Thursday, August 7, 2014

Exploring A2: The Fairy Doors

On the hunt for a fairy door at the District Library.
I was immediately enchanted when I came across mentions of the fairy doors in my initial research about things to do in Ann Arbor. I made it a mission to visit all of them during our two years here, and was so excited to hunt for them with The Kid. But I wondered, is this actually just for me, or is it something he'd be into, too? I'm a fairy tale person (my Master's thesis was on Peter Pan for god's sake), but he's super-into trucks, and we haven't read him traditional fairy tales yet.

We found two of the fairy doors during our initial visit in March and one more during our fist week here, and I kept my fingers firmly crossed that The Kid would be as excited as I was.

Turns out I didn't need to worry.

The moment I mentioned the fairy doors, The Kid was on it. OK, he was confused at first (who can blame him?) but when I suggested we go to The Ark after ice cream across the street, to see where the fairies go for fun, he was just about as excited as I hoped! He bought imaginary tickets for a penny at the fairy will-call window:

and left another offering at the fairy Ark door:

We bought the fairies coffee at Sweetwater:

We've been back a couple of times since, to see if we can catch them reading their newspaper and sipping their coffee. (Fairies tend to fly away when they hear people coming.)

We visit the fairies' house every time we go to the library, which is now at least once a week for story hour:

And we happened upon the fairies' workshop at Found completely by accident while shopping there. It's my new favorite store for antiques and ephemera, so I'm sure we'll be back soon.

The Urban Fairies website hasn't been updated in a while so I'm not sure exactly how many doors are currently "active," but there are at least five out there we haven't found yet. It's a charming way to explore the city. I just have to remember to keep pennies and little knick-knacks in my purse; The Kid loves to give them offerings.

(Update: I found the fairy door at the Michigan Theater this afternoon while killing time downtown. Don't tell The Kid...)

(Update 2: The Kid found a new fairy door on Friday while we were wandering around downtown A2! This one was at Peaceable Kingdom on Main. Here he is, saying hi to the fairies:

And here he is looking through the windows to the fairy kitsch-shop on the inside of the real-life kitsch-shop:

Here's a closeup through the windows. This one was super-cute.)

Saturday, August 2, 2014

A Room of His Own

The Kid's garage, complete with trucks, books, and costumes.
Back when we were preparing for the move, I asked The Kid, "If you could have anything decorating your room, what would it be?" His answer was immediate:

"A garage!"

"You mean, like the parking spaces we have on the floor in the living room?"

"No, like, a shelf where I can park my trucks."

And so the wheels set to turning. I wasn't going to go out and buy a garage for The Kid's room; we had plenty of shelves that could be repurposed. But, of course, me being the Type-A wanna-be crafter I am, I didn't want to just put a shelf in The Kid's room and tell him that's where he had to put his trucks every night. It had to be something special. I set to planning.

The Kid stayed with my folks while we moved so he didn't get underfoot, and so he had a place to sleep while our furniture was in transit. We wanted to make it a priority to unpack his room first thing, so that when he got to Ann Arbor, he had a place of his own, even if the rest of the apartment was an absolute mess. Which it kind of still is.
The decals went up first thing! Even if The Kid had no furniture, he'd have some trucks in his room.
But as his arrival day approached and we still didn't have any furniture, we were getting anxious. Would we have time to set up his furniture? And would I have time for the craftiness I wanted to do on his garage? (I didn't want to tell him "Well, this is your room, but this shelf is going to look totally different once I have the time to do it..." and then procrastinate my way to not fixing it. I know myself pretty well.)

So, thank goodness the furniture arrived a couple of days before my parents and The Kid. Jake got the call that the movers were two hours away while we were sitting in a theatre watching The Edge of Tomorrow; we were supposed to get 48 hours notice, and so assuming the furniture wouldn't come for days, we went on a movie date and made plans with local friends. Surprise! We canceled all of our plans, and the next day, I ran out to Michael's to get my supplies.

I spent the majority of the next day out on our deck crafting. (I can not express how excited I am to have an outdoor space!) It was a beautiful day for garage-making, and I'm absolutely thrilled with the way this turned out, especially since I had no plans or directions, no Pinterest inspiration, just what I was seeing in my head.

Since I had no directions, after the jump is the step-by-step for what I did, in case anyone else wants to do something similar. Or, if you're just curious.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Unexpected Discoveries

The weird things you discover after moving to a new town.
  1. My hair looks better in Michigan. The lower humidity in Ann Arbor is much better for my curls. This means I've had to experiment with products, since I've lived in the world of crazy frizz since my hair decided to be curly 22 years ago. (It was stick straight until I was 12. I got a perm--it was 1992, shut up--and it stuck. Forever.)
  2. Lower humidity means we're thirsty all. The. Time.
  3. The thing that's been taking the most getting used to in the apartment: I have to turn the other way to get to the light switch in my bathroom. 
I'm sure there will be more unexpected discoveries coming up...

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Lessons Learned (...and learning...)

My favorite box label. Only in our apartment.
We're deep into the unpacking process, and I've been learning a lot about long-distance moves. I' storing some notions for the move in two years. Things I experimented with, like:
  1. Making a hole in the bottom of a garbage bag, threading hangers through the hole with clothes still on the hangers, and tying the bag up. I had too many clothes in my closet for one wardrobe box (even after all of the donations and swaps! How did that happen??) and this helped keep them organized.
  2. Organizing my jewelry by wrapping my necklaces individually in tissue paper (okay, I used Kleenex) so they didn't get tangled, and bagging pairs of earrings in tiny ziplocks so nothing got lost.

And some things I learned from having guys load our stuff on a truck and drive for several days:
  1. If using recycled boxes, make sure to label your boxes clearly! We used boxes from my mom's best friend's recent move, and even though we tried our best to scratch out her writing, and even labeled ours in a different color, the movers were still confused about which rooms to put the boxes in. ("Follow the black writing, not the green!") Plus, sometimes we just plumb forgot to label the boxes with our own directions, so we've been finding things in the wrong rooms sometimes.
  2. The "miscellaneous" box is not only a necessity, it's expected. One of our movers told me, "If you don't have at least one miscellaneous box, you're not moving right." That said, we have a lot of miscellaneous boxes. And they're not easy to unpack.
  3. The best box we had: our MISCELLANEOUS BOX OF DEATH. We had a huge box in the middle of The Kid's room that random big stuff went into. It was huge, it was messy, and it was awesome.
  4. Movers expect you to not be fully packed when they get to your place. So, if you've made a pact to trash/donate/leave behind anything that hasn't made it into a box by the time the movers arrive, unless you tell them that at the get-go, they might thrown your random junk into a box and move it halfway across the country. We've found a few boxes of old mail and things we meant to throw away or donate. Oops!
  5. Even with the best of intentions and super-nice and -efficient movers, things will be stressful and non-time-sensitive. It's tough to not know when your stuff is going to get to your new home, even though a couple-of-day delay gives you time to figure out where your furniture is going to go when it gets there. We thought we were going to get a two-day heads-up; what we got was a two-hour heads-up. While we were in a movie theatre seeing The Edge of Tomorrow. Because we thought there was no way our stuff was going to arrive that day.
  6. It all worked out fine.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

The First Great Move

Well, cats and kittens, Phase One of The Great Move is officially done. Jake and I are living in our new apartment in Ann Arbor, waiting for our stuff and our son to come join us.

The movers loaded up their truck on Monday--three and a half hours later than expected, but they moved very efficiently after they did show up--leaving Jake and I with a mostly-bare apartment, an indifferent turtle, and a very confused cat. (He was more than content with the boxes, though.)
Box Cat
We were busy the rest of Monday with errands: returning the modem and cable boxes, buying necessary toiletries, packing up stuff to take in our car, cleaning, and hanging out with friends at our favorite soon-to-not-be-local-any-more place.

We woke up bright and early on Tuesday morning, set to packing the car and cleaning out the kitchen (seven bags of garbage from our tiny little kitchen! How???), and turned in our keys. I suppose it always feels this way during a move, but I felt like I was in a sitcom, say the last episode of Friends, or The Cosby Show, where there's a poignancy to turning off the lights and closing the door for the last time.

I guess that's why it's a trope, right? That feeling of closure, of not being able to look behind yourself any more, and the necessity in moving forward? (Sorry to get morose on you; it still hasn't 100% hit me yet, but I did spend a good five minutes sitting on the floor in The Kid's room on Tuesday, thinking about how he'd never see that view again. The feelings are starting to creep in.)

Iggy was super good on the 8.5-hour drive to Ann Arbor. Jake and I had been worried; on every drive he's taken in the past, he's yowled so much that we've had to let him out of his carrier and hold him in a vise grip on our laps. This time, though, he hardly made a peep, even when his water spilled on him during a rest stop and he had to air dry. What a trooper! I think the change this time might have been putting his bed in the carrier with him, rather than the towel we usually put in.

Side note: Iggy got into catnip for the very first time on Monday. Apparently, he's one of the cats who just blisses out rather than getting hyper. Who knew? Good to store for future reference.

The drive wasn't too bad at all, and it was great to get the keys and walk around our new place.

Due to administrative silliness, we actually had no idea what floor plan we'd be walking into. I think we had built one up in our heads, and of course, that wasn't the one we ended up getting. The luxury of a long-distance move where your furniture doesn't arrive for days and days, though, is that you get to take the time to really figure out where everything is going to go.

We're getting used to the floor plan, and so while for the last two days, we've been living like this:
Living Room (with a new area rug!)
Breakfast Bar, with a peek into the kitchen. 
Dining Room
...we have a good sense of where things are going to go when we get them. (When we're going to get them is another story! We're crossing our fingers for tomorrow.) Yesterday, we went to the Habitat for Humanity Re-Store to pick up a new dining room table and comfy chair to replace the ones we left behind--that place is amazing, by the way, and I think there will be many visits in the future, for furniture and knick-knacks.

We've also, of course, been exploring local food. Yesterday, we visited the Zingerman's empire in a weird industrial park, and spent way too much time sampling cheeses and desserts.
Zingerman's Creamery
Our apartment is within a five-minute walk of a grocery store, pet supply store, and a couple of restaurants, which was really key when we were looking for places to live. We're really excited about the Halal restaurant we walked to for dinner last night and the Great Harvest Bakery in the same plaza, and we know The Kid will flip his lid for the frozen yogurt place that's all tricked out in his favorite color.

It's a lot of getting used to, and the learning curve is going to be steep. But I've been enjoying coffee on our balcony and the luxury of having laundry in-unit. Updates as they come!

Sunday, May 4, 2014


I might be a little too excited about re-mounting my favorite play I've ever written. How hard do you think it would be to get IStage to use this Pulp-O-Mizer poster for summer camp?

(Also: Pulp-O-Mizer is my new favorite thing.)

Take a Seat


There are certain things that are true when two semi-adults blend apartments. One of those true-isms is that someone will wind up with furniture about which she's (oh, um, I mean they're) not wholly fond. When Jake and I moved in together almost ten years ago, he was mostly happy to toss the furniture from his studio apartment in favor of mine.

But there were The Chairs.

The Chairs had lived with Jake since 1999, and were the very definition of institutional-chic. Like, they looked like they belonged in a hospital waiting room, which is not exactly the look anyone is really going for in their home. Except for a 19-year-old college boy, who may-or-may-not have gotten them extremely inexpensively.

And so they were sequestered to our bedroom, buried under laundry and piles of books, and only sat upon if both of us were putting our shoes on at the same time, and someone needed a surface to perch on for a second. In the midst of The Great Purge, I decided that there was no way these chairs were moving to Michigan with us. I hated them: I hated the color of the wood, I hated the look and feel of the upholstery. There was no way these chairs were getting loaded onto a moving van and getting shipped 800 miles away, just to get buried again.

Unless I made them different chairs.

The practically-free status of these chairs made them perfect candidates for experimentation. I figured, I could teach myself upholstery and painting/staining (via Pinterest, of course!) and if they turned out looking awful, well, I wouldn't have sunk a lot of money into them, right? So, I set off to research, as is my wont.


First consideration: what color should the wood be? I looked into Chalk Paint, but ultimately decided that I didn't love any color enough to commit to opaque paint, and that I'd rather let the wood show through. That led to a trip to Strosnider's with The Kid. Oh, how I love my neighborhood hardware store! I bought sandpaper, a brush, and a dropcloth, my mini-consultant helped me choose a stain color, and we were good to go.

Next, of course, I had to choose the fabric for the upholstery. After far too many hours browsing on Fabric.com, I finally bought five samples. Five minutes with my mini-consultant after I got the shipment, and I had chosen Premier Prints Suzani Summerland/Natural(No, I don't let The Kid dictate my life, but the boy has an eye for color and pattern!)

Then, I just had to...um...do it. It took me several days, since I could only do so much while (a) I was at home, and (b) The Kid was sleeping or able to help me. And I was seriously proud of the outcome! The pseudo-before/after is at the top of the post, and the how-to is after the jump!