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. 

Monday, July 25, 2011


I have finally finished painting the trim on the four windows in the front parlor.  Finally.  No more standing in the oven.  Just one more big window (with no stained glass panes, so no teeny muntins!) to paint, and a second coat of paint on the baseboard, and then I can put up wallpaper in the front parlor.

What's that you said?  Oh, you thought I said I was going to finish the other parlor first?  Wellllll, I did say that.  But I got sidetracked.  And this time, it wasn't my short attention span or my tendency to bang around the house like a pinball that sidetracked me.  It was something worse.  Now listen up, because I don't say these words very often: 

I can't do it by myself.

Ack!  It pains me to say that.  I absolutely, positively hate admitting that I need help.  Even worse, I hate asking for help.  This time, though, I'm going to have to.  See, before I can finish painting the trim in there, I need to remove the hardware from two transom windows and from the clothes press.  The clothes press has eight hinges, four cabinet latches, and two (or maybe three) ornate hooks.  Of course, every bit of this hardware has paint glommed all over it.  The screws aren't even visible on the transom hardware.  I've tried the old trick of putting the screwdriver in the slot and then whacking it with a hammer, I've tried using stripper to get the paint off the screws, but no matter what I try, I just can't get a good enough bite on the screw to remove it.  I shouldn't feel bad about this, I guess, because I remember Mare having a lot of trouble getting the hinges off the doors when we restored that hardware.  (Now that I think about it, I seem to remember nagging asking him to take the rest of the hardware off the doors and windows...)

So, until I can get someone over here to help me, I can't finish the other parlor.  Unless one of you fine people reading this has another idea for how to remove painted-over hardware...Know it?  Spill it in the comments.  Please and thank you!

Saturday, July 23, 2011

It's An Oven

This might, at first glance, appear to be a rather ordinary feature of a Queen Anne cottage.  But it's not.
It's an oven.  (An oven with a broken storm window.) 

And although in this photo it seems to be nice and shady and cool, it's not.  It's an oven.

Or at least that's how it's felt to me the past couple of days as I've been standing inside painting interior window trim with the sun blazing through the windows.  I can also verify that heat, in fact, does rise.  It's about 20 degrees cooler sitting on the floor drinking a Gatorade than it is standing on the ladder painting teeny little muntins. 

The alternative to slowly baking while I paint would be to wait until nightfall, I suppose.  But then I'd be backlit by the shop light I drag around while painting (try putting cream paint on white trim without one and just see how many spots you miss) and because my house is a tad closer to the street than most, I'd be visible for blocks to anyone walking or driving down the street.  Not to mention that occasionally, I engage in sudden fits of crazy dancing around the house whenever an INXS song comes on Pandora.  I wouldn't want anyone to have to see that.  I feel bad enough just putting that mental image in your heads, so I certainly wouldn't want to be held responsible for the psychological scarring that would surely happen if anyone actually saw that.

So, later on today after my giant nap, I'll be back up there painting.  In the oven.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Let's Review

So here's that to-do list I made Saturday, with completed items crossed-off...
  • Put a third coat of paint on the foyer side of the door.
  • Patch & paint the parlor side of that same door.*
  • Finish painting the trim in the parlor.
  • Tear up the last little strip of carpet in there.
  • Scrape up the glued-down carpet pad.
  • Patch & paint the parlor side of the parlor/bedroom door.* 
And here's what I actually did on my days off:
  • Cleaned out the big closet on the back porch.
  • Hung a shelf up in that closet.
  • Tore up tack strip in the two parlors.  (Some, not all.)
  • Painted some trim in both parlors.
  • Made cinnamon rolls from scratch.
  • Moved the clothes rod in the parlor closet.**
  • Dragged a wicker table destined for the trash back into my bedroom to use as a tv stand.
  • Moved all my clothes out of the teeny closet in my bedroom and into the big closet in the parlor.
  • Pushed my nightstand (which was doing duty as a tv stand) in front of the bedroom closet.***
  • Put together a shoe rack.
  • Hung up a set of 11 pictures in the second parlor. 
  • Had movie night with the kitties and the doggie after the staple incident.

*I'll probably at least patch the doors before I go to bed tonight--er, in the morning.
**I figured out that the problem with the parlor closet is not that the closet is too shallow, it's that the clothes rod was installed too close to the back wall.  I moved it forward and now I have a great big closet to use.  For now.  Unless and until I decide to put back the doors to the side porch.
***I have six--yes, six--doors in my bedroom, so wall space is at a premium.  Ever since I moved into this bedroom, I've been without a nightstand because the bed is flanked by the kitchen door and the closet door with about 2 inches to spare on either side.  (By the way, the other four doors lead to:  the bathroom, the spare bedroom, the side porch, and the second parlor.)

As usual, I'm totally incapable of sticking to a plan.

Monday, July 11, 2011

The Importance of Proper Footwear

So there I was today, ripping out carpet in the brown parlor, listening to the Robert Earl Keen channel on Pandora, and cussing because the last bit of carpet was stuck to the floor extraordinarily well, all while wearing flip-flops.  This is a cautionary tale, folks.  (And if you follow me on Twitter, you know what's coming.)

I stepped into the closet to get a better angle for yanking on the carpet.  Ow!  Ow, ow, OW!  What the heck was that?!  I fell back against the closet wall and grabbed my right foot.  Blood dripped off the side of my $1.50 flip-flop.  (That's $1.50 for the pair, not just the one, so you know they're high-quality.)  I may or may not have said numerous very bad swears at that point.  I'd taken a copper staple to the foot. 

As I hopped on one foot to the bathroom, stringing blood through three rooms, I remembered that the night before, several of us had gotten into a discussion on Facebook about when and where it's appropriate to wear flip-flops. How ironic.  If I didn't have a hematoma the size of a quarter on the ball of my foot, I might even think that's funny.  Right then it just made me mad.  At myself, for wearing stupid shoes.  In fact, it made me so mad that after the bleeding stopped (apply-direct-pressure-with-a-clean-cloth-don't-lift-it-up-to-look-at-it-if-it-keeps-bleeding-you're-not-pressing-hard-enough) and I'd put on both a Band-Aid and some real shoes, I went back in the parlor, yelled out "Towanda!" (or a profane equivalent), tore out the carpet, and then yanked the staple out of the floor.  There's a practical reason for that last bit:  I wanted to make sure the staple was intact and part of it wasn't still in my foot. 

Tonight, at the direction of my favorite medic, my brother-from-another-mother Kenny, it's rest, elevation, ice, Tylenol if needed, and Vitamin C. ("Vitamin C?"  I said.  "Sure," Kenny replied, "It helps restore the blood supply.  Why do you think they give you oranges when you donate blood?")

Tomorrow, I'll be scraping the glued-down carpet pad off the floor and painting some trim.  And wearing proper shoes.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

The South Street Rule

After I mentioned the scary basement (with its aptly-named trap door) in my last post, a couple of folks reminded me that I should take my cell phone with me just in case the door slams shut while I'm down there in the basement.  I always take my cell phone to the basement with me, but it occurs to me that I might've forgotten to tell y'all exactly why I do that.  (Aside from the obvious fear of entrapment.)

I take my phone with me everywhere because of the South Street Rule.

The South Street Rule:  If you are alone in your old house and you will be standing on a ladder, climbing atop a chair or countertop or some such thing, going down to the basement, going up to the attic, running up or down steep stairs, playing with electricity, or doing anything at all which might possibly in someone's wildest imagination cause you to be injured, carry a phone with you at all times.

The South Street Rule, Abundance of Caution Clause:  Before engaging in any potentially injurious activities, call a neighbor and tell them what you will be doing, where in the house you will be, and what time you expect to be finished.  Call the neighbor again when you are finished to sound the all-clear.  If you fail to call said neighbor or answer the phone within a reasonable time frame, said neighbor has the right to kick in your door (if necessary) to ascertain your level of health and welfare.

This rule was enacted a decade or so ago in my neighborhood because a little old lady who lived all alone took a tumble off a ladder, badly broke her leg, and laid there on the floor in pain for over 24 hours until one of her friends, having not heard from her in awhile, went to her house and discovered her injury.  Since then, many other calamitous things have occurred--among them, the seat of a cane-bottomed chair gave way while Carl was standing on it, Katherine whacked her head on a heat duct in her attic, Mary fell down the stairs (twice), I pitched off a ladder, a storm window fell on me, I hit myself in the face with a prybar--and in every instance, help was there almost immediately.

The South Street Rule.  Reason #3,287,491 why I love my neighborhood.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

What To Do?

I have four nights off.  Four.  Nights.  Off.  What to do, what to do?  I did a "lap" through the house to decide:  bedroom, second parlor, foyer, first parlor, dining room, kitchen, then back to the bedroom.  Hmm.

I really, really want to knock out the wall between the two bathrooms, just to see what it'll look like.  Since there's plumbing and electrical in that wall, that might not be the smartest thing to do.

Maybe I'd be lucky enough that the original ceiling on the back porch is still there and I could tear out that ugly acoustic tile ceiling.  A few minutes' investigation with a flashlight while standing on a chair and looking through the transom above the kitchen door proved that, of course, I am not that lucky.

The other night I had a dream that I painted my bedroom floor.  It still seems like a good idea.  Before I could do that, I'd need to move all the furniture into the second parlor, then clean the floor and sand it and prime it and....yeah, that sounds like a big pain in the hiney.  Especially since the second parlor's in shambles.

The second parlor.  That's it. 

So here's the to-do list for the next four nights/days:
  • Put a third coat of paint on the foyer side of the door.
  • Patch & paint the parlor side of that same door.
  • Finish painting the trim in the parlor.
  • Tear up the last little strip of carpet in there.
  • Scrape up the glued-down carpet pad.
  • Patch & paint the parlor side of the parlor/bedroom door.

And one more thing on the tentative, possibly, maybe, just maybe to-do list:  Brave the scary basement to try to figure out where the other end of that damn extension cord is.  There's about 18 inches of extension cord poking out of the floor in the second parlor.  (Why in the Sam Hill would someone do that?!?!)  I have no idea where it's plugged in, but White Trash Bob and I believe the basement is a good possibility. 

Wish me luck.  Photos and tales of woe to follow.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

More Water

Here's a different kind of before-and-after...

This is the photo I took of the Sni Bridge in Wellington last week.  Wellington is the next town west of Lexington along the Missouri River. The woman standing on the bridge works at Catfish Charlie's, a restaurant there in Wellington.  I asked her then if the flooding had cut down on their business.  "It has, a little," she said.  This was taken before the Missouri River rose on Friday to 26.8 feet at Napoleon, which is just west of Wellington.  Flood stage at Napoleon is 17.0 feet.  (An aside to history buffs:  Lafayette County has Wellington and Napoleon, and in between is an itty-bitty town called Waterloo.  Hee hee.) 
Before the Missouri River crested.
And here's a photo of that same area, taken Friday evening:
After the river crested.
Photo courtesy of John Pinkston.
That's Catfish Charlie's on the left with the green roof.  The Sni Mini Mart is on the right.  I stood in their parking lot to take that photo last week.  Someone from Charlie's told me on Facebook yesterday that since the restaurant is on stilts, the water hasn't flooded the interior.  With the parking lot and the ramp to the door underwater, they've had to close for now.  They've sandbagged the Mini Mart and it's become a little island, so it's still open. Friday was supposed to be the crest at 26.8, but I just checked NOAA and the river's now at 27.2 feet and predicted to drop over the next several days.

I promise that I'll write about something besides water soon!