Category Archives: Home Improvement


Do you recall that the term means north, east, west and south? And that your local television only tells you about arson and murders in your own town? Forget the news part.

I’ve a one year-old buddy, a neighbor, who has grown leaps and bounds. Today I sent him a holiday note with greetings to his parents and his blind dog. I also gave him a stuffed animal, a narwhal, cousin to the beluga whale. It has a large tusk, think unicorn, going straight out from his face. I didn’t think any of his young friends have a “pet” narwhal.

Who’s Aunt Dee (to G and blind dog) to question? Today we got a “new” refrigerator. No, it was borrowed from someone else. Four times different specialists came in and attacked the problems of our ice maker that ceased to make ice and ruined our floors with leaking water.

Today they brought in an appliance from elsewhere. The doors were going the wrong way. I’ve rheumatoid arthritis for over 30 years and am convalescing from a fall. I cook, I need the refrigerator to be door-friendly so I can do so without walking into a hallway outside the kitchen to gain access to food items. There is something to be said for a kitchen triangle, a working space. If one must go to another room to access the refrigerator that is not acceptable to me.

In cooking mode I have to be able to work efficiently. They changed things out for me. When looking for a place to live, I look for a refrigerator that is cook-friendly, as I’ve had one where I had to stand at a window and jimmy myself between window and frig door to get a piece of cheese out of the frig.

If people don’t make space relative to efforts in the kitchen, chances are they missed everything else. Look at baseboards, paint, plumbing, electrical. Everything including attic, basement, foundation, termites. If they have a frig door that’s pointed the wrong way chance are they’re flippers or incompetent and doing everything else wrong. My brain says a big “no.” Do not live here, Dee. They changed the doors for me for a newer model. I’m hoping it works. Cheers, Dee



As to interior design, I’ve no experience but have made good decisions according to our parameters.

For several years I’ve been working with a framer. What good is art if it is in a box in storage! In the front entrance it’s mostly yellow, orange and red. Two of my father’s works of Tuscan and Maori origins, and one a wood block from Japan, the first artist to ever do full-color wood block prints in the 1700’s. Something about a letter to a courtesan. If a kid comes in here and asks, I just say her little sister is delivering the mail.

Then you see the kitchen, a mash-up of culinary memorabilia and one homage to dance from the Stuttgart Museum, just a Degas fan print currently in a plastic frame for over thirty years.

The living room ended up mostly blues and browns and charcoal. I had a charcoal drawing taken out of the cheap “uni-frame” it came in nearly 30 years ago, a gift from Dad from a winner of an art school review. My inspiration came from Dad. The owner was at the shop, not K, my usual consultant who throws ideas at me to consider and has a great eye for framing art.

I decided on everything myself with no consultation except to use a fillip. It is a charcoal sketch of dancers and I wanted to evoke the movement of the dancers with a dark red mini-matte, beaded fillip, charcoal matte and undulating frame. Five layers. I called K the day after and wanted to ask if I made any major errors without her. She didn’t let me ask, she just said that she loved my choices and she couldn’t wait to work on it.

Dad’s charcoal gem was done two days after his funeral so he never got to see it. It is a focal point of our living room along with a quilt which portrays the seasons, a gift created by my mother-in-law. Most of the colors are blues and browns. The blues include small paintings from an artist in Florence.

The only thing in the den worthy of note is a gift to my husband, a B/W photo of the Brooklyn Bridge that I had framed for him that one sees directly upon entering our abode.

The hallway and entrance to the master are the “greens.” Mostly photos I, family and friends took. Each photo has a different green hued matte. Our bedroom has a large Tuscan scene painted by Dad in his 80’s, when he took up art. My husband’s favorite is a crayon drawing from me, of me at age five, of me/Dorothy with the scarecrow, lion and tin man. I’ve also one for him waiting at the bus stop with his old dog who brought the brothers there in the morning and picked them up in the afternoon.

There is also a collage of a play book for a theater event I created and had funded. In the hallway to the bedroom there are also framed collages of my parents’ wedding, and one of me and my sister as little kids.

Yes, I’ve things to add. Dad gave me artwork from southern Italy that shows the seasons. Once I get those framed they’ll go in our room or the den, I’ll figure it out to echo his Mom’s creation. I just didn’t know that my individual choices became themes until now. Two more walls to go. I’ll work on it.

I had a cooking toolbox, red metal, that I decorated in culinary photos. It now holds small office equipment and looks cool next to my desk. All we need now is to move to the country on land with a view and use all our shared experience to build the right home. Cheers! Dee


It’s been five days since teeny baby Paisley and her family moved out. We’re down to two dogs on our floor because Huxley, the quiet one, moved to the suburbs. Paisley’s folks will be building a home in the country.

There are seven very nice apartments up here. Our old dog Zoe (90 in “people years”) was the only dog for years and made sure everyone was safe. For a while we had three dogs here. Now it’s just Zoe and her old blind pal, Mr. B.

Imagine that with so few homes we’d have two pregnant ladies! Granted, Paisley’s mom moved. Another bairn (Scots for baby, see “wee bairn” in my Aunt’s, the retired English teacher’s bathroom). I had to find a word, pronounce it correctly, spell it and use it in a sentence every time I used the powder room!

My neighbors with blind Mr. B are due for a blessed event this month. They’re doing great. Over the days I see a number of packages at their door. Some look like flat packs. I see them from down the hall and think of IKEA and other flat pack furniture that comes with a crummy Allen wrench.

Then my mind goes to a couple of years hence when baby boy/girl sees a tricycle and points and says “Mommy, Daddy, I want that!” Then the inevitable happens. Parents buy the tricycle in a flat pack and do what my parents told me decades later.

They stayed up until 4 a.m. (at least Dad did) putting together the metal kitchen for me, assembling the mini car race track for my brother. I always wondered why my parents were so tired at six o’clock Christmas morning.

Soon they started buying us sweaters and socks plus one small special item each, then getting a family gift for the basement (nice big room, windows, fireplace et al) like a ping pong table one year, air hockey the next. As I recall they always said the sweaters et al were from Mom and Dad, the special gift for all was from Santa. All of a sudden, my parents weren’t so tired Christmas morning.

They did start a tradition, however, one worth preserving. Every year Mom went out and got us kids themed ornaments for the tree. She never liked those glass balls that broke into 1,000 pieces except for “filler” on the tree. Often she marked the kid’s initial and year on the back. When we went off to college she gave each one of us a box with our own ornaments to start our own tree.

I do not know where many of my old ornaments are but my husband and I will soon be married 14 years and I try to get us matching ornaments on a theme of where we’ve lived (lassos and bagpipes,snowmen and a moose on a sled, vastly different ornaments, of course). It provides a family history. “Oh, that’s the year were were in ….”

Cheers and help maintain and create traditions, food and more, in your home. Food is sustenance, and family. Dee

ps The racetrack was 8’x15′ and in the basement. Electric, with strips underneath the car to connect to the track. Two cars, one blue, light and fast. One white, a bit heavier and slower. I was always white and always won. When blue tried to beat me it was so light that on the turns it flew off the track and cost time. I went fast on the straightaways and slow around the turns and the tortoise won the race. D


Blackbird, Bye Bye

Pack up all your cares and woes,

Here I go, singing low, bye bye blackbird

…… blackbird, bye bye.

Last post, they’re selling my posts. I never wanted or got a nickel from them, I will be removing them from WordPress.

I don’t know how to do this as I’m a writer and not a techie, that’s probably why they allow people to steal my words and sell them.

To my readers, I salute you and will be back on other than WordPress. Thank you for being with me and inspiring me these few years. The grandmother who died before I was a year old sang that song to me, to get me to go to sleep. It’s that time. Dee


Of “Relo Cubes” and Moving

Friday afternoon, without telling me, my husband got a U-Haul truck and cleared out our 5x5x5 “relo cube” from the ABF freight terminal near work. I wasn’t ready for this, 1.5 weeks into our brief sojourn into a teeny apartment with rented furniture to which I want to bring practically nothing until we find a permanent place to live. We don’t even know yet from work which city that may be, so are currently in limbo.

I was quite judicious in my selection of only one piece of furniture (a printer stand that doesn’t look like one) and 12 boxes. One for Jim, the PlayStation III, the rest for me. Mostly stuff to make the kitchen palatable. I’ve been dealing with the Cort Furniture “housewares package,” making Jim’s eggs with a cheap teflon plan and over-sized plastic spoon.

Today (it’s 4:00 a.m.) I will pack up most of Cort’s kitchen package above the frig to have room for my specialty utensils as I only have one drawer in the kitchen and right now it’s filled with useless things.

I’m taking only what I need from the boxes and we’ll return the rest to storage next door. Oldest commercial elevator in town. Wooden rails at each story, old wood floor and you must work the metal cables to pull yourself from floor to floor. Priceless! We got a larger unit than we thought so we can cherry-pick what we need, from the printer to my summer clothes. We have two piles on either side with an aisle down the middle (6×8 total) with eight all-weather tires up front. Though we were told not to change out our snow tires until the end of May as there’s “always a storm” in May.

Yesterday was St. Paddy’s Day but we spent it relo’ing and I unpacked all but two of the boxes. One is bathroom stuff (consolidating from three baths to one) so I used the printer stand drawers, one for Jim’s shaving kit and my makeup bag, and the other for Zoe’s brushes and shower hose. The open area is for toilet paper (handily holds 12 rolls) then I put an existing basket on top and decoratively rolled four new matching dog towels so it actually looks pretty.

Jim was convinced we didn’t need the printer stand but if it moves his shaving kit up two feet (he’s very tall) he’s all for it now.

Now I need an office. My 24″ monitor is in a box we took in the car, along with my trackball mouse. I’ll get a table that fits along the wall or in a corner window going out to the balcony. Add a new toothbrush stand, toilet brush, and paper towel holder and I’m ready to go do our taxes this coming week! I’ve already run Fed and State but need to clarify some deduction information before filing.

Two issues we had here with the furniture is that the place is too small for a dining area so we got three barstools and they were too high. They were replaced Friday, and we also had to switch out the queen bed for a king so that Princess Zoe would be happy. Yes, our dog has spent eight years on our bed, since Cousin Val took out her hips and I had to watch for her biting her stitches. Thanks to you, Val, Zoe will NOT sleep on her bed on the carpet, even with the travel pillow we bought her a year ago that she loves!

My aches and pains are lessening from lifting boxes, and I have my food processor, spices, electric tea kettle and essential utensils (pictured on this blog). And while we got ingredients for burgers yesterday, I was too beat to cook so we got tri-tip on root veggie mash from The Eatery for dinner. Aside from “Wobbly,” (family cow) it’s the tenderest beef I’ve ever eaten. Yum! It’s nice to have even a partial paycheck after ten weeks and a move across the checkerboard states! Cheers and have a great weekend! Dee

The House on the Hill

You’ll probably hear many stories of this home, which brought my sister and I from town prisses to outdoor gals. All in three years. I was eight when we moved in from our modest village home, the first our parents had ever purchased. This was great bones of a home. Today, I’d do a signature version of the living areas but the bedroom wing would be transformed. We had a 20′ cathedral ceiling in the living room and our first fireplace, four bedrooms plus basement and a gorgeous view of the lake. We had 23 acres in which to frolic with our neighbors. My sister was six, brother two going on twenty, and youngest sister not even imagined yet.

It was a house, and on a hill. The front door was situated 10-15 feet from a straight 150′ drop. Mom wouldn’t allow us to use it unless we were weeding by the door. So we had to use the back door, which had no steps and was 18″ from mud that took us into the laundry room/mud room. This house was sold because the folks who owned it built their dream house and then ran out of funds. No drywall, molding, we painted the rough-sawn hemlock with creosote (there’s a child safety violation now, but not then). The home had a septic tank but no plans with which to find it, a natural gas tank and at age eight I pumped our own petrol from a hand pump coming from a 1,000 gallon tank that could only be filled halfway because of a leak. We were our own regular hazmat site.

I digress. Because we were not to enter or exit through the front door, the first project was to put up a front stoop in the back so we could wipe our feet and not fall over the cliff. Ironically, all the guests who ever came to the house came around back, it was to Mom’s chagrin that no-one saw her Cannas et al and the lovely foyer complete with a baby grand piano from the local priest.

So Dad knew a guy who had sand. It was our kid joke that his name was Sandy. So Sandy dumped 1/2 ton of sand where a sandbox would be made next to railroad ties to make it and also a swingset with leather seats.

We went to the hardware store 20 minutes away and bought concrete mix for what Sandy told us to make. In the kitchen we had linoleum in the two brick horizontal, two brick vertical pattern so that’s what Dad wanted to make, two stairs going up to the entryway. Sandy said we should dig a hole 4X3X3 and meant four feet across, three feet to the door, and three inches deep.

Dad got out the shovels and started digging. A couple of hours later things were going more slowly than anticipated. See, Dad was digging that hole three FEET deep!

Finally came my part of the action, which I see now as “Concrete Chef.” I rolled the wheelbarrow to the sand pile and shoveled in the requisite amount, took it back to the work site and added a bag of Portland cement, mixed, measured out buckets of water and mixed the stuff. Again, again, and again. I believe we went back to the hardware store for more cement at least twice. In the end, we started throwing in boulders and anything else to bring it up to working height. Shortly thereafter the stoop was built and set.

If a tornado hits and the entire area is blown away, that stoop will be there forever. Heaven forbid someone wants to tear down the home and rebuild on this cherished site where I picked my first wild strawberry and Papa made us a serviceable rope to get to and from the creek so we could swing and catch crayfish and have the neighbor boys throw 3′ black snakes at us or chase us to put cherry bombs down the back of our shirts. And we ate grapes, tons of them.

Luckily the owner who bought the home from us is still there, many years later. Something in my heart says I want this home for our retirement and that of my siblings, but a stronger part tells me the memories are better.

Caveat: We all have different memories. I’ll take two, Dad and the sister closest to me in age. Mom’s not around to share her version, pity, but I do remember going to the farm stand and sitting outside with her and my sister and consuming a quart of cherries. Yum. Memories are funny and interesting things. Hope you liked the story. Cheers, Dee