Thursday, November 30, 2006

Christmas comes to Kansas

The tree is up. Stockings are hung by the archway with care. We're short two stockings -- Matt and Mark weren't in the family the last time we hung a full set of stockings. That will be remedied next time we go to town. My favorite, though, is what Pat did with the piano. His stocking is the Happy Face. Mine plays Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer.

The Happy Face so fits Pat. George was the Love of my life, but Pat is my Joy. How can I be so lucky to have married both Love and Joy?

Let it Snow!

Snow! It began yesterday as freezing rain. My 60 min. drive home took two hours. The top speed I could make was 35 mph. The windshield iced even though I had the heater on full bore with the wipers going. At one point I had to stop and break ice off the wipers so they could scrape a small space for me to see out.

The roads were too icy to go to work today, so I telecommuted. Wow! This is wonderful! I have the greatest job in the world. I've never had this option before! Look at the picture below this entry to see how I spent my day -- on the computer with my tea beside me. It began snowing about noon and has just barely stopped as I write this. I wouldn't rule out that it might start again -- we're under a heavy snow warning until 6 AM tomorrow morning.

Pat and Hagar have had too much fun today. Pat is originally from Eugene, Oregon then he married a gal from Dallas and moved there. Neither place gets much snow. The last time he saw this much snow was 1968 --when he was a junior in high school. Hagar just loves it 'cause it's his kind of weather. He thinks he's a Husky instead of a German Shepherd. After about three inches had fallen, they had to go out and run around in it. Hagar put his nose down and played bulldozer for a few feet then nearly dropped down and rolled in the snow. Who knows what he would have done, but he got distracted by another dog walking down the street. (Hagar's extra alert pose in the above picture is courtesy of the strange dog.)

It's 10:21 now. The snow seems to have stopped. Pat measured the snow in the front yard -- 10 inches -- and the back yard -- 11 inches. The WIBW weatherman said Waverly got 8 inches. Oh, well... Pat is still delighted to see so much of the white stuff. He didn't run out to make a snowman, but he did pop Christmas carols on the CD player and pull out the Christmas tree. Hey -- it's Christmas weather.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Properly Victorian

It's nippy this morning. We sat the heater low while we were sleeping and it hasn't regained it's momentum since we've been up.

I'm feeling properly Victorian as I sit here at my oak roll-top desk in my 103 year old house. I'm wrapped in a shawl (this one is hand crocheted. I can't remember if I made it or Mom did). I have a cup of hot tea and a toasted English muffin beside me. In honor of the mood I'm using one of my Mom's good China cups -- the one with the pink roses on it with the gold trim. It's a real tea cup, saucer and all, not a clunky mug. Aren't I a proper lai-dee?

We won't mention the stacks of packing boxes lining the room... I'll face those later today. Pat painted the living room yesterday, so now I can put up pictures. We'll have quite a rogue's gallery. I've found at least four boxes of framed photos.

I've been up since 5:30. Mother Nature has a wicked sense of humor getting a gal up on her day off. I let Hagar, the German Shepherd, and two of the tomcats out before I went to the bathroom. The dog and one cat were back before I could get the door closed. See? I said it was nippy out there.

I've been sipping tea, reading email and working on my blogs for two hours. Now the rest of the family is stirring. Pat is up. Hagar is swearing HE hasn't ever been outside. Morris came in and Midnight went back out. Dewey sits in his chair watching this nonsense. being aloof as only a cat can be. Furball and Freddy are in here keeping me company. They've been playing tag on one of the boxes. I should find warm clothes and get the day started. It's been nice having this quiet time. Maybe I'll do it again some Saturday morning.

Dewey and Sumo

Dewey is sitting on the front steps. He wants Pat to repair the broken step.

Dewey D. Cat is probably our largest tomcat. Morris, Joe's cat who is living here, has as much mass as Dewey, perhaps a bit more, but he is so compact he appears smaller. Dewey, however, is no match for the orginial Sumo. The original Sumo was at least 25 lbs. (Dewey is about 15).

Sumo was a rescue from the pound who needed a home. We never knew, but I imagine he grew up with a little old lady who overfed him. When she went to a nursing home, he went to the pound. I fell in love with his picture when a call for a home came out on the city e-mail. Unfortunately, Sumo didn't like to share with dogs and other cats, so he spent the rest of his life under our waterbed. He had his own catbox, food and water under there. The only way we could get him out was for me to crawl inside the waterbed and retrieve him.

Sumo lived with us less than six months. We hadn't seen him for a couple of days. When Pat checked under the bed, he was dead. Sumo is buried in Texas next to Worf and Lady Zsa Zsa. The verdigree yard ornament in this picture is about the size of the original Sumo and we call it Sumo in his memory.

Here's a view of the new steps Pat made.

Heat! Heat is nice.

The floor furnace my folks used for years became unreliable. I have no idea how old the furnace was. It wasn't new when we bought the house in 1960. It got to the point that gas company wouldn't turn the gas back on unless the furnace was replaced. The last winter my son Joe spent in the house, he used an electric monstrosity that came from an old motel room. It heats quite well, but you can't hear because the fan is so noisy.

That wasn't for us. We researched our options and decided on a gas radiant heater. Pat found ours at Bluestem Farm and Ranch Supply in Emporia. He and Joe installed it on a Friday. The wall between the big window and the front door already housed the air conditioner, so they mounted the wall heater under the A/C unit. (In the picture you can see the both the new heater and the old furnace. The odd black object is a snoopy Furball.)

Since Pat was the smaller of the two, he was elected to crawl under the house to run the gas line from the furnace to the heater. There is headroom under there! Pat could actually sit up. Then he saw the foundation. The house isn't exactly a pier and beam construction. The perimeter of nearly every room of the house is supported by its own handlaid rock wall. Doorways have been cut through or pushed through to allow access to various parts of the house. Pat said it's no wonder the house doesn't settle. It can't.

By the time the gas line was run and the new heater in place, Pat felt like a little kid who had been rolling in the sandbox. He said he hadn't been that dirty since he was three. When I got home from work, he and Joe were making dibs on the shower. We were all ready to fire it up, but we had to wait for the gas company to reinstall the meter. They didn't come until the following Thursday.

Ah, but we're warm now! We're keeping the old furnace covered with a rug. Pat and Joe will remove it next Spring when we lay the new floor.

Kitchen Switch

The kitchen is our next big project. Mom had an L shaped kitchen with the stove and refrigerator both on the same end. I like the L, but want the stove and refrigerator on opposite ends of it. Pat switched a counter and the stove shortly after we got here in Sept. In October he moved the overhead cupboard to its new home beside the refrigerator and hung our microwave over the stove. In the picture above, the space where the trash can is located and part of the counterspace beside it is where the stove used to be.

When Joe visited from college one weekend, he discovered the only thing wrong with the light over the sink was a GFI breaker had been thrown. There were two of them. One near where we have placed the stove and the other next to the light switch. Pat and I had reset the one near the light switch but didn't realize the one by the stove also drove the light. (I wonder what Dad's logic was on that when he wired it?)

The joy of having my light back was shortlived. It came down when Pat moved the cupboard. It had been mounted on a board attached to the cupboards. Pat solved my light problem by running a display shelf the length of the east wall. The light is again mounted over the sink and I can see again!

At Thanksgiving when Joe was captive for five days, he and Pat finished this part of the kitchen project by going under the house and rewiring the stove and the hot water heater. No more electric cables running across the floor! For joy!!

In the future we will remove the panelling and the horsehair plaster behind it. I would like to put up board and batten wainscoating around the wall behind the table. Pat's three-corner cupboard looks like it was made for the corner there. We will be putting up the wide board "bungalow" style woodwork in the kitchen around each arch. I have my eye on subway tile for the walls behind the stove and under the counters. Maybe come summer we'll be able to do it. Who knows?

Painted Walls!

Look at that! The walls are painted! We're looking like someone lives here!! It's been a busy two months. There are mountains of boxes (mostly empty) still on the back porch. Pat doesn't want to overwhelm the garbage man by giving him all of them at once. I'm disparing at ever finding a place for the contents of the rest of them.

The living room is coming along nicely. It will be spring (tax refund time) before we lay the floor. That's okay. I will wait to get the floors I want. In the mean time we have two big rugs that keep the dust off our feet. The cats and Hagar enjoy sleeping on them. We'll probably keep them after we lay the hardwood floors. If we didn't the critters would never forgive us.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Piano Movers

Talk about moving! Skip and Patty had been storing my piano. They took it home with them after Dad died because we weren't sure what we would be doing with the house. SO... last March Pat and I visited Nacogdoches and loaded the piano to return it to Kansas. This is a well traveled 700 lb. piano. Skip took it from Kansas to Louisiana to Texas and I'm taking it back to Kansas. Pat and I felt ever ounce of that piano's weight when the two of us unloaded it.

We were doing fine. He backed the pickup up to the front porch and we propped the front door open. The piano wheeled right onto the porch and there she stopped. She couldn't get over the threshold. We ended up making a ramp of plywood to bring the piano up the small incline of the threshold then levering it with bigger boards to get it across. All of this with me being the push power and Pat being the lift power. Boy! I was sure wishing Joe was around right about then. (It was dawn of March 26, and there was no way Joe would even be awake, let alone the fact that he lived 30 miles away. Still, I wished he was there.)

We had driven half a day to get to Nacogdoches. We left Skip's about 6 PM and drove the entire night to get to Waverly. We arrived at dawn and unloaded the piano. The plan was to sleep there, then return to Texas. Unfortunately, the heat wasn't on and it was 32 degrees in the house. There weren't enough blankets in the house to get comfortable in bed, so we just crawled back into the pickup and headed south. About 36 hours after we left Grand Prairie, we were back. Our bed looked really inviting. Pat told me if I had any more wild hare ideas about taking pianos to Kansas, he'd shoot me.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Grand Prairie Hillbillies

Moving Home!

Lala and Jen helped me bring things home from the library. I couldn't resist staging our Grand Prairie Hillbillies shot.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Yard Work

Not only do we have our work cut out for us inside, the outside is in serious need of TLC. We plan to add a new roof. New siding is farther down the schedule. I can't wait to do some serious work in the yard. The last years my folks were alive they were not able to keep up with it like they used to do. The orchard has died; Dad let the garden go back to grass. Mom's flower beds are mainly weeds and a few hardy perennials. We cut down the volunteer sycamore that came up in the edge of the flower bed, but I see it's growing back with a vengance.

Definitely the place needs some TLC. I hope to post "after" pictures that show it was worth it.

Horsehair Plaster

Last summer Pat and our brother-in-law, Robert, began The Project. Pat has worked in construction for over 15 years, but he had never met horsehair plaster before. The first room they tackled was the living room. Ok, the ONLY room they tackled was the living room. (My old bedroom, the kitchen, the utility room and the bathroom will be stripped of their horsehair plaster at a future date -- a very future date!)

When the house was built in 1903, plaster was mixed with sand and horsehair to give it body, then laid over the closely placed lathes you see in the picture. Pat and Robert only stripped one room down to it's lathe, but they took many, many trips to the dump with barrels of plaster. One load alone weighed close to a ton.

Pat had worried if the walls could support the gypsum board replacement he intended to use. After finding out the weight of what they took off, Robert declared "The walls will heave a sigh of relief to only hold gypsum board."

I don't know about the walls, but Pat and Robert were heaving sighs of relief when all they had to do was put up gypsum board. The walls were easy; then they had to figure out how to do the ceiling. They didn't have a ceiling jack for that part, but they found that Robert (6'2") standing on a low scaffold of boards and concrete blocks was just the right height to balance the gypsum sheet on his head while Pat (5'9") quickly ran in the screws to anchor it. (Gee, am I glad I had to work at the library while they were doing all of this.)

Robert had to return to his home in Mississippi after the major work was done. Pat called in two of our granddaughters from Indiana to help him paint. The living room never did get painted, but the girls painted all the bedrooms.

They found they liked small town living. They particularly liked that the swimming pool is only four blocks from the house and the branch library has computers they can use and books and videos to check out. The best part, though, was going downtown on Friday nights, eating pizza and singing Karaoke at the pizza place.

Sunday, June 18, 2006


Here we are, Pat and Iris, resting while we can. If we look a bit tired -- it's because we're contemplating renovating the house I grew up in.

The story goes that the original owner handbuilt the house for his bride in 1903. There were four rooms and a large front porch. By the style of the porch and columns I can see it was inspired by the Arts and Crafts Movement Bungalows. I don't know how much of the inspiration took, because the front porch is about the only Bungalow feature left. Our goal is to put it back to what it should have been.

Over the last 113 years the house has seen lots of changes. Two of the original rooms had the wall removed to make the large living room that we now enjoy. A dining room, kitchen and bath were added and a porch was enclosed to become the third bedroom. When my parents purchased the house in 1960, Dad removed the chimney from the dining room, and turned the doorway to the living room into an archway. He made an arch out of the door on the other side of the dining room as well. Shortly after that the dining room became our new, larger kitchen and the kitchen became the utility room. Just before they died the folks renovated the bathroom, making it more "senior" friendly and had a larger back porch added.

The house is sound and has become rectangular instead of the original square. Inside, I want to restore the wide woodwork and add some columns in the archway from living room to kitchen that will bring out the Bungalow flavor. Outside, I would like to restore the front porch and add railings and columns to the back porch so it will match the front porch.

We have quite a bit of work to do to bring it all together. It won't happen overnight, but we'll have the fun of living there and doing the work ourselves, watching it come back to what it should have been.