November 19, 2009

Old Things Become New

So I've had this old, lusciously worn pair of Dustan's corduroys laying around forever. You know cords, they get better with age. And if Dustan happens to put on a wool sweater with his cords and ruffle his hair a bit, he looks really J.Crew and I fall more in love with him.

But now they're done. Through oil changes and banister-sliding, from Virginia to Wisconsin, these pants have been loved well. But Dust finally blew the hubs out of them. I'm pretty sure it was in church when I happened to look at his booty and instead saw his wallet and beyond. I'm like duuuuude, those pants are so gone.

Here's one more worldly possession that is very sentimental to me: my recipe book. It's just a big blank book that I've scrapped and glued and taped recipes into from magazines, family members, friends and clippings.

(A letter from my Mamaw including her recipe for Sweet Potato Casserole. I love that she's 90 and it's in her handwriting, which still looks like a font after all these years).

Problem is, this is the cover of my recipe book.

A little girl in what seems like overalls at first, but is really a dress. Add a hat, take away the shirt and throw in some roses. Then make the whole thing sepia. I have been looking at this girl since I got married and started making Sis's Famous Burritos and Mom's Sweet Tea and Amy's Lentil Soup and Dawn's Christmas Cookies. She is so sweet I have a sugar headache. She is so cute I want to give her horns with a Sharpie. I can't believe she's lasted as long as she has, Anne.

Today I employed my version of sewing, a little something I call Hot Glue Gun, and did this:

I even have a little pocket for my recipe cards!

Therefore, if any cords be in the kitchen, it's because they've been recreated. Old stains have passed away; behold! a brand new recipe book has come.
A few days ago our furnace broke. It just wouldn't kick on. The thermostat told us it was 63 degrees in our apartment. 63 degrees is brrrrrrrrrr. Just knowing it was that cold made it that much worse. Imagine me hunched over my laptop with fingerless gloves on, swaddled in layers of cotton and fleece. Makes you wanna go boil some water, throw on the hot water in the shower and let it run, just because you can.

And then just yesterday I walked Trail in the rain. My pants got wet. My hair escaped out the side of my hood and started clinging to the side of my face. The wind off the lake picked up and pelted me mercilessly. I picked Trail's tennis ball up out of the dirt, wiped my hair out of my face and suddenly, there I was - wet, cold, dirty, annoyed, heavy-legged and a good .8 of a mile from home. I'm telling you, all I was missing was the backpack.

Ever since that long walk I've been particularly sensitive to how much I hate being cold - not to mention cold and wet. The great thing is that I get cold a lot less easier. Maybe that's why these broken-furnace and soggy-walking days have been so hard on me.

But nowhere near as hard as they've been on this girl.

November 16, 2009


The toy kitchen project is still going strong. Here's an update that shows the little shelf, eyes on the stove and the genius no-pinch door design.

A sneak peek at our storage room. As I mentioned before, this room is an old cigar room (or maybe purposed for a future cigar room? as all Wisconsin bars will become smoke-free by law in 2010). Either way, for now it's the place where our yet-to-be-painted barstools and snowshoes and deer antlers and Christmas dishes and tattered, couldn't-part-with-them Appalachian Trail guidebooks live.

Also Dustan's workshop.

November 7, 2009

If you have one (a guest room), they will come

Since we've been in Racine we've had the greatest stream of company ever. It just shows that people pretty much think we're awesome.

It started with Tanner back in September. I have no pictures from that visit, and hardly any lucid memories because it was like one big fog of Dustan and Tanner fishing and talking late into the night. But I will say it was great to have Tanner here. He bought us fish sandwiches at Freaky Tiki, got up early one morning and sneaked out to wash my car. Brian and Lindsay had us over for a late summer meal under the pergola. After Tanner left, I barely had enough time to get a coat of buttercream paint on the dresser in the guest room before Mom came.


I was surprised Susie got herself a plane ticket as soon as she did. But she made it happen, and we had an awesome time. She loved our place, our city, our lake, our peoples.

She wrote Dad a little message on the shores of Lake Michigan.

We went to Milwaukee and saw Dustan at work.

We hit up Anthropologie and Mom got each of us a knob. Mine for my closet door in the guest room, her's for the medicine cabinet upstairs at Hidden Valley. (She actually got me a bunch of loot - including rugs, sheets and a mattress pad - but the Anthro knobs stand out in the mind). When you go to Athropologie, you become unsatisfied with your whole life. I can't tell you why I don't have that apron, and those teacups, that sweater and those bathtowels. All I know is, I don't. But I should.

The Mom Visit ended with such a bang. Well, except for the very end of the visit when Dustan and I screeched in to O'Hare about 45 minutes too late and a German woman checking bags wouldn't let Mom check her bag. So we ended up dragging her 98-pound-full-of-Racine-souvenirs-luggage back to the car. But on the way back we saw The Reverend Jesse Jackson. He looked kinda tired and unimportant. Something like:

Maybe not a Daniel Vosovic kind of sighting, but still a celebrity.

So every year my hometown blows out the 4th of July with tents on the school lawn and live music and a sheet cake that stretches the entire length of a flatbed truck. Mom is the kind of person that rocks out an event like that. She arms herself with small bills and sunglasses and stays all day. That's why I was so glad she happened to be in Racine for Party on the Pavement. And that was the real bang-of-a-visit-ending I was talking about earlier, not the Jesse Jackson sighting. It was a whole day of streets lined with tents and food and vendors, a Ferris Wheel, pony rides, a petting zoo, Star Wars storm troopers and about a bazillion bands, all right outside our apartment. Mom bought a teapot, a scarf, a necklace, danced in the streets unashamedly to a band called Folkswagen and then we all ate Asian chicken on a skewer. No wonder we were late getting to the airport!


Next came more people who think we're so amazing that they piled into a minivan with two small kids and drove twelve hours through the coalfields of Kentucky to come see Wisconsin. Dustan's sis Spring, Keith the bro-in-law, Ryland the First and Amryn the Munchkin.

We hit Chicago. I barked at Ryland to get him to stand in for this picture. Proof that yelling at kids always works. See how happy he was to comply?

I could only hope he'd bounce back.

I spent the entire visit trying to figure out which one of them I liked best.


Can you spot the window washer?

How about the boy on the shoe?

Our Spring and Keith Visit was another great time, and by great I don't just mean no one got into a fight and there was no wreck on the interstate. Visits aren't by default good. If you've done your share of taking in family or visiting out-of-town friends, you know this well. But we've enjoyed really great times with friends and family so far. Visits that are well-rounded but not exhausting, laid-back but not listless. Spring and Keith got to experience Racine, Milwaukee, Chicago, train rides, a water taxi, a romp on the beach (and one in the rain), meals with our friends here, a Sunday church meeting, conversation on the couch, and, each night, the soothing bass line from the band downstairs right under their pillow, gently coursing through their bodies, throwing off the rhythm of their heartbeats.


Another person who is wowed by our awesomeness enough to come see us is Dr. Wentz. Much to my chagrin, the cover band downstairs still hasn't sorted out the tempo on "Billie Jean" and it drives Eli crazy. Not so much the ill-timed drummer as the noise in general. However, it's shaping up to be The Great Eli Visit. In fact, it's Saturday, it's 70 degrees and sunny outside, Dustan made us pancakes this morning, and now they're fishing. You book a plane ticket to the Dairy Air in the month of November to see your friends like that, God will smile on you too.

Eli did his homework and made reservations for us at The Publican the night he flew in. We got dressed up and I thought this would be a good time to show off the fact that Brahma shaved the beard again. And I actually curled my hair.

The Publican is a restaurant in Chicago that crosses a farmhouse with a European beer hall.

Pictured above is the apple salad with celery root, pumpkin seeds and aged gouda. We also had oysters from British Columbia, walleye, clams, pork shoulder, sweetbreads, homemade spicy pork rinds, suckling pig, brussel sprouts with bacon and chestnuts, and doughnuts with pistachios and yogurt sorbet for dessert. So glad I'm not a vegetarian in these moments. Although I should be.

It was unanimous. Gorgeous and delicious and the best treat ever. (Thanks Eli!)

We also had a perfect moment with the server. He was quick, current, cocky and simultaneously polite. So Dust asks him how far the Sears Tower is from the restaurant. He says "A ten-minute cab ride." Dust says, "So, how long to walk - too far?" And the guy says:

"That depends. How far can you walk?"

No joke. I like, snap my face to Dust with disbelief. Did this guy just fall into an unknowing trap or what? Dustan just shakes his head and smiles. Eli busts out laughing. My mouth is still hanging open, perma-grin. I just look at the guy. How far can we walk? Do you know how many thru-hikers are out there, just waiting for the irony of this question to leave them gobsmacked? We glory in the dismissive amused shrug.


Our guest room is one hopping spot and we love it, or more obviously, people love us. They are throwing stuff in bags, hopping on planes, driving long distances, wining and dining us. It has been such a fun stint of familiar faces in our new world. We can't wait for Thanksgiving when Dusty's parents come for a week. After that, who knows? I'm looking at you, Sis.

November 4, 2009

The Beginnings

It was late. We'd schlepped every last box up the stairs. Discombobulation filled the room. Lamps had abandoned their shades, chairs were upturned, little paths were necessary to get from one room to the next. I remember I took a shower and made coffee, swept everything off the table to clear just one space.

It was time to stare at swatches.

Picking a paint color is a funny thing in this house. It goes through all these processes and reasonings and filters and self-arguments between me and myself - then at the end Dustan goes "that one" - and it's always the one.

This apartment is finally painted, wall to wall. Oatmeal, Beach, Winchester, Butterscotch, "Mistint" Green and the eternal thorn in my side: PurpleGreySteelBluishSilverMist. The next few posts will be a collage of before-and-afters. Bear with me as I sort through photos. I can forecast the impatience of what it means to upload, and I'll be tempted to include nineteen versions of the same shot of this



and her.

November 2, 2009

Dustan's New Obsession

It never fails that once the air has cleared and things have settled down, another project comes along. You can't really visualize this because I still haven't posted what will be a mere handful of the thousands of pictures I have of before-and-after projects ranging from white walls turning avocado green to the spray painting of a beloved caution orange lamp. But trust me, the projects have been at full throttle around here, and only now are they tapering off to a measly picture frame overhaul here and an alphabetical CD arrangement there. Not surprisingly, when I let up a little, it's Dustan's turn to set up a workshop in our makeshift storage unit, which is really an old cigar room on the backside of our building. Now that room would be a sweet apartment: exposed brick walls, real wood floors, expansive paned windows and a massive humidor. Anyway, here's the latest:

Yup, it's a tiny wooden stove made for a toddler that has really cute hands.

Did you know these puppies sell for like over $300? One of our friends here had this brainstorm that Dust could make one for her little Olivia for Christmas, and that got all sorts of gears churning in Dustan's head. If he can make a few before the holidays hit, he's gonna see if he sell some in the $175 range. But here's my favorite:

Doesn't that make you want to be a kid all over again? I swear our kids are gonna have the coolest toys. Progress so far: (This is the kitchen stove - and he's building a taller back than the one in the photo b/c it will have a shelf to hang little pots on. Eeeek! claps hands, squeals)

So that's that. Looks like it's gonna work out and tonight he assembled the first one. It was also a very productive day for me. Number one, I scored my highest in Purble Place so far - 6270, and that pretty much ends that obsession. Because I'll never beat that. And I also gave myself a haircut (yes, you read that right) which, I gotta admit, I'm pretty smug about. I found a wiki-how-to article online and decided, what the heck. The best part was that the article had to have been written by a tweener, because at the end it said "Don't let your hair fall on the floor, or ur parents will probly kill u. put a paper mat under it and then throw it away." Right, noted. I definitely won't want any hair falling on the same floor that will at some point probably meet a menagerie of bodily fluids. (We're renters, so it's safe to say it already has, but I pretend everything was reset when we moved in). But yeah, I gave myself long layers and took some length off. Even though it's not a huge difference and it doesn't look half-bad, I still kept looking at myself in the mirror going towards my head with scissors and the look on my face was You're out of your mind.