Friday, April 11, 2014

"I'm a Stay At Home Wife."

Think fast! What does yours truly have in common with Kaley Cuoco and Enrique Iglesias? We were all featured in Cosmopolitan magazine this month. I feel like I'm joking when I say that, but it's true. An article about my current full-time homemaker situation (and a picture my sister snapped of me at my cousin's wedding) are on page 223. I'm right between "Your Guide to the Male Brain" and a Mother's Day feature called "When Your Mom's Not Perfect." It's hard to type that with a straight face! Can we talk? Let's talk.

Q: How did this happen? Did you write the article and submit it to Cosmo?
A: No, the article was written by Rachel Bertsche, a freelance writer. Rachel was looking for a full-time homemaker to provide quotes for a completely different article she wanted to pitch to her editor. Rachel is friends with my friend Niki, and Niki put us in touch. I chatted with Rachel on the phone, and she put together a pitch for her editor. Then we were both surprised: Her editor said, "Let's just do an article on Jen." Why? I don't know! But that's how it happened.

Q: But the article is in first person. You didn't write it?
A: Nope. Rachel and I had a long phone conversation, and then she wrote it submitted it and to her editors. They tweaked it further to give it, I don't know, some Cosmo sass. Or to make the article the right length. I'm not sure.

Q: What happened next?
A: I e-mailed Rachel a few pictures of myself, and her editor chose the one that you see in the magazine. And a Cosmo editor contacted me repeatedly to ask our annual income. She was very interested in money, but I didn't feel comfortable sharing Keith's salary or my former salary. She also sent me a list of questions, in order to fact-check a few items in the article.

Q: Are you happy with the article?
A: For the most part, yes.  I'm not embarrassed by my life, and it's kind of cool to see myself in a really famous magazine. It accurately describes why we decided it makes sense for me to stay home right now, and my daily routine. And I laughed and laughed when I read the part describing the awkward conversation I had with my friend who wasn't impressed at first with my new "job." Ryan, you're in Cosmo! *grin* Oh, and it's funny to pretend the sexy mile-long legs on the picture accompanying the article are mine.

Q: Is there anything you didn't like about the article?
A: The article made me sound MUCH less happy at the library than I was. Like I said before, the editor was very interested in our income, and the emphasis on money in the first paragraph doesn't represent how I feel. No one goes into library work to get rich! Low pay is why it made sense for me to leave the library, but I wasn't mad about it. So when they put a lot of emphasis on money and said my job wasn't "easy to stomach," I cried. Yeah. I literally sobbed, "I'll never be able to visit the library again!" I imagine that my colleagues might be offended by the article, and that makes me feel sick.  I was deeply devoted to the library. I still like the people I worked with, and I especially like and respect my former boss.

Q: Wow.
A: Yeah.

Q: So do you regret it?
A: No. My friend Kimmie told me a lot of people left comments on the online article, and most of them are supportive. I'm excited that it's opened up a dialogue! I hope it leads to some honest conversations about work/life balance. And how the work done by an at-home spouse can significantly cut living expenses (Holy shit, we spend so much less now! Do you know how much we used to spend on food because we were both too exhausted to cook? TOO MUCH!). And different ways that couples can balance the work that earns money and the rest of the work that keeps life going. As far as I'm concerned, all the ways to do it are valid. And I congratulate everyone who finds the balance that works for them.Our way of doing things is so old-fashioned that we don't know anyone else who does it this way. But it works for us.

Good talk, y'all. Good talk.

Monday, April 7, 2014

How to Live With Almond Bathroom Fixtures (And Maybe Even Like It)

Okay, the title is a bit of a misnomer: I'm not actually living with almond fixtures yet. Right now, I'm doing research, gathering ideas, and making plans for our new guest bathroom. It's a challenging room, because it has an almond tub and toilet. "Almond" is a plumbing fixture color that's best described as yellow crossed with beige crossed with despair. I HATE it. But I love a design challenge, so I'm trying to make it work. I put this room concept together over the weekend, and now I'm itching to get the keys and start making this house our home. What do you think?

Pretty As a Picture Bathroom Design

Here's what I've learned so far about making a bathroom with almond fixtures work:

Step one: Accept the problem.
Are your plumbing fixtures are in good condition? Do you hate the idea of sending perfectly good things to the landfill? Can you afford to reglaze? If you answered yes, yes, and no, then accept that you're going to live with a yellowish bathtub that looks like it's been peed on a lot. But hey, that's a first world problem. Let's move on.

Step two: Don't use white paint.
Some designers recommend using white paint in a room with almond fixtures for a "white on white" look. NO. Almond is not white. When you mix white and almond, you get the "white on a baby pool full of pee" look. And you deserve so much better than that. Really.

Step three: Choose a color. Preferably a darker color than the fixtures.
Since you can't use white, pick any paint color that doesn't look awful with almond. Warm tones tend to work well. Grays and blues tend to work poorly against the yellowy almond color. And keep this in mind: If your paint color is lighter than the tub, the tub will look dark (and possibly more dirty). A darker paint color, on the other hand, will make the tub look lighter and brighter. Choose accordingly.

Step four: Look, over there! A distraction!
If you don't want to notice your ugly fixtures, give yourself something else to look at. Since you don't spend a lot of time in the powder room (I hope),  I think it's fun to make crazy decorating choices in there. Bright colors? Large scale prints? Crazy wallpaper? Bring it on! I was so excited when I found this wallpaper by Sanderson. It's from their new Voyage of Discovery line, and I'm head over heels for it. I love the hand-drawn, Natural History textbook look. Every time I look at it, I see something new.

But let's go back to reality for a moment: This is what we're starting with. Doesn't the tub look greenish against that pink wallpaper? I want to strip the wallpaper, put the Sanderson wallpaper on the wall with the towel bar, move the towel bar to another wall, paint the other walls beige, put a brightly colored Ikat runner on the floor, and put a big round mirror with a gold frame over the sink. There is room for an accent table by the tub, and I'm keeping my eyes peeled for something gold with a bamboo motif. Oh my gosh, I can't wait!

But what do you think? I have questions:
a) Eventually, I might like to replace the vanity with something similar to the one in the picture, with legs and sleek doors. But for now, I'll just paint the existing vanity brown. Or maybe midnight blue. Would dark blue be a weird color for a vanity? I'd like to do something crazy and unexpected.
b) I might dye some oldish white towels midnight blue, too. They're fluffy but no longer pretty, and I'm hoping that dye might revive them. Have you tried dyeing towels? Does it work?

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

I Want It Painted Black.

Last week we had the new house inspected, and at first glance, the inspection report was terrifying. Essentially, the house has been owned by a succession of people who haven't done ANY routine maintenance on it. Ever. When I saw the 40 page inspection report, I FREAKED OUT. New Homeowner Jen doesn't know the difference between maintenance issues (roof and trim repair, no big deal) and deal breakers (black mold and aggressive termite infestation, RUN!). I was ready to walk away and start over, and that would've been stupid. I didn't calm down until my father took me out, filled me with pasta and wine, and talked me down with "If you don't want it, do you mind if I buy it? Because it would be a fantastic investment, and seriously, would you be mad if we did that?" If Dad wanted to buy it, it couldn't be THAT bad.

So yeah, we're seriously buying this house. And as soon as I get the keys, I'm going to paint all the trim black! All of the interior trim is currently a disgusting nicotine yellow, so it has to be painted no matter what. I've been talking about black and white contrast for a long, long time. And if these pictures from interior designer Jessica Helgerson's projects are any indication, that's a very, very good idea. I love the calm elegance of these rooms, and the  mix of old and new.
INSPIRATION PICTURE. NOT MY HOUSE. Design by Jessica Helgerson
More beautiful inspiration from Jessica Helgerson, and get this: This house used to be a public library. (!)
What else have I been doing? Knitting a loose knockoff of these. Reading this, which comes out next week (HUGE thanks for the advance copy, Lauren!). The usual. Oh, and constantly fielding calls and e-mails from our realtor, mortgage company, and various contractors. I've been flooded with so many house-related messages, I've somehow missed a handful of personal messages. Friends, it's not you. It's me and my overflowing inbox! I love you guys. Derp.