1902 Victorian

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

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Thursday, March 30, 2006

Taking Up Space

Since I was out of town last week, and Darwin's been busy with the lawnmower project and we've had auctions and children's birthday parties to attend, basically I have nothing to say about the house.

So I'm taking a page from the book of my middle school self. Back then, my family lived in the middle of 108 acres, and to kill time in the summer, my sister and I rode on a golf cart all over the land, asking each other hypothetical questions and eating those popsicles that are frozen in a clear plastic tube. (Flav-o-Ice?)

I offer you a virtual Flav-O-Ice ... no, sorry, I'm keeping the red one for myself. Would you care for a blue? ... and a few hypothetical (and not so hypothetical) questions:

1. If you could live in another city for a month, where would it be?

My answer:
Venice, Italy. I've been fascinated with Venice ever since I read Palladian Days, and I became even more fascinated when I read The City of Falling Angels. We plan to go there for a vacation one day ... when that day will be I don't know. It's hard to figure out what to do with two cats for a week while we're away. They would not enjoy a kennel.

2. What is the most senseless act of violence you ever committed?

My answer:
I pummeled my sister when she turned off the VCR before the Bryan Adams video for "Everything I Do" could play at the end of Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves. Talk about senseless.

3. What do you wish you could change about your house but can't afford to do any time soon?

My answer:
Remove the aluminum siding on the back half of the house. Removing wouldn't be costly, but we just don't know what's under there. Besides, we already have too many irons in the fire. You know me - I'd just go out on a whim and start ripping stuff off if the calming force of Darwin wasn't here.

4. If you could only change one thing about yourself, what would it be?

My answer:
I'll go shallow with this one ... I hate my hands! Weird, right? Who hates their hands? I have these strange tapered fingers that are fat at the bottom and teeny at the top. Ugh. The only ok thing about them is they're just like my mother's and grandmother's. Sorry, Mom. I just insulted your hands.

5. Where is the first place you remember living? (past lives do not count)

My answer:
In the little house where we lived from the time I was 1 to 6. My dad built it mostly himself (guess it's in the genes, huh?), and it was beside a pond, down the road from my grandparents' house. My room had a canopy bed with a lacy white bedspread.

6. What's your favorite constellation?

My answer:
I can never find any constellations, but I like the name Orion. Eutaw has the best night sky view, by the way. Maybe it's because we're out in the country. The sky always seems so bright and packed with stars. When I get home in the winter and it's already dark, sometimes I just stand there and stare up in amazement before I go in the house.

7. What's the most disastrous date you've ever been on?

My answers:
Hmmm, there have been so many. Probably the one where I didn't really like the guy but was afraid to say no, and then spent the whole night trying to keep him from touching me. Oh wait, that describes three-fourths of my dates. Thank goodness for Darwin.

8. What celebrity do you most resemble?

My answer:
The only celebrity I've ever been told I look like is Melissa Joan Hart. You know, the star of Sabrina the Teenage Witch and a teen movie named for a Britney Spears song?

I aim high, folks.

9. If you won the lottery, what would you buy first?

I'd probably hire someone to come finish the bathroom and tile the kitchen countertops. Then I would instantly regret it because surely he would cut a hole in the wrong spot in the wood floor or something gut-wrenching like that.

As for purchases, I would probably go on a handbag and shoe-shopping spree. And clothes. And antiques! Oh the antiques I would buy! Maybe I would need to buy a van to transport all my antiques. Heck, I could just hire someone to deliver it!

Okay, I'm getting carried away. Thinking about endless money always gets me excited.

Now I'm excited to hear your answers! And hey, quit hogging the Flav-O-Ice!

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Monday, March 27, 2006

I'm Baaaaack!

I'm back home after several days in Louisville, Kentucky, where I got three massive blisters on my feet, saw snow for the first time in years, met Mikey from American Choppers, and was falsely accused of paparazzi-ism by a member of an aging country music star's entourage.

I'm so glad to be home I can't even express it. It took all my self-control not to fall down and kiss the hideous vinyl floor.

I rolled into Eutaw at about midnight Friday. Saturday morning we attended an auction at an antebellum house my parents are interested in here in town. It's an awesome house with 16-foot ceilings (!!!!) and it's on the National Register. Still, it needs LOTS of work. For example, the kitchen has a gigantic dip in the floor, there are big patches of plaster falling off everywhere, and it more than likely needs all-new plumbing and electrical.

My parents have never owned an old house before and are usually not the DIY types. However, they are approaching retirement age, and already my dad is bored. Lately, he has taken to gardening and going all out with the Christmas lights - things he rarely did when we were growing up.

Plus, Dad is a big history buff. He's the person who taught me to appreciate history. Though I'm dubious whether he and Mom have the patience for this project, I can see Dad really loving owning a piece of history like that.

And the yard is 10 acres and gorgeous. My dad was a forester for years, so he is a sucker for a lovely piece of land with some giant old trees. Trekking through the tall grass with him on Saturday reminded me of the times as a child when he would take me for walks and teach me the names of the trees.

Also this weekend, we got to see inside another National Register house in Eutaw, this one in impeccable condition. It was so beautiful. Best of all, the house has only had three owners (like ours, but this house is much older) and several photos, portraits, books and even CLOTHES were left in the house by the original owners. They have a black mourning dress on a mannequin, and I almost passed out from joy when I saw it. *SIGH* I'm so jealous.

Speaking of National Register stuff, the owners of that house advised us to start the application process to register our house. I didn't realize a house only has to be 100 years old to qualify. I thought it had to be "significant" in some way, but apparently just being at least 100 years old is significant enough, especially since we're in a town that's chock full of National Register houses.

I need to look into it some more. Anyone out there gone through the registration process? Seems like I've read it's reeeeeally complicated and time-consuming. But these folks said it wasn't too bad.

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Monday, March 20, 2006

Salvage

If you recall, my parents are just two of the many, many, many people on the Gulf Coast who lost their homes to Katrina. In a post early during the disaster, before we knew the fate of their little vacation house, I mentioned a riding lawnmower they'd just bought.

When we went down to see the devastation first hand, we found the riding lawnmower perched upside down on the slab of concrete that used to be a house. It was full of salt water and mud, but the body of it was oddly undamaged.

Darwin, who was a state small motors champion in middle school, thought he could fix it. Dad, so disheartened by the whole thing, said if Darwin could fix it, he could keep it. We needed a new riding lawnmower, since the last one Darwin fixed up is a total rustbucket and could collapse at any moment.

So a couple of months ago, he and my dad hauled the thing back to our house. In addition to the hurricane damage, it had been sitting upside down and exposed to the elements for months.

Darwin thought about it, cleaned it, greased it, bought about $120 worth of replacement parts. He eagerly dashed outside in the few moments of daylight he gets at home during the week and on Saturday afternoons to work on it. As spring brought longer days and warmer weather, his excitement grew and he worked on it more, talked about it more.

Then Friday afternoon, I came home and he was hovering over it. He grinned when he saw me and cranked it up. It runs. He fixed it. I told you this man can work miracles with his hands.

He cut a bit of grass with it on Saturday and decided it needs new pulleys. Simple enough, he says. Then it will be perfect. Rust free and running smoothly.

Besides the lawnmower, virtually nothing was salvaged from the house. We found my mother's beloved white farm table, broken and wedged amid other debris two yards over, but in the end they decided it wasn't worth saving.

The insurance company is giving them money only for flood, not wind damage - in spite of the fact that an impartial eye witness saw a tornado hit the house before the storm surge even came through. Even with the $30,000 the government would give them for rebuilding, they wouldn't have enough to rebuild the house, let alone cover the stuff inside it.

It's a sickening situation, and my parents have decided not to start over there. It pains my dad, because he loves the coast so much. But what can you do? There's no way to stop a hurricane.

So we salvage what little we can and feel grateful that our family photographs and mementos are safe up here - not stained with mud and littering the ground in Biloxi.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Pity the 1/32nd Irish

All week I've been reminding myself about St. Patrick's Day. It's one of my favorite holidays, and I was afraid I'd forget to celebrate with the wearing o' the green.

So apparently, I psyched myself up for it so much that I jumped the gun. I'm 1/32nd Irish (my great-great-great-grandfather Thomas Hurley was from Ireland), but I guess the other 31/32nds of my genetic makeup won out.



Yesterday I woke up completely convinced that it was Friday, March 17. I decked myself out in St. Patty's gear - shamrock-covered tank top, dangly shamrock earrings, even green eyeshadow. Plus, blue jeans because duh, it was casual Friday!

I left for work, happily thinking about my distant Irish heritage. I had a package to put in the mailbox, so I stopped at the end of the driveway. I saw our and our neighbor's garbage cans at the road and wondered why they were still there on a Friday (garbage day is Thursday). Still didn't make the connection.

Then as I was picking my way across the yard in my heels, a truck passed by on the road. I thought about the men in the truck seeing me in my St. Patty's gear, and for some reason, a wave of embarrasment washed over me. Why? I tried to shake it off. Then suddenly it hit me! OH LORDY IT's THURSDAY!

Even then, I had to think hard to make sure it really was Thursday. I thought back to what I'd done and worn the days before (what I wear is always the way I keep track of days, weird I know).

I went back in the house and changed into something non-shamrock-related, then called my boss on the way to work and told him the pathetic story why I would be late. He didn't find it as funny as I did ... he wasn't mad; he probably just thinks I'm very lame.

So today, on actual St. Patrick's Day, I can't muster the same enthusiasm for "Danny Boy" and leprechauns. I put away the shamrock-covered tank top and went to a simpler green polo. I still have the shamrock earrings and the green eyeshadow, though.

What I wanna know is where's the green beer when you need it?

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Wednesday, March 15, 2006

The Name I'm Going to Call

The Great Weatherman in the Sky must be having a hearty point-and-laugh at me right about now. I didn't know he was into blogs, but apparently he saw my post all about the wonderful heat and decided to send a cold snap my way. To up the ante of the joke, he made American Idol and the episode of America's Next Top Model I missed last week come on at the same time, so Tivo wouldn't let my conscientious hubby switch to the Weather Channel.

That means we were caught completely unaware when, in the middle of the night, we began to slowly turn into frosty-delicious peoplesicles under our thin summer bedspread.

I admit we should've seen it coming. The first sign? Alistair (Orangeyboy #1) hopped up on the coffee table and stared at us until we spread out his favorite blanket on the couch. Then he settled in for a long nap. Ha. That cat never comes near the couch during warm weather.

The next sign? After Darwin retired early, I went to the office to stare at the computer for a few hours. I ignored my icy fingers for a while, and even once I could ignore them no longer, I blamed it on the office itself. Eh, that room's always cold.

I still managed to be shocked when I slid under the (woefully thin) covers with my hubby and he said, "I'm cold! Do we have another blanket?"

Sure do, honey! Feeling very motherly and efficient, I grabbed a quilt from the bench at the foot of the bed and spread it out over us. Ah, now we'll be warm and cozy, cuddled up together the whole night through. What bliss!

Oh, if only it worked out that way. We spent the night huddled together - not cuddled, huddled - perfectly still, with our heads under the covers. If we moved our feet to one side or the other, they'd hit freezing sheets. If we came up for air, our faces hit the naked cold.

So this is what we get for dreaming of spring too soon and putting away the cold-weather trappings.

If God were Tyra Banks, he'd be saying, "The name I'm going to call is ... everyone in the world but Darwin and Kristin." And we'd be stuck going back to the gaudily decorated house to pack up our all our things, blow one last kiss to the giant Twiggy poster, and head back to the farm in Ohio, where everyone will tell us we're still beautiful to them and we're better off working at the Dairy Queen anyway.

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Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Old Times There are Not Forgotten

I'm going to make some people jealous with this post (namely, Halloweenlover). Apparently, in Alabama we have skipped right over spring and gone straight to summer. All winter I've dreamed of the mild spring days when the house would be lovely and comfortable and require no artificial temperature moderation of any kind. Well, we had about half a day of that.

Now, we are sleeping with a bedroom window open and a fan blowing. And Darwin's still hot.

I'm actually not feeling the heat much yet. Today it's a delightfully sunny 64 degrees outside (down from highs in the low '80s this weekend) after a big storm last night. Inside, the house feels wonderful to me. I can sit for hours in front of the computer obsessing about my listings on eBay without turning into a shivering, quivering lump of frozen flesh.

This weekend when I was re-arranging my closet, I had to change out of my requisite winter sweatpants and into shorts! That's right, I said SHORTS! I was actually SWEATING!

It's so wonderful to sit and watch TV without trying to keep every inch of skin tucked under a blanket, without wearing layers of clothes, without a heater forever drying out my face!

I don't think I've ever appreciated spring this much. Last year, we were less conservative (read: stingy) with the heat, so the onset of spring wasn't nearly such a relief.

Now the new game begins: How long can we last before we turn on the A/C? We made it till nearly the end of May last year. This year my goal is July! Do you think I can do it?

My motivation for not turning up the A/C isn't so much about money (we have electric A/C vs. gas heat) as ... hmmm, what is my motivation? Part of it is that I like having the windows open. The cats like it, too. (Darwin not so much. He's always paranoid about the cats bursting through the screens and escaping.)

But I think the main motivation is to use our house the way it was intended. These high-ceilinged, center hall houses in the South were designed to minimize heat. This is what our house does best, and I like to let it do it. When I'm looking out a window, I can't see the TV or the microwave or the faux-vintage stereo. It's easier to pretend I'm living like they did before A/C was invented.

Besides, there's something so pleasantly old-fashioned and Southern about hanging out in a house with the windows open, sweating a little, waiting for the fan to oscillate back your way and blow the humidity-curled hair off your neck. It reminds me of my childhood: family reunions in old two-room schoolhouses, 4th of July with homemade ice cream, swinging on my grandparents' porch, the dark little convenience stores where Daddy would stop and let me get a striped coconut candy bar.

Sounds like a country song, huh? But like any good country song, there must be a lament. Maybe all these things still happen somewhere, but most of them have disappeared from my life. For years now, the family reunion has been held in the air-conditioned church basement. Doesn't that say it all?

So I'll hold onto this little piece of humidity while I can. Just remind me of this when I start complaining about the heat come May ...

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Monday, March 13, 2006

Where the Magic Happens

As promised, a photo of the bedroom curtains and new summer bedspread:



I Photoshopped the wall color because it's hard to concentrate on the curtains and bedspread with three big patches of paint in different shades of blue glaring at you from over the bed. They've been there so long I hardly notice them until I see them on my computer screen.

I could've waited to show a photo after the walls are actually painted, but then we all might be dead, and our grandchildren will have inherited the Internet. Before the walls can be painted, the closets must be torn out, and before they can be torn out, the new closet must be built, and before it can be built, the bathroom must be finished. So sometime in 2075.

The Photoshop-painted walls are more pastel than I wanted. For some reason, Photoshop would not let me paint them the lovely, mushroomy is-it-purple-or-is-it-gray? color I had in mind. The whole time I was playing with the photo, Darwin kept popping into the room and making references to Pepto Bismol, but by then it was too late, and I was past the point of caring.

Anyway, you get the idea. I still lovelovelove those curtains, and I like the bedspread. Though the sheets feel awfully coarse after a winter of sleeping on divinely soft flannel sheets. Fortunately, I have a matching peachy-orange flannel set ... they just need to be washed first.

We made the mistake of not washing our other set of flannel sheets before we put them on the bed, so we were forever getting brown fuzzlets stuck in various crevices. The first time we took the sheets off the bed, we found an army of fuzzlets gathered at the foot of the bed. With that and the cat hair tumbleweeds floating in the corners of the bedroom, we could've knitted a sweater. Not pretty, my friends. Not pretty.

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Friday, March 10, 2006

Suckage

Has Blogger been acting like a jerk to anyone else this week? Yesterday, the index of my blog disappeared for no reason. When I tried to republish, it kept stopping partway and giving me weird errors. The day before, I couldn't access Blogger to update anything, AND when I tried to post on other Blogger blogs, it wouldn't let me. Today, it's working but still being slow and obnoxious. Oh good, and when I republished to add something, instead of updating the same post, it randomly created a duplicate! That ticks me off! RAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRRRRRRR!

I know, I know - these things happen. Calm down, be patient. It's a free service; I shouldn't complain. But why do these things happen? Why would my blog - that I changed nothing on - suddenly stop working? It drives me crazy that people would go out of their way to come read my blog and then find a blank or uncooperative page. Thank you, anyone who tried and was thwarted. Please don't leave me forever!

Okay, that's enough ranting. I'll try to think of something productive to post about later.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Hands

Darwin is like a little boy, always coming home with scabby shins and random cuts and dings the origin of which he can't remember. His hands are calloused and laced with tapered white scar lines.

Here's Darwin comparing war wounds with our neighbor D (who cut her finger on a table saw in December):



It's funny how much a person's hands can tell you about them.

Darwin's are proof of a man who works with his hands, has always worked with them. A man who was a terrible student, yet everyone he meets can recognize how smart he is. A man who people trust to do good work. A man who inspires respect and devotion.

I never pictured myself married to someone who hates to read books, didn't go to college, and uses the word "ain't" with gusto. Yet when he touches me with his calloused, wonderful hands, I know there could be no other option.

Some folks try to get all snooty about people who didn't go to college, as if they're ignorant and useless in the world. But the truth is, where would we be without people like Darwin, who know how to use their hands and their heads?

Who's really the useless one? Take me for example. I was always one of the smart kids, and I was awesome at standardized tests. My parents had a nice house, and they bought me a 2-year-old Mustang when I turned 16. I got a full scholarship for school and breezed through getting internships and a job.

When everything comes easily for you, it's easy to get lazy. I'm possibly the worst procrastinator on planet earth, and I'm a master at distracting myself from the task at hand. When working on the house, I wear out quickly ... a few rounds of dragging limbs to the road, and I'm completely beat.

Look at my hands, and you'll see the whole story. They're plump and pink and smooth. Before buying this house, the only scars on my body were from the chicken pox and mosquito bites.

Now I have two more scars, a faint heat-gun burn on my thigh and a tiny line on the pad of my right middle finger. I got the cut from a shard of ceramic tile when I was demo-ing the bathroom floor (oh God, was that really in AUGUST? No wonder I'm sick of talking about the bathroom). I did the paint scraping and the tile bashing all by myself and with no one asking me to do it.

Forgive me if I'm proud of my scars. Darwin's hands show that he has always been a hard worker. Mine show that I have never been ... but that maybe I am becoming one.

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Monday, March 06, 2006

The Pretty Ones Always Win

I have a confession to make: I am an uglyist. It's hard to admit, but it's true. I discriminate against ugly holly bushes and ugly crape myrtles, ugly magnolia trees and ugly curtains made from bedsheets.

In fact, I did all that discriminating in one week!

This weekend we spent most of our time outdoors, enjoying the wonderful sunshine ... especially since the house still felt like a dark refrigerator ("Cherry is trapped in the refrigerator!" ... anybody know who said that? Here's a hint: I'm wearing an I Love the '80s shirt today.).

Last spring, we started our Clean Sweep method of gardening. We worked on it on and off throughout the warm months, tearing out a lot and planting a little, and getting very dirty in the process.

Still, we were never quite satisfied with the yard by the time fall rolled around.

Last week, Darwin's dad brought his 4-wheel-drive truck down and helped Darwin tear out some more sad, pathetic and - you guessed it - ugly holly bushes. When we moved in, we had more holly bushes than blades of grass. And which ones did I pinpoint for destruction? Yep, the ugly ones.

We also have an abundance of crape/crepe myrtles. Two stumpy, half-dead ones in the backyard and several enormous, shapely ones on the right side of the house. Guess which ones got the chain saw treatment? I admit it was the ugly ones.

Finally, we went all crazy on the left magnolia tree/grove in the front yard. We've had plans for this tree since day one. It's stupid branches block our house from view. The right tree is actually even more huge and overgrown, but it provides shade and privacy from the road for the wrap-around porch. Plus, yeah ... it's just prettier.

So we chopped down the left tree's two 20-year-old satellite trees, leaving only the big, main trunk and all its many branches. From the front, the tree itself doesn't look that different, only a little thinner and less house-blocking. From the back, it's a tad gappy. But who sees the back except us anyway, right?

Now the trimmed tree looks so nice that I'm trying to think of a way to prune the right tree without ruining its lovely shape.

During:
Timberrrrr!


Before:


After:


Last but not least, we tore down the last two curtains in our bedroom. Yes, I said tore ... the "curtains" were actually strips of severely discolored bedsheets STAPLED to the windows.

I replaced them with some lovely pale yellow Anthropologie curtains I got from eBay. I intended to straighten up (read: stuff everything in closets) so I could take a decent photo of the room with the new curtains, but that didn't happen. I'll save the gratuitous bedroom pic for after I put on the new summer bedspread.

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Wednesday, March 01, 2006

I'm Still Talking About the Bathroom

We had another stand-around-and-discuss session in the bathroom this weekend. We decided to move the washstand in there so we could get a better idea of how everything would fit in the space.

I also brought in a platter from the kitchen to simulate the vessel sink.

Here is Darwin pretending to wash his hands in said simulated sink, with the washstand positioned by the (future) closet door:



I tried to get him to dress all in white and lie on the floor pretending to be a bathtub, but he wasn't into that. Guess we'll all have to stretch our imaginations a little further.

Here's the washstand by the window and Darwin demonstrating some possible mirror options:



We originally planned to take the towel bar off the back of the washstand and install a medicine cabinet in/on the wall. But then at an auction on the 19th, we saw a similar washstand that had a towel bar with a mirror over it. Hmmm. Do we really need a medicine cabinet? One possiblity is to install a little cabinet over the toilet instead. Maybe one of the vintage medicine cabinets I've seen that have a glass door instead of a mirror.

All our experiments did help us see what the bathroom could look like (and confirmed our decision to leave the beadboard intact), but we're still wavering on where to put the washstand. It looked good both places! Arggh. I wish cast iron bathtubs were easier to move around, so we could experiment with that, too.

All I can do is appeal to you once again, bloggie darlings. Do you think a bathtub/shower would look stupid where the washstand is, with the plumbing end against the window wall? Or do you think both positions suck and we should move the washstand/sink to the opposite wall of where it is in the pics, next to the toilet, and put the tub and a vanity table side by side on the other wall? Did that even make sense? Am I still speaking English?

We need to make a decision about this bathroom before my brain liquefies and oozes out my ears.

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