It was Heath who selected Boston and its neighbors to the north for our annual pilgrimage to Anywhere But Texas. A student of history and obsessive collector of revolutionary facts, New England — what with its statues of white men in tricorne hats, and old buildings in which to congregate those very same tricorne hat-wearing white men–seemed the ideal destination for scratching that colonial itch. (Fun fact: colonial itch was the term of endearment Ben Franklin gave to his STD).
Allow me to pontificate on the three important lessons learned from this jingoistic jaunt.
Boston’s Freedom Trail is maybe 90% cool and 10% tacky.
The Freedom trail is a walking tour of some of the can’t miss historical sites prominently featured in American history. It mostly encompasses places where our revolutionary heroes either died or thought about dying. I’m talking of course about massacre sites and churches. But all-in-all it’s an enjoyable way to spend the morning. And thanks to the National Park Service (a government agency so fine, even Ron Swanson can support it) you can get a docent-guided tour for free every hour on the hour. Highlights include: park rangers sneering at freedom trail buskers, lots and lots and lots of facts about Paul Revere, and the realization that the Declaration of Independence is one of the most tedious break up letters ever written.
New England’s seafood game is on point.
“Oh you’re going to New England, huh? Are you excited about the lobster?” I was a little surprised that question — or a variation of it — was the most consistent reaction I got upon telling people about our summer plans. But I get it now. New England is all about seafood, and maybe its because the memory is as fresh as the lobsters we cooked up at our campsite, but the seafood offerings here far surpass those of other coastal food hubs (I’m looking at you Seattle). And I’m not talking simply about your high-quality seafood restaurants here. Whether we were throwing back raw oysters at chic oyster bars, nomming on buttery fish and chips at English pubs, or drooling over foot-long lobster rolls at harbor-side restaurants, we were bowled over by the the most intensely flavorful and perfectly prepared seafood we’ve ever tasted.
If Ken Burns doesn’t feel stupid for omitting Acadia from his national parks documentary, he probably should.
Have you seen the documentary? The one where Peter Coyote waxes poetic about Yosemite and Yellowstone and Join Muir for 12 hours but doesn’t give Acadia a courtesy nod? It’s a conspiracy is what it is. Acadia is the oldest national park East of the Mississippi, and it may easily be the most beautiful. The sun supposedly rises first on Acadia’s Cadillac Mountain before anywhere else in America, and it has one of the largest expanses of naturally dark sky in the Eastern U.S.–meaning whether you’re an early bird or a stargazing night owl, this park is for you. It’s also a phenomenal place for cyclists thanks to our pal John D. Rockefeller who, in the early 20th century, had some 50 miles of carriage roads thoughtfully designed to weave about the park. We’re more of a hiking/camping duo ourselves, so we stuck to the trails that meander through the trees and along granite rock slabs that plunge into the ocean. Acadia is located on Mount Desert Island, which also plays home to the Bar Harbor, a charming resort town. But despite it’s proximity to this popular tourist destination, the park was relatively uncrowded, even during its peak season. While campsites require a reservation and fill up quickly, we very infrequently passed others on our many hiking excursions. Perhaps it’s because Acadia is not an easy park to get to, or perhaps it’s because few have ever heard of it before. If the latter, sorry Ken Burns. Looks like you did me a solid. My bad, I hope we’re square now.
All in all, New England is an invigorating region. The colonial callbacks that pepper Boston’s streets and sidewalks, while perhaps expected, are nonetheless deeply inspiring. They serve as reminders of the courage and ambition that motivated our nation’s founders to create a new society–one that would encourage self-determination and put mechanisms in place to secure unalienable human rights. Meanwhile, in Acadia, the salty aroma of the Atlantic permeates the air as waves unceasingly claw at the granite cliffs it may, one day, turn into sand. We came to New England to study its history and revel in its natural beauty. We left, whether by forces of man or nature, rejuvenated.
A few weeks ago I wrote about the tragic saga of the dresser that turned into a chicken. Today, I’m happy to report that the dresser makeover that went horribly wrong has been corrected! Or, at least it’s slightly less repulsive?
To jog your memory, our story began with a completely adequate dresser that I destroyed when I forgot what the color “gold” looks like.
The result was more eeek than chic and whatever my next move was, I knew I wanted to retain a geometric pattern because, well, it’s simply the best.
But I also knew I couldn’t be trusted with paint again. Nor was I especially eager to repaint what took several painstaking hours to achieve. My solution? Cover the drawers in a large-scale geometric fabric print. Much like these crafty Design Sponge artisans did.
An afternoon trip to local upholstery shop Spruce got me just what I needed. After looking at a handful of fabric samples and even wallpaper swatches, I ended up walking out some clearance fabric for $20 that was just barely perfect amount to cover the front of the drawers. No paint or sander was needed. Armed with just a staple gun and a pair of scissors, in 30 minutes I was able to save the dresser from the DIY disaster hall of fame.
I’m not sure this is going to be my permanent solution for glamifying the dresser, but at least the fabric do-over is a vast improvement from where we started, and it didn’t require an obscene amount of effort or money to achieve. Let’s upgrade this project from a D-I-Why did I do this? to a D-I-Why, it could have been worse.
It’s Picture Day today at the middle school where Heath teaches. With this in mind, I’m resurrecting Foto Friday this week because everyone deserves to see the outfit my favorite history teacher chose to grace the pages of the RBMS yearbook.
Is he a great teacher or what?
(Props go to Mama Joy for making such a kick ass Yankee uniform.)
Hi internet! Kelsey’s killer here. I got to murdering Kelsey a few weeks back and realized I should probably write a blog post or two to keep the fuzz off my tracks. So, here it is.
DIY, something, something, doodles, puns, something, something, before and after picture, some lazy adverbs, something about design, jokes, and cute ending.
Just kidding. But I bet I totally had you going there. I’m so funny…
My mom sent me an email recently saying she missed my blog posts, and when friends started giving me the third degree about my lack of web presence, I figured it was probably time to get on the ball. Plus, Heath said if I didn’t start posting soon, the internet rumors would start flying. I don’t flatter myself to think anyone would start internet rumors about the Doodle House, but I was almost tempted not to blog ever again just to see what the old blogosphere would come up with. But I actually think I’ve got some semi-decent reasons for laying low online as of late. Commence defense mode now.
For starters, I recently started an amazing new job, and I’ve been pouring a lot of my creative energy into that. I mean, it takes a lot of hard work to be head writer at SNL while moonlighting as Beyonce’s personal stylist/lifecoach/bff. But I digress.
Secondly our home improvement binge had been placed on the backburner as of late because we’re were saving up for a big, big, big project this summer–one that was going to change our lives. Were, being the operative word there. I say “were” because we’ve recently hit a road block, one that I like to call Shower Under Construction Kind-of-Stuff, or SUCKS for short. (Note: I may also refer to it as a “Loo-ming” Situation or John Gone because, hey, we’re trying to have fun over here.)
Here’s the play-by-play of SUCKS:
- We noticed running water coming from the faucet in our shower every time we turned it on.
- We called the plumber because that’s what decent humans do when things leak.
- He knocked a gaping hole in our shower and discovered a broken pipe that spewed water into our walls and onto the floor.
- Now we need a bathroom.
This all started last weekend, and since Monday we’ve been living not only without a working shower but also in a wind tunnel. A restoration company brought in some heavy duty industrial fans and dehumidifiers that have been running around the clock in an effort to dry everything out and mitigate some of the water damage before any kind of actual repair starts. It’s been a week with no shower access and no clear timeline given for when we will have a working bathroom again. Obviously, having a broken bathroom isn’t great, but it’s especially not great for us because we’re some of those people who fall in the one-bathroom category. And since we’ve taken on a roommate (Monte, I’ll get to him later) it’s especially inconvenient.
But I’m a glass half full kind-of gal, and I concede that while saying this SUCKS, it also provides us with a lot of opportunity. For one, I’ve got some good, GOOD fodder for the blog now: Five ways to politely ask your friends if it’s cool for you to shower at their house for an indefinite amount of time, and Dirty is the new Black: why daily showering is totally overrated, and my doodle house expose, Tile and Error–What the ceramics industry doesn’t want you to know. What I’m trying to say is, where I lacked in blog posts in February, I will definitely make up for in March. And while these next few weeks (God, I hope it’s only weeks) will be a bit uncomfortable what with no working bathroom at all, I’m at least recognizing the silver lining of having my homeowners insurance pick up (some of) the tab for a much-needed renovation.
For the next little while, I’ll be burying myself with bathroom renovation research, contractor estimates, Google image searches of “modern eclectic” bathrooms, and a nice layer of grease and grime. I can’t wait to share.
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.
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.
OK. I’m just going to get right in to it. Because I know there are hundreds, nay thousands, of people out there who are hungry for extremely detailed and helpful step-by-step instructions on installing flooring—the right way—in their homes*. So here it is, in a nutshell. You’re welcome.
1. Rip up the old carpet as recklessly as possible. Don’t even think about the best method for removal or what you will do with the carpet once it’s gone. Just get equal parts frustrated with current carpet and excited about the prospect of new flooring and rip that old garbage up as fast as humanely possible. If you really want to go the way of the doodle, don’t even bother taking all the furniture out of the room first. Work around it. There is no time for that. Planet Earth is depending on you to install these floors and install them fast.
2. Watch a lot of YouTube videos. When you’re obnoxiously impatient and overly enthused about a lofty renovation project, it means you don’t need to consult an expert beforehand. Don’t talk to anyone at Home Depot or call up your contractor relatives. Mathematically it works out: eagerness + materials = perfect DIY project. That’s all you need. Just 20 minutes of YouTubing and you’re good to go.
3. Choose the right playlist. One DH reader suggested we get a good playlist going before installing the floors, as dance breaks can be a crucial component to a happy flooring project. Since Handyman Heath was going to be the one doing most of the dirty work (with me as his trusty sidekick), I suggested he be the driver of our audio experience—which meant we were in for about 12 straight hours of listening to The Ticket, a Dallas-based sports radio network. So much for dance breaks. At least now I know as much about the Dallas Cowboys and the Texas Rangers as I do about laminate flooring. I’ll miss seeing you on the field Nelly Cruz.
4. Seriously consider selling your soul for an “undo” button. About 18 hours into the project, when you’re about halfway through, think seriously about not finishing it. We were really good at this step. When Heath had just started transitioning from laying the planks out in the living room to the hallway, he looked up and me with the saddest, most pathetic puppy dog eyes, and said “I’m so over this.” Ah yes, we have arrived at that terrible, terrible moment in every major DIY project where you wish you never started it. The living room planks were all down, but the narrow hallway, which required way more meticulous measuring and cutting than the large living room did, was only just then getting underway. Even when that was finished, there would be many, many feet of trim to measure and cut and nail and paint. Damn. Was the carpet really so bad? Who said hallways need flooring anyway? Those aren’t even real rooms. No one will notice.
5. Blog about it. Much like that riddle about the tree that falls in a forest, did the project truly happen if you don’t blog about it? Probably not. So now, I submit my evidence. The best damned laminate flooring this house has ever seen.
Living room before…
The difference has been incalculable. It’s made the house feel bigger, cleaner and more vibrant.The doodles aren’t quite used to it yet. Their paws are still slippin’ and slidin’ more than they would like, but I’m acclimated.
In all seriousness, it feels really, really, really good to be rid of the carpet I’ve fantasized about losing since we moved in almost 2 years ago. I am so thankful for the ReStore for making it happen when it did and love, love, love my Handyman Heath for being so willing to jump into this endeavor head first.
The only thing I regret about this project is that I didn’t do it sooner. Obviously, you have to work within the constraints of your budget, but for whatever reason I didn’t consider the ReStore as a flooring source before we accidentally stumbled upon it when in search for something completely different (more on that later). It was a fluke, but I’m very grateful for it. I encourage any DIY home improvement junkie to go to their local Habitat for Humanity ReStore as soon as humanely possible to discover what amazing projects you can check off your list at a fraction of the cost. To break it down in real numbers, if we performed this same makeover with resources from our usual go-to, Home Depot, it would have cost us more than $1,000. But with the help of the ReStore, we did it for just a little more than $600. That’s a deal if I’ve ever heard one. Go to there. You must.
*If you’re in to doing floors yourself, I suggest looking at the following links which are actually much more instructional, eloquent and useful than anything I have ever produced. Especially this one. Though, full disclosure, we did not use the second, sound proof layer of padding when we did our floors, nor did we use painter’s tape to stick our spacers to the wall. I also suggest this post from Young House Love for a good recap on installing real wood floors.