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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9 Responses to It’s fry o’clock somewhere

  1. Grace says:

    What the heck, you guys are brickmasons now? That looks incredible! I can’t believe you built a brick wall! Everything I know about brickmasonry I learned from that one Roald Dahl story about the pickpocket/hitchhiker who says he’s a “hod carrier,” the guy who mixes the mortar and hands it to the actual bricklayer. Check it out, it’s a real job and you can make pretty good money doing it:

    You’re being really nonchalant about mastering several skilled trades. I think bricklaying is supposed to be really hard.

    • Emma Emma says:

      We’re really, tremendously, annoyingly impressed with ourselves for building a brick wall. Did that not come through in the post? I think I’m a bad home renovation blogger because I’m always thinking while writing posts, “Don’t talk about feeeeeeelings, talk about the house.” But I think that’s actually not good advice to give to myself because aren’t feelings what make blogs interesting? If so, I will try to do more to showcase my overwhelming pride and egoism in our house updates in the next post.

      Hod carrier sounds like a sweet gig! I’m extremely impressed you knew that was a job. How do you remember everything you’ve ever read?

  2. Kristina says:

    That wall looks so real! I’m so impressed. Did mixing concrete remind you of intro sculpture plaster projects?

    Also, get some insulation on the inside of the basement walls! Like sheets of extruded polystyrene might be easy to put in? I don’t really know things. But you want to seal the whole house in one thermal envelope, that I do know. It’ll help with moisture management. When people don’t insulate attics and basements (which is, granted, incredibly common) they’re treating those spaces like the outdoors, but without thermal/air/vapor barriers to the living spaces. Uninsulated attic is what made our sprinkler pipes freeze!

    Way to go Tony on that beautiful slogan.

    • Emma Emma says:

      I know you know what you’re talking about and I’m betting that that’s a really good idea. However, you may be *slightly* underestimating the number of steps between “remove wet sponge from hole in basement threshold” and “install sheets of extruded polystyrene to seal house in one thermal envelope.” Just slightly!

      We’ve got a partial crawlspace, partial basement. The crawlspace part is a dirt floor. The basement has a little ledge that is dirt, then a concrete floor. So it’s not just the lack of insulation that’s making this space feel like the outside, ya know? Here’s a drawing of that terrible description of the basement. Tony and I thought we might pour concrete over the dirt ledge? Idk. What do you advise? :

      (I don’t know why I felt I needed to label concrete that much).

      First thing we really need to do before we do anything else is get working plumbing in the house, so that we can install a functional toilet. So far all of our time in the house is limited by how long Tony and I can not go the bathroom, which really makes every project more difficult. It would be great to do more to insulate/protect from water before it’s winter, though!

      • Kristina says:

        I have literally no idea what to advise but I love that drawing. I’ll ask around?

        But yeah I’d agree plumbing is a much bigger priority. The office I’m working in this summer has a bathroom that’s really, really far away and I know it’s not the same thing but it really is a huge commitment every time I decide I need to pee.

  3. Kate ruzicka says:

    Soooooooooooo happy to see you writing again! Where have you been???!!! Hahahahaha…Anthony, LOVE the slogan, you be so smaht! I’m so proud of you, Master Tony. The house is just fantastic! And the wall…WHAT?! A flipping BRICK wall! You guys are quite the mason artistes. I am happy to be part of your new adventures, thanks for sharing

    • Emma Emma says:

      Thanks Kate! Tony says thanks, too! He just made a really good (?) three little pigs joke in reference to the brick wall that he instructed me to write, but I don’t think I’d be able to capture it in all its glory here. Ask him about it the next time you see him. (He saw me writing that and screamed, “No!” so maybe scratch the asking?)

      One thing I neglected to mention in the post was how we showed up late to Will’s art show and made you and your parents wait way too long for dinner. Thank you for being patient with us, art walking with us, and having a drink with us. Maybe the next time you’re in town the house will be in good enough shape for us to have you over for a beer there!

  4. Charlie says:

    It’s fry o clock somewhere! Gonna shout it the next time I order fries anywhere. One of my friends thought of calling french fries “tator twigs.” This is the best french fry phrasing to happen in my life since then. Thanks Tony!

    That brick wall is so impressive. And it’s crazy that you now have that skill forever. What else can you make with bricks for the house? Sidewalk? Charming stone fence? Backyard pizza oven?

  5. Kate says:

    Backyard pizza oven! WOOT gets my vote. Just can’t go wrong wit that

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