Monday, November 20, 2006

Vodka. It's not just for breakfast any more.

We *finally* moved into the master bedroom. After the carpets were taken out, we discovered a lot of damage to the wood floors from prior rennovations from the previous owners. Places where walls formerly stood are filled in with plywood or badly patched, and there's paint all over: evidently they knew they wanted carpet during the last rennovation so whoever did it didn't use a dropcloth.

We've been able to remove much of the latex paint from the wood flooring using vodka. When I researched removing paint from wood floors online I found several resources that suggested rubbing alcohol. Whatever rubbing alcohol I had was still in boxes so I decided to improvise. Besides, vodka smells a lot better!

Unfortunately many of the paint spots are from oil-based paint and we haven't been able to remove them. With everything else going on with the house (argh, I don't even want to talk about the electricity!) I really don't want to have the wood floors sanded and refinished -- it's messy and expensive. We haven't figured out what we're going to do with them yet, but I guess we'll just have to wait till the other rooms are livable before we deal with the floors.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

House Pics

We picked up our new living room furniture yesterday, and took some other things to the house with the truck we rented. We'll need to figure out how to arrange the furniture: even though the room is large, there are 5 doorways which makes layout awkward. We were thrilled to find the Natuzzi furniture set in stock in a color we loved: our original furniture set would have taken 8-10 weeks to arrive. I want to make a valance over the window out of the fabric that's draped over the loveseat.

Living Room
Living Room

Here's the dining room so far. It looks out into the foyer, and beyond that is my office.

Here's the foyer: the big blank space is where the shelving from Home Decorators will go (IF they ever bother to order them), and on that will be a display of McCoy pottery. We love the art deco clock that used to belong to Doug's Aunt, and the lamp was a garage sale find from awhile back.

I'm going to use the formal living room as my office. We have one more coat of paint to go on the red wall (if I don't change my mind and do a different color), so the blue tape is still up.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Home Decorators Frustration

When ordering something online I'm usually fairly careful to find out about the company I'm doing business with. When I can go into a store and talk with someone face to face it doesn't seem like there would be that much of an issue.

Doug and I ordered two items from Home Decorators store last Monday. Yeah, ordered, because the store doesn't really stock most items, they're pretty much just a front for the catalog business. One was a large area rug for our living room, and the other was a set of shelves for our foyer.

I was pretty surprised to have to give them my billing address when I was shopping at an actual store: I mean, it's not like I was shopping online or like they were actually going to deliver something to my house (we have to pick it up at the store, or get charged some pretty hefty shipping charges). Out of habit I gave them my PO Box address, but that didn't match and I realized I have that statement sent directly to the house (it's never been an issue before because I don't use this card online, it's for face-to-face purchases). So I gave them the correct address and the lady put it in the computer.

Evidently that didn't lift the hold, and even after my husband called them yesterday all they could do was take a message and later someone left a message on our machine that "there's an address problem." Ummm, duh! But they didn't bother to lift the hold and fix it.

I called again this morning and ended up speaking with a manager, who was (supposedly) able to lift the hold off the order. I cancelled the area rug part of the order and just kept the shelving (although I'm having second thoughts about that, too). I've just found too many nice-looking area rugs (some online even have free shipping) to spend that much money with a company that doesn't want my business.

The manager told me the in-store orders go through their same catalog system, and they have this problem a lot. (Hmmm... if even the store managers know it's a widespread problem, why doesn't anyone fix it?) Looking on a couple different consumer opinion sites I see that their ability to fulfill orders on-time is, at best, spotty. Must be nice to have a business where you don't have to care whether customers are happy or whether you even bother to take their order.

Would I do business with them again? Maybe in a pinch. They have a few items (like the shelves I ordered) that I haven't been able to find anywhere else, especially not for the price. I might order again if they are a) the only place that sells the item I'm looking for, b) the item is relatively inexpensive compared to substitutes I've found, and c) I'm not in a time crunch. But would I recommend this company to anyone else? Sure, if you like crappy service, you don't care whether your order is taken or fulfilled, and they were the last store on earth.

Yaaaaaay!!!! Container Store is Coming to St. Louis!!!!

We have been soooo busy in the last month trying to get the house ready for move-in. If I had a dollar for every time I've said "I wish we had a Container Store here," the house would be halfway paid off by now!

Just imagine my joy!

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Working on the house

Originally uploaded by abbdrb.
The bathroom floor in the new house was in pretty bad shape: the grout was just nasty. I started to mop the floor with the thought that I'd try a grout cleaner/restorer on it once it was clean enough for me to consider spending an afternoon in the room on my hands and knees, but before I knew it I was scrubbing the heck out of the floor using the scrub brush I got for the garage walls (which also need to be cleaned and painted). The photo shows it about 3/4 done, with the original condition toward bottom of photo. I was pretty pleased with the results, especially since I managed it using only Mr. Clean and water, but I'm not sure if I'll be able to stand erect come morning.

Yellow-ware Mixing Bowl

Jim sent a photo of this mixing bowl, wondering if it's an old McCoy. I can't find it in my McCoy books: they do have some bowls with pink and blue stripes but they are much newer bowls with a different shape.

The problem with identifying bowls like this is that many different pottery companies made utility ware like this in the early days. I've looked in many different books (McCoy, Robinson Ransbottom, Hull, Watt, Brush, Red Wing) for this particular bowl and didn't find it. There is a set of blue-banded bowls in one of the Hull books (Companion Guide to Roberts' Ultimate Encyclopedia of Hull Pottery, pp 80-81) that is very close, except with a thick blue band and two thinner white ones. I don't know if Jim's bowl is Hull, but for reference those book for between $18 and $75, depending on the size (4.5" - 11.5").

Friday, September 01, 2006

We're once again proud homeowners

We're once again proud homeowners
Originally uploaded by abbdrb.
We closed on a house in mid-August, and officially take posession today! The house is about 45 years old, and is in great shape. We probably won't move in for another month or so, since we want to do some remodeling first, and our lease isn't up on our current house until late October.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Farmers market bruschetta

This is a great time of year for shopping at farmers markets. Several vendors had beautiful heirloom tomatoes at the Kirkwood market for $2/pound (compared to $7.99/pound at Whole Foods!!) so I brought home several, along with some freshly picked ears of corn. I found four different types of tomatoes, Cherokee Purple, Green Zebra, a beautiful reddish-yellow one that I think was an Old German, and another green one whose name I can't remember.

I make these bruschetta for dinner tonight and was pleased with how they turned out. I think they're not technically bruschetta (the bread isn't toasted and I didn't use any olive oil), but I couldn't come up with a better name. The tomato mix will need to sit for awhile before you use it.

Farmers Market Bruschetta
4 tomatoes (different-colored heirloom tomatoes recommended)
1 small onion
3 cloves garlic, peeled
2 fresh ears of corn (washed and de-silked, but not cooked)
balsamic vinegar
handful of raw pine nuts
goat cheese, room temperature (I used a garlic & chives variety)
1 loaf French bread, sliced into 1/2 pieces

Dice the tomatoes and place in a mixing bowl. Cut the kernels from the corn cobs and add them to the tomatoes. Cut the onion into about 4 chunks, and slice each clove of garlic in half and add both to the bowl. Ensure the onions and garlic are well-covered by the juice from the tomatoes, and refrigerate for at least one hour to let the onion & garlic flavor the tomatoes.

Remove the onion and garlic pieces from the tomato mix. Add the pine nuts, a splash of balsamic vinegar, and salt to taste. Spread goat cheese on the bread slices and top each with a spoonful of the tomato mixture; use a slotted spoon so you don't pick up a lot of juice.

Public Service Announcement

If you prepare a box of instant chocolate pudding, but replace 3/4 cup of the milk with Kahlua, it won't set up all the way (probably need to chill the Kahlua to make it set).

The resulting syrup would be really good on pound cake.

Just thought you needed to know. Mmmmmmm..... pound cake.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Worm update

One week after my worm bin was assembled, I guess the worms are happy. In addition to lots of mites (which I understand are normal in a vermicompost bin), I've been finding lots of eggs when I dig in it.

Backyard visitor

We spotted this girl (or young guy?) out by our back porch before dinner tonight.

Here's Sienna checking out the intruder.

Storm Photo

I was looking through the pictures on my camera for a new post, and saw the one Doug took of the house across the street after the July 19 storms came through. I was out of town during the storms (thankfully, had decided to fly to Texas Wednesday morning instead of Wednesday evening) so I missed the excitement. We were without power for 4 days, a lot more fortunate than many in our area.

Once the tree was removed from the house, the only visible damage is a dent in the gutter. These houses are built from cinderblocks instead of wood framing, and boy are they stout.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Unknown pottery 13, TJM 2.

I have a giant backlog of photos readers have sent to me. Life has been very busy lately and we're just settling back down to normal. In the past month or so, we've bought a house (moving in Sept or Oct probably), been out of town twice, and went several days without power due to some storms that moved through a couple weeks ago.

For the record, the pottery I collect is mostly made in the midwestern USA, and is mostly from larger factories like McCoy, Brush, Shawnee, Red Wing, Haeger, Morton, etc. Doug and I can usually do pretty well with that type of pottery, but are pretty clueless when you get outside of those parameters. Evidently we got mentioned on a message board on Ebay and we have received a lot of inquiries, many of them way outside of what we collect. We've given them all a shot, but have come up pretty short. Unfortunately, there are some that DO look like stuff we would collect, but we've been unable to find them in our books, either. I'll post the pics anyway, on the off chance that someone else might know.

Jim sent in photos of this pink vase. We were thinking Camark or Niloak, but couldn't find it in either book. Unknowns 1, The Junky Monkey 0.
UPDATE: Chris wrote in with the following information:
"I have a piece that is the same shape and size. It has a different treatment but I recognized it. I believe it is made by Rocky Mountain Pottery of Loveland Colorado. Here is a link to an Ebay auction of the same item I have."

Pink pitcher 1Pink pitcher 2

Karen sent me these pictures of a mug. The thing that bugs me is that I'm almost certain I've seen it in a book before but can't for the life of me remember where. Unknowns 2, TJM 0.
Face Mug 1Face Mug 2

Greg sent a pic of this beautiful egret vase. The only think I'm pretty sure of is that it wasn't made in Ohio (like most of the stuff I collect): it looks European to me but I can't be sure, since it's way far from what I collect. Unknowns 3, TJM 0.
Egret Vase 1Egret Vase 2

Donna sent this picture of a Haeger... um, a Haeger... um... thing. She already knew it was Haeger because of the sticker, but the question was: what the heck is it? I have two Haeger books and didn't find it in either one. If I had to guess I'd say the holes are for candles. But that's just a guess. Unknowns 4, TJM 0.
Haeger Thingy 1Haeger Thingy 2

Karen sent in a picture of this blue jar. It has a mold number 1A11 and USA but that doesn't help much. I'm not used to seeing a copyright sign on a piece. Unknowns 5, TJM 0. *sigh*

Cheryl sent this cow pitcher. I have a couple places I'll look for it but am not hopeful. Unknowns 6, TJM 0.

Greg sent in this beautiful brown vase, signed by the artist, and I have no clue who that artist might be. Unknowns 7, TJM 0.

Chris sent pics of yellow vases and an elephant. I actually have that elephant and have looked and looked, but have been unable to find out who made it. The yellow vases do appear to be Brush (Chris already knows they might be)... I agree that the elongated "S" in "USA" usually points to Brush. I'm not used to seeing the mark vertically instead of horizontally and I couldn't find the vases in either of the Sanford books or the Huxford one. Doug thinks it might be Brush as well, but says there are other potteries with an elongated S. Unless he shows me a photo, I'm going to accuse him of smoking crack. But anyway, since he's not convinced, I won't consider this to be a positive ID. Unknowns 9, TJM 0.
UPDATE: Chris has identified the elephant as a Cronin Pottery "Novelty" with the help of the Vintage Colorware group on Yahoo.
Horn vaseHorn vase 2
Blue elephant

Elizabeth sent photos of a beautiful Morton vase. Identification isn't the issue here (it has an American Art Potteries sticker), but she was wondering if I could find any more information about it. I do have the Morton Potteries: 99 Years book it's not in there. Because it's American Art Potteries sticker instead of one of the other Morton Potteries, that narrows down when it was made to between 1947 and 1963. Most other vases in the book are valued between $18-25 or so. I'm going to take credit for knowing this one, since by now I'm getting desperate for a point. :-) Unknowns 9, TJM 1.
Morton 1Morton 2

Melody sent in a photo of this sugar bowl. It looks a lot like Shawnee, but is not in my Shawnee books. I don't have a photo of the bottom, but if it's completely glazed then I'm stumped. Usually the Shawnee pieces are marked with a U.S.A. I've run across Japanese pieces that I could swear from the glaze were Shawnee so without being able to handle it I just can't say for sure. Unknowns 10, TJM 1.

Terri sent photos of three pieces. I couldn't find the frog or the white vase (I suspected Brush on the vase but can't find it), but Doug found the blue vase. It's a Robinson Ransbottom. Unknowns 12, TJM 2.

white vase
white vase

blue vaseblue vase

Last, but not least, Doreen sent in a photo of a cute cat made in California. We looked through our two California books and didn't find them. There are so many different California potteries that I didn't hold out much hope. Final score: Unknowns 13, TJM 2.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

The worms crawl in, the worms crawl out.....

I've been wanting to vermicompost (worm compost) for awhile. Since we're moving again in September I didn't want to do one outside, so I started an indoor worm bin. You can purchase indoor vermicomposting kits, but if you want to save some money you can easily make your own.

I started out with two Rubbermaid bins. I have removed the labels long ago so I can't tell you how many gallons they are, but they are approximately 16" x 20" x 9" deep.

I drilled three large holes in each side near the top of one of the bins, and stapled window screen material over the holes. If I had to do it over again I'd bond the screening on using some silicone caulking material. If you do that, make sure you let the caulking cure for awhile (I'd give it a week) until it no longer smells like vinegar.

Punch several holes in the bottom of the same bin that has the other holes so any excess water can drain.

You will end up stacking the bin with the holes on top of the second bin. However, you will probably need to put something in the bottom of the intact bin so they don't nest too tightly together: you don't want to block the screened holes from the first bin. I found a small dish shelf, but you could just as easily line the bottom with a few rocks. Don't make it too heavy or your bin won't be very portable.

Stack the two bins together and lay some screening material in the bottom of the top bin to keep the worms from falling out of the drain holes.

Now it's time to fill up your bin. I used coir (expanded in water to the consistency of a moist sponge) as my main bedding material. I usually keep some of this material around to make potting soil (I hate potting soil with peat moss), so it was handy. I made that initial layer several inches deep, then buried some of my kitchen scraps in it. Don't use meat or dairy, but fruit & vegetable scraps, coffee grounds, tea bags, etc. are ok. I also added a little bit (~1/2 a trowel full) of compost from my pile outside to help the kitchen scraps break down more easily. Then dump your worms on top. I used 500 red wigglers I bought from a bait shop. If they have two different types of red wigglers, get the small ones: they are cheaper, and they are supposed to be better for composting.

I shredded some newspaper on top of the coir, and sprayed it with water. That seems to keep the coir from drying out too fast, and it's more material for the worms to work on. You may want to keep the lid off for a couple hours in a brighly lit room to make sure the worms dig down into the coir instead of trying to crawl out of the bin. They seem to get confused when they're first put in there, and if the bin is in the dark right away they are just as likely to crawl up the side of the container -- or out the screened holes -- as they are to dig down. Once they made it into the coir I haven't had any problems with escapees.

How much do you feed your worms? I have yet to measure anything so I can't give you a precise answer. You want to make sure whatever you add can be buried within your bedding material because you don't want to stink up the place or overwhelm the worms. I've been checking the bin every few days and if what I put there before has been mostly broken down then I'll add a little more.

Getting the bin cat-scanned is optional -- for the worms. Maybe not for the cat.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

The lights didn't come on. Doh!

Interesting timing on my post on Ameren's latest ad campaign, where they pat themselves on the back for being "reliable." Doug & I are among the 1/2 million who lost power during the recent storms, and the 365,000 households who are still without power three days later. The latest ETA we've heard for getting electricity back on is Tuesday. An article in the Post Dispatch says as many as 1.1 million customers had lost power at some time during the storm. I wonder if Ameren is still airing the ads.

I suppose it doesn't really matter: it's not like we could see them anyway.

Thank goodness for free WiFi at St. Louis Bread Company.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Birthday Party!

Last week Doug and I went up to Wisconsin to visit my family. This was the first time I got to see my newest nephew Lucas, who just turned 1. And what is a 1-year-old's birthday party without a cake-all-over-everything photo?