Archive | September, 2012

Hobbes the Wondercat… part II

28 Sep

Last month I wrote a post about my daughter’s cat Hobbes.  Though he does things every day that are picture-worthy, the other day I came across a few photos that I wanted to share.

Don’t all felines secretly want to play dress-up?  These are Build-a-Bear outfits that my daughter knew he wanted to wear…

There’s the everyday Casual look…

 

 And when it’s game time, we need a Cheerleader!

 

Sometimes he’s just too cool for the room.  Who am I kidding?  That’s everyday!

 

Like most cats, he thinks an open box is an open invitation and an especially nice place to settle in. 

 

This is one of my favorites.  It was Christmas morning and we gave our two dogs new beds.  Hobbes of course couldn’t resist and made himself all too comfortable on Bailey’s bed.  I love love love the look on Bailey’s face.  You know he was thinking, “Um, excuse me, that’s my bed not yours and I’m just going to sit here and stare at you until you get off.”

                        

                                            

Do you have a Hobbes in your life?  I’d love to see pictures of your feline friends.

 

 

 

 

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Worth the Risk by Nora Roberts

21 Sep

If you’ve ever read any of Nora Roberts’ 209 plus romance novels, you’re well aware she always builds characters and their surroundings with proficiency.  In Worth the Risk, she combines two previously published novels under one cover; Partners, originally released in 1985 and The Art of Deception from 1986.  Of course both stories deal with romance and you know the couples will find each other in the end, but Ms. Roberts is so good at adding just enough mystery and suspense it keeps you interested until the very last page. 

Partners

Matthew Bates had wanted Laurel Armand for years, she was the sister of his best friend but she was also his professional adversary.  Laurel, the sultry Southern belle had always kept him at a safe distance. But when the rival newspaper reporters are forced to work together on the murder case of Anne Trulane, sparks fly and madness erupts in steamy New Orleans. Nora Roberts describes the scenes so vividly you can almost hear and picture the newsroom and the swamp. Determined to get their story, Matt and Laurel find themselves in the path of a disturbed killer, putting love and life on the line.

As Ms. Roberts always does, she creates characters that make us laugh.  Enter Laurel’s eccentric grandmother who wants to see the same happy ending we’re hoping for but at the same time we learn Laurel has an old childhood crush on the murder suspect, thus making him a rival of her current love interest.


The Art of Deception

The second story is The Art of Deception. It deals with 3 artists and forgeries in a castle along the Hudson River. Once more, until the end you are not sure who is responsible for any events or what is going on – you wind up making the discoveries and solving the puzzling activities along with the characters. That alone is extraordinary for romance novels where usually 10 pages in you really know exactly what is occurring.

Artist Adam Haines arrives at the Fairchild castle under the guise of a well-needed breather but was this handsome stranger all that he pretended to be? Kirby Fairchild, daughter of the eccentric patriarch Philip, couldn’t be sure.  What she did know was that as the days and nights wore on, the attraction she felt for him was building, whether she’d wanted it to or not. Was she in danger of falling hard for a stranger who was even more practiced in the art of deception than she was?  Very early on, the two are fascinated with one another and the walls she’s built up around herself slowly come down in the arms of Adam.  

The story is full of playful interaction between Kirby and her father and her father and everyone else.  He is generous and loving one minute and accusatory and suspicious the next.  Kirby does what she can to protect her father but knows he is not quite on the level.  

Throw in loveable characters like Cards and Harriet as well as groundskeeper Jamie, who although retired years ago runs the gardens like he owns the place (I can relate to controlling behavior in the garden) and you enjoy every scene they’re in. There are also necessary characters like Stuart and McIntyre that help pull the storyline together. What you end up with is a book with all the elements it needs for a great read.

 

Like I mentioned before, the fact that Nora Roberts’ couples end up together is no surprise. Still, you root for them and want to see their lives begin brand new.  The plot of these stories appeal to women looking for a good love story with a twist. Nora Roberts is a wonderful author because of the interesting plots she comes up with and the path she leads you down as you read.  Ms. Roberts knows a thing or two about writing romance novels, she has more than 400 million of her books in print, writes under several pseudonyms and has written more best sellers than anyone else on the planet.  I can’t be the only one enjoying her yarns… try one out for yourself.

The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom

17 Sep

The Kitchen House was a selection from my book club and each of us really enjoyed it.  The novel is narrated by two of the main characters, Lavinia and Belle.  Sharing narration duties, each from a very different perspective, they chronicle two decades of life, death, love and hatred. 

Set in Virginia, it begins in 1791 with seven-year-old Lavinia, a white girl who is orphaned while onboard a ship from Ireland.  Taken as an indentured servant, she arrives at the steps of Tall Oaks, a thriving tobacco plantation where she is to live and work with the slaves in the kitchen house.  

The kitchen house is run by Belle who is the illegitimate daughter of the plantation master, Capt. James Pyke.  The secret of Belle’s lineage is one the reader hopes will be disclosed at every turn of the page.  She lives her life “serving” her father every day hoping to receive the papers that will finally free her of the bonds of slavery but at the same time conflicted because that would mean leaving the only family she’s ever known.

As the years pass, Lavinia bonds deeply with the slaves who have become the only family she has.  She of course doesn’t understand the separation between those who live in the kitchen house or other areas of the plantation and those that live in the big house.  Her appearance matches those in the big house, but she spends much of her day living the life as a slave.  As an indentured servant, she’s given some advantages and privileges the black children on the plantation can only dream of.  Because of the color of her skin and the circumstances that brought her to the plantation, she never really fits in either place. 

Eventually, she is accepted into the world of the big house, where Capt. Pyke is gone for long periods of time aboard his ship and the mistress deals with her depression with daily doses of opium, for which she becomes addicted. Lavinia finds herself on both sides of two very different worlds. When she is forced to make a choice, loyalties are brought into question, dangerous truths are laid bare, and lives are put at risk.

The story is filled with colorful, interesting characters that you can’t help but root for and wish for their happy ending.  Conversely, it has its share of misguided and evil characters that play a significant role in this part of our sad and shameful history.

The Kitchen House is well-written and beautifully told.  I agree with my book club friends that the ending comes quite abruptly and we would have preferred a little more closure.  Maybe a sequel is in Ms. Grissom’s future.  Overall, it’s a very well researched novel that leaves you reflective, and full of hope.

Shouldn’t Patriot Day be Every Day?

12 Sep

September 11th is a hard day for everyone.  For some it brings back memories they’d just as soon forget.  But alas cannot.  For many it reminds them our Nation is filled with heroes.  For countless it’s a day to show their patriotic spirit.  And sadly for others, despite the passage of time, it’s still unbearable.  And I understand that. 

As I do every year, yesterday I attended a Memorial Service to recognize those who lost their lives and futures on that dark day.  The ceremony is marked by prayer, reflection, song and the telling of some of those heroic stories.  

The firefighters who ran in when everyone else was desperately trying to get out.  Their sense of honor and duty is a story that needs to be told.  Yesterdya, just as our ceremony got underway, one of our Fire stations got an emergency call and had to abruptly leave the rest of us.  Duty first.  We were all happy to watch the fire engine and rescue unit reunite with us a short time later.  Each member returning, all of us thankful no man was left behind.  These men are heroes.

We were told the story of Father Mychal Judge, a gay Catholic priest who was the Chaplain for the NYC Fire Department.  While giving last rites to a firefighter, Fr. Judge lost his own life.  This man was a hero.

The 72 law enforcement officers who perished.  No other day in history has claimed the lives of so many members of this courageous and respected fraternity.  For me, a reality that hits very close to home.  Heroes every last one.

The events of September 11, 2001.  3,000 people died.  Mothers, Fathers, Sons and Daughters.  Husbands and Wives, Grandparents.  Friends and Colleagues.  Human beings.  3,000 hearts came to a stop.  Heroes?  Maybe not, but I’d like to think it’s just because their actions haven’t all come to light.  Our country has vowed to never forget.  I made that vow.  I intend to keep it.

Do you remember the eerie feeling when all air traffic came to an abrupt halt?  The FAA made an unprecedented decision to clear the airspace of all commercial, military and private airliners.  They began ordering emergency landings and diverting international traffic.  The skies were quiet.  Do you remember the sound?  I’ll never forget it. 

September 11th is a hard day for us all.  Yesterday’s memorial service was an opportunity to focus on the heroes.  9/11 was a day we’re forced to remember.  But it was also the most shining example of what this country is made of.  It was a lesson in humanity and selflessness.  It was a reminder that we are one Nation.  One people. 

September 11th is officially Patriot Day, but shouldn’t every day be?  This is a challenge to all of you to stand up and be heard.  It means making a conscious effort to give back to the greatest country on earth.  She doesn’t owe us.  We owe her.  Extend a helping hand.  Speak a kind word.  Right a wrong.  And fly her colors proudly. 

 

“A man’s country is not a certain area of land, of mountains, rivers, and woods, but it is a principle; and patriotism is loyalty to that principle.”

  ~George William Curtis

 

“I like to see a man proud of the place in which he lives.  I like to see a man live so that his place will be proud of him.”

  ~Abraham Lincoln

 

And I’m proud to be an American,
where at least I know I’m free.
And I won’t forget the men who died,
who gave that right to me.

  ~Lee Greenwood

 

“There are those, I know, who will say that the liberation of humanity, the freedom of man and mind, is nothing but a dream.  They are right.  It is the American dream.”

  ~Archibald MacLeish

 

“America is a tune.  It must be sung together.”

  ~Gerald Stanley Lee, Crowds

 

“If our country is worth dying for in time of war let us resolve that it is truly worth living for in time of peace.” 

  ~Hamilton Fish

 

“If you are ashamed to stand by your colors, you had better seek another flag.”

  ~Author Unknown

 

“We can’t all be Washingtons, but we can all be patriots.”

  ~Charles F. Browne

 

“Those who won our independence believed liberty to be the secret of happiness and courage to be the secret of liberty.”

  ~Louis D. Brandeis

 

“Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same.”

 ~ Ronald Reagan 

 

“This nation will remain the land of the free only so long as it is the home of the brave.”

 ~Elmer Davis

 

“This, then, is the state of the union:  free and restless, growing and full of hope.  So it was in the beginning.  So it shall always be, while God is willing, and we are strong enough to keep the faith.”

  ~Lyndon B. Johnson

 

“If you take advantage of everything America has to offer, there’s nothing you can’t accomplish.”

  ~Geraldine Ferraro

 

“There is nothing wrong with America that cannot be cured by what is right with America.”

  ~William J. Clinton

 

“He loves his country best who strives to make it best.”

  ~Robert G. Ingersoll

 

Off with your hat, as the flag goes by!
And let the heart have its say;
you’re man enough for a tear in your eye
that you will not wipe away.

  ~Henry Cuyler Bunner

 

“My God!  How little do my countrymen know what precious blessings they are in possession of, and which no other people on earth enjoy!”

  ~Thomas Jefferson

 

“It is sweet to serve one’s country by deeds, and it is not absurd to serve her by words.”

  ~Sallust

 

“My favorite thing about the United States?  Lots of Americans, one America. “

 ~Val Saintsbury

 

“I think there is one higher office than president and I would call that patriot.”

  ~Gary Hart

 

“We dare not forget that we are the heirs of that first revolution.”

  ~John F. Kennedy

 

“I can hear you, the rest of the world can hear you and the people who knocked these buildings down will hear all of us soon.”

 ~ George W. Bush

 

“I believe in America because we have great dreams – and because we have the opportunity to make those dreams come true.”

  ~Wendell L. Wilkie

 

“A real patriot is the fellow who gets a parking ticket and rejoices that the system works.”

  ~Bill Vaughan

 

“May I never wake up from the American dream.”

  ~Carrie Latet

 

Peace.  Now more than ever, in our constant pursuit ~ We all must work to create it, encourage it, support it and for 3,000 may they rest in it.

Living/Family Room and Dining Room

10 Sep

Like I mentioned in my post “Our Bungalow – The Early Days…” the elderly couple we purchased the house from were very comfortable in their home but it was also very dark.  They had lived there a long time and I’m sure loved every square inch of the house.  For us, we saw each room not so much as a challenge, but an opportunity to start from scratch, which we literally had to do.  Here’s a glimpse at what it looked like while they still lived there.

 

Once we had the keys to our new home in hand, we quickly began cleaning and trying to get to bare surfaces.  Here is what these rooms looked like when we first took possession.   

As we all know, life has a way of taking over and things we want to do often take a backseat to those things we need to do.  While I was busy raising twin daughters and working, re-decorating just wasn’t a priority, nor did we have the money to do it.  In 2004 we were finally able to transform the two front rooms (dining room and family/living room) into what we really liked.

My husband and I had become big fans of a young Spanish artist named Didier Lourenco.  We familiarized ourselves with most of his work and then began our hunt to find just what we were looking for.  The piece we chose became the anchor item in the room that everything else would revolve around.  Still, choosing a paint color was really tough for me.  So many colors really complemented the piece but ultimately I liked the yellow/gold.  Here are a few after photos.

I don’t have many good “before” photos but suffice it to say the after was nothing short of dramatic.  Everything in the rooms was new… paint, furniture, window treatments.  Some of these pictures were taken while the house was decorated for Thanksgiving…

One thing we didn’t change was a vintage piece of art I picked up at the Pasadena City College swap meet years ago.  I don’t know what caught my eye about it initially, but it was love at first sight and I didn’t want to change a thing about it.  We put a nail in the wall, hung it up and called it a day.  I don’t remember what we paid for it, but it’s priceless to me.

 

While on a weekend getaway to Solvang in 2007, my husband and I wandered into an art gallery and bought a few original pieces done by a local artist.  We thought this one worked nicely in the living room.

Though we don’t use the rooms as much as we once did, we do love that it’s such a comfortable space to relax.  I knew choosing the yellow paint was a bold choice and I worried it would be too cold, but the rooms are instead quite warm and inviting.  Have you ever taken a big risk on a paint color and then been relieved with the outcome?  What about paint disasters?  We’ve all had those too, right?  The nice thing is that you can paint a small section and see how it looks on the wall, in different kinds of natural and artificial light, with your furniture, art, etc.  Take your time to find just what you’re looking for; you’ll be happier in the long run.  And happy is what we all should be.

A Friend is…

8 Sep

“A friend is someone who knows the song in your heart and can sing it back to you when you have forgotten the words.”

~ Anonymous

Nursery and Bathroom…

6 Sep

I know I said I would post next about the Dining and Living Rooms but it really made more sense to start here.  Where we started.

Not long after we were moved in, we had accomplished removing wallpaper, tearing up carpeting, taking down window coverings and painting everything white, in other words our little Bungalow was getting a fresh start.  A re-birth if you will.

We figured we’d take our time making our way from room to room making the necessary repairs and improvement to turn this old house into our home.  However just a few months after we moved in I found out I was pregnant, so our priority became getting the nursery ready.  At 11 weeks gestation we learned we were expecting twins and neither of us wanted to know the gender(s) so we searched to find the perfect neutral color for their room and bathroom.

Here’s what their room looked like during the walk-through…

And this is what it looked like when we began working on it.

There was a lot to do in a short amount of time.  The ceilings throughout the house were covered in acoustic coating and it would be the first change to be made to ready the room for our new babies.  My husband tackled the job all by himself which was neither fun nor easy.  It’s a messy job that requires a mask and goggles at all times.  Reaching above your head scraping little by little is not only exhausting, it’s a very slow process.

Once the ceiling was done, we could focus on the walls and floor.  I did what I could to help out, but as my pregnancy progressed there was only so much I could do.  I could no longer help with little things like stripping paint off the door and window hardware.  Previous homeowners had painted over the delicate brass hardware time and time again.  I wasn’t interested in exposing myself to the harsh cleaning chemicals, so mostly I did what I could to make the jobs easier for my husband.  I fetched tools, cleaned paint brushes, etc.  Painting was fine too, since we have so many windows and the nursery has 6, it was easy to open them up, let in a breeze and paint away.  The house never had the strong odor of paint.  We chose a pale mint green for the room and decided all the trim and mouldings throughout the house would remain white.

Since my daughters are not babies anymore, their bedroom has seen many changes over the years.  When they were about 14, we re-painted and changed the furniture configuration, added a few style details here and there and this is what it looked like

Now that my daughters are college graduates, they’ve made even more changes, like bedding, lighting, etc.  It’s their room and their personal space so I’ll respect their privacy and not post photos of what it looks like today, but it’s a better representation of their grown up style.

Needless to say, the bathroom needed quite a bit of work as well.  The sink and cabinet were old and outdated.  The wallpaper was faded and the floor was a dark vinyl tile but we kept it for the time being.  The star of the room was the claw foot tub, which we refinished and still use today.

When it came time to tackle the bathroom, we found a cute little striped wallpaper in the same green as the nursery.  Though not a big fan of wallpaper, the lower wall we were papering had been covered in vinyl tile at one time so it had some surface scars we did our best to camouflage.  I couldn’t find any good pictures of their bathroom from those days, but here’s what it looks like now.

Yes, this hydrangea came from my garden…it’s one of my all-time favorite flowers.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this latest tour, stay tuned for the Dining and Living Rooms… I mean it this time.

Have a great today and an even better tomorrow.

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