The First Floor

I’ve been writing and posting some photos of my floors.  Specifically, photos of the process of refinishing and re-doing the 2nd-worst room in the house: the upstairs sleeping porch. For Northerners, or those not familiar with old houses, a sleeping porch is a room with lots of windows and ventilation for hot summer nights.  In the days before air conditioning, this room would get stocked with cots and beds in the summer by the servants so the homeowner and family could sleep in comfort.  I think it was used primarily for storage in the winter.  It’s a tradition that has since disappeared, in part because of air conditioning, perhaps in part because closets are in fashion now (wouldn’t it be nice to have a closet again…), but also because the rooms tend to be drafty and hard to heat in the winter. My cousin Emily moved in and decided that all those windows would make for a nice bedroom.  My last post about doing floors showed off the original condition of the room: asbestos tiles, blue sponge paint, and despair.  Under the tiles was 100 year old oak floor, and beige paint of sufficient quantity and quality can hide a multitude of painting sins. I did a lot of the grunt work, but Emily got every step of the process “over the hump” so to speak.  I sanded for weeks to get the glue off the floor, then down through the scratches and prior finish.  She finish-sanded, and I handed her a bucket of stain. It’s the sort of work that makes fixing up an old house worth it....
Home is Where the Help Is

Home is Where the Help Is

I’m at my parents’ house for the holidays, and there’s a lot to be thankful for.  There’s a new nephew as of a few days ago, my other nephews are growing like weeds, everyone seems happy and healthy, and there were no fist fights at Christmas dinner. One of the things you learn about coming home as an adult is that your parents are still just figuring it out as they go along, just like you.  Remember not liking Brussels sprouts (yes, with an S like that place in Europe) as a kid?  Well, it turns out my mom still hates them.  And now as an adult, I love them. She was on the phone with a friend of hers who was singing the praises of roasted Brussels sprouts; delicious, semi-sweet, slightly crunchy, and just plain good.  She was on speaker phone, so I was nodding vigorously as her friend talked about how to roast them, but meanwhile my mom just made faces.  Much like my two year old nephew makes. Yesterday while we were sitting in the living room and trading stories, we started talking about cooking.  My mom is the unquestioned boss of her kitchen.  Even if she isn’t the one preparing the meal.  We talked about Brussels sprouts again, and she told me I could make them, but I was in charge.  And I asked if it was like that time I was in charge of making pumpkin pie.  She didn’t remember, but boy I do. I was home from college.  I had moved into my first apartment and learned to prepare my favorite dessert, pumpkin pie.  I...

The Symphony of Sammi and Gertrude

Sammi snores.  Loudly.  Usually when I’m on the phone.  But she’s adorable, so it’s just become part of the fabric that is life at Castle Danchester. Gertrude is still rumbling and rattling the house.  For those not into click links, Gertrude is my boiler.  I’ve installed heat pumps over the last couple years to do the bulk of the heating, but on cold nights, Gertrude wakes up and reminds me of her presence.  I say “wakes up” because it truly feels like some enormous beast is shaking off a long slumber and plodding out to meet the world. Some folks might find that sort of analogy, or that kind of sound, to be discomforting.  But for me, it’s very comforting.  Each year, she wakes up reliably and without fuss, and makes her presence known.  As I get more of the house fixed and opened up, I turn on more radiators, and she lengthens her stride a little bit more. On a night a few weeks back, temperatures plunged, and right on cue Gertrude woke to her job.  Sammi snored contentedly in her crate as the house thumped and hissed, and all was right with the...