The Old Made New

wp33It would be wonderful to move into a new house and buy all  new things. To hand pick each piece of furniture for the exact spot and purpose in your new abode. Maybe that’s the way it works for some people – but not this one.

wp32Maybe if my husband and I weren’t both such practical people, we could give it a try.  Live on the wildside. Spend unnecessary money despite having just bought a new house that needs work. Go into debt for decoration’s sake. Honestly, though, that seems kind of silly to me. There’s always a feasible solution if you try.
I knew buying the house meant making our current furniture make do. But after a half dozen moves and a lot of living most of it isn’t looking too great anymore. The solution? Chalk paint. Seriously.

wp31wp34Chalk paint covers just about everything, and made even my most hideous and abused furniture looked shabby chic, which, apparently, is in style. There’s plenty of DIY tutorials out there if you want instructions on how to give it a try. I looked at a few and spent a couple of hours giving it a go. Now my old furniture looks like the new furniture made to look old that’s in so many stores right now. Hmmm.


Basements & Bedlam

Basements are scary. I know that this is an irrational fear. I realize that not all basements are creepy subterranean dungeons. But basements are scary.

wp53My fear may stem from the fact that there were no basements where I grew up. In most parts of Florida, if you were in a basement you’d be under the sea rubbing elbows with the Little Mermaid and Spongebob Squarepants. And all of my experience with basements hasn’t been bad. I’ve been in nice basements, even fun ones with pool and ping pong tables. Even so, I was delighted when the laundry room at our new house was not in the basement. It wasn’t just that I was tired of dressing in full snow gear to wash clothes in subzero conditions. It was also because I am the owner of what may be the scariest of all scary basements. And as much as I may have thought that I’d be able to avoid it, I was wrong.

wp46When we first viewed the house, the basement was bad. No natural light, low ceilings with ductwork everywhere, the air thick with the stench of oil, and a crawl space that needed the insulation re-done. I spent the 6 weeks of closing time mentally preparing myself for the crawl space, which the inspector assured me I could clean up in an afternoon. I did research on the best type of vapor barrier to lay. I got excited about replacing the fallen insulation with the superior quality spray-foam insulation I’ve seen on TV. I carefully considered all the ads for crawlspace specialists – who were these courageous individuals who brave the claustrophobic caverns of the basement deep? And what did they have over me? Nothing! I decided, as I convinced myself that the crawlspace was an insignificant task that I could conquer myself. That was then . . .

Something happened between then and now. Some things happened . . . it now looks like a college fraternity went on a drunken rampage in the crawlspace. A few tufts of fallen insulation and tumbleweeds of dust have turned into a chaotic mess of mass proportions. When we moved in we went down there and saw what had happened. We noticed that the previous owner had put some mouse traps out. My first thought was that there was no way the mess was made by a mouse. Or even an army of mice. I’ve seen New England mice. I even caught one by hand in the living room of our last place while our two terriers slept on the couch. They’re adorable and tiny and just don’t have the weight behind them to do what had been done.

wp45My second thought was that I might deserve this. What’s that saying about pride? And then there was the time my realtor told me that he was dealing with a flying squirrel infestation and I struggled to find sympathetic words because my initial reaction was to think that he was lucky as visions of stringing hoops from the ceiling for a private flying squirrel circus flashed through my head. (I never claimed to be grounded in reality.)

So my lofty daydreams of conquering the crawlspace kind of conveniently slipped from my mind as I made it my goal to avoid the basement as much as possible. I was doing a pretty good job at it, too, until the water went out right before bed on a work night. I’ve never had a well before, but I imagine that there’s some sign of trouble before it runs dry. So I visited the tank where the water comes into the house, which is in the far back corner of the basement right by the creepy crawlspace. And while the time of day shouldn’t make a difference in a dark little basement with no natural light, it was definitely spookier at night. I gave the tank a pat and a few words of encouragement (it works on dogs) and noticed that there was no pressure registering on the gauge. I flicked the switch on the breaker box, and the basement filled with noises which I’m telling myself was the hot water heater coming to life. (I have to sleep in this house. The noises definitely came from the water heater. Definitely.) I ran up the stairs before I could be proven wrong and was elated to find the water working again.

wp52So did I learn a lesson about ignoring integral parts of the house? No. The basement is dead to me until I’m ready to deal with that headache. Who did learn a lesson? The chipmunks who threw the party in the crawlspace.
(Until I moved to New England, the only
chipmunks I’d had contact with were Alvin, wp51Simon and Theodore – I had no idea that chipmunks were ground dwellers – I thought they lived in trees!) After a few days of my Jack Russell acting out the scene in Jurassic Park where the Tyrannosaur stares at her prey through the car window (or in our case, the heating grates) they decided to find a new place to live. Small victories, but I’ll take them! (And a professional to take care of the crawlspace, too!)

The Right to Relax

wp42I find that I’m having an incredibly hard time allowing myself time to relax when there’s so much work to be done. I grab a book, curl up on the couch with the dogs, but it’s hard to concentrate on the words when your eyes keeping wandering. How can I read when there’s caulking that needs to be done? Tile that I want to regrout? And painting? So much painting, every square inch of the house because I’m picky and because I want to – because I finally can! Only I can’t, because it’s too cold to paint outside and too cold to open the windows for air ventilation to paint inside, but there’s so much painting that I’ve got to get started on it somehow, somewhere.

wp43Which left only one option. The worst one.

At some point in time, a porch had been built on to the house. It has the potential to be lovely, but it needs work. Mainly elbow grease. Which is the least fun form of work. But as the only area warm enough with ventilation to enable painting, I could hear the task calling (yodeling) my name.

wp44The issue is that the siding wasn’t cleaned before the porch was added, and now that it’s part of a glass enclosed porch, you can’t exactly use a hose to wash it off. The task was actually near the top of my list because I’m planning on sitting on that porch, with a book, as soon as it warms up a bit more. Only I couldn’t possibly enjoy a book with a dirty wall at my back. So I grabbed a stack of rags and my watering can and went to work. After scrubbing, sanding flaking paint, and scrubbing again, I finally found myself painting. Now that the painting is done (and the color has dried several shades lighter than it went on) I find that I’ve finally earned the right to relax. For at least the rest of the week. I hope.

If You Give a Girl a Hammer . . .

wp39If you give a girl a hammer, she’s going to want a wrench, too. And a drill, some screwdrivers, pliers, and whatever else she needs to reign terror on the household repairs that plague her. Bob Villa ain’t got nothing on me. (Except saws. I really need an electric saw. Then I really need to learn how to use it.) wp38

I’ve always been willing to roll my sleeves up and give repair work a try, with the exception of electrical and plumbing work. I stand by my need to hire an electrician. Fooling around with live wires when you don’t know what you’re doing is a recipe for disaster. But plumbing? What could go wrong there?

wp36So as I prepared to call the two professional’s whose expertise I required, I looked at my list. I needed to arrange a hot water heater to be installed, something I know some people DIY, but it’s heavy work and requires time spent in the basement, so it’s not really a new skill I feel the need to acquire. But no hot water in the upstairs shower? Hot water instead of cold in the washing machine? Those sounded like mysteries that I could safely investigate without adding too much to the cost or repair (I hoped). wp37

I began by removing the facet in the upstairs shower, which I was pleased to discover was an easy(ish) fix. The dial inside the facet was set wrong, AND the handle had been put on upside down. With one victory under my belt, I moved on to the washing machine. Everything has multiple tutorials online now. I Googled swapping out water lines, grabbed a bucket and some towels, and set to work.

wp35The hardest part was pulling out the built-in shelf around the unit and the washing machine itself. Swapping the hoses really couldn’t have been easier. Now my washing machine has cold water, my shower has hot, and I have over an hour’s worth of payment for labor still in my pocket, ready to buy the supplies for my next DIY project. Today plumbing, tomorrow a garage from the bottom up. (Ok, so maybe not a garage built from scratch tomorrow, but it will happen. Wait and see.)

Cathedral Ledge

wp23It started the way so many of our adventures do. “Let’s take a quick hike before lunch,” he said. “It’s a half mile. It’ll only take a few minutes. Then we’ll eat.”

wp28Uhuh. So my husband (who knows better than to risk making me late for a meal) and I attempted to visit Diana’s Bath. It would have been a short walk with a payoff of beautiful waterfalls in frozen splendor and glory. It would have allowed for a timely lunch. I think it would have been a lovely excursion.

Only it’s us. And it’s still winter up here, and roads are closed, and GPS goes wonky in the mountains, and a million other excuses. Long story short – an hour and a half later we found ourselves at the top of Cathedral Ledge enjoying an amazing view while the growling of my stomach echoed over the valley below.wp26

Obviously there was a point when we realized that the GPS had led us astray and we were on the wrong path. A point when we could have called it a day, turned around, and wp24returned to the car. But neither of us handles defeat easily. We figured we must have been on the road that led to Cathedral Ledge, which meant only a mile of hiking up (after the hike from where we left the car at the base of the closed road.)

So we pushed on. And on. And I know they say it’s only a mile, but when we had finally reached the top of the long, winding, snowy road, it felt like we’d been hiking all day. Looking out, over the ledge at the valley below, it was worth it. Every ankle twisting, sinking deep snow and slick icy step. (That said, I have vowed to never, ever go sailing with my husband. I’ve seen Gilligan’s Island. I know how that three hour tour turns out.)


The Adventures Continue

It’s been a while since my last post. This isn’t due to a winter spent in hibernation, as might have been expected, but rather a season so jam packed with life and adventure that I simply couldn’t find the time to sit still and write.

wp21So what have I been up to? Well, I tried Kangaroo Jerky. And Gator, Boar, Emu, Elk and Bison Jerky while I was at it. It was an interesting culinary adventure. I won’t claim to have developed such a distinguished palate as to be able to identify one beastly food stick from the other, but I will claim bragging rights. Surprisingly, (or maybe not), it all kind of tasted like beef jerky, just a little gamier.

wp20I also met Kathy Reichs, author of the Temperance Brennan book series and creator of the TV show, Bones. The event was actually the book launch for the newest release in the Young Adult series that she co-writes with her son, Brendan. Unfortunately, the signing happened to fall on a school night, and it took place in the middle of a snow storm. It was an unlucky loss for all of the preteen fans of the Virals series whose parents kept them safe at home, but my gain – I only had to share them with a handful of people.

wp17Then there was my visit to Longfellow’s famed Wayside Inn. Of course it didn’t occur to me to bring snow shoes, and the snow was knee deep, but that didn’t stop me. wp18It did slow me down, and I tipped over once and had a bit of trouble extracting myself from a very deep snow drift, but I’m getting used to that. (It happens more often than you might think!) I visited the old mill, the school house, the Martha-Mary Chapel – all from the comfort of very deep snow.

What else? Oh yeah. My husband and I bought a house. In the mountains. In New Hampshire.

wp22That was definitely the biggest adventure of the last few months, as well as the most time consuming. The move wasn’t as joyful as a return to our homeland of sand and sun in Florida would have been, but I think it’s going to be a close second. Fresh air to breathe, mountains to climb, and a house to repair – what’s not to love? (Maybe the fact that it’s still snowing every other day, but there are worse things, right?)

So many things have happened that I’d love to write about, but I doubt I will. What’s done is done. The past is over, and while there are so many great memories that I’d love to share, there are infinite memories waiting to be made, adventures looming on the horizon, calling my name.

To be continued . . .