Archive for January, 2011
We recently received this email from a reader and have been thinking about it pretty much ever since. So we thought we’d share it in the hope that Melanie’s story will help others out there who may have gone through the same experience and people like us who probably don’t know a thing about being prepared for something of this magnitude. Here’s a photo that Melanie sent to us.
Here’s her letter:
I’ve been stalking following your blog for just over a year thanks to making an offer on a short sale home in September of 2009. It was our dream and forever home. We spent the first two months washing, priming, and painting every single wall and ceiling. We replaced every hinge, door knob, light fixture, window treatment, and put in beautiful hardwood floors on both main levels and the stairs. You name it, we most likely did it.
Sadly, on Thursday January 6th, just before 6am I woke to the sound of two second story windows shattering followed by bright lights. I peeked into our guest bedroom and flames had just begun to enter, the smoke detectors went off seconds later. My husband, our 2.5 year old son, and I escaped safely with just the clothes on our backs. We had no shoes, socks, coats, or hats in subfreezing temps. Just each other and the love of our neighbors, friends, and families. It was quickly determined to be accidental, but we lost it all including my car. Our 2.5 story 2,000+ square foot home, plus in-law suite burned to the ground very quickly (one estimate was 30-60 minutes). Within hours we also learned of the love from acquaintances and strangers in our community and beyond.
We are very lucky to have each other and our lives- but our home, and all of the hard work and DIY projects we had done were gone so very quickly. We’ve already spent five hours documenting the structure of the house, and now begins the grueling task of itemizing each and every personal belonging. We’ve learned some of the “what would we do differently” as a result of this fire, that I’m hoping you consider for yourselves and might share with your readers:
- Subscribe to an online data backup service (my external back up drive sat right next to my laptop in my office)
- Keep passports in a safe deposit box
- Take pictures of each room initially and update them as improvements are made (storing them somewhere offsite – like Flickr)
- Take pictures and keep hyperlinks of all expensive purchases, including jewelry
- Hire an architect (my dad in our case) or use floorplanner.com to document each floor layout along with precise wall/ceiling measurements, each outlet, light switch, crown molding, other trim, type of flooring, any unique items to structure of property
- Put phones in a consistent place each night
- Get fire ladders for any second floor bedrooms
- Scan each photo and receipt, again keeping them offsite, or on an online data backup service
- Do not be frugal with homeowner’s insurance. Spend the extra $50 per year for the most coverage
Thank you for reading this and passing it along to your readers. -Melanie
Below is actual video of Melanie’s house. We can’t even imagine what she has been through:
We also got an email from a reader named Robin a while back. Her house nearly burned down at 2am on a Saturday morning. She and her family were thankfully able to get out safely and their home should be livable again in about three months. She also shared what she learned, so that we (and all of you) might be able to learn from her experience:
- Toasters aren’t the only appliances that burn. The source of Robin’s fire surprised us: her dishwasher. Her family was in the habit of starting the dishwasher as they headed off to bed – something John and I used to do as well – and it malfunctioned and sparked the fire. She sent us this photo to drive home the point. Along with reminding us to avoid running appliances overnight or when we’re out, Robin taught us that sending in the warranty card on all electronics is a must, since it’s the best way to ensure that you’ll get notified if there’s a defect or a recall.
- Robin also taught us that if your home has hard-wired detectors, be sure to have battery-powered ones as well. That way you have a back-up alarm in case of a power outage (which often happens during a fire). And remember to check the batteries twice a year. People often suggest doing it when you change the clock for daylight savings in the spring and fall as an easy way to remember. If you have children, consider installing a Talking Smoke Alarm in their room. Robin learned that studies show that kids under 17 often don’t respond to a traditional alarm, but they do respond to their parents’ voices. So these talking versions allow you to record a message that could even include instructions or comforting words.
- Robin learned first hand that despite living in her house for over two decades, the panic of a fire makes it easy to lose your bearings and become disoriented – especially if you’ve got smoke to deal with. Which is why she recommends figuring out at least two ways you can get yourself and others out of your house (in case one is blocked) and, if you have a second or third level, make sure at least one doesn’t rely on a stairwell (fire and smoke love traveling up stairs). Then practice your plan until it’s second nature.
Robin’s tip about the talking smoke alarm actually reminded us of a something my sister Emily learned while teaching fire safety to her kids. Emily decided to have a fire drill at home, and after talking through the route, reminding them to stay low, and pointing out that it might be hot and filled with smoke the kids were given the “Ready, set, go-go-go!” Olivia, who was about seven at the time, froze in place and started crying because the scenario was so scary. It was a huge wake up call to all of us because if this was her reaction during a drill, just imagine what she’d do if the house really were dark, hot, and smoky. As scared as Olivia was, Emily was grateful that she had a chance to talk her through it, put in some practice time, and improve her reaction response.
Thanks so much for Melanie and Robin for sharing their stories and their tips with us. We can’t even begin to imagine what it would feel like to be in their shoes, but we’re so glad to hear that their families were unharmed and that everyone from their friends to their community has shown them some serious love and support. And speaking of love, we’re sending out lots of it- along with a huge thanks to both ladies for thoughtfully taking the time to share such an important message.
I don’t know why I’m writing this post since Sherry is the mastermind/executor of this project. Maybe just to brag about her mad ironing skillz? I just watched the baby and approved comments while she did her thang for the better part of the day yesterday. The first step was cutting our 12.5 yards of our on-sale $8.49/yard yellowy green fabric (more info on that here) into perfectly sized panels for each side of the two bedroom windows (leaving enough leftover for one closet panel). Lucky for us, the living room rug made a great guide for keeping our cuts straight and our corners square. Especially since it’s 8′ long – so it was easy to lay a tape measure next to it so Sherry could cut five 90″ panels without breaking a sweat. As for the width, we left them the same width as the bolt itself, which was around 61″ wide. This means two panels can easily be drawn to cover each of our 39″ windows without feeling too taut or stretched.
Within about fifteen minutes she had cut all five 90″ x 61″ panels (two for each window and one for the closet) and we realized that we apparently cut it very close when buying those 12.5 yards (pun intended). This is all that we had leftover:
Not necessarily a bad thing (since we’d hate to dole out cash for more yardage than we needed).
Then came hemming, which Sherry tackled using her favorite trick: heavy duty no-sew hem tape. Read more about that process and learn how to make DIY curtains in general right here (for even more iron-on hem tape info, we made a video of the process here and we have even more in-depth pics of its use here). It basically involves ironing, peeling, folding, ironing, and moving onto the next seam.
It wasn’t exactly a quick task to hem all four edges of all five panels (Sherry kept yelling out “1 down, 19 to go” which got old by about “3 down, 17 to go”) but getting that nice finished edge is certainly worth it. Plus, Clara and I kept the ol’ ball and chain company in the kitchen by singing, approving blog comments, and, um, eating while she ironed the day away. Quick, everyone freak out, Sherry’s hair is down:
But let’s fast-forward through all of the tedious stuff (the ironing, the clipping of curtain rings to each panel, and the hanging of all three curtain rods, which you can learn more about in this post of yore) and get to the fun stuff: the finished product.
Oh and don’t mind the dresser or the fan or the lack of wall art and everything else that’s amiss. This room is definitely one of those works-in-progress that we’re taking one day at a time.
We’re really happy with how our DIY curtains turned out. And it should be no surprise that we chose to hang them higher and wider than the window itself to give the whole thing a bit more height and presence. We’ve actually had a reader tell us that she dreamed about us and Sherry mentioned something about hanging curtains “high & wide” in the dream. How crazy/hysterical/awesome is that? Nice catch phrase, babe. Who wants a “high & wide” bumper sticker?
Sometimes we like curtain fabric to “pool” a bit on the floor, but after looking at it both ways we decided to let these babies barely graze the floor boards. It kept them looking crisp and modern (and created that cool loopy draping effect, which didn’t happen as much when I held the rod lower and they bunched up on the floor). So that would be our tip. Clip your panels to the rod and then move the rod around on the wall to pin down the perfect placement. That way you can raise it and lower it by hand and eye everything until you find the perfect height. Then just mark your curtain brackets and hang them right where you like them best – so your panels graze or pool to your heart’s content. It definitely beats hanging the rod and then clipping up the curtains only to find out they look all dorky and short.
We also hung one panel on the inside of our closet to act as a less-intrusive alternative to the bi-fold door that used to be there. Most of the time it’ll sit pulled to the side like this:
But if we ever need to conceal our mess (or duck in there for privacy if someone’s over but we need to make a quick change) we can pull it closed like this:
It’s kinda like a mini dressing room in there now- there’s even a light. And Sherry gets a kick out of picturing Clara doing puppet shows and other stage-related things from within the closet when she gets bigger and has that amazing imagination that only kids have.
Oh and if you’re wondering, here’s how it’s hung from the inside. We placed the rod high enough so that it’s not seen from the outside, and wide enough so the curtain can be completely closed (for privacy) or fully opened (so it’s not in the way of anyone walking in or out). It’s kinda the best of both worlds.
Oh and we got our oil-rubbed bronze curtain rods and ring clips from Target (aka Tar-hay) for cheap. It was around $40 for all three rods and all five packs of ring clips thanks to a few sales going on in the curtain aisle (and the 5% off we get for using our Target card). We love ring clips because they make curtain-creating a lot easier (no grommets or sleeves or pleated details to deal with, so you can literally clip up bedsheets or tablecloths as curtains if you’d like, or just hem fabric on four sides like we did). We also like ring clips because they’re particularly kid-safe. Should Clara decide to go crazy and try to swing on them like a monkey, the clip will release the fabric, which will fall to the floor while the rod and the rings will remain on the wall. Gotta love a safety feature that looks this good.
As for the finish, Sherry prefers oil-rubbed bronze rods (even in a nursery) because she says they’re “like eyeliner for the window.” And I have to agree that I like the look too- especially with the deep wood furnishings that we gravitate towards (along with some white things and even some painted pieces). But again I ask, why am I the one writing this post? Makeup references & hemming aren’t exactly my forte.
Anyway when it comes to the panels, beyond the function, height, and softness they add, we’re really happy with the color. Which means those three days of fabric hunting were all worth it. The yellowy green tone does exactly what we wanted it to do – it brings out the golden-green color of the bedding without matching it exactly (Sherry has this song she likes to sing called “Matchy-Matchy, Tackly-Tacky” which came about when she was imitating her sweet Italian mom, which is always amusing). But getting back to the curtain color, we’re glad we went a bit greener (instead of browner or yellower) than the bedding, because it looks nice and fresh against the Caroline Went Clubbin’ Aqua Carolina Inn Club Aqua wall color (get that joke here) while still obviously relating to the color in the duvet.
The curtain color also goes nicely with the new pillows that we snagged purloined for the bed too. So between them, the curtains, and the bedding we feel like we’ve got that golden green color sufficiently injected into the room. Now we can start layering in some other colors and textures for a little dimension and interest. Eggplant? Navy? Charcoal? Inky blue? Who knows where we’ll end up. But let the fun begin. Oh yeah, and pardon the missing nightstands, bedside lamps, etc. They’re also on the ol’ to-do list.
We definitely still have a lot more things to do in here (and we’re happy to take our time), but it really has come a long way in the past seven weeks or so. We almost don’t recognize this bedroom shot taken right after we moved in:
Oh, and last but not least, we thought you might appreciate a little “behind the scenes” tidbit. Sometimes we have to work around a sleepy chihuahua who refuses to get out of bed. Such a diva. But at least Burger doesn’t mind when I make the bed right over him. And our new fluffier duvet makes him nearly invisible. Yup, he was hiding in bed the entire time we shot these after pics.
And so ends the curtain diatribe that is this post. The whole process – as long as it was – has given us a bit of curtain fever. At least that’s what Sherry’s calling it when we drive by fabric stores and she presses her nose against the car window and says things like “I’ll never let go” in her best Rose-from-Titanic voice. We need them in a bunch of other rooms and we’re determined to choose bold and patterned textiles to add some serious interest. Because we definitely don’t want to end up with white Ikea curtains everywhere again (not that we don’t love ‘em, but we’re just ready to have some fun and take some risks). So don’t be surprised to find us posting about our fabric store adventures again sometime soon. A guy can only listen to those Rose-from-Titanic impressions for so long before parking just to make it stop.
Psst- Burger’s totally letting fame get to his head. Check out his big DogMilk interview here.
Psssst- We just announced this week’s giveaway winner, click here to see if it’s you.