There’s A (Pea)Cock In My Hallway

I’ve been redoing my hallway, the one that leads to the upstairs. I figured that since I’m a complete nOOb when it comes to painting, this small hallway would be a good place for me to practice. Anyway, I had the burning desire to paint something in my house Behr’s Peacock Tail, and since it’s a pretty intense darkish teal, the hallway seemed like a no brainer.

This is what it looked like when I started. A shade of. . . well, it’s generous to call the color on the walls “ecru” — more like dirty eggshell. I think the color’s been there for the last three owners. It was OLD, yo.

Going up the stairs. Bland and fugly, non?

The view from the dining room

So I trekked out to Home Depot, bought what the guy at the paint counter swore was the best painter’s tape, one of those kits with the tray and the roller and a brush, and drove merrily home. The paint had primer added to it, so I thought I’d slap on the painter’s tape, make with the addition of the rockin’ color and relax and enjoy my gorgeous new hallway.


My husband is FAR more meticulous than I when it comes to applying painter’s tape in something that resembles a straight line. I did half, he did half, and then I started to paint. I didn’t do a half-bad job, but looking at the first coat when it dried, we decided that yes, a second coat was necessary.

So I added a second coat the next day and when it dried, it looked  fabulous. I was ecstatic. It’s a dark, lightless hallway in the evenings, but when the light from the upstairs windows shines down the stairs, it’s a most gorgeous, deep-sea shade and I love it.

Then came time for the painter’s tape to come off. Now, I took it off verrrrry slowly and carefully, but the white(ish) paint on the wood trim must be older than God, because there was some MAJOR peeling, which pissed me off to no end. This means I’m going to have to paint the trim, and the stair steps AND the whole freakin’ bannisters at the top, which will be a large pain in my ass.

And then there is this thing called…edging. Which really should be called “Erin Would Rather Spork Herself In The Eye Because It Would be Less Messy And Painful.”

I am a CRAP edger. My husband is neat and precise (that fancy art school learnin’, I suppose.) I guess it’s a good thing I have to re-paint the trim because I made a hot mess out of some of the trim.

Even so, it still looks SO much better.

The new view from the dining room, after the second coat.

Side view, with a little light illuminating the color.


Weed or Flower?: Beginner’s Guide to Gardening

I just realized my title might be taken amiss. Let me state clearly: NOT THAT KIND OF WEED. Not that kind of gardening, folks.

Gardening at Night 2010

(like, in my dreams, because it never happened)

To sum: in 2010, the garden and yard were awful. That winter, the mortar on the bricks leading up to the front door crumbled, and my husband took a pickax to all the crumbling mortar and removed about half the bricks. I did plant some morning glory on the front fence, and that was nice. Otherwise, it was all hacking randomly at Really Tall Weeds.

We mowed the yard. Once. I think. Then the lawnmower’s gas tank sprung a leak.

The backyard was a hot mess of crap piled up from broken furniture, weeds and branches, but I made an attempt to sweep of the deck, wash the furniture and put out some deck lights, so people could at least hang out after dark on the deck (watch the rotten boards!) in the summer.

The side yard and driveway? Full of toys and recycling and several garbage bins full of crap, and full of leaves, respectively.

This year, I am determined to make a difference. It is turning into an epic battle of  woman versus nature.

Spring 2011 — Back From the Dead

This year, I swear we’ll get the bricks on the front porch replaced. But that’s going to have to wait until it’s drier (and we have more money.)

But it’s much better. See, it’s true. There’s some flowers.

Rosemary. And some pansies. And some weeds. Hi, weeds!

And I moved a lot of leaves from out of the driveway.

AFTER I bagged and composted 4 bags.

More leaf removal. My arms hurts.

Progress at a Glacial Rate

More pictures of the changes, slight yet vital, really, in my yard. It may not look like much, but it’s been a TON of work so far, and I think it already looks tons better. But miles to go before I sleep, you know…

Adventures in Gardening Slideshow!

Can actually get in garage door. PRO OR CON?

Spring Break Miscellany

So damned lazy

Spring break has been so, so needed. The first night, I just lay on the couch and watched 9 hours of Glee on Netflix. I rarely get a chance to just watch hours of TV. It was great. I had creme horns for dinner. This was also great.

I was so lazy. I was so tired. I was so happy not to have less than 48 hours to get a bunch of shit done AND  “relax.”

I was so lazy, I was a little worried I might be…too lazy all week. I woke up really late. Later than I’d slept in a long time, but I went to sleep at three, so that was ok, really. I had an early dinner with my sister at Jazz,  a local Cajun restaurant, and then hung out with some friend’s at their neighbor’s house, and drank wine.

Fire Pit

I’ve decided I very much want a decent fire pit. Theirs was NICE.

Wouldn't this be nice? Dream on, right?!

Isn't this pretty? But a lot of potential for drunken, ultimately chilly missteps into the water, I think...

Productive, Finally!

So Saturday was also lazy, but NOT TO FEAR, Sunday was nice and productive. And I wasn’t resentful of it being worky, because I didn’t have to go to work tomorrow! This vacation stuff is magical, let me tell you.

Let’s see, I…
  • Went to Home Depot
  • Got some flowers and gardening stuff and paint
  • Painted most of an old wicker loveseat rescued from garage a soft yellow. Discovered 3 cans of spray paint is not enough. But most of it is done, and I will finish it later this week.

    Not actually my project, but the same exact love seat, and I'm painting it a similar yellow. No red, though. (WTF?)

  • It’s gonna go on the back deck or patio when we get it cleaned up
  • Made composting bin, shoveled mulch into mulch bin.
  • Transplanted white and pink creeping phlox.
  • This is what I want my phlox to be when they grow up...

  • Started sorting through stuff in garage. I’m having a garage sale in mid-June.
  • My goddamned spade broke when I was transplanting the last phlox, so I dug that hole with the broken spade and my bare hands. Woman versus nature! I was determined. I just bought that spade a month ago, dammit. Apparently, I don’t know my own strength. I need to upgrade the spade. There’s an app, right?
  • Cleaned the kitchen, made the bed, cleaned the bathroom sink, swept bathroom.

It’s very exciting. Parts of my house are clean that haven’t been clean since…in a while! I shall take photos when I find and charge the camera. I’m sure you are on the EDGE OF YOUR SEATS!

Art I Have; Art I Wish For

Just a quick Friday night note: my husband paints and draws; I also have three painting from a talented friend of mine.

Here’s a few glimpses of some art I have, but more art I’d like to own.

  • I have a print of Patricia DeLeon’s (the redhead with a bun with an owl on her head) and I love it
  • I can’t directly post her pictures here, but here’s the link to her site
  • I have the print of the redhead with her hair in a bun and an owl on her head, and it’s gorgeous, but I’d really love the redhead with the bobbed hair…and and owl on her head.

Jennifer Sanchez has a print on 20×200 that I really, really want:

ny.08.#14 by Jennifer Sanchez

There’s also my friend Mike Brake  who does fantastic paintings. I will have one, one day. I will!

Atari-Bots by Michael Brake

Simple Pleasures of a Snow Day

The simple, perfect cup of hot coffee

It’s about 11 am, on the third day of three snow days. The sun is streaming in strongly, and it illuminates one of my cats, laying all blissed-out on the futon in my office. I’m drinking the last of my coffee — it’s an unmitigated pleasure to be able to sleep in, wake up slowly, get leisurely out of bed and stumble sleepily into the chilly kitchen to make a cup of espresso. I take my time steaming the milk, making sure it is very hot. I stand there, just watching the milk start to bubble and heat.

The end product is a blazingly hot combination of espresso and steamed milk. Nothing different from what I drink each morning, except in the execution. And the aftermath. This simple, perfect cup of coffee I carry up to my office, which for once isn’t a dim little hole, but is a sunny, golden space. I sit down, wearing PJ pants and a cozy sweater, and begin to check emails, Facebook and all the little places on the Internet I like to be active on. I’m slow; I have time. I drink my coffee, smoke a cigarette and read.

Snow day starts are quite unlike work mornings. Work mornings, I hit snooze at the 5:45 am alarm, and get up groggily at 6 am. I stumble to the bathroom to brush my teeth and hair, wash my face and slap on some moisturizer. Stumbling downstairs, I turn the pre-prepped espresso machine on, and while the first rumblings towards brewing start, I pull out my breakfast and lunch and put it in my work bag. Sometimes I have the chance to warm the milk up well; sometimes I am running around too much, and I frantically slap the cold milk under the steamer in time to turn it from icy to lukewarm. I throw it whatever results into a travel mug.

By this time, it’s 6:15. I go upstairs, and spend 15 minutes sipping my warmish coffee, checking email and making sure I have all of the many materials I will need for my classes that day. I head into the bathroom at 6:30, spend 10 minutes on hair and make-up, and then dress. I am out the door at 6:45 am so I can be in the building by 7 am. Class starts at 7:30.

Since I have horrible chronic insomnia, I allow myself only one cup of coffee a day, and damn, I truly love that one cup of coffee. Not only for itself, but for what it symbolizes — the start of the day, my motivation, the shift from the private world to the public.  On a snow day, a day where your schedule should be more harried, to have this chance to really savor a small thing that you love is quietly pleasurable.

This snow day is the first leisure I’ve had to update since Thanksgiving, which tells you something about how much I’ve been able to accomplish over these previous two days off. I wrote an article, worked a ton on unit plans and lesson plans, and planned a party I’m having this weekend. This third day off was completely unexpected, but welcome, even though I am looking forward to getting back in the classroom tomorrow.

But for today, I can actually get out into the world, so I am going to get supplies for my party, get supplies to make gifts for the party and start making my hostess presents. Then I have some grading and cleaning to do. It may not be as blissful as that quiet cup of perfect coffee, but the chance to do this stuff during the day (and not after teaching from 7-4 pm that day and coming home to make dinner, clean up, work on lessons and grading AND make several gifts. . . ) is for which I am profoundly grateful.

A Really Happy Thanksgiving

Things I Learned This Thanksgiving:

1. As I had mostly expected, and sincerely hoped, my family and my husband’s family are able to eat, chat and laugh together companionably for 5 hours. Lovely!

2. I need more serving forks.

3. I didn’t need to start the ham two days ahead. Next time I make it, I can marinate it in the fridge the day before Thanksgiving, make the glaze the night before, prep it to go in the morning, and leave my extremely early-rising husband directions on preheating the stove and sticking in to cook the morning of. The ham was tasty this year, but I think it would be even better this way. . . not to mention easier.

Getting the marinade ready, Tuesday night

4. Next year, the skins will stay on the potatoes. It’s more nutritious anyway.  Or I am buying a fabulous new paring knife.

5. Real whipped cream is always better than Cool Whip. I knew this, actually, but it was really brought home when real whipped cream with a touch of cinnamon elevated my every-day apple crisp to warm, melting delectability.

6. Put the most adventurous cat upstairs before I start taking food out to the sideboard.Not as she starts investigating the turkey.

7. A sideboard and proper dining room table makes my dining room look so much better, and make entertaining comfortable. And now I can store my silver, china and specialty stemware in it, to free up needed kitchen cabinet space. Ease of access = happier, less frazzles hostess.

This year's table.

8. Don’t open up your grandmother’s silver box the morning of a holiday and expect to find the silverware ready to go. . .  even in a supposedly tarnish-proof box. More

The Mint — Could This Be My New Best Friend?

My house is two stories of wood floors, and I have four cats and currently, a Corgi who sheds like a Yeti in Hawaii.  So I use the Swiffer Sweeper ($25, everywhere) to suck up the hair and dirt and bits every time the floor starts to look too shaggy.

Then I see this new gadget, Mint, and I get all excited. I send an e-mail to my husband: “I want this for our 2nd anniversary!” (Second, because maybe we would be able to afford it by then.)

Mint: time-saver or Catmobile?

Then I watch the little video on the webpage, and although it looks cool, with its “NorthStar tracking and mapping system,” I start to think. I remember how many times I have to change the pads on my Swiffer sweeper when cleaning just one room, and how many times I have to empty the Swiffer’s admittedly small vacuum canister. It doesn’t look like the Mint would have a large capacity.

And as far as mopping goes, it says you put a pre-moistened pad on and away it goes. I…just don’t think that one pad would get one room very clean. Maybe NYC studio apartment-sized rooms, but not a normal Midwestern dining room, say.  It seems like to really keep your house clean, you would have to program it to sweep and mop all the time. You’d be replacing the pad and trotting it and the fancy tracker box to a different room and waiting for it to bump its way to clean.

I don’t know. I could be wrong. Maybe it would be worth it if you used it to keep the floors dusted, and mopped by hand. I can see setting it up to do the living room before work or going to the grocery store.

Has anyone used one of these, or know anyone who has? What’s the word? For $200, are they worth it?

Seduce Your New In-Laws With Delicious Ham! My Nefarious Thanksgiving Plan.

Last year, I had Thanksgiving dinner. I had hosted it once before for my family, when I lived in a crappy little apartment in Lawrence, KS.  I had a tiny rickety table that used to be my grandmother’s, and I served dinner on it in my carpeted kitchen. Carpet in a kitchen — not the 1970’s best idea. And this carpet was a particularly egregious example of the ’70’s breed:  mottled brown, mustard and avocado dabs and swirls, which made the floor look like years and years of cooking spills had accumulated on it and produced a moldy fuzz. Despite the surroundings, dinner was good, and I felt accomplished.

I’d attained a milestone of adulthood; I’d hosted a Family Holiday. Nothing burnt, I almost had enough gravy, no one was poisoned and all family members were speaking to each other at the end of the dinner.(Granted, my immediate family consists of my parents, still married to each other — we don’t count the two years they were divorced in the 1980’s — and my younger sister. Not a large or especially contentious crew.)

Last October, I’d just moved in with my boyfriend. My family wasn’t used to the idea of me having a boyfriend  (they would have been less surprised if I had announced I was taking up graduate studies in mathematics, and math and I are enemies of long-standing ) and me actually living with a man…well, they were bewildered. Not from any outraged moral sensibilities, but rather as if the family dog had woken up purple, say, and with tiny horns. “Well, what the hell? Never would have expected that,” they might say. Same with me setting up house with a guy.

The house was still very much in a his-and-hers state, rather than a cohesive whole, but I now had a real dining room and a real kitchen. I broke out my grandmother’s lace tablecloth (her table had been relegated to the back porch) and her silverware, and made a ham and all the trimmings. I decorated to the best of my abilities and strained budget (I’d just lost my job a few weeks ago, which had precipitated the move — we were going to move in together in November, but the lay-off moved the schedule forward a bit.) My family brought side dishes, and they had the chance to sit down and get to know D., who I think is a stellar fellow. I got my parents to play Wii bowling, which they quite liked, and D, my sister and I got a little drunk, and then they went home. It was nice.  Adult Milestone added: Hosted Family Holiday with Significant Other With Whom One is Cohabitating in a Real House.

This year, will be another Adult Milestone, and one that’s a little more fraught with nerves for me than last year: Hosting First Blended Family Holiday As Wife, with In-Law’s Meeting My Family For The First Time, In a Home One Owns. Whew. That’s a lot of firsts. More

Turkey of Terror? Thanksgiving Horror Stories

The moral of the story...don't invite Wolverine to your family Thanksgiving?


I am hosting my third Thanksgiving dinner, but my first as a married woman…you know, with in-law’s and husband’s relatives all peering at the New Wife.

(I am not only the New Wife, but I am the NEW New Wife, as my husband has an Ex-Wife.)

I am fairly confident all will be pleasant, and I certainly know all of my family’s foibles (as most of my extended family is Away or Dead — which is just sort of a hyperextended version of Away — they are mostly just perplexed and vaguely terrified at the idea of a holiday spent socializing with people they have not ever met before), I am still a bit nervy.

So. Please tell me some of your utterly horrifying (or just slightly amusing) holiday stories, so I can laugh and laugh and be certain that awkward silences will be the worst I have to contend with.

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