DIY Medicine Cabinet

Or, should I say, the medicine cabinet of a DIY’er.

Medicine Cabinet

Scrapes and bruises are par for the course. We have a great assortment of bandages and ointments. Personally, I feel life is too short to go for plain Band Aids. The hubs favors the boring fabric kind, claims the other ones are too small and made for children. Whatevs.

Almost 5 years in and my  biggest boo-boo was this:


Don’t get me wrong. It hurt like a (expletive deleted), but the nail didn’t even fall out, so I had that going for me – which was nice. There have been splinters jabbed under finger nails, pulled muscles, sore backs, that type of thing. But mostly we’re pretty good about our “on the job safety.”


Work around here has ground to a halt, largely because of the hubs’ torn meniscus. Not DIY related (me thinks), but an injury that is taking it’s sweet ol’time to heal. The time where I had to glue his scalp shut  (courtesy of gravity + piece of wood)  and couldn’t look (I don’t do blood) and glued a bunch of his hair in there – even that healed much faster than the knee. This basically means that the bigger projects are taking a back seat – you know, the ones that need a level headed, knowledgeable person – not someone often drunk with enthusiasm, yet easily distracted.

We are still hoping to fix the cornice and strip the façade this summer and researching our scaffolding options. The hubs seems to think his knee will be OK with this. (Perhaps my drunk enthusiasm is contagious?)

Things will get done, however slowly. It would only stop raining so I could get the back yard done, that would make me oh-so-happy. Since we’re in for yet another rainy weekend, I’m fairly confident I’ll spend a good deal of time complaining about it, while ignoring the pile of laundry or the other 9,000 project I could be doing.



Unfinished projects – a visual guide of procrastination

Starting a project is always fun. The excitement of change, the endless possibilities… which end up simply turning into endless projects. Yep, we have a few of those.

Some projects stall because of weather. Other because of time and finally a great many because of moroseness.

Rear top floor fireplace:

I’ve been working on this on and off for… a few years. Yeah, lame I know.


What I learned: My old favorite, PeelAway6,  was replaced with SmartStrip, which is not as effective – in my humble opinion. I switched to Zip Strip, which is super toxic, but very fast and effective. Reason for stalling: got sidetracked by other projects, switched stripping methods and it’s too cold outside to ventilate properly.

Front parlor fireplace summer cover: I truly hate the brass monstrosity that is currently serving as our fireplace cove. Think suburban house, circa 1985. Yeah. that bad.


What I learned: in this case, I also switched stripping methods, from PeelAway 1 to Zip Strip. Reason for stalling: There is so much detail. And the tiny ridges of texture. Ugh. Also ,it’s been cold outside, so I can’t zip strip with abandon. Did I mention there is SO. MUCH. TINY. DETAIL!

The many plastering projects:

We live in the house of crack. Our plaster is cracked EVERYWHERE! It had been poorly patched by the previous owner before he put the house on the market, and now all the cracks are coming back. I’m currently working (ish) on the front parlor, rear parlor, garden vestibule and dining room. Have I finished any of the rooms? Nope. Have I learned better technique? Absolutely.

Reason for stalling: It’s a slow process and I think I got bored with it. In the instances where  Plaster Weld is needed, I prefer to be able to ventilate – not because I have to, but because I don’t like the way the stuff smells.

Stoop resurfacing. If you look around, you will see very few stoops that are still original. Most of them (ours included), have been resurfaced over the years.

Stoop in progress

This still needs one more coat of the cement/brownstone mixture.

Reason for stalling: winter. We had a torrential downpour the night when most of the steps got done, so I don’t think they dried properly. We had some breakage and hat to patch with off color mixture. It will get fixed as soon as the weather warms. Consolation: the yahoos who did the stoop next-door, presumably professionals, had the same problem and had to patch up missing bits.

Old houses & old house friends

Not that long ago, I had the chance to contribute my 2 cents to an article about the historic row houses of Bed Stuy (and the wholesale modernization that is landing irreplaceable woodwork into dumpsters). You can read it here.

Row Houses

If you are in Bed Stuy, I highly recommend taking one of Morgan’s walking tours. You can check the Municipal Arts Society’s website to find out when the next Bed Stuy tour is. Last but not least, if you would like to see a drool-worthy Victorian brownstone, look no further.

NEDS is closing (for real this time)

You know that feeling when one of the items of your bucket list is soon to be no-more?

By now you probably figured out that architectural salvage is my kryptonite. I suppose I came by honestly, a child of parents who built a house with lots of old parts and who still have unused stained glass doors stashed in the garage.  While my parents are reasonable people and have a few items stashed away, I’m know to be a bit more, uh… impulsive or even hoard-y.

I’ve known about New England Demolition and Salvage for a long time. I always figured I’d make it up to their New Bedford warehouse at some point. I wasn’t in any rush, and the local dumpsters kept me supplied with more salvage than I could possibly use. I figured NEDS would always be there.

Well, I figured wrong. After  months of negotiating with a potential buyer to take over the operation, the place is actually closing for good. Everything is 50% off till the doors close on March 31st.

As of yesterday, they still had a good inventory of claw foot tubs and wall mounted sinks. They had a few marble counters similar to ours, but the two remaining under-mounted  sinks were broken (one was cracked, the other was totally busted).


They had beautiful stone laundry tubs that I haven’t the faintest idea how anyone could possible move from point a to point b.

Stone tub

boston nustone

I would be lying if I said I didn’t geek out over the old toilets and the wooden toiled tanks.

Old toilet

wooden toilet tank

There were still plenty of doors and windows, and a decent selection of balustrades and newel posts. There is still stuff to be had, however not anything we were looking for.

If you go: 73 Cove Street, New Bedford, MA. Hours: 9-5 daily. (508) 992-1099 /

TBT: The original sink

In what I rank as the biggest salvage find thus far, we managed to get our hands on the original sink to our house. Finding good stuff can be summarized into two steps: being at the right place at the right time, and not being afraid to ask: can I have that?

Lucky for us, we happen to be walking down the street on trash day, when our neighbor asked us if we thought sanitation would take it. I am so glad we were able to grab it.

The two original bathrooms to our house are very very tiny. I’ve embraced that fact and let go of my old dream of a humongous bathroom. Who needs that? I’m over it. I want original, a fact that has been met with some opposition by the husband, who wishes to have a bathroom large enough so that he can towel off without having to open the door. Details!


Bathroom plan

This the original drawing for the bathroom by Daniel McDicken, the builder. As you can see, there isn’t much space.

(pardon the blurry photo. It was really hard to take pictures at the DOB and not be trampled by developers. A metaphor for what is happening in Brooklyn? Hmmm…)

Before finding the sink and the plans, we figured this must have been a small wall mounted sink. Turns out, it was a small sink with a darling marble counter:



A tiny under mount sink. How cute is that?


We have located a skinny bathtub (29 inches wide), and now we just need a toilet. And of course, to install everything. Details, details…


And then it was March

It’s been a strange winter, and with this week warm-up, it’s time to take stock of the back yard. Every year, it gets a bandaid and a promise that a full redo is in sight. This year, we’re making it happen.

(or so we tell ourselves).

This is what the back yard looked at the start of last year’s outdoor season.


Not perfect, but perfectly serviceable. The wood chips at the bottom of the photo conceal the french drains we installed a couple of years ago. As the season progressed, we learned that the many stray cats in the area enjoyed using our wood chips as a littler box, so we replaced them with gravel.



backyard chair

The plan for this season is to replace the existing pavers with reclaimed brick, which I scored a while ago (and moved 5 times – 806 bricks are a huge pain to carry from point a to point b, particularly extra heavy, 100 year old bricks that were meant to be used as street surface). We did a test patch to see what it might look like.

Brick test

Pile of bricks

In addition to the brick, we’ll have a bit of blue stone, some gravel and new retaining wall to address the heigh difference from the rear of the yard.

The elephant in the room back yard is the deck, or lack thereof. (Can you spot the climb out the window and down the fire escape maneuver in one of the photos above?) We would really like to have one, but we may also need a new roof, and while the deck would be more fun, a new roof would ensure the house stays free of rain and snow on the inside. (which, you know, is a nice perk).

Given my demonstrated skill at not wining the lottery, we’ll probably have to pick which big expense we go with this year. Blah. Roof.

Here is what the back yard looks like right now:


The lush greenery next door, which we fondly called The Jungle, is gone. Some of the Honeysuckle survived, and I will be planting more this spring. That fence will be a green jungle again…

Back yard now

Everything looks dead and sad, but by the end of May, this will look completely different. Here is to hoping…


Oh the things you will find.

Old houses are full of surprises. Busted pipes, wonky electrical wiring… but once is a while you find some odd things hidden in the walls, under the floor boards, or buried in the back yard.

Unfortunately, our dream of finding a wad of cash has yet to come true. We have, however found this:

Petrified orange

I think this is an orange.  I found it in the crown molding above the parlor bathroom. It’s been there for quite some time, since the paint drips are of a color that is a couple of layers below the muppet flesh I just painted over.

In my  mind, I picture a couple of kids playing a game of “orange tag”, and somehow someone overshot the citrus and it got stuck until I found it.

Not as exciting (or useful) as a pile of cash, but certainly unusual.

Other items we found:


Toy Gun