web analytics

The first of two projects for 2019 – part of the grand Five-Year Plan for improving Stately Hayes Manor is nearly accomplished. That is, the renovation – in one portion down to the very wall studs – of the master bathroom. (The second will be clearing out the garage and installing a new garage door.) This was an utterly bland, undistinguished pair of small rooms, completed in contractor-grade fittings, tile and features sometime in 1985. I most particularly hated the tub and the tile enclosure surrounding it, for the tile seemed to be incapable of ever being scrubbed clean, as the grout between the tiles shot through with mold. The tub finish was also disintegrating. I had refinished it once myself, to cover up a patch where the porcelain had worn through to metal, but even the refinished portions had become incapable of being cleaned. The dressing area was filled across one wall with a vanity and single sink set into a fake stone countertop – also nearly incapable of being cleaned, without being sand-blasted, and a wall-to-wall mirror. Both of these features made the dressing are seem small and cramped.
So, after refinishing the small bathroom last spring, the master bath was on my list; and I began collecting pictures on Pinterest and from other sources, of bathroom spaces which appealed to me and were readily doable: newer and smaller vanity, a walk-in shower with a glass door instead of a tub, and definitely a newer toilet with a more efficient and powerful flush … and as for the rest, a kind of refined country, early 20th century look emerged from the collection of pins and pics. A pattern of tile which went on sale for less than $3.00 a square foot on Wayfair set the colors … and in mid-January I started clearing out what I could. Over January, Neighborhood Handy Guy and his hard-working #1 Minion finished demolishing that which I could not manage myself … and the new elements began going in: anaglypta wallpaper from Wayfair on ceiling, woodwork, bead—board paneling, and floor tile from Lowe’s, a pair of light fixtures from Amazon … all the necessary bits and bobs. The woodwork got painted white, the upper walls blue, to match – and as of this week, it is all but done. I did the painting and wallpaper, NHG and #1 Minion did the rest. Behold the before, during and after!

17. January 2019 · Comments Off on And Now to Work… · Categories: Domestic

Honestly, I just meant to get a screwdriver from the toolbox in the garage, and go about my soon-to-be-renovated bathroom, taking down the glass shelf, the towel hook and the little glass vases in nickel-finished holders – all the hardware that I am going to reuse because I liked it very much, and they were pretty expensive when I first purchased them from Crate and Barrel when I did some superficial redecorating of the master bathroom shortly after moving in.

But I found the putty knife when I was going through the toolbox (which I will need to scrape that disgusting popcorn texture off the ceiling) and the big hammer … I am going to be using all of them in the next few days anyway. Yes, I walked into the bathroom with the hammer and began bashing away at the tile surround, just to see how difficult it would be. What with one thing and another, about a third of the nasty stuff is removed. This is featureless white contractor-grade tile of no particular merit, with the grout between permanently grotty and incapable of ever being thoroughly clean … well, I just got carried away, mostly with how much I hate that nasty cheap bathtub and shower surround in the master bathroom. It turns out that although water had seeped through the tile surround at the angles, and where it joined the top of the bathtub – there was not as much catastrophic rot and water-damage as I had feared. Although the drywall immediately underneath is so decayed that it crumbles like chalk, and I can pull it away with my bare hands. Here I thought that the drywall underlay for tile in bathrooms and all – was supposed to be the extra-heavy moisture-resistant stuff with the green paper coating. This wasn’t. It was the ordinary stuff, and moisture had gotten into it. No wonder I couldn’t keep the crud at bay in the grout. This is not the first structural omission I have found in my house, but at least this one will be remedied soon.

The first shipment of the replacement tile for the shower enclosure arrived yesterday – which is what brought all this on. I ordered it from Wayfair, because I liked the looks, and it was on special-reduced sale at an acceptable $2-3 per square foot – a traditionalish pattern in what looked like pale blue on a cream background and would suit the new walk-in shower enclosure. The UPS delivery guy is going to get an extra-special large box of fudge next Christmas, because the boxes with the tile are darned heavy – and little doeth he know that there will be two more boxes next week, as well as the new vanity – which I also ordered off Wayfair, because it also came up on sale; exactly what I wanted for an early 20th century and country look – wainscoting halfway up the walls, anaglypta wallpaper on the ceiling and dressing-room walls, hexagonal white tile on the floor, archaic-appearing faucets and fixtures.

First thing today, I took one of the bathroom tiles down to Lowes’ to match the paint for the walls and woodwork. It turns out that on close examination – the background is more of a white with a bluish cast, and the figure is almost a slate grey-blue. A challenge to match, but the woman at the paint counter took it as her personal mission to do so. Now I have a gallon each of whitish-with-a-blue cast, and slate-grey-bluish paint piled up with the other stuff which will play a part in the renovation, and an ambition to clear out as much as I can, single-handed, before mid-week, when Neighborhood Handy Guy and his pickup truck and I go to collect the last of the necessary materials which don’t fit easily into the back of the Montero.

The new home renovation project for this year has commenced, in a small way. This is the renovation of the master bathroom – number three on my grand five-year plan for sorting out the tiny suburban bungalow – which in another two years will be entirely paid off, mortgage-wise. It was once my ambition to do a second mortgage, once the first had been paid in full, and use the profits from sale of the California raw acreage to purchase a half-acre in the Hill Country and build my dream house on it. This probably will not happen, although I still have hopes of the Adelsverein Trilogy or the Luna City series suddenly (and miraculously) attaining the popularity and stratospheric sales figures of Fifty Shades of Grey, or the Outlander series, and enable us to buy a substantial property and build a bespoke mansion on it. But hope is not a plan – and this; this is the Five-Year Plan to sort out the present house, and make it fit for a local author with modest tastes, a huge library, and a tasteful collection of career mementos to live in.
So – the master bathroom becomes the next item on the list after renovating the guest bath (AKA Blondie’s bathroom), the new roof, and the Amazing Catio. Those three items were completed last spring; the Catio is almost completely paid for. Time to move on to the next two projects; the garage – now a good part cleared out in preparation for a new door – and the master bath.
This facility is a pair of rooms about five by five feet each, as laid out by the construction firm which built most of the Spring Creek Forest subdivision over three decades. They were one of the better firms, which meant that the constructor-grade appliances and installed fixtures were not absolute dreck, constructed from paper straws, tinfoil and bottom-grade cabinets of compressed wood chips and a thin vinyl veneer, and purchased by the railcar-sized lot. (Seriously, when Neighborhood Handy-guy ripped out the small bathroom vanity last year, I demolished it myself with a carpenter’s hammer, and stuffed the remains into the ordinary trash can.) More »

18. December 2018 · Comments Off on The Christmas Gallery of Memories · Categories: Domestic

Oh, Christmas Tree!


With completion of the Splendid Catio, we can have a fully-decorated Christmas tree once more. We haven’t done this in several years; the indoors cats cut a swath through the Christmas ornaments, and the tree itself, and what with the heavy market schedule and all … we haven’t done the Full Griswald in three or four years. Maybe for the outside, not for the inside. But we have three deep tubs of Christmas tree ornaments, and a tall artificial (but generally real-looking at a distance) pine tree out in the garage, and this year, my daughter insisted absolutely on having a decorated tree. In addition to the lighted garlands, tabletop displays, and assorted other seasonal doo-dads, she wanted the Christmas tree brought in and decorated to the full, at least with those ornaments which would not shatter irreparably when hitting the painted concrete floor from the height of at least eighteen inches or so.
Reader, I acquiesced – and so we brought in the tree, and assembled it, with lights and ornaments and all, although we could not find the nice brocade and tassel-and-beadwork ornamented Christmas tree skirt which I am certain that I purchased from Tuesday Morning some years ago. It’s probably still out in the garage somewhere. It may turn up eventually.
Going through the existing boxes of ornaments for the tree became a memory-venture along the maps to our family past. Not very far long it, only as far as me purchasing or contriving ornaments for my little barracks tree when I was stationed in Japan as a baby airman in the late 1970s. The Christmas ornaments that I knew as a kid were all burned in the fire that took Mom and Dad’s retirement house in 2003. Of those things, the one collection I most regret were the stockings that Granny Jessie knit for us as the first two of us kids appeared, with our names worked into the top, and a half-dozen lighted glass Santa Claus ornaments from the 1930s, still in their original box. But as I said – all those are gone, ashes swept away long since. I made an attempt to replace the stockings – but in felt, with our names worked into the top: I suppose that my sister has the lot now, since having to sell Mom and Dad’s house after Mom fell and fractured her spine and was no longer able to live without extensive nursing assistance.

The oldest ornaments I do have – they came from Great Aunt Nan; a pair of small yarn and fabric ladies. They came from Denmark, I dimly recall Nan saying. The one with the tiny bag is a newspaper vendor for the most popular daily; the initials BT must stand for Berlingske Tidende. After that – the oldest are a collection of tiny embroidered fabric animals from India. I probably bought them at the NCO Wives Christmas bazaar early on. The second-oldest I made myself; a wide selection of Styrofoam balls covered with fabric, lace, braid and other trims. Some look a bit battered now, having gone through almost four decades of Christmases and the same years of being hauled here and there in my hold baggage, and being stored in all kinds of odd closets and garage spaces. They have the advantage of being durable, cat-and fall-proof, though – which is why they still endure.
Kind of hard to say which are the next ornaments in order of seniority. In Greece in the early 1980s, I took up the habit of yearly purchasing a box or two of appealing ornaments from some high-end catalog outlet – which I can no longer recall the name of but are probably now out of business entirely. The small vintage airplanes and the papier-mâché globes are from that period. In Greece, I had a small star-pine in a pot which lived on the balcony of the apartment building I lived in. That little live tree served for a couple of Christmases; when we transferred to Spain, I left it to Kyria Penny, the Englishwoman who lived in the next-door apartment building. She and her husband, Kyrie George, used it for their holiday tree until it became too large to move in and out of doors. I don’t know what happened to it after that, although the little airplanes and the globes moved with us to Spain in our hold baggage. Passing through Rome, I bought half a dozen Anri angels.

For a good few years during that period in Spain, my job there favored me with a January TDY to Ramstein, Germany, for a broadcasting squadron confab. The post exchange there had a concession there offering a vast array of traditional wooden Christmas ornaments: I brought home a good collection of them for several years running, and they still adorn the tree, being nearly as indestructible as the home-made ornaments. The NCO Wives Club sponsored a shopping trip to Turkey during one of those years; that fall, they had a booth at a craft fair offering stuff from Turkey. That’s where I bought four tiny brass and glass lamps. Miniatures of the full-sized lamps from there which were popular souvenirs.

In 1991, we rotated back to the States, after twelve years of straight overseas assignments, and celebrated a white snowfall Christmas in Ogden, Utah. In the Hill AFB BX, I had the good luck to buy a starship Enterprise Christmas ornament. I understand they were insanely popular that year, and now are rather rare as these things go. I have two more Star Trek ornaments; the Voyager and the Galileo shuttle, which weren’t quite so rare, and consequently now are available for about the same as I originally paid for them. During another TDY — to New Mexico, this time — I visited Santa Fe and bought a folk-art carved winged leopard in a shop there. By this point, the accumulation of ornaments was sufficient to make a good showing on a full-sized tree. I didn’t have to purchase them by a dozen or so at a whack. We – my daughter was earning her own spending money with regular employment by then – turned to purchasing ornaments one or two at a time. The year that we were both working at a department store, my daughter bought the little Christmas angel-mouse carrying a dove. I bought a couple of ornaments at the Hallmark store around the corner from our neighborhood, when they were on sale after Christmas. Such is our thrifty habit now – we pick up whatever has taken our fancy after Christmas, when they are marked down for quick sale. The tree, after all, is now hung thick with ornaments, most of which have a vivid memory of time and place attached.

(For the rest of December, the first three volumes of the Luna City Chronicles are available on Kindle, for a mere pittance of .99 cents each! Put up your feet, and spend the holiday in the prettiest and most eccentric small town in Texas!)

12. December 2018 · Comments Off on Inherited Trauma · Categories: Domestic

Whilst I was perusing this story about the possibilities of trauma being a heritable thing, on my home office computer, my daughter came in to see what I was up to, and to lavish some small affection on our own bit of inherited trauma – that is, Mom’s cat, Isabelle. Isabelle was the last of those purebred apple-head Siamese cats which had been Mom and Dad’s. When their house had to be sold upon Mom becoming an invalid, my sister took the dogs to live with her (along with Mom) and Blondie and I inherited her two cats, one of whom has since passed away from advanced age. But Isabelle … sigh. Mom can’t remember how old she is exactly, since she was one of a long series of pure-bred apple-headed Siamese cats – and this iteration turned out to be as nutty as squirrel poop. Also mind-blowingly timid, unaffectionate, hostile even, unhygienically given to pee and crap where she slept (or where I slept, which was even more disgusting), and negative to the existing cats. We speculated that either Isabelle had been dropped on her head too damned many times as a kitten or was just as inbred as heck.
Anyway, upon completion of the Glorious Catio last spring, Isabelle – with her disgusting toilet habits and bad temperament firmly established – was one of those who moved in full time. There she spent her days and nights, fed and sheltered, amused by the garden outside, receiving some affection whenever we went out to sit – carefully, of course – and all was right with our world. (And it was nice to be able to clean something and have it stay clean for longer than ten minutes.)
Late in October, we rescued a dog from the streets in our neighborhood; a lively pug-chihuahua mix, whom no one recognized or claimed. We started calling him Fang – one has to call animals something, of course – and schemed to rehome Fang with an animal-loving couple of our acquaintance, a couple whose previous small dog had crossed over that rainbow bridge, and looked to us to find them another one, since my daughter and I seemed to have a secret super-power of animal-attracting. Fang seemed agreeable to cats but was (and still is) a consummate escape artist, and speedier than chain-lightening with a link snapped. We were afraid to keep him in the house, where he might tangle with our two small dogs, outside in the yard – too many gaps in the fence where he might escape. The Catio, with hardware mesh walls, brick floor and latched door, was the perfect temporary place. The cats, after all, had their ranks of shelves and perches, far above a small dog, who would perforce be limited to floor-level.
All went well for a couple of days. Our friends agreed to take Fang when no one claimed him, and my daughter went to run some errands, and I settled down to work at the computer. Until the sudden horrific ruckus broke out – howling, snarling, wailing – coming from the Catio. I rushed out there to see two cats on the highest shelves, watching with interest, and Isabelle with one hind leg up to the knee caught through the slats of one of the chairs, and twisting around, yet had her front claws and jaws firmly latched onto Fang’s rump. All too obvious what had happened; Fang had surprised Isabelle, asleep on the chair, she got her leg caught, and retaliated as cats will, with tooth and claw.
Fang, of course, did not like this situation, and commented loudly. Isabelle didn’t seem terribly pleased, either. I grabbed her scruff, eased her leg out from the chair, she let go of Fang and seemed to levitate across the Catio and hang onto the screen door for a moment before falling back to the ground. Fang, whimpering slightly, seemed relatively unhurt save for his dignity. But Isabelle was limping, badly enough to make a visit to the vet obligatory. My daughter thought she might have broken one of the long bones in her leg. So – applied some antibiotic to Fang’s rump, stowed Isabelle in a carrier, and off to the vet. (By coincidence, the one that I had brought Fang to, earlier in the day to have him checked for a chip.)
No, it emerged that Isabelle had not broken her leg – to the astonishment of the veterinarian, she had contrived to blow out the knee tendons in attempting to get her leg out from between the chair slats. The best and least expensive surgical solution he could suggest was to install a long pin through the leg bones to hold the knee rigid, and let the tendons heal. This we agreed to; for a cat we weren’t all that fond of, that to all appearances hitherto wasn’t all that fond of us, either – but Isabelle was Mom’s cat, and we felt obligated to take care of her to the best of our abilities because of that. We warned the veterinary staff of her disobliging and usually hostile nature and left her overnight for the surgery the following day.
When we went to collect her the following afternoon, the vet-tech enthused to us over how good and cooperative she had been, how affectionate she had been, even when the anesthesia wore off. My daughter and I are looking at each other and going, “OK … what have you really done with Mom’s cat, and where did you find this identical Siamese?”
We had to keep her restrained in a crate inside the house for a good few weeks – a crate just large enough for a towel-and-piddle-pad covered pillow, with a dish of food and a water dispenser. She took her daily antibiotic graciously, seemed to briefly retain her old habit of peeing and crapping where she slept, and then … didn’t. The concept of the litterbox seemed to have dawned on her. The surgical wound on her thigh healed over (she’ll go back to the vet after the holidays to have the long pin removed), and she curled up quite amenably in on of the pet beds that we have star-scattered across the household. From there, she moved into claiming the dog-bed at the foot of my bed, from Nemo and Connor (who prefer sleeping on the bed itself,) and to being actually human-affectionate. She sits on laps when offered, purrs affectionately, ‘talks’ to us in ‘Siamese-cat-yowl’ when we pet her.
Really, it’s quite astonishing, the transformation. I can only think that there must be something positive said for trauma. At least in the case of Isabelle.

(Note to all – the first three Luna City books are marked down for 99 cents on Kindle for the month of December only. Yes, as the pusher promised; the first couple of hits are free!)

It’s going on four years now that Blondie, AKA the Daughter Unit and I hit upon making a variety of gourmet fudge to give as gifts to the neighbors, all attractively packaged in individual papers and pretty containers, and to the various enterprises and public service bodies with whom we do regular business: the Frost Bank branch, the mailman, the express delivery services (if we can catch them), the CPS trash collectors (ditto), the Fire Department substation across the way, and the police substation on Jones Maltsburger, among others. (The FD and PD get perfectly huge platters, because – three shifts, and unless there is plenty of it, the shift on duty when we deliver it, usually around mid-day, will bogart the largest portion thereof. So – we purchase lots of bags of premium chocolate (white, bitter-sweet and milk) from Sams’ Club when it becomes available, a fair amount of evaporated milk, cream, butter, sugar and assorted nuts and dried fruit, and get to work in the kitchen sometime around when we are finished with market events for the year. This year, we had but the one in Goliad last weekend and two publishing clients to attend to – and began on this task this week.
There is always one batch which goes disastrously wrong, for one reason or another, and cannot be salvaged – this year, the batch was the peanut butter fudge. Nothing to be done but throw it out, although some previous disasters have been salvaged and put to other use. The second attempt came out satisfactorily; this particular fudge tastes exactly like the filling in Reeses’ Peanut Butter Cups. This year, Blondie had the notion of adding a layer of milk chocolate swirled through it, so as she was beating in the last addition (of marshmallow fluff) I was melting some milk-chocolate morsels with a bit of cream and powdered sugar, to be dribbled over the finished product spread in a 9×13 pan and swirled through – and yes, the result does taste exactly like the commercial peanut-butter/chocolate fudges that we have tasted. Today – the Bavarian mint fudge, which is the trickiest to do, as one false move and with too many minutes over the double-broiler is apt to turn into grainy chocolate sludge with a layer of grease, all flavored like mint toothpaste, and another particular version, stuffed full of toasted walnuts and pecans, and dribbled with white chocolate threads by way of garnishment. Tomorrow another couple of batches – and then, when we are all done, another batch made from whatever ingredients we have left over in quantity – Blondie has found a plain recipe for butter fudge.
The slabs of cooled fudge accumulate in the refrigerator – by this weekend we can begin to slice and assemble the holiday bounty. By family custom, we stack each piece in a little candy paper, in a nice tin or box. We spend a morning with hygienic blue gloves on our hands, putting the tins/boxes all together – and then the afternoon delivering it. The list of recipients is on the refrigerator … having grown to about forty or fifty. Of course, the first year that we did this, we made a lot, and were reduced to chasing down neighbors – “Merry Christmas, we’ve spoken to you maybe twice, so here’s a box of fudge!”
By the second year, around in November, our closer neighbors were saying, with the begging puppy-dog eyes, “Hey – are y’all doing that fudge this year? That was good … are y’all doing it again?”
We are. So if you are a neighbor – look to it this weekend sometime. Merry Christmas!

Oh, wow – is the first week of October already done? Guess it is; the pension got paid, and all the bills are lined up like dominoes. The biggest one is for the roof replacement, and the Magnificent Catio, which will not be completely paid for until after the end of the year. Still, I don’t regret the expense. The roof was about three or four years past it’s ‘best if used by’ date, and the Magnificent Catio, now houses full-time those cats taken on by my daughter whose careless toilet habits render them unsuitable for indoor residence. Seriously, they are the feline equivalent of guys who cannot hit the urinal, prompting the lament, “Couldn’t you just stand in it and aim out?” The Catio makes it easier to keep the house clean and ready for visitors at a moment’s notice, and at some day in the next decade, given the fact that the oldest offender must be almost twenty years old already (he’s one of the cats we inherited from Mom), we will have a very pleasant covered screened-porch patio, although we might have to have it pressure-washed hard enough to take a layer off the concrete brick flooring materiel.

The oldest of the dogs, Connor the Malti-Poo is now twenty or even more (he was an older dog when we found him, dumped in the next neighborhood over, and that was some years ago), and beginning to fail, so that is another sorrow to face, in the very near future. I have already determined that I will not coax out another few months of existence for him through heroic medical measures. He is already half-blind, mostly deaf, sprinkled with excessive moles, getting senile and with a slightly diminished appetite for food or walkies … Sometime in the next few months, I think, while he still has a little joy in his doggie life, rather than torment him with endless and futile trips to the vet. I wish that I have – as Dad did – those means of doing it relatively painlessly at home, but Connor has always been a very social little dog, and he will likely take considerable enjoyment out of that last trip to the vet, and we will stay with him to the very last. But enough of that.

Luna City Lucky Seven is done – out to the volunteer alpha-readers. And I had an impulse, once I was done with my work for the Teeny Publishing Bidness today, to scribble a bit on one of the proposed next books, the one set in the lead up to and in the Civil War … but here it is, almost time to start fixing supper. The Teeny Publishing Bidness client is coming tomorrow, to collect the most recent installment of his manuscript, now with even more pictures which he judges worthy of inclusion, and the first version of the cover design, which was the Daughter Unit’s artistic inspiration. The Daughter Unit has also taken on – with insane thoroughness – a paid research job for a mutual friend who has real estate property interests in what amounts to an underdeveloped portion of the city. The Daughter Unit describes this as administering a community-based colonoscopy – sorting out the things that would work, and what real estate development would best work, plus a myriad other interesting stats, like the registered sex offenders per square mile. This actually involves going and talking to people in the targeted neighborhood and drafting a prospectus for potential investors. This is a job that came out of the blue – and the Daughter Unit is making the most of it. So far, the client is pleased. It’s a short-term assignment, but we hope that it will lead to other assignments of this kind, for this client and others.

For myself, I am now onto the second chapter of the Civil War novel – with a fortyish heroine who becomes an abolitionist lecturer before the war and a nurse during it. (Great-Aunt Minnie Vining, who appears briefly in Sunset and Steel Rails.) Overall plot is still a little unfocused, but I am starting to be drawn into the world of mid-19th century feminist activism, possibly as a strong reaction to the current version. There were so many strong, passionate, nonconformist women involved in the abolition movement – and other social movements – who did not seem to be the least constrained by Victorian conventionalities; Julia Ward Howe and Clara Barton were not singular curiosities. They had plenty of company.

20. June 2018 · Comments Off on Working on the Five Year Plan · Categories: Domestic

I had – rather optimistically – decided to begin with the first couple of projects on the Five Year House-Improvement Plan at the beginning of the year, before the Daughter Unit even left for California. I had hoped to see the Catio done early in spring, and the small bathroom completed in the time she would be away. As it turned out, those two projects and the new roof as well, were all done in a rush, throughout the crowded month of May. However – I cannot make any substantial move at the next projects – that is, a new garage door, and renovating the master suite bathroom until the roof and the Catio are paid for. This will take until late fall; the company I contracted with is being enormously generous about this. There are some advantages to being one of the company owner’s old neighbors, and a previous customer vis-à-vis a roof that had to be replaced in 2004 after the mother of all golf-ball-sized hailstorms. Also, I have lived in the house since 1995, and it is just not something that one can hitch up and take to another state. And I have rebuilt my good credit rating … All that helps enormously. But the remaining projects will all be done on a ‘me buy the materials and have Neighborhood Handy Guy do the work’ basis or paid up front to a specialist. I’d rather not refinance, as I only have two more years to go until the mortgage is paid in full.

We will not be sitting on our hands in the meantime, though. The rest of the garage needs to be cleared out and reorganized. A lot of stuff from the Daughter Unit’s hold baggage is still out there, plus some odd bits of furniture. Some of the furniture I was holding onto with a thought for eventually furnishing a Hill Country weekend retreat, or possibly the Daughter Unit’s separate establishment. Having concluded that neither of those things is likely to happen, may as well have a good clear-out. We already did a run to Goodwill with the first installment of “Stuff No Longer Required.” There will be a good few more trips, as we clear away even more. The embarrassing thing is that we do have empty shelves and spaces along the walls … but we can’t get to them for all the stuff piled up in front! When the garage is cleared out enough that they can get in to replace the door, I’d like to be able to keep at least one of the cars inside, as well as the pavilion and the market-event things, rather than have to haul them back and forth from the shed in back. The Daughter Unit wants to be able to have a workspace in the garage for doing stained glass, since she brought home all the stained-glass tools that Mom used in her studio. I’d guess we have most of the summer to get this done. We might very well have a small glass window and an AC unit put in, to make the space a little pleasanter for working in.


And then there is the renovation of the master bath, to plan and consider. I want a vintage Victorian look, with tiny hexagonal times on the floor, blue-figured wallpaper and antique-looking fixtures. All in good time … all in good time.

19. May 2018 · 2 comments · Categories: Domestic

I have to say that the first three projects – part of my Five Year Home Improvement Plan, and supposed to have been spread out over the first six months or so of 2018 – have all come to completion in the space of three weeks and some days. This is a matter of some surprise to me. I was impatient of ever getting started on the Catio of Splendor, for which I bought the materials late in January. Neighborhood Handy Guy kept being delayed by other projects, and so in exasperation with this, I thought I would explore the cost of the next substantial item: a new roof, being that the old one was likely on it’s last gasp. I wanted an estimation for replacing the asphalt shingles with a standing seam metal roof, so that I could begin setting aside money for it. I went to the company which replaced the last roof, on the grounds that they had done a great job then, and that the owner of the company had lived just four doors away from me at the time of the Great Hailstorm of March, 2005. A good few of us opted for that company, seeing that we knew where the owner lived.  Practically everyone in the neighborhood got a new roof out of that storm, which featured violent hail the size of large and small marbles. I was informed at the time that the new roof would probably only be good for ten years; this was why I included a new roof in my Five-Year Plan.

The estimator brought out his ladder, camera and measuring tape, and after a short voyage onto the roof, informed me that not only was the 2005-installed roof much decayed, my house seems to have taken some damage from the tornado which struck a year ago. I didn’t note anything at that time, but some dead sticks brought down from the tree – all the substantial damage was done by that storm to houses a good third of a mile up the hill. But it appeared that something had whanged into my roof at top-speed, punched a gouge through the asphalt tiles and into the plywood underneath, and bounced over the roof-ridge, slightly denting the chimney top in the process. I should note that I slept entirely through this event, only waking up and hearing the thunder in the wee hours, and then going back to sleep again. It’s a gift, sleeping through stuff like this. Not the first time I have slept through interesting/momentous events.

The short version turns out to be that a standing-seam metal roof on my place would cost a bit north of $20,000, whereas a better grade of composition shakes would only be about $7,000, of which the insurance company would pick up all but the deductible. As the estimator prepared to depart, he asked, casually – if there was anything more he could do. I asked him to price out and estimate the cost of the covered back porch-catio, considering that I had already purchased the necessary materials, and I was tired of waiting to get on Neighborhood Handy Guy’s crammed work schedule. So – the Reliable Neighborhood Company’s bid for a replacement roof plus addition of Splendid Catio was … reasonable. This week I was on the schedule for the roof, which was knocked off in a day, starting first thing. Which actually meant ‘first thing’. They worked full-out, four or five Hispanic guys (of whom only one spoke colloquial English) and bashed it out by early evening – even to installing the rooster weathervane on the roof-peak over the garage. And better yet – on Thursday for Reliable Neighborhood Company’s carpenters to come and begin on the  Catio of Splendor. Which they did, on the dot of half-past eight, and had the corner support post installed before I even came back from walking the dogs. But Thursday was the first day of Summer Brutal Heat in Texas, so they knocked off in mid-afternoon, returning on Friday (also first thing) to finish installing the tin roof panels, and tying the whole thing into the existing new roof. Which I can totally understand and empathize with, as I agreed to paint the resulting structure over the weekend, so that the master carpenter can return – first thing on Monday, of course – to attach the heavy mesh hardware cloth which will enclose the Catio of Splendor, wall to wall, and hang the screen door. Everyone agreed – this would be better, painting the wooden frame-work, before attaching the hardware cloth. So – that was my project today, at which I could only last until about 3:00 or so. Drenched with sweat, splotched with paint, exhausted and dehydrated. I got it about three-quarters done. The rest tomorrow.

I understand there was some kind of big social bash on, early Saturday morning: an unemployed American actress (on a show I never watched) married an English veteran of the war in Afghanistan, from a family dependent on government payouts. Did I miss anything else, while painting the Catio of Splendor?

11. May 2018 · Comments Off on Yet Another Project · Categories: Domestic

Meet Matilda – who is modeling a red-checked dress with a lace-trimmed pinafore – the first of the 18-inch doll outfits for the fall market season

I am not entirely taken up with home and garden renovations, these days – oh, dear, no. Between reading tomes about our very dear American Revolution, I am trying to clear out my stock of sewing scraps. The Daughter Unit has been asking me (with heavier and heavier emphasis) to do sewing projects for those events where we have a booth at an arts-n-crafts do. Yea these many decades ago, I had a small craft sideline in doing Cabbage Patch doll clothes for base craft fairs. Sold them from the trunk of my car, they were that popular, in the months after a Christmas market event. But that was … err … quite a good few years ago. I still have a small stock of them, as a matter of fact, and have attempted without any particular success, to sell that remainder at various recent markets. I fear that Cabbage Patch dolls, after having been the doll-fave in the last century, are now a back-number, of interest only to obscure collectors.

But the Daughter Unit, having noticed a vendor booth at a couple of market events last year, stocked full of American Girl doll-clothes, and observing that the American Girl line (plus any number of other 18-inch doll knockoffs) are now extremely popular, ventured in her artless manner – ‘Hey, Mom – you should start doing doll-clothes again! Bet there’s a market!’ Likely there is –  much more than there would be these days for Cabbage Patch dolls.

Having done enough for the time being in the way of vintage-style costumes, middle-aged-authors for the use of, I have turned to reviewing my bag o’ scraps and cutting American Girl-sized outfits from the most suitable of them. The Amazon Vine program inadvertently aided this by offering me, gratis-but-for-the-chore-of-writing-a-review, an 18-inch doll, an American Girl knock-off, the advertising for which included the intelligence that American Girl clothing and shoes will fit this doll. I sent for the doll to use as mannequin and downloaded a bunch of the original American Girl classic pattern assortments …there are collectors and enthusiasts who have scanned the half-dozen original pattern sets and made them available on-line. (Their main benefit is that, as nearly as I can tell, they don’t use much yardage – so excellent for piecing out from scraps. Scraps of which I have, in plenty. Odd bits of lace, trim and ribbons as well. And they call for Velcro for closures, which is kind of tacky, but way less complicated production-wise than using snaps, or buttons.) My early concern was that – would they actually fit the doll? After cutting about twenty or thirty outfits from the patterns, I thought that, yeah – better make absolutely certain of that.

And they do. I seamed one of the outfits together and fitted it onto the sample doll … whose’ name will be Matilda, by the way (although her trade name from the original manufacturer is Serena) – and they fit, quite nicely. There are a heap of art markets coming up this fall – and some which involve this kind of craft as well. I really want to reduce the scrap-bag, I am not averse to spending hours over a sewing machine … and besides, Matilda and her 18-inch child doll friends need pretty outfits. Pretty, modest, and traditional outfits, I should also add. The little sideline in doll clothes will be titled and advertised as “Matilda’s Portmanteau” during the coming market season, whenever we do a strictly arts and crafts market.