Side Effects of Irene

You know from my earlier posts that Hurricane Irene toppled a couple of huge oak trees in our yard.  As the week progressed we suffered a few more nuisances that can be attributed to the wind and water produced by the storm.

1. A few days after the storm the pilot light in our hot water heater in the basement went out.  At first we thought we were low on propane but our propane stove and additional hot water heater in Glade Cottage still worked so that couldn’t have been the cause.

The non-working hot water heater.

 We had lost power for almost a whole day during the worst part of the storm which rendered the sump pump in the basement useless. (We forgot all about the sump pump.) 

The sump pump in the basement.

Apparently, the water rose enough to cover the base of the hot water heater which would no longer light with the electronic starter.

We had a plumber friend come over who did get it lit with a long match.  Both the pilot light and the burner lit but promptly went out after he left. We couldn’t figure out why the pilot went out in the first place since it stayed lit for at least 24 hours after the water subsided.

In the mean time we made an appointment with our fuel oil company, Warthen Fuel, to have our furnace cleaned and they offered to take a look at the hot water heater while they were at the house.  When the technician came he looked at the water heater, lit the pilot and proceeded to work on the furnace. It was still working when he finished and now we have hot water.

The theory is that it had dried out enough overnight to stay lit on its own.  Never knew hot water could make me sooooo happy.

2. When the trees fell over two storm window panes and 3 inside panes were broken.  Our plan is to take the storm windows to a hardware store and have them repaired while we repair the sash window.  We’ll need to purchase some glass for the panes but have all the other supplies from our project at Glade Cottage.     

Broken window

 3.  While the rain barrel is in tact,  the downspout and gutter that feed into it were damaged when the trees fell.  

Rain barrel and a couple days progress.

  Since this part of the gutter as well as the roof will be either removed or replaced when we renovate the house next year Charlie is going to try to bend the existing pieces back into action for the time being.

Bent gutter with section of downspout missing

 4. A commenter from my post the other day about damage to the garden wanted to know how bad it was.  

Here's a photo of the garden in June, fifteen 4 by 4 squares.

 All but three of the 15 squares have been destroyed.  Here’s a picture of the garden from the same angle after the trees fell on it.

The garden was demolished by falling oak trees, all but 3 squares.

 The garden project will need to be rebuilt and replanted but maybe not this fall. 

All in all we have a lot of work ahead of us but, at the same time we’ve been blessed many times over.

  • A friend has offered us use of a huge chipper.
  • We were able to financially help someone who helped us.
  • No food (other than the garden) has spoiled during the power outage.
  • No one was injured.
  • All appliances have been restored to working order.
  • And our pile of firewood is growing.
    We'll never be cold again.

    And growing!


It’s little things like HURRICANES that keep us from progressing down our TO DO list.  What holds you up?


Vintage Bathrooms

 I’m not sure whether it’s a good thing or a bad thing, but I work in old houses that have vintage bathrooms. Usually, aside from the kitchen, the bathroom is the room I’d want to have really up-to-date. But these old fixtures have a kind of charm that could be translated into a more modern space without sacrificing the convenience of  the 2011.

The first bathroom is in a house that actually turns 100 this year.

Pedestal tub against a vintage subway-style tile wall.

 The tub has been recently refinished and is almost never used as a shower but does have an ornate contraption that would allow showering.

Intricate shower rig on refinished pedestal tub

 Notice the built-in vanity under the window has neither large mirror nor special lighting.  In the days when this bathroom was designed, a lady used the vanity and mirror in her bedroom to do her hair and make-up.

Marble-topped cabinet in bathroom without a light and only a small pedestal mirror.

 The next two bathrooms are in a lodge that was built in the 1880s. Authentic beadboard is used on the bottom half of the wall and pipes run on the face of the wall rather than inside giving an indication that the bathroom may have been added later.

The tub sits on a marble slab. The drain stopper is outside the tub near the faucets.

 This tub is so large you could almost do laps in it and with no overflow valve it fills right to the top.

The shower device on these old tubs is often leaky and difficult to manage.

 Finally, a bathroom which was probably a tiny bedroom or servant quarters turned into a utilitarian room.

In this gabled bathroom the beadboard runs horizontally instead of vertically.

 Although the sink and tub are old the toilet appears to be more modern perhaps installed with the vinyl? flooring.

With the renovation at The Glade we’re thinking of adding two full baths, one on the first floor and one near the master bedroom on the second floor. The only full bath in the house now has a tub with a shower. In the new bathrooms we’re installing only showers.

Do you have preference: tub or shower? Do you like your plumbing ON the wall or IN the wall?

The Clean Up Continues

When I came home from work earlier this week Charlie and son had made big headway in removing the fallen trees in the backyard.  There was, however, a huge branch that I feared was too far off the ground to safely remove.

Charlie assessing the situation.

First Charlie tried to cut it off over his head.

When Charlie himself saw this photo he wondered who the knucklehead was.

Then he attacked the branch from the other side.

Charlie’s behind the limb with his Husqvarna.

And soon it came crashing down.

Action shot of the limb falling to earth.

For someone who doesn’t cut up large trees on a regular basis, each branch must be evaluated as to how it might fall, roll, bounce, etc.  We’re careful to keep people out of the way but the wheelbarrow almost got crushed. There’s danger here.

Do you participate in dangerous behavior? Or are you strictly supervisory, like me?

The Metal Salvage Results

Two weeks ago I showed you the metal clutter that Charlie brought home to “sort out.”

Scrap metal stored in the space I cleared. UGH!

Charlie and son spent a couple days sorting and cleaning all these odds and ends of junk metal.

What kind of crazy tedious job is stripping wire?

They cleaned some of it, took apart some of it and sorted the lot into

  • copper
  • brass
  • aluminum.

Then they took it to Maryland Recycling and were paid $213.55.

OK, Boys, you made the monkey dance. Great job!


Our Bedroom Plans

OK, I said “our” bed room plans when Charlie’s only plan is to sleep.  My plan, on the other hand, is to decorate after the reno. The walls are now a pale creamy yellow but the two of us have agreed on a new color for the walls: Virtuoso by Glidden.

Virtuoso by Glidden

  Inspiration for the room comes in part from the photo below.

French doors from our second floor bedroom to a porch.

 We’re hoping to have French doors to a newly-built second story porch where we can have morning coffee at our Bistro Set . 

The partially finished mood board is below.

The look is French without being feminine.

  We already have a king-size French sleigh bed made by Grange. It appears to be cherry.

King size Grange sleigh bed

 We inherited marble- topped inlaid French bombe chests for bedside tables.

Inlaid bombe 3-drawer chest

 Each drawer has a bow detail.

Detail of drawer

The corners under the marble are cut metalwork.

Metal corner detail

 Another inspiration photo is this sleigh bed with a wall of books surrounding the window.

A wall of books would help with storage as well as lend an interesting solidity to the room.

 I must decide whether to put shelves on the new French door wall or on the exisiting window wall. It’s definitely a decision I can put off until later.

We’re also planning to use the following 2 chests of drawers.  Charlie’s dresser  we plan to refinish.

Charlie's chest

Mine I’m going to paint.

Jo's chest of drawers

I’m going to try to make my chest of drawers the color of the desk below with a black faux-marbre top.

I'm planning a finish like this with a painted black marble top.

 Over our bed I’d love to have a map of Paris like the one in the photo below. I’m hoping to print a copy from Pigtown Design.

I'd like a multi-framed map over the bed, possibly of Paris.

 We have a pair of Limoges lamps which need new barrel-shaped shades. I’d like to use these on the side tables.

Limoges hand-painted iris lamp - set of 2

 The furniture placement will probably be limited by the size of the room and door placement.  When the architect gets back to me with some ideas I can better address this issue. My preference would be the headboard of the bed on an inside wall looking out over the treetops.  Two chairs or a small sofa in the bedroom would be terrific. And maybe we’ll use the dining room rug in the bedroom for a change and put the current bedroom rug in the new conservatory.

Finally, here’s the tentative floor plan.

The bed is positioned to look out the window (not pictured) between the 2 chairs.

 The plan above may seem upside down but the bed would actually face the back of the house. O, so many plans! Have you got any plans? Short term or long term?

Trip to France: Speaking the Language

I took 4 years of French in high school and 1 semester in college. I had a pretty good understanding at the time. Many, many years later I have the opportunity to go to France and so I want to refresh my French language skills.

Here’s the plan:

First I listened to a very repetitive Playaway from the Pimsleur language programs called The Short Course. I can recommend these Pimsleur courses because they build in an easy way things you’ll really want to say like, “I’d like something to eat.” They are designed to teach the listener French without the use of reading materials.

The Pimsleur "Short Course" on Playaway

  If you’ve never used a Playaway. they’re very small and convenient but you need your own AAA battery and ear buds.

Pimsleur Playaway with instructions

Then I moved onto a Berlitz Playaway which moved at lightning pace but was challenging for someone like me who has had a modicum of French and needs some catch-up. I was surprised at the words I could understand.

French All-in-One Playaway

 I listened to Living Language Ultimate French,  Beginner and Intermediate.  It had lots of conversations, lots of vocabulary, lots of grammar but you really needed to use the accompanying book to get much out of it.  I listened to the CDs while driving so it was difficult to consult the book. After listening to 3 of 8 CDs I returned them to the library.

Living Language Ultimate French

This course called beginner’s french by Everyday Communication was produced in England and had different syntax from any of the other courses.  For example: Instead of saying “Where are you?” the question was phrased “You are where?”  Not wrong, I suspect, just different. This, too, is used with a book.

2 CD set of Beginner's French

Finally, I listened to The Complete Idiot’s Guide to French Playaway. Theoretically this course moved quickly in terms of vocabulary and sentence structure but it was the only one of the group really created for a vacation traveler to France.  The first dialogue helped you get your luggage, then go through customs, arrange transportation, etc. It seemed the most practical of all the options because it introduced you to the French you would need as soon as you step off the plane.  

The Idiot's Guide to French Playaway

 To summarize my favorite French study course was the Pimsleur Short Course, followed by The Complete Idiot’s Guide.  The other courses either needed a book in conjunction with the tape or moved at a very quick pace, great for someone who was brushing up but not great for someone who wanted to get some practical phrases under their belt for a vacation.

By the time we leave for France I will have fulfilled another item on my 101 Things to do in 1001 Days list.  Charlie will know how to say, please and thank you and ask for coffee.

Removing the Remains

Charlie and son have been working diligently this week to remove the toppled trees that Tropical Storm Irene left in our back yard.

The debris from two oak trees which fell at The Glade.

It is a huge mess that will probably take months to clean up.

From a 2nd floor bedroom window, all the foliage on the left is part of the fallen oak trees.

 Passage behind the house was impossible.

The trees blocked passage at the back of the house.

 Fortunately the oil tank and rain barrel were not crushed.

The damage was minimal considering the size of the trees that fell.

 Passage behind the house was established on the first day.

In one morning Charlie and son cleared passage behind the house.

 An added bonus was that this scene went from this .  .  .

Clearing in the west side yard.

 to this.

This is only the beginning of the oak firewood we'll have for years to come.

Have you had anything good come from disaster?