House museum SarasotaLet me warn you that Sarasota, in addition to being home to some of the finest museums & house museums & gardens in the United States, is well-populated with an abundance of the best antique stores in the country. I have made many happy purchases there! (Hubby says, “Too many!” but really, what does he know?)

Some town history- in 1763, the area was dubbed, probably by the Spaniards, as “Zarazote.” The town was incorporated in 1902 & then as a city around 10 years later. There is a definite ambiance of age everywhere you go in the city.

When I want to expand my Florida house museum experiences outside Tampa Bay, it is a delightful day trip. If you are taking the kids (or yourself) to Disney in Orlando, it is just over 2 hours. But check Google Maps. There’s almost some bit of construction slowing things down to a crawl.

If you want to make a longer trip of it, you can lie on Sarasota’s white sand beaches.  Visit the Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium with more than 100 species of marine animals. Touch a stingray. Their shark tank is enormous with over 100,000 gallons of water!

For those of you who prefer mammals, there’s also Big Cat Habitat where you can do yoga with tigers.


And well, yeah, the antique shops. So, let’s hop in the old Caddy & go.


The Ringling is a 66-acre complex of attractions, each one extraordinary in its own right. I’ll start with the Museum of Art. Completed in 1930 as a gift to the people of Florida, Ringling, an avid collector of art, sought to widen the knowledge & curiosity of the wider world. Please read the history of the museum on its page on the site so that you can understand the true magnificence of this gift.

Walking through the courtyard that joins the galleries you are transported to a world in which beauty reigns supreme & you get a glimpse into the genius & sheer vitality of Ringling.

Circus Museum

Ringling museum sarasota elephant ladyIn 1927, Ringling made Sarasota his winter headquarters & many performers relocated there, generously donating costumes & other memorabilia from the earliest years of the circus here.  Again, view the website for images of the museum displays. There you are transported to an era when the circus announced its coming with colorful posters & when the train arrived, gathered the town for a circus parade down Main Street complete with a brass band, elephants blanketed in spangles & bejeweled carriages pulled by horses  wearing headdresses.

As a child, until I attended school, I wore only costumes, refusing to appear in regular clothing. I was a ballerina, a mermaid, a bride, a tightrope walker, draped with all sorts of ornamentation that my dear mother cheerfully provided for her imaginative daughter.

In this museum I saw what my little girl self had so clearly imagined when she adorned herself in her mother’s cast-offs- hoop skirts & sparkles & tassels & feathers & tutus & shoes that laced to the knee. After hearing my mother’s stories of her own childhood in the early 20’s, seeing these colorful, period items were a fantasy come true.

You can also see a real circus wagon complete with calliope that was used in the parade when they arrived in town to invite everyone to come to the Big Top!

Wait, there’s more. There’s a miniature circus complete with the circus train that runs through old towns to arrive at its destination. You see tiny people who set up the tents, the bleachers, the mess area. Again, the early world of my mother tales which made it all the more wonderful for me.

Please let me know about your visits to the museum in the comment section below. I hope it touches you as it did me.

Ca’ d”Zan
(House of John)

Ringling Muesum House SarasotaThat’s the Venetian. In Italian, it would be Casa di Giovanni. Much less exotic, they made the right choice!

Ca’ d”Zan is John & Mable Ringling’s 36,000 square foot home, modeled on the great architecture of Venice. It displays a number of architectural styles, including that of Venice, Italy, Spain & the Moors from different historic periods. The Venetian Gothic influence predominates. The style is likely to have originated in the 13th Century & experienced a revival in the 19th Century inspired by the writings of my buddy, John Ruskin whose quote about the nature of the home introduces the blog.

As amazing as the architecture & interior features are, the furniture & décor are astonishing in their beauty & opulence. The Ringling’s were world travelers & collectors & every piece was chosen to enhance the beauty of the house.

I am not a big fan of displays of wealth, but I have to admit that house museums, from modest settler houses to grand mansions are my favorite places to visit. Again, look at the website to see images of this amazing house but realize, it doesn’t compare with what will what you will experience gazing at the ceiling of any one room.

Bayfront Gardens

Ringling museum woman in the gardenThis garden, completed in 1913 under the watchful eye of Mable Ringling, has everything I love, rose gardens, banyans & a Dwarf Garden. My mother & grandmother grew roses & you already know how I feel about them! I love banyan trees because they are so Florida & so ancient. Though native to India & Pakistan, they escaped cultivation & in all of North America, they grow only in this state.  Their branches grow roots that grow down into the soil & these roots can become as large as trunks, making a single tree look like a thicket.

Here I am in my favorite overalls, having a lovely respite in the garden after a day of being bedazzled by the museum. The statuary is extremely lifelike & adds an intriguing bit of life to the gardens.

Historic Asolo Theatre

By the time I made my way to the theatre, I was completely exhausted! So, just see what the website has to say about it.

Please let me know about your experiences in these places that are so dear to me. Feel free to comment below!


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Old growth forestOld growth wood, from deep within the forest primeval. From fairy tales to an awed reverence in bungalow fans, the forest is endemic to the lore of humankind. Trees have been regarded as sacred in many early traditions. Since the dawn of time humankind has understood that his survival & that of the tree are interconnected- for shade, for food, for fuel & for shelter.

In old house circles, ancient wood is highly regarded for its strength & its beauty. I wrote an article about it & it is the most viewed post on my blog. That post discusses the properties of old wood, but in these videos, you are going to look at the forest & how it contributed to the wonderful characteristics of the trees & the lumber that was cut from them. 100 years ago, this lumber was used to build your house & today your house stands strong & sturdy.

You are going to hear a fascinating talk by a woman who grew up in the forest & listens to trees. She has learned the secret of how trees in the forest form a strong community, helping one another survive & grow, through communication & by passing chemicals & nutrients to trees in need.

You are going to find out how farmed wood differs from forest grown wood & why it results in inferior lumber.

You are going to see 100 year old logs pulled out of rivers to be milled into building materials.


No matter how much you cherish your old growth fir, pine, oak – these videos will increase your understanding & appreciation for it immensely. The people who are speaking, are authorities in their fields & each one loves old wood. Let’s get started.



I am often asked why I care so much about preserving old buildings. For some it’s a veiled challenge with no plan to listen to the answer, but some hang around long enough, without yawning, to hear my answer & some actually hear me as I pour out my soul & my passion. And for some, the light turns on.

This is why I keep picking myself up after the wrecking ball wins the battle, keep talking, keep writing. For this light.

According to the New World Encyclopedia, the word community “is derived from the Latin communitas (meaning the same), which is in turn derived from communis, which means “common, public, shared by all or many.” Communis comes from a combination of the Latin prefix con- (which means “together”) and the word munis (which has to do with performing services).”

It’s the ‘con-” part that I like the best. I spent much of my adult life (MY STORY here.) as a neighborhood activist, fighting to keep those bits of turf our own & not give them over to corporate America- to keep us & our neighborhood culture together.


The people in the videos below say it better than I do, in fact, as I was reviewing them tonight, I was wishing that 20 years ago, I could have chained my local Eagle Rock councilman to his chair & not let him so much as wiggle until he had watched every speaker in hopes that he would understand what the building we were trying to save would do for our community, that a new chain store in a sea of parking, wouldn’t/couldn’t/hasn’t/never will.

There are sound quality issues at the beginning. They go away very quickly.

TEDxCLE – Jeff Siegler – Building Community Through Historic Preservation (10:03)
TEDx Talks

Historical Preservation- A Radical Conservative Liberal Concept: Wayne Wood at TEDxRiversideAvondale (15:49)
TEDx Talks

Historic Preservation 101 (44:14)
History Colorado

This video is much longer than any of the others but it fully explains the history & evolution of preservation in the U.S. It goes on to explain the different preservation organizations & programs, both public & private as well as the levels of protection afforded at each level.

It is a clear & thorough orientation to the subject. Learning all of this, bit by bit took me years!


My YouTube playlists are chock full of information vital to bungalow owners. From paint removal to the history of bungalows to stories about old growth wood, you can find a rainy afternoon’s entertainment & learn some stuff too.


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old house restoration foundationsA major headache in old house restorations can be the foundation. Most of us have never crawled under our houses, & seen our foundation. For good reason! It’s cramped, it’s dark & dirty. Plus, it could be home to any number of disgusting things.

My Tampa house was  littered with broken glass underneath. It was also home to some of the strangest plumbing & electrical ever seen, in fact, some plumbing parts had been used in the electrical system & some electrical parts were used for the plumbing. Hey, it’s Flor-ee-dah! You just use what you got!

The foundation is the first part of the house that is built & most of the old ones were built pretty sturdily. But, over the decades they have been compromised by earthquakes, soil compaction, water intrusion, termites & by tradespeople crawling underneath with saws & hack away at various support pieces to accommodate their work & then just walk away, as if there are no consequences in removing huge pieces of load bearing materials.

Well, there are! And you will see some of it in these videos. Meanwhile, take a look at my article on protecting your foundation. There are actions that you can take to prolong its health.


House Bolting Experts – Los Angeles Foundation Repair (2:52)
Z Ian

Assessing Floor Sag In A 100 Year Old House (14:18)
Michael Zicopoulos

Raising Floor in 155 yr. Old House – Part 1, Split Joists (6:17)
Rama Karl

Raising Floor in 155 yr. Old House – Part 2, Fixed!
Rama Karl


So, maybe after crawling under all these houses you’re ready to take a shower. Now you see why I’m such a fan of PPE!

I have a slew of videos about old houses, some practical like this one, some inspirational & some just downright entertaining. So if you want to pick up a hammer, pick up the phone to get an estimate or just pick up a few hands full of popcorn & crank the old recliner, watch my curated video collection here!


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Exterior wood sidingI just realized that these 3 videos about old house, exterior wood siding were made by some of my favorite guys in the old home fix-it business. Each one of them is friendly, bright & they are all excellent teachers. An interesting thing about all 3 is that every one is a perfect gentlemen, treating everyone respectfully, listening attentively & graciously. I think they have absorbed the manners of earlier ages from being so well-attuned to old houses.

They approach teaching very differently from one another, though they all know that if a picture is worth 1,000 words, a video has to be worth at least 1,000,000!

You can read about Bob & John here, in my article about schools. Bob Yapp has run a school in Hannibal, Missouri, The Belvedere School for Hands-On Preservation since 2008. His students come from all over the U.S. & even Europe & Asia.

John Leeke is the OG of wood widow repair as well as general restoration & has been teaching & writing books for years. John & Bob both do consulting including remote consulting, advising homeowners on correct sequences, procedures & materials. Scott you will find here being a terrific resource for DIY’ers at every level.


Replacement Siding Is Nasty! (24:13)
About your House with Bob Yapp

Exterior Woodwork, Repair Split Clapboard (4:34)
John Leeke

Wood Siding Repair: How to Repair Cracks in Clapboard Siding, Part 1 (1:38)
My Old House Fix


I have a large number of informative old house videos on my YouTube playlists from scary tales of knob & tube to heartwarming stories of bungalow neighborhoods to the history of the Arts & Crafts Movement as it crossed the seas to America from England. So, if you want to know how the pro’s do it, or just pass an enjoyable afternoon eating popcorn in front of the computer, tune in!

And don’t forget the watch SAFETY FIRST!!!! There’s nothing sexier than PPE!


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