The Return of the Whiteway Girls

Long ago when I was a child I used to play with the other girls on Whiteway Drive, where I lived.  When we got together, big plans ensued, because someone would  always  have an inspiration. Why don’t we all get our Barbie stuff and play on Jane’s patio? Why don’t we get umbrellas and pretend we’re on The Avengers? Why don’t we play Miss America, or gin rummy? Why don’t we play hide and seek after dark? Often my younger sister Ellen hoped  to be included in our pursuits but as I recall, in my rarified spot as the oldest sister, I forbade her from coming any closer than three sidewalk squares of any spot occupied by my friends or myself.  In time we all grew up. Some of us lost touch. Three of us moved away.

In all, five of us stayed in touch in various combinations, but we were never together at the same time. We were adults now and life was happening to us: careers, relationships, children. Also children, children, and children. In the last few years I found myself saying what fun it would be to rent a house somewhere and have us all come. No kids. No spouses, no responsibilities.

I don’t want to admit  that it took one of us becoming  gravely  ill to force us out of just SAYING  we should get together to YES. WE WILL GET TOGETHER. But it’s true. This spring, after our friend Jane  was well on the way to recovery, we began to plan in earnest. Texts and emails flew back and forth. Our eyes burned from scrolling through VRBO listings. But we did choose a place: Asheville, North Carolina, and booked the dates.

Five of us were to attend: Mary, Jane, Mary Beth – that’s me, Gayle, and Ellen. Mary and Jane are sisters. Ellen and I are sisters. On the appointed day I flew into Greensboro and was met by my trusty companion, Ellen. Luckily for me, Ellen nursed no grudge about having NEVER been included in our games as a child- oh, come on, she had kids her own age to play with- but she shared a little trepidation about this inaugural trip. Her concern was that she had never spent much time with Mary while growing up, because Mary is  like, even two more years older than I am. She hoped they would hit it off. I too had a valid concern. What if these girls were  drinkers of CHEAP WINE??? That would be INTOLERABLE!girls trip 2015-59

Despite these small worries, we made it to Asheville in good spirits, and as it happened, with several bottles of wine, chosen by moi, to share. Jane and Mary had  arrived first, and no doubt emboldened by imbibing some of their own wine, had boldly chosen the main bedroom for themselves. Was that OK with us, they asked. Certainly, the other three of us replied. We had carefully chosen a house with three private bedrooms and three private baths. There would be no turf wars here!girls trip 2015-2

girls trip 2015-3After deciding upon our sleeping arrangements we ventured down our mountain into downtown Asheville. Parking took awhile because each one of us had her own ideas about how and where to park, but eventually we were prowling the downtown streets with the efficiency of five disinterested cats. We approached restaurant after restaurant, read their menus and at least one of us would say, “Let’s keep walking.” “Let’s go here,” I suggested finally, winning the prize for having the first inspiration of the evening. We ducked into Zambra, which was reputed to have good tapas and drinks.

While waiting for a table, we gathered at the “confessional”. Enough said.girls trip 2015-82We each picked something to drink, I don’t recall what, and had a merry time until we were escorted to our lovely romantic table in the courtyard. girls trip 2015-87Dinner was a series of small plates. Everyone seemed satisfied  with their choices. We were a perfectly happy group of old ladies. Our trip was off to a capital start.

The next day we attended the The Big Crafty Fair, followed by dinner at the Tupelo Honey Cafe.

girls trip 2015-83

They had me at AC!

girls trip 2015-85Or maybe not, because at some point we stopped in at the Book Exchange and Champagne Bar. Surveying the many nooks and crannies of the store I  could not help but wish my companions would indulge me in just one more game of hide and seek.

You know you could hide behind those chairs. And beyond them, a bookcase to the second floor!

You know you could hide behind those chairs. And beyond them, a bookcase to the second floor!

Oh well. I amused myself by taking pictures of my companions for a fictional dossier. I had to make use of all the scoop I’d had on these girls all these years!

Fact: They had more Barbie stuff than I did.

Fact: They had more Barbie stuff than I did. And they still wear matching outfits.

Fact: Her Mother used to buy Coke AND Koolaid! Lucky duck!

Fact: Her Mother used to buy Coke AND Koolaid! Lucky duck!

And our bill came in a Dr. Seuss book!

And our bill came in a Dr. Seuss book!

Monday we hit the River Arts District, where a couple of us found things we just had to have.

These ladies wanted to go home with Ellen.

These ladies wanted to go home with Ellen.

girls trip 2015-11

Should we tell this man to use the inside facilities?

Should we tell this man to use the inside facilities?

We agreed.

We agreed.

This I found beautiful, but it was not for sale.

This I found beautiful, but it was not for sale.

The dossier continues. Fact: This little lady and her friend Sandra ate All the candy I had planned to serve at my slumber party, and had NO REMORSE!

The dossier continues. Fact: This little lady and her friend Sandra ate All the candy I had planned to serve at my slumber party, and had NO REMORSE!

Fact: I never even TOLD the other ladies that Ellen hung her footies to dry on the light fixture. That's loyalty.

Fact: I never even TOLD the other ladies that Ellen hung her footies to dry on the light fixture. That’s loyalty.

I’m thinking we stayed home that night and enjoyed some delicious vegetables from Ellen’s garden. girls trip 2015-51What was our dinner conversation? It was about how powerful we all are! We added up the combined years of our marriages, and of our motherhood. I can’t remember the numbers, but they were large! We marveled at how once upon a time we made pretend Barbie families, but now our lives were  completely real. Each one of us had buried a parent, tended sick family members, and faced personal disappointments. But dang it, here we were watching the sun set over the mountains, happy to be supporting one another.girls trip 2015-92girls trip 2015-57

Our feelings of power led to a rollicking game of “Catch Phrase” and I confess I have no pictures of that. Early Tuesday Gayle had to leave us because her mom was being released from the hospital. We were sad to see her go, but glad that she, as  the main caretaker of her elderly mother, had been able to join us at all. We knew how lucky we were.

After she left, Ellen tried to cheer us all up by suggesting we work a  “very easy” 250 piece  puzzle. Like the Little Red Hen, she started on it by herself and soon had it worked mostly all wrong. She thought maybe some puzzle pieces were missing, or that two puzzles were mixed up in the same box, but no..she had just done it wrong. It seemed that all the puzzle pieces were the same size and the same shape. Each piece held a word or a definition, and the two had to match correctly. Let me tell you, even the librarian among us did not know most of these vocabulary words. Eventually we all joined in the puzzle, each in our own way denouncing the mean spirited folks who could have invented such a deceptive device.

After a time we left the puzzle and went into town for some shopping and a Mediterranean lunch.girls trip 2015-89

But when we returned, there was the puzzle, mocking us silently. Thankfully Mary took the lead, gently insisting that Ellen move connected sections one piece at a time instead of brazenly shoving them across the table. I think the two of them made a good connection indeed.

Fact: I wouldn't have had the patience for this in 1968.

Fact: I wouldn’t have had the patience for this in 1968.

Finally, the thing was complete, and we could hit our normal old lady bedtimes with a sense of accomplishment. But first, a little more relaxing on the porch.girls trip 2015-96 The next morning we parted ways: Mary and Jane to Charlotte, Ellen and I to Winston Salem, where I would spend the night before returning  to Memphis.girls trip 2015-67Ellen’s husband had a lovely al fresco dinner waiting for us, and as we ate we reviewed the success of the first getaway of the Whiteway girls. We dreamed it, and we did it. All the coming year no matter what happens, we will savor our new memories. Any thoughts on where we should go next year?

A sad goodbye at the airport.

A sad goodbye at the airport.

The Magpie’s Jewel Box

Welcome again to Magpie TV, the unique low tech television show which challenges YOU to use your imagination! In Episodes One and Two, and also Three we detailed the Magpie’s journey to find and renovate a little treehouse of her own. Today’s show is the Magpie TV version of the typical last day of HGTV renovation shows, in which we see a fast forward ( in our case, imaginary) video of a renovated space being furnished.

For those who are new to  the show: You’ve followed the HGTV shows which depict  a hapless individual or couple completely renovating their home or yard over the weekend. It’s easy, right?  Two skinny celebrity do- it- your- selfers come over and show you how to operate heavy machinery on a Friday afternoon. You get four or five friends, and together you rip out those passé  walls and smelly hi-lo carpet, laughing and laughing at the sheer hilarity of tearing up your house.  That’s Friday night. On Saturday you rebuild the walls, install the new kitchen cabinets, and paint. Some of you work inside while others outside make new furniture and decor by gluing sequins to  pieces of board found by the roadside.  Or maybe they reupholster or even spray paint the fabric from a thrift store chair which will eventually be placed in front of the fire place. And finally, on Sunday, all the  magically chosen new furnishings are moved in, curtains and pictures are hung, candles are lit, and everyone lives happily ever after.

But of course it’s not that easy.  Magpie found out it takes a LOT LONGER than a weekend!  In today’s episode we hear it straight from the Magpie herself. ( The show has a fairly low budget.)

Part One:  As far as furnishing the condo went, for many months I had only vague ideas of a midcentury modern space, which included an attractive credenza housing a hi fi, a snazzy bar holding all the cocktail accoutrements I did not yet own, and a teak hutch from which I could serve my guests. As far as upholstered goods went, I came to the conclusion that although I would have loved to furnish the place with all vintage furnishings, I didn’t really want to sit on fifty year old upholstered items. I would therefore look for vintage case goods but buy a new couch and chairs.

It was too soon to buy furniture, but I felt as though I MUST start finding things for the condo. The solution? Art from silent auctions. I readily confess that silent auctions bring out the most desperate acquisitive parts of me. I never leave an auction without something. That is because I bid on 500 things. I will leave my silent auction behaviors for another post but suffice it to say I have left auctions with items  ranging from the doors of railroad cars to hand knit scarves. Since I could not yet hang my selections, for many sad months they languished in a closet. One silent auction find was a painting so shiny I had to have it. Look at the upper left of there photo below:

I bought a painting that reminded me of this Sputnik from outside Joe's Liquors in midtown Memphis. As HGTV would say, it was my "Inspiration" Source:joeswines.blogspot.com

I bought a painting that reminded me of this Sputnik from outside Joe’s Liquors in midtown Memphis. As HGTV would say, it was my “Inspiration”
Source:joeswines.blogspot.com

Also we had this former swag lamp turned into a dining room chandelier.IMG_1908And suddenly it was time to find things.  My ideal method of furnishing the condo would have been to stop in at consignment places and estate sales, waiting until I found just the right thing. But that method wouldn’t work for two reasons. Number One: I didn’t feel I had the luxury to shop slowly over time. I had a mighty powerful hankering to see the place finished. Second: Folks, I don’t like to shop, in part because I don’t like to drive the car around. I did make a stab at shopping locally for furniture when my sister was here, when  we hit a consignment place and found these two tables.

Table Number One. And on the right a partial view of the “Sputnik” painting.

IMG_2060But after that I went straight to…Ebay! I have to laugh because prior to this I had never bought one single thing from Ebay. Instead of starting small, with a dish towel or kitchen implements perhaps, I started with a dining room table!  So you can Imagine my surprise when, as a complete newbie,  my bid was accepted. And now  imagine my further surprise when I realized my bid was only for the TABLE, not the chairs! Oops!

But the table… I loved it! Look what it does!

Its smaller diameter.

Its smaller diameter.

But it expands! This baby is from the50s, but it was in its original box. Never used!

But it expands! This baby is from the50s, but it was in its original box. Never used!

So after purchasing a table I got busy looking for chairs. I could have spent more money, but after the table incident…. I thought these would work, and they did.

These do have signs of wear. Well, so do I.

These do have signs of wear. Well, so do I.

And while I was at it, I found some nesting tables that could be used in lieu of a coffee table.

These hail from Denmark.

These hail from Denmark.

I now had a bed, a table, chairs and two side tables and nesting tables.  The next step was to find the living room furniture. What did I actually have room for in this Magpie’s nest?  Not very much,  as it turned out. After lots of measuring I  got together with Jane the Designer and chose a couch, a chair and an ottoman. At the same time I chose fabric for a curtains and sheers at the sliding glass patio doors. I particularly wanted that big glass door to be covered by the time winter winds came through.

COMMERCIAL BREAK: Hum a peppy “Susie Homemaker” type tune to yourself. Read out loud to yourself: Looking for ways to go greener during the next holiday season? Mindful Magpie has a free tip for you.

I'll et they've never seen a present like this!

I’ll bet they’ve never seen a present like this!

Out of bows and ribbons? Or too lazy to walk all the way up the stairs and find them? Do what the Magpie does and decorate your packages with STUFF YOU ALREADY HAVE!!! Look how nice that coaster looks with the wrapping paper.  It almost keeps you from noticing the bunchy wrapping job. You’d be surprised what items can be used: Mardi Gras beads, small statues, even a nice ripe bell pepper would be festive. Next year get out of the wrapping rut and see what you can come up with.

Part Two: We placed our furniture and drapery orders and waited eagerly for delivery. Weeks and weeks went by. Since I could not speed up the delivery of these items I returned to Ebay for more instant gratification  mid-century modern pieces. We had only two possible spots in the living room for a bar. The space limitation meant we could only use a very shallow piece. Eventually I found this:

And there's another glimpse of the Sputnik painting as well.

And there’s another glimpse of the Sputnik painting as well.

The wire to the little lamp inside had been cut, but it was configured to use in England anyway. Replacing the light is on our to- do list. Now we were getting closer to being able to have those Manhattans! After purchasing the bar my budget was a bit maxed out. Until the furniture came in I really couldn’t make any more decor choices anyway.

Finally, some time in the fall, the drapes and sheers came in. My husband thought we did not need to pay someone to hang these, that he and my taller son could handle it themselves. He and the son did eventually get them hung, but it was a lot of trouble, so much so that when the curtains proved to be a little longer than I expected I chose to leave them as they were rather than take them down for hemming. Ready to see the drapes?

Drapes, a definite improvement over the vertical slat blinds.

Drapes, a definite improvement over the vertical slat blinds.

Drapes and sheers.

Drapes and sheers.

Light coming in through the sheers. Have you ever seen such cuteness?

Light coming in through the sheers. Have you ever seen such cuteness?

I was so pleased with the  drapes. But when would the furniture come in so I could sit and read in that room? Find out when we come back!

COMMERCIAL BREAK: Cue some music with building tension. Newscaster’s voice: We interrupt this commercial for a Handknit Sock Alert. The mate to this sock has been reported missing at the home of local citizen Mindful Magpie.

Will this sock become a permanent singleton?

Will this sock become a permanent singleton?

Some say it is unfair for her to use her own show to broadcast information which may only pertain to her. But Ms. Magpie is convinced of the existence of a global sock abduction conspiracy. No doubt some of you are as well. We at Magpie TV want to give this issue all the attention it needs. If you have seen this sock, please return it. No questions asked. More updates as the story…unravels?

Part Three: Fall 2013. Thanksgiving approached and the furniture had still not arrived. Since we had ordered it in the summer, we were beginning to doubt we were ever going to get it. The manufacturer kept assuring Jane the Designer it would be delivered but then… it wouldn’t be.  How did I manage my impatience, you ask? It wasn’t easy! Sometimes, audience, it seemed the only thing that kept me going was to  remind myself that ONE DAY I  was going to be able to write a blog post showing this whole process. ONE DAY!!!! became my mantra!!!

We decided that if we did not have a true delivery date by Thanksgiving we would simply scrap our plans, go to Macy’s with our tails between our legs, and make the best selection from what they had on the sales floor. Luckily at just the last minute, the company did load our things on the truck and deliver. I had forgotten what I had ordered, it had been so long, but when I saw it I was so grateful I had not had to scrap the all my carefully made plans.   ( Furniture will be shown momentarily.)

Now at long last we could do the part that looked so easy and fast on television: hang the pictures, ( as though that could ever be fast with a male involved) roll out the rug, turn on the lamps and set out the accessories!!!!!!! Drum roll, please!!!!! Close your eyes, and OPEN!!!

Come in the front door!

Come in the front door!

The living room

The living room

The comfy chair and ottoman.

The comfy chair and ottoman.The picture on the wall is a by young local artist, Joey Evangelisti , who also happens to be autistic.

A few accessories...

A few accessories…

DSC_0919

The photo on the wall is from a collection of vintage downtown Memphis scenes.

So here we are. We’re not completely finished with the condo, but what is undeniable is that what started as a treehouse has turned into a Magpie’s Jewel Box. Shininess Abounds!  True, I haven’t solved the hi fi problem, but I’m working on it. Some walls still need pictures. We haven’t done much to spruce up the balcony. But each time I unlock that front door and walk in, I feel as though the condo is welcoming me to sit down, prop up my feet and relax. After eighteen months of condo work, I’m more than ready to do that! Manhattan, anyone?

The first Manhattans!

The first Manhattans!

Closing Credits: A few before and after shots. Sing the song of your choice.

Magpie with her first condo visitors: Jane the Designer and her Ubiquitous Mother, AKA Mimi.

Magpie with her first condo visitors: Jane the Designer and her Ubiquitous Mother, AKA Mimi.

Memphis Sesquicentennial glasses, an early find for the bar.

Memphis Sesquicentennial glasses, an early find for the bar.

In the kitchen.

In the kitchen.

A Word From the Magpie TV Staff: Thanks to all who have faithfully tuned in to a show with no staff, no budget, no audio and no video. We’ve tried to give  a realistic but hopefully not too tedious picture of the making of the Magpie’s Jewel Box. If you have questions or  comments we want to hear them, please!  After all, this is our  first television series; we depend upon your feedback!

Magpie TV – Hurry Up And Wait!

And the beat goes on here at Magpie TV. We know House Of Cards comes out today, OK? WE KNOW. But you DO have time to watch this teeny tiny show before you start streaming. Think of it as a warmup for a second season of shenanigans from Frank Underwood.  Remodeling is not without political intrigue, you know. Now, cue some mysterious music and let’s get on with:

Magpie TV Episode Three

Part One: Magpie and her husband found themselves in a bit of a predicament. They couldn’t put in furniture until they replaced the floor, but they didn’t want to replace the floor until they painted the walls. No work could proceed until Magpie gave Bubba the paint details. But Magpie would not be able to provide paint details until she inveigled the services of Jane the Designer. For you see, Magpie and her husband had a pitiful record in the paint picking out department. Again and again they had had picked out their own paint and been horrified that the sweet pink for their daughter’s room looked like pepto  bismol, the restful pale green like a shade of monkey excreta, and the red a shimmering pulsating shade suitable for scenery paint in The Telltale Heart. Nope, they had learned NEVER to pick paint, no matter how impatient they were to complete a project.

IMG_1796

We turned the paint samples into large popsicles. This is as close as the Magpie has come to painting wild murals on the wall.

Eventually Magpie did persuade Jane  the Designer, who had plenty of other things to do, that she should, on a weekend, not only pick paint samples but take them down to the condo and try them out. From Jane’s suggestions they quickly chose the colors for the whole condo. Now they had the paint picked; how much longer would they have to wait before the little hideaway could be used?

Commercial

A sad road accident. I do hope the driver was wearing his seat belt!

A sad road accident. I do hope the driver was wearing his seat belt!

Part Two: Mr. and Mrs. Magpie felt the project was taking on momentum as Bubba painted, replaced the bedroom window, and the molding in every room.

New baseboards

New baseboards

In addition he built a cornice for the sliding glass door where they hoped eventually to hang curtains. By now it was Spring 2013, but still they could not use the condo. Suddenly, just when they thought they were ready to choose the new floor, Mr. Magpie suggested that it would make more sense to go ahead and do the kitchen next. It need not be stated that  Magpie knew this was the most sensible path, but since they had already spent more money than they had anticipated,the Magpie had chosen to allow Mr. Magpie to reach this decision on his own. When Bubba the Contractor readily agreed that it made MUCH more sense to do the kitchen next the couple set aside their impatience to use the condo, and went ahead with kitchen remodeling first.

DSC_0009

Remember this?

At least they already had their granite, so the Magpie was not starting from scratch. Magpie set about choosing tile and accessories to develop the urban look she hoped to achieve in the kitchen. Meanwhile Bubba got to tearing out that 1980s kitchen.

Bye bye old appliances!

Bye bye old appliances!

IMG_0488A voice in the back of Magpie’s mind kept asking, “What will we put in this empty condo? When do we get to pick out shiny baubles? shiny baubles? SHINY BAUBLES? ( The voice enjoyed repeating itself )  But she just couldn’t make those decisions yet. They waited patiently as well as impatiently for the tile to come in and to be installed. They opted for the plain stainless sink though Magpie preferred porcelain, to save costs. Magpie had her usual difficult time choosing lighting, because she really didn’t want halogen. By the time she pored through 8000 pictures of light fixtures, however, she neither knew nor cared what she was choosing. Whatever. The new tile, cabinets and appliances went in without a hitch.

Backsplash Tile

Backsplash Tile

Sophisticated Plans

Sophisticated Plans

The Magpie was pleased with her idea to tile one of the kitchen walls in brick.

The Magpie was pleased with her idea to tile one of the kitchen walls in brick.

And the cabinets are in!

And the cabinets are in!

Eventually it was time to lay  the floor. Back when Magpie had chosen the paint she had also chosen an engineered hardwood floor from the floor contractor recommended by Bubba. But by the time they were actually ready to install the floor Magpie had changed her mind, necessitating another drive to an obscure Mississippi warehouse for samples, and an excruciating delay while said samples were compared at the condo. At length one was chosen. The flooring was the last obstacle before the Magpie could get to  the wished for stage of furnishing the condo. But would this last project go as planned?

Floor Samples

Floor Samples

Commercial:

This show is partly sponsored by a sock monkey on a fence.

This show is partly sponsored by a sock monkey on a fence.

Part Three. Sadly, the floor installation did NOT go well, ruining the perfect workmen track record the project had thus far enjoyed. When Magpie and her husband tripped delightedly into the condo to inspect the new floor, it was  gorgeous,  but flawed.

The Beautiful and The Damned.

The Beautiful and The Damned.

There were definite scratches on the wood and NO ONE HAD EVEN USED IT YET. In addition, some pieces were damaged in places.

No floor comes this way!

No floor comes this way!

I don't think so!

I don’t think so!

So yet again there was another frustrating delay waiting for the floor contractor to make good his work, a task he seemed disinclined to do. First he said the couple  had to file a claim with the floor manufacturer.  He promised to get them the form to do so, but never did. Then he said the  floor was  just a very soft floor and inclined to scratch. What???! They  didn’t even have any furniture on it yet. They  were not happy. Nor was Bubba the Contractor who had told Mr. Floor Man specifically to make his workmen lay down butcher paper on the floor, not to walk on it directly until Bubba inspected it. Mr. Floor Man neglected to give his men that directive. So Mr. Floor Man was responsible, right? No, he still insisted the manufacturer was at fault and that he would have to contact the rep, a task which he also appeared disinclined to do. Time went by. The couple  did not pay the balance on the floor, pending action from the floor man.

After several weeks of runaround Mr. and Mrs. Magpie  decided to go ahead and deliver a bed to the condo, and let the chips fall where the may regarding the floor. They  had decided to replace our current bedroom furniture and to take what they  had been using to the condo. Finally the bed was delivered to the condo. Magpie and her husband spent some sweaty hours trying to put the thing together, but at last they completed the task.

At last! A bed!

At last! A bed!

The finished kitchen!!!!! Raise your hand if you love it!!!

The finished kitchen!!!!! Raise your hand if you love it!!!

On May 31, 2013, almost one year after purchasing the condo, Mr. and Mrs. Magpie were able to use the condo. Now they could spend the night there, but what about the other furnishings? You’ll have to wait, because Magpie TV is signing off now to catch House of Cards, but don’t worry. Magpie TV is also made for binge watching. We won’t make you wait too long!

Magpie TV Episode Two: A Bathroom Is Born

Welcome back to Magpie TV!  We’re NOT going to recap the last show because that is an insult to your intelligence. So here is:

Episode Two: A Bathroom Is Born!

Part One: The Magpie was so thrilled to have the condo that she initially planned few creature comforts. When she pictured herself in the condo in fact she didn’t think that much about furnishings. Instead she pictured the condo as an empty vessel, the Magpie’s willing muse, waiting  to be adorned with whatever Magpie chose. In particular the Magpie planned to fill the echoing rooms with pulsing rock, lonely ballads,sophisticated jazz, or whatever moved her heart that day as, oblivious to the world around her, she covered the bare walls with expressive colorful murals. She would heed the long suppressed urge to build layer after layer of color, to make the marks her heart demanded. But first, she needed a bathroom.

A creativity killer.

A creativity killer.

For as it has been written, what artist can use a yellow commode with a splintered wooden toilet seat? No doubt some have had to use such facilities but the sheer ugliness of the bathroom, with its tired linoleum, speckled formica countertop and depressing 80s vanity light caused a visceral reaction of disgust in the Magpie. When her husband suggested they gut the whole thing, she was willing to wait a month or so to have something less offensive installed. Since neither of them had ever gutted a bathroom, they needed the services of Bubba the Contractor.

Commercial Break

Cut! Cut! This is a family friendly show! Heads will roll, I guarantee it!

Cut! Cut! This is a family friendly show! Heads will roll, I guarantee it!

Part Two: Magpie knew of Bubba from a friend who had used his services. Bubba, dressed in his freshly ironed work pants, met with the couple and agreed to take on the job. Magpie and her husband never made a better decision than hiring Bubba, whose honesty and work ethic were an even match to those of Mr. Magpie, who found himself able to let go of the idea that he should paint all the ceilings himself. Bubba soon got to work tearing out the iron tub and tile surround.

Bubba later had to go to acupuncture on his shoulder after his efforts in gutting the bathroom.

Bubba later had to go to acupuncture on his shoulder after his efforts in gutting the bathroom.

Because of the dust and mayhem in the apartment, condo life became more of a  spectator sport for the couple. Each week they would stop by the condo to admire the work they had not had to perform themselves.

Bye bye bathtub!

Bye bye bathtub!

Magpie began the process of picking out replacement materials for the bathroom. Bubba recommended that Magpie go  on her day off to look for granite, cabinets and tile in places like Hernando or Southaven MS, and no, Magpie, a city girl,  did not know where those places were.  Unlike HGTV where a designer takes a client to a warehouse and shows them two examples of what won’t work and one example of what will, which the homeowner happens to love, Magpie was on her own. At the cabinetry place they didn’t know what midcentury modern meant. They just had these certain cabinets and Magpie was to choose one. She did the best she could.

The cabinet place had some run of the milll granite that could be chosen for the bathroom vanity but Magpie did not like any of them. So they sent her to another large warehouse in MS. This warehouse was full of shiny granite, tile, and plumbing fixtures. Magpie decided to purchase as much there as she could just to simplify things. That is how she chose a granite which was just as exquisitely beautiful as it was expensive. When she thought back she realized the salesperson had never mentioned the price to her. Should she  choose another, less expensive granite, saving money but delaying the project? The cabinets could not be made until the granite was chosen. The tile would not be laid until the cabinets were installed, and so on. Stay tuned for her decision!

Commercial Break

I would suggest you  hum something Sinatra like here. This photo is of Cafe Fontana, a wonderful restaurant in my neighborhood. I'm proud to have them on my show.

I would suggest you hum something Sinatra like here. This photo is of Cafe Fontana, a wonderful restaurant in my neighborhood. I’m proud to have them on my show.

Part Three:  ( Upbeat music) They kept the original granite!!!! Bubba the Contractor, knowing the couple had not meant to spend that much on granite, had the cabinet company agree to keep the rest of the slab to be used for their small kitchen countertop. Finally  after, unbelievably, a dispute between the couple over what kind of TOILET to choose, all materials were chosen and ordered.

Magpie and her husband realized that they had learned a lot doing this project. Having bought the condo in August,  they had expected to be able to use it by the fall. Now as the months rolled by they laughed at their folly.  And then there was the whole communication thing. She and her husband held many meaningful conversations along the lines of:

Magpie: Bubba called  today. He said something about.. a  hot water heater squirmaloid.  I think he had to turn it around. Or backwards.

Husband:  ( Excitedly)  What do you mean! That thing runs on a 150 powered molly bolt engine! Did you remind him of the Euripidean pass that has to be drilled from under the cortical edge?”  (That’s how science stuff sounded  to Magpie.)

Magpie: (Indignantly, feeling unappreciated because she always had to deal with  tedious condo stuff on her days off) NO! I did NOT ask him. I can only tell you what he told me, that some part of some thing had to be done. Why don’t you call him yourself if you want to know!

So sometimes the husband did go straight to Bubba to discuss mechanical matters which simply did not appeal to Magpie. Magpie found ways to stay busy, for with Bubba’s superior capabilities she was rarely needed in her accustomed  supervisory role.

She went to Amsterdam.

She went to Amsterdam.

And while in town she attended a book signing

A very interesting book by the way!

A very interesting book by the way!

She attended estate sales and looked at other people’s collections.

Someone had to think about the eventual decor of the condo!

Someone had to think about the eventual decor of the condo!

Sometimes the hardest part of waiting for the condo to be ready was having to say to people who asked,”No, We’re not using the condo. They’re still working on the bathroom.”  Probably some wondered if the condo existed at all!

Commercial

This is a public service announcement for the Read In Public Campaign. Meaning, there should be one.

This is a public service announcement for the Read In Public Campaign. Meaning, there should be one.

Part Four   In December, the bathroom, minus paint and towel racks, was ready to use. It had not occurred as smoothly as such a thing appeared to on HGTV, but Magpie and her husband had lots of opportunities to practice patience and breathing, neither of which are shown much on other home remodeling shows!IMG_0320 IMG_1735 IMG_0333

Definitely worth waiting for!

Definitely worth waiting for!

Magpie was grateful for a bathroom even though she could not yet bear to walk barefoot in the rest of the space. Surely the bathroom was the hardest part though, and with Bubba’s help the rest of the work would fly. “I’m also grateful to my friend Jane the designer who helped me decide on tile and fixtures. I haven’t exactly told her yet but she’s going to help me with every other decision I have to make going forward. She doesn’t watch TV, so she won’t know I’ve said this.” Magpie, we sure hope you’re right about that!!! Be sure to stay tuned for the next episode when work moves beyond the bathroom! Of course we welcome your comments and suggestions!

Before

Before! Scroll back up for the after!

Silly Manager

It’s been really ugly around here. I haven’t wanted to include tales of woe and carnage in this blog, but I can compartmentalize no more. I must announce that this very day an attempted coup inside my brain has been  peaceably put down.  Silently and insidiously, possibly for months,  my left brain self, a nerdy middle manager with an extensive collection of pocket protectors, has been co opting the machinery of my right brain. Misled by injections of cortisol, my right brain leader, goddess, and protector of magpies routed untold amounts of energy bound for cooking, writing, sewing, drawing, and countless other creative  and enjoyable endeavors into an endless examination of minutiae.

It’s been awful! Here is how the maniacal manager took hold. About a year ago, my husband and I bought a small condo in a cool part of town. The object was to have a  simple pied a terre for when we wanted to go to the theater, eat out, or just get away. The price was oh, so right, so we bought it, and Voila! We had our little getaway spot. Well, not exactly. It needed a little cosmetic work. The cheap laminate floor was buckled; it would have to go. The walls needed painting, and the crown molding appeared to an upside down baseboard, a construction trick I would probably have tried myself. The kitchen wallpaper was hideous.

We may have just made the above simple changes if I hadn’t realized after closing that THE TOILET WAS YELLOW!!! So the toilet water would always look YELLOW!!!! I could not accept a color scheme with yellow water. And yes, before we knew it we were deciding to basically gut the entire condo. We required the excellent services of Bubba S., renowned contractor, who guided us patiently through months of destruction and construction. We were not able to put a bed in the unit until June 2013, ten months after we bought the condo. Progress was sometimes slow, but since we didn’t live in the unit, it was not as arduous for us as it could have been.

The condo is now transformed, and I promise to do some posts about it later, but for now we must focus on the rebellion. During the  long months of waiting to be able to use the condo, my left brain was busy fomenting dissatisfaction. Along my nerve synapses, it was sending messages such as , ” You’ll never be able to use that condo.” “We’ve been waiting for a year.” “We could have gone to the condo this weekend.”  (Yes we did sleep there some on a blowup mattress, but it’s so uncomfortable.) Thanks to all that left brain agitation, as soon as we were able to put a bed in the unit, I felt a great pressure to get the place furnished instantly. Instantly.

It sounds easy to just furnish a one bedroom apartment, right? Wrong! First, we decided to take our current queen sized bed to the condo and buy ourselves a new king sized bed for the house. So now my old bed is at the condo, and I don’t have one here yet. Because my bedroom here needed painting. So I had to pick paint. But I couldn’t pick paint until I picked out a duvet cover. “Just try harder,” the left brain urged as I scoured every single internet source for duvet covers. The situation again  made fertile ground for the opposition. I ‘ve slept upstairs in a guest room for a month, my clothes are all stuffed in hefty bags, and I only know the whereabouts of one pair of earrings, because they happened to be in my purse. Yes, my brain cells were becoming attuned to the directive voice suggesting I just needed to get organized around here, to make some choices,  to get something accomplished.

At the same time, I needed condo furniture. I wanted a midcentury modern look. In my imagination I could see a snazzy living room with a hi fi set, a vintage bar, a clean-lined buffet,  groovy accessories, and Don Draper sipping a martini in the corner.  But the reality is that that stuff can be hard to find. Many extremely  cool items are either quite expensive or only available for local delivery. I know this because I have also searched every single possible outlet for these items regardless of my need for sleep and moisture for my bloodshot eyes.  And I told  all this to my left brain but he made me keep looking. Finally I found a dining room table and chairs on Ebay.

151061656738_1281087241683_1 I had never bid on anything before, and I think dining room furniture is a pretty formidable first choice for a beginner. But again, my left brain informed  me it was an emergency. I persevered.

I woke up early one morning last week, and when I  closed my eyes to go back to sleep, all I could see was an Ebay page scrolling, scrolling, scrolling.  I had lost touch with the idea that nothing at all would happen if I disregarded the voice of the left brain. I wanted to take pictures of my flowers and make pesto, but robotically I continued to focus on decisions for the condo. I was unhappy and I knew it. But I couldn’t stop. What was going to become of me? Would I wake one morning devoid of all humanity, but an expert on item numbers, bids, costs and measurements?

Last night I had a dream that a former roommate of mine in college was giving a talk on how she was tired of being materialistic and what a dangerous practice it was.  I really think that was the moment when the right side began to feel some reinforcements from some unknown place within. I woke up this morning and knew I had been delivered from the jaws of  an endless future of “human doingness” instead of “human beingness.” That is what the left brain side wanted of me. But I will not comply.

Furnishing the condo was never something to be finished, just something to be enjoyed at my own pace. I will order a couch and chair for the living room , and my new king sized bed this week. And that will be all. Becoming so thing and object oriented is not who I am. I don’t need spectacular surroundings to feel relaxed and happy at the condo; I just need peace.

Right now the right brain  leader, goddess, and protector of magpies  is having a talk with the left brain manager, thanking him for all his hard work. He will surely be needed for duties in the future. ( She catches more flies with honey.)  The neurotransmitters he controlled are being quietly disconnected. He must be tired, she murmurs, as she motions to her minions to make him comfortable in some remote location of the brain. He IS tired, he realizes, as he listens to the hypnotic tones of her voice.  And it feels so good for him to rest right here. Silly manager, he thinks as he drifts off to sleep; a coup would never have worked in a place like this.

But Wait…There’s More!

Raise your hand if you are ready for the next installment of Project Pergola. To recap, other people besides myself had worked for two weekends prepping and building the pergola. Now we will hear  the tale of the third weekend. 

If you have read my previous post you now know that the plan was after erecting the frame and large joists, old shutters would be attached to the top of the structure to add visual interest and more complex shade patterns.

To prepare to attach the shutters, they had to be arranged in such a way that they could be attached to two joists. Here, in the rain, joists are put out at accurate  distances.

Here are the shutters arranged so that the builders could  see where they would  attach to the joists.( I hope all this makes sense. I can only tell the story the way I understand it. ) The strips of blue tape are from where I had previously numbered the shutters to avoid disagreement and confusion during construction. However, (insert loud throat clearing sound) the aforesaid strategy did not  achieve the goal specified. Some of the numbers were washed off by the rain. We were all walking around with several shutters in our hands, trying not to trip over ourselves or the joists. My husband and I wound up  crouched down at opposite rows of shutters, each trying to rearrange the shutters  from our own end, causing each other to be off by just one shutter,  and making meaningful remarks to one another such as, “But that won’t work!”, “It works fine. Just follow the numbers!” and, “Never mind, just do it the way you want.” Our son wisely stood in a shady corner and said not a word. From the photo you can see that the shutters were eventually arranged.

Next the holes were predrilled.

And a shutter goes up!

Here is view from the top of the ladder. 

It didn’t take long before the whole thing started looking pretty cool.I love, love, love, the shade patterns! And I love the shapes of all the component parts!

This little vine is supposed to grow on the pergola. But it doesn’t look too healthy here.

Look at the pattern on the chimney!

Here they are finishing up with the electrical wiring for the fan and an electrical outlet.

Is anyone missing any tools?

After the shutters were attached and duly admired, more joists were  added.

Two different sized joists were added between every large joist.

The joists were slightly different heights, and added to the overall shade patterns.And we’re finished! Actually we are short one board that we can’t  buy and put on until next weekend, but I’m going to call it finished. Except for the fan. And furniture. But we will leave that for another day.

Before.

And after. Even this little critter is pleased! What wonderful fun this whole process has been! I haven’t decided what to put underneath the pergola yet in the way of furnishings, except for a rug and a fan. If anyone has any suggestions I’d love to hear them. Thanks for coming along on this journey with me!

Pergola III

It’s time for a pergola update! In my last installment I left you with the concrete poured for the posts. Today we pick up with construction. First I ordered all this lumber.

There was more lumber, but you get the picture. All was in readiness for the pergola designer and his lovely wife to fly in  for the weekend, he to help build the pergola, she, to lounge by the pool. Bright and early in the steamy Saturday air the construction began.

Initially some time was devoted to measuring and mulling. It seems that the posts were a bit  wide for the brackets to which they would be attached, so some shaving of the posts had to be done. Then they decided to carve a more decorative top to the posts.

Now they were ready to attach the beams to the posts. This process involved big silver bolts. 

During this time a third minion had arrived to help. The three of them attempted to lift the post and beams.

But it took a little more muscle to lift the structure past the 45 degree point. I wouldn’t even want to guess how heavy this was.

Luckily your author and the designer’s wife were on hand to lend some brawn to the effort. We all held our part of the post until it was attached to the brackets.

And it’s up!

See how pretty?

And on to the next side! These sweet guys worked all day in the 100 degree heat. I surely raised some good sons.Meanwhile, the designer’s darling wife worked on her tan.I provided fresh pitchers of ice water, took photos and made cold salads for my workers. Workers must be fed. It has ever been so.In the evening they had all the ribs they wanted. But I didn’t take any pictures of that.

And here we are the second day raising the second side in the rain. 

As the sun popped back out the first temporary joist was installed.

Here is the first real joist.

And more joists.

This joist was  thicker because it will hold a fan.

All the main joists were now  attached. We could  already see that when finished the pergola would provide some lovely shade patterns. Why is the designer putting shutters on top of the structure? You’ll just have to wait for the next post to find out!

Here is a nice side view.

And another nice side view?

Here are two thirds of the work crew at the end of the day. It’s so much fun going back and looking at this process.  Our  family’s times together are too short, but so filled with joy and laughter. The beams and the joists were properly placed, but the real prize was how we as a family all fell into place, helping, loving, appreciating. That’s the best design of all.