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Groovin’ on a Sunday

before

Welcome to our second bathroom – my joy, and also the bain of my existence. Why? Because it’s up to me to decorate it and I have had absolutely no idea what to do with it. How do you decorate a bathroom? What constitutes bathroom decorations? And worse, how do you decorate a bathroom in a rental?

The painting reflected in the bathroom mirror was painted by my mom, and it reminds me of a sunset on Maui. It brightened up our bathroom in Harlem, where it looked great with our cheery yellow shower curtain. The blue and green bath towels were purchased specifically to coordinate with the painting, so it only seemed natural to put them all together here. But then what? This shower has sliding doors, so no need for a cheerful curtain. My mom suggested bright yellow hand towels and wash cloths and I’m really happy with how they bring a little sunshine into this tiny windowless room. She also suggested I ditch the white frame that hangs above the towels for something more colorful. As soon as she said that I thought, why don’t I take a cue from Young House Love and paint the frame?

We’ve been a little too spendy these last few months, so I’m making an effort to curb my home-improvement costs. Especially since this home is a rental and in the long run, we really want to be putting our money into something we own, so it made sense to paint something I already have, rather than go out and buy something new. Luckily for me, my husband stockpiles DIY materials, which meant the entire cost of this project was $0. Sweet, sweet $0!

First, I had to sand the frame. I used a 220 (super fine) grit sand paper to roughen up the surface and remove the glossy finish.

sanding

Once I was done sanding the frame, I washed it with a little dish soap and water, to get rid of any clinging plastic dust. When it was completely dry, I sprayed the whole thing with Rust-Oleum primer. We didn’t have white primer on hand, only gray, and I’ll tell you right now I would’ve saved myself a lot of work if I’d sprung for a new can of white primer. C’est la vie – live and learn!

primed

The directions on the can said to paint the primed object within one hour of priming, or after twenty-four hours. I have no idea why the instructions read that way, but I said SCREW EM! and  applied my first coat of paint after only four hours. But first, I had to choose a color.

Michael suggested I use acrylic artists paint, since we have so much of it laying around. Unfortantely, most of the colors we have are shades of blue and green and what I wanted was hot pink. But I managed to scrounge up a tube of red and a tube of yellow, and so I set to mixing a shade of orange that would pull some of the orange out of the sunset painting. Once I mixed a color I liked, I held it up to the painting to see how it looked.

testing 1

Love it! But how does it look against the towels on the other wall?

testing 2

Perfect! So I started painting. And painting. And painting. After two coats, the gray primer was still showing through and the orange was not nearly as bright as it was on my palette. I was not pleased.

second coat

Pardon my incredibly wasteful use of paper towels. We didn’t have any old magazines, newspaper, or plastic bags laying around.

Michael suggested I add a little more yellow to my paint to brighten the color before applying the next coat. Here it is with a third coat of yellow-er orange paint, applied to the top, bottom, and right sides. The left side only has two coats of the original darker orange. That gray is STILL showing through, even after three coats! (Grumble, grumble.)

color variant

After four coats of paint, the stubborn gray was nearly completely covered. If you stare at it hard enough, I’m sure you’ll be able to tell I used a gray primer, but who’s gonna look that close, right? (Don’t look that close.) As a final touch, I sprayed the whole thing over with one coat of Verathane, let it dry, slapped a peice of white cardstock behind the picture as a sort of fake matting, and voila!

after

Much improved!

Here’s the before and afters side by side:

before-after

I am so pleased with the results, and had so much fun with the project, that I’m going to paint a few more frames for the wall across from the shower, which is currently blank save for a scrubby old towel-bar sans towels. I mean, how many towels does one bathroom need?

And finally – a close-up of the contents displayed by my new tangerine frame:

DIY

It’s a newspaper clipping from the L.A. Times, featuring me and two friends. I’m the one all the way in the back with my arm slung over my head, and the caption below the photo reads: “David Yarovesky, 18, left, and Clark Carpenter, 15, of Calabasas rattle the skins while enjoying a Sunday on Malibu’s Zuma Beach.” I’m not mentioned, but then again, there’s nothing newspaper-worthy about a teenage girl sunning herself on the beach. Anyway, if this isn’t proof of an idyllic teenage-hood, I don’t know what is.

Weekend Update

Sure, a weekend update is more of a Monday morning post, but yesterday I had some crazy to get off my chest.  I feel much better now, thank you, I really appreciated everyone’s input. It seems I’m not the only one with fears about the future, which is reassuring. And it’s also reassuring to hear that if we do decide to make babies, that will be ok too. We probably will end up parents at some point, just not this week. Or this year. Or next year most likely. We’ll see. Who knows what the future holds.

The weekend was great. The show Friday night was a lot of fun and my nephew was really fantastic. Work was great on Saturday, I really enjoyed the speakers, but the bike ride kicked my ass. Not too long ago I could ride ten miles without flinching, but in three short weeks I’ve gotten so out of shape that five miles leaves me winded and sore for days. That, my friends, is called getting old. But not to worry! This week I’ve made it my goal to ride at least fifteen miles, or five miles three times, so I will reclaim my lungs and my legs in no time.

I didn’t get nearly all the cleaning done that I wanted to on Saturday, even though I was at it for four hours. I did, however, finally unpack the remaining four boxes that were piled in our bedroom. When Mike got home from work and saw the empty floor space in our bedroom he said, “What happened to the boxes? I thought they were permanent?” To which I replied, “Are your arms broken? Because YOU COULD HAVE UNPACKED THEM YOURSELF, MISTER.”

In addition to unpacking those last four boxes, I scrubbed all the counters and sinks in the kitchen and both bathrooms, I dusted the entire apartment, put away all the crap that piled up over the week, and watered all the plants. Then I took a nice long shower, put on makeup and a dress, and let my husband take me on a last-minute date to see Rango.  It was really cute, you guys. It wasn’t as good as Tangled, I’m just going to be honest. But it was really cute.

Sunday we lost an hour of our day thanks to the time change, and didn’t roll out of bed until (GASP!) 11 a.m. We never sleep that late. I hate sleeping that late. But we did sleep that late and there wasn’t nuthin we could do about it. We skipped our leisurely breakfast and opted for cereal so we could get an immediate start on our day. Mike needed to study, so he cracked his books and I got back to work on the apartment. I vacuumed every nook and cranny, mopped the bathroom floors and the kitchen floor, did a little decorating in the office, started a DIY project (pictures coming!), and bathed the dogs. And you know what I have determined?  It takes a long long time to keep this apartment clean. I have two times the bathroom to scrub and twelve times the kitchen. Not to mention there is a whole extra room, what with the office and all that. I spent a full eight hours cleaning this weekend, and I still never got around to cleaning the showers. (Mike did them. Because he loves me and I am so grateful he does.) And I’m not complaining, I really am not, I’m just marveling. If we had any more space than we have now, I would either need to quit my job or else hire someone to come in and clean for us because my goodness it is a LOT of work.

We never did get to go to JoAnne’s to pick out fabric for our kitchen curtains, and there were a few other projects that I didn’t get around to, but what with the surprise date Saturday night and an impromptu visit with friends Sunday night, it really did turn out to be a wonderfully perfect weekend.

sunbathingThese two really need to start pulling their weight around here.

Soap Dish

soap dish

The soap dish in our second bathroom

Have I mentioned that our apartment has a second bathroom? It does. My first two apartments in New York didn’t even have one whole bathroom, they only had bitchens, and this place has two. whole. bathrooms. One bathroom has a tub and one has a standing shower stall, so if I feel like a shower or a bath, I have multiple options. I love Los Angeles.

Motel 6

Our building was built in 1987, so it’s just new enough that it lacks any of the old-timey charm our previous homes have had and it’s just old enough that everything in it is slightly tacky. It’s not that it isn’t nice enough. It’s nice enough. I thought it was really shabby when we first moved in, but now that I’ve scrubbed the whole place down – I’m not kidding, I had to use steel wool in the showers and a pumice stone on the toilet – I see that it’s not shabby, it just looks like an eighties-era Motel 6.

I think that’s what we’ll call this place. The Motel. It’s significant because this home is only temporary.  Sure, we’ll be here for a few years, three, four, five maybe, but as soon as we can buy a house we’ll be outey like gouty.  What?

We got this place for two hundred bucks below our budget, and it has nearly everything we wanted except hardwood/laminate flooring. It’s carpeted, but I think it might be the original carpeting from 1987, so when Theo rubs his ass on it I don’t feel as bad. Of course I want to get the dog butt-smear out of the carpeting, but I don’t feel guilty about it.

When we were apartment hunting we looked at this really nice condo just a few blocks from where we live now. It was only a one-bedroom and it was more expensive than the Motel, but it had a brand new washer and dryer in unit. It only had two windows, but it had a washer and dryer, a dishwasher, and a walk-in closet. We were so excited to see it. We walked in and the owner greeted us at the door, smiled warmly, held out his hand, and asked us to take off our shoes.

This is my biggest pet peeve. I understand why people want you to take your shoes off in their house, I get the logic behind it completely. But when I have had no advance warning and my toenails are all scabby looking and my feet stink because I’ve been wearing heels all day, and I walk into a stranger’s home and they ask me to take my shoes off, it is all I can do not to turn and run in the opposite direction.  Also? Mike and I and our five animals have no business renting a condo from people who want us to take our perfectly clean shoes off before we walk into the condo we are trying to rent.

If I lived in that condo I would spend the next five years having a panic attack whenever Theo wiped his ass on the floor. In the Motel I don’t have to sweat it because the landlady didn’t even charge us a pet deposit. She actually used the words, “I do not care about the carpeting,” when we mentioned our animals. Not that we’re not going to take care of the carpet, because dear me, we are, we absolutely are. I cannot live with dog ass in my carpeting. I will scrub every unsightly stain, I just won’t feel guilty over it.

Does that make sense?

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.


Vignettes

Slowly but surely, in bits and pieces, the apartment is coming together!

bedroom lamp

New bedroom lamp, a gift from my mother, who has exceptional taste. Antique eight-legged table,
on loan from my brother Ty and his wife Kirsten, who also have exceptional taste.

radio table

Lamp found street-side. Art Deco radio table also on loan from Ty and Kirsten (and of course the first thing we did was lose one of the bakelite knobs. Currently searching Internets for a replacement.) Books are from my collection of antique books & plays, dead bird sculpture a Christmas gift from Ty and Kirsten. They know me well.

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