A Groundhog Kind of Day

I work downtown. Tall buildings, concrete, brick, steel, cars, the Ohio River. Not exactly the ideal spot for wildlife (unless you’re a pigeon or a sparrow- eeew). Sometimes, working downtown is awesome (like if you need to run to TJ Maxx to buy a sports bra  that you forgot to pack for your workout that night, or run to the bank, or go to lunch without getting in your car). Sometimes, not so awesome. Read: when you have to 1) pay to park and 2) walk a half mile just to get to your office from your car. Sometimes the walk is nice, but when it’s super humid, pouring buckets, or freezing ass cold, it’s not really something I look forward to.

One thing that has made it a bit more enjoyable is…wait for it. Yes, groundhogs. Now, what do groundhogs have to do with anything about working downtown, parking, or walking into your office you ask? Just so happens that a little groundhog family lives right in between the Taft Museum and the Anna Louise Inn at the Ft. Washington Way overpass. How did this happen? I have no idea. But they are really cute. And I have seen 2 litters (?) of babies. They sometimes are peeking out of their burrow, on the lookout or just chillin and eating when I am walking by. It’s a little pick me up when I see them out and about.

Interesting fact- did you know that groundhogs are also known as whistle-pigs (because of the noise they make when danger is near- this is my favorite), woodchucks and land beavers?

Do you have any animal friends near your office? Can you believe this family has adapted to city life?

Image

Image

 

Advertisements

Keep Calm and Wait for Baby Cambridge??!!

Image

 

How can I keep calm at a time like this?!!!? 

I know I can’t be the only one, but I have been OBSESSIVELY checking my US Weekly app for any news at all about the royal baby. I mean, come on, Duchess Kate, you were supposed to be due July 11th! I am dying from the anticipation!!!!!!!!!!!!! Will it be a boy or a girl (many are betting on a little Princess of Cambridge); and what will they name him or her? Most likely, we will have to wait at least a week after the birth before we know the name. Apparently, Princess Diana waited a full MONTH before naming William. I think I am starting to break out in hives…

Anyone else as excited about the royal baby as I am?? 

Image

 

Royal Baby insignia from: http://o.aolcdn.com/os/stylelist/images/partner_logos/Royal_Baby_Watch

Duchess Kate montage from: https://sphotos-b.xx.fbcdn.net/hphotos-frc3/995925_539980569382630_2041401847_n.jpg

DIY Disaster, or how I spent fourth of July weekend

The Basement.

Image

You remember a time when you were in college (or after college, or currently), going to look for an apartment, finding something great, signing the lease, and THEN realizing that you’ll have to do your laundry in the scariest, spider infested dungeon the “management” is passing off as a laundry room (those bastards). OR owning a home with an OK basement and not really wanting to spend any money fixing it up because, well, it’s just a basement. That’s the way we felt about our basement.

I suppose it could have been worse (read: I have seen and lived with worse), but since this is an area that we share with our tenants,  we started looking at it through different eyes. The laundry room just started feeling creepier and dirtier every time we went to the basement. We would duck under spiderwebs and have to make sure we didn’t track dust and dirt back into our unit. As the time came to start showing the house for new tenants, we decided that now was the time to makeover the basement (ok, well… at least the part everyone uses on the regular).

Andrew had the brilliant idea of painting the floor with valspar garage paint. Since our floor is uneven and the laundry room gets regular use we decided to go with the valspar/epoxy kit that has little color flakes that would hide the uneven spots on the floor. In order to apply the paint, the floor needed to be cleaned and degreased. We bought an extra container of degreaser (read: not part of the kit) to tackle some of the tougher stains we had on the floor. After 2 rounds and 2 bottles of degreaser were used, the floor was still gross.

Image

We couldn’t even get tape to stick in certain spots. So back to Lowes went the Valspar paint and we picked up a greyish solid concrete stain (and transparent coating… and clear coat) instead. We talked to some people and felt pretty confident that the stain would take to the floor even though there were some different textures (oil, grease, rogue laundry detergent) going on. This stuff is for outdoor use after all. The semi transparent stain to go on top of the solid stain was an attempt to try to hide the uneven areas, it was a dark brown grey color.

I should mention here that after degreasing (or attempting to degrease) the floor we cleaned both the walls and the floor with TSP. This is recommended for outside spaces, basements, and anywhere you need to clean before painting. It is supposed to cut through grease, dirt blah blah blah… basically we did what we were supposed to do. After cleaning with TSP we primed and painted the walls. Then we applied the solid concrete stain. Here’s an in process shot:

ImageImage

It was great.

WRONG. After the solid stain (which lets face it, is basically paint) dried, we went to add the semi-transparent stain. This is thin stuff that is supposed to be sprayed on with a paint sprayer or a spray bottle. We started in one corner of the room and started spraying…. and it just looked gross and dirty. Disappointed face. Trying desperately to press control z at this point, we started washing the floor again to get the semi transparent stain off… just using water and a broom, no soap, no chemicals. It worked…. sort of. The semi-transparent stain did get removed and washed down the drain. Unfortunately, the water and the scrubbing with the broom removed some of the solid stain. Eeek! Control Z, CONTROL Z! Huge disappointed face.

Image

Back to Lowes we went. This time we bought a bonding primer and a porch and floor paint. Before applying though, we had to scrape off what we could of the compromised stain. After scraping a huge amount of stain off the floor, we decided that just to be safe, we should sand the floor too… with a hand sander. Awesome.

Image

Andrew and I took turns at sanding different parts of the floor (Pro tip: if you’re looking for a sander, buy one with a shop vac attachment, also wear ear plugs) and scraping with a 2” wall scraper (took for-ev-errrrr). In the end, we applied the bonding primer, following instructions on the can, held our breath and applied the paint. Miraculously, the paint stuck beautifully (insert huge sigh of relief). Each coat really only took us about 2 hours to cut in a roll. The clear coat went on great and that night we watched Game of Thrones (this was Friday). On Saturday we woke up all happy that the floor was finished and would have some time to cure before we hooked up the washer and dryer again on Sunday (note: our current tenants all happened to be out of town for the week that this was happening. They also had a full weeks notice that the washer and dryer would be out of commission).

Image

Look at how awesome it was looking.

How naive we were.

Image

Like almost everyone else in Cincinnati over the 4th weekend, our basement started to leak. Often with older homes the basement will leak when the ground is saturated. Generally speaking, this is the type of thing that happens maybe 2x in 10 years. The previous owner disclosed to us that there had been minimal leakage one time in the 6-8 years she lived in the house, so this wasn’t unexpected or worrisome IF WE HADN’T JUST PAINTED THE FLOOR.  In the end, we had some slight discoloration on the clear coat in a few areas (giving the floor the mottled look?) that we decided were too slight to re do. This is how the basement looks now:

Image

 

Image

Here’s what is left for this project:

Phase One:

  1. Paint laundry area walls
  2. Paint Laundry area Floor
  3. Paint support columns
  4. Clean standing sink
  5. Add some area rugs to keep dust downstairs
  6. Change table to shelf for detergent
  7. Add treads to basement steps

Phase Two:

  1. Remove linoleum from steps (to 3rd floor)==> In process
  2. Paint back step walls
  3. Paint back step woodwork (doors, stair risers, windows)
  4. Remove tile from “storage area”
  5. Prime and paint walls of “storage area”
  6. Paint Floor of storage area to match laundry area
  7. Add shelving units for tenants stuff

These 2 phases should cover the areas that our tenants access. We will also probably have a phase 3 and phase 4 to finish up the remaining parts of the basement and make everything look cohesive.

 

I am a genius, apparently

ImageMy husband, Andrew, and I bought a Triplex earlier this year. This is our first home, so we get to learn how to be homeowners and landlords at the same time. Our intention (or, THE PLAN as I like to call it) is to live in one of the units, as we are currently doing, and eventually move to a single family home and use the triplex as a ‘business.’ Because the house is an income property, people keep telling me how smart I am. Not everyone wants to save up for years to buy a home that other people are probably going to trash, or be a landlord for that matter. Really though, I feel like we just got lucky. Andrew and I were only sort of looking for multi-family homes, and our house just happened to have all the checks on our must list. We also lucked out with really sweet tenants that are quiet-ish and easy to be around.

Here is our must list:

  1. 2 car garage
  2. Apartment for us that is about the same size as our previous apartment (about 1500 sq feet)
  3. Central Air. SERIOUSLY it is expensive to put in an AC system if there are no existing ducts in a house (just ask the bean).
  4. Place for a garden
  5. Neighborhood. We looked at several different neighborhoods, and our triplex is located in ‘hood that was our favorite… not to mention it’s close to the fam.
  6. Older home (pre 1950)
  7. Bonus: Newer roof

Some things that we wanted but didn’t get:

  1. Outdoor living space (porch, veranda, deck)
  2. Washer/Dryer in the units
  3. Modern Kitchen/bathrooms (our bathroom was in serious need of an overhaul)
  4. More than one bathroom (at least in our unit)
  5. Closet space

It’s been challenging as a designer and a homeowner not to go crazy with paint and renovations. I’m trying to reign myself in and only focus on what will add value to the home (for rent or resale purposes), and what I might have to undo when we leave. I have to step away from the paint palettes of purple and pink and teal and really think about what is neutral (because I live with a boy, and because I plan on leaving whatever paint we choose on the walls when we leave) if I don’t want to have to completely repaint everything when THE PLAN is put into action. But we’ve managed to complete a few big projects and many smaller projects that will hopefully only increase the value of our home, if not, they certainly are making me happy.

More on that later.