Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Antique Jelly Cabinet


It's finished.

After working on this thing off/on for seventeen-dang-years, it's done.

According to my mother, she bought this cute jelly cabinet at Thomas Taylor & Son's in Fairview, Tennessee several years before she gave it to me. Supposedly, it was made sometime in the 1930s.  All three coats of paint were milk-based; the first was white, then someone tried to do a sort of patriotic blue, then white again.  Even the glass was painted with the blue and white. Mother's plan was to restore the cabinet, but that never happened. It sat in the basement, untouched. It was the same mess it was in when she bought it, when I ran across it again around 1995.

She let me take the cabinet to fix up and use in my own kitchen.  Some of the hinges were broken, door knobs missing, and the back panel had delaminated and warped.  I purchased a sheet of masonite and replaced the back panel, stripped off all the old paint and repainted everything a bright white.  Then the work stopped.  I couldn't find any chrome or silvery 3/8" offset hinges that would work and be small enough to not interfere with the glass panels, and I wouldn't settle for modifying the cabinet to accept an overlay hinge.

For the next seventeen years the cabinet moved from my house back to various spots at Mother's, and eventually sat partially disassembled in a corner of my bedroom with old dolls and knick-knacks stacked on it.  Occasionally she would ask me, "When are you gonna get this thing outta here?"  so on a visit last Fall, I brought it back to my house and tried to figure out what to do with it and where was I going to put it.  I even thought of giving it away to my best friend, figuring I had no room.

A few days ago and starting to feel Mother's pain of having the cabinet in the way, I decided I'd keep it and put it someplace for good.  I found the perfect chrome hinges and bought wooden cabinet and drawer knobs.  For the knob color, I wanted a true 1930's red and chose Valspar's "Porcelain Red" in semi-gloss.  This scheme will be repeated on the kitchen cabinets when that renovation takes place.

There are a few places where the paint has been marred a bit from all the moving around, but it fits the cabinet's "personality" so it will stay as-is.  I suspect where it is sitting now is where it will stay, in the sunroom right off the kitchen.  It looks very much at home, as if it's always been here.

Mother will be here for a visit in a couple of weeks.  I'm anxious for her to finally see her little cabinet, loved and being used.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Seating Arrangements

The front porch is taking on a nice look these days, courtesy of my mother and her parents.  Although my birthday was in June, I wasn't able to see Mother until last month to get my presents.  She mentioned she had some cool things for me and wanted to ship them, but it was going to cost a small fortune to do so and was disappointed I was going to have to wait.  Here's what I got:

Another great addition is my grandparents' two settees and matching rocker that sat on their front porch for longer than I can remember.  In fact, Mother has a picture of her brother and my dad in the front yard of the home where Mother grew up, and they're working on a car.  In the background is this furniture.  The picture was taken before my parents were married; Mother said she thinks it was around 1959 or 1960.  I thought I brought that photo back with me from her house, but I forgot it.  I'll update this post with a copy of it later.  Each settee has one broken rocker, but I plan on making some from an old hickory or red oak board I have.

Funny I have all this seating when there's only two people, maximum, at a time here to enjoy it.  Oh, and one small dog.

Monday, August 6, 2012


 I haven't been doing any work on the house. To be quite honest, I haven't had the money to do so and I still refuse to go in debt just to do cosmetic work. It's clean, sound and livable and that's all that's important to me for a while. On the upside, my car was paid off last month (WOO HOO) so as soon as I knock out a few small over-and-above the insurance coverages I have leftover from the March surgery, then I can start padding my savings account and doing a little more to fix up this place.

Since my last post, the garden has been doing very well with the exception of the beets. I think the voles are at it again, nibbling at the tender foliage as I sleep. At least they aren't tunneling like last year, destroying the plants at the roots. If a few tasty beet greens satisfy their appetites, so be it. I'll make the sacrifice. And, a fishing line fence kept out the deer, so there were a couple of good meals of sugar snap peas.

My raised beds don't supply enough tomatoes for mass canning, as I like to do every couple of years, and I have no peach trees. A trip to the Piedmont-Triad Farmers Market in Colfax, NC netted 50 pounds of tomatoes and 75 pounds of peaches. Yes, this is a lot for one person + Other Half. But you have to understand that I think he could drink tomato juice and eat peaches every day.

Other Half has some property in Davie County where he raises organic blueberries. They have such a wonderful flavor, and it's great knowing we can pick them straight off the bushes and pop them right into our mouths with no worries of pesticide contamination. I decided this year to make enough extra jams and jellies to see if I could sell any at work and on Craigslist for $4 per 8oz jar. The organic nature of the berries make them very easy to market, since people are becoming more conscientious of what goes in their tummies. I only posted the Craigslist ad a few minutes ago, but already at work I've sold twelve jams and three jellies in the first week. We'll see how the online ad goes.

 All total, my canning consisted of:

Tomato juice: 24 pints
Whole tomatoes: 14 quarts, 7 pints
Peach preserves: 27 half-pints
Whole peaches: 15 quarts, 29 pints
Blueberry jelly: 18 half-pints
Blueberry jam: 24 half-pints

The pantry is chock full, needless to say. But this should definitely last two years and maybe on into three.

Canning, to me, is sensible because I certainly have more time than money. The overall cost involved was really very little, especially since I only had to buy about three dozen jelly jars. I already had a lot of other jelly jars, pints, and quarts so that expense was practically nil.

 But canning also represents a large part of who I am. I was born in the country, raised on a farm, moved to the city and decided I didn't like it, then left to purchase my own home in the country because that's where I'm most comfortable. I was raised to be practical, and along with that practicality has come the ability to utilize my time wisely. Although many hours are spent properly preparing the fruits or vegetables for canning, washing and sterilizing the jars (I still haven't yet hooked up the dishwasher) then standing over a hot stove for hours as batch after batch is processed, the end result and satisfaction are well worth it. Achy joints and swollen ankles be damned; I've got good, wholesome food that I processed so I know exactly what's in it. And the older I get and the more involved I become in canning and freezing, the more I grow to appreciate my mother's and grandmothers' hard work doing the same thing. It's ingrained in me. It's truly is a large part of who I am and I plan on continuing the tradition until I can no longer stand at the stove.

Peach preserves, blueberry jam, and blueberry jelly
Some pints of tomato juice, also.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Demolition Derby

When northbound I-85 is backed up due to construction, I take a series of side streets to get home.  On the way is a beautiful house that will soon be torn down.  After several trips past it, wondering if there was anything inside I could use on my house, I peeked inside and saw the downstairs hardwood floors are the width I need to put in my bedroom.  They were filthy, so I couldn't determine the species.  Nonetheless, I wanted the flooring and contacted the demolition company for permission to remove it.

It's a shame that this house will be torn down but it's just as well, I guess.  Most of the inside had already been worked on by the demo crew, revealing that termites had been present for many, many years.  Even if it wasn't in the way of a new highway, it was no longer habitable.  The termite damage and rotten subfloors in a lot of places made it way beyond any restoration.  I tried checking tax maps to see how old it is, but there's no age listed.  I'd guess late 1800s.


Eight hours Monday and ten hours Tuesday were spent removing the flooring.  I'd sadly overestimated my ability to do this task alone.  The planks were tongue-and-groove oak, varied lengths, 2.25" wide, and put down with 'cut nails.' For those of you not familiar with that nail type, they're thick, flat and made of iron.  Here's a photo, only the ones I was dealing with were rusted and even more difficult to pull.

I used a rubber mallet and short pry bar ("gorilla bar"), first tapping the bar about 1/2" under the tongue side of the plank, pulling slightly upwards and towards the groove side to loosen it from the subfloor.  I worked my way across the room, loosening them, then worked my way back by angling the bar and pulling up the planks nail-by-nail.  This had to be done one row at a time.  Some of the nails pulled through the tongue, but most remained stuck in the plank.  Since time was a factor due to my days off from work combined with not knowing when the demolition order was coming through, the nails would have to be removed at my house.

Monday gripes:

1)  My kneepads quickly wore out since they were old.  I didn't want to go buy more and waste valuable time driving and shopping, so I kept working by scooting along on my behind, or else by standing up and bending over to hammer and pry.

2)  A few hours into the day, a small plank I was prying came loose unexpectedly and hit me near my left temple.  It hurt a little but was no big deal.  Later, while working hunched over behind a staircase, another piece I had put some serious force under did the same thing but hit me over my right eye.  I knew immediately it was probably kind of bad.  When I reached up, it was bleeding a little and a half dollar-size knot began to surface.  The only thing I had to get the swelling under control was a slightly cool bottle of water, so I sat down for a few minutes and held it to the knot.  It helped some.  By the end of the night, the knot took up most of the right side of my forehead.  It's pretty.  It's to the greenish-yellow stage today.

Right side.  Photo taken right after it happened.

3)  By evening, I was so exhausted and sore I could barely move and didn't get the trailer unloaded.

Tuesday gripes:

1)  Around 11am, after already working four hours, I was so tired I was almost in tears.  I texted several friends, asking if anyone had a friend who needed work.  Two people called me, but just after a nearby construction employee said he'd have someone there within the hour.  I turned down the other two offers.

2)  Over two hours later, with no-show no-call from Helper #1, I called back one of the original two people and explained I still needed help.  He said he'd be there in about an hour and a half.  In the meantime, helper #1 finally showed but I sent him home, explaining that (by that time) I'd been working an additional three hours alone and that he can't expect to show up that late for work and still be needed or wanted.  Helper #2 came over, and worked diligently for the next two hours until the trailer was (over)loaded and I was ready to go.

3)  I had to leave a 3'-4' x 12' section of flooring intact because it wouldn't fit on the trailer and honestly I was just too tired, even with assistance.

General gripe:

For the past two days, due to my muscles letting their inflammation and soreness go, I've turned into a water retaining sea cow.  I can barely bend my fingers.  I don't even consider taking off my shoes until the end of the day or I won't get them back on.  The skin across my knees feels like it will split at any moment.  I've had this type of swelling occur after overworking, and it will be gone in a few days.

Taken Wednesday morning.  I have sausage fingers.

Right hand not swollen as badly as left.  Tried to take it easy since this is the surgery hand.
Nice cankle.
This was when I got home from work yesterday.  You can see how my foot had retained the shape of my shoe.  From the red band to the tip of my toes is the size it's supposed to be.  My entire lower leg is swollen.

Huge positives:

1)  With reclaimed flooring selling in the area of $8/sf (and that's on the low side), I have $2,800.00 of free flooring even as-is.

2)  I started removing nails and cleaning each board last night, brushing away debris caught around the tongues and grooves.  It's slow work using a hammer and pliers to remove the nails, so I'll be buying an angle grinder and cut-off wheel to speed up the process.  The wood is cleaning up beautifully.  It will probably have to be dyed slightly to match the existing flooring it will butt up to in the dining room, but that's okay.

It will most likely take a few months to get the re-installation started, but I'll make new posts to chart the progress when it's time.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Ode to a Snake

Mr. Snake all black and shiny
Hiding in the grass;
Did you have to be close to the house
And nearly bite my a**.

I didn't want to take you out
I didn't want to kill;
But you were too close to my boy
And so I fired at will.

I hope you rest in peace, old chap
As your spirit turns a page;
In the great book of the afterlife
Per me and my twelve gauge.

****(I really didn't want to kill it, but I do have Brian to protect.  Although black snake bites are most often not fatal, they can cause serious neurological issues and internal bleeding in dogs.  This snake was 5' long.)

Friday, May 11, 2012

Happy Mother's Day!

For Mother's Day for my mommy, I mail ordered some Ft. Laramie everbearing strawberry plants.  She was unable to find any locally.  Mother is never easy to shop for so I was so glad when she mentioned a couple of weeks ago that she was struggling to locate this variety.

For Mother's Day for Other Half's mother, I bought a garden bench/kneeler since she recently had knee surgery.  Upright it's a bench; turn it over and it has a soft cushion to put your knees on.  O.H.M. (Other Half's Mother) loves to work outside but being unable to squat or kneel down was hampering her from her usual Springtime gardening.  Unfortunately, she isn't able to use it but we got a good laugh about why:  She's about 5'2" tall and when sitting on the bench, she couldn't get the leverage to bend down to reach the ground.  She said, "I'm sorry I have such short legs!"

The other thing I had in mind was a tile top table for their family's new deck that was installed a couple of months ago.  As soon as the deck was finished, O.H.M. remarked how she'd like a little tile top table to put by her chair to set her tea on.  I tried to find one for her birthday in February, but after looking at seven different places, the only ones I found were at Pier 1 and they were crazy expensive and not even her taste.  I told her about the quest and apologized for not finding a table and told her I'd just make her one sometime.  That day, I went to what's left of a dilapidated log cabin on one of Other Half's properties and scavenged a few colorful dishes to eventually break for the mosaic top.

Wednesday, I went to Lowe's and purchased some cedar 1"x2" and 1"x4" to make her table.  I already had everything else at home.  After looking online and not finding any suitable plans for a small mosaic-top table, I decided to come up with my own and just let it take shape as I worked.  What I ended up with was a 24" tall, 15" square (inside measurement) side table with a bottom shelf.  A piece of HardieBacker is recessed in the top, with caulk around those four seams as well as on the inside rim of the cedar, to prevent it from absorbing water from the mortar.  It took about 2.5 to 3 hours to make.

Last night I broke some of the dishes with a hammer, using tile nippers to make more uniform shapes.  I had no idea where the design was going, other than I knew I wanted the light green as corner accents.  Looking at the pieces I had and just letting the design fall into place, here's what I came up with.  The white pieces are the parts of a two-color saucer and the outside of the coffee cups; the aqua was the inside color of the cups.  Cobalt blue was a solid color saucer and the few blue/white pieces are from a "flow blue" type saucer.  I laid out the pattern on the floor beforehand.

This is the first mosaic anything I've ever done so I had to guess what to do.  Using masking tape, I taped off the rim of the table, then mixed and troweled the mortar onto the HardieBacker, then pressed each dish piece into it.  To make sure finished design was even, level and set, I used a leftover piece of cedar as a screed, carefully pressing down from edge to edge.  The design and tiling process also took about 2.5 to 3 hours.

Checking it this morning, the tiles were set and the mortar was still cool to the touch.  Since it's 1/2" thick, I'll let it set until tomorrow before grouting any gaps.  The final step will be sealing the grout after it sets for three days.

I'm going to leave the wood "naked" to see how O.H.M. wants to finish the table after she sees it, and oil or poly it for her.

Total cost:  $19.90.  That's cheaper than the bench I originally bought!

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Coming back, one achy grip at a time (icky picture warning)

In one post I mentioned needing surgery on my right wrist.  That was taken care of on March 6th.  It went extremely well and wasn't painful at all.

The day after, all puffy and bandaged.

Nurse Brian, making sure I'm following the elevation + ice-on-15-off-15 rule. Not sure how he can enforce this while he's sleeping.  All post-surgery victims need a 21 pound dog plopped down on them.  And you know you like my cupcake-covered flannel jammies.

Four days after surgery.

I was out of work (my real job) for two weeks.  That was like being in my own personal Hell; seeing all the things that need to be done around the house, but not being able to do them.  There has been very, very little accomplished since around mid-February.  All remodeling had to stop because of my weakened grip, combined with my hand always going asleep if I tried working on something even for only a few minutes.  On March 31, eleven days after getting my stitches removed, and coincidentally the anniversary of my property purchase, I began painting the bedroom.  That was a huge mistake not discovered until later.  I primarily painted left-handed, but had done all the cutting-in and occasional rolling with my right. About an hour after getting the first coat on the ceiling and cleaning up for the day, the achiness and swelling started setting in.  I spent the next few days intermittently icing and elevating my hand.  Had it hurt while I was working, I'd have stopped immediately but there had been no indication and it had been feeling great for days.  Kind of like a dirty trick my body played on me to force me back into resting.

This was an evil grin hiding under the bandages.  Very creepy.

I tried painting again around April 10th or so.  Same results.  Didn't hurt until afterwards.  Back to rest and ice.  Dammit.  This is ridiculous.

In the meantime, I did some electrical work since that's something I could do a little at a time and stop if my hand got fatigued.  I rewired a beautiful black cast iron lamp found in the attic.  It's tall; 30" base bottom to finial top.  It had two of the pull-chain sockets.  Lowe's had replacements plus a new cord.  Garden Ridge had the perfect shade that's the exact brick red as my quilt and shams.  So, for $21 I have a very cool new bedside lamp.  The stained glass one from before is now in the dining room on a half drum table.  Looks better there, anyway.

Attic find!

A bare-bulb fixture ordered a few months ago off eBay got new life because its wiring was original and very crumbly.  Lowe's had three porcelain replacement sockets for about $7.  A little Brasso cleaned up the trim rings and I left the paint original because it matches the ceiling color almost perfectly.  That was a very nice happy accident.  Some rust spots here and there make it look authentic.  The bulbs I chose are the small, round, clear kind and 40w.  I tried 60w but it was like standing under the sun.

Seller's photo from eBay.  Couldn't get a good photo after it was cleaned and installed.

After doing research on what 1930s ceiling fans looked like and quickly realizing an antique one wouldn't fit my budget, Lowe's (gotta love Lowe's....except for their paint) had about the closest thing I could find.  It's their store brand, Harbor Breeze, was $99, and with the blade, metal, and glass shade shape and color that looked pretty close to 1930s, it works fine.  The only trouble was it made a *tink tink tink tink tink* noise when running.  I figured out it was an unsecured trim piece on top of the motor that was clanking against the housing.  There was no way to secure it, so a few pieces of electrical tape stuck on top of the housing now prevents the metal surfaces from hitting together.  No more *tink*ing.  And I wish it was a flushmount but that option wasn't available.

Lowe's stock photo.

Finally, tonight, the bedroom painting was completed.  The colors are Valspar (a paint brand choice mistake I will NOT make again).  It was bought last year with the rest of the paint, so I had to go ahead and use it at $32/gal.  I can't remember the ceiling color but it's a shade lighter than the walls.  The walls are Bungalow Gold.  It looks very dark for now due to the room's having only one double window.  The addition of picture rail, wider baseboard and base caps, and door and window moulding in Craft White (a creamy off-white) will brighten it up a bit.  And at some point I will be adding two windows on the long wall that faces the back yard and that will make a huge difference.

Before painting.  You can see where a large bookshelf was removed after I moved in.  Photobomb Brian in the picture, of course.

With new paint.
Dresser wall.

It was nice finally being able to put some color into the house.  Looking at drywall patches, plaster patches and soot-smeared old white paint had run its course a long time ago.