Friday, October 30, 2015

Attack of the Carpenter Ants - Before & After

It started with a leaky roof. 
The ceiling seam connecting the original back porch to a 1970s addition 
leaked every time it rained. And the windows all had a permanent foggy look.

The house was built in 1907 and the front looks pretty.
But wait til you see the back!

Like most renovations, the leaky roof turned into a major project.
When Rob, our contractor, tore into the ceiling, he found a huge mess. 
Carpenter ants, who apparently prefer wet wood to make their nests in, 
had attacked the ceiling, the wall, and the framing around the windows.
It was more than an ant farm. It was an ant estate!

The more Rob removed, the worse it looked.
 The insulation was sopping wet and the wood crumbled to the touch. 
Who knew tiny little ants could do this much damage. 

 He finally recommended we just replace the entire wall and put on a new roof. 

Of course, that lead to a discussion about the old plate-glass windows. 
They did let in a lot of light as well as cold air and moisture. 
We couldn't open them in the summer and couldn't use this room in the winter.

I decided I'd prefer windows that matched the rest of the windows in the house 
instead of the 70s look. Might as well get good energy-efficient ones while we're at it. 

The insulation then got new lap siding, the kind carpenter ants don't like! 

Inside, we got fresh new wood and a smooth dry ceiling. 

A little paint made it look like it had always been part of the house.

Indoors I painted the trim around the windows a crisp white
and stained the new raw wood to match the old walls.
Now, the room is warm, dry and cozy year-round.

Friday, October 23, 2015

A Pioneer Cemetery

Most people celebrate Halloween by dressing up in scary costumes,
telling ghost stories or watching vampire movies. 

But I see this holiday differently.
I think Halloween is a perfect time to visit a historic cemetery. 
I don't see old cemeteries as scary. In fact, I think they're beautiful, timeless places. 

They give us the opportunity to honor those who have passed on 
and left something for the next generation to value. 

Whether it's preserving our union by fighting in a war . . .

or helping to build our country as pioneers or early civic leaders  . . .

 these historic cemeteries are inspiring and beautiful in their way. 

So on a cool cloudy day just before Halloween,
we drove to Riverside Cemetery on the northern edge of Denver. 
Riverside is the oldest cemetery in Denver and many of our early settlers are buried there. 
In fact, it's referred to as Denver's Pioneer Cemetery.

I applaud an ongoing project to make this an ecological space
by planting native prairie grasses and restoring a nearby wetland. 

I think these old cemeteries are beautiful, peaceful and sacred. 

Some of the monuments are works of art.

Some are grand.

Others are small and sweet.

Some tell a story. . .

some make you smile . . .

others tear at your heart . . .

and some simply give you a feeling of peace.

This time of year is celebrated in various ways in different countries.
Many venerate those who have died with prayers or by placing candles and food on graves.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Antique Capital of Colorado

On the Road . . . 

 As you enter Main Street, Florence, Colorado, you'd think you were on an old 
western movie set, rich with 1900-period details, gorgeous architecture and tall store fronts.

But this little town in south central Colorado calls itself 
"The Antique Capital of Colorado" and it's aptly named. 
Main Street, with diagonal parking and brick buildings, is lined with about a dozen antique stores. 

The city was named after Florence, daughter of local settler James McCandless. 
It was incorporated in 1887 but its history goes back to the 1860s when oil was discovered. 

We couldn't wait to check out the shops but the yummy architecture kept getting in the way. 

The stores were crammed with antiques, collectibles, gifts, art and welcoming shopkeepers. 

I found two treasures. 
An old book with torn binding, just the kind I love, called "Reddy Woodpecker," 
a "Tuck-me-in Tale." How sweet is that?

My other find was a large vintage breadboard. The sales clerk thought it was probably from the 40s
or 50s. The wood is over an inch thick and the surface has been carved with a sheaf of wheat and
the words "Give us this day our daily bread." 
I imagine a young boy might have carved it for his mother. Love it. 

But it was sticky and icky. 
A quick cure: dump Kosher salt all over the surface, mix in enough lemon juice to make a paste, smear it all over and scour with a rough sponge. Let sit for 30-60 minutes, then rinse with warm water. Dry with a paper towel. Better than new!

Remember, when visiting these old towns, be sure to leave Main Street and check out the neighborhood. There are some delicious old houses not to be missed. 

Friday, October 9, 2015

French Cowboy Style

Although my first love is French Country, I'm still drawn to the southwest.
My sunroom is a mix of Vintage, Native American and Cowboy styles.
Maybe I'll call this style French Cowboy!

Yep, they do have cowboys in the Camarque region of the South of France.
They ride beautiful white horses and herd distinctive black bulls.

I didn't have an opportunity to take any pictures of these French cowboys
when I was in France but
I loved this white horse galloping on a carousel in Paris.

But I digress.
Back to the sunroom.

There's something about a black raven decoy wearing silver jewelry
against a rustic turquoise cabinet that makes my heart sing.

Or the worn leather and metal on old spurs.

We love our rustic sunroom in the Fall with its little gas stove
making it cozy and warm on cool mornings.
It's the perfect place to display my southwestern/vintage collection.

This room has an interesting history. 
One wall is the original 1907 exterior of the house that included a tiny back porch.
The other wall was created in the 70's when a former owner expanded the porch
to create a small room.
We replaced the leaky windows with energy-efficient ones
when carpenter ants completely destroyed that wall.
I kid you not. Stay tuned for that horror story in a future post.

This vintage Beacon blanket, with its Native America designs and Fall colors, 
adds warmth and nubby texture to the room.

The sweet Begay Indian prints on the wall are collectible.

Antlers and art -- a striking mix of nature and man.

I've been collecting little cowboy boots for years. I have about fifty pair!
(Stored in vintage suitcases).
I usually find them at a thrift store for a couple of dollars but 
if they're in a Santa Fe shop, forget it. They can go for a LOT more.
Love the stitching and scuffed toes!

An earthy blend of textures fills an old leather desk organizer.

This little basket was always on our dinner table when I was growing up. 
We never had a meal without sliced white bread in the basket. It must be about 75 years old.
The basket, not the bread! 
I think my mother bought the basket at a roadside stand in Arizona in the 40's.

The hand-made candle holder is from the Taos Pueblo. 
There is something sparkly in the clay and the candle makes it come alive.

We found this old adobe brick mold in a dump in Taos, New Mexico.
It makes a perfect shelf for some of my collectibles.

Zuni buffalo and coyote fetishes seem to pay homage to the female form.
I love the way the sun is shining on her.

I'm not sure how to blend this style with French Country so I corral it all into one room.
A pretty grapevine basket with dried hydrangeas and other Fall touches
looks pretty in any room and with any style.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Falling in Love with the Patio

The French live outdoors as much as inside, 
whether it's in the cafe culture of Paris or under a vine-covered pergola in Provence.

Here in Colorado, we do the same. 
As we shift into Fall, we simply migrate from the summer "dining" table with umbrella patio
and meander over to the "fire pit" patio.
Nestled under a giant ash tree and snugged up against the fence, 
it's private and intimate, perfect for an autumn escape.

We used to have a southwestern chiminea (a freestanding fireplace) on this patio 
but we could only see the fire in it if we were sitting down on the open side.  
The fire pit is open on all sides and you can see the fire 
while sitting, standing or walking through the garden.

A couple of Adirondack chairs we found in the alley in pieces have been put back together
and are the most comfortable chairs in the world. (Roxy agrees!)
 I arranged them so that we can look out at the garden.

One summer we went to a student art show but didn't see anything that spoke to us. 
However, as we walked home we spotted a paint-splattered scaffolding leaning against a dumpster in an alley. I didn't know what we'd do with it, but it was just too cool to leave there. 
So we hauled it home. 
It became a unique bench which now graces the patio and provides extra seating.
(We may expand the flagstone a bit so the bench's legs rest on it rather than the grass).

Unfortunately, a year of outdoor weather has scoured the paint splotches off its surface. 
Still, it has a warm, aged patina. 

Two giant metal sunflowers stand guard over the patio, and,
yes, I found these at Goodwill for a song.

We especially enjoy this patio on a cool morning with coffee or a Fall evening 
when we stoke up the fire pit, light the lanterns, and sprinkle candles around the garden.

A glass of wine, some music, and someone special . . .