Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Oh happy day!

A couple of weeks ago Greg and I went down to Restoration Hardware to see the farmhouse table we've been eyeing in person. My secret hope was that I'd be like, "Meh. I liked it better online."

They didn't have any farmhouse tables in the store, so my plan backfired a bit. We ended up talking to one of the sales reps for a long time and looking at wood samples. Toward the end she asked us if we'd ever considered the Boulangerie table. It's about $1500 less than the farmhouse table and the extra leaf stores away in the center of the table. It still has that rustic farmhouse feel. Restoration charges you a lot of money to give you a mass-produced product that looks like you built it yourself.

Turns out I don't care. We liked it and we really liked how much cheaper it was. And you know what? IT CAME ALREADY ASSEMBLED. This is the first new piece of furniture I've bought in over 15 years that didn't come from Ikea. Everything else I own was bought off of craigslist, thrift shops, or vintage stores. Even the couch from my reveal was from craigslist.

It arrived the morning of our earthquake party, right on time. Whoever RH contracts with to do their delivery is great. When we expand the table it stretches to 120 inches, very comfortably fitting 12 people.

I freaking love it.

Of course our chairs were all falling apart. I found a woman on craigslist selling an Indonesian table and seven teak chairs (that didn't match the table) for $250. I asked her if she'd be willing to split the table from the chairs, since they weren't a set. She graciously agreed to sell me the chairs for $25 apiece. And guys, we fit all seven of them in my two-door Honda Civic. It took thirty minutes of the craziest live Tetris game ever, but we did it.

These chairs are not our forever chairs. They need to be recovered (I almost attempted to do that prior to the party before I remembered candle light hides all sins) and one of them is totally busted, which I didn't realize until I got it home and into the light. The two yellow end chairs are on loan from my friend Ryan, who took pity on my chair situation when I moved into my house. Someday I really want wishbone chairs. They have a much lower profile so you'd see more of the table and less of the chair backs, like you do now. And that's a sexy chair.

But man, you can't beat the price of the ones we have right now. It's very difficult to find more than four matching chairs on craigslist, let alone 6 or 8. I think we'll be able to recoup our money should we ever get different chairs and need to sell these.

Now we need to do some creative rearranging of the other furniture in the room. We don't know what to do about Greg's armchair.

It's too big to fit in the basement or bedrooms and we have no place for it in the living room. It's sort of out of place in the dining room but we don't want to get rid of it. It's very comfortable even if it's not my style. And I have been such a decor autocrat that I want to incorporate as much of Greg's stuff as possible.

Last up, we need to get some place mats so we don't ruin our new table with food stains.  I like looking at our table so I don't want to cover it with a tablecloth but I grew up in a house that didn't use place mats. As a result, they seem really fussy to me. I guess I'll just need to get over that.

Blah blah, TL;DR. New pretty table!

Monday, January 28, 2013

Earthquake safety

This last Saturday was the 313th anniversary of the 1700 Cascadia earthquake. We had a blackout dinner party to commemorate and to encourage our friends to get ready for the next one. (I blatantly stole this theme from EmilyStyle, who hosts an annual party for the anniversary of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake. It's a great theme.) We take dinner parties very seriously 'round here and I think we nailed this one.

The first rule of the night: candlelight only. You almost always lose electricity after a quake so you always want candles on hand.

I bought a 12 pack of wide-mouth mason jars and filled them with votives and scattered them around the house. Pro-tip: you need to keep the furnace lower than normal because you have warm bodies AND a bunch of open flames.

I love my friends because they absolutely commit to themes. We had people group into threes and fours and see what they had between them that would be useful in an emergency. Things like smart phones aren't as great when you have no cell service or electricity to charge them. The team that had a first aid kit, tools, and rope in their car, as well as large amounts of cash took that round.

I'm patting myself on the back because I'm finally figuring out how to make large meals without killing myself. We had brisket, rosemary potatoes, and the best kale salad. The brisket was prepped two days earlier in the crock pot, so I just popped it in the oven an hour before people arrived. Because we were using all candlelight I didn't worry about dusting. Who's going to notice? Appetizers were a cheese plate and frozen goodies from Trader Joe's. I even took a nap the afternoon of the party.

After dinner we played a bastardized version of Family Feud, with questions from the show ("Name an animal you hope never sits on you") as well as questions that we made up, like "Name a thing you should have in your emergency kit," and "Name something you should do immediately following an earthquake."

The winning team was rewarded with hard hats and the losers got Spam. Actually, everyone went home with a can of Spam. If that's not winning, I don't know what is. Then we had gingerbread cake and lemon cream ice cream. It was really fun.

But enough about party details. A lot of people living in the Pacific Northwest don't know that such a massive earthquake is due. The Cascadia subduction zone lies in the Pacific Ocean, where the Juan de Fuca plate is being subducted by the North American plate. This is an area that stretches from Vancouver Island down to Northern California. The two plates are butting up against each other, building up pressure until one plate forces the other beneath it. This is what's known as a megathrust earthquake. The recent devastation in Japan was from a megathrust earthquake. The 2004 Indonesian earthquake was a megathrust. These are massive earthquakes that cause shaking for 4-8 minutes. I was in the '89 Loma Prieta earthquake and it lasted an eternal 10 seconds. I can't imagine what 4-8 minutes of shaking is like.

Experts estimate that the zone triggers every 300-350 years. It has been 313 years, so we're due. There are some really terrifying articles about what to expect when it hits. The majority of our bridges are not expected to be left standing. Emergency crews will be overwhelmed and we'll largely be on our own. Cell reception will be non-existent.

My greatest fear is that the quake will hit while we're at work. Greg will be stranded downtown and I'll be stuck on the east side. It could take him weeks to get back to the east side of the river.

So what can we do? We can make sure that we have emergency supplies in our homes and cars. We can make sure we have a 72 hour supply of water, as well as a water purifier. We may be harvesting rainwater to drink. We can retrofit our houses so they stay on the foundation. Greg and I are getting bids for this now.

Most importantly, we need to know our neighbors. We may end up saving each other when the big one hits. This one is hard; Greg and I are shy and mostly wave at our neighbors.

Ayse at Casa Decrepit has a really great rundown of how they're preparing for a large quake. She mentions that your sewer or water lines may be severed, meaning you won't want to use your toilets. You'll need a shovel and an area in your backyard where you can dig a hole instead. I'd never thought about that.

Right now we're trying to figure out where to keep our emergency supplies. All of our water and camping supplies are in the basement, which is probably the worst place they could be. We may move our water supply to the garage, which would be easier (and less scary) to access, post-quake.

We have Spam, so at least we've got that going for us. Do you have an emergency kit? Are you preparing for the big one? Have I completely bummed you out?

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Agave update

Loree recently asked how my agaves were handling their first winter in the ground. They were planted back in May in the berm. I amended the soil with chicken grit and mulched them with gravel.

I'm happy to say that so far they are doing great. No black spots or rot as of yet.

Of course, we have many wet months still to come. My fingers are crossed!

Monday, January 21, 2013

Did I make a terrible mistake?

We've had a tiny dusting of snow and many nights of frost and the castor bean leaves had all shriveled.

People kept telling me it would turn to mush as soon as the temperatures fell but it was still solid as a rock. I pruned off what I could without a hacksaw and left this poor trunk.

Now of course I'm second-guessing this decision. What if it would have survived the freezing cold to rebloom next spring? That's impossible in 8b, right?

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Me and curtain panel sewing are breaking up.

Our dining room has always been a design nightmare with half wood floors and half ugly carpeting and a mishmash of furniture. It's such a fucking nightmare that of the 40,000 pictures I have taken of the house, there are about four of the dining room.

Shortly after I moved in.
Dirty, broken, plastic blinds

Now it's a fucking nightmare WITH DRAPES! And Ikea Enje shades.

The Enje blinds let in a ton more light during the day, while allowing us to keep our privacy. Ask me about the time I wandered out to the kitchen in my underwear and spotted Greg's step-dad outside my kitchen window, hefting a rocking chair over his head. It's not as weird as it sounds but it was super embarrassing.

I've been searching craigslist for three years, trying to find a large scale table (preferably something in the farmhouse family) to fill this room. This one woman has been listing her Restoration Hardware table, which currently sells for $2395, for $1900.

She's had the listing up for two months. That makes me crazy. Why would I buy your used table that I can't return to RH if it ever develops a defect or doesn't look right in the space? Why not save an extra $500 toward a brand new one that comes with delivery to my house? I don't believe that you should ever ask more than half the cost of a brand new item that is available online, especially from a mass producer like Restoration Hardware. The table isn't special or unique or an antique. I tried to negotiate her down but she wouldn't go for it. So I guess she'll just keep listing her table that no one will buy and we'll keep watching for sales.

This kills me because I hate consumer culture and I always prefer to buy used, preferably older stuff that wasn't produced in a factory in China where the employees are treated terribly. Someone recently remarked that we are horrified when we hear about slavery in the south. How could people do that? We would never do that! But we buy cheap consumer goods knowing full-well that the factory workers are operating under inhumane conditions. Future generations will frown on us.

But that lady on craigslist really makes me dig in my heels. I don't want to buy from her and I don't want to buy new because it will get assembled by underpaid workers, shipped from somewhere very far away, and jammed full of chemicals that will off-gas in my house. And whoa Heather, why don't you talk about feline AIDS as long you're bumming everyone out?

But yeah, curtains! I finished the curtains. They took days to make and I never want to make another panel again.

I think they make the room look closer to finished and I'm pleased that I can finally cross them off the list. Now we just have to find a table and chairs that don't fall apart when you sit on them. Chairs are so pricey, you guys! When did it get so expensive to sit?

Sorry about that shame spiral detour in the middle there. Sometimes I feel embarrassed by the abundance of riches in my life. Then I have a glass of wine and I make fun of The Bachelor and everything is okay again.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Garden bloggers' bloom day January 2013

It finally got really cold here in Portland. As a result, I finished all seven seasons of Gilmore Girls (spoiler alert: everything turned out okay) but I'm still working on my knitting project. I find my mind wandering to the garden and I'm starting to obsess over problem spots in the yard again. I missed that.

And things are blooming! Aren't winter blooming plants the best?

Helleborus x ballardiae 'HGC Cinnamon Rose'

NOID Penstemon

Mahonia x media 'Arthur Menzies'

Salvia 'Black and Blue'

My daphne is budding and my crocuses are poking out of the ground, so I'm hoping the next bloom day should be a good one. Check out May Dreams Gardens to see what else people have blooming this month.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Baseboard. Finally.

Hey! I can finally tell you about my kitchen baseboard. I was sponsored by Tinkernation to install it and write about it but I had to wait to post it here. It happened so long ago that I don't really remember all that happened except that it took a lot longer than we thought it would and I was really sore from crawling around on the floor. I'm fairly certain Greg and I got very testy with each other setting up the miter saw. What I'm saying is, I'm kinda phoning this one in.

So yeah, no baseboard in the kitchen. When we redid our closet we pulled out the trim and kept it so we could use it here.

Way back when they turned our dining room from two rooms into one, they built out this wall four inches and did this bullshit with the baseboard. We were like, "What the hell are we supposed to do with this bit of franken-trim?"

So we removed everything from this wall and used a longer piece of trim from the closet here. Then we cut up the franken-piece that was here and used it in the kitchen.

The long piece from the closet covered this wall perfectly.

This was a tricky corner because they totally botched the corner angle when they built out the wall. This corner had a 50-ish degree angle, which made all the cuts bizarre. And we'd never installed baseboard before, so we didn't know what we were doing.

But thank goodness for caulk and spackle and paint. Because we went from this . . .

To this . . .

I still need to install quarterround/toe board but baseboard took three years, what's another three for quarterround? Also, I'm still missing a toe kick under the dishwasher. I'm giving an over/under of five years for that one.