April 6, 2019:


The income taxes are finished and were taken to the Post Office yesterday to send out via certified mail, which now costs nearly $16 for two 8 1/2 11 envelopes with return receipt. Yikes! But worth it because I have proof positive once I get the little green cards back that the returns were delivered and received. And just in case, there are tracking numbers that I can also tap the U.S. Post Office for to verify that delivery was made. In these times, it's better to be safe than sorry

I have been working in little bits and pieces outdoors whenever a window in our crappy weather has presented itself. Today, however, was the first day where I was able to spend an extended period of time outside. First, I cleaned up areas on the sidewalk and driveway along the edges where pine cones and branches tiny branches blown off during the seemingly wind storms we endured over fall and winter 2018-2019. After resting for a bit, and removing the winter hat, gloves and jacket, I moved to the back yard because I'm sick of feeling sick to my stomach every time I look at it through the patio doors in the dining room and window above the kitchen sink. This winter left it a true disaster zone. I worked steadily raking small areas and filled two trash can size black trash bags full of debris blown down from my arborvitaes and neighboring trees over the winter, in addition to about half a ton of nut shells. The nut shells are my fault because I feed all the neighborhood squirrels. They are so entertaining, and very smart! I also made a small dent in starting clean-up of the flower beds, where the "mild" (ahem) weather and thawed earth has encourages perennials to start popping through, whether I'm ready for them or not!

All in all, a somewhat decent start to making a larger dent in clean-up operations. I worked outdoors about 4 hours off and on. I didn't want to overdo it, and truth be told, I'm pooped! It's humbling to not be able to work as long or as hard as I used to. I can get it done, but I have to take lots of rest breaks so it takes quite a bit longer now. Good thing I'm retired


Thursday, June 27, 2013

Summertime Views: Thunderstorm Passing Over

Hola darlings!

The weather in SE Wisconsin where I live has been totally opposite of the drought conditions we suffered through last year.  Incessant rains and storms and flooding, some severe (but not in Milwaukee County where I live, small blessing), to the south, west and north of here - seems like forever but it's probably only been for the past two weeks or so.   Now the farmers are complaining that it is too wet to plant.  Last year, it was Dust Bowl!

This evening, the forecast was for hit-or-miss thunderstorms during rush hour and after.  After getting off the bus after work, I dashed as quickly as I could to the Pick 'n Save to pick up necessaries for the weekend (such as wine, bread, cheese, and peanuts.  Then I hiked the 9 blocks home, mostly up-hill. I made it home free from rain (but wet from sweat).

A few hours later, about 8:30 p.m. or so, all of a sudden it started pouring buckets of rain outside, but the Sun was still shining from the northwest even as it was headed toward dropping below the horison.  I thought -- there may be a RAINBOW outside, and I dashed out to my front porch to look - it faces due east.

Sure enough - RAINBOW!  Then I thought -- maybe I can get some photographs!  I quickly ran back inside and grabbed my 2005 Nikon Quick-Pix and ran out to the front stoop. I'm not a good photographer, but that doesn't stop me from trying, LOL!  So here are some pics from this evening, as the RAINBOW did appear.  The rainbow is the symbol of the the Male God's promise in the Old Testament never to destroy the Earth again by water (ala' the Great Flood).  While the rainbow was glorious in the southeast, the Sun was setting in the northwest!  And Maison Newtonm sandwiched in-between, doncha know, I had a great view!

The thunderstorm was moving rapidly from the northwest toward the southeast end of Lake Michigan.  This is a view from the end of my sheltered area under the overhang on my garage; it kept me more or less dry for the few seconds it took to dash out to take this and several other photos that were mostly "bleh" -- looking toward the southeast.  The rainbow's arch was GIGANTIC and not sure why, but it disappeared from my angles before going half-way up the sky!  Can you see the rain?  And that patch of blue sky to the south!

The photo above was taken just a few second before the first photo, from a fractionally different angle.  There was a double rainbow!!!  You can hardly see it, but it was definitely there, just for a few moments, and then poof, it was gone. 

While the magnificent rainbow was arching gracefully to the southeast, I snapped this photo from the front of my house toward the northeast -- I could not see the end of the rainbow, unfortunately, but the beautiful colors  of the storm clouds and the sky as the Sun was setting, the thunder was booming and the rain was falling -- just was so beautiful!  I would like to decorate a room in these colors.

Rain started coming down had (again) and I retreated back to my covered front stoop -- this is a photo facing northeast, the same direction as the previous photo but up higher because of the step-up from driveway to the stoop.  On the left you can see the support column for the little peaked roof that covers my stoop!

Above, a view due east from my front stoop.  The purple maple is my "street tree," just to left of center; across the way, center, is one of the large cottonwoods that stradles the border between neighbor on northeast corner across the street, and neighbor on the southeast corner across the street!  To the right of the cottonwood is another purple maple street tree, one of several that lines the east side of my street and my neighbor's to his lot line.  To the left, on the far left, you can see the evergreen tree that is featured prominently in the photo just above this one.  All the different colors in the sky and the trees -- and I tried to capture the sunlight gleaming on the north side of the tall cottonwood!  What can I say - it is just so beautiful.  If only I could capture on film what my eyes see!

A last photo of the rainbow (facing southeast) as the Sun continued to set and the rainbow started to fade in the sky.  It was still raining.

This photo was taken from the southeast corner of my garage (underneath the overhang for some little protection from the rain) looking toward my backyard toward the southwest.  The colors in the sky are just magnificent!  As you can see, I have several tree.  I am very lucky to have them.  The then-sapling trees on the lot were one of the reasons I bought it in 1987. 

Somewhere over the rainbow....

Monday, June 24, 2013

The Carpet Is OFF The Stairs!!!!!

Woop woop!  I am so fricking proud of myself, darlings!  I did it all by myself.  I didn't think I could, but I got the last of the carpeting off the stairs from the landing to the second floor tonight.  Late last night I dug out a new tool from my #1 Junk Drawer that helped a lot - a very sharp razor edge cutter (much sharper than my box top cutter) that made short work of the carpeting as I worked my way first up, and then down, the stairs from the top step.  Being able to tug at a short cut edge of the carpeting gave me much better leverage with my pliers and made a big difference in how quickly the carpeting came up.

My arms feel like they're going to fall off...

The last of the carpeting was tucked into the trash bin for pick-up tomorrow morning.

I really lucked out on the landing bullnose and the bullnose at the start of the second floor hallway because the carpet installer (Bless His Soul) cut and separately stapled the carpeting around each of those bullnoses (is that a word?), so I did not have to cut the carpeting and then worry about how I was going to attach it under the bullnose, as I do not own a staple gun and the thought of trying to use one scares the crap out of me!  Instead, after gingerly feeling all around those landing bullnoses with bare fingers, I determined that the carpeting was separately stapled (thank Goddess for our wonderful Sense of Touch), I was able to dig around with my pliers near the top of the tread underneath each landing, grab the carpet, and tug it away, more or less leaving a clean line of carpeting above it.  YIPPEE! 

I'm too tired to examine it more closely tonight, but I think I'll be able to get up underneath each bullnose and tuck any "loose ends" of the carpeting (once trimmed with that super-sharp razor cutter) into the seam between landing and riser.

Here are some photos of the upper stairs, now stripped of carpet, hooray for Moi!  Like my Dad was fond of saying in his worst imitation of Boris Badinof's accent (anyone out there besides me remember the Rocky and Bullwinkle Show???):  You strong like Bull!  You betcha, Dad.  Hathor the ancient Egyptian Holy Cow Goddess (no, I am not kidding) is mighty proud of this here midwestern American gal tonight. 

In total, I removed carpet from seven stairs on the steps from first floor to landing, and from five stairs on the steps from the landing to the second floor hall.  Whew! 

As you can see, the padding - cheapo thin padding, has yet to be removed.  Call me silly stupid, LOL!  I was kinda wondering Saturday night after laboring for hours on removing carpeting from the first flight of stairs just why that padding wasn't moving.  But it wasn't until this evening that I gingerly tugged it on a corner on one tread and saw that it is firmly stapled to each and every tread. 

Damn damn damn!  Well, I should have known these otherwise in pretty darn good shape stairs would come with a cost besides uber-sore muscles!

The second set of stairs also has some issues that the first set of stairs does not.  Check out these photos:

Oh yeah, more than quarter-inch wide gaps along the left side of the stairs.  I don't know if it was just not so carefully built as the first set of steps from first floor to landing, or if the house has shifted a lot during the past 23 plus years.  Hmmmm.  In any event, these gaps will need to be addressed somehow, someway, when I get to refinishing the stairs and risers.  A couple more photos -- the gaps persist all the way down to the landing:

Holy Hathor -- looks like a dead mouse head, eek!  But nope - it's just some carpeting stuck in there.  Whew!

Look at that -- a crack where the riser meets the stair narrowing down to nothing!  Well, that one at least I can probably caulk.  Now I'm going to have to learn - seriously darlings - how the heck to caulk! 

And what kind of caulk to use.  Cuz the risers are going to be a creamy white and the treads are going to be stained red mahogany (did I spell that right?), and the bannisters and trim pieces on either side are going to get a good rich coating of red mahogany and after 23 years, the woodwork on the staircase will finally be stained the way I'd always envisioned.  My B-I-L Fred, good guy that he is, stained the staircase for me way back in 1990, but he did it like a man.  Well, I guess he can be excused, since he is a man.  On the woodwork that I stained in the house, admittedly taking forever to do it, I did coat after coat until I'd built up a rich lacquer-like finish that is truly deep rich mahagony that almost looks like antique cherry with a dark gloss over it.  So, I'm going to take my time and do it - just so and try to get that look on the stairs like I have on the little "ranch style" baseboards upstairs and in the front room. 

Or maybe not - do I have the patience to do that NOW???  Probably not.

And the ballisters - I'm actually thinking of painting them to match the risers.  Now talk about WORK!  But, I figure I can unscrew them, a few at a time, and that will make them way easier to paint, at least for me, and then reinstall and continue painting a few ballisters at a time until they're all finished.  I'll see...  I'm pretty sure I remember correctly that I read that it is easier to paint over stain than to try to stain over paint - and yeah, how could one possibly stain over paint?  It would have to be removed!  So

My staircase is certainly not "traditional" in its styling, but I'm thinking a traditional paint job will look pretty darn cool.  A far cry from my original "quicky" vision of just dumping a coat of red mahogany stain on any unfinished wood and calling it a day.

More later - like -- how to deal with the issues!  But right now I'm going to finish my glass of wine and then take a nice long hot shower.  Oy -- did you know that pulling carpeting off stairs is actually great exercise for your butt muscles?  Yep -- my butt muscles were hurting like the dickens today and since the only out of the ordinary exercise I had this weekend was pulling carpeting off stairs with all my might, it has to be that which caused sore butt muscles. 

Hmmm, maybe if I start renting myself out as a remover of carpet from stairs person, I will obtain the coveted Buns of Steel after all these years...

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Removing Carpeting from the Stairs - Continued

Hola darlings!

Day 2 of my project.  Another hot and uber-humid (dew point is like 70 and no, that is not the same as humidity, it is even WORSE) here in Milwaukeeland and so I'm house bound again.  I did my trek to the Pick 'n Save way early this morning to pick up wine and toilet paper (BASIC necessities) and food (not a necessity during this heat as my appetite totally disappears and I have to force myself to eat, even within the air-conditioned comfort of Maison Newton).

 I read the Sunday newspaper while having my one allowed cup of coffee per day, and started blogging at Goddesschess (my other blog).  And then it struck - the energy to finish removing the carpeting from the first seven stairs toward the landing going upstairs!

And I got it done, darlings, I got it done.  Woo woo!  Look - except for the toilet paper (that I was on my way to deliver upstairs when the energy to remove the rest of the carpet struck) and a few miscellaneous tools, and don't mind that horrid excuse for "padding" still on the treads, I've got more or less carpet-free steps:

Let me tell you, step 2/tread 3 were real beyatches and you can see lots of left-over carpeting still stapled into the wood, all of which will now have to be hand-picked out with a screwdriver leveraged with a hammer.  Arrgggh!

But - progress has been made, and I'm so happy.  In fact, I was so pumped up, I started on the second set of stairs from the landing up to the second floor hallway.  Woo woo woo!  That's only five full stairs!   However, am now stumped with some particularly stubborn staples on riser two.  I may have to put a new cutting blade into the box cutter to cut the carpet in order to get better pulling leverage.  That means I'll have to unscrew the box cutter, take out the old blade and insert a new blade.  I hope I'm able to put it back together the right way!

However, I am taking a break at the moment to eat a very late lunch and maybe take a nap after, before even contemplating going back out into the mucky, steamy weather to cut the other half of the front lawn, once the shade comes around. I knew I should have done it yesterday when it was just as mucky but about 10 degrees F cooler, but I just couldn't bring myself to get out there and do it.  And the backyard remains to be cut, too...

I wonder if Milwaukee has "Rent a Husband" service available?  I need some muscle around here to get this done! 

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Removing Carpet from My Stairs

Hola, darlings!

This afternoon, about 3 p.m., I started removing the carpeting from my stairs.

For background, please visit my prior post:

June 9, 2013: Am I Really Thinking About Tearing Off the Carpeting on the Stairs...

I realized a few weeeks ago after having lived here nearly 23 years and going up and down the basement stairs all the time, that those stairs are perfectly fine stairs that could be painted or stained; I shortly concluded, after this stunning realization, that if the builder bothered to put such "good" stairs down to the basement, chances are, he did the same with the stairs going from the first floor up to the second floor.

In a further fit of inspiration, I pulled out my copy of the builder's specs. And there it was in writing - the stairs/treads were made out of pine and birch. But despite plenty of testimony from visiting online blogs of people who has discovered that their carpeted stairs were good enough to re-finish without having to be replaced, I was too scared (paralyzed, is more like it), to do anything to even try and check if my suppositions about the first to second floor stairs were correct.

I didn't include photographs of my basement stairs in my prior post - it didn't occur to me until today to take a couple and post them here - duh.  Here are the basement steps going down from the hallway (between the front room and the kitchen/dinette) to the basement landing:

And here is a photo of the second set of steps from the landing down to the basement:

Not bad, heh?  They've got a bullnose edge and they're made (according to the builder's specs) out of pine and birch.

I cannot believe I'm doing this.  Have I gone totally insane?  Hmmm...

After spending the entire morning (since 6:35 a.m.) watching online videos of last season's HGTV Star in-between bouts of doing loads of laundry and house-cleaning, and since it was horrible outside (hot and icky humid and it rained for nearly 12 hours, since about 9 p.m. last night until about 9 a.m. this morning, it's too wet to cut the grass), I decided to tackle the carpeting that has been driving me nuts for the past several years. 

Blame it on HGTV!  I pulled out a screwdriver and a putty knife and gently pried up a corner of the carpeting at the end of the lowest step in the hallway, just to see what kind of wood was underneath.  I was surprised by how easily it came up.  Now I realize that it was a trick played upon me all those years ago by whoever installed the carpeting...  I was able to pull the carpeting up and -- sure enough -- there was the nice pine tread with a bullnosed edge, just like the basement stairs!

And so, I kept going...

Yucky stuff, but less that I would have suspected after all these years, came out of the carpeting, but it came up easily enough, for awhile...

I pulled out an assortment of different tools.  Unfortunately, I do not own a wrench, highly recommended by Thirfty Decor Chick for aiding in carpeting removal -- I learned how right she was! 

Working off and on for several hours, I finally quit about 7:20 p.m. when I basically collapsed in an exhausted heap and decided to cook myself a fancy steak dinner instead of trying to remove even one more damn carpet staple.  Ironically, although I started at the bottom of the stairs, that step has yet to be stripped of its carpeting.  Instead, I cut the carpeting underneath the bullnose on the landing and worked my way down the stairs, figuring that it would be easier to pull the carpeting DOWN toward me than to pull it UPWARD. 

I was wrong.  Either way is equally hard.

I am very disappointed to have discovered that I am much weaker than I thought I was.  Damn! 

I am still not done removing the carpeting from the first seven stairs leading up to the landing.  From what seemed like hardly any staples at all holding the carpeting on the stairs to what seem like thousands, my poor arms just do not have enough strength to pull the carpeting up. Well, at least, not any more tonight!

I still have two treads and three risers at the bottom of the staircase to remove the carpeting from.  But right now, I'm going to go take a long hot bath in the hope of heading off what I suspect could be a bad case of aches and pains tomorrow, and then go to bed!

I also have several scratches to treat with tea tree oil. I had gloves on to protect my hands and eye protection, but only a tee shirt on working inside the house.  Should have been wearing a heavy sweatshirt to protect my arms.  The scratches are inadvertent, from brushing up against the carpet staples as I worked to remove the carpet from the stairs.

One good thing I discovered -- there are NO carpet tack strips!  Nope!  My carpeting was stapled into the treads and risers near the seam between tread and riser and underneath the bullnose on the tread, so I will not have to remove tack strips.

Another thing I discovered -- how chintzy my carpet padding was.  Geez! 

And, fortunately, many of the staples are coming up with the carpeting instead of tearing through and staying embedded on the treads and risers, because I'm tugging the carpeting out so slowly (because I haven't eaten my spinach and do not have arms like Popeye, alas).  And so, while there will be staples to be removed after the carpeting is all gone, there won't be near as many as I feared.

And, at least eyeballing it while tugging this way and that trying to get the carpeting off the stairs, there do not seem to be as many holes that will need to be filled and sanded as I saw in the accounts posted online by many other people who have gone through this process. 

So, my sore muscles are counting their blesings right now.  Good night.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Peonies and Wrens

My peonies have popped!  I didn't think it would ever happen!  It's been so cold here, and until recently, wet and overcast and just generally miserable.  It's been a season of feast or famine weather thus far, unfortunately.  And now that so many of my former saplings that were so cute when I first moved in 22 plus years ago that I couldn't bear the thought of having them cut down (now I know better!) are overshadowing the entire yard and making things much shadier than ever it was intended to be, my iris and peonies are blooming late, if at all.  My iris, especially, are suffering.  Where I used to have lots, now I have only a few, and I can see that they are struggling, totally overrun by run-of-the-mill daylilies, which seem to be the only thing that grow fruitfully in my yard these days.  Sigh.

I need to do some serious garden restructuring.  But for now, I'm enjoying what's here.  Some time next month the daylilies will be out in all their glory.

These are "double" peonies, that's all I remember about them.  I purchased two plants at least 12 years ago during a trip to one of my favorite local nurseries, Luxembourg Gardens in Franklin, Wisconsin (southeastern Wisconsin, not too far as the crow flies from where I live).  Luxembourg Gardens stock may be a bit more expensive than what I can get at the popular garden center right here in town, but I've not yet had a Luxembourg Garden plant fail on me, and that's saying a lot!  I planted both of the peonies along the south end of my deck, but soon the one closest to the house was being overtaken by the aggressive day lilies.  So, I dug it out.  At least, I thought I did.  I transplanted it to the lower garden which, at the time, still received adequate sunlight.  No longer the case unfortunately, due to the growing up trees!  Meanwhile, back at the deck, I was shocked the following spring to see a small and spindly yet determined peony emerge from my clay soil from the same area where I thought I'd dug out all the roots of the transplanted peony.  Those struggling shoots have turn into an honest-to-goodness peony plant over the ensuing years and it is the one that has now burst forth with three blooms!

You can see how this peony is surrounded by daylilies! 

The photo below is of one lone peony bloom that has opened up in the lower garden:

And my few iris blossoms -- the old fashioned "German iris" that I took roots from eons ago when I first moved in here from Mom's garden:

As you can see, they're surrounded by daylilies.  I need to clear out a good spot for them along the south side of the house where there is still plenty of sun during the day.

And here is the rusted old birdhouse that a wren moved into a few years ago!  It used to be painted a pale olive green but once I moved it outside and affixed it to a fence post on the north lot line, it lost its paint over the next couple of seasons.  About two years ago a bird - I did not know it was a wren at the time - moved in!  One day I was out cutting the grass and was shocked to see that someone had been building a nest inside the birdhouse!  Mind you, it was only fence post height, so about 50" tall at the most!  And yet there it was.  And so I started keeping my eye on it.

Sure enough, more evidence of nest-building accrued over time, although I never saw a bird hanging around!

And then, last year, either my eyes got better or the bird got bolder.  I started seeing it hanging around the bird house, which he or she had once again moved into!

I was careful to try not to get too close, but you know, sometimes I just had to when I was cutting the grass and I'm sure the gas mower and it's noise and fumes just scared the heck out of it!  Otherwise, I was careful to stay as far away as possible, given the relatively close proximity to my deck!  I had no idea what kind of bird it was.

This spring, I noticed that the fence post the birdhouse was glued on to was failing.  It would have to be reinforced.  I also felt uneasy about the bird house being so open and exposed where a cat could easily get at it by climbing up the post, as I had seen fresh evidence of nest-building! 

So, one night after work earlier this spring I moved the birdhouse.  I was surprised at how easily the glue holding the house to the top of the fence post gave way, actually.  At first I moved the house to a shepherd hook on the north side of my deck, close to underneath my kitchen window.  But that was too close to the deck.  If, as I thought might be the case, the bird had come back, every time I opened up the patio screen door the bird would be scared out of its wits.

And so, after a few days I moved the shepherd's hook to underneath the family room window on the south side of the deck.  Farther way from where I sit.  Still somewhat sheltered by the overhand two stories above.  Close enough to the house to be a bit sheltered but nothing nearby for a cat or other critter to crawl up on to attack the birdhouse. 

I started hearing the most incredible bird song.  But I could never pinpoint where it was coming from or, more importantly, who it was coming from!  And then one day, after I'd moved my miracle plants (that had survived another winter in the garage in regular plant pots) out to the deck, I saw it!  A little plain brown bird.  It was that little plain brown bird making the most fabulous song!

Well, once I spotted it, I started seeing that bird all over the place.  He - at least I assumed it was a he because it usually is the male that makes the fabulous song to attract a mate, right? - he was all over my deck.  Seemed to love those plants I'd put out there, LOL!  He'd be perched up on one of the planters first thing in the morning to greet me when I opened up the patio door and stepped out to throw down bird seed for the sparrows and red-winged blackbirds and mourning doves at a spot in the lower yard, and would watch me toss out hazelnuts and peanuts for the squirrels.

Last month during our Sunday morning investment club meeting, I was telling the ladies of the club about this crazy little bird who was singing it's heart out trying to find a mate, but I did not think he had found one yet.  Angie, who lives in a very rural area, was curious about the bird and, sure enough, at one point there he was perched on one of my plants singing his heart out!  She got a good look at him and said "it's a wren."  A wren! 

As far as I knew, I had not had one of them around here before he decided to move into the old rusted metal birdhouse! Angie said they were very particular about where they moved in, so I guess I'm flattered, LOL!

Here is a video I found at You Tube, and my wren is very much like and his song sounds the same:

Evidently the wren is much hated by some people because he chases bluebirds away and will actively attack their nests, destroying their eggs, to take over their nesting boxes.  But I don't have bluebirds here.  The first and last time I saw a bluebird here was in May, 2007, and it only hung around a for a few days before flying to the south.  No other bird went near the old birdhouse until the wren appeared a few years ago, so he, and Mrs. Wren, are welcome at Maison Newton. 

I do believe there is a Mrs. Wren.  I have seen some evidence of a bird inside the rusted birdhouse even while I can hear Mr. Wren out in one of the trees singing his little heart out.  Today, when I was taking the photos of the peonies, I tried to get a close-up shot of the bird house and lo and behold, out flew a bird!  Mrs. Wren?  Maybe.  Check out this photo -- I actually managed to capture her (or he?) sticking it's head out of the bird house opening:

Do you see the wren?  Looks rather like a mouse peeking out of the hole in this photograph, LOL! 

And, just now, I hear a little "purple" finch or house finch as we call them around here, singing his heart out, too!  My yard is one of the few places in the neighborhood where catnip still grows wild (I called it stinkweed before I actually identified what it was because it stinks like the dickens when yanked out of the ground) and the house finches and the yellow finches go crazy for it when its blooms set seed.  They also really like the seed heads of a plant that showed up some years ago -- I've no idea what it is but it gets little purple flowers on it and sort of resembles foxglove, but not as deep a purple and taller and the leaves are "lacier" than foxglove, too.  Anyway, I figured that one of the finches must have left a poopy seed deposit behind and from there, the rest was done by Mother Nature.  I don't mind the volunteer plants. I keep them confined to certain areas of the yard.  The catnip is suffering, though. It too, likes sun, and my yard is not as sunny as it used to be.  All to the good for me sitting outside during the summer on sweltering days, because it's a good 10 to 15 degrees cooler in my shady afternoon yard, but for some plants, not so good!

I know I need to have some trees removed.  Lately I've even been contemplating having one of my two Newport plum trees removed because of how much light it is blocking.  But it's an expensive proposition to have trees of eight to ten inch diameter removed, let alone some of the larger Chinese elms!  Thank goodness the electric company came by a few days after I called last week and did some trimming on the giant double Chinese Elm that hovers close outside my kitchen window.  Its branches were overhanging and intermingling with electrical and other wires out back and they were all trimmed back quite a bit, but done very well.  At first, actually, I could hardly even tell where the tree had been pruned!  That's a sign of a job well done. 

Well, now I need to put my leather gloves back on and go forth and tackle some more of those berry tree volunteers that somehow are now towering close to 20 feet tall!

Monday, June 10, 2013

Gallery Wall: I Think I Finally Got It (Nearly) Right

Hola darlings!

For months I've been working on and off, trying to create a gallery wall on the one area in my dinette crying out for it.  It is the east wall and sits on the other side of my smallish dinette area opposite the sliding patio door to my deck and backyard. 

For years it held three simply framed Chinese silk embroidered panels with two candle sconces on either side across the top third of the wall.

Here is one of my posts on the subject, from back in February, 2013.  It starts out with a photograph of the totally stripped-down wall with only seven items on it.  The photo below is what I more or less ended up with during that time:

Well, it was better than the bare nekked wall I was faced with after removing everything that had been hanging up there for years!  By the end of that post I was pretty satisfied with the collage I'd put up on the wall after many struggles to try and get it all balanced out.

Then, in March, I threw a wrench into the works when I bought a Queen Anne style console table from my youngest sister and her hubby, who sold their house and moved up north (northern Wisconsin, that's what we call it here in southeastern Milwaukee County, LOL!)  Suddenly, my nearly to the floor wall arrangement wasn't going to work because I wanted to put the console table on that wall!   Console Table Design Inspirations. 

Some major switcherooing occurred.  I had been struggling with the "balance" thing.  So many of the largest photographs had ended up at the top of the arrangement and then down at the bottom I had all these 5x7 photos in smallish frames and it just wasn't working right!  So, I kept switching things around and around, and totally aerated the wall with lots and lots of nail holes (most of which have since been filled in).  I think I got on the right track when I moved out the square framed mirror bought on clearance from Target and added an already-owned round mirror with small candle sconces on either side.  That note of formality and symmetry made me feel more comfortable. The black finish on the metal candle holders gives a nod to the black furnishings in the family room, which is fully visible and wide open to the dinette area and gallery wall.

Maybe in the back of my mind I had this gallery wall in mind, from an article I posted back in July, 2012, on "the chartreuse apartment."  Drop dead gorgeous!  And I was much struck by how so many big paintings and such were at the TOP of the arrangement.  Of course, their walls are a lot taller than my eight foot walls.  Scale is everything!  But something to strive for -- that look! 

Which brings me back to today.  Within the confines of my eight foot tall walls and limited space, and with the addition of my sis' lovely Queen Anne console table, here is the new and improved and, hopefully, will stay for awhile gallery wall of my family and friends.  These photographs were taken from various positions around the dinette table underneath my vintage chandy (you can see part of it intruding into the first photo below, in the upper right hand corner -- looks sort of like a bullet, actually):

The photo above was taken in the early evening; it was overcast yesterday and the lamp cast a homey glow that just made me feel like I was being hugged as I sat here working on my trusty old Toshiba laptop (it had been outside with me earlier, at the patio table).

Here you can get a sense of the intimate scale of Maison Newton.  A short hall to the left holds the door to the basement, the door to bath/powder room (it has a full-size shower so it counts as a second bathroom), and the open staircase to the upstairs, overlooking the front room, which has beautiful round-topped window, the fireplace, and a sloped ceiling from first floor all the way up to the second floor that runs across the back of the house.  On the right you get a glimpse into the family room. 

You can see more of my vintage chandy (from my first house, an art-deco era brick bungalow bought in 1986) in this photo, in the upper left corner and partially reflected in the mirror!  In the lower right hand corner on the gallery wall is a rose of remembrance that is very special to me. To balance it out in the awkward upper left corner (see photo 2 above) that didn't have enough space to anchor another photograph but needed something, I added a copper and brass floral purchased from Home Interiors many moons ago.  You can't see it in this photo!  Check it out in photo 2. 

As you can see, I was working around a light switch and a thermostat.  I tried to blend them in as much as possible while not obstructing easy access, especially to the light switch, which controls the center ceiling light fixtures in the kitchen and dinette. 

I am so very happy right now, sitting here working on my Toshiba laptop still not moved back to the front room desk and admiring my gallery wall -- a wall of incredible memories -- as the sun is slowly setting in the west, shining through my patio doors.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Am I REALLY Thinking About Tearing Off the Carpeting on the Stairs...

I cannot believe - just cannot believe - that I am actually contemplating doing this.

But I am.

I don't recall the exact moment this particular infection took hold of my brain.  I think it was perhaps ten days to two weeks ago.  I was sitting at the desk in the front room, which has a clear view of the stairs going up to the landing toward the second floor. 

I went ICK.  SUPER ICK.  I HATE how the carpet looks on the stairs. It is worn out and shabby looking in the worst possible way and I do not think I'd be able to paint my way to Shabby Chic respectability no matter how much I ardently wish for it!  Anyway, I don't believe one actually paints carpeting. Upholstery galore, yes, carpeting, no.  In this photo you can sort of see the worn-down areas where countless footsteps have trod up and down, up and down, over the past 22 plus years!  Alas, I cannot afford to replace the carpeting.

It was then that I got the brain attack to tear up the carpeting and, believe me, I wanted to go at it right that instant!

But, as the old saying goes, discretion is the better part of valor. Or something like that.  Since then, I've been doing unending research into how the heck such a thing is to be done and what to do with the bare stairs afterwards...

There is PLENTY of inspiration for such a project on the internet:

I found this extremely informative step-by-step post at SAS Interiors:

Staircase Makeover: A New DIY Venture Begins
May 21, 2012

This is soooo like my icky old stairs, even down to the medium grey carpeting!  Except I don't have a man around the house with nice muscular hairy arms to help me cut up carpeting and do carpet-tack strip and staple removal and such.  Damn!

Plenty of inspiration, including this more difficult project -- open staircase.  I don't have that, whew!  Thank Goddess for small favors!  Check out this how to from In My Own Style blog:

My Foyer Staircase Reveal
by Diane Henkler on 01/19/2011

Thrifty Decor Chick redid her stairs:

How To Take Carpeting Off Stairs
February 9, 2010

Reading her blog alerted me to something I hadn't really thought about -- what the hell,
exactly, is lurking underneath the carpeting....

Cue scary music while gigantic white shark is eating woman's legs...

After I read Thrifty Decor Chick's blog entry, I couldn't get the horrible thought out of my mind that my staircase might, in fact, be nothing but glued together plywood bits and chopped up branches from my giant Chinese Elm tree out back.

Had nightmares about it.

Decided I just wan't even going to attempt this.  But then, on Friday night after a long hard day at the office, I was feeling frisky and gave my stairs a good feel-up to see if I could determine whether there is a bull-nosed step underneath the carpeting.

I did plenty of feeling-up, but tests came back inconclusive, and I felt like a sex offender. Not only that, I decided this just was not a project I could possibly undertake because once the carpet is off, if I do NOT have decent-enough stairs to refinish, I'd have to buy re-treads and boards to reface the risers (cha-ching) and, even worse, hire someone to come in and cut the suckers to fit with a power saw and miter box (neither of which I own and have no desire to do so), before attempting to do the finishing myself!

Nixed all thought of redoing the stairs.


After chopping down tons of weeds, pruning countless wild grape vines and ruthlessly decapitating volunteer trees, raking endless tons of nut shells yet again (that is what I get for feeding the squirrels) and cutting the grass out back and drinking ginormous amounts of cheap boxed pink wine (LOVE the stuff) all the while, when I finally relaxed on the deck this afternoon and was doing dream furniture shopping online underneath the patio umbrella so I wouldn't get pooped on by the birds, I had the brilliant notion --

-- my basement stairs are bullnosed and of finishable grade, either staining or painting.  Why would the builder use something LESS to make the staircase from first to second floor?

Indeed, why Jan, WHY?

Mind you, I've only been living here 22 plus years and going up and down the stairs to the basement at least a couple of times a week!   DUH!  They are perfectly good stairs. And in those 22 plus years of living here, all I've ever done is sweep them and give them the occasion wipe off with a damp cloth!  LOL!  I've never finished them either with stain or paint, but they could easily be finished with either.  They don't show any wear at all, not even the ground-in grime you'd expect.  I must be neater than I thought. 

But, in an excess of caution, just because you never know -- I got a second brilliant notion to pull out the original plans to the house and see if anything was actually written about the stairs! So, into the secret desk drawer I went and out came the original builder's plans and specs!  Yep, I still have them. 

I put on my super-duper magnifying Walgreens' readers and the specs said, under Number 6, Millwork:

Stairs leading from first to second floor shall be made with fir & pine stringers with pine stairs and pine & fir risers.  Basement stairs shall be made with same stringers with risers and pine & fir treads.

So, if I'm reading this correctly, the basement stair treads are pine (veneer?) and fir, with pine and fir risers and fir and pine stringers (is there a difference between "pine and fir" and "fir and pine"???)  While the "upstairs" stairs treads are solid pine.

The point is, they are basically the same stairs! I can SEE the basement stairs and know they can be finished, they do not have to be covered with re-treads or cover-risers cut to size!  Which means that underneath my ratty old carpeting on the stairs to the second floor are refinishable treads and risers once I get rid of the carpeting, padding, tack-strips and staples, fill in all the holes and sand the hell out of everything or figure out a work-around!  Woo woo!

So I am seriously thinking of tackling this re-do while the family room continues to beg me to finish removing wallpaper and get the paint on and the chair rail installed, already.

Oh my...  But look -- even after serious hand-vacuuming the carpeting does NOT look good.  It has to go!

Already planning on how I'm going to start tearing it up tomorrow night while The Voice is on...

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Kitchens On My Mind: More Redos!

Hola!  I should be using the wet/dry vac in the basement and getting that cleaned up; I should be cleaning up the garage; I should be doing something - anything - to try and make less of a mess in my bedroom walk-in closet (do any of you have stacks of historical research on ancient board games on your closet floor and rabbit size dust bunnies???), not to mention straightening up the little room I laughingly call the den (it's mostly a junk room but it does have three very ugly and cheapo bookcases holding the bulk of my chess and history books and my old desktop computer).  I should be doing all of these things because I'm in the middle of refinancing and the appraiser is coming Tuesday evening at 6:30.

Instead, here I am, writing this after having visited some of my favorite blogs and having visions, once again, of a revamped kitchen...

It's probably just serendipitous coincidence that so many other people out there in blogland seem to be undertaking or have just finished a kitchen redo/remake/refresh/remodel.  I'm not planning a remodel but I do want to, at a minimum, refresh!  Anyway, it seems everywhere I look these days I'm seeing articles in magazines I'm reading and blogposts online about kitchens!

Here are a couple more:

Well, this one isn't exactly a reveal, but Barb at Turtles and Tails is revamping her kitchen by painting cabinets and walls and goodness knows what else, I'll just have to wait for the reveal, and added new hardware to the cabinets - which I just love.  I had no idea Target sold cabinet pulls and knobs, geez!  Where have I been?  Here is a pic of the handles:

From Turtles and Tails, May 22, 2013.

They're gorgeous - the Nautical in satin-finished nickel.  I have been absolutely shocked at the cost of various pulls and knobs at Menard's, which is my local go-to place for just about anything related to hearth, home and yard.  I have, in my small 10 x 10 kitchen 33 pulls!  Yes!  Thirty-three!

Now, I had every intention of painting my pulls with hammered bronze spray paint that I bought, er, some months ago...  But haven't gotten around to it.  I'm going to try a couple and see how I like them -- nothing ventured, nothing gained, right?  But truth be told, I'm just plain SICK of my old sleek Euro-style pulls.  They're boring.  The finish has worn off in places, too over the past 22 plus years of use, so instead of shiny brass it's mottled and dullish looking (shabby chic?), particularly on the handles on the cabinets above the stove, and the pulls on the undersink doors. 

Anyway, I checked online and lo and behold!  Target offers these beauties in a six-pack for $16.99!  Holy Hathor! I thought they would be WAY more expensive -- they look very high end to my eyes.  Doing the math, not bad:  6 packs of 6 and rounding the price up to $17 comes out to $102 (not including sales tax).  Comes out to about $2.83 per pull. 

Then, I visited another favorite blog, Forever Decorating, and there was a refreshed kitchen reveal! (Note: I just noticed that it is dated 1/22/2013 -- silly me, I specifically saved this particular blog post because I loved how the redo turned out.  That means I probably blogged about it some time ago, duh).  I am loving this kitchen!  I hope when I eventually get around to painting the west wall, soffits and under-cabinet areas with my darkish-taupe color (I purchased the paint more than a year ago, geez) that the contrast with my already white cabinets will look as dramatically pretty:

From Forever Decorating, January 22, 2013.
Now I'm starting to get grandios ideas, sigh.  I love the crown molding...  And I'll bet I could have molding added to my cabinet faces to imitate the look of these cabinets...  What started in my brain months ago as a simple paint job is getting more complicated by the second.

Okay, I've simply got to stop this right now.  I have to trot down to the Pick 'n Save and get working on that basement clean-up.  Argggh!  Decided that I'm just going to toss all the paper piles from my walk-in closet underneath my bed for the time being...