Neither my parents nor Heath’s parents had housecleaning help when we were growing up. I don’t know the reasoning behind that decision in the Robinson household, but I’m pretty sure my mom nixed the option because she felt no one could do it as well as she could. I, however, do not share her enthusiasm.
I bring this up because while the question of whether or not to hire some bi-monthly help to tend to baseboard cleaning and oven scrubbing may not give others pause, it does for me because it’s not a luxury I am accustomed to having on a regular basis. Like manicures or massages. Nothing is wrong with either habit, but it’s difficult to embrace an indulgence like that if it’s not what you regularly grew up. I also feel like the maid debate is somewhat of a taboo, at least in our social circle. Before writing this post, I never brought up the subject to friends, it just wasn’t something anyone discussed. But as I started thinking more about it and asking questions, I found out that a surprising number of close friends benefit from the assistance of a professional housekeeper. The fact that it wasn’t discussed but was nonetheless present, makes me dwell on the topic even further.
The truth of the matter is, I am an employed adult in a two-income household with no kids and an affinity for exploration, and the last thing I want to do with my free time is engage in scrupulous cleaning. I’m not good at at. I don’t like it. I don’t want to do it. I feel this same way about making sushi and going to the dentist.
So, is enlisting the assistance of an expert in cleanliness the right thing for Heath and I to do at this moment in our lives? I see a pro/con list in my future.
Pro: The time I currently spend cleaning house would be free to focus on other things.
Con: I don’t currently spend that much time cleaning house, so realistically that doesn’t add up to much.
Pro: I get a clean house, a cleaner house than I could ever imagine…a home where there isn’t a layer of dust on the tops of all picture frames and even places like the sides of the refridgerator have a lustrous sheen. Ok, I clearly can imagine it, and I like it.
Con: Unlike, say, plumbing or electrical work, cleaning house is something I could do myself. I have the tools and the know-how to sweep and shine, so forking over the cash to let someone else do the dirty work could feel a little off. But to be fair, I call cabs despite knowing how to drive and eat at restaurants despite knowing how to cook. Why think differently about housework?
Pro: Technically, hiring a housekeeper would be providing employment, and I’ve always wanted to be one of them “job creators” the Republicans have been going on and on about.
Con: It’s a new expense, something else to budget for, which means less money to spend on some of the fun stuff like concerts or vacays.
Pro: I’m fairly certain the overall quality of my life would improve. I’m not going to put all my eggs in the hiring–a-maid basket, but having a well-kept home would make me feel all warm and squishy inside, like I’m kinda sorta getting good at the being-a-grown-up-thing. Impressing my mom with my spic and span space would be a nice benefit too.
Con: I can see myself feeling what Ranjana coined “lifestyle guilt.” I’ve had a pretty privileged life—got a car at 16, studied abroad in college, own a home—and I’m not obtuse the fact that these are things that many, many harder working people than myself will never have or experience. I don’t pretend that I wouldn’t feel sort of awkward about “flaunting” my good fortune before a stranger. I think this is the reason my friends aren’t quick to fess up to having a housekeeper.
Pro: Having a clean home is better for the house itself. If I bring someone in to regularly maintain the corners and crevices, the house will experience less rust, ware and deterioration. That’s just responsible homeownership.
Con: I would be letting a stranger into my private spaces. Things like dirty underpants, medication and embarrassing dance movies would all be out there for the housekeeper to see. I don’t know if there’s a universally accepted moral code that housekeepers abide by that demands they refrain from judgement, but I hope so.
Pro: While a housekeeper would be a stranger at first, I hope that eventually we’d form a bond. I know many people who have developed strong ties and relationships with the people who provide them services, and I would really value building that unique relationship.
There’s clearly a lot to consider, at least from my perspective. But in the end, I think the good outweighs the bad. At the heart of it, hiring a housekeeper isn’t a reflection on me—it doesn’t mean I’m a spoiled and lazy so-and-so, it just means I would have a cleaner house. And that is something worth trying.
Merely a few images captured during a recent autumn hike on the greenbelt.
Lots of design-oriented DIY blogs (this one included) will have you believe that choosing to makeover/renovate/repair/assemble/disassemble a home improvement project yourself rather than enlist the help of the pros is the usually the only acceptable way to function. Successfully do/make something on your own and you will have a free pass to walk around with an entitled sense of superiority, like ordering a salad at a restaurant when everyone else gets the steak. Yes, do it yourself and you shall be handsomely rewarded. Not so, says I.
The pride I feel about my recent bathroom cabinet makeover is about on par with what I imagine it feels like to discover you’ve made the 7th grade C team in volleyball. (I say “imagine” because I definitely don’t know what it feels like to practice so hard to prove yourself to the volleyball coach at Calhoun Middle School that you throw up in the locker room trash can, subsequently “earn” a spot on the bench with the other athletically challenged girls and then, humiliated, quit and pretend like you never cared about volleyball in the first place and would rather, of course, focus on your dancing. No, I don’t know what that is like.) What I’m trying to say is, I wish I had just dropped the dollars to buy a cabinet with some actual gusto than try to refurbish a cabinet that would end up only being slightly better in quality than child’s macaroni art.
Here’s the Reader’s Digest version. I don’t really like our bathroom layout, as it is very small and boring. But then I saw a photo of similarly designed room and thought, Hey, I can do that.
I liked how it felt modern but also cozy with the wooden accent on the shelves. I knew, however, that I needed more storage than what shelves as dinky as those would provide. I wanted something with some girth, like the Akurum wall cabinet from IKEA.
I liked that it kept the wood accents, but didn’t shriek of woodsy charm. Because our bathroom is small I liked the idea of being able to see inside the cabinet, which may keep that omg-the-walls-are-closing-in-on-me feeling at bay. Yes Kelsey, this will do nicely. Flash to price tag: $207. Pfffftttt. Come on Ikea, be real. I can make a badass cabinet myself for half that. Well, yes and no. I didn’t think I would actually be making any cabinet, per se, but I know my way around the Restore and was sure I could modify something to resemble as much. That, I did do, and $15 got us a cream colored cabinet in decent shape that would fit the space over the toilet poifectly.
Alright, OK, good. I could do this. But what first? After removing the hardware I figured I should start this weekend renovation by removing the panels in the doors. I still wanted a cabinet with translucent doors, so that interior panel would have to go. I watched more Youtube videos than I would have ever hoped to on the subject of removing interior cabinet paneling. I’ll tell you, there are a lot of schools of thought on the best way to do this. Some people say you need a jigsaw, others say not. Honestly I can’t even remember what all of the methods were but they were all time intensive and required tools that we didn’t have, so I got creative. This is code for abandoning all reason and just going for it. I used Heath’s whatchawhosit tool (he says its a dremel but I am not fooled) to try and trace the paneling and create a perforated edge around the interior of the cabinet that I could then gently push outward.
This maybe would have worked if it weren’t for two things: one, this was also a timely process and the vibration of the whatchawhosit was making my hand feel very funny; I did not like this, and secondly, the heat generated from trying to cut through wood was creating a burning smell which I also did not like. So I decided to abandon all reason a second time and just go to town on the panel with a hammer. Believe it or not, this is not where my refurbishment experiment went astray. In fact, forget what everyone else tells you about removing panels from cabinet doors and just beat the crap out of it with a hammer. THIS ACTUALLY WORKS. And, bonus points, it’s also kind of cathartic.
Then I spent a a good 3-4 hours stripping, sanding and staining/painting the doors and cabinet base and then letting it all dry. So far, still on course.
When I woke up the next morning to check everything out, I was really disappointed to find that I hated how the stain looked with the wood grain of the cabinet doors. It was not modern and glamorous but instead the grain was very 1990s country kitchen. Nothing against a good country kitchen, (my teenage gal pals who remember the critical role Linda Tonn’s kitchen played during our formative years will vouch for it) but it’s not the look I was after. Expletive. I thought on it for a minute and then, in the interest of my impatience, decided to just paint the doors white to match the rest of the cabinet. I would find another way to bring in my beloved wood accents. This could have been a successful recovery tactic except that the paint didn’t take to the stain, and I had to strip, sand and paint the cabinets all over again. This is a bigger downer than pouring a bowl of cereal only to find you are out of milk. The worst. Not only was this taking FOREVER but my hands were sore from contact with the chemical in the stripping agent (I know, I know mom, I should wear gloves) and I was also all shaky from hours spent holding an electric sander. I was beginning to hate my bathroom, the Restore, IKEA, paint, stain, design blogs and DIY books, everything. How dare you give me confidence, world?
Once the paint dried, on DAY 3 (ideally, the cabinet would have been hanging from my wall like a prized elk’s head by the end of Day 2) we started the process of inserting the glass panels. We bought a large piece of glass ($20) from Home Depot and this glass cutting kit because, hell yeah, we are DIYers and no project is too difficult for us to master. Let me say, this glass cutting kit was a piece of shite. We followed directions to a T and it flat out didn’t work. The glass broke, the kit was crummy, we were out $32 and had bloody fingers. On trip two to Home Depot we got plastic instead (~$15), which was easier to cut than the glass and didn’t result in blood droplets on our driveway.
We successfully glued the plastic panels into the cabinets, but it just looked bad because, when you get down to the science of it all, cheap plastic does not equal glass in quality or shine. I decided to frost the clear inserts ($3) because I thought it would be a classy move and perhaps make up for the downgraded quality of the plastic, but in the end the doors didn’t beam of frosty elegance. Instead it was like someone sprayed cheap frost-in-a-can unevenly over a scratchy surface, because that is precisely what we did. Once we screwed in some modern handles ($6) and hung it up on the wall, I officially knew then what I suspected all along. This project was more disappointing than Star Wars Episode I, though admittedly a cheaper mistake to make.
It might be the most unimpressive, least dramatic transformation in Doodle House history. Not only did the cabinet makeover itself turn out pretty sub standard and arguably worse off than the original cabinet was, but it makes such an uninspired difference in the room it may as well be invisible.
Once upon a time, our fiddle leaf fig was a contained, petite and well-groomed specimen. But these days, the branches of my beloved ficus are pretty sprawled out, each one is in business for itself. Not that I mind that, necessarily. For a while, I thought this particular plant had gone rogue, or at the very least was in a rebellious state against its doting caretakers based on how it looked when we initially brought ‘er home (unfortunately, no pictures exist of that banner moment).
But this perceived independent streak is not quite as it seems; in fact, after some research I have found that it is my preconceived notion of what this popular house plant ought to look like that is at fault. As it happens, fiddle leafs come in all shapes and sizes, depending on how they are groomed and cared for, which means there’s pretty much a style to fit anyone’s idea of beauty. That’s a pretty swell shrub if I have anything to say about it.
Long and leggy
I’m digging the different looks the Ficus lyrata can pull off, it’s essentially the Carrie Bradshaw of house plants. I’m gonna go ahead and go out on a limb here (eh, eh?) and say, fiddle leaf fig, you’re my ideal house plant. You’re pretty easy going (Or should I say growing?!), you’re nice to look at and I doubt I’ll ever be bored of you.
FACT: It took longer to prepare this post than it did to achieve my latest home update—painting and recovering a forgotten chair.
Many, many moons ago, when I was just a lass, good old mum picked up this little number from Denton’s own Downtown Mini Mall for a sweet $20.
That was more than 15 years ago, but we’ve gotten a lot of bang for our buck. I’ve modified this chair at least three times over the past few years as my style changed from juvenile bright, to bohemian cool, to modern eclectic. But ye old chair has endured each look with gusto. She’s taken on the challenge of being painted both cyan blue and dusty red, and her cushion has been covered in everything from kitchen placemats to old scarves—looking surprisingly appropriate with each passing style. Good job, chair. So why not take 15 minutes this weekend to update the familiar beauty once more? After all, it’s easy as 1…2…8.
No kidding, without factoring in the time it takes the paint to dry, this project was completed in 15 minutes. How’s that for instant gratification? And in addition to being crazy easy, it’s also cheap to pull off. I had the chair and the fabric (leftover from another project), so the only cost was the spray paint…bringing the cost to complete the project to a sweet $3.75. If only all projects could be that easy on the watch and the wallet.
What what?! It just came to my attention that The Doodle House was featured in Apartment Therapy‘s Room for Color contest! Unfortunately, I didn’t know my pad was featured until today, so I couldn’t get the word out to have folks vote for my “retro bright” color pallet before the contest voting closed, but it’s still pretty cool to be featured on such a prominent platform. I’m weirdly gratified by this.
From where I’m standing, there are two schools of thought on what to do with a place, a home, when one of the people who loved it and lived within its walls perishes. It’s inevitable, I suppose, that part of what you once loved about the home would leave along with the departed, causing the remaining inhabitant(s) to become prisoners of their own surroundings. But it’s also true that you might love the place all the more for the memories it stirs, deriving comfort and familiarity. Such is the paradox of a home in mourning. It remains partly a tribute to the person who loved it and partly haunted by their absence. How much of one or the other tugs at the subconscious is what inevitably drives us to either stay submerged in the memory or move forward its shadow.
To summarize my metaphorical ramblings, I’m grieving the loss of my grandparents’ house. Since my grandmother, Oma, died in 2009, my grandfather, Papa, has been diligently keeping the house they shared together in working order. I wouldn’t say he’s been struggling with the upkeep, but it’s not been without it’s challenges. A few days ago, he finally moved out—putting the only house I’ve known he and Oma to call home, on the market for the highest bidder.
It’s a beauty of a house, a grand old thing they built together in the Texas hill country before I was born. Allegedly they traveled the country in an RV for some undetermined but lengthy amount of time before deciding there was no better place on this planet to retire than the outskirts of New Braunfels, Texas. They bought two adjacent lots and planted their house in the middle of a grove of native trees. As a kid, it was an epic destination, as every proper grandparent house ought to be. To begin with, the house served as the setting in which I was permitted to inhale more homemade cookies than I was ever allowed at home. Then there was the hearth, which instead of a traditional fireplace, was actually an elevated stone platform that played host to a shiny blue franklin stove. But this unconventional setup turned out to be the ideal location for after dinner “talent” shows where I forced my doting family to sit through dramatic readings of my favorite children’s books or bizarre musical numbers I had written 15 minutes prior to showtime. Bro’s and my original performance of Mexican Date, I’m told was a big hit. But cookies and attention-seeking behavior aside, the house is where I did my bonding with Oma. That’s where we cooked together and picked peaches. We rocked back and forth on the porch together, admiring the rolling grass like you’d admire waves from the deck of a ship. She told me stories and in turn I’m sure I provided an endless supply of laughter and general adorableness. It’s where I had the privilege to truly know my only living biological grandparent. After Oma died, the house is where I took Heath to engage in philosophical debates with Papa that would start around 5, cocktail hour, and carry on well into the night. The routine was fairly standard—cocktails at 5, dinner around 6:30, mind-spinning conversation until 9 and then sherry on the porch; but while predictable, dinners at Papa’s house were nonetheless looked forward to with monumental anticipation. Two weeks ago, Heath and I had our last-ever cocktail hour in the most consistent house of my childhood, and it’s not an easy experience to swallow.
The reasons for Papa relinquishing control of the house are fairly practical. It’s a lot of upkeep for one person, and while New Braunfels has grown exponentially from the time he and Oma first settled in, it’s a bit of a drive from the town center. And he’s lonely, I would be too. And living that far, that isolated from human interaction was wearing on him. He traded drinking sherry alone for the opportunity to dine with friends in a growing retirement community. I’m glad he knows what he wants, and that at 88 he doesn’t think he’s too old to go after it. I admire that. And if I chose that path for myself, I would want my grandkids, hell, everyone, to be happy for me.
But I’m still a little heartbroken. Damn those childhood houses and their emotional hooks.
The philosophical debates on exestentialism and excessive wine drinking will continue, however; even if the venue has changed. And that is something I can cheers to.
When UT scored their first touchdown against OU yesterday, it was followed by the obligatory high fives and high pitched WHOOs customary of the rare successful Longhorn play for points. And as also is customary for those occasions when he is not in the room during sporting events, I reached for my phone to text Bro with an all caps “HOOK EM!”
Wait….that’s right…He’s at bootcamp, unreachable by phone or text or email or carrier pigeon. How odd to think he might not even know that UT won yesterday.
My one and only sibling, Tyler “Bro” Wilkinson, left for Great Lakes, Illinois last Tuesday to begin a four-year stint with the United States Navy. During the 6 months he lived in our guest bedroom, I might have welcomed a prolonged absence by the loveably oblivious, workout buff and football addict. But now that the days of living within two miles of my childhood partner in crime are essentially over, I’m realizing how much I’m gonna miss that dude, well most of him—not so much his unexpected pop-ins to the house in the middle of the week without a heads-up phone call. In fact, the newfound privacy and unfettered access to our own washing machine will actually be a treat. And I definitely won’t miss his aggressive defeatist attitude during the second half of Cowboys games. No, those 45 minutes of violent pacing and hair pulling will be a void I welcome.
What I will miss are my regular bouts with his sweet disposition, trusting nature and general gooberishness. It’s not often I would hang out with Bro and he wouldn’t say or do something to cause my head to shake in affectionate befuddlement. And it’s a rare human who can match my zeal for dance parties and appreciation of terrible puns. He’s the only person in the world who knows what it’s like to have our mom for a mom, our dad for a dad, who knows what it means to come from the family we came from. For the first time, I’m realizing I won’t have my little Bro around to come over and just generally “get it.” That’s new territory that will take some time to get use to.
Bro has always wanted to be a hero, and the military serves as an adequate scratch to that itch. He’ll be good at it. He’s disciplined and he’s easily content in most situations. He’s regimented and committed and loyal, and this experience will be good for him, but I wouldn’t be a good big sister if I didn’t believe that as good as the Navy will be for him, he’ll be even better for the Navy.
Either way, it’s a bummer not to have him around, and we’ll drink a beer in his honor during the Cowboys game tonight.
I majored in journalism because, well, when I started college I wasn’t terrible at writing and I fit that cliche mold of an overly idealistic 19 year old who thought they could change the world. (Spoiler alert: I haven’t and I won’t.) Say what you will about the dying newspaper industry and the minuscule salary earned by reporters, but one of the cool things about being a journalism major is getting an excuse to take lots of photography and graphic design classes.
Oh…wait….I didn’t do that. Dumb.
I don’t really remember what my reasons were for not taking a photography class–a class COMPLETELY supported by my major and funded by my financial aid. I think it was something about the lab hours being too demanding and I was at the point in my young life where I had a hot new boyfriend (now husband) and was more interested in hanging out in his dark room (HEY-OH). I did manage to fit in one graphic design course, but because the teaching assistant was a big-time sarcastic bully, I skipped out on most of those labs too.
As a result, I graduated sans graphics and photography know-how. It was a true shame considering I would soon develop a mild obsession with design and photography, which I would satisfy by teaching myself. There is a lot I need to learn and I know I’m very rough around the edges—especially when compared to the high-calliber pros—but I feel comfortable with what I’ve accomplished on my own thus far.
A few recent examples.
Posters and Flyers
Brochures and Other Publications (Click the image to see the entire package.)
Even Billboards (Oh yeah, I never wrote about that time I had a billboard! Fun story for later.)
I don’t pretend to know everything there is to know about all of the graphic design nuances. There are rules and techniques that I am sure I don’t follow—more out of ignorance than an act of rebellious independence—and hundreds of styles I’ve yet to explore. Truthfully, I really have only grazed the surface of possibilities, but that has me more excited than intimidated.
I write this not to pat myself on the back or beg applause from readers. But I’ll admit I’ve got ulterior motives for laying my art and my insecurities out on the table. I try not to talk about my professional life too much, but recently at work some design-oriented projects I really cared about were vendored out to The Pros. And it has shaken my creative confidence.
But here’s the thing, too often I downplay my abilities and sulk over the fact that I would probably never be a “real” graphic designer. But honestly, these days I’m less woeful about my reluctance to seize the opportunity to learn the right way in college, and more proud of what I have been able to figure out on my own. Teaching myself was an education in its own merit. I had to admit what I didn’t know, do my own research and ask for help when I needed it—sometimes even from my own journalism students, when I was teaching, which makes for quite the humbling experience. I established my own standard and had only myself to impress, and I think I’m finally coming around to believing I am an OK student. I’m not an artist savant and I don’t want to be. I’d rather find joy in making mistakes, learning from them at my own pace than creating art that I feel good about. I encourage others to embrace their interests whole heartedly and do the same. There’s no “real” way to learn to be expressive, no “right” way to be creative.
“Take your pleasure seriously.” — Charles Eames, designer
I was going through my flickr account recently, which I hate to admit is sorely outdated, and I came across a handful of pictures of the original Doodle House. We lived there a year and a half before moving to our current pad, doing what we could to make it feel like home given our limited capabilities as renters. We painted. We updated some hardware here and there. We got our start raising chickens. It was the house we lived in as newly weds and we did what we could with what we had to make it ours. I don’t have any negative feelings or weird associations with our old place, none at all. But looking back, I realize now, even with all its quirks, how much more our current house feels like home than did this little eclectic cottage. It’s kind of funny how much can change in just a couple of years.