…you wake up on a “work from home” day before Thanksgiving to an urgent email sent in the wee hours from your boss who is out of town for the holiday asking for a written piece on a super urgent omg emergency basis and you realize that you have already written it yet have absolutely no recollection of doing so and it is in great condition and just needs minor tweaking instead of it throwing your entire day off track.
Hi, I just wanted to say it's really refreshing to read about how you've been furnishing your home. I love seeing people's hard work pay off and that you are acknowledging that it can take time. Some blogs make me feel so inferior but yours reminds me that attaining these nicer items through hard work (and sales) is do-able and satisfying, even if it might take longer. Can't wait to see more!
This was the nicest note to wake up to this morning! Thank you!
I totally feel you on the inferiority complex in this Pinterest/blog era! It is frustrating when it seems like everyone else has these perfectly curated homes when you are just trying to figure out where to put the ONE bed you own and “borrowing” a couch from your brother when the sectional you ordered is now on major delay and you left the ONE couch you used to own by the dumpster at the condo.
We plan on being in this house for awhile, and we want to fill it with things we love. That means we need to be a little patient, do a little bargain and look-a-like hunting, and deal with the fact that the coffee table in our great room is a hideous piece I bought as a single lady because I thought it was OMGSOCUTE. We’ve spent a great deal of time talking about what our splurge items will be, and what our priorities are. We’ve so far abided by the rule that we don’t buy it unless we love it, and though a very slow process, I think it has worked out for the best.
For more “starting from scratch” home stuff, check out my BFF G’s blog. She closed on her house a few weeks before we did, and she’s approached furnishing in a very similar way. Her place is amazing!
- Last week I strained a muscle in my neck sleeping. Sure sign I’m becoming elderly. It finally completely stopped hurting today.
- On Monday I went for a deep tissue massage (see neck issue above), came home and had a delicious dinner made by my roomie E, our friend D (just back from six weeks in NYC) joined us, and the three of us spent the evening in E’s room, drinking wine and belly laughing at D’s ridiculous stories until C (E’s husband) kicked us out just before midnight because it was a “school night.” Monday was really good for the soul.
- Is it just me, or does everything in the One Kings Lane “Vintage” section look like shit you could dig out of your grandma’s basement for free?
- The new dining table and buffet are awesome. I’ve never owned a real dining table before, and I must say, if not for the folding chairs currently surrounding it, I might actually feel like legit adult.
- I offered to host the women folk in my extended family for our annual cookie baking sesh/lunch/wine drinking on December 1. I remembered last night that we have a wedding the night before. This will be interesting.
- If you have the Smitten Kitchen cookbook, run immediately to page 175 and make the Harvest Chicken with Grapes and Olives. Serve with polenta, preferably polenta into which you’ve stirred a generous amount of goat cheese and thyme. You will not be sorry.
- I have decided that E and C can’t ever move out because having four functioning adults under one roof makes shit run so much more efficiently. Dinner time is a MACHINE around here these days. Trading off dinner responsibilities, grocery-getting and clean up is kind of awesome.
- You know what else is awesome? Working from home in peace and complete silence.
I remember quite vividly the meeting in Charlotte. Sitting there and listening/not listening because my mind and heart were wholly left behind in Chicago. My stomach a sinking pit, filled with dread because I was so certain that only bad news was forthcoming. It had been such a rough year that there couldn’t possibly be anything but.
I remember walking out to the parking lot and sitting in my rental car. My hands shaking as I called my parents to find out what happened at that appointment that morning. Hearing the words “virtually undetectable” and “we’re going to Argentina.” Holding back happy tears until I could cry them on my drive to Raleigh.
That was not the end of it, this we know. But I am no less grateful for the news we got on November 15 than I was one year ago.
One of the biggest challenges with the new house has been having it feel like a lived-in home.
We went from one bedroom to four, one bathroom to 3.5, and a whole lot of other spaces that we didn’t have before. Two family rooms, a formal living room and a space for a legitimate dining table that seats more than two.
In other words, spaces for a whole lot of furniture and furnishings we don’t have (shit you don’t even think about, like garbage cans and hand towels for all of the bathrooms - that stuff adds up fast!). Lots of rooms sit empty. Even our bedroom, which until just recently (when we acquired a pair of nightstands), has nothing more than just a bed. It feels really barren.
A lived-in home has layers. Lamps, throw pillows, curtains, wall art, framed photos, trinkets reminiscent of past travels, fond memories and good times.
At this point, I’d settle for having our TV on something other than a metal folding table.
As G pointed out, turning a house into a home is a marathon, not a sprint. Some days it feels like we are NEVER going to get there.
The dining table and buffet arrive next week (when we will get chairs is another story), and a pair of these lamps is on order for the nightstands in our bedroom.
ellis glass table lamp via ballard designs, currently 15-20% off.
Slowly but surely. Someday it will look like actual people live in this house. Slowly but surely.
[related: some of my favorite places to find great deals are home goods, ballard designs, roy’s, domicile, art van, amazon, joss & main, one kings lane, and never, ever underestimate the power of patience and a well-timed pottery barn coupon code.]
In my over-excitement for the first Halloween in our house (we never had trick-or-treaters at the condo), I may have gone a little overboard at Costco in my quest to be The House With The Full Sized Candy Bars.
I forgot to take into account the weather forecast and the fact that we had an extended family dinner scheduled last night.
We had a handful of trick-or-treaters before we had to leave. A ten year old aspiring real estate agent who poked his head into our front room, said “not bad,” and asked how much we paid for the house. A five year old dead bride. A three year old who immediately screamed “TRICK OR TREAT SMELL MY FEET” as soon as the doorknob turned, and then explained that her older brother kept stealing her joke so she had to say it real fast.
After an hour, we headed out for dinner at the country club with my extended family. The annual FWP Open, as we call it, was designed to help my poor, unfortunate uncle with his horrible quandry of not meeting his minimum for the year. Such problems, he has.
I mean, I’m always more than happy to help a family member in need. Particularly when it means free dinner.
Wines were opened, laughs were had, stories of my late grandfather were told, shit was talked, and a good old fashioned family carbonara cook-off and Christmas cookie baking party were planned.
By the end of the night, the minimum was “muerta.”
Scholium Project “Midan al Tahrir”, a blend of Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Verdelho and Gewurtztraminer. It sounds like a hot mess, but it was a lovely, full-bodied white with a bit of crispness from the Sauvignon Blanc and Verdelho, a hint of sweetness from the Gewurtztraminer, but without the…
…I would walk by a bowl full of full-sized candy bars 100x a day and never eat one because OMG A FULL SIZED CANDY BAR SO MANY CALORIES AND SUGAR AND BADNESS but I have zero problem grabbing a fun-sized one every time I walk by, thus eating 127 fun-sized candy bars throughout the course of a day?
1. Driving west at sunset in the summer: blinded by the sun, you cannot see the cars ahead; the ugly warehouses and body shops are blazing orange. When the sun sets, everything becomes deeper: the brick facades acquire a bluish hue; there are charcoal smudges of darkness on the horizon. The sky and the city look endless. West is everywhere you look.
2. The way people in the winter huddle together under the warming lights of the Granville El stop, much like young chickens under a lightbulb. It is an image of human solidarity enforced by the cruelty of nature, the story of Chicago and of civilization.
3. The American vastness of the Wilson Street beach, gulls and kites coasting above it, dogs sprinting along the jagged waves, barking into the void, city kids doing homemade drugs, blind to the distant ships on their mysterious ways from Liverpool, England, to Gary, Indiana.
4. Early September anyplace in the city, when the sunlight angles have abruptly changed and everything and everyone appears better, all the edges softened; the torments of the hot summer are now over, the cold torments of the winter have not begun, and people bask in the perishable possibility of a kind and gentle city.
5. The basketball court at Foster Street beach, where I once watched an impressively sculpted guy play a whole game—dribbling, shooting, arguing, dunking—with a toothpick in his mouth, taking it out only to spit. For many years he was to me the hero of Chicago cool.
6. The tall ice ranges along the shore when the winter is exceptionally cold and the lake frozen for a while, so ice pushes ice against the land. One freezing day I stood there in awe, realizing that the process exactly replicates the way mountain ranges were formed hundreds of millions of years ago, tectonic plates pushing against each other. The primeval shapes are visible to every cranky driver plowing through the Lake Shore Drive mess, but most of them look ahead and couldn’t care less.
7. Looking directly west at night from any Edgewater or Rogers Park high-rise; airplanes hover and glimmer above O’Hare. Once, my visiting mother and I spent an entire evening sitting in the dark, listening to Frank Sinatra, watching the planes, which resembled stunned fireflies, transfixed with the continuous wonder that this world is.
8. The blessed scarcity of celebrities in Chicago, most of whom are overpaid athlete losers. Oprah, one of the Friends, and many other people whose names I never knew or now cannot recall have all left for New York or Hollywood or rehab, where they can wear the false badge of their humble Chicago roots, while we can claim them without actually being responsible for the vacuity of their front-page lives.
9. The Hyde Park parakeets, miraculously surviving brutal winters, a colorful example of life that adamantly refuses to perish, of the kind of instinct that has made Chicago harsh and great. I actually have never seen one: the possibility that they are made up makes the whole thing even better.
10. The downtown skyline at night as seen from the Adler Planetarium: lit windows within the dark building frames against the darker sky. It seems that stars have been squared and pasted on the thick wall of a Chicago night; the cold, inhuman beauty containing the enormity of life, each window a possible story, inside which an immigrant is putting in a late shift cleaning corporate trash.
11. The green-gray color of the barely foaming lake when the winds are northwesterly and the sky is chilly.
12. The summer days, long and humid, when the streets seem waxed with sweat; when the air is as thick and warm as honey-sweetened tea; when the beaches are full of families: fathers barbecuing, mothers sunbathing, children approaching hypothermia in the lake’s shallows. Then a wave of frigid air sweeps the parks, a diluvial shower soaks every living creature, and someone, somewhere loses power. (Never trust a summer day in Chicago.)
13. The highly muggable suburbanites patrolling Michigan Avenue, identifiable by their Hard Rock Café shirts, oblivious to the city beyond the shopping and entertainment areas; the tourists on an architectural speedboat tour looking up at the steep buildings like pirates ready to plunder; the bridges’ halves symmetrically erected like jousting pricks; the street performer in front of the Wrigley Building performing “Killing Me Softly” on the tuba.
14. The fact that every year in March, the Cubs fans start saying: “This year might be it!”—a delusion betrayed as such by the time summer arrives, when the Cubs traditionally lose even a mathematical possibility of making it to the play-offs. The hopeless hope is one of the early harbingers of spring, bespeaking an innocent belief that the world might right its wrongs and reverse its curses simply because the trees are coming into leaf.
15. A warm February day when everyone present at my butcher shop discussed the distinct possibility of a perfect snowstorm and, in turn, remembered the great snowstorm of 1967: cars abandoned and buried in the snow on Lake Shore Drive; people trudging home from work through the blizzard like refugees; the snow on your street up to the milk truck’s mirrors. There are a lot of disasters in the city’s memory, which result in a strangely euphoric nostalgia, somehow akin to a Chicagoan’s respect for and pride in “those four-mansion crooks who risk their lives in crimes of high visibility” (Bellow).
16. Pakistani and Indian families strolling solemnly up and down Devon on summer evenings; Russian Jewish senior couples clustering on Uptown benches, warbling gossip in soft consonants against the blare of obsolete transistor radios; Mexican families in Pilsen crowding Nuevo Leon for Sunday breakfast; African American families gloriously dressed for church, waiting for a table in the Hyde Park Dixie Kitchen; Somali refugees playing soccer in sandals on the Senn High School pitch; young Bucktown mothers carrying yoga mats on their back like bazookas; the enormous amount of daily life in this city, much of it worth a story or two.
17. A river of red and a river of white flowing in opposite directions on Lake Shore Drive, as seen from Montrose Harbor at night.
18. The wind: the sailboats in Grant Park Harbor bobbing on the water, the mast wires hysterically clucking; the Buckingham Fountain’s upward stream turned into a water plume; the windows of downtown buildings shaking and thumping; people walking down Michigan Avenue with their heads retracted between their shoulders; my street completely deserted except for a bundled-up mailman and a plastic bag fluttering in the barren tree-crown like a torn flag.
19. The stately Beverly mansions; the bleak Pullman row houses; the frigid buildings of the LaSalle Street canyon; the garish beauty of old downtown hotels; the stern arrogance of the Sears Tower and the Hancock Center; the quaint Edgewater houses; the sadness of the West Side; the decrepit grandeur of the Uptown theaters and hotels; the Northwest side warehouses and body shops; thousands of empty lots and vanished buildings no one pays any attention to and no one will ever remember. Every building tells part of the story of the city. Only the city knows the whole story.
20. If Chicago was good enough for Studs Terkel to spend a lifetime in, it is good enough for me.
It’s been ages since I’ve done one of these posts! Here’s what’s cooking this week:
Tonight: Flatbread with pumpkin pesto from Pasta Puttana, chopped chard, fontina cheese and the little bit of smoked turkey sausage leftover from Saturday night’s dinner (recipe highly recommended!)
Tuesday: Cauliflower cakes with herb sauce. I’ve made these before, and they are delish (I skip the mayo in the sauce and sub Greek yogurt for the sour cream). Perfect with a salad.
Wednesday: Braised beef with sundried tomatoes. I’ll put this together tomorrow morning, braise in the crock pot all day, allow it to chill overnight so I can skim the fat, and reheat for a “feeling super accomplished” mid-week dinner.
Thursday: Whole wheat pasta with the last of my tomatoes (given the garlic/olive oil/oven roasting treatment).
Friday: An at-home date night, dinner TBD. We were originally going to go out, but given that this will be the last night ALONE in the house for a bit, might as well take advantage!
Of course, there is always the risk that work can completely derail the best-laid kitchen plans. What’s cooking at your house?
I’ve been quiet on ye old blog ever since we left for Sonoma.
LIFE, ya know?
The past few weeks have been crazy busy catching up at work, gearing up for some new projects, doing mountains of laundry, painting, and getting our house in order.
Our household is expanding!!!
[no, I’m not knocked up. but made you look.]
Our good friends E and C are going to be living with us for a bit while they finish the rehab on the building (their future digs) they bought a few months ago. Some GC issues and the fact that construction always takes longer than they say left the time on their lease quickly running out.
So we’ve got roommates!
[i haven’t lived with anyone other than M in about 10 years.]
The good news? It lit a fire under our asses to finally paint the guest room and buy a shower head for the guest bath.
[which, along with a shower door, was suspiciously missing when we moved in. where did it go?]
The bad news? I predict the wine consumption in this place goes through the roof.
Oh wait. That’s not bad news.
Welcome [temporary] home, guys!
In March, we moved for the first time after seven plus years in a tiny little shoebox of a condo.
M is basketball tonight, and I came home from work to an empty house. I found the giant mulled cider candle from the old place, the one we had for what felt like YEARS, in the cupboard under the sink and lit it for the first time since the move.
Fall is the only appropriate time for such a scent, even if it is my favorite.
I was immediately transported back to the two-room place we called home for so long, where I’d spend an fall evening alone sipping wine and listening to jazz on Pandora while I caught up on work at the little two seater table that backed right up to our couch, windows cracked just enough to catch the early fall breeze, all with mulled cider burning in the background.
And promptly realized I was doing that exact same thing.
The two seater table is no longer four inches from the couch,
But this place is starting to feel just like home.
1. Candles that smell like: People jumping into leaves, pie, sweaters covered in pie, cinnamon leaves, babies in Halloween costumes, tea-stained pie sweaters, air swirling with leaves that land on your sweaters (Cost-the amount it costs to eat for a week)
THIS. You have to be happy with the everyday. The small moments. Walking around your neighborhood, cheap beers at local bars, $5 flowers from the farmers market. Laughs with your girlfriends in your too small apartment. Cheap quesadillas around the corner. Sunsets on the Lake you’ve seen for years.
Vacations are great but if the only time you’re happy is when you escape your everyday life, you need to make some changes.
Working on this. Not because travel isn’t amazing and enriching and SO WORTH IT, but because recently someone at work told me that I was ALL BUSINESS and no smiles. And at first I wanted to be all like SO I’M NOT SUZY SUNSHINE, BITCHES GET SHIT DONE INSERT TINA FEY GIF HERE AND GTFO.
But then I thought about it, and I could really benefit from taking a break from checking off the to-do boxes to smell the roses from time to time instead of only doing that when I’m wandering the streets of Paris or Zurich or Sonoma or Playa del Carmen.
I have no spare fucks to muster for the Target Phillip Lim collection. Or any Target capsule collection for that matter. Ever since I was duped into buying a million things that I never wore by the Tucker for Target collection (worst. quality. ever.) I’m all the way over it.
I mean, would anyone REALLY buy a “Boom” sweater at Target if it wasn’t OMGPHILIPLIM?
amended to say that my missoni flats are still the bomb.com, even if slightly busted now.