January 30, 2016

I Dream About Sitting Down (Part Three)

To catch up on parts one and two go here: Part One and here: Part Two.

     I am nearly done! What started out as just a gift of a television turned into an entire room makeover and a much bigger job than I had imagined. As soon as we purchased the new flat screen I took the room apart and cleaned. The old television had not been moved in years and was a frightening tangle of complicated sound components, speakers and electronic gadgetry. Over the years we had added gaming systems and sub-woofers. We also have had a varying collection of cats, all of which left a bit of themselves behind the big old TV unit as fur and odd, miscellaneous toys. Yuck. I moved out the unit and cleaned. Then I went around the room and cleaned more. I washed, vacuumed, dusted and polished every article in the room. That's when the furniture began to arrive. Flat screen TVs need to stand on something, and so I searched high and low for a cabinet the right height. Next I needed a table behind the sofa since my husband likes the convenience. The one I had before was never seen but this one would be very visible and couldn't stand propped up on old paint cans. My living room now was filled with stuff in big boxes and bags, and in the middle was Christmas and all the lovely toys that come with the holiday. I was imagining not only a great newly-arranged living room, but I found myself dreaming more and more about just sitting down. At the end of the redecorating rainbow was a cozy chair, a hot cup of tea and a romantic novel. I’d put my feet up and lay back and all of the work would have been worth it. I'd have a living room I loved.
     Eventually the furniture was moved and built and the gallery of my book covers was hung. It’s not the Louvre, but it’s home. Once all of that was done, I put together my tea corner.

The corner table set for tea

     From all over the house I gathered my beloved tea supplies. Over time I have collected cups and infusers and tins and teaspoons. Some I purchased on afternoon trips to antique malls and thrift shops, many more are gifts from treasured friends. It wasn’t until I had rounded up all of my things that I realized I had far more than would fit on my new corner table. I scratched my head for days. I didn’t want to add more stuff to the living room. I had more than I needed as it was. I could add shelves beneath the tea table, I thought, but that would mean every time I wanted something I’d have to pull up the tablecloth and dig for it. What I needed was something I could pull out and put away when I didn’t want it. The idea of a simple tea cart was born.
     In my research I found some magnificent tea trolleys, lovely old English walnut carts with huge wooden wheels and drapes of doilies. Maybe someday in my countryside cottage, but not here in my little living room. After plenty of searches I decided instead on a plain wire cart. It's small, portable, affordable and tucks away in a corner.

A simple wire cart

     Of course it can’t be just wire baskets filled with tea cups, so I frilled it up. I added some doilies and cloth napkins. In a collection of antique milk-glass loaf pans I sorted out all of my tea bags. I discovered that with a few “S” hooks I could hang cups and infuser balls and store all my tins. I added a little chalkboard. When I roll out the cart it says, “Tea Time” and it suits my needs perfectly.

     The table is set for serving. The lamp is glowing and my old and forgotten Mrs. Tea machine has been rediscovered. After a busy day of running and writing and cleaning and laundry I roll out my little tea cart while the water heats in the pot. On a tall ottoman in the middle of my living room I pour tea. The room is draped and warm and a good lemon tea smells delightful. As the sun sets outside the French doors I can settle back, put up my feet and let my cozy and romantic surroundings take over my imagination. I can think about my next novel, close my eyes and doze or simply savor my tea. Mostly I can fulfill my dream which after all is just simply sitting down.

Next week I'll post the final touches.

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January 23, 2016

I Dream About Sitting Down (Part Two)

To find Part One of this post and catch up go here: Part One

     Welcome back! For a long time I contemplated what I might do with the corner in my living room where the big television once resided. One idea I had in mind was an “author’s corner”. Hey, I’ve written over a dozen novels. I could make myself a kind of a trophy place. I have earned it, and it’s my house. I envisioned a little reading nook with a small table, a lamp and a chair. On the wall I would hang all of the beautiful covers to my novels and be inspired by them. And so, for the next step in my ongoing room fix I started in that corner.
     To get an idea of how I might hang over a dozen picture frames I taped up sheets of papers with painter’s tape. This only added gasoline to my fire of redecorating. I had already rolled the big TV out of the room and moved in my decorated Christmas tree so that I might enjoy the few final days of the holiday season with some twinkling lights. Heck, the room makeover was supposed to be a Christmas gift anyway.

Printer's paper and painter's tape

     The old wooden ladder-back chair I had was dark and I had thought about painting it for years so, inspired by my vision, I gave it a good coat of primer and painted it a glossy white. Now I could see it against the dark walls.
     The dark walls. There’s a story there too. When we moved into our house everything was a vanilla white. It was alright for a while, but as time passed each room spoke to me asking for color. The living room was one of the first to call out to me and I choose a deep green. The room has a western exposure, shaded by a deep porch on the side of the house. It's very bright at sunset, but cool and shady most of the time. It felt like a sheltered English garden filled with ivy and earthen paths. Over time I added the deep rose curtains and silk geraniums. 
      Next I went out and invested in identical picture frames and replaced the printer paper with the photos of the cute couple that came mounted in them. One by one I printed out the covers from my Kinslow novels and set them in chronological order.

Frames being hung - I must really like that couple!

All of my book covers plus room for two more

     Now, with copies of my covers printed and framed I have a nice gallery of my novels. The corner allows for a larger table than I expected and the wheels in my decorating mind began to turn again. Instead of just a table and chair I thought maybe a nice tea station would be perfect in my new cozy room.

Next week: The Tea 

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January 16, 2016

I Dream About Sitting Down (Part One)

     For Christmas my husband bought me a flat screen television, thinking that we could get rid of the monster projection unit we already had. I posted about it here: An Early Christmas.  For fifteen years I sat in my living room and thought about what I would do when I could arrange the space comfortably. Over the past few weeks all of those imaginings came tumbling forth and I went a little crazy. Starting today, and over the next couple of weeks I'm posting my project and including plenty of pictures.
     I love my house. It’s not perfect, and definitely not everyone’s taste. That’s one of the great things about it. It’s my house. I can fill it with the things I love and put my feet up on any of them I choose. I can keep it at a temperature that I like, move things around all I please and not have to answer to anyone else about my taste. Yes, my husband lives here as well, so we do have to find some compromises, but together we have made it our home. It’s fussy and cozy and it is our refuge from the rest of the world. My guests usually like it too. Friends and company often tell me that if they lived here they might never leave. Frequent visitors say they would like to stay longer. Like a good cup of tea, it's soothing and it is a home. I have felt this way since we bought the place. Except for the living room.

 My living room in 2009

     I was never comfortable in the room. With my easy chair practically in the doorway it was drafty and I always felt I would need to jump up at any moment to do something other than relax. I never went in there on my own to unwind or read or even to turn on the television while I did my nails or got out my knitting. That is no longer the case.
     Right before Christmas it began. I moved the furniture around in the room, but the space needed much more. That was the beginning of a long journey but now it is finished.

     I have beautiful French doors in my home. One pair leads from the living room out onto the screened porch. In the spring and fall I can throw open the double doors and the room seems to become twice its actual size. The doors have the original brass latches and knobs and they are charming and lovely. They are also terribly drafty in the winter months. When I put in a little electric fireplace it really heated the room, far more even than a good blazing fire on the hearth, but the wind through the French doors and the wide double doorway into the rest of the house sucked up the valuable warmth. For years I have threatened to hang drapes that closed off the room. I shouldn't have waited so long.

The French doors to the porch

     For the draping I choose a heavy ticking fabric, like the stuff they use on feather pillows, and sewed them up. I hung them from heavy rods, (a well appreciated Christmas gift from my daughter and her husband), with rings that pull across easily. In the evening, when the sun has set beyond the porch doors I can pull the drapes and close off the room. The ticking is dense, but not too heavy and with the electric fireplace humming the room is snug and cozy. I am certain my heating bill will be much lower this winter. I must confess, the first few days in that snug room had me dozing in my chair every evening. I was well on my way to enjoying my living room much more.

Next week: The book cover gallery

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January 9, 2016

Back at Minecraft


     For this project I decided to keep myself contained by building on a good sized island. I find that if I begin a world in an land-based area I just keep digging away at the surrounding mountains and making the world larger and larger. This time I am staying within the bounds of the wide open Minecraft sea.

      I began this village in the center of the island and planned out the housing symmetrically around the ever popular well. The houses, although not identical, are quite similar. This makes it easy to build several foundations, one right after the other, then go back and do the walls and roofs and such and get those houses cranked out. I do play in creative mode, but a groaning zombie, although not to dangerous to me, is annoying and I like to get some shelter up for my delicious villagers quickly.

       I almost always play with the John Smith pack. I love the medieval aspects of it and the pretty flowers. 

      My little villagers like to hang around the beach occasionally, enjoying the view and zombies nearly always come in the night to wade in the fountains and admire the wheat fields.

     I have also found that, like people, my villagers love apartments, so I often build them little places with small rooms where they tend to gather after dark. 

        I am just about finished with my living room project in my real house, but not quite ready for the unveiling yet. Please come back next week!

January 2, 2016

What the Heck is a Fitbit?

    Those "Fitbit" gadgets are everywhere. You see them advertised on commercials, and on the wrists of your friends and co-workers. Heck, they’re on the wrists of athletes and of the coaches after the ball game. What exactly are they? People will tell you that the Fitbit is an activity tracker. So? What exactly does that mean to you?
     For a few years my daughter has been talking about some kind of band you put on your arm that helps you lose weight and she knows people who have been successful with them. After trying one or two she got a Fitbit and she was very excited. I myself could not imagine how a band on your arm would help you get fit. Is it like having your ear stapled, I wondered? Ear stapling supposedly makes you lose weight, quit smoking etc. Woah! That would be magic.
     Fitbit is not magic. It won’t miraculously melt away your gut or clamp your mouth shut every time you drive past McDonald's. Once you strap it to your wrist it measures your movements: walking, running, sitting. It can even tell when you lay quietly at night and track your sleep patterns. Like Santa it knows when you are sleeping. It works much the same way as a game controller. You shake and it knows, like a fitness angel on your shoulder.

     Imagine you have a perky companion. A healthier friend who understands you. That loving friend knows what “active” really means. It knows that you are sitting down far too much during the day. You may think that you’re a rather busy individual, like I did, but you might be less active than you realize. This little electronic companion of yours knows the truth. It also knows why, after you’ve had a restless night, you are exhausted all day. It has a battery but what really powers the Fitbit is you. It is designed to speak to that person inside you, that thinner, livelier person and to help you find your lost inspiration. After all, of all the people in this world who love you, wouldn’t you most of all like to love yourself?
     I got a Fitbit for my birthday and it was enlightening. I’ve tried little apps on my phone that make me log all the food I eat all day and I lost interest in doing that. I was never inspired by counting calories. I am fairly fit but getting my butt out the door was what I really needed. That funny little gadget really helped.
     I did not expect miracles. I strapped it on and loaded the software on my iPad. It was easy. Fitbit captured my interest and I checked it occasionally while it counted every step. After a couple of days, it was clear that I was not getting the exercise I ought to be. Gee, could that be why I still had a couple of quit-smoking pounds that never went away? Not wanting to disappoint myself (or the gadget) I made some subtle changes in my life. I was motivated to get in a few more steps. Instead of leaving the laundry basket at the bottom of the stairs I would carry it up right away and I got in twenty more steps. I felt better about myself for doing that. While I was up there I folded it and put it away. More activity. I began to do those little things that everyone keeps saying you should be doing. I passed up the elevator and took the stairs. I took the long way. I got my activity up and I started feeling great. The gadget also lets you keep in touch with Fitbit friends. I joined a work-week challenge with five other people to see who could take the most steps. I went for a walk. And then another. I certainly didn’t want to be the last guy. I didn’t win, but I held a decent place in the pack (with far younger folks I might add).  
     As the days passed I felt better and better about myself. When I got dressed I found clothes in my closet that I had avoided because they showed lumps and bumps I didn’t want to see. That was motivating. I started taking more walks. After a long morning stroll I wasn’t wiped out as I expected. In fact, I came home with more energy that I had before and got more done than ever. I added a better breakfast so that I had the fuel to enjoy my morning walks. I looked for ways to get in more steps. Then the holiday events hit.
     At every turn I ran into people who said that I looked great. I feel great. That little toy strapped to my wrist made me look at myself and inspired me to make me better. It still is.
     Fitbit is not a miracle fix. That miracle has to be in you. In a way that is part of the beauty of it. It didn’t give me a fix, it helped me to earn it. I am sixty- two years old and I am strolling around town feeling fantastic. All of me is happier for it. Not just in my body but best of all in my mind. Every day I like myself a little better. 
     Clearly I would recommend it, but not if you are looking for an easy fix. It won’t take the 10,000 recommended steps a day for you. You will have to get up on your feet and take them yourself.  It is not a magic elixir to get you moving. It has to come from you. That’s really how it ought to be. It is a great motivator. If a good kick in the butt is what you need than it might be perfect for you. If you are effortlessly self-motivated then good for you. Go for it. But if you need a nudge, Fitbit makes a great pal.

 Happy New Year!
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