New Kensington,  Western Pennsylvania

Our Old House: Update #1

This is the first of what I hope will be many updates (from me AND Jonathan) on the improvements to our 120+ -year-old house.

I write this from a picnic table under a tree outside of People’s Library in New Kensington. Did you know that People’s Library provides WiFi in the little grove of trees outside of their building? I just discovered this about ten minutes ago. Unfortunately, I don’t have the password for it. I can’t actually ask anybody inside the library. Our library in New Kensington runs on a first cousin of 1950’s banker’s hours. (Heaven forbid that People’s Library be open during the hours that many people would be able to access it. I slightly resent that the Lower Burrell branch of People’s Library  closes as late as 8 p.m. some evenings, while the New Kensington branch has much more limited hours. Heaven forbid we have the ability to access a “People’s Library” with the same ease as our more worthy neighbors in Lower Burrell.  But I digress.)

Anyway, this afternoon I blog (using my personal internet hot spot from my phone) under a shady picnic table next to the library. Why? Because I can’t sit in my own backyard right now. Why not? Because as I type this, a contractor and his crew replaces the roof of my house.

And . . . after the contractor finishes the roof, the porch is next!!!!! Oh, I will be a happy, happy woman when the porch saga is over! (I haven’t blogged out our porch troubles because it upsets me to think about the whole fiasco, much less to write about it.)

But here is the very first home-improvement victory of the 2016 season: crews replaced a portion of our sidewalk this week!

I didn’t foresee – when I was 16 with visions of joining a utopian poets’ colony  – that a sidewalk replacement would send 30-something me into euphoria.

But, but, but  – right after Jonathan and I got engaged, we had the entire sidewalk in front of his (now our) house replaced. I paid for half of it. (Even though I still lived in Pittsburgh.) This was our first home improvement project as a couple, as a team. I think of it as “our sidewalk.” Then two panels of this sidewalk were dug up in order to access a water line. As of this week, I can be proud of our – my and Jonathan’s – sidewalk again.

Here’s another thing: Thanks to two of my sisters, I can barely hold a conversation without using the word “podcast.” Podcasts now give my life meaning. Okay, just kidding. Sort of. Sometimes my sister Liz and I talk for hours about our favorite podcasts. So podcasts strengthened my relationship with my family.

Anyway, I highly recommend the podcast Radiolab. Since I meant to blog today about improvements on an old house loaded with history, let me say that the Radiolab episode titled Haunted covers the same theme. Except that Radiolab’s episode Haunted also includes an interview with paranormal investigators. And this blog doesn’t.


You all know that Jonathan actually started this blog, right?

He set it up so that he and I could record the progress of our house restoration together.

I said, “That’s nice.”

However, at the time I had no real interest in blogging. Not sure why not. I think that I had no real interest in anything except making it through each day at work.

So if you go back to the very beginning of this blog – from about a decade ago – you will see that Jonathan posted alone for the first few years.

Then I hijacked the blog, and he let me hijack it because he’s a busy guy.

However, as you can see Jonathan started to post again. Yeah!

See, ten years ago last month, Jonathan and I emptied the contents of a roll-top desk onto the dining room floor of this house that we are STILL restoring together here in Parnassus.


‘Cause we couldn’t find our marriage license. We needed the license so that Father Alan at Mount Saint Peter would marry us the next day.

“It has to be here.”

“I put it right on top of this pile! I know I did.”

“Argggh! Where is it?”

At the very moment that every important paper of Jonathan’s covered the dining room floor, my parents and all four of my sisters walked into this house.

My mom said, “Oh, I thought you guys would be ready to go.”

We found the license a few minutes later. We made it to the church for the rehearsal. We had a fantastic party that night. We had an even more amazing party the next day. And then, as a grand finale, we had a THIRD party on Sunday, the day after our wedding.

Now, it will be fun if this year we actually post alternately as blogging partners.

We’ll make this the very best cheesy husband and wife blog about home renovation. (We could go to Blogher together!!!! LOL.)  Bonus: we’re in a historic neighborhood that’s also a case study for somebody’s college class!

I look forward to upcoming posts from Jonathan on Our Old House.


  • Katie Nicholson

    Hi Jenny,

    About you coverting the Lower Burrell library, you can use it you know, I re-read your blog entry and looked at their website and it looks like they are the same library. Also, even if they weren’t as long as you have a Blue Access PA sticker on your library car you can use any library in the state of PA. (There are only a few public libraries in PA that don’t participate in Access PA)

    Anyway, I can’t wait to see you tomorrow!

    Love ya,

  • Jenny

    Thanks for your response, Katie!

    I am aware that I can patronize the library in Lower Burrell. However, my issue is that I can walk from my house to the library in New Kensington. I would need to drive to the library in Lower Burrell.

    Now, I admit that I am lazy and I don’t like to drive when I don’t have to do so. However, I am privileged enough that I actually do have a car and the ability to drive. Many people who do living within walking distance of the library in New Kensington actually do not have access to a car, though.

    I am encouraged whenever I see services provided within walking distance of downtown New Kensington and downtown Parnassus. I find it discouraging when I perceive that the services offered here are more limited than those provided to a more affluent area. Now, the library in New Kensington and the library in Lower Burrell DO have common ownership. So why is Lower Burrell more worthy of having evening hours?

    Finally, I have this hipster-ish fantasy of living within walking distance from amenities that hipsters use. This is totally selfish. I can’t actually afford to live in a Portlandia sketch. But I sometimes wish for it. I’m such a striver. I need to hold my privilege in check lest I stop thinking about the people who do actually live here right now.

    I do appreciate your perspective since you are an actual experienced librarian in Pennsylvania.

    I can’t wait to see my godson Patrick and his talented parents tomorrow!