Monday, August 4, 2008


For the porch floor paint I went to a local paint company.  I've always wanted to start using them to better support the local economy, but Sherwin Williams is so darned convenient and I already own the fan deck of colors and they have such a nice selection of A&C appropriate shades that I hadn't actually bought paint from them.  I go in there and bug their designer and I have ordered wallpaper and they used to make a nice spar varnish until NYS outlawed it. 
Anyway, we went in the shop and I asked the super friendly guy for the chips for the porch and floor paint.  They could custom mix anything, but for some reason I didn't trust myself choosing a color for this.  Chris and I chose the red color which was called patio red.  The porch was already red, so I figured I'd stick with it.

As I was painting I kept thinking that my fingers were bleeding because this red paint could be used for slasher films.  Then I got some on my toe, so I was constantly distracted by my 'bleeding' toe.  I also kept thinking of other names that would be more appropriate than Patio Red.  Clearly this paint should be called Sangre de Christo, or Oxblood.  Then I started thinking about how this must be some sort of evolutionary thing, if we didn't notice that we were bleeding we wouldn't survive long enough to propagate the species, and my constant distraction by the paint on my toe must mean that I'm either more highly evolved, or less highly evolved, and I wonder which is the case.  This sort of thing is always going on in my head.  Chris never asks what I'm thinking about.
Here's how it turned out:
It dried lighter than oxblood, and I'm really happy with how it turned out.  I put three coats on the uncovered portion of the porch.  Sears called this area the terrace, nice eh?  Hopefully I won't have to do it every year and hopefully no one falls into the root cellar under the porch anytime soon.

Adult ADD - PPS

Lately I haven't been able to work on a project without thinking about all of the other projects that I hope to have completed by the time the snow flies.  These projects have seen lots of snow in their current state, but every year I hope to have them finished.  

Many of the projects or maintenance activities around here don't get finished because I want to do them bigger and better than they currently are.  For example, the porch floor.  Ever since we moved in I have wanted to tile the porch floor, but then there are other things I would rather spend money on and a tiling project would undoubtedly require at least one new tool and I wouldn't be able to run over to the Depot and pick out tile because nothing would ever be that easy and on and on it goes.  Until the porch floor is crumbling and I break down and paint it.  It looks good painted, that's probably why the porch at this house has had a painted red concrete floor for decades.  It occurred to me while I was painting all of the bugs and dust (reinforcement for crumbling concrete) that this must be some kind of learning disability, maybe a form of ADD which I suspect I suffer from anyway.  This inability to just perform maintenance activities in a timely manner without worrying about how great it could be if I only added this extra detail or that special touch.  Another symptom could be project pile up syndrome which is when you start thinking about one project and that leads to the next project and then you realize that you have a lot to do (before the snow flies) and before you know it you have a tall bloody mary in your hand and you're sitting on the porch looking to the other houses in the neighborhood for guidance.  Generally the other houses and I agree that this house isn't so bad and that nothing actually needs to get done at all.  And the terrible aluminum storm windows weather another winter...

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The Gate

This is a 1994 Land Rover Range Rover County LWB:

I love this car.  It hauls my dogs and dog stuff and sunscreen and all types of lumber and 10,000 empty diet coke cans.  It has leather interior so when I'm muddy and wet the seats don't soak it up and get smelly.  It used to drive like a cadillac through the deepest mudholes and the ruttiest ruts.  We were all getting along quite fine, when the Rover decided to give up on the relationship.  It just stopped.  Everyone warned me not to get involved with a British Automobile, but I thought that we had something special and Rover wouldn't quit on me.  I was wrong.  The thing stopped dead and wouldn't move out of the driveway.  
We called the tow truck to come and I explained to the driver that we (he and I) would just push the 3 ton behemoth down my narrow driveway and onto the street in order to load it on the flatbed.  He looked at me like I had two heads, so I felt a little self conscious about sitting in the truck to steer it between the house and the fence post.  I left the door open so I could hear his directions and also so I could stick my feet out to help push.  Apparently I also left the door open so it could get caught in the fence and knock the fence post over and tear the door off the truck.  

Instead of hitting the break when the door first got stuck, I tried to wrench the door closed while yelling expletives and of course the door wouldn't close because the heavy truck was rolling fast down our steep driveway and expletives never actually help anything.  The car continued to roll until the fence post bent over far enough to stop it.  Very tragic.  The tow truck guy had to take the whole door apart in order to close the door again and I had to hook 4 zip ties together to lash the door in place because it now hung 3 inches too low to latch shut.  The guys at the repair shop are never going to forget this. 
The truck still isn't fixed and it's been towed back to it's original spot, but this is how the gate looks after the tragedy:

That orange tie down keeps the whole situation together.  Otherwise, the fence post on the left sticks toward the white house at a 30 degree angle.  The tie down makes it look like it might work, but the dogs know that there is a weakness and they've been escaping every chance they get.  I've decided to build a solid cedar gate to fix all of our gate related problems.  Does anybody want to buy a truck?

Thursday, July 17, 2008

The Yellow Wallpaper

Sleeping in our bedroom with it's very 'Shabby Chic' decor of several different floral wallpapers reminded Chris of a literature class he took in college. In this class they explored the themes of the Mad Scientist, including "the plan", and the "descent into madness". Maybe those are the two themes driving my need to strip the wallpaper and that reminded him of the story The Yellow Wallpaper, or maybe it's just that the wallpaper is yellow. Sometimes he can be very complex.

He dug around in the office and found his copy of the short story from 1892 by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, and read it aloud to me before bed the other night. It's a haunting story and also a good motivator to get out my scraping tools. I wouldn't want to end up like the woman in the story even though she does get most of the paper stripped before going completely mad.

You can read the story here:

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Slave Labor

When we returned from Michigan we brought along two slaves... er... small family members.  We told my sister (their mother) that we were going to have a great time hiking and camping and toasting marshmallows.  LIES!  She should know that we don't do anything fun!  We just scrape!

On a whim I started stripping the wallcover in the master bedroom.  One morning I was lying in bed just waking up.  Sunlight was streaming in the windows highlighting all of the overlapped seams on all of the layers of wallpaper under the 3 or 4 layers of paint.  I started thinking that if I took the metal nail file from the nightstand drawer and stuck it under the uppermost wallpaper seam that I could peel the paper right off and finally see what's under there.  I've been yearning to see what I could see since we moved in but when we moved into this house I vowed that I would not start a new project until the previous project is finished.  In our last house every room was a work zone and it was miserable.  Chris reminds me of this rule whenever I talk about starting something new.  Also, the kitchen project from last summer remains approximately 99% complete and I've already broken the rule to work on the living room.  Anyway, I grabbed that metal file and stuck it under one of the wallpaper seams, wiggled it around, and then pulled.  I was delighted by what I found:

Pretty yellow paper!  The paint and a layer of what I think is probably a vinyl wallpaper installed within the last 30 years was coming up beautifully leaving this yellow paper behind.  Chris was unhappy when he discovered what I was up to.  In fact, he said, "I will never understand you", but when he saw the yellow paper he began to understand.  

Then when the kids found out what I was doing they wanted to get in on the peeling action themselves.  It didn't hurt that this is the only air conditioned room in the house.
Maddy was particularly entertained by the wallpaper peeling and she stayed for the long haul.  She really enjoyed when the yellow paper started peeling away too allowing the even older papers to show through.

Here's the chronology of what's on the walls in our bedroom.  This pink paper is installed on bare plaster.
This striped floral is installed over the pink.

The yellow and grey floral is installed over the striped floral and the vinyl paper is over that.  It looks like the vinyl paper was blue, but was primed before they painted the room, so I can't see if there was a pattern on the paper.

So, I guess I've gotten myself into another project.  We knew this was coming, you can't keep painting over wallpaper indefinitely.  I'll just keep my fingers crossed that we can get the paper off and leave the plaster intact.  

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Worst Blogger Ever.

We were recently visiting my husband's family in Michigan and my mother-in-law, the famous J featured in many posts about yardwork, told me that she looks at my house blog each day hoping for an update.  This is a lot of pressure.  I haven't really been doing much at home, so not only do I have to dig up a project and really get into it, I have to write about it in an entertaining manner.  

Here's some old work that I haven't posted yet, I can't guarantee it will entertain, but I'm glad it's finished:

We finally summoned the energy to finish scraping the cellulose paste off the walls in the living room.  This is what the bare plaster looked like:
The walls are in really terrific shape, there's one fairly large crack that I had planned to fix but decided that it doesn't bother me.  It looks like the woodwork was shellac'd after it was installed and then the plaster was never actually painted.  
We pulled a couple of tiny scraps of different wallpapers off with the burlap, so we have an idea of what the paper looked like at different times.  I would love to keep with the history of the house and install a paper at some point, but that will have to wait.

The mulling over of the color choice continued until I bought a couple of gallons of this hideous color called Connected Gray.  You should have seen the faces of my colleagues when I told them that I painted the largest room in my house Connected Gray.  I knew from the first pass with the roller that it was perfect.  The key to finding a color that pleases me is to find the most drab, least popular color available.  This is how it turned out:


Friday, May 16, 2008


The photos from the last post were taken February 9th and nothing had been done since then aside from waffling about what to do with the walls and how much money it should cost.  All of the large furniture in the living room was clumped together in the middle, all of the small furniture in the living room was stuffed into the solarium, and all of the objects d'art were sitting dust-covered on the dining table.  I shouldn't be using the past tense here because all of those things are still in that condition.  I could very effectively ignore this because I've been out of town Monday thru Thursday every week for the last 3.5 years.  This Monday, I started a job where I'll be coming home to the Alamo every night and suddenly finishing the project has been moved up the priority ladder.  I made a motion to finish the scraping and slap some paint on the walls because it would be fast and cheap and then we can think about papering when we're rich and bored (I can't wait!)

There are two inspiring rooms that contributed to this idea.  Unfortunately I can only scan one of them in low resolution black and white, so here's the other one which was stolen from the Rejuvenation website.  If you have a lot of money to spend on really great fixtures, check the site out.
The other room is a dark grey-green-brown color that I have a hard time explaining and an even harder time matching.  Maybe someday I'll break out my own scanner which is collecting dust at the very top shelf in the office and scan the magazine page.  Of course, scanners and monitors never show colors exactly right so no two people will agree on what color the room is and it won't do any good anyway.
I picked what I thought were close matches for the inspiration rooms and painted swatches on an already scraped portion of the living room.

I also painted the ceiling with metallic gold paint in keeping with the idea that historic ceiling papers would've been painted with metallic pigments to reflect the new fangled, but dim electric lights.  Well, neither of the swatches made me happy and Steve The Scraper said that the gold ceiling looked like a 1970's discotheque.  Time to continue scraping and mull this over...

Thursday, May 15, 2008


This is posted a little (or several months) late.

After the burlap came down, we were left with lots of wheaty cellulose glue on the walls which fortunately comes off with hot water and elbow grease.  This is a slow and very boring process and these types of jobs are not really my specialty, I would prefer that Chris take care of the scraping while I look online for new light fixtures.  Chris would prefer that I not pull the burlap down in the first place, so we are at an impasse.
Our very good friend and fellow old house enthusiast Stephen can be bribed fairly easily with a batch of Buffalo Chicken Mac n' Cheese and a 12 pack of PBR, so we lured him over one Friday night to do some scraping.  Here are their smiling, happy faces and our beautiful glue-free plaster:

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Wallpaper Stripping

Today I had a plan that I would empty the living room and start stripping the fabric / paper or whatever it is off the walls. Since Chris was suffering from the after effects of drinking unnecessary amounts of LaBatt Blue, I was on my own. First I cleared everything out of the room and put together my fabulous Christmas present that I received specifically for this project:

Then, with much trepidation, I started very carefully pulling away the fabric at a spot where it was falling down already:

AND, due to some amazing balance in the universe, the fabric peeled away in seconds leaving the plaster undamaged underneath. When I stripped the wallpaper in the kitchen, it took most of the finish coat of plaster with it and I had to scrape it with gallons of hot water and it took days. Today it practically fell off the walls. I thought I had it made, I was going to pull down all of this paper while Chris laid on the couch in the den nursing his hangover and when he came downstairs finally the room would be finished and I would be a hero and I could totally milk it for at least the rest of the day and he would be forced to go out and pick up takeout for dinner.

Unfortunately he emerged too soon and saw that the fabric was coming down very easily and that I was actually having a good time, so I was not off the hook at all and had to clean the kitchen and then make dinner while he did man-jobs outside.

Here's how the room looks now:

There's still a large amount of glue on the walls, but the condition of the plaster isn't as bad as I expected. Some areas will need fairly simple repairs, but most of it just needs to be skimcoated. First I have to figure out if I need to do anything about that pesky glue...

New Roof = Dry Basement?

Here are some photos of the new roof that went on right after Thanksgiving, and also the beautiful decorative sheets of plywood on the porch (I'm sure the neighbors love us). We had a bunch of snow early in the season, so I couldn't take any photos sooner than now. All of the snow and then the thaw in December showed us how great the new roof is. One huge unexpected benefit of the roof is that it keeps our basement dry.

The roofers enclosed the Yankee gutters. I felt bad for eliminating this original feature of the house, but it was prohibitively expensive to have them relined and they were far beyond easy fixes that we could do (even if one of us was brave enough to go on the roof).