Monthly Archives: December 2013

A bungalow Christmas

There’s a rumor afoot that I could lose my blogging license if I don’t write about my Christmas decorations. So, not to be outdone by my blog friends, welcome to a bungalow Christmas!

We always cut our own tree at a tree farm—this is the Evergreen State, after all. This year we found a perfect, alpine-y Noble that’s nice and narrow. I don’t even have to move my chair to see the TV.

Noble fir Christmas tree

Miraculously, the cats leave the ornaments alone, but they love the big drinking bowl full of Christmas tree tea. Checkers enjoys lying beneath the boughs, but I think he’s really just making sure none of the other cats drink from what he considers his private oasis.

cat under Christmas tree

Chex also enjoys a blazing yule log.

Black and white cat looking at fire

So does geeky Rose, Eric’s office assistant.

Tabby cat watching computerized fire

But back to the tree: I started collecting glass ornaments decades ago because I wanted my tree to look like my Grandma’s tree when I was a little kid in Milwaukee. By now I have more than will fit on one tree. About half are vintage ornaments, like this one from my mom’s childhood. It’s incredibly fragile, but still “hanging in there.”

vintage ornament

After Mt. St. Helens blew up in 1980, ornaments made with volcanic ash became popular. I have three. My favorite is this blue one, which I’d given to my mom. Now it’s come back to me.

Blue Mt. St. Helens glass ornament

Eric added some unusual ones to the collection. How about an apple core and a fish? The black one in the background is another of Mt. St. Helens glass.

apple core and fish ornaments

Little Bo Peep, Jack Be Nimble, and Toyland are from Eric’s parents. The crocheted snowflakes were on my mom’s tree.

nursery rhyme ornaments

What Christmas tree is complete without birds? The old parakeet’s tail has been replaced several times.

glass birds

I love these five spinning tops from Eric’s parents.

ornaments shaped like tops

Magenta, blue, and pale green ornaments hung on my parents tree before I was born. What great 50’s colors! I think I also remember them on an aluminum tree when I was real little. (Now you know the truth about how old I am!)

1950s ornaments

I fill a crystal bowl with some real oldies. I like the way they are gradually losing their colors and becoming transparent … don’t we all, eventually?

vintage ornaments in bowl

I’m cheating and using a picture of our living room from last year … the last time it was this clean. I have some decorations up, but this year, but with the remodel mess, I just haven’t been able to pull it together. Those snowflakes hanging from the beam? Back in the 80’s, I cut them out of drafting vellum when I was bored at work. I sprayed them with adhesive and gave them a light dusting of fine, iridescent glitter. Sometimes I leave them up until spring (because I am too lazy to take them down).

our living room, 2013

I hope you’re all enjoying a relaxing holiday season, doing the things you love best, and celebrating with your own special traditions. It’s become our tradition to pick one of our photos and print our own Christmas cards. This year, Duke is our star.

christmas card with boxer and tree

May all your Christmas dreams come true!




Thirty-two feet

It’s amazing what we can accustom ourselves to living with when we’ve been in the midst of remodeling chaos for over a year.

ugly old linoleum

This is the story of how all that changed in one day. Months ago, Eric hacked up the floor and removed about 3/4 inch of accumulated vinyl and plywood underlayment, leaving us with what may have been the original linoleum … or maybe linoleum from the 1940s remodel. At any rate, it was in sorry shape with cracks and chipped edges. We removed what we could in the area where the new cabinets were installed. And it sat that way … for months.

We made our flooring choice early on, after considering our lifestyle, which can best be summed up as “parents of fur kids.” Ideally, I’d have liked hardwood to match the color of our fir floors, but wood would not hold up well to Duke’s toenails. I love the look of cork, and although it’s supposed to be tough, I doubt it’s tough enough to withstand a bouncing 90-pound boxer who leaps and spins when asked if he wants to go to Starbucks. Then there’s all the winter wetness that our feet track in the back door … and I’m talking about ALL our feet: two humans, one dog, and six cats. That’s a total of thirty-two feet. One hundred forty-four individual toes.

Then I thought about linoleum—no, not vinyl—the real thing! It’s tough enough for hospitals, totally green and recyclable, and best of all, appropriate for our century-old house. The perfect solution. We chose a light gray, finely marled pattern guaranteed to hide pet hair. Our pattern is Armstrong Linorette ‘Silver City.’

But before the linoleum could go down, the crew would have to level and prep the floor. The night before they arrived, I felt compelled to sweep and mop the old lino before it disappeared forever. FOR-EV-ER.

old lino is clean

First, the floor had to be made level again where we’d chipped the old linoleum away. The installers used the same quick-setting concrete compound that we used to level the subfloor under the new cabinets. Then they started covering the whole floor with 1/4 in. plywood. You can see some of the gray leveler compound in the background.

floor being covered by plywood

Even the paper-faced plywood made the room look so much brighter and cleaner. (You know it’s been bad when plywood is better than your previous floor.)

plywood underlayment covers floor

More leveler smoothed the seams between the sheets of plywood. And then … the back hall (which I’m trying hard to call the mud room, but it doesn’t seem to stick) went from this … to this.

mudroom before and after

For about a minute, you could eat off the floor in the breakfast room. After that, you’d probably swallow a cat hair.

breakfast room with new linoleum

Duke and Fred checked out the new surface. Duke is happy he has lots of room to play kitchen island again.

Boxer and cat on new linoleum

The next day the installers were back to heat seal the seams. Some people don’t bother with this step, and trust that nothing will get in the crevices … but we have those 32 feet. Pets do have accidents sometimes (me, not so much). I wasn’t going to take any chances. I was concerned, though, that the gray weld rod would be so obvious that I’d curse it every time I walked in the room. Linoleum is only 6 ft. 7 inches wide, which meant there was no way to avoid a seam smack in the middle of the kitchen.

gray linoleum weld rod

I am amazed that most of the time I don’t even notice the seam. During the day it’s virtually invisible.

broom and linoleum

At night, the overhead lights pick it up a bit, as Lacy points out.

Black cat sits near seam in linoleum

We didn’t move appliances back in until two days later, after we had a chance to paint and install base molding. I’m still working on that little task! (Prime, sand, prime, sand, paint, paint … remember?)

white base molding applied

I am beyond thrilled with the linoleum. It feels great underfoot, and looks perfect in our kitchen.

I immediately reclaimed the breakfast room as my paint lab, covered in rosin paper, of course. The cats are miffed that their Kit Kat Lounge is taking so long to reopen … but I’m afraid it’ll be a while longer. Sorry, kitties.

base molding being painted

In the meantime, all you critters—wipe your paws!


Surface tension

I’ll bet the question burning in your mind is: Did we get our kitchen done for Thanksgiving?


I really wanted the new flooring installed before Thanksgiving. Dropping the turkey on a spanking new, CLEAN floor would be so much better than watching it skid across our century-old, gross linoleum. (Hey, I’ve never dropped a turkey, but there’s always a first time!) But, procrastinators that we are, we ordered our flooring too late to schedule it before turkey day. Seems everyone else wanted their new floor before Thanksgiving, too.

In the interim, Eric’s task is to get doors on the cabinets, and mine is to finish the apparently endless painting, which is not going as quickly as I’d hoped. Are you shocked? Of course not. I’ve run into a number of minor challenges.

Challenge 1: Painting is lots easier when you can actually reach the surfaces that you intend to tape and paint. The back of our dining room’s built-in buffet bumps out into our kitchen, making it awkward to reach the 9-foot ceiling. The fridge and range sit against this bump-out, and must be moved into the center of the room so I can get the step ladder as near as possible to the wall.

buffet bumps out into kitchen

Fortunately, the room is large enough to accommodate this, but it’s kind of weird to have a kitchen island that consists of a stove and fridge. Duke is confounded: He used to be the kitchen island.

boxer lying on kitchen floor

Challenge 2: Most of the kitchen and breakfast room has taken its umpteenth coat of paint readily, but I’ve had to do a little plaster repair in places. Same thing on this last stretch. Next to the dining room door, the ancient wallpaper (beneath many coats of paint) volunteered to remove itself, so I had to peel it back to a stable point, then patch the wall to something resembling smoothness.

wall with spakle spots

That’s when I started having trouble: The exposed paper that refused to come off bubbled and disintegrated once it was dampened with paint. I know, I know … you real renovators (you know who you are … furthermore, I know who you are) are saying, “You idiot! If you’d gutted the kitchen first, you could have installed new drywall and wouldn’t be messing with patching plaster and painting over wallpaper!” But here’s the thing: I don’t really mind that the walls aren’t perfect. They wear their ripples and patches like an old person wears their wrinkles—they have been earned. This might sound wacky, but I imagine that all the history and events and family conversations this house has seen have soaked into the walls and become part of the fabric of the house. I also think that when we open up a wall, the studs blink their eyes at the light of day and take a deep breath of fresh air after having been cooped up in fusty darkness for 100 years. Perhaps I was fed too much Disney as a child. That’s just the way my mind works.

Challenge 3: The ceiling corner to the left above the sink sustained damaged in an earthquake several years ago. Recently, when our electrician worked on the ceiling fixtures, we realized the original plaster ceiling is covered in drywall. The force of the earthquake sheared apart the paint and the paper cover of the drywall.

torn drywall at ceiling

This was easy to patch. I’ve become fond of Dap DryDex spackle compound, which goes on Barbie pink and dries white. Very easy to work with.

patched drywall

To reach the ceiling, I had to stand on the counter, which made me nervous because I didn’t know if I might crack the Caesarstone if I stepped on a portion that wasn’t adequately braced. Probably unlikely, but when you’ve just shelled out a pretty penny for something beautiful, you tend to be overprotective. Eric laid a piece of our good old plywood countertop on it for extra protection.

Challenge 4: How to transition the surfaces in that corner, which houses our furnace chimney. I suppose the original 1913 stove had a pipe that vented into that chimney. Then at some point, the chimney was sheathed in plywood. When Eric removed the funky old white plastic tiles that used to encircle our kitchen, he discovered the plywood didn’t go all the way down to the countertop. The plastic tiles were stuck on the bricks with plaster, which crumbled away. We briefly thought about removing all the plywood and exposing the brick, but that would necessitate wire brushing and creating another dustbowl … and I’ve had it with dust. Eric had to remove a portion of the plywood and we found the bricks weren’t particularly attractive, anyway, discolored with age and heat.

chimney brick exposed

We decided to continue the bead board and trim at the same height as the buffet all the way over to the sink wall. Eric applied concrete patch to even out the brick surface to which he adhered the bead board (this is as far as we got—we’ll finish trimming it out and painting it this weekend).

chimney with concrete patch

bead board covering chimney

A subway tile backsplash will come up to the windowsill. I’m concerned about the rocky-road mastic on either side of the window (left over from the plastic tiles), but Eric thinks it can be sanded and spackled smooth. Great—more dust! Bring it on!

I have to admit to one more challenge: I’m not as young as I used to be. Still young compared to rocks and sea turtles, yes, but leaning from a ladder and contorting my back and neck to peer through the right spot in my bifocals makes painting less fun than it used to be.

I am happy to report that with the exception of that last section of bead board, the painting is DONE! Well … except for more work on cabinets … and the door and window trim …

All paint by Valspar. Ceiling: Summer Gray; Walls: Jekyll Clubhouse Yellow; Bead board: Chef White.

walls are painted

Here’s s sneak peek at my next post. No tension in this scene! Is there ANY hope for our dining room?

dining room filled with kitchen stuff