Monthly Archives: May 2018

Hi, my name is Windy, and I have black thumbs

I have always said that I am terrible at plants. I don’t have houseplants, I don’t know much about the things growing in my yard, and every time I’ve tried to have an herb garden it ends in shriveled brown disaster. All these plants? Dead by the time we sold our house (two months later).

I didn’t think it mattered much, until this spring. During Lent, I took a photograph of one thing every day that brought me joy. Looking back, I was surprised to see how many photos were of the outdoors – flowers and plants and sky and trees.

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It turned out that nature brought me a lot of joy, and since I wanted to carry that joy with me throughout the year, I resolved to spend more time outside – and to give plants another go.

Spending time outside is easy and pleasant. Our porch is my favorite place on earth, and I could sit there and watch Bebe and Hazel chase each other around the yard all day.

Incorporating more plants into my life felt like a challenge.

I have killed plants from Florida to Massachusetts and points in between. I have watched tomatoes flower, grow…and then wither from blossom end rot. I have neglected herbs and slaughtered orchids. I am unpersuaded by the Joanna Gaineses of the world, who stick plants everywhere and hashtag photos with #crazyplantlady.

I’m just crazy. No plants required.

However, I sucked it up and bought some baby plants. I went to an actual plant nursery and grilled some unfortunate employee for 30 minutes about the care and maintenance of the plants I was getting. I ended up with two different tomatoes, one jalapeno pepper, one pimiento pepper, and a variety of easygoing herbs.

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Almost two months later, everything is still alive! Holy smokes!

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My cherry tomato plant is making tomatoes. LIKE A BOSS.

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(Sorry it’s blurry, I got excited.)

Yes, I have to set reminders on my phone so that I water these guys. But they are bringing me unexpected amounts of gratification, as well. Now when we sit on the glorious porch, I am surrounded by my plants. I use my basil, parsley, and rosemary all the time, and even the mint has made several appearances this spring (especially around Derby day). I even brought home an orchid to keep inside. It’s…..um…. not doing great, honestly, but I’m trying to find a spot it likes.

This is the most success I’ve had with plants to date. I don’t think I’ll become a #crazyplantlady any time soon, but developing new skills and challenging myself to keep something alive has been pretty rewarding.

 

 

 

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Buy this house: Ahoy, Matey

In my ongoing quest to save all the houses, I recently took a peek inside this amazing – but dated – home in our neighborhood. Someone needs to buy it and hire me to re-design it. And by “hire” I mean “just let me do it, please PLEASE PLEASE.”

I mean, LOOK AT IT. It’s like the Boy Scouts went into residential architecture.

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If you are brave enough to embrace the quirky/unique front facade, you’re in for a treat. This 4 bedroom, 3 bathroom house is over 2500 square feet and sits on more than half an acre of land. It’s listed for $269,000, but it’s been on the market for a while.

The previous owner was clearly in the Navy or Coast Guard. There are anchors everywhere, and the kitchen door has a sign reading “Private Mess.” Although, I guess that could also be a commentary on someone’s cooking. I don’t know their life.

Let’s step inside, shall we?

One of my biggest problems with this house is that there are about seven different types of flooring throughout the space. There are tiles in the foyer, different tiles in the living room, parquet in the dining room, yet another tile in the kitchen, etc. Each of the bedrooms has different flooring. It’s baffling. So, to start, I would put down a single type of flooring throughout the house.

The foyer/entry is a good size, but daaaaark. It sports dark wood paneling on the lower half, and a dark woven wallpaper on the upper half. It’s….. a lot.

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Here’s a closeup of the wallpaper:

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In this space, I’d replace the sassy brass light fixture, replace the dark paneling with bright white wainscoting or board-and-batten, and freshen up the paint color. If there was a bit more money, I’d replace the front doors.

Like this:

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Moving on to the formal spaces. The living room runs off the foyer along the front of the house, then the dining room is at the corner, and the kitchen is along the side of the house. I would reconfigure this space so that the old kitchen and dining room became one large kitchen, and the living room became a good-sized dining room.

Here’s a picture taken from the corner of the dining room, which is also the corner of the house.

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I’d expand the opening into the now-living room (on the left), and take out the wall between the now-dining room and now-kitchen (on the right). Because this kitchen is 1) small and 2) not very awesome.

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The new kitchen would be roughly twice as long, and you could make it a double-sided galley kitchen, like this:

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Or an L-shaped kitchen:

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Continuing down the side of the house, we come to a washer/dryer closet and then the first of two master suites.

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Please note: yet another type of flooring, and the terrrrrrible, soul-crushing light fixture.  The same flat, square, recessed light is in every bedroom.

I think ideally I would borrow some space from the kitchen to make a proper laundry room and walk-in closet. But barring that, new flooring, new lighting, and paint would go a long way to improving this room.

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The bathroom has plenty of space. I’d replace the vanity cabinet , re-tile the shower, and maybe move the toilet to the sink wall (but moving plumbing fixtures adds a lot of dollars). I’d also rip out that wallpaper and burn it in the yard. Dayum.

The house is basically U-shaped, and we’ve now covered the right arm of the U. Now let’s go back to the center of the U, which is this quite-frankly-amazing room at the heart of the house.

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Again, there is a LOT going on in the room, texture-and-color-wise, but it would be pretty easy to simplify. I’d remove the paneling, replace the floor, and (if the homeowner could not embrace the rock climbing wall/fireplace surround) cover that fireplace wall with brick, stucco, or more millwork to echo the foyer.

Like so:

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The back of the room makes almost no sense:

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The bi-fold doors and smoked-glass windows look out on… a hallway. I’d remove the entire back wall and side wall to open up the interior corridors, which are dark and cramped. If safety was a concern, I’d add a waist-high metal railing or a half-wall around the corner. And, despite its awesomeness, that bar would probably have to go.

The left side of the house’s U-shape consists of three bedrooms and two bathrooms. The middle bedroom is very small, and has no closet. I would cannibalize that space to upgrade the master suite, adding a walk-in closet and expanding the bathroom.

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Also: burning the very, very plush floral carpet. Shudder.

The bathroom features reflective patterned wallpaper. Everywhere.

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Both master suites, as well as the living room, open onto a large multi-level deck.

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There’s a detached garage with workshop, and a paved courtyard at ground level.

Despite the dated appearance, the house was clean and looked well-maintained. It just needs someone to love it. With the interior opened up some, it would be a great house for a family, or for entertaining – or both.

If you’d like to see this house, call a realtor. If you don’t have one, use mine – her name is Patty Wilson, and she’s great.

 

 

 

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Deja Vu, All Over Again

Yesterday I attended a memorial service. It was held at the same church where we memorialized my mom, and was attended by many of the same people. The same violinist played. The same platters of tiny sandwiches and bowls of punch were waiting for us in the same fellowship hall.

It was eerily, terribly familiar.

The service was for Betty Rosenbloom, one of my mom’s oldest friends. They were a few years apart in age, but grew up at Riverside Presbyterian Church together. In 1983, both my family and Betty’s family moved to Sherwood Road, across the street and a few doors down from each other.

Growing up, we had a very tight-knit street. In the evenings, neighbors would wander down to each other’s houses for visits that would stretch into the night. We kids would ride bikes, or play in the vacant lot, or watch Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

Betty’s middle son, Hoyt, was in my grade, and her younger son Carter was around my brother’s age. I joke that my first co-ed sleepover was at the Rosenblooms, when my parents were there late one night and I fell asleep.

Hoyt and I are the same age. We went to the same church, the same schools, and even rowed on the crew team together. We were always friendly, but never friends. I have tried to explain it to Jason, and the best I can come up with is, “We were children together.” We grew up in the same time and place.

Betty and mom frequently served as team chaperones on our many crew trips in high school.

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Spring 1998

Betty and Percy were close to my parents, and felt like a second set of parents to me. When my father was diagnosed with kidney cancer, mom and I immediately drove to the Rosenblooms’ to research the disease online and discuss strategy. Percy delivered a eulogy at my father’s funeral.

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October 2009

Betty collected rescue animals and re-homed them. In 2013, she collected an elderly Boston Terrier named Boots, who came to live with us here in Tallahassee.

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October 2013

 

Betty was diagnosed with leukemia within months of my mom being diagnosed with her brain tumor. We joked about them getting adjoining rooms at the Mayo Clinic. Betty was in and out of the hospital over the last years of mom’s life, and the Rosenblooms came to visit mom in Tallahassee – together and separately. Betty was not able to come to mom’s funeral, and I still remember how upset she was on the phone when she told me.

When she died last week, I finally began to experience what everyone else must have felt when my parents died. It was a terrible shock. Because I live a few hours away, I had to make do with updates from her friends. I didn’t want to bother the family. I thought about them almost constantly. I wept for them.

I had a hard time making it through her memorial service. I felt so many layers of grief – for Betty, for my mom, even for my dad. The service took place one day after the fifteenth anniversary of his death, and the sanctuary was packed – just like for his service.

I wish I could say I have learned the magic formula for getting through such a terrible loss. But I find myself utterly unprepared. It’s weird and uncomfortable to be on this side of a death. I don’t know what to do, or say, and I find myself uttering the same trite phrases I heard over and over just seven month ago.

I find myself with a whole new set of awful skills to learn.

 

 

 

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