Sunday, March 3, 2013

This and That

Amaryllis Lemon Star
 I've really enjoyed having bulbs in the house for the winter.  I'm not sure why 
but the amaryllis got a really slow start and even though I planted them a week before
Thanksgiving, the first one didn't bloom until the end of January.  

This Lemon Star variety put on an amazing show with two stalks
blooming at the same time.  The other amaryllis bloomed while I was sick so I didn't get a photo but it's sending up a second shoot so I have another chance.

I started the yellow paperwhites at the beginning of February
and they should be opening in the next week.

The snow has melted away and the Endless Summer hydrangea are starting
to reveal themselves... a little crushed.
Since this is the first winter we've had a heavy snow since planting them, it'll
be a good test to see how they handle the heavy snow pack.

I dropped my Lumix camera when I was out taking pictures during Hurricane Sandy.  It limped along, with grinding sound each time I turned it on and the lens extended itself.  It finally succumbed to its injuries after taking pictures of the Christmas tree.  I've been on an austerity program trying to save money for the house so I borrowed a camera from a friend...which I proceeded to drop after doing the door knocker photos.  Oops.  It's doing okay but I'm going to have to buy two cameras now.  

Then my computer died in January.  I'm hoping I can get all of my photos off the old hard drive but they may be lost.  When the computer started to act up, I was at least smart enough to e-mail myself  some of the photos I had taken for future posts (like the last soup post).

I thought I might hang it up but I decided I'd miss you all so much.  I got a new MacBook Air (which I love) but I'm having a terrible time with iPhoto.  Does anyone use iPhoto '11 and have trouble with cropping?  It's driving me crazy.

I'm trying to get the house spruced up for an appraisal and I'm going to try to refinance.  If you have a mortgage, have you looked at interest rates?  Lenders have gotten much more strict since I bought the house but I'm going to give it a go.

You may recall I had taken off the bathroom door to strip it and I never got to it before the weather turned cold.  There sat the door in the bedroom all winter.  I had stripped to this hinges, door knobs and backplates so I rehung the door and replaced the hardware.

I kind of like the crusty backplate and I'm love with the Bennington knob
I found under about 10 layers of paint.

See the damage to the ceiling from the roof leak?  Not too bad but it's the first thing
I notice when I walk in the room.

I'll do a better repair later but I just painted it and it's barely noticeable.

I just hope the appraiser isn't a follower!

I'm embarrassed to show this.  When I painted the bedroom floor, 
I had to keep the door closed to keep the cats out so I wasn't able to paint the threshold.
And I did nothing about it until today!

Ahhh.  So much better!

I don't why it took me five years to figure out I should add some track lights to the kitchen.
I have only one light in the middle of the room and it's sometimes difficult to see what I'm cooking when it's dark outside.  What an inexpensive way to add a lot of light.

Some of you noticed the modern chair in the photo of my nautical inspired Christmas tree.
The chair is one of a pair that a friend gave me when he was buying new furniture.  I thought
the modern pieces would be an interesting addition to the living room but it's unfortunate they're too deep to have them at opposite ends of the coffee table.  I'd have to buy a smaller coffee table.  When something free requires buying something to make it work, I'm not sure it makes sense.

Toward the end of last summer, my neighbors had a fire in their house.  It was a scary day but it was nice to see neighbors pull together to offer whatever they could to help them get through it.  When I found out they needed a bed, I offered my guest bed.  While it seems like a big sacrifice, I had been considering getting a new bed for the guest room so it seemed like a perfect fit.  All of this goes to explain why the twin spindle bed has been moved to the guest room.  I love how it looks and would like to get a new queen-sized version in this style.  Do you know anyone who makes one?

That's what I've been up to.  How 'bout you?


  1. A queen spindle bed will be hard to find because they made the old beds in double not queen. I picture something like the Maison bed from Restoration Hardware in there if you can;t find a spindle. That was a lovely gesture to give your guest bed to the neighbors. The house looks great. Love the gifted chairs.

    1. Chania,
      I love the Maison bed and it would look great in there but I'm afraid my cats would think it was one big scratching post. I was thinking of something like Noir's Bachelor Bed. Or their Ferret bed if it only had a low foot board.

    2. I just checked out that Bachelor bed. Gorgeous!

  2. Wow, you've had a lot going on. Cameras and computers, they're such a pain aren't they? Good luck on your appraisal, your house looks great and I love that spool bed, I hope you can find a queen.

  3. All I've got today are compliments: I love the door handle. I love the shelf over the window. I love the white floors (though it wouldn't work in our house). And I love the bed and that dresser. On a side note, I emphatically declared last week that if we ever redo the kitchen I NEED more lights!

  4. Your flowers are gorgeous Steve and I can't help you with your endless summer hydrangea as we cover ours to protect them from the heavy snow. I will be curious how they handled the heavy snow to see if we really need to take all the precautions we do. Your home really is beautiful and if you couldn't get to all your chores until now not like they're going anywhere. Good luck with your refinancing smart to be doing it now with the rates so low but once again I can't help you there either. I'm being very helpful so far huh? Love knowing what your door knob is called as we have a box full of those knobs and didn't know they were called Bennington knobs.

    Enjoy the rest of your evening!

  5. Your year certainly began with a bang! Can you believe it is March already, so much going on.
    We remortgaged and got a fantastic rate - I think they confused us with someone else! Certainly worth doing, especially if your technology is conspiring against you and costing you.
    Beautiful bulbs.

  6. Always enjoy a visit with you. Love the Lemon Star . . . looks like many blossoms , very pretty. Sorry about your camera mishaps and lap top . . . but what fun, a MacBook Air!

    Have had very heavy snow here too. Our Holly bushes have been buried for six weeks, with Hydrangeas buried near by. Another storm predicted for Tuesday . . . Not sure if the Holly will survive.

    I hope the appraisal goes well . . .

  7. Glad you decided to stick around, Kiddo!

    Isn't it funny how we spruce up when company
    ( or realtors or appraisers)are stopping by?

    Fingers crossed for your ReFi...if we weren't for sale we'd be doing it too, even though we only sit at 4%.

    (Our house? We've lowered our price and listed with a more local RE firm. We'll see. I'm thinking only positive
    "we're moving ASAP" thoughts. )

    That doorknob is amazing, as is that faux bamboo chest.
    LOVE that piece! Keep the L/R chairs; maybe scout a round or square coffee table? Would that fit better?

    My son uses a Mac-I'll ask about iphoto.
    I use picasa, and swear by it on my PC.

    By the way, you can blame Mercury retrograde for your electronic issues :P They should subside by March 15-ish. Then you have to beware the Ides of March! Nothing like science to explain the world, eh?

    PS-HGTV is giving away a pay-off-your-MORTGAGE deal-go enter.
    If you win you could blog every day!

  8. Funny. I was thinking about you today and wondering what you've been up to with your lack of posts. Wow!! Lots to comment on. Nice to get lots of small jobs done. I love that bed also and hope you can find a larger one. So sorry about your cameras. Lesson number one of photography is to have a strap on your camera and to put it around your hand and wrap it. I have dropped a few also but thanks to that nothing hit the floor.

    Love the Mac books.

    Good luck with the reappraisal.

    Oh and your amaryllis are gorgeous and can't wait to see those stinky paper whites that I adore.

    Xo Terri

  9. Wow, you've covered a lot of things here! How did you keep your amaryllis from toppling over? Mine had to be propped with a stick but even then it continued to lean. I had some pretty red ones this year. I love the bowl your paperwhites are in! And the twin spindle bed in your guest room looks terrific.

    Sorry about your camera and your computer. I use iPhoto but it's the 09 version, so I can't help. I don't have any problems with cropping or anything. Hope your appraisal goes well.

    1. Claudia,
      I haen't done anything special to keep the amaryllis upright. I wonder if different varieties act differently. A friend of mine had a deep red one and it also tipped over.

  10. So glad to have you back. Winter is such a time for hibernation, isn't it? I love that shot of the bedroom. The bolster at the end of the bed looks great. The kitchen lights are genius. They look great in there. Lets take a ride to Maine soon, for pictures and treasure hunting.

    1. Definitely need to make a trip to Maine...especailly if I start planning a new kitchen.

  11. So nice to see you back - don't give up on us. And yes, iPhoto is the worst program in the world!! I don't want my photo storage/editor making decisions for me. I've been researching what to get instead. I'll let you know what I find out.

  12. I feel for you with the camera/computer problems. Perhaps a camera strap is in order.;)
    You mentioned the water damage being the first thing you notice, but my eye went straight to that lovely painting. I love your mix of antiques and modern pieces.
    Good luck with the appraisal.

  13. There are several furniture crafters in the New England area that specialize in converting antique beds to larger sizes. Sometimes they cannibalize from collected stock and sometimes they re-format from your own pieces. I’ve seen photos of flawless remakes that are seamless and beautiful. I can’t help w/ any sources, but would recommend asking at several of your favorite antique haunts for craftsmen capable of re-making your existing bed. It’s lovely and it would be wonderful if you were able to keep it.

    1. Thank you for mentioning that! It reminds me a place that someone told me about on the South Shore somewhere--maybe New Bedford area--that recrafts antique furniture for modern use.

    2. I found it! It's Leonard's in Seekonk. Thanks again!

    3. I think Martha Stewart did an article about resizing antique beds and Leonard's years ago.

  14. Love all the updates you've made. Your kitchen shelves are fantastic above your stove! I really like those modern chairs, but they are pretty deep. I always love modern design but I can't commit to it in my own house, ha!

  15. Steve, I have an old but totally working Olympus FE-20 that you can have to tide you over. It's only 8 megapixels, but I think I have all the pieces parts around. If you want it, just email me at and I will send it to you.

    The appraiser should think your home is worth plenty. all the love and care shows. I bet whatever s/he sees every day makes your home look like a castle. Good luck on the re-fi.

  16. You do such a great job of mixing old and new. I love the guest bed with your Swedish (?) chest, along with the bamboo (?) blinds and the rug. I would never think of putting those things together, but you've created such an inviting room. Have you ever thought about doing design consulting? I've always thought it would be nice to be able to pay someone for a few hours to get some ideas, but not have to commit to a project.

    Sorry about all the deaths and ensuing financial burden. You know you can't leave--we'd all be chasing you! I use an older version of iphoto. My only tip about cropping is to uncheck the Constrain box, then you can crop however you want. If you have a specific question, google it--you'll probably come up with answers on various forums.

    That was so kind of you to give your neighbors the bed. We had a fire once and it was traumatic.

    Love this post--so nice to get these glimpses of your home and projects. Thank goodness winter is almost over.


    1. Thanks, Jen. It's taken me a while with the old and new mix thing but I think it can be really exciting.

      In iPhoto '11 the crop box is just crazy. I move the edges or corners and when I take my finger off the touch pad, the cropped box moves to a different place, sometimes a different shape, sometimes a totally different size. I've searched and haven't really found anyone with the same problem so it's frustrating. I never had an issue with the old version.

    2. Have you thought about taking it to the Genius Bar? I've had a couple of problems I thought were obscure and they were able to show me what I was doing wrong almost immediately.

    3. Yeah, that would be the wise thing. I went to show a friend what I was talking about and, of course, it would act up. I'm afraid I'll go the genius bar and the same thing will happen. But maybe they'll know what is if I just explain it.

  17. Such a calm, collected (!) home. Love visiting. Bet you'll impress the mortgage assessor. BTW, found a fellow local artist who loves Milton Avery too! (I'm still working towards that goal.)

    1. Thanks so much, Robin. Avery was certainly a master at editing down a composition. Not sure if you've ever seen his wife's (Sally Michel) work, but it's also wonderful and worth a look.

  18. ha! I was wondering what you had been up to. how in the world do you keep your paperwhites upright without props? they look wonderful.

    great to see your faux bamboo painted chest in its home. thanks for showing us little glimpses of your home, they are such a treat. I think the kitchen is especially cozy.

    good that you are re-fi-ing. my cpa husband keeps up with all that rate stuff...

    always glad to see a new post pop up from you, steve. donna

    1. Donna,
      I probably should have cleaned up those shelves a bit but that's how they look everyday. I love having them there. It's a lot of things I use every day so things don't really get dirty/greasy.
      I think the paperwhites are on the edge of spilling over. I'll have to get outside for some twigs to prop them up.

  19. Steve,
    My amaryllis have been taking longer than usual to bloom as well. Right now I have one with four spectacular blooms - such a welcome sight after coming back home following my Mother's funeral late last week.

    Thank you for sharing and not giving up; I would miss you, too!

    1. t-
      I'm so sorry to hear about your mother. That's a tough, tough thing. I hope you're doing okay.

  20. iPhoto--I have trouble using the touchpad and use a wireless mouse to move the corners where I want them. The touchpad drives me insane!!!

    Paperwhites--nice dish. A 10 to 1 mixture of vodka or gin (the alcohol being 1) used to water the bulbs from the beginning and always will keep the stems short. then they won't need staking.

    The snow cover will be a great help to the hydrangeas as it protected the flower buds from desiccation (drying) over the winter. It's the drying and freezing uncovered that does the damaged to these shrubs. Don't prune anything until you see some green growth this Spring.

    The track lighting is super great-- I am going to get some for my daughter tiny kitchen.

    I also had to replace my camera as it was very slow to open or close the lens. What's nice about this, the new cameras are much better. We also got a new HD television replacing one that we bought in 1988. Talk about future shock. And we signed up for a trial on streaming Netflix. OMG. I feel like a cavewoman waking up on Fifth Avenue in NY.

    Never stop blogging. I just found you and enjoy reading each morning with my coffee. Here in Maine.

    1. That's exactly the problem I'm having! I hadn't considered it's the touch pad; I thought it was iPhoto. When I drag the side marging or corner and take my finger off the touchpad, the edges or entire cropped area jumps to another place. I'll have to get a wireless mouse and see if that corrects the problem.

      Thank you for the suggestions on the hydrangeas! I did a post on the gin trick last year but didn't practice what I preached when I started this batch.

  21. Hi. Big fan of your blog and your lovely home. There is a great company called The Federalist which makes reproductions of 18th century American furniture, and they have a beautiful spindle bed.

  22. Phew, I'm exhausted just reading what you've been up to! The amaryllis is wonderful, well worth waiting for, and your home looks a haven of calm.
    MISTER, even if you finish the house you are NOT allowed to leave the party!

  23. Oh, just PAINS me to hear about the death of one camera and that the other is basically clinging to life. You have just gently reminded me that I need to wear the camera strap on mt new camera ALL THE TIME. I am surprised that my 10-year-old point-and-shoot has lasted so long without getting dropped and permanently damaged. I drop my cell phone at least once a week! I love it that you show your home bumps, bruises, scabs and all! It's just "keeping it real"! Good luck on your appraisal and refinance. We've been scared to try with all the changes since we last refinanced. Hooray for your amaryllis! They're beautiful! I hope your hydrangea survive the snow. You guys sure got a lot of it this winter!!!

  24. You considered hanging it up and stop blogging?!
    Oh! my heart just jumped into my throat.
    Every time you publish a post it's like getting that favorite magazine and sitting down to gaze at the stunning photos and your clever witty words always make me smile.
    I would miss you SO much. Please never leave.
    OK, enough with the pleading.
    I would at least spackle the damage on the ceiling. You could feather it out and make it invisible. I had an appraiser years ago who only measured my house and looked at the ceilings and windows etc. I've been told that they don't care what you are going to do, just what you've done. are right about that free chair MUCH too big, so send it to me! I ADORE it!

  25. Loving the pics ...actually in the uk we mostly have red amaryllis loving your lemon star one going to see if I can get one. Just refurbing our kitchen and this evening just put shelves up, so having a nosey at whats on yours.
    Annie x

  26. We JUST had our house re-appraised so I feel your pain. However...I am so jealous of your is fantastic!! Those pretty flowers are distracting of anything you may need to do!

  27. Dear Steve,

    Wow, you've had a lot going on in your life! I would urge you to consider getting a Sony Cyber-shot as your next camera. I've own two (the first one was stolen) and I've loved both. I think you would, too.

    It's good to see that faux bamboo chest again — what a great find!


  28. Your photos are making me kick myself for not doing any indoor bulbs this year.

  29. steve i love this post. i've been so out of it blog-wise that this makes me feel like i'm not the only one. don't be surprised if i copy you and bring everyone up to date. i love your bulbs and i'm sorry i didn't plant any this year. what a lazy ass i am.

    also, don't feel like the lone ranger re the camera's. this summer we borrowed a friends $400 tent to go backpacking and we lost it (stupid long story) so we had to buy him one and then of course we had to get one too. ugh.

    ok that's about it my friend. love the ea balance comment. x

  30. Oh, no....I's in the furnace room...franki

  31. all it takes is to have a party, photo shoot or an appraiser to finish up the details , bravo! steve! everything looks great, especially those track lights

    1. The photo shoot is easier. You don't have to dust.

  32. We refi'd last July and were in the middle of a "small project" and the appraiser didn't even blink. We were thrilled with the appraisal amount (only $3000 less than what it was appraised for in March '10 when we bought it)so that half completed project didn't seem to mean much in the end.

    Refinancing is a HUGE pain in the rear but well worth it in the end. We are saving about $325 every month now on interest (it is going straight to principal).

    Good luck, Steve.
    Best wishes,
    Karla in CA.

    1. It IS a huge pain. Very invasive. I was turned down a few years ago because I had ripped out a closet to make room for the new bathroom. They didn't want to have anything undone. The market here is really strong so I think I'm in a better place.

    2. The MA. market is very strong. My sis-in-law sold her home in less than one day last May (she lived in Chelmsford) and my nephew just sold his home in January in less than a week (he lives in Lowell).

      Things are looking up for homeowners. Yippee!

      Best wishes,
      Karla in CA.

    3. You're right, Carla. We've been EXTREMELY lucky here in Mass. My neighborhood has been gentrifying for the past ten years and has become very desirable. Single family houses are selling like hotcakes and usually over asking. It's like the good old days.

  33. Good luck with the refinance. The house looks great. I have been very busy painting. My art is being represented by a local gallery and it has kept me busy. I want to email you some images. Will try to do that this week.
    Hugs, Dianne

  34. SO glad to have you back!
    I'd been wondering what the happenings had been at the urban cottage!
    Glad you are well, and starting up some new projects! Always a pleasure "hearing from you". :)


  35. I just closed on my refinance of an investment property: 3.5% 30 year fixed with a $70,000 cash out. I was quite pleased. Here was the rub and was the rub for one of my friends who refinanced. The lender wanted 6 months of payments in my bank account. Fortunately I could do that. But my friend had to borrowed the money from a relative. Tthe lender insisted to know where the money came from and would not accept the source. The loan fell through.

    That ceiling, no, no, no. The inspector is going to want to see all kinds of things once he notices you have water damage. Go to Lowe's and get some "thin set" and a trowel. A couple of applications will cover the evidence. The appraiser for my loan took photographs of all four walls of every room in the house, the floors, AND THE CEILINGS. My house appraised at over 1 million dollars so his photographs were not because I live in a slum. Be warned! Be able to source all your money.

    The loan appraiser charged $675. But here is the good part. I just got my real estate taxes and there is a $138,000 difference between the loan appraisal and what the tax man appraised. So I have something substantial to use as an appeal. It will be very difficult for the tax man to come up with justification for his estimate in the face of a thorough legal appraisal.

    Good luck and keep us posted.

  36. Very glad you didn't decide to hang it up...I would miss your beautiful blog.

    Interest rates 3.5% here today in CA...I'm house hunting and have an offer in...checking these things all the time. Good luck with your refi...your home is lovely, you shouldn't have any trouble.

    Oh, and wow, what a door knob under all that paint! And love the spindle bed...a queen size would look fantastic. So nice of you to give a bed to your neighbors.

  37. Don't hang it up. I've missed seeing your photos. Love the door knob? If you buy a new camera, please do share what you decide to get.

  38. Ooooh....sorry about those cameras! Ouch! I have a new mac, I did not get the air because of photo storage, but I'm not having any trouble with iphoto...what specifically is troubling you?

    I love to get little snippets of your house at different times of the year. And I love that you still have bulbs...they are so pretty! And the items on your kitchen shelves...a very cool balance of "stuff"

  39. Land of Nod, which is a children's furniture catalog, makes spindle beds. I don't know if they make queen, but I do believe they make a full size. The colors are a bit bright, but you could paint it any color you want. It is so difficult to find a spindle bed, you could look into this. Love the updates!

  40. Just trying to find a little room here to leave a comment!

    Clearly we all love you and would be desolate if you were to leave blogland.

    Especially me buddy. Don't even think of it.

    Sucks about the cameras tho. No wonder you have to refinance.

    You will have no problem with the bank. You've made so many improvements.

    Is it spring yet?

    xo Jane

  41. I love your home! So sorry about your tech problems! What a pain. I have a Mac and I love iphoto. If I can help let me know, my email is Best of luck with everything and hope spring comes soon for all of us!
    xo Nancy

  42. I just had to comment to say you can't leave - always love seeing your images todays included. Love the bulbs and your home looks so lovely. Isn't it amazing how we leave those tiny things hanging over us when they take so little time to correct - guilty here!!

  43. Steve, I love the way your house looks, great job! In this blog I noticed that you have planted bulbs in a ceramic planter. Can you help with a bit of info on how you go about planting your bulbs, Please?
    I have just painted floor boards in my house too, and I'm wondering what paint you used as I was given ordinary decking paint by my Hardware Store and I'm not quite sure if I am happy with the result. Kind Regards, Tricia, Blue Mountains, Australia.

    1. Tricia,
      I normally plant bulbs so that about 1/3 of the bulb is above the soil line. Normally I put them in something that has drainage so excess water drains out. The paperwhites have been planted in a bowl so I'm very careful about how much water I give them. Too much and they'll rot. It's definitely risky.
      The paint I used on the floor is a deck and floor paint. The brand is called All-Flor. I had it tinted to a Benjamin Moore color called Gray Owl. I used the same paint in another color and I hated it. This one I love. Is there something about the paint itself you don't like or might it be the color? I sanded the floor on my hands and knees before I painted it and it seems to be holding extremely well. Does that help at all?

  44. Oh your bulbs look so pretty, why do I always leave it too late to plant! I wanted to pop across to your lovely blog and answer your lovely message. Thank you so much re our bathroom! The 'Pineapple" crystal (actually acrylic) shade is from Homebase a DIY store in England (around £15)! The actual wall fitting/sconce was left by the previous owner of the house. We have used the same Pineapple shade in our new house (we moved just before Christmas) as a pendant light in the guest ensuite. Warmest of wishes - Glenda

  45. I love white amaryllis !!! they look so beautiful !!!

  46. Loved this post.
    -Suzanne in Illinois

  47. Hi neighbor,

    Re: photo storage - look into Dropbox when you get your pictures recovered off your old hard drive, and back up your iPhoto there, too. (or get an iCloud account through Apple.) Makes life so much easier...

    Greetings from the 'tute up the street
    A longtime lurker...

  48. Well your home is beautiful so I am sure it will appraise well. I am a lender too! You are right about the stricter guidelines but I am sure you will be ok. You can email me if you have questions.

  49. Boy.....getting an appraisal is like having a party! Lots of prep. But dang things are looking good around chez Steve. I also just purchased a new Mac Air. Love that sucker. Agree.....cropping is difficult....not sure why?

  50. Started reading your blog from the beginning a while ago and just got to this post today and wanted to say that I'm glad to hear that you've decided to continue with it. Love what you done with the house!

    As far as iPhoto '11 and the trackpad go, maybe these Apple Support articles will be helpful:

    iPhoto '11: Crop photos

    Portables and Magic Trackpad: Jumpy or erratic trackpad operation