Category Archives: house

Grow strong

I saw something on the Facebook the other day on a page I follow. It’s a gardening/flower appreciation sort of page and there was a post about how important it is to prune plants because otherwise the parts which are struggling to stay alive will prevent the healthier parts from flourishing. It’s something that I, of course, have heard before, but for whatever reason it’s been kicking around my head ever since. Why is it such a struggle to eliminate that which no longer holds future promise? Particularly when it comes at the peril of something that demonstrates positive growth?

My relationship with plants is complicated and long. There was a time when I felt incapable of providing enough attention and support to my boys and my plants. In those days I had one plant, a vine-y sort of thing that had become mine when I was about 20 and had been my responsibility for about a dozen years at that point. It was, and continues to be, low maintenance. This plant was joined by a rubber tree, adopted when a friend moved out of town, when my oldest was in kindergarten almost two decades ago. It is a massive plant now and when I relocate it to its summer home on the back deck, I have to tip it at an angle to maneuver it out the sliding glass door. During the months it resides outside, it grows in a remarkably prolific way gaining a new shiny leaf almost every single day. It’s beautiful.

Those two plants were it for me for a long time. Gradually, though, in the last 7 or 8 years I’ve collected quite a few additional ones including a Boston fern that went full circle dead to almost lush to dead, a passion flower that has yet to bloom for me, citronella and lavender plants which I never expected to overwinter and now have done so for two years, a mature jade and an aloe, and an asparagus fern that is finally doing well. My dining room, with its soft yellow walls and dozen plants, brings me joy even on the gloomiest of days. It just feels warm and alive.

Plants aren’t necessarily as challenging to care for as children, but they do require some attention. It feels like I water, rotate and move them around pretty frequently, as I attempt to encourage them to grow. I’ve gotten pretty comfortable with trimming them and cutting “off the dead and dying stuff,” as suggested on that Facebook page I referenced above, because I know intellectually that the plant will “put all its energy into keeping that dying leaf alive,” neglecting healthier parts in the process. And, who the hell wants that?

In all honesty, though, I do falter when it comes to completely giving up. That Boston fern I lovingly nurtured for years, responded to my absence at the holidays last year by dying, despite how much I wanted it to live. I don’t have the heart to throw it away, so it’s currently in a purgatory state in my kitchen. It’s either going to come back to life or be replaced in its pot by the baby Boston fern I was given a few weeks ago. Whatever it does, it’s beyond my control. I’m going to just direct my attentions to the plants which are more committed to being alive and do my best to help them grow strong.

What’s your relationship with houseplants? How are they growing?

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Filed under aging, beauty, Boys, favorites, friends, Gardens, house, musings

Repairing my ability to divert.

Diversion can be a really good thing. When floodwaters are heading straight towards a vulnerable location, a well placed levee can help to avert disaster by directing the water to a better protected area. Similarly, when a person finds themself continuing to ponder a situation for which there is no happy ending, a shift in one’s attention to a more positive course of action can be truly beneficial. And, for the record, an emotional flood is no less devastating than an actual tidal wave to a person who has had their heart-broken. Trust me.

 

Let’s talk, though, about actual physical diverters because sorrows and affairs of the heart are not as easily repaired as those of the household. Currently I have two rooms in my house that have faulty diverters and I’m losing my patience with their lack of willingness to self-correct. First, my kitchen sink faucet. When middle son and I selected the industrial style faucet a couple of years ago, I was a little hesitant. It was an Italian brand and, while it looked great, I would have preferred a brand that came with a solid reputation because it was kind of pricey. Nonetheless, we bought it. 

 

We probably got about two years of satisfaction from this Giagni Fresco product before the buttons on the faucet head stopped functioning, leaving the nozzle permanently in “spray” mode. For a while I could pull the necessary button out with tweezers to get the water to come out in a stream rather than a spray, but those days are over. Looking on the Lowe’s site at the reviews for this faucet tells me I’m not alone. It’s time to reach out to the manufacturer and get some parts to correct this flaw.

 

I’ve probably mentioned in the past that I love my bathtub. It’s a jetted Jacuzzi and from September through spring, I’d say I take a bubbly bath at least twice a week. Maybe my joy in bath time created an issue between my plumbing parts and I, perhaps, shouldn’t have neglected to sing the praises of my rainhead shower, because it no longer is working as it should. When I pull the lever from the faucet to divert the water to the showerhead it no longer is operating at 100%, which means my rain is more of a sprinkle. Not great. I attempted a fix myself, after first asking middle son to investigate the issue and learning that he doesn’t know what an allen wrench is, but my repair didn’t stick.

 

So, do any of you have any plumbing tips for a not so handy homeowner? And, do you think redirected attentions are capable of providing an adequate diversion to lingering emotional deluges?

 

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Filed under house, love, musings, Recommendations, stress

Randoms – February, 2019

  • I have absolutely zero feelings regarding whether the roll of toilet paper is supposed to be installed over or under.
  • However, double parked vehicles blocking available legal parking will probably be my trigger if I should ever totally lose my sh*t.
  • I’m at a stage in the aging process where I believe liberally applied moisturizer and not wearing my glasses (so I can’t see so well) takes five years off my face.
  • There’s an entrance to the parking lot at the nearby shopping plaza that is one way, but which way is undecided. Traffic uses it both to enter and exit the lot. A street sign was once placed indicating the correct direction. It was lying on the ground within days of installation and was gone in less than a week.
  • I’m obsessed with lentils at the moment. This is the latest recipe I prepared.
  • Made gnudi for the first time this weekend. Like most Italian food I’ve ever prepared, it’s labor intensive, but not particularly difficult to make.
  • We’re expecting some weather this week. If you happen to have a corner lot, please consider the difficulty of those in wheelchairs, or less physically mobile, and shovel a path that includes access to the street.
  • Every single time I’m reminded that I’m going to Greece this year, I can’t help but smile. So excited!
  • If anyone has a suggestion for a company that does basement work, please pass it my way. I’d like that project taken care of this spring.
  • I am dangerously close to renewing my Rent the Runway subscription. I’m just so enjoying it!

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Filed under aging, Albany, DelSo, Dinner, Eating, Europe, favorites, Food, Greece, house, Local, musings, Observations, Random, Recipes, Recommendations, snow, Summer, travel, Uncategorized, upstate New York, vacation, Wine

Where Hepburn and Tracy trysted

What a day.

Trysted. What a word! Sometimes the state of language distresses me…folks don’t respect it enough to spell it or speak it correctly and the words we’ve added to English just don’t seem to have added much really. Like “hooking up,” for instance. But, I digress. Let’s get to where Hepburn and Tracy trysted!

During my recent time in Palm Springs, I had a few touristy things I wanted to do and one of them was a tour of the heavily Mid-Century Modern (MCM) neighborhood of Old Las Palmas.  After doing some quick research, I decided that the Palm Spring Historical Society’s “Golden Era Hollywood Homes” tour sounded like exactly what I was hoping to find. $20 and a couple of days later and there I was, meeting my group by the Synagogue which had been unfortunately renovated to disguise its MCM roots. Apparently, until the 1980’s MCM was a look not very highly regarded by many. But me? I love it.

This isn’t THE gate, but it sure is pretty.

The tour covered about 2 miles at an easy pace and lasted 2.5 hours. Our guide, (Joe?), a retired actor originally from Rochester or Buffalo, NY who graduated from Geneseo, was terrific. His narration was rehearsed but didn’t sound canned and his enthusiasm was contagious. On a beautiful morning, our group of 14 or so made its way past the former homes of, among others, George Hamilton, Kirk Douglas, Dinah Shore, Liberace and Lily Tomlin. We paused outside of Leonardo DiCaprio’s, available as an AirBandB, I believe, and eventually found ourselves outside of the completely-hidden-by-a-fence-and-wooden-gate home of Hollywood legend, Spencer Tracy.

Our guide shared some of the history of the wildly romantic and tragic relationship of Spencer Tracy and Katherine Hepburn, star-crossed lovers of the golden era of Hollywood. He, a devout and married Catholic and she, a woman of rare independence, had shared a life of sorts in Palm Springs behind the very gate of which we stood in front. The gate which slid open to permit a woman and her small, leashed dog to exit. The woman smiled and took a few steps away from us before turning around to greet us with a “Good morning.” She continued to address us saying that since it was the holidays, she’d like to invite our group inside the gates to see the property. For real.

It was such an unexpected and graciously offered treat. She showed us through the car port to the rear of the house where there was spa, including a waterfall of sorts which was decorated with three stone monkeys depicting “See no evil,” “Speak no evil,” and “Hear no evil.” It seemed perfectly appropriate for every part of the situation.

The foyer

We finished our tour with entry to the foyer of the house. The floors were 8” squares of terra-cotta tile with a thick grout line. The ceilings were gorgeous wood. Beautiful. As we entered, the view was to the pool area we had just visited as seen through tall glass windows. Sigh.

The courtesy we enjoyed made the tour nearly impossible to ever repeat and I’ll remember it for a longtime.

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Filed under beauty, California, favorites, house, Observations, Recommendations, travel, Uncategorized

Tidying Up

What does one watch after they blow through Mrs. Maisel, Season 2? Well, if you’re feeling inspired by the start of a new year, or as if your life is somewhat out of control, you can’t go wrong with the Netflix series Tidying Up.  It’s the perfect antidote to an overly consumptive holiday season and promises to provide a pathway to a more simple and satisfying home life. Interested? I’ll tell you more…

Marie Kondo, “world-renowned tidying expert,” has developed a process which she calls the Konmari method for eliminating clutter and home organization and I’m hooked. She divides what can be a daunting task into 5 distinct areas of clutter to address – Clothes, Books, Papers, Komomo (a catchall of kitchen, bathroom and garage miscellanea) and Sentimental. I don’t know about you, but the first and last of these categories are the ones that really can hang me up – especially when we’re talking about items which straddle both of those groups, like articles of clothing I no longer wear, but which retain a strong sentimental value. I could do a series of blogposts on that topic, believe me.

Here’s how she suggests dealing with your specific clutter:

1. Commit.
2. Imagine the ideal life you wish to live.
3. Discard first.
4. Tidy by category.
5. Follow the order above.
6. Ask yourself “Does it spark joy?”*

I’m three episodes in and witnessing three different families apply these rules to their individual situations has been really interesting. Each family has their own personal accumulation of possessions with which to deal, but the Konmari method adapts to address their unique circumstances and helps to create a more peaceful home environment. Who doesn’t want that?

While a lot of the focus is on ridding yourself of physical items, based upon the emotional prompt of “does it spark joy?,” it isn’t just about tossing things in the trash. Marie is a creative user of containers, boxes and folding techniques to manage what one retains and I can’t wait to explore how my home might benefit from her wisdom. Even though I get a nervous feeling in the pit of my stomach at the thought of discarding stuff I’ve owned for perhaps decades, I’m even more excited by the possibility of simplifying my life.

I can’t wait to create my own personal mountain of clothing to sort into piles to be folded or to be kissed goodbye. Looks like my February break is going to be spent with Marie Kondo. It may not be quite going to Japan, but if things go well I’ll treat myself to a sushi feast when I’m finished, with sake.

*copied from housebeautiful.com.

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Filed under house, ideas, Observations, Recommendations, television

Lit

I woke up Thanksgiving morning and started my usual routine – bathroom to pee, brush my teeth and clean my nightguard. I brush and then soak the night guard in some fizzy solution last year’s 8th-grade homeroom advised me on. To dissolve the tablet you toss it in very warm, but not hot water.

Since it’s first thing in the morning, I expect to run the water a few extra seconds to get the water to the tap from the hot water heater in the basement two stories down. Yesterday, though, was different. The water just didn’t get warmer. I immediately assumed I’d go to the basement to find a burst or wildly leaking hot water heater and anticipated dropping $750 or some other crazy-right-before-the-holidays price to replace and install a new one.

I decided to have coffee before venturing downstairs.

Twenty minutes later, I rounded the corner from the stairs to face the hot water heater…actually, heaters. There are two and I first needed to determine which was mine. Fortunately, neither had any water leaking. Good news. I touched the one on the right and it felt warm. No doubt, it was on. I moved towards the other one, on the left, covered in cobwebs. Great.

Of course, that one, mine, was cold. The pilot wasn’t lit. I went upstairs, did a little research (perhaps the thermocoupler needed to be replaced?) and returned with a flash light and some matches, not able to find the stick lighter in the drawer. Maybe it ran away with the hammer. I can’t find that either. Back downstairs, I crouched down and read directions for lighting the pilot and was relieved to find that I didn’t have to provide fire to light the pilot. It had its own ignitor. I thought back to when I first learned how to relight a hot water heater.

I was probably 12 or so. We had recently moved into what would be the longest term residence of my life until I bought my own house. The house felt special because it was ours, sort of. My mother’s boyfriend had bought it and done some work to make it habitable, after a period of vacancy. We could paint any color we wanted to, as long as we agreed to the same one, and we each had our own bedrooms. Without heat. Sometimes in the depths of winter, the interior of the windows would be frozen from exhaled breaths and dreams. We were teenagers and had lots of blankets. It was fine.

There were times when we didn’t have heat in the house other than that cast off by the wood burning stove my brother fed like a mother nurses a newborn. If the uninsulated, built above a dirt foundation, house got too cold we’d wake to have no water whatsoever. During really cold spells, that might be our situation for a few days. On occasion we had oil for the furnace and propane for hot water and cooking, but if we didn’t, we learned to adapt to what was available. It’s just how it was.

So, lighting that water heater, all those years ago. I remember being mad. I was a kid. This was an adult’s responsibility, not mine. I was frustrated. Other people just had hot water and heat all the time. They could boil things on the stove because they had gas. Why was our shit so inconsistent?

And I was scared. Gas scared me. Electricity scared me. Is that weird?

But, we needed hot water (not for the washing machine, we didn’t have one of those,) and there actually had been a propane delivery. We must have been caught up on our bills,* for a change. I wanted a shower and my brother wasn’t home to take care of it. I didn’t have a choice – it had to be taken care of and there was no one else.

The utility room was down the hall, on the other side of a door that led to a part of the house we didn’t use. It wasn’t fit to occupy with its glassless windows and concrete floors. The hot water heater was by far the newest piece of hardware and I kneeled, practically genuflecting, next to it. I remember there was a red button that needed to pressed, and maybe you had to count to three, before inserting a match into a blowhole of sorts and then, trusting that it was lit, the knob had to be released and turned a particular way. It felt intense. I hated it.

Just like yesterday, I lit it.

“our bills?” I was 12, they weren’t mine.

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Filed under Albany, Education, girlhood, house, musings, Uncategorized

Three current crushes…November edition

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Bliss in a glass.

The Manhattan at New World Bistro Bar. I’ve been lucky enough to have the same bartender on my last two visits to NWBB, and she makes a dynamite Makers Mark Manhattan that is exactly how I like and order it – up and teeny bit sweet. I’ve been too captivated by my companion(s) to get her name, but she was there on a Sunday and Wednesday and is not Sara Jane…

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A bed with a mix of crisp cotton, soft flannel and the comforting weight of down. Heaven.

The foliage was slow to come this ear, but the reds really kicked in these last few days and it was worth the wait. Stunning. What a marvel nature is!

Care to share what you’re crushing on?

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Filed under Albany, beauty, drinking, favorites, house, Local, Observations, Recommendations, Restaurants, Uncategorized, upstate New York