This Old Erie House
By Linda Martin Community Blogger
Owners of old houses have so much in common that house talk comes easy between us. Please join in the conversation as we try to fix, restore and update our old Erie houses.  Read more about this blog.
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Posted: January 4th, 2011

I’m giving up my This Old Erie House blog. I’ve enjoyed sharing what I have finished in my house with you. However, I think my pace is way too slow to keep a blog interesting so I’ll just enjoy my work at a snail’s pace and not have to worry about it. I wish you all a very Happy New Year!!

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Posted: December 20th, 2010

I didn’t have time so far to go out and film another light show this year so I’ll re-post the one from last year. It was a terrific light show, much better in person! My geocaching group has a gps list of light shows and if I can get out and about in time, I’ll try to get a video made of the best one.

MERRY CHRISTMAS!!

Slower connections: pause video and let it load first.

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Posted: September 28th, 2010

My rush to finish painting my kitchen was because we were leaving for a 16-day cross-country trip to some of the most beautiful national parks in the US.  I never got the grate put back up on the wall because there is plaster damage where we took it down and the wood it was screwed into was damaged and wouldn’t hold the weight.  I think we were lucky it never fell off the wall all this time, it’s heavy. We just left it off and I wasn’t going to let it bother me on my vacation but I’ll have to get back at it now.

We stayed in the historic Many Glacier Hotel, built in 1914, in Glacier National Park.  The lobby and fireplace were awesome as well as the alpine views out the glass wall facing the lake and glaciers.  Next we headed down, via the Going to the Sun Road, to Lake McDonald in Glacier National Park and visited the Lake McDonald Lodge built in 1914. The grounds were beautiful, the lobby smaller than Many Glacier’s but still wonderful and decorated with all sorts of animal skins and rustic charm.  We didn’t stay there as I choose the Village Inn at Apgar, built in 1956, only because of the huge picture-window view every room had looking out over Lake McDonald.  It was breath-taking! Then on to Yellowstone National Park where we stayed a few days at the Mammoth Hotel in the Mammoth Hot Springs area of Yellowstone. The wing of the hotel we stayed in was built in 1913.  We visited that area of the park and then stayed at the Lake Yellowstone Hotel and Cabins where we stayed another 4 days.  Before we left, we stopped in at the Old Faithful Inn, built in 1904. The best, best, best lodge ever! I couldn’t believe the lobby inside!  We also stopped in at the newly completed “green” Old Faithful Visitors Center that cost 27 million.  The A-frame wall of windows faced Old Faithful Geyser. It’s a beautiful building but I wasn’t blown away by the displays.  We were at the old center 9 years ago and I found that more interesting.

English speaking visitors seemed to be close to a minority while we were in Yellowstone.  It appeared most people were Asian or German. There were lots of tour buses and you had to hope they wouldn’t be in the area you happened to be visiting as those areas got pretty crowded. I was surprised there were so many in Yellowstone because the main lodges were in their last week of operation for the year and children were back in school.   Most lodges were closing for the winter. Still, I’m sure there were less people than were there in the summer.  We visited Yellowstone 9 years ago and my husband and I were often the only people around when we saw the sights.  We came in the first week the lodges open back then and it was pretty cold but worth not having the crowds.

We left Yellowstone and headed down to the Grand Tetons.  Just beautiful! We stopped in at the Jackson Lodge while visiting.  The view from the lobby’s wall of windows is just beautiful.  Someday I’d like to spend a few days in that lodge!  There are often moose hanging out in the meadow not far from the lodge. In this perfectly gorgeous, serene setting there were people talking loudly on their cellphones, doing business instead of drinking in the views.  We were thankful that for most of our trip there wasn’t cell-phone service, TV nor internet.  We had to actually look out and enjoy the sights and sounds of the national parks.

We drove about 5,600 miles on this trip and the car purred along without a hiccup.  We listened to audio books through the more boring states (and there were quite a few.) Of all the states we went through, Montana wins as being our favorite state hands down.  We traveled through Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, North Dakota, Montana, Wyoming, Nebraska (would we ever get through it?) Iowa and back through Illinois, Indiana, Ohio and back to Pennsylvania on this trip. We’ll have to go back someday.  I’d like to see Glacier National Park again as the weather hindered some of the sight-seeing while we were there, though it was still breath-taking. I’d like to go up to the Prince of Wales Hotel in Canada which is part of the International Peace Park which Glacier is a part of.  We don’t have our passports yet so we couldn’t drive the few miles north to see it.  Next time!

I’ll be sharing some of the lodge photos I took in some up-coming posts in between some more of my house projects.

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Posted: July 29th, 2010

Updates:

  • I’ll admit I’m a pansy when it comes to humidity or cold. This year it seems really extra humid. I’m fine sitting in front of a fan but try to do much of anything and sweat rolls into my eyes and I get a bit dizzy. Paint doesn’t dry nor does my shellac. I wish there were more days like today. So I’ll return to my projects and to my posting. There just wasn’t much to post about when I didn’t do anything.
  • As far as the post about my water-based shellac that I was testing, I can state a few things now but will do a more in-depth report later. First, my water-based shellac really isn’t water-based. But it does clean up with water. I had a problem with it back when I shellacked our stairway to the second floor. For some reason it crusted up and peeled off on one of the steps. Because of that I took down the post about the shellac until I could figure it out. I think I have. The rest of the stairs, except for the one problem step, turned out beautifully. We’ve not been gentle with it and it is holding up like any other shellac. And the best part is the water clean-up using the “water-based shellac.” Which makes me think spraying it should work really well. How I hate cleaning all the parts to the sprayer after spraying regular shellac. It gets all gummed up. I can’t wait to try it using the sprayer.

Knob and Tube Wiring.

One thing about old houses I want to comment on is the old knob and tube wiring. I’ve heard several times from different people that they have been told that knob and tube in good condition works just fine. But it should be pointed out that a good many people used blow-in insulation over the years that is not fireproof and when it settles on the knob and tube wiring, the wires can heat up and it could start a fire. When knob and tube was put in “in the olden days” it only ran small amounts of current for simple appliances and light bulbs. It wasn’t meant to carry current to air conditioners, TVs, refrigerators, treadmills, hair dryers and computers. We overload our circuits today.  Many people have several of these items running all on the same circuit. That isn’t safe! The old wires heat up with all that current going through them. Each year that passes the insulation on the wires gets more brittle. While it may be safe for now for people that don’t overload them, I couldn’t sleep at night if I had all knob and tube. Luckily when we bought our house, we had the owners rewire it as part of the sale.

Growing up in my turn-of-the- century old  house in the west, I actually remember my parents putting in larger fuses so they wouldn’t blow so easily. That ancient wiring was all that was running our washer and dryer and it always kept blowing the fuse when you had them going at the same time. Yikes! They blow for a reason, to keep too much current for the wire size from heating up and causing a fire.

When I was still a kid, my dad knew a guy who said he’d come over and fix it so the fuses wouldn’t blow so often. My dad, as smart as he is, didn’t know anything about electricity. The guy installed, on the cheap, an electrical panel and circuit breakers. After that, when they blew, you just flip the switch back on and you didn’t have to replace a fuse. We thought we had entered modern times. The circuits rarely blew anymore. We were pleased and felt, oh so safe. It was the same old wiring! It was still before computers and so many major appliances. I was horrified at how unsafe our old house had been when I learned in my electronics class about electrical currents and safety. But the house stood until recently when my brother had it torn down to build a new, beautiful house.

No moral to this story, really. Just a warning about the wiring. These old houses are always in the news. Some wonderful old houses are gone from fires caused by the old wiring. I think updating your wiring should be number one on your restoration list.

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Posted: July 2nd, 2010

I haven’t posted for so long I had to look up what my last post was about.  I have been busy working on my garden, geocaching, trying to get some spring cleaning done and spending a lot of time shopping in town and on the internet. I have all my drip lines on timers hooked up to my potted plants now.

  • I’ve been lazy with the hot humid weather (that brought us the tornado at Presque Isle) and I’ve been soaking up the new cooler weather that is so awesome I’m giddy.  I hate hot and humid with a passion.  My body shuts down. I’ve taken to reading books lately, no, not the trashy novels. I got hooked on some young adult novels.  They are an easy read and fun.  I haven’t read novels of any kind since the Black Stallion series when I was a kid.  I’ve always been an avid reader of “how-to” books and magazines but that doesn’t take you into a fantasy world (it just makes you buy a house and try to restore it.)
  • The skychair-like swing on the sleeping porch is just the best thing for relaxing.  I bought a book reading light at Barnes and Nobles for night reading.  I leave the lights out on the porch and turn on my reading light that is attached to my book and read away while the cool night breeze refreshes me. It is so wonderful.  I know it won’t last all that long because winter’s ice will put an end to it soon enough.
  • The Neverkink hose I bought a while back that I found out (after buying it) didn’t have good reviews….it works great for me.  See post here. So far it hasn’t kinked but the best thing is how it coils back up into the large planter we keep it in.  That shows reviews aren’t always 100% accurate.  I suppose it depends on your particular application.
  • The begonias I bought for the front porch are gorgeous!  They love the shade and the watering system.  I used to try to hang the wave petunias (purple ones) but even though they smelled so good, they got blight and died off.  There wasn’t enough air flow on the north side of the house for them to do well in the humidity.  The begonias are loving it.  I had a problem with the red flowers falling onto the white porch railings but it turns out, a few days later, the colored stain goes away on it’s own. The next rain washes away all signs of it.  The very large Boston ferns I bought for the sides of my porch love the drip system and the mister I have come on for a short time twice a day.  They are thriving, too.
  • I stopped in at Mason Farms to buy some of the petunias for the deck in the back that gets more air flow.  They had a “buy one and get one free” sale.  I bought and bought.  I now have flowers in every nook and cranny.  I’m going to try some of the Bayer All in One.  I bought the product for the roses I planted on the side because they got powdery mildew and black spot and we saw a few of the Japanese Beetles around.  My roses have new healthy growth so I guess that stuff works, at least so far.  Will it work on petunias?  I’m not sure.  But I believe a fungicide in the product would take care of the blight.  The product mixes with water and you water the plants (it is systemic) and it lasts 6 weeks.
  • My kitchen swinging door isn’t finished yet.  I was padding on layers of garnet shellac when the weather got so humid I stopped.  After the long, fun-filled weekend I’ll finish it.
  • I noticed some gaps on the second story landing baseboard trim getting bigger the last couple of years.  I evaluated it and came to the conclusion the framed-out area around the basement stairs was starting to sag (after almost 100 years) because there are no supports there.  That was causing the floor to drop on the stair landing by about 3/8 inches on the one side.  We bought 2 jack posts and placed them under the floor supports in that general area and are giving the jacks a 1/2 turn a week.  Hopefully that will take care of the gap.  I can’t tell yet if the gap is closing.  It is a slow process.
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Posted: May 5th, 2010

A Personal Post:

My Story of Moosie

Moosie doesn’t care much for catnip.  He leaves that to the two younger cats in the house.  He is a loner and just wants the other cats to leave him alone.  But they  play “surprise attack” tricks on him, take his napping spot, steal his treats.  I have to intervene constantly.  But he does love human company and so, due to his sad place in the pecking order of cats, he gets to come upstairs to be with us while we watch TV in the evening.  It makes him feel special.  It makes the other two cats very jealous on the other side of the door.

Many years ago we had a gorgeous Tonkinese cat that we thought needed a companion so off to the humane society we went.  It took a few visits to find a cat that we wanted.  The only cat I  liked was one that reminded me of a lynx.  He had black lips and eyeliner and it somehow struck me as being pretty. My husband wasn’t so sure but “whatever I wanted.” When we got him home we found out he had a bad cough and soon that he had worms. He was pretty sick.  He looked more like an unkempt alley cat than a lynx in the light of home.   He was a large cat and was no spring chicken and I doubt anyone else would have adopted him. We named him Moosie.

Our Tonkinese hated him.  The Tonk was the king of the house and then some scruffy alley cat invaded his space.  But I’m always a sucker for the underdog (or cat in this case.) I protected him.

Not long after getting Moosie our Tonkinese had sudden kidney failure and after a week of hospitalization, tests and treatments, we had to let him go.  That left Moosie alone and he probably liked it that way. I was so heart broken. The Tonk was so fun and playful and I missed him terribly.  Moosie was docile and didn’t do much more than eat and sleep and beg for ear scratches.

Months later we went back to the humane society to look for another cat.  We found two sibling Russian Blues  that were so pretty.  We didn’t want to separate the brothers so we took both.  Once they adjusted to our house they, too, hated Moosie.  I’m not sure what it is about Moosie but other cats don’t like him.

Just shy of 10 years now since we adopted him, Moosie is living his final few days as I write this.  We think he is somewhere between 16 and 20 years old now.  I bring him his water in a bowl so he doesn’t have to get up.  He has stopped eating.  I carry him down to the litter box every few hours.  Sometimes he wants me to rub his ears, sometimes he wants to be left alone. I put his bed in the rare spring sunshine of late so he can feel the warm sunshine one more time.  He wants to be in the dark so I move him back to his little corner that he loves and feels safe in.

As I watch him breathe, I remember thinking over the years, that he must be part Maine Coon cat somewhere way back in his background.  He has the coloring and he is coarse and big-boned.  The only information that was given to us at the humane society was that he had been a stray cat that someone had taken in and had had neutered and declawed. Then for an unknown reason they could no longer keep him.  So Moosie had been a stray and probably had spent at least a few winters out in the cold, having to hunt in the ice and snow to exist.  I think his previous owners may have had children because he liked listening to children playing in the neighborhood while he sat out on the mud porch during good weather.

I’m having a really emotional time dealing with the loss we are about to encounter.  Moosie is never an entertainer full of personality and antics, nor by any stretch, a beauty, but I have come to find out that his role is more important.  He is my constant companion.

*Moosie died in my arms Saturday, May 1st.

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Posted: January 14th, 2010

It sure sounds like someone is in my house and I’ve gone downstairs and searched around many times this morning. Oh, those cats! Running around banging into things! But no, it wasn’t the cats because I happened to be looking out the window when this huge feet-long icicle came crashing down. All the banging all morning long has been icicles melting in the sun (finally) and the warmer temperatures. It’s been a long time and I may just go outside this weekend.

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Posted: January 13th, 2010

I actually finished the living room floor on New Years Eve day. But then I noticed some cat hairs stuck into the finish here and there and here I spent so much time vacuuming, swiffering and taking a tack cloth to the whole area immediately before putting on the finish. Even though the three cats were locked out of the room, their fuzzy little hairs float in the air when they shake or move and drifted through the air onto my floor with the heated air flow.

I contacted Waterlox to see what would be the best way to attempt a removal of the cat hair. Their response was to:
Do nothing. They have a way of working themselves out. Or take a razor blade and carefully remove it and using a Q-tip apply finish over that little area. They recommended against sanding the hair out and re-coating over the sanded area because there may be blending problems.

I tried the razor blade on one of the hairs and made things worse. I didn’t want to just leave it and hope it “wears” off. I went against the recommendation and used sandpaper. First I used 1500 grit (auto) wet/dry but it wasn’t aggressive enough to get the hair up. I then went with 320 and carefully sanded the hair until it was gone. I went over it with 800 and 1500 sandpaper to try and blend the area. After cleaning the spots with mineral spirits and wiping dry, I re-coated the spots using a little sponge brush. I rubbed with a clean, lint free sock around the edges to try and feather it. Because it takes so long to dry, it levels itself out pretty good.

The following day I could not see the repair. If you have a floor that is so flat and perfect and glass-like, maybe a repair would show but with the large amount of grain in oak, I can’t tell. I went on to find some more hairs and a little piece of grit here and there and fixed them. Once in a while I had to add a second coat the next day over the area that was repaired because I got a bit aggressive on some hairs that were deeper into the finish. It was pretty easy but did take some time because it takes so long to dry. Really, I couldn’t even see the hairs unless I was standing just so and the light was shining just so but I figured it would bother me knowing it was there so I fixed it. It’s good to know that if the cats do scratch the finish or if I find something on the floor that needs repairing that I hadn’t noticed before, that it is easy to fix.

Now it’s time to tackle the rest of the baseboards from that room.

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Posted: January 12th, 2010

If I had even one shard of 1500 BC glass I’d decorate my whole house around it. In the short slideshow are some pieces that date back to that time and to the early A.D. I think a couple may have been reproductions but almost all were the real deal. I was more fascinated by the antique pieces that I didn’t take many photos of the ancient pieces which is a shame because there were many really wonderful pieces. The museum is located in Corning, NY about 191 miles from Erie, PA

Posted: January 5th, 2010

This year I’m going to be adding an art-glass page on the sidebar. It will include art-glass video slideshows of the Chihuly Exhibition and the Corning Glass Museum photos I took when we last visited. But first, I’ll post them as a blog entry. The first will be the Chihuly Glass Exhibition that took place in 2007 at Phipps Conservatory in Pittsburgh. We went to the night showing which cost more but was so worth it. Grab a cup of coffee and enjoy this beautiful art glass mixed in with a few orchids. Wouldn’t it be beautiful to have a garden of art glass? I checked Chihuly’s schedule and there are some exhibits in 2010 in Columbus, Ohio until July 4.

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