A clean house.

photo (6)

I was swearing off Target this time last year, now here we go again.

After a few months of empty promises made to my sad-faced bank account and starving wallet, I’m finally serious about getting this financial house in order (right after scouring Ruche’s sale section for summer sandals — enough with this snow already). I want to feel comfortable, without adding a second job. I want to handle my money like an adult, not the 14-year-old shopping addict Hyde I sometimes morph into.

Damn you, hedonic adaptation.

I want to stop buying clothes I only wear once, meals purchased outside the home for convenience rather than the treat of good food and interesting atmospheres, and expensive-ass candles that smell as good as the $4 Walgreens option just with a nicer label. I’m quitting you, labels! Except when it comes to nicely designed wine.

I have some ideas to accomplish this and welcome suggestions:

  • Shop with a list.
  • Again, just stay away from Target. You have enough colored pants, girl.
  • Along those lines, and this is oft-repeated fashion blog lore but is really just brilliant and will help with the Target withdrawals: Pare down my closet and use what I have. One big chunk of hangers holds all the pretty dresses and skirts and shiny things I own and never wear. I’m going to befriend that chunk this spring.
  • Consider “necessities.” At this point, that’s not going to include Netflix, a gym membership or many nights out. Working out outside is free, and I’ll see more dogs.
  • For nights out: I’d like to stick to the restaurants on a list of Places to Eat I’ve had saved for a year now. They’re the more-expensive spots, but limited to once a month or every two months, a delicious meal and a night out in an old-but-never-worn dress will be the perfect treat yo’self occasion.
  • Splitting groceries where possible. It’s really hard for one person to go through a bag of spinach before the bottom fourth gets slimy and brown (what is that juice?) but really easy for two people. Get yourself a fellow spinach lover.
  • Avoid temptation: Clothing/home magazines/blogs are the worst. And please refrain from sending me pictures of you trying on that on-sale sweater (sorry, Sister…) because I just can’t—but I probably will when I see you looking fabulous.
  • Find somebody with the right priorities, and do their thing. A sort of WWSSB, What Would Sensible Shopper Buy?
  • Less time shopping for nice things, more time doing nice things. For myself and for other people. I see a lot of AZM original watercolor crafts in all of our futures, and hikes and picnics by the lake and camera adventures that don’t cost a thang.

Periodic updates on how this turns out. I’ll be needing the accountability.


No dancing around it: This city is a little bit dirty. My favorite lake is more-than-likely polluted by the highway/factory/train yard encircling it. Rent is cheap, neighborhoods are questionable.

Half the riverfront neighborhoods are no more after major floods in 2008 — they even knocked a mini Lady Liberty off her perch on one of the downtown bridges. She was found in the mud and since restored. No worries — freedom survived. The remaining abandoned houses that dot this area wear bright-orange “Look for Cats Before Demolition” badges and numbers so the city can keep track of its habitable garbage.

There’s a big-time arson problem, but then again, they’re also kind of doing the city a favor.

IMG_0456 IMG_0341

Overlooking it all is a southwest-side landfill, “Mt.Trashmore,” which actually looks pretty fine when the sun sets and everything’s golden and the bulldozer on top is throwing up clouds of dust and catching that magic light.

I know of Iowa Citians who hate CR with a passion usually reserved for cilantro or sports rivalries. They refuse to venture 20 minutes north for fear of catching some disease from our chain-restaurant-filled streets, pigeon-bloated skies and eerily quiet downtown district.

But I love it all anyway. I love the revitalization, I love the grimy one-of-a-kind/hole-in-the-wall bars and restaurants and the brand-shiny-new NewBo Market (come on, Iowa City, you have to admit that’s pretty cool!). I love the bike trails, that trashy lake, those abandoned houses and cars and cats, my special Hy-Vee, the downtown farmers market…

Cars pass on the road with bumper stickers shaped like Iowa, the word NATIVE slapped proudly in the middle. I think they’re prone to these displays in other states (Colorado comes to mind) and many cities have hip T-shirt shops celebrating the community’s inside jokes (STL Style, RAYGUN). But Cedar Rapids isn’t one for much self-promotion.

So,  sans stickers or sweatshirts, I’m saying I’m proud of Cedar Rapids, rust and all.



A theme song for spring, whenever it gets here. I’ve been eyeing cheap kites at Target and have until about mid-March in Iowa to choose between the owl and dragon models. Then it’s all wind and tulips and lake picnic heaven until we start craving winter again.


Happy early Valentine’s Day, lovers (yuck). No time for a full sticky-sweet mix this year, so instead I’ll post some love songs here throughout the week.

Here’s hoping you all get a box full of awesome Valentines from your classmates. I’ve been looking for some inspired by Downton Abbey, with sayings like, “Your inheritance is HOTT” or “If you were Edith, I’d never leave you at the altar, baby gurl.”


The Brick House. A home renovation blog with bonus dogs. Written by a sassy, savvy, cheap and crafty lady who makes me feel less guilty about constantly rearranging wall hangings and pillows and mantel accessories and sometimes going to Target twice in one day. I do it to give myself time to think about potential purchases. The conclusion is always yes. (That’s become a running joke. C asks whether I’ve gotten new lamp shades whenever he’s around. When someone calls and I’m inevitably in the checkout line, I just say, “I’m at Target, but it’s not what you think.” But it is. It is what you think.)

All this.

All this.

Anyway, I’ve temporarily replaced Target time with this blog. No shame: I clicked back to the “Last” page option (#251) and have been working my way up over the past week, watching Ikea rugs come and go from this stranger’s home and drooling over those quirky thrift store art finds. If I can moderate my intake (not likely) this baby will take me through to garage-sale season. Then there’s no stopping.

Speaking of new lampshades, I’ll post pictures of my darling, well-lit apartment soon. She also does 8 a.m. sunshine like nobody’s business.