Progress Is a Stack of Empty Boxes

The Gingerbread Diaries
It may be a small stack, but it's still a stack!

It may be a small stack, but it’s still a stack!

We’ve been able to cross several things off The List the last two weekends, for which I am truly grateful. We’ve penciled-in the most likely weekend for the housewarming/open house party so the clock is now ticking to get the rest of the functional changes dealt with!

First thing that happened? Todd took down the problematic doors and I did a happy dance. Now there’s more open space in the dining room and no more spooky spot in our bedroom. I am a much happier camper. Currently the doors are leaning against the back hall wall (the one not under near-constant water assault) but we may be swapping them with other doors that are staying in place but in not as good shape. Or not. That’s still very much up in the air.

A previously blocked corner of the dining room with a new bit of shelving from Homegoods--this side will half of the bar set-up when we're done.

A previously blocked corner of the dining room with a new bit of shelving from Homegoods–this side will be half of the bar set-up when we’re done.

The next big change was the kitchen.

I don’t remember if I said much about it, before, but the weekend prior to the move I was cleaning the upper kitchen cabinets and came to the conclusion that cleaning wasn’t going to be enough. The only way I was going to feel comfortable putting stuff in that kitchen (short of replacing the units) was if they got a good coat of Kilz before-hand. So, already tired and ready to be heading back to Tallahassee, we instead went to Lowes, bought spray cans of the encapsulating primer, and then busted it out, guerrilla-style, in about 20 minutes.

The kitchen before painting...

The kitchen before painting…

And 20 minutes later once the spray-paint dust settled.

And about 20 minutes later once the spray paint dust settled.

We didn’t have time to do the lowers, though, so that got put off. I also would not recommend the spray paint route without first removing anything that moves, because the little particles get all over. We wiped down the counters, etc. afterwards, but there are some places that still show a bit of over-spray, etc. Oh, well, we know the current kitchen is temporary and aren’t sweating it.

The very scary lowers (after prying up the old liner paper)...

The very scary lowers (after prying up the old liner paper)…

And a couple hours later--a vast improvement!

And a couple hours later–far from perfect but a vast improvement!

But two weekends ago, ready to finally unpack all those kitchen boxes, it was time to tackle the lowers, the drawers, and put down fresh shelf-liners. The painting took one afternoon and it wasn’t until this past Saturday that I finally put the liners down and started to unpack.

Ahh, the comfort of having your stuff around!

Ahh, the comfort of having your stuff around!

I still haven’t painted the cabinet doors and I’m not fully sure I will. Maybe the large ones for the lowers but, while I’m still not a huge fan of open shelving in general and neither is Todd, having everything open for now means we can find things a touch easier.

And it’s looking like it’ll be the first of the year before we actually do the big kitchen reno, because I didn’t want to be mid-project during the holidays!

Another big thing that greatly makes this feel more like our home and less like a nursing home was the removal of the ramp out front!

(Direct link for the feed readers: Gingerbread Diaries 1.5–The Great Ramp Caper)

Todd had been concerned that the bricks under the ramp would be in bad shape or crumbling. Thankfully, aside from a bit of moss growth, they’re in great shape just need some cleaning up. It’s so nice to be able to walk down the two steps to go out to the mailbox in the evenings instead of balancing on the ramp–no problem in flats, but in heels it’s another story!

It's the little things, folks!

It’s the little things, folks!

And in another case of using what we’ve got, we immediately repurposed the larger “half” of the ramp as a platform for the grill!

Waste not, want not!

Waste not, want not!

Our side yard is mostly sand and, like the rest of everything, tilts quite a bit. We’d used the grill a few times but it leaned back at an alarming angle. The eventual plan is to extend the bricks over to create a patio or maybe even pour a slab at some point, but for now this works.

One step at a time, we're creating a home out of a house.

One step at a time, we’re creating a home out of a house.

In the downstairs bathroom we added an etagere for some much-needed storage and, despite the fact that we added a piece of furniture to an already cramped room, it somehow made the space feel bigger. Maybe it’s the bright white covering some of the grey-mauve walls? Who knows! All I know is that it helped. Big time!

The bins on the etagere top and shelf are some I’ve been picking up at places like Tuesday Morning and Homegoods. Since we don’t know what color schemes or themes we’ll be using in the back hall and bathroom yet, I figured a good beige/khaki neutral is something that can go anywhere. And if I want to, later on, I can dye or paint them to match whatever we do.

We have lots of shelving in the back hall and can use this for a butler’s pantry if need be, but I don’t want various stuff just sitting out looking cluttered. Bins cover a multitude of organizational sins, so I’m still on the lookout for more (and cheap is good, too, since we need a bunch).

Finally, the programmable thermostats have gone in. This was fairly high on the to-do list but moved to the very top of the list when we got our most recent utility bill. *gulp* It doesn’t help that it was July, and a real scorcher of one, too. But our bill was over $500 this month!!! Yeowch! We expected an increase thanks to just having more space to climate control, but that bill hurt a bit to open.

It started so well...

It started so well…

Of course, nothing goes completely as planned at the Gingerbread Dollhouse, so of course the thermostat install had some hiccups.

Jenn: How’s it going?
Todd: Okay. They had the wires screwed in extra tight and the lead painted in place on the opposite side of the wall, but I’m getting there.
Jenn: Cool. Do you have the right number of wires?
Todd: Oh, yeah, I just have to get them in the right spots.

The above was a condensed paraphrasing but I jinxed us, really, by asking about the wires. Because sooner than expected what do you think happened? There may have indeed been five wires in the old thermostat set-up but were they all connected? As in to some sort of power source? Nope.

1 step forward, 2 steps back...

1 step forward, 2 steps back…

Having already mounted the back plate of the new thermostat to the plaster wall, Todd put the old thermostat hanging from the wires so we’d at least have air. He ended up having to crawl under the house and went so far as to open the access panel of the a/c unit to get everything working. Upstairs went much smoother, by the way.

While we didn’t go for the shinyness of a Nest thermostat, Todd did get a wi-fi accessible thermostat for the downstairs that we can control through our cell phones. So that’s kinda cool.

I’m still not sure we’re going to save much on the utility bill for another month or so, though, as any time the a/c units are off during the day just seems to mean they work harder cooling the place down in the evenings.  Oh, well, fall will be here soon enough.

Until next time, we’ll just keep on unpacking boxes!

The To-Do List Gets Real

The Gingerbread Diaries

I don’t remember, now, exactly what issue we were addressing a couple weeks ago when I said a frequent refrain around here:

Well, add it to the list!

So I don’t know why I was surprised to find Todd with pen and pad before turning in for bed that night, making an actual list of things that needed to be done around the house. Of course, this isn’t anything decorative, these were just things we needed to do to make the house more easy to live in. Since I like to work in some semblance of order, when he asked for my input I suggested we take it room by room. This is what we came up with:


  • Paint lower cabinets with Kilz
  • Fit cabinets and drawers with shelf liner
  • Buy & install water filtration system
  • Buy & install garbage disposal
  • Replace floor register, add diverter

Dining Room

  • Remove doors to kitchen & back hallways
Those doors are taking up some prime real estate!

Those doors are taking up some prime real estate!

When we re-do the kitchen we’ll install a swinging door between the kitchen & dining room. In the mean time, we never close the one that’s there and since you have to either go outside or through the dining room to get to the kitchen, I doubt we ever will. If we remove the door it frees up that corner to unpack the bar. Same goes for the door into the back hallway (which used to be the back porch); it stays open all the time as a main traffic route and blocks the other corner of the dining room where the other half of the barware would go.


Nothing needed here except to unpack it!

Main Hall

  • Install programmable thermostat
  • Relocate wireless router (requires running cable under house)
  • Replace front door & reorient opening direction
Ironically, the door is standing in the way of my pretty hallway plans.

Ironically, the door is standing in the way of my pretty hallway plans.

Again, the way the door opens blocks me from using the corner towards the living room. I’d like to put our antique desk in that corner but not if it’s going to get banged into by the front door. But there’s plenty of room on the opposite side of the door and the doorway into the library is too close to the exterior wall to have that space be usable anyway.

Living Room

Nothing needed here except to settle in.

The Abyss

  • Fix ceiling fan
  • Fix weird outlet on the south wall.

I’m grateful to have an outlet on each wall of my studio but it never fails that the one I depend on (aka the one closest to my computer) is a bit wiggly.

Back Hall

  • Clean wall where water damage occured
  • Re drywall/sheet rock wall next to bathroom
  • Add draft dodger or something to back door to prevent loss of climate control (floor is beyond not level back here)

The back hallway–what used to be back porch–is probably the worst area of the house. Extensive water-damage semi-concealed behind shelves, this are is prime territory for a mudroom-style makeover, but first it needs some triage. The floor was replaced as part of the 203k renovation, but there’s still some work to do.

Downstairs Bath

This is okay for now, but it’s the second item on the rooms to fully renovate list. (The first room on that list is the kitchen.)

Back Porch

  • Install outlet or two

Utility Room

  • Install outlet for chest freezer.

Technically, we have an outlet for the freezer, it just puts it on the same wall as the washer and drier and we want it on the other wall for a variety of reasons. Mainly it’ll prepare the room for the eventual moving-in of the water heater and fridge when we redo the kitchen, but that’s farther down the road.

Upstairs Bath

  • Get sink taps working
  • Install shower head (stationary or handheld, I don’t care which)

Right now we’re doing all our showering downstairs, which means I cart my clothes for the day down each morning and use The Abyss as my dressing room to avoid multiple trips up and down stairs first thing in the morning. While it works for now, I’d really like to not have to use that cramped cave of a bathroom or have clothes and makeup and toiletries strewn among 2 floors.

Guest Room

  • Install window coverings (this is the only room without blinds and it gets really warm during the day)
  • Fix ceiling fan

Master Bedroom

  • Flip door.

I know, me and the doors. While I understand that closing off rooms was for practical reasons as well as privacy (you can save money by only heating one area or another, a definite advantage over open plans), I have serious issues with closed doors and only sleep with a closed bedroom door if there’s a guest in the house. So when the most logical place for the bed means that the door opens alongside it–along my side of it–when it could just as easily have opened the other way alongside the door the adjoins the main and guest bedrooms, well, yeah, I want it flipped!

Of course, since the frame will need a little man-handling to make that happen, we’ll most likely be sans door for a while. I’m cool with that since it solves the main problem: the door creating this little half-wall on my side of the bed that makes me think someone’s going to jump out from behind it at night. I think there are something like 20 doors downstairs (not including the kitchen cabinets but counting the coal/wood doors next to most of the fireplaces) and another dozen up. That’s a lot of doors to deal with.

Todd’s Office

  • Install additional outlet(s)
  • Seal up some open spots in his closet

Upstairs Hallway

  • Install programmable thermostat
  • Install second wireless router, direct-linked from downstairs
With the second router right under the thermostat we should be able to get a decent signal in the 3 upstairs rooms. I'm envisioning a repurposed pie safe or similar to hold linens, and the router could hide in there, eventually.

With the second router right under the thermostat we should be able to get a decent signal in the 3 upstairs rooms. I’m envisioning a repurposed pie safe or similar to hold linens, and the router could hide in there, eventually.

We have quite a bit of signal interference thanks to the thick walls (mind you, they made up for it with thin outer walls…) so a hardwired set of routers seemed the best option to ensure full access upstairs and down.

And that’s “it” for now.  A bit of electrical work, some door issues to be resolved, but the only major must-do is the downstairs hall wall. That thing is contributing quite a bit to the musty smell back there and just can’t be good to keep around in general. Having replaced the roof it’s no longer getting worse every time it rains (seriously, how they managed to ignore it all those years is beyond me) but it doesn’t mean it’s miraculously getting better on it’s own, either.

But hey, now that we have a list, we can start to check things off it!