Engaged with the World

Tag: house

Amicable and Neighborly

I’ve been busy lately. Reason in the Rock is fast approaching, and the last minute details are time-consuming. I’m doing some research and reading to aid those involved in various aspects of the West Memphis Three matters, and there is a lot of stuff there. On top of that, my family is in the process of selling the family farm. After 100 years of deeds being swapped among four generations and various family-owned entities, there are title issues enough to make a saint swear. My brother and I are working on the title issues, and we are far from sainted. I’ve even had to reopen the long-closed probated estates of both of my grandparents and one of my great aunts to resolve matters.

And yesterday, taking a well-deserved break to engage in a little church-related activity, which is always good for the soul, I stumbled across a float of the Flying Spaghetti Monster created by the Seattle Atheists.



I want it.

The Arkansas Society of Freethinkers needs one. Can’t you just see it in the annual holiday parade here in Little Rock? We freethinkers can dress in our clerical vestments – that is, full pirate regalia  – and toss packages of Ramen noodles to parade watchers. It’ll be Christmas, Mardi Gras, and soup kitchen all rolled into one. We would be able to touch so many people with his noodly appendages!

And I have nothing else to do but figure out how to build a working model of our amazing deity. Really.

But wait!  What’s this? In my inbox is a missive from the company that manages the condos that lie on the other side of my back fence. Gracious, whatever could they want?

Dear Ms. Orsi:

I obtained your contact information from a mutual friend, David Simmons. I am writing on behalf of the Townhouses-in-the-Park Property Owners Association. I have been asked to contact you in reference to your swimming pool and the manner in which the water is being drained. The POA Board believes that the chemicals in your pool water are killing the ivy and eroding a French drain located below your pool on the TIP property. The POA Board wishes to handle this matter in an amicable and neighborly fashion. Would you please contact me to discuss this issue?

Thank you, in advance, for your cooperation.


Not again. This is, sadly, not my first rodeo with these “amicable and neighborly” people.

I clicked on the attachments.



I swear by the noodly appendages and meatballs of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, and by all else that is holy, that these two photos are what I was sent as proof of the evildoing of my swimming pool.

I fumed a bit. I needed to collect my thoughts before I called the email’s author, because I was more than a little irked.  I tend to become extremely sarcastic when I’m annoyed. Sarcasm is not “amicable and neighborly,”  or so I’ve been told. So I called Mom and ranted for about 20 minutes.

When I finally calmed down, I called the contractor who had installed the offending pool in 2009.

“Jimmy,” I said, “you aren’t going to believe this.” I told him what was up. He sighed, and said he’d come take a look.

When I calmed down some more, I called the author of the email. She was out.

A few days later, Jimmy came. He looked. We both peered over my fence onto the hillside between my pool and Townhouses in the Park. He scratched his head. “So, where’s the dead ivy?” he asked. Unable to answer his question, I peered over the fence again. Nope. No dead ivy could be seen.

“What do I do?” I asked him. He shrugged helplessly. He outlined the possibility of draining the pool higher up the hill, still on my property, of course. I asked him for a bid. He left, shaking his head. We both know that the mere existence of my pool bugs the crap out of the Townhouses in the Park Property Owners Association. We’ve been down this road before.

Dad, Summer 2002, on the lake in his boat

My beloved father, whose ashes were spread into the Cache River on our family farm over a decade ago, wrote what our family calls “John Letters.” Sometimes he sent them. Usually, Mom, Susan, Jay or I edited them to remove the most sarcastic and offensive parts. At times, to Dad’s chagrin, we’d edit them into starchless, plain vanilla, politely worded protests that in no way resembled what Dad really and truly wanted to say.

The city of Des Arc was the recipient of at least one unedited John letter a few years before Dad died. The city was not amused. Dad was proud of himself. He was such a clever wordsmith.

I’ve written a John letter to the property manager representing Townhouses in the Park. Oh, I’ve edited it. I’ve refined it. I really, really want to send it. I’m proud of myself. I am such a clever wordsmith.


Dear Ms. Jackson:

The Townhouses in the Park Property Owners Association is fond of complaining about my swimming pool, which apparently exists mostly to annoy them. While I was in the process of building it in 2009, Townhouses in the Park reported me to Little Rock Code Enforcement for building not just one, not even two, but three swimming pools in my back yard. Seriously.

After that, they said that the drainage from the pool was washing out the soil from beneath their asphalt and would cause their parking lot to collapse. Yes, they really said that. To alleviate their concerns that my pool would wash Townhouses in the Park all the way down Cedar Hill to the Allsopp Park tennis courts, I installed a drainage system that diffused the backwashed water over a very large area on my property.

Then, on a Saturday night after a pipe had burst that morning and been repaired, they decided to come over to my house when I was having a dinner party to complain, in front of my arriving guests, that there was too much water in their parking lot. They must really hate thunderstorms.

Next, they claimed that the three year old masonry wall of my pool which faces them, and which they cannot see without coming into my yard beyond the wooden privacy fence that separates my property from theirs– and which even then they could not see since a second retaining wall blocks even my own view – was crumbling and collapsing in decay. It wasn’t.

In their latest complaint, Townhouses in the Park apparently believes that the al Qaeda sleeper cell that is my swimming pool suddenly awoke after one of the hottest, driest summers in memory to unscrupulously assassinate what appears to be a two foot spread of ivy hanging over a wall, presumably just down the hill from my property.

As Townhouses in the Park is aware, the backwash from my pool, which amounts to about a bathtub’s worth every week or so, is eliminated on my property through a perforated pipe about 15-20 feet long into a French drain that is even longer. The diffuse drainage is unlikely in the extreme to have zeroed in on that unsuspecting bit of ivy after four years of peaceful coexistence. From the vantage point of my property, I am unable to discern any dead ivy; I cannot tell where the photo was taken. The plants on my property that are even closer to the point of drainage are alive and healthy. Even the ivy.

But, in the interest of resolving this matter in an amicable and neighborly fashion, I had the contractor who installed the pool and drainage system come to look at it. Unsurprisingly, he said there was no way my pool’s backwashed water was the cause of the dearly departed’s demise. Had my pool water been inclined to murder unsuspecting plants such as that particular patch of English ivy, it would do so from the point of drainage all the way to the wall; it would not have the necessary intelligence or purpose to target a single spot at least ten feet away from the point of drainage, leaving all plants between the drain and the target unmolested. That’s just how terrorist swimming pools and their affiliated suicide bomber drainage systems roll.

The seepage pipe in the wall is similarly unaffected by me backwashing my pool. By the time the water gets from the drain to the wall, it has gone through soil at least ten feet wide, twenty feet in length, and ten feet in depth. There is simply not enough water concentrated in that area at any given time to cause the problem complained of.

Townhouses in the Park should be aware that in the event there ever really is a problem that I don’t already know about (and haven’t promptly taken reasonable steps to address), I may not take them seriously. There is a story about a little boy who cried “wolf.” The Townhouses in the Park Property Owners Association should familiarize themselves with the moral to that story.


Should I?


Oh, hell. I know I shouldn’t. But I really, really want to.


The Third Floor

This part of the tour gets tricky.

You see, now I have to tell you the primary reason for the remodel.  There’s no way to get to the basement without going outside.

Especially since I’m installing that “See-Mint Pond,” there just has to be a way to get there.

I hired an architect to figure this one out.  At first I thought I wanted an elevator.  My ceilings are high, and there is more than the 8.5 feet between floors. then, once you’re in the back yard, you still have to go upstairs to get into the basement.

Let me show you what I mean.

Let’s go out my bedroom door onto the middle level of the deck, and head down.

It’s very dark out here at night.  Because I’ve been planning this remodel almost since I bought the place, I haven’t yet put lights out on the stairs that go to the basement level.  That makes it even more dangerous than it is in daylight.

Remember the outside view of the deck stairs with the wood piled under them? That’s about 9′ tall. Jack’s about 5’10,” so you can sort of see here what I mean.

Then, as we get to the basement itself, it’s dark.  There’s a small light just outside the door, but it doesn’t illuminate much.

So: the treachery of darkness, the steepness of the yard, and rain and other bad weather all combine to make it not just inconvenient for there to be no interior staircase to the basement, but downright dangerous.

Thus, the remodel.  It’s to install a staircase and the attendant basement hallway.  Since I’m going to be breathing drywall dust, I thought I’d do a couple other things at the same time, but more about that later.

For now, Jack’s really excited about showing off his basement.  Not only did he agree to clean it up for you, he even posed willingly for the pictures.  Go figure!

The door goes to what we refer to now as “Jack’s Basement.”

Oh, who am I kidding? It will be “Jack’s Basement” as long as he’s living at home, and maybe even longer.

I lack a fish-eye lens for my digital camera, and Tallulah LeDeux hasn’t yet made it up to Little Rock to snapshoot my digs, so imagine, if you will, this picture and the next one side by side.

Jack’s basement in a very long room, with his desk and computer at one end and his bumper pool/poker table at the other.

There are only two relatively small windows, something that will change when the remodel happens – I plan to line that wall with windows just like the living room two floors up.  Then I’ll hang black-out curtains, similar to what are in my bedroom, so that Jack can keep it dark in there when he wants to sleep in.

Yes, despite having a bedroom elsewhere in the house, on weekends Jack prefers to sleep on a futon in the basement.  He has a pair of them that each makes into a single-size bed, so he can have a friend over, too.

Behind that attractive and much revered poster from the movie “Snakes on a Plane” (IMHO, one of the worst – yes worst – celluloid was ever wasted on) is a half bath.  In the remodel, we’ll add a shower, and on the side of the wall facing the room will be an icemaker connection.

When he’s older, and gone, I will probably install a wet bar down here.  By that time it will be Mom’s basement, not Jack’s basement, and I will want certain amenities.  This room will be where the cabana boys hang out.  Right now, the cabana boys are not old enough to drink alcohol, so I will eliminate some temptation and wait for the wet bar.

In the meantime, though, I want everyone to note what reading matter my resourceful son is studying these days.

Despite the new life forms evolving in and around the toilet, I am very proud of my budding young hero.

Back away from the bathroom, and take a look at the room from the other direction.

You see the poker table, the book cases which are overflowing and in which books are mostly double-shelved, and the beanbags, which were purchased with boys in mind but which a certain pair of dogs have laid claim to.

You’ll also see the wool Moroccan rug which was completely submerged during the flood of 2006. That rug used to be about 22×16.  It’s smaller now. It’s also permanently stained with blue ink.  When our dogs were puppies, they liked to eat pens.  Mia ate a blue Pentel Rollerball on the rug.  I realize it was in an attempt to introduce a little color into that dull white landscape of the carpet.  I know it was just her compulsion for interior design leaking out of that pen. I know it was.  And I refrained from beating her.  Truly I did.

Jack wants you to notice all of the Star Wars figures standing around the room. He feels as though he’s among friends all the time because they join him in the basement. 

It’s no accident that Padme stands near the TV.


Oh, and all those soda cans?  Aside from being an ant magnet (“I rinse the cans out, Mom, I swear I do!”) they represent my offspring’s architectural impulses. It’s a pyramid.  It’s art.

My son is a Star Wars geek, in case you didn’t realize that.  He’s read all of the books, seen all of the movies, and can quote from the original trilogy. In fact, one of his favorite quotes is emanating from Admiral Ackbar right there on the wall.  Go ahead and enlarge the photo.  You’ll see.

This is Jack himself, in his usual pose.  He’s playing Halo, or World of Warcraft, or Gears of War, or Assassin’s Creed, or something else that requires lots of shooting.

Of course, he’s opposed to war.

A Conscientious  Objector.

That framed poster you see in the top right corner of the photo is one of Jack’s prized possessions.  We bought it in New Orleans about 5 or 6 years ago.  It’s a British movie poster advertising the re-release of the original trilogy, and it’s signed by Mark Hammill, Carrie Fisher,  Harrison Ford and George Lucas.

At the other end of Jack’s basement are two closets.  Well, only one closet actually remains.  The second is not a passageway to my part of the basement: my workshop and the place where great changes will be made in the remodel.

Past Anakin Skywalker and the scary Sand Person is my workshop.  Come on in and see what I’ve got going on in here.  You’re going to be surprised.

This is all the “stuff” – the toys and tools and materials for what I enjoy doing down here in my dungeon.  What is it I do?

I think there’s only one person I’ve told here in this online world, because he does something similar.

Sewing is sometimes involved in this hobby of mine.  Sometimes.

Here’s part of it.  See the log cabin? I built it.  I’m in the process of making it look as realistic as possible, me and my Dremel and my paints.

Behind you’ll see a huge pile of dirt.  More about that in a minute.

On the work table next to the log cabin is a project my youngest niece and I have been working on: her dollhouse. The walls are in the process of being painted.

Because I can never just do one thing at a time, I have a Victorian dollhouse I’m making as well.  Yes, I will furnish these houses.  I will make some of the furnishings and I will buy others.

I had great visions for that huge pile of dirt at one point.  I envisioned model trains, snaking up and down the “mountain” through villages and forests that I would plant there.

Sadly, that project is not going to happen.  instead, in the remodel. I  plan to excavate that mountain – strip mine it for landscape stone – and make a room there.  In fact, I plan to move my sewing room there, or make it into a bedroom.  Since our house has only two bedrooms, it seems logical.

If I move my sewing room there then when I get around to remodeling the master bath, I can expand into the current sewing room for closet space.

On the right side of the picture, just off the actual part you can see, is a hobbit-sized door that leads to an unexcavated storage area.  It’s where I keep the Christmas decorations.  That’s right: the ones I’m not getting out this year because this year I’m Buddhist.

In the remodel, this area will be where the stairs from the middle floor end, and there will be a door cut through to Jack’s basement, right next to the closet I didn’t remove.  This area will be excavated and become a hallway, with proper storage rooms off it and a door into my new sewing room or the third bedroom.

The architect and I really struggled with where to put the stairs.  In an effort not to completely tear up the floor plan, at one point we thought about an elevator.  Yes, really.  This house is tall.

However, we then discovered that moisture was getting under the stairs and warping them.  the existing stairs have to be rebuilt and the area underneath has to be waterproofed.  Since we had to go under the topless turret anyway, the bright idea developed that we would simply continue the existing staircase all the way to the basement.  We’re putting in another staircase directly beneath the existing one, after tearing out the existing one and making about three water and moisture barriers.

After the rains this week, I took a photo underneath the topless turret.  this is what it looks like below ground level after a rain.

This is below ground level from the outside, but as you can see, the cliff on which my house is built demanded that the foundation be much lower on the inside than it is on the outside.

Wow.  That’s kind of a Heinlein notion, isn’t it? Things that are a different size and shape on the inside than they are on the outside….

Those cinder blocks are the below-ground curving wall of the topless turret.  And sadly, they are wet.  The wetness is warping the wood of my staircase in a disturbing manner.

So that’s why the remodel, and what it’s going to consist of.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is my house, my yard, my neighborhood, and my space. I hope you’ve enjoyed your visit.

Did anyone case the joint?

The Second Floor

Back down the front hallway and to your right, just past the front door, are the stairs that spiral to what I call the second floor.  It’s really the middle level of my house.  It’s the level where the garage and my bedroom and – yes, my sewing room – are located.  I know you all are dying to see the wench’s sewing room.  This fascination with the room where I make my corsets is a bit unnerving, I must say.

Here is a view of the spiral stairs, and you can see why the topless turret has the shape it does.

They look steep and dangerous, don’t they?  Our dog, Mia, fell going up these stairs once, because where the treads spiral around the rail they are too narrow even for the feet of a large dog. She refused to go up them after that, although she would go down.  I fall down them all the time.  I may have my nose in a  book as I walk down the stairs (yes, I read when I walk – don’t you?) and I hit the narrow part of the tread and don’t hug the wall like I should. Then I skitter down on my butt. Mia finally fell down them, too, and after that she refused to go up or down the stairs.  I knew I had to do something, so I bought those tacky little rugs to go on each tread and secured them in place with double-sided tape. Mia will once again go up and down the stairs, and I don’t fall nearly as often.

They’re going to change, though.  Part of the remodel – remember I mentioned the remodel in the last blog? – will remove these stairs and replace then with two straight runs.  The semi-circular area will be a landing.  I’m going to do the stairs in the same green slate tiles that are on the floors of the upstairs and downstairs hallways for the sake of continuity.

Enough about the stairs.  Watch your step as you come down though.

Remember I told you I have an art collection?  I won’t bore you with the oils and watercolors etc., but you absolutely must note the crown jewel of my collection.  It hangs at the bottom of these stairs.  See him?

No?  Can’t see him?

Well please, look closer.

Yeah, baby. It’s the King. He’s TCB right here at the bottom of my stairwell.

You know, this was the only item of contention in my divorce. I won, because truthfully, it was given to me by a very dear old friend who just happened to be my husband’s room mate in law school. (Sorry, honey – those are the breaks.)

Of course it’s velvet. Go ahead.  Reach out and touch that big “E” right there.

What a hunk-a hunk-a burnin…..


To the right of Elvis is the door to the garage. There’s nothing interesting in there.  Jack has his Taurus, which he named “Leroy,” and is attending some athletic event at his school.  My car sits there, lonely, in the dark and otherwise empty space.

Turn around and you’ll see another long hallway.

The door to the right leads to my bedroom.  The one at the end of the hall goes to the sewing room – yes, the legendary sewing room! – and the one directly across the hall from the bedroom door, which you can’t see, goes to the laundry room.

This hallway isn’t very interesting.  It’s going to be completely redone in the remodel, so I haven’t done much with it at all.  Besides, no one comes down here but me. Well, Jack does, occasionally, when he’s looking for clean socks or something.

George and Ursula’s cat box sits here, as does a Chinese fishbowl pot I found at a junk store. I’m going to put a plant in the pot, but I haven’t gotten around to it yet.

So… The laundry room.

Go into the door on the left, just ahead.  Can we all crowd inside?  It’s a pretty good sized room, but I should close the door to show it off.  There.  Thank you.

Oh, my.  I have a load waiting to be folded.  It appears Jack was indeed looking for clean socks recently, because the dryer door is open and the clothes are still in it.

I’m a bit embarrassed that you caught me at my housework.

I should really start another load now.  Will someone help me fold these sheets?  Thank you. I can use the help, and you’re kind to volunteer.

If we stand over here by the door we can see that opposite the washer and dryer is a sink and some storage.  It looks to be quite the mess, doesn’t it?

I really should get in here and straighten up.

Yes, I know the shelves are a cluttered mess.  I know where things are, though.

The dolls?  Um, well, er….

I could say that they belong to my nieces, but the truth is they were mine when I was a little girl.  That brown trunk one of the dolls sits on is full of clothes I made for them when I was a kid. When my sister and mom were cleaning out Mom’s attic in the home we grew up in, before my parents moved to little Rock, they found them and gave them to me for pre-Christmas.

Pre-Christmas is another tradition I should tell you about sometime.  But anyway, I have my dolls and my nieces do indeed play with them when they come over.  And yes, we make doll clothes.

We make them in the sewing room. Finally, at last, you get to see the sewing room. Now that the sheets are folded (thank you, Josef) and I’ve started another load of laundry, we can leave the laundry room and head to the end of the hall where the sewing room is.

Yes, the sewing room.  I know that this is the moment so many of you have been waiting for.  Well, wait no longer.

Ta da!

And another view….

… and now turn around and look back toward the hallway, the way you came in, and you’ll see the book cases (I would hate for you to miss anything at all about this delightful room)

Can’t you just feel that anticlimax?

I sure can.

Moving right along….

Back into the hallway.  Look to your right and you’ll see that I’ve hung a bunch of family photos here.

Boring, yes.  But I needed someplace to put them.  No, I won’t identify them all to you, except to say that the bride in the center is my grandmother, and the photo was taken in front of a stained glass pocket door in the Edwardian mansion where she grew up in Little Rock’s Quapaw Quarter.  I swiped that picture from my mom, and I have no intention of giving it back.  Unless she specifically asks for it, of course.  In the meantime, I’m doing my best to prevent her from visiting this floor of my house, having decided that out of sight is probably out of mind and she may not try to reclaim it if she forgets I have it…

Turn left, now, and go into my bedroom.

Like the wall in the living room upstairs, the wall here in my bedroom is all windows – the better to view the treetops with, my dears.  Because Juan and Enrique and their companions spend so much time in my back yard these days, lately I tend to keep the curtains drawn.  It’s not that I mind them seeing anything, it’s just that, well, I’d prefer they didn’t see anything.  You know.

Yes, I know you are all fascinated to see where I sleep.   Well, here it is. No, I will not pose for you here in my nightie.


Okay, I opened the curtains to let some light in.  You now see my sleeping companions, the only ones who bother to tolerate me at night.

George (in the foreground) and his sister Ursula, grudgingly move over a bit when I turn down the covers.

It’s damned inconsiderate of me to disturb them, I know, but it also is a bonding time for us.

I’m sure that all the trolls and troglodytes out there are just waiting with bated breath to see where I strip myself to my altogether and douse myself with water.  The pool isn’t built yet, so I guess I’ll indulge them and show them my bathroom.

Right this way, folks.

There it is, guys.  The bathtub where I sit naked and wet.  Titillating, huh.

Oh, did you notice that cranberry glass chandelier?  Yes, I realize that not everyone would put a fabulously ornate chandelier in a bathroom, but this particular chandelier was bought specifically for mine.  Why?  Well, I’ve always wanted a palatial-feeling place in which to relax in the bubbles, perhaps with a glass of bubbly.

Call me decadent.  Call me self-indulgent.  Call me a wench.  It’s all true.

And here’s the spot where I brush my wenchly teeth.  This is just too good, isn’t it?

Turn around and you’ll see the shower, which is yet another place where I get naked and wet.

I know.  I should go easy on the boys, now shouldn’t I?

But what is that?  Through that distant door!

Can it be…?

Could it be…?

YESSSSS!   It’s the sewing room again!

O, be still, my throbbing heart!

If anyone makes the mistake of saying they want more, I’ll thrill you all with a tour of the bottom floor of the house next.

The First Floor

Come in!  Come in!  Welcome! It’s so good to see you! 

Here, let me take your coat.
The coat closet is here in the hallway.  I’ll hang it up for you.

The sofa? I inherited that.  It was my great-grandmother’s.  Isn’t the velvet upholstery pretty?  Fortunately the cats don’t sleep on it.  I’d have to brush the sofa as well as the cats if they did.

The oriental runner was my grandmother’s. Yes, it’s getting worn, but I like it and for now it’s staying right here.  The slate tile floors are nice, but in the winter, especially, they can be very cold.

That horse? My ex hated it.  I like it.  It was painted on canvas by a street artist in India. Perhaps I’ll give you a tour of my art collection some time.

Let’s head into the Living Room and sit down.  It looks like Jack left his laptop on the cuddle chair.

Yes, I loved the view as soon as I first walked into this house!

It’s a shame it’s so foggy today.  If it were clear, you’d be able to see across Allsopp Park to the opposite ridge of Hillcrest.  Being so high lets us look out over the treetops.  Sometimes, when I sit in here, I feel like I’m in a tree house.

The cuddle chair?  That’s our couch.  As you can see it’s a big round chaise plenty big enough for two.  Because of its circular shape, the two people sitting in it sort of naturally lean toward each other and can’t help but cuddle.  Jack and I sit here with our dueling laptops and watch movies, and just hang out.  I have it covered in faux emu with really fancy tassels. I’m going to make some throw pillows for it from old mink coats I got at a garage sale to really fancy it up.  (I just had to throw something in about my sewing machine.)

 Yes, we watch the movies on a big screen.  The previous owners had hidden the television in the cabinets, but I decided to do a home theater.  The people who built this house were serious audiophiles – the husband was in a band made up of doctors like himself – and they left behind four Klipsch loudspeakers that were built into the walls. You can see one of them in the photo, sort of in the middle of the wall to the right of the TV. Since my ex got the Bose in the divorce I decided to replace it with something worthy of those magnificent speakers. Jack was skeptical that I knew what I was doing. The day it was installed, Jack arrived at the house and gaped.  “Did I do OK, son?” I asked. He nodded, slinging drool everywhere.  What a mess.  I have a problem, though.  The stereo gets so hot in that cabinet that I need to vent it somehow.  I’m thinking to put something like a dryer vent that goes through the exterior wall, with a fan in the cabinet to stir the air. I have to find someone willing to hang on three stories up to install it, though.

Here’s a view of the living room from the windows.  You can see another of those Klipsch speakers just to the left of the elephant’s head.

That display case is an antique French library that I restored.  It’s an entire blog in and of itself.

Behind the living room is the kitchen – Jack and I can sit at the bar and watch TV while we eat.

(Since we can see and hear the TV perfectly well from the kitchen bar, please tell me why I find pop tart wrappers in the cushions of the cuddle chair, and why plates seem to stack up on the coffee table on weekends.  Please explain this. Please.)

Also behind the living room is the dining room.

You should join me for dinner sometime.

My office is behind that wall – just to the right of that overflowing bookcase. I work from home. That’s why I’m usually around when you IM me.

My office is a mess.  Don’t look too closely.

Jane sits in the black chair and I sit in the chair by the window. 

Her workspace is much tidier than mine.

Yes, well, enough of the office.

You want to see Jack’s room?  Oh, dear.  Well, the bed is made, but I don’t think it’s very neat or clean. I’m just giving you fair warning.

Back to the front hallway, and to the end of the hall… yes, turn right into that next hallway.  You’ll see it.

It’s definitely a teenager’s room, isn’t it? That’s the same bed I slept in growing up. It had a canopy when I was a kid.  For some reason Jack didn’t think the canopy was manly, so we removed it.  It leans up against a wall of the garage now.

You’ll notice that his bookcase also overflows. That’s not the only place he keeps books.  He’s a pretty voracious reader, I’m happy to say.  We are planning on adding bookshelves when we remodel in the spring.

Yes, remodel. You’re seeing the “before” pictures.

Oh, the bathroom?  You need to visit the facilities? Sure.  It’s right next door.

I’ll wait for you in the hallway to continue the tour….

My Neighborhood



I live in an historic neighborhood in Little Rock, Arkansas. The neighborhood used to be its own town, but as Little Rock spread west along the Arkansas River, the city annexed the little village of Pulaski Heights and called it “Hillcrest” because it was spread along a U-shaped ridge overlooking the floodplain. A levee was built to keep the river out of the floodplain, and I look northward out my back windows and see the Riverdale area, where Alltel has built its headquarters and where there are lots of apartments.


Here are two photos, looking in the same direction, one on a day when there’s a fog on the river. I can’t see the river itself from my house, but I see across it – those cliffs in the distance are in the city of North Little Rock, on the far side of the river.

My house was built about 10 years ago in a neighborhood dominated by turn of the century stone cottages, Craftsman bungalows, colonial revival houses, the occasional Victorian or Edwardian home, and one gorgeous Queen Anne mansion. The lot where my house sits used to be the yard and garden of the stone house next door – the one where the beagles live. I showed you a photo of the beagles in my last blog. Other than the original city of Little Rock, known as the Quapaw Quarter, Hillcrest is the oldest neighborhood in the city.

I have some pretty affluent neighbors. For instance, a block away is the huge stone mansion where Winthrop Paul Rockefeller lived until his death of leukemia last year. His wife, Lisenne, and their kids still live there – some of their kids go to the same school as Jack. Win was the great-grandson of the oil tycoon John D. Rockefeller. His dad, Winthrop A. Rockefeller, was governor of Arkansas back in the 60’s. He’s noted for commuting the sentences of every inmate on death row – none of whom went on to commit another crime. Win was running for governor himself when he was diagnosed with the blood disorder that killed him.

My house was designed to fit the architecture and scale of the neighborhood. In the other historic neighborhoods, there have been problems with new homes being built that don’t fit the neighborhood’s style. Fortunately, Hillcrest has a great Property Owner’s Association that is active in city government and zoning matters. A few non-conforming homes have been built, but not to the extent in the other two old areas of town.

Although we were Little Rock’s first suburb, we are now the area referred to as Midtown, the center of Little Rock. The state capitol is less than a mile from where I live. I can get almost anywhere in the city quickly from here, except the far west suburbs of the city. Little Rock is a fairly small city (Pop. abt. 185,000), but the urban sprawl is awful.



My front door is flanked by sidelights of stained glass done in a Frank Lloyd Wright style. It’s pretty in the daytime, but at night it glows yellow and I think it’s gorgeous. Of course, it’s mine, so I would, right?


More stained glass is in the topless turret, stretching the length of the turret on the east side of the house. The stained glass stops at the stairs, which spiral down inside the turret. I think it looks pretty at night, too. It sets off that new garage door just… so.

All this is leading up to an invitation to visit. I’ll give you a tour of my abode. Come on in. I’ve left the front door open for you.



See-Mint Ponds

As I mentioned in yesterday’s blog, I have a little landscaping project that is intended to make my cliff of a back yard seem less cliff-like, and less dominated by azaleas. The first thing I had to do was make more sunshine. As much as I hated doing it, this meant I needed to remove two of three really huge oaks that were in the back yard.

My neighborhood is over 100 years old,and those trees weren’t young when the neighborhood was created. Although I love the shade of the trees in the summer, there was way too much shade. I have one patch of ground about 10×15 feet in which grass will grow. So, I took a deep breath and stocked up on firewood. It’s piled under the deck stairs now.

To give you some idea of how steep the yard is,I took this picture. The deck stairs, under which the two ex-trees are stacked, are just barely visible in the far right of the photo. The fence, which is 8′ high, follows the contour of the yard, about to where the yard took a sudden 5′ dropoff. The main portion of the swimming pool is in that area below the 5′ dropoff. It meant, theoretically, that not much excavation needed to be done.

Theoretically.Of course, that was before we discovered that the reason the drop off wasn’t more than five feet was because there had been some fill added to the lot. Prior to the fill, the electrical lines for the house had been laid in that area. So we wouldn’t have to flip which end was deep and which was shallow, I called the electric company to see what it would cost to move the lines. I nearly choked when they told me that the price would start at about $17,000.00. Suddenly, the shallow end of the pool became the deep end. Now the pool is being built almost entirely above ground, even though it really doesn’t appear to be that way. However, the deep end needed to be made deeper.

Naturally, that meant that the excavation needed to be done through pretty much solid rock. With a jackhammer on the excavator, the pool crew began
digging again. I’m getting lots of really nifty rocks that I hope can somehow be used in the stonework I’m going to be doing.

After the excavation was complete the day after Thanksgiving, it rained. I am so pleased to report that it appears that my new swimming pool will have no problem holding water successfully. This is what the newly excavated deep end looked like a week and a half ago.

My contractor, aware that I wanted to save money wherever possible, suggested stocking it with catfish and foregoing a concrete lining. Mmmmm. Them’s good eatin’.Not wanting to disappoint my beloved son, who has his precious little heart set on clear water (yes, it’s all about Jack), I declined the contractor’s suggestion, despite the possibility of a business investment in the catfish business and possible tax deduction for business use of the property. Sadly, a zoning variance would probably be required and that’s just more trouble than I want to go to.
After making a basic form of the pool’s walls and lining it with rebar, the contractor started spraying cement through about 6 miles of hose that came from my front driveway, snaked along the side of the house, and finally made it to the back yard.
Let me tell you the crew had a fabulous time blowing the last of the drying concrete out of those hoses at the end of the day, too. They really looked like they were having fun. I have never seen so many grown men playing with rubbery tubes like that. It was inspiring. Here are three of them enjoying a hose orgy in my back yard. Their little party gave new meaning to the term “tube snake boogie.”

After a second day of fun with concrete hoses, the pool pretty much looked like a pool. The excavator was still back there, though, because there is a mound of mud and rock about 10 feet tall, and a Japanese Maple needed to be moved. The contractor wanted to wait as long as possible to move the maple so it would be dormant and hopefully not die. Finally, though, it just had to be moved.

With the Japanese maple gone, it’s much easier to see the shape of the pool. All of these pictures have been taken from the third story deck. Isn’t my yard looking lovely?

Here’s the Japanese Maple in its new home on the other side of the yard, near the only spot where grass grows.

My neighbors’ beagles are delighted with all the activity in my yard. They are very busy doing their allotted doggie-duties, and miss my dogs very much. If Frog-Dog and Missy Mia were home and not at their Dad’s for the duration of the construction, they, along with the beagles, would be loudly and frequently discussing the contractor’s shortcomings and directing the laborers from South of the Border as only truly great canine foremen can do.

My House….

I love my house.

No, no. Not Aramink – although obviously I loved Aramink or I wouldn’t still use the name. Places are important.
What I mean is that I love my house – the one I live in right now.
Here it is, post-Jack’s-encounter-with-the-garage nearly a year ago:

I used to have two garage doors. Now I have just the one, and it really does make getting in and out of the driveway a lot easier, especially with stone walls on either side.

That odd roundish projection between the garage and the front door houses the staircase between the top and middle floors. I call it the topless turret. Isn’t it scandalous?

To the left of the front steps is a little flagstone courtyard with a raised bed and fountain. The azaleas are gorgeous in the spring. A big old oak dominates the bed, and a stone wall just the right height for sitting marks the border. I have a smaller herb bed in the patio, too. (No, not that kind of herb – it’s right in front, for Pete’s sake!)

My house is perfect for Jack and me. It is three stories tall and clings to a cliff. The back of the house, which overlooks a wooded park, is all windows. It feels like we’re in a tree house, since we’re up in the canopy of the temperate rain forest. Jack’s bedroom and bathroom, and the main living areas (including my office) are on the top floor. My bedroom and bath are on the middle floor with the garage, laundry room, and another tiny little room I use as a sewing room. The bottom floor has Jack’s party room and a huge workshop. It also has an area that hasn’t yet been completely finished out. I’m planning to do something about that this spring.

From the upper deck of our house, off the kitchen and living room, we can see north across the Arkansas River to the cliffs of North Little Rock. We can also see west across the park to the other side of Hillcrest, which is the name of the historic neighborhood where we live. I took these pictures about two weeks ago.

When we moved in the back yard really needed help. The house clings to a cliff, and the back yard was pretty steep. When the house was built a patio of native Ozark stone was built around one of three huge oaks in the back yard. A wall bisected the yard about halfway down the cliff. One side of the wall was even with the ground nearest the house. The ground on the other side of the wall was 5 feet below that. Did I mention that the house sits sort of on a cliff?

Not much grew in the back yard but those big oaks and a herd of overgrown azaleas. I bet you never knew that azaleas roamed the south in herds, now did you? Unfortunately, they do. The herd that was in my back yard had pretty much outgrown the grazing land, too. One of the sad truths about southern landscapes is that people tend to show very little imagination when it comes to shade planting. Azaleas and hostas are the staples. Ferns get thrown in as afterthoughts. Yawwwwwwn.

I’m engaged in a little landscape project now that should eliminate the boring sameness of the cliffside azaleas. It involves removing the three-level koi ponds (which leaked) and installing one somewhat larger pond that people can splash around in. No, despite the helpful suggestions of some, I won’t be stocking that particular pond with catfish.

Wanna see?

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