Archive for February, 2012

February 13, 2012: Snowed in

            I’m not driving to Home Depot in the snow, so this is it for now—new wainscoting, no chair rail or baseboard. Much nicer than it was, anyway. And maybe I’ll come back in a few months and finish the job.

Done. For now.

 Thing I Hate Today: Leaving a job half-finished.


February 12, 2012: Totally Stained, Man.

            I’ve been huffing mahogany wood stain all day. Wheeeeee!

Thing I Hate Today: Public figures who get outed, then claim to be “out and proud.”

February 11, 2012: Here Comes Suzy Snowflake

            I awoke to a shrieking crapload of snow. The rental car is buried. I hope I don’t run out of wainscoting today—I hate driving in snow.

            But it sure is pretty.

Thing I Hate Today: That people think “good weather” only ever involves sunshine.

February 10, 2012: Oink.

            Here’s the photo that convinced me, once and for all, that it’s time to stop eating a gallon of ice cream for lunch. Jesus.

Have some more bacon.

            I love the kitchen in this house. It’s teeny, and dwarfed by that giant sink, which we designed the room around because we really loved it.

            I wear pajamas inNiles. It’s a thing.

Thing I Hate Today: Being fat.

February 9, 2012: Not Bad for a Shoemaker

            I’ve been wanting to replace the wainscoting in the dining room here ever since we bought this house in 1999. Today’s the day.

            Actually, at first I tried to have the original wainscoting restored. It’s still on the wall from when my great-grandparents owned this house in the late 1910s, but it’s covered in layers of paint and glue, from when some wiseacre in the 1970s covered up the wainscoting in fiberboard paneling. That was pretty—and still here when we bought the place.

            I couldn’t find anyone who was willing to strip the paneling here in the house; all the restoration people I had out here a few years ago wanted to tear it all out and take it someplace else to strip it. After meeting with a couple different restorationists, I decided just to cover it up with new pine slats. Fortunately, my carpentry skills are nonexistent, and so the resulting new wainscoting looks old—wavy and patchily stained and, well, like it’s been clinging to the wall for decades.

            My grandfather, who lived here in this house when he was a young man, used to call people who didn’t know what they were doing (but attempted carpentry anyway) “shoemakers.”

Thing I Hate Today: Bad taste.

February 8, 2012: Slats

            On my way home from Home Depot, I stopped in Warren and scooped up my Aunt Mary Jane Guliano, and took her to Café 422 for lunch. Around here, Café 422 is legendary; it’s been around since the 40s and everyone eats here. I had the eggplant parmesan. I’m determined to eat like a pig while I’m here because, once I get back toPhoenix, I’ve got to dump about 40 pounds. I am a cow.

            Mary Jane isn’t really my aunt; she’s my second cousin—my father’s mother’s sister’s daughter, and one of many family members who once lived at 611 Fenton Street, which I now own. In fact, she grew up in that house. I never call her Aunt Mary Jane or even Mary Jane; I call her Slats, as that’s the nickname my dad gave her sometime in the 1930s. No one remembers why.

            As we were leaving 422, Mary Jane said to me, “You know, I tell you things that I’ve never told anyone before in my life.” And I thought, “But everything you told me today I’ve heard seven times before.” I didn’t say so, though. That would have been bitchy.

Thing I Hate Today: When restaurants don’t have anchovies for their Caesar salads. Seriously: How much room does a tin of anchovies take up?

February 7, 2012: Weather

            It started snowing today. I’m sure everyone in Niles is mortified—the locals keep talking about how happy they are that this has been such a mild winter—but  I’m thrilled. I keep going out on the porch and just standing there, staring. Just like we do in Phoenix, when it rains.

            I love this little house. 611 Fenton Street. It was a complete shit-hole when we bought it, 12 years ago. Or was it 13 years ago? Anyway, it was before I had jowls. And the place was such a wreck that, when we came to Niles to work on it, we had to stay at a hotel. It was that bad. The people who owned it before us (and, presumably, the many people who’d owned it before them) were somehow unaware of the existence of cleaning products and paint.

            But that’s a story for another day. I’ve got to go buy some wainscoting.

Thing I Hate Today: Todd isn’t here with me.

February 6, 2012: Alone Again

            Todd went home today. We were going to go spend the day in Cleveland’s Little Italy, but Todd wanted to just hang around the house until his flight left in the late afternoon, so we read in bed and ate leftovers and just hung out and looked at the house, which we haven’t visited in a whole year and which Todd said he was “preparing to miss.”

            We stopped at the Saratoga Café in Warren on our way to the Cleveland Airport. The Saratoga has been in business for just shy of a hundred years, and it’s our favorite place to dine in Northeastern Ohio. It’s been owned by the same family all along, and the place still has all the original fixtures, all beautifully kept. The fried chicken is mind-blowing.

Thing I Hate Today: People trashing the Midwest.

February 5, 2012: I Need a Full House and My Threes


There isn’t much to do in Niles besides eat and visit relatives and go antiquing. Todd and I had already played Scrabble the night before (he won by a huge margin, in part because I suck at Scrabble but also because he insisted that every word we played had to describe me at age 50, and I was flummoxed by his use of words like “quaintly,” “bag,” and “fart”), and so we broke out the only other board game we own in Niles: Yahtzee.

            My sister-in-law Debbie and I were addicted to this game in 1976, and used to spend entire weekends playing this while Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours blared on the hi-fi. I’d forgotten how much fun this game can be, and Todd and I were quickly hooked, playing into the wee hours of the night. We even played while eating meals. Hey, we’re in Ohio—we have to grab our fun where we can.

            I tried not to play quaintly, or like a bag. Probably I was flatulent, though.

Thing I Hate Today: Waiting.

February 4, 2012: Real Men Don’t Eat Quiche

            I’m still 50. How in the Christ did this happen?

            Some of my Clemente cousins were coming for breakfast, so I set the table with a crapload of vintage Harkerware. The pattern is called Bamboo, and the original pieces in my collection were a gift from Elizabeth Montgomery. And that, I swear, is the last time I will name-drop in this blog.

We had a nice time, sitting around and talking about the old days that took place before I was born. Todd made a broccoli and cheese quiche, which one of my cousins, a 60-something fellow who’s lived his whole life inNortheastern Ohio, admitted he’d never eaten before. Welcome to Niles!

Bonus photo: Later that day, we went antiquing all over Ohio and Pennsylvania—Todd was determined to buy me an antique sideboard (I’m gay!), which I’d mentioned I wanted for the Niles house. We didn’t find one we liked, but we did, somewhere in Amish country, stumble upon Girdle Road. Which is much better than any old piece of furniture.

No, seriously.

 Junk Shop Find of the Day: Four bread plates in my mother’s wedding china pattern, 40 cents apiece at the Goodwill on Highway 422.

Thing I Hate Today: The way that thrift stores smell. (What IS that odor?)