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!

25. The ceiling is up and divorce is narrowly averted…

There were only two of us who showed up to work this weekend, and the grunt laborer should have called in sick. The pay isn’t good enough to work through sneezing, coughing, nose running, head aching, sore throat type of days. But this is no union job, as Mr. Homeworks Contracting reminded her several times.

There were four days to get the job finished. It was already a week behind schedule (lumber shortages), so when the truck pulled in with thirty 14 foot pine boards strapped to the roof, everyone was ecstatic.
Fourteen foot boards are long. Very long. Picture the old Three Stooges episode with Curly carrying a board, turning around, and hitting Moe in the head… Each of these thirty 14-foot boards got moved at least nine times during this project. When the laborer complained that we were moving the boards a lot, Mr. Homeworks Contracting got huffy. Mr. HC got huffy at least nine times during this project; the laborer complained — whined even — at least ninety-times-nine times during this project…

So, the laborer thinks, The wood is delivered, let’s get this stuff up and call it a day and have a beautiful new ceiling.

Hah, that’s why the laborer doesn’t get paid the big bucks!

First, Mr. HC goes over the boards with a fine tooth micro-lens to detect knots, holes, and the tiniest indentations. Each spot is circled and wood putty is put on the small problems, bondo for the bigger holes. The repairs have to dry and then be sanded. The entire boards are then sanded with fine grit sandpaper.


Then the boards are moved to a new spot and primed. Then the boards are moved to a new spot and sanded again. Then the boards are moved to a new spot and…wait, am I repeating myself? There are thirty boards. It’s a small house. We covered the front yard,the back porch,

and the living room.

It took three days of prep time before we could even think of putting them up onto the ceiling. Here are boards painted with the first finish coat of Sherwin Williams Steamed Milk semi-gloss latex. Of course, they had to be moved again — outside to the saw — and cut to the correct length.

So far you have only heard the board story; the ceiling story is bad too. Of course, it isn’t level. It’s an old house and the kitchen is not exactly on a foundation — more like attached to the foundation. Shims take a long time to put up. Luckily the laborer was busy painting and whining while the supervisor was quietly putting up shims and trying to not fire the laborer.

Anguish for Mr. HC who has to have everything straight within 1/16 of an inch.

Monday morning dawned early. It was a beautiful sunrise and the work crew was ready.

By this point, all expectations of finishing the job were gone; but here’s the point of this entire post: Prep work takes patience (I think I’ve mentioned before that I might be somewhat lacking in the patience department…) but if it’s done correctly, then the finish work goes quickly! Mr. HC has enough contractor experience to know this; the laborer is still learning.

We worked well as a team on Monday (finally). Of course, the team effort had Mr. HC cutting the boards, as well as air nailing them in place. It was also his bright idea to wax the boards so the tongue would slide easily into the groove. All the laborer did was hold up her 7-foot part of the board and pound it in place. Mr. HC also invented a nifty little gadget to help hold the boards up in the middle. This gizmo went all the way to the floor and had foam attached to the top so it will hold the board in place without scratching the finish.

At 4:30 we were having celebratory glasses of wine while looking at our new ceiling, all complaining, whining, nitpicking, and disagreements behind us.

Just in case you forgot what the old ceiling looked like:

Before:

Before

And the fabulous new ceiling:

new wood ceiling

Ceiling boards, $350 from Wayne Lumber

 

Critics often accuse blogs of painting pictures of life that are too rosy, too upbeat, and too unrealistic. Not this post; this one is warts and all. It wasn’t an easy weekend, and there wasn’t much laughter. So what did we learn?

  1. Expectations ruin everything — and this includes all of life: work, play, marriage, relationships, friendships, sickness, health, future plans, you name it. Get rid of ’em.
  2. Patience is a virtue. Patience is a virtue. Patience is a virtue…
  3. Silence is a virtue too. Don’t whine. Don’t get huffy. Put in earphones.
  4. Call in sick when necessary.
  5. Love each other and forgive. A glass of wine helps; if you don’t drink wine, practice hugs.
  6. Celebrate together. Hurray, we have a new, gorgeous ceiling!

(My husband’s name is Mr. Homeworks Contracting and he approved this message.)