October 31, 2013


The art director in me cringes at how unfinished and unstyled these photos are, but "in-process" posts are my favorite to read, so I know I just need to get over it. I also need to remember to take similar before and after photos...

Like most houses for sale, ours was painted in a limited palette of light, unassuming, unprovoking creams and tans that have been mercilessly provoking me with their utter nothingness. I envision our house in fresh whites, with crisp black accents, lots of wood and plants, and a mustard yellow chair here and there. Last weekend, I was itching to change something - anything! - in the house, so it would finally feel like ours. And what could be more definitively altering than black paint?

We bought a gallon and a quart of Valspar's interior eggshell latex paint in Cracked Pepper (the darkest, truest black we could find), and I sanded down, taped off, and painted:

1. a butcherblock island from IKEA. I bought it while I was living on Iredell to nearly double my kitchen counter space. It's solid birch, and has totally stood the test of time, but has stayed unfinished for too long. So, I've naturally sealed the top with mineral oil, and the rest of it got a coat of black. Now it looks all grown up, and functions better, too (meaning I could chop things on it now if I wanted).

2. an accent wall in the living room. It's the first thing you see when you walk in the front door. I can't wait to hang some art on that gorgeous inky wall now, and I love how the credenza pops off of it.

3. a large mirror that was left by the previous owners in the den. Photos of that soon. It was huge (and probably expensive), but the frame was a bit ornate for our taste. So, BLACK.

4. the 3x6' half-bath off our kitchen. Small space, big impact. I could see us wallpapering this room in the future - something bold and dark and crazy. But black paint achieves the same effect nicely for the time being. I pulled out the wall-mounted cabinet above the toilet, and am currently looking for some nice, patina-ed slabs of wood to hang from wall to wall as floating shelves, and a huge aged mirror to replace the current oval one. This is the bathroom people will use when they're over for dinner parties and late-night whiskey-fueled fireside chats. I wanted the corners to disappear, and the whole room to be a sexy extension of the evening they're hopefully having. I love how it turned out - just as I envisioned.

This weekend, I'm buying a 5-gallon tub of white paint, and starting to erase the rest of the oatmeal travesty that's currently covering the rest of our interior walls. I'm enjoying having paint under my fingernails at all times, and waking up impossibly sore each morning. Homeownership!

October 23, 2013


I recently stumbled across this article on cultivating a more present mindset, and was immediately intrigued (and just the right amount of intimidated) by some of the habits that are suggested. Maybe it's my predisposal towards constant editing, or the fact that I'm still coming down from the high of a successful first Whole30, but the instant my monkey brain thinks something like, "Oh my, I could never give up ________!," my stubborn oldest-child Type-A Virgo brain answers, "WELL GUESS WHAT, NOW YOU'RE GOING TO, SO START DEALING WITH IT." Any previously unchecked dependence, once thrown into the light of day, can simply not go untested. (I promise I'm more chill in person.)

I decided to start with one habit: not keeping my phone in the bedroom. I've slid into the unfortunate habit of "poking" (our equally unfortunate word for checking Twitter / Instagram / Flipbook / the weather for periods of time) in bed before turning off my light for the night. And man, sometimes an hour will pass before I even realize it - and if pressed, I'd probably have trouble even remembering what information I had absorbed. That, friends, is not being present. That is mindless, melatonin-restricting information consumption. Even worse, I've been doing the same thing right when I wake up. I was telling myself that the light from the screen was helping my brain wake up, but it was subconsciously stressing me out to be checking my work email (and therefore thinking about what needed to be done that day, and therefore starting the workday) before I had even gotten up to pee or put on clothes! Tomfoolery.

Now, I keep my charger downstairs, in the kitchen. I plug my phone in before I go upstairs to bed each night, and now enjoy a bit of a book (or Micah, or lovely meditative nothingness) before turning off my light. When I wake up in the morning and eventually make it back downstairs, my phone is waiting for me next to my tiny French press and my newly-inflated sense of self-discipline. Not once have I missed an important phone call or text, and Instagram / Twitter / Flipbook / the weather is still waiting for me. I've also already noticed that I'm less attached to my phone throughout the day - because know I know I don't need it with me at all times. Take that, monkey brain!

Habits I'd love to build next?: not checking work email on nights or weekends (reading that hit a major pain point for me), and not checking blog stats.

October 21, 2013


Yesterday marked the two-year anniversary of this blog!

It all started with a visit from Kathleen, a rainy day off, and a brewing desire for more. And it's strange and satisfying to look back at how far I've come since then – but not so strange to think that keeping a blog had something to do with it. It's been a visual diary for me, obviously. I've loved cataloging each season's gardens, my ever-changing interiors (and wardrobe), and the food I prepared (which organically grew into the Weekend Breakfast series). But more than that, it's kept me accountable to my own story. There are only so many times you can idly talk about all your house / work / life dreamings, before those dreamings internalize and start becoming decisions, and those decisions start becoming actions. In retrospect, I see that most clearly when I wrote about quitting my job; in fact, it's the one line that readers (online and in real life) have consistently said held a particularly inescapable of truth to it:

"I wasn't necessarily unhappy, per se, but I knew I could be happier. And once I knew I could be happier, it was impossible to not start dreaming, and scheming, and reaching." (Yep, I'm quoting myself now!)

(Ooh, I also love all the parallels between that post and the first one: the ceremonial beverage, the rain, the push from Kathleen...)

I'm celebrating the same way I started out: with plenty of hot Irish Breakfast tea, open windows, and more dreamings. I can't wait to see what brews over the next two years; rest assured, you'll hear about it here first.

October 18, 2013


I love Mateo. They've been open for a little over a year (I wrote about my first visit the same week they opened), and it's amazing every time I go. You feel like you're in some sexy Barcelona back alley, but somehow eating Deep South comfort food. It's why I had my birthday dinner there (and celebrated the completion of my first Whole30!), and why I'm surprised it's taken me this long to try it out for lunch. 

My good friend (and former coworker, and fellow OKC transplant) Natalie celebrates her birthday this Sunday, so we decided to kick off her birthday weekend with a leisurely lunch today. That meant a drink at 11:45am, and a cupcake flight across the street afterwards. Mateo wasn't busy yet, and I loved really being able to check out the interior in the quiet light of day (part of that back-alley-Barcelona vibe is built on low light and a house full of animated voices). I love the combination of oversized aged mirrors, demijohn lights, open utilitarian storage, and grey Marais chairs. And, of course, the food. I had a sandwich with serrano ham, goat cheese, pepper jelly, and apple, all on a toasted baguette that somehow had a layer of cheese cooked on the outside of it. Too good, too good.

We're going out again tomorrow night for drinks and cake (man, I love my foodie friends). As is my tradition, we'll talk about what she's most proud of accomplishing this past year, and what she wants to accomplish in the next year. It's like a New Year's resolution, except all the focus is on you. And there's cake.

Happy birthday (weekend), Natalie!

October 16, 2013


So!, here's a first look at the house we just bought. I'm using the MLS listing photos, mostly because I'm being lazy, but also slightly because I've grown rather fond of them over the last two months. They're how I fell in love with the property in the first place, and all I had to look at between the initial tour and the inspection. Plus, all the hilarious styling and props are going to make any "after" photos I post look that much better. 

Our initial, immediate plans for "home improvement" include paint (mostly white, with touches of grey and black), and clearing out the overgrowth in the yard. Longer-term plans include a big run to IKEA, changing most of the hardware and fixtures, tiling the kitchen backsplashes, maybe painting the kitchen cabinets?, and changing everything but the placement of the toilet and shower in the full bathroom (it's the one with reddisch terracotta-looking tiles).

Let the wild rumpus start!

October 9, 2013


Above: they finally put up a sold sign! Although all I can see is unruly landscaping, and a hideous, jankity old mailbox – both of which I love, because now they're our unruly landscaping and jankity old mailbox.

Tomorrow morning, we close on our house. It's finally, actually happening. I don't think I'll believe that it's really a done deal until we unlock the door for the first time, without a realtor or inspector in sight. (Or, who knows. It might take weeks.) We've both taken the day off to sign our names a million times, get the keys, head over to the house, celebrate, and start planning. We'll be moving all weekend long, and any leftover time will probably be spent at Lowe's or Home Depot (adulthood!). I can't wait to show some "before" pictures, as well as our plans for what the "afters" will look like.

Until then, you can follow me and Micah on Instagram to watch all the dreamings unfold in real time. I'm off to the final walk-through in a couple hours...

October 7, 2013


Above, top right: a rare glimpse of an un-busy Monuts. If you don't get there before 8:30am, prepare to wait in an out-the-door line. But it's so worth it.

I love falling into a good routine. Seemingly without our knowledge, we've been breakfasting at Monuts Donuts or Parker and Otis, hitting the Farmers Market, and then Rose's, every Saturday as of late.

We used to hit our neighborhood Kroger after the Market to supplement our haul, but the Whole30 (and it's ingeniously simple yet mind-numbing protein + vegetable + fat meal equation) changed that. I'm glad. We've both developed doe-eyed crushes on Rose's stock, staff, and mere existence since we first started visiting. I think we're just jealous that we didn't open the exact same store before they did. Meats and sweets?! I get all dreamy if I think about it too long: I can see Micah in the walk-in fridge with a clipboard, taking stock of lamb racks and whole chickens, while I make trays of marshmallows and experiment with ice cream flavors. Sigh.

Anyway! Also because of the Whole30, this last visit was the first time I purchased something from the bakery, a fact which blows my mind. I got a chocolate pot de creme, and two creme puffs (to enjoy with Micah after a dinner featuring their pork chops), all of which were rich and dense and yet somehow lifted my dessert-soul up into the dessert-heavens. Micah has started semi-joking about becoming a butcher just so he can work there, and each time I have responded "DO IT" in a dead serious, overtly-aggressive, slightly-demonic tone. Another routine, another weekend.

October 3, 2013


Above: a few favorite photos of my first apartment in Durham. Did you know it was featured as a House Tour on Apartment Therapy? (I also recently saw one of the AT photos used in a BuzzFeed article about cleaning your toilet. I'll try not to let the fame go to my head.)

Micah and I have started packing up our apartment. We're so excited about closing on our new house (next Thursday!) and moving into it (next weekend!). We don't have much to move, thanks to The Never-Ending Edit, and I know our new place will feel empty for awhile.

In a backwards way, it reminds me of my first duplex in Durham. I had just cut my possessions by half to move across the country into a super-cozy, super-cheap 590 square-foot apartment on Iredell Street. All my furniture felt squished together, and I felt a little strange about reverting from homeowner back to renter, but it was still one of the best decisions I've ever made for myself. Micah visited me there a month or two after I moved. I had been Skyping with him every night from that tiny office nook, and we still weren't really sure What We Were. He said "I love you" for the first time in that tiny kitchen (seriously tiny – that butcher block island literally doubled the counterspace), and a few months later decided to move across the country to be with me. That's when I moved into a larger place – the duplex we're currently packing up. The duplex that now feels tiny and squished. Full circle!

But it all started on Iredell.

October 2, 2013


Above: Dinner at Pizzeria Toro. Front row center tickets to Colin Meloy. Sunday Funday beers at Fullsteam Brewery. Mannequin arms. Brunch at Vin Rouge.

We celebrated the end of Micah's 30th year, and the beginning of his 31st, all weekend long. We ate a whole bunch of food that we had only dreamt about during our Whole30. We visited our favorite Durham brewery for the first time in a while, and did a little Sunday Funday drinking. We slipped into an unexpectedly deep conversation (my favorite kind) about how far he's come in the last year, and how he wants the next year to look. We also somehow ended up at Walmart late one night, searching for a $5 DVD of Full Metal Jacket (which we found! – a birthday gift from The Universe).

I presented him with two body-less mannequin arms, and two front-row tickets to see Colin Meloy (of Decemberists fame) in Durham's historic Carolina Theatre. (I also re-upped his Scythe & Sparrow membership.) I toasted him every time we had drinks, reveling in all his achievements and growth, and making a lot of "silver fox / old man" references, all of which he accepted gracefully.

I can't wait to see what he does – and who he becomes – in the next year.