Sunday, December 22, 2013


We don't have our tree yet.  That's because we've been painting the living room, so the place where we would normally put the tree looks like this.

On a positive note, I did get the front door done.

Yes, I know.  It's a bit minimalist.  It looks great at night with the spotlight shining on it.  Also, I still haven't finished the shopping, done no wrapping at all, and we are just now going to take our family Christmas photo today.  That would be December 22.

Do you feel better now about where you are in your holiday chore list?  I hope so.

This has been a public service announcement.  Merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 14, 2013


Yes, it did.  I came home to find this.

The hook came off the door.  My husband said it was because it was too cold for the glue to work.  Really?  Is that a thing -- glue that doesn't work in winter?

Anyway, as advertised, it did NOT damage the paint.  I decided to put a nail in the back of the door (on the inside of the house) and hang the wreath on a long ribbon looped over the top of the door.

I know ... you're in awe of my creative thinking.

I found a nail.  But I couldn't find a hammer.  That's because our tool drawer looks like this.

And trust me, there is no hammer in there.  There's supposed to be a hammer in there, but there isn't, and no one seems to know where that hammer is.  We also have one of those little utility hammers that features a screwdriver inside, which we keep in the kitchen, but when I found it,

only the screwdriver was left.  The hammer was nowhere to be found.  Perhaps my teenage boys are eating hammers.  They eat everything else.

So then I just began to hunt for anything I could use to pound a nail into a door.  I considered rocks (too cold outside to hunt for one) and various heavy items around the house, but finally settled on this.

I don't what it is.  But it did the job.  I pounded the nail into the back of the door, and looped a lovely red ribbon over the whole shebang.

Looks great right?  Or ... is it a little low?

After worrying over it for a day, I raised it up.

And I haven't even started on the front door.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013


I haven't posted recently, and I feel terrible about that.  I have just been too busy with other obligations.  But now it's time to get back to blogging, and to enter the spirit of the season with some holiday decorations.

We order a lovely Christmas wreath every year from the Boy Scouts.  It was delivered this weekend, and I always hang it on our side door.  This year, we had just painted the door, so the hook that I had used last year had been removed and I needed to apply a new hook. 

No problem.

I used one of these stick on deals.  They apply easily and don't damage the paint, which will make my husband happy, since he is the one who painted the door to begin with.

First you have to swab the area with alcohol and let it dry.  I had to go upstairs and get the rubbing alcohol.  I wanted to use a paper towel, but the kitchen roll was empty, so I went down to the basement to get a new roll and saw this.

An appalling pile of laundry.  I have been doing 5 loads a day for a week - and it still looks like this.  The boys went camping (lots of smokey smelling clothes and long underwear), we went to Florida over Thanksgiving (bathing suits and tennis clothes), and the dog had a couple of baths (TOWELS). 

So I threw in another load, and then went up with the paper towels.  On the stairs up I saw this --

Flip flops - from the Florida trip.  Still not put away.  I put them away.  Then I swabbed the door.  I waited for it to dry.  Then I peeled off the sticker and pressed the hook against the door for 30 seconds, per the instructions. 

Then you have to wait, a full hour, before you can use it.  During the time I:  did 2 more loads of laundry, dragged piles of clean laundry upstairs to leave them on the beds, went through 3 days of mail, paid the utility bill, packed up a birthday present for shipping, unloaded the dishwasher, talked to my mother on the phone, ate dinner, cleaned up dinner and then ---

OOPS, that was way more than an hour.  Just as I was getting ready for bed, I remembered, I can hang the wreath!

But it was dark out by then and I could barely see the stupid hook.  So I hung the wreath first thing the next morning.

Holiday decorating is so easy!

Wednesday, November 6, 2013


We had a fun Halloween this year.  The kids didn't dress up, really, but we did decorate.   I always put a skeleton on the front door.

This was the first year in a while that we had good Halloween weather.  Last year, the holiday was ruined by Super Storm Sandy.  And the year before that

 it snowed.

We've had that skeleton a long time -since the boys were so little they couldn't even pronounce the word skeleton.  He's pretty dusty and torn in a few places, but he must be holding up well, because he can still ...

touch his toes.

We had friends over, and ate fried chicken and drank margaritas, so I didn't feel so bad that my kids were too old to dress up and trick or treat ... (sob!)  At least I got to eat a bunch of fun-size Three Musketeer bars - my favorite.

Then the skeleton went back to the attic with his friend Frank.


Happy November!

Tuesday, October 8, 2013


I am so excited to finally be able to say ... my first book of columns is on sale now through Amazon.  You can read it on your Kindle, or your tablet, or your iPhone.  You can even download software and read it on your home pc. 

The book is a collection of newspaper columns from The Bergen Record, The Philadelphia Inquirer and several other papers I wrote for on a freelance basis.   This was back in the day when newspapers had money for humor columnists.  Although several years have passed since these were first in print, the same themes of clutter, chaos and minor catastrophes will keep you laughing - proving yet again that "La plus ca change, la plus c'est le stupid closet is still a mess."

I think you'll really like it, and as a special gift to all who read my blog, I am posting one of my favorite entries from the book here.  Enjoy ... and thanks for reading me.


During the last days of summer I came across a magazine that someone had left lying around at the pool.  It breathlessly declared all the fun fashion that awaited me this fall and spelled out the 971 absolute must-haves I would need for the coming months.  Nine Hundred.  Seventy One.  Absolute.  Must-Haves. 

People, we’re talking an ABSOLUTE must have.  In case you were thinking that you could sneak by with say, 450 might-haves, or 600 would-be-fun-to-haves, you are wrong.  There are 971 absolute must-haves, and if you can’t manage that, well, what can I say?  Just put on a bathrobe and drive off a cliff.
I don’t know which is more disturbing:  the fact that the must-haves are absolute, or the fact that there are a staggering 971 of them.  I wasn’t aware there were 971 things I wanted, let alone needed.  I thought lists like this were relegated to a “top ten” type of deal.  Just a fast pass at the basics.  But apparently, while I’ve been losing elasticity and buying ill-fitting low riders without taking the time to try them on, the basics have been expanded.

Well, I thought, I’ll check my closet.  Out of the 971 items, I may have 150 of the must-haves already.   That would be a good start.  Alas, upon checking, I did not have 150 must-haves.   In fact, I don’t have 150 of anything.  My grand total of wardrobe items hovers around 100.  And that’s counting all shoes, belts and an evening gown I never wear.

I certainly do not have:  Knee high calfskin boots in military green; a plaid wool bustier; a white velour fedora.  What I do have is 12 don’t-really-fit-anymores, 5 has-underarm-stains, and 6 only-wear-on-thin-days.  I am just not put together.  Luckily, the magazine also offers me “237 looks I’ll live in.” 

This is probably more looks than I need.  I only have two looks that I live in now.  One is the “I’m just at home with the kids today” look and the other is the “I’m going out to a meeting/dinner/party and this was the best I could do in the fifteen minutes I had between cleaning up for the babysitter and taking the dog out one last time” look.

Maybe I could up the ante to 25 looks I’ll live in.  I comb the pages in search of a new me.

There are extra-long and luxurious scarves, and ultra wide leg pants, both of which look like they’d get caught in my minivan door.  There is a short print dress that hits you mid-thigh, you know, the part where the thigh starts to get really fat, and you wear it with big, clunky boots.  I can imagine myself thundering across the playground to corral a disobedient child as my butt flaps out enticingly from beneath the short hemline. 

There are little vests and jaunty knit caps that evoke the bygone era of high style from the sitcom “One Day At A Time”.  Have you gotten that look yet?  ‘Cause that look is super important!

As I survey my clothes with a critical eye, I realize there is only one must-have I need - a comfortable and flattering pair of jeans.   I am not sure what is going on with pants these days.  They have all these classifications like classic rise, low rise, super low rise, mid rise, short rise.  In practice, there are only two kinds of rise – one is so high you look like a dork and the other is so low that you can’t tuck a shirt in. 

My must-have is a pair of pants that comes up higher than my fat roll but lower than my belly button.  The waist would be snug, but not so tight that it makes my squishy tummy bulge out when I sit down.  The rise would long enough so that when I bend down to tie a shoe I don’t feel a breeze across my backside, and I wouldn’t have to worry about my underwear peeking out.  The look would be slimming from all directions.  That’s what I call a must-have, and if I could find it, I’d buy 971 of them.

Monday, September 23, 2013


As I was vacuuming last week, I suddenly realized I forgot to sweep out the fireplace after the winter ended last year.

(I also forgot to get a decent camera.   This flash stinks.  Oh well.)

So I've gone all summer with a messy, ashy, fireplace and I never even noticed.  Help.

Then I realized I forgot to read the newspapers this weekend.  And last weekend.

Yes, that is a knife on top of the newspapers.  Actually, it's a dagger.  Don't worry, it's plastic.  I guess I also forgot to teach my kids not to leave their toy weaponry all over house.  Thanks for asking.

I also realized I forgot to put up my Halloween decorations, unlike this house did.

Yes, I realize you can't see that.  (I need a new camera.  See above.)  In any case, this house has orange lights, a pumpkin, and a little friendly ghost hanging from the tree.  Do they know it's not even October?  People in New Jersey are way too enthusiastic about holiday decorations.  I bet their fireplace was spanking clean all summer.  Sigh.

Luckily, I did not forget to work on my book.  It should be ready in a few days.  When it comes out, I will post a sample essay FREE to all.  Hooray!

Sunday, September 15, 2013


We're all back in the groove here.  Which is to say, we're losing our minds.  Work + school +  homework + chores + scouts + band = chaos.

This is our homework cabinet.  We keep it super organized and tidy so that homework goes smoothly and quickly.  NOT.

We kick off our shoes wherever we want - like right in the middle of a high traffic area so they can easily be tripped over.

When we do homework, we leave half-eaten snacks all over the place ...

and banana peels in the laundry room trash can next to old socks and dryer lint.  Yes, it is chaos.  I haven't even unpacked the pool bag, which still sits in a dining room corner filled with sunscreen, pool tags and sunglasses.  It wonders what happened to summer.

So do I.

If you're enjoying some autumn chaos - I have a treat for you.  Very soon I will be publishing a "Better Living Through Chaos" collection of columns.  Yes!  It's true!  Twenty-seven of my best columns that previously ran in The Bergen Record, The Philadelphia Inquirer, New York Times and a several other newspapers.  

If you used to read me, and miss my columns, you can enjoy them again, all in one place.  If you never got to read those columns ... you will love reading them now.  Chaos never gets old.

Speaking of which, remember the adorable patio?

Two days ago we had a torrential downpour and had to hastily drag the cushions inside.  We've been too busy to take them out again.

Chaos.  It's not so bad when you get used to it.

Thursday, September 5, 2013


Just in time for Labor Day, the patio makeover was finally finished.  Here is the satisfying photo montage of the process.  It looks quick and efficient here, but believe me, it took weeks ....

First ... a jumble.  The sofa and chairs need repair, and those yellow cushion covers are old/mildewed, and the wicker table needs paint ...

I started by repairing the sofa and chairs.  They have these old metal rungs which were covered with cloth that was rotting from age  ...

 So I took the old cloth off.


Then I replaced it with new, Sunbrella material, which is indoor/outdoor fabric.  I just cut to fit and nailed it in with small furniture nails.

The fabric dries quickly after getting wet, and it gives nice support to the cushions so they don't just slide through the rungs when you sit on them.  Please notice the small ottoman in the foreground.  I got two of these by curb shopping one morning, which means someone was throwing them out (they were at the curb with the garbage) and I took them home.  The rattan matches the sofa and chairs, but the cushions were dirty and the wrong color.

No problem for me.

First, I had my son fix the bottoms, which were coming unglued.

I also had him fix some chair legs that had rotted.  He sawed a piece of wood from a pole we had hanging around the garage (Boy Scout lashing leftovers) and nailed it into the broken leg, then used some duct tape to secure it completely.

It works perfectly and the chair is completely even now.

My other son didn't want to help at all, so he pretended to be dead.  I didn't believe him.

See that round wicker table in the middle of the mess?  Can you believe someone was just going to throw that away?  Yes, I curb shopped that, too.  It was in perfect condition and needed no repairs.  I had my undead son spray paint it to match the other burgundy wicker.  Actually, he only did the primer coat before disappearing inside, so I did the rest.  I don't care.  I love spray painting.

Now it was time to sew new cushion covers.  I wanted to do something gardeny and floral.  I picked this swatch ...

The burgundy, black and green would have been super chic and functional.  I bought ten yards.  My husband hated it.  "Hate" is a strong word, but here it applies.  The store let us exchange it, and we chose a really cool plaid.

We loved in the store.  We loved it at home.  At first.  After a couple of hours we realized we didn't really like it for the patio.  It looked too "den" and not enough "patio."  So we went fabric shopping again.  Shopping for fabric has been the most time-consuming part of the entire makeover.

We could not agree on anything, so I decided to just go with a green that was close to the green of the chairs, and not redo the chairs.  Then I had to choose fabric to cover the ottoman cushions in - something complimentary to the furniture but not matching.  I won't bore you with all the ideas that I almost did --  I think this post is already too long.

I took the cushions off the rattan, ripped the old fabric off to reveal the stuffing, which was in great shape.  For the new fabric I used some curtains I had made for the dining room but wasn't using at the moment.

I just cut it to fit and affixed it with thumb tacks.  Whenever I work with fabric, Baxter likes to be nearby.

He will use any part of it as a little bed.

Then I put the ottomans back together.  Here's how it all looks...

I am very happy with the results, although I still wish we used the black floral fabric.   But my husband and I have to agree on fabric, no matter how much it hurts.  (I don't even want to tell you about the adorable chinese toile that never got made into drapes three years ago.) We're married that way.

I finished it all on Sunday of Labor Day weekend.  That night we had people over for dinner.  And no one even went outside because it was so oppressively humid.  Actually, my older son and his friends did.  I just know they spent time admiring the darling decorative touches, because that's what all 16 year old boys like to think about.

The good news is we will use the patio for at least another 6 weeks before it gets too cold out.   Coffee in the morning, cocktails at night ... HOORAY!


Wednesday, August 28, 2013


The boys are at band camp this week.  Their rooms are tidy.  Their beds stay made.

There are no cereal bowls in the sink.  And it got me thinking ...

I miss these days!!

This was taken about 10 years ago.  Dressing up as fierce pirates/warriors/soldiers was a common pastime back then.

As luck would have it, I have been reliving some of these early chaotic memories as I assemble a collection of my past columns from my days with The Bergen Record.  I am very excited about having the best of that work all together in one place.

The book is almost ready and I will be putting it up on Kindle next week ... DIY is not just for patios!  It's for bloggers and authors, too! 

And speaking of patios ... yes, I'm still working on that.  I'm also playing tennis with my husband.  And watching the US Open with my husband.  And enjoying cocktails with my husband.  We like each other!

There's a lot to do while the kids are at band camp.  But at least I'm not doing this. 

Thursday, August 22, 2013


We finally fixed that hole in the backyard fence.

It wasn't really a hole as much as a gap that Baxter could easily squeak through.  In fact, he considered it his personal entrance/exit to the yard.  Because he could escape so readily, we have been keeping him out of the backyard all summer.

Until now.

And now that he has discovered the backyard, he can't get enough of it.  It's like he is saying:

"This has been here the WHOLE TIME?  How come I never knew about this?"

He barks his head off at bunnies, squirrels, birds, chipmunks and neighbors with weed wackers.  When he can't get outside, he has realized that he can simply hop up on the dining room window sill, and gaze out at the yard.

It's his new favorite place.

I have been very sick with a respiratory infection for the past couple of weeks, and my steadfast little Baxter never left my side.  Even though he knew about the backyard, when I was in bed resting, he would come up and lay at my feet for hours and hours.

He is very glad I'm up and around now.  Even better for him, I am spending time in the backyard conducting a glorious and budget minded patio makeover.

I've been curb shopping, and spray painting, and waving around fabric swatches.  It's very exciting. I even have the boys helping me.  They LOVE patio makeovers.  (Not.)

I promise a full photo spread when its all done, which will be sooner rather than later, because my new motto is:  Done is Better Than Perfect.

Baxter is helping with the makeover, too.

For instance, while I'm pulling weeds or painting wicker, he gets himself all wet by running through the grass, and then hops up on the sofa with a tennis ball.  Very helpful.

He's having so much fun, he could stay out there all day.

 Is it time to go in already?

Thursday, August 15, 2013


I was all set to write a lovely, peaceful post about beautiful weather, and patio furniture, and feeling lazy.  But I just couldn't sit down to do it, because ...

I had some dishes to do.  The sink is full, and I JUST loaded and started the dishwasher.  I am running the darn thing twice a day now.  I guess we are eating nonstop.  The kids have lunch and then snacks, and we cook dinner, or bake muffins, and there is never a time when the dishes are finished.

In fact, I'm pretty sure my teenaged boys' metabolisms have directly lined up with the dishwashing cycle:  the minute I finish loading, wipe the counters, and press "start", they are ready for another meal.

Today I even had to clean the stove, and then I actually ran out of counter space to put the dishes to dry ...

So I just balanced them all over the semi-naked stove. 

I refuse to dry dishes.  The air does that for me.  Life is too short for me to do something that the air is going to take care of anyway.

Especially when ...

It's a beautiful day for the town pool!  I can't wait to jump in ... and then air-dry myself.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013


When girls turn 16, they want a nice Sweet Sixteen party, or maybe a special night out with their girlfriends.  When boys turn 16, they want

cheese balls. 

My older son turned 16 a month ago, and I'm just blogging about it now.  He had a party, and it was everything I love about boys ... fun, no-nonsense, and a little messy.

He had a few close friends over to the house.  We had soda and snacks (see above.)  They played video games.  It was loud down in that basement.  Each boy brought their own controller. 

Per his request, we had "make your own" pizzas.  This meant that Mom made her own dough.  I usually do this for the family, and its no problem.  However, I did not think this through properly.  Making enough dough for all the guests meant triple the work for me.  I should have anticipated the kneads of the kids. 

We had lots of toppings to choose from:  onions, peppers, mushrooms, two different cheeses, pepperoni ...

Did you know that making your own pizza is actually a competitive sport that can turn heated and cause an unsafe amount of cheese piling?  It can when teenage boys do it.  They might have just been high on fructose because they drank about 8 liters of soda with the pizzas.  Apologies to their dentists.

Then we had cake.

Yeah.  It's plain.  Because when you're 16, and 6'2, and you're hanging with your friends and your Black Ops crew, you don't need decoration.  You just need the basics. 

And lots of milk.

It's been a great 16 years, although it feels more like 6 years because it went so fast. 

This is one of shoes he learned to walk in.  A little sandal I buckled and unbuckled hundreds of times. 

Here it is next to the boat he calls a shoe these days.  All I can say is ... lucky me.