24 September 2008

House Tour: Side Bedroom After

Now, here we are in 2008. Not much has changed. The floors were refinished. The chestnut trim stripped and refinished, the grain in this room much darker than most other rooms, due to the purple paint that could not be picked out of every crevice, and therefore had to be dyed to blend in. A new, fancier ceiling fan. The walls were skim-coated to give them a bit of uniformity. The spot under the windows was repaired. We thought we fixed the water issue, but apparently we have not found the true source because the new plaster is effervescing there, just where the plywood was damp and damaged. Now we think it may be the flashing on the roof to the dining room window bump-out. Once we get that taken care of, we can repair the plaster and repaint the area. We were in the midst of cleaning when these pictures were taken, so the curtains were down for washing and the area rug was rolled up to clean the floor. It doesn't really show in these pictures, but the walls are a soft, creamy white, and I have future intentions of painting that bitter-apple-green furniture in an antique black shade. I just love the high contrast between light and dark.
Sir-not-appearing in these photos: the spot where I am currently sitting. The computer table. I doubt I will ever photograph the mess that is the computer table, much less post it on the web for all to see, so just forget about it!

23 September 2008

House Tour: Side Bedroom Before

Well, I guess most of the trouble with this room was merely cosmetic.

The chestnut trim in this room received its first coat of paint in the 70s- purple. Yup. I've spoken with two grown-up ladies who lived in this house as teenagers during that time, in fact their mother was the first to paint the woodwork, and they told me that this had been their room. So when their mom was in her painting frenzy, the girls got a purple bedroom. Well, purple and white are our school colors, you know. In fact, my aunts are about the same age, and they also shared a purple bedroom. Go figure.I'd say, aside from the ugly ceiling fan, hideous curtains, and the bad stenciling, this room was in fairly decent shape. Oh, yeah. Except for under the windows. You see that strip of paint off the wall under the left window? Well, that paint has peel off, not off of plaster, as you might expect, but off of plywood. Yes. Plywood. Painted to blend with the rest of the room. Hardly noticeable. Only trouble is, hmm... why is there plywood under the windows? Could it be... a water problem? Ding, ding, ding! That's right! A water problem. Now, P.O.s, why would you address the cause of the water problem, when you can just cover it over? Why go to the added expense? I'll bet you already had that hunk of plywood lying around, too, didn't you? Idiots.
And that little Wal-Mart gem of a carpet should look just fine in the basement someday. Nice generous closet here, too. This one seems to be a bit bigger than the others, and has a bit more headroom, therefore, Lewis claimed this one for his own.

22 September 2008

Sources for Pillowcase Embroidery Kits

Here is my short list of terrific companies who produce stamped kits for embroidery and cross stitch.



Jack Dempsey


You can find tons on eBay, sometimes at half the retail price, particularly if they are discontinued patterns.

20 September 2008

House Tour: Front Bedroom After

Now here we are, in September of 2008, five years after I bought the house. I need to make tiebacks for the curtains, which are a beautiful shimmery dress fabric, it has this 1940s deco look to it, and just has the loveliest drape. I bought these way back when I worked at Penney's, and I have them in several colors. I just loved the fabric so much, I snagged them when they went on clearance, packed them away in a bin, and hoped I would have a place to use them someday. It is kind of funny, really. I think I always knew I wanted a house that had multiple windows per room. And this house sure does!
I still need to stain the curtain rod (a someday project), which is pieced together with parts from different places. I snagged the eight-foot pole from the clearance bin at Linens-n-Things. I chose the brackets from Country Curtains because they have a second notch behind the big one, in case I ever want to hang a second layer. And I ordered the pineapple finials from VanDyke's. They are a pretty close match to the finial on the four-post bed.All of this beautiful furniture came from my Grandma Millie's house. It is mahogany with a dark finish, and while they are not antiques, they are old. She got most of her furniture in the 40s, when she got married. I think my grandparents must have gone to the store and kitted out the living room, dining room, and bedroom all at once. The pieces are almost interchangeable, all the same wood and color, with similar styling. It certainly makes it easy to move things around. I intend to stick with the dark wood furniture, as you may have noticed from the recent yard sale buying frenzy.
Oliver makes himself comfortable in my bed, but when we get tired of each other, he often settles in his comfy chair by the window.

You may have noticed the elephant theme. You see, while I'm not too wild about the Early American Colonial style, and this furniture is undoubtedly Colonial Revival. Reproductions. I'm trying to give it a little twist, going for a British Colonial feel. Think British India. Hence the elephants. Yeah. It still needs some work.
As for the room itself, the floors refinished beautifully, with few repairs needed, and the chestnut trim was cleaned and hydrated with Formby's Deep Cleansing Build-Up Remover, followed by Formby's Lemon Oil Treatment, which I use on all my furniture. Never Pledge, which causes a cloudy build up. Yuck. Always the Formby's products.

19 September 2008

House Tour: Front Bedroom Before

Welcome to the front bedroom. This bedroom is the front "dormer" that you can see in pictures of the front of the house. This is the only room in the whole house whose trim work was never painted. The floors were in pretty good condition, too. Now, the curtains hiding that beautiful chestnut trim had to go. As well as the cheap and ugly ceiling fan.
Gotta love the basketball hoop attached to the back of the solid chestnut, five-panel door. And the commercial grade garcy strip shelving system. Neanderthals.
Someday I'll get around to removing the paint from that brass collar on the glass knob. I can't even figure out how it got painted, since that door is in original condition. P.O.s baffle me.
The attic access is through the closet, which is under the eaves. I'm really lucky to have such big closets in a house this old. It was definitely one of the selling points.

18 September 2008

House Tour to Resume

It occurred to me a few weeks back, when houseblogs.net was running the True Value show us your before and after contest, that I've never finished the house tour. I think we stopped on our way to the second floor. I thought of this because I think the upstairs bathroom has had the most dramatic before and after. But because I hadn't shown it to you all yet, I decided to go with the kitchen instead. Besides, I think the point of that contest was what homeowners have done for themselves, and I can't claim much responsibility for the bathroom. I don't tile and I don't plumb.

I think I'll show you the bedrooms first, but don't get too excited, they are kind of boring (and messy). Then I'll save the best- the bathroom- for last. Just to keep you interested.

Seriously, though, It'll be worth the wait. The old bathroom was pretty bad. I almost considered entering it in American Standard's Ugliest Bathroom contest!

17 September 2008

Great Dimmer Switches

One of the small upgrades mom insisted on were dimmer switches. She loves them. At the time, I thought I didn't care much one way or the other. I knew I hated those stupid round plastic buttons that would pop off and bounce across the floor when you were in a hurry. That's where our fabulous electrician Jeff stepped in. He understood my dislike of the button style dimmer switches, but he's also a smart guy, so he knew we had to keep mom happy. One day he turned up with these:

The one on the right is a normal switch, the one on the left is the special dimmer switch.

They are pretty great. Mostly you don't accidentally catch the little sliding adjuster. They were a good compromise. And, yeah mom does know best. I've grown to really appreciate the ability to dim the lights, particularly in the kitchen with its six bulbs!

Don't get me wrong, if I could afford them, I would buy these gorgeous push-button reproduction switches. They even make them for dimmers now, did you know?

13 September 2008

Grandmothers, Vacations, and Water Conservation

I think I was about 6 or 7 years old when my grandmother took me on my first vacation. She made arrangements for us to go on a bus trip to the beach. Like most kids, I fell in love with the seashore. It wasn't long after we came home that I began asking if we could go to the beach again next summer.

The conversation went something like this:

my 7-year-old self: "When can we go to the beach again?" (probably in a desperate, begging, whining tone)

my ever-patient grandma Millie: "Oh, I don't know. Vacations are expensive. We'll have to pinch our pennies and save up."

me: "How do we do that?"

grandma Millie: "Well, we can save money by turning off lights and water when we aren't using them. Like, when you brush your teeth, you can turn the water off in between, while you are brushing. That'll help save money."

me: "So, if I promise to turn the water off when I'm brushing my teeth, can we go to the beach again next summer?"

Well, that moment has always stuck with me. And so, I learned very early to cut back in those small ways, like turning off the running water while brushing my teeth, and turning off lights in rooms I'm not using. It may not be much, but it helps. And now that I'm paying my own water and electric bills, I've come to fully appreciate that little lesson my grandma taught me.

Grandma Millie kept up her end of the bargain, too. We did go to the seashore the following year. And for the next couple of summers. Even when she wasn't well enough to take me herself, she made sure I got there one way or another.

It wasn't until many years later that I found out that neither grandma Millie, nor Nan (my other grandmother who also made sure I got my yearly trip), liked the beach very much at all. Such are the sacrifices grandmother make for their grandchildren.

10 September 2008

Teal-y Scroll-y

This is the fourth set of pillowcases I've embroidered. That means I'm halfway done with pillowcases as Christmas presents.

These are the Filigree Scroll Pillowcases from Dimensions.

The thread is from my vintage stash, DMC variegated 123, in a heavier weight than I usually use, the cotton perle #8.I have some amazingly beautiful variegated color embroidery floss (from what was my mom's stash), and this design seemed to lend itself to a variegated thread. It was a little difficult trying to match the second side to the first side, so they would mirror each other. And then to match the second pillowcase to the first pillowcase. I got the hang of it by the time I was finishing up the second pillowcase, of course.

My friend Jessica was eyeing these up, so if I can get through a ninth set of pillowcases before Christmas, I won't put this set in the basket, I'll set them aside for her. There is also a matching dresser scarf, but I'm not going to buy that just yet. I'm not sure Jess uses dresser scarves.

09 September 2008

Yard Sale Goodness, Part 3 of 3

Turns out, mom spotted another bookcase that day. The house across the street from her hairdresser was also having a yard sale. This lady had this mammoth bookcase, a true bookcase, one that will hold heavy art books and the like. Someone (her husband, perhaps?) had made this thing, and it is very heavy, very sturdy, and has nice finishing details like trim on the front of the shelves and crown molding on the top.
It has now taken up permanent residence in Oliver's room, where it almost completely fills the end wall. Seriously, there's only about 6" on either side. It looks like it was made to fit that spot.

08 September 2008

Yard Sale Goodness, Part 2 of 3

...So, Lewis and I took a few minutes to poke around. I saw several other things I wanted, the prices were just too good to pass up. This adorable little telephone stand had beautiful dovetail joints. $10.
This crescent side table is perfect in this spot in the living room. I usually sit in that green chair to do my embroidery. Bombay Company, $15.
My new coffee table. Don't you just love it? I couldn't have gotten something more suited to my taste if I had shopped every retailer in the area. And Oli is making good use of the lower shelf. Bombay Company, 2005, $60.

And this little tray table. Love it. Put it to good use at the party, since it is so easy to move around. Bombay Company, $5.

I paid $90 for all four tables. What do you think, did I get a bargain? I don't get up early enough on the weekends to hit the yard sales, so I have no idea if this was great or just okay. I do know that I love them, and that I could never have afforded these new.

Mom and I actually went back later that afternoon because I was eyeing up a sofa they had out. It was sold by then, for only $250. Not that I had the money, 'cause hey, we already spent $160 there. But this would have also looked great in the living room. She told us the sofa was only 6 months old, custom fabric on a Lane sofa frame. Ugh. Kicking myself. Oh,well. I guess the sofa wasn't meant to be. I think I'll tell myself it probably wasn't comfortable anyway. Yeah, that's it.

We talked to the couple running the yard sale a bit, 'cause hey, they are new neighbors. He told us that they had just moved into this house, an adorable, but tiny cottage. She had had a big house, and he had a large apartment, and all their stuff combined just did not fit. Hence, the yard sale. It made me think, if this is the stuff they are getting rid of (Lane, Bombay Company), what kind of gorgeous stuff did they keep? Must be nice.

07 September 2008

Yard Sale Goodness, Part 1 of 3

So, the day before the party, when we are all running around like mad, trying to clean the house, clean the dog, clean the yard, and do lots and lots of cooking... mom spotted a yard sale just down the street. And she stopped because they had lots of beautiful furniture for sale, like these two matching book shelves from Bombay Company. Yup. Bombay Company yard sale score. $70 for the pair. The first one is missing one peg bracket, that is why the middle shelf is missing. The pegs are a garden variety hardware store item, so I should be able to replace them easily.

Don't mind the party supplies, BJ's quantities of plates, plastic utensils, and rolls.

Mom called me when I was on my way home from taking Oli to be groomed (he needed to smell pretty for his guests), she wanted me to stop with the Golf to pick them up. She was on her way to get her hair done, too. So, when I got back home, I grabbed Lewis, we folded the back seats down and drove the half block to this yard sale.

As we were loading the book shelves, we were noticing that they had a lot of other nice stuff for sale...

Vicious Golden Beastie

On the other hand, there may be another reason the mail wasn't delivered for a few days...

this "Dog Warning Card" was in my mailbox when I got home on Friday. I don't think it was meant for me, the customer, but rather it is meant for the mail carrier. Nevertheless, Oli and I are a bit despondent over the whole thing. It is hard to imagine anyone thinking my sweet boy is a "Dangerous Dog".

It is no mistake, either. It has our address, Oli's breed "golden retriever", and his name. And not just Oliver. It says "Ollie"! So, they know this dog. I mean, I know he barks at people, but if they stop to talk to him, he's so easy, he'd roll over for a belly scratch from a complete stranger. The most dangerous thing about him is that wicked wagging tail. Or the sandpaper scratchy tongue he uses to give kisses.

The UPS guys have no problems with him. I've seen them when he is out. They call out to him, toss him a biscuit, deliver their box to the front porch, and hop back in their big brown van before Oli's even finished chewing.

Now, I know the postal carriers are on foot for their daily deliveries, because we are in town, but still. The mail is usually delivered in the middle of the afternoon, when I'm at work. When I'm at work, Oli is locked safely in his room in the house. He can't even jump at the front door or anything wild like that. And if I am home when they deliver mail, I'm generally outside if Oli is out. Especially if he is on the front porch. And then I'll just walk out to greet the mail carrier, and they will just hand the mail to me.

And I get that mail carriers encounter all sorts of dogs, some who might actually be a threat. But Oli is not a threat. On top of that, he very rarely has unattended access to the front porch.

Dangerous Dog. Vicious Golden Retriever. Indeed.

06 September 2008

House Numbers

With all the excitement of the party and the recent additon of the shiny new front door, we've overlooked something. House numbers.

Yeah, we didn't put new numbers up yet. No biggie, right? Wrong. Apparently, not every mail carrier in this tiny town knows us yet. I started to get suspicious over the last couple of days. Friday only brought a couple pieces of junk mail. Saturday nothing. Monday was a holiday, so I expected something on Tuesday. Nope. On Wednesday I got a couple pieces of "resident" junk mail. So, I figured maybe I'd better find those cool black metal craftsman-style numbers I bought three years ago when our Lowe's was having their must-sell-everything-'cause-we're-relocating-sale.

After much debate, we decided they should go in this spot above the mailbox, since there isn't a good spot on the door anymore. We also briefly considered putting the house numbers on one of the porch pillars, but no one was really convinced it would look good.

So, above the mail box they will go. I just have to clean it first. The previous owners had a different mail box there, but it was too high for me to check the bottom. And I'm too afraid of bugs and spiders to go sticking my hand blindly down the mailbox in search of lost items.
As you may have guessed, nothing gets done very quickly around here, so I only got as far as locating the numbers and laying them out on the table on the porch. As it turns out, this was apparently good enough for today's mailcarrier because when I got home Thursday the mail box was stuffed with what looked like a week's worth of mail!

05 September 2008

Did You Vote Yet?

No, no. Not that vote. It's not time yet, anyway. And this is more fun.

Anybody out there listen to WXPN? It is this terrific public radio station out of Philadelphia. I know what you're thinking, ah, public radio. But forget everything the phrase "public radio" conjures up. This is different. I could go on and on, but why not just give it a listen? They stream live online.

Anyway, they've been asking listeners to vote for the top ten songs that make XPN. It was difficult, but I whittled my list down to these fab songs:
  1. Big Red Boat, from the album A Little Voodoo, by Grey Eye Glances
  2. Knock 'Em Out, from the album Alright, Still, by Lily Allen
  3. Slung-Lo, from the album Grand, by Erin McKeown
  4. Time to Pretend, from the album Oracular Spectacular, by MGMT
  5. Orange Sky, from the album Four Songs, by Alexi Murdoch
  6. Young Folks, from the album Writer's Block, by Peter Bjorn and John
  7. Float On, from the album Good News for People Who Love Bad News, by Modest Mouse
  8. Silver Lining, from the album Under the Blacklight, by Rilo Kiley
  9. Turn On Me, from the album Wincing the Night Away, by The Shins
  10. Read My Mind, from the album Sam's Town, by The Killers
So, XPN fans, what's in your top ten? Better hurry, you've only got till 11:59 PM on Sunday 7 September 2008!

04 September 2008

Party Pictures

I thought I'd share a couple of pictures from my party the other day.

First impressions: here we see a cleaned up porch (who knew?), with one fluffy golden retriever ready to bark at anyone who fails to greet him. As you may recall, most of the spring and summer the front porch has been dominated with various projects including, but not limited to, baby robins, plant potting and screen door staining, and consequently has looked quite trashy. So it was nice to finally get it cleared up.

Here I am, in my kitchen, which was all clean only a few hours before. It is a constant battle. And sorry to disappoint, but that is only iced tea there in my cup.
The all important dessert spread. My grandma Gloria made the coconut cake. It is kind of her specialty. She makes it with fresh coconut, and it is soooo good. Grandma Gloria got a pacemaker only six days before the party, and had heart bypass surgery five days before that, but she looks great and is doing so well that she was able to come, and my grandparents stayed for more than three hours. I think the thing she is most upset about is that she can't wash her hair! She's so funny. There was almost a week between the time the doctors determined that she had a heart attack (absolutely no pain) and when they scheduled her for surgery, so she had too much time to fill, so to keep herself busy, she made my birthday cake and put it in the freezer. She was worried that I wouldn't have a birthday cake! Can you imagine? Grandmothers!

p.s. Who needs tiebacks when you can use mis-matched scrunchies? Aah, now isn't this the life, eh, Oliver?

And finally, some beautiful flowers that were given to me by dear, lovely people I work with. Although, as you know, I can't leave well enough alone. I had to take both bouquets apart and sort them into arrangements I found more pleasing than the florist's.

02 September 2008

"Press" the Buzzer

Jack also did some touch-ups around the doorbell plate. Three years ago, when we replaced the modern, cheap plastic, oval-shaped doorbell with my new round PRESS, we realized that the new one didn't quite cover the where the old one had been. So, I figured we'd fix it eventually, and last week Jack did just that when he was putting the finishing touches on the rest of the front door.

I had originally wanted a twist style doorbell. You know, the ones that make the sound like an old-fashioned bicycle bell? Only I didn't know what to call it. So, I tried to describe it to Jeff, my fabulous and patient electrician. He came back with this buzzer-sounding thing. It kind of reminds me of a doorbell you'd hear on a British television show. It wasn't exactly what I'd had in mind, but dear Jeff had tried very hard to find this and he was so pleased with himself that I didn't have the heart to tell him that wasn't what I wanted.

Jeff and me, at the birthday party.

Now, this doorbell buzzer thing is kind of cool, it still had an old-fashioned sound to it. But I seem to be the only one around here who thinks so. Mom and Lewis definitely don't like it.

Even once I figured out what to call it, I couldn't find a twist doorbell a couple years ago, and even now, I can't seem to find one in the black powder-coat finish that all the other outdoor accessories have. Maybe someday. I'm definately willing to replace the buzzer if I ever find a nice twist in black. But for now, I'm rather fond of the one we have. And I love the PRESS, which was very inexpensive. Only $5.99 at VanDykes. And worlds better than that horrible plastic thing that made the ding-dong sound.

The library where I work was built around the same time at Oliver's bungalow, and the service elevators still have most of their original details intact, including the alarm button, which makes that same bell twist sound I'm after. Of course, I'd hate to be stuck in one of those elevators from 1930 with only that little bicycle-bell sound in hopes of getting someone's attention! But, it would make for a great doorbell.