Friday, February 27, 2009

Closet Envy

Last weekend I started organizing my bedroom closet using some awesome Orla Keily organizing accessories from Target. While the closet is very tall and has lots of shelves, it's narrow and doesn't have a lot of room for hanging clothes. Dave and I share the closet, and there's just not enough room for all of our clothes, much less all of my bags, shoes, scarves, and jewelry. I've been wanting to turn our back room, a small bedroom that is only used for storage and an occassional home to stray cats who can't mingle with my own, into a walk-in closet for me. But there's very little room in the back room. While I can move the storage boxes that are in there now to the basement, there's a huge, heavy wooden chest that was Dave's mom that takes up nearly an entire wall. It's beautiful, but there's nowhere else in the house it can go. What can I do? Here's how I'd love the room to look:
This is the Elfa closet system from The Container Store (note that there's a 20% coupon through March 1 on their site). I love the idea of hanging things instead of putting them in drawers or boxes, like hosiery (also from The Container Store):So given my limited space, I wonder if some standing garment racks would be better? I wish I could just snap my fingers and have the closet of my dreams!

Thursday, February 26, 2009

3 Good Dogs + 2 Friendly Cats = Lots of Smells

With yesterday’s nice weather, it was a great evening to walk dogs at the shelter! I met three really nice dogs. If you know anyone…

Ruby is a great hound dog with a reddish coat and big floppy ears. A true hound, she kept her nose to the ground for 90% of the walk (and found every discarded chicken bone on the street, unfortunately). She’s new and doesn’t have a profile yet, but she’s a calm, older dog who walks well on a leash.

Bones is a very cute young brown terrier with the softest fur. He’s a little scared and timid, but he is super sweet—all he wanted to do was be petted. He was seized from a house where he didn’t have good living conditions (thank goodness) and is stick thin. He needs lots of lovin!

Bella is a Jack Russell Terrier Mix who really struck me with how smart she is. I could immediately tell that she’d been well trained and was super smart. She walked very well on a leash and has lived with kids, cats, and dogs. She loves to play but actually seems pretty calm and not hyper.

On my way out, I couldn’t help but visit Boe and Gidget, a pair of wonderfully affectionate cats who love each other and want to go to their next home together. They are super friendly.

Whenever I come home from the shelter, I have to sit on the floor and let my three cats sniff every inch of me—especially if I come home with both dog and cat smells! Last night they were still sniffing my clothes after I'd taken them off and put them in the hamper.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Talkative Cat In Search of Forever Home

Mitsy is available for adoption from the Animal Rescue League. I've been fostering her since December, and think she'd make a wonderful companion for the right home--one without children or other cats. Her profile follows. If you know anyone who might be interested, please have them contact me. She's desperately seeking her forever home and has a lot of love to give to someone who will be patient with her. Thanks!

Mitsy is a sweet, ladylike, six-year-old girl with round eyes, cheeks, and body that indicate some British Shorthair in her pedigree. She loves to talk! She makes little chirping and thrilling noises to express her moods—mostly she talks when she’s happy and is enjoying what she’s doing, whether that’s being petted or playing.

Mitsy enjoys simply being around people. She will quietly sit either by you or on your lap. But she also enjoys playing. She loves chasing strings and feathers, but after about 10 or 15 minutes is happy to just relax again. She has perfect litterbox habits and loves to use a scratching post (she prefers the inexpensive cardboard kind).

Mitsy does get a little nervous when she’s scared or overwhelmed, but once she is settled into a place she knows is safe and secure, she is a doll. She’s smart and responds very well to positive reinforcement. She needs someone who will be patient with her while she settles into a new home.

Children seem to make Mitsy nervous—she and her brother were surrendered to the shelter because they weren’t getting along with the grandchildren, probably because they weren’t respecting her own space. She can be a bit of a bully with other cats, so she would prefer a home where she can be the only cat. She has done well while living in a foster home with a dog. If you have a quiet home without children and are looking for a companion to talk to—and who talks back!—and who will enjoy sitting by your side, Mitsy may be the cat for you! She is in foster care now, and her foster mom would be happy to give you further details or arrange for you to meet her. See videos of Mitsy:

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Happy Fat Tuesday!

This morning a co-worker brought in three varieties of King Cakes from Oakmont Bakery to celebrate Fat Tuesday. Everything I've had from Oakmont Bakery is divine, but these King Cakes? Yum, yum, yum. Out of the plain, raspberry, and cinnamon varieties, the cinnamon was my favorite. What a nice way to start my day!

Friday, February 20, 2009

I Love Free Weekends

This weekend will be one of only two completely free weekends I've had since the holidays. I have no plans with friends or family. And I've just (as of Noon) completed a major work project that I've been working overtime on for the past few weeks, so I won't have to work this weekend. It will be just Dave and me, free to do whatever we want. Oh, how I love weekends like that! But it's hard to choose what to do from all the things I want to do. I wish I had time to do them all. Man, if I worked part-time or had more than three free hours in the workday, I could be so much more productive! Decisions, decisions.
  1. Finish my vacation scrapbook from 2005. I'm so behind and need to get caught up, and I'm almost done with 2005, so I think this is a definite.
  2. Try out some new recipes. This is also a definite. I've been going through all my old cooking magazines and flagging new recipes to try and last night bought stuff to try out two new appetizers.
  3. Sew a new purse.
  4. Clean out closets. Pretty much one of my all-time favorite activities!
  5. Do some major spring cleaning. I need to tackle things I usually don't get to, like doing paint touch-ups of all the wood trim and wiping down all the walls, which takes forever.
  6. Clean out the basement. I started this in the winter, but it's a project that will take about 1 million years.
  7. Create a landscaping plan for my backyard. This is really Dave's job, but I warned him that if he doesn't help, I'm going to just do whatever I want on my own. Usually the threat of my tackling any home project is enough to get him moving.
  8. Go to Ikea. I've been making a list of things I need, like candles and lightbulbs, so I think a trip is in order.
  9. See Friday the 13th. I'm not sure Dave will take me to see it. He got really embarrassed when I screamed throughout The Amityville Horror remake. It's a guarantee that I'll be the loudest and longest screamer in the I dare?
  10. Do nothing but read David Simon's Homicide with Grubble sleeping on my lap. Hmm...that might be the best option yet!
Whatever I do, I know I'll enjoy it. Hope you enjoy your weekend too!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Hooray! Prague!

I’m so happy! I’ll be going to Prague this June for work, and I’ve been worried that Dave couldn’t go with me. The flights are really expensive, and there would be two full days of travel, so Dave was waffling on whether it was worth it. I’ve been anxious about having to travel there and back by myself…and I’d want to do some sightseeing but am not at all confident in my ability to get around on my own in a foreign country without getting ripped off or hurt. And it just wouldn’t be as much fun without Dave there.

So last night he decided to go! Yay!!!! It looks like a side-trip to Vienna is really doable (just five hours away), though I love the idea of renting a car and exploring small Eastern European towns. If we drove all over the south island of New Zealand, where not only do you drive on the left side of the road but the steering wheel is on the right side of the car, on narrow, windy roads clinging to the sides of high cliffs with no guardrails, surely we could get around Eastern Europe? And Romania…ah, if we could go to Romania! That’s number one on my wish list of places to visit, but I think it’s too far away. We’ll have to see…now that we know he’s definitely going, this will be the fun part: planning out what we want to do there. Yay!!!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

5 Things That Make Me Purr: 02.17.09

1. Ferns in terrariums. I never got around to making a terrarium over the holidays, but I love the lush feel of unfurling fern fronds, and there's something so Victorian-era-romantic about putting them under a glass case. 2. Elephants print by Rhode Islander Julia Riordan Scherer. Love the colors, love the elephants, just love this print overall.

3. Traveler's Atlas. I'm geographically challenged, so I'm constantly getting out an atlas. This one by DK Publishing gives good travel tips, like must-see places, weather, and languages.

4. Hanna Werner Animal Flower Postcards. As textiles or wallpaper, these designs would be way too wacky even for my house, but they're just wacky enough for fun postcards.

5. Nature shows on PBS. Why We Love Cats and Dogs and Is That Skunk? are two great shows I saw recently, but there's always something good on Nature. (The photo below from PBS shows a woman who runs Skunk Haven, a skunk rescue in Ohio. Skunks are one of my favorite animals, and I've thought about getting one before--they've been domesticated as pets for 60 years. But they require fresh food, including meat, prepared for them daily...I don't even cook meat for my husband.)

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Elsie--My Personal Assistant

If there's one good thing about taking work home for the weekend, it's that the cats are always eager to help out. They lay on my papers to keep them warm, paw at the computer screen to make sure the cursor doesn't get away, swat those pesky pens off the table and onto the floor, and jump in my seat to keep it warm as soon as I get up. Here's Elsie, my good little helper. PS: Yes, that is a Mac. After all my moaning, I ended up with a Mac (on loan) anyway, for a project.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Happy Valentine's Day!

For Valentine's Day, here's Cupid (note the heart on his forehead!) to remind us that cows are social, emotionally intelligent creatures who form friendships, love their babies, and can feel stress, fear, and sadness. Just like us, they need love too! Cupid is one of the very lucky few who are enjoying life away from the horrors of factory farms at Farm Sanctuary.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Bunny Lovin

Speaking of the Animal Rescue League, when I was there last night I stopped into the bunny room. I talked to a very nice man whose name I forget but who fosters bunnies. (Sidenote: One of the big perks about volunteering at ARL is that I can easily connect with others who love animals just as much as I do. I can talk with perfect strangers for hours about animals!) He had out Sophia, this pretty girl pictured here. She was so inquisitive and cute. She constantly hopped around, stopped, and stood up on her hind legs to sniff and check things out, including this man's shoes and pants and my hand when I reached out to her. I love the bunny room! It's so quiet and calm--all you hear is the bunnies hopping around and munching on hay.

Of course, as I talked to the volunteer, I thought again about fostering or adopting a bunny. People who have bunnies are very passionate about them and insist that they make better companions than most people think. They can be litter box trained, and many bunny owners let them have free run of the house. They're inquisitive and social and many come when called and enjoy being petted. The downside, of course, is that they can chew on anything--the volunteer told me last night that he has to keep his TV remote controls away or the bunnies will eat the buttons off of it. So, you have to bunny-proof your house, like putting plastic casing around wires, but that seems doable. I think my cats would be OK with a bunny. I have no doubt that they'd try to eat a mouse or bird since they all came from the streets, but a bunny can be bigger than a cat! It's the husband who might not be OK with a bunny...although, I wonder if he'd prefer a bunny over a dog?

If you are thinking of a pet but don't want the commitment of a dog or are allergic to cats (because there's absolutely no reason why any person (good and decent person that is) shouldn't have a cat unless they're allergic!), consider a bunny! You can meet them all at the ARL (6620 Hamilton Avenue ) on February 22 from 3 to 5 p.m. during the Hug-A-Bun Sundays, when they let all of the shelter rabbits out to play and interact with people in the big multi-purpose room. Let me know if you're going--I might go too!

Talking About Twitter

See the article on Twitter in today's NYT? The gist: Use it however you want, whether to follow friends or get feedback or market your business.

The article prompted me to log into Twitter to review the dozen or so new people who are following me and to decide whether I want to follow them. I have pretty low standards. I won't follow anyone who defines themselves as religious or has different political views than mine. You get like 150 characters max to define yourself, so anyone who uses that small space to talk religion or politics isn't someone I want to follow. I also won't follow anyone who looks like a teenager in their picture and has no bio (they probably only just want to get their numbers up). Other than that, I'll follow you (which means that I subscribe to all your messages).

I also just followed the first person I know: the Animal Rescue League. Of course I want to hear about things like their pets of the week and how many animals adopted so far (514 this year)!

Anyone else giving Twitter a try?

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Yay, Stump!

I don't have cable so couldn't watch the Westminster Kennel Club show, but I was happy to see that an old dog who looks like a mutt (that's a compliment) won Best in Show.
(Photo from NYT.)

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

The Lies That Mac People Tell

My company is getting me a laptop, so I've been researching what kind to get. The majority of the writers, designers, and web team I work with have Mac laptops. When I mention to any of them which laptop I'm thinking of getting (a very cute little Dell), they first look aghast and then insist that I should lobby the powers-that-be to get a Mac. When I tell them I actually prefer a PC, they look very puzzled...and some have proceeded to tell me lies about why I absolutely need to get a Mac! But's why I prefer PCs.

1. Much of my college years was spent in the Mac Lab. I knew no other computer because I believed that creative and cool people used Macs and nerds and geeks used PCs. This actually did have some truth back then--design software was originally only available for Macs in the 80s or so. My first major purchase in my life was a Mac desktop. I remember how I saved up all my money for so long to get one, and how excited I was to have my own computer with the ubiquitous fish-in-an-aquarium screensaver. And then I got my first job and used a PC for the first time. I was astounded. I could not believe that a computer wasn't actually supposed to freeze up and die every 2.5 minutes! I couldn't believe that I wasn't losing my work every five minutes because of all the crashes! I couldn't believe that a computer didn't have to take five minutes to save a file! I felt really duped. I'd saved up my money to buy a computer that I'd always believed was
the computer to buy, and only later did I realize it was a piece of shit. I'm sure that Mac performance has improved since the mid-90s, but if a company screws me on a major purchase, there is 0% chance that I'll give them another try. (This is the same reason why I'll never buy an American car.)

2. Performance aside, I think Mac popularity today is mainly the result of brilliant marketing. Like Harley Davidson, Apple has created a culture around its products. A Harley is a symbol of freedom to its followers. And a Mac is the symbol of coolness. If you, poor sap, buy a Mac, you'll be instantly cool! So much cooler than those dorky people who use PCs! You'll be part of the in-crowd! My issue is that I don't like to be marketed to. I want to buy a product based on its own merit, not because a corporation tells me I'll be cool if I use it.

So, back to work and the lies. My co-workers have told me that the fonts we use at my organization aren't available for a PC; that InDesign files can't be shared; and that (this is the best!) Adobe software isn't even available for a PC! All lies--I've checked.

Hey, isn't it interesting that the word cult is in culture? Thanks, but no thanks, Mac people: I don't want to join your cult!

PS: Dave feels the same way. He researched MP3 players for over a year because he absolutely refused to buy an iPod and finally bought a nice touchscreen MP3 player last weekend.

PSS: Sorry if I offended the 7.51% of viewers of this blog who use a Mac, but you should leave the cult now, before it's too late.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Leaving Your Kid on the Street

Every morning on my bus ride into work, a woman gets on at Penn Avenue and stands at the window to watch an eight-year-old-looking boy standing on the opposite corner who must be her son. She watches until she can't see him any longer, waving the whole time, then goes to find a seat.

I assume that the boy is waiting for a school bus and that the woman is on her way to work. But I often wonder: How must it feel to live your child on a street corner every morning, hoping he makes it to school safely? Granted, it's 8 in the morning and the streets at that time are pretty well populated with school kids and commuters, but still. If I don't see my cats for more than a half-hour walking around the house or know where they're sleeping, I always search for them. Sadly, we have inadvertently locked the cats in the foyer, between the screen door and the kitchen door (a very small space...poor Grubble!), in closets, and outside before, so I am constantly concerned that they're safe and well. I can only imagine how it would feel to leave my young child to essentially fend for himself on a busy city street every workday morning.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Guess Who's Coming to Target!

Orla Keily! I love her colorful, whimsical, nature-inspired designs, and they're coming to Target in the form of housewares (see salad plates below). Some are already out of stock, but many aren't arriving for a few more weeks (two to six according to Target's website). Thank you, Target, for continuing to partner with great designers to bring good design to us little people.

Friday, February 6, 2009

So. Busy.

I have approximately two million projects all due right now. I'm behind. I'm busy. But I also need a break. So I thought I'd share my thoughts on some of the social media stuff that's just so in right now.

Facebook. I loved it for about five minutes. Not so much anymore. But everyone is on it! What gives? OK, I do love that I reconnected with people I wouldn't have otherwise. But other than that, I think it's just a big time suck. I complain about it often to Dave (who refuses to join...for now), and he thinks it's just a way for adults to act like kids again. So true! I would have absolutely loved it when I was in high school and college! But I've found all the customizations that make it so less annoying. Did you know that you can choose to see less of someone? My home page is now set up so that I only see the people I want to actively follow. Did you know that you can choose not to have your every action published? Some people may like it, but aside from privacy issues, I think all that crap just clutters the page. I haven't figured out how to make it so that my last status update is not visible for weeks after it's relevant. If you know how to do that, please share.

Twitter. Hate it! Hate it! Hate it! I'm following more than 60 people and more than 70 people are following me. I know absolutely none of them. Some of them don't even speak English. I'm doing it for work, so I searched for some of my keywords and followed anyone who ever used those keywords. And then I followed some social media people. I guess whenever you follow someone, everyone who is following that person will follow you. It's just so random. Some people have more than 10,000 could you possibly read all of their updates? I posted a few half-hearted things about work but I dread just logging in. If you don't have to join Twitter for work, don't do it!

LinkedIn. This is my favorite networking site. The interface is clean and uncluttered, and it's very valuable for connecting with others in your field for work. I've set up my own group for the conference I work on (and have almost 300 members so far!) and am able to post news items or updates to the members, and the members are able to start their own discussions. I've also joined a writer's group, whose members give a lot of good tips on freelance work. And the best part: You're able to post a question to the entire community on a certain topic. So, I can post a question about what project management tool people use, for example, and can get good feedback and advice from others. This is definitely the most valuable site for work.

That's my report from the field. I'm looking forward to seeing the girls tonight and tomorrow night. I so need a break because I will be crazy busy for the next few weeks right up until our truck leaves for San Jose in early March. OK, this is starting to sound like a Facebook status update, so that's all for now.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Goodbye, Domino

Even after I heard last week that Domino Magazine was shutting down, I kept up hope that they'd change their minds. But their farewell message is now on their website, and I teared up when I read it:
dear readers

It is with very heavy hearts that we say farewell. Over the last 4 years, in 28 issues, we have done our best to create a great magazine. We started with a real idea—that style is for everyone—and tried to carry it out with stories that provide inspiration and empower you to act on it. From your tremendous response, we know that we were onto something. In this tough economy, however, we simply weren't able to get the advertising support we needed.

As domino evolved, we never lost sight of our original democratic premise. Looking back at the manifesto we published in the premiere issue, the first tenet of domino is still the truest: Home should make you happy. We hope we have played a part in making this come true for you.

All the editors of domino

Here's my farewell letter to them:

Dear Domino:

I'm sorry that I didn't subscribe for the first few years and instead mooched Kate's old issues. I hope I didn't cause you to go under. But I love you no less. You taught me that if I fill my home with things I love, my house will not only look good, but make me happy. And it does. As much as I love to travel and explore the world, the best part of every trip is coming back to a home that I love. It's my favorite place on earth. I have kept every single issue and will refer to my library whenever I want inspiration, advice, and ideas. And I'll always remember and continue implementing the most important things you've taught me:

1. A home shouldn't look like a furniture showroom. This is the first guideline that jump-started my love of home decorating. I had always wanted my house to look like a page from a Design Within Reach catalog but never had the $10,000 to buy a side chair or $5,000 to buy a lamp. So I never bought anything, and I was never happy with my home. But then I realized that even if I had a million dollars to decorate my house, it would look the same as everyone else's who has those designer pieces. I realized I wanted my home to look lived-in and to reflect my personality.
2. Incorporate things you love. My home is primarily filled with nature and animal-themed accessories and objects, and there are books everywhere. It's so me. (Except for the third floor--that's all Dave.)
3. Add texture, contrast, and color. You taught me that same is boring. After I added fabrics and other contrasting elements, everything seems to fit together so much better now.
4. Create tableaux. I love this! I'm constantly re-arranging objects on our fireplace mantels, coffee table, and other areas around some central theme, whether they're all clear-glass objects, a certain color, or a certain theme, like rocks and seashells.
5. Don't be matchy-matchy. This is the best advice you've given me. I will never again buy matching furniture sets or aim for furniture from just one era. I love that you've given me the freedom to mix antiques with modern and expensive with low-end.

I will miss you, Domino. You were my all-time favorite magazine. But I can't thank you enough for giving me the power to make my home a place that makes me happy.

Love, JK

PS: You can keep the rest of my subscription money even though I only got one issue from my new subscription. I think after all my years of mooching, I owe you that.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Coco's Is Better

This weekend I wanted to buy vegan cupcakes to take to a vegan dinner. I know some people who insist that Dozen (in Squirrel Hill and Lawrenceville) has better cupcakes and others who think that Coco's (in Shadyside) does. While I really like Dozen's breakfast items, sandwiches, and other baked goods, I've never been a big fan of their cupcakes. One day I stopped in around 3 and bought two cupcakes. Granted, they had been sitting out all day, but that was no excuse for them being nearly inedible--dry, crumbly, and just not good tasting, especially at $2.50 each.

So I bought red velvet and chocolate peanut butter vegan cupcakes at Coco's. (That's another thing: Coco's offer two different types of vegan cupcakes daily, and Dozen only has one.) These cupcakes were out of this world good! They were a big hit of the dinner party and were so good that I was a little afraid my vegan friends would insist that they weren't vegan because they were just
so good.

This confirms it for me:
Coco's definitely has the best cupcakes in town.

(Photo from Coco's website.)

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Here We Go

A true Pittsburgher, I love The Steelers. But I'm so tired of the "here we go" song. It's bad enough just hearing it over and over, but worse when Steelers fans sing it every single time they're on camera. It makes them all look like total yinzers. Why not just scream? Yell "Woooooo"? Yell "Go Steelers"? Sing the Steelers Polka? Anything but that terrible, droning, "here we go" song.

I made this cake for the 2005 Super Bowl (hey, I tried). I am hoping this Super Bowl will be different. In 2005, Dave drank an entire bottle of Jagermeister and was in no condition at the end of the game to do anything. But I had my heart set on running through the streets and screaming my joy, so I literally dragged him to the Strip District when he could barely walk. On the way, he befriended some thug-looking young men who eventually confessed to being just let out of prison. In the Strip, he bit it right in front of a cop and tore up his knees. So I dragged him back home and took him to the Bierhaus, a bar right around the corner from us. Another bad idea. He didn't last too long there either. We'll see what tonight brings.