Thursday, September 22, 2011

My fresh new kitchen

*disclaimer- all photos were taken with my phone... so they're not so great.  We'll have to deal.*

Lately, it feels like the walls of my house are closing in around me. After 3 years, it feels like none of the rooms are actually "done", with the exception of my office and the powder room on the main floor. I don't love any of the rooms and nothing is exactly as I want it. All re-decorating projects for the other rooms are started, but nothing had been completed.  I'm either waiting to find that perfect piece of furniture, or I've been putting off doing anything because, well.... I'm lazy. 

When we moved into our house 3 years ago, our kitchen cupboards were the originals (our house was 19 years old) and two drawers were missing from the bank.  We thought it would be easy to replace the drawers, but we were VERY wrong, and we didn't have the money (or desire) to replace all the cupboards.  We finally had someone come in and make custom drawers for us, that sat unpainted, for months. Finally, this past weekend I decided it was time to freshen them up. 

So began operation make my house lovable.

Bubba helped me take the doors off before he left on Saturday morning.  You can see in the below picture they they are cheap melamine, with the typical late eighties wooden handles.

As you can see, I'm not great at cupboard organization.

Luckily it was a super nice weekend weather wise, so I was able to setup my project in the backyard. With the heavenly help of my super handy Mom, I scrubbed each door with TSP, sanded it, scrubbed again, primed with super sticky primer and then painted.

(note: the above picture was taken approximately 2 minutes before Lola ran across the drying doors on that towel, towards the open sliding glass door to the house, with paint covered feet.  In reaction, I knocked over that table, including the full can of white primer.  Awesome)

It took us the better part of Saturday and Sunday, but by Monday morning they were dry and ready to be re-hung.  Bub tackled that, with the help of his Dad, while I was at work.  They also attached new hardware!

I came home to this:

I'm so happy with them.  They're not perfect, but if I had a proper before picture, you would understand how much better this looks.  It's just much cleaner.

So, what's left in the kitchen?  New table, new window coverings and a new dishwasher.  So, lots to do still, but this is definitely one big step closer to being happy with my house for the next couple of years.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The Bronze Horseman by Paullina Simons

*WARNING: While I promise not to spoil any of the major plot points, I can't talk about this book without some small spoilers*

I loved this book so much! It has been so long since I've read something that has affected me this deeply.  I experienced a huge range of emotions while making my way through this tale.   The story of Tatiana and Alexander is truly heartbreaking, wonderful, beautiful, sad and breathtaking.   I couldn't stop reading it, and yet I had to set it down because my heart couldn't take another page.  Incredible.

Their love grew organically enough to be 100% believable, and yet so intensely that you couldn't help but to be wrapped up in it.  Unlike a typical romance, this was not an overnight love... but it was overwhelming and passionate and the kind you can't live without.  I adored it.

Alexander was, simply, perfection.  From the moment we meet him standing across the street watching Tania eat her ice cream, to the very last pages of the book, I ate him up and fell a little in love with him myself.  Perfection.

I found Tatiana's character very difficult to peg.  In the opening pages of the story, I thought she was a young child.  Through her survival struggle in Leningrad, she seemed much older,  and then at the cabin by the river, she seemed like that child again.  It was really interesting how her circumstances changed her actions and reactions.  When she needed to grow up, she could, but she could still find that young girl when she needed to.

Beyond the epic love story though, there was the story of Leningrad and a story of war.  That, on its own, was heartbreaking to read about.  The detail made the story seem to so real that I found myself actually dreaming about some of the horrors faced by those trying to survive the war in Leningrad.  It had some of the same elements of one of my deepest fears- the end of the world. I know that sounds dramatic, but I'm terrified of that feeling of your whole world crashing down on you, and simply waiting to die in surroundings that were once familiar and full of life.  That's the ultimate in fear for me and they were living it in Leningrad.

In all, the writing is superb, the story is excellent, the characters are wonderful, and the love is heart wrenching. I loved this book and I can't wait to dive in to the next.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Nesties do Decatur

It's taken me a little while to be ready to write this. I was processing.  I think I'm ready now.

My weekend in Decatur was absolutely full of awesome.  Not only did I get to meet some amazing authors and sit in on some really great panels, but I also got to hang out, in person, with some of my favorite people and fellow book lovers.  I cannot tell you how amazing this was.  To be able to make reference to things like "DG",  or "Friday Confessions Post" and not have to explain myself, for a full 48 hours, was heaven.  These are my people.  I spend a good portion of my days with them, more so than with my non-nestie friends, so it was like coming home. To steal a quote from Julie (I think), it was like returning to "the mother ship". I loved every minute of chatting and laughing with them, and I can't wait to do it again.

While I know the other ladies have posted this picture on their blogs, and other nesites are probably getting sick of seeing it, I'm posting it... because, aside form the fact that I'm standing at a very weird angle and look...large, I love it.

Tameka, Jacki, Crystal (and me)
Julie, Jennie, Heather

I was, yet again, to chicken to ask for photos with any of the authors, but I did get to have a nice little chat with Libba Bray and she helped play a joke on my husband (who has a reputation with his reading and choice of television shows). Her panel with absolutely hilarious.  I would pay to have just 1/2 of her energy. Also, her "why I became a writer" story? So inspiring. 

She signed my copy of Beauty Queens "To B___, You're beautiful just the way you are.  Love Libba"  Hehe.

After Libba, we met with Lauren Myracle, who is pretty funny on her own as well.  But alas, no pictures. I did get a beautiful signed copy of Shine, which I can't wait to read.  It's also on my husband's TBR list.

Lunch on Sunday.... Crystal, myself, Tameka.

Jacki, Jennie, Julie

My highlight was the Jackson Pearce, Rachel Hawkins and Victoria Schwab panel on Sunday afternoon.  Everyone knows that I adored Sisters Red, and pretty much adore Jackson Pearce, whose blog/vlog and tweets I follow religiously.  Needless to say, I made of fool of myself fangirling over her any time we saw her over the weekend. 

Hex Hall and Demonglass are pretty books awesome too! I haven't read The Near Witch yet, but I purchased a copy to have signed and will read it soon!

Rachel writes the cutest messages in her books. 

My friends made sure to let Jackson know of my fangirl status, and then convinced her to take a picture with me outside at the end of the festival. Poor Jackson.

Lastly, we saw in on the Stephanie Perkins panel and OMG I love her.  She's seriously the most adorable thing I've ever seen.  Unfortunately, we missed out on snagging early copies of Lola and the Boy Next Door, but I had Anna and the French Kiss signed, and made a fool of myself by telling her that I'd loved it so much I hugged it when I was done. She's too sweet.  Finally, at the end of the weekend, I had the guts to ask for my own picture.

First of all, her sense of style is flawless. Secondly, she's super tiny and gorgeous, and makes me look like I'm having an allergic reaction to something.  But I love this picture anyway.

Some other awesome things:

adorable bookstores
shoe tree art

Homemade Harry Potter cookies from Jacki. 
I was all "oh, they're so cute I can't even eat them." 
But then I did.  And they were awesome. (T, I stole your pics)

Such a great weekend! I'm lucky to have had the chance to go and spend some time with these awesome ladies, and I'm excited to see them all again soon.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

"That" Moment - Remembering September 11th

10 years ago today I was a regular grade 11 student, starting a regular morning, at my regular high school.  I'd made my home from home, probably kissed my boyfriend, laughed with friends at my locker, and worried about our plans for the weekend.  Shortly before 9 am, I was sitting in my first period class when the wall phone rang.  I remember Mrs. Waddell laughed at something one of us said as she walked to the phone and answered it.  After a few short seconds, her face fell, she grew pale, and she opened the door, wrapping the cord around the wall, walking into the hallway.  Moments after that, she returned to the class and said "a plane has hit the World Trade Center in New York City."  For many of us, this had little meaning.  For our teacher, her terror came from the fact that her husband was a commercial airline pilot and was flying to the US that day.  We, as students, didn't know what the WTC was, and we assumed that it was an awful accident until, a short-time later, the wall phone rang again and we were informed about the second plane and the second tower. 

We were quickly moved to our second period classroom where my English teacher, Mr. Welch, had set-up the television and had it tuned to CNN.  We, along with 2 other classes, jammed into our tiny portable, sat in silence, and watched the remainder of the mornings events unfold on live television.  I cannot explain to you the horror and confusion I felt when I watched those towers fall. I knew in that moment, that I was literally watching thousands of people die, and I had no idea why.

During the late lunch period the hallways were eerily quiet, and the line at the pay phones was huge.  I stood in that line and called my Mom at work.  I had to talk to someone because, in the halls of my high school, the whispered rumours and speculation were terrifying.  Would they attack the CN Tower? Of course they would! No, they have no cause to! They already have, it's burning now!  I'll never forget the relief I heard from my Mother when said "I am so happy to hear your voice".  The only thing I could say to her between my tears was, "what's going on"?  She had no answer.

The morning of September 11th is "that"" moment for me.  Prior to 9/11, my Mother's moment was the assassination of JFK.  She told me she could remember exactly where she was when she heard the news, and remembers in detail the reaction of her parents and grandparents.  She was 3.  For me, at 16 years old, the events of September 11th are both ingrained in my brain with crystal clarity, and pass in a blur of images and sound bites.  But I will always remember exactly where I was, who was with me and what I was doing when I first heard the news.

For days after we were glued to the television, trying to get answers to our whys.  In the weeks following the attacks, I did a lot of growing up, I did a lot of learning, and I did a lot of crying. I still have a hard time watching news reports of the attacks, and images from that day.  The shot, from the ground, of that first plane hitting the tower, reduces me to tears, without fail, every time I see it.

But what I remember today, 10 years after the attacks, is those who lost their lives and those who still suffer because of the attacks.  Whether they lost a loved one in one of the buildings or on one of the planes, whether the ran terrified away from the falling towers, or ran terrified IN to the burning ruins, or even into the cockpit of a plane piloted by terrorists with nothing but boiling water and butter knives.... so many people were directly affected that day, and today I will think about them and their bravery and sacrifice.  Mostly, I commend the American people as a whole for coming together to repair and heal.  Their strength as a country is proof that, although almost 3000 people died that day, the terrorists did not win.  The country was not broken.

I will never be able to wipe the images of that day from my mind.  I don't want to.  I will never forget.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

The Search by Nora Roberts

This was the "fluff" that I chose to read at the same time as Columbine, knowing I would need brain breaks. I got exactly what I was looking for out of this book... an escape.

The story was entertaining, with a good mystery and just enough suspense to keep the pages turning.  I actually found the dog-training information really interesting, and very enjoyable to read about.

I really liked Simon.  Contrary to typical male romance leads, he was extremely flawed, even to the very end of the story.  He was rude, blunt, and short-tempered... and then plants "the damn trees".  He was just pretty fantastic.  I know for a fact that I would have been drawn to him if he were real.  I find that Roberts tries to write different characters in each book, instead of the same person over and over, and I think that's why she is my go to for those quick, in-between reads.  They don't necessary fit the same predictable romance novel template.

While I've been struggling to find a female lead that I really connect with lately, I found one in Fee.  Her independence, her strength, her loves of dogs and simple things.... yep, that's totally me (or at least, who I would like to be).  She new how to handle Simon too, and that made me like her even more.

I couldn't get enough of the banter between the two leads.  I especially loved their "compromises" in the last half of the story.  And of course, there was one especially delicious scene (read: in the shower at Simon's) that was full of Nora's patented "spice".  Loved it.

Spoiler below

The end was a little unbelievable for me.  I had a hard time really buying that the FBI would have allowed Fiona to go out on her own with the dogs to track Eckle, and not have at least assigned her an agent or two.  That rubbed the wrong way, but it made for some suspenseful reading, that's for sure.  My only other complaint was that the book was too long.  The story could have been told in 100 pages less and probably improved my rating.

Aside from those things, The Search was an enjoyable read that fans of Nora Roberts will adore.