It’s been a year since Stephen and I made our 3-day trek from Los Angeles to Chicago. We’ve experienced our first brutal winter, many trips on the El, numerous pubs and a few Cubs games. I thought I’d recap 10 important lessons we’ve learned:
- Complaining about the weather gets you absolutely zero pity from native Chicagoans. From sub-zero wind chills to triple-digit scorchers, they’ve seen it all and then some. Buck up, buy yourself a good coat, and stop complaining.
- From approximately November 1 through April 1, you will never see your neighbors. Hibernation is real. Hunker down with a good bottle of whiskey and catch up on Netflix.
- The first warm day of the year feels like the opening scene of a musical. People are practically skipping through the streets. Strangers talk as if you’ve been friends forever.
- No one has a rational answer to the question, “Why are the seats on buses and trains upholstered?” Additionally, no one knows the answer to, “What sort of stains, bodily fluids or other nightmares live in the upholstery fibers?”
- When at a Cubs game, you drink Old Style. Plain and simple.
- Once you accept the fact that the Wilson stop always has and always will smell like pee, going to Target is a much more carefree experience.
- If you live north of, say, the BELMONT station, you will be going to *them*, versus them coming to *you*. Get used to it.
- The Architecture boat tour is overrated. Rent a kayak and go out on Lake Michigan instead.
- If there’s any place worth cheating on vegetarianism for, it’s The Girl and The Goat.
- Word to the wise: Chicagoans have serious, serious city and neighborhood pride. Do not diss any neighborhoods because no doubt someone will have lived there, or their cousin lived there, or their friend’s ex-roommate lived there, and they will not be happy about it.
What do you think about my list? Interested to see what my native Chicago friends think!
Before this weekend, I had naked windows. It was kind of embarrassing, because our 96-year-old condo has absolutely stunning window moldings and details, but they were bare and sad.
Much of the issue was related to cost. I couldn’t stand to spend $200+ per window for custom shades, and blinds, even nice ones, just don’t do these windows justice. Here’s the before so you can get a feel for what we’re working with:
I’d been considering Roman shades for both of these areas because I didn’t want to lose any of the natural light and also wanted something that looked a bit more timeless and tasteful.
- Fabric: Measure your windows to determine how much you will need. I ended up using a fairly light cotton canvas because again, I didn’t want too much light to be blocked out. For the four windows, I used 6 yards at $7.99/yard. For those in Chicago, I purchased the fabric from Vogue Fabrics in Evanston.
- Cheap mini-blinds: I purchased vinyl blinds from Home Depot. I was able to use the “Grab-N-Go” style for 2 of my windows, at $4.50 each. Because our condo is so old, the other two windows are not close to a standard size, so I had to purchase the cut-to-size vinyl blinds at about $18/each.
- Glue: I used Alene’s tacky glue at $2.85 for the bottle
- Drill/screwdriver to mount the blinds
- Any additional trim: I did a ribbon border on each of my shades. The ribbon cost was about $20, but I bet you could find it cheaper if you looked for a deal.
- Optional: A meter stick or some sort of straight edge
Based on the size of your window and whether you’re doing an inside or outside mount, add at least 1 inch to your measurements for the hem and cut the fabric to size. Iron the entire piece of fabric, and then measure off your hem.
Once you have your fabric hemmed and ironed, attach any trim or embellishments you’d like. At this point, I did a ribbon border on my shades. I simply used a straight edge to glue the ribbon at 4″ in from the edges all the way around. I chose a gray ribbon for the living room shades, and navy blue for the kitchen window.
Open up your mini blinds and expand them to the full length. Lay out your shade fabric face down on the floor, and place the blinds on top of the fabric. Cut the ladder cord (horizontal cord) in between each blind, being very careful to not cut the thicker pull cord!
(I’m sorry for the lack of pictures for this step–I totally neglected to take pics. But this post has a really good visual.)
Remove the plastic stoppers at the bottom of the blind and begin to take off the slats.
Determine how many “folds” you want in your Roman shade. I decided I wanted my first slat to be about 20 inches down from the mounting gear, and I liked the look of the “cascading” folds, so I decided to make the spacing between the bottom slats longer than the upper slats. So basically from top to bottom my layout was: mounting gear – 20″ space – first slat – 10″ space – 2nd slat – 12″ space – 3rd slat – 14″ space – bottom of the blinds.
I hope that makes sense. You’ll just have to do some math to determine the length of your shade and the spacing of the slats or folds.
Discard all the slats you won’t need, then re-attach the bottom bar of the blinds.
Glue the mounting gear, slats, and bottom of the blind to your shade, making sure NOT to glue the pull cords.
Let the glue dry and you’re ready to hang!
Admire your work. Here’s the after photos of my shades:
Instead of allowing myself a restful holiday break this year, I followed my nose to Home Depot and conned Stephen into overhauling our dining room.
Here’s the backstory: Since we moved into our condo 6 months ago, the dining room had become something of a warehouse for random crap. This was tragic because it’s a beautiful room with a large bay window, view of our deck and a cutout wall that looks into the kitchen and vice versa. I had just been feeling totally uninspired though, and knew it would take more than a coat of paint and a lazy weekend to get it up to par. Here are a couple of photos from the realty website when we bought the condo.
And what it turned into on our watch:
Do you love our classy makeshift ironing board? My only defense is we had just moved in. Hopefully the lone empty bottle of Veuve on the windowsill balances the scale a little.
You understand the need, right? Having a week off for the holidays provided the perfect opportunity to finally transform the space into something lovely. I started a board on Pinterest (obviously) to record some of my favorite looks. Here are a few:
As you can see, I was loving the dark walls. I did some research, and with the help of this blog and a few YouTube videos, we installed crown molding, chair rail, faux wainscoting panels and painted the walls a beautiful dark blue and crisp white.
After!!! Notice Paddington loves the room.
The night we finished.
Side by side before and after. Please excuse my lack of wide angle lens.
We completed the project in about 4 days, if you include caulk and paint-drying time. You could definitely do it faster if you knew what you were doing to begin with (which we did not!). Want the step-by-step details? Read on!
Disclaimer: I am by no means a professional. This was purely a DIY project, and these are my opinions and recommendations based on my experience. If you want professional instructions, consult a professional.
- 1 gallon of paint in your “upper” wall color (one gallon is probably enough for an average sized room)
- 1-2 gallons of paint in your “lower” wall color (you will use this on the moldings too, if you choose white)
- Roller + extension handle
- Angle brush
- Painter’s tape
- Paint tray
We used the following colors of paint in the room:
1. The great thing about knowing you’re going to be putting up crown molding and wainscoting? You don’t have to worry about painting all the way up to the ceiling, or making a perfect line where the chair rail will go. Just make sure you paint low enough so the chair rail will cover the paint line, and high enough so the crown will cover the paint line near the ceiling.
2. You might want to tape off your “upper” color at the chair rail line if you plan to paint the “lower” color the same day–we did this because we painted the navy blue and white at the same time.
3. Also, save yourself a ton of time by painting your crown molding, chair rail and wainscoting pieces before you attach them to the wall. That way, you just have to do touch ups.
- Molding: Approximately the length of each wall + 10% (in my opinion)
- Miter saw with bevel adjustment option: You can rent this from Home Depot on an hourly or daily basis for approx. $35-40/day. We were lucky enough to borrow one from a friend.
- Nail gun: You can also rent this from Home Depot by the hour or day. It’s about $20/day. Get a cordless one.
- 2″ finishing nails
- Safety glasses
- Caulk gun
- Painter’s tape
- Wood file (optional but nice to have–we used it several times to make slight adjustments to our cuts)
- Tape measure
- Ladder (if needed)
- A helping hand. I’m not sure an amateur would be able to do this alone. But feel free to prove me wrong!
Purchasing supplies at Home Depot, or Home Despot, as Stephen likes to call it.
I will confess: I thought this would be a breeze. I watched approximately 1.2 million YouTube videos on how to install crown, got all the tips and tricks…and we still screwed it up the first time! Hopefully you can learn from our experience and save yourself the headache of having to restart your project (bear with me if you already knew these facts about crown molding–I wish I had known when we made the first cut).
1. Measure your room and add about 10% — this is how much length of crown molding you should buy. This will give you extra pieces in case you make a cut too short, or mess up an angle. We needed 52′ for the dining room we did, so we ended up purchasing a pro-pack from Home Depot, which gives you five 12-foot pieces for $45. That gave us 60′, which was enough extra to make up for any mistakes.
2. IMPORTANT TIP! Crown molding comes in basically three styles: 38 vs. 45 vs 52 degrees. Here’s an illustration of the different types and how they sit on the wall:
Image via http://cutandcrown.wordpress.com/
Why is this important? Because it affects the way you will cut the crown molding. We didn’t realize we purchased 38-degree crown (I had no idea there was a distinction), and therefore we ended up cutting the angles wrong and had to start over. So when you go to the store to buy the wood, take note of which type of crown you’re purchasing. Note that 38-degree crown is optimal for lower ceilings, vs 52-degree crown, which is designed for high ceilings. We have 9′ ceilings and the 38-degree crown looks just fine.
3. Know how to set your miter saw to make the first cuts. BOOKMARK ALERT: This chart will be your lifesaver as you do this project and will save you tons of time. It tells you at what setting you need to adjust the bevel (blade side) angle and miter (table side) angle of your saw, based on whether you have 38-, 45-, or 52-degree crown (see #2), as well as the wall angle of your corner (not all corners are 90 degrees!). You will use this when cutting inside corners:
Example of an inside corner. Image via http://www.howtoinstallcrownmoulding.com/
4. Take it a wall at a time. The adage is measure twice, cut once? I say measure ten times, cut once.
5. When you’re ready to attach your first piece to the wall, nail in the center of the piece first and work your way towards the corners. Stop nailing at about 18 inches from the corner, because this allows you to finesse the angle when you put the adjoining piece on. Once you have those pieces set, you can nail in the corners.
Example of nailing in the center first, posted with Stephen’s permission🙂
6. IMPORTANT (HAPPY) TIP! If your corner pieces don’t connect perfectly, don’t fret. Caulk covers a world of mistakes. As long as most of your corner pieces are adjoining, or even 1/4 of an inch or so off, you can most likely caulk it and no one will ever know. We agonized over two angles that were
a bit a lot off, and once we caulked those corners, you couldn’t tell even if you look closely.
7. Which brings me to: caulking and puttying! Once all your pieces are up on the wall, it might look like a battlefield up there with all the nail holes. Not to worry! Grab your putty and cover the nail holes. You’ll be amazed at how much that transforms the look of the room.
8. But wait, it gets better! Caulking, while extremely messy (have loads of paper towels on hand–trust me you can’t have too many), really completes the project. Tape off the line where you are going to caulk. Here’s a good tutorial with photos on how to do that. The key to the caulk gun, from what we found, is to try and run it along your seam in one fell swoop. Then just use your finger to smooth it out and discard the excess. Peel off the tape immediately. Simple as that.
Faux wainscoting (Part 1 – chair rail)
- All of the crown molding materials
- Length of your wall + 10% = approx. amount of chair rail you will need (in my opinion)
- Chalk line
Definition of faux wainscoting: Instead of putting up wainscoting panels, paint the lower portion of your wall white, add chair rail and wainscoting “frames” or “boxes,” and voila, the look of wainscoting without the hassle. Part one is a step-by-step for adding the chair rail:
1. Take a deep cleansing sigh of relief, because compared to the crown molding, this is like putting Legos together.
2. Use a chalk line and a level to mark where your chair rail should sit. Ours was (I think) about 36″ above the floor. This is totally your personal preference.
3. Rejoice, because cutting the inside corners of the chair rail does not require the extra special miter chart. Since this is sitting flat against the wall, you will simply cut adjoining 45 degree angles (assuming you have a 90 degree angle on your inside corners).
4. Use a level to make sure your boards are straight. Again, I’d recommend to start nailing at the middle of the panel and work your way toward the corners. Stop nailing about 18 inches from the corner. This allows you to finesse the two boards and get the best fit.
5. Once the chair rail is up, putty the nail holes and caulk. Touch up with paint.
Faux wainscoting (Part 2 – wainscoting boxes)
- All of Faux Wainscoting Part 1 materials
- Total length of boxes + 10% = approx. amount of molding you will need (see step 1 below for more). This is the molding we used.
1. This takes a bit of planning to measure out your room. First choose how many wainscoting “boxes” you want on your longest wall. We chose to leave 4-inch spaces in between each box and from either side of the wall. We also placed the boxes 4 inches below the bottom of the chair rail and 4 inches above the top of the baseboard. Based on that and the length of the wall, we determined the dimensions of each box.
For example, say your wall is 100 inches long and you want 3 boxes on the wall. Subtract 16 inches to account for the spaces in between each box and from either side of the wall. That leaves you with 84 inches. Divide by 3 and your boxes will each be 28 inches long. For the visual learners, here’s a diagram:
Most rooms are not a perfect square, so likely you will have different wall lengths, and hence different amounts of boxes on each wall. IMPORTANT TIP! As you lay out the map of the room, do not change the spacing of the boxes to fit the wall, change the box size. If the spacing is inconsistent, the room will look like a hot mess. For example, if you have a shorter wall, you might want to do 2 boxes (instead of 3) of different width, keeping the 4-inch spacing between the boxes and the wall.
2. Make a cut list of all the pieces you will need in each size. Luckily, your height measurements will stay consistent. I would recommend making all your cuts first, and writing the measurement on the back of each piece. Then you can take all your pieces and easily assemble the boxes in your room.
3. Use a chalk line and a level to mark the top of each box and the bottom of each box. Use your tape measure and level to draw the boxes on the wall with a pencil.
4. Nail on your pieces, using the level to ensure they’re straight, working your way around the room.
5. Putty and caulk.
6. Touch up any nail holes or scratches with paint.
7. GO CRAZY. Because you just finished the project, and your room looks AMAZING!!!
I really hope this was helpful. Please feel free to ask any questions in the comments section, and I’ll respond as promptly as possible. Thanks for reading!
Today is the first day I have truly grieved for the victims of the Newtown massacre. On Friday I watched the world go by on Twitter in stunned silence at the horror of it all, but today I felt the sadness and the sobriety and the sinking in of it. I think perhaps some things are so dark, so evil, that we don’t want to enter into the state of mind required to process something so tragic and senseless. Sometimes it’s not until equilibrium is restored to our shaken worlds that we can understand that we now live in a new reality. And we mourn for what has been lost.
For me, it was something else that hit too close to home that triggered the grieving process. Today I received word that my cousin, age 7, was in a car accident along with his 6-year-old brother and my uncle. They were having a typical morning, in the car on the way to school. They live outside the city and were traveling on a rural highway. A school bus stopped in front of them and put on its flashing lights to pick up students. They stopped behind the school bus, as you do, but in those few seconds, a distracted driver rear-ended them at full speed.
My 7-year-old cousin is in a coma tonight at the hospital. He is just what you would expect a precocious 7-year-old to be. He is the grandson my mom hasn’t had, and the bundle of hope and pride that all children are. He has his whole life ahead of him, and we are hopeful and expectant that he will get to live it. But it only took a second to put that in jeopardy. And tonight, with the events of the past week compounded, I am sleepless with the burden that life is so. painfully. short.
At the risk of being sentimental, redundant, or preachy, I’m going to say this:
Hug the ones you love.
Think twice before you pick up your cell phone in the car. Or type in directions to your GPS. Or take that conference call on the road. There is nothing that is important enough to put someone’s life in jeopardy.
The world can change in an instant.
Friday the 13th (of July) was my last day as a resident of California, and I spent it in a 26-foot moving truck. It was also the first day this year that I can remember it raining in Los Angeles, a fitting departure that echoed my sentiments about leaving such a beautiful, golden place that has been my home for the past four years.
After a slow burn of packing and tearful goodbyes, we shoved the remainder of our belongings into the truck as we inched our fingers out of the way to pull down the garage-door of the trailer. Our friends took one last picture of us on our street, the looming truck in the background with our Prius trailing behind. We hugged our friends at least one too many times, and as we scrambled into the truck and shut the doors, raindrops pitter-pattered on the windshield. The truck groaned up the street and we turned away, en route to our new destination.
After a three-day Odyssey across painted deserts and miles and miles of cornfields, here we are at our new home in Chicago, Illinois, with only one moving truck mishap to speak of. This new place has a golden glow of its own, just not sourced from the eternal summer of California, but something else. It’s more a glow of a summer that is temporal, laced with the promise of seasons that mark time and feelings.
I owe so much to California, the place where I ambled my way awkwardly from college student to “adult,” from single girl to “wife,” from observer to “doer.” In the interest of giving my time in California its due memorial, herewith, a list of things I will miss, in no particular order:
-Going to the beach on New Year’s Day, every year
-The seemingly endless line of planes en route to LAX that light up the city like a string of Christmas lights
-Judging each day on a scale of Gorgeous to Pristine using the visibility of Catalina Island as a benchmark
-The view from the Getty Center
-The majestic drive up Pacific Coast Highway, any stretch of it
-Palm trees for days
-The Doubroff’s patio, and all the good wine and laughs we had there
-Flat-roofed houses and picture windows
-Sunsets when there are clouds in the sky
-Being able to see snow-capped mountains from the beach
-The garlic balls at C&O’s in Venice
-Father’s Office burger
-Rosti on Montana
-Celebrity sightings (if I’m being honest)
-Referring to highways as “the” 405 or “the” 101
-In ‘N Out, particularly the neapolitan shake
-Bret & Carey being a mere, like, 15 steps away
-The unparalleled beauty of Big Sur and the Central Coast
-Thanksgivings in Paso Robles wine tasting
-Drinking white wine on the beach in the summer
Confession: I hardly ever finish anything I start. Whether it’s taking up knitting (all I have to show for myself is a tenth of a scarf), blogging (all I can do is laugh), training my dog (sorry Billy, my vet/friend!), et cetera, I am the WORST at following through on personal projects. I get so excited about the prospect of a new hobby and throw myself into it full force, only to get bored, frustrated or busy.
Hopefully someone reading this can relate. If you can relate: I have come to give you hope.
Recently, I actually finished something I started: I ran the L.A. Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon.
In case you haven’t been following my invisible blog posts on this topic, let me fill you in. Last December, I decided my New Year’s resolution would be to run this particular half marathon. I maintain I had an aneurism or was drugged, because WHY ELSE WOULD ONE DECIDE TO RUN 13.1 MILES?
Looking back, I honestly don’t know what possessed me to run a half marathon. Why not a 5K? 5K is such a nice, pretty distance. But no. Remember what I said about getting really excited about new hobbies? Yeah.
So, I started training. Clad in wratty sneakers, high school sports t-shirts and running shorts from middle school, I started pounding the pavement. I logged all of my training runs (give or take a few) via RunKeeper. Whether I had finished the half marathon or not, I think I have something to be proud of this year:
- 70 runs
- I started out with a 15-minute mile pace. Now I’m at a 12-minute mile pace.
- 267 total miles logged
- 24,000 calories burned
Anyway, running was so painful at first. My lungs would burn, my muscles would cramp and my feet would blister. But every time I ran, I got better. I could run farther and a tiny bit faster each time. I was breaking my own records. I was up to 6 miles, then 7, then 9, then 14. Even though I was running at clunky 13-minute/mile paces, I might as well have been a Kenyan coasting with ease and grace through the streets and beaches of L.A. It seemed as if I were in primal territory on those long runs. It felt like I was going where no one had gone before. It sounds silly, but that’s honestly how it felt. Running, I’ve come to learn, is freeing.
Here are some of the things I saw on my runs this year:
I am forever indebted to the streets of L.A. for their inspiration.
On the morning of October 30, 2011, I woke up around 5 a.m. I put on the outfit I had laid out the night before (over the year I upgraded my running wardrobe to include some items from this decade and some proper shoes). I drank some water, an energy bar, put on a tiny bit of makeup in preparation for the post-race photos, and Stephen and I made our way downtown.
The start area was completely packed with people and music was already blaring before the sun came up. We met up with some friends who were also running the race and waited until we needed to go to our corrals for the start.
Once we made our way to the corral and the race began, it took probably 5 minutes before we crossed the start line. Stephen ran with me the entire time (I don’t think I would have finished without him…keep reading), and for the first hour and a half of the race, I felt AMAZING. I was pacing for a massively faster time than I had in all my training runs and I was attributing it to the race atmosphere and adrenaline. Through mile 9, I was so excited that I was going to beat my (loose) goal of a 2:45 time.
Then came…the hill.
The sadist who mapped out the course probably laughed with glee when he or she decided to include a practically vertical hill at mile 9. SUCKERS! You think you’re almost there, THINK AGAIN!
And there went my race.
I’m not exaggerating, this hill was completely evil. I wish I had a good picture of it to share with you so you could commiserate with me. But people must have been just focusing on getting air to their lungs instead of documenting the most hellacious hill of their lives. We walked/ran to the top of the hill, but by that point–after killing it the first 9 miles then crying my way up the hill, I was completely spent. By the time I was at the downhill on mile 10 I honestly didn’t think I could make it to the finish. Three more miles felt like we might as well be running to China.
Here’s where Stephen comes in again. He coached me the whole way to the finish line. I literally had nothing left but somehow, thanks to him, we made it. The last three miles of the course were mostly downhill, thank goodness, so with his encouragement and coaching (“OK, we’re going to run for 30 seconds.” “We’re going to make it to that stop light.”) I was able to finish what I started…in 2 hours and 58 minutes.
Once we crossed the finish line, we were instantly given medals and cold water. A man handed me a banana, which I proceeded to INHALE at warp speed. We met up with our friends, who all finished (yay!), and had a celebratory beer (which sounded terrible at first, but actually was so refreshing).
So. Will I keep running? Yes. In fact I just finished my second 10K race last weekend (with a personal record!). Will I ever run another half marathon? Yes. How about a full 26.2?
ARE YOU INSANE???
UPDATE: This is the perfect representation of EXACTLY how I felt after leaving the LADOT office yesterday.
-The Pico Blvd. LA DOT Parking Enforcement office is without a doubt, the most soul-deadening place I have ever been.
-If you think your DMV woes hold a candle to what I dealt with yesterday at the LADOT office, you have not been to the LADOT office.
-Barack Obama had an easier time proving his identity than I had at the LADOT office.
-All I want is a dinky parking permit so I don’t keep shelling out money to pay for your stupid 2-hour limit tickets on my OWN STREET.
-Oh I get it, LADOT, you WANT me to keep paying those tickets.
-Oh, ok, so my 10 forms of identification including my MARRIAGE LICENSE are not sufficient to prove my residency on the XXXX Block of XXXXX Ave (redacted).
-Yes, LADOT clerk, you did just do 3 snaps in a Z formation while explaining that you’re “just following the rules.”
-Sure, I will take my “visitor” permit because apparently I’m an ALIEN living in my own apartment, according to LADOT. Thank you for NOTHING.
Image via Flickr