The Lesson of the Thermostat

My thermostat started clicking over and over again a couple weeks ago. Not the kind of clicking a thermostat makes when it’s switching from heat to cool or fan to not-fan or whatever, but the kind of clicking a thermostat makes when it’s broken and needs to be replaced.

Google it. That’s what I did.

If you want confirmation, head to Facebook.

“Replace it”, was the general consensus among people who seemed to know what they were talking about. Or at least conveyed the confidence that comes with brevity. (“It’s broken. Replace it.” That’s way more authoritative than, say, “Hmm. How old is it? Gas or electric system? Heat pump?”)

Whatever. I digress.

In short, enough people on the Internet gave the impression this was an easy thing to handle myself that I said the hell with Saturday night and drove to Lowe’s for a replacement.

What follows is a single woman’s step-by-step guide to replacing a faulty thermostat – complete with playlist, cocktail selection, conversation starters with bored girlfriends, and applications to the finer parts of life.

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A Timely Wind-Down

Tim Zurowski Photography

This weekend was domestic, pony-tailed, picket fences bliss.

I cleaned my house – really cleaned it.

I mowed the yard, pulled weeds, chatted with a neighbor who edged my part of the sidewalk just because he’s nice.

I spruced up the garden and planted fall annuals. Purple aster, yellow pansies.

Built a fire pit out back with the help of friends. “Dual-burning”, with sides for both hotdogs and s’mores!

Bicycled Williamson County’s mega hills and music star farms: Lynnwood Way, Hidden Valley, Moran Road, Del Rio Pike…

(My lovely riding partner was patient when I almost died on monstrous Lynnwood.)

Read a book on my patio, Billie Holiday tunes in the background.

Watched college football at my girlfriend’s parents’ house while our children played in the yard. (Both our alma maters lost, but the company compensated for it.)

Let my daughter hold a bake sale with cookies she made herself.

Ate Chinese delivery on the screened porch when I burned a pot of bean soup. The little group who ended up at my house Sunday night minded not a bit.

I watched hummingbirds – two of them (male and female) – flit around my backyard. I don’t have a feeder; they like the wisteria tangled through the fence.

I saw deer, twice; once on the street behind my house, and again on a pot-holed lane at the bottom of a giant bicycle decline.

I was softer, more patient with my child and her gaggle of neighborhood friends.

I shrugged off small disasters – the burned soup, et al.

I didn’t take the interstate anywhere. I didn’t stay up later than 10. I didn’t shoot any tequila.

My bike ride into the country was as far away from Franklin as I ventured – a first in more than a season’s time.

After a busy summer, it was a gentle reminder of how much I love my home, how nice it is to slow down, and what peace can come with a well-timed wind-down.

Who dares send flowers to a gardener?

 

Only the very brave give flowers to a gardener. This is too bad.

I understand the hesitation. It would be like cooking dinner for a chef or praying for a priest. Did you know therapists go to therapists who specialize in dealing with therapists? It must be horribly intimidating to send flowers to a woman who grows a yard full of them.

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Prettying and personalizing a modern home with antiques

My house: Lately I have found myself with extra space and a desire to make it feel like me. And not just me, per say, but what has formed me – my family, my community. In an effort to fill these domestic spaces – and fill them meaningfully – I’ve spent a quite a bit of time meandering antique malls around Nashville and Franklin. Sometimes I’m alone, sometimes with friends. Sometimes I have a plan, sometimes not. Sometimes I scour my own closets and drawers, finding things I didn’t know or didn’t remember I had, and these, too, become great finds. Art recovered or repurposed. Some of my recent favorites:

This Eastlake sofa is from circa 1880 but has been relatively recently reupholstered in a bright gold that looks beautiful in my green and cream bedroom. It was one of a handful of antiques in a small downtown Franklin shop that sells primarily gifts and modern home accessories. The store owner told me the sofa had been on display for years, too fancy and unusual to muster serious attention from any practical buyers.

I bought it right away.

The images above it are from my mother’s family: formal portraits of her great aunts and uncles as babies, nurses, soldiers and parents. The frames are a variety of colors and sizes not intended for this grouping, but somehow it works out better that way. When the portraits didn’t fit the frames, I cobbled together matting from the portrait studios’ original paper sleeves.

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Blog hiatus ends with spring

I went for a run Sunday in the rain and noticed lots of daffodils had opened up over the weekend. The bulbs in my garden are late bloomers, but there are a trillion of them. When it’s their time, you’ll know.

In the last couple of years of gardening, I’ve learned the show is worth the work and wait. (Photo is from last April.)

Here are some other things I’ve learned in the past several months since taking a break from blogging:

How to cut a cat flap into an insulated garage door: Take it off the hinges, drill holes in the four corners where you want the flap to go, and use a skill saw to cut the hole. If you accidentally cut the hole too big, go to the pet store and buy a bigger door. Brag about the endeavor to all men, especially your dad.

How to connect a new computer to the internet: The Comcast guy is helpful, and it’s nice when you know your best friend’s web designer husband is just a text message away, but it’s sooo much better when you can handle this yourself. Especially if your job title at work has “digital” in it. Read all the manuals and check to make sure you have cords going to the right places.

How to make new friends: Throw parties. Cook something nice. Go places. Accept invitations. Say yes. It’s not that hard.

How to tell your child about Santa Claus and sex: The Santa conversation is much worse. The sex talk can be enlightening and sweet. Ideally: both parents for both conversations. This is heavy stuff, and you each bring perspective and – together – balance.

How to join a church: Find the right place. Talk to people, or don’t. Admit to your past church baggage. (We all have it.) Show up.

How to speak in public: Know what you’re talking about. Be passionate. Don’t worry if you’re so passionate you veer toward the emotional.

How to ask for more: I think this is the hardest. It comes with knowing yourself, knowing your needs, and demonstrating those to other people.

How to resurrect a blog: “Press Publish”. Easy.

How to make a window photo frame

It takes a while, but its worth it.

1. Buy a window. I got this one at an antique mall in Nashville for $30.

2. Remove the old window panes. If they are in good condition, save them. My window was so old that most of the panes shattered when I tried to take them out. (They had been painted to the wood and when I removed the paint, they broke.)

3. Strip the wood of old paint, if you wish. Or leave it.

4. Sand it down so it’s splinter-proof and you don’t mind it hanging inside your home.

5. Paint over the sanded wood with a sealant. I chose a clear sealant, but you may prefer a stain or paint.

6. Buy glass to fit each pane. Lowe’s and Home Depot will custom-cut glass to fit. (It’s very inexpensive, thank goodness.)_

7. BEFORE you install the glass in the window, mount the photos to the glass as you wish. To mount photos:

8. Clean the glass with a glass cleaner like Windex.

9. Condition it with an agent designed for glass crafts. I used Delta Surface Conditioner. I honestly don’t know if this was necessary, but at this point I wasn’t taking any more chances.

10. Adhere the backs of the photographs to glass with an adhesive designed for slick surfaces. I used Aileen’s Glass and Bead adhesive.

11. Use a foam roller brush to apply glaze over the whole surface – on top of the photographs – sealing them to the glass and creating a smooth, uniform (ish) surface. I used Delta Clear Gloss Glaze. They also make an opaque, but I wanted to see my photos through the glaze.

12. Mount the glass inside the window. I secured mine using finishing nails I hammered in VERY GENTLY behind each glass pane.

13.  Screw hardware to the back of the whole thing. I used eye-hook picture hangers heavy enough to support 100 pounds, because that’s about how heavy this thing feels. I used two: one on each end, and hung from picture hooks I measured before nailing to my wall.

14. Get someone to help you hang it up. I asked my 9-year-old daughter, and that was all I needed. I didn’t want to wait another second.

Comfort from my daughter’s ‘present’ box

Residents are evacuated in Fieldstone Farms in Franklin on May 2, 2010. Photo by Mandy Lunn / The Tennessean.

Hidden in my closet is a box of small presents for my daughter, which I restock from the dollar aisle at Target and draw from when I think she needs a pick-me-up. This morning, which is the 12th after the floods began, I turned to the present box impulsively.  Continue reading

Nashville floods, work overwhelms, heart sinks

This is my neighborhood, Fieldstone Farms.

I’m a journalist with The Tennessean. Because of overwhelming flooding in our city the last four days, my “day job” has been more like a “round the clock” job. That’s why I haven’t posted in a while.

I’m not complaining. Getting information to people is an important part of helping my city overcome this disaster.

Here is a link to our ongoing Nashville Flood coverage. And here is a list of “dos” and “don’ts”, including what you can do to help.

I hope you and your family are safe and dry.

Ten tiny food pleasures are ritualistic and delicious

Lemonade with sugared rim and mint; frozen blueberries; salted almonds.

I have been looking for small ways to treat myself this week, and it occurred to me that when it comes to food, what delights and soothes me has as much to do with ritual and association as it does flavor and sustenance. Here are some favorite tiny pleasures I think others might enjoy:

  • Frozen blueberries. I fill a little dish and eat them one by one. My fingers turn blue. When my grandmother was undergoing chemotherapy for breast cancer, I made her homemade ginger ale and garnished her glass with blueberries I found in her freezer. According to a cookbook I bought when I learned she had cancer, the flavors are strong enough to be enjoyed by chemo patients whose taste buds have been damaged by the treatments. Continue reading

Windowsill flower arrangement

Pansies and columbine

Here is a sweet, simple way to arrange flowers if you don’t have a lot of space, or a lot of know-how. It’s also handy for those who don’t have a big cutting garden, or who (like me) would rather leave everything outside because that’s where you spend more of your time.

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