Tag Archives: Household

Washing our hands of a low performer

We had to evict a resident from our house today.

She wasn’t pulling her weight. Let’s just say, she wasn’t able to get hot anymore. Maybe she was undergoing menopause, if you catch my drift. Given her role around here, “not getting hot” just wasn’t acceptable. My Beloved tried to rehabilitate her, but the $33 thermal regulator or igniter — or whatever we invested in — didn’t work (I don’t know the difference between a wrench and a channel lock either but thank goodness, my Beloved does). To be fair, I think we bought her used and fixed her up at least once in the past nine years, but having her go kaput now still was disappointing.

So we gave her the heave-ho to make room for a new resident with a hot box. Recently, we had been planning to acquire a much bigger box of sorts, but that plan was thwarted. So, on our eighth wedding anniversary, we settled for buying a new dryer.

In 95% humidity, we dragged the old dryer out of the house and installed the new one. Fun. Happy anniversary, honey.

The dried-up old dryer is on the curb, thumbing for a ride. Good riddance, girl.

dryer hitchhiking

Spring cleaning on steroids

Question: How did you spend this fine Sunday?

A. I drank too much sake with my sushi last night so I slept in and spent the day dozing on the couch while binge-watching Chopped.

B. I read the Sunday paper cover to cover and spent the afternoon working on the crossword puzzle while half-listening to the baseball game.

C. I went to church and spent the afternoon shopping for potted plants to hang in my porch. When I got home, I discovered a May Day basket hanging from my front door knob.

D. I moved every last winter coat, used tennis shoe, spaghetti noodle, kibble of dog food and bottle of laundry detergent out of the pantry, swept the room three times, scrubbed the nooks and crannies of the shelving and got on my hands and knees to clean the baseboards in preparation for an epic paint job.

Most common answer is A (because nothing says Saturday night like drinking too much). Lovely ways to spend the first day of May? B or C. But if you answered D, you’re on the same wavelength as me.

We’ve lived in this house nearly nine years, and it’s finally time to makeover the pantry.

The room comprises 128 square feet, and it’s also home to the back entryway and the laundry room. The multipurposefulness of the room contributes to a schizophrenic decorating vibe. A cute “welcome” message hanging over the door complements the cluttered food containers bursting out of their shelving. A duplicate of nearly every kitchen appliance (slow cooker, blender, hand mixer, coffee grinder — we might need them someday, after all) fights for space with tin foil, refrigerator water filters and cleaning supplies. A functional laundry center sits next to closet filled with sandals and boots, coats and jackets for every season.

One cannot fully fathom one’s tendency towards hoarding until one consolidates the contents of one’s pantry and realizes she has more than two dozen light bulbs, over 20 pounds of pasta in every shape and at least eight pair of running shoes. Nine jumbo rolls of paper towels? Check. Seven kinds and flavors of nuts? Check. Five different kinds of pancake mix (regular, buttermilk, heart-smart and two brands of gluten-free) and five types of oatmeal (old fashioned, minute, Irish, steel cut and single-serving packets)? Check and check.

Once my Beloved and I removed everything (including the washer, dryer, shelving and quarterround), the formerly crowded room looks cavernous and echoes like an empty warehouse. I replaced the 60 watt bulbs in the light fixture with 100 watt bulbs, and now every scuff, flaw and stain on the walls stands out like neon advertising reminding us why we undertook this project, which will include painting the ceiling and closet in addition to the walls and installing new flooring to replace the, ugh, linoleum.

As with every room makeover undertaken at Minnesota Transplant’s house, a paint job blossoms into so much more. We’ve already invested in baskets to spruce up the pantry shelving and we’re thinking about installing cabinets above the washer-dryer. Dad is working on a new shelf with coat hooks, and I’m going to paint the foot locker. Oh, and new rugs. Of course. Who, I ask you, puts old rugs on new flooring?

I’m exhausted as I recount this, but oddly invigorated. Nothing inspires like clearing away years of dryer lint and filling one’s trunk with items for Goodwill. Even as I slouch at my computer, I feel so much cleaner and lighter.

A perfect project for celebrating the first of May. Hope however you spent it was equally as satisfying.

How I painted my kitchen table (with before and afters!)

While everyone else is transforming themselves from “everyday” to “Halloween scary,” I’m sharing a transformation of my own: My kitchen table.

Let’s begin with the “Before Before” shot:

Kitchen Table: Ancient History

Kitchen Table: Ancient History

Here’s my kitchen in 2012 after we finished painting the walls. The 42-inch round table had served us well, especially considering it cost $6.

That’s no typo.

My Beloved picked it up at a second-hand shop in 2007 when he was living in a three-bedroom condo in Minnesota. The table even came with four matching chairs. Marked price was $100, but he had a $100 coupon so all he paid was the sales tax.

We moved it to Illinois with us and ate literally thousands of meals at it over the past eight years. Note the use of the tablecloth in the image above: The wooden table-top was in the condition you might expect for $6. Then at some point, one of the chairs broke in such an irreversible way, even my handy Beloved couldn’t repair it. We decided we had extracted our $6 in value from the set and pondered an upgrade.

We began with the chairs. I decided I wanted something a bit more comfortable (read: padded), and we found a deal on a set of taupe fabric-covered chairs with brass-nail head accents. Unfortunately, the brownishness of the chairs didn’t coordinate with the grayness of the rug, so I decided to create a table to bring things together. My Beloved found a beautiful table with good bones on Craigslist for $200. So here’s the real Before shot:

Table Before

Kitchen Table: Before (accented by small dog who seems to sneak into every shot)

It was a nice table (with an extra six inches of diameter) but very dark brown.

I’m not into re-staining furniture, but I love painting it (click here for the super cool creation of which I’m most proud).

I used a combination of colors in Pale Smoke, Silver Threads, Milk Paint, Stony Fields and Pine Whisper from Pittsburgh Paints to achieve this result:

Kitchen Table: After

Kitchen Table: After

A transformation from “everyday” to “one-of-a-kind”! Given how often we use this table, we invested in a piece of quarter-inch glass to protect the tabletop (so I could put away the tablecloths forever!).

Here’s a closer look at the table legs:

Legs: Closeup

Legs: Closeup

I used Soft Gold to soften the visual edges by painting it on and wiping it off so it only filled the crevices. I love the effect.

Table edge: Closeup

Table edge: Closeup

To be honest, this project isn’t completely finished (I just couldn’t wait to share it here). I plan to put some sort of swirly design on the table top in the form of a sticker-type decal (protected by the glass, of course). When I accomplish that task, I’ll share that, too!

Another chapter in the microwave story

The first microwave I ever used was an enormous box of a thing that required its own rolling stand. Because back then, in the ’80s, microwaves were trendy new additions to one’s kitchen and there was nowhere else to house them.

I was fortunate back then as the daughter to a television store owner. We got all the trendy electronics — like console TVs and room-size microwaves — ahead of the curve so that Dad could speak intelligently about their features to potential buyers.

Those trendy new microwaves made obsolete the joys of inflatable Jiffy Pop popcorn on the stove top. Microwave popcorn popped into the collective consciousness for good.

Just stand back so you don’t get zapped by the microwave rays.

Kidding! Microwaves are perfectly safe, dontcha know? Seriously, though, don’t try to hard boil an egg in one.

Unlike Betamax VCRs, microwaves had staying power. Nowadays, I use the microwave (housed neatly above my stove) for all kinds of things.

Like heating my lukewarm coffee.

OK, there’s more than that, but that task is essential.

Except when the microwave is broken.

Strangely, this house has entertained more than it’s fair share of broken microwaves. I mean, we’ve lived here eight years so one microwave on the fritz is probably likely. But three times?


Apparently, I am hard on microwave ovens. All that microwave popcorn, I guess.

On the bright side, my inoperable microwaves have provided a lot of blog fodder:

  • Oct. 22, 2009: In “Microwave Meltdown” I lament my inoperable Advantium oven. (Alas, she was a good one. I miss her still.)
  • Feb, 2, 2010: I lamented the short-lived latch repair of my old Advantium in “Boughtworst” (I just love clever titles that mean nothing to anyone but me — take that, SEO!). Time for a new microwave.
  • March 5, 2010: And for good measure, ye olde Advantium was harder to get rid of than we hoped in “Just when we though we were through with this microwave.”

So we’ve made it five-and-half-years on the Advantium replacement, some no-name cheapie microwave that fulfilled its one-year warranty and then some. About a month ago, it quit. The little imp. It pretended to work, but the coffee came out as lukewarm as ever. So we drove to Home Depot (because we couldn’t wait a week for Amazon to deliver — talk about impatient!) to check out the selection. Black? White? Stainless? Endless options and features? We were tempted by the convection option but not her price. So we settled on another no-name cheapie option.

Why? Because we like replacing microwaves, I guess. I mean theoretically, microwaves are supposed to last nine years (so saith Google) and so theoretically, our next microwave should last 12 years (isn’t the law of averages a law for a reason?) and surely we’ll be able to foist our cheapie microwave on the unsuspecting new owners of this house by then, right?

God, I hope so.

But if not, at least I’ll have something to blog about.

Grandma’s china speaks of gracious hospitality

When Grandma moved from her apartment to her new home in a senior living community earlier this year, she had quite a lot of stuff to shed.

Grandma turned 100 in March. A lifetime of household items still contained in her apartment was distributed among her four children. Thanks to Dad’s keen eye and frugal nature, a set of flatware and a collection of her china were among the pieces passed along to me. Dad rescued the flatware literally from the garbage.

Maybe some readers wouldn’t be so pleased to inherit china, but I couldn’t be more tickled. Grandma’s new china coordinates with and expands my own collection beautifully.

grandmas china

The plate with the flowery pattern on the top is from my original china collection, which I acquired upon my first marriage: Vintage Floral Splendor by Johann Haviland. All the other pieces with the platinum striping (really! platinum!) are Grandma’s: Nora by Harmony House.

The Nora plates are just slightly larger and flatter than my Floral Splendor pieces so they’ll make great charger plates or, when I’m serving a crowd, they’ll mix-and-match much better than my functional-but-not-very-elegant Longaberger pottery. Grandma’s collection includes a gravy boat (oh, joy! to serve gravy properly in a pretty boat instead of a mixing bowl with a spout) and a couple of other serving pieces that will be a treat to use at the next holiday dinner we host.

I distinctly remember eating off of Grandma’s china when I was growing up in the ’70s and ’80s. Grandma is a hostess bar none who appreciates a tasty side dish and a beautiful garnish. I can see in my mind that little saucer filled with a canned peach and cottage cheese, and there was always a spoonful of sweet pickles or pickled beets to accompany the ham or turkey.

Coffee with grandma is always an occasion. It’s never just coffee. At the very least, there would some sort of cake or pie and cookies (cookies are always accents, not the main dish), but usually it would also include little sandwiches, mixed nuts and one of those aforementioned pickles. Coffee with Grandma is a meal.

Served, more often than not, on pretty china.

Grandma’s pretty china is now beautifully stacked in my dining room buffet awaiting company. Can’t wait to put it to gracious use.


Spring cleaning … about four months late


Among the tasks on my to-do list last week was “file absolutely everything in my office.”

I’m admitting this deficiency, not because I am proud of my ability to procrastinate basic maintenance activities (yes, that is literally a foot of papers on the right side of my credenza), but because I know other people have piles of s*** on their desks, too, and I want to be a vision of hope for these a-messy-desk-is-a-sign-of-an-active-and-intelligent-mind apologists.

I actually spent an entire day last week filing “absolutely everything” in my office. This required not only hours, but several dozen manilla folders, endless inches of labeling tape and, in the end, a hefty bag filled with the chaff of six months of receipts, mail and pages torn from magazines (possibly more than six months; could have been eight months; or nine).

But I did it. And here’s how the top of the credenza in my office looks now:


Here’s to a brand new week without fifty pounds of baggage. I swear, this week I will tackle the cabinet in the bathroom filled with dried-up moisturizer and nearly empty bottles of conditioner.

Hung up on hangers

It’s the little things.

In conversation with a professional organizer I know, she mentioned she uses Costco Non-Slip Hangers whenever she organizes a closet. She argued with conviction that a closet wasn’t organized until all the hangers are the same. Well, I thought, a professional organizer ought to know good hangers when she sees them, right? So I invested in a box, and changed out some of the old hangers in my closet.

Oh. My. Gosh.

Costco’s Non-Slip Hangers are amazeballs! They’re strong, thin and covered in a black felt-like substance that truly is non-slip. And they’re only $9.99 for a box of 35! After I used up the first box, I went back to Costco and got three more boxes, which is still less than I’d pay for a nice pair of pants.

You’ve got to see these for yourself.

Closet Before 2

Clothes closet before.

Clothes Closet After

Clothes Closet After

I am now addicted to my closet. Every time I’m upstairs for any reason, I walk into my closet, flip on the light and bask in the order of it.


(By the way, I recycled my old wire hangers at the dry cleaners. Check with your local cleaner to see if they accept hangers — giving those hangers a new life is better than filling a landfill!)

For before-and-after addicts only

I’m addicted to before-and-after transformations. Lately, my guilty pleasure is “Chopped,” the Food Network TV show that features chefs turning strange baskets of ingredients into gourmet meals. Deep-fried shrimp heads as a garnish on a fresh mango-and-beet-greens salad? Bring it on! Let’s see how it’s done.

On the theory that other people find before-and-after photos interesting, I’m sharing a few today.

For the past two months, my Beloved and I have been powering through closets (as opposed to shrimp heads). I’ve been to Goodwill at least three times, dropping off all manner of unworn clothes and boom boxes (really? we had three stereos we weren’t using? what has this digital device universe come to?).

Most of those closet transformations haven’t warranted a picture but I sleep better at night knowing the basement furnace room now has labeled plastic bins for all the remotes and USB cords we’ve collected over the years and the bedroom closet in my Adored stepson’s room now has enough room for a mattress (to be retrieved by the Adored stepson again at some future date).

The drive to streamline began with the kitchen pantry, which my mother helped me tackle during a visit in April:

pantry before

Pantry: Before

Pantry: After

Pantry: After

Other pain points in the kitchen included the junk drawer. Everyone has a junk drawer, right? Filled with weird gadgets, bits of garbage and loose screws? Well, my junk drawer had enough batteries to power the lighting on the Eiffel Tower for a week and enough hooks to hang King Henry’s harem. So I found boxes for them and labeled them (love my label maker!):

Junk drawer: After

Junk drawer: After

It helped that I threw away an ocean of rubber bands, used twist ties and all those loose screws (why did we keep old screws?). But organizing similar stuff in containers helps a lot. With that in mind, I tackled the cupboard above my kitchen desk, which was more like a junk cupboard than a cookbook case:

Kitchen desk cupboard: After

Kitchen desk cupboard: After

Meanwhile, my Beloved tackled the water filtration system under the kitchen sink. Thanks to a slow leak that softened the particle board base, the water tank crushed it:

Under-the-kitchen-sink: Before

Under-the-kitchen-sink: Before

Reminds me of quick sand. Yuck.

After diagnosing more than one weak, leaky point requiring several visits to Home Depot, my Beloved invested in a new system altogether. He also removed the cupboard floor and put in a new kick-plate. Ta, da! The new system filters delicious water:

Under-the-kitchen-sink: After

Under-the-kitchen-sink: After

As the weather improves (marginally), we are tackling outdoor projects. I would show you my awesome diagonally mowed lawn, but only a Californian on water restrictions can appreciate it. So instead, I’ll show you the deck steps I painted over Memorial Day weekend:

Deck steps: Before

Deck steps: Before

Deck steps: After

Deck steps: After

Paint cures a lot of ills. Meanwhile, my Beloved has taken on a project for which the only power I’m providing is cheerleading. He’s replacing the disintegrating railroad tie steps on the side of the house:

steps before

Landscape steps: Before

Unfortunately, I don’t have an after for you yet (but I have a guaranteed post when my Beloved and his crack team of manual laborers complete the task).

New straw for the nest makes for better sleep

Ye olde mattress in Minnesota Transplant’s household is nearing the end of its life.

I bought her eight years ago when I moved out of the house I shared with my first husband. I spared no expense buying a new mattress, or at least I thought I did. I now know $1,500 is more the middle of the scale than the top, but she’s held up well. Many a night, I slip into bed and thank God for such a comfortable nest.

But eight years on, she’s getting grooves and looking a little disheveled. My Beloved and I have been shopping twice for a replacement but we haven’t yet found the right one.

two top sheetsIn the meantime, I discovered a cheap and easy way to spruce up the bed: A second top sheet. A representative for Westin Hotels & Resorts suggested this fix in this month’s O Magazine, and at first I was skeptical. But I dug up an old top sheet and added it to the mix, and lo and behold, a second sheet adds a bit of luxury and greater temperature control (which is paramount to menopausal me right now).

Small things matter as evidenced by daily flossing and freshly ground pepper, also both worth the trouble.

Try it. You might like it, too.

(I also got a new pillow, a significantly less expensive upgrade than a new mattress. O Magazine recommends getting a new one every two years.)

Waxing nostalgic for an old-fashioned apparatus I once hated

The king-sized, extra-thick mattress pad never gets completely dry in the clothes dryer, and I inevitably put it back on the bed in a slightly damp condition, hoping my Beloved won’t notice.

But not yesterday.

Yesterday, I hung it out to dry.

The summer sun was blazing, and the heat was the perfect foil for my laundered but slightly damp mattress pad. I haven’t wished to have a clothes line in, well, I’ve never wished for a clothes line, but one sure would have been handy yesterday. I settled for the deck chairs.

The backyard in the house where I grew up had a multi-lined implement that I damned every time Dad made me mow the lawn because the twine was exactly the same height as my neck. Our laundry room was in the basement, so hanging the clothes outside required lugging heavy, wet laundry up a flight of steps.

I was in charge of laundry beginning at age 11 or 12, and I quickly learned to stuff wet clothing into the dryer before Mom could tell me to hang it on the clothes line. Failing that, the clothes got hung on lines in the basement laundry room.

But Mom had a point, at least about bedding: Sheets dried on a clothes line outside smell so good! Crisp, line-dried sheets define good bedding.

Then today I heard on a rerun of the Nate Berkus show that the clothes dryer is second only to the refrigerator when it comes to household appliances sucking down electricity. So the clothes line is a green, too.

I’m tempted to install a clothes line in the back yard. Is my nostalgia crazy?