Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Taking it Down

This year Christmas kind of snuck up on me. I did zero decorating, made one type of cookie and didn't send out cards. On the bright side, this means there is very little to clean up and store away.

My parents did give me a creche to use with one of my Nativity sets. It is the manger that was in our house when I was growing up. My dad made it based on the pattern of one made by my maternal grandfather.

Next year I promise to get some straw for it, so it doesn't look so bleak.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Over the River and Through the Woods

A couple of days ago I posted about the project that I am working on sorting through my grandfather's photos. From 1920 - 1926, he worked for a company called Phoenix Utility putting in the electrical infrastructure in Mexico, British Honduras and Cuba. This was following the Mexican Revolution and there was a boom in new construction. My grandfather eventually contracted malaria and returned to Minnesota to recover.

My dad tells a story told to him by his father. One day while working in Mexico the Mexican workers got wind of a revolutionary band making it's way towards camp. Sensing trouble and deciding they wanted no part of it, they made themselves scarce. My grandfather remained in camp and later in the day, in rode Pancho Villa & his crew. They told my grandfather that they were going to kill him. My grandpa suggested that before they kill him they may as well have some cocktails :-) Once drunk, he told them to take whatever they wanted from the camp, and the revolutionaries rode off leaving him tipsy, but alive.

We believe this story and the timeline fits when Pancho Villa and Zapata where in the area of Mexico City. I had hoped of finding some photos, but I suppose no one would have been in the mood to pose for photos. So, the story remains family lore.

I'm posting some of the photos that deal with the work involved with installing the electric lines, transformers, etc. (there is a whole other series of native Mexican cowboys & ranches)

I love how the Phoenix guys wear khaki pants and linen shirts. I'm pretty certain that doing that laundry was no fun. In one of the photos, there is a line indicating which guy is my grandpa. Another photo, my grandpa labeled "my dog."

At any rate, I'd imagine that this is much of the same process that brought electricity across the US. It's also interesting to me that this is what was going on in the world when Stuccohouse was built.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Sharing Notes On Santa

Well, that was fun. Yesterday I ran into a little boy from down the street with his mom. This little guy is probably about 4 years old, smart as all get out and quite social. I always enjoy chatting with him and catching up on what is new in his life.

I asked him if Santa had been to his house. He told me that Santa had indeed visited and even brough him some things he did not ask for. He was pretty sure this was a sign that he had been a very good boy and his mom agreed.

I mentioned to him that right before I went to bed, I had looked out my upstairs window and down the street and thought I saw some lights - one of them red - over his house. I was thinking that maybe that was Santa at his house....and Rudolph too. But I didn't get a real good look.

He thought about that for a second and then told me that he had heard a big thump (clapping his little mittens together to show me how loud) on their roof at about that same time. He also was pretty sure he had heard something in their chimney.

We decided that it was Santa in the neighborhood :-)

Monday, December 22, 2008

Lightworks Sale

I just received this flyer in the mail. Lightworks is having a sale starting Jan 2nd. I really like this place.

If you live in the Twin Cities and own an old house, it is a must stop. Over the years, I have had them build me a new hallway light to order, purchased a set of vintage sconces, and talked to them about building an outdoor light to fit in the odd spot over my front door. I regularily stop down there (and their website) just to oogle. You can bring them a photo or idea and Lightworks can build you what you want to order....at about the same price as those guys out in Oregon ;-). Best of all, they are local.

I notice they are offering gift cards at a 20% discount, which makes me think that might be a good idea for those rooms where I haven't decided what I want yet.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Project for a Snowy Day

Like every other state in the nation, this weekend Minnesota was pommeled with snow. 6" or so when it was all said and done. Rather than deal with the nightmare that is a Minneapolis Snow Emergency, I parked my car in my garage (after some rearranging) and looked for a project inside to keep me busy.

During the early 1920's my grandfather went down to Mexico, Honduras and Cuba for a number of years to work on installing their electrical infrastructure. While down there, he mailed home photos. Lots of them.

These photos are currently in a pile, on a table in my living room. They are in boxes and photo albums that are falling apart. At some point, someone took some of the photos and glued them onto both sides of pages in photo albums. At some later date, someone thought better of that and tried to peel some of them off. Surprisingly, though, the photos are in really good condition. There are maybe a hundred or so of them. Some labeled; most not.

While this project is not strictly "house"......it is nice to see how electricity did actually make it to our houses....and the work someone had to put in to make that happen.

My job, is to take these photos....arrange them, try to determine the location, and get them into new (acid free) albums that can be enjoyed and will prevent any further damage. I know the old album paper is not acid free, but the photos are so tightly attached, that I am cutting down the background and then sliding them into plastic sleeves. I know about soaking old paper in distilled water....and that special (oh-so-expensive) spray that neutralizes paper, but I am afraid to use them on these old photos.

I am hoping that my readers include some history buffs and/or scrapbookers with tips, ideas, etc. I am scanning some of the more interesting photos (and will post some in a day or so)....and most of the duplicates will remain stored in a box.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Salt and Pepper

Tee hee. Here is my latest purchase from Ebay. I was just notified a few minutes ago.

I've been closely watching these for months now. For a while there were a couple of buyers that desperately wanted a pair and drove up the prices. But I patiently bided my time. Once those folks got their set, interest waned. I was the only one to bid on this pair.

These salt & pepper shakers were premiums given with the purchase of a Tappan stove in the 1940-50s. They are made by McKee and are called "Roman Arch" stove top sets. Of course, they are destined to sit on top of my vintage Tappan Deluxe.

There is another style of Tappan shakers that are called the "Tappan chefs." They look like little Pillsbury Doughboys. My research tells me the chef shakers were a later design.

There are quite a few fakes out on the market of both types, so I'll have to take a closer look when they arrive. But usually the yellow color on the fakes is off.....and this photo looks to be good. We'll see.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Jack Frost

Ugh. Back in October I went to look at wood framed Marvin storms for my two kitchen windows. Earlier in the summer I had removed the horrid aluminum triple track storms and put up two temporary vintage wood screens. With winter approaching I knew I needed to do something.

The choices I was considering.....were having two vintage style storms made for the windows like I did for my two front windows. This meant either adapting to the storms swinging out & screenless during the summer....or changing out the storms with screens seasonally. The other option was to put in wood framed combination storms. I had already seen a number of options and Marvin was my last stop.

For whatever reason, I have not been able to pull the trigger on this. I still have not decided....and I still have not bought storms for those two windows. Last night it was -15 degrees f. Jack Frost is nipping at the inside of the windows (those are little wood apples in the photos). This is not good.

I may have to spend some time this afternoon, doing what I vowed I would not do this year. Putting up some 3M shrink weatherproofing plastic. Ugh.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Audience Participation

This is my front window. It still has the metal mini-blinds that were there the day I bought the house. Based on PO photos, they are at least 11 years old. They may have looked fine with the room when the walls were painted cream. They do not look so good with the walls painted gold.

When I first moved in I had the same mini-blinds in the kitchen, dining room, casement windows on the side of the living room and my front door.

In the kitchen I replaced them with white & green cotton cafe curtains. In the dining room, I put up vintage lace. On the casement windows, I used moss green sheers. And on the front door, I had a vintage striped canvas shade made.

I've ignored the front mini-blinds until now. But, they are really starting to bug me (note the bent blinds where the PO's dog looked out the window). I have a few ides of what to do with the window, but want to make sure I don't overlook any options.

If this was your window, what would you use to replace the mini-blinds?

A few details if they help: I need some privacy from the high straffic sidewalk out front. The window gets a lot of sun. Room colors are - gold paint & chair, moss green couch, deep red chair, and navy blue accents....all brought together in an oriental rug. There is an unstained oak floor, walnut stained baseboard, room divider, crown and doors. Hardware is oil rubber bronze. The cream lampshade can go.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008


I woke up this morning in the wee hours to the sound of snow blowers and shovels. Ugh. I was dreading getting up because I knew what lay ahead for me.

Then I saw this.

One of my kind neighbors took a pass down the entire block with his/her snow blower. They even cleared the little walk to my car.

All I had left to do was shovel my steps down to the main sidewalk. Just the perfect amount of shoveling to get you outside but remain enthusiastic about the snow.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Loose Ends

Just a few random loose ends.

First, does anyone have an opinion/advice/experience/warning/praise for half round gutters? My gutters need to be replaced and I'm kind of considering something like these gutters. With cute rater tail brackets like these. I don't have much gutter on my house....one run of approx 16' and another of maybe 30' across the back. I also have typical bungalow wide eaves. But, I do have trees that drop a lot of leaves. What do you think?

Secondly, I'm not sure what is up with this. I was really happy with the guys that restored my rafter tails. They were great to work with and did quality work. When I paid them, I asked for a receipt and they told me they would get me one. When I didn't receive one, I asked again. Then I thought maybe I needed to call the offices directly, so I called and left a message. The owner called back and left me a message saying he had not forgotten about the receipt (wouldn't it have been easier just to send me one?). Weeks later, still haven't received one. Not a huge deal. I need one for taxes, but I guess I can order a copy of my cancelled check. But, what's the deal with this? [update: received the receipt on Sat. - all is well with the world and my taxes]

Lastly, I discovered Facebook & LinkedIn. And Ravelry. Because I clearly do not spend enough time online already. If you know me in "real life" drop me a line if you are on either.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

The Tale of Two Catalogs

These two catalogs arrived in the mail today.

They pretty much sum up how my life has changed since owning an old house.

My old life = jewelry and nice girl stuff. My new life = men's catalogs selling clothing to cover plumber's butt.

Be sure to read the fine print in the second ad to get the full story.

I don't know whether to think its funny or a tiny bit sad.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Changing Channels

I'm one of the last 12 people on the face of the earth that still has an analog tv. So, I went out and bought a converter box at Radio Shack and hooked it up to my tv. In attaching the converter box, I gained 5 or 6 channels I didn't have before. One of them is the Create channel (17-4 here).

I've become moderately addicted to their cooking/travel/crafts shows.

Most of the hosts are wildly annoying (Rick Steves makes my skin crawl), however I've managed to put together a viewing list that includes an overly cheery host named Daisy who has a Hispanic cooking show, a lady named Lidia that has an Italian one, and some ditsy soaps actress that has a knitting/crocheting show. The cooking shows are a little tragic as I have no working oven. But I did make homemade pasta sauce from my frozen garden tomatoes last week.

And I have been crocheting. Be kind as it's been a long while since I've crocheted with yarn (I usually do lace). I'm going to try to felt the blue & brown scarf this afternoon. I'll probably finish the pink one this evening (it's bamboo yarn).

Then, I promise I'll get back to house stuff. Yes, the Tappan is still in my living room.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Fire King

I don't think I've posted about it before, but I have a thing for dishes. It's a little ironic because I never throw dinner parties and eat out a lot. Nevertheless, I have quite a few sets.

The dishes I use for "everyday" are a 1950's set of turquoise Fire King. I pick up pieces as I run into them at antique stores. My arbitrary rules say that I can't buy more than two pieces in one store at a time and each piece can't be over $20. It keeps collecting a challenge.

A couple of times a year I stop into Swank. It's not very far from my house and makes for a nice afternoon break when I need one. They specialize in vintage stuff from the 50's, 60's & 70's. Their back room is essentially my 6th grade bedroom....down to the funky, round, bright yellow Panasonic radio. Every now and then I run across a hard to find piece of my Fire King.

On Saturday I found two of the mixing bowls I need for my set. They were $22, but 15% on sale....bring me into the sub-$20 territory.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Fake Green

Well, I finally was able to get about 2/3 of my leaves mulched and in my compost bin. I should probably pretend like I am uber green and mulch to save the world's land fills, avoid using plastic bags, etc., etc., etc.

In all honesty, it's because I missed the last city leaf pick-up. I'll get the remaining third mulched this coming weekend, assuming we don't have snow.

I have been pleasantly surprised that I am not the last one on my block with leaves still on the ground. It makes me feel like less of a slacker. Lawn stuff is just not my thing.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Near Miss

Those of you living in Minneapolis will probably relate to this story.

I was laying in bed early this morning. 1% awake; 99% asleep. I listened to a plane fly overhead. Then I hear a loud noise in the street in front of my house. I lazily tried to figure out what that noise was when it occurred to me that is was the city leaf clean-up. Signs had been posted on my block earlier in the week. Then my mind began to focus.


I had my car towed once at my old house during a snow storm when the city was plowing. It took 78 bus transfers and a long walk through a bad neighborhood carrying $200+ in cash to pay as ransom to the city to get my car out of the impound lot. It's not an experience that I ever want to repeat.

So, I threw a sweatshirt over my pajamas, grabbed my keys, put on a pair of boots and flew from my house like a bat out of hell. I ran down my front steps and to my car. All of the huge city trucks where parked at the end of my block with their lights turned on and shining on my car. I'm pretty sure they were either dabating what to do about my car or waiting on the tow truck.


Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Letter to the Editor

Last August I sent off a quick email to Old House Journal about a doorknob featured in an article in their August issue. I had inherited an identical door knob and was curious if they had more information. When I didn't hear back from them, I assumed my email had hit a dead end.

Then one afternoon, I noticed an email from the Editor of Old House Journal. She told me that the photographer of the door knob didn't have much information about her dooknob - other than the interesting fact that her's was also handed down from German immigrants. The Editor asked me if she could print my email in their Letters section of the December issue. I told her to go ahead.

This afternoon, I picked up the December issue and it includes the original magazine photo, my photo, my email and the photographer's response. We are now hoping that one of the readers will see this and respond with more historical information. It's just such an odd coincidence.

Bargaining Gone Awry

I laid in bed each morning for the past two weeks bargaining with God. I desperately wanted out of raking the leaves in my yard. I was thinking it would be quite convenient if divine intervention would produce a couple of neighborhood kids knocking on my door asking to rake my lawn for extra cash.

Here's what I learned about bargaining with God. You need to spell things out. You need to be specific and very clear.

I really have no one to blame but myself. I was too vague. I certainly got out of raking leaves. By contracting double (walking) pneumonia. Ugh. So, now by the time I get back up & running, I will be raking snow & leaves in the cold.

Lesson learned (violins softly playing in the background).

Friday, October 31, 2008

House Anniversary

Six years ago today, I sat among all of my earthly belongings in boxes and handed out candy to the kids in my new neighborhood. I had moved into StuccoHouse that afternoon.

On that day, I thought the stains on the hardwood floors were water from open windows, that my sewer was in fine condition, there was absolutely no rot on my house, and that it would take me 2 years to fully restore the house.

Tonight I will sit near my unassembled (yet, cleaner) stove on my patched hardwood floor and hand out candy to those same kids. In between trick-or-treaters, I'll chew on TootsieRolls and contemplate whether I'll be done with this house by my 10 year anniversary.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Plugging the Holes

I've been out of commission with a cold, but I did manage to motivate myself enough to get some WoodEpox on my windows. This wood epoxy went over the areas that I treated with LiquidWood last weekend. I had to take care to work the epoxy deep into the holes that I drilled. It's already pretty cured.

It looks crappy now, and you are worried. Trust me, once sanded and primed you won't even know it's there.

The last photo is just there to show off the amazingly tight & straight grain of this old growth, hard-as-a-rock pine.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

A Couple Of Items

Evidently, we are being punished by our CSA for talking about the rotten raspberries we received. Both my mom and I have been removed from the email newsletter mailing that is supposed to tell us what is in the boxes each week. I thought maybe it was just a fluke the first week we didn't receive it. No such luck. I can only laugh at this point. I'm guessing they don't want to hear about the rotten garlic head we received this week that ended up wholly in the trash ;-)

Moving on to less controversial topics.

Here is a photo of what I am facing in my side yard (sorry, it's a bit fuzzy). For those not hip to this weed, it's Creeping Charlie. It is currently taking over my neighbor's side yard and working it's way towards my herb garden. I have spent many a summer's day pulling this stuff up by the root. It only seems to grow back with a vengeance.

I've been told that the most effective time to deal with CC is right after the first hard frost. So, I'm toying with using chemicals. However, I also have trio of lilac trees over on that side of the yard and I'm nervous to do anything that may harm their roots. Because you know it would be just my luck that the chemicals would kill the lilacs and the CC would continue unfazed.

Or do you think it would be totally tacky to run some landscaping edging for a short ways down the side between our two lawns to try to prevent the creeping?

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Taking Care of the Rot

Spent a little time putting wood consolidator into some soft spots in the wood of the windows I have been stripping of paint. I drill holes around the soft spots so the Liquidwood can fully sink into the wood. When the consolidator is tacky, I'll fill the holes with WoodEpox.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Morning Bell

Honestly. The strangest things happen to me.

I was sound asleep in bed when I heard my doorbell ring. It woke me up. I looked at my clock and it read 4:30 am. This was strange because my front doorbell has been out of commission for a while. But, it was definitely a doorbell. Definitely.

I went out this afternoon and looked at my front doorbell. Nope, still not working. Then it dawned on me.

I walked to my side door and looked at the doorbell.

My side doorbell button has a chunk missing. There is something crawling up the stucco on the exterior of my house in the wee hours of the morning and chewing off the button of the doorbell.

Weird. Right?

Monday, October 20, 2008

Public Service Spot

Well, it took me freaking forever to find this info. So, I'll share with those in Hennepin County. They certainly could make this a whole heck of a lot easier to find. Dramatic sigh

Nonpartisan. Just the facts.

Sample Ballot You input your address and it will create a sample ballot that includes all federal, state, county, school district and judicial choices.

Look up the Candidates Gives you links to the candidiate's info/websites for all races.

UPDATE:  I finally found a couple of user friendly sites to do candidate research.

StarTribune Search  (This is the esiest to use of the two and pulls up only the info. you need)

Saturday, October 18, 2008

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