Monday, September 29, 2008

Success...I think

As foggy as I am with these allergies, I'm not sure I would know the difference between success and failure. I'm reduced to staring at small shiny objects and snuffling all the snot in my head.

So I won't do a lot of talky wordy business this morning. I will, however, show some pictures.

The main thing that got done this weekend was the porch ceiling. I stuffed the cracks with backer rod and caulked and painted, and we installed the new ceiling fan. It had some god-awful ugly "weathered oak" faux-wood faux-grained blades, so I also spray-painted those black. And we bought the crown for the kitchen and primed it, and bought oak to trim out the countertops.

We're on a roll. Here's some pictures of the finished porch ceiling. Some before shots can be found here and here. Now we just need to screen...

That business on the left isn't as bad as it looks here-- the wide-angle lens is distorting, and a fresh coat of paint behind it will do wonders. It's one of the many things we simply couldn't fix without tearing out a huge portion of ceiling, all for something cosmetic.

Friday, September 26, 2008

I need help

No really.

I didn't take any pictures of the problem, so I will describe for you, as best I can, the nature of this beast.

Umm...Some tape peeled the paint off my trim.

I think that sums it up pretty well.

What's happened is, during the course of taping off our kitchen to work on drywall, floor, etc, the masking tape-- and even blue painters' tape-- has peeled bits of paint off of the doorway trim. I blame part of this on a certain someone's reckless ripping off of the tape. But mostly, I think this might mean that some PO painted latex over oil without proper prep. Or that the oil is so old that its doing its whole crumble and FAIL routine.

It's not terrible, and it's only on a few pieces, but I'm trying to decide how best to alleviate this crap. I want to paint this trim soon. I will be using a low-VOC alkyd. It seems to last much longer than latex; I know that latex has come a long way, but I was sitting in my mother's house the other day when I realized that we painted her trim almost 20 years ago. A good scrub with a magic eraser, and it'll be like new. That shit's like a candy shell.

Anyway, I cannot take the trim off of the walls for a variety of reasons, namely due to the fact that the house was drywalled around the trim. I fear I would be opening the most giganticest can of worms ever.

I also considered priming with a serious business primer and succumbing to latex, but we've already painted the yet to be installed base shoe with oil.

So, I'm not sure how to proceed here. The trim is a variety of shades of white throughout the house-- so I think some is oil and some is latex (and the bathroom's is, whatever the base, FLAT FINISH. grrrr. That irritates me so much. It looks sooooo dirty. It IS so dirty). Considering the age of the house, and the many colors that we have see on the trim, I know that whatever's under the possibly-latex layer is oil.

My questions are these: If I prime with something like Kilz2 and paint with oil, am I, somewhere down the line, going to see a problem wherein the maybe-latex layer and surrounding oil/primer lose adhesion? Or will the oil, with its hard candy shell, be ok once it's cured?

Also, how should I handle the pieces with peeling paint-- should I use a stripper (heh.) to get the top layer or two off? Since we're not taking these pieces off the wall, they'll have to be stripped in situ, so I'd probably want to use something like a citrus or soy based remover. I'd prefer to sand as little as possible, due to the lead content.

Should I just wet scrape and prime-- then paint? I'm using a semi-gloss finish, so I don't want too much bumpiness...Scrape, "fill," sand, prime, paint?


I guess I'm leaning toward first trying to scrape. If that's bad, then chemically (or citrus-ally or soy-ally) stripping the face of the trim, then doing some serious priming and painting; and then simply priming and painting the un-peeled trim.


Thursday, September 25, 2008

A mighty, mighty breakthrough

So this is what I saw when I woke up this morning:

Pardon the blurs-- it was still dark out and he was sleeping soundly when I started taking this picture...Anyway, that right there is a dog sleeping on his Coolaroo raised outdoor bed. When he sleeps inside, he lays on a store-bought bed. He likes it. So then I bought him this bed that's raised off the ground for hot days, it's washable, it's sturdy, it's low to the ground for easy climbing in. It got great reviews. But outside, well...he likes the flowerbed. He'd jump on the coolaroo and sit when we went outside-- so he could get a treat, of course. He'd lie down on it-- while I was petting him. But never have I seen him, OF HIS OWN ACCORD, go to it and sleep. Without my presence. Without treats. I even brought it inside for a while, and still, never did I wander to the back room to find him curled up on it. Luckily, it wasn't, like, major award expensive, and the Sneaky kitty likes it, so I didn't exactly consider it a wasted purchase-- just not really being used for its intended purchase.

But last night, that all changed. It made me so happy. I just laid in bed and watched out the window for a while.

And then, what a lovely drive to work, eh?

Monday, September 22, 2008

And then there's the projects we started...

But we were foiled.

I wanted to take care of this over the weekend:

Ok, yeah, that's how we iron around here. Anyway, that's an old door into the kitchen. It's located behind the stove and cabinets along that wall. Judging by this:

we think perhaps the ghost door once led to a butler's pantry or thereabouts. The doorway on the left of the photo still goes to the kitchen; we wondered if that crazy ceiling beam once belonged to a wall separating the pantry form the entryway for the backdoor. Who knows.

That's beside the point, though. We reframed it in when we sheetrocked the kitchen-- a little more solidly than our POs had done before. So now we have to deal with this side. Since we don't want to deal with sheetrocking this entire room yet, we're just going to put the trim back up, as it was when we moved in, and put the piece of paneling back over the hole, again, as it was when we moved in.

Problem now is that we framed it in so that the door jambs aren't going to just slide in. It's going to take some sawing and shimming and rigging. But that's ok. I still sort of like the idea of a ghost door there. It's a nice nod whatever originally went on in that space.

Anywho, we discovered that the panel was too warped to work with right now. It's going to sit like this for the week until it's flat enough to deal with.

And then, I get to paint. Look what I found on the $5 mistint shelf at Lowe's!
If it suxks, I'm only out five dollars and little labor. Can't go wrong!

Slowly, slowly

Slowly, but surely, things are getting done around here. It's not major steps-- the weather's been too beautiful; on the other hand, we bitch and moan when it's bad and CAN'T work, so...there you have it.

Anyway, the porch ceiling got a little attention. Remember, it looked like this:

I primed the ceiling and we got the crown installed:

You can see I misjudged how far the primer needed to go along the edge, and there's a lot of caulking that needs doing before we finally paint. And boy is it dirty up there!

Still, it's a step closer.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Breaking our promise

I think we have a good excuse. We really had planned to get a ton of stuff done. We promised. We were committed. We were motivated.

And then we were hurt.

Actually, Adam was hurt. He threw his back out at work on Friday. And then we were wet. On that front we were very lucky. I think Ike hit Arkansas as a tropical storm and quickly became a tropical depression. The winds were 50 mph or so, but no trees or limbs lost and no other damage that we could see. Our outside kitties ducked out Saturday morning. Sneaky was in hiding by 10am, and our new recruit, little Bella, ran off after her early morning visit with the vet. (Clean bill of health, btw. She's about 3 and has some scars and broken teeth from life on the streets, but otherwise ok, it seems.) They both came out yesterday evening when the coast was clear.

At any rate, I dedicated Saturday morning to bathing the dog, filling in all the backyard holes and tying down anything that might fly away.

The rain didn't come until later in the afternoon, and it was gone by Sunday morning. I got all the supplies to paint the porch ceiling and install the crown, but we decided to wait until everything was totally dry. So I focused my efforts elsewhere.

Sunday's beautiful, breezy, fresh and clean air meant we could turn off the a/c and open the windows. I mopped and finally unpacked boxes of pictures and trinkets.

I was hesitant to put holes in the walls, but I got over it. Yes, we have lived here 6 months and only just now are we getting around to hanging things on the walls. I also bought a new runner for the kitchen.

Doesn't it look lived in now?
My mother just bought the same rug, so she let us give it a test run before I bought it. And my favorite poster-- a watercolor that my mother did when I was little-- finally got a frame. Oh yeah; the sad little laundry room also got a burst of, er, neutral with some curtains.
That little tragedy of a room is going to have to get painted very, very soon. One day, it will have slate floor tiles. At the moment, though, our washing machine dances out into the middle of the room whenever it has a slightly less than full load. I know part of this will be fixed with better leveling, but I'm pretty sure the washer is on its way out. I'm shopping the scratch and dent stores. Until then, the room will remain the tragic mutant of this house. No love.

Sisyphus and the Bunny: A Revelation

I spent a large portion of the weekend cleaning, as I always do, but my area of special focus this week was the floors. And that's where I had my epiphany.

As I swept all the little dust bunnies (read: "clumps of cat hair covered in dust"), I knew, with a tiny hint of exasperation, that the little kitty hair tumbleweeds would be there in the morning-- no! by evening, even! And it occurred to me that the great analogy of home ownership is Sisyphus and his rock. However, in my house it's the bunnies. We roll that stone all the way to the top, only to have it roll right back over us on its way back down.

In fact, there's not much in this house-- or in life, for that matter-- that's done once and finished. Everything begets other projects, problems and perturbations.

I suppose it makes me feel better that I am at least able to anticipate the repetition. Can you imagine how much more disappointing it would be if we were shocked every single time the rock rolled back downhill?

Friday, September 12, 2008

Our other visitor...or perhaps a PO?

So. Back to the beyond thing...

Well. I was pretty sleepy, so this is a far from definitive sighting. Not sure how much of a believer or non-believer I am. I did have what I decided was a ghost in another house I lived in. That one rummaged through our kitchen drawers at night. This one still freaked me out, though.

I've had some tooth pain lately and been generally a bit under the weather. I woke up a few nights ago at about 1:30 for no reason. Perhaps my tooth was throbbing, but I certainly didn't wake up thinking I was in pain.

After sitting there awake for a few minutes, I thought I heard knocking at the front door. I decided to wait a few more minutes, just in case someone was there, then go check on the front of the house-- I'd left the living room light on and wasn't sure if the porch light was off, that sort of thing. When I got to the front door, I could see out of the corner of my eye a flash of a little girl looking in the front door window, cupping her hands over her eyes to see inside, like she was on tiptoes. But she wasn't there. Of course I jumped and double-checked the chain, and ran back to bed.

Every time I put my head on the pillow, my tooth throbbed. When I finally started drifting off to sleep, laughter woke me up.

And here's where it gets really silly. For a while now, when I sit in bed working on my laptop, I think I see out of the corner of my eye a child-sized figure walking from kitchen to bathroom. Of course nothing's there when I look and the kiddo is usually gone or in bed when that happens. When I was working on the house by myself before we moved in, I also often thought I saw someone at the front door, but of course nothing was there. I've blamed all of these things on lighting, reflections, and my own bad eyesight.

But after this week, I'm reevaluating. After the laughter woke me up, I needed to pee. But I was afraid that the ghost I'd just made extra sure was locked out was the same ghost that walks from kitchen to bathroom! What if she couldn't get back in? She was bound to be pissed!

Luckily Adam woke up and went to the bathroom, so I sheepishly got up then.

As I said, I've been in some pain (though no pain killers that night!) and was terrifically sleepy. I also have a wild imagination and worrisome mind.

But things definitely got a little unreal around the house this week.

Some strangers came a-callin'

One from the neighborhood, and one from Beyond, perhaps. Yeah. That's THE Beyond to you.

Our neighborhood visitor is this gal:

I think cats choose their owners, and they seem to just keep choosing me and my mother. Mom ended up with the last stray...Guess it was my turn. She's ultra sweet, we've named her Bella for the time being. Adam doesn't seem too keen on letting me live out my dream of having an orange and white cat named Fluffer-Nutter. She's not much of a marshmallow personality anyway, so I suppose it's ok. I'll take her to the vet tomorrow, hopefully, to see how unhealthy she really is. Skin and bones and starving all the time. Worms, probably. Don't know if we'll keep her, and I'm going to keep checking around the neighborhood to make sure we don't start medicating and fixing a cat that isn't ours...

Anyway. I know you're thinking, "Yeah, yeah, so what. A cat. Great. What about the ghost?"

Next post. ;-)

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

18 Million Cracks

in my bathroom. Trust me-- I'm not making light of those more important 18 million cracks*; I'm just getting a little concerned about the stability of the joints in my bathroom.

I was a taking a shower a few days ago (I've taken them since!), and I noticed what looked like mildew in the grout lines. Admittedly, I'd noticed them before, and bought some extra heavy duty tub and tile cleaner. But this time I stuck a fingernail in the grout line...

I think these are actually places where the grout is beginning to fail. Morelike, has already failed. There's quite a few of them. My other guess was that perhaps there was a darker grout to begin with and someone decided to regrout in white. The floor looks like maybe it was a darker grout, not just stained. (We're clean people-- I swear!).

So I'm thinking-- and correct me if I'm going about this all wrong-- I'm going to clean the grout in the tub/shower and walls well with a soft brush and regrout. The sticking point is that it's the whole bathroom's wainscoting, but I think that if I just pay special attention to the areas of failure and do the entire thing with the same batch using a good float, then I should be good, right?

Then I noticed this:

That's the hot water knob in the tub. And that black thing you see is a hole. Bondo and some chrome paint? I know I should just replace them, but I LOVE these knobs. The hole is on the backside and they're perfectly vintage for the rest of the bathroom...Or can you buy those sleeve things separately?

Then, there's the crack between shower and window:

Trust-- the first thing I want to do in this joint is paint the trim. The most recent paint job was done with FLAT paint. Sigh. Dirty fingers galore. However, you'll see that the first thing I ought to do, is address the "why you shouldn't just grout your tile to wood" issue. Clean it out and caulk it, I assume.

An finally, the real crack in the ceiling that haunts me daily:

The AC guys did this and offered to knock a few hundred dollars off the total if I let it go. I was fresh off the kitchen drywalling, so I thought this was the bargain of the century and a good opportunity to practice my texturing. I'm not so worried about the texture as I am about the sheetrock falling down. I think my plan is to perhaps put a couple of drywall screws into the portions that are sagging-- there's plaster with lathe underneath, so it's something for the screws to go into, and they don't have to hold the weight of the whole sheet; just the little saggy bits. Then tape and mud and patch as otherwise.

It's a little daunting, but should be a good trial run for repairing and successfully cammoflaging the, ahem, canyon in our other ceiling:

This weekend was a bit of a dud, so we've promised ourselves greater progress next weekend. We want that final inspection and we want it now. Or at least before the permit is a year old. Yikes.

*After the last 10 days, politically speaking, I feel I need humor more than ever. I'm getting a little worried.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Hub of the Universe, Part II

Photo by my sister...I haven't asked her permission for this, so hopefully she won't make me take it down when she finds out! And the pic is of Cambridge...but it's from Boston...

Well, I made it home. I didn't talk about this second Boston trip in my last post-- partly because my laptop was indeed dying, and partly because I didn't want to jinx the final steps of the travel homeward. And largely because I needed a little distance.

Let me begin by saying that I'm finding myself fonder of the city now with that little bit of distance. And I should also say that it is quite easily the prettiest city in the US-- it's also very English, and it makes me nostalgic; I lived in London for a year and a half, and it is my favorite. The people of Boston are the nicest I've been around in a large city and the most helpful. I just finished the McCullough John Adams biography, and have been working my way through a book about the 1787 congress, so the place was definitely of special interest.

And I have not given up on having a good experience there-- I'll be back! This one, unfortunately starting badly before we even left.

My sister was beginning BU last week, so my mother and I went to help her move in. But the only flight she could find for us that was affordable was out of Little Rock, with 2 connections: 4 hours in Atlanta and 40 minutes in Detroit. We would arrive late at night, so we Pricelined the hotel at the airport. Unfortunately, Mom and I had a failure to communicate, as they say. I managed to get the date wrong for the hotel. So since the Pricelined room was already paid for, we had to just buy an extraneous night and rearrange the car rental.

Long story short, the Little Rock airport's skycaps were awful; the TSA people said out loud that they weren't going to talk to us; and we were put on another airline without being told. There were multiple delays and we barely made it. The hotel restaurant was closed and we had to get room service ($$$$$$). We went to pick up the car the next morning and it was soooo far away.

A GOOD note: driving in the Boston city center, mostly throughout Back Bay, the Government Center area, around the Commons, and throughout the Fens, was positively enjoyable. Once I settled into the one-way streets and the 3 lane roads, I was loving it. And meters-- METERS! You can just PARK at a METER!

Back to the frustrating. It took us 2 1/2 hours to get to Dedham that night, where we were staying. A friend of ours has a house there-- an 1880's Victorian with some amazing details. I'll talk about those in a minute...
Several reasons for the long drive. Mapquest's directions were baaaad. But mainly, things just aren't well-labeled in Boston. You'll be driving down the street for miles without any kind of indication of what street you are actually on. Grr.

Ok. So after that, we decided to take the train in from then on. Mapquest directions to the train station were wrong again. Asked for directions. They sent us to West Roxbury. At the station, we see that the parking thingy only took cash. Back to a grocery store to get cash. Back to train. Stuff the parking slot. Check the schedule. NO TRAINS TODAY. Find a police station for directions to another station. Get there-- NO TRAIN for TWO HOURS. So this time, it took us 4 hours to get to Boston, door to door.

More poorly labeled things throughout the city, short T trains that didn't wait for anyone to get from one end of the platform to the other.

The trip back: Many more delays and tight connections. Assurances that our luggage would make it. It didn't. Then we realized the car keys were in the luggage. Stayed at a friend's house that night. Got to the airport to pick up luggage-- that flight was late.


However. As I mentioned, an amazing house. Jet doorknobs and 5 panel doors throughout. Wide plank floors. The kitchen cabinets that I think Adam and I are going to get. A cool tile floor in the bathroom that's just like ours, but updated:
And one of my favorite effects involved the doors in the kitchen. You saw that the wood was simply finished and in gorgeous shape. I was standing in one of the kitchen doorways and noticed that the doors and trim had been painted. They'd color matched either an opaque stain or thinned paint to the other doors in the house and sort of haphazardly brushed it on. When I shot it with the flash on, it was really obvious. But this pic shows it in all its cammoflaged glory.

If you really look for it, you can tell...But it's a damn good effect. It's something I may experiment with in the future. Lucky for our friend, though, it's only the one room. If you had this through a whole house it might be really obvious. I remember seeing on another blog (I don't remember which one, but if you're reading this, let me know and I'll post a link!!) who did a similar thing with shellac and it looked like a fumed oak, if I remember correctly. So if anyone's interested in doing this and wants more info, I'll ask her if she did this and any tips she has...

So. The long and short is-- this trip was also a bit of a dud. But we were moving my sister in and were successful, so it met its goal. We saw the MFA's Winslow Homer exhibit and had a beer at Cheers (shut up.) and ate some PHENOMENAL food. Next time, I know what to expect a bit more. Detailed driving maps will be purchased, and since we were able to priceline a 4* place for $80, it looks like it's almost as cheap to stay at the hotel. Having a kitchen was certainly nice, but $20 a day in train fees and $40 or $50 on a rental car to get to the train station (no taxis there), and you might as well stay in the city or at the airport.

I haven't given up. Just a lesson learned. And I will say, yet again, it is the most beautiful city in this country.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Me and Boston...Boston and Me

I just don't think we were meant to be...I'll start with my first trip there.

In 2005, I was living in New York and went to visit a friend in Boston. I took the Chinatown bus. The second night I was in the city, we went pin bowling (which is super fun, I might add) where my purse was stolen. It had my glasses, phone, wallet, inhaler, and a very special necklace in it. There was good news, though: one person thought it was suspicious that a man was running out of the bar with a purse. He tried to stop the guy, but couldn't really keep him there. That guy was a Sprint salesman, so he helped me get a discount the next day on a new phone. Bonus number two: my license was at the desk. I'd had to give it up to rent the bowling shoes. So I could still get back on the bus. Lucky stroke number three: my friend wasn't as broke as I was and could lend me money. I cancelled all my cards and continued to enjoy my time in the city.

In the morning, I remembered one card that I forgot to cancel. When I called, I asked the girl if the guy had made any purchases. "Oh yeah," she said. "Some big ones. $150 for Chinese food at 4am and he checked into a hotel early this morning." She told me which hotel-- a place in South Boston-- and I called the hotel. When I told the front desk girl that my purse had been stolen she actually shouted, "It's you! Hold on!!" They told me to come to the hotel.

When I got there, I found out that the girl at the desk had been new; she could tell the card was stolen, but didn't know what to do. And the guy was so strung out he could barely stay conscious. So she checked him in and called the police when he went up to the room.
Pretty smart in my opinion.

Anyway, I went to the police station to get a copy of the report and pick up all the cards I'd already cancelled. The guy had been a heroin junky and the Chinese food was likely drugs. Everyone was very nice, very helpful. It was an okay trip, if otherwise unmemorable. I helped my friend clean her place and decorate. I hated borrowing so much money and I wasn't interested in being a super tourist that time. Just a weekend with a good friend.

THEN. On the bus home, I got a phone call from the Blockbuster in Arkansas. Someone in Boston had found my wallet with nothing but a blockbuster card in it. I called the guy and he said he saw glasses and a wallet. He thought the glasses were worth calling about. I told him the story and got his address. My friend could go pick up the glasses.

He called back a few hours later. He'd found my purse in the bushes outside his business. No phone, but everything else. My friend got the purse as well, and finally mailed it to me 3 years later ;-)

So you can see that my first brush with Boston was a less than perfect one; but the people had been so nice and the place so beautiful, that I held high hopes for another trip when I had time for tourist traps and money for fun.

Meanwhile, my laptop is about to die, right now, here in the Little Rock airport. Part 2-- my second trip to Boston-- is not yet over, so I'll wait to post the full account when I'm home...