To continue last week’s theme, last night Tony and I made poutine and it was disgustingly amazing, emphasis on amazing.

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Actually, to get super honest here, we didn’t just make poutine last night. We also made it the night before. You know you’re really living when you’re making brown gravy from a packet two nights in a row!

A friend and occasional Fawn Log reader who shall remain anonymous for obvious reasons recently told me that she has become shamefully addicted to Taco Bell’s new Cap’n Crunch Delights.

She described them as, “Like a regular Taco Bell Delight wrapped in Cap’n Crunch.” I didn’t have the heart to tell her I don’t know what a regular Taco Bell Delight is.


Like us, this lady also just bought her first house. Does home ownership  increase junk food consumption? My sample size of three says yes.

Someone needs to look into this. We may yet solve the obesity epidemic! All we have to do is leave our houses and retreat into the woods, far away from the Arby’s and the Taco Bell and the twisted Canadian cuisine.

Before we do that, though, let’s talk about drywall. Drywall has always intimidated me. It feels like something only pros do, and I’ve heard that a good drywall job requires incredible precision.

That may be true in newer homes, where walls are perfectly flat and pristine. For better or for worse, that’s not our house. The walls in our house are old plaster and lathe that have settled over the past 111 years. When you look closely at the walls, as I now have, you realize that they faintly undulate from top to bottom. Matching them requires attention to detail, but not precision. Who needs pros when you’re a schmuck with an old house and the energy of a thousand gravy-smothered cheese curds?

We had several areas to drywall in the bathroom, as well as the kitchen. Step one was enlarging and evening out the holes we had to  cover. This did two things: first, it exposed the studs we needed to drill the drywall into. Second, it allowed us to fill the holes with roughly square or rectangular pieces of drywall.

Screen Shot 2015-07-15 at 9.25.09 PMStep two was  measuring and cutting the drywall. In retrospect this was the hardest step, although it wasn’t that hard. Mostly I’m just bad at measuring. You cut drywall with a sharp utility knife. Step three was screwing drywall into the studs while looking all manic and sweaty.

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Screen Shot 2015-07-15 at 9.25.18 PMStep four was mudding, then taping, then mudding with thin layers again and again. This was the step I was most worried about. It turned out to be much less difficult than I’d imagined. In fact, if you’ve spackled before, you can probably mud.

Tony and I watched a YouTube video that said that, when repairing plaster walls with drywall, your first mud layer should be smacked against the seam between drywall and plaster. In theory, this smooshes mud between the lathe and the drywall, further strengthening the bond between them. It also helps ensure that any gaps between the plaster and the drywall are fully filled. After you’ve smacked a relatively thick layer of mud on, you put drywall tape on the seam and allow the mud underneath to dry. After that, each application of mud should be very thin until the tape is fully covered and the seam is imperceptible.

Here’s where our not so smooth walls came back to gently bite us. We hung 1/4″ drywall because it matched the depth of the plaster where we measured. Because plaster is applied by hand, however, its thickness varies. In our house, the plaster is 1/4″ in some places but closer to a 1/2″ in other places.

My initial fix for this was to ignore everything I’d read about applying mud and just do a really thick layer of it over the tape in areas where the drywall met plaster that was deeper than 1/4″. This seemed like great idea, and it looked perfect until it dried. Then, the mud cracked into a million pieces, as it does when applied too thickly.

I’d read enough to know not to mud directly over the cracks, because they’ll just crack again. My intuition told me to tape over the cracks, and Tony agreed. We taped up the cracks, I learned my lesson, and we applied only thin layers moving forward. It worked well, and later we confirmed that this is the right way to fix cracks. By building up the mud bit by bit, we managed to match the uneven depth of the plaster pretty well. Not perfectly, but pretty well.

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We still need to skim coat in the bathroom and kitchen where we hung drywall, since the plaster is in pretty terrible shape from our wallpaper removal in those rooms. Skim coating is another one of those mysterious and scary-sounding renovation words, but the basic idea is to thin mud with some water, then apply a really thin layer of it to the whole wall, filling in any remaining cracks and smoothing imperfections. I’m hoping that it’s also as surprisingly easy as mudding turned out to be.

After that, we’ll sand the whole thing and then it’s time to prime and paint. I can’t believe we might be painting soon! Does anyone have any white paint recommendations? I want every wall of our house to be painted white, so this is important.

Just for funsies, here’s a before and after after after (but still really a before) of the bathroom walls.

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Toilet here we come!

Posted in Bathroom, Kitchen | 4 Comments

Send fruits and vegetables

Tony and I have landed on a pretty good weekend schedule for getting a bunch of house stuff done. Basically, we wake up on weekend mornings, eat breakfast, and head to the house. We then work at the house for as long as is humanly possible. At that point, one of us suggests lunch.

We really did eat at Arby’s this weekend, because Arby’s is one of the few places where you can feel comfortable “dining in” even when covered in dirt and grime. Also, they have great curly fries.

After our lunch break, we go back to the house for several more hours of back breaking work until one of us suggests dinner. By that point we’re typically so exhausted that the only cooking we’re up for is making a frozen pizza and opening a beer, which we also really did this weekend.

I can see absolutely nothing wrong with our schedule except that we may develop nutritional deficiencies. In terms of fixing up the house, though, it’s working great!

The big news from last week was that we got functional plumbing.

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Thanks, Will and Sarah, for the wedding gift present of a lifetime: this kitchen faucet!

We ended up getting all of the plumbing replaced, because it was in pretty terrible shape. The plumber who did it was great and we’re so, so, so happy to have running water. We can wash our hands at the house! We can get a glass of water! THIS CHANGES EVERYTHING.

We still don’t have a functional toilet yet, because we need to tile the bathroom before we reinstall it. But we’re making progress in that direction. In fact, our big Saturday project was in the bathroom where we repaired a wall that the plumbers had to bust through to install plumbing.

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Does this picture following what I just said about the plumber make you think Tony was our plumber? Because he wasn’t!

The wall is technically an exterior wall, even though the fully enclosed back porch is behind it. It’s a little scary to have plumbing in an exterior wall, because it increases the  chances the pipes could freeze. Because of our planned shower set up, this is the only way the plumber could do it.  He covered the pipes in insulation and instructed us to put more insulation in the walls before we closed them up. He also told us our pipes would be fine, and we hope he’s right!

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I realize I’ve never explained our bathroom plan. Since I hope that it will be our first finished room, I’ll go ahead and tell you what we’re thinking. First, a crappy floor plan of what it looked like before:

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This layout was not bad at all. The toilet is in good shape, and we’re planning on putting it back right where it was when we’re done tiling. The sink was a cool old wall mount, but it is unfortunately too far rusted to save. We ended up getting this little sink and sink cabinet from Ikea, pictured below. I think it’s adorable and will add a bit of much-needed bathroom storage space.

The tub is a super cool old cast iron claw foot tub, which we also plan to reuse. Instead of having it crammed right up next to the sink, though, we’re going to scoot it down 6″ or so to the back wall. Having the tub abut the back wall allowed us to run the shower plumbing up through the wall, rather than use one of those flimsy claw foot shower kits. So instead of this:

We can have this :

Cool, right?

The bathroom has a wood floor, but it’s by far the most damaged of any of the floors in the house. Rather than attempt to salvage it, we’re going to tile over it. I’m a little sad to cover wood, but we’ll have it throughout the rest of the house so not that sad. We’re planning on white hex tile and don’t tell me you hate it because I already ordered it at Lowe’s. This grout is a little lighter than we want, but you get the idea:

We’re going to tile the two walls by the tub with white square tile, because it’s so cool and so cheap. It’s also seemingly the next big tile trend after subway tile. I like this grout color a latte:

I’m a little worried about how the square tile will look with the hex tile, but Tony has convinced me they will look cool together. What do you think?

On the walls that aren’t tile, we’re going with white paint. On the wall above the toilet, we want to build some shelves to store towels and toiletries. Since everything else will be white, I think these would look cool in a natural wood tone. Tony is also going to build us a little ladder like this to hang towels  on.


If someone finds this exact mirror, please let me know because I want it, too.


Tony is over at the house now, screwing concrete board into the bathroom floor.  The floorboards would have been too wonky to tile directly over, so we needed a subfloor like drywall or plywood or concrete board. Concrete board is mold resistant, so it’s the best option for bathrooms. It’s also a real pain in the butt to cut. Luckily, my dad came over to help Tony with that job this past weekend.

While they were working on that, I scrubbed the kitchen cabinets. Have I mentioned we have running water now and can do things like scrub the kitchen cabinets? It’s amazing! Here are the three items I found wedged behind the kitchen drawers: paint scraper, the world’s tiniest hammer, and the lid to a cardboard hosiery box.

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Fawnlog poll: do you think these items were all lost behind the shelves separately at different points over time? Or are they somehow connected?

Posted in basement | 6 Comments

It’s fry o’clock somewhere

First of all, Tony came up with this tagline for a client’s beer battered French fries, and I couldn’t be prouder:

I had to share.

Since I last wrote, we’ve continued to remove wallpaper in the kitchen. We’ve tried many methods, including steaming and the piranha wallpaper scorer. So far, nothing has been as effective as a putty knife and a beer.

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It’s fry o’clock somewhere

Wallpaper removal is a gross, sweaty job. It’s also a job that requires very little skill, which is great in that it allows you to be fully mindless. One night last week, Tony went to have a drink with friends and I stayed behind to scrape. I’ve never been able to meditate, but I think I came pretty close to it while scraping wallpaper alone for an hour on a hot Missouri night.

I don’t know what it is about scraping wallpaper. The repetition? The act of working to reveal something that was once hidden? Whatever it is, scraping wallpaper can be pretty great.

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In addition to wallpaper removal, we repaired a wall this weekend! We used to have a basement window that was broken and boarded over.  Below this window, there were maybe 4 inches of open space that the previous owner had, bizarrely, stuffed with a large sponge. Save for the sponge, this space was completely open to the outside. Any animal strong enough to move the sponge (most animals that I can think of) could have gotten into the basement. The sponge was also acting like a sponge and absorbing water which was then sitting there, below the wood frame of the window.  Literally anything but a sponge would have been a better solution here.

Anyway, Tony and I decided we needed to address the wet sponge/ broken window problem this weekend. First, we removed the sponge and the window. That left a hole in the side of the house. In this picture, you can see some basement ductwork and Tony’s arm through the hole.

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Next, we dug down to the level of the concrete walls on either side of the hole. That left us with a trench into which we poured maybe 4″ of concrete. Then we started laying some old bricks we had, using the concrete as mortar.

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Then we ran out of concrete. Since it was the 4th of July, we put some boards over the hole and went and hung out with friends.

This morning, we bought more concrete and finished the job. My uncle suggested leaving space for a vent so that we could maintain some airflow in the basement.

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Here it is after we installed a vent and sealed it with some caulk:

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Ah! Aren’t you so impressed? We totally are. Yes, the concrete mortar looks pretty sloppy. But, dang, there used to be a big wet sponge and a broken window in this space! This is a giant improvement, no questions asked.

Also, doesn’t that vent look legit? Tony and I wandered all over Home Depot looking for a vent that we could close, thinking it might be useful to have that functionality in the winter. Finally we just bought this floor vent for $6. You’re definitely not supposed to use it for this purpose, but I think it’s going to be perfect! And, just in case it’s not, it should be relatively easy to remove since we just sealed it in with caulk and not concrete.

I’ll leave you with this photo of Tony and I with my cousin, Will, at his art show this weekend. We bought one of Will’s amazing paintings and we’re so excited to hang it up in our house once our walls are finished. The painting is all in shades of blue  and it’s of Gotokuji Temple in Japan. If you’re local to Springfield, go see Will’s paintings up all month at BookMarx!

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Posted in basement | 9 Comments