There is no way to say this nicely

With our house, we inherited two 30-foot palm trees that stand sentry on the edge of our front lawn. They look like medieval guards at the gate. I love them.

We’ve never owned such trees before. We’ve also never lived in a traditional neighborhood before — with joggers, moms with strollers, and couples on bikes.  Also, there is dog walking.

And so I have discovered that if you have large trees on the edge of your lawn, the dogs will stop, with the owners standing by, and “water” them.

HOWL. SHUDDER. SHIVER. GAG. QUIVER. WASH HANDS. LOOK AWAY.

I know I’m strange, but it really grosses me out, OK?

Just this week, I’ve noticed three bathroom sessions. I stood inside and watched with horror, wanting to howl “nooooo!” through the open windows.

Except I’m the new girl in the ‘hood, and I can’t be THAT new girl.

So I went and washed my hands instead. I have pulled weeds from those trees, people.

Technically, I believe it exhibits poor manners to let one’s dog to do its thing on someone’s front yard, but if I post a “no dogs” sign on the trees, I might as well also hang a sign on the front door that says “brat.”

In America, it is not OK to dislike dogs.

I know this because I’m not a dog person, and when that tidbit comes out, people are shocked. People judge. People think, “This girl, she needs to be watched. She’s dangerous. She’s unnatural. She’s not like us. We probably shouldn’t hire her. We probably shouldn’t be friends with her. We definitely shouldn’t date her.”

OK, so sometimes I’m a little overdramatic.

But I promise you that upon the above confession, I will now receive surprised and sad emails from my dog-owning clients, all of which will go something like this: “Really?! You’re not a dog person?! But you like my dog, right?”

George is the only one that knows. When I come over, ring the doorbell, and his dog goes insane, he yells, “Shut up, Sparkles, she doesn’t like you.”

God bless George.

So this is a conundrum.

Is there something wrong with me? I mean, not the dog person thing – clearly everyone agrees that such feelings are freakish.

But being so heebie-jeebied out by the dogs doing their thing on my front lawn — is that weird? Is anyone with me?

And what should I do? Put up a sign anyway and pass out cookies to all the neighbors once a week so that I will have friends? Try one of those repellant sprays? Stop looking out the windows? Consider a fence?

And really, I don’t necessarily want an answer, because I likely won’t do anything at all. I’d rather be a nice neighbor. I’d rather have better manners. I’d rather look away.

Like Kathleen Kelly, I just wanted to send these thoughts out into the void.

So happy Monday morning, dear void.

By | 2015-04-13T03:02:41+00:00 February 23rd, 2015|Jaimee's Home Renovation|5 Comments

The Bad-On

It has been a wretched 24 hours at Camp Sterling. My charmed “Oh Bunny” sighs have turned to “OH, BUNNY” squalls, and really, Bunny, I would like a word.

In the ’80s, Bunny decided to enclose his patio, turning it into what our Realtor named the “Bad-On,” because it is an add-on, and it is all kinds of wrong. The ceiling slopes so low that my 6’3″ husband skims his head. There is no A/C. The walls are, of course, faux wood paneling. The window goes into the hall bath shower (?!@$%?!).

The Bad-On is coming off.

But in the meantime, Bunny didn’t get a building permit – or build the Bad-On to code,  and that is causing some serious headache and heartache this week at Camp Sterling.

Xanax, anyone?

Last night, in an effort to calm our sad hearts, I thought I’d make dinner. It has been weeks of take-out, and the thought of another paper sack made my stomach turn.

Our stove is still not functioning — and neither is the washing machine — but I was determined.

When I was little and in love with all things Little House on the Prairie, my brother and I liked to play “pioneers.” We’d turn off the lights, get flashlights, and make tents out of sheets. My mom would bring us sandwiches. It was heaven.

Playing pioneers as an adult is, um, different.

I noticed yesterday that our barbecue grill has a burner we have never used, and  thought, “Oh, yes. Laura Ingalls wanted me to notice that.” So I drove to the store, grabbed the groceries, came home, and went to work preparing tacos — the 10-minute classic kind my mom used to make, because yesterday, I really wanted my mom.

I heard my husband in the back of the house, chipping out the last of the carpet tack strips. While dinner cooked, I stood in the spot in our backyard where there is a small view of Camelback Mountain.

The sun was setting, and the mountain was pink. I felt like I’d won the day, just a little.

I came inside and set the table with real dishes, for the first time.

There were even flowers in the center.

On our dining room wall, I’ve hung this framed quote from a Roald Dahl book, and last night, before dinner,  it felt so very apropos.

I called my husband to the table, and he walked into the kitchen.

“I ate dinner before you got home, Jaimee,” he said,  still very, very angry at Bunny, this house, and all parties involved.

So I spent dinner in the company of my phone, looking up prices of fantasy airplane tickets for this weekend.

Later that night, in bed, I paged through my old paperback copy of “Under the Tuscan Sun,” in which author Frances Mayes survives a house renovation in Italy.

These days, I find it very encouraging.

She had scorpions – and we don’t (yet), so at least there’s that.

On Frances Mayes’ worst day, she took a shower, put on a white linen dress and went to town for a shopping spree.

I think I should do that in San Diego.

By | 2015-04-13T03:03:09+00:00 February 18th, 2015|Jaimee's Home Renovation|2 Comments

The Living Room vs. Great Room Debate

I’m working on our new floor plan.

My mother is convinced that we need a living room separate from the open kitchen/family room area.

Our realtor, Rob Kukla, also remodels Arcadia houses and is convinced that we don’t.

Help.

(Design by Myra Hoefer – one of my most favorite living rooms ever)

I’m leaning toward siding with my mother, as all good daughters should. She says that when and if we have children (and that’s still just a dream, friends), I will want a room that’s pretty and presentable at all times.

Toys, she says, will invade our lives. Bouncers. Swings. All manner of red plastic gadgets that will surely drive me to the brink of sanity. (Who wants to let me design pretty baby gear? Who wants to tell me which baby gear is actually necessary?) When I was a kid, we had to keep our small collections of toys in our rooms and there was no such thing as a twilight turtle or a wipe warmer.

My client, Tiffany, who has one of the most beautiful homes ever (and yes, I will show you, but it’s on deck for showcase in a magazine), says that her formal living room has turned out to be an excellent place to sit and talk on the phone  without being interrupted by her children.

“They never think of looking for me there,” she said, giggling.

And that all sounds pretty genius to me.

(Design by Rafterhouse – an Arcadia remodeling company)

However, if I let go of my living room dreams, we won’t have to add on quite as much square footage — thus preserving the budget for other things. Like a back wall built entirely of windows — which we are having either way. Or his-and-her offices. Or a wrapping paper station in the laundry room.

I have always wanted a wrapping paper station.

Design by Urban Grace Interiors

So, let’s hear your vote:

Are you on Team Mom or Team Realtor?

Do I need a separate formal living room or will one great room suffice?

By | 2015-04-13T03:03:27+00:00 February 17th, 2015|Jaimee's Home Renovation|6 Comments

Part three: Setting up Camp Sterling

“How did Betty blow-dry her hair?” my husband wants to know as we examine the bathrooms, searching in vain for an outlet for my hair dryer.

Again, I think of my Granna, and realize that Betty probably didn’t. She went once a week to the beauty parlor to have it set.

I feel a flash of joy and tell my husband that I could absolutely go to the blow dry bar myself a few times a week.

He cleared his throat.

And the electrician arrived Friday afternoon.

There are now outlets in the bathroom, along with new but inexpensive vanity lights so that I can see to do my makeup, and an improved light fixture in the dining room — at my husband Tyson’s request, because he thought the ceiling fan was ugly.

And for Valentine’s Day, Tyson tore out all of the carpet in the living room, the hallway, and the dining room — “so that we can eat dinner,” he said, “without being grossed out.”

I have named our temporary home “Camp Sterling,” after my husband’s last name.

I’m feeling a little better about things, but I’ve never been any good camping.

My friend George insists we don’t have it that bad. When he moved into his house in the Encanto historic district, he says, there was a toilet in the entry. And it worked.

My friend Rebecca thinks we should have a ’60s-themed party the night before renovation begins — in honor of our retro home. She suggests serving mini gherkins on toothpicks and wearing a floral apron with a beehive hairdo. Also, there must be doilies everywhere.

She said this after I sent her a photo of the pink tile in the bathroom and the wallpaper in the kitchen.

This weekend, I painted over the wallpaper in the kitchen. I couldn’t take it any more.

(And yes, painting over wallpaper is a huge no-no, but in 6 months those walls are coming down.)

I’ve been told that Bunny — our home’s former patriarch — was a bit OCD about home improvements and doing things his way. Bunny also lived through the Great Depression, which means that every penny was probably precious. Bunny sounds like my Grandfather.

I can tell that Bunny installed this wallpaper — which makes much creative use of “patches.” I’m quite certain he installed the lock on the back door — which requires a key inserted on both sides of the lock to function, which means that last week, when my husband took the key, he unwittingly locked me inside the house.

Bunny also put up faux wood paneling in the two back bedrooms — which I also painted over this weekend, and which will also be eventually coming down.

Because Bunny installed the paneling over two windows.

Oh, Bunny.

By | 2015-04-13T03:03:41+00:00 February 16th, 2015|Jaimee's Home Renovation|0 Comments

Part Two: Betty and Bunny

Sometimes, to cheer myself up, I think about Betty and Bunny.

This was their house.

They bought it in 1961, raised a happy family here, and Betty even rode her bike around the neighborhood until she passed away last year. She was almost 90. Her husband, Harold, a teacher, died in 2003. He went by Bunny — a fact that made me love him immediately. They were married for 53 years. He called her his bride.

We bought the house from their son, a contractor.

“I know I should tear this down and build something great and sell it for a fortune,” he told me. We were standing in the street, looking at the front yard.

“But I can’t tear down my memories,” he said.

I looked up a photo of Betty the other day. She reminded me so much of my Granna — such grace and kindness in her eyes. I told my Mom about Betty and Bunny, and she cried.

From Betty, I inherited this tiny glass hobnail vase. I found it in her medicine cabinet filled with Q-tips, and I am holding it as a treasure and a talisman.

In this house, a family was happy. In this house, a husband and wife were married for 53 years.

In this house, there was always love.

I want that, too.

I want to build upon their memories.

The other night, after my tired husband helped me pull out the carpet in the bedroom (Betty’s son’s idea), and mop the floors, he held me close and talked about his dreams for the house.

“I’m excited,” he said. “We can have a backyard with orange trees and grass and a hammock. We can ride our bikes. We can go on walks.”

Yes, I said, and I thought about Betty and Bunny.

By | 2015-04-13T03:03:54+00:00 February 13th, 2015|Jaimee's Home Renovation|2 Comments

The house saga of January 2015, Part One: Ouch

Looking at this photo now makes me cry. This was our house, and we lived here and loved it for almost four years.

Now we live in a retro slice of hell – sans hairdryers, clothes dryers, an oven or a shower. It’s a “before” picture, and there will soon be an “after,” but in the meantime, tears galore. Also, I am allergic to the carpet.  And it is powder blue.

Here’s what happened . . .

At 2 a.m. on New Year’s Day, we came home from a party to an email from our landlord: he’d sold our house — which was not listed for sale, to which we had the first right to buy — and we had until Jan. 31 to move.

There was much crying and wringing of hands and dramatic flinging of self onto the sofa and the bed. There was copious cursing of the landlord. I still think about toilet-papering his house — perhaps with eggs on top for good measure.

We didn’t want to move.

But we didn’t want to buy our house, either.

We were stuck, and happily so.

But the world has always had a tendency to force my hand and push me into bravery.

And now it is February 12, and we’ve moved.

There are  posts to come about the days between Jan. 1 and Feb. 12, and all of our stressed-out house hunting, and then the hijinks that come into play if you want to buy a “project” house in the crazy-competitive Arcadia area of Phoenix, which we did, and the drug-dealer-like communicating that goes on to make such deals happen. There will be the story of how we found our house through a Facebook post and a friend from Kindergarten, and how freaking GRATEFUL I was, and then the desperate agreeing to insane clauses, and the paying of enormous sums in cash only, and the strange and obnoxious rules of appraisals — all of which have landed us in a “before” picture, without a working shower, or a hair-dryer, and with 55-year-old blue carpet, to boot — with hordes of people lined up to buy the house behind us, if we’re crazy enough to let it go.

(I’m tempted, people, I’m tempted.)

There will be no “before” pictures until we have an “after.” And renovation can’t start until August 1.

Yesterday, my client and friend George called to see how things were going. I whined and carried on.

“Jaimee,” he said, “Don’t be one of those wives that’s a pain in the ass.

“I feel like this can be a fun part of your marriage — making do, planning the new house together.

“It’s an adventure,” he said.

We hung up, and I knew that he was right.

So I went to my friend Puddinn’s house to take a shower and wash our clothes.  I called a housekeeping service to come and scour the insides of the cabinets and drawers. The electrician is coming. Tonight, we’re going to tear out the carpet.

And for now, I’m back here, because I’ve got feelings, people, and, like this carpet,  they are going to need to come out.

 

 

 

By | 2015-04-13T03:04:07+00:00 February 12th, 2015|Jaimee's Home Renovation|2 Comments