Thursday, February 21, 2013


So in my last post I mentioned that the next space getting my attention (yes, I've largely left the kitchen alone.  No, it is not done.  Well, it's kind of done.  I don't usually do kind of done.  It's mostly done.  It will be done by the end of this decade.  Is that reasonable?) is an area I have generally referred to as the sun porch.  And that during my ministrations, it looked like this:

Which was true.  I may also have mentioned at some point on this blog that I make fun of people who "just can't figure out what to do with" their spaces (how difficult is it to figure out what to put in your living room, really?  Start with a couch you like.  Proceed from there), and that, as usual, I am punished for my injustice by a watchful universe.  Because I hadn't even realized that I didn't know what to do with this space until I came back from the Storage Unit of Doom (my mother's much-burglarized storage unit in the town where I grew up) with an antique library table she had bought, and realized that the (long and skinny) library table would go well in this space, and then realized that nothing goes well in this space and because I hadn't figured out what to do with it, or even noticed I'd neglected it, that it was rapidly becoming full of junk.   

In my defense, I will note that this room is 5'6" wide and 20' long.  Those are extremely difficult proportions, and, in particular, the 5'6" part is a nightmare.  Not that most porches are enormously wide, but that if I'm going to try to decorate it as a room, well, rooms don't have proportions like that.  I'd love to make it into an informal dining area with a long table, but even with the skinny library table and two benches, the space would be too narrow to allow anyone to walk past to get to a seat on the end.  It just won't work.  Obviously, a different concept is required. 

So after I got that table in there, I resumed filling the space with garbage (I even painstakingly refinished the very-damaged antique table - and then started piling it with power tools, wood scraps, and sawdust.  I am duly ashamed).  The porch had the same ugly pink vinyl as the kitchen, and I was planning to rip that out and put in slate when I did the kitchen, as I am sure I've mentioned.  And then the kitchen turned out to have those original floors, so the porch floor was next on the list.  After which I was going to insulate the two exterior walls (the ones with the windows), and then chip the windows open (some idiot or idiots painted them shut), and then hire a plumber to hook up a radiator at the end there.  Which would take it to fully functional.  But I still had no idea what I wanted it to look like. 

And then I found this ideabook on houzz.  With CONSERVATORIES:


And the ideabook pointed out some things that I hadn't realized:

(1) "Conservatories were popular add-ons to the grand homes of the English aristocracy in the 19th century."  I don't have a grand home.  And there's certainly no aristocracy here.  But my house was built in the (very) late nineteenth century, in a style (Victorian) that was drawn from English architecture.  So, a conservatory would be appropriate, right? 

(2) Conservatories "were originally developed to allow people to cultivate warm-climate plants, such as citrus, in cold climates."  I manage to kill off everything I plant at an alarming rate.  But I would really, really like to be able to keep a few herbs and vegetables alive, and, though I haven't even allowed myself to dream anything so grandiose (I am not allowed to plant ornamental items until I can keep the edible ones alive), I would love to have some roses and some lilies and some lavender.  And I would really like a miniature orange and lemon tree of my own - I even saw a grower featured on This Old House a while back and tucked the idea away.  Maybe if my plants lived indoors, I could keep them alive???  (Hasn't worked out for the basil so far, I admit.  I just killed another one this past month.) 

(3) Conservatories "were often used . . . as a place to collect exotic items gathered during travels."  I had actually been tempted to for a sort of far-East motif in the sun porch, but I was thinking that would be a bad idea, because the rest of my house doesn't tend so far in that direction and I didn't want it to look "off."  But if proper English manor houses had exotic furniture and taxidermied insects all over their conservatories, then maybe a little deviation from the rest of the house's decor would actually be appropriate.  The wheels started turning. 

I have some long-loved points of inspiration that will definitely figure into my plan.  You all may remember this lovely image:


I had wanted to create a sort of "outdoor room" based on this idea, but that never got off the ground.  (Apparently my ability to come up with a concept and execute it is entirely lacking where the outdoors are concerned.)  I want to be realistic about what I'm likely to accomplish, after a collapsed trellis, dying outdoor lights, and several other inspirations that went south.  I'm not going to come up with an actual outdoor room.  But what about an indoor room that looks like one?  My library table sort of has the right feel (though it isn't bleached wood):

(I cleaned it.)  And I have these extraordinary chairs that I bought on craigslist last year.  I've been using them for outside and storing them in the carriage house in the winter, but why couldn't they be on the sun porch instead? 

They look like this:

I also have these two allegedly Swedish-style chairs:

They're on the porch already, but they're broken, so they're currently part of the junk.  But now I am resolved to fix them.  I also have these two gold-painted tables that I'm currently using as night stands in the second bedroom:

They have a sort of exotic feel.  I could move them to the porch.  And for our anniversary, my DH got me these lovely lanterns:

I have one each in blue, green, yellow, and red.  They're already on the porch.  They're sort of a smaller version of that lovely Moroccan castle-y thing in the inspiration photo, right?  And I decided I also need some brightly-colored throw pillows, and I had a flash of genius: I would buy a pashmina and use it to make covers for some throw pillows.  I found this one on sale for $5 this past weekend at A.C. Moore (of all places):

So I have a bit of sewing to do.  It's just enough for covers for two 18" x 18" pillows. 

I also have one other long-standing inspiration photo.  A while back I saw a video tour of designer Martyn-Lawrence Bullard's California home (which is done entirely in an exotic/Moroccan style), and I fell in love with his porch/dining room:

(I just love him.  And now Million-Dollar Decorators is no longer available on hulu, and I am sad.)  But anyway, you see my point, right?  I could embrace a little of this look (though tragically not a functional dining area).  I've got the carved dark wood on the library table, and a little on the "Swedish" chairs, though not as fancy as his beautiful chairs.  I love his ceiling, but I'm not planning to stencil mine (which is beadboard, by the way).  I think his floor may be painted, too, though, and that is tempting.  Because I started my own hunt for conservatory pictures, and came up with some lovely ideas. Including some that showed Moroccan-style tile on the floors, like this:

Although that is not the look I'm going for - doesn't have enough plants. Lots of plants are key:

And yet I am the death knell of plants. This may be an entirely uphill battle.  So anyway...on the floor...I was thinking of maybe making my own stencil of this design:


I think I could execute that.  I'm planning to use light gray, dark gray, and white (since those are the colors I have), but if I need something simpler, this colored pattern might work in gray:

Unfortunately, my darling husband for some reason does not want me to paint the floor.  Instead, he suggested getting an oriental-style rug for that space.  This makes no sense.  Finding one in the right shape would be impossible, plus I wouldn't want to damage a real oriental rug in an indoor/outdoor space with all those (hoped-for) plants, plus my Moroccan tile inspiration is brilliant.  Why can't he see that a painted rug is just better?  I will have to convince him.  I'm not going to just sneak a painted rug onto the floor.  Probably. 

Which returns us to the nitty-gritty.  This past weekend, I did nothing productive on my little home improvements (I believe I re-hung my crucifix in the kitchen, using an existing nail hole.  Grueling).  My in-laws were visiting, and it was my birthday (thank you, thank you).  Before they arrived, I had just finished removing the vinyl and luan from the porch, swept it, and cleared out a lot of the unnecessary crap.  Here we are today:

You see the problem, I take it.  Right here:

When I started removing vinyl and found the green-painted floorboards, I figured I was in business - and returned the last half of my cement backerboard (for the planned slate) to the store.  I didn't make my way around to the other half of the floor until the end, at which point I saw that for some reason the porch was missing 40% of its flooring.  I have no idea why.  But as we have already demonstrated, I can patch missing flooring:

(And this time buying the wrong wood species won't matter, since it's going to be painted.)  So this week, I rolled up my sleeves to return to the project.  I figured I would measure the floorboards, spend the week finding the best price for the material, pick it up this weekend, and start in on the replacement boards, then move on to framing out and insulating a dummy wall. 

There was no way to see this coming, but those floorboards are 2 3/8" wide.  (And 13/16" thick, but I am going to pretend they are 3/4" thick because that is just ridiculous.)  They are tongue-and-groove, and that's definitely what I'd like to use for the replacement - tongue and groove will shift much less than if I used "square-cut" (normal) lumber.  So that's what I looked for - at Home Depot, and then Lowe's, and then Lumber Liquidators.  There is nothing in that width.  Not even materials I don't want.  I called Lumber Liquidators today, and asked whether perhaps they sell strange things not advertised on their website.  The nice lady cheerfully told me that all flooring these days is sold in 1/4" increments, and this is a typical problem with old houses, and she has no advice for me.  (But she was very nice about it.) 

I have just hit my first true "old-house" problem - not something that requires a big work-around (been there, done that), but something I really can't fix.  I could rip my own 2 3/8" boards (if I had a table saw, which I would be willing to buy for a good reason), but I cannot realistically mill my own tongue-and-groove flooring.  I am on the horns of a dilemma. 

I could return to the plan of laying slate tile, in which case my husband may kill me, because he carried all the cement-board back and forth to the car three times and he was not pleased about my poor planning.  (For the record, my planning was fine.  The change was the floor's fault.)  And I just returned to my colleague all the tiling equipment I had borrowed...and not used...for six weeks.  Of course, that would also be much more expensive, and it would cover up the original, perfectly good...60% of a floor. 

I also realize that if I'm going to paint the floor (whether or not I stencil it, though the stenciling might help conceal this), I could just stick with 60% flooring and 40% plywood (how the floor is right this minute).  After all, the floor stenciling idea I originally stole for my stairs from this extremely talented lady was applied directly to plywood subfloor:

But if I do that, do I close all the seams between the floorboards, too?  That will permanently hide the original porch floor.  And, also, even if I insulate the porch, it will constantly be exposed to outside air, and I suspect that changes in temperature and humidity will crack any filler I put in there in short order. 


Saturday, February 9, 2013

any baby

I try and try to make this a lighthearted blog about decorating (possibly I need to change my header.  But who doesn't love Edward Gorey?), but this infertility bull$h!t just won't die.

Last month, just as I was in the process of thinking how much I was looking forward to 2013 and how I actually felt joyful about it (for the first time in about as long as I can remember), my DH was contacted with a possible adoption opportunity.  I almost got the words, "Well, tell her we're not interested" out of my mouth before I realized he was interested.  Given that he is, in fact, interested in adoption, he's been heroically patient with just waiting for the time the right opportunity will come along, or the time I'll change my mind.  (I am still not interested in adoption.  I have said God can change my heart, and He is welcome to, but "feels sick about it but goes ahead anyway out of a conviction that God will punish her if she doesn't" doesn't qualify as feeling called to adopt.  Try again, God.)

I was so upset every time I just thought of the possibility that I felt sick to my stomach for weeks.  We had some good talks, and I found out some things about getting home-study approved, we found out from the person who had first contacted my husband that the birth mother was looking for certain criteria, and we didn't meet them.  That sounds a little mysterious (and possibly nasty), but I assume the criterion was something like "has adopted before" - we hadn't exactly provided a detailed biography from which the littlest details of our persons could be rejected.  We hadn't provided anything; we were still thinking about it.  I don't know when I have felt more relieved.

Yesterday my DH let me know that someone else - from the same city, by the way - had contacted him about another adoption opportunity, also a baby to be born in the summer.  This email came with a list of the birth mother's criteria.  I haven't been through this process before, and no doubt the criteria are sometimes idiosyncratic (and sometimes unspoken, if the birth mother gets to choose between a bunch of portfolios in the privacy of her own mind).  And no one should expect a wise or a sophisticated decision-making process from a young woman who got knocked up and doesn't have the resources to care for a child, either.  It's the nature of the beast.

Even so - tell me whether "not morbidly obese," "at least one spouse has an advanced degree," "other children 'OK' [!!!!]," and "mother's schedule flexible or may be able to stay home with the child" are normal.  (I note by way of clarification that the last one seems completely normal in itself, but raises major problems for me after the student loan debt from 1-2 advanced degrees and $25,000 in adoption fees.  If I adopted a child, I would do everything possible to stay home full-time until the child started school; but that's a sacrifice I would make for my child, and I won't be held accountable to a nitwit birth mother or a profit-seeking adoption industry.  (I almost typed "abortion industry" there.  Guess that tells you how I feel about this business.)

And on this morbidly obese thing?  Everyone thinks they know what that term means and most people don't.  It has a medical definition - 20% over recommended body weight.  That means if your doctor thinks you should ideally weigh 125 pounds and you weigh 150, you are morbidly obese.  Not "a little overweight."  Morbidly obsese.  For the record, I'm not offended because either my DH or I is actually morbidly obese.  I'm pretty sure we'd qualify on all the birth mother's criteria, in fact.  I'm offended because this criterion is so phenomenally stupid.  I know - consider the source - but I really can't with this one.  What is the goal here?  Make sure the kid won't get fat?  Most of weight is genetic, and there are a lot worse things a child could become than fat.  (Let's start with - anorexic!  Which, unlike being 20% overweight, is actually likely to kill you.)  If it's just that the kid should be healthy, maybe the requirement should be, "Has an active lifestyle."  A lot less offensive, yes?

Or maybe the goal is just that the adoptive parents aren't likely to die while the child is young.  In that case, maybe ask about a family history of cancer or heart disease, perhaps.  A lot of (genuinely) fat people live long and healthy - and even very active - lives.  I am not, of course, suggesting that parents who would be included by the heart disease/cancer criteria would be better, or those excluded worse.  On the contrary; the criteria that determine good parents have little to do with these matters, in my experience.  But the birth mother can only work with hard data and broad strokes, so a few things like this make sense.  It's just that morbid obesity itself seems irrelevant to any reasonable consideration.  As far as I can tell, the only question about the child's life likely to be answered by this information is, "How much will the Christmas pictures of my kid look like magazine photos?"  And that sure sounds like the recipe for a happy childhood to me.

But (as my title may suggest), I have not yet gotten to nearly the most offensive part of this email.  Here it is: that was it.  No, I mean it.  We got a (long - I gave you the obnoxious ones, but there were others) list of criteria for the adoptive parents.  A projected due date.  A statement that the emailer had heard we were interested in adoption (I seriously want to know where people are getting this.  Is this, "You look sad and childless, and I'm so happy as a mommy.  You MUST be interested in adoption"?).  And - that was it.

There was no information about the birth mother - not her age, race, educational status, reason for wanting to give up the baby, drug and alcohol exposure - not one thing.  Nothing about the birth father - whether he's in a relationship with the birth mother, or is a rapist; his race or age or educational status; or even whether he's expressed an intention to give up his parental rights.  Nothing about the baby - any health issues, gender (I forget when they can figure that out), any testing that's been done or is scheduled.


I haven't decided whether I'd be open to transracial adoption.  Obviously - I haven't decided whether I'd be open to adoption at all.  But I will damn well make my decision with photos of at least the biological mother and father, unless the latter is a missing person registered with the police, and of as many members of the immediate family as possible.  And information not just about the parents' races, but their ethnic backgrounds as well.  And what color eyes they have and how tall they are and how they did in school.  And any diseases or other issues that run in their families.

I am not saying I would reject a baby with a family history of schizophrenia, or who was not white, or who was likely to be short or have brown eyes.  But if I want to, I get to.  It's my $25,000.  And I don't get to have a baby who looks like me or my husband.  I don't get to have a baby who is likely, like us and our families, to be a little psycho, but a brilliant student.  That may not be the most felicitous mix for a person's happiness, but it's us and if I could conceive a child, I would know that's what I was likely getting.  And I would never have to deal with a teenager on a quest to find his "real" parents.  I get to lose a lot in this process (and did I mention the $25,000 yet?  Because if I am forking over that kind of money, I expect people to treat me with respect), and I really only get one thing (besides the baby - maybe - we all know how this really works): I get to make up my mind what I want to do.

I write emails to people, or have conversations, suggesting I fix them up with someone.  Periodically.  Often I've talked to the other party first, and I always ask about his or her criteria.  Then I find someone who fits those criteria, in a pair I can imagine doing well together.  (I'm not always right, but I have to do my best.)  When I go to talk to party #2, I do not mention the other person's criteria (I've already sorted that part out, and who wants to feel evaluated?).  What do I do?  I tell party #2 all about party #.  Age, appearance, dating history if I know it, personality, religious background, hobbies, job, other friends.  Everything I can think of.  Why?  Because somebody who might be in a fix-up is already not where he wants to be.  And if I provide all the information I can, I can deliver the message, "You're a catch.  You have a right to be picky.  I want to find the perfect person for you.  I want you to be happy."

I recognize that in this sort of adoption cattle call, conveying the birth mother's criteria is unavoidable.  However they irk me (because these particular criteria are so dumb), I am mature enough to understand that I must, per se, be evaluated in such a situation.  But when there is no information about the baby or the birth parents - nothing whatsoever - the message is crystal-clear: "You poor schmuck.  God gave you defective reproductive organs so you couldn't have your own biological children.  Now you've got a target on your back so you can be extorted by a supposedly charitable industry and put under the microscope by someone too irresponsible even to make good choices for herself.  And the best part is that you're so sad and desperate, you'll take any baby at all."

No, I won't.

I would appreciate your prayers for God to lead us to the right decision for our lives, and smooth the path to that eventuality, whatever it is.

Prayers that we simply adopt or otherwise procure a baby are - very sincerely - not appreciated.  I don't care what situation you're in; it doesn't mean that universal happiness lies that way, and I will (on this occasion) spare you the list of people whose ill-considered entry into parenting did irreparable damage to their lives and their children.  Praying that God's will be done is always benevolent.  Praying for the outcome you think would be peachy keen suggests you know better than God.  And there's a reason I'm not praying to you.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Smile, Tim! Smile!

I am still here. 

I have made some other design improvements to the kitchen.  Some may not be improvements.  It's improvement?  I hope.  Tim? 

First of all, you recall this problematic wall:

Several people kindly offered insightful suggestions.  As to the centering - the shelf is centered on the studs, since it was to be held up by brackets and any failure to center on studs would be obvious.  For this reason (sometimes I actually engaged my brain in these projects, I swear), the cabinet above it is also centered on the studs.  It's at least reasonably centered in the empty wall space (though what counts as empty space is made less clear by the radiator pipe on the left and the doorway on the right). 

As to the upper cabinet dwarfing the shelf below - that may be true.  I did what I could about that, but it may not be enough.  The idea of skirting the shelf is clever, but won't work because that is actually a passageway and the skirt would immediately begin harboring filth.  (I do not dust.  Know thyself.) 

Anyway, my somewhat less insightful conclusion was that the shelf looked too unfinished (due, perhaps, to its unfinished sides).  I decided that I could solve both these problems by slicing 9" off the marble top of my baking table and turning that into the new shelf.  Once I got that on the wall, I realized the white marble rather blended into the white beadboard.  Also, the new shelf is smaller.  Now the shelf was unobtrusive in the space (good), but it was vanishing under that big cabinet.  I had long planned to use decorative corbels to conceal the heavy brackets.  I now decided to move this item higher on my list, and also paint the corbels blue.  Like so:

The cabinet still dwarfs the shelf.  I still have plans to scribe the bottom edges of the cabinet, to achieve this effect:


But that is not happening until I get my hands on a jigsaw.  And I doubt it will make the cabinet look more dainty, proportionately speaking.  Besides, I need my cabinet to hold all that stuff.  I need to cope with its largeness.  In lighter news, the shelf now coordinates very nicely with the table next to it:

Don't ask why I didn't take a picture that includes both.  I have no explanation.  I will note that the table is now (obviously) 9" shallower than it was before, and while that means less work space, it lives much better in the room.  It was just too darn big and square.  I also want to draw your attention to those stools.  I had one.  Then I found two more at the ReStore for $10 each.  They all looked like this:

But I had a vision of them looking much nicer with stained tops and white-painted legs.  My visions so far have proved mostly nonsense, but I think this one turned out well.  My DH (who doesn't over-analyze these changes the way I do) has noticed that people can now sit in the kitchen and have a cup of tea - and most people who stop in automatically end up on those stools.  (Out of the way of cooking, by the way.)  Success. 

Moving on...I don't recall whether I've shared this photo: 

It captures beautifully the horrors that remained after removing the (much more horrible) tileboard.  Okay, okay.  Focus on the backsplash area.  I am aware - the picture captures lots of horrors.  I saw this as the site of inevitable progress; I was serene about living with it for a while, while I tinkered with other projects.  My DH saw it as a shocking eyesore that should be covered before anybody saw it.  I covered it eventually:

And then there was this area:

Where I failed to replace that last base cabinet, long after I had replaced all the others.  Not because I didn't have a replacement - it had been acquired, painted, and varnished long since.  The problem was that I didn't have a replacement for the countertop.  As I have mentioned (375 million times), I wanted a scrap of soapstone, because soapstone is heatproof, and this is the only countertop next to the stove, and I wanted to put hot things right on it.  But there are no soapstone fabricators within driving distance (only retailers), so nobody had remnants for me. 

After cursing the cruelty of the world and having no cabinet there for a while, I eventually found a remnant of honed black granite at the ReStore.  It was three feet long instead of the 16" I needed, and since the ReStore bizarrely failed to have stone-cutting facilities on-site, that meant I had to pay a whopping $63 for more stone than I needed (I jest.  I had budgeted for more.  No complaints), and also buy a $29 diamond blade (still within budget), and figure out how to keep a hose on the circular saw while cutting through a slab of granite.  Since the granite was too heavy for me to lift by myself (even a three-foot piece.  Granite is heavy.  It has nothing to do with me being weak), my DH participated in this process.  Which involved his pants, shoes, and socks being soaked continuously with a hose for an hour in freezing weather.  He thoroughly enjoyed it.  Et voila:

In the picture before this one, you may also have noticed that I hadn't painted the walls yellow all the way around the kitchen yet.  The yellow stopped just to the right of the window over the sink.  And since I had to patch the door frame around that exterior door, I realized I needed to paint it.  Matching stain is a bit above my pay grade.  I eventually finished painting everything:

You know what else I did?  I framed out the opening on the under-sink cabinet, and I built a custom-fit shaker-style door for it with my own two hands.  Out of 3/16" luan, which is the wrong material, by the way.  Then I planed and sanded it to size and caulked the laminated edges smooth and painted it and varnished it and added hinges and a matchbox catch and fitted it nicely into its frame.  It took me days.  Do you know what I didn't do?  Take a picture of it.  Stupid.  There's a door there now, anyway. 

Also, I agonized for a while over a rug for the room.  As I may have explained, once I saw those hardwood floors (PSA: they are oak, and I should have seen that immediately), I moved away from my ticking-striped cotton scatter rugs idea, which I thought would have been quite fetching on slate.  I started thinking the kitchen needed a "real room" rug.  I wanted braided, for that country/Americana feel; I went through endless options.  Oriental rugs kept sneaking themselves into my search results.  I love Oriental rugs.  Current trends allow them in kitchens, where before they did not venture.  I don't like trends, but I do like Oriental rugs.  And I would only buy a cheap little polypropylene one that I could wash with a hose.  It would wear out before the trend did.  Sold.  Then I spent two weeks searching for a cheap one I didn't hate.  I plunged into ever-greater doubts of my shopping abilities.  Then I found this:

Granted, it doesn't look like that in person.  The design is less bright, and I like bright.  But the pile is actually very soft.  It lies nice and flat.  The shape and size are perfect for the space (crows over shopping abilities - still got it!), and I think it goes really beautifully with the dark floors and cabinets:

And the jelly cupboard, too! 

I still have to get the two missing burner caps in for the stove (a local retailer ordered them - Amazon failed me utterly), attach the faucet properly to the sink (I've tried three sets of brackets that didn't work, and am moving on to flanges this weekend.  I SHALL CONQUER!), level the stove, and maybe at some point in the distant future, re-paint three of the thresholds into the kitchen and replace the one burner assembly on the stove that appears to be really busted. 

For now, I am watching TV with my husband and overeating.  And also this:

Making a hideous mess of my porch.  OK, actually, the mess is in service of this:

Another area covered with pink sheet vinyl that had an original wood floor under it.  (I've already removed the vinyl; working on the plywood under it.)  At least this time no linoleum or tar.  And it will save me money in slate (which I will spend insulating the porch and hiring someone to intall a radiator, instead). 

To be continued - obviously.