Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Sewing Studio Master Plan

Came up with a plan for the sewing room, you can see it here. Other than that just another day of scraping cresent roll dough off the ceiling. (The can went off like a bomb.) One more of the many reasons I don't care much for cooking. Last week I set the smoke alarm off. Never a dull meal around here.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Mission Re-Organization

I am completely exhausted, so bear with me if this seems like rambling. Today I conquered the dreaded re-organization project of my sewing and craft rooms. I had been using a loft area at the top of the back staircase as my make-do sewing studio. I was bound and determined to clean up my scrapbooking/stamping/storage room enough to fit all my sewing essentials in. This also will allow me to set up an antique quilting frame in the loft area to go with my treadle machine.

While I was condensing down my scrapbooking supplies it occurred to me that I could fit that desk into our guest room and use that closet for the supplies. This would give me a lot more sewing space and also make my SIL very happy. She's our primary guest and she loves to bring her scrapbooks to work on when she visits. So I rearranged the furniture. Swapped the contents of the closets. Moved the sewing furniture. And generally reorganized the three different rooms.

I still have a few details to sort through but so far I'm thrilled with the results. My wonderful DH is building me a new sewing table and this arrangement will give me plenty of room for it. And if I can get him to build a few more bookcases I'll be all set. Still need to paint the walls and the floor, but that sounds like a good winter project to me. I'm too tired to even think about it right now.

Sunday, August 26, 2007


Took some time off from the home improvements to visit with family this weekend. The battle of the sexes trivia contest had it's typical results, 3 to 1 for the guys even though we stole two guys for our team. The game is obviously tailored to those who watch sports and the History Channel. If they'd just put some HGTV type questions in there, we'd have it made.

Then it was back to work today on some of these never ending projects. Number one on the list this week is the bookcase/jelly cupboard that M built for the kitchen. He did a great job on it and even used a hand plane for the raised panel doors. (His arms were sore for a week.) The goal is for it to resemble this rather pricey piece of David T. Smith only wider with two doors. I'll post pics once I've applied the multiple layers of finish.

Still working on those nooks and crannies. Discovered I had an empty crannie, the guest bedroom closet. I promptly filled it. Even so this is going to be another big garage sale. I knew we moved a lot more with us than can actually fit in this house, but it seems it's been breeding like rabbits since then. I'm starting to wonder if I shouldn't leave the lights on in the closets?

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Stormy Weather

Stranded up north by the storms. It's deathly quiet up here. No cat pawing under the door, dogs barking at squirrels or kids pounding on things. No projects waiting for attention.

Is this how normal people live?

Kinda creepy.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Family Heirlooms

I'm very fortunate to have several antique pieces that have been in the family for generations. This washstand belonged to my maternal grandmother. My mother refinished it once, then I had it for a while, then it ended up back at her place where she had it stripped again. Now it has come to live with me once more. (Yes Dear, I know that's a lot of moving around.)


It's a simple pine piece, most likely painted originally. That may be why neither of us has been happy with the stain finish we've applied. I was planning to paint it this time, but while working on it I made a little discovery. It seems my late Aunt Barb was practicing her penmanship many years ago both on the top drawer and inside the door. Now I realize it's perfect just the way it is.


Monday, August 20, 2007

Are You Smarter Than an 8th Grader?

We made major amounts of progress on all the projects this weekend. The door is done, grandma's washstand is done, the jelly cupboard is built and waiting for finishing, the bed... Yeah, I figured out why Mom never tackled that project herself. Actually, I'm catching on to why she's so generously bequeathed several projects lately. Because SHE didn't want to do them! The bed's going to be sent out to a strip joint. I hope it has a good time.

I made a small dent in the yard sale gathering, or a small pile I should say. Even though I'm not stamping or scrapbooking as much anymore I still can't bear to part with it. You never know, we might need some of it for a homeschool project. Just today for instance, while making medieval Byzantine icon art, we needed some of the paints. We'll definitely need papercrafting supplies while doing our medieval book art, along with that quill pen we made a few weeks ago. And you sure can't do justice to the Book of Kells or the Bayeux Tapestry without some cool rubber stamps.

Which leads me to another dilemma, our school schedule. It seems the curriculum director that came up with this year's course schedule (that would be me) didn't take into consideration how many hours this new hands-on rich curriculum was going to require. After six and a half hours today we finally called it a day. So the teacher (that would be me) needs to go back through all the lessons and balance the daily activities out a little more. Otherwise the gardener, the cook and the housekeeper (yep, me) will not be able to keep up with their duties.

Sunday, August 19, 2007


Not perfect, but protected from the elements and ready for another 100 years of service.




After:Only 17 more to go!!

Thursday, August 16, 2007


For those who may be interested and hadn't noticed, I added a link to my quilt blog down there on the right...

A Balancing Act

We're at one of those critical points where you can't really start one thing until you finish another. M needs to start building the screen doors but there's not enough room in the shop. All those projects we've been collecting need to be dealt with. We also need the space to start planning our yard sale on Labor Day weekend. Once that's over with we need to start insulating so we can keep working out there when the temperature starts to drop. So it's time to get the garage in order.

Of course it's not just that easy, I also have other things that are in the way of just getting that done. So here's my laundry list of to do's this weekend.

1. Put the FINAL coat of spar varnish on the door. (I don't care if it's 99% humidity, I'm doing it anyway, I want that door done.)

2. Try that whole staining the washstand project one more time and hopefully have it moved upstairs by the end of the weekend.

3. Bring the jelly cupboard in and start the "making old" process once M finishes building the doors.

4. Start refinishing the rope bed and have M build the side rails. (I was hoping to save the original finish but declared that impossible after cleaning them up today.)

5. Tackle the enormous mess that I claim as my craft room. Figure out what's going, what's staying and what's yard sale material.

6. Start gathering all the other yard sale stuff from around the house (ie cleaning out the nooks and crannies).

Then once all that's done, we can get back to our normal ever growing to-do list. Yeesh!

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Return of the Mom Guilt

She didn't even see my carefully parked vehicle when she backed into it. Little old ladies and big cars. Not exactly a match made in heaven. I was creamed by a Cadillac.

It's not safe to park at the park. I specifically chose my parking spot to avoid other vehicles. I had visions of small, excited children wildly flinging open their doors. Little old ladies never even crossed my mind.

So when one of the group's kids came running over and exclaimed "You need to go talk to an old lady that hit your car", I was a little stunned. By the time I trekked past the swings, I was angry. Even from half way across the park it was obvious I was the only vehicle around. How on earth did someone hit my car? It's big and it's blue. It doesn't exactly blend with the surroundings.

I was shaking by the time I reached the car. Trying to control my anger. Then she, the little old lady, apologetically explained that she simply didn't see it as she backed out of her space. By the size of her I suspect she could barely see over the steering wheel let alone the trunk. And then it occurred to me...

she could have been my mother.

While my mom's not old, *wink, wink* she IS little and drives a big car. She's complained ever since she bought it that it was hard to see out the back. In fact, I think she actually may have backed into something at one point if my memory serves correct. So how could I be angry with this little old lady in the parking lot, when I know how terribly upset my mom would have been had it been her? Or Aunt Betty? So by the time the whole thing was said and done, it got twisted around to ME feeling guilty! I should have painted my vehicle safety orange so they could see it! What the?

(Something tells me I'll be getting a phone call. And I have a feeling they'll be looking something like this on the other end...)

Monday, August 13, 2007

Making it Old Again (continued)

So where were we? Ah yes, tung oil. So here we are after two coats.

Step 11. Add back the grim, er I mean patina. Apply a brown wax. Wax on, wax off (what ever happened to Ralph Machio anyway?)

Before wax:
After wax:

Step 12. A final coat of clear wax, buff and polish.

And there you have it. Rehab complete and ready to be released back into society.

Well, not totally complete....

M was able to rebuild the broken upper doors this weekend. Now we just need to find a source for some antique glass and start the process all over again.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

A Million Little Things

Watching tung oil dry. Exciting stuff.

Made a to do list. Now I need chocolate. Or a margarita. Probably too early in the day for a margarita.

Too hot for half the items on the list. Not enough room to work on others. House is already clean since we entertained last night.

So do I try to brave the heat and paint those porch columns or get back in gear and finish up the lesson planning?

Why isn't sit-on-your-butt-and-do-nothing ever on the to do list?

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Making It Old Again

One afternoon while visiting one of the local antique shops we ran across an old cupboard that they were using for display. It was in awful, awful shape. The doors were missing, the drawer was falling out, it looked like someone had literally used a hack saw to remove the old paint and it was wobbly. It wasn't even for sale. But it looked like it had good bones, and everything really is for sale for a price isn't it? So we asked the shop owner about it and he said he would have to ask his son, it belonged to him.

We went back the next weekend and not only were they willing to sell it, they had managed to find the door frames, which had been stored in a barn. Only the frames, no glass or panels, but they were there none the less. So we negotiated a price and loaded it up. I'm sure they had a chuckle after we left about the "crazy fools" who were willing to buy that piece of junk.

We brought the poor old cupboard home and entered it into a twelve-step program.

Step 1. Plane and sand the outside to make it at least somewhat flat and useful again.

Step 2. Shore it up to remove the wobbles.

Step 3. Add drawer runners and a stop to the inside. You can see them here, and this will give you an idea of what the whole cabinet looked like at first as I forgot to take a true before pic.

Step 4. Rebuild the doors, adding a thin plywood panel for the inset.

Step 5. Stain the exterior with a dark stain (I used dark red mahogany) and allow to dry at least over night.

Step 6. Apply the first layer of milk paint to the inside, allow to dry.

Step 7. Apply a thin layer of red milk paint to the exterior, using an almost dry-brush technique leaving some stain showing through. Use a rag to wipe some of the paint off in areas where you want distressing.

Step 8. Apply more mustard milk paint to the interior, wipe as needed. (apply as many coats as you deem necessary)

Step 9. Lightly sand the whole piece, more heavily around the edges to create wear and tear.

Step 10. Apply a thin coat of tung oil, allow to soak in for about 10 minutes and then wipe off any excess. Allow to dry for 24 hours then apply another coat.

You might want to go grab a snack...it'll be at least 48 hours while we wait for it to dry...

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Well There Goes That Idea

That seems to be the recurring theme for today. Brilliant, but non-executable ideas.

There was another farmhouse we had considered prior to this one. Among other things it had the neatest rope swing hanging from a big old tree. It just exuded old fashioned charm.

I loved it and wanted to create that feeling in my own yard. I had the perfect spot. The perfect tree. The perfect limb. All I needed was some rope and a board. Until this morning when I woke to this...

I suppose I should just be grateful that Mother Nature saved my ever expanding fanny from impending doom.

After recovering from my disappointment we headed to town for supplies. I needed to get a price on bead board to use as wainscot to make the study feel more library-ish. I knew we didn't want the paneling type, we wanted the stain-grade tongue and groove boards (or as the guy at the store said "the real deal") to match what was already in other parts of the house.

After doing the quick calculation in my head, pulling my jaw back up off the floor and thanking the nice gentleman for his time I proceeded to the clearance isle where I picked up a nice libraryish-enough-to-me light fixture and declared the room done. That big fish will have to wait to be fried some other day.

Monday, August 6, 2007

Back To School

Spent most of our school day cleaning up the study and getting our wayward ducks in a row. Still we managed to squeeze in the three R's. Considering how much they really accomplish in public school the first day, I'm confidant we're already ahead of the game. We have lots of ground to cover this year. A slower introduction to the curriculum probably would have been a good idea though.

The fact that he at least doesn't have to carry it all around in a backpack was no consolation.

Sunday, August 5, 2007


Had an epiphany today while I was on my hands and knees scrubbing the upstairs floors. We've spent our evening down time this weekend perusing the amazing work that's been done over at Enon Hall. We seem to almost be living parallel lives, even our dogs share the same name. (Long live the fig bush!) Anyway, I've fallen head over heals in love with the floors in Gay's kitchen.

So as I was scrubbing today it occurred to me that it would be an amazing treatment for our floors upstairs. We've never really been satisfied with the way they turned out leaving that dark center. And you can tell the builders reserved the "pretty" boards for the downstairs. So my idea is to use diluted milk paint for the outer part of the room allowing the wood grain to show through, then tape off the dark center section and create a faux rug or floorcloth effect. Similar to this painted floor. Then go back over it with a couple more coats of tung oil. What do you think?

Of course I'd have to talk M into allowing me to do this. And move the furniture around for the 500th time since we've moved in...

Getting There

We are so close to getting the porch done we can almost taste it. (It's amazing how long it takes to put up 40 tubes of caulk.) We only have one more coat of paint on half of the columns and a few touch ups to go. Now M can focus on building the new screen doors, once those are up we can finish painting the door trim. Of course we still have to get the exterior doors from Hell done, still too humid today. Will try again this week to track down Jack and get him to come back and get these gutters replaced.

Before:Almost done:

Sent the master organizer in to help A clean his room today. Then ran to get the camera before it resumed it's usual disaster zone status. We just did a quick fix up in this room since, well, he's a teenage boy. His housekeeping skills leave a lot to be desired. By all rights this room needs some more major work, but most likely not until he's off to college. I can't imagine why he didn't want to keep the cute flowers and pink ribbon hearts? This is the room where the previous owners appeared to use rubber cement to attach the wallpaper. Not a fun project.


A few hours ago:

Saturday, August 4, 2007

It's a Jungle Out There

Yard work this morning before the temperature raised to cremate level. M's still out there mowing, poor guy. We, okay he, mows about 3.5 of our 7 acres. Takes about three hours just to cut the lawn, not including running the weedwhacker. So after a year of that once a week the mower was in need of some serious maintenance this morning. He has big plans for a "real" tractor some day, we'll see about that.

Speaking of weeds, this is what they looked like last fall. All of the flower beds had weeds up to 10 foot tall and apparently half of that was poison ivy. I now know precisely what it looks like and can spot it a mile away. I wanted to post this to remind myself that in spite of the terrible growing conditions this year, we really are making progress out there.

I weeded and mulched around my bargain Walmart clearance $4.00 shrubs this morning. They're amazingly not doing too bad, considering the conditions. In a few years they'll fill in nicely. I also added another coat of paint to the back door for Lucy to scratch off.

Earlier this spring we removed the metal-stake and clothesline-wire contraption that was supporting the wisteria near the driveway. Replaced it with a split-rail fence running the length of the flower bed. Looks MUCH better. And we were pleasantly surprised that it fit perfectly allowing room for the walkway we added last fall. Almost like we planned it. Still need to figure out a better way to support the sweet peas though. Maybe some sort of netting under the bottom rail when they're first coming up? Stupid moles seem to have finally moved out of this flower bed on to greener pastures...the back yard. Bandit was after them again yesterday. Our yard bears a striking resemblance to the surface of the moon.

Wanted to put a second coat of spar varnish on the exterior door from *&%# refinish project, but it's too humid. Maybe tomorrow. It's already been a seven day process, what's a few more? For those who haven't already suffered through my complaining, I started stripping what seemed to be a nearly bare wood door last weekend. Come to find out it wasn't bare wood at all. It was a badly worn faux grain finish. Apparently made with an opaque base coat (milk paint maybe?) that had penetrated the wood so deeply the stripper couldn't get it all out. Of course, once you get to the point where you realize what's going on it's not like you can just stop. You're in for the long haul. I was ready to cave in that first day and just paint the darn thing, but M insisted he wanted to stain it and spent two days scraping and sanding it. The next day I applied the stain. We now had a blotchy mess, but you could at least really see where more stripping and sanding was needed. So I did. Then re stained.... you get the idea. And the best part? Three more just like it waiting to be done. Woohoo!

A Purist: To Be or Not To Be?

There are many schools of thought on restoring old houses. While I believe we are purists at heart, our situation doesn't exactly allow us the opportunity to follow through with that. Here is our justification, listed primarily to remind ourselves and ease our guilt when making the hard decisions.

1. While lovely, this house is not historically or architecturally significant. We feel confidant that no one of great importance has ever slept here (other than you, Mom). It is a vernacular farmhouse, designed by the original owner. Mr. Kurtz could have used a few lessons in space planning. Or perhaps he just got a really great deal on doors and decided to build as many interior walls as possible to use them. We have 18 doors, all needing to be refinished.

2. We are not living in a historic neighborhood. We're not even IN a neighborhood, we're in the middle of nowhere.

3. Many "updates" have already been made to the structure. Doors have been removed, windows resized and replaced, vinyl siding added on top of asbestos shingles on top of clapboard, indoor plumbing (thank God).

So while we long for true divided light windows, cedar shake shingles and beaded clapboard we're also realistic. I'll fix up and preserve the three hole privy, but if you think I'm actually going to USE it you're sadly mistaken. Sure, we dream of one day replacing all the siding with clapboard. But after spending this entire summer just painting the trim, it's doubtful that's going to happen.

So we've settled for doing everything possible to preserving and restoring the charm and character of this old place...to an extent. It's now the 21st century and we have to live here. So yes Mother, you were right, that wall between the kitchen and dining room has to be opened up. But with charm and character of course.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Project Numero Uno

Family Room BeforeFamily Room After

The day we closed on this house we started ripping out the oh-so-lovely 1980's mauve carpet. We then spent over a month trying to sand and refinish all the heart pine flooring in the house. It was cupped and we now realize had a few layers of milk paint and faux grain glaze on the outer borders. To say that is was a bitch to do would be stating it mildly. I don't have any work in progress pics because it would simply be a shot of a dust cloud. Oh the dust!! We ended up with about a three foot tall pile of it in the back yard. I don't recall exactly how many passes with the sander it took, WAY too many for sure. They're still not perfect and some rooms you can still see the dark center where the wood had oxidized over the years. Luckily, I didn't want perfect, I wanted to save some of the old rustic look.

We hand applied a low luster tung oil to finish. Six or seven layers of it. Remember Karate Kid - "wax on - wax off"? This is about the time we realized we were no spring chickens anymore. Finally we just gave up and decided to move in. That's the beauty of tung oil, you can always go back and add another coat. No scratching the finish off and I'll tell you the best part...it hides dirt extremely well.

After moving in we did el-zippo other than unpack for a while. Given that the housing market tanked within milliseconds after we signed our listing agreement it was a little scary paying two mortgages. All our major plans were put on hold for fear of becoming el-broko.

Just before Thanksgiving, while M's parents were visiting, the guys dug paths leading from the driveway to the house. Then had a load of gravel delivered and spread it all out BY HAND over the driveway and the paths. I can't recall the reason it needed to be done by hand, but eventually we could finally get to the house without wallowing in the muck. We considered it a temporary solution, but now that we've lived with it, I like it and think they'll stay. Fits the rustic feel of the farmhouse. They also ran some wiring and installed some light fixtures out on the porch. You don't realize how dark it gets out here in the boonies until you have no light and no moon. Makes the creepy noises coming from the woods even creepier. Also makes the trek from the car to the house a quick one before the auto headlights shut off!

We sold the house and closed just before Christmas. Immediately afterward I started stripping the cutesy country wallpaper borders from the kitchen and family room and painting ensued. That, along with some much needed window treatments, makes the place much more livable.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

If Walls Could Talk

Over 100 years later this is still referred to as the "Kurtz Home". We are only the third family to live here. Luzena Kurtz called this home "Front Porch Indiana" because of the beautiful view from the porch.

Mr. and Mrs. Kurtz moved here from Kansas in 1898 bringing the lilac bushes in the front yard with them on a covered wagon. At that time there was a small brick house on the property. They tore part of it down and built this house around it between 1906 and 1908. It had all the latest amenities of the day including central heat, acetylene generated gas lights (the second generator is in the back yard) and a water system fed from two cisterns that would pump water upstairs to a bathtub. Pretty remarkable for a house in the middle of nowhere.

Everyone asks about the "thing" in the back yard. That's the second generator I was referring to. What happened to the first you ask? Well, now that's the story you're waiting to hear.

It seems the first winter after moving into the house was harsh. One particularly cold morning the gas lights had gone out. Mr. Kurtz inspected the situation and determined that the pipes had frozen and decided to use some hot coals to warm them up. He later went to town to conduct some business and upon returning found the lights to be in working order. Problem solved, or so he thought.

At that time the generator was located in a small building somewhat similar to the three hole privy it was located near. Later that evening the lights started to flicker. Mr. Kurtz bundled himself up, grabbed his lantern and headed out. Notice I said LANTERN.

Yes, as you can imagine, once he opened the door to the generator building there was an explosion that was heard for what the newspapers report as far away as 20 miles. The newspapers also report how far away his uh, parts and pieces were found in graphic detail. Fortunately, all family members inside the house were spared even though all the windows in the home had been shattered.

It is told that the widowed Mrs. Kurtz lived in the dark for quite a number of years before being convinced to finally install the second generator. It's also told that this house has a "friendly spirit" living here. I've not met the so called spirit personally in the year we've lived here. But I will confess that I've felt an overwhelming sense of peace since the first moment I set foot in the door, long before I was aware of Mr. Kurtz' demise. I feel like I belong here. I wouldn't mind having my own ashes spread amongst these few acres when the time comes. Although I would prefer a more gentle distribution method.

RIP, Mr. Kurtz