Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Quality Control

I've been thinking a lot about quality lately. Quality of life. Air quality. Quality wardrobe investments. Top quality pieces of furniture. The quality of my writing (which has taken a nose dive on this blog, sorry about that.)

So many things in 2011 are disposable. As a culture it seems we've decided that disposable = easier. Maybe that's true in the short term. Buy a bottle of water and throw it out when you're done. That's easier than remembering to fill up a water bottle at home, carrying the empty vessel around when you've drank all the water, and washing it when you get home. But think of all the hidden work in that water bottle. You have to stop somewhere to get it. You have to throw almost $2 away on it. You acquire a useless receipt that may or may not hang around in your pocket for too long. You have to wrangle with the recyclables at your house. And then there's the psychic toll of thinking about how all our empty water bottles have turned into the 8th continent of the world. Ugh. (Have you seen The Story of Stuff? It takes 20 mintues. Do check it out.*)

Or take most of things that are bought at Ikea. Sure, my $600 Ikea couch lasted almost a decade. But I also have a garage full of $20 lamps, chairs, and $2 vases that I cannot bear to throw out but don't want in my house anymore. I bought them when I moved from an apartment to a house and felt the imperative to fill the house up. But I couldn't afford nice pieces and didn't take the time to muse about what the chair that I would really love and treasure for the better part of my lifetime would look like. I just saw things at Ikea that I could afford immediately, and voila -- problem solved. (Apparently I'm not the only one, and that's why Ikea is the biggest furniture manufacturer in the world.)

Or all the sweaters I've bought because they were $20 on sale and who doesn't need another cardigan? You know who? I don't. It's taken me a long time to figure out that having a glut of bargain clothing doesn't make me a better dresser because I have more options. In fact I tend to wear the same things over and over again because I can barely squeeze my hand between the clothes in my closet to see what's in there. I forget about a lot of the clothes I have because they are lost in the oversupply. I give away a garbage bag of clothing every seasonal wardrobe rotation. I just keep filling up my closet with irresistible bargains. The quantity obscures the quality. 

Having a baby who comes with lots of stuff has really amped up my anxiety about being overstuffed. There are less drawers in which I can hide away my extra things. The baby has a lot of stuff that is constantly in use and has to stay out in the open. So I find myself, about every 2 weeks, thinking of a new corner of my house that needs to be organized and cleaned. All the things stuffed into my secret hiding places need to be ruthlessly sorted through, thrown out, or put back in an orderly fashion -- in clear bins labeled with a P-Touch! I want to be one of those Bed Bath & Beyond ladies!!!! Okay, no, I don't actually need to go shopping to acquire more things to put my things in. But I have never before had the desire to take on these particular Martha Stewart qualities (in the past it's always been glue guns, yes, overly organized drawers, no). 

A lot of people feel over-stuffed at this time of year with food and with objects. This year my family tried to reduce the amount of presents exchanged, and though we did make a dent, I still found myself really disappointed with the amount of shopping, spending, and wrapping I did. But it was a step in the right direction. 

I have gained a lot of resolve and taken solace in a blog called Treehouse Chatter. It's written by a friend of mine who over the past few years has embraced veganism, minimalism, and environmentalism. I don't want to speak for her (you should really read her blog), but I think her personal evolution has come from a very curious, exploratory place, and as a result I find what she shares on her blog (and in our conversations) to be inspiring and ellucidating, not judgmental, intimidating, preachy, or militant. I am really happy to have a place on the internet that I can visit when I have cruised my regular assortment of pretty blogs that have me thinking that I would be a much happier person if I got yet another incarnation of a long-sleeved striped t-shirt. 

It's nice to know that there are blogs that inspire healthier living, not just online shopping. I'm not sure what Seven Presidents inspires, but I hope maybe I have piqued your curiosity enough for you to click on Treehouse Chatter and see what it has to say. 

*After you've watched that, perhaps you need something a little lighter. I recommend Marcel The Shell With Shoes On One & Two.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Coming To A Living Room Near Me

We finally pulled the trigger on a new couch, and it's spectacular.  "Go big or go home" is definitely turning out to be my home decor mantra, between this velvet fox and my yellow chairs. I think I will just have to be one of those people who has a house filled with eccentric treasures that somehow go together because they are loved ecstatically. And I'm okay with that.

Special shout-out to Sonny the cat, who we lost last month. His passing allowed us to finally let go of our 7 year old Ikea wreck and move on to something more grown up. I know what you're thinking -- your kid is going to ruin that couch. You may be right, but the time was right for us to say yes to a piece of furniture that we absolutely love.

Extra-special shout out to Mr. SevPrez who rejected my reasonable, compromise choice in couches and fell in love with my fantasy couch, and then spent all of Thursday night moving furniture around to make it fit in our family room. (We won't get the new couch til February but we are living with the new configuration.)

We spend a lot of time on our couch. And a lot of time looking at it, since we have an open floor plan. Why not have something big, bold, and beautiful? Life is short, seize the teal velvet!

Monday, December 12, 2011

The Motivation To Be Festive

I'm taking Christmas to the next level here at Seven Presidents. Some years I'm more gung ho than others, but I think the addition of our little one has me excited about the holiday this year, even if at 5 months old she's too small to really appreciate it. Reminds me of the Christmas episode of "Up All Night," Will Arnett's new show. That show pretty much nails the experience of being a regular person who has a baby and doesn't totally lose their identity. I find myself laughing out loud at least once every episode. But I digress.

My mom keeps offering me holiday decorations that my Grammy made, and I keep accepting. Her handmade decorations hold a ton of sentimental value and precious memories, which is probably why I've always been so hard on new store bought Christmas decorations. Grammy set the bar pretty high. 

I got the extra parts of her ceramic village (except for the church, which seems appropriate). I set it up and meant to take a picture because -- what do you know! -- President Obama stopped by the village to shake hands and drum up votes for 2012. I also acquired a calico gingerbread garland that is hanging over my entryway where I hang our stockings. (Poll: Do you think stockings are just for hanging on Christmas Eve?). 

I stopped by my mom's yesterday and she gave me a stick wreathe to decorate (again, I should have taken a photo) and an idea for the pendants in my kitchen, which I actually managed to photograph. And notice that pot rack in the background? It's been about three years in the making. I finally found one I liked from Crate & Barrel and my dad put it up for me. (It's serious business. Because pots are so heavy you have to make sure it's in a joist.) I couldn't take a picture of the whole room for you to get a better idea of how it looks because there were dishes everywhere. But just trust me that it is an awesome addition to the house. It looks pretty cool and it frees up an entire corner cabinet, which now holds all the extremely tall cereal boxes, bottles of olive oil, cans of formula, and small appliances that were cluttering up the counter. Serenity now! And Merry Christmas, if I don't talk to you before the big day.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Charlie Brown Tree No. 3

This year's tree was handpicked (and cut) but my dad. It road all the way down from Maine on the top of his Mini Cooper. He was a little concerned that maybe it was too wily, but it turns out it's awesome -- long arms and loads of personality. Fits right in.