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Windows and Spring Cleaning

March 2, 2014

We have recently insulated the back porch, and while it looks nice– I’m not that happy with the warmth– or lack of. We’re going to try spray insulating under the floor next. Great use of a few thousand dollars for the cosmetic improvement (sarcasm).

Next on the agenda to upgrade are the windows in the front of the house (so tired of this never-ending list of upgrades). Suggestions welcome for custom window companies you like. Living in a 1920s house has its downfalls. Cracks in the walls, odd finds, and custom everything. There are no size standards that match today’s pre-made products. We’re trying based on the friend’s recommendation.

Our property assessment came in the mail yesterday, it went WAY up. Not sure if that’s good or bad yet. Anyone?

We have a lot to do in terms of Spring Cleaning and we’ll be following these great tips: March Checklist for a Smooth-Running Home.

They didn’t mention it’s time to start planting your seedlings! This year I went with a heat pad and lamp set up which will hopefully we my seeds started on the right foot. I’m redoing our garden beds too. Photos to come. I’ve gotten really into gardening and I’ve saved seeds throughout the winter. We’ll see if they germinate though, I winged it and am not sure I saved the good seeds the right way.

More to come, hopefully I can find time to blog about our upgrades, downfalls, and our upcoming Urban Beekeeping adventure. Sam is going to be a certified Bee-Keeper come April after completing his class. Stronghold Honey?!

Sad to be MIA from this so much, school takes priority for the next few years.

DC Water Tour of McMillan

November 16, 2013

One of the most unique features of our Stronghold and Bloomingdale neighborhoods is the McMillan Sand Filtration site – a 25-acre green space and decommissioned water purification system dating from the early 1900’s.  (Trust me, even though it doesn’t sound it, it’s pretty cool.)  

DC Water has been doing a lot of work at the site to try and help mitigate the flooding problems of Bloomingdale and LeDroit Park.  Since they “inconvenienced” the neighborhood for the past year or so, they offered to take the residents of Stronghold on a tour of their work, above ground and below.  

Here are a few photos of that tour.

Meeting with DC Water to hear about the history of the site and their current project(s):


Before we went underground, we took a walk over to North Cap and Michigan and stopped by their new tunnel, which will help divert water to one of the holding cells. 





We then walked back over to McMillan.  From above ground, the area looks like (in the words of our good friend Rick) a gnome village.





One of the most notable things about the above ground portion of the site was how stable the land is and the workers from DC Water remarked on numerous times about the quality and strength of the construction.


You can still find a lot of sand and the sand silos even though the site hasn’t been used since the mid-1980s.  Here’s an example of one where mules would pull wagons and fill up their carts with sand to be brought down into the cells.


Below ground, however, are the extremely rare and remarkable caverns where the water was filtered through those many feet of sand.  The cells have often been compared to the Basilica Cistern in Istanbul and while they’re not nearly as polished as them, I can see the similarities.  Here are some shots:

Heading down












There is a current debate over what (if anything) should be done with the land.  The Mayor and Ward 5 Councilmember are in favor of a massive development project that would bring a park to the top of the land, but also some extremely large buildings.  Many of the ANC members also support the development though the neighbors and neighborhood groups are much more divided – if not outright opposed to the plan.

My biggest critiques of this plan (full disclosure: I have MANY issues with it and am actually a member of an organization that is opposing the development) are that they’ll destroy the underground cells, bring thousands more cars to our already congested streets with no traffic plan and is full of architecture that isn’t compatible with our neighborhood – both in style and scope.  Ok, end of my soapbox.  

So while we can quibble about specifics, I don’t think anyone would argue that the site is not extremely unique and special.  I urge folks to explore more about the plans and help to shape the site how you think best.  Here are the some sites to find more info:

The current plan:
Opposition to the current plan:
Citizen’s representative group:


Dinosaurs in DC, and a trip to West Baltimore

July 28, 2013

First, did you know there were dinosaurs in DC at one point? I learned this morning, on Twitter of course, that there was a dinosaur bone found just steps from our house in McMillan reservoir. Mind blown. Apparently there is even a book on Dinosaurs of DC. I was going to get a copy until I saw it for $499 on Amazon. It must come with a bone…

This weekend we took it a little easy since I’m still getting over mega virus of 2013, and went to my folks. I had been following a Barrister Bookcase on ebay for some time and dragged Sam to go get it with me. Little did I know it was in a little rough part of town. Sam thought he was in the Wire. I just thought I was in a neighborhood not all that different from mine, maybe with a little more ways to go than ours. The purchase ranks up there for me as one of my best finds. I got a Macey Co. 1930s Barrister Bookcase, also known as an elastic bookcase with 3 sections which we can add more to if I find them. I LOVE it. Macey Co. has nothing to do with Macys and dates back to 1892. Similar bookcases sell for $500, $1000, and upward for larger versions and you KNOW I didn’t pay that. I stalked the bookcase for months and when it was relisted I told the seller I had seen he was having trouble selling it and I would offer him $50 less than asking, which was $200 from the original list price he has. I am giddy just thinking about it. I am in love with it.


Then we continued our wallpaper saga. Long story short, bought very expensive luxury wallpaper from England that you can’t get in the states. Bought 6 rolls for one wall. Wallpaper expert tells me I need 18. D’oh. I go on the hunt for more affordable hunting scene wallpaper and find it. Plymouth Wallpaper ships me 18 rolls of… floral wallpaper. So not right, hate florals. We headed up and returned it, but we are not sure we’ll be able to locate the Eddie Bauer hunting scene since it’s discontinued.

If anyone has a connection at Lewis and Wood in England, or know of where I can get this in the states, please let me know.

Not sure why I have an emotional attachment to this red hunting scene wallpaper. The Eddie Bauer one is ok, but it’s not the same as this…


We did get 4 rolls of this yellow wallpaper just because Sam loved it, yet we’re not even sure where it will fit yet.


How darling is that, pandas and monkeys!

They say wallpaper is back, but they don’t tell you how annoying it is.

I have to get some of these projects done in the next few weeks because school starts on the 26th and I’m not going to have the time anymore– or perhaps I’ll procrastinate on school work by doing house projects– maybe it will be a good thing!

DC Rain Barrels

June 9, 2013

Shortly after moving in, Laura began to research various government programs that we could qualify for – to help in any respect with the house or yard.  One of the programs that she found was the District Department of the Environment and DC Water Rain Barrel and Cistern Program.  The neighborhoods just west of us (Bloomingdale and LeDroit Park) have seen a large amount of growth over the past few years.  In addition, they’re not just west of us, but downhill, as well.   And as a result, the sewage system is just not large enough to handle the water run off during extremely large storms – and boy, have we had a few of them the past few years.

One of the short term goals the city came up with is to try and capture as much of the water as they can so that it doesn’t run down into the low-lying areas – such as last year in front of one of our favorite restaurants, Boundary Stone.  To capture the rain, they’re giving residents rain barrels and cisterns.

Last fall, Laura applied for the program and after a few consultations (where they look at your land, your space and discuss the program) barrels were ordered and we just had to wait for them to arrive.  And last week they did.  However, we were supposed to have them installed a few days before, but due to (don’t you know it!) tremendous rainstorms, the city contractor (DC Greenworks) was unable to install them.  In fact, with Tropical Storm Andrea we really didn’t know how long it would take to get them.  However, we lucked out with the weather pattern – Andrea blew past us to the south and yesterday turned out to be a gorgeous day.

Alex (and a young apprentice) from DC Greenworks came out and was finally able to install our barrels.  Here’s some photos.  Now BRING ON THE RAIN!


The apprentice and I helping Alex (who is next to the house, below) to install the two (they’re connected) barrels for the front of the house.


Our neighbor Daryl came by to see what was going on – and of course, to lend a hand.  We already promised him the water from the barrels for when he’s helping out with neighbors’ yards.

Here’s a shot of the barrels from above without the pipe connected:


And here is the big (265 gallon) boy cistern!



Some folks may not like the look of it, but we actually like it.  Is that weird?

And here’s the finished product – all connected.  Again, now, “rain, rain, come here.”


Goodbye Pops!

June 5, 2013


Today we lost pops. The guy who hung out so much on his porch he was IN google maps street view of our block. He moved out and the house will go on the market soon. Saturday he got out his bottle of vodka and had a par-Tay for one. Dancing, singing with his boom box in the window. We gave him a cigar as a gift and he said it was so long and big it was for people who “won the numbers.” See him dancing here in my Saturday post.

Friday we have DC Riversmart homes coming to do a design for our back yard rain garden. Can’t wait. Then in the afternoon we are finally, finally, FINALLY, getting our 3 rain barrels. The concrete slab is all ready.

In other news our DC flag guest room hit a snag when I could not print out 19 inch stars. We shall overcome.

We plan to till the land this weekend, and maybe check out a new bar, Showtime, in our neighborhood.

Tomorrow night we testify on McMillan park surplus status. The city plans to surplus this amazing space to give to developers. I hope something good comes of this. But I won’t use this URL to share my views on what I want done. It is an amazing space I think we all agree on that much!




Metro team working on our house today

May 29, 2013

Our neighbor Darrell is our street entrepreneur. He does odd jobs and keeps everyone’s lawn tidy for a small monthly fee.

He recently confided in Sam that he is so glad we moved in. I am sure that has nothing to do with the steady supply of work, cigarettes and beer we give him. Na.

This weekend he somehow convinced us to lay a four foot concrete slab to ready our backyard for the 265 gallon rain barrel. He sent us to Home Depot for supplies. We come home last night and he has assembled a team of guys, the head person who did Metro brick work, who came over to talk to us in his suit before heading to church. Darrell has cleared the area, framed and leveled and asked for our approval. The foreman said he would start tomorrow.

He caught me coming off the bus telling me I needed to “holla” at him. I think that means we owe him, or need to talk to him? We were quoted a price of $170 and I think that is great!

Thoughts? When I get home our concrete will be poured. My mind, of course, is nervous to think of any issues and how he is not licensed and insured… but hey, this is Stronghold.



Updates from Stronghold

April 12, 2013

I have been MIA for a while, I am sorry about that. We went on vacation to Dublin to see family, Scotland for a dear Navy friend’s wedding, and Switzerland for some quiet time. It was…restorative.

We really had not stopped for months. Between the house drama, moving, and the work we needed to do post-move. I. was. spent.

We have completed several big projects since I last wrote:

  • We dug up our driveway
  • painted the curb out front
  • started planting seeds for our garden
  • prepped raised beds and ordered soil testing kit for the future in-ground planting
  • bought lots of fun vintage furniture
  • completed our next huge project…taking out the 12 windows in the sunroom, removing all the siding outside and insulating the sleeping porch
  • hung up some art
  • found wallpaper for our entryway
  • Sam had eye surgery, oh yea
  • got a car!
  • exchanged numbers with our neighbors so we can tackle the alley issues we have sometimes.
  • hosted first dinner party
  • I have concluded buying this project house has changed our lives permanently. We don’t just go out to dinner, or with friends, or to brunch anymore like we used to. Yard work has replaced going out. I am cooking a lot more, and life just feels, well, simpler, and nice. When we work all day on a house project we can see our accomplishments, and it feels so good. We should buy stocks in Home Depot…We go so much we had to get a car!

    We had some sad news today. Our neighbor, 101 year old Dave passed away on Sunday. A lot of you have seen his sign out front when you come over. May he rest in peace, and I hope we can provide some comfort to his wife and daughter by bringing them food this weekend.
















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