The Evolution of a Door: The Misadventures of a Would-be DIY’er

Madison Avenue thinks it knows what presents women wish for. They tell us through commercials all the time. What love token should you give a lady? Give her diamonds. Give her shoes. Give her a new car.  Well, Madison Avenue never heard of me.
I wanted a new front door.
Door, the First
In all fairness, I’ve wanted one for the past 27 years. Our little house came with a rather standard, wooden door; one that let in the weather, but kept out the light. Can’t say I liked it much. Matter of fact, I hated the thing. But, with one thing and another, the door never got replaced when we were a double-income family.  Now that we’re living on one, what were the chances my front door could change?
You’d be surprised.

Not that it was easy.  First off entry doors aren’t cheap, at least entry doors that have lots of glass.  Go ahead, google “3/4 lite entry door”. and you’ll see what I’m talking about.  I’ll wait.

Scary, isn’t it?

Well, I started scouring.  Craig’s List, LetGo, Facebook selling, you name it.  And I finally found this beauty at a price we could afford.  Only one small issue.  Can you guess what it was?
Yup.  We had to install it ourselves.
Now, you wouldn’t call us natural DIY-ers.  Actually, we’re probably closer to DDIY-ers (Don’t Do It Yourself).  But if I wanted a new door, this was the only option.  So, after Googling, You-Tubeing and streaming all the home improvement video I could find, I figured we were ready.
See what happens when you leave a
wife alone with a hammer?

The first part, (obviously) was removing the old door’s trim, molding, and frame, then the door, itself. That’s when I discovered my husband’s favorite DIY hack.  See, he doesn’t like doing this stuff so, whenever we ran into a problem, he went to the store. Always. And while he was gone, I’d get so impatient waiting for him, I work out the solution myself.  By noon, he’d been to the hardware store 3 times, and I had the door out of the frame.

The next part was the doozy because, it turns out, doors are like Goldilocks. For them to open and close in their frames, their plumb, level, and balance must be j-u-u-u-ust right. Close is not good enough, as we learned. We got the framed door into the spot, shoved in skinny wedges of wood called shims to keep it straight, and nailed everything into place. It looked great from the outside, but the damn thing wouldn’t open or close without a fight. And, once shut, it wouldn’t sit flat in the frame. My sis called about that time, asking how the project was going.  I said, “It’s not really functioning as a door right now, but the light is beautiful.”  My husband swore and said he had to go back to the store. And I sat down to study the problem. 
Is it the house or 
the door that’s tilted?

Turns out that doors function on reverse psychology.  If you need them to come up in the top left corner, you have to adjust the bottom, right part.  And vice versa.  I also learned there are two kinds of skims: some go between the door frame and walls and others go between the hinge and frame.  It’s a tricky business.  So, by tightening and nudging, making tiny adjustments, adding and pulling out shims, the door eventually straightened itself into the frame.  Finally, I was ready for hardware, just as my husband pulled back into the driveway.
In order to save money, I planned to remove the old handle and lock and transfer them to the new door, but the hardware had other ideas.  A tiny screw went flying while I unloosened the old handle and I haven’t seen it since.  One of those teensy, one-of-a-kind screws, of course.  Now I had to go to the hardware store, to buy a new handle and lock. These cost half as much as the new door but I must admit they look nice.

All told, it took almost a whole week to finish up (and the spray-on foam insulation made a mess) but the new door is magnificent.  It looks like it was made for the house.  And Sis, continuing in her role as Best Sibling Ever sent two flanking planters as an early Christmas gift, either for me or the Door, I’m not really sure which.  The sawdust is cleaned up, our pulled muscles have healed, and almost all the tools are back in place.  And the light shining through is magnificent.

So be careful what you wish for if you want a new door. Diamonds might be an easier, cheaper gift. But, then again, nothing in Zales’s catalog has this way of saying, “Welcome Home.”

A Sense of Taste, A Sense of Place,

With the arrival of the Holiday Season, everyone is focused on families, friends, and parties, which usually means food.  That’s great because I love to eat; but awful because I’m a lousy cook.  I mean world-class lousy.  I’m the gal who confused teaspoons and tablespoons in Home Ec. class and braised radishes with too much oregano. (Who braises radishes anyway?) My newlywed cooking turned Meat Loaf into Meat Cake and made my husband a permanent fan of take-out.  I’m slowly getting better at the domestic arts but it’s hard overcoming a kitchen philosophy I created years ago that states, “When it comes to cooking, I’d rather read.”  Luckily, I live in the South, a region of great writers, as well as great cooks, and, at times, those two fields overlap.  When that happens, the results are cookbooks that feed the body as well as the soul.

Cross Creek Cookery

[amazon_link asins=’B01HCAA6PO’ template=’ProductCarousel’ store=’theboothafoly-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’e0878d7c-9dc8-11e8-bd6a-6b909a316344′]I’ve written before about Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings and her great love-affair with central Florida.  One of the most remarkable chapters of her wonderful book, Cross Creek, recounts Marjorie’s own development from lousy to gifted cook and her joy learning Southern cuisine. The only problem was the book was published during World War II and her rhapsodies on the Joys of Southern Food made an awful lot of American soldiers homesick.  One fellow, who loved food, wrote to her saying, “Lady, [after reading your book] I have never been through such agonies of frustration.” In response, Marjorie published “Cross Creek Cookery”, a collection of recipes and anecdotes that are equally enjoyable.  For example, there is the time she confused an electric ray with flounder and shocked herself trying to catch it.  There is also the tale of Godfrey, a Florida version of Downton Abbey’s Mr. Carson who considers serving collard greens beneath his dignity. (Godfrey must have been out of his mind; collard greens are the first vegetable that made me fall in love with Southern Cooking.)  Cross Creek Cookery is the first cookbook that made me laugh out loud.

Recipies of My Life

 

But literature is more than love and laughter, and so is cooking, as Pat Conroy makes clear.  His cookbook, [amazon_textlink asin=’0385532717′ text=’Recipes of My Life’ template=’ProductLink’ store=’theboothafoly-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’0d018287-9dc9-11e8-aa34-9bd32eba34a1′] describes not just the art of preparing food he came to adore, but how food can become a short-cut to memories of other times, places, and people.  I know that myself; a taste of grouper, garnished with almond slices and stuffed with grapes, takes me back to an Augustine restaurant and one of the best dinners and nights of my life.  Pat takes his readers through his memories of life and garnishes the experience with recipes that recreate the scenes.   Here are the soft-shell crabs and shrimp salad of Beaufort, South Carolina, the Scottiglia and Saltimbocca of Italy, and Eugene Walter’s Pepper obsession. But more than anything, Conroy makes clear how close good writing is to good food.  Both are the results of creative thinking and memory, distilled to levels of clinical precision.  A recipe, Conroy says, is just a story that ends in a good meal.  That is a philosophy that could make me want to learn to cook.[amazon_link asins=’0385532717′ template=’ProductCarousel’ store=’theboothafoly-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’66ae5b93-9dc9-11e8-a10d-1d686ce27dc3′]
Tell me about the cookbooks you love to read and re-read!

The Murder Mystery No One Expects

[amazon_link asins=’1402282125′ template=’ProductCarousel’ store=’theboothafoly-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’a92a20ae-98d0-11e8-9ba9-c9056b6a34ad’]At one point, there was just Jane Austen.  A British lady, (by which I mean gentlewoman, not a member of the aristocracy) gifted with humor, keen powers of observation, and the tenacity to create fiction in a time where few men and no women were encouraged to write. Her novels were known to humorists and English Majors but considered too esoteric for the hoi polloi.  In those days, she was just Jane Austen.
Now, Miss Austen is an industrial source.  Her six major novels have been analyzed, adapted, pillaged, and parodied beyond belief (I have friends who debate the merits of filmed version of P&P), there are shelves heavy with revisionist tales drawn from her original stories and Jane-mania  has spawned at least two books of its own: Austenland and the Jane Austen Book Society. None of this surprises me.  In our culture, anything worth doing is worth overdoing. What I did not expect was murder, that darkest, most obsessive of crimes, would be linked to Jane Austen. And yet, the tie may be true. Of course, it would take a crime writer to see it.

The Mysterious Death of Jane Austen

Enter Lindsay Ashford, a crime journalist, late of the BBC.  With a reference from one of Ms. Austen’s last letters and the analysis of a lock of Jane’s hair, Ms. Ashford realizes Chic Lit’s premier author may have expired, not from Addison’s disease, or tuberculosis, but arsenic poisoning. Add in some research, a few other strange deaths of near relations and the result is  The Mysterious Death of Miss Jane Austen, a story that irritates as much as it charms.
Sunny, sensible, practical Jane Austen: is there any less likely candidate for murder?  Yet, Ms. Ashford concocts a theory, narrated by Anne Sharp one of the few non-relatives the real Jane Austen corresponded with.  As a governess once employed by Jane’s brother, Edward, Miss Sharp has the education and sense to recognize literary genius when she sees it. She also has the perspective to see the tangled relationships and characters in the Austen clan.
[amazon_link asins=’B01N03H0E7′ template=’ProductCarousel’ store=’theboothafoly-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’f9564529-98d0-11e8-9095-c1e2cf8a2b63′][amazon_link asins=’1402282125,B01N03H0E7,1906784264′ template=’ProductCarousel’ store=’theboothafoly-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’02cfa73b-98d1-11e8-9fa7-afa36d7103b9′]Character is something Lindsay Ashford occasionally does well as she brings a younger brother, Henry, to life.  This Henry, who reinvents himself and survives on his charm, has some characteristics of Jane’s ne’er-do-wells like Wickham and Henry Crawford but he is also his sister’s champion. Unfortunately, Jane Austen had six brothers and, in the interest of setting out her murder plot, Ms. Ashford forgets to give each of them the necessary distinguishing detail needed to understand her theory.  In the end, you can see Jane’s murder was one in a series of attacks on the Austen family and you can see who had means and opportunity.  A reasonable motive for this act is what’s lacking.
Still, The Mysterious Death of Miss Jane Austen is fascinating in the research behind it and the questions it poses.  Why did Austen die at the young age of 41? Who were the real-life models behind her classic characters?  What was contained in so many of Jane’s letters that after death, her sister, Cassandra, was compelled to destroy them? In the absence of real answers, we at least have the joy of imagining what they may be.

A Tale of Autumn’s Light

If you listen to painters, they are obsessed with color and light.  Well, if you listen to stories of artists, that’s what they talk about.  Me, being a word instead of a picture person, I didn’t understand what they meant.  Color is color, light is light, right?  You either have it or you don’t.  Then I took a look at Autumn around here and I began to see what all the fuss was about. The qualities of light vary, hues change and the infinite combinations can blow your mind.  Then, I began to think that if we are made in God’s image, then the Supreme Being is also the Supreme Painter and autumn is when all the crayons come out of the box to vary the leaves with the light.
The light of Autumn has its own peculiar illumination.  If Winter is a pale, fluorescent bulb, and arc lights imitate summer, then Fall is like Edison’s first bulbs, full of amber, dim, uncertain illumination.  And when that yellow, watery light comes up underneath the clouds and hits the variegated leaves, the foliage seems to….glow.


For example, my neighbor has this incredible tree that puts on a show every year. (By the way, we don’t “plant” trees in my neighborhood; Nature does that on her own. What we do is continually clear enough new growth to keep a road to the house.) Well before the other leaves turn, this one shimmers first from green to yellow, then orange to red, signaling the show is about to start.  And even on a grey day, this thing stands out a mile. Now get a load of this view…

This was taken during a rainstorm, but can you see how the peachy-amber of my neighbor’s yard reflects the light?  To me, this is Nature worth watching.  Our autumn foliage season hits a little later than most, starting just before Halloween and peaking around Veteran’s Day, so the store’s outdoor holiday displays can sometimes look a bit schizophrenic, juxtaposing fake snow and Santa Clauses on top of blazing autumn leaves.  So, it’s best to ignore what the merchandising calendar for now and take in what this area really shows: radiant color and unearthly light.

For the next few weeks, these colors will intensify as the light dims and yellows until Thanksgiving’s sunrise will seem to set the trees aflame.  Then, in one fell swoop, most of the leaves will darken and plummet (never all of them) leaving bare branches and us back in winter.  But that isn’t today.

Today is part of the planet’s annual fireworks show, all color, and light. Today is when Nature is Art.  And I want to see everything in the exhibit.