Lessons for a new homeowner

So I’ve been in my new condo for a while. I seem to be getting a some pressure from a few sources to do some decorating. I really have a lot of ideas, but it has been hard to take the first step.

Yesterday, I had some free time and I decided to bite the bullet and finally paint the wall.

I had thought long and hard, and determined on a very nice color, “Dusty Apricot” as the perfect shade to bring all the elements together. I had gone down to Home Depot and asked them to mix up a small bucket, just a quart, so that I could try it out and see. I asked the guy if I could come back and get another can and whether it would be exactly the same color. He said, yes yes, exactly the same color. “THe formula is right there on the label. It’s no problem to mix you another can.”

They mixed it, and as is apparently their custom, placed a little dab of it on the lid just to demonstrate the color.

It was not the color on the little swatch card. No. It was not apricot at all. It just looked tan.

I had heard that the colors never quite come out the way you see them on the swatch. But in my disappointment, I did not actually apply the paint for a long time.

But yesterday, I felt inspired. I had part of the day off, and I went to work. I got a little brush, I prepped the wall and I PAINTED. It wasn’t too hard, but it was very satisfying. The WHITE walls look horrid now, not at all attractive. I was so pleased with the paint, I painted with a will. There was an AC duct along the wall, I painted that. Then I got down on the flat expanse of the wall, and I ran out of paint. Whoops.

I stopped and looked at the color. No, it wasn’t as apricot as I liked, but it was a very pretty cafe au lait sort of color. I really liked it. Mmm. But the wall was only halfway done. I went to the store to get another can. THis time I would get a gallon. so I could do the whole room.

Back with the gallon of paint, ready to go. Opened up the can, and oh my goodness. This was where all the apricot that wasn’t in the first can went to. This can of paint was practically the color of a terra cotta pot. Wow. Orange and more orange. There was no way this was going to “blend” in with the first color.

I painted the rest of the wall anyway. It is distinctly two colors. I will put some tape up tomorrow and create a vertical line between the two, that way it will be a straight divide at least.


Lesson learned:
No, you cannot just run out and get another can of paint.

Also, that paint and color are lovely things. I like them very much and am yet more inspired to continue this painting thing.

The little bit of ceiling that I had scraped free of the popcorn painted very nicely too. I will also be doing the rest of the ceiling. No, it’s not perfect and smooth, but it still looks a bazillion times better than the nasty popcorn.

Live and learn.

Playland by Athol Fugard

Very freaky name for an incredibly serious play. This takes place on the grounds of a South African amusement park called playland, and it’s a deadly serious story about a black man and a white man trying to come to terms with their murderous hate.

They are kind of crazy, both of them, and it comes out very slowly, in a building tension. The whole play is just the two men, with a voice over the loudspeaker of the amusement park being the only other part.

this playwright also wrote “the Road to mecca”, which I also like.

Reaching out

Those of you, and I am so grateful for you, who read my blog on a regular basis would be aware that I haven’t written very regularly this month.

Perhaps I have been extraordinarily busy with work.

But also, at the beginning of the month, I had my piano tuned. It’s needed it for some time. I just hadn’t gotten around to it. I was feeling a vague sense of guilt that I never play it, and then I realized that I didn’t like the way it sounded, all out of tune. So, I had it tuned.

I’ve been playing it madly ever since. I pass it, on the way to get something from the kitchen, and I can’t resist playing some tricky part of a song, some trilly part that’s hard to get right.

And I’m learning to play new songs. I was getting tired of all the old ones I knew. I have been trying to learn some old irish ballads, and some old jazz songs.

Ballads are so pretty; they tear my heart out. I will often cry as I play and sing them.

But jazz is another animal entirely. They seem so simple when you hear them, and somehow, they slip away. You try to sing them, and then find you can’t remember the words. What was that again? It just slips out of your mind.

It was surprising to me to realize that most of them were just two or three very simple verses. Why is that so hard to remember?

So when I sit down to play these simple songs, I also find they are not so simple to play. I learned to play piano by teaching myself. I learned to play melodies on my own, and then I pestered other people and read things until I got an understanding of how music works. For any song, there is a structure, a musical structure. It’s like a grid that you can place down over any song, and know how you can place the parts of the song in relation to itself and in relation to music as a concept.

Jazz does not fit the grid very well.

If you read about jazz, read what they said about it at the time, the people were freaking out at how innovative and weird and NEW it was. “Jungle music” they called it, among other things. Some people couldn’t get enough of it.

Since I’ve been so fascinated with my newly tuned piano, music has been on my mind, I found my harmonica, and I was trying to play some of the same songs on it as I was walking to the bus stop.

“Danny Boy” worked pretty well, but “Pennies from Heaven” was hopeless. I realized that the harmonica does not have all the notes that a piano has. There simply was nowhere to go, nowhere to reach for the notes I needed.

And it clicked with me. That is why Jazz was so exciting to these people when it was new. They had their minds in the grid. And when the jazz musicians reached out for a note that wasn’t in the grid, it was practicially like reaching into a fourth dimension. It was blowing their minds!

I am thinking of the novel by Sinclair Lewis, Flatland. New things are so hard for us to come to terms with.

So why does the piano keep me from writing? I don’t know. My mother raised me on theories of right-brain and left-brain functions. I will say that when I play the piano, my mind does not think in words very well. I don’t know why, but even the words in songs do not interrupt the flow of concentration created by my hands on the keys of the black and whites.

I am disappointed, because I do not play as well as I used to.

But even when I was as good I used to be, I was not as good as I wanted to be. I feel a push to do more than I can, more than I even know how to do.

I am not writing as well as I wish, or as much as I wish. And I am not playing as well as I want.

I have been feeling a hunger for a sewing machine, lately. I want to make something, create something that has not been done before.

I haunt the craft shop, and I tell myself, “you can’t find the time to write, you can’t find the time to practice your piano enough, how are you going to have time to sew?”

But I can’t leave.

I feel the urge to reach out in a direction that has not been traveled before, or even discovered. And I fight myself all the time about it. I don’t know the way to start, or to find what I am looking for. What use would it be if I did? What would it matter? Who would care? How could I possibly succeed? What would good would it do if I even did?

But still I am haunting the craft stores, feeling the materials, and fantasizing about vagues shapes and colors and textures.

6.5 they said

SO I just experienced an earthquake in a skyscraper.

It was very weird. I was just sitting there, eating my christmas cookies, and I started feeling very dizzy. I thought, “Have I eaten so much sugar that I am dizzy?”

It went on for a long time, and as I was trying to figure out what was happening, the exclamations of my co-workers peirced my consciousness. “You didn’t feel that?”

It dawned on me that that’s what people say when there is an earthquake. Why were they talking about earthquakes. OH my GoD! I was feeling an earthquake!

It felt like the whole building was wobbling. OH man. I didn’t like the idea of being on the 10th floor of a 26th story building that was wobbling.

And it kept wobbling. At this point a lot of people were jumping up and decided what to do. I jumped over to my friend’s cube.

“It felt just like vertigo!”

I said, “I don’t like this. This is very scary.”

“It’s worse at home, trust me.”

I thought, What is she talking about? Home would be way better than this! I am in the middle of a wobbling building!

“I’ve never been scared by an earthquake before” I told her.

It did pass, thank god, and we all rushed to find out how big it was.

6.5, they said.

happy solstice

Hey everyone! It is the winter solstice today. This is the original, uncontested holiday for all the whole earth.

today is the darkest day of the year, and after this, things become brighter.

Do something to honor the day. Notice the changing of seasons, in the world and in yourself. Be grateful for the richness of the earth and the progression of things.

Happy solstice!


You know, I’ve been re-evaluating my life somewhat. I don’t know why I call it RE-evaluating. I seem to do it without pause, really.

I am increasingly tired of what I do to make money. I feel like I have a lot of other things I would prefer to spend my time on. For example, I recently got my piano tuned. I am really enjoying learning new songs, and playing old ones.

What is this job thing for, anyway? Yes, I have to have food, shelter and clothing. And don’t forget the mathoms, all the pretty little useless items that catch my fancy, that I just have to have.

or maybe I don’t. Maybe I can get along with a heck of a lot less than I think. I went out to a restaurant last night, because I was too tired to cook and I didn’t have much in the fridge anyway.

If I hadn’t been to busy to shop or too tired to cook, I could have saved a lot of money.


As I was driving back with Chris from Marie Callendar’s, he asked me about Christmas music. “What kinds of music means Christmas to you?” He was thinking of buying Christmas CDs.

Thinking about it, my family did not buy Christmas CDs. But every Christmas had music! We just made it ourselves. Either we had an instrument to accompany us or we didn’t, but we always sang together.

What a beautiful thing! Think about music, just for a minute, as a beautiful thing to collect. It doesn’t take up space, it doesnt’ cost money. All you have to do is remember to sing.

And it lasts! It’s not something you regret, like a too-rich dessert. But it makes you feel good for longer than it takes just to sing.

What else is like that? Maybe playing a game, and I mean a real game that you make up, like peekaboo, with a child or a friend. Doesn’t cost a thing, doesn’t take up space or clutter your life.

Spending some time giving love…kisses and hugs, the best things in life, really, are just the same.

I wonder if I could tip the balance, make my life full of the non-cluttery things, so full that I don’t have time or space for the physical things. That might eliminate the necessity for this daily pay for daily work stuff.


The real home made microwave popcorn recipe.

Awhile back, I did some postings about homemade popcorn. I posted them because I often post about any random thing that catches my interest.

Maybe you readers didn’t know, I have ways of telling how the traffic on my website gets here. There is a detailed report, most of which is boring. But the report also tracks what kind of search strins people use to find my site.

And consistently, people come here looking for how to make homemade microwave popcorn. I get a lot of hits for that.

My last entry on the matter was not quite accurate, so I wanted to set the record straight.

To Make your OWN microwave popcorn you need:

brown lunchbag
popcorn kernels (whatver cheap kind your local store sells)
stapler with staples

1. Open the bag
2. Cover the bottom of the bag with popcorn. Some kernels may rest on top of each other, just make sure that the entire bottom is covered with corn
3. Fold over the top of the bag and staple it. Yes, the staple is metal, but it won’t spark.
4. Place in the microwave on its side
5. Cook for however long your microwave takes to cook pre-bagged popcorn.

NOW! I have used this method on two different microwaves. One was pathetic and had very little power. The corn in that case took 3 and a half minutes to pop, and was very DRY and stale tasting by the time it came out.

My new microwave is more peppy, it’s 1000W. It takes one minute and 45 seconds to pop a full bag. The corn is much fresher tasting, probably because the water is still mostly there. The corn itself sometimes leaves moist marks on the bag, from whatever water content the kernels have in them.

For myself, I like butter on the popcorn. So i microwave a little butter and pour it on. When I’m trying to eat light, which is most of the time, I cook a little Brummel&Brown in the ‘wave and add some water. THe water gives it more pour power, letting the butter flavor cover more of the corn.

The “I can’t believe it’s not butter” spray is really good too.

You can re-use the bag too, if you feel especially frugal. As i’m typing right now, it occurs to me that a plastic paper clip might do the trick just as easily as a staple. That would really prolong the life of the bag, and eliminate the need for a new staple every time. Perhaps I will try this and let you all know.

But that’s the skinny! It really does work, I’ve done it consistely for about a year now. It’s much cheaper and far eco-friendlier than using all that packaging. Plus, if you are watching calories or sodium, you can be in charge of what goes on the popcorn. I’ve seen the low-sodium microwave popcorn for sale, it is even MORE expensive.

Comment if you have anything to say.


In my new house, right after thanksgiving, the oven broke. Since I am a new homeowner, this is my problem. I had to call the repair man and wait at home for him.

He said he’d come wednesday, so I had to miss some work to meet him in the afternoon. Since I was missing work anyway, I thought I would try to get some other home things done.

My piano needed tuning. I did a search on google for “piano tuner” and my area code. First guy that popped up I called, and he was free.

So my oven was fixed. Kitty loved him, I don’t know why, but Skellig rubbed all over him while he was on the kitchen floor. He told me that the oven is good for a long time now. Nice to know I don’t have to replace it. I like it.

Then the piano tuner came. I was talking with him, and he let out that he was a Theremin player.

EVERYONE ought to know what a Theremin is. If you don’t, do your homework!

I confess, I only has superficial knowledge of the Theremin before I met Roger Ballenger. I knew that it was used in the Beach Boys “Good Vibrations”, and that it was a standard Halloween instrument. Also, that it is the first electronic music instrument.

What I didn’t know was how cool Mr. Theremin himself was.

I asked Roger what a person who plays the theremin is called.

A Thereminist? That’s what he called it, but he confessed that he didn’t know if it was the official name.

I had to think about it a little. He said that the way you play the Theremin involves moving your hands across the radio waves to interrupt the inaudible frequency and create an audible sound.

“Like Massaging the radio waves?” I asked.

“I know! A person who plays the theremin is a Theremineuse!”

Long and short of it is, I learned a lot about Theremins and also got my piano tuned.

I’ve been playing it a lot lately.

Holiday traditions

Holidays are a time for special tasty treats. We get to eat and drink things that aren’t even around the rest of the year.

I know that I look forward to drinking eggnog out of a punchbowl. This is a generations old tradition.

And also, some hereditary memory lurks, reminding the four-footed in the household of how very tasty it is to drink Pine Water from the tree stand.

THe Shop Around the Corner

Saw a piece of this on the TV, and then I had to run out and borrow the whole movie.

This is what You’ve Got Mail with Meg Ryan ripped off of. Oh, I really like this movie! I fell in love with Jimmy Stewart all week. He is so handsome.

The people in the movie seemed to act like people I know. A lot of the movies I have seen, the old movies, seem to be people that could never possibly exist in real life. But this one was dead on. I loved it.