Dresser

You have rented a Zipcar and conned your boyfriend into accompanying you on a great schlep out to Long Island. You were supposed to meet Crystal, let’s call her, at 7 pm. But now it’s two hours later, it’s dark, it’s pouring rain, and Crystal is very, very late. You’re sitting in said Zipcar on a pitch-black residential street in front of the closest approximation of the address you’ve been given, which doesn’t actually exist. Crystal has been 10 minutes away for the last hour and a half, and the sneaking suspicion that you are being pranked is overshadowed only by the worry that you are about to be brutally murdered. You consider just leaving, just calling the whole thing off, just saying fuck it and hitting the road, back to Brooklyn, back to safety, but you’ve already come all this way. And waited this long. And rented a fucking mini-van. So you sit, the engine stalled, waiting for the phone to ring.

Crystal finally shows up with her “asshole husband,” as she referred to him an hour earlier by telephone. The sleeves of his shirt are cut off and he sports a modest though distinctive mullet. They pull up in front of a dark house and get out of their station wagon—a small Chihuahua, we’ll call him Rocco, in tow. Crystal looks exhausted. Her husband looks pissed. Rocco looks nervous. You make introductions quickly—it’s dark and raining and late and everyone wants to get this over with—before Crystal and her man lead the way to a dark front porch and open the front door of the house to a completely dark foyer. You stand on the porch, exchanging nervous glances with your boyfriend, who stands three steps behind you. Crystal and her husband cannot find a light switch and begin arguing with each other, then suggesting you join in the cause. Ain’t no fucking way, you think. I is smart, I is kind, I is important, and I is not about to walk into this fucking house and be blindsided by a couple of Long Island serial killers. Fuck no. Not tonight. Not for this.

They finally find the light switch and the house is revealed—sensible, polite, carpeted, nearly empty. The walls are the color of custard. It smells like the 1970s but looks like the 1990s. “This way,” they say, moving toward a set of stairs on the left. Against your better judgement, you follow them. They hadn’t mentioned anything about stairs. You get to the top, turn right, and enter the first room on your right. A switch is thrown, the room illuminates, and there they are, exactly as they looked in the pictures.

Welcome to Craigslist.

This all started when my awesome friend Maya, who is a genie of all things thrift, dug up this unassuming ad on Craigslist. She knew that I’d been looking for a dresser for a while (after we moved my desk out of the bedroom and into the living room), but New York City is pretty much the worst place to buy nice furniture if you can’t pay for nice furniture, and I’d been coming up completely dry. We really needed a dresser—with one small closet between the two of us, we were both completely tired of trying to maintain the “organization” of clothes shoved in a hanging shoe bags and cumbersome bins. I was *this close* to just buying the IKEA TARVA 6-drawer dresser and trying to make it semi-pretty (I have no idea how), but Maya caught me in the knick of time.

I obviously don’t have room for two huge mid-century dressers, but it turned out that if I could go get them, Maya would take one off my hands. So by buying both, we were already down to $200 a piece, and when I got there I haggled down another $100 because of some flaws in the condition (veneer chips, cigarette burns, standard vintage fare) but mostly because these wacky consignment folks made me wait for so long that I knew they’d agree and I would feel better for my struggle. For a $150 gorgeous dresser (which was really more like $250, once the cost of the Zipcar was factored in, in fairness), I’ll wait a good long time.

(Plus, I got to go see Maya’s house, which is like a magical wonderland of awesome. I never wanted to leave.)

As soon as we hauled this beast up to our 5th floor walk-up at around 2 in the morning, I had to go return the Zipcar and by the time I got home, Max had already somehow dragged it into place and covered the top with piles of books and other…stuff. I have been so busy that I haven’t even taken the time to give the thing a proper cleaning and TLC, but come on—that’s a good looking hunk of wood. And it’s going to look amazing once I get around to cleaning off all the old layers of furniture polish and crap. I’ll make this thing so happy it came to live with me, it’ll never want to leave.

It’s pretty large (and deeper than the desk was), and looked totally crazy to us at first. But now that I’m used to it, I’m so into it. I think I’m going to try to polish up those little amazing brass handles while I’m working on the wood—they’ll never look brand new, but that’s what I like about the idea. I just want a little more brass. Love me some brass.

Ignore the crap on top and just look at that sexy sexy dresser. We have too much crap.

So, I’m just going to call it: SHELVING FAIL. I hate those shelves so very much.

They have to go. It’s not super high on the list of priorities and I’m still tossing around ideas about what to do with all of the many many books (kindling?), but this just isn’t working. I hate how the shelves are all crooked and how the L-brackets can’t stand up to the weight and how there isn’t enough room and…I made a mistake. These were kind of thrown up in a moment of desperation and panic (Max moved in –> 34,765,234,238,754,973 books moved in), but my dislike has only grown in the intervening months and something’s got to give. I’ll fix it.

But dresser. At least we have a dresser.

I solved breakfast and this is what it looks like.

I am a dinner person. Some people say they aren’t “breakfast people,” but I like to take that a step further because sometimes I also forget to be a “lunch person” or a “snack person” and just do most of my eating between the hours of 9 PM and 2 AM. I think this makes me what some would call an “animal.”

But sometimes on weekends, I get this itch to make breakfast. I don’t think it has much to do with hunger, but I like the process of the whole thing—the cooking, the plating, the cleaning up, the rush of pouring time and effort into something I generally regard as worthless. Afterward, it’s nice to sit around with Max and read the paper or, more accurately, not read the paper and catch up on the shows that our TV has recorded throughout the week.

The problem is that I never know what to make. Part of not being a breakfast person is that I don’t really like most breakfast foods, particularly the ones I can create myself. This includes pancakes, waffles, cereal, oatmeal, granola, yogurt, and various simple egg dishes. Give me a plate of eggs florentine at any brunch, but you can take yourself straight to hell if you think I’m about to try to make it.

But one fateful Saturday when I opened my refrigerator and surveyed the ingredients, a wave of inspiration overtook me. It was that day that I made/invented the recipe/miracle that would later come to be known simply as “delicious breakfast.” And now you can, too.

DELICIOUS BREAKFAST (serves 2-4, depending on gluttony)

2 ripe avocados
4 eggs
2 whole wheat bagels
Sriracha Sauce

Step 1: In your fridge, you will find two ripe avocados. Cut them in half and scrape out the innards into a bowl.

Depending on what else you have around, you might want to add other stuff to make this more or less like guacamole. I suggest some lime juice, some salt, some diced onion, and a whole bunch of cilantro, if you have it. I often don’t have cilantro on hand so I’ll just include as many of those ingredients as I can find and call it a day. Use your imagination. Trust your instincts. Breakfast is already the worst meal of the day so you can’t fuck it up too bad.

Aside: having a butcher block countertop is the BEST. I love it. I’ll never understand people who buy butcher block and then refuse to cut on it. That’s the fucking point. Plus, I kind of think it looks better over time, when it gets a million cut marks in it and all of a sudden your kitchen has some character and you look very dreamy and very gourmet for making all those cut marks in your countertop.

Step 2: Mash all that stuff together in a bowl with a fork. It’s OK if it’s still a little chunky. Better, actually.

Aside: buy Hass avocados. Never buy those big smooth shiny ones. You’ll say to yourself, “hey, these are half the price! Why isn’t anyone buying these large cheap avocados? Why are people so foolish with their money?” And then you will try one and you’ll understand the true meaning of evil because it will be unfolding in your mouth.

Aside-Aside: Have you heard these commercials on the radio advertising avocados from Mexico? I don’t really get how a fruit gets a radio advertisement endorsing its fabulous qualities (“it’s a great way to dress up tuna!”), but I would like to find out. Also it makes me laugh every time because WTF why are they advertising avocados on the radio? Everyone knows what an avocado is (delicious) and where you might procure one (at the grocery store, dummy).

Step 3: Fry up those eggs. The secret to a good fried egg with crispy edges is a lot of butter. You’re welcome!

Aside: I don’t think it’s possible to take an appetizing photo of eggs while they’re in the process of frying.

Steps 4-8: Toast your bagels. After toasting, spread a thick layer of your avocado mash/guacamole on top. Then slide a freshly fried egg on top, do some fancy stuff with sriracha, and serve. Eat like an open-face bagel and make a delicious mess. One is a completely sufficient, satisfying meal, but both is what you want.

Aside: the consumption of this meal is very messy so it’s a good way to test your relationships and friendships. Probably not the best thing to make if you’re still trying to woo someone, but if you’ve already finagled them into living with you and getting a bunch of dogs, go for it.

Aside-aside: last time I visited my BFF Chandler in Portland, she wanted to make me this great breakfast she invented, and it was this exact combination of ingredients, minus the sriracha. We’d both come up with it independently and both continued to make it over and over again. Are we an X-File?

Mantle Things

There are real problems, and then there are fancy problems. Real problems are things like meth addictions and getting hit by buses. Those might be bad examples because yeah, maybe you did do the meth in the first place and yeah, maybe you did walk in front of a bus, but still. Nobody’s about to say you have it easy.

Fancy problems are arguably more terrible than real problems because nobody will ever pity you. It’s not okay to complain about them, because nobody—literally nobody—wants to hear about how you can just never find pants in your size because you’re a 2 or how the maps app on your iPhone sucks now. Guess what? Some people have real problems. Some people don’t even have iPhones.

Think about that. Go sit with your shame.

My fanciest problem, I would say, is that I actually struggle with what to do about the old, pretty, non-functional fireplace in my old, pretty, semi-functional apartment. Like, I actively think and agonize over this issue, because it’s weird to have a fireplace with no practical purpose other than looking cool, and it’s also weird to have a mantle where I’m expected to put stuff. Mantles are super intimidating things, I’ve discovered, because there is just no downplaying that thing. If your room has a fireplace, that fireplace is going to be the star of the show—all the time, every time.

Here’s a fun and flirty mash-up of all the mantle-fails this fireplace has endured through its time under my care. Original indifference (with the red paint) led to continued indifference (with the white paint) led to a real conscious effort which isn’t 100% terrible or anything but let’s be real. It’s still sad. I only show these to you because, oh, I don’t know why. To further solidify my flaws and shortcomings as a human being, I guess. Sounds about right.

The thing is, the mantle itself is really high, so actually hanging anything above it is kind of awkward height-wise, especially with the wall moldings to contend with. Maybe that’s my second most-fancy problem: fancy wall moldings totally confusing how and if I can hang art.

Seriously, try walking a mile in these shoes and you too will understand how hard it is to have beautiful architectural details that you apparently can’t handle. STRUGGLES.

I’ll definitely admit that one of my weaknesses is styling. Like, I understand a couple basic principles about grouping things, triangles, sets of three, whatever, but I don’t know. I hate when things feel super forced and over-styled, but I also appreciate when things like nice and put together? When I try to style up surfaces like mantles or bookshelves, I tend to get all self-conscious and defeated because these activities seem so pointless and petty, particularly with my decidedly un-fancy possessions. But mostly because maybe I’m just bad at it. Mantles, particularly, carry a lot of pressure to be personally representative and whatever, so that makes the task doubly intimidating.

Things are looking up though, especially after I found this big old mirror at Salvation Army for $20 a couple weeks ago. It’s not super old, I’m guessing 1940s or so, but I like the simple lines and the glass has some nice age to it in real life. It isn’t, like, my dream mirror or anything, but the price was right and the size was right, which is a combination that has thus far been entirely elusive in the great mirror hunt that lasted roughly 16 months prior. So I’m happy to have it.

Somehow, I haven’t destroyed that Pencil Cactus thing yet. I bought it a while ago, too, so maybe the tides are changing with my plant killing. Knock on wood.

Of course things already look different, but when this photo was taken a few days ago:

1. the Aalto vase in the back was our splurge from Finland because check the amber glass! Pretty, and we’re used to seeing it in clear.

2. The little raw wood hand-carved Dala horse from Sweden ended up here. Scandi-city up in here.

3. Little junky piece of studio pottery I bought at Salvation Army for a couple of dollars. It’s signed ZONDEK on the bottom which makes me think this was made by one very sassy experimental potter, accounting for the boundary-pushing glaze patterns and irregular shape. The plant I snipped from the tree outside our window because why not.

On the other side is this cute little iittala tea light holder. I saw a bunch of this stuff in fleas and thrifts in Scandinavia but didn’t buy any of it (I only had eyes for Ultima Thule), but stumbled upon this little guy for a dollar at AmVets this summer. In Rochester. I’ll take it.

Also some homo photo strip action to spice up your Friday morning?

Since the fireplace doesn’t function, I’ve always been kind of at a loss about what to put inside it. Nothing and it looks kind of empty, but assortments of candles always seemed messy and objects seemed cluttered and logs just seemed stupid. So I finally had the good sense to pick up this clever IKEA PS Tealight Holder which I just think is the cat’s pajamas and looks very pretty when it’s all lit up at night when people come over and whatnot.

So the fireplace. I don’t know. Liking it, not loving it. The mirror has some strange old varnish on it that makes the wood look kind of sad, and I feel like someday I might paint it? But to what? And I don’t know, I think I’m over the black paint. But then I go look at the first picture and the white doesn’t make me feel better. But maybe it’s the red walls’ fault? And I know I should appreciate and embrace those very old original tiles, but I don’t like them. The colors are gross and I try to be into them but I’m not. That said, I need to respect that they’re original, so they definitely aren’t getting ripped out or painted. I don’t know. I give up.

See? AGONY. The fanciest agony.

Around the Neighborhood: OMG RAMEN

Every so often (by which I mean for the past two years), I go through these phases (by which I mean always) where I become obsessed with brothy noodly asian soups. Pho? I could eat you all day everyday. Udon? Get in my belly. Tom Yum? You thrill me. Ramen? GIVE ME ALL THE RAMEN EVER I WILL EAT IT ALL.

That’s pretty much how it goes.

I know I don’t talk about my neighborhood in Brooklyn very often, but it’s great. Boerum Hill itself is very residential, but some really awesome places to eat and buy things have opened up in the last year or so that I’m all about. The very nearby Cobble Hill will always kind of be the cooler big brother when it comes to that stuff, so I feel extra-proud when my neighborhood represents.

The most exciting development in my life in the past couple of weeks, though, is that there is now a ramen place that has opened only a few blocks from my stoop. Which is not to say my life isn’t exciting (it isn’t, but that’s not the point), it’s to say that this is just VERY VERY exciting. The knowledge that this is so close by is doing terrible things for my mental state, wallet, and maybe soon, waistline. We’ve already been twice in the past week and the only reason I’m staying away is because I’m currently in Florida for a couple days and it is so far away. Which is maybe a good thing because I really need to slow my roll with this whole ramen thing.

Maybe. Although it’s probably a very bad thing and very tragic and all I want right now is ramen.

So this restaurant, Ganso, is now my new favorite place in the world, serving up some of my new favorite food in the world. The restaurant design itself is really beautiful (check all that amazing pine, yo), the food is great, and the staff is super friendly. I introduced myself to the owner, Harris, because I figured we’d be seeing a lot of each other and now I think we’re best friends?

It’s kind of on a weird dud of a block, but it’s right off the Hoyt-Schemerhorn stop (A/C/G) and close to a bunch of other subways and totally worth a little trip.

Ramen is my lifeblood and Ganso is the wind beneath my wings.

(I guess now I have to make clear that this post was in no way sponsored, I just fucking love ramen OK.)

Moving Forward

I’ve been writing this blog for about two and a half years now, and in that time my life has changed immensely. I’ve gone from basically being a single, foolish college freshman in Manhattan with some time on my hands to a relationship’d college senior with two dogs in Brooklyn and…much less time on my hands. During that same period, this blog has also grown from something I basically just wrote for fun to a place that supports a readership that I never could have expected. I’m really lucky for that. It really has been my pleasure, all of it.

For a while now, though, I feel like I’ve been at this crossroads. If you’ve read this site for a long time, you’ve probably noticed that posts from me can be few and far between. The fact is that every post—from doing whatever it is I’m posting about, to photographing it, to editing those photos, to finally sitting down to write a post—takes a lot of time, and I’ve never been in a position where I could rationally make this blog a huge priority when weighed against the other pressures in my life. There have been times where I’ve felt like things would be simpler if I just let the whole blog just fizzle out, thereby eliminating this one more thing that nobody was actually making me maintain.

But the problem is that I really like writing this blog. I like the community of readers who come here, I like doing projects, taking pictures, and writing about all of it. And I don’t want to stop any of that. In fact, I’d like to do more of it.

I never, ever had any professional or commercial ambitions for this site when I started it. I’ve seen sites become totally overrun with advertising over the years, and when that has an effect on the content, it rubs me the wrong way. I do not begrudge bloggers for making money off of what they do—at all—but I think I made the decision somewhere along the line that advertising just wasn’t for me—period, end of story. The money would have been nice but I didn’t altogether need it, and I felt as though by accepting advertising, I would be compromising some kind of moral standard I’d set for myself.

A few things have changed, though. The first is that the money issue has become much more tangible. Once we made the decision to keep a certain little dog that wandered into our lives, pretty much all of the Small Cool winnings immediately went into a “dog fund” so that we could pay for his initial veterinary care and have some money squirreled away to pay for the dogs moving forward. But that money is definitely not going to last forever and didn’t allow for other types of spending on the apartment that I had anticipated using it for. So what we’re left with is a half-finished kitchen, plenty of projects I’d like to do, two dogs to support, bills, rent, food, etc. DIY is pretty cheap, yes, but it isn’t free, and to be totally honest, we’re just not in a financial position anymore to support ourselves and the type of content that has made this blog what it is.

The other thing that’s changed is that I’ve realized—with time, some education, and many discussions with people close to me—that I actually don’t feel gross about advertising on a conceptual level. There are plenty of businesses, products, and people who I would actually love to support through advertising, and there’s no reason that I’d have to support any that I don’t. I can create my own advertising model that works for me, on my own terms. I know that might seem obvious, but that realization was big for me.

SO. When Anna redesigned the site, we did so with the idea of sidebar ads fitting into the overall design, and I’m excited to start offering those slots today! There will be 10 available, at least to start off, at a scale of sizes, positions, and prices, in the hope that they’ll be affordable for the types of independent business I’d like to have advertising. I legitimately want these ads to be a useful way of connecting readers with businesses that I support, and I want these businesses to have a means of connecting directly with readers.

What this means for most of you, of course, is that the site will look a little bit different, hopefully in a way that everyone likes. But more importantly, this move also makes this blogging hobby into something more like a blogging job, which means much more frequent posts. I know I’m excited about that and I hope you are, too.

I’m really excited to get going with this new phase of Manhattan Nest. I have a pretty long list of business that I have been/will be reaching out to directly, but I’d love to hear from you, too. Because of the very limited amount of space, I’m going to have to be very picky, but if you happen to have a business (or know of one) that you think would be a good fit for this site, please go ahead and e-mail me for details—I’d love to talk.

As always, thank you for reading. I hope we’re all cool with this. Have yourself a great Tuesday.

Life
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