Thursday, January 31, 2013

On tall trees and wind storms


When I look at the windows or our house I can almost imagine that we live in a more rural place than the suburban cul-de-sac that is reality. Mostly, because we are situated on top of a hill surrounded by tall trees.  We can barely see the houses on the street behind us. It is quiet, oh so quiet, here.  Except today because the wind is really strong.  I am listening to it roar through the tall trees.  There are several very tall trees on or bordering our property.  Most are pines but there is also a huge, old Sycamore and what we think is a very old cherry tree.  The trees are lovely.  They wave, shimmy and sway.  Today they are waving furiously, trying to get my attention.  Possibly because pieces of them are falling off.  I woke up at around 4AM to the loud roaring of the wind. It sounded like jet engines overhead.  Worried, I got up and peeked out the windows.  The trees were more mobile than usual.  I did hear debris falling on our roof but nothing that sounded too serious.  I went back to bed but found it hard to settle back into sleep.  I kept expecting to feel our house sway in the wind.  In Buffalo, in our old three story houses we always felt a slight rocking when the wind blew hard. Now we live in a one story house made of concrete block.  It does not move.

Upon waking for the day we discovered that several good-sized pine limbs had fallen in the night.  Thankfully, they fell away from our house.  Later, Mike called me after he'd left for work to tell me that one limb was dangling over our roof near the chimney.

Untitled When
we first took possession of the house one of the first things we had to do was to remove some small trees that were growing too close to the foundation.  When I say they were close I mean the trunks were rubbing against the roofline. Another surprise was that two of the trees were hollies.  I had no idea that holly could grow that large.  Then we noticed that the large tree at the front of the garage on the berm was a gigantic holly.  My father stayed with us for a week helping us do some projects before we actually moved in.  Removing the trees was on the list.  We had some mild weather to help out and he and Mike spent several days bonding over a chainsaw, taking down 20ft. holly. The trunks were cut up with the chainsaw and stacked for future use as fuel for our fireplace. Seen in this last photo is also the Sycamore tree with an ugly wound from a previous storm, possibly Hurricane Sandy which blew through the area just about a week before we closed on the house. Guess we'll need to buy a chainsaw.


First work at the new house

I am still catching up on what has happened since we bought our house. We've only been in it for about 6 weeks so it shouldn't take too long.

We closed on time in 45 days-a first for us! It was a long day. We had he final walk through in the morning and the closing in the afternoon. We had our baby daughter with us. That seemed like a good idea, until it wasn't. The closing meeting dragged and Em got restless. She ate all of her snacks and drank all of the milk we'd brought. I had to ask the lawyer if she had any whole milk in her mini fridge. Thankfully, she did. Finally, we got out of there and headed straight for the house. Em fell asleep on the way there and we let her sleep in her car seat inside.

Our first job was to pull up a lot of old, vinyl tile in the hall and master bedroom. It was that fake brick-looking stuff that one normally sees in a kitchen. Why was it in the bedroom? Who knows. It was very loose, too.  At least in the bedroom. We knew from our inspection that there was or had been some kind of leak from the master bathroom that was affecting a piece of baseboard trim and the floor tiles in the bedroom. As a result, we do not use the shower in the master bath at all. It is circa 1950 terrazzo and in bad shape. It's also super small. Thankfully, there is another full bathroom down the hall. Anyhow, that is what we suspect to be the reason for the loose tiles. We literally just picked them off the floor without any prying. We did the whole, quite large bedroom in about an hour and called it a day.

What we were left with was a painted concrete floor. Our house sits on a concrete slab, no basement. There are radiant heat pipes embedded in the concrete. The floor was painted green and red in what I would guess was lead paint. We considered polishing it down to the raw concrete but were nervous about releasing lead and other toxins into the air. We were moving in in a week and had little time. We ended up carpeting it and the other bedrooms.

The hallway posed another problem. First of all, it took a lot more sweat to get the tiles off because they were put down properly with mastic. The mastic was still gummy slightly probably because of the heated floors. (By the way, it is nice to have heated floors!). The previous owners had left us boxes of the "luxury vinyl" tiles that they used in the living and dining rooms. It was neutral and looked so much like ceramic that it fooled me on first viewing. I figured it was an easy job, I'd laid tile before. Dear lord, that was hard work! I had to work at night for two nights to get the majority of it tiled. I had started it and had worked for an hour when I noticed the seams meandering. I had to rip it up and start over. Have I mentioned how long this hallway is? 38 ft. For real. Two grueling nights of crawling around on the floor and the hallway was tiled. Well, I still have to finish some fussy edges but it looks done. The tile is good for high traffic and transfers the heat well. Not every floor material is suitable for radiant floor heat.

We have two skylights in the house. One in a half bath and the other in the hallway. They really let a lot of light in during the day. There is no need to turn on lights in these rooms during daylight hours. Most of the rooms in the house have ample windows to illuminate them without using electricity.  Hallways and small bathrooms, though, usually do not have windows.  I love that I can see the sky and trees through the skylights, and the stars at night.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Um, I've been kind of busy?

I did not mean to take so much time off from the blog but things have been busy. We had apartment guests, both family and friends. Our daughter turned one year old and I became obsessed with searching for cake and party ideas on Pinterest. We had a small, mostly family,party for her. Although, a friend and her babysitter did stop in to see Em open presents and smash her cake. The cake. Well, Em had her own little healthy cake to tear apart and I made a decadently sweet ombré effect layer cake for the adults.

Em had a fun day soaking up all of the attention from her grandparents. She had recently taken her first steps but then reverted back to crawling for a few weeks. On her birthday she decided she was done with that and really started walking. At the time of writing this she is climbing on everything, and I mean everything.

We had been looking at houses all Summer and Fall. We had pretty much exhausted all possibilities in any area within a reasonable distance from town. We needed enough space for three bedrooms and workspaces for Mike and me. So, a fairly good sized house was needed. What we have discovered in the New Haven area is that the houses are smaller than the Buffalo houses we have lived in. We'd found a cute, but not very special, Colonial in a neighborhood that was family friendly and close to town. We had looked at it several times and made an offer which was rejected. We kept looking and didn't see anything else. The seller was holding out for one last open house before the season closed down. She got no offers and came back to us. We knew we could have the house if we came up slightly from our original offer. We were so close to just making the offer but our realtor suggested that we go back one more time to be sure of how we felt about it. That day another house came on the market. Mike had been texting and calling me but I didn't notice. Finally, I picked up the phone and he told me to check out a listing online. It was a mid century ranch house with a South facing wall of windows and a great yard. From the photos it was perfect. Mike and I have been collecting mid century furniture for years. We could not see this house fast enough. Mike insisted that we see this house before we made an offer on the other one. I'm so glad that we did. We had an immediate attraction to the house.

We were first to view it and our offer was accepted within 48 hours. There seems to have been a lot of interest in it.To seal the deal our realtor asked Mike to write a letter to the sellers telling them how much we loved it and how we valued its uniqueness. She had no idea that Mike is a talented writer! I'm positive that it helped our offer.

Our house is on a quiet cul-de-sac of mostly mid century houses, just minutes from downtown. It has an unusual history of having been an experimental planned neighborhood. The houses were designed and built by a Yale architect for a group of professionals who were friends and wanted to live in the same neighborhood. It would appear that many of the friends stayed in the neighborhood. Some of the current neighbors that we have met bought their homes from the original owners. The communal aspect of the neighborhood still exists. In the middle of the cul-de-sac is a large, treed, grassy park-like area. Best of all, there is a footpath leading from the neighborhood to the elementary school. It's a good school district and parents are enthusiastic about the school.

We said goodbye to the apartment that had been our home for 7 months and landing pad in New Haven. It was a good landing pad and we were fairly comfortable there. But it is nice to own an architecturally unique house and we are enjoying it and the gorgeous property.

I suspect that this blog is going to have many more home improvement posts than cooking from now on. But, we still have to eat, right?