Let me just grab my hat…

By Elle

At the last minute this past Saturday, my beloved decided that we should go to the Feast of the Assumption in Cleveland’s Little Italy neighborhood. I wasn’t terribly in the mood until I spotted my sun hat that I’d bought from H&M just two days before.  “I’ll go get dressed!” I said, charging up the stairs.

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I did not build this…

By Elle

My 8-year-old granddaughter, Kiera, and I recently attended the Wick Juniors Writing Club Summer Camp, where we “camped” in our local national park inside a lovely brick dormitory, complete with indoor plumbing — can I get a hell yeah! I stayed on as a parent chaperone, helping to keep an eye on 10 elementary-aged girls, who, on the first night, refused to sleep. Because, camp.

By the next morning, Kiera had made friends with the other girls, and she was no longer acting like my shadow.  By afternoon, I got the feeling she didn’t want me around much. She now had the protection of an entire army of girls and didn’t need me anymore. My heart felt a little heavy, but I know how these things go. As long as she acknowledges me at our mealtimes together, I thought, I’ll be satisfied. By evening, I barely existed. I WAS the shadow.

The girls bunked on the second floor of our dormitory, and I bunked, gloriously alone, on the first floor. While that sleeping arrangement allowed me to steer clear of ghost chatter, pillow fights and flashlight wars, along with some serious stink bombs (who knew little girls could be so gassy?), it did little to minimize the constant thud of girls hitting the floor after jumping from the top bunks.

On the second night, the counselor and I agreed that we’d have none of that nonsense. So around 11:30, she went upstairs and declared lights out. “We have a mom downstairs who needs to sleep,” she explained, adding, “Actually, she’s a grandma.”

Then Kiera piped up. “Yeah, and she works really hard. She just built a deck.” The other girls made noises that sounded like a mix of approval and wonder — a grandma who can build a deck?

With Kiera’s words, I morphed into a real person again. I lay in my bunk, smiling.

Anyway, I may have helped my beloved build our deck, but neither of us can lay claim to building the lovely wooden ramp that extends from our front door to halfway to the driveway. After Mom moved in, we knew it would help her tremendously to have a ramp in the front, but we were hesitant to buy (or rent) an aluminum wheelchair ramp. For one, they’re not particularly cheap; and for two, we don’t love the look.

So we hired one of our contractors to build a wooden ramp, and he finished it in just a few weeks. He covered the existing front stoop, extending the porch by about a foot, and designed the ramp to follow the existing cement walkway. As you can imagine, the curve in the walkway required many tailor cuts.

Abby & Elle Upstairs Fashion & Design front walkway

For comparison’s sake, here’s a “before” photo:

Abby & Elle Upstairs Fashion & Design front walkway

Front of the house, before. As you can see, the bricks around the stoop were cracking and falling off, and the steps weren’t even a consistent height. Sections of the walkway had sunk and shifted, creating a potential fall hazard.

Abby & Elle Upstairs Fashion & Design front walkway

But here’s what we did do: We covered the rest of the cement walkway with pavers and added several rows of brick trim to widen it. (The bricks — we have tons — are from Poland. They’re smaller than ordinary bricks and have an attractive variation to their color.)

The work was painstaking and demanded a lot of stone cutting. (One saw was harmed in the making of this walkway.)

Abby & Elle Upstairs Fashion & Design front walkway

Ignore the giant mulch pile to the right. That area is “under construction.” While you’re at it, ignore the dying grass to the left.

We also installed solar-powered post caps along the ramp and solar-powered bricks along the path. While we don’t have a lot of faith in solar-powered gadgets, we’ve had good luck with these.

Abby & Elle Upstairs Fashion & Design front walkway

The one modification we will make is to raise the lower horizontal rails so that it’s easier to shovel snow off the ramp.

Abby & Elle Upstairs Fashion & Design front walkway

The porch and the front door threshold are practically even to ease the transition from indoors to out.  It does make standing at the front door awkward, though. You feel like you are entering a gnome house!

Abby & Elle Upstairs Fashion & Design front walkway

Our new front porch, though still cozy, at least has some sittin’ room. The garden gnome, a gift from my childhood friend Vera, appears to be on guard duty, guarding his stubby door.

Abby & Elle Upstairs Fashion & Design front walkway

So dear readers, we really need to stain the porch and ramp, and I’m undecided about color, which is unusual. Typically, I can pick a color in a heartbeat. So I’m taking suggestions. Help me out here! What color has your vote??

A hair-raising deck raising

Abby & Elle Upstairs Fashion & Design deck renovationBy Elle

I was under the foolish impression that raising our deck about three feet to meet the patio doors we installed in our dining room would be a cake walk, especially because we were going to use the existing support structure. Well, I reckon it would have been except we got all fancy, adding two rows of storage below the deck, installing the field of the deck on the diagonal, and adding perimeter boards treated with a  technique called Shou Sugi Ban, and we needed to get the deck done ( done enough, that is) to host our Fourth of July family picnic. Tall order!

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Save the date for a chance to see (and bid on) these metal-work fashions

By Abby and Elle

Local fashion designer Stephanie Nunn wowed us recently with her exquisite collection of metal-work fashions, some of which will be available for auction at an upcoming fashion fundraising event to benefit the Cleveland Sight Center and Prevent Blindness Ohio.

Born with progressive degenerative myopia, Stephanie has steadily been losing her physical vision  — she’s legally blind — but her fashion vision remains innovative and vibrant.

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How our walk-in attic turned into a walk-in closet

By ElleAbby & Elle Upstairs Fashion & Design attic renovation

Is your attic space dark and grungy, with ratty insulation hanging off the rafters? Does it send out blasts of icy air when the snow starts flying and, come July, get hotter than two coons fighting in a wool sock?

Well, ours did, but in just a few weeks we took the space from atrocious to spectacular, with two primary goals in mind: Continue reading