Sunday, October 12, 2008

Change is Good

Change is Good

You take for granted all the little niceties that are part of your daily life at home with mom & dad. Electricity, a shower, furniture, a TV. We used to be afraid to leave the house with the lights on. One night our dining room light just sort-of fizzed out! We didn’t have a refrigerator as the present electric could not handle the drain of a modern one or of an electric stove either. Until the electricians had finished, we bought our food from the little market down the street, kept it in a cooler and cooked with a hibachi grill-isn’t love grand! Those claw foot tubs sure are pretty until you are getting ready for work and realize you have to take a bath-because you don’t have a shower! Solved that problem pretty quick by buying an old fashioned ring tub enclosure-yes they still sold them at Sears!

The kitchen was our first interior project on a grand scale. It had a hosier cabinet for cabinet and counter space. I used a card table as my center island. I remember using a heat gun to strip paint off the woodwork and feeling a bit woozy till we opened some windows. Lead paint-who knew!?! I asked hubby to hang a plant in front of the window and it nearly brought the ceiling down on top of him. Apparently the tub had been leaking down through the ceiling for years. The plaster was being held in place by the wallpaper-oops! We hired a contractor and with plans in hand proceeded to change them till he had to revise his original estimate. Now we learned to appreciate the kitchen we already had. Once the electrical work was complete we could have a stove and refrigerator. Now that the room had to be gutted for the new kitchen, the refrigerator was in the sitting room and the stove was pushed against the wall in the dining room-unplugged. What were we going to do for a sink-why the bathtub of course-on the second floor!

Like all projects you start out full of enthusiasm. Midway through you are less enthusiastic, less tolerant, and tired of washing dishes in a plastic basin in your tub. You have grilled every meat in every way you know how and are on a first-name basis with your pizza delivery guy. Your backsplash is held up because the tiny, little accent tile you have chosen is still on its way from Italy. You also think it is a great idea to seal the tile yourself-it will save you a hundred dollars. You don’t count on being on your hands and knees for hours with a minute paint brush cleaning the grout lines of dust partials before you brush on the sealant.

Now being a pro at do-it-yourself, I decide to stain and varnish the tongue-in-groove wood ceiling I have chosen. I am half way through before I realize I have been doing things bass-akward, sealing before staining. Anyway the painted white ceiling in the bedroom looks lovely! We wised up a bit and sent the trim to be professionally dipped & stripped. I stripped the doors myself and refinished them. Let’s say it is not my favorite project.

But in the will be even nicer!

Landscaping 101

Landscaping 101-our first year

Did I mention before I used to be a “high maintenance girl”? Getting together with old friends I hadn’t seen in over 25 years this weekend reminded me of my former “princess” self. They remembered coiffed hair & impossibly high heels-spandex pants-(remember we’re talking disco-era here!) & the latest fashions & manicured nails….That person didn’t exist anymore. The hair-do was a ponytail under a cotton bandanna. Spiky, high heels, not on your life-can’t dig a hole in those. Manicured nails-sigh-even with garden gloves there’s dirt & chips & breaks and short, stubby ones help strip off those ribbons of wallpaper.

Every room in this house was wallpapered-ceilings, closets, hallways. It must have been beautiful in its day-the paper in the front bedroom was clusters of lilacs. Being paper, it was fairly easy to coax off with remover and a good, solid putty knife. I still can remember all that warm, grey water running down my arm scraping ceilings! We now only have one room papered-we have painted everything else.

Our first year in the house, we spent cleaning up the years of over-growth in the yard. We did some interior cosmetic work, but our focus was outside. We were garden center regulars. I learned annuals, perennials, herbs, bulbs, rhizomes, shrubs, ground cover. I learned which plants worshiped the sun, and which were shade dwellers. I learned ages old garden advice-“if you plant it one place and it doesn’t grow-move it somewhere else”. I learned the hard way not to plant mint unless you contain it or you will have a garden of-(you guessed it) mint! Plus if it is catnip, you will have every cat in the neighborhood in your yard!

I learned how to determine if it is a weed or a flower-(my husband still has problems with this one). One year he cut my white lilac almost to the ground. It took years to come back. Another year he ripped out my newly planted sweet peas. When I went looking for my asters this fall, he ruefully admitted he gave them a toss, thinking they were weeds.

Thankfully after we cut down the “weed trees” that covered the front yard-tore out the back yard of ivy and pruned shrubs that were the size of trees, we found the garden had “good bones”. The two brothers who originally lived in the house were at one point in the gardening business. We had lovely old fashioned roses, peonies, double daylilies, lilacs, hollies, and yucca. I brought iris, bridal wreath, red hot poker, & hosta from my parent’s house. When our friends tore out a row of hydrangeas, I saved them from the trash truck and brought them home.

Being young with lots of energy, we made garlands and wreathes for our front porch from our own evergreens for Christmas. We hosted our family’s annual Christmas Eve party for the first time.