Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Jingle Bells

After watching Light-O-Rama videos for nearly two hours at work, I realize that I may have a problem. "Hi, my name's Jayne, and I am a Light-O-Rama addict."

All together now: "Hi, Jayne."

Seriously, folks, this Light-O-Rama stuff is just so cool. Well, some of it's terrible. I apologize for the one I posted the other day. But this one's cool. Not seizure-inducing. And it has Sinatra, so that ups the coolness factor. This one's my last one. Two's enough. For now.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Holiday Inn

Remember this movie? One of my favorites. The song "White Christmas" debuted in this movie in 1942.

Happy Christmas Eve!

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Christmas Vacation

This makes me nervous. Really nervous. And when I watch it, I get a weird tic in my left eye. Please, if you have a seizure disorder, don't watch it. I won't be held responsible. But if you do watch it, be sure you have the speakers on for the full experience.


Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Marie Antoinette

Ahhh.....vacation. I slept late today, until five. That's five in the evening for you daywalkers. Then I decided that I should accomplish something on my days off, and so I changed out of my pajamas and into sweatpants and my favorite Red Sox shirt. Not so much an improvement as a lateral move, I know, but I have nowhere to be until Church Council Thursday night. And they tolerate sweats and Red Sox tees.

So, as I was saying, I thought I should get something done today. Marie, also known as Little Cat, thought otherwise. Marie came to live with us after her feral mama abandoned her. Feral Mama took the rest of the kitties, but left this one behind without so much as a backwards meow. Marie is mentally scarred. Marie is one psychologically damaged little feline.

I put some laundry in the washer, and Marie stuck her paws into the flow of water and then flicked water all over my glasses. Stop that, Marie.

I fixed myself a snack, and Marie stole the bacon off my sandwich when I wasn't looking. Bad kitty, Marie!

I cleaned the toilet, and Marie stood on her hind legs and peered into the bowl. Go away, Marie.

Marie? Marie, where are you? Did you get outside when the mailman came?

Marie, what in the Sam Hill are you doing yawning at me from on top the kitchen door?! Yeah, I know, I told you to go away....

I wrapped presents, and Marie tunneled under the unrolled wrapping paper and bit holes in it. Quit that, Marie.

I put the presents under the Christmas tree, and she climbed halfway up the tree and chewed on the plastic branches. You'll hurt yourself, Marie.

But it was this moment when I tried to run the sweeper in my son's room that finally made me give up for the night:

Marie is psychologically scarred, I said. Her mama left her behind, I said. And she's obviously pissed off at the world about it.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

The Holiday

It's 6 a.m., and I have only an hour of my shift left. And then....and then...I don't have to be at work anywhere until the 22nd! Six days without a radio of any kind in my hand. Six days (or nights) of going to bed whenever I want. Six days of never having to say, "Ma'am, we need you to be calm so we can help you." Six days of not wearing navy blue polyester pants. Wahoo!!

My plans are: finish up some last-minute Christmas shopping, wrap presents without bows or ribbon so the cats don't destroy them, finally put the red berry wreath on the back yard gate, sleep whenever I want, get the last bit of wallpapering done in the kitchen, give Little Dog a bath, make a nice pan of bread pudding with whiskey cream sauce, get the house "company clean", and organize the pantry. (The pantry's really a closet, but calling it "the pantry" makes me feel less like a vulgarian.)

I'll post of my progress and accomplishments.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving

For each new morning with its light,
For rest and shelter of the night,
For health and food, for love and friends,
For everything Thy goodness sends.

~Ralph Waldo Emerson

Sunday, November 18, 2007


The plumber didn't come over on Wednesday, but it's not his fault. It's mine. I worked six nights in a row prior to Wednesday and I was just...too...tired. So the plumber didn't get called. And the warranty expired four hours ago while I was dispatching a cardiac call. Because I'm at work. Again. Dammit. What was I saying?? So...the litter boxes didn't get scooped, either, and the kitchen floor didn't get mopped, and that yellow card taped to the front door means I forgot to pay the water bill...and what else haven't I done?? Oh, there's the Christmas lights I meant to ask my son to hang the other day when it was almost warm outside. And over there, that's the heap of laundry--actually, two heaps, because although I don't recall doing it, I apparently did sort it into lights and darks. (Wonder if I could do it at work.....??) Here's the note from my friend Lindsay asking me to call her a week ago. Hope it wasn't important. The cats turned over the palm again, and I really need to pour the dirt from the vacuum canister back into the planter before the thing dies. Putting the entryway rug back was a good idea, since it covers the black adhesive residue I haven't finished scraping off the hardwood floor. And buying that other rug at Home Depot was a good idea, too, because it partly covers the icky carpet in the living room that I haven't decided what to do with. (Which reminds me--I haven't told you about that yet.) And all those leaves in the yard!

I had plans to get a lot of this done tonight, but did I mention that I unexpectedly had to come to work on overtime? Again. Dammit. Maybe I ought to finish some of this stuff on my next day off. That would be....the 22nd. Thanksgiving. Crap. I have to be at Judy's at noon. No sleep that day. And I told her I'd bring something. Not the day after, either. That's when I'm leaving for Illinois. Be there three days with the rest of my family for my aunt's 90th birthday celebration. And I get back just in time to...go to work. Again. Dammit. Until the 29th. Excuse me while I bang my head against the desk and wail.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

The Upside of Anger

Mr. Frank Blake
CEO, The Home Depot
Via e-mail

Dear Mr. Blake,

I have absolutely no belief at all that you will see this e-mail; nevertheless, I feel compelled to address it to you in spite of the fact that I have a deeply ingrained mistrust of any man named Frank. I would have preferred to send you an actual letter, but because your damnable website is so unhelpful I was not able to find an actual address for The Home Depot. Perhaps, had I spent a bit more time looking, I would eventually have found it, but since my patience has worn thin from dealing with the so-called Customer Service Representatives at the Blue Springs, Missouri store I very nearly flung my keyboard across the room and thought it best to give up the search and spew my vitriol via e-mail.

And so, Mr. Blake, to cut to the heart of the matter, Home Depot sucks. Allow me to elaborate with a bit of comparison to my personal life: Once I was in a miserable relationship with a man who ignored me when I needed him, hovered when I wanted to be left alone, gave me unasked-for advice, and looked at me sideways when I asked him a question. I think that man perhaps authored the Customer Service Manual for your company. The kindest thing I can say about visiting a Home Depot store is that it is not quite as frustrating as attempting to navigate the website. However, there are similarities--I am unable to easily find anything I want to purchase at either location and the customer support experience is roughly equivalent.

My last soul-sucking venture to your establishment was to purchase replacement shades for my living room chandelier. I did locate the shades I wanted, but as I needed five of them and only two were reachable by a person with arms of average length--the rest having been pushed to the dark recesses of the shelf by I know not what type of creature--and as there was no salesperson in any of the three aisles nearby, I was forced to rely upon my own ingenuity and walk to the scrap lumber aisle for a stick of wood with which to prod the shades forward. Upon my return trip to the lighting aisle, I was accosted by a woman trying to sell sunroom additions, and although I'm sure the Butt-Ugly Sunroom Company appreciates the tenacity of Miss Mary Sunshine, I do not. You, sir, should appreciate my restraint in not clubbing the woman about the head and shoulders with what I believe is called a one-by-eight after she suggested that such a monstrosity as she was selling might in fact be allowed in a National Register Historic District. I managed to escape her only after throwing a piece of paper which was purportedly a sales lead onto the floor and running away when she bent to retrieve it. But my tale of woe ends not there, for I then decided to purchase an area rug which was conveniently jam-packed into a cardboard container of about three feet in height which was intended to hold perhaps half as many rugs. And as I struggled to pry loose the rug from the container, I was approached by one of your employees, a young man, seemingly with full use of his arms and legs, who offered me no lifting assistance but did promise to finance my bathroom remodel with no interest for one year. I submit to you that this was possibly not the best time to inform me of this opportunity. My trip through the checkout line was blessedly uneventful and I made my way to the parking lot where, in chilly rain, I wrestled the rug out of my shopping cart and into my car with some considerable difficulty. As I turned to push the shopping cart out into the driving lane in the hopes that some other customer would strike it, suffer personal injury or property damage and sue the Armani pants off your ass, I ran full-tilt into another of your orange-apron-clad minions who, judging from the amount of rain dripping from his spiky hair, had been standing there behind me the entire time.

With all of this in mind, might I humbly suggest that your slogan could use a little retooling to better reflect Home Depot's lack of customer service and to provide some semblance of truth in advertising. Herewith, my submission: "You can do it all by yourself. We can help but we simply choose not to."

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Dark Water

Wasn't it just yesterday, or maybe the day before, that I posted about spending loads of money on a water problem? Well, okay, so it was back in September. Back then I had good water pressure and a huge water bill; now I have next to no water pressure and a teenie water bill. (Really teenie. Fifteen dollars teenie. How is that possible?) When I say almost no water pressure, what I mean is that were it not for the force of gravity, I'd have no water pressure at all. Or, as the soldier son remarked, "The water just falls out of the shower head." The water pressure in the kitchen sink's not so bad, but it doesn't exactly gush out. I can't speak for the water pressure in my son's bathroom, because that room's a biohazard zone that I try never to enter.

My next night off is a week from Wednesday--yes, you read that right, a week from Wednesday--and the son just started a full-time day job so there's no one but me to let the plumber in, meaning I have two equally unappealing options:

1. Wait until a week from Wednesday and, after adequate sleep, call the plumber. Keep in mind that the house warranty the SPOs provided runs out on the 18th. (It does cover plumbing inside the house, though, with prior approval.) Or....

2. Get up early this Wednesday and, after almost no sleep, call the plumber.

I know, I know, Option #2 is the right choice. But I don't wanna get up early. On the other hand, I don't wanna pay for the plumber by myself when the warranty's got a $100 deductible. On the other other hand, maybe the cute plumber will be the one who comes over. I'll call him. In the meantime, I'll try to put Jeff's plumbing post out of my mind and sit shiva with the folks over at The Devil Queen waiting on a plumber. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Somewhere In Time

In case I haven't mentioned this at least ten times already, I work nights. And because of that, I just hate being called in the early afternoon unless it's really, really important. I've had several conversations with my 80-year-old mother, a definite morning person, about how I define "early afternoon" and "really, really important". So when my phone rang at 2:00 Sunday afternoon and I saw my mom's number on the caller ID, I was only able to croak out, "Mom--" in my Beetlejuice-Gatekeeper-at-Hell voice before she interrupted me with this:

"I know I woke you up, but you're gonna love this!"

"You know my friend Teresa, " she continued. I do. Teresa is about 83 or so and, as my mom says, sharp as a tack. "Well, a few weeks ago Teresa asked me about your house and I told her what you were doing on it, and she said, well, you know that was my little honeymoon apartment where Clarence and I lived when we were first married."

Hold on--apartment?? What apartment?

"Well now, I asked her that, and she said the house was divided up into two apartments, that the entryway was shared and you walked in and there were two doors there. That'd be your bedroom door now and the living room door, I guess. She said they shared that little bathroom in the back and she still remembers how little that bathroom was and how cold it was in the winter."

Ah yes, my tiny bathroom ...no HVAC then, no HVAC now. But when was this?

"They were married in '46 and she said they only lived there for a year or so, and she doesn't remember much about the house other than that. I asked. She said she doesn't have any pictures of the inside because she and Clarence didn't have their own camera."

None of the inside? But does she have some of the outside?

"That's what I'm getting to. She found a little tiny picture of her and Clarence outside the house and she took it to Wal-Mart and blew it up for you and I'm on my way over to your house with it. You're just gonna love this."

There's my house, as it looked 61 years ago. My house, before the ugly shingles covered up the white-painted clapboards. My house, with its original porch--I was right, it was much smaller than the present one--and its pretty wooden porch posts and spandrels. Now I have something to go by when I replicate them one of these days. And there's my living room windows, with the trim around them painted dark. I have actually considered painting the trim a very dark purple, and now I know the house really did look that way once. Around the flat part of the porch roof ran a widow's walk in lacy cast-iron. The porch roof is constructed differently now, but I'm now inspired to put a similar widow's walk around the large flat central portion of my roof. Maybe there was one there, too?

You were right, Mom, I do love that photo. Thanks for waking me up to show it to me.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

St. Elmo's Fire

Remember that movie? It had, I think, the entire Brat Pack in it. Ally Sheedy (who knew she once dated Richie Sambora??) and Charlie Sheen's brother Emilio Estevez, and the oh-so-cool Judd Nelson, and Demi Moore pre-Ashton (was he even alive then??) when she still had curves. That movie really has nothing to do with this blog, except that it has the word "fire" in it and this is a post about....but wait, I'm getting ahead of the story here.

Last night at work my partner and I were having our usual friendly debate about what to order in, followed by our usual discussion about our lack of money when we suddenly realized...hey, there might be a connection here....perhaps, just maybe, our lack of money has a little something to do with ordering 20 bucks of Chinese take-out twice a week. We decided then and there to take turns cooking for each other. I said I'd go first. Then one thing led to another and I found myself offering to cook for the air ambulance pilot and the dispatch crew at the police department, too.

So this afternoon I got up earlier than usual, put together a supper of meatball loaves, homemade mac-n-cheese, dinner rolls (not from scratch), mashed potatoes and peanut butter cup pie. Having put everything into either the fridge or the oven as appropriate I went off to take a shower. A few minutes later Big Dog stuck his head around the shower curtain and stared intently at me. Go away, I said, and quit lookin' at me like that. A few minutes later, he came back, growled, and scratched me on the leg with one of his big front paws. (How did he get in the bathroom, you ask? Well, since there's absolutely no HVAC, not even the tiniest of vent fans, in there--which is a whole other story I must save for another time--I leave the door open if no one else is home.) Ivan's afraid of water, so obviously something really important was happening which needed my immediate attention. Or he was trying to redeem himself from his rescue failure during the dining room entrapment incident. So I wrapped a big towel around me, slid into my flip-flops and dripped my way through the back porch and into the kitchen where I saw....through the window in the oven door....flames! If it hadn't been my own kitchen, and if I'd been wearing my bunker gear instead of a towel, this is the size-up I would've given: "658 to Dispatch, we have a light haze of smoke in the kitchen and back porch area, flames showing from the oven, we'll be out on extinguishment." But instead, I went into Girl Mode and raced forward to save the supper. I grabbed a couple of potholders and a tea towel, flung open the oven door, bravely reached through the flames and rescued both the meatballs and the mac-n-cheese! [Safety note: This is by no means what you should do in a similar situation.] Then I slammed the oven door shut and did what every Girl-y Girl does in an emergency. Yep, I called a man. (I pride myself on not being a true Girly-y Girl, but old habits die hard.) In this case, the man was the Assistant Chief of the local fire department. Yeah, the same one where I volunteer.

I said: Jeff, don't laugh, but I got a little fire in my kitchen!
Jeff: Where?
Me: Inside the oven!
Jeff : Well, if you [laughter] if you got the door closed [more laughter] call me back in a couple minutes if it don't burn itself out. [Laughing his butt off.]

And in a couple of minutes, it did burn itself out. But the kitchen was full of smoke up by the ceiling (good thing I have 12-foot ceilings!) and Big Dog was sneezing his Dobie head off. Little Dog and Big Cat were crouching under the kitchen table together, proof that they believed the world was about to end, because they do not get along at all. And I had to leave for work in 15 minutes. So I raced around the smoky kitchen plating up everything, uniformed-up, and then decided I'd better do something about the smoke in the house. I opened the kitchen window--the only one in the whole house not painted shut--and propped it up with my cocktail shaker. Then I opened the front door and raised the window in the back storm door. Then the phone rang.

Jeff: Fire out?
Me: Yessir, out on ventilation.
Jeff: Need us [laughing] to bring over some PPV for ya? (Translation: big fans to blow the smoke out.)
Me: Actually, I would, but I gotta go--
Jeff [interrupting]: How come I don't hear the smoke detectors sounding?
Me: Well, um, see, Chief, um, I kinda don't have any.
Butt-chewing about that followed, but I'll spare you.

Now, you might think that'd be the end of the story. But you'd be wrong. See, when Little Dog and I went outside to pack the car, a draft was created by the one open window in the house. A draft which caused the back door to slam shut behind us and lock itself, and we found ourselves trapped for the second time in two weeks, this time in the back yard. So I snapped out of Girl-y Girl mode right quick, carried Little Dog to the front yard with me, and yanked on the front screen door until I wrenched loose the hook-and-eye holding the door shut. In. In less than sixty seconds. Regular Girl is back.

Monday, September 24, 2007


I found this while clicking on links at a blog titled The Devil Queen, and wanted to share it with you. I'm amazed and struck nearly wordless by the beauty of this. Legal stuff: This video and the artwork contained therein are copyright 2006 by the artist, Warren Criswell. And my own little caveat: This video contains female nudity. Gorgeous, Rubenesque female nudity. (For some of you that may serve as more of a reason to watch it...)

Nocturne, by Warren Criswell

Although I'm capable of tearing down curtains, ripping up carpet, and paying for a new water line all by myself, I don't know how to embed video like Nate does, so you'll just have to click and see it elsewhere. Apologies.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Rear Window

Emboldened by the success of the drapery departure from the front window of my living room, I decided last night that the side window needed to have its stage-y drapes torn down too. (Yes, it's a side window, meaning that the blog's title isn't quite accurate, but Jimmy Stewart didn't make a sequel called "Side Window" or I would've used that.) My laptop's refusing to recognize my crappy digital camera as a removable storage device, and I still can't find the cable for my nice digital camera, so for now you'll just have to imagine the side window curtains. They're just a smaller version of what was on the large front window. And because they're smaller, I foolishly thought the hardware attaching the cornice to the wall would be smaller. Wrong. The cornice was held up by three 4-inch brackets, three screws each. No disassembly with a mere touch of a finger this time, but it was still only about a ten-minute process.

Those of you who are squeamish about spiders, don't read this next bit: The area between the top of the window and the plank holding up the cornice was a veritable catacomb of dead spiders. Seriously creepy. "Cities of the Underworld" stuff here. I considered spotlighting it and leaving it up as a Halloween decoration, but it's just too gross. I had to put on rubber gloves that went to my elbows and wear a mask just to clean it up, and then I ran all the way outside to the trash can to throw away the dead spiders. Can't take a chance that some weird chemical combination in the indoor trash can might revive them. Ewwwww........

So, I photo-documented it all, and then came into the dining room to blog about it, because really, I have no life. And I realized, looking at the dining room drapes, that they might in fact be even worse than the ones in the living room, so I decided to take a photo of them, too, and get everyone's opinion. But the kitchen door that's always propped open was in the way of the photo, so I kicked the doorstop to the side and got my photos. (We're talking about nearly ten feet of a bay bump-out with three windows covered by the most ginormous cornice I've ever seen outside of the White House--it really must be seen to be believed.) Photos taken, I tried to open the kitchen door. It has those big double-swingy hinges on it, so it opens either way--or, it would in an ideal world. It was stuck. So I really shoved on it. Stuck. So I really, really shoved on it. And too late, I realized that pulling on it from the bottom edge might've been a better idea. Now we were trapped--myself, Little Dog & Big Cat on the dining room side; Big Dog and Little Cat on the kitchen side. Now is a good time to mention that I have no hallway in my house and that the only way to travel from one end of the house to the other is to navigate through each room on that side of the house. I had access to the living room, the vestibule, the front porch and my bedroom; the animals had the run of the kitchen, my son's bedroom, the bathroom and the back porch. There is a door between my bedroom and my son's, but because we don't use it he put his dresser in front of it, thereby cutting off my escape route. My son! He can save us! I'll just call him....with my....cell phone.....dammit-it's-in-the-kitchen. Big Dog! He's a trained rescue dog! I put my face to the crack under the door. "Ivan! Phone! Bring me the phone!" I heard scrabbling on the other side and the squeak of the pantry door opening. "No, Ivan! Phone!" Now I heard crunching. Buy the dog a new box of treats and his months of training are lost in what might be his only opportunity at unfettered gluttony. Why not just go next door to the nice neighbors and use their phone? Because I don't think a couple in their 80s is awake at 1:30 a.m. (Pretty much all my neighbors are in their 80s.) Think...think...ah, yes, the seldom-used landline. Dug out the 70s-era harvest gold rotary-dial phone from the sideboard (where it's kept for just such an emergency, of course) plugged it in to the only working phone jack in the entire house--what luck!--and had a conversation with my beloved only child which ended with his saying, "Are you f*ing kidding me?!" But he did come home and free us a mere twenty minutes later, at which point I discovered the digital camera issue, gave up on blogging at that particular moment, and went to bed. As my Grandma Rosie would say, "Ain't life grand?"

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

The Departed

This is the happy story of the quickest, easiest and cheapest home improvement project I've encountered since I bought this house. Those are the living room drapes I've been complaining about, the ones that remind me (along with the '80s chandelier you can see in the upper right corner) of an episode of "Dynasty". I never liked that show, and I've never liked those drapes, either. They're pale blue raw silk, the same yucky blah pale blue as the walls (paint over wallpaper) and the carpet (don't even ask, but if you must know, read this) and I'm sure they were expensive when they were hung there about 25 years ago or so. But back then they weren't faded and sun-rotted and full of cobwebs, and back then whoever had them installed (most likely Esther) probably really liked them. Sorry, Esther, but I don't like them. They're just not me. And the cats are tearing them up....which now that I think about it isn't altogether a bad thing.

But I mostly don't like them because they make that part of the living room look like a stage. That area is a little bump-out about seven feet long and about three-and-a-half feet deep. Just the size of a small nightclub stage. I keep expecting Carol Channing to climb through one of the windows (if they weren't painted shut, of course) and belt out "Hello, Dolly". So, the drapes had to go. I would have taken them down already, but I wasn't certain how they were fastened to the walls and ceiling and I thought removing them would be another one of those seemingly simple but actually horrifyingly complicated projects I've gotten myself into over the past six months. I had visions of big chunks of plaster crashing down around me when I ripped out whatever's holding the drapes to the ceiling. But tonight I got brave and climbed up on a ladder to investigate. Less than two minutes later they looked like this:

The side curtains were fastened with drapery hooks to a runner hidden up underneath that foo-foo valance. Of course there'd be a way to draw the stage curtains, wouldn't you know, in case of a dramatic performance in the living room someday. I just unhooked the things and let them fall to the floor--except that they didn't actually fall to the floor, because they were nailed to the walls. (Need I say it? Okay, okay, I will. Sucky previous owners!!) So I yanked on them while my animals supervised (I'm sure Little Cat could actually call 911 if I fell) until they puddled onto the floor in all their dusty Alexis Carrington glory, which made me think of Scarlett O'Hara, and then the famous Carol Burnett parody. Anyway...I briefly lost my courage and considered leaving the valance there, but a big part of the reason for tearing them down in the first place is to expose all the gorgeous (but in need of repainting) original trim around the stained glass windows. (The small border panes are stained glass. I'll have to add a daytime photo so they show.) So I got my trusty little crowbar, climbed the ladder again, and stuck my index finger into a small gap between header and ceiling. And...and...and the whole thing fell out of the ceiling!! Only four teeny little nail holes to show the contraption was ever there. The drapes have departed, stage right! And now the living room looks like this: Paranormal fans, note the eerie glowing orb above the windows. Could it be Esther, floating up next to the ceiling and tut-tutting over her fallen drapes? Or perhaps Whistling Man swooping in to take a look? (I think he'd say, "Huzzah!" over the trashed drapes. He definitely seems like a huzzah-ing kind of guy.) Or maybe it's just a piece of dust on the camera lens. Either way, the damned drapes are gone!

Monday, September 10, 2007


Yes, I know that "Waterworld" is the worst of the bad Kevin Costner movies. But then, this post has a pretty bad storyline, too. Read it and weep, Jeff, and know that I envy you your culprit....

Last Wednesday I got my water bill, and it was a whopper. One hundred six dollars--and eighty cents. (It looks so much worse written out like that.) Usually it's not until the dead of winter when I get the gas bill that I shriek and fall onto the porch floor in shock. So after I picked myself up I called the water company and had this conversation:

Me: "Peg? This is Jaynie. I think somethin's wrong with my water bill."
Peg: "Yeah, me and Henry were just talkin' about that. It's about three times what it usually is, and I don't see how you could use 26,000 gallons in a month."
Me: "So, whaddya think?"
Peg: "Henry?! C'mere a minute!"
Henry: "I think you prolly gotta leaky toilet. I knew you were workin' nights, so I din't wanna bother you. Now be a good time to come out?"
God, I love living in a small town!

So Henry came out, shut off the water to the house, and immediately noticed that the meter continued to spin. He also noticed that we've used 8,600 gallons of water in the ten or so days since he last read the meter. Now remember that it's just, me, my son, and our herd of animals living here. We don't have a pool or a water park in the yard, and I'm not taking in laundry for extra money. (Yet, anyway.) Then Henry dumped bright blue dye into both toilets and we waited to see if they leaked. Of course not. (By the way, I really, really, wanted to take pictures of that process, but thought better of it.) Henry shuffled his feet, cleared his throat a couple of times and looked at me with his basset-hound eyes, so I knew it was gonna be really bad news. It was--a leak between the house and the street, which was my cost to fix and which I briefly thought might possibly be covered by the year warranty on the house that the sucky previous owners had given me. Guess what? It's not covered! Of course not. After all, the warranty was provided by the sucky previous owners, who SUCK, so of course anything you might actually need help paying for is not covered by warranty. So Henry gave me the cell phone number of a guy in town who could fix the water line and I called him:

Me: "Rick? This is Jaynie. Henry gave me your number." And I gave him the story and asked if he could fix it.
Rick: "I'm over here by your Aunt Janet's house, hon. Can you wait about 15 minutes?"
God, I love living in a small town!

In less than 15 minutes we were standing in the front yard with my little blind dog while Rick explained how he was going to fix it and his assistant Charlie stood behind me to catch me when I fell over after hearing the estimate. Did you know that copper costs $5 a foot and that I would need nearly a hundred feet of it, and that labor to do something like this costs a LOT?! I did not, and literally staggered. I handed over my New York City trip money, my contact lens money, all of my Carpet Fund, and some of my savings. That hurt only a little less knowing that Charlie and Rick were going to do the work themselves, and they're what we call "easy on the eyes" and it's hot, and they had to take off their shirts at some point during the digging.....Wow. Oh, sorry, what was I saying? Anyway....

The water line's located smack in the middle of the side yard between my house and her sister, built in the same year on the same lot, with only about 12 feet between them, so I went to my neighbors and explained what was going on. They came out to stand in the side yard and shake their heads with me, and I helped Gwen dig up some bushes so they wouldn't get mashed by the trencher. (Gwen's the president of the Garden Club and her yard's gorgeous.) I was hoping that the neighbors wouldn't be cranky about the noise and the mess, when Gwen spoke up:
Gwen: "Where does 800 gallons of water a day go?"
Charlie: (grinning) "Look how nice and green your yard and all your flowers are." This said as he's hand-digging a big hole in my yard.
Gwen: (obviously delighted) "Oh, how nice!"
Floyd: (Gwen's husband) While you're down there, son, can you kill all the moles?"
God, I love living next to these people!

Friday, August 31, 2007

Vintage Homes Tour

Every year since....oh, I don't know when exactly.....since before I was born, at least....my little hometown has had a tour of historic homes. We call it the Vintage Homes Tour. This year there are five homes to walk through, ooh and ahh at, and be inspired by. And they're an eclectic bunch: a Greek Revival that's the oldest frame house in Lexington, a turn-of-the-century Romanesque, a Shingle Victorian (my pick of the litter), a brick Italianate, and an "I" house dating from 1847. The tours will be given the weekend of September 8th and 9th. For more information, including ticket prices, just click here. And no, dear readers, my house is not on the tour. We have miles to go before that happens. Miles and miles. But, if you get hungry for some great home-made salads and sandwiches after tromping through the houses, stop by Trinity United Church of Christ at the corner of 15th and Franklin. (Full disclosure: that's my church.) We're serving both days of the tour, at the usual lunch time. Hope to see you there.

Sunday, August 12, 2007


After my last post, I found this. Wow. Those things look like they could actually be responsible for the creepy noises in my house. Oh, wait, maybe the photos are bigger than life-size. Let's hope so. But still....

Friday, August 10, 2007

Along Came a Spider

I live in a National Register Historic Neighborhood chock-full of old houses. Old houses have creepy noises. Creepy noises lead some people to think that they might be sharing their house with other-worldly guests. Some people try vainly to convince themselves otherwise and look to their friends to give them reasonable explanations for the creepy noises. So one night when we were listening to that infernal knocking, tapping noise for hours on end a dear friend offered up this explanation: "Maybe it's spiders." Spiders who knock?! Are you kidding me?!

I'll claim it was fear of the dreaded knocking spider that kept me rooted to my spot on the sofa in my brightly-lit living room until my son came home, at which point I handed him a flashlight and a stepladder and told him to go into the attic and look for anything that might be knocking. In truth, I'm scared to go in either the attic or the basement alone. The attic's accessible (and I use that term loosely) through a tiny scuttle-hole in the ceiling of my son's bedroom closet. Once through the scuttle-hole, you're in a three-sided box-like plaster-and-lath structure that butts up to the houses's central chimney and opens on one side into the rest of the attic. (Or so I am told.) I was standing there thinking how cool it would be if my son found the porch spandrels and the original trim from the house's exterior stacked in the corner up there when he yelled down, "Hey, I think I found something! It looks like...like a letter with a stamp on it." It was at the other end of the attic, of course, so he had to scoot along the joists carefully while I cautioned him every 30 seconds or so not to fall through the plaster ceiling. Finally he inched back across to the scuttle hole and threw the paper down to me.

What is it? A Victorian-era love letter? A piece of the original wallpaper?

Nope. Instructions for the installing of attic insulation, dated May 1957.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007


Sunday night I called in sick to work, which is something that I hardly ever do, and went straight back to bed to sleep off whatever had made me suddenly, violently ill. My son came in to ask why I wasn't uniformed-up and heading out the door, and when I told him he off-handedly commented that I'd been sick a lot lately. Which got me thinking: have I been sick a lot lately? In between working two jobs, fixing up my house, taking care of a dog and two cats, and my meager social life, I don't have a lot of time to ponder my general welfare. Yeah....yeah, he's right. Like once every seven to ten days, for the past six weeks or so. I hadn't noticed because my illnesses had fallen on my days off. When I'm usually working on the house. Hmmmm..... My symptoms: stomach cramps, headache, chills but not fever, vomiting, lethargy--all lasting about 24 hours. My projects: ripping up the carpet from the entryway, tearing off decades-old wallpaper that was painted over in the 1980s, re-painting my bathroom, and removing outdoor carpet from my front porch. You know, the usual undoing of deeds done by sucky previous owners. So, is it just coincidence?? Is my house making me sick?? What the Sam Hill's going on here??
Late update (09/01/07): Pancreatitis? No. Diverticulitis? Negative. Still no definite diagnosis, but it doesn't seem to be house-related. And, knock on wood, it hasn't occurred in a couple of weeks.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

What Lies Beneath

The other night I decided to find out what's under the carpet in my entryway. The carpet itself is wool, about 25 years old, so pale blue as to be almost colorless, with hardly any remaining nap. Its best feature, though, is that when I vacuum it, the pad bunches up under the carpet to make it all lumpy and I end up with a vacuum canister full of black dust. Niiiice. Anyway, I pulled up the corner of the carpet and looked under it. Tack strip, red foam padding (red??) and.....hardwood floor, in what seemed to be good condition. Wah-hoo! Two hours later, I realized my error. Under the red foam padding was the black foam padding I've been sucking up in the sweeper. Glued to the hardwood floor, with a 2-inch-or-so border between it and the wall. The bedroom floor's about a quarter-inch higher than the entryway floor, so some sucky previous owner leveled it out by making a doorway ramp of Quik-Rete. (Who were these people??? And what in the Sam Hill were they thinking???) I chiseled away the ramp, yanked about a hundred copper staples out of the floor with pliers, and I'm prying up the tack strip with a small crowbar and a hammer. But now I know what's under there: the floor's black from the pad residue, with narrow hardwood strips laid perpendicular to the front door (is that odd?), and undamaged except for all the nail and staple holes. I'm pretending it's black walnut until I save up enough money to have it refinished. The duct tape on the edges of the remaining carpet in the living room and the bedroom is such a nice look, and historically appropriate, too. In the photo you can see the remnants of the Quik-Rete ramp on the right side of the doorway and the sawn-in-half-vertically original door. All the doors in the house are like that--except for the bathroom door (not original) which was sawn in half horizontally. Sigh....

Monday, July 9, 2007

My Fair Lady

Maybe I'm biased, but I think my house is the Audrey Hepburn of houses. Or, she could be with some help. Think Audrey Hepburn as Eliza Doolittle in "My Fair Lady" before Professor Higgins (thanks, Fargo!) got ahold of her. My house is now covered in dry, curling, cedar shingles applied sometime in the 1970s. Every once in a while, after a particularly windy storm, I find a couple of them in the yard. I keep hoping that one night they'll all blow away and reveal perfect original siding underneath. There is, in fact, original clapboard siding under the shingles, which I discovered after prying up a couple of the shingles and peeking underneath. Go inside the house and you'll see beautiful original trim everywhere, 12-foot-high ceilings, front windows with stained-glass lites, about 90% original plaster in beautiful shape, transom windows with the original working hardware on them, a gorgeous Eastlake-style front door, original finger lifts on the windows....a whole lot of potential. But there's also pale blue wool carpet covering the floors, vinyl wallpaper that looks like contact paper, drapes that appear to have been stolen from the set of the old "Dynasty" series, and several coats of paint over peeling wallpaper. And did I mention that all the original doors have been sawn in half lengthwise to make French doors? Sigh.....See? Eliza Doolittle--good bones, lots of potential, needs some help. Five years from frumpy to fabulous "My Fair Lady" status. That's my goal.

Sunday, July 8, 2007

The Never-Ending Story

Hello, and welcome to the first post in what so far seems to be the never-ending story of my attempts to restore an 1885 Victorian house mostly all by myself, and with limited funds. It's the first house I've ever owned and probably the last. My goal is to eventually be able to walk through it without seeing a dozen things that need to be done! Someday, maybe...In the meantime, I'll depend on everyone to give me advice and encouragement. (And if you have any spare cash laying around, you can give me that, too.)