January 31, 2011

Key West Sights

I'm recounting bits of our Key West vacation. If you're playing catch-up, here's  bit #1 and bit #2.

So what's a girl to do after a leisurely breakfast of flaky croissant and Cuban coffee? The good news? There's lots to do in Key West. One thing I DON'T recommend? The Ernest Hemingway house:
1. The smell of male cat spray is potent.
2. Entry fee was $12. EACH. $24 can buy a lot of croissants and Cuban coffee. And can I tell you? It is the most popular tourist attraction in Key West. Over a half million people go through the house every year. That's $6 MILLION DOLLARS A YEAR alone in entry fees.  And they ain't doin' a lot with all that money because,
3. There are no exhibits or interpretive material anywhere, only tour guides. The tour guides are actors speaking from a memorized script. And they repeatedly say nasty things about Hemingway's "Key West wife" (their words, not mine) Pauline - how she was angry when Hemingway built a fountain out of a urinal (supposedly) or how outrageous it was to build a pool using Ernest's money, when it was her uncle who bought the house for them in the first place. It happened enough to be really annoying.

I DO recommend the Key West lighthouse.

And a walk along Key West's bight (inner harbor).

And the beach. Please go to the beach. And the sunsets. Please also? Watch them. And? (maybe you'll see a theme developing here) I searched high and low for the best key lime pie in Key West. I suffered. I really did. For you, dear reader. So you would not have to suffer as I did, but could go right. to. the. best. key lime pie. It can be had at Blue Heaven. Enjoy.

Why do I live in New England? Someone please tell me.

January 29, 2011

Can You Help Holyoke Home?

The Valley Advocate is our local art and cultural weekly newspaper, and every year they host 'best of the Valley' awards. This year, they have a 'Local Blog' category. I kind of started panting.

Can you help me by going to the Valley Advocate's Best of 2011webpage, entering your e-mail address and name, and then enter 'Holyoke Home' in the 'Media Maven' category? It looks like this:

Your attention validation support would mean a lot to me.

January 28, 2011

The Key West Philosophy?

I'm writing about my experience vacationing in Key West. Remember those kids in high school who ate pot brownies and LSD tabs and pretended to be super in touch with the universe?


Okay, just imagine them. Now imagine them growing into college age people who pretended to be super in touch with the universe. In my limited experience, most of these folks were  - like me - not really chill at all. Their insides didn't match their outsides. They were - like me - actually little testy on the inside.

What does this have to do with Key West? To a person - during my short stay - I was surprised by how truly relaxed everyone was. Their insides matched their outsides. The motto 'live and let live' was maybe in the water? And this bumper sticker was EVERYWHERE:
Puttering around the internet, I found this Key West Proclamation. Chill people and THIS is their community motto?  Coincidence? I don't think so. 

January 26, 2011

Key West Induced Winter Malaise

Mr. Man and I were in Key West last week. I KNOW! I didn't even tell you I was leaving. I spent the first five days back in a state of serious mourning, feeling like an ungrateful turd. I was just SO SAD to come back to winter. God, I hope I'm not a snow bird.

One week in a place hardly qualifies me to tell what to do, but I have recommendations to share. Please do yourself a favor and visit this place for breakfast EVERY DAY OF YOUR LIFE. Get something with pears. Or apricots. Or get one of each because I am not one of those judge-y people.
(image courtesy Stan H on Picasa: http://picasaweb.google.com/sjhejl)

We loved our hotel, El Patio, for it's kind staff and it's perfect location: two blocks from the beach, three blocks from strong cuban coffee, and a 5 minute walk to the main drag - Duval street. The rooms were clean and....retro-ish. Their website sucks, so trust me: this place is really great.
Rent a bike and ride it everywhere. We did. My bike had a charming bell which I might have overused (no one should give me a bell. Or a microphone.) It sounded like this: ding-DANG. ding-DANG. DING-DANG DINGDANG DINGIDNGDGDIGNGNDIID <-see?

In a weird Holyoke and Massachusetts connection, the architect of Holyoke's historic Train Station, HH Richardson, also designed Key West's Custom House.
According to a sign in the Custom House, Mr. Richardson brought Massachusetts masons specifically for the job. Let's see.....our row house was built in 1898, and the customs house was built in 1889....hmmmmm.......
More from Key West in our next post!

January 24, 2011

Another Reader Question Answered: Painted Floors

A year and one half ago,  I started this here home and garden blog. Our first home improvement project? A row house kitchen renovation.  As part of that project, I painted the pine floors in the kitchen.  A kind reader recently asked about our painted pine floors - how they holdin' up? Especially with four skittery little Boston Terrier feet?

**An aside about dog feet: we don't take vacations often, but when we do and we kennel Morgan, my heart aches for the echo-y sound of his little tippy toes tearing up our floors. Particularly the sounds he makes going down the stairs: tip tip tip tip tip tip tip tip tip WHOMP!**
My answer to the floor question? Okay I guess. They are CERTAINLY showing wear and tear. LOTS OF IT. But the damage is kind of like that song, "From A Distance," where you can't see all the brutality unless you're up close.

Before I painted the floor, I spent a lot of time on my hands and knees caulking between the pine boards. I am SO GLAD I did - because I can only imagine what it would look like if I hadn't.

I'm also still really happy with the color. It's bright and cheery without being saccharine, and the muddiness of the color hides a lot of dirt (Dorset Gold by Benjamin Moore). So overall, I've really happy with the painted floor.

As always, I WELCOME your questions!

January 21, 2011

Vintage Lamp Question Answered

In a recent Cans For Comments post, I included a photo of Morgan with a lamp in the background (by the way? I delivered our Cans for Comments to Kate's Kitchen and had every intention of documenting our donation, but - when I went to take a picture of the bounty? I felt gross. Looking at the beans and rice and marinara sauce etc., all I could think was: this is someone's dinner. So you'll have to take my word for it.)

Anyway - the lamps. A very kind reader (hi Gina at Temporary Nest!) asked about the lamp in the background. They've never seemed special enough for a post - but then I remembered I write posts about holes in my walls, cracks in my floor, and feral cat feces.....oh wait. I haven't written about those YET.
I picked up the lamps at the Brimfield Antique show many years ago (here's a post guiding you through Brimfield) the lamps say 'Tyndale' but I can only find one or two references to Tyndale lamps online.
So I went to e-bay, and apparently NO ONE has decided what to call this type of lamp as they are variously referred to as 'California regency', 'toleware', 'Italian vintage flower lamps', or (file under not making this up) 'shabby metal lamps'. Sheesh. Someone decide already.

I love the closed and opened flowers, and the silly brass rope tying them all together at the base. The cords were really sketchy, so I had the electric redone at a local lighting store. Thanks for asking Gina!

January 19, 2011

Are You a Good Fern Or a Bad Fern?

Same room.
Same species of plant.
Same watering and rotating schedule.

                      Exhibit A:                                                                   Exhibit B:

January 12, 2011

Mid-Century Modern Moratorium?


Remember when someone Mr. Man instituted a mid-century modern moratorium at Holyoke Home because our house was "starting to look like a Mad Man set"?

Well, who do you think found a FINE set of Raymond Loewy porcelain plates for Rosenthal?  Hmmmmmm. Who could have such EXCELLENT taste?  Such a REFINED eye?
I wonder.

January 10, 2011

Mondays with Morgan OR How I Came To Be the Alpha Bitch

Morgan is a good boy. He is excellent company, he is loving, he is very motivated to please, and he makes me laugh my ass off. 
 But Morgan hasn't always been this wonderful. Holyoke Home isn't  a 'Dog Blog'. This is a home and garden improvement blog. But since I've started featuring pictures of Morgan now and then, I want to share the story of how Morgan came to be a gentler version of himself, because one of you might be in the same situation.

I rescued Morgan when he was about 4 years old. Morgan is what folks call a 'Dixie Dog'. He was found in a grocery store parking lot in rural Arkansas...... or was it Oklahoma? (my brain cannot process the fact that Arkansas and Oklahoma are NEIGHBORS.)

I learned too late that rescue organizations are marketing wizards who put the thinnest veil over the truth. Certain words and phrases are code for something else. We deal with this all the time in our regular lives. For example, if a real estate agent describes a house as "cozy," she obviously means "smaller than you'd like, but probably all you can afford, so why not make the best of it? Insert smiley face." 

Rescue organizations have their own euphemisms. For example, 'Morgan prefers women' is probably a nice, if confusing, way of saying 'Morgan bites men.' I chose Morgan from a well-intentioned rescue organization that did not tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help them Dog. 
My boy was a big old mess when I rescued him. He was not house-broken, was heart-worm positive, did not like being touched behind his rib cage, didn't know what a toy was, had a huge crusty scar on his face, and he bit me. Seven times. On the day I 'rescued' him.

I like to think that I am semi-smart about dogs. I've trained a couple, and I think I understand how their little brains work, probably because mine works largely the same way. Even so, I sought professional advice and I did everything they told me with religious fervor: I made him work for food, I got the right kind of lead, I went through doorways first, I kept him off the furniture and bed, trained him to do tricks, made sure he got LOTS of exercise daily, etc. 

Nothing stopped the biting. 

Sometimes, he would just bite me. If a finger wasn't handy, he would bite my foot.
I know I'm going to piss someone off when I say this, but having a dog that bites is not an option for me. I couldn't live with that kind of anxiety. My trainer was sympathetic but not helpful. When I asked what to do, she said, "All you can do is make sure he is never in a position to bite anyone." Seriously. That's what she told me.

I forget who I was crying to, but someone told me to watch the Dog Whisperer. On the show, I watched Cesar teach humans how to communicate with their dogs. Speaking to your dog involves your mental state, your attitude, your body language, your voice and, when there's nothing else, a physical correction. A physical correction could include a snap of the lead, a poke in the ribs, or rolling your dog onto his back and staring him in the eye until he looks away. I started with the first two: snapping the lead and a surprise poke. Snapping the lead made Morgan cower and cry-out, as if I had cut off his tiny toe. A surprise poke in the ribs at the right moment, and Morgan would bite the poker. Which was me.

Emboldened by Cesar, when Morgan went to bite me one time, I somehow found the nerve to do the dominance roll. Using his collar, I flipped him onto his back and got really close to his eyes. Morgan went crazy. Like a real life Wild Kingdom episode, he snarled, foamed at the mouth, and peed all over me. But I held my ground and waited until he looked away before letting him up. It took a year for my heart rate to return to normal.

Morgan continued to go crazy the next two times I rolled him. Then he stopped. He stopped trying to bite me, he stopped fighting me, he just stopped. It was as if he finally understood, "Oh! You're in charge. Okay." I still have to roll him very occasionally, but he usually senses it coming and beats me to it.
I feel like I did something good by adopting Morgan, and I hate to say anything negative about rescue organizations because their hearts are SO in the right place and they work so hard, but I urge you to be very cautious before you adopt an animal. Speak directly to the foster person if you can't meet the dog. Do all sorts of temperament tests if you can, and, if worse comes to worse, don't be afraid to be the Alpha Bitch.

January 5, 2011

Another Holyoke Home! Guest Post

www.holyokehome.com is not the only home and garden blog in our fair city. I am delighted to introduce you to my actual and internet neighbor, So Happy Home and (specifically in this post) her jaw-droppingly gorgeous, jealousy-inducing kitchen renovation:

"A few years ago, my husband and I moved to Holyoke, seeking a neighborhood with architecture we could stand to look at the three (or four) times a day we walk our dog, and the several times a week we come and go to points both near and far.

We fell in love with our 1920 colonial style home, with its simple but thoughtful moldings, and period details that spoke to a modern design feeling that we appreciate. Strange to think that something 90 years old could feel modern, but it was the simplicity of details, the geometric (rectangular, mostly) shapes and smart design layout that let us know that we were home. Of course, all that gorgeous period detail was somewhat, uh, absent from the kitchen. 

I mean, the 1980’s seemed to have vomited all over the spaces that held water (you should see the bathroom we’re about to demolish). So, we set about getting a plan together to restore the feeling of what we loved about the house all along.We tore down walls.
And ceilings. 

And moved plumbing. 

And restored the original fir flooring that was buried underneath ceramic tile (baby poop color), vinyl 1970’s linoleum, cool (but made with asbestos) 1940’s real linoleum, complete with tar paper used to adhere it. (Oh, and when I say “we” I mean the lovely, capable, talented people we hired to do the work. DIY = design-it-yourself to me.) 
And we re-purposed completely a little-used, very steep, old-fashioned maid’s staircase by turning it into a pantry/tea’n toast station on the kitchen level (and a closet on the second story, but that’s another, well, story).
We splurged to have the original trim package replicated in all the parts of the house where the 80’s oak had taken over. It was worth every penny. The house just wouldn’t feel the same without it. And we used locally quarried Ashfield stone as our counter top material, since it connected my family history to that of the house’s (my family started out in Ashfield, MA).
So, in the end, we got to restore the clean, simple, modern and smart feeling of the house that made us fall in love with it in the first place. And now we love it all over again. So happy. Home.

January 3, 2011

New Year. New Approach to Resolutions.

Happy New Year! My friends (probably like yours) have buckets of smarts, wisdom, humor, and talent.  My dear friend Susie Roselle, owner of Dottie and Belle, designed this card for us. Clearly Susie got an extra bucket of talent. Thank you Susie!

The image is taken from a 1877 map of Holyoke available electronically from the Library of Congress' website. The entire map is an enormous file in a weird format (jpg 2000?!) that made my computer act as if it had just polished off it's third Apple-tini. (If you're undaunted and want the map, go to this Library of Congress page, and type 'Holyoke, Massachusetts' into the query box.)

When it comes to buckets of wisdom? You tell me. Here are my two thoughts about New Year's resolutions:
1. If you don't set actionable AND achievable goals, you're doomed to throw your hands up in frustration. Then you'll end up on the couch eating chips and queso dip.
2. Your actionable and achievable goals? Break 'em down. Seriously. Baby step it out, and have little celebrations along the way. Goals without specific strategies are like 3-hour business meetings without an agenda: they leave you in an angry, unsteady fog. You should be nicer to yourself than that.

What's your approach to New Year's resolutions?