Friday, November 30, 2012

First Blogiversary Favorites

When it comes to my own personal selections, I'm terrible at ranking things. Anything. Nearly everything I passionately like (or dislike), I do for all these weird, inconsistent, arbitrary, deeply thought out or remarkably superficial reasons. I'm like a fickle teenage girl that way. 

So, no one's getting some tidy Top 5 Fave Posts or anything like that. I can't even keep the list to posts, but had to include other things. I went minimalist on this post's title, but I think the real post title is "A List of Posts and Other Stuff That I Like About My Blog's First Year, At Least for Today." See? That's just crazy talk.

So here is my unranked list of favorites from my blog's first year:

This desk: 

My son Noah, now 13, asked for an orange desk when he was eight years old. His Uncle Rusty took a paint sprayer filled with a paint color called something like "Autumn Squash" to the old pine catalog mail-order desk that was mine as a child. He still likes it, and I'm glad because I love it too. This desk got repinned on Pinterest 54 times. It's taken me years to warm up to orange as a color for interior design. It always seemed too daring to me. Now, I like it. Please also note the awesome starburst on the awesome vintage lamp. You can read about Noah's room HERE.

This pair of posts: 

In May my sister, my friend Kristy, and I went to an enormous flea market. We had so much fun and found so much awesome stuff:

You can read about those adventures HERE and HERE.

The home's history:

I've got little clues and bits and pieces of this house's history, starting with this photo above, taken in January, 1942. I plan to delve more into its past in the coming year. I am a huge history geek, so I promise to bore you with all the details of whatever I find.

The "blog ladies:" 

I'm not exactly sure what I expected when I first launched this blog. I think that when I started, I believed blogging to be a mostly isolated and solitary endeavor. There are times when I am wrong and glad of it, and this is one of them. I've met a bunch of funny, thoughtful, and tasteful women through blogging, and I couldn't be more pleased about it. They all bring something different and well, necessary to my life, and for that I'm grateful.

Eartha Kitsch, over at Ranch Dressing, is droll and quirky and sentimental. Her humor and innate kindness are evident in every post.

Sara and Ruth over at No Pattern Required have been friendly and supportive, and I love their enthusiasm for what they do.

Rita at This Sorta Old Life has an honesty and reflection about life that is refreshing and courageous.

I am so glad to have met all of you!

No friend like a sister:

I still cannot believe it, almost a year and a half later. My sister came to visit me and sanded black gunk off my bedroom floor.

Let me repeat that.

My sister Dyan, with a little orbital sander, took the better part of a whole day sanding black gunk off all of the approximately 225 square feet of my bedroom subfloor. On her knees. Wearing a sweaty face mask. On a day hotter than the surface of the sun.

We also teamed up for a drywall project. We didn't forget to sign our work:

I called her a super heroine. She'd better not let it go to her head.

I'd say that I'm not sure I could do the same for her, but of course I CAN'T say that now that she's done it for me. It would make me a schmuck. Let's just hope that it never comes to that, and I can distract her with margaritas and cheesy foods. I think we'd both prefer the drinks anyway. The only thing I CAN say is thank you, my sister. Your kung fu is righteous. And y'all can read about it HERE.

Thank you too, readers and friends. Because of you I'm looking forward to the second year of On the Doorstep, and a whole new list of favorites.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

First Blogiversary: Top 5 Posts

Are you ready for a countdown? These are the top five most popular posts for my blog in the first year, based on total number of page views. I'm a little surprised by the random mix of things that comprise this list. Here we go, starting at number five:

5. Renovating a Teen Boy's Bedroom

This bedroom redo took more time than I thought it would, but it was fun to pull together. The dresser shown above was a mildewed old relic I found in the basement, the lamp an Etsy find with a new spray-painted black Target shade. The round mirror was also left behind in the house. You can read more about it HERE, and part two is HERE.

4. Mid-century Modern Garden Trellis

I have no idea how this quicky blog post made from the Lowe's Garden Center and illustrated with a crappy over-exposed cell phone photo became number four on my greatest hits list, but this thing still gets plenty of views daily, even months after it was originally posted. The item is still available too! You can find the original post HERE, and the item HERE.

3. Colonial Revival: Revisiting Tradition in the 
To be honest, I thought this post was a bit of a bore to anyone who wasn't a geek about architectural history or the owner of a Cape Cod. It was a lot of copy, and not a lot of photos, or at least not very good ones, and that's another no-no in blogland.

I took a bit of a walking tour in my own neighborhood, and reintroduced the ultimate "before" photo of my own Cape Cod, taken in April 2011 before I closed on the house.

Despite my misgivings about the post, it made it to number three. You can read about it HERE.

2. Searching for Garden Ideas

This is another post that surprised me with its popularity, and because really, I was flaunting the ugly and real. This is what my garden looked like this spring. I had no clue where to start, and I referred to the whole thing as a "white trash disaster." You can read about my floundering about HERE.

1. Twin Boys' Bedroom Part II

This post was the winner, with the most views of all the 170-odd posts on the blog this year. This one was also a little bit of a surprise to me, because most of the game plan of rescuing this truly awful room had to do with the basics: ripping out the bad, cleaning like people gone mad, paint, and decorating mostly with things we already had. You can read about it HERE, and the first installment of the two-parter is HERE. It's truly lovely to hear little boy voices floating down the stairs from this room, and knowing that they see it as their space to grow and create. I'm glad it won the top spot.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Lamp Love Link: Unusual '50s Find

1950s lamp, by Ebay Seller Ladybelle917
We're just going to let this lamp speak for itself. It's unusual, got great lines, and the seller has attached a new, but period appropriate and shapely shade for it. Oh and its green, which of course gets my seal of approval.

Sigh. I still have no lamp buying excuse. It makes me sad. But self discipline is good, yes?

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

First Blogiversary: Small and Modest

Public domain photo, University of Houston Library Archive

This very first blogiversary for On the Doorstep seems a lot like the birthday of the child in the photo above. Modest, but happy. The wee girl is one up on me though, because she got a cake almost as big as her for the special day. I'm not whiny, though. I've got leftover Thanksgiving pie.

This is how it all started, just last year:

"It took me a long time to be standing here, on this door, on my welcome mat. MY welcome mat. In the course of just a few years, I moved back to the midwestern college town I'd done most of my growing up in, became a writer, left a marriage that was no longer an equal partnership, and then lived a few wickedly confused years divorcing, living with mom (eek!), living in an apartment, and struggling to find a place to call my own. That's a run-on sentence I know, but that was how my life was. I lived a run-on life."

In just a short year I came a long way from that run-on life. Now there is a solid place for my life to unfold with this little Cape Cod. She needs a lot of attention, but I feel I understand her. I did a lot of neglecting of myself, my emotions, and my true nature over the last decade. She's been neglected too. It seems we belong to each other in that sense, and the year and a half we've spent together is the beginning, I'm sure, of a longer and even better story.

The blog itself is a different tale to tell. I started it without having a single clue what I was doing, and to a certain degree it still shows. My traffic is still very modest, and on busy weeks I struggle not only to write content, but to have subject matter for the content. While I'd never want a blog so big and busy that it runs me instead of the other way around, I'd love for this little endeavor to grow a bit. That means paying more attention to my online "baby" too.

I tend to dream big plans but execute closely aligned to reality. That sure as hell was true about this first blogiversary. I had plans to revamp the design with the help of a graphics person, launch a few new features, maybe even host a giveaway.

None of that came even close to happening. The second new job did great things for my income and for my career, but what it meant for the house is that I spent a few too many days painting a small section of wall while still wearing office casual. And what it meant for the blog was fewer entries per week, let alone redesigns or giveaways. All I can say is: maybe next year.

The best thing about blogging really hasn't been about the blog itself, though. I've been able to keep family and friends updated on my new life here. I believe some self-reflection about home ownership, family life, and priorities has kept me honest and somewhat sane and grounded about what needs to happen next. Sometimes that answer is going to be very different from one day to the next, but I've learned that checking items off a pre-set list doesn't really suit my style, and sometime isn't even the best way to make progress.

I'll be back this week with more First Blogiversary posts. One, a list of the top five posts by web traffic numbers, with links and brief reviews. Next, a post of my personal favorite posts/things about the blog for its first year. Thanks for coming along for the ride this first year, and I welcome you to stick around for the second.


Monday, November 26, 2012

Ozark Mountains, 2012

Arkansas hasn't always been a part of my life. It was fated to become that way, though.

The Ozark Mountains was my grandfather's birthplace. And though he would leave there to find work, a good woman, and make a family elsewhere, it didn't much matter that he didn't come home. Arkansas, and those mountains, waited.

Two years ago, in April 2010, my sister Dyan and I made the trip. Dyan had been busy researching Millsaps family history, and wanted to do some work at the local Jasper County courthouse. As I've said before in previous posts, I was fresh from a emotionally bruising divorce (is there any other kind?) and looking to find a firm footing in family, even if it meant looking to the past.

Since then, we've been three other times, though we've moved the trip to October, when the creek beds are low and a little easier to hike through. My dad has joined the expeditions. It's not like we needed an excuse, even family history, to come here. The land holds its own attractions:

Hurricane Creek Wilderness, Ozark National Forest
But we'd begun to hold dear the idea of getting to a lonely mountain graveyard called Sexton Cemetery. More specifically, we were interested in the resting place of Mary Jane Sexton Pellham, my great-great grandmother. Family lore held that she was an Indian woman. There seems to be little trace of her. Indeed, it's hard to even think of her as a grandmother to generations. She died when she was 26, a mother of five.

We weren't successful finding the cemetery in the first two attempts. We took the wrong and it turns out worst road in the first time, and the axles on my dad's truck will probably never be the same. Both times we weren't lost, but got hopelessly confused trying to find the location on a Forest Service map that was incorrect.

That may have been fate too. My relationship with my father has been either absent or difficult over long years, and the repeat trips to find our family's history seemed designed by a plan larger than our own to mend that. I am grateful to be at a time in my life where there is no blame to lay and no hurt to fester; and only wonder how the "failure" to find an old cemetery became "chances" for a good and loving future.

This October, the fourth trip to Arkansas and the third attempt on the Hurricane Creek Wilderness Area, we made it. It was a downpour through much of it, and our boots tramped through rivulets of red clay mud, running away down-mountain in an audible, echoing flow. The weather wasn't ideal.

The cemetery was tucked into a clearing, almost at the top of the ridge. My photography is not great. The sky was dark, it was pouring rain, and I was working quickly so my camera equipment didn't get soaked. As it was, many of the photos have spots, and my camera battery drained to zero in only a couple of minutes. Dyan and I joked that it was the ghosts of family past, but the "spirit orbs" we laughed about are really only rain drops on lenses.

The cemetery has a gate, and is still maintained. It is heartbreaking to see how many tiny headstones there are, each representing an infant or child death. Here in the hills, many older graves are often marked with a plain head- and foot-stone, rather than what we think of as carved granite markers with names and dates. It takes the memories of the living to mark the grave, to name a name, otherwise the dead are truly silent, unknown:

Mary Jane Sexton Pellham, however, had a headstone. The spots are rain drops on the camera lens:

The inscription says: "As a wife devoted, As a mother affectionate, as a friend, kind and true." The anchor is a Christian symbol of hope in the future, referring to Hebrews 6:19 "...which we have as an anchor of the soul, sure and firm, and which enters in even within the veil." Ivy is a Celtic symbol of fidelity and constancy.

There wasn't much we could bring away from the lonely little cemetery. Mary Jane couldn't tell us whether she was Native American, or why she died so young, or how she lived her life in the depth of those hills. All we really know is for sure is that she had a little girl named Bertha and she, on a fine green day in April 1921, had a baby boy who became my grandad. In between there and then and here and now I believe that I, my sister, and my dad have been making our way back. For most of our lives we just didn't know it yet.

Instead, in the opposite sense of shaking the dust of a place off one's feet (or in this case, scraping the mud off boots), I picked up a few stones from the creek on my way back out to civilization. I like to think they had lain there since my great-great grandmother was a young barefoot girl. They are little reminders of how place connects us, not just by lines on a map, but by strings from heart to heart.

Now that we're here, we have plans to come back. We've got some notion of tracking down the geographical history of another ancestor, Sam Davis, who was a local hero, lunatic, and man of God. Whether we "find" him or not is beside the point. I think Mary Jane taught us that.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving

The dinner rolls are fresh out of the oven here. Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving: For the Here and Now

The photo above is one I shot at a local orchard last year, and it's exactly how I picture the ideal Thanksgiving-- lots of color, comfy clothes (check out the overalls on the scarecrow!) and a down home setting.

That photo is about the only look back you'll get from me in this post. Not that I don't think you should reflect on the past and the things it taught you, or even that you shouldn't celebrate the good things from years gone by. After all, this blog is all about that.

But on Thanksgiving Day, my favorite holiday, I like to keep myself firmly rooted in the present. Why? Because I like to think of the life that surrounds me right now, and the goodness in it. I admit I like to dwell too much on the past, both the good and bad, and often fret too much about the future.

Now? Right now?

I have four boys whom it is an honor to parent. They are each vast universes to themselves-- funny, smart, quirky souls that I love with all my heart.

I have Mr. Man, whose rich masculine laugh I love to hear. He holds my hand, and we talk and talk.

I have family and friends who support the dream and forgive the crazy, even when there's a bit too much of the latter. I include my blog readers in this group. It's been fun to meet all of you here!

I have a career that's finally beginning to look up. Having a job I love is an immense blessing.

I have a house that is slowly beginning to reveal its character to me-- in whispers of the past, old photos, an occasional sigh through a half-closed doorway, and yes, even in her temperamental plumbing. Not everyone gets to have a relationship with the place they live. I feel lucky that way.

Today I don't have company, so I'll revel in a quiet four-day weekend. I'll be concentrating on the dinner rolls and the stuffing, the only two reasons I show up for this meal (clearly I'm only in it for the carbohydrates). I will put a socially unacceptable amount of whipped cream on my slice of pumpkin pie. I'll put my feet up and watch Detroit lose (because being a Lions fan keeps you humble).  I'll have that extra glass of wine. I'll have a nap, too.

Whatever your plans this today, have a blessed one.

Happy Thanksgiving,

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Dining In: Heywood Wakefield

Hey everyone, I though you might enjoy this Mid-century loveliness, found on my last excursion to the local consignment shop. It's a Heywood Wakefield dining table and chairs (six!) in nearly perfect condition. To make it even more fabulous, it's set with Mid-century Noritake. I forget the pattern, and I can't see in the photo clearly enough to identify now. It was in beautiful shades of silver and blue/grey.
Someone lucky will go home with these!

Monday, November 19, 2012

An Old Friend Joins the Household: 60's Rocker

This weekend an old member of the family came to live with us-- this wood frame and upholstery rocker.

I will tell you now I can't see it with objective eyes. I've known it forever. If you told me it was ugly, I would suppose you'd be right, but it's sort of like the boy and his Velveteen Rabbit. Love has worn it down, but it seems not to matter. My mother rocked me as a baby in it, and then my sister. Settling into it feels like being held in the palm of memory, gently. Whether I like it or would have chosen it really seems irrelevant to the amount of time its spent in my life.

It was part of a furniture set, this chair, a sofa, two end tables, and a coffee table, bought around the time I was born in the late 1960's. I have the coffee table still. I have one of the end tables, and my sister has the other. It was inexpensive pine stained to look like maple, a Colonial Revival style living room set for those on a budget.

The fabric seems just right for this time of year. Harvest colors, anyone?

I have it in the living room right now, as pictured. It took the place of one of the outdoor armchairs, which I moved out to the screen porch in the big cleanup described in a recent post. Its small size doesn't seem to scale with the larger, more modern looking brown leather couch. In spite of that, it seems to fit better in this house, like the house and the chair are on speaking terms with each other.

Because of that, I don't know that it will stay where it is. If it moves to another room, it might have the cushions recovered. I'm not sure yet. I just know it's found a home with family.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Lamp Love Link: Art Deco Shades

Mid-century is grand. But I like to pay tribute as often as I can to the far away beginning of that era, the late 1930s, when Art Deco still held sway. Since my house was built in 1939, I'm drawn to that time period.

From Etsy seller UpHome

This frosty blue pair are from Etsy seller UpHome. They are pretty, but the great graphic shape keeps them from being precious or cutesy. I see them in a tiled bathroom, a room with a beach-y theme, or even a baby's room (high shelf).

I'm feeling in a slump lately because I have no reason to purchase a lamp right now. No good reason, that is (pouts). But I have previous purchases that need shades, installation, or both. Time to get on that!

Monday, November 12, 2012

Vintage: Old Books

Most of the time when we're talking old stuff on this blog, we're talking "old stuff," not antique stuff. This century. If you're of a certain age, "old stuff" that is as old or a little older than you, things in living memory.

Not 1892.

But this was a gift from my mom, and I just had to share it because a) it's cool, and b) the title had me right at first sight.

"Practical Lessons in the Use of English" is more of a grade school literacy textbook than a grammar, but I love the title, and think it's something more people today could use. Of course, now that I've said that, heaven help me if I split an infinitive or misspell a word in this post.

1892? Do you ever wonder how so small and defenseless an object as a child's school book makes it to be....120 years old? That blows my mind. And yet here it is, sitting in my hands.

It has lovely typography:

And evidence that one of its past owners was naughty with crayons:

And the price? 22 cents.

Old books and ephemera were my first foray into antique and vintage goods, and I have a warm place in my heart for things like this, no matter the decade. This will be joining my small collection on the shelf in the living room.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Fall Housecleaning: The Screen Porch

This Saturday I got sidetracked on to a housecleaning chore that had been long overdue: the screen porch. 

There's part of me that's in love with the idea of a screen porch. Just not the screen porch that I happen to have. To give you an idea, the guy who did the inspections during the purchase transaction told me that I had a "well-built sturdy little Cape Cod." However, the screen porch was not included in that glowing praise. Of that he said, "well, it's not going to burn down or fall down, but that's about all I can say." 

Cruel, but true. 

I thank my lucky stars this wart of a screen porch is at the back of the house. On the positive side, it matches the unkempt back yard and patio (two other things on my 800-item list of things to do).

It's got ugly outdoor carpet (glued to the concrete), ugly color on the walls (mauve) and ugly carpentry everywhere. 

Since I lack any respect for this space, and because it was one step up storage wise from shoving stuff in the garage, it was easy to see how it became a clearing house for orphaned furniture, beer empties, and crap I didn't know what else to do with. 

Though this is a photo taken in September, we were still at this point this morning: 

Once I started painting my kitchen, I tore down the ratty looking curtain rod and limp, skimpy beige curtains that covered the sliding glass door. I hated them. 

But with them gone, I was treated to that view above, with a few extra-special vestiges of the '80s thrown in: 

Yep. Plastic ivy. PLASTIC. Calling it "silk flowers" would be too kind. And inaccurate. Just shoot me now. 

So this morning I found new places for the old dining chairs, (they are another post for the future), moved my childhood sled to the garage, and unrolled the rug from, still in its package in the photo above. 

After two hours of concerted effort I got to this: 

Now I still have a few random objects (and ivy leaves) on the left of this photo and need to put the painting ladder on the right back in the garage, but at least it looks like a living space rather than a storage room. I dream of barkcloth curtains, a bar cart, and I have a swanky looking green glass hanging lamp for this space. 

Feel free to riff on ideas for this space in the comments below. I think I'm going to need them. 

Monday, November 5, 2012

Do I Have To? Removing Carpet Staples

Welcome to the new feature of the blog, which will be published the first Monday of each month. 

Do I have to? Yes, I do. 

I don't always love home improvement. There are plenty of those tedious little (or big) jobs in a house that's as old as mine and in this level of disrepair. Just five minutes of some of these jobs have me feeling sweaty, angry, and bratty. Like a kid who whines "do I HAVE TO?!" when asked to do a particularly hated chore. 

So consider this the blogger version of the whiny kid's chore chart. I figure if I tackle one a month and know that I'm expected to blog about it, I'll get some of the worst aggravations behind me, and maybe learn some better work habits (not holding my breath on that last one). 


(Don't mind me. I'm just trying to manufacture some enthusiasm around here. Thus the whoot. Only I'm not fooling myself just yet.)

When we first got possession of the house, it was carpeted in a sea of pale beige 1980s-era carpet, with soiled traffic stains throughout. It smelled like feet and small incontinent dogs. I was thrilled to find hardwood floors underneath: 

This was the first corner in the house (living room)we turned back. What you can't hear is archangels singing.
I itch just looking at that photo above, even over a year later. 

Removing carpet also involves removing carpet tack strip. Carpet tack strip is a thing of the devil in most normal carpet installations, but these guys took it one further, using a variety of nails in a variety of lengths, to nail it down approximately every 5/8th inch around the entire perimeter of every room. 


So we spent some pretty annoyed and cursing hours (hey, I'm not proud, but I'm honest) prying off these carpet tack strips, some of which only came up one splintery inch at a time. No, I haven't done a thing about wood filler in the holes and replacing quarter-round shoe molding. I'm still nursing my grudges on that one. 

In addition to this over-nailing offense, the installers also went overboard on the fold-and-tuck maneuver around the fireplace hearth tile. Instead of using just normal carpet staples, they used these little tiny hairpin staples that ran deep, with only a short length of loop, buried deep into the wood fiber. And there were dozens of the little suckers. When I moved in and ripped up carpet, I didn't have a single tool that would get under all those tiny little loops, and I kind of felt defeated and just sort of quit.  It left a line of trapped carpet fibers right at the edge of the hearth. It's like my fireplace had crabgrass that needed weed-whacking. And I left it that way for well over a year. You can see some of the line of fuzz below in this move-in photo below. I'm so ashamed: 

So, in August when I went shopping for my kitchen painting (yeah. don't ask.) I picked up what looked like dental tools at Lowe's. I really had no idea what their real purpose was, and I still don't know, but they seemed like the ideal pointy little objects to get under those hairpin staples. 

Here they are at work, below. Have you ever seen such aggravating little buggers in your life? 

After I got them up lifted up out of the wood grain:

I used a snub nose plier to yank them the rest of the way out of the floor. Yes, the wood looks pretty chewed up, but now finally staple free:

And it looks even better from a distance, with a slight squint:

When I get around to working on the living room, I'll spot fill/sand/restain/finish this area.

What chore have you had waiting around your old house forever? What are your biggest pains?

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Vintage Purse: Happy Birthday to Me!

I can't really whoop it up about the month of October anymore. Because, well, it's November. Zap. There went another one. Another month that is. They seem to fly by quickly these days.

So, forgive me if I'm not ready to move on to pumpkin pie and Christmas shopping just yet. I'm going to reminisce about our recently departed October just a little bit.

One of the things I like quite selfishly about October is that it's my birthday month. It's not the first time I've done this, but I bought myself a birthday gift. I hope none of you out there think that's sad. It certainly isn't because I've been neglected. Mr. Man presented me with a lovely gold chain and turquoise bead necklace, and other family members and friends remembered my day. I felt just as special as I did the day I turned six years old, when I wore a paper crown of my own creation.

Since I can't really wear paper crowns anymore (or at least not any where local mental health care providers might take notice), sometimes I like to get myself a little something that I know no one else will get me. Something I just plain covet.

This time it was a vintage tapestry handbag. It surprised me I went for this one, since I am not usually too much of a girlie-girl, and this strikes me as VERY girlie. I could not resist the colors and textures:

There was also this quirky looking clasp:

And the interior, which is so clean it looks like its never been used:

I'm not always practical about my handbags. I could use the basic black bag, and I'm dearly in need of an everyday brown leather something. So what do I go for? Tapestry roses and pink linen linings. I'm not sorry one bit, though. I have a brown wool coat it will look great with, and green sweater too.

Do you spend birthday money on indulgences or practical items? Do you buy yourself a gift?

I have blog posts coming up about my Arkansas trip, one last Junk Jamboree item, an end-of-year garden round up, and a new blog feature, all coming soon. Thanks for hanging in during this slow spell. Starting two jobs in four months was quite the perfect storm on this household. Now, onward into November!