Monday, May 19, 2014

Romancing the House

Some hard work...inside

It took one day to get all the blasted boxes into the house but many more to settle in. When grime was wiped away (off the house and me!) I faced making this house my home.

First Task: House Guts

I love my tractor
I knew the house had its issues. When I turned 30 my back went out, so why not this house, especially if it never seemed to have taken very good care of itself. So I had some inkling that stuff needed fixing. How bad? Hmmm, let me put it this way, my carpenter now enters the house announcing "Honey I'm home" and brings me vegetables from his garden.

The short list of things that needed doing immediately: new electric panel (the old one had melted), new furnace, new neutralizer (yes, I have a well now), all new faucets and shower heads, new water heater, gutters and facia board, exterior window sills, deck work, mold remediation and insulation. And a few dozen other smaller tasks.

I bought a tractor to handle the acre of lawn on my nearly two acre lot and started to clear the weeds, fallen limbs, dead trees, poison ivy and carpenter ants.

Second task: Studio

After: Studio with floor
cloth awaiting final
Before: Yellow walls,
woodwork primed,
carpet pulled up.
Determined to minimize down time creativity-wise, I set to putting my studio in order. Carpet had to go. The yellow walls had to go. Lighting needed to be installed.

I painted the walls, painted the floors to make plywood boards look like porch decking and painted shelving to match my other furniture. It was a paint fest for a room in which, hopefully, the painting would never end!

I also experimented with making a canvas floor cloth. Popular in colonial America, I thought it would be appropriate to my new home state and practical for my studio. I am so happy with the result I've pulled the carpet up off the stairs to make a black striped one to cascade down. Not sure when I'll get to it but it's on the list.

Third task: Guest Room

With my most excellent girlfriend, Tree, due to visit that summer, the guest room was second on the list. I was determined to make her room the happiest place on Main Street (Norfolk, that is).

Not sure what possessed me but I really wanted a funky wallpaper. After picking myself up off the floor from the wallpaper sticker shock, I thought why do I need any stinking wallpaper, I'll find a stencil! Etsy to the rescue.

I cursed like a sailor making it happen. It was 90° with 90% humidity for the two weeks it took to finish and I nearly expired in the process but I love, love, love the result. The guys installing insulation in the attic and the carpenter even liked it.  It really is a happy room.

Fourth, fifth...sixtieth tasks: 

Laundry now a slightly
less dreaded task
And then there was a new grand baby boy born in September, sweet William; a visit to California and Oregon, a half cord wood to stack; living room and study painted; family and friends visits; Christmas; snow, cold, snow, cold and more cold and more snow; three art exhibits; ten new paintings; and more.

My last projects were to paint the little den upstairs, spuzz up the laundry alcove and to try and make the guest bath look like I'd spent thousands of dollars on a major upgrade. The laundry room is now less of a drudge. It used to be a dreary beige.

New light fixtures, a snazzy new color, and a (fake)
marble countertop really transformed this bathroom
But the bathroom turned out better than I'd hoped. In addition to giving it a fresh coat of flannel gray paint I desperately needed to improve the rather drab Formica countertop. Ever the optimist, I thought I'll make it look like marble.

Hint: Rustoleum makes a marvelous product that sticks like super glue to the laminate! It stinks to high heaven but it works. To that I added coat after coat of paint and polyurethane and finished with a silky coat of car wax to mimic the smooth finish of polished marble. If I do say so myself, it's stunning. Now I want to marbleize everything!

And now for something completely different...

I'm going to hang up the scrapers and sandpaper for now. There is still plenty to do, but I'm planning to focus on what really feeds my soul: painting (like paintings). Today I launched my Lissa Banks Paintings Facebook page, like it, share it, tell your friends, I want to sell some paintings!

That and working in my garden, mowing the lawn, picking cucumber beetles off the plants and chasing the neighbor cat out of the yard.

Sunday morning I woke to find a horse in the back yard, grazing on my grass and switching his tail. It reminded me of why I love living here. I'm close to the things I love: one of my children, grandchildren, nature, my life work.

A little over a year ago I traded a paycheck for something you couldn't pay me to give up: love, serenity, clean air and the satisfaction of knowing that whatever my future, it's my own to make.

Next: Thoughts on painting

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

It's Been a Long Time...

Where Was I?

dramatic skies
Oh yeah, some eight months ago I left you all hanging. My apologies, now back to our intrepid travelers...

We'd spent a night in the Poconos and were about to embark on the final leg of our journey. Breathing in the cool mountain air we packed up the car, and Boo, for the last time. Pennsylvania was endless.

New York flew by in a flash, literally, we floated through during a thunderstorm and we even touched tires to New Jersey, briefly, before entering Connecticut.

Taking the Road Less Traveled

I'd made the executive (and most excellent) decision to get off the beaten path once we'd passed Hartford and found a dotted route on the old fashioned paper map that indicated a scenic route. It didn't disappoint. We passed farms and villages that belonged on picture postcards. Covered bridges and apple orchards in full bloom.

the ladies
Signs for fresh produce beckoned, after all, an empty refrigerator was greeting us at the other end of our day. One stand was "manned" by a rather large, sleeping black lab. We dutifully paid our $4 and scored a fat wad of chunky purple asparagus. At another, happy hens clucked a welcome as we made our solitary purchase and traveled on.

For lunch we stopped at a diner, not realizing where we are. It was Newtown CT. Pictures of shared grief from around the world decorated the walls of the restaurant. The gas station next door had a handmade sign as we entered that read, "We Choose Love." Words born of an unthinkable aftermath.

We wound further north through Rhode Island (Mike thought the name Woonsocket was hilarious) and finally into Massachusetts. Suddenly the past seven days seemed to have passed in the blink of an eye. We were here.

New Beginnings

a blank canvas, and lots of weeds
After picking up the key at my son's house, we drove over to my new home, just a little over a mile away. Pulling into the drive, we stopped the car to take a first sighting photograph. Like the emerging spring it stood there looking a bit damp and chilly but full of promise.

Since I'd left Pasadena I had tried hard to keep the future, and not the past, in my sights. Now it was a reality. There was much to do. Tons to clean, measuring to do, layouts to verify before the movers arrived with the rest of my life, a refrigerator, and a home, to fill with more than just asparagus and eggs. A new life to lead, memories to make.

Next... romancing the house.