Category Archives: landscaping

I Am Not Buried Under Boxes

moving van pulled up to my house

Quite literally door-to-door service.

It just feels that way. We had movers bring over some of the larger pieces of furniture the other day. The driver took one look at our lawn which, sadly, is not currently covered with snow. I say sadly because it looks much like it did after the plumber left us back in July. Of course, there was a dumpster sitting on the land from September through December, so it didn’t make sense to sod until this coming spring. The driver asked if he could back his truck up onto our “lawn” and I couldn’t think of a reason he shouldn’t.

Plus, he said it would save a little time and since our four-man team’s hourly billing rate was higher than mine, it made even more sense.

They were pretty efficient, which is to say the guys from Happ Movers didn’t waste a lot of time wrapping stuff.

Some movers mummify everything in bubble wrap and tape and then charge you for materials plus time. A waste of money and bubble wrap, not to mention tape. These guys had large rubber band-type things and lots of moving blankets. Nothing was damaged.

Honestly, the only piece I was really concerned about was the piano- a 1920s player piano. There are few material possessions that I consider completely irreplaceable; the piano is one of them. When we moved it into my parents’ house, we used Burrows. I felt more confident with the way that team cared for the piano, but Team Happ moved our piano and about 5 other sizeable pieces of furniture for less than it cost just to move the piano a few years ago.

Most importantly, the piano and the player mechanism appear to be working just fine.

{wipes sweat from brow}

There’s still lots of unpacking and settling in to do, but I look forward to sharing more pictures soon. I finally found the piece I need to transfer photos from my camera to the computer, so the quality of my shots should improve soon(ish). Check out the before and after shots:

living room before


player piano 1920s

AFTER (note the mess in the foreground; it's called Keeping It Real or perhaps Too Lazy To Clean Up For The Shot)

Those white squares to the left of the piano are the song rolls. Wanna come over for old skool karaoke? It’s tons of fun.

(No, I did not get any special discount or deal from our movers. Just called around for prices based on recommendations from Angie’s List.)




Our Appliance Order

advertisement for Jenn-air stove

clever Jenn-Air ad

Ye olde fridge is moving down to the basement and the stove is gone. Soon we’ll have a kitchen full of all new appliances. Well, after they tear down the cabinets, strip off the linoleum flooring and the subfloor and buff up the underlying oak, install new cabinets and the solid surface counter top we’ll be ready for the whole shmear- a new fridge, range, microwave and, for the first time ever in this house, a dishwasher and disposer.

Having all new appliances is both exciting (shiny!) and intimidating (how long before I chip/scratch/break them?).

We’re planning to buy from Abt Electronics because they give out fresh chocolate chip cookies on the weekends have excellent customer service.

Dear readers, you have given me great advice so far, so I want to run our choices by you. If you see a dud here, let me know before it’s too late! Here’s what we’re looking at:

Samsung 26 cu ft White French Door Bottom Freezer Refrigerator
We didn’t want in-the-door water service because my parents and we have had issue with ice dams forming that created serious problems. For my parents, it caused a meltdown that warped their wood floor. I think this Samsung has water service inside the fridge, which seems like a ridiculous waste of energy, i.e. stand at the fridge with the door open while you fill you glass with water, but we don’t plan to use the feature. I really like the freezer handle, we both like the internal LED lights, which for some reason, not all manufacturers use.

GE Profile 6.0 cu ft Freestanding Double Oven Gas Range with Self-Cleaning Oven and Center Oval Burner w/ Nonstick Griddle
I told you a griddle in the middle was all the rage again. I like that this double oven has the small oven on the bottom. So many manufacturers place the small oven on top and the large one below, which I guess is handy for baking cookies or a quick pizza, but who wants to bend down to the floor to pick up a 15 pound turkey? Not me.

Maytag 24 inch Jetclean Plus White UnderCounter Steam Dishwasher
Maybe I’ll finally use my wedding china knowing it can go in the washer on a steam cycle. (Eager brides, listen to your groom; skip the fine dishes.)

GE Spacemaker 1.8 cu ft white microhood
This will go over the stove. We’re used to this design, so I don’t think it will make the stove top feel cramped.

Whirlpool Cabrio White Top Loading Washer and Whirlpool Cabrio White front Load Gas Dryer
Call me old-fashioned, but I’m all about the top loader. That said, this isn’t your mama’s toploader. Nor is it the old Maytag that came with our house. I think I could fit in one day’s worth of one family member’s clothes and call it a full load. Hooray for modern large capacity, high efficiency washers. But not really. I’ve read that because it’s so easy to wash so much that people today do more laundry than in the past. Agreed?

So, what do you think? We good?

We’re not buying Jenn-Air, Whirlpool’s high end brand, but they get linky love for their very creative ad which had a pull-out stove (pictured above), so that consumers can literally see it in their kitchen. My arms were just a little too short to get the best effect, but you get the idea.

Edited 10/3 to add (because I can’t lose a list if it’s on my blog)

The Franke water tap lb1000, chrome

Water Filter, the Franke FRX02 (with lead removal!)

KitchenAid KCDS100T garbage disposal

The Next $10,000 Worth of Plumbing (Bonus Content: He said use a tampon)

Yeah, I'm paying for that
When you think renovation, it’s easy to consider the fun stuff- the shiny modern kitchen (with a dishwasher!), the luxurious shower in the master bathroom, the shiny oak floors waiting to be revealed. What’s not so fun is plumbing. Our first $10,000 plumbing project was installing an overhead sewer system, a type of flood control which is useful in Chicago because it prevents the literally crappy contents of the municipal sewer system from backing up into your basement during a heavy rainstorm.

I will give you a second to consider the enormity of that previous sentence, what it means to pay that much for flood control or the alternate vision of your neighbor’s poop floating around your basement.

This second project was to increase our water service, the good kind you can drink that comes from the municipal pipes. We’re required to do this because we’re adding a new bathroom and a dishwasher, which put us over the allowance for the 7/8th galvanized pipe that used to bring water into our house (it might be 3/4, or 15/16th diameter. I let the husband concerns himself with such details). In order to get our new 1.25-inch copper pipe in place, they needed to dig up part of the street.

At least we knew this was coming. I’ve heard of renovators who didn’t know they’d be required to do this until they had made all sorts of other commitments and decisions. Our estimates on the water service project went up to about $15,000. This is not the kind of money you can pull out of the air, especially when you’ve already committed to a large renovation project. So if you’re adding a bathroom or other plumbing fixtures, be sure to ask your contractor and check your village code for water service requirements.

plumbing hole in street with guy down deep

The guy in the hole in the street.

Once the pipe crossed the street underground, it had to go under our lawn to meet the foundation of the house five feet below grade.

plumbing pipe going thru lawn

It also had to be something like 10 feet away from the underground sewer pipes that were installed from the overhead sewer project, meaning that an entirely new portion of our lawn is now ruined. The whole thing is now completely trashed.

Sewer work front walk dug out

This pic is from the last job, but the look is the same.


I still haven’t cleaned up all the leftover material from the sewer job. We’ve got hundreds of pounds of dirt, sand and clay (mostly clay, though) that was excavated out by the previous plumber and never made it back in to the ground. I tried to get rid of some of it, but, take a look at what happened!



A happy post-script is that Plumber 2 took away a bit of the mess that Plumber 1 left behind, but we’ve still got large dried out, no good mounds of clay on the lawn.

The unhappy post-script is that we still haven’t received our waiver of lien from Plumber 1 after no less than four requests for it. I have to get DH to start writing on this blog because he’s better at explaining things like why it’s really important to receive a waiver of lien from your contractor when you pay for the job.

Another unhappy post-script. We learned an expensive lesson regarding the order in which things should be done. I’ll write more about this soon. Let me just say I live to make mistakes so you wonderful people can learn from them.

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Fire Pits and Friends

I promised my boys a day away from the computer and I’m failing miserably, so  today I’m sending you over to read about my friend Rita’s recently completed fire pit–it’s an outdoor s’more room! Part 1 includes the supply list (very creative) and part 2 show the finished fire pit.

If she can do it, I can do it; right? I’ll save this for 2012, which will be the year of landscaping.