Tag Archives: south philly

Farther Down the Front Door Rabbit Hole

I really should have been starting the kitchen, but that got held up this weekend so instead I decided to go to Philadelphia Salvage. Just to look for a skeleton key for the vestibule door and set screws for some old porcelain door knobs. Really, that’s all I was looking for.

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But, no luck. The few keys they had didn’t fit my lock and I couldn’t find set screws in the right size. My dad has a tap and die set though so I’ll get set screws and make them fit. Oh, did I mention I browsed the door aisle? But there were no exterior doors narrower than 30 inches. The guy there said that the kinda Art Deco doors seen on narrow houses in South Philly are called Hollywood doors and that they get them occasionally.

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“What does occasionally mean?” I asked. “Because I’m trying to decide if I want to spruce up a door I don’t like that much.”

He said it’s a craps shoot. Anyways, back home I went. But after 4 years abstaining from the door aisle… I needed more. And, there’s… another salvage yard. Better yet, this one has more exterior doors! This blue door was just about the right size. I was ready to jump on it, until I noticed that it’s half rotten, that the fancy ledge below the glass is just a piece of contemporary chair rail, and that most of the panel sticking is missing with caulk in its place. I may as well just buy a new door at that point. Neeeext.

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Then this one. It’s 28 1/4″ wide. I was hyperventilating now. All I’d have to do is make it a quarter inch wider and it would fit in the jamb I already have!

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Then I saw the next one, which is identical. And it’s tagged “$800/pair.” My heart sank. I had already planned out spending the rest of my life with this door. So I asked, “Don’t guess you’d let me have just the one for $400?”

No dice. But really, I shouldn’t be spending $400 on a door, so all the better. This set would never, ever work, but I want it anyway.

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Then I saw this one. It’s fitted with a mirror but it looks way to thick to be a closet door. And on the back side, the mirror is held in with nice glass bead. I said, “This looks like a front door! And it’s only 30 inches wide!”

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Alas, 30″ is still not 28 1/2″ and the stiles aren’t nearly wide enough to cut that much off. And home I went, thinking about that plan to spruce up the front door that is all of a sudden way less exciting than it used to be. I meant to take a nap, but instead I spent an hour on my phone looking at photos from streets department work on PhillyHistory.org, a mapping website that allows users to search for, view by location, and purchase thousands of historic photographs dating back to the late nineteenth century.

I’m sorry for destroying your productivity for the day. (philageohistory.org does the same thing with maps. Sorry again and/or you’re welcome.)

I said before that truly original doors are extinct in South Philly. I wouldn’t even know what they look like. The “Hollywood doors” are the oldest I’ve ever seen there. But in among photos of curbs, sewers, and excavation for the Broad Street Subway…

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Colorado Street, above, is very much like mine. And that house with the picture window appears to have… an original door! But now look below, in the 800 Block of Moore Street. This is a slightly fancier house type than mine but I guess not that far off. Note that the oldest doors all seem to have more glass than pretty much anything today.

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The 2300 Block of Federal Street, farther west, still retained 4 original doors in a row in 1956!

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And all I could think about was a door that I had passed over. It was old, but with 2 panels at the bottom and 2 panes of glass at the top, it was looking less like a back door and more like something precious and rare. It was all I could think about. And the next day I was back at Provenance again.

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But what’s this to the right of the door I was talking about? A basically identical door, in slightly better shape,  without the horizontal muntin that I don’t like. At 29 3/4″ wide and 83″ tall, this door needs to be cut about an inch narrower and 3 inches shorter. That has me a little skittish. But the guy liked me. He told me he could let me have it for $80 because it’s missing its glass, and so my new car lost its door-ginity.

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So, I hope this door works out. It would mean that my monomania got us somewhere yesterday.

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Baby’s First Christmas

 

This isn’t what I meant…

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No, 2016 was my first time hosting holiday dinner, so I feel very grown up!

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And I decided to pretend to be Italian because I live in South Philly (even though my part is more southeast Asian than Italian now). I went all out and served the Seven Fishes on Christmas Eve. What is this? Catholics believe that you should strengthen your faith through self-deprivation by not having meat on Fridays or the eves of religious holidays, and Italians made a tradition of following the letter of this rule by preparing the most over-the-top decadent seafood dinner humanly possible. I made baccala, salt dried cod with tomato sauce, and lobster bisque. There was a pack of stuffed clams in my freezer after I got them on sale at Aldi 2 months ago, so I finally used them up, and my dad made seafood pasta with a white wine broth, one of his signature dishes, with 4 more kinds of seafood. Some people said that’s cheating but we say close enough. I did follow the rule that Italians really care about and made about twice as much food as we needed.

Then there’s a little Crooked House inside the Crooked House now – my roommate made one out of gingerbread! I said she should have printed tiny little political statements for the rainbow candy in the windows but we’ll call it close enough. She wanted to build it to be broken open like a piñata but she forgot to bake a roof so she just

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And because this post is a bit of a catchall, I’ll show you a renovation-related gift I gave my parents this year. Their house was built really nicely in 1951. Alth0ugh it’s kind of nice to have a newish house that was built for TV’s and not for a kitchen maid, theirs was sadly built with flush doors and ordinary looking hardware. Then around 1990 (I think) someone downgraded the doors to the flimsiest hollow paneled doors I’ve ever seen. But at least they don’t have a faux woodgrain embossed into them. My dad has been very slowly replacing them with solid (veneered, finger-jointed pine doors. And by slowly I mean about one door every 5 years on average. Remember, solid pine doors are $60 more than the cardboard ones, so if you have a large house with any upgrades at all and you have these doors… I won’t say what I’m thinking. I’m nice like that. (This is their hallway by the way.)

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Back again to door hardware because it’s the most important thing… they still had the flimsy circa 1990 Kwikset knobs even though the house had nice doors for the first time. They can’t have awesome vintage hardware with skeleton keys like I have, so I sought out the best modern hardware I could find. I happen to know that my mom loved the circa 1930’s Georgian brass knobs in my back bedroom.

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And so when I was deciding between plain enough to be appropriate for a postwar house and conspicuously fancy, I went with the Waverly handleset from Emtek.

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I got them 3 so they can have good hardware in the downstairs hall. That covers what other people see at least. The tragedy of having to buy these new might preclude ever getting them throughout the house but that’s life.

So How’d That Beer Tour Go?

I bet you want to know how the tour/party went, but first one of the last things I did to clean for it. In contrast to what I talked about hearing from my steps last week, the steps themselves wasn’t white enough. It used to be a thing that everyone would scrub their marble steps every week. (This photo is Baltimore, whose rowhouses are an awful lot like Philly’s.)

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The plan was always to start this tradition back up after I was done lugging building materials in but… that never happened. Anyways, my mom had bought me Comet cleanser ages ago, but I wanted Bon Ami. Not because it’s any better or anything but remember that big photo of my great-great grandmother?

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Well, she lived about 500 feet away and she used Bon Ami. But I went to 2 stores and neither had it, so Comet it is. So here’s what I started with:

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And here it was after the Comet. Much better but some persistent black stains still ground in.

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Then out comes the Irishman and he says, “I’ll get that off for you in 10 seconds.” And he sprayed them with muriatic acid. This is NOT one of the recommended techniques for restoring historic masonry. So it was scary, especially when the marble started fizzing. But here’s the result!

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Then the Irishman did his own marble – not the original slabs like I have. This time I got a photo of the fizzing.

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And, never a dull moment, he hosed off his car just in case. THANK GOD it was his parked right here in case anything had happened! Also note his signature lack of personal protective equipment when working with dangerous chemicals.

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Then the inside prep. We took away most of the furniture. I said early on that I didn’t want my grandmother’s table because it has a leg in every spot you’d want a chair. I guess I forgot how great a gate leg table is for something like this. And the menu. My mom said that the things other people planned didn’t include enough vegetables so I made massive amounts of hummus, baba ganoush, red lentil balls, and crudités. And remember, it makes all the difference in the world to blanch your crudités. Quench them in an ice water bath so they stay crunchy. The colors are way brighter this way and I’d say the flavor is too.

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The Indonesian place around the corner (One of the places that were indispensable when I was kitchenless) provided a platter of vegetable fritters. And of course the fried food is what went. Now I’m planning every way possible to use up half a shopping cart’s worth of vegetables. And then there was how the guests fit. Definitely pushing the limits of what the Crooked House can hold. Just don’t tell the fire marshal I did this.

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Obligatory bottleneck in the kitchen. The keg was out back. Some people said my kitchen design was too closed in, but I don’t think it’ll ever matter this much again (Unless I’m a beer tour host next year).

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But all this make ahead, room temperature food (and the help of my parents and aunt) let me go to every house. Even though our visits to the houses before (seen below) and after mine were cut short.

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I should keep this entertaining thing now.

 

 

 

On Deplorable Screeds and Window Dressing

I write about problems like my terror of having the back exterior stuccoed in a texture that doesn’t look old. Sure, there are real problems that I care about, but there’s always someone who knows more about them than I do. And aside from what I know well enough to write about it, avoiding controversy is an important way to stay happy day to day.

Then on Saturday there was a canvasser coming around to register voters. My dad and I were chatting with him a bit when a neighbor let out an unhinged screed of misogynistic insults and unhooded racism, as well as bad words including the one that’s been all over the news this past week. You can ask me to e-mail you if I’m being too subtle. My standards are lower in a closed message. But it gets worse. He had the Irishman’s 3 and 5 year olds with him. Hopefully they didn’t pick up on all of it.

My roommate was downstairs, too, at this point. The three of us just stood there. I said something snippy at the end but didn’t stick around to find out if he heard me. Standing there might have been the way to put this situation to bed but I’ve been stewing over it ever since. But what would be worth doing? Saying nothing was bad but saying something could be oh so much worse. In the end all I could come up with was, well, window dressing.

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I’d say the signs lend a little class to my grotty façade. Now I can’t take credit for the orange Halloween lights; that’s my roommate’s doing. But I am proud of the DIY typesetting job I did for the sign on the right (which shouldn’t be controversial by the way). Microsoft Word really isn’t made for this. And after being on a war path for a couple days I think I’m ready to have an argument if I must. After all, this screed wasn’t just disgusting. I’ve sung my praises of this tidy little block and seeing someone chased off of it with the most disgusting insults possible is downright embarrassing. Plus, those kids next door may have to hear more than their share of ugliness, but it can’t hurt to throw a little wholesome discourse into the mix.

Well. I’ve drifted really, really far from the intended point of this blog. Next week I’ll be back to normal things like the missing parts to my vintage light fixtures. I promise.

Opening the Crooked House to the Public!

I’m gonna be on a house tour! Or actually better than that, a beer tour. This one will be especially interesting because the whole group moves from house to house on a schedule. That means I can expect about 70 people. And remember, this room is basically the whole house.

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So this should be interesting. But I’m excited. Also I’m relieved to be early enough that if it spills onto the sidewalk people won’t hate me.

And because I’m sure you’re either dying to come (or devastated to be too far away), here’s the event information!

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The East Point Breeze Neighbors Association (Formerly Newbold Neighbors) will be hosting their 10th annual ‘Beer Tour’ fundraiser on October 15th. The wildly successful and fun event attracts about 100 attendees each year.  The Beer Tour is a wonderful opportunity to meet new neighbors, eat great food, drink delicious beer, and tour some of the wonderful homes in the Newbold area.

Starting at 5:00 on Saturday, October 15th, we will journey through 5 different houses in the neighborhood.  Each house will feature food paired with 2 different beers. At the first house, each ticket holder will receive a pint glass designed by a local neighborhood artist, a map outlining the remaining homes and the beginnings of a good time. This event is 21+, so please bring your ID and make sure to buy your tickets in advance as the Beer Tour always sells out early.

East Point Breeze Neighbors is a non-profit civic organization established in 2007 serving residents, owners, and businesses in the Point Breeze area of South Philadelphia west of Broad St. to 18th St. and south of Washington Ave. to Passyunk Ave. EPBN strives to engage residents, support sustainable development, promote local businesses, and strengthen our community through clean streets, greening efforts, public safety, planning, zoning, and outreach. The money raised on the beer tour goes toward community efforts like Big-Belly trash cans, block clean up days, and supplies for the community garden.

Event Details

Who: East Point Breeze Neighbors Association

What: 2016 East Point Breeze Beer Tour

When: Saturday, October 15, 2016 5-10pm

Where:  Newbold section of Point Breeze

Why: Meet your neighbors and help raise funds for community improvement projects.

How: Buy your tickets through this link: https://www.universe.com/events/10th-annual-east-point-breeze-neighbors-beer-tour-tickets-YGN1L4

There will be a 50/50 so please bring some cash.

Of Mice and Bloodlust

I went home Monday after 4 nights with my parents. It was kind of late when I got home and I was tired so I put off unloading non-perishable groceries until right before my bedtime. And then I noticed green dust coating most of the bottom of the cabinet. It was always a little dirty – some onion skins dropped in the back behind the carousel and I ignored them, figuring they were harmless. This was obviously different, being everywhere and an unsettling color. Then I noticed what looked an awful lot like a tail sticking out underneath a bag of split peas.

As you can imagine, my bedtime got pushed back. All of my bagged and boxed food wound up in the trash or in pots and pans with the lid on. I needed the roommate’s help to lift the carousel up and clean under it. Yes, somehow the chewed up split peas made it all the way underneath.

I got to bed crabby but had a wonderful dream. In it, I got all the adult mice with snap traps, but their babies were too small. But I lifted up that carousel and found them there, huddled together. The adults were chewing up the split peas and tossing them down there to them. I smashed the whole lot of them with a dictionary. I seem to also remember chasing after them with my chef knife.

Back in the real world, I’ve had superfun outings to buy food storage canisters, mousetraps, and those electric mouse repellent things. The Irishman told me that they worked brilliantly at his house, which might have something to do with why they’re at mine now. We’ve noticed much less activity lately than Monday when it seemed to have peaked. But… the peanut butter I’ve been putting on the traps is now attracting ants! Oh joy.

All this is adding up to me becoming a lot more cold blooded than I used to be. Not that I’ll actually start running around the house driving knives after them – that would be crazy and make a wreck of the house. In the beginning my stomach would drop when I found a sprung trap. Now I find them less gross than dog poop, and I pick them up the same way. If I had another one sitting still in front of me there’s a good chance I’d pin it down and smashing its skull with a can of soup. I’d bleach the can but have no problem eating it either. And when I was in bed last night and heard a snap, I just smiled. My kill count is at 5 and is slowing down.

Anyways, I have over a dozen mouse traps out. There are ant baits next to most of them. And there’s fly tape up because apparently pests come in 3’s. This was by far my most expensive week since I stopped working on the house. But now my pantry holds more than ever, and it almost even looks good! Plus, this could be an early step toward my goal of buying more bulk food and less packaging.

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For the record, I’m not actually a sadist. I’m still unwilling to use glue traps. Hopefully there will be more to say about my house soon. At this point, it’s basically unchanged since June. Except my plants are dead. Womp womp.

All the best cheap food is in South Philly

With the Democratic National Convention 2 weeks away, South Philly is likely to get a lot of tourists. So for the underpaid political people among you, I’ve done the no money, no kitchen thing. And by now I’m good at it.

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And congrats on being sent to South Philly of all places! Here are all the best places to a good meal for less than 10 bucks, as far as I learned during my 2 years of storing building materials receipts in the oven. I’m not trying to rank these places so I’m presenting them in the order I found out about them. Broad Street Subway stations included for your reference. Also, Passyunk Avenue is pretty much lined with great expensive restaurants, so the deep pocketed among you would do well to check out the area too.

Paesano’s

There are 2, one on the Italian Market and one at Front and Girard in Fishtown/No Libs. Great sorta-Italian sandwiches. Mostly hot but there are some cold hoagies on the menu too. Portion size is decidedly not European and sometimes I’d feel better only eating half. If it’s crowded, there are picnic tables at Bardascino Park a block away. They close early. Kinda far from the subway but about a 15 minute walk to Center City, and the Italian Market is fun to check out anyway. BYOB. The one on Girard is right next to the El (more formally the Market-Frankford Line).

Los Gallos

My favorite Mexican restaurant in Philly, it was more a bodega than a restaurant when I went there the first time. The canned goods are gone and now it has actual décor and a full menu but don’t be fooled. The tacos and simpler items are as cheap and great as ever. BYOB. 6 blocks from Snyder, or a 20 minute walk from the stadiums.

Hardena/Waroeng Surabaya

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Don’t be deterred by the bars on the windows. This is the oldest (I think) of many cheap and good Indonesian restaurants in the area, the bulk of their menu is stewy dishes that they’ll ladle out with rice. Also have good salad meals, soups, and satay (skewers). BYOB, 2 blocks from the Tasker-Morris. More here.

Nick’s Roast Beef 

Basically a dive bar with a restaurant’s name. Old school vibe. Hand carved roast beef and other meats. Tasty gravy with lots of garlic. Good prices on beer. Vegetarian options are limited. 6 blocks from Snyder.

Gennaro’s Tomato Pie 

Kinda fancy as pizzerias go but I’d do backflips for the thin, crunchy, slightly charred crust and non-excessive amount of cheese you’ll get here. The house salad is old school with a bity red wine vinaigrette. A salad and a pizza are just right for 2. Cash only, BYOB. 3 blocks from Tasker-Morris. Note: I haven’t been here since they moved and enlarged their menu. http://www.philly.com/philly/blogs/the-insider/Gennaros-moves-to-Passyunk-Square.html

South Philadelphia Tap Room

The anchor of gentrification in my neighborhood, has a good selection of craft beers and great food. Happy hour is 4-6 on weekdays and gets you half off local drafts and appetizers. The appetizers tend to be greatly varied and include things from all 5 food groups, including the ones that aren’t fats oils and sweets. 2 usually make a good dinner. Scramble in with a big group group and order the whole appetizer list and 2 beers each at 5:55. It’s the classy way to do it. 3 blocks from Snyder or Tasker-Morris.

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Artisan Boulanger-Patissier

The couple that own this place were born in Cambodia, learned to bake in France, and then were kind enough to put the best French bakery in Philadelphia 3 blocks from my house. The banh mi (tofu, ham, or pork belly and vegetable sandwiches) are superb. Also great pastries and strong coffee. It’s popular with the French expat community. 4 blocks from Tasker-Morris or Snyder. Cash only, BYOB.

Tap Room on 19th 

Similar place to the other tap room. Burger Mondays make them one of the best bargains in the city. All burgers are half off all day on Mondays, so get grass fed beef from a small farm in New Jersey or a solid homemade veggie burger for the price of a Big Mac. They have $2 tacos sold a la carte on Tuesdays also, which are pretty good but not as authentic as Los Gallos. 8 blocks from Snyder or Oregon, or a 20 minute walk from the stadiums.

El Soto

Definitely my favorite bodega in the neighborhood, this place is tidy and as a participant in Philly’s Healthy Corner Stores initiative, it has actual produce and stuff. But you’re there for the deli. Mostly classic Italian-American style hoagies and panini. They have homemade pesto and roasted vegetables too. My favorite is the Mexican-Italian fusion enojado panini. Also tamales on the weekends. No seats here so take your sandwich a block south to the newly remodeled DiSilvestro Playground.

Ippolito’s Seafood

One of the best seafood stores in Philly now sells sandwiches and stuff too. The tuna sashimi tacos are awesome. Probably my top pick for cheapskates who are craving seafood. 2 blocks from Tasker-Morris. BYOB.

Stargazy 

Of course the best English bakery in North America is in South Philly. London style meat pies (and good vegetarian options), stewed and jellied eels, mashed potatoes, sticky pudding, all you can drink tea. They also sell biscuits, Marmite, and other English dry goods. One time when I was there a British woman turned into a 6 year old girl screaming “I want this! I want this! I want this!” It was hilarious. Her husband wanted to eat his dinner. But they left happy and with grocery bags full of junk food. This place is better for lunch as they start to run out of things later. BYOB. 2 blocks from Tasker-Morris or Snyder.

Bok Bar

I was in a different bar run out of the same space last year. This year’s food is Vietnamese and Filipino and fits in the price range of everything else. I can’t vouch for the quality of the food, but this Art Deco highrise school building towers over the neighborhood and gives you a million dollar view. (Image from the Passyunk Post.)

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This feels incomplete  – in other parts of Philly you can get Polish, Russian, Uzbek, Korean, African, Caribbean… but I probably wrote enough. I also never mentioned cheesesteaks. But, overrated. Anyways, if you’re coming down this way, enjoy (South) Philly!