Tag Archives: moving

My Income Is Risen!

I’m a little late to the party with posting that joke. But anyways, Easter was moving day in the Crooked House! So we met after brunch and I went to get stuff out of her old place. I’m pretty flattered that she wanted to come to the Crooked House because just look at this giant Mediterranean Revival twin in West Philly where she used to live! LOOK! I want this house so bad.

The leaded glass! That fireplace! The gas sconces! Original bathroom tile! Everything! But I’m not sure about having 7 roommates. And the bathroom has new plumbing that was rigged on the outside of the walls and I’m sure there’s a host of other hidden problems too. So it was probably a good life choice that I got a small house.

Anyways, by the time we got to my house, my parents were already there. My mom made dinner while we were going back to return the van and after that we came in to this!


I’d like to think that print on the wall gives me a whole window in the dining room. It was a gift from my French host family in 2004 when I was in high school. The real window gives me light and air but overlooks a dingy blind alley. It also reminds me of my roof deck envy. I just don’t see any good way to get up there, but it’s a similar view. Particularly a little more to the left where there’s a handsome church.


And then there was all the prep for having someone live here. First off, we’ve finally, FINALLY gotten somewhere with the painting! I touched up all the damage on the walls in the back bedroom, put up blinds, and took out some of my furniture. And 3 out of 4 closets are done! I especially have to thank my parents and their friend Evan. Evan came to paint for me even though he never did it in his own house. He told me that he’s no good at it, so I had him do the closet. And he worked in there for 8 hours like a champ and even offered to come back a second time. Weird. And I put up the wood blinds and cleared out the room because she brought a full size bed. It covers all this bare floor but totally works.


Then, would you believe what a difference clean windows make? The front ones have survived the whole remodel plus I’m sure many years of neglect before that. My dad was mocking me pretty hard for how bad they were. The house is actually brighter now.


And the stained glass transom is clear now! Who knew? My mom had this made for her first house. She said that she had it made by a local stained glass maker. He told her he couldn’t make it the way he wanted for her price. She wouldn’t come up, so he made it the way he wanted and undercharged her instead of toning down the design to fit her budget.


It hasn’t been properly displayed in over 30 years. Now she said it’s in a better spot than it ever had. I get a disco ball effect when the vestibule light is on!

Stained Glass Disco Ball.jpg

I’ve run out of room to tell you about the super exciting kitchen work. Soon though!



How hard can it be to get a couch into a rowhouse?

I mean, I knew my front door was narrow. Then I learned that authentic 18th Century furniture doesn’t have legs that come off. So I knew I was bringing it in the back. That means bringing it up through the alley from the street 60 feet away. No big deal, right? The alley is narrower than the sofa, but it’s only lined with 6 foot walls, so it just means holding it up above your head. My mom’s friend offered to come so she could ride in on it wearing Elizabeth Taylor as Cleopatra eye makeup.

Before we could bring it in, the patio door had to come out. I had the foresight to contact the sales rep my distributor was in touch with and he sent me instructions to take the panels out. Because this isn’t something that normal people do.

patio door instructions.png

The really aggravating part here was cutting out the caulk all the way around that door panel. And for that you get a super exciting short video of me cutting out the caulk.

Then on to actually bringing it in. Remember what I said about the 6 foot walls? Well, that’s true after the first pair of houses. Right next to the street, the house on the right has a 7 foot wall plus barbed wire on the street side. And the house on the left is built all the way to the alley with a wall way to high to pass anything over. And if that’s not bad enough, the phone lines are all droopy and criss crossing the alley everywhere. Yayy.


So we needed chairs and a ladder. My friend sat on the wall and lifted the wires up so we could push the couch through under them. 2 other friends stood on the sidewalk lifting it as high as they could to pass it to us.


And then part way through someone was smart enough to think of covering the wall with blankets. This was revolutionary because we could set it down on the stringers halfway onto someone else’s property.

Displaying image1.JPGDisplaying image1.JPGcouch in alley

And then after this it was easier for a bit. But you see we had more power lines to cross. Then finally we took it through 2 other people’s back yards, which was so much better. Just not the one you can see above because the whole yard is completely full of junk.

And… In it went!


But let’s back up a bit before you get too excited about how my living room looks.


I’ll need to clean off the residue from when the phone lines rubbed against it and then cover it with sheets before I use the saws again. We also broke the guys off some of the phone lines. My friend said he’d help me reattach them and I said no. I accept no responsibility for the disgraceful state of those lines. If I’m feeling generous, I’ll call them and tell them to come clean it up themselves.

But it’s out of the way before my parents get their Christmas tree. Or, before they bring it in. Look what’s on their driveway now.


Another Delay, What’s New?

Last week, the Irishman made me a big request and a big promise. Could I hire him all week? And if so, I’d have all the woodwork in the house installed along with all the kitchen cabinets, the countertops, the sink, the vestibule door, and strike plates for all the doorknobs by today. How much did he actually do? Nothing.

Mind you, he has had some difficult things happening lately. So I knew that there was a reasonable chance that this promise was outrageously unrealistic. But “Kitchen Friday” was also a powerful drug. The high was magnificent, but 3 days of it clouded my judgment. Meaning, it made me believe that this thing was actually happening and that I should stay away and not work on the place myself. Needless to say, coming down from this high made me irritable.

So the old plan from last week was to have 2 weeks to paint baseboards and make other finishing touches at a not-too-frantic pace, furnish the bedrooms as the get finished, and bring the sofa into a nearly complete house on the 5th. That last part is still happening. My sofa can stay where it is until my parents get ready to decorate for Christmas. The major adjustments are the not-too-frantic part and the nearly complete part.

The old plan was that I was going to prep and get rid of random crap tomorrow and Sunday my parents would join me and do lots of cleaning and start painting trim. The new plan is I’m installing baseboards and other trim all day tomorrow, my dad will prep and touch-up-paint Sunday, my mom will do all the cleaning by herself, and I’ll focus on getting rid of random crap. That’s right, my way of coping with all this is to dump more work on my parents. Son of the year I am.

So the goal is shrinking. I still hope to paint all the trim in the back bedroom except the windows. They can wait until it’s warm next year. I want to at least get the front bedroom’s trim in but could wait till Phase 2 when the room gets major rework to paint it. And in the living room, one radiator is going in without baseboards behind it. Which is sad, but I can’t get the baseboards in until after the kitchen is done and bringing the electric radiators back would be even sadder.

So now I’m back on the stick. In 2 weeks I should have sorta finished bedrooms, a thoroughly unfinished kitchen, and a really pretty wood shop with a nice couch in it. I still hope to have a Christmas party, but I’m giving myself till the 12th Night.

The Archaeological Dig Begins

Having all the floors done at once may have saved me money, but I also had to plan ahead for years to have the house empty now. And then I was ridiculously late with everything and now it’s time to stop doing this to my poor parents.



So even though I can’t really furnish the house yet, I’ve started to bring things in. I also brought things up from my own basement. What, did you think my living room was done being a wood shop? But it’s better than it was.


I thought my sofa had to go first because when we couldn’t get it into the basement or any of the bedrooms it invaded the holy of holies. But my mom’s friends were impressed and now she says let it stay till the Christmas tree is going up.


But in their basement where the hoard is really bad, I borrowed a friend’s Suburban and loaded it up with bedroom furniture. Nothing to big to move around.


And the basement already looks a little better! That secretary desk didn’t fit in the truck, but Moving Day number 2 is this weekend again.



Getting that first round of stuff out was like working with a puzzle. The next round, when I’ll want some things from the back, should hopefully make it look like a real room.

So then there’s the real work. I had a snag with the baseboards. Back up in the front bedroom where it was impossible to attach anything to the wall. No surprises here.


I tried driving trim head screws into the brick but none of them held. So then I tried screwing them down into the floors, but the screws sucked the boards in so much at the bottom the tops pulled out. Then I tried a whacky idea of shimming out the bottoms with little pieces of dowel to prevent them from sucking in too far. This sorta almost worked.


I’m also getting geared up for the rest of my kitchen! So I mapped out the rest of the cabinet layout and picked them up! And I got a pleasant surprise. At IKEA, you put the drawer fittings in after the cabinet frames. This was really, really fantastic news because I can’t afford the drawers. So for now I’m going to have a copy room look with stacks of boxes in open cabinets with no shelves or drawers. It’s gonna be awesome.

Then I went to the ReStore and picked up some inoffensive Formica countertops for 50 bucks. I’m gonna have to cut them up to make them fit so they’re probably not gonna look quite right. But they’ll be usable!


And anyways, it looks like I’m getting some more Irishman help soon. I think. One can never be certain. But if he does come, I’m really, really almost there!

When are you going to get everything out of the basement?

“I mean including the things from Nana that aren’t even going to be yours?”

That’s a loaded question, Mom. I might be ready to answer it, but the answer is long. She’s talking about the things that we boxed up both times my grandmother moved in the last 5 years. Moving her was chaotic enough so we wound up with some of her stuff to deal with, well you know… half past never.


The plan is to start going through all that stuff in their basement… but first I have to make room by taking the things I do want. Which means that it’s all tied to my schedule and I think someone’s had enough. I’ve been wrong about my move in date so many times it’s become a sore subject, but it looks like I might have the skeleton of a realistic timeline.

To start, the floor finisher penciled me in for the 9th! I’m getting help from the Irishman this weekend and banging out the remaining bigger jobs. That means the threshold at the back door and the cove molding under the stairs. Plus as many smaller jobs as we can fit in. And then I’ll have 8 more days to finish odds and ends. 8 days!!!

So what next? I think I’ll be allowed in my own house again by the 11th or 12th. I’ll have through the 13th to unpack the basement and procure the 1×6’es I need for my baseboards. (The other trim work used more wood than I accounted for, unsurprisingly.) And I can set the Irishman loose on the house the 14th and 15th do do as much trim work as humanly possible outside the kitchen. That means that Monday the 16th I should in theory be able to bring the first round of furniture into the bedrooms. This dresser is down there but it’s in the back.

bedroom dresser

So back to my parents’ basement. Right now there’s a path to the laundry room. So the plan will be to fill our friends’ Suburban with as much as we can take in one trip of things I definitely want that are cluttering their house now. That means mostly furniture but I might take cookware and some other stuff too. I don’t know what I have or where anymore.

Then we can start to plan for the second round of stuff. This piece was in my grandmother’s dining room, but can go in my back bedroom… once my dad transfers his random crap to the matching hutch.

buffet and rug

Which brings us to somewhere around Thanksgiving. At this point, I’m hoping there’s room to open the table and use the basement to go through Christmas ornaments while my sister is home. Neither of us needs to buy any. Will I have a tree this year? We’ll figure that one out later. I’m also hoping that the Irishman will be up for spending Thanksgiving weekend fitting out my kitchen. Because he doesn’t like to sit still and I want a kitchen like you wouldn’t believe.

So back to my mom’s question: we might have my clutter out and be ready to go through the rest in December, but I can’t see starting in earnest until January. Let’s cross our fingers that we can have a spring yard sale. Or is that crazy talk?

The Runaway Train and the Armoire

Now, one of the jobs I gave to the Irishman, along with all the trim in my house, was to spruce up the inside of that red armoire (that’s now white). My grandmother picked it up for 10 bucks back in the 60’s. The drawers were missing and the fronts were just nailed on. My grandfather painted it (twice) and fitted it with some rudimentary shelves. But while we were at it working on my house, why not put in good, sturdy, adjustable shelves? Then my mom can put her teacher stuff inside it. And when she retires, it’ll look good enough to go back to holding tchotchkes. Here it is, along with my not yet married parents, 30 years ago.

Mom and Dad with red armoire

I told him that my mom wanted it done by the end of the month. Lots of relatives are coming to visit in August and my mom wants her teacher stuff inside it by then. He took me at my word and had it done in about 3 days. And while he was finishing up, he called me. A lot.

“I tell ya, there was a lotta work in it,” he told me over the phone. The sides were crooked and he had to square them up for the adjustable shelving I asked for. Whoops! I would have just had him install fixed shelves had I known. But it’s done now and done well. The inside is all cabinet grade plywood and the shelves have solid poplar nosings.

And then he decided to build drawers out of scraps. The bottoms are the thin particle board that I bought to protect my living room floors.

I felt pretty good about all of this… until I counted up the time he spent on it. Because one of the next things for me to do was to tell my mom what this job was going to cost her. I decided to put it off. I’d pay him myself and hold off until she could see how good it looked. Maybe that way she wouldn’t be too upset, right?

But it grated at me for the rest of that day, so I didn’t waste too much time. The next time I saw my mom, I cautiously broached the subject. “Hey Mom, I didn’t get you anything for your birthday. I was thinking I might… subsidize the armoire work for you.”

But when I told her his price, she laughed. Called it the world’s worst investment. And told me that there was no way she’d let me take any kind of a hit from pay for any of it.

I pointed out that a dishwasher will last about 10 years. 20 if the manufacturer screwed up. (Yes, I believe that planned obsolescence is a thing.) So on the bright side, if the armoire costs as much as a dishwasher but lasts 5 or 10 times as long, it’s far from the world’s worst investment. Right?

So I borrowed a big car from some friends and drove through the EZ pass lane with no transponder. Then got to have an awkward conversation with them about the ticket that’s gonna get mailed to their house. Then I opened the tailgate and the shelves fell on my foot and, worse, got dented on the asphalt.

And then it gets better. With all this new plywood added to it, the piece got really heavy. And it didn’t fit up the stairs. So my dad partially dismantled it (and damaged the paint) and then did this epic job wrapping up the banister.


And this even better job with the ceiling light upstairs.


And at long last, here it is in its new, (temporary?) not-quite-finished, chipped-up state.