Home Improvement

I caught up on the dearly needed sleep last night, crumpling into the pillows by 10 pm. Waking up feeling rested at 8:30 am on a Saturday was the reward. Since I normally don't wake up until 9:30 or so, I took the extra hour to lounge and eat the last of the banana bread. Then to the gym, just as I'd promised myself.

I had a shopping list to attend to at Home Depot so that's where I spent my early afternoon. The builder of our building must have been a lighting aesthete because each fixture needs a different special bulb. I've now somewhat fluent myself in G4, G6 and GY8's. Four light bulbs went into my shopping bag.

We also needed to remedy the DIY project from last weekend which was drilling a peephole through our front door. Even though there's the lock and key of the building door to get through before anyone could be knocking on our door, it was disconcerting not to know who was on the other side of our front door. The task seemed simple enough but it wasn't as tidy as we'd hoped. There was a small snarl of the metal sheath of the door that developed as the drill went through, and it wasn't covered by the lip of the peephole. We pondered and surveyed our friends for a week for a solution. The internet weighed in with the idea of caulk. But I think I found a cleaner solution: 1/2" washers on either end. I was secretly dreading the idea that fixing one mess could create a second one with the caulk. See the ugly metal gash:

And the better solution:Jason and I broke from routine to go to Home Depot for our peephole project and by the time we'd been through half the store probably 3 employees approached us with smiles and helpfulness. We both remarked nearly simultaneously how notably useful these folks were.
I remember when I was a single girl this was a little disarming, particularly the one HD employee who remarked that he didn't see an engagement ring before escorting me towards the stain. "Not yet." I quickly and firmly replied hoping that this might suggest that there was a big muscular boyfriend in my life who was just slow. (Although I think I was probably totally single.)
But now that I'm older, married and a homeowner I see any HD employee as a ray of light, shining down through the cloud and fog of my inexperience, sent from the wise god of home improvement.
I'm so glad this little project is wrapping up in a clean, if not entirely what we intended, fashion. Another week and we would have just started to live with gash in the door.

This Weekend

This weekend I am looking forward to...
- catching up on sleep. I've felt tired all week long but every night still stay up until 10 or 11 pm!
- My Sewing 101 class on Sunday! I wish this was something I'd recorded as a new year's resolution, since I have been meaning to do it for a long time. The store that hosts the class already has me salivating with their beautiful fabrics in their etsy store.

- Going to the gym. This was a new year's resolution and I am craving a little activity. Do you ever bend over or reach for something and realize that you're not as spry as you used to be? At-home yoga might be in order too.
- Chasing the cats to trim their claws. Ok, I'm not really enthusiastic about the process, but I do feel terribly satisfied when I know their little sharpies won't be tearing up the furniture, or our friends, or Jason.

Banana Nana

I made very yummy banana bread this weekend, the cure for browning bananas we'd likely never eat otherwise.
I also learned something undiscovered about my husband, "You know banana bread is one of my most favorite foods in the world, right?" he asked mouth opening for a big moist bite of bread.
The recipe had the unexpected twist of calling for coconut. Believe it or not, I actually had an entire bag of shaved coconut that's been in the cupboard waiting for its purpose. It really goes very nicely without feeling like you're eating a loaf that someone spilled the tanning lotion over.

Thank you, Mark Bittman, for the easy recipe.

What the World Needs Now

"Fidelity": Don't Divorce... from Courage Campaign on Vimeo.

This is a touching video from the Courage Campaign, and I hope it might help others see the forest from the trees, the issue of trying to ban gay marriage and the individuals it impacts, their friends, their children, their parents and so on.
You can sign an online petition opposing Prop 8 here: couragecampaign.org/Divorce

It's the same thing Sean Penn spoke about in his Oscar acceptance speech last night, “I think it is a good time for those who voted for the ban against gay marriage to sit and reflect, and anticipate their great shame, and the shame in their grandchildren’s eyes if they continue that way of support. We’ve got to have equal rights for everyone.”

Is there really so much love in the world that we have a dangerous surplus, and should stop people from declaring their love for each other? Publicly, proudly and joyously? I think not.

Yay Sunshine!

We booked our vacation this weekend. After much negotiation, it is not Jamaica or Mexico but a likely more economical destination: ARIZONA.

The initial planning for an international destination did net Jason a passport, so we'll have broader horizons when the economy improves and we feel more confident spending our dollars; and they'll actually be worth something abroad.

I am looking forward to our trip, to take place over a long March weekend. Winter has lasted too long already. I think if I were a kid I'd be susceptible to rickets by now, with all the time spent indoors.

We selected our destination with the help of TripAdvisor.com which I recommend highly because it's a collection of other traveler's reviews and photos. Sometimes it's a good warning when you see someone's vacation snapshot of the mold in the shower, even in the high-end hotel. It's also amusing when people include themselves in the photo. (Not sure how I'd feel about me in a hot tub across the internet...)But I am really jealous of those folks right now!

First Fashion

What's better than a president I like?
A great First Lady too, with a style that is probably much like yours and mine: trying this and that, mixing pieces, and let's see how it looks. Just like you and me, I've noticed her repeat pieces, like a pin. (Michelle is practical; not a fashion first type, like Victoria Beckham taking her kids to the mall in 3-inch heels.)
(Huffington Post offers a 30-day retrospective of Michelle Obama's first days.)

And after 8 years of 'mother of the bride' fashion from Laura, Hillary's headbands and Barbara Bush's choker pearls, I find Michelle's style more easy to relate to: J. Crew, Jimmy Choo. (Me and my wallet relate far easier to J. Crew.)

I appreciated Laura's low key and appropriate style. I kind of liked that she didn't want to make speeches or be in the spotlight. All summed up well in her muted grey outfit for the inauguration.

I've been checking out the Mrs. O style blog lately to follow the new First Lady's fashions.

It has to be a little bit of a challenge to be fashionable, but yet conservative and palatable to the nation in your official role. And with the economy where it is, it likely gains Michelle fans when she wears White House/Black Market and J. Crew and young up-and-coming designers rather than the old, staid fashion houses that seem like something from the Gilded Age now.

Toaster Troubles

Remember how my toaster just up and became toast itself?
The folks at Hamilton Beach responded to my complaint, with instructions that resembled that of a kidnapper holding a functioning toaster for ransom. Cut off the cord to the toaster, then cut the plug off the cord, mail it to them with a check to ship me a new toaster. I am a little grumpy that their toaster breaks and I have to pay shipping, but I'll take these crumbs after the second toaster I bought on amazon.com also failed. I also had to pay shipping for that too!
I am beginning to suspect that the cats stay up at night and just slam the lever down again and again and again for kicks.
I may go back to the classic dinky toaster oven and forget the joy of toast popping up.

Home Sweet

Back from Montreal. This is the only tourist snapshot I have, the view from my hotel window at night. The rest of the week was spent feeling like a little rat running through the underground tunnels of the city. One morning we tried to make it out to Tim Horton's for a breakfast muffin and some sunshine, but quickly scurried back inside when the wind hit our faces.
It was comforting to get back home, to the creature comforts: a little kitten snuggled up by the fire, a Tivo full of shows, a hot bath.We had a low-key valentines by cooking mini beef wellington's at home. Jason got me pretty fuschia roses. I love them because they're just a little different than the standard red. And they smell sooooo good. Jason's gift was a new bag for his fancy camera. (I confess I ordered it from my hotel room in Montreal!)

Oh Deer

When you travel enough, wacky things happen.
Yesterday one of my flights was cancelled due to maintenance. This is typical and the kind of thing that I accept as just routine. Like a stop light turning red on your drive.

But there are other things that when the pilot announces them over the intercom you take a minute to ask whether you heard right.

My flight out of Ashville was delayed three hours because a plane hit a deer on the Charlotte airport runway. During the two hours sitting on the runway, since my computer battery had already died in the terminal, I turned to my entertainment of last resort: the SkyMall catalog. Somewhere at home, my cats got their hopes up that I'd buy them the Door Hung Cat Climber. I had the great misfortune of being on USAirways flights ("USeless Airways", more like it) so we missed the connection to Florida and their surly employees refused to help me just get back to Chicago, despite there being a waiting flight with open seats just two gates away.

The Charlotte airport was chaotic, with that "every man for himself" air and I was one of those who caught up on my fitness by running through two terminals with my luggage. (One of those moments where in the back of your head you fear running into anyone you know because you're desperate, out-of-breath and sweaty. And likely to behave badly after the USeless Airways employees tell you that while you have a record you're not ticketed so they can't do anything. I asked what that meant and they just stared at their computer screen without explanation, probably hoping that the next time they looked up I'd just go away and they could go home, since mentally they'd checked out hours ago.)

The luggage handlers went home promptly at the clock-out time, despite there being many stranded travelers without toothbrushes and pj's due to the deer nonsense. Useless.

End of the story is that I never got to see the sunshine of Florida. Now I pack for the chill of Montreal.

It seems that I will not feel the warmth of the sun until May. I am unhappy about this. But admittedly, I am happier than that deer.

Feeling the North in North Carolina

It snowed all day yesterday in North Carolina! It was 12 degrees this morning as I woke up in the hotel room, where the heat didn't work so great. (67 degrees on the thermostat.)
I can only hope Florida might be happier.

What Was That?

Driving to work after a morning dentist appointment, through a northshore suburb of Chicago, I tapped the brakes quickly when a flash of orange pranced across the street and into a snowbank.

A fox.

I know why they call it the fox trot, that little thing leapt across the street in two quick and nimble bounds.

I'd seen deer nibbling the tree branches in this neighborhood before, but never a fox.

It was like my busy day of here-to-there and appointments suddenly stopped in wonder.And it definitely beat the day, driving to work in suburban Philadelphia, when I couldn't get a wild turkey out of the way. It was just standing in the middle of the street, staring at me and not at all getting the subtle point I was trying to make by inching my car closer and closer and honking gently.

(Top picture is from the terrific book, Animal House by Catherine Ledner.)

Public Service Announcement: Toaster

This is the world's worst toaster: Hamilton Beach 2-slice toaster.

Target shoppers agree.

Ours lasted <6 months. One day it was working and the next the little digital light was out and the lever to push the toast down wouldn't even stay put. It was so out of the blue and unexpected, I nearly blamed the cats for it. Even though I'd never seen them paw it once.

It's ironic because I probably paid 3x as much for this fancy, shiny, bagel-compatible toaster than I did for my first plastic white toaster oven I found at the Clover store-closing sale over ten years ago.That little guy was still working when I upgraded him. He might still be in someone's home toasting away, since I probably donated him to the Salvation Army.

I wrote a note to Hamilton Beach, and even sent them the Target reviews link. We'll see if they have anything to say, any words of defense that they're selling a repetitively defect product to lots of consumers.

If their reply is unsatisfactory, I think I'll write to Target to tell them to stop selling this toaster.

It irks me so much to lose money like this; feeling like a powerless consumer. Sometimes it's hard for me to shrug my shoulders and just let go. It's only toast.

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