Do It Like You Mean It!

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 Whatever is worth doing, is worth doing well. 

Try jumping rope half-heartedly, you’ll end up sprawled on the ground with your feet tangled up in the rope.   

 Half-baked isn’t good, either.  Here’s a half-baked paint job. 

  Ever been to a craft fair and discovered a booth for someone who has no business ‘crafting’ anything?  Look at this fantastic craft to make ‘wood carrots’.  Its some wooden tree parts painted orange…not very carrot-looking to me!


I and a friend once made clutch purses out of placemats…and they looked just like folded placemats.  And everyone who looked at them said exactly that.  Not our proudest craft attempt.

 Here are some pictures of homes for sale.  Laughable pictures of homes for sale.  Not much effort was put into taking the pictures. 

I love these pictures of bathrooms – can you tell what’s odd about them?


And, how about these next pictures?  What can you tell about the house?  Not much.


Why take pictures of a mess?  Take a moment and straighten the room up a bit?  What does that say about the person taking the picture?  Lazy bones!  After all the agent selling the house gets paid, they can darn well pick up a little!

Here's a filing cabinet and an egg crate pad thingy.


Here's a lovely picture of the furniture shoved into the wall.

When Rick took pictures of a house for me, I went ahead of him and moved things out of the way that would distract from the picture – like a big vase in the foreground or bottles of water sitting on the table.  I didn’t shove all the furniture into a corner and then take a picture!  At least put the toilet seat down! 

How about random pictures of ladders? 

Oh, and these backyards are so inviting…

Is that...plywood? carpet? all over the yard?

One of my fave movies is Swamp Thing!

Look at all the extra storage! Makes me want to run right out and get a tetanus shot!


"Comes with a backyard suitable for hanging laundry"


I hope your holidays are merry and that these pictures give you a good Ho-Ho-Ho!  😉


Location, Location, Location


Rick and I have lived in 11 homes since we got married many moons ago.  2 duplexes, 1 4-plex, 7 houses and 1 office apt.  When we decided to buy our first place, one of our ‘musts’ was ‘not a busy street’ and that has been a ‘must’ for every house we bought.

Well, guess what?  We failed to achieve that goal every time!  Why?  We didn’t pay attention to the details some of the time, other times we decided that goal wasn’t a ‘must’ after all.

3 houses were on a feeder street, meaning people took shortcuts via our street to avoid lights or traffic. 1 house was just down the street from a school, so parents raced down our street twice a day to pick up their precious babies.  We knew about the elementary school, loved being in walking distance from it.  But those reckless parents were aggravating. 

Living on a feeder street is a real pain in the patootie!  Cars screamed down the street at rush hour trying to beat a light at a big intersection.  When the kids were small, I would put a ladder and a bucket in the middle of the street to get drivers to slow down, they’d have to to get around the obstacles.  I only did that when we were playing in the front yard…it worked, too.

I can’t believe we lived in this duplex. 

Right on the freeway! No sound wall back then...

Our neighbor, an older lady, was a real sweetheart and Rick refinished and rebuilt pianos in the garage to help put himself through school.  BUT, it was right next to the freeway!  Only a chain link fence and bushes between us and roaring semi’s!  Unbelievable dust in the house – that was the home where Rick and I really worked out some kinks in our marriage, incidentally – also the place where we were robbed.  They kicked open the door and stole our quadraphonic stereo system that we’d bought for about $50 at a garage sale and our TV…but they missed the important stuff, Rick’s electric bass and my sewing machine!   Those two overlooked items were priceless to us and harder to replace financially.

I remember the policeman who came to take the report sat in one of our dining room chairs, leaned back and it crumpled beneath him…he fell flat on his butt.  We all burst out laughing although he was mortified, thinking he’s destroyed the chair!  It was an ‘heirloom’, part of a dining room set handed down from Rick’s parents.  Back in those days the chairs were put together with spit and glue, not nails…we fixed and refixed those chairs over the years, until there was nothing left to hold them together.

Funny, policeman and morticians tell us we make their jobs more pleasant.  True.  Weird.

Back to Location…

Website for tracking planes and noise

Living under a flight path was fun…never really thought about it when we bought the house, although when we were going to rent a house in SoCal, we were careful NOT to do so near an airport.  It was OK, generally, unless, due to weather, the planes took off in our direction, then it was loud.  At the cabana club – fantastic pool and staff and Rancho Santa Teresa in San Jose – my young niece would hold her hands up to see if she could touch the planes!

We rented a house on a cul-de-sac a few years ago.  We thought, finally! peace and quiet, no through traffic!

Surprise!  Guess what takes forever to accomplish once a week?   Trash pickup!!!!! 

Trash truck used as race car hauler photo by Jeff Paulson

The trucks come through once for the recycling, once for the trash and once for the yard waste.  3 passes in one morning – at 7am.  You’re thinking ‘big deal’, right?  But, there’s all the attempts to turn around at the end of the cul-de-sac with the annoying back-up beeping!!!!  And the yard waste is picked up by a little bob-cat-like thing which also does lots of backing up!  Then monthly, the street sweeper comes around and comes around and comes around and comes around, it sounds like its hangin’ in front of our house for 20 minutes!  Yikes!  That’s what we get for having a master suite at the front of the house, I guess. 

Now?  We live on a street with light-rail trains!  And buses!  And ambulances!  And police cars!  And sheriff’s cars!  And people who ignore the light and turn left in front of light-rail only to be hit and pulled 30 feet!  What were we thinking?  Oh, and there’s a sweeper that comes twice a night to clear the rails (there’s one going by right now and its daytime!) 

Actually, this place is fine, because its our office and the location is superb for that.  We live above the office (1500 sf apartment) and the commute makes it all worthwhile!  We live a couple blocks from Japantown, the boys take light-rail or bicycle to college.  We really like it here.  And they are slowly migrating from gasoline buses to hybrid ones, with better mufflers and the drivers can’t floor it (noisy) so the level of noise is gradually reducing, yay!

Looking north, notice the light-rail tracks in the middle of the street...

Home, sweet home

One day we’ll buy our next ‘project’, as we call it.  We’re thinking of a little 2 bedroom (if we’re empty-nestors) and adding onto it over time.  There are still plenty of things to do in our office building – a 3000 sf Craftsman house built in 1906.  But, Deferred Maintenance is a topic for another time.  😉

You can do it, so let’s go!


Remember that cheer?  ” You can do it, you can do it, so let’s GO!”  

I’m here to tell you that its true, you CAN!

The other day I was on a website where people can leave comments about a residential project that had been posted – there were pictures and info about what products were used and all that.

 Aside from the snarky comments that safely-invisible people seem compelled to write, many of the queries had to do with how someone could duplicate some of those spiffy effects more inexpensively.  Although, in truth, the comments were more ‘what the heck, get real, how can anyone afford THAT!’

However, being the Pollyanna that I am, I would rather think that they were sincerely asking for help to do just such a thing!

 If you want to learn how to install tile, for instance, both Home Depot and Lowe’s provide step-by-step seminars in their stores.   Here is a link to the Projects page for Lowe’s  How-to’s on installing tile or vinyl flooring are available as is info on a Kitchen Make Over.  Read the comments from readers and you’ll learn from their mistakes and get tips to make the job easier.

 There are websites, too, with helpful info, videos and pictures.  One of them is  You can learn how to motorize roller shutters, make door hinges,  make modular furniture, build an outdoor BBQ, restore cabinets, change out your kitchen faucet or even, ta-da!, remodel your kitchen.

Pop-up spice rack, right in the countertop! by Troy Firgelli Automations

 There are hundreds of different how-to’s and creations on the site, like how to build a ‘cave’ to age cheese,  make paper flowers, decorate cakes, lots of crafts and up-cycling projects, replacing a motorcycle exhaust, how to be Tony Stark for Halloween and refurbishing vintage suitcases, just to name a few!

Jamo-G as Tony Stark Yeah, I know you wish you'd thought of it!


Here’s another helpful website:   She builds furniture, decorations, ornaments and has tutorials on hanging wallpaper and refinishing kitchen cabinets, step-by-step! 

saturday a.m. CentsationalGirl

Sunday p.m. CentsationalGirl


I love the magazine Real Simple.  It shows ways to be elegant in a less labor-intensive fashion, sort of Martha Stewart-lite.  Their website has info on home improvement and insights into which designer sites are the best, what improvements pay off in the long run and so on.

One of the most IMPORTANT things to know is:  Use the right tool for the job!  If you don’t have the right tool, borrow, rent or buy it!  Do NOT make do with something else cuz it can take you twice as long.  And you may end up having to start over or having to buy more of what you just ruined.  Honest.  I’m not kidding. 

Drill press kludge

Are you installing tile in the kitchen?  Use a tile saw!  And make sure you have new blades.  Using old blades takes longer and the cuts will be rough and choppy-looking and you’ll probably bust a lot of tiles needlessly.  Not to mention saving your temper!

 We rented a tile saw the first time Rick installed tile…by the time he was done with the installation, he could have purchased a new saw of his own.  Next time we borrowed a tile saw from a contractor buddy.  Better idea.  The next time Rick did tile work, he bought a tile saw. 

 Measure twice and cut once!  Go slow and steady, don’t try to finish before the sun sets.  Be realistic about your learning curve and the time it takes to do the job.  Count on 1.5 times however long you’re told it will take, maybe 3 times that long and you’ll make a bunch of trips to the hardware store for things you forgot…or broke…or misplaced 😉

You could even put in your own hardwood floor – if you’re using tongue-and-groove planks, then you’ll want to use a nail gun.  Or use the glue-in-place stuff.  If you don’t have a preference in the exact type of wood floor, then go to Lumber Liquidators.  They have great deals when they have, say, 300sf left over from another job and they want it out of their warehouse.

 Ask for advice, believe me, everyone loves to give advice.  How did they do it, what did they learn, what would they change about the process?  Learn where to spend the money and where you can save it.  There are lots of home improvement blogs and articles.  Spend a little time reading their comments and you’ll save yourself some time and money in the long run.

 Look for deals.  Internet shopping is fun!  There are discount/overstock stores around, too, so check out, and to search for them in your area.  One such store in town is called Bullnose Tile  They carry discontinued and overstock items and you can get terrific deals.  If you have an eye for high-end tile but don’t have the budget, then check out this type of store.  You can use also use high-end stuff for the pretty accents and details and buy less expensive, generic tile for the rest of the tile field.

Be careful, though.  Dal-Tile has a showroom with lovely tile, but they also sell to HomeDepot (or is it Lowe’s, I forget).  The HomeDepot tile doesn’t necessarily have the same quality standards or thickness as the showroom tile.  I don’t know if the tile is ‘seconds’ or not but we talked with one contractor who refused to use any tile from a warehouse store because the quality wasn’t there.  If you buy field tile from HomeDepot and accent tile from a showroom, then the tile edges might not match up – which might be OK, depending on the location of the accent, but be forewarned and check it out before you buy. 

 I wanted a higher-end look in the Butler Pantry so I did a lot of searching for something special.  I found special, all right!  $300 for a 2×3 panel of tile with palm trees, absolutely lovely.  However, our budget couldn’t handle that.  So I kept searching and found these great tiles with pictures of wine labels on them.  They have a TON of tile designs – modern, fruity, country, artsy, café-y, cutsey, scenic, biblical, animal, you name it.  And, for a small fee, they will send you a sample of the tile – say it’s a mural and you want to see a tile from the top left – they will mail it to you!  I think I paid less than $100 for them.  And, you know, everyone who saw those tiles remarked how cool they were! 

  There’s a great store in Capitola called Red Poppy.  No website, but they’re on Facebook as ‘Red Poppy Capitola’.   Every time I go there, I buy something and I was very bummed the last time I went and they were closed!  Darn it!  Anyway, we bought a lovely tile with a beach scene on it.  The tile was about $42 and had a felt-like backing with a nail-hanger-thingy so you could hang it on the wall.  Rick took the backing off and we framed it like so above our sink.  Cheaper than the similar tiles we’d seen in tile showrooms, yay!

Above our sink...the field tile is the color of sand, doesn't show up well here.

You might not be able to (or even want to) duplicate what you see in magazines or on TV, but you can make changes and improvements at some level!  Don’t be afraid.  Step out and you’ll discover just how capable you are!  😉

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