Monthly Archives: October 2009

we did it!

Last weekend we finally cleaned the living room. For most people, this is not an event, but it was the first time we cleaned it in the seven months since we moved in. It was so foul it was almost an endorsement for homelessness—compared to our mess, a Dumpster looked pretty sanitary.

We threw out five bags of trash; the other half Joe won’t let me throw out—part of his Great eBay Money Making scheme. Which we both know means that I’ll be throwing it out in the spring.

And while words cannot express how happy I am to finally be able to see the rug, there is a downside: I can see the rug. It’s the exact shade of cat vomit (I have had occasion to compare the two) and would be hideous even if it weren’t stained and moldy. Ripping it up is not an option because asbestos tile lurks underneath. Although I sometimes wonder if that’s not less of a health risk.

But overall, I haven’t been this happy since we put up walls. I can finally start to think about more fun home projects—and phase II.



holy crap

TP holder mounted

We finally have a toilet paper dispenser.

For the record (and for those people who have suggested to me that perhaps this blog is not always fair and balanced) this was only installed because at 8 p.m. on Sunday night, Joe’s father, seeing my desperation, insisted on it.

And for this ten-second project, Joe actually fought me on placement. He wanted to mount it on the next stud over, about a foot and a half to the right in the above photo. I told him sure, and maybe we can put a picture frame around it too, as it will be the focal point of the entire bathroom.

I then informed him that this was one decision I was willing to go to divorce court over. He then told me, and this is a direct quote, that he hated me, and that the second I dropped dead he was going to move it.

I am totally fine with that compromise.


closet drama

closet finished

This was a banner weekend, and an exhausting one. The living room is still a mess, but my closet is finally ready to be filled!

Here are the details: The back wall is cedar-lined. The shelves are solid pine that I hand-sanded and finished myself. There are seven, count them, seven shelves for shoes (at five pair per shelf), and the closet rods are oval ones I custom ordered (and which arrived damaged, so we’re getting them at a discount).

Now, as gorgeous as it is, I do have some regrets. The biggest is Joe’s fault. I requested that the double rod section, where shirts and skirts go, be on the right, since I’m right handed. But since he only hears about 10 percent of the things I say that don’t mention his name, he forgot and did it backward. I didn’t discover it until it was too late.

The second thing is my fault. Despite endless discussions, I didn’t realize that the top rod of the double bars is too high for me. I can reach it from my tip-toes, but it’s a pain, and those extra inches between rods looks a little strange. It’s fixable, but Joe will be (understandably) mad if I ask him to move it.

But all in all, if it functions as good as it looks, I am happy. Still, I will take any reassuring compliments gratefully …


it’s the little things


I tried an experiment yesterday. I bought this toothbrush holder.

I’ve been looking for one for probably a year now (yes, I am that obsessed), but the way these things always happen is you stumble over them when you’re not looking at all. This one caught my eye because it had exactly three toothbrush slots, not four, and it reminds me of a bottle of Burberry perfume:

burberryCome to think of it, if I ever get to a flea market, an old perfume bottle would probably make a cool toothbrush holder.

Now I knew that this is something Joe will never go for. So I bought the matching soap dispenser, too. When I got home, I snuck both into the bathroom and waited for him to discover them.

By the time he did, I had forgotten about them, and couldn’t understand why he was shouting “Oh, hell no” from the john. Then I remembered, started laughing, and told him, “I knew you wouldn’t like them. I’ll return them.”

And just like that, he said they could stay. Oh, he pretends to still be on the fence, but without me arguing, what’s the point? You gotta love reverse psychology.


under siege


This is the weekend nature went on the offense.

In addition to rodent infestation in the shed, virtually overnight our house proper became a magnet for this guy: Halyomorpha halys, the brown marmorated stink bug. And apparently his entire species.

I’m not squeamish when it comes to bugs, and Hal here is pretty harmless as insects go—no poison, no biting, no disgusting goo trail. But they freak me out for two reasons: There’ a lot of them, and they are relentless.

They flew into the garage, ignoring the citronella candles. They clung to the window screens in droves. Every time I turned around, I’d find one on me. They weren’t hard to catch, and I collected hordes in an empty water bottle, but I couldn’t seem to get away from them. The cat was surprisingly uninterested.

Later, when I was researching some way to obliterate them, I found out why. Hal, who came to southeastern Pennsylvania by way of China, has no natural predators. Birds and animals won’t eat them because they taste awful.

Consequently, the stinkbug population has been growing steadily since they first invaded the state more than 11 years ago. And there’s no really effective way of controlling them. Perfect. First cicadas and now stinkbugs. I can hardly wait to see what’s next–maybe locusts? I never realized being a homeowner meant being a part-time exterminator.


the errant trap


It’s been a few weeks since we attempted to clean the living room, so Joe and I gave it another shot. I use the term “clean” loosely, because I’m talking about removing enough crap to make a walkable path, not dusting and vacuuming.

Most of that crap belongs in the garage. The garage, unfortunately, is full of crap from the shed. And the shed, we discovered, is also full of crap. Mouse crap.

Since our last mouse encounter in June, we’d been setting and checking traps regularly, and made one kill so far. Then a few weeks ago, Joe reported that a trap had disappeared. We looked everywhere and couldn’t find it. About a week later, another one was gone.

We were stumped. No traps, and no bodies. Not even a tiny blood trail. How big, we wondered, would the rodent have to be that could sustain two non-humanitarian mousetraps and survive?

In my excitement to make my living room walkable, these recent events slipped my mind. Until I found one of the traps. The force of the spring must have propelled it backward off the shelf and onto the floor, behind a spare tire. Joe launched into CSI mode, donning gloves and grabbing a flashlight to show me the blood on the trap. And the search for the body was on.

As we emptied the shed, we uncovered telltale signs of the whiskered debauchery that had taken place for the past four months right under our noses. They’d chewed holes in bags of garden soil and through boxes, and of course, they crapped absolutely everywhere.

Worse, as we withdrew more gnawed, nested-in, and pee-reeking items, Joe discovered among them, to his complete outrage, his former hockey pads and $500 skates. The mice had used the latter as twin latrines. I may have smelled something worse in my lifetime, but I can’t say what.

Joe’s a packrat, so by default it was mostly his things that were destroyed, and he was out for blood. And while I don’t blame him, I couldn’t help but think of the tiny, furry lives that played out in our backyard, day by day, just as ours had played out a hundred or so yards away.

We deduced, for example, that at some point one mouse must have fallen from a rafter into an open air conditioner box, only to discover his only means of escape was to gnaw through the cardboard to freedom. This kind of detail is far too intimate to know about a creature you want to kill—or may already have snuffed—and it made me feel like the villian in a Disney movie.

My moral compromise was this: We left two baited traps inside the shed—fair’s fair, and mice do not pay or even contribute toward my mortgage. But the next day when I discovered Boo toying with a field mouse, I slammed a bucket over it, had Joe transfer it to a glass jar, and released it in a nearby park.

Live and let live. As long as you do it outside my shed.