Thursday, June 25, 2015

June 24, 2015: Got wood? One of the curiosities of this olde house is how much rotten wood we keep finding & needing to dispose of. Here's Marilyn using her super-human strength to remove one of the many large pieces of curious wood attached to the house by as many as a dozen 6-inch screws and nails.

Surely, both of these pieces of wood had purposes...we just have no idea what it was. Of course, there's also the hundreds of feet of deteriorating boards that made up the fence around the pool and the old deck on the lower level and then there's the random 2x8x14 footers that are buried in the yard.

So we've been doing a lot of  de-constructing again before we can build anew. Some of you may remember the enormous dumpster we filled to overflowing with 4 tons of discards including a great deal of old lumber. This second round is not quite as huge but it's still worthy of a few OMG's!

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

June 19, 2015:  Creatures & Critters!
We are still amazed when a deer or coyote wanders through the yard, but this week we were treated to a few new views. Chipmunks! You can laugh but the only ones we've ever seen before were in cartoons. On the other hand, turtles were a common sight in South Florida but they were mostly just black or brown. There's a small run-off pond on our property, but we never knew this colorful fella had made it his home!

Although we couldn't catch a photo of it, by using the binoculars that are now permanently stationed on the picture window sill, we were treated to a very moving vision of the mama deer nursing her newborn fawn.

One of the interesting but very destructive native insects here is the carpenter bee. It doesn't usually sting humans but with Joie's deadly allergy, the word "usually" isn't enough to keep her from freaking out. It's the largest bee we've ever seen. When the weather warmed up, thousands of them were suddenly swarming all over the house and immediately started their insane mating ritual of divebombing each other in mid-air. Talk about a hit-and-run encounter! Here's one who got caught between a window and the screen. They drill holes into all the wood and plant their eggs. Then the woodpeckers use those starter holes to do widespread damage as they go after the eggs. Then the humans call an exterminator to discourage the bees and a carpenter to replace the damaged wood. Oh, the wonders of a balanced ecosystem.
 And still another unfamiliar site for us was a nest of tentworms that had taken over most of a branch of a tree. We were told they MUST DIE... BY FIRE! before they killed the entire tree and moved on to others. Since we aliens try to heed all native advice, Joie enticed Ben into sawing off the victimized branch by offering to let him be the fire-starter. The annihilation took place in the driveway...surrounded by 4 fire extinguishers and a hose ready to control the massive inferno.

Also in the insect world--at least we assume it was an insect and not a runaway prop from a sci-fi movie--was this creature:

Of course the "regulars" have all come out of hiding again as well--birds of all sorts are making nests in every nook and cranny, ants of various types and sizes, snakes, squirrels and rabbits abound.

And this week we saw the first fireflies. After the awesome show they gave us last summer right after we'd arrived, we can hardly wait for a repeat performance!

Monday, June 22, 2015

June 7, 2015: We had one big, labor-intensive project left in order to finish the entire downstairs space (inside) and Joie had several colleagues who needed a place to stay for a local conference.

Soooo, dangling the promise of eternal gratitude...and pizza...and wine, because painting is such a thirst-producing task...Joie recruited the ladies to help paint the living room.

 Thanks to Julie & Chelsea for pitching in and special kudos to Kayla for taking on the tedious task of painting all the trim and window frames and putting in as many hours as Joie and Marilyn to get the job completed in one day. For her excessive effort, she got the first glass of wine.

Another round of applause goes to our builder Ryan Regan-Ladd for installing three new interior doors and framing in the hall off the living room.

Finally, ready for the roommates to add their personal touches.
Finished fireplace wall

The view from the couch...

While we're still talking about the downstairs, Marilyn is pleased to say she learned another new skill...making custom window screens.

And thus the work begins on the downstairs outside!

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

June 2, 2015: It's potty time! Nope, not a misspelling; just our attempt at humor despite exhaustion. Another room--albeit a small one--got checked off the renovation to-do list! This was another month of May project, which translates to everything was harder and took longer than expected. Unfortunately, in true Mercury Retrograde tradition, the "before" picture we had of the downstairs shared bathroom has vanished, so we'll just have to tell you about it.

Most of the long-time build-up of mildew and grime had been scoured off the outdated fixtures and tile when we moved in but that was the only effort we had put into that room since last summer. Basically, the compact bathroom had multiple, mismatched, shades of green on the tile, vanity and walls. Even the patterned shower curtain was dark green, blue and brown.

What labor, bleach & paint can do.

The only thing not green was the closet, which is surprisingly large and deep, but the door couldn't be closed and it was packed with nearly empty, sticky bottles of all sorts of things, filthy old pillows, rags and so on...none of which belonged to the current resident. Once again we had to rely on the skill of contractor Ryan Regan-Ladd to refit the closet door.

And when everything was removed, the inside walls, shelves, ceiling and tile floor all had to be bleached and scraped before we could even think of painting, then, once again, the entire room required patching and caulking and sanding and bleaching the grout and re-caulking the rusted out sink rim.

But paint we finally did. Interior and exterior of closet, entry door, frames and vanity took on bright white, while the untiled portion of the walls got a pale shade of celery green to pick up the lightest tone in the retro tile instead of overpowering it. A new white, waffle-fabric shower curtain was hung up, a plush, dark green bath mat was laid down and decorative towel hooks were screwed in.

Not counting the high value of our woman-hours (or fundamental work completed for the whole downstairs last summer), the cost of this makeover was -
Paint - $30
Miscellaneous cleaning and painting supplies - $10
Shower curtain and liner - $39
Towel hooks - $9
Bath mat - $0 (recycled from personal inventory of decor items)

            TOTAL - $88

Next up, see how Joie recruited several of her graduate cohort to get the living area painted. Then stay tuned for a really big outdoor project -- we're about to build a fence!

Monday, June 8, 2015

June 1, 2015: June's theme...Reno on a Budget! This month the Reno Queens are sharing Before & After Pics PLUS itemized costs of our do-it-yourself, wallet-friendly makeovers.

By putting in very long hours of manual labor for the entire month of May, we were finally able to complete the work on the walkout basement rooms. If you've been following our blog, you know last summer's work downstairs resulted in new (and much safer) electrical boxes, wiring, lighting, etc., the removal (by US personally) of all the old, mouse-infested insulation & plastic sheeting between the upstairs & downstairs, installation of a new drop ceiling, conversion of an over-packed mud room/storage area into an en suite bedroom, and an extensive clean-up and rebuild of one of the other rooms already being used as a bedroom.

Last month we finished all the (badly-needed) deep scrubbing, patching, painting, and carpet shampooing throughout the downstairs. Our carpenter/builder, the uber-talented Ryan Regan-Ladd, installed new, solid, interior and exterior doors and framing, and between the three of us, all the old, broken, pull-down blinds have now been replaced by new wood slat blinds. Marilyn's just happy she's still agile enough to do such a task while balancing on a step ladder with one foot in the air.

However, two rooms still required major updating. The one we're boasting about today is the kitchen. Here's what it looked like before we moved in...

Okay, so this picture doesn't make the kitchen look all that bad.The cabinets are well-crafted and solid but what the camera couldn't capture was that they had at least 3 layers of different colored paint, the last of which was a dirty cream shade, plus decades of cooking grease, dozens of screw and nail holes, chips and scratches. The cabinet interiors  were in even worse condition than the exteriors and the hardware was scratched and tarnished beyond help.

We cleaned, sanded, patched and painted all the wood a bright white. We bought some cute drawer knobs and complementary brushed nickle handles but the hinges were custom, so super-hero Ben recycled the originals with some matte silver spray paint and sealant.
Multi-colored knobs out of a sale bin at Home Depot
New over old tile
The floor tiles were not only very dated but were a muddy brown, so we bought light, self-adhesive vinyl tiles. Laying them properly and cutting the edge and corner pieces caused a lot of bad words to come out of both our mouths but the relatively inexpensive upgrade made it all worthwhile.
A cushioned mat finished the space.

And here's one more set of before (taken before we moved in) and after pics taken from the living room area...

The "window" behind the fridge was closed and doors were hung in the two open doorways as part of the en suite creation. (btw, this pic was taken before the pale blue paint was continued into the living room area on purpose)

Not counting the high value of our woman-hours or the fundamental work done last summer, here's what the updating cost -
Floor tiles - $150
Paint (Sherwin-Williams! On sale!!) - $50
Knobs & handles - $40
Misc. cleaning, patching & paint supplies - $20
Free-standing pantry - $135

        TOTAL COST - $395

Can't say we giggled much during the downstairs kitchen makeover--Mercury Retrograde probably had a bit to do with how much harder everything turned out to be and how many disruptions we had to deal with--but Joie caught a picture of Marilyn doing what makes it all worth the sweat, sore muscles and joints, and frustration...swinging gently back and forth on the screened upstairs portico at the end of the work day, sipping a glass of Malbec and observing the awe-inspiring flora and fauna in our very own back yard.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

May 30, 2015: As promised, here are a few more surprises Mother Nature has had for us.

We were in awe when the crab apple trees exploded with fragrant white blossoms, but just as they moved on to their next stage, the tall locust trees framing the two ends of our curved driveway had their turn to show off!


So THIS is why it's called "spring" green! So many shades and each plant and tree looks different every day. For those of you laughing at our wide-eyed naivete, please consider the fact that neither South Florida nor South Texas has anything like Spring in New England. Joie keeps asking why everyone makes such a fuss over Autumn when Spring is so much more amazing.

Based on the multitude of iris buds appearing randomly around the property, it looks like the next color taking center stage will be purple.

And inside Chateau de Joie, other big changes are in you'll see in our next post!