West Elm:
Reader. Wow. Many years ago, long before it became trendy, I was obsessed with the idea of a golden flatware set. These days you can find gold spoons and knives and forks literally everywhere, but when the idea captivated me, these were rarities that had to be specially ordered. I saw a set in Martha Stewart Living from a shop called West Elm, and I had to have them. They were exactly like the ones that I had dreamed of. And so I found them online and I ordered them and I was the happiest man in the world. Almost seven years later they remain my favorite pieces of flatware to eat with and they make me feel luxurious and wealthy every time I use them. I scrolled through the website, completely captivated by all the gorgeous things, but I never once dreamed of visiting the shop. Never had an opportunity, you see, as I live in the middle of Iowa, and we have always had a bit of a desert of opportunity here. Things have been changing and I couldn’t believe it when I read that two stores were coming to the area that I believed never would. First, we were getting an Anthropologie. I was gobsmacked. Then, I read that we were getting a West Elm. I patted my wallet fondly and apologized in advance. Thankfully, it’s not located in a place that I frequent, so I haven’t had too many opportunities to completely splurge on gorgeous pieces of decor that are ahead of the upcoming trends. That all changed this weekend. As I mentioned last week, I’m working to redecorate and improve my home, and it’s going to be a long journey, but I’ve already made considerable progress. The kitchen floor looks like it should be in Architectural Digest and the smart lights and assistants I’ve put in the place could be a showplace for IKEA. It’s wild. The living room has been completely redesigned in my mind and now I’m putting it all together. There will be a bit of extra work needed if I want to get the room done before Christmas, but I think I can make it work. Anyway, this weekend I bought most of the new furniture and then went to West Elm for a coffee table that I saw online. I couldn’t find the exact one I’d seen online, but I was absolutely captivated by another oblong one on display. I snatched it up with two matching end tables and a gorgeous lamp and I am so excited and happy for ME. I’m never going to leave the living room when I finish with it. I will also have to have some kind of agreement that people can only take pictures in it if they don’t show the room beyond the living room. It’s the first thing I ever redesigned, and while still an incredible improvement on the cracked white walls that used to be there, it’s an atrocity when compared to what I’m capable of now! I LOVE DESIGNING!

Y’all, I’m obsessed with home repair now. I always have been, of course, but now that I have an entire house of my own, it’s starting to get a little out of control. No surface is safe from my ideas for improvement. When I’m done, I hope the place looks indistinguishable from the miserable hovel it once was. I won’t be humble, I know that I have an eye for design and creating spaces that are relaxing, gorgeous, and unique. I transformed the upper level years ago, and I’m excited to get to work with the lower level. My ambition is to have the main rooms done by Christmas, though I’m not sure I’ll get around to doing anything at all in the bathroom. I might just have the thing knocked down and install a new one that is slightly more luxurious. There is nothing — and I mean NOTHING — luxurious about my current bathroom. It would be best to destroy it. Still; I think I can manage to get the other rooms finished. And it is getting easier all the time to do home repairs by myself now that I have some extra money and can afford tools. The right tool for the job literally makes all the difference, and this is something I should have known from my years and years of working as a baker. It’s better to use a bread lamé than a razor blade and it’s better to use a Silpat than parchment paper. Get the appropriate tool and you will love what you do because it’s easier and turns out better. This is what I’ve learned and what I want to teach you. Anyway, I put a new floor in my kitchen, which looks, I must say, INCREDIBLE, but the tiles are massively thick and I was having a hard time cutting them to fit in awkward spots. It finally dawned on me that I needed some kind of saw, so I found a Dremel at Menards and bought a little saw attachment. Reader…the machine is the stuff of dreams. It made it simple to cut the vinyl tiles to shape. Instead of the hours it was taking me before with a box cutter, I finished 1/3 of the room in like twenty minutes. It took longer to let the machine cool down between jobs than it did to actually install the floor. I was screaming with glee. Never will I ever do things the cheap way again. The right tool for the right job is worth its weight in solid 24-carat gold.

Great Courses — Broadway Musicals:

One of the underappreciated treasures of the modern age is Audible, a service that, for a reasonable price, allows you to download audiobooks straight to your cellphone for you to enjoy whenever it’s convenient. You can even sync the audiobooks to you Apple Watch and then stream them to your bluetooth headphones if that’s something that appeals to you. I might be a nerd, but I haven’t reached that level yet. Anyway, I adore Audible for the huge library that it has available and I have encountered so many wonderful books thanks to them, but the one item that I’m most obsessed with and can’t get over is their collection of lecture series from The Great Courses. If you haven’t listened to one of these offerings, you are really missing out. You can listen to lectures about literally anything. In years past, I have listened to Dr. Bob Brier lecture for twenty-four hours on ancient Egypt, I have been riveted to a history of the English language, and I have learned so much about ancient mesoamerican history that I didn’t know I didn’t know. This morning I finished a lecture series about the development of musical theater, something I didn’t know was quite so fascinating as it is. Who knew how political and important and complex musical theater was?! I have always had a soft spot in my heart for a show with a song and a dance, but never before was I aware of what really went into it. There are certain themes that work better, certain chords, certain acting techniques, certain controversial aspects that are sure to sell, and a certain amount of thievery that I hadn’t previously expected. I learned more about the minstrel show and vaudeville — things I never knew that I needed to know more about. I learned about the development and evolution of theater districts in New York City which as a frequent visitor of that place has made it endlessly more interesting. I now have a list of shows that I need to see at some point in my life that I never knew of or cared to see before. And, it wasn’t exactly the point of the show, but I learned that one of the symptoms of a certain type of brain tumor is the odd sensation of smelling burning rubber. Who knew? I now live in fear. Imagine my horror when I was listening to that lecture while driving a brand new set of tires. Let me tell you, that was a momentary nightmare.

Chocolate Orange:

I don’t know if I’ll be able to write a page about chocolate oranges like I seem to manage for everything else. For some of you, I’m sure you are thrilled I’m being less verbose, but I’m not forcing you to read this and you’re in charge of the speed of your scroll, so I suppose I have absolutely nothing to be worried about. For a long time a long time ago, I took issue with fruit covered chocolates. Why on earth would you want a perfectly good piece of dark chocolate flavored with orange or raspberry or other flavors? Why not just enjoy the chocolate as is? Then, like it’s managed so many times in the past, Paris changed me. I was at one of Pierre Hermé’s marvelous shops, and he has only made one thing that I don’t like, so when I was handed a chocolate sample, I of course devoured it even though I was suspicious when the shop assistand informed me that it was lemon flavored. Please. But I ate it and it was amazing and everything has been better for me ever since. My opinions have completely changed. Fruit and chocolate are actually perfect for each other even though they don’t sound like they would work. Now I love raspberry chocolate, orange chocolate, lemon chocolate, passionfruit chocolate, all sorts of chocolates — which brings me to my main point, CHOCOLATE ORANGES. I think I was first informed of their existance by comedy legend Dawn French, and I’m so glad that I was. Chocolate oranges are little balls the size of an orange that you smack on a hard surface to break it open. Little wedges of chocolate that look like pieces of orange fall off and they are addicting. This snack only seems to come around during the holidays, so I always make sure to buy as many of them as I can. They’re lovely and fun and I can’t stop myself from eating the entire thing…which is probably reason enough to stop buying the gorgeous little things. They’re not expensive, they’re absolutely decadent, and I need you to all get yourself to a grocery store immediately to get one. Such fun. Gift them to your children, your friends, yourself. Enjoy!

Roomba s9+:

Everybody drop what you are doing immediately and order the new Roomba s9+. It’s absurdly expensive, like it’s so expensive I almost felt guilty when I ordered it, but it’s so worth it. I’ll admit that the first model didn’t work when it arrived…and a $1,500 vacuum should really work the day it’s delivered. Still, the customer service was fabulous and a new one was shipped to me. Last night, I finally had a chance to try the thing out and I could not believe my eyes when the Roomba, belovedly named Rosie, whipped around the house and sucked crap up left and right. It was absolutely wild, y’all. As you’ve read above, I’m in the middle of some redesigns at the house, so there are things everywhere where they don’t even begin to belong and Rosie worked her magic all the way around boxes and chairs and refused to be kept down. She even vacuumed right up against the litter box, a moment that I felt magical and life affirming. The only thing that finally shut her down was the battery dying. There’s still some learning curves for me. It didn’t go back to the base right away to charge and I have to figure out how to clean the sensors off to make the machine work more automatically. I got a message from Rosie while I was at work saying that her dustbin is full, and I suppose it probably is. It’s been vacuuming the entire house for hours, so it probably needs some extra help getting the filth into the bin. Now, there are a few other things I want to talk about. The Roomba goes back to the base that has another vacuum inside of it to suck the crap out of the Roomba and into a holding device. Allegedly, this only needs emptied once a month or so. Can you believe?! When the house is set up again, I will theoretically have to not give a thought to my vacuuming aside from twelve times a year. That idea is wild. Another thing that impressed me was the robot’s ability to climb. I have a pretty impressive elevation gap between my kitchen and the rest of the room and that little marvel managed to climb up into the kitchen. When she came around the corner, I could hardly belive it. This machine is a treat. You all need one. You deserve one. Life is better with a robotic staff.

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