Thursday, August 26, 2010


Tidbit #1 - I put a load of laundry in the washer a few minutes ago. :)

Tidbit #2 - We have four new barn kittens:

From left to right are Harold, Walter, Maude and Ethel.

Tidbit #3 - I put the last coat of finish on the back bedroom's floor last Sunday:

Part of the plan for tonight is to put the final coat of paint on Cecilia's bedroom furniture so that she can (finally) move into her new room this weekend.

Tidbit #4 - Remember the Leaning House? Well, it's leaning more. I called my mom today and she mentioned that that she had gone back for another salvage trip, but she changed her mind when she got to the back door. Apparently the kitchen ceiling is now caving in and some of the cupboards have fallen off the wall. She didn't go in. "I do have some common sense, despite what you might think," she told me.

Tidbit #5 - I hung these on the wall in the office a few days ago:

I made them about six months before we sold our old house, but after spending the past sixteen months wrapped in newspaper in storage I had forgotten about them. It was a pleasant surprise to unwrap them and realize how perfectly they match the new wall color here at The Einsel House.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Spiders are Scary

I stumbled today upon the blog Hyperbole and a Half. And I found this:

Spiders are scary. That is a universal truth. I don't know why. I don't need to know why. All I know is that when this:

comes crawling across the floor at me, my brain interprets it like this:

That is a spider with a swastika and the words "I KILL YOU" carved into its flesh and it has knives and guns strapped to its legs. That's how scary spiders are.

Now - This is my laundry room:

It’s in the basement. Of a mid 1840’s house.

Built out of stone.

I made myself a rule the day we moved in. I don’t do any laundry after dark.

For over two months I followed this rule religiously.

But yesterday at 8:30 p.m. I realized that there were clean clothes sitting in the drier. I debated with myself briefly. Then I flipped on the basement light and headed down the stairs.

(More H & 1/2)
...Blind optimism and impulsivity often cause me to ignore logic and instead
make decisions based on a hopeful projection of what's going to happen next… In hindsight, there was absolutely no reason to believe that it would not happen.
But for some unknown reason, I ignored a lifetime's worth of cautionary evidence and pranced merrily onward into the unavoidable consequences…

I made it into the back room of the basement and had the drier door open before I saw it. Charles (who is well aware of my self-made “never after dark” rule) had heard the creak of the basement door opening and came to investigate. He reached the top of the stairs just as I hit the bottom step. “GET OUT OF MY WAY!” I screamed as I came at him, taking two steps with every bound.

Dutifully, he moved out of my way. As I stood there in the dining room, trembling and out of breath, he looked at me with exasperation and said, “Why did you do that?” Good question. Then, dutifully, he went down to the basement asking, “Okay, now where did you see it?”.

The spider (and I) lived through last night’s encounter. But since then Charles has (dutifully) emptied a container of this stuff on all of the basement walls and windows:

For now, I think we have enough clean laundry to get us through about four days.

(And if you haven't already, do head over to Hyperbole, it's quite entertaining stuff.)

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Making the Most of What We've Got

If I had to name something that I don't like about this house it would have to be the lack of storage. When we bought the house there were no closets on the 2nd floor. There is now a small closet carved out of a corner of our daughter's bedroom, but the two front bedrooms still have only the mid-nineteenth century version of a closet - a strip of wood with hooks on it hung 2/3 of the way up one wall.

My old childhood wardrobe is now in Neil's room and we bought a second wardrobe that is now serving as my closet, but that still left Charles with only the hooks on the wall.
At one point we were planning to have Charles take over the closet in the office downstairs, but then I noticed my mom in the bathroom one day, eyeing the two storage cubbies beside the bathtub. I could tell immediately that whatever she was planning would involve power tools and a lot of dust.

At left is a picture of these cubbies when we bought the house. The shelves to the right are filling an old window opening in one of the stone exterior walls. (It's the "shuttered" window pictured and explained in the second half of this post.) The two areas had a good amount of storage, but it was awkward and difficult to access.

Enter my mom and her power tools.

Mom's idea was to cut out the pillar between the shelves and the tall open cubby. She reasoned that this was safe to do because clearly home was originally built without a load bearing wall/pillar directly in front of a window. That, and there's basically nothing above this except the final few shallow inches of space along the roof behind the knee wall/book nook of the back bedroom.

So out came the pillar. The shelves are now fully accessible, and the formerly too-narrow closet beside them gained enough width to turn it into a useful area. Namely, to turn it into Charles's closet. The two clothes rods provide just enough space to hold his dress shirts and slacks, and the shelves are more than enough room for jeans, sweat shirts and the essential male-elementary-teacher-three-button-polo-shirts. He has a dresser up in our bedroom for the rest.

The access panel for the bathtub's plumbing is just to the left of Charles's pants. So someday down the road (hopefully far down the road!) there will be a plumber who will appreciate the alterations to this closet as well.

Friday, August 20, 2010

One Year Ago Today

One year ago today Charles and I and attended our first, and only, sheriff sale.

...There was only a pounding vacancy in my head. No words formed into thoughts, but it was a prayer anyway. At the podium she asked if there were any other bids...

As I sit here today I can recall the emotions of that day so clearly. The nervousness, the fear, the confusion - and ultimately the joy. But as I look back today there is an added emotion. It's not guilt exactly. And yet. There is sorrow in the knowledge that one person's joy can come only at the expense of another person's pain.

Somehow it's the same today as then. The words won't quite form into thoughts, but it is a prayer anyway.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Small Things

Yesterday I hung these plates on the wall in the kitchen. Now every time I walk by them I smile.

The bottom plate started the collection. I was two years into an MA program, with a week sorting through archives in the Pennsylvania capital just behind me. Now we were swinging south for the wedding of one of my cousins. The delicately flowered plate cost me $17 at an antique store in tiny Lucketts, Virginia, the too heavy stream of traffic on Route 15 outside the store a harbinger of the looming Northern Virginia sprawl ahead. With the plate carefully wrapped in paper, I tucked it into a briefcase in the van, gently cushioned between hundreds of pages of fragmentary notes and quotes about interracial marriage in colonial Pennsylvania. With the plate safely deposited we walked across the street to a park.

Neil was six months old.

And I was twenty-four.

My thesis was still eight months from completion.

The middle plate came from an antique outlet along Interstate 75 in the city where my husband was raised. My mother found the top plate in the attic of their home - a home that's been in my family for 70 years, purchased in 1940 by my great grandparents Neil & Leoda. My great grandmother died in 1965. My son's namesake survived her by 13 years, passing away two years before I was born. He was stolid and undemonstrative by all accounts, but the same subtle smile still comes to each of his grandchildren whenever conversation turns to memories of summers spent with Grandpa at "The Farm".

My own grandmother was 9 when her family moved to "The Farm". Years later the home of her earliest childhood was torn down. That home's last owner allowed my grandmother and her sister to walk through the house one last time before it was torn down. My grandmother left the house that last time carrying a doorknob as a souvenier. She offered that doorknob to me last fall, to find a new home at the Einsel House:

But lest anyone think all I've accomplished lately is small things like hanging a plate rack and installing a doorknob, before I close I'll include a few pictures of the "bigger" things that have been going on around here.

Back of the house, October 2009:
Back of the house, August, 2010:

The back bedroom, December 2009
(this is actually two months in, I don't even have a true "Before"):
The back bedroom, August, 2010:

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Working Weekend

As I worked on the house yesterday it occurred to me that there was a blessing in not closing on the EH until October. Namely, it was OCTOBER. As in, not July or August. We worked our tails off last fall, but at least we weren't doing it in 90+ degree weather.

But read that first paragraph again. Did you catch it? Not the "hind-sight is 20/20" revelation. Before that.

....I worked on the house yesterday...... (!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!)

As this blog shows, during the months of June and July I was completely lacking motivation to do any work on the house. Actually, that feels like an understatement. "Lacking motivation" sounds apathetic. The reality was during the months of June and July I loathed the idea of picking up a scraper, sand paper or paint brush. It was much nicer to come home after work, ignore the unfinished areas, the piles of tools and unpacked belongings and instead make real dinners for the family, fold (and put away!) laundry, read a chapter from Anne of Green Gables to the kids, and have an hour or so to myself each night.

But it's August now - and I've spent the last two Saturdays working on the house from sun-up to sun-down - and (I think I better whisper this)................I've been enjoying it again. :)

I snapped these pictures this morning. Last weekend I yanked all the weeds growing along the sidewalks in front of the house, but I left this morning glory that has grown up the old gate in front of the house:

Most of my attention last weekend and this has been focused on two windows on the back of the house. These are the last windows that needed to be scraped, repaired, primed and painted. At left is a picture of the window I worked on yesterday.

This window presented a couple of challenges. First we apparently have a hive of bees living in the stone wall between these two windows and the main entrance is between the wood window frame and the stone wall just below the upper right corner of this window. I managed to plug the hole with caulk saver and some caulk, but that didn't stop the bees from milling about, trying to get back into their home. Amazingly I did not get stung, but Charles (who mowed the lawn yesterday) had plenty of opportunity to laugh at my antics, scampering up and down from the window repeatedly throughout the day as the buzzing around me waxed and waned.

Which brings me to the second challenge presented by this window - getting away from any overzealous bee was not as simple as taking a few steps down a ladder. That's because this window is located over the Bilco basement walk-out door. After a few tries at leaning precariously over the Bilco door I rigged some makeshift scaffolding, namely a board between two ladders. Below is a picture of yours truly at work scraping. The window to my right (by the Little Giant ladder) was the focus of my attention last week.

As I write this morning the window is primed and caulked and waiting for paint, which is what is in the plans for after church today.

By the time I finished the sun was setting, and I took the camera with me on a walk around the pasture. Here's one last picture for this post. It's a familiar shot of the house, this time in the glow of a setting sun:

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Not so Wildlife

I took the camera upstairs a few days ago, intending to take pictures of the bedrooms to share here. But then Tiny the Cat jumped on the bed and I got a bit sidetracked...

Tiny came to us the fall after we were married, and she's been with us through nine years and five moves. I think it's safe to say she's settled in well here at the EH.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Back Inside

True to my word, here are those promised pictures of a lived-in Einsel House.

In the living room (with the daughter engrossed in "Annie")

To the dining room
(I swear this picture didn't seem crooked when I was taking it.)

And the office:

The chest of drawers in the middle was left by the previous owners. Eventually the plan is to refinish/repaint it and put on different hardware.

As you can see, the place is (at best) sparsely decorated, and the indoor lighting has been less than flattering in all my recent pictures. But things are coming together. I have a fully stocked kitchen, a functioning laundry room in the basement, and we even have one (but only one) door that actually has a doorknob back on it: