26 June 2005

Temporarily Out of Service

I'm sending this post from my mom's. My computer got hit by lightening on Friday night. We've got a new one on the way (it was something we've been considering so we knew just what to get). It should be in by the time I get back from my vacation to Boston and other parts of Massachusetts with Tim's family. I promise I'll make up for my absence with lots of great pictures.

See you soon!

Preservation as an Economic Generator (part 2)

Friday morning started off with a demonstration by Catherderal Stone Products on some of their masonry patches, cleaners, and strippers. It looks like some very impressive stuff.

I then took a tour of the Park Inn hotel. It was in much worse shape than I had thought. There's been a lot of water damage and all of the time and money so far has been put towards making it water-tight once again. It's the right thing to do, but I think the preservationists are meeting with a lot of resistance from the local government and community. Hopefully they can keep a peacefully existence! Here's the City National Bank that shares it's east wall.

At lunch four different Iowa communities talked about what works for their communities in getting people motivated and interested in their projects.

After lunch we took a tour of the Stockman house. And then walked through the back yards of some of the homes in Rock Glen. Two privet owners of these homes were kind enough to open their homes up to our tour. Both they Blythe and Melson homes were done by a man named Water Burley Griffin. Both he and his wife were students of Wright and took over his work when he left Mason City due to the exposure of his affair with the neighbor lady. Now I need to catch the next showing of the PBS show In His Own Right on the life of Griffin.

I'm definitely a conference junkie now. I'll have to start selling house parts to afford my habit :)

24 June 2005

Preservation as an Economic Generator (part 1)

Today was the first day of my conference. I had a great time even though I felt a little out of place. Most of the people there were community development people.

The first session was given by Dan Carmody who is an expert in property development. He is currently the principal developer of Renaissance Rock Island, IL (by the way I LOVE Comedy Spotz!). He was an incredibly dynamic speaker. The title of this opening session was "Building Better Cities."

His major point was the rules have changed and we are now working in a global competition. They key to winning this competition is a combination of density, details, and diversity. Some of his other great points were:

  • Urban decay didn't happen because of economic decline, but instead was due to complacency.
  • Development is now about human capitol (talent and knowledge), so you need to create compelling area to attract people with these traits.
  • The most common house-hold type in America is now the single person, therefore expect a movement from the suburbs back into the cities.
  • How do you survive major cost overruns? -will power
  • We can't get caught up in the current thinking of liberal vs. conservative, but instead think in terms of dynamic vs. stagnant.
  • A creative place is a combination of technology (he seems to be a big proponent of green building), arts, and housing.

The second session I attended was on tax credits. It was basically an overview of both the federal and state rehabilitation tax credit programs and an refresher (for me) of the national standards of preservation from the department of the interior. The most interesting part was the presentation was given, in part, by Anne Grimmer who is the Senior Architectural Historian for the Heritage Preservation Service Program. She co-authored the standards and a lot of the other information of the National Park Service website. And to top it off she's from my home town. How cool is that!

At lunch Anne gave another presentation on preservation of more modern buildings.

After lunch I attend the session on Section 106 review which was interesting, but pretty much irrelevant to me. I'm really regretting not going to the other one on building codes. However, I did get a copy of the power point presentation so I'll have that to go over.

To end the day I attended another one of Mr. Carmody's talks. This one was titled "Real Estate Pro Formas." It was basically a overview on what developers should be looking at to make a property cash flow and be appealing to financial institutions (and also some what into what Main Street programs should do to encourage this development). Here are a few of the points that caught my ear:

  • Real estate development is really three different businesses: financing, building, and management
  • Always error on the side of quality.
  • "Bankers don't lend to buildings. Bankers lend to cash flow."
  • If you had to take one road trip see Memphis, TN.
  • Pioneer housing types start as rentals and move into ownership.
  • Design energy conservation into the project. This will become a major issue in the future.

But probably the point that hit closest to home was:

  • "When you're being a pioneer you have to be quick on your feet."

He said this in relation to the story of getting their first project appraised. I hope I'm remembering this right, but the appraiser wouldn't appraise it as a unit as future condos since that had never been done before and so he had no compairables. So the developers had to seek a second opinion. We had the same thing happen when we had the house appraised. It seemed to come in way to low, but when you looked at the comparable properties it was not so surprising. They were horrible! Yes the square footage was the same and they were all country properties, but that's where the similarities ended. I'll have to try to remember to get some photos of the properties on the blog. One of them is a doozy of a remuddle that I almost called the realtor and faked interest in just so I could make fun of how badly it sucked. But since it's not really funny completely destroying a beautiful folk Victorian the tour would have just depressed me.

But back to the conference. All of the presenters had amazing photos that made me want to work for the State Historical Society and see all of the great projects that are coming across these people's desks.

Also the conference was held in this great facility, the Music Man Square. They have a fake main street built in the center of the building.

What's on par for tomorrow?

  • A tour of the Park Inn Hotel, the only remaining Frank Lloyd Wright hotel
  • A workshop on either Epoxy Systems or Patching Mortars (I haven't decide which yet)
  • A look at some of the "Preservation Superstars" in the state
  • And finally a walking tour of Frank Lloyd Wright's Rock Glen/Rock Crest communities

I am defiantly a conference kind of girl :)

22 June 2005


A Fisherman's House came up with these great questions. Here are my answers...

1) What has been the most challenging aspect of renovating this place for you as a couple? What about you individually?
Both Tim and I are very controlling. To me our biggest challenge was trusting the abilities of the other person. I had to let go of my fear of having the up-stairs waste pipe dripping on our guests heads, and Tim had to give up his fear of having the woodwork put on crooked. Surprisingly doing this house has really showed us once again how well we compliment each other. My nit-picky attention to detail that Tim lacks has made me shine at the finish work. Tim's understanding of the whole picture (which is always a challange for intensily focused little ol' me) made him the go to man for all of our systems. Between the two of us we are one well balanced individual :)

By the way dear, quit playing with the cat and put that floor in!

Individually it has been the balancing act that this place has put us through with both time and money. There are days when for some reason in the back of my head the thought of how many trips and how much family/friend time this house has cost me pops up. Those days can be pretty depressing. But then there is that feeling of complete belonging when I walk into the house (even if I have to step over a pile of baseboards) that makes it all worth it. I feel at home here in a way that I never did in the house in town or the old apartment we lived in.

2) Regrets? We all have regrets about certain projects in our renovation files. Besides all that business with the p.o. do you have any regrets about anything like "I wish we'd done this first" or "not bought that" or something?
My biggest regrets stem from the compromises we had to make for time and money. We should have spent a more time making sure the house was water proof before closing up the walls but our contractor was days away from showing up. Same with the walls and windows- both major regrets even though they look very nice and work very well it's just not the same.

3) What's the most common statement people make when they see the house for the first time? What part tend to impress them most? Least?
Like many have said the comments have changed as the house took shape and became more habitable. We are hearing why don't you just build a new one less and less. I don't know if it's because people are finally starting to appreciate what we have done, or if they know that is now financially out of the picture.

My two favorite first impression comments were my mother-in-law and my sister:
Mary (my sister)- "The house is going to eat your soul." I know when she said this she meant that it looked like one of those houses in the horror movies, but some days it seems like a pretty dead on comment for other reasons.
Ronnie (mother-in-law)- "Can you give it back?"

People are always commenting on the staircase and the tin ceiling in the kitchen. Those, of course, are givens.

It's some of the other things that draw people's eye that surprises me. People are always commenting on the swirl pattern in our ceiling. The orange and blue tile laundry room floor is another favorite on the tour.

The woodwork and light fixtures don't really draw people's eye as much as I thought they would considering we spent a lot of time/money on both of these items.

What am I forgetting friends and family? Leave me a comment and let me know what stuck out most in your mind and what you were too polite to knock during the tour.

21 June 2005

Mud Room Hallway Floor is Underway

Yesterday I finally put on my thinking cap and recreated a table runner my mom has in vinyl composite tile. As I type Tim is on the other side of the doorway drawing out the lines on the floor so he can begin to glue the pattern down. The star will sit right below the light fixture and make a kind of "preview" into what we have done in the mud room. The center of the star (which I still have to cut) will be the pale yellow. The rest of the room will be the pale yellow with (hopefully if we have enough left over tile) a dark yellow border. I'm getting tired of cutting out all of these patterns so I think in the coat room I will just have a checker board pattern.

20 June 2005

The Great Trash Can Search of 2005

I've been searching for a trash can for my kitchen for the last year and a half. Which I know sounds crazy, but when you are a perfectionist that sort of thing tends to happen. We were originally going to have one of those in the cabinet pull-out kinds, but then decided against it due to a severe shortage of cabinet space.

I've been looking at wooden ones with flip fronts for quite sometime, but in the end they all just seemed a little to cheaply put together for my taste. And then the other day I found it.

Meet the Sunbeam 20-lit. Yellow Retro Step Trash Can from Target. It's soft yellow color is going to look beautiful against my old-kitchen green walls! The only problem is going to be if it's cat proof or not.

17 June 2005

In Search of Landscape Help

Last October we stopped into a local landscape place and asked them to come out and give us an estimate. They said sure they'd be out next week. We waited, but no one ever showed.

This spring we were driving by the place again and decided to give it another try. We stopped and put our name in again. We ended up getting an appointment set up for last Wednesday. I was so excited. I got my "dream" pictures together and a list of some of the plants I was interested in.

Wednesday morning I got a call from the place. Since it ended up being so nice out the landscaper decided to cancel our appointment. They are a month behind you know. We'll call back around the fourth to reschedule another appointment. Wow, is it just me or does telling a potential customer that they are not a priority kind of a mistake. I know it made me feel pretty crappy.

That afternoon I was checking out the house blogs site and came across this post (see #5). Time to move on right.

So this afternoon I checked out the yellow pages and came across another landscaper. I gave them a call and they suggested that if I was able I might send some photos and they would take a look at the project before we came in for a meeting. Five minutes on the phone with this place and I'm already farther than I was in 9 months with the other guys. I sent out an e-mail with some photos and my "dream" pictures and plant ideas. I'm excited to get the ball rolling on this. Tim and I just can't seem to agree on anything landscaping wise so I'm excited to see what a third party comes up with.

16 June 2005

My Very First Conference

Check it out...
and I'm going to attend (well that is if I'm one of the first 25, I'll let you know)!

I've never been to a conference before. I had to ask if I could show up and hour or so late on those days. "What for," my boss asks suspiciously. "A conference," I meekly reply. "What kind of conference?" "One that has absolutely nothing to do with work, it's on preservation." I get a funny/dirty look and he says ok. What he doesn't understand is that my need for money to feed my preservation addiction is the reason I come to work most days. But thanks anyway Ed, you're the greatest!

I'm so excited I just read the brochure over and over again. Hey! We need some sort of slang term for preservation nerds like myself. Anyone have any creative suggestions???


15 June 2005

What a find!

You know how they say that starting one project leads to other projects that you had not originally planned. Well check this out!

Modeling the Pink Tool Belt

So I've never actually posted a picture of me in the pink tool belt. That's because when I'm wearing it I've always been working alone.

Yesterday it was sitting in the office as I was working on a post, and Tim picked it up and was hamming around with it.

It's the closest thing he's come to picking up a tool in months. (I'm just being catty because he looks better in it than I do!)

Misplaced Window

This is the decorative glass in our living room window.

This is where it should be in our foyer window.

This is where the decorative glass from our foyer window is.

Right here.

When Persis owned this house (it was always a rental for her, she never lived in it)she removed the glass window and installed it in her home in town.

What do I do about this? It's even more beautiful then the glass in the other window. It has this different sort of green cast to it.

Do I try to talk to the current owner of the house to try and get it back? When we first bought the house we didn't know that is what happened to the window. We bought replacement glass for it. Do we offer them the replacement glass? Do we just wait for the house to come up on the market again and try to purchase it then?

I think I might have been better off not knowing what happened to it.

13 June 2005

Time for a Tough Decision

Bonzer building repair called back about the barn.

Not good.

With a roof- $30,000 and with out a roof- $15,000. That's a lot of money to spend on something you'll never use. Especially when we would like a garage and a hanger, that we would use. And I know it's silly, but I feel like this would feel a lot less like an acreage with out that barn.

Things like tearing out the plaster in the house made me so miserable, but it was a compromise I could make because we could replace with something very similar. We could never build anything even close to this barn.


12 June 2005

Marble Rock, IA

Today's tour is of Marble Rock. It's about 5 miles away from us. From what I understand it was once a community of some wealth. Now it's basically a ghost town. I can vaguely remember from my childhood some of the beautiful homes along the main drag that are since long gone.

This house is getting a new roof. Which is nice on one hand, but on the other it used to have a Spanish tile roof. It really dressed the place up. It's still a nice house, but just not as eye catching.

Marble Rocks answer to the Leaning Tower of Pisa.

The old school.

I love this house! Someday I'm going to find out who owns it and ask for a tour.

For some reason the residents of Marble Rock like onion domes. There's another house in a lot worse shape down the road (too much over growth to get a picture, you'll have to wait till this fall) with this same feature. In fact now that I think about it the houses also have the same porch. Could they be sisters? New project for Becky.

Lovely porch.

Not so lovely porch.

This house is enormous. I was going to get a side view also so you could see better for yourself, but the camera battery died. When I was younger I always thought nuns lived here, just because it looks like the kind of place you'd find nuns.

I'm Surrounded by Character

I read somewhere, and I'm sorry but I just don't remember where, that our fast paced life style is part of the reason that we have lost the "character" in the exterior of our homes. In Victorian times you would never have been able to drive by someone's home at 60 miles an hour. So houses were interesting since you had to look at them for a bit.

You know what made me think of that today...

the mud road.

Our house is about 1/2 mile from this dirt road. No one lives on this road and I think the county would rather just shut it down. But I love to drive on it. It's beautiful with all sorts of different birds singing and flitting around. It gives you this great feeling of peace and solitude.

It's kinda a long-cut to the highway for me. But, if you take your time and slow down you notice a new piece of "character" every-once-in-a-while.

A Long Overdue Thank You

Thank you Em and family!

Last weekend Tim and I took the truck up to my friend Em's folks. They had some old house parts in their barn and wondered if we would be interested in them. Of course I would!

What they had ended up being in better shape than any of the woodwork that was in our house when we bought it.

We got baseboard which we are going to put in the mudroom. What we don't have we'll have copied. That way we can use the few original pieces that remained after the re-muddeling back there as fillers for missing pieces in places like the down stairs bath and dining room.

The rest of it I want to us in the up-stairs of the future garage. How cool of an entry would it be to come through the gigantic pocket door into my own little private retreat. I don't know if I've ever shared this, but I want to make the second floor of the garage into a studio with a darkroom and room for a couple of looms and all of my vast scrap fabric collection. That back bedroom just isn't big enough for all my art projects.

Right now it's cozy and out of the elements in my dad's shed. Now I have to start dreaming up floor plans that incorporate those nifty columns in the garage too. The project will probably become so complicated that I'll need another blog just to track that progress- "This Old Garage."

On another note on our way out to their place we saw this old farm house getting ready to move on to greener pastures (and hopefully a new, less green, paint job).

Lazy Sunday

It's a lazy day around these parts.

I did manage to get some baseboard up in the hall, but lost interest and am now just wandering around trying not to do anything. -sigh-

11 June 2005


We have a slight clover infestation in our new grass. Tim keeps talking about getting it sprayed, and I know if we let it go it could kill out the grass.

But if you go outside and walk around the house you're surrounded by the sweet fragrance of the little flowers. It's really the most lovely house related infestation we've had.

J.R. Clawson & Son

It must have rained, it's still in progress. Here's the article.

Driving Around All Hopped Up on adrenaline

I hate going to the doctor with a passion. I told Tim that he is never to take me to medical help with out my explicit permission (which I will never give him). If I am unconscious, well you'll just have to wait for me to wake up. It was practically a wedding vow.

I'm not against modern medicine or anything like that. I just like to have the visit on my own terms. i.e. I like to make up information so I don't sound like a big sissy (one of my greatest fears- being a big sissy), or have any unwelcome testing done (another greatest fear- needles).

I had one of those on my own term thingys scheduled for yesterday morning. I was so nervous I didn't sleep hardly at all. So I finally got up and going and ended up getting into town way to early. For those of you not aware there is a calculation to figure the amount of time you can sanely spend in a waiting room.

(probable number of decent magazines/number of cars in the parking lot) x 10 minutes
The drive by showed that I needed 10 minutes of waiting room time and I was there 40 minutes early. So I drove around town for awhile looking at houses. Here's the cream of the crop.

It doesn't show up real great in these shots,
but the landscaping around this place was so cute!

Cool window huh?

Loved the three little "climbing" windows.

The House Cost Me an Arm and a Leg (literally)

So I think this may be the raciest post House Blogs has seen yet. So we'll start off slow...

here's part of my arm after the fall.

And here you are my loyal readers. My first time on the internet with my pants off, be kind.

Do you know how difficult it is to photograph your own leg?

I haven't looked this bad since after our wedding (inside joke for friends and family- sorry).

09 June 2005

No More Complaining, I Promise

Just before heading out to work (early for the stress thingy) I realized that I never did post the fact that actual work got done around here.

Last night Tim got the mudroom floor finished.

And the light up in the coatroom (along with more paint).

Inspired by his motivation this afternoon I got all of the baseboard for the up-stairs hallway hauled up-stairs, and put in proximity to where it needs to go. Creating a sort of maze that I'm sure I will fail to navigate when I get home tonight, thus skinning my one healthy knee. Sorry, I know I said no more complaining, but I had to throw that in.

Can Today Get Any Worse?

I just went up-stairs. Norman, my white cat, tore out of the bedroom as soon as I walked in. I yelled after him, "I know you did something, and I'm going to find it." Four feet later I did. He threw up. All over the pink tool belt. I am very upset. I figured eventually it would get dirty and loose some of its "sparkle," but not like that.

They are offering a stress management class at work today. I wasn't going to go. Maybe today's events are signs that I should re-think that decision.

What a Way to Start a Day

Tim got up this morning and left for his first crop spraying in an airplane experience in Nebraska (I think). It's also his first time using Round-up so cross your fingers he doesn't spray the wrong field and we have to sell the new furniture to pay for some guys crop.

So I was peacefully sleeping away when I was rudely awaken by a roaring sound flying by my window. The second time it happens it finally dawns on me it's Tim in the plane.

I jump out of bed,
throw on a robe,
race down the stairs,
miss the last stair,
take a nose dive into the pile of wood work at the bottom.

It hurts! But I don't even look at my wounds because I can hear him going over the house again. I get to the door and stand on the porch yelling, "ouch, ouch, ouch!" and look over at the barn and there are the structural repair guys who were supposed to come yesterday.

So I run in the house (Tim doesn't make another fly-by so I don't get to see him). Clean up the big gashes in my arms and legs, and change into something a little more decent.

When I get back outside the guys are back inside the barn. I stick my head in to apologize for the unpleasant experience/sight, but they were to caught up in how cool the fly over was to notice my embarrassed apology.

So I then make the stupid mistake of asking how things look. It sounds like it's a lot worse than we had thought. We knew the foundation was good so there's no surprise there. And we knew that the side walls were separating from the rest of the structure. What we didn't count on was how badly rotted the floor of the haymow was. It sound like that will have to be completely replaced with new supports before they can start repairing the side walls. Then of course the new roof needs to be put on. After that they said any other work can be done at a later time (i.e. after you crawl out of the massive debt these fixes will put you in).

Is it too late to go back to bed and start the day over???

08 June 2005

And We'll be Sitting Pretty

So we are moving the couch through the mall on a cart yesterday and this family with three young girls walks by, and one exclaims, "Oh mom look! Isn't it beautiful." Tim and I just looked at each other and grinned as we left their excited explanations in our wake.

They will be stored in the big bedroom until we get the foyer finished.

Sky Blue Pink

When I was a little girl my dad would say his favorite color is sky-blue-pink.
I still don't know what that is.