The Right Stuff: Wallpapering Tools

Wallpaper by Roger Turner, Poet, May 2012

The room was dank and dreary
The past hung in the air
There was a scent of mildew
A smell of history was there
The paint was old and faded
With stains all dark and brown
The wallpaper too was dated
And it needed to come down

Have you hung wallpaper, yourself?

A wall? An entire room? Several rooms? Does even talking about wallpapering make you anxious?

I’ve yet to meet a homeowner who admits to taking on a wallpapering ‘honey-do’ job and enjoying it. It’s a challenge. If you’re not careful the seams show, or overlap. The pattern doesn’t line up. The strips appear to be different shades (did you forget to reverse each strip). It’s a slow process for the inexperienced and can rattle your nerves

Call me crazy, but I enjoyed it!

In our previous house, I wallpapered every room except a bedroom and baths, some more than a couple of times. Sounds crazy, but once the job got started, I found it therapeutic and I’m generally not a patient person. Wallpapering requires concentration and patience.

Like any job, if you don’t have the right tools, the work becomes more difficult. My father was a painter/paper hanger so I inherited enough of the proper tools and his instructions to help me succeed to a certain degree: a legitimate table, brushes, scissors, straight edge, roller, sponges and some razor blades. Razor blades are quickly consumed, one might do a sheet, maybe two sheets, so don’t be stingy on blades, they dull quickly.

Here’s a tip to help speed along the process. Paste several strips at a time, fold them, pasted side together, and put them aside in a plastic bag. No need to paste and hang one at a time. Those strips in the bag will stay moist for a long time, until you’re ready to use one.

Interestingly, the different layers of wallpaper can tell a story about a family’s growth and changing tastes. In a child’s room, the paper might go from whimsical to serious in a span of a few years as the youngster matures. While an adult might leave wallpaper behind completely as painted walls become the new norm.

One more suggestion, learn to ‘double cut’. Sometimes, you might want to use an extra piece of paper (scrap piece) to fit in a spot. Lay that piece over one that’s already in place, lining up the pattern as you do it. Then cut through both pieces, peel off the trimmed section of the top piece and, Eureka, the new seam will be perfect and you’ve economized a piece that was going to be scrapped.

Some frustration is bound to set in, so do remember to be patient. Sure, I made mistakes, but was always able to correct them. No one else would find them. Unless the ‘honey’ in ‘honey-do’ does a final inspection. In that case, remember this for the next redecorating chore.,.

…painting is more forgiving!

Steve (04/25/23)

To DIYers everywhere..,

They Closed The Old ‘Ballpark’, Today…

The ‘boys’ came to play…

…but this time would be different.

Today would be their last game at the old ‘ballpark’, the grand finale, the wrap up, the capper. It’s time to move on to a bigger ‘ballpark’.

A bit melancholic, maybe, but Life is like that. Today’s celebration becomes tomorrow’s remembrance.

It didn’t matter that snow covered the field for this final game, it had to be played. They were paying homage to the field, itself, a patch of lawn where two young boys learned the finer points of baseball from their coach, a devoted dad who used the sport to teach his sons lessons about growing up, getting along and having fun.

players & player/coach/dad

Over summers, I spectated from the third base side, separated from the action by the street that divided our neighborhood, west and east, witnessing the growth of the ‘team’ from young boys first learning how to swing a bat to baseball fanatics becoming ‘sluggers at the plate’, albeit still youngsters.

Some epic games were played here, high scoring events, very high, as the ‘ballpark’ was in constant use during summer months. The whack of the bat on ball, plastic on plastic, closely followed by cheerful shouting as young hitters outraced the nimble fielder, their dad, for an extra base, or two, often winning with a tumbling slide.

It’s a bit sad when the last out of the last game is made. Players collect the bat, ball and bases, the gates are shuttered and the curtain comes down on the old ‘ballpark’. It’s time to move on. It’s the same with families.

Our young neighbors and the ‘team’ are doing just that, moving on. We’ve enjoyed their friendship for 10 years and wish them well, knowing they’ll do fine. They have strong values of faith and love for one another.

As for the ‘team’, when it was all said and done, they moved on, hand in hand, likely learning more lessons from their ‘coach’.

The new field will be nice but the memories of the old field, their first ‘ballpark’, will stay with them forever. Life is like that…

Steve (031823)

For Jonathan, Eva, Noah & Jacob

Today, I Bid Farewell To An Old Friend…

It’s difficult saying goodbye to an old friend, a lifetime friend. I did that today, somberly and with complete sobriety.

We enjoyed decades of each other’s company: long walks over green fields, side treks into brush and woods, sidestepping water, back and forth into sandy patches. But today was a time to say goodbye.

Early on, I carried my friend on my back, slightly bent from the weight and mumbling, sometimes cursing, as we went along, not in anger but in frustration As I aged and carrying was too challenging, I pushed my friend in a cart. We were inseparable in sun, rain and wind.

We always seemed to end our walks on a good note, motivating us to return for more.

—————————

My dad gave me my first set of golf clubs, MacGregor Tourney irons and woods. I was 16. It was 1962.

We became inseparable: together on family golf outings, airplane rides to sales meetings and always in the car on business calls. This was the friend that I bid adieu in a rather unceremoniously way when I made a donation to second hand shop

I’m beginning a different stage of Life, the declutter stage, the new catchphrase for seniors of a certain ilk. Looking around the house, I realize there’s a potpourri of ‘stuff’ that I no longer use, will never use. Time to declutter.

But it’s hard to declutter an old friend.

One thing I won’t declutter is all the memories I have that center around golf and those special clubs. It’s not hard to close my eyes and enjoy a tsunami of good times golfing with friends, brothers and especially my dad.

I hope someone will spy these clubs at the second hand store, buy them at a give away price and start making their own memories.

As more decluttering continues, somebody is really going to love the button down dress shirts and brown wingtip shoes I’m donating. I’ll just never use them again.

What about you? Is decluttering in your plans?

Steve (021723)

Quotes on golf and decluttering

“Golf… is the infallible test. The man who can go into a patch of rough alone, with the knowledge that only God is watching him, and play his ball where it lies, is the man who will serve you faithfully and well.” – P.G. Wodehouse

“Golf is a good walk spoiled” – Mark Twain

“Out Of Clutter, Find Simplicity” – Albert Einstein

“Your Home Is Living Space – NOT Storage Space” – Unknown

The ‘Kid’, He Called It

The ‘kid’ called his shot

He didn’t point, only the great Babe Ruth did that. No, he didn’t point, instead the ‘kid’ just called it, he called the shot.

I witnessed it, and have played it over and over in my mind’s eye. The ‘kid’ called his own shot.

“I’m gonna hit a home run, Steve“, he said with the naive clarity, confidence and high pitch of a young boy. Such Chutzpah.

I can still hear the classic October sound of bat on ball, plastic on plastic. ‘WHOMP’! The ‘kid’ called it and true to his word, the ball flew over the single tall arborvitae behind the pitcher and rolled into the street, a bonafide homer per the arbitrary ground rules set by the ‘pitcher/umpire/announcer’ dad.

Continue reading The ‘Kid’, He Called It

The Shovel (and me)

Credit: Wonkee Donkee Tools

I grew up in New England, in a working class neighborhood of 3-decker houses, large multi layered structures with a family occupying each floor. My family had the first floor, and why not, it was ours. Renters took floors two and three. From my earliest recollections, the house was heated with coal. A coal shovel, or two, was always laying on the dirt floor of our cellar, between the furnace and the coal bin

The ‘coal man’ would drive his delivery truck along side a ground level window above the coal bin, and deliver the coal via a long chute from the truck, through the open window and into the bin.

It was my dad’s job to shovel the lumps of coal into the furnace, regularly, to keep a steady flow of heat into the house. The heavy steel shovel with upturned sides was the tool he used for the job. It was laborious.

I was still a youngster when dad converted our furnace from coal to oil, but the shovel still had a purpose. It became my tool of choice, my only choice actually, for shoveling snow. Never mind the weight of a big snow, the shovel, itself, was a man’s size tool, heavy, and using it to move snow was laborious.

Along came the light weight aluminum snow shovel, specifically designed for that job. What a blessing. Of course, aluminum isn’t as strong as steel and it strained under the weight of a blade full of snow, rivets loosened, the cutting edges bent* and the shovel became less stable. Snow removal, became frustrating, as well as laborious.

Ahhh, plastic. So many products once made of steel are now made with plastic because today’s resins used in plastic are super strong, resilient. The plastic shovel has proven to be very light weight and durable. I have two that I’ve used for years. They moved with me from house to house and do quite well at removing snow. Nevertheless, the very task of removing snow, itself, is still ever laborious.

As time passed and I could afford something more elaborate, my choice of snow removal tools and methods changed. I bought a snow blower, or thrower. It’s big, powerful and noisy. However, while it shortens the labor time, I’m still challenged with the physicality of operating this machine. It’s remains laborious.

This year, I splurged and hired a plow service. While he plows the driveway with his truck, often before the first light of day, I watch from my kitchen window, between the slats, coffee in hand, slippers on my feet, and dressed for indoors in flannel pajamas. I find it to be less laborious.

Oh, yes, I still use a shovel to even the edges. Easy!

Steve (srbottch.com). February 2021. *thank you, Liz!

For more fascinating shovel info, check out ‘wonkee donkee tools, an English website and it’s not laborious https://www.wonkeedonkeetools.co.uk/shovels/what-are-the-parts-of-a-shovel

Today, I Shoveled Snow

Here’s another story that I first wrote several years ago. I thought it was worth reposting in view of this winter’s weather. Enjoy!

Announced by all the trumpets of the sky, Arrives the snow…” RW Emerson

Today, I shoveled snow. Yesterday, I shoveled snow. And the day before that, I shoveled snow. It’s winter in western New York and we live with a steady diet of snow

Along the winter shores of Lake Ontario, steady snowfalls are the norm and removing it is more than a daily ritual. It’s a right of passage for youngsters and an absolute necessity for adults who get up, get out and get to work. Commerce doesn’t stop for weather, here.

Growing up in central Massachusetts, where measureable snowfalls also were a common occurrence, kids there learned to shovel at an early age, too. It was not an option in a blue collar neighborhood where dads had to be at work early and on-time.

All able bodied males in the house, young or old, manned shovels, clearing driveways and walks to help get workers on their way. Plow service and snow blowers were an unaffordable luxury for most families.

All that was heard on eerily quiet, ‘three decker’ lined streets the morning after a nor’easter, was the scraping of metal shovels over frozen pavement, and dry, fluffy snow squeaking underfoot with each twist of our black buckled boots. The task of finishing a job fell to the young school boys with nothing but time on their hands. Time and energy.

Snow shoveling is a low skill task, even the tools are simple and aptly named, ‘shovels’.  Bend, scoop, lift, toss, use your legs not your back. But those weren’t instructions my dad gave. He was more direct, knowing that I could figure out the mechanics, myself.

“I expect this driveway and sidewalk shoveled by the time I come home from work”, he announced, without mentioning my name or even looking at me. It was understood whom he was addressing, the skinny kid and the only one left home after he and big brothers went to work.

My dad’s directives were always clear and concise. The fewer the words, the stronger the message. Besides, mother always made sure the work got done, as prescribed.

And when the jobs were done, the neighborhood became a bevy of street hustlers, as I and other like-minded junior entrepreneurs with shovels slung over our shoulders, eagerly slipped and slid through heavy snowdrifts, knocking on doors with wet mittens, competing for whatever snow removal opportunities were left at neighboring houses.

We had no business plan or even understood the value of our labor. Regardless, we would shovel walks clean to the pavement, keeping tempo to imaginary cash registers ringing in our collective heads, totally dependent on the client’s generosity. Sometimes it was good and other times, not so good. But the greater lesson of work and reward was invaluable.

Now, I still find myself taking on the task of snow removal. It rekindles frigid memories of finger and face freezing days under the watchful eyes of my father and the lessons he ‘taught’ me.

One thing is certain…I can’t wait for the return of summer in western New York!

srbottch

To Adie, With Love…

A young lady will ‘meet’ her great grandfather for the first time, thanks to a small tin box of flies and a good story teller. She has the story teller, her grandmother, my sister, and soon will have the flies, a small metal box of fishing flies, tied by the skilled hands of her great grandfather, four generations earlier.

Imagine, a family heirloom, of sorts, being passed down, not to a daughter, nor a granddaughter, but to a great granddaughter. Not a fancy piece of furniture, nor a sparkling broach, but flies. From one long-passed outdoorsman to a young vibrant outdoors woman, three generations removed.

My dad was an avid fisherman who enjoyed making his own lures. He turned wood dowels into ‘plugs’* on a lathe, and strung eels for surf fishing in the rough waters off the duned beaches of Cape Cod. He tied flies, lures that mimicked real flies, to attract trout in the placid ponds populating the rural countryside of central Massachusetts. He was proficient, passionate and a perfectionist about both skills, making the lures and catching the fish.

I kept his tin of flies, and other lures, upon his passing, some 40 years ago, as a reminder of the man. But these feathered and fuzzy creations go back even further in time, at least twenty years prior to his death. Hunched over a folding metal table, squinting through bifocals balanced on the end of his nose, and surrounded with the tools of his ‘art’, he meticulously hand crafted faux bugs to the smallest detail.

Supplied with an array of brightly covered feathers, buck tails, various size hooks, a vise to hold them and thread to join all the components tightly together, he would produce stunning replicas of the local insects that he hoped would help him land the next ‘big one’. A reference book of flies always lay open next to him as he meticulously tied them to the exact specifications, as outlined.

This story isn’t about catching fish, though. It’s not about about tying flies, it’s about a man, his passion and preserving his love of the outdoors by gifting an ‘heirloom’. It’s about connecting with following generations to keep his story alive. And, it’s about love.

It’s very likely that if my dad was here today, then he, Adie and her dad would be at the closest fishing hole, enjoying the outdoors and each other’s company, maybe spinning yarns of ‘the one that got away’.

“Adie, I want you to have these flies. Use them to catch the big one!”

Love,

Great Grandpa Bottcher

Steve (srbottch.com)

February 2021

To Adie and avid young outdoors lovers, everywhere. ‘Keep a tight line’ and keep making memories.

And, to June, my big sister, Adie’s grandma


*Plug (Swimming Plug) – A hard plastic or wood artificial lure that is usually cast and retrieved or sometimes trolled.

Never Park In Front of A Lighthouse: A Father’s Lesson

Beavertail Lighthouse*, Jamestown, Rhode Island (USA)

Footnote: as background for this story, I read this year that the US government was removing this lighthouse from its inventory. People can bid for it. a nonprofit likely will get preference. Now, let your imagination take over and enjoy this personal story…

Jamestown Island, Rhode Island was a favorite destination for our weekend fishing getaways. Dad and I and a friend of mine would pack our Chevy station wagon with sleeping bags, cooking gear and tackle for an outdoor excursion that every fishing enthusiast would love, especially kids. I was a lucky son. And Friday was our getaway day.

The boxlike wagon held everything in an orderly fashion. This precursor of the minivan/SUV, our Chevy allowed the back seat to be folded down, creating a spacious interior that accommodated a wood frame built to hold a platform as long and wide as the open space. This was our weekend ‘home’.

My dad and friend, both big bodies, slept on top while I squeezed my lanky adolescent body underneath, pressed against our supplies and equipment that filled the space next to me. Any overflow gear was stored in our trailered boat. Sleeping on one’s back was the best option due to space limitations. The flatter we could be, the better.

While driving to Jamestown, I would lay belly down atop the platform bed, head resting on my crossed arms, looking straight out the windshield, not a safe nor secure position, for certain. A sudden stop and forward slide was problematic and any hotdogs I had carefully balanced spilled onto the front seat, condiments and all.

Jamestown, itself, was fascinating and mysterious with its variety of fish and other sea creatures: striped bass, blues, mackerels, flounder, tautog, conga eels, and blue crabs. We caught them all, or tried.

Stately homes lined the shoreline. A ghostly one, long since deserted, stood decaying among the offshore rocks. And two gigantic car ferries crisscrossed Narragansett Bay between Jamestown and Newport, adding to the seductive nature of the island.

The end of the island sloped downward into the Atlantic. ‘Beavertail’ described its outline perfectly. And standing post above the rocks, looking out at the wide open sea, was the historic Beavertail Light House with its far reaching beacon and mighty horn, alerting incoming ships of the dangerous promontory.

My dad was always teaching us with tidbits of information or observations to enrich our young minds, as dads often do. Sometimes, lessons came with real life examples thati left indelible marks in our memories, like paying attention to details. Missing or foolishly ignoring the warning sign on the lighthouse wall is one lesson I’ll never forget.

“DO NOT PARK IN FRONT OF LIGHTHOUSE HORN”

To this day, I still believe that he parked there for a purpose…

Lighthouse horns are LOUD!

Glad I wasn’t holding a frothy root beer🥤.

Steve (December 2021)

* They are landmarks: The Beavertail Lighthouse and the Watch Hill Lighthouse, both are in Rhode Island. Now, the U.S. Coast Guard is giving up ownership

Follow my blog for more stories. Find me at Srbottch.com

“I’m That Guy!”

Lawn 2

As kids, summer evenings would often find my sister and me in the back seat of our box -like 50 something Chevy station wagon, windows cranked down for fresh air, enjoying a ride away from the city to surrounding towns. Our dad would steer us through upscale suburbs to see bigger homes, bigger cars and bigger garages. And, of course, bigger and more beautiful lawns than I’d ever seen.

While my sister and I sat as far apart as possible to avoid catching whatever big sisters and little brothers give each other when they accidentally touch, our mother swiveled her head left and right, giving us her simple  commentary.  With ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’, she described the elegance of these sprawling homes and equally stunning landscaping. This must be paradise, I thought.

Our dad, however, took a different approach.  An avid sportsman who generally spent his leisure time in pursuit of, or preparation for, time on the water, fishing, lawn maintenance was a low priority.  He had little regard for the home owner who spent hours mowing, and he expressed himself succinctly…

“Look at him, you wanna be that guy?”

*

It was a sultry summer evening, the kind that makes ‘life’ come to a crawl at the end of an eight-hour shift, nothing or nobody wants to move. From my bench by the back door, I scanned the east and north section of our lawn as it ran away from me toward the street, like a wave rushing back to its ocean after washing the shore.

I had just finished another session of mowing and was tired, but satisfied. These two sections presented a near picture perfect postcard of how a lawn should look after a meticulous manicure.

Passersby surely were impressed as they intersected the cross streets.  The four-way stop gave drivers a moment to pause and enjoy the beauty of it all. I’m certain they gave me a nod of appreciation. It was hard to tell, as the perspiration dropped off my brow and blurred my vision.

I was exhausted and hot. The cold soda can tickled my nerves as I swiped it across my forehead. Mosquitoes were enjoying my flesh but my arms were too tired to swat them. It’s the price I pay for a beautifully landscaped piece of earth, my lawn.

While admiring my work, I recalled an earlier time when my dad would take us for rides in the suburbs and the rhetorical question he would ask.. It seemed like just yesterday. And with a smile, I answered his question…

“I’m that guy!”

Lawn 1

Steve Bottcher
srbottch.com

To gardeners everywhere who take pride in their lawn and have wonderful family memories, as well.

To Brighton Mowers who keep ny blade sharp and encourage me to keep mowing…and writing!

“That’s Why They Made Arms…”, A Father’s Lesson

1951 Dad at Ptown

“Pardon me”, I mumbled, while stretching and reaching in front of a shopper more involved with a cell phone call than picking a yam and moving outta the damn way… (excuse my tone, but, yes, I was becoming impatient in a grocery store).

“It’s okay”, she replied curtly, “besides, that’s why they made arms.”

Regardless if it was sarcasm, naïveté, or simple courtesy, her reply completely disarmed me, no pun intended.

I had no retort except to sigh and smile, which was not a bad thing. If we all could be coy enough to react to interruptions and interferences with a bit of sugar-coated sarcasm, there would be fewer angry people.

My ‘old man’ (I never called him that, but it seemed to fit well here) was a hard worker in every sense, fishing being no exception. He would rouse us early from our warm bags and onto the water before sunrise and before the fish started feeding. We worked hard for the catch and ridiculed, even scorned, the late arriving boats, the ‘9 to 5ers’.

A late Spring morning found us fishing for striped bass in a small bay somewhere on the Cape Cod coast (fishermen never reveal exact locations). With anchor down and the morning fog burning off, we were surrounded by schools of stripers and enjoying water thumping hits every cast. The late arrival from a shoreline dock noticed us and slowly motored his skiff closer and closer, casting deeper and deeper into ‘our waters’, hoping to be part of the action, himself, but failing miserably.

You could see it coming, my dad’s tolerance level fading fast, beginning with icy glares over our bow and across the water at this intruder who was oblivious to the angler’s rule, ‘you don’t fish in another man’s water’.

I was impressed with his effort to maintain control and decorum, but not surprised when he dropped his rod, cupped his hands in a funnel around his mouth and delivered a bellowing invitation, dripping with sarcasm…

 “Why don’t you come closer?”

The gulls watched from a buoy, the water went glassy, the fish quit working. We were surrounded by silence, waiting.  And then, it came…

“Thanks, but I think it’s the lure!”

It was a classic mocking response,  deliberate and subtle.  My father was at a loss for words … but not action.

The ‘old salt’ grabbed the wheel with one hand, gunned the motor, spun the boat to roil the water and headed to shore. With the other hand, he reached upward and back toward the interloper, and with nary a glance, delivered the anglers’universal one finger response.*

I realized then, years before my grocery store episode…

That’s why they made arms!

Steve B
srbottch.com

dedicated to ‘the old man’ who has filled my life with stories and lessons

*the writer does not approve this behavior, then or now…