Dealing with Water Damage

July 8th, 2013

Oh Boy.

There are several areas of water damage in our house. Some of them are water (as above) and are easily preventable. This would have ALL been prevented with a bit of caulk on the outside of the sidelight window and if you wanted to get crazy, a little piece of wood plus caulk. The gutters were not properly draining, causing them to overflow and splash back into the covered entryway (and into the unsealed window).

This didn’t need to happen, and with a bit of proper home maintenance could have all been avoided. Keep your gutters clean and check your window seals.

Some of them are urine, and this is slightly less preventable I think. One, because if it happens while you’re gone, you can’t know about it to fix it until you are home and at that point it would have already soaked in. However, what we found was a persistent pattern of pee. It has soaked well into the sub-floor and was still damp – weeks after the previous owner had moved out. The sub-floor was so damp it took over two weeks for it to dry. We’ve since sealed the areas with polyurethane to hopefully deter any of our pets from marking the same areas.

Other areas of damage existed around windows and in the hallway where we had suspected a flood in the past. They were the best kind to find – evidence of damage, but not currently wet or needing to be fixed. There was water damage by the window in the dining room – but it also had a new window so we’re hoping the problem has been resolved. Same with the wood near the kitchen/family room divide.

The process is the same for each discovery – uncover the damage, sigh in frustration, determine the severity of the issue which helps determine the solution (replacement, sealing, or restoring).

Did you find discover water damage during your renovations?

Why Install a New Hardwood Floor

July 3rd, 2013

Throughout the house hunting process I kept saying the phrase “well, we could take this wall down…” and my dad (a contractor) finally asked me if we could just purchase a house that didn’t need any walls to be taken down. So, color me happy when we found our current house!

But then we received the comps in the appraisal and one of them had an open railing to the ground level room on the right. Nick was already asking about taking down the half wall in the family room, my dad brought up opening the stairs, my mom asked about taking down the center wall and I guess we all figured in for penny, in for a pound.

By the time we closed, our plan was to take down the half wall, the drywall railing and the wall in the center of the room. We were planning on removing the tile in the entryway and kitchen, then weaving in new matching oak 2 1/4 to continue the wood throughout the levels since the area is so open. So, we didn’t think that weaving in new wood over the spot where there walls and railing used to be would be too bad. In fact, we planned on harvesting the tops of the railings to use as the nosed edges to go under the new railing.

But as with the best laid plans that happen during renovation, ours started to shift. The quotes for refinishing were all around $3.50 a square foot – so for the new areas it would break out to about $6 a square foot (new wood plus refinishing). And once the house had become a bare canvas, we started to notice a couple of areas of the floor that had water damage.  So we were left wondering, if we paid $3.50-6.50 a square foot for refinishing, and there isn’t a guarantee that it would be exactly how we wanted it—would it be worth it?

I still wasn’t completely on board, in my mind it felt like we were ripping out a perfectly good floor (though, I clearly had no qualms about removing the perfectly fine condition tile). It felt silly and wasteful. But when we broke down the cost, and when Nick showed me a few photos that complemented his vision…I was sold.

The more wood we pulled up, the more damage we found. As a cat owner, trust me, I get it that things happen, and with wood floors urine can be absorbed quickly – if it happens while you’re at work the damage is already done by the time you get home. But so far we’ve found at least three areas of urine and a few more of water damage to the subfloor by the dining room window, kitchen window, chimney and front door (though, the front door was tile). Would we have known about these things otherwise?

(The worst of the worst by the front door, we’ve since pulled up this layer of plywood and the sub-floor is equally damaged)

We had our suspicions in an area by the kitchen, one of the urine areas (we thought it may have been a potted plant?), and our home inspector had his suspicions about the seal of the front door. Additionally we had long suspected some sort of leak by the bathroom had happened at some point, because the garage showed evidence of water damage and when we traced it back, we were pretty sure the water had come from the hall bathroom.

So in the end (though we’re still in the middle), I’m glad we’ve taken the older floors up. If we had moved in, and our cats began marking those same areas, this type of fix would have been way worse once we were all moved in!

Have you removed/installed a floor before?

Choosing a New Hardwood Floor

July 1st, 2013

When we first decided to refinish the floor I was hooked on this photo:

Modern Hall

I loved the wall color, the molding, the floor, the doors, everything. But the longer I looked at the picture, the more I realized that one, the wood is a different species so our wood would never look like that. Two, that maybe they were a bit more red/orange than I was hoping for.

Still heading down the high durability, low variation, brown/red road I was struggling to find exactly what I was looking. I was the Goldilocks of Lumber Liquidators/Wood Floors Plus/Lowes. Too red, too brown, too golden, too dark, too light… So when Nick suggested dark chocolate floors I wasn’t quite sure what to think. Do we get enough natural light? Would it be too dark? After showing me several pictures I came over to the dark side.

Contemporary Living Room by Rancho Santa Fe Interior Designers & Decorators Shaw Coates

This one in particular caught my eye and swayed me. The dark floors are not without their downsides. Apparently, they show every scratch, every speck of dust or dirt and even footprints. Beautiful and high maintenance always seems to be my materials preference (or out of stock, that too).

Any advice on choosing a floor? We’re planning to purchase the wood when we get back from our July 4th trip, let it cure, then install the following weekend.

We Bought a House!

July 1st, 2013

We did it! We bought a house! The process was exciting, scary, and overwhelming all at the same time. We closed last week, and we’ve already started renovations.This is the house as we received it (without the furniture since all pictured furniture is the previous owners):

The outside-

View immediately upon entering the house and looking to the right (there is just a hall closet to the left)-

The family room beyond the half wall in the above picture-

The dining room -

The kitchen -

There is also a screened porch off the kitchen which I’m pretty excited about. The outdoors become so buggy at night in Maryland!

Master -

Hall Bathroom -

Office -

Bedroom #1

Bedroom #2

When you walk into the house there is the living room to the right; then the foyer is kind of split, several stairs go up, several stairs go down. Downstairs, there is the laundry room and garage entrance to the left, then the main blue room (with the foosball room beyond the pocket doors on the left side beyond the laundry room) and the green bedroom and bath are on the right.

Basement bedroom

Basement Bathroom -

Main Basement room -

Room beyond the pocket doors -

The back of the house  -

We are so excited to move in and own our first home. Committing to staying (both in the US and in the area) was a really, really hard decision. But with the market improving, and England’s new immigration rules it just seemed to make sense for now. Having moved pretty often during our relationship we’re excited to settle in and unpack some boxes. We have some big plans for this house and we can’t wait to share them with you!

Breezy Willow CSA – Week 4

June 28th, 2013

The Haul:


Large bag of Kale, 2 pints of blueberries, 3 cucumbers, red leaf lettuce, 4 zucchini, a giant eggplant, a dozen eggs, and rosemary lavender foccacia.

The Plan:

This might be the simplest plan yet, but it’s hard to have an elaborate diner plan once you finish work and squeeze in a couple hours of renovations.

Kale – Kale chips again

Blueberries and cucumbers – snacks

Lettuce and cucumbers – salad

Zucchini and Eggplant – grilled as sides

What are your fall back dishes when you’re short on time?

Breezy Willow CSA – Week 2 in review

June 20th, 2013

The plan:

Lettuce and Beet roots – Salad

Yellow squash, spinach, eggs – The versatile and weekly frittata

Kohlrabi – Options I’m considered were fritters, slaw with fish tacos, roasting it like a potato, or raw with a bit of salt (especially the pink salt from costco that seems to make everything 100 times better).

Kohlrabi and Beet Greens – Pretty much anything is good with goat cheese, garlic and pine nuts. This is a fact.

Patty Pan Squash – I bought this once at a farmer’s market and I’m pretty sure I roasted it. This time I’m thinking indian spiced kabobs with grilled curried chicken.

Blueberries – obvious answer snacking, but in order to fit all the new vegetables in the fridge I had to evict a tuscan melon and a watermelon. Fruit salad it is!

What actually happened:

Blueberries and pumpkin bread – gone within 48 hours. I know, I’m shocked too.

Beet and Avocado Salad – roasted beets, had a rotten avocado. Tried in vain to make salad+roasted beets+guacamole happen..but it wasn’t a crowning achievement.

Patty Pan Squash – marinated shortly before grilling, eaten with quinoa and super tasty grilled chicken thighs that I marinated in a made up mix of lemon juice, greek yogurt, and an indian spice mix from penzeys.

Yellow squash, spinach, eggs –   Frittata - what’s not to love?

Beet greens and Kohlrabi greens- the Kohlrabi greens were our first casualty. They started off limp, and only deteriorated from there. The beet greens are still looking good though, and I plan to add them to this weeks candy beet greens since it’s a better portion for four.

Any CSA casualties at your house?

Breezy Willow CSA – Week 3

June 19th, 2013

The Haul:

Red leaf lettuce, kale, bean sprouts, four candy beets, two zucchini, two squash, three cucumbers, mushrooms, blueberries, eggs and rosemary & lavender bread.

The plan:

Yellow squash, zucchini, mushrooms, eggs – Frittata. It’s a crazy month ahead. Don’t judge…

Lettuce, candy beets,  – candy beet and apple salad with blueberries (and probably goat cheese and praline pecans).

Beet greens – Most likely the chard recipe from the first week.

Lettuce, cucumbers – Salmon salad

Kale – kale chips with garlic

Bean sprouts – stir fry (so boring, but I can’t help it)

New to me this week? I’ve had beets, but not candy beets. Let’s hope they taste like airheads.

Veggies from last week that are still here? Just the beet greens if you’re ignoring the sad, limp and browning kohlrabi greens.

How disappointed was I to see that I wasn’t getting any Kohlrabi this week. Total bummer.

Kohlslaw (Kohlrabi slaw!)

June 18th, 2013

So when kohlrabi showed up last week I felt pretty unsure of what to do with it. Roast it? Mash it? Salt it and eat it raw? Then my genius coworker brought broccoli slaw to share at work one day and I had an epiphany. Kohlslaw! Then I happened across this recipe in Clean Eating magazine and the stage was set. Fish Tacos with Kohlrabi slaw.

This evening I went to two different grocery stores looking for bagged purple cabbage. I only wanted a little, and didn’t need an entire cabbage. No luck. So my multi-colored healthy slaw turned into kohlrabi and jalapenos.Oh well.

I almost followed the recipe, except I didn’t want to buy buttermilk and I used 7oz of greek yogurt because that’s how much I had in my fridge. What can I say? This is a busy week. That said, I think I’ll always use this recipe for slaw (except, maybe find purple cabbage).

The kohlslaw was delicious. We’re hooked! I was pretty nervous to receive kohlrabi last week, but now I’m hopeful it will come around again! Any happy surprises with your mystery vegetables?

CSA Frittata

June 17th, 2013

My weekly frittata has by far been the most helpful and versatile meal for my CSA veggies. It’s like the chili of summer.

(Obviously, I have a higher interest in eating dinner than in phone photography…)

The first week we used the mushrooms and half of the spinach in the frittata. The second week we used all of the spinach and the yellow squash (plus ground beef). Since we have been cooking the frittata for four, we use 11 eggs each time (my mom says to use 11, so I use 11). It’s usually enough for dinner and two lunch leftovers.

First I heat the oven to 325* if I’m using my le cruset buffet casserole, or 350* if using a stainless pan. I tend to start by cooking the beef (or bacon) to help provide a cooking fat for the vegetables. Then I remove the meat and add onions and squash, and remove. Next I wilt the spinach, then add everything back in with 11 beaten eggs. Wait until the center becomes pretty set and then pop it in the oven to finish cooking (varies on pan depth, but until the edges have pulled away from the sides and the eggs are no longer runny).

Boom. Your cleanup hitter for your summer CSA.

Breezy Willow CSA Week 2

June 13th, 2013

The Haul:


Two yellow squash, three patty pan squash, three beets, three kholrabi, spring onions, spinach, two different kinds of lettuce, blueberries, eggs, and pumpkin bread.

The plan:

Lettuce and Beet roots – Salad, salad, salad. One giant mistake was purchasing lettuce the week before the CSA. It feels like we are drowning in lettuce. Please help me.

Yellow squash, spinach, eggs – The versatile and weekly frittata

Kohlrabi – Options I’m considering are fritters, slaw with fish tacos, roasting it like a potato, or raw with a bit of salt (especially this pink salt from costco that seems to make everything 100 times better).

Kohlrabi and Beet Greens – Pretty much anything is good with goat cheese, garlic and pine nuts. This is a fact.

Patty Pan Squash – I bought this once at a farmer’s market and I’m pretty sure I roasted it. This time I’m thinking indian spiced kabobs with grilled curried chicken.

Blueberries – obvious answer snacking, but in order to fit all the new vegetables in the fridge I had to evict a tuscan melon and a watermelon. Fruit salad it is!

New to me this week? Kohlrabi (the whole thing). I’ve also never made beet greens.

Veggies from last week that are still here? A handful of spinach, spring onions (both used in tonight’s meal, not bad!)

What vegetables have been new to you in your CSA or at the farmer’s market? I’ve haven’t seen Patty Pan in a grocery store, but I have seen kohlrabi (though I’ve never purchased the alien baseball vegetable).