Tuesday, February 06, 2018

Moving again

When I remarried about 15 months ago, my husband moved into my house as we knew there wasn't room for four of us to live in his home... and there was 'almost' enough room for him to move into my two bedroom townhouse.

And it was a bit tight. We managed to sort-of make it work. But it really didn't quite work. There were too many times where activities in the great room (living/dining & kitchen has a shared wall to the main bedroom)... kept my husband from sleeping during the day (he works nights). And there were too many times where the children upstairs were making it so I couldn't hear the television or have conversations in the great room.  The house was over-filled with furniture which made it uncomfortable for me. Clutter really kicks in my ADD.

I was working through (here on the blog) an attempt to declutter but I had a health crash before I got very far. I was trying to make the space more usable for us.

During the crash my husband and I started talking about other options. And we finally agreed that since housing prices have climbed around here, that just maybe we were in a place where we could sell it and buy a larger house.

After we started looking for a new house... my adult son came home to live. His son and step-son are here every Tuesday evening and weekend. So, now our already a little-too-full house of 3 became 4 or 6 depending on the day.

We got the house listed and it took a bit of time to sell (though mostly because it was over the holidays). But... sold it we did.  We've got a nice, big, beautiful house to move into starting next month. We're eager for the new space. Sadly we still have an unfinished basement in the new home... but really? The fact that the basement was unfinished and that it needs a few updates is about the only reason we could afford the place. We'll work with it from there.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Frugal ReOrg Series - Step 1b - Entry way

I'm almost embarrassed to show you the 'visible' before photos of our entry way.

Basically, the entry way is separated from the rest of the living quarters by a large stairwell then the back of the fireplace. It became a bit of a dumping ground and when most of my yarn got moved to the basement, I put one of the cabinets in the entryway so that I could keep some of my projects closer. But there... I still ended up using the space as a dumping ground for new yarn purchases, leftover bits and pieces from finished projects and a ton of my bits of knitting tools and extra bags.

This bench is directly in front of the front door when it's opened. It was intended to be helpful when taking off one's shoes when entering the house. Only, the people who need a bench to take our shoes off (J & I) - we enter through the garage. The people entering through this door is young enough and agile enough to not need a bench. Hence - dumping ground.

I'm probably even slightly more embarrassed about the state of 'my knitting project' shelves... this photo didn't get taken until after I'd already made two trips to the basement. This is the spot that would get hidden to outsiders by the door when it's opened.

Most of the clutter has found it's home in the basement, the cabinet is in the basement... and the bench has been moved to the corner... if it's going to collect clutter at least it will be hidden by the door.

New entry way:

Original plan was to buy a new, small statement piece for this spot that I could use for decor (and for stashing stuff out of view)... but with the new plans to sell this house, we won't be buying any additional furniture.

And behind the door:

Again, if we were staying, I'd probably get an old refinished door and attach shelving and hooks and attach it to this bench to make a statement here as well.. but for now, this looks clean/uncluttered and ready for a new home buyer. And in the meantime? It's more useful for us as well as I've always disliked having backpacks, notebooks, etc all visible when the door is opened. If the backpacks land here? They are at least out of sight for the casual neighbor stopping by.

Saturday, September 09, 2017

Frugal ReOrg Series - Step 1a - Entry Way, next - we find better ways to use the storage space we have

See initial post here for how the Entry way closet started.

To be honest, things have changed around here. J has decided maybe we could start house shopping. My original series was going to have a long time line and represent how I was going to re-organize to make my house more useful. Now, it's more about prepping my house to list it. Still a lot of purging and re-organizing going on. But, the timeline is going to have to be pushed up a bit. Which means I may have to ask for more help.

BUT... without investing in the lateral file I was thinking I wanted... I can at least get the entry way closet sorted out.

We're shy a couple of 31 bags inserts needed to make all the large organizing bags more 'stand-up' and look neater... but it's not bad, not bad at all.


There was literally three coats in this coat closet - rofl. Besides a couple of vacuums the rest of the closet was filled with wrapping paper, gift bags, gift wrapping boxes, tissue paper, etc. While all of that needs to be stored somewhere, it really doesn't have to live here.

After purging:

I moved coats from other closets here.

I grabbed some 31 bags and set up one with board games, one with beach towels and other pool/pond stuff, another with winter hats, scarves, and gloves... and the last with some nerf guns - these are all stashed at the top of the closet. The 31 bags large utility tote is working out REALLY well for me for the top of the closet. Unfortunately, I only have a couple of stand-tall liners. If I'd had more of those, I think I could easily line 5 or 6 totes across the top... but I'll have to wait for the next house and the next time they sell the liners for that project.

I grabbed my winter boots, one of the vacuums and a large basket that holds our filing as well as a few 'bins' for the nerf bullets.


Here are the two 31 bags that have liners:

And two that don't:

You can see the sag, obviously. But, like I said, if I had more stand tall liners, I could really just stack these up nicely side-by-side and take advantage of that top shelf space that tends to go to waste with short people like me.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Frugal ReOrg Series - Step 1a - Entry Way, first we purge and clear

Frugal ReOrg Series - After feeling frustrated by lack of space in my current home and realizing that the home of my dreams is out of my price range... I've decided it was time to re-vamp, re-org, and re-use the space I do have into something more functional for me and my family.

Ok, my entry way is very closed off from the rest of the house, there's a big staircase AND the back of the fireplace are 'right' there.

But, it's a nice wide closet that I just didn't 'need' when it was just my son & I. We used the closet near the garage as a closet, but once DH arrived, he had to put some of his coats in the entry way when he over-flowed the closet near the garage.

I originally used to for storing my gift bags, gift wrap, ribbons, etc. Which was an 'abuse' of the space, but the reason I did it was because I didn't have anything else to store my wrapping paper to... so it 'worked' for a while.

Not so much now.

So, Step 1, stage 1 - first we need to clean it out.

On the bottom right you'll see there are angled shelves, which worked great for organizing my gift bags on. Not quite visible on the right, is the wrapping paper crammed in the corner, and a few 31 bags storing cloth gift bags (we re-use from year to year, so helpful)... and above are bags of tissue paper, ribbons, empty gift boxes, etc.

After about an hour an a half, we are down to the following which stay:

Now, the 'plan'.

Organize the top shelve with 31 large organizing totes, which I have several of. Plan is to organize by 'type'... and I have one bag for swimming/beach things, another one for winter hats/scarves/gloves... will have to think if we can come up with a handful more of 'things... maybe board games?  maybe cleaning things like the feather dusters?

Add the coats from the hall closet by the garage. (Talk DH into purging some).

Find a lateral file cabinet we can use for filing things for the bottom.  Depending on space left AFTER we add the file cabinet, we'll see if there's room for other storage at the bottom and still have space to easily pull the vacuum in and out.

Going to delegate the picking out of the filing cabinet to hubby. I've been passing up tons of second hand ones simply because if they need to be in the great room, they had to have a great look. I've been passing up brand new ones from online because it's so hard to tell if they are sturdy and well-built. His job is to pick out a good sturdy 2-drawer lateral file cabinet at a second hand store. Any that are sturdy, metal/wood/anything... will work.   He's been waiting for me to be able to go with him, but I was stuck flat on my back for the better part of six weeks. Now that I can be a bit more active, I need to get ready to go back to work and won't be available to go any longer. But, like I said, now that it can be hidden behind doors? Looks aren't going to be an issue; and I am open to whatever he finds. That said, it's likely to be a good month before he finds it. So, this one will go on the back burner until we find our cabinet and then I'll share the final solution(s).

Friday, July 28, 2017

'unfinishing' a basement on a budget

My unfinished BASEMENT.

Current estimate to finish? $40k  Current desire to spend $40k to finish the basement? NONE

Current desire to use the space for more than a dumping ground? HIGH

Oh, this is going to be fun (/sarcasm). There's approximately 1000 sq ft of space down here.

The back, left corner that is currently filled with empty boxes (in case of returns) ?- everything that's been down there over a year gets recycled. I'm pretty sure there are two space heaters in the pile... move them to 'storage' area which will be behind the furnace and water heater. - Buy shelving units for storage for these and other things like suitcases, etc.

The forward, left corner  that has a couple of boxes spilling over filled with toys? Most of these were pulled out of a's room when he didn't clean up on his own. Most aren't worth keeping and he wouldn't even want them now if we asked him about them. Dig out anything that the grandsons might like, toss the rest.

If I don't sell the highboy dresser in the next two weeks, drop it off at consignment shop.

Out of season clothes - go upstairs to the entry way closet.

Suitcases - into 'storage' area behind the furnace/water heater.

Two over-sized bins filled with Phil's dishes she brought over from England, boxed up and left behind in St Louis before moving to the East Coast. Sort it out, clean it up, identify what's missing and try to price a complete set... and verify if I can buy the missing pieces for a small amount of money - then put the whole collection up for sale/consignment - I'm thinking it might be valuable enough for the high end consignment shop. But, basically, it needs to go and while I will certainly check with her to verify she still doesn't want it - I'm more than happy to be done holding onto it.

Antique single Jenny Lind Bed frame - clean up and put it up for sale/consignment

Bunk bed frame & Single mattress - stay in storage for the day when I can afford a bigger house and can set up a bedroom for when grandsons come to visit.

And then from there... I've got a ton of crafting supplies, organizers, shelves, etc... enough furniture for a spare bedroom (double-bed frame and mattress - might need box springs; vanity, etc); two loveseats, a tv, tv stand, desk and computer/printer... and I have several large room dividers as well as bookcases and storage units that can be used for temporary walls.

Step 1 - everything we're keeping gets put in garage temporarily (so much for parking in the garage anytime soon)
Step 2 - clean the area top to bottom, including scraping up what we can of the 'who knows what they were thinking when they used paint on cement not intended for cement)
Step 3 - paint the rafters - I'm leaning towards light grey from examples I've seen on pinterest, but light tan would go better with the floor color I'm looking at

ala From the JerseyGirl at CafeMom (not sure where she might have gotten this from)

Step 4 - identify which sections of the poured concrete walls that look like white painted brick are going to be ' accent walls' and paint them to look like brick (leaving the rest white and unfinished)

ala the How to Build a House Blog

Step 5 - upgrade the lighting from the current pull string bare bulbs with clip-on shades

Don't get me wrong, I get that bare bulbs are the 'thing' these days... but I'd rather see something timely, instead of just the cheap builder put bulbs in a basement type of lights that are bare bones.

Step 6 - acid stain the concrete floors

-original source long lost, this is a pinterest clip from another system clip, from a third clipping service that rotates back to the second:

Do I actually think I can pull this off? I've seen a lot of DIY steps, and sure, why not? My biggest issue is that you a) have to shut off the water heater and furnace, b) ventilate - the window down there does open... and c) get each step done in sequence in kind of one go - i.e., I can't do 20 sq feet one day, and then another 20-30 sq feet the next day. But I can always insist on pulling DH down there to help, right?

Step 7 - add floor trim pieces and/or ceiling trim to add the clean lines

Step 7 - add a fake wall 

ala the Wood Designs, but stand alone and sturdy enough to mount a flat screen to:

Step 8 - move all the storage under the stairs into the side room (extra flooring, paint, spare tiles, etc) - hopefully on shelves again

Step 9 - Build decorative storage shelves under the stairs 

Step 10 - Add decor pieces near the egress window to hide the electrical panel (I mean, I get it, put the electrical panel close to the wall that the electric meter is posted... but right here? Right NEXT to the egress window??? SIGH)... 

Except, instead of looking like an interior shutter, something closer to the following (except maybe in browns/creams) (original source lost, this came from pinterest):

Step 11 - set up four zones separated by room dividers and our fake wall:
Bedroom - A can crash here if needed and I can crash there if needed, and a nice rug or two
Storage & cat food & water - shelves for holiday decor, etc
Crafting - paper crafting yarn, etc (with rocking chair and/or sleeper loveseat
Family room  (with tv all set up, maybe even move the surround sound down there (since we don't use it in the bedroom), add a nice comfy rug

Step 12 - clean & paint, and add proper steps to the basement stairs

ala poster at imgur (our stairs currently look like his did half-way through his re-do, except, sadly - we don't have a landing - I think his look all the better thanks to his landing, but, eh... we do have a landing about halfway down the stairs... so, it won't look horrid if we do something like this there). Our treads don't actually 'stick out' - so I'm tempted to simply add boards over the top of them, paint the risers, stain the boards we're adding and calling it awesome.

?? Step 13?? We've also talked about adding a pet door to the basement door - so we don't have to always keep the door open (what with litter boxes being down there, and all). The current door is a little shredded thanks to kitty with claws getting shut down there by accident, so if we add a pet door to it, we can always replace the door when we go to sell anyway.

?? Step 14?? Still debating this one - but I don't see why we couldn't do a floor cabinet and counter top picked up at the habitat shop and the under counter beverage refrigerator we bought when Jerry's refrigerator died and he wasn't going to get the replacement for over a week AND we talked about adding a wet bar to our basement (this was before the quote was given... I think we were thinking under $25k which really isn't in our budget any more than $40k would be.

My ideas behind all this - with the exception of the stairs and trim... is that everything else could be 'overlaid' or 'covered' if someone (or we) decide to really finish the basement in the future. Temporary walls and wall dividers can be removed. Who cares if the rafters are painted if you are covering them. If they want to lay down carpet or hardwood floors, who cares if the cement underneath has been colored. The trim pieces can always be cut if you are going to add actual doors, or simply removed and tossed out if you're redoing everything ... and the stairs, well, if they want to carpet them, they can... who cares if the treds are stained, and the risers painted? Most everything is going to be semi-inexpensive, and if we end up selling it and they don't want it finished either, they can still use it for storage.

For the basement? I'm thinking if we do the work ourselves, we can probably 'unfinish' the basement for around $3,000 - $4,000.

Again, there is SO MUCH to do upstairs, enough to keep me busy for year, minimum. But, by then I should have a few dollars to spend downstairs and maybe between the two... I won't be so grumpy about a house that feels too small.

My current house has 1500 sq ft finished, of that... 500 sq ft is the second floor and pretty much my teenage son's domain. The 1000 sq ft that remain isn't utilized well, organized well, and once I finish that, if I could make another 1000 sq ft downstairs be usable? even if it's not 'finished'? I think I can live with that (well, being that I still haven't won the lottery or anything).

Running out of space, but on a tight budget

My 1 1/2 story two masters (2 bed 2 1/2 bath) home with open concept ... was IDEAL for two - my son and myself. I have a first floor master bedroom and laundry. My son has his own room, nice big closet, his own bathroom and a small space at the top of the stairs for videos/video games/etc.

It was awesome.

Seriously, look at all this space (this from the empty showing):


Then I met my new husband. Eventually he moved in with me because my house at 1500 sq ft, while not large, is still bigger than his 936 sq ft house. AND his adult son is living there, which a 3 bed, 1 bath house doesn't work as well with 4 people as it did with the 2 that were living there before.

But, at the time we were discussing our home situation, I was worried. He doesn't have any 'him' space... and we were going to be on top of each other.

He's moved in, it's been about 9-10 months... and we are on top of each other. And the whole house feels cluttered with too much furniture, too much stuff and just no space. My husband thinks my concern is with him. It isn't just him. It's all of us and just 'too much stuff' in too little space.

One option we discussed was finishing the unfinished basement at my current house. There's plumbing for a bathroom (though it looks like it needs to still be dug out) and an egress window which means we could make this a 3 bed, 3 1/2 bath home... That would increase my home's value by around $15-20k. And it would probably cost close to $40k. 👎

We discussed it, and if we had our option for an ideal home: keep a first floor master, must have tub in master suite (am NOT sharing a tub with a 14 yr old boy), a minimum of 1800 sq ft finished, but 2000 would be better... a 3 car garage, no white cabinets in the kitchen (seriously, who wants to wipe them down daily???), first floor laundry, attached garage, pantry. So, I went online. I searched zillow.com for sold by owner, and realtor.com for sold through an agent. I could find homes that were in our price range, but they didn't meet our requirements. I could find homes that met our requirements (including some with lake views and creeks or green space in the back yards)... but they were all about $50k to $100k over our current home value. 👎

So, I'm scheming and I think I have a plan. I haven't sold DH on it, but, a plan, nonetheless. This is NO SMALL LIST. It could take me years to get through this.

1. Declutter, declutter, declutter

2. Come up with better organization - areas to improve... (and ideas behind them)

     a. Entry way - What's there needs to leave or move... 

Bench for putting on/taking off shoes - not used for that, currently has nothing in the cubbies except empty baskets. Currently has two nerf guns on top with baskets for nerf bullets; I want to set up something - probably in the basement/if we could trust him, Alex's closet/ for an 'arsenol', 

Storage for knitting - drawer holding bags and cubbies holding yarn and bags and stuff - all needs to go to the basement.

Entry closet has 3 coats hanging in it (it's 4 ft wide), and then has a ton of gift wrapping stuff in it. Mostly because I didn't have a spot for it, and it was an empty closet before my husband moved in. All the wrapping stuff needs to go to the basement. All of it.

I want to use the closet for out of seasons clothing and (hopefully) a lateral filing cabinet (because I can't find any pretty ones) for important papers (which are currently in a filing box in the middle of my dining area floor - since we took the over-sized cabinet out of the living room). There are also some keepsakes for my sons that I want to keep for them, when they decide they want them. Into the closet they go instead of in various hidey-holes. 

I want to measure out some other furniture that could maybe go into the entry way. Would love to move the cabinet from the bedroom that houses extra 'things' and blankets -- but it's probably too big. I've got the dresser I am trying to sell - also think it's not the right space/place for it (hence why I think I want to sell it). I've got a vanity with a large mirror that's from the 1940's that I'm cleaning up/fixing up, it's lovely, probably won't fit either. Would love to find a distinctive piece of furniture that's not too wide, not too tall, but interesting - and use it instead as a nice for odds and ends storage/as well as a nice looking entry way.

I'd love to have something like this (sold previously on eBay):

But it doesn't need to be an antique - just something with fairly clean lines, a bit of width, a bit of storage, and 'pretty' which isn't what any of my furniture in that area meets.

     b. living room

Convince hubby to replace loveseat with pull out bed with a book shelf to hold his movies. They are all over the place on top of cabinets, and really? He still hasn't brought over another 1000 or so movies that he's left at Nate's house. While book shelves aren't the final solution, they will HELP with feeling like things are where they belong. That frees up more space behind doors for video games. We can also put on top of the book cases different collections things or other decor items that right now are overwhelming other places. (and if it becomes overwhelming, it'll get moved to the basement as well).

Coffee table - this is my mess, but if I can clear it up better... and get my file box emptied, I can use the file box to organize some of the HOA stuff. 

Built in next to the fireplace. Filled with candle overflow (declutter), keepsakes for my sons (move to closet), stuff for wedding/graduation keepsake that needs work (basement), and re-organize it so it's a compliment instead of disaster zone (declutter/organize).

     c. Dining room

File box OUT of there, what's in it needs to go into the filing cabinet we need to buy; replaced with HOA stuff and stuck in the entry way closet.

3 boxes of DH's papers sorted into file/recycle/shred and out of there.

That leaves the cat tree (ok, sigh), my work desk (double sigh), the table and chairs and the hutch. Declutter and/or move excess 'stuff' that we only use once a year or less... like cupcake and cake holders, like my grandmother's silver set, etc. Declutter, declutter, declutter; some will go to the consignment shop, some will go to the basement where the current out of season clothes are. Debating about the Christmas dishes getting relocated as well with the Holiday decorations.

     d. Kitchen

There's storage in the oversized island that needs decluttered/sorted/re-assigned.

No idea what is in the cabinet over the refrigerator, my bet is, it doesn't need to leave there.

There are three crockpots, a roaster oven, a stand mixer, a pizza oven and an indoor grill on top of the cabinets in the kitchen. Consign the ones we don't need nor use, and the rest either goes to the garage or the laundry room.

Snacks... no idea how to handle that clutter. I love DH, and I know he needs plenty of fuel for his energy sucking job, but it doesn't fit in the pantry and I don't love it all over the counter top either.

Medicine - Alex & I need a new place for our pill bottles and vitamin and supplements. I'm thinking we need storage in the half bath and that would be a good place to keep this stuff.

   e. Garage entry

sigh... this one will be tough, but we can get there. Starting with the litter box. All litter boxes need to get relocated to the BASEMENT. All of them. We're not there yet, but most of this work is going to take me months anyway. New solution needed for collecting can recylcing and other recycling (right now, we've got a small end table with two bins - one for each of those things and a paper bag to hold paper recycling. This needs cleaned up, moved, something.

Maybe something like this (original source lost, this is from pinterest):

Cloth bin - It's filled with a's school stuff from 7th grade. Need to sort out what to keep, toss what we don't need. Find out if anything else managed to land in this little bin and then find a new home/use for it.

Bench with cubbies, hooks with cubbies, and cubbies bookshelf ... this has become a 'it doesn't fit anywhere else' stick it here zone. It was kind of intended partially for that. But, it's gotten really bad lately. Figure out what needs to leave the house and if it's leaving the house, can it go to the garage... if it's 'don't know where else to put it' - figure out categories. I want more shelving in the garage anyway... like an overflow for a pantry... the new item I want to put in the entry way for grandkids things, sunscreen, party paper supplies, etc. Winter hats/gloves/etc - into the closet.

I'd LOVE to get at least half of the shelves emptied so that we feel like we have 'space' there for the things that should be there... (like shoes, etc) and the bench to stop being a shelf for more storage and actually usable as a bench for putting on/taking off shoes.

   f. Laundry room

Right now I have a couple of shelves that I had installed like shoe shelves... but up higher, to hold baskets for sorting laundry. This worked great for 2 people. Does not work for 3. I have one shelf over the washer & dryer holding all laundry supplies which looks really ugly and another small shelf with a hanging bar, some hooks on the back of the door, plus the cat & dog food & water.  None of which is working well right now.   Once litter boxes are moved, move cat & dog food & water to the half bath and basement. Take down all existing shelves and pick out some kitchen upper cabinets or buy new - and install them with a matching shelf underneath - keep out only the frequently used supplies on the shelf, with all the rarely used items (plus things from the kitchen) hidden behind doors. Add a wood clothing rod for hanging clothes. and setting up a 'basket' rack different kind of system that can manage the 31 extra tall bins (which is where our laundry gets sorted now).

  g. Garage

Filled with furniture (which needs to go to Alex's room/basement).

Filled with can recycling - which needs to go to the recycling center (it's close, but uck).

Also includes over-sized entertainment center (to be chopped up and left at the curb for pick up). A couple of old bookshelves (sell or leave for pick up)... and set up a proper garage storage system. I'm thinking tall metal shelves lining one side of the garage, adding a second 10' long wire shelf above the current ones at the back of the garage (at 6' now, so maybe at the 8' or 10' level ... that wall is like 14' high, so use that height). Figure out an overflow pantry cabinet(s) to put on the other side of the back of the garage.

    h. Master bedroom.

With four dressers, we have got to cut back... so the one that stores blankets either moves to the entry way (if it fits) or basement. It's too 'much' furniture in too small a space.

Declutter - every surface is covered with 'stuff' too much stuff. DH has a box of stuff for me to sort through. I've got two jewelry boxes set out when I wear something in them about once a year if that. Some of the keepsakes can get relocated to the living room for 'display'.

    i. Master bedroom bathroom

I've got two cabinets to hang on the walls, that are sitting on other cabinets or on the floor - get them hung and get them sorted out.

Buy an over-the tank organizer & a medicine cabinet.

    j. Half bath

Replace mirror with a medicine cabinet for the stuff we keep in the kitchen now.

     k. The basement? Well, that's a whole second post worth of updates.

Just by looking at the organization/furniture needed for the first floor - I think I can do it for under $1500.

- Filing cabinet
- entry way piece
- recycling sorter in the garage entry
- garage shelving
- garage 'pantry' storage

Now, that's not exactly cheap. But it's cheaper than buying a house for $100k more than I'd like to pay for a home.

Of course, this is also an enormous list of 'to dos' when my current list of to do items has been left unfinished for quite a while. But, if I can tackle a tiny piece a week, I think I can at least feel less like I'm in too small a place. 

Friday, July 21, 2017

Removing Water stains - old ones

I have a wooden vanity from a bedroom set that was my Grandparents. They purchased it new in the 1940's and it was treated well by them.

After grandma went to the nursing home, my Uncle brought the furniture to me. The vanity wasn't as useful as it could be, and I'll be honest, when I got super sick and was basically bedridden, I didn't treat it as well as I should have. I've left MULTIPLE water marks on the wood.

I wish I had thought to take a before picture, I didn't. But as I show you the top of this in the three shots, after using three different cleaners, I can tell you that all three were equally 'marred' for the first 4-5" of the top (the rest had been covered with 'other' piles while I was sick.

This is an honest opinion that is not being compensated for, I have purchased these products with my own funds.

First I tried an old standby for me - Murphy's Oil Soap.  It's great for immediate cleaning, it can help 'cover up' a mild scratch... but water marks?  Well, here we go:

It's not terrible. But there are several marks that it just didn't do justice to.

Secondly, we tried a cleaner that my husband had felt was really great - Holloway House Wood Cleaner.

Terrible, huh? I will be honest. When I initially did the cleaning, I thought this particular product had looked the best after I walked away. I could barely see any watermarks at all. But the following day, I came downstairs and was really disappointed.

Third, we tried a cleaner my husband bought from the Home Shopping Network thinking he could clean up and restore his kitchen cabinets from the 1950's. (he never opened it, as is the norm with those kind of purchases). Original Regency Gold Restorative Wood Polish.

Of the three, I was most disappointed last night in the end result. It didn't look like it did anything at all.

But the following day?

Yes, there are still two rings one in the center right that is hard to see from this angle, and a bigger one in the bottom left corner. But, this entire surface was every bit as bad, if not worse than the opposite side.

Color me impressed. I'm now working on the remaining watermarks to see if we can't bring this beautiful vanity back to life.

In fact, I think I'm feeling brave enough to tackle the two bed frames I have. At one time, I had been told the Jenny Lind bed was of value, but in poor shape. If I can clean it up, I might see if it has any value left in it.

Identifying Age & Value of an old dresser

Up until this last fall, this has been my dresser since the mid-1990's. My ex-husband had bought it for me for my birthday present one year as I needed a dresser... and he felt that the only way to get a quality dresser at the time was to buy an antique (I would have been happy with old, didn't really want antique).

We couldn't find one I liked. So he bought the one he liked (go figure he's no longer my husband, huh?). "It was an investment.", Yeah, whatever.

I think she told me mid 1800's and that it had been refinished in recent years (probably 80's) which may decrease it's value (which you'll be able to tell from the photographs).

To be honest, now that we have matching dressers in our bedroom set, and this is tied to my ex... I see no reason not to sell it. I just want to make sure I have some idea about value before I try to post it.

It's a highboy, but initially, I couldn't quite find enough similar examples to be sure I know it's 'design'.  (arts and crafts, but the handles and brass works throw me). I'm fairly certain that they must have replaced the handles (?? maybe)... because the style is quite simple lines, but the handles are overly innate.

One of the first things I read was to look at the drawers. In looking at the drawers I find a) dovetails that seem different for each drawer as we go (so thinking not machine made). Some have 4 pins, some 5, some have the normal dovetails which have a bit of a wedge, others have a rounded area where the wedges go in. That looks like poorly made machine made dovetails. Not 1850's but maybe later.

Here are some drawer pics of the same side of one drawer and you can see how 'varigated' they were. There was definitely different woods used between the front and the sides and the backs. Some of the drawer bottoms are 'saggy', and some have mild splits especially where the dovetails are.

In addition, there are some irregularities in the width of some of the boards that might come from manufacturing practices for hand crafting.

Another tip said to look at the 'rails' used to guide the drawers... they had something on the inside of the dresser on each side for 'guides', and then interestingly two wooden pins in the front to help keep the bottom of the drawer 'up', there are no slots or anything attached to the bottom of the drawers to associate with the locations of these pins, so their sole purpose was to keep the drawer in a certain 'height'.

This is a picture of the inside of the dresser after the bottom drawer is removed. The wooden 'pin' is on the right - the left shows a piece of wood added to the frame that acted as the guide. In the tips they talk about the 'rails' used, but I didn't see anything (yet) in my research that talks about these wooden pegs/pins.

The bottoms of the drawers are plywood... hinting at turn of the 20th Century, minimum. So, again, not mid 1850's.

Another interesting thing - all four legs of the dresser is raised and on wheels (which, btw, was SO HANDY)... but those wheels? They are wooden wheels. I did have to glue one back together that had split and they are quite warn with flat 'bits' here and there from use, age, etc. The black metal frame that holds the wheels is quite tarnished, but very solid. One spot said that if it was on castors - pre 1930's, no attached mirror, post 1940's. Um. Well, this can't be both pre 1930's nor post 1940's, so??

Here's a detailed view of the drawer pulls (WTH style is this? Federal?)??

A better view of the top, the top lip is serpentine, though the rest of the dresser is a 'box' frame.

It mirrors the bock cut... but has multiple layers where each subsequent layer below the top one has the same cut, but is cut back a bit.

Side 1 - I also haven't seen any that had these horizontal 'bars', but the placement of these bars aids with the placement of the rails? The top interior panel has a solid crack the entire width of it, but it hasn't harmed functionality and in fact, was there when I bought the piece in the 90's.

Side 2 -

The back which did NOT get refinished and shows what would have been the original patina of the whole piece. Again there are panels, and the panels seem to be of lesser quality wood and have a little bit of sagging to them.

And a close up of a couple of nail heads in the back - which have different size heads and are quite tarnished and black. The one near the middle of the frame, near the bottom, is pretty easy to see, there's also a smaller black nail above the first nail and right on the edge of that vertical  board.

And lastly, the only printing found anywhere on the dresser is a label in the middle, top of the back. It's not SUPER legible, but I think I can make out a company name.

Larkin Soap, Co, somewhere NY 
(I don't read Buffalo, but that's where the company was based)

Wikipedia Entry, If this label is accurate, it places the company timeline between 1875 and 1940's (so definitely not mid 1800's). It was similar to Sears in that it had a catalog, they primarily sold soap. But if you bought x amount of soap, you could cash in coupons to get furniture. It was quite popular in it's day (though not as popular as Sears). And once I found information about the company, it became easier to look for similar dressers online. It does confirm that the piece is made out of oak, which is what I suspected based on some of the oak I own in other pieces.

So, mass produced. That doesn't usually help with maintaining value (sigh)... but the Larkin Desk was EXCEPTIONALLY popular, not as much the dresser based on my searches, it's really hard to find an exact match.  But there were several drawer options (the other highboy style from Larkin had a hat box).

I was able to find plenty of images to help me verify that this looks like other desks claimed to be Larkins (so that helps confirm the label accuracy). It does seem like it's probably early 20th Century (which means, if it wasn't a true antique when we bought it, it probably will be soon). Only one or two pictures show it up on wheels, so that means it probably is original equipment and based on early 1900's instead of mid 1850's that made a lot more sense to n. It also makes sense to me that with the company history, they did do mass production, hence 'factory 13'. smiles... :-)    Brass handles (but I still think these look like they might have been replaced), iron works (the brackets holding the wooden wheels is black, I assume iron or something similar as a hard mettle), quarter sawn white oak, all seems to fit with what I see in the dresser. Interestingly, with each drawer having a slightly different style, might have been representative of how a specific worker who might have made dozens of that drawer in a day handled the dovetailing, whereas someone else might have worked on other drawers, using a slightly different dovetail style.

Figuring out it's value? That's going to take a bit more work. I've found some evidence of pricing on etsy/ebay of $500 (items not sold0. I found something published in 2008 stating that original finish is going for $1,500 or so. Well, mine WAS refinished. I've seen some 'sold' items that sold in and around at the $200 mark, and one sold for $50 (bigger sigh).

So, definitely not something that became investment potential (which is what my ex wanted me to believe, lol). I want to say he paid around $300 or more for it... so I'm going to do a little more digging and see if I can verify if one of the antique keys I have is the one to the dresser (like I think it is), and if all the drawers locking mechanisms work. If so, I'll put it up for sale slightly higher. And if not, well, then a little less. It doesn't seem like it's very high value.

Good news is that I think the feedback was much that if it was mass produced, not to worry about refinishing it, because it doesn't have that much value to start with since so many were made. So much for the $1500 article, I'm betting that's an outlying opinion. I'm thinking I'd be happy if I can sell it for $250. I will post pictures and information online with an asking price of $300. If I don't get any bites, I'll take it into the consignment shop and let them sort it out.

Update: Scammers were the first to offer to buy it for $300, they aren't in town as they are sick - but would send a certified check and ask me to pay their movers. Easy No... huh?

Another Update: Sold within a week to a true collector for $350.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Freezing fresh Iowa sweet corn

We did a little experiment last year with freezing sweet corn when it's at it's prime. My mother had one method, which is a little more time consuming... J's dad had yet a different method that was a little less work. We did both, then decided that mom's method reheated the best the following winter.

First dad's method:

Step 1:

Boil the corn for only 5 minutes (instead of the usual 7); take out and let cool. Take entire ear of corn, kernels, cob and all, into a gallon size freezer bag.

When reheating, boil for 7 minutes.

First issue is that the corn wasn't hot enough after 7 minutes. And while the taste was there, the texture of the corn and the color was off on some kernels.

My mother's method is as follows: Note: it is a 2-day process, but if you break it into batches like I do, it's manageable even with my health issues. My mother used to do 80-100 ears in a day, but I don't have that kind of stamina nor energy. Plus, without a vegetable garden of our own (we live in a townhome), it's just easier to pick up a dozen ears when it's fresh. We do it in batches by buying 12 ears of corn when we can only eat a couple... which lets us spread out the freezing process through out July, early August.

Step 1:

Boil the corn for only 5 minutes (instead of the usual 7 and a nice match to dad's method); take out and let cool. I tend to do 4-6 ears at a time, depending on which pot I'm using; and just set them aside. So, in this case 12 ears of corn on sale for $5; we eat 1,2, 3 ears with our meal... the rest get set aside. Takes me approx. 20 to 25 minutes to clean and boil this much corn. By doing batches, that also allows me to clean the next four ears while waiting on the timer.

Once it has cooled completely, you are ready to do step 2.

Step 2:

Then using either a corn stripper (we liked this one 'ok' as at least it was adjustable to the size of the cob); or a steak knife to just cut off the kernels (my preferred method, it's a little more time consuming, but allows you to get more of the kernel than most of the strippers do). I find it more manageable to break the ears in half before cutting them (less variety between size of cob, more control while cutting... and let's face it - with my clumsiness, anything I can do to improve control, the less likely I am to cut myself). You do NOT want to cut so close that you get 'cob' in with your corn.

I do not take the time to break up any 'slabs' of the kernels. When I was a child, I used to sneak out to my mom's freezer and grab a slab to snack on while it was still frozen. This takes me approx. 15-20 minutes to prepare, cut up and spread out slightly.

Lay out a piece of wax or parchment paper on a cookie sheet, and spread the corn out over it. 4-5 ears of corn per cookie sheet worked best for me. 

Step 3:

Stick these cookie sheets as-is in the freezer somewhere they are unlikely to get tipped over or spilled.

Step 4:

Next day, you can 'break' up the frozen corn into reasonably small 'chunks'. My mom, ever frugal, used a 3-gallon sized re-used ice cream container to store her frozen corn in, I found gallon bags work just as easily for us and easier for us to remember we have local corn frozen come picking out something to eat. This takes me usually around 5 minutes. Two cookie sheets fits nicely into a single gallon freezer bag.

Make sure to label the bag, you'll appreciate it if it gets buried with other freezer items and you can't remember if it's from the last summer or five summers ago (I do not recommend eating it if it's been in your freezer for five years, just sayin').

We reheat it in the microwave for around 5 minutes with quite a bit of margarine mixed in (personal preferences), use 1/4 cup of water if you are trying to reduce fats and use less butter.

When you can only eat 2-3 ears of corn in a meal; yet you can find $5 - 6 per dozen ears of corn on the local corner bought from a local farmer... you can buy a couple of dozen ears and we find that it tastes even better in the middle of winter just because it's such a unique sweet flavor, getting to enjoy that out of season is a yummy treat.

Forgot to add, the other benefit of freezing it this way is that you have a little more control over how much corn to reheat. Five guests, take half the bag, just one person, take a lot less.