Our New Old House

1918 Bungalow


My weekend: solo

While Brandon is in San Antonio for two weeks training for his job, I’m making a lot of little steps of progress that will hopefully amount to a lot of transformation by the time he comes back.

On Friday after work I drove up to Clear Lake to take care of some cleaning, check on the state of the yard, and swap many of my summer clothes for winter ones. I’d been listening to the weather report all week and when they told me it was supposed to get down into the low 30s at night I decided it was time to light the furnace. Most people don’t like the smell the furnace puts out the first time it’s lit for the season. But for me, it’s got some sort of nostalgic quality. I dug a frozen pizza out of the freezer and settled in for the night.

I got a lot done there and got a good night’s sleep. In the morning I drove back to Des Moines to fulfill the commitment I made to volunteer for Habitat for Humanity that afternoon. One of the attorneys I work for babysits for a single mom who has two kids. She’s trying to qualify to receive a Habitat for Humanity home. The program requires that anyone receiving a home put in a certain number of hours’ worth of sweat equity. They will accept volunteer hours done on that person’s behalf to go toward the quota, so this attorney put out a call for people to volunteer on the woman’s behalf. Since they already had enough help working on construction projects, they sent me to the local ReStore, the Habitat for Humanity version of a Goodwill, St. Vincent DePaul, or Salvation Army thrift store. If you’re a house rehabber, or if you’re just doing some small jobs around your house, it really pays to find your nearest ReStore. They receive donations of both new and used home improvement items ranging from antique doorknobs to professional kitchen ranges. It also pays to check back with the ReStore every couple of weeks or so because they’re constantly changing their stock. The location near my house even keeps a log of special requests customers are looking for. If there’s something you really need and they don’t have it in stock, you can sign up and leave your phone number and if they get a donation that fits what you need, they’ll give you a call. When I arrived, the volunteer coordinator put me right to work cleaning the grease and dust off a professional stove, grill, and steamer that had been torn out of a huge home out on the west side. When I was done with that, she had me dust and find the shelves for a fourteen foot tall book shelf that came out of the same house. I put in 3 hours of work and then grabbed a cart and did some shopping. I found a shower extender for a clawfoot tub, EXACTLY what I need, for a dollar! Yes you read that right, the thing I’d budgeted $200 for cost me one little greenback dollar. I do need to find a connector piece for it, but I figure it shouldn’t be too tough to ask the local hardware store for something to attach a 3/8 inch fixture to a 1/2 inch faucet. In addition to that little gem I found two 24″ bathroom towel bars and matching washcloth hooks and a robe hook for the door. All those cost me $40. So my total purchases were $41. I was expecting to spend $80 on the towel stuff, so I was just as happy as a pig in slop over my little adventure! Additionally, I scoped out their selection of pedestal sinks (one top half was only $15!), their cabinetry (I’ll definitely take measurements and check back for upper cabinets for my kitchen), and asked about the likelihood of finding landscaping materials. Holy cow, it was an awesome adventure!

I pretty much called it a night after that. Today I got up late, took a leisurely shower, and drove out to Johnston to have a birthday lunch with my Grandma, the original east sider of the family (along with Grandpa, who grew up in Highland Park). It was great to catch up with the family, and after the party was all cleaned up I headed back to our new old house to unload my car and tackle a couple of projects I’d assigned myself for the weekend.

One was to hook up the washing machine to make sure it and our plumbing work. I’d never hooked up a washing machine before, but everything went pretty smoothly. I do have one leaky spigot, but it’s convenient enough for me to turn it off when it’s not in use and turn it on when I need to run a load of laundry. Check that off the list!

Next I wanted to see how far I could get with scraping the wallpaper in the front bedroom. If you’ll remember, there is a layer of paint over that wallpaper, which makes a seal that the Downy/water spray can’t really penetrate. So I have to sort of hack away at the paint layer first and then use the Downy on the remaining wallpaper residue. It’s rather laborious, but luckily for me I have another Grandma right down the street who makes these kinds of tasks go much faster. She called me just as I was sitting down to start scraping above the baseboard and told me she’d seen me drive by and could she come over and work on the dining room wallpaper? When she sets her mind to finishing something, by golly she gets it done, and I could tell it had just been bugging her that she hadn’t finished a room before she left for New York on an American Legion trip. So I set her loose in the dining room while I tackled the bedroom. We both made a ton of progress despite my breaking two razor blades and slicing my finger open on the second broken one. Once I stopped the bleeding, I took a trip to the grocery store to buy band-aids, Neosporin, and more Downy. Grandma and I worked on the wallpaper until 8pm.

Tomorrow my goal is to get down to Menard’s and take care of two things: 1) the fixture to attach the shower unit, and 2) find pieces of pipe and the necessary mounting brackets to make a full sized shower curtain rack. All the pre-made kits I find are just big enough to enclose half the clawfoot tub in a circle. I want a shower curtain around the WHOLE tub so I’m going to have to build one myself. Thanks to the $50 gift card from Menards and the $25 one from Home Depot that my super generous friends gave me as housewarming gifts, I’ll have that project covered as a freebie!

I’m off to a well-earned shower now. Pictures soon!

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