Tuesday, August 16, 2011


Today we are going to ignore pretty much everything, and talk about my deep and abiding love for paint.

When I moved into my NYC apartment, one of the things that captivated me (besides the absence of roommates hiding the garlic press and soaking every flat surface of the bathroom) was the fact that the previous tenant had painted the foyer. True, it was a gross green color that reminds me of my current and deteriorating carpet, but it was not white and the landlord had left it that way. I later repainted it a dark purple, and I'm really shocked that I got my deposit back. That had to have been a nightmare to paint over.

By contrast, the previous occupant of this house was clearly afraid of paint. Nearly every wall, ceiling, and bit of trim is the same semi-gloss off-white. If you don't know much about paint, let me explain that semi-gloss is for bathrooms. It shows flaws (and these walls have many) and is easy to clean, but painting lore says that not everything is supposed to be the same color or the same gloss.

Oh, sure, there was some wallpaper around, but I quickly took care of that.

Too bad you can't feel the fine flocked texture of that wallpaper!

There was some work to be done in the bathroom as well.

Mighty fine! I will say this...when she decorated, she made sure everything matched. And she really paid attention to the details.

But it had to go. If I had disposable income and another place to live while it happened, that tile would have been erradicated. But I don't, and I only have the one bathroom, so I had to find a color that I liked that didn't look too horrible with what I will be kind and call army green.

Step one: remove wallpaper.

Nasty! That's some old school wallpaper paste. I used a product called "Piranha" and a scraper thing to remove it. Think of the nastiest, most viscous dragon snot you can imagine. Then mix it with peanut butter. It took a 3-day weekend, but the wallpaper was gone and the dragon snot was dissolved and disposed of.

I called a contractor to fix a hole in the bedroom wall (just under the torn-off wallpaper) and figured, well, if I'm going to paint, I may as well tear out the industrial metal medicine cabinet and replace it. There was no way I was going to find one the same shape and there was no way I was going to lift and install it myself. A good DIYer knows her limits.

I went for a slightly steampunk look. And you have to have a light fixture, right? You can't just not have light and electricity in the bathroom

Finally, finally, it was time to paint. A friend of mine said, "I bet the inside of your house looks like a kaleidoscope" and...well, I'd already done this, so it was more like he was clairvoyant than prophetic.

I will admit that there are probably too many cats in this bathroom, but otherwise, it turned out pretty close to what I envisioned in my original mock-up. One of these days I am going to order some of the fabulous pressed-tin or mock-pressed-tin ceiling tiles and slap them over the ceiling, but there's my steampunkish bathroom...complete with steampunkish collages I made over on Polyvore and a totally awesome print from Alternate Histories.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Don't wait

One of the hardest things about this sudden unemployment is the waiting. I have to wait to hear back from jobs (or not hear back), of course, but I also feel like I have to wait to get on with my life. I bought the house just under the deadline for the Homebuyer Tax Credit, so I have the money all ready to redo the kitchen. But I feel like I can't redo the kitchen, because I don't have a job and it seems foolish to spend so much money when I don't have money coming in.

This, by the way, is the kitchen of which I am speaking. It doesn't quite look like this at the moment, since I removed the foof and replaced the stove with one that actually works. But it is still quite yellow and quite wrecked. There is virtually no prep surface. However, kitchens cost money and this one will have to wait. It doesn't stop me from dreaming, though.

I admit that I've been pretty random about choosing colors and just picked whatever I wanted for the first couple rooms. The more I look at places that are actually decorated, though, I see a common theme throughout. Not that people use the same colors throughout, but they do use colors that go together and complement one another. I've been sticking with cool colors...I have purple, blue, and teal, but complementary colors are nice too. I think most of the rest of the house is going to be in the blue-to-light-turquoise vein.

So I do my dreaming over at House of Turquoise...here's my latest kitchen fantasy.

I love the color - very similar to the color I used for my hallway, which is somehow both peaceful and bright. The white is crisp and clean. I love open storage, though I'm not sure I would ever be able to keep things tidy enough; I have such a small space that it's hard not to cram everything in, anywhich way. I actually would love to knock out the wall, or part of the wall between my kitchen and dining room, though that's not a part of this design.

Oh, yes...my point...if I had done this already, it would be done. I might be kicking myself for spending the money; I might even wish I had the money back. But it would be done, and I wouldn't have to agonize, or wonder when I could do it.

Instead I'm going to look at my dining room and wonder if it wouldn't look so much better with wooden blinds instead of curtains, and perhaps I will spring for a can of paint.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Plan, and replan

The thing about plans, is that they change.

This is actually the best thing about plans.

I tried the 4-in-the-morning job. It only took one shift for me to realize that this was a terrible plan for me. In the abstract, it had sounded like a good idea - a job where I didn't have to think and where I could bring in a little money while conducting my job search. Others told me that it sounded horrible, and I agreed, but then I went and did it anyway and found that for me it was, indeed, horrible.

I'm not knocking people who decide to do these jobs, or who do these jobs because they need the money and can't find anything else. In six months, maybe I will feel that way too. But that's my point - I need to wait six months before feeling that way rather than jumping to feeling that way immediately. When a crisis hits - whether it is the loss of a job, of a loved one or the end of a relationship - we tend to feel desperate. We jump into things that we are not ready for because it somehow feels like doing something. It feels like fixing the problem. But problems are wily, and they don't always want to be fixed right away, or in the way that we think they need to be fixed. Just as you can't replace one person with another, you can't replace one job with another.

There are many jobs that I would do, jobs that are somewhat more like my own. In the past I have worked in childcare and loved it. I know that's not a job for everyone. Taking a job that "not everyone" would or could do is a good move, because it makes you feel valued. Your particular temperament and skills are suited to that job. I haven't applied for a job in childcare at this point because there are emotions involved (mine and the children's); it's not fair to children to form relationships with them and then suddenly leave.

What I learned from this misstep is to not jump to desperation. Save desperation for when you actually are desperate. Minimum and low-wage jobs are physically taxing and will leave you with little time or energy to apply for the job you really want - something you have to spend a lot of time doing in your first few weeks of unemployment. I lost a couple days by spending my energy on something I didn't need to do. But I'm back on that horse, and I've got dozens of job listings that need my attention.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Planning a plan

After spending an hour or so in the backyard pulling weeds and deadheading the peonies, I think I have a revised version of The Plan. The Original Plan was made a couple days before I actually heard I would not be renewed. It's needed a bit of tweaking.

Since I already have secured a 4-in-the-morning job at a Big Box Establishment, I will keep it. The job doesn't pay well and isn't full time and is only supposed to exist for a few months of the pre-college-student-arrival season. I anticipate brightly-colored reading lamps and ersatz milk crates. I do not expect to remain at this job much longer than a month.

I'm not as bad off, financially, as I feel. I have the money that didn't go toward the down payment on the house (they do a percent down, not an amount) and the new homebuyer tax credit. I was hoping to spend this money on a new kitchen, but a new kitchen is just going to have to wait. I know people who have lived with their disasterkitchens for years. I am just going to have to deal with it.

I also have one more paycheck coming that is "the balance of my contract." I'm not actually sure how much this is, but it's a paycheck.

What the Big Box job allows me to do is refrain (slightly, for a limited amount of time) from dipping into my savings. It requires me to get out of bed (even if I get back into bed and have a nap right after) several days a week and engage with the other humans. It allows me to sit in front of the computer every day and apply for jobs. If, in a month, I don't have something (and I may not - I fully realize that it could take months), then I will sign up with a few temporary agencies. By that time I should have applied for enough of the jobs for which I am qualified that I will only find a few jobs per week that I need to apply for.

What I need to do right now is 1) not panic and 2) apply, apply, apply. By that time I will also know if I am getting unemployment compensation and how much it is. It allows me to have a little leeway to spend money on things like coffee and yoga and West Coast Swing classes - things that make me happy and make life just a little more bearable - without feeling like I'm spending money that should go toward bills. Everyone says to keep trying to do the things that make me feel good, which is hard because so many things cost money.

Filling your garbage can with weeds, however, is free, and quite satisfying, and I get to spend time outside with these beauties.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Newly detached

When I first conceived of this blog, it was the high-flying adventures of a single gal with her own house, career, cats, and home repairs. There were going to be stories of how I decided I needed my own house, my search, and each of the projects I took on, with pictures and missteps along the way.

Then my job let me go, and I became more detached than ever.

In the week since I was told I was not coming back, I've had every idea from retraining as a computer programmer to stocking the shelves in the middle of the night at a well-known chain store (which I'll be doing starting Monday, it turns out). I've thought about renting out a room and despaired at the paint (and other) stains on my carpet and the questionable electricity. I've tried to clean my ancient kitchen linoleum. I've learned through examining my bills that the window air conditioner really doesn't take that much electricity so it's worth it to be able to sleep at night.

And, yes, I've cried a lot because it turns out that teaching isn't the stable, always-in-demand job that it once was. It took me two years to get the job I had, and I only had it for a year and a half.

I also managed to break one of the planters in the picture. Those things cost $100! Oopsie.
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