The best-laid plans: A day not spent in the garden

#488 in a series of true experiences in real estate
April 2005, Hills Newspapers

For my day off, my plan was simple: Coffee and newspapers, then to the garden. I’d weed and feed plants the entire day. But things kept happening.

On my way to the coffeepot, I noticed on the over-sink windowsill fallen petals, a drooping rose. Right away I went into the garden for a replacement, got one, then couldn’t resist cutting a few, quite tiny stock, pinks and white. Back inside, I looked through my vase cabinet for a suitable container and came across several 3 to 4-inch tall bottles in various colors of glass, plus several little cream pitchers.

It was easy for me to find other small flowers in the garden, one or two of each, or a tiny handful. Purple-and-red fuchsias, orange poppy-like blooms, violets and iris in lavender. I put the flowers in the little containers and almost made it to a cup of coffee when I thought how much better all would look if under them was crisp white paper. So I cut strips the width of the window sill, took down, then replaced the vases. I liked the look very much.

That was when the two white porcelain sinks below the windowsill came into my view. They needed cleaning. I got to it with Soft Scrub and a sponge, then got out the steel wool, the softest quadruple-zero grade. Which led me to polishing the chrome faucet and handles.

The sink area looked so nice that by contrast the white Corian counters on either side were dingy. Corian, so I was told when I had it installed a dozen years ago, is completely repairable. Stains and scratches can simply be sanded away. I decided to try the steel wool, conveniently in my hand, on the counters, and very quickly, they were looking almost new again.

Polishing with steel wool had been such a success that I thought I’d just take another minute to try it on the bathroom sink faucet as well, but once that was done, the Formica counters looked bad. So I washed, then dried them with a cloth, moving on to the toilet. Because I had to move the throw rugs on the floor before scrubbing the toilet (didn’t want to get bleach spots on them), I thought I’d just shake them out. But on the way outside, I passed by the washing machine, so threw them in.

I didn’t want to get involved in vacuuming, so instead washed out the bathtub with a sponge, also the stall shower entrance tile before sweeping the floor. I swept right out into the hallway before seeing that the hall, too, could use a sweep. And on into the living room, but only the edges, the wood floor that the center rug doesn’t cover.

I didn’t dare start in on the dining room or kitchen floors, but because I’d used most of the bleach in the bathroom, while I was thinking about it, I thought I’d just run down to the storage room for another bottle.

And that’s all I was going to do. But I encountered a pile of things I’d stacked up with the intention of putting them away – Easter decorations, sandwich trays from an open house – and it seemed as good a time as any. Plus, I saw a few things I could rearrange better, and a few others I could throw away.

None of this took very long. I brought the bleach and a bottle of soda from storage to the kitchen table, set them there for a minute, then must have gotten distracted because a quarter of an hour passed before I realized that there was something odd about the looks of the label on the bleach.

The bottles were still in the plastic bag I’d carried them in but their tops were showing, and I could see some sort of crystals on the bleach bottle. Was it leaking? I picked the bottle up, saw that the bag was wet, whipped everything into the kitchen sink.

There were marks on my beloved wooden-topped table, one round mark the size of the bleach bottle and five smaller prints from the soda bottle. Never have I known a bottle of bleach to leak. I had no idea why this one had but it didn’t look to me like there was a good way to fix the wood. I did try, first with Old English, then with more of the tung oil finish originally applied to the table top.

The circles remained, and they screamed out to me. I was trying to figure out how to change how I looked at my table – maybe, old and charming with use – when my eye fell upon a large aluminum roasting pan and cover that I’d brought home from the office. It has a Deco look to it, though probably made in the 1950s, and I find it so pretty that I thought we might use it for staging.

But it was greasy and the finish, dull. Someday when I have nothing better to do, was my thought, I’ll clean it up. Now, distraught over my table, I decided to work on the pot, thought I’d find the job soothing.

Washing in soap and hot water didn’t do a thing. Next, I tried a solvent on the cooked-on grease spatters. That helped, but before I knew it, I was using good old steel wool – again, quadruple-zero grade – on the aluminum finish, and after awhile, without any scratching, I’d polished both pot and cover to a shiny silver.

Which is when it occurred to me to try steel wool on the table. Wonderful miracle, the stains disappeared. I put on a new coat of finish and the table looks much as before.

Nothing ever did happen in the garden on my day off.

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