It’s Fall, Y’all!

If you didn’t know, that means autumn decor. And that means wreaths. Duh!

I made this magnolia wreath for our outside door.

(Let me try to explain: from the living room, our apartment opens out onto a little porch area, where we shed our shoes and umbrellas and wash dirty paws and such. Then the porch area itself opens out onto the hall, where our neighbors live and the communal garbage can lives and we catch the elevator.)

I gathered the already shed leaves from trees in our apartment complex one rainy Saturday morning. I’m sure I’d have looked like a crazy person in the States, but here–I absolutely blew the minds of the four or five 工人 (literally “work-people,” often refers to manual laborers) who were having a smoke break by their trucks. After I made a spectacle of myself to the whole neighborhood, I came back up, washed the leaves off, and waited for them to dry.

Now you have to understand, there are no pre-made wreath forms here. People hang red banners on their doors all the time, but wreaths are a Western thing. So when I wanted a wreath, I had to make one. I took wire that I got at the “hardware store” down the street and twisted it together until it formed a circle. (Actually, I think I later made it into a square but I don

‘t have any pictures of that.) Then I took the leaves–which took 3 days to dry sitting on our covered porch, your humidity has nothing on ours!–and hot glued them to the “wreath form.”

It’s kind of ghetto, but I’m happy. Makes me feel like autumn, like drinking apple cider and going to a football game. And for me, that was basically the point.

OK, wreath number 2. (Is there such a thing as too many wreaths? Serious question, because I’m kind of worried I could verge into cat lady territory with the wreath thing. There’s another one I’m not showing you on my porch. Anyhoo.)

This wreath is actually made on a form that I brought back with me from America last fall.

It had spray-painted beans hot glued on it for a while but that was kind of a fail as the beans always fell off and that was annoying. So, I joined the yarn wreath trend. I wrapped it up and then spray painted the wreath gray. It probably would have made more sense to just wrap the wreath in the color yarn I wanted to start with but I already had this ugly beige color yarn and the gray spray paint on hand so this is what happened. To finish it off I cut these flowers off of this awesome fabric I got at the fabric market (the fabric another one of those things Michael thought was super weird and I loved) and hot glued the flowers to the wreath. My thought is that I could pull the flowers off and spray paint them something bright and happy to change it up for the spring or summer, if I want.



Light of our life and bane of our couch covers.

Ohhhhh, Albus.

We love him, so dearly, even as he putts around our apartment, causing equal amounts mayhem and laughter. He’s a bit like Longfellow’s little girl with a curl: when he is good, he’s very good indeed, and when he is bad, he is horrid.

He’s an amalgamation of adorable features. That quizzical head-slant, left to right and back again, when he tries to understand what’s going on. Skype, for instance, is a deep mystery to Albus. His prancing walk, tail stick straight and floppy ears bouncing, on our evening circle of the apartment complex. The way he runs for the doors at the mention of the word “walk” or the jangle of keys in one of our pockets. His deep treat addiction that drives him to do all his tricks, every single one, back-to-back: sit-shake hands-lie down-(halfway) roll over. Sweet pupster thinks that’s going to get him more good things, faster. He’s not always wrong, either. Who could resist?

But the bad, goodness, is serious. Last January Albus ate our couch covers and chewed up our wooden (ok, vinyl, or something like unto) baseboards. When company comes over, he freaks out and a warm welcome often turns into a jumpfest. We’ve still not been able to keep him from trying to scavenge off the table top when our backs are turned. And bath time turns him a raging monster who sprints circles about our living room, growling and attacking his toys like small rodents who’ve personally insulted his honor.

Albus goes most places we go: to tutoring, walks around campus, on our scooters, even to restaurants, where he sits under the table with varying degrees of success and patience. He’s famous around these parts. As white Americans, we already stand out. Albus, though, is a whole other level of celebrity.  It’s not at all unusual for us to hear people talking about him as we pass by, people we don’t remember meeting at all. “Oh, there goes Albus,” they say to their friend as we pass in the street. “I took a picture of him last year.” Stare and rack my brain as I might, most often I’ve no recollection of that particular photographer.

My personal favorite was the day Michael and I were standing on the side of the road, about to go buy veggies in our local market when a guy, no idea who, passed by on his motorcycle. We heard this random yelling Albus’s Asian name as he passed by: “Ao-bu-se!!!!” Whaaaaat? In these parts, Albus is a bona fide Asian superstar.

He’s spoiled, for certain, but he makes us happy. I’m so thankful we get to have this little guy around.

Holidays, weddings and rain

Sunday morning. Michael, hammering on the porch, creating; chaos now, beauty later. Me, snuggled on Ikea couches with my trusty sun lamp and college football on TV. (It might be Sunday here, but it’s still Saturday night in America, y’all.) And of course, Albus, alternating between tearing through the living room like a whirling dervish and lying sacked out asleep behind (on!) the sofa.

This week has been a pleasant change of pace; it’s national holiday over here (rough approximation of an explanation: Mid-Autumn Festival plus Independence Day) so we’ve been out of class for the week. Michael filled his time with studying; I went to a friend’s wedding on the east coast. This is only the second Asian wedding I’ve attended since living overseas (although I’ve missed the weddings of several friends due to travel conflicts); the first was the wedding of a teacher’s niece which I went to as a cultural experience and not out of affection for the bride and groom. I was delighted to be a part of my friend’s celebration and couldn’t be happier for her and her new husband. Plus, one of the bridesmaids is a dear friend of mine as well as the bride’s so it was great fun to visit with her during and after the wedding.

Weddings over here look much different from ones back in the States; most weddings are held in hotel banquet rooms. Guests are seated around the room in circular tables and eat dinner while watching (and sometimes participating in) the festivities. This week’s wedding included: a final countdown video (while the music was familiar it wasn’t actually final countdown and I couldn’t place it) before the groom’s entrance; a scavenger hunt race through the crowd for items like high heels and cell phone and belts; a couple who were actually incredible dancers doing a sexy interpretive dance up and down the center aisle; and the bride throwing paper airplanes through the room. The lucky folks who caught the planes (including me! although my plane was handed to me) got to go up front and make a toast to the bride groom.

I texted Michael updates throughout the wedding (of course); here is our conversation from my personal wedding highlight:

Me: Now the newly married couple just weighed themselves together on a scale in front of everyone!

Michael: One flesh.

Me: Ummm the point was to find two people who weigh the same as the married couple. Annnnnddddd [bridesmaid friend] and I just won! Humongo teddy bears for each of us!!!!

Michael: Heck yeah!!!! Happy bday Albus!

Me: Don’t worry this would be the SECOND teddy bear I’ve won tonight.

Two things. One: the fact that we won this competition means that I weigh about the same as the groom. Two: yes, I absolutely carried both of those teddy bears back with me on the plane and it was totally worth it. Albus has basically destroyed the small bear but the big one, my prize for the scale competition, is still hanging on…. just barely.

As you can see, weddings over here are very different from the way we do things in the States. Differences aside, the evening was a glad celebration of two people who have joined their lives together, and honored the communities they come from and those of which they are currently a part. I’m so grateful to have had the chance to honor my friends and to join with them in eating, drinking, and joy all-around.

P.S. The weather has been wretched here, raining everyday but one by my count, for the last three weeks. Surprisingly, I was heartened to look through my archives and remember that this is what October looked like last year. Somehow, it makes me feel better to know that I got through then and I’ll get through now.

A few of my (current) favorite things

Like I said last post, this fall I have had fun making crafty things in my free time. It’s such a fun release to make something yourself. One, because I’m cheap!–but two, because it’s satisfying to know that I have created something (that I find) beautiful.

My first project after we got back was painting the end of our hallway with chalkboard paint. Our hallway is long and narrow and goes from our living room to our bedroom, study, and bathroom. I was always uncertain what to do at the end of the hallway–I didn’t want to hang a picture because we don’t have any artwork big enough to be a focal point there and couldn’t do a small table or anything that protrudes out of the wall because that would block the doorways.

Enter, chalkboard paint. I don’t know that they sell actual chalkboard paint over here so I mixed some up myself: one cup acrylic paint + 2 tablespoons tile grout. (Thank you, Martha Stewart!) Paint on, then sand (I didn’t do this part, which is probably why the paint comes off a little still–oops), and then condition with chalk.

Chalkboard paint might be a little overdone in blogland these days but I don’t care, it makes me happy. Our wall has had different purposes in its short two-month lifespan, but this one right now is my favorite, even if it’s not the most beautiful. Every day, I try to write down at least one thing for which I’m thankful. It’s been helpful and encouraging for me to remember that I have so, so much to be grateful for. Writing it down like this, where I see it everyday and watch my list grow by the week, has been a concrete sign of the goodness I’ve experienced. I’ve especially loved my list on bad days, the days when it’s hard to be thankful. There have been times when I literally run to my chalkboard wall and stare at it blankly, knowing that remembering my blessings is how I find faith for the future.

So, chalkboard paint. Do it, love it, live with it. This may be the only DIY thing I’ve ever done that has changed my daily attitude. I recommend it.

So. Next up was recovering this old lamp in our guest bedroom. I don’t have any before pictures, but the lampshade was a dingy off-white with ugly tea-colored stains. Yuck! I got the fabric during our trip to the fabric market and hot glued it over the old shade. Super easy, and much better.

Last, I made this cardboard “&” and stuck it here, in front of the TV. Michael doesn’t understand the point, but I like it anyway. Again, you can’t buy cardboard letters here so I found a font I liked, printed it off and cut it out, and then traced the outline onto an old cardboard box that my friends at the xiaomaibu (small-buy-place) gave me from their discard pile. I glued it together, spray painted it, and then finally glued on green piping in the form of floral wire.

I’ve also made a couple of wreaths recently–one for our living room and one for the front door to our apartment. Pictures of those next time!