Monday, March 29, 2010

One Foot In Front Of The Other

Those of you who've followed me over here from Hollywood Sucker (all 8 of you) might recall that I have an on and off love affair with running. I've always imagined that I am the sort of person who runs great distances with great ease, but my attempts to go from fantasy to reality have always fallen short. A while back I set out to run a half marathon, training with a charity organization to raise money. But long before race day I became irritated with the charity and quit, only to regroup and instead run a 10k a few months later. Unfortunately I didn't keep the momentum going, and by that summer I opted out of the 15k I'd planned to run, instead running the 5k option. Just when I thought I couldn't let myself down any more, I tried to run a 5k again about 5 months later (having failed to exercise in any way for a very long time) and thought I was going to die.

I wondered if perhaps I just wasn't cut out for such a hobby. Yet in spite of my own failures, I'd some how managed to inspire my mother to start running. Now she's running 3 miles a day, as skinny as I've ever seen her, and repeatedly running races --often winning them in her age group.

Her success and energy made me realize I needed to give this dream of mine one more chance. And 2 months after that realization, I actually got started. So I dug up the nike+ for my iPod that Devin bought me, ordered myself a brand new pair of Nikes, and went to Target to stock up on clothes to make me look like a real runner.

Then, because I'm clearly obsessed with Nike, I signed up for a training program through their website. Every week I get a new schedule that tells me how far I have to run on each day, and when I get much appreciated days off.

I started out running 3 miles, then I was up to 4, then 5, and this passed Saturday I ran 6 miles. 6 whole miles! And I have no idea if it's my determination or my fancy new wardrobe, but it isn't even that difficult. And for some crazy reason I actually look forward to waking up at 7 to run 5 miles before going to work.

Now, like anyone who's recently jumped into a new hobby, I'm becoming really annoying. Ask me what I've been up to lately, and I just might tell you. I've been running. Yaddi yadda, yaddi yadda. I can't imagine how fed up my friends are going to get. (Though it can't be as bad as my wedding planning verbal diarrhea.)

I tried to avoid overextending myself when setting new running goals, but I've already outlined a plan to re-try the 15k this summer, then run a half marathon in October, and then by next March, the LA marathon. Yes, I said it. The marathon! Who knows if I'll ever get that far, but I like to think it's possible.

And just for a bonus, I'll include the little Nike avatar I made of myself. I don't know... I just think she's snazzy.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The Random Roundup

I'll start off this mish-mash of a post by going back a week to St. Patrick's Day. You've already forgotten all about it, haven't you? And that's because it's a day with much promise and little payoff. I've had 2 good St. Patrick's Days in my life. Once, my senior of college, when everyone skipped class and spent the entire day drinking green beer at a bar. The last thing I remember is getting into a cab to go home (it was still daylight), then ordering Chinese food with my 5 roommates, before we all passed out in the living room. The second instance was a few years ago, when the holiday fell on a Saturday, and Devin and I held a St. Patrick's Day bbq of epic proportions.

Since then I've been chasing the dragon. Last year I wound up waiting in line for about 20 minutes to get into an insanely packed bar, where my one and only beer was ruined by some little floosy with a bottle of green food coloring. Then we bailed and went to a second bar, which seemed to have been some private function with 50 empty bottles of booze and a cover band singing Randy Newman's "I Love L.A." By the time we got to the third bar I just wanted to go to bed, but I already felt like enough of a failure so I forced myself to stay out til 1am.

As you can imagine, I didn't have high hopes for this year. So when I arrived early at the bar where I was to meet friends and discovered it was full of middle-aged couples eating corned beef sandwiches on tables with green paper table cloths, I wasn't hugely surprised. While waiting for my sister and Becca to meet me, I wandered a block east to The Snug, the scene of the previous year's cramped, green food coloring madness.

Since it was still early, there was no line. Inside I found the usual scene, but then discovered that the back door was open and it led to a giant beer tent filled with people in charming green outfits. Could it be? Was I to have a successful St. Patrick's Day at last?!

Yes! Look I even had a Guinness.

Ok, to be honest, we only had 2 beers a piece and spent the better part of the second one standing near the jukebox debating if going out to bars is even fun any more. But that isn't the point.

In other news, it's fun getting to know the new neighborhood. I've got a list of necessary places to locate. Where's my Starbucks? My gym? My Trader Joes? My weekend breakfast place? On Saturday, Devin, my sister and I went to find my go-to Mexican restaurant.

And we may have found it at El Portal. The food was tasty, the margaritas were giant, and the service was lovely (if a little awkward and overabundant).

Then on Sunday we found another key item on the list: the local dog park. A giant stretch of dying grass, full of big friendly dogs.

I may have been the only dog-mom with a camera, but I can't help myself. He's just so photogenic!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

My Windows Get A Makeover (Hey! I want one too!)

Have your weekends felt a little too relaxing lately? Well then I suggest you try hanging new curtains. Spend the entirety of your Sunday afternoon on a stepladder!

I don't care for white vertical blinds (really, who does?), but I can usually tolerate them if it means saving the money and time it takes to replace them. But our new house came with floor-length vertical blinds, which were driving me particularly crazy and needed to be removed as soon as possible.

So new window treatments made it to the top of my list of home projects.

The first thing that went wrong is that I only found ONE kind of curtain that I liked. It turns out the world is simply overrun with velour, olive and gold curtains. Bed, Bath and Beyond finally came through with a nice normal taupe linen.

The second thing that went wrong is that I didn't really do the math in my head. You see, each panel is sold separately, and I'd need at least 6 panels to cover all of the windows in the living room. And then I'd need to buy 5 sets of curtain rods. And, well, several hundred dollars later, Devin wasn't speaking to me.

Realizing that we could've treated ourselves to a fun weekend in Vegas for the price of these practical window treatments, I decided to return all of the curtain rods and attempt to find something cheaper. But I simply had to keep the curtains because, as I mentioned, they were the only acceptable ones on the planet.

At the advice of my sister, I went to Big Lots to see what they had to offer. I wound up buying the rods there, and saved $200! Sounds great, right?

Well you haven't seen what I wound up with.

I know, fugly. Of the two, Devin hated the leaf version more. I actually preferred them. They made me think of a hotel room at Caesar's Palace. However, I had no intention of keeping either of these little end pieces.

So I set to work taking down the blinds, a task that involved a great deal of swearing and clanking around, none of which provoked even the slightest response from Devin, who was rendered mute and immobile by season 3 of Lost from Netflix. Next, I opened each of the packages of single-wrapped curtains to discover the contents were severely wrinkled and creased. Having already been at work on the curtain project for nearly 2 hours, I was tempted to just hang them as they were and allow gravity to eventually (maybe) remove the wrinkles. But then I could just hear my mother saying, "Oh come on, give them a quick iron. It'll take 2 minutes and they'll look so much better!" Fine, Mom. You win.

And to snazz up this post I even had Devin take action shots of me ironing. See what I do for you people?

An hour and a half (yes, really) later, the ironing was complete.

And so I hung the curtains, realized I'd put the wall mounts too close to the ceiling, took the curtains down, moved the wall mounts, hung the curtains again and...


Ok, in the interest of full disclosure I should tell you that the curtain rods look a little lame without end thingies and so I still need to solve that problem. But otherwise, much better, no?

One of my domestic dreams is to put an antique round table in the center of a big front window like this. And on that wood table I will put a single vase of fresh cut flowers that I'll change out weekly, and that will be purchased from a local market where the florist knows me by name and says things like "I saved this bouquet of tulips just for you!"

But for now that dream will have to wait because we already plopped the dog bed there and Seamus seems really comfy.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Doing It Surprisingly Well: Wall Decals

Hi there. I'm still alive and well and not buried in the mound of cardboard boxes, packing material, and general moving-related debris occupying my dining room. (I guess something has to be the place-holder until we get a table and chairs.)

A thought occurred to me this morning. "Hey, wouldn't it be great to post Before and After pictures of all the rooms in the new house?"

Well... too bad! Because I've already been at work on all of them so now you'll just get a bunch of Half Way and After pictures.

Let me start by showing you how the living room is coming along.

That's 2 gallons of Tea Leaf green paint on the wall there. And one Saturday's worth of effort.

The trees are decals that I ordered online. Decals are my one decorating tip that I can recommend to everyone. Just go to Etsy, search "wall decals," and prepare to be overwhelmed by hundreds of colorful and fabulous choices.

Then all you have to do is stick them on the wall, smooth out the bubbles and bumps and TA DA. Your friends will be very impressed.

And trust me when I say they are easy. Unlike its evil cousin, contact paper, the decal very easily unsticks and resticks while you try to find the perfect placement.

I'll have to post a picture of the living room when it is totally complete. Window treatments are my next project. Here's a tip for those of you who have yet to venture beyond a rental's standard issue vertical blinds: buying curtains and curtain rods adds up to an insane amount of money! I learned that the hard way.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Doing it Wrong: Moving

I once heard somewhere that a woman who's had a baby can never accurately recall the amount of pain she experienced during labor. The theory being that if she could remember, she'd be traumatized, never have a baby again and in the end, the human race would suffer.

I'm not sure if that's total nonsense, but I will say with all certainty that this idea could be applied to the experience of moving into a new house or apartment. I've moved before, I remember it sucked, but I forgot just how much it sucked until I had to do it again this past weekend when we moved into our new house. I suppose if I want to stretch this analogy too far, I could say that moving was like being in labor, in that I did a lot of shouting, my lower back hurt, I required encouragement from my husband, and in the end I wound up with a crying baby (me).

It was certainly worth the trouble, however, because now instead of renting a dark, cramped apartment next to the freeway, we're renting a sun-shiney, spacious house in beautiful Pasadena. We now have everything I've ever dreamed about in my adult life: a dishwasher, a dining room, a washer and dryer, and a fenced-in backyard.

We've been wanting to move since before our wedding. Our apartment complex, once a lot of fun, has taken a weird turn and now has an air of misery about it. And you know how it is, once you stop liking your apartment, it's a slippery slope that ends in pure hatred. I began to notice that everything was always covered in thick, almost greasy dust, no matter how often I dusted. The carpets were worn down and stained. I could spend an entire weekend cleaning and it would still look dirty and gross. I'm pretty sure that in the building's existence no one had ever cleaned things like doors, the wall by light switches, cabinet fronts in the kitchen. Once, in a fit of madness, I went through 2 boxes of Magic Erasers and scrubbed everything. It was then that I discovered the doorknobs were brass, not iron, and that the wood on the build-in shelving and cabinets was covered in something of a gray filth- paste that I had always misinterpreted as the actual color of the wood. The shower had wavering water pressure and temperature. And I couldn't move an inch without colliding with one of our pets.

So, it was time to find a new place. And on our very first weekend of searching, we found one that was perfect.

Since I had a month to make plans before our move, I put a lot of thought into decorating ideas. I had a paint color picked out for the bedroom, spare room, dining room and living room. And because the landlords are awesome, they let us come in and paint on Saturday, before moving in on Sunday.

4 rooms to paint. 1 day. Does this sound like a good idea to you? Because it did to me, and I'm wondering if I'm the only person with terrible judgement.

We started out strong on Saturday morning. It was 10:30. We had 3 friends who'd graciously volunteered to help us paint. Surely we'd be done in no time and I could head off to my friend's party that night.

By midnight I simply had to laugh at my ignorance. We'd long ago lost our helpers, quite understandably, to more enjoyable weekend activities. Devin and I carried on painting like a pair of zombies, groaning and shuffling around. I'd lost feeling in my arms and even when my hands were empty they remained stiff and crooked like a dead crow's foot. Painting mistakes became more frequent and more tolerated.

We finally wrapped up at 2 am. In another 6 hours, we'd not only need to be awake, but totally packed and ready for the movers.

Sunday, moving day, started off just as stupidly optimistic. The movers arrived 10 minutes early. They were not only competent, but also friendly and oddly calming. Having never used movers before, I got a quiet thrill watching them carry out furniture, knowing they would not be asking me for help. If I'd wanted to, I could have just stood around, sipping a mimosa.

But there would be no mimosa sipping that morning. As they moved things into our new place, I made it my mission to finish grabbing the odds and ends laying around our apartment and tidy up. Once again grossly underestimating the time it would take, I presumed by 4pm I'd be totally done so I could spend the rest of the evening unwinding before I had to get to work the next morning.

Ha. Hahahaha.

In actuality, by 4pm I was calling Devin and telling him there was no way I was ever going to be able to lug all the remaining scraps to the house in one trip. Up until that point, the afternoon alone in the old apartment went something like this:

1:08 - Sit on floor of empty bedroom eating Burger King and trying to lure cat out of closet, where he's been hiding, petrified, all day.

2:14 - Run out of boxes and begin throwing everything into grocery bags.

2:28 - Every cabinet or drawer I open is still full. Utensils, product warranty cards, hot sauce, tupperware lids (only the lids!). I die a little inside.

2:47 - Dig around in the cabinet above the fridge. All of the contents are inexplicably sticky. Fear I will encounter a family of spiders at any moment.

3:19 - When did all of these things come into my possession? While throwing away not one, but two perfectly good George Foreman grills I wonder if anyone still uses them. My mind wanders to The Office episode where Michael Scott steps on the Foreman grill that is cooking his morning bacon.

3:23 - I snap back to reality and find that I've lost track of which of the 2 trash bags in front of me is actually full of trash, and which is for things to bring with me.

3:24 - Decide both bags are now trash.

4:48 - Chase cat around apartment, attempting to get him into his cat crate for transport. Am heartbroken as he cowers in an empty kitchen cabinet, his big yellow eyes pleading with me to leave him alone. His yowls for help sound like, "You've betrayed my trust!"

5:25 - Finally succeed in shoving cat into crate.

Later that night, Devin came with me to the apartment to collect the rest of the bags o' crap, as well as the other cat. After we'd locked up, handed our keys to the manager, and started our final drive of the night, I felt relieved.

And then Midge The Cat, furious with all of the day's chaos, peed in the crate. Thus stinking up the car and reminding us that absolutely nothing was going to go right in the entire weekend.

Once I'd given Midge a bath, unloaded the rest of the car, and nearly burst into tears of frustration when I saw our entire lives scattered madly throughout the house, I decided it was time to hit the reset button. I took a bubble bath while Devin ordered Italian food to be delivered. (Plus cheesecake for dessert!) Then I decided it was finally time to pop open the bottle of Cristal that a friend had given us as a wedding present. It was my first time ever trying the expensive beverage, and I wasn't overly impressed. The taste was pleasant enough, but it smelled, coincidentally, like cat pee.

At least I can say now that all of our stuff is in the new place, so the worst of it is behind us (I think). Be prepared: if I have the time for Doing Stuff Blog updates, they may all center around decorating... or the assembly of Ikea furniture... or scraping paint off the floor boards.