luna 2

Chalk Festival 2014 greeted me with more than the usual amount of nerves. I learned on Thursday morning before the festival that they had not received my application that I sent in on March 15. I talked to Michael Reiger, the director of the festival, and he said to show up Saturday morning at 8:00. They usually have a few empty squares and no-shows, and will give them to whoever shows up first.

This year I was more prepared than I was in any previous year.  I had chosen Luna by Pre-Rafaelite Charles Edward Halle. This is the color pencil drawing that I thought I sent in with my applicatioon.

Scan 140740001

I had gridded the picture, and made a large (18×24) pencil drawing a couple of weeks before. I had spent Tuesday that week getting ready, buying extra colors of large pastel sticks I needed for Luna. I  found some clear square pencil boxes to divide up my colors at Office Max on clearance two for a dollar. On Thursday when I got the news that my application was never recieved, I kind of went into a funk. I thought it would be an easier weekend not participating. I would get some needed rest. I could hang out with Felix. I wouldn’t be sore and recovering for several days.

But the more I tried to talk myself into it being ok, the more anxious I got. I added some pastel to the pencil drawing I had done previously.


I hated it, and thought that maybe I should do a different image. One that I knew and felt good about.  I thought about Woman With a Pearl, by Jean-Baptiste Camille Corot, and at midnight Thursday night, I scanned from the book I have it in, and prepared to go to Office Depot the next day and print it, laminate it, and put a grid on it.

Scan 141490004-1 - Version 3     IMG_4948

I knew this other image very well, and was sure would be able to easily transfer it to pavement. I had done it a few years ago, when I first saw the Chalk Art Festival in Denver, and thought I would like to participate. I had worked for a couple of weeks perfecting it and liked it very much. Though my copy is a bit pale, I could correct it when I got it onto the street.  But, I still felt anxious, and nauseous and couldn’t sleep. I had lots of chalk in oranges, reds, yellows for Luna, and not so many in the browns and greens that Lady with a Pearl has. My stomach turned, and I couldn’t get the song “Richie and Reuben” by Fountains of Wayne out of my brain. I had heard it earlier in the week, and it had become an ear worm.

It seems that changing course had made me feel worse, so I decided to go back to the original plan, square or no square. I also decided that on Friday I would take Phoebe to Playful Pooch for the day, so I could concentrate the whole day perfecting Luna without puppy interruptions.  I spent Friday working on the drawing, and gathering up all of my needed materials. I was ready to go, square or no square on Saturday morning at 7:30.

Howard and I arrived, ready to go, at 8:00, Found Michael, and he said that it might be a couple of hours before he would know if I had a spot. I was about ready to just say, forget it, and go home. But we had bought breakfast on the way, so we sat and ate our breakfast. We walked a bit, watching artists and vendors setting up. We walked over to The Market on Larimer St, so Howard could get some coffee. I decided to continue looking around. As I walked out of the Market, I saw Michael. He pointed at me and said “Paris, I have a square for you, follow me!” I was giddy, and rushed after him. He took me to the Artists tent and gave me square F-18, and the sponsor’s name Kurowski Development. The wait was thirty minutes, not two hours. Howard walked up to the artist tent as I was leaving with my packet of goodies. Relieved and happy, we were in!

We got to the square, on 14th st near the intersection with Lawerence, and got busy measuring and drawing the grid.  This is my least favorite part, but extremely important if you want a good drawing. Howard got started printing the sponsor’s name above my square, which is also pretty important, since they shell out $300 to have their name above a square. It is should to be the first thing we put down in chalk. He looked up the company, and tried to approximate their logo. He is better with printing than I am, and I was anxious to get drawing. About an hour later, a guy came up to us and said, “you’re in my square” I assured him that I was definitely just given that square. Hopefully he got another one, or just had the wrong number. I did not see him again.

I carefully transferred the image to the grid, and started on the background.

photo (3)

Eleven hours and several kind visitors later, I had the entire head and shoulders of Luna finished. I went home sore and extremely tired, but happy. Had a late dinner and went to bed early.

This is what I got done on Saturday:


Sunday morning, I headed back at 8:00 and picked up where I left off. Sunday is a shorter day. I worked in shade and very hot sun till about 2:30 when I finished. Judging starts at 3:00. Lots more friends visited Sunday afternoon, and I felt pretty special and loved.


I’m happy with the results. I couldn’t have done it without Howard, and his quiet patience and support. He was great, getting stuff for me, helping drag all of my stuff downtown. Finding parking so I could work, and generally being great.


Thanks to all who came by.  Including:

Roxanne Des and Felix Barker

Debra Rathbun

Lyssa, Peter, Katie, Peter & Thomas Krumholz and visiting family members from out of town here for Katie’s graduation

Pat Moore

Sister Mckenzie and Sister Liao

Larry and Roberta Valdez and their granddaughter Caitlin

Margo Waite & her kids, Jessica, Emily & Maxwell Jaynes

Janet Zamboni

Rhoda Levy

Erin & Eric Worth & kids

Marisha, Taylor Brynley and Mason Menlove & their neighbors

Bonnie Mustoe

Candace and Matt Jones and their baby

And those who came by when I was away from my square:

Terri & Isabel Grange

Carol Bellinger

And all who watched from afar on Facebook

See more pics of the festival here:  http://www.denverchalkart.org/ It usually takes a couple of weeks before the pics are on the website. But I have included some on my FB page https://www.facebook.com/heathermcleanparis

Here is also a video of stills:  My work shows up around 3:34. http://youtu.be/j50uR6zi5Q8

And here is another:  This is actually a video I’m at 10:13 http://youtu.be/DY_oib-flv0

And another one  – this one is short. 


Theme and appearance change

This blog started out as a place for me to gather all of the information about the remodeling of our house.  We haven’t had anything done for almost a year, so it’s been a bit quiet on the blog.  I have decided to change the theme of my blog.  This will be my place to record important stuff that I want to remember, so I am totally fine if you decide that it isn’t worth your time.

There is nothing earth shattering, but there were some very important changes in my life including this guy coming into it last May.


And this little critter coming into our lives in January of this year


Much of my life revolves around these two.  Felix is now one year old, and Phoebe is eight months old.  They are both interested in each other.  Felix likes Phoebe, but she kind of freaks him out if she barks too loudly or runs up and surprises him.  Phoebe just loves everybody.  She doesn’t quite know her own strength, and needs to get a little older and Felix needs to get a little older and then they should be pretty good buddies.


Denver Houses

When I first started looking at houses in Denver, I was so impressed with the variety of the architecture here.  And, coming from Virginia, where even the new houses are built in colonial style, I was wowed by the stunning lack of colonial style homes.  Denver wasn’t developed much till after the mid- 1800s, well past the colonial period.   I started reading all I could get my hands on about the styles of homes in Denver.  I saw a quote in a book, which  I can’t remember the name of.  It was by a circa 1904 reporter from Chicago, or another city, commenting on the beauty of Denver’s private homes, and public schools.  Driving around, I would stop in front of houses just to take pictures of them.  Here is a sampling.  I apologize for the small photos, most of these were taken with my pre-iPhone phone camera:

This storybook style house is on busy Colorado Boulevard.  I wish it was on a quieter street, and was for sale.  photo (1)

La Rue, one of the many charming early 20th century apartment buildings with a name.


Two story, one story and one and a half story Victorians


Mid Century Modern, not a ton of them, but enough to be fun.


Meet Me in St. Louis, Louie?


Creative paint colors on this brick Victorian


Queen Anne style victorian – shades of  Tim Burton


 Bungalow with Tudor influence


Another mid-mod


And another


Some more cute apartment buildings -Rene

I love the geometry,  circle and triangle shaped shrubs in front of this balanced mass of shapes.


The middle eastern influenced – The Carolyn


I can’t remember this one’s name, but it’s foyer windows look like the Empire State Building at night.


Many of Denver’s houses are brick, on account of it’s fireproof, and it’s kind of dry here.  Sometimes they have fun and games with brickwork.




[insert photo of Calico house}

Even modest houses are little works of art


And people aren’t afraid to paint their houses purple



Now to the house we ended up buying in 2011.


It’s not really Arts & Crafts style, though it has many details that lean in that direction.  It is basically an American Foursquare, known in Denver as a Denver Square, with some Arts & Crafts influence (the windows, the built in hutch), and a bit of colonial revival details (columns on the front porch).


Front Yard Transformation

front before

This was the front “yard” when we moved in.  Under the fallen leaves are flower beds filled with either breeze or gravel, with landscape fabric underneath (8 inches or more down).  There were mismatched concrete pavers, painted concrete and nicely weathered old red flagstone.   The only green things in the entire yard are in this photo.  Lovely mature lilacs on the south side, saved by force by the next door neighbor, and the mess of poorly planned, and totally unkempt xeriscape around the tree.  (For the record, in the listing, the yard was aptly described as “zeroscaped”)

We moved from our rental in December, and I spent the only warmish day digging up stuff I had planted while there, and brought it over to the new place.  I advertised the breeze on Craigslist free stuff, and had a lady come several times over the next few months and took a lot of it.  I removed the landscape fabric and filled in with topsoil, creating a few flower beds, and transferred my haul.  After a while, this is what we had.

front in transition

 I felt  better, but felt a bit overwhelmed.  While some of the breeze was gone, there was still quite a bit of it to go. And larger gravel.  The grey pavers, and assorted mismatched themes going on were wearing my brain down.  I didn’t want to wait ten years or more  to get this corrected just in time to sell the house, like we did in Virginia.   Clearly I needed to call in professional help.

We went to Denver Home and Garden show this February, and after talking to several landscapers I finally decided on these guys.  They created a lovely and elaborate design including fountains, benches and arbors, and  gave us a beautiful printout of the entire job.


It turned out to be way more money than we wanted to spend.  And, as beautiful as it was, something kept nagging at me. I wanted to be able to work in the garden. I am a gardener, an artist, I  just wanted  a blank canvas if you will.   I wanted to create my own landscape.  So I went back and forth with the designer, and finally pared it down to the basics —  Clear out junk, replace with topsoil, add sprinkler system, and mulch.

They started clearing out the mess in our front yard on July 15.  Here is some of the work in progress.

IMG_2399   IMG_2400

Gravel, breeze, mismatched pavers, and subterranean landscape fabric all gone!


This guy was a beast, moving those gigantic, heavy flagstones by himself (two of the other guys brought them into the front yard together).


Drip sprinkler system hoses.   And look, the boring, non-flowering ornamental grass is gone.  Hallelujah!


Forming the new flagstone walk.   We had lots of dust for a few days.

And here is the finished project.


I love the now balanced, flagstone walkway.   The  original design had a random broken flagstone walkway.  I thought that looked too modern, and that would involve destroying the nicest part of the front yard.  I really loved the old flagstone that was already there,  I had to be insistent that the flagstones be square, especially since when the new supplemental flagstone delivered was in large random shaped, not square slabs.


I decided to keep the white stepping stones, because I didn’t hate them and it seemed like a good idea to break up the vast expanse of mulched area.  Howard didn’t want any grass in the front, so we will be adding stuff there in the future.


Another view of the flagstone walk.  I think they  did a nice job of mixing the old with the new.  The border on the flower bed in the right side of the photo will be re-done.  (see below)


Howard was concerned that the large bark mulch, that I chose to discourage the cats from thinking our new yard was their new litter box, would spread all over the sidewalk.   He used some of the 1000s of pavers that were removed to create  borders  on either side of the flagstone sidewalk.  I couldn’t watch as he methodically laid each piece, using a tape measure, level and sledgehammer.  It came out really nice though, and he will be doing the borders on all of the flowerbeds on our side of the retaining wall.


To be continued. . .


One of the side effects of writing a blog about home improvement, is that you actually get inspired to improve your home instead of spending hours online researching how do do stuff.

Here is the hallway before, dark shades of green, not bad colors, just not very welcoming, and kind of cavernous. After writing about state of color and non-uniformity our main floor, I decided to go buy some sample paint.

LR & hall

 I spent two hours this morning doing this.  I now need to go get a few more gallons of Sherwin Williams Lemon Chiffon paint and finish painting the entry hall.

Photo on 7-22-13 at 2.24 PM #2


When we moved into our house, there was no back yard.  There was lots of solid concrete, and pavers.

      back patio, before   back before


The yellow leaves are on a White Ash tree, which was the only thing that was growing back there.   So, if you read my long rambling previous post, you’ll know that a green back yard was priority one.

I tried to imagine removing the pavers, and maybe getting someone to jack hammer the solid concrete, and quickly decided that would be a huge mess, physically taxing, and may take months.  Plus, there was the clean up aspect that seemed daunting.

Seeing as how it was January, and we had just moved in between December 1-31.  We actually had movers on the first, but after about fourteen hours of moving our stuff, They looked like they couldn’t do anymore.  So the month of December included moving the rest of our stuff from our rental, going to Washington DC for a funeral on December 26, and getting some of my art work together for my first gallery show.  I was insane. So I went to Craigslist to find someone to fix our backyard.

 I found Daniel who was able to remove the concrete and pavers, and dispose of them, but he spoke very little english.  Despite that, he was able to convince me that for $1,000 more, he could put in a nice patio and sidewalk from patio to garage.  That sounded good to me, and he could finish it in a week or so.  We decided on pigmented concrete, in a color that approximated the flagstone that is in the side and front yards.  He would also put down sod. The whole job – demo, new patio, grass and cleanup cost $1500  This was done on February 1, 2012, two days after two feet of snow fell here in Denver.  Daniel and two of his buddies came in with a bobcat and moved the snow next to the garage so they could get started.  And they didn’t charge me extra for snow removal!

After they were finished, I went out at least once or twice a day for the next two weeks to shovel snow onto the newly laid sod.  Once it warmed up a bit (which wasn’t long, that’s one of the things I love about living in Denver 300+ days of sunshine a year!) and some of the frozen ground underneath the sod thawed out,  I discovered some craters.   I lifted up the sod over the craters, and dumped several bags of topsoil underneath.  A year and a half later, we still have some dips.  But it is way better than it was.   We have green and even a little flower bed out there.

Here are some pics of the freshly laid sod.  See the snow on the garage roof, next to the garage, and on other side of the fence in our neighbors yard?  Yeah, I shoveled it over the sod, instead of watering.  It was worth it.

IMG_0617 IMG_0616

Below left pic of Howard and Sheba is from last summer.  The other pic is from today.  The yarrow in the flower bed is looking lovely.  But, now that our doggie has a place to pee, she is killing parts of the grass.  At least its mostly green, and Sheba can run in the yard without hurting herself.   Ah, the life of a dog owner.

backyard after IMG_2383

Back Yard Transformation



I had seen this house online in February 2011, before we even sold our house.  When we actually went to look at it in September 2011, my hand written note on the MLS page was “nice, but weird updates”  The house was strange, but was in very good condition for a 107 year old house.  It has what they say, “good bones”  as well as some amazing architectural features.  For example –

A fantastic built-in Hutch in the Dining room, and a nice entryway with storage bench

  Hutch in dining room   Entryway

Really great windows, all functional

front windows  LR from hall

The basement at one time had been a separate apartment, complete with full bathroom, kitchenette, and a small bedroom with a big closet.   This came in handy when we were re-doing the upper level.

     basement bedroom     kitchenette

The weirdness started in the yard.  The front yard has a nice three-foot high brick retaining wall surrounding it, but it stops before it reaches the backyard fence.  There is about a 6 foot gap, making it useless for keeping our doggie Sheba in the front yard, and making a convenient entry way for all of the kitties in our neighborhood who were using this yard as a litter box.

There was a nice old red flagstone walk from the steps to the porch.  There were also red and grey concrete pavers, pigmented red concrete – painted white, and some interesting white stepping-stones


Every place where something could be growing was filled with 6-8 inches of breeze (a very gritty sand, used for walkways) or gravel with landscaping fabric beneath that.  There was very little actually growing in the front yard.  There were six mature lilac bushes on the border between us and our neighbor on the south side. They begin where the wall ends.  They are really quite lovely.  The only other green in the front yard was a tree, surrounded by  a white concrete border, filled with xeric plants.  My least favorite is tall, non-flowering ornamental grass.   I am from the east, where grass is what covers your lawn.  It is not generally used as a decorative element in a garden.  The only useful thing growing there is thyme, which I regularly go out and pick to use for cooking.

front before

The back yard was  2/3 paved with concrete, and pavers covering the rest of it.  There was one tree back there with pavers up to about 2 inches of the trunk.   I’m not sure how that little tree survived!

back before2

  The backyard was our first priority, because our poor dog couldn’t figure out where to pee!  Also, she is a retired racing dog, and she usually has a daily three-minute sprint around the yard.  Not doable on concrete.  She was miserable. We moved in in December, and the snow and ice on concrete became more treacherous for poor Sheba, and for us, trying to get to the garage.   I raked up piles of leaves for her to do her business in.  She tried her daily sprint, only to slide across the concrete and scrape her leg up pretty badly.   We had to get something, even if it was just dirt in the backyard.  This became our first project. Post to follow.

The interior, was infuriatingly schizophrenic.  Many things were meticulously remodeled, with no sense of continuity or style.  Walking through the house, I felt as if each room was done in a different decade of the 20th century. Very little of it matched the style or time period of the house (1904), or even a current style.  On top of that, it  was sadly furnished with the most uninspired collection of Salvation Army crap, that could never be accused of being eclectic.   One particularly disturbing piece was a Keane painting of a street urchin hanging over the fireplace.  Her accusing eyes seemed to follow us through the house.


This picture totally freaked out our Real Estate Agent turned friend Joy.  She didn’t like the house from the start, because of the oddities and the creepy painting.  After she presented our bid to the owner, she said something to the effect of, I hope you guys really want this house, because the seller is going to be a royal pain.  This turned out to be the understatement of the century.  After he accepted our offer, I went to take photos of the exterior and met our future neighbor sitting on his porch.  He, trying to be diplomatic, said that the homeowner (who will not be named, hereafter will be referred to as Voldemort) was, to put it nicely  “difficult”.  We subsequently found out many disturbing details about Voldemort –

  • He had taken our next door neighbor to court because he put dog poo in the dumpster in the alley behind the house.  Where are you supposed to put it?
  • He had taken the neighbor on the other side to court over a dispute over the fence in the backyard, and the brick wall in the front.
  • There were at least two neighbors who had restraining orders against him
  • Residents of the Apartment building across the street told tales of Voldemort and his girlfriend having loud arguments in the street
  • A previous resident of the basement apartment said Voldemort would come down into said apartment, unannounced, feeling entitled to invade his tenant’s privacy.
  • At least two previous offers on the house had fallen through, because of this man’s idiocy.
  • Our next door neighbor said Voldemort used to stand on the little balcony out back and stare into their yard. Needless to say, they spent very little time in their backyard.

A week before closing we noticed that Voldemort had removed a porch swing, that was not noted as an exemption in the listing.  Joy asked him about it, and said that he should return the swing, or he needed to bring cash to the settlement, in order for us to buy a new one.  His quote was “If I have to give the Parises money for a porch swing, the deal is off”.  Pretty darn sure, he would have followed through on this.  The man had some balls.

Apparently Voldemort’s grandfather built the house and the ones on either side.  He grew up here.  When his parents passed, he got the house, even though his father wanted to leave it to his girlfriend. The house went to probate, and Voldemort, who knew how to work the system, somehow got the house.  He didn’t want it, but felt entitled to it.  So he spent the past few years preparing to sell it.  This man had zero sense of style, but also was so arrogant  that he remodeled it for himself, not a potential buyer, and obviously took no one else’s advice.

This is where I begin to get so frustrated, because, he restored the beautiful windows and the gorgeous dining room hutch.  Some of the original woodwork had been stripped and re-finished, some was painted over with textured paint, and some was replaced with new, pre-finished wood trim.   He put a chair rail in each room, but used whatever wood trim he felt like.  None of the rooms have the same trim.   He had textured all of the walls (I guess to disguise any flaws in the plaster, personally, I’d rather see the flaws).

I love color, but the entry way and living room assault you with about ten different colors on the walls. Some flat, some shiny finish.  All three of the bathrooms were painted with the same Williamsburg blue, which is nice, but not really an Arts & Crafts color. The main floor powder room also had wood textured plastic trim, and bizarre printed panelling.  This room was so bad, that I would leave the light off when using it.  It was hideous!  This room was project #2 – post to follow.

The kitchen is very modern and streamlined, and not in any way in keeping with the style of the house.  The backsplash is tiled with a grey ceramic tile, that is not dark enough to be interesting.  The wall color matches the tile exactly.  BORING!   The too tall cabinets are custom-built and solid wood.  They are four inches taller than standard. This might be ok if I were six feet tall, but I am 5’4″. Note the gap below the dishwasher, there is also one below the stove.  See blue step stool that I have to use when cooking or getting anything out of the wall cabinets.

Kitchen      see my step stool

Upstairs were three bedrooms, and one bathroom. The one bathroom upstairs was in two rooms with a door removed between them. One room had a toilet, and tub.   The other room had a single sink, a large shower, and a closet (probably that was a the fourth bedroom before he decided to put a sink and a shower in there)  This became project #3.  It took six months.  Post to follow.

Despite all of the craziness of the house and the deranged seller, there were many redeeming qualities about this house.  It is in a beautiful neighborhood.  There is a large park three blocks to the east.  Within walking distance are – three grocery stores, a movie theatre, resturants, dry cleaners, a hardware store and a 100-year-old elementary school (attended by Mamie Eisenhower and Tim Allen!).  Our block has three lovely, well maintained apartment buildings across the street from us.  There are tons of trees, and most everyone on our block takes good care of their yards and gardens.   Add on to that the fact that Voldemort had been trying to sell for at least a year, so we got it for a very good price (over $100,000 less than any house in the neighborhood had sold for in the previous year).  We also had a chunk of cash from the sale of our house in Virginia that we could use to fix the defects in the house.

Luckily for us, we never had to meet Voldemort, though he sent us an unsolicited email trying to discredit our real estate agent.  We ignored him, and let Joy do her job. For her, I am eternally grateful.  And on November 30, 2011 we became owners of this home.

Sheba & Louie

Buying the house