Archive for the ‘Home Improvement’ Category

The Pritchard House. That has a pretty nice ring to it, right?

Wednesday, October 29th, 2008

Front of house, October 2008Went to Metro Archives over lunch to meet with a woman named Debie Cox. Karsten was put in touch with her by someone at a party when he mentioned that we’d had little success in tracking down info about our house. After Debie found out which house was ours, she apparently got intrigued. Normally, she says, she doesn’t do research for homeowners — she’ll just tell people how to do the research themselves. But she got intrigued and dug up tons of good background info about the house.

Long story short, it looks like our house was probably built around 1849. It was probably built by a fellow named Pritchard, and he probably lived there for a few years before selling it in 1855 to someone named Collette for the whopping price of $2000. It probably is the oldest house in the Germantown neighborhood, but it is almost certainly not the oldest brick house in Nashville, as we’ve been told. It is, of course, one of the oldest houses in Nashville, period.

So anyway, we saw lots of maps and deeds and whatnot, and Karsten’s going back to make copies of it all for our own files and to pass on to the next homeowner whenever we finally decide to sell it (which won’t be for a long time, I don’t think).

This stuff fascinates me. I’m glad we found our way into a mystery house; it’s been a fun adventure.

Gardens Gone Wild!

Sunday, October 5th, 2008


Gardens Gone Wild!

Originally uploaded by Kate O’

Our garden has gone almost all summer without maintenance (darn my
pesky thyroid), and it really shows. We haven’t been too concerned
about it, figuring my health us more important than a perfectly
manicured front yard, and anyway perfectly manicured was never our
style, so it’s been sort of a Darwinian exercise in garden tough love.
But next Saturday our house will be on the neighborhood homes tour, so
it was high time to give the garden a quick cleanup.

Karsten’s up on an extension ladder cleaning the top windows (he won’t
let me take a picture of him, though), so I tried to muster the
stamina to do the yard work myself, but I only got as far as weeding
(LOTS of weeding, actually), pruning, and trimming the established
plants, and loosely digging around to position the new plants.
Tomorrow, if my energy is right for it, I may do some mulching. But
just at this moment, I think the rest of the planting is up to
Karsten, and all I have any energy left for is, well, posting this
here picture. Enjoy. :)

We’re well preserved!

Saturday, May 31st, 2008


We’re well preserved!

Originally uploaded by Kate O’
(Thanks to Busy Mom for the subject line. :) )

Not sure why this didn’t post to my blog when I posted it to flickr. That whole “post to flickr and your blog at the same time” function is kind of sketchy, I find.

The moment we’d been waiting for finally arrived, and our house won a preservation award from Nashville’s Historical Commission. We genuinely didn’t think we’d win, sitting at the ceremony watching all the other winners be presented, with projects far bigger than ours. But when they called out our names, we sure weren’t going to turn the plaque down!

Karsten is thinking of wearing it on a chain around his neck. He says he’s busted up enough concrete around here to have earned it, and I quite agree. But in all likelihood, it will be as it is intended: mounted at eye level next to our front entrance. In this picture, I am holding it approximately where it will end up.

The fieldstone effect

Saturday, February 9th, 2008

Detail of front walkway at gate
Detail of front walkway at gate,
originally uploaded by Kate O’.

One of the interesting things about getting deep into any major project, like renovating a house and yard, is that new metaphors sometimes emerge throughout the process. For me, one of the best new metaphors to come out of the work we’ve been doing in the front yard is the idea of replacing the paved sidewalk around the house with a fieldstone walkway: the paved sidewalk, not only visually incongruent with such an old and charming house, encourages brisk walking, whereas the fieldstone walkway with all its inconsistencies in level and varied surfaces nearly forces the walker to slow down and look around at the garden and the house.

It’s not uncommon for Karsten or me to make references now to the “fieldstone” effect in our lives, of something having a welcoming slowing-down effect. I really love that about this house, and I’m also happy that Karsten and I can both appreciate what that does for our quality of life.

See? As much work and expense as this house has been, it’s actually rewarding us in unexpected and deeply meaningful ways. I wouldn’t trade a moment or a penny of what we’ve invested in it.

And one more along those same lines

Sunday, January 13th, 2008

Sorry, one more “compare and contrast” picture pairing that I’m enjoying:

Front of house with neighboring houses

Big house, little house, big house

Aside from the fact that the trees are all lush and green in the first picture and all winter-blah in the second, I guess it’s no secret which one makes me happier, is it?

Bear with me while I enjoy how far we’ve come

Sunday, January 13th, 2008

I just uploaded a picture to Flickr that I took of the front of the house during the brief snowfall we had on New Year’s Day. While I was tagging it, I went back looking through old pictures of the front of the house and was absorbing just how much work has gone into it. I made a comment on the picture with this string of pictures, but wanted to share it here too:

Front view of Germantown house

Front of house

Scaffolding in front of house

Demolition has begun!

Five or six days later, front porch is a pile of rubble, 3/23/2007

Front wall below doorway during repair by great masonry crew

Front porch and stairway in development

Porch and door

And the current pic is this:

Magic hour... and snow!

I’m so tickled. I love this house. I consider myself incredibly lucky to live here.

How about a REALLY happy new year?

Tuesday, January 1st, 2008

I thought about writing a year-end update yesterday, but the truth is, not all that much of note happened. And that’s a pretty good thing, as it turns out, because I was also thinking yesterday about how I’m feeling more balanced and centered than I have in — gosh, what? — maybe 8 or 9 years.

In the meantime, the highlights were clear:

  • Karsten and I celebrated our 10th anniversary of being together and being crazy in love by going to Paris, world capital of romance. And it was romantic. The trip wasn’t 100% perfect all the time, but it was wonderful on balance. As for being together 10 years: wow. Our ties to each other just keep getting stronger, and having that is the best thing life can offer in any year.
  • I started working at Magazines.com in January of 2007, and it’s been a really good move for me. I worked a lot (so much so that I seem to have lost my ability to update blogs), but I’m really OK with it. In fact, by far most of my efforts and energy in ‘07 were directed towards helping make something really special happen there. And it looks like that will be the case in 2008, too, and again, I’m OK with that. (Although if that’s still the case in 2009, I will have to re-evaluate my effectiveness. I want to be able to find better balance around then.)
  • We got the front porch, doorway, and fence built, and the front of the house is transformed. I find so much pleasure in those last few yards of my drive home, coming up over the top of the hill in front of us, looking at such a charming house and being perfectly content to live there. I’ve never had that feeling about a place where I’ve lived before, and I don’t take it for granted that I’m this lucky. (And who knows — we might even be able to begin the major addition and renovation in 2008.)
  • Karsten and I got close to another song placement, and although it didn’t ultimately come together, we ended up having much-needed clarifying conversations about our level of commitment to our songwriting (both still very committed) and how to refine our writing process under our current highly-unavailable circumstances (maybe more on that later). That clarity should help us over this next year, too, as we both continue to be heavily distracted by other areas of work (me with my job, him with renovation and visual art) — we should still be able to make progress, as long as we continue to want to. And so far, we still want to.

There were other events, of course: stressful conflicts at work, pests in and around the house, disappointments, disagreements, and so on. But they don’t stand out in hindsight, and that tells me exactly what my resolution for 2008 needs to be:

I resolve to find as much happiness in the current space of every moment as I possibly can, remembering that, in the end, it’s the happy moments I’ll want to carry with me.

May 2008 be the happiest of new years for all of you, as well.

Furnace not blowing heat, but will blow cool?

Saturday, December 1st, 2007

At some point today, the furnace stopped coming on periodically to blow heat, even though the house was noticeably cooling off. After a few hours, we tried switching the setting on the thermostat from “Auto” to “Fan,” and air did start coming through the vents, but only cool air, even though the temperature on the thermostat was set high.

We tried setting the heat extra high in case some kind of temperature gauge in the system may have been off-kilter; we tried flipping the switch in the circuit panel off and on. Nothing is making any difference.

Any home-repair-knowledgeable people out there have thoughts on what might be happening?

More of the new fence

Thursday, July 19th, 2007

More of the new fence
More of the new fence,
originally uploaded by Kate O’.

More of the fence got installed yesterday, so now the front (minus the gate) and the whole north side is done. The fence guy will be back next week with the piece that goes on the south side, and the gate goes in last.

Latest view of the porch

Wednesday, June 13th, 2007

Latest view of the porch
Latest view of the porch,
originally uploaded by Kate O’.

Not much has changed in the past week or so except for the new copper downspout to the right of the porch, but it’s hard to see in this picture. I’m looking forward to the handrails, the spindles, the rest of the trim detailing, and the caps for the posts, but above all I can’t wait for the new doorway and door! That should be happening in the next few weeks or so.

Picked a fine time to leave me

Wednesday, June 13th, 2007

I keep forgetting to mention that the guy who’s painting the tippy-top of the front porch (which I’m thrilled Karsten isn’t going to do himself) is the son of the guy who wrote (co-wrote?) “Lucille.”

Now, come on. How Nashvegas is that?

View from my outdoor office

Friday, May 25th, 2007

View from my outdoor office
View from my outdoor office,
originally uploaded by Kate O’.

This is what I’m looking at as I work right now.

Paging Dr. Jae…

Monday, May 14th, 2007

Would you be more inclined to translate “little disaster” as “kleine Katastophe” or “Katastrophchen,” since our intent is to use it as an affectionate term (as in “Unsere kleine Katastrophe” oder “Unser Katastrophchen”)? Or is there a better translation altogether? I wouldn’t want to miss out on getting the best humor value out of it.

Karsten needs this

Friday, May 4th, 2007

I need to find a way to get one of these for Karsten.

I can’t think of a subject stupid enough

Thursday, April 26th, 2007

I backed out of the backyard into the alley this morning — naturally, we’re parking out back these days — and was detoured when I got to the end of the alley by Morgan Park Place construction blocking my normal route out to I-65. So I didn’t drive by the front of our house, as I like to do each morning.

Ten minutes later, I got a call from Karsten asking if I’d driven by the front of the house this morning. Strange that he should ask, I thought. No, why?

Well, apparently, someone nicked seven boxwoods from our front yard garden.

Let me just repeat that. Some clever burglar determined it worth his or her while to yank boxwood shrubs out of our garden. Small ones! I mean, have you seen our garden? I’m definitely not claiming it’s the most splendorous garden in all of the South or anything, but it’s got some pretty nice plants in it. The underwhelming hedge we’ve been attempting to grow with a bunch of young boxwood plants is pretty much the least appealing thing in the yard. And this wasn’t just a random act of boredom — someone took the time to grab seven of these things.

Now of course after explaining all of that, I’ll admit that I’m now dreading the disappearance of nicer plants in the garden — they’re sure to be the next to go.

Karsten and I have been told by folks who’ve lived in the neighborhood for a while that plant thefts used to be more common when some vendors at the Farmer’s Market used to buy plants from folks off the street to resell them, no questions asked. We’ve heard that this practice has been discontinued, so I have no idea what the boxwood thief is planning to do with the young shrubs. By ripping them out of the ground as he or she apparently did, the thief probably shocked them enough that they won’t do well when replanted (especially since pretty much all vegetation is still in recovery mode from the Great Easter Freeze), so if the idea was to plant the boxwoods, it’s not likely to be a happy outcome. Maybe I’m mean-spirited, but somehow that makes me feel a little better.

Also worth noting is that, a few weeks ago, someone apparently stole a young but still pretty large tree from the front yard of the house next door (which is for sale — the missing tree was noticed about an hour before they were having an open house). Earlier that day, I’d seen a guy riding by on a bike carrying a shovel. Not to say that’s related, but it could be. Apparently it wouldn’t be the first plant theft in the neighborhood involving a getaway bike, believe it or not.

We were already planning to install a period-appropriate iron hoop-and-spear fence, but all this makes me want to get right on it. (We already have enough motivation because of the bird feeders that keep getting stolen.) Karsten’s calling the guy today to see when we could get started.

Changing the front of our house and the ever-changing housing front

Saturday, March 17th, 2007

Good news – we got our loan to do our front porch / entryway work! Yay! What’s especially cool about this is that when we went into the banks to start the application process, we told them what we thought the value of our house was but we aimed pretty high, knowing that the appraiser would most likely be coming in to say “yep, it’s worth that much” or not. Somehow the numbers got mixed up, though, and the mortgage guy gave an even higher figure to the appraiser, who came back saying it wasn’t worth quite that much, but placed it almost exactly at the figure we originally gave. So in just about two years’ time, our house has increased in value by over 60% of what we bought it for. Not too shabby! Some of that is directly attributable to the appreciation of home values in our neighborhood overall, of course, but the new windows and some of the other work we’ve done were factors in the increased value, as well, so that feels good.

Anyway, this means that our front porch and entryway work can begin in the next few weeks, and the bulk of it should be done by late spring. The only part that will probably have to wait is painting, which will likely happen in the fall. And for the next little while, we’ll have to use our back door only, which will be weird. But I think it’s going to look great. I can’t wait.

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2005 Year-End-y thingy

Thursday, December 15th, 2005

1. What did you do in 2005 that you’d never done before?

Started taking anti-depressants. Got my first single-song contract. Somehow that combination seems very rock’n'roll, so I’ll leave it at that.

2. Did you keep your New Years’ resolutions, and will you make more for next year?

My 2005 priorities were to improve my nutrition, improve my fitness, improve my finances, and improve and advance my songwriting. I stuck with those, for the most part. I think I let the nutrition and fitness slip a bit now and then when I was too depressed to pay attention, but I did pretty well on the finances and the songwriting.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?

No one close to me, no.

4. Did anyone close to you die?

Lordy, yes. My mother-in-law in March, and my father in November.

5. What countries did you visit?

I travelled frequently between the southern and the midwestern United States. Seems to me you should need a passport or something to cross the Illinois-Kentucky line.

6. What would you like to have in 2006 that you lacked in 2005?

A pay raise.

7. What date from 2005 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?

November 5th, 2005. Something tells me the loss of my father will remain a pretty significant event for me for a long time.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?

Getting the single-song contract, I guess.

9. What was your biggest failure?

Being unable to keep working while spending time in the Chicago area. It has cost me professionally, I fear.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?

If depression counts, yes.

11. What was the best thing you bought?

It’s a tossup between my Treo 650 and my 17″ Powerbook. They’re both rockin’.

12. Whose behavior merited celebration?

Karsten’s. He was a total trooper.

13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?

Some of my relatives.

14. Where did most of your money go?

Into the new old house! Lots and lots and lots of money went into fixing up the house.

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?

The house! The single-song contract!

16. What song will always remind you of 2005?

Live Like You Were Dying” written by Tim Nichols and Craig Wiseman, and recorded by Tim McGraw. It really is a great country-pop song, but its significance this year has partly to do with how ubiquitous it was (#1 on the charts, for, like, EVER and winner of who-knows-how-many “song of the year” awards), but also, of course, in my life, how timely it was. I just wish my dad had had an opportunity to do the kinds of things the song suggests — living an uninhibited life knowing that your death is imminent — because he was too weak to do that in any kind of physical way. But he “loved deeper” and he “spoke sweeter” (sometimes), for example, so at least some of it was true for him.

17. Compared to this time last year, are you:

Heh. My answers to these questions prove that the world is so not a binary place.

i. happier or sadder? More of each.

ii. thinner or fatter? Thinner but, in some ways, less fit.

iii. richer or poorer? Lower income, greater net worth.

18. What do you wish you’d done more of?

I don’t know. Maybe cooking.

19. What do you wish you’d done less of?

Crying.

20. How will you be spending Christmas?

My mom is coming here the week prior to Christmas and leaving Christmas morning, so I’ll be seeing her off and then Karsten and I will probably spend the day lounging around the house with the kitties.

21. How will you be spending New Year’s Eve?

Apparently the neighborhood has a big party, so we’re going to check that out.

22. Did you fall in love in 2005?

It may be corny but I found myself falling in love with Karsten again and again.

23. How many one-night stands?

None.

24. What was your favorite TV program?

Arrested Development. (”Come on!”)

25. Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year?

I’m too tired to hate. I have some pretty annoyed dislike for some people, but it’s a pretty passive dislike. Hate seems so much more active and energetic than I have the capacity for.

26. What was the best book you read?

To be honest, I did very little reading, and what I did read tended to be pretty fluffy, like “The Lucky Guide to Shopping” or “What Not To Wear.” They were both pretty good, though. ;-)

27. What was your greatest musical discovery?

Was “Garden State” this year? I can’t remember. If so, like many people, I discovered The Shins because of that movie, and I love them. Also, I think Anna Nalick debuted with “Breathe (2 AM)” in the beginning of the year, and that has become one of my favorite songs ever (although most of the rest of Wreck Of The Day doesn’t impress me much). I think Keane got most of their visibility this year, too, and I just love them.

28. What did you want and get?

A single-song contract. :-)

29.What did you want and not get?

A promotion at work. Not just for the position of manager of our group, but for the next level of seniority within my own position (from Senior Business Analyst to Consulting Business Analyst). I think the perception is that I’m just not ready since I wasn’t around much of this year to prove my value, or whatever. It annoys me because I already deserved it for the work I’d done before this year so it’s like I’m being passed over for the second time.

30. What was your favorite film of this year?

Tossup between “Garden State” and “Sideways.”

31. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?

Haven’t gotten there yet, but I’ll be 32 and I’m having a pizza party with, like, two attendees. (Everyone else is going to be out of town.)

32. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?

Oh, how could I narrow it down? I don’t know. It’s really kind of depressing to try to pinpoint.

33. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2005?

I was shooting for urban professional sophistication with a twist of unexpected hip, but I probably missed entirely. ;-)

34. What kept you sane?

Now THIS I can get specific about. Karsten, for a start. Every day in some way, Karsten kept me sane. Then there were the long walks; the gardening; the cats; putting the kitchen together; Absolut Raspberri vodka & tonics; pedicures; girly-scented body washes; dying my hair burgundy.

35. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?

I don’t think there was one, really.

36. What political issue stirred you the most?

I guess it was the lack of response immediately following hurricane Katrina.

37. Who did you miss?

Too easy. I missed my dad as he was before the strokes made him less communicative.

38. Who was the best new person you met?

I think that honor goes to nothinganything. Congratulations! I don’t think you win any prizes, but, really, isn’t my fawning admiration enough?

39. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2005:

We don’t live in years; we live in moments.

40. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year:

I think, more than anything, it’s this from “This Woman’s Work” by Kate Bush:

I know you have a little life in you yet.
I know you have a lot of strength left.

I should be crying, but I just can’t let it show.
I should be hoping, but I can’t stop thinking

Of all the things we should’ve said,
That were never said.
All the things we should’ve done,
That we never did.
All the things that you needed from me.
All the things that you wanted for me.
All the things that I should’ve given,
But I didn’t.

Photos of our fixer-upper!

Thursday, November 4th, 2004

Note that the house is actually under renovation now, but we already know we won’t like a good many of the changes. (For example, they’re installing carpet over the hardwoods. Mind you, the floors aren’t in great shape, but they’ve got character and I despise carpet.) But we found out that the seller had already received an offer like the one we were originally thinking of making: “here’s 6% less than asking; now stop the renovations and step away from the property.” But the seller’s agent said that the seller wanted to continue the work she’d already contracted. Hooookay. So we made a full-priced offer and we’re allowing them to finish the renovations. It’s weird, but hey — at least some of the work is bound to be worthwhile.

Anyway, you can see throughout most of these pictures that the renovation is underway, as there are tools lying around and there’s dust everywhere. And for whatever reason, the seller still has loads of junk piled up throughout the house and out on the back porch and driveway. Part of the agreement is that she has to remove all of it, but it was all still there when I took these photos.

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