On the 3rd DIY of Christmas I did for my true love to see, patching the hole in the side of our house.

This large and unsightly hole has been in the side of our house for more than a year and a half, since July 2014 to be exact. It's the remnant of the removal of our house's old main waste stack, which was abandoned many years ago and was left sitting on the side of our house. After the cast iron stack cracked during the Virginia earthquake, it was time for it to come out.

Though I had long debated how to remove it myself, Wendy really didn't like the idea of me hanging off of the roof while trying to wield large sections of cast iron pipe. So instead we hired a plumber with a few guys to take it out. After the vertical length of cast iron stack was removed from the house and the tee was broken as close to the wall as the plumber could get it, he said "I can't get the rest of this out, you're going to need to hire a mason."

My thought at the time was something along the lines of "Hey, you did the hard part so that's no problem. I can probably do this myself...I'll take care of it in the next few days."


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On the 1st DIY of Christmas I did for my true love to see, a chiming clock next to our Christmas tree.

Over the last year or so our task list has grown exponentially. We've taken on new project after new project without properly finishing and marking old projects off of our list. That list is getting so big that it feels like Santa's got nothing on us. I know this is a tired old trend for us: too many projects, too little follow through, takes a million years to get things done, blah blah blah. (Where are the storm windows, Alex? Yeah, I know, I'm working on it!) So this Christmas I've decided to do something about our lengthy list...other than stare at it. 

Our blog post last week about fixing the grandfather clock was just the first of many little DIY tasks around the house that have been begging to be checked off of the list. More importantly, it was one of those nagging tasks that has been bugging Wendy (and me as well) and really starts to get us down when we think about how long it sat undone.

So, in honor of it being Christmas, and my never ending quest to give my spouse thoughtful holiday gifts that brighten her day and bring a smile to her face (seriously, it's a general life goal of mine), I've decided to launch a lofty endeavor to accomplish 12 legitimate DIY tasks this holiday season.


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Our lovely antique grandfather clock has been sitting at 4:43 am for over five years!

It's crazy to think about it, but if you've seen our clock, either in person or in photos since 2010, it's always read the same time. This means that the clock has actually been at 4:43 ever since we've been writing for this blog! Lulu has never heard this clock's chime, and for Mel, over 1/3 of his life has passed since he last heard the bell ding. Our dining room was even on the cover of Old House Journal a few years ago, and the clock was sitting at 4:43! But how did we get to this point?

This beauty came into our home after a lengthy search for a clock that would both meet our tastes and tight budget. After years of searching Wendy found this magnificent clock on eBay back in 2005. The tall case clock is an American case custom built in the 1840s for a French Morbier "Sun Burst" movement from the 1830s. After we won the auction and nervously had it shipped from Colorado, we carefully assembled it in our home to get it up and running in the dining room, where it ran flawlessly for about five years. 

It's an eight day clock, which means we have to wind it once a week, which is not too bad. For a chime the bell rings the hour count on the hour and a single ding on the half hour. It was fully restored but it has tons of original character while remaining in excellent shape. In short, we absolutely love this clock!


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This Reader Reward is now closed. Congratulations to our winner, Jessica Davis!

Cue the bagpipes and pour yourself a finger or two of Scotch because Alexandria's Scottish Christmas Walk Weekend is just a few days away!

We're celebrating the weekend by giving away two tickets to the always amazing Holiday Designer Tour of Homes. Read on to find out which homes will be showcased and how you can enter to win.

The weekend's festivities mark The Campagna Center's 45th annual celebration of Alexandria's Scottish heritage and the start to the Christmas season. And it also marks one of our absolute favorite weekends of the year where locals and visitors alike get to experience a little of what makes historic Old Town Alexandria so very special.


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With today being the Thanksgiving holiday, it's only natural to reflect on what one is thankful for. This year though, more than ever, I've been focused on those things in my life for which I'm truly grateful, including family and relationships.

This week, my beloved grandmother, known as "Gram" to her nine grandchildren, passed away at the age of 89. 

We're very fortunate as a family to have had time to say our final goodbyes and I love yous. But even with time "to prepare" including a final trip in September to see her, and final calls to let her know how much I love and appreciate her, the pain of her death has been so much more intense than I imagined. 

I am so fortunate to have had so much time to get to know her, both as a young child and through my transition into adulthood. Despite living five hours away growing up, we saw her every Christmas, she attended my graduations and wedding, and even traveled to see me compete in various sports and activities. She was a pillar of my life, there to hold me up in good times and in bad.


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