Archives For The Great Outdoors

My undergraduate studies took me through a wide range of the social sciences and liberal arts. I was an English major with a concentration in Secondary Ed, but I took sociology classes every chance I got and I even took five semesters of German (guten Tag!). Anyway, in one of my sociology classes I learned about the broken windows theory of criminology. It’s controversial and I’m not sure I agree with its implications, but the gist of it is that petty crime and disorder create an atmosphere conducive to more serious crime. One broken window that doesn’t get fixed leads to more broken windows, which leads to a sense that nobody really cares and that it’s okay to treat the neighborhood and the people who live in it with disrespect. This theory is great when it motivates people to clean up blighted neighborhoods, not so great when cops start cracking down on petty crime in the hopes that it’ll scare away the big fish (but that’s just my opinion). Anyway, I broke this pane of glass on our front door on Christmas Eve as we were rushing out of the house. We taped some cardboard up over it and figured we’d deal with it after the holidays.

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Super classy.

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We put off fixing it for three months and in that time:

  • our washing machine broke
  • our new washing machine broke and we waited more than a month for the part to repair it
  • our pipes froze and sprung a leak
  • unrelated to the freeze, the pipe that drains from our kitchen sink corroded and the plumber had to cut away a section of our exterior to replace the whole operation (which was really peculiarly installed and prone to clogs, so it’s much better now but that didn’t make it any easier to drop $700 on something we can’t even see)

The good news is that this is a part of the house that nobody ever sees. I actually had to walk around to the alley and between two fences to get here. Literally nobody can see this unless they are in this difficult-to-access spot on purpose. The bad news is that the plumber just temporarily put everything back in place and it’s up to us to actually repair the siding.

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Two different types of siding meet just a few feet away from here. Note additional chaos: weeds and filth (algae? mildew?). And I see another spot of messed up siding over there in the corner.

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Old houses are so charming and full of character, but you’ve got to stay on top of them. One neglected problem can quickly snowball, just like disorder in a troubled neighborhood.¬†Things seem to have been getting away from us lately and to distract ourselves from the expensive new roof that’s looming in our future we decided to finally tackle the front door. It was actually so much cheaper and easier than we’d anticipated! The glass was only about $4 and cut to size for free at Lowe’s. Not pictured: a hammer to help us use the flathead screwdriver as a chisel and remove old nails.

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Step one: use a utility knife to score the paint over the moldings. This is about as far as Nick got before I kicked him out and took over.

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Next, I used a screwdriver and a hammer to gently, carefully chisel the very old wood molding loose. I tried not to let it get too torn up but a certain amount of damage was inevitable. I’m pretty sure these doors are original to the house and thus nearly a century old.

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The nails holding them in stayed in the frame even after I’d tugged the moldings free. I waited until I had all the moldings and glass out to use the claw of my hammer to pull them.

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Bam. Moldings gone and we could carefully remove the broken glass. This was surprisingly satisfying.

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I could lie and say that I popped my new glass in and replaced the moldings and it was so easy! But actually even though I’d told the lady at Lowe’s “Well, I measured the opening to be six and a quarter by twelve and a quarter but it probably needs to be a little bigger to fit properly,” it turns out I should’ve been more specific because she cut it to exactly 6.25″x12.25″ and it was too small. I had to go back to Lowe’s but luckily they let me return it with no problem and I was back home in no time with a new piece. This time I asked them to cut it to 6.75″ by 12.75″ and it fit so perfectly that I had to carefully coax it into the frame, diligently removing any splinters or scraps that stood in its way.

Also, a piece of molding near the bottom right had always been missing (disguised previously with paint on the glass) so Nick cut a tiny piece of scrap beadboard to length and it was just right. I used some caulk and my brad gun to carefully tack all the molding to the frame and then filled all the gaps and cracks with caulk.

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After the caulk had dried I touched up the paint (luckily I just painted this door last summer) and still had the paint on hand). Now it looks not good as new, but old and charming and not broken.

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So, now that my front door no longer screams DISREPAIR maybe the rest of the house will get its act together? We’re working on the kitchen currently but next is fixing up the deck, then cleaning and repairing the siding, replacing the roof¬†(gulp), and hopefully if things go well repainting the exterior trim. Home ownership is bittersweet.

We have a couple of upgrades on deck for our exterior this year. We need a new roof, a fresh paint job, a repair to where the plumber cut away part of the house(!!!) to repair a faulty drain pipe. We also need to fix the broken gate and to dethatch the grass in the backyard (yeah, I’d never heard of it either, but we’ve got weirdly thick grass back there). This past weekend the weather was warm after a rainy week and we decided to knock out an easy task that we’d been tossing around for a long time. We live in an historic neighborhood where the houses are tightly packed and driveways were an afterthought. Ours is this narrow space between our home (on the right) and our neighbors’. And it’s getting kind of muddy. After any big rain I have to tiptoe to and fro and that area near the trashcans forms a giant puddle.

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Some friends told us about a local stone yard that has good prices (Jim Stone on Florida Blvd if you’re local), so Nick brought a truck home from work and first thing Saturday morning we drove out there and bought a cubic yard of pea gravel for $35. We paid for it, they dumped it into the the bed of the truck with a bucket loader, and we were on our way home. Easy peasy! Back at the house we backed the truck up into the driveway and Nick shoveled it out, moving the truck gradually back toward the street every few minutes so he could distribute the gravel evenly. I came behind him and raked it a bit to even it out but didn’t stress over perfection. It took under an hour. Bonus: Jack thought it was a blast.

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It’d probably be prettier if we’d leveled the ground beneath first so that the grass didn’t show through high spots, but whatever. It’s not muddy, it’s not so deep that you sink in and get rocks in your shoes (hate that!) and Jack thinks it is seriously so much fun to pile rocks in a bucket and carry them around, dump them back out, etc. I’ve always felt bad that we didn’t have a big, flat, paved driveway for him to play with ride-on toys but the rocks are pretty fun.

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It’s rainy and cold again this week but I don’t have to worry about getting my shoes all muddy on my way to the car. It’s the little luxuries in life, I tell ya.

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Not to mention how much Jack enjoys it.

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So if you’ve been thinking of filling in your driveway or a low spot on your property, or even wondered about making a rock box for your kid, check out your local stone yard! It was really cheap and easy and makes me happy every time I come home.

After I posted about my newly navy doors earlier this week a couple of you asked how it looked from the street. Behold.

Before:

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After:

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The difference is subtle, even from the yard.

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But once you make it up onto the porch there’s a big impact.

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I took some photos of the rest of the porch while I was out there. I sold the rocking chairs on craigslist since we rarely used them and they were a nightmare to keep clean. The porch feels so much bigger now! I’ve been using that corner to house a baby pool and basket of toys for Jack. And also to breed mosquitoes, apparently, because I always neglect to empty the pool when we’re done.

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The seating area is as comfortable as ever. The new table is working out just swimmingly. My Pawpaw Gulley built that swing 15+ years ago and I think he rather enjoyed sitting out there while he was staying with us. He told me he built 150 in total and sold them at cost–just for the love of woodworking.

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I’m looking forward to spending more time out here when the weather cools down a little. It’s been hot and humid all week but September is just around the corner.

Thank you all for your kind words yesterday regarding the loss of my Pawpaw Hamrick. It really meant so much to me and, I’m sure, my family. Y’all are the best.

When we first bought our house the porch was a blank canvas. I made curtains for the french doors, hung a swing that my grandfather built, moved the mailbox up from the yard, and got some comfy chairs.

Over time I added plants and decor, painted the doors blue, and stripped the paint from the original brass hardware.

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I was never really sold on the teal doors. Even as I painted them I felt insecure about it. It seemed like a sort of juvenile choice for such an old house. But there wasn’t a doubt in my mind as I rolled on the navy paint. It’s perfect.

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I feel like it adds so much more character than the white doors we inherited but is more sophisticated than the teal. And put together with the ferns I have yet to kill, the colorful rug, the old-fashioned mailbox and the wall decor (a thrift store find that I painted white) the whole effect is like a little microcosm of my decorating style and a preview of what lies inside.

bungalow porch with navy front door

It’s funny how such a small change can be so refreshing! And at the same time, it feels like it was always this color. The craziest thing is that I have always, always, always wanted to repaint the porch floor. Ever since we bought this house I have hated the green and wanted to paint it gray instead. But now with the navy door the green is growing on me. It helps that I gave it a good cleaning recently, but I also think that the traditional colors just complement each other nicely. I’m still not ruling out that I’ll paint it someday, but it’s not the glaring eyesore that it once was.

I hope you all had a wonderful weekend. Ours was the kind that felt like it lasted forever but was full of ups and downs. On Saturday we visited family, including my grandfather on my mom’s side who is really not well (put that in the “downs” column). On Sunday Nick took Jack to the zoo while I studied for my LCSW. And today my Pawpaw Gulley (who’s been staying with us for two weeks) is moving into his new apartment! There’s been so much going on with us lately but I’m not ready for summer to end. I hope August lasts forever.