Sunday, December 31, 2006

historical marker

Yesterday I finished installing most of the concrete backerboard around the bathtub. Just a few places left where I have to cut some small pieces to fit and after I seal all the joints the wall will be ready for the tile installation. I was really tired and stiff after hoisting those panels into place; I hope that was the hardest part of the job. The damaged discs in my back don't like that kind of work.

I asked the plumber about insulating between the two cast-iron walls of the tub with fiberglass and he said it would be ok, so I was trying to figure out how to do that when I found this 12" flexible flat metal ruler under the tub. It was quite rusted on the back but when I turned it over I found this 1951 schedule for the McKinney High School football team. I guess that's when the bathtub was originally installed. I checked the local phone books and the company whose name was printed on the ruler doesn't appear to be in business any more. I consider this a small treasure to add to my collection of relics acquired from this house.

Friday, December 29, 2006

fish sticks

A rainy day at home. I had time to play with my food before I ate it! I have a lot to learn about shooting still life in artificial light.

The plumber worked on the sewer line for more than 3 hours and finally cleared it. It may be only a temporary solution, though, as he and his helper thought there was at least 100 years worth of sludge in the pipe and they thought the pipe was sagging underground. There is no real cleanout valve, only a small pipe someone inserted into the main pipe once upon a time long ago and so no way to insert the sewer-cam to see what's happening underground. Right now we can't afford to have that problem fixed because now we have to pay for fixing the plumbing for the bathtub. I haven't had the time or energy to finish installing the cement backerboard in the tub so we have been making do with taking sink baths and have never really used the tub. Today when the plumbers filled the tub to check that the sewer was indeed draining properly they found the tub itself wouldn't drain. Pressure from a manual plunger did no good and when the plumber inserted the plumbing snake it wouldn't extend more than a foot or two.

We are a little pissed at our realtor and at the inspector who examined this house before we bought it. We were assured in writing the house had "new plumbing" and the inspector didn't even bother to check the drainage in the tub. The plumber today told me "new plumbing" just means you have copper pipes. Bah, humbug. I think selling real estate is a racket. I've participated in six transactions over the last ten years and they have mostly left a bitter and unsavory taste in my mouth. It seems so many people want a piece of what is essentially a simple transaction that it has become a stressful nightmare for the two principal parties involved. The best deal I ever got on a house didn't require a rubber stamped ok by a "certified" home inspector. Common sense prevailed. I lived in that house for 20 years and never had a problem with the 5 steps that led from the kitchen to the back yard but when I sold the house I was required by a "government institution" to install safety bars next to the steps. It seemed unnecessary to me and the prospective buyers weren't asked their opinion but I had to do it. The bars were quite annoying for the several weeks I lived with them. The new owners tore them out in less than a month.

bah, humbug, I say again.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

life is a gig with a jazz band...

If you want to jam, you've got to be able to ad lib. So every new problem is an opportunity to stretch your musical muscles, figuratively speaking. Latest roadblock is the waste water seeping into the driveway from the sewer pipe. I'm hoping it's only a blockage but the way things have gone with this house so far, it will be an old clay pipe broken beyond repair. The plumber will be here tomorrow morning to see how bad the damage is. I dread trying to balance my budget this week. This is the weekend when I usually try to get my receipts in order to make paying my taxes go easier but I may find myself drawing up a new budget for the coming months. About as much fun as going on a diet.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

goodbye, james brown

I feel I've been somewhat remiss by allowing almost two days to pass without mentioning the passing of "The Godfather of Soul."

This short film, part of a series called "The Hire" produced by BMW, is a fitting sendoff, I think. This online version is probably a copy of a copy, as the quality isn't nearly as good as watching these films on DVD. These mini-movies are really extended commercials, with notable stars and directors, but were only available for viewing on the web. If you can find a real version cheap, it's worth having, as Clive Owen, the newest "man with no name" goes about his business as chauffeur for some unlikely employers. Especially memorable on one disc is Ang Lee's exquisitely choreographed moonlit car chase/duel atop a many-storied building. And hey, give me Clive Owen in a Beamer over James Bond & his Aston Martin any day!

the trouble with neighbors....

Rufous Red-Squirrel eyes me from the birdbath. He looks cute clambering along the bare branches of the trees as he plays tag with some of his compadres but up close he's just another rodent.

I don't mind this particular type of rodent, as long as they stay out of my attic. They're fun to watch and they provide much entertainment for the ever-prey-seeking Phoebe, a Carolina Dog who lives with us. Unfortunately, Senor Rufous has inadvertently created a rift between us and our neighbor. The morning was sunny and crisp a few days ago, when the woman across the street, clad in slippers & pajamas, pounded on the front door about 8:30. I had worked late the night before and woke wondering what was happening. I don't know why she didn't ring the door bell. I didn't hear the conversation that ensued between her and my mom but the gist of it was that our dog was barking "since 6:30" "every day" and she couldn't sleep. Phoebe doesn't usually go outside until 7:30 most days and she is mostly quiet - it's the dog next door who barks at HER. This day, though was a perfect for squirrel games of "chase me" and there were so many squirrels running in so many directions both dogs were barking in frustration because the rodents would NOT come close enough for a chance to catch one.

My mom thought the woman was hung over. She told her to wear ear plugs. The woman was pissed. She left in her van about an hour later and hasn't been back since. I fear there's little chance for world peace when people get so upset over squirrels being squirrels and dogs being dogs.

Monday, December 25, 2006

for humbugs everywhere...

"It's a Wonderful Life" has been done to death for me. Maybe in 5 or 6 years I'll watch it again with new eyes and feel for George Bailey, the man who thinks the world would be better if he had never been born.

Meanwhile, the movie I'm looking forward to seeing (I missed it this year - we have no cable or broadcast tv at our house yet) is "A Christmas Carol". Mary Jacobs wrote a lighthearted piece about why Dickens' short tale still captures our imaginations and our hearts more than 150 years after its publication.

Read her story here.

My favorite version of the classic tale is the 1984 movie starring George C. Scott as Ebenezer Scrooge. My younger brother prefers the 1951 version in black & white starring Alistair Sims.

"x" marks the spot

something about the box with the X on it combined with the pale yellow trim of my neighbor's shed prompted me to shoot this photo. To my surprise a cardinal was perched in the bare branches of the shrub next to the tree. If you click on the photo and scroll right you may see him (of course it's a "him", the females lack the flashy red suit). One of the cool things about photos is they show us how we look but do not see. I was so busy looking in one direction I didn't see the whole picture. Then again, my eyes aren't what they used to be.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

christmas gets the boot

For much of the western world it's Christmas Eve. For me it's a rainy afternoon. Not being Christian I don't celebrate Christmas and not having a "regular" Monday through Firday work schedule I'm often unsure about what day of the week it is. Sometimes it's troubling, sometimes it's confusing, sometimes it's convenient. Over the years Sunday has become just another day. Holidays, too, are just days, although they may mean an extra day off for me. While I don't celebrate Christmas I do enjoy the trappings of the season. I like to see the houses decorated with lights when I come home from work at night. I like holiday cards, and holiday goodies, and holiday gifts. I like that people seem to be more generous to strangers than at other times of the year. I try to avoid grocery stores on the weekends and the malls at all times from the day before Thanksgiving until January 2.

We put up a Christmas tree because it's fun to dig the decorations out of storage and decide which ones to put on display. This year, too, it was a celebration of getting settled into our new house. This ornament, a wooden cowboy boot got some really pretty light one sunny day.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Santa or Satan....

Yesterday I listened to two co-workers talking about the lengths they go to just to keep their young children believing in Santa Claus. I'm standing on the sidelines regarding Mr. Claus. I have no children and have no recollection of my niece & nephew's transition from believers to non-believers. I was seven when I gave up on Santa. For now I'm simply watching the show.

B.D. has two daughters; the eldest is six years old. I presume it's a fairly easy task for him to keep the illusion going, but he does his best to fuel it further. He's the proud owner of an authentic Santa-Suit he keeps hidden in the attic and for the last 2 years a close and very large friend has donned that suit and prowled about B.D.'s house as his young daughters watch in awe. He has some lovely photos, almost Victorian in essence, of wonder-filled little girls. I think the illusion benefits him more than it does his little girls.

B.E.'s eldest is nine years old and still believes. I find this amazing. She must be in the 4th grade at school and I can't imagine that teachers or students haven't somehow poked holes in her belief. When I figured out Santa wasn't real I could hardly wait to tell my school chums. But maybe I was born to pop other peoples' balloons. B.E. and spouse find it much more difficult than B.D. to maintain the illusion. For some time they were able to spell out things in conversation that the kids were unable to understand, but the nine-year-old is a whiz in school and spelling is no longer an option for the parents. They now use single letters as a code to reference what they're talking about, but they fear this will be the last year they can do that.

To me, the saddest part of the charade is that the parents expend such an effort to further a myth of acquisition without attaching it to some form of giving (other than "being good", which amounts to bribery).

Friday, December 22, 2006

from a sunny window

Cold weather set in again last night and the house's deficiencies become evident as usual. Lack of insulation and and nothing but a subfloor make for a mighty cold wake-up in the morning. The warmest room in the house, surprisingly, is the glassed-in front porch with the cracked panes, broken sashes, and split frames. The "sunroom" redeems itself by facing east and becoming filled with the rising sun's welcome warmth. It's a hands-on lesson in passive solar heating and brings my collection of old glass to life, too.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

breakfast at fifi's

I have at least four great vantage points from which I can photograph birds without having to venture outdoors but they're not doing me much good at the moment. We've covered most of the ancient windows with mylar to help prevent infiltration of cold air and the window through which I shot this chickadee is paned with "wavy glass" which added a bit of distortion to the already-blurred image. These tiny birds move so fast I can tell I'm going to have to practice a lot. I'm hoping to get my 18-200VR lens within the next few weeks and then I'll be able to get much better close-ups.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

kingdom of spiders

Spiders and empty houses - they go together like garlic and olive oil. As my once empty house becomes filled with material items, larger fishies in the food chain and the plain energy of life, the spiders that inhabited every nook and cranny have become largely invisible. On the other hand, the house that's just been vacated is now haunted by arachnids. The structure's also developed that odd smell that fills unused spaces. Is it a matter of physics - energy added, energy subtracted? Is it atrophy.......or entropy? What is that smell? Surely the spiders aren't using that much oxygen.....
Well, time to supply the place with the artificial odor of Renuzit, or some such thing. I hear the smell of cookies is conducive to the sale of a house, but the illusion would seem to be a waste in an empty home, unless you picture ghastly ghouls baking gingerbread. Still....think I'll go with the vanilla flavor.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

I said it once.....

Those last-minute shoppers are MURDER!
Be careful out there!

Friday, November 10, 2006


Here's part of the wall I textured using the pink goop that dries to white. It looks quite different from the flat evenly stippled surface you see on most walls made of sheetrock. I'm anxious to see how difficult it will be to paint or colorwash as the surface is quite rough and has a lot of depth. If you look closely at the photo you can see that I wasn't even able to get the entire area in focus while using my macro lens; that's how much variance there is in the surface. It seems to be the ideal solution to covering the cracks that resulted when the foundation was leveled, as well as the numerous patches and holes from picture hangers made throughout the years.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

swatch junkie

I Love Color! Am thinking about painting my living room with pink & orange. Or maybe doing a colorwash of ochre over cream or red over ochre with some dark brown accents. Decisions, decisions. I want some vibrance from color yet I need one wall which will allow the eclectic art on it to pop, too.

I got the idea to use hot pink when I began texturing the walls with the DAP joint compound that goes on pink and dries to white. Putting that stuff on the wall is like trying to spread silly putty - very difficult compared to the stuff I'm used to, but it was the only brand available the day I bought it. The more I saw of that bright magenta or bubble-gum pink, the more I thought it would look good on the particular wall I was texturing. Alas, it has now dried and I can't quite remember what color it was.

Sunday, November 05, 2006


We're getting a sporadic misting rain today. Another miss calculation by the weather predictors, as we weren't supposed to see moisture until Wednesday. Folks seem to be a little more touchy about rain forecasts since we need it so badly. Yesterday I found a few patches of yellow wood-sorrel blooming under the shelter of the blanket of ragweed that covers about half the back yard. There are some pink oxalis blooming in the front of the house, but those are the domesticated variety. While many consider the yellow type to be a "weed" I think they are just as pretty as the pink ones, especially when they peek through a carpet of green like this.

I think some of my tiredness stems from being in limbo between houses. We're still living at the Dallas house but the majority of our belongings are in McKinney. Yesterday I saw my coffee maker for the first time in many moons and now I'm getting a yen for coffee. Am making my tea extra strong & omitting milk in the meantime.

Saturday, November 04, 2006


Kind of a gloomy day today. Not cold, but gray. The clouds said "rain" but none ever came. Spent a short 3 hours at the house transferring things from the storage building indoors and getting things in better order. Was busy the whole time but didn't seem to accomplish much. I didn't even start on the tub cleanup I had hoped to finish today. I think the 2 or 3 days a week of driving to and from McKinney and never having a real day "off" is telling on me. I seem to have worn out quickly yesterday and today. So now I'm home (where the outdoors is still gloomy) with my pot of chai tea and a new episode of "Ugly Betty" ready for viewing on Later of course there's my tape of this week's episode of "lost" which I haven't seen yet.

Here's a pic of part of the (allegedly) 100-year-old picket fence that extends from our back gate across 15 or so feet to the neighbor's fence. When we first saw it we didn't know it was old and the historical preservation officer gave us a permit for a chain link fence without batting an eyelid, so we only thought someone had gone to a LOT of trouble to make a fence this way. My neighbor told us a previous owner had been refused a permit for a privacy fence by the historical society because they wanted to remove the pickets. I had planned to save as much of the fence as I could because it was odd - now I have to research it and find out if it really is as old as my neighbor says. Apparently baling wire was the duct tape of the 1800's. Everything that could be repaired or held together with it was.

Friday, November 03, 2006

baby roses

Behind the house is a rose bush almost as tall as the house itself. Just over a month ago it started producing a few tiny but very aromatic pink roses. Each weekend there are more of them and these are coming from a shrub which hasn't been watered regularly through more than a year of drought! I found out this rose bush was given to a previous owner by her daughter, who told me it was one of the "old" roses. Maybe I can find out what variety it is.

It's frustrating that things take so long for me to do. I had estimated a 2-3 week time frame to complete the bathroom, but that's not gonna happen. I originally estimated 1 day for demolition, 1 day for insulating, 1 day for the plumber, 1 day to install the backerboard, 1 day to lay the tile, and 1 day for grouting. Well, it took 3 days for the demo, so right away I was off schedule. I was able to install the insulation in one day but I didn't allow time to scrape off the old caulk from the tub and time to kill the mildew, so that's the next step. I finally finished assembling all the drawers for the kitchen cabinets and got about half of the cabinet doors installed. I'm having problems with the hinges: they're not all made the same, just as the cabinets were not all made the same. Maybe that's why Home Depot is discontinuing their Mill's Pride brand of ready-to-assemble cabinets. The Ikea shelving that I assembled was of much more uniform quality than the Home Depot stuff, which incidentally, was "made in the u.s.a." Have we sunk so low we haven't the skill to make simple furniture for the common folk?

Sunday, October 29, 2006

signs of life

A few weeks ago we saw signs that some bulbs planted by a previous owner were pushing through the dirt to the surface. Now we're seeing more and more of them and they are growing like weeds. Hooray! I like to think they're paralleling the changes that we are making to the house. It was once full of life but has lain dormant with no one caring for it. Now that we've cleared away much of the debris, so to speak, the light and warmth of the sun is able to do its work and life is springing back. The bulbs, the house, and we, all have new life.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

itchy and scratchy

Itchy & scratchy is exactly how I felt today after insulating the bathroom wall with fiberglass. I wore a long-sleeved shirt well buttoned up and still those nasty fibers sneaked in under my coverings. This photo shows the beginning of the bathroom demolition I started last week. "That stupid man", as we call the unknown "handy"man who performed half-assed repairs to the house was calling down our wrath again. He had installed a vinyl shower-surround over regular drywall and had not bothered to caulk properly along the edge that met with the bathtub, but had instead put something resembling vinyl shoe-molding around the edges. this allowed water to leak readily into the crack and the result was the sheet rock was crumbling all round the tub, the tub edges were darkly mildewed, and black mold was beginning to creep up the back of the sheet rock. The shower-surround HAD to come out.

I found some fairly inexpensive tile at Lowe's made with recycled material that creates unusual organic patterns on an aqua-colored base tile. The 3x3" tiles come on a 12x12" sheet, enabling you to place 16 of them at at time. I splurged on some dark blue mudcap tiles to give the tiles a more finished look. The mudcaps had to be specially ordered, but arrived yesterday. I hope to pick them up on Sunday (tomorrow).

I finished demolition yesterday and today I installed batts of R-13 fiberglass insulation between the studs. There was also a square place where the "stupid man" had removed a window and then nailed clapboards over some 2x4's he'd screwed into the original studs. I covered the inner side of the clapboards with roofing felt, hoping to keep out some of the wind and moisture and will be caulking them on the outside in the coming days. I have to re-build the "wall" that the "stupid man" built at the plumbed end of the tub and have a real plumber come out to install some cut-off valves for the water and the new tub/shower fixture that I bought. Then the cement board goes up and the tile follows. I'm psyched about doing tile, but today I'm so tired I can't think much about it. I worked 3 days in a row last weekend and 3 days this weekend and when I got home after driving the 40 miles from McKinney I was so stiff I thought I might not move again for a week. The itchies and scratchies had set in full force by then, so I took a shower, applied a heating pad to my shoulders and conked out for about 2 hours. I plan on conking out again shortly, after I get my last clock turned back. It's a great weekend for me to receive an extra hour of sleep!

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

kitchen progression

I see it's been more than a month since I've posted. Had I known how tired i would be I would not have attempted a blog on this project. Good thing we can't see the future!

Here's the kitchen before we bought the house. It looks okay but what you can't see is the dishwasher doesn't work, the stove is filthy inside and is leaking a lot of carbon monoxide and the joist under the kitchen floor is broken. There is no storage on the wall opposite the sink and no room for a refrigerator. The sagging ceiling is barely 7 feet high. The wiring is a nightmare. Silly us: we think it can be fixed in no time!

Here's a look at the partially demolished kitchen. It was at this point I began finding a LOT of termite damage and started to wonder how bad things were going to get. I also found interesting relics of the past, including old newspaper and magazine pages pasted to the wall, odd wallpaper and burlap bags used as insulation. These unfinished planks still have the original saw marks on them and were nailed with square iron nails.

Here's the kitchen after part of the wall has been moved back 24 inches to accomodate a refrigerator, cabinets and countertop. The room has been almost completely rebuilt. There are new piers under the floor, new girders and joists, new subfloor, new wall supports and the wall around the new window has been redone. Fiberglas insulation has been added to ceiling and exterior wall and a radiant barrier has been installed next to the decking of the roof. We now have a working window with double-pane low-e glass. This room should be cozy in the winter.

Last weekend I primed and painted the newly plastered walls. This week the flooring, cabinets, electrical fixtures, sink, countertops and trim will be installed. Maybe I'll have a new photo to post next week!

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

fire waiting to happen

Some of the wiring in this house gives me nightmares. There are a few electrical outlets connected with Romex wire and installed in blue plastic boxes and we had 2 GFI outlets installed, but now I'm finding outlets jammed into wood planks without a protective box and there was a fabric-wrapped wire snaking up through a couple of two-by-fours with the light switch inserted into a cutout section of a LOAD-BEARING post. And then I come across something like this that really freaks me. I uncovered this section of bare wire while cleaning out a rat haven of acorn shells and such piled about four inches deep on an inside wall. I was lucky I didn't touch it while cleaning out the rat debris. We've put out cakes of rat poison which disappear quickly so we assume rats or squirrels are absconding with them. Last Saturday we were met with the unmistakeable odor of decomposing bodies. I hope it's rats and not cats.

Monday, August 28, 2006

status update

I haven't been keeping up this blog as planned; it may be more sporadic than I thought, but after spending both my weekend days tearing out boards and sheetrock, I can't work up much enthusiasm to sit at the computer. I'm hoping I will build up some arm muscles, as I'll be able to put them to good use. There's more damage than I expected, but apparently that's to be expected in old houses. Have I already said that? It turned out the ceiling in the kitchen was being held up on one side by a termite-riddled plank and after I removed the plank the ceiling sagged. I finally got to look in the attic and saw the ceiling was being held up only by a couple of two-by-fours nailed weirdly to the rafters, so I'm going to have to pull the ceiling down as well. We had a contractor look at the kitchen and he will probably give us an estimate this Friday. We're just going to have him do the basic construction: moving the wall, insulating the ceiling and replacing the sheetrock, and new wiring. I will apply the texture to the sheetrock, do the painting, and install the cabinets and vinyl floor. It may take a month for me to install the cabinets, but we need to save our money for the things we can't do.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

demolition continues

Now I'm getting down to some of the bones of the house. The termite damage extended farther than I expected. It appears to extend upward along 3 studs and then spreads to the left and right when it reaches the kitchen ceiling. The base wall is made of six-inch-wide planks of soft wood and the top two planks were so damaged I could snap them with my hand. In some places the boards were nearly paper-thin. I got most of the damaged boards torn off and now I hope I can save some of the undamaged planking for use elsewhere in the house. Imagine my surprise when I found the wall on the other side of the studs (living room wall) is also planked. It is covered with some kind of mesh-like material that's been plastered over. I can only do about 3 1/2 to 4 hours of work before my arms and shoulders start to give out, so there's at least 2 more days of work before I get this wall torn down. It's also more time-consuming when you're trying to save the wood so it may be three days.

I found yet another layer of wallpaper and an assortment of wiring from different eras including loose wires that I didn't want to touch in case they were live. I hadn't thought to bring a voltage tester with me. A few of these older wires were threaded through the studs via a hollow metal tube. I'm sure I'm going to be finding a lot of code violations. I found one electrical outlet simply jammed into the hole cut into the wood without any kind of box around it.

I got a book by George Nash called Renovating Old Houses: Bringing New Life to Vintage Homes that's already proving useful. Now I may be able to date the old wiring I found to add to my historical as well as my structural info about the house.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Toto, I don't think we're in Kansas anymore...

I'm in uncharted territory!

As my minor demolition progressed in the kitchen I started to realize I was going to have to get a different mindset for dealing with this house. This house is truly Old and folks did things differently in The Olden Days. It was one thing to "fix up" my Oak Cliff house, a 1940's tract house built as a single unit with a floor plan laid out in a blueprint; it is quite another thing to work on a house that was created in pieces, beginning in an age that lacked modern plumbing and electricity. I guess I was subconsciously expecting to find 2x4 studs spaced neatly under plasterboard; instead I found these rough horizontal boards covered in layers of newspaper. I haven't determined if these pages came from a newspaper or a magazine as the paper is so brittle it almost disintegrates as it's being handled. I found one small piece of paper with "March 1933" on it, so it seems likely all the layers of wallpaper and burlap were pasted on sometime after that date.

I need information! What should I do with bare wood walls? Should I preserve them and hope they add character to the kitchen or should I just slap on some drywall and make it modern? I'm gonna have to get myself educated, it seems.

Monday, August 07, 2006

yukon do it!

The paste that held everything together has mostly lost its stickum power and I was able to uncover most of a large piece of burlap behind the wallpaper. It was from a 100 pound bag of flour manufactured by Yukon Mill & Grain of Yukon, Oklahoma. I found that by 1915 Yukon Grains was the main business in this small Oklahoma town (current population 21,000) and it received its "official" charter in 1921. The company suffered a series of lawsuits brought by angry stockholders (can't translate the legalese or I'd tell ya why) in the 1940's and was acquired by Shawnee Mills in 1970. So I'm guessing this bag was pasted up sometime between 1921 and 1970.

old photo of the mill from a vintage postcard.
Go to the Yukon Flour Mill for more pics & info on this historic structure.

oh, yeah, as all you CW music lovers probably already know, Yukon is the home of Garth Brooks.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

first discoveries

We began work on the house yesterday. We worked outside for a brief time, my mom sawing down an unwanted fig tree which had intermingled with an ancient rose bush and me digging up a few of the many bricks scattered in the yard and piling them neatly next to the fence. It was after 2 pm and the temperature was soaring to its maximum of 103 so it wasn't long before we were overcome and had to retreat indoors. Thank goodness the air conditioner works!

I then began demolition of the kitchen, starting with the small built-in drawer & cupboards on one wall. There was a lot of termite damage to a vertical support which had been concealed by the trim around the door. It was old damage, like that of the joist under the kitchen floor that had been removed just the week before, and my main worry was how far up the damage extended. I found that whoever had constructed the cupboard had used corrugated cardboard for the sides of it. After the trim, shelves and cardboard were removed, I started on the wall. The top layer was a material not quite plaster and not quite drywall. It was about 1/4 inch thick, maybe less, and showed signs of at least 3 layers of paint: white, yellow and dark green. Under this plaster-like material I found the first layer of wallpaper; actually the last layer if you look at it from an archeological point of view. It was an unusual design, not too bad on the eyes, but what was peculiar was that it was apparently pasted to a burlap base made from flour and cornmeal bags. I guess this is how they attached wallpaper in the days before pre-pasted papers were available. Instead of scraping off the old wallpaper, which was probably a nearly impossible chore, folks would paste up a burlap bag so the next layer of paper would have something to adhere to.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

My New Baby

Here's a photo of my new new "old" house. This was scanned from something the inspector gave us so it's not as clear as it could be. I've held off posting anything about the house or even telling many people about it as I wasn't sure I was going to get it and I didn't want to jinx the deal. The house was built in 1900 or maybe earlier. It has been empty for the last four years and no one has really cared for it for much longer than that. Now things are looking up for this little abode as I'm hoping to give it the TLC I think it deserves. The foundation has had a lot of work done to it and there's a brand new roof but it will be at least several months before it's really ready for me and my mom to move into it. I'm hoping to keep up a blog about the renovation; maybe I can pass along things I learn.

Saturday, March 18, 2006


Here's a small spider I spotted on the ceramic sill of my bathroom window a few nights ago. The white tile kept glaring back into the lens when the flash went off and although i tried several angles I didn't really expect any shots to come out very well. This image is amazing to me because you can't really see any of the critical spider details with the naked eye. At least not with MY naked eye. I love the huge eyes and the stripes on the legs. I'm pretty sure this is one of the jumping spiders, who have excellently sharp vision. With those eyeballs, i'm not surprised.

I've named him Narciso, after Narcissus, because now that I've photographed him he's migrated over to the bathroom mirror and apparently spends day and night admiring his reflection. I've tried coaxing him away to no avail. Ah, well, when he gets hungry i'm sure he'll seek for prey elsewhere.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Copyright (r) Partridge/Jennings

remnant of a favorite t-shirt purchased at a thrift store in the '80s. I can't believe how many people don't get the pun!

I was inspired by something I found on Stephanie's Snurrhuvud and did my own take on it with one of my favorite bands.

Choose an artist (or band) and answer only in song TITLES by that artist: Morphine
Are you male or female: A Good Woman is Hard to Find
Describe yourself: You Look Like Rain
How do some people feel about you: A Head With Wings
How do you feel about yourself: Test Tube Baby
Describe your ex boyfriend/girlfriend: All Wrong
Describe where you want to be: Top Floor, Bottom Buzzer
Describe what you want to be: Good
Describe what you want: Cure for Pain
Describe how you live: Early to Bed
Describe how you love: So Many Ways
Share a few words of wisdom: Do Not Go Quietly Unto Your Grave

Friday, January 06, 2006

scurius uprising?

There's been talk lately of squirrel frustration.

According to recent reports in the local newspaper, more than a few citizens have become concerned with the unusually high amount of destruction rendered by these bushy red rodents. Incidents of teeth marks on wooden fences, plants unearthed from their pots and contents of said pots scattered about, and mass attacks on bird feeders have advanced rumors of possible revolution against humans. Retribution by homo sapiens has already begun. In an upper class residential neighborhood three dead squirrels were found nailed to a wooden fence. Officials were debating about whether a crime had been committed, as it could not be determined if the squirrels were dead or alive when crucified and in any case, there is no law on the books relating to cruelty against rodents.

Some naturalists attribute the squirrel frustration to the unusually dry weather; we've had only half the amount of rain we normally get in the past year. I think they're pissed because they had a bumper crop of pecans last year and this year they only got acorns.

Thursday, January 05, 2006


apologies to my co-workers from Okla- homa....

I don't usually root for football teams, either professional or collegiate, but something about that orange and white longhorn logo from UT just gets me. When I was just a little tyke, knee-high to a grasshopper, as they say, and before my family moved to Texas, I became enthralled by the idea of living here. In fifth grade when my class was studying the individual states of the U.S. I schemed to be the one who got to do their big report on Texas. Unfortunately the state of Oklahoma was included in my assignment and I did next to no work on it. I'll always remember two lines from a poem I found in my first explorations of a research paper (I don't remember where it came from) that colored my perception of the state even to this day.

Other states were carved or born;
Texas grew from hide and horn.