Archive for September, 2010

This weekend, Peggy, Ryan’s mom, came into town for a fun, fall weekend. The weekend started with homemade paninis for lunch and then we were off to hike the Monticello walking trail. After we hiked all the way up to Monticello (well, we could only get as far as the fancy new visitor’s center), we went to Carter’s Mountain Orchard for some apple picking. Here are some of the pics from our adventure.

Trying out the fancy apple-picker.

Tasting the fruits of our labor.

A few of my favorite things: Ghana baskets!

After a jam-packed day of activities, we went to Mas for dinner— which was excellent. They truly do have some of the best food in town. Then, for dessert, we went to Sweet Frog— which is definitely not as good as Splendora’s but it’s still the new thing to do in town… and their mango is pretty good (for something low-fat).

Now I just have to figure out what to do with all these golden delicious and jonagold apples that I have. Any suggestions?


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“Update on the Homefront”— I thought this name would be appropriate for today’s post given that I was sick for the better part of last week, so almost everything that I’ve done recently that I have to update you on has revolved around the house.

Being the nerd that I am and wanting everything to be perfect for you, my anonymous readers, I decided to dictionary.com “homefront” to make sure that it was one word and not two or two hyphenated. It turns out “homefront” is one word and its definition, apparently, is even more perfect for this post than I realized. Here’s what dictionary.com says: homefrontthe civilian sector of a nation at war when its armed forces are in combat abroad.

I almost laughed out loud (or LOL’ed, if you prefer) when I saw this because that’s exactly how I felt on two levels this past week. First, Ryan was gone for the latter part of the week for business and, as I’ve blogged before in this blog, when he’s gone, it always seems to feel like he’s out fighting the battles (battles… over cocktails in posh hotels) and I’m at home holding down the fort. Secondly, I felt like my body was kind of like a homefront. You know that feeling when you’re sick where you feel completely hopeless and miserable in your shell of a body and any intelligence/ strength/ faculty you have has left you to fight whatever it is that’s attacking your body? That was me, a big ol’ homefront.

Anyway, I’m feeling much better now and have great news to share. First, I haven’t killed my orchid! I know, I know, you’ve been dying to see pictures of a plant growing. But, look! Five blooms on each side— 10 all together! I’m on a roll!

More good news. Do you guys get a Dominion Home Energy report? It’s a report that Dominion sends out every two months to let you know how you compare (energy consumption-wise) to your neighbors. Well, ever since we got our first report (I believe we were ranked 17/100), it has been Ryan’s goal to become #1 in lowest energy consumption (amongst neighbors of occupied apartments or condos of similar size, that is). Well, on Saturday we got the news… we… are … #2.

While this is good news, Ryan and I are beside ourselves… who could be more energy efficient than us? We use compact flourescent bulbs (from the Blue Ridge Eco Shop), we generally don’t use lights during the day, we turn off our lights when we’re not home… who could be beating us? So, next time you want to do something with us, I hope you’re prepared to sit around and talk in the dark because we definitely won’t be turning on any lights or watching TV this fall. We won’t stop ’til we’re #1!

Last, you might remember a little art project that Rachel and I did a few months ago. Well, I finally got around to finishing/ hanging mine.

It’s no Mike Fitts, but it does take up some gaping white space on my wall, so I’m happy it’s finally there.

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A few months ago while reading The Hook– a weekly newspaper here in Charlottesville- I came across a column by Penelope Trunk that I haven’t been able to get out of my mind. Penelope is a syndicated columnist and blogger and I’d read several of her columns before but nothing had caught my attention like her column, “Test: Are you happy or interesting?“. At the time, I don’t think I took the test, but I didn’t need to— the first sentence of her column was all I needed to read.

Allow me to paraphrase: her conclusion was, after having done “years of research”, that you have to pick: do you want to be interesting or happy? You can’t be both. I felt offended in a sort of way given that, when you boil my life’s goals down, I basically want to be both happy and interesting. I want to live a comfortable life with my family but I also want to do exciting, passionate work. Who the f#%k (see her article on the f word) was she to tell me (okay, maybe not tell me to my face) or at least insinuate that the life I want, the life I work toward every day, is not possible?

As you might be beginning to notice, this column didn’t just offend me… it left me paranoid. For the past year-or-so, I’ve thought about this annoying assertion everyday in a round-about way. You know the old saying that “pain and suffering make for great art.” Well, I think of this principle a lot as I look around my beautiful, dream of an apartment and stare over at my husband with that newly-wed glow still in our eyes— actually, I should say, I think of the inverse of this principle a lot, which must be that happiness makes for bad art.

Let’s say, I’m happy right now but I also want to make good art (or, in my case, write a great song). Does that mean that I have to sabotage my happiness or wait for something bad to happen to me before I find the inspiration to make good art? In other words, do I have to be unhappy before I can do something that I think will… make me happy? Why not just stay happy the whole time… skip the whole making myself feel unhappy part just so I can feel happy again? To me, the whole exercise of making art, is a way for an artist to alleviate some pain, some weight, by getting it out into the world and out of the artist’s head… hence, making the artist happier. So, maybe, the desire for happiness both feeds and destroys the ability to make art.

Even people with the greatest ambitions who lead the most interesting and sexy of lives, who want to build the biggest companies and the tallest towers, aren’t they driven by the fact that once they accomplish what they’ve set after, they’ll feel happy? Maybe they don’t always think of it in those terms, but I think when you strip away the layers of ego and greed, that’s what’s there. That itch-you-wanna-scratching feeling of, if I can just accomplish this one thing, I can die happy.

So, I guess what Penelope is saying is, that feeling never happens for those people? They never realize happiness? Maybe she’s not saying that at all. Maybe she’s trying to say that greatness comes from making great sacrifices. And, great sacrifices don’t make you happy… at least, up front.

When I got the idea to write this blog post, I decided to go ahead and take the test (I gave myself a 0 if I felt the question didn’t apply to me or I fell into neither category) and I scored, in total, a -1, which she defines as, ” … suspiciously well balanced. Or lacking a self-identity. I’m not sure which.” Hopefully not the latter.

I got -1’s (things that make you interesting) for rearranging my life to do something great, having been to a therapist, and having tried on $200 jeans. I got +1’s (things that make you happy) for being a happy child and having friends that pray. All the rest I left as 0’s.

I suppose if I had to choose, I’d rather be happy. But, I’m banking on the possibility that the road to interesting might also lead to happiness.

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This past Saturday, my wonderful husband and friends and I “volunteered” for the Top of the Hops Beer Festival. That’s right we “served” our community by volunteering at a beer festival. Saturday was maybe 80 degrees and sunny— maybe slightly overcast— and it made for perfect beer tasting weather. Before I get started , I have to share with you a crazy picture I took.

Have you ever seen a sky like this? It looks like Van Gogh painted the clouds into perfect waves. Check out The Starry Night and Wheatfield with Cypresses if you don’t know what I’m talking about. Coincidentally, Van Gogh was one of the answers in our Cranium game later that night. Spooky.

Moving on. I have to admit, I was really skeptical about how many people would come out to an event like this. I mean, I know a lot of people like to drink beer, but I wasn’t so sure a lot of people wanted to pay $35 to taste 60 oz. of beer (about 5 beers). Well, once again, the universe proved to me that my reasoning is unlike everybody else’s. To say the least, the event was a smashing success. About 3,000 people came to the event and we served beer the entire time. It was like we were tending bar for the afternoon. Here’s Ryan, serving up some thirsty customers.

Mouth watering Blackthorn dry cider that was so popular we ran out of it!

Ryan and I got pretty lucky, I think. We were at the Founder’s table… so we were serving up their Red’s Rye and their KBS. I have to take a minute to tell you about their KBS. Good lord, it was good stuff. If you ever come across this hard-to-find delicacy of the beer world, you should definitely give it a try. It’s a stout that is brewed with coffee and chocolate flavors and then cave-aged for a year in Kentucky Bourbon barrels… bourbon barrels! It was delicious.  Apparently there is also a CBS… which is the same beer just aged in Canadian Maple Syrup barrels instead of bourbon… can you imagine??? So, we felt pretty lucky that we had such great (and highly sought-after) beers at our table.

Here’s Matt and Shannon in the middle of the craziness. Managing to oblige me with a smile.

Oh, I never got around to telling you why we were all roped into this beer festival in the first place (apart from free admission to the event and after party). The Music Resource Center was the beneficiary of some of the proceeds of the festival… so in exchange for the donation… we gave them our man hours. I tell ya… it’s a tough job, but someone’s gotta do it.

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My friend Allison Dodson, who it seems I talk about a lot on this blog, shared this really great blog with me the other day. It’s called younghouselove.com. If you go to their site and click on “House Tour,” it will show you the before and after of their little ranch home in Richmond. Warning: you might want to make sure you have about 45 min. to kill before you go to their site– it’s impossible not to get sucked in! It’s really amazing what they’ve done with it and it’s practically all DIY. I’m definitely not as crafty as they are, but their blog reminded me of this great project that my dad and I tackled a while back that I thought that I would share.

Ryan and I have a pretty small bedroom, so, when we moved in, I decided that I wanted to have all white furniture in our bedroom to make the space feel as airy (and not cramped) as possible. I found this beautiful dresser at Anthropologie and the bedroom of my dreams started coming into focus.

Beautiful isn’t it? The only problem was that the price was $2,667 (before tax and shipping!). Considering I wasn’t working at the time, (and even if I were, I could think of a lot better ways to spend $3,000), that option was out. Also, I have a thing for one-of-a-kind pieces. And, as beautiful as the Anthropologie dresser looks online with their ethereal bohemian staging, I’m sure it would feel much more commercial once I actually had it in my home (and my bank account had been reduced by $3,000).

Fear not! I’ve never had a problem spending a Saturday afternoon at Circa scrounging for deals. Luckily, between a few vigilant, scouting weekends, I found this beautiful, nearly 7′ long dresser. Hello, amazing storage!

This solid wood dresser with a custom glass top was only about $225 at Circa. I also found two little side tables (probably from somewhere like Crate and Barrel originally) that I snagged for about $40 a piece. The only problem with all of the pieces that I bought was that they were all a very dark brown.

Enter Dan Kosut. My dad assured me that we could take the pieces that I found and turn them from drab to fab. So, here’s what we did on a mild day back in March that gave me and Ryan a one-of-a-kind, not too matchy-matchy bedrom set.

1. We moved the furniture outside to a sunny, well ventilated spot where the furniture could dry quickly. We took a bucket of water and poured a cup or so of ammonia in it. Then, we put on gloves and took a very fine scouring pad and rubbed the furniture down with the water and ammonia mixture. So, it was a two-in-one cleaning/ sanding. We put a little elbow grease into it, but really didn’t spend to much time on it (between the two of us doing three pieces of furniture), maybe 5-10 minutes tops. Then we wiped the furniture down with paper towels.

2. After the furniture dried, we took a primer (which we diluted a little with water) and sprayed it on (with a spray gun that my dad had bought at Lowe’s for about $30). However, if we could do it over, we just would have used a little roller brush. The spray gun was fussy, expensive and ultimately a waste of time.

3. After the primer dried, we painted everything an off-white. My dad rolled on the paint with the little roller brush and I kind of went behind him, while the paint was still wet, and made a few brush strokes with a paint brush, just to make it look a little more hand-painted. This may not be  a necessary step for everyone. It just depends how sleek vs. rustic you want it to look.

(Sorry, there’s no picture for this step! I guess I was a little busy actually helping with this step!)

4. After the paint dried, we took another kind of fine sand paper (this one had more of a foam backing and was soft and a few inches thick, so that is would sort of bend and mold around the furniture as we sanded) and we brushed the specific areas that we want to look “distressed” until some of the paint came off/ the wood came through. When you rub it down, there’s a fine grit and residue that comes off that we wiped away (with a paper towel) as we went along. One thing we noticed, was that as we sanded, the color of the paint changed from an off-white to more of a cream. If I’d known that the paint would yellow a bit as you brushed it, I might have started with a more traditional white paint, rather than an off-white.

5. The last step was spraying a coat of polyurethane on it. My dad just bought a can of it (like a spray can) at the hardware store. After the polyurethane dried, we put on new hardware that I got at Lowe’s. I know there are places that have fancier and more expensive hardware (like Anthropologie) but the pulls and knobs I got at Lowe’s suited this dresser just fine.

And here is our finished product:

Some details:

And, here is one of the bedside tables. We decided not to distress these, as we wanted to avoid all the pieces looking too matchy-matchy.

We accomplished all of this in less than a day’s worth of work and honestly, what takes the longest, is waiting for things to dry. The amount of time that you are actually painting or sanding something is probably less than an hour total! I estimate that I probably spent about $80 on new hardware/ paint/ rollers, etc., which means that for this huge bedroom makeover, I only spent about $385 (including the cost of the furniture) which is a fraction of what it would have cost me to buy that one Anthropologie dresser. Let’s do a side-by-side comparison.

What do you think? I think ours looks pretty darn close to the original. Maybe even better!

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I thought I’d post some pics (now that I’m trying to take my camera with me everywhere) of the UVA/ UR game this past weekend. We were so happy that Ryan’s friends from undergrad, Jeff and Dana, could come and visit— we had so much fun hanging out with them! The game was definitely all the talk about town: UVA’s first game of the season with a new coach (that we stole from the team we’re playing for the first game).

The weather was absolutely beautiful. It seems in perfect timing (yet at the same time long overdue!) that the first few days of September have ushered in the most beautiful fall weather. We are keeping our windows open and trying to soak up as much of the brisk breezes and the crispy leaves popping underneath our feet before it goes away.

One thing that was not my favorite about this game. #1. Ryan nor I has ever paid for UVA game tickets (they, historically at least, have been pretty easy to come by, especially when I was working for UVA), however, for this game, we waited so long to decide to go and there was so much buzz about the game that we ended up having to buy tickets at the good ol’ fashioned box office. #2. In my life, never have we had such terrible seats. I guess that’s what you get when you wait til the last minute. Though, even for someone like me who’s scared of heights, I have to admit it was kind of fun sitting in the highest seats in the stadium… it was sort of like high school or something, thinking you’re really cool for having the highest seats (and being furthest from the parents).

Here’s the cool kids—Ryan, E & A. Hangin’ in the highest seats in the house.

Dana, Jeff and Ry— a.k.a. the UR contingency.

Ry, watching the game with the mountains on the horizon.

Me and Ry.

So, over the eight or so hours that we spent with Jeff and Dana on Saturday, they were unfortunately exposed to many of the exciting, tedious, neuroticspecial details that fill my life. One which is at the forefront of my mind: how I am going to not kill my orchid. So, I naturally explained my tactics to them and filled them in on the orchid blooming cycle. And, Jeff, finding himself very concerned about my orchid and very eager to help me make this blog a smashing success, suggested that I post my orchid progress and that I perhaps begin to blog about “caring for my orchid.” I don’t think I will take it that far— I’m just not sure if blogging about horticulture is my thing, but I’ll share my orchid progress, so long as it’s pretty and I don’t begin to kill it. So, here’s my orchid one day after I brought it home, which involved letting it sit overnight next to a cold window (apparently the temperature drop at night helps the orchid bloom). I already have two… almost three new blooms!

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The past week with having Ryan back has been great. And, this week in particular, I’ve been reminded of just how blessed and happy I am. I’m usually relatively happy but right now, I’m really happy. In fact I’m so happy, yesterday morning I woke up and got out of bed and started dancing and singing “I love my life” around my room. Happy!!!

I think part of the reason I’ve been reflecting and evaluating my life a lot recently is that I’m coming up on the one-year anniversary of leaving my job at the Alumni Association. Exactly a year ago, I had submitted my resignation but I still had about two weeks left to work. It was a very awkward and uneasy time for me. Everyone that I bumped into had questions and reactions that I had to face: “why are you leaving?… I didn’t know you played an instrument… let me know when you have a gig… oh, so I’ll be able to say “I knew you when…” Everyday, I felt like I was putting myself out there in a way I’d never done before, really exposing my true passions to everyone from my family to the most casual acquaintances and  co-workers. And, on top of it, I felt like I was really misunderstood (which is probably a result of the fact that I was still trying to figure out exactly what I wanted to do and how to present that to people).

I feel so much clearer now… but that didn’t happen overnight. Even a few months ago, particularly the March to June time, I felt like I was just spinning my wheels, treading water. I think a lot of my happiness has to do with my new job at the Music Resource Center. I’m really starting to carve out a place and purpose for myself there. I love interacting with the kids, I love being surrounded by music all day (even if it is listening to a 13 year old play “Smells Like Teen Spirit” over and over and over), and I love advancing the mission of such an incredible cause. My schedule of 25 hours per week works perfectly for me. It gives me a reason to get up every morning, but I still have enough time to work on my own music, get stuff done around the house, exercise, volunteer and socialize without feeling like a crazy person.

I not only love my schedule at work, I love my routines with Ryan. I love being able to wake up slow. I love having dinner together at night. I love going out to dinner on Thursday nights because it’s *almost* the weekend. I love our house. I love getting pizza and wings with Ethan and Allison. And I love that we possibly, might be semi-adopting two cats. More on this later.

As for the songwriting, it’s not moved to the back burner even though I have a job. However, I also realize that songwriting is my lifelong endeavor, it’s something I have to chip away at day after day, year after year. And, I am a songwriter. Whether or not I ever have a song recorded by a major artist will not change the fact that I am a songwriter.

Ok, enough heavy stuff for a Saturday afternoon. I managed to walk over to the market this morning (though that’s about all I’ve done)— and you know I love to share my market finds.

These peppers are gorgeous! I had to get the little purple one just because of the color!

First apples of the season!

And, I finally took the plunge! I got an orchid! I’ve been eye-ing these at the market for years but I’ve never had the guts to buy one. I figure winter is coming up, so if I can keep it alive, it might be nice to have to green (and pink!)  around the house. And, it’s very feng shui.

Okay,okay, these didn’t come from the market, but my sweet hubby did bring them back for me from San Francisco, and I had to share them!

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