Tag Archives: The Estate

Life Changing Accessories


So I’m the one who cleans the shower at our house.  It’s an arrangement borne out of a) The Lovely Rhonda’s bleach allergy, b) the excessive mildewy-ness of our particular shower which necessitates the use of bleach, and c) the fact that TLR is willing to take care of the bill-paying.  That last point alone is enough to carry this arrangement pretty far.  Guess who usually also mows the lawn and vacuums?

At any rate, I hate scrubbing the tub out.  It’s a cruddy job that involves a lot of bending over and grunting, and it’s not like anybody’s going to throw you a party for scraping a layer of mildew off the crappy old chipped tub.  But, it’s necessary and so I do it on at least a quarterly basis.  DON’T JUDGE

The worst part of the deal is the plastic shower curtain liner.  We have a fabric shower curtain and then one of those clear plastic liners you hang inside to keep the fabric one from getting gross.  So the inner one gets gross instead, and if I were a better person I would attempt to clean it, but by the time I get around to cleaning the dang shower the liner is pretty far gone.  I spring for the two bucks for a new one and problem solved.

Except wrestling that stupid thing off the rings and wrestling a new onto the rings was enough to throw me into a Hulk rage.  We had these cheap plastic rings that snapped open and closed, poorly.  Ugh.

And I’m elderly, so my vision is starting to get funny.  I’m nearsighted with just enough astigmatism to make life interesting, I have the beginnings of cataracts, and just because that wasn’t quite enough fun, I’m getting that irritating thing that happens to old people where I can’t see anything unless it’s either far away or three inches from my nose.

So I’m wrestling with annoying plastic rings, they are above my head, and they are just far enough away that I can’t see them clearly.


Cut to this past weekend, wherein I made the pilgrimage to my brother’s New Improved Mormon Stronghold.  He and the wife and tater tots just relocated and the new house is a corker, replete with interesting wall treatments, a different color of 80’s shag carpet in every room, and the remnants of a 60’s era intercom system, except here and there where the consoles have been removed in which case there are holes in the walls.  I am told the previous owners, the Winslows, enjoyed concealing the holes with strategically placed artwork.  Thus such acts of creative decorating are now known as “winslows.”

I was wrapping things up and preparing to leave and managed to locate one of the bathrooms for a little pre-departure visit.  In a moment of idleness as I meandered in, I glanced upward toward the top of the shower curtain.

And there they were.

Shower curtain rings, nice ones, with two hooks to hang the shower curtains on.  One hook toward the inside of the tub, one toward the outside.

HOOKS.  To hang the shower curtains, PLURAL, on.  No rings to open and close.  No struggling.  No cursing.  No drama.

Why did I not know these existed before now?

It was like the heavens opened up and a beam of purest white love shot out from the clouds, illuminating the shower curtain hooks while a chorus of angels sang out and unicorns farted glitter all over the bathroom.

Although the glitter might have been from the Winslows.

Naturally I raced to Bed Bath and Beyond All Reason the next morning and bought a set, and this afternoon, barely able to contain my joy, scrubbed the tub out and replaced the shower curtain liner.  The rings slipped onto the rod with ease and it felt as if I could practically toss the liner in the air and have it magically land on the hooks, it was so ridiculously easy to put the darn thing up.

It’s the little things, people.  God bless us, every one.

Why I Cannot Clean The House Except Under Tremendous Pressure


So it’s Thanksgiving next week, and as always we are booked solid until Thursday morning.  The Lovely Rhonda is working her four-day stretch, ending on Tuesday, so she’ll be relatively useless on Wednesday.  I say that completely without rancor because her workdays are twelve hours long and sandwiched between forty minutes’ drive each way.  We jokingly call it Bathrobe Wednesday but it’s no joke; as far as I’m concerned she’s earned a day completely off.  She never gets one, but she has one coming to her.   About the time she’ll be feeling halfway human we’ll be off on an errand.  (I’d talk about what the errand is but it makes us sound all goody-goody.  We’re not.  We are fortunate and grateful and humble.)

So it’s up to me to clean the house for the holiday, and I accept that with my usual grace, i.e. wretchedly and with great reluctance.  It’s not that I don’t value cleanliness and as I stated above, it’s not because I don’t think I should have to.  I just don’t wanna.

Here’s part of why I don’t wanna:  It will take me bloody ages, because I am a perfectionist.  I figure, if I’m going to clean, I’m going to do it right.  So, I can’t just clean the kitchen counter off.  I have to rearrange the entire kitchen because it’s been irksome to me how crowded the canisters are.  I can’t just vacuum around the couch, I must also take a damp rag to the arms where the dog chews his rawhides and leaves gummy crusty patches, and I must remove the cushions and clean under them and vacuum the dog hair from them and take the rag to their spots also.  I cannot just shove into a drawer the various pencils I find all over the house now that all the children can write yet cannot put a pencil away under pain of death, I must sharpen them and put them in the pencil cup.

Now, if there is someone coming over in an hour or two I can do those things, but not when I have an entire day to clean.  So far today I have done the things described above as well as repaired a book’s torn/ragged cover, washed every blanket/afghan/item of clothing that I come across that might be minutely less than clean, and dusted a shitload of owls.

Oh, and blogged about it.


A Day Off


So today I awoke to some issues that you don’t want to hear about, and after a few attempts it became clear that I was not actually going to succeed in leaving the house.  So I laid around trying to not feel too wretched.  This is not as easy as it sounds, sometimes.  Eventually I resorted to a book on CD and some minor household tasks to amuse me.

I’m not much of a seamstress but if  you have something that requires repair and it won’t be worn out in public ever, I’m totally the gal for you.  I have honed my skills on stuffed animals with split seams or that the dog has taken a liking to, the occasional wayward button, and now: a sleeping bag.   The spawn have these kid-sized sleeping bags of the sort one might use at a sleepover or summer camping, and recently I was compelled to wash them.  They had that slightly mildewy-smelling funk that things get from being stored in the garage, and they’ve seen a few gymnasium floors in their day (for elementary school movie night).  Unfortunately one didn’t survive the experience unblemished, and I was faced with a six-inch split seam.

Now, I don’t own a sewing machine.  The thought of it terrifies me.  I would be That Lady who sews things to other things by mistake, perhaps even to something I am currently wearing.  It wouldn’t be pretty.  So I got out the little sewing kit that we keep in the drawer in the kitchen and I found some pink thread and I sat right down on the couch and started sewing that bad boy right up.  I even used a few pins to keep the slippery nylon fabric edges together so it wouldn’t keep slipping and sliding around.  I’m practically ready to be a costumer for the New York Metropolitan Opera, yo.

Okay, not really.

The seam isn’t beautiful, but the object here — to keep the insides of the sleeping bag from becoming the outsides — has been accomplished.  And I figure this little repair is saving us forty-five dollars plus tax.  Because if we replace one kid’s fifteen-dollar sleeping bag, we’ll have to replace them all; otherwise there will be resentment and grudges and eventually they’ll do drugs and sleep around because of how unhappy their childhoods were.  We can’t have that.

Now I just have to figure out how to spin the whole thing so it’s actually super cool to use the one with the big awesome scar on it!

I was still feeling pretty pitiful but was so torn with wanting to do something useful.  I looked around for another one of those things I’d been meaning to do and spied a pair of eyeballs on my desk.  Obviously this would require SuperGlue, so I rummaged around in the junk drawer and found some.  Pretty soon Big Lethal Pointy Metal Owl had eyes again.  He’d had them initially, but then they fell off when we unwrapped him.  I guess if I spent a year wrapped in newspapers inside a cardboard box in somebody’s garage my eyeballs might fall off too.


I think he looks a bit better with eyes.  I’d gotten used to seeing him with no eyes, so now he looks kind of surprised all the time.  Or angry.

Later I finished something I’d started the day before, wherein I had run hot water with bleach into my washing machine and let it soak for a while.  Then I ran hot water with vinegar in it.  This allegedly loosens up the grim and “scale,” whatever the hell that is.  Then I got an old, slightly scratchy washrag and essentially sanded the grime deposits off the agitator and the rim of the wash tub.  I went ahead and ran more hot water and threw some vinegar in there, and let me tell you, I have no idea how the clothes ever got clean in that thing considering how much it stank to clean it like this.  A crapload of crud came out of the various nooks and/or crannies.  Yech.

By the end of the day I was feeling somewhat less horrible.  Apparently the absence of vileness caused me to completely lose my mind to some kind of post-malaise euphoria, because I then found myself under the kitchen sink removing everything from the cupboard and scrubbing it out.

I’m going back to school in a little over a month and I think I want things to be halfway orderly before I start.  We’ve reached Defcon Level: Crusty around here lately, and I’m doing my fall cleaning or something.   One crummy little project at a time.

It’s curtains for us.


So about three years ago The Lovely Rhonda and I moved into this house.  I like to call it The Swamp because that makes me feel all Shrek-y, and who doesn’t like Shrek?  If I were green and my ears stuck out a bit I might be rather Fiona-esque.

Well, I guess I’d have to be younger too.  And royal.  Also, a bit nicer.


Anyway, back to The Swamp.  It was — and pardon me but there just really is no other word to describe it — a bit of a shithole.  The Ex-Mister-The Lovely Rhonda lived in it for a year as Bachelor Dad Guy, with their girls (ages 3 and 1) there with him half-time, and let’s just say that his housekeeping standards were somewhat lax.  The front window had broken vertical blinds that wouldn’t open, everything smelled strongly of the dog, and the entire interior still sported the weird peachy-tan color that it had been painted before they bought it, a year before I blundered into TLR’s life and completely decimated it like Godzilla over Tokyo.  It’s a 70’s tract house and anything we do to it short of demolition is likely to improve it.

Come to think of it, demolition doesn’t sound too bad.  But I digress.

The first thing we did when we moved in was paint as many of the rooms as we could.  This included borrowing a sprayer and giving what was the master bedroom several coats of primer and then paint.  This was necessary because The Ex Mr. TLR had retaliated to having his wife leave him for another woman by painting what had been their bedroom Manly Guy colors.  Apparently there is a paint selection for the recently divorced gentleman featuring such shades as single-dad-forgot-the diaper-bag-again toddler-poo brown and ashes-of-my-cold-dead-marriage gray, because those are the colors he chose.  It took twelve solid hours of work and four coats of paint to make it habitable again.

At any rate, we’ve made many other changes since then such as knocking out a wall, making half the garage into our bedroom, replacing a sliding glass door with a window, and (ongoing) having new siding installed.  And we made the customary pilgrimage to Ikea for a modest entertainment center and some low bookshelves to put in front of the front window.  This is an improvement over the previous arrangement but unfortunately now it means that the curtains covering the living room window are too long.

Enter writer’s mother, stage right.

So my Mom is going to hem them for us, because she is awesome like that, and so now  you know why I’m spending part of my day cleaning the front window and replacing the drapes with mismatched curtain panels left over from the former sliding glass doors.


Brick. House.


So the other day The Lovely Rhonda called me and plaintively whined about The Brick On The House and how unlovely it is and can we please have our siding wallah take it down before his crew of minions left for the day.  This was on Wednesday and I was at work. 

Because I live to make TLR happy, and also because she had been cogitating over this brick thing for months on end, I said yes, please have them take it down.  I didn’t have strong feelings about the brick either way and clearly it meant a great deal to TLR, whom, as I said, it is my sole aim in life to make insane with happiness and harmonious agreeableness.

So I can check that off my list, because she continues to rave about the brick and how it is gone and what a difference it makes and so forth.  This after three entire days have passed.

It took a bit of a toll on my plants because the brick fell in great slabs directly onto them.  So I lost an azalea, and a few Gerber daisies, and probably some other things, but the important thing here is that the brick, it is gone.

Actually it isn’t so much gone as it is relocated, into a jumbled heap of masonry along one side of the house. 

You can tell who your friends are when you face adversity, and I’m thinking that the jumbled heap is definitely named Adversity.

Did I mention how today is the hottest day so far this year, in fact in three years, and it was 102 degrees, and nobody can stop talking about the heat?  Yet despite this, two different friends came and sat with me in the shade of my garage and knocked mortar off of brick.  I am salvaging usable brick from this heap so that we can use it to put a path next to the driveway and also to expand the patio a bit on three sides.

I bought a couple of different types of chisel and some rubber mallets and a stiff wire brush, and dragged a defunct kiddie pool from the back yard and we submerged bricks in it.  We did this because my mother, who is a fount of knowledge about these things, told me that it makes the process easier if you soak the bricks.  Lord knows they will dry out quite nicely in This Heat.

And so for about six hours today I sat with soaking wet leather work gloves on and chiseled mortar from bricks.  The water kept The Heat at bay, and the friends made the process less tedious, and so far we’ve made the tiniest dent in the heap. 

And my arms and hands are so tired.  I only stopped because I was having difficulty gripping the chisels and mallets any longer.  My hands are stiff.

But there will be brick!  For projects!

The Afterparty


So ten children ages 7 (x 1), 6 (x 2), 5 (x 5), 4 (x 1) and 3 (x 1) makes for an interesting afternoon.  There were games!  There was laughter!  There were owies and/or boo-boos!  Tears!  Mayhem!  Cuppycakes!  Delirium!  Chaos!  Dora the Explorer party favors!  And eventually, an absence of children, and peace, and the kind of silence that can only follow a child’s birthday party.

Still, way better than Chuck E. Cheese.

The biggest hit was the decorate-your-own cupcakes.  Also the trampoline.

We had a few guests from the preschool.  Surprisingly there was one mother perfectly willing to drop her precious angel off at a total stranger’s house for two hours of God knows what.   Two other moms stayed for the fun.  The child who was dropped off was dressed in shorts and a fuzzy long sleeved top and must have been just roasting, but rebuffed our offers of a loaner t-shirt.  She seemed grimly determined to participate in everything and was almost eerily quiet.  Her mom (or at least the woman who dropped her off) barely made it to the front door, shook my hand like a politician, chucked the gift into my hands and dashed for the car like she was escaping from prison.  The pickup was similar but in reverse.  I hardly know what to think about it.

At any rate, the highlight of the party for me was, as always, pretending that Mr. Ex-The-Lovely-Rhonda was welcome in our home.  I won’t go into detail, but let’s just say that next year the party will be at his house so that HE can do all the work while WE sit around with Rhonda’s family and chat and do nothing, and then get grumpy for no apparent reason and abruptly leave without saying thanks.  (His family said thanks; I don’t want to malign them, they were perfectly nice as always.)

We could not have picked a better day for it, 80 degrees and breezy and just perfect.  We had postponed it by a week due to illness and although the illness lingers, at least the weather was vastly improved.  It rained buckets last weekend.

We have this friend who comes and hangs out with us on occasion.  He’s more or less the perfect friend in that he doesn’t loathe our children (any more than we occasionally do; let’s face it, they’re not all rainbows and unicorns ALL the time), he enjoys sitting around doing more or less nothing, he helps us with our computers, and — ladies, pay attention — he’s rather tidy and not afraid of housework or yard work and, inexplicably, heterosexual.  Oh, and he’s not terribly into sports or cars or guns or hookers or blow.  As far as we can tell.

He is a pasty-skinned gamer, but it’s a small price to pay for this kind of companionship.

This weekend he not only mowed the lawn for the party while The Lovely Rhonda coughed and I cleaned the house, he stayed on — willingly, without promise of remuneration — and performed yard work with me while The Lovely Rhonda coughed and then brought us treats from Dairy Queen.  He gave our Cousin It tree a haircut and then helped me lay down weed suppression cloth on the side bed.  He even expressed a possible willingness to continue assisting me with such projects, despite the dirt and the being outdoors and the sweating and the mild sunburn.

We’re not sure what we have done to deserve this kind of friendship but we hope it continues at least until the grounds are completely landscaped.  Wonder if he’s any good with laying pavers?


On Lawn Care


So I got my Ugly Velcro Boottm off last week, and thus today was able to mow the front lawn of The Estate.  This went very quickly since The Lovely Rhonda and our good friend Josh mowed last weekend; it was the first mow of the season and the grass was still a bit damp so it was an all-day affair.  It has been sunny for a couple of days now and there was only a week’s worth of growth so I barely cracked a sweat.

Our lawns are pretty standard, your basic grass with trees and shrubs here are there.  It used to have delightful berms and sunken areas planted with sumptuous flowering plants of various types, but this was before my tenure here.  By the time I came onto the scene, any interesting flora had long made tracks for someplace where they took better care of their grounds, and all that remained was an annoying hump and trough that defied mowing.  I am super lazy have no real patience for such bourgeois niceties as “landscaping” so I had the lawn guys we hired a couple years ago for Major Yard Cleanup scrape them off and fill them in, as applicable.  Now when I mow I no longer encounter mower-annihilating bumps and holes.

The scraped/filled areas have filled in with weedy clovery looking stuff.  This leads me to ponder the merits of enhancing my yard care regimen, which currently consists of mowing and occasionally, when I can be bothered to make the effort, watering.  Then I step back and look at the yard.  The clovery stuff a) is green, and b) resembles grass from a short distance.  My work here is done!

Each year that we have been here I have chosen a smallish area to fix up.  The flower beds along the front of the house are now planted with some perennials and the occasional annual and get some bark mulch every so often, and the left side of the house has a gravel strip to park the trash and recycling cans in.  The area that used to have a rotting smelly shed over it is slowly filling in with grass, probably not a groundskeeper-approved variety of grass but it fits my requirements (green, looks grass-like) so I’m not knocking it.

This year I think the chosen bed will be the right side of the house.  There are a couple of scraggly, hideous rhododendrons against the house that have outlived their welcomes, and toward the fence side there’s a weedy corner of blackberries and creeping vetch and the like.  I’m not sure what I’ll do there, since it doesn’t get a lot of sun and there’s a disreputable cherry tree looming over everything dropping its blighted wormy fruits all over the place, but I’m sure it will involve hard work and digging and bitching and complaining and Motrin.

Spring, and cleaning. Sort of.


So I have this stupid broken foot which necessitates the use of a big Velcro boot.  So attractive, and the very pinnacle of comfort.

I’m at loose ends today in that The Lovely Rhonda is at work and the children are all off at their other homes.  There’s been a lot going on lately that is not the sort of thing one blogs about, at least in my particular case, and a lot of it has been very stressful, so I’m restless.

Let’s review: hobbled by broken foot, and restless.  Oh, and it’s the nicest, warmest, breeziest, most perfect day so far this year.  The two days ago it snowed and school was two hours late, and now it’s a mild, hopeful sixty degrees out.

I was tempted to embark on some craft related tangent because I am exposed to Pinterest against my will via Facebook, but I felt that this was not really  justified in light of the fact that the house was a little messy and decided instead that perhaps I should direct my attentions to something a bit closer to home.

(Read this in an Andy Rooney voice:)  Did ya ever notice how when you clean your house, you clean everybody’s room but yours?  You’re so busy scrubbing the toilet and cracking the whip over the recalcitrant children to pick up their fifty bajillion toys that your own room remains untidy and cluttered behind the closed door.

Soooo, our bedroom, possibly the nicest room in the house next to the kitchen, is in need of some pretty comprehensive swilling-out, so I decided to start there.  And so I found the box of Christmas things laying around neglected in the corner under the comforter that disintegrated when we washed it after one of the kids threw up on it.  And there were some winter gloves and scarves and things and a few stray ornaments and such, and we keep that in boxes in the garage, and so I was forced to open the garage up.

Oh, the garage.  The last time we had any business to conduct in the garage was during the Great Kitchen Makeover when we had to paint a lot of cabinet doors in it because it was so rainy the paint wouldn’t dry on the back patio.  It’s been butt-cold since then, so it has remained disheveled with painting and sanding things strewn around.   I cracked the door open, and there was a whoooosh of that dusty, horrible tomb air that escapes this kind of sealed environment when you’ve neglected it for a while.  Once the bats and moths had cleared out and the eerie screaming died down, I knew that this was the real project for me today.

So I spent a delightful couple of hours removing things from the garage, loading certain of them into the van to be donated to charity or returned to their original owners.  There was sweeping, there was shifting of things from one place to another, there was organization.  The winter things and the ornaments were put in their respective boxes and the painting and sanding things were put back into their box, and it was all just so satisfyingly tidy when I was done.

But the side effect of having your one foot in a big stupid Velcro boot is that your other foot gets tired, so although I could have spent all day out there, my left foot now dictates that I stop.  Maybe later, if I’m feeling ambitious, I might consider putting a garbage bag over the boot and mowing the front lawn.

Or not.

I do what I want!

Repaint, and thin no more


So as either of you might recall from an earlier post, we recently were afflicted with Kitchen Envy, specifically Spruced Up Kitchen Envy (a particularly virulent strain).  The only cure is to make multiple trips to the hardware store between bouts of feverish sanding and painting.

The kitchen as it was.  Note the brown varnished cabinets and pasty walls.  What you can’t see is how the drawers sit all cattywampus and threaten to fall out if manhandled, i.e. used in any way.

Cabinet door removal is underway.

The old hardware was designed by Klingons.  We removed most of the old knobs and pulls the minute we moved in.  The ones above the refrigerator were the only survivors.    And why put the pulls in the center of the cabinet doors?  Mid-70’s cabinet manufacturers were obviously on drugs.

These knobs bring honor to my people. Sadly, they also look like hell.

Several kind souls came over to help us, sanding and painting and just doing all kinds of helpful things.  One of them stayed for three nights, an unprecedented act of kindness that we can never repay.  We tried to get a start on this by buying him lunch but our rewards program kicked in and his lunch was free.  Let no good deed go unpunished!

Who knew we had this many friends?

A true friend will sand cabinet doors for you even though it's cold and rainy out.

Amber is flexible and compact.

We had sixteen cabinet doors and six drawers to paint.   Our friend Josh (who slept for three nights in the middle child’s room on Princess Flower Rainbow Unicorn sheets without complaint, while the middle child bunked with the oldest child) repaired/replaced the drawer hardware, cabinet hinges and pulls for us.  Because the forty-year-old hardware didn’t exactly match the new stuff, this involved drilling a lot of holes in stuff.

We had initially planned on painting the countertops but what we found was that the new colors of wall and cabinetry made the existing counters less unbearable. The countertop paint is fairly toxic and I’m glad not to have to deal with it.

These aren’t the photos I’d like to post in that everything isn’t finished — we still have three doors to hang –and there’s a certain amount of junk laying around cluttering up the place, but we’re both under the weather today and not able to work on it more at the moment.  But I really wanted to get this posted, so here goes:

Clean and fresh!

We even replaced my old ghetto toaster oven, purchased thirteen years ago.  It wasn’t toasting terribly well anymore.  I’ll miss the melted bread wrapper on the top.  The new one’s bigger and matches the other appliances better.  I’LL NEVER FORGET YOU LITTLE TOASTER OVEN

An old friend.

The new Toast-O-Matic 9000 (now with tint control!)

This week we’ll get started, and maybe even finish, the floor, and then we’ll be done with the inexpensive cosmetic overhaul of the kitchen.  Next, the siding project will get underway.  Further posts as events warrant!  Stay tuned!



Echo echo echo


We’re having people over on Thursday to begin Exciting Kitchen Makeover 2012!

Two of them are named Deb, two of them are named Kathy, and all of them are lesbians.

This brings us up to three Debs, two Kathys, and a Rhonda.

Oh, and Josh who is a lesbian trapped in a man’s body.

What the hell!


I neglected to mention Amber, the ringleader and source of all home improvement around here.  She is not named Deb, Kathy, Rhonda or Josh, nor is she a lesbian.  But she’s energetic and flexible.