Monday, March 30, 2009

It's Here!

Last night I dreamed my William Morris wallpaper had arrived, and some friends came over to help me hang it. And before I could direct procedings, they did-- badly. The joints didn't butt up; they had gaps as big as 1/8" wide. Other places, the strips overlapped a half inch or more. Or strips were cut and put up in weird narrow widths, for no reason at all. I found myself taking great long pieces back down and having to trash them. I worried whether I'd purchased enough extra to come out with a decent job after all.

And throughout the dream, the paper that was being hung was the same pattern I just got rid of in my 1st and 2nd floor halls and stairway!

That dream was a relief to awaken from.

It was better than a relief, then, when around 8:30 this morning my dog's frantic barking heralded someone at the door. It was the FedEx man, come to deliver my William Morris wallpaper for real!

The WallpaperDirect people surely did a bang-up job of packing it. I had a dickens of a time even trying to find where the lids to the boxes were! The second carton, I used my knife and bypassed finding the flap altogether.

And the wallpaper?

Ooohh, it's pretty! No, there was no miracle-- the "Savernake" for the dining room didn't magically turn out to be more tan and less green. But the pale green it is, is very, very nice.

But, echoes of my dream, I was alarmed to see that the "Blackthorn" for the 1st and 2nd floor halls and stairway is a half-drop and not a straight match. I wasn't able to use the calculator on the website to figure out how much I needed, given the diagonal going up the stairs. Instead, I drew up AutoCAD elevations and figured out how many repeats were required, adding some on for good measure.
Oh, oh, oh, I hope I figured it right and ordered enough! By the time I'm ready to hang this paper, this particular dye lot will be long gone.

But begone, dull care! My William Morris wallpaper has arrived, and it's simply luverly!

Saturday, March 28, 2009

What Lies Below

Late this afternoon I took it into my head to take advantage of the fine weather and go out and mulch up some of the leaves on the vegetable garden beds.

Didn't take long to run the lawn mower over the ones on the quadrant closest to the house. It's supposed to rain tomorrow, and there might be wind, so it made sense to dig them into the soil right away.

Hmm. I do my math and each of those beds is around 50 square feet. Should have taken me forty-five minutes tops to fork the one over. Instead, thanks to opportunistic maple tree roots and other subterranean obstacles, it took more like two hours. Or more.

I suppose it only stands to reason that my biggest garden prep challenge each spring should be dealing with the tree roots fingering their way into the vegetable beds. After all, that's where the food and water are.

All right, fine, O trees. Do what you will during the summer, but if I find you past the cobblestone path when I'm digging the garden in March or April, you're getting your rooty fingers smacked. Or clipped, actually.

I tend to forget the tree roots. Silly of me; I have to deal with them every year. What I shouldn't have had to expect is this:
No, that's not a sunken tombstone. It's half a concrete paver that matches a lot of other concrete pavers I found in this part of the yard when I was first prepping the vegetable garden five years ago. What I don't understand is why I didn't find it before. Hey, haven't I been forking the soil here over every year?

Or maybe not. Maybe the volunteer lettuce last year and the biannual Brussels sprouts a year or two before that kept the fork out of this part of the garden.

Well, the paver's out now, and that has to be an improvement.

And this bed is forked, and some further leaf mulching was completed on the one opposite it.

It'd be jolly to get all four beds done soon. Maybe this year I'll be in time to plant some peas.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Wallpaper Update

I just now received a call from FedEx, to expedite the import of my William Morris wallpaper.

Agent wanted to know what it was made of (paper!), how big each roll was (.53m x 10m or 10.5m), and for me to verify how many rolls the order was for (21!). And whether I had imported anything before. Yes, the drapery fabric from last year, but nobody called me about that before it came. "But that was for my own use. So is this."

"The wallpaper is for personal use?"


Very good, and she gave me the tracking number.

I did not have the courage to ask whether there would be any US Customs charges. Hopefully not, since I'm not going to resell it.

The agent told me the shipment hasn't reached the States yet. But it's on it's way!

And oh, I hope the colors of the current batches are clear and good!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

What's Next?

Finished stripping the last of the beige-on-beige damask-pattern wallpaper from my first floor hall today, hooray!

So what do I do next?

Go back to stripping the woodwork on the stairrail parts?

Assay the Big Wally's plaster repair kit I received the other day and put my sagging 2nd floor hall ceiling back where it belongs?

Document the structure of my 1st floor hallway floor, to get an opinion on whether I can safely lay down ceramic tile?

Go out in the yard and clean out more flowerbeds?

So many fun things to do!

I think I'll sleep on it and decide in the morning. It'll be a welcome relief from dreaming about how I really need to scrub the paste residue off a half-stripped teal-blue wall . . .

Sunday, March 22, 2009

For a Change

I've been stripping wallpaper in my 1st and 2nd floor halls and stairway the past couple of weeks, and today I was tired of it. So for a change I headed out back to take care of some long-delayed garden maintenance.

I really would save myself a lot of trouble by not being so bloody green and instead put my fallen leaves out at the curb like everybody else. But noooooo, I've got to mulch them up and use them on my vegetable garden!

Somehow, though, it's never a good time in the autumn to get the mulching done. I figured out last year that the lawn mower, set really low, is the best tool for the job. But having no place but the yard to spread out the leaves, I can't use it for mulching until the grass goes dormant. And by late November, which is about when it does around here, it's too cold or too wet or too snow-covered or just plain too dark to do anything about it.

So the leaves get piled in the borders or on the stripped-out garden beds to wait for early spring.

Which really should have meant two weeks ago, if I was worried about the grass being dormant. Because despite our night-time temperatures' repeated plunges into the mid-20s, the grass is nevertheless starting to grow.

Time for lawnmower mulching action! Got the west border cleared of leaves; at least, the part of it not encumbered with my mouldly woodpile and the compost tumbler and so on. I'm not sure about the effect on the grass; I tried to rake up and bag as much of the leaf fragments as I could, but I may have done my turf irreparable violence.

Alternatively, I've enriched the soil and strengthened my grass by putting back some of what the maple trees took away. Your choice.
The charming thing about doing this job this evening is that I couldn't let guilt or ambition drive me to go nutty on it. I could work only while the light lasted and until I ran down both my lawnmower batteries. And that wasn't unendurably long, seeing that they've been down the basement discharging all winter.

Good thing to have the limitations. Because there was yet some daylight left when the batteries both died and if the mower had kept going, so would've I. And my body hurts enough as it is. If I thought I was "tired" of stripping wallpaper, now I really am tired. Period.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Into the Abyss!!

I finally bit the bullet and did it this afternoon. I went online and put in my William Morris wallpaper order.

5 rolls of "Blackthorn"/1 for the stairhall . . .

. . . 8 rolls of "Owen Jones"/7 for the living room . . .

. . . and 8 rolls of "Savernake"/5 for the dining room.

My agony and temporizing has been over the "Savernake." When I first moved into the Sow's Ear in September '03 I ordered a sample and it was a nice pale sand color. I've had it propped up on my dining room dresser ever since. But the latest samples have a definite pale celery cast. Meaning, green. Wasn't sure I wanted a greenish dining room, even if it goes very well with the Morris "Strawberry Thief" drapery fabric I bought on eBay a year ago last June.

There was one more possible colorway of "Savernake" I hadn't yet seen, and I was hoping it would come up a nice cream color. (Hey, the computer images are never accurate, right?). It arrived today, and . . . No go. It was red brown. Too much with that red "Owen Jones" in the next room.

I'm still not 100% keen on the celery tone for the dining room. But I've faced the reality that I could wait the next five and a half years and that "Savernake"/5 will likely never, ever, ever revert to the pale sand color it was in September 2003. And with the economy the way it is, by that time the Morris Company may not still be in business or the prices will be totally out of reach.

So I'm sucking it up and going with the celery green. It had good reviews from random fellow-choristers at choir practice a few weeks ago, and as I said, it goes well with the curtain fabric. And I love, love, love the pattern.

I ended up ordering not from Sanderson's Fabrics in Yorkshire, but from Wallpaper Direct in Sussex (who sent me my first samples in 2003). Actually went on both sites and filled out order forms on both to compare current bottom lines. Spent an absurd amount of time juggling differences in prices, in volume discounts offered vs. none at all, in VAT (Value Added Tax) included in the named price or not, in freight charges, etc., etc. In the end, the totals were so close as to make no great difference. Actually, Sanderson's was the less expensive.

But Sanderson's Fabrics have annoyed me with their inability to send samples despite repeated phone calls, while you can practically set your watch by Wallpaper Direct's sample posting service.

So the order is now in. Before the utter ruin of all things, before I am overwhelmed by the scope of what I'm trying to accomplish in this house, it will be decked with William Morris wallpaper.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Why I Bought the Ladder

Exactly a year ago I purchased a decidedly not-cheap Little Giant 22' adjustable aluminum ladder at the Pixburgh home show.

Today I fulfilled my purpose in buying it. Unless I learned to levitate, or sprouted wings like a bird that could wield a squirt bottle and a scraper, the adjustable ladder was really the most straightforward way for me to get the wallpaper off the walls of my stairhall.

I do wish I were strong enough to lift and manipulate the 27' model. A foot or two more of height would have come in handy. But I managed with the one I have . . . it took a little creativity, not to mention some mountain-climbing practice, to get the last five or six inches of wallpaper at the top of the wall opposite the 2nd floor landing. I won't go into detail, as neither I nor the Little Giant people would be willing to take responsibility if anyone should follow my Bad Example. But it worked.

I uncovered a greeting, of sorts, from my PO-1, or maybe from one of her kids. Too bad; it'll be forever obscured once I prime this wall. But maybe I'll think of something interesting to leave behind the new paper I'm hanging.

Though it'll never be seen, since the paper I'm planning to put up is so wonderful no one will ever take it down and it'll stay up forever and ever, amen.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Whut uh Purdy Culler!!

I've got the beige wallpaper off the walls of my 2nd floor hall, and I thought I'd share the beauteousness I'm going to be living with until they get repainted and repapered.

Ain't that a delightful color?

Believe it or not, I'm serious. I rather like that teal. I've always fancied having a living room or study done in that color, if I didn't do it in a rich red. I think I can deal with it quite nicely until the happy day when I can get the new paint and paper done. It's understandable how after a few years my PO-2 would have decided that deep green-blue and walnut-stained woodwork were too dark and go for paint and layer after layer of light wallpaper. But for a few weeks or even months, the teal is Quite All Right. It has Style and Class. Even with the scratch marks from the paper removal process.

Besides, the base color could have been fluorescent orange or acid green. All due respect to those who are keen on those tones, but they are not for me.

The teal paint is on the 1st floor hall walls, too. Ask me if I still like it when it's revealed in all its glory on two floors.

N'importe maintenant. Here's some before and afters of this afternoon's work:

I'm done with paper stripping for today. I have a choir concert to sing in this evening, and I'd rather not be squeezing by the ladder on the stairs while wearing my long black choir dress!

Thursday, March 12, 2009


About an hour and a half ago I was out in the alley, taking my dog to do his evening business.

While he was at it, I thought I'd wander over and see what was in the dumpster being filled up by the new owners across the way.

I took a keek and well, well, whaddya know! Bricks in the dumpster! A lot of them nice, whole, mortar-free bricks, too--must've missed them when the previous owner of the property let me haul off his brick pile last August. (Hidden in the leaf litter under the late lamented bushes, were they?)

And these fine, decorative-landscape-border-appropriate bricks were lying right at the edge of the dumpster, where even a shorty like me could reach them.

Hm. The previous owner said I could have all I wanted. And the new owners obviously don't want them . . .

So I did some impromptu, um, recycling. Four bricks at a time, carrying them into my yard and adding them to my pretty pile (I didn't have quite the nerve to load up my garden cart). I lost strict count at four dozen, but I'm pretty sure the final tally was a half-gross or more added on.

There are more bricks in there I might possibly be able to reach without falling in. But it was getting late, my animals needed fed, and even now I have wetted-down wallpaper waiting to be stripped in my 2nd floor hall.

But I am feeling ever so clever this evening! Don't know if I now have enough bricks to line both borders in my back garden, but I'm further on my way towards it.

Thanks to a little initiative and enterprise.


Nosy Neighbor Update

The nosy neighbor being me, of course.

Here's the latest view of the current condition of the back yard of the house across the alley:

Trees, fence, the forsythia and spirea I so helpfully pruned and maybe overpruned for the outgoing residents last summer; the roses that grew along the other side of the garage; driveway paving, the rest of the old loose bricks I probably should've salvaged even though they still had mortar on them; grass and weeds and topsoil, too-- all gone.


How much you want to bet that house has gone commercial like most of the rest of the houses on the other side of the block? And any day now the concrete trucks will show up and pour them a nice parking lot?

Only question remaining is, what kind of business? And how will it and its traffic affect me and my property?

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Yes, I Know

. . . I should oughta post something.

My computer's been back and reconnected since last Friday, so that's no longer an excuse. But can I plead that I got so used to actually getting things done while it was away that I'm loath to go back back to spending much time on it?

Uh, guess not. Spent practically all night a couple times since then on-line dealing with stuff I Really Hadta Take Care Of.

Call my failure to update Overload Procrastination. Too darn much to write about. Such as:

  • Progress on the wood trim stripping to the point where I've finished everything in Stage One but the stair rail parts, the hall bench, and the casing around the doorway between the stairhall and the kitchen. This included having to remove and majorly patch the casing of my bedroom doorway, ineptly reinstalled during a 1980s remodelling job . . .

  • Getting over my queasiness over possible irreparable damage and starting to knock out the fillet stops holding in the stair balusters, so I can begin to strip them . . .

  • Realizing I need to strip the wallpaper over the stairrail before I start on its woodwork, so beginning the wallpaper removal in earnest . . .

  • Juggling and mistiming price increases and samples on the William Morris wallpapers I want, to the point that I've come out $160 on the wrong side of the equation and have to consider whether I'm going to get these papers or not . . .

  • Being offered and procuring a 1985 copy of my house lot survey from my PO-1's land surveyor, who's closing his practice, and what I learned from him when I picked it up . . .

  • Deciding I have to strip both sets of stairs and the 2nd floor hall floor before I can refinish and reinstall the stripped door and window trim, and making a start at that as I do the stair stringers . . .

  • Making a start-- sort of-- at finishing the drywall patches left over from the mid-February plumbing work . . .

  • Realizing I have to secure the cracked and sagging ceiling plaster in my 2nd floor hall and over the 3rd floor stairs before I can strip the steps and the hall floor, and so finally getting around (yesterday) to putting in an order for Big Wally's Plaster Magic . . .

  • Meeting with about a million masonry contractors to see if I can get an affordable price for replacing my scat-to-scumbaw front sidewalk steps, and researching on whether I can do it myself . . .

  • Going to the Pittsburgh Home and Garden Show this past weekend (courtesy of Elaine V. at Bless This DIY Mess-- Thank you ever so much!!) and buying a cool tile scorer/cutter so I can break the tile I want in my first floor hall . . .

  • Consequently looking up information on the substrate I need in order to support said proposed first floor hall tile, and finding out that my joist spacing (not to mention the cold air return plenum) may forbid my installing tile at all, without I put in a lot of supplementary joists . . .

  • Keeping an eye on the bulbs and shrubs breaking dormancy in my garden, and feeling uneasy because I need to grind up last Fall's leaves that are presently parked on the beds and prep the beds for planting . . .

  • Oh, yeah, and being nosy about what my new neighbors across the alley are up to, as they've had heavy equipment in totally uprooting and digging out the back yard.

  • So I have a truckload load of post subjects to catch up on.

    But now I have to go downstairs and strip wallpaper. A couple weeks ago someone I heard on the radio pointed out that until one has paid off the mortgage, one's house actually belongs to the mortgage holder. This being two banks, in my case. So as I hope I may term myself an honest and honorable person, I need to get busy restoring the value of my dear friends' the banks' property and make the intended silk purse out of this Sow's Ear.