Monday, July 31, 2017

Tropical Storm Emily

Emily is expected in this area Tuesday. It has been rainy most of the weekend and today with little to no wind. That is expected to change and we are nearly always warned about possible tornadoes. Since I am a bit inland, I'm hoping that the power outages and other things that accompany these storms will be attenuated as it moves. In the meantime, I should locate the can opener packed in one of the four -plus boxes in my front room and go in search of food that can be consumed from a can or box in case the power goes out.

Happy Monday...

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Progress And Week Seven

Week seven of my small kitchen renovation begins tomorrow. As you can see, the cabinets are going in and counter tops will be next. I opted for black granite tile rather than slabs of stone as this was more economical. There is definitely more room under the sink which unfortunately came at the cost of some storage space.

I've had to re-think where and how to place cleaning and laundry items which has also led to another think about what I actually use, and more paring down. One all purpose cleaner, some bleach, Clorox Wipes, sponges, vinegar and baking soda. Laundry liquid, spot cleaner and dish washing liquid round out the list.

The bathroom has had a thorough clean and sort out and I hauled extra flooring from my closet in the bedroom out so that it could find a new home. It is the cheap laminate put down four years ago and I will be happy to see the last of it. The kitchen tile looks great and it is not marble but porcelain which is very durable. I've decided to use extra thick vinyl plank through out the rest of the flat as it is sturdy and waterproof and will withstand my wheelchair.

If you are thinking of the stuff in hospitals, residential vinyl looks more like wooden floor planks, complete with variations in color or tone. The rest of the flat will be brightened up with a paint job as well. In the interim, the boxes and disarray here are starting to give me some anxiety and my inner minimalist has come out in a big way as I am starting to look around and see what I can get rid of...

Wishing everyone a good week!

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Going Into Week Six Of Renovations...

Where we started in June:



The walls are in, as are electrical, plumbing, primer, paint and the floor is now partially tiled.

The green has given way to a soft gray with bright white trim and a softly grained porcelain tile.

Once the light fixture is up, you'll see more reflection.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Week Five of Renovations...

The wall board and mudding compound went up last week and today the walls were sprayed with a light coating before primer and then paint will be applied. The coating reminds me a bit of the white floaty stuff in a child's snow globe. How many of you had one of those?

A neighbor in our first multi-family apartment building dropped one down the stairs as I was sitting on the steps. It landed at my feet. The crack in the plastic globe notwithstanding, the snow was still visible and intact and I wondered what real snow was like. As a four-year-old growing up in the tropics, I had no frame of reference and other than snow men sometimes found at Christmas, no clue what to do with it. It would be another ten years before I would encounter the real thing, first on a South American mountain top from the safety of a plane, and then on a visit to Norway on the first leg of a European trip.

Isn't it odd how memories can come bubbling to the surface from the most mundane occurrences?

Until Next Time...

Friday, July 14, 2017

Did I Say They Were Frugal?

They being the grandparents of the previous post, and yes, they were frugal. Both had grown up in large families in which it was not frowned upon to grow much of one's food, sew and mend and use of variety of tools for household repair. My grandmother made sure both of her daughters knew their way around a sewing machine and could run up outfits and dresses from any pattern. My mother in fact made several items of clothing for me as a young child but made sure to tell me during my teen years how much she hated sewing and considered it a mark of poverty. This while insisting that I, born with less than average motor skills, tackle a Home Economics class and a sewing project for which, as it turns out, a large amount of motherly intervention was necessary in order for me to obtain a passing grade. The buck stopped with me as I never did master the rudiments of sewing. That said, I do not consider creating useful and attractive clothing a mark of anything but talent and skill. The fact that one can save money on a wardrobe is an added bonus.

My frugal grandparents, busy with their working lives and juggling the needs of three kids, tried to impart frugality not because they were poor but because it made good sense in the long term. However, as stores and malls proliferated, so did available goods and my mother's generation preferred the convenience of even limited commissary stock to a cache of McCalls or Simplicity home patterns. Fortunately, for me, desperation in finding a suitable gown for public choir performances resulted in the maternal largesse of a dress made for just that purpose and one which I was proud to wear.

School clothes were a different matter. We shopped for those and when in the US, that meant an end of summer visit to Montgomery Ward or Sears. Three dresses, a skirt and two blouses, two pairs of shorts, a package each of underpants and socks and a bathing suit. Predictable, and fine until puberty struck, landing me in a sea of awkward hormones and my mother and hers at war over suitable behavior and attire. At twelve, I shot up about five inches in less than six months, leaving my mother desperate to keep pace with a wealth of changes not the least of which involved my hem lines. When she could lengthen dresses and skirts no more, I wore shorts beneath them until they simply no longer fit. Communicating this situation to my grandmother led to an unbeknownst to my mother chat with the aunts, all of whom conspired to help without making it obvious they were doing so. Money changed hands and my grandmother sent a check with instructions to me to look for some new clothes.

My mother's Singer, left to gather dust for a few years, was once again heard to hum in the night, and one day, a large parcel was deposited at the end of my bed bearing greetings from my cousin in Florida and her mother. Inside, shorts, tops, tee shirts, dresses and a skirt, all of which fit. That they had been previously worn by my cousin bothered me not in the slightest. I was simply happy to have nice clothes that fit properly and which did not call attention to my changing physique.

My teen years found me in trousers and jeans rather than the dresses and skirts of my childhood. I grew to loathe clothes shopping and malls and preferred second-hand stores and my school's weekly flea market, which of course led my mother to forecast that others would think I was poor and a slob, though which of the two embarrassed her more remains unknown. She of the pillbox hat and pearls generation was aghast to learn she had spawned Miss Tie-dye the tee shirt and jean queen. While my cousin was becoming a Junior Leaguer, I was marching for women's rights, found myself in jobs in which jeans were appropriate, learned about frugality and minimalism and refused to be swayed by my mother's increasing lamentations as I pursued advanced degrees, not on her dime.
Frugal? Yes, and proud of it, thank you.

Sunday, July 9, 2017


Today marks what would be my maternal grandfather's one hundred and fifth birthday. My grandmother's was earlier this week and she would be one hundred and four. He outlived her by almost ten years. They were married for fifty-nine years and produced three children, only one of whom is still living. Of the original seven grandchildren, five remain. I am the oldest and was the closest to the grandparents both geographically and emotionally.

My grandfather grew up as the oldest son in a family of five, three of whom were girls. His father worked in lumber mills around the state eventually settling in the Fort Myers area where my grandfather graduated from high school. From the same area, my grandmother's family was and is well known. At the time of their marriage in 1934, this country was in the midst of the Great Depression and having refused the offer of a football scholarship in order to work and help his parents, my grandfather was fortunate to always have a job. Smart, handsome and adept at using almost any tool put before him, he was a quick study and always looking ahead for chances to better himself.

My mother was the first of his three children, and with a family to support, he was keen to secure their futures. When a friend told him of a job opening overseas in what what was then the Panama Canal Zone, he applied and was hired, becoming a government employee. This meant traveling three thousand miles and setting up house in a country near the equator in which neither he nor my grandmother knew a soul, two-year-old in tow.

Beyond the security of a job, pension and medical coverage, his life in the tropics offered him entree to a region chock full of beauty, bio-diversity, lush landscape and exposure to people, culture and language he might never have encountered otherwise. He grew to love his life there and considered himself lucky. He and my grandmother went on to have two more children and by the time of my arrival on their doorstep less than twenty years later, both were working, busily preparing teens to enter the world and anxious that their oldest find her feet following a short and not sweet marriage that ended in divorce.

Grandparents in their mid-forties, they became beacons of constancy for a baby girl whose future in the eyes of many remained uncertain. It was my grandfather who taught me to hang and swing from the clothesline, strengthening my arms, shoulders and hand grip. When the physical therapist suggested helping me walk, my grandfather built and painted a set of steps with railing attached so that I could learn to better balance and navigate stairs. It was he who endured my daily tears as he stretched, lifted and coaxed the muscles in my legs and arms to work so that I could move through the world under my own steam as a curious toddler. I think of him as I do many of those same exercises today, pain notwithstanding, and wonder at his resourcefulness and tenacity in distracting a crying child.

The last photo I have of him is in my current flat about a year before his passing. He is seated next to me grinning widely, our heads touching gently. Below is my favorite photo of him, circa 1962.

Until Next Time...

Friday, July 7, 2017

What Say You?

Plumbing work continues, the laundry has been picked up, the cat is ensconced in his kitty house on the screened porch after indulging his curious nature and exploring inside the kitchen wall next to my neighbor's tub, and it is quiet here. Whether for a minute or an hour, I know not.

In today's world, particularly in urban areas, quiet is becoming a thing of the past. While my locale is typically viewed as suburban, the constant hum of traffic punctuated by the sirens of law enforcement vehicles or ambulances is a daily occurrence as I live adjacent to an eight-lane roadway. When one adds the conversation of workmen or neighbors coming in and out, barking dogs, toilets and showers in use inside and the odd television or radio playing, the noise becomes too much, at least for me.

My builder advises against new windows as he says they will make no difference to the energy bill and were never meant as insulation against noise. This obviously runs counter to what window professionals preach and I am curious to know whether any of my readers have replaced old windows and found a difference of any kind. My current windows date from the seventies and are single-paned which I believe is part of the problem. Should I change them out, I may be obligated to purchase impact-resistant windows. These are pricey, so more research is in the offing.

Free of contractors, the flat is silent. I'm going to put my feet up. Happy weekend!

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Plumbing and...

It is midweek following a holiday and the plumbing work has begun. This is week three and there may well be another two weeks before things are wrapped up. Walls are thin in this place and the original builders did a lot of questionable things, not all of which can be undone.

The bath tub from the next flat is obvious once the rear wall of the kitchen is opened and while at work on the electrical for the stove, my builder spied a small leak as the next door neighbor was showering. The owner, who is a contractor, was contacted, and has since re-calked around his escutcheon plate and the tub spout. We hope this will resolve the issue but since it is only obvious when the shower or tub is running, we will ask to check before the new wall board is put up.

I wish I could say the holiday was restful but with idiots galore setting off bottle rockets all afternoon and most of the evening, the cat was jumpy and I was annoyed. More noise pollution we do not need. I did not attend any community fireworks displays because even as a kid I found them jarring.

Perhaps I really do need to find a cave...