gifts that keep on giving

12 08 2009

calibamSo for the last number of years my birthday gifts keep getting more and more creative.  I’ve reached that point in my life where I don’t really need things.  After all, I buy a pair of shoes every couple of years and make a trip to Marshall’s or TJMaxx before any important events when I need a look a bit more chic than my five year old jeans and the t-shirts that I’ve been “recycling” for that many years.  I’m not a girlie girl – no perfume or mani-pedi gift certificates for me.

I’ve got tchotchkes galore from all over the globe.  Some things are really nice and expensive and some barely more than trinkets.  I like them all – but there are rarely things that I see in shops that are must haves.  There is, however, a never ending list of things that the Money Pit is in desparate need of.

About four years ago this trend started with a great seagrass rug I had been dreaming about for under the dining room table.  Just something to put down to cover the 100 year old wood floors that we say we’re going to refinish year after year and never get around to.  I came home from work and found that the Dr. surprised me and there it was for my birthday.

Three years ago we were starting to have problems with a newest toilet in the house which had probably been installed in the 1950’s.  Couldn’t wait for the whole bathroom re-do (I’ll probably be in my 80’s when we can afford that!) but there are things we can do until such time.  What better way to say “I love you” than to get TWO of them – really great ones I might add – that are handicap height, elongated bowls, self-closing lids, 1.6 gallon flush that really work…the whole nine yards.  Not every girl gets to use her birthday gifts on a daily basis.

Last year, I got a new roof.  Oh, it is a fine roof.  They even let me pick out the color of the shingles.  The other one had been leaking and making a huge mess of plaster ceilings on the second floor.  No more buckets – no more drips.  Just lots of repair and painting for another year’s gift list.

This year…oh this year.  I really really really hit the jack pot.  We’ve been watching our backyard fence take on some major degrees of tilt over the last few winters.  Since we have to look at this fence everyday – a few gazillion times a day letting the beast out – it had to be something that we wanted to look at.  That is what happens when you work from home.  You really see things and realize how much you tolerate, love or hate them.

We’d gotten a few estimates on designs in cedar but I decided to go out on a limb and wow the Dr. with my incredible internet savvy research skills and show him something “green” – something sustainable – an investment piece if you will.

I had actually started with looking for alternatives that were considered neighbor friendly fences – the kind that look good from both sides.  Why should I spend the money to put up a fence and have to look at all the bracing when the neighbor’s rug rats enjoyed a great view from their new fort?  No way!  It was my birthday present and I deserve to enjoy it from my side too.

So a little heaven on earth – Cali in Michigan…my new bamboo fence.  Notice the mud pit…the landscapers are coming on Friday to start talking about how we can put some more zen into this space.  Did you know it was the Dr.’s bday in a couple of days?  Fence for me – mulch and pea gravel for him.

P.S.  I failed to link you to the genius fence makers from Outback Casual Living & Fence

channeling my domestic goddess

21 04 2009

cavalliJust a Tuesday with a bagazillion things to do before I go to the dentist this afternoon – then leave town tomorrow for at least an overnight.  Magically, a rather routine dreary, drippy day was transformed.  It started with getting to iron some hand-painted Roberto Cavalli artwork.

towelsSo inspired was I, that I took the time to fold my old towels the Martha Stewart way.  I feel so proud – so sophisticated.

DSC_0011I looked down after grabbing one rug to throw into the washer and replaced it with its almost twin and stopped just for a second to admire this little gem from Algeria that keeps my toes warm each morning.

DSC_0034It’s that time of year to give my pretty little perfume bottles from Egypt,  quietly perched atop the door frame, a bath.


Then just because I could, I paused, turned out the light in the bathroom and lit the candles – the votive holder was a gift from Shop Girl when she was all of 13 I think and on a field trip to Chicago with her French Class.  It has always been a fav.  The pitcher behind it –  a little treasure from Morocco.

All I was doing was ironing and needed more water to fill the iron.  I walked into the bathroom and stopped long enough to admire things I look at more than once a day and never stop to “see”.

Our bathroom is on that never ending “Money Pit” wish list for a major makeover.  Who knows then my MegaMillions numbers will hit…till then I keep myself pacified with little trinkets that keep my mind off the general sad state of affairs when it comes to the desperate need for gorgeous white subway tiles to line the walls – along with having the tub (probably from the 1920’s because it is NOT a claw foot which would have been original to the house) re-surfaced in an attempt at being green and keeping it out of a landfill somewhere.

DSC_0042Amazing how much ambience can be added by low lighting…you can’t even see the mold!  What a great day this is turning out to be!!!

of all the things…

18 02 2009

dsc_00013I knew I was in trouble.  I heard him coming down the stairs to fix himself something for lunch.  With a wide scraper in my hand, down on my knees, I was pulling up linoleum tiles from the kitchen floor.

“Of all the things you COULD be doing…what prompted you to do this NOW?”  There is no right answer to that question. This 100 year old house – a constant work in progress- sometimes just begs for attention.  So I answered honestly…it sounded like the most fun option.  The other options were ironing, sorting through boxes of God-knows-what that I’ve stashed in Best Boy’s room while he’s gone for 10 days, cleaning the attic, basement, garage or any and all closets and on and on.

When we first walked through this house over a decade ago, the kitchen was the one room that I really disliked.  It had gotten an update in the early 70’s that just doesn’t fit the character of the house.  There are plenty of cupboards and space but bottle green laminate countertops with hunter green country themed wallpaper hurt me.  With that make-over came the pièce de résistance of slapping adhesive tiles over a wood floor-maybe just the sub-floor, but wood plank nonetheless.

So, very little by little, I am unearthing a new old kitchen floor. The process isn’t hard…just messy and toxic.  Sounds like my life.  I pry up the tiles with a wide paint scraper.  What is left underneath is so sticky that as I step back, my shoes are cemented to the floor and I inadvertently step out of them. After I pry them loose and put them back on, I dump some gel adhesive remover over the space and spread it out.  That stinks the place up like crazy so doors and windows are cracked.   The directions say to leave it 20 minutes and I leave it for twice that time frame.  Scrape up the goop that looks like what the cat coughs up and re-gel it for another round.  While I wait, I write this, eat a ham sandwich, make a run to the post office and get high from the fumes.

What’s not to love about this project?  Seriously, I think what I like is that it stays.  When I’m done with each little section that I tackle, it’s done.  It’s not like laundry that gets dirty again every time I turn around.  Or like cooking where you make a big effort and are left with nothing to show but people licking their chops.  I can admire my progress and don’t feel like I’m moving backwards.

At this point I’m quite sure that there are plenty of you asking why I don’t just tackle the whole thing at once and be done with it.  The answer is – because I am old.  I got a blister on the heel of my hand from jamming the scraper under the tiles to pry them off. After finishing that little section, my hands and wrists hurt like crazy. By far the best reason for doing it a little at a time is that it gives me the perfect out when I don’t want to do other things and get inspired to continue the fifty tile count down.

Who knows – maybe by this summer I’ll be done and we’ll have the whole thing sanded and refinished.  That would leave us with just eight more rooms and the stairs to do. At least they aren’t covered in sticky goo. Gotta love The Money Pit!