There's no sugar coating this fact: my friends are assholes.
Don't get me wrong, though, they're my friends and I love them BECAUSE they're assholes. So when my birthday crept around at the end of May and I complained that I didn't want to celebrate because there was too much going on already it's not quite that big of a surprise that I received the below as a gift.
At first glance it's all "How cute! Someone made you a pillow for your bed!" But then you have to factor in who made it (Nicole) and look a little closer because it's not JUST a pillow. That's a pillow of Pete. Riding his motorcycle. In his underwear.
How did Pete respond when he saw this gift? Well he thinks this is the best little pillow that he's ever seen. Why is there a picture of my boyfriend in his underwear riding a motorcycle? Because that's what dudes do when they "work on bikes" in the garage together (so I'm told).
And, for your viewing pleasure, I've included a close-up of the pillow below.
(Editor's Note: I pretend to be a curmudgeon, but I actually really love this gift. Nicole would just be disappointed in her handy work if I didn't act slightly miffed. Although hearing Pete say "Damn, girl. You are LUCKY! Your boyfriend is so sexy!" every time he touches the pillow is a bit much.)
I've been holding my breath.
Well ... let me start over. This isn't about me. Okay, this blog is kinda about me. But please accept my apologies for my absence.
It's not that things have not been getting done. They have. It's that, frankly, too much has been getting done.
Every morning I get into work a few minutes earlier than the previous day hoping to write but something, someone, a phone call, an email, the buzzing of a text message tears me from the blog.
You see, the blog is pleasure and sometimes when I'm so busy it feels like an indulgence. So days pass. And I scribble notes on slivers of paper late at night. And I tuck those papers in my pocket hoping to transcribe them the next morning. Today, though, I locked the front door at work and ignored the phone and just focused. So, what have we been up to at the row house? Let's start out of order with the story of how we became the owners of a lime green porter's chair.
(All images via Pinterest)
It was a Sunday and we'd just finished working on the downstairs living room. We were going to wait to start painting until the kitchen got re-installed but Pete surprised me by getting a jump on the project.
So we were sitting on the couch in the peacock-colored room discussing the layout for downstairs and "dream pieces" came up in conversation. He loves Stickley furniture and I said that I'd never met a porter's chair that I didn't get a girl-boner over.
Now, for a little history, a porter's chair was traditionally used during the medieval times by a servant to screen guests near the front door. The hooded design of the chair was implemented more out of function than style to keep the servant warm near the drafty front door where he would often have to be stationed for long periods of time.
I had previously looked around for a porter's chair in the past but the median price usually hovered around $1,000 (out of my league, especially with all the renovations that still needed to happen). But I clicked around and clicked around ... and found something on Craigslist that looked promising. However the price seemed a little too good. I knew I was going to be swamped with work the next few days so I asked Pete to reach out and inquire about the chair. After that I kind of forgot about it.
Until the next day when I got a message from Pete that the seller had responded and the chair was available for pick-up in Connecticut, BUT they would meet us halfway to Jersey City AND, because Pete had charmed them somehow, they would even lower the price to $375. The seller's relative had purchased the chair more than 50 years ago in Massachusetts for an interior design client who had never used the piece. It was now just sitting in their garage and they wanted to sell it before it got damaged beyond repair. Pete wanted to know if I wanted him to meet them to pick it up.
And from the above photos you can kind-of guess what my answer was about picking up the chair. Pete met the sellers in a random grocery store parking lot, made the trade, and now we are the owners of a vintage lime green velvet porter's chair.
We placed the chair in the downstairs living room even though we're still finalizing the painting. We only have a shop light in that room so it's still quite dark, The next night I came home from work and found Pete at the threshold staring into the room. "Whatcha looking at?" I asked, glancing into the dark room. The silhouettes of tarp-covered furniture created a curious undulating landscape.
"That chair," Pete said, pointing into the corner at the only unwrapped upholstered item. "The porter's chair. It's terrifying."
I was silent for a beat. "I'm sorry. Do you want me to sell it?"
"No!" he said quickly. "It's terrifying in a good way. I love it ... I just don't know if I want to be the first person to sit in it."
I gave him a kiss and walked away, leaving him to stare into the dark at the porter's chair in the far corner of the room.
Let's have some real talk here for a second, okay? There's been a void in my life recently. I've been feeling a little empty. Would you like to know why? Because I am a hoarder of oddities and all of my knick-knacks (as my friend Alula likes to call them) have been packed in boring brown boxes since February.
Well that's an easy fix, you might be thinking, just unpack the damn boxes. If only it was that easy, my fine friends. If only. You see, until recently I have had no shelves, or decorative ledges, or shadow boxes to store my wares. The only room that is semi-finished is the peacock-colored living room and we don't have anything hung on the walls. Until this past weekend!
*Cue horse racing music just before the gates fly open*
So, using the newly uncovered mantle as an excuse to buy more stuff, I went and found four cast iron brackets to support the stone mantle top. Then I dug around in the back of the shop for a bit and located a mirror that I was holding onto for just this situation. I'd found the mirror more than a year ago in the basement of a Jersey City home that was being cleaned out. It had originally been a part of a larger dresser but the previous owner had stored the mirror in a damp basement so the wood border was moldy and falling apart. After stripping off the rotten wood I was left with a uniquely-shaped vintage mirror so I tucked it away for a rainy day. Little did I know at the time that it would find a home in my future living room.
That sat like that for a week. I stared at the blank space. I mulled over what item -- what item from the boxes of many items -- to arrange on this fresh slab of decorative real estate. And then this morning I woke up extra early, dumped out a bunch of boxes, and unceremoniously arranged a few items. Here's a sneak peek:
Next up at the row house: this week we are working on finishing the window sill in the kitchen, skimming the walls in the kitchen and laundry room, and hanging up a few more decorative accessories.
The other night I came home from work and Pete was stirring dinner on the stove. I came up behind him, gave him a kiss between his shoulder blades, and wrapped my arms around his waist.
Resting my head where I had just given him a peck, I said softly, "Hey, you know what tonight is?"
He was silent for a beat. Then, very sweetly, he turned around in my arms and said, "The fifteenth. It's our anniversary." And then he kissed my forehead and smiled. My eyes must have widened because he cocked his head and scrunched his brow. "What? Am I forgetting something else? What's tonight?"
"Shit," I owned up. "I was just really excited because it was recycling night. I totally forgot it was our anniversary!"
To be fair, it wasn't like it was a yearly anniversary or anything so I'm not a complete monster. But this is the person I've turned into since we moved into the row house: I get PSYCHED for garbage and recycling night. I don't know what it is, but I love getting rid of things. And we had a LOT of recycling this week.
That said, Pete just shook his head at me and went back to stirring the pot on the stove. I went and took the recycling out. The dogs followed me like little shadows from the back of the house to the front to the back again several times, their little toe nails clicking behind me on the hardwood floors.
This story wasn't meant to demonstrate that I am heartless beast who abuses her incredibly sweet boyfriend (although that sometimes feels true), but to show that the little things really get us excited about home-ownership. For me, it's taking out the garbage and organizing the recycling. For Pete, it's mowing the lawns. I told a friend this the other day and he said, "I'm so happy you weirdos found each other. You know most people hate that stuff, right?"
Last week I sent Pete a text along the lines of the following:
ME: No more procrastination! Let's try to tackle completing at least one room in its entirety this week!
PETE: Yes! I love this idea!
So what did we do? We decided to foster a dog.
And what didn't we do? Complete a room.
But, come on, look at this face and tell me you wouldn't be a just a little bit distracted too.
So the only thing we did in its entirety is become completely smitten with Tater aka Tater Tot (or, as Pete likes to call her, the Mashed Potato Princess). We've been fostering with See Spot Rescued, a local dog rescue, for more than a year now however this is our first foster in the row house.
Tater, like many of the dogs rescued from kill shelters, has was found as a stray. Tater started as Natasha when she was picked up in Jersey City by the Liberty Humane Society. See Spot Rescued came in and pulled her and renamed her Agatha Wagatha, but this little dumpling quickly became Tater in our home. Calm, loving, and dog/people friendly it's always a curious matter when these pups are dumped or abandoned.
Last Friday Tater had to be rushed into emergency surgery after we realized she had a complication from not being spayed. Underweight and weak when we first met her, thankfully she is recovering just fine and every day her personality shines through a little stronger.
I have to admit that I was more wary than excited when Pete told me we finally had running water in the kitchen. What do you mean I don't have to run up three flights of stairs to fill a pot in the bathroom sink? I turned on the nozzle. Water squirted everywhere. Hmm. I was suspicious of this magic that happened while I was at work.
Like everything else in this home renovation, we had proceeded with the kitchen project completely out of order. We had the sink and all its accouterments before we even started demo work. Why? Because I'm insane and felt the need to order all the supplies, that's why. Don't judge. I was excited to have a new house and I was going to get us a big, deep sink to wash pots and a fancy water faucet.
When it came to picking the exact sink and faucet combination we were almost OCD selective. We went with an undermount sink because I'm a brat and wanted one. Pete picked the size, which is a super spacious 32". So we compromised in that way. We went back and forth whether to get an all-in-one or purchase components separate, but in the end I'm pleased with the Vigo option we selected.
Now that was the good news. The bad news is that as soon as we celebrated the novelty of running water we got a call from the cabinet manufacturer. We were still waiting on a few backordered items and, well, they hate to tell us but the version of the cabinets we already purchased, assembled, and installed is defective, So they aren't making it any more. And that means we aren't getting any of the pieces they promised to send. Remember, we placed an initial order for cabinets in January. It's now May and we still don't have a complete kitchen.
I broke the news to Pete over the phone. He was silent. In my head I thought about all the time we already spent assembling and installing the cabinets in our kitchen. Then the money we spent on having the electrician install under-cabinet lighting. And the plumbing Pete did to install the kitchen sink. I knew his mind was ticking through the same scenarios.
"Is there anything you can do to help us with the installation of the new cabinets?" I asked our cabinet rep, who might be bi-polar. When you agree with what she's saying she is the nicest person. If you disagree, then she melts down quicker than a toddler on the boardwalk who didn't win a stuffed animal. She assures me that there is nothing they can do to help us. It's our fault for installing the kitchen without all the remaining parts. Huh? Pete and I got on a conference call with the rep. She told us we could keep the cabinets we already had. When we tried to explain that that's not really a bonus since we then have to take them down and dispose of them somehow the rep started to act like we were trying to blackmail them into providing a service they didn't offer. It ended with some strong words and the rep hanging up on us. Which, sadly, was not the first time a conversation ended in this manner with this cabinet rep.
So where are we now with the kitchen? We're waiting for the NEW cabinets to come in. Which isn't the same shade that we have, but no one knows what it exactly looks like so we will see it when it arrives. Which brings us to the delivery date. We have to wait until early June for PART of the kitchen to arrive. The rep did throw in free assembly and delivery, because they understand our frustration, guys. This is really tough on them too. Lots of customers are pissed, you know?
Yes, we know. We know all about being pissed.
This post was supposed to be titled "Help, the wild cats are eating my newly planted garden like little night ninjas" but I decided to go with something shorter. And a bit more pervy.
That said, our backyard has come a long way from looking like a scene from Grey Gardens, but with the nice weather popping up like an old arcade Bop-A-Mole game it's been tempting to shift focus from all the work that needs to be done inside the house to play in the yard a bit.
The last few joint trips to the hardware store Pete has kindly refocused me when I'd drift off into the gardening section, but this past weekend he was all "Let's get plants!" And, even though I was suspicious, I wasn't dumb enough to pipe up with questions. So I ran around buying bags of dirt and plants and all kinds of things I thought I needed until Pete's eyes started to glaze over. After a full day of working on our postage sized yard I'm not sure if we did more harm them good, but we had a good time doing whatever it was we did.
The next morning I called my mother all proud, like "What, what ... guess who has a garden?!" She was silent. I took it as awe-struck. But after a moment I was like, "Hello? Mom? Did you hear me? I planted a garden!" And she just replied, "I know I heard you. I was just trying to decided whether I should congratulate you or break your heart by telling you your garden is going to die. You plant vegetables the second week of May and not in April where there's still a chance of frost." Womp. I knew that actually. However in my excitement to be a weekend warrior and till my fertile land I forgot how early in the season we still were.
ANYWAY. After finishing up the premature garden I decided we needed to do some prison work and break stones to make a more dainty garden path then what was currently in place.
With that completed, we decided to till and plant grass seed. We don't have a tiller nor a real reason for a tiller so we just stabbed the lawn with a pointy shovel over and over and over again.
Despite the two prior days of almost non-stop work preparing for -- and then operating -- Project: EARTH with The Jersey City Project, Pete and I woke up on Sunday morning ready to get busy with renovation projects.
The house has been neglected in the last week as we both hustled to get everything in place for the event on Saturday. But with the festivities behind us it was time to refocus on more immediate tasks.
We woke up at 6:00AM (even though for the first two hours awake I thought it was 10:30) and got started.
Earlier in the week Pete had tackled the roof repair after we had an unexpected leak in the guest bedroom.
With the threat of a ceiling collapse averted, we moved on to a few more fun tasks. I'd purchased a vintage basket chandelier for a steal (under $150) and it had been sitting in the living room on the dog's bed for several weeks. After rewiring a few of the crystals, Pete rigged up an incredibly unsafe ladder system and we got to work hanging the chandelier in the peacock-colored living room.
Next up on Row House Renovation: we bring the party outside to till the back yard. Except we don't have a tiller, so we just stab the lawn with a pointy shovel over and over again.
In addition, you can also look forward to reading the following posts this week: "Help, the wild cats are eating my newly planted garden like little night ninjas" AND "Holy shit, we got a kitchen sink."
Guys, don't get all mad if I'm a little MIA on the blog this week. I'll be posting some updates from this past weekend and tonight or tomorrow we will be installing the kitchen sink (fingers crossed!), but mostly I will be hauling ass to make sure this Saturday's Project: EARTH event in front of City Hall is the best street festival this little/big city has ever seen. I'll still be building stuff. I'll still be hauling stuff. I'll even still be screaming Pete's name across great lengths of lawn. However instead of the privacy of our own home this will be in front of 3500+ attendees.
So do you enjoy street festivals? How about free stuff? Do you think the Earth is kinda cool? What about drinking beer outside and eating food off a truck? If you thought, "Hey, that does sound like something I'd like to do!" then come on down to City Hall Plaza between 11am and 6pm on Saturday! (Did that sound old-timey-soap-box-like?)
And make sure to flag me down as I sprint by yelling at Pete through a headset! (Unfortunately Ernie will not be present. He'll be at the row house not helping.)