One Year of Mekko!

one-year-of-mekko!

A year ago today, I walked into an adoption van on Atlantic Avenue on a whim and came out with a dog. It wasn’t really anything we’d planned aside from vague “someday” musings, and we never had any expectations that we’d end up with a Pit Bull. But all of a sudden, that day, it was real. All of a sudden, we were responsible for a life. All of a sudden, we had a squirmy, cuddly, insane bundle of muscle, fur, and a set of jaws that I’ll admit to finding a little intimidating.

After the forms had been completed and the leash was handed over to us, I naively asked the rescue worker if he knew her birthday. “Today,” he responded.
“Really?” I replied gullibly.
“It is now,” he said.

So we went with it. If Mekko was 2 when we got her (though I think she was a little older), then today she is 3. And she’s been with us a year. Madness.

Pit Bulls are challenging dogs, and Mekko is no exception. They’re wonderful dogs, too—fiercely loyal, disconcertingly intelligent, kind, and more empathetic than most people. Pit Bulls just have a certain spirit about them, one that allows them to bounce back from whatever bad they’ve experienced and accept all the good that can be. We have no real idea what Mekko’s past was like—only that she was an “owner surrender” to the ASPCA when she was around a year old—but you’d never know that she’s been anything but loved and cared for and treated well. It’s remarkable and—I dare say—pretty inspiring.

Mekko is a great dog. She’s kind and cute and curious, a little anxious and a lot of crazy. She keeps us on our toes, makes us beam with pride, frustrates us, and makes us laugh everyday. She’s perennially happy and the best little spoon I’ve ever had. But mostly, she’s the thing that turned us from a fledgling couple trying to figure it all out into a family. And that makes me really, really happy.

Happy Birthday to my favorite Itty Bitty Pretty Pittie Baby.

If you are in the NYC area and looking to adopt a dog, please consider Sean Casey Animal Rescue. And if you’re in the giving spirit, please consider donating to help aid their rescue efforts.

Life
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Candles! Candles! Everywhere! Candles!

If people in New York can agree on liking one thing, that thing is complaining. While I know that sounds wildly unbecoming, those living in this fine city have mastered a type of whining that comes off more as commiseration than misery. “Can you believe how long this line is?” you might ask the person behind you in the line at Starbucks on 6th Avenue. What you really mean is, “I’m seriously about to shit myself and the pain in my stomach right now is totally unbearable and my life is awful and I think I might lay down and die please pity me.” But phrased as a question, said person might respond with something like “I know, it’s totally unreasonable,” or “the management here is atrocious,” or “and my coffee tastes burned.” Maybe they mean “Oh, I hadn’t really noticed but I’ll humor you,” or “I agree, this is the worst thing that’s ever happened to either one of us!” or “my girlfriend is in love with someone else.” But the point is, you’re talking to this person now, and therefore, you are community-building. You’re making friends.

The importance of the communal-kvetch cannot be understated. It is our lifeblood. I literally cannot think of a single more noble cause than perpetuating it. Aside from, like, ending hunger and homelessness and making sure that two beautiful Fort Lauderdale drag queens can marry and adopt a beautiful drag-baby. I want all of that for the world, but I also want more constructive kvetching.

While the beauty of the communal-kvetch is that it can unfold on any day, at any time, in any location, throw a little inclement weather into the mix and you’ve really got something. Weather is just such an easy target, and it’s good almost year-round. It’s as though we’ve never experienced anything outside of 70 and sunny. But we don’t live in LA, we live in New York, and therefore every year we experience a bout of frigid temperature instead of a bout of collagen injections. In the spring months, we wax poetic about choosing this coast because we “just love having seasons!” but really, we just like to complain about the seasons. “How are you today?” a shopkeeper asks. “Cold as tits!” you respond. “I know, it’s horrendous outside!” And you’ve got a kvetch on your hands. Your toes may be full of frostbite, but your heart will be warmed, and that’s all that matters.

The point is this: isn’t it so cold and miserable outside? Don’t you dread walking your dogs and facing this wall of icy terror waiting for you? Don’t you wish you owned a better jacket and a decent pair of thick socks? Can we please be friends I’m so lonely?

I don’t know what’s happened this winter, but I’ve become obsessed with having candles lit all the time as soon as it gets dark out. Candles in the fireplace. Candles on the coffee table. Candles on the credenza and on the kitchen counters and…I love fire. I’m finding that it’s making this weather way more bearable and way prettier, which is why I bring it up.

Candles are so warm and pretty and cheap. I exclusively buy IKEA brand candles, so each one is like 2.4 cents for hours of merriment and enjoyment and feeling less like I live in a tundra post-apocalypse wasteland and more like a cozy yurt that also gets cable? Yeah, I dig winter this year. And candles are my secret. (also, television.) (and warm dogs.)

mekkocandles

The main impetus of this post (before I got sidetracked) was really just to make note of these wonderful little candlesticks I picked up at CB2 yesterday. They are deliciously simple and deliciously brassy and deliciously adorable and deliciously only $5. Delicious.

They’re also a really nice substantial weight and seem like great quality. Also, they’re so cute! And so cheap! And I want to buy 4,000 of them! For no reason! I’m also seriously regretting not buying a couple of the black ones and a couple of the tiny acid-yellow version (they were greener IRL than they look in that picture, but still cute). You know, to round out the hoard. I mean why not. They’re so small.

finnish

The other candleholders that have been making the winter days better are these Nappula candlesticks by Matti Klenell from iittala! These were sent to me as a lovely Christmas present from the Finnish Design Shop, all the way from Finland! I swear I’m not, like, rolling in swag over here, but the very kind folks at the Finnish Design Shop emailed me in December asking for my address because they wanted to send me a little something to show their appreciation for the blog, and who was I to refuse that? So I sent it, thinking maybe this was just spam or maybe this was a serial killer who knew my weakness for all things Scandinavian, but in fact it was beautiful candlesticks! I really love them and I’m honest-t0-goodness very touched that they contacted me at all, not to mention sent me something so great.

(note: Finnish Design Shop did not ask for anything in exchange for the candleholders. They’re just super nice people!)

table

IKEA PS Tealight Holder is still going strong, although I moved it out of the fireplace after everyone who reads my blog told me how bad they looked in there. Thanks for keeping me on the straight and narrow, you guys.

Brass, teak, marble, cork, white ceramic, vintage rug. Feelin’ it. Winter, yo.

PS- I keep forgetting to mention (doh!) that I’ve been writing a little Before & After cleaning-focused column over at Design*Sponge! It’s been a blast writing for Grace and the team, so if you feel like it, go check out the posts!

1. Building Your Cleaning Arsenal
2. Cleaning Vintage Metal Hardware
3. Cleaning and Restoring Marble

Apartment
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New Hallway Light!

When I set about redoing the hallway a while ago, the biggest point of uncertainty was always the lighting. We started out with matching boob lights throughout, and that just wasn’t going to work in the long haul. The ceilings are nine feet high and the hallway is only a couple feet wide, so having flush-mount overhead fixtures just made the whole space feel really tall and narrow and goofy. I knew I wanted to drop the lighting a bit with pendant fixtures, but I also didn’t want to spend a lot of money or have a bunch of mismatched vintage fixtures. So, for a total of about $60 for all four, I crafted up these guys and called it a day.

hallwaylights

These lights are great, but after a while I wanted something a little bigger in the entryway by the front door. It’s the first space you see when you walk into the apartment, and this type of light just felt a little too understated and dinky.

lightsba

It’s REALLY hard to take attractive photos of a space with zero natural light, but trust: this thing looks great. I found this big globe fixture at Salvation Army for $15 (brand new, with all its parts!), and the huge scale is totally perfect. I have a thing for big lighting.

lightclose

I love that it’s still simple and plays well with my DIY’d fixtures, but satisfies my  need to have something a little bigger and bolder here.

ceramics

In other news, I’m finally putting some concerted effort into making the top of the fauxdenza nice. I guess. I don’t like when surfaces get cluttered up with stuff or look over-styled, but a little grouping of oh-so-amateur studio pottery never hurt anyone. Plus some billy balls.

pinecones

Last year, I kvetched about Max’s obsession with all things seasonal and all things scented. Since I convinced him to forego his seasonal gourds nightmare this fall and he finally stopped buying plug-ins, I had high hopes for this holiday season. That was until shortly after Thanksgiving, when Max came home with a sack of fucking pinecones from the grocery store and threw them into bowl by the entry before I had a chance to light them on fire.

Is this what I get for dating goyim? I was NOT warned about this at my Bar Mitzvah.

PINE. CONES. I don’t know what the hell these things are scented with (cancer, probably), but they stink of some weird mix of spices that I guess translates to “Christmas!” in the pathway between Max’s shiksa nose and brain? I can report that they have been persistently smelly for almost two months now and show no signs of letting up. They’ve really rained on the new-light-fixture-parade.

candlesticks

My failed attempt at a counter-attack was putting these brass pinecone candlesticks out. Max thinks they’re tacky (he’s right), but I pledged to leave them as long as the real pinecones are polluting my air and assaulting my nostrils and…it appears we’re locked in a horrible pinecone-y stalemate of doom from which there is no escape or hope. One of us must cave.

light3

I will never cave.

Stopgap Measures in the Kitchen

lightcloseup

I’ve never really been a fan of stopgap measures when it comes to renovating and decorating. If I have some sort of grand vision for a space that will take a while to accomplish, it’s just not in my nature to spend any additional time, money, or effort to do anything makeshift of half-assed, or anything that I’ll eventually have to undo, thereby creating more work for myself down the road. If it isn’t directly in the service of the final goal, you can usually count me out.

This is why I’m more or less OK with living in squalor, as long as there’s a bright beacon of hope somewhere in the distance. As long as I get from Point A to Point B at some point, what does it matter how things look in the interim?

But what I’ve found in the kitchen is that it does matter. Each additional thing I’ve decided to do to it requires hours of work, not to mention added expenses, and after a year and a half, I just got totally tired of cooking and living in a space that just felt so rag-tag and unfinished, particularly after all the work I had put into making it better (like replacing and adding cabinets).

So, one weekend several weeks ago (camera troubles delayed this post a while, sorry!), I just decided to pull my shit together and do everything that I could do for the kitchen without dropping a bunch of money. I knew that some of the work would only make an appreciable difference in the short term and I’d be spending a little extra money and effort, but it just got to a point where that felt very worth it.

wallbefore

The biggest issue, aesthetically, was this back wall behind the stove. After removing and replacing the upper cabinets, the wall had this big unpainted section and tons of holes, and it didn’t help that at some point I decided to tack stuff to the wall just to…fill the space? I don’t know why I did that. Also, when I painted the rest of the kitchen, I left this wall unpainted because I ran out of paint and figured that some of it would eventually be covered in tile, anyway, so there wasn’t too much point in worrying about it. But one can only live with greasy seafoam green paint for so long before it starts to wear on you. This kitchen has been through some seriously sad times under my care.

The first order of business was removing the crap on the wall, patching the holes, and finally finishing the painting. I did have to buy a new gallon of paint (Benjamin Moore’s Dove White in matte, from the Aura Bath and Spa line) to make this happen, but FINALLY eliminating the last of the previous tenants’ paint was such a relief. Seriously, I cannot recommend this enough: even if I’d done nothing else, just whiting everything out made the space feel so much bigger, cleaner, and fresher, and it really only took a couple hours from start to finish. Paint really is the easiest and cheapest way to refresh a room.

The other thing was lighting. I had a plan for the lighting AND the lights themselves, so I figured I might as well hang them already and stop moping about how bad the lighting was in the kitchen. Having a good lighting plan goes a really long way toward making a kitchen feel more functional and finished, and I was tired of the two existing overhead lights that were super unflattering and made the kitchen feel overly sterile and prison-like.

overheadlights

First, I replaced both of the overhead fixtures with these vintage lights that I bought in Buffalo over the summer at a weird yard sale. They were only $5 each, and I liked that they were kind of boring and understated, but a style that would play well with the dramatic pendants. Since the pendants are such a big presence in the room, I didn’t want anything that might compete.

lights

And then there were these lights. You might remember them from this post a while back. I bought them when Max and I were up in Buffalo in June, 2011 (OMG, SHAME), with absolutely zero plan of where I’d use them. They were $50 a piece, but even underneath all the dirt and grime, I could tell they were super amazing and something I’d keep for a long time, so I went for it. I love the detail work and substantial nature of the vintage hardware, and you can’t really go wrong with vintage industrial enamel. Right?

Only one of the lights had its original cage, which was a little bit too industrial and creepy for my taste, so I opted to discard it. After a good cleaning, both lights basically looked brand new, so all that was left to do was rewire and hang! Easy! So I put them in an awkward pile on top of the fridge for the time being.

And there they sat for a good year and a half (give or take a couple months), which I spent waffling over exactly where and how to hang them. There was something very intimidating about deciding on mounting hardware, the mechanics of rewiring (and wiring into the existing ceiling boxes), and picking the chain to suspend them from, so I just avoided it altogether. Eventually, I talked the whole thing out with an Ace Hardware employee and MADE. IT. HAPPEN.

lights-installed

I was a little worried that the scale would be totally out of control in the space, but I LOVE them. They’re a little unexpected and make a huge visual impact, and I think they’re just really beautiful as objects.

chains

The chain is a basic thick steel chain from Ace, which I was able to cut to size using my little Dremel tool after figuring out exactly how low I wanted the lights to hang. I probably could have figured this out before going to the hardware store and saved myself some work (and waste), but I’m dumb.

Mountinghardware

Because these lights are super heavy and I wasn’t able to screw them into studs, I bought these heavy-duty 1/4″ toggle anchors. The anchor is inserted through a hole I drilled in the ceiling, which a big washer covers, and then a nut keeps it in place. (Here’s a really good video on how toggle bolts work if that’s confusing!)

chainshung

After hanging the lights, I just threaded the clear plastic wire up the chain and across the ceiling to the ceiling box. These flush-mount fixtures happen to have a hole in them for cord to run through already, so this part was pretty simple. I’m still not totally sure how to deal with the exposed wire running across the ceiling, but I think I’ll probably end up using some kind of cord channel and just painting it with ceiling paint.

lighttiein

Again, the whole thing took an hour or two, and all the hardware only cost me about $20.

after1

After replacing all the lighting, I figured I might as well go whole-hog and hang this 4′ steel ledge I ordered from CB2 a while ago. Even though I’ll have to take it down when I get around to tiling the backsplash, it was really nice to finally get it out of its box and throw it on the wall to get an idea of how it would look and function when the kitchen is done. Originally, I’d planned to do a wood shelf here (and maybe a bit deeper), but according to code, nothing flammable can be within 30″ above the stove, so steel was really the only safe option. The ledge has been awesome for getting some stuff off the counter, and I think it looks pretty good, too!

after5

I have a second ledge, too, but it needs to be cut down before it can be hung (and an even surface to hang on), so that’ll have to wait. It’s going to be so awesome though.

The pendants have 40W bulbs in them, which are beautiful and bright and light up this whole prep/stove area super well.

And oh look! I also finally got my ass over to IKEA to buy two lousy hinges so that I could finally hang the last door on the new cabinets.

hook

Oh, and I finally hung up this little porcelain hook I bought a year ago. It’s so cute! It took no work! I don’t think this is where it will be in the long run, but it’s nice to have it up and  serving a purpose.

after6

I’m by no means done with the kitchen, but getting it to this point was really exciting. I finally don’t feel like I have to apologize for it when people come over, and it just feels so much happier and more efficient and pulled together. It’s finally actually nice to cook in, and consequently we’ve been cooking more (and better!) food.

Now I just need to finish it. GULP.

Winter Times

Remember that stuff I said about tons of things getting done around the apartment while I was on break from school and work? Which has been for the last two weeks?

Yeah.

That hasn’t really happened yet.

BUT I CAN EXPLAIN.

Buffalo

Max and I took our caravan of dogs to Buffalo for Christmas, but a four day trip turned into a 6 day trip when we got snowed in! I guess it snowed a bit down in NYC, too, but hot holy damn, Buffalo. You know how to do a snowstorm up right.

Buffalo is really beautiful, by the way. I’ll admit that it took me a few trips to warm up to the city itself, but now I really enjoy going up there to visit. Max’s family is super great, too.

The dogs were not as pleased as we were about the snow, but one thing that made them a little more content were their fancy jackets! After Linus got his adorable little mug on Cute Overload, a really sweet company called D-fa Dogs in New Zealand e-mailed me out of the blue, asked if the dogs needed coats for winter, and offered to send them matching Ice Barkers.* So nice! I took them up on it and the dogs have both been getting a lot of wear out of them all winter. The merino wool is deceptively warm, and if it’s really cold we’ll layer their American Apparel hoodies underneath for extra cuteness points.

*Note: D-fa Dogs didn’t pay me to post about them or even ask for a post in exchange for the jackets. They just wanted my dogs to be warm!

Linus has the black coat, by the way. He’s impossible to take pictures of because he doesn’t sit still unless he’s sleeping, and his paws got too cold to walk so he hitched a ride inside Max’s coat…but I’ll try to get a picture soon. Dogs in jackets are really cute and you deserve to see that FYI.

kingston

After we got back from Buffalo, we made a quick turnaround in Brooklyn before heading up to Kingston, NY for a couple of days. A couple of our friends got together and rented a cute house, so we spent two days drinking and eating and drinking and antiquing and drinking, and the whole thing was super fun and relaxing and awesome. Kingston is cute town on the Hudson River Valley, and now I have delusions and yearnings in my loins to find a way to buy a cheap historic house somewhere in that vicinity and make it beautiful and perfect. For the weekends and holidays? It would be so fancy and beautiful? Hashtag goals.

Since nobody seemed to know what they wanted to do while we were up there, I just did what I do best and dragged everyone out thrifting for a few hungover hours of fun times digging through weird old crap. Totally everyone’s idea of a good time by which I mean nobody’s by which I mean my friends probably hate me now and I’m alone and destitute and could really use some new friends?

tray1

Whatever. I bought this ENORMOUS enamel tray, which was covered in dirt and rust but totally looks way better now that I cleaned it up. What do I even do with this thing? It’s about 20×30 inches and looks completely dumb on my credenza or dresser. But it’s pretty and I love it and I love trays and it’ll work out.

tray2

Oh look, I bought another enamel tray, too! This one is a more reasonable size and cute and good for corralling all the things?

Trays are good because you can group your shit on them and then it looks like maybe you have a reasonable amount of shit instead of too much. They don’t call this a design blog for nothing?

Oh yeah I actually bought two of those trays because they were there and they were cheap and I love all the enamel.

amberglass

I also bought this tiny little amber glass jar. I don’t know. Exciting fucking stuff. I’m rocking your world right now.

mekko

Here’s Mekko to take you through the weekend until we get some real updates happening up in here next week.

Look at her tongue. Look at her nose. Look deep into her eyes. Keep looking. See your future.

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