Tag Archive | remodeling

Since you’ve been asking …


High-gloss mahogany, milled and finished by my talented husband, meets soapstone in the upstairs kitchen breakfast nook.

… no, we haven’t moved upstairs, nor is it finished. The kitchen is close, as you’ll see, but the third-floor bedroom and bath – well, they won’t take long either, once we get back to them. But today’s about the kitchen

We keep getting sidetracked – as in rehabbing other buildings, raising baby birds, working on other projects, taking care of Mother (who broke her hip in February but is fine now), helping with the grandkids, resisting Trump – and sidelined (mostly me) by injuries and surgery. I’m officially released this month for light regular activity after my back surgery in October.

But things really are coming together, kitchen-wise and it is fab.

John explains drawers.jpeg

Master craftsman and sweetheart of mine John explains about the drawers will fit. Yes, that’s maple with dovetail joints – but the drawer front he’ll attach we’ll paint high-gloss white like the cabinets.

Maple drawers.jpeg

John’s been in heavy drawer-production mode for a few days.


Another view of the galley kitchen. The color’s a little off in this one, but you get the picture. The top cabinets will have glass doors.

Stove, etc..jpeg

Love this view. We’ll be using that stove someday soon.

Golden years

general idea.jpeg

The upstairs kitchen still has a way to go, but you can see progress.We’ve had a flurry of activity again lately – nothing like out-of-town houseguests to get you cooking with gas (though the stove is not hooked up yet).

Wow, long time between posts. We’ve had lots going on, including John’s Medicare birthday last week, and I’ve been doing lots and lots of writing elsewhere. I’ve also been spending lots of time with little Luke. He adores our quartzite kitchen floor and wanted to know, quite seriously, “How did you get these bricks so straight?”

Maybe I’m just a proud Lolly, but that seems a pretty astute question for a 3-year-old.


This is a long shot of the upstairs living room, looking west from the kitchen. That’s the new couch that’s been sitting under plastic since delivery.

We’re getting close to finishing on this level. Of course we still have the upstairs loft bedroom and bath to go, but we plan to have Thanksgiving here this year. On this floor, that is.

But I’ll have to wrest the holiday from Mother. I may be 60, but I’m a southern girl, and in the south, Mama has holidays until she gives them up. She’ll be so thrilled with the kitchen being done that she’ll happily concede this year, though.

New windows.jpeg

Here you can see more of John’s handiwork – he’s down to just that last window frame! In 100+ year-0ld houses, nothing is plumb, so framing windows is no easy task. And this is the spot where the oval mid-century Danish dining set will sit.

All the leather furniture required cleaning and conditioning, even the brand new stuff – construction dust is hell.

new couch.jpeg

And here’s a close up of the new floor-sample couch we scored at Ferguson’s in Benton, along with John’s gorgeous cocktail/coffee table. We hope before long he’s taking orders for fine furniture, but he and Lee are still working on the New Deal Studios and Gallery building, so not quite yet. (Maybe is someone was really desperate for something …)

April is a month full of family birthdays – most still with us and a couple with us in spirit. Silas turned 3, John turned 65 and his sister, Kitty, 68 on the same day. April 15 was my grandmother’s birthday. Yesterday our sweet Marie-Noelle caught up with Liz – six weeks or so separate their 36ness. The 24th was my grandfather’s birthday (and also the day my daddy died 34 years ago).

Birthday shirt.jpeg

John let me take his pic in his Star Wars T-shirt Annabelle and Luke picked out for him. Pretty cute for an old guy, huh? And sweet Tessie loves to have her photo taken. She’ll be 11 in May.

Very soon, if all goes as planned, we’ll have some major news that I’ll share. In other important events, John and Liz leave soon for Nepal to climb to the base camp at Mt. Everest, a hike John made 43 years ago. Brent and I will hold down the fort with the three kiddos – I’m getting shots in both shoulders next week to prepare me for more strenuous activity.

We may be old, but we like it. Life is good. John told me a couple of nights ago that he’s looking forward to our golden years.

Young John.jpeg

John with his darling niece, Lissette, after he returned from his first trip to Nepal and other parts east. My kind of guy then, my kind of guy now. 

Take it easy

Hardy hibiscus.jpeg

Our hardy hibiscus has been blooming away in my office upstairs. Flowers for the departed or just random beauty? Either way works for me.

We’re only 18 days into the new year, and it’s already been a heartbreaker. Glenn Frey at 67? David Bowie AND Alan Rickman at 69? Jeez, let’s take it easy, already. Talk about a heartbreak trifecta.

This old gal recently turned 60, so those ages are indecently young. When my grandmother died at 69, I had no concept of how young she was – she’d had health issues and had been a little crazy for as long as we could remember, and I was only 21. About 20 years ago, I realized she was far too young when she departed.

My decision not to take it easy, exactly, but to make a significant change in lifestyle had been made before 2015 even rolled into 2016. These recent losses (as well as my old friend and classmate Dee Edwards, two days before his 61st birthday) reinforce the decision.

As of the end of this month, I’ll be spending a lot less time – as in, none – at the office. I’ll still be working some from home, but Annabelle just turned 5, Silas will be 3 in April and just yesterday, our first grandchild (who’ll be 10 in June) was born.


The upstairs kitchen is seeing progress again.

This can’t stand.

Plus, John and I need to finish this old house, and four hands are quicker than two. We ordered mass quantities of tile this weekend. Can’t wait to get my hands dirty again.

hardie backer.jpeg

If you recognize this, you’ve laid your share or have at least been around some construction. Note the spelling difference, but I like that it’s Hardie Backer. And I really like that John’s doing all the screws. (I’ve done my share and he’s way better at it.)

Then there’s that piano begging to be played. Struggling with Italian to be resumed. Climate Reality presentations to be made.

Etc., etc.

Life goes on until it doesn’t but, man, we need to keep our priorities straight.

Peace and love, y’all.


Quartzite – aka our soon to be kitchen floor.

Another day

Maybe it’s a misnomer to call this post “Another day,” since it’s been a week since the last one – the days have flown so quickly and so busily. But I love that song (and Paul, of course), and today is just another day in the life of a random little grandmother in Little Rock, Arkansas.

I’ve been 58 for a week. Feels like 57, which felt like – well, not 47, but the differences in years are minuscule the older you get. The cumulative effect is definitely felt, but there’s nothing you can really point to and say, “Well, boy, that’s changed since last year!”

Mother says it’s still that way for her. Hope it holds for me.

OK, so where did this blur of a week go, and why have I been such a bad blogger (bad girl! bad!)? In addition to work, we had the first garden club potluck of the year Tuesday – we didn’t join for years because we thought it was really a “garden” club. Nope. The Quapaw Home and Garden Club is a social club for eating, drinking, visiting with neighbors and seeing people’s historic homes.

We dig it, even if we don’t dig in the yard much.

Wednesday was the first night of 2013-2014 volunteer usher gig as Friends of the Rep, our fabulous local repertory theatre. This season is our 11th year, if I’ve counted backward right. I started in mid-season 2001-2002, I think, then John and  I met in July and he joined me as a regular that fall. We’ve been privileged to see so many plays.

Peace, love and ecology, baby, just like in my high school art classes. Somethings never change.

Peace, love and ecology, baby, just like in my high school art classes. Somethings never change.

Thursday was the fifth Sculpture Party and Fall Fest at The Bernice Garden, and though I work for Anita Davis, the lovely owner, I played hooky from working that night and just attended and enjoyed. You can see photos at thebernicegarden.org or on the  garden’s Facebook page. Here’s one little picture, of my lock on the Wish Locks Arkansas piece that was introduced Thursday night.

Speaking of art, I signed up to take a weekend class at the Arkansas Arts Center from my friend Catherine Rodgers, “Paint like Rothko – Color: Complement, Shade, Tone and Tint.” I haven’t painted since high school. We’ll see how well I do, but I’m looking forward to it. The small class sold out quickly and will be great, even if I’m not.

And speaking of art, let me just show off my husband’s handiwork again, now that the floors have cured.

John's design at the top of the stairs. He did it to surprise me a few years back, but with the finish, it really pops.

John’s design at the top of the stairs. He did it to surprise me a few years back, but with the finish, it really pops.

And here are the baseboards he's building. The walls look gray in the light, but they're periwinkle.

And here are the baseboards he’s building. The walls look gray in the light, but they’re periwinkle.

And just because this is a cool photo (to me anyway), I’ll add it. I pick the colors, but my painting days are few and far between with these damn shoulders.

Periwinkle to turquoise to teal.

Periwinkle to turquoise to teal.

Yesterday we upgraded phones, which always creates  a learning curve, but that’s good for our brains, though John is a little stressed over the leap from an old-school flip phone to my old iPhone, which he promptly upgraded to the new operating system. He’s dealing with my pink phone case and accessories for now,

Real men can carry pink.

I upgraded to the new iPhone, which prompted me to finally update my iPod Touch and get my iCloud and iTunes settings straightened out. Now I just need to upgrade this computer so I can fully live in the cloud. One thing leads to another.

Just like in life.

What’s going on?

This year started out crazy in January with Mother’s surgery and my step-father’s horrific death. Many days I find myself wondering if this craziness is the new permanent state of affairs and asking “what’s going on?”

At the macro level, sometimes I feel like I’ve landed in Bizarro World.

Remember Bizarro World Superman comics from a simpler time?

Remember Bizarro World Superman comics from a simpler time?

This isn’t even a major election year, but the political climate in our state and in the country just keeps getting worse, something that didn’t seem possible.

Unrest in the world keeps mounting. Rivers and oceans are rising and wildfires are raging. And what’s up with that storm last night? Arkansas is starting to feel like beachfront property weather-wise.

What’s going on? Have we passed the tipping point for things to be righted? Did we learn nothing from Marvin Gaye? The Vietnam War? The non-weapons of mass destruction and the melting polar ice cap?

Sigh. We do what we can in our daily lives and carry on as best we can. But we need to do better. Our grandchildren deserve it.

OK, I just put my soapbox away – I try to keep it out of this blog. But some days it’s tough.

What’s not tough is finding reasons to keep trying to make things better and to focus on the here and now. We have five of them 7 and younger.

Now, on to what’s going on at the micro level.

• John and I have finally become Bluth-heads. For years Ben and Liz told me how good it was, but we just recently started watching the old Arrested Development on Netflix. Yeah, kids, you were right.

Not only that, but we binge watch.

• And I’ve been staying up too late reading, still. We did stop watching The Daily Show and Colbert Report in bed, especially since our first-generation HD television has turned into black-and-white with a shrinking picture. I won’t tell you what I’m reading yet, though I will say after finishing Bruce, I binge-read a bunch of magazines that had stacked up. We’ll talk more books later. And we’ll save movies for another time soon, too.

• The grandkids keep us hopping and happy.

• And we’ve had more major changes in the house of late. Our upstairs floors are in the process of being sanded – we contracted Zaio’s Hardwood Floor Specialties to do the work – and will soon be polyurethaned. Hallelujah! Right now it’s sawdust central, but you can see how it will look from John’s prior handywork in my office.

Still needs baseboards and more coats of paint, but you can tell how it will look.

Still needs baseboards and more coats of paint, but you can tell how it will look.

After the walls were finished (sheetrock and paint) a while back, John's dream of a large mirror to reflect the double-helix stairs became reality.

After the walls were finished (sheetrock and paint) a while back, John’s dream of a large mirror to reflect the double-helix stairs became reality.

A glimpse of what's to come very soon!

A glimpse of what’s to come very soon!

Zuzu models the new floors. You can tell by the ears she's not so sure about her Vanna White skills. (I think she did just fine.)

Zuzu models the new floors. You can tell by the ears she’s not so sure about her Vanna White skills. (I think she did just fine.)

• Once again I’ve gone much longer between posts than intended. Part of that is because I work from home (I blog over at TheBerniceGarden.org, too, a real pleasure), in addition to having a busy life. But part of it is that I seem to be losing some steam. Maybe it’s the weather. Maybe it’s the crazy year.

Maybe it’s the 58th birthday approaching in September.

Pooh. Anyway, I’ve got lots of things on my Lolly Diaries agenda.

• One last thing that’s going on: My nephew is in jail once again. He’s been a Crisco-coated eel for 16 years, slipping out of tights spots and sliding through cracks in the system. This time no one’s bailed him out and, though no one expects miracles, hope does spring eternal.

We know he belongs there, but it hurts. My heart aches for my sister and the fact that Mother has cried her eyes out makes me want to punch said nephew real hard. He was a loved child. Sometimes things just turn out crazy.

You’d never guess it to look at any of us, which is a good reminder not to judge people or make assumptions. Life is hard for everyone, and you never really know what’s going on.

Ch-ch-ch-changes, part 1

Though this is really just a taste of things to come, we’ve had some major changes in the past week or so.

On the sad side:

John’s little mother’s condition has changed a bit for the worse as she’s slipped further into confusion.

On the wistful side:

My grad school status changed from “out on family medical leave” to “withdrawn in good standing.” We’ll see what the future holds, but now is not the time. That much is obvious.

My scooter changed ownership, from me to our good friend Dave, who plans to paint it red and hot-rod it up. (I never rode it to school – my children strongly vetoed that – Ben was of the mind that someone would snatch me off it at a stoplight and Liz just flat said, “No way.” Pam offered to pay me not to ride it. And John and I haven’t had time to pleasure ride in a long time, so it’s just as well.)

On the exciting side:

Our dining room has changed for the better, since John brought home the insanely beautiful liquor cabinet he made for us in his furniture design class at UALR.

Yes, my husband made this. No, you can't buy it.

Yes, my husband made this. No, you can’t buy it.

But someday he'll have a website and maybe you can order your own. I don't mind sharing his talents with the word.

But someday he’ll have a website and maybe you can order your own. I don’t mind sharing his talents with the world.

I exchanged my scooter for a newly ordered bicycle, which should be here soon. I’ll still have two-wheel transportation, just Lolly-powered. (Hope I love my Electra as much as I loved my Schwinn. And that it is as easy as riding a bike to get back to.)

And things are changing like mad on the remodeling/reconstruction front, most recently in the form of a new red roof – and mega sheetrock delivery from River City Materials, a company that can do amazing things with a crane and crew, like getting 12-foot sheets of Sheetrock through a second story window.

The early morning sun in behind the house made photos almost impossible, but you can kind of get the picture.

The early morning sun in behind the house made photos almost impossible, but you can kind of get the picture.

More to come. Much more.

Heading toward the upstairs office window. Crazy!

Heading toward the upstairs office window. Crazy!

Nicely done!

Nicely done!

It hurts me, too

My finger is black, but I don’t have the blues. Image An occasional semi-serious ouchy is good for a parent (and grandparent) to remind one that life can really hurt.

When you watch your toddlers pinging off tables, door facings or walls, you tend to be more sympathetic if you’ve recently dinged yourself (a pretty constant state for me, actually). It’s easy to forget just how badly scrapped knees hurt unless you’ve had some in recent memory.

At my 10-year high school reunion, my legs were covered in scrapes and scabs from wiping out on a neighbor kid’s skateboard. I assumed it was karma for requiring my then 3- and 4-year-old children to be little troopers when they had boo-boos. I know I was more sympathetic after my spectacular skid, but we still had the “no blood, no tears” rule.

Not that I’m glad that I caught my pinky finger between a paint roller and the fuzzy cover when I was pressing as hard as I could to get it assembled. Nor that my finger was stuck and flat and I was here alone and it took me a bit of time and some serious struggling to get the roller off. For a sec, it looked like the end of the finger might be a goner.

(Zuzu wanted to help – she rarely leaves my side when I’m working around the house – but she didn’t know what to do.)

I wouldn’t wish that pain on anyone, myself included. But it was a good reminder to slow down, be more careful and expect the unexpected.

This post was going to be a much longer litany of odd and funny self-inflicted injuries I’ve sustained as an adult who should know better – but I keep forgetting and using my little finger to type, so I’ll stop here.

Be careful out there. And beware rogue painting equipment.


The grandchildren’s tiny little room upstairs is almost finished – and very cute. At least the paint, Martha Stewart’s Bluebird, only took one coat to cover the white primer on new walls. It’s worth a sore finger.

Our house

When you live in a construction project for eight years, it’s easy to think nothing’s happening. But that’s not true; our house has lots of changes all the time.

A glimpse of the upstairs foyer with new paint and refinished railing.

And it’s a very nice house, even though some people think we’re nuts. Other people ask what’s happening with it and seem truly interested (morbidly curious?), so I thought maybe it was time to do a photo update and brag on my super-talented husband a bit.

Inside the shower stall in the upstairs guest bathroom. John did the tile work.

Once upon a time I was a pretty big help to John on the construction end — one of the many things we bonded over, initially, was our love of remodeling, painting, etc., and I could even float sheetrock — but January 2006 came, destroyed my rotator cuffs and changed our lives a bit.

My puny shoulders had been hanging by a thread for years from overexertion in the weight room, but an unconscious student whom I caught and lowered to the floor finished them off. Go figure.

One surgery in March and one in December left me highly functional as far as range of motion goes, but extremely handicapped when it comes to repetitive motion. So now if I paint, I have to rest for days. If I clean blinds, I’m out of commission for weeks.  Again, go figure.

Sometimes ironing hurts. And I actually like to iron.

All that’s to reinforce that John’s gotten rather a bum deal as far as having a partner in construction, as least since our beloved and missed Tom Goodwin broke on through to the other side.

I pick colors, I paint, I advise, I kiss the (one-man) crew, but my guy is stuck with the heavy-duty duties.

He really is an artist. But don’t take my word for it – see for yourself.

The hubster also made the oak top and cherry slats (notice the gorgeous curves) on the tub surround.

So, I painted the cranberry — whoopdedoo. John made the sink cabinet. The charcoal gray is primer, but it’s actually quite pretty, too.

New French door to Laura’s office — the old ones were just too far gone to salvage, but the new ones look great.

Do the hustle

John and I really did the hustle today. He’s been hustling up a storm lately, but with school taking all my time, I’ve just been able to jump back in.

We’re not taking dance again – but we are in heavy restoration mode. Marie-Noelle, John’s daughter, will be here Sunday evening from Switzerland, and we’re scrambling to get the upstairs guest bedroom useable.

Let me back up and say that one of the major things John and I discovered we have in common (almost 10 years ago!) was a love for remodeling houses. I was in the middle of redoing my little Lilac Circle house when we met. In fact, our first long phone conversation took place while I scampered around on my kitchen countertops priming the nasty old cabinet doors with a clean and cool periwinkle.

John didn’t think that was an odd thing for a 46-year-old to be doing. Why should he – he was living hunkered down in about 1 1/2 rooms of this massive restoration project we call home.

For seven years, we’ve lived in about a quarter of the house, on the first floor, not counting his office upstairs and our second-story screened-in porch, which most people say is their favorite spot in the whole shebang.

Yesterday before primer

Anyway, today started with a trip to Home Depot for me (don’t they all??) for more ceiling paint and another gallon for the walls, while John stayed home to cut in the ceiling paint (Violet Essence) around the crown molding. Then I rolled the ceiling while he cut in around the windows, et. al, with the Mardi Gras purple.


We took a lunch break (Veggie pizza from Vino’s) about 2:30, before heading back upstairs to roll like lunatics. By the time Rhonda came over to see the color around 4? 4:30? we were just finishing. Crazy.

Home Depot had a killer sale on Martha Stewart discontinued paint, so I didn’t get just what I went after – at $13 a gallon (instead of $30), you’ve got to stock up, so I came home with paint for my office and the exercise room upstairs and a gallon of teal to test for the upstairs living/dining area.

Teal test spot. It was a thumbs up.

Zuzu walked into the paint brush as I was painting a test patch and has lovely teal stripes on her face. She also laid against the baseboard primer and has white on her hip. The primer white on her whiskers from yesterday is about gone.

Poor blonde Tess is mortified that she’s got deep purple on her right shoulder from Zuzu slamming her into the wet wall. You can see from the picture that she’s not over the embarrassment yet.

Tess isn’t happy about her purple shoulder.

The teal was a hit, so we went back to HD tonight for two more gallons and primer for the second story bathroom, which will be cranberry. (It’ll work. Trust me.) A cool and knowledgable young man named Tee gave us an impressive demonstration/lesson on how gray is the best primer for reds. Live and learn. Thanks, Tee. HD, give him a raise.

I stayed downstairs and wrapped packages after the second trip. My shoulders are screaming the blues, but we have a purple room. John’s back upstairs doing more work of some sort.

The carpet gets installed tomorrow and the blinds arrived today. As soon as the window frames and sills are painted and dry, they’ll go in. Then we’ll really have a room.

We live easily in the small space down below, but when we hustle, we hustle.

The girls are tired after all their rassling and running up and down the stairs all day. Note the white on Zuzu’s hip.

We’re all happy about the royal purple.

The curved stairs lead to our third-floor loft bedroom. That was an interesting project …