31 August 2010

While We're Talking About Organizing...

The office has been mostly operational since the week we moved in, but there are still A LOT of boxes in that room. We're waiting until we get unpacked and organized to see whether we need to buy any bookshelves or anything...but we kind of need bookshelves to get unpacked and organized.... So, while we wrap our brains around that catch-22, it's been hard to find things in the office.

A couple of weeks ago, I needed a large envelope to send in an amended tax return, but I couldn't find our package of manila envelopes (they're still packed somewhere). I didn't want to buy more when I know I already have plenty, so I ended up recycling an old triathlon registration packet (that's why I keep this stuff!). Then, last week, everyone's favorite federal revenue agency sent our entire return back with a request for additional documentation. I was irritated that they sent the whole thing back not only because it was a waste of postage (two ways) but also because it meant that I was going to have to find another big envelope to send the whole return back again (the one additional page they were requesting would only have needed a small, white envelope). Plus, it was their poorly worded instructions that led to my first mailing being incomplete, but that's neither here nor there.

I still haven't found the package of large envelopes, but even if I had them when I first sent the return, I would almost surely have lost track of them between then and now because the office is so disorganized.

So, necessity being the mother of invention and all, I decided to use a wire shelf system that we had on hand to create a mailing center. I had to put it on the floor because the office closet shelves, which I had thought it would sit on, were too shallow to hold the front feet, but since it's only temporary, it'll do. So far it holds our checkbook (which we had to dig around for a couple of weeks ago and have since lost and found at least once), address books, mailing labels, and tape, with note cards in a bin on top (which I haven't had any problem locating since we moved...gotta write to the grandmothers!).


As I find envelopes, pens, and other office supplies, I'll add them to the shelves...and hopefully by the time it's full, everything will be unpacked and I'll be able to relocate everything to an appropriate long-term spot. But in the meantime, I'll at least know where to find a handful of office essentials.

30 August 2010

The Storm Before the Calm

The bath cabinet/linen closet/decor store reorganization this weekend led to lots of other unpacking. Too much, maybe. By Sunday evening, we weren't quite through the boxes we started on, and we're still at the point where it has to get worse before it gets better:




But we continue to make progress. As soon as I finished reorganizing the linen closet, I found more linens, so the gift shop was relocated once again. (Not saying where...no snooping!) But progress is progress. And these boxes are empty!


29 August 2010

The Decor Store

When we moved in, we pretty much just threw kitchen things in the kitchen cabinets, towels and bedding in the linen cabinet, and other random things in the tall cabinet in the front bathroom. That wasn't the best plan. The lazy susan (corner cabinet) in the kitchen ended up with an odd assortment of rarely used kitchen items, the linen cabinet wasn't big enough for everything that needed to go in it, and the bathroom cabinet was full of things that had nothing to do with the bathroom (plus we had boxes of bathroom things that we still hadn't unpacked).

Enter Young House Love. These crazy kids have lots of great ideas for decorating and organizing, and this post was a revelation for me. I loved the idea of a decor store, where I could stash decorative items that aren't currently in use and see everything that we have in reserve when the need arises. I also love the idea -- and this was probably the biggest revelation -- that home decor could be constantly changing. I've always thought about decorating our home as a quest to find just the right thing for each space, and once one area was done, I'd move on to another -- and if something was replaced, that item probably wouldn't ever see the light of day again (the one exception, of course, being Christmas, when holiday items either replace or augment the year-round fare). But it's fun to change things with the seasons, our moods, entertaining opportunities, etc., and I immediately knew that we had to find a spot for a decor store.

And that's how all of the random decorative items we haven't yet put to use ended up on little lazy susans in the tall cabinet in the front bathroom:


There are also gift items (the "gift shop," I suppose) and random odds and ends stashed in there. Nothing that really belongs in a bathroom.

And then there was the lazy susan cabinet in the kitchen:


Ugh. With the bi-fold door, this isn't the easiest cabinet to access, so we knew it needed to contain low-use items...but it was full of random low-use items that we'd never remember were there, and somehow the bagel cutter ended up in there (we use that all the time). Not ideal.

Logic quickly set in, and it was clear what needed to happen. The kitchen cabinet would become the decor store. That meant relocating the odds and ends (they're still sitting on the counter...we need to get to that). Then we had to bring over the items from our not-so-successful attempt at a decor store in the bathroom, which freed up those little lazy susans for bathroom items (the cabinet is pretty deep, and the lazy susans are perfect for accessing the stuff in the back):


We also moved the extra towels from the linen closet to the bathroom cabinet (although with four bathrooms instead of two-and-a-half, there aren't many extra towels anymore). And there's plenty of space left over for us to fill with any other bathroom items that we find as we continue to unpack.

Then I turned my attention to the linen closet. It's still a work in progress, as you'll see from the "after" picture, but I brought some sense of order to it and also moved the gift shop there:


(The "before" was such a mess that I didn't take a picture.)

But back to the point of the whole switcheroo -- the new and improved decor store:


27 August 2010

Mr. Dash Dash

When I posted earlier today, I forgot the most important thing -- an update on Dash's visit to the vet this morning. He's so much better, and even though we've reduced his sick-bunny food to about a third of what we were giving him in July, he's gaining weight. (Yup, we're talking about four pounds and two ounces of bunny cuteness.) We decided to keep him on Cipro because he still had a tiny bit of goo in his ear, and his head is still tilted, but he's otherwise pretty much good as new. It was the first time since he got sick in May that we have left the vet's office without scheduling a follow-up appointment, and it was great to fold up his carrier and stash it in the closet.

The Cold, Hard, Not Sunny Truth

We finally got our roofer out to (we thought) give us a bid to install a third solar tube in the mudroom, like the two we have in the kitchen:


As you can see, the kitchen has a large window, but with a 10' wide porch on the other side creating, effectively, about a 12' roof overhang over it, we were concerned that the windows alone wouldn't let in enough light. Then, midway through construction, I regretted the decision to put in two (which seemed like overkill, resulting from centering a recessed light over the island, so a single solar tube would have been off-center). In the end, though, two large solar tubes are pretty much perfect. As early as 7 in the morning (when the sun is just starting to come up on the other side of the house), we are able to use the kitchen without turning on any lights. They provide so much light that even now, two months after moving in, there are still times when I think I left a light on in the kitchen...but no, it's just the solar tubes.

The mudroom is the only room (other than the master potty and closet) without any natural light, and we've been regretting not putting in a solar tube during construction, so we had the roofer out to look at adding one. But it's not gonna work. The dome that sticks out the top of the roof is sufficiently ugly that we don't want to see it from the front of the house, and the tube material they use only spans 10'...but ours would have to be about 14-15' to reach to the back of the roof. The roofer did say that there are other types of solar tube materials that can span longer distances (as we were already aware), but his company doesn't think their quality is good enough, and we trust that opinion.

So we're bummed that another solar tube isn't in the cards for us -- but also feeling better about not having thought of it during construction (it would surely have cost more now) and happy to avoid the decision about how expensive is too expensive. So we're going to turn our attention to putting in a motion-sensing light switch in the mudroom, to at least save us the trouble of flipping the switch as soon as we come in from the garage with our hands full and the countdown on to disarm the alarm.

26 August 2010

Thank you, Rebekah Baines

Who's Rebekah Baines? Lyndon Johnson's mother. Why am I thanking her? She brought LBJ into the world one hundred and two years ago tomorrow (Friday). LBJ's birthday is a state semi-holiday, so I'm taking another day off.

So...in honor of Austin's favorite ex-president, ice cream and applesauce turnovers-turned-mini-apple-pies:

24 August 2010

Lady of Leisure

It's the end of the fiscal year at my office, and I had vacation two days I had to take or I'd lose them. In my world, there's no "or I'd lose them" about it -- I had to take two days. So I've been off yesterday and today, pretending to be a trophy wife.

Yesterday, I wrangled some subs who came to do warranty work, then went to my usual Monday noon class at the gym, then swung by Ross on my way home (even as a trophy wife, I'd still be thrifty). I didn't get a cart because I didn't expect Ross to have anything good...and ended up with almost more than I could carry. Then I came home for an appointment with a blinds lady (not a blind lady...window blinds). She was two hours late and had unreal prices. Like in a bad way.

Today was much the same -- warranty work in the morning, then a class at the gym followed by a swim in the lake, then Target and Costco. Now I'm home getting an early start on dinner (we're having our friend Sarah and her little boy Evan over). I'll update later with pictures...if I feel like it. (Isn't that what being a lady of leisure is all about?)

Update, 9:00 p.m.:
Our kitchen is an absolute dream to cook in. The layout is really efficient, the island is a great workspace, there's enough storage that everything is close at hand (without having to remove a big stack of items and dig to find the one I want)...cooking in it is a whole different experience from any kitchen I've ever used.

This afternoon I accomplished the following:
  • Made ice cream:

(The island is where we store the kitchen electrics and all accessories. It absolutely could not be easier to whip them out and plug them in at the end of the island -- as I did here with the ice cream maker -- then take the dirties a few feet to the dishwasher and return the rest to the proper spot in the island.)

  • Made a quiche (using dough I prepared this morning with the Cuisinart):

  • Made myself some pasta for lunch (okay, that's nothing special. But I did it while everything else was going on, and the kitchen handled yet another task like a champ).
  • Roasted peppers (to be peeled, sliced, and mixed with mozzarella and basil):

(The process of roasting the peppers (coated in a healthy layer of olive oil) presented me with an opportunity to double-check the electrician's work and confirm that the smoke alarms are indeed interconnected...so that's good.)

  • Made more applesauce for more turnovers:

(I used my dough instead of true puff pastry dough, and they turned out more like individual pies than turnovers -- but still tasty with a scoop of vanilla ice cream...which I forgot to photograph, despite the presentation in adorable footed bowls I picked up yesterday at Ross for just over a dollar each.)

  • Baked popovers (no pictures -- just imagine bread with no soul).
Here's the table midway through preparations, with an eager diner already waiting:


And Evan again, before dinner, looking tough:


Kudos to Steve for insisting on such a foolishly large (by which I mean "amazingly perfect") kitchen.

21 August 2010

Our First (and Second) Gathering

Today we had some new neighbors and some old neighbors over for lunch. Because of scheduling conflicts, this ended up being two separate brunches.

For Brunch 1 (at 11:00), our sweet, sweet little girl neighbors and their parents came over, along with our adorable, round-faced little boy neighbors and their parents. There was lots of food. In addition to the sausage balls and blueberry muffins they brought, we ate applesauce turnovers:


This was my first attempt at making them, and it was only marginally successful. (Note the applesauce spilling out of some of them. Also note the post-it notes on the light switches on the wall -- we're still learning which switch controls what.)

We also had our usual French toast, baked according to a recipe from an old issue of Real Simple Magazine (which is great when you're trying to make a lot and don't want to be stuck in front of the stove), fresh fruit salad, and applesauce left over from making the turnovers:



Food photography is hard. The first thing that makes it difficult is simply remembering to take a picture before diving in, but even if you remember that, organizing the food on the plate in way that looks good from the chosen angle can be tricky. Here's my first serving (turnover hiding in the background):


Here's the gang:


The girls' parents are sitting down with them, plus Matthew, whose mom is standing with little Will (the boys' dad arrived later). For the record, a chair was offered to her, but she preferred to stand to be at the ready in case any of the kids escaped from the table and needed wrangling...which they did as soon as they finished eating. Favorite activities included looking at the bunnies (of course), playing on Steve's piano in the guest room, and, interestingly, chasing and/or being chased by the Roomba (our robot vacuum, which you can see docked to the right of the porch door). A good time was had by all, until they had to leave for nap time (although little Eleanor really, really wanted to take a bath in my tub. Excellent eye, Ellie).

Not long after they left, our old neighbors arrived. I threw a salmon and goat cheese quiche into the oven while we caught up on their summer in Japan. Unfortunately, all of my food-photography-remembering skills were exhausted on Brunch 1, and I have no pictures of either the quiche or our second round of guests. So you'll just have to take my word that the quiche was as beautiful as it was delicious (and so easy to make) and that the Gaines family is as easy on the eyes as they are fantastic friends.

20 August 2010

Risky Business

The risk of having a daylighting window in the shower (not a high-use shower, fortunately):


And the risk of having a nice house with a yard that looks like it's been strip mined:


I found this on the door when I got home yesterday. Attached to the flower is a landscaper's card. When I first saw it, I immediately wondered if it was left there by the landscaper or by a neighbor who is tired of looking at our pit of despair.

19 August 2010

Guinea Pigs

We're coming up on two months in the house. Where does the time go?! We've been waiting to invite the neighbors over until we're more moved in (specifically, until the exercise room no longer looks like a warehouse), but over the last couple of weeks, I've been feeling like it's time to plan a small event and do as much unpacking, organizing, etc. as we can before the doorbell rings, with the caveat to our guests that "we're still working on it."

We love brunch. (Back before triathlon began stealing our weekend mornings, we had friends over for brunch every month or two.) We've pretty much perfected dishes like French toast and Belgian waffles, and breakfast items don't generally take a ton of prep work. So brunch was the obvious menu for this inaugural get-together. And since we knew that the girls across the street have been eager to meet the bunnies, their family was first on the invitation list. We also decided to invite another family from two houses down with kids of about the same age, as well as neighbors from the condo who have a daughter in the right range (although it's looking like they won't arrive until after the other girls have left).

Tonight I went to Costco to pick up a few things. The menu is shaping up as follows:
  • French toast with Canadian maple syrup (our favorite source...apologies to Vermont)
  • mixed fruit (strawberries, blueberries, peaches, and whatever else looks good at HEB tomorrow)
  • chaussons aux pommes (applesauce turnovers)
  • bagels with cream cheese and lox
  • some kind of quiche (probably also using the lox, with goat cheese and...spinach?)
  • roasted pepper, mozzarella, and basil salad
  • orange juice and water
In the condo, we had extremely limited kitchen space, so when we had people over, we always had to put the food out on the dining table (which we pushed against a wall). Since the table was not available for eating, guests had to use the coffee table or just hold their plate as they ate. Although our current table only seats six, we are definitely looking forward to setting up the food in the kitchen and giving at least some of our guests a more dignified dining experience.

18 August 2010

This Date in History

That is perhaps an overly dramatic title for a post about nothing more than the fact that I found our 2006 utility bills from the condo and want to do a compare/contrast exercise.

(What's that, you say? You're questioning why we still have our 2006 utility bills? I grant you that we're a little behind on purging files (although I shredded 2004 shortly after we moved in), but the bottom line is that each year's files take up roughly as much space as a shoebox, so there's not much downside to keeping them longer than I expect to need them...and the upside is that I have useful information for occasions like this. And I'll have you know, dear skeptical reader, that this is the second time I've gone searching in 2006 since we moved in -- the first time was for documentation for an amended tax return.)

So here we go. Our billing cycle in the condo was about two weeks off from our new utility account, so I'll share the numbers from the two closest cycles to the dates of the bill I received yesterday (which totaled $123, including $65 for electric service). In July and August of 2006, our bills (which, since we were living in a condo and had a gas water heater, didn't include water, trash service, or powering the water heater) came to $131 and $123, including $118 and $111 for electricity, respectively. (Complicating the math is the fact that there's also a $6/month customer charge, which doesn't scale down if we use less energy...so the numbers are really $59, $105, and $112.) Interestingly, the "energy charge" per kilowatt hour of electricity has not changed since 2006, but the "fuel charge" has increased from .03634 to .03653 per kwh, so the difference in usage (versus dollars) is ever-so-slightly more pronounced: 699 kwh last month, compared with 1090 kwh and 1157 for about this time of year in 2006.

Wow, I feel like I just wrote a story problem. First person to get the correct answer wins a fantastic prize. Or gets out of study hall for a week.

But seriously, the only equation I'm concerned about right now is this one: two-thirds the electricity for twice the square footage equals one-third the electricity per square foot. Equals good for our world and everyone living in it.

17 August 2010

Aqualectric

Over the last year we poured our hearts and souls (and wallets) into designing and building a green house with the primary goal of saving energy, but I'll admit that we really had no idea how much impact each decision (or all of our decisions together) would make. In fact, we don't even have a sense of what our neighbors with similarly sized houses (built in the 60s) pay for utilities, or what a "regular" (non-green) 2010 house of this size would cost to power, so it's still hard to know how this bill compares with the alternatives:


But for 29 of the hottest Texas days (over 90 every day, with a week in the 100s), I'm confident that we beat every one of our neighbors by a good margin. $123 is comparable to the highest bill we ever had in the condo (which was half the size of this house), but now our electric bill also includes trash service (which the condo association paid for), water (which the association sub-metered and billed separately) and an electric water heater (we had gas in the condo...so our gas bill will surely be less now, too).

Our water usage totaled $9 (although wastewater added another $13); some of the savings there can be attributed to the on-demand recirculating pump, which sends hot water around the house at the touch of a button so we don't have to run the water to warm it up. (This should make a more significant difference in the winter, when we'll want warm water pretty much every time we turn on a faucet.) Now, it should be noted that our water usage will surely increase once we have landscaping, but we intend to keep that to a minimum with native, drought-tolerant plants, and much of the water we do need to use will come from rain barrels and hopefully a 1,000-gallon cistern.

Electric water heaters cost more to power than gas, but we decided to go with a high-quality electric water heater for two reasons: (1) we plan to install solar panels, making anything that uses electricity free to power, and (2) the geothermal heat pump ties into the water heater and acts as its primary power source, making electricity only the backup. That means that, although our water heater's Energy Star label says it should cost about $42/month to power, it will be significantly less in our house (the HVAC company gave us some payback calculations on the heat pump and the assist feature, but I don't recall the number they attributed to the water heater part). I suspect the water heater will cost more to operate in the fall and spring, when the geothermal system isn't working as hard, but that's just my own speculation.

In sum, we're very pleased with the electric bill, especially compared with last month's partial bill, which worked out to about twice as much per week. I assume a lot of that is due to the construction guys not being careful about closing exterior doors and turning lights off, as well as the fact that, as soon as we took over, we turned the thermostat up and programmed it to save energy while we're not home.

Tonight, after the August Splash and Dash (where I wore my fast suit but still didn't improve on my time), I came home to a large envelope from USA Triathlon, the governing body for triathlon and other multisport, uh, sports. I thought it was my membership renewal, but it turned out to be this:


Aquathlon is like triathlon, but without the bike segment. So, I'm basically an All-American in Splash and Dash. (I assume this is based on the results of last summer's S&D series, when I used to be fast. Either that or a USAT staffer mail merged the wrong spreadsheet.) Based on this honor, they invited me to the Age Group National Championship, which I competed in last year when my friend Ursula (now my expatriate friend Ursula) and I took a road trip to Tuscaloosa. Last year, I totally planned to be back this year, but that was when I had no idea the toll building a house would take on my training. I came in nearly last in my age group (like in Portland the year before), and this year...well, as much as I'd like to, the whole thing is a no-go.

Anyway, when I got home tonight, covered in a layer of lake water and sweat, I found myself suddenly wanting to finally clean and then try out our massive bathtub (recall that we took on cleaning the house ourselves to save a whopping $2300 from the construction contract). I definitely canceled out some of our green living points when I fired up this 95-gallon baby, although I only filled it about halfway. The verdict? Definitely a keeper. It's so big, I could practically practice my swimming in it, if I weren't already a nationally-ranked aquathlete (why does Blogger question the spelling of that obviously real word?!). The other nifty thing about the tub is that the spout we ended up settling on (after searching extensively for one that would be long enough to reach into the tub while also working with the rest of our fixtures) pours a lovely, sculptural beam of water into the tub in a way that looks very modern and cool and is also nearly silent.


I contemplated making a video so you could really see (and maybe even hear...by which I mean "not hear") the water streaming into the tub, but I decided that posting a photo taken in the bath was questionable enough, so you'll have to imagine the graceful action of the water.

16 August 2010

The Bunny Room: From Skymall to Reality

As of last night, the bunny room is perhaps the most complete room in the house. Besides the front bathroom...which I still can't tear my eyes away from...except to look at the bunnies.

Here's the view from the front entry area:


And with the doors open:


(We keep them closed more often than I expected we would. That's because the bunny room, mudroom, and master bedroom are a different air conditioning zone from the great room (the bedroom wing is a third zone), and we keep the thermostat lower in the bunny room zone because the guys wear such warm, fuzzy sweaters. (Lest there be any confusion, when I say "sweaters," I'm referring to their fur. We don't dress the bunnies...although Dash has a very dashing top hat that used to belong to our previous bunny (and Dash's doppelganger), Gatsby.) We keep the rest of the house around 80, which, at 50% humidity or less, doesn't feel bad at all...if you're a human. We keep the bunny room closer to 78.)

Moving inside...last night we hung this metal tree art (not sure what to call it. It's a little on the mass-produced side to call it "sculpture," but I guess that's what it is):


As you may recall, I found it in Skymall on our way to Hawaii the day before construction began last fall and immediately knew it needed to go in the bunny room.

It's very three-dimensional:


And although it's more coppery than bronze, it coordinates nicely with the leaf light:


I love love love how the trees look in there. And since the doors are glass, they're visible from the great room, too. But let's move on.

To the right of the bunnies is the window that faces the front of the house, and the huge, gorgeous live oak tree across the street. (I totally worry about tree branches falling on the house, so I've studied it carefully and am fairly confident that this tree is far enough away that even the longest branch wouldn't quite reach if it fell in this direction. It sure would block the street, though.) The curtain is from Babies R Us. We saw it in the nursery at a house we saw on one of the home tours we went on last fall, and we matched the bunny room paint color to the green in it.


Because we are so in love with our window trim, this is how we're going to do all of our curtains-- on tension rods inside the trim. Most windows won't have curtains, though. Just top-down/bottom-up cellular shades that will still let in lots of light (plus plantation shutters on the French doors to the back porch).

To the left of the guys is their closet, and to the left of that is the Ikea toybox that we picked up several years ago to store their hay, etc. (It doubled as our shoe bench in the condo.)


We keep the food and litter bins in the closet, as well as other day-to-day necessities (like their papaya treats and the Hello Kitty cup I've been using to give Dash water by hand since he's been sick).


This closet is also the hall coat closet. It has three doors -- this pocket door, plus two swinging doors on the hall side (one closer to the entry and the other closer to the mudroom; you can see a few inches of each from inside the closet, on either side of the wall behind the bins). It's basically three closets, but we didn't put walls in between so we'd have more flexibility with the space. The two other doors are on hinge switches so that opening either one turns on a light in the center. It's a complicated closet.

What's not complicated? These sweet peas:


And, for your viewing pleasure, lazy-style:


Stay tuned tomorrow for the details on our first full-month electric bill.

15 August 2010

A Place For Everything

We were so naive. While the house was under construction, we were excited to move into our new home, get unpacked, and be able to keep like things together. For instance, while our kitchen in the condo had a lot of storage space for the tiny kitchen that it was, we had outgrown it, so we kept serving platters and less often used mixer attachments in the built-in cabinet in the living room and cloth napkins upstairs in the linen closet. Not ideal.

Now that we have almost (but not quite) more space than we know what to do with, we've been able to organize everything* in a much more logical manner -- everything for the kitchen in the kitchen, all tools in the storage room in the garage, etc. And that's the problem.

In 1200 square feet (and no garage, no basement, no usable attic), nothing was ever too far away. If we needed a screwdriver, we didn't have to look any farther than the top drawer of the left toolbox in the sunroom ('cause that's where you store all of your tools when you don't have a garage, basement, or attic). As soon as we finished loading our tools into the garage storage room, we realized that, if we were in the back bathroom and wanted to, say, tighten a cabinet knob, we had to walk (or run, in the event of a cabinet knob emergency) through the guest room, down the back hall, across the great room, down the mudroom hall, through the mudroom, out across the garage, and into the storage room. And we'd have to remember to grab the storage room key because, like the door from the garage to the house, we keep it locked.** And then we'd have to hike all the way back to the guest bathroom. And then do it all over again to put it back once we finished using it. So we quickly figured out that, while it's great to be able to keep everything all together, that's not always the most efficient way to organize one's house, and we've started thinking about setting up multiple stations for different things that are needed in more than one place. (Costco started us doing this in the condo with cleaning supplies, as, for example, a four-pack of Clorox wipes was enough to stock the kitchen and three bathrooms.) Now it's much more intentional. We started a set of basic hand tools in one of the mudroom drawers (although my preference would have been the kitchen "junk drawer") and picked up an extra set of our favorite Oxo measuring cups and spoons (it's nice to have an extra anyway for when you measure a tablespoon of oil and then need a tablespoon of sugar). Only time will tell what other second sets we'll identify a need for as we continue to get settled...unless you, dear reader, have any personal experiences or suggestions to share?)

*When I say "everything," I mean "everything that we've unpacked," which is by no means everything. There's still a room full of packed boxes that we're slowly wading through.

**Don't mess with Texas.

Do the Du

I did a duathlon today. Sort of. In reverse. (For the non-swim/bike/run crowd, a duathlon is a run-bike-run event, typically 5k-20k-5k (I think. I've never done one. I like swimming too much). Duathlon is not be confused with biathlon, which is skiing and shooting.) Anyway, Steve and I had been planning to go on a ride this morning when my marathon training buddy Kelli invited me to ride with her. Similar route, but much earlier. So I rode about 20 miles with her at 7, then ran a mile (triathletes should always run after riding...I've been horrible about that this year), then gave Dash his breakfast (not a traditional part of any multisport event), then rode another 18 miles or so with Steve at 9.

I'm so tired. So, so tired. I'm going to try to squeeze in a nap before one of R's subs comes in an hour to replace our screen porch door (warped) and adjust some door hardware.

14 August 2010

Restoration in the Front Bathroom

Restoration Hardware, that is.

Our front bathroom has been without a mirror all of these weeks. We had planned to buy Pottery Barn's Kensington mirror:


When we started looking for mirrors, we checked out Restoration Hardware, but they're so expensive. While we liked one of their options a lot, it was about $100 more than the PB Kensington (for a smaller mirror). So, while we weren't in love with the Kensington, we had resigned ourselves to it...but weren't in a hurry to pull the trigger.

Then Steve suggested that we should get clear glass soap dispensers for the master bathroom, so I started searching online. One thing led to another, and I found myself at the Restoration Hardware website, where I discovered that they were having a big sale on bath items, including the fabulous Dillon mirror, which we ordered in polished nickel to match the faucet, light fixture, cabinet knobs, and some great accessories that were also on sale and would be perfect in the front bathroom. (No dice for the master bathroom, though.)

Yesterday the mirror arrived, along with the Strande soap dispenser and matching small and large containers. Installation of the mirror was not without hiccups (the instructions were abysmal...although our issues can't be attributed to the instructions). After a couple of false starts and strategy sessions, we finally finished hanging it tonight:


Do you see what makes the Strande accessories so perfect for this bathroom? Let's review.

Tile flooring:


Light fixture (I don't know why it looks crooked in this picture):


Containers and soap dispenser:



If you guessed "they're all hexagons," give yourself ten points. And since we can't all be good at geometry, I'll also accept "octagons" and "pentagons" for half credit. (We ordered these just before our trip to the outlet mall, and once I realized we were going to be there just days later, I feared finding the things we ordered for less at the outlet store. As it turned out, they didn't have the Dillon mirror, and the Strande accessories cost a lot more at the outlet store!)

I'm so glad we dragged our feet and ended up with the Dillon mirror instead of the Pottery Barn one, which actually would have been too big. Plus the round brackets wouldn't have looked right in our bathroom, and the exposed screws really bummed me out:


Instead, the Dillon has hidden screws (which, combined with our apparent inability to think things through, were responsible for our installation troubles) and much more fitting square brackets. Here's a close-up of the bracket style on the toilet paper holder (which, at $55 on sale, was totally out of the question for us):


I picked up a polished nickel TP holder months ago at Tuesday Morning (for something like $15), and I love how it coordinates with the mirror:


I'm so glad Steve kept pushing for polished nickel instead of chrome in here. We do have chrome for the overhead light fixture/vent fan, trim on the wooden towel rack, the curtain rod, and the (rarely seen) shower fixtures, but the entire vanity region has the unmistakable sparkle of polished nickel.

Ain't She a Beaut?


Oh, in unrelated news, I just remembered that I was called for jury duty one other time. It was right at the end of law school, on the verge of starting bar review, so I used the student exemption to avoid any possibility that I'd get stuck on a months-long trial and miss the bar exam. (Not that, in retrospect, missing the bar exam would have been such a bad thing....) Anyway, the point remains that I've never had the pleasure.

12 August 2010

Call of Duty

Steve got a jury summons today. We've been at this address for seven weeks, and they've already found him. How'd they do it?

And why couldn't it have been me?! Steve has been called at least four or five times in the ten years or so we've been together, including once in Delaware, where his father went to serve until they figured out they had the wrong Steve.

I was summoned once a few years ago. Federal jury duty. (That's the way to go. At the time they were paying something like $75/day (versus $8 for state), plus mileage and parking.) Federal jury duty is set up such that they mail you a notice to call in to a number every Friday for six or eight weeks, and a recording tells you whether you need to report the next Monday. Unfortunately, I was number 130, and the last week they only got through the 120's. As a lawyer, I'd love to see the legal process from the jury's perspective, but I know that, as a lawyer, I'll probably never actually be seated on a jury. Like the Oscars, though, it would be an honor just to be nominated.

11 August 2010

Out Of Office Message

Yesterday we played hooky for Steve's company's annual outing to Schlitterbahn, the largest and most fantastic waterpark in America, which happens to be an hour from Austin. (Okay, it really isn't playing hooky if management organized it (for him) and it was approved in advance (for me).) It was, as always, a great time. And since there is an outlet mall on the way home, we stopped to do some shopping.

I'm not generally one to frequent outlet malls, but I was there a month ago, on my way back from a speaking engagement in San Antonio, and found a nice, simple waste basket at the Crate and Barrel outlet. I ended up putting it under the sink but wanted another one for the master bath (where we are keeping the garbage in the potty cabinet). Unfortunately, they were out of the white ones...but I found this:


I promptly rolled it up and stored it away after taking this picture, and it will only come out for the holidays. I can't wait for Christmas. (This will be the first time we get a full-sized tree.)

After Crate and Barrel, we headed over to the Pottery Barn store. I've had my eye on a floor lamp and amazing mica lamp shade at the regular PB store for a few months. They're so expensive that, the first time I saw them, I decided I couldn't possibly justify the cost. But then I told a very reasonable (and not at all frivolous) friend about them, and when she told me she thought it was okay to spend $200 (!) for a lamp and $50-$70 for a shade because it was obvious I really liked them, I decided to go for it...but have been biding my time, hoping they would go on sale.

So you can probably guess where this is going. The lamp shades were on sale for $20 for the smaller one and $30 for the larger one. And I thought I found my lamp base for $75...but once I got it home and looked it up online, I discovered that it's not the same lamp (close, but lacking one of the features that made the other one so special). Anyway, for $105 instead of $270, I got a really nice lamp that's pretty darn close to the one I've been admiring:


Here's how it looks, turned on, next to the sofa:


We may replace the sofa with a longer sofa with chaise longue on the side where the lamp is (yes, "chaise longue" is the correct spelling...it's French for "long chair; "chaise lounge" is how it's often spelled on this side of the pond but isn't correct). Anyway, if we get a bigger sofa, we would relocate the lamp, probably to the reading area in our bedroom. But for now, this purchase means that we finally got to plug something into the floor outlet. Anyone who has built a house knows that placement of a floor outlet is like "measure twice, cut once"...except that it's more like "measure a dozen times, pour concrete once"...and R still said it was almost certainly going to end up in the wrong place. I guess we could have put it a little further toward the fireplace so it wouldn't be visible under the sofa, but I'd say we did pretty well (I had to lean down to get this picture, and the outlet is more conspicuous here due to the flash reflecting off of the brass):


And now, at long last, the whole living area:


With the mica shades discounted so deeply, I had to pick up another one. This is the smaller one, which I bought to replace the boring shade on this amazing ceramic lamp I picked up a few weeks ago at HomeGoods for the guest room:


Hmmm...cupcake light, pear lamp...can you tell I like food?