Monday, December 31, 2012

Last Update From 2012 (Part 2)~

The rest of this post is random stuff.

One of the things I received during the party was an antique mogul lamp. This lamp was actually part of my birthday gift, but my friends who gave it to me were from out of town, and they had forgotten to drop it off, so they remembered to bring it this time. The lamp was in a very sorry state, and the lamp cord on it was beyond frightening. If you look closely, you can see part of the original cloth cord (which is a beautiful dark reddish brown), which is frayed in some places down to the bare filaments, then it's spliced onto a newer plug.

What you can't see is that the original cord is also spliced again on the interior to another pair of old wires (although these were the original wires/splices and they were still in good shape in the interior rod of the lamp). It's interesting to note this, because I had thought that these lamps originally just had a single length of fabric cord that went all the way up into the lamp, but apparently they didn't. They used separate plain white wires, one with a red tracer wire, in the 5 foot (or so) unseen portion.

The candle covers are also missing, and one obviously needed re-straightening.

Another small issue, which I don't know if I can fix or not, is that for some unknown reason, there were 3 holes drilled into the brass candelabra base. Two side by side, and one across. These are NOT original holes. You can see the odd pair on the left near the candelabra (above photo). It's fixable, but it would require a LOT of work. I'd have to solder a patch on the interior body, then fill the hole with either a small cut piece of brass (then solder, grind, smooth, and polish the repair), or use a filler/paint combo. I am probably just going to leave it (ignore it).

The lamp looks to have been partially rewired in the past (candelabras had new wire), but I did not trust any of it, and rewired it completely. I also installed a new 3-way switch (pull-chain). This is the second lamp I've rewired that just had a simple on/off switch, rather than a 3-way for the candelabras. They are supposed to be 3-way, but I'm sure the old switch was original on two of the lamps I rewired. I prefer a 3-way, and I feel safer with a new switch in the case of these particular lamps.

This is the extremely useful (and simple) wiring diagram that I use for these lamps.

The mogul socket is wired separately, and attached to the main black/white leads, and likewise, the two blue lines are connected at the 3-way point with a marrette (wire nut).

For now, the lamp is done, and functional, but I'm missing a top for it (with the mogul socket and shade holder), and 3 replacement candle covers. The loose wire sticking out of the top is for the mogul socket. Also note that when I took the lamp apart (everything unscrews into sections), I cleaned the pieces, and in some cases, repainted them. The base was in very poor shape, and I used 3 or 4 different mixes of spray paint to get the right effect. The "onyx" base disc is actually made of coloured glass (some lamps used real onyx).

And if you've read up to this point, and have no idea what a "mogul" is, and haven't bothered to Google-it, let me just quickly explain. A mogul is another style of light bulb base. A standard bulb uses an Edison style screw base. A mogul base is the same, only much larger. Because of this, you need a jumbo sized light bulb (Mogul bulb). Mogul base bulbs are often seen on large industrial lamps (such as halogen, mercury vapour, high-pressure sodium and metal halide bulbs), but they are also used in these mogul lamps with regular filament mogul bulbs. The lamps are called mogul lamps because of the mogul bulb that they use.

Many people choose to just buy an adapter for the mogul socket, and use a regular bulb in the lamp, but the bulbs are actually very easy to find. Here in town, there are at least 3-4 places that carry them, and they range in price from around 5$ - 15$ depending where you buy them. I made the mistake of buying the first one for 15$ at a specialty lighting shop, and then I later found out that Wal-Mart carried them for only 5$.

These lamps are AMAZING if you're doing home renovations. If they're fitted with a typical mogul bulb (which is also 3-way), they generally run 300-200-100w, plus the three candelabra bulbs (I use 40w but you can use 60w), which, when all are lit, gives you up to 480w (300+60+60+60) of light! Do be careful, though. The mogul bulb gets insanely hot (so hot that it must be used only "upright" like in this style lamp. This is why you'll frequently see one in the background when I'm working on the house. It's as good, or better, than those halogen flood lights on a stand, and way more stylish!

So yeah, this now means that I own 3 of these lamps. Two were free (the one in the first photo with the white shade was from Mom), and one I paid 15$ for, at a yard sale, and it came with the original metal drum shade (you can see that one in the master bedroom in video 2 of the house tour, at around the 3:40 mark).

I thought I would share some photos of the first huge snow storm we've had this year. It was pretty amazing/awful. I didn't leave the house that day. The roads were terrible, and I was practically snowed-in. I would estimate that there was at least 12-24" of snow.

It's a good thing that my porch door now opens inwards...

Even though I'm on a fairly busy corner, this is how the roads looked. I can't imagine how the lesser-travelled parts of town looked. This was taken in the afternoon (the snow ploughs had been working non stop since early morning). The sidewalks didn't get done for another 2-3 days later (and they looked almost like carved square tunnels).

Additionally, all the snow stuck to my screens (I don't bother to remove them since they keep leaves/debris off the window ledges), and I couldn't really see outside.

You can see a lot of the accumulated snow in the house tour videos, which were taken a few days later.


I don't remember where or exactly WHEN I bought these two locks, but they arrived in the mail as a bit of a surprise. I had forgotten all about them. These are two old locks that appear to be NOS (new old stock). They are in mint condition, except for dust an a few webs. They even have the original varnish/lacquer on the faces, no scratches, and all the original paint. It's hard to imagine that they survived all this time. I got them for a song (less than 10$ a piece). As a bonus, they also had the original (new) strike plates!

They are unmarked, except for "P 5" on the brass face plates, but they match 2 other unmarked lock sets, and are also nearly identical in/out to 3 high-end Corbin locks.

This brings up my "stash" of good locks to 7. I'm trying to get mainly just the really high grade locks with cast iron parts for the house. These are much sturdier and more reliable than some of the flimsier locks that I have. I have other good Yale ones, but the spacing on them is WAY different.

I thought I would re-inventory my stash of good hardware, and take a photo at the same time. So far, I have the following, and I'm aiming to have enough for at least the 8 interior doors:

- 7 high-end lock sets (need 1 more)
- 5 strike plates (need 3, I can get new ones that are very close to these)
- 7 1/2 sets of black fired clay knobs (need 1 + extras for exterior doors) + extra stems
- 20 ball-tip hinges (I have enough for 10 regular doors, not sure if I want the same ones or antique larger ones on exterior doors - I have several larger sets)
- 14 face plates (need 2 + extras for exterior doors if I want those to match)
- 0 set screws for knobs, most are damaged (need 20-30 - I can get these on eBay)

Not all the hardware has been cleaned/refurbished yet.


"L Room" updates:

I fixed that huge hole/nightmare from a few weeks ago. Remember this?

Note mogul lamp cord! Haha! Well now it looks like this:

I purposefully left it slightly uneven, because the entire wall looks like a war zone, and a large perfectly smooth patch will show.

I finished sanding/filling/sanding/scraping/puttying/sanding/caulking the two windows. Still far from perfect, but it will look passable once it's painted.

Another view of the wall repair, and baseboard caulked:

Yesterday I scraped and caulked all the baseboards. They're actually in pretty nice shape.

Caulked both door frames:

Repaired/rewired 3 of the outlets. This before and after is NOT an exaggeration. It's seriously looked like this for the past 2 years. Two of the electrical boxes were installed crooked, and too far back from the drywall, so I had to re-install those, and re-patch the drywall around them again.

And just to keep things "real", I wanted to share this photo. Most of the original walls are pretty rough. I patched them and smoothed them as much as possible, and for the most part, they look alright, but if the light is shining on them the wrong way, they tend to look like this:

...and I'm ok with that. I actually prefer this to a perfectly pristine flat (boring) wall. It's part of the reason I wanted an old house in the first place. Some will call it charm, or character, but I see it as history. This house has survived since 1923, and it shows some "battle scars" as my high school friend would say.

Last Update From 2012~

As 2012 wraps up today, I'm leaving you guys with one last update for this year. These are a few photos and projects from the past 2 weeks.

I'll start off with some of the party prep & decorations. For those of you who don't know me that well, I have a strong love of food. Both the simple act of eating, and just the wonderful flavours and combinations of foods you can experience. I used to be quite overweight, too (I have photos to prove it) and I just love eating in general, especially when I'm bored, sitting in front of the PC, or while watching a movie. It's been a struggle to keep myself from gaining too much weight while I've been off work, but I've somehow managed. The only trick I've found is to keep myself busy/distracted, or to snack on other things. However, I'm not here to talk about my diet. Back to food. As a result of my love for food, I also love to cook and bake. I have come a long way from my earlier years of making ramen noodles and Kraft Dinner (which I still make on occasion), and these days, I don't shy away from making very exotic and elaborate meals (time permitting). That said, what would seem to be just a normal "chicken noodle soup" for my party, was actually made entirely from scratch. Nothing but the best when I'm entertaining for my friends!

The broth simmered and concentrated, on low, for around 10-12 hours (overnight) for maximum flavour. I used chicken "backs" (an inexpensive pack for 2$) as well as 2 full chicken breasts (that's 4 individual chicken breasts still on the rib cages) for the stock, and I reserved and cut-up the 4 breasts for the meat in the finished soup. I have no photo of the finished soup, unfortunately, but it consisted of a mirepoix (celery, carrots, and onion) softened in butter, added to the soup stock, along with the reserved chicken, and cooked miniature bowties.

The main chili dish was also made entirely from scratch, and it was my near-imitation of the one served at Tim Horton's (a popular coffee & doughnut restaurant chain here in Canada). This chili features a deep, flavourful mix of spices.

I was, however, very surprised and very happy to get rave reviews on my simple Caesar salad. It was simply chopped Romaine hearts, a bit of shredded mozzarella, croutons (store bought ones *gasp*), and home made bacon bits. The only secret ingredient was the Renee's Mighty Caesar dressing (which is absolutely amazing).

The final table setting (after buying wine glasses, additional flowers, and washing everything) looked like this:

Since I'm currently unemployed, Christmas this year was very tight, so my main gifts were home baked sugar cookies, and this party. I also had a nice sized treat bag filled with Christmas candies & chocolates for each guest (no photo).

On the day of the party, I was running behind schedule so much that the cookies (enough for 8 boxes) were all baked and ready only minutes before the guests were due to arrive! This was maddening and very stressful for me. I will *not* let this happen again.

I ended up needing to do a last minute grocery run that morning, and this put me a bit behind. I had planned to have several hours to prepare the cookies, and it didn't work out that way. I was ready to start baking at around 1:45 - 2:00pm (the party was scheduled for around 4:00pm).

It was at this point that I realized I DID NOT HAVE ENOUGH FLOUR!

*cue freak out*

I wanted to make a triple batch, but I only had enough flour for two batches. I had checked that I had enough icing sugar, vanilla, etc,but somehow I neglected to check the flour. Thankfully, I have nice neighbours (the ones in the attached building) and I was able to get the other 2 cups of flour I needed!

So, keeping in mind that the dough for sugar cookies (or any other butter-based cookies) is SUPPOSED to chill for 1 hour in the fridge, it was a miracle that I was able to bake somewhere in the region of 90 cookies in just 2 hours... but I totally cheated! I tossed the dough in the freezer to speed things up. I had to! But it worked just as well.

These were most of the cookies before I boxed them. I had something like 9 cookies per box (x8) and about a dozen slightly burnt ones (the first sheet ALWAYS gets fubar'd), and there were also a handful that got broken/bent/squished/eaten.

So yeah, hectic, stressful, insane. All these words are applicable. I got the cookies baked, cooled, and gift boxed just in time before my first friend showed up right around 4pm. Once that was all over, things like the soup, and reheating the chili (prepared the previous day), were easy, and I could relax.

And as a funny side note: I totally threw all the dirty cookie sheets and bowls into the oven, but shhhh! don't tell anyone. LOL.


Here are a few of my decorations. I really love nutcrackers, probably ever since I first saw the Care Bears version as a kid. Those wishing to go down a trip on memory lane can find it on YouTube :D

My Mom bought me the smaller teal one many years ago (second photo below). The other two were bought in the past few years, and I may grow the collection after seeing Alex & Wendy's collection. They make a really beautiful display as a group. Here's a photo of their wonderful collection:

And these are mine. I especially liked the unusual striped hat on the larger drummer:

This red drummer was bought this year. He was only 12$. I've mentioned before that I'm a bit picky about details, and you can see how nicely painted he is. His hat has a real brass chain, and he also has a few fake gems (hat and boots). I never expect these to be perfect, since they're mass produced, but it's always nice when they look like time and effort went into them, which is something I really appreciate. He's also the same size/company as the other drummer above (which I bought a few years back at the same store).

Another fun holiday item is this vintage tin "angel chimes". This was something I found either at Value Village, or I may have picked it up at a yard sale. It was still in the original box, and it had never been opened (the plastic baggies inside were still sealed). I didn't light it, since I'm not sure if I could find new candles that would fit.

Next is my miniature tree. I had not found a good artificial tree at this point yet, (I'm really excited for next year!) and this small tree was a gift from a former coworker from several years back. I had used it only a few times, back when I was at the apartment. It's filled with many of my old/childhood ornaments.

You will see many of the ornaments in it are hand made, and most of them were made by my mother (who used to do tons of crafts). Many are done in plastic canvas (which was huge back in the 90s), others are felt & pom-poms, like the cute kitten in a slipper near the top. Others are store bought.

I'm also a huge fan of apples and oranges* as part of the decorations. Unfortunately, the oranges are very hard to find, and I'll probably have to scour eBay or make some myself. You can see just one or two (since these are all I have). We used to have a whole box of them, but I think they're still with the other decorations at Dad's house (who never puts up the tree anymore). Apples seem to be extremely easy to find, and I have several boxes in different sizes.

* For the simple fact that decades ago, it used to be a real treat for people to get apples or oranges at this time of year, simply because back then, they were a luxury due to transport costs, etc. It makes you appreciate how lucky and spoiled we are today.

Opposite the tree (in the living room), I added my pine cone wreath to the large antique mirror, and hung my stocking on one of the doors of the bookcase. This is the stocking I've had since I was a kid, and it's also one that was entirely hand made by my Mom. All 4 of us had one (Mom, Dad, my brother and myself), and each was slightly different. I know that mine and my brother's had bears in the pocket, and Dad's was an elf with a pointy/curved hat, but I'm not sure what Mom's was. It may have also been a bear. Or maybe my bothers' was also an elf? It's been too long.

Each year, they would get stuffed full of candies and small toys. One of the things I remember getting in these was Terry's Chocolate Oranges.

Side note: You can see the stocking a bit better in this old photo from 2006:

The last little project I did on the house before the party, was to install the hinges on the vanity. I did not want to run the risk that someone might hook them, or try to open them (not realizing they were just propped-up for looks), and I also didn't want to leave them off the vanity (because it would have looked tacky). I had a bit of trouble with two screws breaking in the wood (Remember folks, hard maple is hard like a rock. You can bash it with a hammer and it will barely leave a mark!), so I increased the size of drill bit that I was using, and I was able to fix everything without too much trouble.

To make things easy, I used the same method as the other doors I hung in the house. Attach the hinges to the doors, then to the cabinet, using shims as both spacers, and to keep the doors in place. Punch mark the centres, pre-drill, and affix the screws.

Also, since I have no bathroom door, I hung a temporary curtain with a dowel rod tensioned into place in the jamb.

The party went well, and everyone had a good time.


Alright, this post is getting insanely long, so I'm cutting it into two parts. Part 2 will be the more random stuff.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

"L Room" Progress

I've been working on the L Room today. I did a whole bunch more puttying, sanding, patching, and caulking on both windows, and I think I'm at the point where they're about as good as they can look without stripping them. So they're ready for paint now. I just have the trim moulding around the window interior to make and install (hopefully tomorrow).

I also caulked both new door casings, sanded my huge wall patch, and caulked along the baseboard (not the whole room though). I just finished fixing and replacing the electrical outlets for the room. 3 had been redone (new) a while back, and 3 were left to replace/fix. Pics and more details later.

I also might have a friend who can help me install the drywall on the ceiling. Not sure when she's able to help me, but she said she could give me a hand. There are only about 5 sheets (full sheets) to cut and install. Then there will be smaller ones that I can do myself, or with her help (depends how long it takes).

Things are looking good!

I'm also a little disappointed that I haven't gotten any comments on the videos yet. :(

Friday, December 28, 2012

Video Tour!

This series of videos shows a full tour of my house (minus the basement and attic). I really hope you guys enjoy this. I tried to keep the camera as steady as possible, but it's a bit shaky. I also messed up some of my dialogue in a few places, like where I show the bed and say "no mattress" when I meant to say "no bed, just the mattress".

I'll have update photos coming later, so just enjoy these for now. It turned out to be a lot longer than I thought, clocking-in at around 1/2 hour total.

House Tour Part 1

House Tour Part 2

House Tour Part 3

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Boxing Day Score!

I usually never find anything great on Boxing Day, and I often don't even bother going out, but today I went with my Mom to see if the Christmas tree that I liked at Sears was on sale/reduced. I had seen it earlier this month, and it was originally priced at 199.99$, but reduced to 139.99$. I asked a sales associate if it might end up getting further reduced, and she told me "no, not at that price, it's already been marked down". But I was happy to see that all the Christmas decorations and the trees were 50-70% off. I got the tree for 59.99$ plus taxes (just under 70$). What an awesome deal.

I should just quickly mention that I've been looking at different artificial trees on and off for several years, and most of the ones I liked (pre-lit with realistic looking tips) were in the 400$ and-up price range, so finding this tree was a huge success for me. I'm really picky (since I will likely be keeping and reusing this tree for the next 10 or more years), so it was truly a lucky find, especially at that price.

While I was out, I was also hoping that I might find some nice discounted nutcrackers, but I didn't see any. The only two I found that were decent looking (at Canadian Tire) were a baseball one (which made me think of Alex from Old Town Home), and a basketball one, which looked cool, but I'm really not into sports. I did see a pirate one at Sears that I kinda liked, but the paint job and overall quality on it were only so-so.

I ended up getting a few ornaments, and 5 rolls of Debbie Travis gift wrap at Canadian Tire. I also went to Wal-Mart afterwards, and picked up several cheap DVDs. I picked up the 4th Pirates of The Caribbean, Tintin (which I haven't seen yet), Eagle Eye (which I also haven't seen, and have wanted to see for a few years - only 5$), Sherlock Holmes Game of Shadows, and season 6 of Supernatural. On top of that, I picked up some comfy new slippers, and coat hangers (which were conveniently on sale), since I always seem to need new ones.

I haven't taken the video tour of the house yet (because I'm a lazy bum and I still haven't done the dishes from the party yet), but I'll be doing that very soon.

There's not much else to update related to the house. In preparation for the party, I installed the vanity doors, and I've been working on another antique "Mogul base lamp" that was gifted to me for my birthday. This lamp was pretty much in shambles, and miraculously still had tattered remains of its original cloth cord and internal wire (some of which is in near new condition, and that I'll keep for possible future use). I had to buy a new 3-way switch for it, and partially refinish several of the metal pieces. This particular lamp has a faux onyx segment (disc) made from glass. It's missing the entire top portion as well (the portion which holds the large glass shade and mogul bulb/socket. I have a spare antique shade, but the missing lamp (body) parts will cost me around 30$ to replace. I also want to get an old style button plug for it (another 4$). I haven't decided weather or not I'd want to change the main cord on all three of my mogul lamps. This would cost around 50$ (for repro rayon covered wire), but it would look really awesome. I won't be spending money on that now, but I can always change these later.

Photos of the lamp, party, and vanity will follow in the next few days.

Friday, December 21, 2012


As I mentioned earlier, I'm having a Christmas party for the very first time at the house. This isn't the first party I host here, but it's the first time I'll be having a more traditional sit-down meal type party.

That said, I've been cleaning the house from top to bottom for the past 2 days (mainly today). I'm nearly done, and some of the food for tomorrow is ready to go. I have a last minute shopping trip tomorrow morning, and cookies to bake, but everything should work out alright.

Here's the long list of what I did/cleaned so far:

- Dusting everything (yes, everything, piece by piece)
- WASHING all the painted floors (by hand, with a rag and pail, on my hands and knees)
- Washing/cleaning all the mouldings, baseboards, and windows sills (you wouldn't believe how much dust had settled over the doors and windows - no one would see this, but I wanted a THOROUGH cleaning)
- Washing the tub/shower
- Washing the bathroom tile floor
- Washing the sink in the "guest bedroom" upstairs (lots of scrubbing with Comet & Bar Keeper's Friend)
- Passing the vacuum in the guest bedroom and "L room" (unpainted floors)
- Washing the main staircase (OMG it was atrocious)
- Vacuuming the living room and dining room
- Washing everything in the kitchen (including the mouldings, cabinets, and the blue cupboard with everything on it), stove, fridge, etc.
- Washing the PC, keyboard, mouse, speakers, tower, monitor, and desk

I also re-potted and did "maintenance" on the bulk of my house plants yesterday. That was a huge job in itself (I have roughly 2 dozen), which took probably over 2 hours. This included replanting several of them, trimming-back roots, and planting a whole bunch of new cuttings that have been in water for months. I also took the time to WASH all the plants. The leaves on most of them were coated in dust.

This has been on my to-do list for probably around a year. Many of them were pot-bound, or getting straggly.

Left to do in the next hour (I'm on a break):

- Wash all the tile floors on the main floor (rag and pail)
- Wash the basement staircase (it's filthy)

So pretty much the entire house is now dust free (as much as it can be), and I'm 80% ready for my party. I still have the cookies to bake (as mentioned), and the serving dishes to wash (dinner plates, bowls, glasses, utensils).

That said, since the house will be so nice, and all the junk is put away, I'll probably be making a "walking house tour video". I've wanted to do one for a while. It's always much better to sense the scale and feel of a house through a video than through photos, and I won't be too ashamed of all the mess since it's all clean. You'll also be able to see the Christmas decorations since they're hard to photograph (because of the angles and where they are).

Sunday, December 16, 2012


I have been having issues finding proper keys for some of my mortise locks. My locksmith (the one near me at least) carries a few different universal keys, and he also has a huge key-ring of antique keys I can pick through, but it's still often hard to find ones that work. Sometimes the blade is just a hair short, or the blade is too wide, and often, the old keys have been re-cut or otherwise butchered.

The other problem I'm having is sheer cost. Skeleton keys aren't THAT expensive, but at 7$ per key, they add up quickly. I don't need a ton of them, but I thought I would try a Google search in hopes of finding cheap suppliers. Well, as it turns out, blank skeleton keys are nearly impossible to find. There are numerous sets of ugly, cheaply made repro keys from places like House of Antique Hardware, Historic Houseparts, Van Dykes Restorers, and even on Amazon, but none of those were what I wanted. The majority of them are also brass. NO traditional skeleton keys are brass. The only brass keys I've ever seen are clock keys, or occasionally very elaborate door lock keys on something likes a china cabinet.

I decided to try eBay and Etsy. I got two lucky finds (which you can see below), but they are still very hard to come by. I would have thought that blank skeleton keys would be fairly ubiquitous, but I guess not. I said these were lucky finds, because they were well priced. Several sellers have keys at around 4$ or 5$ (choice + shipping), but that's a pain in the rear if you're looking for a certain style of key. When you factor in that shipping on one key is around 4$, it's just not worth it. Other sellers have huge lots of 50+ keys, but they're asking over 100$. That's rather pointless.

I should have enough of these 6 keys for pretty much the whole house, and they ended up costing around 4$ to 5$ each including shipping.

As a bit of a side note, cutting these keys to a custom design is actually extremely simple. When you open on of these locks you can clearly see where the notch needs to be. All you need is a few files and a bit of patience. Optionally, a bench grinder can be used to remove more material.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

A Quick Restoration & A Small Disaster!

I don't recall exactly when I bought this little medicine cabinet, but I'm fairly sure I shared some photos of it before (on this blog). I bought it for a few dollars (possibly even just 1$, I can't remember), and I remember it was in the basement of a "whole house contents" type sale. The kind of sale where it was likely an old lady (or couple) who lived there and passed away. I remember buying several neat things at this sale, and I bought this cabinet right off the wall. I had to unscrew it (which was luckily just 2 screws).

I'm not sure how old it is, but it's AT LEAST 1950 (I know this for a fact, see below), but more likely 1930s or 40s.

This is more or less how I purchased it: absolutely filthy. It also sat in the basement for maybe a year now.

Let me just say that these two photos (above) don't do the grime justice. It was pretty plastered with a layer of old dust, making the formerly white paint a dingy yellowish grey. The interior (which you'll see shortly) was far worse.

The mirror is not the original one (which must have broken), and this replacement (but still OLD) mirror was loose in the door, so I removed it. In doing so, I found a folded sheet of newspaper, dated April 23rd 1952.

The mirror BARELY fits in the door (it's smaller than it should be and I had to use spacers around it when I put it back in), but it has a wonderful aged look (I'm a huge lover of antique mirrors, and I have over a dozen), so I wanted to clean it and reuse it. The mirror must have been a low-end one, since the backing paint was hand painted with a brush (higher quality mirrors have a sprayed or rolled painted film on the back). The black edges appear to be in between the glass and the paint, so it's actually the silvering that is "damaged" or tarnished. It might have been originally in a frame that covered these edges... who knows.

Here's how the interior looked (I also removed the back to be able to clean inside it properly). When I said it was filthy, I wasn't kidding!

You can see how the glossy old oil paint cleaned up pretty well in that photo. I used a damp cloth dipped in ample amounts of Comet, and a little bit of dish soap as a lubricant. I went over EVERY INCH of this cabinet with this mixture. It took about 1/2 hour or so, but I was left with this:

Far from perfect, and it did nothing for the poorly painted spots (the original paint was a mustardy beige (see above), or all the paint chips, but everywhere else, the paint is now shiny and clean.

I installed one of my new repro catches on it, since it was the closest hardware that fit (including some old catches I had on hand). It looks a bit odd to have the bright brass unpainted, but unless I paint over the whole thing again, I can't match this "aged off-white" old enamel paint, so it's staying as-is. The other option might seem obvious: remove the hinges and strip those, but they are really heavily painted, and the paint around them would probably chip badly, and then I'd have to repaint the whole thing again...

Like I said, still lots of paint chips, but it's CLEAN now.


Alright, I've said it before, but it never stops me from doing it anyways: Don't Pick At It!

What do I mean? Well, here's a little story. As you know, I've been working on the L Room casings for the past 2-3 days, getting it ready to paint. In doing that, I was using a chisel to scrape and pry-off large chunks of drywall mud (and paint, and wallpaper bits, and specks, and staples, and...) and when I was working on the left-side window, I uncovered a "soft spot" where the wallpaper (and dozens of paint layers over it) was loose off the drywall. I already knew about this, but I didn't think it was very big, and I thought I'd ignore it.

Here's where the "Don't pick at it" comes into play. I had the choice to either ignore it and move on, or scrape away the loose stuff. Guess which option I picked?


Now, let me just explain to you exactly what you're seeing. See that pinkish papery section at the top with a brown edge? That's not wallpaper. That's the actual drywall paper! The portion of wall below this must have gotten wet (leaky window, or the window might have been left open in bad weather), and the drywall soaked up some water. The actual paper facing came loose off the interior plaster/fibre layer. The light fuzzy brown portion on the lower part is the interior plaster layer showing, with just "fuzz" left from the paper.

The other issue (other than the missing paper), is that now the difference in thickness is about 1/8". No I'm not exaggerating here. There's a lot of plaster/mud smeared around on the walls, maybe 2-3 layers of wallpaper, dozens of coats of paint, and that pink you see above is Calcimine.

Luckily, this old 1920s drywall is pretty hard, and it won't crumble or do anything awful with the paper layer missing, so I secured it in place with extra screws (to keep this section from flexing around).

This whole wall is absolutely TERRIBLE (one of the worst ones in the house), so I don't feel bad about just doing a "good enough" patch job here.

Coat 1:

Coat 2:

I laid on the mud fairly thick, and as evenly as possible, so I'm hoping this will be enough. I will do a rough sanding, then another "patch" coat to fill in any valleys (I know there will be some). Basically just 1-2 thin touch-up layers, and I'm calling it good.

What do you guys think? Have you had to do similar "good enough" repair jobs?

Friday, December 14, 2012

"L Room" Update

Y'know, it's not until I cleared out most of the "L Room" that I remembered how freakin' BIG of a room it is. The main portion is around 9' x 12', plus the "L" portion is another 5 1/2' x 5 1/2', which gives roughly 138 square feet of floor space.

I've cleared out the room so that I can work on the baseboards and the windows.

More soon.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Party Prep & House Progress!

Alright, I'm still figuring out how I want to lay out the table, but things should work out okay with the blue napkins/placemats. I also dug-out some brand new cutlery that I had bought years ago, and a new set of 8 glasses (also bought ages ago). The great thing about these is that I didn't have to spend any money on them. All I really need are wine glasses, and I'll get those either at Wal-Mart or the dollar store (not something I'll use often, but handy to have, since I like entertaining).

New cutlery:

Glasses (which match my "day-to-day" ones, but they're not the same size):

And so far, this is more or less how the table will look. Everything is laid out, but I still have to wash everything. Plus, the party is only in a week or so.

EDIT: Oh! I also totally forgot to mention this, but the crummy old table I'm currently using in the dining room didn't have any leaves for it (it was a 10$ yard sale find), so I ended up making one out of an old door from the former upstairs kitchen! I just sawed-it down, and routed out spots for the pegs (I couldn't actually drill holes for the alignment pegs since the door had a wide routed lip around it). It's not perfect, but with a table cloth over it, and a few wooden cleats under it to keep it in place, no one would ever know!

House Stuff!

I did a bit of work on the house today, and two things got done.

I decided to finish painting/finishing the shade holders, and rewiring the antique light fixture in the "L Room" upstairs. I wasn't sure if I'd have enough wire to do the fixture, but as it turns out, I did.

And yes it will have to come down again when I finally have a chance to work on the ceiling drywall.

You can see the fixture (unlit, but half finished) in this past post:
PAINTING! And How to Install Crown Moulding by Yourself!

And a job that I've been putting off for probably a few months now, is finally done (except for final nail hole putty sanding): installing the rest of the baseboards in the "L Room". I've been dreading this simply because it's an outside mitre on two long boards (hard to cut on the table saw), and I also wanted to make sure which pieces of baseboard, from my stock of new and old pieces, I should use. I ended up going through ALL my baseboard pieces, measuring them, and writing down a full list, then measuring ALL the walls in the house that need baseboard reinstalled (some was butchered, some was damaged, and I removed most of it from the main floor). Then I assigned pieces to certain rooms based on lengths (all on paper with a sort of map), and ended up with some usable pieces. I actually have almost enough pieces for all the main rooms except the dining room, and 2 or 3 10 foot lengths (which will have to be new stuff).

That said, here's the (mostly) finished corner!

Once the putty can be sanded, I can go ahead and silicone both doorways (main and closet) in that room, check the rest of the old baseboards, and then prime and paint all of it. But I might wait until I finish the two windows, and do everything in one shot.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Dinner Party!

A friend of mine gave me a gentle push to finally do a Christmas party this year. For several years, I had been hosting a "non traditional" Christmas party at my apartment, and I invited everyone who could attend. The more the merrier.

I'm fairly sure that my first real "dinner" party was my 2005 "Asian Dinner Party", where I made a huge assortment of Chinese/Japanese dishes for everyone, which included: won-ton soup, udon soup, dumplings, pork and green onions, fried rice, and a bunch of other things (including sugar cookies for desert). I slaved over the stove for hours (days, really) and everything was made entirely from scratch. Thankfully, everything was delicious, everyone had a great time, and I was happy to cook for my friends. Prior to this party, we only had casual get-togethers.

I haven't hosted a Christmas party since I bought the house in 2010. And my excuse has been that the house is a disaster and I didn't feel like it (since it's generally a lot of work and planning).

But this year my friend Gen told me that I should make one anyways, and that all of my friends know that it's a mess because I'm renovating, and they don't care. And she has a point.

So with that, I decided to post an invite on Facebook, and I'm aiming for a close friends only, "Last Minute Christmas Party", with mostly just people that I'm fairly sure will be able to attend. This makes things less stressful for me, since I usually have to hunt people down to find out if they're coming or not.

I also planned a very simple (non Christmassy) menu of:
- Caesar Salad
- Chicken Noodle Soup (since I have a few fussy eaters)
- Chili & Buns
- with Wine / Soft Drinks

I haven't decided if I want to do a dessert, but if I do it will be something like brownies & ice cream (since I've been craving some and it's an easy dessert to make).


With all that said, I'm assuming that all 8 invited guests will show (though 2-3 may not), and if I have anything "extra" then too bad. With that in mind, I've started to hunt down decorating items, dishes, and planning some sort of table setting.

I already have a lot of stuff still packed (decorations & dishes), and I've been hanging artificial spruce branches, bows, and other wreaths and decorations around the main floor.

I also went to Value Village (hey I'm on a TIGHT budget this year) to see if I could hunt down any good finds. I actually got really lucky and bought 2 beautiful (festive) table cloths for 6-7$ each. One is a bright red with 3 patterned (in white and black) stripes, while the other is a "Country Plaid" type pattern in a light green.

I also went and got a few things from the dollar store, like clear plastic table cloth protectors (since a bunch of us are accident prone and I don't want to ruin my nice newly acquired table cloths), more artificial spruce garlands and bows, and an additional cheapie red table cloth. Then I made another stop and picked up some candy for party favours. And lastly, I went to Wal-Mart and picked up some silk flowers for centre pieces/decorations.

One thing I'm excited about, though, is that I can FINALLY put my Currier & Ives dinnerware to good use. I've had this lovely old fashioned set of dishes for several years, and I have yet to use it.

The newspaper wrappings on it are from 2007, and I wouldn't be surprised if I bought it around that time, or not long after. I know I bought it while I was still living at the apartment. I happened to find this "set of 9 settings" at a yard sale for pretty cheap. I think I paid around 30 or 35$ for the whole box full. The reason that the "set of 9" is in quotes is because I'm pretty sure that it was originally a set of 10, since I have a one or two items in the set with 10 each. I was told that no pieces were chipped, but this was a lie, and I didn't look too carefully through the box before buying it. As it turns out, there are 7 chipped pieces, and one with a huge blob of clear glaze (right in the middle of one of the unchipped dinner plates). If I count the pieces missing to make a complete set of 10 (including replacing the chipped ones) I'd need an additional 12 pieces.

I actually never really looked up any information on this set until this evening, and I'm surprised to find that it's actually worth a bit of money. The average "street price" (eBay or Etsy) is around 5-10$ per piece! So those 12 replacement pieces would set me back about double or triple what I paid for the whole set.

Here's the bulk of it (note the green plaid table cloth and silk flowers, which aren't really arranged yet):

Luckily the chips are very small, and I'm not too bothered by most of them (though one plate has like 3 chips on it). I only have 5 "good" dinner plates, so some of the chipped ones will be used anyways. I'm 99% sure NO ONE will notice. That is, unless they've read this first.

Here's what a full place setting would look like (with all 6 pieces). In there is a dinner plate, soup bowl, bread plate, dessert plate, and a cup & saucer.

I'm really not sure if I want to use those fun blue striped napkins. They're the only ones I have, and I love them (also never used them yet), but they don't really match the Christmas theme. I have nothing blue except maybe some Christmas ornaments (balls?), which I might be able to work in there? Also, I will NOT be using all 6pcs for the settings. I'll be using 3, and if people want coffee or tea, then I'll use the cups/saucers "per person" as required. It will mostly be just the plate, bowl, and bread plate. I'll have a water glass, and a wine glass.

I was also happy to see that the set also has a bunch of other pieces that I could add to it, like a gravy boat, butter dish, serving platters, and a salt and pepper shaker. I don't think I'd really need any of these pieces, but maybe the gravy boat or S&P shakers would be nice to have.

Apparently this set was manufactured up until around 1986, and is now discontinued. I would not have thought this set was that old, since it looks like it was barely ever used (probably only once a year since then, and then boxed and put away when the owners didn't like it anymore and sold it). The only reason I know that it's not brand new is that there are a few chips, and the odd piece has one or two barely visible knife scratches on them.

I really do like the pattern, though. It reminds me of some similar dishes we had when I was younger, and also of some dishes that my grandmother had.

So what do you guys think? Should I try to find red napkins to complement the table cloth and look more Christmassy, or just go ahead with the funky blue ones?

I also need to see if I can find my cutlery. I have a nice set somewhere that I've also never used... I swear I'm not a pack-rat!