You Say It’s Your Birthday

Dudes, my tiny smooshy baby is turning three! Unfortunately, I have absolutely NO idea what to get her for presents.

She isn’t the type of kid who doesn’t care about stuff or presents, so don’t be one of those people to tell me it doesn’t matter what I get her and she won’t care or notice.  I WILL CARE SLASH NOTICE AND SO WILL SHE. (AHEM ERIK). Actually, I don’t think she’d notice if we didn’t get her anything on her birthday (although how sad is that)  but she is definitely PRO opening presents and she will oooh and ahhhh over things she likes.

Part of the problem is that we just went through a massive toy clean out, so I am reluctant to add a bunch of junk that no one will play with to the piles of junk I just got rid of at Goodwill.

The other part of the problem is that she’s still sort of…she likes everything, but also very specific things.  Mostly she likes animals.  She’s obsessed with My Little Ponies, she really likes Diego, and she does enjoy girly things like dresses and poofy skirts more than Eli, for example.  But mostly she LOVES animals.  She will look at a book about snakes for hours and hours. She will choose to play ponies over any other thing.

My first idea is that even though she probably won’t really get that this is a present is that on her birthday we will take her to the zoo and this will count as a present.  I bet she loves that.

So that’s idea number one: The Hated Zoo Trip.

Idea Number Two: I already bought this dress, even though it’s a little high on my frippery scale, because we spent two hours in the mall last Thursday and this was the thing that made her stop in front of the window and say “OOOOOOOOOOH”.  I defy you not to buy the thing that makes your smooshy curly haired baby girl stop dead, pause, and gasp in front of it.

gymboree dress

Other things I am debating:

This Princess Celestia Doll.

princess celestia

Now I think we can all agree that no My Little Pony Collection is complete sans Princess Celestia, but the problem with this is that this is the “Promised Huge Thing You Can Get If You Pee On the Potty” and I don’t know what to do about that if I give it to her for her birthday.  Make no mistake though, she would LOVE this.

I have also been eyeing this horse barn thing, because I’m wondering if she could use to carry around her ponies.  She does seem to love a good horse.  Fyi, we already had the Melissa and Doug Folding Up Barn and we gave it away because no one gave two shits about it in this house.  It’s sort of boring though.  It’s no Princess Celestia.

horse barn

Then I am wondering if she’d like a Cozy Coupe.

cozy coupe

I’ve always wanted to buy one of these (maybe “I” want a Cozy Coupe) but we have a large selection of ride-on crap that no one rides on, and I don’t want to add a giant pink piece of plastic to it.  However I like the appeal of being all “LOOK AT YOUR BIG PINK PRESENT OOOOOH!” but you know. She might never use it after that. So I’m waffling.  (We have a tricycle. No one rides it.)

The last idea I have is this Cinderella doll and carriage. It appears to be plastic junk, it’s probably going to ruin my child’s life by giving her some kind of weird princess complex, and yet every time she sees the commercial for it, she asks to watch it over and over again.  Hmmmmm.

cinderella carriage cinderella

So these are my terrible ideas of what to buy a three year old for her birthday.  Anyone have any better ones?  We have art supplies up the wazoo. We do not need books, we can barely contain the ones we have. I am not buying any more stuffed animals.  She has a doll house, she has baby dolls, she has play food, we have wooden blocks, she had a toy kitchen that she never played with, she has tons of dress up clothes, she has a water table, we have loads of train tracks, god these kids are spoiled.

In Which I Finally Learn to Spell “Vacuum”

So get ready, because I’m about to write way too many words about vacuum cleaners.

So for many years I owned a Miele Callisto canister vacuum.

miele callisto

I…did not pay for it myself, let’s just put it that way. If you want to know the actual story I’ll tell you but it’s not that interesting, however I cannot put it on my blog. Let’s just say that it fell off a truck.

Anyway, when we got it, it came without the carpet doohickey, and to buy a carpet power brush nozzle thing for the Miele was some outrageous price I didn’t want to pay so we just used it with the hardwood floor attachment and ran it over our area rugs that way, which sucked but did the job. It got the hardwoods gleaming clean, though.  It was a lovely lovely machine, aside from the fact that vacuuming the rugs with it was a miserable experience.

So the Miele died last week. It was pretty obvious that it was the motor and to replace a Miele motor is something in the neighborhood of $150-$200 dollars so I decided I would just buy a new vacuum cleaner, preferably one that worked better on area rugs.

The first thing I bought was this Shark Upright Professional Lift Away Vacuum, which came highly recommended on Twitter and Amazon and which I HAAAAAAAAAAAAAAATED with the fire of a thousand suns.


Now, to its credit, it did get the area rugs in my house CLEAN AS HELL, and look how fun it looks in that picture, but other than that? It was not for me.  It was SO LOUD and SO HEAVY, it wouldn’t go under my couch or around my furniture and it made a high pitched whistling noise, it felt plasticky and gimmicky and the part that came with it to clean hard wood floors felt stupid and badly designed. It kept falling over and even though it was supposed to be so cool that you could detach it and carry it around with you, I really didn’t want to…carry a vacuum around with me. I wanted it to roll behind me and not fall over all the damn time.  And I could never get it to go back together when I was done having it fall over all the time and wanted to click it back on. Also, I thought it would be cool not have to buy vacuum cleaner bags all the time, but it turned out that I actually dislike emptying gross canisters full of dust and grime into my trash more than I care about ordering vacuum cleaner bags.  I like the bags, actually! Everything is nice and contained and when I get down to the last one I order more on Amazon Prime and store them in the closet and it’s no big deal and I am not dealing with big piles of dusty dirt clouds and dumping out gross canisters of dirt.

Luckily I bought the stupid Shark at Bed Bath and Beyond and to their credit they took back a week old used twice vacuum cleaner without batting an eye.  I give them mad props for this and I will try to buy whatever I can from them whenever I can because seriously, most places don’t just take back your used crap you don’t want that you don’t like.  MAD PROPS BED BATH AND BEYOND.

So then I started thinking harder about what I wanted and didn’t want in a vacuum cleaner, and I decided that for this house, which is mostly hardwood with two large area rugs, I did not want an upright vacuum. I did not want to clean my carpets with something then clean my hardwoods with a swiffer sweeper. (NO THANK YOU I WANT TO BE DONE IN ONE PASS.) I wanted it to roll behind me, I wanted a retractable cord, I wanted a power head to clean the area rugs, I wanted it to be able to switch to a hardwood mode but I ALSO wanted it to come with a floor brush with dust bristles on it, because a carpet attachment, even set to “bare wood”, does not get hardwoods REALLY dust free clean.  (This is the problem with buying an upright for mostly hardwoods.) I wanted to spend around $200, and I wanted it to take readily available vacuum cleaner bags, I wanted on board attachments, and I wanted to be able to clean area rugs, my car, my couch, and my hardwood floors with it.  So I needed a canister vacuum.

What ended up coming up in this range over and over are the Panasonic vacuums.  Essentially all Eureka, Kenmore, and Panasonic vacuums are made by the same company, but the Kenmores are only sold at Sears.  They’re all basically the same thing, although some people think the Panasonics are better for various reasons regarding branding or something. I don’t know.

I looked for a long time at this Panasonic, but if you look closely at the handle, it had a weird gimmicky looking claw part that matched a Kenmore one at Sears that people complained about as being annoying.  I did not want gimmicks and weird attachments, so I went with this Panasonic Canister Vacuum, which is SO BORING looking but which Eli has named “Rosie” which more than makes up for the lamish color.


I used it today for the first time and so far I am very happy with it.  Observations/Pros and Cons:

I think it’s louder than the Miele.  IF you are burning piles of money in your yard, and you need a vacuum cleaner, I’d still recommend you get a Miele, because they are quiet and they make a lovely vacuum cleaner, but the $300 model doesn’t come with a turbo head,which you need for area rugs. To get a  Miele with a turbo head (which means a head that has rotating electrically powered bristles to clean carpets) you have to spend something in the range of $650, which to me is excessive for a vacuum cleaner.

However, the Panasonic cleaned as well or better than the Miele ever did.  The carpets are easy to clean with the power head.  It does veer to the right a bit on one of my rugs (which people complain about it in the reviews on Amazon), but not so much as that I’d return it.  I love that you can turn it on and off on the handle (this is an improvement over the Miele.) The actual wand is a little short, is probably my main criticism. I am 5’2″ and even I think it’s a little short.  Not sure what that’s about, but it might be worth it to test out some Kenmores in a Sears store to see if they come with longer wands.

It has a 360 degree rotating swivel for the vacuum tube, which I LOVE.  That’s also an improvement over the Miele.  No more uncoiling the wand!

People have complained about the latching for door for the on board tools. I can see this complaint, but you pretty much just have to pry it open and slam it shut, and I had this exact problem with the Miele so I can’t complaint too much about that.

I LOVE the easy release for the turbo head. To get the head off the Miele I had to stand on it and yank with my entire body weight. I love that the actual tube is made of metal, and not plastic, even though it does not telescope.

I also think it’s a bit larger than the Miele, but it’s lighter.  It doesn’t really matter to me how big it is because as long as it fits in the closet, I don’t care.  But it is not compact, let’s be clear about that.

Also, it rolls VERY easily, I think more easily than the Miele.

The one thing I will say is that the on board floor brush is nothing special.  Instead I used the parquet brush that came with my Miele, but I am planning on ordering this large floor brush for $8.95 and I’ll just use that.  The upholstery brush worked great on the couch though.

Overall, I’m very happy with this vacuum cleaner.  It fit my $200 budget and for a house that’s mostly hardwood, it’s basically perfect.  I shall report back if it lights itself on fire in three months.  Otherwise, I’d recommend.

{I hope it’s obvious but no one bought me this vacuum cleaner or gave me this vacuum cleaner or gave me money to write this post about this vacuum cleaner. I paid for it with my own money, bought it on Amazon because they didn’t sell it at Bed Bath and Beyond. Those aren’t even affiliate links because I don’t know how to do those. Just so you know.}


This is one of my favorite days of the year.



This year we are starting 12 kinds of tomatoes, mostly scienced down to our favorites:

The Cosmonot Volkov, Supersweet 100, a yellow pear, the Cherokee Purple, Black Prince, Brandywine, a Green Cherokee (new for this year!), Glacier, Beefsteak, Paul Robeson, Big Rainbow (also new, I think it’s orange), and Generic Yellow as purchased at Home Depot because no one around here had yellow tomato seeds and I don’t have time to order them.

The other trays are full of flowers…I have high hopes for my flower borders this year! I am starting Nasturtiums, Dianthus, Zinnias, Coreopsis, Rudbekia, Love Lies Bleeding, Sweet Alyssum, Bee Balm, Salvia, Larkspur, Gaillardia, and Blue Vervain.

If it works I have LOTS of flowers I am excited to start next year, but this year I am forcing myself to use the seeds I had lying around (I  know).


The Other $100 A Month

When I decided to limit my personal purchases to $100 a month, I also decided that I wanted to designate another $100 a month to house projects, and to see how far we could get on $100 a month.  There are a lot of really expensive house projects that we talk about doing, but we have no idea where the housing market around here is going, so even if we had $1000 for new kitchen counters right now, it’s not at all clear that it would be worth the investment.  However, I also think we can get SO MUCH done around here, especially DIY, with that $100 budget, and I thought this would be a fun challenge, to see how far we can go on this budget and for how long.

The first thing I did was to fill holes and to repaint the back hallway.  Doesn’t it look lovely?


This was supposed to be “touch up the back hallway”, but I used the wrong color paint, and so I had to repaint the whole thing.  The good news is that this was free, and Erik helped. I already had the paint in the garage, and from now on I can really easily touch it up. With the correct paint.  So. Cost of this project = Only Emotional.

The second project for February is to install the threshold between the kitchen and the dining room.  This was removed when the floors were refinished, and we never put it back because the people who flipped our house were tremendous assholes put down a kitchen floor that is two different materials.


See how if you look closely, the section down in the lower right isn’t the same as the other stuff? Uh huh.  Before we put the threshold back, we need to pry out the 4% of the flooring that doesn’t match the other 96% of the floor and fill it in with the correct floor.  Luckily, they sell our floor at Home Depot. Unluckily, they only sell it by the case, special order, so I had to pay $86 dollars to correct this ridiculous, frustrating problem because someone didn’t do it right in the first place.

Anyway,  the flooring has been ordered, and my fingers are crossed that snapping the new stuff into place isn’t going to be too terrible difficult.

I think the next project I’ll tackle might be installing the decorative ceiling medallion I’ve had for two years, which sounds fairly divorcey, actually. Funsies!


December 2012 Favorites

I love these little Christmas Trees ($8 from Home Depot) so much that I left them out when I put the Christmas Decor away. Seriously, they just make me so happy.


I think it’s pretty true that the world tells you that you “should be happy with nothing” and “no one needs stuff” and “just be you” or whatever nonsensical motivational thing is the flavor of right now, but sometimes I think those people must have terrible stuff.  Just the other night I was sitting in my bedroom with my sheets that I love and my duvet cover that I love and my overpriced good smelling Anthropologie candle that I love, all cuddled up with my electric blanket that I love, and it was just such a happy contented feeling, this oasis of things that I love, this beautiful quiet lovely room that I adore.  It’s just such a nice feeling.  Stuff can be good, you know? Really really good.

I won a $50 credit to Minted from Mama Bub and I didn’t really want stationery, so I rooted around until I stumbled on these gorgeous cake stands. You may not know this about me, but if you sorted all the people in the world into two columns, I am in the “Strongly Pro Re: Cake Stands” column.  I did not have white ones and I have wanted some for so long and now I have two and they are gorgeous and I have already used them three times. See? Gorgeous.


I bought myself this Anthropologie Rolling Pin while I was Christmas shopping with Miss Amy, and I just love it. It makes me happy every time I see it.


For some reason I have broken all my casserole type dishes and I am having a hell of a time replacing them, but I bought this one from Sur La Table and look how pretty cinnamon rolls go in it! I love it when I debate buying something, and then after I buy it I use it all the time.  Best ever.


I have, um, a lot of shoes. Please observe.


Although nowhere near as many as my mother, who had to rent a STORAGE UNIT FOR HER SHOES. So you know, I come by it honestly.

Anyway, I used to have them stacked on three shelves above my clothes in the closet which meant I could barely reach the second row and had no hope of reaching the third row.  I tried to buy a shoe rack but it wouldn’t fit in the space, so my husband built me some custom shelves.  On his birthday. Yes, his. His birthday. Best human ever.

Every time I see these shelves, I feel pure elation. My shoes! Where I can get them! Looking so cute! Best ever.


The lady at Sephora gave me a sample of this face lotion and I am SOLD. I used for a week ish  and right away I felt like my skin was so soft and glowy and I just wanted to pet my face all the time.  I haven’t been this thrilled with a face product in a looooong time, except it costs FIFTY FIVE DOLLARS. I do not…want to pay $55 for a tiny pot of face lotion, so now I’m wondering if there’s something else I can use that costs, like say, twelve dollars.

I don’t have a picture for the face lotion but just picture a used up Sephora sample pot, followed by dollar bills flying out my living room window.

I have a day planner, but somehow I lose track of appointments all the time.  I wanted a calendar that I could hang right by the front door that ALL APPOINTMENTS I MEAN EVERYTHING would be written on so no one ever had to be surprised that I was running out the door to brunch.  This one was just what I was looking for.


Clean, neat, graphic, modern, with room to write things in. Perfect. I love it, it makes me happy every time I see it. (The shop owner is taking a break, but you could always try emailing.)

Let us not speak of how the red pencil is right there and my husband wrote his appointments on my new pretty calendar in blue ballpoint pen. He has been properly reprimanded.

And ok, yes, there are some things that are not possessions that make me happy.  Those things are…tv shows.  I am loving the pants off of both Homeland and Girls.  Season One of both shoes is out on DVD, and I watched them in lightning speed and then signed up for HBO and Showtime because seriously I haven’t liked very many tv shows (besides Downton) in YEARS. Really. I mostly hate all TV, and I love both of these shows. Nothing makes me happier than sitting around next to Mr. E and watching a few crazy pants episodes of Homeland, and how much do I love Lena Dunham? So much I can’t even hate her for living my dream career. Except not the acting part. I mean, I’m not kidding. I want to watch Girls, I want to email you about Girls, I want to hold viewing parties and follow all the actresses on Twitter and I am SOLD.

Now here’s the part where professional ish type bloggers would ask “What are you loving right now?” in bold, but that’s just not really my jam.  So instead I will just tell you that if you ever want to tell me about your favorite stuff, I would totally love to hear about it, in a non comment shilling way, but just in a “ain’t stuff grand sometimes?” kind of way. I love stuff. I really do.

Let’s Talk About My Living Room Some More

So, the living room actually has two distinct areas, which is part of what makes it so frustrating to furnish. There’s this little, corner, I guess? Right when you walk in. Right now this corner is where we have all the kids toys, which is an ok use of the space, but it means that the kids have a tiny little corner to play in and toys are always all over the place right when you walk in my house. Anyway, as soon as Katie is out of her crib, the giant IKEA toy shelf is going in the kids room.

Here is a terrible Iphone picture of the corner. That arch is the entrance to the dining room which means this little space isn’t useful for much of anything.

So, questions.  First, when did your (still napping) toddler transition to a twin bed? I can’t remember when Eli did it, but I am thinking right before Katie was born, so three ish. Sound about right? That’s when I’m planning on it, so that would be this summer.

Secondly, that space, confounding as it is, will probably become the desk area.  I am of two minds about how I’d like this to look. At first I pictured something fairly minimilist so the desk is not sticking out into the room any more than necessary. So maybe a shag rug, and then a long board, stained dark, attached to brackets running the length of the wall.  In my MIND, it looks really good. Something like this:

Or this

Source: via Elizabeth on Pinterest

The main problem I see with this is that

1. I am worried it will look terrible and sort of…sterile? Or odd? or sort of…not like living roomy but more…I don’t even know.  Just strange, I guess, in my living room, and I am also not sure where Eli’s desk would go. I also don’t love the idea of sitting at a desk with my back to the living room, but I can’t see a way around that.

The other option would be something more like this.


At first I dismissed this sort of layout entirely but now that I see this picture, it’s really grown on me. It looks more “intentional furniture in a living room” somehow, and I could paint my desk grey really easily, since I am not that crazy about the color anyway. And then we could have my desk (a basic parson’s style just like this picture) and Eli’s desk next to each other.

Do you think this look is dependent entirely on having that sort of plush chair as a desk chair? I kind of think it might be. I am trying to dissect it so I know how to do it successfully. I think 1. gray parson’s desk 2. wall color 3. art or bulletin board 4. floating shelves with things on them 4. art to the side 5. upholstered chair 6. decorative items on shelves 7. light colored rug with tones of the wall color in it 8. bright colored file cabinet (I have that).