Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Wedding Gift Idea

A suitable "fuck you" gift when the cheapest thing on the registry is a $120 butter dish.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Identity Crisis

I haven't been finding many bathroom vanities that thrill me. They're either the wrong size, uglier than three-day-old sin, or cost more than my car. So I'm turning to kitchen cabinets.

Crapkea, of course, is my Swedish go-to guy of stores:

This is a good size and could look pretty nice with a new countertop.

This system comes as a steel console with the option of a built-in sink and cabinets than can be mounted underneath.

Perhaps a little cold and industrial, but the walls and floors and stuff could soften it a little, right? Okay, I'm going to shower in an abattoir every morning.


While I lovelovelove the idea of cork floors, I just don't think it's going to be practical for a bathroom. So I'm reconsidering the default bathroom floor choice, ceramic tile. We're getting to the point where decisions need to be made, supplies purchased, and stuff ripped out — time to figure out a color palette.

I like green for walls and tile accents, but I'm not sure if a green tile floor will be too "luck-o-the-Irish" or look dated in a few years. I could go with something boring and beige:

Or boring and gray:

Or go for more color:

But then I look at something like this:

And shudder to think about where my ideas might fall on the Good-Bad-Ugly spectrum.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Purge Overkill

Part of the cohabitation process is making room for the person who's going to start sharing your space as well as your life. Compromises are made, concessions offered, and hopefully no one ends up bitter and resentful, screaming into the night, "I GAVE UP MY VACUUM FOR YOU, YOU WORTHLESS BASTARD!"

Fortunately, I'm the anti-pack rat. I purge with impunity, and only rarely feel connections to stuff or regret when I throw it away. I enjoy the satisfaction of culling through grunge band t-shirts, old school papers, and overexposed photos of someone's foot and building a respectable pile of Goodwill donations, recycling, and trash. Since Michael is moving in this weekend, I'm fully in Urge to Purge mode. The most hotly contested area of the house is the basement, which currently functions as a spider-infested repository for anything I don't know what to do with. I've been tossing crap into its gaping maw willy-nilly for five years, so there's plenty of work to do. Purge ho!

Being the anal-retentive well-organized Virgo that I am, I took copious measurements of my basement — complete with annotations of immovable structures, support beams, light fixtures, and electrical sockets — and drew a scaled plan for the purposes of planning how we should use the space. My boyfriends at the Bureau of Development Services would be so proud. Now that we have a detailed map of how it's going to be set up, right down to the last shelving unit, it's time for me to make it happen.

First up, the Box Brigade. Yes, I'm cheap. Yes, I save cardboard boxes. Why pay for a piddly little box to ship a gift in when you can reuse the one that your last indulgence came in? Well, it was time to let it go. Thanks to my sucking up to my company's IT department (Hi Dave!), I now have access to boxes large and small. So the boxes went. It was almost too gratifying, breaking down the cardboard with a fresh blade in my box cutter. I may have gone too far, slicing up boxes that Michael could have used in the move in my zeal to reduce it all into easy-recycled 2' X 3' pieces. But when I get a taste for exposed corrugation, it's hard to stop. Perhaps it's a problem.

Second, the Nostalgia Depot. Two large plastic bins filled with the detritus of being a thenthitive teenager. Dead Kennedys bumper stickers that I didn't have a car to affix to, painfully earnest high school literary magazines, and yearbooks galore. Sorting through this last night raised many questions:

  • Why were my bangs so big? Spending the '80s in Texas is not an excuse.

  • Who were these boys writing me love poems and why didn't I laugh at them?

  • What was the deal with all the photos of people I don't even remember? My mother must have gone broke paying for the developing. And finally

  • How could I have taken myself so seriously?

How utterly mortifying. I was glad to discard most of it. Hell, I even shredded some of the more embarrassing bits. Most of it, though, was fairly neutral, even if somewhat cringeworthy. I pitched the third, fourth, and fifth copies of my undergraduate thesis (two bound copies are quite enough). The student newspapers that I never contributed to were no-brainers. The college notebooks were gleefully disemboweled and appropriately divided between recycling and trash.

There were a few pangs, a few uncertainties, and some wistfulness. I kept the high school prom corsage that was given to me by someone whose name I no longer remember. The photos of people who worked for my stepfather and rallied around me in grief when he died will stay. I feel some regret for throwing away the intricate drawings that a boy from middle school made for me, but only time will tell. So far it's nowhere near as bad as the figurative self-flagellation I indulge in once a month or so when I think about the signed first edition of Galapagos I sold.

Even if I do feel some loss for what I've gotten rid of, it's more than offset by what I'm making room for. Memories are comforting and safe, but making new ones is a much better use of my time and square footage.

Friday, April 15, 2005


It's amazing how iTunes gets people in an office talking to one another when they'd normally just grunt in passing in the halls. We've had an influx of new hires, and it's really neat to see that the new woman in QA has everything Radiohead's ever done, and likes your Dead Can Dance collection. Or when a guy who's visiting from another office comes looking for you because you have a bunch of music from the same obscure art-rock band you both loved in college.

iTunes: one place where there can never be too much sharing.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Bathroom Tile

There's daltile, Ann Sacks, Pratt & Larson, and they're all trying to suck me dry.

They seduce me with iridescent pebbles:

Gorgeous glass:

and all sort of other things I really can't justify spending $20 per sq.ft. for.

Hakatai has the buzz. Their glass mosaic tiles grace Anthropologie stores and NYC public restrooms alike.

This is a little overwhelming:

But something more restrained:

except with a colored field instead of the white might be a good compromise.

They also have a nice cobblestone/pebble style:

I like the restraint (or is it frugality?) of using it for one section of wall and an accent strip. This stuff, of course, costs $24 per sq.ft.

The Carter Light Blue/Ice Green blend:

is, amazingly, only $4.60 per sq.ft. At that price, doing one wall of my shower enclosure will only cost $128.80. I can use the same blend as a 4-6" tall accent strip around the wall, with something like this:

in 6" field tiles on the wall below it and/or the floors.

I'm so good at spending money, I should have a degree in it. But that would have probably required math, so never mind.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Bathroom Porn

Some inspiration photos:

I like the frameless glass doors and use of tile.

The large mirrors and sconces make the space feel open. Another nice use of frameless shower doors.

The contemporary cabinets and pebble tile floors have a natural look that I like. The chandelier, though. WTF?!

Again with the modern maple cabinets. Also like the mosaic tile.

I know, completely different cabinet finish, but I like the contrast between the dark wood and light counters, trim, etc.

This. This is the shower set up I want. Except without the weird bronze and black finishes and boring-ass tile.

What is this, a scene from Silkwood? I half expect to see a soap-on-a-rope shaped like a gargoyle.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Just so I can say I post every day...

I really feel like I need these:

This is what happens when you watch the entire sixth season of Sex and the City over the course of one weekend.

Monday, April 11, 2005

Let there be light

Currently my bed resides in a small alcove in my bedroom. The womb-like feeling is comforting, but does present some challenges. For instance, my nightstands consist of 1' X 2' planks of poplar held onto the wall by brackets. Just enough room for an alarm clock, box of tissue, a selection of books and two paper shade lamps on each shelf. This was a perfect arrangement when it was just me and the cat, but now Michael's moving in and concessions must be made in the name of harmonious cohabitation.

He's a reader. Needs to read before going to sleep at night. I suggested counting badgers, but he's resistant. His loss, I guess but this means that in order to make my POSSLQ happy, I need to upgrade the reading light to something that gives off a better glow than a low-wattage recycled European bulb perilously attached to a crappily made Swedish knock-off of one of Noguchi's lesser works. Preferably something that doesn't take up much space and possibly mounts on the wall.

The Save Your Marriage light appeals:

But looks too much like it belongs in a Motel 6 where you'd use the ice bucket tongs to fling the Ebola-saturated bedspread into a corner of the room. The Artemide Tolomeo wall spot is quite swank looking:

But costs too much and has a reputation for being a bit shoddily made.

Fortunately, I found the Pierce Flexi-Arm:

Functional and attractive, it has a dimmer and can be hardwired or plug-in. And the price! While I feel bad about finding it at a local lighting showroom and ordering it for half the price online, I can always buy something else there in the future (new vanity lights for the bathroom, maybe?) to assuage my guilt.

In the meantime, Michael will be able to read without jeopardizing his damned perfect vision, and I'll have something to taunt the cat with.

Friday, April 08, 2005

Project Update 3: Bathroom Addition

Good news! My HELOC through USAA is closing on Tuesday. They sent me the paperwork weeks ago but I never filled it out because of the Rummer Bummer. When I called today to restart the process, I was told that I was approved for a $30K HELOC at prime minus 0.26% and that they were FedExing the papers today.

So, go USAA! If you're a military brat, look into it, seriously. Nice peeps and low rates.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Steel Away

A column in the New York Times has finally taken a bold step away from stainless steel. The ne plus ultra of appliance finishes may finally be waning, but I'm not holding my breath.

Stainless has irked me for years now. The ubiquity, the inevitable call-outs in real estate listings (always paired with granite slab counters), the perceived value of something that's actually harder to care for and keep clean as manifested in three-figure premiums on appliances. Being unable to affix stupid bumper stickers to a stainless steel refrigerator with magnets. Irky McAnnoyingpants.

It's not that I have a grudge against industrial-looking home décor. I look at some of the houses in Dwell and imagine how cool it would be to knock out the back wall of my 1912 bungalow and install commercial garage doors:

What I hate about stainless steel appliances is the lockstep herd mentality of YOU MUST FOLLOW THIS TREND OR ELSE. I hate that they'll look as dated as an avocado green range in ten years. I hate that they are a part of the industrialization of kitchens most prominent among people who rarely, if ever cook. I hate that it's the default choice, and that a stainless dishwasher costs several hundred dollars more than the same thing in white.

At the heart of it, though, I'm a craven alternawhore. Something as universally popular, as strivingly affluent as stainless steel must suck. It just must. It sucks because the suburban soccer moms who order pizza three nights a week flock to stainless steel commercial gas ranges that require a team of coal-shoveling midgets to keep stoked. It sucks because every self-entitled mindless spendthrift who gets the 25% APR Home Depot credit card uses it to buy a new kitchen full of stainless steel appliances. It sucks because it's a hollow class marker that never signified anything besides navel-gazing Bobo loft living to begin with.

Needless to say, when it comes time to list my house, I'll be replacing all the appliances with stainless steel. Until then, though, I reserve the right to mock it mercilessly and look down on those who follow the herd.


Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Vanity, thy name is WTF?!

I never would have thought that one of the biggest outlays of dough on a simple bathroom addition could the vanity. The humble place I shit up with all my facial cleaners, depilatory tools and various electrified dental implements doesn’t usually deserve much thought. Until, of course, I realize that everything in the “vanity” family sold through Home Depot and Lowes is just unspeakably ugly in that “I remodeled my house in 1989 with the intention of renting it to leprotic students with large dogs” way. I started to venture out to some of my usual haunts on the web, looking for something that wouldn’t look like it was salvaged from an 80s tract home outside Destin. That’s when I found out that vanities can be godawful expensive.

This one:

has an MSRP of $4310.

More than four thousand dollars for something to hold The Economist between shits and house my tampon collection. Unbelievable.

This one I'm quite partial to:

MSRP: $3725. But the drain and P-trap are included! What a steal!

Unless I want to sell my car to buy a new vanity, I have three choices: a) go with ass, b) truck up to IKEA and buy a vanity that will not work with any sink or faucet available in the US because Swedes do it different (yes, I'm still bitter about those light fixtures), or c) buy a piece of freestanding furniture and convert it into a vanity.

How much is my life energy worth? Good question. We'll have to see.

Project Update 2 : Bathroom Addition

I flashed some leg at the Bureau of Development Services and finally got my permits for the dormer and new bathroom! The contractor is saying she can start at the end of this month, which is perfect timing since that's when Michael will be moving in.

If we can survive this, we'll be together forever. Or until one of us dies at the hand of the other.

Now comes the fun part — choosing fixtures and finishes I can't afford.

Tool of the Week

The award for Tool of the Week goes to the Milwaukie Super Sawzall:

Unfortunately, I don't own it, Michael does. But it's a damn good reason for me to keep dating him, so that should prove how worthwhile a tool it is.

I've been using it to cut through drywall to see what lurks under (and above) the eaves of my house where I'm going to knock out the dormer and add a bathroom. This shit cuts through drywall like... well, shit. Or butter, if you're not into scatalogical vivisection. A good reciprocating saw will rip through studs, if you're not careful. And it's hard to be careful when you get so excited about cutting through stuff that you start looking for more stuff to cut through. Here, kitty kitty kitty...

The Sawzall inspires such rapture that I recently spent a good ten minutes in a club with some friends waxing hyper-rhapsodic about the Godlike attributes of a reciprocating saw.

I was thinking that the DAP wall repair patch should be the Tool of the Week:

But then I had to cut through it with the aforementioned Sawzall and you know what? Destruction is more fun that construction. Demolition gives me a ladystiffy and I'm not ashamed of that.

Monday, April 04, 2005

Project Update: Bathroom Addition

Now that I know that we're not going to buy the Incredible Sinking Rummer, I've returned to the drudgery of painstakingly drawing up the plans for my new dormer and bathroom addition:

All were done with Visio Professional (the non-Professional version doesn't have the building plan templates, but you could probably work something out if you don't want to spring for the SuperDeluxe Monkey-Spank version), over the course of several visits to the third circle of Hell, Permit Night (it's only the third circle because the people aren't nearly as sadistic as I'd been told).

At this point, I feel like I could hire myself out to work on plans for people who don't want to pay a contractor or architect to do it, but don't feel like banging their heads against their desks for six weeks themselves. It helps that I've been able to noodle around with this at work. Maybe I should look into this as an alternate income stream?

Sunday, April 03, 2005

Benign Neglect

I'm not a great gardener. I wouldn't even call myself a competent gardener. Unfortunately, the woman I bought this house from WAS a gardener. Or at least fancied herself one. As a result, there are planting beds a-plenty and I have No. Idea. what is in most of them. Except the roses, that is. I can figure out what a rose is pretty easily.

This makes weeding rather difficult. Not knowing what are weeds and what are legitimate someone-paid-for-this plants, I've come up with a system to decide what to pull out of the ground and what to desultorily fertilize and water. My rule of thumb is that if it's growing well and prolifically, it must be a weed. Anything that looks sickly, only occasionally blooms, and never spreads is a real plant (the exception being irises, which spread like scabies at a Phish concert).

There are still some mysteries, though. I have a feeling this is a type of tulip, but I’m not sure:

It lives between the butterfly bush and some irises I relocated, blooms once a year, then summarily goes away. It’s pretty and temperamental, so I figure it must be a real flower. That, or a contestant on “America’s Next Top Model”.

The other mystery looks like something vaguely alien. It blooms very briefly, but I have a weird love affair with it, getting all jumpy and hand-clappy when it blooms every year, then pouting when it dies back:

It’s close to the I-think-it’s-a-tulip. See? It does look like a toilet brush from outer space, doesn’t it:

Finally, we have the I’m-pretty-sure-it’s-a-weed category. It has pretty flowers, but they come up really fast (sure sign of weed-dom) and They Are Legion:

Comes in purple and white, although the white ones only show up on the North side of the house:

I pulled out a metric buttload of them yesterday, but I have a feeling many more will take their place. And so, the struggle continues… although it’s really less of a struggle, and more something vaguely productive that I do on the weekends to have an excuse not to exercise.

Friday, April 01, 2005


If the idea of a two-month-long bathroom addition or six-month-long kitchen remodel starts making you wail like Kirstie Alley at a Girl Scout cookie clearance sale, remember that the Sagrada Familia has been under construction since 1882:

No wonder Gaudí threw himself under that streetcar.

Weekend projects (April 2-3, 2005)

  • Repaint front porch steps (if it stops raining for one goddamn second) — Needless to say, it rained like crazy. Even hailed, so my front porch is still crunk-ass ghetto looking.

  • Weed and spread bark mulch in backyard rosebeds — Done! Even got a chance to take photos of some mystery plants in the adjacent flower bed (see above). The roses took their revenge, though, and two coworkers have already asked me if I'm being abused by my cat.

  • Help Michael pack — Eh, we got some of his voluminous wardrobe sent to charity. It's a start.

  • Got around to cutting another hole in the ceiling to scope out the ridge beam sitch. One step closer to Shiny! New! Bathroom!

And in the beginning, there was real estate...

Remember that gloriously awful movie “The Craft”? Fairuza Balk was totally scary-sexy in that creepy Goth way that makes most of us, at some point, decide that thick Cleopatra eyeliner is a good idea. Anyway, the witchy girls talk about the “rule of three”, how everything you do comes back to you multiplied by three. For example, if you kick someone in the nuts, you’ll get kicked in the nuts three times, as retribution. Like karma on ‘roids, I guess. My perspective on it, as a homeowner, is that it ought to be the “rule of 20%”. Anything you take on will end up costing 20% more and taking 20% longer than anyone tells you. If you expect to get kicked in the nuts, be fully prepared to experience a 20% harder kick than the kicker looks capable of. Or maybe you’ll just get an extra kidney punch in addition. The universe is mysterious.

It starts before you even buy a home. You see a cute place that costs, say, $150,000 (residents of major metropolitan areas, feel free to add a zero if it makes you feel any less despondent). You think, “Hey, I can afford a down payment on that!” So off you go. Soon you realize that $150,000 will get you a really cute house on the corner of Crack Avenue and Whore Street. Or a condo with less square footage than your last office cubicle. Or a fixer in a nice neighborhood that you realize is so cheap because the previous tenants disposed of their KFC detritus by throwing it down the heat registers. Your realtor will seem optimistic (or at the very least will continue returning your calls), but gently begin steering you toward pricier abodes.

Boom. Your first 20%. And it's all downhill from there.