Real Life and Priorities

I’m playing the great procrastination game today. I SHOULD be writing a white paper on cohort learning. I SHOULD be going through the feedback I got on something I wrote from a well-meaning, but actually micro-managing reviewer (nothing like being told how many sentences I should have). Instead, I’ve been doing bills and updating my budget and reading about entitled millennial. I don’t actually like that characterization of millennial and I don’t really agree with it. Do I think that someone who is young and immature can be kinda clueless about the world and may come across as entitled? Yup. I know I was at that age. We all laugh at that first job we got where we thought we were making SO much money and now we were going to be able to do and have so much stuff! I wince at the salary I thought made me “rich” (and let’s be real, it wasn’t a salary, it was an hourly wage) and the cruel realizations that more money and more things just means more responsibility and more bills.

Helping with bills

I remember the first time I realized you had to pay for garbage. Really? I have to PAY someone to come take the garbage? That isn’t something that the city just takes care of to make it a nicer city? Nope. How about water? It does not flow freely from our taps because it is water. We have to pay for that to happen and if we do not pay, it does not flow from the taps. Ask me how many times I learned that lesson!

How many of us blew our paychecks on a concert or clothes only to realize that meant we had no money for groceries and rent? If you were lucky enough to live near your parents, you went home to eat and brought your laundry. You might have even raided the fridge for some staples to take back to your place. This is the age where you are figuring this stuff out. This is when you are falling down as you learn what it takes to keep standing. It’s the process of maturation. Some people mature quickly and are easily independent. I was clueless and clueless for a lot longer than I deserved to be. If it hadn’t been for my mom, I would have been out on the streets several times. Some could have told me I acted entitled and they would have been correct.

I feel for the millennial today though because I think social media skews real life. When we post, we all tend to post things that are, maybe not extraordinary, but they are more-than-ordinary. A great meal out at a restaurant is a treat so we share. We get to go on a great vacation and do things that are special, so we share. Those are the things to share with each other (because, really, who wants to see my messy kitchen and piles of laundry?) but when you take a cumulative look at that picture it creates, it looks like everyone has more, and does more than we actually do and have. Someone who is just coming into adult life could easily think that those activities are the activities of everyday life for most people and not the special moments someone has because they did a lot of boring things like work day-to-day and save money. Wouldn’t you just love it if someone posted every day, “In the office by 6 again this morning and brought a PB&J for lunch.” No way. Those are the things I try not to focus on in my OWN life let alone read about you doing it too. I’d rather you share your Hawaii pictures.

So I can totally see why a millennial might believe that they should be going on Hawaiian vacations because that’s what they see on their timelines. This doesn’t mean I don’t cringe when I see an acquaintance, who I know is super broke and struggling to feed their kids or get an apartment, share their new, giant tattoo, fancy manicures, designer purses, and Disney vacations. I’m not saying they aren’t entitled to something nice now and then. I want them to have that and I know how hard they work. But I also think that we don’t do them any favors by only sharing special things on social media. I was talking to one of these acquaintances who was suddenly in the position of having no car but was also planning an expensive vacation. What would I have appreciated hearing when I was in that position? What wouldn’t make me feel foolish and small but maybe help guide me to reduce some of the struggle?

If I’d known some of the things I could do around the house myself, I could have saved myself a lot of money early in my adulthood.

We ended up having a great conversation about priorities. What brings you joy and energy for your life and what are you spending energy, time, and money on that really isn’t that important to you? If that Disney vacation is the thing that makes you happy and taking the bus everyday isn’t a big deal, then you should take that vacation. They seemed genuinely interested in some of the ways I’ve found to budget my money and time so I thought it would be interesting to share out too. Make our timelines a little more realistic.

I share a lot of adorable pictures of my dogs but the flip side someone should probably hear is that having this many dogs means I spend a significant amount of time cleaning up after them and sometimes that stuff is poop. If the poop, hair, drool, and mud is something you abhor, don’t get a lot of dogs.  I also like to nest which means I scrimped and saved to buy a house. I still don’t see movies in the theater (well, maybe 2 a year), I rarely go out (I invite people in), and I spend a lot of my time keeping the house up. Houses take a LOT of work. Just keeping them clean, repaired, and comfortable takes a significant amount of my time, energy, and money. I don’t have a lot of weekends free as they get taken up with working around the house.

Believe it or not, not everyone appreciates having dogs take over everything. I know, crazy right?

I drive an old car, I don’t buy a lot of clothes, I don’t buy designer anything. But those aren’t that important to me. I do have a lovely home that I enjoy welcoming people into and having family for holidays is really important to me.  It’s all about balancing your priorities. I don’t spend the money on things that I don’t really care about so that I do have it for the things that are important.

Priority question: fancy guest bedroom or place Coco can chill with her toys?

What are some of the things you sacrifice for the things you value?

I have kind of a thing for necklaces but I don’t want anything so expensive or precious that I would have to worry about having and wearing it. So I seek out and buy fun jewelry for under $25. This fun, kelly green, pop-bead inspiration was obtained for less than $12. Ebay and etsy are great resources for inexpensive things.

Hangin’ Around

Have you ever learned something and that one, simple thing solves a bunch of problems for you?

I dragged a bunch of pictures out of the back of my closet and took them in to be framed. They’ve been lingering for a long time and I’ve put it off because getting things framed can be SO expensive! I finally just sucked it up and did it and I love them.

I had an idea that I’ve been ruminating on for a while. I love art nouveau art work, especially Alphonse Mucha who did graphic design at the turn of the century. This particular picture isn’t actually by him but the size and color palette were right and I liked it so this is the one I got. I wanted something that just about covers the whole space on the wall.

I’m not sure if it was exactly what I was going for but let’s face it, I don’t think these things through very carefully anyway. I was going for a big statement piece and that’s what it is. I framed it very simply and it just seems perfect. Nothing is competing with the busy artwork.

I do like it though. She’s pretty and it is the first thing you see when you walk in. That’s kind of fun.

When I got this framed, the lady at the frame store told me about French cleats for hanging stuff. Everyone else has probably all known about these forever. I did not know about them and I was so excited because they actually solved about three problems I had hanging stuff.

It’s two metal plates. You hang the first one on the wall. There is a wee level that you slide in a holder on the plate to make sure you hang the first plate levelly. It makes things super easy. The top of the plate is bent a little forwards.

Then you attach the second plate to the thing you are hanging. It has a fold that slips over the top of the plate on the wall.

Not only is it super easy to get things level (something I struggle with) but they hold a lot of weight. So now I could hang this:

That wooden fretwork is heavy and didn’t have anything on the back for hanging so the French cleat was perfect. It’s up there good and solid and I’m thrilled to get it up off the floor for the first time in months. Ignore the pictures flanking it. I just needed to get them up but they’ll reside somewhere else eventually.

Another thing that has been languishing until I solved the hanging-heavy-stuff problem were the “medicine cabinets” my bathrooms needed. Have I mentioned the bathrooms in this house kind of suck? Well, they do. No medicine cabinets meant a box in the linen closet which migrated to my bedroom and all over my bathroom counter. So I bought a couple and when I went to hang them, the anchor actually popped right into the wall and disappeared. This house was built when they were throwing houses up and it lacks studs in some walls. That wall is an interior one between the bathroom and living room and there are not a lot of studs in it. I even bought a fancy new stud finder to replace my old one and confirmed that there was not a stud anywhere in that space above the toilet. Yay!

The medicine cabinet is heavy so I was afraid to hang it with just wall anchors in the drywall. The French cleats seem to spread the weight across the cabinet so I picked up a couple that would hang 100 lbs. each (which the cabinet doesn’t even come close to). It worked and now the bits of medicine cabinet flotsam floating all over the house are corralled and easy to find.

It’s a small thing that makes me super happy. Yay counterspace! Yay ugly box gone!

Joey the foster dog is going to stay here. He’s bounced 3 times which means he’s gone to 3 homes and been returned. It’s crazy. He’s sweet as can be and beautifully behaved. I feel like everyone else got three tries and now I get to keep him. He’s a doll and has fit in so beautifully with my pack. I did my official adoption tradition of getting him a new collar with his tag that has my address. When I brought it home and put it on him, I explained what that meant. Well he’s a dog so I don’t actually believe he understands me but he grinned the rest of the afternoon. Seriously. He sat there like this with the biggest smile. I’ve never seen him do that before or even since.

Congratulations Joey and congratulations us! Also, Coco looks like she could use lessons on how to sleep on a dog bed.

I Think Spring Might Be Here

It’s really wet, there are daffodils everywhere, and I have an overwhelming urge to change things. I wish I had the overwhelming urge to clean things but, unfortunately, I just want to spend money. I find that if I don’t find a way to channel this, I just buy something online that is ridiculous and expensive on a late Sunday night and regret it later. I tried to be thoughtful and focus on doing something I’ve been putting off, such as framing some pictures I’ve had for a good long while and updating my emergency bags. I also picked up a few things on sale that I’ve been needing and tried the trick of leaving it in the basket for a day or two before pulling the trigger and buying it. That actually did work. I went back and removed some things from the basket that seemed cool at the time but I just had to admit to myself that I had no place for them in the house.

More on these small tweaks when they get hung/placed/used.

We have a new foster! This is Joey. Joey boy has bounced (been adopted and returned) three times. The adoption group asked if I could foster him because I’m “patient.” OK, we’ll go along with that. Joey was supposedly a nervous, anxious boy who whined all the time and had nightmares. I’ve had spooky dogs and nervous dogs and we are a pretty chill house so I thought we might be a good place for him.

Isn’t he gorgeous?

As usual, I’m given this near-perfect boy who has some minor fears (like the slippery floors, but who isn’t afraid of that?) and is actually a loving and sweet big boy. He whines a little but he does it when things aren’t up to his standards (such as getting kibble for dinner instead of hot dogs). He likes a routine and doesn’t like change so he lets me know when his bed isn’t available and when he would like pets and kisses. He’s persnickety. That’s all.

His first meeting with the other dogs. Stryker was very impressed. You can see how big Joey is though! Stryker is a giant Golden at ~120 lbs.

I’ve lived with persnickety dogs before and they aren’t a lot of work. In fact, I find it pretty helpful if one of the dogs is telling me I’m late with dinner or if a blanket has gotten mussed up. It saves me thinking about it and realizing at 9pm that I forgot to feed the dogs. (man is that a terrible feeling!) The persnickety ones help keep the house running. Frankie didn’t like change either. I moved his bed from one side of the room to the other once and he stood at the spot where it used to be and whined and whined. He finally lay down on the floor where his bed USED to be instead of just walking 7 feet over to the new spot. He got over that tragedy though when he realized the bed wasn’t coming back.

I’ve actually gotten Joey’s whining down to almost nothing by simply ignoring it and rewarding good quiet boys. When they know they are being heard, they don’t have to keep doing it. I generally acknowledge him, make sure it isn’t something bad, and then either help him with his trouble (let me move that nasty old blanket for you) or ignore it and he has learned that if I ignore it, he might as well also. It hasn’t even been 48 hours yet and he has this figured out. He’s kind of awesome actually.

I haven’t seen any nightmares yet but Frankie used to bolt up and out of the room when he was sleeping too. You don’t have to do anything. They wake up and realize where they are and that they are safe and they just go back to bed.

Someone told me recently that a veterinarian was warning someone about working with rescue groups and saying that if a dog was returned there was a good reason. I kind of flipped out. My experience, 100% of the time has been the problem was with the adopter, not the dog. It doesn’t make the adopter a bad person. If someone is going to get stressed out when a dog is whining, they shouldn’t live with a dog like Joey and it is better for both parties to find a better match. Joey’s adopters brought him back to us which gives us the chance to find a better match for him. But never be afraid to work with an adoption group. Especially one that has a foster system like this because you get a really good profile of the dog before you bring it into your home. I’ve even been able to tell new families if their dog would be better to free-feed or have mealtimes.

I couldn’t live with a high energy dog that would be happier running every day. But I can handle the dog that has high standards and a little trouble with change.

The nervous dog in action. This is the way he is most of the time.

Of course, I cannot stop singing this song to him. I’m always a little surprised I don’t sound this good when I sing.

Blink and You’ll Miss Me

Just passing through to let you know I’m still here. All is good. The house is sorely neglected but the animals are pampered and spoiled. As it should be.

I did replace the rug in the living room. I absolutely loved my blue and white rug but it had become a victim of foster dogs potty training and it did not clean up well at all. The dyes in the rug ran when it wasn’t staining and it began to stink. Like urine. Not a welcoming smell in your home. This new rug is very jazzy and well outside my comfort zone but I do like it. I like the fact that it is very different for me.


I may be hoping that the pattern distracts people if there is poop on the floor. “Look at that jazzy pattern while I swoop in with a plastic bag and Nature’s Miracle!” (note to self: buy stock in Nature’s Miracle)

As soon as I started trying to get pictures of this, Scarlet had to step in and “help.”


My last foster dog, Mary, went to a really good home right before Christmas and I have to say; I miss her. She was a fun one.


I’ve been dogsitting one of my mom’s dogs. Stryker is a really big Golden (~120 lbs) who is on the senior side (~11?) and so when she going to be on the road for a few days on her way to Arizona, we thought he would be more comfortable with me here rather than being cooped up in the car. He gets creaky. Plus, he loves me. He absolutely adores me (the feeling is mutual, big man) so we are having a lot of fun with him around. I have had him for a couple of months now and will get to keep him for the rest of March too.


Everyone is terrific friends. Oscar loves having someone follow him around and Stryker has always been very taken with Oscar.


We passed a bit of a milestone last month. Coco has now lived with us for a year! I’d say she has fully integrated into retirement and is a happy, happy girl. She doesn’t know any strangers, she only knows new best friends. Which is a bit of a challenge when people come in and she is all over them and trying to crawl into laps. Even dog lovers are overwhelmed. She loves so fiercely that I think she sets a great example for us all. When you love someone; love them 10,000%!


Hug your loved ones today people!

Happy New Year

Well, the holidays have come and gone. In general, they were lovely with a few bumps. I had a very good friend die suddenly right before Christmas which was devastating, but I seem to be in full denial mode which works for now. My great-uncle also died but he was of advanced age and had his family around him so it was a peaceful departure. We drove into Eastern Oregon for the service and had a bit of weather to contend with on the roads. We did get a chance to go by family landmarks such as my great grandfather’s church where he was a minister for 40 years. Most of us were baptized or married there so it was really fun to see it again.

I didn’t post anything in December on purpose. I was working really hard to stay in the moment and interact with my family and friends. I was taking pictures as I came across little vignettes that made me smile and made me feel holiday-happy.

At one point I noticed that my brother had tucked some new water bottles in my purse. He works for this company and always makes sure to hook me up. But this was sweet because he didn’t say anything about it, just made sure I had them.

As I looked over the pictures later I notice that they all seem to have messy in common.

Area well used and well loved!

But that was what I loved. That warm, snuggly, feeling as we cuddled with a dog, or snuck a cookie.

Looks like Joe isn’t getting home with all of his cookies!

We not only had people visiting but we had dogs visiting too! This scamp slept in my room and thought that the best place to sleep one night was on a twin bed with me on my legs. And why not? They are warm and soft!

I am glad it is all over and we are getting back to our normal routine.

And Now We Face Christmas

It has been so utterly boring these past weeks that I felt like I had nothing to share. Boring is good. Sometimes. Work is good. I like what I’m working on and who I’m working with. Family is good. Everyone is healthy and behaving. I’m good and behaving. Sometimes.

The knee has healed nicely. I had a brief setback when I tweaked something getting animals out to the car for a routine vet visit but even with how much that hurt, it was over in a few days. I think I’m just down to building strength back into my legs and core. I don’t think I’ll get to kickbox anymore which is really disappointing. But I’ve always loved regular strength training and swimming so I just need to get back into the habit.

I have a new foster. Her name is Mary. She is very sweet.

My favorite part of fostering is watching them figure out how their life is different and seeing them blossom. At first they are very cautious and tend to find a spot in the room and just watch. Eventually they start getting excited about food time, going out, and then they figure out toys. Mary has found the toy box and now really interacts with the toys by carting them around and play bowing to them.

She has certainly demonstrated that she feels secure here now.

I hosted Thanksgiving this year. You would be very proud of me though, instead of getting some unrealistic project going of something that isn’t really a priority, I actually did something that has been lingering on the ToDo list. My office has had a huge, ugly pile of junk that I’ve avoided. These are the last dregs of the old office that needed to be sorted and considered. The challenge was that every single thing had to be looked at and a decision made. So I spent almost two days going through each and every item. I got rid of about 4 bags of garbage and 10+ bags of shredded paper.


The picture on the left is the before picture but it is actually a little deceiving. The pile had grown significantly to be as high as the shelf top and the top of the monitor. In fact, some of the papers were resting on top of the corner of the monitor. It was about a 3x3x3 area of bills, papers, and general crap that needed to be dealt with. The two boxes beneath the desk were from when my bookcase originally collapsed but they were like those boxes you just dump things into when you move. You know, those last few boxes when you are just desperate to be done packing. Those boxes have been emptied and disposed of. Clearly, I need to tidy the bookcase but I’m so relieved to have that pile gone I could sing and dance.

Seriously, I was losing bills in that pile and you know how fun that is to deal with.

Now this isn’t a sexy project, or even a project that is dramatic to anyone else. In fact, I’m afraid the response I got was, “Well at least you finally cleaned in here.” *sigh*

But I do feel really good getting it done once and for all and I feel like it was a big barrier in calling the office done. Now I just need to paint the closet doors and seriously, it will be finished.

Mary found a throw rug and pulled it up on the dog bed to burrow under it. All that crap on the floor behind her? I dealt with that too!

The Knee’s The Thing

(Warning, I’m sharing medical pictures here. If this is a trigger for you, here is an adorable picture of Coco and Oscar and then click away. I’ll catch you next time. For folks who are mildly curious, the pictures really aren’t a big deal. There isn’t any blood and guts or anything. They just kind of look like planets.)

Oscar and Coco. BFFs

I’m not sure what happened to Summer. I had a lot of plans for Summer. I was going to get my backyard into some kind of usable shape which was going to be a ton of work. I need to replace my deck completely. I didn’t have any plans for fancy but I thought I could do some of the demo and simpler tasks and then bring in the pros for a little finishing detail. I also desperately need to do something about my yard. The ground out there is currently so uneven and partially eroded that it is impossible to get a single flat step while you walk across it. This has been a real problem with my bad knees. They just don’t do that kind of adjustment without a lot of pain and repercussion. Mainly I wanted to do something about my hated deck roof. This ugly metal thing is dated and not-at-all functional. Seriously, I think someone installed it upside down because not only does it NOT keep rain off my deck, when it is kind of moist out, condensation builds up on the underside of the roof and basically rains under the roof while not raining at all outside. The whole thing is a delight. But it isn’t a project I’m equipped to handle myself. It’s fixed to my roof so someone else will need to demo it and replace the gutters on the house.

This is a good shot of the porch roof a couple winters ago. See how ugly and low it is? See how much snow it kept off my porch? See Frankie running like a lunatic? I miss that boy!

So those were all the big plans for Summer. None of which got done at all. Not even close. I got distracted by other things and then finally sucked it up and scheduled my knee surgery I’ve needed for a few years. Last year when I got serious about it we found other things we had to deal with so this year, I was going to get this done and off my ToDo list once and for all. The plan was to fix an old injury that has plagued me for years, do a little arthroscopy (kind of like scraping the stalactites and stalagmites off the bone) and try to loosen up a very tight knee cap.

Everything went fine. Until last year I had never had an operation and I think I had been under anesthesia once in my life. I don’t tend to get nervous though. Probably because I have been blessed with good health and I also because my Mom is a retired nurse so I know a little about how hospitals work and I have a pretty realistic idea of the warts. It also helps that Mom was there both times so I know she is watching and listening like a hawk. It lets me relax.

Probably the most notable thing that happened was the space age, silver blanket they put over me. It had a slit at the top that went over my head so it was like a giant bib. The first thing I said when I looked at it on was, “I feel like a hot pocket.” For the rest of the day the hospital staff called me Hot Pocket. I even heard one of them in the other room singing softly to herself, “Hoooot Pocket!”

It’s kind of hard to be nervous when they are calling you Hot Pocket.

After a few days of bed rest that absolutely made me nuts, I’m getting back into a routine. I can hobble around the house without a crutch. The pain is reduced other than a slight twinge now and then. Am I happy I did this finally? I wouldn’t say I’ve felt a pay-off yet. The surgeon said he found a lot more arthritis than he anticipated. Before the surgery he felt pretty confident that I wouldn’t need any more anti-inflammatories but he has backed off that pretty quick. The truth is, they may have fixed the old meniscus injury (actually shredded on one side and torn on the other. Ouch!) but the arthritis is probably going to still plague me pretty good.

He took pictures during the surgery. Arthritis doesn’t look anything like I expected. It is this lovely feathery-looking thing that looks like it should be lightly caressing you and cushioning your joint. It lies.

That lovely feathery stuff at the top is arthritis.

That lovely feathery stuff at the top is arthritis.

This is an artist's depiction of what arthritis should look like. Little stabby daggers.

This is an artist’s depiction of what arthritis should look like. Little stabby daggers.

 It feels like the last two years have been dominated by the stupid knees so I’m really hoping this can be properly ignored again and more important stuff like the garage, backsplashes, and the guy who walks his pig in my neighborhood can be my primary focus.

Seriously, the pig walking guy doesn’t even use a leash!

Guest Bathroom Makeover

I don’t think I did enough to call it a renovation. I didn’t really change out what was there, I just put a new face on things. It made a big difference though.


I tackled the simple, such as swapping out the brass towel racks with an updated darker style. The old hand towel rack was on the wall to the left of the sink which meant it hung over the light switch and outlet. It was an awkward spot. I moved it to the right which made a little more sense. I also painted the walls which gives the room a dramatic change that looks like I changed out the lighting but I didn’t touch the fixtures. The old paint color was a tan that had a lot of yellow in it. It gives the whole room a sickly yellow tinge. I painted it the same icicle blue that I put in the office. It is perfect in that little space. It looks clean and MUCH brighter. Seriously, there is no difference in the lighting in those two pictures. Exact same fixture and bulbs.

The vanity got a bit of a makeover. I covered the groovy faux marble formica in concrete. It updates the overall look and was a lot of fun to try out in this small space. The bag of concrete cost about $10 so it’s a great solution until I can get a new vanity. I also painted the wood which looks LOADS better! I was a little worried about the dated curly line detail but it isn’t so bad.


The concrete held up very well with use which included the abuse of a 10-year old and a 7-year old. I just went in this morning and wiped the toothpaste off everything with a damp washcloth and it looks perfect. The sealer I put on the concrete protected the counter just fine.

I also changed out the shower curtain which is very cute, but nothing looks good against the old linoleum.

I’m just going to have to figure out something to do about that. The kitchen linoleum tested positive for asbestos so both the bathrooms are probably positive too. I suspect the sub-floor around the toilet needs to be replaced though so I’ll probably have to deal with it someday soon.

I managed a few other updates such as the dining room window. This was half-started when I painted the dining room. I pulled down the louvres and then everything stalled and I was covering the dining room window with a sheet like it was 1992 and I lived in a dorm room. Sometimes the best way to finish up something you are avoiding, is to have someone come over and help you. I didn’t really need the manpower, but I did need the push so a pal came over and kick started me on a few things. The dining room window looks infinitely better without the sheet.


I never get used to how much a space is brightened up by the white trim.

She is also responsible for knocking out that 4th wall in the family room. Yay! no more paint samples on the wall.


The family room also got spiffed up with a new rug. Nothing fancy, just a shag rug in taupe but it is proportional to the room, the weight keeps it from sliding around too much and the color should hide all the grubbiness that goes on in this room.


And the last little update I squeezed in under deadline is the guest room window. I painted the trim and got a new set of blinds up to replace the old ones that the kitty had broken as she crawled through to chatter at crows. The room badly needs to be updated in general but that will be a huge project that will just have to wait its turn.


I didn’t get a picture of the broken blinds as they were embarrassing. Just imagine a kitty-sized hole in the blinds on the left.

In the meantime, everything looks a little better and was put to the test this week by my nephews and other family members as they cycled through about as fast as I could strip beds, wash sheets, and put them all back together. In the middle of it all I managed to come down with something but powered through and am prepared to sleep it off the rest of this week.

The new rug received a stamp of approval from the dogs who promptly tested its comfort as soon as it was unrolled. It hadn’t even had a chance to unkink yet.

Here we go Again

July has been a busy month. It seems like every weekend I have an obligation that takes me away from home which means basic chores stack up and, certainly, no project progress. I still have a wall to paint in the family room (it has been over a year with 3 out of 4 walls painted in there), a wall in the dining room, and 2 walls in the living room. The hallway is a disaster with the half-dismantled linen closet at the end of the hall shining like a beacon of procrastination to anyone that walks in my front door.

So when my brother let me know that he and his family would be stopping at my house over night on their way up north, I was thrilled! What fun! Even if I only had them one night after a long day on the road, I couldn’t wait to see them.

I also began looking at all the half-done stuff and wondering what I could get done before they got here. In addition to the walls, I have a lot of things that I’ve put off that I would really rather not show my brother (who is super good about getting things done. He and my sister-in-law are freakishly good about finishing things quickly).

The handle on my sliding glass door broke months ago. The second one in two years. I’m having a lot of trouble finding one that will even fit on the door, let alone lock. In the meantime, I stuffed the open hole where the handle went with plastic and I’m just worked around it. It’s classy looking.

I never did properly hem the curtains in the living room. Rather than look stylish like so many other people make them look when they floof at the bottom, mine just look messy. Can curtains look frumpy? Mine look frumpy at the bottom.

I have plants growing out of my gutters. Darn Oregon and our ability to grow anything anywhere!

The roses, loving the hot weather, shot up and are all the way up to the roof line. Maybe they just wanted to meet the plants in the gutter?

My family room couch badly needs to be replaced. It’s an old Ikea one that really has seen its heyday come and go. It is really kind of mucky looking. Not to mention the mucky rug in the family room. It was temporary to begin with but it was never quite big enough and it was too light so it slides all over the space. I tried one of those rubber mats that are supposed to keep it from sliding but the rug seemed too light for even that because the mat is always sticking out along the edge.

The dust and tumble fur around here is epic.

So what’s a girl to do? I started a guest bathroom reno!

Of course I did. Of. Course. I. Did.

Both of my bathrooms are very dated. Overwhelmingly dated. As soon as I start talking about small improvements I paralyze myself with how much really needs to be done. As a result, I’ve not done anything to the bathrooms except try to hide the 70s linoleum under bath mats.


I took this when I first bought the house. I swear it is much worse now. I’m sure, in no small part, to my failed housekeeping skillz.

But then I started that conversation where I fool myself completely about what I can do and how easy it is. I wrote out a list of tasks and then did a little math. I only needed to complete 1.25 tasks a day to finish it all before the visit! Huzzah!

Then I thought it through and, even I, had to admit that “paint the hallway” is not actually a single task. It is removing everything from the walls, patching holes, cleaning the walls, taping off the floor, cutting in, painting, and painting the trim. At the very least. That is when the complicated planning schedule came out. Because that is what I do when I want something done but I don’t want to put in the work to do it. I plan it to death.

The schedule looked something like this:


  • Pin drapes to correct length
  • Fix the rods so they stop sliding
  • Re-hang drapes correctly
  • Start sanding garage door


  • Take down hooks and leashes
  • Paint garage door
  • Paint door trim
  • Clean out guest room closet


  • Order new guest room blinds
  • Paint bathroom – 1st coat
  • Put away yarn
  • Clean out tub
  • Shred documents


  • Paint bathroom 2nd coat
  • Paint vanity
  • Replace towel racks
  • Replace shower curtain
  • Buy new couch

I immediately missed every deadline I set for myself when I was called to war with the ants again. It’s hot outside so the ants keep trying to come inside. Each time I stop them at one entry, they find another. The schedule also left out most everything practical I actually needed to do. Such as the gutters and pruning. Way to keep your eye on the ball, Laurie.

So, completely disregarding my own schedule, I have actually managed to take care of the gutters, roses, windows, cleaning the house and also get a few things done in the bathroom.

I started with the counter. It was enough to make anyone shudder.

The blue faux marble laminate was not only a wee bit out of style, but the corner was being held together with an old piece of tape. I’ve been dying for an excuse to try something with concrete. I really felt like it couldn’t hurt at all. Even if it failed miserably. I also thought that such a small piece of counter could be done by next week.

I was pleased to see how easy it was to pop off the side splash guard. I don’t think we really need a splash guard over there and the goal is to make the counter look like a slab of concrete. That little wafer on the side would hurt the illusion.

I immediately had help as I always do.

I thought about taking the back piece off too and replacing it with a piece of wood that had more thickness. That would help make it look more like a slab of concrete but when I looked carefully, it looks like the mirror is resting on that wee piece of laminate. Yikes!

I will change out the mirror eventually but decided it was too much for this pass at the bathroom.

You are supposed to rough up the laminate a little to give the concrete something to hold on to. A couple of the online tutorials recommended a wallpaper scorer but I swear, it didn’t do anything to my bullet-proof laminate. I think it may be harder than actual marble.

I also tried a little rough sandpaper. You couldn’t feel any difference when you ran your hand across the surface but I made a little dust so it must have been doing something. Finally I just went for it and made up my first batch of concrete. I used several sites for directions on how to do this: Little Green Notebook, Young House Love, Kara Pasley Designs. Their instructions are far better than any I could come up with so I won’t bother giving a step-by-step.

The first layer went down OK but it was anticlimactic. It just looked like I smeared mud all over the counter. The next day, after it had a chance to dry, it looked much better.

Last night I did the second coat. I was getting a bunch of annoying bubbles. Just when I had something smoothed out nicely, these would pop up. I suspect it is from forgetting to let the mixture sit for 5 minutes before using it.

I kept working it though and managed to get most of the bubbles smoothed out. It seemed like a lot of people doing these counter tops were falling in love with the imperfections in the concrete which makes this my kind of project. AT first though, I didn’t like the trowel marks but then I put a second coat on the backsplash and really loved how it turned out. I actually did a crummy job. It’s hard to do it properly at that angle but it looks like rough-hewn stone.

I’m working to keep the counter surface much smoother for practical purposes. After I sanded it a bit today, I thought it was really starting to look awesome. One more coat and then I’ll seal it and paint the vanity to lighten things up.

In the meantime, regular life insists on being attended to. I picked up my CSA box which means I need to sit down and chop up a bunch of veggies to make this, this, and this. I’m having a mad craving for Cuban food (oh how I miss Versailles in LA!) so I need to make some pollo.

Laundry isn’t doing itself and for some reason, they want me to work to earn my paychecks so, clearly, everything I want to do for the visit (the 8 hours my brother’s family will be here. Sleeping) won’t happen. I think we should start some kind of pool and everyone pick a thing that won’t happen. Whoever wins, gets absolutely nothing except our deep admiration.

That’s admiration all right. For the food being held out in front of her but it’s still admiration.

Faerie Gardens

Under the heading of “too much time on my hands” are my faerie gardens. Now, I don’t actually have too much time on my hands. This is the single most useless project on the planet. Sure, wee things are charming but seriously, even visitors to the house will spend three minutes looking at it and then be done. I kind of want to do a version for Borrowers. This was the photo I found online that sucked me in. So charming.

Image courtesy of

Image courtesy of

It started with my fascination with tiny plants. You can usually find them in nurseries as stepping plants because they grow between pavers and are sturdy enough to withstand foot traffic. Then I started looking online and veered off track. I couldn’t resist many of the tiny objects so my faerie gardens have a bit more “stuff.”

A couple of the plants aren’t too happy but that may be because there is no drainage in this planter.

Someone has left their wee bicycle. With a front basket!

There are little flower pots and gardening tools tucked behind furniture. That mini ivy needs a little pruning. I’m trying to train it up the trellis. Those tiny ivy leaves just reduce me to baby talk.

There is a garden outside in a large pot on the porch. It is a little crispy right now because we have been so hot and dry and I’m bad about watering plants. One of the trees bit the dust but the others seem OK.

Buying all the cute little things can get pretty expensive and I really like the look of the natural elements from the inspiration photo. Doing it again, I will probably fashion things myself. You really only want one or two items so it wouldn’t be a huge project. Some of the plants can be bought cheaply at a nursery and then you would only need to buy a tree or two from a specialty store.

They do make me smile though every time I see them so I guess they aren’t completely useless.