Thursday, September 29, 2016

Happy Gotcha Day, Wendy

Miss Wendelina Pantherina arrived seven years ago today. Not long after that, I became Evil Mommy, a title I never expected to have bestowed upon me. (And, believe me, I didn't earn it.)

I'm not giving up. Friends tell me that their unaffectionate, skittish, feral cats sometimes warmed up after ten years or more of running and cringing. So I'm going to give Wendy many more years to come around. She's a calico, so she'll probably need a very long time.

Tonight she joined us at the dinner table, deigned to sniff my fingers for traces of roast chicken, and cringed when her nose came too close to my skin.

Meanwhile she has become very interested in my husband's left armpit. He is generally not Evil Daddy when he's sitting in that chair, so she will burrow her nose into his armpit when he's petting her. It's the only time she voluntarily touches either of us, so I guess it's a big deal, progress, a breakthrough of sorts. Oh, boy!

Sigh. Patience.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Annals of Real Estate: A Charlestown Condo Changes Hands Again

This month I spotted a Charlestown condo that back on the market, which I've admired for years — this is the third time the unit has been for sale in the years we've been looking. If we wanted to move to that neighborhood, we'd want something very much like it, with high ceilings, original detail, and marble mantels. This unit has a couple of deal-breaker layout problems with the bedrooms and baths, as we discovered at an open house back in 2009 . . .  or maybe it was 2013. 

But as I look at the main living spaces as they were styled in 2009: they strike me as close to perfect! There's a gracious living room with a separate, small dining area:

Photo: Hammond Residential, Charlestown.

And a kitchen filled with similar character and warmth:

 Photo: Hammond Residential, Charlestown.

I want to walk over to that tall cabinet in the corner and look at all the dishes and books. I've never liked islands, but it would be simple to replace this one with a long table. The fireplace works, so it would be ideal to have a small, comfortable chair or two nearby.

When the condo went back on the market four years later, it looked simpler but was essentially unchanged. The paint is the same and dining room chandelier and mantel mirror remained:

Photo: Hammond Residential, Charlestown.

In the kitchen, the island bar chairs and the tall cabinet in the corner are still there, while the lantern over the sink has disappeared. I also miss the oil painting and the bold runner; both added a lot to the room's color and charm. I'm also less interested in that corner cabinet.

Photo: Hammond Residential, Charlestown.

I wasn't that surprised to see the condo listed again this month, but it was harder to recognize it. It's been painted powder blue. It's a chilly space now, and all the detailed molding and wainscoting aren't as striking against the pale walls. 

Photo: Compass Massachusetts LLC.

I can't tell if it's been staged or if the current owners have only boring furniture. I hope it was staged, but the owners are still guilty of the crime of putting their TV over the mantel. The ceiling fixture is also new. I never saw the point of sticking traditional chandeliers in glass or metal cages; I hope this fad will soon be over. Chandeliers seldom misbehave or try to escape, so it's pointless, except to make changing bulbs much more of a pain.

The chilly pastel theme continues in the kitchen:

Photo: Compass Massachusetts LLC.

The 2009 chairs and stools were painted white for no good reason. I also don't know why they got rid of the subway tile backsplash, or put that giant industrial-style fixture over the island. Even the new fridge looks cold and shiny. The wood panels on the old one may not be as trendy, but they blended in better with the cabinetry and floor. The tall cabinet is dull now, nearly empty of books. Compare this photo to the kitchen in 2009, and you'll see that much of its charm and warmth is gone even though  all of its original cabinetry, most of its appliances, and the lovely marble mantel remain. (That lonely fish over the mantel isn't doing much for me.)

Comparing different treatments of the same room is always instructive, showing how much can  be done, for good or ill with good color and accessory choices. This condo has loads of potential now, and could quickly be made beautiful and interesting again. No one messed with its classic "bones," and those are what matter.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Late Summer Sunset

On Monday, we walked to the Charles River to see the sunset after the dull, rainy afternoon had finally cleared.

At first, the sky was opalescent:

At first we thought that was all the color there would be for the evening. But then it intensified:

Then it turned bolder:

We went up to the bridge for a better view. It was psychedelic:

And then it became apocalyptic:

As darkness set in, the water stayed on fire:

And finally orange turned to rose. We headed home, dazzled and grateful that we'd made that last-minute decision to take a walk.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Our Cats Are in the Paper

The packing paper, that is. Our favorite Arm & Hammer cat litter arrives from Amazon these days in 60-pound loads because all the local Star and Shaw's supermarkets stopped carrying the unscented variety. Scented cat litter is an abomination to cats and sensible humans alike. The 20-pound cartons come in two big boxes, both packed with long swathes of packing paper for reasons unknown to me, since a crumpled paper won't prevent a 20-pound carton of cat litter from shifting around inside a box.

But the cats love the paper, so we don't mind the mess it makes in our living room or the racket they make jumping in it at night. 

In gratitude, everyone stopped playing long enough to sit for their portraits:






The cats often play hide and seek, attacking each other in the paper. They also like to chase toys around underneath it, but the best thing is rolling the lighted ball around in the Turbo StarChaser while it's partially covered with paper. While they rarely tire of that toy, hiding it under paper makes it even more fascinating. 

Here's Toffee, worrying that we think he's having more fun than is good for him:

Don't Try This at Home: Dancing on the Ceiling

There's this house for sale in Somerville, offered by Brokers Collaborative. Its kitchen confuses and disorients me and I'm here to show you why. (All photos via

Tell me that's not vinyl floor tile on the ceiling:

I think it wanted to be a tin ceiling. You get a lot of bang for your buck with a tin ceiling in the kitchen, especially if you choose one of the simpler designs. A tin ceiling in this kitchen would have looked nice. They are simple to install and not that expensive. But I'm guessing that vinyl floor tile is even cheaper and easier to install — and now you can dance on this ceiling if you get urge.

Now, please tell me that those walls aren't covered in bathroom floor tile:

In many cases, tile is tile, meaning that many types of tile are suitable for both floor and wall applications. But it's not always the case. You never see white ceramic subway tile on a floor, for example. And you rarely see these tiny, inexpensive black-and-white hexagon or octagon tiles on walls. They are the classic choice for old-fashioned bathroom floors. Not walls. On the walls, they look like polka-dots. And a polka-dot kitchen is weird. It would annoy me.

The dining room in this house also has issues. First, let's check out the paneling on that soffit in the corner. How much do you want to bet that it's flooring — either wood or durable, scratch-resistant composite?

Something else in this room bothers me even more. One would think that, by now, no one would install those ceiling fixtures, which are popularly known as "boob lights" and have been for ages. One boob light is bad enough, but here we have two. They are spaced far apart, but two boob lights together is still very wrong.

It's probably not even very cold in that room, but you'd think it was freezing in there all the time.

Let's move into the living room to warm up.

Oh, my — are those rafters or is that a bookshelf on the ceiling?

We know the right answer to that question by now. This is a weird house.

We will not be going to the open house although I'm sure many eager if not desperate homebuyers will be.

Recent Adorableness: Harris and Possy

These two are in the habit of sleeping together under the ceiling fan every afternoon:

If I speak to Harris he will roll onto his back, purring and extending his paws toward me, waiting for a belly rub. Possum, always dignified when he's not displaying his own impressive belly, looks on quietly.

It's a study in contentment. I cherish the sight of them all the more now that I know we'll soon be enduring the racket of a gut-renovation project two doors away for nine hours a day, five days week, starting one of these days at 7 am sharp. It shouldn't take more than a year, or a year and a half . . . .