On Creating Stuff

I like making stuff.

I've always enjoyed making stuff. When I was in middle school, I was convinced I would be an author when I grew up (after I discovered I was not good enough at sciencing to be a marine biologist). I wrote a lot of crappy fan fiction. Most of it was about vampires. In my defense, the vampires were Anne Rice vampires, and not Stephenie Meyer vampires.

Which is not much better.

In high school, I wrote a lot of not-good original fiction. For my senior project in honors English, I wrote a crappy children's novel about a girl who goes to a fantastical summer camp for the children of storybook princesses and princes to learn how to be a damsel in distress but concludes that instead, damsels in distress are lame, and she wants to be the hero. It was a decent idea, but I read it again about ten years ago and OH LORD, IT WAS NOT GOOD. Lucky for me, my teacher was sympathetic and gave me an A.

Actually, everyone who spent a considerable amount of time on their senior honors English project got an A, I think. But really - it wasn't very good.

In college, I taught myself to knit because I wanted an accurate Gryffindor scarf. I've never really gotten any better at it (sadly, no - I definitely can't make you a Norwegian sweater... I had someone ask once), but I am really good at making Hogwarts house scarves. I have gotten faster, and I have made many, many house scarves. If you are my friend and a Harry Potter fan who knows your house, I've probably made you a house scarf.

Post-college, I started learning how to cook. This is probably the most useful "making stuff" skill I've (very very slowly) learned. One of my favorite parts of the week is, even though it's really inconvenient, getting off work at 8:00 pm on Monday, pulling up John Oliver on HBOGo, and making food for the rest of the work week's lunches. Cooking has been kind of hit and miss, but theoretically I'm getting better than the so-garlicky-I-was-really-uncomfortable pasta I made when I first attempted to make my own pasta sauce.

Also, is it even possible to cook meatless food without onions/garlic/tons of salt? Maybe I need to retrain my taste.

During grad school, I connected with a group of people who made old-school audio dramas in podcast form. I recorded lines and played a ditzy princess and a teenage superhero, and together we made something amazing that hadn't existed until we did it.

Lately, I've been making candles. Which is the cringe-iest thing ever, and puts me in mind of Candles by Jan.

I swear I'm not Jan.

It's just that for whatever reason, making candles is really satisfying.

It is also, because of Candles by Jan, really embarrassing.

Therefore, I have decided that I need to, independently, channel my need to create something into learning to make beer.

Because we have all the equipment to make beer. I am married to a person who knows how to make beer, just hasn't in forever. And I just have only the vaguest idea how to... put all the things... where the things go... to.. make beer.

So that's my new creation endeavor, I declare. Beer.

Because, frankly, creating stuff is fun. And I've tried to create things that have just not worked out, at all. Or have been super terrible. So beer it is. I figure within the sphere of beer, there are so many different things you can do, that it'll satisfy my need to make stuff, lots of stuff, lots of different stuff. Lots of different tasty, tasty stuff. And probably lots of stuff that isn't so tasty because I haven't really learned how to make beer yet.

So, uh. How do you make beer?


Plants in the house! Dogs and cats living together! Anarchy!

I didn't have much luck with houseplants when I attempted to completely fail them as a naive early twentysomething. I managed to kill a pothos plant, which are, supposedly, impossible to kill. I also killed an adorable little succulent I got as a wedding favor by overwatering it - my love was just TOO MUCH.

However. We now own a house. We have a dog. Dogs smell bad sometimes (so do we). Plants supposedly help  purify the air in your house. And as such...

I've decided that it's GAME ON, HOUSEPLANTS.

I might have too many succulents.

I'll keep you updated on how this goes. They have a lovely south-facing window, and I only water them when their well-draining soil is dry two inches down. I'm trying really hard. I've had these for... four months?

We'll see how it goes.


I mentioned... six months ago... that we bought a house! IT'S AWESOME!

We had about a month on our apartment lease before moving into our house, which we used to slowly move in stuff (or... our entire kitchen at once, which isn't as genius as you might think - it's pretty hard to open soup cans or heat aforementioned soup without a can opener or pots), and paint where we wanted to. We painted all but two rooms (it wasn't as labor-intensive as it sounds, it's a small house, but we did need that entire month).

Here is some important info about our house: it was built in 1904, and has been meticulously taken care of since then. It's on the skinniest lot in our neighborhood, which was probably non-conforming when the house was built. It's a mystery how it was built in the first place (seriously). It's basically a row house without any houses on either side of it. It has three bedrooms and one bathroom. It is in walking distance to the best soccer bar in town and much of the best food in our city. We live within two miles of an embarrassingly awesome number of our best friends.

A couple before and afters:

Our house has three bedrooms, but this formerly orange bedroom is what we're using as the best den/Netflix/movie-watching room ever. This room is where we currently spend most of our time when we're home. It was the first room we painted (I couldn't handle the Chicago Bears-ness of the orange and blue), and it took the longest (look at those angles and those windows!), and it's my favorite. We did a pretty good job, as far as cozy movie-watching rooms go.

As you can see, the red couch stayed with the house! The previous owner felt terrible since the day after she accepted our offer, the built-in microwave blew. She offered us a bunch of furniture as compensation (I can not emphasize how much more amazing and ideal this transaction was than the first house we attempted to buy, which was, to put it mildly, a total nightmare) and since our enormous, heavy, pull-out-couch wouldn't have fit up our skinny, corner-y stairs, we were only too happy to keep the fantastic reclining sectional.

The second room we painted was the bathroom (yep, one bathroom. Upstairs. We're working on it).

One thing I dreamed of when I first started thinking about my dream house as a kid was a claw-foot tub. Our bathroom is at the very top of the stairs, and the day of the open house when we first saw this place (...four hours before submitting our offer...), the door was open and we walked up the stairs... to see... my claw-foot tub. It's as awesome as I hoped. Yes, the plumbing is 110 years old and it drains ridiculously slowly, but as a big fan of baths... this tub has lived up to my every expectation. It's deep, it's old-school, and really lovely.

I'm still debating painting the paneling white, which was my original plan until the painting took longer than we expected. A sort of pseudo-Greek-islands thing, I don't know. It's a little dark right now, but I like the dark walls better than the light blue they were. It's not like the paneling is amazing wood, right? We'll see. I painted them 80s Brewers blue while watching Major League.

The dining room is my favorite change, after the den/third bedroom.

The pink overhead light is possibly original to the house (it is definitely an antique which was converted from oil to electricity), and one of the other pieces of furniture left by the previous owner is the dining room table. The dining room table we had in our apartment is a family heirloom which we still have, but isn't entirely to our taste. While the light is pink, it's so insane and bright and awesome and perfect for our house, we will definitely keep it.

The paint color is called Bay Water. It's green. Ergo... Green Bay Water. Um.

That might be part of why I like it so much. The picture is dark, trust me that the room isn't.

In our apartment, we had posters from Milwaukee Irish Fest around the entire perimeter of our dining room on the plate rail. My sister and I have a tradition of going to Irish Fest. We've been every year since... 1999? 1998? A long time. They release a different poster every year, and I have one from every year I've attended. We don't have the same setup here, but I think having them on the chimney made our place feel more like home (we'll rotate them periodically, since I have about 20). The cabinet we inherited from John's grandfather, and was previously used in our bedroom for clothes. You can kind of see how narrow and steep our stairs are - at the top of the stairs is a 180-degree turn, and this massive, heavy wardrobe would never have made it up there. It's found a home down here as a home for our liquor, flags (I installed a flagpole outside all by myself!), dog toys, and other dining room stuff. Yes, flags and dog toys are dining room stuff in this house.

The other main room we painted was our front living room. This is the room we're the most confused about and aren't sure how we'll use.

For the first three months we lived here, it had only that recliner in it - we got the couch and the chair-and-a-half when The Husband's parents moved from his childhood home and gave us a bunch of furniture. It's very small!

It's a super room - it's got excellent light, our turntable, a fake fireplace, a comfy couch and a chair-and-a-half... but it's also overcrowded with AV equipment, an old recliner, a tiny TV, and we don't have a great place to put any of it because of our front door. At some point prior to the 1990s, someone changed the entry to our house from in that little alcove to where it currently is (where there was previously a bay window). I mean, great idea! But there's a heating vent right by the front door, and it makes arranging furniture really challenging. The first time we actually hung out with people in this room was this past Monday, during the Packer game. Which was actually really nice. I think during the winter we may get rid of the recliner. It was inherited by me from my childhood home when I got my first apartment in 2004 - the recliner itself was purchased in... 1989? It's one of those weird things that I know we dont' need, and is in fact in the way of a potentially great room, but... my sister stuffed Hershey Kiss wrappers between the cushions when she was three. It's hard to get rid of it.

My parents got rid of the matching recliner 10 years ago. I should probably get over it.

Moving on. We have plans for building bookshelves in the alcove above the TV to hold the receiver and stuff. It'll be cool. I'm sure I'll post pictures when that happens. We'd also like to build shelves next to the couch, so we can get some more night-time light in the room - believe it or not, the pink light fixture in the ceiling only provides enough light for a not-particularly-well-lit brothel in King's Landing. It might be original to the house, but it at least needs a brighter bulb. Or to be completely replaced.

Our kitchen is super weird. It's shaped like a U. The range is on the opposite side of the kitchen from the oven, which is very challenging when you have crappy old-ass oven mitts that burn you if you hold something hot for more than four seconds.

I might need new oven mitts.

It also has a sandy, 90's southwestern vibe that does not go with the rest of the house. It has silly (high-quality!) decorative tiles that had a weird tilde design thing on them that I was not a fan of, so in an attempt to embrace the southwestern vibe in a way I could handle, I covered those random tilde designed tiles with tile stickers from this Etsy store, which worked surprisingly well. They look good - the ones above the range have started peeling a little, but if you don't point it out to people, they don't notice. The ones that haven't been affected by the oven's heat look exactly like tiles and everyone is TOTALLY FOOLED. Seriously, tile stickers. They're great quality, look awesome, and cheap!

Despite the odd layout, I LOVE THIS KITCHEN. The oven on the opposite side of the wall from the range is the weirdest part about it, but if you'd seen our apartment kitchen, you know that this amount of counter space is a miracle. If you never saw our apartment kitchen, it had an enormous stove from, not kidding, 1952, and zero counter space. It was a nightmare to try to cook in (which I did, because I enjoy cooking), involving stacking cookie sheets with food on them on top of each other, or making only one dish at a time, or using the dining room table as prep space and serving space. It was the only thing about that apartment I didn't love.

Side note - that 1950s GE stove was pretty amazing, when it didn't blow fuses. When it did blow fuses, it was terrifying and smelled... I don't know how to describe the smell. Like ozone?

Besides the tile stickers, the only thing we did in the kitchen was paint one wall red. Let me tell you about painting a yellow wall red.


This wall... one little wall... took an entire gallon of paint. And it's still not covered to my satisfaction, but we've already devoted more paint to this wall than any of the rooms in this house, so it is what it is. I think it looks pretty good.

This is the weirdest part of our house. I feel like this space can be used more efficiently than a stove, our cabinet pantry, and the counter for our mail. It's the most awkward part of our home and it'll probably take us 20 years to figure it out, but it has a better use. It has to have a better use. Someone has to know how to use this space better. The problem is that it leads down to the basement, so it's hard to put, say, a bathroom there. Tricky.

I'm honestly open to suggestions. We have no pantry, so those cabinets are housing our dry and canned goods. I'd like to kick out the wall above the cabinets, but the can lights and associated electric make it a challenge. Basically I don't know what I'm doing.

We're still figuring out exactly how all the rooms will be used as we live in them, and partially because of this it took us three months to start putting stuff on our walls.

(Full disclosure: I wrote this post two months ago. I'm appalled at how dark our house looks in the "after" pictures - I promise, it's not that dark in person! I am apparently bad at camera-ing, is all. But yep, this is our house. We love it. Despite the fact that someone painted the woodwork at some point, for some insane reason.)


Briefly on loving nerdy things.

1997 was a big year. I didn't know it at the time, but my 16th year on the planet would wind up being a pretty significant revolution around the sun.

For one thing, 1997 was the year George Lucas re-released the Special Editions of the original Star Wars trilogy. Having been born in the early 80s, I never saw any of those three films I loved dearly in the theater until that year.

It wasn't until 2006 we discovered that my future husband and I were waiting in the same midnight movie line for the same movie at the same time, and had no idea. I was dressed as slightly chubby Episode IV Leia-buns Princess Leia. He does not dress up, ever. We are mutually embarrassed about this situation, but the fact is that yes. It was fate. Or maybe the Force. I will admit the possibility that it was neither of those, but only grudgingly.

1997 was also the year I actually said something to my future husband for the first time, though we were both awkward (I kid. I was the only one who was awkward) and ran in different circles, but we met in 1997. We just had no idea we both loved some silly space opera enough to wait in line for tickets and then wait in line for hours AGAIN just to get in the theater first.

(For the record, I was much further ahead in line. Which is... cool? No, no it isn't.)

1997 is significant for a number of reasons, but for me, the fact that we both care a lot about this silly space opera suggests a lot about the two of us that brought us together and ultimately, done got us hitched. It was an important year.

Yesterday, tickets for Episode VII went on sale.

Naturally, we attempted to secure tickets to The Force Awakens on opening night. As far as I was concerned, there was no chance whatsoever we would no be seeing The Force Awakens on opening night. We are not novices to this, we are excellent line-waiters, and I was fairly cockily confident that everything would be fine and we would have tickets in no time. And naturally, every website in the entire universe crashed (actually not true, my library's website was just fine), because WHADDAYA KNOW, WE AREN'T THE ONLY STAR WARS PEOPLE IN THE UNIVERSE. After three fruitless hours of not using streaming Netflix for fear of disrupting our payments, getting to the payment page only to see the "submit payment" button disappear, and getting 505 errors... he suggested something.

"Why don't we just try the theater?" he said.
"I'm ON THE THEATER SITE. It's down!" said I, stupid neanderthal.
"No, what if we try to GO TO THE THEATER?"
"...oh. Um. Would they have tickets in person? Can we do that? That's a great idea. Do you think they have tickets?"

So we tried that. I attempted to call the theater in our hometown where we were planning on going to the movie - unsurprisingly even after a dozen tries, it was still busy. So we loaded up the dog and hopped in the car in our jammies.

On the highway, we discovered all the ramps to the interstate we needed were blocked by police cars and flares. ALL OF THEM. Have I mentioned that at this point it was nearing 11:00 pm? And we were in pjs? With a dog?

Since we were already on the highway and about ten minutes from a semi-inconvenient theater near my job, I suggested we try there and then go to bed. Because we were already in the car, in our pjs, with our dog, and I NEEDED STAR WARS TICKETS.

The Husband dropped me off near the theater (I ran to three doors before I found the right one - yes, ran), and I ran up the stairs (who puts a movie theater upstairs?)... to find them... OPEN.


There were two other gentlemen there speaking with a twentysomething theater employee, so I turned to the available teenager and asked whether they were selling Star Wars tickets? Indeed, they ARE selling Star Wars tickets! Oh, but their servers went down literally ten minutes before I walked in.

It was as though the universe did not want us to get these Star Wars tickets.

The very kind theater manager offered to buy myself and the two other nerds a round while they called their IT department and attempted to reboot the servers, maybe twenty minutes? Oh, I would wait twenty minutes. We would all be happy to wait twenty minutes.

It was now 11:00 at night.

Twenty minutes and four tries by some intrepid teenage movie theater employees later, the server was up and running, and we had Star Wars tickets. The Husband was walking the dog in circles around the mall parking lot this entire time and called EXACTLY as the tickets were printing.

It was midnight by the time we got home, an entire evening devoted to this enterprise. This was the first year I felt like I might be getting too old for all this - but I thought about it, and no. Star Wars is a silly movie, but it's still important to us. If we ever have kids, I hope they know what it's like to wait in a stupid line with people you don't even know just because you all love the same thing, a lot. You meet awesome people in those lines, and hey, future kid we may or may not ever have, your parents were in one of those lines.


So maybe the universe didn't mean to stop us from seeing Star Wars on opening night, but wanted to give us a Monday night adventure.

Thanks, universe.


That thing I couldn't talk about a couple months ago...

...is that we bought a house! WHAAAA?

We heard from our landlord on a Sunday in August that the following Monday she would be listing the house we rent (well, the 2nd and 3rd floors are what we rent). We really wanted to buy it ourselves, but, as it is a huge, beautiful house in a fantastic part of town, it is significantly above our budget.

So all of a sudden, three months after our wedding, we were house hunting. Surprise! Whoops-a-daisy! We thought we had a whole entire year more to save money! To be totally honest I sort of thought maybe we'd never buy a house, since we had a great apartment we loved and a dog, making it hard to find another apartment and we had no interest in moving anyway... NOPE GO FIND SOMETHING YOU CAN AFFORD RIGHT NOW!

It was a long, honestly pretty horrible, slightly soul-crushing process (a story for in-person - or an email, if you're interested, but be warned, it is long and if I hadn't lived it, unbelievable), but it finally happened, and we own a house, and it is an awesome house. It was built in 1904, and while it's been updated a little, it's very charming. We took about a month to paint and fix up a few things at the new place before we moved in (who wants to try to paint around a couch, if we have the perk of another option?).

We moved in last Saturday, and it's starting to feel like home for most of us. We set up one of the three bedrooms as a movie haven with dark walls and surround sound and a ridiculous reclining couch that the previous owner left behind, and having friends over to enjoy the one (sorta) finished space in the house has definitely contributed to it feeling more like home already. Beorn is loving having stairs to run up and down, but can't quite bring himself to poop in our yard yet. Oh, poor puppy. He's confused.

We were able to stay in our neighborhood, about a mile from our previous house (and just a block or so further from the lake, priorities). We can still walk to a ton of our favorite places. Our friends are still close by. Amazing food is still right -----> over there. A handful of the best beer bars in the country are still within walking distance (again with the priorities). This wasn't the way we thought home ownership would happen (if it ever did), but it's worked out pretty darn well. We're halfway (2.5 blocks) between the main street of our neighborhood and the dog park.

We've both been renting various places for the past 15/16 years. One of the first things I did when we got back to the house after closing was stomp around on the wood floors, loudly. And then we did some yelling, and played music really loud.

I just really like knowing that it's our house.

Photos to come, when there are a few fewer boxes around.

Hilariously, the Monday after the Saturday we moved into our house, my car died. Now, this is nothing new. My car has stranded me at least twice a year for the last six years or so. I've been threatening to buy a different car for the last five-ish years. This time, though, when the mechanic where I was towed called to tell me what was wrong, he opened with, "So, you've started looking at cars, right?"

Which is not a good sign.

But when it rains it pours, and more on that later (long story short - I bought a car and on the way to work from the dealership one of the windows got stuck open - hilarity ensued).

Our house is kinda cool. I'll take pictures of it for you soon. We're just really excited to be semi-settled and to have started making this house into our house. Full disclosure - my house does not belong in a magazine, because my design sensibility is limited by a) what we can afford, b) sentimental furniture we've been gifted by relatives (we have so many rocking chairs...), c) honestly, a small and slightly weird little house, d) stuff left behind by the previous owner that is nice and we can't afford to replace right now (namely the curtains), and e) not all of these things working together terribly well with our own style. But hey. We're comfortable, and it's home.


New Zealand. Go there. Part 2

As previously discussed, day 1 of our Great Walk was a little rough. It was in the 40s and poured all day. After finally finding our cozy (see also: soaking wet/freezing) tent pad, we awoke after a rough night of sleep the following morning to an only mildly damp morning.

Foggy, but not rainy. Thank Mithrandir!

I'm told that to the left of this path is an absolutely magnificent view of the southern alps. Sure, I'll believe that (I Googled it - it is spectacular). This is what we saw for about 5 miles. However, we were so happy to be not-soaked/warm-ish/semi-dry and not freezing that we truly didn't mind missing the view.

After an hour or so of this, we started seeing hikers coming from the other direction of the walk. Every one of them told us that "just around the corner" the weather was beautiful and sunny. For an hour and a half, we heard that. Just around the corner. Sun.



Like some kind of miracle (or... you know, science), we came over the Harris Saddle, and it was as though there was an invisible wall holding back the clouds. We had sun for the remainder of the day. We got to our campsite and our gear dried in about 20 minutes. It was absolutely worth one miserable day for this one, incredible, beautiful, miraculous day.

The Routeburn Track is beautiful.

That evening we camped at the Routeburn Flats campsite (the pictures of flat-ish places, with our tent), down the mountain from Routeburn Falls. We had an incredible view of the clouds trying their darndest to get over the mountains to us... and failing.

The following day we hiked out of the wilderness and caught our shuttle back to Queenstown.

Have I mentioned how awesome Queenstown is?

 Before we left on the Routeburn Track, we asked around (all... over the south island, actually) for recommendations for great restaurants in Queenstown. With that in mind, we made a reservation at Rata before we left. And oh my, was that a great idea. Amazing local food (honey goat-cheese puff tarts! Smoked salmon and capers! More goat cheese!), local wine (wiiiiiiiiiiiine), and The Husband had the biggest steak (and, I was assured, potentially the best) I have ever seen in my entire life.

We spent a couple relaxing days in Queenstown before heading back up to Christchurch for a night, and then our flight back to the US. Fun tip - basically no one rents cars in Queenstown to take north. Everyone tends to rent cars in Picton (the ferry from Wellington drops you on the south island in Picton) and drive them down to Queenstown, then fly out from there. Because they have trouble moving the cars back north, they will sometimes give you a rental car for free.

So we got a free rental car to drive to Christchurch. Way to go, last-minute-planning!! We were able to stop where and when we liked along our (admittedly, 8-hour) drive.

 The view from our hotel.

Mount Cook, on the way back up to Christchurch.

Queenstown is legendary for adrenaline sports (bungee jumping was invented there. There are mountain luge tracks, canyon swings, jet boats... all sorts of dangerous but undoubtedly fun things). The sport in which we partook was... lawn bowling.

I am totally not kidding when I recommend checking out the Queenstown Lawn Bowling Club. An octogenarian taught us the rules and how to actually roll the bowls so they don't go all the way across the lawn and mess up someone else's game. It was a blast and we met some great people.

 We also went to see the Anduin (I do not remember the non-Lord of the Rings name of this river). It's beautiful. And the original bungee jump is over it!

You can juuuuust see the bungee jump bridge in this one.

Christchurch Maori totem!

And then we had to leave. :'(

If you ever want someone to bore you to tears talking about New Zealand, give us a call. It's unreal.