Sunday, September 4, 2011

Refinishing the Front Door, Or, How I Lost My Affinity for Old Things (like Doors)

Yesterday we took the front door off and determined to refinish it. The paint was cracked, chipping, and starting to show a 1950s-esque teal layer underneath.

This project, in keeping with other house projects, is taking 3x as long as anticipated.

And we are on vacation: because house projects are what we like to do on vacation now. The word vacation, since last September, is synonymous to the Palmer Duo with the phrase house projects. Or, All.We.Ever.Do. But for the record, we have fun with it and are dedicated to the point of insanity or entrapment, or all of the above.

First, we applied paint stripper.

We've used the good-for-the-Earth kind for jobs like this in the past, but frankly they don't live up to their promises of removing multiple layers of paint with one coat. So this time we decided to skip that game and bring in the big guns. We bought the scary looking Other Kind. I have some bad news: same results as the Earth friendly stuff. And it eats through anything it touches (read: the back of my cell phone case, our work gloves, the work table, and the applicator brush). So you're still stuck with applying chemicals and peeling layers off one at a time.

We read somewhere to beware of the color green on old doors. Odd, huh? We had to sand our green layer off because two tries with the chemicals didn't seem to work.

There also seems to be an issue with the type of wood and level of damage to the wood inside the raised panels. Not sure if you heard about our [six week] Wood Floor [aka Operation Restoration] Fiasco. This was starting to feel oddly similar... so we considered buying a new door at Habitat for Humanity's Restore. But they don't open until Wednesday, and it's Sunday, and we have a locked storm door between us and the rest of the world. So we kinda need to hurry. Picking a door up at the Home Depot was on the table, but long story short, we decided to just paint the door instead of staining it. We've sunk $$$ into this project already, and in addition to the $$$ we will sink into a new door, we'll need to buy all new hardware. FYI hardware is also $$$. Enough of the $$$.

More later!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010


I went to the bookstore tonight and purchased a $4 on sale copy of Jane Austen's four greatest literary works.

I came home and even though I had the book in hand, I opted to watch Becoming Jane, which is the [movie version] and of the author's true story love with Tom Lefroy, which never worked for various reasons; but they both professed to be each other's great love. Is it a failure for The Jane Austen to have never found a love of her own? I admit, I'm pretty pathetically heartbroken over it.

I dated and met far too many people, but it was an admittedly exciting time of anticipation and drama and the usual heartbreak. I was adept at cat and mouse games [with all kinds of inappropriate but nonetheless interested guys]. Then the games reversed order, and I got dumped a few times. I held out hope for bleak possibilities with uninterested men. Once (why stop the over-sharing now) I chopped off to start afresh.

Then I met C. I remember being pleasantly surprised with him and with real love. And surprised by how close we came to never actually meeting.

I am the lucky one.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Ice, Ice.... Baby?

I went to bed in my clothes last night. I had a hormonal melt down at 7:00 pm and fell asleep at 9:00 pm [in my clothes]. So did my husband. Slept in his clothes, I mean, not the hormonal melt down part.

Falling asleep in your clothes is what you do after battling a cold and flu for four days.

I woke up with my famous blue hat over my eyes. I told you it would come in handy.
Side story: the blue hat came into my possession in 2008.

I found it at my seedy first apartment, outside, stuck to a bush. The hat had bird feces stuck to it, but I can assure you that, after I danced upon its discovery, I washed it in my kitchen sink. It is clean. For the record, it's a great hat, and, if you are living on $1,000 a month in a seedy apartment, a brand new bird feces hat is a real catch.

Just saying.

So I woke up with the blue hat on. When I got out of bed, the air felt unusually crisp. Do keep in mind that, since I live in a very old house, the phrase unusually crisp is not taken lightly. Sixty five degrees is our version of warm and toasty now.

I looked at the thermostat: read: Fifty degrees. I stood hatted but barefoot in front of the little thermostat, groggy and stunned. I start pushing the buttons. Ah, I can't wait until the heat comes on, I think to myself. This is the part where I would normally hear the gurgle and whooooshes of the furnace, and I didn't. Well, you know where this is going already, don't you? We were OUT.OF.HEATING.OIL!

Chris is still asleep and so I light some kindling in the fireplace, because I.AM.A.MAINE.WOMAN who lets her tired and ill man sleep in. Oh, uh, the fireplace damper is closed, is it? I'll just try to fix that... ... uh oh...

Now, I grew up in the desert, and later, the tropics. I am sorry but Maine has little appeal to me other than family and culture, the latter of which I know I could find in maaaany other states.

Anyway, I absolutely have to wake up Chris now because I have an arm coated with soot, a closed damper and a cold house full of smoke. He opens one eye, runs downstairs while choking and waving his arms. Sigh.

He started a toasty fire and then we picked up the phone to call the heating oil angels. Oddly enough, the house phone isn't working. Well, I will just go get my cell phone, then. Oh, the cell phone battery is dead? No worries, Sweetie, I'll just grab the charger. Oh, I left that at work, did I? So off I go to the cell phone store and Chris heads to the gas station for propane (good thing we woke up already dressed!) There is no oil delivery on Sundays.

After putting five gallons in the oil tank, we ran the self-cleaning oven [an idea I will now take credit for]. We bundled up by the fire and space heaters and watched back to back documentaries on George Washington, Mary Queen of Scots and penguins.
We made homemade pizzas and talked about how low the checking account was getting. So low that we would need to wait four days to buy oil. If you live in an old house with no insulation, you understand as much as anyone how $600 a month in heating oil drains your account pretty quickly.

On the first few days without heat, we felt hardy and strong. Then we said, all we need is each other! [cue the music: "I got you, babe..."]. We scoff at you, winter! Pour me another glass of cocoa! Ahh. I can assure you, after forty eight hours of cold toes, cold bedsheets, cold faces and fingers, the ponies and rainbow unicorns fade into the background. Can we eat the cat if he freezes to death?

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Well, the trick or treat-ers are out and about on the neighborhood. As crazy and Un-American as it sounds, I've never answered the door for trick or treating kids before. As I sat inside, I can hear the muffled voices of hopeful parents, instructing: "Remember what you say when they open the door, sweetheart?"

I shoot out of my chair and into the foyer, all the while holding an awkwardly huge candy bowl. I pretend I am June Cleaver, bend over with the bowl, and tell a fairy princess to take all the peanut butter cups.

C and I are both excited that our new neighborhood is the "candy zone." I love this neighborhood, but not since I was ten years old do I remember having trick or treating kids coming around. We lived in the country after that, and we didn't trick or treat for reasons of my family's faith, specifically; convictions about the darker aspects of Halloween.

Aspects? How about the whole entire gig.

I can see 1800s Colonial homes from the living room windows and I am reveling in the leaves coloring everyone's yards. It's also comforting to know that we don't have to have our yard completely raked. We were worried about being the Weird New People Who Don't Rake. Trust me, we tried.

Tonight, there are pumpkins lit up on our doorstep, bright mums, a fire in the fireplace, candles lit, creamy soup on the stove and bread pudding in the oven. A friend from work and her three little ones stopped in and her son was a "tractor man". I loved his innocence as he spread out on our carpet and said, pointing to the Osh Kosh label, "It says it right here, TRACTOR MAN."

C loved dressing like a pirate and going door to door, but I never missed it, or at least that is what I say now. We had festivals, dressed up, bobbed for apples and ran mazes. I was Anne of Green Gables pretty much by default year after year [after year]. I wore the same dress every year and one year it eventually fit properly.

I'm not sure where I stand on Halloween. What I know is that the goblins and ghosts and witches, blood and gore and being scared are not something I care to celebrate, but I truly get that going door to door dressed up is a lot of fun for little ones.
C and I laugh at the irony of this is the one day you see your neighbors. From behind a candy bowl. Telling them you will toilet paper their trees if they don't give you dum dums.

Seeing weird "darkness" celebrated every year reminds me of the parallels of what we live in and when it is over, it's like Thanksgiving and Christmas are also paralells to life. It's as if, despite our wonderings and fears that the world really is hopeless, the last two holidays are as though the good wins. I know most of us don't see it that way. I know people of faith on both ends of this spectrum who celebrate Halloween and those who do not celebrate it at all, and both of them do it with a right attitude whether they are officially right or not.

For now, the answer for my own heart is to love this night by loving the gads of children at my door.


Does that include the gads of teenagers in jeans and tee shirts holding pillow cases?

Saturday, October 16, 2010

I long to curl up in front of a fire and watch a historical mini series with a huge bowl of gas-inducing buttered popcorn... but, I'm still in the glorious throws of painting the kitchen cabinetry, which is pretty historical, all the same.

My dear friend just walked into the most destiny laden opportunity to move out of her family's home and start her life as an apartment dweller. I mean, really, all the peices that came together in two days, it's just nothing short of a miracle. We were gasping on the phone together last night, talking about how each one of her needs was not only met, but her wants were met, too, and not half way - all the way. Needless to say, we're all kind of dumbfounded around here and she feels very taken care of, lucky and blessed. We're having our own private soiree next week in the Old Port, where we'll raise our glasses for these blessings, and I will undoubtedly have paint in my hair.

It's getting old.

The paint, not the drinking.

Just kidding.

But it is what it is, these feelings of being tired. Nothing to do but embrace it, honestly, and push forward. I'm not a big fun of pushing feelings down but I find myself doing it pretty naturally some days and then wondering why the weekends seem to fly by, filled with no rest. Today, as I was learning to accept the beautiful imperfections of this house, I experienced a lingering feeling of wishing for days when I could laze around and a small scale pity party ensued. Ah, for a new apartment myself, already remodeled, fresh and painted, with new counter tops, even (and a pond... yes, she has a pond). And yes, it did occur to me that I'm ungrateful and spoiled. A couple of times, at least.

But really, there is not much to do with myself but embrace the fickle feelings for what they are. One day I am happier than anyone else in the world, and the next day, I wonder if we are not the most deject and cheated person on Earth. Feelings come. Feelings go. God is present either way. We forgive ourselves and move on.

How about an updated photo of the dining room?

Sunday, October 3, 2010

We've been in our new (old) 1911 house for a full week today. I thought I'd share some of the highlights of the new old house extravaganza. What a blast so far.

We're roughly 90% unpacked and there isn't a day that goes by when someone says, "Just enjoy it" or "One room at a time!"

Too bad they don't know that C and I are Crown Champion procrastinators. To get things done we have to keep the momentum up. Some people can be more balanced about it. Aside from one fireside evening, we don't see the couch much. And we're okay with that. What we've accomplished with the help of family and friends (you know who you are) is enough to keep us going. Here's a gratuitous photo of the dining room as of last night:

So in the spirit of being pleasantly surprised, here's a list of all that's been accomplished (in 10 days):

-Programmable thermostat installed
-Dimmers installed
-Prepped dark glossy knotty pine cabinets and the priming has begun
-The wall paper in the dining room is down - 4 layers and wallboard resurfaced with mud
-The dark knotty pine wainscoting in the dining room prepped, primed, and painted
-Half of the wallpaper in the formal entryway is down!! All seven layers!! Woo to the hoo! Portions of crumbling plaster walls are being resurfaced with mud.
- The master bedroom has been painted (formerly faux wood paneling)
- We began insulating the attic last night. Major heat loss going on up there. And Maine winters are not exactly cheap, so bringing this home to its maximum efficiency is a priority right now. Too bad the entire attic has about six inches of (former insulation method in the 20s) sawdust!

After I spent an afternoon picking away at the seven layers of wallpaper, we decided to hire the job out. Some friends of ours, Pat and Wendy, are wallpaper remover extraordinaires, so we gave them a call and they are amazing. According to Wendy (whose lived in four antique homes) this is the worst wall paper job she's ever done. She loves removing wall paper. And I agree with her, it's super satisfying. Once you remove it. We're doing all we can to help and take care of them but it's hard not to feel we conned them (we love you, Pat and Wendy...)

The wallpaper in this house are mild colors, but we wanted the entry to be welcoming and calming for us after coming home from work. We also spend a majority of our time in the kitchen and dining room. All areas of wall paper love and goodness. So down it comes.

We got a little overwhelmed in the attic last night. Our first moment of overwhelm. Then came jokes about our attic being a perfect manger creche for baby Jesus. Then came Mattie meowing at the ceiling for a half and hour and you couldn't help but feel a laugh coming on.

It's okay if you don't wish to be us right now. We're okay with that.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Out of the House of Fear

Less than three days until we close on our new place!

Three words, okay, maybe five words: Cardboard, Kraft Easy Mac, and Home Depot.

We made the official first homeowner's trip to Home Depot yesterday, and delightfully [but thoughtfully] loaded up the cart with supplies for the first round of projects in the house, starting ... drum roll ... in four days. And so began our first money bomb drop.

Very exciting.

Very expensive.

C and I don't have any credit cards and honestly we've blossomed financially without them. People have told us that home repairs always lead to other home repairs and take twice as long as you plan for. We've tried to over budget for projects, and broke them up in order of urgency. The house has just the right amount of repairs needed without being overwhelming [which is now on the record]. We know wonderful it is to run an ole' credit card through, leaving with your sweet checking account undisturbed. But living without them has never let us down. There's an unspoken pride in living off the card. For two years, we have not paid a credit card bills.

That isn't to say this week we aren't a little tight. We're blessed with family who graciously have us over to eat. This morning I was quite worried about being in a tight financial squeeze because the down payment is a bit more, and Chris' car just lost its muffler.

I felt a quiet still voice inside say, "I am taking care of your finances." I decided I would buy some things we needed after church but was in and out of fearful feelings.

When I arrived at church an hour late, my mom had a bag of her garden's bounty for us and a bag of my favorite brands. I thanked her a dozen times. I shared the story of my fear with her. Anyone who knows my gorgeous Sicilian mother knows that she eats a diet free of sugar, gluten, processed flours or most flours altogether, and most fruits [sugar content]. The diet has worked wonders for her health, but of course her parting words as she handed me the bag of goodies were: "You shouldn't eat the pasta."

I love you, Mom.

And I will eat pasta for a long, long time.