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!