Category Archives: picky

The Smonday train…

26th February 2018

My husband likes to joke that Sunday evenings, he knows I’m down about the eventuality of Monday because I emit continual sighs that sound like a train’s whistle. Thus, he has termed my sighs the Smonday train entering the station.

Last night, though, I was so happy with all that we accomplished that I really didn’t feel down at all. Here’s a glimpse into our weekend:

Friday

Friday, he picked me up from work (his car was having the windshield replaced) and we went to our local bar for an afternoon on the patio with nachos and cerveza because the weather was so nice. We talked about a few trips we’re planning and just enjoyed one another’s company.

Then we ran some errands and picked up a new tube of toothpaste from our local natural grocery store. (I know, exciting stuff.) We’ve been wanting to try the activated charcoal version of our favorite peppermint Earth Paste. We also walked the mall a bit just to get out and do something, as we spent most evenings last week working on the half bath.

Saturday

Saturday, Caleb took care of the yard while I headed to Home Depot to locate and cut trim (so it would fit in the car) to finish out the half bath and await a friend who is going to help us install the toilet and sink. It was work, but we got floorboards, door stops and trim, and chair rail all installed, and I covered everything with an additional coat of paint to hide nails and dings from the hammer. I doubt I can post a reveal until at least next week, but I promise to have an alternative Fridays at Home post this week.

We even finished up early enough to meet up with friends for fajitas and a margarita or two!

Sunday

Sunday was supposed to be stormy, so as Caleb went off to church, I faced the grocery store alone – never fun on Sundays. My sis is sick, so I wanted to bring her homemade vegetable soup. I’ve made this for years, but I wanted to see if I could improve it, so I combined Food & Wine’s Vegetable Noodle Soup and Genius Kitchen’s Old-Fashioned Vegetable Soup recipes. Delish. I also made these flourless chocolate chip cookies. Not super sweet, but very yummy.

I dropped soup and cookies off and got to snuggle my newest puppy nephew, Duck, for a few minutes before heading back home to finish folding laundry, while I continued re-watching Psych, one of my favorite shows.

After getting cleaned up, I tackled another box from my parents’ home. They stayed with us for six weeks after losing their home, and we’re storing some things for them. While we got most things cleaned and sterilized right away, my grandmother collected lab-created gemstones and jewelry findings, and that box has been sitting in my laundry room for ages, waiting for me to get to it. Funny how quickly you get used to something and forget you need to do something with it.

I felt like Indiana Jones as I opened up still-damp jewel packets and tipped them into hot, soapy water. Granted, most of the stones are so small they aren’t worth anything, but it was still fun. I definitely inherited her love of jewelry and think I might even have some of the stones set into stacking rings or something really delicate since the stones are so small. There are literally hundreds of stones, but I picked out about a dozen I might try to use. I spent the rest of my evening looking at possibilities to take to a local jeweler for inspiration.

from LilyEmmeJewelry’s Etsy shop

from NiringJewelryDesign’s Etsy shop

 

from MinimalVS Etsy shop

from MinimalVS Etsy shop

How’s that for some Sunday night fun? No wonder I didn’t have the Sunday blues.

I hope you had a wonderful weekend. Welcome to Monday.

Reading: Prosecco and Promises by A.L. Michael

12th February 2018

Requested for review from the publisher on Netgalley.

Mia is trying – and failing – to prepare herself for orphanhood. Her mother died when she was young, and now her beloved dad is succumbing to the cancer he survived years before. The dutiful daughter, Mia finally agrees to her father’s final wish. When the time comes, she is to leave him with his much younger wife, take a plane to the Italian island of Ischia, where her mother grew up and her family still lives, and have a drink in his memory.

Devastated, angry, and broken, Mia arrives in Ischia, to her warm, loving aunt (the only one who knows her father is dying), her shrunken, bitter Italian grandmother, and her fun-loving cousin. She remembers her only other trip to Ischia and seeks out the antique shop she visited only to find herself drawn into the shop owner and his grandson’s lives, as she learns more and more about her mother and herself.

While Prosecco and Promises didn’t appear to be my typical fare, combine Italy and prosecco with a little archaeology, and I’m all in. As in many books, the main character is seeking something, not realizing she really needs to find herself. Ischia is steeped in her family’s history, and Mia wants to learn more about her mother, the fleeting figure she can hardly remember, but at the same time, she has to come to terms with the impending loss of her father. A.L. Michael writes Mia’s ache so well, and I felt for Mia and understood her anger. At the same time, it was evident that Mia’s life was on hold and that the anger that bubbled out of her was directed as much at herself as anyone else. The release she feels once her father dies allows her to fast track the life she didn’t realize she was missing, and I loved that the author didn’t clip the ending but instead allowed Mia room to explore and feel her way a bit.

The cover belies the struggle Mia faces, as this is no chick lit, and Prosecco and Promises was a good mid-winter read, as the sunny Italian island is a perfect foil for the cold weather.

*Read what others have to say on Goodreads.

Fridays at Home: Half Bath, Flooring

9th February 2018

Last Friday, I talked about half bath demo and framing the wall and pocket door.

Once the wall was framed and the floor was clean and free of any leftover screws, we could lay backer board and then begin to tile!

We both really hated using the backer board. While it’s relatively easy to score (you really need a carbide blade for this, I discovered through reading contractor forums), the boards do tend to crumble, so it isn’t quite as easy to work with as drywall. You also do not want to lay your boards in such a way that four corners meet, so stagger them for stability. You have to leave space as well for them to shift. Otherwise, down the road, your tile might be affected. The purpose of the backer board is to make a monolithic substrate – a flat surface on which to lay tile. Contractors are divided as to whether or not you mud first. However, because we were going back with the same small mosaic tile, we were less concerned with breakage and decided to move forward. We used the appropriate backer board screws and, for stability, added them closer than every square foot. Time will tell if this was the right move.

Here’s where I’ll admit that I was desperately trying to get the job done. We host an annual Christmas party, and I was hoooooping I could have this close to finished. [Spoiler: I did not finish in time.] So I decided I could tile myself, once I finished the semester. Even though I’ve never tiled anything. Ever. We borrowed a wet saw from a neighbor who is really generous with his collection of tools, and I dry fit the tile to see how I could make the fewest cuts possible. After lots of looking and dreaming, we went with the Daltile Prologue Ceramic Octagon/Dot tile from Home Depot. The price was too good to pass up; the tile fits the feel/age of the house and the half bath and will abut the black and white lip into the kitchen (seen below). If you order tile, make sure you order more than you need – take it from me.

My husband helped me find the square of the room (don’t even ask me, it was way over my head) to make sure the tile was square. We snapped chalk lines for me to find a good spot to start. Note: Square and flush – those concepts are beyond me. Level is about as much as I can conceptualize.

Annnd I got started. I mixed my thinset, let it sit, per instructions, mixed again, and nervously began.

Mudding suuuuucks. I hate it. I was a mess. Who knew that using a wet saw and cutting tile was the easiest part of the process? Not me. But I powered through.

Tiling this tiny space took me all day. It’s so much trickier than it looks. See those little diamonds that fit into the spaces? Impossible not to have thinset ooze out. Because we used the same tile as the previous owners, I knew I had to fix that or be left with a tile job I was not pleased with. Once I finished, there were two square-foot sections that were higher. Thankfully, Caleb (my husband) was once a bricklayer, so he redid those for me.

After allowing the tiles to dry and cure, it was time to grout! Because of the size of the space between the tile, unsanded grout is recommended. I mixed it according to instructions, let it sit, then mixed a minute longer and got busy. You need a grout float and grout sponge for this step, and while it takes some elbow grease, it is SO satisfying to see the results! Essentially, you push the grout into the spaces with your grout float at a 45-degree angle, do an entire section, then wipe with your barely damp sponge. A haze will be left, but after 24 hours, you can wipe that away with a dry cloth. I couldn’t believe the difference.While it isn’t perfect, it’s so much better than the tile job before, and I love that even with the same tile, we went with a light gray diamond in between the white hexies. The gray is subtle but adds interest – and most importantly, made it feel like I wasn’t just having to correct someone else’s bad job.

We still have to seal the grout, but other than that, it’s ready to go! I’m proud that I did this almost totally by myself, but I will also admit, out of the many home projects I’ve tackled, this was not my favorite. But I saved us some money and retain bragging rights.

Join me next week as we get one step closer to completing this project.

Reading: Pacific War Nonfiction Update

7th February 2018

Since my last post detailing my Pacific War Nonfiction reading, I have written full reviews of To Hell and Back by Charles Pellegrino and Nagasaki: Life After Nuclear War by Susan Southard. I closed out that year with James Bradley’s Flag of Our Fathers. The year 2016 took me much deeper into my Pacific War reading. In 2017, I proposed teaching a study abroad course in Japan and switched my focus to Japanese novels and articles about Japanese literature, though I still have a mile-long list of nonfiction I’m eager to hunt down and read.

If you didn’t read my first post about my venture down the rabbit hole of out-of-print books on the subject, it all began when I watched Unbroken in the theater and realized just how little I knew about the Pacific Theatre in World War II – specifically, what a broad, isolated war it was because of the remoteness and distance between the islands on which the battles were fought. Initially, I searched for books in my local library and read their references. Then I joined a WWII reading group on Goodreads, and those guys had some really great recommendations.

Here’s some of what I’ve read since my previous update:

retribution

Retribution: The Battle for Japan, 1944-45 by Max Hastings

How I wish I had read this book earlier in my quest for more information on the Pacific War. Though this book focuses on the last year of the battle with Japan, Hastings writes a multi-faceted look at the push to end the war – detailing key figures, battles, and political background. Because of this, readers get quite a lot of information, yet little context for what precedes it.

That isn’t to say, however, that this book is light fare. Hastings covers the Japanese in China, the British in Burma, the American re-entry into the Philippines as well as the impending threat of Russia in Manchuria and the widespread American firebombing of Tokyo, depicting the slow but steady tightening of the screws on Japan.

While not a play by play and casualty list of battles, Retribution is a fascinating, necessary read to pull together the various characters and stages of the Pacific theatre, and I plan to add his Armageddon to my reading list.

atwarwiththewind

At War With the Wind by David Sears

The first 135 pages of this book are essentially a primer on the Pacific War – if you’re new to the subject, that might be helpful. However, even with my relatively limited reading, I was familiar with most, if not all, of the preview. Additionally, unlike other writers who include bits of soldier stories throughout the narrative, Sears includes details about soldiers in such a way that I had difficulty separating one from another.

Once the discussion of kamikaze pilots actually began (on page 136), the book continues to include dates, times, ship type, description of the kamikaze attack, and numbers of dead and wounded. The relay of this voluminous information becomes monotonous, and, at least personally, boring.

I also anticipated a bit more information on the psychological impetus for the kamikaze attacks and Japanese perspective, but the book did not address this.

hirohito

Hirohito and the Making of Modern Japan by Herbert P. Bix

While I can appreciate the feat of Bix to write such a sweeping biography of the war-time Japanese emperor, this book is a beast. At 832 pages, reading Hirohito is an undertaking, particularly as Bix takes readers back to Hirohito’s childhood, to help shape the image of Hirohito the country develops.

Bix was able to access primary documents of which previous biographers could only dream; however, none of Hirohito’s diaries is public, so reading much of the book was difficult, as I keenly felt the distance between the writer and his subject.

Unlike other readers, I did not feel that the biographer tried to change tack and absolve Hirohito of his responsibility. In fact, after reading of Hirohito’s near addiction to involving himself in his empire’s affairs, I don’t see how anyone could. Reading of his and MacArthur’s relationship and the American interest in keeping Hirohito on the throne only confirmed what I’ve read of the political machinations behind the occupation.

Not for the casual reader, Hirohito and the Making of Modern Japan was arduous but ultimately necessary for readers of Pacific War nonfiction.


Embracing Defeat: Japan in the Wake of World War II by John W. Dower

John Dower manages, in 676 pages, to make reading about post-World War II Japan gripping in a way few historians can. With photographs, documents, and both American and Japanese newspaper accounts, Dower details the immediate aftermath of the war as well as the six years of American occupation in an eye-opening account of American intervention in post-war Japan.

Japan, in 1945, was a miserable place to be. People were starving. Several of the largest cities were near decimated, and industry, which had been completely turned to producing for the war effort, left in shambles. Many women, left without husbands, turned to prostituting themselves to the occupation troops. Morale was incredibly low, and war crimes were being prosecuted, with military men shunned in the streets.

The question of what to do with Hirohito weighed heavily on MacArthur and the General Headquarters. So many Japanese gave their lives in the name of their emperor, the symbol of Japan. How the Americans transformed Hirohito from one for whom you must fight the white devils to a peaceful symbol of Japanese heritage was quite a feat. The efforts of the Americans to manipulate the Japanese government while simultaneously donning near invisibility in the machinations was both impressive and disturbing.

I’d venture to say that no journey into the Pacific War or post-war Japan is complete without reading Embracing Defeat.

Islands of Destiny: The Solomon Campaign and the Eclipse of the Rising Sun by John Prados

Prados introduces Islands of Destiny as a groundbreaking look at the battle he says actually turned the tide of the fight with Japan, the Solomon Islands campaign. For decades, the Battle of Midway was given pride of place as the moment Japan began to wane. Yet Prados points out that the Japanese had the upper hand in terms of strength going into Guadalcanal, and the Solomon Islands were strategic in terms of air support. Prados details each battle, complete with casualty lists, common to these battle histories, but at times the minutiae overwhelmed me.

That said, Prados also focuses heavily on intelligence and its role in the successes and failures of both the Americans and the Japanese and introduced the Australian coast watchers who were instrumental in intelligence gathering. This aspect of the book was fascinating to me, and I plan to seek more information on both the coast watchers and the Sea Bees, also of major strategic importance in the Pacific islands.

Fridays at Home: Half Bath, Demo & Framing

2nd February 2018

If you missed last week’s Fridays at Home, and my home’s deepest, darkest secret, you might want to read that first.

So. Once we decided the layout of the room, got bids for plumbing, etc., it was time for the work to begin! The plumber came, discovered our hot water heater was leaking, which tacked on a few hundred dollars more to the scheme, but we had all that and the new plumbing installed in a day.

Even though we had a lot of visitors in and out, I was determined to get started, so I began ripping up the tile one evening when my husband was playing a jazz gig. That weekend, he helped me get the rest of it up.

Next, we had to rip up the concrete backer board, which was. a. mess.

Thankfully, the wood floor beneath that was in shockingly good condition. The floors are original to the home, and at the time the home was built, there was no sub floor underneath, so we were very happy we didn’t have to rip this out.

We also needed to pull out all the trim in order for the new tile to look neat and clean once we were finished. Pulling out trim doesn’t sound like a tough job, but these boards are ancient and thick and did NOT want to come out easily. It was quite the job.

Next, we framed out the pocket door. Because this space is so small, a swing-out door wasn’t a possibility. After a lot of research, we ordered a Johnson Pocket Door Kit to fit our door specifications. They also have a super helpful video with instructions. However, the framing was a bit trickier. In most cases, people are ripping out a wall to insert a pocket door. We were having to create a wall, and I really had to be able to visualize this process. The tutorial that helped me the most was from Sawdust Girl. Once I realized that we were really creating a pony wall (non load bearing), I was less stressed. Essentially, we needed to create a header. The Johnson pocket door kit gives explicit instructions as to the height and width you need to situate the kit.

The toughest part about this was our ceiling height. Those suckers are HIGH, so it took both of us on ladders working above our heads to get this installed. Once that was done, the pocket door kit itself was really simple to install.

Voila! Demo and framing complete.

Join me next week when I talk about the project I’m most proud of but that I’m not in a hurry to do again – floor tiling.