There’s a reason IKEA sells ice cream at the exit.

IMG_4040Our marriage survived IKEA.

I say that half-jokingly, because … well. It’s is basically my version of a nightmare. Huge store, hordes of people, tons of decisions to make in a chaotic environment, maze-like twists with no clear exits … claustrophobia, thy name is IKEA.

I’m not at my best in those situations. The anxiety spikes until I’m snappy, hyper, eager to just … escape. Thankfully, my husband knows all about my quirks and has a high degree of tolerance for them.

Still, by the time we reached the check-out (for the second time … long story), I was definitely ready to eat my feelings. Magical IKEA ice cream, here I come!

I didn’t always feel this way. I, too, was young once. In my early twenties, I had a boyfriend with an apartment dangerously close to an IKEA. Many dates were spent admiring inexpensive art and furniture while wandering the cavernous store. Though we rarely purchased anything but dessert, it was fun to debate different pillows and wicker baskets (he was, I remember, quite anti-wicker).

I lived at home until I later married, so these trips were a glimpse into another world: one of furnishings and color, style and modernity. An adult world.

My boyfriend at the time lived in an inauspicious rental, just passing through; I was still in my childhood bedroom. We debated tables we’d never dine on, cups we’d never drink from, beds in which we’d never sleep. We were in transition, as we all seem to be at 20 or 22. Our relationship was always one of “someday,” though it took years for me to see it that way.

Almost decade later, I’m married to Spencer, handiest and kindest of souls, and we purchased our first home in 2014. I shook uncontrollably when we learned our house offer had been accepted, wondering if we’d made a huge mistake. Not because I didn’t love the place — I still do! — but … well, let’s just say adulthood caught up to me quickly. That level of commitment was terrifying.

I made a single trip to IKEA with friends after we closed on the house, suddenly feeling like I needed to Buy All the Things to prepare for this new phase of life. In the span of six months, I moved out of my childhood home, got married, and schlepped my earthly belongings to my husband’s condo. Then we bought a house and, after not moving at all for 25-plus years, I moved again.

I don’t remember buying much on that post-settlement IKEA run. I was then, as I am now, totally overwhelmed in that store. I’m a woman who buys mattresses on Amazon and has “PAW Patrol” mac and cheese shipped in bulk to her front door. Walking around an honest-to-goodness business is … exhausting.

But we needed to go. The cabinets my husband was after were available in-store — or very expensively online, or elsewhere. Like so little now thanks to our digital world, this required an in-person trip. Spence and I seized the opportunity to make it a “date,” and the kids hung back with my parents. We set off.

IMG_4023Walking the showrooms, I was transported through time — back imagining my life in this tidy world with its splashes of color. I could prepare tea in my black-and-white kitchen, then read comfortably in a velvet armchair. I could create an urban oasis with a bistro table and faux greenery wall. I could relax.

There were no tiny LEGO pieces scattered like confetti. No half-eaten yogurt pouches jammed in a couch cushion. No dirty socks balled up in every room of the house. 

On the rare moments my husband and I are shopping alone, we inevitably play a game: “What chaos would the kids be creating right now?” In the lighting area, for example, Ollie would be unboxing all the lightbulbs. Up in kitchens, Hadley would be scaling barstools and announcing herself as “the winner” from her sky-high perch. They would be obsessed with the giant staircase leading down to the marketplace. And I would be in a dead sweat, fretting.

Instead, Spence and I were sweaty just walking around. We came with a shopping list. Doing his research, Spence had a detailed plan for the cabinets he’s going to install in our basement. We’re creating a “project area” for the family — an eventual homework/craft spot for everyone to use without fear of getting paint on the carpet. (There is, in fact, no more carpet.)

The basement has basically been a dumping ground since we moved in almost six years ago. Spence has been really motivated to clean lately, and I ain’t stopping him. While I admire his energy, I … haven’t contributed much beyond picking paint colors.

IMG_4025I brought any strength I had to IKEA, though, and gave it my all. While Spence worked with an overwhelmed but eager young associate to track down everything needed for these cabinets, I wandered. And daydreamed. I snapped iPhone photos of armchairs and stools, rugs and planters, artwork and bowls. Tons of things we could then go find in the massive warehouse — practically a whole new house.

Thankfully, Spence caught me before I could do anything impulsive. After purchasing most everything online for years, taking me out to a physical store is dangerous. I have a mom van, after all — I know how to fill it.

But I behaved … or, more accurately, couldn’t get my thoughts together enough to commit to something even as benign as a new end table. The beautiful armchair, geometric rug and gorgeous valet stand will all have to wait. We did walk out with a trio of fake succulents and colorful snack bowls for the kids. (The bowls — and other kids’ tableware — are pretty great, actually.)

And, you know, we got the cabinets! Our trip was not in vain. Spence has been painting the basement and crafting a countertop to prepare for installation. I’m hoping to be able to write down there, too, when we get everything polished up. There are so few places to experience any semblance of quiet in our house … I’ll try anything.

So our IKEA run was successful. I enjoyed just walking around with my guy, though we were often inadvertently separated. And we did get home and realize yes, we had remembered to purchase handles for the cabinets … but accidentally grabbed two different finishes. 

Guess we’ll be going online after all.

 

Let’s get Etsy-fied

I scrapbook, crochet, make cards, design digital graphics and just generally . . . consider myself “artsy.” Not in the pretentious, black-beret-wearing way — just in the “I enjoy art and making stuff” way. And I sit at a computer all day and hang out on the Internet in between work projects most afternoons. And I’m the Queen Googler! Give me a problem and I promise that Google, the keeper of all knowledge, will have the answer.

So how, then, did I not know about Etsy, a marketplace for handmade goods?

It’s like eBay for crafts. And it’s awesome. You can find pretty much any gorgeous, homemade item you could possibly want! And most of it is quite affordable. There are a hundred reasons why buying from individuals all over the country (and the world) is probably better for you and them than heading out to a “big box store,” but it’s mostly exciting because I’m psyched to be able to find really different, ecclectic items for presents and decorating. I’ve been looking for something else to go with my office’s London theme — I have a London corkboard, various desk items and a London painting my sister got me. And then I saw this for sale by NestaHome (please ignore my very crude text box to keep the photo from being replicated):

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It’s a digital collage — of London! And from a series the creator calls “Alone In the City.” I pretty much am in love with it. This one is “Waiting For the Bus”; there’s another in the set I bought called “Sometimes all you see are buildings.” I have wall space all picked out for them!

And I bought something else as a present . . . but I can’t divulge that highly classified information! Suffice it to say I’m very excited to get it — and to give it for Valentine’s Day.

Once I got more comfortable with Etsy, my plan is to start selling some of the multitudes of scarves I’ve crocheted over the years! My sister and I paid for a table at a local craft fair a year and a half ago — and sadly came back home with the majority of what I’d created for the show. We hardly sold a thing. And I don’t think it was for lack of quality, let me tell you — I’m very proud of my scarves! And I didn’t have anything on the table selling for more than $10. People were just being cheap that year. This past November, when we were in the throes of the recession and folks were gearing up for Christmas? We probably would have done much better. But that’s fine. Now I might have a way to unload some of my stock and bring smiles to the warm, happy faces of potential buyers looking for just the sort of random scarf I happen to be selling! That calls for some cheers!

UPDATE at 8:45 p.m.: I try not to be all talk and no action! I officially have my very own Etsy shop, boasting five scarves that I’ve crocheted lately! I figured I would start small, though I have plenty more to list. Feel free to stop by! And for you Harry Potter fans, here’s a sample — complete with my cultured hands-on-hips pose . . .

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Shopping around the Christmas tree

In my office last holiday season.<br />Note the Dwight Schrute magnets!

In my office last holiday season. Note the Dwight Schrute magnets!

Anyone else thinking about starting their Christmas shopping?

I know the economy isn’t exactly in, uh, great shape right now, but the holidays are quickly approaching. October begins the really busy season for most families, and mine is no exception. Birthday season for my uncle, grandmother and cousin Ciara starts this coming Sunday and runs through Oct. 29, and we have my grandparents’ 50th wedding anniversary to celebrate Oct. 25! Then comes Halloween, of course, followed by Thanksgiving and the inevitable rush and crush of the holiday season overwhelming all in its path.

Like many people rushing headlong into the digital age, I plan on doing a lot of online shopping this year. It’s more convenient for me — a woman chained to her desk — to browse around during the day, creating “shopping carts” and whatnot on my favorite sites. Then I get to go home and buy all the loot at home in the evening! And everything comes right to the door.

Plus, it’s just better, in lots of ways — I can find exactly what I’m looking for. If I’m just shopping for me, I might not be too particular — but buying for family and friends requires a little imagination. If I want to find an Incredible Hulk T-shirt in black for the boyfriend, it just may be easier to track one down online than to wander around the mall with the other deranged holiday shoppers.

Speaking of deranged shoppers, we already have our Christmas cards out and stocked at the bookstore (and they’re on sale, too). Even stranger? I’ve already sold quite a few boxes. Everyone complains that retailers “rush” the holidays — and I don’t necessarily disagree, in many cases — but the truth of the matter is that people want to see holiday merchandise. We’ve already received shipments of our glittery tabletop Christmas trees, though I don’t think they’re on display just yet.

Of course, working in said retail, I wind up buying a lot of gifts where I work. Hey, I’m already there — and I get a pretty sweet discount! The lack of book discount a serious consideration I’ll be making when I decide I’m too tired to keep up my schedule anymore. Sadly, that day is probably approaching soon.

Until then, I’ll start socking things away . . .