Virtual House Tour: The Basement

Over the course of the two-plus years since I’ve been writing this blog, I’ve shared “virtual tours” of almost every part of our house — the outside, the main level, the attic — but somehow never got around to blogging about the basement. Which is kind of odd since compared to the attic, that abandoned space we’ve entered maybe twice in the past year, we use the basement all the time for laundry and such.

So for today’s post, I hope to finally remedy this, and present you with the final installment of the “virtual house tour” blog series! Below is the floor plan for our basement:

Basement Floor Plan

This should be pretty close to scale, based on actual measurements we took. You may notice a few interesting things right off the bat, including two whole rooms I’ve never blogged about, a rather awkward laundry arrangement, and various load-bearing columns and pipes (represented as the black dots on the floor plan above).

That door on the right side of the floor plan leads directly outside — a view of that stairwell can be seen in the outside installment of the virtual house tour. Here is a view of the basement, taken from somewhere over by that door:

Unfinished Basement

As you can see it definitely looks like a basement — the previous owners had put up yellowish paneling on the walls, so it’s not just bare brick, but other than that it’s completely unfinished. (Note: the above photo was taken just after we bought the house, and while the basement looks pretty much the same now, it has admittedly collected more junk.)

The laundry situation is a bit awkward — rather than having a washer and dryer in close proximity, the washing machine sits by itself under the stairs, and the dryer is over in the corner with a random non-functional stove:

Dryer And Stove

(Darn it stove, you are drunk. Get out of that laundry nook.)

The washer in particular is on the old side, and has a really low capacity as far as how much clothing it can wash at a time, but during our 2+ years of living here we haven’t done anything (yet) to upgrade either the appliances or the layout. It would be great to set up a nicer laundry room down the road though.

Moving on to those two random little rooms. The one on the far end of the basement we call the “workshop” because it has a work bench, pegs on the wall, and various tools and scraps of wood that were left behind by the previous owners:

Basement Workshop

And over on one wall are a bunch of shelves that the previous owners had filled with coffee jars full of carefully organized screws and nails:

Nails In Coffee Jars

Aside from occasionally raiding those jars as needed for projects around the house, though, I admittedly haven’t done much in the workshop, and it looks pretty much the same now as it did when we moved in. (For some reason I’m always afraid spiders will get me if I go in there.)

Moving on to the storage room — here’s a photo of it with what I’m pretty sure is all the original junk from when we moved in:

Basement Storage Room

Several interesting things to note in the above photo:

  1. The slanty wall on the far side — this little room is directly under the front door, so there’s space carved out of it to allow for the six steps up from the ground to the main level of the house.
  2. The rabbit cage — there’s no light in this little storage room, so I didn’t notice this was in there until I took this picture and the flash went off.
  3. The window. This one is huge, and I somehow didn’t realize it until literally a week ago, but there’s a window in here. (In retrospect this should have been obvious, since it’s like three feet to the right of our front door, but somehow I never thought about what that should line up with in the basement.) In all fairness, the previous owners duct-taped a sheet over it and then propped a metal spring mattress against it, so it was easy to miss.

That’s about all there is to say about the storage room at the moment — it seems like it has a lot of potential (especially with the window and all) but for the moment it’s just a big glorified closet in a house that has way too few closets.

Anyway, that’s the long-overdue tour of our basement! I know it’s not much to look at at the moment. I was partially inspired to (finally) write this post because lately we’ve been talking about the possibility of fixing it up to make some actual living space down there — which on the one hand would be really nice, but on the other hand feels a bit risky since we did get some seepage down there during that flooding that hit Chicago last year, and any renovation plan would definitely require measures to reduce/mitigate the possibility of future flooding as much as possible.

What do you think about basement renovations in general? What would you suggest to do to this particular basement given the overall layout and the various load-bearing columns scattered about? Feel free to share any thoughts in the comments!

Close Encounters With Santa Claus, Volume 2

I’ve joked before that my annual January tradition here on this blog is to catch up on blogging about Christmas-related things — and so for today’s post, I wanted to share the quick but belated story about Lillian’s second encounter with Santa Claus.

Way back on December 18th, Lillian’s daycare threw its annual Christmas party for all the kids and parents, just like last year. And just like last year, there was a special visitor!

Instagram Santa Claus

(It was Santa Claus!)

Last time around, Lillian was just over a year old, and the moment we put her on Santa’s lap, she squirmed off onto the floor — check out this post for the whole story. At that age it seemed pretty clear that she didn’t really understand what was going on or who this bearded guy was supposed to be.

This time around, at just over two years old, I think she had a better understanding of the concept of Santa Claus — she would recognize and point out pictures of him on cards or wrapping paper, though pronouncing it “Hoppa” instead of “Santa.” And when Santa came in, she seemed excited. “Hoppa!” she said in awe.

Santa came bearing a big bag of gifts for all the kids, who took turns sitting on his lap for the requisite photo op (and of course to collect their present). I was holding Lillian while this went on, and she remained calm right up until it was her turn, at which point she started freaking out. “No! Noooo!” she cried, clutching onto me, and at one point even tried to scramble out of my arms and into Joe’s since he was standing slightly farther away.

We tried to gently encourage her and let her know that it was okay, but she was having none of it, and eventually Santa just gave up and handed her present to me to hand to her, as evidenced by this blurry photo:

Santa Present

The present turned out to be a Chutes and Ladders game — Lillian calmed down right away and enjoyed ripping the paper off to reveal what was inside. “What a nice present!” we said. “Don’t you want to go say thank you to Santa Claus?”

“Thank you, Hoppa,” Lillian said in Santa’s general direction, but without daring to move any closer. And when it came time for Santa to go, she said, “Bye bye, Hoppa,” as politely as could be, but still keeping plenty of distance.

So in conclusion, aside from the part involving the present, it would seem that this year’s encounter with Santa Claus verged almost on being a traumatic event. Oh well — third time’s the charm, right? Maybe next year will be the year we finally get the opportunity for that iconic “sitting happily on Santa’s lap” kid photo!


Snow Day… Minus The Snow

Today, temperatures in Chicago dipped down to ridiculous lows. It was apparently due to something called a Polar Vortex, which I’d never heard of before, but suffice to say that a bunch of cold air came down from the Arctic, temporarily making Chicago and most of the midwest colder than Alaska. The actual temperature got down to 16 below zero, a record low, with wind chills of forty below and colder:

Polar Vortex Weather Map Chicago

Happily, both my office and Joe’s office sent out emails that they’d be letting people work from home due to the cold weather, so we were able to avoid the 15-minute walk to the train station. Lillian still went to daycare, which is luckily only about 100 feet from our house, so we were able to bundle her in many layers and then Joe carried her there as quickly as he could. (I’m told she said “Hurry! Cold!” the whole way, but they made it there safely.)

Overall it was sort of like a “snow day”, except with clear blue skies and without any actual snow to shovel. And it was nice to know that our house’s heating system is able to keep up with these record cold temperatures — it remained warm and toasty inside the entire day.

On Sunday, after hearing about the predicted cold but before knowing for sure that we wouldn’t be venturing outside, we were at Target and thought we’d try to pick up some long thermal underwear to help layer up against the cold. But it turned out to be a moot point — the rack where they’d been was picked over like a carcass by scavengers, with only a few undershirts remaining:

Thermal Underwear Rack

Moral of the story: Don’t expect to be able to buy long thermal underwear the day before a Polar Vortex, just like you can’t expect to be able to buy baby mittens in February.

And finally, when Lillian came home today, she proudly showed us this cute little construction paper penguin she made:

Construction Paper Penguin

It couldn’t have been more fitting. Today was definitely a day for the penguins!

Our Christmas Tree, 2013 Edition: Red, White, And Green

A belated Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all! It’s hard to believe that 2014 is here already — or that 2014 will be the fourth calendar year to appear in this blog’s archives, for that matter. It’s becoming like a senior citizen in blogland, right?

There were a couple of Christmas-related things I’d been planning to blog about before the second half of December somehow got up and scurried away — so for today’s post, I wanted to finally take a look at our decorated tree for Christmas 2013. (Couldn’t just skip over it after building up all that suspense about going to get it from the tree farm!) Here is a long-overdue photo of the decorated tree in all its glory, taken a week or so before Christmas:

Our Christmas Tree, 2013

Overall it’s pretty similar to how we decorated last year’s tree, except that instead of just white lights, this year we also added some red ones and some green ones. If I remember correctly, it worked out to around 200 more lights this year than last year, making it our sparkliest tree yet.

I think it’s actually pretty neat to look at this post featuring last year’s tree, and compare how different the two look, even with somewhat similar decorations. Last year’s tree had a completely different shape, and even the branches were different — such are the joys of getting live Christmas trees and picking a different species every time!

As far as ornaments go, we re-used the round shatter-proof ones from last year’s attempt at a baby-proof Christmas tree, and of course all of the sentimental ornaments that we’ve been slowly accumulating, including a few that have been featured on this blog — like Lillian’s baby handprint ornament, or this personalized ornament we received as a gift the first Christmas we lived in this house.

On top of those, we did also add in a few small additions this year. Like these red cardinals that Joe picked out (obtained in a three-pack from Target), which are designed to look like they’re perched on the branches:

Red Bird Ornament

And of course Lily’s pick, the ‘Animal’ Muppet ornament, which already received an honorable mention in this post full of silly Christmas things:

Muppet Ornament

And finally, while it may not be very apparent in the photos, this year’s tree was actually a bit smaller than last year’s tree. When we were first picking it up from the tree farm, I even worried a little that maybe it was a bit too short — but from the outside, it actually turned out to be just the right height to be framed perfectly in our front window, with the star visible on top:

Christmas Tree In Window

Anyway, that concludes the 2013 edition of what our Christmas tree looked like! Hopefully next year we can continue the trend of slowly evolving it so that no two years look exactly the same, even while keeping most of the same ornaments and decorations. It’s becoming a fun little tradition around here!