THINGS I LOVED/HATED THIS WEEK #253

LOVE:

Slim Base Cabinet:

I was just writing about all the different careers I dreamed I had enough time for. One lifetime isn’t long enough to be a curious individual. The world is full of too many wonderful things and opportunities to be tied down to one job or place or lifestyle. Why not broaden your horizons and try out something new for a change? In addition to being a teacher, electrician, baker, museum curator, and professor of linguistics, I know that I would be a fairly sensational interior designer. It’s something that I have a natural ability for. I wouldn’t say I possess impeccable spatial awareness, but I have a gut instinct for aesthetics. This was something I realized recently in life; I simply assumed that people were born with the ability to combine objects in a pleasing way. Take one look at the way my sister lives and you’ll know that my hypothesis has no evidence to support it. Lolz. This is a rambling introduction to quite a simple delight. I am working on redoing my kitchen. I’ve been redoing my kitchen for so long that I’m redoing some of the redos. My tastes and finances have changed since I started these much-needed improvements a decade ago. For years, I had a portable dishwasher that sat between my oven and refrigerator when it wasn’t in use, but now those things are no longer there. I bought a new refrigerator that is much wider than my old one, so the space for the dishwasher no longer exists. This prohibited me from buying another eighteen-inch portable dishwasher to perfectly fill the space, so, as you’ll read below, I installed a dishwasher in my old cabinets. The space that was left was a burden to my senses. I felt overcome with loathing whenever I walked through the kitchen because there was this gaping hole that killed the feng shui of the room. I couldn’t stand it anymore, so I started to search online for something to put there. I originally conceived of a rolling spice rack, which would have been enormously helpful, but I couldn’t find one the right size. I stumbled on narrow base cabinets unexpectedly. Not all brands make a cabinet so slim that it would fit it my spot, and if they did, oftentimes these were larger pieces that went all the way to the ceiling. I didn’t want that in my life, so I kept searching. I finally found the perfect one, completely unexpectedly at the glorious haven that is Menards. I don’t know if you know this, but Menards is a Midwestern marvel. It’s a store like Home Depot or Lowes…but better somehow. I can’t explain why. It just is. I love nothing more than spending hours roaming the aisles, picking up new pieces for projects that I’ll get to at some point in my life. Anyway, they had a slim base cabinet in white that was the exact size for the space between my appliances. I shrieked. It didn’t have a top, but a marble floor tile fit like a glove. I added some gorgeous hardware, slid the thing into place, and then I sighed with complete and utter contentment. All of my spices are organized right next to the stove. All of the awkwardly shaped pans and trays are at the bottom. And on top, I can display my citrus like I’m living on the set of a cooking show. The peace of mind this minor purchase has brought me is worth far more than I paid for it. It has brought joy to my life and contentment to my existence.

Iowa Caucus:

When I was in high school, I attended a caucus to see what all the hoopla was about. I’m an Iowan, and the Iowa Caucus has always been a big and mysterious deal. I didn’t understand what was happening in 2008, but all I remember was that I was livid that so many people failed to support Hillary Clinton. I’ll love her until the end of time. I have no idea why I never attended another caucus since then, but this week I felt the need to perform my civic and patriotic duty. I’m a political junkie anymore, anyway, so I wanted to be well-versed in the charmingly archaic tradition of caucusing. For those of you who are not from Iowa or unfamiliar with a caucus, this is an event where political parties express their preference for presidential candidates and then award them delegates in the hope of winning the party’s nomination. It’s wild. On Monday night, I made my way to my caucusing location, which to my anticipatory delight was hosted in a building on the grounds of the Woodward Academy, which is the site of an old state hospital. It’s commonly referred to as an asylum in the local area. I’ve never really been there, but you’ll hear horror stories of experimental lobotomies in the 50s and then hear about an escapee who is known for violence. It’s an interesting place to have so close to home. Long story short, this was a new caucus site that had only recently been added to the GPS database that is used by Google and Apple for their maps, and I was taken to a place that seemed correct but certainly was NOT. I pulled into a building that had exactly one car parked in front of it and I happily assumed that the caucus was going to be quick since I was the only other person there. The building was large and well lit but there was no signage anywhere. The door opened so I had to assume it was correct. I entered what I can only describe as an old abandoned asylum. There were no people there. There were no sounds aside from the humming of the lights. There was an overwhelming foreboding of something gone wrong. I simply assumed that I had entered from the back and would soon find the rest of the caucus. I was wrong and I realized this is why people always die in horror movies. It is so easy to make a dumb mistake. This was not where I was supposed to be and I had already gone through an entire labyrinth of hallways and chambers on my innocent and stupid quest to vote for the Democratic presidential nominee. I kept my cool, though there was no cell service in the building, and quickly retraced my steps, thankful to be back in the frigid night air about ten minutes later. I’ll never stop being haunted by that experience. The caucus location was up the road and equally unlikely. The entire experience was wild. There were only 51 people at the location and I was number 47. I’m not going to get into my personal politics, but the group I found myself in was so interesting that it made the entire experience worth it for me. One of the women was writing about a man born in the town I work who began a life of crime and ended up as one of the last inmates of Alcatraz. Another woman made life-size therapy dolls for the babies held at detention centers at the border of Mexico and the United States. It was a fascinating and somewhat exciting evening and I couldn’t believe the results. Do your part for Democracy.

Wonderful Things Anthology:

By now, you all know how passionate I am about ancient Egypt. It’s my life. As I’ve studied and become more familiar with the science of Egyptian archaeology, I’ve developed certain personal passions within this passion. I’m absolutely obsessed with hieroglyphs and have spent many moments of my life in blissful contemplation of the complexities of the ancient Egyptian language. It’s one of the loves of my life and the joys of my existence. This kind of dedication isn’t unusual for an Egyptophile, as the allure of hieroglyphs has captivated many scholars before me. Something more specific I’ve become absolutely obsessed with is the study of the history of Egyptology. This is rather specific, I suppose, but nothing thrills me like learning little facts about the people who first decided to study the ancient Egyptians. To my complete delight, a scholar named Jason Thompson has written a three-part anthology on the history of Egyptology called Wonderful Things. If you know anything about ancient Egypt, this will immediately recall the discovery of the tomb of Tutankhamen to your mind. When Howard Carter first thrust a candle through a narrow opening in the entrance of the tomb, he was so overwhelmed by the jumble of golden furniture and funerary goods. He was breathless and struck dumb. Lord Carnarvon, Carter’s patron and sponsor, asked, “What do you see?” Allegedly, Carter breathlessly replied, “Wonderful things.” These words have passed into infamy and they are truly one of the more emblematic phrases in the history of ancient Egypt. They are immortal in a way, and thus, they are perfect for the title of this three-part series. In the informative and easily read books, we go from the beginnings of Egyptian studies in ancient times to digs that are still unearthing treasures in the sands of the Egyptian desert today. I learned so much about the key players and the personal dramas that have made an impact on Egyptology. I’ve been forced to reconsider my opinions on Nubian studies. I’ve been shocked by the Aswan Dam in a way I didn’t think I could. It was all magnificent. It’s been fascinating to dive into the human side of Egyptology, too. Oftentimes we forget about the people behind game-changing moments that impact Egyptology and human history so profoundly. I am not known for being particularly humble, and I admit that I didn’t expect to learn anything profound, but each chapter had me frantically searching for additional information because of a reference to something utterly new to me. I can’t praise these books enough. They are fabulously annotated with source materials and my private Egyptological library has ballooned again thanks to the new titles and articles I’ve been introduced to. If you love Egypt like me, you need these books. They hold a cherished place on my shelves.

Giant Banksy Print:

If I had been born into a family like the Vanderbilts or the Carnegies, I have no doubt that I would spend my inherited fortune on art. I would amass a stunning collection of pieces that appealed to me, and then I would donate it all to some museum someday and have a wing dedicated to my largesse. However, I was not born into a family like the Vanderbilts or the Carnegies, so I don’t have a lot of original art. Instead, I have a bargain habit of buying copies of pieces I’m fond of. I ordered a gorgeous copy of a Guido Remi painting that hangs in the Louvre on Walmart.com, of all places, and I’m absolutely obsessed with it. I feel like I’m back in Paris even when I’m just at home. Another artist who I’ve always been fascinated by is Banksy. I love him for the mystery he cultivates, for the political message of his art, and for the absurdity of the things he gets away with. One of my favorite pieces by Banksy was originally done in Brighton, England, and it shows two male police officers kissing. It’s an iconic image and it’s famous for the controversies it has caused. Not only did it make a political statement, but it created a furor in the art world when the pub that was tagged (street art term for being painted on) removed the art and sold it to the highest bidder. There is a recreation of it in the same spot. When Jessica and I were last in Brighton, we unexpectedly came across it one night on our way to the movie theater to see Absolutely Fabulous. We were, of course, obsessed. It dawned on me the other day that this would be the perfect piece to hang in my dining room. It fits the color palette so well and I love the image and I had to have it. I wasn’t sure where to get an affordable Banksy. I looked at Banksy’s short-lived store that sold original pieces and prints, but it was long defunct. Not expecting any quality results, I looked on Amazon and quickly found exactly what I was looking for. For a little over a hundred dollars, I ordered a five-foot by four-foot print on three panels. It takes up a huge section of my dining room and looks absolutely sensational. Every time I walk by now, I can’t help smirking smugly. It reminds me of travel to my favorite English city beside the sea, it celebrates my long-established love for art, it recalls my delight for graffiti, and it just looks expensive. I love designing on a budget. I do worry about the legality of this image, it doesn’t seem like it should be available on Amazon, but it is. Who knows why but I’m so thankful. I would assume Banksy would find this funny.

My Dishwasher:

Those of you who have read my blog or known me for any length of time know how obsessed I am with dishwashers. I was denied one growing up and there is no task more loathsome than washing a pile of grease-covered plates. I hate it with a passion that has become somewhat unreasonable. I thought that my life could never be better than when I bought my first portable dishwasher. It was wonderful to throw filthy things in there, wait a few hours, and then revel in their cleanliness. The only bummer about this purchase was that portable machines don’t seem to hold up very well and I went through two of them in far too short time. It was worth it to me because I hated the chore so much, but when my second one stopped working, I realized I needed to do something different. I made the bold and brave decision to buy a regular dishwasher that is installed in the actual cabinetry. I had no knowledge of how to accomplish this but I had supreme confidence in my ability to read directions and watch YouTube videos, so I ordered one that would match my new fridge and hoped for the best. It took me some time to be brave enough to start the project, but once I started, I could simply not stop. I was overwhelmed with megalomaniacal power. I removed a cabinet, which thrilled me to no end. Then I had a new electrical challenge that I absolutely reveled in. I had to install a new breaker to the main electrical supply, which was terrifying, but straightforward. It took time and curse words and some sighs, but I managed to install the breaker and connect it to a brand new outlet and it works perfectly. I could hardly believe it. I love electrical work with an unreasonable fervor, so please know that I was absolutely thriving. I was not so comfortable with plumbing and I don’t have any interest in changing that relationship, but I managed to connect the hookups after several infuriating trips to the hardware store. In the end, though, I got it. It works. It’s hooked up. It’s wild and it looks so good in my kitchen; it looks like it was always meant to be there instead of a gross old cabinet full of pans I never used. I still need to build a frame to surround it with the old cabinet wood, but I’ll get to that one of these weekends…maybe. Procrastination is my least attractive habit. I don’t care how unappealing the gaps around the dishwasher are at the moment because the machine works so incredibly well. I cannot get over the way my dishes come out. They gleam in a way I never imagined possible. The machine has some kind of sensor that processes the level of dirt — that sounds fake, but whatever it is, it works incredibly well. I have been living a dream life ever since my dishwasher came home. If you don’t have an appliance that will make your life indescribably better, please, I implore you, go shopping immediately. Your joy is worth a little expense and labor.

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