The Lynn House

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Almost two years ago, we found our dream home back home in northwest Indiana, also known as The Region. My dad came with us to check it out with the realtor, I called it my free pre- inspection inspection because he has built and rehabed many homes and is a union electrician. The first thing he said as we walked in was that he thought it was a Sears home. I knew what he was talking about because one of our friends grew up in one and he had talked about it before, but this house didn’t look anything like that one. We loved it immediately, with its quirky points, because it was solid and had the updates we needed without sacrificing its 1939 charm. We quickly secured financing and closed and moved 30 days later. There is a picture of it from the day we moved in posted under House Hunting Is Hell.

I started looking for Sears homes built in 1939 about a year after we moved in, once all the major projects were finished. I realized looking at the floorplans, that this has to be The Lynn. It’s described in the book as neat as a pin. The measurements are spot on to my inspection and assessment. The only difference is the front door is now a window and the front porch is enclosed, so what was just a porch door is now the main front door. It also was at some point a two family home, with a second story, so there was an outside enclosed staircase added to the side. Strip those changes away, and it looks like the 1939 catalog picture.

But is it really a Sears Home? Rosemary Thornton, the most knowledgeable expert on the subject, cautions against that assumption. Her website contains a list of things to confirm, among them original blueprints, mortgage documents, building permits and shipping documents. These were a wash for us because our town does not keep old building permits, we have not located blueprints and Sears stopped doing mortgages before ours was built.

Other things to look for were mentioned as stamps on the lumber, grease pencil marking and even shipping labels on the backs of mouldings. I’ve been on the hunt for those and until a few weeks ago had come up empty. One night while doing laundry in the basement I noticed some blue grease scribbles on a floor hoist. Unfortunately it was half covered by another board and probably upside down.

Today after once again trying to find any info I could on the subdivision I live in, hoping that could shed some light, and coming up empty handed again, my husband discovered his wallet missing. I was dispatched to the garage to do another check of the car when the old door from the bathroom caught my eye, and right next to it was the old door frame with a Norwood shipping label looking right at me. I couldn’t believe it, it was right there all along.

I go back in the house and find my husband searching the laundry in the basement again for his wallet. I told him about my exciting find and ask him again if he has seen any stamps or grease pencil marks down there. We proceed to check the scary closet under the stairs that I was afraid to check on my own. It’s really not that scary, just slightly cob webby.I find another grease pencil scribble and two faded but semi legible stamps that look like the pictures I’ve seen online.  

Later on, on my way to the store I noticed one of the shelves in the garage is one of the old shutters. Again, that has been there as long as we’ve owned the place and never noticed it.

So there you have it, my suspicion appears to be true and this is a Sears home, but even more exciting is that recently I found the Sears Homes of Chicagoland website, which lists the Lynn as one of the ‘rare 10.’

Here is the full list, from this page, which is where I’m quoting from:

http://www.sears-homes.com/2015/10/one-of-rare-10-sears-yates.html?m=1

The “Rare 10” 1939 models are as follows:

To quote the author, 

“The 10 new models in the 1939 catalog are the most difficult to identify. Only a handful have been found and some of the models have never been seen. There are three main reasons for this:

  1. There are no shortcuts to find these houses. Testimonial letters from homeowners (sometimes with addresses) are an easy way to locate Sears houses. Unfortunately, after 1939, Sears had less print advertising and provided few updated testimonials about the newer models.
  1. There are no Sears mortgage records for the 1939 models. Sears used to offer financing for kit houses, and a search through grantor-grantee indexes can reveal the owners and locations of older Sears houses. However, after the Depression, Sears merely assisted customers in finding financing through FHA or private lenders so you won’t find the name “Sears Roebuck” or one of their trustees in later mortgage records.
  2. Generic styling. Most of the 10 new models were modified Cape Cods or Modern Colonials and look like zillions of other houses built in the 1930’s.  It’s hard to identify these houses merely by sight.”

Are you kidding me? I can probably walk to half of the ones listed in under a minute. They are all around me. 

I guess I’m not really surprised that no has noticed, these aren’t the typical large Sears Homes that get all the attention, just cute little houses tucked away between the railroad tracks and a main thoroughfare. Region people also don’t tend to get excited about such things, the woman at the building department last week basically told me my house didn’t look like one. So hiding in plain site, here they are. 

I’m on vacation this week and my goal for the week was to find proof, day one and I’ve done that. Time to start identifying the others around me. 

Spring has sprung

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With the coming of spring this week, it brings us to home improvement season again.

The plants that normally spend 9 months out of the year on the enclosed front porch were moved back out there yesterday. Two of them are enormous palms so there is now tons of empty space in my dining room and foyer. Maybe we’ll run some electric out there and give them a grow light before fall. Or install some heat. Radiant heating sounds like a great idea, I’ve been wanting to do something about the floor out there since we moved in. The original Lynn plan shows it as an open porch but either originally or since 1939 it was enclosed. It’s basically just a concrete slab that is painted with an indoor/outdoor carpet thrown over it.In the summer the temperature in the afternoon can reach 100 easily on a warm day with the after non sun, so something needs to be done about that too. Maybe shutters, but those are so expensive.

I never got around to filling our sidewalk cracks last summer. When I had the funds for the materials I would have weeds, or pavement ants. Oh I hate both.My husband is no help on this one, he thinks we should just get all new sidewalks, but only because he loves to see the cement truck.We aren’t at that point yet, so repair it is.

The next thing on my list is our basement window frames. Today I noticed the peeling paint. It is probably only one, since it is the last original window. Of course it is right next to one of the places the sidewalk looks like hell, right next to our side door.

Up next is doing something about the forgotten side beyond that going to the gate to the back yard. The previous owner had thrown a few large stepping stones in that general area, but they get overgrown with grass most of the time. I’m thinking it is time to clean that up. We’ve got leftover landscape edging from our project last summer to improve drainage. Maybe pull out the grass, stake some edging then put the stepping stones in with some rocks. Pinterest is to blame for that, but that might be the cheapest project of them all. River rock is cheap and I have everything else. And less grass to mow!

Speaking of grass, living so close to Lake Michigan we have very sandy soil.Whatever topsoil we have was put there purposely.My neighbor pays a service to chemically treat his lawn and still has Bermuda and crabgrass, they seem to just love our yards.Having a puppy that loves to dig for moles and otherwise killed most of the grass with urine spots, has wrecked my backyard too, so I’m going with microclover this year.It is nitrogen fixing so that should help with the dead yellow lawn problem, and it fills in quickly so that should help with the invasive grass problem. Seeing a lush green backyard again will be so nice, I can’t wait to get the seed ordered and planted.

My daughter’s school is doing a fundraiser of bulbs and plants which should take care of the outside. I was hoping to get some seeds started so I don’t have to pay for annuals but we’ll see. I also need new fence baskets too.

So much work! Maybe my first job should be building some patio furniture and pergola so I have somewhere to rest while doing all this work? A pergola for the patio sounds awesome…

House Hunting Is Hell

I found this in my drafts today. I can remember the day I wrote it. It was hot out, late spring in 2014. I was already uncomfortably pregnant with daughter two and in no shape to move anywhere until after she was born in November, but my patience had run out and I was venting. I never finished the part about moving to the other side of Bridgeport, though I don’t know how we would have swung it. Rents are way too high and to purchase is well out of my pay range. Highland Indiana eventually won out when we found our perfect little (maybe Sears) house for cheap with a move in date of the last day of daughter number 1’s school year. I call that good timing.

Cute house below, pictured as it was the day we moved in. There have been some improvements since then, but compared to where we were coming from, I have no complaints.

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Below is the post as it was saved, again, I never got to the Bridgeport part but I guess that was meant to be.

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It’s time to move. To unshackle my little family of renting a substandard apartment in Chicago’s Bridgeport neighborhood (west side, not the fancy east side by US Cellular) and move to greener pastures. Like a house with a bathroom that isn’t on display at the Museum of Science and Industry. I’m not joking about that either. The toilet when we moved in was the same one like we saw at the museum. The clean water pipe cracked after a year and that is not something you can fix so our landlord begrudgingly replaced it. However the tub and sink are still original 1908 and not refinished. YUCK. We also have developed a ceiling leak that my landlord cannot identify, though we believe it is water from the roof sneaking it way down through three floors along the main lines. Ceiling peeling back water leak. So gross.

So basically we have two major choices, and two additional ones that we are flexible toward if the right opportunity came along.

So what is holding us back? The choices are rough. We‘ve been spoiled with stores and restaurants a quick two block walk away. Public transportation easily accessible meaning there is no need for a second car. On the flipside the reason we feel compelled to move, besides throwing thousands of dollars out the window on rent, is that our neighborhood has issues with gangs. I can remember when I was my daughters age, I got to play outside without fear. Not so much here.

So here are the choices…

Northwest Indiana (The Region) and Bridgeport (East Side)

Northwest Indiana is a good choice for families. I grew up in The Region so I know the area well. Pros include nice houses some in our price range, highly ranked school systems, close to Chicago, and some things within walking distance depending upon where you live, closer to family. Cons are no public transportation, some areas in a flood plane, commute to my job downtown, second car required.

Bridgeport (East Side) is a good choice for

My little one has sprouted

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In the last few weeks, my older daughter experienced a growth spurt unlike any I have seen with her before. She turned 6 in January, and has had her normal growth spurts up until now, but they were always as follows. Gets a little chubby, shoots up a half inch or more or a shoe size practically overnight and is skinny like a bean pole again. A bean pole with ankles or a tummy showing. This time was different, she got chubby then got wider. Like mommy do a double take wider. And she just looks older, like she went from cute little cuddly 5 year old to if you didn’t know me you’d think I was 8 all in the course of a few weeks.

Since I’m no pediatrician, I turned to my favorite source of info, Dr. Google. Come to find out this is completely normal and called adiposity rebound, which is “the second rise in body mass index between 6 and 7 years old.” So the timing is spot on. What I also found was that there are numerous studies that link early adiposity rebound, as in earlier than 6 to 7 years old, with obesity and type 2 diabetes later in life. I think she’s fine, being that this didn’t come to happen until she was past 6 and she’s been slim since she turned 1, but I still worry. She was a chubby baby and I’ve fought with my weight my whole life, as have most of the women on both sides of the family, but I’m not going to project that on her.

So now that I know what caused that crazy growth spurt, I’ll keep doing what I’ve been doing. Mostly healthy foods, fresh air and activity as the weather permits and bigger pants, no more slims for this little lady. Next on my list, finding a store with kids jeans on sale.

Oh blog, how I have neglected you…

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Time does fly when you’re enjoying life and working too hard. It’s been so long since I posted anything to this blog, and so much has happened. Let me recap the high and low lights of the past 4 or so years.

  • Had another baby. We call her stinkbug junior, sweet pea or panda bear, depending on how she is acting. Lately, being 2, we just call her a jerk. Toddlers can be vicious, but she’s getting better. She has now entered the comfort object phase, which is super cute because when she goes to bed at night she wants to grab toys and blankies to take with her, not to play with but just to have close. It’s cute, much cuter than when she throws a tantrum and pounds her little size 8’s into the wall.
  • Fled the city of Chicago back to the Region. I can write for days about why, but the details are for another post or several all their own. For now we’ll go with two kids, one dog, aging parents and in-laws, lack of affordable housing and three homicides within blocks of me. The commute sucks, but I sleep much better at night now not having to play ‘gunshots or fireworks.’ No one should have to play that game.
  • The house is awesome! Well, we’re working on awesome. Right now I’m happy with structural solid, newer bathrooms with ceiling not falling down, non-flooding basement and remodeled kitchen. There is very little ick factor, maybe the closet under the basement stairs but only because it is the great unknown to me. It’s probably fine, but I’m not looking in there. My husband says it’s fine, but seriously, not looking in there ever. Maybe some day, I need to find the lumber stamps.
  • Our house may be a Sears home. So far I haven’t turned up any blueprints, and I only found grease pencil on one header in the basement, partially obscured, but I don’t give up easily. The dimensions of the original house match the plan of the Lynn, circa 1939. Next week I’m going to go visit my building department and the county recorder of deeds to see what I can turn up to support that theory, but we may never know.if it is a real Sears kit home, or just matches the plan.

That’s all that I can think of for now. I’m sure there is much more, but it’s a start. More posts to come soon.

 

Microsoft Does The Right Thing For XP Users

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Last weekend I was startled out of my relaxing, not going to think about tech weekend by posts on all my usual media outlets regarding a new zero day flaw in Windows Internet Explorer. I immediately think of all my customers that have been dragging their feet on upgrading to Windows 7. It was looking like it was going to be a rough week.

We received approximately 3 calls regarding this for help installing new browsers. I’m hopeful the rest just knew how to do it themselves or figured since they don’t use our servers for email or browsing the internet they are safe.

Fast forward to Thursday when I happened to catch the breaking news on US Today’s website while looking into EMV news for a customer. The patch had just come out minutes before. Imagine my surprise when I saw the news that Microsoft patched Windows XP. After pushing everyone to upgrade and stating no security patches would be released for that OS they caved. And good for them, it was the right thing to do. Even better they didn’t make us wait for patch Tuesday.

I just felt from the time that the XP retirement was really publisized to the public, that there might be some flaw in Windows XP that the hackers knew hadn”t been patched and were just waiting to exploit it as soon as Windows XP hit retirement. I didn”t expect it to be in Internet Explorer. I still wouldn’t doubt there is something that hasn’t been patched that hackers are just waiting to exploit in that OS. Only time will tell.

In the meantime I cannot hammer home the point that it is time to upgrade to 7 or 8. For most people 7 is an easy transition. 8 I’m still grousing about but that will have to have it’s own post, maybe once I take the plunge to version 8.1.

Greetings From Chiberia

Long before I became a Chicagoan, I was a a Region Rat, having grown up in the Calumet region, also known as northwest Indiana. I’ve endured winter weather that would send someone from a warmer climate packing in no time. I lived through the blizzard of 79, notable only that it was so bad we didn’t go to church. I can remember years in grade school where we didn’t have outside recess for months. We also got to wear pants to school instead of our plaid uniform skirt, which was a huge change in protocol back then. I have to say though this winter is unbelievable.

A peek at AccuWeather doesn’t tell the tale well but if you look at the lows it gives you a hint. Too bad the highs they show were mostly there at midnight before the temp started dropping. We’ve been smart, stocking the house with food, keeping the car gassed up, not going anywhere unless absolutely necessary, like work but it is brutal. I feel like I’m bundling up for snowboarding every morning just to go to work. Long wool socks, long johns, jeans, boots then on top camisole, thermal shirt, another shirt then a sweater on top. On top of all that a long down coat, hat, scarf and gloves. I’m starting to feel like Ralphie from a Christmas Story. My daughter, should she be required to venture out with daddy, is lucky to have winter boots that are rated to -10, along with a snow suit and snow pants. Just keeping her mittens on her hands and her face covered is a challenge. There is no reasoning with toddlers about frostbite.

Even worse than the cold has been the snow. It seems like every other day we get more snow. It wouldn’t be so awful if my neighbors followed the law in Chicago and shoveled their sidewalks. It used to be that no one wanted to shovel the sidewalk because if you didn’t and someone fell and got hurt they couldn’t sue because snow is an act of God. That changed with Rahm taking office. Now you have to shovel or take the chance of a ticket. If you’re unable to you can request help from a volunteer. From what I’ve seen this winter the tickets should be flowing to the tune of a cash surplus for the city. Or it could pay for all the gaping pot holes out there. There are ones on Halstead up north that are almost as big as my car.

We also have a furniture problem out on the street. It used to be that if you dug it out you staked your claim on the spot. Now there is mostly just half rutted out spots with lawn furniture thrown on top. I used to think it was becoming just a Bridgeport thing but my coworkers have informed me the practice is alive in well in Portage Park too.

But honestly the scariest thing this winter have been the road conditions. Black ice, regular ice, drifts, lake effect, sub zero temps that salt does not work in. It is dangerous out there. I do a fair amount of driving in Indiana and I’ve never seen the roads so bad there. Coming back from east of Gary last week on 80/94 after it had been snowing lightly all day was a white knuckle ride for sure. I really don’t believe any plows had been out in hours. All that you could see were tire tracks. The roads improved once we got back into Illinois but by then we’d given up and decided on cutting over to Lake Shore drive which was clean and salted. My husband swears the nasty roads in Indiana is because they don’t install snow fences anymore but I think they are too cheap to run the plows. Just my opinion.

So when the polar vortex dips down over the country again later this week with temperatures of -10, I’ll be thinking positive that it is the last time this winter. We all hope.

Where is an ark when you need one?

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Having a toddler and being a salaried employee at a company under a hiring freeze means I miss the news a lot. On a good day I’m only at the office for ten hours but lately it has been dragging on to eleven. Add in commuting time and I’m lucky if I’m home by 8 most nights.

While I’m incredibly grateful to have a job that I love, it does not leave much time for much during the week. As soon as I hit the home front, it’s the arsenic hour. Cook, feed the toddler, feed the dog, feed myself, give the toddler a bath, cleanup and do chores. Spend time with toddler watching a video, read bedtime story. By the time she goes to bed, all news is over and it is bedtime for me too.

I basically get by on whatever I hear on NPR on Morning Edition or World View in the evening. This week it was the nonstop Syria show. I recall hearing some brief mention of flooding in Colorado on Morning Edition on Friday morning, but I only recall hearing about Greeley and Ft. Collins. I meant to check online all day Friday to see which other towns were affected but as usual had no time and no lunch hour to do so.

Last night and today I kept thinking I was forgetting
to do something. Did I forget to call someone on their birthday? Forget to pay a bill? Feed the dog? Nope on all three. It wasn’t until I spoke to my parents this evening that they told me my brother and his family had to evacuate from their town. They live in Lyons, a small town where both branches of the St. Vrain run through before they join up and head for Longmont. Lucky for them they live on high ground not directly near the river, so they did not flood. However with no power and the water treatment plant out of commission for an estimated two months, they had to evacuate. With all roads out of town cut off I have no idea how they got out, I’m just glad they are safe.

Having been to that area a few times to visit over the years, it makes me incredibly sad to see the devastation I’ve seen in pictures online. Normally when you look at pictures of a natural disaster you don’t recognize the streets and businesses, it is just news, it’s fresh to your mind. While I was looking at pictures tonight I saw the road into town under water, the old caboose, the bank of the creek, all things I’ve seen before. In another picture from Longmont I saw a Humvee blocking a road and I know I’ve driven on it before.

I know no one deserves to have their town torn upside down by mother nature, and living in a town with two creeks in it is tempting her at its best, but it’s still sad to see the aftermath. I pray the rain forecasted for Sunday doesn’t come.

Lyons is a great town filled with great neighbors. They will come together and rebuild and the story of the flood of 2013 will be another page in the history of this little town at the gateway to the Rocky Mountains.

We love you Lyons Colorado. Stay safe and God bless.

The Blue Carts Are Here!

Finally Bridgeport has blue carts for recycling. On August 12th we had our first pickup. Since my post last year I have been diligent about taking the recycling to a drop off, but I’m only human. Load up the car with unwieldy bags of recycling every week or two, or pile them on the back porch so hubby can take them to the blue cart in the alley? No contest on that.

I have to laugh though, when the carts were delivered to our block in early July, they were left in front not in the alley. They had little instruction packs with information on what is recyclable and a calendar with the pickup dates of every two weeks on normal trash day. That wasn’t the funny thing though, it was that some of my neighbors must not have heard of blue carts because they sat out front on the sidewalks for a few weeks. I haven’t been through the alley lately to see how many people are actually using the carts but I don’t doubt that if my building fills ours up someone around us will have one that isn’t full. I’m just happy that we have them in our neighborhood as an option for everyone that wants to recycle.
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Back on the recycling wagon

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Yesterday, for the first time in five years, I recycled my household trash. It’s not that I didn’t want to recycle, it’s that the city of Chicago suddenly made it harder for me to do it. A lot harder. Let me explain.
For many years as a tenant living in a small apartment building I was able to take advantage of the blue bag recycling program. Sure, it had its drawbacks like having to sort the trash and purchase special bags but these were easy obstacles to overcome. I printed out the sort chart for easy reference and posted it to the fridge. I bought blue bags in bulk and took advantage of any blue bag giveaways streets and san offered, like the grand opening of the computer and household waste recycling center. Drop off your old computer equipment, get a case of heavy duty blue bags!
But all that changed with the switch to the blue cart program. If you live on the northside of Chicago, you probably have a blue cart or two. If you live on the far southwest side or in Hyde Park, you have them too. The rest of us? Nope, still no ‘curbside’ recycling.
I live in Bridgeport, home to the Chicago Whitesox, birthplace of both Mayor Daleys. Property values in most areas are high and the neighborhood is clean and well taken care of. This is not a cars up on blocks, dealers and liquor stores on every corner kind of neighborhood, and yet we were slighted.
So a few weeks ago my nagging conscience got to me. I started setting aside all the plastics. Yesterday I checked online to find a blue recyling dumpster and found the closest at two miles away, next closest three and four miles away. I drove to the closest one, on Pershing at the water department and found it jammed solid. I was able to fit my small bag in by crunching water bottles and moving some papers in the dumpster around. I came home later and called in to the streets and san hotline that it was full. I’m generally disappointed that there isn’t a dumpster closer and that it was so jammed.
I did find out that sorting is no longer required and the range of plastics accepted now includes all but 6, much better than the old 1 and 2 only. However based on the fullness of the dumpster closest to me I think I’ll start dropping off at the Goose Island center. It’s near my work so I won’ t have to waste gas going out of my way. I just wish the city could get it together and offer blue carts to everyone, it seems discriminatory that they don’t currently.