Archive | November, 2010

More Interesting Mailboxes

November 28, 2010


Since my husband is a part-time rural carrier for the post office, we are more sensitive than most to mailboxes. And some of the styles and sizes of mailboxes are… well, not so hot. Here are some of the wackiest mailboxes I have found on the Internet.

Don’t know what to do with your yard junk? Heck, weld it all together and throw it up front for the mailman to wrangle with!

I wonder why these folks can’t afford to get a nice mailbox…

šŸ˜ Will the mailman dare open this for a nice surprise?

OK, where the heck is the door on this thing?!

:-p Bad taste. Most mailmen would cringe to use this one, but I dare say I know a few who probably wouldn’t mind…

This is actually kind of cool. Creepy, but very unique.

Photos courtesy of UglyMailbox.xom,,, and

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Home Safety and Security Tips

November 26, 2010

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Now that the heating season has officially begun, my thoughts turn to home safety and security. I’m a “be prepared” kind of gal; my family suffered a devastating house fire over 20 years ago. It was a scary thing. THANK GOD no one was home at the time, but the house was a total loss. I had just moved out to my own apartment, but I lost a lot of books and art work and other things. I am a stickler for security measures. So when winter rolls around every year, after the outdoor and renovation activities have ceased, I turn my attentions to “battening down the hatches” for another Upstate New York winter. And this is a great time to get deals for security items for the home. Here are some ideas that you can consider:

Smoke Detector
I know, this is a no-brainer, right? Everyone seems to realize that every room needs a smoke detector, but how many homes actually have a working smoke detector in every room? Since the renovation, I still haven’t gotten around to installing detectors in every room. Some local codes require that you have a detector in every room, or at least on every floor of the house (including the basement).

You can get very inexpensive smoke detectors anywhere, but I usually stick with the name-brands for stuff like this. First Alert is a good brand. I will be buying more of these.

Carbon Monoxide Detector
If you use combustible fuel sources to heat your home or your hot water, you need a carbon monoxide detector. You should install one of these on every floor of the house, and/or near the furnace or gas outlet equipment. Carbon monoxide is an odorless, highly toxic gas. A furnace or heater emits this gas when the fuel is not properly combusted. Local codes regulate the placement of these devices, so your codes may be more stringent.

Gas Alert
This is a new device that I found while shopping at I’m going to get one. This device senses and alerts you of gas leaks in the house. Natural and propane gas is odorless, but utility companies add a sulfuric compound to the gas, to make it smell like rotten eggs. This helps you know if there is a leak. But sometimes leaks are small, or your nose does not smell (or becomes accustomed to) the smell of gas. This device alerts you of a gas leak.

It may seem that if you get all these detectors, your entire ceiling and wall will be covered with these things! Some companies combine the detectors– I have seen combination smoke and carbon monoxide, and combination carbon monoxide and gas leak detectors.

Be sure to have batteries on hand, and replace them at least once a year!

A Safe Box
Also called a fire box or sentry box, this insulated, heavy-duty box will store your most important items in the event of flood or fire. has a bunch of them in all shapes and sizes, from $25 to $500. Some are very sophisticated.

Most boxes are locked with keys, although the expensive brands sport electronic keypads. These things weigh a ton, and the outside is a lot bigger than the inside, so get as big a unit as you can afford. Oh, and DON’T LOSE THE KEY. Yeah.

External Hard Drive or Data Storage
If you are like me, a good portion of your most important documents and photos are digital, on your computer. Should your computer hard drive die, or should your computer become damaged by some freak of nature or accident, you could lose everything. Set aside all your important digital data on a dedicated external hard drive. Place it in the safe box for safe keeping. Update it from time to time.

External hard drives can be pricey, but you can get very good deals if you keep your eyes on a good sale. I spotted this enormous Fantom G-Force 1 Terabyte External drive for $50! That’s a steal.

If you don’t want to get an external hard drive, you can also create a DVD with the digital data, and store it in a safe place like a safe box or in a shed or something. Additionally, if you have webmail or some online storage space, you can upload that data to keep it on someone else’s server. I wouldn’t place sensitive documents there, though, because a hacker could possibly gain entry to your data. But you can store your photos on Flickr or Photobucket, or on a web server.

So home safety and security just requires a few steps and some investment. You can decrease the cost by shopping around for deals, too. Be safe!

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Livvy and The Couch Monster #2

November 26, 2010


She’s so cute. Even at age 2, she acts like a little kitten sometimes.



We hope your Thanksgiving holiday was a wonderful one! Ours was! I actually got a break (Marg will be pleased), and haven’t felt so relaxed in eons. And Livvy has been happy, sitting at my feet all day long šŸ™‚ with occasional breaks to find the lurking Couch Monster, of course. šŸ˜€

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Simplify, Simplify, Simplify

November 24, 2010

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Wellll…. I still haven’t gotten “a round tuit” with some of the leftover projects after the renovation. Honestly, I have been having a bit of a hard time adjusting to the new kitchen. The dining room isn’t much of a big deal– I designed it to have the same colors and etc as the old one– but the kitchen is a shock. It is SO different. I have found it rather hard to adjust. I’m kind of ashamed. It’s totally, totally new, and I was so used to banging around in the old one. Now I have to be careful what I do on the counters– NO knifes! NO food stains! NO standing water! And the floors– are the planks staying together OK? Hey, you with the muddy shoes! And it goes on and on. I’m still walking on eggshells. The new room is a bit of a shock. I wanted it SO much, and now that it’s here, I’m stunned that it’s actually here. It’s like moving into a new house without going anywhere. I must be getting old or something…

Anyway, I still haven’t built my bench for the shoe area, nor have I constructed shelves for the phone area. Both areas are in the kitchen, so the half-completed construction looks out of place with the finished sections of the kitchen. The phone area is important right now. It’s the “dumping” area for my husband’s work paraphernalia. It’s important that he has everything neat and organized, so that he doesn’t forget anything when he goes to work. And I dislike the mess of it all, too.

I have been on a bit of a hunt for ways to organize the area. One thing I can do is make a small charging station for all the cell phones and mp3 players. I saw this and love it! It’s a Charging Cradle, very affordable at $25 with shipping. It keeps all the electronic doodads in ONE location, charging them while they sit. I could hug the guy who invented this thing! Charging stations come in a billion shapes and styles, but this is nice to me because it’s so simple.

This is a great time to get anything. has a ton of stuff right now. They are gearing up for the Black Friday sale… but their prices are usually so low anyway. The customer service and speedy shipping just amazes me– I bought some software on their last sale, and the package arrived– priority shipping– in TWO days. And the shipping was free!

So I’m slowly, very very slowly, trying to chip away at all the leftover projects around here. is a big help. šŸ˜‰

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Welcome to My Little Home on the Net

November 20, 2010


Hello, Blog Jog Day visitors!Blog Jog

New York Renovator is my little home on the Internet. I blog about our adventures as we *try* to fix up our 1855 home in Upstate New York. We’ve been here 10 years, but have really only recently begun to update. We’d been running on 1920s knob-and-tube wiring, a 1940s heating system, and 1950s plumbing for TOO LONG. Just a few months ago, we gutted and renovated our kitchen. By ourselves. Yes, I’m exhausted. lol. But not so much that I can’t blog about it. And I can’t believe WE DID IT!!!! Yay!

You can read about our story here. And read about the history of this house and how we got it, here. Or, you can just read about this year’s project, the kitchen and dining room. Or, if you’re looking just to have fun, you can check out my Find the Kitty Friday posts here. My Tabby Point Siamese cat, Livvy, is the star of that show.

Thanks for visiting!


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My Before, During, and After Story, Part 4

November 20, 2010


This is the story of our renovation, the toils and victories through a sweltering summer of blood, sweat and tears. Read all the gory details of Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.

Our kitchen project was finally coming to a close. Yet even now, three months since we moved back in, there are many unfinished projects awaiting me. Now that I am back to a normal schedule with kids’ schooling, my online job, and such, I can only chip away at these remaining projects, slowly but surely. My goal is to batten down the hatches for an Upstate New York winter, and I’ll pick up the hammer and saw again in the spring.

After we tackled the butcher block countertops, we collapsed for a few days. Almost all of the really intense physical labor was done. Except the flooring. We’d installed plywood sub-flooring over the 70s hardboard subfloor over the 50s linoleum over the 1855 pine planks…. thank God, they’d removed the funky 40s carpeting somewhere in there (although dregs of it appeared from time to time as we removed partition walls). I love wood, just LOVE it, but it is so expensive. I decided to go with TrafficMaster allure vinyl planks. It looks like wood– for a second or two, anyway– but it’s durable and easy to install. Cost me a small fortune, though, I’ll tell you what. But I had been waiting SO LONG for a new floor.

Vinyl Flooring

Very easy to install. I guess that's why it's so pricey.


It took me about 8 hours (straight) to install the dining room floor, 10 hours to do the kitchen.

Once the floor was done, the room looked like a real kitchen again. We moved in shortly after. Oh, the JOY!



This is our beverage area, which I conveniently tucked under the stairwell. Note the painted pantry shelf to the left. Still has no doors, though...



Our favorite appliance. Oh, how we dreamed for this moment! LOL, six adults in a home make a lot of dishes.

I’d mentioned before about the sink and window as the room’s focal point. I carefully crafted the trim around the window to reflect the home’s Greek Revival architecture. The Greek triangular pediment and fluted trim is repeated throughout the house. I stained this wood extra dark to make it stand out. Cellular blinds soften the hard lines. I need more color and decor here, but all in good time.

2010 was a wild, crazy ride for us.


I’m spending the winter quietly, taking things slower as best I can. I work at home to pay off the kitchen. If we had hired out to have all this work done, the job would have cost us a small fortune. By doing everything ourselves, we saved a ton of money. It was a lot of work, sure, but I think everyone was enriched by the experience, especially my kids. Here’s a quick breakdown of the economics:

According to this chart, we saved over $36,000 by doing this ourselves. That is a HUGE savings! Yes, I took time off from work to work on this renovation. I worked on reduced hours for four months. However, consider this: a kitchen renovation gives you an average of 70% return on the cost of the project, so I basically “earned” $25,200 on the value of the home. That’s more than I make in a year, let alone four months. So even though I’m not seeing a liquid $25,200 cash in hand, it’s part of my real estate investment. It was well worth it, I think, to go reduced hours on my job (with which, I figure, I lost about $2000 income) to earn $25,200 in capital investment on the property. Moreover, improving the electrical and water supply reduces our insurance premium, the insulation in the walls reduces our heating bills,Ā  and everything in general improves the quality of our lives here.

I think my DIY project was worth it. But I’m SO GRATEFUL it’s over!

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Find the Kitty Friday: The Couch Monster

November 19, 2010

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Livvy didn’t feel like hiding this week. She wanted to play The Couch Monster. Does your cat play The Couch Monster? Livvy is convinced that there’s a monster in the cushions. She’s always digging for him, wanting him to play.






She’s such a skinny little kitty. Well, she’s two years old now… she’s a big girl, but too skinny (in my opinion). I’m used to the big butterball tabby cat, the kind that make you wince. Livvy is too thin. I keep the house rather cool in the winter, so I am concerned about her. I know that the Siamese breeds are slender by nature, but she’s got some tabby in her, too. Not that I can find any… except for when she plays The Couch Monster. She can’t go outside to hunt rodents, so she takes out her frustrations on the couch. lol.

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Chestnuts Roasting On A….

November 19, 2010

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Who eats chestnuts anymore?

And who has a roaring fire anymore?

It’s this time of the year that I long for an open fire, SOME kind of open fire. When I was younger, my family purchased a home with a huge stone fireplace. One of our favorite things to do was to sit in front of it. And that was exactly the problem– all of us sitting in front of it. No room for all of us! A fireplace does not give off much heat, as a lot of the heat goes right up the chimney. Fireplaces also suck up the oxygen in a room, creating a draft. And of course, house fires start in chimneys; you must carefully maintain your chimney very year. So the flames were very cozy-looking, but not very warm. And all that wood chopping, stacking, loading, ash removal…


We have only one chimney left, and it’s merely a vent for the gas appliances. When we convert our garage into a family/music room, I’m going to install a vented gas logs fireplace. I’ve done a bit of studying, and the vented are best. They draw air in from the outdoors, and vent the combustion gases outdoors.

Well, this year I still have only the electric space heater to cozy up to. But soon I’ll have my nice gas fireplace! šŸ˜€

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My Before, During, and After Story, Part 3

November 18, 2010


This is the story of how we gutted our 1855 home’s kitchen and dining room. Read Part 1 and Part 2.

I have thus far blogged about the kitchen renovation. Originally, gutting the kitchen was my only goal. In an old house, it is SO easy to get carried away with multiple projects, because there is always so much to do. As I planned the kitchen job, I realized I’d have to do the dining room, too. Part of the renovation goal was to wire the house (I’d disconnected the old, decaying wiring in the house three years previously). We’d suffered all those years without any electricity in the bedrooms upstairs, the upstairs bath, and the dining room. I decided to gut the dining room, too. This way, I could wire the upstairs rooms from the opened dining room ceiling.

Wiring 1

The house framing method is balloon-frame, a building fad in the mid 1800s. Studs sit on the foundation sill and reach all the way up to the roof rafters, like a hot air balloon seams. It quickly grew out of fashion because cutting wood at such lengths was expensive; and the drafts produced by the open cavity from basement to attic was a fire hazard. But I was able to snake wiring up the stud cavities.

Since there was no plumbing in the dining room walls, I thought renovating the room would be easy. However, the walls are 155 years old, wavy and narrow. Installing the sheetrock for this room was AGONIZING. If I ever had to hire for a job, it would be sheetrock. What exhausting, dirty, depressing work. Nothing is straight or plumb in this house, so the walls and ceiling looked terrible. Not to mention that at this time, Upstate New York suffered one of the hottest summers on record. We were absolutely soaked through. I drank about 1 to 2 gallons of iced tea every day. It was a big trial for us to work through this. So many times we wanted to quit.


Wavier than a surfer's paradise, I tell ya.

DR ceiling sheetrock

It was just my daughter and I who did the sheetrock, with later help from my son. It took us THREE GRUELING WEEKS to do this huge room. Never again...


The wavy ceiling turned out so poorly, we decided to paste embossed wallpaper on it. That was another GRUELING week of work.


I wanted to retain the Greek Revival architecture of the house, so I spent a long time building new trimwork for it. I love my miter saw!


The room was a tremendous challenge because it has four windows and SIX doorways. But here's the finished product.

Back to the kitchen project. There was a large space- a former pantry closet that was awkward and cramped– and I didn’t want to close it off completely… So we solved the problem by creating a narrow pantry shelf accessible from the side of the closet. The guys from my church got this up in one night!

Narrow Pantry


This is after the sheetrock. It's a little quirky, but I love it. I have to build custom doors for it. That open cubby hole to the left will house a closet with a roll-out garbage bin... still not completed yet.


I like quirky closets so much that I built another one, between the kitchen and dining room doorways.

The guys from the church helped me install the sheetrock in the kitchen, to save my sanity. I hope I never have to do it again. Woo hoo! It’s over and it looks spectacular!


Once the walls were closed up, we could start installing cabinets. Yay!



It took me a long time to choose countertops. I originally chose laminate (I was on a budget!), but the long run (11 feet) would mean I’d need custom laminate countertops. Time was running out for us– it was already late August– and I knew I could not build custom laminate, nor could I afford it installed. After much research, I bought butcher block wood countertops from an online wholesale dealer. It requires a little more maintenance than laminate, but it’s absolutely beautiful.


The delivery man placed it at the mouth of the driveway, and took off! We had to haul the 350 pound counters 150 feet down the driveway, to the kitchen. Fun.


It took three kids and me to make this sink cutout. I was trembling with anxiety the entire time. One bad cut, and my countertop was ruined. Praise the Lord, it came out OK!

Delta Faucet almost there

Delta gave me a faucet for this renovation. I LOVE YOU, DELTA! We love our sink. šŸ™‚

The end is near! Stay tuned for the next section– it’s the best part of all!!

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My Before, During, and After Story, Part 2

November 16, 2010


Over the summer, we gutted our kitchen and dining room, and replaced the entire electrical system and water supply system. Read Part 1 of our story here.

Redoing the electrical system in this house was harrowing, but not as harrowing as in 2007, when I had replaced the living room and bedroom wiring– for now I knew what to expect. The wiring was probably installed here in the 1920s, judging by the knob and tube system and the hardware used. It had been added to over the years– very piecemeal– and by the time I opened a wall in 2007, it was a disaster. Wires were bare, chewed by mice, spliced with tape… and every once in a while, we found a buried junction box when we opened a wall.

Hidden Junction Box

An inaccessible junction box is a code violation and fire hazard.

Crazy Old Wiring

Because I could find no electrician to assist me, I studied at night and rewired the house by day. I even learned to install circuit breakers in the service panel. The electrical inspector […]

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