Friday, February 27, 2009

Hardware Nirvana

I spent much of my day yesterday at the hardware store. Which is how I spend many of my days - pricing, comparing, choosing, buying. Between Target, the supermarket, and hardware, my days are full. And oh, so satisfying.

Yesterday, an associate approached me in Lowe's as I was looking at faucets for the downstairs powder room. When I told him I was just looking, he said, I figured you would say that.

Then he said: I want to see pictures when it's done. I looked at him, and he said, I've noticed you - you're in here all the time, making notes, studying, like no one else I've ever seen. Are you doing the entire house?

I laughed and told him a little of what we are doing. It will be the entire house before we're done. I feel so consumed by this little project - I need a diversion.

Which, this week, comes in the form of a book. I am anxious to curl up on the couch today and read, read, read.

Well, after my trip to the appliance store.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Moving In

Remember this?

This is Maddie's room over the weekend. When we were in a painting frenzy, trying to be ready for the carpet installers to arrive and work their magic first thing Monday morning.

Well, we did it. We got the room painted. Two coats - apparently that is how much Positively Pink is required to cover brand-new drywall. In any event, we got it done. And the carpet installers were here and, true to my prediction, the room looks done.

Beautiful, no?

Maybe a little bright - I'll give you that. But put yourself in the mind of a 14-year-old girl. By which I do mean girl - one who likes all things pink and pretty and ... well, for lack of a better word, we'll say girly.

She is so pleased. And even my contractor (who felt the wall color was very, very pink) admitted that the room looks great, even if not to his taste. The pink paint makes the trim really pop.

We still have a few details that need attention - the closet door needs to be painted, the closet hardware needs to be installed (and purchased), and there is some touch-up painting. But mostly, it is done. She's moving in tonight (swim meet/neighborhood meeting/Obama speaking preempted those plans for last night - Maddie said if she couldn't move all her stuff in, she'd just wait).

And now, for a change of pace, a photo that is not remodeling oriented. Didn't think I had it in me, did you? Here are Gary and Sylvia on their Saturday night date.

A lovely couple, wouldn't you agree?

Must run. I have a moving project to attend to.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The Remodel: Part XXXIV of MM

For those of you who think I dwell way too much on my house remodeling .... well, let me just say, you've clearly never done a remodel of your entire house. If you ever had, you would know how all-consuming it is.

Today, for example, the electricians were here to install the ceiling fans and outlets in the new rooms upstairs. Mid-job Gale, my contractor/surrogate husband, popped down and said one of the fans had been previously opened and repackaged and was missing pieces - could I run and exchange it rightatthisverymoment, because the electricians only have this scheduled in for another 90 minutes.

Sigh. Such is my life. Must paint new sunroom/guestroon; must strip old hideous wallpaper from Sylvia's room. Must look at appliances to check dimensions for cabinet people; must look at interior French door for new sunroom.

The devil's in the details, or so they say. I am coordinating all these details. Thus I am dancing with the devil. Most days, it feels like it.

(Though I did take a break today and play with my Mah Jongg group, from which I came home $2.50 wealthier. I was, in fact, the only winner of the day. It's a skill.)

The false wall came down in Sylvia's room today. The fourth wall is unfinished, but there is a sense now of just how large the room is. We only added about 2 1/2 feet, but the room feels huge. She is very pleased. As am I.

Tomorrow we move Maddie into her new room. The excitement just never ceases.

As for me, I will defer to the linguistic experts

Fascinating little piece on objective vs. subjective pronouns from the New York Times.

I"ll be reading this closely, myself. And my writer editor friends and I can discuss it later. For my friends and I, it's an issue with which to be dealt.

Though maybe the piece is right - perhaps it's time for the language-istas to back off a bit. Just between you and me, too much rigidity makes language a dull thing, indeed.

Monday, February 23, 2009

The Grammar Czar is hereby demoted

I have to smile at some of the blogs and these "25 Random Things About Me" I've been reading lately. I smile at how many people make comments such as, "I am a grammar geek" or "I am a self-proclaimed 'grammar Nazi.'"

I smile because of what follows. As in, their postings are rife with misspellings, incomplete sentences, or incorrect punctuation.

Which I notice. After editing at newspapers and magazines (not to mention teaching freshman composition), I am used to scouring for mistakes.

Most of the time I can let it go - after all, these are not people who are writing for publication. I am terrible about editing/proofreading my own work; once it's posted, I tend to see the errata I've missed, but I'm often too lazy to go back and correct it.

But I have to pick a little at those who continue to make mistakes, over and over, when they've just stated to the world how they spend their time policing others. For example, I have run across the following - verbatim - over the last couple of days:

* The boxes I drug home have been unpacked.
* I had to pick up my niece from school. School commenced at 3, so I left the house at 2.45 p.m.
• Croc's rock
• We also had these cool little dolls, that smelled good and were packaged in perfume bottles.
• I'm sitting in my kitchen which is barren not exactly knowing what to do next.

Ouch. I know - some of these errors are not glaring; I don't think they change the meaning of the sentences or contribute to highly ineffective communication. Mostly it just strikes me as funny. Sort of like when sanctimonious members of Congress claim they are morally above reproach only to find themselves embroiled in a prostitution scandal.

I have my own grammar/usage pet peeves - which I think I'll keep to myself. The minute I point them out, someone is likely to catch me breaking one of my own rules. Besides, isn't there some quote about worrying about the speck in your neighbor's eye but not noticing the log in your own?

So to all the unofficial or unlicensed members of the grammar patrol: Let's all worry about keeping our own houses tidy, shall we? No more of the pot calling the kettle black - unless the pot is without error. And from what I see, it's not likely.

Saturday, February 21, 2009


It's a workday around here.

Maddie came and asked if, after she went to the movies, her dad would take her sledding. Um, probably not, was the answer. Because we are painting your bedroom! I wanted to hiss.

She could be helping. Maybe should. But really, none of my remodeling ideas were her idea - she would have been satisfied to keep the bedroom she had and have Gary and I use the bathroom in the hall. The desire for the master bath, thus usurping her bedroom, was mine.

So Gary and I are painting. I'm on a short break, soon to be back up rolling paint on the walls. Ceiling and closet (in its entirety) are done; just walls left. Baseboards and moldings were done separately - makes for a nice, clean look.

Here's the before room, with some of the color on the wall. I know - wow. But she's a 14-year-old girl - and it's just paint.

But just to be clear, the closet is painted a more neutral color. That way, when someone decides to repaint - say, when Maddie moves out of that room someday - the task will not include repainting inside the closet.


Friday, February 20, 2009

Marriage and Pests

There are a lot of reasons I'm married.

My husband is a great guy. He is smart and fun and generally we have a good time together. We like a lot, though not all, of the same things, we have beautiful children, and we travel well together.

But truth be told, I could have all those things without being married. But marriage takes you to the next level. The level where he takes out the trash (an unpleasant task), manages the car maintenance, and does the heavy lifting. He will always carry the suitcases out to the car (and back inside when we get home); if we're traveling without the kids, he will carry the suitcases. He will eat my sandwich for me, or trade, if it turns out in a way I did not anticipate. He will let me have the last can of coke or glass of wine.

Yet, as touching as those little gestures are, we have not yet reached the realm of true love: Pests.

Vermin. Rodents. Creepy things that enter my house without invitation.

On Owen Street, we had a little issue with bats. Now, I am not against bats in theory. In their natural habitat (which basically means anywhere that is NOT inside my house). Owen Street was our third old house in an old neighborhood. Meaning, I can't believe it took us that long to have a bat issue. On both Cooper Street and Ninth Street, we heard the bat tales from neighbors and figured we were next; never happened. On Owen Street, we made up for it.

We finally figured out that a screen on the third floor did not fit tight - it takes only a tiny opening for them to get in. Once we quit opening that window, bat problem solved. But we had several tense bat evenings. I am so relieved, so thankful that the bats only chose to make an appearance when Gary was home - I honestly do not know how I would have handled it alone. Maybe Alison would have helped me - she was very calm when she came down one night to tell us there was a bat in her room. The night I heard one flitting above my head, I was frozen beneath the covers while Gary dealt with the intruder.

A few weeks ago, Gary made a solemn announcement: He had found what he thought were droppings in the basement, next to a bag of potatoes that had been nibbled on. We had mice.

Once again, I know these things are a fact of life - I know neighbors who have had mice; I know a neighbor who had a rat in her toilet (shiver). A couple people have had mice in their kitchen cabinets. I'm relieved that my mice were only in the basement. And I'm consoling myself thinking that they probably got in when the back of the house was open when work was being done.

In any event, the mice are past tense. Gary bought the traps, baited the traps, set the traps, checked the traps, and emptied the traps. He caught, and disposed of, four mice. It's been about two weeks, and he's seen not hide nor hair of any more little creatures. And I didn't have to do a thing.

What a great husband. It brings me great peace of mind to know that my husband will always take care of me, will always eradicate our home of unwelcome guests.

And that rat? I would recommend keeping my toilet lids down when not in use.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

O wad some power the giftie gie us ...

... to see oursels as others see us. - Robert Burns

After my post yesterday, I got an e-mail from a friend,

Oh no! she said. You're probably judging me.

It wasn't her. Which I was quick to point out. I don't really make a habit of caring about others' Facebook friend choices. And I'd never noticed hers. This other one was just especially glaring - to me - because of what I know about both the people involved.

What strikes me as really funny is how many people might have seen themselves in that post. And that the person to whom I was referring probably would not see themselves at all.

It's funny whom people choose to "friend." I have one friend who says she is friends with all her exes. She loved them once, and they have not stopped being that person. My husband, on the other hand, points out that as you get to know people, they can change. And suddenly the can become someone you want nothing to do with.

True. True. Do you really want to be Facebook friends with an ex?

I talked to a friend last week, and he is new to Facebook. You'll never guess who friended me, he said. I threw out some names from college. No, no, he said.

The ex. A particular ex. One who totally screwed him over. More than once.

You didn't, I said. No. He didn't. And for good reason. He's no dummy - the cycle will just keep repeating itself. He went around that ride a couple times and decided to quit while he was still ahead. Click - friend request deleted.

I know one thing for sure: Facebook is making me rethink the definition of "friend." With so many Facebook "friends," what am I going to call the people in my real life who are really there for me, supporting me, filling the role of true friend?

Just when you think the Internet is making your life easier. Sigh.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Wasting time on Facebook

Facebook is a giant time waster.

Which isn't to say I don't like it - oh trust me, I am totally sucked in. But wow - the time one could spend reading profiles, perusing friends of friends, searching for long-lost classmates, friends, lovers.

Seems as if one could - should - do something more productive.

This week, I've been inundated with stories about Facebook - on the radio today I heard the story about this meme 25 Random Things About Me; I've read other stories from
Time and Newsweek about how Facebook is for old people, and about how Facebook is sucking up all their free time.

True - all of it true.

Yet, I still love it. I am trying not to spend too much time on it - it's not as if I accomplish anything when I use it. I'm not in a competition as to who has the most friends (except with Gary - I tease him about being anti-social on Facebook, and he gloats because he was friended by a mutual friend of ours and I was not). I don't seek out everyone I ever knew in high school and college.

I have one friend who does seem to "collect" friends - I looked at her friend list one day and was stunned at some of the people she considers "friends." But in the time I've known her, she has always been about collecting things - why would "friends" be any different?

I have three friends in particular that are special. One is a former colleague, one a cousin, and one a friend from long ago that I'd lost touch with. For those three friends alone, this has all been worth it.

So I think I have reached Facebook Nirvana and it can't get any better. I'm not ready to quit, but I am ready to step back a bit. Let's hope it's not too late.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Weekend post mortem

Valentine's Day gets a lot of hype. Hype that might be difficult to live up to.

I've had someone to spend this day with since I was 18 years old. Every single year since then, in fact. So I don't get too worked up about what the day will bring - as I said, I have someone who tells me they love me, and that's what really matters.

This year we met some friends for dinner. It was lovely, a catered affair at a downtown location with several different wines. Two of the other couples I know quite well; the third couple I know, but not as well. Well, I knew her years ago. Under very different circumstances. So it was nice to get to get reacquainted. In a good way.

Went for drinks after dinner and ran into some other friends. Came home, caught Alec Baldwin (love him!) and Jonas Brothers on SNL.

(Just Jonas Brothers - no The. Thanks goodness I have tween daughters to fill me in.)

We saw The Reader at the movies Friday night. It's been a long time since I read the book, so it seemed they had altered it a bit. Not so, I found after pulling out the book Saturday morning. Though they did cut one scene that, to us, seemed of critical importance. And I cannot for the life of me figure out why, unless they thought showing it might give too much away.

Today Gary and I went to the hardware store sans children, then came home to see the all scatter. So we had another hour to ourselves. It was strange to be alone in the house on a Sunday afternoon. But in a good way. Though I'm not quite ready for the house to be completely empty. Not yet.

That's pretty much it around here. Just feeling content after a nice weekend. Still hating the kitchen, but that will change soon.

60 Minutes is calling ...

Friday, February 13, 2009

The Valentine's box

I am somewhat challenged in the craft department. It's a tough admission for the mother of three daughters, but alas, it is none the less true.

My own mother used to make this claim. She should have given herself more credit - I got even less of this gene than she did. And really, she did remarkably well. She was my Girl Scout troop leader and did very well. And she managed to come up with some of the cutest Valentine's Day boxes ever.

This was back in the day when we all made our boxes at home and brought them to school for a little contest. Kids with creative-type parents were lauded; those whose parents were more challenged had dull, uninspired boxes.

Lucky for me, my mom could help me create some good ones. One year we made a castle, which was a huge hit with my classmates.

My favorite, though, has always been the Valentine's Day train. And I can even remember how to make it.

So, armed with these supplies, Sylvia and I set out to make her Valentine's box:

This was our prototype - a few years ago, after never having to make a Valentine's box with my own children, I thought the girls should see that I actually am capable of making something that looks decent.

Sylvia and I worked yesterday afternoon, and this was the end result:

I could have just sent her with the old one, but that wouldn't have been the same - it was about making a Valentine's box for Sylvia.

She set off for school today, Valentines and box in hand. I will show up at 10 to attend her party, armed with red velvet cupcakes with pink and red sprinkles.

Making Sylvia happy is such a simple task these days. And it makes me happy, too.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009


I never know what kind of shoes to wear when it rains.

I suppose if it were 50 years ago, then I would put on my boots or galoshes or rubbers or whatever you called them. Perhaps if I wore Crocs, those would work. As it is, most of my shoes are leather, and getting them soaking wet, in rains such as we are having today, is just not appealing.

But wear the leather shoes I did - not sure what my options were. Going barefoot doesn't seem like the best choice.

I had hoped that extending the back of our house 10 feet might magically cure the mini-flood we get in our basement when it rains. No such luck. It's not really a flood so much as a trickle, a small stream of water that comes in and flows directly to the drain. It's not a big deal, but all the same, I guess I wish it weren't there.

Yet it is. I have to deal with it.

I keep telling myself that when this work is all done I'll be able to focus better on the tasks at hand, that my house will be all tidy and organized, that I'll just be extra-productive around here. I'll finish all these projects, and I'll get busy with some of that writing I say I'm going to do. That's my intention, anyway.

And I do think that once my house is in order, I'll be able to focus better. I need an organized environment for my mind to function properly - some people are not affected by clutter or mess, but most people I know are and have difficulty concentrating when surrounded by a mess. That's me. And I feel surrounded by mess - two sets of table and chairs in my dining room, an upstairs hallway full of Sylvia's books, a kitchen that is overflowing.

It's becoming tiresome to write, and tiresome to read. But it's a fact, and it's hard for me to get over it when it stares me in the face. Every. Day.

The rain has stopped and the sun is peeking out. A little sunshine does wonders for the soul.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Yes, Virginia, there is such a thing as a stupid question

When you're a kid, they tell you in school that there is no such thing as a stupid question.

I'm afraid I beg to differ. This note appeared on my former neighborhood's message board:

"My son's coach at the middle school has requested he join athletics. I need to
arrange a physical for him. I guess he can go to his regular doctor for

How can you have parented a child for 12 years and not know where to take him for a physical? Really, what is this woman thinking?

I guess stupid comes in all different varieties. Especially out in the 'burbs.

Monday, February 09, 2009

Wm. Shakespeare's Five and Twenty Random Things Abovt Me

(I laughed and laughed when I read this - a friend posted it on her Facebook page. Cracked me up. And still does every time I read it.)

The meme is older than anyone guessed! Here it is, something I just dug up at the library: the First Folio edition of...
Wm. Shakespeare's Five and Twenty Random Things Abovt Me

1 Sometimes I Feele so trapp’d by iambic pentameter ... Does that make me a Freake?

2 I haue been Knowne to cry at Bear-baiting.

3 I am not uery ticklish. I am Not. So prithee, do not euen try. Waste. Of. Time.

4 I cannot keep Lice, and know not why.

5 Sometimes I thinke plays are all Talke, Talke Talke, and wish for a cart-chase scene. I tried one in The Merry Wives, but it looked like Shitte, so I cut it. The men playing the horses were so Pissed at me.

6 I once threw vp on a man's head, from a high Windowe. I was so fvcking Sicke that Daye.

7 I hate to wear a Ruff, for I haue such a pleasing Necke.

8 As a player, I am painful-slow to learn my part. Once whilst playing Edward I, I used the prompter so ouermuch that a groundling yell’d ~ Stop interrupting, Will! And it was my Dadde. (Kydding!)

9 Sometimes when I am Stvck for a rhyme, I new-mint a Worde because I jvst want to get the Damned script ovt the fvcking doore.

10 I play the Flute yet poorly, but I can make any crumhorn beg for Mercy.

11 When I am happy I call Anne my Kicky-wicky. When I am cross I call her “Olde Fun Killer Hag-Ass.”

12 I keepe my Stashe hidden in our seconde best bedde. Shhh. Don’t tell the Fyve-Oh.

13 The people that loue my Wordes the best are always the most disappointed vpon meeting me. Is thisse List ouer yet?

14 On the topic of dating, my daughter Susanna loues to remind me: ~Jvliet was only thirteen! And I remind her that i) she was Italian, an impulsive race ii), she was actually played by a middle-aged Eunuch named Ned, and iii) she died. That always shvts her right vp.

15 I deteste it when the Low-Comedians improuise the scenes I writ them… becavse they always make them so mvch fvnnier.

16 I haue, on occasion, thovght abovt hiring a Boy to fixe my Latin.

17 When I was sixe, my Goode-Friend Charles brovght to Schoole a wood-cut of his mother, qvite naked. After that we called him Charles Nudie-Mummy, whiche did make him Crye.

18 I take my eggs ouer-medium. If I get them O’er-Easily, I tell my Porter, ~You may thinke this is what I ordered, but it’s snot. I thinke that one is a real Slap-A-Th’Knee.

19 I work ovt my calues thrice weekly, usvally three pyramid sets of Calf-Rises whilst holding a flagon of Meade. I knowe I should stretch afterwards, but it Bores me so I do it not.

20 As a boy in my Bed, I would shriek i’the night that Witches wovld come to eat me. My Mother (bless her) wovld smooth my Hair and whispr ~ Be not afear’d, the Witches onlie eat the Jews.

21 Whitsuntide has become so commercial.

22 Nobody euer forgets where they were the moment they heard that Thomas Kyd died. I was shopping for codpieces in West Cheape. I came ovt of the Change-room and the proprietress was i’tears. I said ~What is it, now?~Kyd is dead. There was a melancholy qviet, and then she said ~And that Piece is a mite too small on ye.

23 Euery time we do the Taming of the Shrew, some pvnter wants his Money backe, because we don’t actually show a shrew getting tamed.

24 I do not vnderstand all the Fvss over Currants. Sure, they are both sweet and Small, but must they bee added to EUERY FVCKING MEAL these days? Yestermonth, found I currants in a Tarte of Spinnedge. I meane come on, People. Seriovsly.

25 When I am feeling Melancholic, I console myselfe with the Knowledge that, aboue all else, I will be remembered for my Musick.

- Credit to Mike McPhaden

Sunday, February 08, 2009

And in other fun ...

Lest you think our entire weekend was devoted to the garage, the answer is, of course not! I also found time to run the vacuum, make the girls run the vacuum, and clean the bathrooms.

The good times here never cease.

We also chose carpet for Maddie's bedroom. We will be painting next weekend, and my contractor told me to have carpet installed on Feb. 23. Maddie gave me her paint chip so I can pick up some samples this week; among the things I've learned in my life is to invest in the small sample - it is well worth $6 to be absolutely certain you like your paint color.

And we brought home five carpet samples to try them out in her bedroom - I wasn't sure I liked her first choice, but by golly, when we got it in her room, away from the showroom lights, it was perfect. They will be here tomorrow to measure.


Saturday night was girls night, as my friend Ann invited me to the premiere of the play The Spy, a brand-new play based on a work by James Fenimore Cooper. Lots of fun - I enjoyed catching up with Ann, and the play was very good.

I am passing on 60 Minutes tonight - yes, the landing of the US Airways flight was amazing, but to be honest, I do not need the constant updates on what the crew is up to - how they met for the first time after the crash, how they revisited the scene, their play-by-play of every thought that ran through their heads. Enough is enough. You know, had this happened in the midwest, would it be getting just as much hype?

(I'll also be passing on the interview with the crazy mother of octuplets - she is clearly deranged. I think she and Mrs. Duggar in Arkansas have some sort of narcissistic personality disorder that makes them crave the attention of having newborns. After all, I do have 8 hours of college psychology - I am sure I am more than qualified to analyze others' personality quirks. This interview, however, I think I"ll skip. I have enough crazy in my life without adding her.)

That's it for now - I need to feed my family, pick up my book club book. Happy Sunday, all!

Nice weather = clean garage

This weekend the weather brought us a brief respite from the throes of winter. It was 55 degrees here yesterday - 55 - and I'm not even tired of the cold yet!

Suffice to say, yesterday and today have been glorious. Which meant, for us, time to clean out the garage.

Sounds simple, but even the simplest of tasks can become complicated. Like when we decided to properly store our awnings. The contractor took them down and placed them in the garage, which was so addled with miscellany that we barely noticed. But the weeks of scraping ice and snow have been encouraging us to figure out a way to clear a space for at least one car, so we had to deal with, among other things, the awnings.

The previous owner had rigged up a system to store the awnings on a platform attached to the roof of the garage with pulleys (it would be too awkward to just hoist them up into the rafters - this I can say with absolute certainty, meaning trial and error). We lowered it with no problem, loaded on the awnings, then went to lift.

We could barely make it budge. Using every ounce of our strength, Alison and I got it about three feet off the floor; Gary was not going to be able to life the other side alone.

After some deliberation (much of which did not involve me and my non-mechanically inclined mind), Gary decided to add additional pulleys. Ah, the joys of being married to an engineer - I realize this is basic physics, nothing of the earth-shattering variety, but my little head just cannot wrap itself around issues that involve machines (even of the simple variety) or indeed, any sort of spatial relations. I am always happy to edit a sentence for grammar or clarity, but when it came to the pulleys, I was just a hindrance.

So this afternoon, Gary finished assembling the new-and-improved pulley system, which involved trips to five hardware stores and much more rope. (I'm thinking a few obscenities must have played a role as well.) When the four of us made an attempt, it went up easy as pie. The awnings are now stored high above our heads.

Success? Well, not quite - adding the extra pulleys added a few extra inches to the entire system, meaning that the garage door could not clear the awning platform. Frustration, until Gary figured out ways to pull the ropes tighter. Now success was the result.

After all that work, I'm thinking we should have just pitched the awnings. I'm not sure we want to use them again, anyway.

So, following the awning storage fiasco, we hauled several old moving boxes stuffed with packing paper to the recycling center; stored the boxes we will need to pack up the kitchen in the shed; cleared out several garage boxes and put away some tools; put all the various basket, volley, and soccer balls in their proper tub; put the bicycles away - some are suspended from the ceiling, some are in the shed; and vowed to, this spring, carefully, carefully sort through every remaining garage box and get rid of the stuff we do not need.

All in all, a successful mid-winter garage cleansing. And when it was all over, I pulled my car into the garage.* With any luck, the contractor will get his few remaining items out of there and we will have two cars in the garage, leaving only Alison parking outside.

Such a good feeling. Even if the end result is only a cleaner garage, it is still making me feel good. As they say, it's the little things in life that truly make us happy. And I have to say, a tidy garage is definitely making me happy.

*I offered the spot to Gary, but he figured, for now, it's simpler for me to park there since I do not leave the house before 7.30 a.m. the way he and Alison do. Plus, it will be warm all week - 60 on Tuesday - so no one will be scraping ice this week.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Everything old is new again

So. I've spent my week stripping dated wallpaper out of my bedroom. And what is the headline in today's home section? New Advances Make Wallpaper A Trendy Choice.

Really? I think I'll stick to my no-wallpaper design decision - and at this point, I don't think I'll regret it.


We went carpet shopping today. Maddie wants this new shag look. I can live with it - I wouldn't go for a berber or for one that is too tightly cropped, but I could go for a shorter pile. But if this is what she wants, she can have it. And we're generally on the same page for color, so she can choose what she likes. As can Sylvia - their rooms are across the hall, which will be wood, so they don't need to be the same.

Completion. What a radical idea.

Friday, February 06, 2009

What else have I been up to?

I have not been idle this week: I am ridding my bedroom of this:

The dreaded mauve and blue floral. So big in the 1980s - maybe even in the early '90s - but oh-so-out-of-style these days.

At least not my style.

And look - it gets better, as it is partnered with lace valances. So, so not my style. Though it might have been at an earlier point in my life, just not now.

We even have a wallpaper border - who uses wallpaper borders anymore? Not that there's anything wrong with them - I'm just a little bored with the entire wallpaper phenomenon.

Then again, decorating is very personal - you should go with whatever works for you. This just isn't working for me.

So this is what I've been doing all week. I've been armed with my trusty spray bottle of boiling water and a putty knife, scraping, scraping, scraping. I particularly like how the residual paper has taken the shape of Illinois here.

I have at least three more rooms in which to remove paper: Maddie's bathroom, Sylvia's bedroom, and the kitchen. After this ordeal, should wallpaper come back in style, I will think long and hard before hanging any. Or I'll be paying someone.

But I'm sure the end result will be worth it. I'll let you know.

One project completed

Old House Journal is very specific when one talks of fixing up an old house. The words remodeling, renovating, and restoring are not interchangeable. Though that is true in any sense - there are no true synonyms, as all words have specific definitions and cannot be used in place of one another without sacrificing some context.

(Sorry - the English major in me has to pop out from time to time.)

I would like to think we are "restoring" our old house, not "renovating" nor "remodeling." Ideally, we are making this house what it used to be, restoring it to its original splendor. But we are also making it better - people in 1880 did not have bathrooms at all, nor did they have lovely kitchen with updated appliances.

OK - any appliances.

When we moved in, we added a third bathroom. It suits our lifestyle - we have been a three-bathroom family for the past nine years, and it's hard to go back. So that was our first order of business.

To do so, we had to evict Maddie from her bedroom. Selfish of us, I know; we sacrificed a bedroom for our daughter so we could have our own bathroom. She is getting her room back (we'll be painting next weekend - !) And ideally, she would have had her room first. But it had to do with our contractor and how he could work this all in. Maddie paid the price ... but we now have our bathroom, so I'm sure she is happy for us.

Three bathrooms. And half-bath downstairs.

I grew up in houses with two bathrooms. For six people. It never seemed strange, nor did it seem crowded. But I am one generation removed from people who barely had bathrooms - my grandparents both lived in houses that clearly added their bathrooms on years after they were built. One of those houses had an additional toilet and shower in the basement, which was not an uncommon practice in those days - it was considered unsanitary to have a toilet up where you lived.

Several of my friends had one bathroom - some didn't even have a shower. One toilet for the whole family. This was not the era of the ensuite master bath, of double vanities, of the separate tub and shower. Life was much simpler.

And you know what? We all survived. My family of six shared one shower, and it never felt like a hardship. Though having a second toilet was handy at times. Especially when someone was in the shower.

The bathroom with the shower was in the basement, nowhere near my bedroom. And once again, it just didn't seem like that big a deal.

What can I say - life has changed. And what I put up with then, I won't now. And I have to say, my life is much easier.

So here goes: Shots of our brand-new bathroom. I won't tell you how much it cost, but I will tell you that it cost nearly as much as our first house cost 18 years ago - wow. And it is totally worth it.

The double vanity. Gary is on the left, I am on the right. Cabinets are cherry with an espresso finish.

My side of the vanity, with the linen closet on the right.

Close up of my sink. Fixtures are in brushed nickel - excellent for hiding water spots. Counter/sinks are cultured marble - again, they camouflage water spots and dirt exceptionally well.

Accent tile detail inside the shower. We used white subway tiles to capture that old-house look.

Accent tile in the bathtub. Note how well it coordinates with the wall color and the countertops - credit goes to my husband for making this recommendation.

The make-up table across from the shower - perfect use of this odd cubbyhole space next to the chimney from downstairs.

The shower. Must have separate tub and shower - ignore my comments from earlier about how we all used to get along with so much less - there is no way I'm hiking my leg over the side of the tub to get in the shower. How much should one put up with every day of one's life? Except for the days I take a bath?

The toilet. Located on its own, behind a pocket door - a necessity if one shares a bathroom. Especially when one shares with one's husband.

Reuse of existing closet shelves - they hold the towels, which now serve dual purpose as beautifully coordinated accent pieces. (Unless they're in the wash - which is often.)

Many thanks to my contractor, who executed our plan, and to our designer, who helped us maximize the space by cramming in every fixture I wanted: two sinks, separate tub and shower, make-up area, and private toilet - we got it all! Gary and I will take credit for choosing colors, tile, fixtures, and the overall coordination. It turned out great - modern enough, yet, ideally, still in the style of our century-old home.

Many more updates in the days ahead!

The Eternal Renovation Project

House renovation is a long process.

Even longer when you're living in said house.

The one thing that keeps me going? That if we were doing this work ourselves, it would be taking even longer. Costing less? Maybe - I'm not even sure I could say that. The emotional cost would be much, much higher.

It is all wearing on me. The constant clutter, the noise, the lack of order. The chaos. The cost.

Not to mention the very ugly kitchen. It is small - too small for my liking - but I think I could live with that if it weren't so outdated. It is hard to keep clean - it is so very difficult to motivate us to keep things tidy. We can't fit everything in the cabinets, so we're already three steps back. Factor in the ugly cabinets, the chipping, peeling floor, the burned countertops and the ancient, breaking down appliances, and you being to understand just why, why we hate it so much.

It's all changing. Today we ordered the new cabinets. Zinn! Zinn! I feel so light when I type that word - the Zinn cabinet people are changing my life. Trust when I say it is so much more than just cabinets - they are truly altering the way I will see my kitchen and my food preparation for ever more.

And it cannot happen soon enough for me. When we moved in, all of our 20-plus-year-old appliances were functioning, albeit barely. We are slowly losing them:

- the built-in microwave quit
- the garbage disposal no longer works
- the oven does not heat up properly
- the burners on the stove may - or may not - work properly
- and - new this week - the dishwasher leaks. It was already borderline functional - the dishes must essentially be scrubbed prior to loading, and it is installed on a slope - the racks slide out on their own when the door is opened. Be there to catch them or watch your dishes end up on the floor.

This leaves only the refrigerator working as it should.

Lest you think I complain too much, here are photos of our barely functioning kitchen. Please note disarray on countertops - there is nowhere to put this crap. And no incentive to do so.

View of the stove, standing in front of the tiny bathroom. Note the non-functioning built-in microwave, along with its counterpart, the new microwave, which now takes up valuable (non-existent) counter space. Note, too, the "vintage" look of the appliances - late 70s? early 80s? Either way, it spells N-O-T-W-O-R-K-I-N-G.

A close-up of the microwave; it is completely broken. It was a space-saver before space-savers were cool. The door handle is broken. The kids were outraged that there was no popcorn button - I suspect this microwave predates microwave popcorn by some years.

A view of the sink. I actually love the windows here (hard to see, but they are kind of cool, and we will likely, at some point, make the side windows into casements). The dishwasher is wretched (see above). The sink has one deep side and one shallow - how are you supposed to wash dishes in that thing? Countertops hold all the appliances that will not fit anywhere else. The cabinets are only about 30 inches tall, but we have nearly 10-foot ceilings. Wasted space. They are also ugly, a minor detail that was probably not lost on most.

View from the sink of the tiny bathroom. The behemoth of an island takes up any floor space that might otherwise exist. But I can't rip it out because without it, where do I put the rest of our stuff?

The back wall will disappear - the new addition is behind it. And here is what our kitchen will look like (more or less) when we're done:

No, we will not have blue cushions on our barstools. Nor will we have light blue countertops or green floors (it's just a computer rendering). But you get the idea - think hickory cabinets with antique bronze bin pulls, dark granite countertops, and stainless steel appliances, slate floor and slate backsplash. Undermount stainless steel sink. Walls in a terra cotta color. Pendant lights over the bar.

Patience. It all requires patience. But the reality is getting closer.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009


Everyone is out there these days - on Facebook, on blogs. Yet so many people are not genuinely there.

I am frustrated by the amount of dishonesty I see in the aforementioned media. People feel a strong need to make themselves appear as they would like others to see them, rather than as they really are.

I read a lot of blogs, many written by people I've never met in person, per my blog group. Over the past year, I have seen at least five of these women get divorced. And not a single one of them ever, ever, before the divorce, alluded to the fact that there was trouble in their marriage.

One writes about how she left her husband, and as she tells it, it is all his fault. Three of the others just one day, suddenly, write, We're divorcing.

This comes after weeks, months, years of entries about how perfect their lives were. I don't necessarily expect people to bare their souls, but come on - it cannot have been perfect one day and over the next.

Two blogs I read are women who are very up front about the fact that their husbands cheated on them and they have stayed in the marriage, working hard every day to restore the trust they once had. They deal with how hard it is, the recurring doubt, the frustration with the other woman. I appreciate their candor; it makes their writing so much more intense, makes them more real people.

My favorite (or least favorite) is the sanctimonious blog written by a woman who clearly has never made a bad decision in her life - go ahead and ask her. She may be divorced, but I guess we gloss over that (must have been his fault). Her kids are perfect (thanks to her - which she also mentions) and her life is perfect.

(And why do I continue to read this? Maybe for the same reason I read Cal Thomas or Jonah Goldberg - punishment.)

But she says awful things about her children's father, which those children can see. How can you talk about someone you were once married to in such a way, especially when he is the father of your children?

It seems as if it would behoove some people (and who knows - maybe I am one of them) to be a little more real, a little less pretentious in writing. If the purpose of a blog is to extol your own virtues and blather about your own accomplishments and perfection, then I want no part of it.

I have to say, I really appreciate my dear friend Tammy, who dealt with a life crisis in her own blog quite gracefully - she did not ignore it or pretend it wasn't happening or wasn't stressful, but chose to focus on what she was learning from it and how she would - hopefully - come out stronger. But also felt free to share that it all kinda sucked.

I much, much prefer this to the friend of mine who made up a ludicrous story about being friends with someone (a major celebrity) back at a time when it could not have been possible - I could draw her a timeline to show that it could not possibly be true. But no need to go there - I can let her struggle with why she feels the need to do this.

Or why someone I know on Facebook has not been honest about their education info. As if changing their year of college graduation makes them a better person - we don't all graduate in four years, so why the cover up? Because it might lend credence to the theory that you aren't infallible, but prone to make errors? In judgment? In life?

Revisionist history. Surely you know that someone out there knows the truth. I just wonder why this need to paint ourselves as perfect. When we all know that the interest in people lies not in their perfection, but in their flaws.

I think I will spend the rest of the day in my very untidy house, reveling in the imperfect human condition.

Nineteen Minutes

I am not a big fan of Jodi Picoult. So why do I keep reading her books?

Hard to say. Last one I read, I read for a book group. This one, Nineteen Minutes - well, there is no excuse. I read it, but I didn't necessarily enjoy it.

Maybe I am hard to please. But I know good writing. And while Picoult is a decent writer, she is not great. Here are some tips so that she might appeal to a more discriminating reader:

• As she often does, Picoult shifts points of view. But in this book, it becomes annoying to the point of distraction. She shifts among at least eight primary narrators, then throws in six or seven more on occasion, and at least one just once or twice. Enough already - if you're doing it for emphasis, then it has lost its effect.

• Bad editing. Many of the descriptive paragraphs go on way too long, way too gushing, in their telling of mother/child love. And there are mistakes - she says at point they got the dog when the kid was 3, then she says, a few paragraphs later, that this dog had patience and had given pony rides to the same kid at age 2. Error control, please. It wasn't the only one - I just didn't document them all.

• You know early on what happens and, essentially, who the guilty party is. Yet the book goes on for 400 more pages. Something has to happen, right? So you begin to think, Picoult likes to yank the rug out from under you. What is the most outrageous possible explanation, possible outcome in all of this? You think about it, and of course you figure it out. In her attempt at over-the-top suspense, it just feels contrived.

• The books are beginning to feel too formulaic. Too many characters, all involved in this messy scenario, all with one sort of attachment or another to the main characters. It's just too much.

Now that it's done, time to move on to a new book. I have a bookclub pick waiting, but I also need to read Eclipse, No. 3 in the Twilight series. From one book of questionable writing to another ... but I have to know what happens before the rest of world tells me any more details!