33. …as soon go kindle fire with snow

About a month ago Henrietta’s Hippo nominated me for a lovely blog award, Blog on Fire. Unfortunately, this post proves that I’m NOT on fire, as it took me this long to figure out how to work this in to my regularly scheduled posts. :-) You see, I have to say eight interesting things about me or my pet, which in this case would be the cat, Henry, as hubby, Mr. H.C., absolutely doesn’t qualify as my pet. He never comes when he’s called. (Come to think of it, neither does Henry…) 20121102-185924.jpg
One would think that finding eight interesting things to say would be easy. After all, everyone on the planet thinks they are the most interesting person on the planet, right? That would be the problem with the planet…but that’s another post altogether. Plus, this blog is ostensibly supposed to be about renovating our cottage, although there have been tangents…

So for the past month I’ve been trying to come up with a clever way to incorporate eight interesting things about Henry and me with the cottage. There are eight rooms in the cottage, so that’s the tie-in. (Yes, it’s taken me a month to come up with this! Sigh…)

1. The Back Deck

Henry lounging on the back deck in warmer moments…

Henry found us. He appeared on the back deck two summers ago, soon after we realized the cottage was going to be ours. It took awhile for us to realize that he was going to be ours as well. Perhaps he was coming to our large, protected deck before we found him; no one knows for sure. Last winter Mr. H.C. built him a snug insulated cat box for those times when we were gone and he wasn’t. This winter he will be an inside Pittsburgh house cat and only be the country cat on weekends. We don’t think he minds. This past weekend was very rainy and cold. I opened the back door for him to go out on the deck, and he just looked up at me as if to say, “What? You think I’m crazy? I’m sleeping here on the bed in the warm!”

2. The Yellow Bedroom

Notice Henry sleeping on the bed. This was just after he declined to go outside…

Yellow is my least favorite color. I don’t have a single item of clothing that is yellow. On a short walk-thru of my home in Pittsburgh the only things I could find that were yellow were some bananas and apples on the kitchen counter, and a few yellow books in the library. So the Yellow Bedroom will be changing soon. Not only are the walls yellow, but so is the ceiling! And the bedspread does its darndest to imitate the wallpaper.

And just to add to the brightness, this is the wallpaper on the fourth wall

So here’s the big news: While Mr. H.C. and I are concentrating on redoing the kitchen and the bathroom, the duo at {rehabitat}are going to redo our bedroom for us. Online. Without them having to come to the cottage. Without me having to go to NYC. That’s part of the reason I just happen to have these lovely photos of this yellow bedroom… There will be more posts explaining the process soon; I just had to let you in on the big news. Did I mention that {rehabitat} is my sister and my niece? I can’t wait to see what they do with this Yellow room…

3. The Garage Bedroom
I like real. I confess to being a bit fanatic about it… In my last post about antiques, I called myself a 100% person — 100% cotton, 100% wood, 100% old. I’m even borderline on plywood, although I can see the uses for it sometimes… The garage bedroom is 100% paneled in 100% fake walnut paneling sheets from the seventies.


That little white fur ball in the middle of the loaded up junk bed is none other than, yep, Henry, the cat who sleeps anywhere.

It’s a sad room that used to be a garage for holding Uncle Leslie’s red and white Pontiac. Since it was built to be a garage, there are no windows except for the sliding glass doors in the front where the garage doors used to be. (There is one small window on the back wall as well.) The long windowless wall faces South, so if there were some windows on that wall, it would make a huge difference. That’s in the three year plan; in the meantime, the paneling will probably be painted as a short term solution. It will double as a guest bedroom and an office/library. For now it is storage for inherited furniture that we don’t know what to do with, old boards that we’re saving in case we need them, and a bed that any occupant might have to share with Henry…

The Bathroom

This is almost exactly our bathroom vanity. It was purchased new at the Habitat for Humanity Restore in Swissvale for $275. And Mr. H.C. was thinking that we paid too much. It’s listed here for $2600! Can that be possible?

Henry loves the bathroom. He just curls up on the rug outside the shower and sleeps. This seems to be strange cat behavior, but if you research this fact, you will discover that most cats love bathrooms. And Henry will sleep anywhere! Last weekend I found him curled up with my hair dryer and round hairbrush. The hair dryer WAS warm…

The bathroom was originally the room we were going to do over first, so we have it mostly planned and have even purchased materials for it: a round hand-hammered copper sink that we bought in Deep Creek several years ago and have just been waiting for a perfect place for it; small 1 inch travertine tiles for the shower floor; the maple vanity pictured above; and a large mission-style mirror that matches the vanity perfectly and cost $7. When we peeled up the carpet (orange-red shag), there were 3″ pine boards underneath that I started sanding immediately. I gave it up when we started the kitchen, but I can’t wait to get re-started on this room; it is terrifically ugly at this point, even with the Italianate plaster walls…(See post 32. Imperfect Little Cottage.)

The Pantry/Laundry Room

The pantry shelves are filled with paints and renovating materials for right now, but picture them with quart jars of home-canned tomatoes…

I love having a big pantry. I want to garden, store food, have chickens, bees, and have a pantry big enough to store 50 pounds of apples, potatoes, or squash. The pantry is a nice size and an interesting old-time design. There are four steps going down into it from the kitchen; built-in shelves are on three walls, but it needs a new ceiling from a long ago leak in the roof…Yep, something else for the three year plan.

From the pantry up to the kitchen…

The Kitchen
My blog is subtitled The Circle of Life, and the kitchen of this cottage is the room that most reminds me of the circles of my own life. I remember sitting at Aunt Mary’s kitchen table having a glass of cider. This memory is so foggy, I must have been really young. I also remember her taking me outside and showing me how she got water at the hand pump and letting me try. I had to hang my whole skinny little self on the long handle to try to pull it down and was amazed at her ability to pump the handle multiple times. Forty some years later, I visited Clara in that same house with my new husband. I sat at her kitchen table and she got us a glass of iced tea. Ten years later, and it is our house; there isn’t a kitchen table in the plans, and now that I’m writing this, I’m regretting it…We looked at old kitchen tables with the enameled tops but opted for an island instead. It will be okay — we have a big harvest table in the dining room.

The Living/Dining Room
I am a Jesus follower. I wasn’t always. I like to tell people that I wandered in the wilderness for 40 years, just like the Israelites, but it wasn’t really 40 years — more like thirty. During those years I tuned out everyone who tried to talk to me about God, Jesus, or faith. So if you are still reading, thank you. I’ll just be a few more lines… I had spent years rejecting God and the Christian faith; when I finished my first prayer after such a long time, I remember thinking, “What a joke! I just prayed to a God I’m not sure I believe in!” But He didn’t let go of my heart, and when I invited him to sit at my table, He invited me to sit at His. Forever. And so for the living room and dining room–everyday rooms–I want to quote a blog post I just read on Everyday faith. It’s from Sarah who blogs at Life in the parsonage.

Everyday faith. It means living for something bigger than myself. Bigger than this moment and this life. It means that my life, my choices, my attitude, my response, my everything does not belong to me. That’s what makes faith so hard. Every day I fight against wanting it to be about me. And I often find myself reaching for control of it. And that’s the miraculous part of it: He always gives grace. And mercy. He never grows weary of me. He knows my weakness, and He works within it, showing Himself… That is my Living by Faith.”

No, it’s not easy. But, wow, is it way better than my old life without Jesus! So if you are depressed, anxious, need forgiveness, or are just plain tired of shouldering burdens that are too hard, find yourself a Bible and your favorite reading chair. Turn to 1 John — it is a short book near the end of the New Testament. It is only five chapters, but it is the story of unfathomable and unconditional love. And it is for you. Amen.

The Mudroom

This one is from HGTV’s site on cottage mudrooms. Some of the newer pics are starting to be chic gray…

Has anyone noticed pictures of mudrooms lately? They are white with clean shelving, unmuddied boots, and a few jackets hanging neatly on pegs. So unlike what a true mudroom in a farmhouse looks like. We are still deciding what ours will look like. We have terracotta tiles for the floor, and small French doors to open into the kitchen. We also have a possible wood stove in the corner. But undoubtedly, it will be messy even if the walls are painted white. This next story is in the mudroom because it is a confession of how messy lives are; even though we try to whitewash them for the world…

My sweet hubby was my first boyfriend. In 4th grade. I was invited to his 10th birthday party, except he failed to inform me it was a birthday party. (The first of many miscommunications…) I thought we were just going roller skating. I was scared to go because I’d never roller skated before, but I went because I liked him! Rita, his sweetheart of an older sister took care of me that afternoon and taught me to roller skate — held my hand as we went round and round, helped me up when I fell, and encouraged me the whole time. Then we went back to his house and he started opening presents! I was mortified that I didn’t have one for him. I must have cried because Clara put money in an envelope and gave it to him and signed my name! Their whole family took care of me that afternoon! Six years later we were boyfriend and girlfriend again — for two plus years in high school. We broke up in college, married others, had children, lived our lives, and saw each other once every five years or so at high school reunions. Thirty years later, we met again…and now are happily married. A happy ending, yes, but there was divorce and sorrow in between. God is gracious and merciful to all us sinners…

Since I am so weird and have such random interests and loves — Jesus, words and books, DIY & decorating, antiques, country life — I also read a weird variety of blogs. Here are eight lovely blogs that I am nominating for the blog on fire award:
Coyote soup
the domestic fringe
Kathy’s Chronicles and
MercyInk. (Please check out this website in particular. Lauren is trying to raise a lot of money for Operation Baby Rescue in the mountains of Guatemala. Go here and be inspired. And buy your Christmas presents…)
Check them out.

The title of this post comes from Two Gentlemen of Verona by William Shakespeare. The full quote is:
Thou wouldst as soon go kindle fire with snow, As seek to quench the fire of love with words.

26. Tying Up Loose Ends

There are a lot of loose ends lying around this blog and this post aims to tie some of them up into bows.
Back in July I posted eight kitschy items of Clara’s for readers to pick their favorites. The results are in, and except for the orange telephone, which was the clear favorite with eight votes, the rest of the results are inconclusive.  (There were  two suggestions to put it in the bathroom by the toilet!)

I don’t know…the bathroom was going to be the most elegant room in the cottage…

Does anyone know of a way to retrofit an old phone to be a cell phone? Wouldn’t it be cool if we could actually get it to work?
Five items tied with six votes each: The wooden butterflies, the owl switch plate, the orange metal shelf, the pantry sign, and the old California license plate.  I don’t see any recourse but to keep them all (which is what sister Diane told me to do anyway.)

The only item that no one liked — correction: it did get one vote — was the plaque with the dorky poem.
I hate to admit this because I know it is stupidly banal, but I like it. I didn’t at first. When I was taking down all the junk by the front door, it was supposed to be the first thing to go. But I couldn’t take it down; I like its sentiment and its sentimentality. Maybe it could go by the toilet too.

For six weeks now the cat, Henry, has been traveling back and forth with us. He has adapted to life in the city as a house cat fairly well. He has discovered the joys of playing with the bedspread fringe; tearing through the hall and sliding on the wood floor; canned cat food (he only gets this as a treat in Pittsburgh); and sitting on the stool looking out the window.
He has not adapted to the drive back and forth. He has now ridden up and back with us six times, which actually totals twelve different rides. Each time we think, ‘This is the time he’s going to remember’ and each time we are wrong.
He does seem to do better on the rides back to Pittsburgh, and tonight’s ride was the best yet. He actually curled up in my lap for ten minutes. Maybe he’s figured it out!
Yes, Charlotte was gone when we came back the next weekend. We both miss watching her and then feel a bit silly —
How can you miss a spider?
We are actually hoping we get to see all Charlotte’s children fly off in their parachutes this spring.
The Smell is Gone
Every time we opened the doors to the kitchen for the first time after the house had been closed up for a few days there was an unpleasant smell. Mustiness? Mildew? Cat pee? (Not Henry!) Mouse droppings? We couldn’t be sure. Oh, people were nice about it. Sisters said, “I don’t smell anything.” But we could smell something rotten in that kitchen… There were varying theories. Michael said it was the carpet. Carol said it was the cabinets. Michael said it was the floor. Carol said it was the walls. Etc.
Remember a few posts ago when I told you about taking down the wall cabinet and how delighted we were because it lightened up the kitchen so much?  Well we are doubly delighted because it has eliminated the smell!  No one is sure how or why, but we aren’t going to analyze it too much. We are just happy to stop using the Febreze!
Of course, part of the reason the smell may be disappearing is:
In addition to adding several new finish coats of paint, Michael also put up two lights. So, of course, there have to be some new pictures.

New painted ceiling and two of the four schoolhouse light fixtures. Notice the one by the door has a pull chain! Cool, huh? And very 40s!

Another reason the smell might be lessening is because I have been scrubbing the kitchen walls. They were covered with dried wallpaper paste (and who knows what else?) so in preparation for repairing them, I’ve been doing serious scrubbing. It is very much like work. But the color of the walls is kind of a nice mint green… I haven’t ruled out that color yet; I think it is very 40s too. Any thoughts?

I titled this photo “Lovely kitchen to be…”

If one squints the eyes, one can almost imagine that this corner of the kitchen is finished. Yes, this is the “after photo burnt into my brain.” The paint sample on the door is the current favorite — Benjamin Moore Lime Twist. And you can also see in this photo how nicely the old wooden top fits on the built-in cupboard. It looks like it was always there.

Kitchen Cabinet Hardware

The cabinet hardware was expensive and not easily put on. The holes didn’t match, so I had to drill new holes. Then once the new holes were drilled, the nuts weren’t long enough to go through the thick doors. It’s always something… I don’t have them all on yet, because, as Michael pointed out, we will have to take the doors back off to install the cabinets anyway, so…here’s the picture of a cabinet with finishings.

This is the cabinet that will go above the stove and have a fan installed underneath.

It is officially fall; the light is fading and there is less and less time to work. We’ve got some outside painting that has to get done to protect the wood, so kitchen work will stop for a couple of weeks, while we tend to the outside. Even though the light is fading, it is beautiful light. I read once that photographers like the light in spring and autumn the best, because the sun hits the earth at an angle and makes shadows. Here is proof: this picture was taken on the first official day of fall. These shadows lasted for about a minute and a half and I just happened to be on the porch.

Happy fall!

20. Oh Henry…or, Never a Dull Moment

As I was throwing the shovelful of dead mouse into the weeds at the side of the cottage, I heard neighbor Betty calling from her front porch. We had left her in charge of a healing kitty, and we had gone off jaunting around the countryside. We’d been gone for ten days and didn’t really expect to find Kitty waiting for us on the front porch (or the back porch either…)
I leaned the shovel against the tree and walked across the road to get the news. There was kitty on his blanket behind her chair; and there was Betty saying “Oh come in — Have I got a story for you!” (Names have been deleted to protect the innocent…)

Chapter 1: The Disappearing Act, in which Good Neighbor to the Left Responds

Kitty stayed around for two days before disappearing. The night before he disappeared, there was a huge ruckus in the backyard — coyotes have been sighted in our neighborhood by several neighbors. Positive that Kitty had been carried off by a coyote, she worried all day and finally, that evening called the neighbor further up the hill. “Now you just calm down, Betty,” Good Neighbor to the Left told her. “They’ve been haying up here all day, and I’ve seen that cat up here following the tractor and catching mice. And besides, I’ve been shooting at those coyotes, and I think they’ve moved on.” Sure enough, he came back a day or so later (not very hungry and not much worse for the wear).

Chapter 2: The Disappearing Act, in which Good Neighbor to the Right Responds

Kitty stayed around for two days before disappearing again. This time there were no clues. On Sunday, Betty told Good Neighbor to the Right about Kitty’s Disappearance. Good Neighbor to the Right went to work as usual the next day. That morning her co-worker came in to work complaining about the five cats on her doorstep who wanted feeding — a mother cat, three kittens, and Henry. “What does Henry look like?” Good Neighbor to the Right wondered. After she listened to the co-worker describe Kitty, she called Betty. “You can probably go get him right now,” she told Betty. They just fed him and he’s likely still on the porch.

Chapter 3 : The Rescue, in which the Poor, Hungry, Homeless Cat is Saved from Certain Starvation

Betty drove over to get Kitty (down two roads, across the main highway, and about two miles away) and talked to the people who had just fed him. “Oh yes,” they said. “We call him Henry. We’ve been feeding him for about a year and a half, but he never stays around very long.” Henry was stretched out on their porch, being his own loving self. Betty told them about his latest adventure at the animal hospital, packed him in the car, and drove him home. “Henry is his name,” she mused to herself. “I always just called him Kitty…”

(Yes, so did we … as well as Phineas, Elmo, George, and Moe. It’s no wonder none of those names stuck!)

“Before a cat will condescend / To treat you as a trusted friend, / Some little token of esteem / Is needed, like a dish of cream; / … A Cat’s entitled to expect / These evidences of respect. / And so in time you reach your aim, / And finally call him by his NAME.” —T.S. Eliot (from The Ad-Dressing of Cats)

Chapter 4 : The Disappearance, in which Henry’s Fourth Home is Never Discovered

Yes, he left again. There were no more neighbors to call, so Betty just waited. And sure enough, he came back on Friday morning, the day we came home. Sitting together on her front porch, we wondered where he had been this time. Perhaps somewhere in between our houses and the house two miles down the road? Was it his fourth home? Did he just go from house to house, sharing his love, and acting the part of the starved, homeless cat? Henry isn’t telling.

The cat goes out, / the cat comes in, / and never will tell us / where he has been… *

Chapter 5 : The Trip, in which Henry Rides to the City in a Truck


On Sunday evening we loaded the truck, as we do every weekend–suitcases, food, tools–while Henry watched. We had already conferred with Betty, and she approved. The people who named him and fed him for a year and a half have also approved. (Next weekend, I think we will go introduce ourselves.) I climbed into the truck, put his blanket on my knees, and Michael handed me Henry. He was solidly in my lap, with the door shut, before Michael started the engine. The lap cat watched out the window with interest, especially as we rode along the interstate. He did curl up a few times but never fully relaxed. The two tunnels caused him the most distress. I’m not sure who was most relieved when we pulled into our city driveway–Michael the driver, Carol the wrangler, or Henry, the big-time traveler cat.

Chapter Six: The New Life, in which Henry Becomes a City Cat

There aren’t any mice to chase, but there aren’t any coyotes in the backyard either. The first two days he followed us from room to room, but now he disappears and when we go searching, he is just sleeping on the couch in the library. There is always food in his bowl, and he no longer devours it as if he were starving. He’s putting on a belly. He sleeps on his blanket at the foot of the bed and snores. The real test will be when we return to Apple Hill this weekend. Then we will see if Henry the Traveling Cat has really been domesticated, and if one home will be enough for a former four-family feline.

They are my willing slaves : / I have them by the fur. / When He’s off duty, I / just call for Her. / And yet, I sometimes feel / A vague unease. / It is dangerous to dwell / with such as These. — Jan Struther from “Cat”.


Henry the city cat

*This is a verse of a little poem that I’m thinking belongs to someone who wrote small poems for kids, but I can’t find it in any of my poetry books. I was thinking David McCord, or Valerie Worth… but I can’t find it. I’m picturing pen and ink drawings that go with the poem…Does anyone know it?

Favorite Cat Books:

Three Stories you Can Read to Your Cat
by Sara Swan Miller

Catwings series by Ursula K. LeGuin

Henry the Sailor Cat by Mary Calhoun

Mr. Putter and Tabby Bake the Cake by Cynthia Rylant

The Cats in Krasinsky Square by Karen Hesse

Hate that Cat by Sharon Creech

Millions of Cats by Wanda Gag

Socks by Beverly Cleary

Three Terrible Trins by Dick King-Smith, and of course,

                    Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats by T.S. Eliot.