Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Up a Ladder. Up a Creek.

I am going to whine just a bit. You've been warned.

Work on the front face of the house continues. I wish I could tell you that every weekend has been a long satisfying solid blitz of hours of work. They haven't been.

At first I felt guilty about this. I mean, if you're going to tackle a project, tackle it, right?

But it's not that simple. While my conscience has been trying to punish me for not keeping a grueling pace on the project, I haven't exactly been spending my time off the scaffold getting pedicures and shopping for cute shoes. My children all still want things like meals, clean underwear, bedtime stories. I have to grocery shop, sleep, and pay bills. Oh and WORK. You know, that thing which pays the bills.

Then there's been the super-rainy month of June, and the 100+ heat index days of July.

The enormity of the task paired with the finite nature of summer means I'm anxious. It seems to magnify every little thing that goes wrong around here. The light bulb breaking off in the microwave oven, the hand towel ring falling off the bathroom wall--- instead of being minor annoyances they become looming complications--- I don't have time for this crap. 

I am worried about the prep work. Everywhere you go for exterior painting advice they say if you don't do it right, the paint won't last. So I am aware I'm agonizing over this step. How much is enough?

I'm a deliberately slow worker on a ladder, because I'm a bit nervous about heights. I keep eyeballing the peak of the roof on the south side, and wondering if I'll have the courage for it. There's no reason I can't with the right safety equipment. Still, it's another thing to be anxious about.

I had a carpenter come in and look at my dry-rotted soffit. He'll be back in a few weeks to start the job. In the meantime, we talked siding.

Mine was cedar, he said. Good stuff. And it's not as sensitive to weathering when it's bare as pine and poplar are. It's a relief to know that a few weeks without paint won't do any harm.

He also told me I wasn't refinishing fine furniture. Get the loose stuff off and move on.

I probably needed to hear both of those things. Because I think I was beginning to lose my mind one paint flake at a time.

I am pretty well obligated to finish at least the front and the driveway (south) side of the house before it's too cold to paint this fall. That gives me until about mid-October unless we have an unseasonably warm fall. I am about 2/3 of the way done prepping the front, which doesn't include washing it down and caulking and filling holes and cracks.

I'll keep plugging away, but if my blog readers could make a little pagan offering (80 grit) to the Our Lady of the Sanded Clapboard, I'd be much obliged. I'd also like to thank Jayne from The Kelly House blog, for offering a pity party including pretzels and chocolate. She's doing some of her own scraping on her 1887 Queen Anne cottage. Misery loves company, they say.

Excuse me now. I need to go wave my paint scraper valiantly to the sky. Charge!

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Darkroom Mystery

Admitting to my readers that there are parts of my house I'm not that familiar with makes it sound like I own a large creepy old mansion and that I keep finding undiscovered wings, like in some badly written gothic novel.

Trust me, my house isn't that big. And the only mad relative shut up behind these walls is, well, me. (Insert maniacal laughter from another room here.)

But it's true. Did I mention I have a darkroom? I do.

Or at least, one of the previous owners did. It's in the basement, an area of the house I haven't shown off to blog readers yet. "Shown off" might be the wrong term, since it's kind of basic down there, and that's being charitable.

The darkroom looks like this, in a corner of the basement under the kitchen:

In the corner opposite the sink is this old dilapidated cabinet, with drawers designed to hold film, negatives, and supplies:

The top right drawer held a mirror, a sample size of Aqua Velva, and a cheap 80's era point-and-shoot.

I am half in love with this drainboard sink:

It's been totally trashed by the amount of stop bath and fixer that's been thrown down it. Wouldn't it be grand re-enameled in some snazzy color? Red? or maybe Yellow?

I am also crushing on the faucet:

It's these vintage fixtures that have given me the (extremely long range) idea of creating a 3/4 bath down in this room, using them restored to their glory.

At this point I probably have about $7.52 saved toward that goal, which is why I say "extremely long range."

While my sister was visiting a few weeks ago, I was showing her the space and we were very surprised to find two photographs had been left on the drying racks (shown on the wall right of center in the first photo). I had assumed the racks were empty; I never bothered to look.

They are both wedding photos, but of two different weddings. The first is under-exposed, so much so that it's very difficult to see the face of the groom at all, and moisture has damaged the paper.

But I love some of the details-- The ruffle-front on the groom's tuxedo shirt, the lace details on the bride's dress. And since the wedding trend today is to outdo all previous ceremonies on weird/large/exotic floral arrangements, when was the last time you saw daisies in a bride's bouquet? It looks so sweetly simple.

The second couple's photo is in much better condition:

Here I love the beautiful neckline on the bride's gown and her traditional veil. The groom is rockin' a handsome beard. I even think I have an idea in which local church this photo was taken.

Who are they? Are they relatives of people who lived in this house? Are they wedding photos shot by a hobbyist who lived here? How long have those photos laid waiting to be found? Based on the hair and clothing, I'm guessing they were taken anywhere from mid-to-late 1970s, possibly early 1980s.

I am not, all gothic novel-like, discovering family curses and ancient manuscripts in this house. It would need to be built in 1539 rather than 1939 for that sort of thing to unfold. But the place is yielding, here and there, some mild and sweet mysteries, a few hints of its past. It keeps telling me its stories as we get to know each other better, like people who are going to be old friends in a matter of time.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Aren't You Glad?

Sorry for the pun post title. Actually, no. I'm not sorry at all. Look at this baby:

These are the pink gladiolus from the bulbs that my sister Dyan sent me in the mail. I've never grown them before and I didn't have much time to mess with them, so I chucked them into the ground in an empty patch near the front deck and hoped for the best. I'm so happy with the results. They're gorgeous in this frilly, grandma's garden sort of way.

There are some of people who call them "funeral flowers." I suppose they do get used that way quite often. But I don't think the association is entirely fair. Taken out of that context and put back into the cottage garden (the very thing I'm trying to cultivate around my house), I think they are brilliant and anything but funereal. Tall, sword-like foliage and ruffly bright flowers. Who doesn't like that? Grumpy people, that's who.

In my gardening zone, these are not winter hardy, so I'll have to dig up the bulbs (corms? I've heard them referred to both ways) this fall. I think they're gorgeous enough to be worth the trouble.

As a bonus, here's another pink flower in my garden that's really looking gorgeous right now:

It's a mandevilla vine, and the only reason it didn't get to lead the blog post is, well, there are no good puns to be made with the word mandevilla. Go ahead, you try it. See? Nothing.

Did you experiment with any new plant in your garden this year? How's it going?

Friday, July 19, 2013

Time for Something New: A Wall Clock

When I go shopping with my sister, we tend to get sort of degenerate with our pocketbooks and crazy (in a good way) with our ideas. Which means, of course, that we also tend to come home from our twice-a-year shopping trips with awesome stuff, like when we hit a major flea market last year. 

So what did I come home with this time? A starburst clock.

I wasn't even shopping for a wall clock, let alone a starburst clock. Don't get me wrong, starburst clocks are the ultimate tchotchke in vintage and retro decor, and I understand their wide appeal. But, with the key words being "wide appeal," prices for these clocks have been climbing into the stratosphere, and I had long ago counted myself out on ever owning one of them. I didn't see some of the more strictly mid-century versions of them being a particularly good fit for my 1939 home--they were a little too chrome and mod for my house.

Also, a little retro rebellion here? I was beginning to feel like the starburst clock thing had jumped the home decor shark a while back. They are everywhere, and I sometimes refuse to do what everyone else is doing just because everyone else is doing it. I can be stubborn that way.

In spite of all that, I found this gold version in a local vintage boutique:

I realized that this clock solved several problems I was having with the space over my living room fire place mantel. I really wasn't sure what was going on that wall. Several ideas had been considered and rejected, and since I wasn't in a hurry to do anything in this room (it's pretty low priority considering the other rooms that need major attention), the mantel wall just languished, bare naked, but certainly not in the exciting way.

I considered framed art above the fireplace, but felt very "meh" about it.

I considered a mirror, something like this, featured in Country Living:

Country Living
But there are south-facing windows directly across the room from my fireplace, and while I like me a lot of sunshine during the winter, I don't care for retina damage.

Dyan was the one who first spotted it, and that's what sisters are good for-- an eye that is not your own, but well-acquainted with your tastes. Sometimes she can make me consider something entirely outside of anything I was thinking about, simply by saying "what about this?" Or if I'm being skeptical, sometimes "quit being a poop and come look at this." Whatever works.

I like that it's a material different from the wood mantel. I like that it's a wee bit glitzy in a room that has a lot of dark brown in it. I like that the shape and the "rays" provide contrast to the very square and blocky look of the mantel. The price, while not a "thrift" price, was definitely reasonable.

I'm still messing about with the items on the mantel itself, but I threw some things up there to ground the arrangement for the purpose of blog photos. I'm open to ideas, though I do really like the Royal Copley vases on the left (my sister gifted me the two vine-patterned ones, and the deer vase is from the flea market trip we did together). Whatever I do it will stay relatively simple; I don't want a highly styled mantel with candlesticks and architectural salvage and dried fruit and bittersweet vine and a carefully selected odd number of items from Pottery Barn. That crap makes me twitchy, and then you have to dust it.

So instead of checking off any item on my active project list, I backed into something else for a different room. I like how serendipity works that way, especially when my sister is along for the discovery.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Siding Update

Siding update?

Well, it looks pretty ugly around here:

I'm about two-thirds done with the east facade (front) of the house. Most of the old paint is solidly on the siding (for which I'm grateful), but there are some problem areas, as one can see. Yes, I'm way behind where I had imagined I would be. I'm trying not to care too much. As long as any side I've started gets finished before snow flies? Progress.

Not everything is going smoothly. This photo is under the soffit over the front door:

Water damage has created enough dry rot and warping that painting over this again is a bad idea. This is also above both my skill set and my available tools. So I will call a carpenter to help work this out with fresh lumber.

I am happy with the colors I chose. I threw some paint on the back side of the house just to test drive. I like what I see:

Of course, the greens make the current color look even more pinky-lavender. Gross. Seeing the new colors up is a good incentive to keep scraping. Incentive is needed, since it's been hot, humid, and generally unpleasant around here.

On the upside (and in the indoors), the bathroom has been coming along. Look for an update on that room soon!

Monday, July 15, 2013

High Summer Garden

We've been enjoying a great summer color in the front perennial border this year. It's the second season of rehabilitation, so it's great to see the progress in such bold terms. Here's some pink yarrow:

I also love the delicate look of coreopsis, though it's really quite sturdy and drought tolerant:

I've tried to plant bee- and butterfly-friendly flowers, like these purple coneflowers:

And this bee balm. I love it when they grow double-decker flowers like this:

We've also got some areas that need improvement. Here's the front edge of the border, near the sidewalk:

I thought that the slope from the sidewalk up was gradual enough that we didn't need a retaining feature. Wrong. Mulch is constantly sliding off onto the sidewalk, and then there's always a convenient place for weeds to grow, like the crab grass in front of the stones at right. And we ran out of time/money/season last year to decide what we wanted to fill the front of the border with. As it turns out, it's a good thing we waited.

Grant did such a great job building the stone retaining wall, he's going to build a wall one-stone deep here, just enough to keep the mulch from sliding into the public walkway.

And I've ordered bulbs to plant this fall in the hope that we'll have a little show in the spring:

I'm fond of miniature daffodils, like these:

Wikimedia Creative Commons image, by Meneerke Bloem
And to mix with them I ordered some of these, Spring Beauty Scilla. This shade of blue is sort of unbelievable and miraculous in real life, especially after a bad winter:

Wikimedia Creative Commons image, by Magnus Manske
I also ordered some alliums. There's a corner of the border planted with sedums that is awfully boring until it gets going in the autumn, so maybe some big purple globes will help it out in the spring:

Wikimedia Creative Commons image, by Mike Peel
What do you love about your garden this summer?

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Beautiful Vintage

My sister and I have been hitting all the local vintage places this week. This time we definitely talked more than we bought; but here are a few things that struck me as especially beautiful, though all for very different reasons:

This coral pink number made me think of Sara from No Pattern Required. Anybody have a prom to go to soon?

This photo made me think of adopting two more kids:

Meet Francis and Evangeline. I'm guessing from their clothes and her haircut that we're in the 1920s time frame. Many older photos are devoid of emotion, but here it is bursting out of the paper frame. I love the trusting way that Francis leans into his big sister, and how Evangeline holds his little hand. How these family photos end up in antique stores is beyond me. It breaks my heart. Who are they? Did they have a good life? Did they remain devoted siblings? Do any of their descendants even know who they are?

Some updates from the post where I said a long and difficult goodbye to a 1930s walnut and mahogany bedroom furniture set: 

That's one of the dressers, in the consignment shop. See that little tag on the left? SOLD. It's going to a new home along with the rest of the set, and so another chapter closes. It was time, and I know there's a check in the mail.

This wasn't for sale, but a part of our tour of a local living history museum:

Windmills have always been an icon of the American Midwest, of agriculture, and of self-sufficiency. I love their sculptural quality, and how they creak in the breeze.

What beautiful old things have you seen lately?

Friday, July 5, 2013

Summer On the Doorstep

I have put down the tools and paintbrushes for the time being. The house is now hosting, rather than remodeling.

My sister and my two nephews are visiting for two weeks. We've added the extra leaves to the kitchen table and fired up the grill:

We've pestered unwilling offspring for the obligatory family snapshots (I am adoring all the saggy white gym socks in this one): 

We've gone on long walks and rediscovered what we love about our own hometown, like this little bit of rehabilitated prairie:

And I tried something new. I ran my first 5K on the 4th of July, together with my sister (not her first, but she's a novice runner as well).

I finished the race (32:50) and didn't fall down or die. I'm as surprised as anyone who knows me. 

I'm also loving long talks with my sister, lemonade with ice, blueberries, lilies in the garden, and my nephews' freckles. 

How's your summer vacation? 

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Bathroom Progress: Mauve-B-Gone!

Here is my before:

A half-acre mirror and prune baby poop mauve paint. Blech.

I didn't realize until I painted what a huge psychological drag that room was on me. I'm grateful it wasn't in a bedroom, or I may have required a therapy intervention.

I placed the arbitrary goal of having the bathroom painted before my sister arrived for a two weeks visit. I say arbitrary because my sister is a reasonable human being who's rehabbed her own old home before (A 1910 foursquare Arts and Crafts) and knows all about living with the ugly until it comes around on the project list.

Still, sometimes an upcoming event is the motivation to get my rear in gear. Here's what my geared rear did in a weekend-- progress:

It's changed the whole look of the room. It's lighter and airier, the sunshine actually reaches all the way into the room instead of just lurking gloomily by the window, and looks and feels clean rather than muddy.

The ginormous mirror that used to dominate the entire room...

...has been replaced by a temporary 25-inch square I had hanging around the garage:

It's got a few dinged corners and is far from perfect, but it'll do until I find a more permanent solution. It's looking like I will need a custom size, and I know I'll want to put a lot of thought into that before I order it.

It's amazing to me that reducing the size of the mirror in the room seemed to make the room seem larger. Conventional design wisdom states that mirrors give a room an enlarged sense of space. In this bathroom I seemed to have discovered the cross-over point to diminishing returns on that rule of thumb, where a larger mirror is unescapable, overwhelming, and even a little disorienting. At any rate, the smaller mirror is an enormous relief.

I also replaced the L-shaped shower bar (the ceiling support looks a little wonky above because of the angle of the camera. It isn't!), a job that took two people, 8 hands (yeah, you do the math on that one), and cursing of drywall anchors. There are no pictures in an effort to protect the privacy of the victims. And everyone should also be grateful there was no audio.

As wonderful as the paint is, these are still "progress" shots, rather than "afters." I've still got to replace the light fixture and cabinet hardware, the countertop and sink, and add the fun stuff-- window treatments, art, and decorative items. I also need baseboard trim.

I'll admit I'm a bit on the fence about the color of the cabinetry with this new paint. It seems more orangey in comparison to this color. But I'm not really in the mood to embark on a cabinet painting project right now, so either way we'll live with it.

I've crossed a big one off the list, and I couldn't be happier. I find myself walking into the bathroom to flip on the light and just look. No more mauve!

10 Mini Projects for the Bathroom

1. Upgrade the cabinet hardware.
2. Grout the floor.
3. Paint
4. Replace the light fixture
5. Replace the mirror--Sort of. 
6. Replace the toilet paper holder.
7. Replace the shower curtain rod.
8. Add art and decorative items.
9. Replace counter top.
10. Replace sink and faucet

Monday, July 1, 2013

Looking for Something?

Wikimedia Commons image, copyright expired
Looking for something? Like a "Do I Have To?" post? 

Apparently in July I Don't Have To. Or let's just say July's regularly scheduled post is "I Forgot To." I even had a small project picked out, and was going to spend a weekend afternoon doing it and shooting photos for the blog post. 

Somewhere between painting my bathroom, scraping siding, and getting ready for my sister to come visit for two weeks, it kept not happening until it dropped from the running priority list I keep in my brain. Yeah, don't look in there. It's full of dryer lint and desperation.

See? I had good intentions. But we all know what the way to hell is paved in. 

I have family visiting, and a long chunk of time off from work, and some pineapple vodka in my fridge. I think that means to expect erratic (and erratically written) posts from me in the near future. 

Do I have to? Well, no. But I want to. And I'll be back next month with another "Do I Have To?" post, and much, much sooner with something else. Next time I won't forget. No, really. I won't.