Monday, January 30, 2006

Lit Chicks

My book club met tonight.

I have the most fantastic book club. I absolutely adore these women, they have truly come to mean so much in my life. We haven't had book club since December 9th, and it has been absolute ages, it seems like!

We sit around and talk and gossip and have the most lively conversations about the books. It's a real sense of sisterhood, and it's magic that it all came together.

Back in 2004, I was feeling sorry for myself since I didn't know anyone in DC. So I decided to start a book club and posted an ad on Craig's List. I got roughly 30 responses back and invited everyone over to the house. 11 girls showed up, and it was serendipity.

It was a WONDERFUL evening. We got the whole thing organized and it's been full steam ahead ever since. A few members have dropped out, some new folks have come in, and it's just been absolutely fantastic.

This month we read "Wicked" by Gregory Maguire, which a lot of people seem to be reading right now for some reason. I read it somewhere around 5 years ago, and there was no way in hell I was reading it again--I hated it. But it was a good kind of hate, it was the kind of hate that led me to say "THIS BOOK WILL NOT DEFEAT ME!" and I plowed through to the bitter end.

Consequently I didn't have much to say about the discussion--I couldn't much remember the whole thing. But it didn't matter, we had a great time anyway, and I've read the book for next week, "The Myth of You and Me" by Leah Stewart. Great book until the end, but I won't ruin the ending for those of you who might read it.

Anyway, my main point here is that the book club was and is the kind of miracle I need in my life. The once in a lifetime moment where you need something amazing to happen and all the pieces just fall into place and great things happen. We've had 3 author events, we've seen each other through losses and triumphs (right now we've got 2 brides and a mom-to-be in the club!), and just become great friends.

Thanks, girls!!!!!!!!!!!

Dear Oh Dear, I'm It!!!

Brian tagged me today, so I must post this to my blog (thanks, Bri!!! It's late, but it's too much fun not to do :-D)

Remove the blog in the top spot from the following list and bump everyone up one place. Then add your blog to the bottom slot, like so.

  1. BrightStar:
  2. dr four eyes:
  3. corndog:
  4. The Concordian:
  5. Kate...Naturally:

Select five people to tag:

  1. A Life in Books:
  2. meanderings and musings:
  3. The World According to Poodge:
  4. Droppings:
  5. The Laukats:

What were you doing 10 years ago?

Ten years ago was 1996. I was in my second semester of my junior year of college. I was undoubtedly running around New York City like I owned the place, while having an absolute blast at school. I lived alone much of my junior year, although I started the year with a kick-butt roommate, Kerriann, who became my senior year roommate for that entire year. But in January, I was living alone.

What were you doing 1 year ago?

This time a year ago, I was still living in Centreville and trying to broaden my social life. I was getting used to my new job at DBVI, and starting book clubs and game clubs. Nothing very exciting was going on--just the mundane happenings of daily life.

Five snacks you enjoy:

  • Chocolate anything
  • Cheddar and sour cream chips
  • Apples and peanut butter
  • Popcorn
  • Ice cream

Five songs you know all the words to:

  • Row, Row, Row Your Boat (couldn't resist being a smart alec!)
  • C'etait Toi (Billy Joel)
  • Invisible (Clay Aiken)
  • Bohemian Rhapsody (Queen)
  • Come Fly With Me (Frank Sinatra)

Five things you would do if you were a millionaire:

  • Pay off my mortgage
  • Quit my job
  • Buy a country home in England, just a small castle, nothing too grand
  • Renovate my current house to include all the amenities, but especially a kick-butt kitchen and a hot tub, plus a monster master bathroom and hardwood floors
  • Take a world tour boat cruise

Five bad habits:

  • Too judgemental at times
  • Don't live a consistently healthy lifestyle
  • Hate doing the dishes, so I let them pile up in the sink
  • Procrastination
  • Leave my clothes on the floor around the hamper instead of in the hamper (WHY DO I DO THIS!?)

Five things you enjoy doing:

  • Reading
  • Playing all kinds of games
  • Working on my house
  • Playing with my bunny
  • Singing

Five things you would never wear again:

  • Leg Warmers (I'm a child of the '80's, but who the heck thought leg warmers were a good idea?!)
  • That butt ugly bridesmaid's dress that made me look like a linebacker stuffed in a maroon sleeping bag
  • My wedding dress (once was enough, don't plan on NEEDING to wear it again!)
  • My grandfather's VFW hat (too sentimental, makes me cry)
  • Flared leg jeans

Five favorite toys:

  • My digital camera
  • My power screwdriver (thankfully I've never had to put furniture together without it after the first piece nearly killed my hands!)
  • Matches--I'm a total firebug
  • My leaf blower/vacuum
  • My car

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Sue's Reviews: Comedy and Tragedy?

Last night, my sister hosted an event for people to go check out "Searching for Comedy in the Muslim World" by Albert Brooks. I had heard a bunch of soundbites on NPR and was really wanting to see it.

The basic premise is that Albert Brooks plays a character named Albert Brooks, loosely based on himself. Albert is a struggling actor/comedian and is approached the State Department to go to the Muslim world and find out what makes them laugh. The president has decided this will help them to figure out the Muslims and what makes them tick. So Albert heads over to India with 2 guys from the State Department, and hires an Indian assistant. Then they go to work trying to find out what makes people laugh over there, and nothing seems to really do the trick. Albert inadvertantly sets off an international incident, and must return home.

It opened to mixed reviews and honestly, I have to say, my own reaction was pretty mixed. Parts of it were pretty cute, and parts of it were just not that fantastic. I think they played a lot of the great clips on NPR so I had heard them. Really the only new scene that I thought was drop dead hilarious was when he goes to Pakistan by secretly crossing the border and the Pakistanis get him stoned.

Otherwise, all his jokes not only fell flat on the Muslims, but on much of the audience. At many points, my sister and I and our friend Robert were the only people who were really laughing. Of course, I don't know much about Albert Brooks and his comedy--a lot of people don't seem to like him. I can't say for sure if it was his best work or not.

I give Albert Brooks an A for effort, and a B+ for the result. The end came rather suddenly, almost as if he ran out of material... I think it could have been a lot funnier.

Afterwards we pulled the old NYC 2-for-1 special, although my sister later wimped out and got a ticket, and decided to check out "The Squid and the Whale." While I was waiting for her to come back and hang out, I was able to catch about 15 minutes of "Transamerica." Glad I didn't waste my $10 on that one. It looked incredibly strange, I must say. Felicity Huffman WAS pretty amazing, nonetheless.

But back to "The Squid and The Whale."

Laura Linney and Jeff Daniels are married writers with 2 sons, living in Brooklyn in 1986. Their marriage is not working, plagued by infidelity (his and hers) and narcissitic intellectualism (his). When Mom's career takes off and Dad can't get a book published, their relationship finally dies and they decide to divorce.

This sets the 2 boys on a downward spiral. The older boy, desperate to be brilliant and detached like his father, experiments with sex and plagiarism, while the younger boy becomes a raging alcoholic and "abuses himself" in different parts of the school.

This movie too ended rather abruptly, and we were left to wonder what the heck happened.

A solid C-.

Maybe I just don't get independent film. I keep going to all these things and then I leave and I think, "Huh. What the hell?" The only good one I've seen recently was this fall's "King of the Corner."

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Weekend Warrior: Sweat Equity

When we looked at the house before we bought it, I knew immediately it would be home. I also knew immediately that the wallpaper had to go.

Our living room was decorated in what I guess the other owners thought was a tasteful early American colonial kind of thing. Separated by a chair rail were two different types of patterned wallpaper. Up top was a marbled kind of mottled cream with bumpy things and on bottom was a striped kind of thing (picture the stripes you get when your tv is out of focus on an arial antenna--with the little dots and lines and all) with string interwoven in the paper.

The window in the room faces our front porch, which is under an overhang. As a result, the room is very, very dark a lot of the time. The dark wallpaper, crappy color of the fireplace, and the navy (yes, navy-shows-every-speck-of-dirt) carpet all made the whole thing feel rather drab and dreary. Consequently, we don't use the room much except as a dining room when we have a whole bunch of people over and need the space.

But it was kind of depressing to see the room, which has loads of potential--and which I dreamed of re-doing somehow. The wallpaper around the door to the kitchen was peeling, and with so little use, it was a bit cobwebby. If I had a bunch of reproduction antique or colonial furniture, then yeah, sure, I would definitely be able to use that room to its full design potential. But that just isn't my style!

So, I talked to my father-in-law who told me about a product I could buy to strip the wallpaper, and, taking my inspiration from "Weekend Warriors" on HGTV, I just decided to plunge in.

Now, I know absolutely NOTHING about wallpaper, and less than nothing about stripping wallpaper. But my mom told me to get a puncture thing, and my father-in-law told me about that solution, so that's what I was going on. (Mind you, I was struck with inspiration on Michael's birthday!!!!!!)

So I went over to True Value, since it's a local instituation around here (I've had several people tell me to go to Earl's T/V for stuff), and I was pleased to see that Earl carries "DIF" wall paper removing gel. I bought a spray bottle's worth and a refill bottle for good measure. To my chagrin, however, there was no puncturing thing. I did get a nifty scraper though.

So after lunch, we went to Home Depot, where they put the puncturing thing (Called THE PAPER TIGER) in the "decor" section. And I came home and got to work.

I took off all the switchplates and covers, unloaded all the bookshelves, moved the furniture, and put all my breakables and books downstairs. Then, I punctured the upper paper to a farethewell. And I started spraying the gel--letting it soak in. And I gave it the obligatory 15 minutes, per package directions. And then I scraped with my little PAPER TIGER scraper.

And not much happened. And I had a bunch of swiss-cheesed wallpaper, and I couldn't figure out what the hell was going on.

If I scraped long enough, the scraper could get through all the raised crap on the paper and hit the seams. But it certainly was nothing like the promises I was given. Hank told me the paper would fall off the walls, and DIF promised I could just run my scraper over with the lightest of touches, and the paper would come loose.

So, I went for backup. I retreated to the crawl space closet and got a paint roller and fresh roller head thingy. I sprayed the section again, and then used the roller to really get the gel in the holes good.

So I sat down and waited for something to happen. And while I was waiting, I started looking at that bottom paper, which, to my mind, was the more loathesome of the two. And the more I stared at it, the more it seemed to mock me.

So I started playing with one little corner of it. And before I could blink, I had 1/2 a panel already gone! I looked up at my punctured, gelled, scraped paper, and I looked back down at this other paper I hadn't done a thing to.

I could cut my time in half.

So I went for it. I picked at another piece and it came off so easily!

I channeled my inner Kathy Bates, started hollering "TOWANDA!!!!!!!!!!" and had a field day pulling that paper off. Within 30 minutes, I had the entire bottom half of the room stripped.

The only catch was, as mentioned, that bottom paper contained some kind of thread or string. And that did cut my fingers a couple of times. But I remedied that with some scissors for the really tough parts.

I figured that was pretty good till after supper. I fussed with the top part a bit more, and then, when I got one section of wall cleaned off, I consulted the DIF bottle again. And it said once the paper is off, you have to sponge off the adhesive.

For as much muscle as the paper requires, once that adhesive layer is wet with plain ole water, it comes off so beautifully.

I was too tired to continue last night. This morning I got up and I finished off all the paper on the top half of the room. It's all down. The room feels twice as large, it's twice as bright, and I am just thrilled. I've started work on getting the adhesive down--my trusty paint roller is doing a wonderful job of getting large patches of adhesive wet, and my PAPER TIGER scraper is just slicing the adhesive paper to ribbons.

I got somewhat sidetracked by the other projects of the weekend: Cooking, grocery shopping, HAM radio construction (well, OK, I mainly stayed out of the way on that one!), installing the General's world map in the office for his HAM contacts, and measuring the windows and blinds. Plus the general duties required of being a bunny owner.

However, I have to say, as of this moment, I have NEVER in my ENTIRE LIFE been so proud of myself. Not when I graduated high school, not when I got my master's degree, not when I was asked to become a big cheese with the social organization we're running with these days... NEVER have I been prouder of myself.

My goal is to finish pulling down the adhesive this week. Since I'll be working, I'll only have an hour or two every day to do it. Then hopefully I can research what I have to do to cover the MAROON that some genius painted all the woodwork, and seal all that up, and hopefully have the room painted before President's Day Weekend. Currently I'm considering "Manhattan Mist" for the top half of the room and a plain white for the bottom half. But I have a load of paint chips and ideas from Home Depot, and am still planning it out!

I've put pictures at if you're interested in watching as the work progresses...

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Time Does Fly

The holidays are over...

A New Year is upon us...

I'm feeling good about where I stand personally and professionally and financially and emotionally.

A lot of things have changed, and I'm sure many things will change again this year.

Our biggest news has been:

  • We got a pet bunny. His name is Tom. He is so cuddly and adorable. We got him from Freecycle, his brother now lives with my sister. Rabbits may be the most perfect pet. They're easy to clean up after, they make no noise, they are perfectly content to sit in a cage all day. Wonderful creatures.
  • My mom is getting a divorce. Should be finalized this spring. I don't have much to say publicly about it. It's not really any of my business :-)
  • Michael's been promoted to a GS-13 and started his new job a week or so ago. He is LOVING it and his branch has been re-org'ed so he is back under his old boss, which is nice since they all understand how he works and what he needs. They just step aside and let him work :-)

So, that's what's been going on around here. I am busy, busy, busy seeking to broaden my horizons in a number of ways, and hope to have a wonderful new year. Maybe get some travel in, see some friends, get up to NY this year, down to FL, up to RI too. I wish I were independently wealthy so I didn't have to worry about a paycheck--I could spend loads of time with the family :)

Well, I hope to be blogging more regularly. So check back often.