Cat Worship

Sometimes I have to think that archeologists excavating the remains of our lives might draw comparisons to our culture (or at least our home) and the Egyptians. The shared defining practice: cat worship.

After spooning out their special dinner of wet food, I noticed the label on our cats' food proclaimed it was made in a human food factory. I doubt that any human food manufactured there carries that same claim as an enticement: "Made in a cat food factory!" (On closer inspection it appears that they merely hold their cat food factory to human food manufacturing standards, which might be why this brand is not nearly as stinky as most cat food. We also like buying it at the locally owned neighborhood pet supply store!)
At home, our cats enjoy lounging on the wide window ledges. We noticed that this was making the window ledges a little dirty, as well as marred by cat claw marks. Holding to the tenets of our cat-focused faith, and rather than inconvenience our cats, we brainstormed how to make them more comfortable.

Observe, a newly carpeted window ledge. FLOR carpet tiles offered lots of options, and it was very easy to cut the tiles to size. The project took less than half an hour, and most of that time was probably spent pondering how to cut the best straight line.
Since cats are immediately curious about anything new lying flat on the ground, there were up to inspect in even less time. So spoiled.

Lost in the Aisles at Amazon

"Claire, if you needed to buy something online, where would you start looking?"
"What am I buying?" I asked my coworker.
"Anything," he shrugged with a sideways glance to my other coworker who was apparently being taught a lesson about internet shopping.
Being a subject matter expert I replied, "Amazon."
Indeed, there's really nothing that you probably can't find on Amazon. (It was the correct answer in this workplace quiz.)

But in the vast marketplace that is there are some times that you can't help but feel that you've wandered down a dusty aisle at the back of the store, with past its prime canned vegetables and the kind of folks who obsess over the purchase of thermometer/humidifier indicators.

I am in the market for a room thermometer. It feels like something that no one under 60 should own, primarily because I can distinctly picture one in my grandmother's apartment. (And the super large displays on the available options appear to confirm the target audience.)

However, after our home heating was diagnosed with an "installation problem" (the diplomatic way that the repairman explained the idiocy of putting a thermostat on the other side of the wall from the furnace,) he suggested purchasing a thermometer to keep in living spaces so that we'd know the real room temperature. So I'm shopping on Amazon, and am intrigued by the combo temperature/humidity indicators (since winter brings dry skin). In the aisles though, you bump into the oddest people and their reviews:

I was most interested in the humidity measurement. I conducted a calibration with a sling psychrometer. A sling psychrometer measures wet bulb/dry bulb temperature and is the least expensive (albeit a bit tedious to use) and most accurate way to determine relative humidity (RH).

I needed to know relative humidity for curiosity indoors and for a chamber in my basement used to dry cure sausage (I needed a 70%RH environment). The Honeywell unit was spot on with the sling psychrometer (and temp. was accurate as well).

Sling psychometer? Dry curing sausage? I had to share.
It's pretty remarkable how many people mention buying multiple monitors to cross check their accuracy. Who are these people that are so obsessed with their indoor climate??
And, more importantly, which one do they think I should buy?

The Final Details: Workroom

The finishing touches (and by that I mean the last things I got around to buying) for my workroom included curtains.

Moonglow is the fanciful name for the faux silk drapes, from Target. (A floor lamp was also picked up in the same trip. Love Target.) The sheen (or moonglow) on the fabric seems to add more light to the room. The hanging bud vase was a housewarming gift from neighbors from our first home in Chicago.Flowers really are the finishing polish to any room.

And I can listen to NPR or my iPod with my new retro clock radio. So retro that it ticks quite loudly, which I had to get used to. Workroom complete. One item crossed off the "To Do" list. Yay! This past weekend I was sewing and trying to find other excuses to put myself in the new workroom, which is a good place to be since most of my unfinished projects involve the sewing machine or some knitting needles.

The Details: Workroom

Furniture in my new workroom consists of the existing desk, a new bookcase to hold fabrics and sundries, and a new cozy chair. The secret to buying a chair, I've found, is sit in all of the options in the showroom, until you find the one that is so comfy, you don't want to leave. Pillows also from etsy. The bookcase came as a steal since it was a custom order for someone who never picked it up from the showroom. Combined with shopping on Columbus Day weekend, which America predominantly celebrates by shopping (Christopher Columbus was sort of a merchant, right?), this was a satisfying score.

On the floor is a simple neutral grey rug. You might remember that this room had the dubious honor of also being the home to the ironing board and the litter boxes. Both are still in residence, but the kitty toilet is now hidden behind a curtain in the closet. The Amy Butler fabric, which you see in one of the pillows, was kind of the inspiration for the color pallette of the room, with a base of blue, and orange, grey and pale green touches. This helped me whenever I was in a store wondering, "Will it go with the room?" I carried a yard of the fabric in my purse for two consecutive weekends.

Teedie helpfully demonstrates his appreciation of the new discretion and dignity he is permitted.Baskets inside help organize.

The Details: Workroom

New to the walls the my redone workroom are the paint color and artwork.

Blue Bonnet from Benjamin Moore is a paler little sister to Tiffany blue. I tried about four color samples before settling on this soft, fresh color.

The framed photos come from Animal House by Catherine Ledner. I ordered an extra copy of the book, as well as frames and mats from Amazon. Although it felt VERY WRONG to be tearing up a book, I like the contemplative animals posed in front of classic wallpaper. (And it was a heck of a lot cheaper than buying the prints which are hundreds of dollars each! The book was only $15.)

They are complimented by ceramic owls from etsy, made from molds dating from the 1970s. After purchasing these I think I've put myself on an avian moratorium for home decorating. I realized there's some type of bird in every room of our first floor. What will I do next year when birds are out and something like zebras are in?

The "Reveal": Workroom

Apparently, I watch enough HGTV that even my husband has learned the terminology. When he is anxious to leave the condo, maybe for dinner or for Target, but I am watching a decorating show, he will ask, "Can't you just use the Tivo to skip ahead to the reveal??"

So, here is the reveal of my workroom! Totally redone from the darker, cloistered dining room that characterized its past life with past owners. The dark teal and tan walls reminded me of a medieval dining room, and that vibe never worked for days when I worked from home.

BEFORE: Crowded, someone-else's-paint, storage roomAFTER!!: Bright workroom for sewing, working, reading and lounging!As you'll note, I kept the lighting from the previous room, which works well for 'task lighting' at my desk (which you may remember from my craigslist makeover post.) But that was about the only thing that stayed.

A closer look at the details of the room after this brief commercial break.

Working Towards the New Workroom

The husband and wife who lived in our place before us were at-home-chefs, which explains the Viking oven, as well as the dedication of a bedroom to be converted into a dining room. (See photo from original property listing.)

However, since I confess that Jason and I are more often eating in front of the television (and have reflected that we might even be candidates for these), there was no need for a separate dining room. Also because the dining table that we do own fits nicely into a corner of the living room.

So the former dining room was mine for an office, but as you can tell, it was really only a big storage closet for the first year of our residence. The vacuum, the kitty litter boxes, and the ironing board all found their homes here, along with the boxes that moved in after I vacated my storage unit. I started consider what I wanted to do with "the space", and even made it a game for guests at our housewarming party to put post-it flags on the ideas they liked best, torn from decorating magazines.

My first concept was a moody brown/gray room, with blue accents. But after purchasing a few paint samples I discovered that grey would be too dreary, especially in a room that was meant for energetic crafting, sewing, and maybe a few work-from-home days. So I set my course in another direction, inspired by this Better Homes & Gardens room. Here's how it began to take shape with fresh, bright paint...More soon!

Mr Rogers Breaks it Down

A little weekend diversion from the Chicagoist was this charming (but maybe a little awkward) clip of Mr. Rogers learning about break-dancing from his neighbor, Jermaine.
I think there's something about Mr. Rogers' voice that just instantly calms me, like the way I can scratch behind my cat's ear and he'll roll onto his back with his paws up in the air. My mother said that even if Juliet and I were running around the living room, tearing out each other's hair, the sound of Mr. Rogers would immediately temper us and we'd be sitting down rapt in front of the TV, at least for a preciously quiet half hour.

This proves again that there's nothing that is not on YouTube. I am sorting of hoping this will continue to be true when I search for how to change a tail light in my car. I feel like such a helpless goof when I go to the dealership for little stupid stuff like this. But after an inspection Saturday, it seems that the dead lightbulb is sealed tight inside the rear of the car.

Cultural Lesson

There's been a crumpled beer can on the other side of the chain link fence that separates my train platform from the grass hill beside it. Every morning this week, while waiting for the train (2 days out of 5 in the POURING rain), I've tried to figure out if the beer can is really labeled the way that I think it is. It seems to suggest that it is beer... plus clam and tomato juice. Clamato is the one word I can really read on the discarded aluminum can. And it really looks like a beer can.

After a couple days I was getting ready to get down on my knees and try to reach under the fence to confirm this. Fortunately instead a friend with laptop and a wifi card was able to look it up for me on the train ride home.

Yes, indeed a chelada or michelada is a mixed drink starting with beer and adding something like clamato. Bud Light Chelada as a combination of lager, clamato, lime juice, and salt.

"The drink dates back to the 1940s, when mixing beer with hot sauce or salsa became popular in Mexico. In recent years, the drink has begun to become popular in the United States, and now various ready-made mixes are marketed and sold to US consumers."

Mystery solved, cultural learning absorbed, all without dirtying my pants or hands to excavate the discarded beer can.
Not sure whether I will venture for a taste test...but I can still compliment myself on the value of living in such a multi-cultural neighborhood.

Unlikely Friends

Juliet sent me this link a little while ago, and at first it wasn't I was at work where sitting at your desk with your morning oatmeal and blueberries and watching cute animal videos is a little frowned upon. I am glad that I saved it, because National Geographic's "Unlikely Friends" series is like pages of a child's storbook come to life.

It is also something good to watch when you are very mad because the heating & cooling repairman was a no show. Service appointment between 3-4 pm, and 6:09 pm and not the decency of a phone call! I called at 4:30 to ask his plan, at which point he apologized but said he was still coming. I am a little bewildered that the person who recommended him mentioned that he had stood her up three times. I'm wondering, "why do you pass on the number of such a seriously unreliable repairman? Are his services free?"

I am centering, breathing deeply, and thinking of the curious friendship of a cat and a crow. And Owen, the hippo and his 130-year old tortoise buddy. Also wondering how I will ask my boss for another afternoon off.

Things I Did This Weekend

1. Turtle races. Because how else do you kick off a weekend?
2. Oil change
3. Sewing a curtain for my workroom
4. Painting a bookcase for my workroom, after sorting out its contents
5. Shredding papers that have met the appropriate age for destruction (Although, I guess the rules may have changed, - or my memory wasn't accurate - and some of the paperwork could have been ditched earlier. Credit card statements after a year!)
6. Hanging curtains in my workroom with Jason. It turns out that he is very eager to help, especially when the internet is down. I will have to figure out how to pull the cord from the modem whenever his assistance is needed again. It was also probably a distraction from Ohio State's first loss of the season.
7. Cleaning up last year's UGGs from the salt and dirt of the winter. The cleaning instructions begin with the improbable direction that you should get your sheepskin boot entirely wet. Once they finish drying in the bath tub I am hopeful they will be ready for the assault of another season's slush.
8. Ordering supplies for a new project around the house (because I like being in project debt - always more ideas than I can really afford time for over a weekend.)

Things I did not do were: going to the gym (boo!) or baking the pumpkin cake I'd considered (probably best that they were omitted together.)

As the list suggests, tangible progress is being made on the workroom, and "after" photos will be coming soon, once all the details are together. Here is a small preview:

(I have edited out the bordello red lampshade, so that won't be appearing in any "after" photo.)

Acorn Anyone?

I wish I could figure out a reason I need these adorable little acorns by truLuxe on etsy. They'd be a great accent for favors at a fall wedding, or on a bow tied around a pumpkin loaf.

The Christmas pine cones are charming too. Does the deer come with them?


What is the poorer use of my time: tv or the internet? And what decline am I going into when I'm watching tv and goofing off on the internet at the same time?

It's so easy to lose track of time playing quizzes like Can You Spot the Fake Logo? or Name that Number from

Chicago Marathon: I'm Hoarse from the Course

There's a warm cup of throat comfort tea by my keyboard this evening, after spending two hours cheering on the Chicago Marathon.

I knew two runners and had offered to position myself at a place appropriate for encouragement. We found an empty stretch of road, a highway overpass where my clanging cowbell would not bother too many people in their homes and my friend could hand out the donut holes she'd brought for tired runners.

A cop working the marathon passed us twice before stopping to ask, "Are you guys actually cheering anyone particular on?" since we arrived early and there was about an hour gap between our runners.

I had only ever seen the Columbus Marathon before, and not surprisingly the Chicago race is far bigger, with a constant surge of runners coming towards us. It gave us tingles to see the runners earlier in the race going at a fast clip on the highway overpass above us as we drove down. The two runners I was cheering for were spotted, and one even stopped for a quick hug of encouragement, until I told her, "Don't stop running for me! Keep going!!"

The fun part is that many runners write or tape their names on their jerseys, so you can cheer for them specifically. So I went hoarse calling out, "GO Steph! We love you Steph!" "TODD! Stay strong, Todd!" "Yay Pedro!!" "Not too much further, Amy!" "You rock, Dennis!" and of course, there was jumping up and down whenever a Claire or an Ohio State t-shirt went by. I did find myself yelling "Go Michigan!" a few more times than felt comfortable, with the Ohio State-Michigan rivalry that I married into. Cheering with a Wisconsin grad, we were also excited to holler, "Go Badgers!" whenever it was appropriate.

Afterwards we strolled into Chicago's Chinatown to scout out dim sum for lunch. (And more hot tea because of the cheering, and the temperature which started out pretty chilly.)

Marvelous Night for a Sundance

I'm getting more pulled into the Sundance channel (like I need more tv in my life!) by two recent series:

Brick City
- the documentary series following mayor Cory Booker, and the cops and citizens of Newark, NJ. It satisfies the same part of my brain that liked HBO's The Wire so much. And now I'm being drawn into Man Shops Globe, the story of the Anthropologie buyer who shops the world for the furniture and displays in their stores. In the first episode he was wandering antique markets in Paris and Provence. And lucky fellow, he has 100s of stores to put his furniture in so there's little worry about what will fit.

You see him discover a retro Hollywood bed frame, a little battered and chipped, in the corner of a crowded French antique shop, and then learn it came to be mass produced for Anthropologie shoppers. I wish I had his job. Or maybe I could runaway from home and be his apprentice for a few months?

Illustrating a Point

One of the things that makes me excited for the pending baby boom of both my good college friend, and sister, is the reason to browse through the shelves of the children's section of the bookstore.

Why can't adult books have illustrations? How come once you hit "chapter books" there's no need for pictures?

Etsy artist Amber Alexander tempts me to put illustrations up on my walls instead.

"Pumpkin Pie""Desperado""Squirrel Art - Donald" He's serving martinis, probably not appropriate for a children's book."Tolerance"These just make me grin.

(The weekend's WSJ story about childhood classic Betsy-Tacy books by Maud Hart Lovelace - which I remember my mother telling me she'd read as I kid, after I'd brought one home from my grade school library - must have me feeling nostalgic.)

Race Day Recap

This is how my AIDS Foundation Race Day essentially began. Standing on the el platform, looking at the heat light button and wondering what almanac was consulted when CTA made the decision that heat lamps are not necessary until November 1. (This weekend has been the coldest since April, and 11 degrees less than average for the calendar date.)

I was glad that the free race t-shirts were long sleeved this year, and at least once I was jogging I wasn't cold at all.

Race day statistics:
Temperature: 47 degrees
Race time: Unofficially 37 mins 36 secs (I'm not super fast, but I did run the whole thing!)
Celebrity sighting: Dominic Scaglione Jr. - recent Oprah guest and lead in Jersey Boys Chicago! Hanging out by the VIP tent for folks who'd raised highest amounts for charity - as well as wearing a running bib suggesting he'd be on the road with the rest of us.
My fundraising for AIDS: Over $150!

On the last point, thank you to every one who pledged their support! I feel like I've listened to enough public radio that it's hard not to make my gratitude sound scripted from the fall campaign drive.

This race is one of the most gratifying to run because everyone who's working the event is constantly thanking you for running. There are volunteers cheering you on, two cheerleading squads at the beginning and end of the race, a drill team, and a brass band playing the theme song from Rocky as you sprint across the finish line.

Even the guy who handed me my post-race free hot dog looked me in the eye and with sincere conviction said, "Thank you for running." It took me aback because I was kind of mentally in the middle of congratulating myself for running for my own personal achievement, but liked the reminder that my run had benefited myself and others too. (In true Chicago style, there was an extensive bar available, even at the race, for that hot dog's fixings.)
Months after last year's race my boss was wearing his t-shirt on an errand to the grocery store with his father-in-law, when they were turning to leave the bagger stopped him and asked if he'd run in the race.

The bagger explained that he lived in a group home supported by the Chicago AIDS Foundation and said, "Thank you. You're my hero."

"You're welcome" he stuttered, bashfully flattered and surprised.

As my boss rejoined his impatient father-in-law waiting by the revolving door he was asked, "What did that guy want anyway?"

"He wanted to tell me that I'm his hero."

Winter Wallop

Wow, it got really cold, really fast. Going from no coat to a winter coat is simply not reasonable.

Making me happy though is my new mocs.They are like a a warm buttery hug for my foot. I wish I could just stay home with them and a nice cup of tea.

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