DIYer, Urban Gardener, Astoria Resident, Vintage Collector, Intermittent Blogger

This Astorian Life – Prepping For An Urban Yard Sale

Japh and I have amassed a ton of stuff over the past few years. It’s like we can’t help ourselves every time we stop by a yard sale, or antique show, or estate sale. Saying “stop by” is probably not the correct phrase, because that makes it sound like we go to these things by accident. That is totally not the case. We plan these things, and then a few times a year we are like “Ermahgad! Why do we have SO MUCH STUFF?” Fast forward to me convincing Japh that we have to have a yard sale this upcoming weekend (Oct. 19th & 20th).

Vintage Yard Sale Flyer

Yard / Garage / Stoop / Tag sales in NYC vary greatly, and a lot of the time they are overpriced bullshit items that the owner thinks is worth way more than what they are asking. Typically we shy away from most of the sales in our neighbor because for the love of Christ why would someone want to pay $175 for your awful buffet table that isn’t even made of real wood? OK, maybe I’m holding onto a bit of internal rage at some neighbors who are clearly yard sale morons. Moving along…

Basically are greatest goal (outside of clearing out our apartment so that we can start honing in on specific collections as opposed to collecting ALL OF THE ANTIQUES) is to not be yard sale jack-asses. We want to host a sale that we would want to go to, and in order to do so we decided that the following criteria must be met:

  • Cool shit (less plastic kids toys, crappy Ikea pieces, and more awesome clothes, housewares, gadgets that work – vintage preferred)
  • Reasonable prices (Oh, that StairMaster cost you $1,000? Newsflash, no one cares how much you spent on it) 
  • Photos of the items being sold, or at the very least some descriptors (It’s great to know that you will have women’s clothing, but would it kill ya to take a moment to say what kind, the sizes, brands, etc.?)
  • Clear local signage
  • All items are labeled with prices (There is nothing more aggravating than the yard seller who chooses prices based on what you look like)
  • A modicum of organization (raise your hand if you think that putting your microwave on-top of your jeans pile is the best idea ever?)

Once we figured out these major points we started working on the following, in this order:

  • Went through every place in our apt that could possibly house items — closets,  boxes / storage bins, cabinets, china case, buffet table drawers, the space under our bed…
  • Placed all of items we were open to parting with in our hallway in total chaos formation
  • Stared at the pile of pandemonium every time I passed it for about 2-days straight
  • Buckled down and grabbed items that were of the same type (i.e. women’s clothes, men’s blazers, ceramics, accessories) and made piles in the living room
  • Arranged boxes, started price tagging, once a few of the same were priced took a quick iPhone photo, then packed them into a box. Once the box was full I tagged the box with what was inside and placed it against a wall in which it would be at least slightly out of the way
  • Repeat previous point until everything is tagged and boxed
  • Worked up some copy for a flyer, and a template to use for the online ads
  • Posted ad on every classified site possible
  • Printed flyers and gear up to post them a day or two beforehand

So this is basically where I’m at with this, and I feel like we have this pretty under control. We’ll start out with the signs on Thursday evening. Fingers crossed that our first urban yard sale is a success.

{This Astorian Life} Becoming a Sister In Law

Being a Sister-In-Law is a lot harder than I thought it would be, and by that I mean I don’t think I ever really had considered that being married to Japh would mean that I would have a new set of family members that would need attention. I know it sounds odd because of course marrying someone would mean that there are new people / emotions / complications / moods to become accustom to, but it just really didn’t cross my mind. Until this weekend.

Oh man – this past Saturday was a total shit show complete with yelling, fighting, screaming, throwing of things and saying things that one may or may not fully mean. Disclaimer — none of these actions were performed by me. My youngest sister in law and my husband got into an argument that escalated into nasty proportions. They were both wrong and I won’t get into the full details of how it came about but it started with toothpaste. Yes — fucking toothpaste.

We were visiting my father in law and as luck would have it, the whole clan was there (both sister in laws and father in law). Somehow the fact that Japh had left toothpaste unattended in the house was brought up by youngest sister in law and then ALL of the things that have been bothering her came pouring out. Such as:

  • How Japh never visits unless he needs something
  • How Japh never helps out around his Dad’s house
  • How he doesn’t care about anything except his little fucking married life
  • How he never calls

You get the point. Youngest sister in law is just downright not happy with her brother. Most of the things she said are kind of true — in that he has been pretty distant lately. But lets break this down for a moment:

  • Youngest sister in law started college in late August
  • Mother in law died in late September
  • Japh and I got married in early November
  • The sadness of the holidays without mother in law
  • Oldest sister in laws moves to DC in mid January
  • Father in law starts casually dating a family friend in March

Everyone has started to try and move on with their life after mom’s gone and youngest sister in law has kind of been left by the way side. She’s 19 and figuring out what the hell life is supposed to be for her. This is a rough age, especially taking into account all that has been going on her life.  I still get sad about losing my mother in law. Not as frequently as I used to but I can’t even imagine what it would be to lose my mom at 19. And then feel like you’ve lost all your other family members because they are off doing their own thing.

I have one younger brother so this whole sister thing is brand new to me. To be fair, healthy female relationships are pretty new to me. I’m better at handling male emotions. This weekend I got an opportunity to workout my sister in law training. There was SO much talking about feelings. So Much. Wine was involved, so you know — that just made it worse. Or better, I’m not sure.

By the end of the night things had basically been sorted. Did I mention that this whole fiasco lasted about 9 hours?? In any case, I realized that part of this is my fault too. I haven’t been there for my new sisters. I haven’t played an active role in their lives and I should have. I should have been better when I noticed months ago that my husband was pulling away from his family. I should have pressed harder as to why he was pulling away instead of being selfish because it’s easier to have him to myself and my family.

While all families are fucked up in their own way, mine has basically worked itself out and now at this point in my life my family is pretty self sufficient. My kid brother just moved back to NYC from WV and is living with us so that he can get back on his feet. I’ve gotten to the point with my parents that visits are a fun thing and not a necessity or a chore. Japh’s family is sailing in rocky waters right now, and that means more work, more communication, more face-time, more understanding and more attention.

This Astorian Life {The Quest to Figure Out Why My Body Attacked Itself}

We are a quarter of our way through 2012 and I haven’t posted a thing since Christmas. That’s pretty par for the course. I’ve never been very good at keeping up with a blog. So now of course I will brain dump the past four months.

Things That Happened In January:

  1. I got so fed up with my job that I reworked my resume and sent it out to 7 select advertised positions
  2. I went to my very first barcholorette party and bridal party

Things That Happened in February:

  1. I woke up one morning and couldn’t move both of my shoulders
  2. I went to lots of doctors
  3. I was subjected to a dozen x-rays
  4. I laid through two MRIs
  5. Doctors diagnosed me with a herniated disc in my cervical spine and sent me to see a neurologist

Things that happened in March:

  1. The neurologist conducted a nerve test on me in which he electrocuted my arms and then stuck me with needles (fun times were had)
  2. The neurologist said my lack of shoulder movement was probably from depression
  3. I went to see a general practitioner. He ordered bloodwork.
  4. The bloodwork came back with the result of me have an incredibly high rhematoid factor.
  5. At this point my shoulders decide daily which one wants to work, both my elbows think its a good idea to join the pain party, as well as my knees and feet
  6. I go on a job interview
  7. I get a job offer
  8. I accept said job offer

Things That Happened in April:

  1. I start my new job and soldier though pretending that I’m totally not in pain every day.
  2. I take lots and lots of naproxen.
  3. At most I get about 2-3 hours of uninterrupted drugged sleep per night.
  4. I become a total cranky pants (read: nasty bitch)
  5. My poor husband has to put up with me hobbling around the house and basically being a bitchface all of the time
  6. I start to really dislike my life
  7. More blood work
  8. Results come back, on my 31st birthday that I have Rheumatoid Arthritis.
  9. I see a Rheumatologist.
  10. I’m put on meds – one of which is a lower dose of what chemo patients are given
  11. I feel sorry for myself. I let this go on for two days
  12. I have my very own pity party all by my lonesome
  13. I cancel most of my birthday plans
  14. I decide that feeling sorry for myself makes me feel like a weak son of a bitch
  15. I start working on a life change plan

So, that pretty much brings us up to date. Lots of different doctors who all had different diagnoses. It took them four months to figure out that I have RA. The first thing I thought when the doc said RA was — “WTF? An old persons disease?!”, but after some research I learned that it’s pretty common for women between 30-60 (way for me to make that cut-off, eh?).

I think the best thing that has come out of this debacle (besides finally knowing why my body hates me) is fully realizing how amazing the people in my life are — my friends have been incredibly supportive, my husband is one of the most patient men of the face of this planet and my family will do just about anything for me. I’m not certain how I got to be so lucky.



{This Astorian Life} Xmas Integration

Xmas is supposed to be one of the happiest times of the year. This year it was a bit rough. Japh’s mother died this past September a few weeks before our wedding so our holiday plans for 2011 were basically all over the place. Also, with this being our first big holiday married that meant that we would actually be spending the entirety of the Christmas holiday weekend bouncing between our respective family’s homes.

Friday, December 23rd, 2011:  Japh and I have a tradition of having what we call “Little Xmas” on the Eve of Xmas Eve. We exchange presents and enjoy a bottle of Anchor’s Christmas Ale. This year I got some seriously fantastic swag — A vintage mink stole, An ice cream maker attachment for my stand mixer, A handmade red applique apron, A working hairdryer w/ stand from the 1950’s and a hiking trip upstate.

Woooo Ice Cream!

Japh for years has been wanting to learn how to play the upright bass. Now these things are stupid expensive. Like buying a car expensive. Due to this I decided to go the safe route and rent him one for 6-months to see if he actually takes to it and I threw in a months worth of lessons to be held in our apartment.

My Husband Lookin' Seriously Debonair

Saturday, December 24th, 2011: My family celebrates on Xmas Eve. We have a tradition of eating pizza, then opening presents and then listening to some David Sedaris. It’s pretty much the most amazing family night ever. This is the first year that a non-blood family member was privy to these events. Japh has participated in two of our Thanksgivings so I briefed him that our Xmas Eve celebration would for the most part be the same — except that there are loads of prezzies and instead of a traditional dinner, we have pizza. The boozing and eating for hours remains the same, as does the playing video games with my Dad. I think Japh liked it. A lot. Also, my parents got Japh and I a telly!

Woooo Flat Screen Telly for us!

So, in review — Friday the 23rd we have an awesome “Little Xmas” together. Saturday the 24th was the Xmas Eve Extravaganza in which we drove 70 miles to my folks place. Late Xmas Eve we drove the 70 miles back to our home in Astoria so that we could sleep for four hours before we got up and hauled ourselves to Japh’s Dad’s home to make sure we are there for their Christmas morning celebration.

Sunday, December 25th, 2011: Japh’s Family Christmas — oh man was this rough. The house was quiet when we arrived. A feeling of anxiety and unease wafted through all of the rooms. I don’t mean to sound over dramatic but god damn the tension was thick. I cannot begin to understand how hard it is for them to push through and participate in a holiday in which their mother was the driving force. After a few hours we open prezzies and overall it went alright. Not nearly as cheerful as our previous two sessions of giving and receiving.  Japh had the idea of fixing up an old vintage frame that his sister Sarah had found in our neighborhood a few months back. He fitted it with a photo of him, his sisters and father from the wedding. While it was sad, it seemed to go over well.

Early that afternoon we drive about 100 miles to Japh’s uncles home for Christmas dinner. That was a little strange. Not bad, just odd because we don’t really know that part of the family all that well. After gorging ourselves on the amazing food we drive 75 miles back to our home. OMG – So much driving.

I’m not sure that I can handle this much integration of Christmas next year. While nothing incredibly drama filled happened, it was just a bit too much traveling. It’s hard because I’m so close with my family that adding a new addition of family members that come complete with their own ideas of Christmas and traditions is a weird notion. You know how women are supposed to take on their husband’s family as their new family? Yea, that’s not exactly how I was raised. The selfish part of me is like “My Family! My family! MY family!” but I know that’s not fair.

I’m working on understanding the nuances of gaining new family members. And understanding that now that I have sister in-laws as opposed to them just being my boyfriend’s sisters that more responsibility and communication is now required. Maybe it’s just me being selfish but I’m pretty sure that my family is not nearly as much work. My folks do their own thing and require very little from me or Japh. My kid brother lives in West Virginia, so actual interaction is pretty minimal. I’m not entirely sure how to be a good sister / daughter in-law but I’m trying to figure it out.

{This Astorian Life} Out of Circulation

To say that I haven’t posted in a while would be an understatement. Much has occurred since my last musing. The most exciting of which, I guess would be that I got married ;) Yup, we finally did it and I have to say that it was fabulous. Not just the whole getting married to the most amazingly perfect man (for me) but rather, the wedding itself. I don’t care if this  makes me sound like a pretentious elitist snob — Our wedding was the shit.

We decided early on that the wedding would be very DIY. We did this for two reasons — 1) If you & your partner are crafty then this is a very inexpensive wedding path to choose. 2) Japh and I are down to the core DIY’ers and are kinda control freaks and didn’t really trust people (vendors) to be able to pull off exactly what we envisions. Ok, ok…truth be told it was more about saving money. Our total wedding budget was $15k and $12k basically went to our venue. If you are playing along at home, that only left us $3k to take care of all of the details.

Oh. My. Goodness. So many details. There’s my dress, his suit, the bouquets, the centerpieces, the guest gifts, the escort cards, the save the dates, the invitations, the music, the officiant, the photographers, the venue, the food, the bridesmaids dresses, the boutineers, the first dance song, etc. It just goes on and on and on. Most of these things come with a price tag, and a hefty one at that if you aren’t careful. With approximately $3k we pulled off the following:

Centerpieces were a combo of tree branches, inexpensive copper(esque) French flower buckets, book page flowers, twine, ribbon, old books picked up at garage sales, already owned vintage mason jars, candles and Japh’s mother’s lace doilies that she had collected. Total approximate cost $105.00 (about $13.00 each).

Materials are inexpensive, but this bouquet was incredibly time consuming.

Holy mother of Christ are flowers expensive. Outside of the price (which, of course was a huge factor), we decided early on that the bouquets would be paper. After making countless book page flowers and attempting to put them together as a bouquet, we noticed that something was definitely missing. W e had a fair amount of burlap ribbon left over from the centerpieces and after a peruse on the internet I came across a moderately simple tutorial for burlap roses. Total approximate cost for the materials used in my bouquet $14.00.

UPDATE 9.04.13:  Though, I must admit that while the raw cost is relatively low – this bouquet takes quite a bit of time to put together. Which my husband and I have learned now that we have decided to make and sell custom bouquets similar to the ones pictured here.

I had three bridesmaids, and we created a toned down version of my bouquet for them (because as Japh pointed out — mine should be the most awesome). Total approximate cost for each bridesmaids bouquet $6.00.

This seems to be the best shot of the boutonnieres. I have to credit Japh on this one. I came home one day from work and he had designed and made all of them. Total approximate cost for six boutonnieres $4.00 .

I waited for what some would say was a long time before I purchased my wedding dress. I bought it EIGHT months prior to the wedding but most people that I encountered were appalled shortly after we announced that I hadn’t even put much thought into my dress. Those people are dum dums. It’s a god damn dress. Yes, sure it’s important but there was no way that I was going to let that rule my world until I found one. I knew that I didn’t want to look like a layer cake. No judgement if that’s what you want — ok, that’s a lie. I just knew that for me, as a 30 year old grown ass woman that I wasn’t going to squeeze this size 12 body into a mess of ruffles, tulle and beads. Enter Kimera Designs. I discovered this gem of a dress shop on Yelp and am eternally grateful because of it. Yvvone, the shop owner and designer custom made me the most affordable yet elegantly simple dress. Total cost of th edress $ 620.00. Crystal hair comb, Free (already owned). Shoes (not pictured) $35.00 gold Chinese Laundry ballet flats. Earrings, Free (a gift from my Aunt who owns an accessories shop in Midtown Manhattan). Under garments, technically $80.00 but I never ended up wearing them because that stuff makes it hard to breathe. Total approximate cost of outfit (including undergarments even though they weren’t worn) $735.00.

For our guestbook we used a typewriter from the 1930’s (borrowed from the Best Man because we didn’t have time to get ours oiled and serviced). Total cost $8.00 (for new ink ribbon).

Japh & I hadn’t really even considered escort cards until a week before the wedding. I feel as if these are the kind of things that only kinda matter. We didn’t want to spend much on something that would for the most part be thrown away, so we utilized our library card RSVP template and put together some make shift escort cards. Total approximate cost $2.00 (paper was leftover from our invites)

Japh’s suit was a bit of a stresser. We purchased a gorgeous one pretty early on in the planning stages for about $150.00. As we got dramatically closer to the wedding the suit didn’t fit all that well. We had bought it about a size too small off Ebay thinking that Japh would most likely loose a bit of weight. Never, ever, ever do that. So two weeks before the wedding we scrambled but luckily found this amazing 3-piece corduroy vintage dead stock suit on Ebay for $170.00. Shoes, Free (already owned). Tie, Free (was a lovely extra from the seller of the second suit). Shirt, $25.00. Total cost of outfit (including previously purchased suit) $345.00.

Hair and make-up. This is something that I hadn’t even considered until my mother gave me a heart attack about it when she found out that I hadn’t hired someone. It was two weeks before the wedding and there I am scrambling across Yelp when I find Margie. After some negotiations we find common ground and overall I was pretty pleased with the results. Total cost $325.00 (including trial dry run in which I’m quite certain she thought I was a crazy person because I kept asking her to stop putting so much god damn make-up on me).

Now we are at $1,562.00 with $1,438.00 left in our budget. Here is a breakdown of some of the remaining items:

  • Photographers: $600.00 (including tip)
  • Rings: $43.00 (mine was free, it was my mother’s, Japh purchased a titanium band on Etsy)
  • Save the Dates: $12.00 (for postage. Japh designed them & I printed them at work)
  • Invites: $47.00 (for stationary & postage)
  • Officiant: FREE (we paid him with veggies and herbs from our roof garden)

At this point we were left with $766.00 for misc emergency stuff, taxis, bridal party gifts, etc. Suffice to say, we stayed under budget.

I’m seriously a lucky gal. We had the most wonderful wedding and our guests were amazing. While I am a married lady now I don’t feel all that different. Perhaps time will change that but I kinda hope that it doesn’t. In any case — Cheers to not breaking the bank and still getting exactly what you want!

{This Astorian Life} Moving Forward

On September 24th, 2011, my to-be mother in-law died. I had only known her for just under 2-years. Her name was Helen. She was wonderful, caring, sharp as a tac, nosy, tall, full of light, opinionated and sweet. She loved her family above all else. I had already taken to calling her “mom”. She would have been an awesome mother in-law. Sure there would have been times of aggravation but I would have loved her so very much. She was slender and had a long nose and when I first met her she had the most gorgeous long grey hair. She died of breast cancer.

I got the opportunity to become close to her because of the cancer. She was diagnosed shortly after Japheth and I started dating. Japheth moved home and in the beginning I would visit monthly. Staying entire weekends in their home in Northern New Jersey. At first it was a little strange for me but as time grew on I started to fall in love with not only Japheth but his family. His silent brooding father who is one of the softest, kindest men that I have ever met. His middle sister who in so many ways reminds me of myself, but in a lot of ways is oh so different and more hopeful than I am. His youngest sister, who is full of wonder and has an oddly appealing adult view of the world at the age of eighteen. And lastly, Helen — she was the glue that held the family together.

The last month of her life was the hardest, which I guess is not exactly a shock. I remember our last conversation — it was two weeks before she died. I have a cheap black knit Old Navy dress that she told me looked lovely on me and then we spoke about our garden and what Japh and I plan to plant in the fall. Helen was so full of knowledge. It was almost unsettling how much she knew about such a broad range of topics.

I miss her so much. About 2-months before she died she told me that she was happy that Japheth and I were getting married and that she knew that she would never have to worry about him. At the time I was touched, but dismissed it — eagerly thinking that she would get stronger and that she would still have plenty of time to worry about him. Now, it makes me really proud to know that she thought that about us and our relationship.

Slightly off topic but still important — I received an email from an old friend a few days ago. She had found out about Helen’s death and sent her sympathies. This person was my best friend for over a decade. We had a terrible falling out 3-years ago. At first I was thrown off when I saw her email address in my inbox, and then after reading her message I was unequal parts sad about the ending of our friendship and comforted by her words. I had sent a similar note to another old friend earlier this year when I had learned that her father had died.  That was email was not received well. This other friend, perhaps in her grief or her straight up anger towards me decided to blog about her distaste for my message as opposed to realize that what I was trying to do was be a human being. As Vonnegut would say “So it goes…” — I had no intention of attempting a rekindling of that friendship and had actually started typing such in that email but then deleted because I found it to sound harsh and unnecessary. After she had snubbed me the bitch in me wanted to wish her the worst, but honestly it’s just not in me anymore to feel that way. I’ve grown older, more forgiving — though outside of anything really terrible happening in her life, I cannot say that I give a damn.

Moving along, this old friend that had messaged me; we are meeting for a drink this afternoon. It’s weird because I’m a little nervous. Helen and I had spoken of her a few times and she had advised me to reach out to this friend. To mend fences. That if we were such excellent friends then we should be again. Helen was definitely more thoughtful and forgiving than I am. I’m also incredibly stubborn. This is something that will probably never change but Helen’s lasting impression on me is to be a better person and to follow what I think is right. Maybe this old friend and I will not be able to have a friendship after what happened but I am going to at the very least try.


{Life} It’s Supposed to Move on…

So my last few posts have been pretty depressing. To the 5 of you that actually read this blog — my bad for being such a downer. It’s been a rough few months. Planning a wedding with a terminally ill to be mother in law is really not very fun. Because this is supposed to be a happy time and I just feel so damn selfish. Last weekend Japh and I went together for a visit to his family’s home. It was the first time that I had been there in a few weeks. The time between my visit previous to this and last weekend is when shit really started to go downhill for her.

For months (since May) I’ve been consumed with anger, guilt, spite, sadness. It vacillates day to day. Sometimes I don’t think of it at all. This is usually when I’m working and too busy to think about anything else. Sometimes it’s all I think about. This is usually worst when I’m driving to  or from work. When I’m on autopilot and my mind can wander. I keep thinking that this is so fucking unfair. Why now? Why ever? Why before her first child gets married? Why before I get married? I waited so long to do this and now…this? What the fuck?

So yea, I’ve been a shit about the situation. Spending far too much time thinking about how this is affecting a stupid party. I’ve considered hard about cancelling but Japh’s family is insistent that we move forward. So we are. I’m not 100% sure I’m happy about this decision. Not because I don’t want to marry Japh but because I’m just waiting for it all to come crashing down. And there is nothing I can do about it.

I think that I’m most sad that I will never really get the chance to know my mother in law. Never get to hear all the great stories and words of wisdom that she is filled with. Never get to ask her advice on how to deal with a child going through their terrible twos. Never get to learn what it is about her that makes her light up a room. Never get to be angry with her. Never get to love her like I know that I would.

I hear from people all of the time how they don’t have good relationships with their in-laws. but I’m so very lucky. Japh’s family is wonderful, and welcoming, and warm, and kind. And they’re all so sad right now. And there is nothing I can do to make it better.


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