Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Renovation: Painting and Decorating

We've accomplished quite a bit on the house since my last post, but those accomplishments have been of the tedious, difficulty to document variety. Much of Ron's time has been spent scraping away old paint slopped onto woodwork by previous residents, and drywall mud slopped as a result of our renovation. Al Theilen and J.R. painted our dining room and parlor ceilings, moving the room painting sequence along. Since then, we've installed our dining room ceiling fan and started to paint the walls, only to find that the paint, which looked like it had been mixed to the correct formula when we were at the store, in fact is an odd shade of purple. As I write this blog post, Ron is at the hardware store (hopefully) getting the right smidge of the right color added to the two cans of paint we bought. It is good to be married to an artist. Here are several photos of progress that I haven't posted yet. The guest bathroom, hallway art, a dining room window with curtain

Friday, September 23, 2011

Thanks for the coverage!

The Setzepfandt House was featured in this week's Bellevue Herald-Leader Home Improvement section. We were so proud to show BH-L editor Sara Millhouse around the place, and talk about how far the house has come. Setzepfandt Nation (our name for the dozens of local folks who've worked on the house with us) has really come through. We still have a long way to go, of course. Today Ron is replacing some wood from around a door frame that appears to have been kicked in once, many years ago. I'm happy to have finally found, in one of the garages, the box that contains my cookbooks. Now I can make my mother's biscotti recipe and my sister's enchilada casserole (using Ron's antelope meat from the hunt last fall.) In my last post I mentioned that the downstairs bathroom is functional, and promised pictures. Another big development is that the upstairs carpeting is all in. We can start moving Ron's office furniture in, but we need help. Anybody up for an hour of furniture hoisting? There will be biscotti....

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Two bathrooms, no waiting

Eureka! We finally have the second bathroom functional. The upstairs bath was one of the first rooms ready to go in June, even before we arrived (thank you, Setzepfandt nation). A blessing and curse, I suppose, because then the "emergency" factor disappeared and people around town who didn't have little things like running water or air conditioning got ahead of us on the list. But over the last few days, a bathroom emerged from the pile of fixture boxes that had sat in our dining room so long I began hanging my sweater from them. Pictures to come, but suffice it to say it is beautiful and very welcome. So there's no door. There's no door on the upstairs bath either - the need to pee in private is fading...

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Only non-Hawkeyes flag in town.

Got this baby up on the porch when the American flag we had hanging there got a little raggedy. Go Pokes!

Friday, September 2, 2011

Cooking with gas, finally and literally

After two and a half months of moving into the Setzepfandt House and Construction Zone, we have a kitchen. We've spent weeks and weeks concocting dismal meals of easily choppable or cleanable foods prepared in a tiny microwave. Even nuke-able mac & cheese doesn't cook well blah blah blah enough! We're finally shopping, storing food in a human-sized fridge, preparing said food in an oven or range top or large microwave, and washing dishes in a large sink or - gasp - dishwasher. I realize I sound like the most avaricious consumer-head in the world, but after all this time it feels great to return to a standard of living that doesn't require so much focus on hunter-gathering on the campground sort of scale. It is still a work in progress, but with no further ado, here are some photos.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Am I retired?

Here is a picture of my office space. I'm not working at the desk because I'm behind the camera!
I don't think a day goes by that I don't make a new acquaintance in town who asks me if I am retired. My first thought is, "Do I look old enough to be retired? I'm only 52." Then I think, "Do I look that at loose ends that surely I most not have anything meaningful going on in my life?" A combination of defensiveness, denial and self-awareness compete in my inner brain when this is going on. Maybe it started because I didn't want to "retire" from UW. I just wanted to pick my job up and do it from Iowa. So it rankles a bit when people there mention my retirement. That wasn't my plan, that isn't my sense of myself. I have another 15 years at least of "work" ahead of me. It just has taken a quirky turn, pretty much in keeping with how the rest of my life has gone. Anyway, back to meeting new folks. No, I'm not retired. I work part time. I freelance. I work for an employer 900 miles away. I'm writing a book. I'm taking a personal sabbatical. It all sounds thin and un-considered. Especially with so many people in the country unemployed but not by choice. What am I doing walking away from a perfectly good job if it wasn't part of my plan to retire? I better come up with something tangible to show as proof of my viability, and soon. Or else just say yes, I'm retired, please have no expectations of me because I have none of myself. I only look 52. Really, I'm 70 and deserve a break.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Tornadoes and kitchen cabinets

Both arrived yesterday. It must have been 95 degrees with 98 percent humidity yesterday afternoon, with 0 mph winds, when the two fellows arrived from Spahn & Rose lumber in Dubuque. All I could think when they unloaded box after box of huge, heavy kitchen cabinets was, "What were we thinking." You'd think I'd be more excited by their arrival since I've been looking forward to this day for month. But now I know it'll be at least another week before we can even get them out of their huge boxes and start the installing. Then several weeks after that before we get countertops and applicances.
I just can't imagine how all this stuff is going to fit into the kitchen. Sure, right now lots of it is cardboard now. But 96 inches to the top of the cabinets? Ridiculous.
Anyway, there we are. Hopefully this is just a case of buyer's remorse.
So after the lumber store fellows left, it got hotter and wetter and stiller. We walked out the back door about 50 feet to sit on the bench overlooking the river. The water, the sky, and the hills were all the same blue-black color. Lightning went from a few spikey slashes across the river to a steady wall-cloud strobe. When we started noticing cloud rotation kicking in we headed back to the upper porch and watched the sky start to turn green-black, that tornadic color I remember so well from days gone by. A few seconds later, sure enough, the tornado siren blew. We came inside and headed to the basement until the siren stopped. Then we watched the TV report of a tornado warning in our area, really between Bellevue and LaMott. It rained all night and some again this morning. Some flooding around the area but no one hurt, that I've learned of. Boy, I'm glad those cabinets arrived today!

Monday, July 18, 2011

We Are Official

You know you really belong in Bellevue, Iowa, when you own a boat. So, for our one-month anniversary, we bought the boat our neighbor John Hoff was offering for sale. It is a King Fisher, 17' fiberglass fishing boat with 3 seats and a 55 hp motor (see photo). Best, it was built the year I graduated from high school. John took us out a few times. First, to show us how the boat ran when were still in the shopping phase. Second, when we took it out for the first time as owners and his insurance-man instincts told him we probably still needed help. He popped up at the boat ramp just as the Bonnie Marie was marooning herself onto the rocks. (NOTE: Hey Bellevue - put in a damn dock, ok?). Since then we've been out twice. Our first solo trip was a bit of a comedy of errors, trying to get her completely off the trailer so we can pull the vehicle out but not so far off that I can barely keep her from being caught up in the Mighty Mo's current (NOTE: Hey Bellevue - oh wait, I already said that). We got better at it when we went out early Sunday morning. After our excursion I was standing thigh deep in the current holding the Bonnie Marie close in while Ron went to retrieve the truck. We were feeling pretty smug that we hadn't bent the trailer frame pulling her out (like we had the last time). Then up came an older fellow (in the truck - dad?) and a younger fellow in the boat (son?). Dad backed the trailer down the ramp; Son stayed in the boat and with a little squeeze of the throttle eased his boat into the trailer stopping the keel right at the place where it gets hooked in to the trailer. They reminded me of a steer-roping team, I must say. A few expert cranks of the wheel and hooking of hooks and they were off. I stood there waterlogged in the river waiting for Ron to come back with our vehicle (Archie had to stop to pee in the poison ivy several times along the route). I said to the expert sailor - you made that look easy. He just smiled and waved. I was glad to hide behind our Wyoming licence plates as an excuse.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Sugar Creek, Iowa church social

Last evening we went to a church social on the lawn of the St. Joseph-St Mary Catholic church at Sugar Creek, outside of Preston, Iowa. If that sounds hard to find, it was, rather. It wasn't actually in Preston, and since Sugar Creek isn't on our Iowa map we had to rely on some nice young guys at the gas station to ponder the possibilities and direct us on the right path.
Fantastic beef and pork, wonderful entertainment by the Iowa Corn Fed Girls. The highlight was the actual church. Small, with traditional altar and statuary. The most beautiful station of the cross you can imagine. Marble relief, it appeared. I hope to be allowed to take pictures there. The main point is the emotional wallop seeing the place packed. Before we even opened the door I caught a faint sniff of the incense that took me back to childhood. I could almost feel the bobby pin holding my twice-folded holy veil down to my hair. It was so disappointing many years ago when my childhood church went "modern" and got rid of all but the most subtle artifacts of Catholicism. This place in Sugar Creek - now that's what I call a Catholic church. I brought home a bulletin and will plan to attend a mass there soon. Lots of small Catholic churches in these parts are closing down. How very sad for the communities.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Baby robin on train track

Robin drama - little nearly-flightless fellow on the train track that runs parallel with Second St. here in Bellevue. We were munching ham salad sandwiches while the mom went off in search of worms to regurgitate. Little robin went from curbing along track to down into the rail bed. No perils of Pauline moment really, but we figured if cars along the road weren't an imminent threat anymore, oncoming trains surely would be. Ron the Bird Master plucked little fellow up and with much squawking and flapping (on the part of the robin) got him safely into the yard. More struggling and a bummed out Schipperke later, we all went inside to allow mom to calm back down and inspect her prodigy. All's well for now I think.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Bats in the belfry

Ron has gone through several filters shop-vaccing up bat poop from our walk-up attic. We realized these were not passing visitors when talking to fellow Bellevue-ers who've also had bats in the attic. We checked with the pest folks who specialize in bats (yes, there is that much in demand.) Upon hearing Ron's description of a large band of bats wheeling and squealing around the battic at dusk, Tom the bat fellow says we most likely have a mother colony. That sounds darling, doesn't it. Like a day care center in the attic.
Bats are protected so we can't just kill them, though that isn't something we would have done even if we could. Tom told us that we can't do anything about the bats until August, until the baby bats have weaned and can fly on their own. (Who knew.) Then he'll clear the attic of bat/batling pairs and replace all their ingress/egress with egress only doorways. I hope he brings about a million doorways: that's how many openings are likely in the attic. I like bats, but not well enough to go up there at night with a camera. Instead, here is a brown bat purloined from the web at getmycritter.com

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Furniture and boxes, endless boxes

Why oh why do we own so much crap? A more important question, why did we haul so much crap 900 miles away to be stored for months on end in our garages while we work on getting the house ready to receive said crap. I was pretty proud of myself at the time of packing, feeling we'd had a decent garage sale and were able to offload lots of books on the used book store and public library. But now, in our new house where we've sacrificed an excellent walk in closet I'd been fantasizing about, I can't find anything I need among all the stuff I don't want. What do you suppose was at the front of the garages where the movers made aisles between our rows of junk? Halloween decorations and winter sweaters. Oh yay.
(Pictured is the pile of stuff being loaded onto the moving van on the Laramie leg of the journey.)

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Finally in, sort of

We arrived in Bellevue on Wednesday June 10 and stayed through the following Tuesday at the Stone Street Inn with Sue and Rob Roben. Every day our house got a little closer to being livable on the top floor but we realized we'd be roughing it quite a bit. So we bugged out for a few days to stay with Ron's parents in Indiana. We came back here on Friday and are staying in our home, complete with livable bathroom. So livable, in fact, that it doubles as our kitchen. Our bedroom, now livable, doubles as our dining room. And so on. Getting better every day, just slowly. Joan and Mary have been painting upstairs and it looks beautiful. Ron's doing lots of work too (see photo). And now I have an internet connection. Could a desk be far behind?

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

End of the Beginning

We're closing the sale of our Laramie house today. A bit nerve wracking, mostly because we're sitting around waiting for the clock to say it is time to head over to the title company. We'll be renting the house back from the buyers until next Tuesday while we finalize our packing and I interrupt the forward flow to head to Casper for a writers conference (don't ask). I don't expect it to feel different after we close - I don't expect to suddenly feel like renters, like it isn't our house. But time will tell. A friend just said to me she was glad they closed and moved on the same day since it was a clean break. This whole process of buying the Setzepfandt House and moving to Bellevue has been slow motion and unconventional. I suppose renting after closing is more of the same.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Destruction Round 3

But who's counting? Ron, Archie & I just got back from a quick run to Bellevue. We emptied the U-Haul trailer full of goodies and pretty much just walked numbly around the destroyed house. Always darker before the dawn and all that. Thank goodness we had our retreat at the corner of Stone & High street. This picture of our downstairs bathroom tells the tale. All you friends, I bet you just can't wait to visit, knowing the luxurious guest bath that awaits!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Happy May Day

It is the first of May and we're celebrating workers rights by keeping half of Bellevue employed this spring. We're narrowing the decisions about a tin ceiling, kitchen cabinets and layout, bathroom layout, and flooring/carpeting. But first the jacking up of the house needs to finish. As you'll see from this picture of our kitchen, we have some work to do.
Next week we're Bellevue-bound, taking out a U-Haul trailer of lightweight, fragile things we can break ourselves without having to pay the movers to do it. Then back to Laramie to finish packing. Closing June 1; movers come June 6. In between I'm spending three days in Casper, Wyoming at the Wyoming Writers conference. I must be insane.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Destruction, Reconstruction and Choices

Nine-hundred miles from my present location, in Bellevue, Iowa a tribe of Sieverdings and their accessories are:
1) digging up the yard to install a cut-off in the sewer line. We all fervently hope they can do so without ripping up the street;
2) trying to estimate costs for ripping out and replacing all electrical wiring without a) knowing where all the new appliances will go, or b) having access to the ceiling and walls, while;
3) ripping out acoustical tile drop ceiling in the kitchen and other spaces while;
4) gutting the upstairs kitchen and alchemizing it into an upstairs spa bathroom.
5) conspiring against the one decent first floor closest, located in the guestroom but about to be appropriated into the bathroom.
And that's just this week. Meanwhile, Ron and I are online shopping for fridge, wall oven, gas cooktop, countertops, tin ceilings, flooring, lighting, and that's just next week.
And oh, packing and boxing and garage sale marking, grading papers, serving on boards, doing design work, walking the dog, falling asleep in front of the TV. Imagine the difference six weeks is going to make!

Friday, April 15, 2011

Reunited, and it feels so good

Ron took a step almost as momentous as Neil Armstrong's stroll across the moon: he walked up the interior staircase of the house from botton to top floor, and back again. He's the first person to complete this feat for around 35 years, when the stairway was walled in to create two apartments. He's been at Hotel Setzepfandt for almost a week, shop-vaccing spiders and stairways and garage ceilings. He and Bellevue-ite Al Theilen have the basement and the rafters in one of the garages emptied of junk. Lots of strolling spectators have popped in to take a look at the progress. Steve Roling across the street recognized a huge mirror stored in the garage as belonging to his nephew. Said nephew came over and carried the mirror off, saying that somebody (I'm not sure who) has been storing that mirror for him these many years. I think we need to take an ad in the BH-L alerting the town that any property they've stored at 609 N. Second is in danger of being land-filled. =D
Today Ron is having a strategy meeting with various Sieverdings and Keifers to develop a timeline and get things moving! Anybody have any tips for getting the bats out of our belfry?

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Another domino falls

Because we're not part of the five percent of Americans who have 95 percent of the wealth, Ron & I cannot own two homes at a time indefinitely. So it was with some trauma we placed our Laramie home on the market, on Friday, March 25. Soothing the trauma somewhat is the fact that on Monday, March 28, the house went under contract at the full asking price. The first several hours after a man pounded the For Sale in our yard, we were both hesitant to go out and see how it looked from the street. We peered at it from a front window, from which we could only see a sliver of the sign. A few hours later I forced myself to go take a look. No matter how much one welcomes change, when that change moves from a gleam in your eye to something that crawls and then something that can walk on its own, it is a shock. Fortunately we didn't have to endure anxiety of the unknown for long. A young couple from Seattle, both incoming UW faculty members, seemed to fall in love with it right away. Welcome to the Pink House, Annika and Bailey. It'll be yours around the first of June.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Hidden Staircase is secret no more

Ron did some excavating with his sawzall to see what sort of staircase was still intact in the house. It had been hidden long ago to accommodate an upstairs apartment with just an outside entrance. We'd heard that the neighbor who did the stairway hiding had kept it intact but after 30 years, one never knows. How surprised and pleased we are to find this! Butch Eggers, who was born in the house and is still a neighbor, took one look and recalled sliding down the bannister, many times, as a kid.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Fun, setbacks and searches

First for the fun. Ron had a great time in Bellevue, hanging out with new friends, and taking in a bit of St. Patrick's Day fun on the town with Bellevue Deb. He also worked out a plan with Al for cleaning out and re-mortaring the basement, and with Steve for hauling away the oil tanks. He's about to start day two of his trip home and should be back in Laramie late afternoon. He's taking it easy: while in Bellevue a few afternoons ago one of his eyes decided to freak out and dispatch a bunch of floaters to impede his vision. Long story short, a Bellevue eye doc dispatched him to Dubuque, where he had laser surgery on the eye. The cause of the problem isn't quite known yet - he has an appointment to see Dr. Lowe here in Laramie on Monday. That's one search: the other is for an affordable leather-ish queen size sleeper sofa. I'd like to buy it online from a store in the Dubuque area who will deliver it to Bellevue the next time Ron is there, maybe in about a month. I wanted to get one anyway for what will be the guest room. I'd like to get it now to spare him another week with the air mattress and sleeping bag. Any ideas for stores?

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Ron is getting it done!

Ron is in Iowa this week, staying at "Hotel Setzepfandt" sleeping on an air mattress and living out of a cooler. But there's hope: he's been entertaining a parade consisting our contractors the polka-playing Sieverdings, the guy who is cleaning out 131 years worth of cobwebs in the basement, the plumbers, the bath & kitchen folks, and to come, the kid who mows the lawn and maybe even an electrician. Then of course there are new friends like Steve, Sarah, Butch, and still to come, Deb and maybe even Bellevue Randy.
It has been a very long time since I've blogged here because other than living in the daily stew of wondering what is going on with our renters and hoping snowfall doesn't bring down the roof, we've been unable to take real action. But I'm here grading papers over spring break for the last time ever (progress), the Laramie house is going on the market next week (more progress) and the movers are coming today to give us an estimate to schlep our stuff 900 miles east. Most of this progress equals money, but yep - that's what we've been saving up for. Bring it on!
Pictures coming soon from Ron's stairway opening big reveal. The secret of the Hidden Staircase, for all you Nancy Drew Fans.