zoethe: (Default)
The bed is made again this morning. That's two mornings in a row with Ferrett here, 12 days total.

I have gone back into the bedroom after he gets up and made the bed. We appear to have reached a good blanket detente: his extra quilt being sandwiched between the sheet and the top quilt is working, and makes pulling the bed together much easier than any other solution I've previously attempted.

So my bed battle is not with Ferrett. No, it is with fashion.

You see, you cannot buy a bedding set these days without the inclusion of decorative throw pillows. Decorative throw pillows are my undoing. It doesn't seem like picking up a few pillows and tossing them onto the bed would be that difficult, but it is the place where my brain rebels. They are the appendix of bedding: useless, except as a source for trouble.

Because the throw pillows end up in the corner on my side of the bed. And soft pillows on the floor are seed for a pile. The next thing I know, I'm taking off my clothes in the evening and thinking, "these pants can just lie here on the pillows instead of being hung up; I'm planning to put them on tomorrow morning" instead of hanging them in the closet. Then my workout clothes join that pile instead of being folded up and put on their little shelf until the next day, then I can't find those shorts I was going to re-wear, so I get out another pair, and then when I get undressed at night it's easier to think that I will put my underthings down the laundry chute tomorrow.

The next thing I know, I'm wading through clothing shin-deep to get to the bed.

Of course the answer of "just don't do that" is simple, but completely impossible. I've spent YEARS doing this. Every time I clean it all up, I swear it won't happen again. But it happens every time.

Clearly, tossing the pillows into the corner is unacceptable. And I know I won't put them on the bed. I am rather allergic to useless items, so that is a further mental block. If a thing has no purpose other than decoration, it better not require my attention for more than an occasional dusting. I don't do fuss.

So I've made the decision to simply throw. them. out. Of course it goes against every grain to toss out something that is "perfectly good." But they are only perfectly good for being an Achilles' Heel for me. So they are getting stuffed in a trash bag and tossed. No, I won't keep them for a garage sale or donate them: as Don Aslett says, you do no good in the world by passing on your trash to someone else. And I will make my bed in just a few minutes each morning and not worry about the frou frou that fashion has attempted to thrust upon me.

 
zoethe: (Bluebird)
I owe quilts to many people. Many, many people. Some of them are partially done, some are still just gleams of ideas in my head. And part of my project to live more graciously is to get back to my fiber arts, my creative and giving side.

On Sunday, I attacked my sewing room, the last room in the house that had not been uncluttered in my "Hubby's out of town, let's spring clean" week. I got my work table and sewing table all cleaned up and found the fabric with which I intended to back a baby quilt that has been in the works since baby arrived.

He's walking now.

Go ahead and laugh, but I know crafters who are working on "baby quilts" that might be high school graduation presents. So I'm not that hopelessly behind.

No, really.

Having all the pieces in one place, and being "on a roll," I decided to sandwich and pin baste the baby quilt. For those who don't know, a quilt consists of a top, generally pieced in a pattern, a fabric backing, and between these some kind of batting that gives it loft and warmth. In order to get these three layers to stay together, they must be stitched through with a topstitch that can either be functionally placed in the seams of the pieced top or decoratively sewn in a pattern on the surface--otherwise known as "quilting."

Like the toilet paper.

In order to accomplish this permanent quilting, the layers must be temporarily basted together so that they don't shift and wrinkle. The easiest way to do this is with safety pins pinned about every six inches all over the surface. Even in a small project, it's a lot of safety pins. Generally this project is undertaken on large enough floorspace for the entire quilt to lie flat, and the quilter crawling about on her knees, trying not to wrinkle the portions she hasn't pinned yet. With a king sized quilt it can take two days and hundreds of pins.

If you want to make a quilter laugh, innocently ask her if she has a safety pin handy.

I was almost 2/3 of the way through the pin basting when I realized that I'd misaligned the quilt and half of the top row was pinned only to batting, with the backing laid out too far down. In other words, the top layer of the sandwich had slid completely out of alignment and was not over the bottom layer at all. A hundred safety pins, and all of it was out of whack and had to be redone.

I'm quite proud of myself that I dismissed my first two reactions:

  • Reaction one was, "I'll just cut off the top half of the blocks! He's a baby; he'll never know!

  • Reaction two was, "Kerosene and a match!"


But no, I took a deep breath, sighed, and unpinned all the work I'd done.

I'd like to say that I didn't even swear, but I can only say that I don't remember swearing, so it must have been minimal.

Once it was unpinned, I even realigned it and repinned it right. Tomorrow I'm hoping to actually get the machine quilting done. When it's finished, it will go to a child who will never know the headaches that it caused me.

And almost every hand-made project has at least one headache/heartache moment. You may never learn the story, but when you are gifted with a piece of craft made by a friend, take a moment to consider the soul of the gift. It's already been the source of joy and frustration to someone who cares enough about you to project their heart through their hands and make something of beauty for you.
zoethe: (Default)
Every "clean up your home" book tells you to make your bed every day as soon as you get up. And it's good advice: you psychologically establish a mentality of first-thing success before moving on with the day.

Which is great. Except that I am almost always out of bed a minimum of an hour before Ferrett, and usually working out when he does get out of bed. So my mindset is definitely out of the bedroom and on to other things by the time the bed is available for making.

And we have the further problem that after I get out of bed, he grabs all the pillows and makes himself a nest of tangled blankets such that I occasionally look to see if he's laying eggs. Actually remaking the bed every morning would mean tearing everything off of it to put it all back on. Plus, he hates the topsheet and sleeps with an extra blanket, whereas I have to have the topsheet and often have a blanket only over my torso, so it's almost like we have two separate sets of covers.

While he's gone this week, it's easy for me to slip into my side of the bed then slip back out again and pull the covers up behind me--after all, I'm not trekking across the giant bed to snuggle up with my honey, so my own bed habits are even quieter than usual. His extra blanket is folded in half on his side of the bed, under the duvet. All very neat and easy.

When he gets back, I will have to make more effort to keep the bed made. But I'd rather have his cuddles and a tangle of blankets than all the neatness of a too-quiet house. Maybe the bed won't get made. But cuddles matter even more.
zoethe: (Default)
A couple of things have come together to inspire me to spend the next week in spring cleaning and organization. First of all, Ferrett is out of town on his annual pilgrimage to his ancestral home, plus visits to places further east. So I have the house to myself and can tear through it without being in his way. And I can turn on whatever music I want to listen to at volume and enjoy it while I work.

Second, my friend Cat Valente has started a new Tumblr about getting herself organized called Girl Unlocked and she is inspiring me. I'm far too lazy to start a different blog for such things, so you will just have to bear with me here. It's not cooking, but it is part of living graciously, so I feel justified. And it's my blog, so I get to do what I want.

Ferrett departed this morning, and my first reaction...was to sit down and veg on the computer for a while. I was missing him terribly even as he pulled out of the driveway. Yeah, it's nice to have this time to rip things apart, get the dust bunnies out of the back corners, and generally reorganize, and yeah, it's something I do much more efficiently when I'm home alone than when I have someone around. But honestly, I'd choose living with the dust and clutter over having him gone.

I'm sappy. I know.

Anyway, after a short pout, I rousted myself off the couch and got to work. I've read several books on getting your house cleaned and organized. They universally suggest focusing on one room at a time, and for just a small part of the day.

Naturally, I attacked the living room, dining room, kitchen, bathroom, AND master bedroom.

Now admittedly, none of these rooms were in truly disastrous shape. It was clutter and dust more than anything for the living room and dining room. The bedroom had some junk, but most of it was easy to find a home for. And the bathroom just needed cleaning (don't they always?!). Still, it took about four solid hours of work. But now I have all my main living spaces looking neat and uncluttered, just the way I like them, and they will stay that way for the next 10 days!

Tomorrow the real work begins: I have to attack my office. It looks like a Tornado Alley trailer park right now. And it needs more than just cleaning up; I need to think about properly reorganizing it so it's not so prone to getting this messy. It's probably a two-day job all by itself. After that, the guest room, which will not take too long, and my sewing room, which is another two-day job at least. Then there's Ferrett's office.

I'm thinking that I might just leave that be. A girl can only push her luck so far.

As I noted at the beginning, with Ferrett gone I could put on whatever music I wanted, as loud as I wanted, while cleaning. So I did. I dug around to find my favorite music of all time: Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 5. And not just any recording. I own three copies, but even after finding the other two I had to keep looking until I found the recording of the Vienna Philharmonic with Vladimir Ashkenazy at the piano and Zubin Mehta conducting. I listened to the whole thing twice, and it did my spirit good.

Now I am sneezing from the dust and a bit cobwebby. Time to reward myself with a relaxing bath. The tub's even clean!
zoethe: (Default)
When we repainted and remodeled the upstairs, a lot of our stuff got moved from upstairs to downstairs. This resulted in our upstairs area looking very nice: clean and sleek, the way I like things to look.

The family room in the basement, however, was another matter:









Now, this space is not one that we use on a daily basis, and being in the basement, it was very "out of sight, out of mind" for a long time. I would go downstairs to do laundry and sort of...shut my eyes as I walked past. I don't like messes, particularly when I feel helpless in the face of them. And wow, did I feel helpless in the face of this one. I'd walk in there and just kind of flap my hands in despair. So it was easier to just pretend that half of our basement didn't exist.

But then I decided to start working out again. And my exercise equipment is in the basement. So something had to be done.

At first, I just moved all the boxes to the other end of the room, freeing up the exercise equipment. This made workouts possible, but being me quite stressful. Remember about the not liking messes?

I began lifting heavier weights, and with the heavier lifting came recovery time between sets. With a minute or two needed to catch my breath came boredom. And with boredom came the need to do a little something.

I began picking up. A little here and there. Inspired, I urged Ferrett to help me sort through the books and get rid of some--as in 8 large boxes worth. And kept picking up. When we got our new bed, we decided to put our old one into the family room for extra guest space. Day by day, I organized for just a few minutes here and there.

This is what the basement looks like now:





It's kind of hard to imagine it's the same space. Now I walk down there and just smile.

zoethe: (Default)
I am SHIVA, Destroyer of Bookcases! FEAR ME!

Why, no, my week hasn't gotten off to a particularly good start. How's yours?

One of the fallouts of rearranging everything is that the guest room is looking exceptionally barren. One of the art pieces that used to hang in there looked awful with the new paint and found a home elsewhere. The other is a PITA to hang and so I'm procrastinating. There used to be four bookcases overbrimming with books, but because of the way we've arranged it now, there is room for only one or two. And frankly, we hadn't gotten around to tackling restoring the bookcases to their rightful place because that encompasses sorting the books that went into the basement to determine which ones should stay down there for the "rearrange it all into a library" project and which ones should come upstairs.

But we have company arriving this week, and after spending the entire weekend working nonstop on this computer, I was ready to throw a little effort into putting together the guest room. So I asked Ferrett to help me move the really tall bookcase upstairs.

We got it all the way to the bedroom, but as I was lowering the base I grabbed it by the upper side. And it sort of...disintegrated. Granted, it was cheap, screw-together furniture, but I've had plenty of cheap, screw-together furniture in my lifetime and this is the first one that ever just...blew up.

I can't be completely distraught as it was a hideously ugly bookcase. But it meant changing plans, putting a smaller bookcase in there, and then trying to choose some books that would definitely be brought upstairs and...making decor.

I'm not happy with it yet. But at least it doesn't look so much like a vacant warehouse. And I *will* get that picture on the wall....
zoethe: (Default)
In order to survive this move-back-in, I've decided that I need to alternate between "muscle" days and "brain" days. Today was definitely a muscle day. I hauled all the file boxes back into my office and tossed or shredded a bunch of unneeded junk. Tomorrow? BRAAAAAINS.

And I managed to put an ugly black scuff on the paint in my office. I'm trying to be philosophical about this: it's sort of inevitable, as we move stuff around, and once we're finished getting everything in place, we have paint in every color to make touch-up repairs.

So I didn't even cry. Well, not really....
zoethe: (Default)

The living room

The bedroom

View two

Dining room

Guest room

Still need art, but it's a start!

Posted via LiveJournal app for iPhone.

zoethe: (Default)
Despite the urethane sealant's promise of being low VOC, this stuff is totally My Chemical Pony. I'm in the basement and can still smell it. But I won't be in the house very long, so that's a good thing.

All indications are that the last of the patching, sanding, and chemical treatment will be accomplished today - hooray! After that, the last major decision that has to be made this week is window treatment for our bedroom - nothing over the window means too much light in the room and a little too friendly a view into the neighbor's kitchen. The other two rooms can wait a while, but our bedroom needs to be done right away.

But even though the worst of it ends today, today and tomorrow are not without their amusing complications. Because we have to stay in a hotel tonight, due to the fact that once he urethanes the hall, we cant get to our bedroom or the bathroom until it dries! And here is my schedule for the day:

10:30 Court
2:00 Doctor appointment
3:00 Afternoon appointment
6:00 Client meeting in Akron

Tomorrow?
9:00 Court
10:00 Client meeting
1:00 Court
5:00 Father-in-law arrives

My biggest issues in this are getting Ferrett to the hotel, packing up everything I'll need for the hotel and court and getting Ferrett back from the hotel before court in the morning. This wouldn't usually be a big deal, but right now I can't even get to a file folder for the new client documents. Everything in my life is just...buried. I don't even know for sure what time I need to be packed to be out of here.

But today my furniture should be able to go back into the living room. And by the time I can get back into my house tomorrow, all the sanding should be done. And other than my father-in-law visiting, nothing is scheduled for this weekend. "Here, Dad. Here's some Pledge and a few rags. Go to!"

Yeah, okay, maybe not....
zoethe: (Default)
The painter is here, so the painting will be finished today - squee!

His assistant is not here yet, so the carpet pulling is not getting started yet - not so squee. He's supposed to be here in a little bit. Fingers crossed.

Oh. Did I mention that Ferrett's dad arrives on Thursday for a week-long visit? At least he is prepped for the notion that the place is "under construction."

I'm in the basement for now. There is a lot of crashing around upstairs.... I'm sure it's all Just Fine.
zoethe: (Default)
I got the stuff off the shelves for the china cabinet, but it means that stuff is crammed into every drawer and my kitchen counters are completely covered with glassware at least until the paint dries - possibly longer, since there is little point in washing everything and putting it back on the shelves prior to the mess of dust that pulling up the carpet and refinishing the floors will cause. So it's all going to get worse before it gets better - the bed from the guestroom will need to be taken apart and stowed in either the office or our bedroom, the dining table has to go into a basement that is already full up to the gills, and when it's finally finished I have to put it all back.

Now, add to all this fun the fact that my one guaranteed anxiety-attack scenario is overcrowded, dusty shops where stuff is precariously perched around me.

My home is not a haven or sanctuary right now; it is like one of those bad Disney dreams where the thing you fear most is lurking and ready to pounce. Even in my relatively unmolested bedroom I am acutely aware of what waits right outside.

This is not a good day for the Gini. And it's likely not to be a very good week for the Gini.

Ferrett wants me to go to Lowe's with him and look at light fixtures for our living room. I realize that getting out of the house is probably a good thing, but I'm still feeling a bit sick and very resistant to the idea. Which is probably a sign that I should go.

I know it's going to be totally worth it in the end, but right now I'm voting for the fetal position.
zoethe: (Default)


One more round of "stuff that's gotta go somewhere else." Everything on the shelves has to be put somewhere else to facilitate painting. And not the table, because the table has to be disassembled for floor refinishing.


And there's no better way of discovering how sick you still are than to start doing stuff. I've managed to stow the stuff from the right-hand side of the cabinet, but still have to get the middle and all those books. Our basement is going to be impassable before the end of the weekend.

I can't wait until all this is done. Ugh.
zoethe: (sick)
I'm holed up in our bedroom because I think I genuinely have a cold, and because our bedroom is the only room where the furniture isn't all pushed to the middle of the floor while paint dries.

But because this is the only room that hasn't been painted? Every time I get up to go get something to drink or use the bathroom, I open the door, and it's like Dorothy arriving in the Land of Oz.

Every

Single

Time.
zoethe: (sick)
I've said before that people who've been in a house for over five years should be required to pack as if they are moving in order to get rid of the stuff they don't really want. Well, I've pretty much been forced into doing precisely that by this repainting/new flooring task.

But the other thing that comes with a thorough moving-about of everything we own is the kicking up of a lot of dust. There are tumbleweeds of the stuff behind bookcases, desks and other places to small for Opposite Cat to reach. And on top of the books we're carrying from room to room or downstairs.

On top of that, the painter is sanding all the walls, kicking up a ton of paint dust. Everything is coated with a fine, white powder.

Next week when we do the floors, it's just going to be that much worse.

As a result, my allergies are going nutz. In spite of all the allergy medications, I'm in continual battle with my itching eyes and stuffy nose. And my body is seeking refuge in the one place it can: sleep.

So despite eight solid hours of sleep last night, right now I am typing with my eyes closed, willing myself to stay awake and mostly failing at it.

New client at 1pm. A chance to get out of the house. It will be most welcome.
zoethe: (Default)
The paint should be done except for touchups by the end of tomorrow, but we found out that the paint guy also refinished floors. Anyone who has been here knows that we suffer a carpet that should have been buried a decade ago, so that is going as well. We've been setting aside money for a new range, but I told Ferrett that the flooring is a much higher priority, particularly since the new walls make it look so BAD. And why not do it now, when all the junk is already hauled out of the upstairs, rather than wait a few months and have to haul it all again?

By the end of next week, we will have completely redone the shell of our main living areas. Window treatments for the bedrooms will have to be next. Kitchen changes will have to wait another year, but it's totally worth what we're getting done. Pictures by the weekend!
zoethe: (Default)
Out of bed after a couple restless hours or dozing. The house is in painterly shambles:






So we are basically refugees in the cluttered basement.

Longtime readers may recall that my one real claustrophobia trigger (other than trapped limbs) is junk-filled used bookstores. Which is essentially what my basement is right now.

So. Currently I am perched on the corner of the covered-in-plastic guest bed, waiting for my allergy meds to kick in so I can try to sleep. So I can get up and deal with new clients tomorrow. And my incision itches - but at least does not hurt, provided that I do nothing to raise my blood pressure.

Like haul the REST of the books to the basement tomorrow.

At least the ceilings and the bathroom are done.

The painter's original plan was to paint the bedrooms first and then the living room. But we've asked him to please do the living room first so that we have someplace to sit. So he should be starting on that tomorrow. That's when things really get exciting!
zoethe: (Star Wars)
Friday night, after driving home with Erin through a driving rainstorm, I was sitting at my computer when something that can only be described as a severe low-pressure event hit the house. It wasn’t like a wind blowing, it was like the air sucked away from the house. There was a crashing boom, the place shook in a creepy way, and the windows in Ferrett’s and my offices sucked open. I jumped up and back away from the glass, ready to head for the basement. Ferrett came in to ask if I’d felt that and the pressure in my ears made him sound like he was talking underwater.

This is not my first experience with isolated, pre-tornado weather events. One fall when my youngest was only a baby we were visiting my in-laws in Indiana when the most severe storm I had ever experienced whipped across the plains. We returned home from a shopping trip in rain like someone throwing buckets of water at the windshield. We pulled into the garage and I got the kids out of the car. I came into the house and stood looking out the big picture windows at the waves on the lake, when suddenly there was this eerie whine through the whole place. Not being from the Midwest, it took me a moment to realize that the house was depressurizing—tornado symptom. I grabbed the kids and ran for the basement, but it passed. Later that evening we heard that a tornado had touched down in the next lake over from the house.

The next morning we surveyed a 30-foot-wide swathe of destruction going past the southwest corner of the house. It was like a lawnmower from hell had bulled down one path, ripping out the big oaks across the street from Oprah’s, charging through the yard, taking out the trees by the dock, and crossing the lake where we could see open ground that had been tree-covered the previous morning.

At the cabin 500 yards away the leaves hadn’t even blown off the trees.

And so it was at our house Friday. We were frightened out of our chairs, but the empty garbage can next door wasn’t so much as rolled over.

And this morning Ferrett pointed out the pile of shingles that have torn from the roof.

I really don’t need roof repair added to my bills and my stress right now. I am barely holding on as it is. Driving to work this morning I felt ready to abandon everything, sell the house, move someplace small and cheap and nondescript, buy a little place, and live off my equity. There are tiny beachhouses in Oregon that are only $45,000. I could hide out, walk on the sand, live small, write. It’s never too hot and rarely terribly cold and I don’t need much. Really.

I don’t want to be the grownup.
zoethe: (Default)
First thought: I'm actually going to have one. That really hasn't happened since I got to Cleveland. Last year I was still working for the OPB, so by the time I got home in the evening I was fried from an 11-hour workday. Also, last summer was one of the most ungodly hot and miserable in the history of Cleveland, by all accounts. We had a "normal" winter this year; perhaps it isn't too much to hope for that it will be followed by a "normal" summer.

So, what are the plans? This summer our home improvement efforts are going to focus on landscaping, specifically on turning our small-but-featureless backyard into an oasis of peace and soul-restoring harmony. Next Saturday we will be getting the estimates on having a water garden installed and other landscaping done. The plan is to create the feeling of a cottage garden - many flowers, pathways to different areas, places to sit and relax and enjoy the scenery. It will eliminate the possibility of playing Frisbee out back, but the very size of the plot already eliminated that. This will be my substitute for the front porch I long for and don't have here.

Next plan: getting and raising a puppy. Ferrett's mom has offered to purchase a Golden Retreiver puppy for us as his Christmas present. I miss my dog, and Ferrett has always wanted to have one, so this is a good gift.

Those of you who have raised puppies may well be raising eyebrows at the juxtaposition of these two activities -- aren't puppies and landscaping incompatible? Why yes, yes they are. Ferrett and I have already had stern talks with each other. Me to he: you know you will have to walk it and clean up after it and not let it out to dig in the garden and train it. He to me: You know you will have to weed it and trim it and rake it and maintain it. Both of us to each other: Yes, yes, of course I know. I promise I'll do it, PLEASE can I have it?

I suspect neither of us will do quite as well as the other would like, but I think we'll do fine. And my perennials and his puppy will both grow and give us both much pleasure and some headaches.

I think it will be a good summer.
zoethe: (witch)
1. Had the first landscaping guy out on Saturday. Measurements and ideas, dreams leing laid out in a backyard that is nothing but dead grass and leftover leaves here at the awakening of spring. Another guy is coming out next weekend. I hope it's all done before too late in the summer so we can enjoy it this year.

2. Bought new couches yesterday - well, ordered them and coughed up the dough. The furniture in our livingroom came with the house for a low price and has gone from marginal to embarrassing - a closer observation to note that the cushions were dissolving would have been in order, but we couldn't afford furniture at that time and were grateful for places to park our butts. The new furniture will be a Lane double rocker/recliner and matching couch with massage units and both ends and a fold-down snack tray in the middle--couch potato heaven. I have always loved Lane furniture so am happy. We're also going from beige to burgundy, which will be a big change, and which will also not show off what total pigs we are quite so publicly. Just the ability to sit on the couch without the cushion sliding forward and inching your butt off the edge will be a welcome change.
zoethe: (Default)
I spent much of yesterday in the small town of Delaware, Ohio, helping [livejournal.com profile] neorxnawang look at homes, in case he decides to take the job there. It's a tiny town just outside of Columbus that is fast moving into Bedroom Community status. Loads of new construction is covering the landscape with heartbreaking sameness - 2500 square foot cookie-cutter houses stacked one atop the other on what was only a year ago fertile farmland. The real estate agent drove us through some of these subdivisions, and because it was not my home tour I refrained from paroxysms of greenie frustration and anguish - though when she dragged us through the area with the alleged "faux-oldfashioned" architecture my jaws ached from clamping them shut.

Certainly, these bad-lumber-and-slathered-paint horrors were not the reason why I carved 7 hours out of my crazy schedule to go south with the Weasleys. Instead, it was the historic homes in downtown Deleware that attracted me. We saw three, all of which reflected a different philosophy toward restoration.

House One had a historic registry placard out front. It also had a turret and a front porch, facts I confess up front because they both prejudice me. I love victorians. Inside, the restoration work had focused on digging through the layers to what was old about the house, and upgrading the amenities that we americans do not wish to live without. The place had a very genuine feel to it, and looked a bit battered, but the kitchen was brand new, the wiring all top-of-the-line, including speakers wired into the living spaces so the stereo could hide from view, and central a/c was part of the existing ductwork. The attic has never been finished, but you could see Master Suite possibilities there. The gardens, though under snow, are fabulous, and the wisteria vines conceal the back porch (yes, TWO porches!) in the summer. I loved this house, but it had that fragile feeling, like you would always have to be on your best behavior there.

House Two was a French colonial sort of affair, all old brick outside (an historical placard outside pronounced it the "President's House", but no indication of president of what), completely modernized inside. So much so that the widescreen TV in the livingroom barely seemed an incongruous note. Just too casual, to "souped up."

House Three we only got to see because we asked. It had been redone extensively, modernizing the kitchen, covering the hardwood floors with carpet and tile, adding a two-person jacuzzi to the upstairs bathroom. And yet, it had been done with so much thought and care that it felt right. The house was somewhere between formal and a farmhouse, and there was just a sense that the updating was practical and sensible and that this was a practical and sensible house. The attic had been finished as a kids' retreat, all interesting angles and nooks and crannies. The kitchen was clean and bright, and a family room led off one end of it. To top everything off, its front porch ended with a gazebo - how cool is that?

So, if I had to choose, where would I live? Number Two is knocked right out of the running, but One and Three are pretty close. If it was just me, I would choose One - the garden and the wisteria would make up my mind. If I had a batch of little redheads to consider, I would go with Three. It just felt kid-friendlier.

But as it is, I will stay in my little 1950s ranch and make the garden beautiful.

But spring is coming and porch lust begins to rise again....

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