A January Valentine

We might as well revel in winter this year. Some say it’s the coldest on record in three decades. The reveling doesn’t take much for me; I’ve always loved winter. I think the soul loves the season into which one is born, so since this is my birth month, I don’t mind snow and cold and dark from mid December through mid March. Though, I must admit my spoiling: my work takes me to more temperate climes on occasion during the winter, and it’s been years since I’ve felt anything akin to Cabin Fever or SADD, both of which affect a lot of people I know. I spent Saturday and Sunday in the Caribbean, trying to soak up as much sun and heat as possible. Odd, I thought yesterday when I returned, the need to remove a thick winter glove to scratch at a mosquito bite on my wrist.

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These lovely old six-over-six ladies are waiting out the winter propped against our fence, a few feet from the place they’ll be “installed” as a garden ornament in the spring. Last summer, TBM and I discussed the need for a privacy screen of sorts- important to him to shield the street view of our backyard; important to me to shield the place where the Large Breed is digging his way to China. After some thought, I came up with an idea to use windows so that sunlight wouldn’t be entirely occluded. I sketched my idea (which has more to it than just windows) and suggested to TBM that we look for some at the Habitat for Humanity Restore. We happened to be heading that direction that day, and as we pulled into the parking lot, I spied these girls with at big ol’ FREE sign propped against a dumpster. “Hey…!” I exclamed, pointing toward them, and TBM replied, “Hmmm…” with a promising tone (he’s never been much into street finds and laments most of the things I lug home, though lately he’s starting to see the light). We got out of the car and gave the windows a good review: they’re made of wood; all the panes are intact; the sash are painted shut and the paint everywhere is peeling, but we don’t intend to lower and raise them anyway. They were perfect for my idea of the screen, so we loaded them up and drove home.

I hoped we could build the screen before growing season was over last fall, but alas our floor project overtook our existence. For now, the windows are propped against the fence in our back yard, providing a focal point in an otherwise bleak expanse, frosting over on both sides, catching snow on their muntins, and reflecting the sunrise, as they’re about to do here. After I’d taken this photo and left on a walk with the dog it dawned on me I would miss their best show of the day. Nonetheless, the picture is a reminder of something to anticipate when the northern hemisphere tilts again toward the sun, and mosquito bites will be plentiful and easy to scratch because I’ll not be wearing gloves.

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Reclaiming Home

I’m one of those people easily sidetracked. So it’s no surprise I’ve not posted in a while, sidetracked as I was by the Holidays, completing our floor restoration, and starting to put the house back together. It’s going to take longer than when we moved in because we have a lot more stuff now, and much of it looks terrible on top of the now-beautiful floors.

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We have a lot of amazing resale/vintage/street find items, but they need TLC and time I’ve not yet given them. Until then I need to be creative in reassembling the house to the cultured bohemian vibe (is there such a thing?) I hope to create.

TBM and I decided to give gifts to our house this year for Christmas- she’s been such a good girl in all we’ve put her through. One of my gifts was shelves for the room we call the library, ironically, because in the past, what we had to hold our books was an old swayback Billy from Ikea and a bunch of wine crates standing on end. We threw Billy out when we started hoarding at the end of the summer, because he fell apart in our hands when we moved him, and when I started putting the library back together in late November, I despaired over stacks and stacks of books and no place to put them. I thought about boxing them and storing in the attic for a future when we’ve got funds to build a custom library, oh, perhaps something like this:

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That’s gonna take some time.

While reclaiming the house, TBM has moved his studio from the second floor to the first and he decided not to take along some track shelving he had hanging on a wall. It dawned on me if I reused it in the library, along with the wine crates, I probably wouldn’t have to store our books. But it seemed one slim set of shelves would look lonely in this room with twelve foot ceilings. So my gift was purchasing more tracks and shelves- a simple Rubbermaid system from Home Depot. I wouldn’t have chosen black, but that’s what I was reusing from upstairs and I wanted everything to match.

I used Rubbermaid single track shelving with brackets for our new library shelves. Fairly easy to install with a power drill, level, screwdriver, and major patience.

I used Rubbermaid single track shelving with brackets for our new library shelves. Fairly easy to install with a power drill, level, screwdriver, and major patience.

I sang praises when I placed shelves on the brackets and everything was LEVEL!

I sang praises when I placed shelves on the brackets and everything was LEVEL!

Loading one wall of shelves with books (this is not the same wall as the last two photos). Organizing our books made me want to re-read so many of them!

Loading one wall of shelves with books (this is not the same wall as the last two photos). Organizing our books made me want to re-read so many of them!

A word about hardware: Our walls in some places are plaster; in other places drywall. I used a stud finder to locate as many as I could, screwing the upright for the shelf directly into the stud. Where I couldn’t find studs, I used toggle bolts. It took three trips to the local hardware store to get bolts long enough to provide “clearance” behind the upright and into the wall, mostly due to concern that the bolts would protrude too far inside the wall and not allow our pocket doors to open and close. In the end, 4 inch-long bolts worked.

A word about drilling: I was worried about making big ugly holes in the wall, but relaxed knowing they would be covered by the uprights (when we build that custom library, we’ll deal with the holes). It’s important to drill the hole just big enough for the toggle to fit through, but not so big that it swims around too much inside the wall. I used a 3/8 inch drill bit, which was just right.

Here’s a finished wall of shelves, though now we need bookends to avoid the tilted look going on.

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Another time I’ll post pictures of the completed room, with which I must say I am quite pleased. But the nicest result: the pocket doors (glimpsed on the left in this photo) open into TBM’s new studio. Time was, TBM would hole away in his studio upstairs, but since moving downstairs and throughout the Holidays and start of this winter, he’s been keeping one pocket door open. It’s wonderful to have him so central, to have his music flowing through the house, to let the Large Breed to go from room to room and plant himself where he pleases. Not surprisingly, that’s usually on the floor in TBM’s room, where the dog slumbers and snores as TBM creates wondrous sounds during the day and sips whiskey at night in a plump chair in the corner next to the mantle.

Winter’s Arrival

The first snow fell Friday night. Rain that followed us on the drive from the City turned to wet slushy flakes in the colder Upstate temperatures, but still we were surprised. The Large Breed seemed nonplussed until his walk around midnight, when about an inch of snow blanketed his world, and a switch went off inside his head: how good it is to roll around in the stuff; how to make doggie snow angels; how to plow his nose through and enjoy the frosty splendor on doggie lips and tongue. But his paws must have been cold, because he chose a round-a-single-block route for his walk, then nestled onto his blanket on the porch for a long winter’s nap.

Though the official arrival of Winter isn’t due until mid-afternoon on December 21, it arrived for us with the snow, and with a traditional celebration in our little town, held each year on the first Saturday of December. From five until eight in the evening, the main street is closed and people from communities all around gather for Winter Walk. The celebration began in 1997 to help lurch along a nascent renaissance of a community that for decades had seen a dwindling of manufacturing and increase of plywood on storefronts and homes. Now, over twenty-thousand participants come each year to see Santa and Mrs. Claus, live reindeer and miniature horses, roving carolers and Victorian characters, street performances by musicians and dancers, stilt walkers and even fire throwers, and to shop and dine at around one hundred shops and restaurants in the downtown area. I think back to the first Winter Walk, how good it must have felt for organizers to be doing something to make change happen in a place once tainted, with a lovelier side than it had willed to show for a long time.

Because TBM was on his hands and knees in our bedroom wearing a respirator (still finishing floors, we are, our Thanksgiving deadline having clucked on by) I attended Winter Walk alone last night. That’s not true: the Large Breed came along, and I think he was a bigger hit than most of the official attractions. How could he not be, at 125 pounds of long, thick fur and a doggie face that melts hearts young and old? I’ll bet we were stopped fifty times so he could be loved on; double that for the number of people who asked, “What kind of dog is he?” Alaskan Malamute, I would say and be greeted by surprise either because the asker hadn’t heard of the breed, or had never seen one so big. But a cute boy of about ten knew exactly what the Large Breed was, telling me he’d taken a quiz to know what kind of dog he was most like, and Malamute was his match (curious, I just took the quiz myself: I’m like an Australian Shepherd. HUGE compliment!!!)

Ah, Winter. I really enjoy the season. First of all, I love the change of seasons. I’ve lived before in places where a change isn’t very noticeable or doesn’t happen at all, but for me life is richer for the altering of ritual, routine, and wardrobe that come with the tilting of the earth and the waxing or waning of the sun’s rays on the planet. I love nesting in wintertime, cozying up in sweaters and scarves, making stews and soups, baking aromatic breads and sweets. And I love me a good snowfall, so Friday’s inch left me longing for the First Real Storm; the chance to sit in our bay window and watch flakes fall then get a good workout clearing steps, walks, and decks of their white burden. Maybe I’ll mind winter when I’m sixty, but for now, bring it on.

Windows to the Soul… Of a Home

31Days2013

After the floor restoration project is complete, it will be checked off a list of Daunting Projects we hope to complete at our home over time (a lot of time). Our house is not of major historical significance, but she was built by a family seeking a certain grandeur and she once knew better days. The person who owned her previous to us did much to return her to a former state of glory, but there’s still a way to go.

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Restoration Story: Update

31Days2013

A couple of weeks ago I posted about realizing that our floor refinishing project is actually a restoration project. I need to remind myself that restoring takes time and requires sustained patience. We really are making progress, but there is still so much to do that I become overwhelmed. Friday evening I told TBM I would probably have a meltdown before the weekend was over, and today was the day. Continue reading

Restoration Story

31Days2013

I posted a while back about the love of old things beginning at home, in reference to the house I grew up in. It was a wonderful place, an equally perfect setting for tea parties or haunted houses. When TBM and I were looking at houses to buy and we saw the one we now own, one of my first thoughts was “Too much like the house I grew up in. I don’t want it.” Also: I was really hoping for a “fixer upper,” though TBM did not agree, and this house had been recently renovated. It was the most amazing house we had seen, with good old bones and a still-intact soul. We had been through a lot of renovated houses in the shabby chic town where we reside, and many of them had been voided old structure charm: Outside they said “historic”; inside they said “modern condo.” Not interested, thank you very much. But this house was different- thoughtfully renovated, interior footprint intact, and full of special features: a tin ceiling, pocket doors, exposed brick, front and back staircase, and twelve-foot ceilings. In the end we bought her and have been slowly making her into a home.

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