Monthly Archives: March 2013

Benefits of a Good Romance

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I have more than a little stress in my life right now since we are currently packing for our big move to the new townhouse on April 12th. We are also packing up my day job since we are relocating to a new building the following week on the 17th. I’ve been told I’m a glutten for punishment. It can be a lot of pressure experiencing that much change.

In times like these I’ve learned the benefits of a good romance. Lucky for me, on Tuesday, March 26th, a couple of great ones were released. I picked up the latest Shelly Laurenston romance, Wolf With Benefits. It’s the 8th book in the pride series and it certainly delivers what I’ve come to expect. A crazy mix of shape shifters, sports, but more specifically hockey, a crime, and an unusual couple. It’s as strange as it sounds, but it always comes together and just flat-out works.

Wolf with Benefits (Pride, #8)

This installment of the series centered around Ricky Lee, one of the infamous Reed boys of the New York Smith wolf pack, and Antonella “Toni” Jean-Louis Parker, jackal shifter and the only one who can manage her ten child prodigy siblings. Ricky Lee is looking to avoid the females of his pack because an ex-girlfriend from Tennessee comes to town and they all decide to be sorry for him, when he runs into Toni. She’s reluctantly trying to build a life that doesn’t revolve around her siblings schedules. Humor and adventure quickly ensue.

Due to the skills she learned wrangling her siblings, she gets a dream job managing the travel arrangements for the shifter only professional hockey team, the Carnivores. She soon finds herself traveling to Russia to negotiate a game deal with a Russian bear team with Ricky as her security.

While they’re busy in Russia finding love, her family and friends are busy finding trouble. As you might expect from this series, many of the couples who came together in previous books (including the Magnus Pack series) make appearances that ranged from brief cameos to integral part of the story. If you’re a fan of the series you might remember Bo Novikov and Blayne Thorpe. His lovable OCD tendencies fit right in with the Jean-Louis Parker kids.

When Toni and Ricky Lee return from Russia they find one of the younger children, Freddie, is in danger from his sociopathic older sister Deliliah, who has joined a cult. With a little outside support from the security company and a few others, Toni and Ricky Lee set things right.

Two newer characters that I enjoyed were Olivia “Livy” Kowalski and Vic Barinov. We meet him in Russia as part of the security team and he follows the happy couple home from Russia to help with the trouble. Livy is Toni’s best friend. A lot of time is spent just guessing what kind of shifter she is.

In several of Shelly Laurenston’s books she drops hints about who might be next to get the relationship focus. I’m fairly certain Livy is next. What I’m not so sure about is who she might be getting together with. For a while I thought Reese Reed might be the one. He spent most of the book fascinated with her and her scent, or rather what type of shifter her scent identified her as. Bet then Vic came on the scene. Now I’m just not sure. Guess I’ll be finding out this time next year! And let me tell you I can’t wait!

Shelly Laurenston never fails to make me laugh out loud. While that’s not what I look for all the time in a novel, when I’m under this much stress it’s just what the doctor ordered. If you’ve never read one of her books and need a pick me up, I highly recommend them. They’re fun and just a little unexpected. Can’t wait to work in some more reading time while I pack, so back to the grind stone. How are you all re-leaving stress? Read any good romances lately?

A Thrifty Situation

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It’s official. I’m on project overload. I counted it out today and we have 15 days until we move.  So I tried to make a list by day. I need to pack the house, clean the house, finish any little half-finished home projects (need to give the house back in tip-top shape) and finish any furniture projects that would be difficult to get done at the new place. To give you an idea of what my list looks like I’ll give you this weeks list.

  • Finish painting 2 coats of Silver Feather White on my kitchen cabinets, door frames and window frame. (I’m half way through this already)
  • Allow cabinets to cure for 2 days.
  • Clear coat cabinet doors and boxes. This will be a 3 day process for me.
  • Re-hang cabinets doors.

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This is the scene in my dining room tonight since it’s to cold to work out on the porch. But I’ll post about the kitchen when I get it finished. For now, lets continue with my list.

  • Call around to find a storage garage.
  • Start packing! The living room and dining room are first on my hit list.
  • List the entertainment center and TV on Craigslist (Don’t worry we have two).
  • Buy Sterilite storage tubs. I think I’ll start with five.
  • Start hauling boxes down from the attic and sort into three groups (donate/store/take)
  • Call and schedule movers.
  • Paint the upstairs hallway.
  • Start fixing up my recent furniture acquisition.

That brings me to the title of this post. I have a small situation. I have a tendency to complicate my own life. I’ve been doing a little shopping on Craigslist and local thrift stores. I don’t intend to find things. I’ve been selling items in an effort to down size and while I’m doing this selling I can’t help but notice some awesome stuff.

This weekend I happened to be in our local Stuff ETC. dropping off some things for consignment. While I waited for my items to be accepted or rejected I perused the furniture. I came across this diamond in the rough…

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This picture isn’t great but do you see the X-shaped legs on the far side? It caught my attention. I tried to walk away, I made it all the way to my second errand at Target (does anyone else find themselves in that store more than once a week). As I walked the isles I found myself justifying my purchase. Thirty minutes later I was back at Stuff ETC figuring out how to fit my new desk and two kids in the back of my Pacifica.

This desk is almost perfect. I have a strong dislike for honey oak wood tone. I prefer rich, dark wood tones. Right now I’m kind of loving the two-tone look that I’m seeing all over Pinterest. Since I’m moving into a smaller place, it occurs to me I should re-finish this piece before we move. But I have to many ideas! This is where you all come in.

I want your opinion. Here are my thoughts, I could paint the body white but stains the top and the drawers; paint the body a color (I dig coral or grey) and stain the top and drawers; or I recently found grey wood stain. I could stain the whole body of the desk and drawers grey and stain the top a deep brown. Leave your comments and tell me what you think! I only have 15 days to get it done so I’ll be making my decision soon. Be sure to weigh in! I’m counting on you.

God Laughs…

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You know that saying “Men plan and God laughs”? That’s about how it’s going for us right now. Sorry it took so long to put out the update on project Moving on and Moving Up. The skinny is we are definitely “moving on”. This actually went in our favor. We were buying our house on contract and thought the only way to get out of it was to sell it. The contract has run it’s course so we called the Seller that we pay out mortgage to. Turns out he is willing to release us from the contract and he is going to sell the house himself. Awesome, right? I’m pretty happy about it.

No we have to “move up”. We always assumed that we’d take our $20,000 down payment and get a mortgage on a house. We paid off my car, paid off all the credit cards and all but one of the personal loans. Last weekend on St. Patrick’s day we put in an offer contingent on financing and I spent my monday in pursuit of a mortgage. First they turned down our offer on the house, then the broker told us, after all we did, our credit scores were still to low. It was suggested we wait a year. Well folks, I don’t have to tell you, I don’t have a year.

My husband always accuses me of being too optimistic. So, true to form, I’ve found the silver lining and started working on the new plan, “Moving Up 2.0”, if you will. This is an opportunity to downsize and spend the next year saving for an even larger down payment! This week we’ve been listing our large furniture pieces on Craigslist. We’ve got at least one sold. Still waiting on the others. We’ve looked at a few rentals but we’ve finally settled on a 3 bedroom townhouse. I’m happy it’s a corner unit and the kids are happy there’s a pool. I’ll be back tomorrow (at least that’s the plan) with the new “to do” list. Now I’m off to go day dream!

What Goes Up

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Things are happening! It’s been a VERY busy week and serious progress has been made. But we can’t talk about that yet. As soon as a few more details have been ironed out, I promise to spill the beans

Until then, I thought I’d share what the girls and I managed to get accomplished last weekend. Along with packing the dining room and filling nail holes, we finally did something about the kitchen ceiling! Let me just say BIG check mark by the list.

The previous owners put a drop ceiling in our kitchen. I didn’t love it but I’ll say it’s been convenient. When the upstairs bath tub needed some plumbing work, it was easy for the plumber to take down a couple of tiles instead of cutting a huge hole in our ceiling. Unfortunately water seemed to be attracted to that ceiling. First my son flooded the toilet and water came raining down into my kitchen(not a good day), then we had the tub drain issue. The last thing you want to hear when your taking the first bath in your newly remodeled bathroom is, “Mom there’s water pouring out of the ceiling!”

I had to do something. I wanted to go with the really nice vinyl ceiling tiles. I checked out the Ceilume web site and I have to say that I’m impressed. I needed a 24 inch by 24 inch tile. I happen to like the Stratford tile. I found them locally, for $7.95 each. The online price was $5.95 but I decided after shipping it would likely balance out. Then I ran the numbers, $254 to fix the ceiling! I got real with myself. If I was fixing this for my taste and for me to continue owning this house then that’s not bad and I would happily pay it. However, that’s not what I’m doing. To sell it, I’m just not willing to spend that much. The same home improvement store that had the vinyl tiles, also had regular tiles priced a little over $30 for a box of 16 (sorry I didn’t write down the exact price). I bought 2 boxes and called it a day.

I owe my tallest step daughter a big thank you because Sunday this was the scene at my house…

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I would not have been able to do this without her. I am so short my fingertips barely grazed the top of the ceiling, even with my ladder. As you can see from the second picture I “tried” to put some in. She has 4 inches on my easy and had no problem. We worked out a pretty good system. She took them down, I loaded them in garbage bags, handed her the new tile and she put it up. We did the whole tiles first. The she took down all the odd-shaped tiles. I took them out to the porch and used them as a template. I traced the shape onto the back of the new tile with a permanent marker. I used a serrated steak knife and sawed off the excess. I carried them back to the kitchen and she put the new tile up. This process took about 2 hours but at the end…

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It’s hard to tell since I forgot to take a before picture, so you’ll have to take my word for it, but it really is a big improvement. It just looks clean and since we are hoping to not live here much longer, that’s what I need. That’s it for now but I promise I’ll be back with more soon!

The Pleasure of a Good Book

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Let’s take a little break from my DIY home adventures today. After all, I promised you variety and I’m a woman of my word. Despite my crazy schedule, I always try to take time out for my mental health in the form of a good book. Over the years I’ve had many people, other mom’s especially, ask me how I manage to do as much reading as I do. When I want to, I am capable of reading a book a day (yes this has happened). Normally, I chose not to read more than two in one week. It’s simple really. I manage to read this way because I make it a priority. I can’t stress enough, that I consider this an investment in my mental health. Every mommy, or breathing person for that matter, needs time to mentally check out and regroup. Whatever works for you and is legal, do it. I prefer to do it by escaping into the problems of another through a good work of fiction.

Recently I took time out on a Sunday evening to finish a book I had started earlier in the week, Dracula in Love by Karen Essex. I was drawn in by the title and I liked the idea of retelling the classic from the point of view of Mina Harker. I’m also a sucker for romance involving vampires.

Dracula in Love

The story is told from the point of view of Mina Harker and from the beginning she explains that she is telling her story to deal with the inaccuracies of the original work of fiction. The clever author has some fun with this by turning Bram Stoker into an unnamed character described as a writer that she encounters on the fringe of key moments in the story.

Many of the character’s have notable differences from the classic. Mina, describes herself as growing up talking to fairies and animals, frightening her parents and after being orphaned, growing up in an academy for girl’s that is little more than a prep school for marriage. She suppresses her abilities and when the story begins she is a teacher at the school where she grew up, engaged to marry Jonathan Harker. Her abilities begin to come through in frightening episode’s of sleep walking.

Quincy Morris, the brash American from Texas, is now Morris Quince, a New York playboy, spending his time abroad rebelling from his parents by pursuing a career as a painter. He’s also carrying on a passionate affair with Lucy Westerna, who is engaged to Arther Holmwood. Dr. Seward and Dr. Van Helsing are colleagues in a mental hospital. There are minor characters who were never in the original, but the remaining characters are essentially the same as the classic.

There are some interesting additions to the story line, but for at least the first half of the book, the major plot points from the classic are all touched on. Including Jonathan’s trip to Eastern Europe to conduct business with the Count, Mina’s trip to the coast to visit with her friend Lucy, the mysterious ship wreck with a dead crew, Jonathan being discovered in a hospital with brain fever, his marriage to Mina and the death of Lucy.

What stood out to me was the twist on the original plotlines. Lucy’s plotline changed from victim of a vampire, death and rebirth as a vampire, to victim of the Victorian mental institution. It was an interesting and sad look at how easily a normal woman’s appitates and behavior could be turned against her by men who labeled her as insane and forced her into “treatments” which are little more than torture. In fact the “water treatment” described in detail reminded me of a variation on water boarding that is used as a form of torture and a hot button issue in politics.

The romance plotline between the Count and Mina, which was the draw to the book, left me feeling disappointed. It took so long to get to it and was so brief. To me it lacked the passion that you might expect soul mates to have for each other. The explanation of the bond they share and how he became immortal was an unexpected twist on what you might have otherwise expected. I found it to be a refreshing take.

Overall I enjoyed the book, even though I personally found the ending unsatisfying. I won’t spoil it by telling you why, but I will say it felt like the ending was written just to tie the story back to the original and it did an excellent job of that. Do I think this book is worth reading? Absolutely. I enjoyed the raw vision of Victorian society from an unflattering angle. The writing did an excellent job of painting a visual and sensory experience. If you’re expecting a paranormal romance, this is not it. Although there are paranormal elements. If you like historical romance that boasts a little something out of the ordinary, this book is for you.

Small Victories!

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In the immortal words of Clueless, “not a total Betty but a vast improvement.” That’s right the girls and I have knocked a chunk off The List. While it’s only a small portion of The List, I’m far enough behind schedule, thanks to my sickness enforced weekend off, that I’m celebrating the small victories.

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Let’s recap just what this section of the list looked like shall we.

Girl’s Bedroom

· Paint the trim and walls

· Take down all art

· Hang Mirrors

· Update light fixture

· Curtains

· Change up the beds/bedding

· Purge/Pack whole room

· Purge/Pack Closet

The first step in this project was the paint and let me tell you, it was the biggest impact. The girls and I attacked it as a team. While I was at work the girls prepped the space and started purging. When I got home we started with the trim. Right away we had a hiccup. The room had brown painted trim and doors which I had intended to prime before I painted white. When I opened the primer, it was the consistency of cottage cheese. No amount of stirring would save it so we moved on.

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The trim and doors took far longer than the walls did. However, I would say they had the biggest pay off. I spent hours crawling along the floor, painting. The girls helped but I soon discovered I worked faster down low, while my tallest step daughter, who stands nearly 4 inches taller than me, took the window trim and door trim. I did the doors while everyone had lunch. Three coats later, we were finally ready to start the walls.

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We worked together and divided the work. I used my handy Shureline edger and made my way around the room while my younger daughter painted low and my older daughter painted high. Then while 2 of us attacked the second coat, my older and (as I mentioned) taller daughter used the edger to paint up next to the ceiling. Some how we managed to finish and put the beds back together just before midnight.

Right now you’re thinking “you let them sleep in those paint fumes!” Rest assured I thought of that. Because we had to keep living in the space and it’s still to cold to air out the room, we opted for Olympic brand No VOC paint in eggshell. I have to say I am very pleased and the girls commented that it was the least smelly paint they’ve ever sniffed. I couldn’t bring myself to do white walls with the crisp white trim. So for color the girls and I chose “Silver Feather” for our white trim and “Silver Sand” which is a nice warm grey with a slight pink undertone to it. Both colors are by Olympic which is available at Lowes.

Next came the light fixture update, much to the girls relief. They have hated this green thing forever and it just didn’t fit in with our pretty walls.

BEFORE…

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It had good bones but needed some TLC. I hit up the lighting department at Lowes and came home with a few things, including new glass globes at $4 each and a new pull chain, also for $4. So for a grand total of $16…

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Isn’t it amazing how much better it is? If I had purchased a new one I would have spent $30 or $40 easy and it’s neutral to fit in with anyone’s decor.

The bedding and the curtains happened today. I did a little hunting and I found some old curtains I was no longer using. I’m not 100% sold on these curtains. I may end up at the store on grocery day buying plain white panels. You’ll see why in a minute. In the mean time, I hung them on tension rods inside the window frame. I couldn’t stand to cover up the beautiful trim work. For me it was a selling point of our home. I’m hoping buyers will agree with me.

I did a lot of scouting for this bedding. I wanted 2 matching comforters and one of the girls hates flowers.  I finally settled on a aqua, yellow and grey chevron from Target’s room essentials line. I ended up having to go to both Targets in town to get them but the girls were so happy with my choice that it’s worth it. Having the matching bedding really helps the room to look less cluttered.

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The bedding looks great with the ombre dressers that me and the girls painted several months ago but not so great with the curtains. What do you think? White curtains, black or yellow? I’m leaning towards white since it’s only until we sell.

Other than the curtains I am so pleased. It’s not a highly decorated room. I’m not putting in that kind of effort until we are in the new home. Then lookout because the girls and I have been squirreling away some great things for the “Teen Room” as I’ve started to call it.  For our purposes here we were just going for cleaned up and uncluttered kid room. I knew I achieved that when one of the girls made the comment “some one finally let in the light.”

Have you every painted a room and instantly felt lighter? Have you recently done any small updates that had a big impact? If so tell me about it!

Best Laid Plans

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I had grand plans for what I could accomplish in one weekend. I really did. I was going to get the dining room list completely knocked out and start on the upstairs hallway list. Have you ever heard the saying “men plan and god laughs”? That was my house this weekend. I came down with strep throat and the baby had an ear infection. I spent the entire weekend sick on the sofa trying to take care of the baby from a safe difference.

Since I can’t show you anything new I’ve done, I thought I’d show you a project we did to improve our home a couple of years ago. I scrapbook so I photograph everything! So this is a look back at our upstairs bathroom reno.

Before…

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The upstairs bathroom was a plain white box that needed to be brought to life and I was up to the task. It’s hard to tell from the pictures but this room has the same amazing woodwork that the down stairs has but was painted white like the rest of the room. I knew this called for a little sweat equity. I suited up…

Stripping Gear

Armed with paint stripper, I used Klean-Strip KS-3 Premium Stripper (in an orange can), and a hand scraper I started on the inside of the bathroom door (after I took down the towel bar). For those who have never done it, you paint on the stripper with a cheep brush (now is not the time to use your nice paint brushes), wait 15 minutes, and start scraping.

Hard at Work

After a week of hand scrapping I was frustrated. My very wise Uncle Frank suggested I invest in an oscillating tool. So off I went to the local home improvement store. We have 3 and I shop at all of them.  He suggested and I purchased a Rockwell 2.3 amp oscillating tool and attachment kit. I don’t recall what I paid for mine but I can tell you Lowe’s currently has a 73 piece kit listed for $149. Mine came with a scraper attachment and I quickly made progress.

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At this point I took a little break to go shopping and chose new fixtures and flooring.

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Sorry no picture of the flooring sample, but I wasn’t planning a blog at the time. I will say we went with an 18 x 18 peel and stick vinyl tiles and hired my Uncle and his friend to install the flooring and our sink. I will say I was very willing and excited to do this myself but my husband did not have confidence in my mad skills and over ruled me. Once they were done my dad came over to install me new wall sconces. Again my husband decided I was not to be trusted but I couldn’t possibly leave the crazy glamour bulb fixture circa 1980. YUCK!

Then I was allowed to return to work painting and staining. I didn’t feel the need to match the woodwork down stairs or the hallway. I wanted this room to stand out. I went with Minwax “Jacobean 2750”. As you’ll see it’s a very rich, deep color. I didn’t exactly follow directions applying it. I did use a wood conditioner as directed. It was then recommended to paint the stain on, going with the grain and wipe it off. When I did this I didn’t feel that the color was dark enough. So I painted it on and then just left the room to let it dry. It turned out great!

Because this is a bathroom and some of the wood is right next to the shower, I used a water-resistant sealer. I chose Minwax Helmsman Semi-Gloss Spar Varnish because it’s water-resistant and works with temperature changes, ideal for the humidity changes in my bathroom.

After that I caulked and painted. We used Valspar paint. For the lower half of the wall I painted it “Linen”, the upper portion of the wall is an olive color that they called “Barrell”, finally the chair rail and bathroom cabinet were painted “Cloth”.

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I finished up with the fun details. I hung an oil bronze towel bar on the back of the bathroom door, a hand towel ring, and new outlet cover. Instead of a curtain I chose a cordless accordion blind in off white. After putting all that work into the molding, I just couldn’t bring myself to hide it behind a curtain. With a little elbow grease, family helpers and $1000 I had a bathroom I was proud of…

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We finished this upgrade in the spring of 2011. I hope you enjoyed this look into my house. The girls are home and I’ve started to feel better so tomorrow we’re back to the list. I’ll be sure to fill you in on all the madness that ensues.