Lessons in plaster dust

The fellow that owns an old home is always just coming out of a hardware store.  ~Frank McKinney Hubbard

My architect-husband, Doug, and I have owned five old houses throughout our 30-year marriage, including a Craftsman-bungalow duplex we’re renting out near downtown Royal Oak. We’ve lived in our circa 1926 Tudor for nearly 20 years, and just finished remodeling the upstairs bathroom last week.

When we were newlyweds, the two of us did most of the renovations ourselves, happily spending our free time tearing out carpeting or scouting the local flea markets for vintage light fixtures. After we became parents, we started hiring contractors to handle the heavy-duty projects — but we’ve always had a taste for plaster dust.

Older homes are a lot of work, of course. Yet there’s nothing like the sense of satisfaction we get when we’re renovating a building with its own history and character — a home that will be enjoyed by other families in years to come.

After we began remodeling the master bathroom this month, it hit me that home improvement is also a metaphor for self-improvement. With that in mind, I wrote “Life Lessons in Plaster Dust” for Royal Oak Patch. The column includes a few “before and after” photos of the project.  Please click here to read it. — CL

— UPDATE: After reading “Life Lessons in Plaster Dust” on Patch, Tom Bramford, host of the KCMO 710 (Kansas City) Home Show invited me to be a guest on his radio program. To listen to the podcast, follow this link.


You gotta have friends

It takes a long time to grow an old friend.”  ~John Leonard

All too often, we put our social lives on the back burner because we’re too busy with work or family obligations. Or because we think we have to pull out all the stops to entertain company.

Earlier this year, within a very short period of time, several of my oldest friends buried their beloved parents. With these losses fresh in mind, my friend Debbie (in the photo at left) and I made a pact to get together more often — and to keep it simple.

As the old Beatles song goes, we get by with a little help from our friends. But new research indicates that it goes much deeper than that: An emotionally supportive social network brings us several health benefits. This week’s column on Royal Oak Patch.com is a meditation on the tender topic of friendship. It includes some new resources to help you cultivate, nurture, or weed out your own garden of friends. Please click here to read it. — CL

“Ahhh” is for aromatherapy

If you want your life to come together, you have to start treating yourself better.” — Sarah Ban Breathnach, Simple Abundance

Like most women I know, I’ve always felt a bit guilty about taking time out for myself — especially if there are people or household chores in need of my attention. Self-pampering? I rarely book a facial or a massage unless I’m on vacation. And with my mother’s health crisis topping my list of responsibilities now, well, let’s just say it’s twice as hard to find free space on my calendar.

In this week’s Patch column, I explain how a nudge from my husband gave me a much-needed break from the stress of care-giving — without driving too far from home. I hope the column inspires you to spoil yourself a little, too. Click here to read it. — CL

— Photo by Cindy La Ferle for Royal Oak Patch.com; Douglas J Aveda Institute in Royal Oak.

No place like home

The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.” — Marcel Proust

When was the last time you really explored your own community? Chances are, there’s a restaurant, art gallery, thrift shop, or boutique that opened when you weren’t looking. And how much do you know about your city’s history? Is there a museum nearby? With gas prices skyrocketing, this might be the season for a “staycation.”

This week’s “No Place Like Home” column on Royal Oak Patch is packed with ideas for enjoying spring break without spending a bundle on hotel bills. The idea struck when my husband and I had to cancel a trip to Florida due to my elderly mother’s health issues. We’ve been following my advice all week, breaking out of our old comfort zone without straying too far from our own backyard.  –CL

— Photo of the Paris boutique in downtown Royal Oak, by Cindy La Ferle —

Everyone’s favorite mom

Friends are relatives you make for yourself.”  ~Eustache Deschamps

Do you remember a special mom in your neighborhood whose influence made a difference when you were growing up?  An othermother? For me, it was Evie Carnahan, the mother of one of my best friends from Clawson Junior High. As an only child in a quiet household, I was grateful to Ev for periodically “adopting” me and giving me a glimpse of what it’s like to be part of a big family. After her funeral last month, I was moved to write a tribute to Ev — and our lifelong friendship. The column runs this week on both Clawson and Royal Oak Patch sites. Please click here to read it.

The photo at left was taken at Pronto! in Royal Oak, where I met with Ev and the “Carnahan sisters” to celebrate Ev’s 80th birthday nearly two years ago. Ev’s in the bottow row, far left.