Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Forest Fire a'la Google Maps

I was working on a project at work when I spotted this aerial portrait of a Forest Fire...

View Larger Map
Those of you that know me know that I was a Wildland Firefighter for about 5 years. I saw this and thought 'Controlled Burn'... but there are no vehicles. I wonder if the golf course sustained any damage??
(this post is mainly for my Dad)

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Digital Dreaming

So this is what I am working towards at the moment. All the exterior work is building towards this style sensitive addition on the back of the house. It's been interesting trying to figure out what would be most accurate. My best resource has been the Minnesota Historical Society library collection. They have an incredible number of historic home plan books. Many (most) of them are companies from MN... all of them were available to consumers in MN. So I went through them over and over and over. Finally came up with this (after the first plan went WAY over budget)

As most people will note, my house is more of a cottage and less of a bungalow... I know, false advertising or whatever. Bungalow is a reference to a one story style home from colonial India, with deep porches and low rooflines. But it seems to have expanded to include most 1 1/2 story homes built between a certain period. I have all of the same woodwork as my traditional bungalow neighbors (more of it actually).

Anyway, I may have to change the name of the blog once the new gable goes up since I will lose the big plane of the roof.. and really look more like a 'cottage'.
Oh well, it'll be nice either way.

The second pic is the interior layout. I'm trying to keep the plan very honest, functional and open. The upstairs is so light and spacious I didn't want to try to cram in a bathtub. Besides I have the original, deep, cast iron tub on the first floor.

So picture white hex tile on the floor with a border and baseboard of white marble. Subway tile wainscot and light painted plaster. I think the woodwork will end up painted white like the rest of the second floor (it's not oak up there, so don't worry). Chrome fixtures and wall sconces on either side of the sink area.

The medicine cabinet will be on the wall between the toilet nook and the main sink area. Over the sink we will use an accordion style swing arm mirror. Lord knows that we need a couple of window for light up there!

So keep an eye out for updates. This project should be progressing steadily through January!

Monday, December 22, 2008

let's call this the just-barely-not-before shot

So it started. The contractor showed up, did some things and then left. Somehow they managed to get one gable end ALMOST done in the coldest week of the year. In the snow. Sure am glad I don't work for them!

So just an update one what is happening. This past summer I decided to restore the outside of the house. The Aluminum siding just wasn't floating my boat (for obvious reasons). It was also holding in condensation!! Soaking the walls and wall paper for the melty part of the winter. Thank-baby-Jesus we don't have a mold issue!

So we had a few people come over... look at the metal and project what it would cost to make it look like it did. Making the assumption that everything that was once, was no more.

A few astronomical quotes later I found myself on the upper end of a 30' extension ladder ripping off bits of my house.
SURPRISE! Everything underneath was original to the house!
After documenting what was there.. and assessing what, if any, rot there was (nothing really...) We had the quotes re done. And Ta-daaaah. The restoration begins. the aluminum has been ripped off. The original cedar shingles photographed and removed and the OLD tar-paper shredded.

The new Cedar Shingles are going up (the old were too brittle to keep :( ) We carefully measured the staggered reveal to exactly recreate what was original.
A new horizontal strip with a great drip cap detail is getting installed between the stucco and the shingles... and it's getting properly FLASHED in. The window trim was covered with aluminum, and was (to my dismay) not particularly salvageable. The bargeboards on the eaves and the the bead board soffits are quite intact. With a little scraping it really took shape. I don't think we're going with the original red.

It's going to look a little dingy until we paint in the spring.

You can bet I'm going to update these pictures often!

Let there be....... !

After being directed to a FANTASTIC lighting company by 1912 bungalow, I remembered seeing some really cool lighting.

here's Schoolhouse Lighting... what a perfect place for me! they have a great selection of toned-down art deco fixtures. My house is a 1928 (obviously) and has a few deco inspired parts.. well, I'm sure it used to anyway...

and then there is the more modern, more green (since that's sooo trendy right now) Eleek.

Really cool stuff. I like cast aluminum.. it's silver without showing fingerprints. I like that it's not shiny; because in my place things don't stay shiny for too long.
another post to follow shortly... now where did I put those pictures?

Thursday, December 11, 2008


Originally uploaded by turbofan
I better blog this too.

Went to see WICKED on the 29th. It was my way-late-b-day present. It's about the best one that I've even had!!

Good music, good story, good voices... followed by good beer and good friends. Thanks you guys!!

Will's refurbished cabinets circa Nov 2007


well this is really an old photo, but I have been thinking a lot about re-use. I'm still working on finding a good photo of this project finished... Right now the poor thing is covered with ingredients of what will soon become bread and christmas cookies.

But lets talk reuse. The thing was free. I got it off www.twincitiesfreemarket.com it's funny that I actually got it from a college guidance counselor! Funny how small the world is (and how many people go to Hamline!)

So it DID take a bit of work. Lots of paint removal, lots of routing to fit in the little wine fridge. Thank god I am up to date on my tetanus shots! Part of the cabinet was a little.. well, rotten. so I ripped it off and put in a dishwasher.

I spent a lot of time on the drawer pulls. I used paint stripper and steel wool and got a cool brused effect out of them. Very Restoration Hardware. But it I had to do it all over I would have just simmered them in hot soapy water until the paint bubbled off. I have done that with hinges and other hardware recently. It's Way easier. LOVE IT!

Things to watch for in the updated photo:
-A way cool wooden end panel.. Made of maple to match the cabinets and oak to match the rest of the house.
-lots of stuff on the counter.
-no more white sticky on the stainless dishwasher

I do have to admit that I haven't attached everything yet.. I know that it's been over a year but here's why.
We've been working with a contractor for 6 months to add an upstairs bathroom. Part of the big project involves sinking a couple of new load bearing supports in the basement. So we are going to put in two additional and give the sagging floor a bit of a boost. It will even out the floor a little, and this project sits right on top of a sagging spot. I didn't want to get everything installed and then have to do it all over again when everything was straightened out.

besides, it works just fine right now... except that the dishwasher flips out a little bit when you open it all the way. oh well.

God that floor looks awful against the new shiny stuff. Guess I should put that on the punch list too :)

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Cover your SHAME!

Well, it's not quite what it sounds like... or maybe it is. Windows are nothing to be ashamed of... unless they are as leaky as ours. Now I know, these windows are made of the best wood you could get... and we'd never be able to find this quality these days... BUT I live under the flight pattern, on the busiest residential road on the planet and I could use a little peace and quiet some day. That's why I lust after THESE. (on this link they have a new version of my original windows. One day we plan to replace the lot... and find someone with a better situation to reuse the old ones... I couldn't bring myself to toss them.
But until that beautiful far-off day we will be forced to wrap all fenestration in plastic, every November. Actually I will be forced to do it because I'm better at it.
If anyone want's pointers I'm available to teach classes for a billion dollars an hour. only 20 left!

Monday, November 17, 2008

The Portable Jungle: Native Uprising

Funny thing... I have a portable jungle. A family of a dozen large plants that make seasonal trips inside and out. They are a lot of fun in the yard. They add interest to the back yard. Some of them are edible (Ginger, Vanilla pompona even though it's not easily edible) Some of them were projects (avacodo, clivia and seedlings, various orchids) One of them is well over 40 years old... great Grandma Fay's spider plant... which shades the roots of the Fiddlehead Ficus and the Vanilla orchid..

ANYWAY, the cat was being pretty loud last night.. more than usual. I couldn't figure out why, until just now. This has never happened before with the portable jungle, but aparently this summer built up a bumper crop of earth worms in the pots. Yesterday's deep watering must have driven them up and OUT. So this morning I have been picking up dried nightcrawlers that the cat dragged all over the house. YUK! I can't wait until we have the Jungle room/greenhouse up so I can just leave the plants in one place. Unfortunatly that's Waaaaaay off, if ever.

So, be aware container gardeners, you may have an uprising of your own. Poor little guys, just tryin to stay dry :(

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Sunday Soliloquy

Well, I think this is the last week of outside time for MN. I spent the few hours of daylight cutting back the Hydrangeas, mulching the hibiscus and the front prairie, topping the iris and putting the final blanket on the Musa Basjoo (hardy banana). I sure hope it will take another winter, it's been so fun to have that big waxy foliage in the back yard. This year it really went... well... Bananas, and put out about 10 new shoots. Boy, it sure would be great to have a healthy cluster of tropical (looking) plants in my MN garden!

All the chopping wood, winterizing the house and tucking in the plants has me ready to hibernate. But at some point the contractors are supposed to start residing the dormers and putting up an addition. I am SO glad I'm not a contractor, I will sit inside by the wood stove and listen to them hammering in the cold. It's not my fault they have been dragging thier feet. I just want it done, but I will settle for started.

I also have fairly lofty plans for turkey-day: The whole fam is headed over. I've volunteered for Turkey and stuffing, the rest has been outsourced to volunteers. I also have about 5 loaves of sourdough to bake. Sourdough is another ongoing hobby that has earned a blog entry.. just not today. It's still a couple weeks off but I have started planning the logisitics. And if something doesn't work out I plan to have a lot of Three-Buck-Chuck on hand. That usually mellows us all out :)

Since I don't get family over that often I think Thanksgiving is a good time to update them all on the house projects. This year the will see the finished (nearly) dishwasher bay (see former blog for those pics) the wood stove, various paint stripping projects, the dormant remnants of the 3rd year prairie in the front yard and everyone will eat something from the VERY productive herb garden. I'm sure that I will drag them into the back yard and point them to the set of raised veggie gardens in the back. I'm turning hippie without knowing it. Either that or I'm just getting too far into my pioneer research work. Whatever. As long as I get a nice nap at some point.

Happy Sunday everyone!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

The accident scene

The accident scene
Originally uploaded by turbofan
Neighbors typically meet each other in similar way. Over the fence, walking the dog, raking leave etc. It’s an unfortunate thing to meet a close neighbor through a terrible accident. On the night of November 4th around 11:45pm that’s just how I met my neighbors across Cedar Avenue. People from the surrounding 4 blocks had descended on the intersection of 45th and Cedar to view the horrific, 1 driver accident that had recently rattled their windows. The car somersaulted end over end after hitting a car parked in the parking lane. The driver was traveling well over the speed limit and was not wearing a seatbelt. The fact that she was alive when the ambulance arrived is amazing considering the circumstances.
So my neighbors and I stood in shock, shivering in our PJ’s in the cold, watching the flashing lights and paramedics, marveling at the fact that a car in a 30mph zone managed to total 2 cars and fling herself 50 feet through the windshield. All injuries aside we were all amazed that this didn’t happen sooner. High speeds have become a defining feature of Cedar Avenue. It’s the ‘short cut’ from the burbs, it’s the fastest way to the mall when the free way is jammed up, and most important, they don’t put cops on Cedar, you can go as fast as you want… and people do. The day before I had finished composing a letter to Mayor Rybeck, pleading with him to up enforcement in our neighborhoods. I outlined the dangers, the livability issues, lost tax revenue based on dropping property values, the crime related to high speed and volume traffic the list goes on. Coincidentally, at the end of the letter I said that we needed to do something before something terrible happened . And right on cue…
We’ve got ourselves a problem in south Minneapolis. An over capacity freeway system, a huge ring of great urban housing stock and an even bigger ring of suburbs trying to get from what used to be the country to the city as quickly as possible. For residents of South Minneapolis it’s a losing battle. The capacity of our streets is based on the local population, the proximity of houses to the road is based on this capacity. The only way to increase capacity is to increase the speed, which happens on its own due to lack of enforcement.
As it stands now, according to city documents: Cedar Avenue is the only street in S. Minneapolis that is over capacity (WAY over), contains three of the highest crash intersections in the whole city and runs over a bridge estimated to be at less than 60% integrity (the Nokomis Lagoon bridge). There are a lot of people that live on Cedar Ave. There are a lot of people that rely on Cedar. How do we decide who takes precedence? We need to think about this.
The Cedar Ave. United (aka Cedar Avenue Restoration Effort) seeks to create a plan for Cedar Avenue by incorporating residents and neighborhoods in the planning process. In the past few months we have been meeting at various community centers in the area, planning. We have a lot to gain by creating a good plan for Cedar. We need to preserve our community, encourage our local businesses, improve transportation and increase our safety and livability.
Standing in the cold on the sidewalk, barefoot, listening to my across-the-street-neighbor talk about how she made her daughter change schools so she wouldn’t have to cross the road made me realize that there are a lot more concerned people than I thought. So now it’s time. We need your support. We realize that not everyone has the time and energy to commit to planning. We also know that there is a LOT of talent in South Minneapolis. We are a grass roots organization, and we need you, if only your support or signature. You can find out more about Cedar Ave United by e-mailing cedartraffic@gmail.com

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Thumbs up!

Thumbs up!
Originally uploaded by turbofan
Roofing and building is, indeed, fun. Or at least the end product is.

So this weekend my dad came down to help with this project. It was either going to be this or the tile around the fireplace.... since I haven't yet fired the tile.. this is what we did.

I had to work Saturday, but when I got home at 4 Ryan and Dad had already torn off the rotten cardboard (seriously) siding and picked up the materials.

By Sunday at 2 we were stapling up the tar paper on the roof and moving the firewood into the shelter.

Now I know, I know. You aren't supposed to put firewood next to your house or other structures because of Ants and Mice. I have to point out that 1) we go through wood so fast I don't think it will be an issue, 2) If the ants want to eat the cardboard off the rest of the garage they can be my guest... it would probably kill them anyway.

seriously though, we have sprayed for carpenter ants already and the dog loves to catch and fling mice. I don't think it will be a big deal.

I still have to put on the finish fascia, drip edge and shingles. I am going to go ahead and say that this new addition is probably more sturdy than the original garage. Yah for us!

Friday, October 31, 2008

Well this weekend will be a busy one.

The new stove addition is requiring a little auxiliary building. Fire needs fuel... This one needs nice DRY wood; DRY being the operative. So there is a little plan sitting on my dining room table for a 4' eave extension on the garage. THe idea is to build 3 Corbels (like those that I will eventually be adding to the eaves of the house) to support the over hang so it will not require posts. I want to keep the roof feeling light. The back yard will start to feel too small if there are all these structures eating into the ground space.

I will scan in the drawings just for fun... they are on notebook paper. I want to make this element match the house, so I'm hoping that the contractors have some cedar shingles left over from the siding for me to fill in the small space above the bracket.

I am going to take some process pics of this so y'all can see how far I can get in one weekend (seeing as how I work on Saturday until 4!! Boooo!)

check back!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Sunbeams cutting through the smoke from our break-in fire

So if you could hear a chorus of angels singing as this sunbeam passes the woodstove, that would just about sum up how I am feeling about it today... now if we could only get some dry wood on hand to burn...

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Will admiring the stove

Will admiring the stove
Originally uploaded by turbofan
Nice, warm, bright... so different from the cold, dark, useless hole that once occupied this room.

Once upon a time this was a woodburning fireplace... sometime in the 80's or 90's it was converted to a gas log... we all know what happened to the price of gas... Anyway. Not we have a high efficiency Jotul F3CB partially recessed into the opening. It looks Fantastic!! and works like a dream.

Funny story about the gas log and our gas bill... ha ha. Before we bought this place a 'special' woman from Texas was trying to flip it. Not having much experience with a furnace, she opted to try to heat the house with the old gas log in the fireplace... that explains why our bill shows December of 2006 with a $600 gas bill. As a side note, she also painted all of the SOLID OAK WOODWORK white... with exterior grade enamel... more on that as it comes off. Until then I'm happy in the warm glow of the fire :)

Second Beginning

I came upon a junction where my path diverged in the wood... and I just HAD to take the path less traveled. Now I know why no one used it... I web was a pain in the butt to blog with. It was very pretty, but limited me to using my home computer.. the one in the cold upstairs bedroom. So I am officially starting on blogger after having a fair amount of success using it for work. If you want to see the old entries go look at www.laughingwatertile.com I'll keep it open... since it's already there.

But on to the new.

Last Thursday the woodstove guy came to install the Jotul F3CB I have been lusting over for the past year or so.

I'm currently sitting in the glow of a 500 degree heat machine. The cat is passed out in heat-induced bliss next to me and Ryan is playing Risk on his I-phone at the other end of the couch. The past three days we have heated the place exclusively with the woodstove. Awesome.

Pictures to follow, as soon as I figure out how to link Flickr to Blogger.. this warmth is making me lazy (lazier)