Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Scrap Paper: Good for the Soul

The Papered House_Natirar Park

The month of October was good for the soul. 

First there was a family party to celebrate my husband's birthday. Then my youngest brother flew in from California, and he and his girlfriend stayed with us for a night on their way to an NYC getaway. Then we had a quick vacation in Vermont with my husband's family, to celebrate my mother-in-law's birthday (you can read about it in this post). And then my parents visited from California for a weekend. While they were here, we explored Natirar, a 404-acre estate formerly owned by the King of Morocco and now open to the public. At first, I couldn't figure out why a Moroccan king would want to own property in central New Jersey (I mean, I love this state. But it's not exactly known for being...regal). And then I saw the property and understood. It's stunning. The 40-room mansion is, unfortunately, not open to the public. But even so, we enjoyed the walking trails and impressive views. That same weekend, we went apple picking with my parents and sampled some of the best Cuban food around. 

The Papered House_Natirar Park
This is what a 40-room mansion looks like.

Did I mention that the leaves were incredible? If you follow me on Instagram, you may have seen this already. But I couldn't resist re-posting. I mean, those leaves! It doesn't get much better than this. It's hard to grumble about going to work when the view from your office looks like this. 

The Papered House_Fall Leaves

And if all that hadn't been enough, then there was Halloween. Halloween! This was our first Halloween in TPH. Our neighbors had warned us that it is quite an extravaganza, but we were still surprised by how lively our town became. Our block was all decked out in Halloween decorations -- some spooky, some kitschy, some clever, and some classy -- but all contributing to the festive atmosphere in our community. We gave out approximately 1,000 pieces of candy in less than 2 hours. To say that there were a lot of trick-or-treaters would be a massive understatement. It was one of the many times when I felt proud to be a resident of this small town. 

Here are a few picture of the interior of our house, all dressed up for Halloween. 

The Papered House_Halloween Decor

The Papered House_Halloween Decor

This piano in our dining room was left by TPH's former owner. We're not musically inclined, and even if we were, the piano isn't really play-able in its current condition (hopelessly out of tune, missing foot pedals, etc). But it's a beautiful piece. Right now, it serves as our "bar". Plus it's great for displaying seasonal decor. 

The Papered House_Halloween Decor
I swear, that mirror is making it look like we have more alcohol than we actually do...

The Papered House_Halloween Decor

The Papered House_Halloween Decor

When we moved into TPH, we didn't have any living room furniture (this house is much bigger than the apartment we lived in previously). Just before my parents visited, we stumbled across this Victorian living room set at a local antique store. I was so determined to buy it that I stood outside the store for twenty minutes in just-above freezing temperatures, waiting for the doors to open, wearing nothing more than a pair of yoga pants and a tank top. This set was such a great deal that I went to the antique store straight from yoga, afraid that someone else would buy the furniture if I didn't get there quickly enough. One of these days, I'll come to grips with the fact that not many folks are in the market for the style of furniture that we like. But how could someone NOT want to buy this? It's mahogany. And it's intricately carved. And it's over 100 years old. I would have been devastated if we had missed out. For the price of an Ikea loveseat, we were able to purchase two chairs and this settee. The upholstery is a lovely ivory damask, which will work with whatever color scheme we eventually choose for this room. Even though we won't be completing the living room decor for some time, it's nice to finally have some seating. 

The Papered House_Halloween Decor
Don't mind the dishtowel on the floor. It's reminding us not to sit on this couch until we repair the left rear leg. 
 All that to say, October was pretty spectacular. Here's hoping that November is just as great. We had some chimney/roofing work completed this week, which is likely to be the last professional work we have done this calendar year. I'll be back soon with details on that project. Thanks for reading!

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Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Vermont Maple Syrup Scones

Papered House_Vermont Maple Pecan Scones

My mother-in-law recently celebrated an important birthday. To make the milestone extra special, my in-laws rented a beautiful vacation home in Vermont and invited the extended family to stay for the weekend.

Papered House_Vermont Maple Pecan Scones 2

From where we live, driving to southern Vermont takes just over four hours. But the weekend was so incredible, and the environment was so relaxing, that it was hard to believe we were just a few hundred miles from home.

The oldest part of the rental home dated to the mid-1700s. But it had been expanded and restored lovingly through the years. It now has 7 bedrooms, 5.5 bathroom, and nearly 5,000 square feet. Despite the spaciousness, every room was warm, cozy, and welcoming. Staying in this home felt like stepping inside an issue of Martha Stewart Living. I mean, just look at this porch.

Papered House_Vermont Vacation
This is not my home...

I'd never been to Vermont before this trip, but I'm already itching to return. New England is famous for its vibrant fall foliage, with good reason. This was the view from the back porch:

Papered House_Vermont Vacation_View

Papered House_Vermont Vacation_Foliage

These three beauties live on the property. They are rescue horses that will eventually be available for adoption.

When we weren't enjoying the beautiful scenery or watching the horses, we spent plenty of timing eating and laughing with family around this farmhouse table. This breakfast room faced the backyard.

Papered House_Vermont Vacation 2

The breakfast room was one of the newer parts of the home. The architects and builders did an incredible job of replicating the historic character that is in the oldest parts of the home so that the entire home felt like it was cohesive.

In short, it was the perfect place to spend a weekend away and I'm so grateful to my in-laws for arranging it.

Papered House_Vermont Vacation 3
I would give my right arm to have this fireplace and mantle in my home. Don't worry...I'm left-handed. 

Until we have a chance to make it back to Vermont in person, I'll just have to remember the weekend by whipping up a batch of these Maple Pecan Scones. These are different from a traditional scone recipe because there is no sugar in the dough. Rather, rich maple syrup provides subtle, natural sweetness. I like to sprinkle sugar on top of the dough before baking and drizzle a maple glaze to add a touch more sweetness.

Papered House_Vermont Maple Pecan Scones 3

Papered House_Vermont Maple Pecan Scones 3

Vermont Maple Syrup Scones

Flavored with the richness of maple syrup and chopped pecans, these scones are perfect for any fall breakfast.

Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time: 30

  • 3 1/2 cups  flour
  • 1 cup  chopped pecans
  • 4 tsp  baking powder
  • 1 tsp  salt
  • 1/2 tsp  cinnamon
  • 2/3 cup  unsalted butter, chilled
  • 1/2 cup  maple syrup
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 Tb sugar
  • 1 Tb milk, optional
  • 1 Tb maple syrup, optional
  • 2 Tb confectioner's sugar, optional
  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. In a large bowl, use a wooden spoon to stir together flour, pecans, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon.
  2. Using a pastry cutter or two knives, cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs.
  3. Stir in 1/2 cup maple syrup and 1 cup milk, until liquid is just incorporated. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. Knead approximately 6 times, until dough is relatively smooth.
  4. Pat dough into a rectangle, approximately .75" in thickness. If desired, sprinkle sugar on top of dough. Using a sharp knife, cut into eight squares. Then cut each diagonally into two triangles.
  5. Transfer scones to lightly greased baking sheet. Bake for 15-18 minutes, or until golden.
  6. While scones are baking, mix together final three ingredients in a small bowl to form a glaze. As soon as scones come out of oven, drizzle glaze on top of baked scones. Allow to cool slightly, then serve.
Yield: 16 scones

Notes: Recipe can be cut in half for 8 scones.

Thanks for reading, friends! Here's one more shot of that gorgeous fall foliage, this time as we were leaving Vermont and headed back home. 

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Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Brick Behemoth

Full disclosure: This is a long post, filled with too many words and too few pictures. I won't be upset if you skip it entirely!

Here's the short version: Our chimneys are a pain in the butt. We stupidly spent $$$$ repairing a chimney, then discovered that it would never be functional. Our fireplace is ugly. I complain a bit. We have issues with some masons. I complain some more. One year later, repairs still aren't done. Winter is coming. Where is my wine?

Here's the much longer version:
One of the projects that's been hanging over our heads -- both literally and figuratively -- has been the chimney repair. We have a chimney on the side of our house and a corresponding fireplace in the dining room. Here is what the side chimney used to look like. 

We also have a rear chimney that is the exhaust for our oil burner (hence, no fireplace). Here is what the rear chimney used to look like.

When we moved into TPH, we knew that the exterior of both chimneys would need extensive repair. This picture doesn't accurately show the state of disrepair. When we moved in, we could see through our rear chimney because it was missing so much mortar. Bricks were coming loose and I couldn't help but think that the chimney resembled a game of Jenga, just before the blocks topple. The side chimney wasn't quite as far gone as the rear chimney, but it was still in bad shape.

We also knew that there was a good chance that our side chimney would need a new liner. We decided to tackle the exterior portion of the project before relining the side chimney, to avoid any further deterioration. This turned out to have been a bad decision, as I'll explain later.

In November of 2014, shortly after we moved in, we reached out to several masons to request a quote. We must have called a dozen masons to schedule a visit, but the response rate was abysmally low. 

After a few weeks of waiting for responses, we were getting impatient. We asked the local historical society to recommend a mason. They spoke very highly of a professional who had worked on several historic buildings in town (We'll call him Mason 1). After looking at his past projects we knew Mason 1 was the right choice. And honestly, since none of the other masons had returned our calls, he didn't have much competition.  

He wouldn't be able to do the work in the winter, so we waited for a few months to take further action. The chimney repair was going to be pricey, so we didn't mind holding onto the cash for a few extra months, anyway. We resumed the process in February, submitting the necessary paperwork to our town. And once the weather and our mason's availability synched up, he rebuilt/repointed both chimneys. His work was completed some time in late April/early May.

Here is a picture of our repaired side chimney. (Apologies for the poor photo quality)

Papered House_Repaired Historic Chimney

And here is a picture of our completely rebuilt rear chimney.

Papered House_Repaired Historic Chimney
I don't know much about chimneys, but I think they look great. Mason 1 used historic reproduction bricks and lime-based mortar to best replicate the construction and appearance of our original chimneys. Our goal with TPH has always been to restore "in-kind", using original materials and methods whenever possible. We were glad to find a mason who shared this commitment. I can't say enough positive things about this mason and his crew members. They were polite and considerate through the entire process, and left a clean work space. (if you're located in eastern PA or central NJ and need a mason, I'd be happy to provide a reference!).

The only downside to Mason 1 is that he does not install or inspect liners. But he gave us the name of another mason (I'll call him Mason 2) who does. We reached out to him to schedule a visual inspection and request a quote. Mason 2 came in mid-May and inspected the interior of our chimney. We learned some interesting info from him. 

See this fireplace? If you're thinking that it doesn't look particularly Victorian, you're right. 

Why is this NEW thing in my old home???

Mason 2 told us that this fireplace was likely installed around 1920-1930 based on the type of bricks that were used. The fireplace was built using butter joints, meaning that two bricks were "buttered" with mortar as if they were slices of bread and pressed together like a sandwich. In addition, he mentioned that the bricks on our fireplace were actually meant to be used for exterior masonry. It's a bit odd that they were used in an interior application (I have a theory about this, but I'll save it for another time. This post is already too long). Finally, the diagonal orientation of the firebox is not original. The original fireplace would have been built flat against the side wall.

The good news: This fireplace is solid and well-built. Mason 2 was impressed by the quality of the craftsmanship.

The bad news: From an aesthetic standpoint, this fireplace is all wrong. Before we even set foot inside TPH, I could tell from the realtor's listing pictures that this fireplace was a later addition to the home. It's not historically appropriate and it doesn't match the character of the house. I also think it feels too big for the room. Based on what Mason 2 told us, the original fireplace was likely built to accommodate a coal-burning stove. It was never meant to have an open fire, although we can clearly tell that previous owners used this fireplace to burn wood. The fireplace does not draft properly, which explains all the soot and smoke stains around our mantle (yes, I know I need to give that brick a good cleaning!).  

The very bad news: Unfortunately, whoever built this fireplace in the 1920s didn't foresee 21st century code requirements. The flue is so narrow that our only option is to install a wood-burning stove. If we choose to install a wood-burning stove, we cannot select a simple stainless steel liner. According to Mason 2, there is precisely one (one!) liner product that will pass code and fit into our chimney. It would be some sort of specialized cement liner that would be custom-made for our chimney.

Mason 2 happens to be one of the licensed installers for that liner product. He warned us that it could be a very expensive repair, but we requested a quote anyway. This was in May. But it's now October and we still hadn't received the quote, despite several attempts to follow up. We had a good feeling about Mason 2 when he came to visit, but he doesn't seem interested in our project anymore.  

Since we couldn't make any progress with Mason 2, we scheduled a third mason (Mason 3) to inspect our chimney. Mason 3 did a visual inspection and told us that a stainless steel liner might be possible, but not easy. We started to feel hopeful that this project wasn't a lost cause. We also started to feel hopeful that the project might be more affordable than we initially thought.

Mason 3 came back a second time to do a "Level 2" inspection, meaning that he viewed the inside of our chimney with a digital camera. This time, the news was not good: at its narrowest point, the flue was only 4" wide (narrower even than Mason 2 had realized). That's too narrow for a stainless steel liner. It's too narrow for any liner, so this fireplace cannot be safely used. Mason 3 then suggested several short-cut options that led me to doubt his familiarity with historic building materials and his adherence to code requirements. As if that weren't bad enough, Mason 3 repeatedly called me "sweetie" throughout the inspection. I've never been called "sweetie" by a stranger -- certainly not a male stranger. In this context if felt simultaneously unprofessional, patronizing, and too familiar.

So, almost a year after we started this process, we're back to the drawing board. We've resigned ourselves to the fact that our side chimney will never be functional unless we rebuild it from the ground up. This is not the conclusion we wanted to reach after doing pricey exterior repairs. A total rebuild would involve tearing down plaster and disturbing walls. It would also cost a fortune, so it's at the very bottom of our priorities. We're kicking ourselves for spending thousands of dollars fixing the masonry on a non-functional chimney. If we had known that the side chimney would never be functional, we would have delayed its repair and allocated our resources towards other repairs. We're rookie homeowners and our inexperience got the best of us. We were overeager to cross projects off our list and didn't do as much due diligence as we should have before starting the chimney repair. But hindsight is 20/20 and we learned valuable lessons.

Although the side chimney will remain non-functional, there are still some associated repair items we need to complete before we move on from this project. The side chimney needs to have a cap installed so that critters won't intrude. We still need to have copper flashing installed on both chimneys, since the existing flashing is in poor shape. The flashing isn't leaking yet but it's only a matter of time, especially with wetter weather on the way.

But there is a silver lining: We had set aside a significant chunk of cash for The Chimney Liner That Wasn't. Now that we aren't lining the chimney, we may have the budget for some other important exterior work. We'd like to bring in a roofer to do some maintenance on our slate roof and reline our Yankee gutters. We assumed that we'd need to wait until 2016 to do these projects, but now it looks like those projects might happen this fall. Or, we may use the extra funds to replace my 13-year-old car. In either scenario, we'll be glad to have the cash on hand.

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Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Painted Wicker Furniture

We're currently experiencing a rainy spell here in New Jersey, with showers predicted for the next five days. But over the weekend, we had clear skies. It was the perfect opportunity for me to repaint our wicker furniture. 

Our front porch has an assortment of wicker furniture which we've gathered over the course of several years. Some of it was purchased at Pier 1. Some of it was handed down from college roommates. Some of it came from an antique store. And some of it was even found on the side of the road,as I described in my previous post. After staring at our porch furniture on a daily basis, we came to the conclusion that the wicker looked exactly like you would expect it to, given it's hodge-podge origins. The styles and colors didn't work together.

I tried painting some the furniture light yellow earlier this summer, but the result wasn't what I had in mind. I was going for sunny, lemony yellow. The result was more buttery...fine if you're making dessert, not so good if you're painting chairs.

This weekend, I gave the wicker a good cleaning following these tips from CoCo at the Crowned Goat (thanks, CoCo!). After the wicker was completely dry, I applied Valspar satin finish indoor/outdoor spray paint in Hubbell House Golden Maize. Two coats and five cans of spray paint later, the wicker is now a rich goldenrod color.

Papered House_painted wicker_Valspar Hubbell House Golden Maize

In all honesty, I would have preferred if this color had less orange and more mustard in it. I also might have preferred a glossy finish rather than satin. But when you're working with canned spray paint, the options are somewhat limited (and I don't foresee us spray painting enough to justify purchasing a compressor and making our own spray paint). Even so, we're very pleased with the new color. It works better with the overall look of our house, and it's a noticeable improvement from the previous mismatched look. Several of our neighbors have already mentioned how much they like the new color. It's always gratifying to get positive feedback from one's neighbors.

Papered House_painted wicker_Valspar Hubbell House Golden Maize3

Since I was already giving the porch so much attention, I figured I might as well decorate for fall as well. The porch decor is simple: just some dried hydrangeas, a mason jar full of corks (thanks to this inspiration from 2 Bees in a Pod), and some faux leaves. On the other end of our porch, we also added some gourds and hay, which you may have seen on Instagram. It's beginning to look like fall around here!

Papered House_Outdoor Fall Decor Hydrangeas Corks Leaves 

 Thanks for stopping by, friends. Hope you enjoy the rest of the week. 

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Friday, September 25, 2015

One Man's Trash

Over the summer, we picked up several pieces of antique furniture. First there were the vampire chairs that we found at a garage sale for $25. But we also brought home four more chairs and a sideboard. 

In my husband's hometown, there are designated "clean-out" weeks during the summer. Residents purchase a permit which allows them to dispose of oversize garbage. Things like old mattresses, broken lawn mowers, and old TV sets...any household trash is fair game. But here's the kicker: people also throw out perfectly good furniture. Sometimes the furniture needs a little TLC, but other times there are no discernible defects. It truly is a case of "one man's trash is another man's treasure."

During clean-out week, residents put stuff out on the curb on the weekend. By the following Friday, anything still on the curb is picked up and tossed out by the town. But in the interim, it's the perfect opportunity for a little treasure hunting.

This year's haul: an Adirondack chair, a channel-back armchair, a rocking chair, a wicker armchair, and a wood sideboard. We found these with the help of my inlaws, who have a great eye for furniture.

 Here is the Adirondack chair. When we brought it home, the wood was a bit beat up and it was missing several wood plugs. My husband spent some time repairing the wood and I'll be giving it a fresh coat of paint soon.

Papered House_Adirondack Chair

We also found this upholstered armchair. I believe this style is called a "channel-back chair." The current upholstery is dated, but it's a well-made piece of furniture. Despite its smallish size, this one of the heaviest chairs I've ever encountered. It's also surprisingly comfortable. I once dozed off in this chair while my husband and six of his friends were playing a raucous card the same room. No joke.

This chair is currently in our living room. We'll have it reupholstered in the future when we redecorate this room (probably not for a year or so).

Papered House_Channel Back Arm Chair
Then there is this petite rocking chair. We're not sure how old this is, but it is a lovely oak piece and it's in great condition. My mother-in-law mentioned that this was likely a ladies' sewing chair. I believe the idea was that the chair would be armless to allow the chair to fit under a sewing table or to free up the lady's arms for embroidery projects. This rocking chair is currently in our bedroom.

Papered House_sewing rocking chair

This wicker chair was another find. I don't think this is particularly old; I seem to remember this style being sold at Pier 1. This chair is currently on our front porch, which has an assortment of mismatched wicker furniture. I love sitting here with a hot cup of coffee and the Saturday paper. I'll be spray painting this a cheerful yellow .

 Papered House_wicker armchair

Last but not least: this wooden sideboard might be my favorite find from this year's haul. It has such interesting details. We haven't quite decided where this piece will end up. Although it's a sideboard, the style is a little too whimsical for our dining room. I'm thinking it could work as a dresser in our guest bedroom. Right now, this paint reminds me of overcooked brussels sprouts. Not good. I haven't decided on a color yet, but this will definitely get a fresh coat of paint. And those wooden knobs are begging to be replaced with something more appropriate!

Papered House_green sideboard

Papered House_green sideboard detail

There were a few other items we brought home, but don't have pictures of. My inlaws found a beautiful antique wicker tea cart (sort of like this one). It would look lovely in our living room. We also found a number of dismantled balusters from a grand Queen Anne Victorian home. They are the size of small tree trunks. We haven't decided what to do with them yet, but we picked up about five of them, with the hope that they can be repurposed somehow (amusingly, I saw the same balusters -- likely from the same house -- turn up in an antique store a few weeks later. Glad we scored ours for free!).

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Monday, September 21, 2015

Mudroom/Rear Porch Makeover

Papered House_mudroom makeover organization

For several months, I've wanted to spruce up our mudroom/rear porch. This space has always had a lot of potential: there are large windows on three sides and ample storage on the fourth side. The mudroom connects to our kitchen, and it lets in lovely light. This space is also the primary access to our home, so we see this space several times a day.

But for far too long, our mudroom was a cluttered, disorganized mess. There was so much extra stuff taking up floorspace that we barely had room to maneuver. I'm almost embarrassed to show you these pictures, but it's necessary for the full before and after impact. So here is our dirty laundry. This is the sight that "greeted" us every time we left for work in the morning or returned home:

Papered House_Mudroom_Before

Papered House_Mudroom_Before2 

Yikes! Some welcome, right?

And after a weekend of decluttering, organizing, and scrubbing, our mudroom is now a much more functional space.

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Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Window Repair Progress

I am happy to report that we now have one fully-functional, fully-repaired window in the master bedroom. This is cause for celebration! Let's pop a bottle of bubbly...just don't point it towards the newly repaired window, please. If that glass cracks after all this hard work, I will scream.

We started this process approximately two months ago and, in truth, the repair still isn't quite complete on this window. We still need to paint and install new interior stops and then, we'll be done. But I was anxious to write this post. Plus, once the stops are installed, you won't be able to see as much of the window's "guts" as you can see now. For an "in progress" post, I thought it would make sense to have pictures that show more of the window's interior workings. (Here is a diagram with window anatomy, in case it's helpful).

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Friday, August 7, 2015

Gothic Revival Chairs (aka "Vampire Furniture")

At the moment, The Papered House is sparsely furnished. In the dining room, we have a small drop-leaf IKEA table (like this one, but cheaper) and several mismatched chairs left over from my college days. Even by college-kid standards, this stuff was cheap. Our "dining set" is functional, but it looks so out of place in our 14' x 20' dining room. It's a room that is meant to have grander furniture than we currently own.

We're furnishing this home slowly, for a few reasons. The first is purely financial. The chimney project is still in progress (more about that next week) and we're also saving towards an oil-to-gas conversion for our heating system. Both of these are pricey, important repairs so we need to make sure we allocate our resources accordingly. Secondly, we're trying to furnish this home primarily with interesting antiques, so we expect that it will take some time for us to find exactly what we're looking for.

But over this weekend, some new dining room chairs made their way into our home. I'm no expert in antique furniture, but I have a hunch that these chairs were crafted in the Gothic Revival style.

These chairs have three prominent arches, lending an ecclesiastical aesthetic. They are quite similar to this pair available from a UK antique seller. But more importantly, these chairs look like they belong in Count Dracula's home, which everyone knows is the true hallmark of the Gothic Revival style. (kidding!)

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Friday, July 31, 2015

Scrap Paper

Occasionally I feel like writing about topics that are only tangentially related to restoring our home. Ideas that have been swirling around, half-formed, waiting to be shared. I'm not sure how often I'll write these mishmosh posts, but each time I do, they'll be titled "Scrap Paper."

By the way, there is an interesting article on the usage of "scrap paper" vs "scratch paper." I was raised primarily in California, and "scratch paper" is the term I heard most often on the West Coast, as this article suggests. But I currently have approximately five dozen bug bites, so I do not want to think about the word "scratch" more than absolutely necessary.

The Papered House is the first home that my husband and I have owned. It's also the first time we've had a yard of our own. It turns out that I like gardening more than I thought I would. If you give me an empty five-gallon bucket and a few spare hours, I'll spend the entire afternoon weeding. Even the unpleasant parts, like the dirty fingernails and achy back, don't really bother me. Unfortunately, I'm a mosquito magnet. I've tried multiple methods of insect repellent, but none of them seem to work very well. I counted my mosquito bites last night and stopped counting when I got to 65. I know the chances of contracting West Nile Virus from a mosquito are quite small. But surely, your chances must increase when you have been bitten >65 times?

I have a theory that wearing a full neoprene ensemble, like a wetsuit, would offer excellent protection from these pint-sized airborne vampires. But if I traipse around in a wetsuit in our backyard, I'm sure the neighbors would worry about my well-being.

Not Coloring Books, but Color Books
About two weeks ago, I was listening to the radio and heard about a study claiming that coloring is therapeutic for adults. I don't doubt that artistic endeavors are beneficial to our mental and emotional well-being. But I filed that information into my brain's compartment for "Things That Would Be Good for Me But Are Unlikely to Happen." It's the same place where I file advice like "Drink eight glasses of water each day" or "Don't eat anything for four hours before your bedtime." How am I supposed to enjoy a glass of red wine or a piece of dark chocolate at 10 pm if I follow such a regimented schedule, drinking all that water and eschewing all those late-night sweets?

But that coloring study must have caught on quickly, because I have noticed that Coloring for Adults has become a thing in my daily existence. To wit: I attend classes at a local fitness studio that focuses a lot on mind/body connectivity. Sometimes, the classes are a little New Age-y for my taste. The instructors say things like, "As you move through tree pose, push your arms out to the side and imagine that you are pushing away something that is holding you back." We are meant to imagine things like anxiety, or stress, or fear. But my mind is relentlessly literal, and so I tend to envision physical things like our pain-in-the-butt chimney. Our chimney has been quite difficult to repair, and we are delaying several other decisions about the house until we know what's happening with the chimney. But when you are standing on one leg with your eyes closed and arms out to the side? It is awfully hard to maintain your balance while envisioning yourself pushing away some brick structure. I readily admit that I am not good at mindfulness. But! The instructors are friendly and there is a wide variety of class offerings. I am trying to be more open to new experiences. Embrace uncertainty. Relinquish control. That kind of thing.

Anyway, after one of the classes, the instructor handed each student a sheet of paper with a medallion-type thing printed on it. We were told about therapeutic Coloring for Adults and asked to color the medallions at home. Sometime in August, all the colored medallions will be hung in the studio.

I don't think I scoffed or rolled my eyes. But I might have raised my eyebrows slightly. This sounded very much like a third-grade assignment. Like I said, I'm still working on that "open to new experiences" thing.

However, just yesterday, I was at Barnes and Noble. At the entrance to the store and by the register, they had entire displays geared towards Coloring for Adults. Perhaps two dozen coloring books for the young-at-heart. So, Coloring for Adults is officially a trend. I may give it a try after all, if I can remember where I put the crayons.

In the meantime, I've been perusing more Victorian writings about paint color usage. In 1883, architect William Comstock published a book called Modern House Painting: Containing Twenty Colored Lithographic Plates. It was republished under a different title by Dover in the recent past, but it can be hard to find. I purchased a used copy online and it arrived this week.

Comstock includes brief chapters on color theory and paint application, but the real appeal of this book is the section of full-color plates illustrating recommended color schemes. The plates show gorgeous, deep, rich earth tones meant to resemble natural surroundings. When bright whites and light colors are used on exteriors, Comstock finds that "the result has been that violence has been done to nature by glaring effects and contrasts that are hideous." He encourages readers to experiment with more expressive colors than had been used in earlier architectural periods, during which "the old puritanical hatred of color...found its natural outcome in white houses with green blinds." A puritanical hatred of color. Isn't that a memorable turn of phrase? Those Victorians had a way with words.

Ironically, the exterior of our house is currently painted a shade of white so bright that it is named "Incandescent." I would bet every penny to my name that Comstock would find our house color glaring and offensive. The previous owner repainted just before selling, so we're not planning to paint the house in the near future. Eventually, I love would to see The Papered House painted a light sage green or a warm cream.

Minor Functional Obsolescence
Speaking of memorable turns of phrase: when we purchased The Papered House, the appraiser's report said that it "suffers from minor functional obsolescence" because it only has one bathroom and the fourth bedroom is really more of a loft/sitting area. Linguistically, isn't that a bizarre phrase? I don't believe that "suffer" and "minor" ever belong in the same sentence. There is no such thing as minor suffering. There just isn't.

I hadn't been familiar with real estate lingo, but it turns out that "functional obsolescence" is a common term in the business, particularly when speaking about older homes that lack some of the modern conveniences and design features. I admit that the layout of our home can seem inconvenient in comparison to modern homes. Honestly, the floor plan works for us and we know exactly where we'll add a second bathroom when finances permit. But I found it amusing that the appraiser failed to mention something of major functional obsolescence: Our boiler from the 1950s.

The Scuffle
We ran out of printer paper recently and I urgently needed to print something. All we had left was a stack of college-ruled loose-leaf paper. Why do we even have this type of paper? We have no children and I can't remember the last time I needed to take notes at home. Perhaps I've held onto this stack of paper since grad school as some sort of strange tribute to my days as a compulsive note-scribbling student. Perhaps I thought I would use it for scrap/scratch paper. But that means that I would have packed and unpacked the loose-leaf four (4!) separate times. At least it's not wide-ruled, I suppose. That would really be embarrassing.

In a fit of desperation, I tried using the loose-leaf to print the first page of a 20- page document. The first page worked like a dream. So I printed the remaining 19 pages. Big mistake. The printer looked like it challenged the paper to some epic battle of "rock, paper, printer." Printer lost, by the way, and it didn't recover quickly.

~The Papered House, with glaring effects and hideous contrasts
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Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Master Bedroom Progress

Our master bedroom is still a work in progress, but it's looking loads better than it did previously. I think this is my new mantra: it's not as bad as it used to be.

The walls are (mostly) painted and we've hung a couple of pieces of artwork.

I still need to prime and paint this wall. The masonry was repaired recently, and we needed to wait for the mortar to cure before we could repair the plaster. Now that the mortar has cured, we're considering leaving that small portion of brick exposed, if we can make it look intentional. We're still thinking about this, so this section of wall has remained unpainted for now. 

We've moved our furniture into the bedroom, and it feels like a functional, cozy space. 

We really dislike those lamps, and the fact that they have mismatched lamp shades. But we found them in the basement, left behind by a former owner. Our love of saving money trumped our dislike for these lamps. We'll replace them eventually, but they're fine for now.

We even have a door on the doorframe (Wow! Getting fancy at the Papered House!). It's not the right door for this room, so it doesn't close completely. We took this door from another room while we repaint the actual master bedroom door. Having a door on one's bedroom hardly seems like something worth celebrating. But in this house, it is.

We've refinished the wood floors and found some pretty rugs. Apparently I didn't vacuum/sweep very well before I took this photo. Sorry about that.

The window repair is in progress. The alcove is missing the left window, which is currently in our basement for repair. So far, window repair has been pretty straightforward. However, we're reglazing each window and it took 10 days for the glazing on the first window to dry. I'll be repainting with oil-based paint later this week. It's my first time painting with an oil-based product, and I understand that it typically dries more slowly than latex-based paint. We've got about 50 windows in this house, so we're projecting a window completion date of roughly...2080. Hooray, just in time for our home's 200th birthday!

In the meantime, we're using heavy-duty plastic, painter's tape, and duct tape to keep the bugs and other flying critters out of our room. There's no particular reason for the use of two types of tape; we just used whatever we had on hand and could find quickly. Apparently, we have tape in all sorts of hideous colors.

Window repair supplies

Here's another of the master bedroom windows in sore need of repair. I considered moving the fan before taking this picture, thinking that it would make for a more attractive photo. But honestly, when your windows look like this, the fan is NOT the problem. The ropes on this window are broken, so the fan is the only thing keeping that sash from slamming closed.

I've got 99 problems, but the fan ain't one.

And when this is the view next to the window, suddenly those windows don't look so bad in comparison to the closet door. I'm not sure why we're still keeping clothes in that closet...

Don't worry, that closet door is being fixed. We've been using safe chemical strippers to remove the paint, and it will get a new coat of paint soon.  

Here's a quick look at the remaining projects for this room.

Short Term Project List
*Repair all windows
*Paint crown molding
*Prep and paint narrow walls to the left of the alcove
*Stencil ceiling
*Repaint and rehang entry door
*Repaint and rehang closet door

Longer-Term Project List
*Purchase new/antique nightstand(s)
*Purchase antique table lamps
*Purchase small antique chandelier
*Hang some additional artwork
*Refinish husband's dresser (not pictured)
*Improve storage (maximize space in closet and under the bed; find/create some storage solution for me)

By the way, I just set up an Instagram account. I've been posting a lot of pictures of our garden, which looks a lot better than our master bedroom does. And feel free to follow along on Facebook and Twitter as well, if that's your thing. Thanks for stopping by, folks!

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