Saturday, December 24, 2011

Meowy Christmas

Merry Christmas from all of us at The Kelly House:
The Cats Marie, Louis & Gracie
The Dog, Liberty
And Me

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Just A Lil Update

My brother's house is now empty.  In one long marathon of packing, we finished it all up.  I'm happy to report that nothing was broken except for a glass lid on a Corning Ware dish that was the victim of my nephews' swordfighting with a curtain rod and a yardstick.  (Did I mention my nephews are 33 and 31??)  I have six boxes of Rodger's belongings at my house left to go through, but I'm finding it's easier to do a little at a time.  In the meantime, my littlest cat Gracie has claimed one of the boxes as her bed.  I'm also happy to report that the box the boys thought was full of porn (which I'm sure is why it was packed into my vehicle) had only one porn mag in it, right on top.  The rest of the crate contained architecture magazines.  Who knew Rodge was into Mid-Century Modern? 

I decorated both parlors for Christmas this year.  The front parlor has a 7-ft Christmas tree loaded with ornaments and surrounded by a quilted and beaded Christmas tree skirt, a little table with four caroler figurines on it, and lighted garland strung along the mantel with two glass hurricane vases full of minature gold ball ornaments and lights.  The back parlor has a 6-ft tree with a broken stand held together with Hello Kitty duck tape and nothing on it but lights.  Guess which parlor the kitties have access to?

Other than that, not much going on here at the house.  After Christmas the wallpapering of the front parlor will begin again in earnest.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

A Long, Strange Trip

"Sometimes the lights all shinin on me
Other times I can barely see
Lately it occurs to me what a long, strange trip it's been..."
The Grateful Dead, "Truckin"

I've never before had to pack up a house after someone's death.  It's odd and sad and sometimes funny and mostly surreal.  All the things we accumulate, all the mundane bits and pieces and the occasional extraordinary object, when taken separately don't seem to amount to much...but together, it's someone's life.  There are secrets in our family, and half-truths, and things told (or not) with the idea of protecting someone, and some of that's been laid bare in the process of packing up my brother's house. 

I should have seen that coming, but I didn't.  Neither did Rodger's sons, Jimi and Jon.  So we've spent almost as much time sitting together smoking and talking about Rodger's life as we have in packing it up.  An afternoon goes like this:  we split up into different rooms of the house and start going through things, then I stop to read an old letter and get teary-eyed, and Jimi yells from the kitchen, "What the hell are all these photos of three coffins?", and then we hear Jon tell the neighbor "We want our food back" when the guy admits he cleaned out my brother's fridge, and then the three of us meet in the living room so I can share the letter and explain the three coffins (those of my maternal grandparents and my cousin, from the car wreck), and we laugh at Jon for saying that to the neighbor, and then pretty soon we're out on the back porch again huddled together on a plastic bench against the rain and cold, smoking Marlboros.  A few days of this before Jimi starts chuckling and says, "This is ironic, ya know?  The three of us smoking outside dad's house when he died of lung cancer," and then I laugh and say that I quit smoking years ago but I'm only doing it now because I'm giving in to peer pressure, and Jon laughs and says, "It is what it is." 

That's become our frequent refrain:  It is what it is.  Because I don't have the answers to the questions the boys ask me, and none of us knows why Rodger did the things he did, and all of us have to live with this gaping maw of regret and try to get past it somehow.  In the end, what matters most is this:  Rodger loved us, he was proud of us, and he did his best to protect us.  It is what it is. 

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Rodge Jams It Up

My big brother, Rodger, y'all:

Last night at the visitation, one of my brother's longtime friends told us a funny story about Rodger taking off to California to find Jimi Hendrix.  Rodger didn't find him then, but I bet there's a helluva jam in Heaven when they find each other now. 

Sunday, November 27, 2011

And Then There Was One

My birth mother, known fondly as Tookie, had four children.  First came Perry in 1949, then Rodger in 1952, then Phillip in 1962 and lastly me, in 1967.

Perry died the same year Phillip was born, the victim of an accidental shooting by Rodger with a gun their father bought them, a gun Tookie never wanted my brothers to have.  She divorced their father not too long after that. 

Sometime about 1965, Tookie rekindled a love affair with her high school sweetheart, a big bear of a man who was unfortunately (for my mother) married to someone else.  When she discovered she was pregnant with me, she did not tell him.  My brother Rodger, barely 15, drove Tookie to the hospital and didn't ask any questions when she came back home three days later without a baby.  Those questions he'd save for later.

I was raised south of the river, my little town a 20 minute drive or so from the little town where Tookie was born and raised and where she brought up her two remaining boys.  I've always known I was adopted, known it like I know my name, and accepted it as just the way things are.  My adoptive mother told me a bit about my birth mother over the years:  that both of my mothers were the same age (Tookie was in fact 42 when she had me, two years older than my adoptive mother), that I had brothers, that one of those brothers was known as a stellar guitarist and keyboardist even when he was a kid. 

In the summer of 1979, my brother Phillip begged Tookie to allow him to live in Colorado with our cousins until school started again.  She reluctantly agreed.  He was killed in Colorado in a car accident a few weeks later.

When I turned 18, my adoptive mother handed me my adoption decree, which allowed me to know Tookie's name for the first time.  I went looking, but found nothing.  Tookie had moved several times over the years--to Kansas City, to Colorado, back to Kansas City, then to Reno--and I couldn't find her.

In 2001, I happened to see Tookie's obituary in the Kansas City paper.  I went to her visitation.  In my mind's eye, lots of people would be there and I'd blend into the crowd.  The reality was a bit different.  Maybe a dozen people stood around the front room of the funeral home, and when I walked in the door a little old man scurried up to me saying, "My lands!  You must be Gene's daughter.  You're the spittin image of him."  That's how I discovered my birth father's name.  Three more steps across the room and I felt a hand on my shoulder, turned, and came face to face with a small man in an ill-fitting tan sportcoat who looked so much like me we could be twins.  We stood there staring at each other.  "You're my baby sister," he simply said.  "You're my big brother," I replied, and hugged him.  The next afternoon he played a Jimi Hendrix song, Little Wing, at our mother's funeral.  For weeks after that we were inseparable.  Turns out he'd been looking for me since I was born, but didn't know my name because Tookie absolutely refused to tell him anything about my adoption.  The years passed and we stayed in touch sporadically.  He moved around a lot, always looking for another gig, another band that needed a guitar player, a keyboardist, a bass player, or a backup singer.  Rodger struggled most of his adult life with alcohol addiction and so I heard from him most often in his periods of sobriety.

My friend Janice called me Saturday.  She'd grown up with Rodger, a fact I didn't learn until very recently when I happened to mention to her that I was adopted.  She said, "Oh, honey," and began to cry.  Somehow I knew she was calling about Rodger.  "Is it my brother?" I asked, and she said yes.  Rodger had died on Tuesday at a hospital near Kansas City.  I hadn't seen him or talked to him in nearly five years.  The person who brought him to the hospital knew that his only kin was a little sister, but couldn't remember my last name.  The hospital released Rodger to the funeral home in his hometown and asked the funeral home to notify them of any next-of-kin located.  In the way of small towns, it went like this:  the funeral home tried to call my brother's best friend Billy who happens to be without phone service because he's in the county jail, and then called a relative of Billy's who told them he didn't know my name but they should call Janice, then called Janice who gave them my name but told them she would inform me of my brother's death herself.  I got the official phone call from the hospital ten minutes after I hung up with Janice. 

Tuesday afternoon we will bury my brother on the hillside in Southpoint Cemetery near our mother and our brothers Perry and Phillip.  I am now the only living child of Tookie.

Thursday, November 24, 2011


What a crazy week, and this is only Wednesday.  Wait.  I mean, this is only Thursday.  Thanksgiving Day, or as we in emergency services call it, Thursday.  I think we dispatchers might be included in the firehouse Thanksgiving supper, but no one's formally invited us yet.  I'm bringing a ham sammich tonight just in case the firefighters forgot about us. 

Amy & me somewhere in IL.
Royals cap covers Bad Hair Day.
Anyhow, I had planned on painting the newly-caulked east wall of the house on my last days off, until the weather turned too cold and rainy to make that possible.  After that, I had visions of finishing the paper in the alcove of the front parlor.  But then my bestest bestie Amy called and said she was going to Tennessee to pick up her step-daughter who was in a bit of a tight spot, and would I like to come with her?  So, Saturday morning instead of going home to sleep, I hit the road to Gainesboro with Amy.  If you've never done it, I don't recommend driving across three states and into a fourth one on no sleep, even if you are sharing the driving and you're with your dearest friend.  We made the return trip to Kansas City the next day.  This taught me two things:  1. Amy is one of very few people I would willingly spend that much time in a car with; and 2. I am not cut out to be an over-the-road trucker. 

I slept 14 hours on Sunday night into Monday.  That's approaching my record of 16 hours of sleep at one stretch, achieved last winter.  (Yes, I am somewhat proud of that.)  That made me well-rested enough to tackle the front parlor paper again.  I tore down the crooked strip in the alcove and replaced it with a straight one, hung the "top" paper (the one that will go above the picture rail) all along one wall and partway across the header in front of the alcove, and made it two-thirds of the way around the alcove walls.  That alcove, with its four windows and all that trim, makes for some slow going.  Very slow going.

Maybe next week will be better.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Front Parlor Paper

If I finish papering the front parlor without either losing what's left of my mind or falling through the windows, it will be one of the greatest accomplishments of my life.  Raising a child pretty much alone, finishing my B.A., delivering a baby over the phone, and papering the front parlor.  Yep.  The top four, right there. 

After a whole lot of angst which culminated in my taping wallpaper up with Scotch tape, I decided that all of the alcove, baseboard to ceiling, should be papered in the floral paper.  There's no picture rail in the alcove (where the stained glass windows are that "bump out" on the front of my house in the profile picture) because it's pretty much all windows. 

I can tell from the ghost marks of the picture rail that it wrapped around the corners of the alcove and stopped at the window trim.  What I can't tell is if the alcove was originally papered with two wallpapers, or just one.  So I agonized.  What did Mrs. Kelly do?  What would she want me to do now? 

The ceiling in the alcove is a few inches lower than the rest of the ceiling in the front parlor and the windows are also lower than the other window in the room.  The space between the top of the window trim there and the ceiling, though, is only 3 inches shorter.  I couldn't decide what to do.  So I taped up wallpapers in the alcove to see what it looked like with one and then with two.  One wallpaper, top to bottom, won out.  For now.  Unless I decide, once I get past that point, that it looks dumb.

But all those windows and fancy trim and windowsills wider than the trim and fluted trim under the windows mean that I have to measure and cut the paper verrrry carefully.  What's in this photo took me over an hour to do.  That's one strip of paper.  So much light comes in those windows that I'd better be extra-careful with the pattern here because any mistake will be really noticeable. And that one strip of paper is crooked, I noticed this afternoon, so it will have to come down.  Really crooked, not just a little crooked so that I can fudge it. 

I'm at work until Saturday morning, so I have plenty of time to worry over that crooked piece of paper while not having time to actually correct it.  Sigh...

Monday, November 14, 2011

I Have Returned!

It started on Friday.  Randy asked me if I was coming to St. Louis to have supper with him and go to a hockey game.  "Nah," I said, "The weather's supposed to be really nice and I think I'll stay home and work on my house."  Lately when I've made a statement like that two things have followed:  a bad swear at the end of that sentence, and a noticeable lack of any actual work getting done.  I didn't utter a bad swear, and y'all already know that I spent Saturday on the roof of the house. 

Then came Sunday, in which I finished all the scraping on the east side of the house.  All of it.  After that I went to the flea market in Excelsior Springs to see if the lamp I passed up two weeks ago was still there.  It was.  I bought it.  It's ugly as homemade soap right now, but I have makeover plans for it.  (Which I will share here, if it turns out well.) 

Front parlor progress
Along came Sunday night with nothing to do, so I started wallpapering the front parlor.  (One lonely little strip of paper has been hanging there since May.)  White Trash Bob and I had a discussion last week about which to do first, the paper or the picture rail, and he finally convinced me that it'd be easier to do the paper first.  I am stubborn; WTB is persistent when he's right.  It was quite a discussion and included much waving about of arms. 

Which brings us to today, in which I finished caulking almost all the clapboards on the east side of the house.  Annnd, when it got too chilly outside to be spreading caulk around with wet hands I came inside and hung up a few strips of the trellis wallpaper that goes in the space between the ceiling and the (future) picture rail.  After supper, I plan to hang up more wallpaper.

So I have not one, but two projects going on at the same time.  One outside; one inside.  Do y'all realize what this means?  It means that really and truly, at least for now, my house-loathing is over.  I went to bed last night sore and tired but happier than I've been in weeks because I got something important accomplished on the house.  Wait.  Make that two important somethings.  My house mojo has returned--and better yet, I have returned!  I feel more like myself than I have in a long time.  Hallelujah! 

Saturday, November 12, 2011

The Thing Which Scares Me

I passed up a road-trip to St. Louis this weekend.  Supper on The Hill.  A hockey game.  Hilarity with a long-time friend.  Why?  So I could work on my house.  I think I got my house mojo back, what do y'all think? 

So today (after a very long nap, of course) I went right out there, leaned a ladder against the house, dragged a broom, a rake, and a trowel up the ladder with me, and went up on the roof.  Bravely, I might add.  (Y'all must recall my well-documented fear of heights.)  I attacked the giant pile of leaves and sticks that had accumulated up there, scooped about a bushel of pecans out of my gutters, and then...and then...I had to face getting back down the ladder.  Yikes. 

Eleanor Roosevelt once said, "Do one thing every day which scares you."  Yeah, well.  With all due respect to Miz Roosevelt, she never had to deal with this schidt.  There's a reason why we've never seen photos of ol' Eleanor up on a roof.  She did a lot of amazing and inspirational things in her life, but I bet she never walked around on the roof of her house with a phone in her bra trying to psych herself up to climb back down that ladder. 

Help arrives.
And when I finally did scoot to the edge of the roof (backwards, at that) and put one foot on a rung of the ladder, it went a little sideways and screeched along the gutter for two or three inches.  Or maybe that was me screeching.  Anyway, to put it like my bestie Sharon would, "I was a-scared."  I scrabbled back up onto the roof.  And then it occurred to me:  No one knows I'm up here.  I broke the South Street Rule.  And since nobody knows I'm up here, I better hope someone's available to come over and hold the ladder for me while I climb down it, or it's gonna be an extremely long night.  Fortunately, someone was.  My beloved son, Dylan, who's home from work recovering from minor surgery to his wrist. 

Let's see...climbing up the ladder and then back down...I surely think that counts as two scary things, so I'm good for tomorrow.  No need to be a risk-taker tomorrow.  Tomorrow I'll just scrape and caulk.  Safely.  No climbing about on top of the house.

If you follow me on Twitter, then you already saw that pic and read about my other shenanigans.  If you don't follow me, I'd sure like it if you did.  You can click on "join the conversation" on the Twitter badge to the right, or on the highlighted word "Twitter" in this paragraph.  Thanks, y'all. 

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

The Caulky House

Seriously, after the past couple of days I'm thinking this place is more The Caulky House than The Kelly House...
The before-and-during shot...Curling paint to the right, halfway down; nicely-scraped paint above and below that; and then allllll that caulk.  Work pauses until Saturday. 

Monday, October 31, 2011


I saved some pics until today to show you, because they're appropriately creepy.

Now that discussion on tearing out the shower stall on the back porch/laundry room has turned serious, there's the question of what to do with the gaping holes that will be in the porch ceiling once the ugly shower is gone.  (The walls surrounding the shower stall extend up through the porch ceiling.)  I thoroughly detest the 1970s-era acoustic tiles on the ceiling and was hoping that the original beadboard ceiling might be above them.  First I carefully removed one of the tiles.  And by "carefully removed", of course I mean I smashed the thing with a hammer.  Insulation and dirt rained down.  No beadboard or other earlier ceiling was visible.  Well, crap. 

Then I wondered just how much insulation was up there, and if the roofline of the existing porch at all matched the roofline of the original porch, and if the ceiling might be raised so that the transom between the kitchen and the back porch might be used (right now it's painted over and was tacked shut), so I climbed up on a stepladder, pried the transom open, and took these photos: 
A fair amount of insulation.

Existing roofline does not match original at all. 

Impressive cobwebs.
And the results of this investigation:  The ceiling will stay right where it is....but it will be covered over with beadboard.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

The Truth Comes Out

You cannot hide the truth.  It always comes out.  This I have learned in my nearly 45 years on this planet.

When last I blogged, I told y'all that John said the point of old-house restoration is "to keep moving forward".  Remember that?  John said, "The point here is to keep moving forward."  Moving.  Forward.

And then yesterday I found out that he's re-done his bathroom four times in the past five years.  Four times.  FOUR.  In five years. 

Ohhhhh yeahhhhh, you know I made fun of him for that. 

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Look, A Kitty!

My friend John has known me for 30 years.  In the past three decades, he's gotten used to hearing me go on and on about my crazy ideas and big plans for this or that.  He lets me prattle on for a little while, and then, invariably, he laughs, points, and says, "Look, a kitty!"  It's his way of reminding me that I am...shall we say...easily distracted. 

The most recent instance of John's saying, "Look, a kitty!" came Sunday night, when I first told him I was going to paint the kitchen turquoise and then explained (again) my plan to remodel the two bathrooms, beginning with tearing out that shower stall.  "Look," he said gently, "the idea here is to keep moving forward.  The kitchen's done.  Why would you repaint it?"  Oh.  Well, that makes sense.  And then he asked, "When did you finish fixing that peeling paint you were talking about?"  Ouch.  Um.  Well, I haven't finished it. 

But I did start it.  Yesterday.  I went out to the east side of the house and discovered that it looks even worse than I thought it did, so I commenced to scraping yesterday afternoon.  I got almost all the loose paint scraped off, and then I went out to the new hardware store in town and bought several tubes of painter's caulk, and then I came back home and commenced to caulking.  I finished the full length (about 20 feet) of three clapboards before I began having doubts that I was doing it right and called White Trash Bob for affirmation.  (It was WTB who suggested this method of fixing the peeling:  scrape all the loose paint off, wet your hands, dispense a big blob of painter's caulk into one palm, and smear over the clapboards, sealing in the edges where paint meets wood.  He did this with great success on an old house he used to own, so I have high hopes for my own house.)  WTB declared that I was indeed doing it correctly and that I should have no trouble finishing before winter if the weather holds and if I work hard on my days off. 

And then we decided that since yesterday was one of those rare late-autumn days of unseasonably warm weather and clear skies, that what we really ought to do was to get on WTB's motorcycle and go for a ride to enjoy the weather and the changing leaves on the trees.  We got back just before dark.  Thereby proving that a Triumph motorcycle can also be a kitty. 

Friday, October 21, 2011

I Have An Idea

I have an idea.  Another one, besides painting the kitchen turquoise.  Now mind you, I've been sick since Sunday morning so I've had a lot of free time to think, in between sleeping, and barfing while Mean Little Marie stands on my back (she has well-earned her name), and going to the doctor, and sleeping some more. 

Y'all probably remember me griping and complaining about how much it bugs me that the back door's been moved and doesn't match up with the back walkway.  The reason the back door was moved is that Charline (the suckiest of the Sucky Previous Owners, the one who shingled the damn house) had a shower stall put in on the back porch, right in front of the door, which necessitated moving the door.  The stupidity of this continues to thoroughly amaze me. 

Anyhow, Mare and I came up with this grandiose plan a little over two years ago to remodel the bathrooms:  we'd tear out the shower stall, move the back door to its (sort of) original location, put in a window where the door is now, knock out the wall between the two bathrooms, tear out all the fixtures in those two bathrooms, repair the water-damaged subfloor, lay a hex tile floor, put up beadboard, paint or paper the walls, and then install all new fixtures and a clawfoot tub.  Whew.  This is typical of Mare and me, to come up with a plan that far outstrips both our time and our resources. 

Now here's my new idea:  Divide and conquer.  Tear out the shower stall, move the back door, and put in a window.  Leave the rest for later.  Of course, it's not really that simple.  Tearing out the shower stall will still be a pain in the hiney.  So will moving that door and putting in a window.  A lesser pain in the hiney, though, than trying to do everything all at once.  Now I just have to track down Mare, who's been MIA for several months and see what he thinks of this idea.

Oh, and I'm still hanging onto that other idea of painting the kitchen turquoise.  I just got sidetracked this week by illness.  I'll find more pictures of the kitchen, both past and present, so you can get a better idea of what and where I'm planning to paint. 

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

That Advice Thing, Again

This post isn't really my typical blog post.  It's a public service announcement.  So, listen up.

If you have a best friend who is a paramedic, very intelligent, highly respected, and who looks out for you like you're his favorite sister, and that guy tells you, "The department's giving free flu shots; you oughta get one", the proper response to that is a resounding, "Okay, I'll run right over there!"

Not, "Meh...I'm not in one of the high-risk groups so I think I'll skip it."

Because if you do not take that good advice to get a flu shot, and then you end up with the flu, and you call your brother-from-another-mother Kenny to whine about how awful you feel, you will not get any sympathy from him.

You will get, "I told you so, Calamity!  I told you so!!"  (Yes, the man calls me Calamity.  And it's stuck, so now other people call me this, too.  Sigh.)

Get a flu shot. Especially if you're in one of the high-risk groups:  the elderly, people with compromised immune systems, health care workers, pregnant women, people with asthma or other respiratory diseases, and at-home caregivers of children younger than 6 months old.  But even if you're not in one of those groups, get a flu shot.  (Unless, of course, you have a severe allergy to eggs, have ever had Guillain-Barre Syndrome, or have had a bad reaction to a flu shot in the past.)

Or you could end up like me.  In the words of Catherine Aird, "If you can't be a good example, you'll have to serve as a horrible warning."

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Playin' the Blues

It's 2 a.m.  I couldn't sleep very well Sunday night (I have a cold or something--sore throat, stuffy nose, headache, etc.) and so I laid down for a short nap Monday after lunch.  I woke up at 7:30 p.m.  So much for going to the new hardware store in town to get paint samples.  Sigh.  So here I am, at 2 a.m. Tuesday morning, hoping that I go to sleep soon and that I don't sleep through my alarm.  Again. 

I've been playing with Virtual Painter on the Valspar website.
Deep Turquoise

Glass Green

LaFonda Teal

Ocean Soul

Positano Blue

Sea Wave

Tidal Teal
I've narrowed it down to these.  So far.  Until later today when I come home with 57 paint chips.  (Past experience speaking here.)  Then I'll tape those up all over the walls, force myself to narrow it down to my three four five favorites and buy samples of those, which I'll paint onto posterboard, tape onto the walls, and live with for a month week until I decide which color to use.  Which one do y'all like best?  I have a favorite already, but I don't want to say in case it might keep someone from saying it's a godawful color.

(By the way, it's not that I have any overwhelming allegiance to Valspar--although I do like it--it's that Valspar is available locally and I'm trying to support local business.) 

Saturday, October 15, 2011

House of Blues

Yesterday afternoon when I was looking for something in the cargo space of the Toaster (what the guys at work dubbed my Kia Soul) I pushed a bag aside and the contents spilled out:  red envelopes, scrapbook paper in different shades of turquoise blue, pink ribbon, white cardstock.  Supplies for my save-the-date cards.  They were gonna be so cute, y'all.  Sooo cute. 

Let's all pause just a moment for a prayer, shall we?  Thank you, Jesus, for giving me a brain so that I could figure out that marrying a man who hates old houses, calls me by his ex-wife's name, and goes through a one-liter bottle of Ten High Bourbon in three days would have been a terrible, terrible mistake from which I might never have recovered.  Amen.

Anyhow, as I was cramming all that stuff back into the bag I was thinking about how much I like that color combination.  Pale turquoise and a clear red is such a lively, pretty combination.  It's a shame I don't have anywhere in the house I could use that.....or do I?  What if I repainted the yellow kitchen?  Would it look good with the red-and-white chicken wallpaper?  Turquoise might not look good with the green table and chairs, but I've been wanting to repaint them anyway.  I bought them online and the description said "distressed"--in reality, it looks like a wolverine clawed the table legs and the chair backs.  I painted the kitchen yellow back when the outside of the house was still covered with yucky brown shingles and I was dying for some color.  Now that the outside of the house is yellow, this is a bit too much yellow for me.  

What do y'all think?  Pale turquoise?  Robin's egg? Stupid idea?

Friday, October 14, 2011

The Other Side of Craptastic

The craptastic door from the other side.  With baby gate in place.
Go ahead and laugh, y'all.  It's funny as all get out.  But hey, it works.  And best of all, this little bit of redneck ingenuity was free because I already owned both the door and the baby gate.

Thursday, October 13, 2011


The craptastic kitchen door is back.  I have admitted utter defeat.  But strangely, I feel better now that it's back.  Allow me to explain.  (This is a somewhat long explanation, so if you want you can skip to the funny story in the next-to-last paragraph.  I won't be offended.)

Note the year on the calendar.
Hey, the days are the same, so it works.
About a year and a half ago, I decided the door between the kitchen and the laundry room/enclosed back porch was just too ugly and awkward to tolerate any longer.  It's a wider-than-average door (the doorway is the original back entrance to the house; the door is decidedly not original to the house) and it opened against the fridge, so when the door was open, and you opened the fridge door, it bumped against it.  The open door also blocked the trash can and recycling bin, which because of the layout of the kitchen can't be put anywhere else.  So, in a snit, I took the door off and shoved both halves of it down the basement steps.  I intended to buy a folding door, which would've looked nicer and not stuck out into the kitchen awkwardly.  But guess what?  They don't make single folding doors that wide, nor do they make double folding doors that narrow.  Grrr.  The chirpy woman at the big-box store told me I could special-order a folding door the size I needed, but I have better things to spend my money on. 

However....not having the door there at all proved way more problematic than having an ugly door there.

First, winter came.  The laundry room has no HVAC and no insulation in its walls (not that the rest of this house has insulation in the walls, either) so it gets mighty chilly back there.  All that Arctic air wafts into my bedroom, which is conveniently located just off the kitchen and laundry room.  Last winter I hung a big fleece blanket in the doorway to block the air.  You won't see that crafty idea on HGTV, I tell you. 

Second, the laundry room is bright and sunny.  This is a nice feature if you're a daywalker person who sleeps at night.  It's irritating if you're trying to sleep in the daytime and, even if you close the bedroom door, sunlight streams in through the kitchen doorway and through the transom above the bedroom door and right into your eyes.

Third, the animals can't be shut in my room while I'm trying to sleep because they have to potty, or they bicker, or they need a drink or a snack.  (Like little kids, really.)  Simply shutting them out doesn't work either because Louis Cat sticks his paws under the door and rattles the door in the frame or Libbi (my dog) scratches on the door because she's lonely.  They also have access to the kitchen that way, which means little kitty pawprints on the kitchen countertops (eww!), Louis popping open the cabinet doors to go spelunking in there, and Mean Little Marie turning on the kitchen faucet. 

So the craptastic door is back.  In the wee hours of Wednesday morning, I braved the basement (and found a dead, petrified mouse on the dirt floor down there), retrieved the two halves of the Dutch door, and re-hung it.  I hadn't bothered to take the hinges off the door when I removed it, so re-hanging the door took about 10 minutes.  And I put this off for 18 months.  I amaze myself...and not in a good way. 

Roughly five minutes after I hung the door, herded the animals to the laundry room, shut the door, and latched the flap on the pet door, Marie tore the flap off the pet door, breaking both the plastic hinges and the plastic latch in the process.  I attempted to re-create the hinges and the latch with Hello Kitty Duck Tape, but Marie tore the flap off again and then became even more enraged when the tape stuck to her paws and fur.  (If you ever have to pull Duck Tape off an angry cat, I recommend donning heavy gloves and using a big piece of cardboard as a shield.  Less blood loss that way.)  Now there is a baby gate in front of the door, which is closed.  It doesn't look stupid at all. 

And then, something wonderful happened.  I went to bed and got 6 hours of uninterrupted sleep.  No cats stepping on me, no dog burrowing under the covers, no Gracie licking my hair.  And when I woke up, the kitchen was just as I left it.  No water running (Marie can turn the water on, but not off), no cabinet doors open, no cardboard dragged out of the recycling bin and chewed up.  Wonderful.  I expect more wonderful things when I get home this morning and any mess or chaos that occurred overnight is confined to the laundry room, which is now a giant kennel. 

Craptastic door, I think I love you.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Perspective, Or Not

In the ongoing saga of renovation burnout...

I went out this weekend with some friends, and we ran into some other friends, who of course asked me what I was working on at the house.  My answer?  A roll of the eyes and a loud "GAH!" 

To which our friend Steve replied, "Uh-oh", and then sat me down for a heart-to-heart.  He told me mostly what I've already heard:  that I should ride out the lack of motivation because it will return someday, that I should do what has to be done before winter and wait on the rest, that everyone with an old house goes through this at some point, and that if I have something small and not too expensive I should hire it out to improve my mental state. 

Then The Magnificent Greg chimed in and pointed out something that should have been obvious to me:  When I was working on the house down the street with my then-boyfriend Mare, we had help.  Lots of it.  We knew three or four other couples who were also renovating/restoring old houses and we took turns helping out each other.  (All of those couples but one have since split up, by the way, which probably ought to tell me something....)  Working on an old house mostly alone is wholly different from working on an old house with the help of 6 or 8 good friends.  For some reason, that didn't occur to me before now.

And then a woman who lives down the street (who is half of the only couple to have stayed together) said, "Taking those shingles off the house is the best thing you could have done for it.  Every time I go by there I just say, WOW."  That prompted an friend from high school who I haven't seen in years to ask me about that, and I told him the story of tearing off the outside of my house, whereupon he let out a low whistle and said, "Holy shit." 

So I went home that night feeling a whole lot better about the house and my mental health in general.

That, in turn, prompted me to get off my hiney yesterday and decorate the porch and the parlor windows for Halloween.  Picking a project that will pay off in terms of appearance, as Karen Anne said.  (Photos next time because I can't find my USB cable.)  After that, I took Milah's good advice about a fall cleaning doing wonders, and I scrubbed my floors and cleaned up the house.  All of which brightened my spirits considerably.

And then, as I sat in my nice clean second parlor, the phone rang.  It was my favorite local realtor, the guy I would entrust to sell the Kelly House if it ever comes to that, and he said, "I heard through the grapevine that you like a little house on Highland."  I heaved a big sigh and said, "Oh yes, I really, really do."  He told me that he's sold it a couple of times, knows a lot about it, and would love to show it to me.  I resisted the temptation.  For now.  Oh, how fickle is my supposed love for my house at this moment....

Friday, October 7, 2011


I'm seriously crushing on that house over on Highland.  Seriously.

I first developed this crush when I spent about five hours inside that house during last year's Old Homes Tour.  I liked the house already, but an afternoon spent with folks ooh-ing and ahh-ing over it while you walk 'em through it can make a girl's heart flip right over.  And then there was the Laurel-and-Hardy moment just after the tour ended, when all us girls (including the house's owner) kicked off our shoes, leaned back in chairs on the sun porch, and prepared to post-mortem Tour Day until someone said, "Uhhhh....someone's at the door," and the homeowner said something like, "Oh crap, it's the realtor and she wants to show the house," and we rushed around putting away a couple of snack trays, stowing dirty plates in the dishwasher, tucking tour signs into drawers, and then all us volunteers ran out the back door and hid, giggling, until the realtor and the looky-loos got inside, whereupon we dashed out to our cars and made a getaway.  That was fun.  (Also, I want y'all to know that I went to high school with the realtor and I am biting my tongue because I really, really want to say something snarky.  Suffice it to say, I was in the geeky crowd--hard to imagine, I know--and she was a Popular Girl.  Admire my restraint, y'all.)

Anyhow, because I was thinking about the Old Homes Tour, I googled it and found a non-blurry photo of the house and a nice little description of it.  Ain't it cute?

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Good Advice

"I often give myself very good advice, but I very seldom follow it."
--Alice In Wonderland

I'm a lot like Alice.  I can think a problem through, sit myself down, and give myself very good advice.  And then I go and do whatever I want to do anyway, which very often is the polar opposite of the good advice I'd just given myself.  That's why talking things over with friends is important.  Y'all think of things I wouldn't, remind me of things I've forgotten, give me great ideas, and put things in perspective.

After I read the comments to my last post, three things stood out:

Karen Anne's advice to take a wait-and-see approach.  "Either the price will come down further or the house will be sold, solving your problem."

Sandra's very wise reminder.  "All of us enslaved to an older house covet ones that are perfectly finished."

Dave's good advice.  "Accept the burnout and go with it when it happens."

I thought about all of that on my days off, mostly while sitting on my front porch with a cold beer in my hand, and I made a decision that's a conglomeration of those three pieces of advice:  I'm going to finish what has to be done before winter (namely, the peeling paint on the east side of the house) and then I'm going to sit back and wait until my restoration burnout dissipates, because everybody who has an old house feels this way sometimes and it will probably pass--but if it doesn't go away in a year, then I'm going to buy that house on Highland.  A year.  I'm giving myself a year.

I also took Dynochick's advice about putting hot towels on the floor to dissolve the glue, but that didn't work.  Joey (the floor guy) thinks that's because the glue on my floors is newer and not water-soluble.  Speaking of Joey, when things slow down a little for him this winter, he's going to come over and give me a real estimate for refinishing my floors.  A real estimate, not the "somewhere between $2,500 and $5,000, prolly" that he gave me a couple of years ago. 

Then I sat down with a calculator and started working on a Real Budget for the bathroom renovation.  A real one, not the seat-of-my-pants estimating that I usually do.  I want to come up with a total cost for materials, add a healthy 15% to 20% to that to hedge against unseen problems (because you know there will be some), get a plumber in here to bid the work I don't know how to do or don't want to mess with, add in Joey's estimate for the floors in the rest of the house, and then get a loan to cover all that and be done with it.  The two things I detest most about my house right now are the horrid floors and the horrid bathrooms.  Horrid, I tell you.  If the floors and the bathrooms were done, I might forget all about the Highland House...but if I don't, having that stuff done will help out my resale value.  I'm against loans on principle (haha, principle) but in this case, with my mental health at stake, I'll make an exception.

And speaking of mental health...remember The Devil Queen?  If you're not familiar with this blog, you really ought to read it.  John says in the header that it's a cautionary tale, and it truly is.  My house is not nearly "the ruin" (John's word) that the Queen was before John and his wife started their restoration, but this is a case of Restoration Burnout becoming terminal.  Reading The Devil Queen again makes me feel both better and worse.

A plan.  A year.  Or so. Mark your calendars, y'all, because come Fall-ish 2013 2012, we'll revisit this issue.

Late Edit:  Thanks to Kate H. for pointing out my incorrect timeline.  I shouldn't try to write intelligently just before bedtime.  :)

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Movie Night

I still haven't found my missing house mojo.  But in the meantime, I found something on YouTube.  Something wonderful.  "Videos For Cats", and that's exactly what they are--videos for kitties to watch. 

So little Gracie and Louis had a movie date.

Isn't that cute??

Sunday, October 2, 2011

I Lied...A Little

I have a confession to make, y'all.  I lied.  Just a little.  It was more a lie of omission, as the priest would say, than an intentional lie.  So if you're grading on the curve, I thought I'd throw that in there.

Anyhow, my long absence from this blog has not been entirely because I was mourning the loss of the clawfoot tub.  It's because I have a serious case of Renovation Burnout.  I mean, a serious case.  Like, almost terminal.  I have not done a damn thing on my house other than to maintain the usual state of untidiness and clutter since...oh, my...since August 2nd.  Oops.  I told my daughter-in-law that I'd taken a thirty-day break from the house.  Hey, Sarah, make that a sixty-day break.  Yowza.

Just how bad is this Renovation Burnout?  Bad enough that I seriously contemplated chucking it all in and buying another house.  Yeah...that bad.  Not just any house, though.  An 1845 Greek Revival that's six blocks from my house in another one of the four National Register Historic Districts in my town.  It's a terrific little house.   You can see for yourselves here.  (The photos don't do it justice.)  The two upstairs bedrooms are tucked under the slope of the roof and are cute as can be.  The kitchen's really pretty, the hardwood floors are gorgeous (I wonder if Joey refinished them??), the rooms are all painted these warm Pottery Barn colors, and the downstairs bathroom even has a clawfoot tub.  The best part is:  the house is done.  Done.  Finished.  Routine maintenance only.  No painting to be done, no wallpaper to be hung, no glue-crusted floors to be refinished, no yucky 1970s bathrooms, no picture rail to hang, no light switches that don't work, and as far as I know no scary trap-door basement.  (I have to end this list here, before I cry.) Tempting.  And did you see the price?!  Holy Buyer's Market, Batman!! 

So then, I appealed to my friend John (a house appraiser and old-house-freak like myself) before I ran off foaming at the mouth to the realtor's office.
Me:  "Talk me out of this, John.  You know, like you did before."
John:  "Location, location, location.  You've got location where you are.  There's a reason this house is down to where it is."
Me:  "But I love her."
John:  "Just say no!....To debt."
Me:  "But I love her."
John:  "Your house has one of the best locations you can probably get in Lexington."
Me:  "But...but..."
John:  "Sorry to piss in your Post Toasties, but you asked me to."
Me:  "I know...but still, with all that said, this house makes me swoon.  It's like being in love with someone I know is bad for me.  I mean, I think it's like that.  I certainly have no experience with that.  Nope.  Not me."

So I didn't go running off like a rabid chicken to the realtor's office.  (Do chickens get rabies??  Christine??)  And that's only partly because by the time I woke up Saturday afternoon the realtor's office was already closed.  Today I'm safe, because it's Sunday. 

Dear Readers, I appeal to you:  One of you, please buy that house.  Or make me an offer on mine.  I beg of you, buy that house.  It's the only way to end this craziness and house-loathing.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Tub Story 2, A Tale of Procrastination & Woe

I apologize for my long absence, but I have been mourning the apparent loss of my free clawfoot tub.

I say "apparent" because although it's lost, no one seems to know exactly what happened to it.  See, a long, long time ago--like at the beginning of baseball season, when it looked like the Red Sox might make the playoffs instead of falling completely apart in an astounding night of baseball that left me whomper-jawed and kicking things--what was I saying??  Oh, yeah.  A long time ago, like back in April, there were two clawfoot tubs in the parking lot of what would later become the awesome new hardware store.  They were both painted green.  Mine, in case you wondered, was the slightly smaller one on the right which was a slightly lighter shade of green and had had its feet removed.  Shortly after the hardware store opened, both the tubs disappeared. 

Two weeks or so ago, I asked The Magnificent Greg (aka The Tub Giver) to check on the whereabouts of my tub.  He came back with a mumbly answer that was something like, "I dunno where it is," which might have been the truth or might have been TMG's way of sloughing me off.  So then my daughter-in-law and I drove around behind the hardware store to see if someone might have dragged the tub back there for safekeeping.  My heart leapt when we found a little tub on a pallet, missing its feet, which was in the process of having its paint removed.  "That's it!" I squealed.  Sarah said, "Mom, what paint's left on the tub is white, not green.  I don't think that's the same tub."  I may have wept a little, but I bravely took her out for shrimp nachos and beer, which made me feel a teeny bit better. 

But I am still sad.  A free tub, lost.  Lost through my own procrastination and stubborn refusal to ask for help in hauling it from the parking lot to my house way back in April.  Procrastination....stubborn independence.....Hmmm, that's a familiar theme here.  And I know last time I talked about the tub, I said if I'd lost it I would need one of y'all to come kick my hiney.  Well, that's not necessary.  I've already kicked myself plenty over this thing.  I lost a free tub.  Free.  So now, the budget for the bathroom remodel has increased again by about $1200, conservatively.  Rats.  Which means it will be put off again, until probably Spring of 2013.  Rats, RATS.

And now, I think I'm done kicking myself over it.  At least temporarily.  Competitive Freezing Season (also known as Winter) will be on us before we know it, and I have stuff to do.  Lots of stuff to do.  I need to scrape the peeling paint off the east side of the house, caulk over it like White Trash Bob taught me last fall, and then paint it.  I need to make sure all the storm windows are secure, check the caulking around the window frames, put some Seal-N-Peel around the inside frames of the windows, put plastic film (ugly but effective) over the leakiest windows, and generally get the house tucked in for winter.  After that, I can make a list of the winter/indoor projects....some of which are still hanging around since last winter.  Or even the winter before.  It's that procrastination thing, ya know?

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Never Forget

Ten years ago today, I was sleeping in because I'd worked late the night before.  My cell phone rang and it was my boyfriend at the time, Nate, who was a sheriff's deputy.  "Turn on the tv," he said abruptly, then, "I'm going to Higginsville PD to watch television."  He hung up.  My first reaction was irritation that he woke me up, and then puzzlement that he was watching television while he was on duty.  I turned on the television in time to see the second plane hit the World Trade Center. 

The most poignant memory I have of the news coverage of that day is seeing some footage of the rubble of the World Trade Center and hearing the eerie whistles of the PASS devices belonging to firefighters trapped in all that concrete and steel.  I remember grabbing the hand of my partner at work (although, oddly, I cannot recall who I was working with) and we stood there crying as we watched that.  Three hundred forty-three.  Even people not in the fire service know what that number represents.

Today I pause to remember those firefighters lost, along with the police officers and civilians who also lost their lives on that awful day.  But now, ten years later, I also pause to think about the people who survived.  People like Matt Komorowski, an FDNY firefighter who was trapped in a stairwell at World Trade Center along with five other members of his Ladder Company and a woman they were helping to evacuate.  That's Komorowski's helmet in the photo.  He keeps it in a glass case in his living room, still covered with the dust from that day.  That helmet is a symbol to me of survival.  September 11, 2001 represents a a terrible loss of life, but it is also the most successful rescue operation that FDNY has ever conducted.  Today I mourn those lost, but I also celebrate those who survived.

Photo copyright National Geographic. 
That photo, and others that are part of a collection of survivors' stories,
can be seen by clicking on the highlighted text.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Tub Story

Someone asked in comments last week how my clawfoot tub ended up in the hardware store parking lot, and it was then I realized that I never told y'all about my clawfoot tub in the first place.

The Magnificent Greg, the bestest of my best friends, gifted me a clawfoot tub last spring.  (Incidentally, this gift is not why Greg's the bestest of my best friends--he's held that status for at least a couple of years before the bathtub.)  Greg lives in a pre-Civil War commercial building in downtown Lexington.  The first floor is retail space, and the upstairs is a very cool-looking apartment.  This building, during the Civil War, was the headquarters of Confederate General Sterling Price, which I believe adds something to Greg's general aura of awesomeness.  Anyway, Greg decided to remodel said apartment and get rid of his little clawfoot tub.  So, being the bestest of my best friends, he immediately called me and asked if I wanted it.  For free.  After I came to after passing out at the thought of such a generous gift, I said yes.  (Of course I said yes--who wouldn't?!)  I didn't have room for the bathtub at my house last spring, and the ginormous bathroom remodel is still a year or so away, so the people who remodeled Greg's apartment agreed to keep the tub for me.  They were in the process of their own giant remodeling project--turning a former car dealership into a hardware store--so they set the tub on a wooden pallet in the parking lot of the store.

And there it's been for months and months.  I go by and visit it every couple of weeks and tell it that I'm taking it home soon, very soon, just as soon as I can find enough people to haul the thing to my house.  Yesterday before I left for work I thought I'd go by and take a photo of the bathtub to show you how lovely it is.  It's a 4-foot-long vintage cast iron tub with big claw feet and right now it's painted a sort of juniper green on the outside. 

And....the tub is gone.  Nowhere to be found.  I'm hoping they've just moved it to inside storage.  I'm hoping they didn't think I abandoned the tub.  I'm hoping it's not now in someone else's house, or listed on eBay, or--horrors!--in someone's yard filled with dirt and mums.  That's what I'm hoping.  Because if it turns out that I've lost my free clawfoot tub due to carelessness and neglect, then I will need one of you to kick me right in the hiney. 

Friday, September 2, 2011

Be Still My Heart

I can't stop thinking about it.  And every time I think about it, I smile.  My heart skips a couple beats.  I'm insanely happy.

Lexington has a new hardware store.

(What did you think I meant???)

Yep, a brand-spankin-new hardware store in the big building where the Chevy dealership used to be, so I'm doubly happy.  We now have a decent place to buy tools and sandpaper and plumbing supplies and electrical stuff, and now folks see a nice locally-owned business instead of a vacant building when they come to town from the south.  And to top it all off, they sell Valspar paint, which saves me a 45-minute trip to the closest big-box store and lets me support small business.  (Although I will kinda miss the hot guy in plumbing at the Lowe's in Warrensburg.)  I'll need Valspar paint when I finally decide to tackle the peeling paint on the east side of my house.  That's a September/October project.

Now if I could just find someone to help me get my cast-iron clawfoot tub out of the hardware store parking lot, I'd be really, really happy...

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Channeling Scarlett

Not to sound all Scarlett O'Hara or anything, but...As God is my witness, I will finish painting the trim in the second parlor soon, if only because my blog's starting to sound like this:

Wish me luck.

Monday, August 22, 2011


My friend Jill and I agreed some weeks back that more nouns ought to be made into verbs.  There's actually a linguistic term for this:  verbing.  Apparently verbing is a growing trend and Jill and I did not, in fact, think of it ourselves.  Therefore, because we are nothing if not trendy girls (snicker), we've decided that "porch-sitting" shall now and forevermore be known instead as "porching".

Y'all know my fondness for porching.  I porch nearly year-round, except when freezing cold keeps me from it.  My favorite porching season--indeed, my favorite season, period--is summer.  As far as I'm concerned, baseball, porching, and peaches are the Holy Trinity of summer.  Late afternoon porching with my ever-dapper and gracious neighbor Carl is the best.  (And not just because he provides rum & Cokes.)  A close second, though, is middle-of-the-night porching.  That's when the furbabies and I sit amiably together on the porch with almost no noise but the crickets and the frogs.  It's lovely.  Still, practical considerations have to be made, and one of those is the need for at least a little light.  Sometimes I turn on the ceiling fixture in the brown parlor so that the light spills out onto the front porch, but I really prefer candlelight.  Candlelight requires matches, of course, and I'm forever misplacing the matches, or leaving them on the porch so that they get rained on or the box gets floppy from the Missouri humidity.

Then I spied this great little idea on Pinterest.
A Mason jar with matches in it.  Brilliant.  It keeps the matches dry and looks cute to boot.  The original idea used a Mason jar with the ring, and the flat lid had sandpaper glued onto it.  I tried that but the only sandpaper I had was 80-grit, which pretty much tore the head off the match as I tried to strike it.  So, I got one of my other jars with the zinc lid, cut the strike strip off the side of the matchbox, and fitted it inside the lid.  Wabam!  A weatherproof and cute container for porch matches.  And since I mentioned Pinterest, I must tell you that if you haven't already discovered this website, you really ought to go there.  It's a ginormous pinboard (thousands of pinboards, actually) of craft ideas, home decor, fashion, recipes, photos....almost anything you can think of that you like, you'll find on Pinterest.  I will not be held responsible if you become hopelessly addicted to this website.   If you can tear yourself away from Pinterest, and you have an Android phone, then you really ought to download the photo app Vignette for it.  The demo version (which is free) has so many filters and effects that you may never upgrade to the full version.  (The photo in this post was processed through Vignette,)   Now make no mistake, I doubt seriously that anyone will become the next Annie Liebowitz with just a camera phone and Vignette, but it sure does make taking photos with your phone a lot more fun.

Thursday, August 18, 2011


Yes, I did manage to accomplish something before coming back to work this week.  Progress has been made.

Tuesday afternoon, as I walked through the back porch/laundry room with a hammer in my hand, I reached out with the claw of the hammer, snagged a shingle on the wall that surrounds the shower and tore that sucker right off the wall.  It fell onto the floor.  It's still there.  I care not. 

I know what you're thinking:  Yes, a Sucky Previous Owner really did shingle two interior walls with the same fugly cedar shingles they covered the outside of the house with.

And also:  Yes, the shower stall juts out into the back porch/laundry room in a way that's extraordinarily awkward and ugly.  This is one of the big reasons I want to destroy the shower and remodel the bathrooms.  That, and the fact that the back door doesn't line up with the walkway through the backyard anymore because the SPOs moved the back door when they installed the shingled shower.

And finally:  No, I'm not starting the bathroom remodel yet.  I just tore a shingle off the wall so I'd be able to say I got something done on the house this week.  To paraphrase Dr. Seuss, progress is progress, no matter how small.

Saturday, August 13, 2011


This past week has been crazy.  Downright insane.  Crazy weather, crazy man at the gas station telling me I've brought the Gates of Hell upon myself, crazy work schedule, crazy flea medicine that caused Libbi to actually have more fleas than she did before I used it, crazy yard light at the neighbors flashing off and on constantly for five days now...craziness. 

And because of all that, I've gotten nothing done on the house since the last time I posted.  As my friend Sharon would say, "GAH!"   My greatest accomplishment in the past eleven days has been to maintain the house's usual level of dust and cat hair without it getting any worse. 

Tonight I work a very odd 5-hour shift in the wee hours, then a nap, then a road trip during which I might possibly allow myself to feel the teensiest bit of self-pity because the 13th was supposed to be my wedding day.  Back by suppertime Monday night for burgers, beers and shenanigans at Westport Flea Market with the inimitable Dougar. 

And maybe, just maybe, something will be accomplished on the house before I go back to work on Tuesday night....

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

So Far, So Good

With slightly over an hour left until it's officially Wednesday, things are lookin pretty good on the ol' to-do list.
  • Haul all the Christmas decorations & assorted junk out of the closet in the second parlor.
  • Tear up the carpet in said closet. (I forgot it had carpet until I started painting the trim.)
  • Remember to wear decent shoes (i.e., not flip flops) whilst tearing up said carpet.
  • Take up tack strip in closet and around ginormous return vent in floor.
  • Put all the stuff back in the closet in some semblance of order.
  • Donate junk as necessary.  I actually got rid of the treadmill that neither Mrs. WTB nor I want.  WTB was going to throw it away last fall until I protested and WTB rolled it across the street to my front porch.  I intended to use it, but the dang thing makes my knees hurt.  Mrs. WTB has a new one and didn't want this one back, so it's been taking up space in my parlor ever since.  The treadmill will find a new home at my friend Lisa's house come Sunday.
  • Call WTB and ask him to take decent pics of hardware marks. You'd think I might've remembered this, what with the whole treadmill issue.  But no.
  • Remove transom hardware from parlor/bedroom door.
  • Strip paint from hardware. Say bad swears as necessary.
  • Paint door trim. I'll probably do this sometime tonight.
  • Replace transom hardware.  See above.
  • Throw away dead plants on front porch and admit utter failure there.  Those things were crispy-fried.  Next spring, I'm turning those urns into the self-watering kind.  For reals.  Then I can water every 3 days instead of 3 times a day.
  • Paint other trim in parlor. (Some, probably not all.)
  • Take other bottom door off closet.
  • Strip door hinges.
  • Paint closet door.
  • Re-hang closet door.
  • Remember that Tuesday is Taco Night.  I remembered at 9:35 p.m.  They stop serving tacos at 8:00 p.m.  Rats.
  • Remember that Tuesday is Taco Night in time to actually buy & consume tacos.  Fail.  But since my friend Ron so kindly pointed out that I weigh more than Micky Ward (at least at his fightin' weight) maybe I really don't need those tacos anyway.


Sunday, July 31, 2011

Keeps Me Honest

It's not enough for me to just make a list.  To be truly motivated, I have to make a list and post it here.  Keeps me honest.

So this is my list for the next three days:

  • Haul all the Christmas decorations & assorted junk out of the closet in the second parlor.
  • Tear up the carpet in said closet.  (I forgot it had carpet until I started painting the trim.)
  • Remember to wear decent shoes (i.e., not flip flops) whilst tearing up said carpet.
  • Take up tack strip in closet and around ginormous return vent in floor.
  • Put all the stuff back in the closet in some semblance of order.
  • Donate junk as necessary.
  • Call WTB and ask him to take decent pics of hardware marks.
  • Remove transom hardware from parlor/bedroom door.
  • Strip paint from hardware.  Say bad swears as necessary.
  • Paint door trim.
  • Replace transom hardware.
  • Throw away dead plants on front porch and admit utter failure there.
  • Paint other trim in parlor.  (Some, probably not all.)
  • Take other bottom door off closet.
  • Strip door hinges.
  • Paint closet door.
  • Re-hang closet door.
  • Remember that Tuesday is Taco Night.
  • Remember that Tuesday is Taco Night in time to actually buy & consume tacos.

There.  I think that's ambitious but reasonable.  Maybe.

Where in the World is WTB?!

Y'all may have noticed the conspicuous absence of White Trash Bob from my blog this summer.  He's still alive and well and living across the street from me in the house he's dubbed The Coal Miner's Despair.  I haven't seen much of him lately because he is, as Mrs. WTB calls him, my "project husband" and I haven't had any big WTB-type projects this summer.  He's also a claims adjuster for a major insurance company and with the tornadoes and floods in the Midwest this summer, he's been really busy.  I'm hoping to recruit him this fall or winter to help me hang picture rail in the front parlor.  (More about that picture rail and the front parlor in a post coming soon.)

Anyway, I was thinking of him yesterday because he has a really good camera and I do not.  DaveS asked me to post another photo of the ghost marks/hardware scars on the trim around the closet doors in my second parlor.
That's the best photo I could get with my little digital camera.  If you bigify it I think you can see the horizontal lines and the patched nail or screw holes in the four corners.  Also, now that I look at this photo, those gouges seem to form a circle...  Any ideas as to what kind of hardware was on here originally?

Friday, July 29, 2011

The Devil's in the Details

When I took the craptastic hardware off the closet door in the second parlor, I expected to find ghost marks from the original hardware.  I did not.  That caused me to stand there for a minute or so frowning and saying, "Huh." 

I am absolutely, positively certain that this is not the original hardware:
It's ugly and flimsy, and nothing original to this house is ugly and flimsy.  I threw it in the trash right after that photo was taken.  I don't feel bad about it.  I couldn't even give away a whole mess of it for free on Craigslist when Mare and I re-did the kitchen.  (This junk matches the junk that used to be on the kitchen cabinets.)

What I'm wondering is, what was on there originally?  If I had ghost marks from the original hardware, I'd try to buy hardware the same size and style.  I'd like to put these awesome latches on there, but since I need four of them, $74.95 a pop is a bit pricey.  These latches are almost as awesome, in my price range, and the turn button almost exactly matches the knob on my transom hardware.  I'm keeping an eye out on eBay as well.  Still, I'd feel better about the latches if I knew what was on there originally. 

There's a bunch of ghost marks on the door and the trim, but none of 'em really make sense.  See?

I outlined em in painter's tape so you can see em.

 This is the kind of thing that just drives me bonkers, because then I start thinking....

I think the doors and maybe even the trim might've been re-used, either from someplace else in this house or from another house.  (The Kellys owned at least three other houses in Lexington, none of which remain, and at least two farms in Lafayette County which I haven't tracked down yet.) 

From top to bottom, here's why I think that:
A.  There's a seam in the trim piece between the lower doors and the upper doors.  I cannot see a seam on any other piece of door trim in this house.
B.  Those huge hardware marks on the door trim (left and right).  It doesn't look like a patched mortise (too smooth), more like a ghost mark from some sort of large hardware.
C.  That big square in between the two lower doors.  It's perfectly square and I can see patched nail or screw holes at each corner of it.  Was it some kind of latch plate?  In the middle of it is a triangular gouge, which might be damage caused by whoever pried off that hardware. 
D.  And finally, those ghost marks from hinges on the lower third of each door.  They're opposite the hinge side of the door and at the same level, but there's no mark like it on the upper part of the doors.  Weird.

I've always thought the closet was original to the house...but maybe not.  The inside walls of it are rough, as if they left the roughcoat on the plaster and didn't put on the finish coat.  That's what made me think the closet was original...but now, looking at all the marks on the trim, I'm not so sure.  This room originally had an exterior door that led to the side porch...could the trim have come from that? 

Could the doors be cut down from the original basement trapdoor?  The existing trapdoor is clearly not original--it's plywood.  The back porch (where the trap door is) was already closed in by the time my mom's friend Teresa moved into one of the apartments in this house back in 1947.  Maybe when they enclosed the back porch they re-used the trapdoor as those closet doors?

Or maybe all this angst over the closet comes from being home for two extra days with a horrible summer cold (fever, cough, headache, congestion, earache) and a UTI that has me running to the bathroom every 45 minutes and using bad swears when I get there.  (Was that an overshare??  You ladies understand.)  Maybe I should just buy the darn iron and brass latches, which really are pretty cool, and stop all this rat-on-a-wheel-type thinking....

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Best Before & After Ever

Today I had pretty modest goals:

  • Finish stripping one set of transom hardware
  • Paint one door of the clothes press
  • Paint trim around press door
  • Re-hang press door
  • Paint at least half the trim on the parlor door
  • Re-hang transom hardware
I accomplished all but the last two as I write this, and I'll probably finish those later tonight. 

As I was getting ready to paint the trim around the parlor door, I noticed that I'd never stripped the striker plate to that door.  It's one of three striker plates still left intact and in place after some idiot made the stupid decision to saw all the interior doors in half. 

When I took it off the door it looked like this, so I thought it was probably a plain striker plate like the other two Mare and I had uncovered.  But then, just as I dropped it in the CrockPot, I noticed something on the other side of the plate, the side that had been against the jamb.  Something wonderful.

I had a Howard Carter moment.  (Yes, I am a geek.)  See it there, in the top left corner?  That little leaf?  It's not a plain little striker plate at all.  Oh Sweet Mary!

A couple of hours later I fished it out of the Crock Pot and (ow, that's hot!) rubbed the gummy paint off with my fingers.  No brass brush scrubbing for this little gem.

Behold...the best before & after ever...
Is that not the most gorgeous little striker plate you've ever laid eyes on??  All these years it's been hidden under layers and layers and layers of paint. 

Excited, I took it over to my son's house.  "Mom, that's amazing!" he exclaimed.  "What are you gonna do with it?"  I must've looked at him like he wasn't quite bright.  "You're not gonna put that back on the door, are you?!" he said.  I told him that was exactly what I planned to do.  "No, no!  You should put it in a little shadow box."  I considered it, but I really think I'll put it back on the door.  Mrs. Kelly probably picked out these striker plates when the house was built, and all the doors on the front ("public") part of the house must have had them.  This one and the one on the front door are the only two fancy ones that survive.  I do think it would be the best memorial to Maria Kelly to use it.  The striker plate won't get much wear:  the door between the foyer and the second parlor (which is where this one came from) is almost always open, and even with all those layers of paint the latch barely caught the strike plate.  (The doorknob and its hardware are not original to the house.)  I'll keep an eye on it, and if it looks like the striker plate's wearing, I'll take it off and replace it with a plain one since I have a couple of extras of those.

As a side note, it makes me sick at heart to think of all the beautiful door hardware that must have been thrown away when the doors were cut in half.  I thank my lucky stars that the house still retains what little it does:  the front door hinges, doorknobs, backplates and striker plate; most of the transom window hardware (except for what was on windows that opened to the outdoors); two plain striker plates; seven sets of steeple hinges (only one hinge was so badly broken that it had to be replaced) and this fancy little striker plate.

I think I'll stare at it a few more times before I put it back on the door jamb....

True Story, For Reals

Whenever my friend Jennifer-A makes a declaration that might be met with skepticism, she begins by saying, "True story".  Faced with the same situation, I end my declaration with, "For reals".  So if, for example, I had an absolutely stellar day, an almost unbelievably good day, it might warrant using both "true story" and "for reals" at the same time.

Like this:

True story.  I accomplished more today (Monday) in restoring hardware than I have in the past two years.  For reals.

And, I owe all of this incredibly good day to a brand-new reader, DaveS, who commented on my last post (written in the wee hours of this morning when I had reached the limits of my frustration) with a solution for freeing the screws on my transom and door hardware from their paint prison.  Dave said, "A utility knife works very well for getting at painted-over hardware. You can use it to cut around the edges, to burrow down to the screws, and to clean out the screw slots. Once you get the blade down into the paint, it generally will flake off just by twisting the tool."  Genius.  I read that Monday morning (and by "morning" I mean a little after noon) while eating my breakfast.  I nearly knocked over the kitchen chair jumping out of it.  I even left a peach half-eaten on the table, and usually wild horses can't drag me away from a fresh Missouri peach.  Ten minutes later I had two sash lifts off the windows in the front parlor.  Sash lifts that I've been trying to remove for two years.  Bless your heart, DaveS, you have my undying gratitude.

An hour or so later I plopped all this into the CrockPot.

Five sash lifts, a hook & two hinges
And a few hours later, after a long soak in the CrockPot and a little scrubbing with a wire brush, that icky hardware was beautiful again.
I wish those two sash lifts weren't broken.  It occurs to me, though, that if you have a jackwagon mentality such that you'd blob paint all over original Victorian hardware, then you're also stupid enough to yank on a stuck window until the sash lift breaks.  The hook is broken too.  There at the top of it should be another hook. 

It's still beautiful, though.
Hello, gorgeous.
No way is that hunk of hardware gonna be hidden away in a closet again.  I'm putting it away someplace safe for now, and then this hook and its unbroken twin will have pride of place in the re-done bathroom.

And now, if y'all will excuse me, I have to go scrub the last little bits of paint off those hinges and check on the transom hardware that's soaking under a thick coat of CitriStrip.