Nesting Pains Soothed

For those following the Nesting Pains saga, today we find its culmination. In the final fit of turning Shoebox Apartment into Home, I painted our kitchen cabinets and living room walls (landlord be damned). And the result is deeply satisfying.

I sought to try out a new aesthetic: something along the lines of vintage Victorian; classy, with a little funk.

These were my tools.
This was the coffee I cracked myself out on.
This is what the kitchen used to look like.
This is what it looks like now.
Instead of the drab old gray, I introduced a sunny, minty green. With cute little accents like these.
And these.
Then I took our boring, white living room walls and painted them a lovely, dove gray, which complements so nicely the new kitchen green.
And looks so elegant with the white trim, and blends so well with our new bathroom decor.
I especially love little details like this pink orchid against the gray wall.
And the gorgeous new pillow covers I found on Etsy (from seller Clee27).
I’m still waiting for my new table runner to arrive in the mail, but once it does, my renovations will be complete.

A little paint will go a long way towards soothing one’s soul.

Nesting Pains Continued

In the unending saga of desire to make a nest and call it home to fill with approximately two munchkins, I’ve decided that if I can’t have a real nest at least maybe I can have a half nest and fill it with pretty things to help me pretend I have a real nest.

I recently visited a friend who lives with her husband in an apartment in San Francisco. It’s a two-bedroom, but they’ve decorated with nice furniture. Furnishing we call adult furniture. Not college furniture. Not the fossilized hand-me-downs from parents. Not the Back-To-School sale items from Linens N’ Things, and definitely not the lumpy old couch filled with beer stains, old farts, and that one sticky spot that nobody can quite identify (‘Cuz really, does anyone even remember what happened that one night?).

I bought a townhouse when the market was good and I had a well-paying job, and I remember being overwhelmed with how much it would cost to furnish the townhouse with nice things. It seemed practically empty. But when I made the decision to go to grad school (what was I thinking?), I had to rent that one out, turn it in for a shoebox room in a (crazy) house, shared with other (crazy) people. Enter boyfriend-now-husband, I’ve upgraded to shoebox apartment. And now I’m stuck in a tiny space, with furniture crammed in without an inch to spare.

But the nesting pains are hitting hard, with no end in sight for the foreseeable future. And when it does come time to buy a house, I don’t want to be quite so overwhelmed with all the stuff we’d have to get to fill it properly.

So I figure, in the meantime, it would be worthwhile to at least UPGRADE the stuff we do have. We can exchange the college things we have just because we have to have something to sit on/eat at/cook with, and turn them in for nice things in an aesthetic we actually enjoy (the wedding went a long way towards helping with this). We have nice dishes, stemware, and bedding we adore. We have a big ass flat screen TV (and pretty much everything Apple has come out with). I can’t control the fact that we live in a shoebox, but I can control what a lot of our stuff looks like. With a few low-cost touches, I think we can make our place much nicer, much more OUR OWN, spread out the financial pain of getting stuff to fill a real home, and also try out different aesthetics to get a feel for what we like and what we’ll tire of before committing whole-hog.

Step 1:
Upgrade the bathroom. Now, some of you might remember the fiasco that was our shower tile remodeling. For those who don’t, you really ought to read this post: Construction Madness.

There’s still not much I can do about the navy blue tile, but at least I can hide it behind a shower curtain. And not this one:

This curtain was a gift from Toby’s stepmom (and I’m pretty sure she purchased it with an inordinate amount of glee from Ikea). The little dancing stick animal figures are not entirely my aesthetic, but it was a gift, kind of cute, and it has served us well for several years now. That rug has definitely served its time, having come from my old college roommate, Katie, back in oh-naught. Somehow, move after move, it has ended up in my possession, and I am very ready to retire it.

I saw a gorgeous satin teal and brown shower curtain (honestly, the picture doesn’t do it justice) and had to snap it up immediately.

I got towels and mat to match, and am very pleased with the results. For a full two days afterward, I kept walking by the bathroom just to bask in the glow of excitement for pretty, new decor. (Yes, I am this domestic. Bite me.) I plan to add a couple more accents, but that is for a later post.

Step 2:
Renovate coffee table. We don’t have a dining room; all we have is this coffee table that serves simultaneously as a work station, TV viewing spot, and dining table. It is a hand-me-down from my parents. I’m pretty sure it’s approximately 20 years old, and given perhaps another 10 years, it might actually come back in style. But it is still a perfectly good table, and I think combined with our current living room furniture, would serve really well in a future office, den or game room. It’s worth holding on to, but after 20 years, it definitely collected some dust, grime, and gunk.

So last night I spent a couple of hours scrubbing and sanding it down. I really wish I had the forethought to take a Before picture. But even just cleaning it was a marked improvement. It looked quite pretty.

But this morning, we hauled it out onto the front lawn and I whipped out my trusty little brushes and stained it.


And now it’s all pretty. And shiny! Who knew it could shine? Not me. It just needs to dry a couple more hours, I’ll slip the glass back on and ba-da-bing! Brand new old table. I’ll cover it with this table runner, and our living room will have a much needed face lift.

Steps 3 & 4 will involve painting our living room walls and kitchen cabinets. True, our landlord would have a hissy fit if he found out, but we plan to paint it back when we move out. And I have officially decided I Say No to swiss coffee. I am so tired of that stupid wall paint. From henceforth, my walls shall have color! We have visitors coming this weekend, so next weekend I will continue the decorating extravaganza. So stay tuned! Same bat time. Same bat channel.

Blankety-Blank-H-S

For my dissertation, I’m trying to come up with easy ways to refer to the high schools I worked with that makes them easily identifiable in the context of the book but still preserves their anonymity. Something short and sweet, so I don’t have to keep saying “the homogeneous, upper-income, predominantly white school” or “the diverse, bi-modal school” every time I want to refer to them.

I have three schools:

1) fairly homogeneous, predominantly white, mid-upper income. (Top test scores of the three schools)

2) bi-modal racially and economically. It is half rich white kids and half poor Hispanic kids. (Second best test scores of the three schools.)

3) predominantly low-income Hispanic, the rest of the students are a mixed bag of white, Asian, black, etc. (Lots of gang activity in the surrounding neighborhood and lowest test scores of the three schools.)

“Alpha”, “Beta”, and “Gamma” have already been used in someone else’s work. The only descriptors I can come up with are colorful enough to get me my a** whooped. So I am in desperate need of help. Any suggestions?

Sorry I’m Lagging

Just wanted to let any readers who’re wondering where I’ve frittered off to, I’ll catch up on posts soon. The parents have been visiting, and would probably find me rude if I hide in my room for an hour to post. They’re in town until tomorrow, so I’ll resume Tasting Grace then. Much love!

What Am I Thinking About Today?

Pretty much nothing. After wracking my brains for oh about 5 minutes over what to write about today, I gave up and decided to go stream-of-consciousness today. I’m on vacation and apparently my brain went on vacay as well, so I hope you’ll bear with me. If not, hopefully you’re on vacation too, or at least thanking the powers that be that today is Friday.

I’m visiting one of my best friends, who lives all the way across the bloomin’ continent in Florida. It’s her little baby boy’s (who, by the way, is pretty much one of the most adorable kids I’ve ever seen) very first birthday and I’m here for the fiesta. I took the red-eye from L.A., after playing translator in the airport for a lovely old French woman, and arrived in Ft. Lauderdale at 5:30 am. Since then I’ve been running on coffee and the fumes of excitement.

We ran some errands this morning and I was summarily reminded of how hot and humid Florida gets, even at 8 in the A-M. And I am giggling with glee because I love it. It reminds me of summer in Thailand. Not that hot, but remniscent of that hot. I’m also rediscovering air-conditioning. What a nifty little invention that is. We in Santa Barbara of course do not have air-conditioning because in theory it never gets above 75 degrees there. On the rare days it does, we all decamp to either the mountains or the beach and bask lovingly in the heat. The flip side of that idyllic weather is in the rickety, uninsulated, ramshackle apartments we fork over our life savings to have, we bake in the summer and freeze in the winter, regardless of what the weather outside the apartment is doing.

So what are my plans? Nothing other than digging out my bikini, making some Thai curry, eating a Columbian fruit salad and then hightailing it for the park and pool. I think I was born to live in tropical weather.

Hello world!

This website is currently under construction. However, if you happened to just stumble upon it and would like to see more, please visit http://jadecelene.blogspot.com in the meantime.

The Art of Flattery

Confessions of a Socially Awkward Grad Student

If there is anything I fail miserably at doing, it is receiving compliments gracefully. Compliments make me nervous. Effuse praise makes me positively wish to flee. I feel as if I am thrust up on stage and I don’t know my lines. The audience is waiting and all I can do is draw a blank.

I used to try the whole deflection routine. You know, the one where you tell the flatterer that they’re totally wrong.
FRIEND: Your hair is lovely today!
ME: Ugh, no. I had to scream at it for hours this morning to make it stay.
FRIEND: Well…it looks very nice.
ME: No it doesn’t. I hate my hair.
And therefore, Friend has poor taste. Way to reward a compliment with an insult.

So I discover that tactic is not modesty so much as rudeness. Advice columns suggest instead just saying “Thank you” warmly. I try that, but the “Thank you” inevitably precedes a big, empty space in the conversation. A pregnant pause where it feels like the other person is always waiting for something and I always struggle to close the gap.
FRIEND: You did an awesome job on that article!
ME: [smile warmly] Thank you!
…pause
ME: [grinning wider to stave off nerves] So…how about this crazy weather we’re having?
Ugh. Awkwardness galore. Plus I just feel immodest. I try to send a grateful smile, and feel I just come off looking smug.

Then I get to thinking: what if I follow up the compliment with another compliment?
FRIEND: Hey, cute dress!
ME: Aww, thank you! That’s very kind of you to say (Bing! Compliment 1!). I really like your shoes (Bing! Compliment 2!)
FRIEND: Oh really? Thank you, I… (And SCORE! Attention effectively diverted and friend feels good.)
Fantastic plan, right? Except sometimes I am caught off guard and don’t have a genuine compliment handy. Not because I don’t like the person, but just because all I can think to offer as a compliment would be something stupid to say in that moment. Like when they’ve complimented your new coat and you look at them to compliment an article of their clothing and they’re wearing the same outfit they’ve worn once a week for the past year. So what do you say? “I like your…eyes”? “Oh that sweater always looks good on you”? If you’re lucky they take the compliment, but to my ears it sounds trite and disingenuous. Even if I genuinely mean it, it comes off sounding like I only said it because they complimented me.

Thus my only option left is to compliment first. So what is it now? A war of the compliments, where you hope to pre-emptively compliment and hope your companion doesn’t have second-strike capabilities? First one to strike wins?

I have only met a couple of people in my life who roll off geniune compliments so easily, I feel completely comfortable in their presence. There is no pregnant pause, no awkward silences because they’re not waiting for a response. They’re not waiting to be complimented in return, or congratulated for their own kind words. And I find it so easy to compliment them because there are no expectations. They say thank you warmly and the conversation moves on effortlessly. And I can give a sigh of blessed relief. All relationships should be so easy.

A Letter to my Loved Ones

I am returning to my blog in an attempt to turn blogging into a daily (or at least 5-day-a-week) habit. The hope is develop a readership who will then be interested in picking up my novel(s) if I should ever be so lucky as to get published.
The trouble is, blogging 5 times a week is a lot of work–and words! And what could I possibly have to say that’s of any interest, that I could discuss that much? There’s only one thing: love. Family, love, relationships. That’s what I do best. That’s what makes me get up in the mornings. That’s what I think about the most. And that is what I feel most qualified to talk about. And while my novels will primarily focus on issues of identity, themes of family, love and relationships will all be prominent as well. So if people enjoy my observations here, they’ll have a good sense of what they’re going to find in my novels as well.
However, I also realize that all my observations and ruminations written here are going to be based on my own personal experiences and my family and friends may not totally appreciate having their own stories pasted on the world wide web for all to see. The only thing I can say in my defense is I will never use names and will endeavor to keep things theoretical to avoid pointing fingers. Hopefully no one will be too bothered by this, and please know it was always well-intentioned. The things I say here, the things I think about…it is because I love you all.
A note on the title: This blog was formally titled “The Chinaman Is Not the Issue”. It was a reference to The Big Lebowski, and it served my purposes as being both humorous (to me) and (in my mind) an oblique reference to my biracial identity. But it does not seem to fit a blog on family, love and relationships, so I’ve decided to change it. My working title now is “Tasting Grace”. It has a dual meaning. One, I love and adore food, especially really divine food and so when I have a really superb bite of chocolate or sip of cappuccino in my mouth, I believe it is like tasting grace. Two, I am moved by and inspired by transendance, and the strength to move beyond pain to grace. The efforts we make as human beings to be more–our epiphanies, our triumphs–that, to me, is tasting grace. So we’ll see how well that goes.

New Year’s Resolutions

I’m generally pretty good at forgetting what my New Year’s Resolutions were by, say, February. So maybe by putting them down someplace I check every so often, I might actually be reminded enough to keep them. :)

This year, I resolve to:
1. Maintain my current weight. In other words, stay healthy and exercise, which–ahem–the Christmas holidays have cruelly and evilly put me off of. I blame the holidays entirely. But as soon as I get over this friggin’ cold and replace the shoes the dog ate, I’m back to the yoga studio and my daily walks.

2. Finish my dissertation. Or get very close to finishing. I want to have an end in sight by this time next year.

3. Get published. Something, anything. An article…or even a novel! Just gotta get my name out there.

4. Be more frugal. I must confess, I am a clothes whore. I have apparently no self-control when I find something I like, that fits, and I could theoretically have the money for. Which basically means, I’m not in any kind of debt, but I’m not so good at saving either. Thus I vow to avoid the shops as much as possible.

5. Wear underwear every day. Not that I don’t already (tho Toby might complain about this one if presented with the option that I might not wear underwear every day). I was just looking back at the previous resolutions and they all seemed like a lot of work. So I thought I’d include one that was easy so come December 2009 I can look back and say “Hey, well at least I kept 1 resolution!”

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