...wherein a girl packs up her dissertation and moves to the Pacific Northwest to learn what it means to build a life as a someone's partner, finish a dissertation, and make a life and home in Seattle, WA .

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

an attempt at DIY.... or just cobbling something together

A day or so before we packed up and headed of to Thailand and Cambodia, I was working in the downstairs office (yes, I am spoiled I have two workspaces in the house) when I heard a crash coming from the ensuite bathroom. Dreading what I would find upon entering (please, let it not be the artwork!), I was relieved to find that it was only the faux drawer face plate that had fallen off the vanity.

Was I relieved?  Well, not exactly.  I knew that I did not have time to take care of it before we were heading out of town so it was just going to have to wait until we returned.  Then we returned and there was that snow storm, so it had to wait for a few days until things in Seattle thawed out and I could head to Lowes to find the strange plastic attachment doohickey. Yup, that is the technical term!

See, how it is held on there?  Those little plastic things that allow the face plate to just pop into place? Two of them had broken off.  

Sadly, as I wrote earlier, Lowes was no help that day, which is how I ended up venturing to Goodwill and scoring the beautiful piece that is now in my entry way.  Still, the broken vanity has been annoying me since then. We don't use that bathroom all that much, but each time I venture in there I cringe at the board just lying across the basin.

For someone who loves projects as much as I do, we aren't really the home DIYers, and we certainly don't have much going on in the way of home repair tools.  Now, if you are in need of tools to work on your car - we've got those covered!  For the house, however, it is me and my trusty drill.

When I moved to Seattle from Ohio, I was the one who brought the majority of the home tools that we currently use.  Yup, that's right, me, the girl.  I used to joke that I dated men for their tools and or their music.  That's only about 5% true.  This drill, however, was purchased one morning at 6am when I was back from a summer in Vermont and needed to do some work on my apartment in Ohio.  I was totally done with the guy I had been seeing before I departed, and although he did have awesome tools and was kind enough to help me build a closet and hang a lovely door, those were not reasons to pick up a phone and dials his number ever again.  So as a declaration of my independence and total frustration I went out and bought a drill.  I probably should have spent more time researching the purchase, but I was a broke grad student at the time, it was on sale, it was cordless, and so it was coming home so that I could put holes in something! The drill and a medium sized tool kit from my grandfather are about all I've got, and they do handle a surprising number of jobs. 

In leaving Lowes and trying to determine what I would do next, I recalled that I had some wood in the house.  More specifically, I had some wood shims lying around from purchasing shims last summer to deal with one of our dressers.  So I figured I would see if I could somehow make use of that wood and just "make it work."

Yeah.... no.  This was a total fail.

I emailed a handy friend of mine a picture of the plastic piece to see if he knew what it was called so that I could find it online.  Sadly, he was of no help in that area.  I know that I don't NEED to find the exact plastic piece, but I am going to need something, something more than shims to get the vanity back together. Truthfully, at this point I think some shallow L-brackets will do, but that will require me making bit of time to head back to Lowes to see what they have so that I can get the vanity back together again.  Time is getting tight as the due date of the dissertation approaches.

Right now, I really am just frustrated each time I walk into the bathroom as it still looks like this.

I guess this is why I've been working in my other office.  Back to revising the Introduction -- home repairs will have to wait for another day or bout of procrastination. 

Monday, January 30, 2012

Fast and Furious

Life is coming at me pretty fast and furious these days.  Truthfully, it has been that way for about a year now.  Ever since I was issued an ultimatum and was crazy enough to say "Okay, I'm in!" life has been one crazy ride. Most days I handle it well.  And by that I mean, I am able to find various ways to manage and take control of all the crazy.

Sometimes, however, I can't actually tackle the problem itself or the specific thing that is overwhelming me. If I can't control the real issue, then I will do everything in my power to take control of everything else that surrounds me. Most of the time that means cleaning or organizing the shit out of everything.

Last week, after I finalized the timeline for the completion of my dissertation with my advisor, I felt so overwhelmed by the next step—looking at the remaining weeks and figuring out some schedule for the remaining tasks—that I had to do everything besides figure all of that out.  So I did two loads of laundry, vacuumed the second and third floors of the house, tried to repair the vanity in the first floor bathroom, took out recycling, reposted items to craigslist that we were trying to sell, and then I investigated our sandpaper supply so I could figure out what I needed to start refinishing the new console table. Yeah, I was a bit freaked.

There are other big things going on with my dissertation and with figuring out what I will do once it is done, so I have a feeling I may be refinishing that table sooner than I thought while trying to work through my revisions to the introduction this week.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

For the Walls

This week's "For the Walls" continues last week's bird theme.  I don't know what it is about this piece, but I find it calming and interesting.

We have a lot of neutral tones in the house for wall colors, so I think this would be a nice addition to a small room.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Exploring the New -- Peanut Butter Cookies

Wednesday is my day which breaks up the week.  Instead of being on campus or at home writing, I spend my morning downtown at the Treuman Katz Center for Pediatric Bioethics at Seattle Children's Research Center.  I am a part of a fellows seminar there focusing on a brand new text which had not even come out when we first began meeting back in August,  Clinical Ethics in Pediatrics (it is now available in paperback or for Kindle).  This is a great group of people who meet weekly, and I am really fortunate to get to work with them.

The seminar takes up much of my morning, but I generally choose to schedule some other appointments or meetings on Wednesdays knowing that I will already be running around and certainly not on campus.  This week I followed the seminar with a hair appointment and then a nice walk to Trader Joe's for a few things and a nice walk home in the chilly afternoon air.  One of the reasons I hit up TJs was that we were out of desserts.  Yup, in this house we do like something sweet to finish off our dinners from time to time.  And just when there is absolutely nothing of the goodie sort in the house, that precisely when I will want something. In an attempt to thwart that, I figured I would find something a bit sweet, but nothing was calling to me.  Also, I am pretty conscious of reading labels and get wary of things with too many ingredients.  I am trying to do more cooking so that I know exactly what goes into what we are eating.

I am not really a big fan of cookies.  There are only a few types that I like, but I figured that I probably had most of the ingredients for peanut butter cookies already in the house.  So I quickly googled a recipe, picked up a new thing of PB, and walked home.

Indeed we certainly had the ingredients so it was time to see what I could pull off before Partner got home.

I used the recipe from Smitten Kitchen with a few modifications.

Peanut Butter Cookies
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen - adapted from the Magnolia Bakery Cookbook

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup chunky peanut butter at room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1 large egg, at room temperature
1 tablespoon milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
For sprinkling: 1/4 cup sugar, regular or superfine

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. 

In a large bowl, combine the flour, the baking soda, the baking powder, and the salt. Set aside.
In a large bowl, beat the butter and the peanut butter together until fluffy. 
Add the sugars and beat until smooth. 
Add the egg and mix well. 
Add the milk and the vanilla extract. 
Add the flour mixture 1/2 cup at a time and beat thoroughly.  
Place sprinkling sugar — the remaining tablespoon — on a plate. Roll rounded teaspoonfuls of the cookie dough into the sugar, then onto ungreased cookie sheets, leaving several inches between for expansion. Using a fork, lightly indent, but do not overly flatten cookies. 
Bake for 10 to 12 minutes. Do not overbake. Cookies may appear to be underdone, but they are not.
Cool the cookies on the sheets for 1 minute, then remove to a rack to cool completely.

I am not 100% pleased with how they turned out.  Initially they were excellent, but overnight, even in a sealed container, they lost some of their chewiness in the center.  I baked this batch for 12 minutes, but I think next time I may take it down to 10.  For the first sheet, I only did 10 minutes, but when I tried to remove them from the cookie sheet to transfer them to the cooling rack the first one nearly fell apart, so back into the oven for another two minutes they went.  The next time I will drop it to 10 minutes and leave them on the sheet for an extra minute before trying to place them on the cooling rack. 

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Exploring the New -- Goodwill

Last weekend once the vast majority of the snow had melted I needed to get out of the house.  Since returning from Thailand and Cambodia I had only gone out into the winter-wonderland that was Seattle to trudge up to the pharmacy to pick up the antibiotics to kill whatever bacteria we had picked up while traveling. I did not realize how cabin-fever-ish I had been getting until I got out.

I ventured out to Lowes to pick up a few things for the house -- none of which they had.  So on my way back, not quite ready to head home yet, I figured I would stop off at Goodwill.  I had not been to the GIANT Seattle Goodwill other than to drop some stuff off soon after I moved into town.  I had visited a few of the the other smaller branches, but they had not really impressed me all that much, so I was not really sure what I would expect.

Truly, the place was overwhelmingly large. I could not even dive into the clothing sections of the store because there was just too much and there were way too many people there.  Still, I wandered around the edges of the place to see what they had to offer.  I did not even see that there was a back room initially.

Housewares, furniture, and books were in the back room.  Again, the book selection was just too overwhelming for me to even dive in.  But as I wandered the room I came across this piece:

lovely waterfall vanity
yes, it needs a bit of refinishing, but it is beautiful
For a while I had been looking for something to compliment a set of chairs we picked up for our entry way.  The old sewing machine table that I had down there was functioning as landing area, but it was not all that useful.  It provided a surface, but that was pretty much all it did.  In my old apartment I had a lovely low-boy dresser with big, deep drawers that held all of my scarves, hats, and mittens as well as other small things.  It also gave me a great big surface for placing things when I entered the house.  Doubling the number of people in a household and halving the landing area for the entry way just was not working out for us.  But after four months I had kinda given up on scouring craigslist for the perfect sideboard or console table.

When I came across the waterfall vanity I fell in love with it immediately and knew that it would compliment the beautiful, old, art-deco theatre seats perfectly. Aren't they awesome?

I took a picture of a the vanity and sent it to Partner on a lark.  I did not think he would agree to the piece.  And certainly not without seeing it and discussing it.  But then again, I did also send him the price $29.99 (!!!)  Yes, the piece needs work, but OMG that is a serious steal!  He texted me back telling me to buy the vanity then and there.

Now, if only I can find I Bertoia chair for that price....

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

More Writing

Just as I believe that lists should be in my own handwriting, so too do I believe that letters should be.  And I am someone who writes letters.  Thankfully, I have a few people in my life who also still enjoy sitting down with pen and paper, envelope and stamp.  Without them I there would be no back and forth.  I would simply be sending mail out into the void.

Letters and cards fall into that tricky category of things I accumulate -- like old copies of the New Yorker.  I can't quite seem to bear to recycle them, but are these things I should hold on to forever and ever?  When I last moved, I culled through years and years of letters and cards saving only those that meant the most to me.  Still, it does not take much time for me to accumulate more and getting rid of them is so very painful. I feel like I am betraying a dear friend in some manner. I guess I don't much consider what happens to the letters and cards I send.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Goals, Lists, To-Do

I like making lists.

Pen for short-term lists, for lists of things "to-do," for grocery lists, for packing lists, for making sure I don't forget.

Pencil for the longer-term lists - lists which require careful planning and deserve fastidious, elegant handwriting.  I don't write these lists in pencil because it gives me the option of erasing goals or items.  Those goals would never disappear - palimpsests would simply be in their stead.

I write out lists by hand.

Seeing my handwriting makes me believe those things listed on the page more.  They are a part of me, they are what I believe in, they are what I stand for, they are what I must do.  The list is a part of me and I am made up of each of those items.

I am a chronic list-maker. Shit just runs better around here when lists are involved.  The house will not fall apart if there are no lists, but if there are no lists, then it is a sure-fire sign that I might be falling apart.

The lists are not a Partner thing; they are totally all about me and my Type-A personality.  The lists help keep me from frittering away my day, my week, my year.  The lists help me keep track not only of what I need to be doing

fold laundry
call airline re: miles
pick up stamps
order food processor
deal with car registration/inspection
make list of office days/research days for this week
begin working on syllabus for spring
plan diss schedule for Feb.

but also what I want to be doing - what the goals are for this year, this month, this week.  The list helps me keep those goals in sight both literally and metaphorically.

More than making lists, I love crossing things off of those lists when I've accomplished them.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Snow to Slush

The winter weather has been wonderful.  Sadly, it is disappearing before my eyes.

drip, drip, drip
foot traffic outside the post office

Sunday, January 22, 2012


Thank you for doing such a good job of adhering to our request and holding our mail for 20 days while we traveled.

I was so happy to come home and find it all crammed into our tiny mailbox (and destroying all of my copies of the New Yorker!!!!)


Saturday, January 21, 2012


The snow we have right now is making me so happy.  I know, I know:  I am like one of four people in Seattle who feel that way, but I am a winter-time baby so cut me some slack.

While I am rejoicing in the snow and loving the fact that I am getting to wear my favorite winter boots, I have spring on the brain. Not spring itself, per se -- especially as I've never been through a Seattle spring before -- but spring projects.  Specifically starting a garden.

Last summer when I moved to Seattle I spent the better part of a few days ripping out our yard as I waited for the movers to arrive with my stuff.  Then I spent a few more days in the fall ripping the rest of it out, cleaning everything up, and getting it all ready for winter. Originally I intended on getting in a bit of a garden in last summer, but as overwhelmed as I was with the move, gardening did not happen. This year the garden will happen.  Still, there is a lot that must be done before then.

While we were gone I spent time looking at raised beds and going back through various design blogs to find all of the garden stuff I had run across before and really liked.

Now that we are home I want to concentrate on sketching out and pricing out a raised bed for the yard.  I also want to look into doing a DIY cold-frame.  We have some old wine crates I moved here from my old apartment, and I think one or two of those plus a trip to the Re-Store for an old window, hinges, and other materials and I might be able to pull it together with minimal help or tools beyond our drill.

In addition to the raised bed and cold frame, Partner hung some hooks on our fence so that we can have some hanging-planters of herbs.  I think I may also want some pots of herbs or lettuce on the second-floor balcony for easy access.

Once I have all of the structural things figured out for the garden, then it will be on to planning what we will plant.  I already know that kiwi berries will be on the list!

Friday, January 20, 2012

For the Walls

We are big fans of kiwi in this household.  This year we even discovered the kiwi berry, which totally rocks!!!  Also, dragon-fruit, which we ate tons of while in Thailand (it seemed not to make us sick at all) is like a giant and differently flavored kiwi with 9000x as many seeds.  I happen to like the seeds.

Given our love of kiwi, when I came across this print, it was hard not to fall in love.

I am not sure where I would hang it, but it is still pretty darn cute.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Love in the time of Cholera

Our trip was awesome.  Super-fantastic, amazing awesome.  Partner really went out of his way in the planning department on this one.  Truthfully it has been a bit overwhelmed to think about planning our next trip as he did such an amazing job with this one.  (I am on the next one as we switch off trip planning each year.)

Still there is no reason to get ahead of myself and contemplate the next trip when I still get to glow in the fun that was this one.

Hello, do you see the color of that water?!?!!? AMAZING!!!

The one downside of the trip was picking up some horrible stomach thing somewhere between Thailand and Cambodia.  It has been bad.  Really bad.  The morning after we came home I called our doctor and we've been on antibiotics since then as I had been sick for about 10 days at that point.  Partner too had been ill, but his system held out for a few days longer than mine did because, as he likes to say, I am fragile.

Fragile or not.  My ass was kicked.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012


I am so happy to be back in my home after an amazing vacation.  Partner planned a phenomenal adventure.  I've never seen such clear, blue water!  Thailand was beautiful.  Cambodia was interesting.  In the end, however, there is no place like home.