Weekend projects

When Jim and I bought our current house nearly five years ago, the oddball place boasted many, um, unique features. One was what the folks we bought it from called an "antique lemonade stand."

A couple weeks ago as I sat in the backyard, with that eyesore lemonade stand in full view, I considered how we might go about tearing it down and putting something cool in its place. Then I came up with a brilliant idea: I would turn that lemonade stand into a food stand for Bubby and Baby Mac to play with when they visit. They got a kick out of the mock restaurant and ice cream stand at the children's museum recently, so I imagined they'd be delighted with a similar plaything at Gramma's.

With that in mind, I purchased some vintage signs, bought a few gallons of paint, hosed down the antique stand, and made its transformation my project for the long Memorial Day weekend.

With help from Brianna, that old antique lemonade stand went from this:

To this:

All spiffed up and ready for me to stock with an OPEN/CLOSED sign, a bell to ding for service, and plastic delights. The food stand will be ready for business by the time Bubby and Baby Mac arrive near the end of June. Plus, I have plenty of paint left over to transform our old outdoor dining set into the perfect spot for food stand customers to enjoy their treats.

I was right in thinking Bubby will love it. When I texted photos of the stand to Megan to share with Bubby, this was her response:

"B said to me (after seeing the pictures), 'I want you to sit down at one of the chairs and after you can come up to the food stand and tell me what you want. And then you can come up to the ice cream place and pick your flavor! I think you want strawberry." :) Nice work, sounds like a busy day!"

She was right, too. It was a busy day, a busy weekend, actually. Not just because of the food stand, though, and not just for me.

Jim had a weekend project of his own—finding the leak in our backyard waterfall. The mysterious leak continually caused the water level to fall and our water bill to rise as we had to fill the feature daily to keep it functioning last summer. Jim's job was a much bigger job than mine, so Brianna and I lent a helping hand with that one, too.

Between the three of us, our backyard waterfall went from this:

To this:

No more leaks!

Two big projects knocked out in one long weekend.

Jim and I agree: We are so glad the long weekend is over so we can finally relax!

Today's fill-in-the-blank:

I'm glad the long weekend is over because ________.

Open the door

Related Posts with ThumbnailsSee that door to the right? That's my front door. The front door that's been driving me buggy the past few weeks. The door is from the late 1800s and it's made of wood ... wood that swells more and more as the humidity rises.

Well, it's been humid lately and my door is swelling.

Last year that door swelled so much it was impossible to open for a few days. Impossible. Luckily there was no fire requiring us to run out the front door, as Jim and I surely would have perished. (Luckily there was no fire requiring us to run out the back door, either, but at least that would have been feasible.)

So my door is swollen, which really isn't that big of a deal. There are far worse things in the world -- even in just daily living -- to be concerned about.

But the weird thing is that this door underscores a bizarre theme I've noticed running through my life for the past month or so. A completely unintentional theme. A theme of doors.

In years past, I didn't think too much about doors. Except, of course, when the girls liked to slam doors as a show of force when they didn't get their way. Or when those slammed doors were removed from the hinges to punish the girls for slamming them -- or because they lost the privilege of having doors and the privacy they provide, privacy that made it impossible to know what questionable things the girls were doing behind those closed doors. Or when I would march into the bathroom and slam and lock the door to keep myself in and Jim out when he really cussed me off. (Boy, I really know how to show him!)

Other than those far-too-common times, though, doors weren't much of an issue. Now, for some unknown reason, they figure prominently on my to-do list, in my conversations, in various facets of my life. And I'm not talking just about the swollen door that makes it difficult for me to go out front to pick up my daily newspaper or my mail.

On my to-do list is "put door on Craigslist," for we have this wonderful glass sliding door in perfect condition that someone surely would love to install in their home. But I don't feel like dealing with the Craigslist crowd right now, so that door hangs over my head. (Figuratively, of course. It's actually leaning against a wall in the garage.)

Then there's Bubby and doors -- more specifically, his discovery of the power of a closed door. Megan called recently to say that Bubby has taken to rounding up Roxy, taking her to his room and shutting the door to play hours-long games of make-believe with his buddy. When Megan opens the door to check on him, he cries, "No, Mommy, shut door!" Which she does, for Bubby's just innocently exercising his imagination, not torturing poor Roxy behind the closed door; Megan's sure of that, as the baby monitor now comes in handy to keep tabs on his daily doings, not just those of the night.


Another odd door thing is that, with no intention whatsoever, Jim and I recently watched "When You're Strange," the 2009 rockumentary about none other than, you guessed it, The Doors. Then Jim watched "Classic Albums: The Doors." (He's more into The Doors than I am.)

Then there's the bizarre phrase Jim keeps uttering; not like a crazy person or anything, just when the time seems right ... to him. Maybe he got it from the recent documentaries; maybe he made it up. I'm not sure, but it's about doors. "The door has been provided ... all you have to do is walk through it," he keeps saying.

What the cuss is that all about? When I worry about new challenges, he says it. When the girls complain about unhappy situations, he says it. When the dogs want to come in at night, he says it. Again and again, Jim waxes philosophical about doors and walking on through them.

(Okay, so I made that up about the dogs. But he has said it -- and continues to say it -- to the rest of us, in a variety of situations.)

I don't know what it means. I don't know why doors are figuring so prominently in my life right now,  and I don't know why Jim -- after nearly 30 years together and never saying it before -- has started telling me to walk through one.

So maybe the answer, the resolution, the clarity will come once I find that door of which Jim speaks, the door that all these other doors are directing me to. Maybe good things await on the other side of that door ... if only I open it and walk on through.

My only hope? That when I find that cuss door, it's not one made of wood. Because with all the humidity we've had lately, that certainly would not bode well for my journey.

One final, minor note (hence the smaller font): All the door photos here are of doors in my house. See? My life is nothing but doors, doors, doors. Well, that and stairs, stairs, and more stairs.

Today's question:

What door have you recently walked through, a door to something exciting, challenging, foreboding or fun?

Grandma's creepy wallpaper

Related Posts with ThumbnailsI live in an unusual house. It was built in 1974 by a husband and wife who immigrated from Poland. They built the house around many features they collected from prominent local buildings and homes of the late 1800s that had been demolished for a variety of reasons. We have fireplaces, windows, staircases and more from the bank, the opera house, a doctor's home and other long-gone structures.

Overall, it's a pretty cool and interesting place to live. But there are some bizarre touches here and there, things I've gotten used to for the most part and usually no longer think too hard about them. On most days.

Yesterday was not one of those days. For some reason the wallpaper lining the hallway to the laundry room caught my interest once again and I thought you all might be able to help me solve the mystery surrounding my creepy wallpaper.

From what I understand, the wallpaper is one of the touches from the homeland of the original owners. It appears to be illustrations of cautionary tales, much like Grimm's Fairy Tales, but of a Polish bent. The illustrations are fine and good and understandable when considered as part of an old-time nursery book. We all know fairy tales and such can be, unfortunately, weird ... and violent. Which is exactly what the illustrations on my wall are. But why would such images be taken from the page and placed upon the wall?

Take a look:

Creepy, huh? That is what I see every time I do laundry, every time I use the ironing board, every time I change the litter box.

And every time I show people around my house, I have to explain the creepy wallpaper and why I don't remove it.

I don't remove the paper because it's antique. I think. If nothing else, it's unusual. And like all the other unusual features in my house, there's a story attached to this wallpaper; I just don't know what it is. I'm pretty sure it was put there by the couple from Poland, but that's it.

My biggest question about the wallpaper, though, the real mystery to me, isn't why the builders of our home put it there, but why anyone -- no matter where they lived in the world, no matter what period of time -- would think these pictures might look great on a wall, why they should qualify as print for wallpaper, why that wallpaper was ever manufactured in the first place. Did people in Poland line nursery walls with these images? Were resident children better behaved when they had these constant reminders of a horrible fate that might befall them if they misbehaved? Was such wallpaper used in places other than nurseries? Did anyone and everyone who ever saw it have nightmares?

It's a mystery I'll likely never solve.

Unless, of course, one of my dear readers has knowledge of Polish fairytales, the ones featuring drunks who fall in the lake or drag kids through the forest by their hair. If so, please enlighten me. Give me the "rest of the story" to regale the next group of visitors to my home and provide me with details on why these wacky illustrations figured so prominently in a culture that people adorned their walls with them.

Then maybe -- just maybe -- I can move on to seeking assistance with yet another mystery of my home: the one involving a discoverer of sunken treasure who has seemingly gone missing and I think just might be buried in my front yard.

Like I said, I live in a very unusual house.

Today's question: (If you read this early, yes, it was a different question. I like this one better.)

What's the creepiest feature of your house?

T minus six days

Related Posts with ThumbnailsMegan and Bubby are coming to visit on Sunday -- for five full days! Which means it's time to babyproof the place.

It's not like Bubby's never been here before, but each time he's visited Grandma's, he's been relatively immobile. Now he gets around ... a lot. And my house has stairs ... a lot.

The other day on the phone, Megan gingerly brought up the topic of our zillions of stairs.

Megan: "Ummm, have you thought about your stairs, Mom?"

Me: "Yes, Megan, I've thought about the stairs." (How could I not? There's at least one step into and out of every room in our house, plus massive staircases from one level to the next.)

Megan: "Well, Bubby climbs stairs now."

Me: "I know. I remember you telling me that. But we have baby gates. Lots and lots of baby gates."

Megan: "No. That's why I'm saying this, Mom. Bubby doesn't need baby gates. He does stairs now."

Me: "Uh, I don't think so, Megan. Not our stairs."

Megan: "He does fine, Mom. Really. He's a big boy. He's allowed to go up and down stairs."

Me: "I'm not comfortable with that. Nope, not comfortable with that."

Megan: "I kinda figured as much, which is why I'm mentioning it now, Mom. Just think about it."

Is this a crazy conversation or what? I thought new mothers were supposed to be hyper vigilant, chastising Grandma again and again about all the dangers lurking in her home and how to babyproof those dangers away.

But here's my daughter telling me I don't need baby gates in my house of 10,000 stairs? With a 21-month-old toddler on his way? For five days? And with me so proud of myself that I have SIX baby gates in my possession for ensuring his safety during his visit?

Apparently that's six too many.

At least Megan knows me well enough to not spring such things on me at the last moment. She knows I need time to deliberate, time to think things through.

So I've thought this through. And -- call me crazy -- but we will be using baby gates while Bubby's here.

At least five two of the six I have on hand.

Now, is there anything else I need to be sure to not babyproof before Bubby gets here? Any suggestions would be appreciated, as I've clearly not yet figured out this whole grandma thing.

Today's question:

What's the worst accident that's befallen you or another in your own home?

My answer: I fell off the top of a ladder while Jim and I were remodeling our previous house and was quite bruised and battered by the fall and subsequent entanglement with the ladder that fell with me.

Schedules, stairs and sacrifice

I'm a very schedule-oriented person. I do certain things at certain times, and I like to stay on track with those certain things at certain times.

One example of my anal, control-issues-on-parade behavior is that I write my daily post at the same time each morning. I allot myself one hour, from 7:30 to 8:30, to get it done, then use the few spare minutes left to read a post or two from other bloggers before moving on to my next scheduled item for the day (walking the dog).

I like to stay on track because as a basically unemployed person, if I don't create my own schedule, I fritter away the day and accomplish nothing. I like to accomplish things. Plus, I know there are a few readers of my blog who anxiously await my post each day and know when I post, and I don't want to disappoint them or throw off their schedules. (Hi, Mom!)

Well, my schedule is now out the window, thanks to a leg in a cast. Not my leg -- Jim's.

(First let me point out that this is not a bitch-session about Jim or his foot/leg/cast/situation. He feels sufficiently guilty about screwing up my schedule, and I'm honestly not writing this to make him feel worse. I just need to explain my schedule snafu -- in the true sense of what that word's an acronym for! -- for my sake, if no one else's. Kay, Jim? I love you, honey-bunny, sugar-snookums!)

So last Thursday, Jim had what we thought would be a minor procedure done on his foot. The out-patient surgery had been scheduled for quite some time. He had several visits with the doctor leading up to the procedure. He received reams of information. My primary part in the plan was that I'd accompany Jim for the procedure since he'd be, 1) on drugs after the surgery, and 2) unable to drive right afterwards since his right foot was the subject.

As we waited for his drugs to kick in, the nurse mentioned something about him being in a cast afterwards (which we knew) and on crutches (which we knew) for six weeks (which we didn't know!). Six weeks! Six weeks? Six weeks of me having to drive Jim to and from his new job? Somehow that little tidbit of information was lost on the way to preparing for this procedure.

(Note to wives/girlfriends/significant others: It's a good idea to attend doctor appointments with your partner if there's any chance his medical condition will have even the slightest impact on your life.)

Okay ... so six weeks of playing chauffeur and altering my blog-posting times (it'll be around 9:30, Mom, by the time you see my posts). I can handle that. I'll complain a little because my schedule will be disrupted, but I can handle that.

But there's so much more to the schedule disruption than just driving Jim here and there.

First of all, Jim has to keep his foot elevated for 10 days. Which means he pretty much does nothing but sit with his foot propped up. That's fine. I understand. I'll alter my schedule and do his chores -- vacuuming, dinner dishes, making the bed, scooping the dog poop -- in addition to mine. I'll bring him his laptop, his water, his cellphone, his snacks, his anything and everything he needs. Not that big of a deal. (Not yet, I should say. We're only on day four.)

The bigger deal is that, as you may recall from this post, that we have lots of stairs in our house. Lots and lots and lots of stairs. Jim is unable to maneuver the majority of those stairs.

He can manage the stairs down to the family room. But he can't manage these stairs:

These are the stairs up to our bedroom. And to the bathroom Jim uses to take a shower. And to his office. And he won't be going up them for probably six weeks -- or at least a pretty good chunk of that. Which is fine with me, at this point, because I have an overwhelming phobia of my loved ones falling down stairs, and imagining Jim trying to conquer these stairs on crutches -- or even sans crutches -- zaps my brain a bit.

So we've set up his main command central in the family room, and he showers in the main floor bath. I pick out his clothes each day and bring them down the stairs for him. And I make a bed on the family room floor for him each night, so he can sleep with his foot propped up on the ottoman.

And I go upstairs to bed -- by myself -- each and every night. And that, people, is one of the weirder aspects of this in-sickness-and-in-health venture we're on.

I'm truly not one of those women who can't sleep without my husband in the bed. In fact, I sleep better when he's not there. Which happens quite often, actually, because Jim suffers crazy insomnia and typically roams the house for much of the night anyway.

But just knowing for a fact that Jim will not be coming to bed, that I'm the one shutting off all the lights and locking all the doors and hitting the sack in a dark and quiet house is weird. And uncomfortable. And unsettling.

And I have to do it for six weeks.

But I suppose I really do have the better end of the deal. How weird it must be for Jim to know he can't see his bedroom, his bathroom, his office -- all up those stairs -- for six weeks.

It's those stairs, in particular, that have us both hoping Jim's foot heals quickly and he's put into a "boot" sooner than expected. Well, the stairs and my screwed-up schedule.

Stairs, stairs and more stairs

This week marks two years since Jim and I bought the house we plan to grow old in. We love, love, love the place -- and did so from the very first moment we walked through the doors.

But when deciding to live here the rest of our days, we didn't consider how the many stairs throughout the house would affect those days. We didn't take fully into account how old age and our alphabet soup of health issues (MS for me, PN for Jim) may come into play when climbing the stairs.

And there are lots of stairs!

Stairs up to the bedrooms ...

Stairs from the family room to the kitchen ...

Stairs from the patio to the deck ...

Stairs from the backyard to the side yard ...

Stairs, stairs and more stairs! And that doesn't even include the two stairs here and the one stair there, throughout the whole darn house. There's nowhere you can go without having to climb a stair ... or two ... or ten.

BUT ... I've come up with a solution to make the stairs a little less challenging and a lot more fun. I'm going to do just what these guys have done! Take a look:


Can you just imagine the fun Bubby -- and Jim and I! -- will have bumping down all our keyboard-covered stairs on our butts!

Grandma's boogedy boiler

The first cold snap of the season has hit the mountains, bringing with it snow, the need for jackets and the kicking on of the heating system. In our house, that means it's time to brace ourselves for another season with the boogedy boiler.

I love my house. We bought it two years ago after having lived in the same basic tri-level for 20 years, and one of the main draws of the place was that it was clearly an ideal grandma and grandpa house. We didn't even have grandkids at the time of purchase, but Jim and I knew little ones (and big ones) would love to explore the many nooks and crannies inside and the secret (overgrown!) garden outside and that they'd look forward to spending time with Grandma and Grandpa, if for no other reason than the wild and wacky home in which we lived.

So, to put it mildly, we love our house ... everything but the heating system. I absolutely HATE our heating system. We have a boiler, and if you've never lived with a boiler, be thankful for what you're missing.

We first moved here in the winter so we were introduced right away to the clanging and banging of our home-heating contraption that looked like something straight out of Willie Wonka's factory. The noise was so alarming that we had a heating company look at it for us -- three or four times in the first couple months! It was brand new, thanks to the red-flagging of the old boiler the week before we closed on the house, but I still envisioned explosions that would not only ruin our new home but take our lives in the middle of the night.

Again and again the heating guys assured us that it's safe, that boilers just take a little getting used to, that they add personality and character to the home.

Well, our boiler has multiple personalities, a few of which aren't too pleasant to be sharing space with.

Because our house is relatively large, there are five "zones" for the boiler, each zone taking turns coming on at different times to warm different areas of the home. Three of the personalities zones are pretty quiet and their heat cycles go unnoticed. And when the boiler kicks on in the fourth zone -- which covers the downstairs family room where we watch TV -- it likes to pretend it's a massive military jet taking off from our rooftop but we've learned to accommodate it, muting movies and conversation at times as we wait for the jet to be in full flight and out of hearing distance.

But it's the fifth zone, the one that covers the study just below our bedroom, that freaks me out the most ... every night ... while I'm falling asleep. This is the zone where the boiler's worst personality makes its presence known.

Each night as I finish reading, set my book aside on the nightstand and settle in under the covers, it starts. There's a bit of a rumbling, a wheezy, heavy, asthmatic monster-like breathing sound ... that gets louder ... and louder ... and LOUDER. "I'll huff and I'll puff and I'll blow your house down! Mwahahahahahaha...!" it threatens ... and drones on ... and on ... for several minutes. Then comes the loud, "Boogedy, boogedy, boogedy! Bang. Bang! Clang, clang. Bang. BANG!! click."

Just like that, the boogedy boiler stops. Instantly. Just as I'm reaching near hysteria and considering waking Jim (who doesn't even notice!) to shout that he HAS TO go see what's happening with the boiler, there's a simple "click" and it's quiet. And I breathe easy ... and I think I must be crazy for worrying that my house is going to explode when all the expert HVAC guys have told me it's nothing to worry about. Things are quiet ... and I start to fall asleep.

Then Mr. Boogedy Boiler decides to warm things up a bit again, and the whole show starts over. And I hold my breath and long for hot summer nights when my only complaint is that air-conditioning sure would be nice.

And I think about what a good thing it is that the grandkids will likely spend more time at Grandma and Grandpa's house during the hot and sweaty nights of summer -- considering summer vacations and all -- than they will in the winter, when Grandma's boogedy boiler would surely scare the holy bejeezus out of them!

(And yes, my post is a little late this morning. I'm tired! I didn't sleep well ... for obvious reasons.)