Twitter Facebook

My husband fixed the icemaker

There is something incredible about a man who can take apart a freezer-door icemaker, look at it’s insides, put it back together, and suddenly the icemaker that’s been broken for six months works perfectly.

I would marry him all over again.

work space

Mike in his impromptu balcony woodshop, June 18, 2011

(Not) The Garden Center, The End

Two cliff hangers in one week? (If you can even call them that.)
(Not) The Garden Center
(Not) The Garden Center, 2

By the time we made it back to the car, we actually felt pretty good.  For the last ninety minutes of our trek we walked  a wide trail in beautiful country. When we got home there was still plenty of afternoon left to go to the Garden Center or putter around on the balcony for awhile, but we were so exhausted, we fell asleep on the sofa in our hiking clothes. Except I didn’t sleep. Mike slept and I sat there making lists in my head until I thought I might explode. Then I got up and started chores.

We had wanted to hike San Jisento this weekend, but Mike’s been asked to pick up some extra shifts at work. And it’s ok, because I don’t think I’m ready for a ten-hour day and a thirty-pound pack. However, I am kind of excited to train this weekend.  Even if it’s only a six hour walk, even if it’s mostly uphill, even if there are bees and sweat and stickers. I just don’t want to have to use my trekking poles to hold foliage away from my face. Is that too much to ask?

wild flowers

I took this photo of wild flowers at least two hours before the business with the stickery waist-high weeds. There were no photos taken of the stickery weeds. Misery is not conducive to flora appreciation.

(Not) The Garden Center

apricot

Taken Sunday, May 15, at the Garden Center.
(You guys. It’s a baby apricot!)

We love the Garden Center. It’s our favorite place to spend a Sunday afternoon. We love it so much we spent the morning of our fifth wedding anniversary at the Garden Center, then we spent the afternoon planting our treasures and tending our little balcony garden. It was the happiest day of the year.

We try to spend at least an hour together, every Sunday, working in the garden. This often involves a trip to the Garden Center for a bag of soil or something and it’s wonderful because it’s garden + shopping = love, you know? But this Sunday we didn’t get to go to the Garden Center. We didn’t even get to work on the balcony. No, no. Instead we spent four hours stomping around in waist-high grasses carrying twenty-five pound packs on our backs.

It’s not that the backpack was heavy. Because actually, my backpack felt great. The weight is evenly distributed across my hips so that I’m literally lifting with my legs. Last weekend I had burns and pale bruises from the hip straps after only two hours, but this weekend, after four hours, my hips were fine. Plus, I am totally working out butt muscles I didn’t even know I had, which is awesome.

And it’s not that my feet hurt, because my feet felt fantastic. Mike had a couple of hotspots, but he didn’t get any blisters, and I didn’t even have hotspots. My hiking boots are like giant blocks of oddly comfortable wood. They are awkward as anything in day-to-day life but on the trail they are the best thing I have going for me.

I didn’t even mind when we were hiking uphill for fifteen minutes through a field of wildflowers so full of bees the air was vibrating. (I am horribly, awfully, terribly, very, very badly phobic of bees.) But I wasn’t thinking about the bees because I was distracted by the sweat pouring down my face, into my contact lenses, rendering me nearly blind. (I think it was the polyester shirt that made me sweat, because Mike wasn’t sweating at all in the sixty-five degree breezes.)

The part that did it for me was the part where we were hiking through knee-high stickery weeds for thirty minutes, followed by waist-high thorny weeds for another ten, until we came to the over-Mike’s-head stickery thorny bushes. That was when Mike finally stopped and said, “This sucks. We’re turning around.” Up until then he’d been stopping every ten minutes or so to say something like, “Look at that view!” Or “Do you think that’s a rabbit den?” To which I would roll my eyes and grumble, “Hmph.” Or “Whatever,” like a moody teen.

Why did I have to act like that? Because if one more branch of Goldfish-knows-what whacked me in the face I was going to f***ing kill someone. That’s why I acted like that. Not that it’s a good excuse, but still.

I’ll tell you the rest tomorrow…

Strawberry Pie

The week of our anniversary, we went to visit Michael’s mother in her home – not his childhood home, his parents didn’t buy this house until the summer before his senior year in high school, but he did live in this house, and it was a really big deal for me to visit his mom in her home, where he once lived, because we’ve been together for nearly eight years and I’d never even seen a baby picture of him.

You can tell what a big deal it was because that entire paragraph turned into one giant run-on sentence.

You see, Mike’s mother lives out of state and for one reason or another, we’ve never been able to visit her. She’s visited us several times, but we’d never been able to visit her. In fact, Mike hadn’t been home at all in eleven years. It was time.

We stayed for three days and we didn’t leave the house except once to swing by the supermarket. Instead of running around doing stuff, we spent all three days pouring over old family photo albums. Actually, Mike studied for micro-biology while his mother and I poured over old family photo albums. I was absolutely in heaven. I got to look through Michael’s baby book – his baby book! I saw his first lock of hair from his first haircut and the hospital bracelet he came home in and the very first penny he ever found and picked up for good luck. You guys. The happiness almost killed me.

And the photo albums! There were pictures of all of his Halloween costumes – he was Chewbaca two years in a row and if you saw this costume you would die itissoadorable. There were pictures of his first Christmas and every Christmas after. Snapshots from his birthday parties and his first steps and all these beautiful, happy, perfect memories caught in tiny squares of faded paper like so many pressed rose petals.

It’s funny because I was secretly a little sad that our anniversary trip was a trip to visit family. Not that I wasn’t delighted to be visiting family because I was. I planned this trip and looked forward to it for months. Just that, you know, it was our five-year wedding anniversary, it would have been nice to go somewhere romantic and alone. But as it turned out, this quality time with family was exactly what we needed.

I want to know Michael. I want to understand everything about him. I want to know him better than anyone in the world. I wish I could go back in time and be a fly on the wall at his sixth birthday party. Or I wish I could have been his favorite toy – his little velveteen rabbit. It drove me crazy that we’d been together for so long, but I’d never even seen one of his baby pictures. There was this chunk of his past that was a complete mystery to me. I’d ask him questions about his childhood and he’d look at me like I was crazy and say, “How am I supposed to remember that?” But now I know he had tin-soldier wallpaper and a birthday cake shaped like the Easter bunny. I’ve seen his lego towers and his cat Snowball. I’ve read his birth announcement and flipped through his parents’ wedding album. Pieces of him, however small they may be.

The visit was also an extraordinary opportunity for me and my mother-in-law to bond over the greatest thing we have in common – the tall, handsome, funny, smart, strong, kind of nerdy man we both love. I got to gush over pictures of her towheaded, blue-eyed baby boy while she took a leisurely stroll down memory lane. She told the most wonderful stories about my husband’s childhood and of her own life, before he was born. I’m still kicking myself because we didn’t bring our digital recorder. It would have been incredible to record these family stories. (Remind me to tell you about three-year-old Mike and the inflatable bunny.) One night his Aunt and Uncle joined us for dinner – I had never met them before and they were the absolute loveliest people – and it was such fun to hear Mike’s mother and her big brother reminiscing about their childhood. You guys, it was amazing. It was the best time ever.

I don’t know how to put into words why this experience – this chance to peek into a part of my husband’s past – was so important to me. Before the trip, I loved Michael more than I ever knew I was capable of loving someone. But after the trip? Afterwards I couldn’t believe how much more I loved him. It was as if my heart grew three sizes bigger and all the extra, new space was filled up with Michael.

This post was supposed to be a post with a recipe for my mother-in-law’s awesome strawberry pie, but I got a little carried away talking about our wonderful anniversary/family trip, and now you’ve probably thrown-up in your mouth at least three times (because really? No one wants to hear a married lady gush about her husband) so I’ll post the recipe tomorrow. And now you have something to look forward to! You’re welcome.

Where Does Quinoa Come From?

I love Quinoa. My mother introduced me to it, but it was GGC who taught me that quinoa is something you can eat a million ways and seventy times a week.

Ok, not that much. Everything in moderation.

My favorite way to eat quinoa is as breakfast (with hot milk, cinnamon, a sprinkle of brown sugar) or instead of pasta. It cooks up super fast, has tons of protein, tastes good, and is way better for you than pasta.

First you clean it. I rinse it the same way I rinse a bunch of grapes, only instead of a regular colander, I use a tiny mesh colander.

rinsed

Then I put it in a little pot with maybe a quarter inch of water on top of it. Like so:

just add water

You want to let it come to a nice boil over medium heat. When it boils, turn the heat way down, cover it, and let it simmer for ten to fifteen minutes. The water will soak into the seeds until they open and become almost transparent. They are surprisingly beautiful, strange looking little grains.

needs a fluffer

You just can’t tell in this picture.

We like to dish it out, then smother it in homemade pasta sauce and Asiago cheese. We eat it out on the balcony and watch the sun set. And when I try to take a photo of Mike with his wonderful quinoa dinner he says, “Seriously? I’m chewing.”

he is chewing

Love = Him

Homemade Sushi

Last Friday he made us sushi for dinner. As in made. With his hands. And all fresh ingredients. And it was awesome.

This Saturday we celebrate our five-year wedding anniversary. Five years! (I have to find something made of wood to give him.)

I love you, Michael. You’re all of my everything.

The Crap in His Pockets

I mentioned in this post that our mattress-less futon was still sitting in two pieces in the family room because we’d lost the pins that hold the thing together during our move, but what I didn’t say was how certain I was that Michael had lost them. I was sure it was all his fault. I just knew it. After all, I’d watched him take the futon apart in Harlem, watched the various screws and bolts and pins roll across the hardwood floors. I’d scrambled to pick up the errant hardware and I’d put it all together in one of our nightstand drawers and then taped it shut, all the while fearing I’d missed something, irritated that he’d left the hardware to roll into oblivion, certain we’d come up short in LA. So when we unpacked everything and, in fact, two integral pieces of hardware were missing, I knew he was the one to blame.

Meanwhile, he was adamant that he had not lost the pins, he’d put them in a safe place, they were around here somewhere.

“Are you sure you haven’t seen two L-shaped metal pins somewhere?”
“I’m positive.”
“Because I know they are around here somewhere. I know it.”
“Haven’t seen them. Pretty sure you lost them.”
“I didn’t lose them. They’re here somewhere.”

Then I’d watch, shaking my head, while he tore through boxes and rummaged through tools, muttering to himself that he knew he had them, he knew he saw them after we unloaded the truck in Los Angeles, they’ve got to be around here somewhere.

When I wash Mike’s laundry I find the strangest things in his pockets – bottle caps, drill bits, rubber washers, half-chewed dog biscuits. These items end up in my own pockets, and then they find their way into various drawers and baskets and sometimes, my jewelry box. Why don’t I just put them with his tools? Normally I would, but for the four months we lived with my parents, I didn’t know where his tools were, so whenever I’d empty his pockets, or clean off the top of his nightstand, I’d put the random odds and ends in my jewelry box. (Not the bottle caps and half-chewed dog biscuits, mind you. Just the drill bits and rubber washers.) This weekend I was cleaning up the bedroom, putting away some of the jewelry I’d worn during the week. I opened my jewelry box and rolled my eyes because there amongst the baubles were two allen wrenches. Clearly from Michael’s pockets. And then it hit me. Like a slow-motion scene in a movie, the memory came flooding back.  It’s August. I’m cleaning the guest room we’re living in at my parent’s house. There are two L-shaped pins on the night table and I put them in my jewelry box because I don’t know where else to put them and I figure they’re probably important. Flash forward to this conversation, had as I’m digging through my jewelry box deciding which earrings to pair with that day’s outfit:

“Are you sure you haven’t seen two L-shaped metal pins somewhere?”
“I’m positive.”
“Because I know they are around here somewhere. I know it.”
“Haven’t seen them. Pretty sure you lost them.”
“I didn’t lose them. They’re here somewhere.”

You guys. He didn’t lose them. I’ve been looking at those damn pins nearly every day for six months, all the while rolling my eyes and tsk-tsk-tsk-ing because Michael lost the pins that hold our futon together. So I snapped a picture of the pins with my BlackBerry and emailed it to Michael with a note that read, “Do you need these? Can I toss them?”

futon pins

A Happy Mess

Two weeks ago I was so stressed, so engulfed in anxiety I could hardly breathe. The boxes upon boxes upon boxes, the filthy bathroom floors and grubby kitchen sink were making me feel like a crazy person.  I spent most of the week emailing back and forth with my friend Kim at Kim’s Kitchen Sink because of everyone in the world she is the only person who has been able to verbalize the way I feel when my home is messy: If my home is messy, my head is messy.

Kim has been coaching me on how to deal with the mess while working forty hours a week, and basically what it comes down to is learning how to live in the happy mess. Because it is a happy mess – it’s the mess of nesting and setting up a new home, a new future full of endless possibilities and opportunities. So that’s my project for the next however many weeks it takes us to get settled in this new apartment.  To learn how to live in the happy mess. Instead of looking around at the piles and breaking into a cold sweat, I’m trying to look around at the piles and see the potential. Here’s a peek at what our Happy Mess looked like last week:

kitchen mess

The kitchen mess

living room mess

The living room mess

what a mess

More living room mess – and a sad little dog (she hates messes too) (or maybe I’m anthropomorphizing.)

office mess

The office mess

putting it together

Then there’s this guy, working tirelessly to put it all right. I see that smile and the mess melts away so that everything feels happy.


Perfectly Perfect Perfect

When we moved from Hells Kitchen to Harlem I was working eleven hours a week and Mike was unemployed and on Spring break from school. We were able to spend the better part of every day cleaning, unpacking, decorating, nesting, and we were all settled in a matter of weeks. It was fantastic. But this time I’ve been at work every day and Mike’s had to do most of the heavy lifting without me.  Me, who likes to do everything myself because I want everything to be perfectly perfect perfect.

This has been the source of several very high energy moments in the past couple of weeks. Mike is very patient and very laid back, and I am the Tazmanian Devil. We signed our lease on a Monday but by Tuesday I’d spent four days decorating the apartment in my mind and making long lists of everything that needed to be cleaned.

One morning as Mike was driving me to the office, we had a huge fight.  Except it wasn’t really a fight. Calling it a fight implies yelling and screaming, and that’s not our style.  Anyway, immediately after lecturing Michael on how I won’t be able to live in the apartment until the bathrooms have been scrubbed inside and out, I started telling him that I thought it would be fabulous to decorate said bathrooms with all gold vintage decor.  He made a face at me and said he thought that was the most horrible idea I’d ever come up with ever.

Except not really. What he said was, “That will look really tacky,” but what I heard was, “That is the most horrible idea you’ve ever come up with ever. Also, you are fat and ugly.”

When he dropped me at work I was nearly in tears. I was also on my way to being late for work, so I couldn’t sit in the car and talk about how I was feeling. Instead I had to sit in my office and stew about it.  And stew I did, for a nice long while. Then I texted him:

“I love you. I want for this to be a fun and happy time for us.  I want to feel like you accept me and like my ideas. It’s crushing when you think my ideas are stupid. You’re my best friend and when you think my ideas are stupid it’s really painful. So far you’ve hated every idea I have and I’m starting to feel like this is your apartment, not ours.”

Don’t you love how dramatic I am? It’s so awful it’s funny, right? “So far you’ve hated every idea I have…” Straight out of Days of Our Lives, the generic suburban version.

He texted back:

“All I’m doing is cleaning. I understand how you feel. I’m sorry. I don’t want to feel the same – like you want to make this your apartment, and all I do is scrubbing and hauling. The good news is that we are not in a huge hurry. I want us to work together to make a home. I respect your ideas, and I know we can make this work.”

I took a deep breath. Why was I so angry? I mean, seriously. Sixties gold décor in the eighties-era bathroom with the clamshell sink. It wouldn’t have worked at all. So I called my mother and my girlfriends, some of the most brilliant and wonderful women I know. “What should I doooooo?????” I whined. They all three said the same thing. They pointed out that we both had valid points and we’d both expressed a desire to work through the situation.  They said we were ahead of the game. They offered help, advice, encouragement, and comfort.  They made me laugh. And Kim gave me complete instructions for how to wash out my filthy dishwasher, something I otherwise would not, for the life of me, have known how to do.

I wasn’t angry that Mike didn’t like my ideas. I was angry because he was doing it all without me. I felt like I was missing out on everything.  All the cleaning, all the moving, all the furniture-arranging.  He thought he was getting a big chore out of the way, but I felt like I was being cheated of an opportunity to nest – something I’d been aching to do since August. Meanwhile, here he is, spending his days scrubbing and hauling while I yammer on about curtains and throw pillows and give lectures on how to clean the toilet. No wonder he didn’t have the patience to talk about gold vintage décor.

When we finally got another chance to talk, we realized that we were both aiming for the same thing – a fabulous little home we’ll love for the next two to five years, depending on how long it takes us to save up for a house.  Once we figured that out, we were able to talk about all of the things that needed to get done, his priorities and mine, and I realized that moving comes before decorating and maybe my evenings were better spent scrubbing the filthy toilet instead of shopping online. Which, of course, was what I really wanted to be doing anyway.  After all, there is nothing in the world like a freshly scrubbed toilet.

Melly Klistmas and a Happy New Lease

This is probably the longest stretch of time I’ve ever gone without writing in my blog. It’s been almost a whole month, you guys. So what’s been taking up all of my time, you ask? All fifty-six and a half hours a week not spent sleeping, showering, eating, working, and commuting? First, there were the holidays.

snowy village

Christmas was lovely. I didn’t get the Sylvanian’s out of their Thanksgiving outfits until December 21st, but it was totally worth the wait.

sylvanian xmas

I didn’t bake my traditional gingerbread people this year, but I did make all my own gift-wrap.

recycled wrapping

We had a wonderful New Year. Mike had to work New Year’s Eve, but I got to spend the evening with my brother and his wife, just the three of us, and it was absolutely lovely. Since Mike and I weren’t going to spend New Year’s Eve-ning together, we spent the afternoon together instead. And what does a young starting-out for the third-time couple do on a sunny So Cal winter day? They apartment hunt.

I had been hoping for a two-bedroom apartment, some outdoor space, and hardwood or laminate floors, but two-bedrooms with all those amenities in the San Fernando Valley are more expensive than you’d think. We looked at a couple of cute places, all brand-new laminate floors, lots of sun, one-bedrooms totally within our budget.  We looked at a couple of awful places, one-bedrooms outside our budget that looked good on paper but turned out to be carpeted windowless dens of misery.

We were getting ready to wrap it up for the day when Mike convinced me to take a look at a little apartment off Saticoy he’d seen the day before. A two-bedroom with a dishwasher, a balcony, a fireplace, and carpeting, it was right within our budget. However, as far as I was concerned, the carpeting cancelled out the dishwasher, the fireplace, and the second bedroom. I was determined to hold out for hardwood floors. And by that I mean laminate flooring would have been equally awesome, but carpet was out of the question. If we had carpet I would spend the next five years scrubbing dog butt-smear out of it.

“But the landlord said she didn’t care that we have dogs, she doesn’t care what happens to the carpet, so you don’t have to worry about it.”
“Dog butt-smear in the carpet is disgusting. I’m not living with carpet.”
“I’ll buy a carpet cleaner and I’ll shampoo it once a week.”
“No.”
“There are two bathrooms.”
“Fine. But we’re only looking.”

He turned onto a street lined with 1920’s Craftsman bungalows and palm trees. “This is probably where we’ll walk the dogs in the mornings. There’s a coffee shop at the end of the block.” I rolled my eyes and coughed the words “butt smear”. He turned a corner and parked in front of a little six-unit building. There were two kids sitting on the lawn out front, playing with a puppy under the shade of a big beautiful tree.

The minute I walked into our Harlem apartment, I knew I was home. I loved that apartment from the first moment I saw it, like it was a part of Mike and me and who we are together. I loved it’s tall windows with the deep sills, the shining original hardwood floors. I loved our neighbors and our community, but mostly I loved how happy we were while we lived there.

When Michael opened the front door of this new apartment and I saw the fireplace nestled in the built-in bookcases, I knew we were home.  We signed the lease three days later and started moving in right away.  Life has been incredibly upside down ever since we left New York, but never as much as it has been in the last fifteen days. We’ve been overwhelmed and frustrated and of course there is always some butt-smear, but you know what? That’s life. And a little at a time the boxes are vanishing, our things are finding their place in cabinets and cupboards, and we’re making this apartment ours. Welcome to another new beginning. Welcome to the Valley.

welcome-to-the-valley

The sunset off our balcony