When the cat’s away…

…the mice will play (or in Dutch, dance).

My nest, made pretty by my awesome friend, Alicia, who made me the beautiful quilt pictured. She also sent the box of girl scout cookies, which I received today and is already over half empty. And yes, I do put sheets on my couch when I know I’ll be sleeping there. I’m not a barbarian.

Actually, in this case, the mice will make a nest on the couch, forgo any attempts at personal hygiene or basic cleanliness, and spend all day attached to their computer or television (and/or napping).

Joery’s in Norway now, attending a conference. He’s there until Sunday, which means my nest of pillows/blankets/boxes of food will continue to grow until Sunday morning when I will get hit by a panicked wave of realization that I have made a complete and utter mess of the apartment and only have a few hours to clean until my co-habitating boyfriend discovers my secret, unsanitary habits.

It’s funny how sharing an entire apartment with someone forces certain living habits underground. I’ve never had my own place, all to myself, so I’m not sure how long I would really be a health hazard if left to my own devices (and with a lack of prying eyes forcing me to conform to society’s norms of what is/is not appropriate living conditions). But I have had roommates and, while the common areas tended to be relatively ok, my room was 80% of the time a disaster. Part of me wonders: if living alone, or at the very least, having private space, means that you can allow your “true” self to emerge — the self that is uninhibited from social norms and mores and just does whatever it wants — is my true self a slob?

I don’t know. It’s quite possible it’s true. (My mom is probably yelling “YESSSSS” at the computer right now).

Here are my top five shame-inducing habits (that I’m willing to admit publicly…can’t forget that caveat):

5) Not doing the dishes. At all. In spite of having a dishwasher. I don’t even put them in the sink. The dishwasher is filled with (now clean) dishes from the last meal Joery and I shared before his departure, and it probably won’t be refilled until he gets home. In my defense, I also…

4) Only eat food that comes out of a box. Or is pre-made and everything is disposable. Actually, I just refrain from eating proper meals and instead graze on whatever is in the fridge or pantry. Potatoes? Totally mashing them up. Canned corn? That’s dinner! Cereal? Godsend. So really, I’m not going through that many dishes. Also, I drink right out of the juice container and eat whipped cream directly from the can, meaning I need to make a trip to the grocery store to replace both those things before Joery gets home.

3) Really awkward sleeping habits. When I was in college, I was able to blame my weird sleeping patterns on “I’m just going to take a quick, 3-hour nap this afternoon…I did have a 9:00 class, after all!” or “I have a paper to write, so I’m going to stay up until 6:00 in the morning watching TV shows online before finally freaking out about the assignment and pumping it out in an hour while hopped up on coffee”. Now that I’m no longer a student, I have no excuse except that I hate the mornings and my couch is comfortable. Especially after I drag every pillow and blanket in the apartment there.

2) I don’t shower. This is particularly true now, since I have no job and no classes to go to. If I have no plans to leave the house, I can easily be stuck in the same pajamas for days. Or nothing at all, depending how warm it is. I remember talking to my sister about the practice of going commando. She asked, “but if you take a shower and aren’t planning on leaving the house, don’t you just pop on sweatpants and call it a day?” My response: “If I’m not leaving the house, I don’t shower. Period.”

and finally,

1) Buying one of those tiny sheet cakes from Wegmans and stashing it in my room because I’m embarrassed to show my roommates that I am able to buy a cake that, theoretically, feeds 6-8 people and eat half of it by myself in one sitting (right from the box). Also, I don’t want to share.

Bonus entry: I had a habit of realizing my room got to a point where no one would ever be invited to see the inside (even my roommates) and I would proceed to run around like a crazy person tidying it up. Until, of course, I would decide to go out for drinks with friends and conveniently forget how to put an outfit together, spending an hour or so taking all my clothes out of my closet, trying them on one after another, before settling on the first thing I pulled out. But by then I’d be running late, so the heaps of clothes on the bed would stay there, and when I got home a bit later, tired and tipsy, I’d just push them all on the floor, starting the cycle of perpetual clutter all over again. This, though, can’t really go on my list because it’s something I still do and I’m pretty sure drives Joery insane.

For more eccentricities of the solo dweller, read this article from the NY Times. At least I’ve never left the house missing an essential article of clothing. Yet.

*Also, I had to look really closely at the photo I took, because I’m not wearing any pants at the moment and I wanted to make sure you couldn’t see any unmentionables in the reflection. You can, however, see the empty whipped cream container. It complemented the cookies.

Ok, I’m lying. I got the cookies today and polished off the whipped cream last night. Sue me.

And because I want to say a big THANK YOU to Alicia for her gorgeous gifts, here are pictures of the fabulous (and handmade) quilt and clutch she sent me for my birthday (in addition to peanut butter and girl scout cookies. Ah-maz-ing). Totally worth having the mailman ring the doorbell at 8am.

The purple matches my wall perfectly. And the details are gorgeous (even though the photo is not).

The clutch! I love the fabric.

How cute is this? She embroidered my name on the inside!

 

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And we have furniture!

Our furniture has arrived! (Remember when we bought it, three months ago? I know, neither do I).

But it finally arrived this morning and was pieced together and installed by this afternoon.

Without further ado:

Of course, in order for the nice delivery guys to hang up all the cabinets/shelves, I had to disconnect the TV from the digicorder and sound system. Now I have everything plugged back in except for one cable (for the sound) that I can’t figure out where it goes. Actually, I’m pretty sure I know where it goes, I just don’t know how to reach the back of the TV while it’s hanging on the wall.

I would say I could just wait for Joery to get home to figure it out, but he’s in Italy until Sunday for work. So it’s either figure it out or watch TV silently (though that could be a good way to practice my Dutch — as long as it’s subtitled).

Now all that’s left is to buy a rug for in front of the couch and a light for over the table and our living area/kitchen/dining room will be (more or less) complete!

Of course, there’s still the guest room, bedroom, terrace and walk-in closet to finish, but let’s not dwell on that, shall we?

Six tips for furniture shopping

Joery and I finally purchased the last major pieces of furniture for our apartment this weekend. After many, many, many frustrating shopping trips, I believe I emerged from this experience with a bit of knowledge I’d like to share.

No more patio furniture in our dining room!

1. Never go shopping on an empty stomach.

Everyone knows not to do this when going grocery shopping, but it’s true for furniture shopping as well. Empty stomachs translate into snippy comments, “we-already-had-this-conversation” / “why can’t you FOCUS??” / “what the hell are you thinking? That is hideous” remarks, and a silent, angry boyfriend who’s driving home from a fruitless shopping adventure. Not fun for anyone.

2. Make sure you measure EVERYTHING.

Because that one thing that you forget to measure — how wide the television is, how far from the wall your cabinet should protrude, etc. — that space will be what stands in the way of a completed order or driving home with your tail between your legs and a measuring tape in your hands.

3. Ask questions. A lot of questions.

Does this type of material attract fingerprints? Do you drill the holes for the electrical outlets or do we have to do it ourselves? Do you mind if I try picking the coffee table up so we can see how easy it is to move? Even if the saleswoman thinks you are completely bonkers, she will smile and treat you as if you asked the most reasonable question in the world. At least our wonderful saleswoman did.

Which brings me to 4. If you’ve already visited the store, talk to the same salesperson.

They give you their card for a reason. If they’re busy, wait. It will save you the time it takes to explain the situation to someone else who doesn’t completely understand the problem, have them give you the wrong information, and give up (due to the hangry-ness problem presented in number 1) and drive home.

5. Hold out (if you can) for promotional events.

Not only did Joery and I get a glass of kava and piece of chocolate when we entered the store, we also got two tickets for a hot-air balloon ride (in lieu of a small discount on the furniture) and a coupon for a free breakfast, delivered to your home. Not too shabby. And now we can look at it as a small reward for the numerous failed shopping trips and fact that it’ll probably be over a year since we moved in before we get a proper table.

And lastly, 6. There’s no shame in haggling.

Sure, it’s a store that probably won’t drop their prices any lower than what they originally say. But if you ask, they may just throw in an extra one of those breakfast coupons.

So, in 10-12 weeks (the length of time between purchase and delivery), our apartment will pass through it’s thrown-together, lawn furniture-marked adolescence and, hopefully, mature into an adult space. And thanks to our wonderful saleswoman, Fadoua, who not only humored our testing the weight of the furniture, but also assisted us in re-arranging what we could to recreate our apartment’s “look”.

Let there be…purple!

So the painting is finished! No more plastic dangling from our lights or disassembled doors (which makes it really awkward when you sleep late and have to shower when the painters are already at your apartment). And, while I really like the final result, it was a bit more of a shock than I initially wanted.

I was around for most of the painting, but just for the neutral colors. So when I arrived home after a successful shopping trip in Brussels, entered the apartment, walked in and…

BAM!

Super purple wall

That is not the subtle accent wall I imagined. Rather it’s a statement wall. A hell-yea-this-is-what-purple-freaking-looks-like wall.

It’s beginning to grow on me.

The bad news was that we had to postpone the delivery of our couch because it’s a bit silly to dangle a couch through the window of your apartment when all the walls have wet paint on them. It’s like the ultimate Operation game you don’t want to play.

The kitchen. It's hard to tell, but there gray near the cabinets is darker than the one on the backsplash. I'll take better photos next time.

Hallway to bedrooms/bathroom (which have yet to be painted...that's the next wave)

*I’m going to take better photos when the sun is out and I don’t have to use the flash on my point-and-shoot camera. But you get the gist.

Bye-bye spackled walls

Last glimpse of the unpainted walls.

Tomorrow our painter is coming to prep/prime our apartment. I’m kind of hoping that by the time I get home from work it will be finished, but am well aware that I’m probably just setting myself up for disappointment.

After work today I came and started putting down all the cardboard and plastic on the floor (with the help of my boyfriend’s parents). It was pretty time-consuming… I can only imagine how it would go if we were to paint ourselves, which was our initial plan. We were just asked to cover the floor, so not even tape the edges of anything, and already that was a pain. I have a sneaking suspicion painting is only fun in theory.

I did learn an awesome phrase in Dutch today. When the boyfriend arrived home (conveniently after everything was almost finished — note: he wants me to point out he came home at his normal time) we opened a bottle of Cava to toast my finishing my thesis. I was still preparing some snacks, so everyone was waiting. Finally his mom turns to me and says, “Wij kunnen nog niet drinken; jij bent het feestvarken.” Literally translated: We can’t drink yet; you are the party pig.

Feestvarken. Haha, love it.

Pre-paint!

And another shot of the other side of the room. Yes, that’s my lovely boyfriend cooking me dinner. We realized we had 18 eggs in our fridge, all of which expire this weekend. Needless to say, dinner was omelets.

Couches and end tables and lamps, oh my!

At the beginning of June, my boyfriend and I finally moved into our first apartment (I say finally because the original move-in date was February, but the construction process took a bit longer than expected). Since we both have always lived in furnished places, we didn’t really have much to bring into the new place. It was a blank slate — literally. We got to design every little detail, from the color and type of kitchen cabinets to where the walls would go. This may seem like a wonderful opportunity — and I’m sure it was — but at many points in the journey I think both of us looked back and asked “What the hell were we thinking?”

Because when every little detail is up to you to decide, ANY and EVERY mistake is your fault (That shiny black counter top you thought would look so pretty in the bathroom? Attracts dust like a beast, not to mention the fingerprint smudges and hard water pools). Plus, my boyfriend and I have very different tastes (hence our French country guest toilet). For this reason — among others — some major style decisions have been postponed until previous decisions were realized. I think at one point in time, particularly when furniture shopping, we just got so frustrated that we finally said, “whatever, we’ll take that one” without really considering the room that we were building. We just found individual items that we thought were pretty/comfy/affordable/the right size and figured they would go together. And while I’m not saying they don’t, it became clear that we had begun painting ourselves into a smaller and smaller corner.

Therefore, we decided to actually move in, see what we had so far — and how we used it — and then pick up where we left off once we have a better idea of what it was we wanted. I think this saved our relationship. There are only so many times that you can tell a person that if a wall is 2 meters and 50 centimeters, a 3 meter couch would not look good. And yes, we had this conversation multiple times (until we finally found a couch that fit).

However, now that we’ve been living here for almost two months, we figured it’s time to start finishing the place. After all, there’s still no paint on the walls (the Spackle is not for aesthetic effect) and we still are missing major pieces of furniture (like lighting for the bedrooms, a dining room table and chairs, a media center, bookcases). Plus, our painter told us he can start this weekend, so we kind of had to make a decision.

So, our living room/dining room/kitchen (it’s all open) colors are going to be: light taupe, a bit darker taupe, and an aubergine accent wall. The taupe comes from our kitchen cabinets, which are a similar shade as the paint we’re using (we’re just going a step lighter for most of the walls and a step darker for the walls around the cabinets). And I just like aubergine.

Also, our couch (which we ordered in MAY) is finally going to be delivered at the end of next week. It’s been so long since we ordered it, I kind of forget what it looks like (another reason why we decided to put off buying the dining room/media stuff). I know it’s gray, I’m just hoping that it’ll look good against the taupe. But I am excited to not be sitting on these anymore:

The camo bean-bag chair actually is pretty comfortable.

Note: the glass wall is our “inner terrace.” We’re having a technical problem with it (when it rains, the water drains to the center and sits there rather than to the corner where the drain pipe is…and the company from whom we bought the place is refusing to fix it even though it’s clearly their responsibility…. I could go on, but that’s why it looks like a construction zone — it still is). You also can ignore the walls. Actually, just look at the floor, it’s the only thing in the photo that’s finished and isn’t it just oh-so-pretty?

Sunday morning flea market!

Technically, Sunday afternoon flea market. What can I say? I like to sleep in.

Enjoying music in the sun!

Yesterday, the boyfriend and I went to a free concert by Sebadoh, an American band I hadn’t heard of before. They were supposed to play at Pukkelpop, where they apparently have appeared many times, so they offered to play a free concert in Ghent to honor the victims.

The venue was pretty close to where we live, so we decided to walk there. Walking, however, took a lot longer than we anticipated. Technically it’s pretty close, but there’s a canal that separated us from the venue and we ended up having to walk all the way around to get to the other side. Once there, it was a lot of fun. The weather (finally) was gorgeous, the music was good, and we met up with a few friends, with whom we enjoyed a nice, cold beer.

The area where we live in Ghent is up-and-coming. It’s located on one of the major canals into the city, and the whole area was formerly an industrial zone. Now, contractors are buying up the old warehouses and converting them into trendy lofts, which is also true for the building where we live. But there’s still a lot of old, abandoned factories, and the venue where the concert was is no exception. Apparently next year the city (or a private company, not sure which) is going to tear everything down to build apartments, but for now there are a lot of

Sebadoh performing a free concert in Gent

activities organized there. In addition to the stage, there was a bar and grill set up, playground equipment for kids, and even a fake beach with sand and umbrellas. It was actually pretty sweet (wish I had taken a photo…have to get used to documenting everything again).

We found out that on Sundays there’s a market hosted in the cement structure (though all the sides are open, so not really sure what it used to be), so we decided today to check it out. Since moving into the apartment, we’ve been looking for things to decorate it. Generally, the entire apartment has a modern design, but there’s a little guest bathroom (just a toilet and a sink) that’s French-country/antiquey. It totally doesn’t fit with the rest of the apartment, but I found this antique-style toilet at an expo we went to and loved it, so my boyfriend decided to concede the guest toilet rather than have me impose a French-country-inspired look to the entire bathroom.

Our new mirror! Excuse the hair/t-shirt, I had already changed into my comfy clothes.

Anyway, we’ve been looking for an antique frame to use for a mirror in that bathroom, but haven’t had any luck yet. Until today! I’m really excited about it. We found this mirror — a little banged up, but we want to paint it anyway — for just 10 euros (actually, I have no idea if that’s good or not. Neither my boyfriend nor I are good at bargaining, so the woman asked for 10-15 euros and we just went with 10. It had 15 written on the sticker on the back, so I still feel like we accomplished something).

We also ended up buying a couple of homemade cupcakes (there were free samples and I have a terrible guilt complex about eating samples and then not buying from somebody, particularly at these events, where everyone’s just a normal person trying to make a little extra money).

So all in all it was a successful day so far. The rest of the day I’m planning to spend finishing my thesis. The final copy is due this Thursday, and I still have my analysis to finish and the introduction and conclusion to write, not to mention all the technical formatting issues I plan to deal with later. I’m sure I’ll finish on time, I just need to stop blogging and start working :)

Hope you all enjoyed your weekend as well!