57. The Crooked Little House

Yes, we’re trying to straighten up a crooked little house — and it’s driving Mr. H. C. bonkers. This is a man who has to have pieces meet within a thirty-second of an inch. And that level bubble? Well it has to be right between those lines, as close to the middle as it can be. Poor guy. Some days he just shakes his head. Some days he wonders aloud why we ever got into this. And some days when the bird clock whistles 5:00, he just goes and quietly gets a glass of wine.
Is it level?
For the record, the nursery rhyme goes like this:

There was a crooked man who walked a crooked mile
He found a crooked sixpence upon a crooked stile,
He bought a crooked cat who caught a crooked mouse,
And they all lived together in a crooked little house.*

black and white checkerboard VCT
Hmm… No mention of a crooked little wife. That’s good, I think. And we’ve found plenty of crooked little mice — all dead — thank goodness. But I was beginning to wonder if the black and white checkerboard tile I had planned was wise on a crooked floor…

If I had a crooked sixpence for every time Mr. H. C. complained about the walls not being level, and the floor not being level, and the doors not being level, I could probably buy a crooked cat. Oh wait, we have one already…
Sleeping cat
This was the weekend that we were putting down the underlayment for the floor. For those of you who don’t speak the lingo, that is 4×8 sheets of thin plywood type stuff that doesn’t bend around crooked walls or over crooked floors. It makes a nice, smooth surface for laying linoleum or tile. Mr. H.C. is a genius at making crooked things look straight, so I wasn’t too worried about how it would look — I was more concerned about his state of mind while the floor was on its way to looking good.

The first piece went down easily; the second was more difficult because it had to have many specific holes cut out for the plumbing. And then, I heard him say, “Wow, this is really pretty square.”


I made him repeat the sentence.

And later, as he was cutting the last piece and I was nailing the others down, he said it again!

Stapling down underlayment

Almost 3000 staples went into this underlayment, and my shoulder is feeling the pain… (I really do work sometimes!)

Now, we’re not to the point of throwing out the level, and the rest of the house may still be crooked, but the kitchen is Straight and Square.


And ready for checkerboard tile.

*“There was a Crooked Man” originates from the English Stuart history of King Charles I. The “crooked man” is said to allude to Scottish General Sir Alexander Leslie, who signed a treaty that secured Scotland’s freedom. “The crooked stile” represents the border wedged between England and Scotland. The English and Scots agreement is represented within the line “They all lived together in a crooked little house.” The rhyme refers to the uneasy peace between the two countries. (Source is many websites that all give the same history.)


This illustration is from The Real Mother Goose — you know the one with the black and white checkerboard cover?

And here are some of the absolute best nursery rhyme books:

My Very First Mother Goose and Here Comes Mother Goose both by Rosemary Wells
The Original Mother Goose by Blanche Fisher Wright
Read-Aloud Rhymes for the Very Young by Jack Prelutsky
Tomie dePaola’s Mother Goose by Tomie dePaola

53. The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

The Good:

    Kitchen countertop and sink laid out on paper and ordered  √
    Dishwasher ordered and ready for pickup at Sears  √
    Black and white VCT flooring tile ordered  √
    Old linoleum and tar paper scraped off the kitchen floor  √
    Sliding glass door frame and surrounding wall demoed   √
    French doors framed in  √
    The kitchen subfloor discovered to be 5/4″ thick. √
    Subway tile for behind sink purchased and waiting  √
    Two new electrical outlets installed (ahead of schedule)  √
    A renovation calendar with projects clearly scheduled  √
    A yellow bedroom that will soon have to be renamed the White Bedroom  √

Oh my! There is so much good progress, I hardly want to show you the bad and the ugly.

But for the sake of truth in blogdom, I will.

The Bad:

    It was really hard work taking up the linoleum. I might have whined several times. Our backs and our knees reminded us that we are OLD…
    I don’t understand why 18″ dishwashers are more expensive than 24″ dishwashers. Less parts, smaller = bigger price. Totally unfair!
    We found another mummified mouse — this one was under the refrigerator when we moved it to pull up the tile. (At least they all have been dead a long time…)
    When Mr. H. C. was taking up the tile under the refrigerator, he discovered the floor had been patched there because of termite damage. (But see Good list above — the reason it didn’t cave in was the solid five-quarters subfloor.)
    The kitchen is now shrouded in plastic drop cloths and sheets while the work gets messy, dusty, and serious. Which means I have just a small temporary kitchen in the living room.

Which leads us to … The Ugly:

Which means this is what we get to have for dinner most nights:

Domino's and Black & Tans

Domino’s and Black & Tans

Wait! Is that good? Or bad? I’m not sure… But we certainly are glad to be making good progress finally. Bad knees, aching backs, sore muscles, and the ugly of it all.