Five Tiny Things I Made (and Completed) Last Year

  1. Two hats and one cowl scarf for Charlotte to wear. She called the pompom hat her “ice cream” hat and wore it all winter. I briefly considered crocheting more cute hats and selling them in an Etsy shop, but my intentions fell through. Maybe next year.

2. One crocheted hat with fur pompom as birthday gift for my sister.

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3. I bought a lot of furniture and made our house cozy and comfortable. Good living space vibes are very important to me. There is still room for improvement – our current apartment is street-facing and on the shady side of the street, so it’s quite dim, slightly noisy, and lacks a view. I have tried to make it into a restful den with comfortable furnishings, cozy lighting, and lots of small areas for different activities.

4. Two small decorative corners and one framed painting. These small arrangements are some of the few superfluous decorations in the whole apartment. The stones were collected from the beach at Montauk. Two small pieces of sea glass and a cluster of seashells from Tybee Island. Fabric-wrapped shells from my high school cultural exchange in Japan. I painted a picture of a forest stream and a little girl poking at river rocks with a stick, and it feels like it was a sort of divination since I had a daughter a few years later. I framed it and hung it on the wall in her room.

5. Three proper little holidays with decorations. Halloween, Charlotte’s second birthday, Christmas. I find it enormously satisfying to be able to create a pretty little atmosphere. Holidays are strangely impractical times, so the intention to create a proper atmosphere must be set.

6. SO much cooking and baking, but as that is not such a struggle for me as creating tangible expressions of personal identity, I will not count it.

And 7. HAD ANOTHER BABY. Welcome Arthur Gaspar, my son.

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Baby’s first bedroom!

We just moved into a two-bedroom apartment, right down the street from our old apartment. In contrast to my last, quite frenetic/neurotic post, we are doing well, and I am often very content, which is about as good as anyone can hope for :)

It has been a deep pleasure to create a bedroom for our very own Charlotte. I will be decorating it and organizing it more in the next few months, but my main objective will be to create a Montessori-inspired bedroom, with child-accessible everything, particularly as she grows into a toddler bed and becomes more independent.

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The empty room

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Homestyler design

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Current

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Muji shelves

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Rug from World Market

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I would like to add another, larger and more basic rug, a reading nook, more shelves with drawer inserts for her clothes, a small mirror, something pretty for the walls, and twinkly little fairy lights.

Spring is springing again, and spring is very lovely here. Can’t wait for the day when I can wear a little sundress out, and now that Charlotte is old enough to run around the playground, I can envision many beautiful days with her ahead. She is the joy of my life.

A and I are figuring out what we want, what we need from life. We are both creative people. We need to create more, better, more often. Neither of us are very happy in a 9-5 job though we appreciate the stability that comes with it. It’s time to grow.

Maybe it sounds silly, but I am taking an acting class at night, and A will take a screenwriting class. I like acting. A is a good writer. I want to write more, too.

I want to spend more time with Charlotte. I took last Friday off for a mama-baby day and it was beautiful and fun and deeply satisfying. Walking through the neighborhood in the daytime was interesting. The sidewalks were full of toddlers in strollers, pushed by stay-at-home moms and nannies. The local music class was overflowing and the sounds of tambourines and maracas flooded down onto the street. The old people were out, doing their shopping, making googly eyes at the babies. The neighborhood shopkeepers were quietly going about their day. It reminded me of when I lived in Atlanta and worked at a company located in a nice suburb – I’d go out for lunch in the local village square, so to speak – a little shopping area with a small field and trees in the middle built next to a recent townhouse development. I’d sit in my car with my windows down, eating my lunch, enjoying a pretty day, and watch the stay-at-home moms with their babies out on blankets in the grass, and feel a strange envy of their seemingly-simple, suburban lives. I wonder if most mothers still stayed at home, which is sort of a fallacy considering it was only ever middle and upper-middle class mother who stayed at home, would I have chosen the same? It almost feels like a past life memory, me cooking in a kitchen with the windows wide open, pots of flowers and herbs and tomatoes out in the garden, kids running barefoot all around me, the dogs barking, my sister-in-law scrubbing the floor, her sister calling after one of the kids, or something like that. I guess this is all in some old Mediterranean village in my head. In reality, I don’t want to stay at home full-time, nor do I want to live with extended family, but I do feel that piece is strangely ajar or missing in some way. I miss Charlotte and feel strange leaving her with strangers and then largely blocking her out of my existence for close to ten hours a day, counting commute times.

I feel like it’s time to grow, and rebalance, and understand things and myself.

 

Wine Crate Fire Escape

My garden is growing! Seeing my own little kitchen garden peeking through the window every morning is a tiny delight. I haven’t really been taking care of it beyond watering it and clearing out dead leaves every now and then, so the plants have started to make a run for it. The mint and basil are flowering, the lettuce is getting stalky, and the few tomatoes I’ve managed to grow are pretty pathetically tiny since I didn’t stake or cage them. But it’s cute and it’s pretty to look at, and I like smelling all herby scents when I poke my head out to water it. Maybe next year I’ll get serious, but for this year, I just like having it there.

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Flowering mint, two tiny red tomatoes. The roots of the garden are beginning to push apart the sides of the wine crate.

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One beautiful echinacea flower! I am pretty proud of this one, and I might make tea from the roots once the flower dies.

I’ve also put some effort and $ into decorating the apartment. All the windows have curtains (from World Market) and I got a cheap rug from Urban Outfitters. Bonus pics of my adopted dog-child, Ginger :) <3

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Turning Our Scrappy Apartment Into A Paradise

The apartment my boyfriend, our dog, and I share could definitely be described as scrappy. Maybe even ugly, or unpleasant. An Apartment Therapy tour would probably call it “Amanda’s Scrappy, Sort of Gross Mish-Mash of Cheap IKEA Furniture and Hand-Me-Downs (You Live In Brooklyn, Shouldn’t You Be Leaning More Toward the  Eclectic?)”. It’s a really sad state of affairs.

The weird thing is, I love reading Apartment Therapy and clicking through the tour slideshows. I love absorbing gorgeous photos of European apartments and villas posted on My Paradissi. I even love taking quick peeks in other people’s apartments when I walk my dog at night. Interiors and architecture stun me, and have ever since I was a little kid, carefully flipping through my mom’s coffee table books of Nantucket homes or ogling at interesting-looking houses in my hometown.

If you walk into my apartment now, you’d find it bare-bones and messy. We just moved in a few weeks ago and we’re on a strict budget (extra cash winds up going toward a nice meal out or a new shirt for work), so new furniture or aesthetic niceties have been last on our priority list.

can you find: the a/c? dirty laundry basket? blanket? shoes? dog?    Yes, that is our TV.

But we’re doing a little better now. The end of the month doesn’t see us scraping the bottom of the barrel. We have a tiny margin of cash that we can use for nice things, and we really should, with the surprise on the way.

I see a lot of potential for a beautiful, warm, comfortable apartment. I feel conflicted, on one hand — should we spend money on this, when what we have is functional? And on the other hand — I want to feel at home in my home, and I think we can do it without spending thousands and thousands.

The old bed frame broke, the sheets are ancient             at least we have a big kitchen

Out of all the rooms, I think the bedroom needs the most work. We don’t even have a bedframe since our old one broke, and our clothes are stored in plastic storage drawers. I picked up some curtains out of necessity, but (why did I do this?) got a different style for each window, and accidentally got one purple and one grey curtain for the second (you can see it slightly in the photo). I am still thinking of how to make our bedroom nice without spending too much.

In a dream world, I’d want our apartment to look like one part countryside Spanish villa and one part warm Japanese minimalism. Something like these two styles combined:

from myparadissi.com muji!

 

They both have beautiful wood and textiles in common, as well as plants and green things. They both feel warm and welcoming to me.

I want to make my house feel like this but I don’t really know where to start!

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The one real thing I did do this weekend, that I’ve been wanting to do as soon as the weather was warm enough, was plant a garden! Yellow heirloom tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, and plum tomatoes, lettuce, basil, and mint. I planted them all together in a leftover wine box on my fire escape. I don’t know if they’ll grow well together, or if I should have potted some of them separately, but I dreamed of eating home grown salads this summer, and I hope my plan will work! I want to add on more pots of lettuce, radishes, peppers, maybe in window planters, and several indoor trays of microgreens.

The summer is coming, and the surprise will be here at the very end of this year. I have to prepare for it and make our apartment into a welcoming, warm, loving home. I have so many ideas that I want to try and little by little, I will.

 

Feel At Home

Petit à petit, l’oiseau fait son nid

Ever since learning that saying, it replays in my head constantly. I use it to remind myself to have patience, that good things come with diligent work, that I can build my nest, even though it may take awhile.

Feeling at home is important to me, at least theoretically. Ever since I moved out of my parents’ house six years ago, I’ve packed up and moved my life and belongings to new places nine times. That’s a lot! Some of the places I lived were nicer, some were shabbier. None truly felt like a home.

Our first NYC apartment was a sort of awkward cluster of rooms and appliances in a building that seemed to be a only a few years from a demolition. It was affordable and it provided all the basic necessities, but it was also depressing and uncomfortable. Ugly, cheap tile floors, laminate counters, leaky ceilings, a broken window – it was constantly and inexplicably filthy.  We wound up quarantining ourselves in the bedroom, the only room we could heat or cool effectively, chain-watching movies on Netflix and burrowing under the bedcovers, trying to forget about constantly intruding stressors and counting time.

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There were some good things, too. Everyone at the (sort of grimy) local grocery knew who I was and I’d always get roped into a brief chat or two when I went out for eggs and milk, or I’d overhear an entertaining exchange. We went out for coffee and breakfast specials on the weekends, at a homely, fluorescent-lit diner, with vinyl-covered chairs and posters of The Godfather and Sinatra on the walls. The coffee was always delicious and we’d always leave a generous tip. I liked seeing alcoved statues of Mary and Joseph in carefully-kept front gardens, fig trees crammed into a couple free square feet of earth, and seriously elaborate, irony-free decorative schemes for each and every holiday.

We laid low in our old apartment, denied ourselves many costly pleasures, exhausted every day from the effort of trying — and we wound up doing well.

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Well enough that we were free to move somewhere much lovelier, a place I barely feel like I deserve. We moved in two weeks ago, arranging our paltry furniture as attractively as possible, then soaking in the sunshine, the dust mites, the old bones of the building.

Our new apartment is full of light, on the top floor, with a breeze flowing through it. Through our bedroom windows there is a view of the Narrows, a sparkling and lively passage of water that leads container ships and pleasure yachts toward the ports of Manhattan. Our neighborhood is quieter, cleaner, more genteel than our old one, although that’s a strange word to describe anywhere this deep in Brooklyn.

The kitchen in our new apartment is enormous and comes with sturdy granite countertops, a big, old stove, a deep sink, and three walls of solid wood cabinetry. I can’t wait to start cooking delicious delicacies.

Everything in our new apartment is beautiful and the neighborhood is generously replete with nice restaurants and bakeries and cafés and little stores to poke around and we even have a delicious little chocolatier 1 block away, and really it’s too, too much.

I feel a little guilty about how happy and relaxed I feel, since I know other people are suffering and will never be as lucky as me. I can’t shake the deep-seated anxiety that the next nasty surprise is right around the corner. My good house fortune is mixing with my career anxieties and it’s all a big, electric mess in my stomach.

I am (cautiously) in love with my new apartment and my beautiful new neighborhood. I want to stay here awhile, a year at least, but maybe more, and turn it into a warm and cozy nest for me, my boyfriend, and our dog. I hate that part of that homey feeling is wrapped up in the acquisition of material goods, but that *is* a big part of feeling comfortable, and to that end, I want to buy: 2 rugs, a sturdy bedframe, bedside tables, a chair for the bedroom desk, more seating for the living room, curtains, and many more beautifully covetous things.

Ugh, but do we need those things? Isn’t love enough? Why weigh ourselves down with more useless stuff to lug around? I suppose it’s only worth it if I invest in beautiful things, art. More than anything, I want to feel content, at home, in love, inspired. I will get to work on this like an industrious little bird, and little by little, I’ll make my nest.