Big Mama Blog

This old house and my arthritic fingers

Yes. So I didn’t post anything yesterday. And I didn’t think that much about it because I thought I’d already written at some point that I wasn’t going to stress myself out with pressure to write every day this summer so I can take time to smell the roses and the sunscreen and the chlorine.

But then I woke up yesterday morning and P asked, “Did you decide not to write anything last night?” And I realized I’d only had that conversation, like so many others, with myself inside my head.

So here’s where I’m writing the disclaimer that I may not write every day this summer. Or I might. I don’t know and I can’t commit one way or the other. We’ll just see how it goes and every now and then I may take a little break so I don’t miss out on all the fun to be had.

Truthfully, sometimes writing in summer is easier because I stay up way late after everyone else goes to bed, knowing I can sleep late the next morning. But swim team has currently shot that plan to heck and I have to be up with the chickens and the swimmers.

And now I’ve gone on way too long about why I may or may not write and why anyone may or may not care. This is the blog equivalent of contemplating my navel. Which is a phrase I’ve never really cared for.

Anyway, the main reason I didn’t write yesterday (There I go again. Blah, blah, blah.) was because I had to watch The Bachelorette to find out if Emily finally got rid of Ryan. Oh, and also because we’d worked on the guest room all day and I could no longer feel my fingers.

Why couldn’t I feel my fingers? Well because the people who owned this house back in 1930 or 1940 or sometime before wallpaper was applied with glue, decided that they wanted wallpaper. And apparently this was achieved by nailing a bunch of mesh into the wall every 1/4 centimeter. Except they wouldn’t have used centimeters because that’s before the Europeans tried to brainwash American children with the metric system.

(Does anyone else remember that mammoth VCR/TV combo being wheeled into your math classroom and watching some show about Metric Man?)

P and one of his employees came in last Thursday and pulled out the rest of the sheetrock in a matter of a few hours. Which was significantly faster than the eighteen years it would have taken me to do it by myself. And most of the old wallpaper ripped away from the wall fairly easily. But little bits of this cotton mesh stuff was embedded behind little tiny nails. It was too short to really cut it away but too long to leave it.

So we burned a lot of it with a lighter. Kids, do not try this at home. This was attempted by professionals. Professional what? I do not know.

The irony is I was really concerned about those pieces of string making the room look bad and never stopped to consider how bad it would look if we burned the whole thing down.

After three days and a countless number of those Bic lighters, I had finally gotten rid of most of the mesh while P scraped off layers of old paint and wallpaper on all the trim. Then I finally busted out my tweezers and tweezed out the rest of the string pieces. I’m pretty sure this is part of the job description for hell. My fingers will never be the same. Nor will my tweezers.

At a real low point on Sunday afternoon I was ready to just paint it and be done with it. Just paint over the old chunks of wallpaper and mesh and what have you. But this is where P and I differ. He is a perfectionist. Sadly, he is married to a “EH, THAT LOOKS CLOSE ENOUGH AND THE BED WILL COVER THAT UP ANYWAY” kind of girl.

So he pushed us through. We adapted and overcame. And by the time Sunday night came, we were a step closer to actually being able to paint even though we’d digressed from a Saturday night high of “WE SHOULD DO THIS TO EVERY ROOM IN THE HOUSE” to “AS GOD IS MY WITNESS I WILL NEVER DO THIS AGAIN”. I never would have finished it without him. It would have all ended with me putting a for sale sign in the front yard and that lady that thought I was Taylor could come and show our house.

On Monday we finally moved on to painting the ceiling and priming the walls. Which is when we discovered that old wood soaks up a lot of paint. Like three coats worth of paint. Like four trips to Home Depot later worth of paint.


We finally decided it was as covered as it was going to get and moved on to painting it the actual color we’d chosen, Benjamin Moore Revere Pewter.

And by Monday night the walls looked beautiful. Now we just had to touch up the trim with fresh paint. I figured it would just be a matter of a few brush strokes here and there where the sheetrock had pulled away paint or we’d gotten fresh paint on the baseboards.

Yes. But that’s working under the assumption that our trim was a glossy ultra white color as opposed to the fact that it was actually more of a glossy off white. A fact I failed to notice until I’d painted enough of the trim to realize the frame around the closet door no longer matched the closet door.

And that’s when I headed for the bottle of tequila.

Not really. Everyone knows you don’t drink tequila while you’re painting. You drink vodka.

I began the arduous task of painting every piece of trim work in that room while I sang old spirituals. Every now and then Caroline would join me long enough to slap on enough paint to produce drip marks, get a little paint on her feet for good measure and walk back out of the room leaving a trail of white footprints down the hallway. And then she got her feelings hurt because she said all I was doing was yelling at her.

First of all, I wasn’t yelling. I didn’t have the strength. Secondly, why did I think summer time was a good time for this project?

Fortunately P walked in about that time and helped me finish the rest of the trim and touch up all the areas we’d missed or messed up. And then it was mercifully done.

I picked up one of Caroline’s friends and we spent the rest of the afternoon at the pool. The glorious pool. Where there was no paint or mourning or sadness. Just ice cream and sunshine and the book I’m currently reading.

By the time I got home with the girls, P had cleaned up the entire room. Swept it and everything. I wanted to weep with joy and thankfulness.

And, lo, the room is complete.


(It looks a lot darker in the the bottom picture. I’m not sure why but I’m sure it’s not related to my stellar iPhone photography skills.)


Well, not really complete. We’re talking about putting a twin bed in there instead of a queen. And moving out some of Caroline’s toys to make room for a homework/craft table. And I’d like to get some fun pillows and make it into a great place for her to hang out with her friends.

But then, THEN, it will be finished.

Check back with me in early 2015.

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  1. 1

    It looks amazing!!! So worth all that work (says someone who didn’t have to do it and stands in awe that you actually did.) Way to persevere!!!

  2. 2
    Tara G. says:

    The room looks fantastic!

  3. 3

    Great work! I love older (gently aged!) homes. What book are you reading at the pool? I’m looking for a good summer read. Perhaps that could be a post topic? (Not that I need to give *you* anything to talk about. :) )

  4. 4

    Beautiful!!!!! How about a day bed????? And yes what are you reading???

  5. 6

    I LOVE it!

  6. 7

    I love it. It looks airy and crisp. Good job!

  7. 8

    Good job on adapting and overcoming! (is that a real word?)

    I love the look of the horizontal wood planks. I’ve got to ask, there is insulation in the exterior wall, right?

    • 9

      living in Alaska, my first thought was also about the insulation. I don’t think any of us would remove a layer of sheetrock or anything from our walls. maybe it’s not that big a deal in the “tropics” of TX.

  8. 10
    Barb Schwarz says:

    I just love your humor – I always look forward to your posts every morning. Altho through the summer I’ll let myself be surprised to see a post – enjoy your hazy, lazy days of summer!! And the room is wonderful!! I just love the older homes with all that charm. So do you find yourself standing in the doorway admiring your work every few minutes??!! :)

  9. 11

    I thought you HAD told us before that you weren’t going to post every day. Anyway, love the room and your plans for it! We just got rid of our guest room furniture, bought a chair and half that pulls out to a twin bed for the very rare guest, got a table that folds in half to desk size (for homework) or out for me to scrapbook or wrap presents, and we’re putting a closet organization system in to store said scrapbooking stuff. It will be our kids’ hangout room, too.

  10. 12
    Colorado says:

    Well worth all the work and trouble — the room looks great!

  11. 13

    I had to laugh as I read this post. Several years ago we had a wall just like this that we tackled. The same situations with the wallpaper, strings and tacks. It seemed like thousands of tacks had to be pull out and patched. Fortunately for me, I was able to go out of town and leave it all to my husband that time. ;-) It looked great when I returned, but he said he would never take that type of project on again.
    Your room looks great by the way. My husband is the same perfectionist as P. Job well done.

  12. 14
    barbara says:

    I do believe you should get giant A & O letters to hang in your room…for adapt and overcome….. :) . so worth the work and pretty fast, too…you just started it last week, right? bed suggestion…twin or daybed with a trundle….so fun for overnight friends.

  13. 15

    I love it, Mel! You wanna come and rip wall paper off my breakfast room and kitchen walls? I promise you won’t find that mesh/tacks/string stuff. Come on, it’ll be fun!

    Seriously, it looks great. I love an empty freshly painted room…so many possibilities!

  14. 16
    barbara says:

    I do believe you should get giant A & O letters to hang in your room…for adapt and overcome….. :) . so worth the work and pretty fast, too…you just started it last week, right? bed suggestion…twin or daybed with a trundle….so fun for overnight friends. btw, does pete have an available older brother, uncle,etc. . who might be interested in a teacher with poodles ???? He had me when he cleaned and swept the room while you were at the pool!!!!!!

  15. 17
    barbara says:

    great room….bed idea…twin or day bed with a trundle…great for overnight friends when they’re not in the mood for sleeping bags. btw, does P have an eligible older brother, cousin, uncle who might be interested in a post 40 year old public school teacher????

  16. 18
    barbara says:

    great room….bed idea…twin or day bed with a trundle…great for overnight friends when they’re not in the mood for sleeping bags. btw, does P have an eligible older brother, cousin, uncle who might be interested in a post 40 year old public school teacher???? P. had me when he cleaned and swept the room while you were at the pool!!!!!! I want my own P. that will adapt and overcome!!!!! Perhaps you can get some giant A & O letters for the new room

  17. 19

    Love the room. Love the color. And I think you told us you wouldn’t necessarily post every day. Besides, this post is double-funny! But if you post every day, it won’t hurt my feelings one little bit. You give me a major laugh every morning, Mon-Fri.

    And, me too, what are you reading?

  18. 20
    barbara says:

    great room….bed idea…twin or day bed with a trundle…great for overnight friends when they’re not in the mood for sleeping bags. btw, does P have an eligible older brother, cousin, uncle who might be interested in a post 40 year old public school teacher???? P. had me when he cleaned and swept the room while you were at the pool!!!!!! I want my own P. that will adapt and overcome!!!!! Perhaps you can get some giant “A & O” letters for the new room :)

  19. 21

    I looked at that room, and thought, “daybed with a trundle”. And then saw that several others had the same idea. I had a daybed with a trundle growing up, and it was awesome! The room looks beautiful, by the way.

  20. 22
    Christa says:

    This is great! Everybody who is anybody knows one drinks vodka when painting! I have to finish mowing in serious heat. Yesterday it was 93 degrees and in MN that is about 125 where you live, at least. I may have to try some vodka to get through it. The neighbors will love that. I love the room and that is so nice that your husband cleans up. Hope your enjoying the pool today!

  21. 23

    I love it! What a great decision you made. It looks fabulous. All your hard work and Bic lighters really paid off. ;-)

  22. 24

    You kept me laughing the whole way through, with so many references to previous posts. I love reading and laughing.

  23. 25
    Marybeth Richardson says:

    One word – TRUNDLE BED – ‘er make that two words. Two twin beds (one under the other) with one that pulls out and raises up and then you have the one word bed – KING. Space saving, happy guests, and can be covered to look like a lounging couch. I love the color combo!!

  24. 26

    It looks great and definitely worth all your hard work. You will enjoy it so much!

  25. 27

    first, i commend you for not writing! Don’t feel guilty, we all need a day off here and their, even if it is just to watch the Bachelor! second, I LOVE LOVE LOVE the room. What a fab job you did. Has such a beach cottage charm to it. Wish we could transform some of our walls into that, but to be honest, not sure the wood underneath is that nicely done in our house which was built in 1900….

  26. 28

    Beautiful! I wish I could rip off my drywall and find those walls! Well done!

  27. 29
    Jenny F. says:

    At one time I had a house that was built in the 1920s. It had 10,000 layers of wallpaper on it. I decided to go to the store and rent a steamer to remove the paper.. You know because steam loosens the glue and then you can tear the paper off quickly? 4 days later with very little paper off, I headed back to the Home Depot to have a chat with one of the team members. He kindly let me know that homes built in the 20’s used plaster rather than sheet rock and that steaming the plaster was not going to do anything but make me hot and the walls wet! Your room looks lovely.. I’m curious if you had to do any kind of sealing of the wood after removing the sheet rock. Any loss of warmth or coolness?

  28. 30
    Christina W. says:

    Looks great! I thought you just had one wall you were doing- what a project! It does look fantastic though!

  29. 31

    I totally remember the metric system brainwashing. We had to learn it because we were all “going metric” soon. I still have to refer to a conversion chart for help. Love your blog.

  30. 32
    Melissa says:

    I love it! My old house has the exposed wooden walls in my kitchen and dining room too. Several people have asked me if I will sheetrock over them, but I like the way the painted wood looks! You just never know what a project in an old house will involve once you get started…everything we’ve tried to do turns into something crazy :-)

  31. 33

    there are bunkbeds that have a double bed below and a single above. takes up less room than a queen bed, and when Gulley’s boys come to visit it’s the perfect bed for boys and 2 adults can get cozy in the double bed—-OK for a night or 2. I believe you wrote to us about skipping days last summer. perhaps that’s what we’re all remembering. or not.

  32. 34
    Vicki B says:


  33. 35

    Oh my. You gave me the giggles! Loved the play by play. And love the after pics:)

  34. 36

    Ryan had to go. A man that plucks his finger hairs just ain’t right. I am both in awe and mortified that y’all used a Bic lighter ( more than one) to remove the mesh on the walls. One question, ” Did it smell??” It seems like it would.

  35. 37

    This is a hoot! I would be rolling with laughter but it brought up exhausting memories of our house with the original horse hair plaster in some spots and goodness knows what else we would have found if we kept stripping! Wallpaper. So instead we have walls with character. Hah! People will believe any thing. But we ‘ve got character. PS we think alike. Just move that bed or hang that picture there!

  36. 38
    Merri Jo says:

    The room looks fabulous! While reading your post, I nearly had to suffocate myself with my pillow to avoid waking up my household (hubby next to me is accustomed to my uncontrolled blog-Induced giggles) including our son, d-i-l, & baby grandson who are “sleeping at Nana’s” because their air conditioning broke during our Midwest heat wave. THANK YOU for ending my somewhat stressful evening with a very relaxing laughing fit. :-)

  37. 39

    It looks great! I am totally with you on the “eh, good enough” stance. Poor husbands of ours :)

  38. 40

    So enjoy reading your blog! You have a way to make me smile with your stories! Thanks for sharing with all of us a little piece of your life. I’m from Ohio… but sometimes I feel like I need to make a trip to Texas to visit you and your family! Congratulations on completing your project!

  39. 41

    You should frame the story of the transformation and hang it on the wall. The room looks so pretty and clean now that nobody would ever guess what it took to get there. I love those walls! Saying, “Great job!” just sounds weak after all of that!

  40. 42

    It looks awesome!! That wood is so neat!

    I am glad I didn’t have to do it though!! ;)

    I do understand how hard it can be to redo old rooms. We lived in a very old house until this past winter. I stripped wallpaper off the CEILING in our bedroom. There were yellowed pieces that would not come off. After painting and they still showed through and after a good coat of Kilz and then drywall mud to hide cracks, it turned out not half bad. The next room-I just painted over the old wallpaper and did not even try to take it off the ceiling.

  41. 43

    It looks fantastic, and that color really brings out the Period feel of the room. Love, love, love it!

    Btw, sooooo glad you know that vodka is the preferred beverage of people who’re painting. Tequila is for when you’re jack-hammering ceramic tile that was applied directly to the sub-floor, without Wonder Board or whatever that floating substrate stuff is.

    Ask me how I know.

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