Friday, June 13, 2008

Advice Column #23

Hey Bartender!

My ex and I are both going to a hippie love-fest where either one or both of us may meet someone else. It'll suck. It'll hurt. But there's nothing I can do about it and we both need to move on. What do I drink so I don't have to think about it too much?

Awesome. I'm glad you're done with the feelings part, and that you're ready for some new action in your life. You'll grow a new heart a little slower than your liver regenerates, so let's beat on the the organ that can handle it. I would suggest drinking as socially as possible, and by that I mean, never drink without toasting each glug, and never toast alone. Besides making you re-ignite positivity with every swig, you'll have a fun evening of naming all the wonderful things in your life and the lives of those who drink with you, and universal themes of stuff worth drinking to. How you drink (happily) isn't always what you drink. Since you are going to be consuming vast quantities out of nervousness (you'll find in life that progress can cause stress or nerves, which make you speak quickly and drink quickly), you might want to pick something less potent than four fingers of bourbon. I'm going to suggest the gin gimlet. It's lime juice, simple syrup, and gin- but every bartender can make a decent one, and it's easy to tell when you've had your limit, because you can't say "gin gimlet" without saying "gim giblet". At that point, switch to lemonade, which will taste similar, and refresh you. Ask the bartender to hook your lemonade up with some fresh mint, so the new positive "someone else" that you meet will appreciate your amazing breath along with your insistence on toasting to his pretty face.

Hey Bartender!
I am in the process of buying furniture for new my apartment. I am trying to go with the most environmentally friendly options that also satisfy my deeply rooted need to be stylish and my limited budget. What's a girl to do?

It's true, furniture production and shipping are a drain on the world's resources. Yet, we desire to live in a pleasant home, where we have a table to eat from, a chair to sit on, and a bed to sleep on, not to mention end tables, ottomans, wet bars, dressers, bookshelves, and more. Our inner conflict appears unresolvable when the "environmentally friendly" products are so far from our price range, and the products in our price range have traveled so far (wasting gasoline), are made of questionable materials, and just aren't pleasing to the eye. Don't beat yourself up about every detail. No one will hate you for buying that new mattress because you're afraid of bedbugs, or picking up that best sofa ever at ikea because it fits in your budget and your living room perfectly. Since you're willing to try to greenly furnish your new place, let's discuss the many options.

There are lots of ways to organize your space without importing tons of prefab plastic from overseas, without skinning animals, without cutting down rainforests, and with style. The first rule in loving the environment is to stay local. Shipping things far distances often causes more harm to the world than the products cause themselves. Great places to find neat stuff include local antique and thrift stores, yard sales,,, and asking your friends on facebook. Freecycle itself is a great resource for not only finding free stuff that is in great shape, but getting rid of the stuff that you don't use without trashing it. There was a time in my life that I would have advocated dumpster-diving, but having lived through the bedbug epidemic in New York, I'd suggest buying things or getting them from people who aren't throwing them on the curb. It's safer, and usually cleaner. Just remember the age old adage: reduce, reuse, recycle!

Before heading out to the thrift stores, antique shops, and freecycle pick up places, make a list of the things you need, and measure the spaces you have to put them. Also measure door frames and ceiling heights, so you can be sure that things will fit into your apartment. Make sure you don't see any bug problems on the furniture, checking inside drawers, backs, and bottoms for evidence. Buy or take stuff that you see potential in: you might not find the perfect pink overstuffed chair, but that ugly brown one can be reupholstered, and has a nice shape to it. If you like the dresser but hate the drawer pulls, you can replace them later.

So now you have a ton of cheap or free old furniture from local people and places. Step two to the cheap, stylish, eco-friendly furniture problem was the "stylish" part. Style is in the details, and is personal: maybe you like metal feet on everything, maybe you like only dark woods, maybe you want everything to be white or purple or covered in flowers. I wouldn't be opposed to you ordering a box of metal feet off ebay, or taking a sander to everything and staining it all mahogany, or buying a few colors of paint, and after priming the new stuff with Kilz spray-primer, painting it with two light coats of whatever color matches your eyes. You also might want to think about consulting the guru's of DIY decor:, ready made magazine (, make magazine (, and the old stand-by, Martha Stewart Living ( If you need some ideas, or want to buy from artisan (and affordable) merchants, check out for their on-line marketplace and keen trend setting. Keep in mind that Martha's country crock stenciling projects might look like something in your grandma's house, but her technique is premier if you're painting silhouettes of sparrows and tree branches along the sides of your freshly painted pale yellow bookshelf that you got from the salvation army. (Look to xeroxes of bird sighting books for the best silhouettes, copy them larger, trace onto clear plastic stenciling sheets.) Mixing aesthetics and techniques from several sources will make your home look uniquely yours, and projects are fun.

Invite your friends over to help you with a project-craft day, and some celebratory drinks! Do anything with power tools before the drinking starts; power sanding, drilling holes for new sofa feet or table legs. Get all the structural stuff done sober, or you'll end up with nightmarish pieces later, or worse- at the hospital. Paint in well ventilated areas, or make it an afternoon outdoor affair to be followed with some drinks. Lately, I've been reading the Houston Junior League cookbook from 1968, which gives great home-making recipes. The Velvet Hammer, a blender favorite from Bette Naylor, is made putting 1 package of frozen strawberries (10 oz.), the juice of two lemons, and 1 cup of light rum in a blender, turned on for a few seconds. Then fill the blender with crushed ice (approx. 1 tray of ice, crushed) and blend the mix until it is of an "icy, mushy consistency". Another delightful junior league drink from the '68 special is the single serve "Glendorn Orange Fandango" from Julia Leary. Mix 2 ounces of gin, 3 tablespoons of orange juice, and 1-2 teaspoons of sugar and pour it over crushed ice. "Powerful" says the Houston League's Drink section, just like you, who has the power to save the earth, furnish your apartment, and serve a great drink all in the same eco-friendly gesture.

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