For Christmas Alan got me House: A Memoir by Michael Ruhlman. Anyone who is a fan of cooking should know who he is, but for those who don't, he's the author who has helped food greats like Thomas Keller and Eric Ripert write their cookbooks. Yup, the guys from French Laundry and Le Bernardain. He's no slouch.
Anyhow, back in his mid-to-late 30s, Ruhlman and his wife bought a fixer upper in a gorgeous neighborhood in the Cleveland Heights area. Those who have been reading this blog for any amount of time know this is somewhat close to where my sister lives and I often post photos of some of the gorgeous houses that are for sale in the area, drooling over both their grandeur and their pricetags (or lack thereof).
I'm absolutely LOVING this book and I strongly recommend it to anyone who has ever suffered from - as Ruhlman puts it - houselust. There are some things that only people who have bought a house with any amount of history and decay can understand and I think those people are the types who would love this book.
From Publishers Weekly
"The architect... looked up at the stained, buckling kitchen ceiling, inhaled and exhaled deeply before saying, 'I hope you didn't pay a lot for this house.' " These were not encouraging words to Ruhlman (The Soul of a Chef) and his family, whose new fixer-upper in Cleveland Heights had "big-rodent nests" filling the walls and "sheets of [code] violations—big as a telephone book." Blending reportage and memoir, Ruhlman details his home's complete history, putting it in context with an account of the first American suburb in 1869 and a description of his family's first Christmas in the house in 2001. His well-researched history of the suburbs will interest anyone who's ever lived in one, but his in-depth chronicle of his town will enthrall only those familiar with it. The book is strongest when it focuses on personal details. The stories of the lazy real estate broker, the often-unreliable contractors, and the spiraling budgets will be familiar to any homeowner. The house puts a strain on Ruhlman's family, and Ruhlman doesn't shy from depicting the weaknesses of his marriage, even as it exposes him as overly complacent and his wife as a shrill martyr.
For anyone who has ever bought an old house or for anyone who may be contemplating such a purchase, Ruhlman's new book is a must read. With grace, honesty, good humor, and a sense of resignation, he recounts his own near-irrational infatuation with a rambling, neglected old house in Cleveland Heights, Ohio, that pushed him to the brink of psychological and financial ruin. Ruhlman's recounting of arriving at a sale price shows how house lust befogs the mind of the normally cool and financially savvy. Even the carefully guarded comments of the house inspector on the questionable states of plumbing and roofing don't trigger the expected defensive alarms. The house takes on a persona of its own, combining the irresistible tug of sentimental security and the seductiveness of a home-wrecking floozy. Adding substance to his narrative, Ruhlman ruminates on the rise of American suburbia and its mixed legacy. And he throws in a bit of interesting Cleveland history. This book will especially appeal to fans of Ruhlman's previous portraits of restaurants and chefs.
We're thinking of heading to the Portland area in February for our wedding anniversary and would love to hit up the Willamette Valley for some wine tasting and relaxation. Can anyone in the Portland area recommend a good place to stay in the wine country? I looked online and all I could find were Super 8s and the like and that's just not going to work.
I've been needing a new phone for a very long time (I will have the phone in my hand and will receive a call but the bugger never rings) and have been coveting an iPhone. Who hasn't though, right? The problem is that I can't justify $400 on a phone, so I had to go an alternate route. Not a bad route, just a different one. Tonight Alan and I headed down to Bay Street for a spate of returns and additional shopping and then we hit up the Cingular store. Errr, AT&T. I thought I was going to get the Blackberry Pearl or the Samsung Blackjack. In the end, I didn't love the Pearl as much as I thought I would. In fact, it wasn't even a contender. I ended up deciding between the Palm Treo with the touchscreen and the Blackberry Curve.
And the winner is ...
Incidentally, Alan ended up with the Blackjack.
It's been a good 1.5 years at the bungalow we call casacaudill, but there's always room for improvement. As we head into 2008, there are still several things we'd like to do to make the house more livable and just more enjoyable.
At the top of this list is new windows for the entire house. We've decided to go the vinyl route since there is nothing original to restore (we're replacing 70s aluminum), we don't plan on being here forever, and it's the more economical of all options. Had we gone with the $25k quote from Renewal by Anderson we'd have our new windows now, but the sticker shock had me feeling sick to my stomach and I didn't want workers tramping through my house at Christmas.
I resolve - once and for all - to finally choose a paint color for the kitchen. I've had various shades of red and blue and yellow taped to the wall at one time or another, with various schemes in mind of how I wanted it to all look when I'm finished. I keep coming back to the claret color from Ralph Lauren, so I think that's what we'll eventually end up with. I still want to do the chalkboard wall in the kitchen as well which you would think was something we could have already done but just haven't gotten around to it.
While in the kitchen, we also need to do something about our "water-saving" faucet which, depending on its mood, either dispenses water or doesn't. Or shuts off midstream. It's the most temperamental faucet I have ever seen and it needs to go the way of the DoDo. While we're working on the sink, may as well replace the nasty old steel basin with a pretty new white porcelain sink, preferably of the apron variety. Oh, and add butcher block countertops.
We have grand visions for remodeling the bathroom, but I'm just not sure it's realistic for the coming year. We want a new shower/tub combo, new flooring and to reconfigure the space to be easier to navigate. This may or may not require closing up the door to the bedroom and having there be one access point for the bathroom. Having two doors into the room cuts down considerably on space that could otherwise be usable. One of us is pro this idea while the other is con.
And finally, if we ever get around to it, we need to de-ghettofy the backyard. It's seriously bad. I can't even describe to you how ugly and overgrown it is right now. Truly an eyesore and so embarrassing. But we spend so little time out there and we need it to be low maintenance, which our first version of sprucing it up was not. Apparently, a lawn is not for us. Maybe a gravel space? Still undecided, but we know it needs to be done. It's just a matter of when and how much.
Alan just finished making up some homemade marshmallows and I am about to start mixing up some gingerbread cookies, recipe courtesy of la petite gourmande via Bon Appetite. This will be the first time I've ever made gingerbread cookies so wish me luck! They could be amazing or disgusting ... I'm obviously hoping for the former.
It's no secret that I've been feeling a bit bah-humbug this year as we approach the upcoming holidays. I don't feel very inspired by goodwill and cheer and am just generally wanting to get it all over and done with. Except my tree. I love my tree and would like to keep it up all year. I don't want to feel this way, but I'm really overwhelmed at work and I don't have enough hours in the day to just relax and unwind, so it's just been a vicious cycle of go-go-go pretty much since the beginning of November.
I *want* to be in the holiday spirit ... I just haven't found much really to help me get there. So when I saw Leah's post on the Christmas lights at the Mormon Temple in the Oakland hills, I thought that might be just the thing to get this party started. We had hoped to go see the Golden Compass tonight but plans didn't work in our favor so instead we hopped in the car and drove out that way.
Man, it was FREEZING! East Coast freezing. Too bad there was no snow. Now *that* would help with the Christmas cheer, I'm sure. After checking out the lights and the view, we drove over to East Oakland for a stroll down Picardy Drive. Now, under normal circumstances, this is not really a neighborhood I would visit, but the fine folks on this one street go all out at Christmas and it's really rather beautiful. The neighbors work together to create a light display that truthfully rivals the one the $$$ mormons put on. Kind of interesting to see the big, formal light display juxtaposed against the blue collar neighborhood beautification.
After combing through all of my holiday magazines for the last several hours, I think I've come up with a menu for Christmas Eve dinner that will work for everyone.
First course - warm endive salad with bacon
Second course - fennel soup w/chestnuts
Main course - horseradish roast beef
Side dishes - smashed parmesean potatoes and mushroom stuffing
Dessert - homemade marshmallows & hot chocolate
Now, to execute that menu!
I'm in the market for a new duvet cover. We have one that is good in the looks department, but it's Ikea so it's kind of cheaply made and there's just a big giant hole in the bottom with no hooks, snaps, or anything to keep the down comforter actually inside and that's really just problematic. So ... time to get a new one. I like the look of crisp white bedding in our peacock colored bedroom, but I also like the idea of something with a really great, fabulous print. I've been looking here and there, but not really spending too much time looking at bedding (there's just too much other stuff to take care of with the house right now). I thought I had seen something I liked from the Martha Stewart line at Macy's, but it's a comforter (not a duvet cover) so that won't work. And then I checked out the sale at Pottery Parn and I think I've found it.
It's only $69.99 at PB right now and it's in stock. Having worked at PB back in the day, I know I like the quality of their linens. Still, I'm rather cheap when it comes to bedding - with the exception of our down comforter which was actually free courtesy of a Macy's gift certificate - having only purchased from Target, Overstock.com and Ikea. So ... what to do, what to do?
If the kitchen in our loft had looked like this, we might never have moved out.
Okay, that's a lie and I know it. When you love your actual home, but you hate everything about its surroundings there is no way you can stay. When your next door neighbor is a complete and utter moron who has never undertaken any sort of home renovation project, but decides to remodel his entire kitchen (without the approval of the HOA) and in the process catches it on fire, forcing the sprinklers in YOUR unit to go off and then even after that continues down that path - NOISILY - for the next two years, there's simply nothing to be done. When the woman upstairs uses her long, thin loft space as a bowling alley and so you just hear balls rolling from one side of the room to the other all day and night, you really can't stay. When the HOA board is so corrupt that they decide to levy a special assessment against everyone in the building to fix a few people's leaking windows ... you really can't stay. When your HOA goes up from $300 to $400 in two years because you're being charged for the size of your interior space versus how much space you actually take up in the common areas, you really can't stay. All in all, loft living was NOT for us, but oh how I sometimes miss all that wide, open space and tall, tall ceilings.