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The cat on the table and the child in my head

I’m chopping vegetables when she starts crying, a plaintive meowing. She paces across the kitchen table, coat gleaming, belly hanging, begging for my attention. “I’m sorry, Cat. I’m fixing dinner. I’ve got nothing for you.”

In my head she’s a little girl. Three or four. Her eyes wide and pleading, “Mama, play with me!”

“I’m sorry, Baby. I’m fixing dinner. Papa will be home soon and I’m hungry! Would you like to help?”

She peels the garlic and breaks heads off brocoli stalks. “They look like tiny trees!” She is gleeful. I’m in awe of her strong little hands and the pleasure she takes in such simple tasks.

And then I chide myself for being so stupid. Getting lost in childish imaginings. Children are not in the picture. Not now, not for years, maybe never. Maybe because you never know and maybe because it just seems impossible. The other day I asked Michael, “How will we know?”

“When I have a job and we have health care and we’re ready to buy a house and we’re not worried about paying bills every month. Maybe then.”

Maybe we’ll wait until we’re in our forties and adopt. I can see myself, like all those women I watched in Manhattan with long silver hair and ethnic children. I could love any child I held in my arms, I know that.

By now I’ve peeled and chopped a whole garlic bulb, but I don’t care. I sprinkle it over the vegetables, slide it into the oven, set the timer. I over-season everything. Fresh cracked pepper makes raw chicken black. Kosher salt, onion flakes, garlic powder, oregano, basil, sage smells like pee but I sprinkle on three-times the amount you would anyway. The chicken will come out of the oven crunchy for spices but I don’t care. I like it that way. Just like I like my food burned crisp. Everything tasting like it came out of a campfire. Smoky.

I reach for another beer. Dinner is in the oven but Mike won’t be home for three hours at least. I’ll eat alone while I balance the budget. Wait up for him. Reheat a plate for him. Press my face into his neck while he eats. Breathe. So glad he’s home.

This is my second installment of Just Write, an exercise in free writing your ordinary and extraordinary moments, begun by Heather of the EO. You should totally join in.

Serious Nesting

We’ve been doing some serious nesting lately, the kind of nesting that involves closet reorganizations and trunk-loads of items for Goodwill and that sort of thing. In the last two weeks I’ve reorganized our bedroom closet, the office closet, all of the cabinets in the hallway, all three drawers in the kitchen sideboard, the kitchen cabinets, the master bathroom cupboards and the second bathroom cupboards. I told you! Serious nesting. But look what it got me:

manicure closet

My very own manicure cabinet! See? This is what I love about organizing. Before the great Closet/Cabinet/Drawer/Cupboard Reorganization of 2011, the medicine cabinet in our second bathroom was just stuffed with random odds and ends. Now, it’s an adorable little manicure cabinet. Every time I open it I get all happy inside. Same with all of the newly organized spaces. My heart sings with happiness when I open a drawer and everything inside is neat, tidy, and easy to find. Love!

While I’ve been busy organizing, Mike’s been nesting on the balcony like a mad man. I can’t wait to show you pictures of the window boxes and planters he’s been building. I keep trying to snap nice photos but whenever I’m out there the sun is in the wrong place and the photos turn out horrible. In the meantime, here’s something else we’ve been working on:

enter-exit

We’re lucky enough to have a private entrance to our apartment and Mike has all kinds of plans for how he wants to fix it up. This is what we’ve got so far. (Except since I snapped this, he moved that little table in the corner to the balcony. It’s adorable out there, but I loved it here, too.) The hooks on the wall were originally the pot rack Mike custom built for our first apartment in New York. Then he rebuilt it to fit our kitchen in Harlem, and now he’s repurposed it for all of our dog accoutrements. You’ll see we use it to hang the leashes, a little towel to dry dewy dog feet after morning walks, and a canvas tote full of poop bags that I carry on all of our walks. On the wall to the right is a basket full of dried eucalyptus that my mother gave us. Eucalyptus wards off spiders and smells fantastic. The door mat was there when we moved in and I’ve never given it two thoughts, but looking at this photo makes me want to hurl it out a window and replace it with something more attractive. I’ll add that to my to-do list.

Later this week (or maybe next week) I’ll post some family room updates. That room is really coming together and I’m super excited about it. I’ll bet you’re just dying to see it, too. I mean, it’s been like, three whole months since I’ve posted a family room update. How have you survived?

P.S. A hug and a kiss to Adam for making sure I met my fundraising goal for the Epilepsy Foundation. From the bottom of my heart, Thank You.

Daily Grind

I sat down wanting to write about so many different things but the moment I put fingers to keyboard everything flew right out of my head. I’m tired, but things are good. Mike’s two classes are going really well. He gets to watch his Anatomy professor cut dead people up into little pieces and I’m only a little bit jealous. Not that I want to see people being cut into little pieces. I don’t mean to the give the wrong (and super creepy) impression. But I have always wanted to dissect a human cadaver, so yeah, I’m a little bit jealous.

Thank you very much to Dori and Kim for donating to support research for Epilepsy! You girls rock my world. If I can convince eight more of you to donate five bucks each, I’ll have reached my very reasonable goal of $100. Come on guys! You can do it! End Epilepsy! Donate $5 HERE.

airsoft

I found this picture the other day while I was sorting through old photos on my computer. I haven’t played airsoft in AGES. It has literally (not figuratively, literally) been months. You like my gun? You know you do. It’s a – um, I have no idea what kind of gun it is. It’s an airsoft gun and it’s rad. My brothers are playing WWII reenactment airsoft this weekend. Ty pointed out that it’s just about the geekiest thing we could ever do because it involves playing dress up. Mike and I aren’t playing because we don’t have 1940’s outfits yet, but we’re putting them together. We’re going to be partisans and I’m going to dress up like this woman:

skirt gun

I can’t imagine the courage it must take to pick up a weapon and fight for your country. God bless our troops. That said, there is something pretty remarkable about a woman in the 1940’s who’d take a gun off a dead man and fight in the resistance. That is some serious nettle. I have no idea if I could ever be that woman, but I can spend an afternoon pretending to be her.

Kids dress up like super heroes, grown-ups dress up like war heroes. Er. Geeky grown-ups dress up like war heroes.

Mike and I are trying out the various fitness clubs in our neighborhood. We’re getting guest passes at all the gyms and hopping from one to the next every week. Last week was Spectrum, this week is LA Fitness, next week is 24-Hr Fitness. We’re trying to decide which one to join, but so far, I’m just thrilled to be getting back into a consistent work-out routine. We haven’t had a good, solid routine down since 2008, so this is a little overdue. Our workout consists of twenty minutes on the treadmill, 10 minutes of abs and calves, followed by thirty minutes of weights. We’re on a three-day split; Sunday legs, Monday arms, Tuesday back, Wednesday legs, Thursday arms, Friday back, Saturday rest. It’s kicking my ass. I can barely walk  up the stairs. I can barely lift my arms over my head. It hurts to sit down, it hurts to stand up, it hurts to breathe. But it hurts so good. I love the feeling of sore, hard-worked muscles. It makes me love my body and how strong it is. Mike is a relentless coach, upping my weight when the exercise is too easy, coaxing me through an extra five reps at the end of a set. I love working the machines together, changing each other’s weights, counting each other’s reps, spotting one another. It’s the only real time we spend together during the week so it feels sacred. I’m a little nervous I’m going to get giant man-muscles, but Mike promises that no one will ever mistake me for a dude. He better be right or else I’ll have the man-muscles to make him sorry he was wrong.

Work is good – it’s busy and getting busier. I feel like I’m spinning a dozen plates but for now they’re all spinning happily away. I just have to keep them going nice and steady. I’m hoping to spend a little time this weekend writing more about Bolivia. It seems so far away now. I am eager to get all my memories down before they evaporate. There are also half-a-dozen projects I’d like to do around this place, and of course, a husband I’d like to spend some time with. And there are chores, too. And lots of pictures I’ve been taking and meaning to post here, but haven’t gotten round to yet. I just want an easy weekend filled with nesty things. I’ll do a project or two, write a little, do a few chores, maybe read a little. What are you doing this weekend? How’s your week? I’ve been talking all about myself. Now tell me, what is new with you?

Sailboat Strawberry Pie

Yesterday I tried to post this recipe but instead I got carried away talking all about our wonderful anniversary/family visit. And as much as I loved pouring over family photos that week, I equally loved spending one-on-one time visiting with my mother-in-law. I realize that the cliche is a mother-in-law who meddles and sticks her nose in and disapproves of everything, but my mother-in-law is anything but that. She’s absolutely lovely. She reminds me a lot of my Aunt Sue – my mother’s beloved Aunty who passed away when I was 16. I spent my childhood at Aunt Sue’s heels while she baked cakes and served fairy tea in miniature china teacups. I spent hours with my head resting on her ample bosom, while she told stories about her childhood home, our nation’s capital, the illustrious Washington D.C.  She’s been gone for years, but I see her in my mother-in-law. The way Mom pads around the kitchen in red knit ballet slippers, telling stories about her childhood in Grand Rapids, Michigan, where her mother lived her entire life in a two-bedroom house with no kitchen sink. We spent our mornings immersed in photo albums, our afternoons cooking, and every evening I curled up at her feet like a cat and asked for more stories. More!

When Michael’s parents were first married, they owned a beautiful sailboat that they’d take out for weeks at a time. Michael cut his teeth sailing and I have seen the photos to prove it. (omgsoadorable.)  The following is a recipe for the strawberry pie Michael’s mother used to make on the boat whenever they went out to sea. It’s unbelievably easy and it’s probably one of the best strawberry pies I’ve ever eaten.

Sailboat Strawberry Pie

Oven: This will depend on the type of crust you use
Prep: 30 min.
Bake: Nada
What You’ll Need:
frozen/refrigerated pie crust
fresh strawberries
2 cups sifted powdered sugar
whipping cream
sugar
vanilla extract

We started with a Marie Callender’s frozen pie crust. I was skeptical because I’ve always insisted on baking my own pie crusts from scratch, but this pie crust was so delicious – flaky, tender, flavorful – I don’t know if I’ll ever go to the trouble of making a crust from scratch again. We followed the instructions on the box, which were something along the lines of “take the crust out of the box, prick it all over with a fork, bake it for 15 minutes, voila!”

While the crust was in the oven, we washed the strawberries, trimmed their tops off, and set them out to dry. It’s important that the strawberries are completely dry before you put them in the pie.

When the crust had baked and cooled, you sift 1 cup of powdered sugar evenly into the pie crust.

When the strawberries are completely dry, you arrange them in the powdered sugar dusted pie crust.

strawberries

We were only about half-done filling the crust with strawberries at this point…

Next, sift 1 more cup of powdered sugar over the strawberries, covering evenly and completely.

If you want to make your own whipped cream, now is the time. Add a teaspoon of vanilla extract to your whipping cream and whip on high while slowly adding sugar to taste. We forgot to buy whipping cream, but Mom had Cool Whip on hand and that worked perfectly.

Cover your pie with whipped cream (or Cool Whip) like so:

whipping cream

You want to completely cover the pie with whipped cream, much the way you would cover a meringue-topped pie with meringue – sealed all the way to the edges. Put the pie in the fridge for two or three hours to chill before serving. Voila! You’re done! Easy peasy and completely delicious.

fini

Now I wish I’d taken a photo of the pie once it was cut and plated because in addition to being delicious, it was also gorgeous. But you’re just going to have to take my word for it. Now onward! Make pies!

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!

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.

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.