Home makeover during a wacky weather week

What a crazy week this has been weather-wise in southern California. It never rains in southern California between April and November, but never say never. After a week of record-breaking hot weather, it poured here on Friday and Saturday.

My home cleanup project uncovered this old desk with refinished walnut top in our garage office--a perfect spot for an artist's nook.

During this heat wave, I’ve been incredibly busy indoors (in our un-air-conditioned house), cleaning the house and garage to find things to sell at a garage sale that will benefit the new Huntington Beach Community Garden. My own neglected garden was in need of watering, but Mother Nature took care of it. First rain we’ve had since April.

Our new Craftsman/Mission-style furniture for the family room is being made for us by Amish woodworkers in Indiana, so we need to get ready to accept it. That means things must go out. We’ll give most of our family room furniture to whichever Corps member at the Orange County Conservation Corps (where I work parttime) is setting up a new household when our new furniture arrives. Sometimes the kids are newly “emancipated” out of the group homes where they had been living until they turned 18, or formerly homeless, or maybe it will be someone just out of jail. And sometimes they’re just moving out on their own for the first time. 

We'll donate our current family room furniture to some young person who needs it at the Orange County Conservation Corps.

Whatever the reason, these kids are for the most part poor and in need of furniture as they start out in their adult lives. When my Mom passed away in 2005, most of her apartment full of furniture (including a refrigerator, TV, stereo, etc.) went to two Corps members who were setting up households for the first time.

That will be the fate of our perfectly serviceable family room furniture. I’ll tell you, I’m really going to miss our coffee table. It was a homemade piece with legs of 4×4 lumber that we picked up for $15 at a garage sale in 1982 when we first moved out to southern California after earning our PhDs in Connecticut. As new postdoctoral fellows and new homeowners, we had no money to spare. You can’t say that we didn’t get good use out of that coffee table. And now someone else will get to enjoy it. We believe in “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.”

I already have many boxes of books, games, puzzles, picture frames, linens, towels, etc. that I’m setting aside for a garage sale next Saturday to raise money for our new community garden. I have 2-3 SUV loads of stuff to take to the sale already, and am still finding more things I can part with.

This is one of several piles of things that I'm donating to the garage sale.

If you’re local, the garage sale will be held on Saturday, Oct. 9 (2010) from 9-2 at 9152 Kapaa Drive in Huntington Beach. Bring stuff to sell by at 8 am, or stop by and buy something. We can’t build our new community garden until we raise more money.

If you’d just like to help us get started with the community garden, you can send checks made out to HB Community Garden and send them to HB Community Garden, PO Box 5891, Huntington Beach CA 92615.

Strangely, a watercolor class is a good part of the impetus to do the extent of cleaning and reorganizing that we’re doing in our house. I began taking the class at the Huntington Beach Art Center two weeks ago, and just love it. I have brushes, paints and paper, everything that I need to create art except talent. I’m having fun with the class, and I guess that’s all that matters.

But I wanted a place to paint and sketch at home in between classes. I had planned on selling an old 6 ft-wide desk that was given to us in the early 1980s. It was a throw-away from the Seal Beach Naval Weapons Station, and probably dates back to shortly after WWII. It had been painted brown long ago to try to hide its many dings and dents. My son Scott and I refinished the top, which turned out to be beautiful walnut. I had always planned on using it as a craft table, but it ended up buried in the garage office, accumulating boxes of papers and magazines. Wasted space.

With the walls of my artist's nook serving as gallery space for my photos, I now have a place to paint.

Plan A was to clear off the desk and sell it to make money for the garden. But once I got the top clean, I remembered how beautiful that wood was and I couldn’t let it go. It has become the centerpiece of my new artist’s nook, which is located in the garage. We have a three-car garage, but only two cars. The third garage is separated from the other two. A previous owner had put in indoor-outdoor carpet, wood paneling, and a drop-down acoustic ceiling with fluorescent lights. It’s a nice space, but we have used the area only for storage.

Like a woman on fire, I cleaned out and recycled a lot of the papers that I didn’t need any more (multiple copies of my published research papers from my time as a medical researcher at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center, notes, magazines, etc.) I rematted some of my framed black and white photographs that date back to the time when I had a one-woman show of my work in early 1975, and hung them on the newly exposed walls. My artist’s “nook” has turned into an artist’s retreat and gallery. I’m thrilled.

Then my husband got inspired and totally cleaned out his office. He found box after box of papers and magazines to recycle too. He bought some attractive shelving units (his former “system” was piles of papers and boxes of magazines stacked on the floor) and is now busy setting them up. Our house and garage office are being transformed. All during the hottest and muggiest week of the year.

This batch of tomatoes became spaghetti sauce, which I had to can since the freezer is full.

This hot weather has sent my 17 surviving tomato plants into a frenzy of productivity. That meant that I had to find time to deal with the 11+ lbs of tomatoes that they produced this week. I made and canned six pints of spaghetti sauce, and now I have to tackle making and canning tomato soup. I don’t know when I’m going to find time to actually use my watercolors and artist’s retreat. Next week?

About Lou Murray, Ph.D.

I'm a professional writer/photographer, avid gardener, and active environmentalist living in southern California. I am retired from writing a weekly newspaper column on environmental topics in the Huntington Beach Independent, but I am still teaching at the Orange County Conservation Corps. This blog chronicles my efforts to live a green life growing as much food as possible for my husband and myself on a 4,500 sq ft yard that is covered mainly by house, garage, driveway, and sidewalks.
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10 Responses to Home makeover during a wacky weather week

  1. Lita Murray says:

    Lou, this is one of my favorite postings. I’ve been doing much of the same. Hope all is well with you and your family.

  2. Lynda says:

    What a great area to paint! I’ve been looking around our house for my perfect spot to craft. Right now I do some in my office (with carpeting), some in the garage (although hard to get to it now with all of the clutter) and some in the basement (which has no cold air return so it’s real hot in the summer and freezing in the winter). We’ve got some ideas for the basement but I’m leaning toward cleaning the area in the garage to do my messy stuff. Anyway, your area is great place to create. Thanks for sharing and getting me to think a bit more about my space.

  3. i love the fact that you donate to charity. We will be doing some spring cleaning – we’re in sydney – and we’ll be doing the same. 🙂

  4. Barbara says:

    Lou, I really admire all your activity. It’s hard work and sometimes emotionally trying to get rid of things, so all the better to donate them to a good purpose. Your new furniture from the Amish woodworkers will surely be beautiful – be sure to post some pictures.

    • Hi, Barbara. Yes, going through my Mom’s things was really hard, and actually giving some of them up or even throwing things away was even harder. But it had to be done. I’m glad that the community garden will benefit.

  5. Cathie says:

    If you really don’t know what to do with a batch of tomatoes, we would gladly take them off your hands. So sad we moved and I haven’t had a home grown tomato since last year!

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