1902 Victorian

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

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Wednesday, November 30, 2005

There's a (s)peck with an acorn pointed at me!

All last week we'd planned to decorate for Christmas on Saturday. But when the time came to put up the tree, we got distracted. It hit us simultaneously, I think, that once the tree was in the foyer, all work would stop on stripping the woodwork until well into next year.

Somehow, without even speaking aloud our intentions, we both began working on the wood. We finally tried out ye old denatured alcohol. Hmmm. Not the miracle cure I was hoping for. There are thousands of tiny white paints specks left all over the wood, and I was under the (false) impression that the denatured alcohol would take care of it.

But while the denatured alcohol was no holy water for woodwork, we still found it to be a handy and useful tool. It cleaned away the slightly gunky top layer of shellac and left the wood smooth. It softened the paint specks so we could scrape them away, one by one by one by one by one. By one.

While I scraped specks, Darwin climbed up on a chair (a better step ladder is on our Christmas wishlist) and started heat-gunning the woodwork I can't reach. This was his first real adventure with the heat gun, and somehow HE didn't burn himself. (In the half hour I used the heat gun on Saturday morning, I managed to burn two of my fingers and my knee.)

It also turns out he is a more thorough heat gunner than I. You're shocked by this, I know. He takes a slow and steady approach. Slowly heat, slowly scrape, slowly clean the scraper. Slowly begin again.

My approach is more "let's get this done as fast as humanly possible, the denatured alcohol will take care of the specks." Ha. I wish I'd been using Darwin's method all along. This speck-scraping? It sucks. I don't recommend it for weekend entertainment. Maybe as a new torture device.

(The title's from Willow. You know, the best movie about little people and magic ever.)


Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Snot Rag

Ugh. Blech. Darwin and I are both sick with colds. I don't think we've ever been sick at the same time in our 5.5 years together.

Usually, it goes like this: Darwin gets sick, mopes and moans about the house, sleeps constantly. I continue kissing him and whatnot because I am not a person who worries much about germs. Darwin gets better. Miraculously, I do not get sick.

Or like this: I get sick, whine a lot and make Darwin fetch me things. He makes grossed-out faces when I want to kiss him because he is a person who worries about germs. I get better. A week or two later, Darwin gets sick.

This time I'm about a day behind him. Saturday we both felt fine. Sunday he felt like poo, and I felt fine. Yesterday, we were both miserable. Today, I still feel terrible, and he's feeling a little better even though he forgot his Aleve Cold & Sinus this morning. So I'm hoping that means I'll feel better tomorrow.

It's funny to me how people say, "Oh, it's just a cold." Sure, I don't have a fever, and I'm not hanging my head over a toilet bowl, but I'd wager I feel just as bad. How am I supposed to work when I'm sneezing and mopping my nose constantly? When I have a headache, and I can't breathe with my mouth closed?

Mostly, I just feel gross, and I hate being around people when I feel gross. In high school, the absolute worst days were the days I had a cold. I was always so paranoid, terrified that boogers or Kleenex crumbs were clinging to my reddened nostrils.

Now I'm at work, and I worry that each sniffle is grossing out my office mate. I worry this icky taste in my mouth translates to a plume of nasty breath every time I speak. I worry that the sight of the wadded tissue on my desk makes people want to flee the room.

So, blog readers, be glad you're a safe distance from me. Germs can't travel through the computer - at least not yet.


Monday, November 28, 2005

Christmas Collection

This weekend we put up Christmas decorations. I do solemnly swear not to leave them up until February this year. Okay, I take that back. I will probably leave them up until February or maybe even March. And it's not just laziness. I love Christmas decorations. I admit it.

For me, the highlight of our trip to Gatlinburg was the hour I spent in a Christmas store. Every year I go shopping the week after Christmas to get ornaments and decor 75% off. Yes, I'm becoming one of THOSE people.

I have a three-part theory about my love obsession for buying Christmas ornaments.

1. They are fairly inexpensive, so I feel I can buy them impulsively.
2. Unlike other decorative items, I don't have to think about where to put them or whether they match anything in my house.
3. They're just pretty! Each one appeals to me visually, and all together on the tree it's almost more prettiness than I can bear.

This year and last, I bought so many ornaments that *gasp* I'm now out of room on the tree! I've been trying to enforce the rule that I will only buy it if I truly truly love the ornament. I try to do that with clothes, too (with mixed results in both cases).

In Gatlinburg, I tried to make myself buy only ornaments that I couldn't find at home. Like the mermaid and the blown-glass seahorses, the glitter-topped cupcakes and the watermelon slice. The miniature mandolin for Darwin.

Still, I love my old favorites best: the globe and the pink rose that reminds me of the rose in Beauty and the Beast, my favorite Disney cartoon.

For your viewing pleasure, a (very) small part of my collection:

And last but not least, the tree:

We'll just pretend that woodwork behind it is finished. Christmas is the time for using your imagination, right?


Thursday, November 24, 2005

Heat Treat

Today I found some fabric that's sort of suede-y on one side and a very soft, low-pile faux fur on the other side. I got some and bound the edges to make a throw blanket. Boy is that thing warm! It's like the miracle blanket. I actually got almost HOT in it, which is unheard of around here lately.

Tomorrow morning we're going to Georgia to spend Thanksgiving with my sister. I'm looking forward to spending one night in a house where the heat is freely run.

Happy Thanksgiving!


Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Total Frivolity

You can tell we didn't get any work done this weekend because I didn't post yesterday. Saturday was the Iron Bowl, the longstanding, high-stakes rivalry game between the University of Alabama and Auburn University.

I grew up an Auburn fan but attended UA, so I'm one of the few people in the state who confesses to riding the fence. One of my favorite stories about my freshman year of college was the time I wore my dad's old Auburn sweater, and the boys in the dorm wrote "Alabama" on a piece of masking tape and covered up the Auburn logo.

Alabama lost the game Saturday, marking a depressing end to a promising season. Oh well.

Sunday morning, Darwin made me cut his hair. He's been growing it out for a while, just to see what it would do. I like how curly and unruly it gets on the weekend when he doesn't comb it after we wake up. But it was starting to create problems for him, since it made his welding hat slip around on his head. So he went "skint" again.

Witness the transformation:

That afternoon Darwin had a singing engagement, and I joined him. Then we went to see Walk the Line afterward. Last fall I did a story on movie sets for the magazine where I work, and Darwin accompanied me to the set of Walk the Line in Tunica, Miss. So we both had a special interest in seeing this flick.

It was fun watching the places and people we saw up on the big screen. And the movie was awesome. Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon sang all the songs themselves, and Joaquin in particular sounded incredibly like Johnny Cash. It was like being there and watching Johnny Cash perform.

Also, I wore my new shoes, which are the best shoes in the world. Really, this whole post has just been an excuse to post this picture:

Friday, November 18, 2005

Oh, Isn't it Pretty?

I love a good gaping maw, don't you?

Turns out the beadboard actually reaches to more like 9 feet, leaving a gap of 1 foot between it and the ceiling. This gap corresponds with the height of the slight ceiling slant on that side of the room. The slant is there because about 1 foot of the bathroom sticks out of the side of the house with a little half-gabled roof.

The POs - and possibly the PPOs - continued the slant across the room for continuity. The POs stopped it at the little cabinet/closet, but perhaps when the room was one long room instead of divided into a sink room and a tub/toilet room, the slant went the whole length. That would explain the gap at the top.

So, solutions. I guess we could reconstruct the slant all the way across the room when the wall between the two sections is demo'ed. It wouldn't affect anyone height-wise because it only comes down 1 foot, and we have no 9-foot-tall friends. Then we could leave the beadboard the way it is.

Or, since a few boards are damaged or have nail holes from the drywall, we could take it down a few feet and use the extra to replace the damaged pieces. But how are the boards attached to each other? I'm operating under the assumption that the tongue and groove just fits together, no nails. But are there nails?

Or, as John suggests, we could borrow some of the beadboard from the half-room in the attic to fill in the blanks.

Or, as Greg and others suggest, we could make a little frieze around the top of the room.

Whaddaya think?

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Bif! Thump! Smack!

We've hit a snag with the beadboard. I need to come up with a new phrase that means the same as "hit a snag" because it's becoming a major cliche on this blog. My trusty thesaurus provides: "thump a hurdle" and "smack a holdup."

Today Darwin decided to take me up on one of my friendly suggestions to work on the bathroom demo. He spent about an hour tearing out the drywall over the beadboard in the former linen cabinet/closet thingy. That's when he discovered that we'd smacked a holdup.

The ceiling in the bathroom is 10 feet high. The beadboard is - drumroll please - 8 feet high. Above it? A gaping hole. That's what you call thumping a hurdle. Apparently, the bathroom either originally had 8-foot ceilings or had them lowered at some point in its life and then un-lowered. Of course, this also means that the ceilings are not beadboard, which we'd wondered about. That part is not necessarily a bad thing.

I haven't seen the situation with my own two eyes yet, but my immediate thought was that we can remove a foot or two from the top of the beadboard to bring it down to shoulder or head height, then drywall the space above it. Will this work? I don't know yet. I'll take pictures tonight and let you help me judge.

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Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Clothes Horse Reined In

This weekend was productive but not in the way I planned. I didn't work on the drywall-over-beadboard problem, but I did clean out and organize my closet. I have what some might call an overwhelming mass of clothes. A swarm. An avalanche. I regularly sort through them, but I still keep buying new stuff, too.

And I still have a surprising volume of old - like high school old - stuff hanging around. I tend to have sentimental attachments to objects, including clothes. I keep it if I wore it for a significant event (the teal satin shirt I wore the night I met my very first boyfriend, the turtleneck I wore to cover up my first hicky) or if I just really loved it (the pin-striped summer suit that made me look skinny, the fuschia sweater I wore all the time in college).

I allow myself to keep the things that I have strong emotions about because just looking at them takes me back to that place in time ... the night I kissed the much-older boy in a parking lot, playing Spades all winter in the dorm common room, that romantic late-night dinner at an Italian restaurant on our honeymoon, my first grown-up job, my wedding, ninth grade Homecoming when we decorated the hall with streamers and glow-in-the-dark paint.

But every time I do a sort, I can let go of more. I examine each item and ask myself a battery of questions:
  • Do I even like this anymore?
  • Would I wear this even if it still fit?
  • Did this really look that good on me in the first place?
  • Will this ever come back in fashion?

    When the answer to all or most is a resounding NO, I can get rid of the item with no regret. Most of the time I donate or try it out at a yard sale. I sold lots of my skanky "juniors" clothes from high school at a yard sale two summers ago. This weekend I listed some stuff on eBay.

    My vast collection is dwindling, and that's a good thing. Even now, I have two closets and an armoire packed full, along with seven or eight plastic bins and one dresser. Before I started the frequent sorting policy? I couldn't even venture a guess.

    I know what I should do. For every new item I buy, I should ditch one old thing. But who can keep track of all that?


  • Friday, November 11, 2005


    Today is Darwin's 29th birthday. In honor of this special day I shall tell you 29 little-known facts about my dear husband. He doesn't read this blog, so he can't get embarrassed. (tee hee)

    1. He thinks his eyes are hazel. I don't know where he got this bizarre idea, but his eyes are decidely BLUE. Instead of trusting his highly intelligent (not to mention kind and generous) wife on this fact, he asked the old lady at the DMV. His driver's license still says HAZ.

    2. He has one pair of purple leopard print underwear, given to him by an ex-girlfriend.

    3. He also has one pair of normal underwear with the words Property of Kristin written on the back in pink fabric marker. I'll let you figure out who gave him those one Valentine’s Day long ago. ;-)

    4. He lets me hold the remote most of the time.

    5. He hates to read, and the only book he remembers fondly from his school years is Danger on Panther Peak.

    6. He was on the state champion small engines team in middle school.

    7. He owns a CD of the techno-pop group Aqua, featuring the hit song "Barbie Girl." He played it on our first date, and I almost jumped right out of the moving vehicle.

    8. He loves to have his feet and back scratched. He also likes me to give him a manicure.

    9. He owns (and wears) a pair of brown leather cowboy boots.

    10. When he sings with his gospel group, single women in the crowd smile at him and bat their eyelashes.

    11. His name is Darwin, but his parents don’t believe in evolution.

    12. He never has an opinion about movies. You ask him what he thought of it afterward, he always says, "It was okay."

    13. He has strong opinions about eating a slice of pizza on the way home from Pizza Hut. He is strongly AGAINST it.

    14. He speaks baby talk to our cats. (Okay, so do I.)

    15. The cats like him slightly better than me.

    16. He was born almost three months premature. He was due in January. He still has a vaguely heart-shaped scar on his arm from when they removed the IV thingy and ripped off some of his skin with it.

    17. For his kindergarten school picture, he wore a fuschia polo shirt. (I was wearing a similar shirt in my kindergarten picture. Coincidence? Fate?)

    18. They say the way to a man's heart is through his stomach. Not so with this man. The way to his heart is a clean, trash-free vehicle. He also thinks washing cars is fun.

    19. His favorite ice cream flavor is homemade vanilla.

    20. He likes his pizza with mushrooms, sausage and pepperoni.

    21. He abuses the English language with an abandon that’s almost admirable.

    22. He cried when he saw me at our wedding. That’s my most vivid (and favorite) image of him on that day.

    23. Sometimes he calls me Sweaty instead of Sweetie.

    24. His favorite shirts are those very soft sueded cotton ones from Old Navy. (I just bought him a couple more)

    25. He doesn’t get annoyed when I call him some insane pet name like Sugar Pumpkin Pie Buns or My Little Frosted Flake. He only takes offense if I call him a brand of chocolate cereal because he hates chocolate cereal.

    26. He falls asleep on the couch a lot.

    27. His favorite shoes are black Converse high tops. He always wanted some growing up, and now that he has a wife who likes to do the buy one, get one half off at Shoe Carnival, he got to buy them.

    28. He likes scented candles, especially vanilla-scented ones, and lights them while he’s cooking.

    And last but not least …

    29. He has a very cute fanny.

    I am Woman, Hear Me Roar

    Last night our expert renovator friends D&K (and their two charming moppets) came over for dinner. Naturally, I dragged them to the deconstructed master bathroom to ask their advice about the drywall-over-beadboard problem.

    D, who is possibly the coolest woman on Planet Earth, dove right in with a crowbar and knocked out a big hunk of drywall. Apparently, my number one mistake has been treating the drywall too politely. I'm supposed to tear into it, not shake its hand and give it a kiss on the mildewy cheek.

    So this weekend I'll give it another go - using D's example and the awesome advice from my blog readers - and see if I can make a little more progress.

    Wednesday, November 09, 2005

    Think Outside the Crowbar

    Has anyone out there in Blogville ever removed drywall that's been hung over beadboard? I hope so because I seriously need advice.

    The trouble with drywall over beadboard is that you can't just bang on the drywall with a sledgehammer. It does no good and might damage your beadboard. I've also tried cutting the drywall with a box cutter, but that pesky bottom layer of paper on the drywall is hard to cut without also slicing into the beadboard.

    Using a hammer (alternating the claw end and the um ... other end), then a crowbar, this is how far I got on our bathroom drywall-over-beadboard:

    I expected the crowbar to be the magic solution. Ah-ha! I'm using the proper tools for once! It HAS to work!

    Alas, that was not the case. The crowbar actually worked less efficiently than the already-inefficient hammer method. *SIGH*

    I hope somebody out there has an idea. Somebody? Anybody? If I have to remove an entire bathroom full of this stuff this way (that patch above is maybe 1 foot by 2 feet), including ceilings, it will take me approximately 275.867 years.

    Please help, O Creative Ones!

    Tuesday, November 08, 2005

    A Decision at Last

    That settles it. Thanks so much for all your comments. I think I was waiting for permission from you guys before I gave in to the sink Darwin wanted.

    So that's that. We're getting the American Standard. Having a decision made is so relaxing.

    Monday, November 07, 2005

    Give In?

    Okay, I have no decision for you. I showed Darwin the pictures and info on each sink, and he liked the tall American Standard one the best. I liked the delicate little Philadelphia one best. An argument ensued. Darwin said, "Get what you want. I don't care." I said, "You obviously do care if you're arguing with me about it."

    I'm thinking of giving in. I'm telling myself the 1920s-style American Standard would fit with our bathroom well enough. Our clawfoot tub is a later-model after all, not a turn-of-the-century. And the taller sink would probably be nice. It's hard to imagine what's it's like for a taller person to use a short sink, since the short sink is just fine for me.

    Give me one more day.

    Friday, November 04, 2005

    Velvet Elvis

    Okay, this post actually has nothing to do with Elvis. Just want to show off my new velvet living room curtains.

    They're not particularly impressive, but I think they're keeping it warmer in there. It's hard to tell though, because this week hasn't been as cold as last week.

    I may hem/pin them up. Their length (84 inches) is bugging me. I want them to either reach to the floor or sit on the sill. This looks a little funky.

    Then again, if hemming requires taking them down - nevermind. I had to bust out the big daddy ladder to hang them. And a recently-dead roach almost fell on me when I took down the other curtains. Eeeek, I don't want to think about that. La la la dee da, pink ponies, starshine, moonbeams, children frolicking. La laalaaaaa ...

    Sinks! Yes, let's talk about sinks some more! Thank you for all your excellent advice. The hubs and I will carefully consider and measure this weekend, and I hope to report a decision on Monday.

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    Thursday, November 03, 2005

    One More Option

    A third sink option has surfaced, thanks to the commenters concerned about the height of the sink. The oval sink got the most votes in the previous post, but is it better than this one?

    American Standard Oval Sink
    ~$299 at Vintage Tub and Bath
    Height: 36 inches
    Width: 26.75 inches

    According to the shop, it's based on a 1922 model. The design appeals to me less than the oval sink below, but it's still a pretty sink. The added height would probably be nice. I'm a shorty, but Darwin is about 5'10".

    Another factor I thought of last night: the beadboard on the walls isn't the typical vertical bathroom beadboard. It's horizontal. That will affect things visually. Will the vertical lines and curves of the oval sink below look better with the horizontal beadboard than the more horizontal-feeling Kohler sink? Or worse?

    And now, the saddest, most thrown-together Photoshopping ever:

    (Hey, it's not my fault. My up-to-date version of Photoshop disappeared off my computer, and I had to bring in the oldie from home while I wait for the IT people to fix it.)

    And for Gary, I'll say that I will probably buy another pedestal sink for the half bathroom, but I want to choose the right one for the master bath, since that will be the only one used for more than a little hand-washing.

    Also, the half bath used to be the butler's pantry, so I'm considering something more pantry-ish. I've heard of copper sinks in butler's pantries, so that might be an option.

    Wednesday, November 02, 2005

    Everything But the Bathroom Sink

    My original plan for the master bathroom included the Kohler Memoirs pedestal sink. Recently, I found a different sink and changed my plans. Then I went to Lowe's and saw the Kohler sink again. Now I can't decide which one I want.

    That's where you come in. I'll present the case for each sink, and you decide by voting in the comments. Here goes:

    Kohler Memoirs
    ~$288-??? at Lowe's
    Height: 34.75 inches
    Width: 27-30 inches (depending which style)

    The major appeal of this sink is the spacious flat areas on the sides. Just looking at the picture, you can't tell how generous this space is. At Lowe's, I stood in front of it and imagined setting all my getting-ready trinkets about on it. Ideal. Even with built-in shelves, cabinets, what-have-you, it would be nice to have a little horizontal space close at hand. The sink is also attractive.

    OK, just noticed there are two kinds of Kohler Memoirs sinks - "Stately" and "Classic." Similar style, though, so vote away.

    Philadelphia Oval
    ~$199 at Rensup.com
    Height: 32.25 inches
    Width: 26.125 inches

    I feel more comfortable with the design of the sink in relation to our house. I saw an original one like it in an 1895 Victorian on This Old House Classics, so I figure at least the time period is close to right. Also, it's pretty and different than most sinks you see in just anybody's McMansion.

    Tuesday, November 01, 2005


    Today the company I work for announced a restructuring/change of ownership. Something like that. The point is the company gave us each a week's pay bonus. Also, they cashed out our equity sharing (a new plan will start up soon). This unexpected cash comes at a very handy time. Our TV just broke, and our credit card bill this month is higher than usual because of the vacation. Also, our car tags and insurance are due. Plus, Christmas present time coming up.

    So I'm happy. I know where I'm going on my lunch break - the bank!