Sunday, February 3, 2008

The Porch Swing Project, Bookshelves, and Miscellany

A New Cafe in Elgin
I am particularly pleased to note the opening of a new cafe/sandwich shop/ice cream parlor on Main St.: Cafe Nirvana (or Nirvana Cafe? not sure which). I am unhappy to report that, like every other business in Elgin, it's closed on Sundays. Apparently, while I am desperately roving the streets of Elgin, looking in vain for coffee, books, newspapers, pharmaceuticals, and antiques, the rest of the community is sitting silently at home reading the Good Book and, I don't know, tatting or something.

Cafe Nirvana (Nirvana Cafe?)

Anyway, we finally made it during operating hours, and it's really nice inside--small space, but high ceilings, lots of light, cool stone floor, exposed brick walls--just very nice and up-to-date and chic. It has free WiFi! The sandwiches and smoothies were fine, though the ciabatta was disappointingly soft (note to America: ciabatta is crusty, people. It's not Italian for "hamburger bun.") But all in all, it was a very respectable alternative to the rancid grease we've been treated to repeatedly at City Cafe. We still like El Maguey (and their margaritas), but one can only eat enchiladas so many times per month. Now we can vary it with sandwiches every now and then.

Window Work
Last weekend we finally did some long-deferred work on our windows. We scraped paint off the inside of the panes in the front of the house, which makes a surprising difference to how the rooms feel. I scraped so hard, I broke a window pane. I am Woman. Fear me. (Not to worry--I just caulked the broken piece back in place--I may be violent, but at least I'm resourceful.)

Matt & a partially scraped window. He didn't break anything.

And I used cement patching to cap the stones on the front window. When we moved in, this window had a piece of 2x4 wrapped (inexplicably) in a disgusting old pillowcase on the exterior sill. I think it was meant to keep water from seeping between the stones and the house as the stone-installing people neglected to cap this window off (unlike all the other windows).

I had assumed that the cement patching would dry to a nice, neutral whitish-grey, like most cement in the known universe. Not so. It dried to the vivid deep grey you see below. Will have to paint that some day. Not anytime soon, though.

My first stab at stone masonry

Progress on the Bookshelf Front
Meanwhile, we had a second meeting with Javier to clarify the style of drawer front we're looking for. That went great--we met him at his shop and saw more of his work and feel very good about the quality of his workmanship and his reliability. The surprise is that he's going to start Mon. and expects to be done by Friday! Yeep! I was expecting another pay cycle between now and the completion of the project. So the next week and a half shall be rife with Ramen and frugality.

This is where the bookshelves will go.

Happy Valentines to Us
Meanwhile, to keep from getting bored, we've started another project. We're rehabilitating the rotten old porch swing that came with with house. It's to be our Valentine's present to each other. It is also going to be stained red (with white metal), but that's just a coincidence. We'd still be staining it red even if it were a Mardi Gras present. I like red.

We thought, well here's a nice cheap little mini-project we can do as an inexpensive yet enjoyable present to each other. It'll cost, what, 40 bucks? We'll just buy some wooden slats, stain and varnish them, and screw them in place. Badda bing.

Not bloody likely. We paid $80 for the wood alone. And of course, once we starting really taking apart the swing, we discovered that the frame for the swing (not the stand, fortunately, just the swing) had rusted through in several placed. So there's also the cost of buying a long piece of steel pipe that Matt will have to cut, procuring a pipe bender from his work, cutting, bending, and drilling the pipe, as well as the cost of the stain, varnish, and new hardware (which we'll have to buy at Austin Bolt Company rather than Lowe's because Lowe's doesn't carry the right kinds of bolts nor wholes boxes full of acorn nuts.

So we really could have saved ourselves a lot of time and probably a bit of money* if we'd just bought a brand-new porch swing and thrown this one away. However, we used Texas red oak for the wood, and we're going to rustoleum the hell out of the metal, so perhaps we'll end up with a slightly better quality item in the end. And, you know, Al Gore would be proud. Reduce, reuse, recycle, right?

The pitiable condition of the swing--rusted and stained with algea.

Matt examines the rust holes glumly.

The stand, while rust-stained, doesn't have any holes and is still solid. Matt scrubbed off the algae preparatory to a thorough spraying.

The new wooden slats for the swing.

Shade Patio Pre-Groundbreaking
We're also getting started on the shade patio. This is going to be a long, slow process. We'll need to level the ground at least a little, put down metal edging, put down sand, place the pavers, then brush a dry cement into the crevices. Today we did a trial run of the central medallion thingy to figure out how big it will be and where the different components will go.

Here are all the pavers we've got.

A lot of pavers

And here's the central design of our patio-to-be.Trial run of the pavers

Flossie Returns
And finally, we picked up Flossie this weekend from Elgin Furniture Refinishers.

Flossie, all scrubbed and clean

Interestingly, Flossie turned out much lighter and brighter than Edith. I wonder if Edith hadn't been stained at some point, while Flossie was merely painted. you can kinda see the difference in the closeup below--Edith is in the back and Flossie's in the front (click on the pic to view full size).

Edith & Flossie

We dropped off Poindexter, too, so soon we'll be finished with all three of the new painted doors. Next will be either our 2 original doors that came with the house or else the stained 5-panel doors that Mom & Dad bought us. As the latter will be a little cheaper, which ones we start on next may come down to budget.

*Okay, maybe we couldn't have saved money by replacing the glider. I just did a quick web search, and the cheapest glider I could find was $250; the vast majority were between $400 and and eyeball-popping $1,200. Huh. Let's hear it for the Al Gore Way! Reduce! Reuse! Recycle!

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