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Housekeeping: an Update

Last month, I was the kind of person who had  a panic attack when I saw pet hair on the sofa. I used to have to vacuum the apartment and all of our furniture on a daily basis to avoid the panic attacks. A glob of toothpaste in the bathroom sink would make my stomach lurch. A coffee ring on the counter made my eyes itch. It was exhausting and it was awful.

Last week, I went five days, five whole days, without vacuuming. And you know what? It wasn’t that bad. No one died. No one caught a disease. No one even really noticed. We all just lived with it. Yes, at the end of five days things were pretty hairy but I didn’t mind because I knew that in a few more days the whole apartment would be perfectly beautifully exquisitely sparkling clean.

I just don’t stress out about the chores anymore. I no longer feel like I have to drop everything I’m doing to clean the house right now because it’s getting dirty and ifitgetsdirtywewillalldie. Now I look at the hairy sofa, or the coffee rings in the kitchen sink, and smile because a wonderful lady is coming over on Monday and she’ll take care of it me.

And it’s not that I have completely let everything go and the poor woman has to clean a filthy rathole every other week. No, no. We’re still doing the dishes every day, wiping down the counters, doing the laundry, cleaning the litter box, putting away the crap that piles up daily, balancing the checkbook, cooking, grocery shopping, recycling, walking dogs, watering plants, vacuuming every few (five!) days or so, we’re still doing all that. But what we don’t get around to? That stuff doesn’t make me want to kill myself anymore.

Also? I’ve started spending a little time every day just … relaxing. I’ve been spending more time with family. We’re running again. I did yoga this month! Twice! Last week when the weather was warm, I spent a whole hour before sunset one night stretched out on the balcony, my head nestled between the little dogs in their bed, watching the birds at the feeder. It. was. heavenly. This woman has saved my life.

Getting There Slowly

family room

The family room, May 2011.*

I’ve always been the kind of person who jumps into things without giving them much thought, whereas Michael is the kind of person who goes at things sideways, exploring every angle before making a decision. This is one of the reasons why we are great for each other (because we balance each other out) and why we drive each other nuts (because it’s annoying when someone is actively balancing you out.)

All of this to say that I think some of Mike has been rubbing off on me (not that way, ew) because I’ve been very patient with regard to my family room and that is incredibly unlike me. Normally I buy a bunch of crap I don’t really like because I need something, anything right now. But this time I’ve been pulling a Michael and doing it a little bit at a time, adding something here and there, as we can afford it, as we aquire it, when we find something we love, et cetera. And I’m so glad it’s worked out that way.

I’m really happy with the way this room looks now. It’s much more the cozy-library-esque-family-room I was hoping for.(Here’s what it looked like six weeks ago.) I still want an area rug and some throw pillows, but I’m glad I waited until I had the table behind the futon and all the shelves up because I’ve completely changed my mind about the color scheme.

Speaking of the table, Mike built it and it’s not really a table, but a triangular shelf that fits perfectly in the corner behind the futon. He put a smaller triangular shelf above that, and now we have a much better spot for Foxy than we had before. I am absolutely thrilled. I was a little worried that one of the cats was going to try and get into it with the emaciated half-eaten gazillion-year-old taxidermy fox that is my grotesque little friend, but so far they have left him alone.

foxy

More than anything, I love all the family photos everywhere. Formal portraits and snap shots, new photos and old black-and-whites, each one makes my heart sing.

family weddings

My goal, of course, is to wallpaper these walls with family photos in various gold-and-similarly-hued frames. That would be wonderful.  But in the mean time we’re off to a pretty good start.

family photos

Also, major good news! We got permission from our landlord to install a bike rack! So excited! (!!!) This means two things:

1.) I will no longer have to carry my bicycle down three flights of stairs then up three flights of stairs every single time I ride it.

2.) There will no longer be a bicycle leaning in front of our fire place.

I am so excited, I can barely sit still. We ordered it online and it arrived late last week, so Mike will be installing it sooooon! Maybe we’ll do a post about it. That’s a great idea! A post about how my husband bolted a piece of metal to some concrete in our parking area. Riveting.

Actually, if you want a really good DIY blog, you should check out Dopey’s Happy Home. You probably remember my best fried and frequent accomplice Dopey LaRue? Well, the lovely Miss LaRue has started a new blog, a sort of eco-friendly, mother-earth, rock-and-roll blog about DIY-ing everything from gourmet dinners to bedroom furniture. Girl works a full time job, goes to school full time, and makes all her own skincare products. She has tiger blood. Go look at her site now.

*This is the kind of thing I need an SLR for. What I wouldn’t give for a camera that takes great photos in super low light.

And Then She Finished It

Was the kitchen-curtain-anticipation killing you? I’m sure it was. Sorry about that! Continuing:

After I pinned all the seams, I sewed them! I used a sewing machine, since sewing them by hand would have taken me ten years and resulted in very messy stitches. Sewing machines are surprisingly easy to use, even for a novice like me.

sewing

My seam isn’t even that wonky! (Try not to look at all the cat hair. There is a price to pay for Toby’s help.)

not so bad

Once all four edges were seamed, I measured the curtain rod (2 inches in diameter), and cut a three-inch strip of fabric to sew onto the back of the curtain for the curtain rod to slip through. I gave myself an extra inch so I could seam the edges and still have room for the rod to slip through.

Why does that sound dirty?

After I seamed the edges on the strip of fabric, I pinned it to the back of the curtain.

for the curtain rod

Then I sewed it all together! And then I realized that somehow I managed to make it a quarter of inch wider than the curtain itself.

oops

A bummer, but very easily remedied by folding and hand sewing the extra length into itself. I tried to take a picture of that, but couldn’t get the camera to focus in. But who cares, right? It’s fixed! No one will ever know I f*&%ed it up.

And that was it! That was the end! The curtain was finished! And also too narrow for the window. (Apparently width is not over-rated.)

kitchen curtain

I’d been aiming for a much more gathered look, which, as I discovered later when I googled “how to sew a kitchen curtain,” can only be obtained when your curtain is at least twice the width of your window. Unfortunately, mine is only about six inches wider than my window. I was super disappointed when I realized my error, but it’s started to grow on me. Mike and I aren’t really very ruffle-y people anyway.

How to Sew A Kitchen Curtain Like A Beginner

As I mentioned before, I have never sewed a kitchen curtain and I am not very good at sewing. In retrospect, this would have been a good project to, I don’t know, look up on the Internet prior to beginning, but we live and learn. I started out with some written instructions from Dopey:

instructions

Next, I imagined how long I wanted the curtain to be, and I measured the imaginary curtain against the window. Then I got real technical and type-A and measured the actual curtain fabric:

measuring 1

Eighteen inches in length by whatever many inches the fabric is wide. I don’t need to worry about width, right? As long as it’s wider than the window? Because it’s just going to bunch up anyway, so width doesn’t matter. Width is over-rated.

I don’t have a yardstick, so I used this giant yellow thing Mike has to make sure that I was going to cut my fabric in a straight line. I used a pencil to draw a line to guide my scissors.

measuring 2

And I measured from the top of the curtain down nineteen inches as I went along, because when I didn’t my curtain length got magically shorter as I went along.  See how my first pencil mark ends up at only seventeen inches?

measuring 3

But I fixed it! As you can see.

Once my curtain was cut, I measured and pinned half-inch seams on all four edges. Literally. Measure, pin, measure, pin, measure. I was terrified of having uneven seams.

Toby Helps

Toby helped.

really cat

But not really.

To be continued….

White Girl Stir Fry

Here is my recipe for White Girl Stir Fry.  It has nothing to do with actual stir-fry, except that it’s delicious. It’s also fast, easy, and healthy.

What You’ll Need:
Tofu
Vegetables
Chopped Garlic
Olive Oil
Ponzu sauce

First, heat some oil in a nice big pan. Next, sautee your chopped garlic. I had some nice scallions, so I chopped those up and threw them in too.

scallions

The vegetable and tofu goes in next. I used brocoli, but you could use carrots, mushrooms, beans, cauliflower, even brussel sprouts would be rad. Throw ’em in there, swoosh everything around in the olive oil, then put a lid on it. You want it to steam a little bit before you add the next ingredient.

broccoli

And now…

ponzu

PONZU! Apply your PONZU! liberally. The more PONZU! the more delicious.

Finally, when your tofu and vegetable is softened to your liking, fold in about two or three handfulls of spinach. (Or any good wilting green you like.)

spinach

Last but not least, take a photo of your dinner and post it on the Internet.

squircle

It’s not pretty, but it is a squircle!

I DIY’d it.

did it

I re-covered the kitchen chairs. Finally.

I adore them.

The Office (Not the one on TV)

Welcome to our office/media room/guest room/den.

cuddle zone

The room is kind of tiny, and really stuffed with furniture, so it was hard to get good photos. What you’re looking at now is what I affectionately call “the cuddle zone”.  Since our bedroom is a pet-free area, this is where we curl up with the dogs and the cats to watch a show every evening. Right now we’re really digging Sons of Anarchy. It’s not very deep, but it’s fun to watch. Or that’s what Mike says. I don’t know because I usually fall asleep before the opening credits roll. He doesn’t get home until around eleven most nights, and by then I’m already in my jammies with my face washed and my teeth brushed. But he flops down on the sofa with a beer, and I stretch out with my head on his lap, a dog in my belly, one behind my knees, and a cat sprawled out on the back of the sofa behind his head, and it’s generally the best part of our day. (Amelia hides behind the sofa in the family room. She’s still getting used to being in a new place. The cross-country move was very traumatic for her little feline mind.)

Also, that isn’t really a sofa, if we’re going to be technical. It’s a futon. Which is great for when we have guests because they can put their bed together in a hot second. I just hope they’re not afraid of snakes because otherwise they won’t get much sleep.

(Note to self: In the future, it may be a good idea to refrain from keeping exotic reptiles in the guest bedroom, esp. if you want your guests to feel welcome.)

Directly across from the cuddle zone is the media station:

media station

There we have the television, the x-box, and the VCR. We own a VCR, but not a DVD player. I know. But VHS is awesome! And also the x-box doubles as a DVD player, so it all works out.

This room is, for all intents and purposes, completely finished. Except not really. Because for one thing, it really needs to be painted. How much cozier would it be in here if we painted the walls cafe au lait? It would be so. nice. Right? Tell me I’m right. More importantly, tell Michael.

And for another thing, there are some problem areas:

eyesore1

This is the kind of thing that makes my eyelids twitch.  I’ll usually grab Mike’s backpack and prop it against that tangle of cords because I’d much rather see his backpack on the floor than that cord-mess. The plan is to either build or purchase some piece of furniture that will hold our printer (which is currently taking up WAY too much space on the desk) and some office supplies, while simultaneously giving us easy access to the paper shredder and hiding that horrible little cord-mess. But we haven’t gotten around to it yet.

corner of pretty

This is not  a problem area. This is lovely. We’re hoping to preserve this loveliness when we put a table between the desk and the bookcase and pile it with office-y crap. I know desks and office stuff is important and useful, but I’d like for it to also be attractive and welcoming.

eyesore2

Originally dubbed “the box of anxiety”, the checkered box under the garbage can is now known simply as “the box of things that need to be filed”. (Thank Goldfish, because I don’t need any more anxiety than I already have.) While it’s fine and dandy that I went through the box and dealt with the things that needed immediate attention, now I need to go through that f*$%er and actually file everything. Unfortunately, it’s super low on my list of priorities, so it stays for now.

Also, everything under the snake tank is a mess. I’ve got to get under there and organize, but it’s mostly all the office supplies I want to put on the table we haven’t built to hide the cord-mess yet.

eyesore3

If the cord-mess makes my eyelids twitch, this makes me want to scratch my face off. Literally.

After I took this photo I managed to rearrange the storage boxes under the futon so they aren’t as screamingly obvious. I mean, they’re still under there, but they’ll stay there until I go through some of the crap in the closet and give some of it up. I just don’t need an entire closet packed with stuff I don’t use most of the time. Also, that loose speaker wire needs to be … dealt with.

The dog crate is in serious need of replacement, but again, Mike is hoping to build something beautiful and custom, something that doubles as an end table, so we’re dealing with it for now. But I should probably take my embroidery box off of it – I didn’t realize till now how it’s crushing in the top. That’s probably not real safe. #badparenting #excepttheyrenotkidstheyredogs

P.S. They like the crate. It’s their happy place. They go in there without being asked, especially when they see me with a nylon stocking in my hand.

Lastly, I’d like to find a better place to keep the TV tray and the baby gate. Preferably somewhere like the closet, once I go through it and carve out some space.

Oh my Goldfish, the list of Things To Do never stops growing.

Housekeeping

This week I paid someone to clean my apartment.

I was really nervous about it. Hiring someone to do something that is my responsibility felt like a reflection of my personal shortcomings. And a terrible waste of money. Why pay someone to do something I’m perfectly capable of doing? Help is a threat! If I need help something is wrong with me. And then of course I was worried she would judge me or think I was a filthy pig, so I spent all weekend fighting the urge to scrub the apartment before she came over.

It’s not that I mind doing the housework. I actually really enjoy it. (Except for the part where I have to put my hand in a toilet.) It’s time I spend nurturing my little nest. Making sure all the pillows are fluffed and the towels are clean. I use the time to think and reflect and when I’m finished I feel like I’ve accomplished something really valuable. Plus, I love the way everything shines. And Mike is great about housework, always willing to help, and actually, he’s better about some of the chores than I am. So really, there is no excuse for someone to have to come in and clean our apartment for us. We are perfectly capable of cleaning this apartment.

But suddenly we find ourselves busier than we’ve been in our entire five years of marriage, living the kinds of lives when all we can manage to do with a night off is collapse on the sofa in front of old episodes of Law & Order. I’m so busy that I consider it a luxury to spend ten minutes shaving my legs and he spends every spare moment he has studying. And it’s great, we’re happy, we chose this, I’m not complaining!  But something had to give. Neither of us can work any less and Mike’s education is a priority for both of us. We’re not going to spend less time with family or friends – we don’t get enough time with them as is. So housework had to go.

And it’s not that we’re dirty people, because it doesn’t matter how busy I get, I tidy up like someone with serious OCD. I probably am a little OCD, clinically speaking, because if things aren’t just so, I will f-ing freak out. Everything has a place and when it’s not in it’s place my eyeballs twitch and I can’t breathe and it’s not very pretty.  I used to throw terrible tantrums because of socks on the floor or a dishtowel with a smear of spaghetti sauce on one corner. I’d cry and bang things and scream, “When you don’t put the dirty dish towel in the hamper I feel like you don’t love me!” But I don’t do those things anymore. I’ve learned. Now I tidy up constantly, all the time, I am always tidying. It’s easier for me to take five seconds to toss a dirty dishcloth in the hamper instead of screaming at Mike about it because really? He doesn’t deserve to be treated that way. Especially since I’m the one with the problem. But when I’m working this much and he’s working and going to school and we’re trying to maintain healthy social lives and get adequate exercise and all that other stuff, even if we can maintain the basic chores like laundry and dishes and litter boxes and dog walks and paying bills on time, we can’t manage the big things like shower scrubbing and floor mopping. And when those things get ignored and start growing orange fur, my skin starts itching and I  wake up in the middle of the night with my heart pounding and adrenaline coursing through my veins from nightmares about dead babies in filthy bathrooms crawling with cats.

So you see, it’s not really an option to give up on the housework. And that is why we are paying someone to clean the apartment for us.

You guys. She cleaned things I haven’t even had time to imagine cleaning. She scrubbed the teakettle so now I can see my reflection in it. She did all the dirty work in the bathrooms that I loathe and despise, and then she polished my perfume tray. She moved everything off of every shelf and surface area and dusted behind and underneath and around. She washed the screen door and the windows and she scrubbed the balcony, in addition to emptying the dishwasher, taking down the trash, and mopping the floors. What would’ve taken me twenty-four hours of work, broken up only by naps, she finished in four and a half hours. She is a miracle worker. I invited her to come back in two weeks. And then I hugged her and cried on her shoulder while wads of sticky anxiety flowed off of me.

In the aftermath of this stunning cleaning symphony, I lounge on the balcony, blogging, feeling completely relaxed because not only is the shower cleaner than it’s been in two months, I didn’t have to do any of the work.  The only thing better than a freshly scrubbed toilet is a freshly scrubbed toilet someone else scrubbed. I don’t get manicures or pedicures, I never go to the spa, I don’t get any of my parts waxed, I only get my hair cut twice a year, we hardly ever go to the movies or out for dinner, but we pay someone else to clean our apartment and as far as I’m concerned, that is more luxurious than any manicure or facial ever could be.

Will Work for Books

I sort of kind of feel like all I ever talk about anymore on this here blog is our apartment, but to be fair, it is the most exciting thing we’ve got going on in our lives right now. I hope all these posts with photos and updates of our little valley pad aren’t beginning to bore you, because really all I want to do is make you happy, but I’m sort of like a freshman in love with a senior and all I can do is gush and gush and gush and gush and write run-on sentences. One day soon I’ll be totally over it, I’ll have moved on to college boys – er – something more interesting than an apartment – and you won’t have to hear about it anymore. But until then….

Family Room Update!

familyroom2

We went to Ikea this weekend and, honestly? That place is the devil. We had a budget we swore we would stick to, and while nothing over $15 went into our cart, we still ended up going over our budget by a hundred bones. Yikes. Shopping isn’t super fun for me because I tend to feel hideously guilty over my purchases, even when my purchases are shelves I’ve been dying to get and fifty cent glasses so we don’t have to drink water out of coffee mugs anymore.

Speaking of shelves, I’m not really sure how I feel about them. They remind me a little too much of the shelves I had in my first college apartment, so I can’t help but feel like they lend an unwanted dorm-room flavor to the living room I had hoped would have a more library-like feel. Here’s the room from a different angle:

familyroom1

Also, I’m not sold on the shelf arrangements. I really wanted the shelves to contain only books, but I am clean out of books. The ones that are up there now I stole off of the bookcase by Mike’s easel, which worked out because now he has space for all his paint supplies and he doesn’t have to keep them on the floor anymore. Score = Everyone wins!

fireplace

Here’s his little painting corner next to the fireplace. Where I lean my bicycle. I mean, why not? We still haven’t purchased logs for the damn thing, so why not use it for something? (Clearly, we still haven’t figured out where to keep my bicycle either. Sad face.)

I’m not entirely sold on those shelf arrangements either, but they’ll have to do for now. Also, man, I wish we could paint the walls. We actually got permission to paint, but decided not to because it’s a lot of work to put into a rental and we’d rather save the time/money/energy for a place we purchase. I have to keep telling myself that. This is a rental. When we own we’ll have so much more freedom to make it look exactly how we want it to. In the mean time, at least the family room no longer looks like this. Or this. Or this. Improvements! Small ones, but still.

There is still a lot I want to do in here. On my wish list? A table that will fit behind the futon for plants. And more books so that the shelves will be covered with books instead of chachkis and tabletop frames. An enormous area rug to hide the horrible stains left by the previous tenants, which I’ve shampooed a million times but still persist. New legs for the coffee table. A cover for the futon, something I can pull off and wash weekly because with four animals, I have to. And bright throw pillows to bring more color into the room. Here are some fabrics I’m thinking of making additional pillows out of:

patterns

What do you think? If you’ve got any suggestions for what we could do to (cheaply) make this room fabulous, I would LOVE to hear them.

Project!

Project

We (and by that I mean “I”) finally chose fabrics for the kitchen! I am so excited. The lemon pattern on the far left is for the kitchen curtains. I think it ties in with our yellow pear-shaped placemats beautifully. The striped pattern is to cover the kitchen chair seats. Originially we planned to match the seats to the curtain, but I was afriad it would be too matchy-matchy, so I chose patterns that compliment instead. The pattern on the far right is for I-have-no-idea what. I am currently obsessed with anything and everything related to birds, and so I fell in love with it and had to have it. I think I’ll probably end up using it to make throw pillows for the family room, but we’ll see.

Now. Here is the conundrum. I have never actually made curtains before, have never worked with a pattern, don’t know the first thing about sewing, and while I can run a sewing machine, I can’t do it in a straight line. I have sewn together pillow covers, but what with my lack of sewing skillz and inability to sew in a straight line, they were the World’s Wonkiest Pillow covers and have since been ripped apart at the seams and set aside for use in another project one day in the future. So any suggestions, tips, ideas, you happen to have for me when it comes to these curtains and new pillow covers will be MUCH appreciated.  Gracias!

Theo Approves

He’s got no thumbs, but he’d really like to help!