Bookends: August 2017

August ended with uncharacteristically awesome weather. 70s and low humidity doesn’t often happen in Massachusetts, and we had a nice long stretch of it. I missed the last couple of days of the good weather because my kids and I went out to Salt Lake City for hotter temperatures and even lower humidity. We had a wonderful time and, although we missed my spouse, were a little disappointed to leave the land of walkable streets, functional public transit, a phenomenal library, incredible gelato, and fun times with friends so soon. And did I mention the low humidity? Seriously, I think I’m in love with the desert.

My TBR List Declutter chugged right along this month, thanks to the post-scheduling capabilities of WordPress. For those new to Imperfect Happiness, each Thursday, I post the titles of ten books that are on my TBR and whether I’m keeping them or taking them off of the TBR (and why).

Against all odds, we still have one monarch caterpillar hanging on. This one is more than a month old now, which is ridiculously old for a monarch caterpillar. We think it has a genetic problem based on the change in its coloration and its extremely slow rate of growth. It’s still alive, although not very lively, so we keep feeding it.

“Not dead yet!”

 

My Utah trip did interfere with my Bookends post for August, but I’ll remedy that right now:

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Bookends: July 2017

July was a mix of hot, muggy days interspersed with phenomenal, California-like weather that left me feeling renewed and (almost) ready to put up with the mugginess again. It’s difficult on days like these to imagine that snow is only a few months away.

I’ve continued doing work around the house, and I find myself looking around the house wondering what else to do and/or what else to get rid of. There are just four big jobs left to do, three of which I’m hiring out (if I can get people to schedule the work). The quotes I got for the fourth job made me choke on my kombucha, so I’m going to try reupholstering my kitchen set with my own hands and a book about upholstery I’m getting from the library. And some fabric. I would leave it, but the vinyl is cracked and it looks pretty tacky and unkempt. Not that I generally have a problem with looking tacky and unkempt, but I prefer my kitchen to look, if not stylish, at least kempt. If I think that my ham-handed attempts will leave it looking better than it does now, I’ll give it a try.

I kept up with my TBR List Declutter this month. Each Thursday, I post the titles of ten books that are on my TBR, why I added them in the first place, and whether I’m keeping them or taking them off of the TBR. This week I’ll pass the 10% mark of my initial TBR. Crawling right along!

Speaking of crawling, July also brought our annual shipment of monarchs to rear.

 

Totally cute, right? Hopefully we’ll have nine to eleven healthy monarch butterflies to release at the end of the month.

And now to the primary purpose of this monthly post—books!

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Bookends: June 2017

It’s finally strawberry time in Massachusetts! We’ve picked four weeks in a row and brought home a total of sixty-one pounds of strawberries.

I froze a bunch of them and gave a quart to a friend, but we ate most of them fresh. Gorging myself on seasonal, locally grown fruit has become a summer tradition for me. Next up: cherries!

In addition to eating fruit, I’ve also devoted Summer 2017 to doing lots of projects around the house and yard that I’ve been putting off. I’ve spent the month scheduling electricians, learning how to use tile adhesive and grout, deciding I don’t want to regrout my shower myself, trying to get other professionals to call me back, choosing paint colors, having mulch delivered, having trees removed, planting other trees, and weeding and weeding and weeding. It’s been surprisingly rewarding, but I do not regret procrastinating for the past six years.

I’ve also been doing a TBR List Declutter here on the blog. Each Thursday, I post the titles of ten books that are on my TBR, why I added them in the first place, and whether I’m keeping them or taking them off of the TBR. At this pace, it will take me seventy-five weeks to go through all of the titles, provided I don’t add any more. (spoiler: I’ve already added more.)

But wait! That’s not all! When not wrestling with my to-do list or my to-read list, I’ve been doing two Instagram challenges!

The first is Book Riot’s Riotgrams challenge. I started strong, but kind of lost my gusto as the month progressed. One of my favorites was the one for Day 24: Tiny Books. My son helped me with that one, choosing the background and holding the little dictionary up for the photo.

The other Instagram challenge was a progressive capsule, which I learned about from @loritironpandit but which originated with Karen at Sustainable Fashion Chat (@sustainablefashionchat). It’s pretty simple. I just kept track of all of the clothes I wore for the month to see how much of my wardrobe I actually use. I posted photos of myself periodically, usually with a book in front of my face. My friend suggested that we could start an #outfitwithbook hashtag. Here’s one of those photos:

I’m not much into fashion, but I do care about what I wear, and this challenge really was helpful. In the end, I wore a total of twenty-four items of clothing during June, including shoes but not including socks, underwear, night clothes (or even knight clothes), or workout/yardwork clothes, and determined that I can get rid of a lot of the clothes I own right now.

To see all of my posts for these two challenges, visit my Instagram: @imperfecthappiness.

And I read a few books. Not as many as usual, but still not a bad number for all of the other stuff I’ve been doing (and my total would have been one better if I’d not done May’s Bookends a few days late and included Jeff VanderMeer’s Borne on last month’s post, even though I finished it on June 2. Way to cheat Future Charity, Past Charity.):

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A Sinking Feeling

I fear that I’m not cut out for homeownership.

Back in our early 20’s, friends told my spouse and me about why they loved buying a house versus renting. “You get to pick out the paint colors and the appliances and make everything just the way you want it!” they said.

My spouse and I just blinked at them when they said things like this.

I don’t know what my spouse’s excuse is (I think it’s just a combination of not caring and not liking to spend money), but I grew up in military housing. The walls were painted Navajo White. The floors were asbestos-backed tile. The appliances worked, and if they didn’t, my mom called the base handyman who came by and had a cup of coffee at our dining table after replacing the dishwasher drain pump.

With as often as I’ve changed dwellings in my life, I’ve come to think of appliances, paint colors, flooring, and kitchen counter materials as interesting (and sometimes happy) surprises. I go into a new home and discover what’s unique about it. The idea that I can—or should want to—customize my home is absolutely foreign to me.

In my late 20’s on the playground at my daughter’s preschool, I sat trying to arrange my vacant expression into something resembling cordial interest as the other parents animatedly discussed flooring options and the relative merits of different kitchen counter materials.

 

CIMG0186When we bought our first house in Salt Lake City in our 30’s, we made no changes to it except to replace the broken kitchen faucet. Two years later, we bought our second and current house in Massachusetts. We hoped to get away without making any changes to this house, either, but that wasn’t to be. First the kitchen faucet failed. Then my toddler drew all over the wallpaper in the dining room. Then we discovered mildew behind the wallpaper in the bathrooms (who puts wallpaper in the bathroom?). Then one of the 50-year-old toilets failed. Then both of the 50-year-old bathroom faucets failed, and one of them is a no-longer-made slant-back faucet and so we can’t replace it without replacing the sink.And if we’re replacing the sink, we may as well replace the failing light in the aged medicine cabinet, which means we have to replace the medicine cabinet.

Oh, my God.

The need to choose items for my home causes me great stress. In the past year and a half, despite our intention to not make any improvements to our home, I’ve found myself picking out paint colors for three rooms, selecting three bathroom faucets and a kitchen faucet, comparing washers and dryers, picking a dishwasher, buying a bathroom sink and vanity, and shopping for a medicine cabinet and vanity light. Facebook has been giving me nothing but home improvement ads for months.

I hate being forced to care about these things, but I also feel a lot of pressure to make the right choice. This results in irritability. And irritability results in yelling. And yelling results in stomping around and storming from the house for a fast, furious walk around the neighborhood, which puts more steps on my FitBit but puts my children on edge.

And add to this that home improvement stores give me hives.

Okay, so they don’t really give me hives. But they make me feel as disoriented as casinos do. Both places are completely cut off from natural light so that night and day lose all meaning. It’s like being in an alternate dimension and the only way out is handing my credit card to the cashier for items that I have no idea if I’m going to like once they’re installed in my home.

Today I bought a vanity and sink and a vanity light for over top of a to-be-purchased medicine cabinet. This was all excruciating, and not only because in order to pick out the light fixture, I had to stare up at glaring lamps ten feet over my head and try to imagine them in my little sunlit bathroom.

God, I hate home improvement.

And I still have to select grout.

Proving I Don’t Care About My Blog Stats: Another Book Review

Little House on a Small Planet, 2nd: Simple Homes, Cozy Retreats, and Energy Efficient Possibilities
Little House on a Small Planet, 2nd: Simple Homes, Cozy Retreats, and Energy Efficient Possibilities by Shay Salomon
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

While I marked this book as “read”, in reality I skimmed it. It’s interesting enough and well-written enough that it could be a cover-to-cover read. I set out to read it that way, but since we just bought a house in the suburbs three months ago, I could’t bring myself to do any more than skim it.

Things I liked:

The approach. The book got me thinking about what “home” means to me and the way in which I use the spaces in my home.

The profiles. Seeing the variety of people who choose small houses and the variety of living situations of those living in smaller houses gave me a sense of the possibilities for my family at different stages in our lives. I also found it comforting when people moved from a small house into a larger one until their kids moved out and then moved back to a smaller house. It helped me feel a little better about our “bigger” house (our house isn’t huge, but I was hoping to keep it closer to 1000 square feet. We’re closer to 2000. *sigh* I know…horrible problem to have, whine, whine).

The floorplans. I am a sucker for floorplans. I wonder sometimes if I ought to have been an architect. Or perhaps just a person who does architectural drawing. I loved that class in junior high. The good old T square and I were good buddies.

The history. I knew houses were smaller back in the day, but I didn’t really understand how that worked in real life. How do you raise four children in 850 square feet? This book helped me get a better sense of that. (Less bathing, more time outside, family bed.)

Things I didn’t like:

-The author seems to assume a baseline level of practical ability and home building/improvement practices. Small house living doesn’t seem to be for the all-thumbs neophyte. Even if you’ve got a pre-built home and you don’t plan to mold it from mud and straw yourself, you still need to have some level of know-how to, you know, put in a loft or rig a system for elevating your dehydrated apple slices. The suggestion to “go vertical” requires some knowledge of how to build a stable structure that goes upwards. Between my husband and me, even choosing paint colors is beyond our combined abilities. When we move into a house, the walls stay just the way they were when we moved in. In fact, everything stays just the way it was. I even base where I hang photos on where there are already nails in the walls. If something—anything—breaks, we have to hire someone to fix it. We even had to hire someone to get an interior door to stop sticking. We have one here that won’t even close all the way, but since we’ve not yet found a handy-person in our new town, we just leave it ajar all the time. We are seriously inept.

-The majority of the small houses were in areas where the climate allows for at least some level of year-round outdoor living. A small house in New England would mean something different than a small house in southern Arizona. (No outdoor shower, for one thing.)

I guess that’s all I didn’t like about the book. It really was quite good, and I can see myself using some of the insights as I choose how to use the space we have in our current home. I can also see myself picking it back up next time we go to move into a new home. Who knows…maybe by then my husband or I will have acquired some practical skills. It could happen.

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