Tuesday, May 25, 2010


It's always as surprise when I get a box in the mail from my mom. I generally know the bulk of what she's sending me -- things I bought when visiting Ohio that wouldn't fit in my suitcase, a dress that I asked her to snag from my old bedroom, something she got for me on vacation -- but she never fails to cram that box full of a motley assortment of free-gift-with-purchase extras, like a Splenda-packet-stuffed Ziploc freezer bag or stamps or toothpaste or a jacket she doesn't want anymore. When I opened my last package from her, the first thing I saw when I popped it open was this:

Can't read the note? Here:

Please note that these magazine pages have been carefully placed in a protective plastic slide. Linda, Janis, I love you both.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

It was recently WHYY fund-drive time, that magical two-week period of interminable guilt-tripping and pompous preaching. After half an hour of pontificating about the value of NPR as a sophisticated alternative to those other uncultured radio stations, do you think the NPR anchor died a little inside when he then had to say, "This hour brought to you by Pajamagram"? Because I would have.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Five months ago I moved into a new apartment. It's on the top floor of a three-story walk-up in one of my favorite neighborhoods. When I first visited the building, I was won over by its busted-up door jamb, two-and-a-half-foot-wide stairwell (makes getting my bike up and down nightmarish adventuresome), exposed lightbulbs, and pervasive smell of mildew.

The apartment itself, not lacking its own selling points, is made of the scraps left over after what was once a single-family townhouse was divided into rentable units. It's a one-bedroom -- sorta. The kitchen is at least three times as big as required or desired for an apartment of this size, taking up most of the square footage. The stove, refrigerator, and sink are against one wall, my little two-top table is against the other, and in the middle is an expanse of empty black-and-white-tiled space that I still haven't found good use for (cartwheel practice? bocce court? Suggestions, please).

The kitchen leads into the Other Room, an all-purpose space that operates as everything else: bedroom, office, living room, work space (the massage table sets up very nicely between the loveseat and the bed, thank you). I ask a lot of the Other Room, especially considering that it's about 50 percent smaller than the vast wasteland that is the kitchen. The one thing I cannot ask it to do, though, is to store anything: the Other Room has no closet space. You may then wonder, "Where do you keep your clothes, Kate?" Why, in the kitchen closets, of course. Where do you keep your clothes?

I love all these things about my apartment. I love its tenement-style charm. I love its hissy, leaky steam heat. I love the concrete walls that reject my attempts at drilled holes. I love the ancient refrigerator that is so loud that it's almost as good as as white-noise machine.

I have decorated this curious apartment with my curios. And so, please join Nailgun Alley on a guided mini-tour:

Isn't this paint jobmagnificent? I wish I could take credit for it. It was like that when I moved in, painted by some mysterious previous occupant with excellent taste and way more patience with a roll of blue tape than I have.

The problem with this lovely centerpiece is that it forces me to maintain a constant overstock of beautiful apples. How many Fujis does one girl need at any given time?

Gin, coffee, and pizza sauce make good decor.

These illustrations are from an old Chinese cookbook. That hand soap smells really good.

Those little girls are perfume vials. I got the one on the right, then I got the blonde one (it's supposed to be Gwen Stefani. Seriously.) Then I decided that if I was going to have two, I should really have three so I could line them up in a vee formation like a little army of anime girls who are prepared to just smell so good at you if you mess with them.

Stuffed Mario & Luigi might be the greatest substitutes for throw pillows ever. I love how off-brand they are. Since when do the plumbing brothers wear bumblebee striped shirts, as if they're 1920's prison escapees?

Also: if anyone can hang that grid of pictures straight for me, I'd be much obliged. I find it impossible.

Sixteen of these bright-yellow ceramic bunnies with terrifying anthropomorphic eyes were on sale for 65 cents each at American Thrift in South Philly. I bought nine of them. I dropped and broke two the second I left the store; I dropped and broke two the second I got them home; I broke another the next day. I'm left -- till the next disaster -- with four. I'm fascinated that the previous owner managed to keep 16 of them unbroken for perhaps many years, and more impressed that the previous owner found a good use for 16 bright-yellow ceramic bunnies.

I bought this bike for $1 at a thrift store in Virginia. It is the heaviest thing I've ever lifted into a car. I got it solely for decoration, but everyone always asks me, "Do you actually use that thing?" The honest answer is, um ... yes, sometimes I do.

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