Sunday, June 26, 2011

Better Late Than Never . . .

I'm sitting at Starbucks, across from my decaf-drinking, novel-writing hubby, and I've finally (after saying for weeks and weeks that I was gonna get to this) begun revising the paper from my contemporary lit. class this past fall. Hence the title. Or at least, it's partially responsible for the title. 

This paper doesn't require a lot (and the little things it needed I did early in May), but it does require the thing that usually trips me up with papers: more. That is, it needs to be longer. Well, actually, first it needs to get shorter and then it needs to get longer. Shorter, b/c the teacher who has encouraged me to revise this paper vetoed the last 5 pages before the conclusion; she thinks they are part of a separate paper (which I will not be writing) and can be condensed into 2 paragraphs. So that's just great. 

Not sure at the current moment exactly how this paper is going to get shorter-but-longer, but I'm feeling refreshed after a month of absolutely no reading (well, 3 pages of Olive Kitteridge - was bored with it - and 20 of A Visit from the Goon Squad - which I've thoroughly enjoyed thus far) beyond magazines, blogs, and the ocassional glance at the German textbook and not an ounce of writing beyond this blog (and I've been enjoyably lax even with that). 

Other "better late than never"s are just some belated reports regarding the past semester. 

1.  The torturous theory paper turned out swimmingly. I got a 95% on it, which was delightful given that I didn't spend nearly as much time and effort as I might have had I, well, had the time to do so and been at all interested in writing the paper. And I didn't put nearly as much into it as I did into my modernist poetry paper. 

2.  Speaking of the modernist paper: A+! That's my first ever A+ on a paper in grad school! (Well, I technically got an A+ on my first theory paper of the semester, but he assigns points, not letter grades, so it doesn't feel nearly as thrilling.) I don't even know how many grad profs use A+s.

My modernist prof, who may end up being my dissertation director, had only lovely things to say about the paper, which was a total b to write, given the fact that I am anything but a theory guru and I had to teach myself some hard-*ss feminist theory to pull this paper off. (This might not mean anything to anyone but me, but nonethless: Luce Irigaray is NOT user-friendly, and theories of the male gaze ain't no picnic either.) 

*She did, however, correct three minor typos (one on the first page), for which I blame Bradley, who is my proofreader. Apparently, he and I need to have a performance review. And pronto.

3.  I got an awesome teaching schedule for the fall. In fact, the prof who does the scheduling gave me exactly what I asked for, day and time both! The same thing happened for this past spring, and I was really leery I would get screwed this time around to even out that good fortune (and he seems rather unpredictable with scheduling). Who says I'm a pessimist?! My teaching schedule has a major impact on my functioning and happiness during any given semester, especially since the morning commute into the city is so hateful. But no morning commute for me during Fall 2011. Yea! 

Now, better late than never, I'm going to post this post. :)

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

You're Jealous

Yep, that's right: you're jealous b/c you don't have a 25 year-old ex-con (read: dealer of heroin) across the street from your house in his parents' driveway, topless and wearing the single pair of shorts he appears to own (blue mesh, knee-length), showing off his hard-earned muscles (that is, earned in the prison yard), tricking out his Kia with a new sound system, blasting mid-nineties rap music. 

If I'm not mistaken, he was recently bumping Bone Thugs' "Crossroads," a true gem released circa 1995. But I can't be sure, b/c the freaking bass was so loud I could barely make out any other sounds

Ahhh, summer. 

Now, a pleasant story

I get out of the shower this afternoon and Brad tells me that I've missed a call from a number he didn't recognize. When I see the number, it's familiar, but I can't quite place it. Doctor's office? Restaurant? 

No, it's my delightful German teacher, Herr J. 

Love, love, love this man: me and Herr J. at the
Hofbrauhaus in South Side on our last day of class 

The long and short of the phone call is that I helped him order some sports memorabilia from eBay early last week and three of the SI issues haven't arrived yet. This man + a computer is about equivalent to me +
performing surgery - that is, not gonna happen - so when I say "helped" I actually mean "did the whole thing." (Although his lack of knowledge about tech is not a result of quesiness and freaking out over needles and any real quantity of blood. At least, I never got that impression.) 

Basically, I set him up an eBay account, but when he couldn't remember the password for his e-mail and therefore would not have been able to activate the account, the whole project threatened to explode, so I said I would use my e-mail address until he figured out his password. I got an e-mail this weekend from one of the sellers saying that he was on vacation and the three magazines we ordered from him would go out on Monday. Since Herr J. doesn't use e-mail, he didn't know this, but I didn't think it really merited a call. Obviously it did, since he was a bit distressed. 

But none of that is the pleasant tale I want to tell. 

Last fall, Herr J. and his wife were robbed - jewelry and sports memorabilia made up a lot of what was stolen, and since they didn't have riders to cover those items, they got nothing from the insurance for them. 

You never met a sports fan like this guy, so his heart was broken. But especially bad was the loss of a photo of Enos "Country" Slaughter's "Mad Dash" during the 1946 World Series. It was signed by Slaughter, a St. Louis Cardinal, and Marty Marion and Roy Partee, two of the Red Sox players involved in the play. All of these guys are dead now, so there's no getting it signed again, and right after the theft, Herr J.'s son was unable to find another one like it online. 

Well, I found one on some memorabilia site and it was $3000 (yikes!), and then on eBay I found something actually feasible, a photo autographed by Slaughter for $65. Herr J. leapt on this.

Today on the phone he tells me that the photograph has arrived. Here's the conversation: 

   HJ:  The photo of Enos Slaughter's Mad Dash Home came and it's beautiful. It's thanks to you that I have it. I keep it in my car so I can look at it all the time. 

   Me:  In your . . . car? [A gorgeous red Mercedes 2-seater - convertible! - in which I rode last week - with the top down!] 

   HJ:  Yeah - you know where you were sitting? Well, to the left of that, b/t the seat and the console. The guy packaged it really nicely, in thick plastic, so it's safe. Every time I stop at a redlight, I take it out and look at it. 

   Me:  That's adorable! I'm so glad you like it! You'll have to bring it up and show it to me once we're back on campus in the fall. 

   HJ:  I would love to! It doesn't take much to make me happy, and I'll get a few years out of this one. 

Is that not, like, the sweetest thing you've ever heard?! It's even sweeter if you know this guy. I can't imagine anyone not liking him. I adore him beyond belief. He's surely the nicest, most genuine person I've met in a decade. I didn't even tell him about yesterday's bird death trap debacle b/c just talking to him made me feel happier. Now, fingers crossed that his Dick Groat and Sam McDowell SI issues show up pretty soon . . . . 

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

No good deed

Were I to tell my German teacher this tale, he would sigh and say, "You have a good heart." Then he'd tell a story of his own where something crummy came out of his trying to do something nice, and I would still feel lousy, but the tiniest bit better.

Last summer, Brad's mom bought us a very pretty "squirrel-proof" birdfeeder and a giant box of bird seed. It was much prettier than this, but you get the gist: 

We never found the time to put it up last year, and I was hesitant to do so this summer b/c, given that our backyard is like an aviary, I knew the bird seed would disappear in no time flat and we'd be buying more and more all the time. And, as I see it, we don't need one more expense.

Brad, however, really really wanted to put this feeder out and see the birds and let the cats (from the window) see the birds, so he said that he would pay for the replacement seed with money he had leftover from his birthday and Christmas. 

I was fine with that, and so he filled up the feeder and hung it in a low branch of the dogwood outside of the dining room window - the kitties sit on the saddle chair and look through the screen at all the things of nature that they want to eat. And for a few days it was going great: big birds, little birds, chipmunks, the ocassional lurking squirrel.

Then on Saturday we came home from the chiropractor and saw a little bird inside the feeder, flapping around like crazy. Panicky, we took it out of the tree, unscrewed the top, set it in the grass, turned it on its side, and the little guy flew off. 

I told Brad that had we not come home so quickly, that bird would have likely flipped out, beat itself off the walls endlessly, and really hurt itself or, worse, died. But he thought it wouldn't happen again or that, if it did, that what I said wouldn't actually happen. 

Fast forward to tonight. We go out, do some browsing and shopping, have dinner, more shopping, and then head home after being out for about 4.5 hours. As we're carrying our stuff into the house from the car, Brad somehow notices something in the birdfeeder - I don't know how, b/c I couldn't tell anything was amiss - and goes over. 

And there it is, a tiny little bird, barely longer than my index finger, laying in the birdfeeder, not moving. Needless to say, things went downhill from there. I pushed the feeder some; no movement. I asked the little bird to move; no movement. Then I freaked out, kind of cried, got a splitting headache. Telling Amanda and my mom only made my head hurt worse. 

The feeder is obviously not properly made (as Amanda pointed out), and it's definitely not made for little birds to go in it (as my mom pointed out). That said, I should have made Brad take it down after the first bird got stuck. I knew it could happen again and I predicted quite accurately what the consequences would be, but as soon as I went in the house that day I pretty much stopped thinking about it. Now I feel awful. I feel like I killed the bird, although Brad, Amanda, and my mom assure me it was not my fault. 

Brad put the bird and the feeder in a garbage bag. I thought about burying it, but, honestly, I'm not too keen on dead animal germs - whether for me or Brad - esp. when I'm trying to get pregnant. I feel just terrible for the poor little thing, and I'm furious with myself for not using good sense. I can't imagine how much the poor little thing suffered. 

So this takes me back to my German teacher, a lovely, lovely man who will eventually get a post of his own. Class is over, so I won't see him for at least a few weeks, which means I can't get a story that would make me feel less bad. But I know that he would tell me not to feel awful, and that we were only trying to be nice, to do a good deed, and then he would probably say, as he seems to like to say, "It's okay. You have a good heart. See?" Perhaps he's right, but still, I'm definitely punishing myself for this good deed.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Month 8 was not the month

If I had known it was this easy to not get pregnant, I wouldn't have fretted those 3 or 4 times over the past few years when I was a week late (no doubt stress-induced) and Brad and I weren't yet ready to start a family. 

Goodness, not getting pregnant is so easy that I find it hard to believe that anyone makes a baby the first time they have sex. That seems like some kind of astronomical odds going on there. 

The woman who cleaned my teeth last week made a good point. "How old are you?" she asked. I told her 29. She shook her head and said, "Well, if you were 16, you'd be on your second one right now." 

I'd laugh, but it's so true it's not even semi-funny. 

Cleaning out the garage

I can't even muster the energy for a fancy, interesting, or otherwise worthy title after spending 2.5 hours tonight dealing with this: 

Yeah, that's our garage. AKA the place where cars are supposed to go. AKA the place to store all kinds of crap of various levels of usefulness/uselessness. 

We undertook this cleaning-out-the-garage task last summer and, well, you see how that went. I think we spent about three days, got things in reasonable shape, and lost interest. What you see here is the result of a year's worth of piling things on top of one another, shoving them in corners, and otherwise dropping them where we stand. And what we've started with this time is definitely worse than what we had going on last summer.

This is looking to be about a week-long project. I sigh just contemplating the necessary amount of work. 

First, we've got to clean it out. Which means throwing away, donating, and recycling everything we can possibly get rid of. That's where we started today (but I forgot to take a pic. of our progress and it's getting dark out). 

As with my wardrobe, I am in shock at the amount of "stuff" I (we) own. Stuff I've had since high school. Stuff I forgot about. Stuff I bought two months ago and misplaced under other stuff. I mean, it's like Stuff Central down there. 

After we've cleared it out, then begins the sorting. What should stay in the garage? Come inside? Go in the sheds? (If I haven't mentioned that we own sheds, let me say now that we do - 2 of them - but they came with the house and are a whole other story.) 

Finally, there's the organizing. I get a headache just thinking about this. Tools, picture frames, cleaning supplies, paint, random household goods (humidifier, board games) - the list goes on and on. And on. Not exactly the way I want to spend my afternoons for the next 5 or 6 days, but if it doesn't get done during the summer, when's it gonna get done?

Monday, June 13, 2011

Movie Un-Recommendations

Tonight, Brad and I are relaxing on the patio behind our house, listening to Coltrane on his iPod speakers, futzing with the new fire pit, and just generally enjoying one another's company. B/c the breeze is so nice (or chilly, if you ask me - and I've got the sweater, fleece pants, and blanket to prove it) and the light is out so long, we're doing our version of communing with nature instead of what we usually do on nights like this - that is, on summer nights when I've got no work to do. (For the record, I do have school tomorrow, but I turned in my translation of the opening of The Trial this morning.) 

Normally, we curl up on the couch in front of the flat screen and, if there's no Burn Notice or True Blood or NCIS going on, we watch a movie from Netflix or RedBox or our personal stash of DVDs, or something streaming from Netflix on our super high-tech excessive BluRay (a gift from the in-laws, of course). 

A lot of the movies we've recently been watching, however (with the exception of Inception), have been so crappy it hurts. It seems that every now and again we get to the point where we've exhausted all of the movies of mutual interest, and we end up watching garbage (of seemingly mutual interest). Well, we're at that point. Now we need to take a little break from our flick viewing so that I can stop saying, "I can't believe I just wasted my life on that crap!" 

To hopefully save you from the same fate, here are the movies that have bored, irked, baffled, and just plain disappointed us in the past 2 months (in no particular order). They definitely receive my heartfelt un-recommendation. 

   Black Swan 
This was obviously my pick. And I've paid for it mightily in the form of groaning and moaning from Brad. I figured all the critical raving about it meant it was worth seeing. And, after all, Natalie Portman - who I like a lot - won the Oscar. Well, it sucked. Her performance was one dimensional ("a crazy, frigid ballerina," is Brad's description, and he doesn't say this lightly - he, like, loves her), the movie could've been an hour and 5 min. instead of an hour and 48 min., and the lesbian love scene was so over-hyped

Vincent Cassel was probably the best thing about this movie. He seems to often play a somewhat unhinged person, and he does to quite well. But that's about all I have to say in favor of this one. Don't see it unless you feel obligated to watch all of the "hip" movies of the year. 

   True Grit 
Love love love Jeff Bridges, and he does a nice job in this movie. (He's a U.S. Marshal named "Rooster" Cogburn.) The main female character does a nice job, too, but the story is really slow, it doesn't get interesting until the last 25 minutes (of an hour and 45 min.), and Matt Damon (whom Brad and I adore) plays a mostly lame and uninteresting (though at times humorous) Texas Ranger. I was a little shocked when Brad told me it was a western. but I went with it. Oh, folly. 

The ending is so so so unacceptably unsatisfying that any ground the movie might have made up in the last 25 min. is instantly lost. Even Brad, who feigned interest, was greatly shocked and irritated by the non-ending. The movie's based on some book, by the way. That's all I got. It was dumb. 

   Taking Lives 
I don't know why you would see this movie now - it's from 2004 - but we just watched it yesterday. Angelina Jolie is her usual gross, skanky self. (Those lips give me nightmares.) Ethan Hawke is his usual rat-looking, feminine-sounding self. The plot was what you might expect from something called Taking Lives - serial killer, FBI agent, childhood baggage, questions about who's who, etc. etc. There was a pretty hot sex scene, but it was too drawn out. We normally like these kinds of movies b/c they keep our attention and don't require much thought or emotional involvement; this one required a great amount of thought, however: we had to answer, Why did we pick this? 

(Even though I can't stand Angelina Jolie, we did enjoy Salt recently.) 

This movie's got one majorly great thing going for it: Bobby D. 

Brad and I are somewhat obsessed with Robert DeNiro (can you be "somewhat" obsessed?), and so we'll sign on for most anything he does (including American Express . . . okay, not really, but still). But even he and Edward Norton couldn't save this movie from Milla Jojovovich and a horribly slow and unexciting story line. Mil-Jo, as Brad calls her, is just awful in my opinion (in his opinion: hot), and this film was no exception. 

I wanted to like this movie - it's serious, nicely filmed, trying to be complex and grapple with deep themes. But it's just a disappointment. Another one with not enough going on either plot-wise or character-wise, and although I might be the only person who feels this way, a thuggish, convict Edward Norton just isn't very convincing to me. 

   Perfect Getaway 
Okay, so we didn't see this in the last 2 months, but it was so bad and I dislike Mil-Jo so much that I've got to mention it. Steve Zahn is the other "name" in the movie, and he's also endlessly irritating to me. This was a sort of - I don't know - psychological thriller? or something. It did have me "tricked" - that much I'll say for it. But it was so over-the-top and stupid-weird that I just couldn't wait for it to be over. There was no interesting depth or nuance to the psychological level - just weirdness and craziness. And I can't stand Mil-Jo!

Friday, June 10, 2011

The Friday 4: Puzzling Proverbs

We've talked about a slew of German and American proverbs in German class these past few weeks, and although none of these below were on our lists, perhaps I've got proverbs on the brain. But since favorites are too easy, here are some strange, stupid, or otherwise confusing proverbs to consider: 

4.  We'll cross that bridge when we come to it. 

One of my favorites: the Sixth Street (Roberto 
Clemente) Bridge in downtown Pittsburgh 

Like, obviously. Unless you're going to defy physics/logic/time/etc., you can't cross something you haven't yet reached. Maybe it should read, "We'll wait to fret insanely about that bridge until we come to it." Not quite the same ring, but at least it makes mathematical and scientific sense. 

(I do so adore bridges, though.) 

3.  Don't look a gift horse in the mouth.

I see a mouth, but no gift . . . 
I get the sentiment here, but why would you look a horse in the mouth anyway, gift or no gift? Are you checking for cavities? (Brad and I each have 3 by the way - eeks.) 

And I don't get the whole horse + gift thing. Is this like some medieval dude-was-fighting-other-dude-wearing-chainmail-and-first-dude's-horse-got-lanced-and-then-he-was-horseless-but-another-random-(gift?)-horse-came-trotting-up-to-the-rescue-so-he-could-kill-second-dude kind of thing? 

Whatever the case, this one just seems silly to me. 

2.  The exception that proves the rule. 

What does this mean?! For the love of all that is good, I wish someone would tell me. Smart people love to say this - it's something they think is witty and pithy and all that crap - and I never know what they're talking about. 

Just once I'd like to say to one of these people, "That sounds like a load of horse sh*t." But if he's given you a gift, then don't . . . . 

1.  You can't have your cake and eat it, too. 

This is a bunch of crap. Why would anyone want to have cake if she weren't going to eat it? Moreover, how could she eat it if she didn't have it? 

My guess is that "have" means something like "keep" or "retain" (?), so, you can't keep something but also use it up. But why cake? Why not something like a piece of gold, which would at least be pretty to look at? 

I don't particularly like cake, by the way, and I often pass on it at parties (unless it's cheesecake, which is heavenly, or ice cream cake, which it seems no one but me likes anymore), so maybe I'm biased.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

To Fix (and fix and fix) or Buy?

So the Blazer is in wretched shape - even more so than usual. And Brad and I are 65-70% of the way to just getting rid of the thing and buying a different but much better (read:  much pricier) used vehicle with 4WD or AWD. 

The catch? We've never had a car payment, and I can't see how we can afford one at this point without much misery, esp. if we do have a baby anytime in the near future (fingers crossed . . . ).

As you might suspect, I don't make a whole lotta dough as a graduate teaching assistant. Brad makes pretty good money, but we've got a mortgage, his school loans, all the usual bills, and we pay about $550-$700 a month in gas from mid-August to mid-May. 

Yeah, I know - yikes! It's the cost of an apt. rental or a few hundred dollars less than a mortgage in these parts. On gas. When it isn't winter, he drives my Honda 120+ miles a day to work 5 days a week, and I drive his gas-guzzling crap show Blazer 2 or 3 days a week into the city, which takes 50 min. one way if I'm not in rush hour. Which I very frequently am. Then make that an hr. and 5 min. Not a ton of miles, but still a ton of time with the car on, eating up $3.69 a gallon (today's price).

Anyone who has shopped for a vehicle with 4WD or AWD recently can attest to the costliness, but it's not an option not to have it since Brad traverses really crappy, sometimes dangerous, and mountainous roads from December to mid-March. If we don't go with one of those options, we'd need something like our long lost Bonneville (read: totaled by Brad) with snow tires - and that thing only got 20 miles a gallon. 

We've toyed with ditching the super brat before, but always decided that paying the $200 or $350 or $500 was a better option than paying $300 a month. For 4 years. Or whatever it would be. Honestly, I can't even do an online loan calculator right now b/c I'm pms-ing (or pregnant, though I'm not holding my breath) and that means my freak-out mode switches on from something as silly as a stranger giving me an unfriendly look. 

Currently the B-lazer needs a lot of work. Like, a lot a lot. There are all kinds of, well, car-y things wrong with it - idler arm (?), pitman arm (?), some new humming noise, other things that I don't understand/know about/want to think about. And then there's the absurd bullcrap: 

1.  the driver's side door won't open from the inside and hasn't for 2 months.

     But you can't just put the window down and open it from the outside b/c

2.  the driver's side window hasn't worked in about 5 months. Nor has the passenger side window.

     So, to get out, you've got to put the back window down, slide the seat all the way back, reach out the window, and open the door from the outside. But that's not all. 

3.  As of last week, the side mirrors no longer adjust with the control. It just stopped working. 

I hate that car. I really do. But if a new-to-us (i.e., used) one costs $300 a month, that's $3600 a year. We've never spent that much on repairing the Blazer in 2 years. I'd guess that, in the 22 months we've had it, we've spent around but no more than $2000. Which is a lot, but also a lot less than $7200. (I just like to state the obvious.) 

Brad is convinced that we can swing the car payment without going nuts. Make a few cuts (there are, really, only a few that can be made b/c we are not super indulgers), suck it up, and it'll be fine. He's sick of the crap, sick of the stress, and sick of worrying about me breaking down on the Parkway. 

I'm sick of it, too. But the frugal and thrifty me has come out as usual, and even though I've announced to Shannon, Amanda, my mom, and Butcher in the last three days that we must get a new car, I'm teetering. And tottering. And altogether uncertain what's the best course of action.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Gettin' further from the couch . . .

I've officially completed the second week of Couch-to-5k! 

I can report that it's quite exciting. Not exciting like, "Oh, this is such a fun time!" b/c I don't really think working out is ever fun (unless it's volleyball). But exciting b/c during the running portions of the workout, I'm actually running. Not just jogging, but running. 

Now, I'm not sprinting or anything like that, and it's only 90 seconds at any one time at this point, but considering that even the website says you'll be jogging - as opposed to running - I'm considering the whole fastness thing a step in the right direction. 

Week 3 is supposed to be an equal amount of walking and jogging (up till now it's been more walking), but I told Brad I would hang back with him for the first two workouts of the week - he hurt his back something awful last week and had to miss two workouts, so he's behind. (Never mind that fact that I'm always ahead of him anyway . . . [he's not interested in logical arguments.]) 

My hip has been bothering me a lot lately, but I don't think it's related. I just need to keep an eye on that and, like Brad likes to warn me, not push it by running too hard b/c that's always how I end up with a hip-related injury, whether it's in my actual hip or in my leg or back. 

Anyway, if you're looking for something to ease you back into shape and back into working out, I highly suggest you check this program out.

Friday, June 3, 2011

The Friday 4: Amazing Stores

As an ode (lament?) to my shopping ban, I'm doing a Friday 4 on my favorites places to shop. Do note that only one of these is exclusively a clothing store (although even it sells shoes and bags, which are decidedly not part of the ban); I basically just love to shop in general. 

Anyway, the following are my fav-or-ites: 

4.  Pottery Barn 

I've only ever bought about 10 things from PB - 2 area rugs, some candles, a box/basket thingy - b/c they're horribly over-priced (and the furniture quality is not nearly what it should be for what you pay), but I can't tell you how much I LOVE looking through their catalogs (which I swear come in the mail every 2 weeks). Their room displays are totally inspiring, and I love trying to recreate aspects of their look for less. (Don't get me wrong, I would love to not include the "for less" part there, but c'est la vie.) 

Besides, one of my favorite parts of their catalog (and their website pics) is the incorporation of non-PB items - antiques, random wire baskets, old chairs, etc. - and this is the kind of stuff I love hunting for at thrift stores, on Ebay, and, yes, in people's cast-offs (i.e., their garbage. See picture below.) 

3.  Gap 

While Gap makes an endless number of ugly things that I simply can't understand, they are my go-to store and have been for years. I worked at the Gap my senior year of high school and was super-spoiled by the discount - who knows how much of my earnings I gave right back to that darn store . . . . 

Gap makes great jeans (got two pairs - black skinnies and white boot cut capris - for my birthday), lots of nice sweaters and cute skirts, and their in-store sale rack can't be beat as far as mall clothing stores go. It's gonna be tough to resist that sale rack for the next 345 days. 

$8 for this stellar lamp. Fully working, no 
scratches; would've been $25+ at Target  
2.  Red, White, and Blue Thrift Store 

This is the second-best thrift store I've ever shopped in - second only to its identically named sister store that was, one upon a time, a huge, glorious, obnoxiously lit place just up the street from Kennywood. (Which is an amusement park, for those of you who don't know. And for Shannon - Kennywood is awesome, so lock it up, b.) 

This RWB (which is located just outside of Pittsburgh, through the Liberty Tubes, on Rt. 51) is crowded with stuff and shoppers and workers and, 9 times out of 10, verging on the chaotic, but I've only ever walked away empty-handed once. From dishes, to furniture, to picture frames, to clothes, to shoes, to books, this place kicks booty - and you can come away with a lot of fab-o booty. (I had to, okay?) 

1.  Target

Matching vases, on sale for a total of $20 
Come on: who among you doesn't own a home good or piece
of clothing from Tarjay? Who among you doesn't love wandering around that store, perusing the many items? Even Brad loves going to Target - though he did attempt to ban it for the summer since we can't leave the store without spending $100+ (I guess we're big on bans this season). Said effort failed in no time, however, given that we just bought three throw pillows, an over-priced but lovely hand towel, party supplies, cat litter, and a bunch of food stuffs a week ago. 

We got 2 of these puppies about a month
ago - $12.99 a piece, orig. $49.99 each 
Target combines a variety of styles, a wide selection of products, and reasonable prices better than probably any store I remember shopping at. And there's new stuff practically every week, so you really can go back again and again and again and . . . . (It's like the TJ Maxx slogan from all those commercials in the early 2000s. You know, "Never, ever the same place twice." TJ Maxx is great, by the way. My mom, Brad, and I just enjoyed a little trip there on Monday. Not to be lame, but it really is considerably different every time you go.) 

Honorable Mention: Gabriel Brothers. A discount clothing, shoes, and housewares store my family has shopped at for longer than I've been around. Watch out for holes, snags, or seams that are a bit off. "Irregular" is not an uncommon word there. But man, can you find some cool stuff at great prices. They even have a website now (you know, in 2011), even though, from the looks of it, it's pretty useless. 

Thursday, June 2, 2011

CSB: Day 19

I loathe to blog about this b/c doing so makes it more "official" in some strange way. But perhaps that's exactly what I need to do. And so: 

Today is day 19 of my 365-day, self-imposed, sure-to-become-torturous-by-day-45 Clothes Shopping Ban. Yep, that's right - I've set my mind to going clothes-free for a whole year. (No, not naked! Get those minds out of the gutters!) 

Two notions underlie my extreme effort. First, not-shopping for shirts, skirts, shorts, sweaters, etc. will, obviously, save money. That's cash Brad and I can use for home improvement stuff; sock away in our savings account (severely depleted after buying a home); give to our church or a worthy charity; or set aside for when the time comes that we finally have a baby. 

But the other aspect is more important to me. You see, when I say I have a lot of clothes, I'm using that word in the loosest sense. I have, rather, an obscene amount of clothes. And, with few exceptions, these are not items left over from days long ago, things I no longer like but I hang onto "just b/c" - these are recent purchases, t's and jeans on my current attire rotation, favorites that I wear over and over again, etc. etc. etc. And there are just so many of them

(So that you don't think I am just a grotesque waster of money - instead, see me as a normal old waster of money - I want to defend myself by saying that I buy the vaaaaaast majority of my clothing at a thrift store, a discount apparel store, on super-dy duper-dy sale at the Gap, or otherwise on sale. So I'm not tossing the Benjamins around like it ain't no thang.) 

I love clothes, and I love shopping for them, however, I have too many. Too many. It's shameful for myriad reasons, such as the - seemingly unconnected by absolutely connected - fact that oodles and oodles of people in Africa don't have a clean source of water. Which blows my mind on a weekly occasion. Which makes no sense to me. Which is a really damning fact when you think about how much it costs, even when stuff's on sale, to fill this 

and this 

and this 

and this 

and this (I'm getting tired) 

and this 

Trying to navigate in this closet is like trying to find your way 
out of the Bermuda Triangle. Blindfolded. While holding 
your nose. 

and these 

and this 

Yeah, there are about 9 pairs of jeans 
in there . . . 

Along with 5 other drawers of shirts, sweaters, fleece pants, and hoodies and 30 or so other items from the laundry that are currently sitting on the couch waiting to take their rightful place in the closet. You haven't even seen my collection of winter coats/trench coats, vests, and so on.

Anyway, this all started May 15th and now it's day 19 - and the first time I've been in a clothing store since the ban was (self-)imposed (the Gap at the Waterfront, oh, how I love thee). I returned a birthday present and bought nothing. Although I was tempted by the many sales. Of course. 

But Shannon talked me down from the ledge. She's actually the initial inspiration for this insanity - a fellow clothes horse, she's bought just 2 pairs of jeans, 2 or 3 skirts (on sale), and a dress in the past year. It only seems fitting that she should be by my side for the first true test. 

Only 346 more days to go . . . I don't know whether to weep or leap for joy - ?

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Powder. Room. Reveal. Finally!

I've been majorly MIA in the world 'o blogging as of late, but not without good reason - we recently undertook the Epic Clean of 2011 in preparation for what Brad calls the Great Validation '11. Which, in more colloquial terms, is known as my mom's birthday party at our house this past Sunday for which my sisters and their families came over and our house was on display and under scrutiny (at least in my mind). 

BUT ANYWAY, all of this is important with regard to this post b/c of the fact that it motivated Brad and me to finally finish the powder room remodel that we started, oh, like 3 months ago. Ah! 

In the long, long process, we were stymied (as my mother and my German teacher would say) by about every possible sink/plumbing problem that total amateurs might encounter. Otherwise, this whole thing would have been done in about a month. Brad estimates that we made, between the two of us, 7 total trips to Lowe's solely in relation to the sink. But it's too exhausting to even think of chronicling all those trials right now, esp. when there are pictures to show . . . 

So, quickly, here's what we started with (when we moved in in August '09): 

Then, here's where we were after we started removing the wallpaper (which turned out to be much more difficult and time-consuming - even in this 2x4 of a room - than we imagined) in July or August 2010 (it looked like this for the next 8 months): 

Finally, sometime this February, we got back to work. And where once there was this terrible yellow wall-mount sink 

now there was this disgusting-looking wall 

Here's my beloved with the reciprocating saw on one of the many, many days of sink tribulations: 

Once everything old had been removed/scraped/sawed/sanded/or-otherwise-dismantled, we began the "reconstruction process." Which went a little something like this:  

1.  Brad and I painted the top part of the walls with 2 coats of the same color as the living room. (It's an awesome Martha Stewart color in Behr paint, but I can't find it at Lowe's anymore and don't remember the name.) 

2.  Next my mom helped us apply paintable beadboard wallpaper on the bottom part of the walls (read: she applied it. Although to my credit, I did all the cutting with the utility knife). 

3.  Then the three of us had the most difficult time ever figuring out how to cut the chair rail accurately without a mitre saw and mitre box - or even a compass. After much folly, and some wasted chair rail, we figured it out, and affixed it to the wall with finishing nails. I filled in the nail holes with paintable silicon for a smooth look. 

4.  After the beadboard had been up for 24+ hours (I guess that's drying time - ?), we painted the beadboard, chair rail, interior door frame, and baseboards (which we didn't replace) with Behr paint in Blizzard Fog. It's a soothing white with (I think) gray undertones, and it matches the sink and toilet pretty perfectly.

5.  Next came the faucet and sink drama installation. Through eBay we'd gotten a brand-new Price Pfister faucet, towel ring (perfect for the small space), and tp holder - all for $65! The pedestal sink (which I'm in love with) was under $50 at Lowe's - the smallest and, conveniently, cheapest one they had. 

Getting the faucet properly installed was more than a bit of a challenge. I can't tell you how many different times I had silicon on me (yes, Diplo, Brad was quite wary), but we managed to make it happen eventually. Attaching the sink basin to the wall was likewise a sh*t show and not easy on our backs. I installed the new tp and towel holders with ease though. 

6.  Bullcrap, etc., annoyance, dysfunction, etc.: that about sums up getting the sink in working order. But it's done now, so let's (please) not dwell. Although I should note that there exists unanimous agreement in our house: our plumbing adventures have come to completion. Even the cats concur.

7.  Brad painted the nasty, greasy-looking ceiling the same color as the beadboard and totally brightened up the room. 

Okay, now that you've indulged me, here is is (!) . . . 

Doesn't the floor look so much less unstylish now? 

Like those blurry babies? I made 'em using two of my thrift store frames and pressed flowers! (More on that in another post.) Regarding the blur:  it was hard to get a clear pic. from that position in the bathroom. 

And another . . . 

So - what do you think of our thirfty powder room remodel?! We LOVE it, and every time I'm in there, I'm amazed that Brad and I accompished everything on our own (with, of course, a bit of physical labor courtesy of my mom, some plumbing advice from Amanda's plumber bro, and lots of discussions with Lowe's employees). Soon enough I'll estimate the costs - you'll be impressed, I swear - but right now I'm still recovering from all the cleaning of last week and this weekend . . . yawn.