Tuesday, July 20, 2021

Ten Years Here

(I never pubished this post and now it's been 16 years since I moved in. Unbelievable.)

I can't believe it. I was thinking about what the previous owner would say about the changes if he saw the place. He died almost three years later, at 54.

It was a Tuesday, unbearably hot and humid. My sister was off from school and my brother was unemployed so they helped me move. My mother came by later; my father was terminally ill. He died six days later. In fact I think the reason I got it in my head to look for a house was to distract myself from his suffering.

It was nearly the height of the last housing bubble, a definite seller's market. I didn't want to buy a house at the top of my price range, so eligible houses were few and far between. As soon as a house became available, it was gone. This was the era of flipping houses, and I was looking for a pre-1960, preferably 18th or 19th century, fixer upper. There was the 1700's house on a busy street where I, a petite person, could touch the ceiling on the first floor with my index finger, and on the second floor with my palm. My favorite niece would not fit in there! 

And the cute Carpenter Gothic house in a former mill town on a quiet street, kitty-corner from a church. It needed a new furnace and was snatched up before it even hit the MLS. Then a roomy Victorian farmhouse with a good-sized yard and garage, plus a kitchen even more dysfunctional than my current one. That one also went quickly. There also was a bungalow on a quiet street next to a farm. It was nice but I didn't know how I would get my furniture up the stairs. Then there was a house made of concrete blocks, pretty much gutted inside. It was a beautiful area with a stream out back, amidst cottages near a big lake, but it had a very long driveway and was at least 45 minutes away from my work.

Then I got discouraged and gave up. Somehow I heard about isoldmyhouse.com and saw this house. It was rather plain, and on a street with a BIG hill. But as soon as I looked around inside I just knew, you know? It felt like home. I really liked the kitchen, which turned out to be very difficult to cook in. It seemed big (1568 square feet) compared to the 625 square foot condo I had lived in for 16 1/2 years. The yard was manageable. It came with a shed, washer, gas dryer, dishwasher, gas cooktop, gas oven, and a fairly new roof.

I love furniture and it's telling that I could almost furnish the whole house with what I had. Yes, my condo was jammed with stuff! I had a plan for my vernacular Gothic Revival workingman's cottage. It would be cottage style.

The first year I just cleaned the whole place, except closets and the ceilings. It smelled of smoke so bad I couldn't stand it anymore. My sister had cleaned the carpets before I had settled in, but I finally ripped them up (the living room, dining room and two bedrooms). The smell improved. I remember trying to get the nicotine stains off of the double arch in the parlor. I used so many different cleaning products; I would see streaks of yellowish brown until the end of summer. The other problem was the windows. The previous owner had put a block of wood in the frame of one of the living room windows so it could only be raised a couple of inches or so. In the kitchen one of the windows had been caulked shut and the other one I couldn't open very high. It took all summer for me to work on the kitchen windows so they would open. Opening all the windows all summer long helped remove the stink. Thankfully that summer I think we only got a couple days of rain.

The first year I entertained a lot. It was fun to have a separate dining room and plenty of room. The PO told me he had removed many doors. Apparently there was a door to the living room, to the dining room, from the dining room to the kitchen, and from the dining room to the office. I found one of these doors in the shed. It's like all the other interior doors. I'm planning on using it for the second floor bathroom (if I ever get the funds to do that). A doorway had been cut into the parlor from the office. So my little nephew said he liked my house because you could walk all around in a circle downstairs, through all these openings.

That September we got storm after storm, causing my basement to become wet. Not a lot of puddles, but it got wet after every storm and during the winter during thaws. It came in mainly through the coal bin, and I could never figure out what to do because above it is the front porch. My contractor immediately figured out that I needed fill. He put down several inches and it hasn't been wet there since.

That first winter, after a January thaw, raw sewage started backing up into my basement utility sink. I didn't know what to do, other than bail and throw it out the back (the basement is a walk-out). My brother-in-law suggested I call the Town. Someone came out and told me there was blockage on my end,  not theirs. I asked him what am I supposed to do, just keep bailing all night? He took pity on me being alone, and flushed out the street valve, which helped enough for me to stop bailing. That March I had a company remove the old-fashioned elbow connector for a straight one, which has helped somewhat. I believe it cost over $2000, but they told me I have to have the street torn up due to tree roots around the y-connector. That'll be several more thousand so I keep stalling it off. I still get a little backup but it's manageable, while still being disgusting. With the previous overflow I dragged the rug that was done there and cleaned it on the deck.

So after ten years I have removed the asbestos siding and painted the clapboards and obtained a new kitchen. I continue to work on each room as I change all the paint colors that are reminiscent of a cottage in New Orleans or Florida but totally inappropriate for a Victorian workingman's cottage in a mill town in northeast Connecticut. As I do I paint the ceilings, closets and trim.


I used to be really, really country back in the '90s. A red, white and blue living room, with stencils. A red, white and black kitchen, with a checkerboard stencil. A stencil in the bathroom consisting of hydrangeas in pots. A chair rail in the bedroom, with soft pink, cream and green wallpaper above it. I think it became popular leading up to the bicentennial, and stayed quite a while. Remember dusty rose, colonial blue, sage greens? 

Growing up decor was exclusively "colonial." My father loved history and always wanted to buy a 1700s (or earlier) fixer-upper colonial. He was an antiques dealer so we had a spinning wheel in the living room as well as other antiques. My mother braided rugs and "antiqued" furniture. Remember that fad? 

It had been my dream to buy a fixer upper but somewhere along the way I switched to Victorian. Maybe it was the very low ceilings or lack of hallways so bedrooms had two doors. And absolutely no privacy. That didn't seem like a place I wanted to call home. 

But I could never really get into Victorian decor. My style is classic, simple, pretty but wholesome, not frou-frou. The house I ended up buying is a very simple Victorian workingman's cottage. It has the typical two front doors, a double parlor and small rooms. High ceilings (on the first floor; the second floor is normal height), wavy glass windows (some). The ceilings used to be about a foot higher. If I were really ambitious I would remove the lower sheetrock ceilings. The only embellishments are on the porch trim. I've been thinking of adding some decoration in the front gable to break up the plain, boxiness.
High ceilings.

Trim on porch.

Boxy house.

Wednesday, June 30, 2021


Bonica (soft pink) did very well. Dr. Huey (rose-red) hasn’t bloomed in a few years. Lady Elsie May (coral-pink) is not as floriferous as usual but is still an exceptional rose.  

Sunday, September 20, 2020

My House

I love my house so much that my family says "my house" in hushed, sacred tones when I start talking about it.  I loved the kitchen and I think that's what sold me on it. That and the fact that the neighborhood was so quiet, with few houses. I loved the three-foot by five-foot windows. There was so much light! There's even a Dutch door in the kitchen. I was used to living in a condominium that felt like a cave; it got so little light. For an old house it was surprisingly open-feeling. The previous owner had made a half-wall between the office and dining room, made a doorway from the office to the parlor, widened the doorway between the living room and dining room, and removed three doors from the entry area.
Nice and bright.

Half-wall between dining and office.

Entryway, with widened doorway.
Doorway between parlor and office.

Dutch door in kitchen.

I also sometimes wish I hadn't redone the kitchen and had brought in moveable items, like a Hoosier cabinet. It seems a little too slick now. Plus maybe I should have left the floors alone and just put polyurethane on top. Of course, I got a gigantic sliver in my foot due to damage left behind from when I removed the wall-to-wall carpeting.
Maximum counter space.
Cooktop. See the cute shelving?

Cute Craftsman-style doors. Victorian houses often had two entrances - the formal one for guests and informal one for family.

So I love my little house. I guess, though, that I'll close up the door to the office from the parlor because I bought a TV credenza and large smart TV, and the only sensible furniture arrangement is the one below.

I haven't shown the second floor because it all needs re-doing. The floors are random-width soft pine, which have been stained around the perimeter in the master bedroom and painted brown in the guest room.  I'm still trying to get a bathroom installed as well, but the cost may be prohibitive.

Sunday, August 02, 2020

Hydrangeas On View

That is my second video.

It was a good year for one of my favorite shrubs.

Monday, July 06, 2020


I love these so much.  I loved them before it was cool to love them.  I loved them so much I bought my mother one to plant because I didn't own any land.  The macrophyllas haven't bloomed, except for a few blooms, in five years so this year I am thrilled to see them.  Although, they seem very pale this year, and the Endless Summer is going lilac.  Here are babies from other hydrangeas.  They've never bloomed.  They're very pale in color.
This is Endless Summer, my first ever hydrangea, planted in 2016. It's trending lilac.
This is Blue Bird. Or Blaumeister. There were two tags with it, I think from Home Depot.
Blue Billow out back:
Blue Billow in the front yard:
I'm thinking the Rozanne geranium is distracting.  Hmm.

I've already decided that the Strawberry Sundae hydrangea was a very dumb choice for the side garden.  It is huge this year.  It is the sister of that monster, Vanilla Strawberry.

Here it is looking ginormous even at the beginning of its' panicles forming.
I'll put it in the back.  It can go next to the stone wall garden or next the newly transplanted Hansa rose.

Saturday, July 04, 2020

Best Garden Ever

I miss when my garden was young and looked terrific.  I think it also had something to do with the mild winters as well.  Here's the back garden.  I believe these are all 2014.
I miss those days, even with my neighbor's ugly backside of house, ladders and two-toned backside of my own house.

Best Garden Ever - Heritage Version

My Heritage Garden was the first "designed" garden where I had really thought about where things should go.  The problem with the garden was everything grew supersized, so it got out of control and I had to remove a lot.  Then I think I removed too much, but now I think it's okay.  Here are its glory days.  I particularly loved the fall plantings I put in that first year.  And that first spring was lovely as well.

This is how it started out - a strip of grass with iris and ladybells on the right, next to the stone wall.