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I Really Should Start Doing This Professionally.

Well, happy Monday morning, everyone!  Or is that just me because I’m sitting here at my computer in my kitchen wearing shorts and a t-shirt and sipping coffee while the rest of you suckas are like dressed and working and showered and stuff?

If it makes you feel any better, I worked hard for the money this weekend — so hard for the money.

Flashdance, anyone?

Except, of course, dancing is not what I was doing.

I was serving food and beverages to patrons who, for the most part, are usually pretty cool, but for some reason this weekend were mostly complete asswipes who couldn’t bring themselves to tip more than 10%, which might be okay for some crummy waitress who never smiles and messes up your order and doesn’t refill your drinks, but trust me when I say I’m nothing if not great at my job and if you’re tipping me only 10%, there is seriously something wrong with you.

Really.  It’s not me.  It’s you.

(The exception on Thursday was the lovely mother/daughter duo who had me take their picture and almost made me cry over the sheer… genuineness of their relationship and also tipped me $18 because they’re pretty much the best people in the world.)

Also, I’m painting my entire living room today (and most likely tomorrow because, as I’ve explained before, painting is not necessarily just a let’s-slap-some-color-on-these-walls-and-call-it-a-day type of project — it’s a meticulous, tedious, back-breaking, laborious undertaking, the likes of which I’d wish on all tight-wad tippers of these Great United States for the rest of eternity).

I painted the crown molding last week, a task I’ve been putting off for four years since we painted the living room the first time without taping off the molding because we knew we’d be painting it (eventually).  And unfortunately, now that the molding is all crisp and clean and white and looking brand-spankin’-new, it’s become painfully clear that the walls need repainting as well.

The thing is, it really would’ve made more sense to paint the trim first (oh yeah… I still have to paint the baseboards, too) because I can do that without taping off the walls, and then I can use my awesome little short-handled brush to cut-in along the trim with the wall paint without having to tape anything off, just like I did in the office.

Sure, I have to be a bit more careful while I’m “tracing” the outsides of the room, but I assure you it’s quicker (and cheaper) than applying all that tape.

So why am I repainting the living room?

Two reasons:

1) It was the first room we painted when we moved in, and we had no clue what we were doing.  The “neutral” color we picked turned out to be pretty yellow, and while I personally loved the green accent wall around the fireplace, we realize that one day we’ll actually have to sell this place and it’s probably wise to choose something that will appeal to more buyers.  Also, we originally used a semi-gloss paint, which unfortunately shows every little flaw in the walls, and that just won’t do when you live in a 17-year-old house previously occupied by renters.

The colors are slightly more muted than this in real life, but this should give you a good idea of how they look now:

Reading Corner

2) One of our first projects was patching up these speaker holes on either side of the fireplace, and let’s just say we didn’t do the greatest of jobs.  Pair a crappy patch job with semi-gloss paint, and you have one fugly wall.



So recently Justin re-did the patch job, which affords the perfect opportunity to just go ahead and repaint the whole room.


Oh, and our friend Matthew from Inside the Nice Guy will be arriving for a visit on Thursday, so I have T-minus 3 days to complete this project (and other guest-prep tasks) before he gets here.

There’s nothing like the imminent arrival of company to motivate me for house projects.

Since it’s already after 8:30 a.m. and my coffee is all gone, I should probably get started.


Small SNAFU already.

Do you think Justin would have a problem with me removing our giant plasma t.v. from the wall by myself?


Oh well.  No one can say I didn’t try to get started.

IKEA: Quite Possibly a Domestiphobe’s Worst Nightmare

A couple of weeks ago I informed you that my friend Alaina and I were planning a day trip to Charlotte to hit up that wonder of all superstores, IKEA, for the latest in ready-to-assemble Swedish decor for her nursery and my office.

We were going to go later this week, but since her husband was planning to come over to my house to play with my husband last Saturday (wait – that doesn’t sound right, does it?), we decided to go then.

That way I wouldn’t be here to witness them do this to my walls:

Now.  If you’ve never been to an IKEA before, there are a few things you should know:

1.  Preparation – especially if you don’t live close enough to run back to the store when you realize you forgot something – is key.  That means searching online ahead of time for things you might want, writing them down, taking measurements in your home, writing those down, and then checking the availability of those items at the store you plan on visiting.  I might have forgotten that last part.

2.  IKEA is BIG.  They have it set up so that you follow these arrows that direct you through the upper level of the store, meandering through a giant maze of show rooms and displays, oohing and ahhing at the cheap prices and simplistic designs and jotting down crazy names of things like “Ekby” and “Kivik” and “Klubbo” so that, when you get downstairs to where they actually have all the stuff for you to put in your cart, you’ve already seen what it looks like set up in a room.  The problem?  If you walk past something you wanted without realizing it, you might have to trek about 1.8 miles each way to go get it.  Wear sneakers, is all I’m sayin’.

3.  They have a kiddie play area where you basically sign your kids off to play while you shop and I’m pretty sure it’s genius and designed more for childless people like me than actual parents, but who cares because the kids are corralled in one place away from the rest of us real people and stop pretending to judge me because you know I have a point.

4.  Things aren’t always as cheap as you think.  Sure, that pretty print might look chic and affordable hanging in the showroom in its shiny silver frame, but looks can be deceiving.  You might not notice that there are two tags hanging from the picture – one for the print itself, and another for the frame.  And you like those library bookshelves with the glass doors whose price seems too good to be true?  That’s because you’re looking at the tag for just the top part of the shelf.  The bottom half and cabinet doors cost extra, just so you know.  In all fairness, you can usually find the price of an entire unit listed, but if you’re a newbie shopper there, just be careful to read the tag so you know what you’re pricing and what you’re buying.  You’d hate to get something home, put it together, and then realize you didn’t actually buy everything you wanted.

5.  With the exception of their kitchens, the majority of IKEA items tend to look a lot better online than they do in person, in my humble little opinion.  But hey – it’s ready-to-assemble furniture, people.  That means everything you buy – whether it’s a sectional sofa or a wall of bookshelves – comes in flat (albeit heavy) boxes just perfect for a brawny girl like me to drag into the back of the Tracker by herself because her friend is pregnant and I’ll be damned if I’ll let anything happen to the little kumquat.

And you don’t want to mess with these.

Side note:  Back in the day, Alaina and her husband (then boyfriend) Dirk bought all of his bedroom furniture from IKEA and enticed their friends over to help put it together under the guise of a party.  Approximately 6 hours and countless beers later, I was the last man standing.

And the furniture was assembled.

And it hasn’t fallen apart.


In all seriousness though, a truly gifted shopper like Alaina can emerge from IKEA happy, alive, and with the makings of a simply beautiful room.  Even the dresser she bought for the nursery had far superior glides to much of IKEA’s other bedroom furniture, and Alaina had the uncanny ability to breeze through the labyrinth, stocking her cart with a piece of fabric here, a lamp there, and knowing her, everything will fit together perfectly in the end.

Just don’t expect it to be as inexpensive as you thought.

Truly ungifted shoppers like me, on the other hand, tend to have problems in a place like this.  For one, there’s too much pressure.  There were too many choices and I couldn’t make up my mind and half the time I’d end up running back across the entire store just to get a sieve I missed back in housewares and where did you get that plant, Alaina because I want one, and crap I have to run back to home organization again because I forgot the hook thingies for my hanging thingies and WHAT?!  They are out of my shelf brackets?  You have got to be f*cking kidding me and will someone please just take me out to the parking lot, dose me up with tranquilizers, and shoot me now?

In case you haven’t guessed, I don’t really like shopping.

These are the things I wanted to get at IKEA:

  • File cabinet
  • Shelf brackets
  • Storage boxes
  • Desk chair
  • Hanging organizers

These are the things I did get at IKEA:

  • Storage boxes
  • Hanging organizers
  • Fake plant
  • Kitchen sieve and funnels
  • Candle

These are the things I wish I’d bought at IKEA but I’d already purchased them somewhere else:

  • Blinds (IKEA has nice, inexpensive faux wood blinds, but I’d already bought wood-looking aluminum blinds at Target that the dogs have already messed up.)
  • Wooden hangars (I just bought what I thought were pretty inexpensive wooden hangars at Bed, Bath and Beyond for the closet makeover, but IKEA’s looked better and were even cheaper.)

In person, the file cabinet I thought I wanted just looked flimsy and unsubstantial, and they were out of my shelf brackets.  OUT.

I have to say, the best part of the day by far was the plate of Swedish meatballs, mashed potatoes, and lingonberry sauce served cafeteria style for like $4.  To a pregnant chick and a girl who still had to drive another 2 1/2 hours on pitch black, tree-lined, winding roads in the rain just to get us home, it was pure heaven.

I would’ve taken a picture, but they were literally gone in about 4.8 seconds.  My phone doesn’t work that fast.

At the end of the day, this meager pile is my total haul (before the storage boxes have been assembled):

My indecisiveness, lack of design skills, and just plain ol’ crappy luck were no match for IKEA’s wiley ways.

So.  After 2 1/2 hours driving to get there, and approximately 3 hours and 11.72 miles of walking through the store, and a stressful, stormy, 2 1/2 hour drive home, I felt deflated.  Alaina, who spent about 10 times more than me because she has a job and a design plan and the ability to make actual decisions, felt elated.

It was totally worth the trip.

But I have to say, before you make the trek to your not-so-local IKEA, you might want to figure out which one of us is you.

The Man Behind the Curtain

This really isn’t intended to be a self-deprecating post.  Not at all.

And no, it’s not about Justin.

The intention is to show you that even though I always claim to not be perfect, I really. am. NOT. perfect.

So today I’m pulling back the velvet curtain I’ve draped in front of the not-so-attractive aspects of our home to reveal the trembling, scatterbrained, decrepit old man who’s desperately been trying to pose as a Cosmopolitan cover girl for the past 4 years.

And the truth shall set me free.

For example, remember that garden we planted last year?  Well I might have hinted at one point that I thought it was infested with termites.

Then I discovered over the winter while meandering around the yard (okay, I was picking up doggie doo) that yes, it most definitely was infested with termites.

Garden Bed Termite Damage

FAIL.  The seedy little buggers were smart enough to destroy the back of the raised bed where it couldn’t easily be noticed.

And remember that landscape bed we “made over” in the front of the house?  Yeah… well 2 different plant species later, the mulch still looks decent and is relatively weed-free, but the bed is also live plant free, and that’s just not right:

FAIL.  I’m telling you, I can’t keep plants alive to save my life.  Someone HELP me!

Here’s the porch railing that desperately needs to be painted:

FAIL.  We seem to have forgotten that things that don’t necessarily start out as problems in a “fixer-upper” can still turn into problems if you’re remiss in regular upkeep.

And here’s the drywall patches we messed up in the living room:

MAJOR FAIL.  That was one of the first projects we did in this place, and let’s just say our naivety shows.  In fact, the entire color scheme of that room is jacked.  It’s getting re-painted this summer.  With FLAT paint – not high gloss.

Oh yes, and the carpet in the hallway still looks like this:

Old Carpet

Only a little worse.

Oh, and this reminds me, the trim still needs painting, too.

Anyway.  My point here is not just to show you how disgustingly negligent we are when it comes to our house, but to admit just how difficult it can be to finish projects, maintain regular upkeep, clean, repair, and still find time to live in and enjoy the space.

It’s not fun pulling back this curtain to reveal all of our blunders and admit that maybe we were in over our heads a little bit when we bought a “fixer upper.”  It’s not fun to admit that we don’t have it together like so many other home owners (and bloggers) with their perfect green grass and crisp front porches and hole-less floors.  It’s not fun to admit that maybe I’m just not cut out for the ‘burbs.

Or maybe the ‘burbs weren’t cut out for me.

And this is where my particular brand of Domestiphobia comes into play.

I want to have a nice home, where I don’t have to feel embarrassed about holes in the carpet or cobwebs on the front porch or missing shoe molding in the laundry room.  But at the same time, I don’t really care.  Not that much.  I know these things need to get done, but my priorities for my limited attention span tend to get focused elsewhere.

Like food.

Or travel.

Or writing.

Or photography.

Or wine.

So I’ve decided I need to set weekly goals, so I can ensure that these little projects that add up to one big headache eventually get done.  I’ll announce this coming week’s goal on Monday.

Because a home shouldn’t be the source of constant headaches, you know?  It should be a place full of sunshine and warmth.

And ethereal coffee.

A place where you can kick up your shoe-riddled feet, sip your vodka-laced lemonade, and honestly attest that life is, in fact, really really good.

In the spirit of sharing, are there any projects – home-related or otherwise – that you’ve been putting off because it just doesn’t interest you?  Sometimes saying typing it out loud can help, because putting something in writing makes it a lot harder to ignore.

…and then a Style Quiz Called Me an Alcoholic.

Great news.

I got my baby back.

That’s right, my favorite lens is back from the Nikon repair shop.  Remember when she might have broken because I dropped her on a cement floor?  Not my brightest moment.

So now I can start taking pictures like this again:

And this:

Nicaragua breakfast pizza

And even this:

It feels a little like my arm fell off five months ago and the doctors were just now able to sew it back on.


In other news, I took this little style quiz that I found over on YHL because, as much as I hate spending money on decor, I still like to fish around the web every now and then for ideas of what I’d like if I did enjoy spending money on decor.

I’m doubting there’s any merit to the quiz results, considering they’re based on picking the most appealing images from some random photos.  I mean, what’s with the one with the hats?  But the whole thing takes about 30 seconds to complete, so if you’re bored, I just found a way for you to kill 30 seconds.

You’re welcome.

I went around picking photos like this one:

And this one:

My result?  Swank Aesthete.

My reaction?  WTF is that?

At best, it sounds like some debilitating foot fungus.  At worst, it makes me sound snooty and shallow.

But then I read the description, and I have to say… I kinda like it.

“Cozy… not oversized – a hand crafted gem.”  Yes, please!  A craftsman bungalow would be my dream home.

Or something like this, which I saw over on one of my new favorite travel blogs the other day:

Photo by Nate, at depicts a hand-built home in the town of Cuyin Manzano, Patagonia Argentina.*

The quiz results also stated that I’m “Blown away by the handcrafted nature of art,” and that couldn’t be more spot-on.  Whether it’s music, photography, painting, or architecture – when someone takes the time to create something beautiful, I take the time to see it.

Dennis McGeary
(Click photo for link to artist's website)

But then the results get a little… confusing.

“…you enjoy your niceties. A cool refreshing drink – and often more than one!”

Now what is that supposed to mean?  Okay so it’s true, but that doesn’t mean I want some know-it-all style quiz rubbing it in my face.

I mean, it might as well be saying, Why don’t you go ahead and pour a little more bourbon into your morning coffee, Alchie?

Talk about judgmental.

Moving on.

The quiz redeemed itself at the end.  Immensely.

Apparently, because the quiz knows all, I have the same style as Cate Blanchet, Ingrid Bergman, and Johnny Depp!

So basically, this means I could share a home with Johnny Depp and we totally wouldn’t argue about aesthetic or design because we have the same taste.  And we could afford a pre-war apartment on the upper-east side (which the quiz thinks I want) because, come on, I’d live with Johnny Depp. Although I’m thinking he might prefer Paris.

Which is a concession I’m willing to make.

So what’s your style?  And which celebrities do you share it with?

Oh, and I made something good last night.  Really good.  And it was unfortunate because I mis-timed the recipe, which left me approximately 1.4 minutes to inhale a steaming plate of it before running off to work, resulting in burning the top layer of taste buds off of my tongue.

But it was so worth it.

Stay tuned…

*Nate, as per usual, I did not ask permission to steal another blogger’s photo because I didn’t know I’d be posting it until just now.  Don’t hesitate to let me know if you’d like me to remove it!

Scene of the Crime

For right now, I’m keeping my “Choose My Own Adventure” poll open.  Thanks to those of you who voted so far, and for those of you who’ve stopped by but haven’t, why the f*** not??!  Please go vote immediately.  This is my future we’re talking about.  (Dramatic, much?)

We remodeled our guest bathroom about 2 years ago.

Here’s what it looked like when we moved in (unfortunately I didn’t have a wide-angle lens at the time – or for that matter a DSLR camera – just my little point-and-shoot, so you only get snippets):

Kate's Guest Bathroom Before

The above picture was taken while standing in the bathroom doorway facing slightly left.  The doorway you see ahead/to the right leads into the laundry room with the lovely forest-green aluminum blinds.  (By the way, if you’re ever showing your home for sale, please do not leave the toilet seat up.  It’s unseemly.)

This is looking straight into the bathroom and through to the laundry room.  You can kind-of, sort-of see the fugly, almond-colored bathtub with brass shower doors to the right.

Kate's Guest Bathroom Before

Here’s a better look at that bathtub/shower combo:

Kate's Guest Bathroom Before

We removed the confining shower doors almost immediately after moving in (that tub is tiny), but we were left with an extremely unpleasant shower door residue/fungus/mold-like substance, the likes of which I will share throughout the progression of this remodel.

And we can’t forget the huge-bulb brass light fixture with the charming paisley maroon wallpaper:

Kate's Guest Bathroom Before

The whole thing took us maybe 6 months to complete, and that’s NOT if you count the attached laundry room.  Which is just about done.

Oh, and we still have to paint all of the trim (in the ENTIRE HOUSE!).


Anyway, if you compare this to our kitchen remodel, the hubs and me taking 6 months to complete a project is not a shocker.  In fact, it’s almost timely.

So, did a gruesome murder happen in my bathroom?  Not exactly.  But, here’s what our guest bathroom looked like for probably 5 out of those 6 months:

Kate's Guest Bathroom Crime Scene

As one friend put it, “This looks like a crime scene.”

I promise you I’m not embellishing.  We seriously had guests stay at our home and shower in this bathroom while it looked like this.  It looked like this for a long, long time.

I have no shame.

Kate's Guest Bathroom Wallpaper Removal

What can I say?  We were naive, enthusiastic first-time home-buyers when we made this purchase.  We were excited because only one room had wall paper (this room), and our master bathroom just had a wallpaper border.  We thought we were getting off easy.

But this. room. was. hell.

In all its fury.  In my version of hell, I would be removing paisley maroon wallpaper for all of eternity.

Kate's Guest Bathroom Wallpaper Removal

Here are the tried – and failed –  methods with which we attempted to remove the wallpaper:

  • Dry peeling (simply using a putty knife and our fingers to pull off the stubborn paper)
  • Spritzing with water and then peeling
  • Spritzing with a vinegar/water mixture and then peeling
  • Spritzing with Dif Gel wallpaper stripper (two different formulas) and then peeling
  • Using an electric steamer (borrowed from our neighbors) to harness the power of heat and moisture and then peeling

Nothing worked.  Nothing.

Finally, the hubs ended up taking an orbital sander to the bathroom walls.  He quite literally sanded the whole mess off the surface.  This worked, by the way.

I realize this doesn’t fall withing the traditional code of wallpaper-removal methodology, but you can’t blame us.  We were at our eye-twitchingly wits-end.  My fingernails were navy/maroon paisley.

You. Can’t. Blame. Us.

So no, a murder did not happen in this room (that we know of).  But a double-suicide?

Almost, my friends.



The first step to embracing domesticity is admitting you have a problem. I’m taking a down-and-dirty look at just a few of the areas that need improvement.