Post mortem

A number of us read many of the same things, and I think most everyone is aware of a couple dust-ups that took place on a pair of popular blogs earlier this week. I'm not about to open either of those cans (you're welcome) so I won't name any names, but I do think that the first case especially gives us something we can all talk about. It was something I hoped the author herself was going to give us her views on, but then she, uh...didn't.

The post began with a discussion of that 13 year-old girl (Style Rookie) who was seated in the front row at some fashion shows because she blogs about fashion. I think that asks some interesting questions:

Does a blog, no matter how well written, entitle a child to sit in the front row when said front row is a place normally reserved for editors and the like?

Further, does writing well about anything make one an expert? Is the “expert” label even relevant any more?

I could probably argue any of those questions either way. For myself, I’m not taking fashion tips from kids.

What I’m more interested in was who’s idea was it to put her in the front row, and why? It feels a bit desperate, and a lot like a stunt, a stunt the kid isn’t in on.

I'd love to hear your opinion.

Made in China

I've been trying to figure out where to use this, but the coloration is a bit strong for either the living room or our master bedroom. Then it hit me, it's perfectly sized for the family room wall we're planning to mount the tv on, and we'll need a place to stow components. Brett's onboard, I'll be sure to let you know if it comes home with us. It's at a local antique shop that specializes in gorgeous asian things.


It kept snowing yesterday, not as hard as it had, but pretty steadily throughout the day. I'm praying for a chinook.
I hate snow, but the dogs have been good about doing their thing in the driveway rather than dragging us through drifts taller than they are.

We've also gotten around just fine in the Rover. First thing yesterday we ran by Aristocrat to see if I could pick up a new windshield wiper to replace the one I broke off (further inspection revealed it was just the blade, thank God). There were no signs or anything but the parts department was closed. I drove around to the showroom. The first guy suggested an auto parts store. Just as I said that the full-service service station by my home didn't have one another salesman said "oh no they won't, those are dealer items." If I knew that why wouldn't Salesman 1? But then the second guy said "is it for your LR3? Pull down there and I'll take one off one of ours." The day was saved, and I'll bitch slightly less about Aristocrat's service until the next time they piss me off.

While we were out we ran by the mall to put up my 50% off booth closing signs, picked up a couple things Brett needed from the office, and bought a Wii. Yes, we bought a Wii. We've been thinking about it for a long time, and since we hadn't done anything for Christmas we finally pulled the trigger. My Mii is wearing a black shirt and a black stocking cap and has a little soul patch, he's adorable.

We got Wii Fit Plus as well. After completing the diagnostics, I'm proud to report that my Wii Fit age is 35! The games you play on the balance board are surprisingly active. We're hoping to each do about 30 minutes a day in an effort to lose some weight. I'm calling it The Wii Hour.

White Out

I stuck my hand and camera out the front door for a shot of what's going on here this evening. Rain all day followed by snow all night, accompanied by an insane wind. You can barely see the street between us and the house across the street. This is why I'm retiring to Palm Springs at the first available opportunity.

Yes, I know some people like snow for Christmas. I am not one of them. Plus it's enough ice and snow and wind that if you're not already out of here, you're not going. So much for your white Christmas.

Also, a tip for you: Do not reach out and around to your windshield and try to grab your wiper. Yes, you can pull it up and let it slam back and that will get rid of some of the ice. You can also just break the whole blade off, then you get to drive home from across town without it.

Cute boys singing

Christmas (sort of) comes to Chez Malaise

I'm not so much in the holiday spirit, but that's no excuse for passing on a good buy for a little something pretty for the house - call it a present if you must. There's always something new on the floor at Nell Hills, and last time I stopped in to see Rich, white ceramics were everywhere. My favorite was this lidded jar, available in 12 and almost 24 inches. On the way back from running Tom to the airport today I stopped in and got one of the big ones. I shouldn't be buying accessories, but things are never there for long and at 44 bucks it's a lot of look for not much cash. I'm wishing I'd bought a pair so I may have to make another trip.

Theres a large framed drawing I've had my eye on there as well (in the upstairs "Family" restroom of all places). It is distinctly not a deal at 715, which combined with it's display spot in the lavatory means it's been there quite a while, a rarity at Nell Hills. I told Rich that should Mary Carol ask, I'd buy it if she'd mark it down by half. If that ever works I'll be sure to let you know.

I mentioned taking Tom to the airport, and that means it's time for another holiday tradition, Prada the Extra Schnauzer is back to stay for 10 days! Here she is on our heinously tattered vinyl sheet linoleum in the kitchen shortly after enjoying a pig ear. Yes, she's just as hairy as ever.

We dropped her off here before Tom and I headed out to KCI, and she was not happy. Brett texted later that she'd thrown up twice, but she seems more at ease now and has been chasing Alex around the living room. Neither of them can get any traction on the old wood floor so it's been entertaining to watch.

One other thing to mention, drink prices at the airport are insane. Tom and the little baby Jesus share the same birthday, and I'm still self-medicating my back, so we thought we'd have a cocktail before he got in the security line. My bloody mary was perfectly fine and certainly strong, but $10.50 per is obscene.


I bowl every other Friday night in one of the gay leagues here in town, and tonight was bowling night. Gay leagues are like regular leagues, only not very many girls and thumping hi-NRG dance music specially mixed for each session by one of our league members. Oh, and the team names can be a bit risque. We used to be "Up Your Average", then "I cant believe it's not gutter." For some reason this year we're "Bowlwinkle." But I digress. On the way to the lanes I stopped for a coffee and a cookie, got there and was feeling good, and had a 213 first game. We won!

Mike and I went out for a smoke before the second game started. On the way back I stopped at the bar and got a cocktail, changed back into my bowling shoes, and began the second game with a spare.

Second frame I begin my approach, get to the line, release and...BAM. Shooting pain on the right side of my lower back, down my right butt cheek and into the back of my thigh. Dropped the ball badly and left a split. The good news was that I stayed upright. I hobbled back to a crowd of bewildered faces, offers of pain relievers, and the suggestion to take a moment and relax because nobody was in a hurry.

That was it. I couldn't pick up my ball without more shooting pain. I sat out while the opposing team proceeded to kick our ass, hoping that it was a temporary thing. It wasn't. I tried to stretch out and walk it off, even bending to mimic my approach to see how it felt. It was fine, until I had my 16 pound ball in my hand, and I couldn't do it.

Everyone enjoy your weekend, I'll be here with the heating pad!

***Update*** For self-medicating or serving to friends I recommend Cupcake Vineyards' Sauvignon Blanc. Perfect with some hummus and pita chips while wrapping presents and avoiding anything that requires bending forward.

12 years ago tonight

Brett had a blind date. They didn't hit it off, so he made a graceful exit and dropped by a bar in midtown where I was attending a party. It was our first official date.

To celebrate this evening we cleaned up and headed down to Capital Grille for dinner. We were so stuffed we had to get our dessert to go. Coconut cream pie on the sofa with my sweetie here soon.

Happy anniversary baby!

For the ladies

Look what I found.

You didn't know I took requests?

Raina and Mrs. B. mentioned liking the bit of wallpaper I found during thermostat installation, so I thought I'd see what I could uncover.

The flocked paper, a sort of 'spanish tile' design in white and gold came off the walls in sheets with almost no effort at all. And you know, what's underneath is way better. It's ruined, not to mention on the west and south walls only, so theres nothing to save, but as patterns go its pretty interesting. The coloration is nice and neutral as well which I think makes a lot of pattern easier to handle.

After reading their comments I got curious, and managed to strip both walls in five minutes. Now THIS paper is stuck, so if it needs to be stripped we won't get off anywhere near as easily. The dining room remember has very little wall, and I'm thinking about going dark dark. I'd planned to paint, but I'm also thinking about an off-black textured paper in here as well, which would just make things that much easier.

Also let me clarify something. The only reason there are pictures on the wall is so there aren't pictures on the floor.

Layers of crazy

Right here, this little 18 inch square spot of wall neatly sums up our house. The square hole was the original thermostat for the east half of the house. About 18 years ago they got new furnaces, and I guess it was just easier to mount the new thermostat and unhook the old one. And of course leave it there. And while we're at it lets just paper over the first wallcovering. Oddly the colorations are similar, if only reversed. Oh, and the top layer is flocked.

We haven't been able to tell if the thermostats were even working, so it was time for new programmable ones. I started by removing the older of the two, and luckily since I just started right in with my screwdriver, it wasn't hot. The wires got wrapped with electrical tape just in case, and shoved back into the wall. The odd discovery was....drywall. Every wall here, painted or papered, seems to be lined, so I just assumed we had plaster. Maybe we do in places, but this wall is sheetrock, two layers from the looks of it.

The new thermostat was simple to install, and seems to be working. Brett programed it and I hear a click every so often, and I'm not freezing, so all is well.

The double switch there remains a mystery. It's uncovered because it had an enormous switchplate with a sort of shield shape on it that was going to interfere with the thermostat. We haven't a clue what either of these switches control. The overhead fixture and cove lighting in the dining room are on a double switch on the other side of the doorway. They don't appear to control outlets either, we tested. They could be for the couple of floodlights outside, but the dining room seems to be an odd spot for the switch. The bulbs out there could be burnt out as well, so we'll probably get a new bulb and see if that does anything. Otherwise it's up to the electricians when next they're out. My hope is that they can just go away.

So I was looking at Lonny

I don't like the name, and with the exception of photos linking to manufacturers websites I generally don't like online magazines, but I did like this:

It's the regency credenza from MasonGray. Designed in New York and built just over in Connecticut, from sustainable hardwoods in non-toxic, water-based finishes. A huge range of finishes are available. I can't decide if I'd order this in their worn lacquer, pewter over onyx, or the washed walnut. They also have an interesting blog, you can link from the website.

Time to give

I work for a commercial insurance brokerage. We're the go-between, between your agent and the insurance carriers, and we're most often called upon when you've got something out of the ordinary to insure. Need wind coverage for your hi-rise in Florida? No problem. Product recall for your amazing new diet pill? Consider it done. Want to insure that special part of your exclusive new adult film actor? Actually, yes, we can find someone to do that.

We're a sales organization selling something that everyone needs, and as such the company does fairly well. Some years are better than others obviously, but overall business is good and everyone is fairly comfortable. We make good money, and then at Christmas, we spend. Its when we turn our attention to adopting families for the holidays.

We partner with the social workers at an area grade school, find out what their needs are, and go to work. Families get filled into spreadsheets with ages and sizes and interests. Spreadsheets are distributed to those who want to participate. You can shop yourself, or you can write a check and someone will shop for you, whichever you prefer. Emails are sent back and forth so that all the kids get even and equitable coverage. A couple of outfits and a toy or two are the baseline. Watching everyone blow right past that minimum is the best part.

It never seems to me that the families ask for much. It's often basics like socks or a sweatshirt. We make sure they get that and then some.

My adoptee, or I should say "our" adoptee as Brett always goes in with me, is seven years old. He likes Bakugan, which I was unfamiliar with, until we got to Target. I asked a mom in the boys department about sizes and we got to talking. When it came to toys I said "I can't remember what it was, it sounded japanese." "Oh Bakugan," she said, "It has its own aisle, you'll see the sign."

We got a starter pack, a special attack, and two traps. Paula at work evened things up by providing a Bakugan hat and glove set, some Bakugan bath gel, two collector figures and a book.

Off work today, I went back to Target and took care of the clothing. The bootcut jeans and layered tee I would totally wear myself. The cargo pants as well, with the navy buttondown and long sleeve white tee. It's hard to see but there's also a black hooded rugby there that goes with both pants, the white tee works under that as well. Oh, and a black belt. (With an antiqued silver buckle!)

So I'm heading off to wrap packages as tomorrow is delivery day. And just like every year, it's one of my favorite parts of the holiday. I hope he likes his stuff.

In the garage...and back out

I was SO proud that we got the garage sorted and our cars in. And then I started moving out of the workshop. I'm back in the driveway, but because I'm a good boyfriend, there's still room for Brett to get his car in.

Why did I move out of the workshop? This is my last month at the antique mall. Have I mentioned that? It seems like I did, but I can't remember. Anyway, with the new place I decided to take a break. Any painting I start should be walls and trim here rather than furniture for someone else's place. It's not forever, it's just until I feel like things are under control here.

It also will be an opportunity for me to concentrate on selling online, which I've done, but only half-heartedly. eBay has gotten so big, I'm thinking about giving Etsy a try, concentrating on vintage lighting and tabletop. Etsy would also be a good place for smaller painted things, like the old silver chests and humidors I've picked up at auctions and estate sales thinking they could be made into something good.

The nice thing about this house is that the basement is huge, dry, well-lit and not scary at all. (the crawl space under the bedrooms? totally different story!) I had furniture at the workshop waiting for paint, and for the pieces I wanted to keep there's more than enough storage space. There's also plenty of room for a little workspace and still much of the basement remains empty and clear.

Gary Lezak was on the six pm news totally boned for the impending snow, so I'm heading out to the garage in a bit to see if I can't squeeze, fit, and stack things in an effort to get the rover back inside for the night. It won't be a permanent fix, but it'll keep me from having to get up earlier to scrape the windshield. Everybody stay warm!

MidMal Recommends: C&B Gala Stemware

We don't entertain often at Chez Malaise (and certainly won't be doing so anytime soon), but we like to have the necessary basics so that we're ready when the urge hits. Brett and I are liquor drinkers mostly, and we have great glasses in singles, doubles, and talls that fill most any need. What we've never had is good wine glasses.

I picked some up a long time ago at Tuesday Morning, mostly because I liked the design of the stem. It wasn't until the first time I went to pour someone some wine that I realized the glasses I brought home were ridiculously large. Way too tall, holding way too much, we never used them. On moving day I gave them to the cleaning lady and was thrilled to be rid of them.

We've had a Crate & Barrel gift card in our wallet since last Christmas, when the print we liked disappeared from the store/catalog/website. Tonight we went out to see if we couldn't find a simple, serviceable wine glass.

Tons to choose from, from way-too-big to why bother, the 12-ounce Gala was just right. Thin but not too, substantial without being heavy, and at $3.95 a piece not a big expense at all. We picked up a dozen for all-purpose wine drinking, and might add some balloon goblets for reds somewhere down the road.

I love Twitter

After my cousin's interview on Afentra's Big Fat Morning Buzz I started following Afentra herself. I don't know when or where this was, but I love little dude there.

Nothing to show

No excitement around here for the holiday weekend, other than we can now get our cars in the garage. The basement has some extremely well built shelving under the stairs. A bit short for our needs, we removed two levels through much hammering and prying, then cleaned and moved boxes and storage tubs to the basement. A few boxes came inside to be unpacked, and everything else was organized and stacked before I swept out the leaves and dirt.

We're starting to amass some debris with the shelving lumber, closet doors, and a shelf I pryed down when stripping wallpaper in the corner bedroom. A few more closet doors (sliding doors suck, you can't see what's in your closet!), a built in desk, and some drapery valances and I'm going to have to have things hauled away. Locals, I need a recommendation.

Our garage is paneled in a sort of oversized beadboard, and while it's tired and woody at the moment I think it would be really attractive painted. A lighter, brighter color would also help the light situation. Brett says that's way down on the list, and it will be a job with the cleaning and priming and fixing some old termite damage, but I think the end result will be worth it. It's unheated out there so it won't be until spring, but I'll be thinking of colors (a pale gray-green currently leads the pack) all winter.

On the wildlife front, Fox ran past the house heading south on Valley about a half hour ago.

Finally, the weekend mail brought the monthly homes association newsletter. Controversy! There's disagreement about the election of members, how many actual members are proscribed by the by-laws, nonconforming garage builds, neighbors with petitions and open letters from the board members. Brett was president of the board at the condo, and I think our plan here is to remain blissfully uninvolved, but it was entertaining reading. We're part of The Homes Associations of Kansas City, which used to be named The Homes Associations of the Country Club District. Frankly I like the former, more pretentious name.

Tomorrow the gutter guys are back to install our new oversized gutters. Yay for downspouts!

Messenger Bag

So here is the only before shot I have of the house. I should have taken some detail photos, but the details were pretty grisly and I just never made it a priority. The house was stone, and white. White siding, white trim, all white. The shutters are falling apart, but at least they're black. The new shutters will be black as well, hopefully debuting by this spring.
Painting is pretty much done now with the exception of some touch up and scraping, and I think Jeff said they forgot a door somewhere, although I haven't found it yet. The siding is Sherwin Williams' Messenger Bag, trimmed in their Navajo White. Soffits and doors, including the garage door, are the Navajo White. Doors need to be replaced and the plan is that they will eventually be black. The garage door hasn't been decided on yet. Clopay makes a glass and steel door with a monster price, but lord it would be cool. We also need to think about moving some electrical from up over the door (on a quick yet short motion sensor), and we're thinking about a pair of lanterns flanking the garage door.
The back of the house. If it looks like the patio is crumbling and the railing is detached, that's because it is and it is.

The back of the house from the other end of the yard, looking toward the back of the garage. Every single bush is coming out as they're all overgrown, although it'll probably happen in sections. I'm really looking forward to landscaping again.

The west side and the big master bedroom corner window. See the smaller window on the left? At the upper right corner of that window there was a huge spot of wood rot that was basically a hole in the side of our house.

A close up of the front gables. Everything has sharp edges now, which I think really helps clean up the look.

East end, kitchen and east dining room windows. Sharp edges here Our big picture windows all look dirty. It's not that we can't clean, it's that it's dirt and condensation between the double panes. They're like that until they're replaced. Grrr.

So there's the big After! It's been funny to watch people drive by and look, which we can do easily as we're short on window coverings. Yesterday Brett was out early and someone walking down Valley Road told him it was looking good. We decided to go ahead with the paint because on some level we wanted people to know things would get better. It's turned out to be an even better decision. There was plenty of wood rot in addition to that hole in the west end, and I feel much better about the coming winter knowing the house is better protected.

Let's talk for a moment about Adam Lambert

I don't watch American Idol with any regularity. In fact, I believe that each season's beginning episodes, the ones where they show the auditions, are just plain poisonous. Personalities comprised of such a raging mix of ego and desperation and entitlement and need have no business competing for anything, airtime least of all. But, I did pay just a bit more attention last season for two reasons: Chris Allen was adorable, and Adam Lambert was so unapologetically gay.

Much has been written about Adam, and while I've read some headlines, that's where I stopped. But a couple things happened this week that have made me think about him a little bit more.

During his performance at the American Music Awards he grabbed one of the male dancers for a little crotch-to-face grind, and ABC has been fielding complaints ever since. Then today, the network abruptly canceled his scheduled performance tomorrow morning on Good Morning America. (CBS, with nothing to lose, has promptly taken advantage of his surprise availability for their Morning Show) The network (ABC) that has so proudly showcased a new show featuring a gay couple, half of whom is being played by my cousin, promptly folded when the gay got a little bit gritty.

There's a part of me that thinks it was a tasteless move on Adam's part, considering the venue. When you perform on an awards show on network tv you know the size of the audience, and you might think that would be the time to tame your act just a little bit. I can totally argue that point.

But then there's another part of me, part of me that has watched Madonna and Britney and Christina and Shakira and countless other performers for years. That part of me wonders if Adam's little face plant was really so horrible? I mean Britney has a song on the radio entitled "If You Seek Amy." And we're upset about a few seconds of simulated fellatio? Come on.

Plenty of those complaints I'm sure came from parents, and their dismay is probably justified. Honestly, might it not be a good idea to put every live award show on a tape delay? Just in case? Then again, having seen what we've seen from so many performers, should kids of a certain age even be allowed to watch? I could argue either way.

Today Towleroad featured Adam's new video for his song "For Your Entertainment." Before I watched it I don't think I ever heard a whole Adam Lambert song. There's a lot to like. The song is strong and sexy, and the video is fun, a den of goth guys and girls dancing and grinding far, far underground. I hate his haircut, but Adam is darkly attractive in a leather suit with silver shoulder spikes and a lot of guyliner.

There's something good there, something that makes me want to see and hear what he'll do next. I just worry that there's a gay/straight double-standard in play, and it would be a real shame if he fell victim to it. Thinking about slasher movies and crime dramas, is a little bit of sex, even man-on-man sex, really the worst thing we could see?

What do you think?

What a difference some paint makes

I should have taken some before shots to illustrate just how bad the paint on the outside of the house was. What might have illustrated it even better would have been a 'during' shot to show the sheer amount of wood showing after they powerwashed and scraped the siding and trim. But as usual, I forgot to do either.

But I will have in the next few days some post-painting pictures to share, and that's kind of exciting. I'll contrast them with the shot of the house I swiped from the MLS listing, showing it all tired and white. The trim is now Navajo White (a bit creamier) with Messenger Bag siding, a nice dark khaki green.

Jeff Chaney Painting has done a great job and taken care of not a small amount of wood rot (we had a hole in our house!) and glazing. Mrs. Blandings and Soodie both gave good reviews and you can now add ours to that list. Photos to follow.

UNRELATED UPDATE: I started this earlier in the evening but posted a few minutes ago, it's just a bit after 11pm. I'm sitting in the dining room with picture windows on two walls, and A FOX just ran down the street. Where do foxes live in the city?

When floor space is at a premium

I know it must seem like I'm obsessed with gutting our bathrooms but it takes a while for plans to come together in my head, so bear with me. The half-bath (with the purple sink and toilet) are way down on the to-do list, but I'm tossing ideas around. Tucked in between the kitchen and the family room, I'm guessing it's about 4 by 6 or so. It's not a bad size, but there are a couple things we can do to make it feel more spacious. One is moving the sink from next to the toilet to the end wall facing the door. The other has to do with the toilet itself.

Pictured above is the Duravit Vero toilet with in-wall tank. Not only does its concealed tank give back a bit of floor space, but look at the sides, all verticle. I'm betting it bolts to the wall rather than the floor, so you don't have to have those flat parts on the sides that catch dust, or those annoying bolt caps that invariable come off when you're scrubbing things down.

My question for you is do you have, or know anyone who has, an in-wall tank? Duravit is a german company and I tend to trust german engineering, but it's very different from what one normally sees so I'm slightly hesitant. Also they're not cheap, so if I decide to go with it (ha!) it's a fairly serious commitment.

From reading around the net, I believe they come with a "service door" that installs on the other side of the wall so you can get in easily should something need a repair. The other side in this case would be my kitchen, but if I place the fridge there (which would make sense in the kitchen plan) getting to the service door could be as easy as rolling it out from the wall.

So, anyone have any experience with these? If you do, please share.

Mr. Blue Sky

The rain is finally gone! The painters are back scraping the house as we speak and the foreman said they hope to work through the weekend. Stay as long as you can boys!

Also serving to elevate my mood, the electricians are in the basement running a 220 line for the dryer.

I'm off to strip some wallpaper, enjoy your day!

Some thoughts on the holidays

NPR this evening mentioned a recent survey report that said 80 percent of respondents planned to buy fewer holiday gifts this year, and a large percentage (I forget the number) was planning to pay cash. Gift buying within our means? And in cash? How un-Christmas-y!

The slow economic recovery and uncertainty about the job market were the reasons that most gave for reining it in a bit this year. Of course this has retailers running scared and apparently the discounting has already begun. (when and how did the holiday shopping season become a business model?) While the report never specifically said it, the general tone was that this was bad news.

Except that it's not. It's not bad news for me, and I hope it's not for you either.

I was an only child and an only grandchild, so I'm completely familiar with a big Christmas. I can remember the piles of boxes and toys. But the thing that I remember most? White undershirts. Always from JC Penney, and always

To: David
From: Grandma & Grandpa

I'm sure they were unwrapped and unceremoniously tossed aside for something more fun, but that memory is still with me because of what it represented: Grandparents who wanted to give me everything I wanted, and made absolutely sure I had everything I needed. White undershirts, as unexciting as they are, meant love.

Brett and I realized a long time ago that we pretty much buy ourselves most things we want, so we downsized our Chrismas. Our hundred buck limit seemed harsh at first, but it forces us to be creative and pay attention. (okay, full disclosure, I actually paid for the sheets the dogs gave us last year) While I like presents as much as anyone, what I like more is when our family obligations are done and we get home, make a drink, and sit down to open our presents together. It's small and laid-back, and only sort of about the gifts, but it's my favorite thing.

I guess what I'm thinking is that as awful as the news seems sometimes, there are some good take-aways if we look for them. It's not our responsibility to prop up the retail sector by losing our heads in December and putting ourselves in debt for months. Nobody needs a bunch of stuff just for the sake of stuff. And just a little bit of thought can make the smallest gift the best gift. Sometimes less really can be more.

And while I'm on the subject, none of this should start before Thanksgiving.

Number please

I hate bad house numbers. I used to think that companies made a lot of ugly digits for the outsides of our homes, but I've changed my mind. I now think that options are relatively slim, and that half the country uses those sort-of-script serif numbers in black. While I think those are bad, at least they're not the number-spelled-out-in-script ones that make my head hurt.

Richard Neutra specified aluminum numbers for his homes, and you can buy them through Design Within Reach. I think they're pretty much perfect, but the problem is, they're 48 bucks a piece. I've got far more pressing needs that I can throw my 200 dollars towards right now, but when everything else is done, these will be mine.

While we wait, these were six or seven dollars at Westlake. Yes, the hardware store. Simple, silver, sans serif. (I like them so much I'm thinking about using them as drawer pulls on a piece of furniture I need to paint)

Plus they're about five inches tall which should show up from the street. We'll mount them over the porch on the now-will-be-Navajo White trim using the floating installation. I think a bit of shadow should make them show up just fine.

And yes, for the photo they're sitting on our unfinished, paint-splattered, long covered up hardwoods. See, plenty of other places to spend.

Firsts! Visible improvement

Tomorrow excitement comes to Chez Malaise with the beginning of our first big project - exterior paint!

The gutter guys should be there early to remove the old guttering and give the painting company a clear shot at everything they need to do. Following them the paint crew will begin powerwashing and hand scraping the house. I'll be very interested to see what results that yields as the paint is so bad it practically blows off in a strong breeze.

As for color, our original plan was to trim in black and add some color to the casa with a dark green. The test patches were bad, and the black was the issue. We're going with the green (Sherwin Williams' Messenger Bag) with their Navajo White for the trim. The white isn't bright and should provide a nice transition between painted wood and stone, and the Messenger Bag should contrast nicely with both stone and trim. The current black shutters are in horrible shape and will be replaced at some point, but will remain black as I still like it as an accent. A new front door is on the list but I'll likely paint the current door black for the time being.

I'll post a shot of the simple silver numbers soon.

Mrs. Blandings comes a calling

Sunday I ran out to the workshop to grab a can of black paint for some color testing on the house. I was getting in the car to come back home when Brett called: "Mrs. Blandings came by, and brought muffins!"

While there is one shown in this photo, our welcome was actually a huge plate of delicious pumpkin muffins. Delicious pumpkin muffins that disappeared in embarassingly short order. Tied with a grosgrain ribbon in her signature black and white.

That was so nice of you Patricia, thank you very much. It totally made our weekend.

Exterior paint and associated good news

It was a full house at Chez Malaise today. Brett's cousin picked up his folks on her way to Kansas City and brought everything for a fun family lunch. Both her daughters (who live in town, one just blocks away) and one of their husbands joined us for house touring and KU Football. The touring and discussing plans was fun, the football, not so much.

I started the day early with a trip to the laundromat, or as my mother says, the wash-a-teria. Our washing machine is in and working (with one hose to change), but the dryer is sitting sadly with no place to plug in until the electrician comes this week. (who has gas dryers anymore?!) I did a load the other night and used the clothesline we found strung in the basement. Rather than the "fresh from the sun and wind" I remember from my grandmother's outside clothesline, I got stiff and crinkly and unwearable. Laundromat technology has certainly advanced since my college days. They have a five-loader washer at $8.75 a pop. Of course I had whites, colors, and sheets/towels so I had to split among three.

During the festivities here the first paint contractor came by to bid our outside painting. We thought we'd wait until spring for that, but frankly the exterior of the house is in such bad shape that it's kind of a bummer every time we come home. The company was recommended by a friend in the guttering business, and once again, technology has come a long way.

He walked around the entire house with us, asking questions and plugging information into his laptop. With all the information on what we wanted, and all the estimates on what we needed, he had a full and extremely detailed quote, with options on a few things we'd discussed, in about 30 minutes.

The good news is that there is far less wood rot than we expected. He found two places where they'll have to replace boards, but that was it. His guess is that the house has not suffered from neglect it's entire life, but rather just for probably the last 20 years. Basically he says it looks worse than it really is.

We'll probably get another bid or two as a number of people have recommended painters, but I have to say, I like this company. I had a lone man paint my first house in Brookside, and while he did a good job, it took just over six months. He'd disappear, reappear, paint some more and then he was gone. Even the best lone painter is going to take longer, and we're running out of good weather. A large crew can do everything needed here in a week to ten days, and more importantly can start late next week.

So we went out tonight and got paint chips to narrow down candidates to sample on the house. And I'd seen some house numbers I liked so we picked those up as well. More to follow.

Firsts! A new series

I'm proud to present what will be a recurring post, Firsts! Where I'll recount both the alluring and the alarming in our little house project.

Starting us off is The Disconcerting Electrical Occurance. 11/1/10, 11pm: Brett flips the switch and the hall ceiling fixture shorts out with a "Zzzppt." I've felt the ceiling and inside of the fixture for warmth, I think we're okay.

And we're back

The move is over...and now the real work begins. Here I am last night ready to head out to the halloween party. Alex wanted to be in the picture too.

And here is the funny thing from moving day, the note we saw stuck to the movers' clipboard:

While it took the entire day, everything they touched was wrapped securely in moving blankets and babied all the way to the new house.

Before we unplug

We're down to furniture (movers tomorrow!) and stuff that doesn't fit in boxes. Day one of the move is over. Also over is our decade plus real estate partnership with Phyllis Bell.

While she was our representative in the sale of the condo, she represented her inlaws in the sale of the house. Brett and I were unrepresented in that transaction. As such her presence at closing was not required, but she came anyway.

One might assume that she came because after buying and selling six properties over twelve years there would be some goodwill there, but one would be wrong. She came to sit silently through the paperwork and then walk to the parking lot with Brett, where she proceeded to lose her shit.

We were accused of parading contractors through the house without authorization (there was one, which she herself suggested we call, for foundation work that the lender required to be completed before closing), and told that the sellers (her husband and his siblings) were FURIOUS with her. She said that we absolutely could NOT enter the house before the wire was received, and ended by telling Brett he was HORRIBLE.

I would laugh at the ridiculousness of it all if I didn't know how deeply she hurt Brett's feelings. When we made our offer she described her brother-in-law as an ass, so her dismay over their anger (which I don't believe actually exists) rings hollow.

What she's really mad about is a remark made in a moment of serious panic that she construed as questioning her ethics. Rather than dealing with that issue directly she chose to disregard our long-time loyalty, become increasingly curt, and lower her boom on closing day.

So it wasn't the perfect first day as once-again homeowners, but we're in relatively good shape on getting all our stuff moved, and excited to erase the years of neglect and make the house our dream home.

I'm not sure when the internet gets installed, but I'll be back just as soon as we're able.

Moving day

It's here. And it's kind of amazing because not that long ago we'd pretty much decided it wasn't coming. I'm off work the rest of the week and will be shuttling SUVloads of all that stuff that doesn't go easily into boxes. Artwork, lamps, stuff.

I'm looking forward to my next dispatch...from the new Chez Malaise.

7 X 2

I was tagged by both Karena and Soodie as a Kreativ Blogger (thank you ladies!), and as such I am to reveal seven things about me that readers may not know. I'm also to pass on the award, but I'd just pass it right back to people who've already done it, so I'm concentrating the reveal part.

1. I have one tattoo, an asian dragon in blackwork on my outside left ankle. In and of itself that's no big deal, but the asian aspect is important. My grandfather was half Japanese, though you would never know it to look at me. He lived through the second world war with a last name that likely would have gotten him interned had he lived on either coast. He was also a wonderful man whos love I still feel today. My next tattoo will honor him specifically, and is his family crest, taken from a gold ring that belonged to his father.

2. I own a full and complete California Highway Patrolmans uniform, including an authentic (but retired) badge and knee-high Dehner patrol boots. If you have never gone out on Halloween in full uniform you should, I heartily recommend it.

3. While generally very forgiving, I am also capable of holding a grudge forever. Joyce Omer, for example.

4. I am not a gadget guy at all. I don't know how to program home electronics. I haven't set the presets on the stereo in the Rover. Everyone I knew had a cell phone before I did, and when I finally got one it was no-frills. All that said, I ADORE my iPhone. It may be the best invention ever.

5. So I love my iPhone, and I've had Mac computers in the past, but I absolutely hate the Cult of Mac. I've had to stop in the store before, and the phrase "Genius Bar" makes my entire body tense up.

6. You will never see me wearing red or yellow. Actually, I have a pair of red boxers, but if you see me in them we'll have things to talk about other than what colors I prefer to wear.

7. I simply don't get people who don't like dogs. Nor do I trust them, or generally want to be around them. Dating them is impossible, as I once learned. I fell in love with Brett's dog before I fell in love with Brett, and our love of dogs is one of the things that makes our relationship work.

Alright, there ya go!

Mr. & Mr. Clean

Apparently they had our new house cleaned after the estate sale and before it hit the market. If we hadn't been told that I would have guessed it was sometime during the Ford administration. We spent the day cleaning the kitchen, bathrooms and closets so that we're not totally creeped out putting our dishes or clothes away. And even after the spraying of cleaners and scrubbing of dirt and dust, we still put down a layer of drawer/shelf liner just so there's something somewhere thats clean and white. Happily the combination of Green Clean, Clorox Cleanup Bleach and Windex Spring Rain seems to be eliminating the old lady smell.

Tomorrow we continue the scrubbing and mopping, and moving more of our stuff to the garage. It's going to be a hellish week, but I'm already excited to get started. We have foundation work beginning Monday, and gutter replacement just as soon as we schedule it. As he does, Brett's vacillating between excitement and soul-crushing dread.

Mrs. B, is trash day on Thursday?

Dinner at Rachel's

Brett's law partner Rachel is a great cook, and we've enjoyed countless dinners (and insane amounts of wine) at this very table. It started out as a regular farmhouse-ish table in a medium pine finish, but healthy amounts of entertaining and life with a certain three year old had taken their toll. Rachel asked me about a fix.

Her kitchen cabinets are an off white, so I painted the base to match, including a brown overglaze. For the top I thought a rougher finish might have more mileage, so after a chemical strip I pulled out the power sander and got on it. Two coats of dark varnish were sealed and followed with a rubdown with a black glaze. A coat of polyacrylic finished both top and base.

Rachel took it home today and both she and her husband were happy with the look. I'm happy with the way it turned out, as well as how it looks with her black Windsor chairs. She's thinking about a new rug, and I think that would complete the update nicely.


I've continued to comb through plumbing websites hoping that something would speak to me, and finally something did. Simple and graceful like the Kohler pedestal, but different. Classically good looking without calling attention to itself, and the right size. The Lutezia pedestal by Porcher.

Pedestal sinks

Things are cruising along toward the move. It's a continuing roller coaster so there are more folks coming to give us more estimates on necessary repairs. One minute we feel fine, and the next we're sick to our stomachs, and I expect that's perfectly normal.

We've talked about doing the hollywood bath sooner rather than later because we think having one updated bath might make the work on the rest of the house less of a long, hard slog. You may remember I'm planning on a white carrera 3X6 tile for the walls and shower, and I'd planned on a matching 1X2 herringbone mosaic for the floor.

Then I remembered a mosaic tile floor we had in a past house, and how I hated scrubbing all that grout. So I've changed my mind and am now planning on China Black marble (black with white veining) for the floor. 12X12 would be a good scale with the wall tile, but if I find it in something larger I'll give it a look.

So my question for you is on sinks. I'd planned to use a pair of Kohler's Memoirs pedestals and a matching toilet. Yes, I know you see them all the time. But do you know why you see them used a lot? Because they're graceful and good looking, and I think they'd be perfect in a marble bath.

However, getting back in there with a measuring tape, I'm not entirely sure the smallest Memoirs pedestal will fit. More measuring to do before I know for sure.

My question for you now is, in a fairly traditional feeling bathroom, do you think this pedestal could work?

It's from Porcher, and just about the perfect size to nestle into the corners on either side of the window. I like the design on it's own, and I think it could work perfectly in a classic marble bath, but I have a slight worry that it would be too stark, but then I also think the classic tile and the sleek pedistals might be a nice mix. Opinions please!

Library builder

I blog about auctions, but generally only after they've taken place because, well, why encourage competition? But I'm making an exception today, partially because I'm broke until payday, and mostly because I think it's a rare opportunity a number of you might find interesting. Soodie, ArchitectDesign and Mrs. Blandings, I'm thinking especially of you. So here's what's up:

I've mentioned the quarerly Fine Arts & Antiques auction at KC Auction Co. here in town before. The next one is this Tuesday, the 13th, and looking at the catalog it's going to be a killer sale. But in particular, there is a collection of books any of you interested in architecture, garden design, or history should be aware of.

The JC Nichols company developed what many would argue are the best residential and commercial areas in Kansas City. The Country Club Plaza, Crestwood, Brookside, Fairway, as well as many of the neighborhoods along Ward Parkway. He called his method of development "planning for permanance," and if you ask a Kansas Citian today to name a desirable area to live, chances are they'll give you the name of an area originally developed by JC Nichols.

Nichols developments are known for varied and interesting architecture, mixed sizes of housing in close proximity, pocket parks, and extensive use of fountains and statuary. It's a formula that differentiates our neighborhoods from many.

So what does this have to do with the auction? The JC Nichols company is closing their Kansas City office and selling their library, and some of it looks very interesting. A sampling:

-Lot 1: 1921 English Homes 6 Volume Set
-Lot 2: 1936 Early Architecture of Western Pennsylvania
-Lot 3: 1929 Old World Inspiration for American Architecture
-Lot 5: 1926 The National Terrazo and Mosaic Contractors' Association Catalog
-Lot 6: 1914 California Gardens
-Lot 7: 1925 Brickwork in Italy
-Lot 9: 1921 Country Residences in Europe and America
-Lot 10: 1929 Ecclesiastical Lighting Fixtures Catalog
-Lot 14: Cottages Farmhouses and Other Minor Buildings in England
-Lot 17: 1911 Distinctive Homes of Moderate Cost
-Lot 20: 1922 Sketches of Early American Architecture
-Lot 22: Architectural Details From the Classic and Renaissance Periods folio
-Lot 24: Architectural and Decorative Plaster Ornaments Catalog
-Lot 31: 1929 Italian Doorways

You get the idea. I could practically list the entire collection as nearly every title is intriguing, and quite likely rare.

So if you've got some extra cash, there's your tip for the week. The auction begins Tuesday evening at 6pm central. For those of you not in KC, the Fine Arts & Antiques auctions include online bidding through Proxibid. Registration is free, and even if you're not bidding you can listen and watch the auction live online.

The link above is to the auction house website, where you'll find a link to the online Proxibid catalog, be sure to take a look.

Roller coaster

Because Mrs. Bell's house was being sold as-is, when we made our offer Brett made sure that we could inspect and cancel if necessary. The inspection was this past Wednesday morning, and it was action-packed.

We knew there was plenty going on with this house that we'd have to address, but seeing it all spelled out on an inspection report, with a few things we hadn't noticed, was bracing. That said, things seemed to be moving along fine (I was taking pictures!) until they got down to the basement and crawl space (we have both).

I was chatting with Phyllis in the kitchen when Brett came upstairs and said "Ok theres a potential dealbreaker down there." The inspector found some water and was convinced that basically all three of the waste pipes under the house were rusted through. Huge deal.

Eventually they got to the fuse box (yes, fuse box) upstairs. The inspector said that it had wrong fuses in it and acted like it could pretty much burst into flames at any minute.

The sellers have stated clearly that they will be making no repairs, so staring down the barrel at these two large issues, along with an endless list of others, you can imagine how heartbroken we were. The only thing to do was to get professional plumbers and electricians there to assess the damage and make our decision then.

I went to work Thursday pretty much certain that the necessary repairs were going to be more than we could deal with right now. Until I got a text from Brett that said "Good news, call you in a bit." As it turns out, the plumber said it was no big deal. The water was coming from a foundation issue (which we knew about and are having repaired). He said "you're going to remodel arent you? We can replace the pipes then, it's fine for now." The story with the electrician was the same. He said it's perfectly safe for now, and when we're ready we can upgrade service and get breaker boxes all at once. No big deal.

Also, the two old furnaces and two not-quite-as-old air conditioners? Covered under a transferrable maintenance contract.

Everything is signed and returned, and it's our (worse for wear) baby now. I'll dedicate an entire post to the kitchen soon as promised, but for now a few shots of some fun and/or horrible things you haven't seen.

Here's the stove in all it's original glory. I can't say I haven't thought about having it restored. It's just that I've thought about a big stainless Wolf range more.

The flooring in the entry hall. Don't fall in love, it's gotta go, along with the asbestos tiles in every closet in the house.

Bedroom number three, which we refer to as the Blue Room. Half the paper is gone because it was falling off the walls, and what remains up seems to be seriously stuck.

The hollywood bath between bedrooms 2 and 3. Yes, the wallpaper is a chinoiserie design, no, sadly, there's no way to salvage. Inspector guy also said not to try using this shower!

The sink in the hollywood bath. There's room for two of these on either side of the window, and indeed there are two of the mirrored medicine cabinets, but for some reason there's just one sink with a big built-in vanity. There will be double sinks in here eventually, along with lots of marble and polished chrome. And who knows, maybe some new chinoiserie paper.

The powder room in all it's purple fixtured, bronze mirrored, fluorescently lit glory. There's a plan cooking for in here too, especially since I found good deals and free shipping on sleek Duravit fixtures on

The dining room, with the coved ceiling that first made me want the house. See all the windows? That's why I think I can get away with black walls here, as well as a pale blue ceiling.

Original barkcloth drapes. Everyone had disappeared when I was taking this so there was nobody to hold them open. It's a cityscape sort of pattern with buildings and trees. We'll be using them for a while as they're the only curtains that remain.

The coved ceiling in the double entry, shot through the doorway we plan to close up when we open up the wall. LOVE these ceilings, and love the ribbed glass, although we'll likely remove and salvage that for use somewhere else. It feels a bit congested now, and you know how I like open space.

A shot of the fireplace and bar, and the doorway to the entry. That dinner plate hardware will be visiting Hiles for some chrome plating and returning home. The bar cabinetry is shot, but rest assured a bar will be there again, with some mirrors and better lighting.

Armillary chandelier

I'm looking for something distinctive without being too off the wall. This is Eric Cohler for Visual Comfort. It says the finish is polished nickel, although looking at the picture I'd have to verify that. I think it needs black shades. 25" high, 35" in diameter. What do you think?


Alright, time for the interior reveal, starting with just the photos from the online listing. You may be horrified and that's okay, in it's current state it's kind of a mess. Hopefully though you'll be able to see that the bones are good. While there are changes we want to make, which I'll detail here, in large part its a matter of updating surfaces.

First, the entry:
It's a rectangular space, sort of made up of two square bays. If you look up towards the ceiling you'll see that there are two divided spaces with coved ceilings. There is lighting behind the crown, which is nice. What's not nice is the pony wall to your left with the scrolley iron and the planter. Originally I wanted the entire entry opened to the living room, but after a great deal of thinking and doodling I think it just needs to become three square columns that line up with the ceiling bays. Open, but with some visual separation. The entry to the family room is straight ahead, and should be closed up.

Living room:
So here is the living room. Wouldn't that end wall be better just being columns? You're also thinking "Why would you close up that entry to the family room?" Well, look to the left of the photo and you'll see that there's a huge picture window between the living and family rooms. Not an addition, the house was built this way, and this is the single thing about the house that Brett hates. I dislike it as well, and think it's the perfect spot to open up the wall. The rooms then would be open to each other, but with a bit of separation again. Yes, those are original barkcloth drapes, which will head to either eBay or the auction house. The planned paint color is a pale silvery gray.

Hungry? Here's the dining room:
Through the living room to the corner of the house is the dining room. Making an appearance again here is the coved ceiling with the backlit crown. This will eventually open to the kitchen, but that's last on a list that will take us years to get through, so we'll just treat it like we're keeping it that way for now. So much window and not much wall is the perfect opportunity for a black room. Flooring throughout will be refinished in a medium gray, all trim will be white. Also, Brett's not only on board with the black walls, but with painting the ceiling in here as well. I'm going to try a really pale gray blue. I've always wanted to do that, hopefully it works. And if not it's just paint.

Come on into the kitchen:
Sporting it's original metal cabinetry (and lots of it!) as well as it's original 1952 range, it's a flashback in black and white. Yes, they papered the ceiling. What's nice is that it's an eat-in kitchen, so there's already all the room needed to expand. The plan is to eventually open the kitchen to the dining room with large pocket doors so that the dining room becomes the eating area. Lots of people have mentioned keeping the kitchen as much in tact as possible, and uh, I can't. I need new cabinetry, more gray wood flooring, quartz counters, stainless appliances, and an island. Anyone who's in love with the vintage charm can have first crack at the cabinets as they're removed to the driveway.

Here's the other end of the L shaped kitchen, what was the eat-in area. We'll keep the functionality of the built-in, just in updated material. What we WILL reuse is the dinner plate-sized hardware. The french doors lead conveniently to the patio where we'll have to retrofit the built-in stone grill.
Back through the kitchen is the family room:
Retro fireplace anyone? How about one with a little bar built in next to it? The bar cabinetry needs updated (it's pretty beat), and that parquet has to become more gray hardwood to match everything else. Also, it's got a tile ceiling that will have to be dealt with. Should we happen onto a buttload of money we'd vault the ceiling in here and replace that picture window with three pairs of french doors. Until then we'll want to just fix the floor and cabinetry and get rid of the paneling.

Looking the other direction:
That cabinetry originally held a TV. Back when TVs were big monsters. So it's not only unnecessarily deep, but there's a walk in closet behind it. Also pretty beat, this will have to be replaced to match the bar. I'm thinking a gray-stained cerused oak. Also back there is the pink tiled half bath with the purple toilet and pedestal sink and smoked mirrors. When we get to bathrooms this will be the easiest to remedy, plus I like it's location sort of away from where people would tend to congregate.

Where the magic happens! The master:
There's not much to see, but it should give you an idea. The room is 14 by 18, with two large closets and a bath off the east end. Love love love the corner window, and even the integrated valance. Floors will be finished to match everything else, and we're planning on a pewtery gray, finely scaled grasscloth for in here. For drapes I've found a silver geometric fabric from Kravet that I love. I'm currently scouring the net to find at a discount.

There are two other bedrooms bookending a hollywood bath, and really all they need are the floors refinished and the walls de-papered and painted. Each has sliding closet doors that I'd prefer to convert to regular hinged doors in a modern, three panel design.

Finally, the back yard:
Hard to see much here. It's a nicely sized yard, needs a fence, and someday a pool. That building on the right is the garage, which along with a side entry is off the kitchen.

So there you go, the Befores of our new place. It'll take most of our time and all of our money, but eventually we should end up with a nice spot. I'll try not to let the blog be taken over by the mundane details of updating a house, but if anything interesting happens or I have any good After shots I'll be sure to share.