Monthly Archives: February 2011

Rub a dub, scrub a tub

When Youngest Daughter (YD) sent me photos of the apartment she was thinking of renting in in Pasadena, CA, well, I cringed. While the 1950s built complex was in a great part of town and had a charming “Mid Century Modern” appeal,  the apartments could do with some major updates. Most of the issues are with the layers of shoddy painting, dust, grime and worn-out appliances and fixtures. (Not to mention the pinch pleat drapes and window-unit air-conditioner.) Regardless of these short comings, the apartment had good bones and is a great place for her at this stage of the game.

YD’s biggest issue was with the bathtub. I’m pretty sure it was one of the few things original to the apartment and boy was it dirty. Well technically it was clean, but it looked really dirty, even after scrubbing it with Comet. The biggest issue was the horrible rust stains.

Do you think it can be cleaned my daughter asked?

My real expert on stains was my Mom. She was a stain aficionado. She knew how to soak, scrub and scrape away pretty much any stain. And she kept Super Clean l in business. What is Super Clean? It’s a heavy duty automotive cleaner that she would buy, dilute and put in a spray bottle. It truly was designed for engine cleaning. You buy it in the automotive aisle at Wal-Mart. Throughout my life it was known as Purple Stuff. But since Mom is not here to help me with stains (and a lot of other stuff) anymore, I consulted Google. Here are the suggestions for removing rust: CLR Rust Remover, toilet bowl cleaner, Mr. Clean Magic Eraser sponges, SOS pads and Coca-Cola.

Well let me tell you, this tub was one hot mess. I almost asphyxiated the entire complex with my cleaning concoctions. What I found was that all these products work, marginally. It took two days of elbow grease, three bottles of toilet bowl cleaner, three Magic Eraser sponges, three Coca-Colas (diet and regular), two SOS pads and Purple Stuff to get the tub white. And also one entire bottle of Scrubbing Bubbles. Essentially I would work on the tub for about 20 minutes every two or three hours. The best product for the rust was the toilet bowl cleaner, but you had to let it dissolve the rust with each application. And I scrubbed, and scrubbed and scrubbed. I didn’t wear gloves. Yes I should have. My hands hurt for days after this adventure!

Also I would note that the CLR did not work well on this particular tub or these rust stains.

As well, after all the cleaning was done we sanded the soap holder, taped it off and spray painted it silver.

The ugly kitchenette makeover

I  love to see before and after (B&A) photos of just about anything. To prove that, I’m going to show you the most incredible B&A in which I’ve ever been associated.

A couple of months back, Youngest Daughter (YD) rented an apartment in Southern California. Amazingly, it was in a great, safe area and it was affordable. Now the aesthetics, not so good. But you know the old adage: Location, location, location. We can make it cute I told her. Then she sent me the photos of the place. I started doubting myself at that point.

A pitiful little “kitchenette”

I stared at the photos she sent me of the ugly little kitchen. She said the landlord called it a kitchenette. I didn’t know what to call it.

For three solid weeks leading up to the trek to California with a U-Haul full of her stuff, I thought about that unfortunate little kitchenette. She suggested that a pot rack would help with the lack of cabinet space, and I thought she needed some sort of shelving unit over the sink. But the biggest issue was color. She asked the landlord if she could paint and he said, “Have at it.”

Isn’t this amazing?

So not only did we arrive in California with a U-Haul full of furniture, I also brought along everything we would need to transform that pitiful little kitchen in just one day!

We started with a quart of Behr paint – it’s Home Depot’s house brand. The color is Cloud Burst (490F-5) — a greenish-blue color. Using that paint chip, we found a few matching accessories that she already had and we acquired a few more at Ross and TJ Maxx. The bar stools were hand-me-downs from my Mom’s lake house. Before we left for California, I painted them the same color that we would paint the wall.

Before & After

I found the pot rack at Hobby Lobby on sale for $19.99, and the spice rack/shelving unit over the sink was procured at a thrift store for $9.99. The prints above the sink she and I got in Paris (yes, France) a few years back.

Also note that we took down the patterned room divider. It was warped and falling down anyway. Taking it down opened up the room and cured the kitchen of its chronic claustrophobia.

Other low-cost changes included new knobs for the cabinets (from grungy, black, hammered iron to oval shaped brushed stainless); repainting the white portion of the bar area (adding vinyl shelf paper) and finishing it off with a colorful rug that just fit and tied all the colors together! Amazing don’t you know!

What did we spend? About $125, give or take!

Just decorate it!


ED's sorority dorm room

Every inch of space in OD’s dorm room in the sorority house was decorated





So I’m not interior

designer and neither are my daughters, although we love the art and science of decorating. We aspire to create rooms that are comfortable, functional and just a bit out of the ordinary. And we will decorate any space, no matter how small. An example: One time our built-in microwave went on the blink. The appliance guy had to remove it and take it to the shop for a couple weeks until a part came in to make it work. For a couple of days I stared at the empty hole above the oven.

Then I brought a pot of ivy from the living room to give the hole some life. Next I added a ceramic rooster and then a colorful stack of cookbooks. Sweet Hubby came home from a trip and noticed: “You decorated the hole!” Until the microwave came back and was re-installed he would show anyone who came by that I had decorated the hole.

But I digress.

For several years now, one of the best pleasures I have had is helping my daughters decorate their dorm rooms, college apartments, first apartments, second apartments. In some cases, those dorm rooms were just a bit larger than our infamous microwave hole.

In the beginning, our effort to decorate their spaces mostly involved curtains and duvet sets, maybe a rug here or a framed poster there. But as their spaces improved so did their tastes, and eventually, their budgets.


One of Younger Daughter’s college apartments was so tiny you sort of fell into the room.

I remember one semester when Eldest Daughter (ED) was studying abroad. After returning she would be moving in her first college apartment. Most of the apartment’s spaces had already been decorated by the roommates, but she would have her own room to do up. And that we did. During the entire time she was away, I would take photos of things I had seen at stores like TJs, Marshalls and Ross and email them to her. She’d give me the yay or nay. When she got home, I had amassed a stack of stuff for the apartment. Then together we found a thrift shop bedroom suit and gave it a new life with a coat of paint and new hardware. We  sewed curtains, combined two comforter sets and came up with a cute and chic bedroom on the cheap!

I wish I had a photo of the decorated hole. It was classic.

It’s a wrap


Painting Christmas wrapping paper was among her first crafting adventures.

She had so much fun painting wrapping paper she didn't want to quit.

She had so much fun painting wrapping paper she didn’t want to quit.

For years and years, my daughters made home-made wrapping paper at Christmas. I think we started the tradition when Oldest Daughter was about two years old. I sent Sweet Hubby to the store to buy some white wrapping paper and he came back with an entire roll of butcher paper. It took us several Christmases of homemade wrapping paper to use that huge roll. After it was gone, we would go down to the local newspaper and buy end rolls of newsprint. Kids of all ages love to paint.

The first few years, I’d mix a recycled margarine tub of red tempera paint and green tempera paint. We would roll out two or three a long rolls of paper on the driveway. Then I’d dress the girls in raggedy clothes, and then hand them both a sponge brush and a bowl of paint and tell them to go for it. Lots of smiles!

On my roll of paper I’d try to paint patterns of Christmas trees and holly and even circles and squares and stars. In the early years, the girls just painted big splotches of color. As they got older, we added silver and gold tempera paint to the mix, as well as sponges cut out in holiday shapes. One year I remember we even used cookie cutters as shapes. Another year I carved shapes out of potatoes.

Before you paint, make sure there’s ample time for it to dry. The paint will dry all chalky if it is applied too thick, which is what little kids do every time. But it’s all usable. After it is good and dry you roll it up into roll, the painting on the outside.

Then, since you saved so much money on wrapping paper, you go out and buy really nice ribbon to adorn your homemade paper. Some years I’d tie up bows made of red and green raffia. Other years, especially after we added the silver and gold paint, we’d use wired silver and gold ribbon. Another year, we painted on brown craft paper and used hemp rope as ribbon and hot glued huge silk poinsettias on each package.

I think it was the junior high years when we stopped making our own paper. Anyway, last week I was on the Square and saw that the newspaper was selling end rolls of newsprint. Yep, the light bulb went off. I had a ball making my own wrapping paper, alone, savoring the memories of when our two little girls couldn’t wait for Christmastime.