Window of Opportunity

The Gingerbread Diaries

Growing up there was one summer when Mom made some offhand comment about finding a new place to live and I ran with it–scouring the rental ads in the Sunday Homes section of the paper, reading her likely options. I remember reading one in particular: 3 bedroom, 2 bath…window air. To which I said:

Window air? Like, what, you open the window and there’s your air?

This was one of many times, growing up, Mom wondered how I could be so smart and so dumb at the same time.

It’s worth noting that we didn’t have air conditioning in those days and the summers routinely topped out at 106 and 107, so even a window unit would have been an improvement over the box and oscillating fans we were depending on for our creature comforts. That and the cheap movies we’d go see on Sunday afternoons for a few hours to beat the heat.

Since moving out right after high school I’ve been fortunate enough to always have central a/c. We have it here in the Dollhouse, too, of course, but the upstairs unit just can’t quite hack it during the summer and it’s a bit of deja vu to have oscillating fans pointed at our bed to keep it just below broiling each evening. But it was working, mostly, and it was just temporary until we could either upgrade the upstairs a/c, vent and/or insulate the attic, or come up with some other solution.

Our before...

Our before…

I’m almost ashamed I didn’t think of a window unit until Todd brought it up last week, but once he did I was totally on board and asked the very important question

And what sort of time frame are we talking about?

Because, truly, Todd is a ponder and consider a while before acting sort, and it’s late July already and not getting cooler. Thankfully he was ready to act on it and we made a stop by Lowe’s on our way to dinner, Friday night, two pick up two of these beauties.

We dithered a bit over what size to get. A 5,000 BTU unit cools up to 150 sq ft, which was a little under the size of our bedroom and definitely smaller than Todd’s office across the hall (the destination of the other unit). I was good with going up just to a 6,000 BTU unit, promising to cover up to 250 sq ft, but Todd pointed out that we do like things pretty cool and it wasn’t that much more to get a slightly larger unit. Which is how we ended up with 2, 8,000 BTU units, promising 350 sq ft of cool.

Hello, new friends!

Hello, new friends!

Not to spoil it or anything, but Monday heard Todd saying it was easily the best $500 we’ve spent on the house to date.

I did have a condition about the window units, that they not be hanging out of any front-facing windows. Thankfully each room in question has side windows that face the side and while the one in Todd’s office would be visible from the street, it still wasn’t as obnoxious as it would have been poking out of our bay window!

My other concern was installation–don’t these sorts of units require a platform for the back end to sit on? And wouldn’t that be a bit tricky up on the second floor with Todd’s wrist still not back to fully functioning? Apparently not, as the more modern units are small enough to rest on the window sill and be held in place by the window itself.

I was shocked at how quick it was to install!

Simple, 5-screw installation.

Simple, 5-screw installation.

As promised, the unit sits on the sill and the bottom of the window sits down into a plate on the top of the unit. And it only took 5 small screws to keep things in place, so it’s not like it did irreparable damage to the 75 year old windows.


Keep the air in and the bugs out!

Keep the air in and the bugs out!

The last step was the weather stripping to fill the gap between the panes. It didn’t look like the provided stuff was going to work (it was too thin for our old windows) until Todd decided to turn it sideways and it filled the gap just right.

They also came with remotes--very useful so far!

They also came with remotes–very useful so far!

After a few nights with these bad boys I can say that they are a bit noisier than anticipated, but not so much that it keeps us awake. The steady noise from the window units seems to be drowning out the outside noises that sometimes do startle me when I’m trying to go to sleep, so maybe the sounds are a benefit? And it was so nice to be able to put the blanket back on the bed and sleep with the weight of it on me–I’ve been sleeping so much better between that and the temperature! And with both units running there is a little mix on the landing between the rooms, so we might actually avoid a $600 utility bill this summer, which would be fabulous!

We did one other thing this weekend that has made daily life so much better.

Mom decided to swap out her kitchen cart/island for another model and offered us her old one. Jason drove it up on Sunday so I took the opportunity to deep clean the kitchen, clear off a lot of the counter clutter*, and even take down the old blinds and put up the sheers I’d purchased way too many months ago. All they needed was hemming and a pocket added to the bottom and they were ready to go!


With the smaller island in place (before it was my old IKEA table, which is now in the Abyss as another work surface) it gives us more room to maneuver. The two drawers in the unit give us much-needed storage (no more dishtowels in a basket on the counter!), the shelves get things off the floor and provide places for some of the aforementioned counter clutter to go, and the counter-height top makes it a much more functional work space.

Meanwhile, the sheers let in so much light in the afternoons that it completely changes the vibe of the room. I cooked dinner, Tuesday night, without even needing to turn on the overhead light. And it feels so airy in there, I love it. We also brought one of the oscillating fans down from upstairs (since it’s no longer needed), and having it blow across the work area in front of the stove made preparing dinner this week so much more pleasant. The room has a single floor register (under the baker’s rack with a diverter) and it just doesn’t put out enough air to cool the room while the stove and/or oven are going.

All in all, the Gingerbread Dollhouse is a much more pleasant living environment after a couple of days effort. I already loved it, now I just love living in it a bit more!

*As I was saying to friends earlier this week, kitchen counters with nothing on them feel like a house without books, to me: empty and unloved. My counters will always have appliances and other often-used items on them, but I consider them “clear” if there’s only stuff single-deep and enough space in front of the items to fit at least a cutting board for work space.

Doings Around the Dollhouse

The Gingerbread Diaries

If you think we’re completely unpacked yet, you really haven’t met us, have you?

But we’re getting a lot closer, and each room we manage to clear of empty boxes and packing paper reminds me of just how much space we’ve given ourselves to stretch out in! I was watching the movie Tiny the other night (via Netflix) and thinking about how here’s this movement of people downsizing their lives into 200 square feet or less and we just moved into a house that is almost 3000 square feet. Way to go, bucking the trend, right? And while I admire their simplified lifestyles, I know me well enough to know how much I love my stuff. It doesn’t define me, but it’s awfully nice to have around!

Bye-Bye Blinds!

Bye-Bye Blinds!

One war we’ve been waging, lately, is against the window coverings in this house. Have I mentioned how much I despise mini-blinds? If not, let me be clear: I cannot stand the things! They clatter when the wind hits them, they collect dust like whoa!, are a pain to clean, they get bent out of shape/break easily and they are just plain ugly to look out. I’d almost go so far as to say I hate them, but I’m trying to reserve that word for the really bad things. Like Triple Sec.

But I digress.

It started with the guest room–that was the only room in the Dollhouse that had no window treatments whatsoever and the sun was coming in strong through the rear window, not helping the second floor keep anything close to cool. Thankfully, we had some drapes we used in our last bedroom and were able to toss those up as a stop-gap if nothing else.

We try not to remind our curtains of their shortcomings.

We try not to remind our curtains of their shortcomings.

This also pointed out to me just how freaking expensive proper drapes are going to be for this house! The curtains we hung barely covered the window itself and certainly don’t come anywhere near the floor. We have some long, tall drink of water windows in this place. But for now, at least this room isn’t acting quite like a sauna anymore.

Oh, hello Halloween decorations! (and curtains)

Oh, hello Halloween decorations! (and curtains)

Once those were in, we started to assess which rooms needed the most help as we unpacked more boxes and came across more draperies from rooms past. The library and dining room both get more than their fare share of sun, so the next two sets of panels (just as comically short on our walls) went to each, respectively, and then we found a trio that would work for the living room bay.

Our sofas are still destined for  recover, but at least the lamps match the drapes. (That sounds wrong, somehow.)

Our sofas are still destined for recovering, but at least the lamps match the drapes. (That sounds wrong, somehow.)

Now, these are not necessarily indicative of the direction we’re going in each room, just a process of settling in. We’ve been using the super cheap ($0.97) basic curtain rods just to get them up there and mounting them to the wide wooden window frames (some holes were already there, bonus!) to avoid having to drill through or anchor anything in the plaster just yet. Eventually there will combinations of pull-shades and custom (by moi) draperies in each room as we decide the colors and theme as we go along.

Another big sign of progress? The shower converter for the upstairs clawfoot tub has been ordered!!!

Ordered and arrived!

Ordered and arrived!

From a quick search of clawfoot tub fixtures you’d think finding what we wanted would be a relatively simple thing. Would you believe we’ve been searching pretty much since we closed on the Dollhouse?

I’m afraid I was at least partially to blame for the delay. You see, I really wanted a handheld shower head option in addition to the fixed shower head. I’ve lived with and without them and really prefer the convenience. But since we’re dealing with a (potentially) gorgeous antique tub, I didn’t want some clunky plastic modern thing messing up the look. Todd didn’t think my request was all that out-there, but as we searched it became difficult to find a set that a) mounts to the front of the tub and not on the rim or side, b) had the right spacing for our narrow fittings, and c) wasn’t $1000 or more.

A glimpse of the beuaty withing that big ol' box! I'm in love!

A glimpse of the beuaty withing that big ol’ box! I’m in love!

Bathroom fixtures (and kitchen, for that matter) always seem incredibly expensive for how little space they take up, but the sticker shock from early online shopping (no one seems to have them in stock, even the basic ones that the local hardware stores do carry) had me rethinking my position on the handheld shower head. Was it really that important?

No. And I suggested that maybe we could get a “normal” shower converter and add a handheld option later, even if it wouldn’t be as pretty or “princess phone” style (that’s what they’re called). But enough searching really does yield results and he was able to find one that met our material requirements while being under $600. Which is a good thing, since that’s more or less what we had “budgeted” for this piece of the puzzle based on the amount of the security deposit we got back from the rental.

I’m definitely looking forward to showering upstairs in the non-cave bathroom very, very soon. It means I can move my getting ready gear (underclothes, jewelry, and basic makeup) upstairs where it belongs instead of in my office where I get dressed for work each morning, currently, and I won’t have to cart my clothes downstairs each morning.

The part for this came in, too. Let's just hope it works!

The part for this came in, too. Let’s just hope it works!

Of course, because the Universe likes to keep things in balance, the day after Todd ordered the shower fixture the washing machine stopped spinning at top speed and needs a new clutch assembly (we think). Will we be wishing we’d saved that $600 for a new washer? More will be revealed…