Wednesday, April 29, 2009

My Basement Is Scary

My basement is scary. It's not really a basement at all; it's a cellar with a crawlspace. The only access to it is a trap-door in the floor of the back porch. The trap-door is scary, too. It's the size of a regular door and pretty heavy. Once I yank it up by the ring in the corner, then I have to catch the ring with a big hook that comes out of the wall. I'm afraid the hook will come out of the wall and the trap-door will slam shut, trapping me in the cellar. I'm afraid that the blind dog will fall in the stairwell hole. I'm afraid that the instant I let go of the trap-door to close it, one of the cats will get in the way and it will slam shut and kill them. I don't go down to the cellar much. But Monday morning I had to. See, the breaker box is down there, and one of the things Mare left undone was installing the porch light. I decided I could do it myself after reading the instructions. Black wire to black wire, white wire to white wire. Easy peasy. So down to the cellar I went.

And when I got down there--and this is the important part, so pay attention--when I got down there, I noticed that part of the dirt floor in the crawlspace part was darker, as if it was wet. With all the rain we've been having, a leaky cellar is a real possibility. So I walked over there, crouched down, and put my hand in the dirt. Dry. Bone dry. Which is a good thing. Remember this part, okay, because it becomes important later.....

So I shut the breaker off for the porch and went outside to take down the ugly 1970s porch light. Uh-oh. There's only a black wire poking out of the wall...and a big piece of Romex coming down the outside of the wall. So I called Mystery Man for some advice. (Mystery Man being the guy my sister double-dog-dared me to ask out.) "Where's the Romex go?" he asked. "Ummmm," I said, "Up?" He sighed. "Trace it back and find out where it goes." So I did, and it's a dead-end. Pokes out of the front wall of the house and pokes back behind the old light fixture. "Disregard that," he said. (I love it when he talks like a firefighter.) Between his careful explanation, and a couple of photos of the situation sent to him via cellphone, we got the new light installed.

So back down to the cellar I went, still chatting with him on the phone, to turn the breaker back on and see if the porch light comes on. (He told me that with only a black wire, we had a 50/50 chance of wiring it correctly.) I explained all about the scary cellar to him and we laughed about it. I said that if he hears the sound of a door slamming shut, he should call Lexington Fire to come get me out of the cellar. There's no way I can lift that door from underneath. I thanked him again for helping me, and he said not to thank him until we're sure it works. I hopped down the uneven wooden steps, yammering on about something like I always do, because I do talk like I write, only worse. And then I stopped talking. I think I stopped breathing. And then I said, "Holy sh*t..." in a voice full of fear and wonder. Because there before me, in the crawlspace, were the cinder blocks you see in the photo. Cinder blocks that...were...not...there...before. Nope. Most definitely not there before. Because that's where I was crouching. That's where I put my hand. Most definitely not there before. I had a few seconds of Rainman-like mumbling while Mystery Man kept saying, "What?! Are you okay?!" When I finally recovered the power of speech and explained it all to him, he said he was covered in goosebumps. He is covered in goosebumps?! Think how I felt! But wait...there's more! I could hear Baby Cat meowing over and over from far away, so I ran back upstairs to get him out of the bathroom where I'd shut him up. (The other two cats were outside in the screened porch.) But the bathroom door was open. And Baby Cat was gone. So I ran back down to the cellar and called him. (He thinks he is a dog and will come to me when I call him.) The pitiful meowing continued. I kept calling him. Then I saw two little eyes way back in the dirt tunnel that passes for the worst part of the crawlspace. "Please, God," I said, "let that be little Louie and not some demon or something." It was little Louie. He got to the edge of the tunnel and leaped toward me, eyes wide. I caught him and hugged him up. Now how in the world did the little cat get down there? And, worse than that, how in the world did those cinder blocks get there?? I carried him back upstairs, slammed the cellar door shut, and vowed not to go down there for a very long while.

And oh yeah, the porch light works.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

"Naggy and Whip-Cracking"--Who, Me??

So Mare called me. You might remember Mare, aka Porch Elf, he of the beautiful screened porch design we've dubbed "posts-out" construction. He who was my almost-husband 12 years ago, when we owned a business together and ran a bed & breakfast on the side. (Our business, incidentally, specialized in old house restoration and antique furniture repair.) Or you might not recall him, because it's been awhile since he made an appearance either at my house or in this blog....Either way, he called me. I don't think it went very well.

Mare: Hey, something's come up and I'm not gonna be there for a few days.
Jayne: You mean, for a few more days. You've already not been here for a few days. [April 10th was the last day he was here.]
M: Well, yeah...I guess so.
J: Imagine that. When are you coming back?
M: Uhhh...I don't really know.
[Several minutes of bickering followed in which I tried to find out what had happened--in case it's something awful, you know, benefit of the doubt and all that--and tried to pin him down to a specific date and time. He steadfastly refused to answer my questions.]
M: You haven't changed at all--
J: You haven't changed at all--
M: You're still as naggy and whip-cracking as ever!
J: You still can't finish what you started!

No, I don't think it went very well at all...

Friday, April 24, 2009

This Place Matters

Everyone has someplace that matters to them. For many of us, that place is a historic building.

The National Trust For Historic Preservation wants to know about the places that matter to you. Their campaign, This Place Matters, calls attention to the value of historic buildings by giving preservation supporters the opportunity to upload a photo (or post a "flag" on a map) of the places that matter to them. They even have a cool This Place Matters sign for you to print out and proudly hold while you stand in front of your place that matters. Can't pick just one place? That's okay--the National Trust wants to see all of them. Lucky for me, since in addition to my own historic house, there's also the Episcopal Church, the Confederate Home Chapel, the Hicklin School, and at least a baker's dozen of my favorite private homes in my little town on the list of places that matter to me. What are the places that matter to you?

Click here to read more about the This Place Matters campaign, get your sign, and upload your own photo.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Thankful Thursday

Thursday again (already??) and time for my five things for which I am thankful. I had intended this to be an every-Thursday post, but my usual disorganization gets the better of me and Thursday seems to come and go without my noticing most weeks. So here goes:

1. My friends, near and far. The sudden walloping loss of Sean is almost too much to bear as it is...I cannot imagine how much worse it would be without my friends. Someone is always here to listen, to pray for me and with me, to make me laugh, to give me a hug, to tell me another story about him. Thank you all so much.

2. Miniature donkeys. My son, a newly-minted sheriff's deputy, was involved in a middle-of-the-night car chase that became a foot chase when the driver stopped his car and bailed out. Bad guy ran from the vehicle, jumped a fence, and dashed across a field. My son followed. As he was running along, he got a distinct feeling he was not alone. He briefly turned on his flashlight and saw...itty-bitty donkeys. Several of them. Looking at him as if to say, "What the heck are you doin in our field?!" Miniature donkeys make even a police chase funny.

3. White Trash Bob. When Mare didn't show up this week (as you may have gathered from his lack of presence in the last few posts) White Trash Bob stopped by on his way to the post office and connected my garbage disposer. It took him all of five minutes. He asked for a hug as payment. White Trash Bob makes my life so much easier.

4. My Catholic cousin. Tuesday afternoon a very handsome man jogged past my house and paused to smile and wave. I waved back and said to my cousin, "Did you see that guy?! Yowzers!" She listened to me go on about him for several minutes (and I do believe I used the word "hottie") before she finally burst out laughing and said, "You know that's the Catholic priest, right?" Uhhh, no.... I'm glad I have Chel to save me from the Deadly Sin of Lust.

5. House paint. Because I was painting my house while talking to Sean on what would turn out to be the last day of his life, I now feel closer to him when I'm painting. I have a lot of grief left to work through. Fortunately, I have a lot of house left to paint, too. Who knew house paint could have such healing properties?

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Before & After

The thing about painting is, it makes for good before & after pics.
The front of the house last week:

The front of the house today:

(Note that I even painted the downspout two colors so it blends in.)

The east side of the porch last week:

This next one's an after & before pic--

the side of the porch after being painted,

and the east side of the house before being painted:
The east side of the house after being painted:

(It's only the first coat of paint, but still.)

And just as a little reminder of how far the Kelly House has come,

this is what the house looked like a week before I started removing the shingles:

(Yeah, yeah, I know, there's a little pic of it already at the side of the blog. Indulge me.)

Monday, April 20, 2009

Sanborn Maps

Do you know what Sanborn Maps are? I didn't, and now I wonder how they escaped my attention all this time. The Sanborn Map Company was founded in 1867 and for more than a hundred years was the provider of fire insurance maps for 12,000 cities across the United States. These maps are very detailed, block by block maps that show each structure, the materials it's built of, its size, and even (in some cases) the number of windows and doors in the building. This morning I was reading the forums on My Old House Journal and came across a link to Sanborn Maps. (After you click on the Browse Maps button, you'll need to type in Sanborn for the Username and Welcome for the password.)

I was very excited to see that maps of my hometown were included in the collection. The earliest one (from 1885) shows my block on the key to the map, but has no specific information on any buildings that might have existed on that block. The map from November of 1889 shows my block on the key, this time with a notation reading "2 F.B. 1 B. 2 F.D.", which I think means two frame buildings, one barn, two frame dwellings. James C. Kelly bought the parcel of land he built the house on in the fall of 1887, so there's a very good possibility one of the houses is mine and the other is my next-door neighbor's. Without the more detailed block map, which includes outlines of the houses on the block, I can't prove this though. The 1894 map also doesn't include my block except on the map key, which has the same notation as the 1887 map. But on the map from 1900, there's my house! That proves it was built prior to May of 1900, when the map was drawn, which means the construction date of 1906 that Louise Kelly Salyer provided to the local newspaper was, as we suspected, incorrect. In the back yard was a small stable; half of it is a two-story structure. The stable appears on later maps, until October of 1927, when only the one-story section of it still stood. To my Someday List I've added "dig around & find stable foundation". Someday List? That's the list of things I'll get to some day far, far in the future. Rebuilding the three chimneys is on that list, too.

So what about your house? Is it on the Sanborn Maps?

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Nap Weather

Saturday morning Baby Cat and I sat on the porch on ladders and watched it rain, me on the top of the three-step ladder and him halfway up the 6-foot stepladder. I drank coffee and wished for sunshine. He yowled at the weather. "My sentiments exactly," I told him. I idly stepped on the handle of the paint scraper so that it popped up off the concrete porch floor an inch or so and then snapped back down. Click, thunk. Click, thunk. Click, thunk.

I thought about finishing up the covers for the wicker furniture cushions. I thought about painting the porch ceiling the new shade of blue I just bought. I thought about using that paint scraper for its intended purpose. And just thinking about those projects made me tired...and rainy weather is good nap Baby Cat and I went back in the house and took a nap until my mom called. Then we--Mom and I, Baby Cat stayed home--went to the greenhouse and bought some flowers for the containers on my front porch. By the time we got home, the weather had cleared, so I planted the containers, straightened up the front porch, cut down the little trees that have grown up into the honeysuckle along the back fence and then...took another nap.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Change of Plans

I should be in Tulsa right now. I should be having a late breakfast with some long-time friends. Instead, we're still scattered all over the country. And we're waiting. Ronny called us Thursday night to tell us that his father is dying. So he's going there, as he should, and the rest of us are staying put and waiting for another sad phone call.
Of course, for me, staying put doesn't mean sitting still. Yesterday I got the first coat of paint on that last little section of the front of the house that was still white. If you don't look up, the front of the house is now solidly yellow. (It's obvious that I have only a 16' extension ladder and that I am short. The upper third of the house is still white. I'll be borrowing Floyd's taller ladder again soon.) I painted some trim, I debated over whether the porch's blue ceiling is a little too blue now that the house isn't clad in dark brown shingles, and I bought a fern for the front porch because I really think it needs one.
And while the front of the porch is pretty....

the side of the porch is pretty ugly....

So I cleaned that, and pulled nails, and caulked and got the first coat of paint on half of it. Then my next-door neighbors, the beloved Floyd and Gwen, came over to tell me that they had an extra dogwood tree that they'd like to give me. My yard is almost completely bare of any kind of landscaping, so I am thrilled that I'll have a little tree in my front yard! We marked the place where we think the tree should go and Gwen and I will plant it sometime in the next few days.

And today it's raining, so I'm changing my plans again. Scrape, caulk and prime the front of the house, under cover of the porch roof? Hang the kitchen wallpaper? Finish recovering the wicker porch furniture? Hmmm....

Thursday, April 16, 2009

A Good Day

Today was a good day. The day I've been waiting for all.....winter.....long finally arrived today. Paint-the-House Day! Every one of my days off, until today, has been too rainy or too cold to paint. Today was perfect weather. So I painted.

And then I painted some more. (Look above the new screened porch.)

And then I put up a house number.

And hung up the mailbox. The Postmistress Nazi will be happy that we now have an "established delivery point" again. The past few weeks have been a game of Find the Mailbox for Mike, my nice mailman.

And three happy things occurred today:

Speaking of Mike the Nice Mailman, today when he came by he said, "When you get this house done, it'll be one of the prettiest houses in town." Isn't that, well, nice?!

When I went back outside after going in the house for a drink, I noticed an SUV parked in front of my house and three ladies inside it pointing and talking animatedly. Sometimes our neighborhood gets tourists, so I walked out to talk to them. Turns out it was Micki (the daughter of the previous owner), Micki's daughter, and Micki's best friend. Micki grasped my hands with tears in her eyes and said, "I wanted to sell this house to someone who would love it, and it's so obvious that you do love this house. It's beautiful, just beautiful!" We talked for several minutes about the happy memories she has of this house, and in particular of sitting on the front porch talking with her mother.

Last but not least, the local contractor who I originally talked to about re-doing my front porch is working on the house next door. Vic specializes in old houses and is, in my opinion, the best in the business. Today he came over to tell me, "You're doing a fine job on this house, hon. A real fine job." I consider that a very high compliment.

So, with all of that, today was a good day indeed.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009


It seems to me that the hardest part of death is not the moment that you first learn of it. That moment is suddenly, sharply painful, like cutting one's finger while slicing peaches. While that first pain is very intense, it's also brief. What is harder to bear are the days after that, days spent crying or laughing through tears at some shared memory, days of picking up the phone to call him and realizing again that he is irretrievably gone, days of amazement that everyday activities are still possible through so much grief. So you learn to look for blessings among all the sadness, and I have many:

All of you who left kind words for me on this blog. Each little message of support helped me in some small way to feel less alone. Thank you very much for your friendship and compassion.

Going through my old emails, I found enough from Sean (a prolific emailer) containing photos of him and images he'd collected on the internet to be able to put together a small album for myself and his friends. One of my favorites is a forgotten light-hearted argument between us over the merits of crunchy versus creamy peanut butter. I argued for creamy; he said this, "Crunchy...Extra-crunchy...Why in the name of all things holy can people not accept the need for a reasonable amount of crunch in their f***king peanut butter? I rarely eat peanut butter, but when I do I become very passionate about it, very quickly."

Our childhood friend Whit emailed me to say that she was reading a poem today for a National Poetry Month event and had chosen this one, W.H. Auden's beautiful "Funeral Blues". The last two stanzas are heartbreakingly beautiful.
In the last couple of days, talking with so many of our friends, I learned that Sean had contacted nearly all of them within the past week. And to all of us, he spoke of how he would always love them and would always look out for them. Sean could not have known that these were his last days, but we believe something compelled him to call each of us.
Talking on the phone with Ron about what we think heaven is like, Ron said, "It comforts me to think heaven is a place where you see again everyone you ever loved who went before you." We talked then about how Sean will see his beloved grandfather and his best friend Aaron. (Aaron grew up with us, too, was Ron's roommate for part of high school and my first real boyfriend.) Thinking of Sean and Aaron together again, the conversation turned irreverent. I said, "If heaven is a perfect place, then you can drink there without becoming addicted, so they can party together again." (Sean was a recovering alcoholic with three years of sobriety.) And Ron replied, "With Jim Morrison. Those boys are havin a big whiskey with Jim Morrison right about now." We dissolved into laughter.
Last night our friend Paul called me and we talked about the incredible bond that all of us have, even 25 years after high school. Paul believes that because each of us, alone, was something of a misfit we became each other's family. He is right. Nothing else explains why three or four geeky girls from a little town, a genius kid from Oklahoma City who has a photographic memory for sports statistics (Paul), a spoiled rich kid from Tucson who looked like a Ralph Lauren ad (Aaron), a bad boy from Boston who walked onto campus the first day smoking a cigarette (Sean), and a shy skinny boy from Tulsa who became every girl's crush (Ron) would still call each other at least once a week for the next 25 years. And so we will gather as a family, those of us who are left. Not at Sean's funeral, which is too formal and too sad and simply too far away for some of to attend, but at a true Irish wake Friday night in Tulsa. And there I'll say this blessing: "Set him as a seal upon thy heart, for Love is stronger than Death."

Monday, April 13, 2009

Sad News/Happy News

I have both today.

First, the sad news:

A phone call from my friend Ron who lives in Tulsa, Oklahoma woke me from a sound sleep about noon. I knew it was bad news the instant I heard Ronny's quiet and serious voice. He told me that our friend Sean had died in a traffic accident Saturday night in Wentzville, Missouri. I heard the words, but I cannot comprehend them. My heart and my mind refuse to understand that Sean is truly gone from us. I've known him since we were 15, when Sean (and Ron, too) came to school at Wentworth Military Academy. Sean was my protector all through high school, and almost all my memories of that time include him. Just a few days ago Sean had told me, "You know I will love you completely forever, and you know that I will always watch over you." Sean always keeps his promises, but this one in a way neither of us could have imagined.

And the happy news:
The gigantic pile of debris in the back yard from the porch demolition has been hauled away. I put a Craigslist ad up and just a few hours later, someone showed up to take every bit of the scrap lumber, the pieces of plywood, two bags of shingles, those icky fake wrought-iron posts, the matching icky railings, the old kitchen countertops and the old kitchen sink. All that's left for the trash man is two half-rotted clothesline posts, and he'll pick those up the last Friday of the month.

And because I couldn't sleep today after Ronny's phone call, I started painting the corner brackets for the porch. If I can finish painting them before Thursday and get them assembled, then Mare can put those up when he comes back. I'm actually ahead of schedule on something! The bottom edge of those brackets will be painted dark green and the smaller part (which is just setting on the brackets so you can see what they look like) will be painted light green. I think. I'm unsure if there's enough contrast between the cream and the lighter green to make that part stand out, so they might get painted dark green instead. What do you think?

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Happy Easter

Dreaming..., sorry, I was dreaming. Dreaming of putting in a brick walkway leading up to my house, just like Mr. Kelly had. Mr. Kelly had tools and bricks and money to do it, though. I, however, have none of those things. Sigh...

But Home Depot does--and if I won the $200 gift certificate that One Project Closer is giving away, then I could rent a demolition hammer to tear up the concrete sidewalk, and buy bricks, and build that brick walkway. And I'd be whistling right along with Mr. Kelly. (Who, by the way, made a brief appearance at my house in the wee hours of Friday night to whistle a few bars, probably while he was checking out the new porch.)

Saturday, April 11, 2009


After a couple of days of steady work at a snail's pace, we are thisclose to being done with the kitchen and the porch. And by the end of the day Friday, I was thisclose to seriously maiming Mare. Only the thought that I'd never get my porch done kept me from it.

First, the kitchen:

The sink and the faucet are done. The sink has a small but deep scratch in the front of it from Mare's belt buckle. Did I say not once, not twice, but three times to be careful because the sink is acrylic? Yes. Did he apologize for scratching it? No. Grrrr. The disposer is not done. Mare said it was done, but it's not. I discovered this just after I ate a bowl of cereal and started to dump the dregs of the bowl into the disposer. Just in time, it occurred to me that I should check the disposer to see if it works. It doesn't. I'm not an electrician, but I think it might have something to do with the 18" gap between the wires on the disposer and the wires coming out of the box thingy where the switch is. Grrr. You'd think that sometime during one of our four trips to the lumberyard, he might've mentioned that he needed a little piece of Romex.

The countertops are done--except for the cutting board section at the end. Mare took the cutting board home with him to make the matching backsplash out of scrap maple he has at his little homestead. He cut the countertops to length while I was at Lowe's. I walked into the kitchen, saw the countertops set in place, and noticed a lack of sawdust on the floor. Knowing that Mare never cleans up anything, I asked, "Where did you cut the countertops?" Cheerfully he replied, "In the front parlor. There's more room in there." I did not want to go look, but something compelled me to. The front parlor is the one room in the entire house of hard-surface floors with an area rug. Yep, he cut the countertops on the rug. It now has heaps of sawdust on it. Everything else in the room is coated in sawdust. I wanted to maim him, I really did. I still do. But it's Easter Weekend...

And now the porch:

"The screened porch is done." So Mare told my neighbor Bob. (By the way, Bob informed me that from now on he'd like to be referred to as White Trash Bob. He's not really white trash, but who am I to argue?) Anyway, White Trash Bob came over to check the progress of the porch and Mare made that declaration. White Trash Bob gave me a sidelong glance. And my patience broke. "The screened porch is certainly not done! You still have to put up that trim piece to cover the little gap between the house and the screen panel, put something up to close that two-foot gap at the top there, hang the screen door, and find someone to rout the corner brackets and then put those up." There was a long pause. Mare told WT Bob, "Well I guess I stand corrected." Mare did finish everything in my rant except the last item. This morning White Trash Bob (that's so much fun to say!) came over and routed the corner brackets. I brought them to work with me tonight to sand off the rough edges. You think it would be a bad idea to paint them at work tomorrow night?

The porch really is almost done. All that's left to do is to finish those corner brackets so they can be nailed in place, clean up the big mess Mare left behind, paint the porch, put the wicker furniture back in place, and hang the matchstick shades up again. That'll give me a nice place to sit when I'm taking a break from painting the house...

Friday, April 10, 2009

Porch Day

Despite this:

A 30 percent chance of rain before 1pm. Cloudy, then gradually
becoming mostly sunny, with a high near 54. Breezy, with a north northeast wind
between 17 and 22 mph, with gusts as high as 30 mph. New rainfall amounts of
less than a tenth of an inch possible.

We're doing this:Mare predicts we'll finish the porch (except for the corner brackets) aaaannnnd the kitchen (except for the butcher block backsplash) TODAY! Hooray!! Photos and tales of his antics to follow.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

A Stopping Place

If my Grandma Rosie were here, she'd say, "Well, that just looks like the wreck of the Hesperus!" And she'd be right; it does.
But don't you think the countertops and the new faucet and sink are pretty? And how about that built-in cutting board? (It'll get a backsplash soon.)

We are done for the day...and after being awake for almost 29 hours, I am done for the day, too.

Kitchen Mid-Day

Because there's a very real possibility that when I finally slow down today, I'll immediately fall asleep, I thought I'd better post some photos now....
Rain forced us inside, so today is Kitchen Day. We're making some progress halfway into our workday.
First of all, those polka-dot countertops:
I don't know if you can see it in the photo, but folks, this is quality construction. The countertop isn't fastened to anything except the backsplash. I had my microwave sitting here. Apparently the dishwasher was holding it up. The photo doesn't really do justice to the ugliness of the countertops, believe it or not. Those dots are pink, harvest gold, and avocado green. Thank God they've faded over the four decades or so that they've been in place.
Two of the three cats supervised from inside the drawer cavity. A few minutes after this photo was taken, we removed the countertops. Unfortunately, we forgot to tell Baby Cat. He leapt up onto the countertop--or where the countertop used to be--got an "Ohhhh, craaaap!!" look on his little face, and plunged down, down, down into this same space. Oops. He was very embarrassed.

Remember those plastic bricks I tore off? They'll be replaced by panels that resemble tin ceiling, in a bronze color. We briefly thought we might just glue the panels over the plastic bricks, until we noticed how loose the bricks were. It wasn't until I started pulling them off the walls that I realized it's not the glue that's failing, it's the plaster behind the glue....Uh-oh. So I waited for Mare to get here and use his genius on coming up with some solution other than re-plastering the kitchen walls. His genius was proven once again. Luan panels nailed into the studs.

You can see here how bad the plaster looks, and that patching it would've been really time-consuming. On the right in this photo you can see where he's already nailed up a Luan panel. We'll stick the "tin" panels to this with double-faced tape now that the surface is nice and smooth.

And....I'm off to Lowe's to pick up a couple of things we forgot. Stay tuned to this channel for further updates.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Kitchen Day? Porch Day?

Remind me later when I complain about being tired that I volunteered for the overtime Wednesday night, so any fatigue of mine is self-inflicted...

Mare will be at my house today sometime around 9:30 a.m., and depending upon the weather today will either be Kitchen Day or Porch Day. I think it should be both, but I'm remembering last week's abbreviated workday and trying not to be overly optimistic.

No rain, or very light rain, and we'll get that last screen panel for the porch put together and screwed in place. Oh wait...we'll get it put together at least. Neither of us has a drill with a hammer function, but my neighbor Mark does, so we'll have to borrow from him again. If he's home. Cautiously optimistic is the mood of the day.

Lots of rain, and we'll be putting in the kitchen countertops, with the built-in cutting board, and also the sink and faucet and the new backsplash and....Whoa, there! Almost let my optimism get the better of me for a minute. I mean, we'll get just a little something done on the kitchen. Almost certainly the cats' jungle gym of countertops and boxes in the dining room will be disassembled today. Hopefully they'll have an outdoor playpen (aka screened porch) to replace it...

You've seen more than enough photos of the porch by now, surely, but I have not yet posted a "before" photo of the kitchen. Here it is, in all its blah-ness, a few days after I moved in.

What's already gone: ginormous light-blocking cornice, matching roller shade, and matching tier curtains (trashed even before this pic was taken), said floral wallpaper on soffit, white floor (replaced with brown Armstrong flooring almost a year ago), white walls (painted a gold similar to Ralph Lauren Goldfinch) and plastic bricks on backsplash (torn off last week)

What stays: appliances, red-checked Waverly curtains, vintage faux-copper ceiling fixture (the only really decent fixture in the whole house), cabinets, kitchen table & chairs,, that's it, I think.

What goes: polka-dotted countertops (I'll get a photo of those for you), cheapo cabinet pulls, scratched and stained sink, cheapo ($29.99 at Lowe's--I looked) and broken faucet and sprayer, and a trash bag full of plastic bricks that I forgot to take out to the trash last week.

Wish me luck. And patience. And cautious optimism.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Wanna Buy A House?

Isn't that an absolutely gorgeous house? Known as Linwood Lawn, it was built in 1853 by a local businessman named William Limrick. He spared no expense. The house had hot and cold running water and zoned heating and cooling. In 1853! No pesky neighbors to bother you, either--the property is over 200 acres of land. In the evenings you could stroll through the vineyard and check the progress of your wine grapes. The restoration of this place is nothing short of amazing. I could go on and on about it, but the folks at Welcome Home Realty put together a virtual tour of Linwood Lawn that you just have to see.
NOTE: I have no connection to either Linwood Lawn or Welcome Home Realty and receive no benefit from writing this post other than the joy of sharing photos of this beautiful and historic home with you.

Saturday, April 4, 2009


Darnit, darnit, darnit. I was so hoping to be able to say we finished the porch today. But I can't say that, because Mare and I said this:

Mare: I think we're done for the day.
Me: Yeah, right. I wish.
Mare: No, I mean we really are done for the day.
Me: But, but--we only have that one more panel to do. [The one at a right angle to the front panel of screen that will connect the front of the screened porch to the house. ]
Mare: I'm tellin you, I'm done for the day. We're at a good stopping place.
Me: Finished is a better stopping place. C'mon. It's 4:10, for Pete's sake!
Mare: I'm done.
Me: An hour's more work and we really would be done. C'mon.
Mare: Nope.

That was just the prelude to the real argument, which was was ten minutes of my repeatedly pointing out how close we were to being done, how many hours of daylight we had left, how next week's forecast is for cold and windy weather, and how typical this is of him while he repeatedly said "Nope" every time I took a breath. Darnit, darnit, darnit.
Those are the panels of screen we built flat in the front yard and then carried over to the porch. (These were built yesterday, I should add.) Just in front of them you can see the turned posts are no longer primer-white. We painted those this morning. It doesn't really show up in the photo, but they're now cream with bands of dark green and light green.
This is what the porch looks like with those screened panels in place. A couple of my neighbors said they'd hoped I wouldn't screen it at all. I considered leaving it open, but my abject terror of June bugs and the fact that the front porch is the cats' playpen were the deciding factors in the decision to screen it again. It's my house and I have to be comfortable there, after all. The top-to-bottom screen makes it look more open and airy than the old porch, though. Also, Mare's design with the turned posts completely exposed and the screen behind them makes the posts really stand out, I think. (By the way, look how pretty the sky is in this photo. And, if you happened to notice my neighbors' cardboard soffit, rest assured it doesn't usually look like that. They're getting new gutters.)
This is what we accomplished today. The left side of the porch will remain open and without screen. That final panel of screen I was arguing for will connect to the post just to the right of the stairs and run over to the corner of the house that's to the right of the front door. And those corner brackets I showed you the pattern for? Mare left those at his house, or so he says. I have a sneaking suspicion he's not done with them.
But anyway...after our little spat, we cleaned up the yard and Mare went home. I painted the wood on the inside of the screened panels and filled nailholes in the clapboards until it was too dark to see. While I was doing that, my neighbor David came over. He remarked, "That guy helping you with your house sure does look like that Mare character who used to live down the street. I hope it's not him because I've heard he's good at starting things and bad at finishing them. " Sigh....

Friday, April 3, 2009

Kellapalooza? Uhhh...Not So Much

Today was not the 90-miles-an-hour-with-my-hair-on-fire day I hoped it would be. Not so much.

After an hour of very little progress in prying apart boards and pulling nails, I abandoned our original plan to re-use the lumber from the ugly porch and went to the lumberyard to buy new stuff.

One trip to the lumberyard turned into three trips to the lumberyard in a town ten minutes away after we were unable to borrow a pickup and Mare disclosed a bad debt he owed the local lumberyard.

It suddenly occurred to me that I need to paint the porch posts before we can install screen behind them. When I popped open the gallon of trim paint, I discovered it had turned into Silly Putty over the winter in my shed. The other four cans of paint are fine. Only the color I needed right at that moment was ruined. It's Valspar paint, sold only at Lowe's. The closest Lowe's is 40 minutes away.

As I was pondering a fix for that problem, my friend Anna from work texted me with a reminder that today is the last day of official weigh-ins for the Biggest Loser Contest at work. I'd forgotten about that. So, I stopped what I was doing to weigh in at my station, which is on the way to Lowe's, where I waited almost 20 minutes for someone to mix up that gallon of paint for me.

By the time I got back home, Mare had assembled two of the three frames for the screen. (He didn't set them in place yet.) I was able to paint two porch posts before I had to stop for the day and pick up my mom so we could go to my son's graduation from police academy.

Today's scoreboard: Murphy's Law, 4. Kellapalooza, 4. Tie-breaker tomorrow. I predict a victory for the Kellapalooza team.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Thankful Thursday

In all the hoopla over Kellapalooza last week, I missed posting my five things for which I'm thankful. I'm trying to make Thankful Thursday a habit, though.

1. Finding my mail on the entryway floor. Last week I called the post office to tell them that I'd moved my mailbox. (It used to be on the front of the ugly porch.) I suggested the mailman might be able to use the mail slot in my front door. The postmaster gave me an angry lecture about moving "the established delivery point", came by the house and reamed me for (temporarily) not having a house number on the house, and then said a mail slot is "a mailman's worst nightmare". I told her politely and with a smile to kiss my hiney. (My exact words.) Apparently my mailman disagrees with her, too, because he's used the mail slot every day since then.

2. My best friend Stacy. Earlier this week, Stacy dared me to ask out a guy we used to work with. He said yes. Thanks for the double-dog-dare, Stace.

3. Facebook and friends who are not math-challenged. After trying for about half an hour to reason out something on my own, I gave up and posted as my Facebook status "Jayne is incapable of doing simple math. Can someone help me figure out how much screen I need for my front porch?" Five minutes later, after being given the measurements, my friend Steve gave me the answer: about 64 square feet.

4. My mom and her generosity. You know she's already given me a chunk of money towards re-doing my kitchen. Yesterday she bought the new pulls for my cabinets, too. Wow.

5. My firefighter friends. Tuesday I was informed by an Assistant Chief that I will be moving from B shift to D shift against my will. It's what the department calls Involuntary Shift Transfer. Although the contract between management and us IAFF folks allows them, it's very very rarely done. On April 22nd I will leave the shift partner that I love and go to work with someone who is almost universally disliked. Additionally, my days off will now be Sunday, Monday and Tuesday and every other Saturday. Because of this, I can no longer work my part-time job at the police department on Fridays, will not be able to serve on Church Council (which meets on Thursdays) and will be having supper and "town meetings" at the pub only two Saturdays a month rather than two nights a week. (The pub's open only Wednesday through Saturday.) To say that I am unhappy about this is a whopping understatement. I cried. I am not a crier. How in the world does this fit into Thankful Thursday?? Without my firefighter friends, their support and their quirky ability to find humor in the worst situations, this would be almost unbearable. It's good to know they're here for me.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

The Porch Elf & The Dispatcher

(With apologies to Lewis Carroll, whose brilliant poem

"The Walrus & The Carpenter" was the inspiration for this bit of nonsense.)

James Crawford Kelly built a house,
He built it true and right.
Maria planted hollyhocks,
With blossoms red and bright.
And proud they were of that nice house
With Christian Church in sight.

Then Char the Shingler came along
The damage was begun
Thousands of shingles on the house
At least a half a ton
"I'll never paint again," she said,
"After the shingling's done!"

The shakes were ug as ug could be,
The pretty house was rid.
You could not see a clapboard, cause
The clapboards were all hid;
No Victorian showed nowhere—
Twas an awful thing she did.

Thirty-five years it stayed like that,
Awaiting that bright day,
Along would come the Dispatcher
And throw those shakes away.
She tore those shingles off that house,
And made it look okay!

But oh, the ugly porch still sat,
Just like a hunk of poo
Stuck on the side of that nice house,
Her disgust grew and grew.
"It sickens me as much," she said,
"as crap upon my shoe!"

But then the Porch Elf came along
(Used to be her honey)
"My poo-porch Handi-Wipe he'll be,
And for not much money!"
They struck a deal that he'd be back,
Next day that was sunny.

The Porch Elf and the Dispatcher
Worked for ten hours or so,
They wiped that poo of porch away,
And gave it the heave-ho.
Elf put new posts upon the porch
All primed and in a row.

"The time has come," the Porch Elf said,
To talk of many things:
Of screen--and studs--and splashboard heights--
And wicker chairs and swings--
And why our plans have changed again--
And post brackets and wings

"Look we must," the Dispatcher cried,
"For brackets that are flat;
For we found siding not plywood,
The others are too fat!"
"I'll make flat ones," the Porch Elf said.
She thanked him much for that.

And that's about as far as I can go with that before I lose what's left of my mind. I'll explain the rest of it in straight prose.

Simply put, under the eaves of the porch I expected to find flat plywood, which would have allowed us to use the chunky corbel brackets similar to the ones on my neighbor's porch. Those brackets would have been placed just above the top of each porch post. Instead, I found clapboards. A happy surprise, because it makes the porch seem more like a continuation of the house. But clapboards mean that the corbel brackets won't work, so corner brackets were needed. I wanted something that looked like it could have been used on the Kelly House originally, so we went driving around town in the rain (why is it always raining when we do this??) looking for the perfect corner bracket. And we found them--a couple blocks away at a stranger's house. Hmm. Hopping up on their porch rail to trace the bracket onto a big piece of cardboard seemed like a bad idea. So I took a picture of it (that next-to-last photo), and then enlarged it on the laptop when I got home. And believe it or not, Mare drew it freehand onto that piece of cardboard, then cut it out and traced around the pattern onto a big piece of bright new lumber we laid on the dining room floor. I think his pattern alooks a bit like an angel's wing. Hopefully he got the corner brackets done this week and we can put them on the porch on Friday. I'm hoping to have the porch done by Saturday afternoon!