Showing posts from November, 2011

Can Your Toilet Do That?

An entire bucket of golf balls in a single flush.  That's what I'm talking about!

This is the Eljer Titan 4 toilet that I bought to put in the basement bathroom.  The tile guy is coming on Thursday, so once the walls get painted this weekend, we'll be able to trim the toilet and get down to business.  Literally.

Vintage Christmas Fair - Chicago 2011

For the past 3 or 4 years, we've gone to a Vintage Christmas Fair that is part of the Randolph Street  Market/Chicago Antique Fair and takes place in November right ahead of Thanksgiving.  In years past we've always come away with an item or two of Christmas decor/decorations and this year was no different.  We bought 3 vintage items:  2 Santas and a new tree-topper Angel.
The Santas have a neat texture on them where the trim is on his suit and while they are both different Santas (and likely makers) the texture binds them together.  Here's a close up of the Big Guy on the left. He's cute, eh?  Oh...what's that?  His neck wobbles?  Like a bobblehead Santa from the 50's?  Yep. And his sack is going to be used by us as a candy dish!  He already has candy canes in there.  
But does his head have any 'action' left it in?  You bet it does.

Kurt Carlson Dental Moves in - Downtown Elmhurst

No offense to Dr. Carlson, but I have to say that I'm pretty disappointed.  Over a year ago, I wrote about this beautiful storefront and the opportunity it held.  Instead of more retail - which Downtown Elmhurst desperately needs, we get another dentist.  It appears that Dr. Carlson runs a very professional operation - based solely on the awnings - so I wish him well.  And, I suppose that his practice will create some foot traffic, but there are only so many ground-floor openings on Addison Street and those need to be used for retail or restaurants.  Offices *should* be upstairs on second floors.

Bleeding Heart Bakery Elmhurst - Open

After months of waiting, our very own Bleeding Heart Bakery opened in Downtown Elmhurst a few weeks back.  Last week, we went out on a family outing and scored some sweet treats - and sampled a lot of what they offer including cakeballs, brownies, and cupcakes.  Their case was jammed full of treats so I'm VERY hopeful that they'll be supported by our Elmhurst community.  Nat and I decided that we're going to make a very conscious choice to try to get there often during the first few months to help ensure that they succeed.

Pro Tip: Never Order a Beef From A Place That Calls it "Gardiner"

I recognized that it is a hard word to spell, but a quick search will turn up the proper spelling: giardiniera.  This sign is up in the Polk-a-dot Drive-in in Braidwood, Illinois - which is where we dine post-Christmas Tree cutting each year.  I learned the lesson (to not order the beef here) the hard way a few years ago.  Ever since, I've gone with a dog, minus the ketchup.  (Yes...they dress their dogs in ketchup + all the other Chicago-style fixings.  Strange.)

Water-testing our Laminate Floor Choice

Nat picked out a flooring that claims to do a better job than *most* other laminate wood floors do against moisture.  I was a bit skeptical, so I took the sample home and stuck it on the counter.  And poured water on top of it.  And then stuck a glass on top to try to make a 'ring'.  I came back 8 hours later and the water was still pooled up and the floor stood up to the challenge without any warping/flaking/damage.

Now...I'm not sure if the samples are different than the real thing, but if they are the same, then we should be in good shape with the floors.  They're being installed next week (hopefully).  The material is a special order, so it takes a few days for it to arrive in, then it needs 48 hours of 'acclimation' to the conditions present in our house.  Then...gets installed in just one day.  The walls will (hopefully) be painted already by then, so the place will start to fell a lot more finished once the floor goes in.

Thanksgiving Tradition - The Last Waltz

It wouldn't be Thanksgiving without the mandatory viewing of The Last Waltz film in our house.  There's no better way to wake up and enjoy the day than by watching these guys celebrate the big day.  I'm guessing that as The Babe grows up a bit more, I'll be arm-wrestling her for control of the remote as she'll want to watch the parade.  But until then...I rule the roost on Turkey Day.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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Basement Drywall Hanging

Then sheetrock has begun to be hung.  The guys started on the ceiling and they said they hope to have most of it done by the end of today - including the walls.  Thanks to my mother-in-law who bought me the Mike Holmes basement book, we're using green board - which is a moisture/mold resistant material everywhere except for the bottom of the walls where we're using purpleboard -which is a *more* mold/moisture resistant board all the way through.  (BTW...that green board you can see in the photo laying by the wall is just being stocked in place there against the wall and isn't screwed in place.) Sounds like it is a newer product that came on the market more recently but is a better fit for any place (like a basement) that might be susceptible to any little bit of moisture.  (which...thanks to the basement waterproofing, ours should not get!)

Home Depot Christmas Village

It isn't just Walmart and Lowes getting in on the "home center" Christmas Village building, Home Depot joins the party with their very own orange-tinted Home Depot building.
Home Depot's  building is dated (see the 2011) by the front door, has a Santa and is the cheapest of the lot.  It really surprises me that each of the these stores have their own branded buildings - which means that people *must* be buying them, right?

Walmart Getting in on Christmas Villages

Look what I found when the Babe and I were wondering around our local Walmart.  Some really cheap Christmas village buildings.  They're very affordable (more than $10 less than the Lemax buildings at Menards), but they're poorly painted.  Aside from the church building, I don't think they worth spending the money on.  
But...if you were into the whole Walmart thing, I guess you'd *have* to pick this one up, right?  It was the cheapest of the lot, but I couldn't find it stocked on the shelves.  So, either it is a fast-mover or they don't really intend to sell any of them.  I'm guessing the later.  

Basement Insulation Installed

I spent a good bit of time over the past few days stuffing every orifice down in the basement with insulation.  Based on not running the furnace all day yesterday and me working down there, I think the room is pretty tight and will (hopefully) stay warm on those cold winter days.

Shower Plumbing Installed

And so is the toilet and sink.  A bit of gasline work left to do after today, but we're getting awfully close to closing the whole thing up!

Gator Grip Universal Socket

Down in the basement, the floor is a bit uneven due to the old floor drains, some cracks and just the general age of the entire place.  In order to properly put in the floors, I have to throw down quite a bit of self-leveling concrete.  The stuff comes in a 5 gallon bucket and you just add water and mix to get the consistency right.

The problem?  The instructions recommend that you use a 'mixer' - which is this metal thing that attaches to your hand-held drill.  Unfortunately, the mixer that Menards recommended requires a 1/2" chuck and my drill doesn't open up that wide.  So, what's the solution?  This thing above:  the Gator Grip.  It is perfect for this application - as it turns my simple drill into a socket that will hold the mixer stick.

It was $11.99 so hopefully I'll find more than just this one application.  The packaging calls out using it on stripped/rusty/broken nuts and bolts, so it might be good to have on hand.

Shower Base Arrives for Basement Bathroom

The plumber was waiting on the arrival of our shower base because he wanted to do all of the rough work with pvc and copper in one visit.   Because of the size/shape of our bathroom, the shower is an odd shape and therefore this shower base was a special order unit from Menards.  I picked it up in the store recently and (thankfully!) it fit perfectly.  The carpenters hit the marks perfectly.

That means the plumber can get started and bang out all the plumbing asap.

But...there's always *something*, right?  Well...when I opened the box for the shower, there isn't a drain.  So, I'm guessing the plumber will have a problem with getting this done.  He's set to be finished by the weekend and the drywall guys are starting on Monday.

Ziosk Touchscreen at Chili's

We went out to Chili's recently and were greeted with a neat piece of technology on our table.  Or at least, on the surface it seemed neat.  Promising to eliminate the 'worst part of dining out - the inability to pay your bill and leave when you are ready', these Ziosk displays are supposed to allow you to order, pay your bill and even entertain you while you eat/wait.

Unfortunately, when we arrived, our device was frozen.  Then, it went through the boot process and we were stuck with this screen for 10 minutes.

When it finally started up, Eloise enjoyed the Puss-n-Boots movie trailer.  So, I guess you could say that it was a success.  Though, we didn't get to pay with it.  Maybe next time.

Gas Meter in Basement

If there is one truism during construction it has to be:  "There's always something."

Things pop up and slow you down (and cost you more money) all the time and this basement job is no different.  This specific instance is this odd configuration of gas pipes.  The plumber tells me that this rig was in place because (back in the day) gas meters were once hung in the basement.  Inside.

This is the remains of that configuration and the plumber who installed our fireplaces upstairs took a bit of a shortcut and never took this out.

It is going this week, but not before costing me a few days.  The plan was to get the drywall hung this week, but that is looking less and less likely.  Still have to plumb the bathroom/fireplace, insulate and have the carpenters come back to build one more soffit.

Secret Menu Items - In-N-Out Burger

Before we got on a plane to come back home this weekend, the entire Moran Clan wandered into In-N-Out Burger for a quick meal.  Of course, I couldn't help myself and geeked out with a series of "Secret Menu" items.  In fact, the only thing that I ordered that is *on* the menu is the Diet Coke.

We had 2 Grilled Cheeses, a Double-Double "Animal-Style", our french fries "Well Done", a Diet Coke, and a Root Beer Float.   If you know where the Babe's blog is located, you can head over there to see some photos of her enjoying her first In-N-Out experience!

Titan 4 Toilet - Menards

Late last week, before it went off sale, I went over the Menards (my favorite place!) and picked us up a new toilet for the basement bathroom.  With my dad's help, I settled on the Titan 4 from Eljer - which I think is a Menards exclusive.  I'm a little embarrassed to say that I got the "Tall Elongated" version - because my dad bought the two toilets for our house when we were in the midst of construction and they happened to be "Tall Elongated".  I grew up with "Elongated" - which gives you a bit more room than the tradtional "Round", but we certainly didn't have "Tall" toilets back in the day.  As you can see from above, the "Tall" version is ADA approved - and it has a bit of a throne feeling.  I kinda like it!

But...the real reason for the Titan?  It is a 10 out of 10 in "Flush Power".  Nice.

Football Champs - 2011

2 of my nephews won their "Super Bowl" games in their Pop Warner leagues last week and to celebrate, I took them out for a meal.  I think the straws were the biggest hit.
Hopefully, one of them will develop into a kicker soon.

Basement Heating Ducts

Well...actually this picture is of a return, but you get the point.  The ductwork for heating and cooling the basement is *mostly* in the new furnace is helping heat the space up nicely.
Down to 3 things to do before the drywall:  plumbing, insulation, and cable tv wires.

First Frost - 2011

Woke up this morning to the first hard frost of year.  Winter is nigh.

Old Stairs/New Stairs - Basement

Since the day we bought the house, the basement stairs have always been one of the worst-built features of our house.  They're short, uneven, and difficult to walk down.  When we re-built the house, we moved the opening of the basement from the south side to the north side (out of the kitchen and into a hallway), but that's about it.  Until the basement project started.  Then, I figured if we were spending a boatload of dough to finish the space, we needed to get serious about the stairs.

The problem?  When they built these, they did just about the best they could - there isn't a lot of headroom and that's why they cut down the runs and the rises.

So, what was the solution?  Rebuild them and split that platform into 2 'wedge-shaped' stairs.

Here's a shot of what I saw yesterday after the the stairs had been torn out and the new stringers had been installed.
The stairs have made a big change on the feel of the basement - adding a lot of ease to getting i…

Soffits Built - Basement

The framing is done*.  The soffits are built.  All the various ducts are hidden behind these wooden structures so we can get the drywall hung.

All that's left is the plumbing and some insulation before the drywall crew shows up.

*by saying 'done', I mean MOSTLY done.  There's a few little things that I have to finish up.  But the bulk of the work is done.

Basement Fireplace Framed In

The Direct Vent firebox is framed in.  We left the 2X4's in the center laying behind it so we can do the connections of gas/electric and also the duct work.  I decided against the raised hearth because of the safety issues and will just figure out what the extra pipe might look like.

More Lowes Private Label Lemax

Two weeks ago, I posted this image of the one Lemax building that I thought I'd want the most - Frosty's Christmas Tree Lot.  When I found the CaroleTown buildings at Lowes this weekend, the first thing I noticed was the copycat Tree Lot - with a different name:  Sowders.
So, which one to buy?  Whichever is on sale after Christmas?  It's a deal.

Breaking: Lowe's Sells Private Label Lemax Christmas Villages

(that title is - as they say - tongue in cheek.)

Nat and I stopped by a Lowe's this weekend to look for a new fridge for the basement and we came across a HUGE Christmas section.  They had more inflatables than Menards by a large measure.  And look at what I found?  A pretty good selection of what looks like Lemax Christmas Village buildings.  But they're not Lemax?  They're something called "Carole Towne Collection".  But turning the box over unveils some details.  They are indeed Lemax Village buildings.  Just sold by Lowes.
What does this mean for Mantleburg?  Not sure just yet.

New Furnace, Too!

With all the construction going on in the basement, I just couldn't help myself.  Our old furnace was working just fine, but for the past 2 years, I've sunk more than $1500 into fixing it.  I'd been eyeing a new high-efficiency furnace for a while and with all the duct work that I had going on last week, I finally took the plunge.  I went with a Bryant 95% efficiency - replacing what the installer said was a 45% efficiency furnace.  I'm hoping we'll notice the difference in our utility bills this winter and start to recoup the big upfront costs of this beautiful box.

With all the walls going up and the investment being made to make the basement liveable, I figured I should just buck up and make the move right now - before space got too small and moving this was going to get harder.

It is MUCH quieter and is a 3-speed variable fan, so it just runs a bit more wisely than the old one.  Time will tell if we'll be able to operate the unit at a lower temperature t…

New Thermostat: Bryant Evolution Control

No, it's not as sexy as the ipod-inspired one.  But it is a really badass thermostat. badass as one could be, I suppose.
The guy who installed it (along with the new furnace) was really geeked up about the Evolution control.  He called it the "Cadillac" of thermostats.  Guess he hasn't seen all the drooling that's been going on all over the internet over the above-mentioned new Nest thermostat.

I'll stick with my Bryant Evolution for now, thank you.

Basement Fireplace Inspiration

Arriving in the mail recently is the November edition of This Old House magazine.  On the cover was this very pretty fireplace.  It is a good inspiration for what we're going to do in the basement.  Aside from a different color tile and a raised hearth, I like the white trim and mirror detail above the mantel.

Last Night's Tally: Halloween 2011

Last night's Trick-or-Treat totals are in and we had the biggest night ever.  269 total.   38 kids that we 'know' from the neighborhood, 215 kids that we 'don't know' - either from farther away than a few blocks or driven in from other parts of town/out of town, 10 adults with no kids, but had costumes, and six adults with no kids and no costumes.  We would have more of the latter category (either adults/no kids/costumes or adults/no costumes if we kept our lights on after 7:30, but Nat puts her foot down and calls shenanigans on them.

Kids we 'know' totals over the years:   37, 39, 38
Kids we 'don't know' totals over the years:  147, 181, 215

Last year, we had 226 total and in 2009, we were at 184.    Here's the tally sheet from 2010.