Welcome to Cranky Puppy Farm!

This blog belongs to two Gen X-er's smackdab in downtown Kansas City where we've been renovating and decorating two old Victorians built in the 1890's. Our life is filled with 3 demanding Pomeranians (1 of them cranky, of course), honking cars, noisy neighbors and the hustle and bustle of city life but we dream of the day when we can move to our 40-acre farm and hear nothing but the wind and the cows next door. Until then, we're chronicling our triumphs and mishaps here as we try to garden and preserve on 2 city lots, raise chickens, and learn all those things we should have learned from our grandparents. Welcome to our world - we hope you'll stay awhile!

From Scratch

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Just contemplating some things that I've discovered on the great wide Net this morning.  Two days ago I was enjoying cereal on the back deck in shorts and T-shirt.  This morning? Not so much, since it's a whole 24 balmy degrees outside.

Are you a modern homesteader?

Anway.....the first thing I wanted to share is a brand--spanking-new FREE online magazine called From Scratch that you can sign up for via email.  I just flipped through the first edition and it is chock full of information on chickens, alpacas, goats, gardening, homesteading, spinning and other homesteading topics.  The pictures are breathtaking.  And the really neat thing about this is that you (yes, you!) can submit articles and pictures to be included.  It's a real grass roots effort to advance and support the idea of modern day homesteaders.

The magazine describes itself as:

"From Scratch is a magazine for the people who raise chickens in their backyard, make their own bread, use a sewing machine, plant a garden.  They are canners, DIY'ers, fence builders. Modern day pioneers who have removed themselves from the rat race. They wear boots and jeans.  They love beautifully handmade things. They enjoy good music, good food, and good books. They are the modern homesteader."

If that describes you to a T, as it does me, you should check it out.

Got potatoes?

And for you local Kansas City homesteaders and gardeners, please read on:

I thought I had found out about this too late to get in on the deal, but apparently it's NOT too late to get in on the bulk seed potato order that CultivateKC puts in every year (even though the deadline has passed).  I've fired off an email to Ami Freeman over there to find out if there's a minimum on the order, so let me know if you're interested in the outcome of that conversation.  Christine's got the list of what's still available over at The Deadly Nightshade and click here you can find out more about the order process.

Stay warm, my friends.  Old Man Winter's days are numbered....

Want a Virus With That?

Monday, January 28, 2013

Did you see this?  "Regulators Discover a Hidden Virus Gene in GMOs".   For a more readable non-scientific breakdown, try the CleanFoodEarth blog.  Yikes!  Seems Monsanto and DuPont are using the Cauliflower Mosaic Virus promoter gene in the GMO corn, maize and other crops that are grown by farmers for consumption by humans and livestock.

Gene VI 's role is to suppress normal anti-pathogen capabilities, so one must wonder:  Does it have the same effect in anyone who eats GMOs containing Gene IV?  That researchers don't know is a scary thing to me.  With the increase in cancer, inflammatory disease, etc., one must wonder if there is a direct correlation with eating GMOs and the introduction of a known pathogen into our bodies (or could it possibly be triggering the body to produce new proteins or toxins to combat it?)  As we know, the body's response to unknown substances is inflammation and illness.

And how about....

  • How is it that the FDA can ban folks from consuming raw milk, but they are fine with allowing these genetically-tampered-with foods on the market with no regulation or research to ascertain their safety?
  • Even worse...why are foods with GMOs not required to be labelled as such here in the U.S. when they are in Europe? 
  • If GMOs have such great benefits, why aren't the producers proud to label their products as containing GMOs?  Why are so many big companies spending millions of dollars in an attempt to keep them unlabelled? That's right.  How about Nestle, Kelloggs, Ocean Spray, ConAgra, Dole, Campbells, Godiva, Coca-Cola, Bayer, Bumble Bee, Hormel and many, many more?

Things that make you go hmmmm....

Here's a great music video that breaks down the GMO issue in a rather catchy, tap-your-foot kinda way:

This kind of tampering with our food supply is the reason why J. and I started gardening and raising chickens. I have been convined for years that the high cancer rates are related to the crap that we're eating. Eating organic is the only way to know at this point what you're putting in your mouth.

If this is of concern to you, I'd encourage you to consider joining the fight to get Congress to require labelling of GMO products at JustLabelIt.org. No more hiding in the shadows...

1893 Victorian: The Kitchen

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Boy, have things been crazy this week!  In addition to my boss retiring (and my applying for his vacant position), one of my peers resigned and we've been scrambling to plan for management of his unit as well.  I'm hoping determined to make the most of these opportunities that have presented themselves.  Cross your fingers for me..
On the homefront, we got news that the appraisal had come in at exactly the sales price for the 1893 Victorian.  Gee, what a surprise!  According to J., the appraiser was there for about 30 minutes.  That's just enough time to take pictures and measure, if you're really fast.  Contrast that with the appraised we had done just before selling it, which lasted over 2 hours.  Folks, if you don't think this appraisal thing is a racket, I don't know what will convince you.
But with no major issues on the inspection, that was the last piece to fall into place before we close on February 6th.  We can't wait to have Dave, Christine, and Emily join us.  While we were digging around in the hallways closet when the inspector was there, Christine found what we think are the original curtain rods for the parlor.  We didn't even know they were there!  I think she is going to polish them and put them back up - I can't wait to see what she does with the place.
So, back to the house.  I believe we were going to look at the kitchen next...no?

The view from the dining room into the kitchen
Let me start by saying that the house didn't really have a kitchen.  No appliances other than a microwave and a shelving unit that Harold, the owner, used as his pantry.  To say he was the quintessential bachelor was an understatement.
As you walked through the door, you're facing a wall full of huge windows.  Turn to your left and you'll see a door that leads to a room that he was using as a kitchen.  It has a beautiful old farm sink that we'll see in a sec.

Just like the dining room, the wallpaper had already been stripped out of this room but the walls still needed quite a bit of patching. If you look closely at the wall on the left, you can see the lines of what looked to be a missing wall.  There may have been a closet her at one point - we never quite solved that mystery. 
If you turn to the right after coming through the door, you see more doors! Aye carumba!  Where are the cabinets going to go?

Looking at that wall a little closer in the next pic, you can see the doors a little better. On the left is the door to the bathroom that is tucked under the stairs (this house didn't have indoor plumbing when it was built!)  And the door on the right is a closet.
Who wants a door to their bathroom right off the kitchen?

So, to make some space, for cabinets, our only option was to wall off these two doors.  That also meant wiring for new appliances while we were at it.  At the top of the picture above, you can see the new drywall that goes up to the ceiling and it's freshly painted with a color named "Cream Puff".  The open space would later be covered with plywood, which makes mounting cabinets, appliances and backsplash much easier than drywall because it's sturdier.

Gotta have some tool porn for the guys reading this!  (Hi, J!)
You can see the plywood and the new cabinets going up in this next picture.

Cabinets are all installed and ready for their new granite countertop. I also taped a piece of tin backsplash up to see if we liked it or not.  These cabinets are stock cabinets carried by Home Depot, so the new owner can buy more if she wants.  There's enough space to put another set of 24" upper cabinets on top of these for more storage.

We actually installed the granite countertop ourselves and I can tell you that it's not a project for everyone.  We got a great deal on some beautiful green\black granite with a rounded countertop edge (sorry, I can't remember the exact name of the granite).  Before we could install it, we had to mount a 2"x4" to the wall on the right-hand side where the dishwasher would be.  That would support the weight of the granite and also provide a way to secure the dishwasher.  Then, across all the cabinets and all the way to the wall, we added a piece of plywood for more support. 
The hardwood floors in here were shot, so we opted to cover them over with tile.  You can see the concrete board all ready for new tile in that picture above.
The window wall all painted and pretty.
Luckyily, many of the ceilings in this house had already been drywalled.  All this one needed was a fresh coat of paint and a new chandelier and medallion.

Put it all together, and you have a finished, functional and modern kitchen with a somewhat old-timey feel! 

On the wall behind us, we have the frig with overhead cabinets between a pair of tall pantries for storage  I have some pictures, but they didn't turn out well enough to post here.  On the other wall,there's enough space for a really nice baker's rack, Hoosier cabinet or maybea luscious butcher block table.
I would have loved to turn this into a turn-of-the-century kitchen that looked something like this or this or this. *sigh*  But our budget was really tight. I think it came out really nice, though, and I really like that backsplash. What do you think?

Comparing Grain Mills

Monday, January 21, 2013

With all this breadmaking going on, I've been thinking alot about flour.  We made a trip to Cargo Largo, a store that sells discounted wares at "just fell off the truck" discounted prices.  In addition to finding lots of cheap stuff for our first aid cabinet (including medical grade respirators!), I also found a pretty good stash of bread flour.  I snagged all 3 lbs of it at less than 60% off the retail price in the grocery store.

Even this unbleached, organic flour isn't all that great.  Did you know that 50% of the nutritional value of grain is lost within 24 hours after it's made into flour and then another 50% is lost within the next 3 days?

Gak!  So one of the things that J. and I have been talking about is the idea of grinding our own flour as we need it and that means a mill of some kind.  I've been searching auctions and Craigslist for almost 2 years now for a used mill with no luck.  We considered the mill attachment for the KitchenAid and various other cheap grinders, but I really want to have something old-school.  In other words, something that doesn't require electricity.  And so I turned to the Internet again to research all I could about the different options and what you should look for in a mill.

Out of all that research came this list of requirements and "nice to haves":

Required Features:
  • Must be able to handle wheat, corn wheat, rice, beans, corn, peas and beans
  • Must be manual so that it would work if the power was out
  • Easy to use and clean
  • Good warranty
  • Reputable company with good support
  • Made in the USA

Preferred Features:
  • Can handle nuts like peanuts and almonds (making peanut butter!)
  • Able to use it with a motor or other type of power (e.g., bike)

What I quickly found was that the cheaper mills (anything under $200) just aren't up to the task.  So that leaves just 3 manual mills: the Diamana D525, the ever popular Country Living Grain Mill, and the Grainmaker.  We quickly ruled out the Diamant because, even though it's the Cadillac of grain mills, it's made outside the U.S. and it costs an arm and a leg.  So now's we're down to 2.  There's a dearth of information available on these two mills, so I put together this table to quickly show a comparison between them.

Grain Mill Comparison Chart
Click to biggify!

There were a couple of really good reviews\comparisons that I found and think would be helpful if you're looking at mills also. 

So Which One Did We Pick?

Ultimately, we decided on the more expensive Grainmaker #99.  I happen to really like that fire engine red color and I think it definitely has the proper old-timey look.  But, if you look at the green highlights in my table, you'll see why we ultimately decided on the Grainmaker.  I'm a little concerned about the aluminum and the powder coating in the grindng compartment of the Country Living mill.  Would we be eating little flecks of powder coating in the future when that finish fails?  And the CL seemed to not included some of the features that are standard on the Grainmaker (like the extended handle for two-handed grinding, the large grain auger and nut\bean auger, and ability to use standard bowls.)  While that last one may seem nit-picky, think about how you make bread - do you want to have a specialty bin to grind your flour into or would you rather just use the bowl you're making bread in?  The final straw was the lifetime warranty on the whole kit and caboodle that Grainmaker offers.  Those burrs are expensive to replace and it looks like the CL burrs are smaller and only warranted for 1 year.  That makes me a little nervous.

Williams-Sonoma had a 10% off special sale on the Grainmaker through today for just $624 with free shipping.  We lucked out and sold a roll of wool stair carpet and a kitchen island that I had posted on Craigslist today, and the proceeds more than paid for the Grainmaker.  I suppose the icing on the cake is that the mill comes with a 5 pound bag of Montana's Prairie Gold Wheat, which is guaranteed to be 100% chemical and GMO free.

Now I'm can't wait until it gets here.  But I suppose I can keep myself busy searching for sources for bulk wheat.  Any of you locals have any ideas?  And stay tuned....when it shows up, I'll be sure to post about our first experiences with it!

I'm sharing this post with this week's Clever Chicks, Sunny Simple Sunday and Down Home blog hops.

Link Jumpin'

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Sixty degrees on Saturday to 40 today and 23 tomorrow.  We spent the nice weather yesterday cleaning out the cars and washing them, piddling around the yard and chicken coop, and talking with the new neighbors after they brought a friend over to show them the house.

Now that our warm spell is over, my behind is sittin' in the warm house and cruising the Intertubes.  I thought I might share a little linky love for some of the more interesting things I found today. 

On the heels of J.'s yeasty masterpieces yesterday, I came across a new blogger who's also based in Missouri, albeit more south of here.  I'm talking about Farm Girl Fare, and I've added a link to her blog over on the sidebar.  She's got some marvelous recipes on her blog, which makes me forgive her for having 240 acres down south in God's country (southern Missouri).  Folks, if you haven't been there, you haven't seen perfect.  Anyway, she's written what I think is THE most informative post I've ever seen about making bread.  If you're having trouble with something or want to get started baking your own, I'd recommend taking a look at it.

I somehow stumbled onto a post over at Wild Blue Bus on DIY solar energy.  Actually, that's part 1 of 2 (you can see part 2 here).   I think I've given up on the idea that we could afford a solar setup that would run our entire house, but I'm intrigued by the idea of reducing our reliance on the power company.  Kansas City Power and Light actually offers rebates of $2.00 per watt for a system connected to their grid.  Our neighbor looked into this last fall and seemed to think that he could get the system to pay for itself within 10 years with all the rebates from the utility, State of Missouri (up to $1,000)  and federal government.  I've put this on my list to look into some more...

And, last but not least, I ran across this really cool post over at Glory Farm on how to recycle and make your own paper.  I had no idea it was this easy and I'm excited about using this as part of one of my new hobbies:  making my own cards.

Well, it's late and probably time for me to hit the sack.  I have to be up early tomorrow to hit the grocery store for some free grapefruit juice and grapefruits (yea, couponing!) and then we have some folks coming over to look at a kitchen island we have for sale on Craigslist.  They said they're bringing their truck and trailer, so it sounds like it might be sold.  And that's a good thing, since it's in the house that will no longer be ours in just over 2 weeks!

G'night, sleep tight...

Well, Butter my Biscuit!

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Check these babies out...

Butter, honey, or gravy?  Yes, please!
My honey made those!  And they were oh-so-delicious with breakfast this morning.  If I may opine for moment:  there is nothing better than freshly baked bread or biscuits.  So imagine my surprise when J. yelled up the stairs at me that breakfast was ready this morning and I came down to find this.

Now what has gotten into that man?  I don't know, but it's all good.  :-)

And if making homemade biscuits wasn't awesome enough, he was also making bread for the first time.  Here it is right after coming out of proofing.

Beautiful.  I told him to punch it down so that I could take a picture of him doing it and instead he stuck his hand on it and pushed down.  Can you see the hand print?

Out of this big ball of dough, he was able to make one full size and one mini size loaf of white bread and ten dinner rolls.  The mini loaf got eaten right out of the oven (of course!)

I think he did a great job, especially after my first try didn't come out so well - it tasted great, but didn't rise enough and had way to much crust.  We ultimately discovered it was because of old yeast.

But this bread was pretty darn close to perfect.  He said the one thing he would do is use the Rapid Proofing setting on our oven the second time around.  And over dinner we talked about using real bread flour instead of white processed and the idea of even grinding our own flour.  There may be a post about choosing grain mills in my future!

So we can officially mark this goal off our list from last year (okay, we're a little late, I know).  If you're interested in trying out our bread recipe, you can find it in this post.  If you want to try out J.'s biscuit recipe, well....here it is!

Cranky Puppy's Good Morning Biscuits
Makes 6 grand-sized biscuits

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon white sugar
  • 8 tablespoons (1/3 cup) of butter or butter-flavored shortening
  • 3/4 cup milk or buttermilk

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar (or pulse in a food processor).
  3. Cut in the shortening until the mixture resembles coarse meal.
  4. Gradually stir in milk until dough pulls away from the side of the bowl.
  5. Turn out onto a floured surface, and knead 15 to 20 times.
  6. Pat or roll dough out to 1 inch thick.
  7. Cut biscuits with a large cutter or juice glass dipped in flour. Repeat until all dough is used.
  8. Brush off the excess flour, and place biscuits onto an ungreased baking sheet.
  9. Bake for 13 to 15 minutes or until edges begin to brown.
TIP for new biscuit-makers:  Any time you make biscuits (or anything that uses baking powder or soda to rise) you want to gently mix the dough JUST until the ingredients are all mixed.  The more you handle your dough the more the gluten develops and the tougher your biscuits, pie crust, etc. will be.
If you make these or come up with a better recipe based on this one, please let us know! 

I've shared this recipe with this week's Mop It Monday, HomeStead Barn, Show and Tell Saturday hops.  Go check it out!

Meet the New Neighbors!

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

It seems like I have been waiting forever for the day when I could introduce you to our new neighbors, Dave and Christine.  Please take a moment to meet them over at their blog, The Deadly Nightshade, and learn about how they have turned their suburban yard into a veritable edible paradise. They love old houses and dogs, keep bees, and have even more chickens than we do.  Dave likes to brew beer and mead (so we know where J. will be), and Christine teaches popular local classes on herbs and has even published her first book.  What's not to like?

The way in which our fates intertwined is actually kind of crazy.  Back in October, Christine posted about a Victorian house that she had fallen in love with, but the price tag was a staggering $595,000.  Now I will say this...I fell in love with it also.   If I were rich I would plop the cash down today and move this weekend.  But $595k?  In St. Joe?  That seems kind of insane, even if it's on the National Register.  But, seriously, if you love Victorian houses, you have got to watch the virtual tour.

It was right about that time that J. and I were thinking about putting our 1893 Victorian project on the market, so I posted a comment that she could find really nice Victorians for much less than that one and that we were going to put ours on the market.  How could I have known that one little comment would leave to a wonderful new friendship and selling the house without it even going on the market?

Christine and I hit it off immediately when we first met - her energy is just infectious and she's so giving. She offers alot of her classes for free. When she and Dave came over that first night, they brought us a gift of unfiltered honey from their bees. Such nice people!

She has even more energy than I do, so I think Dave and J. might be in trouble when the two of us get together. She's already planning for a huge orchard on the property, which is something we're interested in doing here at Cranky Puppy as well. We started with 3 dwarf apple trees, but we're talking now about planting at least another 5 trees in 2013.

With the closing scheduled for February 6th (just 3 weeks away!), we had the appraiser and inspector over today.  Christine also had some folks over from the Giving Grove and the Lincoln County Extension to talk about plans for the orchard not just on the 3 vacant lots that belong with the house, but also plans for creating a community orchard on some of the vacation lots that we have here in the neighborhood.  I think it's an awesome idea, as it's been shown that getting the community involved in shared gardens\orchards actually reduces crime.  I had to work and couldn't join them, which was disappointing, but I'm sure Christine will fill us in over on her blog.

Thanks  again for stopping by and, if you haven't already, take a look at The Deadly Nightshade.  I promise that Christine's humorous style will have you adding it to your list of blogs to haunt every day.  And stay tuned for our adventures as we combine forces this year to create an urban mega farm.  We are so excited!

Til next time,

Welcome to the Red Light District

Monday, January 14, 2013

Roxanne!  You don't have to put on the red light.  
You don't have to...put on the red light!

That is, unless it's supposed to be 9 degrees outside and you want your beloved chickies to be toasty.  And the brooder light adds some nice ambiance, even if it does look a little risque.  (Insert your Chicken Ranch jokes here.)

If you peek in the window in that pic, you can see some of the girls roosting for the night.

Speaking of chickens, there have been a couple of interesting things that our feathered friends have been up to recently.  The first has to do with their slow down in laying:  in December, I barely got an egg a day.  I attribute that to the onset of cold weather and the decrease in daylight.  The poor girls have been laying for over a year, so I think they're entitled to a vacation and we haven't been adding any supplemental light in the coop to stimulate their laying. 

But, now that we're past the winter solstice and the days are getting longer, I think we're an upswing.  We're not up to an average of 3 eggs per day out of 9 hens, which is a pace that is just fine with me.  What's difficult is that they're really chowing down on the food, since they can't get out and free range (it's dark when I get home from work and they're already in "bed"). 

I discovered the other oddity tonight when I went out to shut the coop door and gather the eggs.  There were two perfect eggs and then this:

I swear...doesn't that look like a walnut?

I wonder what caused this.  Did it get stuck?  The shell is nice and hard and the inside looked normal when I cracked it.  (Yes, I had to peek.)  The hens have been staying in their coop because of the cold, so I wonder if this is just a fluke from a hen that might have stopped laying for awhile,  or maybe its stress-related.  This is the first one that I've seen and everybody seems healthy, so I guess I'll just have to wait and see if we get any more.

 Shared with this week's Weekly Top Shot and Clever Chick blog hops. 

Eminent Domain

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Dear Landowner?
J. and I got a completely unexpected letter today about something called the Midwest Transmission Project.  It seems that Kansas City Power and Light (my old employer and folks that supply our electricity here in KC) and Omaha Public Power District are teaming up for a $400 million project to build a new substation and bring in some 140 to 170 miles of new 345-kv transmission line to northwestern Missouri and southeastern Nebraska.  Seems there were some initial meetings about the project back in August that we weren't aware of and weren't notified about.  They're now in the route planning phase and our farm is smack dab in the middle of the planning area.

The first thing I thought was: eminent domain.

There are more meetings scheduled for later this month and we'll be going.  In the meantime, I immediately started digging on the Internet for more info, as the site doesn't provide much about the potential routes.  The more I read, the more I panicked until I finally found this:

"We have the power of eminent domain, but we don't like using it."  Davis said, "(sic) the route will generally avoid rights-of-way containing existing lines.  Dual-location cuts redundancy and increases the odds for an outage in the event of an ice storm, tornado and other calamities. "

Well, that's good news.  We already have a high-voltage easement running through our 40 acres that I'm already uneasy about.  The studies that have been done on high-voltage lines and their affect on health have been inconclusive - some say they do affect health, some say they don't.  Until we know for sure, I'm still concerned.  You can read here about a dairy farmer in Omaha whose lights stayed on even after flipping the switch in his barn because of electrical interference from these lines.  Scary, huh?

The line is in a location that we could locate the house far enough from it, but it's still there marring our view.  We're not allowed to do anything within 65 feet in either direction.  Since it's just pasture right now, that's not an issue, but it's something we'll have to consider when we move out there for good.  No planting, no animal enclosures, no nothing.  Another line on the acreage would make it unbuildable, in my opinion.  I certainly wouldn't want to live there with all that high voltage over my head.  And having those lines decreases your property values because nobody else wants to live there either.

The reason given for this project is to increase redundancy and availability of this part of the electrical grid. But I kept seeing the phrases "wind energy" and "green energy". Hmmm...   And I wonder if this has something to do with the 9% increase on our utility bills that just kicked in at the beginning of the year?  Anybody else get a 9% raise in salary this year?  We certainly didn't.

1893 Victorian: The Dining Room

Friday, January 11, 2013

Oh, sorry!  I think it's time to continue our tour of the downstairs and I'm so sorry to have left you standing in the parlor for 2 days!  Let's go, shall we?  On to the dining room...
Here's what it looked like the day we were thinking about buying it. 

The walls look awful, don't they?  But it's not as bad as it looks.  The previous owner had stripped the wallpaper out of this room and fixed all the pin holes and cracks in the plaster, so what you are seeing is bare plaster stained yellow by the wallpaper paste. 

So this room was basically a blank slate!  All ready to be beautified.  Here's a look at the fireplace in the room (the 2nd of the3 in the house).  Once again, I managed to capture Pauline's behind in this picture.  J. accuses me of doing that on purpose because we have a ton of pictures from his behind.  I say either (a) get your behind out of the photo if you don't want it snapped, or (b) maybe I think your behind is nice and wanted to capture it for posterity, or (c) maybe I didn't notice or care if your behind was in the frame.  Or (d) maybe you shouldn't turn around when I'm taking a picture.  So there!

The original fixture only partially worked and, rather than rewire it, I felt the room needed a classier feel.  I'm all about the bling, you know.  I had gotten this really great deal on a gorgeous Schoenbeck crystal fixture (like Swarovski) when one of the Rensen House of Lights locations went out of business, and it was perfect for this room.
The only work we had to do to here was to paint the walls a deep plum color to match the tile on the fireplace and put several fresh coats of white on the trim.  These pictures don't do it justice - the color really pops!

Another on my long list of projects: a late 1800's buffet.  This will be moving across the street to our dining room.
And some of the crystals on the chandelier matched the color of the walls.  I think it lends an air of elegance to the room.  What do you think?

This room is surrounded by pocket doors.  We just walked through a set from the parlor and here's another set heading into a back room.  Truthfully, I'm not sure what this room was originally used for.  It could have been a servants or nanny's bedroom, as there's a closed up staircase converted into a closet in there.  There's also a back door that leads out onto the deck that spans the entire length of the back of the house.  That room is so light and airy - it would make a great office or study.

I love the long windows in this room.  Can't you just see long silk curtains spilling onto the floor here?

I couldn't get over what good condition the original fireplace tiles are in this house.  Someone cared for them lovingly, that's for sure, as they are usually cracked and missing.  And it can be virtually impossible to find a match.
We did clean up the fireplace cover and give it a nice fresh coat of paint. The designs on the three covers are all different but this one is my favorite.  It's of an ornate wreath with what I think are cherry blossoms on either side.  You can click to biggify the picture below to get a better look.

Well, that's the dining room.  We have just 2 more stops on the main floor and then we're heading upstairs.  If you turn around, the door to the kitchen is right behind you.
Thanks for stopping by on the tour and I hope you have a great day!

Knit One, Purl Two

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

Evening, everyone!  I've jumped in with both feet on my goal list and signed up for two knitting classes at JoAnn's and the first one was tonight.

There were four other ladies in the class and I think just about everyone had knitted before except me.  I've never even touched a knitting needle.  We started with Linda, the instructor, teaching us the secret to unrolling a skein of yarn - pull out the short cut end, then stick your hand in the middle of the other end of the skein and fish around until you find the ball of yarn that's stuffed in there.  Pull it out and you're ready to start knitting.

Then we learned how to "cast on" (loading the first loops on the knitting needles).  I was fine with the knit stitch but then she really screwed me up with purl, which is basically a reverse knit stitch.

So I happily spent most of the 3 hours trying to perfect knit and will have to work on purl before the class next Tuesday.  In that one, we're supposed to use knit and purl to make a hat.  I'd like to have it at least look like a hat and not some kind of demented whale's tail.  There's no way I'm showing you what I made tonight as it's downright embarrassing.

I just finished reading a book called "Outliers" by Malcolm Gladwell that I highly recommend you pick up at the local library.  It's a very quick read and it's one of those books that makes you go "hmmm".  The premise of the book is that decision that we make every day, or random societal rules, can either positively or negatively influence your or someone else's life.  For example, did you know that most professional hockey players are born in the first 4 months of the year?  That where your pilot was born can influence whether you survive a plane crash?  Why are Asians better at math than Americans?  I don't want to give it away just in case you have a chance to read the book, but the author provides statistical information and real life stories in answer to these questions.  It will definitely make you think.

Anyway, the reason I brought up that book is because one of the chapters is about expertise...in anything. How long do you think it takes for someone to become an expert?  Have you ever thought about that?  Gladwell has interviewed people in many areas:  music, dance, business, etc. to try to get an answer to that question.  The concensus is that it takes 10,000 hours, or roughly 10 years of practice.

Rome wasn't built in a day and I'm sure my knitted hat won't be either.  I've got 3 hours down and 9,997 more to go before.

In the meantime...is this woman for real?
G'night, my friends!

1893 Victorian: Come Inside!

Sunday, January 06, 2013

Now that you've seen the outside, let's come in out of the cold, get some hot chocolate, and I'll give you the nickel tour.  Can I take your coat?

There are two front doors on the house - the formal entrance right as you come up the porch stairs and then the other entrance all the way at the end of the porch and around the side of the house.  We'll  use that one for now.

As we step through the door, we're in one of the parlors and can look into the formal dining room.

The dining room is right through those pocket doors. Yep, they work!
Like many Victorians, this house has two parlors.  In the South, these would have been designated as "mens" and "ladies" parlors for receiving guests.  But, in Kansas City, they were usually "formal" versus "informal".  If you were a guest unknown to the family, you would have been received in the formal entrance and parlor and the rest of the house would have been closed off to your view with the pocket doors. These also served to keep the heat from the fireplace in the room so that it was nice and cozy.  The modern version of this room would be the living room.

If you were a friend of the family, you would have entered the room we're standing in now:  the informal parlor.  You can think of this as a Victorian version of the family room.

This room needed some serious help when we bought the house.  Like the rest of the house, it looked like a 1980's pink and green nightmare.  The wallpaper that had been up for 25+ years was peeling and it was in desperate need of a paint job.  The light was original, but it didn't work and needed to be rewired.  We ended up replacing it with something more modern.

OOPS!  Caught our real estate agent's back side in this picture!
 That door to the right goes into a hallway where there's a closet (you can see the door) and then, just to the right of that, is the entrance to the downstairs bathroom that is tucked under the stairs.  This house didn't have indoor plumbing when it was built.
Looking back at the front door that we just came in. Nice shades, huh?
If we turn to our right, we'll see the formal parlor.  Let's head on in and take a closer look.  Notice the beautiful hardwood floors...we didn't have to do any work to these.  They need to be cleaned, but they are gorgeous!

I really like this light fixture better.  More bling!
As the formal parlor, this one boasts one of the three fireplaces in the house.

Who left that camera bag there?
We were really lucky that the original tile is all in great shape, as is the fireplace cover.  All we had to do was clean up the mantel and paint the cover.

We weren't so lucky with the walls.

I'm sorry, but that wallpaper is hideous with a capital H.  And it stank to high heaven because the previous owner was a smoker.  I couldn't wait to rip it down.
That stained glass window in the formal entrance is eye-catching.  We'll get a closer look at it in a later post.
The window on the right is HUGE - close to 5 feet wide and it's the original wavy lead glass.  It's a double-sash but the top sash is only about 1 foot tall.  I didn't do this, but I think it would be cool to etch the address onto that top window is some Victorian font.

Once we had all that nasty old wallpaper and border stripped off, we primed and painted the walls in both parlors with two coats of Behr Ultra paint in a nice neutral cream color.  I think it really sets off the color of the wood, don't you?

Looking back into the informal parlor. The stairs are behind us.
From here, we could keep going the way we were going and be in the formal hallway where the staircase is to go upstairs.  But let's finish the downstairs first by heading back the way we came.  Next stop will be the dining room and I  hope you'll stop back by to see it!

What do you think so far?
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