Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Conversation & Questions

I feel I ought to share with you the conversation that took place Tuesday afternoon:

Mare: Hey, glad I got ahold of you. I'll be there about nine in the morning.
Me: Oh no, you won't! Come up on Thursday instead.
Mare: We'll lose a day of work--
Me: Listen, I have to work tonight and I'm not stayin up forever like I did last week.
Mare: I remember you whinin around about bein up since five. I don't know why you got up so early.
Me: 'Whinin around'?! 'Whinin around'?!! When I said last Wednesday that I'd been up since five, I meant since FIVE P.M. on Tuesday, not FIVE A.M. on Wednesday! I went 30 hours without sleep!!
Mare: Oh, somehow I missed that...I'll be there Thursday then.

And now that that is all settled...y'all had some questions, and so do I.

First off, did anyone else notice that the Lexington Landmarks article put the date of construction of the Kelly House as 1906? That's the same year that photo of the Kellys and their horse Jack was taken. Maybe I've been watching too many episodes of "Cold Case Files" in the middle of the night, but check out those rambler roses....they're growing all along the porch roof. I know Mr. Kelly had horses, and manure is great fertilizer, but could those roses have grown that much in one season?? I still think the house was built a bit earlier than that. How about you?

Karen Anne proved once again that great minds think alike. She wondered what those pretty chimneys in the 1906 photo were connected to. I've been trying to puzzle that out myself. I have two existing fireplaces in my house; one in the front parlor/living room that faces south, and one in the second parlor that faces east. I think those front two chimneys must have been connected to those. I'm wondering if what is my master bedroom now might have been the kitchen originally. It makes more sense (to me, anyway) if you look at my beautifully-rendered floor plan drawing. See the bedroom in the middle of the house, next to the second parlor and the present kitchen? Do you think that bedroom might've been the kitchen originally? There's no evidence of a fireplace now, but the bedroom wall is curved out weirdly and there's evidence of a stovepipe hole about two-thirds of the way up the wall that's shared with the current kitchen. Doesn't that seem to be about where the third chimney is in the 1906 photo?

And Christine the Chicken Whisperer asked me if the 1906 photo changed our plans for the porch. Only just a little teeny bit. Amazingly, the porch looks the same in the 1947 photo as it does in the 1906 photo, and I was basing my porch restoration on the 1947 photo. All this work we're doing now on the porch is actually just Phase I of the restoration. Phase I is just happily destroying the old ugly enclosed porch and putting up turned posts instead of the wrought iron. Phase II (when funds allow) is changing the porch roofline from flat to hipped as in the photo, rebuilding the porch spindles beneath the eaves, and rebuilding the porch railing and larger spindles. Phase III (which, realistically, might never happen) will be replacing the roof cresting. So what plans changed? Just a couple of little details which I'll share with you next time. For now, I'll just say that those plans involve clapboards, a bit less screen, and angel wings.

Monday, March 30, 2009

It's A Destination

I don't feel so much like Stuart Smalley today. I know that's probably good news to you folks. It was good news to my friends, who got a little tired of me saying over and over, "I'm good enough, I'm smart enough and dog--" That's usually the point at which they stopped me. Even my son said, "Okay, Mom, seriously, that's enough."

So I've stopped patting myself on the back for tearing off the shingles and demolishing the front porch, and I've started looking, really studying, that 1906 photo. And then it occurred to me: that 1906 photo is a destination and my work on the house is a journey towards it. Now I have a roadmap. Little by little, I can inch along towards the day when my house will look as much like that as I can possibly make it. I'm guessing that, because of the cost, the very last things to be done will be rebuilding those three pretty chimneys and putting up roof cresting again. Happily for me, the most dramatic change is also probably the least expensive: tearing off that cedar shingle siding to let the clapboards breathe again cost me a whopping 65 bucks. That was the cost of getting rid of all the bags of debris. The caulk and wood filler to repair all those holes and cracks were given to me by a neighbor. And, as you well remember, the labor was free. It doesn't get any better than that. Or maybe it does...a couple packages of hollyhock seeds are about $2.50.

(Image from burpee.com)

Sunday, March 29, 2009

A Stuart Smalley Moment

I'm feeling a bit like Stuart Smalley today. Remember him, the self-help guy on "Saturday Night Live"? Played by Al Franken, his tagline was, "I'm good enough, I'm smart enough, and doggone it, people like me!" The second Lexington Landmarks article about my house was a big ole dose of affirmation for me, and I haven't quite recovered from it yet. Read for yourself:

"Last week we looked at one of Lexington's beautiful smaller homes. The James Crawford Kelly home is a fine example of a small victorian frame dwelling so typical of its period - this house was built in 1906. At that time decoration was the mode, and this house exhibits many decorative "gingerbread" features. The three tall central chimneys were expanded at the top and flaunted some fancy brickwork. A cast-iron railing of an airy, decorative design dressed up both the central ridge of the roof, zig-zagging up and back and following the sharply curving lines of the roof, as well as the top of the quaint four-sided boxed bay that projects from the front facade. This cast iron trim is calling "cresting" and even extends across the top of the porch!

In the old picture, wooden shingles very clearly adorn the roof. The porch itself has large turned posts with a banister with turned balustrades. Another decorative turned panel runs just below the roof guttering. Some fancy shinglework, called "imbricated" shingles, can be seen on top of the hipped bay as well as over the slightly hipped porch roof. Although we can't see how the wooden clapboarding has been painted, we can tell that the trim was in a darker color than the light background. To really top off all these details, the boxed bay features two simple art glass windows. Inside these windows can be seen the familiar wooden shutters - these shutters were the modern way to save energy - in 1906! Outside, a brick sidewalk leads to the front door and around the side. A fancy white picket fence separates Mr. Kelly from his neighbors on both sides.

The Kelly House has been "modernized" some but is still basically a lovely little house. With the addition of wood shingle siding much of the house's exterior detail and crisp, clean lines were lost. Lexington Landmarks would like to see more of Lexington's quiet, quaint houses restored to their original beauty."

Alongside the article was this photo, showing the house as it looked in 1980. Twenty-six years later, on the day I bought the house, it looked almost exactly the same. On the photo someone has neatly written their restoration recommendations. They're hard to see in my photo of the photo, so here's what they say: REMOVE SIDING PAINT CLAPBOARD IN LOVELY COLORS!, REPLACE PORCH POSTS & TRIM, PICKET FENCE IS GONE, ART GLASS IS STILL HERE, REPLACE IMBRICATED SHINGLES, REPLACE CHIMNEYS, REPLACE WOOD SHINGLES, RESTORE CRESTING.
I'd say I have a pretty good start on that list. Now you can understand why I'm having a Stuart Smalley moment, right?

Saturday, March 28, 2009

The WOW!! Factor

I thought I might be in trouble Thursday afternoon. In the space of about an hour, the following people drove past my house very slowly: Mr. Maib, the City Codes inspector; Bob H, my neighbor and the president of the Historic Preservation Commission; and lastly, the Lexington police chief. They all cruised by at almost a walking pace, windows rolled down, staring. Although I filled out the HPC building permit application--which is now called, ahem, an Application for Certificate of Appropriateness--I didn't turn it in. Uh-oh. So when Bob H stopped in the middle of the street the second time by and hollered, "Hey, Jaynie!" I thought it might be time to pay the piper. Instead, he said our down-the-street neighbor, Roger, had come across an interesting article in the Lexington Historical Association's archives and had given it to Bob H to give to me. He apologized for not having done so sooner and said he'd get it to me in the next couple of days. When I came home tonight from supper with my mom, my son and his fiancee, this photocopied picture from the Lexington News of June 12, 1980 had been poked through my mail slot:

Oh. My. Gosh. WOW!! Oh my gosh!! I actually screamed when I saw it. And then I got tears in my eyes when I read the article with it, one of an apparent series called Lexington Landmarks, which I will include here in its entirety:

"This week we are going to look at a lovely little Victorian Queen Anne cottage at 1616 South Street. We are lucky to have obtained a little of the personal history of the house, along with an old photograph. The house has been changed quite a bit through the years, mostly through remodelings that have damaged its architectural character. Next week we will look closely at these alterations and suggest ways that the original architectural features could be restored.

The gentleman standing so proudly in front of his immaculate home is James Crawford Kelly. The year is 1906. It's uncertain as to which he was more proud--his house or his horse Jack who features so prominently in the picture! Posing on the beautiful gingerbread porch strung with pink rambler roses and yellow and dark red hollyhocks are Marie Duncan Kelly [Mr. Kelly's wife] in the rocking chair, Maggie May Kelly [the grand-daughter they raised] and Marion Kelly [their youngest son] on the steps, Faye Curtis [probably a relative of Willa Curtis, their son-in-law] standing to the right and Annie Fields [unknown relationship] sitting before her.

To the rear of the house was a stable--it seems Mr. Kelly had a penchant for racing horses. Mr. Kelly originally owned farms in Bates City and Oak Grove, which he eventually gave to his sons Hiram and Aubrey Kelly. After moving to Lexington, the Kellys lived first on Lover's Lane (or Aull's Lane) and later moved to 1616 South Street to be near the Christian Church. Mr. Kelly owned a livery stable at 11th and Franklin near Young's Livery Stable. It burned twice, believed to be arson. He was an active member of the Lafayette County Agriculture Society, the Grange, the Old Man's Club, and the Vigilante Society! He later owned the Kelly Meat Market and Grocery Store at 19th and Franklin.

Mr. Kelly was an elder in the Christian Church and a devout Christian; he and his wife Katie [sic] died there at ages 87 and 83. He is buried in Macpelah [sic] Cemetery, having bought the first lot from Waddell, just across from the old bridge (now gone) over the railroad track.

The James C. Kelly House is just one example of the fascinating heritage our smaller houses in Lexington possess--a heritage and history that is simply waiting for someone to discover and write about. Houses are reflections of people--they are living reminders to all of us of Lexington's enterprising citizenry. This citizenry had a pride in their houses, and in their city. Knowing this information about the house makes it even more valuable to us! Next week we will have a picture of the house today; we will discuss some of its architectural features, and how the house could be restored to its original beauty--a beauty that Mr. Kelly and his family wanted everyone to recognize when they proudly posed for this picture in 1906."

How cool is that?! Tomorrow, I'll share with you the other article.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Kellapalooza at Standstill

Darnit. It's raining. And it's 31 degrees outside. And Kellapalooza's at a total standstill. It's downright depressing. Good thing I found this photo on Eric Hegwer's blog to cheer me up. He has another photo that makes my feet hurt (scroll down on that page; you'll know it when you see it) but this one makes me happy. I love lilies. And blue skies. Sigh.Anyhoo...This is not good weather for working outside on the front porch. It's not good weather for hauling all the demo debris from the front yard to its hiding place in the corner of the back yard, either, but we did it for Leona. Leona is my across-the-street neighbor, a sweet little old lady who last summer watched over me from her front window whenever I climbed onto my roof. "In case you fall and you're knocked unconscious," she said. She put her house up for sale last week because she's moving to California, and I thought she might appreciate it if my front yard didn't look like Fred Sanford's. Anything for the mother-in-law of Wally Cleaver.

If my cousin Tim, a UPS guy, was as considerate and conscientious as Mare and me, he'd have delivered my new sink before noon so we could work on the kitchen. The domino effect, you know--we have to have the sink here before cutting a hole in the countertops for it, and we have to have the countertops in place before measuring for the built-in cutting board and putting up the wall panels. But Tim didn't show up with the new sink, and once I read the weather forecast to Mare, he decided he'd better get back home. (He's been sleeping on my couch the past two nights to save him a four-hour round trip every day.) They're predicting sleet, freezing rain and snow later today. Saturday's forecast is even worse: more freezing rain, thundersnow possible, 90% chance of snow showers with 5 to 9 inches of accumulation, areas of blowing snow and low visibility.

So...with all of that, Kellapalooza's on hold until Thursday morning. Darnit.

Kellapalooza, Day 2 (Thanks for the new title, NV!)

When I saw the word Kellapalooza in NV's comment to my last post, I cracked up. So from henceforth and forever more, the porch deconstruction/reconstruction series will be known as KELLAPALOOZA! (Thanks, NV, for the cool new title. Wish it'd been a contest so I could send you some fab prize.)

So...Day Two of Kellapalooza dawned pretty early, with a breakfast of ham and eggs at the truck stop since access to my lower kitchen cabinets, the oven, the dishwasher, one basin of the sink and most of the kitchen table is blocked by building materials, countertop sections, and tools.

Mare: Where'd you put my glass of juice?
Me: It's over there on the table between the Skilsaw and the Makita drill, behind the boxed-up faucet. Never mind, let's just go to Pilot. [assuming a damsel-in-distress pose] I can't scramble eggs in these conditions!

After breakfast we bundled up (it was in the low 50s this morning) and headed outside to survey the front porch situation. This is what we faced:

Me: I think we should have a moment of reflection or pray or something since we're killing the porch today.

Mare: Farewell, Porchy, we hardly knew ye. There. I'm done.

Me [solemnly, and with apologies to Donald Rumsfeld]: Today we go to war with the porch we have, in order to build the porch we would wish to have. Okay. I'm good.

The first cut is the deepest, they say. In this case, it was a vivisection. First we tore the shingles off the bottom part of the porch, then Mare removed the fake wrought-iron post by using a Sawzall to cut it in half and then beating it to the ground with a big hammer.

Me: Why don't you just take it out all in one piece?

Mare: I don't want to take the chance that someone else might use this thing on their own house.

Here, he's measuring the height of the opening for the first new porch post. Actually, he's pretending to measure the height of the opening, since he already did it once and I forgot to take a picture.
And here, he's squaring up the post just right. Look how bright and shiny and pretty that post is, especially compared to those ugly things on either side of it.

The first brand-new porch post, all anchored and toe-nailed in place. Mare's already removed the faux-wrought-iron post on the far left (and thrown it out into the yard), taken the screen door off its hinges, and knocked out the big piece of plywood in the section behind him and to the left. Note the pile of debris in the front yard. What was I doing? Well...I was hopping along the sidewalk with joy during all of this! Oh yeah, and pulling shingles off the top part of the porch to discover I have clapboards underneath. Clapboards instead of plywood--yay!

Two and a half porch posts in place! (The half one's there on the far left.)

And all the shingles gone from the front of the house!

Me: What are you doing in this photo?
Mare: Apparently I'm showin them my good side.

Progress marches around the corner.

The Porch Elf at work on the very last half-post. (He doesn't know I called him that, and let's just let it be our little secret, k?)
All three and a half and a half porch posts in place.

Something occurred to me as I took this photo: For the first time since 1971, the front of the house is completely without ugly cedar shingles. That is a very good feeling. Even considering all the work we have left to do--and right now, honestly, I'm too tired to consider it even briefly--it's still a very good feeling. Now if the rain and snow forecasted for Friday will just hold off even a few hours....

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Kelly House Lollapalooza, Day 1

I promised an update "tomorrow"...and 2:30 a.m. is technically Thursday, right? You'd think I'd be sound asleep after being awake for so long, but my nocturnal habits win out after a five-hour nap. Anyway, here's what happened on Wednesday...But first, a bit more about what happened on Tuesday. After Mare said he could come back the next morning, I pointed out that I didn't have to be back at work until Saturday night, and we quickly decided that Wednesday, Thursday and Friday would be a three-day building event--sort of the Lollapalooza of the Kelly House. So, without further digression, I bring you: Kelly House Lollapalooza, Day One:

Mare showed up, as promised, shortly after nine a.m. (It should be noted that this may be the first time in the decade-and-a-half that I've known him that he's been on time.) And true to his penny-pinching self, the first thing he announced was, "I just saved you 79 bucks!" He pointed outside. I looked. Parked there in the alley was a shiny red Chevy pickup, courtesy of our friend Amy. "Ask and ye shall receive", remember? I was very glad she loaned us the truck, as Mare's vow to carry home the supplies on his back before paying a delivery charge would really have slowed down the whole project.

Mare produced a tape measure from the pocket of his coat and walked into the kitchen to double-check the dimensions of the countertops. "That tape measure looks just like mine, " I said. "That's because it is yours," he said. "I accidentally took it home with me last night." He quickly drew out a little diagram of the kitchen, with measurements noted, and then strode through the house and out the front door.

Me: Uhhh...the kitchen's back here...
Mare: Yeah, but the porch is out here. How well do you get along with the neighbors?
Me: [apprehensively] Really well, why?
Mare: Cause I'm gonna stand on their porch railing to measure the brackets over there. You might wanna call em if you think they're the kind of folks who'd push a stranger off a porch railing.
Me: [pushing buttons quickly on the phone] Um, hi Floyd, this is Jaynie from next door...

Then we drove to Lowe's, where the fun and the despair started. Our shopping list: five 5"x5" porch posts, lumber for porch brackets, an 11' section of stock countertop, a 6' section of stock countertop, miter bolts, build-up kit, a kitchen sink, a kitchen faucet, and something to replace the fugly faux brick on the kitchen wall above the countertops. Everything and the kitchen sink!

You know that happy, purposeful feeling you have when you start a long-awaited project? How you can just barely contain your enthusiasm? How you imagine what the finished project will look like, and it makes you want to skip through the store? All that ended about 30 seconds after we arrived in the kitchen department. You see, stock countertops come in the following lengths: 4-foot, 6-foot, 8-foot and 10-foot. The longest leg of my L-shaped countertops is 10'7". Uh-oh. Mare said, "Now don't start bitchin and kickin things!" (Does he know me, or what?) "Just go ask the man how much custom laminate countertops will be. We can do the porch this week and the kitchen when the countertops come in." So I asked. And the answer is $438.35. Stock countertops are $161.00. I studied my Converse for a long moment, looking for my heart, which I was sure had sunk into my shoes. "Now you can start bitchin and kickin things," Mare offered. So I did. And it didn't make me feel any better. My dreams of a pretty kitchen were shattered like the fluorescent light bulb one of the cats managed to yank out of the bathroom light fixture while I was at work.

Mare walked over to the lumber department and I trailed dejectedly behind. More despair soon followed.

Mare: I got more bad news for ya. I forgot the little piece of paper with the bracket measurements on it and now I can't remember what they were to know how many brackets I can get out of each board. Do you remember what I said they were?
Me: You didn't say.
Mare: I did too.
Me: You did not.
Mare: I did too--or maybe I didn't. Who're you callin?
Me: Floyd. He can measure em for us again.
But Floyd did not answer the phone. And neither did Bob-across-the-street, nor Travis-behind-Bob. I turned around to tell Mare this and saw him standing in the middle of the aisle with an 8-foot-long porch post balanced on his shoulder and one arm stuck out in front of him as if he were just about to throw a javelin. Turns out those porch posts are hollow in the middle and don't weigh nearly as much as they look like they would. So we bought five porch posts, drove the 34 miles home, and unloaded the porch posts. Then we walked up to the Mexican restaurant to have some lunch and I called my mom to fill her in on the countertop misfortune.

Mom: Well, why can't you just buy the 10-foot section of countertop, cut a few more inches off of it on the stove side, and have Mare make you a built-in cutting board to fill the space between the edge of the stove and the edge of the countertop?
Me: Mare, my mom's a genius--listen to this.
(I handed him the phone and she told him her idea. He listened, he nodded, and then he hung up the phone and grinned.)
Mare: Bolt that burrito--we're goin back to Lowe's!

The guy in the kitchen department was a little surprised to see us again but agreed it would work. We loaded up the countertops, some plastic panels that look like tin ceiling to cover the faux brick (shout out to NV from This D*mn House, who told us such a thing existed in a post some weeks ago), a beautiful faucet in an oil-rubbed bronze finish, and the lumber for the brackets. I'd found a sink on the Lowe's website that I wanted, but wasn't able to order it online so I talked to Steve the Kitchen Guy about ordering it since it's not available in any area Lowe's store. (Apparently, no one wants a single-basin white sink anymore.) Online, it's $158. He quoted me a price of $198.75. Huh? I tried to get him to come down on the price, to no avail. So on the way home, I called Home Depot. They had a similar sink for $146 which could be shipped to my house overnight for $10. Done. Ten minutes later, Home Depot called me back. It seems the $10 shipping is good only on items 20 pounds or less, and my sink weighs 22 pounds, bringing the shipping to $30. I objected. HD Guy says there's nothing he can do because UPS sets the shipping rates. I know this is not the case. So I pointed out to HD Guy that he was mistaken because just the day before I had received, via UPS, two bottles of wine with a shipping charge of $1. I told him (without laughing) how much I liked shopping at Home Depot and that if I didn't get a good deal there, I'd just have to go to Lowe's. He gave me $20 off the price of the sink. Bwah ha ha ha!! (That was my evil laugh.)

Yesterday we bought. Today we build!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

60 Seconds of Shakespeare

As I write this, I've been awake for nearly 30 hours. If I tried to tell you about today, it would sound something like this video. Too much Gevalia Latte; not enough sleep. I'll tell you all about it tomorrow. But now, "to sleep, perchance to dream..."

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Update: Logistical Problems

Apparently all that's needed for Mare to show up, tools in hand, is for me to write about his absence...

This afternoon I was sleeping in my warm bed (it's suddenly gotten chilly here again) when once again I heard the infernal pounding on my back door. "Shut up, Punkie," I said to the barking dog, "Nothing's on fire--It's just Mare." And so it was. Fifteen minutes before my alarm was set to go off. Don't you just hate that? So we sat there at the dining room table, I in my blue fleece jammies with cavorting polar bears printed on them and he in his patched Levi's and ancient sweatshirt, and made plans.

What about that permit application? I wanted to know. He did take it off the back door, but can't remember what he did with it after that. A phone call to City Hall proved it's not there. I said I'd go pick up another one in the morning. "Heck with it," Mare said grinning, "let's just ask for forgiveness instead of permission." We're filing the permit application tomorrow--no, really, we are--but I think HPC just met yesterday and therefore won't meet again until April 20th, so just like the shingle-ripping project this one will be approved after-the-fact.

When do you want to start this? I asked. "I can be back tomorrow morning around nine," he said. I almost gave myself whiplash jerking my head up from balancing my checkboook to stare at him after that answer. But tomorrow morning it is. Never mind that I'm working all night tonight and get home from work about 8 a.m. There's progress to be made!

The porch first or the kitchen? I wondered aloud. This one, I should've known the answer to already. "If it rains, the kitchen. If it's dry, the porch," Mare said, as if I wasn't quite bright. I'll give him that one.

Now this next bit is a little secret between Milah and me...she'll know just what I mean, but the rest of you will have to wait. I was making a list of supplies we'd need so that only one trip to Lowe's (34 miles away) is necessary and I noticed Mare's attention beginning to wander to a box on the dining room table. The edge of something interesting, something iron, was poking out of the top of it and Mare couldn't resist unpacking it.

Mare: This is awesome--where'd ya get it?
Me: Never mind about that. Focus.
Mare: I can rewire this, ya know, paint it black and buy a glass globe for it...this is yours, right? You're not gonna sell it on eBay or something?
Me: It's mine. It was a very generous gift. But can we get to that in a minute? Mare?

He was gone, striding into the entryway with the gift held above his head.

Mare: We can take down this crappy thing...look, there's an outlet there, that means there's hot wires in the wall. I can put a switch in...this'll look great in here!!
Me: [laughing] Yes, I know, it's perfect. You really can rewire it? And it'll have a wall switch? That'd be so cool. I love it. I couldn't believe that generosity...Hey! You're distracting me--we gotta call Lowe's!

So the gift was temporarily wrapped up in newspapers and placed back into the box from whence it came...for now.

The Lowe's list was made, with only one little unpleasant moment when I foolishly put the Lowe's guy on speakerphone at just the moment he said the delivery charge is $79. "Seventy-nine dollars?!" Mare shrieked. "Why, I'll carry the stuff home on my back before I pay that!" I pay that, Mare, I pay that. That's what I wanted to say, but what I really said was, politely, "No way is a ten-foot section of countertop gonna fit in my car....and if we're having that delivered, we might as well have the rest of it delivered, too. We have to tear up some stuff first anyway." He glared. I scowled. He glared. I channeled John F. Kennedy during the Cuban Missile Crisis and leaned across the table, unblinking. He backed down like Khrushchev. "That's just fine," I told Lowe's-man sweetly. I felt like JFK, Bob Vila, and She-Ra all rolled into one. We'll see if I still feel that way tomorrow afternoon....

Logistical Problems

Guess how much work got done on the house last week? None! Well...almost none. Nothing significant anyway. I have a couple of very good reasons for this: A) the absence of the elfin ex-boyfriend and B) the absence of the needed construction permit. As you might guess, A is directly related to B.

Mare, the elfin ex, was simply born in the wrong century. He is elfin because, at 5'3" and barely 130 pounds, he's much smaller than most modern men--but almost average-sized for a man of the Civil War era. He lives in a log house he built himself that has neither electricity nor true running water (well water and a hand pump is not true running water no matter what Mare says) where he has no phone. No phone, I say. Of any kind. He has never, in the 15 years that I've known him, owned a wrist watch. (I specify wrist watch because he does own a pocket watch.) When he needs a car, he borrows one from his 83-year-old mother. He lives a two-hour drive away from me. You can see how all of this might cause some logistical problems with the building of the porch....

Two weeks ago, when last he was here, I asked Mare to please come back on Thursday the 19th and/or Friday the 20th to do some preliminary porch work and to help me fill out the HPC permit application. (I live in a historic district so any exterior work has to be pre-approved by the city's Historic Preservation Commission. Part of the application involves submitting a scale drawing of the proposed construction, something I am wholly incapable of doing.) In the meantime, some things happened which caused me to be away from my house for most of the daylight hours of Thursday and Friday. So I called his mother and tried to leave a message with her explaining the situation. His mother cannot hear. This did not go well.

Me: Mrs. S? It's Jaynie. Is Mare home?
Mrs. S: Jessie? Is that you? [Jessie is Mare's ex-wife.]
Me: No, it's JAYNIE. From LEX--ING--TON. Is MARE HOME?
Mrs. S: I can't hear you, Jessie.
Me: IS...MARE...HOME?!!
Mrs. S: Who?
Me: MARE! Is he HOME?!
Mrs. S: Well I can't see his house from here, Jessie.

On Thursday morning I carefully filled out the first half of the HPC application and taped it to the back door of my house. Along with a pen and a note containing my cell phone number. Thursday afternoon all three items were gone. Did they blow away? Did Mare come over, fill out the application, and turn it in to City Hall? When I left Friday morning, I taped another note to the door explaining my whereabouts and apologizing for my absence. No word from Mare.

On Saturday morning I was sound asleep when I heard pounding on my back door. Not knocking, pounding. The kind of pounding meant to rouse you from a sound sleep and notify you of dire news. So I leaped out of bed and ran to the back door. There stood Mare. I flung open the door.

Mare: You sleepin?! It's almost noon!
Me: No...it's...[looking at the clock]...only 7:45.
Mare: Oh. Well, it's noon somewhere. Did you borrow my chain saw?
Me: Hunh? Chain saw?
Mare: The chain saw of mine at Amy's house. [Amy is a friend of ours for whom he's doing some major construction work]
Me: At Amy's? I didn't know--hey, did you come get that paperwork?
Mare: What paperwork?
Me: The HPC paperwork.
Mare: Paperwork? We don't need no stinkin' paperwork! [Laughing.] Your cat ran out the door.
Me: Catch the cat, please. [sigh] The paperwork for the HPC, Mare. The paperwork I asked you to fill out, the paperwork I taped to the back door, the paperwork I must have before we start building the porch--
Mare: Here's your cat. I'm sorry you didn't borrow my chain saw. I gotta go talk to the police.

I have not seen him since. Anyone else would despair. But not me. Nope, I'm just scraping painted-over wallpaper off the entryway and doing surreptitious work on the interior side of the porch. Mare will be back. On his own timetable, but he'll be back.

Friday, March 20, 2009

In Memoriam

From kmbc.com:

"ODESSA, Mo. -- Funeral arrangements have been made for an Odessa firefighter killed in the line of duty.

Lt. William "Roger" Vorwark, 49, died of a heart attack while working a grass fire on Saturday.

Visitation for Vorwark will be Thursday at the First Baptist Church of Odessa, 100 W. Highway 00. It opens to the public at 4 p.m. A firefighters walk-through is scheduled at 8 p.m.

The funeral will be held at Odessa R-7 High School at 10 a.m. Friday The Odessa Fire and Rescue District will proceed in a walking procession to the engine house where the rest of the procession will join. Services will conclude at the Odessa Cemetery 201 E. Main St.

Memorials have been established in lieu of flowers to the FFAM Memorial Museum, 503 E. Nifong Blvd. Suite 1, Box 212, Columbia, MO 65201, or Odessa Fire and Rescue Association. P.O. Box 345, Odessa, MO 64076.

Additional information is posted at www.mofirefuneral.org."

Godspeed, LT.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Thankful Thursday

I should have been sleeping in the wee hours of Thursday morning, but instead I was reading the newest Houseblogs entries. When I came across Aimee's Petite Maison and her Thankful Thursday list, I thought it was such a good idea that I decided to participate, too. The idea is that you think of five things, big or small, for which you are thankful.

Warmer weather. Although rain's in the forecast for today, at least the days of single-digit temperatures are behind us.

A friend who knows my faults and is my friend anyway. I slept through my alarm clock yesterday and missed going to lunch with a good friend. Today I have an early appointment at the hospital and the same friend called me this morning to make sure I didn't oversleep again.

Crocus and daffodils. I noticed that the little purple crocus by the front walk are blooming again, and the daffodils in the back yard have fat buds on them. Flowers that bloom with no attention from me make me happy.

CitriStrip. Later today, I'll be back to removing painted-over wallpaper. Getting the layers of paint off first with CitriStrip makes this a much easier job.

Breakfast at Country Kitchen. I'm starving and I can't eat until after my CT scan. I'm having me some ham and eggs as soon as I can!

Monday, March 16, 2009


"Myself." That was one of my first words. "Myself." As in, leave me alone I can do this myself. All by myself. No help from you. At the age of three, I dressed myself, fed myself, bathed myself. Any attempt to help me resulted in my fat little-girl arm fending off that helping hand. Nearly forty years later, I haven't changed much. Remember last summer's shingle-ripping? "Myself." Oh, my mom helped a little. She would've helped more if I'd let her. But she asked, "Can I help?" and of course, I answered, "That's okay, I can do it myself." One day last fall, towards the end of the shingles, Mom asked me how I'd gotten so much done in one day. "Larry helped me, " I said. Mom's brows arched. "Oh?" she said. She ran into Larry at the pub later and he laughingly told her, "I don't ask her if I can help. I just do it. Myself, you know."

So my mother tucked that information away in her sharp little mind for later...much later. Yesterday afternoon, in fact. We were standing in my kitchen and I was bagging up freshly-baked cookies for her to take home. "You cook so much," Mom said, "that it's too bad you have a kitchen you don't like."

Caught off-guard, I confessed, "I like my kitchen. I do. I've always wanted a yellow-and-red-kitchen, you know. I like the color I painted the walls, and my red microwave, and that wallpaper I picked out...that I really need to buy..." I sighed. "It's just this damn sink with all the finish worn off, and the broken faucet and spray arm, and these ugly polka-dotted countertops I hate. Oh yeah, and that fake brick on the backsplash. I hate that, too."

I handed her the bag of cookies. She set it on the table behind her, turned to me and raised her hands chest-high like a cop stopping traffic. "I am giving you some money--" she started.

"Mom--" I protested.

She raised her hands again, pushed away my words. "I am giving you some money. I am. Enough for some decent countertops, a new sink and faucet, and that wallpaper. Mare will help you put in the countertops. The rest you can do," she laughed, "all by yourself."

She took her cookies and left. I have been ambushed! By an 81-year-old woman and my elfin ex-boyfriend!

And those cookies? Here's the recipe. So you can make them. Yourself.

1/2 lb. (2 sticks) butter, softened
1 c. firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 c. granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
1 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. salt (optional)
3 c. oats, either quick or old-fashioned, uncooked
1 c. dried apricots, diced
1 c. white chocolate chips
Heat oven to 350. Beat together butter & sugars until creamy. Add eggs & vanilla; beat well. Add combined flour, baking soda, cinnamon & salt; mix well. Stir in oats, apricots & white chocolate chips; mix well. Drop by spoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheet (I use a Silpat). Bake 10 to 12 minutes or until light golden brown. Cool 2 minutes on cookie sheet; remove to wire rack to cool completely. Will keep, covered, for 3 or 4 days.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Eggs Feed My Addiction

In the sometimes daisy-chain way of the blogosphere, this is how I decided what to post today: Yesterday Why S? at The House on Red Hill wrote about her cow creamer collection because Julia at Hooked On Houses was having a "What Are You Hooked On?" party, so I read HoH and decided to party with them. (Even though, officially, it's not Friday anymore...I hope they don't mind me bending the rules a bit....)

I am hooked on Fenton glass eggs. You are probably familiar with the Fenton Art Glass Company and have seen their hen-on-a-nest covered boxes, their vases, glass baskets or the little animals they make. But for some reason, it's the eggs that I'm hooked on. Chunks of solid glass about 3" high, usually limited to no more than 2,500 of each design, and no two exactly alike because of the hand-painted designs and variations in the shading of the glass. It fascinates me that someone can make these. I've been collecting them for about 15 years. Whenever I go on vacation, I have to stop in at gift shops and antique stores to see if they have any Fenton eggs I don't have. Once in a while, I'll buy one that I already have, but I don't mind. You can see why I might make that mistake! Oh, and those glass colonial ladies you see in the photos? They're made by the Boyd Glass Company, and I'm hooked on them, too, although not as much as the eggs. Eggs feed my addiction. Hee hee. But I'm not alone, as a visit to Hooked On Houses will show you!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

"Oh,That Door!"

When I went before the Historic Preservation Commission last summer to get their official approval of the shingle-eradication project, one of the members asked if she could come over and see the house. As soon as I opened the front door, she squealed, "Oh, that door!" It is a gorgeous door, and of course it's the first thing people notice when they come in. It's the best feature of the house, I think.

My house was built sometime after 1887 and before 1897 and, as far as I know, this is the original front door. When I moved in, it looked dry and lusterless, so I went to my friend Steve at Blackthorn Antiques and asked him what to do. He sold me a bottle of Feed & Wax. Perhaps I underestimated how dry the wood was. The door sucked up that stuff like a fat kid does a milkshake. I could almost hear the slurping. The door obviously needs some more help, and I need some more advice from Steve.

The top half of the door... (Sorry about the flash.)

And...the bottom half of the door. That mail slot is obviously of a much newer vintage than the door. I'd like to replace it with a reproduction Eastlake mail slot instead, but...you know, budgetary constraints. Above it is an old turnkey doorbell that I just love. If you look closely, you can see where the backplate on the doorbell was re-oriented from vertical to horizontal to make room for the mail slot.

A closer view of the top part of the door. I'm not sure if the etched glass in the door is the original glass. I've seen similar doors with a large clear pane of glass bordered with small panes (lites) of stained glass. Since my front parlor windows are like that, I wonder if this was, too. Mare (the restoration genius ex-boyfriend) says it's possible that this glass is replacement and that the small band of moulding around this glass was put there to compensate for the difference in the thickness of the glass. Mrs. Kenney (who lived in this house in 1946-47 when it was two apartments) doesn't recall stained glass in the front door, though that's asking a lot of her to describe the front door of a house she lived in for 18 months 60 years ago, isn't it? The pattern on the glass almost matches the flower you see here, so it might be original. Either way, I like it. It lets in light but keeps the entryway private, and I have a peephole to see who's at the front door. (It must have been tiny little Esther, the last previous owner, who had that installed. I'm 5'4" and the peephole hits me mid-sternum.)
A closer view of the bottom half of the door. (That mail slot is quite un-lovely, isn't it?) This part of the door is hidden by the current storm door, a creaky aluminum thing that's been painted white. Scrawled on the lower edge of the window panel of the storm door is WYPER, as in Charline Wyper, she who graced the house with the fugly shingles in 1971 or so. I'm just glad she didn't paint this door!
The original door hardware is intact. Steeple hinges, remarkably unpainted (at least on this half)...
And the original doorknob and backplate. Gorgeous, isn't it? (And a better view of that thirsty wood.) The other doorknob and backplate, on the interior side, looks just like this one. That curve in the upper right corner of the photo is just the edge of the bracket for the little sill under the window.

The front door is sheltered somewhat by the overhang of the porch roof, and always has been. It's protected from blowing rain now by the ugly but serviceable afore-mentioned aluminum storm door. I'd like to have a full-view storm door. Once the front porch remodel is done and the front of the house is newly painted, it will make the existing storm door look even worse. I have a plan to finance the purchase of a new storm door: I won't eat out for two months. If I didn't eat at all, I could buy the new storm door and that reproduction mail slot...hmmm....

Sunday, March 8, 2009

At Last, A Banner!

There's really not much to add to that title...except that the photo is of part of my beautiful front door and the text colors are pretty close to the paint colors on my house. (I left out the primer gray and white that the house is mostly wearing now...)

Do you like the banner?

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Evil Among Us

Do you know what that is? (Besides being a blurry photo, I mean.) That is a little bit of evil among us here at The Kelly House. That sort of brownish, greige-ish rectangle up there where the wall meets the ceiling? Old wallpaper. Very old wallpaper. Very old wallpaper that was painted over and then had wall sizing paper and another layer of wallpaper pasted over it. Evil. I stripped the vinyl wallpaper off of three walls before I found this. All this time I thought the wall sizing had been pasted straight onto the plaster walls. But you know what I plan to do about it? Nothing. That's right, I am committing wallpaper heresy which I may live to regret but I am not--am not--going to strip the walls down to bare plaster before hanging the new wallpaper in the dining room. The sizing paper is intact over 99.9% of the walls, except for this little rectangle and a square about 3"x3" about a foot below it and to the left. (Unlike in the living room and entryway, where the painted-over paper is bubbling up and peeling like sunburnt skin.) So the old wallpaper, two layers of paint, and sizing paper stays right where it is. Firmly attached to the wall. Oh I know the theory about that: the weight and moisture of another layer of paper on the wall will cause this stuff to separate from the plaster and the new wallpaper will be falling off the walls in a matter of hours. That might happen. If it does, I will cry and wail and stamp my foot and you'll hear all about it. But I'm taking my chances.

Front Porch Weather

What?! Front porch again?! Yes, yes. But this time it's not a lengthy post about construction and de-construction--although that sort of post is likely to appear again in the not-too-distant future. This time I would just like to point out that the past few days and nights have indeed been front porch weather. Thursday night I sat out on my front porch drinking wine and talking to a good friend until the wee hours of the morning. I submit to you that there are few things better than sitting on a front porch, in Missouri, in March, barefoot, talking about the Oregon-California Trail with a glass of Missouri wine in one's hand. The wind kicked up and rattled the rose bush canes against the screen, set the wind chimes tinkling, and sent so many dry leaves skittering across the street that it sounded like raindrops falling. We heard geese honking overhead, neighborhood kids playing down the street and, much later, coyotes yipping and singing in the distance. Only when we heard the whistle of what we thought was the midnight train, which turned out to be the 2 a.m. train, did we finally say our goodbyes. Front porch weather. In March.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Did I Say "Painting Weather"??

Uhhh...about that prediction that I'd be putting paint on my house today...What I didn't stop to consider was that four inches of melting snow leaves behind a lot of water. And a lot of mud. So I did this instead:

Yep, I got rid of a whole lot of the contact paper-looking wallpaper that's on the dining room walls. Riiiiip, riiiip. This stuff's much easier to take off than the painted-over wallpaper in the living room! (A little bit of which you can see through the doorway.)

We'll see what tomorrow brings.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Painting Weather

This is the view looking from my back yard down the west side of my house this evening. I might as well have taken it in black-and-white, because there's not a bit of color anywhere that I can see. But if the weather forecast is correct, this shot could be the Before half of the best Before-and-After photos I've ever posted. I have four days off this week (Wednesday through Saturday) and the forecast calls for clear weather and temperatures ranging from the high 50s to near 70. Folks, that's house-painting weather! And as my friend Derrick said, "Yeeee-hawwww!"