Friday, December 31, 2010

2010 In Review

I'm not big on to-do lists.  I can make 'em, but then something goes horribly astray, usually due to my house-related short attention span, and half the stuff on the list never gets finished.  So this past year I didn't make a to-do list.  Not even in my head.  Believe me, my little peabrain is so crammed with bits of information like which Taco Bell drive-thrus are open really late, the lyrics to "Ice Ice Baby", Martha Stewart's Bloody Mary recipe, and my third-grade teacher's name that I don't have any room for silliness like a list of projects I need to finish. 

Nevertheless, some stuff got accomplished this year.  (Click on the bolded words and you can see the original post about that project.  Blogger is cool like that.)

The interior doors got put back together.  This was necessary because some imbecile thought it would look cute to make cafe-style doors out of the original 1887 doors by sawing them in half lengthwise.  All seven of them.  (And no, I still haven't finished painting those doors.)

I bought a new ladder.  After I, um, fell off the other one onto my hiney and ended up in the emergency room.

The rest of the shingles disappeared.  After announcing that I was going to take the summer off from house projects, I discovered that I couldn't sit on the patio without feeling guilty about how ugly the back of the house looked.

The ugly fence disappeared, too.  Thanks mostly to White Trash Bob, the old fence was demolished.

And a new fence appeared.  While I was sleeping, like magic, a new fence went up.  Saint WTB works his miracles again.

I scored an awesome Hoosier.  A cabinet, not a guy from Indiana...

The dining room got papered.  Almost four years of ugly paper and disarray finally came to an end.

The foyer got de-papered.  I may or may not have told my mom the truth about why I wanted to borrow her steamer, but it made short work of the painted-over paper in the entryway.

"Stop, collaborate and listen, Ice is back with my brand new invention...."  Miss Singleton would be so proud.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

One Little Breaker

The little foyer has a couple more strips of paper...
...and a new light.

But what I really want to tell you about is this:  I might've found something even scarier than the basement--the wiring in this house.  The breaker switches are all neatly labeled and the breaker box is only 4 years old. (Long story short, when I moved in and installed my washer and dryer there was no main electrical shutoff to the house and the utility company refused to turn on the power to the house until I had a new breaker box and main shutoff installed.)  The wiring, however, dates from the 1960s or so.  I don't have any knob and tube, but the guy who put in the new breaker box said it would be a good idea to update my wiring.  Note that he said this four years ago...  Anyhow, each room is on its own circuit, and the outlets in each room are on a separate circuit.  Or so I thought.  But when I went down there Monday night to flip the breaker for the foyer, I didn't see a one labeled "foyer".  Uh-oh.  After several trips up and down the basement steps and switching three or four other breakers (including one not labeled which evidently doesn't control anything) I finally flipped the one labeled "dining room".  When I came upstairs, half the house was dark.  Uh-oh.  Turns out that one little breaker controls the dining room ceiling fixture, the front parlor ceiling fixture, the front parlor outlets, the second parlor ceiling fixture, the foyer light, the foyer outlet, the front porch light and the front porch outlet.  Yikes.   Does that seem like an awful lot of stuff on one little breaker?? 

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Christmas Mayhem

Merry Christmas y'all. Hope Mayhem doesn't come to visit.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Busy Little Foyer

Today was Foyer Day.  The baseboards got a new coat of paint.  (Actually, three coats, to cover up all the nicks and dings.  The foyer's had a hard life.)  The trim around the front door and around the door going into the front parlor got painted, too.  A broken piece of wood frame around a transom window got repaired and painted.  

And then...and then...

And then I hung up one strip of wallpaper.   Yes, I know, the pattern's a bit busy.  But there really isn't much wall space in here (a 6'x8' room with three doors and a window) and it's not a room where folks are going to hang out for long, so I think  it works.  Besides, the wallpaper's a nod to the original, which as far as I can tell from the ghost-marks on the plaster was a very small trellis pattern with bunches of flowers or something here and there.  I thought Mrs. Kelly might like it.  I'm all about making her happy so she doesn't start her knocking on the doors again.  

Bare Little Foyer

This heap of wallpaper on the floor...
(and here you can see how truly bad the floor looks)
and the steamer up on the ladder...
Can only mean one thing...

Yep.  The foyer walls are finally bare.

And it occurred to me as I snapped these photos that the last time the walls were plain plaster like this must have been shortly after the house was built in the fall of 1887.  I hope Mrs. Kelly's ghost approves of the new wallpaper. 

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Poor Little Foyer

Poor little foyer.  It's such a small room, just 6 feet wide and 8 feet long, the smallest room in the house.  Poor homely little foyer, with nothing in it at all.  Poor neglected little foyer, still waiting three years later for someone to come along and steam off the rest of the painted-over wallpaper.  Buck up, little foyer. It's high time for a makeover.  The foyer was designed to be a welcoming little room--walk in the front door and you're facing the door to the second parlor; to the right is a tall window that lets in lots of light; to the left is the door to the front parlor.  Those doors would have been closed in cold weather like this to keep drafts out of the rest of the house.  Originally there was wallpaper in the little foyer, wallpaper that had a trellis pattern on it judging from the ghosts of the design left on the plaster.  That wallpaper's long gone, replaced with the pinky-tan wallpaper with brown roses that's probably from the 1940s or so.  That wallpaper wouldn't be so bad, but someone painted over it with a sickly pale blue that didn't even cover the roses.  So that has to go.  Unlike the two parlors, there was no picture rail in here, maybe because with three doors and a window there's not much wall space.  It looks like the original wallpaper was all one design, baseboard to ceiling, because there's no evidence of another wallpaper or of a chair rail that might have divided the walls into the tripartite style that was popular about the time the Kellys built this house.  So wallpaper it will have again.  A pretty wallpaper, with flowers and butterflies and birds.  Pretty, but not too precious.  A little busy, maybe, but that's fine for a room everyone's just passing through. 

Before I can hang that pretty new wallpaper, though, I have to get the rest of the old yucky wallpaper off the walls.  I spent a couple of hours in there Monday with a steamer and got as high as the steamer would reach.  Tuesday I'll put the steamer on an old chair to get up another couple of feet.  Any higher will have to wait for the ladder shelf to get here from the folks at Little Giant.  In the meantime, I can paint baseboard and trim.  Poor little has a lot of trim.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Cheapie Shades

Window treatments are a problem for me.  I know what I don't like, but finding something that I do like and can live with isn't always easy.  Part of it is that I have too many choices.  I go to the stores and stand there, slack-jawed, staring at all the fabrics and colors and getting increasingly confused.  Part of it is that my idea of what I do want is usually something like "I'll know it when I see it". 

After almost two years of having nothing on the dining room windows but sheers, I ended up with this:

(In real life the drapes don't look quite so much like wrapping paper.)
I really need to take the steamer to those wrinky curtains...Anyhow, what's there now is pretty much the antithesis of what was there before, a gigantic cornice about two feet high that stuck way out from the wall and was upholstered in light blue and moss green velvet with gold and green gimp braid, above balloon valances also of velvet, yards and yards of velvet drapes with giant gold plastic sunflower tiebacks, light green sheers, and roller shades in apple green.  Ick.  Much too much. 

Until last week, I just had sheers and drapes up there, but that let in too much light and too much of the view of my neighbor's side porch.  While I was looking for old-fashioned fabric roller shades with scalloped edges, I somehow came across this:

That's General Grant's house in Galena, Illinois.  I fell in love with those roller shades (and everything else in the room, too) but couldn't find any like them.  So I made a cheaped-out version of them myself.  See?

Those are El Cheapo plastic roller shades from Wal-Mart, retailing at $5 per shade.  (I think the actual brand name is Magic Fit, and it's a subsidiary of Levolor.)  They come in plain white.   That design on the shade I did myself.  I traced an element of the wallpaper onto a piece of plain stencil plastic, tediously cut it out with a utility knife, taped it onto the shade with painter's tape, and then colored in the stencil with a Sharpie paint marker in Metallic Gold.  Although the shades are white, once they're covered by the pale gold sheers they don't look so stark. 
General Grant's house it ain't, but I think it works.  For now.

Since then, my faithful reader Karen Anne has told me about the Ann Wallace website, which sells fabric roller shades--exactly what I was looking for.  They also carry a variety of Arts & Crafts stencils, too.  Beautiful stuff on that website, and I will probably upgrade to the nicer fabric shades with the scalloped edges.  I won't feel bad doing so since I have less than 30 bucks (including shades, hardware, stencil blank and paint marker) in the cheapie shades I DIY'd.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Natural Forces

I had planned to show y'all the roller shades I DIY'd for the dining room, but I cannot seem to find my camera in the wreckage and chaos of my house. So instead, I'll share one of the songs that kept me sane (at least partially) during the long nightmare of papering the dining room.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Crazier Than Average

I strongly suspect that my household is crazier than average.  Not just because I live here (and I do believe my insanity has been well-documented over the past four years) but because I share my house with four cats and a dog who are also crazy. 

Take, for example, my decision to remove the hideous chandelier from the dining room and replace it with a new one.  Most people could accomplish this, I reckon, in about an hour.  Not me.  Three hours, two Woodchucks, animal-herding that should've been filmed so I could later appear on Letterman, numerous bad swears, a trip to WTB's garage, and I was done. 

First of all, everyone knows that before you begin any electrical work, you have to shut off the power to that part of the house.  For me, that involves corralling four cats and a dog who don't particularly tolerate each other well into one room so that I can access the breaker box in the scary basement via a heavy trap door in the back porch floor.  An intelligent person might first check to see that she was not locking the animals in a room containing items she might later need, such as a screwdriver and a cell phone.  I am not that person.  It was only after all five of them were in the bedroom, snarling and wailing, that I remembered the screwdriver.  So I opened the door, retrieved the screwdriver, snatched up one of the escaping cats (Louis), tossed him back in the bedroom, and slammed the door.  Mean Little Marie regarded me balefully from atop the kitchen table.  I grabbed her, opened the bedroom door, dropped her on the bed, and almost shut the door on Libbi as she ran out.  Picked up Libbi, opened the door again, spied my cellphone on the floor, shoved Libbi into the room, blocked Marie's escape attempt as I snatched up the phone, and slammed the door again. 

I called my momma to let her know that I'd be descending into the scary basement and later climbing a ladder, located the appropriate breaker, flipped it off (hee hee...flipped it off...hee hee) and took down the old chandelier without too much trouble.  But when I tried to hang the new chandelier, I discovered that the bolt that goes into the outlet box was too short.  So I did what I always do when I run into trouble with the house and I called White Trash Bob.  He said I should come over because he has a whole drawer of lamp parts and surely he had something that would work.  Now I ask, you, who has a whole drawer of spare lamp parts, including a bolt that's just the right length?  No one but WTB, that's who.  And of course, because he just happened to be doing nothing at all on a perfectly nice Sunday afternoon, he walked back to my house with me to help me hang the new chandelier.  Which didn't work after we put a couple of bulbs in it and I ran downstairs to turn the breaker back on.  We took the whole thing back down again and quickly discovered that when I tightened the electrical cap, I left a little piece of the wire poking out the top.  I took the cap off, re-twisted the wires, put the cap back on, ran downstairs to flip the breaker again and this time we had a working light.  Wahoo.

Then WTB and I went for a walk during which he somehow tripped over the curb, fell down and dramatically rolled along the sidewalk.  You'd think that since I've been answering 911 calls about all sorts of mayhem for a little over ten years that I could maybe remain calm in a situation like this.  Not so much.  I shrieked, "Oh my God!!  Oh my God!!"  He said, "How in the hell did that happen?" as he uprighted himself.  I felt a little bit like the Pope's bodyguards must have felt when the Popemobile was fired upon some years ago.  Not to worry, WTB is unscathed but for his pride. 

And the dining room's starting to look kinda nice, don'tcha think?

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The Wallpaper Is Done

As I type this, it is 2:46 in the morning and I am listening to Ray Charles croon "Georgia On My Mind".  I have a big smear of wallpaper paste across my chest and my back is killing me, but the dining room wallpaper is done.  There's a big trash bag full of wallpaper scraps next to the table, the scissors and tape measure and utility knife are scattered on the floor, but the dining room wallpaper is done.  I still have to stick down a couple of seams that keep popping up, and I see now that I forgot to piece in a strip of paper between the bottom of two windows and the baseboard.  I still have to move my great-grandma's china cabinet back against the wall and put all the pretties back in it, the floor needs to be swept, and all the junk on the dining room table needs to find a home or be thrown away.  I need to take some "after" pics when all that gets finished up.  But the wallpaper is done. 

I am done with the wallpaper. Done using my bathtub as a wallpaper tray.  Done hauling 11-foot-long strips of wet paper through the bathroom, my bedroom, a parlor and into the dining room.  Done climbing up and down a ladder.  Done having flashbacks of falling off the ladder every time I reach up to trim the paper.  Done.

That is...done for now.  I just ordered the perfect wallpaper for the entryway...

Monday, November 15, 2010

All Hail White Trash Bob

So this morning I got up extra-super-early like normal people do (8 a.m.) in order to make some serious progress on staining the fence.  With my sharp math skills, I calculated that if it took me almost three hours to stain both sides of a 3-foot section of fence, I still had about a bazillion hours to go.  There I was slaving away, paintbrush in hand and paint roller in the tray on the grass beside me, slowly staining the fence and cursing whichever furry occupant of my house gnawed one of the earpieces completely off the earbuds for my mp3 player.  (The remaining one doesn't work now.)  Staining a fence is so much more tedious without Bruce Springsteen.

And who should walk down the alley at that moment but White Trash Bob.  "You know, that would go a lot faster if you had a paint sprayer," he keenly observed.

"I know it would.  I sure wish I had one," I replied.  He gave me a look as if I were not quite bright.  Then it occurred to me:  some weeks ago, WTB had told me he'd loan me his sprayer.  Oh.  I really am not quite bright.  Especially at 8 in the morning.

So we walked across the street to fetch the sprayer, which is a really nice Wagner airless sprayer that, as it turns out, makes short work of staining a fence.  Forty-five minutes later I was better than halfway done with the fence, and out of stain.  This necessitated a trip to the Blue Box Store.  There are two stores 40 minutes away from me, one to the west and one to the south, so I thought I'd better thoroughly clean the sprayer so it wouldn't gunk up while I was gone.  You just can't mummify a sprayer in plastic wrap like you can a paintbrush to keep it wet til you come back later.  So I thoroughly cleaned it. 

Now here is the part where I prove beyond any doubt that I am not quite bright.  It wasn't until my return from the Blue Box Store almost two hours later that I remembered WTB's admonition to spray water through the thing to get all the little nooks and crannies clean.  (That's not bright, but it's not the stupidest thing I did today.  Just you wait.)  Still assembling the sprayer, I walked outside to my back yard.  My back yard that is covered in thousands and thousands and thousands of wet leaves.  I filled the hopper thingy with water, turned the sprayer on high, pulled the trigger, and blasted the yard in a big sweeping arc.  The sprayer didn't spray quite right.  Hmm, what could be the problem?  Perhaps it is clogged with stain.  I upended the sprayer to look at the nozzle.  (Here comes the stupidest thing I did today--prepare yourselves.)  Hold on.  This is so not-bright that it requires visual aids to fully demonstrate the depth and breadth of my stupidity.
Wagner paint sprayer.  Note guide-thingy at far left.

It was then that I recalled sticking the spray-pattern-guide-thingy in my jacket pocket.  Without the spray-pattern-guide-thingy, there's nothing to hold the plunger-nozzle-thingy in place. 

Piston (at left); 2 itty-bitty-plunger-thingys (at right)
The plunger thingy is about half an inch long and about a quarter-inch in diameter.  I had just ejected it from the sprayer into the ocean of leaves in my back yard.  Oh schidt.  I called the Mom & Pop Hardware Store in my teeny hometown to see if they sell replacement parts for Wagner sprayers.  As I was tapping in the phone number, the futility of this occurred to me.  They never have anything I need.  Ever.  They lived up to those expectations again today.  So I called the hardware store/lumberyard across the river, which always has everything I need.  Always.  They disappointed me today.  "Lowe's or Home Depot probably has one, hun," the lady there said.  They probably do...but I just left there...and if I drive all the way back down there again today there won't be enough daylight by the time I get back to finish the fence...but if I don't, I can't finish the fence today anyway....

About this point in my train of thought, WTB came walking up the alley.

"How's it going?" he asked brightly.

I thought I'd better just confess straight away.  "Well, um, I sorta lost the little plunger thingy..." I replied, not brightly.

"Oh, did you wash it down the sink?  Happens all the time," WTB said.

I studied my paint-spattered shoes.  "No, I, um," I sighed.  "It's  like this, Bob, I sprayed it out into the yard."

This startled him.  He looked at the sprayer, then at the yard, then back at me.  Then the enormity of my stupidity dawned on him.  And he laughed.  He guffawed.  He threw back his head and fairly brayed.  When he was finished saying "Ooooh....wheee....ooohhh" and wiping away the tears he said, "Well, that's no problem, you can just get another one for me at Mom & Pop's."

"They don't have one, " I said.  "And before you ask, neither does the place across the river."

"You need some more stain anyway, just pick one up when you go down there," he said. 

I pointed to the shiny new can of stain.  "Just came from there," I said.  "Before I lost the thingy."

"Oh," he said.

 "Well then," he said. 

"Hmm," he said. 

And then instead of hollering at me about what an idiot I am (which is what would happen, I think, if WTB were more like 97% of the men in the world) he went home and MacGuyvered a thingy from another sprayer to make it work so that I could finish staining my fence today.  All hail White Trash Bob.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

One At A Time

I have decided to take an entirely new approach to the inside-the-Kelly-House projects.  Something novel.  Something unheard of.  Get this:  I am going to focus on one room at a time.  What?  That's what everyone does, you say?  Well, okay, maybe so.  But it's not what I do.  At least not so far.  What I do is work on one thing in one room until I get bored with it, which sometimes is an hour and sometimes is a week or so, and then I move on to something else in a totally different room.  Nothing gets truly finished and the whole house looks like a disaster zone. 

So, because I started wallpapering the dining room (again, after an 8-month hiatus) last week and got on a roll, I'm sticking with it.  Only four more big strips of wallpaper to go and then some piecing-in around the windows and the dratted wallpaper will be done.  Which is not to say the room will be done.  I still need to paint the trim around one window and half the baseboards.  The ugly chandelier in there has got to go.  Tuesday night I decided the room would be prettier if the china cabinet and the buffet swapped places.  The rest of the drapes and sheers are waiting to be hung, and the windows could really use some roller shades.  We'll pretend for now that the floor does not need to be refinished until I decide whether to give Joey my life savings or do it myself.  Then I can do some fun stuff like buying artwork and maybe making a plate wall.  And then, the dining room will be done. 

And then, and only then, after all of that is really and truly done, can I move on to the next room.  Like maybe one of the three rooms that need painted-over wallpaper removed and picture rail put up.  Sigh. 

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

I Was The Grasshopper

I had four days off and the weather was bee-yoo-tee-ful.  Warm, not a cloud in the sky, more like May than November.  And I played.  I went out Saturday night and stayed out way past the time change, had plenty of girl talk with Heather and Janice, went ridin' on White Trash Bob's new Harley, ate supper with my bestie Sharon, saw a movie with Reed (yes, that Reed), made myself sesame noodles for supper three times, and ran around my neighborhood with Libbi-Dog.

In between all of that I did manage to set out eight bags of mulched leaves for the town's dump truck to pick up, and I stained an entire section of my picket fence.  Well, okay, that section's only three feet long, but still, it was one whole section.  And, as I type this, I have just five more strips of wallpaper to hang in the dining room.  Not the most productive four days I've ever had, but it sure was the most fun four days I've had in a while.

My pal Kevin thought it was foolish to fritter away four days like that.  "You'll be sorry when winter comes and all that stuff you have to do isn't done," he warned grumpily.

"I guess that makes you the ant and me the grasshopper," I replied with a wide grin. 

Friday, November 5, 2010

Airing Dirty Laundry

Louis, the favorite of my cats (don't tell the others, okay?) went missing earlier this week.  I was carrying in groceries and he slipped out the door and ran under Gwen and Floyd's front porch.  At the time I was tired from working all night the night before and cranky and my throat hurt, so I didn't reach under there and drag him out by one leg like I usually do.  He always comes right back, I told myself.  So I went in the house, put away the groceries, and did a few little chores...but Louis didn't come back.  I went outside with a measuring cup of food and called "Louuuuuuis, here Louuuuuuissss!" while shaking the cup of food, a never-fail trick.  It failed.  I walked up and down the alley and around the block and didn't spot him anywhere.  He wasn't crouched under the steps of my side porch or slinking among Gwen's raspberries and tomatoes or climbing Martha's dogwood tree.  So, reluctantly, I went to bed.  Two hours later I woke up when I thought I heard him meowing and ran to the back door.  No Louis.  He still wasn't home when I left for work that night, so I texted my son and daughter-in-law and asked them to come by and look for him later.  He didn't show himself to them, either.  The next morning I raced home quick as I could, sure Louis would be standing by the back door indignantly.  He wasn't.  Twenty-four hours missing.  He'd never been gone this long.  I began to worry. 

I put a "Missing Cat" notice as my status on Facebook, which generated a lot of sympathy from my friends and family but no sightings of little Louis.  I appealed to my friend Laura, the Cat Whisperer, for advice.  She was at work and couldn't check Facebook, but our friend Christy posted this:  "When my cat was missing, Laura told me to put out a basket of dirty laundry.  I did and my cat came right back."  Willing to try anything, and always having a basket of dirty laundry available, I morosely set it out by the back door and went in the kitchen to have a medicinal Woodchuck.  Thirty-two hours missing.

Half a Woodchuck later, I heard a very tiny, hoarse little "meow".  I ran to the back door, flung it open, and there was Louis, laying on the patio next to the laundry basket.  I scooped him up and he snuggled his head under my chin and squeaked "meow".  He was filthy dirty, hoarse, starving and thirsty, but overall none the worse for wear and tear. 

I joyfully called my sister to let her know that the prodigal cat had returned.  "Way to air your dirty laundry, sissa," she laughed.  So, I am passing the Cat Whisperer's advice on to y'all:  if the cat goes missing, air out the dirty laundry.  I don't know how or why it works, but it does.  And I am certainly happy for that.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Facing My Fears

I did it.  I faced my fear of the indoor ladder.  Or, more precisely, I faced my fear of falling from the indoor ladder.  Ever since February, when I plunged off the top of my old aluminum ladder onto my hiney and my left wrist while hanging wallpaper in the dining room and ended up in the local ER, I've been afraid to get back up there again.  I bought a new ladder.  I climbed it to do some cutting-in when I (briefly) started painting the parlor again.  I dragged the ladder into the dining room.  But every time I tried to scale it to start on the wallpaper again, my hands got sweaty and my heart raced.  Returning to the scene of the accident, I guess.

A couple of weeks ago at Taco Night I confessed this to my friend Cookie, expecting sympathy.  "Oh, for Pete's sake!" he said, "Just get up there and do it!"

"But, but--" I began.

"But my ass!" he said.  (Which was actually pretty funny and had both of us laughing for a good two minutes.)  "No buts.  Just do it.  What's your other option, cheapskate?  Paying somebody to finish the wallpaper?"

Well, no.  Of course not.  Me, pay someone else to do something?  Heavens no.

So Monday night I climbed up there.  The new ladder is taller and sturdier than the old one.  That's a good thing, because I have 11-foot ceilings in my house.  I'm pretty sure the reason I fell earlier this year is because a 7-foot stepladder isn't tall enough to safely stand on while trimming paper at the junction of wall and ceiling 11 feet from the floor.  I was standing one rung above the warning label that reads "Do Not Stand Above This Rung" and stretching up into the corner of the room, utility knife in hand, when the crappy ladder gave way.  I'm lucky I didn't cut my own throat with that utility knife on the way down.  (Instead, I put a deep gouge in the dining room floor.)

Anyway, I climbed up there for the first time since February...and nothing terrible happened.  I put up one strip, and then another, and then another.  Then I took everything out of my great-grandma's china cabinet (which took almost an hour because my grandma's glass shoe collection--about 60 little glass shoes--is in there along with about a thousand other things) and moved the china cabinet out of the way and hung up some more paper.  And then more paper.  And then I went to bed.

And then Tuesday I woke up sort of early (about 1 p.m.) and started in again.  This damnable paper is really hard to match.  Get it even and nicely matched at the top, and halfway down it starts to go wonky.  Straighten that out, and it's crooked at the top again.  Repeat twenty times per strip. 

The good news is, after all of that, the dining room wallpaper is almost finished!  Only three-fourths of one wall is unpapered.  The bad news is, I was on a roll and I had to interrupt it by going to my paying job for three nights.  I'll be back at it Saturday afternoon.  And then, there will be pictures.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Nesting Dolls

Someone once told me that taking on an old house is like playing with those Russian nesting dolls in that you can see the big doll (project) but inside it is another and another and another....

I already knew this, and yet every time it happens to me I still get frustrated.  This time it's the second parlor (so named because it's the less fancy of my two parlors) that has me kicking things and saying words my mama would not approve of.  I started painting it months ago because, you know, it was only going to take me a few hours...then spring came with the last of the shingle-ripping, then along came summer with the new fence and the house-painting and the two-month vacation from house projects.  Now here I am again.  I had just started in on the painting (again) when I noticed a big bubble in the wall.  Thinking it was badly patched plaster, I tapped it with the handle of the paintbrush.  The bubble popped and revealed itself to be painted-over wallpaper.  I had a sneaking suspicion there might be wallpaper under many coats of paint in this room, but I decided to put yet another couple of coats of paint over it all because the wallpaper was intact.  And, mostly, it is intact.  No more bubbles anywhere in the room but that one wall.  Which now looks like this:

That little bubble which was about the size of a dinner plate led to all that.  If you look to the right of the transom window, you'll see a dark gray horizontal line.  That would be the ghost mark of picture rail which once hung there.  Sigh.  Why oh why do people do stupid things to old houses?  Why would anyone remove picture rail?  I know, I know...some of you are thinking, "why would anyone paint over wallpaper?"  And to that I say, hey, the crime was already committed prior to my ownership of the house, although I am now an accessory to that crime.
The discovery that there used to be picture rail in here changes everything.  I promised the ghosts of Mr. and Mrs. Kelly (the folks who built this house) that I would do my damn level best to undo all the stupid stuff that had happened to it since they passed on (but not quite to the other side) way back in 1916 or so.  In keeping with that promise, I really should strip all the painted-over wallpaper off the walls, hang up the picture rail, and then paint or wallpaper.  Or both.  I think painted walls with a wallpaper border above the picture rail would look fantastic.  Mrs. Kelly would approve.  Doing that would mean that the two parlors would look very similar, as I know now that both originally had picture rail. 

What all this means is that this room, which I thought I was almost done with, is in fact very far from being finished.  Sigh.  Nesting dolls, folks, nesting dolls....

Friday, October 15, 2010

Good Neighbors

I steadfastly believe that I have the best neighbors in the whole wide world.  As proof of that, I share with you a conversation I had with my beloved neighbor Floyd:

Floyd:  Hey, did you know that your little dog can just about get out of your new fence?
Me:  Oh no!  Bob and I wondered about that when we put it up.
Floyd:  Right over there at the corner closest to my yard, the pickets must be a little farther apart there.
Me:  Did she get out? 
Floyd:  Everything but her hind legs.  I was walking around in my yard and she ran up to the fence to say hello, so I petted her and scratched her ears a little bit and then went on.  I turned back around and there she was, through the fence except for her hind legs.
Me:  Oh my gosh! 
Floyd:  Yep.  So I went over there and pushed her back through and then said, 'No-no, Libbi.  Stay in your yard.'  I don't think it had much effect.
Me:  Thanks for pushing her back through, Floyd--and for telling me.

I am still laughing at the mental image of Floyd, a very dapper World War II vet, pushing my crazy little dog through the fence into her own yard.  I will be stapling chicken wire to the bottom half of my fence on my next day off.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Some Splainin'

So...I have some splainin' to do.  About where I've been and what I've been doing for the past couple of months instead of spending the summer working on my house and giving you, my lovely readers, updates on the misadventures around the place.

The short of it is:  I met a guy.

The long of it is:  I met a guy who so unexpectedly and thoroughly swept me off my feet that he caused me to abandon the love of my life (the Kelly House) for him, at least temporarily.  I met him one night at the local bar where one of my friends is the bartender and where the three seats at the short end of the bar are known as "The Office" and are always saved for me and my besties.  He was sitting in one of those seats, a tall rangy guy who looks a whole lot like Tommy Lee Jones, and I attempted to oust him.  He declined to move.  After a few minutes of tense negotiation, I surrended the far seat of The Office to him, a compromise never before made in the history of the bar.  We talked for the next four hours.  At closing time I shook his hand and gave him my number.  It's been a joyride ever since.  The Sgt. Major is retired military (Army), a Vietnam vet, and is smart and funny and unapologetically honest.  He is not, however, a handyman.  The overall plan for the Kelly House both amazes and mystifies him.  Therefore, work on it was temporarily suspended.

But now the Sgt. Major must depart (a week from today) for his winter home in Central America and I must get back to work on the house.  The paint's peeling from the east side of the house at an alarming rate and I have to put a stop to that.  Three windows still have white trim instead of black and cream.  I need to borrow White Trash Bob's sprayer and give the new fence a couple of coats of opaque stain.  And if I get all that done with time to spare, the carport needs to be scraped and painted.  Stay tuned.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

The Best Idea

Of all my many faults, the one that causes me the most trouble in life is this:  I overlook the obvious.  Also known in some circles as "can't see the forest for the trees".  I am oftentimes so focused on the future, my next big idea, whatever might be just around the corner, that I completely miss an obvious solution to a nagging problem. 

Take for example the bathrooms in my house.  I've previously explained what I want to do here and here and channeled Scarlett O'Hara here, but what it comes down to is this:  Both bathrooms are varying degrees of ugly, one has no heat, and I have this big and expensive idea to fix all that.  And because I've made that decision and am saving up the money for it, I am blind to any other possibility.  Until yesterday, that is.  Yesterday I noticed that September 22nd is the first day of Fall and so, since Winter follows Fall, I began my yearly tirade about how I hate cold weather and taking showers in a freezing-cold bathroom and paying high gas bills and raking leaves from trees that aren't even mine and—

And the Sgt. Major interrupted me to ask, "Well why don't you just put in a hand-held shower in that bathroom next to your bedroom?"

I stopped mid-rant.  Why, indeed.  There's a tub in there, that bathroom will be warm in winter, and it's a cheap temporary solution.  We de-camped from our usual spot on the front porch and went to Wal-Mart.  Fifty bucks and 45 minutes later, I'd attached a hand-held shower to the former location of the tub spout and he'd hung a shower curtain from a tension rod. 

It's the best idea I never had.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Not My Floor

Joey showed me some pictures of a floor his company recently did.  Not my floor.  Heck, no. I want to make that clear, right from the start, that this is not my floor.  This is a Very Expensive Floor.  Also, a Very Beautiful Floor.  When I saw it, I just had to share it with you.

It started out like this:

The floor is red oak, Brazilian tiger wood, and—get this—brass inlays.  Joe said those brass inlays were a real pain in the hiney to cut. 

Here's the floor after they finished laying it all out:

See the brass strips over on the right side of the photo? 
Here's a closer (if a bit blurry) photo of the brass inlays.
Yowza.  These people have skills.

And just feast your eyes on the finished floor:
Wow.  Just WOW.  That's a seriously beautiful floor.

Thursday, September 16, 2010


I have failed.  Twice.  And paint has failed once.  The paint fail is partly my fail as well.  But I'm getting ahead of myself here.  First things first.

First, I've failed at regular updates to my blog for the past four weeks or so.  There's a reason for that...but I'm not quite ready to share that reason just yet.  I apologize to my regular readers.  Things should be back to normal (which is to say, the usual chaos) sometime in mid-October.  More later.

Second, the paint is failing on the east side of my house.  Sadly, this was pointed out to me by my beloved neighbor Floyd because I haven't been home enough in the past month to have noticed.  I blamed myself for the paint fail until White Trash Bob pointed out that without scraping the entire house down to bare wood before painting, this was bound to happen.  "It's no fault of yours," he told me, "old houses just do that."  That made me feel a bit better.  What made me feel even better is that WTB showed me how to stop the paint peel using painter's caulk.  Which brings me to my third fail...

Third, I failed to save the photos I took last week of the east side of the house and the first few swipes of caulk across it.  I deleted them from the camera's memory card in order to take a few photos of the fire at the local lumberyard.  So I can't show you my initial efforts to fix the east side of the house.  But I can show you this: 

That's some Lexington firefighters putting water on a hot spot at the roof line after they got a stop on the main fire.  Fortunately for the lumberyard and its customers, the fire was contained to the rear third of the office building, most of the damage is to the exterior (the interior damage is mostly from water, not fire), and no one was injured.

I will make amends for my failures, both with my house and my readers, in the very near future.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Aunt Babe

I did not want to have to tell you this, and so I put it off.  But now, given a little space from the loss, I can write about it.

Evelyn Marie Fisher, my great-aunt and the matriarch of our large family, known affectionately among us as "Babe", passed away September 1st.  She was 92.  Six weeks ago we learned, somewhat accidentally, that she had cancer but we chose not to tell her.  Instead, my cousins brought her home from the hospital to her little house where we've had so many family gatherings, and surrounded her with love and light until she went to be with the angels.  Father Gerry was called in to give Aunt Babe the Last Rites.  While he was there, my cousin Cheryl said, "It's okay, Mama, you can go home to Daddy now."  My auntie replied with typical aplomb, "Why?  I'm not dying today."  And, good as her word as always, she hung on for two more days.  I think she did so just to prove the priest wrong.  The love of being right is a trait that runs deep among the women in my family.

I adored her.  She was unfailingly supportive of me.  When I announced my engagement several years ago she called me and said, "I'm so happy for you, honey!  You should be married.  You'll be so happy."  Six months later when I broke that engagement she called me to say, "Bah!  Who needs a husband?  Marriage is not all it's cracked up to be."  She and my grandmother (her sister) always took my side in my frequent arguments with my younger brother, and it is an eternal mystery to me why he ever bothered to try to rat me out to either of them.  Breaking up a fistfight between my younger brother and I on her side porch one summer when I was about 8, she famously referred to him as "that heifer", forever earning my absolute loyalty and admiration.  It was my Aunt Babe who taught me that any unkind remark about someone can be made less terrible by adding "bless her heart" to the end of it, that if you burn a cake you can just saw the bottom off of it and serve it anyway with lots of frosting, that swear words should be whispered, and that the best cure for any heartbreak is a good cry and a talk with the women who love you.

She guided us all with humor, grace, and fierce strength.  Our lives are the richer for having known her and we are now poorer in her absence.  "Eternal rest grant unto her O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon her. May she rest in peace. Amen."

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Twelve Thousand Dollars

"Hey, Joe," I typed in Facebook chat, "I had a dream about you the other night."

Oops.  Too late, I realized he might take that the wrong way.

"Oh really??  Good or bad??" he asked.  I could practically hear the leer in his typing.

"Horrible," I told him.

See, my friend Joe owns a hardwood floor business and I am in need of his skills.  Those glue-encrusted floors in the entryway, two parlors, dining room and bedroom have got to go.  The trouble is, when the floors go so will a huge chunk of my money.  That's where the dream about Joe comes in.  I've been meaning to call the man to get an estimate, but every time I reach for the phone my hands start to shake and my mouth goes dry.  This is less a reaction to Joe himself than it is to the cost of refinishing floors.  Spending lots of money scares me.  So I've put off calling him. 

But now, a couple of times a week, I have a recurring nightmare about Joe.  In it, he comes over to take a look at the floors.  He walks through the house somberly shaking his head and taking notes.  In the nightmare, this seems to take hours.  Finally, he turns to me and says that he has an estimate for me.

"Nine thousand dollars," he says.

I scream.

And then I wake up.  And worry that it's not really a nightmare, but a premonition. 

So I hit Joe up on chat the other night, confessed my nightmare, and then asked, "It won't really be $9K, right?"

"No way," he replied.

"Oh good," I answered.

And then he typed, "More like 12 thousand dollars."

Such good friends I have.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Missing Chimneys

My faithful reader Karen Anne always makes good observations and asks interesting questions.  In the comments to my last post, she asked "I was looking at the 1906 photo - what happened to the chimneys? Were there fireplaces, no longer existent?"

In the 1906 photo to the right of the posts, you can clearly see three chimneys, rather ornate ones at that, sticking up out of the roof.  The chimneys appear to be missing in the 2006 and 2009 photos; in fact, one chimney is still there but the other two are indeed gone.  The remaining chimney is the one to the left in the 1906 photo.  It's been chopped off to a short stub of its former stately self and isn't visible from the front of the house.  That chimney is connected to the (formerly) coal-burning fireplace in the front parlor and is now the central vent for the HVAC system in the house, a not particularly efficient arrangement.  (The local HVAC guy told me that because the chimney is fairly large in diameter it takes a long time to "draw" and uses a lot of natural gas in order to get the house up to an even temperature.  I'd say he's right, based on an average monthly cost of $275 to comfortably heat my house in the winter.)  The chimney to the right in the 1906 photo was no doubt connected at one time to the other fireplace in the house, which is in the second parlor.  It was also a coal-burning fireplace.  Incidentally, the second parlor is the room "behind" the screened-in porch in the most current photo of the house.  The third chimney, which you can barely see in the 1906 photo, is behind the chimney to the right.  Whatever it was once connected to is now gone.  I suspect it was once the chimney for the kitchen range.  I'm not really sure where the kitchen was originally located, but there is the "ghost" of a stovepipe hole in my bedroom wall, so perhaps that was once the kitchen. 

Mare, the King of Wishful Thinking, once chirped, "Ya know, it'd be pretty easy to rebuild those three chimneys."  I don't know about all that.  Having someone rebuild chimneys that are only ornamental is fairly far down on the to-do list, but I never say never.  After all, I'm the girl who spent hours gluing interior doors back together.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Old Homes Tour 2015?

If y'all make it down to Lexington's Old Homes Tour this year, I'll be volunteering at the Krum-Timmer House on Highland Avenue.  I'm looking forward to it because it's one of those houses that I've always wanted to peek inside.  I'll be there all afternoon on Sunday.  Incidentally, the house is for sale and you can get a teeny peek inside too by looking at the realtor's listing here.  The write-up for the Krum-Timmer House on the Lexington tourism website says that the current owner bought the house sight unseen from an internet real estate listing.  That's the third time in recent years that I've heard of that happening in my hometown. 

While I was talking to the Tourism Director on the phone, he asked me how things are going at my house.  I filled him in briefly on my current and future projects and he said, "Old Homes Tour 2015, maybe?"  I said, "You bet!"  That got me thinking....can I really finish my house, inside and out, by September of 2015??

The exterior's all but done, at least for now.  I need to paint two windows on the east side of the house and put a second coat of paint on the porch windows.  (Previously un-noticed until the Sgt. Major and I were sitting out there Tuesday afternoon and I noticed the black window trim looked a bit streaky.)  After that I need to go around with a critical eye and see what else I might have missed painting.  The picket fence needs staining and White Trash Bob says we should spray the stain so it's not such a time-consuming job.  Come spring, I'll start some landscaping, which will evolve and never really be finished.  That's one project I'm happy to work on for years and years.  And with that, the exterior's complete.  Unless I win the Powerball, in which case I'll buy reproduction iron roof cresting, rebuild the porch roof to mimic what it looked like originally, replace the porch posts with architectural salvage, and put imbricated shingles back on the bay roofs.  Yeah, don't count on any of that.

The interior is a horse of a different color.  A color closely resembling disaster.  There are small projects:  finish painting the second parlor, hang the last little piece of backsplash in the kitchen (which I bought two years ago and have never cut), find the perfect chandelier for the dining room, and replace the front storm door.  There are medium projects:  finish the wallpaper (half done) in the dining room, remove the painted-over wallpaper from the entryway and front parlor, put up picture rail in the front parlor, and paint and/or paper the entryway and front parlor. 

And then there are three big projects:  refinishing the floors in the whole house, renovating the bathrooms, and doing something about the back bedroom.  The floor refinishing someone else will do, but it will be a big project in terms of money.  The bathroom renovation will be a gigantic project that will cause a cascade of small and medium projects and no doubt cause much wailing and gnashing of teeth.  It's not just fixing up the bathroom, you know—it's first deciding what to do about that tiny little hallway bathroom, then gutting the existing bathroom and replacing flooring and putting up beadboard and laying tile and installing all new fixtures and tearing out that old shower which means the porch floor and ceiling will have to be re-done and the back door can finally be moved.  The back bedroom, which I have scarcely previously mentioned here because it's horrific and I pretend it doesn't exist, has a floor of scraps of plywood that don't quite fit together, 1970s-era icky paneling over the original plaster walls (which I suspect are not intact) and a dropped ceiling with acoustic tiles.  Thinking about that room gives me fits.

I just re-read those last two paragraphs.  Lordy be, I think I'd better get started...

Friday, August 13, 2010

Old Homes Tour

It's almost time for the Old Homes Tour!  This is one of my favorite weekends of the whole year, when a few of the beautiful old houses in Lexington open their doors to tours and we can all walk through to ooh and ahh over them.  This year the tour is Saturday, September 18th and Sunday, September 19th.  For the low price of a $12 ticket ($14 the day of the tour) you get to see five homes, the Catholic church, and the Anderson House at the Battle of Lexington State Historic Site.  For "official" tour information, to order tickets online, and to see photos of the houses, please click here.  If that link doesn't work, please go to and click on the Old Homes Tour button on the right side of the page.

For my un-official but enthusiastic gushing over the Old Homes Tour, keep reading...

You know why I look forward to the homes tour every year?  I'll tell you, straight out:  because it's fun to go and look at other people's stuff.  George Carlin was right.  Everybody's got stuff and it's fun to compare your stuff to their stuff, get new ideas for what you can do with your stuff, and gawk at the really nice stuff other people have.  There.  I admitted it. 

The folks who pick the houses for the Old Homes Tour do a great job.  If I was on that committee, I'd be saying, "This one.  And that one.  And those two over there.  And this whole block," and pretty soon there'd be 47 houses on the tour and you'd get to spend like 30 seconds inside each one so that the whole tour could still be done in a reasonable amount of time.  (Incidentally, the tour takes about two hours and you can either ride the bus or drive the tour yourselves.)  This year the Tour Committee picked two Greek Revivals, a log cabin from the 1830s, a Neoclassical, and an English cottage-style house from the 1920s.  I'm really excited about seeing all five of them. 

And then there are the two "bonus stops":  the Anderson House and Immaculate Conception Catholic Church.  The Anderson House is part of the Battle of Lexington State Historic Site and was used as a field hospital during the Civil War by both the Union and Confederate armies.  It's likely that my great-great-grandfather, a Confederate soldier wounded during the 1861 battle, received medical care at the Anderson House.  Immaculate Conception Catholic Church was built about 1897 and was restored in 2009.  The interior is jaw-droppingly beautiful, especially when you understand that the colors and decorations were all chosen to honor the Virgin Mary. 

Five houses, a historic site, and a church, all for 12 bucks.  It's a great deal.  So buy a ticket and come visit my little hometown.  Look me up—I'll probably be at one of the tour houses as a guide.  We'll talk about stuff.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Chalkboard Fridge

It's too hot outside to do any I did some indoors and turned my fridge into a chalkboard.

There are instructions for how to do this all over the web, but my favorite ones are here because of her idea about the food diary and the cute drawings she and her boyfriend made on the fridge.  I pretty much followed those instructions, except that I let my paint cure for a whole week before I "seasoned" it by rubbing a piece of chalk all over the door.  Also, I confess that I did not prime first, which I may live to regret.  I did put four coats of paint on the fridge, though.  And about that paint:  Lowe's didn't have the chalkboard green color that I really wanted, but the girl at the paint counter told me that Valspar Signature Colors in flat finish are the same thing as chalkboard paint.  Who knew?  I got Frasier Fir, which I think is pretty close to chalkboard green. 

So, I don't have a food diary or cute drawings on my chalkboard fridge (yet) but I did scrawl one of my favorite quotes on it.  Mark Twain wrote, "Twenty years from now, you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than by the ones you did do.  Explore.  Dream.  Discover."

Friday, August 6, 2010


I had almost forgotten just how bad the back of the house looked until Jan's comment on my last post that we've come a long way in a short amount of time.  This photo was taken in September of '09 before the shed was torn down, but the house looked pretty much the same up until this spring and early summer when I tore off the rest of the shingles and painted.  Ick. 

Here's the funny thing:  Next fall I'll probably post the photos of the picket fence and back yard as it looks now, with the unpainted fence, the cluttered patio, and the bare yard—the same photos I'm so proud of now—and say "ick" about those too. 

Monday, August 2, 2010

The Terrible Bad Week, Part 2

So last week goes down as one of the worst weeks I've had lately.  But it wasn't all bad.  Here's the better half of last week...

On the way home from St. Louis, I stopped by Apple Wagon Antiques.  (155 mile marker on I70, at Williamsburg, Mo.)  I hadn't been there in several years and WOW.  This place is incredible.  And huge.  An antique mall, a Fiesta ware outlet, and a home and garden decor store all rolled up in one ginormous building.  I scored these tumblers that match a set of glasses my grandmother owned.  Yay!
And while I was at the vet with Louis, I ran into a guy who refinishes floors.  Wait, that's not giving him nearly enough credit.  Burkhart Floors is known around here as the best in the business.  I'm hoping they can work miracles on the glue-encrusted and water-damaged floors in my house.  Joe gave me his cell phone number and said he'd be glad to come over and give me an estimate.  He looked at me kinda funny when I asked him if his CPR certification was current.  "You know, in case I have a heart attack once I find out how much it'll cost," I said.  He laughed.  I'm serious.  I've just about decided that I want nice floors before I want nice bathrooms...but it's summer now and I'm not freezing while taking a shower.  In the dead of winter I may decide again that remodeling the bathrooms (and moving the back door) is a higher priority.

Saturday night I decompressed from the week with friends and family at the pub. 
That's my son Dylan in the gray shirt with the "Are you kidding me?!" look on his face.  I have no idea what the person next to him said, but that expression cracks me up.  That's me in the gray tank-top next to Dylan.  Yeah, girl clothes and makeup and everything.  I'm talking to Amy, my "bestest bestie" since we were kids.  The guy next to her is our friend John, who makes brief appearances here in the blog from time to time.  It was Alumni Work Weekend at Wentworth Military Academy and almost everyone at the table is an Old Boy.  (Even if some of us are girls.) 

And saving the best for last...

The fence is finished!  Doesn't it look grand?  I can brag on it because I had almost nothing to do with the building of it.  This is a WTB Construction project.  I think it looks marvelous.
We used treated lumber rather than red cedar because that's what Home Depot had in stock.  I think it looks just as nice.  I still haven't decided if I'll leave it to weather or not.  If I don't, I'll most definitely take the advice of Jan at Gear Acres and stain it with opaque stain, which she says lasts longer than paint and looks just as nice.  It comes in many different colors and I'm leaning towards a cream that's similar to the house trim.  Staining the fence (if I decide to) is most assuredly a project for cooler weather.  But now, a big round of applause for White Trash Bob and his awesome fence-building skills!

The Terrible Bad Week, Part I

I feel just like Charlie Brown when he says, "Augggghhhh!"  As if I didn't have enough stress and aggravation last week, the laptop and the internet refused to talk to each other all day Saturday and Sunday.  Good grief!  It's finally a brand-new week, and hopefully the karma is better now than it was then.

But before I put last week completely out of my mind, I have to give y'all a little recap of it.  (Parts of it, anyway, the worst of it doesn't bear repeating.)

Last Saturday a kid I consider my daughter called me with a semi-emergency:  "Mommy, the people who said they'd move me to college backed out.  Can you help me?"  Sure, honey.  I got home from work at 8 a.m. on Sunday morning, took a 3-hour nap, and then drove to St. Louis to move Ash to college, where almost every possible thing that could go wrong did.  I claim exhaustion as the reason it didn't occur to me until somewhere around Columbia on the way home that NV lives in the St. Louis area and that I'd missed a chance to turn a bloggy friend into a real-life friend.  (Aside to NV:  I'll apparently be in Florissant on a somewhat regular basis until May and girl, we have got to get together!)

When I got home Monday Louis Cat had a little bump on his chin the size of a pea.  By Wednesday it was the size of a grape.  Thursday I woke up and found blood spattered all over my bedspread and trailing from the bedroom floor through the kitchen and onto the back porch.  The bump had burst.  After a hasty trip to the vet, we learned that the bump was a spider bite that abcessed.  Poor little Louis.  I felt so sorry for him that I made him a pallet in the Hoosier.  Just temporarily.  He shouldn't get used to it.  And by the way, this crazy cat actually likes bubble-gum-flavored Amoxicillin. 

And speaking of cats....

This poor, alien-eyed, skinny little thing had been hanging around the firehouse for a week, crawling in and out of bunker gear and standing at the back door meowing pitifully to be let in.  I couldn't take it anymore and brought the little bag of skin and bones home with me Saturday morning.  We carefully taped her up inside a cardboard box and stuck her in the cargo space of my Soul, where we thought she'd safely ride for the 35-minute trip home.  We were mistaken.  Three miles down the interstate, she clawed her way out of the box and stood yowling on a back seat headrest.  Uh-oh.  This did not bode well.  I was about to pull over onto an exit ramp when she leaped from the backseat onto my shoulder and settled in, purring, for the rest of the trip.  My friend John said, "The yowling was her calling co-pilot—you just don't speak Cat."  For now, she's known as Itty Bitty Kitty and lives in my bathroom.  I'm not keeping her.  Really.  I'm not.

Last week wasn't all bad, but since this post is getting rather long I'll stop here and put the better news in a Part II post right away.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Still Here

I'm still here.  No disaster has befallen me.  Nor have I been swept off my feet and whisked away someplace exotic by my Prince Charming, or declared the Powerball winner, and I wasn't invited to Chelsea Clinton's wedding.  (Apparently neither was the President, but that's a different story.)  Nope, it's just an ordinary variety of temporary chaos that's struck my life this week and gotten in the way of blogging.  But don't worry, everything's okay.

This weekend I should have some time to devote to house-related and infinitely more fun stuff.  Remind me to tell y'all about Louis Cat's trip to the vet and who I ran into there, how I "patched" the holes in the kitchen wall, my score at an antique mall on the way back from St. Louis, and my co-pilot on the trip home from work Thursday morning.  Oh yeah, and remind me to take a photo of the fence with a real camera.  That other pic doesn't do justice to WTB's fine fence-building skills.

Tune in Saturday.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Fence Project, Day 9

WTB sorta promised not to work on the fence while I was sleeping...but he did not promise that he wouldn't mostly finish it after I went to work last night.  Therefore, WTB is still a man of his word.
Crappy pic taken with my phone.

That's what the fence looked like when I came home this morning.  Done except for cutting down the posts, making a gate and hanging it.  Oh, wait just a minute—I have a voicemail from WTB.  He wants me to get a screen door spring and two hooks at the Orange Store before I leave The City to come home tomorrow.  So he finished the gate tonight, too.  What a guy.  I should do something nice for him and Mrs. WTB.  You know, he mentioned a couple of days ago how much he likes Corky's BBQ in Memphis, Tennessee...and I happen to know that they'll ship their famous ribs and pulled pork anywhere in the U.S....I do believe the FedEx truck will be stopping at the Coal Miner's Despair (WTB's name for his house) some time in the very near future. 

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Fence Project, Days 7 & 8

Yesterday, in between working at his real job, White Trash Bob and I picked up the stuff to build the fence, laid out a plumb line (or whatever you call it) around the yard, and dug the post holes.  Wait, that's not entirely true.  After he saw that it took me about five times longer to dig a post hole than it does him, he dug all the post holes.  I dug half of one.  And I provided emotional support and encouragement while WTB dug 8½ post holes by telling him he was staving off osteoporosis and heart disease by doing so.  I'm not sure he appreciated that. 

And then today, in between working at his real job, WTB came over and we set the fence posts.  All of them.  During a heat advisory which I will not complain about because it was, after all, my idea to build a new fence in the middle of summer.  WTB asked me, "Don't you ever get great ideas when it's 70 outside?"  Apparently not.
About two hours after we set the last post and WTB explained to me that I would have to water the concrete later tonight, the sky darkened and huge rain clouds rolled in.  We ran around covering up the concrete with junk from my yard.  And then it poured rain and we were under a tornado watch.  "Never mind about the watering later," WTB told me. 

As soon as the concrete sets, we'll attach the picket fence panels to the posts.  Y'all heard me say "we", right?  I go back to work Wednesday night and my next day off is Sunday.  I tried to extract a promise from WTB that he would not attach the panels to the posts without me.  He made a vague sort of "uh-huh" answer in reply.  Who wants to bet that, while I am sleeping, WTB will finish the fence by himself? 

Monday, July 19, 2010


I am in love.
Not with a boy.
But with a kitchen cabinet.
This kitchen cabinet:
I spied it at an antique mall and it was love at first sight.
Mostly because of this:
(The decorations on the front of the cabinet,
not the cat on the top of it.)
And then I saw the price tag. 
It's such an incredible bargain that I must whisper it: 
 two hundred dollars.
I know, right?!
So I called White Trash Bob and said breathlessly,
And he said, "A really cool Hoosier?  For two hundred bucks?  I don't know about that." 
Clearly, the man was skeptical.
But then he saw it.
And then he said, "Holy crap!"
And, "Let's get this thing home before somebody realizes they priced it way too low!"
So we brought it home.
I'm putting stuff in it and trying to decide
what I should put where.
Louis thinks I should leave the top shelf for him.
Here he demonstrates how neatly he fits on the top shelf.

I remain unconvinced.
But I let Louis stay there while
 I pulled the countertop out all the way,
cut up five pounds of peaches,
stirred up some batter,
folded in some blueberries,
and made a peach-blueberry cobbler.
I love peaches,
and blueberries
nearly everything about summer,
and this cabinet.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Minty Fresh

This used to be a brand-new pack of gum...

Until Libbi found it.

Oh least her breath is minty fresh now.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Fence Project, Day 6.5

(It's 6.5 because we worked just half a day.)

We spread out grass seed and covered it with straw.  This means that it probably won't rain for a week now.

Straw spread over grass seed...
and The Pile

I broke down and photographed The Pile of debris from the fence, because tomorrow afternoon it will be gone.  And of course I want to remember how terrible it looked.

Someone asked me if I found anything interesting in the yard.  Yesterday we found these:
Found not with a metal detector,
but with a shovel.
A horseshoe.  Those round things are barrel hoops, all that's left of a barrel that someone (probably the Kellys) had out by the stable.  I am keeping them.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Fence Project, Day 6

Warning:  This content of this post may cause drowsiness.

In other words, it ain't exciting...but it is progress.

WTB came over today and we yanked, dug and hacked the rest of the roots of the honeysuckle vines and mulberry bushes out of the yard and dragged them into one gigantic pile at the corner of the yard.  A pile which I cannot bear to show you, so I cropped it out of this photo.  We found that the edge of the patio goes all the way to the end of the house.

Then we shoveled and raked until the dirt was nice and level, because with all this rain the ditch where the fence used to be was in danger of becoming a moat.  Not the kind of water feature one would wish for in a cottage garden.
We discovered a sidewalk under all the mess on this side of the yard.  I thought I found an ancient monolith placed by the Druids, but WTB kindly explained that it was only the concrete footing for an old fence post.

And I constructed this by stacking up all the cinder blocks and bricks we found in the yard:
Beautiful, isn't it?  We call it Blockhenge.  I can see it soon becoming the subject of a Craigslist posting.

And tomorrow is another day...

Friday, July 9, 2010

Might Be A Tight Fit

Me:  You don't think Libbi can fit between the pickets of the new fence, do ya?
WTB:  How far apart are they?
Me:  Four inches apart.  I was thinking that I might have to staple hardware cloth to the bottom half of the fence.
WTB:  I don't think that she can fit through there.  That's pretty small.
Me:  Only one way to find out, I guess.
WTB:  Tell ya what, when we get the new fence put up we'll try to shove her through there.  I'll push, you pull, and then we'll know.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

The Harkelroads House

In the early 1980s, the National Register of Historic Places folks came to Lexington, Missouri and did an inventory of all our historic structures.  As a result of that inventory, some of those structures were individually named to the National Register and four areas of Lexington were named National Register Historic Districts:  the Commercial Community Historic District, the Highland Avenue Historic District, the Wentworth Military Academy campus, and the Old Neighborhoods Historic District.  Every week I plan to share at least one house from the National Register inventory with you. 

The Harkelroads House

"Circa 1840.  Two story brick painted white Greek Revival; L plan with one story side porch on the east, bay window on the west.  Ionic porch across front added circa 1900.  Double end chimneys.  Victorian cast-iron fence; significant brick outbuilding to the rear."--National Register of Historic Places inventory listing

I don't know much about this house, but I think it's beautiful.  It's located in the Old Neighborhoods District about a block and a half to the west of mine.  The pretty yard and the landscaping really set off the crisp white paint and green shutters of the house, and I love the bunting they put up.  Originally this house was probably unpainted brick and would have had a smaller porch that covered just the front door, in keeping with the Greek Revival style; however, I don't think the paint or the porch detracts from this house at all.  Can't you just see yourself enjoying a cold glass of lemonade while sitting in one of the wicker chairs on the front porch? 

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Negative Ned

“Well, remember what you said, because in a day or two, I'll have a witty and blistering retort! 

You'll be devastated THEN!”

--Calvin (of the comic strip "Calvin and Hobbes")

Like Calvin, I can never think of a good comeback when it's needed.  Take yesterday, for example, when one of my neighbors stopped as he was driving down the alley and said, "Wow, your yard looks really bad!  I mean, really bad!" To which I replied, "Thank you, Captain Obvious."  So I came across like a 12-year-old. 

What I wish I'd said is this:

Hey, Negative Ned, did you forget that I work night shift three or four nights a week?  That means that at least half of one of my days off is usually lost to sleeping, and sometimes—like this past weekend—I get ordered in on overtime, which made me lose not only most of Saturday because I worked Friday night, but all of Sunday and most of  Monday because I had to work OT Sunday night.  And did you also forget that the city dump is open only from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday, which is convenient for no one except the people who work at the dump?  And did you know that the dump was closed Monday?  Because I didn't, at least not until after my son and I packed four bags of yard waste and as many sticks, tree limbs, and honeysuckle vines as his truck bed could hold and drove over to the dump only to find the gates locked.  Speaking of my son, he works nights too down at the jail, and finding a day when we're both awake after 8 a.m. and before 3 p.m. so that we can haul all this trash to the dump is well nigh impossible.  


You know, Ned, you need to turn that frown upside down.  Have an attitude of gratitude.  Allow me to offer a few suggestions of things you could do instead of being snarky to me.  First off, I see that you have a flat-bed trailer that you're pulling behind your grocery-getter.  And earlier today I saw that it was loaded down with tree limbs and other yard waste.  Since it's empty now, and the dump is closed, you must have a place where you can legally dump yard waste.  Instead of griping at me that my yard looks really bad, how about you offer to haul some of this to wherever you dump your yard waste?  Unless, of course, you're dumping illegally somewhere, and if I find out that's the case I will not hesitate to report you to the Sheriff's Department.  


Maybe what you need, Ned, is a little stay-cation.  You could have a nice picnic at Riverfront Park.

See, there's the shelter house over to the right.  You'll have to park the Soccer Mom Transport Vehicle up the road a piece and swim over there.  I hear the fishing off the picnic tables is excellent.


Or maybe you could take your boat out on the river and relax for a little while.

That's the river between those two lines of trees in the background of this photo.  Just thought I'd try to be helpful and point that out to you, since there's a whole lot of water where it's not supposed to be.  Watch out for all the debris in the river while you're out there.  We saw a set of bleachers drift by a few days ago. 

Maybe your problem is that you don't take time to enjoy the little things in life, Ned.  Like this lil fella right here.

Snapping turtles are good companion pets.  Really, Ned, they are.  I can just imagine the two of you having many happy hours together in your boat.  It might take you a bit to train him not to bite, though.  


You let me know how it goes.