Monthly Archives: April 2009

tree happy

Last weekend was filled with other distractions, but mostly we worked on the yard. Since Belle was around, there are rare action shots of me taking on the ivy, which we’re attempting to clear from a second bed:

The first bed is nearly done. We went with a small flowering plum tree on the end, a lavender bush, the remaining azalea, which is white, and another lavender. The problem is figuring out what to plant on the end spot:
new-flower-bed-cropBut while I consider size, growing conditions, and color scheme, Joe just keeps going out and buying trees. He can’t seem to help himself, despite the fact that we have nowhere to plant them. Trees are one of the few nice things that came with the house, and we’ve got several really gorgeous flowering ones, and in general, no room for any more.

But that hasn’t stopped him. We still need a spot for the magnolia, and now a pink Japanese cherry, which I don’t really care for (they’re everywhere, and pink clashes with our color scheme, which was supposed to be purple, white and green). So I know we need to finish that bed with a nice shrub or something, but I’m afraid to take him near a greenhouse. Any suggestions?


the door to nowhere

Life is a tradeoff. One day you’re breathing a sigh of relief that you don’t have to rip out your new bathroom because of an unbearable stench, the next you are cursing the door department at Lowe’s with every ounce of breath in your body.

We’ve been waiting for the final interior door from an order we placed with Lowe’s last October. This one is their third attempt at getting it right, and at this point, I think we both just want to be rid of each other.

It looked like we were going to be, because the door was the right material, the right profile, no dings or dents. They must have run out of things they could possibly get wrong, I thought. Oh, but they hadn’t. When we removed the cardboard packing, the entire area around the doorknob was split out.

I don’t think it was an accident that Joe and his dad took off for Lowe’s without telling me, and took my car keys with them. Joe reported that when they got to the store, my father-in-law told them, “If my son’s wife had come with us, somebody here would be dead.”

He’s not wrong. This isn’t just a door, it’s a gateway to my sanity. The parts of the house that remain engulfed in chaos do so because of this door. Without it, we can’t finish the baseboard, so we can’t finish the hall closet, so I can’t unpack, so my house is an unholy mess. And did I mention we’ve been waiting since October? Death would be too good for them.


the phantom menace

I called Roy, our contractor, first thing Friday morning. He was mystified, but went to check it out. When he called me back a few hours later, he reported that the stench was totally gone. He spent a few good hours there, talking to his plumber, checking vents, and actually sniffing various drains, but nothing.

Our working theories are: A) We experienced a one-time backup. This is not too far-fetched, given that we’ve had sewer issues in the past and the Roto-Rooter man has not paid us a visit in over a year. Though a backup is usually accompanied by something actually coming up out of the drain. Maybe we got lucky on that front, though that hardly feels like the right word.

Theory B is that the kitchen drain, which backs up to the bathroom, is sucking the tub trap dry. Maybe we accidentally tampered with it while installing the dishwasher. But we’ve run the dishwasher plenty, and only had one instance of stench.

In any case, all we can do is be on the lookout (smellout?) for a recurrence. Of course, we are both so paranoid now that we’re smelling phantom odors everywhere (easy to do in a bathroom). We had one false alarm already that turned out to be an old washcloth.

In any case, I’m beyond relieved that we may not have to rip out any tile or move any appliances. That would’ve stunk.


life is crap


When I got home last night, I was ecstatic to see that Joe had not only mowed the lawn, but picked up our last door, which miraculously came in early (less miraculously, Lowe’s did not even know it was in and we would never have found out if Joe hadn’t stopped to remind them of our impending delivery date).

Briefly, life was good. Then Joe went into the bathroom. “Were you in here?” he called to me. “It stinks!”

“No, but thanks for asking,” I said. Then I did go in, but not for long. The stench was overpowering. But the room was immaculate. If Boo had an accident, she left no trace. I flipped on the fan and left.

We forgot about it until we were getting ready for bed. Incredibly, the smell was still there. We both started searching. Joe stopped when he got to the tub. “This is it,” he said. “Smell.” I knelt down and took a too-big whiff that was like inhaling a sewage plant. It knocked me back. I gagged. “Oh my god, what is it?”

What is obvious; the smell of human shit is pretty unmistakable. But why it is emanating from our brand new bathtub is a freaking mystery. Joe gave me a mini-lesson in plumbing, which introduced me to the fact that drains have something known as a trap, the bend in the pipe that keeps sewer gas from permeating your home.  Apparently, the one in our tub is not working.

Worst-case scenerio is that the pipes themselves are faulty, which would mean we’d need to tear up the entire bathroom (our only one, mind you). This is a thought too horrible to contemplate. Living with the constant stench of sewer gas might be preferable to trying to move the washer and dryer again.

Neither of us got much sleep.


an ax to grind


My priority for the weekend was to mow the lawn so our neighbors don’t hate us. Well, more than they already do for running power tools 24-7 every weekend and not having window treatments. But Joe was still fixated on the rear flowerbed—and he was the guy holding the pickax.

After digging out the old roots, Joe, in typically anal fashion, measured and staked out the bed with sticks. It’s a kind of figure eight design, all his idea. We’re considering building a retaining wall around it, but that might have wait. Rocks are one of those things you don’t realize people actually pay money for until you’re standing in Home Depot going “$2 a stone? Are they made of gold?”

Anyway, we worked until dark just to clear the bed, which means not only is on lawn on its way to jungle status, but we didn’t plant any of our trees. And I still have four raspberry plants in my office closet.


down and dirty


Joe has had a longstanding vendetta against the plants in our backyard, particularly the ivy, and today he decided to settle the score. It was 70 degrees and sunny, so I could pretty much be talked into doing anything outside.

The ivy proved a worthy opponent. Especially because it was entwined around a rusted wire fence. After several sweaty hours, we had ripped out as much as we could and decided to take a break go look at plants.

We know even less about gardening than we do about renovating, so we agreed not to buy anything until we researched it first. Which is why we ended up with two lilac bushes (we had a gorgeous white one out front, but it died somehow), a flowering plum tree and, get this, a magnolia. They’re all gorgeous, but my guess is we’ll end up killing them. Or, if they’re anything like ivy, vice versa.


my grandmother’s things

My grandmother, Isabelle Verna West, passed away a few days before my 30th birthday this March. She was 89, and spunky up to the last. She never got to see our house, but here are a few of her things that will live in it now.

I would like to imagine this recipe box will make me half as good a cook as she was. But in her own words, “Oh come on now, Jill, let’s get real.”


I have a fancy new Eva Solo tea brewer that I love, but this is perfect for a quick pot. With a new handle and some buffing, it will be good as new.


I have been looking everywhere for a little step stool to help me reach the bathroom laundry shelf. When I saw this beat up old wood work bench, I knew it would be perfect. I’ll probably refinish it because it’s been painted, but I want to keep some of the deep scarring in the wood. I like the character it adds.


Finally, and most cool, here’s the pocket gardening book she gave to me right before she died. Thanks, Nan–I’m sure it will come in handy.