Saturday, December 12, 2009

Our Christmas Tree

We just finished cleaning off our brand new (to us) 1959 aluminum Christmas tree, delivered directly from my grandma's barn in northeastern Indiana.

Complete with a color wheel, spinning base with music box.

Now we're all in the Christmas spirit. Merry Christmas, everybody!!

Countdown to Christmas

A few weeks ago, Natalie gave us an ultimatum (Why? I don't know... but she did): finish all four bedrooms by Christmas. Well, we're not going to be anywhere near done, but we're still working like crazy people to try to get as much done as possible.

This includes:
  • getting our new Christmas tree cleaned off (it lived in a barn for a couple of years and mice made a nest in it)
  • finishing drywall work and texturing in the study
  • painting all four bedrooms
  • removing border wallpaper from 3 bedrooms
  • buying new carpet for all bedrooms
  • installing new baseboard and trim in all bedrooms.
So, here's what has become of our house in the meantime:

I think I was just looking for an excuse to throw the Benny Hill theme song onto our blog. That song makes anything more entertaining.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

A hint of things to come...

Life has been crazy for us the last couple of months. Natalie just finished with open enrollment, my company has grown a lot and I've been having to handle a handful of new client. Just wanted to throw a post up and let everybody know we're still alive and kicking. I will post some more work-in-progress pictures in the following days.

Here is this evening's entertainment. More to follow. Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

How to Keep the Dang Dogs Off the Couch

It all started one day when Maeby decided to make this couch her favorite place to keep warm.

Obviously we couldn't let her get away with it. We need to protect that couch! So we tried several things...

1) Scolding her only worked when she heard us coming to the room. That little turd knew she wasn't supposed to be on the couch! I guess the comfort just tempted her too much. If you think about it, she was a victim.

2) We tried covering the couch with towels... not so much to keep her off of the couch, but at least to keep her dog-ness funk off of the couch. (Oh, here's something I learned today that I never thought or hoped I would-- Gross alert, skip ahead if you are squeamish: Maeby has anal gland [gross alert on the link, too!!! EWWWW!]... issues. The vet said they were "very full" and then said that she had to poop. How gross is that? She actually SAW that our dog needed to poop. Kind of makes me want to throw up.)

Well, the towels didn't work because Maeby just treated them like blankets and scratched them out of the corners and plopped herself directly on the couch, bathing herself in towely-couchy luxury.

3) You can thank our friend Annie for this. She gave us the ultimate solution. Cheap. Easy. Non-destructive. I don't even have to harm the dogs. It's aluminum foil!

That's it! We just laid foil down over the cushions and the dogs hated it. I don't know if the sound or feeling just bothers them a lot or if they're scared or what, but it worked like a charm.

After a week or so of having foil all across the top of the couch, I was able to move to a more subtle approach-- just have the foil stick out from under the cushions as if it were about to attack them. It's really great. They won't even jump up on you to say hi anymore if you're sitting on the couch.

I'm hoping to scoot the foil under a little bit more every week until it's invisible and see if we can train them to stay off permanently.

Not only are the dog benefits great, but MAN it  is stylish. I'm thinking about entering some local interior design contests. Heck, fashion contests, too! I've already started work on my foil mankini. Pictures to follow.

Estate Sale Finds Part IV

Wow. This weekend was very kind to us. Natalie and I drove down to Waxahachie Saturday morning because Natalie saw that there was an estate sale just north of town. Unfortunately, it was just terrible.

So, a little bummed, we headed into downtown for lunch. We ate at the Chisholm Grill, which, as it turns out, was built in 1879.

Funny, because the whole time we were eating lunch I was trying to guess when exactly it was built-- the air conditioning was hanging just beneath the tin ceilings (late 1800s/early 1900s), the electrical wiring was all outside of the walls (which puts the building pre-1930's, by when most buildings came with electrical wiring).

Well, lunch was pretty delicious (we got the small portion cheeseburgers), so we wandered downtown for a few minutes and decided to head back home empty-handed.

Just before we got on the highway, Natalie decided she wanted to drive past her grandparent's old house in Ovilla, which is a few miles off of I35, about 30 minutes south of Dallas. So, we did, and I felt like a real creeper peering through the gate onto their old property.

A quick drive through downtown Ovilla (in which Walker, Texas Ranger has graced his presence for several episodes), and we were on our wait back home. BUT WAIT. I saw an estate sale sign on the side of the road. In the middle of nowhere. No, really. I mean it. The middle of nowhere. This was just meant to be.

Here we go.

Item: Rocking chair
Era: Manufactured in 1954 in Chicago. Natalie can't remember what company, but there was a label on it.
Favorite part: Grandma never, ever let anybody sit in it. It's in mint condition.
Price: $15

Item: Set of two bi-level (walnut?) end tables with inlaid wood design.
Era: Unknown. No markings. '60s?
Favorite part: They weigh about twice as much as I thought they would. Grandma also didn't let anybody put anything on these tables, so they are practically flawless.
Price: $50 for the set.

Item: Set of 2 table lamps. Wood with brass bands and tweed lamp shades.
Era: '60s
Favorite part: I don't know who decided lamps needed to be shaded by tweed, but I like them.
Price: $15 for the set

Item: Itsy-bitsy cutie lamp with glowing base
Era: '60s
Favorite part: It's itsy-bitsy and has a glowing base!
Price: $3. Yes, $3.

I'm going to have to split this into two different posts because we found so many awesome deals. I'll leave you with a full view of our "formal" living room. It looks pretty sweet so far, and our walls are still bare while we wait to paint before we hang anything up.


Monday, November 2, 2009

My Favorite Part of Halloween

For those of you who don't know, Jones Soda has limited edition flavors every Halloween, and they are generally delicious.

Natalie and I have started a yearly tradition of raiding the clearance bin at Target after Halloween. Natalie slipped into her I'm-at-a-boyband-concert-and-must-walk-faster-than-everybody-else mode after we walked in the store. I may have just a little bit, too.

Price: $9

Pictured above: 6560 calories and 1600 grams of sugar. Excellent.

Not only is our binge wildly unhealthy, but these little guys are just precious! A deadly combination.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Bedroom/Study Renovation Update

If you are interested in learning how to fix up your house (or anything, really), you can't be afraid of breaking anything. Here is the last few weeks of my life in pictorial form.

Step one: Destroy everything.

Step two: Get your tools ready.

My very first electrical work. I'm so proud.

My first piece of drywall to hang. It was a ceiling piece and I was all alone. I pre-drilled the screws so I could hold the piece to the ceiling with my head.

It worked!

This door is the reason I got myself into this big mess.

Door gone!

Note the broken closet next door to the left. I guess I can't blame the previous owner for installing it. He was cheap and it was 1994, so of course he would buy this door. It is literally being torn apart. I am not pleased.

Trim gone!

Door frame gone, new wall framed out. I'm also quite proud of this part.

Hint: If you ever find yourself hanging drywall by yourself (or with somebody else, for that matter), you want to keep the drywall off of the floor and have a clean, small gap with the drywall above. Just get your pry bar and push the drywall up and fasten the piece. Simple enough, right?

 It's like the door was never there. Cool, right?

Some more progress inside the room.I waited as long as I could to avoid the outlet holes. But I found a tip to help with those measurements.

Step one: Get your favorite lipstick and apply it around the outlet box.

Step two: Align your drywall, give it a good punch over the outlet. Cut along lipstick marks.

Next steps: sanding the ceiling, taping/bedding, texturing, tearing out carpet (this is Natalie's doing. I've been begging to remove the carpet from day one but nooooooooo).

So there you have it. I am learning a ton about how houses go together, how to use my awesome power tools, and how much fun you can have in a room with no electricity.

Craigslist Finds Part III

Item: 2 side tables marked "3712 LAMP TABLE"
Era: We think 1950's judging by the legs and markings.
Price: $65

I am really digging the bronze bars that hold up the drawers. These aren't the most amazing things we've ever found. They have a veneer surface and will need to be refinished, but otherwise they are in good shape and serve their purpose.

Expect more posts soon! Life has been crazy but we are finally starting to catch up.

Friday, October 30, 2009

AMAZING SOUP ALERT! (a.k.a How to Destale Your Chips)

Natalie got a bit snazzy the other day and decided to make us some incredible Black Bean Tomato Soup. It is about 10 minutes of prep work and maybe an hour and a half total time before you could be enjoying it.

It was worth a whole blog post.

Looks great, right? Well, it immediately would have been enjoyed, but we ran into a problem after the soup was prepared. It was our poor tortilla chips! They have been lonely for a while and had become stale. Being a part of the Google Generation, I quickly searched up a solution, and present my findings for your benefit.


This is a complicated process, so I'll break it out for you from the start:

Step 1. Get your chips from the store.
Step 2. Make them stale using your favorite methods.
Step 3. Put a napkin on a plate.
Step 4. Put said chips on said napkin.
Step 5. Microwave on high for 30-45 second.
Step 6. Enjoy the sizzling sound when you take the out of the microwave.
Step 7. Eat chips, being careful not to break them into those little triangles that a) scrape down your throat or b) wedge themselves just right on your wisdom-tooth-holes and make you cry a little bit.

Seriously, these chips were so delicious. I now feel guilty for having thrown out so many chips in my life.

Expect more posts on the house in the near future-- life has been insane for the past couple of weeks, but we're possibly starting to catch up.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The Renovations Start!

We will be getting the detailed quote from our contractor really soon. He sent me the the whole number so far. I knew it would be a lot, but man, it is a lot. I have been trying to think of ways to cut corners, but the items I had him quote us are things I don't want to mess with.

As soon as we get the quote, we'll post it with pictures and details. It will also kind of set a time line for us for the renovations.

Stay tuned for drywall pictures. Graham will be putting that up this weekend in the study.

And sorry for the silence - our lives have been crazy.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Estate Sale Finds Part III

I went to an estate to pick up a nesting bowl set I saw online, but came away with dishes instead.

Item: Universal Pottery Ballerina Style Plates, tea cups, saucers, creamer, sugar holder, etc.
Era: 1950's/1960's
Favorite part about it: These are just so darn cute!
Price: $25

I want to know what these plates are called! I want to complete the set. Graham and I have searched Google, Ebay, Etsy, and Craigslist and we can find NOTHING about this pattern. I do know the Ballerina is a style introduced by Universal Pottery in the 50s. I found some sets that have "names" and found another that does not. This is a set that does not have a "name."

From what I understand, Universal Pottery was founded in 1934 and closed its doors in 1955. They then changed their name and started manufacturing other items. One interesting thing I found out was that after they stopped producing dinner plates, Taylor Smith Taylor and a few other china companies began producing some of their patterns. I guess I found that interesting since I own an almost completed set of Taylor Smith Taylor plates from the 1950's. They were my grandmother's and I heart them.

From what I can tell, the only way to figure out what my Ballerina set pattern is called is to get my hands on this book:

No book stores around here have this book. No libraries either. I do not want to buy it. I just want to find the page with these plates on it. Am I allowed to buy it, do that, and return it? A little unethical, huh? *sigh* I'll probably end up buying it along with the Collector's Pyrex book I want.

Finally, I think this is just adorable since Graham says he doesn't like the dogs...


Note from Graham: Natalie asked me to proofread this post and I'd like to clarify that I did not, in fact, actually enjoy cuddling with the dogs. I'm just a good actor.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

How to Fix Your Old Radio (and get fat while you're at it!)

Natalie and I picked up a mid-century coffee table/radio/record player combo a few months ago. When I turned the radio on, it wasn't broken per se, but there was a loud buzzing/humming sound. As I've learned from my research, this is called "the 60hz hum." I may have made up the official phrase, but I think I've earned that authority from what I've accomplished. The electricity from the power lines is delivered in what's called alternating current, or AC-- which, for we non-electricians, means that the electricity looks something like the picture to the right.

Most electronics depend on direct current, or DC-- which is a constant flow of the same amount of energy. So, one way to convert AC power to something closer to DC power is through the use of capacitors. (If you'd like to learn a little more about this, have a look at this video, it's actually quite interesting.) If a capacitor fails, then it just sends through the alternating current and the effect on a set of speakers is a low pitched humming or buzzing sound.

Well, you ask, how might one solve this problem, oh wise electronics expert? An anonymous reader shared a bit of his or her expertise in the following comment:

If you're handy with a soldering pencil ($10 at radio shack, get a 30-watt), you can easily replace the capacitors yourself. There are many videos on youtube that will guide you through it, as well as dozens of experts on who will help you with the restoration. New parts are easy to obtain via The hum is indicative of a vacuum tube set -- it's important to replace these capacitors soon as running the set with the aging parts will potentially fail as a "short circuit" causing firworks and potentially taking out irreplacable coils with it. Excellent find any way you look at it!

oops one more thing on the capacitor replacement. Choosing the new parts is easy -- just look for paper/wax "tootsie roll" looking parts on the chassis. They'll have numbers on them like ".01 uF / 350V". the uF indicates the size, the V indicates the voltage rating. Just get the identical part values (both numbers should match on the replacement) from The "hum" you hear is the large filter caps, which look like a hair roller in a metal or cardboard can (usually something like "47uF / 450V", a larger number than above). This is a common age-related problem. Don't be afraid to learn! I taught myself by reading and have restored many old radios over the years!
Thank you so much for this information! So I got right on the problem and did a bit more research on my own. First things first, I needed to crack open the ol' radio.

Behold, the much coveted wax tootsie roll (which doesn't sound particularly delicious...)! I've found over the years of trying to fix (i.e. tearing stuff apart) is that you will not learn anything if you're afraid to break it. Step 1 in my case: recklessly take a pair of scissors to the wax tootsie roll.

Continuing to follow the advise from our wonderful reader, I took a gander at the roll and saw 6 bits of important information-- this tootsie roll contains 3 capacitors, all with different ratings. 100MFD, 300VDC on red, 75VDC, 300VDC on blue, and 70MDF, 25VDC on green. uF (which means microfarad... which means...I don't think we need to explore this any further) and MFD mean the same thing and VDC (Voltage Direct Current) and "V" mean the same thing, so if you're looking for new parts, just know those are interchangeable.

So, just search those numbers and you're all set, right? Not quite. Capacitors have a lot of possible values and I wasn't able to find an exact match. Never fear, here is a website that tells you what's an acceptable range for replacement.

So, I then had to wait (very impatiently) for the new parts to arrive. Here is how I waited...

Grilled Ribeye Sirloin Steak with Onion-Blue Cheese Sauce, sweet potatoes (an impulse decision by yours truly... they just sounded good), a salad with homemade orange oil and vinegar dressing, pineapple and avocado (which, if pronounced with a Spanish accent, sounds strikingly similar to "have a cow").

That's right-- we used a whole stick of butter on dinner. It was worth every calorie. Unbelievably good.

Hi, I'm being cute. Can I have some?

He got a little bite from his food bowl. How could we resist? (P.S. How cliché am I? Blog? Check. Pictures of your animal? Check. Captions on photos of your dog with what you think they say? Check. Oh dear, I've become what I hated.)

The new capacitors came in today and I got to work immediately.

 Yes. It's sloppy-- even looks like I planted a tiny bomb (aww, cute little guy). I forgot how terrible I am at soldering.

But-- you won't be able to see the sloppy job. Instead, enjoy the beautiful glowing ruby-shaped LED.

It's alive! No more buzz. (Note: See "FM Stereo"? Looks like this puts our unit somewhere around the early 1960's as FM Stereo system wasn't approved by the FCC until 1961)

And now that we're all tuckered out, it's time to get some sleep. We let it all hang out here on Chadwell Drive.