The List. Capital T, capital L. Sadly I'm not referring to what I want for Christmas, but instead the punch list of items we're looking to cross off before our home is featured on Alexandria's Scottish Christmas Walk Weekend Designer Tour of Homes. (If you're going to be in or around Alexandria, VA on December 1, today is the last day to enter to win two tickets to the tour. If you haven't entered, be sure to head over and leave a comment...well...after you read today's post that is.)

Get ready, as the next two weeks of our blog posts might be a little bit manic. We're going to be keeping you up to date on the efforts we're putting forth to whip our house into shape. I think we need a little theme music over the next two weeks.

Last week when I was having my freak out about how much there's still to do in just two short weeks, I was so grateful to receive so many words of encouragement as well as good advice from those of you who commented. Taking this to heart, I took a step back, took a deep breath, and took pen to paper in order to identify what still needs to be done, and what no one else will notice if we simply run out of time.

Here's the list we've been keeping, in all its glory. Keep in mind, we've already completed several of the items.

House Projects: No Ifs, ands, or Buts About It 

  1. Purchase chairs for the sun porch.
  2. Locate two additional frames for the sun porch, frame art in four frames, hang frames.
  3. Buy pillows for the new chairs. 
  4. Hang new curtains in sun porch.
  5. Hem curtains in sun porch.
  6. Build shoe storage for white hutch.
  7. Paint outlet cover in the sun porch. Embarrassingly enough, it still retains the yellow of sun porches past.
  8. Strip, sand, and paint door jamb in dining room.
  9. Strip, sand, and paint transom in the kitchen.
  10. Install new switch and switch plate in kitchen. Nothing says "We just finished this project last night!" like missing switch plates.
  11. Change burned out front lightbulb.
  12. Clean downstairs hallway light fixture to remove the scuz.
  13. Buy and install door stops for french doors and front door. Can you picture Alex's face if we come home and there's a hole in one of our replastered walls? Yikes.
  14. Mount shutters in front window rather than having them just propped into place (the way they've been for 10 years).
  15. Have windows in the house cleaned inside and out. Finally, one item we will hire out!
  16. Address floor/threshold in dining room. Another case of a WTF that we've been living with for years.
  17. Scrub off vacuum marks from baseboards in downstairs. Mr. Clean Magic Eraser, please come through for me, man. This chic doesn't want to repaint trim before the tour.
  18. Pick up all leaves in the back yard so dead plants and vegetables are on full display.
  19. Trim the ivy so it doesn't resemble Medusa. Girlfriend needs a haircut.
  20. Rake the alley to remove leaves, sticks, trash, and irresponsible pet owner gifts. It may not be our property, but nothing says "thanks for coming" like getting poop on your shoe.
  21. Re-mulch the flower bed out front so it looks less ghetto.
  22. Oil kitchen counter tops.
  23. Scrub spider poop off the outside eaves.
  24. Clean rancid pond so we can pretend we keep it clean 365 days a year.
  25. Clean the crap off of every surface downstairs.

House Projects: If a Miracle Happens, or I Locate a Time Machine

  1. Fix grandfather clock in the dining room.
  2. Replant urns out front to remove the dead boxwood sky pencil. Replace with more "Christmas-y plants."
  3. Polish the family room coffee table to disguise the new scratch marks from Lulu. 
  4. Finish restoring Great Grandpa's chair. Buy fabric. Have chair upholstered.
  5. Paint back gate.
  6. Locate, purchase, and install new copper downspout. (This one isn't looking like it's going to happen. We'll likely have the dryer vent duct taped to the house for the tour.)
  7. Fix french doors from swelling left from Hurricane Sandy. Repaint french doors.
  8. Trim bamboo blinds in the sun porch for better aesthetic appeal.
  9. Apply top coat to kitchen floor to mask pet scratches.

Holiday Decorating: All the Bells and Whistles

  1. Buy plaid ribbon for exterior wreaths.
  2. Buy command strips to hang various decorations.
  3. Purchase live Christmas tree for living/dining room. Decorate it to the nines.
  4. Purchase a live or artificial pencil tree for the kitchen.
  5. Pull all of our junk out of the attic so we can determine what will and will not be put out this year.

Wow. That's what I call a list! I think we'd be hard pressed to check everything off even if we had two months left before the home tour, let alone less than two weeks.

We used the weekend to get a jump start on the list by knocking out several of the "low hanging fruit" type of items. Many are partially complete at this point, but there's one in particular that I want to tell you about today, simply because it makes me smile OH SO BIG!!!

Alex stripped the door jamb to the dining room!!! I can't tell you how this makes me feel. He had been working on it while I was out Christmas shopping (in other news, the mall is already crazy). When I came home he ran down the list of things he had accomplished while I was gone, and the door jamb was one of those items!

I may have done a happy dance. May have jumped around hugging him. May have even squealed in delight. One of the biggest eyesores in our house was finally obliterated. Let me remind you of what out door jamb had looked like at the beginning of the weekend.

Let me also point out that this is what it looked like at the beginning of every weekend for the past seven years!

While we were working on stripping the paint for our dining room Alex got a little carried away. He wanted to "just see how easy it was to peel the paint away." Once his little experiment was over he concluded the paint was not in good shape and would have to be stripped, but we didn't have the time for it then. And there it sat, year upon year.

We've had children and adults point it out to us to ask "What's wrong?" or "What do you have going on here?" We've been able to largely ignore it ourselves, but it's a cause for embarrassment when we realize someone else has noticed it.

This weekend, Alex kicked off the small but laborious process by taping plastic to either side of the doorway and the floor.

His plan being to essentially hermetically seal himself into the opening while he worked.

Can I tell you how much I appreciate this approach? Rather than tackle it headlong and cause a tremendous amount of dust and debris, he put his thinking cap on and was able to nearly eliminate mess!

He got to work with the large scraper, taking the side with the glaring scar of renovations all the way down to bare wood. He reports that it took him about an hour per side and a whole lot of sweat.

The opposite side was actually in far worse shape, even though it appeared far more intact. Using the 5-in-1 tool he was able to essentially scrape back the paint and peel it away.

When he got about half way down the right side he noticed this great example of just how many coats of paint have been applied to these moldings. From this photo, you can distinctly see at least 16 different colors/coats of paint.

For a house that's 127-ish years old, that's a new color about every 8 years. I guess now that we've been here for 10 years, it's high time we paint all of the molding in the house a new color. Any votes? Yellow or orange maybe?

Once he had the whole flat jamb area stripped he was able to sand it with the orbital sander attached to our HEPA vacuum, and then gather up all of the plastic while keeping the debris from the job completely contained.

We still need to prime and paint the area, but this way we won't have anyone coming through the house and chipping paint off of the doorway while saying (in their best Thurston Howell III voice) "Who are the animals that live in this house?" I'm relatively sure this is what they'd say, I mean, it's at least what I'd say.

We're going to continue working through all of the items on our list throughout the week to see how far we can get. Wish us luck, we'll surely need it. But I can say we're at least off on the right foot.

Did you knock anything out this weekend that makes you feel a lot better about an upcoming event or engagement? I know this time of year is often fraught with such progress and many expect family arrivals for Thanksgiving. I also know that grandparents and in-laws often frown on non-functional toilets or rooms without electricity.

P.S. I know I already said this once, but, today is the last day to enter to win two tickets to the Holiday Designer Tour of Homes. Now that you've read today's post, be sure to drop by and enter the ticket giveaway.

Comments 8

Comments

Monica
11/19/2012 at 10:58 AM
Two thumbs up on the list making!! Looks totally do-able. On a side-note...Why is it the "Scottish" tour?
Alex
11/19/2012
This is an excellent question.

Alexandria's roots, as a city, are actually Scottish. The land that Alexandria occupies was originally part of a large estate owned by the Scotsman, Captain John Alexander II. When the land was selected for development of a port town, the naming of the town to "Alexandria" was done to appease the otherwise upset landowner. Today, this Scottish heritage is carried through and celebrated in many ways, including the Scottish Christmas Walk. People of Scottish descent march in the parade with their clans and wearing their tartans. The tour of homes is just one of the many events of the weekend that fall under the umbrella of "Scottish." This whole event is so uniquely Scottish that the Government of Scotland is an official event sponsor.
JC
11/19/2012 at 12:30 PM
I've definitely knocked off one of my big/annoying jobs on the house this weekend. I finally painted several door casings (that had been ready for paint for months), and painted all the newly installed crown mouldings! Photos to come soon.

Glad to see you got one fairly large/annoying/messy job off your list. I'm not nearly as picky about flaky old paint in my house (I wouldn't have the patience to strip everything). In most of the house, there are about the same amount of paint layers, and for the most part, I just scrape/shave off the high spots or loose bits, and then I feather it out and repaint. It's that, or I'd have to redo every single wall and piece of trim in the entire house (I'd never ever finish).

I'm curious to know what the issue was with the floor/threshold in the dining room. I don't remember seeing anything in your photos (then again, you're as good as I am to simply include/crop the good portions of the rooms, haha).
Alex
11/19/2012
Hooray for progress!

Let me tell you one thing about paint stripping. Any future house we own, I AM LIVING WITH BUMPY PAINT! Never again will I undertake what amounts to a "Whole House Strip." I'm going to take your approach, much better and equally attractive results.

The issue with the threshold is interesting. We had the floors refinished when we moved in, but eventually installed a true door jamb in the conversion of the room, rather than a drywall wrapped transition. The door jamb had less material, so part of the floor that had been left unsanded is now visible. Additionally, there is a bit of a gap a little further back. I think I'll need to take the oscillating cutter to the floor to cut back a bit and allow me to put two oak filler pieces in place. We shall see, but I don't that's getting solved by the tour. :-)
11/19/2012 at 1:24 PM
Oh my god, that list. Smart move breaking down to Must Do and Would Like to Do. Deep breaths - you'll get it done!Though I'm going to guess that your Thanksgiving may not be as relaxing as it should be!

We just added wainscoting to our entry and hallway that's basically the center of our home. It opens onto almost every single room in the house. So why, why, why did I not seal everything off when I started sanding? Dust has reached the depths of every surface in my home. I could clearly take a tip from Alex here. Though I guess it's going to force me to clean every surface ... which may not be such a bad thing!
Alex
11/19/2012
This is what I said when I saw the list!

I learned the values of a good plan and even better shop vac very early on in our renovation. Just check out this post www.oldtownhome.com/2011/9/20/Toolbox-Tuesday-A-Good-Shop-Vac-Really-Sucks/index.aspx and look at the photo of my face just down a bit. My face in that photo is indicative of the remaining surfaces of the house. I was in serious trouble.
Brendan
11/20/2012 at 8:53 AM
Best window cleaner: whiting in an old sock or stocking.
Alex
11/20/2012
I have quite a bit of glazing in my future, I need to pick up some whiting. Cleaning up after the glazing was a pain the last time since I didn't have any whiting.
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