Friday, February 24, 2012

Quicky curtain tune-up

While most people seem to leave their master bedroom for last, we started working on it fairly early into our whole renovation of the Ugly Duckling, installing batten and board (here, here and here), giving it a fresh coat of paint and shortly after moving in, adding curtains for a more finished look (here).

That doesn't mean the room is done, but it was cute and cozy and we are still loving it.

There was just something about the curtains that needed fixing. You see, I like it when curtains puddle on the floor. Not a lot - not a heaping pile of a puddle - but a little puddle hinting at a just a bit more fabric than necessary.

Our bedroom curtains, however, were puddling just a bit too much which made them look messy and unfinished, not to mention having to squat down to tidy them up every time we opened and closed them. And we do that a lot, well, at least for the one window that is in direct line of sight with our backyard neighbors.

Two words:
Liiiight Shoooow. (Or Peep show - pick one)

With the husband having to work, Little Man busy creating fantastic Lego creations and the laundry battled successfully, I decided it was now or never to hem this unruly lot of curtains.

[Before: You see the puddly mess?]

I straightened them allowing the curtain fabric to fall flush against the floor before easing the fabric out along the floor and then snipped along the line which - with a half inch allowance for the seam tape - would make the curtain touch the floor.

[In-Progress: Not my fabric scissors but they are sharp!]

I then ironed on the hemming tape

peeled off the protective paper covering

folded over once and ironed it to bond the fabric to the hemming tape.


[In-Progress: Curtain on the right has been hemmed to its new length;
curtain on the left is still the original length. See how differently they drape?]

Rinse and repeat for two curtains each on three windows (well, two. One is a door disguising as a window. Remember?)

So much better. I can now open and close the curtains without spending any time arranging the train on the floor. Makes you wonder why I waited this long ...

Sure, I want to get blinds (match stick or bamboo or similar) if I can find the proper length at a decent. Our original windows are an odd size and rather tall and the standard sizes are usually about 10 inches too short. Then again, the cats would love the peekaboo feature by the window sill, I'm sure.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Le Menagerie

Ever since our lovely weekend with stray "Fergus" (read more about him and the other addition to our family here) and realizing how much I missed having a dog, we'd been in the market for a new four-legged family member of the canine kind.

What with the husband being allergic to four-legged mammals (and sometimes two-legged ones as well), pollen and dust, this is not an easy feat at all and needed much thought and strategy. Hypoallergenic dogs - if there really is such a thing - are generally more exclusive and thus more expensive breeds that are harder to come by, and are rarely available through pet shelters, at least not reliably.

Over the past couple of weeks we kept our eyes open and peeled on the various shelters around town and finally jumped into the pool at the deep end by getting in touch with the lovely people from GAP-Greyhounds as Pets, Jacksonville. Greyhounds generally shed a lot less than the average dog, some even consider them hypoallergenic and after a long visit at the kennel that hardly triggered any reaction in the husband we were hopeful that this might actually work. I'd been nuts about those gentle 45mph couch potatoes ever since meeting the retired racer of my former boss and was dying to have one join us. The GAP people were very accommodating and willing to work with us; they agreed to allow us to 'test' or foster a possible dog for a week to see if husband's allergies would be able to handle a dog in the house 24/7.

[83lbs of Greyhound Goodness]

So, "Hot Hot Dog" came home with us. We hit it off really well: Hot didn't only take up a huge space on our back seat (in fact he took up the entire back seat and squashed Little Man every time I had to hit the brakes) and in his crate in the dining room and curled up on the crib mattress next to our couch, but also in our hearts. He was sweet, gentle, easy going and laid back and despite his 83lbs worth of big black dog, a big wuss, who cried during the first night because he was so Looooooooo-oooooo-nely. Every two hours. It felt like having a newborn in the house again, and we were proud as new parents when he slept for four solid hours the next night.

[Little Man & Hot Hot Dog: every boy needs a dog]

Unfortunately, it was not meant to be. While Hot was a gentle giant following us around every step we took like a soft black shadow to your side, he was nuts about each and every cat. Sleeping, sitting in a tree out of reach, walking by, dozing on the porch - nothing made a difference. Our neighbor's Chihuahua seemed to fall into the same category (anything knee-high and taller he obviously regarded as 'dog' on even footing). And who could blame him? After a long and rather successful racing career, that prey drive that made him a good racer wasn't easily appeased and put to rest.

Not wanting to set him up for failure, we returned him to GAP with very heavy hearts and many tears. We know they will find him a good home, and we're glad we could help him by learning more about him to make sure the next family will be a better fit for him but it smarts still. Lovely lovely dog.


One good thing, it looks like our two cats bonded a bit more over the common enemy. (And we have more news in regard to the whole dog adventure :o) so stay tuned!)

Monday, February 20, 2012

Paint Fail

You'd think after a year of painting trim I'd have it all figured out.

Gotten to the bottom of it.

Have it down to an art.

You'd think that after all the prep work, the many days of scraping, sanding, de-glossing and priming, a paint job could hardly fail.

And yet ...

A bubble ... a stinking bubble with two thin coats of nice even latex paint peeling off like a bad sun-burn.

That loud bang you heard was my head connecting with the desk ... I've been hiding my failure inside the walls these past ...uh, weeks, frustrated beyond belief and grumpy. Yesterday I decided to just get over it and get'er done (but didn't get much further than some sanding, de-glossing and priming the stupid spot of fail).

Addendum: I did rake my finger nails over the entire expanse of the pocket doors and fortunately, this was indeed the only spot the primer and prep failed. Phew ...

Friday, February 17, 2012

Mothballing 101

Remember this ol' gal here? (No, not me, the house!)

I wrote about our day helping clean up this historic duplex and gave you a tour of the interior with its many preserved historic details here and also invited you to the virtual version of the "Open House in this post.

Not only has this house witnessed many moments in the history of Jacksonville and the US, seen Springfield rise, decline and rise again, been a home to many diverse people, but after passing its final inspection last week, it has also become the symbol and face of a brand-new legislation that will be a blessing to our historic districts: the mothballing ordinance.

What on earth is a mothballing ordinance??
I mean, everybody knows what a mothball is but what does that have to do with historic districts?
The Mothball Legislation or rather, Ordinance 2011-408, which passed this past fall amends current zoning code to allow owners of condemned buildings in Jacksonville's historic districts to "mothball" them instead of demolishing them.

(Remember, "condemned" only means that your house is not up to modern code and you're missing the "certificate of occupation"; the only thing "wrong" with your house might be something trivial such as that you don't have a working bathroom, NOT that it will fall on your head the moment you look at it).

Once a historic structure is gone, it is gone for good. It cannot ever be replaced. Sure, infill can be made to look historically accurate to the district but it is not what makes a district historic. Preserving a historic home is a challenging feat and often, not for the faint of heart. In past years, Code Enforcement has been having a regular ball in Springfield, helped by the fact that our neighborhood's eclectic mix of home owners includes members of low-income brackets. When faced with Code Enforcement's demands paired with huge, daily fines being levied on them, the outcome for those with strained or no resources to restore the building immediately was often demolition through the city.

Don't get me wrong: Code Enforcement does an important job and I appreciate their concern for the safety and welfare in housing issues, however, nothing in modern municipal code accounted for the special needs and challenges of historic districts and their structures.

Originally this policy was intended to encourage the owners to sell the properties but you can guess what it did in a stressed real estate market like the one we've been dealing with these past couple of years.

Also, the new owner would have to deal with the same dilemma of having to immediately and fully restore the building or face demolition disregarding the fact that the restoration of a historic house usually takes years. Current code does not allow for this time.

Mothballing allows the owner of a historic structure in our historic districts to delay full restoration of a condemned house over a time period of five years during which the home owner is save from daily fines through Code Enforcement. That, on average, gives the home owner about $250/day to invest into the restoration rather than paying the fine or having it accumulate as a lien on the property. Can you imagine having to deal with $250 rolling fines Every. Day???

The house has to be stabilized following a strict standard set forth by the Historic Preservation Committee, needs to be inspected and pass that inspection to make sure that the house is protected from the elements and safe in regard to surrounding neighbors, and be maintained and kept up during the mothballing period to prevent blight.
You know, just like we did with the Walnut Court house which got a fresh exterior paint job, had its windows securely boarded with ventilation slits, siding repairs and roof repairs and even some landscaping to make it blend right in.

No, the owner does not get a tax break. For some odd reason the "trolls" online are always concerned that somebody else is getting a free ride but this is not the case. Mothballing helps the owner to save the house and gives them somewhat of a breather, allowing for more time to work on it as time and resources allow (you can and are actually encouraged to continue to work on your house but without Code Enforcement breathing down your neck), find financing or even a buyer to undertake the restoration.

A mothballed house's renovations have to pass municipal inspections when work has been done, just like any other house. We just get exemptions from some requirements if an element is restored to its original historical state, not for electrical or plumbing.

Oh, and the owner? Guess what? Has still to pay property taxes, make mortgage payments and figure out how to deal with the fines acquired until the house was officially mothballed.

Really, trolls, no free ride, just a fighting chance to preserve the historic fabric of our town :o)

And you know what? I truly believe, I -KNOW- it is working.


If you have any questions regarding mothballing your property in our historic districts, can't reach an owner of an endangered structure, need help navigating the application process or need any help in preservation issues, feel free to contact the awesome folks at Preservation SOS
call/text: (904) 335-8SOS
facebook: PreservationSOS

Friday, February 3, 2012

Going blind(s)

While Little Man has outgrown the stage where a dark room with light-blocking curtains guarantees long naps and sleeping in late in the mornings (no more naps and he's just as much of an early bird as his mom), it is still nice to have some window treatments. Privacy is a good reason although even our next door neighbor doesn't get much more of a glimpse of the ....err, creative chaos that reigns supreme in his room. Mom here simply likes the finished look that window treatments add to a room.

So after some debating and looking at options we decided on Roman shades like the ones we have in our kitchen. And just like our kitchen shades, I made Little Man's shades by hand. We found a fabric with navy and white stripes to match his accent wall and following the instructions from "The Little Green Notebook" whipped up a pair of one-of-a-kind roman shades.

The entry hall works great for projects like this: lots of open floor space to spread out. In the upper left corner of the photo you can spy my youngest assistant of the feline sort just waiting for the right moment to pounce into the midst of things!

And two hours later, Little Man was one step closer to a finished room! Weird how we sometimes end up procrastinating on projects that come together so quickly and, once done, make things look so much nicer.

Have you ever tried to make your own roman shades? Which instructions did you follow? I can't believe how easy it is and how quick you can whip up some custom roman shades in your favorite fabric!

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Kiss me, Cupid!

Our door wreath with the big white "G" has become somewhat of a permanent fixture on our front door, then at the Silver Street apartment and now at the Ugly Duckling, ever since I picked the two items up at a local craft store. Its look changes according to the season, but the wreath and the letter remain the same.

Like here when summer's yellow rubber ducky and flower gave way to gold and yellow leaves and pumpkins announcing that fall had finally made its way to North East Florida.

Or in this post here when I shared a few Christmas decorations with you at the Ugly Duckling, among them the door wreath ... The Wreath (tm) ... in its Christmas finery (allright, so I like it simple and non-frilly).

After Christmas, it looked a bit bare out there while we were in limbo between not-Christmas and not-Easter, so when I spied a roll of ribbon of cute little red felt hearts and a dozen heart hangers I knew what needed to happen.

Not quite $5 later this is what our door wreath looked like. Quick and simple and cute. It's been a busy two weeks - as you can undoubtedly tell from the infrequent posting here on the blog - and a quick DIY fix was just what I needed to set my world straight again.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Little Man's Cave Make-Over

A make-over already?

Fear not! Little Man's Cave remains mostly untouched. He still loves his grassy green walls and navy and white stripe accent wall but for some reason the layout wasn't working.

At all.

And just like that, the room failed and began to accumulate stuff and clutter while Little Man evaded the mess by bringing his toys downstairs rather than putting his room to good use. Kind of like the problem we had with our front porch (read about it here). Speaking of the porch, I'm happy to proclaim it's as tidy as on its first day!

Back to the Little Man Cave: the large desk made it feel crowded, he couldn't reach some of the cubbies underneath and it went downhill from there. One night - I was curled up on the couch with a kitty and a cup of tea - I ended up doodling on a piece of paper trying to figure out how to solve the problem.

[Design doodle: not to scale]

Little Man needed to be able to easily access all of the cubbies of the larger IKEA shelf and the smaller book shelves. So I moved them to the opposite wall and lined them up alongside. They fit EXACTLY! With maybe an inch on either side to spare! His bed, I decided, needed to move back against the wall without a window and for the moment, I set the desk aside and decided it'd be better if he just had a large space in the center of his room (with a rug) to play and romp around. Little Man does his homework at the dining room table with me sitting across from him, so he doesn't really need a desk in his room.

I'll spare you the "Before". It was an awful mess and it took us from start to finish about four hours to move furniture, to sort out and to sort in, and to put everything back in place.

So - much - better!

Little Man declared he liked it and the fact that he's actually using his room and spending time in it rather than hauling his toys downstairs is proof of that. As for me? I'm able to breathe now and don't break into panic attacks when setting foot into this part of the house ... heh.

This concludes Phase 1 of the Little Man Cave shuffle. I have more plans for window treatments, open shelving and art so expect to see more of Little Man's Green Cave here soon.