Fancy and Not Fancy

I was in a job interview once for a big cooking website. I was perfect for the job and I was getting along with the interviewers and it was looking like the job was in the bag. Then the interviewers started mocking Nilla Wafers. I’ve probably bought two boxes of Nilla Wafers my entire life but it really bothered me that they were making fun of them just because they are not fancy. I couldn’t let it go for some reason so I defended the Nilla Wafer. Just because something isn’t fancy, doesn’t mean it isn’t awesome. I did not get the job and I knew that’s what would happen when I defended the Nilla Wafer but for some reason, this was my Norma Rae moment.

NormaRae

Years ago, I created an anti-Bond character named Kevin. Kevin lived in his parents’ basement and drove a Pinto. I love James Bond and have watched all the movies multiple times but I also love Kevin. I love the little guy who is awkward, not talented, but still somehow succeeds once in a while because he just keeps trying. Kevin is basically the Nilla Wafer of spies. He’s not fancy, but he gets the job done.

I’d like to say I’m fighting for the little guy but the truth is, I just like to be contrary. Especially if someone is trying to set something up as a new standard. We have such short memories. Today, Nilla Wafers are “common” but they used to be a southern delicacy until Nabisco figured out how to preserve them and mass produced them. We normalize things until we decide they aren’t exclusive enough. That just chaps my hide for some reason.

OK, this is not a rant against fancy. I can actually whip up a mean spicy peanut sauce and I have garlic aoili and Sriracha in my fridge. I like me some fancy.

I just believe we should appreciate our Nilla Wafers too.

So, What’s Going on with the Home Office?

Has it been abandoned? Has everything been crammed back in that single room in order to reclaim the living room? The short answer is no. I chip away at it when I get a chance which means it is very slow-going and I’m starting to get embarrassed that the living room has been unusable for about a year. Wow. I’m not going to win any awards for DIY of the year.

On a positive note, everything “big” that belongs in the room has been moved back in so the configuration of the room is set and I think it works pretty well. My grandparents and I used to have a tradition where they would come spend the night at my house for Halloween so they would get to see the trick or treaters. We haven’t been able to do that the last couple of years with all the changes they have gone through so I was excited that I thought we’d get to be able to resume our tradition this year. This forced me to get the office kitted out as a guest room which is what that room is supposed to be able to do when needed. Actually, it was probably a good time to try it out as a guest room to ensure things were right for that function before it gets “completed.”

I took all the pictures this morning on the run before work (as I tend to do) which aligns with my refusal to stage anything. I also appear to refuse to even straighten stuff. I’d like to think that comes from a noble honesty but I don’t think I’m fooling anyone.

The walls are still a little bare. There are a couple of shelves that will go up and then I can start hanging artwork. Also, Clorox, I’m available for product placement revenue. Your wipes can be featured in charming vignettes like this in every room of my house! Often next to a dog mess. Also, the bed is already rumpled because a certain greyhound who lives here believes this is his bed.

Setting up the guest room configuration required a bit of re-jiggering of the room but I’m really pleased with the final setup. I think it’s warm, inviting, and still really functional for the office role. I replaced the bookcases that collapsed with some simple Ikea Billy bookcases.

Around my house, we all get in on the fun of building Ikea furniture.

I painted the back of the bookcase a pretty, dark teal. I really wanted to stencil some design on it but it became impractical for time’s sake. I also decided to put them in the closet. Since it isn’t an occupied room, the closet becomes a major storage area for me so I figured why not make it more functional for storage? When I sell the house I can easily install a closet kit but in the meantime, I’m the one living here so I need it to work for me. I will re-hang the closet doors when they get painted (have I mentioned that dark stain that all my trim and doors sport is a ginormous pain to paint?). I don’t think they look bad which will be nice when closet doors are left open.

Grandpa believes every room needs a chair so that you can put on your shoes. He is apparently against sitting on the bed to put on your shoes and doesn’t like my office chair for the job because it is on wheels so I have to keep a little chair in here for him.

The futon is big and I would, in the future, like to replace it with a pull-out couch but I bought a new mattress a few months ago so this will stay for a while. It’s comfortable and that’s what counts.

Much of the little stuff has come back in the room. This is what we have so far.

A couple of these things might also get moved to the shelves that I will hang so these two bookcases should be sufficient for my crap. Which is how it should be!

The living room looks better but it is still full of crap. One of the things that is slowing this project is that everything gets reviewed and considered before it goes back in the room. I accumulated a ton of stuff because I was going to “deal with it later” but later just never happens. So everything gets touched, considered, and over half of it never goes back in the room. It is either tossed or donated. A lot what you see here is yarn. I have more yarn than one person should ever have. I’m not putting it back in the office until the very end.  I want to have it all in one place so that I can sort through it. Like the rest of the crap, most of it will never go back in the room. I’ll either sell some it or donate it. Not only is there more than I can ever knit but I’ve changed my taste and knitting skill since I bought much of it. Also, access to patterns has vastly improved since I started collecting all of this. When I want a pattern, I almost never go through my books and magazines anymore, I look online. So most of the books and all of the magazines are going.

I circled the last bit to sort through. The rest is yarn/craft stuff that will be culled in the final big review. The stuff crossed out is garbage. Note that I’m finally giving up my Coca Cola penny holder that I’ve had since the 70s. Go me!

Painfully slow going but it feels so good to get rid of so much stuff and be able to put my hands on what I need in the office. Before, anything I needed was impossible to find which means the room didn’t function. No one’s space is big enough to live like that.

Halloween Decorations for 48 Hours

I just had so much going on this year, what with all the conferences and going to jail and all, that I didn’t get around to decorating for Halloween until Halloween day. Which means my beloved decorations go up and down faster than something fast on something faster (fill in the blanks).

I had a little Halloween lunch for the family. As Chief Quality Officer, Scarlet was all over (literally) the table to make sure things were up to snuff. Apparently, in her opinion, the napkins are better in my bathroom (I have retrieved three of the four so far from my bathroom. Don’t worry, this was after we ate lunch.), at least half of the individual salt and pepper shakers should be knocked over, and the leaves of the bouquet should be well chewed.

Not to mention what I consider straight for runners and placemats and what she considers straight.

I’m disappointed I have to take the decorations down so soon. Some of them I’d love to leave up year-round. I love the little, tin, haunted house and it is hard to see, but there is a crow in the second from the left, top cubby. He’s peeking out just like a crow would if he was hanging out with me in the family room. It’s made me jump a few times.

The bookshelves are new this year and have proved to be a great addition. They aren’t quite what I wanted or what I would want on a permanent basis but they are really good for an interim solution until I have the money to hire a carpenter to build permanent “built-ins.” The cubbies aren’t all filled yet. I’m taking my time and thoughtfully putting in books and accessories I want there as I come across them in other places of the house. It could be really easy to make them junky so I’m being careful. Those bright corners are lamps. They aren’t really that bright in person, they just look that way in the picture. Those are probably the best improvement because this is a really dark room. Even in the summer, the porch roof outside the sliding glass door in this room cuts out all light. This means I need to artificially light the room year-round. These lamps in these corners help a LOT in making the room brighter (that’s not the smartest thing I’ve ever said).

The dogs and I have very different ideas of how their blankets should be on their beds. I straighten them out and three seconds later they’ve done this. Also that rug moves around the room a lot. It is really annoying and I’m looking for a more permanent replacement. Something that can endure the mud and dirt we get in here most of the year.

I turned off the lights so you can see the lamps (sort of) in the corners and get an idea of what the room looks like, in full sunlight, without them on. Ugh. This is with a lamp on across the room and the kitchen light on so it just how dark that half of the room gets.

The lamps are modern-looking leucite lamps which is really a change for me. I love them.

Because I hate traveling around a room to turn off and on lamps (especially when I have to step over dog beds and toys) I found this simple remote system. By plugging the lamps into a receiver, I can turn them both on and off with this remote. It is one of those little things things that makes everyone happy when they get to turn the lamps on and off.

Never underestimate how fun people will find it to have the “power” to turn on a light from across the room.

It’s an inexpensive option for remote lighting. I saw a kit the other day where you put special lightbulbs in the lamp and then you can control them with your phone. That was tempting (because I do love the gadgets) but if you have to buy special bulbs every time they burn out, that could get expensive (and annoying because I’m all about the Costco multi-paks for convenience). I’d rather just tuck these remotes around the house.

So Halloween has come and gone and I have to put away the skeletons that were in the yard, I’m trying to look forward to the next holiday now. Considering how long it is taking me to get things decorated for a holiday, I’m thinking I should start decorating for Christmas today.

How I Went to Jail Yesterday. Sortof.

I’ve been reading a book series lately that has been around for a while but I missed it somehow so I get to dive in after there are already a ton of books which means you are immersed in the world this author has created. It’s lovely.

However, the lead character, Amelia Peabody, is starting to influence me and this could either go well, or badly. I find myself thinking I need to “take things in hand” and fix them like Peabody. If I started doing this, I would be exhausted because it seems like I’m in plenty of situations that should be better!

For example:

The situation

I went to a conference for work yesterday. Conferences are uncomfortable. The wee conference chairs are too small. Conference tables are also unmanageably small and somehow there is a table leg every three inches so no matter where you try to sit, it is always right at a leg.

What Peabody would do

March the hotel manager to one of these wee places and tell him or her to sit so they can experience this for themselves. The hotel managers that Peabody set straight would be horrified and ashamed that things were so uncomfortable. They would rectify it immediately and every time she came back to that hotel she would be treated like a queen. I’m pretty sure if I tried this they would dismiss me and avoid me for the rest of the day. I would be the crazy lady they talked about when recounting bad events.

The situation

The little things are neglected at these conferences. You’re lucky if you have a water jug at your table but after the first session in the morning, it is usually empty so it just sits there, taunting you, as you try not to cough during a presentation. I probably didn’t even really need to cough until I realized the jug was empty and then all I can do is cough. Be prepared when you leave the room looking for a beverage though. The coffee and tea station has regular coffee cups. Not a disposable cup with a lid but a coffee cup so if you have a bag and a purse and the hallway is chock full of people jostling each other, you quickly realize you can’t have coffee or tea because if you try, you will just spill it somewhere on someone. A can of soda seems like a good option and they have a little tub of them for you but there are no ice and cups. It’s like they expect you to drink it lukewarm, out of a can. OUT OF A CAN! That is just uncivilized.

What Peabody would do

She would never tolerate uncivilized behavior. She would take that empty jug to the nearest hotel personnel, shake her parasol at them, and demand that all the jugs be tended to and by god people would hustle to make it happen. The coffee/tea and cups would be brought to the individual rooms and all soda would be accompanied with glasses and ice. Everyone would thank Peabody for efficiently seeing to this and the hotel would never let it happen again for fear of the dreaded parasol shaking. If I tried any of this, one wait staff would bring me cranberry juice and disappear while I try to figure out what just happened. Then I would have heartburn the rest of the day because I drank the cranberry juice. Hotel 1, me 0.

The situation

The final straw yesterday was the lunch. It was dreadful. I’ve thrown away food that was better than what they served and trust me, I’m not picky about food. I may require a glass with ice for soda but I’ve dined on airplane food and thought it was delicious. Even I couldn’t stomach the horrendous mess they gave us. The hotel also only had about three people serving a ballroom of hundreds of people (cramming 10 people around tables for 8). It was awful watching them run to get everyone some terrible food.

What Peabody would do

She would march up to management to defend the poor over-worked servers, produce a four-star chef to whip up something more appetizing, and move some of the people into the conference rooms so we actually had room for our elbows. The serve staff would love her and hail her as their champion. The attendees would support her by telling hotel management that unless they adopted her methods, they would never come back. The only thing I managed to do was find an abandoned tray of ice teas and make sure my table all had one. So I was a bit of a champion to two or three people.

After the dreadful lunch, I was even looking forward to a tepid soda in a can but they were out by then. The vendor booths were also out of Halloween candy so I was a little concerned the conference would turn into Lord of the Flies but we managed to keep it together. It does help to leave early which I can’t help but think was the hotel’s goal all along.

I guess it was the ultimate Peabody act to stay civilized and I did. I’m thinking I really need a parasol though that I can shake at people. That would make me a better Peabody. Or just get me arrested for brandishing a weapon. I’ll bet they don’t have glasses of ice for soda in jail either. Come to think of it, they aren’t big on elbow room. Or jugs of water.

Congratulations hotel, you have the same accommodations as a jail.

Craziness and Four Random Things

Things feel like they are finally settling down back into a routine. I probably shouldn’t have posted that I was being treated for cancer and then dropped off the planet like that. All is good. My radiation treatments are over and they were remarkably few and easy compared to what many people have to go through. It has just been so exciting to not have to think about my health for a while that I’ve thrown myself into getting my routine back. I’m stealing time to write this post from something else so I’ll just do a quick, random update:

1. I was fortunate enough to be invited to attend a conference the other week of senior women at my company. Not senior as in a particular age but women who are at a higher level in the company. It was so fun to spend the week with such a SMART, accomplished group of women. There is no way to come out of that and not be better for it. I just soaked everything up like a sponge. It meant working late into the night to keep up with daily duties but totally worth it.

2. The home office project was briefly abandoned as its priority is relatively low. I’m excited to get back to it and have been obsessing over the stupidest detail. At this point I’m embarrassed for anyone to see my living room (totally full of office crap) so I’m getting really motivated to get on with it already. I haven’t had a lot of weekends to myself in a while but I should have a few in a row which will help get a little momentum going again. I’d love to host the grandparents for Halloween (an annual tradition) but I just can’t do it with the living room like it is.

Helping me build bookcases.

3. I need to take a vacation. I haven’t had one yet this year and I think I lose it if I don’t use it. I could sure use the time off and while I would like to get away, it sounds more relaxing to just stay at home and putter away. Have I gotten old and boring? I just feel behind all the time. What is this standard that we set for ourselves and why? Is this a woman thing or do guys do this to themselves too? I’m afraid if I stay home, I’ll just do chores and then beat myself up every time I take a few hours to read a book.

4. I cut my hair off this weekend. Well, I didn’t actually cut it all off, I just got a lot cut off. I hate when my hair gets too long. It isn’t very flattering. I have very thick, very curly hair and you would think it would be a glorious mane of red curls but it just gets frizzy, huge and either looks like a 70s showgirl or middle age hippy hair (not the good kind). So out of desperation this weekend I raced into the salon and made her cut a great deal off. It is quite a bit better but is also giving me, unfortunately, a bit of a helmet head. Big and round. I don’t even really care, that is how much I hated the hippy hair.

Futon has been snagged from Frankie. It now belongs to the cat.

A wee bit of progress has happened in the office. I’ll post an update later this week.

National Black Dog Day

Just a quick hit-and-run today. I’m writing up a post but in the meantime, I wanted to call attention to National Black Dog Day because black doggies and kitties deserve loving homes too. I’ve been lucky enough to be owned by several black dogs and black cats. I wrote up a post last year that I’ll recycle here because it is full of adorable pictures and facts about our black, furry friends who languish in shelters for some, bizarre reason.

Black Dog Syndrome

Black dogs and cats rule!

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This is Sapphire. She loved a good ear scratchy. Her muzzle is white due to age and the fact that I rubbed all the color off of it!

Confession Time

Over the last few months I’ve struggled with how much to share here. This is a blog. It is a public forum and I’m under no delusions about how interesting I am. I’m no design maven, I’m no DIY expert, I’m not even a lifestyle person; I’m just a regular person whose house needs to be vacuumed and who forgets to put the garbage out for pick-up most Fridays. But I consume a lot of material online and find so much representation for the people who do it perfectly or who are stylish and creative but not a lot for those of us who don’t have a design background or who have four kids or four dogs (or both). Don’t get me wrong, I love many of the fabulous sites and find inspiration and ideas from these people but there is a perverse, contrary person in me who refuses to stage pictures and freely admits multiple errors and failures as I stand next to all the experts (well, probably more like down the block and around the corner from them).

I just really like holding up reality next to the fabulous. I like that contrast. The fabulous is all the sweeter for living the reality and reality is more comforting and grounding when you’ve experienced fabulous for a little while. Recently though, I took my eye off reality because it wasn’t something I wanted to deal with.

A few months ago I was diagnosed with uterine cancer. Don’t worry, it is the “best” cancer to have next to skin cancer. It was only stage one and giving up the uterus would take care of things. After the surgery, they decided that, even though they got everything, they would like to do a little radiation. It is only a very little and I’m not sick or losing my hair or anything. Something that does bug me though is that I wish I had dealt with this sooner. Yup, I have great benefits and really good medical care in general but I was embarrassed to go to the gynecologist while I was having a period. That’s it. We don’t like to talk about them. I don’t like to talk about them. But it is a reality that I shouldn’t have been ashamed of. If you are having issues with Aunt Flo (terrible euphemism), just get it checked out right away. Your dignity can take it.

The odd thing is, SO many other women I’ve told have gone through something very similar. I can’t believe how common this is! If I hadn’t been so shy about it with friends and family, I might have been less shy with my doctor. Why was I pretending everything was fabulous when I was struggling with something? My doctor also told me that endometrial issues like I was having can very often turn into cancer. Ignoring the reality can make any of us women, very sick. It’s OK not to be fabulous all the time. If something is cramping your style (HA! Pun!), talk to your doctor and trusted friends.

Cancer is a scary word but it hasn’t been that bad. Reality is always there, whether we want it to be or not. For me, facing it hasn’t hurt the fabulous. I hope each and every one of you, if you have a little reality you have been avoiding, looks it in the eye and beats it down with your fabulousness. Get your screenings, make that appointment you have been avoiding, do that “thing” you know in your heart you need to do.

You got this.

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I’m armed with axes to back you up.

It’s the Little Things

I could also title this “The Joy of Caulking.” That doesn’t mean I love to caulk, but I love the results. Caulking is not at all sexy and not something you would ever known was done in one of those fancy, staged rooms. However, I think it is a critical piece in “finishing” a room. It is the kind of thing you don’t notice if it is done, but you do notice if it isn’t done.

I think one of the most dramatic results was my door frame. This really confronted everyone who went out the door. I caulk around the baseboard and the door trim but this was really in-your-face. The left side is what it looked like before and the right side is after a quick bead of caulk. It took about 10 minutes and a tube of caulk costs about $3 to $5. A tube will cover several average-sized rooms so this is highly affordable giving us a lot of bang for our buck.

CaulkedDoorframe

My windows are going to be tricky though. The gap around the window trim is way bigger than a bead of caulk can fill. I’m researching how this can be filled but I’m thinking there is likely some kind insulating fill that I can stuff in the crack and then caulk over that. I can’t believe that this isn’t making my heating/cooling less efficient.

And, as usual, I was well supervised. Here for your “awww” of the day, Scarlet Kitty playing with a Q-Tip. She’s blurry because she never holds still.

I See Baseboards

Because nothing is funnier than an out-of-date cultural reference.

I got my baseboard on this weekend and finished a job in the home office project that seemed really hard. Of course, in the end, it was nothing. I managed to sweat up a storm which was either because it was hot and muggy or it was a hotflash. I’ll bet you don’t hear too many contractors complain about those. Either way, the sweat was not warranted because this was easy and done quickly.

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Now I just need to get my caulk on which sounds way more fun than it is.

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Slow and Steady Wins the Race

I’ve not abandoned things here, I swear. Life is moving at a painstakingly slow pace as I heal so it just feels like there is little to share. “Worked for an hour. Took a nap. Painted the baseboard trim. Took a 2-hour nap. Worked for 3 hours. Laid down for a while.”

Not to be judgy, but I’m not sure that’s interesting reading.

So many little things have added up these past weeks (like the tumblefur!) that I think it will behoove me to just bring in some cleaning help so I’m not playing catch up for the next month and a half.

The office remains my focus because I use it all the time. The baseboard is ready to be installed. I’ve been working on reducing the crap going back in. The best description is “pecking” at the hill of stuff. I’ve set up a little system for myself that keeps progress progressing. I try to sit down as often as possible and just get a garbage bag full to throw away and then I can quit. It is both incentive to throw things away and it keeps the task doable in the middle of a busy, regular life. At this point, the big barrier to overcome is getting that baseboard in so I can put together the new shelves and start putting away things that I’m keeping.

No boss, the baseboard is still not there.

Maybe I’ll get this weekend to do it. I haven’t had a weekend to myself in ages. The grandparent drama is on the upswing right now. They are both 96 and the aging stuff is very prominent in all of our lives as change seems to be constantly required to keep things safe for them. The very latest is admitting to ourselves that they can’t go to doctor appointments by themselves because they just don’t have the cognitive abilities anymore to understand and retain what they are being told. This is a tough commitment for anyone in the family. The best solution we have come up with so far is to set an appointment day (or two if needed) once a month and try to schedule multiple appointments on that day so that one of us only has to take one day off. If anyone else has had to deal with this in their family and found something that works for them, let me know. This stuff is tricky to work out and not let it take over everything.

While I was stuck being “quiet” I read a LOT. No hardship there. I love reading and it feels like a luxury most of the time so I was super excited to have an excuse to just read constantly. I got hooked on a weird genre: murder mysteries set in the 20s with a upper-class female detective. It seems to be the combination of the social changes in the 20s and the social situation of upper-class women that I find so interesting. I went through two series (Her Royal Spyness and the Daisy Dalrymple series) that are very light and easy to consume. The popcorn of literature. When I finished these up, I couldn’t find a series that replaced them. There are a lot of murder mysteries set in the 20s but it is the upper-class female perspective that I was finding interesting; the limited freedom of a woman of that class as well as the huge social changes happening with a large middle class and women’s roles and expectations changing dramatically. I started reading biographies of women who were in service at that time “downstairs” which was interesting, but I wanted to learn more about the upper-class. I’m still craving that so I’m looking around for more. I get on these binges of subject matter and I can’t get enough. I did this with the Tudor period, the Elizabethan period, and Victorian steampunk, etc.

In between books, I’m taming wild beasts.

Anyone else getting any reading done this summer?