Hail to the Grumph

As this new and terrifying era unfolds, it seems like the perfect time to bring one of my favorite words into the vernacular.

GRUMPH is one of those made-up terms my parents terrorized me and my brothers with when we were little. It refers to caca, and it was often shouted at us in public places: “ARE YOU GRUMPHING?” and “DO YOU NEED TO GRUMPH?” or, “GO AWAY, I’M GRUMPHING!” It was used in stern tones, with stern faces, and sometimes in anger. Which makes it even funnier.

Here’s a photo where I may or may not be grumphing:


Where is this going, you ax? Enter President-elect Donald J. Grumph.

Can we survive Prez Grumph, and all the grumph he’s about to blast upon the world? Like all my “liberal elite” friends and family, I now need to figure out what I can do to undermine D.J. Grumph’s influence, without losing my own grumph.

One of the things I decided might help with this absurd new reality is painting my front door. Nothing earth-shattering, mind you, but our neighbors across the ave might appreciate it.

Because I had some weird mental block when it came to choosing a color, I bought a roll of craft paper and painted sections of it to get a better feel for how different colors would look. Here are four of the six I debated:


The dark teal was pretty great, but it made the door look like a howling toothless mouth—though, given the context, this may have been the most appropriate. (I’ve since decided that, brightened with a bit of white, this color might look incredible on an old desk I have.) The coral was nice, but I’d seen this color scheme around town, and I wanted something different. The yellow wasn’t bad either, but, speaking of grumph, I didn’t want to be known as the person who lives in the brown and yellow house.

In the end, I went with violet:


Pretty, right? It added a teeny weeny bit of joy to the dreadfulness of 11/8.

And thanks to this great autumn weather, I’ve been able to deal with the furniture that sat around my house all summer when it was too freaking hot to work outside.

Here’s a midcentury walnut armchair my friends Kathy and Mike gave to me when they saw I had a blog. It had been living in their basement and needed some luvin. I used a chemical stripper to remove the varnish, then spent three days machine and hand sanding the stain off. It pains my soul to say this, but after all that back-killing work, plus the pending cost of cushions, fabric, etc., it made me rethink my criticism of places that charge $1,200 and up for these chairs.

I’ll post pics of the chair once it’s stained, varnished, and upholstered. Because that’s the most exciting part.

Here’s another rescue: This maple coffee table belonged to my granny, Mormor, who had a lot of midcentury furniture in her apartment in Ithaca. The table had been stashed away for years, and I salvaged it from Mom’s attic this summer. Mormor was an occasional smoker (she also drank martinis and drove Mustangs—typical grandmother stuff), and, wouldn’t you know, when I stripped off the orange stain, two fat black cigarette burns appeared (they had been doctored with colored shellac at some point).

I didn’t photograph the burns, but you can see in the lower right corner of the righthand pic how much lighter the wood is where I went crazy with the sander. To even out the color and thickness, I had to re-sand the rest of it, again… and again.

And just when I thought I was finally done with this stupid thing, another issue presented itself: the stain absorbed unevenly, which (I just learned) is not uncommon with woods like cherry, birch, and maple. Notice the splotching:


Once upon a time I might have just stopped there. But I’ve put too much work into it to leave it looking like this. I may have to bite the bullet and re-strip and sand the #%&@$ thing all over again, and apply what’s called a “washcoat” before the stain, which is supposed to keep the spongier parts of the grain from absorbing too much color.

It’s probably no coincidence that I’ve been doing more house stuff than usual the past several weeks. My home is one of the few things I have any control over these days. Whatever I put in, I get back tenfold. For me, pretty home = sanity. This is especially important now that I don’t plan on leaving it till 2021.

Happy Thanksgiving, ‘Merka!


7 thoughts on “Hail to the Grumph

  1. I hope the fact you aren’t leaving your house will mean lots more wonderful blog posts for us readers to look forward. They will inject lightness and humor into these four years when we are trapped inside our own (less lovely) houses!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I LOVE the picture of you! yes indeed you look like you are grumphing :).
    As much work as refinishing the furniture is, you will be really proud of it when it’s done.
    I love being home also, but I have to go out often so I am just planning on wearing black for the next four years.

    Liked by 1 person

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