Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Just a few thoughts

Quite a while back, I was reading a bungalow forum in which someone was asking for advice on painting her trim. She said it's all dark, and she planned to just refinish it, and had never even thought about painting it, even though she prefers white trim. Everyone jumped down her throat like she was about to do something terrible. Even though, assuming the wood was already finished, painting over it wouldn't ruin the wood for future owners.

I read another thread on the same forum in which everyone bitched about the way people just throw a faux mica shade on any old damn lamp and call it "mission." Apparently, according to the commenters, this is deplorable and disgusting.

This is why I want to smack myself when I have any thought resembling the following: "Is this lamp/table/knob/pull/rug too 'craftsman'-y?" I've had this very thought-- only briefly!-- with the following 2 items:

The first is our dining room chandelier. I love it and loved since the moment I saw it, but it did occur to me that it might be too much. And on a side note, the glass isn't as green as it appears, and yes, I did consider photoshopping the not yet touched up paint behind this lamp, but decided that this would be dishonest.

And the second is not yet in our possession, but I like it. We need a new porch light, and this one is el cheapo. But I looked at it for a long time, and wondered, "But is it too **eyeroll** stereotypical 'mission' style?"

And that's when I decided, "Fuck it."

My mom was always of the school that if it matches your sofa, it ain't art. And I feel that way about most things decorative. It doesn't really matter what it's called, or whether it's 100% appropriate to the house, if you really, really like it.

NOW! This doesn't mean I want to fill up my 1920s bungalow with a shit ton of Eames chairs just cause I like them. I do like them. But they aren't appropriate to what I want in this house. And it doesn't mean I don't wish that the POs hadn't painted all the trim. But really? I'm not entirely sure that it wasn't painted in the first place, and I like white trim. It has its own place. And I'm not ripping out my 1952 bathroom because it doesn't "go." I like it.

I really, really admire people who want to restore these homes, and we do consider whether something was original to the house before we change it (taking down the chair rail, for example). I just like to think that we recognize that our house has lived a long life without us and we love it for what it's become. Lots of things have changed in it and some of those things are part of its charm.

Fuax tile backsplashes, vertical striped wallpaper, berber carpet and linoleum were NOT part of its charm. They had to go.

I just have to remind myself that the decision is ultimately a balance of respect for the integrity of the house and doing what will please us to live in.

So there. And, moving along to a not so philosophical note, the compost is coming along pretty well; still needs more green stuff, but it doesn't stink yet, which is always a good sign!

And that's a rose growing up in the back!

So you know, Bed Bath and Beyond are in crazy sale mode. I was in there to pick up my shower curtain rings, and ended up with a tissue box cover for $3. I looked for sheets, but none in our size. :-(

And we have our first strawberry!

I don't know if the birds will wait for the kiddo to get home to eat it!

Monday, April 28, 2008


Oh no. I know this isn't house related, but somebody tell me that I do NOT need another kitty. We have 3 indoors and one outdoors who thinks she's a dog. No more.

A stray had a litter at my mom's, then hid the kittens for about a month. Mom finally found them last week. They're pretty feral, but getting used to people. We're all in love with a sweet little gray one. I just keep reminding myself, no more. No. More. But it's very hard. And I might not win the battle.

And in other kitty news, the dog-cat I mentioned above has finally made the move. I was worried about bringing her, since she's a strictly outdoor cat. But she seemed fine. Not even an inkling to run off. She wouldn't come out of the garage for about a day and a half. Last night, though, I caught her making figure eights through the dogs legs, perfectly happy to be there. As a kitten-- a stray who showed up and started living with the dog, eating his food, sleeping in his bed, etc.-- she didn't even leave the fence at my mother's house. It was a chainlink, but I think she thought she had to stay wherever the dog stayed. Meanwhile, the dog has decided to take up residence in the monkey grass again; when I put chairs over it to keep him out, he just digs a hole in the yard to lay in. Sigh. This reminds me to buy a raised outdoor bed...

In actual house/home news, we got some more backsplash painting done...more unpacking...the insurance adjuster comes in about 10 days...Adam and the kiddo dug and weeded a hole for lettuce and spinach. Adam's put a compost area together using cinder blocks as a fence. Caterpillars are attacking our basil-- any hints on keeping them away? And our climbing rose is blooming.

So life is good, but no pictures this weekend.

Progress was made. A little bit of progress...

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Surprise! and what it means to settle in.

I came home yesterday to find this propped up on the counter:

(Not as bad as it looks; the red stuff is glue)

Eeeeeeee!!! And not in the good way! I thought all the old backsplash shit had moved to 21 Dump Street. Apparently, Adam found it in the garage while he was cleaning. So I marched into the office and asked him if he thought himself cute.

"Yeah, actually, I thought it was pretty cute. Did you take a picture?" Well, no, of course I hadn't taken a picture. He makes fun of me for taking pictures of everything in the house. I was not going to take a picture. But, well, I never got a close-up of it before we tore it out. And we're about to have NEW backsplash, and then I'd have no comparison. So.

I took a picture.
Last night at dinner, Adam told me that he still kind of can't believe this is our house, sometimes finding himself on the front porch realizing all over again that we own this; it's ours. A realization despite having had his hands on every piece of wood in the house. This is a frequent topic of conversation when we take a walk around a neighborhood so much lovelier than our old one.
This morning, I was looking for my shoes. I looked under the bed, on the porch, under the couch. And then I remembered, that they were right where they belong-- on the built-in shoe racks in our closets. Builder had brains.

(No, I did not take this picture just for this post-- trust. That carpet is loooong gone.)

There's a common thread, I swear it. In fact, you probably already know where most of this is going. I take pictures for the blog, for posterity, and so I can see how far we've come and how we got there. And I'm always surprised. It's a slow process and easy to forget what the starting point looked like. I'm surprised by the distance we've come, that this is our house, surprised at all the new things I've yet to learn to live with-- good and bad (though there's not a lot of bad). It's so easy to learn to live with anything. But this process of settling in, of being constantly surprised by the place is wonderful. Don't get me wrong-- I long for the days when I'm not living out of boxes. But this process is a nice one too, for now at least.

Today, I like surprises.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

It rained...

...but not inside the house. Hopefully things will stay that way. Though now I've probably just jinxed the whole thing. Can't help being a little superstitious here...

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Celebrating 100 posts of blargh

I had planned on saving my 100th post for the backsplash-- I've waitd so long for it, and I think it's going to make such a difference. But when I got home tonight, I knew that the C post would be devoted to tolling the death knell of my Bar-To-Be, a project I started some 2 years ago.

When I moved back to Arkansas, I had no furniture. In the 2 years preceding, I'd moved to New York and then to London, and I managed to shed everything I had. So I was collecting anything anyone would give. And one of the pieces of free furniture that I collected was an ugly 80s style pressboard, fake-veneered secretary. I used it as a sideboard thing. Then after a couple of years it became the kiddo's desk/dresser. When she got her first set of big girl stuff, the secretary became homeless and I devised a plan to turn it into a bar. I would build in space for glasses and racks in the drawers for liquor bottles; then I wanted to put a wall-mount wine rack on the side. I took off the door, took out all the slot compartments, filled the hinge holes with putty, was given a glass rack, chose a paint color...and then life got in the way. That, and a lack of power tools made it hard to want to continue sanding down that putty:

At any rate, now that we've moved, it's been sitting outside; I'd hoped that the aid of power tools would boost the project, and we could use it as a microwave cart until then. During modifications of the top piece to get the microwave to fit, we realized that it is truly a piece of shit. Its fate was not to be a bar, but rather a potting stand, supply cabinet, or kindling.

I really liked the idea of repurposing such an ugly ass piece of furniture; I was going to use the leftover bathroom paint (red!) on the outside and glossy black on the insides of the cabinet and drawers, with 1950s art deco revival style hardware. It showed such promise! It's useful now, though,

and it will continue to be useful in some other capacity. In fact, it currently occupies a place of honor in the loveliest corner of the house these days. That's the pantry. Really! It is!!! See? Here's the before:

Thanks Adam! We also have a dining room chandelier and potted herbs. But I digress.

I will get my bar. We'll hit up the junk stores for a slightly less shitty something that I can convert into a cocktail cabinet. Or we'll build one from scratch, and it will be destined to have glossy black insides and red outsides and fancy hardware. It just wasn't in this little guy's future.

So 2 years after removing that front door, I say goodbye to a project that's had a permanent spot in the back of my mind.


A little procrastination on Saturday morning led to a trip to my favorite local nursery. We've decided that we don't have the time right now for a full garden, or even a good spot for it at the we picked up a few tomato plants, basil, oregano, chives, parsley, lettuce and spinach seeds, and a strawberry plant just for kicks (I've got designs on a strawberry patch someday and reusing an old chain link gate for raspberries). We'll grow our mini-garden here:

This gets great direct Southern light, and hopefully the parsley will perk up a bit with the rain and sun. As for the tomatoes, it's always a crapshoot with them. My grandmother's family raised tomatoes and worked in the canning factory; they grew them on a rocky hillside, so they could vine out as as is their wont. The rocks are a natural trellis and keep the fruit from rotting on the ground, eliminating staking. We've been seeing those commercials for the Topsy Turvy hanging tomato plant growing system things...then Adam found instruction online and, with the kiddo's help, made a couple of his own:

Basically, they cut the bottom off of a 2 litre bottle and poked holes in it so we can hang them with twine from the eaves. Then they used a hair dryer to heat up the bottle near the neck. Once it was soft, they sort of turned the spout end inside out-- or more like, they caved it in, then planted the plant sticking out of the spout. I'll take better pictures of this when we get them hung. We'll see how they work. If they produce some fruit and eliminate staking, I'm all for it.

Our warm weather plants are finally making an appearance:

Canna lilies are poking through and the lantanas and four-o'clocks are starting to grow. I'm still harboring hopes of planting a Japanese red maple in the back yard...And let's not forget it's Earth Day! There's rumors that the Agri college is giving away 3 foot pin oak starters on campus today, and I'm hoping the rain will hold off long enough for me to get one!

Oh! And we have new neighbors:

Look closely. You can see a bird's eye up in there. We have a family of Blue Jays-- they have been mercifully not trying to kill us while we work under this cherry laurel, but I'm mostly trying to stay out of their way.

Meanwhile, back in the ranch...Besides new baseboards and backsplashes, there's empty boxes all the way to the ceiling!

Well. Aided by a table.

And finally, a pot rack. The kitchen is ALMOST unpacked.

We cling to the little things, ya know?


Yesterday I called the city's building safety office and asked them if my file had "PROBLEM CHILD" stamped across the top in big red letters. He said that it didn't. But he laughed. I think maybe it does.

Remember back last fall when we got the CH/A installed? Yeah? You don't? Me neither. It was a long time ago. Well we finally got that attic trap door finished and were ready to get the mechanical inspection done. I called the inspector and he told me that the contractor who installed the thing has to call and schedule the appointment. I SWEAR TO something that I could not remember the name of the people who did it. They are so far out of the equation. So I'll have to call them to get that taken care of, wrap up the rest of the "repairs" and get the final. Then we have to get ANOTHER permit for the roof. Sigh. I was so ready to have the monkey off my back.

We've made a few more strides in the push toward a final inspection: tada! baseboards.

Adam rounded over the tops with the router. Easy peasey. Easy for me to say. Adam also primed all the backsplash panels and we started gluing them together this weekend with good old liquid nail and PL construction adhesive. He also painted the door jambs and the pantry door and got all the wet insulation out of the attic. Damn! He gets all the good jobs.

Meanwhile, still no word from the insurance people, but there's a lot of ground for them to cover. Everybody on the north end of town is gonna need a new roof. Everybody. My mom only lost one window, but they told her that her 10 year old roof is bruised-- not punctured, just bruised-- and she needs a new one. Everybody needs a new roof. We thought we had everything patched enough for last week's rain...

Hmmm. So we had to suck it up and do this (where "we"= Adam):

I know you can see that little blue spot. It's supposed to rain all week. Here's to hoping...

*(said in the voice of Nelson, of course)

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Fingers crossed

Touch wood, lucky penny, shooting star, 11:11...I don't want to take any chances.

After almost one full week of drying out, tomorrow's forecast calls for rain-- possible severe thunderstorms. We've done some temporary patching to the roof, so I'm hoping for less rain on the inside of the house this time around.

The insurance people say that our interior damage puts us higher on the list, but there's still no telling when they'll get to us.

So no walking under ladders, guys-- I already had a black cat cross my path today...

(Just got a call saying it could be 4 weeks before anyone gets out to our house. Ugh. Any suggestions for making a big ugly hole in the ceiling look pretty? Lace? Dried flowers? Hole treatments? Help a girl out.)

Sunday, April 13, 2008

New colors and stained glass finds...

We tried some more combinations of backsplash colors and the order in which we layered them. And if everything still looks good in the evening light, we've found one we're going with. Basically, we rubbed the panel with 00 steel wool, quickly, then primed with Rustoleum primer for heavily rusted metal. The heavy duty stuff. It's a very reddish brown. Then I painted the Sophisticated Finishes blackened bronze on the panel, 2 squares at a time with a sponge brush. After that, I daubed and patted at the wet paint with a dry sponge brush-- a wet brush causes a ton of bubbles., and it dries very quickly; 2 squares was all I could do at once. After those layers dried, we sprayed the Krylon outdoor formula copper paint as a brief passing mist...just enough for some copper sheen.

A picture wouldn't do any good-- it doesn't look much different in pics than the panel I photographed last night, and you can take my word for it that it looks even less like a choco bar and more like an oil rubbed bronze. We also tried our paint technique on the connector pieces that Home Depot sells for their plastic ceiling panels. The finish looked good; we'll know more about how well they work when we install the backsplash.

I know this is a bit of a laundry list of "accomplishments." I feel a little better about the hole in the ceiling knowing that something else is getting better.

So continuing...

We affixed our under cabinet lighting. Sam's Club sells 3 packs of these Sylvania Dragon Cabinet lights. They are like Sylvania's more colorful Dot-Its, but they're a step up, I think.

They are LED lights with stickum on the back. They are battery powered, have a motion sensor and 2 settings-- bright and dim. At $28 for 3, it's a pretty solid deal. We like them so far.

This week is also our city spring clean-up. There are dumpsters located in each city ward, and we made 2 runs, getting rid of the nasty carpet and old mattresses. This couldn't have been better timed, what with the hail storm on Wednesday night.

We also did some temporary repair work on my grandmother's windows, and while we were there, we went through some more of the stuff that no one else wanted or needed. We picked up some good measuring cups, a marble rolling pin, mixing bowls, a silver butter dish, meat grinder, good liquor, etc. But we also got some cooler and more sentimental items. One was an old sewing machine that was my great grandmother's and which I played on for hours and hours; I would lay on the floor and kick the fly wheel until someone came and made me stop. 2 fabulous peach FireKing Lustreware custard dishes-- great for ice cream!

Another FireKing, milk glass oven ware serving dish on the left and the bread basket we used every family dinner; it has a slate panel in the bottom that goes in the oven while you bake and sits in the bottom of the tray to keep the bread warm during dinner:

And this one was a real surprise. In the back on a high cabinet, I found this coffee carafe and cups:

It's Franciscan Pottery from the mid-thirties, I think. It's really, really cool. I've never seen in at the house, but I've fallen in love with it. I'm guessing that my grandmother may have picked it up when she traveled on the train out to California before she joined the Navy and met my grandfather. She didn't do a lot of traveling after that, so I think this is really something special.

And finally, the thing I'm probably most excited about, is the stained glass that my grandfather made, and which hung in their kitchen for years.

The window directly beside this one has a gigantic window unit. We'll replace that with plate glass and we can hang this panel in front-- it fits perfectly. And that is the most exciting thing.

Well, acquiring my grandmother's recipe collection might be more exciting. It's a toss-up.

Saturday, April 12, 2008


After this week, we needed something exciting. Something GOOD exciting, not golfball sized hail. Or softball sized as was reported a block down the road.

No, we needed some good old fashioned DIY home improvement handy ass something to keep us excited about this project.

On Friday, the backsplash panels arrived! Yay! I did not jynx their arrival as I feared. Our bathroom towel bar has arrived, as well, though it's not been installed yet. Now if I can just find my drawer pulls, I can declare the bathroom as done as it's getting for a while. They've been, ahem, misplaced.

So, the backsplash. We unwrapped the panels and propped them up on the counter and they were, well, bright.

A little too shiny. So I made a trip to Michaels and Hobby Lobby and we did a few tests. First, we tried 3 different "bronze" paints:

We used a flat black spray paint, and did 2 coats, one coat and none, then tried each of the 3 paints. One was a Spanish copper Rub N Buff, one was DecoArts Metallic paint in Espresso, and the best one, the one on the left, was Sophisticated Finishes in Blackened Bronze. It's actually bronze finely ground and combined with an acrylic medium. Next, we painted the whole panel solid matte black and daubed the whole thing with the bronze:

First, I brushed it on, then patted it with the foam brush to get rid of the brush strokes, then patted it with a dry foam brush to knock down the foamy air bubbles that the foam brush was leaving. I had a system. Then we hit it with a glossy polyurethane. looked like a Hershey bar. We tried it with a satin finish and it didn't look any better. I thought maybe a copper base coat would be best, so I ran to the store and bought a can of Krylon Outdoor copper paint. The plan was to just paint over the choco bar, since the metal primer I bought is brown...But I thought I'd try misting it first. And it looked great! It's much better!

We think so, anyway. We'll look at it in the daylight and decide for certain. The left side, with the glossy poly underneath, looks better. But we'll try it tomorrow using the brown primer, and eliminating the black and poly steps to see if it comes out the same. We may also see what happens with the copper as base coat. But at least we know we have a system that works, even if it is 10 steps long...

Thursday, April 10, 2008

One step forward, two steps back

I guess I should say that in the grand scheme of things, we were very, very lucky. Adam and I took a walk around the neighborhood the other day and looked at all the pretty houses. One of these beautiful red brick bungalows was destroyed by not one, but TWO trees falling on the house, while there were 6 children inside-- and no one was hurt. I'd say things could be worse. As my dad's friend always said, "You could be on fire."

I knew that we were supposed to get rain, but I didn't think much of it and I thought it was coming in late. So I stayed in Fayetteville to have dinner with some girlfriends. Adam called and said that I might want to stay there while the storm passed because it was really something else-- in fact, he and the cat were hanging out in the interior hallway in case of a tornado.

Now, Adam's not a worrier, or a Chicken Little. But growing up, we had tornado warnings 4 times a week this time of year. You become a little oblivious, and I just chalked it up to Adam having not lived in those conditions. But he insisted that I call and check on my mom, just in case.

My sister answered the phone and sounded like she was having a stroke-- because these had just started coming down:

You got it. Golfball-sized hail. Adam saved these in the freezer. What a guy, huh? No, seriously! I was excited to see them!

Anyway, it started dripping then gushing out of the AC vents and light fixtures in the living room and the kiddo's room and he had started sounding so worn out and miserable. So I drove down during a "lull" in the storm-- a lull I wouldn't drive in under any other circumstances. On the way, they started reporting impassable flooding on ALL of the surrounding main streets of my house. I had to drive about 30 minutes out of the way, and turn around in driveways and take the most back asswards route possible. But I got there.

I did the next round of bucket changing and floor mopping. Imagine this with about 5 more buckets:

Then I got about an hour and a half of sleep before we heard something fall. Thinking the light fixtures had filled with water and dropped, we got up to check things out and found that...

Four square feet of ceiling had fallen! and now that there's SO MUCH SPACE for water to exit, the buckets, which all had holes by the way, weren't enough. We couldn't dry towels fast enough. And after all the work on the floors, we are damned if this water is gonna ruin them.

Anyway, I didn't really sleep last night. In addition to the ceiling, the kiddo's room will need its ceiling replaced. Adam saw some straight up HOLES in the roof from the hail so it will likely need replacing; it knocked out both garage windows and one car windshield was cracked. In fact, it removed one light of a casement window and set it unharmed about 5 feet away. weird. Knocked paint off the garage. Both couches are soak, soak, soaked. It's a busy time at work, and I hate being gone, but I really don't want to leave this until I've talked to the insurance girl-- and of course her line is busy...

The flooding's gone down, the rain has stopped, and I'm allowed to get some sleep now, but I can't. Guess I'll commit to a few cups of coffee.

Here's some pics of the damage:

Not damage, per se, but a whole frikin lot of leaves to rake. That's all leaves you see there. I so thought I was done with those.

Golfball-sized hail sucks

Yeah, there's damage. The insurance lady will be informed tomorrow. Pictures to come. For now, I've checked the water level in all the buckets and changed all the towels and now I sleep.


Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Where's the chicken?

There's a few things that happen on my commute every morning, without fail.

First, I see geese flying toward the river, usually in full V formation. This morning? Check.

Then I'm surprised by the big ugly billboards again-- I come over the hill, and "Aw shit! What are those!?! Oh yeah. Those." This will one day fade. But this morning? Check.

I forget whether I've gone through the one tunnel. The one, solitary tunnel that it looks like they had to pile dirt on top of to create said tunnel. It's pretty forgettable, but it's at the crucial halfway mark. This morning? Forgotten.

And finally, every SINGLE morning, I find myself behind a chicken truck. Usually stuffed with white broilers breeders; once the truck was empty, but on its way to be filled, I assumed. Lots of white feathers on the car, depressing promises of never eating chicken again, or at least curbing by appetite for them. My first experience with one of these trucks was the cause of my vegetarian streak in middle school. This morning? Ahem. This MORNING? Hello? Anybody? Bueller?

Guess the birds are on a break.

Monday, April 7, 2008


Backsplash is on its way!! I got the notice that our aluminum "tin" panels have shipped. If all goes well (and I'll probably be kicking myself for saying this), we might actually get to tackle it this weekend...

And now I see

I finally see our furniture. It's taken a while, and there's many more boxes to go, but they are slowly disappearing from on top of and around the furniture...

Dining room was:

Dining room is now:

Some of those tables from the before pic have made their ways to the sides of the room, perhaps not to permanent locations, but the fact that there are sides of the room toward which they may go is major improvement:

I owe most of this progress to Adam-- he's been working hard. And while this post isn't an exciting one, it's largely for Heather, who couldn't make it to the house this weekend, and when that happens, she often demands pictures of what has changed. I'm preempting that.


Nothing says, "making a house a home" like toddlers diving into the bathtub.

I found the Lux ad in the Target dollar section, but the other picture has been in my possession for as long as I can remember, and it's hung in every bathroom I've had since moving out. Adam put these up last week; they are the very first items to hang on the walls. The mantle picture doesn't count as it's only leaning in place.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Not just watching the grass grow

Besides enjoying the lovely out of doors this weekend, we did get a little bit done on the inside.

Saturday, we created the attic trap door. We'll add trim around the hole, and paint white. This is the plywood that was there. Adam added hinges so it'll open up.

This is the real coup, though. Remember this pantry?

Well, now it looks like this:

We got most of the kitchen door trim up-- a short in the extension cord burned out the table saw plug, so we couldn't finish the shims we needed for some of the pieces. And we have to build new baseboards. But everyday, it looks less and less like a construction zone.

We got more patio furniture from my grandmother's and we found some seriously cool shit there too-- like my great grandmother's butter churn from 1909 and a cane that came from someone special...? It's pretty fancy. Pictures to come.

And I got the bathroom cleaned and unpacked. That ALONE makes the house feel better:

And I mowed. Not too bad for sleeping in both days ;-).

Saturday, April 5, 2008

And it did!

Or, April flowers, anyway. The kiddo and I noticed our awesome jasmine on the way out Friday morning:

The pink dogwood is blooming:

The redbuds (3 of those!):

Although you can't see it well in this picture, the ajuga's purple little flowers are cropping up:

And the cherry laurel is so full of little white flowers that there were hundreds of bumble bees and sweat bees and moths crawling all over it this afternoon.

Now if the lantanas, four-o'clocks, canna lilies and roses will make an appearance, I'll be a happy camper. Except I won't be, because that will mean it's frikin' hott outside.