Home Office Ideas

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Photo of me by my lovely friend Amanda 

I have a ton of books.  Like, a TON.  In the photo above, what you don’t see is the top row of books on the super tall book shelf, another overflowing book shelf next to it, or the other two book exploding shelves across (you can see the side of one on the left of the picture).  Add to that a growing sample library, project files, and notebook collection.  My office, which is half library, half museum, is becoming just a tiny bit out of control.    Continue reading “Home Office Ideas”

Dining Room Rug

The other day, we made a quick jaunt out to Ikea (our favorite spontaneous weekend activity), and came back with more than we needed – as usual! Ikea is like Target for me – it doesn’t matter if I only need one thing, somehow I always end up in the check out line with a full cart!  (As AirBNB hosts we always have a need for something, plus MJ loves Swedish Fish..)

My absolute favorite section is the As-Is, where they put discounted merchandise that’s often perfectly good.  I’ve gotten lucky so many times, with so many different kinds of products.  We’ve found complete duvet sets that were previously on display, large picture frames for $4 because they changed the packaging and wanted to get rid of the old ones…. you get the picture.  This time, we came away with a sisal rug that I’d been eyeing!  I wanted to buy it anyway, but at 40% off how could I say no?

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Continue reading “Dining Room Rug”

Home Maker

These last few weeks have been a strange mix of emotions.  I yo-yo back and forth between terror, acceptance, denial, anger, disbelief, and so on.  It has been so difficult for me to return to normal after the election and pick back up with a chippy attitude on social media and here on this blog.  It’s almost as if I suddenly feel that the things that used to interest me have lost a bit of value in recent weeks.  What difference am I making in the world by choosing someone else’s furniture for them on Pinterest?  What does my future as a luxury service provider look like if the economy tanks?

I know that is not the way to look at things.  I know that what I do matters – if not to everyone, it matters to the people who I do my work for.  Now more than ever, I think the idea of staying home is appealing to me – and it’s not just the colder temperatures.   And making this home of mine one that I am happy and comfortable in is increasingly important.  I can’t imagine I’m the only one.

For now, I will keep working, and do what I do as best as I am able.  I make my home the one I want to be in.  I help others create the backdrop to the stories of the lives they want to lead.  Whether it’s their first home, a second home, or an update, this is something that will always be important, no matter the state of the world outside.  To be at ease in a safe and comfortable space is a feeling that is sought after again and again.   I have been living in the same apartment for 4 years and constantly rearrange the items on my shelves, moving plants from one room to the next.  Every now and then something crashes to the ground and I start all over again.   My home is more than the rooms I inhabit.  It is a state of being, a reflection of both who I am and who I hope to become.

 

Writer’s Theater in Glencoe, IL

The other day while I was out doing some site visits in the suburbs, I stumbled across the brand new Writer’s Theater in Glencoe.  When I say it’s brand new, I mean it’s not even done yet, but that didn’t stop me from rushing in and taking photos.  The gallery catwalk is protected by the wooden slats to prevent birds from crashing into the windows. The firm even labels the project as bird safe on their website.

As someone who just recently had to rescue a frightened bird from the jaws of my cat, I can definitely get behind some bird-safe windows – especially if they look like this!  (Side note: the bird was fine, but it will likely never come near our windows again.)

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The catwalk was closed, since it is still under construction, but I tried to press as close to the glass as humanly possible without getting it dirty.
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Even the ceiling is a work of art.

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Sadly  I did not get to tour the inside of the actual auditoriums, but I guess that just means I’ll have to come back for a play!

If you are not familiar with Studio Gang’s work, please take a moment to peruse their portfolio, and then book the next flight out to Chicago.  Jeanne Gang is a certifiable genius, and her work was a constant source of inspiration for me while in design school.   Everything she touches becomes beautiful.

At Home: Kitchen Update

When MJ and I first moved into our apartment over 3 years ago, we saw it as a HUGE fixer upper.  We even started a blog to document our updates, and proudly shared the little things we did to make the place our home.  At that time, I was working full-time and going to school at night.  All of the juicy bits of progress happened while I was out of the apartment, making it difficult to document and blog about our experience.  The same thing happened when we got a puppy, and now I suddenly have a dog.

So when we moved in, we had a list of improvements we wanted to make, and first on my list was figuring out the kitchen.  From the very first post on our defunct blog:

The kitchen is huge, but has about 12 inches of usable counter space, 50% of which is being taken up by the coffee machine, and the cabinet placement makes using the sink nearly impossible.

Kitchen Counter

Yeah, WOAH.  It’s crazy to me to think that I saw this photo on craigslist and thought “I want to live there!”.  We didn’t have a plan for how we would address the kitchen but we just knew we had to.  That summer, we started hosting on AirBNB for extra income, and by the fall we had enough money to do a big overhaul.  We turned the kitchen into this:

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We tore all the old stuff out and replaced it wth Ikea cabinets and added a backsplash of 2×4 subway tiles behind the sink.  We added infinitely more storage and increased the quality of our lives in the kitchen by 10,000%.  The old sink cabinet literally disintegrated and fell to pieces as we carried it down the back stairs. So gross.

What’s also gross is that for the last 3 years, we have been cooking in a kitchen without a hood fan.  At a recent lunch presentation at SubZero, I learned that every month, you create 1 pound of airborne lard from cooking, and when you don’t have a fan to filter it out, it lands on all of your cabinets, pots, pans, the top of your refrigerator… the list goes on.

ONE POUND OF AIRBORNE LARD.

Combine that with floating pet hair from 2 cats and a dog and you can now imagine what we’ve been dealing with.  (Read: My life is a nightmare and I’m being only a little bit dramatic.)

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The wall that the stove was on held all of our spices, pots, and pans, and was positioned directly above the lard factory.  Every time we wanted to use a pot that wasn’t in regular rotation it had to be scrubbed first.   I have to say I honestly never really looked at this wall before, but holy cow, it is full of visual clutter!  We also had very poor lighting above the cooking area, so we snaked a plug-in pendant through all of that and hung it above the stove.

After making the decision to stay in our apartment for another 2 years, we decided that enough is enough and a fan needed to come into our lives.  We picked up a chimney style range hood (on sale at Ikea for $199!), and immediately set to tearing everything down.

Then we opened the wall, ran the electric, patched, painted, and installed the fan.  (Yes, we rent.  No, we aren’t worried about getting in trouble.) Since we weren’t going to deal with ductwork, we have the fan set to recirculating through a filter.  It’s less than ideal, but since what we had before was worse, the decision sort of made itself.

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And voila!  Pots and pans live elsewhere, making the whole space a lot cleaner and less terrifying.  We still have to figure out what to do with the other spice rack we took down but for now, we can deal knowing that we are no longer spewing grease all over our kitchen.   Hooray!


Note:  I sometimes get shy about sharing bits and pieces around my home because it isn’t magazine beautiful.  It’s my home.  The place where I live.  I take not so great photos of it with my iPhone.  In a way that seems more personal than if I were to post photos of myself because of how imperfect it all is.   But anyhow, I’m trying to get over that, and I hope you can, too.  

Pleasant House Pub

When I first moved to Bridgeport from the north side of Chicago (most recently, 3 years in the ultra-cool Logan Square), a major selling point was that I would be living less than a block away from a cool coffee shop, a really cool bar, and an awesome restaurant, all at the same intersection.

MJ and I would go on “Bridgeport Date Nights” where we’d walk into Pleasant House, place an order, and then walk next door to Maria’s to get drinks. Pleasant House would then deliver our food to us at the bar. The people who worked at Pleasant House were neighborhood people, and recognized us despite little personal conversation.  When the girl behind the counter saw I was engaged, she was excited and approached MJ to congratulate him when they happened to both be in the coffee shop a few days later.  It was that kind of amazing customer service and friendly neighbor experience that made me love Pleasant House with all my heart. Oh yeah, and their food is delicious.

So imagine my dismay when they announced they were leaving the neighborhood.  Yes, their old location had a gross looking exterior and tiny interior space, but it was charming!  And so close to my house!

They ended up moving to Pilsen on Halsted Street, taking over the mysteriously vacated Nightwood restaurant space.  The menu is essentially the same, and now they offer an assortment of beers and wines as well.   Their interior is like an expanded version of their old location, featuring dark wood paneling in contrast with marble table tops and crisp white paint.  Throw in some taxidermy and dangly plants, and it has a cozy, hip vibe without feeling too trendy.  Oh and their outdoor space is going to be open year-round!

Even though I can no longer walk here, I definitely approve of the upgrade.   Now, if we can only find a way to get cool businesses like these to stay in Bridgeport instead of fleeing to the more hipster neighborhoods…


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Obligatory food pic!

Work Exchange: Bottom Line Yoga

As you may know, recently I wrote a ranty post about working for free (don’t do it if you can avoid it).  I am a firm believer in not giving your talents away unless you get something back.   That’s the key concept behind a lot of work exchange programs at fitness studios, and what lured me in to participate in Bottom Line Yoga‘s work exchange.   Sit at the desk for a few hours a week, and in return, receive an unlimited membership that would otherwise cost you hundreds of dollars.  If you can afford the time, you’ll end up doing something good for your body and your wallet.

One of the greatest things about a freelancer’s life is having the ability to determine my own schedule.   If I want to sign up to do a yoga work trade, I can go right ahead and do that, and fit my freelance work in around that.  Living in Bridgeport, there are ZERO yoga studios in my neighborhood.  The gyms that offer yoga are dance studios, boxing clubs, or some other non-yoga focused fitness clubs that offer yoga almost as an afterthought.  The classes show up on the schedule once a week at a really inconvenient time.  The yoga class at my gym is a total joke, and it’s hard to get into the right mindset when you can hear weights dropping outside the door, or when guys with no respect for the group fitness class come in to use the punching bags.  So you know, it’s obviously less than ideal.

The cost of a yoga membership in Chicago is just a little bit out of reach for me.   On top of my regular gym membership, to pay $125+ for yoga just does not make sense for me right now.   Inspired by some advice from Scrappy Yogi, I decided to look for a work trade program that would allow me the benefit of membership in exchange for a few hours of my life each week.  Bottom Line Yoga has two locations in the loop, just steps away from the train – so not too bad of a commute for me.  On Mondays, I man the desk for  few hours, checking members in to the open studio nap and meditation time, and bring my laptop so I can get whatever work I need to done.   It’s a double duty situation for me, and it’s so far been working out great!

The classes I’ve attended have been amazing.  Since it’s a loop worker focused studio, many of the classes are during lunch hour, and the studio does not get super crowded. The increased personal attention has allowed me to get into some poses that I had always thought were too advanced for me.  Never again do I want to cram myself into the back of a 6 pm Core Power Fusion class!

On top of everything else, the studio is such a relaxing, well curated space that is a pleasure to spend time in.  The mix of mid century modern furniture with vintage found elements creates an inviting environment with a casual style.  Mondays have become a day to look forward to, instead of filling me with dread and destroying my Sundays with anxiety.

I’ve always wanted to design a yoga studio…


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The New York Feeling: Part 2

Whoops, that last post got a little bit away from me.  But I think it sets the scene on why my trip to New York this time was so important to me, when other times I leave feeling nothing was accomplished and a little bit depressed.

My visit was a much needed break from my recent quest to be Super Serious.  I have been trying so hard lately to Figure It Out that life sometimes feels like a chore instead of an adventure.   The two of us stayed up late talking about art for the sake of art.  Expression with no expectation of meaning or gain.

Shannon and I graduated from the same creative writing program, and for various reasons, we each let life lead us down a different path.  I got a Super Serious job at a law firm and she moved to Florida and started a family.  During the few years after college, we both dabbled with writing blogs and trying to still be creative while leading lives filled with other obligations.  Mine didn’t amount to much, but she gained some success, and had built a following of other like-minded creative moms.  While she no longer continues that blog, she is now an ambitious student at SVA’s graduate program in Visual Narrative.  She showed me her works in progress, and I read her stories while we lounged in her adorable AirBNB apartment.  I would be lying if I said I wasn’t slightly jealous of the life she was living – however temporary it may be.

I am the type of person who loses interest in something if I discover I am no good at  it.  It is what separates a hobbyist from an artist – I hate to practice.  I like to pick something up, be brilliant, and wow the crowd.  (It does not happen often, if you are wondering.)  False starts on short stories, novels, art projects, sewing projects, …. you name it, I’ve tried it, and given up.   If I can’t be absolutely EXECLLENT, I don’t want to waste my time.   It makes me sad to think of all the projects I’ve started that had potential, if only I’d put in the work.  I am incapable of being proud of something that isn’t perfect.

Anyway, that Saturday we visited the Met Bruer to see the Diane Arbus exhibit, and as we wove through the columns of photos, Shannon geeked out over one of her favorite artists.  Later, we stopped into an independent book store in Fort Greene, and she picked up books left and right to tell me why it was an amazing, influential work.  She commented, when I had little to offer, “You don’t read much anymore, do you?”.  It struck me that the voracious appetite I once had was still there lingering within me, but somehow something I had learned to justify ignoring.  I have a habit of buying books in a moment of pure excitement and inspiration and then putting them on the shelf to continue on my daily life.  It is not how I used to be, but without anyone around who knew the old me and call me back to it, I let it slide.

Sometimes it takes visiting an old friend to make you realize that you’re still the same person you thought you were, and that the things that used to be important still very much matter.  That part of me was lying dormant, or maybe just needed coaxing to come alive again.  I think that’s ok.  I’m not that old, but I’ve lived many different lives that all seem so disjointed at times.  Like a series of disconnected phases – states of being that come with their own cast of characters.   That weekend I got to reconnect with the Art-School-Writer version of myself and it was wonderful to see her again.  I often recall Super-Stressed-Paralegal me, as well as Super-Stressed-Grad-School me, because the people from those phases in my life are still around.  It was a treat to visit Shannon in New York, and see the art she is making, and be reminded that I used to (and maybe still do, to a certain degree) have a certain number of undefined creative aspirations.

I don’t hold on to many people, but the ones I do are the ones who matter to me.  I’m holding on to them, and also to the person they bring out in me.  Maybe it’s selfish, but it takes two to make a friendship, and so who I am when I’m with a person determines if I want to remain in the relationship.  It’s been hard as I get older, making conscious decisions to walk away from friends if I don’t feel good about my role when I’m with them.  But I don’t intend it to hurt.  It’s more like shedding a skin so that I can keep growing.

New York is like that, too.  Every time I visit, I’m filled with emotions that confuse me and make me feel bad.  But whether I like it or not, my past lives there, and so I will continue to return.  I will need to learn to remember the things I used to do and the dreams I used to have without feeling sad.


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