Thursday, March 31, 2011

Almost There!

Goodbye, apartment! How I loved your red walls and vaulted ceilings...
Are you tired of hearing about my move?

Probably. I am tired of the actual moving!

I promise I will have actual non-moving news, riveting writing posts, and random thoughts in the forseeable future.

There is light at the end of the tunnel. Last night I packed up more boxes. We should have everything out of the apartment by the end of the day - or rather, my hubby will have everything out since I am stuck at work. He has practically done all the moving himself which has amazed me - give him a two-wheeled cart and he can move practically anything (it helps that he was a professional mover in Europe for three years...).

I did some cleaning and laundry last night, too. Now both bathrooms are clean, we have clean clothes, and all that remains to do is clean the refrigerator, mop the floors, and vacuum. Doesn't sound so bad...and tomorrow is Friday.

I even managed to weed through my clothes and get rid of a good amount. I'll donate those as well as some of my daughter's things that she's outgrown. And speaking of my daughter, she is a packrat just like me when it comes to paper and books and tiny toys, and her room will be the hardest of all to organize.

The best part about moving in this fashion (i.e. having an entire month to move) is that the new house pretty much has everything put in its place. We've reused the same boxes over and over again. It's a lot better than having boxes stacked to the ceiling in the new place and taking a month to go through them all.

However, last night I hit the wall when it came to packing. If you've moved, you know the wall I'm talking about - where you just start throwing random stuff into boxes with the promise to yourself that you'll sort through it all when you get to the new house. (insert laughter here).

Moving is also an opportunity to purge, to look at an item you've been carting around for the past 10 years and ask yourself, "Do I really need this?" Unfortunately, I tend to be the sentimental type when it comes to objects and it's really hard for me to throw things away. I'm working on this, though.

Funny story: My cat loves to hide under our bed. It is her "official cowering zone." This morning, my husband moved the mattresses off the bed frame. The cat sat on the floor within the skeleton of the bed frame, looking quite lost and forlorn. I assured her that her "cowering zone" would soon be back in operational order at the new place. She just gave me a very sad meow.

The evening before, my daughter gave the kitty a stuffed animal and kitty ended up cuddling with it for most of the night. Too cute.

In other news...I am itching to get back to my manuscript. I looked through it a bit yesterday and got excited all over again. This is a good thing considering two months ago, I was so bored with it I wanted to chuck it into the trash icon on my computer.

What's the news from your end? Anything exciting?

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Confession: I'm a Chocolate Addict

I'm really not kidding when I say I'm addicted to chocolate.

Dove Dark Chocolate is my absolute favorite. This amuses me because I always used to avoid dark chocolate. Milk chocolate was far more pleasing to my taste buds, and whenever I tried the darker kind, it always left a bitter taste in my mouth.

But when I heard that dark chocolate was better for you, well, I had to see if I could "adapt" to the taste.

I can say, with absolute certainty, that those taste buds have been forever converted.

While I occasionally will eat milk chocolate, it tastes nowhere near as good as it once did.

I've always loved chocolate. But lately, I've realized that I cannot go a single day without it. I honestly cannot remember the last day I didn't have some sort of the sweet stuff.

This makes losing weight a bit harder since chocolate contains fat. But in the past, I've successfully stuck to one serving of chocolate a day and lost weight.

The problem now, however, is that with moving to a new place and all the hassle that entails, I tend to deviate from one serving and make it closer to two. One serving of Dove Dark Chocolate is five pieces. Sometimes I stretch it to six or seven. Whoops.

I blame the stress.

However, dark chocolate (in moderation) is actually good for you.

So, I guess I'm just being really good to myself, right? :-)

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Vintage Finds and Decorating Styles

In my quest to make my new home - and my life - more vintage, I've been hitting the second-hand and antique stores in town. It takes some digging sometimes, but I've been able to find some awesome treasures.

Since our house was built in 1951, I wanted to incorporate vintage touches into the kitchen, which is still relatively close to the original design. I found an awesome pair of vintage 1950s cafe curtains (and I promise I'll take pics as soon as they're hung up!) via Etsy and yesterday I scored some amazing vintage kitchen utensils that will look perfect on the built in decorative kitchen shelves. I'm on the hunt for a vintage 1950s kitchen clock - preferably red - as well as some vintage linens including a cute tablecloth. If I could, I'd buy one of these and make my kitchen complete, but alas, I don't have that kind of money!

For my office, I plan on a more 1940s theme in keeping with what I write. While I can't afford a vintage desk right now (though I'll keep my eyes out for them), I can add some great vintage touches. Yesterday, I found a vintage 1940s Royal typewriter at an antique store and promptly bought it (well, put it on layaway, at least!). Not only does it still work, but it will look amazing in my office! I'll take a picture of mine when I bring it home, but to give you an idea, it looks just like this:
I'm also searching for a vintage desk set and a cool vintage lamp. However, all of this treasure-hunting takes time and money, so I've had to limit my purchases lately. I figure I have time to get things just how I want them. (By the way, if you're into vintage and want to join a terrific online community of like-minded folks, I highly recommend The Fedora Lounge.)

For the living room, I'm not going with a twentieth century look at all. Since I have a mixture of tastes from eighteenth century to the 1940s and 1950s, I choose to create eras in different rooms as opposed to having the entire house have one look (though there are those that do that and their houses look AMAZING). Since my aunt gifted with some beautiful Victorian-style couches last year, I'm sticking with a nineteenth-century style for my living room. I had that style before, so things will stay pretty much as they were over at the apartment.

Now the basement...well, that's not going to be my domain. It's all my hubby's. Don't be surprised if I show you a picture in a few months and there's lots of Oakland Raiders' and car stuff everywhere in his "man cave"...

What about you? Do you have different decors in each room of your house, or do you prefer a uniform style throughout?

Monday, March 21, 2011

Moving Books


The library at Chatsworth, Derbyshire, England
 In moving from our apartment to our house, we are fortunate that we've had an entire month to move. This means far less stress, not to mention I can unpack at the new house and get things ready instead of having stacks of boxes in every nook and cranny for the next six months.

Yesterday was book moving day. Packing and transporting my book collection is no small feat. As a historian, a writer, and a reader, I have more than my fair share! The majority of my collection contains history books - from the American Revolution to the French Revolution and Napoleon and even the history of Northern Ireland. But my biggest collection by far is on World War II - naturally.

At the new house, hubby put my bookshelves in my new office, unpacked all the boxes of books, stacked them on the floor, and said, "Have at it."

It took me a good hour or more to put them all away. As I went through them, a feeling of warmth and peace washed over me. These books are like old friends. Most of them I've had for years, carting them around to my various homes, and straining the backs of anyone unfortunate enough to help me move! A lot of them have memories associated with them, from where I bought them to a research project or novel I was working on that required their expertise.

Maybe someday when I tire of moving them I'll want to chuck them in favor of a Kindle, but I don't think so. That electronic device will never be able to give me the same warmth and companionship of my books. Sound silly? Maybe it is. But as a writer, I realize all the work that went into each one of those books, and I can't stand the thought of tossing them just for the "convenience" of not having to move them anymore!

What's your book collection like? Have you pared it down to just a few favorites, or are you like me and have a plethora of volumes - and memories - at your beck and call?

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Writing, How I Miss Thee...

Let's see...

The last time I looked at my novel-in-progress was March 5.

Ouch.

Moving and preparing for our new home has consumed my life. We've painted, cleaned carpets, done minor renovation work, and even raked leaves (ok, ok, I haven't raked leaves, but my daughter and hubby have) at the new place. We've also managed to move some stuff out of the apartment and into the house. There are curtains to buy, paint colors to pick out (we just have the living room left to paint), and decorating decisions to be made.

In the midst of all this, I'm trying to keep up with my exercise, especially since my eating habits have fallen a bit by the wayside. Convenience meals are really the order of the day since we're so busy shuffling between the apartment and the house.

When I get home at night, I don't have much brain energy left. All I manage to do is surf the 'Net for curtain deals (I am really getting tired of curtains!) or watch a movie. This week's family favorite has been The Pink Panther Strikes Again. We have all the Pink Panther films and love them.

Unfortunately, I haven't been writing.

I'm ok with that for now. After all, in a few short weeks, I will have a brand new office to write in, one tailored to my very own specifications. It will be my haven, my den of creativity. Masterpieces will be produced from within its walls! (Cue dramatic music...)

Seriously, though, it will be absolutely lovely to have my own space. I haven't had that for a long, long time.

I can't wait.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Yes, I'm Talking About Curtains

When I was looking for a house to rent, I forgot about all those extras you need - you know, like curtains. I seriously have not worried about curtains for, oh, five years or more? And now that I've been consumed in the curtain world for the past week, I've discovered a few things:

1) More often than not, you can only buy one curtain panel at a time, even though you really need two to make your window treatment look right. So when you see a pair of curtains in the picture, you're not actually getting a pair - you're just getting one panel.  I do not want to pay outrageous prices for two panels, especially when each room has at least two windows. That means I have to buy four panels. This is madness, and needs to stop!

2) Curtains are expensive unless you get the curtain sets for $15 that look like some two-year-old put them together and are made from paper-thin fabric. I found that out after succumbing to the price tag, and now those sets are back in the store where they belong and not on my windows. I really am trying to be thrifty with my money, but when it comes down to it, do you really want to buy something that looks cheap and hang it in your room for how many years to come and make the entire room look cheap? Me either.

3) Vintage curtains are not hard to find. However, the perfect vintage curtains that fit the extra large window in my house are, indeed, nearly impossible to find. I spent a week - yes, a week - looking for vintage curtains at thrift stores and online (I particularly love Etsy!). Last night, when I'd all but given up, I opened Etsy and searched just for the heck of it. And then, the heavens parted. A pair of '50s vintage curtains popped up. They'd just been added to the seller's shop and they were exactly what I wanted. I snagged them up immediately.

4) There are cafe curtains. And valances. And priscillas. And thermal curtains. And then there are drapes. The list goes on. But, you must have the proper hardware for each type of curtain. Cafe curtains require a special rod in addition to the valance rod. You can go with the cheap, metal rods or you can get fancy with all sorts of funky metal or wood rods. Then there are curtain clips. And tiebacks.  I never knew there was so much to-do about curtains! Truth be told, in the houses I lived in before, they either already had curtains up or blinds and I didn't bother to replace them. In short, I was young and I was lazy. Now, however, I'm older and hopefully wiser, and I want the right curtains for each room.

5) I cannot decide on the kind of color and style for each room (except my kitchen) to save my life. I wanted vintage cafe curtains for the kitchen, and I found them. However, I have a living room, a bedroom, and an office yet to do (my daughter wanted purple paneled curtains for her room - I found them on sale for $6 each! Bargain!!!) and I do believe I have succumbed to a version of curtain hell. Do I want thermal drapes for the living room to help with heating costs? Do I need a valance or do I want to use a draping scarf? Too many decisions!!!

I decided yesterday that I could never build my own house. There would simply be too many decisions to make - counters, counter top, paint, curtain, types of fixtures, and the list would go on and on and on.

And of course, in the midst of all this, I have only packed four boxes, which leaves me with approximately 2,785 boxes yet to pack. Hubby has been painting all week, I cleaned carpets the other night, and have to finish that this weekend.

Oh yes...and then yesterday, my tooth started to hurt, and not one of the teeth that I've had fixed, but a new one (and it doesn't have a cavity, so that isn't the problem!). So now every time I take a cold drink, I about shoot out of my chair. The dentist isn't available today, so I am getting antibiotics and pain medication to get me through the weekend.

I don't have time for tooth pain! I've got curtains to buy! And apparently I don't have much time for blogs, either, as I've been woefully inadequate at visiting you all this week. Forgive me!

Now I'm off to look for those bedroom curtains...

Monday, March 07, 2011

Making a House a Home

This is my new home. Isn't it cute? It was built in 1951 and is a Cape Cod style. It has some beautiful features inside including built in wall shelves and an adorable kitchen.

Unfortunately, since it is a rental, it has also been somewhat abused. After getting the keys from our landlady, hubby and I went through the empty house yesterday and realized that numerous former tenants have not given this little gem the respect it deserves. Every wall needs to be painted, and it needs a thorough cleaning. But there is a great house underneath the grime and we're going to discover it!

Yes, it is a rental. Yes, we are going to leave this house better than when we moved in. Is that wasting money? I don't think so. It's our home and while we're there, we are going to love it - not just deal with it until something better comes along. Housing in this town is expensive - and we are actually renting this house for the same amount we paid for an apartment (thanks to our landlady's generosity). We are in no position to buy right now and this house is the perfect size for us at this point in our lives.

Fortunately, I have a very handy hubby. He can do maintenance like nobody's business, and that's a big bonus when you're short on funds.

Yesterday, we went and bought paint and painting supplies, and today I've been looking for design ideas. This is the fun part of moving into a house. We can make it our own! It's not like my apartment where everything had to stay the same. We can decorate and paint to our heart's content.

I'm focusing on kitchen ideas right now and of course, I want to make it look vintage! Check out these adorable kitchens. I don't think I want to go with red and white, though I've always loved blue and white.
I've been haunting the thrift stores around here and I've already found a ton of goodies that will be terrific when I get to the decorating part. Right now, I'm trying to decide on wallpaper or paint. The kitchen is currently painted a mustard yellow (eww!) and I can either paint it or put some fun vintage wallpaper on it like this:
I really, really wish I could sew. I haven't touched a sewing machine since high school home ec class, and even then, I wasn't very good at it. But I'd love to sew my own curtains and make a custom tablecloth with a really cute retro design! (Hint: Valerie, come visit me and help me make them! She's a sewing whiz and makes some adorable handbags! Plus she is a terrific writer and friend.)

Thankfully, we have almost three weeks to get the house ready. Hubby is painting as I type, and I plan to get the window measurements tonight or tomorrow, then start shopping for curtains.

The challenge, for me, at least, will be to find great stuff at a great price. Thrifting and bargain shopping is the order of the day!

I can't wait to turn this house into our home.

Friday, March 04, 2011

I Need a Vacation

Blenheim Palace, home of Winston Churchill, October 2008
It's that fuzzy time between the end of winter and the beginning of spring when the weather isn't quite sure what to do. We've had days where the temps have been in the 60s and then the next day, we get a blizzard.

Yeah. Fun, fun!

I'm in a funk where the writing is concerned, and I decided not to force it, but let it pass.

What I think my mind really needs, though, is a vacation to a beautiful, exotic location rich in history.

Germany...England...France...Italy...

Yes, no tropical paradise for me. I am allergic to the sun (not really...but I may as well be for as much as I loathe it).

Alas, a vacation is not to be. The daily grind calls and I must answer.

But if I could go on vacation...oh yes. I'd hop a plane and go see the beaches of Normandy...the Imperial War Museum in London (which I missed last time I was there!)...visit my family in Turin, Italy...head over to Napoleon's tomb in Paris.

Now that is my idea of a vacation.

If you could take a vacation right now, where would you go?

New Digs

I've got a new home on the web - stop by if you get a chance! www.melissamarsh.net