Thursday, August 25, 2011

You Are Where You Eat

I have been trolling Craigslist to keep an eye out for dining room furniture, and I’ve come to the conclusion that many, many people have bad taste. Or maybe I do, that’s entirely possible. But it’s clear, at the very least, that my taste and the taste of those that post furniture for sale on Craigslist do not match in any way. I’d grab some pictures to show you, but that probably infringes on some kind of copyright law. Anyway, go to your local Craigslist site. Search for “dining room.” Behold lots of crazy-ornate or oh-so-French-Country or lots-of-high-grain-oak dining room sets. The curves and finials and wrought iron and glass tops and brassy hardware. I’m pretty sure I won’t find what I am looking for there. And I apologize immensely if your dining room set is ornate or French Country or oaky-grainy. I don’t mean YOUR set, of course. I love your set.

So where to buy a new set, then? Since the kids are still pretty young and thus messy and destructive, and we don’t have an eat-in kitchen so our dining room sees lots of whole-family usage, we are clearly not in the market for high end furniture. Just something a leetle bit nicer than the rickety (and oaky, curved/country-ish) IKEA set of table and chairs that we currently have. Pottery Barn is out, as it’s too expensive. Crate and Barrel is out, because it’s too expensive and a little bit more modern than the rest of our furniture. I’d like to stick to something online, as I absolutely hate going to actual furniture stores, where I don’t like 96% of what I see and feel like I’m being oversold/cheated even if I’m not.

And here is where I confess that I am actually thinking about buying new dining room furniture from Target. Is this crazy? Does anyone do that? I mean, SOME people do, I guess, as the products I’ve been eyeing have a few customer reviews (all positive, I might add). But still. Target? For furniture? Am I nuts? For reference, the furniture we are considering (like how I just threw the "we" in there, like this is actually something M. is thinking about and not just my own plans and obsessions and machinations?) is this:

The Espresso Dining Table and Peat Chairs (has a leaf that expands the table to seat six, and we would probably pick up a couple of non-fabric chairs to round out the chair set and force the kids to sit on those):

And the coordinating Espresso Server:

The furniture is a little more expensive than I'd like - with shipping, it will run almost $1300, and that's without considering two extra chairs if we decide to buy them. But that's the equivalent of just a table at Pottery Barn, so definitely an improvement. I'm not pulling the trigger yet (since I'm cautious and cheap and whatnot), so I'm keeping my eye out for a sale. Wish me luck!

Also, I have to mention that Target apparently just revamped it's website, and suddenly it is slow, slow, slow. Not that it was fast before, but oh. my. god. If I do decide to buy this furniture, I may grow old waiting to place the order!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Buying and Selling

Quick update on Friday's post - looks like M. and I will be replacing our HVAC system. Doing nothing is an option - we won't all die in our beds one night. But it's an option that will probably leave us without heat or A/C at some point in the next several months, and then we'd be looking at an emergency replacement job. Fixing the bad part(s) isn't a good solution, because it would still be fairly expensive and wouldn't necessarily buy us any more time before other parts of the system start going bad. So now we just need to decide which company/quote to go with.

I am (mostly) resigned to giving up on hardwood floors for now. But still moving forward with my plans to reclaim the living and dining room from the kids. M. and I have already started cleaning out closets and reorganizing, and we are amassing a pretty considerable "do not keep" pile. Some of it is clearly headed to the dump, but for the rest we are thinking about holding a yard sale. A prospect that makes me nervous, exhausted, and excited all at the same time. Excited because we might earn a little bit of cash that will help finance our new dining room furniture. Exhausted and nervous because I think it will be a lot of work, and it's entirely possible we won't sell much of anything. But the thought of donating everything for a tiny tax write off doesn't sit well, and the mere idea of posting all the minute details on Craig's list and setting up bagillions of appointments for people to come by and look at one or two things just makes my head hurt and my eyes want to cross.

So, yard sale. I've never held one before, and frankly, I hardly ever even GO to them. We have a tiny front yard and lots of neighbors. Does not make for an ideal situation. I plan to let the neighbors know about the sale ahead of time out of courtesy, and maybe some of them will want to join in with us. But I hate talking to people I don't know very well, so those conversations are dreaded and will surely be awkward. Maybe I can make M. have them.

What are your tips? Have any of you held a yard sale without actually having a substantial yard? Any creative tips on displaying merchandise? We were thinking of having the sale on the Saturday of Labor Day weekend - is this a bad idea? What things have you had good luck selling, and what things never move/should just go straight to Goodwill? How did you entertain your kids during the sale (pretend your kids are 2 and almost 5)? Did they participate in any way (have their own table of toys and/or food/lemonade they were in charge of selling, for example)? How did you advertise your sale? I'm inquiring with the county to see if we need any permits to stick up little signs on the road or to hold the sale. I'm hoping we do not, as that would cut in to any profits we might make.

And one more set of questions, unrelated to the yard sale as it pertains to items I don't think we'd be able to sell. What have you done with old textbooks? More specifically, science textbooks, several of which are probably fairly out of date now (a problem with studying a field that is constantly advancing/changing). Can they be donated somewhere? Is there anyone who might actually need them? Or is recycling our best bet? I need to rally my solutions and arguments, because my hoarding husband is reluctant to let these textbooks go even though we NEVER look at them, and have never looked at them since midway through grad school. And by the time Finn and Lucy get to high school biology they no longer be somewhat out of date, they will be REALLY out of date. Help me battle these pack rat tendencies, please!

Friday, August 19, 2011

It Appears That I Am, Actually, Full of Woe

Oh, I had such PLANS for this fall. Strip out stained carpeting in the living room and dining room. Install hardwood floors. Clean out and dismantle the office. Move all of kids' crap from the living room and dining room down to the office. Buy new dining room furniture - a table, chairs, a BUFFET. For the wedding china that has been living up in New England rent-free in my parents' house for the last 8 years. Nothing terribly extravagant, but a little nicer than the rickety four-person IKEA set we have now. Make curtains (OK, have my mom make curtains). Clean out my oh-so-crowded built-ins and paint the back wall of them some kind of fun color to pick up on the curtains. RECLAIM SPACE FOR GROWN-UPS.

And I also wanted to attempt some minor-ish bathroom remodeling, if replacing ugly wall light fixtures, cabinets, and vanities as well as some demolition of ugly wall tiles can be called minor-ish.

Earlier this week we were contacted about setting up our yearly check-up on the house's HVAC system. An appointment was set for today, a mere 24 hours before the contractor was due to arrive to give us an estimate on the hardwood floors. And... perhaps you can see where I am headed with this?

The whole thing needs to be replaced.

Furnace, air conditioner, coil-thingy, etc. Everythihng.

Well, that's what they're saying, anyway. I say... define "need"? Everything SEEMS to be working perfectly fine, for now. Is this a "need" like, the whole family will burn in a large fire ball while we sleep? Expire from sweat and crabbiness because the A/C is moments away from crashing? Or is this a "you'll need to do this eventually, might as well do it now" need?

We are getting a second opinion tomorrow morning. But if it matches the first - and I'm guessing, based solely on the fact that the HVAC system is original to the house and 20 years old, that it will - it looks like I'll be foregoing my beautiful hardwood floors. The ones that have been sustaining me in thought at each cat puke and smooshed kid food stain I've scrubbed with Woolite over the last several months.

Oh I hate cat puke.

And my kids' totally inability to understand the purpose of bowls and plates. Even when they actually use them (I give them one EVERY TIME, and yet they'd prefer to keep the food in their sweaty little hands), they somehow manage to overturn it and sprinkle any crumbs that have actually managed to be appropriately captured all. over. the. fucking. carpet.

Hardwood floors + things to make the office playroom friendly + new dining room furniture + bathroom stuff + new HVAC system + windows (oops, did I forget to mention the windows? Yup, we're replacing a few of them, because they are also original to the house and totally, disgustingly drafty and inefficient, and that's already in motion and also the opposite of cheap) - well anyway, we are not exactly sitting on a heap of money here. Something has to give.

It will have to be the floors.

May not get to the new furniture or bathroom projects either, but I'm hanging on to hope that some of it will be possible.

And the kids? Are still getting kicked down to the office. New dining room furniture or not. Those creatures take over everything. It stops now. Or whenever I can motivate myself to start cleaning out closets and bins.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Maine! Vacation!

Lucy has cried every day since we've returned to our house. Well, of course she has cried, she is two. But what I mean is that she has cried to go to "Bumpa's Lake House" every day. And then we all say "Me, too" (after Finn reminds her that it's Grammy's lake house, too). Vacation was beautiful and wonderful and fun and why, oh why can't we still be on it?

The last time I visited my parents lake house in Maine I looked like this:

I was 8 months pregnant with Finn, and it was September 2006. FIVE years ago.

At the time, the house looked like this:

Now it looks like this:

Like me, who has managed to birth two children, among other things, the house has changed a lot. Like me, it's seen a lot of chaos and confusion during the past few years. And (like me?), the house has definitely improved with age (not to mention care and work and money). While I am ecstatic that my parents have this wonderful retreat now, I'm also sad that we live too far away to enjoy it very often (hence the 5 years between visits). So, we tried to cram in as much as we could in our week-long stay to make up for it.

Photo by Natalie
Lakeside fires and cocktails. Accompanied by lots of nerve-wracking child wrangling on the large, sheer drop off rocks. Probably resulted in more than one gulped cocktail to handle the stress, stress that I'm sure will go away as the kids get a bit older.

And late afternoon cocktail cruises on the water :-)

We have a lot of pictures like the ones that follow - happy, relaxing people on the boat. I think my favorite thing to do the whole vacation was to sit in that boat, no matter where we were going:

Lucy was our little peppy cruise director, waving "hi" to every person and animal we met with.

There was "fishing," an activity that Finn adored, though he didn't actually catch anything. Kind of hard to do when you are casting with a plastic Transformers medallion :-)

Can you believe this is the same kid that was in my belly in the first picture of this post? Because I'm having trouble.

On their way to a father-son fishing excursion

There were visits with cousins:

From left, Finn, Ned, Lucy and Penny

Finn and Ned getting a tube ride (pulled by hand, not boat - not ready for that much speed, yet)

Somehow things ended up a bit gender segregated, with the boys on one float and the girls on the other.

Me and the lovely, energetic, demanding Josephine

There was a too-brief visit with my grandmother, Mimi, and my awesome cousin Katie (not pictured):

There was even a blogger meet up, as I finally met Drew and her cute little boys (she's toward the back of the photo, holding the adorable James):

There was jet skiing (not me, but Finn, courtesy of his Uncle Andrew), beach-going, swimming in the lake, moose-sightings (admittedly as a nature reserve and not "in the wild"), a date night for me and M., sleeping (we slept!), stupid family joke telling, a "we'll be talking about this for years to come" crane crash, lobster-eating, and a little bit of shopping. Someone even managed to score a moose t-shirt from her Grammy...

And as for the 5K I ran with Natalie and my brother Andrew, well, it was a success all around. Natalie finished her first 5K with flying colors, I made my goal by running the race in 32 minutes, 9 seconds, and Andrew kicked both of our butts by finishing in around 27 minutes. It was fun, and we celebrated with an indulgent diner breakfast, hot-tubbing, napping, and cocktails. The Portland Raccoon Race 5K may have to become an annual tradition...

What do you think, do we look like siblings?

Me and Nat stretching before the race.

A post-race soak with Finn

Enjoying some relaxation and wine after a post-race nap (well, at least for Nat. I didn't take mine until the next day)

And a couple of bonus pics to end with, before my eyes cross from all this blogging (there must be a faster way to create a blog post with 3 million captioned pictures?):

Picture by Natalie

And that? Is all she wrote.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Wednesday's Child is Full of Woe

I have lots to say, obvs. About vacation, and the kids, and the 5K I ran with Natalie.

And my plan was to sit down last night, after an inaugural "I'm back to attempting to be healthy" run, with a glass of wine, and create a photo-licious post for you all about our vacation.

But then, during my run, this happened:

Side view

Front view

View earlier today as I developed a lovely black eye

In trying to swerve around a large dog barking at me from the middle of the sidewalk, I managed to trip, scrape up a good portion of my body, and give myself a nice whack on the head with the concrete. Good times. I immediately developed a huge goose egg, and spent my painful walk home and a good portion of the rest of the evening alternating between crying and feeling sorry for myself. Nothing like a good injury to make me cry about EVERYTHING. By the time M. heard me come in to the house and came to tend to my many wounds (with appropriate amounts of concern, though I am well aware that much of that concern stems from not wanting to be left all alone with the children), I was combining my bad luck/inability to read the signs that I shouldn't go for a run (dark already. difficult bedtime with kids. many other things that should probably be prioritized) with tears over whether we were parenting Finn completely, absolutely, wrongly. Ah, the release of a good cry... once you start, you just can't stop.

Anyway, we checked with a neighbor who is a nurse, and determined that provided we were vigilant about detecting any signs of mental deterioration, I could put off going to the ER for the time being and wait for the swelling to go down. M. has given me about 20 pop quizzes to check my mental faculties, and I have passed with flying colors. He probably expected me to be able to name where we got married and the town we currently live in, but I surprised him by even being able to name his brother's middle name. A fact I'm not even sure HE remembers. I came to the conclusion that it was possible he had sustained a concussion at some point last night, when, before attending to a crying, nightmare-having Finn, he actually asked me which room was Finn's. Because he didn't know. He was apparently a wee bit sleep-addled and confused.

I worked from home today (and slept in) to recover, and am now left with a slight headache, some garish eye markings that might call for a purchase of purple and pink eye shadows, and plenty of muscle soreness that reminds me of just how unsuited my muscles are to taking the full weight of my body on as it skids across a hard surface. How do kids fall so often, and recover so quickly? This would not have phased Finn or Lucy for more than half an hour, but I was putting myself on driving arrest, limping around the house, and worrying about stray blood clots. Maybe because they are closer to the ground?

Tonight, I am enjoying that belated glass of wine (or two). Hopefully tomorrow I'll get around to those vacation pictures... ;-).

Re: title. I was born on a Wednesday. But I don't think I'm atypically full of woe?

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

My Super 5K Running Mix

Natalie and I are running a 5K this coming Sunday in Portland, ME - the Raccoon Run 5K. Signing up for this race was my way of making sure I didn't slack too much on running during the hottest weeks of the summer, and it will keep me "good" the first 36 hours of so of my vacation. No promises on the other 6 and a half days, though...

Anyway, Natalie and I each have specific goals for this 5K. For Natalie, it's her first road race, so I imagine that her goals are to a) finish, and b) not hate it so much that she never does another one. And I hope she achieves both, especially b, since I'm the one that talked her in to this. For me, I'd like to improve my 5K speed. On the treadmill, I've been able to crack 33 minutes a few times, but that's on a machine with no hills, no distractions, and a moving belt to make sure I keep my legs going at a good pace. I would love, LOVE to run the race in 31 minutes, which would be a 10 minute mile pace. But I don't think I'm there yet, and I also have absolutely no idea what the course will be like. I know it's in downtown Portland, and weather there is at least 10 degrees cooler than here (yay!). But no idea about hills, traffic, etc. So I'm setting a realistic goal (I hope) of running the race in under 33 minutes. That will put me somewhere in the 10 and a half minute mile range, something that would make me happy.

To encourage speed on this race, I've put together a new running mix - much shorter than my usual workout mix that has lots of great songs, but also several "meh/good" songs that I LIKE, but occasionally just want to skip right past. In a relatively short race like this one, every song counts. I need only the most motivating, awesome, favorite songs ever. Or, if not ever, at least RIGHT NOW. Because as you will see, my preferences run to whatever songs are popular at the moment, and not necessarily the high energy classics. My number one criteria is that I have to really, really like the song - that comes before a good beat and poppy/rockin' lyrics.

Ideally the playlist would last only 33 minutes, so I could easily judge my pace and see how close I am to reaching my pace goal. However, I found it really hard to cut the playlist to only 8 songs, so I included a few more with the excuse that I may not be able to time the start of the music exactly with the start of the race.

Without further ado, here is the list:
Paris (Ooh La La) by Grace Potter & The Nocturnals
Rolling In the Deep by Adele
The Cave by Mumford & Sons
Just Dance by Lady GaGa & Colby O'Donis
Mercy by Duffy
Little Lion Man by Mumford & Sons
Africa by Toto
Dog Days Are Over by Florence + The Machine
All the Right Moves by OneRepublic
Love the Way You Lie (feat. Rihanna) by Eminem
Teenage Dream by Katy Perry
Runnin' Down A Dream by Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers

My first pass had 17 songs, not the 12 listed above. It was very hard to pick some to cut out, and I'm still a bit indecisive about it. At least one of the Mumford and Sons songs is a bit slow to start, but I just like them so much that I couldn't leave them out.

What are your favorite songs to run to? And not just any old song to provide background rhythm while you work out - what songs inspire you to move your legs faster? We don't leave the house (and thus the laptop with our iTunes library on it) until Thursday, so I am open to suggestions for change... :-)

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Events of the Weekend

I paid Lucy a penny to let me brush her hair tonight. It totally worked. I think I'm on to something here. A year of crying-free hair brushing is DEFINITELY worth $3.65.

In other Lucy hair news, baby girl just had her first salon haircut on Sunday, as I suggested I might do in my last post. The following pictures are not the greatest because they were taken with M.'s phone, and I was the person TAKING the pictures, and I don't actually really know HOW to take pictures with M.'s phone. So... yeah.

Unlike Finn, who just gets a sprayed with a bottle of water to wet down his hair before any scissor cutting begins, Lucy got the real deal - shampoo and conditioner in the salon sink. She was a little weirded out by it, but actually tolerated it better than her bathtime shampoos (which she does not tolerate at all).

I think she looks kind of creepy-dead here. And since that didn't really seem plausible, she had me convinced that she had fallen asleep for a moment.

Good haircut juju was all used up by the end of the shampoo, and Lucy freaked out about sitting in the big chair to get her hair cut. Perhaps she was convinced that the haircutting was already over? To get around it, she ended up sitting on M.'s lap. Doesn't he look lovely in leopard print?

It wasn't exactly smooth sailing once Lucy was on M.'s lap. She kept hiding her head in his chest, effectively preventing the stylist from getting to her hair. It was a four-man effort to get Lucy to straighten up and keep her head still - the stylist, M., me, and the nice woman who shampooed Lucy's hair. The shampoo woman crouched down for at least 10 minutes, attempting to distract Lucy. I tipped heavily, because I'm afraid she may now need knee replacement surgery.

Not pictured: The blow dry (yes, she even got her first real blow out!) and the final result. Because the entire 25 minute process was about 20 minutes too long for a toddler, and by then we were all exhausted.

In other news this weekend, M. and I went on a date!! For hours. More than 7 luxurious hours without the children!

We schlepped into D.C. on the Metro, a process that took longer than forever because of track repair goings-on that have the Red Line down to a single track. I stayed zen, though, and didn't let my typical transportation fury take over.

Part one of the date involved a couple of stops of a bar crawl that a friend of mine had organized. We first went to Granville Moore's, a place M. and I have been wanting to go to every since I read Amalah's blog post about the Throwdown with Bobby Flay episode that was taped there. An episode I subsequently watched, which then very much made me want to eat Moules Frites. Moules and frites were consumed, and were as good as I had hoped they would be. Also consumed - some kind of belgian beer, very tasty. We then moved on to nearby Biergarten Haus, where I had a very yummy Hefeweizen and M. had some kind of Hofbrau lager. Not pictured: Any photos from this portion of the date.

Part two of the date was dinner for just the two of us at Oyamel, a great "tapas" style restaurant with mexican-themed dishes.
Here I am waiting for my drink and the first of the food to start coming out. This would also be where I would show you a picture of M. dressed in his date finery, if I hadn't somehow NOT taken the picture I thought I was taking with M.'s phone. See again: I don't know how to work the damn thing.

This is my drink - a margarita with SALT FOAM. No simple salted rim here. Foam. It was awesome.

The food was awesome, too, especially the guacamole made fresh and tableside. We ate so much of it that this was the only dessert we had room for - Mexican coffee. Also very, very good.

Once I realized that I hadn't actually taken a picture of M. out on our date, I snapped this one on the Metro ride home. The very long Metro ride home (preceded by the very long wait to actually get on the Metro train).

Luckily we had left D.C. early enough that we weren't terribly late (all in the name of not paying the babysitter the equivalent of a mortgage payment in one night). So we capped off the evening with a glass of red wine at home:

It was, shamefully, our first real date night since last Labor Day weekend. But it was worth the wait - the right mix of socializing with friends, time to connect with each other, and trying/eating/doing new things.

Here's hoping it won't take us another 11 months to have another one!