Follow the red brick sidewalk

One of the things that we adore about the neighborhood we live in is the many historic touches. Parts of the streets are cobblestone (usually the parking lanes, while the center is paved, which I secretly like, because driving on cobblestones kind of makes my hands go numb) and the housing stock, while newer and less grand than our neighbors in Victorian Village a few blocks to the East, is a delightful mix of turn-of-the-century buildings, with some newer construction thrown in. One of the things we enjoyed about our house was a brick sidewalk running the width of our lot, one of two houses on our block where the old brick still existed. What we did not love about the sidewalk, however, was that it wasn’t in the greatest shape. Slightly undulating due to settling and an occasional tree root, it had some tough little weeds growing up between the bricks that we could never quite get rid of. There is tons of foot traffic in our neighborhood, so we had slight concerns about uneven bricks being a tripping hazard, but it wasn’t bad enough for us to deal with right away. We put “re-lay brick sidewalk” on our list of outdoor projects, along with “reconfigure brick patio,” “plant awesome-sauce garden in back yard,” and “figure out how to make a walkway from garage door to house.” (Speaking of undulating, our back yard has tons of little pits and hills. I am a giant klutz, so walking through it when the ground is frozen is like asking very politely to snap an ankle when I’m caught off-guard by an uneven part.)

After finishing the laundry room, we were pondering which project to take on next. We’d spent some time this summer doing some landscaping both in the front and the back of the house, so our brains were definitely thinking “outdoor.” (Also, we had pretty much decided on a plan of action for the front bedroom, which did NOT include ripping out plaster walls in the sticky heat of July.) The idea of the sidewalk came up, which we were originally planning to do ourselves. Just for comparison’s sake, Tim decided to get bids from a few different contractors. This is when we learned that the way our street is designated in the zoning, we’d need to put a bed of concrete down below the brick for it to be to code. (It’s weird, while our street is wider than some of the surrounding streets, we don’t even have a light at the end to get onto the East-West avenues to our north, nor does it really connect to anything major to the south. No idea why it’s zoned that way!) Re-laying bricks is something we could probably handle (we plan on doing the patio ourselves), but messing with concrete…we were happy to leave that to experienced professionals to get it right and to code.

The bids came in and it was…more than we had expected. The cost of putting the brick sidewalk back in over just laying down a new concrete sidewalk was also a tiny bit staggering. We took a week or two to muse it over. On the negative side, on our block, it’s just us and our neighbor with brick sidewalks left. (There are some stretches on surrounding blocks as well, but getting rid of it wasn’t going to, like, ruin the character of our block.) On the plus side, Tim mentioned that the brick will be extremely long-lasting and low maintenance, easier to care for in the winter, and it was a nod to the historic nature of the house. We’d intentionally not purchased a home in a subdivision in the suburbs (where, frankly, lots of homes don’t even have sidewalks), because we love the character of the urban neighborhoods and older homes. The guy with the most competitive bid even assured us he could reuse the brick from the existing sidewalk so it wouldn’t be, like, brand-spanking-new red brick. After lots of discussion, we decided to honor the history of our house and have the sidewalk re-laid with the brick.

We, of course, forgot to take a picture of the sidewalk before it got ripped up, but here’s a little pictorial of the construction and finished product. We could not be more in love with it!

The ripped-up stage. You can see our neighbor’s concrete sidewalk was a little crumbled where it met our bricks.

Our lovely new sidewalk inside!

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Matchy mouthwash

I am not a girl who only buys things in her favorite color. (Though I respect the heck out of Marie’s commitment to purple in Breaking Bad. Every time they reveal a new purple furnishing, I clap with delight.) I gravitate towards certain colors, sure, but I won’t just pick things up because they’re my current favorite color. That being said, I own a lot of clothing in a particular shade of teal, which ranges from a bright jewel tone, all the way down to a pretty saturated dark version of the color. It has gotten to the point where Tim will point something out as being “my color.” No, true story, he told me he almost bought me a teal sweatshirt from the Eddie Bauer outlet because it was that color.

So imagine my surprise when I opened the medicine cabinet one morning to discover Tim had bought a new kind of mouthwash and it was my color! While I suspect he chose whatever was on sale (I’m pretty sure it just happens to be the store generic) and didn’t chose it for the color, I also am pretty certain that it at least crossed his mind that it was “my color.” Not that I ever minded the little minty green mouthwash, but this has made me smile a little every time I’ve opened the cabinet ever since it appeared. Good morning, teal!

(Confession, I totally put on this t-shirt for this shot. And neglected to clean the mirror before I took it. Heh. Real life.)

Also, yeah, we keep our mouthwash in a little glass bottle in the cabinet. It’s an old salad dressing bottle, which we saved and reused for homemade dressing for a bit because we loved the shape of it. Unfortunately, while the cap fits pretty well, it would leak just a little when you shook the dressing up, so now the bottle holds a convenient amount of mouthwash that fits in the cabinet and looks awesome. It’s much more pleasant than dragging the clunky giant plastic bottle out from under the sink. Clearly we don’t live in a stylized world where we repackage our vitamins into chic ceramic containers or anything, but a little bit of pretty in the medicine cabinet is always welcome. And now it’s teal!

Demolition in the downstairs bathroom

So, as I mentioned in the tour of the downstairs bathroom, we had a two-part plan for redoing the room. Phase one involved ripping out the back part of the room, removing the little shower cubicle, and blocking off interior access to the basement. In a perfect world, we could keep access, but in the world which contains our house, it was the best place to put the washer and dryer, since there was already plumbing in place for the shower. After having stalled out on a bunch of house stuff, we decided enough was enough and we were going to forge ahead with the reno so we could gain laundry in the house. We picked a weekend, girded our loins, and started ripping giant holes in the wall.

Safety first! Tim has worked on a number of job sites that started with safety briefings. He wrote this list on the whiteboard outside the bathroom and gave a little spiel that had me giggling and nodding. My favorite part is the item “patience” which he described as “patience with the project, each other, and ourselves.” It’s really easy to get frustrated when things are not going great or to want to snap at the end of a long day. It was a little thing to hear him say it, but I think it really helped us both to remember that we’re working towards a common goal and it will not go perfectly, but that’s okay. In a future safety briefing, he mentioned a “special condition” of “kitties on the job site.” Since we were opening the wall that leads down to the basement, we had to take extra care to not let them slip down there. You can also see the blue tarp hanging in the doorway, we tried to contain the mess of the plaster as well as possible, so my first step was taping up the doorway and the liquor cabinet (seriously, go look at the before post, it remains one of the things I found most amusing about our house). No need to be dusting each wine bottle after all of this.

If you like watching walls get ripped up, there’s more goodness inside.

Online design classes

I know I was going to follow up with the second half of the bridal shower decorations and it’s coming tomorrow, but this afternoon brought a pleasant surprise. I had taken a Nicoles Classes course in Typography earlier in the month, and while I knew some of my assignments would get featured, I didn’t realize when they’d come up. But while clicking through posts in my reader during my lunch break, bam, there were two of my wedding invite designs, along with some other student work.

More about the class structure and benefits inside!

And so we’re back

So, radio silence. Sorry about that.

I’ve had the pleasure a few times in the past month of showing someone new around our home. A friend from college was in the city (of course I had to drag her to a Liz Lessner restaurant and then to Jeni’s), and then that very same evening, my best friend from grade school stayed at our house with her husband while on a trip out West. We hosted a surprise birthday party for my dad with TONS of relatives (we figured it’d be fine if the rain held off, which it did not, but even with the house bursting at the seams, everyone seemed to have a good time). Every time I walk someone through the house, or just show off our latest project, I remember how proud I am of what we’re doing and the home we’re making. Which is really what Little Bronze Lion is about. So, back to blogging.

Just because I shut my yap doesn’t mean we ground to a halt on all projects. We had a very exciting half-room remodel that added a MUCH desired function to our home. We did a little yardwork, which went a long way, though the recent heat wave is threatening to kill some of our plants dead. I took on an update that took me WAY longer than I had anticipated (and also, like, 600% more spray paint than we counted on) in preparation for Dad’s party, with plenty of photos along the way. And we’re totally paying two separate contractors to do stuff for us RIGHT NOW! (I know! That being said, we are totally down with paying experts to do things that will either take us a lot of time to do correctly or are not in our skill set. The lovely plumbers we used for some major work during our bathroom remodel were totally worth it, because it kept our project moving rather than spending two months of weekends figuring out a whole new drain and fixing our water pressure so we could actually take a shower and run a sink in a different room. It’s marvelous.) Plus, there are several rooms yet to be documented for the House Tour before we take a sledgehammer to plaster. (You know, I don’t know if we own a sledgehammer. If nothing else, a hammer and crowbar to plaster, I guess.)

Let’s get back to it!

(PS, Total apologies if Miss Gloria Gaynor is now wailing in your head about surviving due to the title. I suggest you just do a little spin when you get to the “just turn around now” like you’re dancing at a wedding. I maybe just did.)

Retirement Party Time!

So, finally, I can share with you the details of what was keeping Tim and I super busy recently, outside of home stuff. Over the weekend, we got to throw a party, celebrating the retirement of Tim’s amazingly accomplished and talented mom, Sandy. Tim and I love throwing gatherings, because it ends up tapping into some of our skill sets that we dig busting out (at least I do). Want invitations for your party? Oh, I’ll go so overboard that I’ll design you a motif for every conceivable paper good. (I didn’t for Sandy’s party, but maybe sometime I’ll tell you about my friend’s bridal shower I helped throw, or my sister’s baby shower. I have a history, is what I’m saying, I just don’t have an excessive amount of pictures documenting said history.) Need to figure out some logistics? Tim is your guy, and then some. Oh, you’re looking for homemade food? We’ve been known to commit ourselves to bonkers menus over multiple days of entertaining. (Case in point: I think we did more cooking than sitting over Christmas when my parents were here last year. But dang, that from-scratch green bean casserole was totally worth it.) Details? We love ’em.

Sandy has had an incredible career that her kids respect and admire the heck out of (we all do, really), so the chance to really honor her and all she’s done was super-fun and meaningful. Tim and his siblings were the driving force behind Sandy’s retirement party, with some valuable help from other members of the family. Tim asked if I’d think about the decorations, which I jumped all over, having just finished up the last-minute rush of the bridal shower and always loving to throw myself into a new project immediately after the previous one. After brainstorming with some friends, I had a solid idea of what I wanted to do. I’ll be breaking down the major projects I took on over the next couple of days, including lessons I learned about the materials I worked with. I’ll also talk a little about the very first carrot cake I ever baked and why maybe squeezey-tubes of decorating icing are not ideal. In the meantime, I’ll leave you with some pictures from the weekend.

Inside this post, there is fire.