Jolie Maison

Internets, I am about to make a confession. One of my biggest shortcomings is that I am a horrible housekeeper.

I love having a clean house but I hate cleaning. I work hard and when I come home, the last thing I really want to do is clean. On the weekends I would usually rather relax or hang out with my husband and our friends, not spend my time scrubbing toilets and doing chores. I leave laundry until everything I own is dirty, then I dress out of the dryer. I don’t cook often because the kitchen is disorganized or messy or both. I am embarrassed to have people come in our door. I clean for special occasions and wonder why I don’t do it all time. It’s a vicious cycle. One day when I am able, I will have a housekeeper once a month at least. But until then, I am pretty much on my own.

My husband is very helpful if I ask him to do things, but left to his own devices he is maybe worse than me. His old room at his mom’s house still attests to that. If I thought I was a slobby packrat that man has me beat thousandfold! We are a matched pair, mostly in good ways, but this is definitely not a good way.

Our three cats don’t help much around the house, plus they shed like crazy shedding things. They also like to claw, and as a result our almost five-year-old IKEA couch and chair (along with our not-so-old luggage, grrr) are toast. This makes it hard to keep our place looking as nice as I’d like when it IS clean. I tell them frequently that they are why Mommy can’t have nice things.

I would love to move into a bigger space, maybe even a house of our own, but with my husband about to go back to school for a new degree (SO proud of him!!) that isn’t the best idea. We have a cute place with lots of potential, it just needs to get whipped into shape. I want a blog-worthy home that is comfortable, reflects us and our tastes (well, my taste mostly, as he doesn’t really care much as long as it looks nice), and that I don’t let get cluttered and slobby because I am proud of it. Right now we have no organization for things, no art on the walls, little decor elsewhere, too much unneeded clutter and not enough of the right furniture. I feel like I fail at being a real grownup with my own grownup place, and I want to change that. I feel like I can’t truly relax or dedicate time to what I want to do–write, craft, cook, learn–without feeling guilty until I get my house in order and learn to keep it that way.

I’m going to transform my apartment into une jolie maison. I’m going to go one room at a time and get it in good working order, then go the extra mile to make it pretty.

My starting point is our kitchen. We have a great kitchen with lots of cabinets, granite, and a built-in wine rack, but not much counter space. Organization and decluttering is key to managing my cooking and enjoying my time in the kitchen. Last weekend I cleaned out our cabinets and threw out expired canned goods and stale crackers. I did the massive pile of dishes in the sink and cleaned all the surfaces. The husband also reorganized the giant corner lazy susan cabinet that houses our pots, pans and casseroles. It was small progress but it has made a huge difference this week. I am going to continue the progress by cleaning out the fridge, cleaning the oven and moving the non-essential appliances off the counter (bye bye, Foreman grill and breadmaker) to make the most of the space we have.

After that, I want to add some fun touches to the kitchen…a lamp by the sink, a nice soap dispenser and sponge holder, some new potholders and towels, a rug and some framed art. I’d love to add a small rolling kitchen cart for extra counter space.

I’m writing about this here for two reasons: one, I want to document my progress, and two, I want to stay accountable. So many blogs show the pretty side of things…fun DIY, crafty and thrifty decorating, beautifully styled rooms. I want to get there, and it will be a bumpy road for me to become an organized grownup. But I know I can do it. My happiness depends on it!

C’est la vie

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I took French for six years, spread out over high school and college. I knew I wanted to take French more than any other foreign language from about the age of 12 or so. Somewhere, something had given me the idea that French was the most beautiful, romantic language I could learn because Paris was the most beautiful, romantic location. I have to say, 12-year-old me was quite wise. Paris is both romantic and beautiful!

I loved studying the language. Speaking it, reading it, and understanding it came very easily to me. I rocked a great accent (thanks to my hyper yet amazing teacher Monsieur Hardy) and I was an officer in French Club. I went to a French competition and placed in both poetry reading and singing. I was hardcore and I adored it.

Before our trip to Paris, I reviewed some vocabulary and felt pretty comfortable with my basic skills. I really had no trouble when we were there. I was able to communicate clearly and get us around the city, order food, shop, and navigate the streets, train, and Metro. Even so, I found myself missing the fluency I used to have. I have forgotten more rules and more vocabulary than I remember at this point. When I would pause briefly to consider my response in French, people would automatically switch to English. I know they were trying to be accommodating, which I appreciate so much! We had an amazing experience as tourists and the only rude people we encountered were, sadly, other Americans. I just felt disappointed in myself…both for not visiting that magical place sooner in my life, and for letting my French muscles get so lax. My Parisian professor from SMU would be so disappointed in me. I was the only student in my class she ever praised.

All this has renewed my passion for continuing to learn the language. I have Rosetta Stone, and I was recently introduced to Livemocha, an online learning site. I also have a sweet new friend who is quite fluent in French who has offered to meet me for some conversation en fran├žais…the former owner of Esme, in fact! I can’t wait to relearn what I’ve forgotten, and maybe surpass my previous skill levels someday.

Meet Esme

I bought my first bike in almost 20 years on Memorial Day this year. I lusted after one for years, envisioning myself in Paris on a sassy little vintage cruiser, a wicker basket full of flowers and a baguette decorating my handlebars…very similar to the fantasy I have of cruising through Rome on a Vespa, actually. It didn’t help that when we actually went to Paris, I saw chic French women on bikes everywhere.

In reality, I was afraid to pull the trigger on something so expensive when I wasn’t sure what kind of use I would get out of it. I kept my eye on Craigslist, but the kind of bikes (well-made, safe, not from a big box store) my husband wanted me to get were still too expensive. I understood his reasons behind wanting me to pay more for a quality ride, but that didn’t make my want-it-right-now self very happy at times. Cruisers go for a premium even used; the good ones get snapped up quickly, leaving only Wal-Mart Schwinns and Huffys. I didn’t give up, though. I was determined that I would find the used bike of my dreams, so I set up some searches on my Craigslist iPhone app and checked them a couple times a week. My tenacity paid off when I spotted this bright-colored beauty…a sweet Electra Cruiser 1 for an equally sweet price.

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Her name is Esmeralda. Since her purchase, she has lost the pannier baskets (not a good choice when her storage is upstairs!) gotten adjusted to my height, and awaits the end of the evil Texas summer before we can become true BFFs. We are in the middle of a long, horrible stretch of 100+ degree weather and it makes being outside truly miserable. I can’t wait until the weather cools down a bit so I can enjoy being velo-mobile. I plan on outfitting her while we wait with a front quick release basket, a rear rack, and maybe some chrome fenders. We are also trying to figure out the best rig to fit Esme in/on my Honda Fit for drives to trails that are out of riding distance from our house. I can’t use a normal trunk rack because of my spoiler and she needs some adjustments to fit in the back of the car.

Whenever get into something new, I start searching the Internet for blogs and forums that make me feel connected to other people with the same interest. I was thrilled to find many more blogs than I expected with a focus on girls riding the kind of bike I have while wearing fashionable clothes and having a great time. That is the kind of lady cyclist I want to be–stylish, laid back, and having fun. I’m never going to be a racer, serious road cyclist, or even a commuter (if we stay in Dallas, anyway), but I intend to enjoy my time on two wheels!