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Monday, July 18, 2011

Birthdays and Broken Eggs

There is an old saying that
you can't make an omelette without breaking eggs.

If by omelette we mean "installing French drains in our cellar," and by eggs we mean ... well, pictures can tell that story better than I.

Our parlor on this lovely sunny Monday morning:

Our dining room, full of stuff from the parlor:

Our front hall full of cellar dwellers:
 Even our front porch!
But our kitchen -- no, that's too awful.  I can't submit you to that horror.  It is packed with things brought up from downstairs, including a mystery food processor (where did it come from?), an extra microwave, daughter Anne's slushie maker, the Farberware rotisserie (we still had that?) and boxes of everything.
Downstairs today, workmen are jack-hammering through the cement floor of the cellar.
This is more than a little unnerving when you are sitting in a room above the jackhammering.

Remember those Magic Fingers beds in the old Howard Johnson's motels?
 Yeah, only louder.
I've been staying in the sunroom, which is built on a nice sturdy flat cement slab.
But I can't blog from there, so I'm braving the noise and the jiggling to whack out this post.

Right now, our cellar is the tidiest place at That Old House.

Just a few pictures, from the boiler room at the foot of the kitchen stairs,

Anyone with an old steam heat system will know why we have a pail next to the boiler.
We leave the boiler room, thru the little hallway and go from the new part of the cellar -- 1880s -- to the old part -- 1832.

 Watch that step down,
and pay no attention to the scratched-in word Hunger near the light switch.

In the middle of the cellar, our washer, dryer, extra fridge,
some tools and a few other things, well covered with plastic.
Here in the old part of the cellar, the foundation walls are local stone.
At one end of the original cellar, my laundry room (appliances moved for jack-hammering):
 Yes, I do laundry in a dungeon.
Those of you with those pretty laundry rooms?  I hate you.  No, not really.
I just hate that I do laundry in a dungeon.

At the other end of the cellar, there is a door. . . an escape hatch!
A flight of stone stone steps to the Great Outdoors.
More slabs o' granite steps -- they are everywhere around here!
Climb these and be rewarded -- sunshine, grass, trees, fresh air! -- our side yard.
French drain-type systems have been used for hundreds of years, but it was a Mr. French of Concord, Massachusetts, who figured out that they were needed in many buildings for the health of the occupants and promoted their use.  So French drains are actually American.

When we bought our house we did not have water or dampness issues, but as these few years have gone by, new construction around us has sent water wiggling through new pathways... right into our basement.  We are hospitable people, Howard and I, but we have our limits.
Uninvited water is not welcome.
Now you may be wondering:
Why is the parlor floor covered with drop cloths?
Because that room is the only room still with no subfloor.  In the olden days, the floor in a room served as the ceiling of the room below it.  Thrifty, no?   But on this day, with the jack hammering going on downstairs, we hope to stop cement dust from wafting up from the cellar thru cracks between the old boards, borne like a vapor on the summer air . . . and making a great big stinkin' mess in the house.

Even bigger than the one we made ourselves.

You may also be wondering:
What about the birthdays in the post title?

Well, the really important one is mine.
Or, was mine, I guess.
Because it was yesterday.
And I am now (drum roll please) 59 years old.

59 years old.
How silly is that?

My parents told me that you reach a certain age -- about the time you feel you are pretty much grown up --
and that while the outside of you gets older, the inside never really gets past that age.
You go through life still feeling young.

My Mom said for her it was around 21.
My Dad never specified a year, but we suspect it might have been around 13.
Yes, Pop was probably the oldest kid ever.

Anyway, I think my parents were right.
I'm continually surprised by the age on my driver's license.
And that, my friends, is A Good Thing!

On my birthday, I saw Ocean In A Teacup in New York, a play costumed by Anne.
It was lovely!  Wonderful music, I've been humming all day.

Then we went out to dinner, and home,
where instead of a birthday cake I had an ice cream Sundae.
Way better than cake any day!

Daughter Anne has a birthday coming up, on Friday.
She will be 24.  Also ridiculous.
How did my baby get to be that old?
Yes, this is the most rambling and disjointed blog post ever.
I keep getting interrupted by the guys working downstairs.

So to wrap things up, I'm resurrecting the obligatory wedding picture.
Only this one is weeks before the wedding, at the seamstress' with a tired, makeup-less bride and her
costume designer sister who is checking the seamstress' work very carefully around that bustle!

My two girls.

We have heard several times from the newlyweds; they are in their last week
of their 3-week honeymoon in China.  And having a blast.

Let's see . . . what else for today?
Oh!  I have to say Hello to my sister-in-law Doris' cousin Betty!
Hello, Betty!  It was lovely to see you on Saturday, and I'm glad you get a kick out of That Old House!
P. S.  Hi to Matt, too.  Doris is a great press agent.  :-)

Now Mr. Dion gets a chance to chime in today; he wants to know

what the heck is going on in this house???  He is not thrilled by the noise!

Have a great Monday -- I'm going to go brush my dog
and the trauma will make him forget the jackhammering!  -- Cass

Link Parties!
Mary at Little Red House for Mosaic Monday.  Click here!
Susan at Between Naps On The Porch for Metamorphosis Monday.  Click here!
Cielo at The House In The Roses for Show Off Your Cottage Monday.  Click here!


  1. Oh my.....1st of all.... We live in a house that was built in 1865 so the usage of new & old are relative terms. I so-o-o-o get that!!
    Now about the birthday.... I will be 60 the end of the year!! Gad Zooks, how did that happen??? My oldest is 41.... OMG..... I am getting fainter..... I am going to stay 30 for ever!!
    Stay young forever!!

  2. Good afternoon Cass,
    OMGosh I couldn't stop reading this is enthralling! I'm so in awe of how clean your basement is EVEN THOUGH THERE IS WORK GOING ON!!!! I mean, even though things are out and packed up and covered....IT'S STILL SO NICE LOOKING.
    Most times a basement/cellar of that age LOOKS LIKE ITS AGE. Wow, you must work night and day to keep a house (and cellar) that clean!

    BELATED HAPPY BIRTHDAY...glad you got to go see a play and congrats to your daughter for her job in designing the costumes. How proud you must are and have felt.

    I too think we reach a 'mental age' - I think I'm like in my very early, early 40's and I just turned 67 on Sunday. Age is a mind set.


  3. Eeee Gads...I messed that one part up.
    I said: How proud you must are and have felt
    What I meant to say is How proud you must be...

    Guess it's an age thing...LOL


  4. I LOVE your old house- especially the stars on that plastic tarp in the basement! Wooo Hooo!

    12 days to go til we move into our own Victorian :)

  5. Cass,
    Wow! I hate having the house disrupted. It will be wonderful when the drains are completed.
    We do not have a subfloor on the first floor either. I like it at night, when you can see the basement light shining through the floor in a couple of tiny little places.

  6. Well I sure did enjoy your disjointed post. Got a history lesson and a snoop through the basement. Glad you were not doing that weeks ago when the wedding was in progress. I hope your drainage problems will be solved and all put back to rights again soon. Oh and happy Birthday. I get a shock when I look in the mirror. I don't feel as old as I look. V

  7. I totally understand how you feel about doing laundry in a dungeon. Our old cellar is brick, and the old bricks spontaneously flake brick dust into little piles on the floor. I don't get it. I have an old carpet on the floor in front of the washer and dryer. Before I did this, anything that accidently hit the floor while being transferred from the washer to the dryer was instantly dirty again. There's no getting these old concrete floors clean, no sir-eee.

    Happy Birthday, what ever age you think you are. I'm probably somewhere in my 30s in my imagination.

    Subfloor? What's a subfloor. We don't have no stinkin' subfloors around here. That's why the leak from the attic a/c last year poured through the ceiling of the bedroom, through the floor of the bedroom, and into the living room below ... right through the cracks in the ceilingIf we hadn't noticed it, water would have ended up in the basement. This must be why the ceiling was cracked in the first place. Mystery solved, but in a really bad way.

    There's no way our Daniel could stay home with jack-hammering in the basement. He would pace and whine and drool, and I would have to board him somewhere to get him away from it. Dion must be a much more stable dog than Daniel.

    I hope your house is quiet again really soon!

  8. Happy B-day, Cass! I'm entering my 6's (I like to use the term 5's, 6's, etc.) next month - feels weird because that seemed SO old not that long ago! Enjoy 59!!

  9. I have to take a pill to go down in my basement. I know what you are going through. GOOD LUCK.Richard at My Old Historic House

  10. Oh my! That's a lot of work. I hope the French drains do their job. Nothing worse that water in the basement (speaking from experience!). A belated happy birthday to you Cass! I will be celebrating 61 on Friday! Yikes! Where did that past year go?? Blessings, Pamela

  11. Happy Birthday, Cass! We're the same age! :)
    Your house is getting a face lift or is it a bottom lift? :) I've always wanted a basement and never have had one! Now did you go down there and clean it up for us? :)
    Be a sweetie,
    Shelia ;)

  12. Your house so appreciates all tehlove you show her..or is it a matter. You show your home love! I think your celler loks like a wonderful spot to be! Really! Especially on a hot day like today!
    Happy, happy birthday are 59 years young!! Wishing you many blessings and years of happiness in your home!

  13. Oh my! What a post....everything but the kitchen sink ('cuz you wouldn't show us the kitchen!) So in no particular order....

    Happy Birthday! Sounds like you had great fun!

    (an aside to Deb: GREAT way to count those years! I may steal that idea!)

    I've never heard of French Drains, but then we've only lived in one house that actually had a basement and except for the flood we had, the basement stayed dry! Maybe its an east coast thing??

    I am not surprised at the laundry in the dungeon thing. We did laundry in our own dungeon in the house that had a basement. Didn't like going down there to do it tho!

    Your daughter was a gorgeous baby!

    OK, that is all! :)

  14. Happy Birthday! And I can tell that french drains are just what you wanted!

  15. I do laundry in a dungeon as well -- although mine is just 1920 -- sigh -- and I look at all those pretty laundry rooms with wallpaper and cute shelving and go down to mine and think -- I don't have to keep this as spotless as if it were upstairs!!!! And going up and down TWO flights of stairs with laundry is good exercise!!!! And I can leave my ironing board up and no one need never know!!!!

    But this time of year it is cool down there -- naturally cool when the temps outside are pushing more than 100!

    I wondered why those drains were called 'French" drains -- I supposed they happened to have been originally made in France -- but no, they're named after their inventor, Mr. French -- sort of like German chocolate cake that has nothing to do with the country but just with some chocolate a Mr. German came up with!!!!

    My basement (it's one step up from a cellar because it has a CEMENT floor -- has never been that clean!!!! I envy you the opportunity to start from scratch when you return your things to the basement!!!

    Good luck with you drains!

    I'm surprised Dion is walking around so calmly -- Oliver would be barking -- we'd have the rat-a-tat-tat of the jackhammer followed by the woof, woof, woof of the dog -- rat-a-tat-tat/woof, woof, woof -- THAT would drive me crazy!!!!

  16. First - Happy Birthday !
    That is quiet an undertaking. I don't blame Dion - all that noise would bother me also. :-D

  17. Happy Birthday, a day late. I agree about hitting your aging threshold -- I walk by a mirror and am often startled by my reflection. It looks like my mother.

    Hope your drain problem is soon resolved. We have a French drain in our back yard which is really invaluable.

    Maybe you could get your laundry moved up to the kitchen or something?

  18. Cass, ♫♫Happy Birthday♫♫ first and second you absolutely are doing laundry in a dungeon. At our old house I do laundry on an old porch addition circa 1890 something that is literally leaning and is covered in cobwebs and the spiders come out at night! And people ask why we bought the little yellow house!

  19. Um----all I can come up with is try to find some peace and quiet.
    Happy Birthday to you--sounds like you had a fun one.


  20. Happy Birthday Cass!! Glad you had a great time at the show. Hope all goes well with the basement. Take care and enjoy the week.

  21. So, you're the one who has the same basement that I do...I thought I was alone! Do you converse with the spiders while you do the laundry like I do? Happy birthday to are a Cancerian, a Moonchild, just like me too and yes there is a big are 2 years older than me (lol)...oh, and we also have 2 daughters. I am seeing some similarities here...this was a fun and sometimes funny post.

  22. Happy Birthday,Cass! I really enjoyed the tour. The stone in your basement is awesome!!

  23. Happy Birthday, Cass! I don't envy you one bit, dealing with all that construction. Ugh! Just keep thinking how nice it will be when completed.

    I hope you get to celebrate in a nice quiet spot!


  24. God bless ya, Cass-I read every word and anyone that has ever lived in a 100 year old house GETS IT! Here it is now law that you have to install a SUMP PUMP (whether you need one or not) before you pass a house to a new owner. Cute...especially when you are in one of those old suckers that is built like your own! uh-huh.

    Love the 2 sisters working on the wedding dress...and a BELATED Happy Birthday to you. I am 2 years older and can hardly believe I am this age. I don't FEEL this age-so how the heck did THAT happen!? I'll bet you will be glad to see the last of your "visitors"..If they're going to give you something with a French name don't you think it should at least be PRETTY? xo Diana

  25. Happy birthday! Love the the house.

  26. Wow- that really is a dungeon, just like in my grandma's house.
    You and are the same age - so young, aren't we?....and our girls are both 24......and we both make kransekage.......ooooh spooky.

  27. You and who????? you and I of course.

  28. OH I hope you had a VERY HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!

    and I do my laundry in a dungeon too, hate it!!

  29. Hello, i just wanted to let you know how much I enjoy your blog. Oh the joys and hardships of living in an old house (1730 for us). We dread the spring when the snow is melting. We had water come through the cement walls from cracks you can't see. I know about the wood floors also. Spilled a small glass of water upstairs and it instantly started dripping through the ceiling below.

  30. Happy Belated Birthday! You know, I sort of miss the old house basements. Lots of little rooms. And lots of quirky features. We never had a radiator in the basement, but did have a shower. Unfortunately it was in the part of the basement with the dirt floor. So if you wanted to take a shower you had to deal with the mud (sort of counter productive).

  31. Belated happy birthday, Cass. Poor Dion needs ear plugs!

  32. Even with the drop cloths and so on, your home is absolutely gorgeous! In my dream world, I live in a house pretty much like yours!

  33. Believe it or not ... I think the cellar photos are beautiful. I live in a house that was built around 1875 and was glad to see someone else lives in a house atop a cellar with stone walls. I'm now following your blog ... I found you via Mosaic Monday at Little Red House.


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