I Did All Your Christmas Shopping For You

Posted by on Nov 29, 2013 in Blog, Things I Love | 5 comments

I Did All Your Christmas Shopping For You

I have thousands and thousands of rules about gift giving, and I am going to tell you about every single one.

First, the gift should be extremely thoughtful. Duh, of course, right? But that’s why you can’t just go off an Amazon wishlist, or even what the person has told you she wanted. Instead, you have to listen all year round for hints as to what he/she is truly wishing for. The goal is to give a gift the person has never seen before, didn’t even know she wanted, and yet—now that it’s unwrapped—can’t imagine life without it ever again.

Second: the goodness of the gift is directly proportional to the difficulty of obtaining it. This means that the best gift is something you made in secret over several months, such as a needlepoint portrait pillow of your best friend’s cat. Failing that, however, you might order it from Australia, or from a bakery in Ohio where the owner speaks pidgin English, or at the very least, off Etsy. The gifts in my gift guide generally break this rule, as they are mostly easily obtainable, and many of them qualify for Amazon Prime shipping. (The links below are not, however, affiliate ones.) A corollary to this rule, though: price does NOT count toward the difficulty quotient. Extravagantly expensive gifts mean you’re throwing money at the problem, and that’s just vulgar.

Third: the gift should ideally be under $50. Ideally, it should be something that was originally exorbitantly priced, but you miraculously managed to get for a tiny, tiny fraction of the cost. The reason for this is a two-parter: (a) it’s no good to make the other person feel uncomfortable by spending far more on him than he did on your gift, and (b) a tight budgetary framework inspires creativity. This rule can of course be broken on any whim, but it is only broken once in this list, and even then you can easily get a less expensive version.

As you can probably imagine, my fervor for explaining these rules is only increasing, so I must stop somewhere, or else we’ll spend all night discussing grosgrain ribbon and the abomination that is the gift bag. So, on to the gift guides.

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Guts and Nuts and Bolts

Posted by on Aug 22, 2013 in Blog, House, Projects | 2 comments

Guts and Nuts and Bolts

Spoiler alert: we have been living with the new, completed bathroom for several months now. It is transcendent, resplendent.

But when I left off we were putting in the plumbing. We decided to put the thermostat and on/off valve on the wall opposite the showerhead. That way, you can open the door and turn on the shower without having to get wet. Nice, right?

This is what the plumbing looks like in order to achieve this effect.

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Expect the Unexpected

Posted by on Jun 11, 2013 in Blog, House, Projects | 1 comment

Expect the Unexpected

As I’ve learned in 8 years owning a 50-year-old house, nothing will ever go quite as you expected. Even when your contractor lives next door to you and has remodeled dozens of bathrooms built by the same builder in your neighborhood (including his own). Even when you thoroughly explain all your ideas beforehand and show him the exact fixtures you picked out. Even though the time it would take was estimated at 5 days, I multiplied the estimate by 2 and made sure I had no relatives coming to visit or other schedule squeezes.

When I last left off, we had left the shower pan for the contractor to remove, and he was able to pull it out with an enormous crowbar. But even he was surprised to see this…

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Tore Up From The Floor Up

Posted by on Jun 3, 2013 in Blog, House, Projects | 0 comments

Tore Up From The Floor Up

Finally. First I had major, major surgery. Then the shower tile went out of stock, and more had to be made back in old Brazil. Then our contractor was booked up. But we demolished the bathroom down to the studs the weekend before last, and it’s finally coming together.

Our house was built in 1963, back when asbestos was still popular and my dad had a glow-in-the-dark watch where the numbers were painted with radium. Yeah! I felt fine about any asbestos risk, until I saw a label that said “fireproof” on the back of a piece of sheetrock. But I looked up United States Gypsum and read these marvelous words:

USG primarily made plasters, paints, drywall (although none of their drywall products contained asbestos)…

Theoretically the old joint compound or texture could contain asbestos, but it was all really well sealed under layers of paint. We wore respirators. And it was the drywall that was really the main source of dust. Everyone’s risk aversion is different, so I would never tell someone else what to do, but I felt comfortable doing it.

Actually, comfortable is not quite the right word. Dirty, dusty, and disgusting are far better descriptors.

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Hey Girl

Posted by on Feb 19, 2013 in Blog, Things I Love | 1 comment

Hey Girl

Hello, old blog! I have not forgotten about you; I just had major, major surgery. The kind of surgery with titanium. I am almost released to pick up things that weigh more than 10 pounds, but in the meantime the bathroom renovation has been put on hold.

Meanwhile, my husband has (obviously) been picking up everything that weighs more than 10 pounds, not to mention doing all the laundry and cleaning. All while looking ridiculously handsome. You’re familiar with the Ryan Gosling “Hey Girl” meme? I did my own version of “Hey Girl” with photos of Richard, and I think it works at least as well.

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Goodbye, Vegas Bath!

Posted by on Oct 14, 2012 in Blog, Featured, House, Projects | 11 comments

Goodbye, Vegas Bath!

Things have been a bit crazy here at the Ranchette lately, hence the neglect of this blog. But in the meantime I’ve been planning a big project for a little room. This house was built in 1963, so there’s not much hope of adding a Japanese ofuro or an enormous steam shower. My top priorities for this bath are that it be functional, that every component represents something I’ve always wanted, and that it be highly, highly cleanable. Since we moved in we’ve contended with a fiberglass shower stall and a glass/aluminum sliding shower door. The fiberglass is a sort of putty color with flecks of gold glitter in it, which is why I call it the Vegas shower. And like Las Vegas, it is perpetually dirty, both from 49 years of abrasive cleaners and the many unreachable crevices in the aluminum track. For seven years I have hated it, and I am finally doing something about it.

So first, here is my dream bath…

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Stinger Care Package

Posted by on Aug 14, 2012 in Blog, Food, Projects | 7 comments

Stinger Care Package

I just returned from  a trip to Big Bend with my family, where we hovered on the edges of canyons, picked prickly pear spines out of our hands, and took a guided tour of the constellations. If you’ve seen the photos coming from the Curiosity, you may understand the Big Bend experience. Just think Mars with slightly more vegetation.

My sister is somewhat obsessed with scorpions and other venomous* creatures. She brought a special scorpion-detecting lamp with her. And she bought this fantastic little guide called Spiders and Their Kin at the Big Bend outpost. So when we stopped at our old favorite, the Starlight Theater in Terlingua, Texas, who was she to resist their Stinger Margarita? (Terlingua is the site of a great ghost town, and the Starlight is an old theater that’s been converted into a restaurant and music venue.)

Unfortunately, having lived in Texas so long, most of our taste buds have been burned off by our overconsumption of chipotle peppers. She reported that the Stinger didn’t have much of a sting. The waiter told us that they used to serve them with a copper scorpion at the bottom of the glass, but they weren’t able to get them anymore, since “the border had closed.” (?!?) He also said that you could find a video about how to make them on YouTube. HELLO.

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