, just to put the insulation to the test.

This project allowed us to check-off a few items that were on our must-do list since we first looked at this house. The attic had been lined with cardboard and newspaper, now that is all gone. The chimney leaked around the roofline, now there is no chimney. The basement shag carpeting had to go and now the basement has a new sub-floor.

We still have some more work to do in the basement, like removing the feast-master, replacing the basement windows, re-working the basement stairs and picking a new floor covering for the finished side. Those projects will come together in the next year.

In the meantime, we are taking a little break from house work and enjoying these few cool days of summer, after the incredibly hot and dry days of June and July.

Oh, and the stuff beast, it is still around, but is much smaller and tamer than two months ago. I continue to sell items off through Amazon and Craigslist. It feels good to know the true extent of what we own and also to know where it is and why we still have it.

Basement Phase 2
June 11, 2012

The Stuff Beast

Attic Before

We are participating in a City of Madison program to improve the energy efficiency of our home, called Green Madison. So far we’ve had the initial energy assessment. I wish I’d taken pictures during the assessment, since there was a big blower door installed in our front door and lots of use of a heat gun camera. Geeky fun and a chance to learn more about our house.

What we found, no surprise, is that our house has no insulation in the walls or basement and minimum insulation in the attic. The next step is to add insulation to all three locations. I’ve been busy gathering quotes on the work but the looming immediate next step is dealing with our stuff.

After we moved into the house, the attic, basement and garage became general holding places for loosely organized items like sports gear, winter clothes and crafting supplies. Mostly it is stuff that we want to keep and generally it is already grouped together, however our house did not come with many shelves for organizing. Last summer we tackled the garage and now it is on to the attic and basement.

The attic is going to be filled with fluffy insulation and while we are going to build a storage platform, there will be much less space for storing things up there. While all the work is going on, including removing the chimney, our attic needs to be empty. Where is it all going? To the basement!

The basement has its own set of challenges and its own set of stuff. The photos here are the before shots of the attic and basement. For the past few weeks we’ve started work on the basement, including buying shelving from Ikea, sealing the shelving, ripping out the carpet and installing a sub-floor. We are tackling the basement in three phases so that stuff in one part can be shuffled to the finished part without having to be removed.

Late yesterday I really started wishing we could be on one of those magic home improvement shows, where over the course of one weekend your room is transformed and everyone remains beautiful, clean and well rested. Instead SB and I keep chugging along, slowly bringing order to our house and hopefully, in the end, a lower energy bill.

Basement Before
May 29, 2012

A weekend of roses

White Rose

For Memorial Day weekend, SB and I headed to the windy city for a mini-break. Since visiting the Morton Arboretum last summer, I’ve had my eye on the Chicago Botanic Gardens, on the north side of the city. I’d heard that because of their proximity to the lake, they have a special microclimate, allowing plants 1 or 2 zone warmer to thrive.

This spring has been so strange, I’m not sure I really noticed that the gardens were much ahead of my gardens at home, but there was plenty to be inspired by in their highly sculpted landscape. I now need poppies, after seeing a whole field of icelandic poppies in full bloom. Also, we need to train some climbing roses on geometric trellises, to decorate our yet to be built fence. I’m already looking forward to returning to the Botanic Gardens later in the summer.

Last week we put in a new garden along the side of the garage and planted our herb garden. As I laid the seeds in the ground, I thought about how optimistic the act of gardening can be. It is all about the belief in the future potential of these little seeds. After visiting the Botanic Gardens, I was thinking about how gardening is also about dreaming of colors, shapes, textures and smells. Gardening, a future fantasy for all the senses.

Speaking of the future, on Sunday, we had a planned surprise visit to one of my favorite gardening friends, Rosey Cheeks, to celebrate the soon-to-be birth of her second child. I cut it very close with my blanket gift, sewing in the ends on the car ride to Chicago. The honeycomb blanket had a photo shoot in the botanic gardens before starting its journey with Rosey and family.

May 9, 2012

From Coast to Coast and Home Again

Cold and Rainy

I’m tired. In the past month I’ve been on Atlantic and Pacific waters, I spent thirty hours volunteering for the film festival and every other weekend has been filled with house projects and even an emergency shopping trip to Chicago. As I head into summer, there is just so much to do, it has been hard to find the balance between work, travel, projects and the rest and relaxation I actually need. On top of all that I’ve been battling some frustrating stomach issues, which just make eating a chore and totally contributes to my overall tiredness. Finally, I’ve decided that I’m done taking allergy medicine. I’m just going to soldier through this summer without any help, but already, waking up with a nose like a faucet every morning is such a drag.

Whine, whine, whine. This is all very tiring. Here are a couple things I’ve been enjoying recently.

We’ve been working our way through the documentary series Craft in America. It has really made me think about how one medium can really speak to you and another just carries no interest and to wonder how you discover those mediums that most resonate with you. I think trying lots of different craft forms is key.

One of the artists featured is a couple here in southern Wisconsin. They make amazing natural fiber baskets and jewelry. I’ve been pining after their necklaces and leaving the page open for SB to see. Loeber + Look.

I’ve also been reading a lot about bike commuting and I’m sold. Bike commuting looks fantastic! The irony is that I don’t have any commute, so I guess the message is partially lost on me. Check out this short video on bike commuting in Portland. A very nice, low budget documentary.

April 18, 2012

Independent Vacationing

Approaching by land

When I’m planning a vacation, I spend the most time worrying about where we will stay. It has to be convenient, interesting, clean, safe and most importantly a good deal. For our trip to San Francisco last week, I also wanted to be nearby my sister, who lives in a real neighborhood, with very few hotel options. I finally found the right fit through an Air BnB rental.

This was my first time using Air BnB and I wasn’t sure if the strong social networking aspect of the site really fit with my style, but the room was too nice to pass up. The photo below shows the patio off of our studio apartment, just blocks from my sister and close to lots of restaurants and an amazing bakery. We stayed for a week and really felt at home. It was much like our VRBO rental in Paris. Having a small kitchen and an eating area makes travel so much easier and cheaper, as not all meals need to be eaten out and sometimes all you want is something simple. Hotels can be nice, for that pampered feeling, but vacation rentals feel more private and still offer an escape. Plus, it is fun to pretend you live in this exotic city.

The other big expense for travel is car rental, especially in the US, when renting a car can be the only way to see some of the best sights. Since we were staying in the city for this trip, we didn’t want to have to deal with a rental car all the time, figuring out parking and paying for time when we weren’t using the car. A car sharing program, Zip Car, fit our needs and it turned out that we could pick-up a mini-cooper, just a block from our studio. One of the nice things about the car sharing is that all gas is included in the rental price and the car is available hourly or daily. When we were done with the car for the day, we just returned it to its own parking spot, no need to worry about overnight parking rules in the city.

I’m looking forward to using both these services again, as they really made it easy to build just the vacation we wanted, without the constraints of the more traditional hotel and car rentals.

Studio Patio
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