Sunday, March 23, 2008

Bookshelves & Buds

Shelves Varnished, Stocked

We finished varnishing the shelves Friday night, and I spent much of Saturday finally, finally putting my books in order ("Oh here are the rest of my Elizabeth Enright books!" "Hey! I still can't find Vanity Fair. Or Valperga. Or the other 4 Austen novels." "Do I put the Homeric Hymns with Ancient Literature or with Religion & Mythology?" et cetera). The new shelves got novels from the Romantic and Victorian periods, and our biggest freestanding bookcase got Ancient, Augustan, Edwardian, and Other 20-21st Century. All in alphabetical order by author. The over-the-window shelves got biographies, memoirs, letters, and Queen Victoria, at present in no particular order. Everything else is organized into major categories, but all jumbled within each category.

Nevertheless, it's a huge improvement, and none of my shelves are stacked 2 layers of books deep, thank goodness. Po was very patient with all the thumping and crashing, and was even so well-behaved as to maneuver into a book fortress without knocking over a single book (how, I'm not sure--levitation, perhaps?)

Po, a very learned kitty

And here's the almost-finished product (one shelf still needs 1 more coat of varnish at top left. And we need to install drawer pulls. And move all our files from the green file cabinet. And then banish the cabinet.)

Shelves in use

The Garden

To my very pleased surprise, 3 cuttings of the mystery red rose are still with us. I plan to re-pot in about a month. With luck, we may be able to reintroduce it to the landscape this year!

And speaking of mysteries, here is another unknown rose, acquired a little over a year ago. It has very fat, round buds that open to extremely dense, cabbagey pink flowers. We had been calling it 'M. Tillier,' then 'Marie van Houtte,' but neither of those really fits. In any event, it's blooming enthusiastically by the back door. Pretty, no? The foliage and structure of the shrub are Tea-esque, but the blooms are more like a Bourbon or a Hybrid Perpetual. Beats us.

Mystery rose half-bloom

Mystery rose open bloom

The Bad News--More Rose Fungus

That awful vascular disease has reappeared, this time on a modern rose, 'Wild Blue Yonder.' We don't have quite the same history with WBY as we do with, for example, 'Cramoisi Superieur,' But it's got a lovely purple bloom with a perky white eye, and I hate to see that fungus prevail again.

The stem I cut from WBY is below. You can see the characteristic behavior of the disease (sort of--sorry for the blurry picture). The fungus often starts elsewhere than the tip of the stem, and it causes fast-spreading areas of brown-black necrosis. Leave turn brown-black, too, though they don't always form the shepherd's crook shape characteristic of fireblight. I've researched rose diseases online, but nothing seems to exactly match our problem. Canker/dieback is a contender, but if so, this is a weapons-grade strain--that fungus is usually pretty slow moving. One of the 'Duchers' out by the light pole lost half its stems to the disease, so I'm not optimistic about its long-term prospects. So far, those are the only victims that have turned up. So I need to start (ick, ick) a schedule of preventive fungicide application for the next few months. Hopefully, we can eradicate the disease this year and leave off the chemicals next spring.

Dreadful rose fungus

Happy Thoughts

And finally, the sequel to my leaf buds of Elgin series of some weeks ago. Our trees are starting to leaf out properly.

I was amused by this. Most of the cottonwood was still in the swollen bud stage, but the tiny cluster of leaves in the middle of the photo below had already popped out, several days ahead of everyone else. Now, of course, the whole tree is fully green.

Cottonwood leaves, 8 Mar 2008

Then, as I was pulling into the driveway the other day, I thought, "How nice! Our white oak is covered in... white flowers?" Of course, they were rosettes of new leaves, not flowers, but they make it clear how the tree (Quercus alba) got its name. And it's a really pretty effect either way.

Our white oak, in "flower"

New white oak leaves, close up

Our Lacey oaks (Q. laceyi) are also putting on pretty rosettes of leaves, in this case, bright pink ones.

New Lacey oak leaves

So we're feeling pretty springy and Easterish over here, even if we didn't paint a single egg.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Curtains for the Study

So Mom & Dad very kindly took us to this very la-di-da fabric store in Houston called "High Fashions" that has four floors of fabric. We spent an hour there and only worked our way through 1 floor.

We were looking for a difficult triumvirate of fabrics--a very sheer sheer, an opaque or semi-opaque with a pattern, and a velvet/velveteen/chenille or similar.

Mom & Matt & I walk up and down, parsing shades of brown ("No, I don't like the green undertones in that one!") scribbling notes, and procuring samples. Matt was really quite angelically patient, helping label and keep all the fabric samples (28 of them.)

Once we got them home, I sorted through them in the study to see which were contenders and which not. Because the top fabric is necessarily gauzy, the main patterned fabric needs to be silk or faux silk, I've realized. Cottons just look strange paired with the gauzes.

The finalists are below, taped to the windows in the study--the patterns are a bit hard to see in these pix, I'm afraid.
Fabric samples in vivo

Among the solids, the two stripes--much as I like them--are too cottony--I don't think they really go with the sheers. That leaves a brown fake silk with swirls embroidered on it in two lighter browns ("Chateau Chocolate"), and a sort of slatey blue with embroidered gold floral thingies ("Belvedere Federal Blue"). I'm leaning towards the latter--I like that blue with our funky tan paint, and I'm afriad the brown could seem really dark and heavy with all our brown stained bookshelves


Here is the blue close up. You can sort of kind of see the color.

Belvedere Federal Blue with matching sheer

Matt is amenable to the blue, so that just leaves the sheer and the velvetish thing for the side panels. And there's our sticking point. The blue fabric actually has a matching sheer that uses the same embroidered pattern of leaves and flowery things on a gauzy background ("Amber Taupe/Toast").

***irresponsible digression***I find the forward-slash naming convention in textiles annoyingly reminiscent of deconstructionist academic paper titles, so popular about 10 years ago--fer crying out loud, it's just a color, not an existentialist pronouncement. We can just pick a name and not worry too much about differance and liminality and the Death of the Self. Not that I ever did worry too much about the Death of the Self, in all honesty.***end of digression***

Now, I feel (not strongly, but persistently) that this embroidered pattern is a little formal for our house--some embroidery is fine, but lots looks like we're trying to be hoity-toity. And we can't really carry that off. SO, my argument goes, we need something a little cleaner, more casual, and even more modern for the sheer. Like the super-stylish and nifty sheer below, with a pattern of overlapping circles ("Legacy Mahogany")--on left.

Belvedere Federal Blue with two possible sheers--Legacy Mahogany on left and Amber Taupe/Toast on the right

Matt doesn't like the overlapping circles--I think he thinks they're too trendy. To this, I say "Pshaw!" I do need a second opinion, though--the two fabrics match in color, but do they harmonize in style, or am I just imagining things? I can't tell. Matt has a firm opinion on this point, but interior design isn't something he spends a lot of time thinking about, you know? I feel the need for a more considered/girl-based opinion. And then there is the issue of price, as well.

Belvedere Federal Blue is (of course) one of the most expensive fabrics we considered: 27.96/yd
The matching sheer is (oddly) only 8.95 (prompting me to wonder whether they really are a match, or are just 2 very similar patterns from 2 different companies)
The cool modern circles (Legacy Mahogany) are 14.95/yd. So this enterprise is not going to be cheap.

And the final component is the velvet side panels, but those will be brown whichever other fabrics we choose, and solid brown velvety fabrics are easy enough to find, so I'm not too concerned. Given the price of everything else, I'd best go looking for the "velvet" at places like Walmart and Hobby Lobby. High Fashions had various velvety things for about 12.95--but I think I could do better elsewhere.

My very rough estimate is that we'll need about 4 yards of the blue, 3 yards of the velvet, and maybe 1 1/2 yards of the sheer? Maybe?
4 x 27.95 = 111.8
1.5 x 8.95 = 13.43 OR 1.5 x 14.95 = 22.43
3 x 12.95 = 38.85

So not taking into account thread, lining, interfacing, rods, and other curtainy doo-dads, the total comes to $164.08 - $173.08. Which I suppose for treatments for 4 windows really isn't all that bad.

So what do you think? Circles? Or embroidered flowers?

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Pictures for Making Curtains

I took pictures of the windows in the study so Mom & I can brainstorm window treatments. Click on the pictures to see larger versions. (Note: we stained and varnished the bookshelves. Not quite up to professional standards, but I think it turned out reasonably well. Very much looking forward to installing the books.)

East-facing windows surrounded by new bookshelves
East window measurements--click to enlarge

Closeup of an east-facing window

South-facing door and window
South window & door measurements--click to enlarge

Closeup of south-facing door

Closeup of south-facing window

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Of Rimlocks and Trees

I can't decide whether or not I mean that title to be a reference to Lewis Carroll. If so, it's pretty weak. But it's the best I can do at the moment, so let's go with it.

More horticultural news: my lovely cybister amaryllis, 'Meringue,' is in bloom. Cybisters are a (relatively) new group of amaryllis, so called because they arose from a cross between the traditional Dutch Amaryllis and Hippeastrum cybister, a South American species that is pretty darn breathtaking in its wild form (the Internation Bulb Society hosts a good picture of H. cybister). Love, love, LOVE these hybrids, which are still a bit rare. When my mad obsession with home restoration has run its course, I'm going to expand my collection--they are just spectacular.

Cybister amaryllis 'Meringue'

Also in very exciting plant news, we finally bought that 'Little Gem' magnolia I've been wanting since what seems like the Dawn of Time (but obviously can't really be much than 1 year ago, when we first saw the house and contemplated buying it). Long ago, there was a very silly oleander planted smack in front of the living room window. Instead of accenting the house, it obscured it, as you can see in this old picture that used to be part of our banner. It reminds my of one of Cinderella's step-sisters, attempting to be coy by ostentatiously hiding her face behind her fan.

House with silly oleander hiding its face--Mar. 2007

The day we bought the house (or possibly the day after that), the thing committed seppuku by falling flat on the ground and yanking its roots half out. Which was pretty much good riddance as far as we were concerned, but it left the house with a distressing nakedness--a weird lack of boundaries or connection with the earth. It needed a punctuation mark. Voilà the 'Little Gem'! A graceful exclamation point that changes our front from "House" to "House!" See how much better that is?

House. Now with 'Little Gem' exclamation point!

More is needed, of course. There is the temptation of azaleas, which you can actually apparently grow here. And as our house faces north, the front almost never gets direct sun, to the intense exasperation of the roses ('Red Cascade,' 'Mrs. RM Finch,' and long-time favorite 'Cramoisi Superiuer') that I insisted on planting there. But perfect for a beautiful bank of azaleas!

We also planted a 'Tuscarora' red crape myrtle to the left (see the profile at Dave's Garden). It's smaller and less forceful than the magnolia (at the moment anyway). Sort of the ¡ ("signo de admiración invertido"--did you know that was its name? Me neither) to the magnolia's !. Now the front says "¡House!" and how stimulating is that?

I also wanted to throw in (another) blurry picture of the mechanism of our RL. Co. rimlock (my camera apparently considers the rimlock an object unworthy of its consideration--I took about 8 pix--none of them were crisp). Matt got it functioning by moving a flat piece of metal that allows the key bolt to function and inserting it in the doorknob/tongue section of the mechanism instead (see arrow below). So now the key bolt doesn't work, but as we haven't got the key, that's not a big deal.

You can see that RL. Co. was serious about security--it's made with two bolts, in addition to the tongue--one was a deadbolt and the other was operated by a key.

I love the fact that there is a groove worn around the keyhole--you can see that people were actually using this as a lock. A giant "duh" to that, I guess, but I find it oddly endearing.

Anyway, when Matt was working on this, we both did a lot of poking around on the internet for information about how to make the mechanism work, and we just didn't find much. So for all you amateur rimlock restorers out there, here. Have a picture.

The inner workings of our RL. Co. lock. The red arrow points to a long strip of metal that pushes the lever to the right when the door knob is at its default position, in turn pushing the lever for the tongue out.

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