Thursday, December 9, 2010

I wonder...what happens to the furniture that won't fit?

I'm planning to write about my new furniture purchases, which were precipitated by my sister's moving back to the midwest.

A year and a half ago, I bought a condo and she moved to California for a year in Americorps. In a dorm room. So I took the best of both our places, including:
-her bed
-her couch, which was formerly my dad's couch
-a console table

Fast forward a year, and she's got a place in Milwaukee. And wants to sleep somewhere. Imagine that. Her move is (continually) cursed, but basically, here's what happened:
1. She has a really comfy bed. She wanted it back.
2. She really likes the console. That goes too. (And I wanted something with more storage anyhow)
3. The I don't love it, but it matches my whole room really well. Plus, its heavy and she didn't get movers for the Chicago end of the move. Who wants to carry a couch down two flights of stairs?

So she reserved a U-Haul truck (she signed a lease on Friday evening and planned the move for Sunday--it was nuts). And then she showed up to get the truck, and they told her she didn't have one even though she had her printed out reservation and that she had a van* instead. They told her it would fit a small apartment, which was all she had, especially without the couch, and she was comfortable driving those from her time in Americorps, so she took it.

FYI, you can't fit a full mattress in a van. Or rather, you can't if you want to have anything else in there. It can't go vertical, it has to lay on the floor. And I'm pretty sure its a bad idea to put your table on your mattress. So there went that plan.

All that to say, we determined that I would keep both the bed and the couch, and buy my sister a new couch to make up for it all. (I also gave her an aerobed and a folding chair). Luckily, I have an employee discount at Pottery Barn, and my mom's couch is from there, so we know its good stuff. She picked it out, we ordered (Oct 9), I got a shipped item email (Oct 26)......then I finally called Nov 24, and was told it was close, then they called her and it was all set to be delivered on Dec 7.

And then.

It. Didn't. Fit. And not for any of the normal reasons either. It was the ceiling of all things. In the hallways. It didn't leave enough room for the turn. The delivery guys thought it would fit too--they brought it up and everything. And no. So it's getting sent back.

Pottery Barn customer service was very nice when my sister called. The cost of the couch should be refunded (yay) but not the shipping or in-home delivery charge (boo, but logical). So we'll be out about $140. And without a couch of course.

I'm thinking of getting her floor pillows for Christmas...

* Do not let them do this to you. Bad! Turns out vans have to be returned and trucks can be one way. My mother-who-barely-drives had to drive the thing back from Milwaukee to Chicago, so it was also more expensive than the truck would have been.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010


My mom just sent me a quick email about this weekend--there's a festival in Oak Park and she thought we might like to come. She also told me she went to the Economy Shop (a local resale shop thats open a few times a month) and got a nice wood tv table.

Sweet! This is one of my Christmas presents! I gave my mom a list over Thanksgiving (my family is all about lists) and I wanted a tv table. It will be great for:
a) putting between the two chairs on the porch, and even eating a small meal out there
b) using with the armchair for the tv-puter. I have a 20" tv installed in my living room bookshelves, and then a mac mini and a wireless keyboard. So its a tv, but also a computer. Its great, but you can only have one thing on your lap at a time--either the mouse or the keyboard. So it isn't as versatile as it could be. With a table, we should be able to use it as a computer. Thats helpful, since my ghetto-fabulous iBook doesn't have much longer in it...

Plus its very green. I don't need a new one made, and it doesn't need to look some specific way--I just need a place to put my stuff sometimes.

So, yay for Christmas presents. And while we're on the topic, my mom called a few days after Thanksgiving so I could remind her what I wanted for Christmas.
Me: The tray table, a new heater, maybe a bathrobe, a timer
Mom: Oh, I got that already!
Me: ....

The funny/sad part is, its a good thing she told me. I probably won't actually get the timer (Christmas is too far away, and she'll hide it somewhere even she can't remember). This way I know to ask for it. And none too soon. My old one has gone haywire and instead of beeping switches to clock mode when times up. Odd.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Oh Christmas Tree

Alternately titled: Oh, Home Depot

We got our tree! It's up, and it looks lovely, and its drinking like crazy which I assume means its closer to alive than dead, so yay!

But getting the tree...

I would have liked to get the tree over Thanksgiving weekend (actually, I would have preferred for Jay to spend Thanksgiving with his family instead of Brian's, chop down my tree in Iowa, bring it back here and set it up in my living room, but that wasn't meant to be this year). Oh, and Mark was gone. So there's that. Anyhow, we planned to get it this weekend--a relatively tight time frame, because I'm hosting a cookie exchange on Monday night and may have to work all day Sunday. We were meeting my dad for dinner Friday night, which left Saturday morning.

And then the forecast kept getting mentioned in the news...snow! snow! snow! (yay!) Except that I didn't want to go a) drive in the snow b) get a tree in the snow c) bring the tree home on top of the car in continuing snow d) bring the snow inside with the tree. So instead we did it Friday night.

We had dinner with my dad, went for dessert with my dad (my father's family expresses affection via cash, food and post-its), walked back home and then right back to Southport because I wanted to go to the Southport Holiday Stroll just because. Really just because. I didn't want to buy anything, I was too stuffed for the free food and I don't drink anyhow--it was just fun last year so I wanted to.

Then we headed for Home Depot on Elston around 8:30 pm. We had a lovely experience buying our tree at this Home Depot last year, plus its cheap, so why wouldn't we. Unfortunately, apparently lots of people heard the weather forecast and decided they needed their tree before Saturday, so it was pretty busy. Last year, you could just grab someone to slice open a couple trees for you, bring one up to get its end chopped and then check out in the little kiosk in the garden center. We even picked up one of those giant tree bags. And then you carry it out and the nice people help tie it to your car. Sweet!

This year...not so much.

First we had some trouble finding someone to open a tree for us--we managed to stop one woman, but then she vanished. Once we finally chose our tree, Mark got in line to get in cut, and I went looking for a tree bag (the box by the kiosk was empty--sadness). I wandered all the way inside and along the checkouts, and finally found another employee, but she couldn't find any tree bags either. I came back outside in time to hear the woman helping at the register inform everyone they were closing the big door to the outside "Because its too cold."


"So you'll have to pay for your trees inside. We are closing this door down."


For real?!?! Not to be obvious,'s a TREE. Its not like you want me to bring my potted plant inside. Or my lightbulb. It's an 8 foot Christmas tree. And you have so much holiday stuff in the front aisle (the one that runs along the registers) you can't maneuver a flat bed cart through. But what can you do.

So Mark got the fat end and I got the skinny end, and we carried our tree inside to buy it. There's a bunch of stuff before the registers along the front of the store, but as we were walking, every register we passed was closed. Every. Single. One. In fact, the only thing open was Self Check Out. So we self checked our tree. And true to #@$%!@ form, the self-check out flipped out about its bagging area. You know, when it keeps telling you that an item has been removed or an unexpected item was detected and freezes up entirely. Even if you put whatever it is back.

Anyhow, we bought the tree, carried it out, and I pulled my car around to the garden center. Where, as it turned out, Home Depot's only employee without an attitude was stationed: Freddy. Freddy tied the tree to the top of our car, and was very nice and friendly about it (he also had an admirable tolerance for the cold) (and my tree didn't fall off my car).

So, the tree came home, we set it up, and as of tonight it is nicely lit and ornamented and quite thirsty.

And you better believe I got the receipt from Mark so I could "Share your opinion with us!" Here's hoping I win the $5000 gift card (or at least an apology for being forced to self-check my tree).

Thursday, December 2, 2010

A Greener Christmas

I love Christmas. I like setting everything up, and Christmas traditions, and Zoo Lights. And presents. Wrapping presents is one of my favorite-favorite things to do. And there are always so many cute new decorations in stores.

Today I saw a picture (on Hostess with the Mostest) of a styrofoam tree that was sprayed in glue and rolled in glitter snow. So cute! So simple! So cheap! A couple would look great on my 11-foot mantel. But--styrofoam? Sooo bad for the planet. And they probably take up some decent space to store. Keeping something around when you have limited space for a month per year seems silly (and I've already got plenty of Christmas decor in my storage unit).

And then there's the wrapping. My only black Friday purchase was $40 at Michaels. They had 50% off wrapping paper, and I got four rolls of solids (and, um, three rolls of patterns). It's hard to find solids on sale and I love dressing them up with fun ribbon (which made up most of the rest of my purchase, with a bit of card-making stuff thrown in).

I also buy a live tree. That's the most conflict-inducing decision there is, but to not have a tree feels so sad. Especially when I host a cookie exchange and a party and actual Christmas dinner in my condo. And fakes are so...fake (and have their own host of environmental issues). 

So here's the deal:
This Christmas, I need to spend some time to figure out how the things I love about the season fit with my values. And it will be a balance. I don't WANT to wrap peoples presents in grocery bags (besides, I bring my own, so I don't have those). And I like decorating.

How do you make Christmas just a little greener?

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Getting Greener

I'm a good girl. I ride my bike to work* at least once a week when the weather is decent. I try to combine trips in my car. I always bring reusable bags to the grocery store. I'm a die-hard recycler. I sponsor the environmental club at the high school where I teach (a brand new LEED building). I'm even a volunteer speaker for a program through the Chicago Department of the Environment.

But. BUT.

I use Cascade. I have a zillion different cleaning products, and I'm fairly sure most of them are toxic. I buy too many prepared foods. I eat meat. I work pretty far away and I do drive plenty of the time. (Its Chicago. It gets cold. I do my best here, people.) Some of those are things that probably aren't changing anytime soon, like the driving and the meat. But I want to make some changes in the cleaning supplies and eating department sooner rather than later.

I can't bear to throw anything out, so I'm currently using up my cleaning supplies, and then I'll start buying green. But what? My mom gave me some Trader Joe's detergent, so I'll start by trying that, and I also hear Seventh Generation has a good detergent (and its available at Whole Foods, three blocks from my house!). I'm definitely not a clean freak--just ask my sister--but I know many people are afraid to switch brands because the new one may not work as well. So we'll see how this goes, and I'll let you know as I start picking new brands. Oh, and another bonus? Many of the green products are multi-taskers. Hooray for taking up less space under the sinks!

What behavior are you trying to "green" up?

*I work 13 miles from home. My route includes the jail (actually one of my favorite parts and, if you think about it, perfectly safe), crossing under two different highways (90/94 and 55) and several industrial areas.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Hi Mom!


I started a blog!

I've been thinking about doing this for awhile, and with an empty long weekend (thanks, thanksgiving!) it seemed like a great time to get started. I'm excited to write about living better, both for my wallet and the environment. I'm not into personal finance, but I'm all for saving money wherever I can, as well as the environment.

Thats not all I'm about--I'm involved in my church, volunteer organizations, I ride my bike whenever I can (including my crazy long commute!) and I love to bake. I bought my condo a year ago and filled it up with (nice and high quality) hand me downs, which I'm finally trying to give my own look. I'll touch on those things a little, but mostly its all about saving money and the planet.

Here's hoping this helps me (and maybe you) develop some good ideas!