Archive for August, 2012

We ate a lot of cantaloupe this summer. Somehow, we also grew one; presumably, out of the trash, since that’s where this little plant emerged. You can see the vine here on the lower left.

The blossoms started to appear about a month ago. At first, we guessed zucchini or cucumber; then, last week, a small green orb emerged from the flowers. It looked like a tiny watermelon for a few days after that. When I peeked in on it yesterday, it had begun to develop a distinctly cantaloupe-like skin. Funny—this is maybe the most successful edible thing I’ve ever grown and it was entirely accidental. The rocks and baking sun seem to be just what it likes.

verbena—one of many colorful things that my mom planted for us.

shrubbery—a bush on the side of the house wherein several small garden snakes (similarly green and yellow) reside.

watering— and a view of our next-door neighbor, the park.


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Poor Meowice wants out, Dog wants in. Relatedly, why do I always think that throw rugs are a good idea? They just end up crumpled in the corners and scratched to bits.

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looking down

Things have been changing in the living room. I keep meaning to post a picture, but the reality of life with animals is that it never really looks that great in there. But, in the interest of disclosure and—as promised—of showing more complete images of the house, here’s how it looks right now.

The layout: behind the larger couch is a half wall; the chair-and-a-half is in front of the stairwell. The windows look out onto the backyard. The living room is sunken down a step from the level of the hall, kitchen, and dining area (on the other side of the stairwell). The kitchen sink is on the other side of the half wall, but, because of the elevation you can’t see it from the living room. I’m standing at the top of the stairs–outside our bedroom–looking down.

A few things of note:

Yes, the price tag is still hanging off of that red chest in the corner. It’s the perfect size, but the color kind of makes my head hurt. I’m thinking about repainting it (shh, don’t tell Ricky).

I hate those blinds. None of the electrical outlets have covers. The stuff on the mantle is still pretty much a random assortment of things that I took out of boxes.

Yes, those are scratching posts. Yes, Meowice is demonstrating the necessity of multiple scratching posts.

The little wooden chair by the fireplace has a family legacy: my great-grandmother, yearning for grandchildren, apparently used to bring it out and quietly set it in the room when my newly-married grandparents were visiting. My mother brought it out of the garage and put it there while she was visiting.

The couches are new.

In all the drama of moving out, moving in, painting, having popcorn ceilings scraped, and waiting for our carpet, we ordered some new furniture. In the last house, I had two couches: one, white slipcovered Pottery Barn sofa and two, nearly identical Ikea copy of that sofa. The Ikea sofa did not make the trek out west (wouldn’t fit in the covered wagon) and we have two living spaces here that needed couches: this main level room and the large rec room downstairs, where the tv lives.

For the first week or so after our carpet finally arrived, this space looked pretty much the same as the living room in the old house: same white chair, white sofa, and coffee table. The new furniture was supposed to go downstairs.

And, of course, it wouldn’t fit down the stairwell. With some shoving, the old white couch (somewhat complainingly) did fit. So, we had to switch the furniture plans.

I had been on board all along with the idea of having big comfy furniture downstairs with the tv, but at first, I wasn’t wild about having these monsters upstairs. I like my daintily scaled, white furniture. But it is ridiculously impractical sometimes. My favorite example: for two years I had to change my pants the minute I walked in the door because my favorite pair of jeans (RIP) always rubbed indigo dye all over the white couch. To say nothing of the pets. Oh, the pets.

These are much more practical. They are also a bit of a departure from my practiced aesthetic. I’m working on trying to make the room feel a little more like me. And the new furniture is so much better for lounging. I keep trying different combinations of throw pillows. You know, besides the cat-shaped one.

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* desktop *

* new artwork *

* new lamp *

* white feet *


I’m starting to see that everyone in my life currently tends towards pale blue (dare I suggest Carolina Blue?). I’m not sure how this happened, but it’s the same slow creep with which Tiffany turquoise overcame me in the last house.


kitchen stools


dining chairs, seen here and here:

(that’s the face Darwin makes when you ask him if he wants to go outside and what he really, really wants to do is just stay hidden in the closet, underneath the extra chairs)

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upstairs downstairs

I keep meaning to take pictures of the house that more fully show what the whole rooms look like rather than, say, the lamb throw pillow on my reading chair.

I do love that pillow.

Although matters have improved somewhat, this picture gives you a pretty good idea of what’s happening in the second upstairs bedroom (we’re using one of them as the master bedroom, and the main level master bedroom is our office). It’s a bit of a no-man’s land; I’ve taken over the closet with my out of season clothes, but nothing much is happening in there right now. But I suppose that this picture does accomplish one goal: you can pretty much see the whole room—and its only piece of furniture (it’s under there somewhere).

But this could be a good time to talk about the basics. We have the same gray Martha Stewart carpeting (Winterthur in Anvil) in all three bedrooms and also in the main level family room and the basement rec room. The rest of the floors (kitchen and entry) are wood laminate that came with the house. We used the same color on the walls in all of the rooms—except for the basement, which was white when we moved in, and the two full baths, which are beige-y and green, pending further renovations.

The paint color “Wish” from the Benjamin Moore Affinity line. It’s really hard to pick a gray paint that doesn’t turn out purple, blue, or just plain ugly. I’m pretty happy with the result, though I’m already kind of missing the Tiffany-box hues of my last house (even though I was growing tired of them at the time). We experimented with picking some different colors for the separate spaces around the house (the kitchen, dining, and family room are all fairly open) but, after the weddinghoneymoonmovinggradschoolmadness, we got tired of making decisions and just went with the same color throughout.

Maybe someday soon we’ll get around to hanging some art on the walls. It might be good to start with picking some stuff up on the floors.

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lazy sunday

George is sitting in my favorite place to sit.

Yesterday, my dad and I took down the huge, hideous fluorescent light fixture in the upstairs bathroom. The bathroom is small, so it’s hard to get a good picture of what’s happening in there. We’re working on removing a giant mirror, replacing the light fixture, and repainting. Maybe painting the vanity, too?

Fits and starts— after the initial two months of nothing but house stuff, I can only deal with little bits of work on these domestic projects. Today, I think I’ll make this and maybe this.

Did you know that hatch chiles are in season? I wouldn’t have had any idea, but the grocery stores around here are piled high with them. I don’t remember ever seeing such a display before—maybe they don’t make it out to the Midwest in such huge quantities? Maybe they’re too spicy for cheese heads? Inspired by the vegan platter at Cosmic Cantina, our favorite Chapel Hill eatery, I made up a recipe stir-fried tofu cubes cooked in a sauce of pureed, roasted hatch chiles. We’ve had it several times this week in tacos and, best of all, in quesadillas. The Mexican rice recipe turned out really well, by the way.

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afternoon drowsiness

I am definitely developing an unhealthy relationship with this thing.

It has become a little too easy to make espresso drinks. I know that you crema and latte snobs out there (is my brother reading this?) will be a bit dismayed by the sloppiness of this cup, but it works.

And now you can see our forest green countertops. And our bright green espresso machine, which reminds me a bit of a tree frog. The wretched Williams Sonoma near us (and by near, I mean: an hour and a half) was out of pretty much every other color, and I kind of like it. In an insane way.

Ok, back to Villette. Really. Spending this much time with one’s dissertation is at once a pleasure and a pain (I’m not teaching this semester).

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I’m standing in the kitchen, listening to The Civil Wars and waiting for some rice to brown. It’s random, but some of the songs kind of remind me of Once. I love tex-mex style rice, but I often fear that it contains hidden chicken stock. I think it often does. I loved Ana’s Taqueria in Boston; after years of eating their “vegetarian” burrito, they posted a handwritten sign confessing that it contained chicken-stock-laden rice. So I’m trying this recipe. We’ll see.

This post is kind of a photo-dump. Ricky and I bought white sawhorse and pine top desks at Ikea; they were unbelievably affordable and I love having the huge work surface. Meowice (otherwise known as Alice) likes to watch me from Ricky’s desk while he’s at school.

Breakfast at my desk. I love this yogurt. It has tiny flecks of ginger. The coconut one is good, too.

I bought two huge framed prints that look like old botanical plates (yes, I know coral is not a plant) for $20 each at Homegoods. I have this idea that they could look kind of Anthropologie-esque in the right context; that context has not yet been achieved. So they’re on the floor. And so is George Eliot the cat, who enjoys surfing about on area rugs.

I think I burned the rice a little.

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kitchen stools

I bought some knock-off kitchen stools. Well, they are genuine stools, but they are not genuine designer stools. Design Within Reach is not within my reach, but I am quite pleased with these pseudo-Tolixes.

Apparently, I only buy blue seating these days. I’m not really sure how that happened. Actually, I know how just how it happened here: these stools came in several colors, but the galvanized-finish ones didn’t have great reviews. The white ones, which would have perhaps been a saner choice, weren’t in stock in the right height. That left tangerine, red, blue, and limeade. Our countertops are forest green (except for the granite island). Limeade and forest seemed like overkill. Red and green seemed a bit too festive. Tangerine and forest is just alarming. Blue doesn’t match either, but I’ve decided to embrace clashy in the name of just adding in accessories that I like, regardless of how they blend with the rest of it. The appliances don’t match each other anyway.

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From a set of images, it’s often very hard to get a grasp on the perspective of a house. This is a corner in what is now our office—though it had been a guest room for the first few weeks. Things are constantly shifting as we try to settle on a use for these new spaces.

When we made an offer on this house, things were moving too quickly in the area for us to arrange a sensible visit to view several properties. So instead, using images from online real estate listings and satellite images, we jumped on a property that seemed unusually nice. And we visited it for the first time during the home inspection, after we were under contract. Sounds crazy, yes, but there were several things working for us: this house was extremely close to Ricky’s new workplace. Rather than being locked between several houses, two sides of the lot bordered on a park. The location worked, so the finishes of the house didn’t seem to matter as much. I tend to change everything anyway.

When we walked through for the first time, there were a few surprises in putting together the layout of the house, but not too many. It’s a common design in this neighborhood, and we were able to determine most everything from similar listings of variations on exactly the same house. Ah, suburbia. The only real surprise was a huge finished room in the basement—the listing didn’t include any pictures of the room, and none of the similar houses had the same feature.

When we moved in, the cosmetic changes began: scraping popcorn ceilings, repainting every single room, and replacing the disgusting carpeting.

Here’s how things look today from another angle—same room (the office), but looking out into the living space, underneath the large central staircase. I love the staircase. It looks—and functions—a bit like a cat condo, but the airiness and brightness of the space make it a great place to perch.

It takes a while—and we’re not there yet—but it seems to me that you can make most any house into a space that feels like you. To begin with, you can always just add cats.

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