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.


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 |2015-04-13T03:02:41-07:00February 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 |2015-04-13T03:03:09-07:00February 18th, 2015|Jaimee's Home Renovation|3 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.


(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 |2015-04-13T03:03:27-07:00February 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 |2015-04-13T03:03:41-07:00February 16th, 2015|Jaimee's Home Renovation|1 Comment

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 |2015-04-13T03:03:54-07:00February 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 |2015-04-13T03:04:07-07:00February 12th, 2015|Jaimee's Home Renovation|2 Comments

My DIY Black and White Abstract Painting

My friend Shanna and I have started a new tradition of weekend craft days, in which we choose a project and finish it in a single afternoon. During these hours, we also solve world peace, listen to Bebel Gilberto, start new exercise programs, virtually lose 15 pounds and plan trips to Europe that we may or may not actually take.

This is therapeutic in so many ways. A few Saturdays ago, my project was an homage to a black and white abstract  painting that Shanna had stored on her phone to show me.

The inspiration:


The process:

First, a trip to my craft room and Arizona Art Supply for materials. I like acrylic paint and extra-thick canvases.


Next, I piled on layers of white and cream paint to get a background going with some good depth.


Busting out a paint spatula is a creates blocky texture and the paint ridges that I love.


I used walnut ink to section off the painting. Drips are good.


And then started filling in with lines.


The next morning, I hung it on the black wall. JaimeeRose_DIYBlackandWhiteAbstractPainting

What do you think?

See another of my weekend black and white abstract paintings here.

By |2013-07-16T07:49:32-07:00July 16th, 2013|DIY + Projects|1 Comment

How to hang a gallery wall in 9 steps

In my mother’s lexicon, we call a gallery wall “The Smithsonian Institution.” The best gallery walls tell a story about the people they surround, like a museum of  lives.

They can seem tough, but I’ve found nine steps to making a wall pretty and personal.

This is the gallery in our upstairs loft, which my mom helped me assemble from things I’ve collected over the years. (The camera angle makes the silhouettes seem higher than everything else, but they’re even with the eagle on the mirror in the middle.)

Step One: Limit yourself to two or three colors of frames. Mine are white and black with silver accents.

Step Two: Choose a large centerpiece to anchor the wall, like this bullseye mirror I found in an antique store.

Step three: Choose things that are round or oddly shaped, especially things that have unusual texture, like aged metal or wicker or yellowing paper. This metal horse is a vintage piece from FOUND.

Step four: Add a few vintage keepsakes to make the assemblage look collected instead of bought, as well as adding in meaning. This hat was my Granna’s, from the ’40s.

Step Five: Dig around the garage for things that tell your story. At my sister Heidi’s house, we unearthed her husband’s deflated football and hung it on the wall, along with a favorite baby outfit.


Step six: Almost anything that means something to you looks good in a frame. I dressed up this old varsity letter, because my T was a jock.

I found this greeting card when Tyson and I were first dating, hoping he might be more.

Photo booth pictures? You bet. This was from the best Halloween Marni and I had in New York City a few years back. We danced on tables at the Standard Hotel.

Step eight: Lay out your treasures on the floor in front of your wall. Get the spacing between the pictures as even as you can. Balance round and small, light frames and dark, on each side of your arrangement. Start hanging them up.

Step seven: Hang something in an unusual way — not from the usual hook or nail. Try an oversized coat bracket, or one of those pretty Anthropologie hooks. I used a boat cleat and ship’s rope from ACE Hardware to hang my Granna’s old dating journal.

Step eight: Add something with major three-dimensional texture to break up the flat plane, like these paper antlers from West Elm.

Step nine: Make sure that it’s filled with things that mean something to you, like this drawing my editor did of my Grandpa,and old librettos from the Metropolitan Opera in New York. This is your chance to show off things that you love but don’t know what to do with.

Some contenders:

*Vintage family photos

*Maps of places you’ve lived

*The matchbox from your honeymoon hotel or favorite neighborhood restaurant

*A love note from your kid

*Your wedding invitation

*Your parents’ wedding invitation

*Framed jewelry inherited from a grandmother.

*Diplomas and awards

*Baby photos of everyone in the family — even you.

At the bottom of my wall, I added vintage letters that spell out “Proud,” which is how I feel about everything in that space — family, friends, experiences, and love.


By |2012-11-06T05:32:19-07:00November 6th, 2012|DIY + Projects|0 Comments

Studded Pumpkin Towers

I like to make nailhead pumpkins because when they’re finished and I walk by,  I can greet them: “Hello, stud.”

This year, I had a request for more studded squash from a reader and came up with these towers — a fun and fast project.

You need pumpkins and nailheads. I like to use faux pumpkins for this because nailheads are expensive, and this way, your time and investment can live a long, happy life. In Arizona, you can find piles of nailheads at Fabric Depot on Cave Creek and Bell Road in Phoenix, one of my secret sources for all things fabric, upholstery and decor. This site also has a good selection. Also try Mesa Sales or Tempe Sales.

They even make rhinestoned nailheads these days.

Next, cut the stems off your faux pumpkins, and stack them up, using hot glue to secure. (In my family, we call this Hot Fear, because that what baby Rome used to call it, and when the stuff gets on you, there is cause for fear indeed. Ow.)

Start adding nailheads. I like to mix and match sizes and finishes. They go in really easily. This whole project took me 20 minutes.

Mine have a permanent home outside my front door — where they can greet guests and I don’t have to worry about them wilting in the heat.

P.S. Remember my other nailhead pumpkin, the original? See it and a pile of other nailhead pumpkin ideas here. (Monograms! Addresses!)



By |2012-10-25T05:21:58-07:00October 25th, 2012|DIY + Projects|3 Comments

Color-blocking pumpkins, Kelly Wearstler style

I’ve been saving my favorites for October — there are enchantments and sweaters and leaves all wrapped up in just that very word. Today is October, and I’m just glad. (Glad like Anne of Green Gables – remember her gladness musings?)

And October is for pumpkins, of course. Today projects are inspired by Kelly Wearstler, a favorite designer of mine. Black and gold and grommets all over. Read on, and I’ll show you how I made them.

The inspiration:

The translation:

To make, tape off an angled design with green frog tape. Push the tape down between the ridges.

Cover the area that you’d like to remain black with plastic — dry-cleaning bags, shopping bags, even trash or grocery bags will work.

Then, spray paint. Rustoleum makes the very best brass and chrome finishes — that’s important.

Remove the tape after about 30-45 minutes. You will then have this:

I tried the same technique with glitter. Tape off the pumpkin, brush on some glue (I use Elmer’s), add glitter (Martha Stewart), feel pleased.

Black glitter on black pumpkins looks crazy cool in real life. Just the kind of glamorous mystery I love.

Next, I tried the same technique with silver leaf — just use one of those silver or gold leaf kits from Michaels. It was easy and fun.

To make the grommet pumpkin below, use a carve-ready faux pumpkin or (ahem), a real one that you’ve hollowed out. I drilled holes and stuck the grommets in. That’s all. My grommets are from Ace Hardware.

How are you celebrating October? Last night Tyson and I watched movies and went for a little walk to look up at the full harvest moon. Tonight, I’m thinking soup and joy.

By |2012-10-01T08:10:01-07:00October 1st, 2012|DIY + Projects|5 Comments


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