Category Archives: home improvement

A Burden Lifted

Song Lyric of the Day:

Oh, and once it held laughter / Once it held dreams … If there’s love in a house, it’s a palace for sure / But without love it ain’t nothin’ but a house

Tom Waits / “House Where Nobody Lives

If you’ve read here at all the last few years or you know me personally, then you know we moved out of our A-frame when I was pregnant with Coraline — about eight years and five months ago, to be precise. You also know we were not able to find buyers for it, so we ended up renting it out. Over and over and over. In between tenants we would try to sell the house. Of the five real estate agents we had in six years, only one got us to a contract, which the buyer then backed out of at the last minute. Turns out the sixth time — specifically the sixth real estate agent* in 8+ years — was the charm as WE FINALLY SOLD THE A-FRAME.

To say Rich and I were on pins and needles as we approached the late-August closing is an understatement. We didn’t tell anyone — at least I didn’t — because we were afraid to jinx things when it was looking so promising (if you know me, you also know I can be irrationally superstitious). A young couple with two little girls who call the A-frame “the treehouse” are now the new owners, and we couldn’t be happier. The house was bought by people who truly love it. There won’t be any more renters causing destruction and chaos and stress in our lives. (Not all our renters were bad — the first were great, in fact — but it turns out there are things professional background checks just cannot tell you.) There’s now a new family to love the house and make it their own, which made finally selling the house a genuinely happy occasion for all of us.

Now that the A-frame is sold, we are looking forward to investing in the house we live in, now our ONLY house, which is more of an adjustment than I’d expected. Turns out it’s a hard habit to break, saying the street name of your house so you know which one you’re talking about. Now when we start a list of house projects that need to be taken care of, it can simply be titled House Projects. It’s a good feeling.

Rich and I are looking forward to taking care of things that our house needs taken care of — like new eaves and gutters, a drainage issue in the backyard, and chimney repairs, to name a few — that we had to put off while all our attention (and money) was focused on the A-frame. I can’t quite put into words what it means to finally be able to start truly making our house a home, but I look forward to trying.

A-Frame Exterior

Farewell to a beloved home

*Again, a MILLION thanks to Brandon Hutchison of Hutch & Howard with Keller-Williams here in Knoxville. Brandon and his partner Rob Howard and their right-hand woman Carrie Mays pulled off what, after so many years, truly felt impossible.

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Filed under home, home improvement, home selling, homebuying, house, personal, real estate

Quick Zone Organization

Song Lyric of the Day:

I threw your shit into a bag and pushed it down the stairs / I crashed my car into the bridge / I don’t care, I love it / I don’t care

Icona Pop / “I Love It

I used to be super organized, like Monica Geller organized. I sorted mail as soon as I got it. I could see the top of my desk. Everything was neat, orderly, and in its place. Then I got older. I got busier. And now I’m mom to an energetic toddler (like there’s any other kind, right?) whose hobbies including following me everywhere. I even have a secret closet of shame (my home office closet), just like Monica. So in order to not go insane when the house gets too cluttered and disorganized, I’ve started tackling little zones one at a time. That way I can restore order and get organized without getting overwhelmed. I can also still keep an eye on Coraline (assuming Rich isn’t around or she just wants to “help” me) since I’m working on a small area. And since I’m tackling small areas, it doesn’t take a lot of time to get each spot tidied up. Over the last few months, I’ve organized some former wastelands of kitchen cabinets, the dining room buffet and china cabinet, and bookcases, among other areas. I can even see the top of my desk again! Which is nothing short of a miracle, believe me.

One of my more recent zone organization projects was this disaster of an open-front kitchen cabinet:


We did not use this space well at all.

The counter area directly underneath was also not much better.


See how the bread is shoved to the back wall? If it’s not, our dog Troubadour will eat that whole loaf.

I actually kind of liked the corner on the other end of the counter where our collection of Food Network Magazines lived. But then one day it all escaped being soaked by water by oh, a centimeter or so because the file boxes were directly next to the kitchen sink. They had to be moved after that.


The magazine collection lived in one of our appliance garages.

One night after we put Coraline to bed, I got motivated to finally tackle these trouble spots because they were not only eyesores, they weren’t terribly practical or making the best use of the space available.

I removed a shelf from the open-front cabinet to make room for the rest of our cookbooks, several or which were stored in a cabinet (which I also later organized).


Cookbooks within reach

I then moved our magazine collection to underneath the cookbooks, where they wouldn’t be in any danger of getting soaked by water. I also finally tackled the pile of clutter (mostly my doing, I admit) that was growing by the day.


Now I can look at this area of the kitchen without wanting to scream.

Voila!: A couple of zones organized, and it took less than an hour. Now I just need to work on not re-cluttering that counter space …


Filed under home, home improvement, home organization, organization

So Very Close

Song Lyric of the Day:
So tired, so tired, so tired / So take me home / It’s getting late for me / I’ll come if you wait for me / Let’s get out of this place

Basement Jaxx / “Take Me Back to Your House

This week is wearing me out (hence this nocturnal blog post). As I mentioned the other day, being back at work is exhausting. And last night I went with Rich to help finish cleaning the A-frame. Which is why today my feet and ankles are swollen and I’m back to looking like a Puerto Rican Hobbit.

Anyhoo, I digress. The house is looking fab, if I say so myself. Rich and our awesome contractor, B., (to be named at a later date when we can share him with the world) have spent countless hours busting their asses working on the A-frame. Along the way, we’ve had help from family and friends, with my awesome father-in-law putting in almost as much time as Rich and B. have. So here are a few photos from the MLS listing.

Master bedroom: fresh paint, all-new lighting, wood-burning fireplace
Kitchen: new microwave/range hood over range
Kitchen: tons of cabinets and countertop surface

Living room: wood-burning fireplace with new screen, mountain view from windows, stripped carpet to reveal finished hardwood floors*
Living room: spiral stairs to loft; carpet removed from stairs*, steps stained and finished
Living room: UV-film-protected windows and stained glass

Loft view of the living room below
Loft: view from the back wall
Loft within the loft: new lighting

Keep in mind that the house has three full (and one half) baths, all three of which were completely remodeled. Actually, the bathrooms got the bulk of the remodeling. Go figure — now that we’re in our new house, the A-frame finally has my dream master bath. At least it’ll soon (God willing) be the dream master bath for new owners.

*Other than cleaning and minor tasks suitable for a pregnant woman, I yanked thousands of staples out of the living room floor and spiral stairs. And the main staircase leading from the first to the second floor, too. I couldn’t do a whole lot of intensive physical labor (obviously), but I was like the Shake ‘n’ Bake girl: “And I helped!”

Pregnant lady driven mad by home improvement. No husband was harmed during the taking of this photo.

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Filed under home improvement, home selling, personal, remodeling

My Husband, My Hero

Song Lyric of the Day:

He’s gotta be strong / And he’s gotta be fast / And he’s gotta be fresh from the fight / I need a hero / I’m holding out for a hero ’til the morning light

Bonnie Tyler / “Holding Out for a Hero

Rich and I are now happily ensconced in our new house. We are, however, still finishing up projects on the A-frame to get it listed and sold ASAP. Up until last week, I was helping out with grunt work: stripping carpet off stairs, popping/pulling thousands of staples out of the floors and staircases, cleaning up trash, and so on. You know — little things that even a pregnant woman can do.

Even before I got put on bedrest this week, Rich was working overtime, along with our contractor, to get house projects wrapped up. We now spend most evenings apart, with me at the new house and him working at the old one. Pretty much every day he gets up, goes to work, comes home to check on me, then heads to the A-frame to work; this week he even squeezed in some lunchtime pop-ins. The other night he didn’t get home until 12:30AM, only to get up at 8AM to do it all over again.

He’s painted almost every room in the house: Helped pull staples out of the floors until they looked new again:

And worked on countless other projects: bathroom demo, installing new fixtures, wiring new lights. Through it all he’s managed to also take care of me, made sure Coraline and I are OK, and done what needs to be done to get the house ready for sale. I thank him all the time for his hard work, but it doesn’t feel like enough. Words can’t express how much I appreciate everything he’s done for our family of late, working his ass off on the old house (and you can bet I’ll let Coraline know how hard her daddy worked before her arrival). He’s also done this while experiencing near-crippling pain in his hands and arms (a muscle condition for which he’s taking physical therapy). Did I mention he’s barely complained about how tired he is from working nonstop? He’s had more complaints about his hand and arm pain than he has about the sheer amount of work he’s been doing and which still needs to be done. We’re so close to the finish line …

So while words seem pathetically inadequate at this point, I had to share how proud I am of him and how I simply cannot express how much I appreciate his hard work. It’ll all be worth it when the A-frame sells quickly (because it’s looking AWESOME), and then we can take our sweet time starting projects on the new house. One at a time, of course.

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Filed under home improvement, marriage, personal

My Life’s in Turnaround

Song Lyric of the Day:

Whenever I look back / On the best days of my life / I think I saw them all on T.V. / I am so homesick now for / Someone that I never knew / I am so homesick for / Someplace I will never be

The Bravery / “Time Won’t Let Me Go”

In addition to losing Yum Yum and Snoops this summer, my first boss recently passed away, too. He was a really great man, the kind of person you’re fortunate to have as your first boss at your first job. I’m glad I got to see him not too long ago; I only wish I’d talked to him a bit longer.
Still, not everything of late has been doom and gloom. To wit:

  • I celebrated yet another birthday recently (September 17)
  • Our two new sofas were finally delivered (Frankencouch© was happily accepted by our dog nephew, Moose). And it only took nine weeks (two to five weeks my ass)
  • Several home improvement projects are coming to completion
  • My dream closet is 75% (if you ask Rich, 80% if you ask me) complete — I could sleep in there, there’s so much room!
  • Satan has not yet reclaimed Troubadour as his puppy
  • I’m reconnecting with old friends
  • We now have two dual-tuner HD DVRs, so I’m on TV overload

One of the best things to happen of late was that my husband reminded me why I married him: he’s an awesome, kickass guy. Sneaky, too. He organized a surprise birthday party for me the Sunday before my birthday. The kicker? He got everyone to chip in and buy me my Pottery Barn desk as my present. (I kept putting off buying it since I’m making headway with my last remaining credit card. Being practical can be a real drag.) My new desk is awesome — and huge! I can invite a few friends over, and we can play Fort under it, it’s so big. So thanks again to Rich for being the best husband in the world, and thanks also to my family and friends who chipped in and made my birthday far better than I expected, or deserved, for it to be this year.

Hands-down, though, the best thing to happen lately is that my nephew, Elliott, was born healthy and happy on September 2. He inadvertently stole my sister, Samantha’s, birthday thunder, but she’s OK about that — she gets to be the “cool” aunt with whom he’ll always share the big day. I, however, will always have gum. Here’s the first picture I took of him; I had to use my camera phone since Vanessa ended up having an emergency C-section and it’s all I had with me.

He’s now 27 days old and the newest love of my life. He’s happy and healthy, and Vanessa and Ken have taken very naturally, and admirably, to parenthood. I can’t wait to see the personality the little guy develops.

El Burrito Elliott


Filed under baby, family, home improvement, life, nephew


Song Lyric of the Day:

Music is my boyfriend / Music is my girlfriend / Music is my dead end / Music’s my imaginary friend

Wow. Been a while since I’ve updated, although I have managed to Twitter more lately. In a nutshell, life’s been kicking my ass lately, both personally and professionally. The personal stuff is causing all kinds of off-the-charts stress. So is work in its own way, but it’s job security and I’m learning new stuff, so I won’t complain. What the hell have I been up to? The rundown:

Hi, My Name Is Pam
I dressed as Pamela Voorhees to celebrate Halloween at work; my coworkers and friends Ron and Jeremy went as Jason from Friday the 13th Part II (burlap sack) and Jason From Friday the 13th Part III on (hockey mask), respectively. It was basically My Two Homicidal Sons. And me in my short blond wig? Not a good thing. So not my color. It also turns out I’m pretty clumsy wielding a plastic machete. Although I’m quite skilled with an actual machete (don’t ask).

Two Down, Two to Go
I paid off two credit cards. Yay me! I’ll attack the remaining two once the holidays are over.

Back on Track
Rich and I are once again doing the healthy eating and exercise thing. It may sound futile in the face of Thanksgiving, but we realized we were essentially still on the eating binge that started last Thanksgiving. We’re tired of feeling blah and looking just as blah, so we’re working on it. I’ve cut back significantly on my soda intake, but it’ll be a cold day in hell before I completely give it up.

Home, ImprovementsNothing major, but it’s amazing what our pretty new curtains and fancy new little trash cans have done for our bedroom. The dark, copper-colored trash cans really pop against the pale birch furniture, while our chocolate-colored curtains do the same; added bonus: they transform our bedroom into the completely lightless cave we dreamed of. I no longer have raccoon face in the mornings since I no longer need to put my sleep mask on to block out the morning sun’s evil, evil rays. Add in fancy new doorknobs, and our room is really shaping up.

421 Words
The last progress I was able to make on my book. Not. Enough. Time. So far, this month has been more like NoNoWriMo (my friend came up with that) than either NaNoWriMo or NaBloPoMo.

Rich and I finally applied for our passports. The catalyst? A trip next year to Uruguay with our faboo friends Richard and Donna. Of course, every time I talk about it, I remember that Simpsons episode where Homer points at Uruguay on a globe and laughs “Hehehe. U are gay.”

…And Scene!
This weekend will mark my third week of acting class. I’m taking it through the Actors Coop and my instructor is the very talented Sara Schwabe. Turns out it’s a lot of fun practicing soft focus, finding your center, and running lines with total strangers.

And now back to work. I’m working from home each night this week, because, as I mentioned earlier, work is kicking my ass.

*This is the song used in that cool new iPod Touch commercial. Not to be confused with a song that is actually named “Music Is My Boyfriend” by Skye Sweetnam. Which is also a perfectly good song.

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Filed under home improvement, life, work

How Pattie Got Her Snooze Back

Song Lyric of the Day:

Goes from zero to 60 in three point five / Baby you got the keys / Now shut up and drive / (Drive, drive, drive)

Rihanna / “Shut Up and Drive

Well, somehow I made it through last week. Mostly because I mainlined gallons of delicious, caffeine-laded soda (“pop” to my extended family in Iowa and South Dakota). But, really, driving 2,328 miles round-trip through five states and back takes a while to recover from. And that time estimate of 15 hours? Wayyyyy off. By a few hours. So what was last week like?

First Meal of the Day: Dinner
Since Rich and I didn’t get home until 3AM Monday morning (thank God Papa Doug rode home with us and helped with some of the driving), we took Monday as our fifth and last day of bereavement leave to sleep in. And did we ever sleep in — we woke up for the day at 2:30PM. My awesome parents, sister, and brother-in-law were gracious enough to keep Snoops and Caleb one night longer than we’d anticipated, and for that we can’t thank them enough. Not having to worry about waking up early to feed and walk them allowed us to get the sleep we desperately needed. As it is, it was all we could do to muster the energy to go and pick our kids up. Both dogs pretty much crapped out as soon as we got them home. Snoops spent the previous six days chasing cats around my parents’ house, while Caleb exhausted himself playing with his cousins, particularly his horse collar-wearing Mastiff cousin, Moose, his new BFF.

A Phantom Menace

I had an ENT appointment to try and get to the bottom of the aggravating, ever-present, seemingly phantom congestion I still feel in
my left nostril. Hard to believe, but after my painful sinus surgery last year, I honestly believed I’d be breathing easy. Silly me. The good news is that, as my doctor put it, everything is fine mechanically. So that day I accidentally smacked my still-recuperating nose and that extra-hard nose bump Caleb gave me not long after didn’t undo or break anything. The bad news? Seems some of my allergies might be back. I’m now using a new nasal spray to see if it finally clears up the congestion. It’s only the thirtieth or so nasal spray I’ve used in my life, so surely this will be the magic one, right? Fingers crossed!

Workin’ for a Livin’
I got through the work week. Somehow.

Superdragin’ the Day After
Rich and I caught the Friday night Superdrag show at Barley’s Taproom & Pizzeria. I, of course, felt like the proverbial old woman since the show started at 10PM, also known as The Time Pattie Gets Into Her Jammies. As it is, the opening act, Mic Harrison and the High Score (pretty cool band), didn’t take the stage until about 10:30PM. By the time Superdrag hit the stage, it was almost 11:45PM. Rich and I were energetic enough throughout most of the show, but by the time it ended at about 1:40AM, we were both so pooped we could barely clap. Sure, we got hom
e at 2AM, but it was totally worth it. Not only did we enjoy a great show (although I wished they’d performed “Baby Goes to 11”), but we got to say hi to John Davis, the group’s lead singer and a friend of ours from high school.

Another Weekend Down the Drain
After sufficiently recuperating from the Superdrag concert, Rich and I tackled myriad home improvement and organizational tasks. It was tiring, but it felt good to restore a bit of order to the house after having been away. Our new entertainment center (in black-brown) is assembled and full of DVDs and our guest bathroom now has a new toilet, giving us a grand total of four brand-new toilets throughout the house. Now we just need new tubs and show
ers. And a couple thousand dollars with which to buy them.

Booking It
I managed to work on my book a bit more. Yay me. Third chapter, here I come.


That’s about all I can think of tonight. Hopefully I can continue catching up on my TV shows this week so I can write a bit about the fall season so far. Although I did manage to (barely) watch most of Viva Laughlin‘s (already gone from premiere the other night. I couldn’t stop watching. It was one of those “I know something horrible is going to happen so I absolutely cannot dare to look away now and should make popcorn to munch on while I watch” compulsions. Which is why I wasn’t remotely surprised to read it got canceled today, making it the season’s first major casualty. Here’s hoping producer and guest star Hugh Jackman takes some consolation in the fact that he’s the hottest mutant to ever grace the big screen. Be strong, Hugh. Be strong.

Before I go, let me say thanks to those of you who’ve left comments, emailed, and passed your condolences along in person. The support really means a lot.

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Filed under home improvement, knoxville, road trip, traveling

To Do This Weekend

Song Lyric of the Day:

You’ve got the music in you / One dance left / This world is gonna pull through

New Radicals / “You Get What You Give


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Filed under first Friday, home improvement, tv