Friday, February 27, 2009

More To-Do Done

Today's post is brought to you by the letters C and D and the number 4.

I installed a cat/dog door! It wasn't nearly as difficult as I thought, and being able to shut the door between the kitchen and the unheated back porch really cuts down on the waves of cold air breezing through the rest of the house. Which is a good thing, since they're calling for more snow tomorrow. Bleah. C'mon, Spring!

Thursday, February 26, 2009


I am porch-obsessed. This is what my porch looked like about 1947. It's a better photo of Mr. and Mrs. Kenney, who rented from Aub Kelly, then of the porch, but still, if you look hard, you can see the mansard roof, the pretty spandrel, the turned columns and...sigh...the lacy ironwork on the roof. The porch was beautiful then.

This is what my porch looks like now. It is not beautiful. I had an idea that it could be again. So last fall I was yapping in the lumberyard with my neighbor and a local contractor said he'd be happy to help me with my porch. "Why, we'll just tear off what's there now and build a new one," he said, as if it was nothing. The price, however, was a bit more than I despaired. And then started buying lottery tickets, you know, just in case. But I didn't win the lottery (more's the pity) and the contractor wouldn't budge on his price.

Then along came Mare. My ex of ten years ago, he of the accidental almost-burning-down of the Christian Church, he of the amazing restoration of the house down the street in which we ran a bed & breakfast...he who does not have a job. A-ha! His misfortune and my necessity cross paths. We bargained, we bickered, I put my fists on my hips and he threw his hands in the air. Then we shook on a deal to transform the porch. Check it out: The porch is well-built, so we intend to use what's there rather than demolish it and start all over again. First to go will be the shingles, and then I'll have a decision to make. Those vertical white beams you see are studs that go ceiling-to-floor and support the structure. So, we could leave the bottom part of the porch solid and put lap siding over the plywood that's there now. That would make my porch look similar to the one in the next photo. (Think siding, not stucco. I wish I was the sole living heir of the stucco salesman who came through Lexington in the 1930s or so. Half the cute little frame houses in town are covered with the stuff.)

Or, we could open up the spaces between the studs, run screen floor-to-ceiling, and build a porch railing inside the screen. If I decide to do that, my porch would resemble the back porch of Congressman Ike Skelton's house. (Rep. Skelton is the Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee and a native Lexingtonian.) Screen is cheaper than siding. Screen plus porch railing might still be cheaper than siding. We're running the pricing both ways to check.

Whichever I decide, those ugly fake wrought-iron posts are gone. Now that I know the studs support the structure, there's no reason for their existence other than (cough, cough) "decorative". The rusted black metal posts will be replaced with turned posts painted in my trim colors. That will make my porch look very much like the porch in the next photo, which is one of my favorite porches in town. (Incidentally, or maybe not so incidentally, this house looks very, very similar to mine, leading Mare to speculate that it might have been built by one of the Kelly brothers, too. It's just a block southeast of my house.)
Now, if you scroll back up to the very first photo of my porch circa 1947, you'll see that the porch posts went all the way up and were tucked under the edge of the mansard roof, with no brackets under the roof edge, and that in between the porch posts was a row of spindles. This presents a couple of problems: first of all, because of money constraints, it's unlikely (although a dim possibility) that we'll build a mansard roof over the existing flat roof; and secondly, it's unlikely that Mare would ever finish turning the spindles necessary for my porch. (He might be a genius, but he's also the King of Procrastination.) That means that the fascia board will stay, minus the shingles. It could be left plain or I could stencil it to look, from a distance, like an Eastlake fascia. The one in the photo above has a cutout pattern of XIIIXIIIX; the one below is a bit fancier, but from the same era. Both designs would be appropriate for my house.

Either way, porch brackets will run from the top of the porch posts to the underside of the soffit that holds the guttering, just like in both of the last two photos. I don't like the commercially-available porch brackets (too expensive and not 1890s-enough) so Mare will reproduce whatever bracket I find and like on someone else's porch. "Just ask them," he said, "if you can trace a pattern of the bracket onto a piece of Masonite or something for me to go by." Even the King of Procrastination should be able to make five or six porch brackets. The red ones on the house down the block I thought were too skimpy; the ones on the white porch across the street I think are a little too chunky. So we walked all over a five-block area, in the rain, looking at porch brackets. And then, just like Goldilocks, I found some that are just right:

They're on the house right next door to mine.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Bathroom Before-and-After

It started out as just wanting to eradicate that ugly carpet in the bathroom. You can see why I'd want to get rid of it. My friend Jill said, "Just think, when that was shiny and new someone thought it was beautiful." Yeah. Just like they thought that bedroom carpet was beautiful. (This bathroom is connected to the bedroom, so until last fall those two ugly carpets existed side-by-side. Ewww.) But then, I noticed that Christopher Cat seemed to be depressed by the ugly carpet, the off-white walls, the bare window, and the 1970s hardware in the bathroom. See how sad he looks in the photo? I just couldn't have that. So I ripped up the carpet, replaced it with peel-and-stick flooring, painted the walls the same spring green as the bedroom, hung a fluffy curtain over the window, replaced the '70s hardware with shiny glass-like pulls, put up a couple of pictures (with birds on them, Christopher's favorite thing to look at), found a nice little seat at Target for Chris to sit on, and nailed up a cute three-hook rail. I think Christopher is very pleased with the result, if the amount of time he spends sleeping in the tub on top of the new bathmat is any indicator. I kinda like it, myself.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

I Feel The Need...

Remember this famous line from the movie Top Gun? "I feel the need...the need for SPEED!" Well, I'd like to paraphrase it: "I feel the need...the need for SLEEP!"

I've been very tired lately. Bone tired. Despite that, I did get a little something done on the house this week. But after I finished it, I was too tired to take photos. Sigh. It'll still be there Wednesday. Stay tuned.

Friday, February 13, 2009

The Fruits of My Labor

Behold, you see before you the fruits of my labor this week: a mirror and a satellite remote.

The mirror, I bought at a flea market for a ridiculously low price but haven't managed to hang on the wall just yet.

The remote now has a handy mini-guide to my favorite channels, written in my own hand, taped to the back of it.

That, my friends, is the extent of the house-related work since my last post. Bleah. Sigh. Wake me when spring is here again.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Butterfinger Cake

Because I want to make sure Jan baked the "right" one... This is the recipe my family uses.

Butterfinger Cake

1 package (18.25 ounces) chocolate cake mix
1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk
3 (2.1 ounces each) Butterfinger candy bars, chopped-up, divided
1 jar (12.25 ounces) caramel ice cream topping
1 pint Cool Whip or other whipped topping.

Prepare cake according to package directions in a 13 x 9-inch baking pan. Cool completely in pan on wire rack. Poke holes in cake with the handle of a wooden spoon, about 1-inch apart and 1-inch deep. Pour sweetened condensed milk over cake. Sprinkle with half of chopped Butterfinger. Pour caramel topping over cake. Spread whipped cream over cake; sprinkle with remaining chopped Butterfinger. Store in refrigerator until ready to serve. Refrigerate any uneaten cake.

We follow all the directions except that last one about refrigerating any uneaten cake--there's never any uneaten cake! And Jan's right, it does have about a million calories. But oh, it's soooo good!

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Where I'd Rather Be

Marilyn over at Simmer Till Done is in Vegas, and she admits to feeling as if she's gone down the rabbit hole. I imagine I would, too--Vegas is not on my list of things to do before I shuffle off this mortal coil. At the end of her post, she asked, "Where would you rather be?"

Most days, my answer would be someplace like Tahiti or Cozumel or the Bahamas, someplace warm with a white sand beach, no particular place to be, and a fruity drink.

But these days, when I'm going through a rough patch in my life generally, having some health concerns, and experiencing the same economy-induced anxiety as much of the rest of the nation, I don't long to be someplace I've never been. No, I'd rather be someplace that's familiar and comforting and not likely to be on anyone's destination list: Delavan, Illinois. Delavan is where my great-aunt and many of my cousins live. It's a place where almost everyone is family, where there are new babies to cuddle and where old stories get told again and again. It's where when the phone rings whoever is closest answers it, no matter whose house it is. It's where my cousins and I crowd into my Aunt Babe's kitchen to sit or stand around her little vinyl-cloth-covered round table to eat Butterfinger cake and catch up on each other's news. Because of all the summers I spent there as a kid, it's my second hometown. And Delavan is where I'd rather be....

Sunday, February 1, 2009

A Different Kind of Wallpaper

Milah asked the other day, "What's on your desktop?" I usually change the desktop wallpaper on my laptop about once a week or so, but I've had this photo on there for about three weeks. That's my little cat Marie Antoinette in a peaceful and contented mood, which very rarely happens. Her mama was (and is) a feral cat who had the litter of Marie and her siblings in the bushes outside my mom's bedroom window three years ago. When my son and I found the litter, the other kittens hid deeper in the bushes. But Marie...she came charging out at us with her little paw raised and her teeny little milk teeth bared. Her personality is pretty much unchanged since then. As my son puts it, "Marie hates everyone and only tolerates you because you feed her." His friend Brian is a bit harsher. He says, "That cat is a demon who wants me dead."
Anyway, I have this photo as my wallpaper not only to remind me that Marie's not really a demon, but also because looking at it reminds me of what I was doing when this photo was taken. I snapped this photo of Marie last summer when I had just begun the shingle-ripping adventure. Back then, only a few days into the project and just back from a trip to the beach, I still thought the shingle removal was fun. That was before the hordes of ants and silverfish, before I hit myself in the face with a prybar...and before the scope of what I'd taken on had really dawned on me. This photo reminds me of my enthusiasm and determination to get those damned shingles off the house, makes me think about all the people I met and things I learned as a result of that project, and causes me to yearn for warmer weather so I can get the house painted!
What's on your desktop?