Saturday, December 22, 2007

Having a Cool Yule. Literally!

It's been a couple of weeks since I updated and there isn't really much to report. The boyfriend helped me pick out some curtains for the TV room and hung them for me a few days ago. They're heavy velvety brocade in muted browns and beiges. They look much better than they sound. :) I did find my camera last week but have misplaced it again. It's been like that for the past 3 weeks.

I've done a little decorating for the holidays though I never did get a proper tree up. Both the bf and I are not physically up for hauling his tree from the attic so we've made do with the 2 foot table top tree that belonged to his mother. It has fiber optic lights and is super cute.

I've been hurting enough from surgery that I haven't felt like doing much. I did go back to work and that's been taking my house energy away. Ah well. Patience is my lesson this season and it will all eventually get done.

I did cover my leakiest windows with plastic and have noticed a huge difference in the breeziness of the joint. Or rather, lack of breeze in the joint. My electric bill came in and it's just awful. The lack of insulation in my walls and my leaky windows are the guilty parties. The fireplace guy said that the $4000.00 high efficiency wood burning stove would solve my heating bill and that I would, in fact, be wearing shorts in the house because the heat would be so intense. I have to admit that the idea of shoving logs in the stove and ignoring the windows and walls would be lovely. Now all I need is 4k and lots of wood. :)

This is my first Christmas season without my mom. It's been tougher than I thought it would be. Friends tell me that they've never stopped missing their parents who have passed but celebrating the season brings them some joy. I know my mom would love my mantle and the festive goodies I put on it.

I didn't do a lot for Solstice but did count my blessings. The bf lives on top of a mountain and the snowy view is so beautiful that I remembered why I love this time of year so much. I'm lighting lots of candles and celebrating the light's return. :)

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

My fireplace

I had my fireplace looked at and cleaned by a local chimney sweep outfit today. I have to say that they did not want to clean it, largely because they didn't want me to waste my money. Alas! There will be no cheery fires at my house this winter as the chimney is not in good shape nad prolly is not worth the money needed to fix it. I just liked the thought of the damned thing being clean. :P

Apparently at some time in the past the chimney was damaged enough to get a rebuild from the roofline up. A poorly done rebuild. The chimney guy said that he's not 100% sure he can put in the required liner tile and seal it enough to get the whole thing up to code and safe because of bad materials used in the fix. Bleh. The other thing is that it has no smoke chamber, something common to the fireplaces built in my neighborhood. He says it's prolly because most folks burned coal in this neighborhood. Oh well. Candles will look pretty in there.

His suggestion was to either put in a gas log or a wood burning insert, complete with stainless steel liner. Gas I'm not excited about, but the insert is gorgeous. It's also *cough* a $4000.00 job. Candles will look pretty in there. :)

The final results!!!!

The cancer is gone. My surgeon called me yesterday to confirm the lab results.

Some friends gave me a shirt a few months ago that says "Hey cancer! You picked the wrong Bitch!"

I'm going to start wearing that shirt even more than I already do. :)

let the house projects begin!

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

A tentative project list

Now that I'll slowly be shifting back into regular life I guess I'll do That Thing House Bloggers Do and make a list of things I want to do to the house. Ha!

I'm really really lucky because it's all cosmetic with one or two small plumbing items that are more maintenance related.

In no particular order:

1. finish painting the bookcase I'm placing in the craft room so I can unload the rest of the craft book boxes and set up my workspace.

2. caulk the durned shower stall. This one is so silly - the caulk the flippers used dissolved after a few showers. Duh! I got some good guidance from a nice gal at Lowes and am putting silicon caulk in there. This is a first for me, as a life long renter I've always just called maintenance. Let the lessons begin!

3. Get some soygel and start cleaning up the 41 windows. I'm going to start with the upstairs bathroom since there's only one small window in there. Oh dear gawd, this could take years!

4. The windows are all spilling heat out into the ether, so I have to decide on a method for stopping it. I do want to make some insulating roman shades for the bedrooms, but I've also been looking at interior storm windows. I saw some instructions on how to make simple frames with heat shrink plastic and I may try one or two to see how they go.

5. Get the plumber to fix the outside tap. It's leaking.

6. Paint my walls pretty colors.

7. Make curtains. I love making curtains. It's a good thing with my budget!

8. Take a friend up on her offer to help me paint a "rug" on my porch floor.

9. Set up my spinning wheel and make some yarn.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

A major hurdle cleared

At long last, I had my surgery. Yesterday. The tumor is gone. The chemo showed amazing results that could be clearly seen on my mammogram. The doctors were all really happy about it. I'm waiting for the final biopsy results, then I rest for a month and start 3 weeks of radiation. Then I can finally leave this liminal state and get back to making plans for the future.

Said plans aren't all that complicated - I want to start taking long walks again, start painting my rooms, sew fanciful window treatments, and unpack the rest of my boxes. I'm raring to go on my 41 windows, too. I talked to a nice man who presented at the Renovate Roanoke window restoration workshop and he invited me to call him for advice on restoring my 41. Oh, and go back to work. My old job is no longer available, unfortunately, but it does open a new door for something new that will make me happier.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Once again, the lovely old bungalow

The bungalow is for sale. I saw a for sale sign on the front of the porch last week so I pulled into the driveway (the place is empty) and wrote the number down. While I was doing that I noticed that the city had tacked up a sign saying that property had been condemned. That makes me sad - such a lovely house. I'd still love to know the story of this house and its owner.

I called the number but keep getting a message that says the number is not taking messages. I'm really curious about how much the owner wants for the property and if I really want to get myself into such a huge - and expensive - project.

Monday, October 22, 2007

That Lovely Old Bungalow, Again

Curious, I looked up the civic plan for the neighborhood in which the bungalow resides. The entire neighborhood is not designated historic, but a few of the major thoroughfares are, and some of the more interesting houses. The lovely old bungalow is one of the historic sites.

The civic plan makes two interesting observations in two separate sections. First, in a description of the district, the planners write that the neighborhood has a disproportionate number of low income residents. Second, in a section describing the historic sections, they wonder why so many of the houses designated historic have not been restored. Could it perhaps have something to do with the high number of poor residents? A look at the tax map shows that many of these houses are owned by older folks who purchased the houses long before the historic designation. I imagine that some of them are rentals, too, though most of them look well kept even if they aren't restored. A couple of the larger houses obviously need a lot of work, the lovely bungalow included.

The planners do say that there are some funding programs available to help residents with restoration, but I wonder if it's enough, especially when a house owner has to choose between feeding and clothing the family verses spending money on fixing up a house beyond basic maintenance?

I've been looking at lots of house blogs and haven't found much discussion of the problems associated with living in a historic district.

Monday, October 15, 2007

eco-friendly thoughts

Since it's blog action day I figued I'd make a public committment to getting more eco-friendly, cause, ya know, if I say it in public then I have to do it, right? :) Some things I've already done, and some things I always did because my family did them when I was growing up. A blogger I read somewhere said that a lot of the things she was doing originally came out of a desire to save money. That's really true - saving heat energy saves money on the bill. So here's a list of things I either do or am going to start doing:

1. Find those darn tote bags so I can stop using plastic/paper grocery bags. Less junk to clean up in my house too.

2. Get back to composting. I'm eating a ton of veggies these days, oddly enough because a chemo side effect is that I'm craving veggies like a crazy woman. I have lots of refuse that can easily go into a pile in my back yard. And since I've always been lazy, when my mom and I composted years ago we didn't do anything besides mark out a spot for the pile and toss the compostables on it. No lime, no box, nothing. It worked great and we used it on our plants.

3. Get rid of the non-local plants in my back yard. My wonderful, wonderful boy friend took me for a tour of my back yard and pointed out the non-local growth. We have plenty of gorgeous local plantings here and I don't need invaders. :)

4. Replace all my toxic icky cleaners with eco-friendly products. I already started on this one. Since the cancer diagnosis a few months ago I've decided that avoiding toxins is not a bad idea. Ya think? Besides, anyone ever notice that the natural cleaners smell good?

5. I just bought a ton of micro fiber wash cloths and dish towels. I'm determined not to buy any more paper towels. I'll save cash and create less trash. Hey! That would make a cool t-shirt. Something my Depression Era Baby mom always did was cut up old t-shirts and use them as dust cloths. I'm fed up with Swiffers and stinky floor scrubbing pads. Give me a mop and a bucket. In the same vein, I'm going to get cloth napkins to replace the paper ones. We used those when I was a kid. Let's hear it for saving money. They're pretty, too. Yay Martha!

6. I already knit and do some spinning, so turning down my heat will encourage me to do more knitting and wear the stuff I make. I love shawls so there ya go. Eco-friendly *and* fashionable. w00t! I'd like to make some pretty wool curtains, too. Nice looking insulation is something I can definitely live with.

7. My local food coop sells local products, and their organic veggies are actually less expensive than the big box stores.

I know there are a lot more things I can do but I think this is a good start.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

My other passion

I have another blog that highlights my other passion - fiber/needlework/Victorian macrame.

it's here:

Finally, pictures!

My wonderful, wonderful boyfriend took some pictures of the house for me:

Here it is - an American Ugly as one friend jokingly calls it. Note the 41 windows. I really love my corner windows. The light inside the house is lovely. I'm so grateful the flippers put blinds on all of them. :)

Here is a close up of one of the two porch lights. There's one on either side of the door. These are original to the house! The picture in the upper right corner of the blog is the front light. It's original, too. Those are three metal pine cones shaped over the glass. It can't be seen well but there's also a pine cone knob at the top of the light. This is one of my favorite things about the house!

Here's the fireplace. It's kind of hard to see the detail under that white paint. The hearth is red underneath the black paint the flippers used. I'm guessing that the fireplace was originally unpainted. It looks like there's only one coat of paint on the brick. The screen was a gift from my bf, who noticed that it's decorated with metal pine cones and nicely evokes the pine cone theme of the outside light. It's a good thing one of us picks up details. I am totally Ok with him having better taste than me.
That's me, modelling a hat that I'd just recieved from a friend that day. I have an impressive wardrobe of hats now, all from knitting friends. :) That's my living room. I love my floors. The flippers did a great job. See all that light streaming in through 3 of the 41 windows? :)

Yep, still unpacking.

That gorgeous old bungalow

Right at the edge of the south western most part of the city is a gorgeous old bungalow. It looks, at least to my untrained eye, like a real Arts and Crafts type place, complete with river stone worked into the chimney and front porch. It has narrow little windows that remind me of Frank Lloyd Wright inspired houses. Unfortunately, it's rotting. Some of the windows are boarded up, the porch flooring has obviously seen much better days, and the surrounding property is unkempt. Oddly enough, there's a newish looking antenna attached to the chimney.

I was wondering about this place to a friend of mine and was told that attempts had been made by some local folks to buy the place from the owner who lives in one of the local projects. The story goes that the woman refused to sell, saying to let the place rot. Said friend and I figured that there had to be a story behind that and I promptly forgot about it.

I was reading the latest architectural review board guidelines this morning and was surprised to learn that the historic district actually extends as far as the south western most part of the city. This also happens to be a poorer area, which is probably why there aren't many restored houses to be seen. It occurred to me that maybe the renovation standards required by the city are beyond the means of the owner and is the reason that lovely old bungalow is rotting.

There's a kind of beautiful irony in that.

Monday, October 8, 2007

and by the way... case the previous entry wasn't an indicator, the chemo ick has gone. :)

More sides to the story...

The historic district - I have been avoiding naming it but anyone from the Roanoke area knows it's "Old South West" - is ever interesting to me because of the model it provides for what could happen in my own neighborhood.

A friend who rents an apartment in OSW was telling me the story of how OSW was being destroyed, and I don't believe this is too strong a word, by slum lords who were buying up old Victorian houses and chopping them up into sub-standard housing. Crime was rampant and lovely old historic buildings were being torn up. The neighbors were in agreement that designating the district historic would save those old houses and the neighborhood. Here is a link to an article at written by a local man who lives in the Historic District. I've read a few of his online articles and frankly find him strident much of the time, but I think this particular piece is pretty well said in terms of how that designation has created a class rift in OSW.

It's a tough call. Gentrification is something that is obviously happening in Roanoke and it can really be seen in OSW. I really hope that Mr McCLure at the Journal is proved wrong and that the ARB doesn't end up running the elderly and working class folks out of the city. The neighborhood plan as seen here:

shows that the ultimate goal is to eliminate multifamily housing and establish only single family dwellings. Having seen this happen in Philly back in the 80s, it means that lower income residents will have to move elsewhere, which means that the artists, poets, and other artistic types will leave. The heart of a city is its residents, and its soul is the artists and creative thinkers.

Anyway, back to my friend, who according to the OSW neighborhood plan will soon need to look elsewhere for affordable city living. Said friend is grateful for the lovely homes and safer neighborhood. I have to ask, however, couldn't this goal have been attained by enforcing already existing laws? The historic designation is a tidy way around what had to be some very messy battles with the local slum lords but at what cost?

It will be interesting to see how things play out. In the meantime, I've already started attending neighborhood meetings and have decided to go ahead and paint my porch door in some kind of artistic statement. Maybe I'll get a single Leisure Suit Window and take my time restoring the rest of my old funky glass single hungs.

here is a link to the neighborhood planning page for Roanoke:

Sunday, September 30, 2007

goodbye to chemo

I had my last chemo on Friday. Now I sit and wait for the familiar sequence of side effects. Today is "everything tastes like shit day," which will likely end tomorrow when "coming down from the antinausea drugs" kicks in. Then "I am so hungry but can't eat much day" will hit, then my bones will hurt, then my blood counts will dive in two weeks, then I'll start feeling normal again. The best part about this last cycle is that I won't start feeling better just to get knocked down again!

Last Thursday, the day before the final chemo, I went to Lowes and bought some melon color paint for an old bookcase of mine. This bookcase is going to go in the room I'm setting up as a studio. It'll take time for my strength to gather, but I'm determined to start making the house my own by painting something a lovely color and setting it up in a Room With a Purpose. Small significant steps. :) I also got some hardware for my wall shelves.

Preparations for setting up my first studio: stud finder, check. Drill, check. Laser level, check. Wall screws, check. Cats to supervise, check. Bed for frequent naps, check.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

More unpacking...

I'm trying to get my craftroom set up today. It's slow going but I'm getting there. I have actual places to store supplies so I can finally unpack the boxes I've been staring at for almost a year. I love having a whole house to myself.

I decided to use my mom's desk as a place for my beading/jewelry making supplies. It has a nice fold down desk top that will make a terrific work surface. I have some Ikea shelves and a bookcase too. Organizational stuff makes me feel like my life works. Haha.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007


I am still looking for my camera.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Nesting while resting?

Some friends threw me a cleaning party a few weeks ago, right after chemo #2. I was not allowed to do anything but tell folks what needed doing. I'm still really blown away by the generosity and kindness of this group of people I've only known for a few months since moving here. My kitchen was completly unpacked and set up and my hard wood floors got a thorough cleaning. I'm really looking forward to the time when I can reciprocate. :)

Chemo #3 was just over a week ago. This one hit me harder than any of them in terms of side effects, though I was up and around sooner than normal. My last chemo is in 2 weeks. It's getting harder to do anything for the house so I'm spending a lot of time looking for ideas and dreaming. I'm still obsessing over my windows and have found a local carpenter who does beautiful work. I'm planning to talk to him about the cost of restoring my existing windows versus replacements. It would be really nice to make my single hung windows into double.

The main branch of the library downtown has an entire room devoted to housing and neighborhoods and has tons of pictures available so folks can see what their houses might have looked like back in the day.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

An unpacking interlude

I'm trying to unpack one box a day, a not unreasonable goal given my blood cell counts and energy level this week. It's been weird to unpack the boxes of my mom's things. I hired movers to pack up her apartment after she died because I wasn't ready to sort through her things. I'm taking those boxes very slowly as each one brings back a vivid memory.

I found her Stewie Griffen t-shirt the other day. I bought it for her Valentine's Day present this year because she loved Family Guy and thought "that little monster" was a hoot. I did unpack her mother's dishes and have them in my vintage china closet. It occured to me the other day that those dishes are around a century old. She used them as her everyday dishes rather than let them gather dust in the closet. I've decided that I like that idea and am using the crystal bowls and other vintage dishes for my everyday meals.

I miss her every day.

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Kicking back

My red and white blood cell counts are down this week. I knew I wasn't feeling great. :P My ambitious plans to unpack one or two boxes have been put on hold until I get some energy back.

I really need to find my camera so I can take some pictures of the house.

I pretty much have myself talked into fixing up the original wood windows. After reading many many many housing blogs I suspect that vinyl replacement windows are akin to 70s leisure suits.

Our local government has put together a "Plan Book" that suggests styles for folks fixing up their old houses. My neighborhood is made up almost totally of foursquares. There is much fear around here that the plan book is a tentative step into declaring our community historic and installing a review board. The next neighborhood over was declared Historic a few years ago and the review board horor stories are legendary. Proir to its historic designation, that neighborhood was a run down area where folks with little money could afford to purchase houses. Most of hte houses there are old Victorian places. A few years back people with more means started buying the houses and restoring them. Somewhere along the line the district was designated historic and the folks who moved to the neighborhood first - a very sore point among those residents - suddenly found htemselves having to get permission to do outside repairs with many of those repairs getting turned down because of inauthenticity.

If a house in that area had a non-historic repair or replacement done prior to the historic designation, then a similar repair or replacement is fine. The problem is when a tin roof needs replacing and the owners can only afford shingles the review board will tend to not approve the replacement. We had a very big case of just that in the past year. There is some quaking in fear and gnashing of teeth in my neighborhood because if I do decide to use leisure suit windows I want to be able to.

What bothers me the most about a historic designation here is the fear that our lovely community will disappear because people will no longer be able to afford living here. This is by no means a poor community but the reality is that historic houses require a certain affluence. Not everyone has the desire or the skill set to do the work themselves. Friends have been suggesting that I replace my windows as soon as possible before a review board gets set in place here.

Monday, August 27, 2007


I counted my windows today. The house has 41 windows, and that doesn't include the windows enclosing the front porch. Murphy says that if I have that many windows and the house is older the one thing the house will need is windows.

It's an interesting dillemma. I've been doing a lot of reading on the net, everything from house blogs to to real estate sites and home improvement sites. When I bought this house I was looking for a place to recover and nest and to make my own. I hadn't thought about renovations or preservation or historical accuracy or anything beyond moving in, taking care of the few things that needed fixing, and painting the walls pretty colors. I bought the house from a small local company that buys wrecked houses, renovates them, and then sells them (ideally) in a ready to move in state.

One would think that replacing windows would be fairly straight forward. I've seen some vinyl windows I like and that I can afford but now I'm wondering if perhaps I should try to restore the original windows that are still in the house. The sills are rotting in about three of my windows so I'm feeling a little pressure to do something.

A small part of the affinity I feel for this house is the fact that it's been abused. The previous owners lived hard lives and the signs can be found throughout the house. It's obvious that the windows have been broken multiple times, all of the original interior doors have been replaced, and I can see where the renovators replaced moldings and placed new pieces of wood in an attempt to match the old. I'm sure I'm over identifying with the house, at least in terms of my own current battle with cancer and the signs I can see in my own body from my treatments.

So, take the modern, easy way and use modern replacements? Or start what will probably be a never ending process of restoration? And how far does one take these things? I already have modern heating and air conditioning, a new modern kitchen that I like, and modern bathrooms. I have no desire to change those. My mother, who was a Depression Era baby, used to always laugh about how they couldn't wait to replace old furniture and household items with newer more modern things. In the 70s she couldn't wait to cover our beat up hard wood floors with wall to wall carpet. In the past few years she went back to her hard wood floors, but loved her updated vinyl windows. Her house was a 1959 square tract house so the windows looked good in it, but I wonder if 40 years from now someone will buy the house and want to go back to the old less efficient windows.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

New chapters

So many changes this year - a move to Va, my mother's passing away after battling breast cancer and other chronic illnesses for a number of years, and my own diagnosis with breast cancer three weeks after my mother's passage.

Then reason for this blog is the house I just bought. It's a 1920s four square in Roanoke, Va. Why would I take on an old house right in the middle of chemo? Because I wanted something to focus on besides being sick and it's really exciting to finally have my own place after 30 some years of renting. The house has "nice bones" but a spectacularly terrible cosmetic rehab. Fortunately the house is completely liveable and and renovations I need to do are cosmetic in nature.

Ok, except for the windows. There are a lot of them and they need replacing. Soon. I'm in the middle of weighing the pros and cons of replacement with modern windows vs restoring the old wood ones.