Butthole. For Reals.



When it’s 95 degrees at 7pm, a gal is justified in being less-than-herself. That’s where I find myself as I write this.


I had wanted to tell you about some of my summer experiences. I’m hoping heat prostration doesn’t keep me from my task. First up, I visited Russian River Brewing Company in Santa Rosa…



It was pretty fabulous. That hour wait to get in wasn’t anything to write home about, but I guess that’s what happens when you’re the shit, and they surely are.



I also saw Miss Angie Dickinson at an event. To say I never knew how fabulous she was/is, well, that’s an understatement. The woman rules, y’all. Seriously.



And then there was The. French. Laundry. I can’t even begin to write about this meal, as it was the most mind-blowing dinner I’ve ever had. I know I’m speaking in absolutes here, but it’s true. I’ve had amazing food in my life, and I expect to have more. This was incomparable. Truly. I’m not sure it will be matched.  I haven’t fully processed that, either. For the record, Mister and I have tried for a few years to get a rezzie to this joint. It finally worked out.



Did it cost us? Oh, yeah. Big time. Was it worth it? Yes. Bigger time. (Were we our usual dorky selves? Do I really need to answer that? ) Let me tell you this – I would not hesitate to do it again. It was that magnificent.



There was also the yard project, which needs some T-L-C, as the goddamn sun is baking the hell out of it. Mister and I will work on that this weekend, though, and we’ll hope for the best. Well, I’ll hope for the best. I think Mister just believes. My inner cynic doesn’t always allow that.


Oh! And I had surgery. I’m still under doctor’s orders, but feeling pretty much like myself. So I’m grateful for that. The no-getting-in-the-pool part sucks, as, you know, a hundred and eleven-ty and all. But I know that this, too, shall pass. And I’ll be healthier for it. (See – Mister’s belief is catching.)



And while I was recovering from my surgery (and dealing with the heat), I watched some telly. What I finished was the third season of “Grace and Frankie.” (Loved the last episode so much. And – you have to be really good to take a photo of the screen and get both characters with their eyes closed. I’m just sayin’.) Then I started “Luther.” I had wanted to watch this for some time, so it was overdue. The first episode hooked me, so now I’m in it. Good living, don’t you know.



My summer has also taken me to Napa for the first time (not the last, I hope), Park City, Utah, where I was eaten alive by bugs – no lie, Boston, my old stomping ground, and home. I’ve been lucky to get around a bit. And even luckier to have a place to return. Not everyone has that, you know – a home. Mine is filled with love. And a ghost. I embrace it all.


Speaking of Miss Harmon, she asserted herself a couple of months ago. Mister said something or other about how her ghost had not been around for a while. I told him she’d popped up a few weeks prior and relayed the following tale. I was entering the front parlor, and the glass door that closes off that room was open, but not fully (it was away from the wall). I found that odd, and proceeded to close it. Or at least I tried. The door stopped about a foot and a half from the wall. As it’s clear glass, I could see there was nothing blocking the path. I leaned into it, putting my full weight behind it, and still nothing happened. That’s when I said, “Damn it, Miss Harmon! If you want to hide some place, pick a better spot than behind a glass door!” Immediately, the door opened fully and that was that. I think she just needed some acknowledgement. She got it and we all moved on.


There’s a few weeks of summer left, folks. Sure – school for the kids has resumed (mostly), and vacations have primarily come and gone. Personally, I’ve got some projects coming up, as well as ongoing commitments and responsibilities. That’s life. For most of us. We’re doing alright, really. Remembering that kind of helps to trigger a smile here and there. Compassion is activated, too. For me, I know that I got to live another summer. Not even one is guaranteed, so I’ll take it. Even if the next few weeks are as hot as Satan’s Butthole, I’ll take it. I may not like it, but I’ll take it.

One Cabinet Down…



This past week saw something magical here at The New Pad: I started and finished a project. One cabinet in the rumpus room has been painted and cleaned and filled. And it’s gorgeous.


Even though I’ve finished more than a few projects at home, there are countless others still awaiting my attention. And it’s far too easy to slip down the rabbit-hole of depression over all that unfinished business. I know. I live with that dark temptation every day. Now if you’re thinking to yourself, “Well Mikki – why don’t you just finish those danged projects and be done already?”, well, I’ll tell ya. Time and money, friends. Every single thing around us takes time and money. And getting one thing done means avoiding something else. Which is fine, of course, but it still equals unfinished business.


In order to live with the half-begun-ness that is my world, I am working on my tunnel vision. Because, you know, if I don’t see it, it’s not there. The problem seems to be my excellent peripheral vision. That is keeping me from seeing only what I choose to see. So now I’m wondering if I should order some of those pony blinders that horses wear during parades and the like. (Technically, they’re called horse blinkers, in case you were wondering or were planning on schooling me.) Maybe if I wore them they would make me look like a half-ass pirate or something. I don’t think I’d mind being a half-ass pirate, instead of a whole-ass one. Wouldn’t have to change my entire vocabulary or anything. And I could still bathe regularly. Hmm. Have to think about that one.


In the meantime, it’s very inspiring to look at my handiwork. One cabinet down. Makes me want to finish the bar cabinets as well. Eventually. Right now, all I can see is the work I’ve finished. Those pony blinders are working great!

Cactus Conundrum No More



So I consulted with the interwebz and a few real, live folks and decided to go ahead and plant that danged cactus I wrote about a couple of days ago. I went all xeriscape  on this little planter and I’m pretty pleased with the results. My intentions are to tackle other small garden areas in a similar fashion, and to use the same materials around other drought-tolerant plants. My fingers are crossed. So are my toes, and my legs and my eyes.


As for this little area, I admit to seeing a lot of flaws. The retaining wall is stained (though I did try to clean it). The fence needs serious repair. Everything in the area should be painted. But you know what? I still like it, imperfect as it is. And to me, it’s pretty and ready for summer.


I sure do hope the cactus survives. I’d like to see it blooming again.


It. Is. Done.



So I’ve been working on a fireplace wall for, well, what feels like forever. And I am happy to report that as of last week, it is done.



Let me remind you of where I started. There was a too-small mantel on the wall and it had to be removed. For anyone thinking, Mikki! I like that mantel! What’s your beef? I’ll tell ya. According to L.A. County Building Codes, that mantel (made of wood) was too close to the fireplace opening, meaning it wasn’t up to code. And while that doesn’t mean much most of the time, if I ever have to get the heck out of dodge and this joint gets inspected (which is how we do in Cali), that mantel would be a problem. Let’s face it – if I’m about to be on the run, I will likely have one-too-many problems already. Wouldn’t need another. Anyhoo – the mantel had to go.



Once I removed said mantel, the wall behind it was pretty banged up. My initial plan had been to simply smooth out the rough spots and have a clean, unadorned wall. But the rough spots weren’t cooperating. In fact, they were downright stubborn. So I gave up on the smooth wall idea and shifted my thoughts toward something in the Venetian Plaster arena. That, my friends, was easier said than done, as I had only ever heard the words “Venetian Plaster,” and certainly hadn’t tried my hand at it. Cut to me, watching vid-jas on the YouTuber and then I got started. The texture part of the process wasn’t too bad. In fact, it went pretty well and I was quite pleased with the results. But the painting part? Not so much.



I was so challenged by painting that danged wall that I was nearly brought to tears.



The base coat was easy, I admit. I simply used the same color as the rest of the room. But it wasn’t enough. I knew I needed some accents to “age” the wall and get it to where my brain hole wanted it to be. So I got after it, and failed. I tried a different approach. And failed. I went through my trying and failing process a few more times. When I was just about to give up completely and accidentally burn the whole danged house down, I leaned against a counter and bowed my head. Then, in a high-pitched, Mary Tyler Moore “Oh, Rob” kind of voice, I said aloud, “I have not failed. I have simply found 5 ways that do not work.” And I started a fresh approach.



That’s when something amazing happened. It worked! I was getting the desired aged effect, without being overly wack-a-doo. (Don’t get me wrong. Sometimes wack-a-doo is exactly what I’m looking for. Just not this time.) So I finished the wall and moved on to the final details.



If the too-small wood mantel was a code problem, imagine what a failure wooden base boards would have been had they abutted the fireplace opening. This was another time I wanted something simple. No flourish, no scroll work. Plain, straight lines were what I was after. I went to a few of the big hardware chains to check out their tile and stone selection. It didn’t take long to understand that if I got something there, I would be limited to subway  or bathroom tile. And I wanted neither. So I put on my thinking hat and decided to go to an actual stone and tile store. There I found plain marble that was almost perfect. I say almost because I needed 20-inch lengths, but the best they could do was 18 inches. Okay. I thought about it for a second and decided I could live with cuts versus a solid piece. It would only be 2 inches on each outside end, and no – it wouldn’t be perfect. But friends – sometimes good enough is good enough. They couldn’t cut the pieces for me, so I took my tile back to a big chain store and had the job done. I then went home, applied the pieces and let them set. Once that had cured, I grouted the edges and the “baseboards” were finished. (At that point, I did have to miter some new wood around the tile hearth, as the old wood was cracked. The hardest part of that process was matching the stain to the existing wood floor. And the mitering itself. And securing it and filling the gaps and blah, blah, blah.)



The last step – for reals – was the baseboards on the sides of the fireplace, which would abut the front stone pieces. I needed them to be a height comparable to the stone, and simple as well. Again – I tried the big chain stores, all to no avail. That’s when I remembered the little neighborhood hardware store I often use. Not only did those guys have what I needed, they also ripped the board down to the right height and sold me only what I needed. That’s important, as it’s no fun to drive around in my old Volvo with a 12-food board hanging out the wing windows. But I digress. I got home with the wood, painted it, jigged out a notch for the gas starter key on one side, cut a straight piece for the other side and put the pieces in place. After that I caulked the edges and let that dry overnight. Then I touched up the paint and the job was finished. Truly. It only took forever and a day.


Had I hired a professional, this project would have been completed in a day or two, max. And I probably could have gotten the smooth wall I originally envisioned. But I would have been out beaucoup dollars, folks. And that wasn’t an option. As it happened, I already had a lot of the tools and supplies needed to make this wall a reality. So what was my final tally? Right at $118.00. (The wood strips for the floor surround ate most of that, as they came in at just over $60.00.) All in all, I’d say that’s pretty reasonable, especially since hiring a Venetian Plaster artist can cost an arm and a leg.



My takeaway from this experience is this: I can handle some jobs myself, as long as I don’t have a strict time schedule as a guide. I think the new area is not only adequate, but also pretty. One of my friends came into this room and said, “Wow! This is a grown-up’s house!” And I suppose it is. Which is funny, since 2 dorky kids live here. But that’s okay. Every now and then we pretend to be grown-up. And now we have a lovely place to sit while doing so. And by the way, if you want the look of Venetian Plaster in your home and aren’t in any hurry, let me know. I’ll only charge an arm. Or a leg. Never both.

Textured Wall Project – So Far



This was the living room wall with the too-small mantel. I think you can see why this fireplace isn’t up to code. That mantel and surround could practically fit inside the fireplace. Even if the measurements were acceptable for L.A. standards, the danged thang is wrong for aesthetic reasons. I mean look at it! It just ain’t right, y’all.



So I took the too-small mantel off the wall. And it left a ghost mantel in its stead. While removing old glue and caulk from the area, I started thinking about adding texture to the wall (instead of simply smoothing it out). That was where I last left you.



Well now I’ve taped the surrounding surfaces and am ready to start the textured wall project in earnest. I think I’ve got a fair grip on what to do and a reasonable vision of what I’d like to achieve. Just one more trip to the hardware store for more joint compound, a wider mud knife (mine are all too small), a mud tray and a drywall hawk – then it’s down and dirty time.


Isn’t it wacky that I know terms like “mud knife” and “drywall hawk?” Seems crazy to me.


I’ll update soon. Promise.




I’ve told you about having removed a too-small mantel from a fireplace wall, and how I intend to paint said wall. Maybe I’ve not shared other thoughts, however, like how I do not want to brick the wall (like the other fireplace – in the rumpus room), nor do I want to add a just-right mantel. I’m thinking simpler is better in the living room, and that fireplace doesn’t need any adornment.


But! It has occurred to me that a little texture might be nice. Because of all the art in the room (and therefore color), I don’t think painting the wall an accent color (different from the surrounding walls) is in order. No, I’d like the color to be the same as the rest of the room. And because the wall is right up against the fireplace opening – a working fireplace, I might add – I can’t get too crazy, as fire codes simply don’t allow it. Which brings me back to texture. And in particular, texture that can be painted. Something subtle, maybe. Subdued.


I know there are tons of products out there, tons of methods. My question is this: Have you used a texture product/application process, and would you recommend it? This will be my first time trying to add texture to a wall, so I’m interested in any advice you can give.


I thank you in advance.

So Close



Yesterday I started working on getting the too-small mantel off the wall in the living room. As it’s caulked on pretty well, I expected it would take me a while to get the danged thang off. But I got after it, y’all, and before I knew it, the mantel was off in one piece and ready to donate to Habitat for Humanity. Now I can patch the wall and paint. Then I’ll be done painting in that room! Woo-hoo!


Because I did a lot of work in there before Mister’s parents visited, the space is looking pretty good. Part of me can’t believe how much has been done. Part of me is stymied I’ve not yet finished. But that’s the way home improvement goes, if only around here.


For now, I’m so close – I can see it! And in my mind, it’s simple, beautiful and finished. So close…

What Lies Beneath



The other day I was scraping old caulk from the kitchen sink. I’d been living with ugly caulk for quite a while, and no amount of bleach had made the slightest improvement. It was a pain-in-the-ass job, but one that had to be tackled. My fingers nearly fell off, but I got the scraping done and re-caulked the mutha. In much the same way that taping takes most of one’s time when painting, scraping took more time than the actual caulking. And when I was finished, the sink looked like, well, like a non-ebola-infested sink is supposed to look.


Later, it occurred to me that some jobs result in obvious change, while others do not. Take the big blue wall in the rumpus room, for example. That beauty is still turning my head. Honestly, I have no idea how long it will take for me to get used to it. The kitchen sink, on the other hand, is just a sink. I know I put in a lot of time toward cleaning up its appearance, but now I don’t even notice it. It’s just a clean sink with clean caulk lines. I appreciate it and all, but it definitely doesn’t turn my head.


I guess life is like that some times. Certain moments are more striking than others. Some occurrences are all jazz-hands and such. Others – not so much. But it doesn’t mean the others aren’t important. It just means our eyes don’t necessarily notice what lies beneath. And that’s okay. I know that having a clean sink makes me happy, even if I don’t know why. And happy, friends, is a very big deal.




Sometimes I’m so with it and my energy is crazy-awesome. I love those times! I amaze myself during those periods. I accomplish a jillion things and I do them well.


The last couple of days have not qualified as those times. I’ve been dragging like crazy. I think all the work I’ve been doing around this joint has caught up with me. I’ve painted a lot, stained some stuff, sewed things, made art and then some. It’s been great, too! And I’m still going.


But I’m coming to understand that my body has limits. I accept that. I really do. And now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to re-caulk a sink. Word.

This Weekend



Not only did I move around some electronics this weekend, I also finished painting a wall and hung some art!


That rumpus room of ours is really coming along. I almost don’t know what to think.