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Friday, March 27, 2015

A Day in the Life from Books. Lists. Life.

Today I'm linking up with Trish for her a Day in the Life blogger event.  Make sure you click over to see how other people spend their days. I kept track of yesterday, March 26th. It was a fairly typical day.

5:45 My normal alarm goes off and Mike realizes his didn't. Typically I get up first, but today he needs to be on the road at 6. I go start coffee.

6:10 Mike heads out and I take a few minutes of quiet time, most days this is all I get.

6:30 I'm thinking I should start getting ready or I'm going to sabotage myself when it's time to leave. I skip washing my hair and use dry shampoo and my curling iron instead. I spent a full minute hating my winter clothes before getting dressed in an outfit I might regret later.

6:55 Start waking the kids. Lauren is in my bed and the boys are in hers. I have no explanation.

7:16 Everyone is up and dressed. Lauren is ready to go! Hallelujah! But the boys have wandered off to their Kindles.

7:17 False alarm. She does not like her outfit. That she chose. This is her new outfit. The first one was ALSO an Elsa shirt with a tutu like skirt over leggings.

7:41 Everyone in the car, yay! I swing past my favorite photo spot for a quick sunrise picture. Drop the boys at school and Lauren at daycare and pull into my office at 7:52.

7:52 First one at the office (as usual). I make coffee and then sit down for ten minutes of my morning online routine- Check Amazon daily deals, look at new listings on NetGalley, fire up Pandora, skim Woot.

8:30  Realize that my quick ten minutes of checking social media got out of hand and settle down to work. My bosses are back in the office full time today after a couple months of being at the Capitol for Legislative session and then well earned personal vacations. This means my to do lists will be massive soon and I'll start to feel crazy overwhelmed with work until I get it under control. I LOVE my new job, but it's got a lot of moving parts.

8:45 Ok scratch that, brief detour to Zulilly. THEN to work. Today I'm issuing licenses (Not driver licenses, that was my last job) and then sending out some letters.

9:00 It's snowing. WTF? I'm regretting my outfit.

10:00 Licenses are issued. Taking a brief Instagram/Twitter break. Normally I make the mail run now, but with the snow I'll combine it with my lunch break and hope the snow is done. It's not looking good.

10:35 Stopped in coworkers office to take a test run of the survey she's creating. Looked sadly out her window at my snow covered car.

11:15 You know, I can't even describe what I do all day. I'd an administrative assistant for an Association Management Company. So I send email and update databases and issue licenses and take phone calls and pay bills for a half dozen different entities. We also do lobbying and event planning and publish newsletters.

11:40 It's never going to stop snowing so I head out to check the mail (one of my jobs is to check all the post office boxes daily- we have 9 boxes- some clients share.) I ordered a taco salad for take out because I know the sugar free pickings at home are slim. Grab the mail, eat my lunch, read the internet. There's three inches of snow on my front porch.

1:00  Back to work. It's still snowing. I make a new cup of coffee, sort the mail, and then head into my boss's office to learn more new and exciting things (MMA, this time.)

3:45 Wrapping up that and having a quick snack before moving onto something else. (Pistachios, cherry tomatoes and unsweet tea. See: no sugar.)

4:55 Sneaking out five minutes early to hit Walmart before I start picking up children. It is never good to take the kids to Walmart and we need milk.

5:30 Since Mike is on the road I pick up all three kids and come home to make a quick dinner. They have individual frozen pizza, I have a hamburger patty with tomatoes and almonds (don't judge, I'm lazy.)  I waste some time on the iPad while the kids get increasingly needy and really really wish beer were on the sugar reset. The snow on my porch has completely melted.

7:00 A coworker gave me a couple bags of clothes and Lauren and I spent some time looking through them One of them was a longish, animal print skirt that Lauren declared to be "like Katy Perry" so we did a quick alteration on it so she could be like her idol.

8:00 Mike gets home with a literal ton of concrete patio pavers in the car, so we head out to unload. This is only half of what we need for the patio and the nearest store that carries them is a 5+ hour round trip. Yay for small town, middle of nowhere, South Dakota!

8:30 We railroad the kids through the tub and Mike runs to Walgreens. He comes home without anything for Lauren who throws a massive fit. I sneak out to put the boys to bed and let him deal with it. We are in bed at 9:00 and Noah is sound asleep by 9:04. Sirius Black assists in bedtime. He is a dainty, delicate little thing.

9:15 Both boys are asleep and I start thinking maybe I should climb out of Noah's bed. I relocate to my room where Lauren has been placated with an episode of "Young Justice", her favorite show. We hang out, I read a little more internet and text Trish a few times.

9:45 Lights out. Yes, it's early, but that gives me 8 hours of sleep. (HA. Like I ever get to sleep through, thanks kids.)

Friday, March 13, 2015

The Kitchen, Before and After

Since we've already been living in our house for nearly two years, we already had a list of things we wanted to do to it well before we signed the closing documents. The very top thing on that list was "Remove the kitchen carpet." This seems like an easy enough thing to do, but it quickly turned into the homeowner's version of "If You Give A Mouse A Cookie."  We knew we also wanted to paint, so it only made sense to paint before we had pretty new floors. And if we were going to paint we should retexture the ugly spots first. But if we were going to do that, maybe we should go ahead and add that open shelving? And, well, it just keep snowballing.  This is how we ended up spending every waking non-work minute thinking about or working on the kitchen for 17 days. It was exhausting. We are finally done tho and I could not be happier.

Before I start the pictures, I need to say. I feel like a total badass. This was not a remodel job that we hired someone to do, and it was not the case that my husband did 99% and I handed him tools. I am bragging, but I worked every bit as hard, and I used all the tools. The only thing I completely gave up to him was electrical work, and honestly, I could do that. I feel like I could totally tackle anything now.

This is the kitchen as whole. It looks a little dark in the after, but the lighting was hard to get even. That multi-fixture near the camera and the angle of the sun made it near impossible. I suppose I could have lightened it. We moved the cabinets up to the ceiling and added crown molding. We painted it a beautiful blue gray (Gunnel from Pratt and Lambert, I can't recommend it enough). We added the open shelving. Replaced the range hood. Built these little shells to cover the open bottoms of the cabinets. Refinished the counters. Replaced the floor.

 You can see the new counter tops in this one. We used a kit for this. It's called Giani Granite and we used the Chocolate Brown colorway.  We bought it on Amazon. This was super easy to do, if time consuming. I did all of it so that it would be more consistent, and I think just the "colored" step took me about 6 hours. It's hard to really tell in the the before, but we also removed some extraneous faucets from the sink. And when we put the sink back in? Mike did the physical lifting, but I did all the under sink stuff. I connected the water. I connected the garbage disposal. I R PLUMBR! (Ok, so there was one little leak. Coulda happened to anyone!)
And here's the floor. The beautiful, this is not carpet, floor. We used Congoleum Carefree Floating Vinyl Tile in Mountain Slate. It's much softer to walk on that real slate, and was really easy to put in, once we got the first row in place. (The walls in our house? Not so straight.) My brother-in-law came over to help with this step, because we expected it would be much harder than it was. It did help to have three people doing it. With the three of us working, it took about 6 hours. Guess who did most of the cutting around corners and piecing? Yes, that's right, me. Mostly this involved a utility knife, but I also got to use the jigsaw. Each tile is about 1/4" thick, but they kind of snapped off if you scored it with a knife. I got to use my quilting tools as a square and that was cool.  Lots of fun.
I am so happy to have both my coffee maker AND running water in the kitchen!

I sprayed all the hardware with Rust-Oleum Metallic Spray paint in Dark Steel. It looks terrific. We built the open shelving out of oak plywood and edge banding. Mike cut the boards, I sanded and did the edges and stained them and then Mike installed them.  The brackets are from Menards.

We replaced all the baseboards and toe kick. Mike swapped all the outlets from tan to crisp white. He replaced the door to the closet from a hollow core 1960s wood door to a pretty white two panel door and replaced the outdated broken screen door with one of those fancy ones that the screen rolls up into the top. He changed some of the door and window trim so it all matched the trim on the big window. He did all the miter cuts and thinking, I did all the staining and polyurethane.
I also painted those canisters. I have become one with a paint brush. Or in this case spray can.
 Before (above) and After (Below)
 (But if you couldn't tell which was which we can no longer be friends.)
And now we are taking a couple weeks off to recover... oh wait, no, we aren't. This weekend we start on the back patio...

Thursday, March 05, 2015

Recent Reading

Ok, so if you read my last post you know that by recent I mean, not in the last two weeks. Which means if I don't get something down on "paper" I'm never going to remember anything well enough to write anything. So! In the last two months there are five books I haven't reviewed at all. These five books have NOTHING in common.  In order than I read them:

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mendel.
This was the first book we read in my new book club. I choose it. I enjoyed it every bit as much as I expected to, which was a vast relief.  If I had any complaints it would be that the bad guy was too easy to figure out, and I'd hoped for a bigger showdown at the end. I loved how open ended and hopeful the ending was, and I'll happily read this author again.

The Man Who Killed Kennedy: The Case Against LBJ by Roger Stone. J choose this one. I admit to a shocking lack of knowledge about anything between WWII and Regan. The *idea* that LBJ could have/would have conspired to kill Kennedy was surprising to me. Perhaps I'm naive, but I just assume that US leaders are, at heart, good guys. And that if it were a plot or a conspiracy that it would be able to be proved. This book sent me to Wikipedia a lot. All that said, I don't know that it was any better or more believable than any other book about LBJ assassinating JFK, and there was just SO MUCH name dropping.

Tribute by Nora Roberts. This is a full length stand alone novel. I loved it. Possibly one of my favorite Nora Roberts. Ford is a graphic novelist and a perfect Beta hero. I loved him. Loved. I didn't find the suspense/mystery line quite as well done, but I don't read Roberts for that.

Dead Heat by Patricia Briggs. This is the 4th in the Alpha & Omega series. My heart still belongs to Mercy Thompson, but this was still very good. I don't feel like Briggs can do anything wrong and I really hope she does not tire of paranormal any time soon. In this one, Charles becomes so much more human and I loved seeing the local alphas reaction to an Omega wolf.

First Time in Forever by Sarah Morgan. I hate to admit this, but this wasn't great to me. The story is. But I mostly disliked Ryan for most of the book. He was an overbearing jerk. Yes, I get it, he's completely hot for her, but dude, this is not the time. Stop it. I loved the sisterhood and the island and the locals, and there's one scene near the end that nearly redeems Ryan and completely seals my love for the island. I will definitely keep reading Morgan and the rest of the series, this one was just not a winner for me.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Random Friday, The Last 9 Days.

Things have gotten crazy up in here up in here. I'm too tired to do this in any way but bullets. Here we go!

  • On Thursday the 19th, we bought a house. THANK GOD it was the same one we already live in.
    My house is a boring box. FOR NOW.
  • We closed at 1:00, drove through Arby's and then went home and gutted the kitchen. We emptied and took down all the upper cabinets and removed the disgusting carpet. By bed time we had removed all the hardware, patched holes, textured the walls and painted the kitchen. We also took down the ancient screen door on the front of the house.
  • Friday we borrowed a truck and drove 5 hours round trip to buy flooring. Friday night we started rehanging the cabinets, at ceiling level.
  • Saturday we got the cabinets up, took a few down again, and put them back up. (Turns out a 33" cabinet and a 36" cabinet look a lot alike.) I painted all the hardware- from ugly brass to a nice brushed nickel, and put the doors back on.
    Clear winner.
  • Sunday we built some shelving. Let me rephrase that, *I* built some shelving, from plywood and oak tape and stain and I got to use a lot of tools. Mike put up brackets and we installed a row of open shelving under the now higher cabinets. We touched up paint and contemplated 60 year old linoleum. This bullet sounds like not a full days work, but we were busy all day.
    Look! Kitchen carpet AND fancy linoleum!
  • Monday we put down plywood over the linoleum.
  • Tuesday I stained some more wood and Mike worked on the crown at the ceiling level.
  • Wednesday we did a lot of tiny catch up things. Staining small places we missed, tons of little things.
I'll post before and after shots later, I like the big reveal moment.

Tired yet? What else did we do?
  • Aside from Thursday and Friday, we worked our normal jobs. Having no kitchen is much like camping in your own home. You have showers and beds, but want a cup? HAHAHA. Yeah right. This is my kitchen, in my dining room. That's right, the dining room was unusable too for much of the week.
    I should drink some of that liquor. Might help.
  • On Thursday night, my elderly cat Phoebe, the last of my Alabama kitties, died in her sleep. She was 18 and grouchy, but she's the end of an era for me.
    Phoebe. 1996-2015
  • On Monday night our dog Scout got literally deathly ill and had a trip to the emergency vet. She had the doggie flu. (Who knew?? I didn't.) 
  • On Tuesday and Wednesday nights I prepared Boxtops for PTO. To be clear, not just my own, the ENTIRE SCHOOL's Boxtops.
  • We ("Noah") completed his 1st grade science fair project. He melted leftover candy canes in different solutions.
  • On Thursday night (last night), I attended Kindergarten orientation for my baby girl. HOW??
    Two weeks ago, when you could see the floor. Or as I like to call it, Before Chaos.
I. Need. A. Nap.

Book Report!
HAHAHAHAHA. Yeah right.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Random Friday the 13th.

South Dakota has the best sunrises, and sunsets, hands down. Doesn't hurt that we live on the river.

  • This has been a long week, hasn't it?
  • I spent a lot of time this week listening to the adult version of "it wasn't me! and I can prove it with my maturity!" when really it feels so immature. It's exhausting.
  • I have an unexplained calf injury and haven't been able to run even once. Not that the weather cooperated.
  • Book club, our second meeting, got moved to next week. I was really looking forward to that glass of wine too.
  • Next week is crazy every day but Tuesday. I should really double check Tuesday. More on that craziness next week, I don't want to jinx anything.
  • The hexagons continue. I have no idea how many I have left to make, somewhere around 600 I think. And a bunch of flowers. I'm kinda of doing three things at once now- making a few hexies, turning already made ones into flowers, and starting to piece it all together. The variety is nice.

Book Report!

What I read this week:

  • Fire Me Up by Kimberly Kincaid. Reviewed here.
  • The Cowboy's Valentine by Donna Alward. Reviewed here.
  • Dead Heat by Patricia Briggs. It's no Mercy Thompson, but it was still excellent. I love Anna.
  • Trade Me by Courtney Milan.  I've just barely started.
What I Got This Week:
  • Still the One by Jill Shalvis (NetGalley) WOOHOO!
  • Unfair by Adam Benforado
Looks like I'm the Queen.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

The Cowboy's Valentine by Donna Alward

As I sat down to write my review of The Cowboy's Valentine by Donna Alward, I found myself going back to reread my review of Her Rancher Rescuer, which was the first Alward I read. It seemed, in my head, that these two books had a lot of similarities, even tho the plots were very different. When I read my review tho, I realized that they really had nothing in common, except that they FEEL the same. Both sets of characters deal with real issues in a grownup way. (And they are both on a ranch.)

So what's The Cowboy's Valentine about?
Coming home is hard enough without ranch manager Quinn Solomon making Lacey Duggan feel like an unwanted guest. She's only here until she figures out what to do with her one-third ownership of Crooked Valley. But Quinn's irresistible daughter is giving Lacey ideas about being part of a family. And though they don't even like each other, Lacey's having crazier notions about the widowed single dad. 

Does Lacey think she can waltz in and turn Quinn's life upside down…only to leave again? The pretty accountant knows nothing about running a ranch, yet she's making the Montana homestead feel like a home. Quinn isn't looking for love again. Until a woman who's all heart and a determined little girl help one lovestruck cowboy see the light.

Lacey has recently returned to the ranch that she now owns 1/3 of with her brothers. She's lost her husband, her job and her home, and she's slightly mortified to be coming home to a ranch she doesn't even want. She's planning to lick her wounds for a few days, spruce up her resume, and get back to her life. She's not counting on sharing the house with Quinn, the ranch manager. Quinn has his own struggles, he's the single father to a 4 year old girl and he's desperately trying to keep their live as stable and predictable as possible.  He had a great relationship with his dead wife (while she was alive!) and is reluctant to let that go. He and Lacey spar constantly, and fight their obvious attraction.

Of course, this being a romance novel, things eventually explode in a very realistic way. The two are unable to keep their hands off each other, but like adults sit down to talk out what should happen next. Surprisingly, Quinn is starting to realize that while he misses Maria, and he does mourn her, it's more of a comfortable habit than a deep pain. He's shocked to discover that he doesn't have to mourn her, he can choose to fall in love with another woman. Unfortunately for him, Lacey feels that her secret, and the reason for the end of her marriage, is too great a burden to share with Quinn and attempts to walk away. Outwardly she insists that she's trying to save Quinn from heartache, but Quinn is able to recognize that she's scared inside. And here's where the story gets great, Quinn doesn't storm off or write her off. He backs off a bit and waits. Wait what? That never happens in a romance novel! Usually the spurned half goes off to lick wounds and we need a big grovel scene to make up for it.  That doesn't happen at all here. The reader still gets a satisfying resolution/ reunion but no one's pride gets injured. I admit it, I cried.

Alward's Harlequins have a way of tackling serious, believable issues in a adult way. I thought she handled Lacey's emotions around her secret (sorry, spoilers) very well. I could clearly see why Lacey would feel like she did. I could really see how grief could become a habit. I really enjoy this aspect of her books.

Were there any problems with the book or was this perfect? Of course there were problems, but they were minor. There was the problem with Quinn's wedding ring, which is in the way until it's never mentioned again, and the last sentence of chapter 13 threw me so far out of the story that I had to stop reading in the middle of an emotional part.  It felt so out of character and out of place and such a stupid stereotype that that ONE sentence is the most memorable one in the entire book.  I also firmly believed that Quinn would react in a completely different way to Lacey's secret- a much much worse, but I think plausible, way. I was so happy that he didn't, because it would have changed my opinion of Quinn as a reasonable person. Final verdict, not 5 stars, but still very very close.

The Cowboy's Valentine was published on February 3rd.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Fire Me Up by Kimberly Kincaid

Last fall I read Kimberly Kincaid's Stirring up Trouble, and while I wasn't quite sold on it I was pretty sure I'd try another by the author. This winter Fire Me Up appeared on NetGalley and since I remembered loving the brief glimpse of Adrian we had in the first one, I requested it. While the two books take place in the same town, there is very very little overlap, and in fact neither of the main characters from Stirring up Trouble appear. There were two other books in the series, which I have not read, that tie them together.

So, what's it about?
Here's the summary:
If You Can't Stand The Heat. . .
Teagan O'Malley can handle a crisis. She's a paramedic, it's her job. But she never expected to land in the kitchen of her father's pub, with no notice, no cash, and no room for error. The kitchen is not her favorite place. Lucky for her, she just scraped a bad-boy chef off the pavement after a motorcycle accident--and something about him says he can turn up the heat in more ways than one.
Adrian Holt has had a rough few years, and he's not eager to get tangled up in anything more complicated than a good risotto. But with a broken arm and a head full of bad memories, he needs a challenge to keep him sane. Teagan's dare-me attitude and smoldering mess of a bar are just what the doctor ordered. And the two of them together might cook up some even better medicine. . .

The entire series revolves around a restaurant in a small resort town. Adrian is  sous chef there, except now he isn't since he broke his arm and is temporarily off work. His best friend and boss not so gently forces him to take an extended time off to get his life on an even keel, but on the way home he crashes his motorcycle and meets Teagan. Adrian is big and bad and has made some mistakes in his past. He is currently walking on a very tight straight and narrow and can not afford to take one step to mess it up. With the (temporary) loss of his job and now his broken arm, he despairs of keeping his sanity. When he meets Teagan a second time at her father's bar he knows this is a bad, bad idea.

Teagan is strong, resourceful and determined. She's completely unexpectedly thrown into managing the bar on a more than full time basis, and while she's in way over her head, she's never anything more than focused on fixing the problems. She holds it all together for a very long time. She trusts Adrian immediately, not that she has a choice, and works hard with him. As it turns out, there's more to the problem than simply a failing bar, and Adrian's past makes things delicate in more ways than one. I thought this line was very well written.

I could so easily see Teagan fall in love. I'd have fallen in love. I might have asked for more explanation of his willingness to help, but I'd have loved him for his strength and determination. The attraction between them was solid, if not explosively so, and by the end I could completely buy the romance. Any quibbles I'd have had were with some minor details in his past, and the degree of seriousness of the bar's trouble (I can't say more, it's not even hinted at in the synopsis!)

With this second book, Kincaid has earned herself a place on my list. I'll certainly be looking for more of  the Pine Mountain series. I really hope we get to see the two other bar employees soon.

Fire Me Up was released on January 20, 2015.

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