Mark also has an excellent page with pictures that he took of the new house during the final inspection.
Farewell to our wonderful house in Pasadena!
December 2012 sees us move to Saint Paul
in the midst of a Minnesota winter. The new
house is as charming, even more so on the
inside, but with perhaps less curb appeal.
The two houses are of approximately the same
period, but heating concerns have certainly
affected the choice here to build high and
compact rather than low and spreading. The
decoration on and in the new house shows,
I think, a greater willingness on the part of
the builders to engage in expensive detail. But
in my opinion, the effect outside is not as
pleasing as in Pasadena.
Now, writing in late November 2012, before any
of our stuff is here, there’s not much I can
profitably photograph. But here’s the knocker
on the front door, not of the same period as
the house (1913), as you see. But I see no
reason to replace it. The message beneath is
the familiar Céad Míle Fáilte, “A Hundred Thousand
Welcomes”, but I think I might just replace it with
pedo mellon a minno, “Speak, Friend, and Enter”.
Too pretentious? How about, instead, “Enter,
to grow in wisdom”?
The house is at the stub-end of its street:
just ends at a railroad right-of-way whose single
track seems to be used by several freight trains a
day, which can be fairly noisy, and the Empire
Builder, the Amtrak train between Chicago and
the Pacific Northwest. But the trains don’t disturb
us, in fact, we kind of like the sound. Just the other
side of the tracks is Ayd Mill Road, a sort of restricted-
access highway set into a vehicular trough. So we
are indeed the Dead-end Kids.
This snap shows the top of the short flight
of stairs leading to the landing from which
the stairs to the second floor continue to
the right. We imagine that originally there
might have been a similar short flight
coming from the kitchen, just as there was
in our house in Providence. And maybe
some previous owners of the house
decided to expand the kitchen, forcing the
abandonment of the other stairs.
But now, there’s just a pierced wall there,
which I like, ’cause it’ll allow me to see
who’s at the front door when I’m cooking.
Mark, on the other hand, predicts confi-
dently that the cats will use this feature
as a shortcut between the front room and
Although this picture was taken rather
later, it still is a good display of the
elegance of the house. This dentil work
appears on the crown molding of the
living room and dining room, the two
formal rooms of the house. Pass your
mouse over the image to see a closeup.
Serious snowfall on Sunday, 9 December, our
third day in Saint Paul. We went on foot to
Unity Church, about six blocks away from our
temporary base in Dar’s apartment. This snap
shows Mark walking back after the service. You
can get the same in double size, just hit your
“return” button to get back here.
11 December, one of the neighbors offered
to shovel our walks, knowing that we were
unable to get to the house. I’m not used to
Tomorrow, the movers come, and it will be
a busy, busy day.
This lovely symmetrical Spruce standing
in front of the garage dominates the back
This picture and the next one, taken on the
day of the unloading of the van, shows how
everything looked before we started unpacking.
The packers took two days, and we expect
that the reverse operation will take us several
weeks, maybe even a month. (12 December)
Cartons everywhere, chairs ignominiously
upended, a picture of true chaos.
All the above pictures were made shortly
after the delivery of our excesses of stuff.
Here we are holed up on New Year’s eve,
with the temperature diving below zero F,
still emptying cartons and flattening out
packing paper, but as you see, leaving things
out on horizontal surfaces to be put away later.
I should point out that a lot of the pictures,
such as this one, have been done with extreme
wide-angle optics, which makes the space
seem far roomier than it is. (31 December)
Two weeks back, the kitchen was so jammed
with unopened cartons that we could hardly get
around. Now, though there’s a stash of stuff for
the next flea market in a carton on the floor, the
kitchen is a pleasure to work and cook in. We
originally hoped to put our computer desks here
in the kitchen temporarily, but we couldn’t get
them through the kitchen door, so Mark has his
machine on a card table here, while I have mine
on the little spinet-desk that Michael and I grew
up with. Both are unacceptably rickety, and we’re
looking forward to getting a proper office set up
on the second floor. (31 December)
It was bitterly cold on New Year’s Day, but I stood
on the top step of the stair to our front porch and
took this picture across the street. You can see all
the even-numbered houses on our dead-end block.
One month from the arrival of the movers’ van,
we still have a lot of unopened cartons, mostly
in the basement and on the second floor. But here
in the living-room, we think we’ve settled on a
good arrangement of the furniture. (13 January)
The living-room from the other direction, maybe
you can compare this shot with the one from 12
December, just above the thick horizontal bar.
You can just barely see the stack of packing-paper
on the sideboard at the left, and the two emptied
but not knocked-down cartons show that we’re
still in the process of unpacking. The undifferenti-
ated mess on the dining-room table seems to be
resisting our express desire to put it all away.
Note that we do have the storage space, just
haven’t bit the bullet. (13 January)
Yesterday, the twelfth, Mark helped me* put
together the shelves you see at the extreme left,
here in the basement, and I had already been
working to put up the peg boards you see at
the extreme right. In between, loads of
unopened cartons. (13 January)
* Meaning: he let me watch while he did it.
People have written us and told us that the house
looks so roomy. Well, folks, I have to say that you
got that impression because of the optics I’ve been
using on my camera. You’ll see the true situation
when you visit, namely that the whole house is
noticeably less roomy than either the Pasadena
house or the one in Providence, which we left in
1998. It’s true enough that all three houses have
(or originally had) four bedrooms, but in this one,
two of those were supremely tiny. One has been
turned into a comfortable bathroom, the other is
so small only a child’s bed could fit in reasonably.
Downstairs there are only three rooms: kitchen,
dining room and living room. The kitchen is indeed
big, because it benefited from an expansion some
time relatively recently, and we will have space to
sit and have breakfast if we prefer that to breakfast
in the dining room, which has been our practice
since 1991. (19 January)
We’ve gotten the dining room cleared out mostly
now, and you can see the arrangement of things
in this wide-angle shot that I made by holding the
camera well above my head and pointing it
downwards. And knowing that the rug is 9' by 12',
you can get an accurate idea of the size of the
room. Way over to the right, you can just make
out a mess of packing paper on the sideboard,
and a black smear that’s a cat lying on it. You
can get a bigger view by clicking on the picture.
On the twenty seventh, we had a nice snowfall,
which the short clip to the left shows very well.
In Pasadena, I had to do my woodworking out
in the garage, and so I was glad to move to a
house with a proper totally unfinished basement.
But as I mentioned above, this meant buying a
sturdy set of shelves at the very least, for storing
some of my stuff. More han that, I needed some-
thing to put my drill press on. And I have a couple
of other power tools, less often used, that needed
someplace to put them on when I want to use
them. So I decided to build myself a sturdy table
from a sheet of particleboard and 2×4’s and 2×6’s.
So here I am, with the table pretty much just begun,
two of its legs bolted into place. (30 January)
The legs needed D-shaped holes, not
mortises, for me to reach in and tighten nuts
through. Here I’m using a 1½′′ Forstner bit, fast-,
clean-, and cool-cutting. Later I used a mortise
chisel to make the straight sides. You can pass
your mouse over the image to see a close-up.
There’s the finished table. There’s never enough
room to put things on, and now I’m wondering
whether I should have made it 2′×8′ instead of
the 2′×6′ that I chose for the design. Too late!
On Friday, 22 February, the countertops were
delivered and installed for the new cabinet over
the washer and dryer, as well as the new island
in the middle of the kitchen floor and the newly
set-up computer-room and office upstairs. Here
you see the island, ready to be worked on or sat
at. You can click on the picture for a larger image.
Flanking the window, our two work areas in the
new computer room. This picture was taken just
three days after the table (counter?) was installed,
and already it’s as messy as if we had been here a
year. You can click on the picture for a larger image.
It’s mid October of 2013 now, and I see that
have not been keeping up. In the intervening
time, Mark engaged Renegade Gardener, Don
Engebretson by name, and asked him to redesign
our front and back yards. The results have been
spectacular, and they should get shown here. I’ll
go through my files, and see what I can find to
detail the changes, and take more pictures before
leaves fall and snow flies.
The very first step was to replace the
unmaintainable lawn in the front with a stepped
configuration with walls of varicolored stone. Don
is a master at the craft of laying stones, painstaking
and perfectionist, and has a varied palette to use in
making the walls. Here he’s working with one of his
crew in the earliest stage of the construction. (16 May)
A month later, the lower wall was completely
done except for the top course, and the upper
was mostly done. (17 June)
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