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!

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Making Fugly Fly, Part I

The last few weeks, we (my wife, her friend Laura, Jack, me, but mostly my mother-in-law and her friend Liz) have been working feverishly to overhaul our fugly exterior paint job. We didn't get anywhere close to fixing the whole Devil Queen, but we fought and won several important battles.

First, every window, door, and piece of trim on the back porch plus the one master bathroom window visible from the back porch have been scraped, primed, and painted with a pale yellow. It looks nearly white next to the sunglow yellow of the house (Valspar incase you're wondering), but it's actually yellow.

I love the ceiling fans. It's amazing how much cooler the porch is with them. We're trying to decide if we want to get light-kits for the fans or not.

And, as you can see, we actually got one of the storm/screen windows back up. This is great because we can open the windows without cats, bugs, and God knows what else coming into the house. Since summer is nearly here, this is very important.

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Making Fugly Fly, Part II

This problem gable is where Zombie Number 2 painted on the WRONG FUCKING COLOR. It was remedied by cleaning up the bottom edge of the overspray making a clean line of demarcation. Then, we could (semi) convincingly claim that we meant to do this and were planning to paint the rest of the house this way. Or, something. It's not perfect by any stretch, but it's much better then before.

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Our Nominally Finished Master Bathroom

The mirror is temporary. We'd like to get a much larger one but couldn't find one we like before the appraisal. Also, we're going to linseed oil the cedar vanity and I'm going to paint sunflowers all over the white top and seal it.

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Last of the Kitchen Touch-Ups

That's right. I finally set up a frigging scaffolding and painted the rest of the vent hood and touched up the purple. The milk paint has stored well, and, with the good old 1 part powder, 1 part water mix, only two coats were needed. I think it took longer to set up and take down the scaffold than to paint the vent hood.

And, this project was finished 7 hours before our 9 AM appraisal. The scaffolding came down 4 hours before the appraisal. Let me tell you folks, it was all fun and games.

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Some Interior Scenes

The main hall looking out down the back porch.

The living room as seen from the main hall.

The dining room as seen from the living room.

The dining room and living room as seen from the kitchen.

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Rejuvenation, Suck This!

Okay, I don't really have a grudge against Rejuvenation lighting. They make and sell magnificent period and replica lighting, and I have the highest respect for them since I read this blog post by the owner of the company.

And, while I really like how most of our "Made in China" lighting from Lowe's looks, I can't help think of how glorious the heft and weight of solid brass would be compared to the thin, mystery alloy-metal of our lighting. Sure, with the exception of some of the ceiling fans, we really consider most of this lighting temporary. When we sell the book and movie rights to our home improvement nightmare, we're planning to buy some mighty fine antique chandeliers at the very least.

My longing for the fabulous lighting of days long passed has been fed one tasty bit though. With all the major interior work finished, the last light fixture I installed was this one.

We bought this nearly a year ago at an antique shop in Eureka Springs, Arkansas. It is a 1920's light fixture with period, blown-glass shades. If I remember correctly, they were made by a guy or company named Fry or Frey. I'll have to dig the tag that came with it out of the box and have a second look to know for sure.

As usual, the pictures just don't do it justice. My wife and I stood utterly transfixed when this baby came on for the first time. So, until we can afford more, we can stand in the foyer and get our high-dollar lighting fix.

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Point of Reference

I have a horde of Devil Queen posts for you all. They span back over the last three weeks or so. I may have things a little out of sequence, but it all falls into this time frame unless I say otherwise.


Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Vanguard of Our Return

Hello all, I just wanted to let you know that we have not died or been imprisoned. Instead, we've "finished up" in the sense that the Devil Queen looked more like a house than a construction site for its appraisal. No word yet on what our final value is, but we should know very soon. In the mean time, we decided to put both our cars in the shop for very expensive repairs. I know, it seems rather premature to start celebrating, but what the hell.

I promise (insomuch as the Fates will permit me) a return to form soon, hopefully this week. Photos, embaressing stories, typographical errors and omissions, flying monkeys, and all the usual fare.


Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Local Color, Part II

My wife contributed this post to the Devil Queen this week. Enjoy.

"I was driving down the road with six monkeys on top of my car," Jim McCarthy said.

I blinked. Admittedly, I hadn't been listening closely to what Mr. McCarthy was saying. Afterall, he had been talking about a Kohler toilet he had fallen in love with just a second before. Not that I don't love new-styled, one-piece commodes, but I was trying to interview Russell Odelle, the secretary of The Election Commission, about plans to standardize ballot recounting at the county level.

"What?" I asked. "Did you say monkeys?" Mr. McCarthy is a straight-laced, former Yankee from Illinois. This morning, his hair was freshly cut and perfectly combed. He wore a long-sleeve, sage-color dress shirt that made him look distinguished. Mr. McCarthy was not the type to suffer monkeys.

"Well, I was driving through the Wildlife Sanctuary in Gentry, and I had my windows cracked about two inches. Those monkeys descended on my car and started shoving their hands through the windows, grabbing," Mr. McCarthy said.

"They were probably looking for food," said John Brown.

Mr. Brown happened to the commission president and usually seemed very displeased to be so. He is a laid-back man with farmer hands. He never looked well-dressed even when he wears nice clothes. Mr. Brown would definitely suffer monkeys anywhere, even in his car.

At this point, everyone seemed to think having monkeys on the top of your car was normal. Heck, the little buggers escape the sanctuary, and hunters spot monkeys in the woods. No drugs needed.

I visualized monkeys swarming the Ozarks. A weeping woman being interviewed by Channel 5 TV was saying: "How could we let this happen? Monkeys are everywhere!"

"So, there's monkeys in the woods?" I asked.

Mr. Odelle was quiet up until this point, but the monkey topic was apparently irresistible. "Well, there is no food for them in the woods so they can't survive," Mr. Odelle said.

Now the Ozark, runaway monkeys were starving in nearby woods. Depraved monkeys snarled, desperate for a banana. Little monkey skeletons were scatted in the rust-colored leaves. This is gruesome, I thought.

"Well, then I saw one of those big snakes — a python, I think," Mr. McCarthy continued.

"Yeah, and it tried to eat your car, right?" Mr. Brown laughed.

Mr. McCarthy looked at him but ignored the comment. "Then, I saw a panther cat. I know a girl who takes the pups, or cubs, home and nurses them with one of those bottles. You can only do it for a few months before they get dangerous."

"But the panther cats survive if they escape. They used to be native here," I said.

The woods will never be safe with all these monkeys and panther cats, I thought.

The group nodded and I could tell they were all thinking about large, black kitty-cats jumping down from the trees to eat them. I was more worried about the monkeys. There's just something creepy about monkeys, I thought.

"You should go to the Wildlife Sanctuary," Mr. McCarthy said.

I told him I thought I should and then gathered my notes and left them with their monkeys and panther cats.


I'm "Special"

This is the kind of email you get when people discover you paid $1.00 for house, moved it, and spent three years & tens of thousands of dollars making it semi-liveable:

"Today is International Disadvantaged People's Day. Please send an encouraging message to a retarded friend...just as I've done. I don't care if you lick windows, love farm animals, take the short bus or occasionally poop yourself... You hang in there sunshine, you're frigging special."

Thanks Laura.

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Local Color, Part I

Here is a little glimpse of what goes on in my part of the world. This article ran in the Russellville Courier this week.

Officers apprehend man on horse, found not to be his, either

By Laura Eppes, Reporter

A man accused of stealing a cow and selling it at an auction barn was arrested Friday afternoon by Pope County Sheriff’s Deputies. Lonnie J. Duvall, 44, was ordered held on $20,000 bond and to stay away from all cows, by District Judge Don Bourne, during a bond hearing Monday morning.

According to the report, Duvall allegedly stole a white Charolais cow and sold it at an auction barn in Blackwell for $212. The man at the auction had paperwork for the sale with Duvall’s name on it, according to testimony by Investigator Stephen Pack.

Authorities arrested Duvall, who was on horse after they chased him around Talley Lane and U.S. Highway 64 near Atkins. Pack said it is unknown who the horse belonged to. One woman brought officials a bill of sale, but Pack said another woman has come forward to claim the horse belonged to her.

Duvall is on parole for theft of a tractor and DWI.

According to state law, theft of livestock valued at $200 or more is a Class D felony and punsihable by 0 to 6 years imprisonment and up to $10,000 in fines.

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Tuesday, May 22, 2007

The Die Is Cast

The loan application is complete. The appraisal is scheduled. All the pieces are in motion.

So, will Rome be won?

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Friday, May 18, 2007

Photos and Not Much Else

I've been crazy busy at home, at work, etc. Here are some photos from the last week or two. Working on a bank loan application and it's time to schedule the appraisal.

Throwing up and dying would be such a relief.

More later if I don't actually manage to do that in the next week or so.

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Friday, May 11, 2007

Failed Ambitions

I thought that I'd manage to crank out a slew of witty, informative, and moderately vulgar posts this week, but it isn't going to happen. Too busy and too tired to manage it. However, next week you might be delighted or disgusted to learn all about The Clap, Warming Up for the 2007 Dumbass Awards, strange visitors and long-lost friends, How Darth Vader Made Me Plumb the Bathroom, and other post of questionable value.

The interior painting is nearing the end (semantically speaking). We’re going to try to finish the master bedroom and bathroom this weekend. And, we just might make it. If not, I'll whine about it next week.

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Wednesday, May 09, 2007

International Stardom Narrowly Avoided

A few weeks ago we were contacted by a big, glossy magazine with nationwide circulation because they wanted to do story about the Devil Queen. There was even talk of sending a bonafide photographer out to Arkansas. Then, a week or so after that we found out that the writer was leaving the publication, and, unless someone else at the magazine picked up the story, it was probably dead. Since we haven't heard from anyone, I'm guessing this baby is still-born.

I probably over reacted and probably shouldn't have started lining up the cast for the movie. Sure, we hadn't even sold the movie rights yet or even written the book, but we figured it was just a matter of time at this point. I mean, once we made it to Oprah and NPR this baby was going to get moving, and we needed to stay one step ahead of the game. Right?

The Money Pit is still probably the definitive home improvement movie, but I think there is room for a few more films in this genera. In addition to updating it for the 21st century, there is a lot that the Devil Queen has to offer that the Money Pit didn't: ghosts, black magic, zombies, torrid sex, drugs, human sacrifice, felonies, alcoholics, house moving, go-go boots, black snakes, seizures, certifiable crazies (have I mentioned our financier still circles the house several times a week in his airplane?), blunt force trauma, a Stephen King cameo (okay, we're still working on this), and Dumbass Awards in a setting that is one part Deliverance, one part Fried Green Tomatoes, and two parts O Brother Were Art Thou?

Really, it is probably for the best that it didn't work out. Giving a self absorbed asshole like me a little money and a fame is about like giving some jihadi weapons grade plutonium; there is no way that it's going end pretty. It would only be matter of time before I went from charming, personable interviews with Conan O'Brian to snorting a kilo of cocaine off Lindsay Lohan's breasts, a cat fight with Courtney Love, an ugly divorce, rehab, and studying kabbalah. Before you know it, I'd be renting a room in Pauly Shore's basement and living off Beanie Weenies, second hand paper backs, and porn. I just don't want to go there. Yet.

Besides, we were having a lot of trouble deciding who should be cast as me. We'd narrowed it down to Daniel Radcliffe and Topher Grace, but just couldn't decide.

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We're A Happy Family

We made a very strange discovery last week. My wife, Kenny, and his work crew (his cousin Burt and brother Jimmy), are all related. Now Kenny being related to his cousin and brother is no surprise, but the fact that they are all distantly related to my wife by marriage was kind of mind bending. It's a very small world. Or, at least Arkansas is.

Kenny finished up yesterday. I could have kept him fully employed for another couple of weeks, but there is the small bit about us not having any more money to pay him. Details, damn them!

Anyhow, new pictures to follow in the coming days.


Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Do You Love Her?

Here is one our most exciting discoveries at the Devil Queen, 117 year old graffiti. It is scrawled on the wall just to the right of the bay window. We taped a trash bag and a dire curse over it to keep anyone from accidently painting this little bit of history.
I had a hard time taking a good picture of it, but here it is.

The pencil is so faint that I couldn't see it through the camera's view finder. I tried to zero in on some nearby nail heads, but I was a little off. This says, "Dan, Do you love her?" and beneath it says "Yes" with a heart drawn around it. We are a baffled about Dan. To the best of our knowledge, no one named Dan lived here, ever. The most popular theory is that Van Boswell (full name, Ransom "Van" Newton Vandorn Boswell, Jr.), the Devil Queen's builder, was nicknamed Dan, perhaps? It's the only thing we can think of for the moment.

Next to it in the same handwriting is this.

Terrible pictures, I know.

This says "Van Boswell/ painted by / [undecipherable name?]" At first I thought maybe it said Daniela, but now I'm wondering if it says Amelia. That would make more sense on two counts. One, that is the name of his first wife who lived in the Devil Queen from the time it was built until her death 6 years later. And, we know his wife was an artist and sign painter based on The History of Pope County, Vol. 1.

This is pretty exciting stuff for us. We're going to paint around the writing on the wall and have picture frame with glass mounted over it. A window to the past as it were.


Monday, May 07, 2007

The New Idol for Our Affections

What can I say? When something like this appears before you, you can't help but be transfixed. Like a Jesus Christ grill cheese sandwich or a Virgin Mary liver spot, it evokes strong feelings of love and adoration. It may in fact be the most moving religious experience we've ever shared as a family.

For the first time in nearly a year, we now have the convenience of washing and drying our clothes in our own home. Ms. Scarlet ran them for two days straight in an attempt to wash the huge cache of dirty clothes we've been hording. We actually had a whole dirty clothes hamper full of clothes that was packed up when we moved out of our Blue House and in with my in-laws in June 2006.

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The Devil's Dance: Two Steps Forward, One Step Back

It's progress, but we're way behind where we'd like to be. Fidge got poisoned, so I had to baby-sit (is it really baby sitting if it's your child?) Gideon while she waited for Allegra-D to get out of her system.

What is even worse is that I am indirectly responsible for Fidge's poisoning. The last two weeks Fidge has developed a really nasty rash. And it keeps spreading. Not poison ivy. Not hives, not pox, not a bite or anything else anyone could name. Finally, she went to the doctor and he didn't know what it was either. But, this didn't stop him from prescribing her Allegra-D, one of those stupid "miracle" allergy "cures" the pharmaceutical companies keep churning out. I guess when in doubt, assume its an allergy and bill their insurance.

Apparently, he gave her a dose high enough to treat a sperm whale. I not sure what exactly it did to her, but it didn't sound pretty. Something about a droopy eye and the other was dilated so wide that determining the eye color was a challenge. Fortunately, she sweated it out and got back to normal without visiting the ER. Nice.

What makes it even better is that Fidge finally figured out what was making her skin breakout, The Devil Queen. She's been scrubbing a lot of the walls and painting them for us, and she thinks she has an allergic reaction to the stuff. As a hypochondriac with a well developed collection allergies (oak pollen, old books, molds, dust, etc), I'm at a loss to account for what is getting to her. Maybe it's the paint?

So, since I was tending to the young master, I didn't finish off the master bathroom, the dining room ceiling, or sundry other projects. Even so, things must be going the right way. For the first time since the Norman invasion of England, my wife came home and was thoroughly excited by how the house was looking. And, another sign that times are changing, Gideon has stopped calling the Devil Queen "Monster House" and now calls it "Yellow House." That has got to be good, right?

Here are some pictures of what we knocked out over the last few days with a lot of help from friends, family, fiends, and hired help.

First we have our new cherry wood floors.

Second, a heavily primed master bathroom ceiling.

Base boards in the living room.

More base boards and window trim.

The dining room nearing completion. Note, more base boards.

Here is the pantry door and trim. We've decided to leave the beadboard walls and ceiling unpainted. We may go back and oil or clear coat the wood, but like the bare board look a lot.

Cabinets in the pantry. The counter top is left over cherry flooring. The weird strips to the left will be painted or stained to make them less noticable.

And we've been cleaning the place up too. Liz, our itinerate painter, wanted a good bit of our left over building materials, so Fidge hauled a truck load of that to her this weekend. This was a great relief for us. The Devil Queen is getting close enough to completion that all the construction materials, tools, etc need to find a new home. A lot of that has been ending up on the porches, and that just isn't cutting it anymore either.

We also traded Kenny some left over electrical supplies for work on the house, yet another good deal for everyone involved.

Anyhow, more to come. I've got six or more posts in the works to catch up on everything from the last week or so.

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Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Home Improvement Whack Job

Since we've been working on the Devil Queen, people have long stopped questioning our sanity. As far as I can tell, we've definitively proven that we are insane. Moreover, together my wife and I are crazier than we could ever hope to be alone. And, since my wife has gone to work in the far north of our state and far from the war-zone that is our home, she has reverted to a calmer, happier version of herself. But not I. No, left to my own devices, I followed the black spiral down into the labyrinth.

Since I felt so wretched yesterday, I thought that I'd feed my burgeoning hypochondria and look up some of the symptoms of sleep deprivation. According to the Wikipedia, the effects of sleep deprivation are:

Aching muscles (Hmm, I think that all the house work accounts for that, no?)
ADHD symptoms (?)
Blurred vision (Nope)
Clinical Depression (Not really)
Color Blindness (No, that seems odd)
Daytime Naps (I'm working on Masters Degree in Narcolepsy)
Decreased Mental Activity (Yes)
Decreased Concentration (Yes)
Decreased ability for the immune system to fight off sickness (?)
Dizziness (?)
Fainting (No)
General Confusion (Yes, but I think this is a normal state for me)
Hallucinations (Not that I'm aware of, but, if I were hallucinating, would I know?)
Hand Tremors (? - Sometimes, but I think that was low blood sugar)
Headache (Always)
Hernia (No)
Hypertension (?)
Impatience (Absolutely!)
Irritability (YES!)
Memory Lapse (Yes, see general confusion)
Nystagmus - rapid involuntary rhythmic eye movement - (Not lately)
Nausea (Yes, but I thought that was from poor diet and stress)
Psychosis (I had to look this one up, see below. I think there is strong case for it)
Pale Skin Tone (No more than usual)
Slow reaction time (?)
Slurred Speech (Not that I recall)
Weight loss (No)
Yawning (No, not really)

I had to look up psychosis. Once I stopped to think about it, psychosis is a lot like schizophrenia. Everyone uses the term, but, technically, they don't actually use it in the proper sense. Again, according to Wikipedia:

"Psychosis is a generic psychiatric term for a mental state often described as involving a "loss of contact with reality". Stedman's Medical Dictionary defines psychosis as "a severe mental disorder, with or without organic damage, characterized by derangement of personality and loss of contact with reality and causing deterioration of normal social functioning[1]
People experiencing a psychotic episode may report hallucinations or delusional beliefs (e.g., grandiose or paranoid delusions), and may exhibit personality changes and disorganized thinking. This is often accompanied by lack of insight into the unusual or bizarre nature of their behaviour, as well as difficulty with social interaction and impairment in carrying out the activities of daily living.

A wide variety of nervous system stressors, both organic and functional, can cause a psychotic reaction. This has led to the belief that psychosis is the 'fever' of mental illness—a serious but nonspecific indicator.[2][3]

However, most people have unusual and reality-distorting experiences at some point in their lives, without being impaired or even distressed by these experiences. For example, many people have experienced hallucinations, and some have even found inspiration or religious revelation in them.[4] As a result, it has been argued that psychosis is not fundamentally separate from normal consciousness, but rather, is on a continuum with normal consciousness.[5] In this view, people who are clinically found to be psychotic, may simply be having particularly intense or distressing experiences (see schizotypy). There are superficial forms of psychosis, for example the kind of "intentional psychosis" that Hamlet suffered in the Shakespeare play."

I don't know. Based on some of the feedback I've been getting (from my wife in particular), I'm on my way there if I haven't yet arrived. I've never been a big fan of reality, and it seems kind of sad that they characterize a loss of connect with it as a bad thing. Oh well. In any case, I so like going to new places and experiencing new things. And it's nice knowing where you are in life.
I wasn't really using mine, so the destruction of my psyche isn't too much of a concern for me. It does seem to irritate other people though. What bothers me is the huge toll this project has taken on my body. Never an obsessive narcissist with a fetish for weight lifting, I would nonetheless like to keep my body in good running order. One of my great fears is my body will give out before it's my time to die. I don't want to be one of those stitched-together, tube-riddled people. I've seen a lot of that firsthand, and I do not want to replicate that experience.

I didn't notice how bad it had gotten until I looked at some old pictures the other night.

See, first here I am a year ago. Even a couple of years into this, I still have that young-and-full-of-energy look.

Then, just a few months ago, here I am free-basting old paint. Be honest, if you saw this person walking toward you in a major metropolitan area, you'd cross the street and hope he didn't follow. If he did, you'd mace him. I mean, that isn't someone I'd leave my children with.

And, just last weekend, here I am. If you're wonder about that startled look on my face, that is because my wife surprised me while I was getting out of the shower. Sometimes, she doesn't play fair. The nasty brown towel is very embarassing.

Not pretty. I probably ought to write a will and get my affairs in order, assuming that I have anything left to pass on besides my ashes after this.

Speaking of which, I found this quite amusing. If you haven't discovered some of them for yourself, here are some fascinating ways that your home may end you. It's better than starving I guess.

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The living room walls are finished. I'm really pleased with how the red looks since it would be my fault if it looked bad. After the whole Pee Wee's Playhouse Incident, I swore that my wife would have to pick out all of the other colors for the Devil Queen. Otherwise, the we'd be those people living in the Clown House. So, Sunday morning we ran out of paint for the living room and I was dispatched to Lowe's with Gideon in tow.

Since I've begun obsessively hording and labeling every paint chip we've used, getting more paint for the dinning room was pretty easy.

I was really worried about the red though. Why? Here is the conversation I had with Scarlet before I left for Lowe's.

Me: "So we need 2 more gallons of both the browns and more white too."

Scarlet: "And red too."

Me: "Red like those curtains there?"

Scarlet: "No, darker."

Me: "Darker?"

Scarlet: "Yes, like wine."

Me: "Dark purplish-red?"

Scarlet: "No. Red like wine, not purple."

Me: "Right."

Scarlet: "Can you do this?"

Me: "No, probably not, but I'm going anyhow."

Thirty minutes later I'm standing in the painting section in Lowe's looking for wine. Fortunately, they have a bunch of "theme" brochures one of which is "Decorating with the Richness of Wine Country." I'm ashamed to admit how excited I was. I open the brochure, and it is immediately apparent that there are only two colors remotely close to what I believe my wife wants: Gooseberry and Merlot. The problem is, I'm not sure which is the winning color. I'm leaning towards Gooseberry, the darker of the two, even though it's a little too dark and too brown. I'm suspicious that this is the wrong color, but the Merlot doesn't seem dark enough. I need help.

"Gideon, which of these colors do you like best?" I show him the paint chips. He grabs one in each hand crushing them. He grins, waves them around, and slaps them down on seat of the cart. Then, he very carefully points to the one on my left. I look, it's Merlot.

So, buy two gallons and Ms. Scarlet loves it. Moral? When in doubt, trust a three year old.

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Good Feeling

One of the best feelings in the world is coming home from work and finding that things are getting done.

The master bathroom ceiling is nearly ready to prime and paint.

I know it's not much to look at, but here are the first to rows of the last floor I hope we ever have to have installed. I have high hopes that this will be finished today or early tomorrow.

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