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Humor Columns from the Home Owners Club Newsletter

My unusually good sense of smell turns into an olfactory to-do list at home

For club Columnist Karen Anderson, there’s no escaping the smells of home ... and work.

"Our yard smells delightfully of daphne, lilac, gardenia, crabapple, and peony. I may just set up a tent and move out there. Not just because it smells so wonderful, but because it smells so much better than inside our house. Yes, I’m one of those annoying people who is always snuffling around closets, garages, laundry rooms, pantries and (of course) refrigerators then ... Read more

I’m sure my regular readers (that’s you) would give me five stars. Right?

Club columnist Karen Anderson considers what it would be like if the tables were turned.

"Complaining – about a late delivery, a lousy meal or bad customer service – is going out of style. It’s not that people are getting less fussy, however. We still grouse, but now we plop down in front of our keyboards, go directly to one of the review sites, and pour out our opinions, along with a ... Read more

Do-it-yourself projects are bound to fail when your house realizes what’s happening

Club Columnist Karen Anderson would like to be a more hands-on caretaker, but sometimes things seem to be conspiring against her.

"So-called “smart homes” are all the rage today. I have not only a smart home, but a downright devious one. Every time the Scholarly Gentleman and I sit down to discuss our home improvement projects the house listens in. Then it ... Read more

It seems like Halloween is more haunting than ever this year

Club columnist Karen Anderson says Halloween may be getting out of hand.

"With Halloween just weeks away, I’ve been perusing the online decorations for sale – more out of ghoulish curiosity than anything else, of course. Believe it or not, the purple living room suite from the “Nocturnal Terrors Collection” has been sold out since August, and all that’s left of the “Ghastly Ghouls Collection” for the front porch is the little skeleton ... Read more

The power, mystery and frustration associated with house cleaning

Club Columnist, Karen Anderson explores the dirty underside of everyday house cleaning.

"Ever had one of those days when your kids, in-laws, and maybe even houseguests, are under foot? Not to worry. There's one fail-safe way to clear a crowd out of the house. No, you don't need to shout "Fire" or mention "Voldemort." Just whisper the dreaded word "Cleaning."... Read more

After my latest outdoor adventure, I'm ready to bed down at home for a while

Like most city dwellers living in the Northwest, Club Columnist Karen Anderson certainly understands the draw of the outdoors. But the opportunity to sleep in a comfortable bed at home can be even more enticing.

"Backyard camping is a growing trend in the U.S., and when my niece left her 12-year-old daughter with us for a few days, it seemed the perfect solution. We'd have a taste of Northwest outdoor adventure without any worries that little Talia would get eaten by a bear or lost in a ravine.... Read more

Here's a test: See if you can read this article while doing something else

Many of us feel that we've got a real knack for multi-tasking and would not be nearly as successful without it. Club columnist Karen Anderson has a different perspective.

"Does multi-tasking make you more efficient? If so, my congratulations. For me, it's the complete opposite – though of course that never stops me from trying. ... Read more

I would love a simple salmon filet and a giant cinnamon roll right now

Seattle has changed in many ways over the last two decades. According to Club columnist Karen Anderson, even our food choices have radically transformed.

"In Seattle in the early 1990s, a fancy dinner was nearly always salmon. Usually grilled. Sometimes barbecued. Maybe poached. Our idea of really adventurous salmon preparation was that guy at the office who bragged that he'd poached a giant salmon using his dishwasher.... Read more

Are the people who write instruction manuals trying to drive us all nuts?

If you're easily frustrated with the assembly instructions for new products, Club Columnist Karen Anderson has some advice.

"Poorly written instruction manuals were the bane of my father's orderly existence. When faced with the task of assembling or repairing furniture or an appliance, he always gave the instructions a more-than-fair chance. But they inevitably failed him.... Read more

The worst part of a nice night out: choosing an outfit from your closet

Ever wonder why your closet of clothes keeps expanding exponentially but you're still faced with a dearth of options when it comes time to pick out an outfit? Club columnist Karen Anderson offers some insights (and advice).

"When I walk into my clothes closet to get ready for an evening out, the Scholarly Gentleman knows just what to do. He fixes himself a sandwich, turns on a movie, and, if he's smart, puts on a pair of ... Read more

Running Saturday errands is a task best performed alone (and in disguise)

With Saturday being her primary day for running errands, Club columnist Karen Anderson is focused on efficiency. She even has a motto for it.

"The more, the merrier" is a ghastly phrase dreamed up by some slacker who didn't have a dozen errands to run on a Saturday. My motto: "The fewer, the faster." One recent Saturday, I even tried to put that wisdom to good use. My list of to-dos: dry cleaning, groceries, drugstore, plus the maple tree sale at the nursery. A limited supply of trees was 50 percent ... Read more

Only in Seattle: beefsteak tomato cutlet served by a Northwest lumberjack

In a city renowned for its culinary cuisine, Club columnist Karen Anderson struggles to find a good meal.

The Scholarly Gentleman and I have our favorite sushi bar, taco spot and brunch place. But the comings (and almost as frequent goings) of the city's trendy new bistros, gastro pubs and such have passed us by. By the time we get ready to try a place out, it's shuttered and the chef is off raising heritage sheep on Vashon Island. ... Read more

I finally got a new clothes washer, which, of course, irritated the other appliances

Club Columnist Karen Anderson has owned an older home long enough to know that appliances can sometimes team-up, just to make life difficult for the homeowner.

It all started when the washing machine went kaput last month. By the time we got the new one delivered and installed, a mountain of laundry had accumulated. I spent most of an evening washing, drying, and ironing. By midnight, just one load — a pile of towels — remained to do. "Tomorrow," I promised myself, and left the towels in a heap on the ... Read more

If I come for a visit, will I have to stay in your guest bedroom?

When you're an overnight guest at the home of a friend or family member, it's only natural that you stay in the guest bedroom ... whether you like it or not.

When I was growing up, houses had something called "the guest room." It was a small, pastel bedroom at the back of the house, in the basement, or up on the second floor, furnished with out-of-date beds and dressers inherited from the grandparents or left behind when the kids went off to college. My first experience with one of these guest rooms came ... Read more

I have a heck of a tool collection. Just don't ask me what any of them are.

Having a good set of tools is one of the keys to being a successful homeowner. However, as Club Columnist Karen Anderson has discovered, such a resource is rendered useless if you don't know what the tools do.

They say that when you have a hammer, every problem looks like a nail. But when your tool collection is made up of intriguingly shaped metal whatchamacallits, problems just look ... insoluble. ... Read more

You can't wear a bathrobe when working from home anymore. Or roll your eyes.

Club Columnist Karen Anderson is often asked what it's like to work from home full-time. To be your own boss. To do whatever you want, whenever you want. If you ask nicely, she'll tell you the truth.

You know how employees at high-tech companies decorate their cubicles to look like kids' bedrooms? I decorated a kid's bedroom to look like a professional office space. The whole setup says "professional" — as long as you ignore the cat bed on the desk and the neighbor mowing his lawn 10 feet from ... Read more

Summer in Seattle: It's time to unzip the fleece liner from your jacket

Club columnist Karen Anderson comments on the Seattle fashion scene (or lack of it).

When it comes to fashion, I'm the first to admit that Seattle's not exactly in competition with Paris, New York, and Milan. In fact, we're not even on the same map. I asked Apple's Siri software what kind of clothes people wear in Seattle and she replied ... Read more

Is technology out to kill us? Or is the idea just to make us feel like fools?

Technology is slowly working its way into every aspect of our lives, usually for the better. But when you allow it to supplant your common sense, that's when it's time to tune out all the digital interference for a bit.

This story begins, as every horror story should, with weary travelers visiting an isolated house. We'd retired to our hosts' first floor guestroom (OK, the TV room with the fold-out couch). Shortly before midnight, I woke to hear shuffling steps and a ... Read more

Why 'do-it-yourself' projects so often turn into 'what-have-I-done?!' events

Home improvement TV shows make improving your home look so easy, and fun. But, as Club columnist Karen Anderson notes, the results can often be disappointing.

Just moved into a new house? Puzzling over the bizarre remodeling done by the previous owners? Shocked by their shoddy maintenance? Now's your chance. Take action while you still can. You have just six months — maybe a year — to fix these oddities. ... Read more

My tips for writing holiday letters and thinking of New Year's resolutions

If you would rather wade into a sea of last-minute Christmas shoppers than sit down to write a holiday letter, or try to think of resolutions for next year, this column is for you.

The holiday letter is the grown-up version of the perennial high school essay topic, "What did you do on your summer vacation?" Except that the holiday letter assignment is even worse than the high school essay. With the letter, we're stuck trying to recall the highlights not just of one season but ... Read more

Let me be the first to point out the obvious: We have a serious transportation problem

If you own a home in or around Seattle, vou'll be able to relate to Club columnist Karen Anderson's observations on what it's like to go anywhere.

Seattle has a split personality when it comes to traffic. Just take a look our cars. Half of us are zipping around in SmartCars, Fits, and the eerily stealthy Priuses. The other half are barreling down the freeway in Jeeps, Explorers, and family vans equipped with full-size TV screens to keep the kids entertained. But whether we drive sub-compacts or land yachts, ... Read more

I'm beginning to feel a lot like a small town farm girl

Club Columnist Karen Anderson takes members on a tour of the urban farming community once known as Seattle.

Howdy, folks. Welcome to Seattle, the epicenter of the urban farming movement. Here in Seattle, we're not content with simply digging up our lawns to plant heirloom kale and tomatoes. That's so Old School; these days, we require more of a challenge. So we're putting chicken coops, rabbit hutches and goat pens next to our gas grills and hydrangeas. ... Read more

Does anybody out there know how the butter warmer attaches to my grill?

It's grilling season. And, for Club columnist Karen Anderson, this time of year brings back all kinds of memories of outdoor cooking experiences — some good, some bad, and some still unresolved.

The Stone Age discovery of fire put humankind on the fast track to civilization. It was surpassed in importance only by the subsequent invention of grills, tongs, lighter fluid and barbecue sauce. Here in the weather-challenged Pacific Northwest, our barbecue season is short, but we make the most ... Read more

Didn't I see you at Green Lake park, running backwards, in flip-flops? (Five points for me)

People-watching is a national pastime for many Americans. Now, Club columnist Karen Anderson is encouraging everyone to start keeping score. Grab a friend and come join the fun.

Spring is here! That means it's time to throw open your front door, close your eyes (so you won't be distracted by all the garden projects that need your attention), and take a deep breath of fresh, slightly warm, air. Energized? All right! Now, put on your sneakers and head off to the nearest waterside ... Read more

If you plan to remodel your bathroom, don't follow the lead of the AHBD

We've all experienced the frustration of a poorly designed hotel bathroom. But did you know there were awards for such things? Club columnist Karen Anderson says it's true.

Almost every homeowner I know has invested in a bathroom remodel, achieving a practical, comfortable, attractive bathroom environment. So why are the bathrooms in most hotels so abysmally designed? I found the answer to this eternal question in, of all places, a hotel — one of those ... Read more

If you're having trouble hearing, just do what I do: ask 'when?'

Club Columnist Karen Anderson has noticed that a lot of households are having trouble communicating these days. After some experimenting, she's ready to share a solution that's working for her.

Based on an extensive survey I've conducted in the past week, the most common words in the modern English language are "What?" and "Huh?" That's because we're surrounded by so much noise and distraction these days that we rarely hear, much less comprehend, anything anyone says to us. To indicate ... Read more

Meet my neighbors — who are just like your neighbors (a bit eccentric)

You see your neighbors most every day. You chat with them often and probably socialize with them occasionally. All of which makes it relatively easy to categorize them into one of the groups described below.

I've lived on a suburban cul-de-sac in Virginia, a sandy road on Cape Cod, a shady boulevard in Connecticut, a quaint piazza in Italy, a busy avenue in Wallingford, and a dead-end street in Ballard. But no matter where I live, I seem to have the same neighbors. And I'll bet you have most of them, too. ... Read more

My best home-decorating advice: Don't ask me for any advice

Savvy homeowners understand that there are some tasks better left to the professionals (especially if you come from a decorating-impaired family, like Club columnist Karen Anderson).

At the end of every home remodeling project, I experience a horrible letdown. It all started after my first major remodel (a second-story addition to a 1912 Craftsman house). The final coat of off-white paint was barely dry on the walls when my then-mother-in-law showed up to offer her opinion. "Very ... Read more

Smart appliances? Weren't the 'helpful' ones already enough of a challenge?

Club Columnist Karen Anderson sheds a little light on the current state of household appliances (by first exposing their awkward and sometimes ugly history).

Remember when they used to refer to appliances as "labor-saving"? Those were the days when every house had a bulky white refrigerator and a bullet-shaped vacuum cleaner that you dragged around on sled runners. The kitchen had a toaster and a Waring blender. None of this was glamorous, but it sure was labor saving — a definite improvement ... Read more

There are lessons to be learned from some of my gardening mistakes

As anyone who's ever visited her yard can attest, Club Columnist Karen Anderson has a way with plants. This month, however, she shares a few notable gardening blunders for your learning pleasure.

Before you pull on your gardening boots and pick up your planting shovel this spring, take some advice from an expert. Not that I'm an expert on landscaping, mind you. What I am is an expert on bad landscaping. I am a local authority on landscaping mistakes from which your yard will never recover ... Read more

Pardon me, but can you spare a dollop of fig-peppermint-lime sauce?

Club Columnist Karen Anderson spent the holidays whipping up a bevy of dishes for friends and family. But now, the time has come to get rid of all that "weird food" still sitting in the cabinets and refrigerator.

At our house, there are two very different kinds of food. I'm not talking about high-fat or low-fat, high-carb or low-carb, or even vegetarian or "non-veggie." And it's not a question of junk foods versus health foods or ethnic cuisine versus just-like-Grandma-made-it comfort foods. The big difference at our house is between real food and ... Read more

Remember what happened last time it snowed? This year, I've got a sled.

Club columnist Karen Anderson offers a warning about the coming snow season (and a reminder for those who may have forgotten what it was like last year).

The Puget Sound region is what weather experts call a "convergence zone." Supposedly that means that air coming from north of Puget Sound converges with air from the south, resulting in heavy rains and snowfalls. But really it's called a convergence zone because our irrational optimism about winter weather converges with total amnesia about what happened ... Read more