Fashion fades, friendship is eternal.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

A Random Compliment

I am not wearing anything special today: a grey cable knit sweater (Macy's, on clearance), a purple twill skirt (Costco), marled tights (Missoni for Target), and brown Bandolino boots, topped off with my fabulous four-Euro Florentine "pashmina". But I sure felt special this afternoon when the woman at the cash register said, "I like your outfit" as I approached the counter.

A similar thing happened a few weeks ago in Seattle. We were ordering another fast food lunch and the teenager at the counter said, "Welcome-to-Chipotle's-you-have-beautiful-eyes-what-can-I-get-you?" as J. stepped forward. It all went by so quickly that I had to ask him later, after we had sat down with our food, whether I had heard her correctly. "I think so," he said. This happens to him more often than you might expect. It embarrasses him, but in a good way.

Historically speaking, I haven't paid that much attention to what I wear. It has only been in the past few years that I have made any effort to develop a sense of style, to wear clothes that are flattering and fit me well, and to keep an eye on fashion trends. It shouldn't surprise me that paying more attention to my own wardrobe makes more more aware of what other people are wearing -- and this awareness makes me more inclined to compliment strangers on their clothing. Is that weird? I hope not. I hope it gives them a little lift, like the one I got today from a random compliment.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

The Seasonal Swap

We had a late summer here in the Pacific Northwest, with sunny skies and warm dry days well into the month of October. That all ended last Friday with a record rainfall. Now it's time to pull out the boots and gloves and warm coats, and it's time for the seasonal swap -- moving summer clothes out of the dresser and closet to make room for the winter wardrobe.

The seasonal swap isn't about homekeeping as much as it is about having easy access to the clothing I'm wearing right now. I don't have a ton of clothing; I keep most of what I wear in one dresser and half of a 1950s bedroom closet. When my sweaters are on the closet shelf and my jeans are in the drawer, there isn't much room for sleeveless tops or shorts to share the space. If I'm not wearing open-toe shoes in the winter, why not put them away where they won't get dusty, and have more room for boots and sneakers?

I have a couple of under-the-bed storage containers that are essential for this process. I purchased both of them at Ikea: the Dilling under-bed storage box, and the Skubb (item #101.933.76) storage case. Of these two, I much prefer the Skubb. While the Dilling is larger, the lid doesn't fasten tightly -- so if the contents rise above the sides of the box the lid rests loosely on top and doesn't keep out the dust. The Skubb is smaller but it zips closed, so you can really pack it full. It also has a handle so it's easy to haul out from under the bed. If I were really organized I would buy more Skubb cases and store my off-season clothes by type: shirts, shorts, etc. Maybe next year.

The seasonal swap is the perfect time to weed out the clothing that needs to go, via the "one-in, one-out" rule. I have already picked up a new purple fleece jacket (I'm trying to convince myself that it's the work-from-home equivalent of a cashmere cardigan) so my old blue fleece is on its way out, along with a couple of summer items that have seen their last season.

In the interest of full disclosure, I must confess that I have one additional Skubb case where I store my "keeper" clothing, my personal sartorial hall-of-shame. These items have been permanently swapped out of my wearable wardrobe but I can't bear to get rid of them for one reason or another:
  • A plaid wool shirt that belonged to my mother when she was a young woman
  • My Union Bay flowered jeans, c. 1985, that were my signature look throughout high school and college
  • A patchwork skirt handmade for me by my much-adored sister-in-law
  • The faded purple tie-dyed dress I made for myself while we were living in Ethiopia, together with the well-worn, oversized denim shirt I wore almost everywhere in those days
When the weather turned this past weekend I dug out my rain boots (Missoni for Target, purchased last year but never worn) and opened my "keeper" box to find a pair of wool socks that were made for me by the same much-adored sister-in-law. They are mint green with dark green stripes at the top -- hey, it was the 80s! -- but they work perfectly inside my boots, splashing through muddy puddles with the nephew and niece. Welcome, Fall.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Kitchen 2.0

Since December, my spare time has been filled with planning for and working on the remodeling of our kitchen. I haven't written about it on the blog before now because I didn't want to hijack our conversation about all things fashionable. It appears, however, that I can't have any conversation these days that doesn't eventually involve the new kitchen, or Kitchen 2.0 as we have come to call it. So I thought I would introduce the topic here, starting at the beginning and documenting the transformation of the heart of our home.

Our home is a modest 1957 single-level ranch style house located on a quiet street with eleven similar dwellings. Before we moved in we thought of this type of house as a "Ranchburger," a sort of 1950s mass-produced equivalent of the modern-day suburban McMansion. In the past twelve years we have come to appreciate the individual personality of our home with its original red oak floors, its bright family room addition, and its solid construction. It has been a comfortable, pleasant, and affordable home for us from the very start.

That's not to say the house was (or is) in perfect shape -- we have undertaken many repairs including the addition of a bathroom fan, the replacement of the deck, and the installation of a new roof. We have a long list of work yet to be done. We knew even as we were moving into the house that we would want to make some major changes in the kitchen and the bathroom(s). We jokingly told each other that we would remodel the main bathroom in five years and the kitchen in ten. And we grew increasingly frustrated as we came to recognize the limitations of our kitchen, an awkward 1980s remodel job with wasted space and peeling paint.

So we have been thinking about this project for years. At first I had a plan that would allow us to spruce up the existing kitchen with a fresh two-tone paint job on the cabinets, new counters, and no more tacky wallpaper. We could have done that on the cheap -- less than $2000 plus our own labor -- but we realized that we would just end up with a prettier version of the same old poorly functioning kitchen. It would still have limited storage space (four drawers!), and the lights would still flicker when the refrigerator turned on.

Since we were planning on living with the kitchen in the long term, we didn't want to give it a non-functional face lift. That was only one of the many things we didn't want: we also didn't want to build a kitchen that was too fancy for the house. We didn't want to go deep into debt to fund a remodeling project. We didn't want to build a trendy kitchen with granite counters and travertine tile that would look dated in ten years. We didn't want to pay a contractor anywhere from $50,000 to $100,000 to remodel our kitchen for us -- but we didn't think it would be a good idea to do it all ourselves, either!

With few ideas about what we did want for our new kitchen, and other plans taking priority, it wasn't until last year that we decided to tackle the renovation head-on. Even then it was a happy coincidence of our trip to Holland and another successful remodeling project that gave us the impetus we needed. More on that in my next post.  

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Dank U, Sinterklaasje!

There are a lot of perqs to being married to a Dutch man. One of them is traveling to the Netherlands to visit family and friends. One of them is eating a lot of black licorice. And one of them is ushering in the holiday season by celebrating St. Nicholas' Day in early December. Yesterday we had a houseful of family and close friends enjoying tasty food and surprises from Sinterklaas.

In Holland, Sinterklaas is a children's holiday. Parents write poems and prepare specially-wrapped surprises (pronounced the Dutch way, sur-PREE-suhs) for the good little children, who have spent weeks anticipating St. Nicholas's arrival. One of J's favorite childhood surprises was a large facsimile of an American half-dollar coin made out of cardboard, given to him on the last Sinterklaas before his family moved to the United States. He still has it, more than 30 years later.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Eleven Eleven

I am not going to go into the reasons why, but 11/11 is a special day for J and me and so 11/11/11 could not be allowed to pass without something special to mark the day. We decided to go up to Portland to visit with friends and family members and take care of some errands as well.

It was such a fun day, filled with so many different experiences that it would be impossible to pick a favorite. We had lunch with my brother's family (minus my brother) and found it difficult to leave the cozy and welcoming atmosphere of their home. We visited both Rejuvenation and Hippo Hardware in search of a doorbell. I know Rejuvenation does lovely work and gets a ton of national press, but a visit to Hippo Hardware is an adventure in itself. By late afternoon we found our chilled and slightly damp selves ensconced at the bar of Huber's, warming up with the help of their Spanish coffee. This is something we never, ever do -- hang out at a bar, chatting and bothering the bartender -- but it was just the right thing that afternoon. If you like Spanish coffee (or any combination of coffee and booze) and you haven't been to Huber's, you are missing out.