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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  1. What a neat book! I'm going to check my local library for some information. We are having some painting done this summer.

    "Minor functional obsolescence" is a great phrase. I love it! The rental that I recently wrote about did not have a bathroom on the first floor. I think that qualifies. :D

    As for mosquitoes: My husband gets bitten like crazy. They pretty much leave me alone. I am not sure why.

    1. Isn't that a great book?! I'm having a great time reading it and studying the plates.

      There's a historian named Roger Moss who writes extensively about exterior paint colors. I have his book "Century of Color" and it's very informative. If your library has any of his books, they could be a good starting place.

      Isn't "functional obsolescence" a great term? And yes, I agree that not having a bathroom on the first floor definitely qualifies as functional obsolescence (a good way to get some extra exercise, though!)

      My husband doesn't get bitten by mosquitoes nearly as much as I do. I have a hunch that genetics has something to do with it!

      Thanks for your comments!

  2. Thinking about you wandering around in the backyard with a wet suit on gives me the giggles. I can't believe you like to weed. I just saw adult coloring books this past weekend too. I thought it was just something going around on Instagram ha ha.

    1. Haha, the wetsuit is sounding better and better. These bugs are vicious!

      And my mom (who lives in CA) told me she had heard about the adult coloring trend too. It's definitely catching on!