52. Now that we’ve seen the worst…*

We’ve been working on this little cottage every weekend for almost a year now.

We are no longer under any illusions. We know that the wiring is haphazard, the upkeep has been minimal, and it was built in fits and starts without much planning. (This is not to cast aspersions on previous owners and builders — they were our grandfathers and great uncles; they were our fathers and mothers, and we loved them.)


Checking to see how easy it will be to disconnect the sink faucets and drain…

We thought we were prepared for what we were going to see when we took out the cabinets.

We were wrong. WAY wrong. We were not prepared.

We were both so appalled that I only took one small picture, and that was AFTER we cleaned up the floor of insulation, mouse nests, hickory nuts, dead bugs, a mummified mouse, and an inch of mouse droppings. There was no photo of that, because, quite frankly, I don’t want to remember it.

But that wasn’t the worst.


Yes, in the picture above those ARE holes in the walls. See how the wall doesn’t appear to meet the floor? It doesn’t!

Yes, in the picture above, you can see mouse-chewed wire through the holes in the wall.

And yes, in the picture above, that IS a hole in the floor. Under the cabinet were three pieces of plywood about 8×12″ just sitting on the joists. Not nailed down. Of course, those boards moved when the cabinet was pulled out and dropped into the crawl space below. Basically, there was not a nailed down floor under the cabinets. We spent seven minutes staring aghast at the ground; we spent three minutes wondering if Gus the groundhog (see post 21. Apple Picking Time. ) would poke his nose into the kitchen; and we spent eighteen minutes scurrying around fixing it temporarily, so we could sleep at night. While I guarded the kitchen from Gus, raccoons, snakes, bears, or any other critter that could possibly make their way up that hole, Mr. H.C. found enough boards to cover the floor for now while we try to figure out what’s next. We are not wimps here; we’ve seen holes in the floor before…

Just one more polite rant: These cabinets were installed by a Professional Cabinet Company. What kind of professional would leave holes in the floors and walls and shrug and say, “Oh just leave it, the cabinets are going there anyway!”???

Right. A cabinet company that is still in business! Admittedly these cabinets were installed 35+years ago; but thirty-five years ago, did they still leave holes in floors? Now, we’ve all seen or heard horror stories of Professional Remodelers who have done irreparable damage to houses. Any stories out there? C’mon, the worst remodel saga you’ve ever seen — in 100 words or less. Let’s hear those stories!

Plans seem to change daily around here… And it’s not usually boring (unless you’re sanding windows…) So we’re off to buy metal lath, plaster, and some floor boards.

Let’s hear those stories…

*Mr. H. C. reminds me that this, very likely, is NOT YET the worst…

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!

8. Random Mew-sings on Kitties, Perfectionism, Paint, and Freedom

I’m posting this from my IPhone so it is very imperfect! I can’t get the photos to be placed where I want them, and I’ve lost several huge chunks of text — just out there somewhere in Saved WordPress Land… Did I mention typing all this on an IPhone keypad? It’s very frustrating, but I’m here at the cottage for working, not writing.

Happy Fourth! May you think about your freedoms today …

We had several firsts with our kitty this week: He was here to greet us when we got out of the truck on Friday afternoon. Sleeping in the side yard under some bushes, he was trying to keep cool in the ninety degree plus temperatures. We invited him inside and gave him lunch–we didn’t even have to ring the dinner bell. We had errands in town and he wasn’t interested in going back out in the heat, so we left him sleeping on the cool linoleum floor. He made himself right at home–he was sleeping on the bed when we returned.

So the name Phineas T doesn’t just roll right off our tongues. Half the time I can’t remember it. If Michael calls him anything other than Kitty, it’s likely to be George or Elmo. Cats don’t really come to their names anyway, do they? Here Elmo, Elmo….

After I finally chose the color for the kitchen cabinets — Steamed Milk in a semi-gloss sheen — the painting contractor husband started with second thoughts about oil base. I’m thinking he was worried about my lack of skill in the painting dept.; he is a perfectionist. I myself have those tendencies. Sometimes it’s not a good mix; sometimes a person is needed who will just jump right in and get it done. Sometimes I can be that person, but not in the aforementioned painting dept.–there I will always defer. So we dithered. We bought a gallon of latex in Steamed Milk for the insides of the cabinets in case it was too difficult to make the oil look good. “Oil is hard to use,” he said. “It runs, it drips, it is sticky, it smells bad, it is hard to clean up.” Not to mention that it is now considered to be a hazardous material! (More on that later…)
So I have now tried both types of paint. And the verdict is…


It looks much better than the latex. It feels better on the wood. And how wonderful it is to have the perfectionist painting contractor look at a drawer just painted by the grunt laborer and say, “Wow! That looks like you sprayed it on!” High praise, indeed, and good for the soul.

With the exception of choosing the color (463 shades of white) the main difficulty lies in the actual purchasing of oil-based paint. The big box stores don’t even sell it. In PA it can only be sold to residential customers in quarts. If I were painting a pipeline, I could get it in larger quantities, but probably not in the lovely off white color of Steamed Milk. (Isn’t that perfect for a kitchen?) I digress…

A few weeks ago my niece posted this on her crafty blog handmaden.com “Little-known-fact: You can’t buy spray paint in Chicago’s city limits. This is not good news for crafters. So we started this crafternoon with a trip to the suburban Home Depot for some metallic spray paint.”

Rant ahead : Now I get why Chicago has done this; I understand that kids buy the stuff and either harm themselves with it or use it for graffitti. In PA the law is eighteen and older to buy alcohol, cigarettes, and spray paint! (A sales clerk at HD carded me the other day when I was buying a can–I was incredulous to say the least. She told me that at WM the clerk carded her for white-out!) Where will it end? What do you think is the ratio of responsible buyers vs. those who will be using these items illegally? I guess in Chicago it must be pretty low. Since it is the 4th of July, let me just suggest that freedom always comes with personal responsibility. Can I say this is government protection on steroids? I personally want the freedom to buy spray paint and white-out and a gallon of oil-based paint. Accept no substitutes! (There is no substitute for spray paint…) and if we’re considering substitutes and personal freedoms and government regulations, I also hate those squiggly light bulbs …