1902 Victorian

Bringing our old house out of the disco era and back into the Victorian.

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Friday, December 31, 2004

Bathroom Resolutions

The clawfoot tub is home! My dad picked it up for us and brought it to our house. It is now sitting in the newly cleaned-out storage building, just waiting till we can get the time to actually work on the bathroom.

It's looking like the tub will be waiting quite a while.

I've been trying to come up with a realistic time frame for the work on the house. So far, I've got this: We'll finish the kitchen this year (2005) and the bathroom next year (2006). For a person who likes instant gratification (me), that sounds like a loooooong time to wait. But I would rather wait and have it right than do a quickie job and be unhappy with the results.

One issue with the bathroom is the layout. We haven't quite figured out where we want what to go. I've drawn numerous potential layouts on graph paper, napkins, scraps - anything lying around handy. But nothing has felt just right yet.

We know we'll be expanding the bathroom into the 6 x 4.5-foot nook in the hallway outside the bathroom. But what we'll be doing with that space is still a matter of debate. I had the idea recently that we could make it into a walk-in closet instead of the walk-in shower we had originally planned. Then we could make the clawfoot tub into a shower.

But there are issues with having only a clawfoot tub for a shower ... like where do you set all your washing gadgetry like shampoo, razor and three different scents of shower gel? And what happens when we're old (in 30 years) and can't hike our arthritic legs up over the edge?

The main benefit of the walk-in idea is that it would allow us to rip out the closets that were added into the master bedroom in the '70s. These added-in closets change the shape of the room, take up valuable wallspace and have small amounts of usable space anyway. But demolishing these enormous structures that stretch all the way to the 12-foot ceilings adds more work onto our already-large pile.

At this rate, we'll be lucky if we can decide what to DO with the bathroom by next year.

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Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Our Child, Our House

We have no children, at least ones that don't have ginger fur and a vocabulary of two words - meooow and mrrrp. But I've noticed our house has begun to fill the place children take up in parents' lives. It's the thing we talk about even when we "get away" for dinner, the thing we make plans for and commit to, the thing we see the unique potential in, the thing we hope we can mold into something special.

I may as well confess we've been trying unsuccessfully to have a baby for a year. I don't want to get into all the details because I'm finally weary of discussing it. My point is the more it seems like we'll have to learn voodoo magic to have a baby, the more I think about what it would be like if we waited a good long while before we started up the fertility dance and/or adoption paperwork.

We moved into our house three months ago tomorrow. Since the house is our child now, it feels almost too soon to have another. As if it would be like my grandmother with her stairstep children, all too close together to get the right kind of love from her.

Of course, tomorrow is another day, as our dear Scarlett O'Hara would say. I could change my mind.

Monday, December 27, 2004

Small Town Love

A chick from the Birmingham News talked to us a few weeks ago about a story she was writing on affordable old houses in the region where we live. Guess we didn't make it into the story, but it's still an interesting read.

We live in an area known as the Black Belt, a swath of poor, rural counties across central Alabama with fertile soil but not much else. Back in the pre-War of Northern Aggression (I'm kidding about that, really) days, this part of the state was home to lots of rich landowners. So some of our prettiest antebellum mansions are here. The only problem is that with the serious economic depression in these areas, no one wants to come here and buy them.

'Cept us. We love this quiet, little place. Folks here are old house lovers to the core.

Sunday, December 26, 2004

Our House in Miniature

We spent Christmas Eve and Christmas Day at my parents' house. Darwin gave me a wonderfully comfy desk chair, and Mom and Dad got me an antique replica telephone (so cute!).

But the best present was from my talented sister. She created a miniature replica of our house from balsawood. It's about 4 1/2 inches tall (including the chimneys) by 5 inches wide, and it's very detailed, down to the American flag on the porch and the sconces by the front door. Wowweeee, I can't stop staring at it.

Just compare to the real thing:

It's wonderful to come from a crafty family.

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Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Research, Baby

I have a sore throat. I stayed home sick from work, and when I felt better in the afternoon, I decided to take the opportunity to finally do some research on our house at the courthouse. It was remarkably easy to find our tax card and then look up the previous deed in a big ol' red book.

Let me quote:
That in consideration of $10 cash in hand, and other goods and valuable considerations, to the undersigned granters ___ Jackson, ___ Jackson and ___ Jackson in hand paid by ____ Parkins, the receipt whereof is acknowledged, we, the said [Jackson Five] do grant, bargain, sell and convey unto the said ___ Parkins the following described real estate situated in the city of Eutaw, Greene County, Alabama.

Excuse me, huh? I roughly translate that to mean, "Mrs. Parkins bought the house from the Jackson kids for $10." Geez, that's pretty cheap. So what does "other goods and valuable considerations" mean? Did they trade something for it?

According to the Alabama Property Record Card, the house and land were only worth $41,700 in 1987. So what about in 1969 when the Parkins bought it?

And who are these Jackson kids, you ask? They are the grandchildren of the late great Mary Julia Dunlap - our house's first owner - whose daughter Laura married a Jackson.

Along with my trip to the courthouse, I went to the big cemetery up the road. And who should I find there but our house's family. Mary Julia shares a stone with her son Adolphus, who died in 1941. M.J. kept on kickin' till 1966; she lived 96 long years, 64 of them in our house. There's no sign of the second man to give M.J. his name - Clay Dunlap. I found a record of him in Jefferson County ... I'm thinking the two of them parted ways before the 1930 census.

M.J.'s first husband and other two children are buried nearby, as well as her parents and brother. I felt so in tune with them standing there among their plots. These were real people who LIVED once ... in my house. I just wish I knew more about WHO they were - not just names and dates.

But there is information to be gleaned from all this. First, that the widow Jackson was right about the lineage of our house. Second, that I was right to deduce we are only the third family to live here. Third, I wish I could've seen this place before the Parkins did their work on it - with one very old woman living here for 64 years, I bet it was nearly unchanged.

That explains the neon blue trim in the kitchen and the fact that the floors only have one layer of Parkins-added plywood/vinyl on top of the original wood. If M.J.'s son-in-residence died in 1941, it makes me think perhaps the knotty-pine office addition was made before then. Why would a little old lady living alone need a large addition?

Or maybe one of her other children moved in with her. There are still so many questions with no answers.

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Monday, December 20, 2004

I Want a Golden Goose

Yesterday we did absolutely nothing all day long. I never even changed out of my nightgown. How are we ever going to get our house stuff accomplished (and resurrect this blog) if we lay around in our pajamas all day? I don't know.

We watched two old movies on TMC - In the Good Ole Summertime with Judy Garland and Some Like it Hot with Marilyn Monroe. Makes a girl feel downright dowdy lying around with unbrushed hair when Judy and Marilyn are on the screen.

Believe it or not, we'd never seen the famous Some Like it Hot. It turned out to be delightful, even as it made me feel wholly inadequate as a woman in comparison to the Goddess of Sex herself. And In the Good Ole Summertime, while made in 1949, was set at what looked to be the turn of the century from the costumes. What wonderful sets it had ... a beautiful Victorian house with a cute twist doorbell (I want one!).

Which reminds me of another movie I've already quoted twice on this blog, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. We watched it (again) recently, and I found uncomfortable similarity between myself and the insidious Veruca Salt. You know the one: "Daddy, I want an Oompa Loompa. I want an Oompa Loompa NOOOOOW!"

Like Veruca, everywhere I go I see something I want. And lately I've been stomping my foot and getting my way a bit too often.

Sunday, December 19, 2004

Me Need Sleepy

Tonight we hosted a Christmas party at our house. We showed off the house to Darwin's side of the family and met with approval all around. Our 2-year-old nephew immediately decided, "I like this house. This is my new house."

I am worn completely out from a day of frenzied cleaning-and-putting-away, followed by hours of keeping the four nieces and nephews from injuring themselves or my house. I fiercely love these kids, but they sure were a wild bunch tonight.

But not too wild to throw themselves wholeheartedly into a long-overdue photo session. Being around them simultaneously makes me long for children of our own and thank my lucky stars that we don't have any yet.

Aren't they a sassy, handsome group?

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Presents for my Old House

Someone please take my checkbook and credit cards and hide them until after Christmas.

The Christmas season makes me want to spend every dime I can get my hands on. So many pretty things in the stores. So much Care Bears wrapping paper at home that needs something to wrap itself around. So many sales and bargains and no-interest-till-Aprils.

Monday I bought two chandeliers from J.F. Pegan, one antique, one reproduction. It's not that we don't need chandeliers - we most definitely do - but there are so many projects in line ahead of lighting replacement. Like painting, lots and lots of painting.

Then today another good deal came my way - a wonderful clawfoot tub that doesn't even need refinishing. I found the tub at the same salvage place where I bought the two armoires and the trunk a few weeks ago. The outside needs to be stripped and repainted, but I can handle that.

It's deeper than the others I've seen, and it has a wonderful slant on one end. I am already daydreaming about the luxurious bubble baths I'll take in it. I'm conveniently skipping over the part about extracting the current cast iron tub, ripping out all the '60s bathroom tile, replacing it with hex and subway tile, repainting the exterior of the tub, buying new pipes/faucet for the clawfoot, maneuvering the tub into the spot and hooking up the plumbing.

This is not a subject Darwin gets excited about, mostly because he'll be the one throwing out his back moving our current tub out and the new/old one in. That's a lot of cast iron to be moved and finagled.

When we toured old houses in our town, he did admit the clawfoot tubs looked wonderful. But admiring the image of it and making that image happen are two very different things.

Then there's me ... the most strenuous work I'll have to do is signing the check (ouch, I threw out my pointer finger!). Maybe I'm feeling a bit guilty for making Darwin do all this heavy lifting, wall bashing, tile destroying.

But hey, I'm doing the research, right? Anyway, I couldn't pass it up. It was a bargain!

Is there such a thing as Shopaholics Anonymous? And can a person be addicted to two things at once (like shopping and chocolate ... oh wait, or three things - shopping, chocolate and Mexican food)?

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Wednesday, December 15, 2004

It's Not Easy Being a Green Kitchen

OK, here's my sad little attempt at using Photoshop to play around with the colors for our kitchen cabinets:

My first idea was to paint them cream with an inset of copper-finish metal ceiling tiles, and use the same tile for the backsplash. But I ordered samples, and the tiles just didn't look as good in person.

I want to add molding to the flat faces of the cabinet, and now I'm thinking of painting the insets green to match the green-and-cream toile wallpaper I found for the kitchen. But what type of molding? And will that just be too much green for a room people will be expected to eat in? Keep in mind I also have green Fiestaware.


Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Why I Love Old House People

  • They don't think I'm crazy.
  • They don't say, "Aren't you finished with your house YET?"
  • They understand that I feel an obligation to my house to make it right again.
  • They don't ask if we're replacing the wood siding with vinyl and then look confused when I exclaim "GOD NO!" in utter horror.
  • They don't say (repeatedly), "You've sure got a LOT of work to do."
  • They're willing to share advice.

Arguments may surface about the virtues of latex vs. oil paint, painted wood vs. stained, fitted kitchens vs. unfitted, antique lights vs. reproductions, modernization vs. preservation and so on. But it's these differences of opinion, these peppery personalities, these quirky folks of all ages that make the old house community so fun.

And for me, any conversation about old houses is a good conversation.


Sunday, December 12, 2004

Mental Projects

It's Christmastime, and we're not doing much work on the house. We don't want to get the dust flying just as the in-laws are about to descend. My parents-in-law have been here a few times, but Darwin's brother and sister (and their spouses and kids) haven't seen the house. So I want it to look somewhat presentable when they come over for Christmas dinner.

That said, I can't manage to sit still and relax for any period of time. Even if the hands aren't busy, the mind must be whirring. My mental project for the week has been figuring out paint colors for the house. I spent a long lunch Friday at the paint store contemplating colors and talking with a very helpful salesperson about the challenges of painting in a house with 12-foot ceilings. I bought two little Benjamin Moore paint samples, another blue for the master bedroom and a brick red from the Historical Collection for the living room.

The blue for the bedroom was too dark, but we've decided we like the one for the living room. It's called Georgian brick, and it goes nicely with the curtains and other decor stuff we already have. And it's purty.

Those paint chips are the colors we're considering for the adjacent dining room. I like warm colors (guess that's why I'm having such a tough time with the blue bedroom), and this palette of goldy browns and rusty reds really appeals to me.

Anyway, it's nice to have that one decision out of the way. But I'm still terrified of tackling this paint job, even after talking to the encouraging Helpful Salesperson. The ceilings in particular seem a daunting task. And how on earth do you paint around the crown molding?


Thursday, December 09, 2004

I Saw the Light

OK, so I was a baby yesterday about the ticket. Forgive me.

I just realized today that I did so much chit-chatting around on the message boards about my examination of the lighting in our house that I never even wrote about it on my very own blog! With the help of my camera's zoom lens and the ever-helpful assistance of the folks at Old House Web and That Home Site, I discovered that two of the lights at our house are - if not original - pretty darn old.

The consensus is that the dining room chandelier is maybe '20s and the hall pendant is maybe 1910ish. I pontificate about this subject (and showed lots more pictures) here.

Today I went on an eBay quest for appropriate lighting for the rest of the house. The kitchen is in desperate, desperate need of some help in the lighting department; the guest bedroom's fixture is downright disturbing it's so hideous and unfunctional; the entry needs something more dramatic; and the porch sconces have little eagles on top of them.

I'm torn about whether to go with reproduction antiques or the real deal. There's not that much difference in price between the two, so why not go for the real thing, right? Weeeell, it's a bit harder to find what you want that way. There are only a few places that sell reproduction lighting (Rejuvenation and J.F. PeGan), so the search is narrower, and you have a good selection - all sorted according to style, decade, etc. It's so much simpler that way.

But the purist in me keeps tug-tug-tugging at me. And then there's the issue of gas vs. electric. I believe that my house was probably built with electricity. The first house built with electricity in Eutaw was constructed in 1889. My house didn't come along till 13 years later ... isn't that long enough for the technology to have caught on thoroughly?

But the fixtures I like best are the gas ones ... they're so delicate and twirly-curly and have such lovely large shades. So I'm torn. Maybe I should just go with the "early eclectic" types that sort of combine the two. Maybe I should quit whining. Maybe I should go to Lowe's and get the cheapy cheapest ceiling fan I can find ...

Strike that, reverse it.

Then comes the issue of installing the new lighting. First, a ladder. Second, someone who isn't afraid of heights to stand on it.

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Wednesday, December 08, 2004

But, Officer!

I'M PISSED! This morning I got a ticket in Eutaw. Apparently, I was going 54 in a school zone. Geez, it was 8:03 and not a SOUL was in sight. When I saw the cop's lights in my mirror, I glanced at my speedometer - 54 - then glanced at the speed limit sign coming up - 55. Well then, I thought, what's the problem?

Cop tells me the school zone starts back at the hospital and doesn't end till I don't remember where. Apparently, I live in the school zone. Who knew?

I was not the wilting, weepy Southern flower I could've been, or I think he would've given me a warning. Instead, I was PISSED OFF ... especially because he claimed that sign back there said 45 when I KNOW it said 55. So I wasn't exactly charming. When he went back to his car to write up the ticket, I started crying from sheer anger and frustration, but I straightened up behind my sunglasses before he got back. I refused to let him see a single tear. That asshat.

I'm planning to do some reconnaissance when I get back home tonight. I'm thinking maybe if the school zone starts back at the hospital, then the sign will be back there BEFORE my house. It's possible there's not even another sign until you LEAVE the school zone. Also, I want to confirm what that speed limit sign says.

If I can come up with sufficient evidence I'm taking my ass to the municipal court on January 24 and trying to talk my way out of this!

Monday, December 06, 2004

Glitchy Weekend

I discovered a little (OK, big) glitch this morning in the site. As in, I forgot to change the link to this blog on the main page. Oops. Sorry to anyone who tried to access this site over the weekend and got the dreaded Page Not Found.

This weekend was pretty uneventful. We went to the Walters Family Christmas on Saturday, and every last one of my cupcakes was gobbled up. I always seem to make the desserts the kids like. Maybe 'cause I'm still a kid at heart? Do any other adults out there like sprinkles on their frosting?

Sunday we lounged around all day watching a marathon of the miniseries, Stephen King's The Shining on SciFi. It's nowhere near as good as the original - mostly due to that annoying kid who can't seem to breathe through his nose - but it was entertaining enough for background noise while I worked on a doll for a friend and Darwin napped with Alistair on the sofa.

Sunday night we made a gingerbread house from a kit. Darwin turned out to be an expert at making frosting icicles hang off the roofline. The house has saggy windowsills and a crooked door ... some old house lover needs to come along and rescue this thing. Just like many old houses, it looks pretty darn good if viewed from a distance, but if you get too close you start noticing all the work that needs to be done.

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Friday, December 03, 2004

A Perfect Mix

BWAHAHAHA ... that's my evil genius laugh. Because, yes, I am now a genius at something - making cupcakes. From a simple cake mix, I, Kristin, have created the most perfect cupcakes ever made.

I may be kidding about the evil genius part, but I am not joking about these cupcakes. They are seriously the best I've ever tasted. And I am known 'round these parts as a serious cake critic.

But I can't take all the credit. I owe it all to my secret weapon (OK, not so secret since I'm about to tell you) ... my new-to-me 1960 pink Sunbeam stand mixer! Thank you, eBay! Thank you Sunbeam! Thank you, color pink!

Here the lovely thing is now:

Chipped and old though it may be, this beauty can whip up a fluffy batter that turns into light-as-air cupcakes in spite of the unpredictable heat of our avacado green oven.

Now I'm having visions of everyone at the Walters family Christmas party tomorrow oohing and ahhing over my handiwork. Will I confess my secret weapon? Yes, I'll probably be gushing about it all day long.

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Thursday, December 02, 2004

Happy Hardware

The cabinet knobs and bin pulls from Rejuvenation arrived last night. We ordered them in oil-rubbed bronze to match the new faucet and the doorknobs.

But they're reeeeeally dark. We tried out the knobs, and they don't look THAT different from the '70s ugliness that was there before.

OK, you can't beat that old hardware for ugliness:

When I looked at cabinet hardware at Lowe's, I noticed that this '70s junk is the bottom-of-the-barrel, absolute cheapest stuff you can buy. It looks it.

I'm sure the new hardware will look fabulous once the cabinets are painted a delicious creamy white and the floors are no longer fake brick. And I think the bin pulls will make a difference.

Now to figure out what to do about those awful hinges ...


Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Things on My Kitchen Counter

Paper plates
2 cans shave gel
Insurance bill
Pay stub
7 empty soda cans
Christmas lights
Instructions to mini tape recorder
2 of Mom's casserole dishes
Beginner's box of Sculpey III clay

Combine all ingredients. Mix well. Let cure for 168 hours. Makes one disorganized kitchen.

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