Thursday, November 22, 2012

The Best Holiday Ever


I'm expecting twenty *gasp* for my dinner, with turkey, ham, stuffing, veggies and fruit, hot rolls, german chocolate cake, apple pie, and a boat-load of Tums.

How about you?

Monday, November 19, 2012

Disciple


No fire. No camp. The overcast sky blanketed us in shadows quickly as the sun set, and the fount’s glow was soon the strongest light under the trees. I wrapped my cloak tight around myself, and sat atop one of the bedrolls we had left. Should the final attack come, being bundled up was no safer than trying to run. Better to not be tangled in a blanket, better to run and be pulled down. A quicker death, perhaps. 
What would they tell my mother?

Review of For Want of a Piglet. 

It begins like a slow burning fuse, sparks and flares that compel the reader onward. A bond forms and twines us to Kate from the start. Tension builds and I expect a good story line but the quiet steam lulls me into approaching the peak of the volcano. I mean heat and the rumbles under my feet doesn't mean it’s about to blow, right?

Then the story exploded catching me in the lava. And I couldn't turn the pages fast enough after that.

My saga with L. Blankenship’s Disciple began thirteen months ago after she submitted her first page to our writer’s critique site, UnicornBell. For Want of a Piglet, caught my eye first. I mean who could resist that title. Her writing sealed the deal. LB - my designation for her - is one of the few writers that I asked, no begged, to read her wip. She graciously submitted to my groveling and, wow, is it ever a one-sided deal in my favor.

I am one of the fortunate few who've read the fourth installment of this series of six and lemme tell ya Writers, this is the Real Deal. It only gets better. And if you live and breathe Fantasy as I do, you won’t be disappointed.

Worldbuilding. LB is the master here, written so well that you’d swear she’d teleported/time traveled into her world for a firsthand look.

Easy reading. As a writer, you’ll appreciate the quick pace and building tension. 

Genre. Call Disciple hard fantasy, epic, or ‘Gritty Fantasy Romance’, the key word here is ‘fantasy’. It is set in the medieval world of horses, castles, battlements, and kings. It might fit the sub-genre of Swords and Sorcery but that is debatable.

A little bit about LB. As an author who self-published rather than follow the traditional route, L. Blankenship is part of a growing trend. Traditional publishing, i.e. agents, are not the force they used to be and finding one who believes in your work is another catfish entirely. 

In LB’s words: “Ebooks are a huge boon to self-publishers. I would not have done this without the ease of distributing ebooks.”

Control over the author’s work is another strong point in support of self-pub.

LB: “I wanted control over how Disciple is presented to the readers…”
 Who can argue with that statement?

Please note that ‘self-publishing’ is NOT the same as vanity press. I’d avoid those bottom feeders at all costs.

Summary. For Want of a Piglet is the first in the series of Disciple, L. Blankenship’s fantasy novel. It is rare day when I experience a full gamut of emotions after reading a tome, but this one has it all; mourning a character’s demise, anger at another’s attitude, worry when I realize no one is safe. This is the book that you can’t put down. This is the book that makes you blurry-eyed the next day at work from reading until 2 am.

Find it at these outlets.

Friday, November 16, 2012

How Cool is This?


As I look out my kitchen window
Renovating a 93-year-old house ain’t fun. We hit many snags like crumbling plaster and rock-wool insulation. Discovered lead pipes and *shiver* an ungrounded outlet I used for the clothes washer for 30 some years. Chipped, scraped, and cleaned off ancient wallpaper. From a Indiana Jones standpoint, seeing the styles of wallpaper and the original stenciling underneath (very cool) was fascinating. That led to one unanswered question though:

Why in heavens name would you want to paper a ceiling?

But I digress.

When we decided to use the south half of our porch to join our old house with the new addition, I left part of the beam. This led to my biggest discovery, Martha Stewart and her precious metals paint.


Quit laughing. Right now. Because this little 10 ounce jar of paint that I bought at Home Depot for about 7 bucks is incredible. It gave a sheen to everything I painted. And I used it a lot.


This little jar put two coats on the beam, a bathroom niche,





two small heart-shaped shelves and added highlights to wall d├ęcor







old door knobs and hinges








covered a sooty deposit by the chimney. I painted some of the bricks as an experiment.




This little 10 oz jar also put two coats on a step leading from the old part of the house to the new addition, an old wooden beam that is approximately ten inches wide by twelve feet long. I put two coats of Martha Stewart, metallic Copper Red, then three coats of polyurethane.

I waited and bit my nails off worrying about the durability. Boy howdy, was I ever pleased. It seems resistant to scratches, fading and looks darn good.

Once again, ONE jar did all this.

Martha, I am your biggest fan.
***


In summary, I want to thank Lowes for backsplash, Home Depot, Menards, Ron the manager at our local lumber yard who helped me with the floor plan, the Legacy cabinet company who offered hickory doors with all the bird pecks and knot holes, and Hineline.

And my sweet Babboo who said, “God forbid we ever add onto the house again.”

Addendum

And another thing. Alicia reminded me of a very important detail, a thread that colored all the work on Our Old House: the blame game. 

Is the wall uneven after filling cracks and sanding? Blame the previous owners. Did someone paint over a mud daubers nest? The last guy did it. WhyTH did someone put the drywall on backwards? Not me.

In short, with an old house, any problems or taste in design that seems, um, unique, my answer is, Who me? Heck no.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Day Four of This Old House


I don’t want to pay one dime more than I need to for Anything. And taxes? Loathe ‘em.

I want quality, durability, easy installation, low cost, and variety. And don't want to pay taxes or shipping. Is that too much to ask?

The solution? Online purchasing.

Buying direct from dealers has all the above advantages plus a few scary extras if you don't do your homework; crappy service, no return policy, shadowy business reps, and fly-by-night companies. To avoid the skanks of the industry, I researched every dealer from their socks to their hair follicles. I dodged the unknowns and focused on some great online businesses.

AC Wholesalers. I bought our Mitsubishi from this dealer. Great prices, super products. An all-around good experience.




Overstock.com.  Kitchen hardware is freakin’ expensive. On a lark, I checked out this well-known site, my first time dealing with them, and was I pleased! Bought for a fraction of the cost at a home improvement store, these handles and knobs were heavy, well-made, and the exact color I wanted.



Selectblinds. I wanted huge windows, 66” x 96”. For that size, I needed vertical blinds. After finding nothing locally that came close to the color or style I wanted, I went to this company. I did have to pay shipping this time, but got these blinds already sized and ready to install. Worth the money.

Amazon sells everything under the sun. I’ve hit a few speed bumps with them but generally satisfied with their dealings.

Bottom line, check the companies before doing business with them. Use reviews, Better Business Bureau, and research thoroughly. If I can buy quality products online and avoid giving Uncle Sam the money I earned, I’m willing to take the time to do my schoolwork.

Tomorrow, our coolest discoveries.


Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Day Three


 January 2012 - Chainsawed cedar tree. It breaks my heart to cut down any tree. This one however was damaged and about to fall on the house.

The stump in middle ground is exactly where our Lazy Boy sits now!



Bare lawn south of the house. Note porch to the left. This played an important part in our plans.











Initially, we intended busting out the window just to the right of the porch and creating an archway. But that involved cutting the trusses. Not a sound idea.


To add space and save the trusses, we tore down then re-built half of the porch. This is a view from the front of the house. The three windows were removed for entry into the main part of the house. No need to demolish a wall or the trusses.










From the main house, step into the old porch, turn left and...







...the steps down to The Addition, as we call it.
















Review of our Mitsubishi Ductless Heating and Cooling unit.

“How do you plan on heating this sucker?” our contractor asked.

The hubby and I looked at each and shrugged. “Um,” was the best answer we had.

He suggested a ductless unit manufactured by Mitsubishi. Their ad is hilarious, btw.
Essentially it is a heat pump, one unit on the outside connected to one or more units on the inside. We chose one unit for the addition. 

Cheaper than a furnace and ductwork. And quiet? A fan is noisier. Sincerely, you cannot tell the thing is on except for the light on the front. It cleans the air, quickly heats and cools. Later, when winter really hits, it’ll be interesting to find out if it does the trick. But so far, Man Alive, it is something.

In the future we might add another unit to the north side of the house but for now...

Highly, highly recommend this unit.


Tomorrow, buying major purchases online.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Day two of This Old House



In all our travels on this crazy journey, we found some great products and services. This week I'll review the good stuff.

Today, Countertops.

I didn’t give a second thought to concrete or metal. Just not my style. And laminate? Been there. Done that. Tired of it.

Initally I wanted solid surface or a Corian type. This manufactured product is impervious to bacteria, comes in a wide variety of colors, and can have a molded sink made of the same material for a seamless look.

For all of the above reasons, I thought my choice was easy. But darker colors showed marks. I almost went for a light beige color but something stopped me. Could be it was the dealer who said, “Don’t worry about scratches. It’s easy to fix. You just buff them out.”

Hm. Well my next thought was, easy to fix, easy to scratch. I decide to pass. Besides I did want a darker color.

Granite sounded nice but Wow, the price. Yikes.

I went one grade down and investigated quartz. This product has every color imaginable, impervious, 93% stone, easy to clean, no maintenance like sealing, and is less expensive than granite.

I chose Copper Patina, a rich brown stone with bits of coppery-colored glass scattered throughout the surface. It feels silky, not cold like stone or tile, and the hubby has caught me petting my countertop every now and then.

Tomorrow I’ll review Mitsubishi Ductless heating and cooling

Monday, November 12, 2012

This Old House Week





Now that our renovations are winding down, looking back there are many things that should have, could have gone better. 





Examples:
A system of handling the incredible amount of dust.

Don’t think a Swifter duster will do the trick. No way. It took meticulous work with a toothbrush and soap to get it all. More plastic over everything, the tables and the doorways.

Less trust in our contractor.
The guy was good but had too many jobs and not enough help. If it hadn’t been for our work and assistance, the end would still be out of sight. From tearing out the tub ourselves and busting the wall open to plumbing, we worked side by side with the contractor and then some. Hate to think what it would have been like for an elderly person or someone who wasn’t motivated.

More research into how to do almost everything.
No matter how good a workman is at tiling, siding, installing cabinets, etc, do your homework. Learn the best way to lay tile on ground level concrete. Educate yourself on siding a house. Discover the best method of leveling cabinets.

Tomorrow I’ll review my choice of countertops; Corian, concrete, laminate, quartz, or granite

Sunday, November 11, 2012

After Recess, What Then?



An interlude, a break, intermission.

Whatever you want to call it, I've been MIA for a good part of the year due to renovating an old house. 

Now I’m at the point of wondering where to go from here.

Crossroads. Should I revise my first manuscript to send to the land of Query? Or continue a Work In Progress that has been snoozing at word count 10,000?

Stay with an full version that needs severe editing or climb ‘back in the saddle again’, stir the stagnate creative juices and finish the wip.

"Is a puzzlement." - The King and I

How you faced this conundrum: backtrack or follow the white rabbit?

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