Thursday, January 31, 2008

Phone Booth

Oh, and a couple of other things I learned today:

If your favorite neighbor Floyd calls to tell you that you need to make more score-marks in the wallpaper--Take that Paper Tiger and roll it back and forth and up and down and all around, as much as your arm will take, he said--it's better to remember that he stripped the wallpaper from every room in his house and knows whereof he speaks than to wonder for the next hour how the Sam Hill he knew about the score-marks.

If you are talking to a handsome police officer on the phone while removing wallpaper with a newly sharpened 4-inch putty knife, and you are paying more attention to the cop than to the angle of that putty knife, you will gouge a jellybean-sized hole in the wall which you will later have to repair.

Feeling Minnesota

This is not a product endorsement. Nope, this is way more than that. This is a full-on love fest for a common household product.

I love Downy.

No, no, not Downey. (Well, okay, I do love him.)

This Downy:

Downy Fabric Softener. It's not just for laundry anymore. Did you know it strips wallpaper? Of course you did. Everyone does. Apparently I am the last person in the Western Hemisphere who did not know that. But now I do. And since I discovered that Downy strips wallpaper about three times as fast as that other stuff which is specifically meant to strip wallpaper, I'm making much more progress on my entryway, am much happier, and have far less hiney pain. And I discovered other things this week, too.

Like this: If you buy the Downy with Febreze scent, your house will smell really nice while you strip wallpaper.

Or this: If your cat drinks a little Downy, you'll be reminded of your college days because what he barfs up looks just like beer foam. Poor Big Cat. (Poor you, if you were eating when you read that.)

Or this: If you leave a Downy-soaked sponge on your black-glue-encrusted hardwood floor for about half an hour, when you pick it up the black carpet glue will have dissolved. The floor will be a little slick, though, which is another reason you shouldn't go around in your socks leaving fabric softener on the floor.

Yes, brothers and sisters, Downy changed my life. Hallelujah!

Oh, and for those of you wondering why I chose Feeling Minnesota as the title for this blog:

"I dream of being in a Las Vegas hotel where all of the towels smell like Downy Fabric Softener."
--Freddie (Cameron Diaz) in the movie Feeling Minnesota

Thursday, January 24, 2008

American Graffiti

Look what I found when I scraped some more wallpaper off the entryway wall:

In case you can't read it, it says
8 X 7 X 11
4 opning

That last part I think means "opening" or maybe "openings", plural. It's written right on the plaster wall, just next to the door into the living room. Obviously it's measurements for something, but I don't know what. The room itself is about 6 feet by 9 feet and the ceilings are probably about 11 or 12 feet high. There are four openings in the walls--three doors and a window--but their dimensions don't come close to the ones written on the wall. Any ideas?

I have to admit that I'm loathe to cover it up with paint, since I think (whatever it means) that it was probably written by someone who had a hand in the building of my house. That would make that writing about 123 years old. I'm thinking I'll leave that part of the wall bare and hang a picture over it. An odd place to hang a picture, though...Maybe a row of three, or an artful grouping of pictures. Something a little more Martha-y than my usual instincts.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Ice Age

It's cold. Really cold. And my bathroom is unheated. Without heat. Well, a teeny bit of heat, provided by a very small space heater connected to an extension cord that runs beneath a throw rug and under the bathroom door and into the spare bedroom. (Not only is there no HVAC in this bathroom, there's only one electrical outlet, in the light fixture above the sink.) You'd think that a space heater, even a small one, might be able to heat a space that's only 39 inches wide. But what the bathrooom lacks in width it more than makes up for in length. It's 11 feet long. The warmth must be at the other end of the room, the end where the shower is not. There's ice on the window. The floor is freezing. Winter sucks.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Something to Talk About

Well.....I need advice. Already. Before I actually began this entryway project, I thought I'd strip the original trimwork around all the doors and the window. Then I talked to one of my co-workers, a man who replicates old trimwork as a part-time job, and he told me what a gigantic pain in the hiney that would be. Then I read the comments on my first post about the entryway, and a couple of people also mentioned hiney pain. Then I re-read Christine's post about her door refinishing project. Severe hiney pain involved in that one! And then I started stripping the painted-over wallpaper off the walls....and that was an even bigger pain in the hiney than I thought it would be. (After several hours of Paper Tiger-ing, Dif-ing, and scraping I've uncovered only the little wall next to the front door. I'll post a pic soon.)

So with all this hiney pain already and the promise of more to come, I'm thinking that I could, as Christine suggested, just smooth out the woodwork where it's scuffed--like around the doors and the shoe molding on the baseboard--and paint over it. I scraped an area about the size of a dime down to bare wood to look at the paint layers and there are only two layers of paint over stained and varnished woodwork. Since I'm not re-finishing the woodwork, is it worth all the time and trouble to strip all the paint off the woodwork, just to paint it again?

Friday, January 11, 2008

Animal House

Today when I was clicking around the Houseblogs site I found this on the Tag Board:

Filter by Tags
advice needed After Bathroom Bungalow
Cabin color Contractors Decorating Design
diy lifestyle eco-friendly Exterior finds
Furniture Garden HowTo Inspiration Kitchen
Lighting Log Cabin neighborhood paint Painting pets
plumbing Ranches Salvage Tile windows Yard

Look at the end of the fifth row. It says "Painting pets". Hee hee. I know, I know, it's really two separate tags. Of course it's two separate tags. But for just an instant, I thought, What the heck kind of project are these people undertaking? And I got this mental image of some poor, beleagured homeowner taping paint chips to his or her pets before deciding what color to paint them. And I imagined the ensuing discussion: How would one tape off the pet's little eyes and ears? Is it preferable to spray-paint them or just use a trim brush? Latex, enamel or oil? The PETA folks would have their knickers in a twist over that, I just bet.

Maybe this is one of those things that's funny only to me....

Thursday, January 10, 2008

The Pursuit of Happyness

Lately I've gone through an extended period of house-loathing. All I could see when I walked through my house were the things I didn't like, and all the work that needs to be done, and all the stupid things the sucky previous owners did. I despaired.

And then I remembered: this is January. January is the longest, darkest, gloomiest month of winter. I hate winter. And I always despair in January. So, I took measures to improve my mood: I gave up looking for the USB cable to my digital camera and bought a new one on eBay so I can post photos here again; I hid the last few issues of Better Homes & Gardens under my bed for Marie to tear up, thereby staving off house envy; and I read the "Resolutions 2008" posts on If you haven't done that yet, I highly recommend it, especially if you're in a funky mood. It seems lots of other people are in funky moods over their houses, too, and just knowing that improved my mood considerably. Last but not least, I read the blog of the always effervescent Nate for inspiration and the kick in the pants I needed. (I want to adopt that kid, I really do, but not until he's out of school.)

So..... the result of all that is my decision to transform my entryway into something beautiful. These are some "before" shots. I'm hoping to post "afters" sometime around....well, I'd better not make any foolish predictions.
Here you can see the not-beautiful floor. The black stuff you see is carpet adhesive. It scraped off pretty easily from the sides of the room without damaging the varnish, briefly giving me false hope that the whole room would be that easy. But nothing I've tried--nothing--will remove this stuff from the remainder of the floor. I'll be renting a sander in the near future. Check out my baseboards and the trim around the door--you might have to click on the photos to enlarge them--and you'll see one of the things I like best about my house. Original millwork. The baseboards are ten inches high, and in good condition. I'll be stripping all this woodwork since the paint's really scuffed and there are at least three layers of peeling paint on it. Speaking of paint, the pale blue walls are painted-over wallpaper and the rose design of the paper is bleeding through the paint. All that will have to be scraped off.
The entryway is small, about six-and-a-half feet wide and just over nine feet long, and there's not much wall space since there are three doors and a window in this room. This shot was taken from my bedroom door, which is directly across from the front door. (The front door is gorgeous and will have a later post of its own.) The window you see in this photo is 82" high by 25" wide and still has its original glass and hardware, although the little handle on the finger pull is missing. I plan to take the layers of paint off the hardware, too.

Here's another angle of the room. The white door is the one to the living room, and it's an original door to the house that was unfortunately sawn in half lengthwise by some deranged previous owner. For now, the doors will stay as is but they'll eventually be replaced as I find salvage doors. On the right side of the photo you can just make out the edge of a mirror and a marble-topped dry sink, both of which belonged to Esther, the last previous owner, and were sold to me by her daughter.

This last photo is a close-up of the trim around the doors. Very pretty, isn't it? I've never seen trim quite like the sawtooth top with the little incised circles. I'm kinda dreading stripping all this woodwork because some of the paint's not bad, but it's a necessary evil. This trim surrounds transom windows above nearly all the doors in the house.

So there you have it, my first really big project. Wish me luck, give me encouragement, and don't hesitate to offer advice. I'll let you know how it goes.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Good Night and Good Luck

"New Year's Day: Now is the accepted time to make your regular annual good resolutions. Next week you can begin paving Hell with them as usual."
---Mark Twain