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Friday, August 30, 2013

Privacy, Please

I dig HGTV. (Home and Garden Television, for those not obsessed with DIY projects and making things, as I am.) I could do a long post just on HGTV and the ideas it has given me. But I’ll save that for another time. Today I’m going to share with you the secrets to creating a memorable master suite.

“Master suite” is such a funny phrase. I almost laughed just typing it. It sounds upper crust, and I’m so not. But the phrase popped into my mind a minute ago when I was in my bathroom, looking at my bedroom.

What should a grown up’s bedroom be about? It depends on the individual, of course. There are people who don’t allow their kids into their bedroom. They want clear boundaries around where their kids can and can’t go and what they can do. For me, that rule is a bit much. I think kids should feel at home in their own house, not like guests who need special access cards to get to elite floors of hotels. But then again, there are times when I wonder if I should have been a little firmer about rules. We’re quite flexible around here, and that does have its downside. But back to bedrooms. Here are my tips for creating a memorable master suite:

1)      Buy a 1950s house that predates the 21st-century trend of homes with master bedroom wings.

2)      In the bedroom, figure out which wall the bed will fit on. (Not where it fits best. That would imply that there are options. Find the only wall where the bed will fit.)

3)      Do not think of your bedroom as small. It is cozy.

4)      Place on the bedroom floor a giant, self-regenerating laundry pile (yes, it’s clean—by most people’s standards!). Intend to sort the laundry. Become very busy with other things.

5)      Have three children. Watch as the clean laundry pile grows, right before your very eyes.

6)      Allow the kids to lie on the hill of laundry, which will help to disperse it into a field of laundry.

7)      When company comes over and you need to get tons of toys out of the living area, find boxes and put toys and nomadic items of clothing into the boxes, and place them in your master bed room to be sorted later.

8)      Become very flexible as to when “later” is.

9)      Pile several boxes of toys in a tower on the dresser. (It’s that thing hiding behind the laundry mountain.)

10)   Do not panic if you hear a crash from the vicinity of your bedroom. It’s just the pile of boxes finally toppling over, and scattering its contents like confetti all over the floor. Hooray.

11)   Become accustomed to thinking of the stuff that fell on the floor (playing cards, Legos, unpaired socks, toys and pens) as artfully placed d├ęcor.

12)   Give away the arm chair that lived in the corner for years. You never sat on it and it just took up space. Congratulate yourself on trying to be a clutter buster.

13)   Marvel that even without the chair in the corner, there is still no extra space in the room. Conclude that the other stuff must have multiplied once the chair gave up the extra space.

14)   Decide to put Pergo flooring in two rooms of the house. While you’re removing the old carpet from the other bedrooms, stash the boxes of Pergo in the master bed room under your bed. After all, it is available space. The added bonus is that with the Pergo under the bed, there is less of a chance that this space will be the holding area for socks, toys, books, and shoes.  

15)   When tv shows talk about creating a master suite that is a haven for tired grownups, laugh uproariously at the notion of private, soothing space free of toys. Throw a dirty sock at the tv.

16)   Redefine what you expect of your master suite. Refer to it as your master “sweat,” a place where your work up a lot of perspiration just trying to find the floor.

As much as I laugh/whimper about our bedroom looking like a swap meet, I do like that our house is a place where we are free to be ourselves. There are no military corners. There are pillow fights and a lot of laughs.

As I promised to do, I’ve shared the steps to creating a highly memorable master suite. You can’t get the Lego-strewn image out of your mind, can you?! Now that’s what I call memorable.

Is it a retreat? No.

Is it a sanctuary? Are you insane?

Privacy? Please!

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Tiny Treasures

Recently I’ve spent a lot of sweaty hours switching the contents of two rooms. But today was a day off, although not by choice. It seems my back is not pleased that I’ve lifted, pushed, reached and pulled a lot in the last two weeks. My back tried to go on strike today and I had no choice but to listen. I guess my back didn’t like that I’m trying to get this project finished ASAP so that it doesn’t look like we’re living inside a storage unit, with everything piled on top of everything else. So I listened to my back’s protests and I lay on a bag of ice and felt better. Right now I feel great, but my back and I have played this cat-and-mouse game before, and I know it’s just bluffing. The old me might declare my back healed and would begin schlepping furniture around again. But the new, wiser me is trying to be a little more cautious and I’m going to take the rest of the day off from my FRP (Furniture Relocation Program). (By the way, the new wiser Sarah may be here only temporarily. It’s hard for me to slow down when I know this project needs finishing. But for today, I’ll rest. Maybe tomorrow I’ll do 150% to make up for today’s rest. Of course, attempting to do 150% in a day may be part of why I keep overtiring my back. Can I help it if I’m ambitious?!)

Today while I wasn’t moving furniture and challenging carpet to a duel, I was shelling beans. Remember the scarlet runner beans I wrote about this summer?

I was giddy because of the orangey-red flowers, but the vine also produced beans. I let the beans grow bigger and bigger. After all, one rule of growing produce is that you don’t pick too early. You don’t pick tomatoes prematurely, and the same goes for apples, oranges, watermelon and many other foods. I figured beans were the same. Plus, the beans I planted (which grew into my scarlet runner vine) were big. I concluded that they needed to grow big before being picked. I tried some of the big beans and noticed that the pods were quite tough, but I thought this might just be a hallmark of this variety. Finally, a gardening friend saved me and told me that smaller beans would be tender. Oh.

I decided the foot-long beans would become my planting beans for next year. So this morning I shelled beans. What’s fun about the scarlet runner beans is that the beans themselves are almost as colorful as their bright flower. The beans are tiny treasures, patterned with swirls and rivulets of purple and pink. They look like they were painted with the smallest paintbrush ever, creating lines as fine as hairs. Each is a miniature work of art. Some are an inch long and mostly purple, while others are smaller and bright pink. They remind me of brightly-dyed Easter eggs or pearls. Maybe I should make necklaces from them.

Aren’t they amazing? And you thought the life of a bean would be too dull for words. Aren’t you sorry you jumped to conclusions prematurely? The life of a bean is quite a carnival, it turns out.

Let’s meet back here tomorrow. Hopefully my back will be in an agreeable mood tomorrow, allowing me to wrestle carpet and make a dent in this project. If so, I’ll share details about the secret, mysterious life of carpet.

Now that I’ve dropped that hint, I don’t know how you’ll be able to sleep tonight. The anticipation! The adrenaline racing through your veins! So sorry I’ve robbed you of a night of rest…

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Blogging Break...Again

What is it with me?
I’m noticing a trend. When a project gets overwhelming or tedious, I tend to take a blogging break. Oh, I could say I’m just trying to entertain the masses with the stories from my wacky life. But maybe it’s more about avoiding certain tasks.
This particular task was sanding a window frame and scraping paint from the glass. The window in question is close to 60 years old. There is paint on the glass from the previous owners’ attempts at painting. I remember noticing this extra paint when we moved in ten years ago. And by “noticing” I mean that I attempted to get some off, then decided there were more pressing things I needed to do, and that I’d get back to the glass scraping later. And by “later” I mean ten years later. But I’m feeling even less inclined to deal with the extra paint now. So “later” is in fact going to be even later.
We did make a lot of progress over the weekend. Hubby laid down the Pergo, and it looks amazing. I helped a little but if you don’t already know how to do it, it makes more sense for one person to tackle the job. (And in my defense I did 99% of the prep, which took all week!) This morning I’m painting and installing baseboards. I think it looks great!

Later we will start moving stuff into the new office and we’ll be officially onto the second, bigger part of this project. I really want to get it done but it’s a fairly big project to empty the old office and turn it into a bedroom. Yikes. How did I get myself into this?
The bunk bed we’re going to put into the new bedroom has been in my already crammed art studio for exactly four weeks. But who’s counting? It’s in pieces, leaning against some stuff, and it stares at me every time I’m in there, admonishing me for letting it sit for four weeks, unused. I may have put the cart before the horse in buying it before the room was even close to ready. But I was excited! My enthusiasm led me to buy the bunk beds off of Craigslist a little on the early side. Oops. But when enthusiasm grows, there’s no stopping it! It will be a relief to get the bunk bed into its intended room, all the office stuff into its new home and the kids’ stuff into place.

Now, if you’ll excuse me I’ve stalled long enough. I must go deal with a window frame and paint touch-up. Who knows? Maybe I’ll be back later today, convinced I need another blogging break, sure that people are holding their breath, waiting for the latest detail in this saga. And it’s true, isn’t it? I’m sure you have absolutely nothing to do other than wait for my updates!

Monday, August 26, 2013

An unexpected Treat

The sun sets each night but I don’t see it as often as I’d like. Sunset is one of the busiest times of my day, wedged in between other extra-busy periods known as afternoon and night. But we happened to be out tonight between seven and eight and we were dazzled by an intense  orange sunset. As I can’t choose my favorite photo I am sharing my top three.




Saturday, August 24, 2013

Working Out at Home

You: Sarah, have you been exercising more this month? What are you doing? Power lifting? The Tracy Anderson method?

Me: No. Why, do I look as strong as Linda Hamilton in Terminator 2?

You: Not so much. It’s the permanent sweat circles under your arms that made me curious. And you look exhausted.

Me: That’s parenthood for you.

You: Well, I meant even more exhausted than usual.

Me: Oh, that. We decided to do another home improvement project. It has been tiring. And it’s been a workout, actually. Did you know that cutting through Berber carpet really works your arm muscles?

You: Really? You’re telling me I don’t need free weights? Or a yoga mat? Or an inflatable balance ball? Or a chin-up bar? Or celebrity DVDs on how to tone everything from your nostrils down to your baby toes?

Me: That’s right. All you need is a box cutter and old carpet you can’t tolerate anymore.

You: Are you sure it will really help me build up a sweat?

Me: Are you kidding? I smell like a Sumo wrestler after body-slamming another Sumo wrestler for two hours. You’ll sweat a lot. It’s the newest home work out and it’s the hottest, sweatiest exercise there is. I recommend starting in August, for maximum sweat yield. Some people swear they get the best work out by cutting a rug, but they mean dancing. I mean actually slicing carpet.

You: Well, I can’t argue with the results. You look sweaty and ready to collapse. Maybe I should get your trainer’s name.
Me: You know him already: Hubby!

Friday, August 23, 2013

Seen and Heard

If you have not seen or heard from me lately, there’s good reason. I am mid-project (well, not quite mid-way, truth be told). House projects tend to change shape as soon as you start them. Like an accordion, they grow to many times the size you thought they were originally. So by “mid-project,” I mean I’ve started, I’m not finished and I have no idea how close or far I am from finishing.

Doing your own house projects is like being stuck in quicksand. (I imagine.) You feel a sense of doom and don’t know how to get out of the situation you’re in. They tell you not to panic if you ever find yourself in quicksand. Really? How do I not panic under those circumstances? If anyone has figured that out, please send me the answer immediately. Enclose with it a rope attached to a Sequoia tree, so that I can pull myself out of the quicksand/house project mess in which I am stuck. Thank you in advance.
Oh, if I step back I can see I’m making progress. But it’s still stressful. Let me share some of what has been seen and heard around here lately:

·         “Is the pry bar supposed to make such big gouges in the wall?”

·         “What do you mean there are funky tiles from the ‘60s under our carpet? I have to take them up? You didn’t tell me that when you described this project as a piece of cake.”

·         “No, I’m not finished yet. I’d tell you how UNfinished I am but I wouldn’t want to depress you.”

·         “The scent I’m wearing? A mix of latex paint, sweat, and exasperation.”

·         Older houses have character instead of storage. Older Sarah has wrinkles because of projects in older houses with character instead of storage.

·         “Sarah, is that tower an art piece comprised of found objects?” “No, it’s a giant pile of displaced stuff from the room I’m painting. If it topples over let’s declare it art and entitle ‘Fallen Hopes.’ “

It’s still just a rumor but there’s a possibility that painting will be finished today. This means we can lay down the Pergo this weekend and be noticeably closer to 1/3 of the way finished with the two-room switch. Oh, I’m giddy with anticipation. But…what if it’s just a mirage? What if I’m not close to finishing the painting of the first room? Panic. Breathe. In. Out. Repeat.

Keep calm and carry on. (And keep painting.)

Monday, August 19, 2013

Life's A Laugh

Yesterday while in a grocery store I indulged in a few minutes of greeting card “window shopping.” I rarely buy them but it's fun to check them out. The funny ones are my favorite. One card in particular made me laugh, and I thought it was blog-worthy.


Naughty Sarah didn’t take a photo of the back of the card, so I can’t give credit to its creator. But I want to practice good blogging etiquette so the next time I’m in that store I’ll get the artist’s name and race back here and update this post.

Ahhh, the man/woman differences jokes. No shortage of those. Sometimes I refuse to make stereotypes about the genders because stereotypes don’t allow for true understanding. They’re the equivalent of a standardized test with only “yes” and “no” bubbles to fill in. I think life is more like an essay question. It requires thought and explanation. It can’t be boiled down to two answers.

But sometimes I just go with it and laugh at cards like this. After all, Hubby and I have moments where we really think we may be from different planets. In moments like that there is no reasoning with the visitor from another planet. You have to move forward. Cards that make us laugh lessen the tension that is a part of life when you’re living with a person who may be from another planet. If nothing else, laughing together brings us closer.

This card made me laugh, and I hope it does the same for you. A daily dose of laughter is vital. It’s as important as a daily dose of chocolate (and I do not brush off the importance of chocolate. It’s up there with oxygen and water.) So laugh. If you’re having a terrible day, go to YouTube and spend a few minutes listening to jokes. Instant boost.

 As soap is to the body, so laughter is to the soul. – A Jewish Proverb


Sunday, August 18, 2013

A Labor Of Love

There comes a point in every major project when I growl to myself, “What the  %#*?*#  was I thinking?”

I reached such a point last night. It felt like the 99th hour of cleaning out my middle child’s room and I was fed up. (If you recall, this is the project I referenced the other day. We are swapping our home office and a bedroom. Our younger two kiddos will share a room and the office will go to the smaller room. Oh, and we’re ripping up carpet and installing laminate too. And painting.)

What I’m about to describe are middle-class problems. I am keeping that in mind, even as I gripe about how this project has grown jagged teeth and horns. We’re grateful to have a safe place to live. We have what we need. I don’t take that for granted. And yet. And yet this room swap project has become more work than I’d realized. By 8:30 last night the Do It Yourselfer in me needed a break. I’d been in that room for hours, moving things out so that we can take up the carpet. By evening I’d picked up countless Legos and other tiny toys as well as hundreds of pieces of broken Styrofoam “peanuts,” sneezing as my dust allergies kicked into a higher gear. Muttering about having way too much stuff.   

Will I be finished by September 3? That’s fifteen days from now, the Monday before most schools start, the day people cling desperately to the last hours of summer. They set up pop-up tents at the beach and bay, determined to spend every remaining second of daylight in summer mode. Me, I’ll probably be laboring on Labor Day, wrestling carpet away from adhesive. I’m feeling a bit overwhelmed.  

Yes, I did take on this project but in my defense, some of it is Hubby’s fault. (He’s smirking as he reads this, I suspect. We have an ongoing joke about things being his fault.) He described installing laminate flooring as easy-peasy (my words), something that could be done in half a day, an almost-instant solution to our dirty carpet issue.

Last night when I informed Hubby that this project was much more of an ordeal than he’d led me to believe, he shot me The Look (the one that means, “Woman, how could you think this would be an easy project?”). I volleyed back with my raised-eyebrow stare (the one that means, “You described this as a quick, easy fix to the grimy carpet situation. You didn’t mention I’d have to scrape glue off the floor once the carpet was up. How would I know glue is involved? I don’t moonlight at Carpeteria!”)

House projects like this are really a labor of love. Our middle child is so excited about moving into the big kid room, about getting the top bunk, about more space and a new chapter. I need to focus on that enthusiasm rather than get sucked into the vortex of negative thoughts about endless projects and messes as far as the eye can see. On the other hand, as I tell Hubby, when I complain about the mess it is actually very therapeutic. I’m communicating. I’m not holding it in until the fateful day when I go berserk and shave his hair into a Mohawk while he’s asleep. Nope. Not going there. I’m doing the constructive thing: I’m getting the frustration out now (verbally) so it can’t boil over. I’m doing it for him. Yeah.
Anyway, the project continues. Slowly. I’m making progress. The end result will be a good fit and it will look awesome. But it’s a big project and I’m a little overwhelmed. And quite tired. My forearms ache. My shoulders are tight. Did I bite off more than I could chew? I don’t know. But I’ve bitten and I’m chewing and it’s too late to go backwards. But please, the next time I announce a DIY house project that can’t possibly take that much time to do, would you remind me of this saga? Make me stop!

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Two-Room Makeover = Stress Times Two Million!

In through the nose. Out through the mouth. In. Out. My nose and mouth are joined in an effort to breathe calmly because the rest of me is in panic mode. I just started something that feels more daunting than scaling Mt. Kilimanjaro. We are switching the contents of two rooms in our house. If I survive it When we’re finished it will be worth it. Switching the rooms will involve setting up the bunk bed I got off of Craigslist last week, and our youngest finally will have somewhere to sleep. But getting there is overwhelming.

Starting the process conjures up memories of the last time we moved (ten years ago as of next month). That was overwhelming, and that was before the kids (and all their stuff) came along. Kids come into the world naked but they manage to accrue a lot of stuff over the years. We don’t even buy much stuff, so the mountains of stuff in the house are especially bewildering. Some things were gifts and some were hand-me-downs other kids had outgrown. Point is, we have way too much stuff.

Here’s the plan: we empty one room so that we can rip up the carpet, lay down laminate and then make a bedroom into a home office before we rip up the former office carpet, lay down laminate and make it into a bedroom. Oh, if only I could twitch my nose like Samantha from Bewitched and have the two rooms instantly swap contents. ‘Fraid not.

You’ve never known me to do things the easiest way, have you? It seems this project is no exception.

Surveying the contents of one room, I became very overwhelmed by the whole thing (where to start? How to start?). It was then that I decided a blogging break was necessary.

This is going to be some real work. You may not see or hear from me much in the next few weeks. If you haven’t spotted me by September, could someone send a search unit?

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

A is for Apple (and August)

Today was harvest day in the suburbs. No, it’s not fall yet but my neighbor Linda invited us to harvest apples from her backyard mini-farm, so who I am to refuse? When she saw us walking down the street today she asked if we’d like to pick apples later. Were we interested? Of course! I walk by Linda’s beautiful front yard garden nearly every day, noting how tall her orange cana flowers have grown, and marveling over the hundreds of poppies that arise each Spring. I have only seen Linda’s back yard garden once, but it is wonderful in a completely different way from the front. The back is all about edible plants. She has a grape arbor, fruit trees, a veggie garden and an apple tree ten feet tall.

We arrived on her doorstep with a basket in hand. The kids picked apples and studied everything else growing in Linda’s yard. I find picking fruit from a tree quite fun, a completely different experience from picking fruit my usual way (from a display at the grocery store!). We left with thirty-eight apples. Linda had picked some before we got there, and the kids picked apples they could reach. I wondered whether we were running off with most of her harvest, but as I looked up at the tree, I saw plenty more apples. Maybe she had picked dozens of apples already and decided to share the wealth with neighbors. What a kind thing to do. Like me, Linda really digs…digging. She likes plants (edible as well as ornamental) and feels good when working outdoors. She retired a year ago and now spends a good deal of her time learning about plants and teaching herself how to grow different things.


I’ll take a cue from Linda and share some of what she shared with me. Thirty-eight apples is a lot, and I’ll bet others would be tickled to have some fruit from Linda’s mini-farm.

Gardening is an instant tonic. It feels good, you reconnect with the earth, and you get something pretty and/or edible out of it. There’s a funny quote I like about the magic of gardening:

“Gardening is cheaper than therapy, and you get tomatoes.”   (Author unknown)