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When I heard that Hillary Clinton found comfort in watching a particular HGTV show real estate reality show, I don’t think I’d seen the show in question for more than a minute, so I didn’t quite get how it could be comforting. Now that my husband and I have recently purchased a fixer-upper house, I, too, take solace in watching Love It or List It. Those hosts get much more done in an hour than we do, so that part just makes me agitated. The solace comes from seeing how icky so many people’s houses are.

quite the denouement

quite the electrician

I’ve decided to start our own reality real estate show: Torch It or Trash It.

It’s been a couple of weeks of taking care of what’s on top and what’s on the bottom and everything in between. Roof leaks, sewer gas smells, gas stove servicing, annual termite inspection, car issues, trips to the dentist and the GYN.  I even made a colonoscopy appointment–though I made it for exactly the wrong day, so that will not stand. Too bad for you that I won’t go in to the fascinating details of the termite inspection since I need to preserve it for an upcoming column. Who can say what I’ll share about the colonoscopy? Already have a food-related story regarding my husband’s colonoscopy. Think I’ll save it for later. It isn’t even gross, so that’s disappointing. Donuts were involved. I can see the Krispy Kreme marketing campaign now….

Perhaps it’s because I work at home so often and am alone for long stretches that I tend to like conversing with worker guys when they’re here. Today my gas stove guy gave me a new lunch combo to try: cottage cheese and fresh-picked tomatoes. I was about to put cherries and blueberries in some cottage cheese for breakfast and he suggested I try my fresh-picked tomatoes next time. Will do. He broke into a big smile about how good that combo tastes. I’m on it. One summer taste that I can almost grasp with my mind and mouth leaning in the direction of southern New Jersey– Raisin bread, Miracle Whip, Land-o-Lakes white American Cheese and a couple of slabs of a Jersey tomato. OH. GOOD. Too bad the only thing my mouth is near is a pad of paper. It needs to be eaten in New Jersey anyway, so I’ll have to wait. And then I’ll really see a cottage in its dotage….

I think I have the title to my new book. Or perhaps it still needs some tweaking: What to Expect When the Fetal Position Doesn’t Clean Your House, Replace Applicances in Your Mother’s House from 4 States Over and/or Solve Your Problems. I honestly don’t know what I expected when I was expecting all those decades ago. Almost nothing of what came to pass. I certainly did not have enough imagination to expect the funny and interesting (insert other praise-worthy characteristics here) now adult children I popped out. But I know I wasn’t expecting that being mothering to my own mother would be harder than mothering my own children. They had no choice there for a while, for one thing and we were usually in the same room, much less the same state.

Pretty much everyone I know is dealing with parental decline in one form or another.  I expect my own children are dealing with it right now, too. Though they would probably say they saw it coming from the get-go….

It’s common enough to say there are no words upon hearing of someone’s death. It’s understandable–touching even. But it can’t be said about Maurice Sendak’s passing. There are words, so many and so wonderful. And there are pictures and because of his collaboration with Carole King on Really Rosie! there is music. So thankful for all of it.  Good ole Max. I stole this poster from Where the Wild Things Are from my younger sister, Kate thirty-some years ago so I could take it to college and be cool. You see the problem and it wasn’t theft. See the drip of yellow paint and the evidence of its folds. It was something she’d ordered at school from a book club, and since she hadn’t put it up anywhere, I took it with me.   I knew my first college roommate and I weren’t suited for long when she told me she didn’t like the poster because it gave her nightmares.

Over the years in many apartments and houses it’s had a place of honor in living, dining, and family rooms, hallways, even a bathroom once in Worcester and most recently over a piano. With some recent remodeling it wound up leaning in my office. I found the right place for it today, just outside my bedroom. I could recite Where the Wild Things Are and The Nutshell Library from heart. I even used to read Where the Wild Things Are backwards for some reason. It still works. There are no words on this poster. But the words and memories it conjures up are indelible. And my smile is irrepressible.

Some kids break bad. I don’t mean to brag, but mine break good.


Getting it done

This same gentleman tore off paneling in another room one year he was in high school, inspired partly by a class on architecture. I guess he’s a little bored now, which works for me. And how handy that this little project that I’ve had little to do with other than breathe in lots of dust will provide fodder for a couple of more columns in RHome. And yes, those non-existent purple polka dots were my idea, several Super Bowl Sundays ago, in cahoots with my daughter. The stencil sizes were inspired by a piece of cardboard leftover from a box from some other project–think it held light fixture parts and it was a done deal. Or so I thought. Turns out there’s never a done deal around here….

Enough to make you sick?

Enough to make you sick?

So a couple goes to a wedding, a lovely wedding of people they love and have fun with. Trouble is, they get to stay in a perfect home for one night before the wedding. Everything in its place. Beautiful accessories. Sensible furnishings. Gorgeous gardens. UGH! Hard to see it for the mental images of what their home looks like back in Virginia. So upon their return (liking this third person effect–who are these people?!!), they decide in a depressed and bitter and hopeless way to devote all of their meager energy to making the tiniest room of their house if not perfect, than at least better than it was. How handy it was hideous. No, that black, red and silver awesome wallpaper was a vestige of previous owners. It had something striped over it when our heroes bought the house 16 years ago. It came off easily years ago, but the fish were not so easily caught. A misguided attempt at sponge painting over the old wallpaper didn’t get far 15 years ago. So another batch of leafy wallpaper covered the fish lo these many years.

Time-lapse wallpaper--it looked like this for only 12 seconds, tops.

I could show you a photo of a much-improved bathroom, but it’s boring. Sandstone Cove walls with normal accessories and a window shade that doesn’t let people in the living room take a peek at who’s in the bathroom through a small window. How dull is that?

Lots o' spindles

It must have been exhaustion from hurricane preparation overload, but as I was driving home along I-95 last evening I starting tearing up over spindles. Our house used to have at least 8 different kinds of spindles on the porches with several styles of railing to boot. During some major overhaul of the house, my father had all the spindles made the same. I was not a fan–still am not–partly because they aren’t particularly pretty and partly because their grooves trap grit and mildew and are a pain in the ass to paint.

That does not mean, however, that I hope Hurricane Irene wallops the porches and sends the railings packing. Certainly other storms did just that decades ago, which explains the earlier variations. Time will tell. I just hope the one railing section with my favorite spindle style that we have survives. I should have shoved it in my car…rather than chaining it to the front porch. Damn.

There will be no photo of that. But it’s only a matter of time, what with colon cleanses, genetic engineering, and 12-ply toilet paper. Pretty soon the rich and famous will arrange it so their shit don’t smell.

Perhaps I’m still reeling from our sewer line back-up last week. The house isn’t still reeking, so that’s a relief. Actually, it wasn’t as bad as all that. What backed up was mostly washing machine and dishwasher-related: relatively clean dirty water.  And yes, we cleaned everything up three times with every cleaning product known to harm skin, eyes, and the environment.

A scary sight

Some people I know have plumbers who redo their bathrooms and upgrade their kitchens. We get the plumbers with jackhammers and backhoes.  They wield them well, though, and put up with our shit, literally and figuratively,  so I’m glad for that.

The floor refinishers needed a 220 outlet to plug in the floor sander, so the hunt began. The very hung-over guy tasked with plugging in the machine dismissed the plug behind my dryer–too hard to get to–and instead wanted to know where my stove was.  I cringed because though I know it isn’t all that hard to move the stove out from the wall, it gets done approximately once a decade, so I knew the floor beneath my stove would bring me down–kind of the opposite effect of the wind beneath my wings though actually that song brings me down, too. But I digress.  The guy with the phlegmy, hacking cough taught me something that morning–there’s no need to move the stove. Turns out the oven drawer can be removed quite easily, exposing both the 220 outlet and the detritus of my life.  Who knew it was that easy?

With trepidation I got down on the floor to inspect the scene–more chocolate than you would think I would’ve let get away. The theme was surprisingly outdoorsy–a combination of  trail mix and dust bunnies too laden with grease to hop far. It was interesting to note (and almost thrilling to clean up) that health food doesn’t live under the stove–it died there. It belongs in the great outdoors or in my mouth. I am happy (ok–bursting with pride is more accurate) to report that no insects or animals were spotted, and two cake pans long assumed lost in the wild reappeared. I know I’m a bit of a braggart.

You probably already know this, but it’s not a good idea to start a new business, sell your mother’s house, do some writing, get involved with a new 501c3, go on vacation, push your new book, dabble in social media, and get the floors refinished in one’s home office at the same time. It might push someone over the edge.

Actually, it has. Virginia Special Olympics has this crazy, fun fundraiser, Over the Edge , October 23rd in downtown Richmond where people who raise $1000 for Virginia Special Olympics get to rappel 400 feet down the SunTrust building.  They are so lucky! And so am I. I’ll be freelancing for Richmond Magazine–doing blog posts and such as we get closer to the event. Then, on October 22, I get to rappel down the building–26 stories and then some. Can’t wait!

It’s impossible to watch the video of folks, especially an amazing Special Olympian, go over the edge last year and not be in awe.  Having no fear is unrealistic. Letting fear stop people of all abilities from finding out what they’re capable of– that’s the thing to be afraid of. Thanks, FDR.

I’ve rappelled a few times before–though 90 feet is as high as I’ve started. On the one hand those experiences make me feel confident. On the other, let’s remember how I looked earlier this year atop Monumental Church.

There will be ropes and harnesses several hundred feet higher, right?

 It’s quite possible that social media will be my downfall, one way or the other; I learned about Over the Edge on Twitter.

I’m back!