Category Archives: home improvement

Everything Must Go (Or, why it pays to have a pogrom in your DNA.)

After months of waiting, crying in the building department, and all but offering myself up to the gods of Yonkers (because, surely there is more than one), we finally got our construction permit. Still, we weren’t starting anytime soon. Our contractor told us we’d have to wait a few weeks while he finished up the job he took when we got delayed.

And then, in a text, he told us he could start in 48 hours. (I’m trying to ignore the nagging feeling that this guy may not have been the best choice, but I’m keeping that to myself for now.)

Here’s what I learned:

1. It helps to have a pogrom (or three) in your DNA. Polish ancestry means one thing if you’re Jewish: You can pack in a flash, even when there aren’t Cossacks at the door. As I used my great-grandmother’s linen tablecloths to wrap my dishes (once the newspaper ran out), I had enough time to hum the entire score of Fiddler. Good times.

2. Jet lag is AWESOME when you have stuff to do! Turns out, keeping my watch on NY time during our trip may have kept me awake the entire time, but it didn’t ensure that I’d come home on local time. (Who knew?) So, I hopped out of bed at 3.45 AM and got cracking on packing the kitchen and tossing anything that does not bring me pleasure. (This was a good thing. Because M is no fan of throwing out anything and believes this whole de-cluttering movement is nothing more than an excuse to buy more shit, I usually have to toss things under cover of darkness.)

3. I was put on this earth to answer the question: How many glass jars can one person own?

4. I apparently also have a thing for egg cups.

5. M has a thing for free water bottles. The shittier the bottle, the more we have. If you happen to need one, there will be a box of them in front of our house as of 4AM. (shhh.)

I’ve been awake for over a week and I have miles to go.

If Marie Kondo calls, I’ll be throwing out egg cups.

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Filed under home improvement, Uncategorized

Flirting in Yonkers.

Our kitchen is in Yonkers.**

Because we want to renovate our kitchen, we need approval from the Yonkers Building Department. (Even now, it is hard to capitalize those words, so unworthy are they; there is nothing proper about those nouns.)

I had heard nightmare stories about the permit approval process so when our permit was denied the first time, I was told to “put on something cute, go down to the Building Department, and flirt.”

“Oh,” someone else added, “you should bring cookies.”

I heard M sniggering when I relayed the pieces of advice. First of all, nobody really wants to eat my cookies. I live with teenage boys, who will eat anything that isn’t soldered to the plate, but Building Department people? Surely, they wouldn’t want burnt-on-the-bottom chocolate chip cookies which are raw in the middle?

The flirting got an ever bigger laugh from M.

If nobody wants to eat my cookies, even fewer want to see me try and flirt. “What does that even look like?” M asked.

What does that look like? It looks something like this:

I woke up early and put on a pencil skirt, blouse and a pair of heels. I had an early morning breakfast midtown, and I planned on going straight from there. I looked cute enough for the breakfast, but after a subway ride home and an hour or so of NYC humidity, the bloom was most definitely off the rose. When I got on the subway, I threw my heels into my enormous bag and put on a pair of Birkenstocks. When I emerged above ground and caught sight of the size of my hair in a store window, I threw it up into a twist. By the time I climbed into the minivan, I had untucked the blouse, which was drenched in sweat and something else which I could not identity but which it hurts to think about.

By the time I got to Yonkers, I was less Breakfast at Tiffany’s, more Travels With My Aunt. Still, I persisted. I walked into the building and into a time warp. I had to exit and enter again just to make sure I wasn’t losing my mind. Although it was 2018 on the outside, in the Yonkers Building Department, it was either 1957 or 1978, depending on the floor. Either way, it called for a lot of eye shadow and some pretty big hair. (My eye makeup had long since melted off, but my hair was certainly complying.)

I found the right floor, tucked in my sweaty shirt and marched on. When I was greeted by a room of partially gray women, sitting at desks, nursing giant mugs of coffee, my heart skipped several beats. A room of older ladies? These are my people! I can definitely flirt with this…

I collapsed into a chair.

“What’s wrong, honey?” One of them asked.

“I looked a lot cuter when the day started,” I said. “And I really want a permit for my kitchen.”

The thirty minutes I spent with the ladies of Yonkers was lovely. They assured me I looked just fine. We laughed about summer hair and what happens to your feet when your take off your heels, put on Birkenstocks, and try to get your heels on again. They even gave me a special number to call to check on the status of my permit revisions. I left feeling so much better about myself and the Yonkers Building Department. (Caps restored!)

I called that number every day for ten days and nobody answered. I even tried the special email they gave me: nada.

I went back yesterday, all gussied up, and received a second denial, in person. I was even wearing heels this time.

I guess I really don’t know how to flirt.

PS: A snapshot of the current state of my kitchen.

** Our house sits on the county border, but our kitchen is firmly in Yonkers.

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Filed under home decor, home improvement, Kitchen, remodel, knife rack,, yonkers

Bubble, Bubble…

I’m feeling pretty good today. I’m feeling good because I believe this is the first day in two weeks that someone in this house has NOT had some form of the stomach flu. 

This flu was especially nasty because a) it coincided with Thanksgiving traffic and we suffered through a five hour car trip, much of it spent while holding a bag of a child’s warm vomit and b) because when we returned home from said trip, we found a puddle of sewage bubbling up in the basement. Every time somebody flushed a toilet (which happens quite often when the stomach flu pays a visit), the pipe in the basement would spew sewage. 

I immediately got on the phone and called plumbers. Plumbers can be so very dramatic that I half expect them to burst into iambic pentameter. I have a particularly bad memory of a plumber visiting our very first house in LA and taking a video of the scope he did of the plumbing underneath our backyard. The video was dark, creepy, and emotionally narrated. It soon became known as the “Blair Witch Plumbing Project.” It was LA, so perhaps an out of work actor was doing our plumbing and filmed the video, but I soon learned that all plumbers have a flair for the dramatic.

It’s never a good sign when you call a plumber, describe your problem, and hear him say, “Uh-oh” or “Oh, that’s pretty bad.” It’s an even worse sign when the plumber you have called says, “I think this job is too big for me, you need to call a plumber with BIGGER equipment.” (Read: NO thanks, lady. I’d like to take lots of your money. Really, I would. But your house sounds like Chernobyl.)

The problem sounded enormous. Plumbers gasped and sighed at my descriptions. Nobody was interested in coming to help. I was quite sure that whoever did come to help would leave our house with all of our money in hand. 

I was all but ready to tell the kids that they were getting plumbing for Channukah.

The plumber who finally agreed to come (and who frankly sounded excited by the challenge) arrived first thing Monday morning. I think plumbing is a great job — not just because of the bucks involved, but because people are REALLY happy to see you. After twelve hours of no plumbing and with several family members on the tail end of the tummy bug, our house was beginning to resemble a large, furnished port-o-potty. I almost leapt into the arms of the unsuspecting plumber at our front door. I think I may have scared him a bit with my exuberance. He beat a hasty retreat to the basement to fix the problem. 

A couple of hours later, he emerged victorious. Crisis averted. The problem was not a bad as it sounded. At least for now. We live in an old house. Even with updated plumbing, problems arise. 

Here is a picture of the bag-o-vomit. 

And here is a picture of a toilet in our house. I could have taken pictures of the basement spewage, but even I have my limits. 


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How much wood?

Spring may technically have sprung, but it seems to be taking its sweet time. Still, it’s already April… which means we get some of this: 


I could not for the life of me tell you what this bush is called, but it makes me happy to see it.

But spring also means that it’s time to deal with this: 


This is one of two large piles of logs of wood. We had to have several trees taken down when we moved into the house, because our very chatty and pricey tree guy told us they could fall onto the house at any given moment. The tree guy wanted even more dollars (many more than we had) to chop the wood.

And then M had a brainstorm.

He needed some more exercise in his schedule and he did not need to shell out thousands of dollars to the tree guy, so instead, he shelled out 40 bucks for an axe. Yes, that’s right. He was going to learn to chop and tackle the wood himself, killing two birds with one stone. Everybody, including our Sicilian gardener, laughed. They promised he would chop for 30 minutes and then spent three weeks in bed recovering.

They obviously have not encountered the dogged perseverance that is M trying to prove a point to me, while avoiding shelling out money to a tree guy who probably has three homes of the Hamptons because of us.

Sometimes he chops alone. Sometimes he lets a certain 13-year-old help him. Sometimes he has the assistance of an equally stubborn friend.

I won’t say there are no injuries. I believe this morning he went to work with what appears to be a broken pinky. 

But I believe you need to take achievement wherever you can find it. And if it lies in a pile of snow-soaked wood that may one day be a home for thousands of flying termites, then that’s where it has to be.

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Filed under home improvement, New York City, spring

who will buy…?

Some wins: Figuring out how to store the guitars.


Some losses: Trying to convince M that just because we inherit something, doesn’t mean we have to keep it.


Just put that couch and two like it (a set!) up on Craig’s List.


Who wouldn’t want this? (Besides me, that is.)

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Filed under home decor, home improvement, House, New York City

Crafting (or Why I Dislike Back to School Night)

I have gotten some emails as of late asking me why I haven’t written in the past two weeks. Truthfully, I had no idea two weeks went by. The back to school blitz is unrivaled in its ability to completely throw my life into complete disorder. I do not understand Back to School Nights because I do not understand why it makes sense for parents to be gone at night during the first weeks of school when we are most needed at home. Why not have them before school starts when the only thing being interrupted is marathon TV watching? I also do not understand why schools need to force parents to go back to school and relive all of their school day hell right at the beginning of the school year. (When it appeared that I could not get a seat in the back of one class, and that the only free seat was in the front, directly under the teacher’s watchful glare, I broke down and wept to a friend (“You have no idea how stressful this is for me.”); she gave me her seat.)

But I digress.

Another reason I have not written is because I have been crafting, so to speak. We are having work done on our house, because like all old things, it may look okay on the outside but inside it is falling apart.

While there are workers of all sorts in the house, I have been trying to keep myself busy.

So I did this:


The inside of this china cabinet was white until I got busy with some green paint and a brush.


And this awesomeness was once brass with little leopard shades (to match the leopard trim in the room.)

I have, however stopped crafting now as I realize that I seem to have reached the end of my ability and anything else that I do will cost me more to fix than to find someone else to do it in the first place.

That’s right – I’m back.

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Filed under back to school, children, home decor, home improvement, New York City, parenting

Almost Wordless Wednesday

This was the color I was going for:


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Filed under home improvement, House, Remodel