Friday, March 30, 2012

Storage Solution (aka The Rent Is Too Damn High)

Forget Ron Paul and the Libertarians.  I have found a viable third-party for our political system: The Rent Is Too Damn High Party. 


Mr. McMillan, I may have chuckled at a montage of your debate performances on CNN; and I laughed out loud when Kenan Thompson parodied you on SNL.  Little did I know that two years later, your words would be ringing loudly between my ears during my apartment search in Chicago.  You were right: The rent is too damn high.

In the lead-up to Ian’s job offer in Chicago, I channelled my inner apartment broker and researched the be-jeezus out of downtown rental offerings.  Here’s how my internal dialogue went during my internet-research-athon:  Oh this one’s big-dog friendly, has nice square footage, an indoor pool, some of the utilities are included, and it’s gone.  Well, this one has great views, walk-in closets, an on-site dog run, and it’s gone...

As we learned later when we contacted our real-life apartment broker, rentals in Chicago are being snatched up as quickly as cheapo flatscreen TVs at Walmart on Black Friday.  With 98% of units currently rented, the rental market in the city is crazy, and prices reflect the increased demand. So *Investment Tip Alert* we re-allocated some stock into the rental market and prepared for some sticker shock as we visited various buildings with our apartment broker last week.  

Happily, we found a great apartment in the West Loop neighborhood.  It’s dog friendly, within walking distance of everything (including Teddy’s veterinarian), has an in-unit washer/dryer, a lovely kitchen, and great building amenities.  We’re excited for the big move in May!

The downside of course, is the cost: we’re going from paying $1/square foot in Indiana to paying $2.50/square foot in Chicago, which means we're going to lose about 300 square feet.  The upside: I have 300 more reasons to go to my second favorite place in the world after Disney World: The Container Store.

Indeed, I love storage and organization, and our soon-to-be downsized apartment has re-directed my attention towards the nooks and crannies of our current furniture set-up. With robot-like vision, my critical eyes are targeting inefficient uses of space.  First target: our media cabinet, which was chockablock full of DVDs.

This media storage solution was inspired by my pre-iPod high school road trips.  Instead of hauling along a bunch of pokey, cracked plastic CD holders, I put my ‘NSync, Coldplay, and Anastasia CDs in a soft, plush zippable disc wallet to save space in my backpack.  Fast forward a decade, and Target still sells disc wallets, even really big ones that hold more than 200 discs.

After an hour of alphabetizing our DVDs and growing unappreciative of the presence of bonus discs, I'd freed up four whole shelves in our media cabinet. Anne - 1; Clutter - 0.

This is what marriage looks like.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Scents & Sensibility

Last week, Ian and I racked up some serious mileage on my parents’ Honda Element.  They let us borrow their fuel-efficient car for our big March road trip, which went like this:  Indy (home) to Chicago (interview) to Little Rock (pit stop) to Austin (wedding), and then we did all 1,200 miles in reverse.  Epic.  A few minutes after checking into our charming B&B in Texas, we found out that (home) is actually going to change to where (interview) took place: Ian got the Chicago job!  So, apart from cutting a rug and drinking lots of Dr. Pepper (created in Texas), we spent the wedding mostly confusing the party guests with our inordinately long answer to the standard introductory question So, where are you from?:  “Well, we lived in Chicago, but we’ve been living in Indianapolis for a year, and now we’re moving back to Chicago.”  I hope our blabbering came off as excitement because, as much as we love being in Indiana and close to my family, we’ve had trouble escaping the feeling the Chicago just feels like home.  But more on that later...

After a week away from Indy, our suitcase had become a clothing battleground, with the forces of Clean fighting for space against the forces of Dirty. I packed one medium-size suitcase for the two of us, and by Monday, Dirty had won.  The clean clothes, neatly rolled into squat tubes, hid under blow dryers and belts while the dirty clothes sloppily squished their way into the nooks of the suitcase.  In a true travel triumph, suitcase had turned into hamper, with the worn undergarments purposefully segregated to the front zippered pocked.

You might think that I would have been bothered by the dirty clothes mixing with the clean ones in my suitcase.  But it didn't bother me at all.  Rather, just like I’ve noticed when I dump the hamper into the washing machine every week, I don’t mind the smell of my husband’s lightly worn undershirts and button-downs.  Actually, I kind of like it.  And before you go accusing me of spending too much time in France, I’ve got science on my side: scent is a pretty powerful biological force.

It turns out that I like the smell of my husband’s dirty laundry because scent and romance are intimately linked.  And the reason I find his scent more attractive than others is because, of all things, our immune systems, as summed up in this Psychology Today article:

Our immune systems are coded for by a cluster of genes called the major histocompatibilty complex (MHC), and everyone, except if you have an identical twin, has a unique set of MHC genes. Your unique string of MHC genes are the genotype for your immune system, and your phenotype, the external manifestation of the genes for your immune system, is your body-odor! And your odorprint is as unique as your fingerprint.
In the now famous "T-shirt" experiments it was shown that specific women chose as most sexy and pleasant smelling T-shirts belonging to men who had immune systems that were different from their own. Because we all possess different MHC genes (and body-odor), for every woman a different set of men will be delicious smelling and others won't be. There's no Brad Pitt of body odor! A woman's nose not only responds to a man's body-odor in terms of his biological suitability, women actually find how a man smells to be the most important factor in their sexual attraction.
Takeaway: always let your spouse buy your perfume or cologne.

And have you ever had a smell provoke a vivid memory?  I have.  In the 9th grade, my dad found an old bottle of cologne that he hadn’t worn in years.  When I smelled it on him that morning, I blurted out, “You smell like England!”  We realized that the last time he wore that particular cologne was during our England trip five years earlier.  Apparently, this smell-memory link occurs because smell and memory are neighbors in our brains:

The olfactory bulb has intimate access to the amygdala, which processes emotion, and the hippocampus, which is responsible for associative learning. Despite the tight wiring, however, smells would not trigger memories if it weren't for conditioned responses. When you first smell a new scent, you link it to an event, a person, a thing or even a moment. Your brain forges a link between the smell and a memory -- associating the smell of chlorine with summers at the pool or lilies with a funeral. When you encounter the smell again, the link is already there, ready to elicit a memory or a mood. Chlorine might call up a specific pool-related memory or simply make you feel content. Lilies might agitate you without your knowing why. This is part of the reason why not everyone likes the same smells.
I may like the way my husband smells, and I usually enjoy the strong memories distinct odors trigger in my mind, but my favorite demonstration of the power of smell happens every night.  When Teddy takes his evening nap, he sometimes chooses the porch or the cool tile in the kitchen.  But most of the time, he sleeps right here: 

Teddy sleeping on our shoes

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Good Jeans

**Life changes alert**: Ian is interviewing for new jobs, and it appears that he is highly employable.  So we've been driving to and from interviews for the past ten days or so, both in-state and out-of-state.  The logistics of the interviews and the emotions of the impending job change have kept us quite busy recently, which is why I haven't erased my chalkboard shopping list in over a week.

I've accidentally eavesdropped on some of Ian's phone interviews and listened happily as his industry knowledge melts away his insecurities, even during pointed questions.  I love how he looks after it's over, his face covered in a smile and his body relaxed in a big sigh as he tells me "Well, I think that went well!"

But as much as I love the way he looks after he's done with his phone interviews, I get a little butterfly in my stomach every time he gets dressed for his in-person interviews because he's wearing the sexiest ensemble in his wardrobe, second only to the birthday suit: the business suit.  Swoon.  Plus, we're going to a wedding at the end of the week.  Combined with the job interviews, I'm getting a year's worth of suit-wearing in one-month! Lucky me.

I'm not sure that women have a business-suit equivalent.  I don't think there's a particular item in my closet that I could wear (in public) that would immediately attract a different kind of positive male gaze.  Indeed, men always seem interested in the mere shape of our bodies, not necessarily what's covering them.  So it could be a curve-hugging dress or a plain shirt with the perfect pair of jeans.

I've always had trouble finding a great pair of jeans.  Sometimes the color is too light (mama likes her dark wash), the fabric is too stiff (I'm looking at you, Gap), or the low-rise is a little too low.  In the last instance, I usually don't realize the low-rise tragedy until I'm on the floor grooming Teddy and Ian walks behind me and says, "Hey, Annie, crack kills."

Crack is whack, y'all.  But I don't have to worry about it anymore because I think I may have found the holy grail of women's blue jeans:  Levi's Perfectly Slimming Jeans (Check out those Zappos reviews - clearly I'm not the only fan.)  I'm in love.

No, I'm not sticking it out.  Baby got back... and a little bit of front, too.

Apologies for the Eva-Longoria style over-the-shoulder pose.  Standing in the corner with my back to the camera was just a little too Blair Witch Project for my tastes.  I digress...

These blue jeans come in a variety of shades; they have a higher-waist that closes up shop in the back while locking up everything in the front; and the soft stretchy fabric gives a boost to posteriorly-gifted individuals like myself.  And if you didn't read this post about my new-found cheapness is clothes-buying, have no fear: I got these jeans on sale at Kohl's for $40.  Score.

So while Ian interviews in his business suits, I'll be hanging out in the background in my uber-comfy, uber-sexy new jeans. And if we end up moving again, these jeans will be the first thing I toss into my suitcase.