Thursday, May 27, 2010

Holy Hollyhocks!

After spending the work week in Memphis, I came home to discover that the hollyhocks that had just begun to bloom the previous weekend had not only broke out into screaming color, they had also grown several feet.

When we bought the house, they were out in the middle of the yard mingled in with who knows what else, so during the yard clean up, I moved them to a bed under a tree.

They didn't do so well there so I moved them out to the sunny south side of the house last fall.  They love their new location and are anxious to prove it.

....and the bees love them!

When they were out in the middle of the lawn, they grew to be 3 or 4 feet tall.  This year they're between 6 and 7 feet.  I had no idea they got this tall!

Say HI to Constance

Say HI to Red and Tula on the deck

Aren't they pretty?

They fairly glow with vibrant color!

Since most of my time is now spent in Memphis, I'll have to show you the sights around the workplace.  I think it just might have made Olmsted proud.  It's just lovely.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Oh My!

I finally got up the courage to order some samples of the Bradbury & Bradbury wallpaper we have in mind for the front parlor and they arrived yesterday.  It was a fun surprise for Donnie since he didn't know I had ordered them so we had a little "play time" in the parlor last night trying to see if there was a clear answer as to which one we liked the best.  They are totally awesome!  The pictures on their website don't really give a good idea nor do the pictures I've taken as most of the patterns are well-embellished in metallics.  One unexpected treat was how they smell.  These are flat oil pigments-at least one of which smells like mint.  Kinda cool I thought.

Both patterns are Aesthetic Movement styles in the Herter Brothers tradition.  The long strip laid out on the floor is comprised of the frieze, wall fill, and dado.  The shorter strip is made of the individual patterns for the ceiling minus the accent pieces and corner blocks.

Aesthetic Green


I think we've decided on the "Passion Flower" pattern for this room, but may play with the "Tiger & Crane", the alternate wall fill, as the dado instead.  We both really like the Tiger & Crane a lot but this room seems like the Passion Flower probably suits it best.

Tiger & Crane

We didn't have any luck deciding which one we liked the best as they are both droolable and each renders a totally different ambience to the room.  In times like these, it's always nice to have to approach the whole thing from the perspective of something like science-not that even that is of much help as the green is wonderful with the furniture in the room and the color of the woodwork.  It will make a cooler, more neutral room than I had thought to go, but a stunning one none the less.  The red on the other hand is wonderful against the adjoiging rooms and the vibrant blue accents really accentuate the blue tiles of the fireplace.  It's a very rich colorway.  Then, there's the floor that should probably factor in to some degree since it will have quite a distinct pattern when it's finished. 

Decisions, decisions.  Good thing we have a lot of work to do before we can hang anything.  Surely, we will have reached some kind of conclusion by then!

Got a favorite?

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

This & That-The Projects That Never Quit

I'm still making very slow progress on the parlor floor project now that it's spring and yard maintenance and the front porch project have had me working elsewhere during the day.  I imagine it will go even slower now that I've finally acquired a daytime job in the workforce and will only have weekends to divide between the porch and the floor as well as various other little projects around here.

At any rate, this is a close-up of the floor before I started the stripping.  I don't know if I mentioned this before, but the design is comprised of 2"x2" squares of 5 Tennessee hardwoods-red and white oak, walnut, cherry, and maple. There is no stain on any of these pieces and the design is created by the natural color of the various woods.  The design is great although the old finish has turned ashy which obscures both the color and the grain of the individual pieces. 

Here's a sample of what a section of the floor looks like at the moment.  Notice that in the "after" section you can actually see the grain patterns of the tiger oak very clearly.  This is a lovely surprise that we had not anticipated.

After oiling the finished area several times and allowing time for the oil to be absorbed, I put a couple of coats of tung oil finish on the completed section to protect the raw wood while I work on the rest of the floor.  As I mentioned before, the oak trim of the windows, doors, and baseboards also needs to be stripped.  In the event I get any of the stripper on the floor, the tung oil will touch up better than a poly or varnish finish will.  Once all of the trim is stripped, everything, including the floor will get a couple of coats of varnish as the final finish, but for now, just the tung oil finish looks fab!

Working on the floor gets hard on the back after several days of doing it, so I have a couple of "relief" projects that are hard on different parts of the body.  One of these is the tedious stripping of the back stairs.

There are probably a dozen chipped and worn off layers of paint that have been painted over so there are nice little pools where dust and dirt love to settle and makes keeping them clean a real pain.  In addition, there's a kind of cubby hole on one side where I keep the paints during the winter to keep them from freezing.  A couple of years ago, there was something of a mishap with a gallon of deck sealer being knocked over by some miscreant feline and it bounced down the stairs relieving itself of its lid and a river of sealer ran down half the stairs and over the floor of the porch.

I suspect the feline in question was the Siamese standing on the landing watching the whole thing play out.  Knowing that he'd be wanting to come down and not wanting him to run through the house tracking sticky oil-based sealer everywhere, I went up to get him so that I could bring him down and put him outside until I got the mess cleaned up.  Up the stairs I went in my tennis shoes, collected the cat and began my way down.  I was hoping to make it back down the stairs without incident, but alas, my first step landed me at the highest speed possible at the bottom of the stairs.  After hitting the far wall at the bottom of the stairs and determining that my butt-or anything else-wasn't broken, I discovered that Donnie had come to see what the commotion was about.  I harp on him about approaching things in an unsafe and dangerous way, but sometimes, I have him beat.  I must say that at no time during the uncomfortable whirlwind of slip-sliding down the stairs did I ever let go of the cat who by then was terrified and wanted as far away from the incident as possible.  At least I didn't have to worry about permanent, undiscovered paw prints roaming around the house.  Needless to say, the added sealer didn't help the usefulness, safety, or cleanliness of the stairs since it essentially sealed in any dirt, dust and nonsense that happened to be on the stairs at the time.  Ewww.

The cool thing is that the middle of the stairs has been worn down by at least 160 years of use as we're pretty sure these were the main stairs that used to be in the center hall of the original house.  When they removed the hall, they kept the stairs and installed them as a back staircase.  On the lower riser where several layers of paint have already been stripped, you can see what remains of the original faux finished poplar done in milk paint.

To prevent entry of the brown recluse spiders that often frequent the stairs, I'm caulking the crap out of everything as I go along.  It's amazing how much quieter and sturdier feeling the finished steps are once they've been caulked.

This was the first section that's been stripped, primed, and caulked.  I decided to break this run of stairs down into 3 sections to make it more mentally manageable.  The things one has to do to try to maintain a little sanity!

The bottom section has been completed, the middle section has been stripped to the milk paint, and the top section is what's left.  There's a landing that will come a little later and another short flight of stairs that completes the ascent to the second floor.

At the moment, 2 sections are completed with the top section remaining, but it's time to give my butt a rest as sitting on the edge of the stair tread gets uncomfortable after a couple of hours.  Time to go work on something that wears out a different muscle group for a few days....

Which brings us back outside to the porch.

Finally, Donnie's gotten all of the post restoration completed and it's all waiting for its final coat of paint. 

As you can see, he's begun working out what needs to be done to rebuild the handrail and arches. While there are still some of the original pieces that are in good enough shape to reuse, replacement pieces will be needed to make it all the way around the porch. Donnie was able to recreate a template from one of the old pieces and is using some of the pieces of poplar ceiling from the dining room to create the new arches. We've had a lot of trouble out of the repairs that have been made with new wood even if it's had plenty of time to age which has caused much delay progress where the porch is concerned as he's had to redo several areas due to the instability of the new lumber. All I can say is that you just can't beat old-growth wood.

It's as tedious as the parlor floor, but the porch railing is a lot of what makes the front porch special.  (Saw HI to little Duncan.  He's just turned a year old.)

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Where There's One...

Not long after our friends left, they returned home to discover "The Gift" had relatives-8 of them in fact, 7 siblings and a wildish mama all trying to find a new home under the shelter of the central HVAC unit.  We were able to collect up all the babies fairly quickly with the exception of one fluffy gray who held out for most of the afternoon. 

We even got Mama collected up with the assistance of a can of tuna set inside the cage.  She doesn't care for us and won't let us come too close, but is more than willing to take a little tuna off our hands.

So, at the moment, all 8 kittens and Mama are upstairs in my sewing room/TV room/old office until they get a little older. The objective is to keep Mama contained until she can be spayed as this is her 4th litter of kittens in 2 years all of which fell victim to the packs of dogs that run loose in town. We want these kittens to survive long enough to have a more positive fate and plenty of love and fussing over and for Mama to be able to do something with her life besides reproduce. Poor ole girl. I'd bet she'd love to become a lap cat someday! Right now she's not too happy.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

The Gift

Our friends came over a little while ago and brought with them a little tuft of fur that they had saved from the rain.  Everyone is out on patrol at the moment and have reported that you can't get out of Trenton due to flooding.  They discovered this little guy near their air conditioner and didn't have the heart to leave him outside to fend for himself in this weather.  I'm guessing that he's about 3 weeks old.  I'm also guessing that he's a he since it's hard to tell when they're so young.  So, looks like we have another member of the family at least for a little while as they may decide to keep him once he's grown a little and can hold his own with their very playful dogs.  Isn't he sweet???

Saturday, May 1, 2010

How It All Began

The Trenton Teapot Festival Parade is today (or would have been if it were a water sport) and I guess there is no more appropriate time to tell the story of how we came to be-both as a couple and as the owners of Pecan Place.  It's a long story so get a cup of coffee and sit a spell.

It all began several years ago after I purchased my last house-the 1918 bungalow that I've been posting lately that had a back yard full of wild violets.  While the violets were so cute and pretty, I discovered that they were a haven for mosquitoes and wanted some advice to try to eliminate them and signed up on HGTV's General Gardening message board for answers.  While on the site, I discovered that they also had a General Decorating message board and that's when the trouble began.

In August of 2005, a new poster joined the board and posted a project in which he had recently created a lighted shadow box out of an old full-sized glass door from his grandmother's house.  Since she had passed away, it was kind of a sentimental project and it turned out lovely as a backdrop behind a brass bed.  The project was great, but what I wanted to know most of all was where he got the wallpaper in the room, so I sent him a message and asked about it.  And that's how we met-on a decorating message board that was 98% women and not the kind of place you go to find a "date"-not that either of us terminally single people were looking as our lives were perfectly content as they were.

Since we both liked antiques, I invited him to the Nashville Flea Market that they have every month.  In September, we met in person at the flea market and browsed the wares for a little while.  It was nice to have someone with similar interests to snoop around the place with.

During the next several months, we continued to talk and hesitantly discovered that we might actually like each other in a more-than-friendship kind of way. 

In February 2006, Donnie came in to Trenton to pay his taxes and brought his camera along to snap a few pics of some of the historic architecture in town so he could share it with us on the decorating board.  When his post titled "Look What I Found on Sale Today" presented itself, we figured he'd come across a cool eBay find.  Much to our surprise, it was a very cool, very large Victorian house that had been on the market for about 5 years. Needless to say, all of us nosy women had to know what the inside looked like, so we asked to see if he could get in to take some pictures. 

I had been working on some construction projects around the house and decided it might be nice to take a break and go on a little trip out to see the house since it was only a few hours away.  I asked Donnie if he'd like company and he accepted, so we got together one weekend and had a look.  We had a good time imagining what we'd put where and how we'd decorate the rooms, but neither of us were interested in buying the place since we both had our own homes and were content.

Tangled into the story is my friend Tammy who I also met on the decorating board who, upon hearing of the housing prices around here was interested in coming down from snowy Massachusetts to have a look around.  As it turned out, I made several trips out here to look at various houses with her.  Meanwhile, in the back of my mind was the fact that you couldn't touch a house like this one in Nashville for what they were asking and the little town was nice and quiet and peaceful.  

To make a long story shorter, Donnie and I decided to buy the house together since there would be two of us to work on the long list of things that needed done to the place-not that it was in horrible condition or anything, just that many years had passed since the last renovation and the owners had moved 5 years prior, so it wasn't in the shape it would have been had someone been actively living there and been doing meticulous maintenance.

It was a huge risk since we both needed to sell our current homes and I would have to move out here and find somewhere to work.  To make things even more complicated, we also discovered that we had found the one thing neither of us had been looking for-the perfect partner and somewhere in there we decided to get married.

We discussed when we'd like to have the wedding but knew we wanted to have the reception on the lawn at the new house.  That gave us the option of spring or fall since the hot summers aren't a place one wants to be spending a lot of time outside when dressed up.  Donnie said spring, so spring it was and we decided to have a little fun with the whole thing and have a "Victorian dress" ceremony of sorts.  Donnie had a little fun at the costume shop where we got his gear.

I'm not sure how it came to be that we chose the Saturday of the Trenton Teapot Festival which was about 6 weeks away.  There was a lot to be done in 6 weeks with trying to organize the wedding from 3 hours away, closing on and preparing a house for the event, all of which had to be done while both of us were working our full-time jobs.  We were about to be very busy as the closing on the house was only 2 weeks before the wedding.

There was a parade on that day, so I think we decided it might be fun to have something other than the wedding to do for those who had traveled.  Originally, we had planned to have the wedding at the church with the most beautiful stained glass in town which was located across the street from the house.  In the end, we decided that there was no reason why we couldn't have the wedding at the house as well as the reception, so we went with that plan.  The wedding would be at 11:00 on the front porch if the weather was nice and in one of the parlors if it was raining.  I had no idea what time the parade was, but discovered that it started at 10:00 and that there would be marching bands passing in front of the house during the ceremony!  A wedding before 10:00 would be too early since many people had to drive several hours to get here and a wedding after the parade would seem too much like an afterthought. Besides, we wanted people to be able to watch the parade, but since the bride and groom aren't supposed to see each other before the wedding, that wouldn't work out so well.  What to do, what to do?

I had requested information about the festival from our real estate agent and he sent me a brochure for the festival.  In the brochure was a registration form for the parade.  So....what if???  A plan began to develop and I made some calls to see if there was such a thing available-and there was.  I filled out the registration form for the parade and hoped that Donnie wouldn't kill me!

Then, it happened.  A month before the wedding, a tornado ran across the back yard at Donnie's house and a tree fell on his little shop and carport, crushing his car, blowing out some windows, poking holes in the roof and siding, and generally making a mess of things.  Needless to say, stress went into overdrive.

Two weeks later after closing on our new house, he was awakened one night to a terrible racket.  Given that he had just experienced a tornado two weeks earlier at his old house, he knew what it was.  Once things had died down and he was able to get out and have a look around, he went to check on some of my cats that had already made the trip.  The carriers I had brought them out in were lined up on the upstairs porch and he found them all hiding inside with eyes as big as saucers. 

In the light of day-since there was no power to see at night-the front yard where there would be about a hundred people sitting in two weeks for the wedding didn't present itself as the most inviting scene.  All the while, Donnie, after his work day was still trying to clean up the damage at his old house, clean the new house so that it would be ready for guests, move his things to the new house, help me move a couple of truck loads of things from my house on weekends, and now this?  It's a wonder he was able to maintain his sanity.  On my part from Nashville, my hands were tied since I was on call 24/7 for much of this time and was trying to get my own house ready to put on the market.

Other than parts of the roof blown off and a couple of downed trees in our own yard, the biggest problem was that a huge, beautiful pin oak from in front of the church was uprooted and came crashing down in our front yard taking with it several sections of iron fence and brick columns.  What a mess!  Amazingly, people from everywhere came together and got right to work with the clean-up and other than the twisted fence and broken columns, there wasn't much evidence that such an event had even taken place by the time of the wedding.  The street pick-up crew was even able to make a trip out to remove the parking lot full of debris that came from the damage in our own yard.  It was amazing really.

While all of this was going on, I was busy surfing eBay to see what kind of dress I could find as well as the corset and hoops I would need for it.  I was lucky enough to find one I liked that was even in my size.  It arrived just in time.  The hat I found at the costume shop.  Finally, it appeared we both had clothes to wear!  Clothes are always nice to have.  :)

Luckily, my mother-in-law and sister-in-law handled all of the arrangements in Trenton since they knew who to call for catering, where to get tables and chairs, etc.  I was grateful that they took time out of their days to manage all of this as a party-planner, I am not.  Whatever they thought was appropriate was fine by me.  What we wanted most was that people were comfortable, and had a good time.

The day finally came.  Everyone was there by 10:00 which was a good thing since finding parking posed a real problem with the streets blocked off for the parade.  Donnie had spent the night with his parents and his brother was driving him over.  Much to Donnie's surprise, his brother took "the scenic route" (of course this was all planned out in advance) and instead of dropping him off at the house as expected, dropped him off in the parking lot of a church several blocks away.  He had no idea what was going on until he saw me standing next to the open horse-drawn carriage! 

He seemed to handle it pretty well given that he had no idea about any of this.  It was a well-guarded secret between his family and me.  I guess with all of the other things that were going on at the time he didn't have time to ponder what we were up to since none of us lie very convincingly.

The pastor from Donnie's family's church performed the ceremony.  Donnie's brother, Terry, was his Best Man and my long-time best friend, Margaret, was my Matron of Honor.  Only once during the ceremony did my mind scream out "OMG!  WHAT AM I DOING HERE???"  :)

Insanity Presents:   
The Mitchells

Well, we made it!  Unlike most of these types of events, there was no panic and everything went like it should-or at least that's how I remember it.  One thing I appreciate about casual affairs is that they leave plenty of room for managing obstacles if they arise.  I don't remember that any did and we all had a good time.

Margaret and I discussing the hole in the porch floor that we were both standing over and hoping not to fall through during the ceremony.

 Starting the reception back when the dining room still had walls!

 Donnie and his parents before the wedding.

My family with the exception of my son who was taking the picture and my mother who was caring for my beloved step-father who passed shortly after.  That's Donnie's silly brother Terry waving out the window.  :)

Silly runs in the family.  :)

My one and only-the kid every other mother hopes for but that I got! :)

My dad and step-mom, Joanie.

So, that's the story in as short a version as I can manage and although our actual anniversary is on the 6th, we always observe it on the Saturday of the Teapot Parade.

Happy Anniversary, Donnie!