Wednesday, January 26, 2011

A few random things, i.e., pressure

Tomorrow night is the last publicly scheduled reading of Song of the Orange Moons.  It takes place in the Jonsson auditorium at the University of Texas at Dallas at 7:30PM, and I'm very excited about seeing old and new friends there.  But I'm also nervous because I haven't decided on the excerpts to read.  I want to read different excerpts than the ones I read at the Barnes & Noble at Mockingbird in November, but I don't want to give any key plot points away either.  And it has to have some humor in it.  AND I should begin with some little talk about writing before I plow right into the reading part.  Pressure!

There is also a new interview published by Brittany Roshelle in her blog, The Write Stuff.  It was a fun one.  Brittany is giving away a free copy of Song of the Orange Moons if you leave a comment after the interview.  Go check it out--if you already own a copy, you can gift it to a friend. How's that for a nice freebie?  Thanks, Brittany!

For those of you interested in my brave new world, the kitchen remodel: I'm at a pause, waiting for the counter tops to be delivered.  No, I will not attempt to install the Silestone counters myself.  I'm not that daring.  I did, however, finish creating the kitchen island out of two narrow and weirdly sized cabinets, some leftover Shaker crown molding (referred to "Shakey Crap Molding" in a previous post), a few strips of wood, funky iron angle brackets, and my handy drill and hardware.  You'll see that soon, dears. In the meantime, I'm cleaning my living room, in which the contents of the kitchen have avalanched.  For a while there, the room looked like a tool shed/campground cook site/cemetery for disembodied appliances with a television and sofa awkwardly in the midst of it all.  I spent a therapeutic hour cleaning it out last night, and now my soul feels a little cleaner, too., I have papers to grade that I can no longer put off.  I love those student papers, I really do.  So looking forward to sitting down with them and a cup of tea.

See you tomorrow night, I hope!  I'll do my best to entertain.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Book Signing at Barnes & Noble

Thanks to friends near and far for coming by!  Please send more pics my way if you have them.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Four Hats and a Funeral

Not all weeks can be lovely, even if they are productive.

DIY Girl Hat: This week was tough.  On Tuesday evening, I went to bed with a headache that was creeping its way to a migraine.  I'd run out of prescrips, and decided to wait it out until the doctor could refill the prescription.  On Wednesday morning, the migraine bloomed in all its striking, breathless glory, and I made a mad dash to the emergency room before I was completely blind.  After 3 hours in the emergency room and completely needless CT scan, I lied to the doctor, who'd given me a horrible cocktail of Benedryl and something that started with a "T," that yes, I feel much better--now can I go home?  My dear friend drove me home and I "slept" for another 28 hours to shake it off.  It finally went away, but only yesterday, after I got my prescription refilled and took twice the dosage that should have killed the migraine.

Professor Hat:  Apologies to my brand new students, some of whom missed me on the second day of class because of the dastardly migraine.  I always love the new semester, with all its possibilities and fresh faces.  I hope to be on my game next week.

Mom Hat: And today, my seven-year-old's hamster-- named first "Joey" and then "Ra," because my son thought it needed a more regal-sounding name ("Ra, after the Egyptian sun god, Maman," he'd said)--that dear little hamster curled up and died in his half-chewed paper towel roll.  I really liked that guy.  I had to break the news to Julien tonight.  It's never a good day when you have to tell your son that his pet died.  So, I'm not feeling too chipper.  

I won't even go into the minor-by-comparison-but-infuriating incident today with a screw, a drill bit, and the elegant Shaker crown molding, which will now be referred to as Shakey crap molding. So, because I should update the blog, at the bottom of this post are more pics.  I'll take clearer ones with a pretty camera when the kitchen is all cleaned up and decorated.  No more pics until the big reveal, with the "before" and "after" pics. 

Author Hat: One thing that's keeping my spirits up is the book signing at Barnes & Noble tomorrow at 1 PM.  I'm looking forward to seeing new and old friends.  

This coming Thursday is the reading at UTD.  If you're up for hearing me read some selections and a little Q&A, please come!  There are LOTS of seats to fill.

The pics:

new stainless steel double oven: 30 glorious inches

The narrow island on wheels (foreground), and the permanent island that I'm building behind it.  I'm loving the new open shelves on the wall.

Found this lovely, chunky bookshelf at Ikea.  Turned it on its side, and now it will hold all our pretty white dishes.

Someone at a wonderful appliance resale shop here in Plano found us a 36" vent.  We're waiting to see how it will look here above the range.

That's it.  Now, I'm off to open a bottle of Malbec and drink a toast to that cuddly little guy who, though humble and rodent-y, added a bit of sunshine to our house and would have made the real Egyptian sun god proud.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Writer's Lesson: on not seeing the forest for the tree

Two days ago, I had a mini-meltdown.  I said to myself, "I give up!" and then fumed a few more hours.  Here's why: I spent 5 hours, without pause for a break, trying to make my lazy susan and oven cabinet level and plumb.  My floor is almost level, and my walls are almost at a 90 degree angle, but almost doesn't cut it for the precision of cabinetry.  At least not for this missy.

I shimmed here and placed the level for depth, and shimmed there, and leveled. Here's a shim, for those of who need a visual:

Then I trimmed the shims with the saw, applied glue, re-inserted the shims, and suddenly the whole shebang wasn't level again.  And I haven't even mentioned "plumb."  Once I finally got the lazy susan level with the oven cabinet, I screwed them together and fastened the adjacent cabinet to the lazy susan, and I thought I was getting somewhere.  Mind you, the additional fastening of cabinet #3 was post-5-hour-epic shimming fiasco.  

I started to lose it when I noticed that the cabinets were getting farther and farther from the wall as I fastened them together, a consequence of that right angle in the lazy susan that wasn't quite plumb.

My college-student son wandered in from wherever college students hang out on break, patted me on the back, and said "Hey Mom, I think you just need to take a break."

"Take a break?  I can't take a break!  I'm on a schedule here, and I have to be done with this before the semester begins!  That's what you would do--just take a break when things get hard.  But I can't do that!"

Ahem.  Not one of my finer moments of parenthood.

But, sweet son that he is, he just smiled, patted me on the back again, kissed my cheek, and moseyed quietly to his room to finished packing for college.

I'll tell you, I was pretty maniacal come dinnertime.  I about wanted to chop Miss Lazy Susan and feed her to the fireplace.  But then my sweet compagnon came home and poured me a glass of wine, and I stood back and surveyed the damage.  With a glass of wine and a different perspective, I finally appreciated the scary trend that all four corners of practically all the cabinets had two shims.  Not a steady foundation for a granite counter top.  This joint was the one of contention:

 I slept on it, and kept waking up with nightmares about the shims sliding out or the granite installers looking at me like I'm insane to want to place the counter top on such a rigged foundation. But when I woke up, I had the little epiphany that I was so focused on making the lazy susan exactly level with the oven cabinet in my very first step, that everything else suffered from it.  After a cup of hot morning tea, I got to work unscrewing and unshimming everything.  Five plus hours of work undone in less than ten minutes.  I let the lazy susan fall naturally a half inch lower than the bottom of the oven cabinet, and miraculously, every other cabinet fell into place, level and plumb.  I had all the cabinets fastened in about an hour.  Here are the results:

Yesterday I worked on the floors, and today, I hope, to finish them.

I immediately saw a lesson in that whole cabinet leveling trauma.  I've done this sort of thing in my writing.  In the editing process,  I get so wrapped up in the trappings of revising one character that I miss all the other obvious ways to make the scene work better.  I miss the big picture sometimes when I'm so focused on one "thing" that needs to be changed.  I think all of us do this.

Speaking of tunnel-vision, I'm signing out now, so I can play a little Wii with my 7-year-old, who reminded me of my promise to play games with him.  Everything in balance today, as it should be.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Laundry and Half-Bath (Almost) Done

I'm happy to report that the tiles are all mortared and grouted, and the baseboards and shoe molding are mitered and (mostly) in place.  The man in Flooring at The Home Depot knows me by face now, if not by name.  Still, I give a little harrumph when I have to go back to the store because I don't have the right tool or don't have enough materials (shoe molding, for instance.)

The gory details really are disgusting today!  After a nice evening with friends (and too many delicious margaritas) I awoke at 6:30 AM (it's Saturday, folks) and drove to HD yet again for more materials.  I painted the kitchen ceiling; measured, mitered, nailed and glued the baseboards and shoe molding; painted the baseboards, moved the washer and dryer back into the laundry room and hooked them back up; unpacked the cabinets that were delivered today (hooray!); and then faced the most vile job of all: the toilet.

Have any of you readers ever moved a toilet before?  It's disgusting all the way around.  I won't gross you out with the little surprises you find on the underside of the bowl.  Or maybe I will.  I don't have a maid, and I rarely get to have the 360 degree perspective of a toilet.  But I'm solo in a house of boys.  I was horrified at residue left there.  It looks like Jackson Pollock peed in that bowl for 7 years.  (Shudder.) Nuff said about that. Suffice it to say that my younger son has a new weekly chore that he's not too happy about.

Cleaning the toilet is easy.  But underneath is a wax ring that you have to replace, and that's the most disgusting thing I've done yet in this remodel.  Or maybe in the last ten years. When I asked Trevor (older son) to help me move the toilet back on the bolts, gosh darn it, it suddenly felt 50 pounds heavier, and getting it to land square on the bolts was like--oh, I'm boring you.  I'm still glad I did it instead of paying someone else to.  But gross.

Your patience has paid off.  Here are the newest pics from the last couple of days:
Grouting the tiles and making a mess

Trevor "assists" by taking pictures.  Cheese!

Laundry room grouted and messy looking, but I like it like this.  Looks European...

Finally, the Laundry room is tiled, and the straight lines will go straight through the kitchen.  Ignore the ugly door to the garage.  It's really scratched and ugly when you get a closer look at it.  (Sigh.  Another thing to replace.)

The tiled bathroom.  I suppose I'll need to put the door frame back on tomorrow.  First I'll have to cut off a centimeter or two to clear the tile floor.

My fancy threshold.  Smaller cut slate tiles between the porcelain tiles.

And voila!  Here are the new folks in town.  They are mingling, getting familiar with each other before I do minor surgery in the backsides for plumbing and such. 
The floor is a touch slanted, so I'll have some shimming here and there to make everything plumb.  I'm hoping to get these guys all cut, shimmed, and attached to the wall joists on Sunday.  I just haven't decided yet what tool to use to cut holes in the rear for the plumbing and electricity.  My hand saw is to big and raggedy.  And I just don't have the heart or wallet to buy yet another tool.  This will take some thought.  I'll sleep on it.  I sleep very well these days.

I have a week and a half to get the cabinets secured, and the countertops, the sink, and the stove in place.  Then I have to consider decorating the walls with open shelving.  Think I can do it? 

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Feeling like a children's book plot

You know those children's books that are built on a causal relationship: if you give a mouse a cookie...?
Well, that's sort of the way home remodeling works.  If you want to spiff up the kitchen, you have to spiff up the adjacent laundry and half-bath.  If you want to re-tile the kitchen, you have to retile the laundry/half-bath to get rid of that awful white and gray linoleum.  If you re-tile the half-bath, you have to remove the toilet and the somewhat rotty molding around the door frame... and the door frame itself.  And all the other appliances related to cleaning.

It was a long day of unplugging appliances and praying I don't flood the house.

I did fine.  My friend's son has come over for the past couple of days to help me get friendly with the wet saw.  I've finally made friends, and whipped out 14 beautifully cut tiles a few hours ago.

Here's the vanity that was previously topped with a white formica countertop.  I put in small, brown glass tiles and white porcelain border, et voila:
And crap.  The sink doesn't fit anymore.  My compagnon says in his French accent, "She looks like she was meant to be that way, custom made."  Okay.  It did make me feel a little better.  But I will have to replace that old cheap faucet with my next paycheck, because I haven't a dime to spare these days.

 The tiles are cut and numbered so I can remove them and mortar tomorrow without losing track of their placement.
 The laundry room.  Not too exciting, but don't those tiles look expertly cut?  That's my Wet-saw Magic Fingers.

The next photo was taken with my special night-vision camera. I took it at night and in secret, to avoid disturbing the natural habitat of appliances.  I title this one, The Mating Ritual of Washers and Dryers.  You'll notice the toilet also flirting with the dishwasher, a cross-species relationship that we have only recently discovered. This is the first time humans have captured this activity on camera.

And lastly, back to the kitchen, I realized none too soon that I needed to cut yet another portion off the soffit to accommodate the incoming oven cabinet.  Better late than never.  The crown molding will go up last.

I'm tired.  But not too tired to write today.

I promised something on the writing process along with the remodel process.  I did write a query letter to an agent today, and she requested the full manuscript.  I have a knack with query letters.  It makes me wonder why people pay loads of money to attend workshops to learn how to write one.  Crossing my fingers that this will be another productive year in publishing!

Next post: I'm flabbergasted by the warm, detailed feedback on my novel, Song of the Orange Moons.