Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Setting Deadlines

I have been very slow getting to work on this apartment. Part of my renovation lethargy stems from my job falling on my bad side in recent weeks (my job is like a boyfriend that I fight with constantly, but can’t seem to find a good enough reason to dump), which makes me unenergetic about many things. It’s also because work-drain makes me very keen to spend the weekend lazing about on the weekend pretending I don’t have work to go back to on Monday morning, which lately has meant heading out of the city proper for a mini-escape.

I am officially vowing to myself that I will paint the damn bathroom this weekend. It’s less than a day’s work, and I really ought to just tackle it. The first step is to figure out where I can buy paint in Fort Greene. If I am extra ambitious, I will also paint my dining table and benches that are in desperate need of a fresh paint job. Then the next project I’m going to set a date for is painting the kitchen, which I intend to tackle Presidents Day weekend. These fixes were things I thought I would have done before I moved in, so it’s high time I start setting some deadlines for getting them done.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Apartment Crush

Can you have a crush on someone’s apartment? Can you have one on an apartment you’ve never seen in person? Well, if the answer to both of those questions is 'yes,' then I have a huge, blushing crush on this sfgalbybay’s Bay Area pad (and I have been stalking her blog as a result of my affections). Pretty space, a nice mix of new and old furniture and the daylight(!) — how I envy that daylight.

Really, really small space

My dear friend, Daphne, has been sending me links to teeny-tiny apartments lately. First was this microscopic place in London, and then today a place on the Upper West Side. I might be nuts, but this apartment look like it could actually be a good deal. Judging by the looks of it, it's probably only a little bit smaller than my old apartment on West 10th Street. The comments from curbed.com, the site that pointed out the listing, readers are very mixed. If I were in the market for a first apartment, I'd certainly go take a look, and then I'd immediately start researching Murphy beds, my favorite small space solution.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Product Loyalty

There’s a reason I didn’t end up a beauty editor (or a fashion editor, for that matter). I am about as interested in make-up as most teenage boys. If I find a beauty product that works, I stick with it — for years and years and years. Most women get seduced by the make-up aisle at the drugstore, for me, it’s more likely to be an impulse cleaning product than a tube of mascara. Only when I am introduced to something new that is undeniably better than my current product, do I change my routine. I recently swapped out my usual toothpaste for a far superior paste, and to my great surprise, I discovered that I do not have incurable dandruff (gross, I know). I’d just been using a dandruff shampoo that didn’t work on my particular scalp.

So, when faced with the piling costs of a new home and the whole process of moving in, I decided I might skimp on my moisturizer. I’ve been using the same stuff since I was 19-years-old, and though not as expensive as Crème de La Mer, my Kiehl’s Ultra Facial Moisturizer SPF 15 does clock in at $29.50 for 4.2 oz. On my last visit to Target I picked up a Neutrogena moisturizer optimistically named something like “Healthy Skin.” After just a few days with the new product, my skin was angry with me, and in protest it grew dozens of tiny zits. I found myself on the Upper West Side returning some red, velvet curtains I had bought for a photo shoot last Friday. As I walked back towards the subway, the Kiehl’s store seemed to be whispering my name. So, I caved. I figure it’s probably worth it, since the bottle with last me a long time. And I can’t help but wonder if my kitchen counters or my laundry are silently screaming when I swap products on them?

Friday, January 26, 2007

New product launches


There were two great product launches announced this week that are worth mentioning. The Conran Shop (as in, Sir Terence Conran) debuted their Everyday line, which is a collection of 170 objects from 15 countries. It includes everything from a clever British measuring cup to a caned Indian lounge chair. This shot gives you a good idea of the variety of pieces, which are described as "exceptional and humble."

Wallpaper manufacturer Graham & Brown has teamed up with designer Thomas Paul to create a line of wall art. The canvases are familiar Thomas Paul motifs, which have been hand-painted onto stretched canvases. At $90 each, they're a little pricey, but when compared with the cost of what is considered "affordable art" these days, they're actually a bargain. My favorite set in the line is this silhouette pattern.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Out of the box: Cookbooks

Well, all my regular books are still in boxes, but the cookbooks have come out. I don't have a place for them yet, so they are just stacked in the corner of the kitchen with a wooden wine crate supporting the stack. It's a start. And who knew my cookbooks were nearly four feet tall?

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Mid-Century Sofa, Sold

I went back to check on my sofa last night. It was still there, but this time it had a red SOLD sticker affixed to its side. So, I'll just tell myself it wasn't meant to be, and that it certainly wouldn't have been worth all the extra upholstering costs.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Sunset magazine's Gingerbread Cake

A conversation about cakes over the weekend reminded me of an amazing gingerbread cake my cousin Katherine made while I was visiting California for the holidays. the recipe came from Sunset magazine, and the cake was moist, rich and super ginger-y. So, I looked it up and sure enough Sunset's got the recipe online right here. I think I'll give this recipe a try in the coming weeks.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Comfort Food: Pierogis

This is what comfort food looks like to me these days. It's not a glamorous meal, but nothing beats a plate of potato pierogis with sautéed onions, sour cream and apple sauce. At $4 for a package of twelve, that works out to $2 a serving and the only effort required is boiling the dumplings and sautéing the onions. Yum, yum, yum.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Object of Desire: Mid-Century Sofa

I had a few minutes to kill yesterday, so I stopped into Housing Works to poke around. I’d given up on getting a new sofa for my apartment any time soon and had resolved myself to live with Klippan for a while, but sitting there was a couch that I immediately loved.


It has a wood frame with rattan panels and grey fabric covered cushions. I would guess that it’s probably from the 40s or 50s. The price is a whopping $475 dollars, which seems a lot for a sofa that needs reupholstering and probably also requires some additional work on the cushion’s interiors. However, it’s a lot cheaper than a new couch would be (even at Ikea). It would also look great with the furniture I already own and has more character than a mass-produced, contemporary sofa. I plan to stalk it for a few more days and try to find out if there’s any hope of it going on sale. Fingers crossed.

Pistachios

I can't remember exactly when I discovered pistachios, but it was relatively recently. They weren't something my family ever had around the house, and I had never sought them out. I suspect it was my old roommate Matt who turned me on to these little green nuts. In the meantime, I've evolved into a pistachio fiend. I could eat them every day and never tire of them. In particular, I love to set out a bowl of them when people come over for drinks — there's just something so satisfying about de-shelling them that lends itself nicely to entertaining. So, skip the salted peanuts for your next cocktail soiree and opt for a bowl of salted pistachios instead. I promise you won't be disappointed.

Goo Gone

I can’t remember when I first encountered Goo Gone, but ever since our first meeting, I’ve had a bottle of the citrus solvent on hand. Why? This handy substance removes sticky residue from just about any surface. I find myself using it most often to excise pesky price tags, stickers and labels. There are probably a myriad of other substances that work to remove stickers and the like (white vinegar, olive oil, baby oil? I don’t know), but Goo Gone works every time and has a pleasant lemon-y aroma. You can buy it at any hardware store or online here.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Instant Pendant Light

Remember those ugly recessed can lights from the 80s? Thankfully I don’t have to tackle any of them in my new apartment, but if you're stuck with ugly can lighting, there’s a new easy fix. The current issue of Home magazine pointed out Worth Home Products’s new “Instant Pendant Light.” The clever lights screw directly into your recessed can fixtures and transform them into pendant lamps. The 'Shop Light' model, shown here, is my favorite of the bunch. And at $60 a piece, they’re a real bargain, especially considering you won’t have to pay an electrician to install them! (Note: They are being sold at Lowe's as the PORTFOLIO Recessed Light Conversion Kit)

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Two Great How-To Links

Here are two great links for how-to information on simple home improvements: hanging a ceiling medallion and patching drywall. The ceiling medallion link was pointed out on design*sponge and is posted on Domino magazine's site. The drywal post was mentioned today on Apartment Therapy and is posted at Charles and Hudson. Both of these may come in handy as I move forward with the home renovations. In particular, I love the idea of a ceiling medalion — it's those kinds of tiny details that really pull a room together.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

All You Need Is Love

Here's another reason to love my new neighborhood: Each day on my way to the subway I pass by this bit of sidewalk. It makes me smile every time, and I walk a few paces with a bit of the Beatles stuck in my head. It's a hopeful way to start the day.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

The Bathroom: The Perfect Bathmat!

It’s almost as if West Elm is taking pity on me and my hideous bathroom. Their website was recently updated with all the new spring merchandise. There are tons of great new items; a stand out among them is this botanical bathmat in tan and white, which is just begging to come live in my ugly shades of brown bathroom. I’m tickled that something actually looks like it will look good in that room while I wait on making any permanent changes.


I'm also crazy for this white faux antler table lamp. Why oh why must it be $150?

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Speaking of that warm weather...

Yesterday one of my co-workers told me he'd gone over the the Brooklyn Botanical Garden over the weekend — to see the cherry trees in bloom. I figured he was making a joke about the unseasonably warm weather. Well, it seems Broooklyn really was all in bloom. The Brooklyn Record has some very spring-like shots of my borough over the weekend. Daffodils! And now we're settling into a freezing, bitter cold.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Great margaritas and not enough work...

Well, I didn’t get as much done this weekend as I had hoped, but 70 degree weather on a Saturday in January proved to be too distracting for even a determined home-improver. I did get the toilet fixed, which I will post about later. To my great dismay I discovered that my nearest hardware store is of the variety where everything is behind the counter and you must ask one of the people working there to get you what you want. Boo. I like being able to walk about and poke through all the fun hardware store wares. I’ve also finished moving the last of my things over to the new apartment. My living room is a mess of unpacked boxes, and I am afraid it will stay that way for a few weeks while I am sorting this all out. Ugh. Soon though, very soon it will feel like home. In the meantime, at least I can dig out a wineglass if I want one.

The neighborhood is treating me well. Last night I discovered that Pequena, a shoe-box sized Mexican restaurant just down the street from my new digs in Fort Greene, serves a very tasty margarita and tasty dinner. (I also learned that Pequena seems to be owned by the folks who own nearby Olea, another yummy restaurant.) We had the poblano peppers stuffed with cheese and the fish soft tacos (with sautéed fish). The peppers were good and the tacos were fantastic — I could eat those tacos nearly every night. The accompanying rice and beans though humble were yummy. The regular margarita had a nice kick of lime, as did the day’s special kiwi margarita, though both could have used a wee bit more tequila. My only real complaint is with the bathroom. The tiny powder room’s toilet has a beaten up, worn-out, old toilet seat. Why? A new toilet seat would cost them all of $5. It’s not that they have not made the effort. Someone has installed a decorative border of tiles and a cute Mexican-inspired mirror. The toilet paper itself is on a fancy little stand — surely a new toilet seat could arranged?

Friday, January 05, 2007

Kitchen Cabinet Query

Yesterday’s House & Home section in The New York Times featured a question and answer about replacing vs. fixing worn kitchen cabinets. Apparently The Times thinks that refacing or replacing are the only two options. What about sanding and painting what you’ve already got? It seems the least financially taxing. Well, it may be too lowbrow for our tony New York paper, but it’ll have to suit me for the time being.

I’ve also noticed that my upper cabinets are just barely hanging on to the walls. I haven’t put much more than a box of cereal into them for fear that they will come crashing down. I can’t believe someone lived with them dangling as precariously as they are from the wall. It seems they aren’t even screwed into the studs. That’s on my list of top priorities for the weekend (along with the damn toilet tank).

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Miss Fix-It

As if on cue, my toilet has broken. It's nothing serious: the chain in the tanks snapped. However, this will certainly hasten a trip to the hardware store. Coming soon a step-by-step how to guide for replacing the inner workings of a toilet's tank.


Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Now we're cooking!

Well, Keyspan made it on time today, and they sent perhaps their most charming gasman out to my apartment. When he arrived he solved the mystery of where exactly you turn on and off the gas supply for my stove. I couldn’t figure it out for the life of me. Apparently the gnarled lump of a broken wing valve is the on/off valve. He said it looked like one of the sides of the valve had broken off and he used a pipe wrench to maneuver it. (This being no small feet as pipe wrenches aren’t exactly the most delicate of tools.) Thankfully that wasn’t the only thing preventing me having gas to my stove. Unfortunately, the gasman then asked how we could get into the basement. Neither of the times that I called Keyspan had the phone representative said anything about making sure the gas company would have access to the meters in the basement.

With dread I suggested that we try my front door key on the basement door, which is accessed from the outside of the building, all the while knowing it wouldn’t be the same lock. Sure enough, it was not. So the gasman and I retreated back into the building. He asked if I knew any of the neighbors or if we had a super. I told him that there was not a super, but a management agent, and that I could call them to see how one got into the basement. I was filling with dread knowing that they wouldn’t make it out to the building for hours and that the gasman would leave and that I would be doomed to another week of no hot dinner. Full disclosure: I ate salt and vinegar chips and beer for dinner last night.

In a stroke of luck, the president of the co-op board president was on her way to work just as we came back into the front entryway. Upon inquiring we found that she actually had the key to the basement! I was thrilled. She walked us around to the basement door again and unlocked it, but not without giving the Keyspan man a dubious look and asking why he didn’t have the key, since the meter reader apparently does. We had other minimal neighborly chit chat as we walked and as she unlocked the door, during which I couldn’t help but worry that my fresh out the dryer pants were too tight and that my hair was still a damp mess of tangles. I know I am already here, but I still want to make a good impression.

Once the door was open she headed on her way and I went to join the gasman in the basement. As he looked at the meter he announced that it looked like I would be paying to heat my apartment as well. My heart sunk. I asked him if he was sure about that, as I had specifically asked the real estate broker about this. (My boyfriend discovered the hard way that there are certain New York City apartments that do still have gas heat, and that the tenant is, in fact, financially responsible for heating his apartment.) He shined his flashlight on my meter and showed me how the gas line was split and how there was a skinny line for the cooking and a thicker line for the heat. He even took his flashlight and traced the line of the heating pipes along the ceiling back to my apartment. At this point, I was really upset, and insisted that, that couldn’t be right. The gasman, said, "Okay, let’s look for the boiler, "which we did. When he found it he seemed confused and headed back around to the meters. I always like having someone like a plumber or say, the gas man to show me things about my apartment or my building that I might not have known, so despite my horror at the prospect of paying for heat, this lesson interested me. The gasman looked at the main meter for the heat and puzzled. We went back to the individual meters and he asked if maybe I had a separate water heater in my apartment, which I assured him I did not. Another flash of his flashlight and a duck of the head revealed that, low and behold: the heat pipeline was capped! Hurray! I wouldn’t have enormous bills to wrestle with in my new home.

Back in my apartment he reopened the supply line with his pipe wrench and lit the burners and the upper pilots. Then he lit the oven/broiler’s pilot light with a very clever little device, almost like a car’s antenna with an alligator clip on the end, which held a match. This meant that he didn’t have to do the usual contortionist’s arm reach that is required to light the pilot. I asked if they were available for regular people and he said that there was similar long match holder for consumers, but that the collapsing version he had was a gas company exclusive.

As a final stroke of good service, the gasman showed me where there was a white film forming above the pilot light. He said it was carbon dioxide, though I think it couldn’t actually be carbon dioxide itself, but some kind of a bi-product. He told me I should white the film off from time to time to keep the stove in good working order. Who knew? I’m going to poke around and see if I can find out anything else about that, but it seemed reasonable that a nasty film should, indeed, be cleaned off often. With that, he left and I had a working stove. Tonight, I am cooking dinner.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Welcome to Brooklyn

I’m realizing that it’s the little things about my apartment that I need to fix first. The big projects can happen slowly, but the everyday nuisances demand attention. For example, the toilet runs and the kitchen sink’s faucet leaks. (Both are easy repairs that simply require a trip to the hardware store.) I’m also desperate to get California Closets in to maximize my closet space. (You may think this is silly, but it was absolutely the best money I spent improving my last apartment.)

One little, but not so little nuisance is that there is currently no gas in my apartment, which means I can’t cook. I called Keyspan last week to set up an appointment to get the gas turned on. They gave me a window from 12:00 to 6:00 on Friday, and I asked if there was any way to get a shorter window (seeing as I have a full time job and all). I was told that for $20 I could narrow the time window down to two hours. I decided it was worth it, so I arranged to have the gas man come between 4:00 and 6:00 on Friday evening.

That afternoon I left work early and arrived home by 3:45, in case the gas company was running early. I waited and waited and waited, and when 6:30 rolled around I had to dash out the door in order to be on time for dinner. I was mad that I had left work early and wasted an afternoon waiting around for the gas company, and further, I was annoyed that no one had even called me to let me know that no one was coming. Well, they did call. At 10:20 that night my cell phone rang and it was Keyspan phoning to let me know that the gas man was at my apartment waiting to be let it. By that time, I was on the Upper West Side, and there was no way for me to let anyone in to the apartment. And further, as a single girl, there is not a chance in the world I would have let a strange man into my apartment that late on a Friday night. Call me a sissy, it just doesn’t seem like a safe idea. After I had hung up my phone and explained the situation to my dear friend Corrine, a long-time Brooklyn resident, she had a good laugh. Once she’d laughed a bit, she raised her glass as if in a toast and said, “Welcome to Brooklyn, baby.” Indeed: Welcome to Brooklyn.

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