Saturday, September 24, 2005

Born to be Tiled*

I got a call from the tile store yesterday that most of our tile for the bathroom is here. I loaded it into the station wagon today (my truck) and took it upstairs. Here's what it looks like now:

Also yesterday the electrician started to hang light fixtures and install switches and outlets. I bought five $5.00 light fixtures at our local Habitat for Humanity Re-Store to hang in the hallway and the closets. I put up the medicine cabinet and here it is below the new light fixture:

Today I also started to haul the oak floor I salvaged nearly 2 years ago from a house on Rochester Ave. in Iowa City that was being torn down. I've had that floor in the basement here at Foxcroft since January of 2004. It is 1.5 inch wide oak, just like the main floor is. I'll order new 1.5 inch oak to do the rest of second floor. Here is my closet full of salvage, and the big pieces are in the master bedroom:

*This is of course the title of one of my favorite albums by former Iowa City funnymen Duck's Breath Mystery Theater Two members of this troupe were well known to public radio listeners: Merle Kessler as "Ian Sholes" "I gotta go…" and Dan Coffey as "Ask Dr. Science."

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Plugging Away...

We continue to plug away at our restoration, literally and figuratively.

The literal is Lisa working on the front hill. After removing the gigantic plum tree that was growing sideways out of the front hill (See Septuagenarians with Saws) She has gotten rid of the creeping charlie, mulched, and transplanted hostas from other spots in the yard and added new plants, including the state wildflower of Alabama the Oak Leaf Hydrangea. (God I love "Google")

My theory on yards is that all hillsides should be planted in perennials and mowing should only happen in flat areas. We've even taken that a step further here at Foxcroft since the yard is more than quadruple our urban postage stamp on Van Buren St. In the near back yard where we removed all the other scrub trees I sowed in white dutch clover, a low growing variety that is drought resistant, spreads, holds up under high traffic and is impervious to pet urine (free range dogs around here) into the walkways around the flower beds.

I on the other hand am much more figurative. I finished painting the upstairs hallways and sitting room (color is called "Inviting Ivory")

Pete and I moved the cabinets and soapstone top up to the bathroom. I also finished staining and varnishing the medicine cabinet that will also go in the bathroom.

With luck tomorrow the electrician will come and start to put up lights and outlets in the upstairs!

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Homes of my Youth*

I was out at Longfellow Elementary today and since I had the camera along I took pictures of two homes I lived in as a young boy. The first was on Rundell St. We must have lived there in about 1963. I have very few memories of there, other than falling in the creek from the back yard.

This house was a rental when we lived there, it is known locally as a "Moffit" house, built by local builder, Howard Moffit, who was famous (actually notorious) for his "unorthox" building methods (He was a great scavenger) A few homes down the street from this one have left over street car rails as floor joists visible in the basement.

The other house is across from Longfellow school. It is an interesting sort of Cape Cod/Tudor house.

It has been added on to twice since we lived there. We owned the house from 1965-69. I started kindergarten when we lived there. It has been owned by the same family since 1975. Here is a picture from the city audior's site, that shows the second gable added on the back and the screened in deck in back too:

Is it any wonder I like bungalow era homes so much?

*With apologies to local author Jo Ann Beard, whose book "Boys of My Youth" is absolutely gripping.

Bathroom goes "Upward"

I finished painting the new bathroom upstairs last night. The color is "Upward" a light blue/gray. Lisa wanted something neutral, but that was suggestive of water. Now we wait for the black and white floor tiles, and the white subway wall tiles. After we install those the plumbers can come back and finish connecting up the fixtures.

Tonight I'll start painting the sitting room and hallway walls. Our local Mautz store has a buy two gallons, get one free sale, so we can do all the upstairs hallways and the downstairs in a color called "Inviting Ivory."

Saturday, September 10, 2005

My Ebay Doors

I have been looking for doors for the upstairs for 6 months. I searched our local Salvage Barn, and scoured every internet salvage site I could find. I have watched all the Chicago demolition sales web pages, but had no luck at all. On a whim I looked on Ebay and found an auction for 8 oak doors, in jambs with complete hardware. The doors sizes were exactly what I needed and the auction was ending in 45 minutes. I bid and won and had my upstairs doors. They were located in the Twin Cities, a bit over 5 hours drive from home.

I talked to Chris the seller several times electronically, and decided to get them on September 9th. I rented a trailer and hooked it up to Pete's truck (see previous post) and went north. When arriving I found that Chris was very pleasant and the doors were beautiful. She and I put them on their sides into the trailer. She told me the doors had come from her husband's parents' house, and that they were extensively remodeling it for her, as it had never been updated since they built it in the 1920's. Chris also asked if I was interested in buying either the kitchen cupboards or the front door. I really don't have anywhere for the cupboards but I did buy the front door.

We stacked the doors on their sides in the van and put the front door on top

When I got home I called Pete to come help unload and we took them out

We put four in Rowan's room and four in Laurel's for now.

We tried to put one into an opening and it fit nearly perfectly.
The doors are different than first floor, but that's OK, I need to find one more to get the entire upstairs ready. The hardware is nice too.

I can't use the front door anywhere here at Foxcroft, so I'll likely donate it to our local Friends of Historic Preservation Salvage Barn

Friday, September 09, 2005

Ever Lose a Ball Hitch at 60 MPH?

Now I can say I have. I was driving Pete's pickup truck with a U-Haul trailer attached to go get 8 oak doors that were in the Twin Cities. Since Friday is my day off, that's when I would get them. I thought I'd be smart and drive halfway on Thursday night, and stay in Mason City, IA. I was 30 minutes from stopping for the night when I felt a clunk, following by loud banging. I was certain I'd blown a tire until I looked in the rear view mirror to see the trailer bouncing up and down and swininging from side to side. (I was going downhill at the time. I managed to get the truck slowed down and pull over to the side of the road. I discovered that the lock washer and nut had dropped off the bottom of the trailer hitch, and the ball had slid forward allowing the tongue of the trailer to slip off. Basically I was towing the trailer by the emergency chains.

Another motorist had pulled off with me and said he had seen the trailer start to bounce. I called 911 to get someone out, and to call a wrecker to see if they had any ball hitches. The other motorist realized I was fine and took off. Ten minutes later, Ernie from the
Nashua, IA, police department showed up. I was about a mile beyond his small town, and he got the call from Chickasaw County dispatch. I explained what happened and he looked. His comment was that his experiences with ball hitches was that you can never take them off because they are usually rusted together. We waited for the wrecker driver to come. Ernie was great company, we talked about his kids, schools, and what happens in a town that only has one officer on duty at a time. We wondered how many vehicles were passing us that had ball hitches that we could have borrowed. The tow man came in his van 90 minutes later with 5 different ball hitches, he apologized profusely for not coming sooner, but two tire salesmen from Minneapolis had come down and he didn’t want to be rude to them. 5 minutes and 40 bucks total later I was back in business, and on my way.

I was very lucky in that A) the hitch came loose in a relatively lightly travelled stretch of highway 218 and B) the trailer was empty, I don't think I could have wrestled down a full one.

More on going to get the doors in my next post.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

A "Rosy Outlook"

We are now painting upstairs rooms, Our older daughter chose "Solaria" as the VERY bright yellow that her room is now painted. Our younger chose "Rosy Outlook." When opening the can I told Lisa it was really "Strawberry Ice Cream." However the best description of the color goes to our neighbor, Mike, who took one look and said "Princess Pink."

It's great fun to take the digital camera upstairs at 10:00 PM and shoot pics in total darkness. Here are some upstairs photos, and for comparison purposes, what that section of the second floor looked like the first time we went upstairs, shortly before we bought the place in 12/03, or in the middle of emptying it in 05/05.

When I get discouraged about our pace slowing down, it helps to go back and realize how much we really have accomplished in a short amount of time, while maintaining our relative sanity and our relationships. I am also able to see so much potential here, and find Foxcroft to be a truly wonderful place to live.

I guess I really do have a "Rosy Outlook."

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Tailgating 101

Our first home Iowa Hawkeye football game has come and gone. Living a block from the stadium means that parking cars and tailgaters are a large part our new Saturday morning routine. University Heights (the tiny town we live in surrounded by Iowa City) allows residents to park cars in their yards for home games. This is an old (and for many profitable) tradition. I took a few shots on Friday afternoon while it was quiet and then on Saturday morning to give a feel for what it was like yesterday.

The University of Iowa Hawkeyes are ranked #11 nationally and since there are no major professional sports teams in the state of Iowa, college athletics are huge around here. Iowa's success means that many of their games are broadcast regionally by ESPN, but given the state's small population, and perception by the major sports media that Iowa is not a "marquee" program that would attract a national audience, games are scheduled at less than desireable times in order to accomodate TV. In my childhood all games started at 1:00 PM. Now most games kickoff at 11:00 AM except for those that start at 2:35 PM. Hence the screwy tailgating rituals.

Tailgating (partying with lots of food and drink next to your car) is a major activity for Hawkeye fans. Neighbors behind and beyond our house all park cars for profit. The going rate this year is $20.00 per car per game. Most of our neighbors get people to commit to the whole season and pay in advance. Our other neighbors have a son on the team, so other parents of players are parking there. We were their overflow lot, and did park some friends, and still have room for one paying customer by chance.

The first folks arrived before 6:00 AM. By 6:30 the smell of brats and eggs was everywhere, and the sounds of the marching band warming up by section (kicked off by the drums) on the other side of the railroad ravine were easily heard. At one point I could simultaneously pick out "The Iowa Fight Song," "The Star Spangled Banner," and "In Heaven There Is No Beer." By 8:00 crowds of "bumblees" (black and gold striped outfits) were swarming all along the street. My personal favorites are the folks in black and gold vertically striped overalls, and nice nod to our agricultural stereotype, and god knows we need the slimming effect of the stripes.

At 8:30 the screaming whistle announced the arrival of the "Hawkeye Express" passenger train's first load at the stadium train gate. By 9:00 cars were coming down asking if we had space for sale. By my estimation our end of Golfview parked a total of nearly 75 cars. Also at 9:00 our youngest came tearing outside with her birthday outfit, (yes it was her 4th birthday yesterday too) a Hawkeye cheerleader costume. She and her older sister then peddled rice krispie treats and puppy chow snacks that we made the night before at 50 cents a bag. They sold out in an hour. We hung out in the yard and chatted with the players parents, some of our friends came by, and Pete showed up to work on the cement board for the tile installation. I requested that the folks who parked in our yard run over my dirt pile a few times, since we've had so little rain since drilling the geothermal system, the pile has hardly settled.

The game was great, the Hawks won 56-0. The stadium renovations (see Aug. 23 blog entry) are wonderful. More folks came by after the game and we hung out and watched people leave. At 7:00 PM Rowan and I took a bike ride around the stadium, and while there are bags of garbage piled everywhere, not a can or bottle was in sight, I love our deposit law!

Next home game is Sept. 17th, against Lisa and my alma mater the University of Northern Iowa.