Category Archives: Vlog

My Lady Garden and the One in Our Yard

lettuce crop

lettuce in the spring

The hot summer and our bathroom renovations dragged on and both depleted my energy and the will to blog about the house. I’ll whine blog about that later. My gardening philosophy is throw a few seeds (or starter plants from the nursery) in the ground, say a prayer and water as needed. The results are usually decent. DH really owns the garden here. It started out as a joint project, but I got pushed out. Or maybe I jumped ship as he was all too serious about it.

I did have a lady garden, though.

At any rate, with our warm spring, he planted early lettuce and it grew like gangbusters. We ate like happy bunnies. The results since then have been, uh, mixed. We were thrilled to pull our first carrot, tiny as it was. I should say that I’m not sure what variety he planted (the baby kind?) and that the soil might have been too packed too allow for optimal growth.


home grown carrot

first carrot

That was back around June. Yesterday, the Ukrainian grandma next door brought us these:

home grown carrots

They looked like normal carrots! What’s her Old World secret? We’ll never know; she doesn’t speak English.

She’s got a bumper crop of tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchini and pretty much everything else she planted.

We’ve harvested a handful of sunflower seeds, two small red cabbages, 3 cukes and barely any tomatoes. Though we do have some promising Brussels sprouts growing. I’m most disappointed about the tomatoes. I love fresh Romas. DH likes variety: yellow tomatoes, peach tomatoes, purpleish tomatoes- he’s harvesting a few of each. But I don’t want a fuzzy orange tomato that’s sweet like a peach. I want a nice plump Roma. Guess which plant is not producing?

Oh well, it’s our first garden. There’s room to improve next year. Besides, the weather has cooled a bit and the season’s not over yet, so who knows what surprises Mother Nature may have in store for us?

Tips for a Good Night’s Sleep and Serta Pillow Giveaway

Serat's new icomfort store in lombard, IL

photo credit Julia Stotz

As a Serta Blog Ambassador, I had a chance to visit the world’s first and only iComfort Store in Lombard, Illinois. The store features all seven styles of iComfort models on display in an upscale environment.

At the store opening, I mixed and mingled with some of Chicago’s leading bloggers and the Serta PR team, so I asked them to share tips for a good night’s sleep, which you’ll hear in the video below.


In addition to helpful tips from my peeps, I received a Serta Gel-Memory Foam 2 in 1 Scrunch Pillow to bring home. And why not? A good pillow is key to a good night’s sleep. I like that the pillow lets me sleep however I want- it supports stomach, back and side sleepers equally well. The pillow is a satisfying mix memory foam and gel-infused memory foam, so my head doesn’t overheat, but is nicely supported (along with my neck). And it’s so wonderfully scrunchy!

One lucky reader will have the chance to win one of her (or his) own Gel-Memory Foam pillow courtesy of Serta. Serta Scrunch pillow

To enter to win a Serta Scrunchy pillow:

1. (Required) Comment once on this blog sharing your best sleep tip. Comment by 10:00 PM CT on July 23, 2012 for a basic entry. US addresses only. No purchase necessary to win, but the winner must be 18 years of age. The prize has a retail value of roughly $79.95.

You can also have up to two optional extra entries; I need a separate comment for each of these items, so I can count each one as an extra entry:

2. Tweet about the entry and come back to let me know you did.

3. Subscribe to my YouTube Channel so you can keep up with Reluctant Renovator video blogs. Come back to let me know.

Winner will be chosen at random and notified by July 21, 2012 and will have two days to respond to me. If no response is received, a new winner will be chosen. Prize will be fulfilled by the PR agency.


Disclosure: As a Serta blog ambassador, I am compensated for my work with the brand.

A Black (and White) Single Mama of Four is Homeless Because of Me

Skunk living under our front stoop, mama skunkSweet success; the skunk is gone! I’ve been sharing my skunk adventures with Facebook fans for several weeks now. Basically, we had a gentle and well-behaved skunk making its home beneath our front stoop. It was like deja-vu all over again. Last year, I called in a trapper to catch the skunk, but once the traps were set, we never saw our wannabe pet again.



This year, I wanted to avoid the $125 trap fee as well as the inevitably stinky front-lawn death scene that would take place if the skunks were caught (state law, yo), so we stuck with trying to make life unpleasant for the skunk by repeatedly covering up the den entrance.

That doesn’t really stop a burrowing animal, especially one that really likes its home.

Even our extensive yard work, what with the regrading and laying of sod, didn’t seem to bother the skunk.

Nor did the mothballs we tossed into the den.

The old window screen I tried to bury near the entrance didn’t do it either. Like fingernails on a chalkboard to humans, burrowing animals don’t like the sound or feel of their nails scratching metal. But I didn’t plant it deep enough.

Oh well.

But when my husband said he spotted a family of skunks walking across our fresh sod one night, I knew I had to take action. When I mentioned on Facebook that it was time to get serious, a friend of a friend messaged me that used kitty litter can make a den stinkier than the skunks do. Even better, she offered to provide some for me.

So yes, early one spring morning after dropping my kids at school, I drove out to the woman’s house to pick up a bagful of well-soiled kitty litter. The mostly sealed bag sat on my lawn for a few days.

The early one evening, my husband told me he saw the skunk leave the den.

I sprang into action, sprinkling the aged kitty litter (whose odor was so potent that my child helper abandoned the project) at the entrance and then fully buried the old window screen and covered it all up with dirt and a large rock.

Done and done!

Sort of. We figured she wouldn’t  leave her babies behind. I’m a mom, too. I get it.

Sure enough she returned for her brood. She didn’t spray. She just dug and dug and dug until she got her babies and then she left. At which point I covered the entrance with dirt again.

But like many a harried mom trying to wrangle her little ones, she forgot one slowpoke and returned for it about an hour later. The den has been sealed since then.

She’s not really homeless. Skunks commonly keep several dens in their territory; our stoop was just a favored home. I’m pretty sure she’s living nearby because we’ve seen presents from her on our driveway and garden. (In the form of poop, of course.)

The other day I was out on a walk when I noticed Mama Skunk digging up grubs on a neighbor’s lawn. It was close to 8 in the morning and already a hot, sunny day, so I’m not sure why she was still out from her evening romp (please don’t say rabies, because then we should have trapped her and put her down). I stopped in my tracks, looked right at her and said, “What are you doing here?!” She looked up at me and scurried away.

That was the last Ive seen of her.

Garage Sale, Day 1

Today is the first day of our garage sale, so I’m keeping it simple on the blog. Earlier this week, the boys and I conjured up a great bit of summer fun with duct tape, a contractor trash bag and water.

Take a look at the Water Blob we made and let me know if you try this yourself. It was hours of fun using inexpensive materials we already had around the house. The fun was extended by the boys hovering over the computer creating mash-ups with the video segments I’d filmed. Best deal of the summer so far.

Stop by the garage sale if you’re a local. You’ll get the blog reader discount!

Happy Mother’s Day!

As a long-time mom, I decided to commemorate this Mother’s Day with a video of things I never expected to say as a parent, including those things (groan) my mom said to me that I swore I would not ever say to my kids. It’s in my DNA, people. I just can’t help myself.


I’m thrilled to be hosting a family gathering with my husband’s family–including his 90-something year-old grandmother (a neatnik who I hope will not have a heart or bladder attack when she goes to use the bathroom and sees it’s completely gutted), his parents, his sister’s family, my parents and my brother’s family.

And, no, that was not a sarcastic “thrilled.” It’s so wonderful to have a home and be able to share our food, our space, and our love.

It’s also nice to host a family gathering without worrying about someone storming out, making a fuss or causing a food fight. Well, we do have a rambunctious lot of kids ages 6-14, but hopefully they’ll be using their manners.

We’ll be serving salad with lettuce straight from our garden, my classic cucumber-tomato extravaganza,  guacamole, a lemon-cucumber-dill salad, a black-bean-roasted corn-avocado deal, lot of chips, grilled hot dogs, chicken sausages and chicken breast.

If the morning’s mild, sunny weather holds, we’ll be in for a great day.

However you celebrate, happy mother’s day!

KBIS 2012, Kitchen and Bath Industry Show Top Picks and Trends

Fun, functional, aspirational*–there was so much to see and report on from the 2012 Kitchen and Bath Industry Show. I’ll be back with interesting tidbits and kitchen and bath trend reports (not to mention my own reno progress on the two original bathrooms in this house), but for now, I’m going to share a video of my top picks from the show.



And here’s a bit from Kohler introducing the HydroRail, which is definitely a key find. It lets consumers have the luxury of a rainshower head without the mess of tearing up the wall and installing new pipes.



Which of these new products would you like to have? As for me,  I already have a U-Socket on order from ThinkGeek.

*The industry term for cool stuff you can’t afford.