My April felt like a sandwich. The first week and the last days of the month were sliced treats of delicious, hand crafted sourdough bread filled by almost three weeks of a slimy, slightly off-tasting, maybe even salmonella contaminated filling.
Week 1 – A Tennessee trip and time spent with family, flowering trees in full bloom, and a mountaintop wedding. For a flavor of that week, check my two April blog posts highlighting wedding presents and travel souvenirs.
The last days of April – A whirlwind of warp speed activities as the church building team performed due diligence exploring zoning and building codes, attaining soil boring reports, performing environmental testing and, peculiar to our southeastern corner of Minnesota, conducting Dakota Edge delineation. When we submitted our Letter of Intent to Purchase land for a new church, we proposed a 90-day timeline for all of this work. After back-and-forth negotiations, the seller accepted our financial offer but would allow only four weeks for study. Unbelievably, the myriad of required professionals were able to find time in busy schedules to accomplish the numerous inspections of the property including all the relevant tests. The stars aligned and not just “in a galaxy far, far away…”
The middle of my month is a sea of days lost to Covid. After three years of careful sequestration, masks, and practical activities (as well as not so practical actions like wiping groceries) Richard and I were both sick. Even after the specific symptoms– fever, congestion, cough, and tiredness – subsided, I felt my brain was Covid-addled to the point I worried I might adversely affect building team decisions. But, not to fear, my trusted colleagues persevered and double checked my work so that we close on this unique parcel of nearly 40 wooded acres on May 10.
When Richard began playing Mahjong in 2015 he invited me to join him but, as I was still two years from retirement, learning the game landed on a future to-do list. Even during Covid, when many were learning new skills, from baking sourdough bread to mixology, the game did not pique my interest.
I am clueless as to what inspired me during this year’s 12 Days of Christmas but the time was right. As a skilled player, Richard patiently introduced me to the unfamiliar imagery of the Chinese characters and symbols printed on the 144 tiles. Some people claim Mahjong is like Rummy or Solitaire only with tiles. I disagree. Unlike Rummy, where a winning hand is a winning hand whether today or five decades ago when, one semester, I played cards in the Blugold Room on the UW-EC campus until my GPA dropped, winning hands are determined by the National Mah Jong League and change annually.
After several weeks practicing at home and observing the Tuesday group play at church, I joined actual play, won a game and shouted – Mahjong!
Years ago, after my parents had purchased a new portable color-TV, Dad decided he would put the still working black-n-white on the curb. Being Dad, he first made a wooden sign with a white painted background and large block letters spelling, FREE. With the giveaway item and his new sign deposited at the end of the driveway, we sat down for dinner on the screened porch. Within four minutes, we heard a car stop and then drive away, leaving only the sign which, 50+ years later, Mom still uses sometimes.
This morning’s 7am curbside giveaway lasted a tad longer … all of 13 minutes. I bought my “brodhead” rocker with going-away money gifted from my fellow teachers as I moved from being a school librarian in Brodhead, Wisconsin to my first post-MLS1 public library position in Columbus, Georgia. This 1979 purchase was inspired by an Oval Office picture of John F. Kennedy sitting in his Bentwood rocker.
This chair has gone from Wisconsin, to Georgia, to Illinois and, finally, to Minnesota. It is well traveled and well used – but we are ready for a change. With our new red-birch living room floor beautifully installed we are also replacing some of the furniture. We have a Stressless™ leather recliner on order and so I bid adieu to my “brodhead” rocker.
1 University of Wisconsin – Madison, Masters of Library Science
As our renovation project nears completion, we have painters and plasterers working in all but one first floor room. The two rooms (bathroom and upstairs bedroom) which are not getting painted are temporarily storing a large portion of the moved furniture and the safely tucked away art creating a sense of chaos throughout the house. Then, add to this disarray a semantical difference between our expectations and the language of the price quote/work order and this has become the most challenging part of a project that began in May. Through discussion and an upward movement of the price, all has been resolved and the windows, walls and the base board skirting the new red birch floor will look fresh.
The exterior work was completed yesterday. While we still have a white house, Forrest Green has replaced all of the three+ decades of Billybong Blue on the doors and windows, giving us a color combo very reminiscent of my Grandmother’s Vine Street house. The screened back porch (our favorite summer space) sports a white clean-up coat and with today’s gentle breeze and the wind chimes ringing, it has become our hideout from the plaster dust and paint fumes.
As the floor crew removed the scarred maple in prep for the new red birch floor, the smells were reminiscent of time spent in Dad’s workshop helping to steady boards as they passed through the table saw and from an even earlier time when he hand-sawed wood in the garage while I dulled a drill-bit. It was a favorite pastime, sitting on the garage floor, concentrating on a block of wood and carefully turning, turning, turning the crank of the hand drill through a board. He kept one bit just for me as I was imprecise in judging my stopping point and the concrete never budged.
So, too, the renovation sounds evoked memories, although less than melodic, as crowbars wrenched wood and pulled nails screeched. Previously, Richard and I performed the hours and hours of kitchen and bathroom demolition (1987). This time – older, wiser, and financial solvent – we are paying someone to do the dirty work of removing the old and much abused living room flooring that hid for decades under carpet. This week’s old house discoveries included:
An entire section of the original subfloor was never nailed to the floor joists
Maple flooring poorly patched with mystery wood when heat ducts and cold air returns were moved or replaced over time
Bowed living room walls – We have known for years that the wall between the dining room and the living room was out-of-square by nearly two inches which is why, in 1987, the dining room parquet was laid at an angle but now we know that that east and west living room walls are not straight
Electrical wiring tucked under the baseboard on what had once been a front porch as it was quicker than drilling a hole where the electrical outlet was actually located.
All relatively easy fixes or work-a-rounds, although the surprising and definitely not to code location of the electrical wire in the sunroom was discovered when nicked by a power saw which required adding a junction box and new wiring.
Oh the joys of 21st century renovations in a house built in 1925 and moved in 1927! But the new red birch hardwood floor will be beautiful.
There are times when layers are fun – chocolate cake with ganache filling – and then again when layers prove tedious – decades of paint needing to be removed.
Having received a text alerting us that our new energy efficient replacement windows might arrive in late June rather than mid-August, Richard began the arduous, time consuming task of stripping the trim from around the five large double-hung windows in our sunroom (more aptly dubbed the cloud room as it faces north.) Neither of us can remember why these windows were not stripped with all the others during our 1980s renovations. It may be that we simply got tired and thus opted to skip that important step; applied our choice of color and left the layers of old-people beige, harvest gold and sickly green which eventually checked that newer coat of paint. After stripping so much trim work we should not be surprised when the removal of eight layers of paint reveals subtle wood details but we always are. Now to start fresh with Sherwin Williams Magic Night 1201.
For 18 years (and then another 62) we celebrated our birthdays together. Me on May 7 and Grandma on May 8. Some years, like this one, Mother’s Day is also in the mix. Twenty years ago, May 2 became our very own Gotcha Day and thus, with this celebratory triumvirate, John Lac and I continue the long tradition of angel food cake with pink buttercream frosting.
Being part of that generation that took up the mantra to never trust anyone over 30 I had trouble in the weeks leading up to that birthday but Richard (already in his fourth decade) smoothed the rough edges for me. Fifty was fun and 60 even better as I knew retirement was close and within a year I developed a detailed four-year plan outlining major tasks to be accomplished before May 2017. But 70 is being a bit of a mental challenge as I keep wondering how I suddenly got so old. I may just need more pink frosting.
Our house was built in 1925 and moved in ‘27. We are only the second family to live here. In the 1980s, as first time home owners, we undertook a myriad of refurbishing projects. Our after work evenings and nearly every weekend were filled with stripping layers and layers of paint from wood trim or removing layers and layers of nicotine infused wallpaper, so saturated that when dampened the room smelled like an old tavern. For a few years, we tolerated ugly orange shag carpet in the former front bedroom, now our TV room, and then put in hours of scraping the black foam backing that had been glued to the maple hardwood floor. (Who glues down carpet, anyway?!?) For years, the re-telling of that year’s remodeling tasks was the biggest story in our Christmas letter. And then the house was finally ours and we were content for two decades. In 2008, we added the screened porch that is our favorite summertime room, a new garage was built in 2012 and a rain garden replaced the old narrow driveway, and our favorite builder performed a major bathroom facelift just as I was retiring in 2017.
Now, after so many quarantine days, we have decided 2022 will be a year of home projects as we replace the last of the single pane, double hung windows, remove the carpet and lay new hardwood floor in the living room, and re-finish the dining room and kitchen parquet. Unlike the 1987 remodeling when a construction manager organized the sub-contractors, these projects feel sufficiently discrete that we will coordinate the work ourselves. Although, as I continue to wait for a call back from the asbestos abatement expert, (damn that 7 foot x 10 foot section of porch linoleum under the living room carpet!) I am beginning to wonder at the sanity of this decision. I hope these blog posts will help keep me sane.
This time with a nudge from Clare at Clare’s Cosmos, here’s the last photo on my iPhone for this month’s “Last on the Card” challenge from Bushboy Brian without edits. And, just because I am the boss of my blog, a second snap two days later. #The Last Photo
As Saharan dust swirls in the atmosphere, European skies look like a special effects canopy created for a sci-fi movie. Gone are the normal pristine vistas. The Swiss Center of North America recently shared this surreal photo of the Stádtkirche steeples and the Facebook post – “Saharastaub over Glarus this morning. Last seen in early February of last year, a rare weather occurrence has carried dust from the Sahara desert across parts of Europe.” I’ve added a comparison shot on a clear day and what I remember from my visits to this Swiss town.