The Devil Queen

How my wife and I sold our souls to the Queen Anne Victorian we tried to save.

My Photo
Location: Crow Mountain, Arkansas, United States

Synopsis: This is a cautionary tale. A seriously disturbed couple find the charming, old ruin of a Queen Anne Victorian in Russellville, Arkansas, and buy it for $1.00. They tore the roof off, cut it in half, and had it moved to some land they owned sixteen miles away because they didn't know any better. Since then, they have hired and fired contractors, had all of their tools stolen, re-wired, re-plumbed, insulated, and essentially rebuilt the entire house. Their only problem is that after four years it still isn't finished. Now they are tired, broke, and wonder what in the hell it is they've done to themselves. And, it's haunted.
(Last updated on April 3, 2008)

Press: Russellville Courier Article - December 2003, HGTV website article, AP story - October 2006, and Victorian Homes Magazine - February 2008 (link coming soon).
Art: From time to time, I receive requests for my art. If you would like to look at more of my art, go to The Failed Artist. If you would like to buy my art, email me. I am more than happy to answer any questions you might have. Thanks!

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Joseph's Coat or The Six Hued Beast, Part 2

Well, here is the rest of our six colored shingle story. I hopes it satisfies your curiosity. I've considered a Part 3, but I'm not sure how informative it would be. I mean, if you've wrecked a trailer and chained a contractor to your house until he finished the job, what more is there to say about it? Anyhow, here it is:

We still needed shingles. Buying them new was out of the question. A rough estimate for asphalt, 30-year shingles was around $4,000.00. We looked into tin, and, unless we could scavenge it for free, it wasn't any cheaper. The stuff we really liked, pressed tin shingles or other period roofing cost more than moving the Queen, so it was out of the question.

When we started working on the Devil Queen back in the primordial past of our lives, it never occurred to me to look for building materials at auctions and estate sales. My ever resourceful wife did.

My wife loves auctions and estate sales. Bidding and bargains, how much better can it get? Our house is furnished with lots of furniture from estate sales. Actually, if it wasn't a hand-me-down or heirloom from our parents, it's from an estate sale.

My wife started going to every sale she could find in a five or six county area. One week in the early fall, my wife, her mom, and step-dad went to an auction in Ozone, Arkansas.

Ozone is over an hour away from Atkins under the best of conditions. It is up in the foot hills of the Ozark Mountains in the middle of a national forest. Pretty country, but there isn't too much up that way except for marijuana. Wandering around the woods isn't a good idea, people are very protective of their cash crops.

The ad my wife had seen for the auction advertised "building materials." She figured what the hell, why not go? This auction was on a weekday, so I missed the fun.

According to my wife, it was a weird auction. Actually, the auction itself wasn't weird, it was the people there. My wife was about five to six months pregnant at the time, and she must have had a serious Mother Goddess, Sheela Na Gigs vibe. She had three or four men obsessed with her and her pregnant belly. They followed her around and talked to her the whole time she was there. I guess they needed some of her fertility mojo. I'm glad my in-laws went with her, or my wife may have ended up in some backwoods, pagan temple-grotto.

Besides cultists, my wife found shingles. Not just a few squares either. They had four pallets of shingles for sale. Needless to say, when they went up for sale, she bid on them an won them all for $100. If I recall correctly, I don't think anyone else even bid against her.

My wife and I were trying to remember how many squares (a square equals three bundles for those who don't know) we got. I thought we'd gotten 74 or so. She thought we'd gotten 110 squares. The more I think about it, the more I think she has the right number.

The shingles were in really good condition. They were all three-tab architectural shingles (in threory they have a 40 year lifespan), and almost every bundle was intact. They'd been stored in an old barn, so they were kept out of the sun and rain.

There were, however, two problems. One, they came in a wide variety of colors: dark gray, middle gray, light gray, green-gray, orange brown, brown, and red brown. At first, we thought there might be enough of the grays to do the whole Queen, but I guess you know how that turned out if you've seen the photos. The other problem was we had to move all of the shingles ourselves. The irony of it all was that the shingles had originally been bought in Russellville and hauled up to Ozone. Now, we were hauling them back. Beautiful.

In short, we hauled the shingles back to Atkins, we finally got someone to install them after a thunderstorm tore half the tarpaper off the roof, and I discovered that I could live with any roof if it cost a hundred dollars. Besides, whole Joseph's Coat thing grows on you after a while.

If someone out there is just dying to hear the expanded version of the story, let me know. Otherwise, I'll be moving on . . .

Monday, January 30, 2006


Have any of you used Danish Oil or something similar to finish woodwork in your home? If so, have you had to patch nail holes?

I guess my real question is, how does wood putty take Danish Oil? Does it look good? Does it look like crap? Should I use something other than wood putty, or should I not fill in the holes at all?

Please let me know. The Queen's good looks are on the line.

Siding the Hall Bathroom

Here is a picture of the newly sided hall bathroom. I'm still amazed by how much bigger this coffin of a room looks with the ceilings raised back up to 12 feet.

It think that it looks pretty good except for one thing, some of the siding boards are primed with a coat of Kiltz. This is my fault since I didn't specifically tell Kenny to turn the primed sides to the wall. So, about half of these boards are white. Once upon a time, we'd thought about painting the bathroom, but my wife had the idea of oiling the wood instead.

So, in addition to everything else on my to-do list, I will now be adding sanding & stripping all the primed boards in the hall bath. My wildest dreams have now been fulfilled! More sanding! Yes!

Spring Fever

The natives are restless and the woods are alive with the sound of chainsaws. I think the vacant lot behind the Queen is going to get developed this spring. I can't say that I'm excited about it, but I can't fake surprise. I mean, it is a residential lot in a subdivision. What else would they do with it?

Here is photo of the natives burning off all the brush & trees they've been clearing (sorry it's fuzzy, autofocus isn't always your friend).

I figure this is about 100 yards from the Queen's back porch. In the spring and summer, you won't be able to see this far because of the foliage. Still, it is disappointing.

Here are a couple of photos of the Queen from a different direction than you normally see.

I spent around nine or ten hours at the Queen this weekend. I didn't get near as much done as I would have liked, but that is how it usually goes. I nearly finished insulating the master bathroom and gave my mother-in-law a tour. She usually provides us with free child care, so she hasn't made it up to the Queen in at least 3 months.

I was telling her about how I'd love to get the Queen mortgaged in April so we didn’t have to file for another extension on the construction loan, and she had a interesting idea. To save time, she suggested that we leave the old beadboard ceilings alone. She said that the faux-antique "crackled" look was in now. People are actually trying to simulate the cracked, crazed, half peeled paint job we have throughout the Queen. It sounds good to me. I can live with old, cracked paint if it means getting a mortgage in April.

Oh, I would also like to apologize for the quality of my recent posts. In my opinion, they've been lacking something lately. I think that I've been a tired & distracted, and applying myself to anything has been a real challenge.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Falling Down on the Job

In addition to working on the Queen (well, in theory at this point), working the day job, and taking care of a two year old, I've added an online web page design class to my things-to-do list. Since I just got the text book last night, I've had to play catch-up on the homework. Oops.

If I manage, I'll try to get the whole six-color-shingle post up soon. If not, have good weekend anyhow.

Thursday, January 26, 2006


Working on the Devil Queen has made it abundantly clear that entropy is inevitable and unstoppable. No matter how well built and maintained something is, in the end it too shall pass.

The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, the largest paper in the state, runs old photos and post cards in their feature section four or five times a week. I don't have a subscription, but one of my co-workers brought this photo of Atkins to my attention.

Curious and armed with a new digital camera, I went and took a picture from roughly the same spot as the original photo.

The gray building (in the photo above) to the right of the flags is where the church on the far right of the 1908 photo stood.

None of the buildings from 1908 have survived; As far as I can tell, the railroad tracks are the only thing left from that time. All the homes and churches have burned down (my wife says the newspapers from that time are full of stories about house fires) or been demolished. Here is a picture of what they were replaced with in the 1920's.

There were similar buildings on the south side of the railroad tracks until the late 1960's and early 1970's. Some of them were in very poor condition, and the city condemned them. The buildings were all attached with shared walls. Once a couple of the buildings were demolished, whole blocks of buildings began falling down like dominos in slow motion. By the 1980's, they were all gone. This is what replaced them.

Beautiful, isn't it?


I went by the Queen on my way home from work last night. It's so weird being pleased with what you see.

Kenny has finished repairing the foyer ceiling and some minor framing work in the master bathroom. Sorry, I forgot to take a picture of the framing work.

I know this (photo above) looks awful, but it is such an improvement. Kenny pulled out all the rotten wallboards, so we now have a view of the backside of the siding, trim, and the porch roof.

He has also begun work on the hall bath. We now have a new beadboard ceiling and trim throughout. He also closed in the back wall, so we can no longer walk into the master bedroom closet from the shower. I forgot how small this bathroom really is. Visually, it is amazing how much bigger it looked with that extra four feet of closet. Still, I think it's looking good.

The the trim board running along the ceiling is dark since it is one of our old, salvaged boards from the Queen. Why buy it if you can recycle?

I figure that he'll be finished with the hall bath today or tomorrow at the latest. That means we'll have to make him a new list for next week, and that is exciting.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Thanks for the Advice

Thank you to everyone who gave advice regarding our front porch. I greatly appreciate it.

I do have a small confession to make though. I was pretty sure we ought to leave the 2x6 in question, but my wife didn't want to. She had to hear it from someone else besides me to believe it was a structural necessity. My wife has some issues with my credibility, and, unfortunately, they aren't entirely groundless.

While I rather enjoyed the Home Improvement Ninja's empirical solution for this problem, it probably would be too expensive to implement at this particular time. On the other hand, it is tempting; I wouldn't mind having stupid-drunk Contractor Mike out to test the structural integrity (once again proving that I'm not nice).

Joseph's Coat or The Six Hued Beast, Part 1

When we moved the Queen, we had to tear down the original roof. Even if we hadn't moved the Queen, most of it would have had to come down. The original roof was wood shingle. This was covered with three layers of asphalt shingles. By the time we acquired the Queen, the roof was collapsing under its own weight (photo below).
The labor cost for dismantling and rebuilding the roof was around $7,000. Then, there was also the cost of the giant dumpster (which we had to empty 3 times before we were finished), the huge mountain of plywood, the tarpaper, and God knows what else. Oh, there was also the new foundation to pay for too. I think I've permanently blocked everything else from my memory at this point.

We were just starting out on this project, and the aforementioned items completely wiped out our savings. Everything. We literally had nothing left. The bank had reluctantly loaned us just enough money to move the house. The only thing we didn't have money for were shingles.

Since we only had three months to move the house, we couldn't wait until we had enough money to finish the roof. If we missed our contractual deadline, we would basically be at the mercy of the company that sold us the Queen for a $1.00. In short, we'd already crossed the line of departure and were chained to our doom.

The whole move was complicated by the weather. Even though it hadn't rained in months, the exact moment we paid James Wyche Construction for tearing off the roof it started pouring. It rained on and off until the Queen was moved. There is nothing like mopping rainwater out of a roofless house to make you feel utterly hopeless. At this early date, we were already wondering what the fuck we'd gotten ourselves into.

Somehow, we managed it. The Queen was moved. She was not ruined by the countless thunderstorms and showers. James Wyche Construction rebuilt the roof to its original specifications, it was decked, and dried-in with tarpaper. We’d survived phase one of our project in the same way as a shipwreck survivor. Clinging to the shattered mast, we were alive and afloat but our ultimate survival was by no means assured.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

You've Got to Love the Irish

The Irish are the only people I've ever met that will buy you a beer, tell you that they are going to steal your wife, and you'll still like them at the end of the evening. Talk about a bunch of loquacious, sliver-tongued devils.

To further illustrate the point, read this.

Joseph's Coat

"Do you know that your roof is different colors?"

We get this question a lot, mostly from contractors. In fact, we do. While it wasn't our first choice for a roof, it was our best option at the time.

It occurred to me, however, that no Houseblogger had ever asked me about this. I think I may have mentioned it a time or two way back in the being, so maybe you already know. I am curious though. How many of you 1) already know why our roof is shingled in about 6 colors, 2) never thought about it and don't care, or 3) you think it looks like ass and were just being polite. With the exception of contractors who just have to know, most people fall into category three.

If you do want to know why, let me know and I'll post the full story.

Kenny: The New Cocaine

I'm still waiting to pay through the nose for all the good karma I've been enjoying the last couple of weeks. In the mean time, I am in junkie heaven. The only thing more addictive than hard drugs is a good contractor working for a quarter of the going price.

If figure that I can keep Kenny for two more weeks, but I'm already scheming a way to pay for a third week. All the crap that has accumulated since Christmas in our storage room is going on eBay. As soon as all the W-2's and 1098 forms come in, our taxes are getting filed. It's only a matter of time before I'm selling my ass on street corner, although I hear that organ mugging is pretty lucrative too.

As with any other good drug, Kenny has completely undermined the last vestige of our protestant work ethic. We spent all weekend lounging around our house like it was an opium den. At four o'clock in the afternoon, we're laid out in the living room, and we're still wearing our pajamas.

My wife looks up at the clock and says, "I guess we should go work on the house?"

"Hmm. Maybe tomorrow. Kenny is doing such a good job . . . " I shrug. "Lets have a risotto for dinner. Wine?"

So, we didn't do squat on the Devil Queen this weekend. As close as we came to working on it was making Kenny a to-do list for this week. And the worst part is that I don't feel guilty about it. Well, not enough to admit it.

I spoke with Kenny last night, and he should be starting on our hall bathroom today. It ought to be interesting. Taking a cue from Gary, I'll leave you in suspense here. I'll just say that we've found a innovative use for some scrap lumber. I think that it'll look good, but, if it doesn't, we'll just have to live with it since we don't have the money or materials to redo it.

O Brother, Where Art Thou?

I've recently noticed that the Devil Queen has been getting a lot fewer visits over the last few days. I'm hoping that the decline in readership is because Houseblogs has only been picking up about 2/3 thirds of my posts. I'm not 100% sure, but I don't think anything new has shown up on Houseblogs since last Thursday or Friday.

The ego shattering alternative is, of course, that I'm just boring the piss out of you. Well, from time to time, you'll have that.

Since I've posted this entry twice in the last week and only gotten a couple of hits, I'll just link to it here. In short, I need some advice regarding my font porch. If you're tired of me asking about this and I just haven't taken the hint, please let me know.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Fireplace Disaster

I've had a few people ask about our non-fireplace. Here are some recent pictures of the mess.

The picture above is the wall between the bedroom closet & living room to the right of the fireplace. Notice how the studs are turned sideways to give you enough room for a coathanger in the closet.
Another view of the closet as see through the fireplace openning.

Another view of the closet & non-fireplace.

And, my plywood floor patch. We're still debating about what we want to do with this damn thing. For the bedroom side were thinking about a faux-fireplace with original mantel, tiled hearth and a metal fireplace cover.

As for the living room side. . .

If I Cut It, Will It Fall on Me?

I don't know why, but I don't think the Houseblog feed picked this post up. So, since we're still fishing for advice on this baby, here it is again.

Below are some pictures of our front porch. If we cut off this odd looking 2x6, will this structurally weaken the porch roof enough to make it sag or fall down?

I know that triangles are very strong, desirable structural elements, but, damn it, this board is ugly. If we don't cut it off, we've considered "enclosing" the area between the 2x6 and the ceiling with beadboard on the inside and siding on the outside. Does anyone have any better suggestions?

From the banking/appraisal point of view, this board doesn't make any difference at all. So, for the time being, I'll probably leave it just like it is. I have bigger fish to fry for now.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Ceiling Repairs

Here are some photos of Kenny's most recent work. The first photo is somewhat anti-climatic. There use to be two whole rows of missing boards behind the light bulb. If I were diligent, I would have found some before pictures. But, I'm feeling lazy today, so sorry. Believe me when I say that this looks tons better.

In the next photo, the two rows on the far right were pulled down when the house was cut in half for the move.

Below is where he spliced in 4 boards to cover the hole left by the old woodcook stove chimney. Once we paint it, you shouldn't even be able to tell that it was there.

Devil Queen Tries on Her New Skirt

Here are photos of the Queen in her new, designer skirt. No more stuffy brick and stone skirts for this girl, her shapely legs are clad in a thin, sleak concrete. You know you want some.

Houseblog Archeology

Here is a question for all the computer demi-gods out there: What is the lifespan of a blog?

I know as long as I am alive & posting and the internet & Blogger are not destroyed in a nuclear apocalypse that will continue. What happens when I do die presuming that the internet and Blogger live on? In 50 or 100 years, will some future owner of the Devil Queen decide to research the house and find this blog buried in cyberspace? Are houseblogs historical resources or documents for the future?

Just a thought, is it complete BS? What do you think?

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Am Anfang

Sorry for the gratuitous use of German. There was a German poem I learned in college named Am Anfang (or was it “An Anfang?”). In either case, the phrase won’t leave me alone, so there it is. It means, “in the beginning.”

The photo (also looted from my in-law's computer) below is the Devil Queen shortly after we moved her in the fall of 2002. The date stamp in the bottem right corner is wrong.

The roof is brand new. At this point, the Queen was a shell of a house. No wiring, no water, no porches, no additions, et cetera. Also, the yard looks a lot nicer. No wood piles or construction debris.

And, here is a photo of the Queen from last week.

I don’t know if I’m winning or loosing.

Old Style Log Cabin in Boone County, Arkansas

I wish I could remember where this log cabin is exactly. The only information I have is, "Samsung Hollow, Boone County, Arkansas." And, I remember that there was an Emu farm nearby. There can't be too many of those around. For those of you not familiar with Arkansas, Boone County is way up in the Ozarks on the Arkansas-Missouri border.

Judging from the style in which this cabin was built, I'd guess that is was built between 1870-1900. If you ever see a cabin with "Lincoln Log" corners, it's a sure sign that it was probably built in the 1930's by the CCC or WPA.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Looted Dog-Trot JPEG's

This weekend I looted my mother-in-law's compter for old house photos. We used to collect pictures of old homes while we were in the appraisal business. Since I have an obsession with passive cooling, I like dog-trot houses. This one is near Guy, Arkansas (North Faulkner County, about 1 hour plus from Little Rock). Enjoy.

Hell of a Weekend

Well, I lost the floor sander lottery. I kind of suspected that I would. Really, I was so busy it was probably better that way.

Monday I had one of those disappointing days where hours of work offer no tangible signs of progress. My goal was to reinstall the trim for the window over the kitchen sink. Mercifully, all the trim was stacked together so I didn’t have to look for it. Unfortunately, two pieces of it were broken. The corner “bull’s eye” block was missing a whole edge. I think the fact they used 6 freaking framing nail to hang it had something to do with it since it broke with the grain in a straight line following the nail holes. On the upside, it was fixable. One of the long, side trim pieces was shattered and beyond help. I found a piece of identical trim (from the main hall’s midget doorway, long since removed) to replace it.

Most of my time was spent stripping the trim and making repairs. It wasn’t anything too exciting.

Yesterday, Tuesday, was a waste. I hit a deer on my way to work. Actually, the sick bastard hit me. Well, sort of. I should have sped up instead of braking. With the exception of the tip of its snout, the damn thing hit the side of my car. The driver side headlight and front fender were broken. The driver’s door is cracked.

As for the deer, I think it survived. It was gone by the time I came to a stop. There was no blood, just a little fur, and my mangled car. If it’s lucky, it’ll have escaped with a headache.

So, I spent the day looking for parts in Russellville. Unless I want to pay a lot for factory order parts, I am shit out of luck. Vernon’s Auto Repair rigged the headlight and replaced the bulbs. For all intents and purposes, it works for now. I’m looking on eBay for some cheap, new parts. If anyone has them, it’ll be eBay. I hope.

Kenny, our new hired help, has been doing some good work on the Queen. As of yesterday, he’d reinstalled and repaired all the original ceilings except for the foyer, on which he was working. It’ll look great once it’s caulked and painted.

Once I catch up on everything, I’ll post some photos.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Gratuitous Photo and Playing the Floor Sander Lottery

The photo is a view of our main hall after my wife hauled all the trash out of it again. It's a lot easier to maintain your motivation when you can see the floor.

On my way home from work tonight, I 'm going to stop by Lowe's in Conway to see if they have a floor sander for rent. They only have one, and it is available on a first come, first serve basis. You can't reserve it, we tried.

If they do have it, I hope it'll fit in my 1996 Saturn. Think I can make it work if I lay the back seat down and move the mountain of junk I haul around into the front seat. I hate being a packrat at times like these.

Ideally, I'd sand the kitchen, dining room, master bedroom, and both additions. If I actually can manage that is an entirely different question. The master bathroom must be finished so we can move in the clawfoot tub. I think I can handle that. I've never sanded a floor so it should be interesting. I hope I don't break anything including myself.

I'm not sure what will be finished this weekend. My wife has already informed me that she won't be working on the Queen this weekend. She has to work Saturday, so she's taking Sunday. I'll probably work on the Queen Monday since I'm off for M.L.K. Day. As for Sunday, who knows?

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Bathtub Mafia

To further my quest for dominion over the world, I'm signing on with the Bathtub Mafia (aka Signature Hardware). As I understand it, they've been making the rounds and talking with other Housebloggers (you know who you are) about some quid pro quo. Nothing scary, which is a little disappointing, but I see it as a first step in the right direction. I mean, no one enslaved the world in a day. You've got to pace yourself. Before too long I'll raking in tons of bootleg profits and buying politicians like they're galvanized 12 penny nails.

Heute The Devil Queen, Morgens dem Welt!

It's sad how excited I was to be solicited by a bonafide purveyor of reproduction antique hardware. Really, I need to get out more.

Since they asked nice and answered all my questions (like, "Why me? I suck and I'm crazy. I mean, have you seen my house?!), I figured I'd go ahead and do it. Prior to joining the Mafia, I'd seriously considered buying some stuff for my clawfoot tub from them, but I'm just too damn poor to afford it. It sad when you can't satisfy your lust for chrome and brass. Pipe envy is never pretty. As far as I can tell, everything about a clawfoot tub is expensive no matter where you get it. This is why I'm looking for replacement gaskets for our tub's original faucet. Spending $2 or $200, it's not much of a choice.

Kitchen Cabinets

Above, are the kitchen cabinets I mounted over the weekend. It was very anti-climatic. Since they were already positioned where we wanted them, they pretty much look the same after three hours of work. The gap between the two sets of cabinets is for the dishwasher.

When I was finished, I had my wife come and appraise my work.

"Hmmm. They look exactly the same."

"Yeah, I guess they do," I said.

"That's disapointing."

"Try to move them."

My wife tried to move the cabinets. They don't budge in the least.

"Now, that is impressive," she said.

"Isn't it?"

I'm a little concerned about them though. Everything I've read about installing prefab cabinets says you're supposed to shim them until they are perfectly level. Since the walls (vertically) and floor are out of plumb, this was pretty difficult. They are still a hair off, maybe 1/16 of an inch. I'm hoping that I can compensate for this when I start putting the countertop together.

This photo is of the opposite corner. The cabinet on the far left isn't mounted yet (note the how-to books piled on it). The gap between the two will be filled with a stove and a custom built corner cabinet. That ought to be interesting in the worst sense of the word.

Carbon Monoxide Detectors

You've spent years of toil and struggle renovating your home. You've spent thousands on the project, maxed your credit cards, and ensured that your decedents will be in debt for perpetuity. Sure, it's a heavy price, but you're willing to pay it because now your house is perfect. So, it would really suck if you died in your sleep because you were too lazy or too cheap to install a carbon monoxide detector.

"According to the Journal of the American Medical Association, carbon monoxide poisoning is the leading cause of accidental poisoning deaths in America," writes Dr. Anne Helmenstine.

Buying a detector is only the first step. Installing it correctly is the second step. Once again, according to Dr. Helmenstine:

"Because carbon monoxide is slightly lighter than air and also because it may be found with warm, rising air, detectors should be placed on a wall about 5 feet above the floor. The detector may be placed on the ceiling. Do not place the detector right next to or over a fireplace or flame-producing appliance. Keep the detector out of the way of pets and children. Each floor needs a separate detector. If you getting a single carbon monoxide detector, place it near the sleeping area and make certain the alarm is loud enough to wake you up. "

While the improper installation of a carbon monoxide detector may potentially be life threatening, it may, more importantly, lead to embarrassment and humiliation. Having finished your Magnum Opus, you're going to want to show the beauty off. To ensure that folks keep coming back to stroke your ego (Oh, I love your cabinets! Who built them? You did?! They are fabulous, aren't you quite the Renaissance Man/Woman!), you must master the art of being a gracious host.

To be gracious host, you must take your guests' feelings and preferences into account at all times. To ensure that everyone has a good time, you need to provide a comfortable and relaxing environment for all. A carelessly place carbon monoxide detector can be an unexpected source of discomfort or embarrassment for a guest.

For example, my wife's Uncle Mike was visiting his in-laws several years ago. They had all enjoyed a nice dinner and were sitting around visiting afterwards. Suddenly, the in-laws new carbon monoxide detector goes off. The in-laws are baffled. Is there a carbon monoxide leak? They reset the detector. It doesn't do anything. Maybe there is something wrong with the detector? If there had been a leak, surely it would have sounded again, right?

Shrugging it off, everyone eases back and continues visiting. About ten minutes later the detector goes off again. The in-laws are very anxious now. They are seriously concerned that there might be a leak. Should they leave the house? Call the fire department? What should they do? They certainly don't want everyone to die in their sleep.

Finally, to advert disaster, Mike is forced to make a confession. The carbon monoxide detector, which was plugged into a wall outlet directly behind his chair, was going off because he'd been passing gas, albeit quietly. This embarrassing incident could have been avoid if the detector had been placed in the correct location. So, the next time you have company over, make sure your carbon monoxide detector is properly located.

Consider yourself warned.

Post Script: Fortunately for Mike, flatulence alone does not qualify for a Dumbass Award nomination. The family did enjoy the story though.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Hammered Copper (Hamster) Clawfoot Tub

For those of you interested in such things, here is our tub after 4 coats of RustOleum Hammered Copper and 1 coat of sealer. A second coat of sealer and the exterior should be finished.

Pessimism Proven Wrong, Sure Sign of the End Times

For once my low expectations and pessimism, which serve me so well, have failed. Not only did Kenny show up, but he also worked. A lot. The exterior walls' bases have all been blocked-in and one side of the crawlspace has been completely enclosed. The seams are tight and it looks good. I'm delirious with my good fortune. I mean, how often does that happen?

Success of any sort makes me nervous. It is so out of the norm that I am convinced that Fate is buttering me up for a far greater disappointment. I'm preparing to meet my doom. It's just safer that way.

Sorry for all the glare in the photos. As all you astute readers may have noticed, the pictures were taken at night. Definitely not ideal conditions for photography, even if your new digital camera kicks ass.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Gambling on Hired Help Again

What can I say? In spite of what I may say here, I must really like pissing my money away. I can justify my reasons as well as the next person. Sometimes I even sound levelheaded and logical, but the truth is I am a moron. Or, a crazy moron perhaps. Isn't the definition of crazy, a person who does the same thing over and over, yet expects a different result each time?

Before Christmas, Kenny, one of Tony Anderson's (our favorite contractor) construction crew called us. He was starting his own business and wanted to know if we had any work for him. I told him that I was definitely interested, but, with the holidays and all, I wouldn't be in any position to hire (i.e. pay) him until the new year.

Last week I gave Tony a call. We wanted to make sure that Kenny was reliable (i.e. hadn't been fired because of a drug problem for example) and that he'd left on good terms. Tony gave Kenny a thumbs up so I called Kenny back.

Saturday night Kenny came by the Queen to give us a quote on some work. My wife had met him before and said that she liked him. I did too after I met him. In addition to having worked with Tony (a good thing), Kenny had also worked on the Queen before, two times to be exact. The familiarity helped. Also, he wasn't intimidated by her like most contractors around here are.

We ended up hiring him for a week. In this time, he is going close in the crawlspace, block in the base of the exterior walls where they open up into the crawlspace (this is to keep the blown insulation from spilling into the crawlspace when the walls are insulated), and do some minor trim work on the porch and a few other spots. Once that is completed, he will move inside to put up all the missing and/or loose ceiling boards. We figure this should take the better part of the week.

If he does a good job, we are going to have him finish out a lot of the additions and interior carpentry. Our plan is for him to finish all major construction work inside and out on the Queen. Hopefully, this will leave the wallpaper stripping, sanding, painting, and other finishing work to us.

While I am a firm believer in the value of sweat-equity, we are running out of time. Between April and June, we will have to pay out $3000 + in interest on our construction loan if the Queen isn't finished enough to get a mortgage. I'd rather pay Kenny about that much to finish the work, than to pay the bank for an extension. It certainly isn't how we planned for this to go, but it's the cheapest way for us to save our financial-ass at this point.

Of course, all of this is contingent upon Kenny coming through for us. For all of those who've worked with contractors, you know what and why we fear. Hiring work out is always a gamble.

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