Why the bell rings? It rings for you (but also mostly for me)

The glut of holidays at the end of December had us ringing our church bell with regularity. Now that is it operational again, we welcome opportunities to use it.

We try to be respectful. It’s a bell in a former church, after all.

So far, no one has complained. At least to our faces.

We’ve been ringing to the bell once or twice or letting our guests do so whenever we have a tour of the church, which occurs with some regularity, maybe once a week. People are curious, and in some cases, our various contractors have enjoyed showing off their work here. So when we walk through the second floor, I will invariably yank on the bell pull to show off the unique feature of our home.

But for winter solstice–the shortest day of the year marking the beginning of winter–we ran the bell twelve times at sunset: 4:23 p.m. on December 21.

 

My birthday was December 23, so I rang it six times at noon (one for each decade and partial decade of my lifetime). We discussed ringing it once for every year, but that certainly would have ticked off the neighbors! (My father, who helps at funeral services with his local funeral home, also objected to ringing it once for every year because that’s what some churches do at funerals; since I’m not dead yet, we didn’t want to commemorate that).

Of course, we felt compelled to ring our bell on Christmas Eve (6 p.m.) and Christmas Day (9 a.m.), so we did then, too.

Our belfry was quiet for a few days until New Year’s Eve. If ever there were an appropriate time to ring our bell at midnight, this was it! I sort of rang a church bell one other time on New Year’s Eve. My priest threw a “Y2K be damned!” party on December 31, 1999, and he let me and my then-husband ring the bell at midnight. Only the bells on the cathedral were electronic and operated by pushing buttons (still, that was exciting if only because January 1, 2000 arrived without any fanfare beyond midnight bells).

Tyler and I planned a small get-together that disintegrated when one of our guests came down with the flu, so it was just Tyler and me celebrating the new year in the church. Then, as is his wont, he turned in early. So ringing the bell was up to me. My father joked with me earlier in the day that he wasn’t going to visit me in jail if I got arrested for disturbing the peace.

I stayed awake with reruns of “Friends.” At 11:55 p.m., I crept upstairs. It was a warm night (for December), and I opened the belfry window so I could hear the bell better.

Instead of ringing the bell a certain number of times, I decided to ring it for a certain amount of time–one minute.

About halfway through the minute, I could popping sounds I hadn’t heard on the other days we rang the bell. I thought for a moment I had broken it! But then I realized I was hearing fireworks through the open window. (See! I wasn’t the only awake in our little town. Whew!)

When I was done, I looked through the belfry window at the now quiet scene below. No police cruisers had assembled.

Someone down the street yelled “Happy New Year! And thanks Methodist Church bell ringer!” I was stunned–and thrilled–that I had an audience. So I yelled “You’re welcome!” And they yelled “That was awesome!”

It was awesome, in the original meaning of the word: filled with awe. Not everyone gets to ring a real church bell at midnight on New Year’s Eve. I literally rang in the new year! I closed the window, turned off all the lights and sneaked into bed beside my husband, who was now wide awake. “Happy new year!” we wished each other.

I have no plans to ring the bell for any upcoming holidays (Tyler’s birthday isn’t until August). If you hear it ring, it’s because we have guests, and I’m showing off.

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Merchant Wednesday: House numbers (plus a look at the entryway)

Among the projects we raced to finish in time to show off to our guests at the holidays was the entryway to the church. We were, of course, able to move in months ago without having to finish the space (only the ceiling was done), but since it was the first impression (or second, if you took in the exterior of the church first), we wanted it to be finished.

Which meant a flurry of activity took place in late November and early December. You-Can-Call-Me Al, who had tiled our shower and kitchen back splash, tiled the ground-level entry floor. Then he built new wooden treads for the steps leading up into the sanctuary and stained them. St. Johnny spent hours sanding the sanctuary level landing; it was a bear, covered in decades of paint and mastic and gunk. We decided to keep it rustic, leaving some of the paint intact, and we stained over it. Finally, we had the walls, trim and interior doors painted, hung the new chandelier and had our wrought iron team install the railing.

The transformation of the space is significant.

But let’s begin with a look at how the front doors looked when we bought the church a year ago. I’ve shared this shot before, but it’s a good taste of all the “befores” of the church (and who doesn’t appreciate a good transformation story, especially at this time of year?).

front door
The front door was functional, but it had been stripped of a lot of its charm when the congregation replaced the original French doors with industrial red ones. The red ones were certainly more sound than the French doors, which had been stored and were so rotted when we found them, we left them on the curb because we didn’t think we could restore them. Also, the tiny lights on either side of the door may have provided illumination, but they fell short in the distinctive category.

Here’s how our Church Sweet Home presents its entryway now.

entryway exterior after
Those magnificent castle doors are a lot more interesting, and the light fixtures flanking them say a lot more than simply, “Let there by light.” Tyler rubbed a coat of tung oil into the doors in December to deepen their beauty and rub out all the nicks and scratches they had endured during construction and move-in.

Which brings me to the secondary purpose of today’s post: To call out the artisans who created our beautiful house numbers. Zach and Sheena’s work at TheWoodsCollective was featured in an issue of HGTV Magazine, and when I saw it, I wanted it for our church.

house numbers after

This is exactly the type of custom feature perfect for an Etsy vendor because everyone appreciates choosing their own wood finish and number style, and every house requires different numbers.

You can shop their offerings on Etsy at TheWoodsCollective.

OK, back to our entryway tour. Here’s how our entryway behind the door looks now.

open door
Welcome! Come on in!

See that door bell button there on the right? When you push it, it rings like a church bell inside the church. It’s awesome!

Let’s take a look at some before and after photos.

entryway stairs before
When we purchased the church, the ceiling was flat across the top with tiles, the walls of the entryway were paneled, and the steps were carpeted. The railing was distinctive, but made of wood, which didn’t match the rest of the new railings we eventually installed inside.
entryway stairs after
Here’s how the steps up into the sanctuary look now.

Perhaps the most distinctive feature of the entryway now is that newel post. Tyler found it on Craig’s List and sent me two hours south to retrieve it. It’s solid wood, salvaged from a mansion in Chicago, and very heavy. The guy who sold it to us had multiple storage units filled with various pieces of mansions and churches–doors, altars, stained glass windows, hutches, and more. When I got the post back here, Tyler cut a few inches from the bottom to make it fit, and it was not easy task to cut a 10-and-a-half-inch column of wood.

newell post cross cut
Ah, I remember well the sawdust era of construction.

The guys at the spiral stairs manufacturer, who built all our railings, painted the newel post to match our steel, and then built the railing to fit it.

The stairs down to the basement are not so grand as the “up” steps, at least for now. Tyler painted them a nice blue-gray. At least the carpet is gone.

When we bought the church, I appreciated the message inside the front doors …

entryway exit before
Go now in peace

… but I like our new light fixture now.

entryway exit after
The black steel light fixture coordinates with our railing, and the ceiling beams are the same as we have inside the sanctuary.

And, though I don’t have a good before of this angle, here’s a look at our Mirror, Mirror, On The Wall. Tyler found this ornate mirror at an estate sale about a week after we decided to buy the church. Now, when you enter or leave the house, you can gaze as your reflection and ask, “Who’s the fairest of them all?”

entryway mirror after
These interior doors are original to the church (or at least when we purchased it). We put in the glass panels and repainted the wood, and they look good as new.

I had intended to put a half-circle marble shelf beneath the mirror, but it turns out there’s no way to secure it, so we are looking for a little table to go there.

There you go, our renovated entryway to Church Sweet Home. Now you can go in peace.

Generosity is the spirit of Christmas

Back in the 1980s, the annual Christmas bazaar held here at the old Methodist church was the place to be and be seen. Members of the church spent all year creating handmade goods to sell, and on the designated Saturday, people lined up outside the church down the street waiting for the bazaar to open so they could get their hands on these one-of-a-kind treasures.

One of those treasures has now returned to the old Methodist church, thanks to the generosity of a patron who wanted me to have a house-warming gift.

table cloth

My benefactor’s mother bought a hand-embroidered felt Christmas tree skirt, only she requested it not be cut for a skirt so she could use it as a tablecloth.

table cloth close

Embroidered families of teddy bears and toys of all sorts decorate the Christmas green background. White fringe adorns the edge. The detail is impressive; the characters are outlined in hand-sewn sequins.

table cloth closer up

What with all the cutting and sewing and bedazzling, it surely must have taken weeks to complete. The artist did not take the time to embroider her name (though maybe one of my readers might know who completed it).

For being more than thirty years old, it is in impressively good condition, and I am fortunate that my benefactor took such good care of it and it found its way home to me.

It decorates my sofa table this year with other meaningful and historically significant holiday decorations, sitting as it does beneath the treasured Christmas card tree I received many years ago now from a former boss and a small ceramic manger scene my grandmother gave me.

Thank you, Tammy!

Decorating the church for Christmas

More than a year ago, when we were trying to convince our loved ones we weren’t crazy for wanting to live in a church, I told my stepdaughter she should get on board because she would love the 18-foot Christmas tree we would put in the great room.

Well, it’s Christmastime, and we’re wanting to make good on our promises, but as it turns out 18-foot Christmas trees aren’t sold off the shelf at Home Depot. Or anywhere else for that matter.

Early last week, I stopped at Wal-Mart, Home Depot, Meijer’s, Hobby Lobby, Michael’s, Pier 1, Kohl’s and Bed, Bath & Beyond looking for a big enough artificial Christmas tree suitable for our Church Sweet Home. Nope, na da, no, nix, nope, nope, nope, no.

Most people buy six-foot Christmas trees. Sometimes 7.5 or 8 feet tall. I found a 9-foot pencil tree at Home Depot. That was the biggest. But not quite big enough. We’d ruled out the 18-foot model; it turns out 12-feet tall (plus a star topper) would do in the corner where the ceilings were lower.

So once again, Tyler turned to the internet. We found a 12-foot Christmas tree on Wayfair that could be delivered in two days. And I had a coupon. Click, click, click, and we were the proud new owners of a Christmas tree with 7,480 tips that came in five parts.

If you thought finding a 12-foot tree was the hard part, you’d be wrong.

Try assembling a 12-foot Christmas tree. It took both of us three hours to fluff all those wiry tips. And we summoned You-Can-Call-Me-Al, who was staining our entryway steps, to stack Part VI on Part III of the tree (Part V was light enough for me to stack from the top of a 10-foot ladder). Fortunately, all the of lights worked when we were done.

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I also needed the ladder to decorate the tree. But I got my workout in going up and down those rungs. Tyler helped hang 100 feet of ribbon, and I used four boxes of large silver ornaments, 18 white poinsettia blossoms, two feathery angels, one white peacock and every last white, silver, gold, blue and aquamarine ornament we owned or I could scavenge.

christmas tree decorated

christmas giftsAt the foot of the tree, all my Christmas gifts are wrapped in snowflake-accented craft paper with white ribbon. Instead of bows, I’m recycling a box of Christmas ornaments we unearthed when we demoed the church.

garland

wreath 1I also hung dozens of feet of lighted flocked garland at the feet of our balcony railing. Really happy with the effect. We hung wreaths in front of all the double windows in the great room. Like the tree, the garland and wreaths are accented with silver, gold and aquamarine Christmas ornaments. I’m just a little bit obsessed with flocking and glitter this year.

wreaths

Just when I thought I was finished decorating for Christmas, a new friend stopped by with one more Christmas decoration that, in a way, originated in our church. I’ll try share that with you later this week.

 

 

Merchant Wednesday: Good Bones furniture

As we have reinvested in home furnishings and decorations to style our Church Sweet Home, we’ve run across a number of amazing artists and vendors. Sometimes the vendor is a big-box-type store but more often it’s an online retailer or a local vendor. On Wednesdays here on Church Sweet Home, I will share our latest find and reveal who provided it to help other interested home designers.

Today I’m sharing the designer who built our new coffee table.

old Sunday School room table
Interesting table. Very yellow.

Since the first time we toured the church more than a year ago, I thought the short Sunday school room table the congregation left behind might make a nice coffee table. It had been painted neon yellow, though, so it required some love to fit into my design scheme.

Even as a Sunday school table, it appeared to have a long history. It looked like it had once been a grand dining room table with a lot of leafs. Only the leafs were long gone and the table legs had been shortened to third-grade height.

stripping it
That’s the paint, reliquifying with the stripper.

First, we brought it to the dip stripper with a pair of doors to have the paint removed, but she discovered the top had been recovered with some sort of linoleum. We pried it off, and I tried stripping it myself. Very messy. I removed most of the yellow paint (and some other colors, too), but not all of it. I invested in some fusion paint.

And then I lost my mojo.

I kept procrastinating on the project until Tyler got so tired of waiting, he started shopping. And he found the most amazing coffee table offered by Michelle Herriges on Facebook Marketplace. (Lesson: Sometimes it pays to procrastinate.)

coffee table far off
Now that’s a coffee table with distinction.

It’s made of a metal stand that looks like it’s from a quarry and a top made of a number of different types of wood. The top is smooth and polished, but she’s rustic enough to rest your feet on, too.

coffeetable close up
A little rustic patina there.
cash register side table
The button on the top opens the drawer.

We drove an hour north to Eagle, Wisconsin, to pick it up, but the trip afforded us a look into Michelle’s studio, where she had a number of finished projects and a whole bunch of inspiration pieces (pieces of “good bones” that just needed a new reason to be). Rooting around among her treasures, Tyler spotted what she called a “cash register side table” made from the pop-out drawer of an old cash register. The drawer still pops out! We loved it, so we bought that, too.

One-of-a-kind pieces made by an artist. Can’t beat that.

Click here for Michelle Herriges’ Facebook page.