Friday, December 26, 2008

Living Simple

My friend wrote on her blog about a decorating style she admired ( I agree. Simple is MUCH better, but it is really suprisingly hard to do. Do you think so too? Like losing weight, something I know a little about. The weight creeps up and up without one hardly noticing, but it is so hard to lose it. It's the same thing for me with clutter. It starts with one pile of mail I can't deal with right this minute, then a stack of magazines, shoes that need to go upstairs, linens I don't really have a place to store. . .

I spent a week on a 42' sailboat several years ago. There were 3 adults and six teen-age Boy Scouts. It was a blast, but it also inspired me toward a more uncluttered existence. Why do we need two or three of everything? On the boat, you have to be able to put everything away, every day. A place for everything, etc. He (the captain and boat owner) didn't have two cookie sheets, much less the six I have in my cupboard, three of which don't even fit in my oven. I think I'm going to go start a Good Will box right now.

Cookies, again

Here's the snowball recipe:

and the pine nut cookies. Same cookie base, but pine nuts instead of coconut. I piped the leftover white chocolate on top. I hate to be wasteful!

Monday, December 22, 2008


Alright, pipe down. I know I don't stage food as nicely as Martha's minions staged hers, but I thought these turned out o.k. Zack said they were lame, but he's also sporting a mohawk so I don't have to take him too seriously. I tried to find recipes on her website with no luck. I got them as an insert to my magazine subscription invoice. The ones on the bottom were supposed to look more like snowballs. Again-- oh well. They did taste good.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Poetry for Plumbers

I don't know if you'd feel this sentimental about your plumbers, but I thought you'd appreciate the poetry. Made me laugh, as I'm getting ready to redo my bathroom.

I need a shot of frenetic energy, maybe to be a Type A personality for a bit. I want to not resent the fact that I can't spend the afternoon in front of a nice warm fire with my stack of magazines and books. Or when I do blow off the world for an hour, not to feel bad about it.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Perfectionism is Paralyzing

I don't know why I feel that I can't post a message without having a picture to go along with it. Perfectionism is paralyzing. Everything that has to be done for Christmas (for me) is exciting to think about at any other time of the year than now. Too many holiday events, too much to do at work. . . whine, whine, whine. I think what I need to do is make a list. I find it very distressing when my sieve-for-a-brain lets too much get away from me.

Saturday, November 15, 2008


I'm lamenting a recent urge to declutter. You've heard of "buyer's remorse" I'm sure, but this is more like tosser's remorse. I got rid of a box full of cookbooks, including one from my mother, her Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook. You know, the one with the red and black checked cover? I think this edition dated to the '60s, maybe ten years after she married my dad. I don't have a lot of sentimental value to many things related to my mother (a long story for another post. Maybe another blog.), but there were some recipes in this cookbook I'm realizing I miss. I saved the page with the apple pie recipe. Funny, since this one I know by heart, but why didn't I save the page with the banana nut bread recipe? Everybody has their favorite recipes for banana bread, and this was mine. I'm sure I'll find it online, but it would be comforting, right about now, to be able to pull that old dinosaur cookbook off the shelf and consult its wisdom. Yes, the pages were stained and illegible in places. Yes, the tabs were crumbling away so the book had no real organization anymore. But I knew where the tuna noodle casserole recipe was by feel! Well, o.k., the "feel" was the crustiness from leaving the cookbook out too close to the mixing bowl, but you know what I mean. Three-quarters of the way through the book was the "casseroles" (or was "one dish meals"?) Whatever. I'm sorry now I put it in that box. I can replicate the recipes, but not the "feel."

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Gone to the Dogs

So here are the spots. Aren't they cute? Notice the spot on the carpet. Thanks Molly. Molly is the group of spots on the right. Mosby is the forlorn beast on the left. I do love them, though I do not love the spots they leave behind, if you know what I mean.

New Recipe

Since we seem to be talking about recipes lately, here's one I tried tonight and loved. I've had too much wine, so if you see a typo or three, that's wy. (thanks kethleen!)

Anyway, this turned out great, and easy. I worried about the rosemary (with shrimp?) and arugula (in general), but it was all good. Good, good, good. Chop up the rosemary really good and double the bean part of the recipe. yummmm.

Saturday, November 1, 2008


It's worth leaving most of the blossoms on the hydrangeas to see how pretty they are now. These are a very old fashioned variety.

Full Disclosure

Here's the rest of the Halloween picture. Me helping with the pumpkin, and our front yard display. The cat is a wrought iron number I bought out in Lucketts a couple of years ago.


So here's how the costume turned out. Isn't he cute? We Googled Clark Gable so Troy could see the look I had in mind. He agreed. Can you see the mustache and the dirt from around the goggles? I've called dibs on the silk scarf now that he's done with it. I have a couple of other pictures, but when I reminded him of the Clark Gable pictures, this is the pose I got.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Halloween Costumes

Troy decided he wanted to be a WWII flying ace for Halloween. The best example of what he wanted was this picture of Amelia Earhart. We found the hat (faux shearling), goggles and white silk scarf at various websites and he'll wear my leather bomber jacket. I'll post a picture of him later.

Zack says he's got a costume set up too, but I have no idea what he's planning on. He hasn't trick-or-treated since the 8th grade, but I hear things are very different at college than they were in middle school. Go figure!

Marathon Weekend

Troy and I were up Sunday a.m. at 5:00 to have breakfast and be at the Parish Center at 6 for our part of the Marine Corps Marathon. We (the Scout troop) help the marines set up and hand out water and Powerade. It's an amazing thing to witness. The first to go by are the wheelchair racers-- no legs (or non-working ones), pedaling their special rigs with their arms. Also saw a blind runner with his sighted running partner. They were lightly tethered, giving them both the chance to use their arms as they ran and to keep them close to each other if/when they were overtaken by the herd. And it is very like a herd. The faster runners go by, barely slowing to grab at the paper cups of water or powerade we were offering, then the mad rush of the other 22,000 going by. I guess it was about 8:30 that we saw the wheelchair racers go by, then by 9:15 it's all over except for a few stragglers. Thousands and thousands of paper cups smashed in the street (Lee Hwy. at Adams St., in our case). Then the Scouts and the Marines get busy and 15 minutes later you'd never know we'd been there. The trash trucks lumber by picking up the bags of trash, the street sweepers do their thing, and then we're done. A whole bag of clothing was collected for donation-- shirts and jackets shed by the runners as they got warmed up. Our station was at mile 2, so there was more there than there would be down the road. It was cold, too. I didn't dress in enough layers. Took me hours to get fully warm again. Troy spent the rest of the day variously in front of the tv under a blanket or in front of the computer with his aviator cap on.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Cedar Closets

I have not just been breaking in the new drinking glasses lately! The first two pictures are of the master bedroom closet, the second set are Troy's closet. No snarky comments on how not-tidy they are, but I wanted you to see the cedar. Russ did a beautiful job installing tongue-in-groove cedar and shelving and trim. He did this work before Zack was born. You can still smell a little cedar, but not much. Nothing reminiscent of a gerbil cage. He also had to work around gables in the roof.

Monday, October 20, 2008

New Lamps

We made it to Crate and Barrel finally to spend our gift cards. Hurray for gift cards! We bought two of these desk lamps for the livingroom. It might seem funny to get new lamps in an old crappy livingroom, but we do still use the room and it was too dark to read with the one lamp. I like this style because its heighth is adjustable. It goes nicely with the apothecary cabinet (the one piece of furniture in the livingroom that we'll keep), and the white shade makes it very bright.
Also replaced our drinking glasses.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008


Not that Russ would ever go for it, but I thought this was a neat (and cheap) idea. You could even shorten the drawers so they'd fit in a narrow space like a hallway. The NY Times article was very interesting, along with the other photos. (Thanks Kathleen!)

Loved This Article

I read the sweetest article in this past Sunday's Washington Post Magazine. It was by Gene Weingarten, but not his usual column. What a sad sweet tribute. Makes me think about Mosby and Molly being in their dotage. I took Molly in to the vet last Friday. We saw Dr. Schrader. I never get to see him, and I'm reminded why we like that practice so much. He thought Molly's ear (where Mosby nipped her) would heal just fine, if notched, looked her all over, wasn't too upset by being the recipient of one of Molly's special smiles when he had to poke her a bit. He declares her fit, if a couple of pounds heavy (that got him another special smile). Her ears (on the inside) have been problematic for years. Very itchy, and she's generally itchy all over. He said her inner ears are malformed-- too narrow, and with any inflammation (like now) the opening is even smaller. Too small for standard ointments. So we're on an antibiotic and a steroid to reduce the inflammation. She's like a new dog. I'm surprised her brains aren't scrambled after all the years of head-shaking. She also got her nails trimmed. I hear the technicians had to muzzle her for that. Too many special smiles. I'll have to see if I can capture one on my camera for posterity.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Dog Fight

Mosby and Molly have developed this bad habit of barking at each other while they're eating. If left alone they've been known to attack each other as they are both curious to see what scraps might have been left in each other's bowl. As if. They both practically take the finish off the porcelain before they're done. Anyway, last night, hours after they'd eaten, Molly pranced past Mosby and I think Mosby didn't like it and snapped at her. She, of course, had to come back at him. They had quite a tussle before I could get them apart. Mosby has so little maneuvering ability anymore-- he can't reallly back up without just going all the way down. Once he's up he's fine though, and he still walks well and enjoys our morning and evening forays.

Anyway, a few minutes after the scuffle, Troy calls downstairs that Molly is bleeding-- Mosby had taken a chunk out of her left ear. I managed to confine her to the bathroom to clean her up, sat with her for a while to calm her down, and then left her there on a dog bed for an hour or so to be sure she'd stopped bleeding before we went to bed. Got Troy calmed down (blood all over his comforter had kinda freaked him out) and there were a few splatters on the freshly painted dormers. She seems fine this morning, and it might be my imagination, but they even seemed a bit chastened this morning when they ate. No barking.

If he's going to be a danger to live with, even just for Molly, we've got a problem. I just want him to be o.k. until Christmas for Zack to get home. After that, if/when he goes downhill, Zack will have had his chance to say goodbye.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Bathroom Thoughts

I'm really starting to think about the upstairs bathroom. Found this website that was very interesting. The "after" layout design could be our bathroom (roughly 5'x8') if you swap the doorway and the sinks. What do you think? I'm not a 100% sure about swapping the tub for just a shower, but I like the look of this.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Morning Misstep

I was walking the spots up 13th St. this morning. I crossed between driveways from north to south and I stepped up onto the curb with my left foot. I stepped into the grass of the median with my right foot, heading for the sidewalk, and my right foot stepped into nothingness. I didn't see it at first, but I'd stepped onto the round, iron water-meter cover. Those things are supposed to be bolted down, right? This one must have been half off and I stepped onto the half that was over the open hole. I went down hard on my left hip and left hand, leashes and poop bag flying. I'm lucky I didn't break my ankle or my leg. I would have had to drag my broken self to the door of the house I was in front of. You know the one-- it's front door used to face the Blvd.? White painted brick? They've just added an overhang to the 13th St. "front" door. (It's also where Jackson-the-cat's accusers used to live.) I would have had to wake them to get help. I could have been set for life with the punitive damages I would have laid on the County for their negligence! Just as well. A cast is a big hassle. Been there done that. I should probably put a note on their door though. I also think this would have been a whole lot worse 150 pounds ago.

More on Light Switches

In a previous post I mentioned having to buy light switches for the hall upstairs and down. I mentioned that I was heading to Home Depot the other day to get them and Russ asked if I knew what I was going to get. I looked at him and said, "white?" Apparently I didn't know that I need to get something called "three-way" because that's what we have that let's us turn the same lights on and off from upstairs and down. Who knew? Anyway, he also thinks we should get brown switches because they'll look better with the lacquered brass switch plates. Why do we have to disagree about EVERYTHING? Whatever. He said he'd take care of the switches, which is nice.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

And Now, the Bathroom

See-- just a 5x8 bathroom. Russ and I always thought that putting the bathtup up against the far wall (where the toilet is now) would open the room up a lot, but I think moving the toilet plumbing would be problematic (and expensive). I like the open-on-two-sides tub, though I might consider putting a shoulder- or waist-height wall on the short side. Maybe glass block. There's a window with a towel rack to the right just outside the frame of this photo, which you can see below.

We have to keep the trash can on top of the radiator behind the door to keep Molly out of the trash.

Here's the New Paint

When I first typed in the title for this post I forgot the "t" in paint. Ha!

Anyhoo, here's the new yellow in the hallway. Big difference compared to this, isn't it?

And here's the new blue in what is now officially Troy's room. Molly likes it too. Not as big a difference, but it does look so much better than this.

Pretty Kitchens

I found this link in the April Food and Wine magazine. I think the blue one is pretty, but this sunny room really spoke to me. Love it! Looks very functional too.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The Next Project

I do need to get some after photos posted. Other than the bookcase and a few items in the closet, the room is now officially Troy's. He loves it. Lots of room for Bionicles, and he has more room at that desk to do his homework. Loves the social studies, hates the math. I'm telling him to embrace the math, as he can't avoid it. We'll see. He's having a good year so far. Big man on campus as a 5th grader, no more braces, no more big brother, at least for a while. New big room, too. He also seems quite content (so far) to have his mom and dad to himself.

So, The Next Project. Russ, orderly thinker that he is, says it's to be the bathroom upstairs. This would complete our upstairs renovation, other than repainting now and again. Our bedroom is due now, but maybe I'll get that done when the bathroom is being done. I'm thinking the bathroom is a $10,000 project. Worst case scenario. Can't do $10,000 right now, but maybe $5,000. I still can't believe the estimate we got from ServiceMaster-- $27,000. Can you believe it? It was so outrageous I just laughed the guy right out of the house. As if! About 5 or so years ago another painter offered to "do" the bathroom for $4,500. Good price, but I didn't trust that he had the proper plumbing skills.

Thought for the day: Why is it that one gets the motivation and momentum to do what must be done on one's home just at the point when one has the least amount of money?

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Other Painting News

This is Zack's room, soon to be Troy's. It hasn't been painted in a long time either. Troy picked out a blue that is slightly darker than this, Mediterranean Breeze is the color I believe (I probably misspelled Mediterranean but I'm too lazy to go check it).

Zack left the room such a mess. I don't know where to say I failed; as a housekeeper or as a mother since I clearly didn't teach him how to clean up after himself.

Anyway, it's been a good object lesson for Troy. After the room is painted it will officially be Troy's room. He can't wait.

Too Yellow

I think this photo really shows the yellow we're going to be painting over. A bit too, well, yellow. I still think the Creme Brulee will be too bright, but it will be better.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Colors That Men Love

Just saw this article in House Beautiful about the colors that men love. My man would never, ever, ever go with most of these, I don't care if they ARE the colors of his favorite football team. I did like the Ralph Loren Yellowhammer.

More painting

Yay! Mario is coming tonight to take a look at Zack's room (now Troy's room) to repaint. He'll paint that and repaint the hallway. I'm on a roll! Thankfully Troy wants blue, just a bit darker than what's in there already. It's due for repainting. Zack left such a mess in there! Troy's been sleeping there since Zack left, but he's had to put Zack's stuff in piles. One pile for stuff he (Troy) doesn't want, and another for stuff he DOES want. Not that it's automatically his. Zack told him he had to send a list of stuff he wants and Zack will decide. Sheesh!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

The House and the Road

Sent my oldest off to college Monday morning. You know, it's a conundrum. On one hand I want him to go, to want the new experiences, knowledge, and, yes, make his own mistakes, but on the other hand I want him to cling to me, telling me he doesn't want to leave, that he loves me. that he'll miss me. How much harder this would be, though, if I was having to pry his fingers from me, from the lintel of the front door, pushing him out the door to get him on his way. So I'm not really sad, but I do miss him already. A friend sent me this poem that made me cry a little:

The House and the Road
By Josephine Preston Peabody (1874-1922)

The little Road says, Go,
The little House says, Stay:
And O, it's bonny here at home,
But I must go away.

The little Road, like me,
Would seek and turn and know;
And forth I must, to learn the things
The little Road would show!

And go I must, my dears,
And journey while I may,
Though heart be sore for the little House
That had no word but Stay.

Maybe, no other way
Your child could ever know
Why a little House would have you stay,
When a little Road says, Go.

Monday, August 11, 2008

More on the to-do list

The light yellow is starting to grow on me, but not on Russ. Will try the creme brulee. I also realize that I need to replace the light switches-- they are all old and gross and different colors, even when there are two on the same switch box! I'm thinking white all the way around. White switches and plates. Oh, and white outlets too. Guess I'm heading to Home Depot tomorrow.

Poor Mario-- he had to put up with Russ and then I forgot to send him a check last weekend when I was home for all of 24 hours. He'll pick up his check tonight. He had to call and leave a message asking if the check might have been lost in the mail.

Now if I could as easily straighten out my escrow situation! Title company said they paid it but the county is leaving me messages about "avoiding an embarrassing situation." Oy.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Mario and his boyz are here getting started. I dashed over to the paint store for one last sample. Russ thinks Light Yellow will be the ticket. This after I got the scientific breakdown on the colors I'd selected. Holy Cow! I guess the yellow is o.k. with me, though I wanted to go more neutral, and thought Russ did too. You must wonder how we decide what to eat for dinner each day.

This is Light Yellow:

The boyz have taped off the openings to the living and dining rooms with plastic sheeting. Troy will have to climb under to get out of the livingroom in a few minutes! I'll have to shut the dogs in the kitchen/basement side of the house. Molly has already tried pushing her way through the plastic, and she keeps trying when she doesn't think anybody is looking.

Russ asked Mario to please put two coats of Kilz primer on everything before they start painting. Mario rolled his eyes at me (behind Russ's back) kind of like a horse will when you're trying to make him do something he thinks is stupid. I believe he intended to prime the bare wood, but it clearly didn't make any sense to him to prime everything else. He said he would, however, so good for him. I'm not going to check to see if he did two coats.

Monday, July 21, 2008

What's getting painted

This is the blasted hallway, the first thing you see when you enter my home. Ugh. The archway to the dining room is to your left, the livingroom to your right. In this shot, you can see the two colors up for selection next to the trim on the right of the photo. I did a swatch of Barely Beige on the top, and Lambskin on the bottom. (I just got up and checked my penciled notes on the wall to be sure.) As Kathleen says, the Barely Beige has a little bit more personality, which is to say still not much, but it will still give a bit more contrast to the white trim when it is indeed clean and white again. By the way, the discoloration on the lower half of the wall coming down the stairs is from Russ's mom putting gloss paint on that part to "separate it" from the rest of the wall. I think it just attracted fingerprints from the children and nose prints from the dogs.
Russ promises to put up a Shaker rail on the wall to the left for coats, leashes, etc., but I'm thinking that's going to make our pristine wall look trashy. We should find another place for our coats or do without. The funny thing is, the coats hanging in the closet have been there for years, hardly used, while we keep putting more hooks on the door and on the wall of the stairs to hang the things we use more frequently. Whatever. None of us (yes, ), me included, can keep to a two coat limit. I can't remember what Russ's mother used to do, but she would never have put up with this mess. I say leave the hooks on the side of the stairs (that you can't see) for leashes and backpacks), but coats get hung up or tossed. Well, tossed into bedrooms anyway.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Other Progress

One other chore I've been meaning to get to: replace the racks in the dishwasher. It's a perfectly good dishwasher, but the racks are rusting and losing their pins. Glassware got chipped. The holes in the silverware caddy were maddening too. So I called up Trible's. They had the parts, shipped them to Falls Church, and I picked them up Wednesday. Zack helped me figure out how to get the the stops off the top rack rails and install the old water director thingie off the old bottom rack onto the new one. I'm glad it wasn't an IQ test; I'd have failed. And/or my son is brilliant. In any case, it was easy and now I'm happier about doing the dishes.

The painters are coming!

So it's just the hallway, but I'm very excited. Just told Russ (in an email) that they're coming Friday. This is the first he's heard that I'm going to have them paint too. The only hitch here is that I'm leaving town on Saturday. Mario has good references from the neighborhood, including one family who had them work while they were on vacation. Russ didn't want to paint yet because he wants to install crown moulding, chair rail, etc., replace the trim around the living room and dining room archways, sand blast the radiator, blah blah blah. I know he means well, and he does do excellent work, but he doesn't have the time. I told him I decided that we should paint now and fine tune with the trim later. I know he's going to have a cow (as Bart Simpson would say). I just want him to throw his hands in the air and say, "Whatever." I don't want him to fire Mario. I also don't want to miss going to Cape May, which is where I'll be next week.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Reading Progress

I finished reading The Appeal. I'm disappointed I kept trying to get back into it. Wasn't worth the effort or whatever I paid for it in the first place. I'm way over Mr. Grisham.

Also finished Duma Key. I did like that one. I don't know why Stephen King strikes me as a guilty pleasure. His character development is wonderful, and while this story wasn't his creepiest, it has enough creepiness to keep it going.

I'm nearing the end of So Brave, Young, and Handsome and loving it. Beautiful pictures with words. I'm trying to cast the movie. What a great story.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

So it's been a month. . .

. . . but who's counting? Yikes!

So the engineers have come and gone. We got the column in the basement jacked up about an inch. I don't notice any dramatic change in the cracks in the walls on the first floor, but for the first time in more than 20 years the bathroom door on the second floor shuts without binding. The hardwood floors have been getting really creaky lately too, and that seems better, although I can still hear Zack trying to sneak upstairs at 2 a.m.

The construction crew took down the outer scrim of plaster on the hallway wall and patched the wallboard beneath it, but they stopped at a point over the archway into the dining room. They tried to smooth over the line where the old plaster is and where it now isn't, but it still looks like the difference in a road where the old asphalt has been scraped off but not repaved yet. On the dining room side of the wall it is as it was before, with the hole from the door knob and all. I've got a fellow coming Friday evening for an estimate to take down all the old wallboard and redo it all. I'm dying to see what's inside there. Worst case scenario is old termite damage. Well, I shouldn't say "worst case" because I think that's asking for trouble, don't you? I kinda heard an echo when I read that last bit out loud. The house gremlins are listening and coming up with new problems, I just know it.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Summer Reading

I've been buying books like some people buy shoes. I've been the happy, lucky recipient of some gift books, too. I have more to read (about three months worth of New Yorkers, Martha Stewarts, and Real Simples), but this is the top ten on my book list.

A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers by Xiaolu Guo. A gift from my dear friend Debbie that I can't wait to read.

Time Bites by Doris Lessing. A Christmas gift from my friend Wendy.

River of Darkness by Rennie Airth (a secret Santa offering)

Emma Brown by Clare Boylan, from an unfinished manuscript by Charolotte Bronte. Doesn't that sound intriguing?? Another secret Santa gift.

The Appeal by John Grisham. Might not keep this on the list. Been trying to read this when I go to bed but it's not keeping me up.

Duma Key by Stephen King. Did you read the excerpt in The New Yorker? I'm intrigued. I'm also an unashamed King fan.

All the Names by Jose Saramago. I loved Blindness.

Atonement by Ian McEwan

So Brave, Young, and Handsome by Leif Enger. I loved his first book, Peace Like a River. This got a good write up in a recent Washington Post Bookworld

Edith Wharton by Hermione Lee. I've had this since last summer, but haven't had a chance to get to it. It's an enormous tome. Definitely not one to take to the beach.


I saw the very first firefly of the season last night. I know it was the very first and nobody else saw it. It was magical; in the woods at the confluence of two very busy roads, but for a moment there were no cars. Just the sounds of the woods. Well, and the dogs panting. And Mosby licking the gravel for a scrap of somebody's picnic leftovers. Some of the eager beaver first fireflies were blinking very fast, and others seemed to be just waking up. I love this time of the summer.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008


I mailed off the contract and a deposit to Geofreeze today. Yay! The paperwork says I'll be on their schedule within a week of them getting my check. And cashing it, I'm sure, but still. I'm dusting off the sledgehammer and claw tool. I'm just itching to get into that wall to see what's what. Then I want it fixed and I want to paint. And drag the livingroom furniture to the curb, strip and paint in there, then move to the dining room. My friend Wendy keeps asking (and has been for months, maybe years) what COLOR do I want. Have we picked a COLOR yet. Honestly. The color comes so far down the list of why we haven't moved forward, it doesn't matter. Well, it does to Russ. I guess it does to me too, but I'm the one picking the chips and he's the one saying, "No that won't do." What he wants is no color. With white trim. I don't want it to look like the Caribbean (all hot pink and turquoise), but I want something. He doesn't seem to mind the color of dirt, fingerprints, and dog noseprints that have been there for as long as we've lived in the house.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008


I got a lot of planting and other yard work done this weekend. One chore I was happy to do was to get these succulents planted. They were a gift from my friend Wendy, along with the pretty blue pot. I had the strawberry pot, and I like how the hens and chicks look in it.

Being succulents, I'm hoping this means they are more like cactus and won't suffer when I'm a slug about watering. Now to move on to the rest of the yard. It's turned into quite a jungle!


My friend and neighbor, John K., just had sod installed in his backyard. He was thrilled, and so were the raccoons. Every morning John comes down to see whole sections of sod lifted very carefully by the raccoons so they can get to the grubs underneath. He ordered coyote urine (I don't know if this is where he ordered it, but this is what I'm talking about) and that worked for one night. He just put down some anti-grub stuff. We'll see if THAT works, since it is apparently the grubs they're after. Anybody have any ideas?

Thursday, May 22, 2008

A Visual Aid

I thought a visual aid might be helpful. This is the first floor of my house. You can click on the picture for a bigger view. I'm not sure why there needed to be an entryway in the kitchen once upon a time, but maybe it was to add an airlock. I think the room that I use as a pantry was always there, though when I moved in, it was more of a mudroom.

In any case, when the entryway was removed, the load-bearing wall (the "bad" wall) was apparently not properly reinforced. The bad wall does continue all the way to the front wall next to the front door, with an archway through to the dining room. Same on the livingroom side. So the break in the load-bearing wall is only there in the kitchen, and it is directly above that that the walls are so cracked upstairs. If the house is sagging there, it stands to reason the load-bearing wall is going to sag too.

The blue square is the masonry column in the basement the structural engineer believes is settling. This is also a reasonable theory, but John K.'s 4ft. level shows everything on the straight and narrow until you get upstairs

Wednesday, May 21, 2008


I like the quote we got from the 2nd engineer, but I'm just not 100% sure that his solution will fix the problem we want him to address. On one hand, I think I trust that he knows a whole more about structural engineering than I do, his description of the settling sounds valid, and his confidence is comforting. On the other hand, John K. points out that everything from the basement to the first floor is level, that it's above the rebuilt part of the kitchen that appears to be the problem. I did point this out to the engineer, and he still went back to the support column settling scenario. I'm going to ask him to come back again to be double sure.

Monday, May 19, 2008


My friend at House Things I Like is thinking about mailboxes. So am I. I like this one. I can mount it on my front door to cover the current mail slot. I'm told it's quaint that we still get our mail delivered through the front door, but Mosby thinks the aliens are invading and throws his 75lb self at the door and bites what comes through. I've repaired the claw marks on the inside of the door and don't want to have to do that again.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

First of Two Estimates

The first estimate to fix our sagging floors and walls came in. It was $4,500, which struck me as not too bad, but I don't think this guy (the first engineer) correctly identified the problem. It would be terrible to spend that and still have the problem. Can't wait to see the other estimate from the guy we really liked. Engineer #2 walked around the house, outside and in, in the rain. Took his time, declared the house sound, and (I think) correctly identified the problem with that one column sagging under the load. I can relate to the column on a personal basis.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Living Walls

I mentioned a water feature in my basement and a friend sent this link to living walls: How cool is that? Gives "kitchen garden" a whole new meaning, doesn't it?

Monday, May 12, 2008

A Bit of Rain

As a friend of mine has said recently, it's been rainy. This three inches is in the last 36 hours, and I dumped 2 inches out just before that started. We had part of one day dryer in the last five. I managed to plant a few Mother's Day flowers and pull a few weeds from around my roses before total boredom set in for the 10-year old. The good news is the sump pump well appears wet, which means the really crappy job of French drains we had installed must have worked. I didn't hear the pump start up, but maybe just because it didn't get quite deep enough in water. Still better than wet floors from the water feature that used to be the basement wall. If the drains didn't work we were going to decorate the wall with moss and just live with it. Very Japanese, though we are not.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Engineering to the rescue

The top picture is what you see when you walk in my front door. The next photo is what's behind the mirror hanging on the wall. The third photo is on the other side of the wall where a door knob punched through the wall. The wallboard inside the wall has separated from the plaster scrim, and is buckling. I don't think there is enough spackle in the world to fix this.
We didn't know if it might be old termite damage in the floor that might be causing the wall to settle, but it also occurred to us that the settling cracks upstairs might be related. Duh. Clearly we need an expert opinion.
The structural engineer came yesterday. All the problems stem from one source: one of two support columns in the basement, in the center of the house. The problem column is directly under this hallway, supporting the I-beam running from the front to the back of the house. Over the 70+ years since the house was built that column has settled about an inch or so. You can really see the effects upstairs, where the hall bathroom door is at least an inch higher on one side than the other.
The solution? We have to lift the center of the house from the basement about an inch or so. Easier than it sounds. A lolly column next to the two-foot thick original column, crank to lift, shim it, then take the temporary column out. Voila! My architect neighbor had the same solution (though he was less sure about it). He said you'd have to crank it up a little at a time, but the engineer said Nah-- they just do it. I'm relieved. I'm so anxious to finally have this fixed! We'll hire somebody to do the drywall repair. Russ then goes off into paroxysms of ideas for fixing everything else. Don't know if we can afford to have the livingroom done too, but I'll get a price on it. Maybe just pay for the drywall and prep work, then we can paint.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

The Patio

I wish I'd done a "before" picture. I think the radiator adds a necessary whiskey tango element. I'd actually like to move it, but it's so damn heavy. And where would I put it?

The ivy started under the bushes and covered the patio to the point that you couldn't see any flagstone except at the corner you see here closest to the camera.

Temporary Guests

Can you see this guy? I intended to trim the bushes by my front door after I cleared the patio, but with this nest of baby cardinals there, I had to leave that chore for another day. There were at least three.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

O.K., Things Are Starting to Happen

Found the patio today. It's been there, but it was almost lost to the English ivy that seems to want to take over the world. What I thought would be at least a weekend's work turned out to be a mornings chore. Wow! Wish I'd taken a before picture so the after would have some context, but, oh well. Trust me. You would have been afraid to sit down for for fear of being taken over the vines. If you could have found a seat. Anyway, it's progress.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Just the beginning

Not sure the rhyme or reason for all this, except that I couldn't post a comment on anybody else's blog until I set up my own. Brilliant marketing! We'll see where this takes me. . .