Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Nesting Dolls

Someone once said to me that old houses are like nesting dolls: you see one problem and think you have it licked, but inside that problem is another problem and  then another and another and another...  That's true. Oh, so true.

Let me take you through the last go-round of nesting dolls. First, the obvious problem of no water pressure, so I hired a plumber. Second, the plumber discovered that the gas water heater vented into the same chimney as the furnace draws from, a situation that could potentially pump carbon monoxide through my house, so he replaced my gas water heater with an electric one. Third, a new breaker and electrical work. I counted the new water lines being on the outside of the walls as being the fourth, last, and smallest of the nesting dolls, the one that's the size of a thimble.  It undoubtedly still is the smallest doll, but it turns out a few dolls were missing from the set. 

I came home from work the other morning to find the house a chilly 50°. Fourth nesting doll now accounted for. HVAC guy shows up and discovers a blown transformer in the furnace, which, all things HVAC considered, is not all that bad. (I confess I feared it would be something terrible and I cried.)

Today I was washing dishes in the sink when I decided to stick them all in the dishwasher instead. Loaded it up, turned it on, and the kitchen lights flickered on and off, the dishwasher shut off then started up again weakly, and the range shut itself off. I cursed a blue streak, turned everything off, and crept down to the basement expecting to see tripped breakers and/or some other disaster. Everything looks normal. Clearly everything is not normal, but it looks normal. 

Then I decided to see if the washer worked, because I thought it probably wouldn't and I wanted to know sooner rather than later. It filled with water super fast (awesome water pressure!) but when I turned it to Spin the washer made a series of ominous clicking noises and shut itself off. Dammit, dammit, dammit. 

Checking the breaker box again revealed no tripped or half-tripped breakers still. Also no smoke or fire, which is always a good thing. 

So I called the plumber and asked him if he thought the new wiring for the water heater could be the culprit here, and he blew out his breath in one long sigh and said "Wow, I wouldn't think so but it is the only thing that's different." Then he asked me a bunch of questions about what I had described as "weird electrical stuff" in order to get a more technical idea of the issue. He thinks it might be a problem with the lug (whatever that is), the main wire, or the meter. The outside stuff is the responsibility of the power company to fix; the inside stuff is mine. He'll be out tomorrow to take a look. 

The nesting doll count is now at, I think, five or maybe six. I don't know yet which one is the biggest doll, but I hope it was the plumbing.  Meanwhile, here I sit at home, not running any major appliances, asking Louis Cat every half-hour or so "do you smell smoke?" as if he'll answer me, and feeling sickish about the prospect of the electrical being as easy a fix as the furnace was. 

I always thought those damn nesting dolls looked evil. 

Sunday, December 25, 2016

You Can't Always Get What You Want

Put on the Rolling Stones.  Turn it up.

"You can't always get what you want
You can't always get what you want
You can't always get what you want
But if you try sometimes well you might find
You get what you need..."

What I needed was hot and cold running water in my house that did not involve a garden hose snaking up the basement steps.  What I needed was awesome water pressure, enough water pressure to do laundry in a reasonable amount of time and run the dishwasher. What I needed was PEX lines that never rust. 

What I wanted was all that, plus plumbing lines that are hidden.

Everything did not turn out exactly as I wanted.

It started out well, with these lines that run to the shower in one bathroom. 
Nicely hidden in a box.

Those lines ran over to the toilet and then to the vanity.  Visible, but not bad.

In the other bathroom, it started out like this. Immediately after this photo was taken, Louis Cat ran over to that little hole in the wall by the tub and squeezed himself down into the crawlspace underneath.  I had to fish him out by his hind legs.

They plumbed the tub and then brought the lines over 
to the toilet and the vanity, just like in the other bathroom.  
From there it got worse.
Then those lines ran up the wall...

...and across the wall near the bathroom ceiling, and then through the bathroom wall...

...where they made a turn and went across the kitchen wall and then
down behind the fridge to meet the other lines
coming up from the basement.

I think it looks ugly. I knew ahead of time that they were going to have to do it that way, and I knew why.  PEX can be fished through existing walls, but it's a whole lot easier to do that vertically than horizontally.  Horizontal lines mean cutting a channel in the wall and drilling holes through the studs, which is a big pain in the hiney no matter what kind of walls you have, but it's really difficult with plaster walls. The plumbers originally thought they might be able to run the plumbing up from the basement, through the laundry room floor, and then through the shared wall between the laundry room and the bathroom, but that plan was thrown out when we realized that part of the laundry room floor is concrete. They couldn't run the plumbing through the crawlspace (where the galvanized was) because it's an unheated space--not to mention that the crawlspace is only about 14 inches high.  (All the plumbing in the two bathrooms is in the "box" that was built onto the original house sometime after 1910, so the plumber's theory is that the galvanized lines were laid out on the ground before the addition was built.)  So, yeah, it's the only way they could have done it without the plumbing bill growing exponentially, and they did do it rather neatly.'s ugly. I can paint the lines the same color as the walls and the trim and after I do that they won't show up so much, and eventually I'll get used to those lines being there and I won't even really see them. 

Enough of that whining, though.  My water pressure is, by my best estimate, at least 250% better than it was before.  That means I can run the dishwasher and the dishes actually get clean.  I can do laundry and the tub doesn't take four hours to fill. Showers are so much nicer with good water pressure.  I'll be able to water my flowers with a garden hose this spring and summer. Best of all, PEX lines don't rust so I'll never have to deal with low water pressure like I had again. 

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Fingers Crossed

Well, here I am again, a week later, still with no water but with the beginnings of a major improvement.

To catch y'all up, last week after the first plumber and I parted ways when he said he doesn't take payments I got a second bid from another plumber who does take payments.

Public Service Announcement: don't open a sealed bid whilst driving, talking on the phone (Bluetooth), eating chocolate biscuits and drinking tea because once you see that the first digit of the bid is a 5 and there are three more digits after that before the decimal point, you will swallow half a biscuit, say very bad words your nearly 90-year-old mother shouldn't hear, spill your tea, and almost drive off the road. 

Nothing says "I think I can come up with a pile of cash after all" like getting a second bid that's more than double the first one. After I pay for this plumbing, I'll be broker than the Ten Commandments but at least I won't be deeper in debt.

The first plumber came back on Tuesday to look again at the situation and map out a plan. There are the usual difficulties you'd expect with an old house, but the biggest problem is that most of the plumbing runs under a concrete floor in a crawlspace about 14 inches high. There's no practical way to access that crawlspace--"you could lift up the whole house and have a new foundation poured with a full basement", he said, and then we laughed and laughed--so he's going to abandon that labyrinth of galvanized pipes and figure out a different route for the new plumbing.

Wednesday morning the plumber showed up bright and early and by the end of the day he had the new water heater mostly in and one bathroom plumbed. Thursday he'll be back, with another plumber to help him, and if all goes well I should have water by nightfall. Fingers crossed. 

Monday, December 12, 2016

The House Has Ideas

Last week I mentioned that the house and I celebrated our ten-year anniversary and that I thought skipping through the house randomly declaring my love was a fine gift indeed.

Apparently the house had other ideas.

She's been cranky for six months or so, during which she's given me increasingly low water pressure, but I've put up with it because I love her so much don't have any money.  Last week, probably in a fit of pique over my failure to get her a nice anniversary present, the old girl just gave up entirely.  Only a trickle of water came out of any faucet in the house, and most of the water flow was due more to simple gravity than anything else. 

This was a standoff I was not going to win.  I called a plumber.

He made several educated guesses as to how to fix the problem, with those guesses having varying degrees of expense and inconvenience.

Plumber: "Maybe it's a faulty water meter and the city will have to replace that."

Me: "So that would be free? I'll hope it's that. Oh, I hope it's that. Wait. Maybe I shouldn't get my hopes up too much."

Plumber: "Don't you dare get your hopes up." 

It wasn't that. Of course it wasn't that. Dammit. 

We traveled down to the basement via the trap door in the laundry room floor, a situation he was hilariously horrified by. 

There, he cut through the main water line just to the side of the water heater, on the theory that there's a blockage somewhere in the line. Pressurized water spewed out. "The blockage is someplace in this galvanized shit then," he said, pointing to the labyrinth of pipes branching off the water heater. For a number of years around World War II, the Kelly House was divided into at least two, maybe three, apartments and plumbed haphazardly. If you recall the old Pipes screensaver, that's pretty much what it looks like in my basement. 

He took apart the valve connected to the water heater, said "Oh shit" and handed me this piece of pipe.

Oh shit, indeed. That's rust and corrosion. 

Here's my arty shot of another piece of pipe to show y'all how restricted the water flow is. 

He called in his boss to marvel at the awfulness of it and the three of us had a terrifying conversation about how to fix it that involves a sum of money roughly equal to two of my paychecks. 

Then, this: "We can't come back to fix it until Monday at least because we have a big job already scheduled." (This was said on Wednesday afternoon.)

Me: "What the fu--hell?! You can't just leave me with no water at all for four days!" Even the very tiny trickle of water I started out with is better than no water at all. 

Boss Plumber: "Oh, we'll rig up something for you." 

Behold the rig. 

A Sharkbite with an On/Off lever screwed into the water line, with a white plastic tube sticking out of the other end of the Sharkbite, and....

...the white tube attached to a garden hose which snakes up the steps, across the laundry room floor, and into the bathroom shower. Note that this contraption bypasses the water heater, so I have no hot water.

Ask me how I flush the toilet. You know you want to know. I round up the animals, lock them in the bedroom, crank open the basement trap door, turn on the water downstairs, run back upstairs, turn on the nozzle on the end of the garden hose and fill up the toilet tank and a bucket, turn the hose off, run back downstairs and shut the water off, crank down the trap door, release the furbabies from imprisonment, then flush the toilet. So. Much. Fun. I go to the bathroom at the gas station more often than not, to avoid all that. I'm taking showers at my mom's house.

But wait--there's more!

Somehow in my distress over this whole thing, I failed at the outset to ask the plumber if I could make payments. He says I cannot, so he's not coming back. Whoops.

Also, I am an idiot. Just catty-cornered from my house lives a perfectly nice man who owns a hardware store and home improvement company. I've done business with this man for years. I know him to be trustworthy and capable. And yet, I failed to think of him at the beginning of this plumbing crisis. In fact, it wasn't until he commented "We offer financing options for these unexpected expenses" on my Facebook post that I thought of him at all. Dumb. I am dumb sometimes.

We're meeting this afternoon to talk about all this and hopefully come to an agreement on how he'll fix it and how I'll pay him.

At this point, I can almost hear the house cackling. She's going to get some nice new plumbing as a fabulous (albeit belated) anniversary gift.

Friday, December 9, 2016

Happy Anniversary

Just in case anyone's still out there, occasionally checking in on this neglected little blog, wondering how I am and how the house is: 

we are fine; and

nothing much is new; but

we recently celebrated our ten-year anniversary.

Ten years ago in mid-November (I don't remember the exact date and my mortgage papers are locked up elsewhere) I moved into this house.  It was the week before Thanksgiving.  It was cold, but my son and I sat on the front porch until the wee hours of the morning talking and, every so often, I said in wonder, "My house.  My.  House."  It was (and is) the first and only house I have ever owned.  I still feel a sense of wonderment and gratitude and joy about owning my house.

Back then the house looked like this...

By the summer of 2009 the house was rid of her "too-big brown coat", as one of my friends called the cedar shingles, and we'd opened up the porch just a little...

And by the summer of 2016, she looked pretty darn close to what she looked like when she was built about 1887. (If you bigify this photo, you can just barely see the sweet little face of Louis Cat as he pushes the curtain aside to look out the window.)

I celebrated our anniversary by skipping through the house shouting, "I LOVE YOU!!" randomly at the original trim and the high ceilings and the stained glass windows and other things.  I thought those declarations, together with all the nice things I've done for the house in the past ten years, would be a nice anniversary present.

Ah, but the house...she had other ideas....

Friday, June 10, 2016

Just A Little Paint

I've spent a whole lot of time on my front porch this year, just sitting and doing nothing.  I don't feel guilty about this in the least.  After all, the whole purpose of having a nice front porch is to sit on it, right? 

But sometimes when I was sitting out there I'd look up at the spandrel on the east side of the porch and feel a little twinge.  See how it looks just a little ratty?  That's because I primed the spindles  and the trim pieces before Marion put the spandrel together, and then I never got around to painting the whole spandrel.  

Whoops.  Sometimes it bothered me enough that I waited until dark to go sit on the porch so I wouldn't have to see the unpainted spandrel.  Gradually I realized that's not really a good solution to the problem.

But painting it is.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Have A Seat; or, Hamster Wheel

The roof over the back bedroom leaks.  This is not news.  It's been leaking for a couple of years, not badly and not even every time it rains, so it hasn't been a priority.  But lately I've been thinking that a good indoor project for rainy days or hot-as-hell days would be to redo the back bedroom (which is an unmitigated disaster) and it doesn't make sense to put in drywall and new flooring and other nice things when the roof leaks.  So now the roof is a priority. 

It's also somewhat terrifying, because it's a flat roof and I'd like to put a Firestone roof on it like the one on the front porch, and a Firestone roof is expensive.  By the way, the proper name for this kind of roof is EPDM, but Marion has always called it "Firestone roof" so now I do too, even though Firestone is not the manufacturer and nobody else calls it that.  EPDM.  Firestone.  Rubber.  All synonyms for expensive.

I finally went down to the lumberyard and asked how much it would actually cost.  Ed at the lumberyard said, "'s expensive."  Ed knows I am a cheapskate.  I replied, "Just expensive, or like super expensive?" 

So Ed and I went back to the office and he got out a calculator and then made a couple of phone calls and then wrote it all down.  And then he said, "Whew."  

And I said, "Are you gonna tell me how much it is?"

And Ed went over to to the copier and said, "Nope.  I'm gonna make a copy of this and hand it to you and you can read it."

"Oh, hell,"  I said.

"Have a seat over there," he said. 

So I went and sat down and then he handed me the thing folded over so I couldn't see it and pass out right away, and I unfolded it and there it was:  $721.17.  For a roof that's 15 feet by 19 feet.  Seven hundred actual dollars. 

"Wow," I said, and let out the breath I'd been holding, "that is expensive.  Not super expensive, though, but still expensive.  I have to think about it."

These are my thoughts: 

On the one hand, spending more than about 250 bucks at one time makes me panicky. 

But on the other hand, not doing something right the first time really bothers me. (Remember the front porch and the first time we re-did it?  It looked a lot better, but it still wasn't right, and it bothered me for five years until I got over my panic at spending a lot of money and did it right.)

But on the other-other hand, I don't have a lot of money and $700 cuts into the budget for other things I want to do--things like fixing up my hideously ugly bedroom that has no ceiling and bare subfloor that tilts towards the back of the house (for reals, it is hideous), remodeling the two bathrooms, and refinishing the floors in a couple of rooms.  Most of that, honestly, falls under Stuff I Want To Do rather than Stuff I Need To Do, although living in a house that's half-pretty and half-ugly is starting to affect my mental well-being.

On the other-other-other hand, Marion thinks that one of the leaks might be caused by cracks in the tar around the stack pipe, and the other one might be caused by a clogged downspout that's making water back up into the gutter and seep into the seam between the roof and the side of the house.  (This is also Chris The Contractor's theory.) Mare says that overall, the existing roof--which is a torch-down roof--looks good.  If we tar the stack pipe, clean out the downspout, and put on gutter guards and that fixes the problem, then he thinks I could buy myself 4 or 5 years before I'd have to replace the roof.  I already have an almost-full can of tar and the gutter guards (which I was planning to put on anyway) so the cost of repair would be zero dollars. Zero dollars is better than seven hundred dollars.  Money is tight, but I have $700; for various reasons, in 4 or 5 years money won't be so tight. 

Welcome to the hamster wheel of my thinking.  What do y'all think I should do?

Monday, June 6, 2016


The church down the street from my house has a special place in my heart.  Mr. Kelly donated the land to the church and contributed money to its construction in 1870, several years before he and his wife Louisa built this house I live in now.  At least part of the reason they built their house here, on this street, is that it's just a short walk down the block to their church.  So when I heard the fire department was outside the church (which is now a private residence) I ran down the street to see what had happened. 

A firefighter had just climbed to the top of the ladder to get a better look at the church steeple.  My neighbor Vic told me, "Lightning knocked me off the porch and I guess it hit the church."  At first I took him literally and thought that lightning had thrown him from the chair on his porch, but since Vic himself was not singed and his hair wasn't standing on end I assume he meant that it startled him.  

We walked over to his yard and Vic showed me the tin ornament from the top of the steeple.  "I found that out in the street smoldering so I filled it up with water and carried it over here," he said. 

The fire department doused the steeple with water.

After a little while, that firefighter came down and another one (Assistant Chief Mike Harrison) went up. He stepped off the ladder to get a better look.  Don't worry, he's still tethered to the ladder with a safety line.

He removed a couple of louvers to get a water line in there and then doused a small fire in the top part of the steeple.  Other firefighters checked the rest of the tower and the building for fire and other damage from the lightning, but it seemed to be contained to just this part of the building.  The people who live there weren't home at the time of the fire, but their pets were in the building and they're all okay.  One of the firefighters described it as moderate damage to the steeple, but the church sanctuary (which is still in its original condition) wasn't damaged.

No injuries and not much damage to an historic building.  All in all, a good day.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Flowers For Bob

The other day I was walking and saw this sign near the Battle of Lexington State Historic Site.

That sign's in memory of our friend White Trash Bob.  I  noticed that there's a little place for flowers on the pole beneath the sign, so I picked some clover for WTB and put it there, since he always picked flowers for me on our walks.  It made me smile to think of that.

Thursday, May 19, 2016


Random things that made me happy this week:

  My CanCan rose is blooming and I think this is its best year so far.

My Jubilee Celebration rose has bounced back from a serious case of blackspot last spring.

And last on the list but first in my heart,
Louis Cat paused in his circumnavigation of the house
to get a drink.  (Look at his lil pink tongue!)

Monday, May 2, 2016

Yellow Iris

The yellow iris is blooming.

This makes me happy.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

What Is It?

A couple of days ago I was cleaning up the side yard and I found this....thing.

I think it's a rhizome or a tuber or something.  Hopefully a flower.  It was buried under a pile of leaves and sticks in the side yard where I haven't planted anything.  In the whole time I've lived here, nothing's ever grown in that particular spot except dandelions, and I swear if this is a freakishly large dandelion of some sort I will throw things and say bad words.  But I don't really think it's a dandelion, because look at those leaves.

When I pulled up the floor of the side porch a couple of years ago, I found remnants of whatever bush Mrs. Kelly (the wife of the original owner of my house) had planted there.  (It had to be Mrs. Kelly, because the porch was built onto the house about 1910 and Mrs. Kelly was still alive then.)  Now I'm hoping this thing is that bush, resurrected.  Is that even possible?  Just in case it is, I planted the thing in one of my gardens.

Does anyone know what this might be?

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Lo And Behold

Last fall I got this crazy stupid genius idea to move a rose bush from the east side of the house to the back yard so it could grow on the picket fence instead of sprawling all over the yard and getting run over by the lawnmower every two weeks. (I warred with the yard guy all last year over his penchant for mowing down my flowers and he won't be back this year.)  Not just any little ol' rose bush, though--a behemoth rose bush that had been growing on the side of the house for decades.  It really needed a better location, because it had been planted way too close to the foundation of the house and it had a mulberry tree growing up through the middle of it. I couldn't kill the tree without also killing the rose bush, so I spent the better part of two days digging a gigantic hole in the yard to get to the roots of the rose bush. When I say "gigantic", I mean a hole so big that Marion asked me if I was mad at him and planning to put him in that hole. 

After I replanted the rose bush in its new location, all the leaves fell off and it looked dead.  My neighbor Gwen (she of the beautiful back-yard garden) told me not to worry. This Spring, while everything else was leafing out, that rose bush looked like a pile of sticks stuck in the ground.  I was sure I'd killed it, and I kicked myself over that.

Then yesterday Gwen came over and asked how the rose bush is doing.  "I killed it," I told her.  "I am a rose bush murderer."

She poked around in the dead leaves at the base of the rose bush.  "Look!" she exclaimed.

I saw one little reddish rose bush leaf poking out.  "Oh my gosh! Is that what I think it is?!"

I scrabbled at the rest of the dead leaves with my fingers, and lo and behold, even more rose bush leaves.  Healthy-looking ones.  Six shoots in all.  True, two of them are so teeny-tiny that they can barely be seen, but they're there.  Proof of life.  I am not a rose bush murderer after all.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

"What Are We Gonna Do?"

All the usual signs of Spring are here: Esther's daffodils are blooming (a little early this year, I think), robins are hopping through the yard, my favorite rose bush is leafing out, and I've swept the front porch and set out the wicker furniture again.

But the best and surest sign of Spring is this: Marion shows up at my door with a big goofy grin on his face and asks, "What are we gonna do this year?"  Then we both start talking at once, words tumbling out and falling over each other's sentences, and we laugh and roll our eyes and throw up our hands while we walk around the house, inside and out, and make grand plans.

So what are we gonna do this year? Well, for starters, there's the roof on the 1910-or-so addition to the house. It's flat, it leaks, and it's getting worse. Marion thinks maybe we can just get up there and spread a big can of Henry's sealant all over and it'll be fixed. As usual, I'm both ridiculously optimistic that this will indeed fix it, and terrified that it won't. That's the necessary thing that's not much fun.

The other thing that needs to be done is the side porch, and that's a lot more fun. We intended to get it done last fall and then...well, Marion and I are good at lots of things, but we're best at procrastinating. I think it was two years ago (but it might've been three) that I salvaged the bottom rail, top rail, and spindles from a house across the street. Last summer Marion made a supply list and I was supposed to have been buying things in bits and pieces all winter, but I lost the list. He says we can finish the porch in just a couple of work days...once we get started.

Last but certainly not least, there's the rest of the exterior paint.  Folks, I've been saying since this time last year that I'm thiiiiis close to finishing the outside of the house. Right before I wrote this I walked around outside with a notebook in hand and wrote down every little thing left to do.  That list is one page long, double-spaced. Pretty exciting.

So here's to another year of working on
my house! I can't wait to get started and bring y'all along with me.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Sardine Tin

Look, I'm no structural engineer, y'all, but my carport roof is not supposed to look like that. 

Sustained winds of 30-35 mph all day the other day tore the roof loose from one end and rolled it back along the top of the carport like the lid on a tin of sardines. It flapped around all day and made a terrible noise.

Happily, the next day the wind was from the opposite direction and it blew it back down flat again.  Next nice day I'll have to get up on a ladder and screw the roof back down to the rafters properly.  Or, you know, have a retractable roof as a feature on my carport forever.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Ice Ice Baby

Tuesday afternoon I slept as late as possible before crawling out of my nice warm bed and stumbling into the kitchen to make a cup of coffee and eat a cookie.  Then I packed up my meals and snacks for work, and finally, with just 20 minutes left before I had to go to work, I turned on the shower.
And nothing happened.
Oh crap, I forgot to pay the water bill., I didn't.  And the tap in the kitchen worked when I needed water for the coffeemaker.
I tried the sink in the bathroom.  Nada.
Huh.  That's weird.  I'll just take a shower in the other bathroom.
So I went in there and cranked the hot water tap.  Zilch.  The sink didn't work either.
Uh oh.  I had a sneaking suspicion as to the cause, since it was about 12 degrees outside and the wind chill was like 15 below zero. Yup, frozen pipes.  So I went to work without a shower and worried all night that the pipes would burst sometime during the 14 hours that I was gone.  On the way home I worried about what to do, because the access to those pipes--the bathrooms are pretty much back-to-back at the rear of the house--is in a dirt crawlspace that's about 18 inches high.  The last time I needed to get in that crawlspace I saw a giant spider and couldn't bring myself to go back in there, so I paid a crackhead named BooBoo 25 bucks to shimmy through the crawlspace pulling electrical wire behind him.  I think BooBoo is dead now, so that's not an option. 
By the time I got home Wednesday morning, I'd fretted myself into quite a state over this whole thing.
So I walked into the bathroom, turned the shower, and a whole bunch of icy cold rusty gross water sorta belched out.  I left it running until the water ran clear and did the same thing with the bathroom sink and also the sink and the shower in the other bathroom.  This might be the only time in the whole history of my house that something just fixed itself and I didn't have to do anything.
And just when you got that song (in the post title) out of your heads:
Stop.  Collaborate and listen.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Things I Forgot To Tell Y'all, Part 1

The other day I was folding laundry when it occurred to me that I never told y'all about the shelves I put up in the laundry room last year.  The laundry room's always looked a little blah and I wanted to pretty it up, especially since almost everybody who comes over uses the back door and the laundry room's the first room they see.

I have a lot of storage in the laundry room already because there are built-in cabinets along the whole wall opposite the washer and dryer, so these shelves were primarily just to look nice.  

A Pinterest idea that actually worked--wooden letters with scrapbook paper ModPodged to them.  I use the baskets to store toilet paper, paper towels, dryer sheets, and other things.  The cats use the baskets on the top shelves as nests.

A Pinterest idea that doesn't work so well--putting liquid detergent in a drink dispenser.  It looks cute, but the valve gets kinda gummy after awhile.  The shorter bottom shelf isn't a mistake (although with my carpentry skills, it could've been) but intentional, because I'm going to put a rod on the underside of that second shelf so I can hang things up as I take them out of the dryer.  I might also get a drying table that folds back against the wall for drying sweaters and such.  

All of the decorations on the shelves came from other parts of the house and I kept rearranging them until I found something I like.  Everything on the shelves has a memory of a person or place attached to it, so looking at them makes me happy.  The dried hydrangeas came from my very own yard, and it's amazing to me not only that I kept hydrangea bushes alive (four of them!) but that I had the presence of mind to dry the flowers last fall. There's a story behind those bricks on the top shelf:  they're from a downtown commercial building that collapsed a couple years ago and that building was the home of Riley's Irish Pub, where I used to work and where I had many a good meal and great conversation with friends and family.  So while a little pile of bricks might seem at first an odd decorating choice, it fits in with the theme of the shelves.  

Before I put the shelves up, I stripped off the beadboard wallpaper that I'd put up a couple of years before.  Turns out that kitties just love beadboard wallpaper.  It feels so good to their little claws that they just have to scratch and scratch at it until it's shredded.  I painted the walls with Valspar's Sparkling Sage.  The old janky paneling (which Mare calls "trailer paneling") looks decent once it's got a couple coats of paint on it.

The laundry room gets a lot of natural light from the windows and the back door--it's the northwest corner of the house--and now that the shelves are up it's a nice cozy room. 

Friday, January 8, 2016


Here's how things go around here:  I had the beginnings of a pretty good post written about how I am finally, really and truly, becoming "unstuck" from the emotional mire I'd found myself in for much of last year.  I felt pretty good about what I'd written but I wasn't sure if maybe I might be oversharing, so I took a break to check on my sheet pan supper (one of my new favorite things) and when I came back Gracie Cat was sitting on the laptop like a nesting hen and my post was completely gone. It's an allegory.  Oh yes, it is.

Without all the navel-gazing philosophy (not that there's anything wrong with that) what my post said is this: I need to get my shit together.  I've been faced with daunting tasks that should've overwhelmed me before and I got through those just fine.  Like when I peeled the ugly off of the outside of my house--two years and 40 bags of cedar shingles later, and there we were.  Or when my son and I decided to demolish the ugly 1960s porch and he accidentally set it on fire a few weeks before we made a giant engineering mistake that caused the whole thing to fall out into the yard and nearly crush us and our friend Steve.  All's well that ends well.  Back then I wasn't fearless (my bravado in the face of haters notwithstanding) but I went ahead and did something anyway, even though I was scared or nervous or not exactly sure how to get from Point A to Point B.  I did it.  I figured it out and I got through it.  It's not in my nature to be overwhelmed and timid but somewhere between losing WTB a couple of years ago, and then getting laid off, and then having a Greek-fucking-tragedy of a year in 2015 that's exactly what I became.  So now, I need to get my shit together.

Yep, like that.  More specifically, by actually doing something instead of saying with a sigh that I ought to do something.  There are three medium-to-large projects that I still either want or need to do around here (refinishing two floors, redoing the square bathroom, and finishing the side porch) and one extra-large thing  (my bedroom, previously known as That Thing We Don't Talk About) but all the other big stuff is done.  (Until something goes wrong or falls apart.) There are probably a dozen little jobs that need to be done, things that are free or nearly free and just need a combination of days off, motivation, and good weather to be completed.  None of it has a deadline.  

So I have plans.  Plans to get an idea of the total cost of each of those things I just mentioned, then decide which one's the most doable based on money, difficulty, and necessity, and then chop that big project into a whole bunch of smaller projects that I can dole out to myself over time.  In between, I'll do some of those little things to give myself small victories.  Here goes.