Three Dot Blogging

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(Above – our living room!)

I find myself wanting to write, and having no time to do so. So, I’ll rely on that old Herb Caen classic.

Three dot writing.

…I think fiction might have peaked for me when I finished “War and Peace,” finally, in 2010. I haven’t truly been able to immerse myself in any novel in the same way since.

…I could re-read “Lord of the Rings,” “War and Peace,” “Sense and Sensibility” and “Pride and Prejudice” for the rest of my life and I think that would fulfill me.

…I know my brother will read the above and disapprove of me.

…My husband and my two kids are my favorite people to hang out with. I’d rather spend time with them than anyone.

…I wish I had read the climatic last scene of “War and Peace” for the first time while listening to the 1812 Overture on repeat.

…I never knew I’d ever love my job as much as I do right now.

…I truly hate the Oxford comma.

…Why did my two year stay in London affect me so much more than my four year residence in Santa Barbara?

…Why are remodels such a clusterf%$&?

…Is blogging inherently narcissistic? If I enjoy it, does that make me a narcissist?

What three dot thoughts are you wishing to share? What books could you read over and over for the rest of your life, if any?

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“I am Neville Longbottom”

Harry Potter Spoilers…

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I have written before about my admiration for the character of Neville Longbottom. This week someone linked to an older article on Stirrup Queens, detailing a theory I happen to agree with: Neville is the most important character in the Harry Potter universe.

I can’t relate to Harry, can you? He’s too, well, extreme. He’s been gifted with tremendous athletic talent for starters. He’s “the chosen one.” He’s an adrenaline junkie – he takes crazy risks often without thinking. Like sneaking into Hogsmeade when a homicidal maniac is looking for him or driving off with Ron in Mr. Weasley’s flying car, just for starters. He’s unnaturally resilient – how can someone lose pretty much every parental figure in their lives and still keep going? Don’t get me wrong – I admire him as a character, but his motivations don’t resonate with me. And I’m not sure Rowling wanted them to.

Neville is another story. Neville is a kind of Gryffindor everyman. He’s a klutz, he can’t fly, and he isn’t athletic. He’s bullied by Professor Snape, and has a terrible memory for schoolwork. He has little confidence in his abilities or his smarts. He has a chorus of naysayers like his grandmother, Draco Malfoy, Snape (and I’d argue Professor McGonigall isn’t that nice to him either) implying and often outright saying he’s less than. You’d think he’d be the first to fold to Voldemort/the Death Eaters and to be afraid to stand up to those who demand capitulation. On the contrary, his refusal to capitulate results in the action that leads to Voldemort’s downfall.

It’s a wonderful moment. The twins have taken an interest in World War II because of this book, and reflection on those “darkest hours” brought me back to Neville Longbottom. When it’s most important for humankind to act, we need to stand up and say: “I am Neville Longbottom. And I won’t back down.” Sadly, the echoes of the past are still deadly.

Do you relate to Neville? Or Harry? Or, say Hannah Abbott, who is my daughter’s favorite character?

(As an aside, I am ALWAYS sorted into Gryffindor in every online quiz, even the silly BuzzFeed ones. I’m a neurotic worrier who is afraid of a lot of things like flying and heights and not eating organic food. Shouldn’t I be a Hufflepuff?!?)

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Picking a “Design Aesthetic”

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Doesn’t that sound so pretentious? I can’t even, but I’m not sure how else to describe deciding on the vibe of our living area.

First of all – THANK YOU for your advice on the last post!! Super helpful, and now I have a whole new list of appliance makers to look at. I knew you guys would be wise.

So – one of the biggest roadblocks in this remodel was getting my husband and I on the same page about what we wanted the overall feel to be. Our design comfort zones are fairly diametrically opposed.

I’d call my style “Pottery Barn meets Norman Rockwell.” I grew up with Pottery Barn catalogues and something about the neutral couches/red accents/oversized country accessories really stuck with me. I loved the vibe of the pretty yet casual living rooms, complete with lounging yellow labs and the silver framed (and monogrammed!) black and white photos of beautiful families. If I could afford any painting by any artist, Norman Rockwell would be way up there. Something about his work speaks to the kind of domesticity I aspire to. BTW – his work was more important than you might think.

Darcy calls my design aesthetic “pedestrian.” I would classify his design taste as “fancy dentist office.” He loves everything super modern, white, stark and minimal. It’s – not for me. So, we’ve had to try to meet somewhere in the middle.

Over the last few years, Darcy has been working with some really talented people who specialize in writing about remodeling and home design. I think it’s safe to say speaking with them probably heightened his expectations, in a good way. He was very focused on making our remodel thoughtful and considered in every regard, which was frustrating in that the planning phase took two years. Yes, for real. And not gonna lie – I have gotten frustrated at the speed from time to time.

At one point, Josh Groves with Remodelista came over to speak to us about our project. In addition to giving great tips for the remodel, he had me focus on what place really resonated with me from a style point of view. And I realized it was London. In our neighborhood of Notting Hill, we were invited over to several neighbors’ homes, which were very old and beautiful on the outside – the buildings were Georgian in some cases. But the living spaces were modern and clean and stylish in a really fresh way. I wonder if it’s the weather, but I think no one has quite figured out how to make homes lovely and inviting like the British.

Once I made that leap, it was easier to gravitate more towards the modern, and meet Darcy in the middle. I could keep some warm, inviting touches yet be more contemporary.

Anyway, that’s where we are in terms of design. If you could design your home in any style, what would it be?

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Before…

Slowmomma, long one of my favorite bloggers who has been absent like me, recently put up a lovely post about how our stories matter. Even the boring ones.

So many stories I’d like to share here are literally not my stories to tell. But, I can talk about our remodel – long in the works, now officially begun.

When we bought this house, we knew we’d have to redo most of the living area. In fact, most of the house it’s safe to say, is butt-ugly and broken down. However, it was a good size for the area and we could afford it. So, we bought it. Five years now, we’ve lived in it. It’s seriously first world problems central to complain about an ugly and broken down house but I have to say living in it kind of depressed me in a very minor sort of way. First of all, I didn’t like hosting playdates or having people over, not because I thought anyone would judge me, but because it’s just not fun hosting people in a house that in one particular case actually stabbed someone. More on that later…

So let’s break down the problems:

Brokedown Non-Palace

It’s important to remind myself, because I am always going to read posts like this and feel like a dumbass for embarking on this remodel, that our kitchen is literally not functional. Why? Let me count the ways.

Plumbing

We have no hot water in our sink, and we have no water pressure. Oh, don’t be dramatic! I hear you saying in my head. Nope – we literally have no hot water that can come from our kitchen sink, and very little water pressure. Exhibit A.

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That is the most water pressure we get. For real. Which means we do all our dishes, including our pots and pans, in the dishwasher. So, why no hot water and water pressure? Old broken down pumbing. We have had many reputable plumbers come out to give us the same sad opinion (which was also in the home disclosure packet) – all our pipes need to be replaced. Why is complicated, but it basically comes down to this. Don’t buy a 50+ year old home with galvanized pipes, y’all.

So, we’re looking at ripping up all of our downstairs and replacing all the pipes, already an intrusive, expensive endeavor. But what else is wrong?

Broken Appliances from the Early 60s

The appliances are original to the home. There are many, many problems with that.

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1) Only two of the burners on the cooktop actually work. The others won’t actually heat up. So cooking Thanksgiving dinner is not really possible.

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2) The oven door won’t shut. Enough said. These appliances are so old, that no one even has the parts to fix them according to several electricians.

3) It takes roughly twice as long to bake things as the recipe calls for. Probably because of the oven door that won’t shut. ;) However, the oven goes from raw to burned super fast. So if I am baking, I basically have to monitor the baking really closely. When I made these cinnamon rolls for family over the holidays, I spent about three hours staring at the oven to make sure they didn’t burn.

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The scene of the crime

The Tiles of Death

These heinous tiles are also dangerous. A friend leaned up against the bar one time and the tile crumbled, broke and stabbed him in the chest, drawing blood. For real, people! The ugly tile hates us as much as we hate it.

Questionable Design Choices

Let’s move on to the weird design choices that were made when the home was built. Yes, I am calling them weird. I am judging.

Weird Kitchen Cabinets

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Hey – I know! Let’s block the flow of the open floor layout by putting some random cupboards up, making the kitchen extremely awkward.

Dirty Looking Linoleum

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Here is the lovely original linoleum floor, which is impossible to clean and always looks dirty. IT COVERS THE ENTIRE LIVING AREA FLOOR, which means someone honestly thought that a family would enjoy it that much.

White Carpet

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At some point, an owner thought the linoleum was an odd choice for the entire living area floor (word), so they decided to put down off-white carpet that shows every single possible stain, including in the DINING AREA (uh, what?). Worse, it’s a Berber carpet, so you can’t use those cheap carpet cleaning machines you can rent at Safeway. I had them professionally cleaned a few times, and someone breathed on them the next day and they turned grey. HATE THOSE CARPETS THEY ARE THE CARPETS OF SATAN.

Fireplaces! Fireplaces! Fireplaces!

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Apparently massive ugly brick fireplaces with huge and deadly hearths were the height of fashion in 1962. Not only did multiple people trip and fall over those hearths, when my son was 2 he fell on the corner of one and got the scar in the middle of his forehead. I consider this incident my worst FAIL as a mother. But he likes the scar because he thinks it makes him like Harry Potter. And well, being like Harry Potter is definitely a good thing. So, I guess I can forgive the fireplace hearth.

So yeah. It’s time to make this a working, functional safe space. A non-heinous one would be a bonus too.

This is the point, dear readers, where I ask you if you have any advice. Either for living through a remodel (Oh yes, we are living here while we do it because we are crazy. And cheap.) or any appliances you love – looking for recommendations on convection ovens, refridgerators, cooktops, dishwashers.

And if you are curious what design aesthetic we’re going for (champagne taste on a beer budget basically) here’s our Pinterest Remodel board.

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2014: A Year in Review

2014 has been quite the year. Mostly a good year, full of reminders that I will never stop learning, no matter how old I am. I hope.

If I could go back in time and tell 2013 Jessica a few things, here’s what I would say:

1. Working hard seems to make you happy. Maybe the stoics were right after all?
2. Aged six is a wonderful stage and you wish it would never end, but of course it does.
3. Chai Tea Lattes will become essential to your day.
4. You will fall in love with tea. Especially peppermint tea.
5. Reading Harry Potter to the twins will always feel like a dream come true, and it will never get old.
6. You will spend hundreds of hours of time scraped away from other pressures to create something for someone else, only to watch them burn it down to the ground and then, most unjustly, weep over the ashes. But: you don’t have to accept this treatment.
7. You will be humbled by the wonderful people who are in your life. Work hard to treasure them and make them feel appreciated.
8. You will need to work more on being proactive.
9. The scales will fall from your eyes about social justice issues. Just listen.
10. That ramen bowl you order on a whim in September? That tastes “off”? Don’t eat it.

What would you tell your 2013 self if you could go back in time?

Hope you all had a great year, full of learning and joy! Also – super random question. Does anyone use Stitch Fix, and if so, do you like it? I am thinking about trying it out.

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