The Room is Winning

When we first looked at our house, I can remember thinking “Interesting. Well this living room is going to be a little hard to decorate, but we’ll figure it out.”  And then I thought no more about it. Oh, ha ha ha ha ha ha ha haaaaaaaaaaaaaaa.

This room is totally winning, you guys, and it’s making me insane.  All my “fixes” I’ve had in mind for so long just keep making it worse and I feel like I am losing my mind.  And since the living room is the biggest room in the house and it’s the first room you see when you walk in the door and it’s the room we spent the most time in, it’s really affects my mood when I don’t like how it looks.

I am pretty happy with all the other rooms in my house.  Not all of them are finished but I know what things I would like to add to them eventually. But this room makes me crazy pants because I can’t even figure out how to fix or what furniture it needs and I have this feeling that there must be some magic solution to how to arrange the furniture, but everyone who sees it or I ask about it gets the same “huh” look on their face that I always have when faced with this stupid room.

Ok, so the room. It’s the most long narrow room in the history of time.

Here’s a picture of it when you are standing in the entryway.
There’s a fireplace in the middle of one wall at the back. (I am not putting the tv over the fireplace.)

On the same side of the room that the tv is on, there’s an entrance to the dining room.
The door to the entryway is in the third wall and there’s a giant picture window in the fourth wall, over the couch.


So we have these long walls that need to be filled, but they also look awful if you just line furniture up marching down the walls.

At some point the windows that were in it were removed, so now we’re left with just that one big giant window that faces the street.  We recently moved our couch in front of the window, and that’s about the only thing I’m happy with in the room.

We used to have the desk facing the street, in front of the window, but we moved it so it sort of sticks out into the room at the back, in front of the bookshelves.  See it over on the side there, towards the back?

I wish I didn’t have to have a desk in this room, but there’s literally no where else to put it in this house.  It works, for the most part. It’s actually nice to look out into the room when you are working on the computer and it puts the computer farther back into the room and makes a little workspace in the corner.

I am ok with the back of the room.  The fireplace and the bookshelves look nice and even though my children never listen when I tell them to stay off my white chair, the covers are washable so it’s not the end of the world when it gets dirty.

The tv wall is the wall that is giving me fits.  We put this mirror here because we used to have it where the tv is hanging, and it looks awful there.  My kids futz with it all day long too.  But if I take it away, I have GIANT EMPTY WALL WITH NOTHING BUT A TV ON IT.  I am not a fan of “tv surrounded by art gallery”. I mean, it’s a tv. Let’s not pretend it isn’t a tv, right? It’s not art.   But the dingy cabinet filled with crap and the dirty mirror and  the GIANT WALL WITH NOTHING BUT A TV ON IT is…not good.

See? Yuck.

I have been looking for giant dressers/armoires/buffets etc that I could paint.  I thought for awhile maybe filling up with the space with a giant piece of furniture would help…fill up the space.  But I moved my buffet under the tv from the dining room just to see what it looked like and it looked terrible.  Most of the new large furniture I like, I can’t afford.  What I can afford is either too small, or else it’s on Craigslist, and I don’t have a way to get it home. I also don’t know that my house can support another “you bought this at a garage sale, didn’t you?” piece of furniture without looking like everything I own came from a garage sale.  Even something like this, which I like, I think might look sort of iffy in my living room.

However, I have formed a plan! Keep in my mind my budget for this plan is something like 14 dollars.

First look at this picture.

So. I am going to buy a cord cover thingee and secure it to the wall to hide the cords hanging down from the tv.  Then I am going to mix up some gray paint from the giant stash of paint in my garage and I am going to paint a section of the wall behind the tv (from floor to ceiling) gray. This will sort of break up the wall, a bit, at least in my mind, and make the wall into “the section with the puffy white chair by the bookshelf”, “the tv area”, and then “the section by the brown chair.”  Behindish the brown chair I will put three black and white pictures of whatever I take three black and white pictures of in the next three days and I will frame them in thrift store frames painted…a color you will now suggest to me.

And then I will paint that cabinet white and throw a couple cute knobs on it and it will look cute and white against the gray square.

I was also CONSIDERED putting these decorative doors I found on Craigslist (but haven’t bought) on the wall on one side of the tv (both doors together, not one door on either side of the tv), but Mr. E thinks I am INSANE.

Also, that is really the only place the tv can go in the room.  Believe me I tried my best to think of many different places to put it and that was it. On the plus side, you can totally see it from the street at night, so it’s really cut down on the amount of porn Mr. E can watch. (joking, joking).

Tomato Tomahto

One of the best things that happens in January is that I get to pick out the seeds for next year’s garden.

I order my seeds from the Fedco catalog, because they’re not genetically modified or irradiated. I am far from a total crazy hippie, but I think a company irradiating seeds so you can’t save the seeds that come out of the fruit or the vegetable that you grew and use them again is shenanigans.

I’m going to grow okra and green beans and some squash and stuff.  However I only really care about the tomatoes.

Last year I started most of my tomatoes from seed.  After they went into the ground I freaked out that I didn’t have enough fun varieties and I went and bought seven plants from a local nursery, and every single one of them developed powdery mildew and spread it all my other plants.  This year I am starting all my plants from scratch.

I usually have a lot of extra tomato starters.  I am a good person to know in March.

The tomatoes I picked out for this year are as follows:

Glacier.  This is my fast growing tomato.  Some tomatoes have a shorter time from seed to tomato, but in general the early ones are not as good tasting. You trade time for taste.  Last year I was not impressed by my Early Girls, so I am trying this one instead.

Pruden’s Purple.  People claim this is comparable in taste to the Brandywine. We shall see.

Black Prince.  Last year I read over on Sacramento Vegetable Gardening that if you don’t have a black tomato you’re not playing in the big leagues, so I am planting a black tomato this year. Obviously.

Also, last year I discovered one of the best recipes I’ve ever made, and it looks cooler if you make it with many different colored tomatoes. Yes, this recipe is so great that I am planting tomatoes just so I can make it.

Cosmonaut Volkov How can you not want to plant a tomato named after a famous Russian cosmonaut?

Cherokee Purple.  This was my favorite new discovery from last year. I never thought anything would challenge my love for my beloved Brandywines, but these were utterly amazing.

Paul Robeson. The seed catalog described this as a “great tomato named for a great man” and that was pretty much all it took for me to add it to the list.

German Johnson.  This is in case my brandywines don’t do much, which is what happened last year. So far though I think we’re looking at a hot spring, which is good news for tomato growers.

Brandywine.  My tomato true love.  Growing heirloom tomatoes from seeds is where it starts to really make sense.  They can’t be transported well, they’re not good when you buy them in the store, and they are often $4 a pound at the farmer’s market, and they’re still not as good as if you’d grown them yourself.  You’ll never taste anything better than a brandywine you picked straight out of your garden.

Aunt Ruby’s Green. I have a secret theory that green tomatoes don’t taste that great, but they look cool in a salad.  Maybe this one will surprise me?  The green zebras from last year were uninspiring, imho.

Goldie.  This looks like a promising orange/yellow tomato.

I think I need one more orange or yellow tomato, actually. I like the sounds of the Azoychka.  Prolific is my kind of tomato. I feel tense if I am not surrounded by so many tomatoes that I have to start leaving them in strangers cars.

I am also planting two cherry tomatoes. I’m not a huge fan, actually, but my kids love them.  Last year little Dubsie spent the whole summer with her cheeks stuffed full of all the cherry tomatoes she’d pluck of the vines whenever we weren’t looking. I think it’s kind of cool to have something the kids can pick and eat growing right in our backyard.

So I’ll probably start these some time mid February and then plant them sometime in April.  Which means it’s still a long long time until I will be standing in my garden picking tomatoes, but somehow ordering the seeds makes it seem like it’s just around the corner somehow.  We haven’t had a bad winter at all this year and still, summer can’t come too soon for me.



More Money More Problems

I put this question on Twitter, but it’s sort of too complicated for Twitter so I thought I’d ask it here.

Ok, so Mr. E and I have this credit card.  It is essentially maxed out, I think at any given time it has about $600 ish dollars clearance on it.  So let’s say the balance is $40,000 dollars. It’s not, but I just picked a number that’s super high so you can get the idea of what we’re talking about without me telling you my actual credit card balance.

This card also has a terrible interest rate, and it’s from Wells Fargo, a financial institution that I Hate With the Fire of A Thousand Suns.   And bonus, I get NOTHING from this card, rewards wise. NOTHING.  So obviously, it sucks, and I would prefer not to have it.

But! Good news! I have the cash to pay off the entirety of this credit card sitting in my bank account.  What I want to do is pay the card off, close it the account, and never darken the door of Wells Fargo ever again.

At some point, I’d like to open a Southwest Airlines credit card, on which I do not carry a balance, but which I get free airline tickets from.  If I’m going to spend $800 a month on groceries, I’d like to get something for it  besides just groceries.  Plus I think I can check three bags free on Southwest Airlines, and I’m going to need all the luggage allowances I can get to transport all the cafe lights in the world to New Orleans in November.

However, at some point this year, Mr. E and I would like to buy a new car.  So, I want to choose whatever course of action will mean I have the highest possible credit score/income to debt ratio/blah blah blah financial hoozits so that when I buy this car, I get the best possible interest rate on the loan.   People tell me that closing a credit card can reduce your income to debt ration (because that credit is not available to you anymore) but when we bought our house, our Macy’s card worked against us even though we didn’t even have a balance on it.  I am confused.  (Maybe because it was a store credit card and therefore essentially useless? It has since been closed, btw.)

So my options are:

1. Pay off evil credit card, close evil credit card, get no new credit cards.

2. Pay off evil credit card, close evil credit card, get Southwest credit card.

3. Pay off evil credit card, leave evil credit card open but cut it up and never use it, get no new credit cards.

4. Pay off evil credit card, leave evil credit card open, also get Southwest airlines credit card.

I would really like to close the account and get a SW card, but I am ok with whatever option means I end up with the lowest interest rate on my car loan, and I have no idea which is the best choice for that.  Let me know what you guys think! Or if I am missing the actual correct thing to do, somehow.

(We don’t have a car payment right now and we’re planning to drive this car as long as we can, but if the engine falls out or it needs expensive repairs this year, we’re not doing them.)

Book Review: The Fault In Our Stars

 So The Fault In Our Stars is the newest book by John Green, who is super famous on the internet for various reasons and a big deal in YA circles.    He wrote Looking for Alaska, which won the Printz award that year.  I was dubious about The Fault In Our Stars simply because Looking for Alaska is one of my very favorite books of all time, and his next two books, An Abundance of Katherines and Paper Towns, did not measure up to that book for me.  I don’t know that anything could, exactly, because sometimes a favorite book gets this spot in your heart that just can’t be replicated, but neither of those books came anywhere close to Looking for Alaska, for me.

Anyway, I approached this book with some trepidation, especially because it’s about kids with terminal cancer and that sounded way too much like “issue drive YAF” and I am done with thinly veiled PSAs about what to do when your mom leaves you.  But this book is really really good. I really really liked it.

I still didn’t like it as much as I liked Looking for Alaska, but it takes second place, for sure, for me.  And I cried like a baby while I read it, which always goes far with me, because I love books that make me cry.  (When I used to work at the bookstore, we’d always tell the 7th grade girls looking for books that if they wanted a good cry, they should buy “A Summer To Die“. We sold stacks of that book every time word got around that it was a good crying book.)

Anyway.  I have seen some criticism of the main characters dialogue as too adult or sophisticated, but I didn’t feel that way at all.  If I did have a criticism it would be that in the first third I’m not sure I understand what drew particular characters to each other, but I think that is explained fairly clearly by about halfway through the book.

Sometimes I feel like John Green struggles with what to do with his characters.   He knew what he wanted to do in Looking for Alaska and the journey of those characters is so dramatic, and I felt in his next two books he just…didn’t know where to go after that.  But I think this time he figured it out, in a pretty clever way.

Anyway, I liked it. A lot. It’s well written and interesting and the main characters are people I’d want to be friends with.  And also I cried buckets, so there’s that.

{Photo credit:}

What’s For Dinner (This Week)

1. turkey kefta and grilled minted zucchini

2. greek chicken pitas

3. thai green curry coconut shrimp (with brown rice)

4. spinach stuffed shells (also making for the neighbors who just had a baby).

5. chicken breasts, roasted sunchokes, spinach salad (from my garden, woo hoo!)

6. corn and bacon chowder

7. onion pizza with ricotta and chard

8. swiss chard and goat cheese pappardelle (but not with goat cheese)


The Story of Us

When I was 10 years old, my parents got divorced.  For a long time, they lived in the same city, Portland, OR, where I grew up, and I’d spend one week with my dad and one week with my mom.  One week off and one week on, as they say.

The summer after my freshman year in high school, my mom moved to Chicago, and left me and my brother and sister to live with my dad.  I’ve spend a lot of time in therapy over that situation, but this is not the story of that.  The short version is that I spent a year struggling to live a life that made me miserable.  So when I was a junior in high school, I gave up on that, and I moved to Chicago to live with my mom and I started my junior year at a new high school.

This was…not the most fun I’ve ever had in my life.  Generally when I look back on  high school I think of it as a pretty dismal experience, except that high school is where I met one of my best friends.

I can distinctly remember the first time Andrew registered on my radar.  I was sitting at a lunch table waiting for school to start and his girlfriend walked by in a really really terrible lace – I don’t know.  Let’s call it an outfit. I think it was a suit, actually.  A white lace suit.  Andrew reached over, pinched her sleeve, and said “This is nice.” And I immediately thought to myself “Oh no.  We’ll never be friends.”

So of course we became best friends, and we went to homecoming together and Andrew came to my house for my mother’s crazy dinners all the time and we went to bad movies and he drove me around town in his mother’s station wagon and even though I had just come from an all girls school and I had no real idea that you could be best friends with a boy, Harry and Sally notwithstanding, it turns out you can be. And we were.

And we got older, as you do, and we graduated high school, and did I mention Andrew got a 1520 on his SAT’s and got into MIT?  We were sort of nerds, but he was way higher on the nerd scale than I was.  Regardless, he didn’t go to college at MIT, he went to this little school in Minnesota, and I can still remember the moment he stood in my parents living room on a warm summer afternoon and opened the letter with his roommates name in it and said “Huh. I guess I should call this kid.” and I thought no more about it.

My whole life now is because of that letter.

I went off to school at UCSC and Andrew went off to school in Minnesota and because email hadn’t quite yet been invented (I KNOW!) we called each other A LOT.  And most of the time that I called Andrew, he wasn’t there, and so I ended up spending quite a lot of time talking to his roommate, Erik, instead.  I was 17.  I have known Erik since I was 17.  (I KNOW.)

And pretty soon I was calling there to talk to Erik instead of Andrew, because quite frankly talking to Erik was way more interesting than talking to Andrew, and then we were talking all the time, two times a day, for hours on end.

The next  year they came and visited me and my roommates during spring break, drove all the way across the country in Andrew’s mom’s old station wagon, but it was finals week and we didn’t say a lot to each other.  We were better on the phone.

The funny thing is that my roommates were meeting all these boys all over campus and I could never meet anyone.  The boys I liked didn’t know I was alive, and the boys I made out with at parties always ended up breaking my heart.  I just wanted someone to be nice to me, but somehow the super hot jerks I kept throwing myself at didn’t turn out to be the type to bring you flowers on Valentine’s Day.  This took me a long time to figure out.  A lot longer than it should have.  And I had extra practice in the summers too, with super hot jerks at home, but the point is that I can remember a very specific moment, sitting on the steps of my sophomore year apartment, in despair.  Despair that I would never find anyone, despair that because I would never have a perfect manicure like my housemate Sarah, I would never be on a softball team and drink beer with my teammates like my housemate Alison, I would never know all the cool music or the cool books and because I was so hopeless, so far from perfect, no one would ever choose ME.  I would never find someone for me.

(Although thinking back on it now I did get a fair bit of action in college,  but that’s another post for a different blog.  Let’s just say I had a hard time finding a boyfriend and an easy time finding someone to make out with and leave it at that.)

I am pretty sure it was our junior Year when I took a Greyhound bus from Chicago to Minnesota, and let me just be honest with you, internet.  At that point in time, I really really really liked this boy.  Kind of a whole lot.  But I had no idea how he felt about me and even though he didn’t have a girlfriend and I didn’t have a boyfriend, he remained remarkably circumspect with his feelings.  I mean, seriously, when I look back at that time, I still kind of wonder “does Erik like me?” even though the evidence suggest yes.

Anyway. I visited and we drank a lot of wine and went out to dinner and we went to a  dance and to the least romantic movie of all time (Apocalypse Now he took me to Apocalypse Now!) and I cleaned his apartment and he did not notice (I should really have paid more attention to that part) and we got very drunk and he sat next to me on the bathroom floor for hours while I thought about barfing and let me paint his toenails.  I wore some clothes that were NOT WARM ENOUGH for winter in Minnesota, internet, NOT WARM ENOUGH AT ALL.  And yet, NOTHING! NOTHING.  The boy did NOTHING.

Oh! Here is a picture of the outfit! Aren’t you just shocked he wasn’t all over that?


After graduation, Mr. E was headed off to do something boring and related to geology in Wyoming for few months before he went back to school to do more things that were boring and related to geology at the University of Michigan, and before he got there, he came to visit me for a few days, where I was living in Chicago with my parents while I tried to figure out what to do with my life and there may have been some drinking and then finally, finally! There was some, um, let’s say, hugging.  (I think maybe he liked me, internet.)

And then he went off to Wyoming, and this is where God or Whoever or Someone Up There held my hand. I don’t even know What or Who or If I believe in anything like that, I really don’t, but the best way I can think of to say this just that – Someone Up There Held My Hand. Because I was totally OUT OF MY MIND BUTT CRAZY IN LOVE WITH THIS BOY and of course this made me want to call him up 7,000 times a day and ask him how he felt about meeeeeeeeeeeeee and if he was in looooooooooooooooooove with me and what kind of flowers he thought should be in the centerpieces at our wedding, but he was out in the middle of nowhere and he could only get letters.

There were no cell phones, there was no email, and so for three months that summer, we wrote each other letters.

I think those letters might be where we really first did fall in love.   Someone up there knew I needed this chance to not kill this relationship dead with my pure and naked crazy NEED and I think those letters saved us, I really do.  They made everything else possible.

When Mr. E got back from Wyoming, we started talking on the phone again.  We had a huge fight when he told me that he told his mother I wasn’t his girlfriend.  We took a lot of Amtrak trips.  We drank a lot of wine.  We went on some very inappropriate camping trips and we fought about juice and we had very large phone bills.

And you know the rest of the story, essentially.  I moved to Ann Arbor and we lived in our first tiny apartment together and one day he asked me if maybe I wanted to do this thing forever and I said yes and then we got a dog and then we had these ankle biters and now I’m sitting on our couch in our house while our children fight over a banana, and sometimes when I think of all the events that occurred to get to this moment I am both astonished at the miracle of all that had to happen and did and also certain that things could have gone no other way.

It was meant to be, somehow, this story of us. Meant to be.


The Four Tubs

So my mother was just here.  It was actually a really nice visit.  I think everyone had a very nice time.

Pretty much the only thing she did that annoyed me was to accuse me of being a picky eater over and over and over again, and it just annoyed the ever living crap out of me.  Mostly because good lord, I am not a picky eater.  I’m just really not.

It might be important to know that my mother once ate lamb brains OUT OF A LAMBS’ SKULL, so I don’t know how I come across compared to her, but hot damn, I know people who won’t even touch raw chicken.  I could write a novel called “Things People I Know Don’t Like To Eat” and it would be 7,000 pages long.

I’m not sure I handle any criticism particularly well but when I feel it’s unjustified? I REALLY don’t handle it well.

Regardless, in the face of this situation, I was frustrated with my choices, which seemed to be 1. angrily argue my case while everyone thinks to themselves about what a hot tempered brat I am or 2. sit there with a smile on my face and suffer in silence while I am accused over and over and over again of something I am not.

It never occurred to me that I could also:

1. lie (am I going to have to go down to the police station and be hooked up to a machine to prove that I don’t actually like blue cheese? Doubtful)

2. agree with the ridiculous statement, happily, and say “I know! I hate everything!” and move on.

So instead of either one of those perfectly acceptable solutions I settled for feeling (sort of) superior because at least the fact that I know so many people who dislike so many foods must prove something about my tolerance for my fellow man and about my willingness to be friends with all sorts of people, even those who don’t eat bacon.

Anyway. At one point my mother merrily asked me “Well! Is there ANYTHING you like to eat?!” after I requested no anchovies on my pizza, and rather than burst forth with arguments about my neighbor who won’t eat shrimp and my mother in law who hates mushrooms and cheesecake and my best friend who doesn’t like watermelon, I just said “Yes! I love all vegetables.  In the entire farmer’s market there’s not one thing I don’t love.”

And that’s when I realized something.

Holy shit!  I AM kind of a picky eater! I don’t like a lot of weird cheeses and gamey meat and I hate blue cheese and I’m not a big fan of lamb. Weird sauces and fish and strange pork bits have never really been my bag. BUT! I also have a gift, because I really do love all vegetables. I really do. I love raw turnips and brussel sprouts and cooked carrots and tomatoes warm from the vine and I would like to fit into a smaller pants size sooner rather than later and this love of veggies? When you want to lose weight?  It is a gift.  A tremendous gift.

And so I went out and bought 4 plastic tupperware tubs, and my goal for the year is to keep all four of them in the refrigerator, filled with veggies, at all times.  Because honest to god celery is one of my favorite foods but it’s not doing me or the size of my kiester much good rotting in the bottom of the crisper drawer.

And that is the story of me, the picky eater, and my four tubs of veggies. I’ll just be over here with my celery. Hold the blue cheese, please.