Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas, 2013!

Hearty Christmas Greetings! 
We'll see you soon, 
and in a brand New Year. 

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Last Minute Gifts, Blog Edition (With Cream on the Side)

I should make this a new holiday tradition. I also need a New Year's Resolution:
Stop fooling around on PicMonkey so much. 

I know. I'm one to talk about going out and braving the last-minute retail craziness for a gift. The one who's discussed her ambivalence with the entire Christmas holiday commercialization crap-fest.

But that's not the kind of last-minute I mean. Though I'll admit to sometimes having a stress-induced urge to go snag more cartons of whipping cream off the shelf of the grocery store (the thing it is, in my mind, a DISASTER of epic proportions to run short of during the holidays), I'm not doing that other kind of last-minute gift shopping, or giving.

All of my blog readers, all 3.5 of you, are awesome people, and I even have an idea where some of you live, and I mean that in a totally non-creepy way. But there's no way I can ship you cartons of whipping cream. If you were in the neighborhood I'd shove the stack of magazines off the end of the sofa for you, bring you a cup of coffee (with that aforementioned cream) and we could talk and eat inappropriate amounts of holiday food right off my dusty coffee table. Because I'm classy like that.

Since I can't do that either, I thought I'd give my blog readers a list of new blogs to read. It's calorie-free (unlike the cream) and I can afford several for all of you!

In keeping with the calorie-free joke, these are all lightweight, fun reading, for those days when you just want a little brain candy.

Slaughterhouse 90210 is a quirky free-association of images from television series and quotes pulled from literature. Like this pairing here:

From Slaughterhouse 90210
"Caring too much for objects can destroy you. Only-- if you care for a thing enough, it takes on a life of its own, doesn't it? And isn't the whole point of things-- beautiful things-- that they connect you to some larger beauty?"   --- Donna Tartt, The Goldfinch.

If you're an avid watcher of a variety of television series and a bookworm too, this is your Tumblr blog for low-brow/high-brow mashups. It's almost always good for a laugh, sometimes a poignant thought, and the frequent realization that there is just as much universal truth in a well-wrought television series as in the pages of a book.

Chickens in Literature is right up in my hen house. I love chickens (ceramic ones mostly, but chickens no less), and I love books.  The concept is most fowl: connect art and photography images of chickens with quotes about them from literature. What's not to love here?

From Chickens in Literature
"When I was six I had a chicken that walked backwards and was in the Pathe News. I was in it too with the chicken. I was just there to assist the chicken but it was the high point in my life. Everything since has been anticlimax." --Flannery O'Connor

The seventies were pretty super, but I was only aged toddler through tween, so I can't say it was very groovy or swinging for me.

From Super Seventies
And according to this picture, I also missed the opportunity to wear my mother's potholders as a brassiere. Or halter top. Something----oh, that's right--- a breastplate. Super Seventies is full of the musicians, actors, advertising, interiors and food that made the decade. I stop by this blog often for a smile.

I hope these are just your size, and that there aren't any just like them under the tree, because duplicate gifts are a bummer. And when you get a chance to read this, will you let me know what things you've been reading lately? I'd love to have new blogs to read in the new year!

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Naming Angels, Big and Small

I like angels. One of my favorites is this little guy, who was made by my oldest son Grant when he was all of four years old. He's at the top of our tree every year, and he makes me smile.

Another is the one whose words were rendered into the poetry of the King James Bible (but you can go ahead and hear Linus' voice when you read it, because I do that too):

"And the angel said unto them, 'Fear not; for behold I bring you good tidings of great joy, which will be unto all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a savior, which is Christ the Lord.'"

Fear not. The angel must have been terrifying, because the Gospel of Luke also says they were "sore afraid." The Hebrew word, seraphim, literally means "the burning ones."

I've always liked that idea much better than our modern conception of angels. They are not our familiars, the spirits of people we love who have died. They've never been human. They are not feminine, pretty, insipid butterflies in white dresses.

My other favorite angel is Proginoskes, the many-winged, many-eyed cherubim from Madeleine L'Engle's book "A Wind in the Door." Progo, as he is called by the Murry children, is a Namer. L'Engle wrote much in this story about the power of naming, a form of love. Naming elevates both the diversity and the individuality of everything that is; and is a powerful weapon against nothingness and ignorance and the evils that hide in both.

I've probably mentioned a time or two that I'm a former Lutheran who turned in her casserole dish. I don't remember the last time I was at a church service, and the last meaningful discussion I had about faith was with a Buddhist nun. I enjoy reading about Catholic saints. I'm a denominational orphan of the highest order.

So while this is a holiday season for Christians, I don't exclude anyone from the gifts offered by this trio of angelic host. I wish everyone a moment or much, much more of innocent joy. I hope all have at least one moment now, or sometime in their lives, of spiritual awe. I hope you are all named and loved.

Merry Christmas, all.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Lamp Love Monday!

It's been awhile since I featured a lamp on the blog. I'd decided only to feature lamp posts (unintentional pun) when something really noteworthy came along, and then immediately went into a really dry spell, or perhaps with lamps you should say "dark spell," where nothing was really wow or fantastic. Nothing really lit my lamp, you could say. I also hadn't had a lot of time for vintage shopping this summer with the painting project, so I just let it go. 

But now! Take a look at this pole lamp!

This was the last photo I shot on my cell phone on my hurried way out the door of a local consignment shop two weekends ago. I pondered it with the last half second I had, and though I really, really love it? There's no place in my house for it. Believe me, I tried to justify it. I really did. And the best part? Thirty-five dollars. No really. I don't think that's bad at all for a vintage pole lamp. I hope it finds a home where there is someone who appreciates its charm!

Friday, December 13, 2013

How We Do Christmas On the Doorstep

It's difficult for me to write Christmas decor blog posts, and not because I dislike Christmas. I like Christmas quite a lot. But I like it in small, controlled doses, and you might have noticed that Christmas doesn't generally come in that size any more.

Those small controlled doses don't translate well into Holiday Super-Blogger-Ama of craft projects, decor ideas, and food, and so I always feel a bit......well, inadequate to producing seasonal magic.

But that's comparing myself to how others choose to celebrate, and that way lies dissatisfaction. And overall grumpiness. Also, I have no Scrooge-y wish to rain on somebody else's holiday parade. If anyone enjoys hauling 35 storage containers of garland out of the garage attic every November, more jingle to them. I mean that. Really. Just don't ask me to understand it.

So what do we do around here? I thought about this a lot as the boys and I were doing our annual festive foofing last weekend. I realized we have five basic guiding principles for holiday decor.

1. We concentrate on a few spots instead of the whole house

Last year's post-holiday vintage score. It's already shedding, but I love it!

From the standpoint of personal taste, having every available surface covered in holiday knick-knackery makes me feel anxious, and like I need to dust. From a practical standpoint, because I'm a working single mom I don't have a ton of time to decorate, and I don't have a ton of time to put it all away in January. We put up a tree in the front window of our living room. We decorate the living room credenza, the fireplace mantel, and maybe one other horizontal surface (this year, it was the dining room buffet). Aside from a few small touches elsewhere, like holiday kitchen linens, this is it. It's doable in an afternoon, or broken up into smaller segments if the schedule demands. And in a house my size, it's plenty.

2. We build our collections one or two pieces at a time

I'd rather have quality than quantity, and so I tend not to go to discount stores and buy gobs of cheap tinselly stuff, even if it's a "bargain." Every time I have I've tended to regret it. So I buy one or two things--usually vintage--that I love each year. Limiting it tends to make me wait until I know I really love it before I buy, like the green and gold garland, above, that I purchased this year, and the embroidered runner underneath (it's called Hardanger work) that I found years ago. Going slowly also means I know when to stop. I have a collection of vintage bottlebrush trees that I love. But when they filled the fireplace mantel, I knew I had enough of them.

3. We use what we have

We aren't the type of people who shift entire rooms of furniture and clear entire horizontal surfaces of all the everyday decor items. Our holiday decoration collections are small because I multitask our everyday stuff. I love the color green and lucky me, it's a Christmas color. Adding some holiday silk greenery to the Royal Copley vases that always live on the mantel is quick and simple. The gilt sunburst clock already looks holiday-worthy (The red ball ornament is just me feeling silly). There's plenty of vintage stuff in the house--milk glass, green pressed glass, chippy old china-- which will work as Christmas decor, isn't plastic, and is flexible enough to use in different ways during the season and throughout the rest of the year too.

4. We don't do themes

While I do try to keep a few things consistent across holiday decor items, like lots of green and gold, we don't like themed trees. They seem department-store sterile to us, and we'd rather have our tree crammed with all the ornaments collected over the years, from the lumpy purple glitter pine cone Noah made in preschool to the fragile blown glass memento from the Henry Ford Museum. All of them-- elegant, homely, homemade or purchased with someone's personality in mind-- are meaningful and sentimental. That means a lot more to me than carrying through a color scheme of the year. The ones in the photo above I made from antique postcards and trims from the children's great-grandmother's sewing box. While holiday crafting doesn't happen every year, we love that those homemade ornaments add a very personal family signature to our tree.

5. We start when we want to, and pack it up when we want to

My favorite holiday, the one I throw my soul and effort into, is Thanksgiving. I can really get behind a holiday that is about gratitude and over-consumption of carbohydrates and butter. I like the colors of the harvest time of year. I want to linger in that late autumn stage as long as possible. It's not complicated by the angst and pressure of gift giving, or by elaborate decorating schemes. People are happy with a few pumpkins and drawings of hand turkeys.

The only way retail has managed to make any inroads to commercializing Thanksgiving is by trying to shoulder it out of the way with the holiday they already have a firm stranglehold upon: Christmas. It's the one thing I get sour about.

I generally don't get my Christmas things out until the weekend after Thanksgiving. It seems a little late compared to the annual retail jump-the-gun, but it gives me a little space between the two, a little breather before I jump into the next thing. I need that.

I always wrap things up by Twelfth Night, or the Feast of Epiphany, which is Jan. 6. In some cultures it's bad luck to have the tree up past that day. For me it's not so much about superstition, but about it being enough. Four to five weeks of Christmas is enough for me. Enough to feel satisfied, but not so much it overwhelms, or loses it's specialness.

Do you have any holiday decorating philosophy? What makes you happiest?


I've been pretty spotty on posts for the last few months, but I'll be around more in the next few weeks. I have a small project to share and I'm looking forward to getting back into my blog writing more regularly. Thanks for waiting around for me and checking back! 

Thursday, November 21, 2013

House Painting 2013 (Monday Morning Quarterback Edition)

How glad am I to be done with exterior painting for the year? Well, I don't dance because the Lutherans beat it out of me, but if it's possible for readers to picture a sort of football end zone celebration dance, but holding paint brushes......that gives you an idea. That's how I felt in my Protestant-repressed insides.

It's been so good to do almost anything else that even routine housework seems pleasant, a feeling I hope sticks around as long as possible.

My life has been crying out for baked goods.

I'd like to get crafty.

Things we did not take home for fear they'd get loose in the wild. Read about it here. 

Well. Not that crafty.

And it's time to start thinking of the holidays (though as per my usual, I resist doing anything about Christmas until after Thanksgiving.)

Monday morning quarterbacking is unavoidable when things don't turn out like you planned. So let's extend that sports metaphor (at least to the end of this sentence) and review the video, shall we?

The Goal: 
Paint the entire exterior of the house.

The Reality: 
I got one full side (the front side) painted, not including the front door and shutters. I got the ground level of the south side painted, but not the gable.

Here's what I learned:
I was unrealistic about my limitations/expectations.
Somehow I very glibly thought that I could single-handedly paint the entire exterior of my house while working full-time and rearing four children. Either I'm not very bright or have huge lady-balls. I started the summer thinking I had tons of the latter. Now I think it's the former. I'm grateful I had help along the way, and realized I was wrong without freaking out...Okay, only freaking out a little bit...Oh--kay. Only freaking out to my sister on Facebook chat all. the. time. Okay. And beer. Okay?

I am not good at estimating how long a big project will take. 
Part of that is not factoring in the unpredictable, which any do-it-yourselfer should know. I mean, I am the original author of the Dumb Crap Margin (trademark pending), which is all the stuff that happens that doesn't actually include doing the project--losing a tool, running to the hardware store, the weather. And on a project of this magnitude, the dumb crap margin can be enormous. Estimates of what you think you should be getting done on any given weekend need to be reduced by 50 percent to account for rain, stupidity on the part of the foreman (that would be me), and pesky children who need things like meals and clean laundry. Then there's the fact that in places, the siding was in much worse condition than I realized, slowing my work pace down.

Perfectionism can be paralyzing.
I started this project working carefully along every square inch of siding, terrified that if I did it wrong I would have massive peeling and blistering paint months from now, and I was pretty sure I didn't want to endure this project more than once a decade. But a carpenter who came by my house remarked, "you're not refinishing furniture, you know," and that got me moving along at a brisker pace. Dad, who also worked as a housepainter when he was young, followed that advice up as well. Believe me, I'm not actually normally hung up on painstaking perfection. It was just the fear of having to do it over again that was keeping me sanding, sanding, sanding. My mantra now is buy good paint, prep within reason, caulk well, and trust your product. I hope it's true!

Mother Nature doesn't recognize weekends. Or your discomfort.
The weather seemed perverse most of the summer. In the spring it was rainy and cold. By June it was so blisteringly hot that it was difficult to put in a full day of work. In July the weather would be perfect Monday through Friday while I worked at my desk job, and it would pour rain solidly all weekend. Instead of getting a break in the heat in September, it was even warmer. The aluminum ladders were too hot to touch without work gloves, and my Dad and I had to take what he called "combat naps" throughout the day to prevent heat exhaustion. I got my best weather in October, as I frantically worked to finish up. My last day painting was so windy I didn't feel like I was up that ladder painting so much as battening down the hatches on the Edmund Fitzgerald.

No matter how big the project, sometimes it still isn't a priority. 
I've said it before and I'll say it again. No matter what state this house is in, family life is still going to happen, and it really does need to come first, even if it seems counterintuitive, irresponsible, and courting chaos. My second son's first rock concert playing lead guitar is only going to happen once. My oldest son's first season of college rugby will never happen again. Yes, the combination of uncooperative weather and family responsibilities put me far behind on this project all season. However, I doubt that on my death bed I'll regret spending more time with a can of exterior grade latex.

Sometimes "last minute" is the way it gets done.
My last day painting was Sunday, Nov. 10. Enough said.

Progress is progress. 
Yes, it would have been lovely to get another side or two done. The shutters up. The window face frames painted and new storms installed. That didn't happen. But am I further along than when I started? Absolutely. I'll take it. While I don't think I'll exactly enjoy getting out the paint supplies for a second summer (and a third, because there's also the garage), I know that I'll get it. The north and west sides of the house aren't in such bad condition as the south and north side were, and the work will move along more quickly. I hope to have chances to paint shutters inside over the winter, so I can start right away in spring installing them, an instant curb appeal booster with little grunt work. By the end of this summer, the house looked a little better than before. By next summer, it will look better still. Progress is progress.

What project did you do that took all summer? Did you finish?

Monday, November 18, 2013

I Grew Some Great Grass

The house painting project made me neglect the yard pretty much all summer. It was on its own, like an unsupervised wild child. We mowed. Kinda. I was glad for the perennial border.

So I didn't really appreciate the gas company deciding this was the year to dig up my street easement to monkey with the gas line. My property was already looking shabby enough without their extra help, thank-you-very-much.

Last year, my street was torn up while the city replaced the curbs. Then they tore up the street again to resurface the asphalt. It all looked very nice when (finally) done.

This spring, the gas company decided, after all that earthwork had been put back in place and the street resurfaced, that they really needed to dig it all back up again to bury the gas line deeper. Because they didn't check that while they had the ground open last year. Of course.

It's sorta why I'd like to hand the gas utility the 2013 Ass Backwards Award. Keep your acceptance speech under 30 seconds, and in keeping with the theme please come to the podium before I've opened the big white envelope. 

When they were done, sometime in late April, they threw some rye grass seed down on the fresh dirt and promised me sod. Fine. That sounded more than fair, and so I expected some-- soon. Grass growing season is early spring, when the temperature is still cool and there is some rain. 

Weeks later, in June, at the beginning of what was a long jag of super-hot, super-dry weather, I come home to find that someone has slapped down already-half-dead sod on my easement, and had also inexplicably tilled up a square in my front yard and sodded that too, for no reason anyone could explain to me. 

While I watered with a good will, it already wasn't healthy, the ground wasn't prepared properly, and I wasn't home to babysit it through 90+ degree weather. Pretty soon it looked like this: 


Things were already looking pretty down-market with patchy bare siding and ladder scaffolding

So, ah, no. It didn't help. But with a droughty summer, doing anything about it was pointless. I cringed every time I drove up to my own house, but ignored it until the weather got cooler. 

In late September I tore up the dead sod, threw a couple of bags of purchased topsoil on the area to make it even with the rest of the turf, raked it smooth, and seeded it. It wasn't hard, but I was grouchy. If it had been filmed it would have been 30 minutes of me grumbling under my breath and pitching yard tools about. 

It only took a couple of weeks and some regular appointments with garden hose to have lovely little grass babies sprouting up all over. 

Right now, the same patch looks like this: 

The line between old turf and new is roughly diagonal through the photo from upper left to lower right, and also shows how nicely (thank goodness) everything recovered from the drought conditions this summer. 

I left the easement strip undone however, and it will be waiting for me next spring. Since it is next to the driveway where I put my garbage can, I'm considering some pavers and gravel bedding instead of grass to make it better for high traffic. 

Unless of course, we have more trenching to be done. It's always possible. 

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Finished? No. Done? Totally.

<taps mic>

Is this thing on?

Hi. I'm back. Actually, I never left, I just walked away from the computer monitor for awhile and picked up the paint scraper and.....well. I have an announcement to make:

I'm not finished painting. But I'm done. Done for the season. Done for the year. Stick a fork in me, I'm done. Overdone. DONE.

When I last left the blog I was still lamenting the rather crappy condition of clapboards on the south side of my house:

I was still scraping away like crazy while the weather got colder, and wetter, and colder, and wetter....

And while the rugby matches scrummed forth:

Courtesy of ISU Men's Rugby Club

And while birthday cakes were baked: 

Noah wants Kit-Kats on a chocolate cake. Every year. 

While Death and Batman stormed through the 'hood: 

Meanwhile, back at the cape cod (this doesn't have quite the ring as "back at the ranch") I was getting up against it. 

Grant came home the first Sunday in November to pitch in sanding some rough spots: 

And then finally some paint went on the building. I worked as fast as I could before the temperature and daylight both gave out on me, but I still came up short on one little patch: 

If I haven't mentioned it before, I have issues with symmetry. I wasn't going to be able to look at this all winter. 

So on Friday we had a lovely sunny day for November, and I finished this little area up:

I ran out of time to even begin work on the gable. The windows still need work, but I consider them a separate project to coincide with storm window replacement. 

I swept up paint scrapings and washed out my brush literally minutes before starting this blog post. I've neglected the inside of the household since June. My children are sick of sandwiches and deli pizza for supper and even my dust is dusty. 

I'll regroup in another post soon, but right now I'm going to shower, and have a glass of wine--or three. And forget where I put the paint scraper until April. 

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Running an 8K: That Wasn't On the List

No, this didn't turn into a personal fitness blog. But last weekend, I did something out of character. I ran an 8K. That's almost 5 miles. All at once, without stopping.

Don't worry. I haven't completely lost my usual sense of self. I did follow it up with Mexican food and fruit cobbler with ice cream.

After my sister and I ran that 5K on the Fourth of July, we were looking for another good family run. And not far from my dad's house near Springfield, Mo., is the Wilson's Creek National Battlefield.

Wilson's Creek National Battlefield. Public domain photo, National Park Service
The park's nonprofit foundation was organizing a fundraising race on Oct. 19, and it seemed like a great thing to do on a visit to dad's house.

All we had to do was run the battlefield, an honor considering what had happened here before. On that August day over a century and a half ago, 17,000 of our countrymen fought in the beginnings of a war that would consume our nation until Lee's surrender at Appomattox in 1865. One of those soldiers was my great-great-great grandfather, Joseph Young, who fought with the Missouri State Guard and alongside the Confederacy.

So we had family, we had history, we had sisterhood, and we had a new physical challenge, which Dad decided to join. How could we not?

Despite the solemnity of the history there, the battlefield is gorgeous in the fall. The morning was cold, and Team Millsaps drank a lot of coffee. Then Dyan and I proceeded to go to the bathroom sixteen-hundred-and-eleventy times before the starting gun.

Only the starting gun wasn't a gun, but a civil war cannon. Let me repeat that: We started our run to the firing of a Civil War cannon. History geek me could hardly stand the coolness.

I just wanted to finish in under an hour; and I did, at 57:44:8. It's only my third competitive race ever, so I don't feel like I can call myself a runner yet. When do you start owning that label?

This was the inaugural event, and the organizers gave all the runners a participation medal. Y'all can say what you want about participation medals and the decline of American competitiveness. I'm ridiculously proud of that thing. I wanted to wear it to work on Monday, but stopped myself. I may, however, wear it on those days when I need to borrow a little awesome.

More than the medal and the pride of being part of such a great first event, I treasure running with my dad and my sister. We added another personal layer of family history to this particular place, and to our time together. It will always be special.

You can learn more about the Battle of Wilson's Creek at this link. 

The Bloody Hill Run was sponsored the the Wilson's Creek National Battlefield Foundation, and you can find out more about their efforts to preserve our nation's history here. 

Sunday, October 13, 2013

More Good Dirt

Rough brown pod, seeds like punctuation, silky strands. I found this laying on the soil while digging this weekend. It's a milkweed pod, of asclepias tuberosa, and I've had a few of these plants arrive in my garden this year, uninvited but welcome guests to the garden party. I hope this plain and lovely thing (I think things can be both plain and lovely, at the same time) means more flowers to come. The bright orange flowers are butterfly and hummingbird friendly, something all the best gardens should be.

The bulbs are all in the ground now, taking a long dirt nap until spring. The digging and raking, the weighing in the hands of each small promise to the future before placing them-- it was a welcome break from the summer-long paint project.

This weekend I got the face frames of the two windows getting new storm windows scraped and painted. I took no pictures, because I'm bored of paint photos. Aren't you?

It will be a mad rush to the end of the warm days, but I'm already looking forward to other things--inside projects, baking, sofa, blanket, and coffee.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

The Giant Clock is Ticking

How did it get to be October? How did it get to be nearly the MIDDLE of October? I'm not sure, but here I am. And the arrival of the box of flower bulbs that I ordered in the spring jolted me into the realization that these crisp days, chilly nights, and marching band practices in the distance (I live close enough to the high school to hear) are numbered.

I don't really have time for anything other than paint scraping right now, but I still welcomed the sight of the cardboard shipping box on the porch. It meant digging in the dirt.

There's a scene in C.S. Lewis' book Prince Caspian, where the Tree People of Narnia eat different kinds of earth for a feast.

I think of it every time I'm gardening, because that is what soil looks like to me-- delicious, chocolatey, rich. Here in my home state we're blessed with dark topsoil and I've never taken it for granted. And even though I'd never be foolish enough eat dirt (not since toddlerhood anyway) and it smells nothing like chocolate, it is one of the best smells under the heavens. There's also some science behind why digging in the dirt makes me feel better. It really is an antidepressant (check this link).

Some gardening books advise digging one small deep hole for each bulb, but that way insanity lies. I dig large shallow trenches to put in masses of bulbs all at once. It's more digging overall, but less time spent.

If anyone wants to know, I order my bulbs from John Scheepers. They are not the cheapest bulb company out there. They are far from the most expensive. But their stuff is really good quality and I've always had really good results and healthy plants from their bulb stock.

Those are some miniature daffodils going in the ground. I'm also adding some scilla into the mix.

Here is the garden bed all put together, with a few starts of lamb's ear that I'd like to grow as a border.

It's a lot of work with the spade, but in the spring I get the reward: 

Wikimedia Commons image

Wikimedia Creative Commons image, by Magnus Manske
I'm moving along with scraping the south side of the house, but I also realize it's unlikely that I will get the entire side done. It means living with a half flesh beige, half green side of the house. Yuck. I'm sure I'll cringe all winter. But it can't be helped, and there is no way my Puritan work ethic streak is going to make me feel guilty for spending my time where and when my children needed me.

Since the photo above was taken, I've gotten the "square" behind the ladder and between the windows done, and will finish the side up to four clapboards above the first-floor windows. Then I'll sand, caulk, and paint. If I run out of warm weather, I'm done. If I have warm days into November (which sometimes happens) I'll do small patches one at a time up into the gable end, as I can.

The siding is in much worse shape on this side:

Once I get it done, the rest of the sides of the house are in much, much better shape. I'm getting the hard part done first. At least, that's what I keep telling myself.

I'm ready to wrap up the exterior painting season so I can move inside and do something else for a change. At this point, even housework seems appealing!