Thursday, May 21, 2015

Be My Guest!

Our son has gotten his own apartment and moved out, leaving behind a surfeit of stuff that is apparently too important to throw out, but not special enough to take with him to his new place. It's hard to explore the new frontiers of adult responsibility with boxes full of things you've had since junior high school. I understand that. So once he assured us he had picked the room-bones of every thing that he wanted, my husband and I did some picking of our own based on memories of the things we left behind ourselves all those years ago when we moved out of our parents' houses.

A few things went to live in the attic, and a lot of stuff got donated to charity, and some items went to the dump. Then I vacuumed. And then the fun part started:

I grabbed the reins and began changing the former-teenage-boy room to the new guest accommodations! 

The first order of business was to change the paint. When we bought this place ten years ago, the whole house was painted in a funky fashion, two or three colors in each room. My husband called it "The Key West Retirement Palette", and it was rich with orange, pink, purple, mint green and bright blue.  This room had two peach colored walls and two sky blue. We told The Boy (age 13) he could change the color to anything he wanted, as long as he did the work of painting it -- a move I now see was reckless-- and he decided he could live with the blue, but the peach had to go. He wanted green. He says now that he just wanted to be sure that the green would cover that orange-y peach, and this is why professional therapists say communication is so important. A simple conversation about primer could have saved us all a lot of work. But kids don't know about primer. Instead, The Boy brought home a rich, deep kelly green. A very pretty color for a shamrock or a bell pepper, but... well, it was a very bold decorating choice. He did quite a nice job painting, only dribbling and smearing a little, and the end result was this:
Ten years later, still just as bright.
Green. So. Very. Green.

Not exactly what I wanted for our guest room, which is only 10x12 feet and looks even smaller with that intense color. But I'm an adult, and I know about primer. Even better, I know about a product called "Kilz" which not only primes the surface for new color, but provides amazing coverage over dark tones. 

It took two gallons of Kilz to cover that green. Amazing. But even more amazing is the change in the room. Behold! 

Took this with the second coat only partway done. You can see the window wall and corner is still uneven. Time to move the dropcloth over and finish up! 

After the primer dried overnight, it was time for my new color. Mom likes yellow and so do I, but yellows are tricky because they can be pretty intense. I always pick the color I like and then go one shade lighter, and I've never been disappointed. I chose a color called "Daisy Yellow" which looked buttery and light under the harsh florescents at Home Depot. When I got the first coat put on, I didn't like it at all. What happened to the warm tones? This looked almost... dare I say it? Greenish! 

I decided it was probably just the primer showing through that made it look stark, and a second coat would fix it. And it helped, yes, and it looks fine, but it's not the color I was hoping for. It's close enough that I'm going to stick with it, and as the days go by, I find I don't mind it at all. 

So pretty! So clean! So light and airy! 

But this is all you get to see, even though the room is mostly finished. Mom reads this blog and I want to surprise her, so you'll have to wait a few more weeks to see the completed room and its decor. Stay tuned for that! 

Saturday, May 9, 2015


When I garden, it's called "Gard-wen-ing", because I do it in my own way. My way involves no real plan, going to the home store garden center to see what's on the sale trolley, and just kind of making things up as I go along.

It started at Costco where I bought a flat of six geraniums. I like the ones they have there, because they get the nice red ones, real red, not the weird orange-y red you usually find.

At Home Depot, I hit a great sale on hardy mums. The garden center had a shelves of them reduced to 75 cents each, about four dollars off the regular price. I bought a dozen in a variety of pink, yellow, and orange. I mean, come on -- less than a buck a bloom? That's cheap color. And with a name like "hardy mum", maybe I won't be able to kill it right off. The label also said they were "deer resistant", but as we don't often see ungulates in the yard, I'm not too concerned about that.

The snapdragons are volunteers from last year. I didn't know they came back, but apparently they do. The little mums are at an awkward stage. Their first blooms were already a little tatty when I bought them --why they were cheap-- so they look kind of straggly now. The snapdragons loom over them and the geraniums that looked red at Costco are more of that orange-y color I don't like. Some years the garden looks better than others, and I guess this might be an off year. Oh well.

Here's the back porch, with the gardenia, mums, lavender, and in the middle there, strawberries. That's a new thing for me. Fresh strawberries taste so much better than the store ones! I hope to find them a more permanent place once I've cleared out more of the weeds in the flowerbeds.

I got a baby fuschia for another dollar because they're just so cute when they're little! It has two tiny blooms on it. I like fuschias, but they're so expensive when you buy a big hanging basket. This little one will grow enough and provide some pretty color alongside the pale pink mums.

Someone told me once that in every flower pot, you need three plants: one to grow, one to show, and one to flow. So you've got one plant that will get tall and draw the eye, one that will flower a lot or has really interesting or vibrant blooms, and one that will cascade over the edge. That way you have three layers of plant interest.  I found something called a Calibrachoa that looks like a good old petunia but with smaller flowers. I got the kind with yellow and white striped blooms because I tend to get hung up on pinks and reds and something has to break that up. You can see it in the tall white planter up there. It will be the "flow" to the pink mum's "grow".  In the tin pail, there's an everblooming Gardenia. It looks so elegant with dark green leaves and pure white blooms. And of course it smells lovely.

When we first moved here, I hated the hostas in the back garden. Now I love them. They look amazing with absolutely no help from me, which is a big plus, and they make the plants next to them look good, too. The lilac bush is starting to get out of control, covered in yummy-smelling purple. I got a new pink rhododendron shrub because the color was just so pretty. I'll probably have to move it out of that pot by next year, but for now it looks nice -- and it's portable. There's another Costco geranium, looking all orange-y.

I would love to have hummingbird feeders out in the yard, but with our two cats out there, I'd feel terribly guilty coaxing them in to what might be their last meal!

Not pictured but also potted: two tomato plants and some Thai basil. Yummy!

And finally, look! I made something!  I took a few yards of stuff I got at thrift (I think I paid about seven dollars) and made bunting edge from scraps of linen and some bias tape. Two curtain rods and some hooks later, and I've got as cunning a sunshade as you could ask for. I picked up the two wicker chairs for $15 at a yard sale today, moved my potted rhody nearby, and look out Sunset Magazine, right? Well, it's not fancy, but it's bright and appealing, and this evening it was very pleasant to sit out there with an iced tea and... stare at the barbeque grill and the deck that needs painting.  I gotta do something about that view. I guess I could turn the chairs around and stare into the shrubbery. Hmm. Well, I'll come up with something. I always do!

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

What'd I make this time? A mistake!

I've been working with a new dog lately. A client got him from a rescue organization. He'd been tied up in a backyard since he was a little pup, and as a result he's now two years old and has practically no socialization skills. He's wary and nervous, and my first interaction with him was helping the client catch him. She'd let him into her fenced back yard, and then she couldn't get him to come back inside. I fashioned a lasso out of a piece of clothesline and caught him up pretty easily. Then she attached his leash to his collar and let him drag it around so she could catch him by it when she needed.

My first step would have been to teach the dog to come when called, using abundant bits of roast chicken, but ... not my dog. And that's a story for another time. Anyway...

The next time I came by, the dog was trailing a length of plastic-covered wire cable with a metal clasp on the end. What's up with that? Well, he had chewed up both the leashes she had attached and the cable was something he couldn't chew through. The dog is a very fast mover and spends a good amount of time galloping through the house playing with the client's other dog. Unfortunately, the cable trailing behind has a tendency to wind around chair legs or corners, go taut, and then whip loose, sending the metal clasp end ricocheting off walls and making a terrible gunshot noise that terrifies the dog, which makes him run again and on and on. 

My first step-- oh, wait; I already said that. 

So I told the client (because I have to work within her parameters, not force mine) that I would see if I could find a strong, quiet piece of something that would resist chewing and not be so terrifying and noisy. So I went to the boat store.

Gosh, this is a long story and I'm not even halfway there yet. Get yourself a cool drink and come back. I'll wait.

Back? Okay, good. 

So there I am at the boat store. They have a whole wall covered in spools of rope, all different kinds. The clerk asks what I need, and I explain about the dog. I want something reasonably thick, with perhaps a wire cable inside or a covering that resists abrasion (like chewing) and I need about, oh, twenty feet. 

The clerk shows me a rope about the diameter of a standard pencil. "How about this?" 

It's just a plain nylon rope. 

"No, he'll chew through that in about ten seconds. He's already destroyed two leashes. I need something much stronger than that."

"I dunno," she says. "This is pretty strong." 

I look at the wall of rope. "Do you have anything that's specifically meant to... I mean, you tie up a boat, right? And say the water is wavy and the boat is going up and down, and the hitch rope is between the dock and the boat and it's rubbing and stuff-- you wouldn't want the friction to wear through the rope, right? I need something like that. Because the dog is going to chew on it. But I don't want him to be able to chew through it. Maybe something made with Teflon?"

You won't believe me when I say this, but she puts that thin piece of nylon rope in her teeth and starts gnawing on it. Mouth full, she manages "This is pretty strong."

"You're not a pitbull," I say. "He's got teeth that will crack bones." I scan the rope selection again. "So this is all you have?"

"Yep." (*gnaw gnaw gnaw*)

"Okay, thanks. I'm just going to look. I'll holler if I need anything." 

She spits out the rope, shrugs, and walks away. And the thing is, I bet she'll go home tonight and tell everyone about the crazy lady that she had to deal with at work. 

I stand there for a while longer, arguing with myself about rope. I'm pretty sure the dog will just grind through everything they have here. And I get frustrated because if the stupid owner would just take an afternoon and teach the dog that it gets a treat when she calls, no rope would be needed. He's a smart dog. He comes when I call, every single time. 

Owner: "He likes you better than me." 

Me: "No, I have chicken. He knows I'll give him some." 

Owner: "Well, why won't he come to me?"

Me: "Do you have chicken?"

Owner: "Well, I call him and he won't come."

Me: "Do you have chicken?"

Owner: "The other dog will come just fine. I don't know why this new one doesn't. I guess he doesn't like me yet."

Me: "Do you have chicken?"

Just offer him some stupid chicken -- or any treat!-- when you call and he will suddenly think you are the best person ever and he'll show up with bells on every time you say his name! And you won't need rope! 

But I digress. 

The ropes are so pretty, all different colors, with speckles woven into them, blue and red and green and tan. They remind me of jump ropes from childhood -- 

And then I remember my five year old nephew is coming to visit this summer, and I've been slowly building up a stash of games and toys that we can enjoy together. Jump ropes! That would be fun! I find some pretty rope of the right diameter and look at the label. $1.20 So for three yards, that would be less than five bucks. A bargain! A different clerk is passing by, and I ask her to cut me three yards of rope. 

She squints. "So like, twenty feet?" 

"Yes, perfect."

She measures it out. "Are you sure? Once I cut it, it's yours."

"Yes, I'm sure."

She winds the rope and fastens the end, then attaches a slip with the pricing info on it, and I head to the cashier who rings me up and says "Twenty-six dollars and fifty-seven cents."


"No no no," I say. "It's $1.20 a yard. I have three yard..s.." Suddenly I realize why the cutting clerk mentioned the length in feet. "It's $1.20 a foot?"

The cashier swings the register display so I can see the math, and my frugal nature seizes up. I can't pay that much money for a little piece of rope! But I have to! It's cut to order! I told them I wanted this! The cashier smiles helpfully, and I reach for my wallet. My heart is pounding as I realize I will have to confess this bit of fiscal stupidity to my husband, because I haven't got cash and he'll see it on the bank statement.

Behold the majesty and the wonder of the Thirty Dollar Rope.

So I'm telling Dave this story as we stand outside and I water the plants, and when I get to the part where the cashier gives me the total, he stops me. 

"And you walked out, right?" 

"Well, I--"

"Do NOT tell me you paid thirty dollars for a piece of rope!" 

"I had to! It was cut to order!"

"You could have just walked out! What are they going to do, chase you?"


"And it's not like you'll never go to the boat store again. Why didn't you just leave?"

"It was an implied social contract! If you special order custom rope length you have to--"

Dave said some words I won't repeat here, not so much in anger as in pure disbelief. 

I asked him to reconsider the whole scenario as something we can look back on in years to come and laugh about. And someday when he does something I think is ridiculous and I look at him all sideways, all he has to say is "Thirty dollar rope." and I'll have to concede his point. It's like a get out of jail free card for him. 

I hope Louis is ready to do thirty dollars worth of jumping.

EDIT: My mom emailed me and asked why I got twenty feet when I'd only asked for three yards. You know what? This whole thing was a mess from the get-go. Where did my brain make the erroneous connection that 3 yards = 21 feet? A yard is three feet, not seven! No wonder the clerk was confused. No wonder my math was wrong. My takeaway from the whole thing is stay away from the boat store.