1902 Victorian

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

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Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Anybody Got a Spare $2,000?

Lately, we've been questioning our decision to use the oak washstand as our bathroom vanity.

First, I had the question about the wood top vs. something more water-proof like marble. Then our friend and neighbor Miss Judy stopped by for a visit and raved about the beautiful old washstand and begged us not to cut a hole in it. Then I started thinking about the further delay cutting holes in the vanity and fitting it for a sink would cause.

So I embarked on on a fact-finding mission. Are there real-wood, furniture-looking vanities in the world?

Why, of course there are, but not - apparently - very many I like. Most of the vanities I found were so-called "French" style ... all scrolls and bulges, lots of ornamentation. Or "hand-painted" with gold or flowers. I'm sure that's perfectly fine for some people, but it's NOT what we want in our simple little bathroom. We want something non-fussy, non-decorator-y.

In all the world I found only two vanities I could tolerate looking at every day. And wouldn't you know it? They're both crazy expensive.

Exhibit A:
I saw this one in the new Restoration Hardware catalog:

It's 32 inches wide in an "espresso" finish, with a white Carrara marble top, undermount sink (faucet not included), and satin-nickel hardware. All for the low low price of $1999.

Exhibit B:
I found this one at Clawfoot Supply:

It's 36 inches wide, made of solid oak with a granite top (small selection of colors), undermount sink (faucet not included) and Stickley-style hardware. The price depends on the granite you choose, or you can choose to buy it without a countertop for $1,326.

What I'd really like is to combine the two - the white marble from the first on the base of the second - and to pay only $500. Ha. I'm still googling and hoping I stumble across a bargain basement bizarro world where solid wood and marble are considered cheapy, and particleboard is the next "it" thing.

I just booked the trip to Italy (we're spending three nights in Florence and two nights in Venice), so the bank account cannot support a $2,000 vanity right now.

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Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Slice and Dice

It's official - I'm having surgery. But on my 10th straight day of feeling bad, I'm pretty darn excited about putting an end to it all ... the pain that is. And my gall bladder.

I've never had surgery before - other than wisdom teeth - so I'm a little nervous. Fortunately, I'm not worried about the four small scars it will leave on my belly - this gut was never going to win a beauty contest anyway. The incision in my navel, though - eww, I don't like to think about that one too much.

The surgery will be on Friday morning, and I'm just hoping I can make it till then without any more attacks (like the one this morning). Believe it or not, I'm actually tired of missing work!

This little adventure has made me appreciate the joys of showering, getting dressed and going somewhere, anywhere. And feeling good enough to do something around the house. I tell you, the poor bathroom is languishing for some attention. (Meanwhile, the functioning bathrooms are getting much more attention than they ever asked for.)

Maybe this weekend I'll be so pitiful from the post-surgery pain that Darwin will do anything to alleviate it - even work on the bathroom!


Friday, July 21, 2006

eBay: The Mayberry Version

Before all the medical drama of the weekend, I initiated my friend Kristen into the world of the Moundville antique auction.

I've mentioned this auction before, and my thoughts of it are usually accompanied by guilty stomach pains (rather than gall bladder) because I always manage to spend more money than I planned.

The Moundville auction is "special." It's the auction for folks who don't mind their "antiques" a little dinged up, and who don't mind wading through a bunch of junk to get to them.

When you walk into the auction building, the first thing you notice is the heat. The room is packed with stuff and bodies, and there's no A/C. Your thighs stick to the metal chair, your clothes cling and crumple, your hair wilts, your face shines. You learn to wear extra deodorant.

Once upon a time, you were an auction newbie, terrified of accidentally bidding on something, but now you wave the index card with your buyer number on it to cool your face. You are unconcerned about being misinterpreted because now you know that eye contact with the auctioneer is the real key.

On all four sides of the room, antiques and non-tiques are piled, chairs on top of tables on top of desks. You wedge yourself between dressers and sideboards, around people and armchairs to check out the goods. You find almost nothing you want, let alone must have. That scratched up table might be good for the sewing machine. That chair is kinda cute. That rug is okay.

Then the bidding begins. Furniture, collectibles, glassware, picture frames, and other random junk surfaces in the arms of the shy, sweaty teenage assistants. Some stuff looks so much more appealing now that it’s out on display. Other stuff is hideous, but you must whisper about it behind your hand because at least one person here will want it.

One auctioneer down front singsongs the bids into a microphone, while several guys stand around the perimeter calling a staccato “yep!” when they see a bidder’s hand. When the bidding is fast and hot, you hear, “Yep! Yep! Yep!” and you slide forward in your seat to get a better view.

The other auctioneer is a character, like a grumpy guest star on the Andy Griffith Show. He barks orders at the teenage assistants, and he might even snap at auction attendees who are chit-chatting instead of bidding.

But he’s half the fun. You never know what he might say. He could wave his hand toward a table of glassware and say, “Let’s sell some of this junk next.” Or if the bidding isn’t going well, he could make outrageous – yet convincing – claims about the item’s value, or even berate the audience for not bidding. Then he could make you laugh or remember your name, and you would shake your head and forgive him.

The auctioneers, the stuff, the cheap prices, the hard sell, maybe even the heat – it’s a lethal combination. You bid on one item, and when you win it, you’re hooked. The bargains keep on coming. You find yourself with two rugs when you only needed one, and oh no, another chair! You write down the wins on the back of your index card, and the numbers are so small that you feel a little giddy. But then the column gets longer.

When you’re ready to leave, you hint to the auctioneer which items to put up for bid next. He obliges, and you end up with one more item, one more number on your index card.

Then you go to the checkout counter and hear the total and try not to flinch. All those great bargains you got add up to a big fat sum plus 10 percent plus tax, and you write a big fat check for way more than you planned to spend.

Your husband grumbles – or if he’s not there, you text message him, and you can imagine him grumbling. But he (or some other hunky male) obligingly loads up the stuff anyway.

On the way home, you talk about your wins in glowing terms to keep the guilt away. You unload the stuff and find places for it, or pile the more useless stuff in a corner somewhere and forget about it.

And just as you’re making vows not to attend another auction for a while, a sheet of tri-folded hot pink paper arrives in the mailbox. Across the top in black: AUCTION.

You’ll be there.

Bridge lamp with painted glass shade, $20, a purchase from last Thursday.

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Thursday, July 20, 2006


Just look what happens when I ask a question and then disappear for a week: a firestorm of debate over the merits of big-box vs. Rejuvenation light fixtures.

Meanwhile, you might be wondering where I disappeared to. For the past couple of months, I've been having periodic "attacks." Severe abdominal pain, then vomiting, chills and sweating. Fun times.

Just so you know, I HATE talking about stuff like this. I hate when people regale me with the details of their latest medical ailments, and I don't like thinking about the inner workings of my body or anyone else's. Indulge me this once, and I promise I won't bring it up again!

I'd been self-treating with Pepsid and other antacids (and trying to avoid offending foods, though I couldn't discern much of a pattern) since the symptoms sounded similar to acid reflux disease and/or a stomach ulcer.

My mom all along maintained that it was my gall bladder; she had hers out 10 years ago and said my attacks sounded just like hers. But being a daughter and myself, I couldn't listen to her advice. That would go against nature.

Then suddenly the Pepsid stopped working. This weekend the attacks decided to escalate from every two weeks to every few hours. Not cool!

I finally let Darwin take me to the emergency room Monday morning. Of course, the latest attack miraculously disappeared on the way there, and other than the pitiful lack of magazines in the waiting room, I was perfectly chipper. Somehow, smiling and smacking gum while you describe your unbearable pain is not as convincing.

The doc confirmed my acid reflux/ulcer suspicions without doing any actual tests and prescribed me Prevacid. Just to rule out gall bladder, she set me up an appointment for an ultrasound the next day.

But I bet you have guessed the ending to this story already. The ultrasound found unpleasant things happening to my gall bladder.

The same doctor from the previous day referred me to a surgeon and told me to keep taking my Prevacid just in case.

My mom pulled some strings (she knows everyone in town or knows someone who does) and got me an appointment on Monday. She learned from her inside source at the surgeon's office that I probably will have to have surgery to remove the offending gall bladder. Goodie.

I really really hate having health problems. Not that anyone loves it. It's just such an inconvenience, and I HATE needles, and I HATE people asking me questions about my internal organs and warning me about how being without a gall bladder affects one's bodily functions.

Still, the concern amongst family, friends and co-workers has been comforting. When I came back to work today for the first time this week, my boss grinned and said, "I'm so glad you're back!" and I knew he meant it. Golly gee, I feel so appreciated!

It almost makes up for the fact that I had to spend my 25th birthday at the hospital reading Tuscaloosa Christian Family magazine.


Wednesday, July 12, 2006

No More New Shoes for a While

I'm having a bit of a moral dilemma. I've taken care of the shopping for the plumbing, but now it's time to consider lighting. But lighting from where?

What we want is pretty simple - an over-vanity fixture to fit the existing space ... two or three down-facing shades hanging from a round bar, nothing boxy and nothing that looks like it came out of a show home for RE/MAX's latest garden home complex.

But what I'm considering flies in the face of all that I just said - I found a fixture at Lowe's of all places. It looks pretty much how I want, plain and simple, except the finish is brushed nickel rather than polished (our shower stuff is polished). And it's just $35.

Then there's the glossy, lovely Rejuvenation catalog that landed in my mailbox yesterday. Four options stand out, all of which will end up costing $200-$300. But I could get them in polished nickel, and they'd be higher quality than the Lowe's fixture.

And oh dear, just look at the picture!

So what's a girl to do? I want to buy the Rejuvenation one, mostly because I love Rejuvenation and haven't had an excuse to buy lighting from them yet.

And anyway now that I'm seeing the two side by side, the Lowe's one really isn't just right, is it? There are lots of little differences, all of which contribute to make the Rejuvenation fixture look like a million bucks (rather than $200) and the Lowe's one looks like plastic in comparison. And just watch that polished nickel shine!

I guess this wouldn't be as much of an issue if lately I hadn't been spending money like a woman possessed. I just bought an expensive painting on eBay ... and yesterday a new purse with the perfect little spot for my cell phone ... and some new clothes ... and okay, three pairs of shoes ... and there's a big antiques auction coming up Thursday night.

Now it's time to stop spending money on myself so I can afford to plunk down the big bucks for the good light fixtures. The clothing and accessories industries will suffer, but I hope they know it is for the greater good.

Edited to add:
There's one more option, a 2-light Rejuvenation fixture rather than three. It would save money on both the fixture and the shades, and anyway I just remembered the previous vanity fixture was a 2-light. I think that would be sufficient.

Here's the one I like:

Schoolhouse Electric also has a similar option, but it's a little too Colonial Revival.

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Monday, July 10, 2006

Happy Paint

The bathroom floor is officially painted. So I should be jumping for joy, right? Giddy with the heady feeling of accomplishment?

Okay, there's no twist - I am giddy! The color - a gray brown - is lighter than we expected, which is probably a good thing. But best of all, it's one uniform color, and it's smooth and shiny and wonderful!

We painted two coats of primer and one coat of paint so far. We're waiting on the final paint coats until after we finish some work on the drywall ceiling and beadboard walls. The drywall mud will fly, the ladders will scratch, etc.

I'm glad we went ahead and painted at least one coat of paint, though. Because seeing the color in the room ... now I'm not so sure about our planned wall color.

Now I'm debating sage green instead of off white, in spite of the cool name of the off white, "Treasure Map." I was already thinking about it when we went to our new favorite restaurant, Miss Melissa's in Moundville - a surprising gourmet restaurant in the middle of nowhere - and the back room where we sat was painted sage below the chairrail, off white above with a terra cotta chairrail. The color combo was so crisp yet earthy, and I fell absolutely in love with it.

So last night I blew the dust off the old Benjamin Moore Color Viewer program and tried some combos.

Here's the real thing:

My favorites by the mile are the green versions (I crudely drew in the future bookcase under the window). But I have some reservations about green.

1. Our kitchen is mostly green already. Is there a limit to how much green a person can tolerate, even if it is at the moment her almost-favorite color? (I hesitate to displace pink as my favorite, but in decorating how much can you do with pink?)

2. The room is kinda small, about 12 x 7. Is lighter better for the walls?

3. This is the room where I'll get ready in the morning. Green can make a person look depressingly sallow.

4. What if I get sick of green? With the clawfoot tub and our unfitted vanity, this won't be the easiest room to repaint.

And yet, I also have misgivings about off white.

1. It's off white. Nothing exciting about that, even if it is cleverly named to disguise it's boringness.

2. The tub will be white/off white. We're going to all this effort to fix up and install a clawfoot tub, and it's going to blend right into the wall.

3. I like color, darnit! I am known for my general opposition to off white, and I'm already having to succumb to the off white for the kitchen walls (where at least I have the pleasure of colorful cabinets).

You know what? I think I just talked myself into the green. What do you think?

While you're thinking, some gratuitous cat pics:

Henry has a love/hate relationship with holes in the floor. He fears them, but his curiousity is too great, and he can't resist.

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Friday, July 07, 2006

Measure Once, Cut 2 Million Times

We thought patching the master bathroom floor would be a simple affair. We had extra floor boards in the attic, and we even found some tongue and groove pine at Lowe's in case we needed more. Just cut 'em to fit, slap 'em in the hole. La dee da, the floor would be finished and ready for the prime-and-paint I was itching to give them.

We even bought the floor paint in a shade of medium brown called "Cloak and Dagger" (the walls will be "Treasure Map" ... a nod to all the adventures we've had in this room?).

But then we made the sad discovery that the floor boards in our bathroom are 3.5 inches wide, the boards in the attic are 3.25 inches wide, and the boards at Lowe's are 3.13 inches wide. There was much gnashing of teeth and deepening of forehead wrinkles.

The next step was to stand around in the bathroom and argue about possible solutions for about one million years. Finally, I picked up a piece of 1x4 that was lying about and tested it against the floor boards. Hmmm, it looked like the same width as the 3.5-inch boards.

So since the patches were small, we said screw tongue and groove and went for it with the 1x4s, of which we had many from tearing out the wall and linen closet in the bathroom. The two main patches required three 19.5-inch boards and five 23.5-inch boards. We used our new miter saw for the first time to cut them, and I love that thing!

But then, of course, we realized that "looks like the same width" is not the same as "is the same width." The 1x4s were 3/16 of an inch too wide.

So we took them over to our neighbors D&K's backyard woodworking shop and shaved the boards down on their tablesaw. What would we do without D&K? We would probably become starving, unwashed miscreants (they fed us dinner and offered us their shower when our water was off, too).

Once the boards were shaved down, they fit perfectly and everything was roses and sunshine. Well, almost. Darwin cut boards to patch a couple of other little spots with the old boards he took out when he patched the floors, but then he found out the other side of the bathroom has 3.25-inch boards instead of 3.5. Geez louise, this measuring thing is really not our strong suit.

But in the end, it was okay. He used one of the 3.25-inch boards from the attic to patch the hole, and then we Bondo'ed some holes and gouges. And we attacked two broken and termitey pieces of beadboard on the wall, which was sort of fun.

All this was in preparation for Darwin's dad, who brought his floor sander (he lays floor for a living) on Thursday. He and Darwin sanded the floor, which is now smooth and lovely instead of chippy and warped in places. The patches will be nearly invisible when it's all painted.

The sanding also revealed lots of nail holes we hadn't noticed before, so after Darwin's dad left, we borrowed some wood filler from D&K (again, what would we do without them?) because we couldn't find ours and the local hardware store closes early on Thursday.

After patching all the holes, we took off the rest of the night for some much-needed relaxation and TV-watching. We watched Shaun of the Dead, which was just as good as I've heard it was.

So today I'm back at work for the first day in a week, and Darwin is home sanding and then probably goofing off the rest of the day. He deserves it because I've been very demanding this week!

Tonight or tomorrow, we're going to finally do that priming and painting I've been daydreaming about. Or maybe just the priming. A wise person would finish the ceiling drywall and the wall patches before painting the floor. But yeah ... I never said I was wise.

I just want to get this floor finished, so Darwin can do the plumbing (which he feels more confident about after shadowing the plumbers on Monday). We also have a friend who can help us with the electrical. I'll feel so much closer to finished when the plumbing and electrical are done. After that, everything is cosmetic!


Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Window Not-So-Woes

Remember that problem with our master bathroom window? Welllll ... turns out that is the original window. When our friend Ken came over to help with the plumbing, I asked his advice on the window problem. Ken is so smart his mere presence makes us smarter - Darwin looked at two vertical cuts in the wood above the window and DING! the lightbulb came on. This wasn't a smaller replacement window - they moved the window UP in the space, leaving a gap below! Aha! It makes so much sense!

Also, when we took out the beadboard patch underneath the window, we found that the outside hole had long ago been patched with wood siding. So that eliminates my worry about when/if we take off the aluminum siding there being a big hole under the window to deal with.

Darwin, Ken and I brainstormed and decided to build a shallow built-in bookshelf there under the window instead of trying to patch the opening. The shelves, which will be right between the tub and toilet, will be perfect for holding excess bathroom stuff (my 10 scents of shower gel, for example) and "reading material," the menfolk add.

Anyway, I'm very relieved at this development. Thank goodness we figured it out before I bid on the antique window with privacy glass on eBay! It was very cool with original hardware, but I wasn't too sure about the privacy glass.

The bathroom window is shaded by a large fig tree and is in a private spot anyway, and I've already been daydreaming about relaxing in the tub while gazing out the window. Gazing at frosted glass? Still fun but not quite as fun.

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Monday, July 03, 2006

Having No Water is Super Fun!

It's been 48 hours since Darwin discovered a leak in our one functioning shower, 48 hours with no water.

He was under the house working on cutting off the toilet drain when he heard water trickling. He crawled back to investigate and found water dripping off some wood under the other bathroom shower.

We called our friend Ken, and the two of them fiddled around with it and decided the faucet had faulty o-rings (the thing is nearly 40 years old, after all). So we interrupted our work on the master bathroom and trekked to Lowe's for a new faucet.

But when we got back and cut a hole in the drywall on the other side of the shower wall, we discovered the leak was from a severely corroded steel - not copper - pipe. So we called the professionals - Dean and William.

Yep, we finally did it. We hired plumbers.

They couldn't get here till this morning, and they've been working for 3 hours. We decided to keep the new faucet and showerhead we'd bought, so they had to replace the crappy steel pipes with copper and put in a new valve, too. While they were here, we got them to cut off the water lines for the old tub, so we could finish fixing the floor in the master bathroom.

They just now turned the water back on, and hurray! No leaks!

So that means we can take a shower in our own shower, flush our own toilets, wash hands with water not out of a bucket.

In the mean time we've been living like we're in olden times, washing our hands and faces with water poured out of a pitcher (actually our watering can). Y'know, olden times are not all they're cracked up to be. Thank goodness for indoor plumbing, even if it does cut out on you now and again. Also, thank goodness for friends and family who donated the use of their showers and for Dean and William, the best plumbers ever!