Just a quick photo of the applesauce-making from this fall! Mini Schenckington will get to enjoy some seriously delicious applesauce that I cooked up and processed through the Squeezo. The fact that I didn’t have to peel or core the apples meant that this was a relatively fast process, and the skins cooked up and gave the sauce a rich color and excellent flavor, without any added sugar.

Leaf Weekend

Rather than try to blow an acre of leaves across the entire yard this year (which takes hours), I tried a new approach. I spent about two hours and made nine different piles, all over the place. Here is one example:

Then I laid out a huge tarp and chipped the leaves at each pile. Note: my aren’t really aren’t that far down into the chipper. Yikes.

The chipper pulverizes the leaves once I manage to push the leaves far enough into the chute. There’s a handy tool that allows me to do that while retaining all of my fingers! Since the leaves basically become dust, after about six armfuls the discharge clogs up. You can see my handy stick in the foreground, which I use to loosen up the compressed leaves and make room for the next round of pulverization. A 12-foot diameter pile of leaves becomes about a 4-foot diameter pile of dust.

Dragging the tarps to the gardens took some energy, and the end result is a 3″ deep layer of leaf dust that I can turn into the soil next spring. Whole leaves also ended up in there, since they continued to fall the entire time I was working!

With a rainstorm in the forecast, no relaxing was allowed! I got through 8 of the 9 leaf piles before dusk, and right as the sun set the belt on the chipper fell off. I put the tarp over the last pile and dragged the whole leaves to the garden the following weekend.

Pane Replacement

As I was completing the window sill repairs, I remembered that there were still a few cracked window panes hanging around. One was in the master bedroom, and two were in the dining room, behind the former kitchen sink. Even with repaired windowsills and all of the caulk in the world, a broken glass pane is like leaving the window open all winter. Knowing that the cold weather was imminent, I broke out the glazing tools.

Last time I fixed windows, I had the foresight to buy an extra half dozen pieces of glass. So for the first time ever, I had all of the materials required to undertake this project without having to make a trip to the store!

It rained on me during the process, but we can’t let things like that stop us, can we? The glazing still requires a coat of paint, but that can wait until the spring.


I put my powder room renovation aspirations on hold until winter (at least), and decided to focus on sealing out drafts before the weather gets cold. Long on my to-do list, Diana is glad to see this finally happening!

With the paint long gone, these sills on the south side of the house get lots of sun. They were so dry that they absorbed boiled linseed oil in seconds, coat after coat. The ‘Old House Compendium” recommended linseed oil as a first step to restoring the sills, and it really seemed to give the wood new life.

I used exterior-grade wood filler in the crevasses. The process is not unlike skim-coating plaster walls, since it is important to use as little filler as possible so you don’t have to sand as much later. And when sanding this kind of filler, sandpaper quickly gets grimy and useless! I’m hoping this step stands up to the winter, when the wood shrinks and tries to expand the cracks again…

Then my favorite part: priming and painting. Favorite because it typically means that I am almost done! I actually primed first and the caulked the perimeter of the sills and windows before the final painting. Caulking is still a messy process for me, so painting over the errors was a great call. The color of the sills matches the color that we will eventually paint the house!

Not surprisingly, some sills needed more than cosmetic treatment. On sheltered parts of the house, corners of the sills were rotted out where water could pool and then not have sufficient sun to dry them out. The window right near the master bedroom was in pretty bad shape, so I chiseled out what was left and replaced it.

Even worse, the window beneath the infamous ice dam was rotten throughout! Chiseling was hardly needed, as more than half of the sill was destroyed, as well as the wood beneath that supports the window. I even found some yellow jackets living in there, but no other insects or wildlife.

I installed new framing to support the sill, then a new 2×6 notched to fit very tightly. The original sill was old-growth wood with tightly spaced grain and a 1 3/4″ thickness, and the new wood does not quite match the proportions. It certainly has more widely spaced grain. I will keep a lookout for better wood to install someday, but putting back a sill promptly was a necessity.

A few more weekends elapsed while I primed, caulked, and painted this window, and one major repair remains. The steel window frame also suffered from the water infiltration, and plenty of metal has gone missing. I plan to caulk in a filler piece of wood for this winter, but some welding will be in order for next spring.

I repeated the process for about two months, whenever our schedule and the weather cooperated. Shortly after Halloween, I had all 26 wood windowsills completely repaired, caulked, and painted. In 2014, we must paint the rest of the house!

Dining Room Lighting

Here are a few quick shots of the completed dining room lighting! The recessed lights are my favorite WAC fixtures that I also used in the kitchen.

The main fixture is Satellite 6 by Schoolhouse Electric. It is shown on their website with “G40″ half-chrome bulbs, which look great, but are actually super huge lightbulbs.  In person, I think they look like the Disneyland version of lightbulbs, but they could work if you want the fixture to have more visual weight in a large room. We went with normal-sized bulbs for this smallish room.

Outside the dining room, there once lived a pretty busted-up exterior light whose wiring ran illegally along the outside of the house from the basement.  It was definitely not to code, and additionally, the fixture itself appeared to be weather sealed with duct tape.

While wiring up the dining room, I set up new interior wiring to power the outside light.  The new fixture (from Restoration Hardware) arrived a few months later, and now it is installed. See ya later, illegal wiring!

I think my favorite part of renovating is the lighting. While it can be a challenge to choose the right fixture for a space, I find the task of wiring requires a mix of logic and very little sweat – a nice break from scraping walls!

Meanwhile, in Scrapeland…

I have heard that I could hire a crew of guys and they would come through the house and remove all of the paint from the trim to bare wood. An acquaintance of mine had this done – it took a few days and god knows how many dollars. But I am now considering…

Diana started the dining room trim scraping in 2010, beginning with one spot that was tantalizingly loose. Then in 2011, she tried manual scraping, chemical stripping, and then softening with a heat gun. She pulled off about half of the paint on half the windows before more pressing renovations came up.

Then we took a year to garden and work on the family room and kitchen. Now that she is officially on reprieve from scraping (potentially) lead paint and the fumes that come from melting it, I have taken up the reins. In one week’s time back in September, I spent nearly 20 hours scraping, and still had a few areas remaining. But it’s looking pretty good!

We like to imagine that our time is valuable, so how much would we be willing to pay to save a full day’s worth of scraping? Probably not enough to pay someone else to do it, which probably means I will be doing all of the other windows myself also. Next up for these windows are a new coat of paint, some rehab to the window frames themselves, and windowsill repair.

The geniuses that built the 80′s kitchen cut out the window trim selectively to simplify their work. I was going to try to salvage trim from elsewhere in the house to patch it, but then realized that was a bit nuts.

Diana and I found a reasonably similar trim at Depot, and for the low low price of $32, the window looks complete again! I filled in my brad nail holes as well as the many holes left from the old window screens and where the cabinets had been screwed in. Someday I will sand this down and begin priming, but first I have to scrape some more window steel. When I come out of retirement.

Irish Spring Defense

The deer this year started early, munching on the hostas that we have growing next to the front door. One night, I woke up to hear loud breathing and chomping right outside the window, and went downstairs to find a doe chowing down! Hmfph.

It was time to implement some deer-defense: Irish Spring. According to my grandparents, spreading some Irish Spring soap around the plants in your garden and flower beds is the way to go. The next best option is letting a quart of milk and half a dozen beaten eggs go rancid, and then spraying the plants with that. Um, I think we will stick to the soap option.

Truth be told, the remaining hostas were not touched, and died a natural death when the frost came. We also staked some soap around the azaleas, and they seem to be holding up!

Nursery – Ready for Mini!

The nursery is painted, furnished, and decorated! We are ready for Mini!

The changing pad tray was a quick project that we undertook, since by itself the pad does not stay in place on top of the dresser. This design helps to contain the pad and keep everything tidy. We will be using this area a LOT in the next year, so it better be functional! Diana painted and sealed it with the same procedure she used on the credenza, and the crisp, glossy white pairs well with the crib.

Did you know that the hardware store can cut blinds to size for you? And that they can sometimes cut them right in the box? So easy, as long as their blind-cutting machine hasn’t broken down. We had to go to a different store to have ours cut, but it was worth it. We are a big fan of roman shades, and chose some for the nursery that mimic the coloration of the wood floors. Since our windows are short, the shades gather above the frame, giving the illusion of taller windows.

Simple curtain rods are also Diana’s preference, since our ceilings are low and ornamental rods at eye level are not too appealing. So I have hung the new curtain rods as high as possible in the nursery, with the blinds just a hair below them. Diana has sewed all of the curtains in our house, and the nursery is no exception. She found linen that is a perfect compliment to the new wall color.

Our friends Justin and Stephanie recently visited, and their one-year-old daughter Emma slept in the nursery. I hadn’t installed the final blind at that point, and Justin confirmed that it would be pretty vital for future nap time success!