Thursday, July 29, 2010

The Optimist...

Rebecca to Lily, "I'm going to kill you for that later!"

Me to both of them, "Well, actually with you in jail and Lily dead, the house would finally stay clean."

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Breakfast with Lily...

Me: "Lily honey, what would you like for breakfast?"

Lily: "I want warm food."

Me: "Ok, how about some oatmeal?"

Lily: "I want food that is warm, but not hot. And no breakfast food."

Me: "Ummmm. How about some left over pasta?"

Lily: "I want food that is warm, but not hot and not soft. And not crunchy."

Me: "I have no idea what you want. There's the cereal."

Lily starts to cry.

Lily: "But (insert pathetic sob here) I want warm food and I hate that cereal!"

Me: "Fine. Go to the refrigerator and find something you want to eat."

Lily: "I am not eating any Gogurts."

Me: "Fine. Just. Find. Something. Now."

Lily: "Do we have any cheeseburgers?"

Me: "NO!!!! We do not have cheeseburgers!"

I sit down with my bowl of cereal.

Lily wanders around whimpering at the unfairness of her life for a few minutes. There is some stomping and growling.

Lily: "Can I have some of your cereal?"

I give her my cereal and go eat left-over birthday cake.

Lily: "Mom?"

Me: "WHAT?????"

Lily: "Can we snuggle?"

We snuggle. Then she steals my cake.

Lily: "This is the best breakfast ever!"

Tuesday, July 27, 2010


People, I could write an entire post about how tired I am. I could tell you about how even my finger nails are tired and that my eyebrows are just exhausted.

But I won't because that would be a very boring post.

Instead, I will tell you about my most current obsession.

Robin's egg blue. It's all I can think about for my bedroom walls.

Here's what they look like now (and have looked liked for at least three years which for me is a record!):



I've loved the creamy white of this room. It's been great- really!

But well, I feel like I need to move on and spend some time with other colors.

So much of the furniture in this room is white.

I can't help but imagine the beauty of all of that white against robin's egg blue.

I started doing some paint color research which only further inflamed my need for spreadable latex color.

House of Turquoise,  I love you. You have set my heart aflame. I may never recover.

Then, I went over to Cobi where there is an entire page devoted to shades of turquoise, aqua and blue.

This is Sweet Rhapsody by Behr. I love this color. Just the right combination of blue and green and true love.

If you're looking for me tomorrow I'll be the insane woman with the crabby children wandering the Home Depot color aisle babbling about blue and stuffing paint chips into my purse.

Feel free to pretend we've never met.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

How to Decorate, Part One, for Frances who asked...

When I was a young bride in 1997 I had no idea how to decorate our small apartment. Not only did I have no idea how to do it, I had no money to do it with.

I knew that our home felt like a dorm room and that this was not a look I was interested in maintaining. I was bemoaning my lack of any decorating direction when a friend told me how to start.

She told me to go to a bookstore and grab a stack of home decorating magazines. Her advice was to look through them all and buy the ones with pictures that I liked. Right away I noticed that the pictures in magazines like Romantic Homes and Country Living were the ones I most liked.

For the next few months I bought and then ripped apart every decorating magazine that had pictures I liked. I pulled pictures for their colors, their textures, and most importantly, their moods. After a while certain themes emerged.

The colors yellow, green and red were the colors which appeared most often. Glossy white woodwork, gleaming hardwood floors, cozy spaces and light all created a warm and inviting feel which I just loved.  The rooms looked lived in and loved and had a vintage cottage style that was exactly what I wanted.

Once you know what you like, the fun begins.

First, take a look around your house. Does it look like your fantasy house? Are there things you hate, but you have because they were a gift or worked great in your last house or just got put there and now you don't remember why?

Take out the things you hate. Put them in the garage or the basement, but just get them the hell out of there while you are trying to figure it out. It will be so nice to not have to look at things you hate. Don't get rid of them yet because they may still have a use, but for now, get them out of there.

Once your rooms are empty of the ugly get a pad of paper. This will be your home notebook. Sit in the room which you are working on and brainstorm. Imagine different colors. Ask yourself what already works in the house and what needs to be filled in. If the couch is great but you hate the color, consider a slipcover. Throw pillows are a great way to test different colors. Another option is to go to a fabric store and get some swatches of fabric in the colors you love. Lay them around the furniture. See what inspires you.

Write your ideas in your notebook. It breaks down the room into manageable pieces and will hopefully keep you from being overwhelmed.

Paint is your friend. Paint is one of the easiest and cheapest ways to completely change your home. Thinking you need a change? Go to the Home Depot and fill your purse with paint swatches. Then take them home and tape them to the walls. See how they look in the light of your home.

Once you think you've found a color you like pick up a quart of your color. Paint a few spots on the wall. Paint it in the middle. Paint against the moldings.

Some colors I knew immediately were my one true love. Other colors seemed like my one true love for about an hour until I got about half a wall painted and then, well, it became obvious that the color which had seemed perfect over a one foot swatch was Entirely Wrong over an entire wall.

In decorating, mistakes are made and it is part of the process.

The single most important thing about decorating your home is this. No one needs to love it except for you and your family. It doesn't need to be magazine perfect or reflect the latest trends. It just has to be the place that reflects you and the people you love.

Part Two coming soon...

Friday, July 23, 2010

Remember that dollhouse from a few weeks ago?

A few weeks ago I was out junking with Amy when we spotted this dollhouse.

My original plan was to use it to house office supplies, but it ended up being far too big for that use.

Last week I started having some ideas about this house. Ideas involving color, furniture and a family kept creeping into my head so when David asked me what I wanted for my birthday I had my answer.

Dollhouse furniture! I chose unpainted, simple furniture so that I could paint them based upon my whims.

Today while the girls were at camp I spent a few hours working on it.

This is the master bedroom. I want to move in. Is that so wrong?

The pictures on the wall and the book at the foot of the bed were clearance aisle scrapbook embellishments. I fell in love with them completely.

This bed and nightstand came painted. They were so sweet and perfect for the baby's room. Kitty likes to sleep there and shed.

Isn't that mixer adorable? That hutch was .99 at Michaels. I painted it green and put it with the kitchen set.

This project is so fun and relaxing. I love playing in it arranging it and then leaving it alone for a bit to see what the children do with it.

Lily spends a lot of time at the dollhouse. She hums while she plays with the dolls. Some songs I know, others she makes up. I listen from the next room, pretending to not notice my daughter while she is lost in the play which has absorbed children since the dawn of time.


Make believe.

Childhood bliss.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

What I did instead of painting my floors white...

I've been a bit preoccupied lately.

My thoughts, indeed my minds eye continues to see my living room and dining room with glossy white floors.

I know that glossy white floors on the main floor of a home which occupies two children, two dogs, three cats and two adults is not a good idea.

That's why I rearranged all of my living room furniture today. It kept me from renting a sander.

First I took apart the room.

Then I started moving moving things around.

Chaos! Mayhem! Squalor!

At one point I called Amy.

"You need to come over. I'm in a frenzy. IT IS NOT GOING WELL!" I said.

 Ten minutes later I had a breakthrough. I called her back.

"Don't come over! I had an epiphany and I need to focus my energy!" I said.

She was so kind.

"You are crazy, but I understand. Go finish your room." She said.

So I did.

After my living room was put back together, but while the rest of the house was groaning under the strain of such squalor, Amy called.

"I need a break from a house problem I'm having." She whined.

"Come on over!" I cried.

She came over and had some coffee and then I took advantage of her.

She was weak and vulnerable and exactly the sort of person I needed to help me out.

"Would you like to borrow my chaise?" I asked.

"I don't have a spot for it with my room set up this way and it would be so fetching on your porch." I said.

As soon as she asked for a tape measure I knew she would take it. Ten minutes later we were loading it into her car.

What a relief it was to know that I was not going to have to talk David into storing the chaise in his office!

Once Amy was suckered into taking the chaise on her way, I got busy working on the dining room. Remember my spray paint project from the other day?

I love how they came out!

Now I am done rearranging furniture and I am very satisfied and very tired.

I totally earned my chocolate.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Birthday and beyond...

Thanks to all of you who sent me birthday wishes yesterday! It was a wonderful birthday filled with junking, good food, and my most beloved friends. I am blessed with so much.

One of the things with which I am blessed this week is camp! This week the kids are in day camp which gives me time to lay around on my couch imagining how much better my life would be if my floors were white catch up on some of those projects that I've been meaning to get to.

Today's project involves two kinds of things: Junk and Spray Paint.

I picked up these lovelies for a grand total of $12 and knew that once paired with some red spray paint I could turn them into shiny red gems.

The first layer of paint always makes me a little nervous...

Maybe I should have primed.

You know why I don't prime? It's boring. Now you know. Judge me if you must, but when it comes to painting I have a very short attention span.

I know exactly where the candle holders and the mirror are going but the shelve thingy has me a bit stymied.

Where would you put and what would you put in it? Chocolate is always an acceptable answer.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

In preparation...

Tomorrow is my birthday.

The universe and I have different ideas about how to celebrate this day.

I think that peace, quiet and calm are in order.

The universe thinks that waking up with pink eye, finding dead rodents in the basement, and having a leak in the bathroom sink dripping water through the living room ceiling are just the thing a girl needs on the eve of her 38th birthday.

Luckily, the universe may have knocked me down, but I pulled myself back up.

The pink eye is being treated, the rodents were removed and, brace yourself, DAVID FIXED THE LEAK.

That's right. He may have failed me, repeatedly, at bird removal, but somehow, in spite of having only a Film Major/Dance Minor's knowledge of plumbing, he turned off the water, took apart the valve doohickey and replaced it.

I'm blown away. And grateful. And relieved.

The other thing I did to prepare for my birthday was to clean the house from top to bottom. I like to wake up on my birthday and not feel like there is a pile of squalor leering at me to notice it. No, the house is tidy and I am almost 38 and when you get to be my age, just having a clean house can be enough.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

There's no business like show business except when there is a sniper!

Before I get into the whole story of love, loss, redemption, snipers and too much left over food, I have to tell you that yes, I am a freak.

As you may or may not know, David is a Television Producer. I used capital letters which makes it even more official. I am not a Television Producer, though I like to read celebrity gossip rags on line at the grocery store sometimes so that gives us a lot in common.

Yesterday David had a Big Shoot in which he cast Lily and Rebecca. Generally, I avoid Big Shoots because they can be Very Boring, with lots of people imploring you TO PLEASE HURRY UP TO WARDROBE AND MAKEUP only to then tell you that the light isn't quite right or the director is removing a dead bird from a vent or that the stars are not perfectly aligned. Acting is 10% acting and 90% standing around trying not to eat too much food while you wait.

Anyway, yesterday was much better than most shoots. It had lots of space outside for the children to frolic and there was a sniper.

Now you know that I harbor a not so secret love of anything FBI/CIA detective law enforcement related. When David told me that the security detail on the set was an ex-marine sniper, well, I got a little excited. I watched him scan the perimeter always on alert for serial killers, international spies and dog nappers.

Nothing would get past him. When he came in for water he told us about a murder case he worked on. Murder, lust, jealously and greed- it was all there. It was the best shoot I have ever been on.

The kids were good and patient actors and no one was surprised when Lily talked the make-up artist into giving her a fake black eye. She's a weirdo.

The girls and I gratefully left the shoot at around 11:00 last night. The rest of the cast and crew still had hours to go before they wrapped. David made his way home at about 6:30am. When the kids and I woke up and went downstairs for breakfast I found a very disturbing sight.

No sniper. Just lots and lots of left over junk food. My diet is doomed.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Cooking the bird...

Here it is Thursday night and sadly, I am not able to inform you that the bird carcass has been removed. Our handyman friend is off being handy elsewhere and so we were forced to take matters into our own hands. Since we are lacking a tall ladder, the right tools and an even rudimentary knowledge of bathroom exhaust vent installation, we opted for the liberal arts major solution to a dead bird stuck in a vent:

We ran the exhaust and the heater simultaneously for 24 hours straight.

People, it worked! It cooked that bird and any flies to smithereens. There is no longer the stench of avian death and the flies have gone off in search of new dead baby birds elsewhere.

Happiness had returned to our home, or at least I thought it had.

This morning my newish Keurig coffee maker stopped working. Those of you who pity me read this blog, may remember the demise of my first Keurig coffee maker back in November. I made mistakes in the way I handled that repair. I can see that now. This time I did something radical.

I picked up the phone and called the company.

I'm not sure if I've ever really expressed my aversion to the phone. I hate talking on the phone. How strong is the aversion? If Amy isn't logged into IChat so that we can instant message, I will call her and tell her to log on so that we can text.

My parents are cracking up right now, because there was a time when I spent sixteen hours a day on the phone with my friends discussing absolutely nothing. I am older now and the old lady me hates to use the phone.

Anyway, in spite of this hatred, I called Keurig and explained my problem.

"Have you descaled the brewer recently?" Miss Keurig Lady asked.

"Um, I have no idea what that means." I replied.

Then she went on to explain water hardness and mineral deposits and the space time continuum and honestly I zoned out a bit until she got to the part about vinegar.


Did you guys know that vinegar is the solution to everything?

Need to wash your windows? Use vinegar!

Out of fabric softener? Use vinegar!

Raging case of thrush? Use vinegar!

Vinegar is the cure to everything apparently and even though I thought that the Keurig lady was playing a mean girl trick on me when she told me to run twenty ounces of white vinegar through my brewer, I listened and then tried it.

It worked. Completely. Perfectly.

I was happy.


A pantry moth flew out of a cabinet and an earwig made its way across the floor.

I cried and then I ate some chocolate. Then I gathered up my children, loaded them into my damaged minivan and drove away from my house, grateful for the soothing balm of chocolate and coffee and silently cursing Mother Nature and her hateful soldiers of death and infestation.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Why I had ice cream for dinner...

It's been a rough couple of days here at Shiny Red Houses.

The cranky factor had reached eleven by Friday when the children asked me to look at "things" about four hundred times an hour. What "things" you ask? Dance moves, barbie outfits, drawings, rocks, melted crayons, dog scabs, stuffed animals, freckles, and dogs.

Sometimes a mother does not want to look at one more thing.

Sometimes a mother would rather not hear about the cool new Webkinz maze or the new episode of Danny Phantom or why you think your room is not messy even though all evidence suggests otherwise.

Sometimes a mother needs a day off and so Sunday morning I left my house with plans to be out all day long.

I junked and meandered and had a lovely time. Finally, around 3:30 I began my journey home. All was peaceful.


Until the Volvo in front of me stopped when I thought they would go and I rear ended it.

I was okay. The kind woman in the Volvo was okay. My car... a little bit crumpled. The hood, the bumpers and the Toyota symbol on the front are not looking so hot. The kind lady in the Volvo had a bit of damage to her bumper, but not too bad. We exchanged information and drove away.

The problem with spending twelve years in the company of nuns is that when something bad happens the only explanation is that you are being punished by God. It's true. This was my indoctrination and it stuck, completely and utterly.

When I got home after my automobile accident I was despondent. I was being punished for being sick of my children by an angry god who has obviously never been a mother.

While I was being despondent in the kitchen, contemplating my new life as a woman who rear ended a Volvo, I smelled something. The something I smelled was not a good smell, though I am sorry to say, it was a familiar smell.

Reader, thank you for sticking with me. I am so, so, so very sorry that I have to tell you this.


Dear lord, why have you forsaken me??!!!

Today has been great. I called in my accident claim. I killed flies. Then, I killed more flies.

David seems to have recovered from his pro-bird stance and is now ready to wage full on war against the offending avian death stench. Our handyman friend will be coming by this week to remove the corpse and cover the vent with wire.

As of today I have killed seventeen flies and that my friends is why I had ice cream for dinner.

EDITED TO ADD: It was Edy's French Silk Slow Churned yummy lowfat blah blah yum yum.

Friday, July 9, 2010


There are so many things I could tell you about.

I could tell you about the sand which always finds its way into my sheets this time of year and which is causing my hips to develop callouses.

I could tell you that yesterday I had to call Webkinz on the phone to tell them that Lily's Zap Mazin' Hamster was a Twilight Mazin' Hamster. It was the most pathetic phone call I have ever made.
         "Webkinz Customer Support! My name is Daisy, How may I help you?"

          "Well, yesterday my daughter, username Puggypusball2010,  bought a virtual Zap Mazin' hamster at the E-Store but when she entered the code it came up as a Twilight Mazin' Hamster and now she's crying."

           "I'm sorry to hear that Ma'am. We've been having some trouble with our virtual hamsters. Please give me your phone number and I'll call you back tomorrow with a new code for the correct hamster."

They never  called me back, which means that I have to call back tomorrow and have the same conversation all over again. It seemed like the kind of solution which was doomed to fail.

The most important thing you need to know is that the novelty of summer has worn off. Last night the kids were up until 10pm for no good reason and then we all slept until 9am. Well, everyone except for Lily who slept until 9:30.

It goes without saying that the nuns never slept so late.

It just feels so wrong. So sinful. We have no commitments to keep. No camp to attend. Nothing but the yawning mouth of summer before us.

The whole thing had me feeling very crabby today so I tried to be productive and shake myself out of it.

Our porch has been bothering me lately. We have a coat rack out there which has turned into a great hulking beast of outerwear. Something had to be done.

In order to remove the coat rack I had to engage in suburban archeology and painstakingly remove three seasons worth of outerwear. The first layer was raincoats and sweatshirts. Next was mid-weight coats. Finally, I arrived at snow pants- still muddy from the last snowstorm of winter.

After the coat rack was out I tackled a pile of deep detritus consisting of dog hair, cat hair, sand, crumpled leaves and gum wrappers.

Once the area was all cleaned out I installed a red shelf that I found a few months ago in my junk travels and a row of hooks. Finally, I moved a storage chest from one of last summer's junk escapades underneath.

It's so much lovelier now.

I'm sorry to say that being productive did not cure my malaise completely, though it did make me tired and sweaty.

But I was raised to know that tired and sweaty are the product of virtuous endeavors and are an appropriate penance for the sin of sloth.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

In which Amy gives me the greatest gift of all...

Today it was 104 degrees. That's right people, 104 degrees of hotter than hell.

My plan was to junk and then grocery shop, but my children were having none of it. Specifically this child, complained bitterly.

Sometimes Lily can be talked into things and other times well, stubborn, whiny and pain in my butt are all words that come to mind.

Rebecca didn't want to junk either because that would have required changing out of her jammies and she informed me that that just wasn't going to happen today.

The day was looking bleak.

Then I nervously asked Amy if Lily could go over to her house to play with her kids.

"Sure!" she replied. "Send her over!"

It was a child care miracle. I left Rebecca home with David so that she could draw pictures of warrior kitties and call my stepmother fourteen times. Then I headed over to Amy's, dropped Lily off and high tailed it off to Urban Renewals. I found a few things, though nothing spectacular.

The most important thing I found was silence. It was just such a luxury to be out by myself. I junked in solitude. I was not asked to purchase beanie babies or other random bits of crap. Nor did I have to keep tabs on children determined to try on every pair of hooker heels in the shoe aisle.

It was utter loveliness.

At the grocery store I had a chocolate muffin and coffee for lunch because I didn't have to set a good example. Setting a good example all the time can be a drag.

After I got home and put away my ice cream nutritious groceries, I went to pick up Lily.

During bath tonight I asked Lily if she had fun at Amy's.

"Yes!" she replied. "I had a fudgesicle and I saw *T's penis!"

Ahhhhh. The price of freedom.

*T is Amy's son and he is seven. Just in case you were wondering.

Monday, July 5, 2010

In which I junk at a fancy garage sale...

This weekend took us out to the Berkshire mountains for fun with my in-laws. We swam and barbecued and frolicked.

I also attended a very fancy garage sale. I was too embarrassed to take pictures, which is odd when you consider that I am a person who regularly photographs junk for my blog. Anyway, the home of this garage sale is probably considered an estate and let me tell you- the prices proved it!

They had quite a few real antiques which were priced at antique store prices. I ignored those. I did spy this old shopping basket. The owner wanted $10, "I paid quite a bit for that you know," she told me. I talked her down to $8 because I loved it.

The old croquet mallets were in a box labeled "Free!" along with the little iron stone plate. Free is my favorite price.

Now we are back home and inhabiting a stretch of summer which I like to refer to as hell. Hot, followed by humid, followed by me crying. I'm not saying that junking will be the cure for this misery, but a girl has got to explore every option.

Can you stand one cute kid story which involves not only blasphemy, but family drama?

On Saturday we took my kids and my niece and nephew to the lake. David's folks took my niece and nephew in my brother-in-law's car and David and I took our kids in our minivan. Once at the lake we spent some time convincing my city kid nephew that there were no sea urchins in the lake. After the swimming all four kids got very involved in a huge sand project which involved dams and natural disasters and a full body coating of sand.

My car almost always has a layer of gold fish cracker, dog hair and sand detritus covering most surfaces. Once a week I vacuum it, but I recognize a losing battle when I see it.

My dear brother-in-law is not a slob like me tidy with his car and was upset when we got back and he discovered all the sand that the kids had tracked into the car.

Lily was standing next to him as he was grumbling about the mess. "Jesus Christ!" he swore under his breath.

Not to be outdone, Lily then exclaimed, matching his tone of frustration with her own, "Christ on a cross!"

I have no idea where my child learned such a thing.

I will probably go to hell.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Radical Homemaking...

I spent some time this morning reading this interesting essay over at about radical homemaking. The author, Madeline Holler, describes her experience of going from a financially comfortable two income lifestyle to a one income lifestyle and of her ambivalence about going without.

I think about this quite a bit. Before the economy went bust our financial situation was quite secure. We weren't rich, but there was money for camp and cleaning ladies and coffee shops. About a year and half ago all that changed. Since then we have been on a pretty strict budget. I try to consider most of my purchases. Do I need it? Can I do with out it? Can I fix it? (Yes, I need my junk.)

Anyway, I've stopped using the dryer and I clip coupons. Most of what I buy is used.

Generally I enjoy the challenge of making it all work. I've had jobs in the past, but really all I have ever wanted was to be a housewife.

I never said that aloud growing up. I grew up in the 1980's when women were just starting to really make inroads in business. The message that little girls got was that we would go to college and have a career. I worried about this a lot. I wasn't really good at anything career worthy. When David and I got together I loved keeping house. I had a job, but it only got in the way of what I really wanted to be doing- tending our hearth.

Now all these years later there is a movement afoot. Women are dropping out of careers to take care of children and house. They are hanging laundry, baking bread and raising chickens.

I feel conflicted about these issues. I think about the role of women from a biological standpoint and from a social standpoint. What have women evolved to do? What drives me to want to have this kind of life? If I sent the kids to school I could get a job and we'd have money for all of those extras. I don't want to, not at all.

So here I am, darning socks. Is that a step backward? Or a step away from the disposable culture in which I had been living, but no longer inhabit. What should my role be? Is my role as a human animal to produce offspring and care for them? Is my role as a highly evolved human animal at odds with my biological role?

Have I just lost all of my readers?

I promise to never be this deep again.