Friday, April 30, 2010

Still Here

I'm still here...but I haven't gotten anything else done this week, so there's nothing much to tell you about.  Oh, in case you were wondering, ripping the shingles off the house is a whole lot more fun than picking them up and trying to stuff them into trash bags.  In my next life I will own a trash company and rent dumpsters to myself for free.  (In this life, a small dumpster would cost me a hundred bucks to rent.)  Wait, what am I saying??  In my next life I won't own a house that needs a billion cedar shingles torn off it, so I won't need a dumpster!  I should learn to dream big.

Anyway, I finally picked up all the shingles.  Seven trash bags full of them.  I bet the trash man dreads turning into my alley.  I can just imagine the two trash guys chatting as they turn the corner:

"Wonder what the crazy lady in the yellow house has for us today?  More carpet that's 3'11" wide?"  (Because they won't pick it up if it's wider than 4 feet.)  "A stack of rusty tomato cages?  Bags of wallpaper?"

And then as they pull up behind my house:

"Oh, look!  Shingles!  Haven't had bags and bags of those for awhile."

The trash guys should be grateful.  They'd have at least a couple more bags of shingles to pick up if I hadn't sorted out all the little pieces of shingles and thrown them in a metal trashcan in the corner of my yard.  See, those shingles make really good kindling in my fire bowl.  There's something very satisfying (and maybe just a wee bit vengeful) about watching those damn shingles burn up as I'm kicked back in a chair drinking a cold beer.  Which I plan to do a lot more of as soon as I finish the back wall of the house.

Monday, April 26, 2010



Mark this day on your calendars, dear friends.  Today at 6:52 p.m. CST the last shingle was removed from the Kelly House.  In recognition of this momentous occasion, April 26th shall forever after be known as Victory Day, for it was today that I at last conquered the shingles.  

And tomorrow I have a big mess to clean up...

Oh, and that blob at the top of the ladder in the second photo is Christopher.  See?
Quite daring for a cat who spends about 20 hours a day sleeping on the end of my bed.

Friday, April 23, 2010

The Loophole

I've surely mentioned before how much I love my neighbors Floyd and Gwen.  They live right next door in a house built on the other half of the lot my house sits on, and I couldn't ask for better neighbors.  They loaned me their big extension ladder so I could paint the tall parts of my house—well, okay, so WTB could paint the tall parts of my house.  They gave me a little dogwood tree.  They've offered tons of advice and encouragement along the way.

Tuesday when I was checking out the back wall of the house Floyd yelled over from his yard, "Go, Jayne, go!" 

I admitted that I had no motivation to finish tearing the shingles off the wall that day.  "In fact," I confessed, "I'm gonna take the whole summer off." 

He strolled over with raised eyebrows.  "Really now?  Is that so?"  Clearly Floyd does not believe me.

"That's so.  No major projects for the whole entire summer.  That's my vow."

"'re kinda committed to do this now that you've started," he said, looking at the half of the wall that still has shingles.  "Good thing summer doesn't officially start 'til the 21st of June.  You'll have it all done by then."

Now there's a loophole I can work right through...

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Today's Lesson

They say you learn something new every day.  
Today I learned not to leave a box of packing peanuts unattended
in a house inhabited by three cats and a dog.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Meh...I Planted Flowers

I woke up Tuesday at the crack of noon and walked outside to survey the back wall of the house.  Part shingled, part not.  The part with shingles is much larger than the part without.  As I was walking over to get my wrecker bar, a thought occurred to me which I've rarely had in regard to the exterior of my house.  I thought, Meh....I'll do that later.  There's always plenty of meh to go around when it comes to the interior of the house and things like dusting and vacuuming.  (And lately, wallpapering.)  The outside of the house, not so much meh, probably because everyone can see that.  But somewhere between the stoop and the corner of the yard where the tools are, every bit of motivation to rip shingles off the house just drained right out of me.  I was still sitting on the back patio in one of my cute blue chairs an hour later when my mom called me.  "Let's go down to Hilltop [a local greenhouse] and get my tomatoes," she said.  Excellent idea.

She bought tomatoes.  I bought pretty things.

Some I planted in the big container on the west side of my house:

In the middle is a Red Star cordyline, around it are Bada Boom Rose wax begonias, and trailing down is Snow Princess sweet alyssum.  This container's in the middle of what will eventually be a big bed of hosta, columbine and ferns.  Eventually.  Right now it's kind of a mess.

Others I planted in the short containers on my front porch steps:
In front are Cappucino petunias and in back is a Kingwood Torch coleus.  I've never seen that color of petunia before and I just had to have 'em.  The photo doesn't really do them justice. 

And I filled up the tall skinny containers on the front porch, too:
This combination is an old standby, but I love it anyway.  In the back is an Inky Fingers coleus and in the front is a Margarita sweet potato vine. 

And that, my friends, is the sum total of my accomplishments for Tuesday.  Meh, those shingles will still be there next week.  I planted flowers instead.

Monday, April 19, 2010

It's Just A Task

Okay, I admit that Milah is right.  I need therapy.  And NV is right, too, when she says I'm a remodelaholic.  But that Christine...that woman is an enabler!  She said, and I quote, "I think anything that only lasts a day is really just a 'task'." 

So...with that in mind...Feast your eyes upon my latest "task".
 Yep, I took the shingles off half of the back wall of the house.  Now, that might seem like a project...but it's not.  Nope, it's just a task.  I set out this afternoon to get the shingles off of the back porch enclosure and caulk the nail holes.  And that's what I did.  Took me about three hours.  Therefore, since that is considerably less than a day, it's still just a task. Christine says so.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

The First Weekend of Nothing

Well, well, well...It's the first weekend since my big declaration that I'm taking the summer off from major projects.  So how am I doing so far? 

Saturday night I did well.  I went out to see my friend Troy's band, Mary Goes Round, play at an odd little bar called the Blue Moon.  My buddy Cookie and I agreed that MGR does the best rendition of "Summer of 69", ever.  I won a good-natured argument over the longest MLB game in history.  (Chicago v. Milwaukee back in '84, 8 hours & 6 minutes.)  Hearing Troy sing Lady Gaga left me whomper-jawed and laughing. I got home about 3 a.m. after breakfast at Denny's.

And then today struck.  Wasn't it Kate who said I'd be into a bunch of little projects that would become one big project?  Well, ahem, that's what happened today.  It started out innocently enough with my daughter-in-law offering to help me haul the debris from the carport roof reno down to the city dump.  Then I said I'd return the favor by helping her clean up the mess in her yard from re-roofing their back porch.  And then my mom said she had a few things that could go to the city dump, too.  Seven hours, three trips to the city dump and two trips to Sarah's dad's burn pile later, we finished.

Seven hours of hauling trash and yard waste on a Sunday afternoon and evening qualifies as a major project, I think.  I'll be having a little crow for supper, thank you.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Like A House Afire

Monday morning I had a nice long conversation with my mama in which she told me that I've been "goin like a house afire" for the past two summers and she thinks I need to slow down some.   What she's referring to, of course, is the Great Shingle-Ripping Project of Summer '08 followed by the Great House-Painting Project of Summer '09.  She is of the very firm opinion that I should take this summer off from major projects.  I think she expected me to argue with her.  I did not. 

I wholeheartedly agree.  So this summer I will be living in my house instead of a construction zone.  I will be spending more time sitting on the front porch with a big glass of iced tea, gossiping with Carl and Don, watching fireflies, playing with my fur-babies, going to the bookstore with WTB and Mrs. WTB, stargazing out at my friend Doug's place, eating ice cream, walking barefoot on the brick sidewalks of my neighborhood... 

To quote the irrepressible Calvin (of the "Calvin & Hobbes" comic strip):  "There's never enough time to do all the nothing you want."  This summer, I'm gonna give it my best try.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Backyard Before & After

This was my backyard last summer:
And this was what it looked like last fall after the shed was torn down:
And this is what it looks like now:
The trashman will cuss me in the morning.  The bin is full and there are six more bags of trash stacked next to it.  I have four beers left from the six-pack I bought today...maybe I ought to put them outside on the trash bin in a foam cooler with a note on 'em that says, a la Alice in Wonderland, "Drink Me".  

Just in case you're wondering, I got those cute blue chairs at Lowe's, the fire bowl came from Wal-Mart, the flowers in the big containers are bi-color pink geraniums, and the flowers in the little containers are wax begonias.  I didn't lay that brick but I'm planning to lay some over to the left there where the edge of the patio's all broken up.  As soon as I find some free bricks.  Oh yeah, and eventually I will get the rest of the shingles off the house.  Probably in the next month or so.  But right now, I'm liking the way the patio looks without any junk piled on it.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Better Late Than Never

I don't know why I didn't do this sooner.  It finally occurred to me today to post pics of the laundry room and back bathroom, which makes it so much easier to understand what I'm planning.  Oh well, better late than never, I suppose.  The first photo is of the laundry room (aka the back porch) looking out from the kitchen door.
Please pardon all the junk.  City-wide cleanup day is coming up soon and all the stuff I want to throw away is stacked up in here.  It's a nice-sized room and gets a lot of light from the windows and the back door.  I like looking out the windows while I'm folding laundry.  I have bird feeders in the yard right outside the windows, and that shelf under the windows is one of the kitties' favorite spots.  Where the back door is now will become a window.  The new back door will be about 4 feet to the right of where the door is now, and directly across from the kitchen door.  You can just see the edge of the shingled walls around the shower to the right in this photo.  (The half-door you see there is junk and it's leaning against the shingled wall.)  We'll tear out the shingled walls and the shower stall behind them.
And here's the trap door to the basement, the location of which Libbi and Louis are helpfully marking by playing Smackdown on it.  You can see that the trap door's pretty much in the middle of the floor.  This is why I've decided not to go with Mare's plan to get rid of the trap door and put a railing around the hole.  I think it will chop up the space and make the side of the room where the washer and dryer are mostly unusable.  Think about it—to get over to that part of the room, if the trap door was an open stairwell, you'd have to walk all around the stairwell and back into the corner.  And what would I put there?  That space wouldn't be big enough for closets.  You'd be squeezing between the closet door and the stairwell railing to put anything away. 

Looking into the laundry room from the existing back door.  (Mean little Marie is in the kitchen.)  To the left of the photo is the shingled wall around the shower stall.  Again, that will be demolished.  Don't y'all think it would look weird to have an open stairwell instead of the trap door?  And look how the left edge of the trap door is almost right up against the right edge of the kitchen doorway.  How would you put a railing in there?  (By the way, that black thing on the wall is a winch that the previous owners used to crank up the trap door.  Higher up on the wall is the hook that holds the trap door.  I'd like to get rid of the winch because I don't use it and, well,  it's ugly.)

And speaking of ugly, here are some photos of the bathroom.  I don't know what I was thinking when I painted it that awful blue.  The first photo was taken looking in from the laundry room.

The doorway with the mirror on it goes into the spare bedroom.  If I expand the master bathroom all the way to the back wall of the house, the wall behind the vanity would be torn out and the vanity and toilet would go away.  If I don't expand the master bath, then this room stays pretty much as is (with a new vanity and different paint) as a half-bath accessible from either the spare bedroom or the laundry room via that doorway you see in the foreground of the photo. 

What is destined to be demolished is this:
To the left in the photo is the shower stall.  Thirty-one inches wide, with grab bars all around that reduce the usable size to about 27 inches, it's too small to comfortably use on a daily basis.  If you've ever rented a small camping cabin with a little shower stall or taken a shower at a truck stop, that's how small it is.  It's goin' bye-bye.  The back door will be relocated to that wall where the towel bar is now, which is where the door was when the porch was originally closed in. 

Now let's talk those two dreaded words:  resale value.  Like Jan said, we all think we're going to live in our old houses forever, but you never know.  And even if I do live here until I croak, I'd still like Dylan and Sarah to get as much money out of this house as they can.  So with that in mind....

Someone asked how many bedrooms I have, and the answer is three:  mine, the spare bedroom, and the room I've been calling the "second parlor" because that's what I'll use it as.  So right now my house is a 3-bed, 2 bath.  My idea is to get rid of the shower stall, move the back door, and remodel the master bath but leave it the same size so the house would then be a 3-bed, 1½ bath.  Mare's idea to expand the master bath, turn the spare bedroom into a walk-in closet and open up the basement stairwell would make it a 2-bed, 1 bath with a basement laundry room, which I think would be less appealing to buyers.  What do you all think?

Thursday, April 8, 2010

What's The Big Idea?

Mare loves old houses.  He can take one look at an old house and immediately look past peeling paint, a bad remuddle, vinyl windows, and the like to see the potential in it.  Back in the day, before and during our relationship, he bought up old houses (and one commercial building) in my hometown and began ambitious restorations on them...Problem is, he'd get bored with the project and never finish, a trait that unfortunately continued into his foray as a contractor and cut short that career.  His strength lies in his ideas.  And boy, has he had some good ones.  His latest idea, involving my own house, is one of those good ideas.  Or at least half of it is. 
Here's the half I'm already sold on.  I'll refer you again to my colored-up pic of the floor plan.  (High-tech, isn't it?)  See that wall behind the bathtub, the wall that divides the two bathrooms?  Mare wants to knock out that wall and extend my bathroom all the way to the back wall of the house.  That would eliminate the half-bath that probably would never be used anyway.  It would also create a suite-like layout between the master bedroom and the spare bedroom, which opens up the possibility of turning the spare bedroom into a big walk-in closet and dressing area eventually.  (And realistically, "eventually" is a long, long time from now.)  We'd still be demolishing that shower stall and the structure around it and moving the back door over so it's in line with the kitchen door—and the back walkway, of course.  Instead of the existing doorway from the back porch into the bathroom, we'd extend the original exterior wall of the house (that green line) all the way across to the back wall of the house.  Now that I've mulled it over for a couple of days, I like that idea.  It would add some cost to the project.  I'd have to buy about 18 sq. ft. more of flooring and additional beadboard, moulding, and baseboard, and I don't know if extending that wall will cost more than a door and framing would.  But the additional cost wouldn't put the project out of reach for me.  I think it makes the area "flow" better because it gets rid of that awkward little hallway-like bathroom at the rear of the house.  The more I think about it, the more I like it.

It's the other half of his idea I'm not so sure about.  Mare proposes to get rid of the dreaded basement trap door, build a railing on the two long sides of the stairwell, and move the washer and dryer into the basement.   Yowza.  I don't know about all that.  Y'all know how I hate that trap door.  Two of my greatest fears involve that stupid thing:  one, that the hook which holds the trap door to the kitchen/laundry room wall will pull out of the wall while I'm in the basement and the trap door will slam shut, imprisoning me down there; and two, that if I don't corral the animals beforehand one of them will try to run down the basement steps just as I let go of the trap door to let it fall shut and thus be crushed.  No trap door would mean none of those worries.  There'd be plenty of room in the basement for the washer and dryer because the front half of the basement has a concrete floor and brick walls and an almost 7-foot-high ceiling.  It runs underneath the whole kitchen, to give you an idea of the size.  The plumbing and drains and what-not are situated so that moving the washer and dryer downstairs wouldn't be a big problem, or so Mare says.  (I'm taking him at his word on that, because I know nothing about plumbing.)  I'm just not sure I want a big gaping hole in the middle of the back porch floor, even a hole with a railing around it.  My future grandkids might fall into it.  My future little-old-lady self might not like to walk up and down those steps all the time just to get her unmentionables clean.  It's an interesting idea, and one that I'd never have thought of myself.  I'll have to mull it over for a while longer.

So what do you all think?  

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

A Door Story

Once upon a time, there was a nice little bedroom door who lived in the Kelly House.  The door was pine, but it was stained dark to look like walnut.  The door had beautiful steeple hinges.  It was a happy and pretty little door.

Then along came a person who painted the door white.  The door smiled.  "I have a new coat," it said.  Then along came a person who painted the door tan.  And another person who painted it white again.  And another person who painted the door turquoise blue.  "I do not like this coat, " the door said, "and the 1960s are not kind."

But the worst was yet to come.  A mean, bad, terrible person came along and sawed the door in half.  The door was very sad.  Then the mean, bad, terrible person took the door's beautiful hinges away.  That bad person also sent the door's friends Mortise Lock, Back Plate and the Knob twins to live someplace else far, far away and put lots of wood filler where the Knob twins used to live and slopped white paint all over the door so no one would recognize the nice little door.  The door was very sad indeed.  "I cannot even do my job," the door said.  "I do not stay open, and I do not stay shut.  And I am ugly now."

But then a smart, kind, wonderful person came to live in the Kelly House.  "I will save you!" she told the door.  She and her friend Mare the Genius Carpenter put the door back together again and gave it back its beautiful hinges and introduced it to some new friends.  These friends reminded the nice little door of its old friends.  The new friends might even have been distant cousins of the old friends.  The door was very, very happy.

 "I am put back together again!"  said the nice little door.  "I can stay open now!"
"And I can stay shut too!" said the nice little door.  "And even though I am still a wee bit ugly, I know that one day soon I will be a pretty door again!"

So the little door knew it would live happily ever after.

Three Is A Magic Number

Whew.  This is the first time since 9:00 a.m. that I've sat still for more than 30 minutes...and did I mention that it's now 11:30 p.m.?  I'm tired, but it's a happy tired because we (Mare and I) got a lot done today.  (Today meaning Monday; I'm publishing after midnight so it's technically Tuesday.)

Today we:

took one of the two remaining sawed-in-half doors off its hinges.  An ordeal because one of the door halves was attached to the frame with itty-bitty cabinet hinges that had three different types and sizes of screws.  After struggling with it for awhile, we pried the thing off the door frame with a wrecker bar.

planed down the edges of the door halves, cut biscuits, and glued the door together.  Another ordeal because this door is a newer one that was stuffed with cotton.  I kid you not.  Cotton.  Little tiny balls of it stuffed into the core of the door.  Every time Mare cut another biscuit slot, we pulled out more cotton.  Why?  Can anyone explain this??

boiled a set of steeple hinges in the Crock-Pot for three hours.  After I scraped off layers and layers of paint, I found dirt underneath.  A lot of dirt.  So much dirt that the hinges at first looked smooth with no design.  I stuck 'em in the dishwasher and still spent about two hours scrubbing them with a wire brush before they looked decent.

took the rest of the roof off the carport and confronted my fear that some rafters would have to be replaced because they're rotted.  Only three rafters, so not as bad as I thought.

ate lunch at Papa Jack's and gave my daughter-in-law a $7 tip.

made a trip across the Missouri River to the lumberyard and discovered that you really can fit three 1x6's that are 12' long into Mare's car, but you'll need a flag to get back home.

knocked out the three rotten rafters and replaced them with bright new rafters, then nailed up furring strips for the next thing that we did, which was...

nailed "closure strips"—three long strips of wavy foam that support the polycarb roof panels—onto the carport roof.

tore milkweed and other yucky vines out of the honeysuckle that covers my back fence.  We rolled it into a giant tumbleweed about 3 feet in diameter and left it in the alley.  It's very windy today.  Heh heh heh.

raked leaves away from what will someday be flower beds to see if the stuff I planted last summer and fall survived.  It did.  I have daylilies, iris and hostas poking up out of the ground.  Hooray!

attached three of the polycarb roof panels to the carport.  Only seven more to go, and it looks better already.

ate supper at Papa Jack's and gave my daughter-in-law a $5 tip.

discussed Mare's Big Plan for the bathroom reno, which is bold.  It deserves a post of its own, so all I will say here is that it would add three feet to the length of the master bath and extend it all the way to the back wall of the house.  Oh yeah, and he wants to get rid of the basement trap-door, too.

realized how many times the number 3 was mentioned in this post, which makes me think of my childhood, and so I leave you with a little Schoolhouse Rock.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Be Kind To Yourself

All through March, I thought about Sean.  That's nothing out of the ordinary, as I think of him every day, but what made this March so difficult is that at this time last year Mare and I were building the porch and Sean was calling me every day to see how it was going.  Sean and I had plans for that porch, plans of drinking pitchers of sweet tea and eating fresh peaches there...of sitting on the big wicker couch into the small hours of the night counting fireflies...of finally, perhaps, defining what we were to each other...But then all of that changed irretrievably when Sean died the day before Easter last year in a car wreck.  So I finished building and painting the porch while working through some of my grief and finding a small strange comfort in being where I was, where I stood talking to him, on what would be the last day of his life.

Yesterday I thought that I would tear off the rest of the carport roof, but I woke up from a dream in which Sean and I were talking (about what, I can't recall) and then turned on my mp3 player only to hear "Rise", an Eddie Vedder song that always makes me think of Sean.  So instead of the roof, I went around to the front porch and took stock of it:  dusty, small piles of leaves in the corners, the wicker furniture pushed up against the wall of the house, paint cans where I'd left them last fall.  I swept and cleaned and straightened and when it was done, sat down in one of the chairs to call my mom.

"Um, I don't think that I can, um, go to church with you tomorrow after all because...because...well, you know."  She does know.  Knows how the pastor at that church (who is a grief counselor) was oddly silent after Sean's death, knows how no one there reached out to me at all though I had gone to that church since babyhood, knows how I have struggled in the past year with the hole in my life and in my faith caused by the sudden death of Sean.  She was quiet for almost a minute, then said gently, "I don't think you have to go to church on Easter.  You should be kind to yourself."  And that's exactly what I will do.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Bite Me

Sean once said of Facebook that it's like a big party—full of people you know, mostly a good time, but occasionally you do get stuck in the corner talking to someone you don't like so much.  That happened to me a couple days ago, and in an effort to get the conversation out of my head and move onwards, I'll share it here.

A few of my friends (who included my cousin Karla and my daughter-in law Sarah, among others) were commenting back and forth on my wall about restoring old houses and the projects we're working on and/or planning.  Twenty-some comments into it, up pops a friend of a friend with this comment, directed at me:  "Ah well, Monticello never got finished either, although it is a tad larger."  Mind you, there had been no prior conversation among any of us that we'd never finish our houses.  And this person is not a fellow old-house owner; in fact, he's never owned a house at all or done any renovation or restoration work that I'm aware of.  Ohhhh, I was (as my Grandma would say) madder than a wet hen.  I typed back a nasty comment:  "I believe that if I had never worked on an old house or even owned a damn house, old or otherwise, that I would keep my ignorant comments to myself."  I decided that one was a little mean, so I deleted it without sending it.  Then I had another thought:  "For your information, unlike Thomas Jefferson I'm working on my house without having to either own another human being or go into so much debt that, were he not the former President and the author of the Constitution, his house and land would've been auctioned on the Courthouse steps."  Even though it's true, I deleted that one as well. 

Folks, it's been a long week.  I was tired and cranky.  I heaved a big sigh and, from somewhere deep inside my intellect, managed to come up with a third, more to the point, comment:  "Bite me."  That one I sent.


There comes a time when a person has to choose between what she wants and what she needs.  For me, that time came on Tuesday.  Specifically, about 11 a.m., when an orange tabby was being chased by another neighborhood cat and sought refuge by leaping from my neighbor Martha's garage roof onto my carport roof.  Kitty fell through my carport roof and onto the top of my car.  (But she did escape the other cat when I shooed it away with a broom.)  I'm no structural engineer, but I think if the carport roof cannot support the weight of a smallish housecat then it's probably badly in need of replacement.  I took this photo last September when WTB and I were standing on the roof of my house talking about how bad the carport roof looked then.  It looks much worse now, having not fared well this winter. 

So I made a big decision.  A grown-up decision.  As much as I want a shiny new bathroom right this very minute with a clawfoot tub and hex mosaic tile and a pedestal sink, what I need is a new carport roof.  Pretty much right this very minute.  If I wait any longer, I'll be replacing not just the roof, but the whole darn carport.  And as you know, I have better things to do.  So I took some of the money out of the envelope marked "bathroom reno" and plunked it down at Lowe's.  Instead of a sink and a toilet that doesn't run for 12 minutes after you flush it, I bought polycarb roof panels, screws, and a few 1x3s.  Not nearly as much fun.  But more necessary.  Sigh.  I'll still get my bathroom, just not as soon as I'd planned.  (I could still get it sooner rather than later, but I refuse to go into debt, even temporarily, to do so.)

And because I'm nothing if not a glutton for punishment, I told Lowe's to deliver the stuff on Friday afternoon so that Mare and I can put the new roof up Monday.  (I want to get it up before all the spring storms in April and May.)  This means that I need to have the old roof torn off before Monday.  I work overnights Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday.  Sunday is Easter and I'm going to church and lunch with my mama.  I'll have to be like The Little Engine That Could in the next four days.  You know what he says, I think I can, I think I can, I think I can...