Second, I know I promised pictures of the stove and some people with really good memories are probably wondering why I have not shared pictures of the finished bathroom. I actually have answers to both of these questions. In order to come in under the insurance company's payout for my rotted and water-damaged bathroom, I decided to do the painting myself. (Clearly not a big deal. I bought the paint weeks ago. Although scraping loose paint from the ceiling and caulking uneven areas in the original portion of the beadboard walls - and ceiling - will take a little more time than an ordinary room would.) I am planning to tackle that this weekend.
This may be slightly tricky, because my darling husband views this weekend as slated for some outdoor projects. So I may just have to be mercilessly productive. On my short- to medium-term list are propagating cuttings (with permission only!) from a neighbor's blackberry bush and our front rose bushes (that I didn't know we had), planting grass in the front yard (no, it didn't have any - don't ask), removing the young trees that bizarrely were planted in front of the azaleas in the front (that will be a job), and maybe, um...fencing the front yard. And weeding. OK, that's a month's work. But I find if I focus on one project at a time, I never even make a dent in my major lists...and yet I accomplish a list of "done" work that frightens others. (This sounds like a lose-lose. I'm not happy, they're not happy. But really, I am delighted when I think of all I've gotten done since September.)
Then there's also the matter of us hosting a barbeque on Memorial Day. And we don't own a barbeque. There's always craigslist for that, and I have had an amazing craigslist streak recently, so I am hopeful. (Plus, it will be the husband's job to actually pick up the barbeque, because that is his area, and I am going by myself to get a giant cabinet panel that weighs as much as I do, on Friday morning. I wouldn't ordinarily do this, but I must have this cabinet piece. It's a century old, and it is the most beautiful piece of once-and-future built-in cabinet ever. And yes, if I buy a single large piece of built-in, I will have to design the rest of my kitchen cabinets around it. And probably build them...myself. But that's OK. I already have a power drill. Some friends have volunteered to let me use a table saw. I can do this.)
Let's share the amazing craigslist streak, actually. Two summers ago, I bopped over to visit a girlfriend in Columbus, and along with the amazing midwestern neighborliness and goodwill that I had totally forgotten in just a few years of living in the DC area, I found a chair that looks just like this:
A fellow was selling it in a yard sale for $25. It came home with me, because I had been ogling this outdoor room design on houzz,
Then just a few months ago I was innocently perusing my local ReStore for framed paintings and a new light fixture for the powder room (I also have to learn to install light fixtures before you can see the bathroom, by the way), and from across the store I spied the twin of my chair. I ran toward it (slaloming gracelessly around a thicket of ottomans and dining furniture on my way), seized upon it (no one else was even looking in its direction), noted its price ($35), and breathlessly brought it to the register to insist that they guard it while I continued shopping (naturally).
Then last week, I struck craigslist gold. First I found a pair of very expensive outdoor chairs for $35 - for the pair:
You (maybe) can't tell from the picture, but they've received a lot of wear. Some of the decorative trim-wrapping on the ends of the arms is peeling off, and the wicker seats are intact, but I don't want to push it. So they definitely need seat cushions (and the standard tub-chair-shaped cushion is several inches too small. But if you're looking for some of those for a good price, go to TJ Maxx or Marshalls or Home Goods. $15 each). But they're big and comfy and while they're a contemporary design, they have the sort of relaxed classic look that I know will blend well with whatever else I have. Plus, my husband took one look at them and declared that the advent of these chairs on our property made our yard a place worth being. And proceeded to spend significant amounts of time in them every day since. And created a little furniture arrangement with them by bringing some unused outdoor tables to the back yard from the front porch.
This warms my heart beyond all telling, but fellow decorating-obsessed ladies, I think you'll agree with me: there is no telling which small home improvements will make the real impression on the husbands, right? There are things that have cost so much more time and energy (and money) and that I know objectively make so much more of a difference, which he thinks are nice enough, but...nothing extraordinary. Mysterious!
And then I found a pair of peacock chairs (that's what my fancy exotic chairs are called, apparently. Note: when I searched "peacock" in craigslist under "farm+garden - by owner," I found ads for several live peacocks. One was only $75 [is that a good price for exotic fowl?]. I adore peacocks, but I was just planning to frame a picture of one...should I actually buy one?) for just $25. And when I went to pick them up, they were nothing like my chairs. They were bigger. They were also extremely ornate:
(That's not literally my chair. But it is what my chairs look like, and it is a better photo than I am likely ever to take.)
Apparently the seller and his wife had purchased them decades ago - in Thailand. They were in perfect condition. I got those things into my car and got out of there quickly before that sweet old guy changed his mind!
The outdoor rug I bought at World Market and the too-small chair cushions were instant rejects and will be returned to the store. But it turns out my chair acquisition streak was not a moment too soon; the evening I brought them home, we had a bunch of people over. The peacock chairs were a big hit. I was delighted. (And now I am on the lookout for even more. But they have to be at good prices.) I still need to come up with a complete decor plan for an "outdoor room"; my project has hit a few snags, in the form of my husband not wanting to hang out on the paved area (where I wanted to put the outdoor rug) because you can hear too much of the street noise from there, and the fact that those outdoor pavilion things are crazy expensive. In fact, all manner of outdoor furniture and decor is even more expensive than the indoor stuff! I am not going to spend more money on wicker and plastic throw pillows than I have on antique hardwood furniture, leather upholstery, oriental rugs, and silk pillows. (Note: I haven't spent very much on those things either. And in fairness, we acquired them slowly.)
But I am persistent, and I will continue my efforts to pursue a lovely outdoor area - I hope not just an acceptable one, but something with some sort of actual design to it - for about 10% of the price of the basic outdoor table-chairs-and-umbrella sets you can buy in the grocery store this time of year. (Still on the list: more chairs, interesting candle stuff, some sort of shelter-y feature, and a fire pit.) And I will probably bore you with those efforts here. (And I would be fascinated to hear what other people have done in terms of outdoor entertaining - both design and bargain suggestions welcomed!)
And that brings me to two other points. First of all, I am still working on the stove. On the one hand, after I spent a week washing all the removable pieces and stripping the working parts with mineral spirits, I thought it would be installed and ready to go. I never imagined I would have put this much more work into it and still not be nearly done tinkering. On the other hand, I also never imagined I could learn so much about how stoves work or figure out how to do so many things myself. Obviously the jury is still out on whether all of my efforts are successful (some clearly have been - all four burners and the griddle, and one pilot light, are working perfectly, and they were not when I got it. Last night I even cooked chicken and pasta on it!). I will be posting pictures of it. I know, I said I would already. But I showed you what the model looks like. And I am not done taking parts of it off and poking at them with wrenches and bits of paper clip and coat hanger (with the gas off thankyouverymuch). Soon, I hope.
And the other thing circles back to the having people over the night I came home with the awesomely awesome peacock chairs. I think we had eight or ten people and we invited everyone at the last minute. It was a lovely time and nice to see everyone (I was hoping several more would come, because there are people I want to introduce to each other...). But everyone left at about 11:45 - on a Saturday - and I was more than a little disappointed. It's not just that we're down from our 2009 standard of regular parties that close up at 4 or 5AM; we knew that was a bit much and consciously decided to get a little more sleep on weekends. But before midnight on a Saturday is just wrong. I know we moved to the "wrong" side of the river, and it's a longer drive home for most of our friends. And I know that we're the teetotalers, so driving home after a night out is more of an issue for other people than it is for us. And I know it was a last-minute thing too, which probably affects people's ability to stay out late. And several of the attendees have kids.
But it all just makes me sad. Part of the reason we bought a bigger place was so we had room for people (and people have stayed with us, and I'm delighted about that). I knew that moving further out would be a deterrent to having casual hangouts at our place. That's OK, too. We drive a lot to other people's homes (though we don't always stay as late as we used to, either), so I figure that on the occasions when they do come to see us, they should stay a normal length of time. Of course, I'm not trying to imprison anyone at my house.
I guess this is part and parcel of my husband trying to remind me that I can't re-create college - when we had a ready-made community of friends, who were peers; who were each other's social companions and also daily dinner companions; who worked together, prayed together, hung around together, and occasionally dated each other. Real adulthood isn't actually better, as far as I can tell. I know that regular people continue (or...mature from?) this experience by starting a little commune in their houses comprised of self, spouse, and minor children. That was a cherished dream of mine for a long time, too, of course. But I was grateful, at some point, for the realization that I wanted the little community; children were not as essential. The problem is, it seems like the only way to create the little community is if you have the ability to make your own people who are legally required to live with you. And that I can't do.
Part of it, I suppose, is just impatience. When we moved, I said it was a good thing, because it coincided very nearly with one set of IF friends getting pregnant (baby born just the other week), and the other ones adopting - and a few more other friends having babies, of course. So it was a good time to put down roots in a new community and make friends around us. To my amazement and delight, we've actually been doing that. Even my DH is happy about it. It's a slow process, of course, and I am finding it hard to nurture friendships, and wait on getting to have a best buddy I can just pick up the phone and call. (Of course, my sister is my lifelong best buddy. But she doesn't live around here.)
Part of me is so frustrated because I've lived in this general area for almost four years, and spent countless hours hanging out with people, and I don't feel like I've found much of a kindred spirit. And of course part of that is my fault. I'm not good at nurturing relationships with people who are not right here in front of me - I never have been - and so I could probably have closer friendships with people who live far away if I had the presence of mind to work on that. And I know there are some girls here I should probably give more of a chance. There are people I really think would be kindred spirits, but I assume they don't want me much involved in their lives - and I should work on that. There's a sweet girl who openly says she is friend-stalking me, and who has many of the qualities I'd be looking for in a bosom buddy, but the stalking is a bit off-putting, and she spends a lot of time talking about her and her husband's plans to start ttc last Christmas (which I assume will be successful soon), and I just don't know her well enough yet to explain to her exactly why I won't be a good cheering section for those efforts, or for her inevitable pregnancy.
And then there are probably a lot of girls who I assume are too busy to have time to fit me in, who, like me, actually are busy - but are also lonely. A lot of them are probably single, and assume that since I am married, all my social time is claimed. That's really not the case.
I think I have some work to do.