Closet concentration

This was the weekend of The Closet.

Because we now have one! And I’m one happy, organized lunatic.

Closet locationSince our first visit to the house in March, I’ve been obsessed with the walk-in closet right off the master bathroom. Like, in the bathroom; you must go through the bathroom to find it. This seemed very convenient and very cool, and I like having one nook for all my getting-ready morning chaos every day.

Though our house was in good overall shape when we got the keys, it was still a foreclosed property that had been vacant for years. The carpets were musty and stained (and have since been replaced); almost every surface, especially the walls, were in need of a good scrub-down and visit with our trusty Mr. Clean Magic Eraser.

Most of the issues were cosmetic, though — including the troubles in the master closet.

The major issue in this space was the dirty, stained and buckling white(-ish?) carpet. The walls were also heavily scratched and dinged-up from what was, I’m sure, constant use — and the whole closet smelled less than fresh. When Spencer began to dismantle the built-in structures for hanging clothes, we discovered they were put up rather shoddily and “drilled” into drywall, not studs.

So. Dangerous, basically.

Here we were in there back in March, two innocent newlyweds with no comprehension of the dust in our future:

Closet

The first step in our closet renovation was to take apart the built-in cabinets, which were very heavy. Spencer and I nearly toppled under the weight of the first one, then worked to get our footing and disassemble that baby with whatever energy we had left.

I failed to take pictures of the closet after we really messed it up — probably because I was in physical pain looking at the destroyed wall where the mirror once hung. Trust me when I tell you it was bad, because I’m realizing that any sort of home progress requires wrecking things completely before they can get better.

We wanted that mirror down. It was, we thought, a simple task . . . because it was just a mirror, and don’t people accidentally break those and get bad luck all the time?

Well.

It was not going anywhere, friends. Rather than try to paint around the mirror, we thought it would be best to take it down and re-hang it later. After a long and complicated battle to remove the glued-on mirror, we broke it. And completely jacked the wall in the process.

Holes. Holes as big as my fist in the drywall.

When my parents-in-law were in town to help us move at the end of June, I asked my handy mother-in-law if she would mind tackling the patching of that closet to knock an item off our to-do list. She and my father-in-law did us one better by patching and painting it the same brown as our renovated master bedroom, and the transformation was stunning already.

That left us with the carpet.

We ripped up most of the existing carpet throughout the house because, yeah, the smell. A cold, musty, lingering odor that could have soured us on the place but was, we felt, a treatable issue. We correctly predicted that stench was hanging out in the carpet because, once removed, we’re fresh as daisies here in Southern Maryland.

Thank goodness.

If I may proclaim my husband’s awesomeness around the web for a moment, we would be in major trouble without Spencer’s expertise, patience and willingness to get his hands dirty. In less than two months of homeownership, he’s put some serious sweat equity into this joint — and the results have been so impressive. Especially to a lazy lug like me.

He tore up the carpet in the closet as well as the tack strips, and the two of us worked to remove all the lingering staples and vacuum all the dust. (Who knew there could be dust under carpet?) A fateful trip to Lowe’s brought laminate flooring on the cheap into our lives, and Spencer got it all installed so we could bring the built-in white cabinets back from a side room. A friend kindly came by several nights after work to help Spencer get everything reassembled and ready for business.

tl;dnr: we painted the room, replaced the flooring and re-installed the cabinets so we could actually hang up our clothes.

And now I have a space for everything — for the first time in my life. My bedroom at home had a very tiny closet, and our master closet in the condo wasn’t much better. I’ve always had my clothes in bins, piles and dressers; there has never been one “home” for everything I own, including purses and shoes and accessories. And certainly not a home where clothes could hang.

But that day has come.

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And my favorite part? That set of four dresser drawers on the left, one of which contains only scarves. One place for my scarves! A whole bin of scarves! I can easily paw through them and find whatever I need, though I tend to always wear the polka dot one. Hence why I left it on top.

Still. Options.

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Though there is still tidying to be done (like hanging the mirror, changing out the existing light for something brighter and prettier, etc.), it’s definitely coming along — and being able to run my hands across the entirety of my wardrobe feels downright luxurious.

I’m not going to lie: I kind of don’t feel worthy of this closet. I’m still getting used to having my clothing out of trash bags and recyclable totes, so . . . yeah. This? A little overwhelming.

But definitely fantastic.

And if you need me, I’ll be hanging tops and rearranging my cardigans . . . again.

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A busy week

photo

This little pretty just appeared near our porch!


As much as I don’t want to blog about why I haven’t been blogging, the week has already slipped away from me! A busy work schedule has kept me with a low-grade headache since Tuesday — and when I get home at night, I want to alternately collapse or continue working on the house.

And that’s precisely what I’ve been doing.

Spencer finished putting together our master closet last night — and it looks fantastic! We finished putting in the last closet bars around 8 p.m., and then I sprang like a coil trying to pull all our clothes from trash bags, side bedrooms and suitcases. I’ve kept my “everyday” clothes in a bag near the bed since we moved almost a month ago, and it felt so good to pull everything out and get organized.

Now I need to learn to use an iron . . . ’cause, yeah.

We don’t have any grand plans this weekend, but the weather promises to be nice and I expect we’ll be doing some work in the yard. The grass needs cutting, the weeds are threatening to take over my “flower beds” and I have a hunch we’ll be back at the farmers’ market again. Whatever we do, I’m just so relieved to be finishing with a few massive projects at the paper. Summer is always my busiest time, and compounding that with the chaos at home has been interesting.

But it’s almost done. Thank goodness.

Hoping y’all have a great weekend, and I’ll get my act together with some fresh book reviews, a possible home tour and whatever else I can cook up (literally) next week. See you then!


Simple summer side: cucumber + sweet-onion salad

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We’ve had an embarrassment of cucumbers lately.

Our new tradition of hitting the farmers’ market on the weekend brought us three of them for $2 — a steal! — and they’ve been patiently hanging out in our new fruit bowl since Saturday. Spencer came home with two more from a friend’s garden on Tuesday, bringing our total of OMG-HUGE vegetables to five.

Martha Stewart to the rescue, it seems! With some quick Googling, my husband found this recipe for cucumber and sweet-onion salad, and it is light, refreshing summer deliciousness.

And now nothing will go to waste. Just the way nature intended it, I think.

Between you and me? Um, we didn’t exactly have fresh dill or freshly-squeezed lemon juice . . . so we improvised with a dried variety as well as lemon from a bottle. The results were still great. In case, like me, you don’t feel like hitting the grocery store.

Just don’t tell Martha.


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Cucumber and Sweet-Onion Salad

Ingredients:
3 English cucumbers, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced on the diagonal
1 medium sweet onion, such as Vidalia, halved and thinly sliced
1/2 cup fresh dill, coarsely chopped
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons white-wine vinegar
Coarse salt and ground pepper

In a large bowl, toss together cucumbers, onion, dill, oil, lemon juice, and vinegar; season with salt and pepper.

(Recipe from Martha Stewart’s Everyday Food)


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Monday thoughts on “Begin Again”

Begin Again posterI haven’t been wandering the cool confines of a movie theater much this summer. Declining ticket sales can be explained by not wanting to spend the money and just not having much time, but more than anything? There hasn’t been much I’ve wanted to see. No preview that’s really tickled my fancy.

But at the suggestion of my family, we trekked out to see “Begin Again” on Saturday. I didn’t know what to expect beyond Adam Levine being a bad boyfriend and Keira Knightley singing (?) and Mark Ruffalo being totally down on his luck . . . and maybe that’s why I was completely blown away?

Because I was. I was blown away. It was actually . . . amazing.

Knightley plays Gretta, a young musician who follows her boyfriend (Levine) and his own rising star to New York City. Nervously playing in a grungy bar the night before she’s set to flee home to England, she attracts the attention of a music executive whose recent antics have gotten him ousted from the indie label he founded. Hearing Gretta — even amidst the rude shouting and drunken chatter — reignites his desire to produce music that means something, and the two embark on a journey that changes everything.


That’s the simple version. But it doesn’t tell you anything about how romantic, sweet, inspiring, thoughtful and beautifully shot it is; you need me for that, eh? “Begin Again” is about second chances, moving forward, thriving in the face of loss . . . and it’s just full of emotion, though not in a schmaltzy way. I’m not generally a huge fan of Keira Knightley — nothing personal, I mean, she’s just not a fave — but wow, color me impressed. And Adam Levine as a self-absorbed but loveable pop star? I totally bought it.

I kid. But really, his acting? Singing? Ability to look gorgeous? Not bad.

As you’d hope from a film about aspiring musicians and the ever-changing business itself, the tunes and soundtrack were fantastic. As we were leaving the theater, I told my sister how much it reminded me of the lovely “Once” . . . and then I started to Google and discovered it was directed by John Carney, who directed — you guessed it! — “Once.” (It’s, um, also on the poster, but I didn’t inspect that ahead of time.) Glen Hansard co-wrote a song, too.

When I’m on, I’m on.

The many layers of “Begin Again” are what made it work so spectacularly for me — and more than anything, it’s an homage to falling in love. With a person or a place (New York City, indeed), yes, but also a passion and a calling. The whole film is about passion, really, and it moved me. I can’t pinpoint another recent movie I’ve loved as much — so much that I’d run back out and see it again tomorrow.

I’m pretty much in love with “Lost Stars,” one of the signature tracks, and have played it more than I’d care to admit to you before we’ve all had our coffee.

So. Yes.

That’s pretty much what I wanted to talk about today, mostly because I’m heading into one of the busiest work weeks of my year and my brain is pretty much guaranteed to be crispy like a fried-green tomato by Friday evening. I kind of want to just think about “Begin Again” like a fangirl, eat lots of marshmallows and hide under my desk, but I am 29 now. Guess I’d better go put on my sensible work heels and hustle.

Or maybe I’ll keep watching the video instead.

 

Happily 29

Meg

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So, my 28th year was a pretty wild one.

July and August were spent with nonstop planning and prep for two weddings.

In September, I stood at my sister’s side as she tied the knot.

I moved out of my parents’ house for the first time in October, and made all those last-minute preparations for our own nuptials — then married my sweetheart on an absolutely gorgeous, unforgettable day in November. I officially became a Johnson.

December found us celebrating our first married Christmas, and the long winter months from January to March were eventually broken by fun trips to Canada in April and California in May.

Speaking of . . . we bought our house two months ago! Then moved in June, welcoming Spencer’s parents for a week as we transplanted everything we own and tried to maintain our sanity. We’re still recovering.

Now it’s July again . . . and today is my 29th birthday! It’s crazy to think I’m entering the final year of my twenties, that infamous decade filled with indecision, heartbreak, healing, growth and near-constant change . . . an era that transformed me from a young woman to a full-fledged, allegedly adult adult. One complete with a marriage license and mortgage.

Astounding, actually.

Especially since the house purchase, you know, I’m feeling settled. In a good way. Just four weeks ago, we were staring down a huge financial undertaking, preparing to change residences and generally all over the place. I was emotional and freaked out and crazy-feeling, and I wasn’t sure how I was going to get myself together.

And then I kind of did.

It’s funny how that happens, isn’t it? We may not even notice the shift. Everything starts to come together, bit by bit, and the rooms that were stacked high with boxes are emptying. All the nervousness and worry I’d been carting around for months has started to dissipate . . . maybe reassemble on shelves, where I can see it but find it less daunting. The fear I’ve worn like a backpack has begun to lighten.

As I enter the final year of a life-changing decade, I don’t find myself gripped by any of the sadness I thought I might. It’ll be weird to cross the threshold to 30 next year, no doubt — and I’m sure the next decade will bring more shake-ups. And a growing family, I hope.

But I’m not there quite yet.

And right here? It’s definitely where I want to be.


Italian pasta salad. Like, half a recipe.

Pasta salad

I haven’t made much that’s recipe-share-worthy in ages, friends.

Lest you be ridiculously disappointed with me, in my own defense? Our kitchen is still only half unpacked, which means Spencer and I are looking at each other with befuddled expressions searching for spoons or meat thermometers or butter at least once a night. I mean, we have the basics covered; the fridge is stocked with diet soda, I have plenty of chips and salsa, and Spence and I haven’t resorted to arm-wrestling for the last of my grandmother’s homemade peanut butter cups from a recent birthday party.

Yet.

But dinners around here? A little sparse. Simple. Full of fresh vegetables, which is certainly not a bad thing — but I do miss having more at my disposal. Much like before the move, we’re all about streamlined eating around here . . . and though I’m optimistic that we’ll repair our battered pantry before too long, allowing me to un-box about half of our former kitchen, we’re still trying to get organized and find all the things we’ve lost.

Luckily, you don’t need much for pasta salad.

A few years back, Spencer and I went to New York City for a long weekend (and the Book Blogger Convention of yore!) and met up with some of his college buddies in Queens. We had a picnic out in Corona Park, very close to the Unisphere (cool!), and a friend had a big bowl of this pasta salad there for the taking.

We were hooked.

The thing is? It’s really rather simple. Simple enough that I feel a little weird sharing it like I’m a side dish aficionado, but . . . it’s a Thursday, pasta is delicious, and we’re friends, so I know you won’t judge me.

We’ll call this Katie’s Italian Pasta Salad, because Katie is super-nice — and she didn’t get mad when I, a suburban girl with apparent balance issues, fell on her on the subway that day. So. Thanks, Katie! Your kindness has not been forgotten.

And shall be rewarded, someday, with more pasta.

Please note that measurements are, um, suggestions; you can modify as desired to transform this into the side dish of your dreams. Double the tomatoes, double the salami, make it meat-less — whatever floats your boat. This is how we made ours, but I’m pretty sure you can’t mess this up.

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Italian Pasta Salad

Ingredients:
1 box orzo pasta, cooked
1 bottle Italian salad dressing
2 cups cherry tomatoes, chopped in half
1/2 lb. salami, thickly sliced, diced
1/2 lb. provolone cheese, thickly sliced, diced
2 tbsp Italian seasoning
1 tbsp black pepper

Cook orzo pasta according to package directions; strain and rinse under cool water, then pour into a large bowl. Add half the bottle of Italian dressing, cherry tomatoes, salami, cheese, Italian seasoning and black pepper, then stir well to combine. Add additional dressing and stir again. Chill before serving. Make and refrigerate for 24 hours for extra flavor and awesomeness.

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